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“It’s like…a message.”

“A message! It’s—”

“It is!”

“It’s not a message. You literally just wanted puppies and little kids and cake, do not try to tell me—” Nick couldn’t hold back the laughter in his voice.

“No,” Harry drew the word out, which would have carried more weight if he hadn’t also been laughing, “it’s about like, reputations and expectations and, like, rebellion.”

“One hundred percent it isn’t.”

“It was a whole concept, it was pitched and planned and—”

“Guaranteed the entirety of the plan was ‘I want it to feature mini Gucci suits and cupcakes and little me is going to be both female and wearing a more masculine version of my outfit, it’ll be sick.’” He could hear Harry laughing down the line. “Seriously, tell me I’m wrong.”

“God you’re such a dick.” It was incredible, Nick always thought, the extent to which you could hear people smiling.

“Ha! Victory!”

Harry snickered, “Yeah, yeah.”

“Anyway, how’s Amsterdam?”

There was a characteristically long pause, and Nick could just imagine Harry stopping to look around, deciding exactly how it was, “It’s, y’know, yeah. Scenic.”

Scenic. You’re such a legend sometimes, honestly.”

Harry sounded pleased, “Obviously.” And then it was Nick’s turn to snort. “Really though, it’s lovely. I was out for a bit with Katie and Jo, dunno where Naomi was actually, now that I’m th—”

“You went out in Amsterdam with two of Muna and you weren’t immediately mobbed? This is a red letter day in the House of Styles, we—”

“I say ‘out’. We were, we were actually like, on the balcony,” he raised his voice, probably to be heard over what could have generously been termed a burst of Nick’s laughter, but in reality sounded more like some combination of a witch on Halloween and a record that had got stuck, “but we had a really nice view! No, it was lovely! Stop—”

“Sorry, I’m sorry. I’m sure it,” Nick had to stop for a second to get his breath back, “I’m sure it was wonderful.”

Harry evidently couldn’t hold out in the face of Nick’s mirth, started laughing right along with him.

“Dick.”

“So you’ve said.”

“Yeah. Listen, this is a bit off topic, but I meant to mention. My birthday—”

“Your—? Haz, it’s literally November, wh—”

Harry spoke right over him, “I’ll be home, it’s during the tour break, and we can. You’ll, uh. You’ll be around, yeah?”

Nick could feel his laughter fade, fondness warring with his sudden desire to articulate very clearly that he wasn’t the one who was always gone. “Yeah Haz, I’ll be around.”

“We’re 57, this time.”

Fondness won out. “That was much more exciting three years ago. They make Happy 50th! balloons, never seen ones for 57.”

“I could get them.”

“Bet you could. Don’t though, you’ve spent enough on my birthday. Plus, no need for joint celebrations this time around. You made it to the original.”

There was a pause where neither of them mentioned the ones he’d missed.

“I’m thinking you had the right idea with that,” Harry eventually said, very brightly. “I’m going to have a week long birthday extravaganza.”

Nick was very on board with the cheerful tone idea. “Excuse you! I had one lunch and one evening thing, it was not—”

“And one shopping spree and multiple breakfast shows on the theme and—”

“They were not on the theme! I maybe mentioned it once, and Fifi let me play a couple of extra s—”

“And ‘one evening’ does not, like, capture that evening. You had what was essentially a ballroom—”

“I did n—”

“There were silver balloons that spelled Grim.”

Which, admittedly, there had been.

Harry wasn’t done, “That’s like, an idea actually. We can get silver balloons, a five and a seven.”

They could not get silver balloons in a five and a seven.

“A two and a four, maybe.”

Harry huffed out a bit of a laugh, and Nick didn’t think he was imagining that it sounded slightly off, “But where’s the fun in that?”

The fun would be Nick’s continued sanity and relative lack of internet harassment, but really, who was counting.

“You’ll be around, though? For Christmas and the next few months?”

“Course I’ll be—Haz…is this just, like, Harry Styles and his love of diaries and plans, or…”

The couple seconds where all Nick could hear was Harry’s breathing coming down the line suggested or.

“You know me, love a plan.” Harry took an audible breath, “But actually I just. It’s a tour break.” Nick swallowed, didn’t cut in even as the pause stretched. “We, like, win awards for our tour breaks. Let’s…let’s give the Mirror something to talk about, yeah?”

Nick tried to laugh, tried to call back the feeling of bubbling mirth that had been overflowing at the beginning of this conversation. He didn’t have a huge amount of success. “Are you suggesting we tear up London Town, popstar? Party like it’s 2012?”

Harry laughed softly, said, “Maybe Rita’s doing G-A-Y.”

Neither mentioned all the tour breaks they’d missed.

“Will you, though? Tear up London with me?” Harry went on, somehow sounding like he had a better idea of what he was asking for than he usually did.

And—

No, Nick’s mind was shouting. No, I won’t, because you’ll be fine and the break will end and you’ll go back on tour and sashay your way through life in mostly-unbuttoned floral shirts, and I’ll be here by myself hugging my dogs and obsessively scrolling through twitter mentions and cutting off my hair and I know better now. I know better.

“Course I will, Haz,” Nick rasped, cleared his throat. “Course I will.”