Chapter 1: Chapter 1
Niall sinks deeper into the cool leather of the chair. Shaking his head before his manager, Ryan, even finishes talking. Harry Styles? Are they insane?
“Niall,” Ryan sighs, walking around to sit on the edge of the desk directly in front of Niall, “I’m not asking. I’m telling. You are going to date Harry Styles.”
“But-“ he starts before Ryan cuts him off by holding up a hand.
“No buts. Everything’s already been worked out with Harry’s management team. You’ll be going to his show here in London tomorrow evening,” he smiles in an almost sympathetic manner, but Niall knows it’s all part of his training and job, “if you don’t do this we’ll be forced to drop you.” Ryan stands and opens the door to his office, letting Niall know the meeting is over. “This will be good, Niall, it will get your name out there. I’ll message you with the rest of the details for tomorrow in the morning.”
Niall shrugs passed Ryan, forcing himself to grumble out a “thank you,” before hiking his backpack over his shoulder and continuing down the hallway. This isn’t what he wants. Not how he’s always pictured it. He always figured it would be a few years of working hard to build up his own fan base. Struggling to get his own name out there and working quite a few not so glamorous gigs before earning his right to the more welcoming venues.
He wants people to like his music for the music. He wants people to know who he is because he’s worked for it. He doesn’t want people to know him because he happens to be ‘dating’ a world-famous rock star.
A shiver works its way up Niall spine as he opens the door to the parking garage, and he’s still grumbling to himself when he plops down in the front seat of Liam’s car, forcing the keys into the ignition with a little more force than necessary. He carefully reverses and starts heading for the flat he shares with his best mate.
By the time he gets home he’s calmed down considerably, but he’s still not thrilled with the idea. He fumbles with his keys for a second before he’s able to open the door and step inside.
Niall sighs and pushes his hair off his forehead, locking the door behind him before he walks further into the flat. Liam smiles at him from where he’s laying on the couch in the living room.
“Hey, Nialler. How’d it go? Good news?” Liam asks, his smile turning to a frown when Niall plops down on the couch opposite him. Niall’s unhappiness quite evident on his normally cheerful face.
Niall tosses the car keys at Liam, deciding to ignore the question. “Thanks for letting me borrow your car,” he says instead.
Liam catches them, sits up and drops them onto the coffee table. “What’s wrong?” he asks, “What happened?”
The concern is evident in his voice and Niall feels just a little bit stupid for being this upset. Quite a few girls and guys would give anything to be in this position. But it’s Liam, so it’s not like Niall could hide how he’s feeling even if he wanted to. “You’ve heard of Harry Styles, yeah?” Niall asks, his hands fumbling a bit in his lap.
“Obviously,” Liam says, the eye roll implied in his voice.
“Right, well,” Niall mumbles, “I’m supposed to be his new ‘boyfriend’. They want us to fake date.”
“And you’re upset?” Liam lets his voice fade off, but it’s obviously a question so Niall nods. “Okay, well, I mean, I guess I get it. It’s probably going to be weird. Definitely a lot of pressure.”
Niall groans and drops his head into his hands. “What am I going to do Liam? They’ll drop me if I don’t do this.”
Niall feels the couch dip, and Liam’s warm arm pulling him into his side. “It will be okay,” Liam says, running his hand up and down Niall’s spine in a rhythmic, comforting manner, “you’ll do this, and it will be okay.”
Niall relaxes and leans into Liam’s touch, breathing in the scent of Liam’s familiar cologne “Okay,” his voice is tired and his eyes heavy. He can already feel himself drifting off, grateful to have a friend as good as Liam.
I don't have a beta reader so forgive me for any mistakes. If any mistakes are extremely, glaringly obvious please feel free to point them out so I can fix them. Thanks! I hope you like this chapter! :)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The next night Niall finds himself enjoying the concert quite a bit. He’s heard Harry’s music before and he definitely liked it, but watching him bring it to life on stage was incredible. He realizes he actually can’t wait to meet Harry now that the concert’s over and he’s wondering around backstage. The only problem is he’s completely lost.
He turns the corner and runs into someone just a bit shorter than him. “Oi,” the boy’s eyes are blue and mischievous and he’s grinning like Niall just told him the best joke he’s ever heard, “watch where you’re going, yeah?”
Niall blushes, and silently curses the heat that always seems to rush to his cheeks at the worst times, but smiles back at the other boy anyway. “Sorry,” he murmurs, glancing at the ground.
The boy laughs and puts his hand on Niall’s shoulder. “Hey, it’s fine I was only kidding,” he smiles and takes his hand of Niall’s shoulder only to punch him jokingly. And Niall’s not really sure who he is, but he kind of likes this guy already—thinks they could definitely be friends.
“I’m Niall,” he shakes the other boy’s hand.
“Ah, Niall, we’ve been looking for you. Or, well,” he pauses for a second then shrugs and smiles even wider, “actually Mark has been looking for you, but same thing. I’m Louis by the way,” he talks so fast it’s almost hard for Niall to understand, but he recognizes the name, Mark, as Harry’s manager. Louis tugs on his hand and pulls him down a different corridor. “You’re here to meet Harry, yeah?”
“Uh, yeah,” Niall answers, matching Louis’ quick pace.
They turn down a few different hallways until Louis finally stops outside a door and turns to face Niall. “Listen,” he’s talking slower and quieter now, “Harry probably won’t be what you’re expecting, but he’s my best friend, so be nice to him, okay?”
“Okay,” Niall agrees, wondering what Louis means. But before he really has time to think about it Louis’ grin is back and he’s pushing Niall towards the door.
“See ‘ya around Niall,” Louis waves as he walks back in the direction they came from, “good luck!”
Niall knocks on the door and nervously runs his palms over his jeans. The door’s thrown open and a man wearing a suit looks him over, inquisitively. “Niall?” he asks.
“Yes,” Niall says, hoping he doesn’t look as nervous as he feels, luckily his voice holds pretty strong.
“Mark,” the man says, holding out his hand, a barely there, serious smile on his face.
Niall takes it and the man nods, stepping past Niall so they’re both in the hallway. “Harry’s in there,” Mark tilts his head towards the door he just came out of, “I’ll leave the two of you to get acquainted. Ryan said he’d send you a message tomorrow morning to discuss the schedule for the rest of the week.”
“Thanks,” Niall says, smiling despite the fact that he’d rather grimace. He can’t believe he’s actually going through with this.
“Right, well, I’ll see you around,” Mark says, walking off in the same direction Louis went.
Niall takes another deep breath or two and looks at his shaking hand as he reaches for the doorknob. It’s now or never he supposes, turning the nob and pushing to door open.
He closes it behind him before he turns around to take in the room. It’s a lot nicer than any of the backstage dressing rooms Niall’s ever been in. There are two black leather couches with a nice assortment of treats and drinks laid out on the coffee table between them. The room is cool and it’s lit in a way that seems almost relaxing.
“So,” a deep voice with a harsh edge cuts into Niall’s thoughts, “you’re Niall then?”
Harry’s laid across one of the couches with an arm thrown over his eyes. Niall doesn’t know how Harry wasn’t the first thing he noticed. He’s not wearing a shirt and his hair and skin are still slightly wet from the shower he must’ve taken after the show, his dark jeans clinging to his legs.
“Yeah,” Niall swallows, putting on his bright and friendly voice, walking towards the other couch and sitting on the edge, “Harry, right?”
Harry laughs, but it sounds more bitter than happy, he doesn’t move his arm away from his face. “But of course you already knew that,” he says.
Niall doesn’t know what to say so he nods instead, even though Harry obviously can’t see him. It’s quiet for a minute before Niall gets up the courage to speak again. “So, um-“
“Listen,” Harry cuts him off. He moves his arm and glares at Niall, his eyes dark and intimidating. “We aren’t friends and we won’t ever be friends. This is strictly a business arrangement that will be over in a few months or possibly even weeks. We will pretend to be lovers in public, but in private we are nothing, not even friends. So we don’t have anything to talk about,” Harry sits up, leaning his forearms against his thighs, “am I clear?”
“Yeah,” Niall says, his mouth suddenly dry. Now he knows what Louis was talking about and he feels stupid that he had actually been a little bit excited about meeting Harry. Harry obviously thinks he’s nothing but a necessary nuisance in his normally perfect life.
“Good,” Harry stands up and turns his back to Niall walking towards a different door, “I can assume you’ll be gone by the time I get back then.”
Niall’s back in the hallway as soon as the door Harry walked through clicks closed. Louis’ waiting for him.
“Sorry about that,” Louis says softly as they begin walking back through the confusing building, resting a hand on Niall’s shoulder like he already knew exactly what happened. He probably did, Niall doubts this is the first time Harry’s acted this way towards someone. “He wasn’t always like that.” Louis sounds sad and regretful. He sighs deeply but doesn’t say anything else until they reach the exit.
Niall hopes he never becomes like Harry. Never gets such a big head about himself that Liam has to end up defending him the way Louis is for Harry. He hopes that he’ll always remember what it’s like to struggle to pay rent, and to sing in crappy bars for almost no money. He hopes he’ll always remember to be grateful for every single person who listens to his music.
“Right well, I’ll see you around Niall,” Louis says his voice cheerful again as he points toward the exit doors. “Harry might not like new friends, but I do. It was nice to meet you,” he adds before he walks away.
“It was nice to meet you too, Louis,” Niall says to his retreating back. Louis waves without turning around. Niall heads towards the doors. At least one person had been friendly tonight.
The one person he’ll be forced to spend time with obviously already hates him though, so Niall wouldn’t count today a success. And he doesn’t even want to think about tomorrow, or the whole week that’s apparently already been planned out for them.
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Niall throws a gray cardigan on over his shirt and styles his hair up, sighing in the mirror and glancing at his phone for probably the hundredth time. The car should be here any minute and the butterflies in his stomach just keep getting worse. He wonders out to the kitchen and finds Liam standing at the counter, drinking some kind of breakfast smoothie as he flips through the mail.
“So?” Niall asks holding his arms out and giving a confident smile, though he knows Liam will see right through it. Liam knows him better than anyone.
Liam looks up, nods and smiles, “you look good, Ni. You alright?” He sets the mail down.
“Uh,” Niall runs his hands over his jeans, smoothing out nonexistent wrinkles, “yeah, just a bit nervous. I don’t really know what to expect.” He leans back against the counter.
Liam reaches out and puts a comforting hand on Niall’s shoulder just as his phone buzzes with a text from the driver saying he is here. “You’ll be fine,” Liam says, when he looks up from his phone with panicked eyes, “it’s just brunch. I’ll be here when you get home, yeah?”
“Yeah,” Niall agrees and thanks Liam. He masks his nerves behind false confidence and puts a small relaxed smile on his face. He can do this.
Harry’s already waiting in the car when the driver opens the door for Niall and he climbs in. He doesn’t know what he was expecting, but it wasn’t for Harry to be waiting for him in the backseat. He greets Harry politely and gets nothing but a nod in response. Harry doesn’t even look up from his phone. He feels like sighing but holds it in and looks out the window instead. Two can play at that game.
It isn’t long before the car parks in front of some trendy café and Niall can see photographers waiting with their cameras pointed at the car. Niall swallows the panic that bubbles in his throat at the crowd of paparazzi, and takes a deep breath. It startles him when Harry starts to talk.
“I’ll get out first,” he says, his voice low and gruff. He shakes his curls out before he pushes them to the side, “then you. Reach for my hand when you get out and try to seem happy and interested, like we’re a couple.” Harry’s voice drifts off as the driver opens the door for him and he steps out, the shouts and screams starting up immediately.
He turns to face the car as he waits for Niall to follow and smiles as soon as Niall’s hand is encompassed in his. Niall tries to smile as well, glancing at the photographers as Harry starts tugging him towards the restaurant. “Harry is this your new boytoy?” someone shouts. Niall leans into Harry’s side and looks up at him for a second just as Harry glances down, his dimples are showing but Niall thinks his eyes still feel cold. He stays glued against him anyway.
Harry opens the door for Niall, following him inside. He wraps an arm around Niall’s shoulder and Niall follows his lead, letting his own arm linger around Harry’s waist. He knows they can still be seen through the glass storefront, and the camera flashes haven’t stopped.
Soon a girl is leading them through the nearly empty café to a completely empty private room. She seats them at one of the tables and hands them each a menu. “I’ll be right back with water, can I get you anything else to drink?” she asks.
“No thank you, Jen,” Harry grins, glancing at her name tag. He actually looks genuine now and Niall feels something like anger burn deep under his skin. What did he do to deserve Harry’s icy distaste? He’s been nothing but polite and friendly towards him.
She looks at him next and Niall shakes his head. “I’ll be right back,” she says, looking at Harry again with a flirtatious smile. She bats her eyelashes more times than Niall thinks is really necessary and sways her hips as she walks away. As soon as she’s left the room Harry pulls out his phone and goes right back to ignoring Niall.
Niall doesn’t hold his sigh back this time and leans back in his chair. “So Harry-“ be begins to say before the other boy looks up and cuts him off.
“We aren’t friends, remember?” the question is harsh and before Niall can even respond he’s back to looking at his phone.
“I know, but we are going to have to spend time together, we may as well talk,” Niall points out.
Jen comes back into the room and Harry doesn’t respond. Just slips his phone back into his pocket as he reaches for Niall’s hand across the table and gives him a look that could be mistaken for adoring if you didn’t know the truth. “That’s a great idea, love,” he says sweetly as Jen sets their drinks on the table, but Niall’s pretty sure he isn’t actually agreeing with him.
She asks them if they’re ready and throws a subtle glare in Niall’s direction. They both order and she leaves again.
“To be quite frank, Niall,” Harry says, dropping his hand and the act, “I don’t care about your life and mine is none of your business so we really have nothing to talk about.”
Niall nods and fiddles with his napkin until Jen brings their food in a while later. He smiles and thanks her when she sets his down in front of him but she ignores him, turning to Harry instead. Niall’s heart sinks, apparently he doesn’t matter to anyone today.
“Let me know if there’s anything else I can get you,” she says, winking and turning on her heal to leave.
They eat in silence. Niall’s eyes sting, but he’s proud of himself for refusing to let any tears form. He thinks maybe he should just stand up and leave, but then he’d get dropped from his label and he’s worked too damn hard to let someone like Harry damn Styles stop him.
Niall breathes a sigh of relief when they’re finally done stand up to leave. Harry reaches for his hand as soon as they’re back through the front door, he leans in close to breath in Niall’s ear, “laugh,” he whispers and leans back to smile down at the blond. Niall chuckles and he’s not sure it’s convincing at all, but he does his best, hoping it translates well through the pictures the paps are snapping.
Harry presses a kiss to his forehead as he opens the car door for Niall. He’s thankful for the tinted windows because Niall can feel the way his cheeks heat up as Harry climbs in behind him and shuts the door. He curses the heat under his skin. There is no reason for it to be there. He shouldn’t be blushing just because some boy who hates him, and who he’s slowly growing to hate back, chastely kissed his forehead. It’s stupid really.
The drive back to Niall’s flat is silent. When they get there Niall throws open his door and decides it’s best not to say anything to Harry, instead he just thanks the driver and turns on his heel to walk back in his building. Emotion tightens his throat as a few tears prickle in his eyes. He’s not sure what exactly he’s crying about. Maybe it’s anger, or frustration, or stress, but it definitely isn’t because Harry hurt his feelings. Nope definitely not that.
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