The smell of smoke greets Niall when he opens the door to his flat, but it could well be from his own clothes. There might not be smoke in pubs, but he takes his breaks outside, and the clouds always travel his way. At least Zayn only smokes on the balcony or with the window open, always away from Niall. The smoke lingers, but it doesn't choke.
The window's open when Niall slips inside the bedroom. Zayn's awake, bent over the table in the corner, the lamp burning a hot circle of light into the air.
Niall climbs his way over - their bed takes up a lot of space - and kisses Zayn's shoulder. When he slips his arms around Zayn's stomach, Zayn leans into him, sighing.
"You been here all night, love?" Niall asks.
Zayn nods and cracks his neck. "Project's due in two days."
Niall picks up one of Zayn's hands and rubs. Zayn moans.
"I'll treat you when you're done," Niall says. Zayn won't get his marks until the end of the week, and Niall tends to take Wednesdays for Zayn anyway. "You and me, all that night, yeah?"
Zayn nods and rolls his shoulders. Niall draws back and rubs at them lightly.
"I'll move to the kitchen so you can sleep."
When Zayn starts to gather his papers, Niall asks, "Show me what you have?"
Zayn smiles a little and spreads out what he's holding. Niall squints over his shoulder. It's obviously not final - Zayn's favoured medium is spray paint, not pen - but it's definitely plans for a mural.
Niall slaps him lightly on the arm. "You didn't tell me you got the wall."
"I don't yet. I'm in the finals."
Niall hugs him hard anyway. Zayn's amazing, and even if he doesn't get it, he's worked really hard to get to this point. He tries to get some of his pride across to Zayn, slaps his back and rustles his quiff, but Zayn's too busy sighing into Niall's neck, eyes closed, to probably notice.
"Bed?" Niall asks.
Zayn hums, but he stands. "Wednesday."
A kiss, and Zayn goes out into the rest of the flat, turning off the lamp and turning on the overhead light behind him. He's slumping about in his glasses and his boxers, and it warms Niall's heart to see him. Zayn doesn't give up on his sleep without good cause. He really believes in this.
Niall falls sleep with a smile on his face.
When Zayn stumbles in from school on Wednesday, he looks like he always does: a bit sleepy and a bit withdrawn. Niall knows from the warm spot in bed that he did actually rest a little the night before, but Zayn's still walking like he's stiff. Niall hands him a glass of water and some paracetamol.
"Welcome home, love," Niall says, helping Zayn strip his coat and get it hung. Zayn gives him a quiet smile when Niall bends to untie Zayn's boots.
"My arms aren't broken, you know," Zayn says as Niall tucks the boots out of the way.
Niall pokes him in the nipple. "Taking care of you, remember?"
Zayn chuckles, and he lets Niall sit him on the couch with their plates of food. Zayn even lets Niall feed him two or three chips before pushing him away and finishing the rest by himself, watching Breaking Bad on the telly. Niall didn't cook or anything, but he made sure to get the food not long before Zayn was due back, so it's still warm.
He wipes Zayn's face, blotting delicately with the paper napkin, and throws the trash away when the episode finishes.
"I'd run you a bath if we had one," Niall calls from the kitchen, "but a shower'll have to do."
Zayn's melted into the couch when Niall comes back. "Think I can live with that."
He leans against Niall dramatically - too dramatically - but Niall laughs and drags him along anyway. They makes faces at each other as Niall strips Zayn down, Niall's fingers trailing over Zayn's tattoos. Zayn's a walking piece of art; how can he not admire it?
"Might get another," Zayn mumbles.
"You have one in mind."
Zayn's eyes twinkle when he smiles. "Not sure yet. Something about home."
Niall kisses his nose and guides him into the shower cubicle.
It could be dirty, staying close in the shower, but Niall acts like a perfect gentleman. He lathers Zayn's hair, rinses it clean, and uses body wash on one of those colourful, puffy things to scrub the rest of Zayn's body. He gets close to Zayn's cock but doesn't wash it; Zayn takes care of it on his own, like he always does. But he gets on his knees and gets Zayn's feet in the air, one by one, rubbing as Zayn snorts and wobbles in place.
"There isn't room for this," Zayn says.
"Sure there is." Niall straightens, beams at Zayn, and starts his own washing. "'Sides, someone has to make sure you don't drown, right?"
Zayn flicks water at him, but he leans against Niall with a happy sigh, and Niall grins. He likes Zayn's weight against him.
They get out, and Niall dries him with two different towels: one for his hair, one for his body. Well, after Niall's used one towel on his own body and shook out his hair like a dog. He has his priorities sorted.
Neither bother getting dressed. Zayn slumps into bed without prompting, and Niall flops down next to him. That's pretty much where his plans were anyway.
"Can I get you off?" Niall asks. "Or would you rather sleep?"
Zayn yawns, but he covers his face with his hand and shakes his head. "Like I'd ever say no," he manages once he's done.
"Rousing endorsement," Niall says, but he climbs on top of Zayn and kisses him. Niall feels up in his head sometimes, light like he can float away, and Zayn doesn't seem particularly real unless their skin is meeting. Zayn's mouth is soft and smoky against his, his hair damp and heavy under his fingers.
Niall relearns his body as he goes down: the muscles in his neck, the thin skin of his collarbones, the sensitive skin of his nipples, ribs, hips. That little cut before he gets to the soft hair and cock waiting between Zayn's legs. He looks up every now and then, watches Zayn's huge eyes above him, soft and tired and - somehow - admiring. Like Niall is the marvel to be found.
"Love you," he says into Zayn's hip, kissing the tattoo there.
Zayn doesn't say it back, but he doesn't have to. It's in every bit of his look.
Still, Niall closes his eyes when he takes Zayn deep into his mouth. There's something to be said for focusing on the task at hand, and it's not a night for Niall. He makes it messy in just the way Zayn likes it, lots of spit, lots of moaning, his hand jerking the parts of Zayn's cock that he can't get with his mouth. He can't do it as often as either of them likes because of his singing, and his gag reflex is rubbish, but he hopes it's what Zayn wants tonight.
Zayn, for his part, lays back and takes it, which Niall never used to think was a thing that could really happen with the person having their cock sucked. But when Zayn lets go, he lets things happen, and it's more beautiful than Niall ever thought it could be. Niall would think he was lucky, but that really undervalues Zayn's part.
He pulls off when Zayn starts to tense and finishes him by hand. Zayn smiles at Niall, eyes half-lidded, and lets Niall kiss him for a while after. He doesn't mind the taste of himself.
When Niall reaches for the flannel that he put by the side of the bed in advance, Zayn's already breathing deeper, slumped against the pillows. When he throws the flannel in the hamper and curls around Zayn's back, Zayn's asleep, face down into the pillows. Niall isn't tired - he works late a lot more than Zayn, and it's not even ten yet - but he closes his eyes and feels Zayn breathe against him, his heart beating in his chest.
"Sleep well, love," he mutters into Zayn's hair, and pulls the duvet over them both.