It has been only two months, Harry guesses, but it's also been three years in the making.
Harry watches Liam nuzzle into Zayn's neck and Zayn's shoulders pull up automatically in self-defense. Liam grins and tries to bite Zayn's upper arm next. They wrestle a little on the couch, but it's halfhearted and clearly a precursor to them having another go at it, right in their make-shift living area on the tour bus. Harry scratches his arm and looks at where Liam's fingers are digging into Zayn's belly, where Zayn's jumper has ridden up. The beginning of Zayn's heart tattoo blinks at Harry.
Louis throws a paper cup at Liam's head and huffs very loudly. “Honestly, you two. It's sweet and all, but I'm afraid I might die of blue balls if you continue this any longer.”
Zayn's nose wrinkles up as he smiles apologetically at Louis, his fingers carding through Liam's hair sort of absentmindedly. “Sorry, mate,” he says, actually sounding a bit sorry about it, but Liam looks up at Louis and sticks his tongue out at him. He pulls Zayn up from the couch and faux-angrily drags him away into the depths of the bus, and Zayn just manages to trip along after him.
“Bye! Hope you both work out your terribly crippling case of sexual naughty-times soon!” Louis shakes his head, grinning, then heads out with his mobile already glued to his ear. Poor Eleanor.
Harry snorts and Niall elbows him in the side, waggling his eyebrows. “They're going to use Louis' bunk. Twenty on it.”
Liam has surpassed Louis in being unpredictable and devious, in some cases, and it's not even a possibility at this point, but a certainty that it will happen. Harry's already accidentally glimpsed it happen last week, in Niall's bunk. Liam is dirty in the bedroom. Harry knows this about Zayn, since he's pulled with Zayn so many times before, but because it's happening with Liam now, everything feels new. Like he missed it in the past.
“Deal,” Harry says, eyes narrowed. Niall throws him a pitying look and re-starts a new game.
“You're going down, Styles. So easy. Feel bad for you,” Niall says, biting down on his bottom lip, and Harry pokes Niall in the cheek and grabs the controllers from the floor.
“Don't feel bad for me, Ni. I've a good feeling about this one.”
They are all too closely knitted and too used to the lack of boundaries and private space between one another for things to get too weird. It's another element, but it's not entirely new. It used to be implied and secret. Harry almost prefers it this way, even though he finds himself getting turned on one too many times whenever Zayn and Liam decide to make out when it's just the lads together.
Louis would be laughing at Harry if he was with them. Louis is much, much smarter than Harry and definitely isn't stupid where his self-preservation is concerned. Harry can't help it. He's been slowly losing it for the past few weeks, watching Liam and Zayn come together and shake apart. Over and over and over again. It's a spell. They deserve an audience.
Like right now. Harry knows it's his fault for agreeing to watch a movie with them, but he doesn't think he deserves this. It's a new form of torture. He should leave, he's been meaning to leave for what feels like half an hour, but he hasn't yet. Harry has a thing for feeling hurt, getting hurt. Grimmy taught him how good it can be.
The slick sounds of their lips coming together and pulling apart is hypnotic. The way Zayn's fingers have dug into Liam's hair and keep tugging, or the way Liam gasps into Zayn's mouth like he's fucking hurt in the best way possible. Zayn is nice about it, though, because he takes all of Liam's little hurt sounds and swallows Liam's muttered words of affection like he's starving. “Baby, baby,” Zayn croons against Liam's forehead, and Liam drags his lips from Zayn's cheek back to his mouth in a desperate reply.
Harry gulps dryly and is mute to everything else in the room but them. There is a biochemical agent let loose in the city of Los Angeles and people are running about frantically on the screen. Harry presses the heel of his hand down on his cock and sucks his bottom lip into his mouth, spreads his leg a little. The heat is bleeding from Liam and into him and Harry is stupid.
Liam chokes out a laugh when Zayn's hand disappears between their chests, Zayn's leg thrown over Liam's hip. “Yeah, yeah,” Liam says brokenly, his hand going to Zayn's thigh and hauling him closer, pressing him closer. Zayn's lips are shiny and bruised when he pulls away to smirk at Liam and drag his nose up Liam's cheek teasingly. Harry is no longer pretending to watch what's playing on the screen.
They're nowhere near close enough. Harry wants them to get closer. They don't even know he's there. Harry presses his leg harder into Liam's and Liam just presses closer to Zayn, his hands on Zayn's arse.
An explosion happens on screen just as Harry hears the sound of a zipper slowly dragging down. His eyes are glazed over and his body feels too hot but he manages to press a dry kiss to Zayn's arm and rush out, “I'm sorry, I've gotta go,” just before he stumbles out of bed and then out the room.
When he goes to his room, it probably takes a minute at most to get himself off. When the door closes his shirt is already off and his hand is at his sleep pants, tugging it down in a blind haste.
It's kind of a spectacular orgasm, considering it's just him and his hand. He imagines Liam's lips wrapped around Zayn's cock (almost choking on it, his lips so, so red), and then Zayn's legs wrapped around Liam's hips. Their words filthy. Harry imagines Zayn dragging his thumb through the come on his chest and smearing it over Liam's lips, pushing it into Liam's mouth. Zayn's eyes black and his eyelashes clumpy with tears, his mouth hanging open as Liam sucks Zayn's taste into his mouth, then fucks into him harder with his cock. They're beautiful together.
Harry throws his arm over his face and mutters, “Fuck.Fuck, fuck, fuck. Fuck me.”
He doubts it's going to get any better from there.
Harry is drunk. He's not stupid-drunk, although he's feeling reckless and dumb anyway. The club they're at is ridiculous and Harry doesn't want to be there. He wants to fuck, mess around, but he doesn't want to be there.
Liam sets down four green shots on the table and then scoots in next to Harry. Harry mouths his thanks over the music and Liam smiles, rests his warm hand between Harry's shoulder blades. Cynthia trails kisses down his cheek on his other side while they pretend to chat. Harry turns his head and pushes his way into a proper kiss next, her mouth tasting like vodka and milk chocolate. He drags his tongue over his bottom lip when he pulls back and beams at her, Liam's hand still warm, running up and down his back. He's really happy, all of a sudden.
“Cheers,” Harry says, turning back to his shot. Liam raises his and tosses it back too. Zayn appears through the crowd with a small, knowing smile on his face, and of course, crowds in next to Liam. Liam's eyes crinkle in a smile and he leans into Zayn to say something to him.
Harry cuts his eyes away from them and pushes into Cynthia, his hand traveling up her thigh and pressing his words into her hot cheek. Her smile is sly when she gets up and holds out a hand for him. Harry is about to get up when Zayn's hand goes around his arm and pulls him back. Everything has a nice, slow quality to it, and it's with some surprise when Harry finds himself tilting into Liam accidentally. Harry looks at the shiny, sweaty hollow of Zayn's throat, where his shirt is loose. Harry wants to put his mouth there.
“You going, mate? Already?” Zayn asks, and Harry drags his eyes up to Zayn's amused face. He gets a little angry. It flares up suddenly. He's a little dizzy with it. He blindly reaches out for Cynthia's hand and grabs it. He leans across Liam and says into Zayn's ear, loud enough to be heard, “I'm going to go fuck her 'til she's hoarse screaming out my name. I just – I just want to feel as good as you do all the time.”
Liam's breath is hot on his cheek and his chest against Harry's arm is hotter, but nothing beats the look on Zayn's face when their eyes finally meet. His eyes are narrowed and his lips are pursed. Harry pulls himself out of the booth and into Cynthia, her arms going to wrap around his waist immediately. “Babe, you're so gone,” she laughs out, and Harry leans down to cup her head and kiss her until they both get a little dizzy and she's quiet.
When Harry makes it back to their hotel, he's more sober. Harry makes Cynthia come three times that night, and gets to fuck her twice.
It's enough. It does the trick.
"You boys are a hazard. Every time I step into a room, I'm scared I'll find you shagging and have the image of your pasty arses scarred into my eyes for the rest of my life. It’s like the Animal Planet in here." Louis raises an eyebrow at Zayn and Liam in challenge, and Zayn simply smirks and shrugs his shoulders. "Like, terribly sorry, mate. I'll make sure to give you a proper warning next time."
"Yeah, a proper one, you arse. Josh hasn't stepped a foot inside any room you've both been in for days. Poor lad," Niall says, his big headphones dangling around his neck. He's squinting at the screen of his laptop as though he's reading something immensely offensive. He only needs glasses.
Liam gets up slowly and in a manner that is supposed to convey his utmost regret; he approaches Louis with puppy eyes in place, an over-exaggerated trembling of the lower lip, and his hands held up in surrender. Louis is unfazed, his hands crossed over his chest and looking almost a little amused, despite himself.
"We are both so terribly sorry, Louis," Liam says, sorrily, as he tentatively hugs Louis.
Louis laughs and pats his chest once. "Don’t think I’m not aware of how you both shagged in my bunk. That breaks the bro code something awful, you know," Louis finishes, and Liam just hugs him harder. Zayn throws a look at Harry that Harry completely ignores. When Liam yelps in pain, Harry smirks. Liam doesn’t move away until Louis bites him once more on his shoulder. Liam even says sorry again. Louis pats him on the cheek with a smug smile, and then darts down to mess Zayn's hair.
"Fuck off, Tommo," Zayn grouses, and Harry says, "Good one. Brilliant, Lou," with an enthusiastic thumbs up. Niall high-fives Louis as he makes his way to the back of the bus and to the rest room.
Liam steps outside to take a call and Zayn measures Harry with a calculating look and says, "You're a traitor." He looks grumpy and his hair looks a right mess.
"I do what I want," Harry says sweetly, then tries to go to his bunk to nap.
He stops abruptly when Zayn knowingly says, "Guess you’re the only one that doesn’t have a problem with it." Zayn is slumped in a lazy sprawl when Harry looks back at him. "In fact, your prefer us that way, yeah?" He's so sure of himself. Niall has his headphones on and is typing away urgently.
Harry holds Zayn’s look for a second to nonchalantly say, "I guess I like cheap thrills." It’s Harry’s turn to smile when Zayn's drops from his face.
Zayn's sing-song, taunting call of, “The Nile isn’t just a river in Egypt, love," doesn’t manage to drown out the wild beating of Harry’s heart.
Harry hardly naps.
During a television interview, Liam is sat next to him and pouts a lot about a long cut on his thumb. Harry finally takes Liam’s hand in his and presses a kiss on the cut. Liam smiles at him, surprised and sort of huge, and Harry continues pressing kisses all the way up Liam’s wrist and even one on his cheek, until Louis pushes Harry’s face away, amidst laughter, and says, “Honestly, Harold. I’m trying to answer a very serious question, here. Have some respect, lads.” The reporter woman is laughing at their antics and Niall is rolling his eyes, apologizing. “These two are like puppies together. It can’t be helped, sometimes.”
Zayn snorts, next to Harry. “You and Harry also tend to play-fight like newborn kittens, just to clarify things,” Zayn reveals, with a self-satisfied smile, and Niall dodges down to tickle Zayn. It all goes downhill from there.
The interview continues on and Harry keeps his arm either around Liam’s waist during the entire time or around his shoulders. He even nuzzles the side of Liam’s face instead of asking him something he had on his mind, but all that gets is another pinch from Louis, from where he is sat on Liam’s other side.
He tries to ignore Zayn, but not entirely with good reason. Maybe it’s instinct for his own well-being kicking in sort of late again. That happens all too often. Zayn’s side and thigh is pressed all along Harry’s. Zayn’s chin digs into his shoulder, at one point, as they all look down at something the reporter is showing them on her iPad. Harry tries really, really hard to focus, but then Zayn’s hand travles underneath his shirt and up his spine. It really is a lost cause.
After the interview, Harry excuses himself quickly and goes to the rest room. He’s doing well. He’s doing really, really well. Perhaps he’ll even be laughing at himself a few weeks from now. It’s certainly a possibility.
It’s just that some things can’t be helped. Like how Liam comes in after him, to check up on him with some shit excuse, and instead of Harry saying that he’s fine, he’s super fine, Harry kind of grimaces a little and says, “I’m well. I’m - that was shit of me. I’m sorry. It won’t happen again.” Harry tries to go in for a hug, or a bro-slap thing the way Zayn and Louis do, but Liam holds him back by the arms. Liam’s face is a little indescribable. Harry’s nerves buzz through him louder, to another level.
After a beat, Liam says quietly, “Can I try something, Harry? Please?” Harry nods sort of vaguely, his eyes probably wide and popping out of his head. When Liam leans into him and cups the sides of his face, a small, secret smile spreading on his lips, Harry’s mouth falls open. “Are you - but will Zayn -”
Just as Liam presses a dry, chaste kiss to his mouth and muffles the rest of his words. Harry pulls back and tries not to faint, and Liam says, “It’s okay. Zayn says it’s okay,” and Harry drags Liam forward urgently and kisses him until they are both breathless and clutching to each other in a daze. They kiss like they've been meaning to do it for years. It's not right.
A noise from outside makes them spring apart and chuckle awkwardly, but it’s only Niall peeking his head inside, to say, “We’re about to go. Out, out, we won’t wait for you. I’m about to crash.”
Liam coughs once and straightens out his jumper. With a confused but pleased look to Harry, he leaves.
Harry splashes cold water on his face and leaves a minute later.
They have two days off from touring, and Harry spends it glued to Niall, Louis, Lou, Lux, and Josh.
They are in Nashville, and there is a lot to do there, thankfully. The music scene is good and relaxing, so Harry loses himself for two days as best he can. He does all sorts of touristy things. It’s pretty fun.
The thing with Zayn and Liam is a losing bet, but not of the fun kind. Grimmy would be terribly disappointed in Harry if he found out what a joke he’s made out of himself. There are good and bad ways to lose, and this can only end badly. Grimmy would tut.
Harry lets Louis and Niall drag him to a pub where a cool band is playing, and realizes what a terrible mistake it is when Zayn and Liam wave to them from a table they’ve reserved. Liam says, “I heard these guys are supposed to be pretty good,” and Harry says, “I’ll bet,” with a tight smile. He gets the first round of drinks for the table. Then the second, and then the third. At one point, Louis shoves him down in his seat as everyone in the bar is hooting and hollering to the music, and with an impressive raise of his eyebrows, yells, “I’ll get it! You. Sit.” Harry beams at him widely and makes a show of leaning forward in his seat to immerse himself fully in the indie folk songs Urban Myth is playing.
They’re good. In fact, they’re great, Harry realizes, when he very nearly crashes to the floor from his stool because he is laughing too hard to stay upright.
Niall is amused. Harry smiles at him and pinches his cheeks. Niall looks so good. “You are so out of it, mate,” Niall says, laughing. “But thanks. It’s nice to know that my band members think I’m fit.”
“The fittest,” Harry mumbles, from where his face is smushed into Niall’s shoulder. Niall pats him on the head. Somehow, Niall and Louis are traitors who want to stay some more, and Zayn and Liam end up claiming Harry. They want to turn in early. “To shag,” Harry announces to Louis and Niall, while casting a fond, little look at Liam and Zayn. Louis pinches Harry’s nipple, and tells Liam, “Please make sure he remains in one piece. And that he doesn’t die.” Harry scowls and tries to swat at Louis. “I won’t die. ’m too good,” he promises.
“That would be tragic,” Zayn agrees, his face pressed against Harry’s neck and his arm over Harry’s shoulders. Liam is holding his hand. He might be holding both of Harry’s hands. The band stopped playing, Harry notes. “You’re tragic,” Harry says, like he’s picking up an old thread of conversation.
“Leave us, please,” Nialls says, and Harry flips him off as Liam and Zayn drag him out of the bar and into their car. Paul doesn’t look pleased with them. Harry pats Paul on the cheek and grins. “Don’t worry, mate. I’ve got this.”
Liam starts laughing and then Zayn starts laughing at him. Harry doesn’t care. He presses himself away from them and against the car door, and lets their quiet chatter lull him to sleep.
They take him up to their hotel room some time later, and Harry tries to be helpful when they undress him, but mostly he just flops down onto the bed. “My socks,” Harry points down to Liam. Liam takes them off. Zayn’s hands are on his chest while Liam fights with Harry’s trousers. “So fucking tight, my god,” Liam mutters in frustration, and Zayn laughs. Harry’s lips drag inside Zayn’s wrist and Zayn smiles down at him. “Too bad you’re so gone,” Zayn says, dropping a kiss onto his forehead. Too bad, Harry thinks, when Liam’s hands pause at his knees and press in for a second, before he goes back to pulling off his jeans.
Zayn’s fingers start carding through his hair, as Liam moves around and flips the covers down and the over Harry. Harry feels sleepy. He feels good. It hits him by surprise and Harry tries to clumsily pull Zayn down next to him. Zayn mostly doesn't budge.
“I want you to stay,” Harry says, voice low, and pouts. He feels a little bit like crying, all of sudden. He turns his face into his pillow and away from Zayn's hand. Liam's got one on his ankle.
Lips start peppering kisses onto his cheeks and Harry can't stop the way he wants it. When he opens his eyes, he finds that they're both on either side of him. Liam leans down and kisses him, his mouth soft and almost apologetic. Harry whines in his throat when he pulls back. But then it's Zayn nudging Harry's face up to meet his with his fingertips caressing down Harry's jaw, and Harry lets Zayn slowly coax his lips apart and drag his tongue into Harry's mouth in a way that Harry is too drunk to fully appreciate. Liam's hot breath brushes his ear, and he says, his voice low and filthy with promise, “Next time, Zayn will suck you off and then I'll let you watch as he fucks me.” Harry gasps, going hot all over. “You'll suck me off as he does it, yeah?”
“Yeah, yeah,” Harry says, his voice shattering and cracking in the middle like he's hurt.
Harry tries to drag them both over him or on top of him, but they just shush and quiet him down as he falls asleep finally, with their hands linked together over Harry's chest.
The last thought that Harry has, before sleep claims him, is that this might not be such a tragic loss for him at all.
He might even end up winning.