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papa's gonna buy you a mockingbird

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*

Nick’s sorting the laundry on a fairly average Monday afternoon when someone knocks at the front door to his flat.

He’s knee deep in a pile of Harry’s socks and t-shirts when he hears the knock and calls out to Harry in the kitchen to see who’s come calling. Nick’s been relegated to laundry duty because the alternative was cleaning the kitchen and he’s been officially banned from within a five foot radius of the kitchen unless it’s for putting away the shopping or unloading the dishwasher. Not that Nick’s much better where the laundry is concerned - there was that one time where Nick ran out of laundry detergent and used dish detergent instead - but Harry’s finally (finally) stopped talking about that.

Finally.

Harry does answer the door, though. Nick hears it creak open, followed by the low rumble of Harry’s voice for a moment, and then Harry’s shuffling down the hall and into their bedroom, a confused pinch between his eyebrows.

“Hey, there’s a lady here,” Harry rubs his hand over the back of his neck. “She’s saying she’s representing a cousin of yours who left you something? A cousin called Grace, I think she said?”

“Ah, shit, Gracie,” Nick nods and pushes the clothes into a messy pile. Harry glances at the pile and rolls his eyes but he’s still watching Nick curiously. “Remember a month or so ago I got that call from my mum? A cousin of mine from up north had passed really suddenly; an overdose or summat?”

“Oh, right,” Harry nods. Nick stands and glances in the mirror. His hair’s a right mess and his shirt’s got a gravy stain on it from the bacon sandwiches Harry made for breakfast but it’s fine. For a random caller on a Monday afternoon he figures he’ll do.

“I wonder what this one’s on about,” Nick murmurs and Harry shrugs. “Probably something stupid.”

“She didn’t say; just told me she needed to talk to you about something your cousin Grace had left for you.” Harry leads the way back down the hall and Nick frowns.

He shudders to think about what Grace might have left him. When they were small and their mums got together Grace would always drag Nick by the hand out to the river that snaked through the property at the back of her house. She’d make him dig up worms with her and then give the worms baths in plastic teacups filled with dirty water and leave them out to “sunbathe.” The first time they went back and checked on the worms hours later they were fried to a crisp - skinny, shriveled little sticks - and Nick had nightmares for weeks where the worms came back to life and haunted him in his sleep.

By the time Nick was ten or eleven their mums had had a bit of a falling out and they didn’t go around there much anymore. Nick had never been happier; Gracie could be odd.

She got in touch with him a bit when they got older: a card once or twice when Nick first moved into his flat, a random email every so often to his public email address at the station. Nick always answered her, he was always polite, but even as an adult Nick was a little scared she was going to show up one day and demand he go worm hunting with her again or something equally mental. Gracie just had that way about her.

The lady stood at the front door now, though, seems pleasant enough. She’s dressed in a smart grey suit with a bright pink blouse under it. Her hair is long and blonde and clipped back from her face but her eyes and smile are kind. She doesn’t seem to be holding any kind of severed heads or exotic insects or anything of the sort which is a good sign; Nick honestly has no idea what to expect from someone who was sent by his cousin. She holds out her hand and introduces herself as Lily and when she says she’s pleased to meet him, Nick actually believes her.

“Would you like to come in for a tea?” Harry supplies from over Nick’s shoulder, always the perfectly polite host. Nick rolls his eyes but Lily just smiles again, nodding as she crosses into the room and follows them into the kitchen.

They pass through the living room which is in a bit of a tip but the kitchen is scrubbed clean and gleaming; the scent of bread baking warmly in the oven. Harry likes to cook when he’s got some time off and today seems like it’s no exception. Lily sits at Nick’s kitchen table and Nick takes the seat across from her leaving Harry to fuss with the kettle and get the tea set up.

“So first I’d like to start by saying how very sorry I am for your loss, Mr. Grimshaw,” Lily says delicately. Nick nods but waves her off.

“Thank you but I hadn’t seen Grace in years. I felt badly, of course, but the news didn’t hit me particularly hard or anything. And it’s Nick, really. Mr. Grimshaw is my dad and all that, yeah?” Nick chuckles. “And you’ve met Harry.”

Lily clears her throat and gives Harry a faint smile. Harry shuffles over with cups and spoons in his hands, flicking the hair back from his face and smiling brightly. “Hi, Lily.”

“Yes, hello; I recognized you when you opened the front door.”

Harry beams and drags his hand over the back of Nick’s neck, the tips of his fingers pressing in just over the dip of his shoulder. Nick reaches up and catches Harry’s hand giving him a little squeeze before letting Harry go. Lily watches them both with wide eyes but doesn’t comment. Nick admires her will power.

“So, erm, yes,” she clears her throat and starts again brightly. “Anyway, I’m here this afternoon because we have a rather delicate situation to deal with, Nick.” Nick leans forward and raises his eyebrows. “I work in a law office your cousin employed a few months prior to her death. She had…a unique situation and some rather strange requests. At the time we all in the office thought the whole thing was rather preposterous but, well, here we are,” she says weakly, looking up and catching Nick’s eye. “I’m not sure if your cousin knew something was going to happen to her or if she just has incredibly good timing, but, well, here.”

Lily stops talking and pulls a thick yellow folder from the bag on the floor. Harry’s finished brewing the tea by now and is sat next to Nick, passing Lily a plate of chocolate biscuits and asking her how many sugars she wants in her tea. Nick flips open the folder and starts thumbing through the pages. He can barely hear Harry and Lily talking - four? Four sugars? Now you sound like my mate Liam. Don’t make me call Louis on you, babe - but soon the voices fade out and all Nick can hear is the suddenly loud flick of the pages in the folder.

He feels himself breathing, every slow drag of air in and out of his nose. His heart thumps and his ears and cheeks go hot. He feels Harry’s hand rest on his thigh, the imprint of each individual finger, but he can’t concentrate because there are words jumping out from the pages and Nick can’t figure out how to process them all.

…baby girl…

…adoption…

…Nicholas Grimshaw and his partner…

It’s strange, in a way. Harry and Nick have been together for ages but Harry living with Nick, that’s a little on the new side. They’d actually just decided when Harry’s last tour finished a few months back that they were going to give the living together and serious relationship bit a proper go; to have his cousin who Nick hadn’t seen in years somehow know he was with someone enough to include them in this document - however vaguely - is unsettling to say the least.

Still, though, it’s all there. For Nick and Harry or whoever Grace thought Nick was with. It’s all pretty much right there.

Nick drops the folder to the table and Harry and Lily’s chatter goes silent.

“What the hell is this?” Nick says, trying to sound demanding. Harry must hear something in his tone because he’s gone quiet and focused, reaching for the pages quicker than Nick’s seen him move in ages. “What the bloody hell is this about?”

“I work at a law office,” Lily repeats gently. Nick can’t seem to make himself look away from her face. She’s got green eyes, he belatedly notices. Not as pretty as Harry’s but green all the same. “Your cousin came to us about a month before she passed. She’d just had a baby – a little girl – and she wanted to make sure if anything were to happen to her that her daughter went to the right person.”

Beside him Harry whispers, “Oh my god.”

“She picked you, Nick,” Lily says. Nick is already shaking his head. This is definitely not happening. “She specifically designated you as the guardian for her daughter. It’s explicit and quite clear.”

“No,” Nick is desperately trying to regain control of the situation. Half an hour ago he was folding socks and wondering if Harry was going to have time to blow him before the bread was done baking or if Nick was going to have to wait until after, and now some strange woman is in his kitchen telling him his crazy cousin has left him a sodding baby. Nick wants a do over. He wants a blow job.

“I don’t know much about this stuff, Nick, but this looks pretty legit.” Harry puts the folder down and sips at his tea. Nick stares at him and wonders how he can manage to look so calm about the whole thing and remembers, oh, yeah, maybe that’s because no one’s just tried to hand him a baby. Not really.

“It’s completely legit,” Lily huffs. Nick rolls his eyes. Now’s not the time to start getting defensive over paperwork.

“So where’s this baby now?” Nick peers over Lily’s shoulder and out into the hall as if he possibly missed an entire infant when he let this woman into his flat. The whole thing stinks of something. If Harry didn’t look quite so dumbfounded Nick would have half a mind to think the whole thing were some kind of intricate prank. Someone getting back at him for one of his more awful call-or-deletes, but there’s definitely no baby when Nick looks, just the same mess in the living room, the same crooked key ring hung by the door Nick’s still not remembered to fix.

“She’s at the local children's home,” Lily says. Nick hears Harry suck in a sharp breath, his voice shaking around a small Oh. “It's hardly standard procedure for such a young baby, but the fact is there just aren't enough foster carers at the moment. She was placed there just after your cousin’s death and then there was the standard paperwork to go through before we could contact you, of course.”

“Of course,” Nick says weakly. He stands up and begins to pace. Just a few short steps in either direction, his kitchen’s not that large after all. “And it’s me she wanted you said, yeah? Not her mum or family or—“

“There’s no one else,” Lily interrupts. “Her mum’s already passed; she’s got no other siblings. No idea of the father. She designated you, specifically, but, there’s no one else.”

Everyone is silent. Nick can actually hear the clock ticking, each single second as it passes with a quiet click, click, click.

“And she’s all right?” Harry’s voice is soft and thick. Nick looks down at where Harry’s sitting and sees his hands curled tightly into fists in his lap. “Nick said the mum overdosed and you’ve no idea who the father is and—“

“The baby is one hundred percent healthy,” Lily says and Nick and Harry both breathe out a relieved sigh. “The facility checked her out when she was first brought in and they’ve kept her up to date on her medical visits since she’s been there.”

“I just don’t understand,” Nick drags his hands through his hair then presses his palms against his eyes. He needs a tea maybe. Or possibly some scotch. “Why me? Out of everyone in the world, why me?”

“She said she always liked you,” Lily tells him. She’s standing up now, getting her bag and coat and leaving the file and just – no. Nick has no idea what to do with this all. “Said she was a big fan of your show.”

“Most fans send a coffee mug,” Nick says dryly. “Or ask for a t-shirt. They don’t give me a human.”

“Yes, well,” Lily says and shrugs. As if that’s any kind of answer at all. As if that helps.

Harry blows the fringe back from his face and says, “And if we don’t take her what happens?”

Lily shrugs. “She waits for someone else to take her, I suppose. I’m sure it won’t take very long; she’s a very desired candidate for adoption.”

“She’s not a candidate she’s a person,” Harry snaps. Nick rubs the back of Harry’s neck and Harry reaches around to grab onto his wrist and hold on.

“I don’t mean it in a bad way, Harry, I just mean that lots of people will want a beautiful, healthy, five month old baby girl,” Lily says and Harry seethes even more. “I’m sure she won’t be in the facility for very long.”

“We’ll go today,” Harry says and Nick drops his hand and takes a step back because what? Nick’s still a bit fuzzy on how a relationship like his and Harry’s works but he’s fairly certain this is something they need to discuss first. “I mean just to see her, right Nick?”

Nick shakes his head. “I’m not sure, babe…”

“Let’s just go see her,” Harry pleads. His eyes and wide and shining; Nick knows how much it took Harry to get through this all without crying over the abandoned baby girl even once. He also knows that Harry is conniving and tricky and when he wants something he won’t stop until he gets it. If he wants them to go see this baby then they’ll be going, whether it’s today or tomorrow or a month from now. Nick’s discovered in his time with Harry that sometimes there’s no sense in prolonging the inevitable. If Harry wants to go see the baby they’ll go see the baby.

“All the information you need is in the folder,” Lily reminds them both gently and Nick rolls his eyes and goes to get his keys and his coat.

*

“Her name is Serafina,” Harry chatters happily from the passenger seat of Nick’s car. Nick rolls his eyes.

“Leave it to my cousin,” he mutters. “That’s a truly terrible name.”

“I think it’s pretty,” Harry says. “Sounds like a princess.”

“Sounds like an ointment,” Nick grouses. “Serafina. What’s even a nickname for that? It’s stupid.”

Harry shrugs. “I don’t know. Feeny? Sera?” he thumbs through more pages of the folder. “I don’t think it’s stupid, I think it’s beautiful. Maybe you’re stupid.”

Nick rolls his eyes. “Maybe your face is stupid,” is all he can manage and Harry just laughs at him and rubs his knee as he’s driving.

The baby is at a facility not too far from Nick’s flat and given the odd hour in the middle of the day it only takes them about twenty minutes to get there. Lily said she was going to call to let someone know they were coming and Harry looks to be about vibrating out of his seat the closer they get to the building, the sign coming into the view first, then the car park.

Nick parks the car and tries to stop the anxious swell of whatever’s hovering in his stomach from bursting out his chest. Harry barely waits for the car to stop before he’s shoving the door open and bounding outside, not so patiently waiting for Nick to lock up and meet him. Harry’s got his hand outstretched and Nick slides his fingers into the space between Harry’s, smiling softly when Harry grins and tugs him in for a kiss.

“We’re just saying hello to her,” Nick says firmly. The last thing he needs is Harry thinking they’re leaving here with a baby, Christ. “Don’t go getting any ideas.”

Harry nods. “Ok. Right,” he says, and pushes open the front door.

The room is dreary, that’s the first thing that Nick notices. The yellow paint is dingy and dull, the white trim scuffed around the doorways and sills. It looks even sadder being in yellow, as if it was once a happy room and now not quite as much.

Harry’s frowning, eyes darting around quicker than Nick’s, taking in every scrape of paint, every dull spot that probably once used to shine. He pulls Nick behind him to the front desk and beams somewhat alarmingly at the woman sat behind it. She blinks a bit and shoves back in her chair and Nick sympathizes; he still gets that way when faced with full frontal Harry Styles charm.

“Hello. I believe our case worker called in that we’re here to see Serafina?” Harry says politely. The woman nods and after checking their ID’s buzzes them through a set of metal doors, totally at war with the quiet and comfy vibe the rest of the room is trying to give off. When it comes down to it this is a shelter, Nick thinks. For babies and children who have no homes. He takes in the determined look on Harry’s face and has a feeling this is going to end badly for someone.

Behind the doors they meet another woman, this one younger than the one at the desk but older than Lily. She’s got dark hair pulled back tightly into a bun and is wearing a flowered top and dark blue nurses slacks. Harry shakes her hand and introduces them all and the woman smiles, her eyes brightening up when he finds out who they’re here for.

“Oh, Serafina is the most darling baby,” she tells them. “A perfect angel, really. Sleeps like a dream, never gives us any fuss.”

Harry is bouncing along behind her, his fingers twined tightly with Nick’s He looks back over his shoulder, curls falling over one eye and Nick startles at how happy Harry is. Just the thought of this baby is making Harry smile more than Nick’s ever seen.

“How does she eat? Does she take the bottle well?” Harry’s going on and on with questions Nick would never think to ask, yet another reason why anyone thinking leaving a baby to Nick would be a good idea. He’s got no clue as to ask if the baby is on breast milk or formula, or how many ounces she takes per feeding. The nurse is smiling at Harry widely and Nick rolls his eyes. Leave it to Harry to manage to charm surly nurses in a bloody orphanage.

They’re led through a series of rooms until they come to one with just three small bassinettes set up in it. All the bedding looks standard: white cribs, white sheets. Nothing to make anything personal, nothing overly cheery looking. Nick takes in the walls around him with the generic alphabet posters and medical charts and feels his belly clench.

Harry walks over to the bassinette the woman has pointed him toward with a grim determination and Nick might not know many things for sure in his life, but he knows there’s a very good chance they’re not leaving here without this baby.

He meets Harry at the side of the crib and peers down at the baby staring up at them. She’s tiny - so tiny Nick can’t even imagine she’s an actual living thing - but her eyes are wide and bright, a deep shocking blue Nick can’t manage to look away from. She’s dressed in a plain pink one piece and her arms and legs are pumping furiously in the air. She’s drooling a bit and when Harry reaches out to touch her his hand covers the entirety of her body; the tips of his fingers up by her throat and the palm of his hand low down on her belly.

Nick looks away from the baby and up to Harry. Harry’s eyes are wet; he’s biting his bottom lip and holding in a breath as he strokes his thumb over the curve of her belly. “Can we,” his voice breaks and he looks up at the nurse. “Can I hold her?”

The nurse nods and Harry reaches in and gently lifts the baby up, his large hands hooked under her arms. He smiles at her, drool slipping from her mouth. Harry laughs brokenly as he tucks her against his chest.

“Hi there, princess,” he whispers against the side of her tiny head. She’s got no hair at all, not even peach fuzz. Nick wonders if that’s normal. Maybe he should bring her to a doctor to find out. “I’m Harry.”

The baby coos and kicks her foot against Harry’s chest. Nick slides his hand around Harry’s waist and pulls him closer, tucking the baby between them. Harry’s hand covers her entire back. She’s so small Nick can’t believe they even make clothes to fit her. Nick leans in and kisses Harry’s shoulder and Harry looks up at him, his eyes red and damp.

“Nick, I can’t. I’m sorry but I can’t – we can’t leave her here,” he says thickly. Nick nods because he figured this out. Hell, maybe he always knew. "You're the only family she's got, Nick, we've got to do what's best for her and at least look after her until they can find her a real home ... this place isn’t a home."

Nick peers around again at the dingy walls. He hears the sounds the other babies are making that no one is around to hear because the nurses are busy right now and there’s no one else there or them. He looks again at the baby in Harry’s arms and thinks about her crying or laughing and no one being around to hear it. They could be that for her. He and Harry could do at least that.

"We're her family," Nick corrects him. "You and me. I can’t do this by myself, Haz,” Nick says quietly. “You need to be in this too.”

“One thousand percent,” Harry says firmly. “I promise, we can do this. We can give her a home at least for as long as it takes for someone else to find her.”

Nick looks to the nurse who’s hovering nearby and gestures to the baby in Harry’s arms. “Would we be able to leave her here for a minute?” Harry tightens his hold on the baby and she squeaks. “Not for long, Haz, just a few minutes. I think this is something we need to talk about for more than five seconds.”

Harry sighs but eventually hands the baby over but not before kissing her cheek and whispering something quietly in her ear. The nurse takes her and bounces her around a little and Nick has to practically drag Harry away and out into the hall so they can talk without Harry being distracted by tiny baby girls and their ridiculous big blue eyes.

“Harry,” Nick starts, but Harry’s already waving his hands and cutting Nick off.

“No, Nick, wait. I know what you’re going to say and just – just hear me out, all right?”

Nick can’t argue. He’s not sure he’s heard Harry talk so much to try and convince Nick of something since the first time he suggested they move in together. Nick realizes that that pretty much went exactly how Harry had planned too, so he’s fairly sure he knows how this situation is going to pan out.

“We can take her, right? Just for a little while; just until they find a permanent home for her Nick.”

Nick shakes his head. This is crazy; actually insane. “We’re talking about a baby, Harold. This isn’t like watching Thurston for the weekend when Aimee goes away. This is like, a person who we have to dress and feed and take care of every hour of the day.” When he says it like that it sounds enormous and terrifying. Nick shudders but Harry just slides their fingers together and tugs Nick in closer.

“I know but it works out perfectly, actually,” Harry’s beaming, his face nearly shining with how happy he is. “I’m done with the tour and don’t really have any plans with the band until we start recording late in the summer. We’ll only be taking her for a few months anyway, and I’ll watch her all the time when you’re at work and stuff during the day. I’m great with kids and babies love me; I swear it.”

“God, Harry, I know they do,” Nick sighs. “It’s not that I don’t think you can do it or whatever, it’s just –“ Nick flounders. “It’s today. We’ve not got anything to put her in or feed her or, I don’t know, how would we even get her home with us? I just think maybe we should think about it a little and—“

“I’ll call Lou,” Harry interrupts, pulling the mobile from his pocket and dialing before Nick’s even gotten to the end of his sentence. “I’m sure she’s got loads of stuff from when Lux was little; it’ll be perfect.”

“But—“ Nick’s barely got a chance to answer before Harry’s smiling and saying hello to Lux if the grin on his face and the dopey voice he’s using is anything to go by. Nick closes his eyes and bangs his head against the wall a few times. The last thing he needed was to watch Harry being sweet with Lux in the middle of all of this. Nick has absolutely no will power, it seems.

It takes Harry ten minutes to convince Lou that he’s not taking the piss when he tells her what they need, another ten assuring her that yes, they definitely realize what they're doing and how much work it's going to be, and then an additional five making sure she knows they’re not drunk or insane. By the end of the conversation Nick’s still not sure Lou believes any of it, but she has agreed to meet them there with a carseat and some clothes and other things they'll need to bring the baby home in, so that's something at least.

Harry hangs up with her and shoves the mobile back into his pocket nervously. He’s biting his lip and anxiously looking back toward the door where the baby is, and Nick honestly doesn’t know what he’s doing. He can’t believe he’s really thinking about doing this.

“This is…Harry, are you sure about this.”

“Yes,” Harry nods. “Definitely. Are you?”

Nick barks out a laugh and covers his face with his hands. “No, not even a little bit.”

Harry’s quiet for a second. He touches Nick’s wrist gently. “Nick, listen, if you really don’t want to do this—“

“No, that’s not—“ Nick huffs and drops his hands from his face. He might be shell-shocked and scared shitless but he doesn’t want Harry to think he doesn’t want to do this. “I do want to do this, all right? I’m just, I don’t know, a little freaked out a guess.”

“Hey, me too,” Harry tells him. He smiles softly and kisses Nick’s forehead. “It’s scary.”

It is scary, but Nick’s not gotten anywhere in his life by being afraid of things that are bigger than him, and he’s never had Harry by his side before for any of them. With Harry there Nick’s pretty sure he can do anything.

“All right,” Nick says quietly. Harry hugs him so hard Nick can barely breathe.

“Can we go back inside and get her now?” Harry’s already walking to the door, tapping his foot impatiently waiting for Nick to catch up. “She’s so sweet; I can’t wait to hold her again. God, Nick, this is going to be great, I can tell.”

Nick chuckles quietly and takes Harry’s hand so they can walk in together. Apparently, they’re going to do this.

“All right, Harry,” Nick tightens his fingers and Harry squeezes back just as hard. “Let’s give it a shot.”

*

It takes a little while to sort out the paperwork, everything taking a bit longer by the fact that Harry insisted on reading every piece of paper Nick was signing but refusing to put the baby back in her crib while he was doing it. It was charming, obviously, but Serafina was getting cranky and the case worker already looked stressed and the longer it was taking Harry to read every word on every page Nick had to put his name on was making them all crabby.

The baby fussed against Harry’s chest for a bit but then Harry started swaying around the room with her, making cooing sounds and singing quietly in her ear, and she finally dropped off to sleep. Nick understands where she’s coming from. Sometimes Nick has a hard time keeping awake when Harry’s singing quietly around him too.

He and Harry are sat next to each other in front of Serafina’s case worker now, the final few pages to be signed looming before them. Nick glances at Harry to ask one final time if this is something he really wants, if he honestly thinks the two of them can manage it, but Harry’s not looking in his direction, his face pressed softly against the baby’s tiny head, his eyes closed and a small smile on his lips.

Right, then.

“So this is all we need to do,” Nick gestures to the papers scattered across the top of the desk. “Just sign a few more pages and boom baby, we get to take her home.”

Harry chuckles quietly and the case worker frowns. Possibly boom baby wasn’t the most appropriate thing to say when agreeing to foster a child your drug addicted cousin left to you in her will. Oops.

“Essentially, yes, Mr. Grimshaw,” the case worker says flatly. “The baby is technically yours for the time. What you’re agreeing to do is take temporary custody until a permanent home becomes available, is that correct?”

Nick barely manages to nod, the words the baby is technically yours clattering around inside his head. He just – he’s maybe freaking out a bit now. They’re taking home a baby for God’s sake. Nick can barely remember to pick up all the ingredients when Harry wants to make a pizza, how the hell is he supposed to remember all the things he needs to get for a human. This is insane. Someone should have stopped him.

“Hey,” Harry touches Nick’s arm gently. Nick looks at him and hopes his eyes don’t show how panicked he feels. If the way Harry grimaces is any way to go by he’s not doing a very good job hiding it at all.

“Stop freaking out. Lou and Tom are on their way here with loads of Lux’s old stuff and you’ve got me,” Harry’s eyes sparkle and he jostles the baby up higher on his chest. “And we’ve got our girl and everything’s going to be fine, yeah?”

Nick ignores the pinched frown the case worker is giving him and instead focuses on Harry’s face and eyes and his hand curled protectively over Serafina’s back. She makes a hiccupping noise in her sleep and starts to fuss a bit but when Harry tips his head down to kiss the crown of her head Nick thinks, fuck it and signs the rest of the papers.

*

They meet Tom and Lou in the car park, Lux running around like mad on the grass that borders the facility.

“Harry!” she screeches and runs toward him at full speed. Harry quickly kisses Lou on the cheek and hands the baby to her before getting taken out at the knees by an excitable two year old. Nick glances from the way Lux is climbing onto Harry’s back like a wild monkey to the snuffling bundle in Lou’s arms and has a hard time reconciling that their tiny baby will be as big as Lux one day. Babies are weird.

“She’s beautiful, Grimmy,” Lou says, rubbing the top of Serafina’s head and kissing her cheek.

“Simply precious. God, I barely remember Lux being this little, do you remember, Tom?”

Tom shrugs from where he’s taken up residence leaning against the side of Nick’s car. He’s already lined up all sorts of baby things around them in the car park and Nick blanches when he realizes he’s got no earthly idea how any of this stuff works. Tom looks up at him and laughs, overly loud and far too amused sounding.

“Finally decided to take the plunge there, Grimmy, yeah?” Tom chuckles.

Nick makes a face that he hopes looks like, yeah, bro but is convinced looks more like, I’ve got no idea what you’re talking about. Tom’s just so laddy. Nick likes him well enough but the last time they got together they had a forty minute long conversation about skiing. Nick doesn’t even like the fucking snow.

“I guess so,” is what he finally says, which sounds more like he knocked Harry up or something equally horrific, but from the way Tom shrugs and motions for Nick to unlock the car doors Nick doesn’t think he cares all that much. “Wow, you sure you don’t need any of this stuff anymore?”

“Nah,” Tom lifts a small carseat from the ground and starts installing it in the middle of the backseat of Harry’s Range Rover. This is a thing that’s actually happening right now. “Lux is too big for all this stuff now; it’s just been hanging around, really, taking up space.”

“Why don’t you get rid of it then?” Nick is honestly confused.

Tom shrugs. “No idea. Apparently we’re not done with it yet or summat. Right, Lou?” he calls out.
“What?” Lou shrieks. The baby is up now and pawing at Lou’s face and nose. Harry and Lux go running over, Lux screeching, “BABY,” at the top of her lungs.

“THE BABY STUFF. WE STILL NEED IT FOR SOMETHING, RIGHT?”

“ONE DAY,” Lou calls back. “FOR THE NEXT BABY.”

“You’re having another baby?” Nick asks and Tom shakes his head, looking as clueless as Nick feels.

“Apparently,” Tom says, and gives the straps to the carseat one final yank. “You’re all set in here. Harry knows how to work all these things, DON’T YOU, HAZ.”

“What?” Harry looks up from where he’s crouched down on the grass to be eye level with Lux. He glances over at Nick standing in the middle of the explosion of pink and purple baby things and a smile curves over his mouth. “Oh, yeah, I know how to work all that stuff. Just shove it in the truck, Tom. I’ll handle it when we get back to the flat.”

Tom grunts and takes Nick’s keys from his hand, pressing every button he can find on the fob until the trunk pops open. Nick hopes there’s nothing too horrible back there, he’d hate to load the baby gear on top of a pile of empty bottles of Bacardi Limon, but Tom just starts lifting all the boxes and bags and piling them in and Nick is frozen in place watching Harry and Lou and Lux fuss over the baby.

“Hey,” Tom says and tosses a pink stuffed U-shaped pillow at him. Nick recognizes it as the thing he shoved onto his head when he babysat Lily’s baby that time a few months back. He honestly has no idea what it’s for.

“What’s this for, actually?” Nick turns the pillow around in his hands and inspects it as if there’s a secret code written in the print between the pictures of the dancing butterflies. There is none.

“I don’t know,” Tom says and grabs it back, shoving it around a bag of clothes helpfully marked 6-9 winter/spring. “Lux used to sit up in it.” He wiggles his eyebrows around and laughs a bit. “Lou used to breast feed with it.”

“That’s good to know,” Nick mutters, trying unsuccessfully to not think about Lou’s tits. Nick might like dick but seriously, he’s only human and Tom is – apparently - a fucking arsehole.

“Hey, we ready to go?” Harry’s finally stood next to him, jiggling the baby gently in his arms. The facility had a small jacket for her to wear and a pink knitted beanie but she still looks cold. Lou is fending off Lux who’s repeatedly shouting, Baby! Baby! Baby! in the loudest voice Nick’s ever heard and between that and Tom making Nick think about Lou’s boobs it’s just…Nick just really wants to take Harry and their baby and go home.

“Ready,” Nick says. He leans over and kisses Serafina’s head and realizes when he pulls back that it’s the first time he’s done it. He held her inside for a moment before but between the paperwork and getting all of her things set up and Harry hogging her all day Nick’s not actually gotten to kiss his own temporary baby. He does it again when he realizes, to try and make up for lost time and she gurgles and coos and slams her tiny fist into his nose. She smells sweet, Nick thinks. Like sugar and baby powder. He almost doesn’t mind the fact that she’s punching him.

“Right then, little miss,” Nick says and Harry laughs. “Time to get you home.”

*

Nick’s startled awake in the middle of the night by something that mysteriously sounds like a baby crying. It’s a sharp sound, a high pitched cry followed by a small whimper, and then the bed rustles as Harry leaps up out of a dead sleep and bolts across the room. His voice is low and hushed as he murmurs quiet sounds to the, well, to the baby no longer sleeping in the tiny white bassinette in the opposite corner of Nick’s bedroom, and oh. Huh. The baby. That’s right.

The day went by smoothly enough when they got back from the shelter. Nick and Harry made Tom and Lou promise not to tell anyone what was going on until they at least rung each of their mums to give them the news first hand, but by the time they got back and unpacked everything and set up the bassinette it was nearing nine o’clock and Nick was dead on his feet. Harry wound up cooking a frozen pizza for dinner and they fell asleep eating it on the couch while a repeat of Cupcake Wars played on the telly.

Harry insisted they keep the baby in their room for the night until he could go out and get a baby monitor the next day and Nick was fine with the idea until he realized how noisy babies can be. Even when she wasn’t crying Serafina was snuffling or cooing or making little sleepy sounds as she rustled around in her bassinette and every time she moved Nick and Harry would jump and flail around for a second before they remembered what was going on and that they had an actual baby with them now.

Nick sits up and rubs his eyes. The clock reads 3:23 and he’s got to get up for work in only a few hours but he can’t seem to look away with Harry wandering around the room half naked and sleep rumpled and whispering lullabies into Serafina’s ear.

“She almost asleep?” Nick whispers. Harry quickly looks in Nick’s direction and smiles, his face lighting up with it.

“Yeah,” Harry says, “Almost.” He’s got no shirt on, completely naked save for a pair of black pants he must have pulled on after getting up from the bed. Nick can see the curves of the tattoos covering his chest and arms, the streetlight glowing dimly through the bedroom window, the tiny bean of a baby swaddled in a soft pink blanket held against his chest. Nick flops back on the bed and covers his eyes with his hand and yawns.

Harry sings for another minute then gently lays Serafina back in the bassinette before tip toeing back to the bed and crawling up until his knees are bracketing Nick’s hips, his arms pressed into the bed on either side of Nick’s shoulders.

“Hi,” Harry smiles and dips his head to kiss Nick gently. “Sorry you woke up.”

“’S’alright,” Nick says into Harry’s mouth. He can feel the curve of Harry’s mouth against his and Nick smiles in turn. It may be the middle of the night and he’s got to get up for work in just a little bit but Harry’s ninety-five percent naked on top of him, his fingers touching Nick’s face and angling his head so Harry can kiss him deeper and honestly, who the fuck needs sleep if this is the alternative.

“Want me to suck you off before I fall back asleep?” Harry says quietly. Nick does, of course, who wouldn’t choose to have Harry Styles’ mouth on their dick if given the chance? But Harry looks wrecked, tired and sleepy, and Nick has to try and get some actual rest if he’s going to make it through work in just a few hours.

“I’ll take a raincheck, popstar,” Nick brushes the hair back from Harry’s forehead and kisses him. Harry grins and drops down to sleep against Nick’s chest until Nick’s mobile alarm is buzzing a few hours later.

*

Serafina is just starting to make snuffling little wake up sounds as Nick finishes getting dressed for work. Harry’s lying in bed checking his messages and emails and when he makes a move to go get the baby Nick waves him off. “I’ll get her,” he says and Harry blinks at him sleepily before smiling.

“Yeah, great, cheers.”

She’s wide awake when Nick gets to the bassinette, arms and legs kicking wildly in the air with the sweetest little smile on her face and her cheeks a rosy pink. Harry had dressed her the night before in a set of tiny red and green plaid pajamas from the bag of clothes Lou had given them, and Nick straightens her shirt out before lifting her from the bassinette and holding her in the crook of his arm.

“I don’t have time to give her a bottle before I go,” Nick blurts. He feels guilty for some reason. Serafina blinks up at him and chews on her fist.

“I know, that’s fine,” Harry’s sitting cross legged in the bed with the duvet piled around his thighs. He wiggles his fingers impatiently in the air and waves Nick over. “Come on, give her to me.” Nick kisses her gently before handing her to Harry who immediately puts her in his lap on top of the duvet and leans down to blow a kiss against her belly.

Nick feels oddly out of place. He knows he shouldn’t, that he’s being daft and Harry’s doing what any normal person would by paying attention to the abandoned baby they’d just taken in the day before, but there’s no accounting for the way your feelings should go and the way they actually do sometimes, and at least Nick can recognize when he’s feeling stupid about something.

He’s just – Nick’s not bad with babies, the idea of them certainly isn’t any kind of foreign concept - but he’s definitely not anywhere near as relaxed as Harry is. Nick’s niece is full grown by now and he doesn’t see Lily’s kids as often as he could. Even when he does they’re so much bigger than Serafina is already, and maybe that’s it. Maybe she’s just too little.

Nick’s not good with little things, he feels like his hands go all clumsy and uncoordinated. It doesn’t make sense that Harry’s so bloody comfortable with her seeing as he’s an ace klutz himself at the best of times, but Nick thinks about how much time Harry spent with Lux when she was just born, the easy way he’s always had with her and it makes a little more sense.

Kind of like right now. Harry’s holding the baby on top of his head with her belly pressed right into his mop of hair. She’s shrieking and squealing and grabbing at his curls while Harry laughs, and when he looks over to Nick all Nick can see is the plain, easy joy in Harry’s expression and damn it; Nick’s just going to have to try a little bloody harder. He can hold a baby on his head too, he’s at least sixty percent sure of it. Maybe even seventy five percent.

“Do you need any help getting stuff ready for her?” Nick says, because he’s going to be more helpful, dammit. He drops a fast kiss on Harry’s cheek and then the top of the baby’s head. Harry scrunches his forehead up and lifts the baby off, pulling her down so he can kiss the side of her neck and cheek. “Do you remember where all the bottle stuff is?”

Nick rolls his eyes. “You mean the stuff that’s currently covering my entire work surface? Yeah, I think I remember.”

“Oh, cool. Can you mix me one up for her?” Harry asks, completely failing to acknowledge Nick’s sarcasm, the bastard. “Just a few ounces for now, I think; maybe six or so? Or a little less than that actually. I mean, if you can’t figure it out I can do it myself, no big deal.”

Nick scoffs. “Harold, I’m a grown successful man who’s managed to not kill himself or anyone else around him for the past twenty eight years. I’m fairly certain I can mix a bottle for an infant.”

“Hmm,” Harry raises an eyebrow and frowns. “I suppose if you say so.”

Nick can’t believe it. He honestly cannot believe Harry is concerned about Nick mixing a sodding bottle. “I’m going to make that bottle, and it will be the best bottle this baby has ever had,” Nick says firmly. He grabs his wallet and keys from the top of his dresser and shoves them into his pocket, trying his best to ignore the way Harry’s openly laughing at him. The baby even seems to be smiling a bit too. Hmpf. “You wait and see.”

“Oh I will.”

“I’ll leave it on the counter on my way out. Drink it and weep,” he says, pointing at Serafina. She blinks at him sweetly and tucks her head back against Harry’s chest.

“All right, Nick,” Harry says gently. “You have a great day.”

Nick huffs and stomps from the room.

*

“It was so terrible,” Nick moans, his head dropped firmly in his hands. From next to him Finchy laughs and pats the back of Nick’s neck awkwardly. Thank god Finchy doesn’t have a baby to be taking care of, Nick thinks, because the expression he’s giving Nick is so horrified he’s making Nick look damn well comfortable about kids.

“I mean, he said six ounces or maybe a little less so I decided on five, but five ounces of actual bottle is not just five ounces of water with formula. And then I made one but when I read the label again it said I was supposed to put the water in first, not the powder and I thought that might ruin it so I dumped it out and started over and, I don’t know. I’m sure it was fine.” He lifts his head and blinks at Finchy’s shocked face. “Do you think it was fine?”

Finchy is quiet for a second and then he licks his lips and very calmly says, “I’m still trying to accept the fact that you brought a baby home to live with you. You’re going to have to give me a minute to worry about her breakfast, mate.”

Nick moans and drops his head back into his hands.

*

By the time Nick gets home from the work the rest of Harry’s band has effectively taken over his flat and every spare space he had in it when he left. They’re all sitting on the floor in a circle around Harry and Serafina who Harry’s got strapped into some strange looking vibrating seat with monkeys all over it and a bar that goes overhead with little plastic hanging bananas.

Harry’s leaned back against the sofa; his legs stretched out in front of him and crossed at the ankles, deep in conversation with Liam. The other three are sprawled belly down on the floor with their faces so close to the baby she’s probably having trouble focusing. Nick shoves all their jackets on the counter to the side and goes into the fridge for a Diet Coke.

“Why hello One Direction,” Nick calls out, popping the top of the can and taking a long sip. Everyone ignores him except Louis who tosses him a quick smile over his shoulder. “Is that Zayn Malik in my living room? Are you trying to rob my little girl of speech with your dashing good looks before she’s even learned to talk?”

Harry looks up at the sound of Nick’s voice and beams, pushing quickly to his feet and meeting Nick across the room, hands curling tight around Nick’s waist. He pulls Nick in and kisses him deeply, his tongue licking quick over the seam of Nick’s lips before Harry bites down on Nick’s bottom lip and tugs.

“Hi,” he breathes. “Missed you today.”

“Everything all right?” Nick didn’t actually think about Harry being home by himself with the baby all day. He wonders if that was a bad thing, if he’s somehow screwing this up already. “Sorry I didn’t get home until now, but—“

“No, it’s fine,” Harry presses one more kiss against Nick’s mouth before curling their fingers together and tugging him toward the lads. Serafina looks away from Niall’s stupid face when Nick walks over and Nick could swear she seems happy to see him. He waves at her and she reaches out and chews on her sleeve. “I called the lads and told them what was going on and to come over. I rang my mum too; her and Gem will be here next week when they get some time off.”

“Good,” Nick nods. “I rang my parents and told them what was going on but they left today on holiday for a few weeks. Not sure when they’ll be able to stop over.”

“Ooh,” Harry tsks. “Eileen must have been proper upset.”

Nick thinks back on the near hysterical wailing his mum did when he told her what was going on and she realized she was going to miss some of it. “You could say that.”

Harry laughs quietly and nods. He’s no stranger to Nick’s mum’s dramatics himself. When they two of them were there for Christmas dinner and they mentioned that Harry was moving in with Nick she had to excuse herself and then proceeded to dance around in circles in the spare bedroom. Nick knows; he snuck out to spy on her doing it. Nick’s mum loves Harry.

“So look,” Harry gestures to the exploding mountain of presents. “The lads all brought gifts!”

Nick glances at the coffee table and indeed there are a stack of gifts piled up about three feet high. Boxes with pink and white paper are littered all over the floor and Nick can see more lace and puffy dresses than he’s ever seen in his life. There are also about ten packs of disposable nappies on the floor, an entire bin of stuffed bunnies and lambs and teddy bears and a half drunk case of lager.

“Perrie and Dani picked out the clothes and Louis brought the nappies,” Harry says, as if Nick couldn’t tell. He doesn’t know why he’s touched that Louis thought to bring a useful gift, but he is. Louis is Harry’s best friend after Nick and he’s got loads of little sisters so of course he thought to bring something practical. It just shows how far gone Nick is over the entire situation that it’s making him emotional. “The toys are from everyone.”

“And the case of beer?” Nick asks.

Harry rolls his eyes. “It was for us to drink when we were having a rough night, but then Niall saw we didn’t have any beer here already, so.”

Nick laughs because of course Niall brought beer as a baby gift and then proceeded to drink half of it himself. Of course he did.

“Nick, mate, this baby is really cute,” Louis shouts. As if she knows she’s being talked about Serafina kicks her legs and squeals. “You sure she’s from your side of the family?”

“Look at her bald little head, Tommo. She’s definitely not from Hazza’s side.”

Everyone laughs and they all sit around and talk and play with the baby and when it gets to be past five and no one’s left yet, Nick orders pizzas and fizzy drinks and watches all of Harry’s band pass her around and spoil her something rotten. All in all it’s not a half bad night.

*
Nick stares down at where Serafina is lying on his bed and frowns. “Get her dressed and I’ll get the pram ready, he says. She just needs a new nappy and some clothes on, he says.” Nick glances at the stack of clothes Harry gave him to choose from and the new nappies and then back at the baby who he’s got completely naked and wrapped in a sheet and sighs. “All right, little miss. You’re going to have to help me out here, yeah?”

The baby gurgles and a spit bubble drools from her mouth. Right. So not much help there.

Nick manages to wrangle the nappy onto her bum (and so what if he put it on backwards and then had to fix it? And so what if it’s tight in the front and half falling down in the back? Harry’s on next nappy change anyway. He can deal with it then) and gets her dressed in a pair of soft black pants and a pink and purple polka dot shirt. “Have you got her jacket and hat out there?” Nick shouts.

“Yeah,” Harry calls from the living room. Nick picks Serafina up and blows a kiss against her belly and she laughs and grabs onto his hair. Sometimes Nick can’t believe these things are actually happening to him – nappy changing and babies ruining his quiff – but they are and surprisingly enough Nick’s more than all right with it. He can tell the moment Harry walks into the room, though, because the baby’s arms and legs start kicking and flailing at triple speed. She screeches, a high-pitched excited wail and nearly leaps from Nick’s arms into Harry’s when he reaches for her.

“Hey there, pretty girl,” Harry plants a string of kisses all over her face and head and cheeks. “You look so nice, are you all dressed up so pretty? Ready to go out and let everyone see what a princess you are?”

Nick forces himself to look away and not think about how amazing Harry is with Serafina. Nick’s always known that Harry was good with kids, but knowing and seeing it are two different things entirely. Harry is just meant to be a dad to someone one day; there’s no way around it. Nick grabs his keys and wallet and decides he’s not going to think about that, not right now at least.

Harry’s got the baby sat up on the bed and is bundling her up in her jacket and hat and tiny pink socks and shoes. She’s watching him intently, reaching out every so often to grab onto a hunk of his hair and Harry laughs every time she does it. The weather is nice today – a bit mild for late winter – and they’ve both got the day off so Harry thought it would be fun if they took Serafina for a walk in the park. A little while ago it sounded like a great idea. Now that they’re getting closer to actually leaving the flat Nick’s having second thoughts.

“You sure this is a good idea, Haz?”

Harry glances up at him and grins. “Yeah, why?”

Nick thinks about paparazzi photos and people watching them and everyone asking questions. He thinks about opening up the Sun or the Mirror and seeing their faces – all three of them - splashed across the pages and how once that happens she won’t be just theirs anymore, she’ll be everybody’s. Nick’s not sure he’s ready to deal with that.

“People are going to see,” he finally says with a shrug. “They’re going to ask questions.”

“So what.” Harry’s done with the baby and has given her a stuffed giraffe to chew on while he tucks his hair into a bright blue beanie and grabs his mobile and keys. Nick rolls his eyes at how casual Harry sounds and Harry huffs, wraps his arms around Nick’s waist and pulls him in for a fast kiss. “You know I don’t care what people say in the papers. If they want to talk, let them. You’ve already mentioned her on your show once or twice, yeah?”

“Once or twice,” Nick mumbles. “In just a oh, so here’s a funny story about a baby kind of way.”

“So that’s it then. We’re watching her for a relative. End of story.”

Nick honestly never knows if Harry believes things are as simple as he makes them out to be or if he’s just hoping that if he acts like things are simple one day they miraculously will be. He kisses Nick again quickly then scoops Serafina up, the stuffed giraffe still clutched tight in her hand.

“Now come on, it took me ages to set the pram up,” Harry says around a smile. “Let’s go out for a bit.”

Nick looks at Harry who’s smiling and the baby who’s viciously chewing on her stuffed giraffes neck and grins a little. “All right, let’s go.”

*

They make it halfway to the park before Nick spots anyone lurking around corners with a camera strapped around their neck, but once he sees one he manages to spot them all. Harry recognizes a few and even smiles and waves. He calls out a quick, “Hello, mate!” to an older looking gentleman who’s hovering near the park entrance and even manages a jaunty grin and wave as the man snaps a picture of the three of them walking into the park.

Nick’s never minded the paparazzi much. He knows his place and the life he chose and understands that sometimes people are going to want to be a part of it. He supposes that’s why he and Harry got along so well from the start; they both wanted something from their life and went after it and then when they finally got it neither of them minded some of the grittier aspects that came with it. Being someone who people know is amazing and fantastic, but they’ll never know you or want to know what you’re doing if you don’t let yourself be seen. Nick gets this and he’s always known Harry does too.

This though…Nick’s never had to think about bringing a baby who maybe doesn’t want this into the mix. It’s not been something that’s ever come up and for the first time Nick sees the people hiding behind trees and bushes waiting to get a glimpse of Serafina intrusive. He thinks that maybe they should have thought about this a little more before getting her into this kind of life, no matter how temporary the situation is.

“Hey,” Harry touches Nick’s wrist and Nick shakes his head to clear his thoughts. They’re sat next to each other on a bench with the pram in front of them, Serafina sleeping quietly. “Just relax.”

“I am, I’m fine.” Nick stretches his legs out, feet crossed at the ankles. Harry grins and stretches out at well, kicking Nick’s boot with his trainer and leaning more into Nick’s side. “Just strange being out here knowing people are all trying to get pictures of her, you know?”

“I know, you and me are old hat,” Harry jokes. “A washed up DJ and his popstar boyfriend.”

“Hey!”

“What?” Harry blinks innocently. His hair is falling out in wisps from under his beanie, his cheeks tipped pink with cold. “You certainly can’t mean a washed up popstar and his DJ boyfriend, can you?”

Nick has to look away. Sometimes he can’t believe the things Harry says, the way he can just open his mouth and say whatever it is that’s on his mind. They’ve been together for so long Nick thinks he should maybe be prepared for it when it happens now but every time he hears Harry casually refer to Nick as his boyfriend, or when he sits next to him on a park bench close enough that it can’t be viewed as anything but what they really are to each other, Nick’s taken out at the knees once more.

Neither of them have ever made any kind of statement about what they are to each other; one day Harry just said to him, “I’m tired of pretending. When we go out later I’m going to hold your hand, all right?” and Nick fumbled and stuttered and fucked Harry over the back of his couch, and then later, when they did indeed go out and Harry held Nick’s hand in front of every camera they saw Nick felt like he was the one who’d been stripped bare and left breathless.

“Anyway, people are being fairly civil,” Harry goes back to the conversation and Nick snaps out of his daydream. He reaches for Harry’s hand and Harry ducks his head as he curls their fingers together, the corner of his eyes crinkling under the weight of his smile. “No one’s tried to come over and snap a picture right inside of the pram or anything.”

“Not yet,” Nick says darkly. He looks around again quickly. He doesn’t see anyone be he knows more than most that that doesn’t mean anything.

“Come on then,” Harry stands and pulls Nick to his feet, leaving their hands linked as he turns the pram around toward the park entrance. “She’ll be waking up soon and I want to be home when that happens. Today’s been good but there’s no need to push our luck.”

Nick looks into the pram where Serafina is bundled completely in pink, from the hat on her head to the blankets wrapped around her to the color on the only tiny bit of her face that’s peeking out. She snuffles in her sleep and Nick bumps Harry out of the way with his hip and pushes her through the park and back home himself.

*

“Oh my god,” Nick wails and shoves his head under the pillow, holding it tight against his ears to drown out the wailing. When Serafina just keeps going he tosses the pillow to the side and sits up, yanking his hands through his hair and groaning. “Is she ever going to stop?”

“I don’t know, all right?” Harry’s bouncing the baby almost frantically trying to shush and calm her with no success. He’s barefoot and shirtless and in a pair of Nick’s oldest jogging bottoms which would normally send Nick into a domestic spiral of wanting to fuck Harry senseless, but somehow the baby screaming as if she’s being eaten by wolves is ruining the mood. “She’s been crabby all day, I told you that. I think maybe she’s teething or something.”

“So give her one of those rings then,” Nick says. “One of the cold ones that Louis brought over.”

“Oh, oh sure. What a good idea,” Harry says, voice deceptively light. He reaches into the bassinette and pulls out a handful of teething rings and lobs them at Nick’s head. “What didn’t I think of that?”

“No need to get snippy,” Nick huffs. Harry rolls his eyes and Serafina takes a long deep breath and bursts into another fit of agonizing wails.

“You know, this might be a good time to talk about getting her a proper crib for the guest room,” Nick says. Harry glares at him but Nick doesn’t care. He knows Harry likes having the baby close, but close and screaming in Nick’s ear for three hours straight are two different things entirely.

“And is the crib in the guest room going to be in another time zone?” Harry says snarkily. Nick is unimpressed. “Does it some with soundproofing?”

“I’m just saying, Haz, that maybe if she didn’t roll over and see us sleeping right bloody here she wouldn’t wake up so much, that’s all.” Nick gives Harry a moment to let that sink in. The baby is quieting down a little, finally, and Nick glances at the clock and hopes for maybe two hours sleep before he has to get up for work, if he’s lucky. “She’ll be right next door. We’ll get one of those monitors you were going to get right at the beginning so we can hear her every move. It’ll be fine.”

Even in the dim light Nick can see Harry’s frowning, but the baby is quiet, finally, and he lays her gently in the bassinette and tiptoes back over to the bed.

“Maybe,” Harry says, face smashed into his pillow. Nick rubs his hand over Harry’s back and squeezes the nape of his neck. “We’ll see.”

*

“I can’t believe you got Harry to finally agree to a crib,” Tom says, slotting together pieces of the white crib Nick went out and purchased the very second Harry took the baby for a trip to see Lou and Lux. Nick had every intention of putting the crib together himself, but then he got home and opened up the box and, well. Let’s just say it’s a good thing Tom was home and can be easily bribed with beer and sandwiches to keep his mouth shut about helping Nick. Not that having Tom help him is a bad thing, it’s just that Nick possibly made such a big deal about not needing Harry’s help and being able to set the crib up on his own that he’s possibly not going to tell Harry that Tom was over.

Possibly.

“He didn’t really want to but she’s getting bigger now,” Nick tells him. He hands Tom whatever hammer and screwdriver he needs when Tom grunts and points and makes sure he’s always got a fresh beer. This is Nick’s contribution to the proceedings. “It was fine when she first came home but that was nearly two months ago and she was smaller. Now every time she rolls around and sees one of us she wakes up and wants to play. It’s not that we don’t want her in here,” he rushes to add, “Just that no one’s getting any sleep.”

“Oh, you don’t have to explain to me,” Tom holds his hands up. He’s got his scruffy hair pulled back in a short ponytail and looks like he hasn’t shaved in a week. “I think we kept Lux in our room the first night she came home? Maybe two but not more than that. I love her and all but me and Lou need our private time, you know?”

Nick…does not know. He can’t even try to imagine what Tom and Lou get up to in their bedroom. Even thinking about it makes Nick feel creepy.

“Yeah,” Nick nods as if he understands. “’Course.”

Tom grins and makes a weird finger pointing gun motion at Nick. Nick winks and shoots him back and wonders how the hell this wound up being his life.

“And you told Lou not to say anything to Harry that you were coming here, yeah?” Nick double checks. Not that he wants to lie to Harry, it’s just that Harry was so sure Nick would need help with the crib and Nick desperately wants to prove him wrong. The fact that Harry was actually right is insignificant.

“Absolutely,” Tom says and hammers something else. “Your secret’s safe with me.”

*

“So, how’s Tom?”

Nick nearly slices off his finger as he’s chopping up a bowl of red peppers to add to the stir fry he’s making for dinner.

“What?”

“Tom,” Harry says and smirks, leaning over to kiss Serafina’s head where she’s stood in her bouncy jungle chewing on a plastic elephant and watching Peppa Pig. “Hello, my girl,” he says quietly and touches her cheek with the tips of his fingers.

Nick looks away because sometimes it kills him to watch Harry be so perfect with the baby and know that she’s not really theirs; that she’s not permanent, that maybe after all this Harry won’t be permanent either. Every day they start to love the baby a little but more is a day closer to Harry realizing what he ultimately wants out of life, and those thought’s don’t include an aging male DJ, Nick’s sure of it. He tries not to think about it though, choosing instead to paste a smile on his face and figure out how many different way’s he’s going to brain Tom Atkin the next time he sees him.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Nick says huffily. He slides the peppers into the pan where they sizzle and hiss next to the onions and garlic. Harry peers over his shoulder and sniffs, then sprinkles some salt over everything and Nick rolls his eyes.

“Called Tom earlier to see what time he needed Lou and Lux to be home. He tried to hide it but I heard you singing along with Beyonce in the next room.” The space between Harry’s eyebrows pinches into a frown. “You really ought to stop doing that when we have company, Nick, seriously. No one is ever going to come visit us again if we keep forcing them into a chorus of Crazy in Love every time they do.”

“Bah,” Nick huffs and turns the heat down on the hob. He passes Harry to go grab Serafina out of the jumper and bounces her up in the air until she’s giggling and kicking her feet. “We’ve been dancing all night while you were out, weren’t we baby?”

Serafina gurgles happily and makes whatever happy baby sounds she’s been making lately. Some things are starting to sound like actual sounds but nothing is actually recognizable. Of course that doesn’t keep Harry from talking to her in full sentences and asking her questions all the time as if he’s really expecting an answer. Nick would love if it one day she just said, “Actually, yes, I do have a poop in my nappy, thanks for asking,” just to see the look on Harry’s face.

Nick settles her into the crook of his arm after a minute and takes in the explosion of bags and packages strewn all over his living room. Apparently when Nick bought the crib the sales lady only told him about needing the crib and mattress and forgot to mention things like sheets and bedding. He’d had to call Harry when he was out and tell him to drop the baby off and then go and get things to set up the guest room for her and of course, where Harry was concerned he went a bit overboard.

Harry grabs all the bags and brings them down the hall to the baby’s room, then stops in the doorway and smiles, a slow grin spreading across his face. “Oh, I was hoping you’d get white. It’s really pretty.”

“Yeah, yeah, and let me guess, you got her a bunch more pink stuff?” Nick teases. Harry’s cheeks flush pink and he turns away and huffs.

“Pink with ladybirds but I also got yellow sheets with ducks and white ones with horses or something.”

Nick eyes up the forty bags on his floor and smirks. “Awful lot of packaging for three sheets, Haz.”

“Well I had to get her some toys too,” Harry insists. “And we didn’t have time to paint the walls so I got some pictures. And some new clothes. Just a few little dresses, I’m sorry, god, I couldn’t stop myself once I was in there. I swear I think they pump something through the air vents so you lose all capacity of reason and just start seeing everything in miniature and just have to buy it all.”

Nick opens a teeny box of Converse and sees a baby sized pair of white once that match his and Harry’s perfectly. It’s so stupid but out of everything – the crib and the dresses and everything else Harry bought – it’s the tiny trainers that are going to do him in.

“Can you take her for a second?” Nick passes the baby to Harry who scoops her up happily. He presses kisses to her neck and Nick makes up some excuse about thinking he smells the food burning so he can escape to the kitchen, trying to leave behind the sight of Harry and the baby curled together happily, and that pair of tiny little trainers in the box.

*

It’s a week later and Nick’s out to lunch with Aimee after his show for the day. Harry’s gone to visit Gemma and his mum with the baby for the past few days and Nick’s not ready to accept how quiet and empty his flat seemed without the both of them there. He’d thought the idea of having his space back to himself would have been a good thing but in reality he just spent most of the time moping around and staring into Serafina’s empty room, touching her tiny dresses and wondering how much time he had left with her. With the both of them actually.

“So you want to tell me why you called this mope session to order today?” Aimee’s downing martinis like there’s a shortage and she needs to ingest as many as quickly as possible. Nick’s been nursing the same glass of chardonnay for the past half hour. Clearly he needs an intervention.

“I’m just…” Nick huffs. This sounds a lot less stupid in his head. “I’m just trying to get ready, you know? For when it happens. Get myself used to getting soused with you in the middle of the afternoon because I’ve got nothing more pressing to go home to again.”

Aimee is silent for a moment. That’s never a good sign. “For when what happens?”

“For when the baby goes back and Harry leaves me,” Nick says and rolls his eyes. “Christ, I can’t believe you made me say it.”

Aimee blinks at him slowly. “Is this…something you’ve talked about?”

“Well yeah,” Nick says. When Aimee looks suspicious he adds, “I mean I’m talking to you about it right now aren’t I.”

“Yes... but I didn’t mean with me, you twat,” Aimee finishes he drink and waves her hand over her head signaling the waiter to bring her another. Nick honestly has no idea why he’s friends with her. She’s horrible and rude to boot. “With Harry. You’ve talked about this with Harry I’m assuming, right? That’s why we’re here weeping into out martinis on a Monday afternoon. Because you’ve told Harry that when the baby goes back you’re done with him and he’s said Sure, mate, whatever you say.”

Nick bites his lip. He wonders if Aimee will notice if he steals her martini when the waiter brings it over and drinks it for himself. She’s pretty pissed already, she might not even mind. “Well, no, not exactly.”

“Oh, I see,” Aimee grins evilly. The waiter drops off her drink and she scoops it up and takes a long sip, batting Nick’s hand away when he reaches for it. “So we’ve yet again got a problem that exists only inside Nick Grimshaw’s otherwise empty head. Good to know.”

“Ugh, you’re terrible,” Nick tells her. He drains his glass and waves the waiter off when he comes over to pour another. He’s just – Nick doesn’t need to talk to Harry about this, Nick just knows. He’s got eyes after all. He can see.

“It’s not just inside my head either,” Nick says petulantly. Aimee rolls her eyes again and Nick ignores her. When Aimee came to visit Serafina she brought a box of pink glitter eye shadow and a bottle of vodka which she then proceeded to mix with the rest of Nick’s orange juice and drink with Pixie in the kitchen for the rest of the day as a baby gift. What the hell does she know, really. “It’s not. You’ve no idea, Aims, Harry with the baby is just…” he shakes his head and quietly says, “He’s amazing with her, like, completely natural. He needs to be a dad one day, he has to. I’m not going to keep him from that.”

Aimee is staring at him, eyes wide and unblinking. “And the fact that Harry loves you and that he has that with you right now isn’t penetrating into your thick skull I assume.”

“It’s not the same,” Nick shakes his head. “It’s not.”

“Oh, sure. Right. Because neither of you love this baby at all and you’d love a different baby, is that right?” Aimee asks. Nick is horrified.

“Of course not! We love the baby, of course we do you horrible witch.”

“And you’re together, living together and a couple and in love on your own already,” Aimee continues. “So maybe I just don’t understand why you think Harry would have to leave to get what he wants, according to you, when he already has all of that already.”

Nick tips his chin up. “It’s not the same.”

Aimee rolls her eyes and huffs. “Of course not. My god, Nick, you are actually the biggest idiot I’ve ever met, do you know that?”

Nick knows. He’s an idiot for many reasons, apparently. “Cheers,” he says and steals Aimee’s glass, finishing her drink in one long sip.

*

When Nick gets home Harry’s got Frank Ocean playing softly from the iPod dock and is stirring pasta sauce in a large pot on the stove. Serafina’s in her playpen rolling around on her back and smashing a pink plush dog against her face over and over again and laughing while Fireman Sam plays on the telly. It’s so perfectly and frighteningly domestic Nick wants to run screaming from the flat or grab Harry by the legs and not let him go forever in equal measure. He might actually be having a breakdown.

They eat dinner and drink wine and Nick tidies the kitchen while Harry gives the baby a bath in the inflatable tub they’ve got in the bathroom for her. He brings her back out when she’s clean and damp, smelling like baby lotion and soap and Nick kisses her face and her tiny hands and watches as Harry tucks her in her crib kissing the top of her head before he turns off the light.

The door is barely closed when Nick grabs Harry around the waist and pulls him in, kissing him deeply, licking into Harry’s mouth and swallowing the moan that rolls off his tongue.

“Nick, what—“

“Come to bed,” Nick groans. Harry’s already stripping off, his shirt getting caught around his head and he laughs breathlessly when he manages to yank it off and toss it to the floor, the chains of his necklaces tangled on his chest. Harry laughs and pulls Nick in for a kiss, his fingers fumbling with the hem of Nick’s shirt, popping the button of his jeans and dragging the zip down.

“God, I want you,” Harry breathes and bites at Nick’s jaw. “I want you to fuck me. Can we do that? It’s been so long and I—“

“Yeah, yeah come on,” Nick grabs Harry’s wrist and drags him into the bedroom.

Harry’s laughing behind him, getting caught in the tangle of jeans around his legs because he’s trying to get undressed and walk at the same time. Harry’s barely coordinated to walk on his own without falling over period, let alone get undressed at the same time. Nick rolls his eyes and shoves Harry onto the bed, yanking his jeans and pants down and throwing them over his shoulder. Harry wiggles his eyebrows like a goober and shoves back onto the bed, sprawled out naked and gorgeous, miles of pale skin and muscles, the dark ink of his tattoos curling over his body and begging for Nick’s mouth.

“God you’re gorgeous,” Nick says. He touches the outside of Harry’s knee with one finger, sliding it slowly up his skin as Harry’s breaks out in gooseflesh from his touch. Nick tips his head and bites the inside of Harry’s thigh, groans when he feels Harry’s hands on his head, fingers twisting in his hair and pulling.

“Shut up and fuck me,” Harry breathes, laughing again when Nick pinches his hip. “Heyyyyy.”

“Stop being such a demanding brat and maybe I will,” Nick crawls over Harry to get the lube and a condom from his side table drawer.

“Maybe,” Harry snorts. “As if you’re going to stop now and, oh - Oh--“

Nick grins wickedly and crooks the finger he’s just slipped up against Harry’s hole and pushes in. “Good to know there’s one foolproof way to get you to stop talking.”

Harry groans and bats at Nick’s hands, his head flopping back and forth on the pillow. He looks beautiful already, skin flushed pink, his bottom lip caught tight between his teeth. Nick wants to touch him forever; it kills him to think he may not get to have this forever.

Nick opens him up slowly, one finger then two then three. He waits until Harry is desperate, rocking down onto Nick’s hand, arms and legs spread wide nearly taking up the entire bed. Nick’s so hard he can barely breathe; has to grit his teeth and grab the base of his dick to try and keep from coming just from rolling the condom on and Harry’s voice as it shakes around Nick’s name.

“Steady, love,” Nick hitches Harry’s thighs over him and tilts his hips up. The head of his dick snubs against Harry’s hole and Harry grits his teeth and bears down until Nick’s just a little bit inside. “I’ve got you.”

“Need you,” Harry grabs for Nick’s arms and pulls him down to kiss the corner of Nick’s mouth. He’s still sliding into Harry, inch by excruciating inch, Harry urging him on, rocking his hips to meet Nick until he’s all the way inside. Harry tilts his head back, throat bared and Nick can’t stop himself from dragging his teeth over the thin skin, biting a bruise into the soft spot just below his ear.

“Oh god, come on. Faster,” Harry hooks his ankle around Nick’s hip and pulls him in closer. “Do it, fuck me, please—“ and Nick can’t stop. He needs Harry to stop talking, to stop taking so much of Nick all the time because Nick’s not going to be able to survive without him when he leaves. It’s no use though, Nick gives Harry what he wants like he does every other time, damn the consequences.

He fucks into him faster, shoving Harry up the bed and into the pillows with every snap of his hips. Harry’s got his fingers curled around his own dick and is jacking himself harshly, quick pulls and desperate moans and when he comes it’s fast and sharp, his body stilling then going lax as he spills between them. Nick leans his head on Harry’s shoulder, bites at his skin and squeezes his eyes shut as his orgasm rips through him, curling from his toes up until it hits him like a punch, knocking the breath out of him when he finally lets go.

“I love you,” Nick murmurs wetly into Harry’s skin. He’s sure Harry knows it but Nick doesn’t say it much, some part of him still holding back a little of himself even after all this time.

“Love you too,” Harry says easily. Nick wants to tell him a million things: about how happy Harry makes him and how glad he is that they decided to take Serafina. How amazed he is all the time at Harry’s capacity to love everyone around him. How he’s glad Harry’s let him in and given him that even if it’s not something Harry’s going to want forever.

In the end though, Nick just slips out and ties off the condom tossing it in the general direction of the bin. He lets Harry curl into Nick’s chest and kisses the top of his head and listens to Harry breathe until they both fall asleep.

*

It’s early the next morning and Nick is staring intently at the coffee pot trying to mentally will it to percolate faster when his mobile rings. He rubs a hand over his eyes and yawns loudly before grabbing his mobile and thumbing it on. It’s not a number he recognizes but in the space between answering the call and hearing the woman’s voice on the other end of the line Nick freezes. Somehow he knows exactly what this call is about.

“Hello, Mr. Grimshaw?”

Nick’s heart is thudding in his chest. The mobile slips in his damp palm. “Speaking.”

He sees Harry whip his head up from where he’s sat at the table trying to convince Serafina to eat the pieces of mashed banana he’s put on her tray instead of rubbing them all over her head. Nick wants to look away but can’t. Harry’s face goes white and Nick’s pulse is beating too fast, there’s nothing but a dull buzzing in his ears.

“No,” Harry whispers, and Nick has to look away because the woman is chattering on the other end as if this is a perfectly fine phone call. As if Nick’s been waiting for someone to call and let them know when they can bring the baby back. He can’t believe how wrong they actually are. He can see Harry from the corner of his eye with a hand pressed over his mouth, his eyes fixed firmly on the baby who’s still chattering way happily, throwing hunks of banana to the floor.

“Wait, I’m sorry, what was that?” Nick interrupts because he’s been half tuning the woman out but he could swear he just heard something that has his breath catching deep in his chest.

“I was saying that whenever you’re free to bring Serafina in today we have a family who’s looking to meet her early tomorrow. It might be easier if she were already here in the morning when the family gets here so we figured—“

“Oh, sorry,” Nick tries for nonchalant when everything in him is screaming in panic. “We’re actually out of town today. Day trip to see some relatives, you know how it is.”

“Oh, hmm. Yes. Of course,” the woman says. “And you’ll be gone all day then?”

“Until very late tonight,” Nick lies. He’s made his way over to the table and curls his hand over Serafina’s back protectively. Harry’s not looking at either of them, intent on twisting his fingers together in his lap. “We’ll bring her by first thing tomorrow, then, all right, love?”

The woman splutters for a moment more but finally agrees and Nick rings off and tosses the phone onto the counter so hard it skids into the wall. The room is so quiet. Nick can hear Harry’s shaking breaths and the ringing in his ears and the drops of coffee falling from the filter into the pot. Serafina laughs and kicks her legs out and finally gets a piece of banana halfway into her mouth, the rest smeared all over the bottom of her chin.

“I couldn’t do it today,” Nick says quietly. Harry looks up at him and blinks. “I just. I want to have one more day with her if that’s all right with you.”

Harry sniffs and wipes his face against the sleeve of his shirt. He stands up and kisses Nick quickly before unstrapping the baby and cradling her close to his chest. “No, that’s fine. I’m glad. I—“ he sucks in a breath, his voice is wobbling. “I guess I just kind of forgot, you know? I got used to her and…and everything and just. I’m glad we have a day, at least,” he finally says. He jiggles the baby around and tickles her belly. “Let’s just stay in all day, all right? Just the three of us. I don’t – I don’t want to go anywhere. I don’t want to share her today if this is it.”

“Yeah, all right,” Nick curls his arm around Harry and pulls him in, Serafina tucked tightly between them. “I think that’s a great idea.”

*

They stay in all day. After breakfast Harry gets the baby dressed in one of her frillier dresses - this one bright orange with yellow bows all over it – and put blankets down on the floor with all of her toys around them and they sit there and play and talk to her all day. Harry tells her about the day they got her and makes Nick tell her what happened when he tried to put her crib together himself. She smiles at them and laughs along when they tickle her and when she gets sleepy Harry insists on letting her sleep against his chest on the sofa like she did when they first brought her home.

They order in pizza and Nick and Harry don’t make it out of their sleep shirts and jogging bottoms the entire day. They watch Peppa Pig until they can recite every episode they’ve got saved on the skybox by memory and Nick cherishes every minute of it. He never thought to expect any of this, but when he thinks about what his flat will be like twenty four hours from now he wants to lock himself in the bedroom and not come out until all of these awful feelings go away.

“It’s late,” Harry says when they’ve finished dinner and cleaned everything up. Nick got Serafina changed into a pair of her softest pajamas and he’s sat with her on the sofa giving her a bottle while Harry tidies around the flat. Nick watches Harry look at every toy he picks up, watches the way his fingers linger on it before he puts it away in the toy bin and the only thing keeping Nick going is knowing that this isn’t really it for Harry. That he’ll have a baby of his own one day and god, Nick knows how incredible he’ll be. It doesn’t make it any easier, though. Nick’s not sure what would.

“I can’t—“ Harry’s in front of him, the baby’s favorite plush giraffe clenched tightly in his hands. He’s biting his lip, his hair pushed back in a headband and face shining with raw emotion. “I can’t go with you tomorrow,” he says thickly. “I can’t—“ he looks away from Nick down to the baby in Nick’s lap. When he looks back up his eyes are wet. “I can’t bring her back with you. I’ll call Lou to help me pack up her things in case we…I don’t know. In case we do this again one day but I can’t go with you to bring her back, I’m sorry.”

“It’s all right, Haz,” Nick stands up and hands the baby to Harry who takes her gratefully. “I get it. Why don’t you put her to bed now, get some time in with her for yourself.”

“Yeah, ok, I’ll…” Harry’s voice breaks and he looks down, presses his lips to the baby’s head and doesn’t move. “I’ll put her in and be there in a little bit, ok?”

Nick kisses Harry’s head; let’s his lips linger and squeezes Harry’s hip gently. “Ok.”

*

Nick wakes in a panic, the feeling of something huge and important clawing out from inside his chest. He looks over to wake Harry up but his side of the bed is empty, still as perfectly made as it was when Nick went to sleep and he knows for a fact Harry’s not been into their room once tonight. Nick would be worried if something didn’t hit him while he was trying to sleep, the words Harry had said to him rattling around in Nick’s sleep addled brain.

He pushes the covers away and pads from the room. Serafina’s room is empty but Nick’s not really surprised; he’d have been more shocked if Harry managed to actually put her down at any point in the night instead.

Nick finds Harry dancing slowly in circles in his living room; his cheek leaned onto Serafina’s sleeping head as he holds against his chest. His eyes are closed and he looks so, so tired, but he’s singing and talking to her so quietly Nick’s heart breaks. Nick leans in the doorway and watches them. He wants them both so desperately he aches from it.

“Has she been sleeping this whole time?” Harry looks up at Nick’s voice, his eyes going wide and dark. Nick can tell he’s been crying. Harry’s a big crier at the best of times which this certainly is not.

“Nick, I don’t want to give her back,” Harry’s voice cracks. He stops moving then, stops dancing, stops breathing it seems like. “I love her so much and I want her here and I just, I don’t think I can do it.”

“What you said tonight, about packing her things up in case we wanted to do this again, what did you mean?” Nick thinks he knows but he has to be sure. He’d been so sure he knew how Harry felt and what he would do and what he was thinking, but really, maybe Aimee was right, maybe Nick doesn’t actually know very much at all.

“I just. I figured since you wanted to give her back that you weren’t ready for this now. That you didn’t want…all of this,” Harry raises his chin and gestures to the overflowing toy bin in the corner of Nick’s living room, the half empty bottle and milk stains on his coffee table. Harry takes a deep breath. “And, all right. I can. I can do that, if you don’t want it, but maybe one day you will. Maybe you’ll change your mind and—“

“I’d convinced myself that you were going to realize that this is what you really wanted instead of me,” Nick says quietly. Harry’s being so honest Nick owes him, he figures. Maybe it’s time to tell Harry what he really feels. “You’re amazing Harry, and you’re going to be an amazing dad and I don’t want to keep that from you, even if…” Nick shakes his head.

“What?” Harry’s coming closer. Nick can see how red Harry’s eyes are, how tightly he’s holding the baby in his arms. “Even if what, Nick?”

“Even if it’s not with me,” Nick says quietly. He waves his hand around the flat, toybins and dirty bottles and all. “This is great, it’s amazing, but if you wanted it with someone else I would never stop you, I’d understand. I love you too much to let you be unhappy.”

“Oh my god,” Harry hitches the baby into one arm and reaches out for Nick with the other. Their fingers tangle together and Harry pulls him in. Nick stumbles and almost falls against him. “You might actually be the stupidest person I’ve ever met.”

“Wow. What a sweet talker you are,” Nick deadpans.

Harry doesn’t give in, though, just shakes his head and says, “Nick, really, this is important. Like, you have to tell me what you want here. I already know what I want but apparently you have entire other conversations in your head that you never tell me about.”

“Harry,” Nick huffs, “It’s not that simple.”

“It is,” Harry insists. “Tell me right now: what do you want?”

“You,” Nick says, stripped bare and honest. “I want you.”

Harry nods and kisses Nick’s jaw, his cheek, the corner of his eye. The baby snuffles between them and Harry says, “Is that all?”

Nick thinks of Harry and how important it was when Harry moved in. He thinks about how he never thought he would be that lucky and that to be lucky like that twice doesn’t happen to people in real life, certainly not people like Nick who are cranky and surly and most certainly don’t deserve it. He thinks about frilly dresses and fuzzy pink jackets and tiny white Converse that aren’t even scuffed because she’s never put her feet on the ground, and then he thinks about how much he wants to see that, how much he wants to be the one taking the pictures when Harry helps her take her first steps.

“I want her too,” Nick says thickly. He covers his face with his hand and sighs. “God, Harry, I want you and I want her. I all of this and I never wanted it before and now it’s the only thing I can think about and I don’t know what to do about it.”

Nick,” Harry’s kissing him now and the baby is waking up, of course she is. Harry should really put her down but Nick thinks maybe he can’t, maybe she’s too big a part of this conversation even though she doesn’t know it yet. “I want you and wherever you want to be. You’re my home, Nick, but God, I want her too.”

“Oh my god,” Nick laughs a little hysterically. It’s the middle of the night and neither of them have slept and Serafina’s waking up and crying, rubbing her hands against her eyes because she’s so tired but Nick can’t stop laughing. He starts and Harry joins him and once they’re going they don’t stop. “Are we really going to do this?”

Harry looks up at him and smiles, wide and bright and so honest and when he kisses him, Nick finds he’s not really that scared at all anymore.

“The washed up DJ and his popstar boyfriend,” Harry says and laughs. “Who could ask for better dads than that?”

*

Serafina turns one on a bright, sunny day in August and Nick and Harry rent out an entire restaurant near their flat and invite everyone they know. There’s a table piled high with gifts in the corner and a clown doing tricks for Lux and Louis’ little sisters in the main part of the dining room, music playing happily from the speakers. Everyone is dancing and laughing and eating and drinking and Nick’s not stopped smiling once from the minute he woke up.

Harry’s not let the birthday girl down once even though Nick’s teased him that she’ll never learn to walk with Harry holding her like that all the time. Harry insists that once she realizes she can do it she’ll start walking and never want to sit with either of them every again and Nick doesn’t know enough to argue so he doesn’t, just smiles as Harry parades their little girl around showing her off in her pink princess dress, the few wisps of dark hair she has held back in a sparkly bow Lou bought her specifically for her special day.

“Are you having fun?” Harry asks after he’s got Serafina settled in her seat, a slice of her Peppa Pig cake on a bright purple plastic plate in front of her on her tray. She looks up at the both of them and grins, then slams her hand flat down into the cake, squishing pink icing between her chubby fingers.

“Da!” she shouts and they both laugh, not really sure who she’s calling yet. Nick knows they’ll figure it out eventually. They’ve actually got all the time in the world.

“Loads of fun,” Nick finally answers, shaking his head and leaning into Harry’s side when Harry slips his arm around Nick’s waist. He leans down and presses a kiss to Harry’s hair, and when Harry asks, “Is it everything you thought it would be?” Nick knows he’s talking about more than the party.

“Even better than I thought,” Nick says, and he means every word.

 

-end-