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“Just tell me, did she let you put your hand up her shirt?” Harry says for the fifth time, waggling his eyebrows for effect. “Did you engage in heavy petting, Niall?”

They’re sprawled out on Harry’s bed, the windows flung open to catch the last of the late spring sun. They’re meant to be studying; Harry’s even got his maths textbook open in front of him for once, though so far the only thing he’s done with it is smash his face into the pages and groan.

“Shut it,” Niall says, rapping him on the head with his pencil. “And do your homework. Your mum’s paying me to tutor you, not talk about girls.”

“Niiiiall,” Harry complains, rolling over onto his notebook. “You never tell me anything. I told you about Paige Evans, like, the second it happened. And about Maddie from sixth form, and that girl from the party, with the tongue ring - ”

“Ugh, stop, I get it,” Niall says. “Think I could write a book about your sex life, honestly. The Unauthorized Biography of Harry Styles’ Dick.”

Harry grins up at him. “Aww, Nialler, ‘course I’d authorize it. You’re my best mate.” He nuzzles his cheek into Niall’s sock, which - ew. “Bet you didn’t even make a move. Bet you just held her hand like a perfect gentleman. I swear, it’s like you’re not even trying.”

Niall shifts his foot so it’s not in Harry’s face anymore. He’s such a considerate friend, with such an appropriate sense of personal boundaries. Unlike Harry, who’s now snaking his hand up Niall’s track shorts to demonstrate proper wooing technique.

“That’s very charming, Harry,” Niall says, trying not to squirm as the hand inches up his thigh. “S'a wonder anyone can resist you.”

“They don’t, usually,” Harry says, looking modest for a moment. He grazes Niall’s dick with his fingertips, a light, testing touch, watching him for a reaction.

Niall doesn’t give him one. He’s learned it’s best not to encourage Harry when he gets grabby. “Hey,” he says suddenly instead. “Guess what?”

Harry’s eyes widen, fingers stilling. “What?”

“C'mere,” he says. “Come closer.”

Harry licks his lips. He leans in, curious, till he’s half in Niall’s lap.

“Tickle fight,” Niall says, surging towards him.

Harry screams with panic and delight, kicking out instinctively. He gets his hand tangled up in Niall’s shorts trying to get free, knocking both their textbooks off the bed in the process.

“Stop, Niall! Stop it! I give up, I give up!” he squeals, dissolving into helpless giggles. Niall pins him to the mattress and rakes his nails up Harry’s sides, under his arms, twisting a nipple here and there for good measure.

“What’s that, Hazza?” he says. “Did you say more?”

“Mercy!” Harry shrieks, flailing blindly, twisting underneath him so hard he almost knees Niall in the jaw. “Uncle! Banana! Abracadabra!”

“Can’t just say words,” Niall reminds him. “You know the rules.”

There’s only one way to end a tickle fight: total surrender. Usually Harry can’t stop writhing long enough to convince Niall he’s given up, not till he’s completely exhausted himself. When they were kids Niall used to be able to make him cry if he kept it up long enough. He still does it every once in a while, just to keep him in line.

“Please,” Harry gasps, turning his face into the pillow. “Please, Niall, I’ll do anything! Anything!”

He’s breathless, laughing, as he grabs Niall’s hands, tangling their fingers together so Niall can’t get at him. But Niall’s a seasoned tickle fight veteran; he knows every trick in Harry’s repertoire. He pins his wrists to the mattress before he can wriggle free, knee slotting instinctively between his thighs. Lets Harry wear himself out in slow degrees, quieting beneath him, till he’s warm and flushed and then, finally, still.

The room’s silent around them. In the street outside a car backfires. A dog barks, startled. Harry turns his face up towards him then, lips parting slightly, his eyes wide and dark.

“Anything,” he breathes again. It takes Niall a minute to remember what they’re talking about.

He leans in closer, thumbs stroking lightly over the inside of Harry’s wrists.

“Do your homework,” he says, and lets him go.

Chapter Text

Killing’s the easy part, as it turns out.

It’s quiet after, a stunned sort of quiet. Louis’ staring at him from where he’s huddled up against the side of the old bar. The cicadas are humming in the trees and the Texas air is hot and close, a summer storm brewing somewhere off in the distance. Niall’s clutching the rusty shovel in his hand, standing stock-still in front of the body.

Then Louis starts to cough. “Jesus Christ, Horan,” he croaks out, touching his throat with tentative fingers.

“Lou,” Niall says dumbly. The shovel hits the ground with a clatter, his fingers gone nerveless. “Lou, you - ”

He breaks off, dazed. Between them the dead man’s blood is already staining the dirt black. Niall can’t make sense of it, any of it. Can’t make the body or the shovel or the defeated hunch of Louis’s shoulders resolve itself into something familiar and known.

There’s an angry red mark high across Louis’s cheekbone, visible even in the dark. “Jesus,” he says again, voice trembling.

Niall’s stomach heaves. He doubles over, vomiting up what’s left of his dinner in the dust at his feet. When he straightens up again, scrubbing his hand across the back of his mouth. Louis’s still staring at the body on the ground, his back pressed against the wall.

“Lou,” Niall says. “Lou, I - I didn’t - I didn’t mean to, I swear. He was hurting you, I - ”

“Shut up,” Louis says, though there’s no bite to it. He runs a hand through his sweaty hair, pushing it back from his forehead. “Just - fuck, Niall. Let me fucking think.”

“We have to tell somebody.” Niall starts fumbling for his phone. “We have to - a hospital, or something. Harry’s step-dad’s a cop, he’ll know what to do.”

He’s trying to key in his passcode, hands shaking, when Louis pushes himself away from the wall and snatches the phone out of his hand.

“Don’t be an idiot,” he snaps. “We’re not calling the fucking cops. It’ll be all over the county by tomorrow. Is that what you want? Everybody thinking you’re some kind of murderer?”

Niall tastes bile again, burning the back of his throat. “I did it,” he says. “You saw me, Lou. I picked up the shovel and I killed him, I - ”

“It was self-defense,” Louis cuts him off. “You thought he was coming after you. He was - he was threatening you, asking for money. You thought he had a knife.”

Niall stares at him, uncomprehending.

“We were together,” Louis says. “You and me. I saw the whole thing.” His eyes are fixed on Niall’s face, his gaze intent. “He came at us with a knife out of nowhere. You yelled for him to stop, but he wouldn’t. He was charging at us like a fucking madman, and you - the shovel was just there, yeah? There wasn’t any time to think.”

Niall looks at him, uneasy.

He’s not an idiot. He knows Louis does - stuff, sometimes. With men he meets off the Internet, or picks up the bar sometimes, men with cash and hotel rooms and a night or two to kill. Money’s always tight at the Tomlinson house, and there’s no way Louis’ shitty after-school job selling soft-serve at the Alamo Freeze is paying all those bills.

That’s what Niall thought it was at first, when he’d come round the corner and seen the two of them there: the man from the gas station earlier, with his fancy car and his fancy watch, Louis pinned against the peeling wall of the barn and squirming beneath him.

Niall had almost turned around and gone home, his cheeks flushing red in the dark and that familiar sick feeling in his gut, when he’d heard the slap. A sharp, stinging crack, then a man’s voice, low and mean. That’ll teach you to bite, you little shit. Gonna make you fucking pay for that.

“I heard him,” he says to Louis now, stupidly, because he doesn’t know how else to say it. It’s not something they talk about, ever. Louis’ with Danielle, and Niall knows he’s not like that, anyway, not really. Not the way Niall is.

Louis’ eyes darken. “He had a knife,” he says again, louder, stubborn. Niall can’t tell if he’s telling the truth or if it’s part of his story, whatever version of it he’s constructing in his head.

It won’t make a difference, either way. From the looks of it the guy’s somebody important - one of the surveyors from New York, maybe, out inspecting the oil fields. That means money, and money means lawyers, and Niall doesn’t need a college degree to know how this one ends.

Louis’ still looking at him, expectant. Niall clears his throat. “Yeah,” he says, because it’s easier than fighting, “okay, a knife,” and maybe it’s worth it, for the small, satisfied grin on Louis’ face, the sudden flare of warmth in his gut.

That’s why he’d done it. Why he’d do it again, knife or no knife, if someone rewound the tape of this evening and made them play out their parts to the end. The second he heard that slap, he’d turn and reach for the shovel again, swing it blindly till he heard the sick crack of bone and felt the skull give way.

No fancy New York surveyor gets to come down here and slap Louis around, make him scared and ashamed. Nobody gets to treat him like he’s nothing, either: a dog who won’t come to heel; a white trash boy who won’t drop to his knees and open his mouth when he’s told.

Chapter Text

Their luck runs out in Illinois, a couple miles west of Galesburg. They’ve been careful ever since the Chicago job, keeping to back roads and sleeping rough out under the stars, but somebody must’ve seen them and tipped the sheriff off. It’s an ambush, two dozen men against the two of them, the whole place surrounded quick as a blink.

They barricade the doors as best they can, set themselves up behind the bank counter for one last stand. Harry’s quiet, calm as he reloads his pistol. His white shirt clings to his shoulders, damp with sweat, spattered already with somebody else’s blood. He’s the most beautiful thing Niall’s ever laid eyes on, and he’s Niall’s, all the way to the end of the line.

He crouches down beside him. There’s a fine tremor in Harry’s hands; he sees it now, close up. “All right, petal?”

Harry sets his jaw, a stubborn line. When he looks up at Niall his gaze is clear and steady. “They ain’t taking us alive, Ni.”

He reaches up, brushes his knuckles lightly over Harry’s cheek. “You and me, Haz, we’re goin’ out in a blaze of glory. They’re gonna tell stories about us.”

Harry lets out a breath he’s been holding, like he’s been waiting to hear the words a long time.

Tell me again,“ he says. “Tell me what they’re gonna say about us.”

“They’re gonna say how we fought the law,” Niall says. “How we gave as good as we got, better than, till the very end.”

He can hear the bullhorn again, ordering them to come out with their hands over their heads. Harry tips his head back against the safe. His eyes are closed, his pistol laid across his lap.

“Keep talkin’,” he says quietly. “Keep tellin’ me, Niall. Reckon they’ll put our pictures in the paper?”

“‘Course they will,” he says. “You an’ me in our Sunday best. Prettiest pair of bank robbers you ever saw. Girls’ll cut the pictures out and keep ‘em under their pillows, you just wait.”

That makes Harry smile, his eyes still shut.

“They won’t forget us easy,” he says. “Will they?”

“They’ll be singin’ songs about us someday,” Niall tells him. “About the hold-ups an’ the shootouts an’ - an’ the blaze of glory.”

“Two dumb kids out of Texas.” Harry opens his eyes. His expression’s soft, fond. “That sound about right? Two dumb kids who shoulda known better.”

“Better leave it the poets,” Niall says, but he’s smiling too. He takes Harry’s face gently in both hands, but he doesn’t kiss him, not yet. He looks at the smear of blood over Harry’s left eyebrow, at the thin, bruised skin under his eyes. Looks at the lush softness of that impossible mouth. He looks and looks, like it’s going to save them both, like looking’s going to make it last. Harry lets him, stays quiet and still, blinking back at him with wide green eyes.

A police whistle shrills outside.

“Didn’t meant for it to happen like this,” Niall says. His heart’s in his throat. “I was gonna clear out, take you to Mexico one of these days. Make an honest man outta you.”

“You never,” Harry says, dimple showing. “Niall Horan, settlin’ down? Pigs would fly.”

Niall thinks about the ring he’s been carrying around for weeks now, tucked into the corner of an old pillowcase and shoved down in his rucksack where Harry won’t find it. Real gold, that’s what the shop lady told him when he came in, pointing to it under the glass. The genuine article.

“That ain’t a yes, Styles,” he says. “C'mon, what do you say? You gonna put on a white dress and meet me down at the courthouse?”

There’s an almighty crash against the door. Harry startles, fingers curling around the handle of his pistol. His eyes flick up, wide and scared.

“Hey there, petal,” Niall says softly, drawing his attention back. “Look at me. I’m down on my knees for you. You gonna make me beg?”

Another crash, followed by the sound of glass shattering. Harry takes a deep breath. He leans down quick, kisses Niall on the mouth. “Love you,” he breathes against his lips. “I ain’t even afraid, you know that? I ain’t ever afraid when you’re with me.”

Niall kisses him properly then, slow and deep. Time unspools between them, pools around them: all the lives they’ve lived and left behind, all the years they’ll never know. Mexico, a real gold ring. The two of them on the lam again, laughing in a motel room somewhere, all tangled up in the sheets. Just a couple of kids who should’ve known better.

He reaches down for his pistol. Finds it.

“Ready, petal?” he says.

Harry’s smiling. “Blaze of glory,” he says. “Race you to it?”

Chapter Text

“Oh, fuck,” Harry gasps, back arching, fingernails digging into Zayn’s shoulder blades almost hard enough to break the skin. He can feel Zayn’s knot starting to swell inside him, locking their bodies together, and he wants it with a kind of desperation that frightens him. It’s been ages since they did this properly, not just hurried handjobs in coatrooms or blowjobs in restaurant toilets, Harry with his head between Zayn’s legs while Gigi texted at the table outside.

Zayn groans in his ear. “That’s it,” he says, and then, fiercely, “yeah, fuck, fucking take it,” thrusting in hard enough to make Harry whimper. He’d almost forgotten that, the way Zayn gets when he knots - fierce and a little too rough, a little too textbook alpha for Harry’s tastes.

Louis says that’s not an alpha thing, it’s just a Zayn being an arsehole thing. Which is probably true, honestly, but Harry still gets it. It’s sort of like how right now, his conscious mind hates Zayn, and yet the omega in him still wants to go soft and pliant in his arms, let himself be carried to bed and held and used till his belly’s all full up with his alpha’s seed.

Hormones are no fucking joke. He gets that now, though he hadn’t when he was younger, back when the two of them had mistaken those feelings for something else entirely.

They don’t make it to Zayn’s bed, of course. They don’t fuck like that anymore, slow and lazy, not since that last night before Zayn had packed up his things and flown back to England and texted Liam to say he wasn’t coming back. The sofa’s the closest they get to intimacy these days. It’s big enough for them to lie face to face while still avoiding each other’s eyes, Harry’s leg slung over Zayn’s hip as he grinds down slowly, mindlessly on his knot.

It lasts about twenty minutes, all told, and the only sound is the rasp of their breathing, the quiet fuck Zayn bites out when Harry’s muscles contract around him, his stomach starting to cramp up when he gets too full.

Before he’d come over, when he was still sitting in his kitchen staring at Zayn’s text, Harry’d had this vague idea that he wasn’t going to orgasm at all this time. It’d be a kind of statement or something: you’re not the only one who hates this. But he does anyway, of course, comes about five seconds after Zayn gets a hand between them and starts wanking him off with his own slick. Harry’s always been easy for feeling good, even when it makes him feel awful.

Zayn rolls off him almost as soon as his knot’s gone down enough to pull out. “I’ve got a thing tonight,” he says, the So you can show yourself out implied.

Harry takes a long shower in the guest room before he goes. He needs one – there’s spunk and slick smeared all over his thighs; he hopes he’s ruined the sofa cushions this time – but mostly he does it because he knows it’ll piss Zayn off, having to wait for Harry to leave before he calls Gigi or whatever. He soaps up and lets the water run over him till his skin’s pink and a little raw. It won’t make a difference. Zayn’s scent will linger for days whatever he does, trapped in his hair and clothes, driving him half mad with wanting before it finally fades.

It’s chemical, all of it. That’s what he tells himself as he towels off, raking his fingers through his tangled hair. It’s just hormones gone mad inside him, the bond making itself heard the only way it knows how. None of it’s real, in the end: not the blind yearning of his body or the achy, hollowed-out feeling in his chest. Not the way he still, after everything - after the cheating and the leaving, after all the broken promises - finds himself turning towards Zayn, the way a plant lifts its face to the sun.

Chapter Text

“I told him that we’d, you know.“ Gigi shrugs. “Done stuff.”

“Oh,” Kendall says, because she’s got no idea how else she’s meant to respond. She tucks her hair behind her ear, suddenly self-conscious. “Cool.”

That makes Gigi laugh. After a second’s delay Zayn laughs too, like it’s a shared joke between them or something, sliding a hand over Gigi’s knee.

“Cool,” Gigi says back to her in a slightly mocking voice, to which Zayn says, “Hot,” and laughs again. He’s pretty fucking high, from the looks of it. Kendall watches as he nudges Gigi’s leg with his own.

“Anyway,” Gigi says. “I know you and Harry are, like, whatever–”

“We’re not,” Kendall says, too quickly, and then feels her face start to heat up. She clears her throat. “I mean. It’s nothing, really.”

It’s the truth, but it still feels a little like a betrayal, putting it so bluntly. The last time she and Harry had sex was six weeks ago, after Ben and Meredith’s anniversary party. They’d gotten high in Harry’s big fuck-off California king-sized bed, curled up with a good six inches between their bodies, except for where Harry had a foot hooked around her ankle. He’d talked for what felt like hours, voice gone rough and slow and sleepy as he told her about Ben, about all the things they used to do together. In the morning she’d woken up alone to a text from him, had to catch a flight. didn’t want to wake you. H. It had been nice, being able to stretch her arms and legs out luxuriously in bed with no one watching, knowing the house was hers, the day was hers.

“That’s what I thought,” Gigi says, but kind of absently, like she doesn’t actually care that much one way or the other. “So anyway, we’ve been talking about it, me and Zayn, and we thought maybe you’d be interested in, like. You know.”

“In what?”

“You know,” Gigi says again, drawing out the vowel. “Like, a threesome.”

Kendall stares at her. Zayn hasn’t said anything else, but she can feel him watching her. There’s something weirdly invasive about his presence, his silence, like he’s sucking up all the space in the room. She can’t really think with him there, much less figure out what Gigi’s thinking. To be fair, it’s been months since she’s been able to figure out what Gigi’s thinking.

“I,” she says, and then stops. For some reason she feels embarrassed, like she’s a child or something, too young and immature for this.

“We could just make out for a little bit,” Gigi presses. “And then see. Just kiss, yeah?”

She leans forward without waiting for a response, hand cupping Kendall’s cheek - like she’s trying to reassure her, maybe, or just hold her still. Kendall’s mouth parts without her meaning to. When Gigi sucks at her bottom lip, teeth catching on it just a little, it sends a weird shiver go down her spine. She wants to twist around so she can kiss Gigi properly, or maybe just so she can pretend like Zayn isn’t sitting them watching them with that smug fucking look on his face. But Gigi keeps angling her body towards him, sticking her tits out like she wants Kendall to touch them.

It makes Kendall feel slightly nauseous, the thought of touching her. Which is fucked up, because this is what she wanted, isn’t it, what she’s been thinking about ever since that night in Paris. She’s lost track of the number of times she’s gotten herself off remembering it. Weirdly, it’s not the sex part but the details of the room that have stuck with her most, oddly vivid in her memory: the grain of the wood of the headboard, the almost too-crisp coolness of the sheets against her skin. The sound of the water running when she locked herself in the en suite after, turning on the taps full blast so Gigi wouldn’t hear her getting herself off. She’d come silently, clenching down brutally tight around her own fingers, lips parting as she stared at herself in the mirror.

She slips her hand inside Gigi’s top now, moving fast so that she’s cupping her breast before she can lose her nerve. Gigi’s breath hitches a little in surprise. The stiff little peak of her nipple presses against Kendall’s palm, and she shifts forward a little, kisses her again.

There’s a click behind them. For a panicky second Kendall thinks it’s Zayn’s phone, like maybe he’s taking a picture of them or something. She jerks away hard, wiping her hand across the back of her mouth, putting distance between them.

“Chill,” says Zayn, laughing. He’s got a silver lighter in his hand, held to the glowing end of a joint. “Christ, you’re jumpy as fuck.”

Kendall doesn’t say anything, though her heart’s still pounding. It’s been like this ever since the whole thing with Anne’s phone, all those pictures of her and Harry spilled all over the Internet for anyone to look at, gawk at, laugh at. She just gets nervous, is all.

Gigi slips her hand into Kendall’s, squeezing it for a second before she lets it go. “C'mere,” she says, but Kendall shies back.

“Fine, be like that,” is all Gigi says, rolling her eyes, and then she’s sliding back across to sit beside Zayn, taking the joint he offers her and pressing it to her lips.

They pretty much forget her after that. Zayn looks like a terrible kisser, all tongue and no subtlety, but Gigi seems into it. She keeps making these breathy little sounds when he tries to jam his tongue down her throat. She’s still holding the joint carefully between two fingers, a little awkwardly as he slides a hand up her bare thigh and under the hem of her dress.

“That was hot,” Zayn murmurs against her mouth. “You’re so fucking hot, babe.” Gigi makes that stupid breathy noise again, giggles a little as she leans in for another kiss, and Kendall knows with a sudden crashing certainty that if she doesn’t get out of here in the next thirty seconds or so she’s going to do something stupidly dramatic that Gigi’s never going to let her forget, like get sick all over the sofa or maybe just start screaming and never stop.

She’s standing up before she’s even realized that she’s moving, grabbing for her purse. “Sorry,” she says. “I have to go.”

“What?” Gigi sits up suddenly, pushing Zayn back. “Hey, come on.”

“I can’t,” Kendall says. “Sorry. I’m not, like–”

“Not that kind of girl?” There’s a slight curl to Zayn’s lip, almost a sneer. Like he knows exactly what kind of girl she is, deep down. The kind who’d touch Gigi’s tits for real, not just as part of some sleazy half-joking, half-tipsy threeway. Maybe he does know. Maybe he looked at her and knew right away that she’d be desperate enough, pathetic enough, to play third wheel.

“Kenny.” Gigi sounds annoyed now. “Come on, don’t be stupid. Where’re you going to go, anyway?”

Kendall looks at her. She knows she should probably be thinking about her mouth, tacky with gloss and swollen from kissing, or the plunging neckline of her dress, or the fact that Zayn’s maybe got his fingers inside her right now. Instead she’s thinking about that time Gigi got her birthday wrong the first try, and had to edit her Instagram to fix it. Petty, but. She can’t get it out of her head.

“It’s not a big deal,” she says. “I’ll just get a car back. I’ve got a headache.”

Zayn snorts. Gigi doesn’t try to stop her again, though, and when Kendall hesitates at the door and half-turns back towards them, it’s to discover that they’ve resumed making out on the couch, Gigi on her back now and Zayn leaning over her, tugging her skirt impatiently up around her thighs.

*

She doesn’t go home. She goes to Jeff’s party instead. There’s paps camped outside, and she’s sure they get a hundred high-def shots of her red-rimmed eyes and white face. It’ll be in all the papers tomorrow. Her cocaine habit, or her broken heart or whatever it is this week. She slams the car door too hard behind her and almost loses her balance, stumbles back for a second before she can make her legs work again. Then she’s pushing her way through the crowd, a hand up to shield her eyes against the flashing cameras, instinctively schooling her expression into the right mixture of bored and unfazed.

The second she’s inside she wonders if she’s made a mistake. Harry usually texts when he’s LA and wants to meet up, and he hasn’t yet, so maybe he doesn’t.

She probably should go stay with her sister, camp out in one of her guest rooms till she feels a little more sober and a little less of this weird mixture of anger and hurt and blank, flat despair. She brushes past the security guys at the door and down a darkened hallway. She’s trying to text Kylie, blinking back the sting of tears, when she runs smack into Harry coming out of the restroom.

“Whoa,” he says, putting a hand on her elbow to steady her. “Hey, Kendall. Didn’t know you were coming.”

“I just need to get a car,” Kendall says, clutching her phone tighter. She feels weirdly choked up at the sound of his familiar deep, slow voice. When she looks down at her phone again she swears. “Shit. My mine’s dying, I can’t–d'you have a charger here?”

“Hey,” Harry says again, blinking owlishly at her. “Are you okay?”

“It’s fine,” Kendall says, “I’m fine,” but as soon as she says the words aloud she knows she’s about to start crying. Tears well up hot in her eyes, threatening to spill over. “It’s my phone,” she says thickly. “It’s not charging, and I just, I need a car–”

“I’ve got a car,” Harry says slowly. “And a phone too, but, like. I could drive you home, if you wanted. I don’t mind.”

Kendall can’t look at him. She’s so embarrassed right now, embarrassed that she’s crying, that Zayn watched her kiss Gigi, that Gigi’s going to be pissed at her for weeks for ruining her plans. It doesn’t feel, like, extra embarrassing to be crying in front of Harry Styles; it’s just been absorbed somehow into the low thrum of the day’s humiliations.

“Or we could take that drive,” he says, still looking at her. “Along the coast, I mean. If you wanted to, I dunno, talk about it, or get away from town for a bit.”

Chapter Text

“So,” Niall says, drumming his fingers on his thigh. “We’re doing this, then.”

It’s not really a question. They’re here, obviously, on the road up north with their weekend bags in the boot, their suits hanging up in the backseat. Zayn doesn’t answer, just checks the rearview mirror before switching lanes. As usual the traffic’s shit, and Bressie’s flat isn’t exactly convenient to the nearest motorway.

They’re low on petrol, too, which means they’ll have to stop somewhere on the way to Louis’ mum’s place. Zayn hadn’t realized it till he was in the carpark, already half an hour late, starting the engine for the first time in three weeks.

It’s not even his car, is the thing. The only reason he’s the one driving is because in three weeks’ time Niall hadn’t managed to come round to pick up his keys, or collect any of the other crap he’d left in Zayn’s flat. Odds and ends, mostly: a threadbare jumper thrown over the back of the sofa, a golf club tucked into the umbrella stand. Battered textbooks from his teaching certification course crammed haphazardly onto Zayn’s shelves. The silk tie Niall had worn to his first parent-teacher conferences last spring – cornflower-blue, because Zayn had seen it in a shop window and thought (like a sap, like a lovesick idiot) of Niall’s eyes.

Zayn’s catalogued these objects in his head a dozen times over by now. He’s mapped out their locations in his flat like a dog sniffing for landmines, though for the most part he’s left them undisturbed, undefused. They’re not the kind of things you miss, he knows, apart from the car. Not the kind of things you come back for.

“It’s not going to work,” Niall says suddenly. “If you won’t talk to me, they’re going to know something’s wrong.“

A white delivery van swerves into their lane, heading for the exit. Zayn leans on the horn, cursing.

“Zayn.”

“What,” Zayn says vehemently, not looking at him. “D'you want to criticize my driving, too? Is that not good enough for you either?”

“That’s not - ”

“This was your idea,” he snaps. “The wedding thing, the whole - pretending we’re still together, that was all you. So if you don’t like my driving you can drop me off at the nearest bus stop and take the fucking car, all right? ‘Cos I’ll be honest, Niall, I can think of a million things I’d rather be doing than playing happy husbands with you.”

It feels good for about two seconds, getting mad. Then it just feels like kicking a puppy, the way Niall goes quiet and still next to him.

“Sorry.” Zayn’s grip on the steering wheel tightens. “I - sorry. Fuck.”

“No, you’re right.” Niall sounds tired. “Was a fucking stupid idea, anyway. Look, there’s a train station up the road a bit. I’ll go by meself, come round for the car Sunday.”

“Don’t,” Zayn says. His chest aches. “I want to go, I’m not - Lou’s my friend too, all right, I’m not going to miss his fucking wedding. I was just being an arse.”

Niall doesn’t say anything.

They should’ve fought, Zayn thinks, with a kind of hopeless sinking feeling. That was their mistake, being so bloody reasonable and mature about everything. When things ended between them they should’ve done it properly, gotten drunk and thrown plates and shouted unforgivable things. All the bad feelings out on the surface once and for all. It would’ve hurt like fuck, yeah. But it would’ve felt better than this.

He stares out through the grimy windshield at the snarl of traffic ahead, the endless stretch of roadway shimmering in the heat. Next to him Niall starts chewing viciously at a hangnail.

That’s not his problem anymore either, Zayn reminds himself. The way Niall copes, or doesn’t cope, whatever it is this week. Not his responsibility.

His resolve lasts about five seconds.

“Quit that,” he says gruffly. “Don’t - you’ll bleed all over the car.”

Chapter Text

“Have to be quick,” Nick murmurs against the line of Niall’s jaw, groping at the front of his jeans. They’ve got about twenty minutes, maybe half an hour, before Niall’s people come looking for him for his next interview. The custodian’s closet is barely big enough for the both of them, even with Niall backed up against the wall and Nick pressed up against him. But it locks from the inside, a fact Nick had conveniently discovered a few years ago, back when Harry was still hanging around the studio at all hours.

“And quiet,” he adds now, thinking of the way Harry used to get, all huffy breaths and dramatic porn star moans, like he was dying for someone to fling open the closet door and shout, What’s going on in here!

Niall’s not like that. Mostly he just gets quieter and quieter, the closer he gets, like if he doesn’t make a sound it doesn’t count. Nick sort of hates it a bit, but. Can’t be picky, really, not when you’re the kind of sad sack who’s still shagging closeted popstars.

Niall tilts his face up, eyes already fluttering shut. When Nick kisses him, hard and desperate, he makes a little sound in his throat, rubs up against Nick’s palm.

“Eager,” Nick says against his mouth, because he knows that’ll make Niall flush even deeper. Get him hard, too--Nick’s barely touched him but he can already feel the stiff line of his cock in his jeans. “Been thinking about it, have you?” he says, a low murmur. “Getting fucked?”

Niall lets out a shaky breath. Maybe he really has been thinking about it, Nick thinks--distracted all through his interview with Greg by the thought of Nick’s hands on him at last, Nick’s mouth at his throat, Nick’s cock in his arse. Maybe he’s been thinking about it, jerking off to it, since the last time they did this, hurried and rushed in a locked toilet between takes for James’s show.

Honestly Nick’s got no idea what’s going on in Niall’s head, what he thinks about when they’re not together. For all Nick knows Niall isn’t thinking about him now. With his eyes screwed shut, the hands sliding his shirt up and off over his head, yanking his jeans roughly down around his thighs, could be anyone’s. Nick could just some bloke in the back of a club, the kind of faceless fuck Niall won’t have to remember in the morning.

Harry used to get clingy, after. Niall mostly just does his jeans back up and says something stiff and horrible like Thanks, mate or Guess I’ll see you round.

Nick doesn’t want to think about it. He kisses Niall again, teeth catching at his bottom lip, as he slides his hand under the waistband of his briefs. “Nick,” Niall chokes out, like he’s shocked by it still, and god, it’s been too fucking long since Nick’s heard him say his name like that, like he can’t help himself. He’s half-hard already, hot in Nick’s hand, and this isn’t going to take long at all, Nick can already tell.

“Turn around,” he says, giving him a quick squeeze. “Face the wall.”

That makes Niall shiver, a long tremor running through him, but he shuffles around as best he can, jeans and briefs tangled up around his knees. His shoulders are stiff at first, but he relaxes a little when Nick crowds him in from behind, a hand sliding down to squeeze the slight curve of his bare arse.

“’M ready,” Niall mumbles, the first thing he’s said apart from Nick’s name since the door clicked shut behind them. “Just - come on.”

It doesn’t take Nick long to figure out what he means. The tip of his first finger slides in easily, but he takes his time with it still. Makes Niall wait for it, stretching him out nice and slow on his fingers, till he’s got him whimpering and rocking back, trying to take him deeper. He fumbles a condom out of his jacket pocket, manages to roll it on with shaking fingers. When he pushes in, too fast maybe, Niall’s breath hitches.

“Sorry,” Nick breathes against the back of his neck, but there’s no time to waste, and besides, he doesn’t know that he can wait, not with the way Niall’s trembling beneath him, stuffed full of his cock. Then he’s fucking him properly, hands on Niall’s narrow hips to hold him still. “Quiet,” he gasps out a minute later, though he’s the only one making any noise, grunting a little every time he thrusts up hard enough to rock Niall up onto his toes.

Niall’s got his cheek pressed against the smooth concrete, his fingers curled loosely against the wall. His eyes are still closed, but his mouth’s hanging half-open, breathing gone ragged even though he’s not touching himself.

The first time they did this, in the pantry at some party Nick can no longer really remember, he’d tried to get Niall off too, fumbling awkwardly for Niall’s cock so he could pull him off in rough time with his thrusts. He’s learned better since then. Sometimes Niall can get off like this, Nick knows: without a hand on him, just from the feeling of getting fucked, the hot slow drag of a cock inside him. Sometimes, though, he doesn’t seem to want to come, period–he’ll let Nick finish first, then tuck himself back into those painted-on jeans of his, so achingly hard it makes Nick winces at the sight of it. He’ll pull his shirttails down, hold a jumper balled up over his groin, and stagger out.

Nick’s always wondered if he just waits it out, sits alone in his dressing room or in the back of his big SUV or in the toilets somewhere till his stiffy goes down enough to leave. Seems more likely that Niall gets himself off somewhere else, thinking about somebody else, jerking himself hard and fast till he curls in on himself and comes, gasping, over his hand.

Chapter Text

“I know you’ll hate me for it,” Liam says, and Louis wants to howl at that, wants to rattle the cupboards and slam the doors, blow the windows wide open. Shut up, he would shout if he had a voice, but there’s nothing left of him to speak. “But I’m exhausted, and I just - I dunno what else to do. It can’t go on like this, Lou. Nobody will buy the house, and I’ve got Cheryl to think of now, and the baby - ”

The lights flicker wildly above them. Louis can manage that still, on a good day. When Liam says his name like that - Lou, his voice cracking with feeling - he remembers, almost, what it was like to be alive: a being with substance and shape, with a heart for the breaking.

When Liam’s not here it all gets a bit fuzzier. The spirit wants to dissipate, he’s learned. In the absence of a body it spills out everywhere, seeps into everything. Only the rustle of the curtains, the flicker of the lights, a fragment of his name, reminds him who he is, what he was: Louis, who loved Liam. Louis who lost him, who’s going to lose him again.

“They say it’s better there,” Liam says, wiping his gloved hand over the back of his nose, sniffling a little. “I talked to the blokes from the agency - they’re like proper Ghostbusters, you’d love it - and they’re really nice. They said you shouldn’t be afraid to move on just ‘cos you’ve been stuck here so long.”

Don’t leave me, Louis wants to say. It’s Liam’s fault for keeping him here in the first place. For begging him not to go. And now he wants to be rid of him. Now that he’s got a whole life of his own, away from their old house, a life with Cheryl and a baby.

Louis’ never going to have that. Never going to give that to Liam. Never never never.

A door slams somewhere below them. There’s a sudden draft of cold air - must be, from the way Liam shudders, shoving his hands deep into his coat pockets. He’s already moving towards the attic door, like he can’t wait to be elsewhere.

At the top of the stairs he hesitates for a moment, glancing back at the attic like there’s something else he wants to say. Louis’ around him, everywhere around him, and if he could touch he’d be touching him, rubbing his face against the rough stubble on his cheeks, kissing the familiar curve of his mouth. But Liam turns his face away.

“Tomorrow,” he says, his voice a little choked. “It’ll be okay, Lou, I promise,” and then he’s gone.

Chapter Text

Harry leans into him for a moment as they stumble out of the basement and into the night, limbs stiff from sitting still too long on the couch, sprawled out watching movies. Or maybe Mitch is the only one who feels tense, cramped up; Harry seems even looser, more pliant than usual, draping himself along Mitch’s back.

Maybe it’s the wine he’d had after dinner. Mitch hasn’t been drinking much himself the past few days. He’s had this feeling lately like he needs to keep his head clear. Like something’s going to slip out of focus if he lets himself relax into this too much—the music, Jamaica. Harry.

“Not sleepy yet,” Harry murmurs, heavy against Mitch’s shoulder, lips brushing against the shell of his ear. “C’mon, let’s go for a swim.”

He doesn’t wait for an answer, just brushes past Mitch, loping off down the steps towards the beach. Mitch hangs back for a moment, watching as Harry tugs his white t-shirt over his head and drops it onto the sand. It’s not till Harry turns and looks back at him, fingers fumbling with the zip on his faded black jeans, that Mitch realizes he’s been staring.

Harry grins at him, turning fully around. Without breaking eye contact he hooks his thumbs under the waistband of his jeans and yanks them down, briefs and all.

Mitch swallows, his throat gone dry. It’s not the first time he’s seen Harry naked—not even the first time this week—but it still startles him every time, some prudish core of him he hadn’t realized was there. He’s never sure where he’s meant to look. The smug curve of Harry’s smile doesn’t feel any less dangerous than the narrow, tapered V of his hips, or the thick line of his dick, hanging heavy between his legs.

“You coming?” Harry asks.

“Yeah,” Mitch says. “All right.”

The water feels safer, somehow. It’s pleasantly warm still, beaten hot by the relentless sun. For a while they don’t speak, just drift, letting the gentle tug of the waves pull them deeper. It’s dark enough that all he can make out of Harry is the white flash of his face, the line of his bare shoulders. Mitch looks away from him, back towards the house. The whole upstairs is dark, but someone must still be up in the kitchen. Light spills out onto the deck, shadows lengthening across the sand.

“Jeff, I bet,” Harry says in his ear. He’s closer than Mitch realized, treading water silently beside him. “Said he was gonna Skype Glenne.”

It seems more likely that he’s waiting up for Harry, to make sure he gets in all right. The thought makes Mitch feel vaguely guilty. He’s not sure what Jeff thinks of him, really, if he’s expecting Mitch to be the responsible adult here, the one to tell Harry when enough is enough. It’s just that most of the time Mitch is the one who feels like a child, overawed and out of his depth, in need of someone else to set the rules.

“Think he’s watching?” Harry says. “Think he can see us from all the way up there?”

The waves keep rocking them closer together. Mitch doesn’t know what he’s supposed to say to that, yes or no or I don’t know. But he doesn’t think it matters anymore, not really. Doesn’t think it would change the script.

Harry’s bare leg slides against his underwater, slippery and wet. When his gaze drops to Mitch’s mouth, Mitch feels the tug of it in his chest, a pull like the tide: moon-drawn, inexorable.

“Reckon I don’t care,” Harry says, low, and leans in to kiss him, eyes heavy-lidded, like he’s the one compelled.

Chapter Text

It’s harder than he’d expected, keeping it separate in his mind. Freddie’s not the daughter he and Harry used to dream about adopting together years ago, back when imagining a future together meant something more than conference calls to review their contracts. He thinks he’s meant to be imagining it still, wanting it still—the life they could have, the family they could be. It’s just that it feels so hazy these days, so intangible, and Freddie’s here, alive and happy, the one bright spot in Louis’s long, lonely days. He sits in his carrier in the backseat of Louis’s SUV and babbles happily in a language of his own invention, screeching in delight when Louis makes silly faces at him in the rearview mirror. When they go to the beach he scoots around on his stomach on the blanket, an intrepid explorer, putting everything he finds in his mouth.

Yuck! Louis says to him the first time he does it, and Freddie loses it, laughing like Niall used to back on X Factor, when every word that came out of Louis’ mouth was the funniest joke he’d ever heard. Yuhh! he repeats, grabbing fistfuls of wet sand and offering them to Louis, who packs them into towers for Freddie to demolish. And all around them, all the while, paps crowd along the boardwalk or hide out in the dunes. Lenses zoom, click, locking them into focus. Uck!

Freddie loves to be held, too. When he’s cranky and tired back at home, he makes grabby hands in Louis’s direction, whimpering to be picked up. Louis knows he shouldn’t, knows it won’t help with the whole keeping things separate, but he does it anyway. He’ll stand in his kitchen bouncing Freddie gently on his hip, humming a song his mum used to sing to him till Freddie rests his head in the crook of Louis’s shoulder and falls asleep with a little sigh.

It’s strange, Louis thinks in moments like those, as he rocks Freddie gently, waiting for the text that says Briana’s out front. It’s strange knowing that there’s a plan, and this is part of it–that one day, he’ll walk out of Freddie’s life and never see him again. These afternoons they’ve spent together will have been nothing, meant nothing, in the arc of Louis’s life. He’s supposed to be glad of that fact, he thinks. The fans remind him, every minute of every day–tweeting at him, hacking into his DMs, flooding his Instagram with frantic, almost hysterical messages describing the exact nature of his suffering. Free him, they cry, as Louis rocks Freddie to sleep in his kitchen, as he smooths the last of the sand out of his hair and breathes in the clean smell of his baby shampoo.

He wonders, sometimes, what Freddie will remember about these years when Louis’s gone. If Freddie will wish he could give them back, whatever vague, half-formed memories survive. The fragment of a lullaby, maybe. Silly faces in the mirror. The grit of sand between his fingers, in his mouth, his hair, as the two of them build makeshift castles against the rising tide.

Chapter Text

“Maybe they can feel stuff too,” Niall says, listing against Louis’s side. He takes a swig from the bottle of moonshine, grimacing at he swallows. “If they look like us.”

“Give me that.” Louis snags the bottle out of his hands. “Reckon you’ve had enough for tonight, if you’ve started thinking toasters have fracking feelings.”

“Just wonder, that’s all.” Niall hunches his shoulders up inside Louis’s flight jacket. It looks good on him, Louis thinks with a pang. It’s always looked good on him, and if it weren’t a violation of military code, dating his junior officer, he’d have Niall wear it all the time.

“Well, you don’t need to wonder,” he says aloud. “Blown enough of ‘em to bits, haven’t I? They’re hunks of metal, Nialler. Machines. Only difference with the human models is they’ve got synthetic skin.”

“Yeah,” Niall says.

He still looks troubled, though, and Louis doesn’t like that one bit. It’s one thing for him to have to live with it–the uncertainty, the fear. It’s what Louis had signed up for when he enlisted in the fleet, even if back then he’d expected to spend his career as a pilot flying endless border patrols. Niall, though - Niall had only entered the service to pay for school, like most of the maintenance specialists on board the Galactica. No chance of combat, not stationed aboard an old museum piece like this one.

Then came the attack on the Colonies, and the end of the world as they knew it. And the Galactica had become humanity’s last hope of surviving extinction. Everyone’s a soldier now.

“Don’t worry about them,” Louis tells Niall now. He bumps his shoulder against Niall’s, the most contact he’ll allow himself when they’re both like this, tipsy and prone to making bad decisions. “We’re gonna find ‘em, Nialler, the ones who look like us. Root ‘em out of the fleet and vent them out the airlock, every last one of them. And then once we’ve got enough Viper pilots in the air, we’re gonna attack every fracking Resurrection ship they’ve got, prevent those fuckers from regenerating.”

Niall doesn’t seem to be listening. He’s staring out across the abandoned hangar, pulling Louis’s coat tighter around his shoulders. “Emotions aren’t that different from software,” he says. “Not really. Don’t you ever wonder, Lou? If they can feel stuff too. If some of them want different things than the rest, and –”

Louis snorts.

“You’ve been talking to that crazy priest Styles, haven’t you,” he says. “All that rubbish about trying to find common ground. Like the Cylons aren’t dead set on exterminating the human race.”

“It’s diplomacy.” Niall’s not looking at him. “That’s all Harry wants, just a chance to end the bloodshed in both sides.”

“So it’s Harry now, is it?” Louis can’t quite ignore the hot twist of jealousy in his gut. He knows they’re friends, knows they’ve gotten closer since the attack. Knows that Styles keeps Niall company when Louis and the rest of the CAG are out on long missions.

“It’s not like that,” Niall says quietly. “And you know it, so don’t be an arse. Harry’s just my friend.”

“Yeah, well,” Louis says dismissively. “Might not be around for much longer, if he’s not careful.”

“What do you mean?”

Louis shrugs, playing casual. It’s classified, but he can’t imagine the rumors haven’t already begun percolating down to the crew. “Apparently Dr. Baltar’s finished developing his Cylon Detector Test,” he says. “Commander’s orders are every member of the Colonial Fleet’s got to be tested, starting this week. Reckon there’ll be some unpleasant surprises in store. And there’s loads of rumors flying around about your precious Harry –”

“Harry’s not a Cylon,” Niall says, with such conviction Louis breaks off mid-sentence. “And there’s nothing happening between me and him, either, if that’s what you’re insinuating. Not that it’s any of your business.” He gets clumsily to his feet, nearly knocking over the half-empty bottle of moonshine, and starts shrugging his shoulders free of Louis’s flight jacket.

“Oi, don’t be such a baby.” Louis scrambles to his feet, but Niall jerks away from his outstretched hand. “I was only joking about Styles. You’re so bloody sensitive, Neil, honestly.“

The flight jacket hits him full in the face.

“Fuck off, Lou.” There’s a tremor in Niall’s voice. “You’re such a fucking dick, you know that?”

Louis tenses. He knows this fight. Doesn’t want to have it, not now, not when he’s leaving tomorrow for another recon mission into Cylon-occupied territory. Not when it might be the last thing he ever hears Niall say.

“Come on,” he says, in what he hopes is a conciliatory tone, but it’s too little, too late.

“You’re the one who wanted to be just friends, Lou,” Niall says bitterly. “You’re the one who finished with me, yeah? Didn’t want me anymore. So you’re not allowed to be jealous if somebody else might.”

“I didn’t - it’s not like that,“ Louis says helplessly. “There’s rules, Niall. You’re my junior officer, and we can’t–”

“Didn’t seem to bother you before,” Niall says. “Why’s that, d'you reckon? How come I was good enough for you to stick your dick in back then, but now, now you’re some hotshot Viper pilot, you’re the bloody hero, and everybody wants a piece of you. Is that it, Lou? Don’t need your dirty little secret anymore, now that you can shag anyone you like–”

“We’re at war now, in case you hadn’t fracking noticed!” Louis yells, loud enough that Niall shuts up. “We’re out there every fracking day fighting for our lives, and I can’t be distracted, all right? Those pilots are counting on me to keep them alive. I can’t do my bloody job if I’m thinking about you the whole time, and going crazy worrying about you back here on Galactica. And gods, Ni, if somebody found out, if they transferred you to another ship, and I - I couldn’t come home to you anymore, I – ” He breaks off, turning so Niall won’t see the tears pricking at his eyes. He feels exposed, raw. Weak. Like he’s flown a bad mission, lost a pilot, fracked things up in a way he can’t fix.

He hates it. Hates that Niall can make him feel this way, still, despite how careful he’s been, despite how hard he’s worked to keep his emotions separate from the job he’s got to do. He can’t be weak, not anymore. If he fails they’ll all die, the whole fleet. If he fails he’ll lose Niall too: the last of his family, the only person he’s got left. It’s better to lose him like this, to give him up like this, than to lose him forever.

“Lou,” Niall says softy, but Louis’ already picking up his jacket, shoving it under his arm.

“There’s a war on, Horan,” he repeats, his voice unsteady. “And you and that toaster-loving freak Styles are busy wondering if the machines that murdered my mum and sisters have fracking feelings. They don’t. Maybe some of ‘em look like us now, but they’re not like us, Niall. They’re not human. And I swear to the Lords of Kobol that I’m gonna kill them, Niall. I’m gonna take out as many of those evil frackers as I can before they take me down.”

“Lou,” Niall says again, taking a step towards him, but Louis can feel tears pricking at the back of his eyes – his mum. His sisters. He shoulders past Niall and out the hatch, taking deep, gulping breaths of the ship’s recycled air.

Chapter Text

“Wow,” Nick says, a little breathlessly. “You’re so big.” He looks up at Harry through his eyelashes.

“Mm,” Harry says, and then clears his throat. It sounds like he’s trying not to laugh.

“Too much?” Nick quirks an eyebrow.

“No, no,” Harry says, though the corner of his mouth twitches up. “Keep going, really. You were just saying it’s, ah - the biggest you’ve ever seen?”

“We-ell,” Nick says. “I wouldn’t go that far." At Harry's disgruntled look, he bats his eyelashes again. "Sorry. Just a bit nervous, that's all. I - I'm just not sure it'll fit."

Harry slides his hand down over the curve of Nick’s back to palm his arse. He pulls Nick closer, slinging one of Nick’s thighs over his lap, spreading him open. The little noise Nick makes when Harry rubs two fingers over his hole isn’t acting. He arches into it, chest flush against Harry's.

"I know I'm your first, baby," Harry murmurs. He's not pressing inside, not yet, just petting at his entrance. Nick can feel how hard he is, a thick line against Nick’s thigh. "That's why I have to get you wet for me, yeah? Have to use my fingers, too. Open you up so you can take my cock."

Nick hides his face against Harry’s shoulder, letting out a shaky breath. It all feels a little much suddenly, a dizzy wave of feeling washing over him.

“So it’ll feel good,” he says, quiet. “Right? When you - when you’re inside me.”

“Yeah, babe,” Harry says, voice gone rough. ”Gonna make you feel so good.”

Chapter Text

Niall’s so into it he forgets to click. Harry must take the silence as a sign that he’s got to work harder, because he dives back down between Niall’s legs and starts licking him again, fingers scissoring inside him, holding him open so he can fuck into him with his tongue.

“Fuck,” Niall gasps, hips bucking up. He fumbles for the clicker, clicks, and groans again, toes curling, thighs trembling as Harry fucks him in short, steady jabs, holding his thighs apart. When his orgasm crashes over him he squeezes his thighs tight instinctively, grinding his clit against Harry’s tongue, riding it out.

“Fuck,” he says after, legs falling apart, his chest still heaving. “Jesus, Harry, that was fucking incredible.”

“Niall,” Harry gasps, coming up for air. His mouth is red, messy with slick, his face screwed up with the effort of not coming.

“Come here,” Niall says, pulling him up, shoving his tongue into Harry’s mouth without ceremony. He can taste himself on Harry’s lips, his tongue, Harry’s mouth opening eagerly for him. Niall fumbles between them, gets a grip on Harry’s cock, the head kissing his slit.

“Come on,” he says, breathless, impatient. “Inside, in,” and then Harry’s pushing into him, filling him up, hot and hard and so thick the stretch of it makes Niall’s eyes water. Harry’s mouth goes slack against his, too focused on the feeling of it, sinking into him.

“Fuck,” Harry groans, “fuck, you’re so—“ and then he’s thrusting wildly, hips jackrabbiting inside him.

Niall’s barely got the presence of mind to fumble for the clicker, but he finds it, fingers curling around the button. Click, when Harry thrusts fully inside him, fully seated, holding himself there for a long moment. Harry starts rocking his hips in short little thrusts, not pulling out all the way, more like rocking into him, every shift rubbing Niall’s spot in just the right way.

“No, don’t,” Niall gasps out when Harry’s fingers brush over his clit. “Want to come on your cock.”

He’s only managed it once before with Harry, and he’s pretty sure it was an accident. Harry tries but it’s never quite right: the angle’s just a touch off, or he gets too excited and speeds up just as Niall’s getting close and the feeling dissipates, and Harry can fuck him till he’s aching and he won’t be able to slip back into it.

It’s never bad, if he doesn’t come like that; Harry finishes him off with his mouth or his fingers, or keeps going after he’s come, softening inside him. But Niall’s always craved it, and this time it feels like it might happen. Harry’s barely moving now, keeping up that steady rocking, every deliberate thrust sending a jolt of pleasure through him, and he feels so thick inside Niall, so full, that Niall’s got tears in his eyes.

Chapter Text

Niall’s head lolls back onto Liam’s shoulder, his body gone limp as a ragdoll. Liam’s practically the only thing keeping him upright, arms wrapped tight around him. There’s come all over Niall’s belly and cock, his own and Liam’s, too, marking him up, making a mess of him.

Niall turns his face into Liam’s neck. “Li,” he mumbles, mouth brushing against Liam’s throat. “Liam, ’m so - I want - ”

“Shh, don’t talk.“ Liam slides a palm down over Niall’s stomach to loosely circle his softening cock. Niall groans, deep in his throat, twitching away from the touch before stilling. “S'the whole point of this, innit?” Liam murmurs. “You don’t have to decide anything. I’m gonna take care of you. Gonna make you feel good.”

He starts to pull him off again, makes the slide of it slick and maddeningly slow. Niall whimpers a little, shifting in his arms, mouth hanging half open. He’s gorgeous like this, naked and flushed pink all over, and the sight of him makes Liam want with a ferocity that startles him. He wants Niall like this all the time, soft and sweet and easy for it. He wants to be the one Niall comes to when he needs this, the only one.

Chapter Text

“What about love, though?“

I have to suppress a smile.

“What?” he says, reading it in my eyes.

“Nothing,” I say. “It’s nothing.”

“You think I’m naive.”

“I didn’t say that.”

“You didn’t have to.” There's a note of petulance in his voice. He shifts to look at me, propping himself up on one elbow. The sheet around his waist slips lower, revealing a glimpse of dark ink.

I reach out to touch his laurels, the gesture almost unconscious. When my fingertips brush his skin I feel a kind of shock, sense-memory thrilling through me. I remember that first night in Kailua, when I carried him like a bride into the villa—both of us breathless with laughter, his arms around my neck, his lips against my throat. That night I made love to him for hours before I allowed him release. I traced those delicate whorls with the tip of my tongue, over and over, till I had him writhing beneath me, undone, crying out for me to take him into my mouth again.

When I find my voice, it sounds strange, choked with some feeling I can't name.

“Not naive,” I say. “Just - a dreamer.”

He kisses me then, pressing himself against me with a sudden eagerness. And I love him then, as I had begun to love him that night in the villa, not just for the softness of his mouth or the lean, beautiful lines of his body, but for that sweetness in him, that inability to see a hurt and not soothe it.

“Barack,” he breathes. “Barack, I lo—”

I kiss him again, swallowing the words. My hands roam lower, sliding beneath the sheet. When I pull him closer he comes easily, one leg draped my hip. I can feel where he's wet still, and open, and when I touch him there he moans, mouth parting against mine, letting me inside.