Actions

Work Header

On On and On and On We Go

Chapter Text

Niall let out a sigh as he watched the three giggling girls leave the restaurant.

It was a slow day at Al’s Pizza Factory, as usual for a Wednesday. Niall got hired on a Wednesday, or was it a Tuesday? It didn’t matter, he thought he’d be getting an easy job for a lot of pay but instead he got crowed Fridays and weekends and an entirely female staff. A lot of people would think that a relatively straight 19 year old male would kill for a job surrounded by girls, but the novelty wore off after a while. Especially when the girls are practically all dating each other.

“Are you sure they’re not all in some weird three way relationship?”

Kate, Jade, and Rebecca all lived together in an apartment near the college that they, and Niall, attended. They were practically inseparable and spent a lot of time subtly and not-so-subtly hitting on one another.

The cook, Abby, scoffed, “They're just really good friends, Niall.”

Abby was less expressive with her love for the girls, but Niall knew better. She’d been harboring a crush on Kate for a while.

“Not even two of them?” Niall thought for a moment, “I would put my money on Jade and Rebecca.”

“Nah, if any of them are dating, it’s Kate and Rebecca.” She said defiantly.

“Care to put money on that?” Niall held out his hand and Abby shook it. Then they both glanced at the watch on Niall's wrist. It was 9:56 p.m., only 4 minutes to closing.

Their boss was pretty crazy and didn’t want anyone leaving before every potential costumer got their food, or until 10 p.m.

This rule generally meant someone got left with Abby for the last few minutes of the day. Generally it was Niall, because god forbid he try to break up the golden trio.

“What are the chances of me, bisexual, getting a job with four other bisexual women?”

“Apparently pretty good.” Abby decided, “But Jade is gay all the way,”

Niall nodded.

It was 9:58.

The two workers stared down the clock on the wall, willing it to speed up.

Then the bell chimed. The restaurant was suddenly filled with loud chatter and laughter.

They heard someone call out, “Um, hello? Are you open?”

Niall glanced at his watch, which was just turning 9:59. He met Abby’s eye and they both let out a sigh. She got out her stuff for pizza and he picked up his notepad from the counter.

When he walked out of the kitchen he saw three boys at one of the tables, evidently seating themselves. One was clearly drunk and hanging all over his other friends and Niall was beginning to think this place just attracted gays.

The other two guys were sober, or were better at handling alcohol. One looked really amused while the other looked concerned. The concerned one made the drunk one sit up straight as Niall came over.

“Can I help you?”

“He’s IRISH!” The drunk one exclaimed, causing Niall to take a step back, “How CUTE!”

The drunk one was making grabby hands towards Niall so the concerned one grabbed his arms and placed them against the drunk one’s sides. The amused one, as his name implied, giggled at the sight.

“Liam! It’s my birthday!” The drunk one shouted as he broke out of the concerned one’s, Liam?, grip to resume his grabby hands.

Niall decided it was his time to speak up, “I can get you pizza and some other things, but I’m not on the menu.”

The three all paused to look at him in shock before bursting out in laughter.

“He’s funny too! I want him!” The drunk one could apparently only speak in shouts when drunk.

“Can you just make us a large pizza?” The amused one spoke up.

He had a small grin on his face and his brown eyes were slightly glazed over, obviously he was a bit tipsy. His dark hair swirled up and mixed together with a blond chunk in the front, and the left shoulder of his leather jacket was resting around his arm instead of on his shoulder.

Niall tore his eyes away. He always overanalyzed people.

“Y-yeah sure.” Niall felt his cheeks heating up with a blush as he turned and practically ran to the kitchen. He’s pretty sure he just held eye contact with a costumer for about 5 hours.

“Large pizza.” He said to Abby, who was already making the order.

“I heard,” she said, not looking up, “Go entertain them before the drunk one throws up or breaks something.”

Niall could protest. Could say “The drunk one’s already got a guardian,”. But he kind of didn’t want to.

“YOU!” The drunk one exclaimed as soon as he saw Niall exit the kitchen, “Come sit with us!”

Niall took a seat at the square table across from the drunk one, who was apparently trying to make sense of Niall's nametag.

“Neal? Nall? Neeeyalll…”

“Niall.”

“Niall.” They all echoed.

Niall nodded awkwardly, “So you guys haven’t got name tags…”

The drunk one let out one single laugh before hold out his hand for Niall to kiss, “I’m Louis.”

Niall took Louis’ hand, but shook it instead of kissing it. Louis shook his head and leaned back into his seat.

“I don’t like him nearly as much anymore.”

The concerned one gave him a stern look, “Just because he didn’t kiss your, probably filthy, hand?”

Louis pouted and nodded, “You kissed my hand when I did that to you, Liam.”

“Yeah, and I got sick the next week.”

“That was totally Zayn's fault!”

The tipsy one raised his hand, “That would be me. I’m Zayn. The sickness was totally my fault.”

Niall nodded and avoided making eye contact with the boy for another hour, and turned to, who he assumed was, Liam instead.

“So I’m going to go out on a whim and say you’re Liam.”

Liam was now grunting as he tried to keep Louis seated and from running to the kitchen, “The one and only.”

“Liam, I just want to keep the cook company!”

“You don’t want to do that,” Niall said. Louis turned his entire body to look at Niall, so Niall leaned in close and whispered, “She’s on her period.”

Louis let out a bark of laughter, “I’ve decided to like you again!”

“I’m still not going to kiss your hand, though.”

Louis seemed seriously troubled by this.

“Would you kiss mine?” Zayn asked from Niall's left side.

Niall bit his lip. Was this flirting? “You drive a hard bargain,”

Zayn smirked at Niall, his eyes darkening. Niall couldn’t look away.

Then Abby saved the day by bringing out the pizza and tearing her apron off, “I’m out.”

“Bye Abby,” Niall said, now avoiding Zayn's eyes again.

“Bye Abby!” The three boys chorused.

Abby furrowed her eyebrows, “Do you guys practice that?”

“No,” They all answered in unison.

She raised an eyebrow and Niall decided to have a talk with her about eyebrow communication. Then she turned to leave and Niall looked down to see there was somehow already two slices of the pizza missing.

Upon looking up Niall found himself looking at Louis’ cheeks full of chewed up pizza that he appeared to be about to throw up. Liam, apparently the father of the group, quickly got up to lead Louis towards the sign marked bathroom.

“Don’t miss the toilet, I’ll have to clean it up!” Niall shouted after them.

Then Niall was left with Zayn. Really hot and intense Zayn who seemed to be getting less and less drunk. He picked up a slice of pizza and began eating it. He somehow managed to make even pizza eating really hot.

Niall and Zayn remained silent eye contact through Zayn's entire pizza and then a bit more until Liam and Louis came back.

Louis now looked a bit more sober and a lot more tired.

Niall saw him glance at Zayn and then at Liam and then back at Zayn and then at Niall and then at Zayn again. He then raised one eyebrow, a feat Niall could never master.

Louis chose that moment to lean over and whisper in Liam’s ear, something Niall can’t understand for the life of him. Then suddenly Louis is kissing Liam fiercely. Clearly, this was not something new for Liam, who got over the shock quickly and had no choice but to kiss back.

“Liam,” Louis said breathlessly as he broke from the kiss, “Let’s go home for some birthday sex,” Louis then began singing, quite well really, the chorus to Birthday Sex.

Liam allowed Louis to finish the chorus before saying, “There’s only one car Louis, how will Zayn get home?”

“Our good friend Niall will take him of course!” Louis said, getting up and pulling Liam with him, “It’s not a bother is it?” He asked Niall, but then followed it with “Thanks byeee!” before Niall could even think about answering.

“Well,” Zayn said, “Looks like you’re driving me home.”

“Um, when do you think they’ll be done?” Niall didn’t want to subject Zayn to the sound of his friends having sex.

Zayn shook his head, “They're probably going to be going all night,” He sighed, “Might as well take me home now, so I can make sure they at least don’t do it on my bed. Or the couch. Or the kitchen table.” He paused before grinding out, “Again.”

Niall gave Zayn a pitying grin, “Do you want to crash at my place?”

Then Niall didn’t remember much of the drive to his apartment a few blocks away. He also didn’t remember getting in the door and he definitely didn’t remember kissing Zayn.

He did remember, however, the non-birthday sex that Zayn and he had a few minutes after the kissing began. Niall could guarantee it was at least as good as, or better than, the sex Liam and Louis were having.

Niall didn’t really remember passing out, but Zayn most definitely did.

Zayn watched Niall sleep from the left side of Niall's queen bed. It was kind of creepy, but Zayn couldn’t help himself. Ever since making eye contact with Niall a few hours earlier, Zayn couldn’t look away. Niall was gorgeous. All bleached blond hair and bright blue eyes. His skin beautifully pale and stretched tightly over muscle, but less tight over his stomach. His lips soft and pink, covering unnaturally straight teeth that came out when he laughed. God, his laugh. It was like rainbows and sunshine and happiness all had a baby and the baby laughed at everything.

Zayn was an English major, he should be better at metaphors. Or similes? He’d used 'like'. When do people make comparisons without using like or as?

‘It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.’ Zayn's mind supplied.

‘Yeah like a billion years ago,’ Zayn fought with himself.

Zayn rolled his eyes, ‘More like 420 years, genius.’

‘Fuck off, Zayn.’

Zayn shook his head. He needed to work on his internal monologues fighting. It happened far too often.

He looked down at Niall again. The blond let out an adorable little snore and then rolled over to his side, facing Zayn.

Zayn would kill to spend the rest of his life like this.

‘Whoa there buddy,’

‘You just met this guy,’

‘He could be a killer,’

‘And you literally just broke up with you-know-who.’

Zayn's monologues finally agreed on something. A panic creeped into Zayn's chest and soon spread all the way to his fingertips and toes. He quietly got out of the bed without jostling Niall and grabbed his phone out of his pants on the floor.

“Liam!” He whisper/shouted into the phone when the boy picked up.

Liam sounded drunk with sleep, “Wha?”

“Liam I went home with Niall and we had sex and I’m having a lot of feelings and I need help!”

The line was silent for a while, “I, what?”

“Liam!”

“Look, I’ll come get you,” Zayn heard Liam get out of bed and tell something to Louis, “Where are you?”

Zayn told Liam Niall's address and then hung up. He quickly shoved on his clothes and ran out the door. He waited in front of Niall's apartment building for Liam to come.

Zayn didn’t notice until morning that he’d taken Niall's shirt instead of his own.

Chapter Text

“Well,” Kate said, throwing her uniform visor in Abby’s general direction, “I think it’s time I leave.”

Abby fixed a glare at her, but there was no heat behind it, “I think someone else should learn how to make pizzas. Or we need to hire another cook.”

“Well you can talk to Al about that,” Jade said, whipping her visor off as well, but throwing it at Rebecca. Rebecca let out a squeak at it made contact with her forehead. Immediately, Jade rushed over to kiss the spot that was quickly turning red.

Abby pouted. She was scared of Al. Everyone who worked for him was, really. He was quite the terrifying man.

“Aww, we won’t let the evil Al hurt you,” Kate cooed, wrapping her arms around Abby. Abby pretended to cringe and push her away.

Niall shook his head, “So it’s just Abby and I tonight again?”

It’s been a few months and they haven’t been in that position in a while. Not since…

Nope. Niall was not going to stress over that again. So he slept with some douche who ran out with his shirt before Niall could wake up. It happens. You just have to move on.

Niall was so moved on.

“It sure is,” Rebecca took off her visor and lightly hit Jade’s forehead with it in revenge. Jade dramatically fell to the ground.

“I’m dying!” She put the back of her wrist against her head, “I’m going to need mouth to mouth!”

“I’m out.” Niall said with a chuckle. He left the kitchen and walked out to start mopping the floor. It had been a slow day, there wouldn’t be much to do.

A few minutes later Jade was leaving with Rebecca and Kate in tow. Niall put his mop back in the water and walked back to the kitchen.

“You ever going to make a move?”

“You have floors to mop, Mr. Horan.”

Niall pursed his lips, “You have questions to deflect, Miss…A-Abby,”

“You don’t even know my last name?” Abby frowned at Niall.

“Sorry?”

“Go mop the floors,”

Niall sighed in defeat, but returned to his mop. It was 9:58.

And the front bell jingled as the door opened and three boys piled in.

“I definitely think we’ve been here before,”

“Ugh, Zayn it doesn’t matter.”

“But,”

“Let’s just get some pizza,”

“Yeah, then we can leave if you’re so freaked out by this place,”

“I’m not freaked out! I just…have a bad feeli-”

The words died in his throat as he made eye contact with the boy carefully mopping the back corner of the restaurant.

“Oh,” Niall dropped his mop and ran to the kitchen, shouting, “I’ll be right with you!”

“Niall?” Abby questioned as the out of breath boy all but tackled her.

“Abby!” Niall whisper/shouted, “Abby, I can’t serve those guys because last time they were here I slept with one of them and he ran out on me before morning and he stole my shirt and I can’t be near him I just got over what he did and I just,”

“Niall,” Abby wasn’t having any of this, “It doesn’t matter. He probably doesn’t remember. Just go serve them.”

“But!”

“Do it!”

The sound of a throat clearing comes from behind Niall. Abby makes eye contact with the person and gives her best smile.

“Niall will be right with you, sir.”

“Oh, thanks,”

Niall recognizes Liam’s voice without turning around. He hears the sound of Liam walking away and rejoining his friends. Abby all but pushes Niall out of the kitchen and shoves his notepad into his hands.

Liam, Louis, and Zayn are all in the same table as before and in the same spots. Stiffly, Niall walks up.

“Can I help you?”

“Could we get two large pepperoni pizzas?” Liam asks politely.

“Yeah, I’ll be right back with that.”

“Niall wait!”

Niall froze mid-turn as Zayn's voice called out. He had a few options: ignore him, hear what he has to say, punch him, pretend he doesn’t remember him...

“Yes?” Niall asks, turning back around towards him.

Zayn seemed to be at a loss for words. His blond chunk was gone and his hair was now short and kind of spikey. He looked like a hedgehog. An adorable hedgehog that hasn’t shaved in a week. Niall wanted to rub his face all over Zayn's stubble covered face.

“I, can we get sausage on one of those?”

“You hate sausage on your pizza, Zayn.” Louis said incredulously.

Zayn looked down at the table, “I, wanted to try something new?”

“Coming right up,” Niall said, turning and walking away as quickly as possible.

As he made it safely back into the kitchen and gave Abby the order, he collected himself and all the things he knew at the moment.

Zayn either remembered ditching Niall and wanted to talk about it, or really wanted to try something new on his pizza. Zayn's friends didn’t seem to remember anything, or were keeping quiet for Zayn's sake. Also Zayn and Niall liked and disliked the same things on their pizza.

 The blond decided to shake off the last sentence and focus on the others. Before he knew it, Abby was thrusting two pizza boxes in his hand and sending him off.

Niall thought he was finally in the clear when the three boys just thanked him for the pizza and allowed him to run off and hide in the back. He even so much as started to resume his mopping right before the boys were about to leave. Then Zayn was excusing himself from the group supposedly to go to the bathroom, and he was walking up to Niall.

“Um, I still have your shirt. If, if you want it.”

Niall suddenly felt an inexplicable rage spreading from the middle of his chest. He thought for a moment he was going to swing at Zayn.

Luckily, Niall decided instead to just shove his mop into the water, covering the ground with dirty wetness. He then stormed off to the kitchen. Abby did her thing where she raised one eyebrow then continued doing her thing as if she didn’t care.

Out front, Niall could hear Liam and Louis chastising Zayn for hurting Niall's feelings.

"What did you do to him Zaynie?" Louis was asking, "Was the sex that bad?"

"No, it was really great I just...panicked and ran out."

"Why did you have to pull me into this?" Liam sighed exasperatedly, "I feel bad about assisting you as you ditch your one night stand."

"Don't, don't call it that," Zayn sounded pained.

"That's what it was!" 

Louis was more sympathetic, "Oh, come on Li. Everybody makes mistakes...everybo-"

"Do not start singing."

Louis huffed. Niall could imagine him, lip protruded in a pout and arms crossed against his chest as he slouched in his chair.

"Well, am I allowed to be slightly happy that Operating Double Birthday Sex worked out relatively well?"

"Louis."

"Liam."

Everyone was silent for a moment as, Niall assumed, Liam and Louis stared each other down. Finally, Zayn's sad voice spoke up.

"Can we just go?"

Niall felt his fists clench up. So Zayn was sad now? Niall was the victim here! 

He crossed his arms and huffed to himself as he walked out to give the boys the check. Zayn was not-so-slyly avoiding Niall's eye as Liam was overly polite in giving Niall the $20 dollars for the pizza. The three stood up, but Louis paused for a moment before fishing through his pocket to grab a $5 bill. He slammed it down on the table then awkwardly ushered himself and his friends out. 

Niall picked up the money and contemplated just putting the $5 in the register with the rest of the money. Then he decided that even though he didn't want Louis' pity money, he still wanted money. I don't know if you were aware, but Niall was currently the pizza delivery boy/waiter at Al's Pizza Factory, AKA the gayest pizza place on campus.

"You going to finish mopping?" Abby asked, hanging her apron up in the break room. Niall worked up his best glare but it was inneffective and just caused Abby to laugh in his face. He grabbed the mop and began cleaning with vigor and probably not as well as he should have. All the while muttering obscenities to himself under his breath.

Niall was never going to forgive Zayn…whatever his last name is.

Chapter Text

“It’s unusually slow,” Niall commented. It was a hot spring Thursday. Generally Thursdays were the kind of crowded/kind of not crowded days.

Jade offered a grunt in agreement before returning to her drawing of Rebecca, who was sleeping and was unaware that she was being used as a model.

Al had found out about people leaving early on slow days and had put a stop to it by threatening jobs. Now Jade, Rebecca, and Kate were forced to endure the closing shift with Abby and Niall. Abby was happy about this, though she refused to admit it. Niall was actually subtly trying to get Abby and Kate to interact more.

In the background the tinkling of the bell on the front door signaled a costumer. Kate twiddled her fingers in Abby and Niall’s direction as she went out to serve the person. Niall could hear her talking from the kitchen.

“Welcome to Al’s, can I help you?”

“Yes,” Niall knew that voice, “Can I speak to the blond boy please?”

“O-oh, sure?” Kate sounded a bit hesitant, but none the less went back to get Niall.

He was already up, “I heard.” He walked out and saw Louis and Liam standing at the counter.

For the first time since meeting them, Niall takes a second to look them over. They sort of contrast each other. Liam’s hair was cropped short while Louis’ was artfully swept to the side. Liam wore a polite smile on his face and Louis just looked determined and mildly annoyed. They stood close together and Niall couldn’t tell over the counter, but he was pretty sure they were holding hands.

“Can I help you?” Niall asked, pulling his notepad out of his back pocket.

“Yes,” Louis said before Liam could talk, “We’d like two large pepperoni pizzas and for you to forgive Zayn.”

Niall fumed, “I can give you two out of three of those things.” He ripped out the paper and handed it to Kate to give to Abby. Kate looked like she was about to explode if she didn’t get told the story behind this soon. Niall knew what he’d be spending the rest of the day doing.

“Zayn is re-” Louis started but was quickly shot down by Niall.

“You can wait for your pizzas over there, sir.” Niall pointed to the table where they had sat the last two times they were here. Louis didn’t look like he was going to move but Liam rested a hand on the small of Louis’ back. Louis turned to look at Liam and they communicated with their eyes for a little bit before moving to sit at the table. Louis clenched his jaw and crossed his arms as he fell back into the exact seat where he sat the last two times.

Niall decided to stop analyzing these people he was supposed to not like and he moved to the kitchen where Abby was already pushing two pizzas into the oven.

“How long are those going to take?”

“A few minutes, I can’t speed them up, Niall.” Abby said, guessing what he was going to say next.

Niall sighed and sat down. He rested there with his head in his hands until the pizzas were done. When Abby gave him two boxes he walked out and placed them on Louis and Liam’s table. Liam handed him a twenty and gave him another shy, polite smile. Louis had other things in mind though.

“Can you just talk to him or-”

“Enjoy your pizza.” Niall answered coldly.

Louis looked more than mildly annoyed now, “Zayn is a really nice guy he just made a mistake!”

“If Zayn is so nice he should come in here and apologize himself,” Niall put on a fake smile, “Thank you, come again.”

Louis looked about ready to argue back, but Liam touched his back again and led him out of the restaurant. Niall sighed loudly and stormed back into the kitchen. Rebecca had woken up and was admiring Jade’s drawing and Kate was apparently learning how to make a pizza from Abby, who looked happier than Niall had seen her be in a while.

“Niall!” Kate shouted, dropping her, actually well rounded out, dough and letting it fall into a clump again. Abby shook her head, but the smile on her face contradicted the exasperation she wanted to express.

“Tell us your drama, Niall!” Jade added. This caught Rebecca’s attention. Niall then spent five minutes trying to fight them off.

“Just tell them,” Abby said, putting a pizza in the oven and then taking a seat.

“Fine!”

Niall then spent the next ten minutes telling the whole story.

“What a dick!” Jade shouted.

Rebecca nodded, “Yeah, if he was really so sorry he wouldn’t be so cowardly and he would come apologize himself!”

“I think he probably feels bad,” Kate shrugged. Niall, Rebecca, and Jade all turned to glare at her. “What? He probably feels so awful he’s scared to come face Niall. Maybe he’s shy.”

“Well he wasn’t shy when we were fucking.” Niall spat out bitterly. He grabbed the pizza that Abby had just taken out of the oven and placed in a box. He shoved on his delivery boy hat and grabbed the keys to his car.

“Oh, come on Niall!” Kate said, following him. “Give him one more chance!”

Niall ignored her and walked out, it was raining even though it’d been sunny just a few moments ago. It felt good on his skin, which felt like it was boiling from all the rage he was feeling.

“He probably feels as bad as you do!”

Niall turned to her and saw that the rest of the girls had followed them out too but were hiding under the awning and away from the rain. He felt like he was on fire.

“Look Kate, why don’t you go do something useful for once? Maybe go relieve Abby’s fucking girl boner for you, it’s been getting in the way of the food.”

“Niall!” Rebecca shouted, sounding scandalized. Niall felt the rage leave his chest and be replaced with regret. He looked at the three girls and saw two shocked faces and one betrayed one. Then he looked in front of him and saw Kate, who just looked confused. Kate turned to look at Abby.

Abby’s eyes grew wide and she quickly ran inside.

“Wait!” Kate shouted, running after her.

Niall stayed where he was, getting drenched and no doubt destroying the pizza in his hands.

“What the fuck was that Niall?!” Jade shouted, walking up to him. She looked like she was going to slap him, but Rebecca was holding back her arms.

“What? It’s not like we all didn’t know about Abby’s crush on her!” Niall was trying to justify the actions and he didn’t even really want to justify.

“Well Kate didn’t!”

“…Really?”

“Yes really!” Jade said, breaking out of Rebecca’s grip and pounding her fists into Niall's chest. “Why do you think she wasn’t doing anything about it?”

“Kate is really oblivious,” Rebecca agreed, trying to hold back Jade again.

“You dick! You probably ruined everything now!”

Niall sucked in a breath and ran his hand through his wet hair. Jade stopped trying to beat Niall up and she flipped him off before walking with Rebecca back into the restaurant. Niall dropped the now soaked pizza box to the ground. That person was not getting their order.

He growled as he ran over and slammed his fist into his car, only managing to cause pain to himself.

Chapter Text

Jade grabbed the two pizzas that Abby had put in boxes a few minutes ago and shoved them at Niall.

It had only been a day, everyone was still a little numb about what happened. Luckily it was Friday so everyone had work to throw themselves into. Also Niall didn’t have to hang around because he had pizzas to deliver.

But there hadn’t been a delivery order for an hour, and Niall was about to rip his hair out. Abby had taken everything the hardest, obviously. She wasn’t talking to anyone, but she was making pizzas about a mile a minute. Kate was tense and was clearly trying to avoid being around Abby. She hadn’t told Jade and Rebecca whether or not she talked to Abby after yesterday or not, and they were being too nice to ask. Jade was about ready to kill Niall at any second and urged Rebecca to do the same, but she kept forgetting.

Finally, Jade was shoving two boxes in his face and he took it quickly and was out the door in a flash. He walked up to his car, a used one his whole family had chipped in to get him when he was going to college. It had a little light attached to the top displaying the Al’s Pizza Factory logo. Niall glanced at the address written on the paper on the top box, then at the clock. The place was at least 15 minutes away. It was actually pretty close to the campus of Niall's school, so it was probably for some students.

Students were hard to get tips from. Sometimes they were sympathetic and knew that Niall was probably a struggling college student just like them. Sometimes they were struggling even more than him and couldn’t really afford to tip. Sometimes they were douches who had no respect for the way Niall had to earn money and they didn’t tip him at all. Niall really needed the extra cash this week. His refrigerator was running out of leftovers and his roots were getting pretty bad.

He soon found himself in front of a building of apartments. The paper said the place was on the third floor, which Niall suspected was the top floor. He walked in and the first thing he saw was the significant lack of an elevator. He looked around before spotting a door that had a sign that said “Stairway” and had a stick figure moving up some stairs. He opened the door with a sigh and started climbing.

About five minutes and six flights of stairs later, Niall was ringing the doorbell to the address on the paper. He took the paper and shoved it into his pocket, then started losing his hold on the pizzas. With a yelp he attempted to lean against the door and regain his hold before the door opened, only to find the door was already open. He cursed as he started to fall through the doorway, everything slowing down slightly. He shut his eyes tightly to brace himself for the inevitable landing and ruining of the pizzas.

Then he wasn’t falling anymore.

No, he was apparently transported into another dimension where people actually get caught by someone when they’re about to fall. Niall glanced up to make mooneyes at his hero.

Oh.

Of course Niall goes to deliver a pizza and he ends up in Zayn’s arms, that’s just the way his life fucking works!

Niall's mooneyes turned into daggers as he shoved his way out of Zayn’s grip. The pizzas where, luckily, still in their boxes, but on the floor. One was upside down.

Niall picked them up and shoved them at Zayn. He wasn’t going to waste an ounce of his charm on Zayn, even if he needed the money.

“Here you go, sir.”

“Niall, I swear Louis ordered the pizzas,” Zayn was saying, but Niall wasn’t having it.

“Your total is $19.99.”

Zayn put the pizzas on the ground again and pulled out his wallet to hand Niall a twenty and a five, but he didn’t let go when Niall grabbed them, “I respect that you don’t want to see me,”

Niall attempted to plow over him, “Have a nice day,” He tugged at the money, but to no avail.

“I just want to say, I’m sorry about what I did.”

“I have other pizzas to deliver, sir.” Niall made another attempt at pulling the money from Zayn’s grip, but he was closer to ripping it in half than he was to ripping it out of Zayn’s hand.

“Could you please just acknowledge my apology?” Zayn was getting mad, “You don’t even have to accept it!”

Then Niall snapped, “What makes you think you deserve even that?! You come into my work place looking all cute and with your cute friends and we go back to my place and have a really fun time then you just leave?! You can’t just do that to people! You don’t know anything about me! What if I had abandonment issues? What if I had just gotten out of a bad relationship and you were the first person I trusted and let in again? What if you were my first? Sure, none of that is true, but it could have been!”

Zayn’s grip on the money slackened, so Niall finally pulled it out of his hand. But he wasn’t done there, he’d just gotten started.

“I thought you were a different kind of guy, a nice guy! I don’t want to even be friends with the kind of guy who has a nice night with someone in a pizza place then has sex with them then just leaves. And steals their shirt while they’re at it! So, please stop trying to get me to acknowledge your apology because I doubt you're even sorry! Just stay away from me!”

Niall shoved the money deep into his pocket and took off down the staircase again.

Zayn slowly shut his door, then bent down to pick up the two pizzas. He walked into the living room where Louis and Liam were quietly looking at the muted TV, as if they weren’t listening the whole time.

“So, how was it?” Liam asked, trying to sound innocent and curious.

Zayn rolled his eyes, “We all know you heard.”

“Maybe he’s just had a rough day, finals are coming up,” Louis said, grabbing the pizzas from Zayn and patting his friend’s shoulder.

Zayn shook his head, “I blew it guys, it’s done.”

Louis tried to say something comforting, but Zayn was sulking out of the living room and into his room before he could even start. With a defeated sigh Louis brought the pizzas over to Liam. They shared a look before each opening a box, Louis’ pizza’s cheese was entirely stuck to the top of his box. He let out a snort and Liam shook his head, clearly trying not to laugh too.

Now was not the time for laughing.

Chapter Text

Weeks went by, summer started, Zayn and his friends stopped coming by Al’s, the girls forgave Niall.

Well, Rebecca and Kate forgave him. Jade was still pretty pissed and Abby was just indifferent towards him. He supposed he deserved it, breaking her trust like that. Kate had apparently told Rebecca and Jade what she and Abby had talked about that day when she ran after her, and Jade was doing her best to make sure Niall never knows.

“Come on,” Niall whined. It was 9:50 and all the girls agreed that Abby should go home early, because she always had to stay after. They all sent her off with a promise to cover for her no matter what. “Just tell me!”

“I would,” Kate said with a shrug, “But I’m kind of scared of Jade.”

She whispered the last bit but Jade still looked over at the two with a smug smile on her face.

“Jaaadee,” Niall whined.

“Fine,” Jade said, sitting down, “But because I really want to talk about it without having to be cautious because you don’t know.”

Niall did a tiny victory dance as the four all gathered around for Kate to retell the story.

Kate had found Abby in the break room, crying. Kate had never seen Abby cried before, she was kind of convinced that she couldn’t. She was honestly considering the idea that Abby didn't have feelings. But she was definitely wrong. Abby immediately stiffened as she heard someone came in and tried to leave when she found out it was Kate. Kate had comforted her for a while and when she finally calmed down they talked.

“We agreed that if anything was going to happen, it should be natural. Not forced by some asshole,” She said, jokingly shooting a glare at Niall. Kate hardly ever got mad at anyone.

Niall nodded, “I hope I’m speeding up the process and not slowing it down,”

“I think you sped it up,” Kate said, smiling softly at him, “If you hadn’t said anything, I would still be obliviously thinking Abby didn’t have feelings.”

“You are way too forgiving,” Jade said, scrunching her nose up in Kate’s direction. Kate cooed and pulled Jade into a hug.

“You love me!”

“Unfortunately,”

Niall glanced at the time, “Looks like it’s quitting time ladies,”

The girls were out the door almost as soon as he finished talking, leaving him to mop up and put the chairs up on the table. He’d been on closing duty for about a month since the fight. He just took it, he deserved it anyway.

The next morning, Niall went about his normal routine, slightly altered for the summer. The coffee shop he went to during the school year was now filled with workers closer to his age who just got out for the summer. There was this one boy who had just graduated high school and flirted with Niall shamelessly.

Niall blushed at the thought of him. He entered the shop, it was filled with teenagers who thought it was cool to drink coffee. Niall personally couldn’t stand the taste, he went to the shop for the hot chocolate. He approached the register, two people in front of him were ordering.

“Hey Niall,” came the deep voice of Harry. Niall blushed again, and looked down at the counter. Harry smirked, he knew exactly how charming he was.

Harry was all curls and always wrapped in a scarf even though it was burning hot and he worked around hot beverages. His hands were a little too big and his smile was always accompanied by dimples that were a little too innocent for him.

“The usual?” Harry asked, Niall just nodded. He found himself becoming very infatuated with the boy over the past few weeks. It was a lot different than what he had felt about Zayn. Every conversation with Zayn had come easily, even the fights. With Harry, Niall thought about everything he could possibly say before deciding to say nothing.

Niall liked to think that Zayn was always more of an attractive friend, while Harry was a potential boyfriend. It was a lot easier than admitting the forbidden.

And here Niall was, thinking about Zayn again. Even around his crush he can’t stop thinking about that dick.

Harry held out a large coffee cup filled with hot chocolate, whipped cream, tons of sugar, and a hint of mint. His fingers brushed Niall's as he passed it over and Niall hid his blush with his drink. Harry lingered a little, and Niall waited for him to say something.

“Um,” Harry fiddled with his scarf, suddenly all his charm and smoothness turned into endearing nervousness, “There’s, uh, an Open Mic Night tonight. It’s usually a pretty good show…”

“Oh,” Niall said, “I’ll have to check it out?”

“Yeah, um, it would be cool, if you checked it out, with-with me.”

Niall's grin took over his face, “I’d love to! What time should I get here?”

Harry smiled back, all dimples and white teeth, “I can pick you up around 8,”

“That sounds great!” Niall was digging through his pocket, “I can give you my address,”

“Oh, just,” Harry pointed to Niall's coffee cup, where 10 digits were scribbled down, “Text me,”

“Will do!”

Niall waved goodbye awkwardly as he made his way out of the coffee shop. He was probably permanently blushing. He was so distracted by his date that he didn’t notice Louis and Liam sitting on a park bench across the street.

But then again, they were disguised, no matter how badly. It was Louis’ idea, of course. He was wearing a fedora and a fake mustache next to Liam who had on sunglasses and a long blonde wig. Louis had insisted on Liam being a girl, even though Liam refused to wear the dress that Louis had “spent so much money getting it in just the right size Liam!”

Louis and Liam watched as Niall walked in and out of the coffee shop, Louis holding a newspaper for the full twenty minutes. Never mind the fact that he was holding it upside down and he hadn’t turned the pages, but who reads newspapers anymore? They were lucky Niall hadn’t noticed.

“Why is he so happy?” Louis hissed into Liam’s ear.

“Why are you whispering? He’s about a mile away now,” Liam answered, pointing to wear Niall went.

Louis shook his head, continuing to whisper, “Liam he went into a coffee shop and came out happy!”

“He probably was glad to get his caffeine fix!”

“No!” Louis insisted, throwing the paper on the ground and attracting more attention to them, “He was obviously asked on a date by a cute barista!”

“Whatever you say,” Liam said, fiddling with the split ends of his wig.

Louis sighed, “What do baristas do for dates?” He tapped his chin as he pondered.

“He’ll probably take him to Open Mic Night tonight to read him a poem about his eyes,” Liam said, laughing at his own joke.

“Brilliant!” Louis exclaimed, standing up.

“I was jok-”

“Text Zayn, we’re going to Open Mic Night!”

Liam sighed but pulled out his phone, following Louis’ directions. He sat on the bench as Louis went over to look for the times for Open Mic Night. Then suddenly there was an awful smell and the heat of another person next to him. Liam looked over cautiously and was met with the dirty, bearded face of a homeless man.

“Hey sweetie,”

Liam ripped off the wig, “I’m a guy!”

“I don’t mind as long as you keep the wig on,”

Liam cringed, he didn’t know how to politely tell the guy to go away. He just silently prayed for Louis’ return.

“Liam!” His prayers were answered as Louis’ dramatic voice came from halfway across the street, “I leave you alone for one minute and you are flirting with other men?!”

The homeless man held his dirt covered hands up, “I don’t want no trouble now,”

“How dare you!” Louis shouted, pointing at the man.

“We could work out an arrangement,” The man said, winking at Louis.

Louis was actually speechless for a second, something Liam had never seen despite having dated him for 3 years.

“We will be leaving!” Louis recovered quickly, grabbing Liam and pulling him in the opposite direction of their house.

“Home is that way Lou,” Liam pointed the other way.

“Too bad,” Louis replied, “We’re already going this way.”

Liam sighed and let himself be dragged. The things he does for his boyfriend.

Chapter Text

Niall had arranged with Al to leave early for his date with Harry. Who had been texting him cute things all day.

Niall glanced down at the last message, sent at 7:45, claiming that Harry was on his way to Al’s to pick him up. Niall was bouncing on the balls of his feet and looking up from his mop to the door every five seconds.

“What’s got you so anxious?” Kate asked curiously as she finished her daily cautious conversation with Abby.

Rebecca hopped up on the counter and poked the sleeping Jade awake, “You got a hot date?”

Niall blushed and looked down at his mop again, running a hand through his hair and knocking off his visor in the process.

The girls, minus Abby, gasped and ran to him.

“Who!”

“Tell us who!”

“Is it Zayn?”

Niall shot a glare at Kate for her last question and decided to just plow through it, “It’s the barista over at that coffee place down the block,” Niall pointed behind him to give an idea of where the place was.

Jade looked at him skeptically, “Java the Hutt?”

“What can I say?” Niall shrugged, “They’re on my way to work and they’re cheap.”

“You’re just a sucker for a pun aren’t you?” Kate said with a laugh, poking Niall on the nose.

Behind them the bell jingled, signaling a customer. Niall looked up from his mop and saw Harry hesitantly standing by the door.

He looked adorable, as always. He had a beanie that matched his scarf and looked a lot taller without a counter in front of him. Niall quickly ripped the visor off his head and chucked it at Rebecca, who almost fell off the counter trying to dodge it. Niall didn’t care as he was too busy trying to rip off his apron and getting tangled in the strings.

“Sorry,” Niall said to Harry with a chuckle. “I should have gotten changed sooner,”

“It’s fine,” Harry said, looking slightly concerned at Rebecca who was being really over dramatic the counter isn’t even that far off the ground, “You look cute in your uniform.”

Niall blushed probably all the way down to his toes. He finally got the apron off and he threw it on top of Jade, who was consoling Rebecca. Jade furiously ripped the apron off her head and balled it up to chuck back at Niall.

“Get out of here before you hurt me,” Kate said, shoving him lightly towards the door.

Niall laughed and began leading Harry out of the shop. He turned to give one last nervous look at the girls before leaving and was met with a thumbs up from Kate and a middle finger from Jade. She was an angry little girl.

“So what happens at these Open Mic Nights?” Niall asked, trying to make conversation as Harry lead him to a very new looking old school car.

Harry shrugged, “There is a karaoke machine. A lot of songs get butchered. Some poetry is read, but usually at the beginning before everyone gets drunk and wants to sing.”

Niall grinned, seeing people embarrass themselves was always fun.

It took a few minutes to get from Al’s back to Java the Hutt. The car ride was comfortable and filled with little to no awkward silence. Niall felt really good. This could work out really well.

When they got in there was already a girl on stage. Half her head was shaved short and dyed red and the other half was shoulder length and dark black. Her legs and hands trembled slightly as she read word from a paper she had a tight grip on. She finished tensely and there was a polite applause. Once Niall and Harry had found seats in the back by the door, she and her friend were leaving.

Niall found himself kind of bored as girl after girl got up on stage and read poems about heartbreak and love. He couldn’t wait until everyone got to karaoke. With a glance at Harry he found his date was actually enjoying himself. Sometimes he closed his eyes and nodded along with the girl’s voice as she spoke.

Niall kind of wished he could connect with a random stranger like that.

'You know what happened last time you connected with a random stranger.'

With a quiet groan Niall shook his head, trying to get the thought of Zayn away.

A person finally came up to break out the karaoke machine. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on how you look at it, the guy was really good. The applause wasn’t forced at all at the end and neither were the whistles and waved off cheers for an encore.

Then, apparently, speak of the devil and he doth appear. Niall really wished his life would stop being so cliché when it came to Zayn.

Who was now giggling as he walked up on stage. His eyes were slightly glazed over which Niall knew meant he was probably tipsy as he had been that night. His hair had grown out and he shaved the sides of it off as he styled the top into a neat quiff. He wore an obviously seasoned leather jacket that was rolled up at the sleeves and covered some blue shirt with a graphic on it.

Niall looked over at Harry to distract himself from checking out Zayn further. No matter how hard he tried, he was never going to be able to admit that Zayn wasn’t attractive.

“My friends have been trying to get me to break out the karaoke machine,” Zayn said into the microphone, his voice amused and easy, “But I didn’t want to go first. Luckily this guy handled that,” The crowd let out a cheer as Zayn acknowledged the embarrassed guy sitting with his friends in the front, “But unluckily, I might not be able to live up to that performance.”

Niall heard two very familiar voices coming from the other side of the room as Zayn started setting up his music. With a few moments of searching he locked eyes with Louis who quickly averted eye contact with Niall. The blond felt his chest clenching with anger already. He took a few deep breaths and looked over that Harry, who seemed to have sensed his distress.

“You okay?” Harry whispered, eyebrows adorably furrowed together in concern and confusion. Niall felt his chest slightly unclench, he allowed himself to grin slightly at Harry. Boldly he reached across the table and grabbed onto one of Harry’s way too big hands. Harry looked down at their hands nervously for a moment before grinning his dimpled grin and squeezing Niall's hand.

Then Niall's ears were distracted by the sound coming through the amps on the stage. Zayn was singing. Singing really good, holy shit.

Niall blinked a few times in shock. He guessed he shouldn’t be so shocked. Of course Zayn is perfect at everything.

'Everything except staying the night.'

Niall's hands clenched but he found his left hand was still holding Harry’s. Harry frowned at him, looking between Zayn and Niall and obviously trying to make a connection. Niall shook his head at Harry, wanting to avoid him making a connection.

Then Zayn’s voice stuttered. Niall looked over and found that the boy on stage was making very direct eye contact with Niall. He took that moment to really listen to the lyrics.

“I think you'd be good to me, and I'd be so good to you.” Zayn sang, not breaking his gaze from Niall's.

Niall was trying very hard to set Zayn on fire with his eyes and also stop making eye contact with Zayn. Neither of the things happened and a few minutes later Zayn was stepping off the stage. Then Niall was getting up and was leaving the coffee shop.

He sat down on the concrete ledge in front of the window of the shop. Harry had followed quickly after Niall and took a seat next to him.

After a few moments of silence Harry spoke up, “Um, what was that?”

Niall shook his head, “Some guy I slept with months ago who walked out right after.” He spit out the sentence like it was poison. He’d never really realized but it had been literally months since Zayn and he had had sex. Why was this still an issue?

“He just sang to you,” Harry was looking down shyly at the bracelets he had around his wrists. He fiddled with one until it was in just the right position before looking up to look at Niall.

“Well,” Niall took a deep breath, “Fuck him.”

“You already did that,” Harry muttered, looking away from Niall and down at his feet.

Niall frowned, “Harry.”

“I’m sorry, do you want me to ban him from the coffee shop I can do that I’m on my way to becoming manager.” Harry let out the whole sentence in one breath and looked like he was quickly regretting it.

Niall smiled, he reached over and grabbed Harry’s hand in his own, “No, it’s fine, thank you.”

“He's never come to one of those before…” Harry started, looking up at Niall again, “Maybe next week I can take you again and it’ll be a much nicer date, I promise.”

“I think I’d like that.”

They sat in silence for a few moments on the window ledge. Inside, Niall could hear people drunkenly singing along to songs they barely knew. He turned to try to look inside through the window but found himself very close to Harry’s face.

“Oh,” Niall said, his nose had almost bumped against Harry’s. The ledge wasn’t very big.

Harry hummed before lightly closing the gap between them and pressing his lips to Niall's. It was nice, warm. Harry’s lips felt good against his. There wasn’t really any fire or sparks or any of that, but Niall didn’t really believe in all that anyway.

Not anymore.

Harry smiled softly as they broke apart. He got up and pulled Niall to his car to drive him home.

They left behind Zayn, Louis, and Liam who had stayed after Zayn's performance as to not look suspicious.

“He left,” Zayn heard Louis hissing to Liam a few minutes after Zayn returned to his seat.

He frowned, “Did you two set this up?”

Liam shook his head and held his hands up, “It was all his idea!”

Zayn sighed. Of course, this had “Louis with the reluctant help of Liam” written all over it. He pushed himself out of his seat to storm out of the building, but stopped short as he walked by the big window.

Out on the ledge sat Niall with some guy, locked in a kiss. Zayn’s breath stopped short. They broke apart and the two shared a laugh before getting into a car and driving off. Zayn didn’t move from his spot.

'Of course he’s taken Zayn.'

'Why did you have to go sing to him, you idiot?'

'Why do you always have to go fall in love with everyone?'

'Can’t you just move on easily like a normal person?'

“Come on buddy,” Came Liam’s voice as a hand landed on Zayn’s shoulder, “Stop fighting with yourself and we’ll get out of here.”

They all piled in Liam’s car, Zayn was left to sit in the back looking sadly out the window.

“I’m sorry Zayn,” Louis said as they pulled into the small parking lot for their apartment complex, looking pained, “I really thought it would work.”

Zayn shrugged, “Thanks for trying.” He got out of the car and quickly walked into the building and ran up the stairs. He unlocked the door and found himself flopped out on his bed about five minutes before Liam and Louis entered the apartment.

Zayn sighed. What he should do is just blow Niall off. Let him become a rebound and use him to get over he-who-must-not-be-named.

He should also stop referring to his ex as if he were Voldemort.

He sighed again and flipped himself over. Visions of his night with Niall flooded through his mind as he closed his eyes in an attempt to sleep.

Niall was really beautiful, and it was like he didn’t even know it. Zayn was a bit ashamed of it, but after seeing Niall a second time, he’d gone over to Google to see what he could find of the boy. He found a barely protected Facebook, an Instagram full of food pictures, a Twitter that was frequently updated and filled with awful grammar, and a few websites that Niall had clearly made as a kid and would probably be really humiliated by now. Zayn had found himself reading through all his tweets, all his posts.

Zayn was kind of in love with him.

Which was really dumb because all he really knew was what Niall liked to eat, where he worked, and what he looked like naked.

But Zayn wanted to see him naked a lot more. He wanted to go on dates and have Niall take pictures of both their food. He wanted to stop by Al’s and tease Niall about his visor. He wanted to correct Niall's grammar as he watched him tweet over his shoulder.

Zayn wanted a lot and he wanted it with Niall and he didn’t know why.

With a defeated sigh he decided he wasn’t going to get away from the blond tonight and he fell asleep to dreams of Niall. 

Chapter Text

“So, you have another date with him tonight?”

Niall nodded in confirmation, then checked his phone, “Oh, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a do-over-date to prepare for.”

Rebecca laughed as Niall practically skipped off to the break room to change. Jade was still constantly bad mouthing him over what he did to Abby, but Rebecca had pretty much forgiven him. She was happy that this Harry guy was making him happy. She was also happy that he wouldn’t be moping/raging over Zayn anymore.

The bell on the front door jingled and a boy walked in. He was pretty cute, all lush lips and slightly styled hair. He wore a plaid button down over a white shirt and it looked like the pants he had on were actually pulled up over his ass, unlike most boys around their college. Rebecca put on a smile and walked up to the counter to serve him.

“Can I help you?”

The boy smiled back and rested his arms on the counter, “Can I get two large pepperoni pizzas to go please?”

“Sure!” She turned to Abby who was already pulling out the dough, “That will be $20,”

When he handed her the money she felt their fingers touch and they both lingered for a second. He let go and she put the money in the register with a giggle.

Then suddenly Jade was by her side. Her arm was wrapping around Rebecca’s waist as she nuzzled her nose into Rebecca’s shoulder. The boy coughed and looked apologetically at the two girls before excusing himself to go sit at a table.

Rebecca shook her head, “Come on, Jade.”

“Don’t flirt with other people,” Jade insisted quietly.

Rebecca huffed, “Maybe if you wanted me to stop flirting with people you would actually make a move and start dating me.”

Jade flushed and turned away from the conversation. Instead running to the break room where Niall was exiting, freshly changed and frowning at the boy from earlier.

“What are you doing here?”

The boy held his hands up in early surrender, “I just wanted pizza,”

Rebecca watched them in a confused haze. Niall glared at the boy then moved to join her behind the counter. He hopped up to sit on top of it and stare at the door until Harry came in.

“Um, Niall?” The boy hesitantly approached the counter, Niall just stared at him, “I really want to apologize to you. Not for Zayn!” He quickly said before the blond could protest, “For me. I helped Zayn ditch you that night and I’ve been helping Louis try to get you two together. I realize that you don’t want to be with him and I promise to do my best to keep Louis away from the situation.”

Niall's expression slightly softened. Rebecca’s confusion slightly faded. Obviously this guy was friends with that douche who ran out on Niall and ruined his date last night. She crossed her arms and tried to look mad for Niall's sake.

“Thanks for the apology,” Niall said, “But I’m still not going to forgive Zayn.”

“I wouldn’t expect you to honestly,” The boy muttered. Abby came out of the kitchen for one second to put the pizzas on the counter in front of the boy. He took them and gave a weak salute before turning to leave.

“Wait, Liam!” Niall said, hopping off the counter, “I’ve got a date tonight, maybe you could ask Zayn not to ruin this one too.”

The boy, Liam?, took a breath in before nodding. He walked out and Niall got back on the counter, looking satisfied. Rebecca watched with a frown on her face as Liam exited the restaurant.

Liam found himself back in his apartment a few minutes later. Zayn and Louis immediately dug into the pizzas, moaning with delight.

“This pizza is worth confrontation,” Louis mumbled between bites.

Zayn nodded in agreement.

“Speaking of confrontation,” Louis finished a slice and wiped his mouth, “How’s our boy Niall?”

Liam frowned, “Well, I apologized to him.”

Zayn looked up from his pizza slice, looking remarkably like a puppy, “What did he say?”

“He thanked me, I guess,” Niall was pretty confusing.

Zayn frowned and sadly took another bite of his pizza.

“He also asked me to tell you to, “not ruin his date tonight too”” Liam held his hands up to made air quotes around the phrase.

Next to Liam, Zayn's frown deepened, “Well then.”

Louis uncharacteristically reached across to pat Zayn's back in comfort. Liam furrowed his eyebrows at his boyfriend, who looked back at him with an offended expression.

“We should go to the Open Mic Night tonight then,” Zayn said, getting up from the couch and walking over to grab his jacket.

“Maybe that isn’t a good plan,” Louis said, uncharacteristically again.

Zayn pulled his jacket on and grabbed his shoes and moved to sit on the couch arm to put them on, “You guys can come with me or not, but I am going.”

Liam sighed, Zayn was uncontracting his words. Clearly he meant business. He waited for Zayn to leave the room to whisper to Louis, “We need to go to make sure he doesn’t kill Niall's date or something.”

Louis looked oddly unexcited about the whole thing.

“Are you okay?” Liam asked.

Louis sighed, “I just, we obviously hurt Niall's and Zayn’s feelings the other day. I don’t want to hurt anybody else again.”

“You’re so hot when you’re empathetic,” Liam said before pressing Louis down into the couch with a kiss.

“Are you coming?” Zayn asked, he was already halfway out the door.

“Be right there!” Liam kissed Louis once more before getting up off him and grabbing Louis’ shoes for him. They all piled into Liam’s car and were pulling into the Java the Hutt parking lot a few minutes later.

None of them aware that minutes later Harry was pulling into the spot next to them with Niall in his passenger seat.

“I’m going to apologize again for last week,” Niall started but Harry stopped him.

“Stop apologizing silly,” He grinned at his date, “I’m sure this will be a much better date.”

Niall smiled back and they both exited the car to walk into the shop. There were about the same amount of people there as last time. A girl was already on stage reading a poem from a notebook. Niall quickly scanned the room and instantly met the eyes of the person he wanted to see the least tonight.

“Harry, I want to sing something.” Niall proclaimed. Harry’s eyes widened in shock, but he nodded and introduced Niall to the announcer of the night, the same guy as last week. There weren’t many people signed up to get on stage yet so Niall got on right away. He picked the perfect song and started singing right at Zayn.

Zayn's breath caught in his throat. His smirk that had been in place since he first made eye contact with Niall had fallen right off his face. God, what was he doing trying to piss off Niall? That was the absolute last thing he wanted to do.

Niall finished and the room broke out into a loud applause, the announcer running on stage as Niall walked off.

“Wow, anybody want to come try to top that?”

Zayn stood up. He could hear Louis and Liam letting out quiet sounds of protest as he walked on stage. He could feel Niall's eyes on him.

When he started singing to Niall, he put his everything into it. He just really wanted Niall to see what he meant.

But Niall was just fuming in his seat. Zayn saw his date looking concerned and sort of annoyed between Zayn and Niall.

Almost as soon as Zayn stopped Niall was up on stage after him, belting out a song directly at Zayn. When he finished the announcer took the microphone before Zayn could come up again.

“Okay! I’m sure the audience is enjoying this little show here, perhaps you two need to sort out your issues elsewhere and not in song?” His comment elicited a laugh from the audience and caused Zayn and Niall to simultaneously get up to leave the building.

“What the fuck are you doing singing love songs to me?!” Niall shouted as soon as they got outside.

Zayn crossed his arms, looking shy, “I was trying to say that I have feelings for you…”

“After I sang ‘it’s too late to apologize’? Really?”

“Well, that’s why I sang ‘I won’t give up’, obviously,”

“Maybe my last song will get it through your thick head that I don’t want anything to do with you!”

“No, I think my two songs still apply,” Zayn crossed his arms stubbornly.

Niall let out a groan, “You’re so frustrating!” His fists were urging to hit something, “Where were your feelings for me when we were fucking, huh?!”

“Oh, trust me! They were there!”

“Did they run out the door with you when you left?!”

“No, I just,”

Niall didn’t let him finish, “Stop! Just, I don’t want to date you! Stay out of my pizza shop and stay out of my life!”

Niall stormed off, grabbing Harry, who was waiting by the door awkwardly with Liam and Louis. He half dragged Harry toward Harry’s car and quickly got in the passenger seat, slamming the door.

The ride back to Niall's apartment was tense. Harry awkwardly silent and Niall huffing quietly to himself. They pulled into the parking lot and sat in the stationary car for a moment.

The suddenly Niall was all the way across the center console of Harry’s car and his lips were roughly connected to Harry’s. He broke apart from him to whisper into Harry’s mouth, “Wanna come inside?”

“Um, I don’t think so,” Harry replied quietly, pushing Niall away lightly.

Niall frowned, “Can we at least try to have another date?”

Harry sighed, “Maybe not.”

“Why?” Niall all but whined.

“I know you don’t want to hear this, but I think you like that guy a lot more than you’re allowing yourself to admit.”

“Ugh, fine,” Niall got out of the car, “Fuck you Harry.”

He slammed shut Harry’s car door and walked up to the door to his building. He rested his head against the door and listened as Harry drove off. He crashed his fist into the door with a loud groan.

Moments later the door opened, “Did you forget your key again?”

Niall nodded, “Yeah, thanks.”

His neighbor nodded and gestured for Niall to come in. 

Chapter Text

“So then he’s all-” Niall throws on a deep voice to give the girls an accurate visual of the scene, “”Niall you’re totally in love with that Zayn guy.” I mean, what?! He’s totally crazy! I hate Zayn.”

Rebecca and Kate attempt to fake laughs but Jade just rolls her eyes, “Yeah right,”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

She sighs and gets up from her seat, grabbing her apron on the way out of the break room, turning back around only to say, “Please Niall,” in her most condescending voice.

Niall frowned, “I thought you said she forgave me,”

“She does!” Rebecca rushed to say.

Kate nodded, “Yeah it’s just, we’re all pretty sure you don’t exactly hate Zayn as much as you boast that you do.”

Niall scoffed and crossed his arms, leaning back in his seat. Why couldn’t anyone see how much he obviously hated Zayn?! The guy had gone and broke Niall's number one rule for potential suitors. Not only that, but he was a presistant douchebag who refused to take no for an answer. Then he went out and ruined two of Niall's dates and publically embarrassed him. Niall had every reason and then some to hate Zayn.

Why did everyone think he didn’t?

“I’ve got pizzas to deliver.”

Niall grabbed his visor and aggressively shoved it on his head, successfully ruining his good hair day. He heard Kate and Rebecca let out matching exasperated sighs as they got up to join him out in the restaurant. As Niall exited the break room he decided that he definitely needed to stop talking about Zayn by name because “speak of the devil” had never been so true before.

Louis and Liam were hesitantly trailing a determined Zayn as he walked right in through the door as if he owned it. Niall immediately attempted to set Zayn on fire with his eyes, to no avail.

“I told you not to come here.” Niall all but growled when the fire thing didn’t work out.

Zayn just smirked, “You can’t ban my friends and I from this place, you’re just a delivery boy,” His eyes narrowed as Niall was visibly provoked by his comment, “And besides, every time we come here it seems to be completely deserted. You should appreciate our service.”

“I’ve got pizzas to deliver,” Niall repeated, snatching two boxes from Abby, “You cunt.” Niall muttered the last part but he knew he said it loud enough for Zayn to hear.

Abby made eye contact with Niall for the first time in months. She actually looked sympathetic for a moment before quickly guarding herself and looking away. Niall decided to talk to her later.

He quickly evacuated the shop, avoiding all concerned glances from the girls and even Liam and Louis.

“Just who do you think you are?” Jade immediately jumped, verbally, on Zayn as soon as Niall left. She hated Niall for what he’d done to Kate and Abby, but no one was allowed to hurt her former friends.

Zayn crossed his arms, “I just want pizza.”

“You just want to hurt Niall,” Rebecca jumped in. She was usually nice, but some things she couldn’t take.

Zayn was at a loss for words. He sighed, and lowered himself down into a chair at their usual table. He put his hands up to his face and slowly dragged them up into his hair. He tugged a bit for good measure.

'You’re the biggest idiot.'

'You totally had every right to do that.'

'The biggest jerk.'

'Niall was being unreasonably mean.'

'How can you be such an asshole?'

'You just wanted forgiveness.'

'I thought you loved him, you dick.'

'You were totally justified.'

“Zayn?”

Louis’ voice in his ear broke him out of his conversation with his figurative angel and devil, who resided in his head and not on his shoulder. Zayn became aware of the tears pricking behind his closed eyelids and the shaky disjointed breaths coming out of his nose.

“Is he okay?” He heard a girl’s voice whisper, probably to Liam.

“Yeah he just,” Liam answered, pausing in search for an explanation, “Gets lost in his head sometimes.”

Zayn pulled himself together. He latched onto the anchor that Louis was providing him and steadied out his breathing by matching it to Louis’. He opened his eyes and quickly threw his head back to stop them from coming out, as if that eliminated the fact that they were there.

After a few moments he made eye contact with Louis, who looked uncharacteristically concerned. He knew that this must be a weird moment for Liam, who got off on Louis’ concerned side, but would feel bad about being turned on when his friend was sad.

Zayn let out a small chuckle at the thought and caused the room’s tension level to lower. He looked over at the four girls and Liam, “Can I tell my story before you go picking sides?”

Kate flipped the open sign to closed even though it was only 9:50. They all grabbed chairs and gathered around Zayn, Louis, and Liam at their table. Abby brought out a pizza and, after much bribing from Kate, decided to stay and listen.

“It was Louis’ birthday and I had just gotten dumped, so of course, drinking was the answer. Then we got hungry as Liam was driving us home and we stopped at the first food place we saw.”

Zayn remembered the night clearly, though it was months ago and he was half drunk. Louis was somehow draping himself over both Liam and himself and was breaking out into occasional song. Niall came out from the kitchen and he was all pale skin and fake blond hair covered by an adorable visor. His lips moved in an intricate way with each word and Zayn could see his accent without hearing it. When Niall first met his eye he saw a little twinkle there as they held gazes for a few seconds. It had felt like hours.

He had walked away and Zayn turned to Liam and Louis and said, “Dibs.”

“You don’t need to call dibs,” Liam responded, trying to keep Louis quiet, “Louis and I are dating.”

“Well, you can’t let Louis talk him into a threesome,”

Liam rolled his eyes, “You don’t even know he’s gay and you’re already insinuating that he would have sex with two guys?”

Zayn snorted, “Louis is persuasive.”

Then Louis showed off his persuasiveness and convinced Niall to sit with them. Zayn made sure to take any and every opportunity to flirt with him. Even smoldering Niall down when Louis went to puke.

Then Louis’ sex-dar went off and he managed to ditch Zayn in the best way possible.

“So we went back to his place and…you know,”

“Yeah, we don’t want to hear that,” Jade said, holding a hand up.

She elicited a laugh from Louis, “I like her.”

“Anyway,” Zayn said, getting attention back on him, “He fell asleep and I got all caught up in my head. I was getting all these weird feelings. Like these were feelings you have after dating someone for years, and I was having them about some guy I had just met and had sex with. Next thing I know I’m throwing on clothes in the dark and calling Liam to come pick me up.”

“Oh yeah, did you ever give him his shirt back?” Kate asked.

Zayn looked down guiltily, “I don’t think he wants it anymore…”

“Wasn’t that his favorite shirt?” Abby spoke up for the first time.

The girls all looked at her in shock, Abby rolled her eyes, “Believe it or not, I got so mad at Niall for what he did because we were really close. What did you think we were doing whenever you three ditched us to close?”

The girls all adopted sheepish looks and turned back to Zayn. Kate was the first to speak up.

“I want to take your side.”

Zayn raised an eyebrow.

“I really want to, but I feel like it would be betraying Niall.”

“He deserves it, after,” Jade stopped, not wanting to address the situation specifically.

Kate shook her head, but Abby spoke before she could, “No one deserves that.”

“But,”

“No one.”

“Anyway,” Kate said as Abby and Jade stared each other down and communicated using only eyebrows, “I want to take your side. Because Niall kind hateloves you.”

Rebecca nodded, “You’re all he talks about.”

“Practically obsessed.” Jade confirmed, turning away from a smug Abby who had won the staring contest.

“It’s like he loves you so much and he hates himself and you and everyone else around for it.” Abby said. The rest of the girls nodded, Abby had described it perfectly.

Zayn was kind of overwhelmed by the whole situation. The thought of Niall having feelings for him was almost too good to be true. But obviously the boy had liked him at some point, he did have awesome sex with Zayn. It was so hard to believe after all Niall had done to show that he felt exactly the opposite.

Jade sighed, “So what do you suggest we do? Pressure Niall into forgiving Zayn?”

“We can’t just force him to.” Kate said, looking defeated.

Rebecca shrugged, “We could, like, give him a little shove?”

“How do you mean?” Louis asked, intrigued. He wanted to help get Niall and Zayn together without the added guilt that came from it.

“Ooh!” Kate said after a moment of silence while everyone thought. “I know!”

Niall returned to Al’s about ten minutes later. After Zayn and his friends were long gone and the girls had the whole plan ready for execution.

“You feeling better?” Rebecca asked, putting a hand on his back.

Niall shrugged, “A little.”

“You know what you need?” Kate started, “A good party!”

“Yeah!” Jade agreed, “We can get you all drunk and you can just have a good time for once.”

Niall shrugged.

“Come on,” Kate implored, “My friend is having a birthday party at my place on Friday. She’s ho-o-ot,” She sang out the last part, grinning at Niall.

“Maybe,” Niall said before throwing his visor towards the open door to the break room. Kate smirked, she knew that maybe would be a yes by the end of the week. She winked at Abby who immediately blushed and looked down at her hands, which were usually making a pizza but were currently doing nothing to help get her mind away from the girl across the room.

Chapter Text

Abby was making what was hopefully the last pizza of the day when Niall came up to her. The rest of the girls had left to set up for the party that they had finally gotten Niall to agree to.

“Am I making the right decision to go to this party?” He asked, sounding cautious.

Abby sighed, Niall hadn’t really talked to her since the whole incident, “I think so,”

“Really?” Niall sounded less like he was doubting her opinion on the party and more like he was doubting the fact that she was speaking to him.

“Really.” She replied, to both his doubts.

He wringed his visor nervously, “Abby I’m really sorry.”

“Don’t.”

“We need to talk about this Abby,”

“Can we just pretend we did and skip to forgiving each other?”

“You know, the reason why Kate knows you like her is because of me. And if I hadn’t done that she would have never known because you’re all emotionally stunted.”

“I am not!”

“Oh please,” Niall knew he had to resort to tough love to get through Abby’s many barriers, “Kate didn’t even know you had the ability to cry until she found you doing it. You can’t just keep everything bottled up!”

“Well it’s working out fine for me!”

“No it’s not! Can’t you see that?!”

Abby slammed her palms down on the pizza, it was getting way too flat. She shoved it into the oven and turned to Niall.

“Fine! You want some emotions?! I’ll give you some!” She pointed a finger in Niall's face, “You were my best fucking friend and it pissed me the fuck off when you went and betrayed my trust by telling Kate how I felt! It scares the hell out of me that I like Kate because I’ve never liked anyone before and I never knew what to do about it and I never wanted to do anything about it! I just wanted it to be left alone, but then you had to go and throw me into the ocean like that was going to make me learn how to swim! Newsflash, that usually ends in panic and potential drowning!”

There were hot tears running down her cheeks and she hated them. Tears were pointless, all they did was make you weak. She scrubbed furiously at her eyes, trying to make them stop. When they refused to she hopelessly fell to the dirty floor of the kitchen. Sobs were ripping out of her chest with more force than ever before. She could feel warm arms encasing her and she couldn’t find it in her to shove them away as she normally would.

“You’re okay Abby,” Niall whispered into his friend’s ear, “This is good, it’s healthy,”

It didn’t feel healthy.

Her sobs finally started to cease, but Niall never stopped hugging her. Well, until he started smelling smoke.

He jumped up and looked over at the oven, which was leaking out very scary black smoke.

“Oh fuck!” He opened the oven and very stupidly reached in to pull out the burnt pizza without oven mitts. He got the pizza about halfway out before the heat got to him and he quickly let go. The pizza fell to the floor with a surprisingly loud noise. Abby was already up, waving smoke away from the fire alarms with a broom. They hadn’t gone off yet, but if they did the fire department would automatically be called.

Niall was clutching his burnt hands to his chest, Abby rolled her eyes.

“You need to run them under cold water,”

Niall frowned, apparently too shocked and hurt to understand basic commands. She grabbed him and dragged him over to the sink, placing his hands under the faucet and putting on the cold water. She then went and opened every window and the front door to air out the place.

Abby returned to the sink and lean over it. She looked up and over at Niall and they both started laughing.

“Well, this is a story.”

“A story you’ll tell no one,” Abby said, turning off the water and examining Niall's hands.

“Give it to me straight, will I make it?”

Abby chucked, “You’re fine, we’ll just pick up some gauze on the way to the party.”

“Yeah, burns aren’t any excuse not to party.”

“You definitely need to party, especially after all this,” Abby said, “As do I. So I will be accompanying you.”

“I’m sure a certain someone will like that,”

“I’m sure she will,” Abby said, a soft grin taking over her face.

Niall grinned back, “She does like you, you know.”

“I know,” Abby sighed, “But it still scares me.”

The closed up the windows and swept up the pizza remains. Abby did some damage control on the customer who would not be getting a pizza and gave away about 25 dollars in discounts. When they were done they shared a, painful on Niall's part, high five. Then got into their respective cars, Abby driving to the party and Niall to the drug store.

Gripping the steering wheel was damn near torture, he figured out. He managed to charm the lady behind the register into picking out the gauze for him and wrapping it around his hands. He had to give her his number in the end, but it was a worthy cause.

And she wasn’t so bad looking.

Niall finally found himself in front of the door to Kate, Jade, and Rebecca’s apartment. He spotted Abby’s car and one other unfamiliar car accompanying the girls’ car in the driveway. Clearly the party hadn’t gotten started just yet.

He rang the doorbell and immediately the door was answered by a very tipsy Kate.

“Niaaall!”

“Kaaate!!” Niall mocked, chucking as he walked in. Jade was straddling Rebecca on the couch next to a very uncomfortable Abby. He shot a grin at her and she glared back.

“Niall!” Kate slurred, “Niall, I need you to get me something from the closet!”

Niall furrowed his eyebrow, “Um, okay?”

“Great!” She began pushing him towards a door which he assumed was the closet.

“Uh, what is it?”

“Oh you’ll know when you see it,”

She opened the door and shoved Niall inside, quickly locking it. Impressive considering how drunk she was.

“Kate!” Niall shouted, banging on the door. It was dark and the closet was tiny and Niall was not in the mood for a prank. Suddenly a light flicked on and Niall turned to find Zayn sitting on the floor. The closet was actually kind of big, just very narrow. Zayn sat in a corner far away from the door where Niall stood.

“Are they actually fucking serious?”

Zayn looked pained, “I told them this was a stupid idea,”

“Not to mention cliché and totally flawed!” He made sure to shout so the girls outside could hear him.

“We’re not letting you out until you either kill him or can tolerate him,” Came Jade’s voice from the other side.

Niall crossed his arms. He could out-stubborn these girls any day.

After minutes of pure silence except for the girls outside of the closet, Zayn spoke up.

“What happened to your hands?” He spoke so quietly Niall almost didn’t hear him.

Niall sneered, “None of your business,”

“Niall, I’m just trying to make this a little easier,”

“You know what I hate most about you?” Zayn was shocked by the sudden change of topics. He was also kind of scared to find out the answer, “How difficult it is to hate you.”

Niall sunk down into the corner by the door, as far away from Zayn as he could possibly get. Zayn sadly looked down.

“So why do you do it?”

Niall sighed, “I guess there's no way around this now. I’ve kind of never told anyone this. But, my mom got pregnant with me from a one night stand. I’ve never met my dad, he kind of refused to have any contact with me.

"I’m, I’m not like one of those sad little kids who is all fucked up from not having a dad or anything. I just think one night stands, especially unexpected ones, are a really shitty thing to do.”

Zayn stayed quiet for a minute before quiet saying “Niall, I’m not that kind of guy.”

“Then why did you do it Zayn?!” Niall asked, his voice raising.

“Because I was scared!” Zayn stood up and walked to the middle of the closet, not daring to get closer to the other boy, “I was scared because I felt such a strong connection to this random guy and I’d never felt like that before and it was scary so I ran away from it like I do with everything!”

Niall could tell Zayn was yelling at himself more than anything. He allowed a moment of silence to wash over them so he could consider what Zayn said.

He knew exactly how Zayn felt, he’d felt it too. Such a strong and random connection to this person and it was terrifying. But Niall had liked it. The terror of the connection was what made the sex so amazing. The connection itself was what made the sex so amazing.

The sex was really amazing.

“Zayn?” Niall said, getting up and walking to the middle of the closet where Zayn had collapsed after his tirade.

“Yeah?”

Niall gave a sad smile to Zayn, “I think we’re both too messed up to be having a relationship, no matter how much we like each other.”

Zayn bit his lip, nodding but not breaking eye contact, “Yeah, probably.”

Niall held out his hand, awkwardly, given the angle, “Friends?”

“Friends.” Zayn replied, shaking Niall's hand just as awkwardly.

Niall got up with a groan, holding his hand out again to help Zayn up.

“You can let us out now!” He shouted at the door.

No response.

“God they ditched us didn’t they?” Zayn said.

“Bitches,” Niall shook his head. Out of pure whim he turned the doorknob, finding that it was unlocked for who knows how long.

Zayn and Niall exited, finding a sleeping Jade and Rebecca on the couch and a very absent Abby and Kate. Niall walked over and poked Rebecca.

She let out a groan and slapped away Niall's hand, but he poked her again.

“What?”

“How long has the door been unlocked?”

She scoffed, “We never even locked it you big dumbasses,”

Niall shook his head. Rebecca had already started drifting back off to sleep. He turned to Zayn who just looked amused.

“Liam and Louis were here and they aren’t now so I guess they had high hopes and ditched me,”

Niall grinned, “I drive you home.”

“None of that funny business from last time you drove me home though, right?” Zayn joked.

Niall laughed, “Of course not,”

They got into Niall's car. Zayn's apartment was a good half hour from the girls’.

"So what did happen to your hands?" Zayn asked.

Niall chuckled, "Abby and I got distracted while there was a pizza in the oven. I was stupid enough to try to grab it without oven mitts."

Zayn was trying hard not to smile, "I'm sorry, does it hurt?"

"Oh no, it's totally fine." Niall replied, sarcasm clearly dripping off his words. Zayn let out a giggle. 

Niall smirked and lowered his voice to a mock whisper, "I'm actually a werewolf, I've got these superhuman healing powers. The bandages are just for show."

"Oh really?"

"Yeah,"

"So am I Bella Swan here?"

Niall grimaced, "Boo, no. You would be one of my werewolf bros obviously,"

"Yeah, obviously."

The rest ride was surprisingly fun, and full of laughter. Niall couldn’t believe how easily he and Zayn were already getting along. It was always difficult to hate Zayn because frankly, Niall liked him.

There was a reason why they slept together that night.

Chapter Text

“I’m going over to Al’s, you in?” Zayn asked the couple that was clearly too busy making out on the couch to hear him.

Or so he thought.

“Al’s? As in, Al’s Pizza Factory? Workplace of your sworn enemy slash crush?”

“Yes, Lou,” Zayn said, pulling on a jacket, “And we’re friends now.”

Liam raised his eyebrows, a trait he’d picked up from Louis, “I want to see this.”

“I agree,” Louis said, getting up and moving to fix his hair in the mirror that was one of many that Zayn insisted they needed around the house. Beauty doesn’t come easy, you know.

“Hurry up,” Zayn sighed, “Niall said there was lady drama and he needed back up.”

Apparently excited for lady drama, Louis and Liam were soon following Zayn out the door and piling into his car. It was hot out, but considering the whole summer had gone by in one big heat wave, it wasn’t the worst he’d seen. School was going to start up soon.

Niall and Zayn had taken to going on what Niall had dubbed as “bro-dates”. They usually went out to various cafes and restaurants around campus. Zayn learned that Niall couldn’t land on one major. He’d hopped from English to History to Music. He was really enjoying music, he knew how to play the guitar and didn’t think he was too bad a singer. He told Zayn stories about his friends back in Ireland and him talking about forming a band but it never happened. Which was something Niall regretted. They talked about their favorite kinds of music and movies and foods. Niall told Zayn about his girlfriends and boyfriends and how he lost his virginity. They’d even got to the point where Niall could joke that Zayn was his best lay.

Nothing surprised Zayn more than how easily Niall had taken to him after the night in the closet. He’d expected Niall to be hard to crack, after all the time he’d spent holding a grudge against Zayn.

His thoughts were interrupted by them pulling into the parking lot at Al’s. Zayn half expected it to be empty save for three to four screaming girls, but it was empty and eerily quiet.

“Thank god!” Niall exclaimed when Zayn walked in. “Louis, Liam! What’s up!”

Niall walked up to envelope Zayn into a warm and sincere hug, something that had become a norm after their second bro-date. Zayn decided he would never turn down a hug from Niall, no matter how hot it was or how sweaty Niall was from standing in the kitchen of Al’s.

Liam and Louis were both treated with hugs as well, much to Zayn's absolutely nonexistent jealousy thank you very much.

“Hey, I’m gonna go on my break,” He said to Rebecca, who was reading a book quietly next to Jade as she drew something feverishly in her sketchbook. They both made noncommittal hums and Niall just waved his hand and lead the three boys outside.

“You wanna go head to Java the Hutt?” Niall asked, “I can catch you up on all the lady drama and I have something to do there.”

Zayn shrugged and looked at Louis and Liam.

“Cool,” Liam agreed.

Louis looked unsure, “Great!” He all but shouted, clearly nervous.

“You okay, Lou?”

“I’m fantastic Zayn, let’s go to the punny coffee shop, yes?”

Zayn shook his head and got into his car. Niall called shotgun and soon Louis and Liam were stuck in the cramped backseat of Zayn's car, which has probably seen worse days and were probably not cleaned afterwards.

“Liam,” Louis hissed as Zayn and Niall got sucked into a weird conversation full of inside jokes.

Liam frowned, “What?”

“Liam, Java the Hutt.”

“What about it?”

Louis frowned, how could Liam be so dense, “That’s where Niall and the cute barista had their two dates that Zayn ruined.”

Liam’s mouth dropped, “How do they not remember that? Does it not matter anymore?”

Their questions were answered as Zayn pulled up and realized where they were, “Are you sure we should go here?”

“Zayn, that stuff is behind us now,” Niall said with a slap on Zayn's back, “Besides, I can see now how romantic you were trying to be, serenading me.” Niall mock swooned and fell into Zayn's arms.

Zayn giggled, “Get off me, it’s too hot for this.”

“Why are you wearing that dumb leather jacket?”

Zayn's mouth opened but Liam’s voice came out, “It makes him look badass,”

“And sexy,” Louis added, rolling his tongue and biting the air.

“I think you look badass and sexy no matter what you’re wearing, Zayn.” Niall said sincerely, a hint of teasing hiding underneath his tone.

“Fine, fine,” Zayn said, pulling off the jacket, “I’ll take it off.”

The jacket came off to reveal a sleeveless shirt. Everyone took a second to admire the muscles Zayn had been slowly developing under his tattoos.

“When did you get those?” Louis asked, practically drooling.

Zayn snatched his arm away from Louis’ grabby hands, “None of your business.”

“I think they are entirely my business,” Louis was offended, “I thought we agreed to have a discussion before you decided to make yourself hotter.”

“You agreed, I didn’t.”

Louis slumped in his seat.

“Am I not enough for you anymore?” Liam asked quietly.

“Why are we still in the car and not in the air conditioned coffee shop?” Niall wondered.

Louis smiled fondly and grasped Liam’s arm, “You’re the only one for me Liam, no matter how hot Zayn gets.”

Liam didn’t seem reassured, but Louis just continued to get out of the car and follow the other two into the building.

“You two!” Came the voice of the man who hosted Open Mic Night, apparently just a busboy in real life. “Finally have make up sex then?”

Zayn looked upset, but Niall just laughed, “We’re perfectly platonic, thank you.”

Louis watched as Niall's eyes shot over to look significantly at the person serving coffees.

Who was the cutest little thing Louis had ever seen. Had to be just barely out of high school. All over large hands serving coffee that came accompanied with a charming dimply smile for every customer.

“I want one!” Louis said to no one.

Liam frowned, “What?”

“Liam, buy him for me,” Louis pointed at the barista, who seemed to have noticed them and was blushing sweetly into a cup as he wrote out the name of the girl in front of him.

“You’re lucky I’m not the jealous type.” Was all Liam had to say. As usual, Niall laughed, Zayn chuckled quietly.

When they got up to the register Niall stopped before moving on to the waiting area, “Harry, can I talk to you real quick?”

The barista’s smile faltered, “Maybe not…”

“Please, just two minutes?”

He sighed, “Anne?” A woman came out from the kitchen, “Can you watch the register real quick?”

The woman smiled and Louis watched as Harry and Niall went off to where he couldn’t hear.

“Is he asking him out?” Louis wondered.

“I’d be surprised if he said yes after all I did.” Zayn said through clenched teeth.

Someone is the jealous type,” Louis singsonged, earning a glare from Zayn.

Across the shop Niall was pleading, “I made up with Zayn and we’re actually great friends now. I would really like it if we could have one more try? Third time’s the charm and all that?”

Harry seemed hesitant, but he was won over by Niall's hopeful grin, “One more try.”

Niall cheered, “Yes! You won’t regret this Harry!” He pulled Harry into a hug and when he pulled away the curly haired boy just had a dazed smile on his face.

“Tonight, 8, I’ll text you directions.” Niall said as he walked back to his friends. “He gave me a third chance! Don’t mess this one up for me, Malik.” He said with a joke glare at Zayn.

Zayn's chuckle didn’t seem all that easy, “Didn’t we have a bro-date tonight?” The phrase “bro-date” seemed cuter when it was coming out of Niall's mouth.

Niall's grin quickly turned to a frown, then to a grin again, “Well, we can do that tomorrow? This is really important Zayn.”

Zayn, like Harry, was quick victim to Niall's hopeful smile, “Okay.”

Behind him, Louis “discreetly” made whipping noises as Liam laughed. Zayn shot his foot back and felt it connect with Louis’ shin and heard him groan as Liam laughed harder.

“I was promised lady drama,” Louis said as they found seats in a booth in the back of the shop.

“Right, so the other night, Kate and Abby got drunk at the party while they waited for Zayn and I to kill one another. So Kate and Abby are like totally in love, you know that part right?” Louis and Liam nodded, “Yeah, so they had super drunk sex and they had barely gotten to the just friends part of their messed up relationship. Now they’re all weird and tense with each other and no one likes it.”

“There really isn’t anything you can do,” Zayn said with a shrug, “Just wait it out.”

“Yeah I guess,” Niall answered noncommittally, checking his watch, “Man, I need to go get ready for my date.”

“Oh,”

“Come on, let’s go back to Al’s.”

A half hour later found Louis, Liam, and Zayn back at their apartment.

“Let’s watch a movie!” Liam suggested.

“Something scary,”

Louis frowned, “Are you okay?”

Zayn nodded.

“Well, you only ever want to watch scary movies when you’re upset.”

“I’m fine.” He insisted, sitting down as close to the arm of the couch as he could, so he could isolate himself from the other two.

“Okay,” Liam agreed, grabbing a random DVD from their small horror section on their bookshelf.

Louis wasn’t letting it go that easily though, “Oh yeah, sure. No one is upset that Niall has a date with the cute barista.”

“You’re right.”

“Don’t play dumb with me, Malik!”

“Niall can date whoever he wants!” Zayn snapped, “I’m just his “bro”!”

Liam put a hand on the small of Louis’ back. Louis turned around to look at his boyfriend, who simply just nodded his head towards the starting movie. They had a brief silent conversation before Louis begrudgingly sat down, crossing his arms. They watched the movie in silence, already knowing when things were meant to jump out and scare them and not being effected.

Then Zayn's phone started singing, a song Liam and Louis hadn’t heard from the phone in months.

“Isn’t that…?” Louis asked quietly as Zayn walked to his room to take the call.

“You-know-who.” 

Chapter Text

“So then Harry insisted on paying even though obviously I was supposed to pay because I asked him out and chose the restaurant and it was kind of my fault the last two dates went so badly and…”

Zayn was trying very hard to listen politely as Niall recapped his date excitedly.

Very.

Hard.

It wasn’t like he was jealous. No. Please. Zayn was just Niall's bro. They were on their platonic bro-date. Drinking bro-soda as they ate bro-pizza and watched as Niall's girl-bros flirted.

Bro.

It was perfectly normal for one bro to be annoyed with his bro for talking endlessly about his date. Check out the bro code. Zayn was 78% sure his attitude was justified.

“…So we agreed that the date actually went well for once and laughed and he walked me to my door, how cute is that? And then we kissed and I tried to get him to come inside with me but he was just a stupid gentleman and kissed me on the damn cheek before walking back to his car, what is this? The 60s?”

Niall chuckled as he shook his head and took a sip from his soda. Zayn absolutely did not stare at Niall's lips enclosing around the thin straw and definitely not when Niall licked said lips to get all the soda taste sufficiently. Nope.

Zayn was too busy enjoying listening to Niall talk endlessly about his date.

“That sounds great, it’s a shame I couldn’t mess that one up,” Zayn joked when he realized Niall was finally done and was waiting for him to say something.

Niall laughed, “Yeah, but I might actually get a boyfriend out of this!”

Zayn managed to smile before letting his attention stray to where Kate was flirting with Abby. The two had managed to get over their tensions and were in a very weird almost dating relationship. It was like they were both too shy and nervous to really say they were dating even though everyone else knew they were like five seconds away from making out.

“…Speaking of boyfriends…” Niall started hesitantly, “Someone told me that you were thinking about getting back together with your ex?”

“Someone being Louis,” Zayn said, ignoring the rest of what Niall said.

Niall shook his head, “Are you sure about that, Z?”

Zayn sighed. His ex had called him at what could either be just the right time or just the wrong time. Either way he’d managed to coax Zayn back into a relationship. They were going on a date next weekend.

Sure his ex was kind of an ass, and he’d broken up with Zayn over something really stupid and kicked him out of their apartment and caused Zayn to go move in with Louis and Liam. But, he was safe. They already knew each other so there was no awkward getting-to-know-each-other phase. The sex was still great, or at least the phone sex was. And Zayn could always pretend that he’s changed and is better now. It was much easier than pining for his friend.

What? Pining for his friend? No siree, Niall and Zayn are bros. Only platonic bros. Who went on platonic bro-dates. Why was this so hard to understand?

“Yeah, he’s cool,” Zayn said, taking a drink from his cup.

Niall's lips twisted awkwardly, “I just, Louis and Liam told me a lot about him…”

“He’s changed, he’s better now.”

Zayn's rehearsed line didn’t fool Niall, “He was pretty terrible to you,”

“It wasn’t that bad, Louis is overdramatic and you know it.”

“He made you feel bad about yourself,”

Zayn shrugged, “Sometimes it’s good to have a little push to make you work harder,”

“He insulted you constantly.” Niall's voice was getting sharper, his face more and more serious. Zayn had never seen him like this.

“He was just kidding, it’s just how he talks.”

“Zayn, he threw you out of your shared apartment!”

“Well we had broken up, what was he supposed to do?”

“God dammit!” Niall snapped, “Why are you determined to do something so bad for you?!”

“What makes you think he’s so bad for me? You don’t even know him!”

“I don’t need to know him! Louis knew him! Liam knew him! I know his type! He’s terrible for you, terrible period. I can’t let you do this to yourself, Zayn. That’s not what bros do!”

Always with the “bros”. God, couldn’t Niall just call them friends?! Why did everything have to be bro this, bro that. Why did he always have to remind Zayn just how much of a chance he doesn’t have of dating Niall?

Zayn huffed as he snatched his jacket off the table and stood up. He’d always wanted to storm out of a fight but he figured the cow bell on the door eliminated the whole drama of the situation.

The girls had all froze the second they heard Niall raise his voice. Jade in the middle of a sketch of Kate and Abby, who were flirting while Rebecca looked over Jade’s shoulder. They all watched silently as the two fought, Niall easily mad and Zayn shockingly calm. They watched as Zayn got up and stormed out, the cow bell decidedly not ruining the effect. The first person to talk was, surprisingly, Abby.

“Somebody’s jealous,” She singsonged as Niall fumed in his seat.

His head snapped to her, “Why would I be jealous?”

“You obviously like him Niall,” Abby said with a scoff, the rest of the girls nodding in agreement.

Niall looked genuinely confused, “Wha? I’m, I’m dating Harry!”

“To get over Zayn,” Kate added.

“Because you’re scared he’ll hurt you again.” Jade finished.

“No,” Niall frowned, “I’m dating Harry because I like him and I don’t like Zayn because we’re bros.”

Abby scoffed again and decided she was done with the conversation. She started spreading out the dough for another pizza, roping Kate back into their half flirting half pizza making thing they had going on.

“I don’t like Zayn!” Niall repeated.

“Yeah, okay,” Jade replied, going back to her sketch.

“I don’t!”

The girls all shared a laugh, not bothering to fight back. Niall grumbled and look off his visor, “I’m leaving early,” He got in his car and started driving towards Java the Hutt. He needed to see Harry. For no reason besides just wanting to see his boyfriend.

God dammit.

Chapter Text

“Niall, we need to talk,”

“Well that’s never good.”

Harry had been dating Niall for almost a month. It was great honestly. Niall was hilarious and just generally a joy to be around. He made sure all their dates were as fun as possible and didn’t pressure Harry into anything he wasn’t comfortable with. It wasn’t that Harry was a prude. He was actually kind of the opposite. It’s just, Harry didn’t expect to be dating Niall for this long.

He kind of thought he was just a rebound for Zayn. He expected a few fun dates before Niall confessed that he was still in love with Zayn or that he didn’t really like Harry all that much.

But it was almost a month. And Niall was talking about anniversaries.

Yeah, he was the type to have month-iversaries.

Normally Harry would find it sweet, but he just couldn’t.

He took a deep breath and looked into the blue eyes across the booth from him.

“You’re in love with Zayn,”

Zayn was all Niall talked about. He endlessly relived their “bro-dates” with Harry. He laughed uncontrollably over inside/you-had-to-be-there jokes that they shared. He talked about how Zayn's weird roommates were going to get married one day.

Once while Niall and Harry were on a date, Zayn had called. Niall spent literally five minutes, Harry watched the clock, having a “no you hang up” fight with him before Niall's phone died.

Harry couldn’t do it anymore.

“You’re crazy,” Niall laughed, waving Harry off, “We’re just bros.”

God, the “bro” thing. Niall needed a bigger vocabulary, “Niall, you cannot be “just bros” with him,” Harry lifted his hands to add air quotes, “You’re in love with him.”

Niall's grin faltered, he scoffed incredulously, “I think I’d know if I was in love with him Harry.”

“Obviously not! Seeing as you don’t know you love him now!” Maybe Harry was being a little hysterical, but honestly, he was reaching the end of his rope.

“Is this some weird way of breaking up with me?”

Niall looked so hurt, Harry almost considered breaking into a laugh and saying it was all a joke.

“Niall,” He sighed, “I’d love to date you but I really can’t because you love Zayn and he loves you back and I just, don’t want to be in the middle of that.”

“Who are you to come in and tell me that I’m suddenly “in love” with my friend?!”

An angry Niall was a rare sight. So was a Niall calling Zayn his friend instead of his bro. Shit had gotten serious.

“I’m your boyfriend Niall. And I’m telling you, you love Zayn.” Harry knew he was basically kicking Niall while he was down, but he needed to get his point across, “And it’s not sudden either, you’ve been in love with him since you first slept with him. That’s why you got so upset when he ditched you. You need to be with him, not me.”

Niall had stood up the second Harry mentioned him and Zayn sleeping together. He was almost fuming, and with a “Fuck you!” he picked up his jacket and stormed out of the restaurant. Harry could feel the other patrons staring at him, so he casually took a sip of his soda and leaned back in his seat with a sigh.

The pretty waitress came up to him moments later, “Do you need your bill?”

“I guess,” Harry replied.

“Do you…need someone to talk to?”

Like Harry could go five minutes out of one relationship without finding a new one.

As Niall found his way out the door of the restaurant and into the parking lot he realized all too late that Harry had drove them both there. Mad at himself and at Harry and at Zayn and everything else, Niall drove his fist stupidly into the side of Harry’s car. The only thing affected was his fist, which was now bleeding.

“God, fuck,” Niall cursed as he cradled his fist. At least it wasn’t raining. He wasn’t totally trapped in an angsty movie.

He pulled his phone out of his pocket and scrolled through his contacts.

He obviously couldn’t call Harry. He wasn’t about to go crying to his mom or dad. His brother was on his honeymoon. He really didn’t want to tell the girls about the whole situation. Probably not Zayn right now.

He paused as he got to the Ls.

His finger pushed the call button before he could think and next thing he knew, he was in Liam’s car.

“Thanks for doing this,”

Liam waved his hand, “Please, any friend of Zayn is a friend of mine.”

Niall bit his lip at the mention of Zayn. There was no reason to get mad at Liam, “You sure it wasn’t a bother?”

“Lou’s a little pissed because we were about to…p-play Scrabble,” Niall snorted, “But he’ll get over it.”

“I’ll buy you two the deluxe edition for Christmas.”

Liam laughed awkwardly, “He’d love that,”

Niall decided Liam was a good friend. He didn’t ask any questions about why Niall needed to be picked up from the parking lot to the restaurant. He was a little concerned about his bleeding knuckles, but he quickly backed off when Niall insisted that it was nothing.

“Seriously, thanks so much,” Niall implored before he left the car.

Liam laughed, “Seriously, it’s no big deal,”

Niall found himself almost cheered up before he got inside and realized what had just happened all over again.

Harry had broken up with him.

Because of Zayn.

Why was Zayn always getting between him and Harry?

The next morning Niall had to skip his morning coffee because Java the Hutt was the only coffee shop on the way to Al’s and he really wasn’t ready to see Harry. When he finally found himself walking into Al’s he was grumpy as all hell and totally not ready to deal with perky lesbians.

“What’s up, buttercup?”

“Go away,” Niall waved his arms at Kate, who was unfazed by his attack.

“You look like death.”

He made an inhuman noise that probably went well with his zombie-esque appearance.

“Stop being dead and tell us what’s wrong,” Jade said.

“Harry thinks I’m in love with Zayn and he broke up with me,”

“So are you finally going to start dating Zayn now?” Rebecca asked from the break room. She exited and walked over to Jade so she could tie her apron.

“What, no! Not you too!”

“Niall,” Jade said, looking at him as condescendingly as she could, “Do you seriously think you two are just friends?”

“Yes! We’re bros! He doesn’t like me like that!”

“Niall,”

“Kate,” Niall mocked.

The three girls all stared him down.

“Zayn and I are just friends!”

“Okay, fine,” Rebecca said with a sigh, leaving to go take the chairs off the tables and put them on the ground. Kate and Jade reluctantly left as well, Kate going to the kitchen to see Abby and Jade to help Rebecca.

He obviously was the devil, Niall really needed to speaking of him. Niall's phone rang, singing out the song Zayn had set for his ringtone.

“Hey,” Niall answered, trying to sound enthusiastic.

You okay?” Zayn replied.

Niall took a breath, “Yeah, yeah. Fine.”

Okay,” Zayn said, disbelievingly, “We still on for tonight?

“Yeah, yeah of course. Why wouldn’t we be?”

I…I don’t know. I just like confirming plans I guess,” Zayn laughed at himself and Niall couldn’t help laughing along.

“So eight?”

Yeah, eight.

“See ya,”

Bye,

Niall looked at the picture he had assigned to Zayn's contact. It was from their first bro-date, Zayn had gotten his ice cream all over his nose somehow and hadn’t noticed until Niall whipped out his phone to take a picture. He’d tried to wrestle the phone out of Niall's hands to delete the picture but when he finally won he just changed his ringtone.

Niall smiled at the memory. Zayn and he were great friends. Why potentially ruin it with love?

“Oh, so now you’re smiling?”

Niall mock-glared at Abby.

“You sure you’re okay?” She asked seriously.

“I’m fine,” He sighed, “Just you wait. Tonight Zayn and I will go on our bro-date and we’ll laugh and laugh about how everyone thinks we’re in love and he’ll get me drunk enough to forget about Harry.”

“Whatever,” Abby shook her head, "So what happened to your hand?"

It was eight before Niall knew it and he was ditching the girls to go to the new Chinese place that had opened across the street from Al’s and stole all their customers. They were going there half to scope out competition and half because Niall and Zayn really liked Chinese food.

Or maybe Zayn had lied. Because it was nine and Zayn was decidedly not sitting across from the booth from Niall as he scarfed down his food, long since ignoring his chopsticks for a fork.

He’s seen the staff looking at him with pity after a half hour of “just browsing the menu for his options” so he decided to play it off as if he meant to show up alone and just eat.

Niall was more worried than he was mad at Zayn. He took out his phone to anxiously stare at it and, speak of the devil now applied to thinking as well, Zayn's picture showed up as Niall's phone sang out his ringtone.

“Where are you?”

Niall listened curiously as he hears what sounds like crying on the other side, “Zayn?”

I’m so sorry, Niall,

“What? What’s wrong? Where are you? Are you okay?”

I’m, I’m fine,” Zayn sniffled, “I guess…I, I’m really sorry,

“Why are you sorry? What’s wrong?” Zayn wasn’t giving him any answers and Niall was getting panicky.

He called me at last second and I, I couldn’t say no and I ditched you for him and now I’m sitting here like an idiot and he never showed up and I’m so stupid for even going back to him,

Niall sighed, “It’s fine, Z. Calm down, I’ll come get you, where are you?”

I’m at that place with the really good pie,” Niall knew the place, “I got Liam and Louis to drop me off before their date and I don’t want to bother them. You don’t have to come though, I can walk home. I shouldn’t have called,

“No! Don’t go anywhere, I’m on my way,”

Okay,” Zayn's voice sounded really small and sad and it just broke Niall's heart.

Ten minutes later Zayn was in the passenger seat holding back tears as Niall drove them to a quaint café nearby Zayn's place.

“I’m so stupid,”

“You’re not stupid,” Niall said, even though he thought Zayn was pretty stupid.

“I am, why did I ever think he was better?”

“I don’t know,” Niall sighed, “You just wanted someone and he was there and familiar, everyone makes the mistake of going back to their exes.”

“There’s a reason they’re exes.”

“Exactly,”

Two coffees and a shared biscotti later, Zayn was still sad.

“Wanna hear something funny?” Niall tried.

Zayn shrugged, “Sure,”

“So, Harry broke up with me, because he thinks we’re in love.” Niall let out a small laugh to express his disbelief, “And when I told the girls, they all insisted that we were in love! Crazy, right?”

Zayn bit his lip, “Um, not really,”

Niall's laughter paused, “What?”

“They’re kind of right, on my side at least.”

Niall's eyes widened, “I,”

Suddenly, Niall was grabbing his car keys and jacket and shouting an apology as he ran out the door and to his car.

Chapter Text

It was 10 p.m.

Usually Niall cherished this time, it meant he got to go home. But now he was dreading it.

It meant Harry got to go home.

But luckily Java the Hutt still had lights on so maybe Niall could be lucky enough to find Harry in there closing up.

Then it hit him.

Why had he run to Harry?

Well, who else did he have? Zayn was out of the picture because, well he was the reason Niall needed a friend. Louis and Liam weren't options because the reason Niall needed help was because he upset Zayn. It probably would have been smart to call one of the girls, but he honestly never thought about them outside of work.

He should change that.

But for now he was running to Harry.

Harry who was kissing a blonde girl up against the counter where Niall got his coffee every morning.

“Good to see it was hard to get over me,” He remarked dryly, causing them to break apart.

Harry didn’t seem fazed, “What do you want?”

Niall frowned. Harry always had a way of saying things that should be rude in a way that made them sound sweet.

“Well I wanted someone to talk to, but obviously you’re busy,” He did his best to sound upset to find Harry kissing some chick.

“Hey, whoa,” Harry held out his hands, “We broke up, I’m allowed to date other people.”

“You’re gay?” The girl asked, the question went ignored as Niall kept talking.

“Whatever, I’m going to talk about my problem anyway, I guess you guys can keep kissing if you want.” He waved his hand at the two and saw Harry swoop in to continue his kissing, “Basically I told Zayn what you said about us being in love, and about how all my coworkers agree. I tried to make it into a joke, because the whole idea is just…weird. Right? But then he was all,” Niall made sure to throw in his best impersonation of Zayn's accent for this part, “”Oh that’s not funny Niall it’s true I love you” and then I ran away. And now…what?”

“Oh my god, cute!”

Niall frowned as a girl voice spoke up, he saw Harry groan and lean his head on the blonde girl’s shoulder but she was too distracted by Niall's story to care.

“It’s like Zayn was made to cockblock me,” He muttered quietly as he released the girl so she could walk over and lean on the counter across from Niall.

“So do you love him back?”

“I,” Niall's face blanked, “No! No,” He then proceeds to tell her the entire story between him and Zayn. Halfway through Harry brings out two coffees and a hot chocolate for them all and watches as the girl freaks out over the story.

“Oh my god that is the most adorable thing!” She squeaked, “And sad! Why don’t you just get together with him?”

“We’re just bros!” Niall said for, what felt like, the tenth time today,

“Bros who’ve had sex and go on frequent dates,” She scoffed. Harry made a weird motion with his hand that was meant to say “thank you, I thought I was the only perceptive one here”.

Niall frowned and sipped his drink, but the girl pressed on, “How do you feel about him exactly?”

The question really stumped him. How did he feel about Zayn exactly. He felt awkward about him now. Just a few hours ago he felt all warm and content for their bro-date. A few months ago he felt indescribable rage. Almost a year ago he felt passion and lust and maybe a bit of forever.

“I need to go,” Niall said, getting up and leaving his drink behind.

It was 11:43 p.m.

What were the chances of Zayn being where Niall left him?

Niall almost suspected that he could just go to the park or something and talk about Zayn and the old “speak of the devil” trick that had worked so well before would pay off.

But luckily it didn’t come to that, as Niall came to the café he’d been at a few hours earlier and found Zayn sitting pathetically at the same table, staring into a piece of pie as if it had offended him personally.

“Zayn!” Niall shouted as he came in, immediately attracting Zayn's, and everyone else there’s, attention.

“Niall?”

“Awesome news!” Niall said as he walked up to the table, “I’m totally in love with you!”

Zayn frowned, a reaction Niall had not expected, “Niall,” He started slowly, “I told you I loved you and you ran away and disappeared for two hours.”

“But I’m here now!”

“It doesn’t matter,” Zayn was mad, “You ran out when I opened up to you,”

“Well now you know how I felt that first night,” Niall knew he was aiming below the belt with that one and regretted it before it even came out of his mouth, but not soon enough to stop it.

“Ugh, fuck you,” Zayn replied, getting up and stalking out.

“Wait, no,” Niall chased after him, “It’s not supposed to be like this!”

“Not everything ends like it’s supposed to, Niall,” Zayn said, huffing, “I’m going home. Don’t follow me.”

“Let me drive you,”

“As if,”

When Zayn arrived home he made sure to slam the door and throw his shoes across the room after taking them off. It did nothing to help the situation.

He stomped down the hall and barged straight into Louis and Liam’s room, glaring at the naked couple on the bed.

“I need you,”

“Um,”

“We’re a little busy right now, Z,” Liam said.

“But,”

Louis huffed out a breath, turning around and shaking his head at Liam. They simultaneously stopped everything and covered themselves with their plaid sheets.

“Sit down and tell Uncle Louis all about it,” Louis said, patting the bed beside him.

“I told Niall I loved him and then he ran away and came back and told me he loved me,” Zayn pouted.

Liam frowned, “I’m missing the problem,”

“He ditched me to sit pathetically alone for two hours before deciding he loved me!”

“At least he decided,” Louis offered.

“It’s better to have lost and, wait no, that doesn’t work…” Liam thought for a moment, then shook his head, “Whatever I don’t need fancy quotes. It’s good that he finally realized he loved you, no matter how long it took.”

“But,”

“I know you want to be mad at him right now,” Louis ran a hand down Zayn's back, “You want to teach him a lesson. It’s fine, I’ve got a plan.”

Louis smirked, he always had a plan.

Chapter Text

“Liam, I’m going to Java the Hutt, you want anything?” Louis shouted as he pulled on his shoes.

Liam was out in the living room within seconds, “Wait, what, why? No.”

Louis rolled his eyes, “I’m just going to set our plan in motion,”

“But,” Liam pouted, “I’ll go with you,”

The older man furrowed his eyebrows, “Li, are you okay?”

“I just want to go with you!”

“Are you jealous of Harry?”

Liam laughed hysterically, “Why would I be jealous of Harry?!”

Louis smiled softly, “Liam, you know my flirting is harmless, you’re the only man for me.”

“Of course I know that,” Liam replied, sounding calmer as he wrapped his arms around Louis.

“If you’re so worried why don’t you make an honest woman out of me?” Louis mumbled into Liam’s chest, not intending for him to hear it.

But he did, Liam pulled out of the hug and held Louis an arm’s length away from him, “Are you serious?”

“Well,” Louis bit his lip, “We have been dating for almost four years. Our parents love us and each other. Also we love each other.”

“I can’t believe you’re proposing to me and you don’t even have a ring,” Liam said with a giddy laugh.

Louis threw his arms up, “Excuse me, I wasn’t planning on proposing today!”

“When were you planning?”

“Well, if you must know,” Louis crossed his arms, “I was waiting for you to do it. ‘If you like it then you should have put a ring on it’ and all that.” Louis made sure to lift his hand up to a little redition of the Single Ladies dance.

“I was waiting for you to do it!” Liam replied.

“Whatever, it’s done now, we can go ring shopping later,” Louis waved his hand flippantly, “Right now we need to get Zayn a boyfriend.”

“What are you two doing here?” Harry groaned the moment Louis and Liam walked in to the almost empty shop.

Louis’ hand shot to his chest as he gasped in offense. Liam held his hands up in defense.

“We just want to know when the next Open Mic Night is,”

“Only if you promise to get Zayn out of my life,”

Louis frowned, “What’s wrong with Zayn?”

“He’s cockblocked his way into my life, ridding me of a boyfriend and a potential girlfriend.”

“You care about Niall right?” Liam jumped in before Louis could start ruining Harry’s self-esteem.

Harry sighed, “Yeah, yeah, I do.”

“You want him to be happy?”

“Even if it means him and Zayn dating?” Louis jumped in.

“Yeah,”

“Tell us when the next Open Mic is,”

“Tonight.”

Louis hummed, “That’s conventiet.”

“Also how do you get to Al’s Pizza Factory from here?”

“Zayn's friends are here, code red!” Rebecca shouted as Louis and Liam exited Liam’s car.

“Hide, Niall!” Kate shouted, pushing the blond into the break room.

Niall rolled his eyes and easily stopped Kate by grabbing her arms, “It’s fine, I’ll talk to them.”

But it was too late, the two boys were already being showered by six handfuls of cheese courtesy of Jade, Rebecca, and Abby.

“I’ll get the sauce, you get the dough,” Jade shouted, “We’re having sausage tonight!”

“You’re not eating them!” Niall shouted walking over to the terrified, and cheese covered, couple. “Abby I thought you were better than this!” He pointed at the girl walking over with the pot of sauce she had made for the day.

The four girls look ashamed as they put their “weapons” back into the kitchen.

“Now, what do you two want?”

“You and Zayn together please,”

“To go.”

“You and me both, buddy,” Niall replied with a sigh, “But he’s made himself clear, and I respect his wishes.”

“What he told you isn’t really how he feels,” Liam said.

Louis nodded, “He’s just being dumb. Just as dumb as you were when you held a grudge against him for a century for one stupid mistake.”

“Oh how the tables have turned,” Came Abby’s smug voice. Niall turned and saw the girls standing in a line with their arms crossed, looking very girl band-esque.

“What do you want me to do?” Niall asked.

“Come to Java the Hutt tonight, and sing to Zayn.” Liam said.

“Make it a duet!” Louis suggested, “So he’ll come up and sing with you! Then you can kiss and the screen will fade to black as everyone claps and the credits roll.” He looked off to the side as if watching the movie on a screen on the wall.

Niall was hesitant, “Real life isn’t a movie guys.”

“Oh shut up,” Kate said, “The rest of your relationship has been the most dramatic rom-com I’ve ever seen.”

“Whatever, I’ll do it,” Niall said, and added as the six cheered, “But I won’t like it.”

“Yes you will,” Jade said with a pat on his back.

And that is how Niall Horan found himself at Java the Hutt once again, walking up to the stage and looking nervously into the crowd.

“Not this guy again…” He heard someone say. He laughed sheepishly into the microphone at it, rubbing the back of his head.

He looked out and saw four supportive girls giving him eight thumbs ups. He even spotted Harry in the back nodding kindly. Also in the back sat Zayn, who was shocked to see Niall walk up on stage and was now glaring at his two friends.

“Uh, this is for you Zayn,” Niall said, nodding towards where Zayn was sitting. “I love you?”

Niall shut his eyes and started to sing. He had gone with Louis’ advice to picked the only duet he knew.

“I got chills, they’re multiplyin’, and I’m losin’ control. ‘Cause the power, you’re supplyin’,” He pointed at Zayn, who was obviously trying very hard to look upset. “It’s electrifyin’!” Niall made sure to add a hip thrust for that part.

There was an awkward pause before Zayn gave in to his friends’ pushing and sang the next part.

“You better shape up,”

“Do, do, do,” Niall rolled his eyes as he heard Kate and Rebecca start to sing.

“’Cause I need a man,”

“Do, do, do,” Louis was now singing along and trying to push Liam into it.

“And my heart is set on you,” Zayn pointed at Niall as he finally made his way on stage and was handed a microphone.

“And my heart is set on you,” The audience was watching with awed expressions as their six friends followed them on stage.

As they finished Niall saw Kate and Louis wink at each other before getting behind Niall and Zayn, respectively, and pushing them towards each other. They obliged and shared a short kiss because they knew their friends would not let them finish without it.

“Our friends are dumb,” Niall said with a laugh.

Zayn smiled, “Yeah,”

The host was on stage taking the microphones away as soon as they were finished, “Okay, can you two please leave and stop sorting out your issues in song? This isn’t Glee.”

Niall held his hands up in defeat before grabbing Zayn's hand and walking towards the door.

“Did you get your movie ending, Lou?” Niall asked as soon as they were all outside.

Louis grinned, “I sure did!” Then held up his left hand and fanned his face, “Boy, it is hot.”

Liam rolled his eyes, “Wow, what’s that on your finger Louis?”

“You’re not supposed to ask! You got it for me!”

“Aw, you two are engaged?” Kate asked.

Louis crossed his arms, “Not anymore!”

“Oh, I’m sorry. Please forgive me, I’m nothing without you,” Liam said dryly, not able to hold back a grin as he threw his left arm around Louis, grabbing his left hand and lining their matching rings up.

“When’s the wedding?” Zayn asked

“Eventually,” Louis shrugged, “We’ve got time.”

The group quickly dispersed as Liam and Louis went home ("Going to go play some Scrabble?" Niall asked with a wink, causing Liam to blush as he pushed a very confused Louis towards their car.), the girls went to Jade, Rebecca, and Kate’s house, and Zayn and Niall were left alone outside the coffee shop.

“So, are you going to be Liam and Louis’ best man?” Niall asked, grabbing Zayn's hand and walking towards the park.

“They’ll probably fight over me,” Zayn replied with a chuckle, “I’ve known them both forever. I honestly never thought I’d see them get married though.”

Niall grinned, “I knew they’d be husbands the moment I met them. Even before I knew they were dating.” His smiled wistfully as he remembered the first time he met the three, “Just like I knew I wanted to sleep with you the moment I met you.”

“Well I can promise you now that you’ll get more than one night,”

“Will I finally get to wake up next to you in the morning?”

Zayn grinned, “For as long as you want,”

As they stopped in the middle of the sidewalk to kiss Niall thought he’d like to have that for a long time.

Chapter Text

Zayn was hesitant when he knocked on the door to Louis’ and Liam’s room, where Louis had locked himself up and refused to come out.

“Now is not the time for cold feet, Lou.”

“Go away!”

Zayn rolled his eyes, jiggling the door knob for good measure, but it was in fact locked.

“Aren’t there like, keys for it?” Niall suggested, walking out of Zayn's and Niall’s room where Liam was getting ready.

Zayn frowned, “Why didn’t I think of that?”

“That’s why I’m around.” Niall replied with a pat on Zayn's back.

“Why can’t Liam just talk to him,” The dark haired boy complained as he searched through the couch for the key, “Why do I have to do it?”

“It’s bad luck for them to see each other!” Niall insisted, “And you’re his best man.”

“I’m regretting not choosing Liam,” Zayn muttered before cheering triumphantly as he recovered the key that was, for some reason, in the fridge.

Niall chuckled, “Please, we all know Louis and Liam both fought over me.”

“They probably did, the assholes,” He walked up into Niall's personal space to press a light kiss to blond’s nose, “You’re friends with someone for years and they still like your boyfriend better than you.”

“I’m just really loveable, I can’t help it.”

“You sure are.”

Zayn ducked in to press his lips to Niall's. It’d been a couple years since they got together and Louis and Liam got engaged. Everyone had graduated college, Niall moved in with Louis, Liam, and Zayn, who really had no room for one more person. The four were planning to split up after the wedding, though Zayn and Niall were a little dubious. Niall was making a bit of cash playing on the streets and getting small gigs at coffee shops, but Zayn's writing career had yet to go anywhere just yet.

Louis and Liam on the other hand we’re going to live comfortably with Liam’s solid job as a TA for the college and Louis involved with the local theater. In a way Zayn was jealous of his two friends, but he could never bring himself to regret any of the choices he’d made that brought him to this point.

“Um, Niall,” Liam’s nervous voice interrupted the kissing couple, “C-could we talk?” He gulped loudly and tugged nervously on his tightly wound tie.

“And you thought he was confident and completely free of cold feet.” Niall said before going to help the groom, leaving Zayn to do the same for the other groom.

“What’s wrong, Li?”

Liam frowned down at his hands, “I was just thinking, who is going to take whose last name?”

Niall furrowed his eyebrows, “That’s what’s got you all tied up in knots?”

“Well! If I ask him to take my name he might think I’m insinuating that he’s the “girl” in the relationship! But if I take his people might think that I’m the “girl”! But there is no girl! There’s only two guys! Could we just, switch last names? Would that be weird? Should we like combine them? Tomlayne? Paynlinson? Should we hyphenate them? Louis and Liam Tomlinson-Payne? Or should it be in alphabetical order? Liam and Louis Payne-Tomlinson? What if he gets mad because I want my last name first? I just want it in alphabetical order!”

Niall stood on the other side of the room with his eyes and mouth wide open. There was nothing he could say here. Liam had picked the dumbest thing to freak out over and Niall didn’t even know how to help him.

Down the hall Louis was actually literally beating up Zayn. Mostly slamming his hands limp-wristedly into Zayn's back as he huddled over to take the abuse.

“Are you done yet?”

“NO!”

Niall's attention was momentarily deterred by the shout but quickly returned back to Liam who was distracted by it too.

“Is he okay? Can I go see him? Niall, please let me see if he’s okay, I just want him to be okay. What if he doesn’t want to marry me?! Niall, Louis doesn’t want to marry me! I’m pressuring him into this! He’s only doing it because he knows how much I’ve always wanted to get married!”

The blond finally shook off his shock and grabbed Liam by his, entirely too broad, shoulders.

“Liam. Everything is going to be okay. Both you and Liam want to marry each other the exact same amount as the other.”

Liam blinked and nodded slowly. Niall was almost victorious before Liam spoke up again, “But what about our last names?”

Louis stopped his beating as he heard a frustrated shout come from the other room.

“Was that Niall?” Zayn wondered aloud.

Louis frowned, “It was probably Liam! Liam doesn’t even really want to marry me and Niall is trying to force him to for my sake and he's shouting in frustration.” He sat on his bed in defeat, leaning back into Liam’s pillow.

Zayn frowned, “You’re ridiculous.”

Louis frowned at Zayn as the other boy stormed out of the room only to meet Niall who had just done the same thing.

“They’re stupid,” Niall said.

Zayn nodded, “I’m pretty sure they both think the other one doesn’t want to marry them.”

“Liam is freaking out about their last names.”

“You got such an easy problem!”

“Oh really? You wanna switch?”

“Hell yeah!”

Zayn took right off into the room where Liam sat writing down last name possibilities and making pro/con lists for all of them and immediately regretted it.

“You okay, Liam?”

“Zayn! Great!” Liam said excitedly, “You can help me! I’ve narrowed it down to three options: Tomlinson-Payne, Payne-Tomlinson, or we just don’t change our last names. I figured switching last names would get confusing and mashing our names together would be childish. If we just don’t change them it would be super easy for all the legal things we have to do and all the things we have to change if we take different last names. But then it might not seem like we’re taking the marriage seriously enough. If we do on of the hypenations then it will seem like we’re being mature and serious about getting married, but what order do we put them in? I don’t want Louis to think I’m being selfish by wanting my last name first just because I want it in alphabetical order. I guess we could do Tomlinson-Payne but what if people think I’m downgrading myself by putting my last name last? OH! What if I take Payne-Tomlinson and he takes Tomlinson-Payne? Or should we switch that around, so it looks like we both think the other one should be first?”

What had Zayn gotten himself into? He knew Liam rambled when he got nervous but this was a little out of hand.

Niall was not getting much further with Louis who was now crying into Liam’s pillow.

“Liam probably doesn’t even like me! Why would Liam like me at all?! I’m just a bitchy immature kid and he’s all nice and perfect. I’m barely making any money with my stupid play while he’s off trying to be a teacher which is a respectable profession, especially compared to an actor who is as off Broadway as you can get.”

“Why would Liam stay with you for all these years if he didn’t like you?” Niall asked, thinking logic would solve the problem.

Louis just sobbed harder, “I DON’T KNOW, NIALL! WHAT IS HE DOING?!”

Niall jumped off the bed and backed away, moments later there was a knock on the door. Niall pulled it open to find Harry who had a crown of pink flowers perched in his curls. He was acting as a flower girl to the insistence of Louis and amusement of everyone else.

“Um, are they planning on getting married today?”

“Harry! Great to see you!” Niall shouted with enthusiasm, pulling the taller man into the room, “Why don’t you talk to Louis?!” He quickly squeezed out of the room and shut the door, successfully ditching Harry who had a soft spot for Louis.

Uncertainly, Niall approached the room where Liam and Zayn sat. He opened the door and found the floor flooded with papers.

“Niall! You’re back! I have so many new possibilities!”

Niall immediately shut the door and ran away, out to the living room where Abby, Kate, Jade, and Rebecca sat in matching pink dresses that were the same shade as Harry’s flowers and bowtie.

“How’s the best man-ship going?” Abby asked with a smirk.

“They’re insane!”

“Come on, they’re just nervous,” Kate insisted, “They have every right to be. Marriage is scary.”

“They’ve been practically married for like 6 years,” Jade said in her usual no-bullshit tone.

“The actual act is something so much more though,” Kate started, and Niall wasn’t in the mood to listen to her gush about weddings again. She’d been crazy ever since Louis and Liam announced their engagement.

Abby apparently agreed as she got up claiming it was to go help Niall with the boys.

“God she’s been so into marriage lately I’m kind of scared she’s going to propose to me,” Abby whispered once they were down the hall, “I’m so not ready for that.”

Niall patted her back, “So, do you want to help crying and insecure, or rambling and crazy?” Niall pointed to the respective doors as he introduced the situations.

“All this situation needs is a woman’s touch,” Abby said, pushing up the sleeves to her cardigan.

She barged into Louis’ room unceremoniously and walked over to where Harry was looking panic stricken as Louis sobbed into his suit pants. She grabbed Louis with a surprising amount of strength and stood him up. She looked into his bloodshot eyes.

“Liam loves you. You want to marry him and he wants to marry you. You wanna know what he’s freaking out about while you sob your eyes out? He doesn’t know what to do about your last names.” Louis sniffled but a small smile graced his lips at the mention of Liam’s issue, “Now, you are going to go to the bathroom and wash up your pretty face and fix your hair again then you are going to go outside and marry your fiance and we’re all going to cry and then you two will go play the deluxe Scrabble Niall bought you.”

Louis nodded and started walking towards the bathroom, muttering, “I still don’t understand why he bought us Scrabble. We’ve never even played it before.”

“Well, that was easier than I thought,” Harry said, poking at his tear covered pants, “Do you think I could get new pants?”

The two ignored him, Abby wondering, “Now, where’s Liam?”

“He might be a tougher egg to crack,” Niall insisted.

“Take me to him,”

Upon entering the room Niall found that Liam had even more papers than before and Zayn was quietly rocking in the fetal position in the corner while Liam rambled.

Abby walked right up to Liam and smacked him, finally stopping the constant stream of words.

“What was that for?” Liam pouted after a while.

“You need to shut up and go get married. Why didn’t you and Louis discuss your last names before the day of the wedding?”

“I, I don’t know?”

“Well you guys can talk about it later, you do realize that even though you two insisted that you didn’t want a big wedding there are still people waiting on you. Like, you know, your “groomsmaids” and your parents.”

Liam’s eyes widened, “Fuck!”

Niall had never even heard Liam curse before. He was glad Abby, quite literally, smacked some sense into him.

“Where’s Louis? We need to go, right now, let’s go.”

“Whoa, slow your roll,” Abby stopped him, “Did you even decide who was going to walk down the aisle?”

Liam stared blankly at her.

“Do you even know how weddings work?!”

Niall could tell Abby was getting mad, “Maybe you should go tell the other girls to get outside, Zayn and I will sort everything else out.”

She glared at Liam one last time before walking out.

“Liam, go out there, we’ll tell Louis to walk down the aisle.”

“But, he-”

“We’re not implying that Louis is the girl! Louis needs to get fixed up anyway, you’re already wedding ready.”

“Why is Louis getting fixed up?”

“He was cryi-” Niall fixed a glare at Zayn who stopped midsentence.

“What?! Why was he crying?! Let me see him!” Liam started running towards the door but was held back by Niall and Zayn. But Liam had been working out, he was much stronger than the other two, even put together.

“Stop him!” Niall shouted as Liam tore out of the room, but everyone was already outside waiting for the ceremony to start.

Niall and Zayn entered the room to find Liam ripping the bathroom door open and enveloping Louis into a tight hug that Louis quickly returned.

“Do you think they were freaking out as a result to being apart?” Zayn wondered, watching the two cling to each other.

Niall shook his head, “So codependent. Good thing they’re getting married.” He rose his voice so the two men could hear him, “So now that you’ve cursed your marriage with bad luck, how about we go get you married and then you can spend every second together for the rest of your lives and all that?”

The two broke apart and looked down in shame, but the grins on their face as they held hands said something completely different.

A few minutes later found Niall and Zayn waiting while Louis and Liam walked down the aisle together while Harry threw pink petals at their parents.

As they repeated vows to each other Niall met Zayn's eye.

One day they were going to be in that position.