“It’s a £2,000 jacket and he wants to cut a hole in it?” Zayn gapes at Caroline who seems far less concerned by this news than he is. “A £2,000 Gucci jacket. Gucci, Caroline.”
Caroline blinks back at him, her arms folded across her chest. “Zayn. Let the jacket go.”
Zayn huffs out a sigh but makes absolutely no move to let go of the garment bag clutched in his arms. “I can’t believe you’re so calm about this,” he mutters. He runs a finger lovingly over the embossed, golden logo on the front of the bag. “I won’t let them hurt you,” he whispers with a small smile.
It was an innocent enough question: he only wanted to know why they requested two Gucci indigo wool cashmere jackets, in exactly the same size. Maybe it was a mistake? He could get the spare packed and sent back to the showroom anytime. Because Zayn’s observant like that; he’s careful. It’s what makes him good at his job, and he is good at his job. Caroline says so, too—that Zayn’s the best assistant stylist she’s ever worked with, that he could be in her shoes within a few years if he kept it up. Although, usually she says it with a smile, rather than the stony stare she has fixed on Zayn now.
Now, Zayn’s wishing he had never asked; that he didn’t have to know the fate of this beautiful piece of art he holds in his arms. It’s the most exquisite jacket he’s ever seen. Well—top five, at least. And Zayn’s seen a lot of jackets.
Caroline pinches the bridge of her nose. “He’s a bloody millionaire, Zayn. If he wants to cut a hole in a Gucci jacket for his harness to go through, then he can. And he will, no matter how much you pout about it.” She reaches out a hand and makes a beckoning gesture.
Zayn turns his body away from her. “I hate pop stars,” he grumbles under his breath. “No respect for anything.”
“I suppose you’ll be protesting on behalf of the Scottish scenery that he’ll spoil by flying around it, next?”
Zayn bites back the urge to stick out his tongue at her. He is a professional, after all.
“Give me the jackets, Zayn.”
Caroline glances at the clock. “He’s going to be here any minute.”
“Well, you can tell him no. He can wear it but he’s not cutting a hole in it. No fucking way.”
“Can we please just—” The studio buzzer sounds, sharp and shrill in the small space. “We’ll talk about this later. Let’s just fit him for now and not another word about…” She purses her lips. “Maybe just don’t say anything at all.”
“I have nothing to say to that arsehole,” Zayn snaps back but grudgingly moves to hang the bag on the rail. He gently pulls down the zip, inhaling sharply as the crisp detailing comes into view. He rubs a thumb over the material and a little shiver runs down his spine. He smiles a little. Cut a hole in it? Alright, mate. Over my dead body.
He removes the bag completely and folds it up into the corner with the others. It’s a simple assortment they have for him to try on: a few pairs of trousers, a couple of sweaters, and then the jacket. Compared to his usual looks, Zayn has to admit that the request they’d had in was rather tame. Borderline boring, even, if it weren’t for the jacket.
Zayn’s never met him before. Heard about him, obviously; observed the movements of his career, a little. Zayn has always admired his daring when it came to his style choices and, for the most part, the choices themselves. Head-to-toe print in a burnt orange isn’t something that Zayn would touch with a ten-foot pole but each to their own.
He turns as he hears footsteps on the stairs and smoothes his hair back from his face. It’s getting a little long, starting to curl at the ends, but Caroline says it makes him look sophisticated and handsome. Her daughter, Brooklyn, who spends the occasional few hours with them in the studio, seems to like the way it melts into his beard. In between hiding in empty garment boxes or trying to totter around in six-inch Louboutins, she's rather fond of scratching Zayn’s jaw like it’s a kitten. Zayn’s rather fond of it, too, if he’s honest.
Zayn’s attire is simple, to match the neutral aesthetics of the studio. The attention should be on the clothes they’re fitting to their clients, not on them. Black jeans hug his legs and tuck neatly into black lace-up boots; his black and white asymmetrical striped shirt hangs loose over his frame and reaches down to his thighs. The free clothes are a pretty enjoyable job perk.
He straightens up and clasps his hands behind his back. Over my dead body, he reminds himself, firmly. He doesn’t care how charming, talented, or successful this bloke is. He’s not cutting a hole in that jacket.
Zayn manages to hold his composure when Harry Styles walks through the door. Just about, anyway. It’s not like Zayn hadn’t known that he was attractive but he couldn’t have been prepared for how disarming it would be in person. Harry’s smile is soft and warm and strands of hair fall into his eyes. The ripped jeans and grey hoodie combo is unremarkable, at best, but somehow it fits him and his easy manner and his light laugh.
Harry greets Zayn with a firm handshake that leaves Zayn momentarily dazed. Zayn runs his thumb over the indentations that Harry’s rings have left on his fingers and swallows. He says nothing, just gives a polite nod.
“Alright, I know I said you shouldn’t say anything but there’s no need to be weird,” Caroline mumbles to him as she glides past him.
Zayn snaps to. “I’m not being weird,” he hisses and turns to Harry with a tight smile. “Whenever you’re ready.”
“Right.” Harry tugs off his hoodie. “I still find that one of the weirdest things, you know? Hello, nice to meet you, now take off your clothes.”
Zayn blinks, bemused. “Hoping for a little foreplay first?” He cocks his head and raises an eyebrow.
Harry barks out a laugh. “Might be nice once in a while,” he admits as he unbuckles his belt. He makes a point of looking Zayn over. “You offering?”
Seated on the sofa, Harry’s PA sighs.
“Is he always like this?” Zayn asks her, and she nods.
“I’m standing right here,” Harry points out and then proceeds to wiggle his way out of his jeans. It’s not particularly graceful to watch but Zayn can’t seem to tear his gaze away.
He’s got nice legs, that’s all. Firm thighs and toned calves. The kind of legs you could imagine wrapped around you. Objectively speaking, of course.
“I can empathise,” Caroline comments dryly to the PA. She shoots Zayn a pointed look.
Zayn’s mouth is dry. “Okay, so.” He whirls around and consults the rack, a safer sight than Harry Styles in just his boxers. His eyes glance over the Gucci jacket and he nearly smacks himself. Keep it together. He can feel his upper hand slipping away from underneath his feet. “Trousers.” He takes two styles from the rack and brings them over to Harry. “It depends if you’d be more comfortable in a jean or in something tailored. That said, they should both match up to the measurements you sent us so the look will be pretty similar.”
Harry hums and selects the jeans. He offers a murmur of thanks and a quirk of his lips.
Zayn steps back and lets Caroline examine the fit. He observes her carefully, even though he knows all of this by now. Caroline’s promised to let him take charge of the fitting soon. She might even have let him do it today, if he hadn’t kicked up a fuss about the jacket. A tiny pang of regret tugs at Zayn’s stomach but— No. He’s nothing without his integrity. And keeping the jacket intact is more important right now than the fact that Caroline’s hands are pinching the inseam of Harry’s jeans.
It all goes relatively smoothly until the jacket comes out. Zayn stands, silent, and watches. Sometimes, Harry catches his eye and opens his mouth as if to make some comment but then seems to think better of it. The moment of over-confident flirting from earlier has passed and both of them seem to have remembered where they are and who they are.
Caroline fetches the jacket and Zayn’s shoulders tense.
“As requested, we’ve had two sent over, so that the, uh.” Caroline clears her throat and glances at Zayn. “The required alterations can be made to one of them.”
Harry nods, enthusiastic. He lets out a soft sigh as Caroline slides the jacket over his arms and rests it on his shoulders. “God, it’s fantastic,” he murmurs as he runs his fingers over the embroidery. “Almost seems a shame to start cutting a hole in one of them, huh?”
Zayn snorts under his breath and Caroline narrows her eyes at him.
“What do you think, Zayn?”
Zayn raises an eyebrow. It’s the first question Harry’s addressed to him—that is, the first question about the clothes. “I think…” He looks over at Caroline. “I think it’s a stunning piece,” he responds simply. He takes a breath. “Have you considered other options?”
Harry frowns. “Other jackets?”
Zayn balks. Definitely not. Next thing, Harry will want to cut a hole into a £21,000 Stefano Ricci bomber. “No, other options in regards to the whole… Flying thing. Options that don’t require any—” He coughs. “Alterations.”
“Oh.” Harry does a half turn and studies his reflection in the mirror. “The problem is, if we put a harness over the top it won’t really have the same effect. And apparently it’s not safe to put it down the back of the collar. I did ask.” He sends him an apologetic smile.
Zayn doesn’t return his smile. “It’s just a bit disrespectful to—”
“What Zayn means to say,” Caroline cuts in. “Is that it’s an unusual request. But I have a tailor who will do a clean job of it. Won’t even notice it’s there,” she assures him.
Zayn is in no way assured. It’ll still be there—and it can’t be undone.
When Harry and his PA leave, Harry doesn’t try to hide the questioning gaze he fixes on Zayn.
“It was lovely to meet you, Zayn,” he says with a half smile. “Hopefully our paths cross again someday.”
Zayn nods. “Good luck with the video.”
“Thanks.” Harry’s smile widens.
Zayn waits until they are out in the hallway, Caroline distracted with making the arrangements for delivery and pick-up. With one eye on the door, he hangs the Gucci garment bag on the rail and zips it closed, empty. He takes a spare, unmarked bag and slides the Gucci jackets inside, and tucks it away on a separate rail. He grabs his own leather jacket, slips it on, and hooks a hand around the second rail.
Caroline catches him at the door. “Where are you off to?”
“Thought I’d take the dry-cleaning down the road, since we’ve got a bit of time before the next appointment.” Zayn smiles sweetly.
Caroline lets out a breath and nods. “Thanks, Zayn, that’d be amazing.” She touches a hand to his arm. “I know that wasn’t easy, okay? But you have to remember that the client’s wishes come first.”
“Right.” Zayn takes a step forward. “I should get going. It’s supposed to rain later.”
She squeezes his arm and lets his past.
Zayn doesn’t even stop to think about it. He takes the rack to the cleaners, slipping the jackets from the rail before hands it over. It’s a rush to make it back to his flat to drop them off before he returns to the studio but he makes it.
Caroline raises an eyebrow but doesn’t comment.
“Bit of a queue,” Zayn mumbles.
Zayn pulls out his phone and quickly shoots off a text to his flatmate.
Do not, under any circumstances, touch, go near, or even breathe next to the garment bag on the sofa.
“I didn’t touch it,” Louis yells as soon as Zayn walks through the door. He’s got a bowl of baked beans in one hand, a spoon in the other, but is sitting as far away from the garment bag as he can while still being able to see the television.
Zayn lets out a breath. “Good.” He slings his bag down. He touches a hand to the top of the garment bag and bites his lip.
“Are you really supposed to be bringing Gucci jackets home with you, though?” Louis shovels a spoonful of beans into his mouth.
Zayn narrows his eyes. “I thought you said you didn’t touch it.”
Louis looks guilty. “I might have peeked.”
Zayn looks at the bowl in his hands and then at the bag in alarm.
“I washed my hands first!”
“I no longer trust a word you say,” Zayn mutters. He gingerly unzips the bag and looks over the front of the jacket. There seems to be no visible markings, not even a fleck of dust. And Zayn knows even Louis wouldn’t be stupid enough to have started taking them out of the bag. He zips the bag back up and sits down on the sofa.
“So…” Louis prompts.
Zayn sighs. “I might have… Borrowed them.”
Louis gapes. “Zayn! I expect this kind of behaviour of me, maybe but not of you! You’re supposed to be the good one!” He tuts. “Stealing from work. Shameful.”
“I’m not stealing them! I don’t plan on keeping them, I’m just trying to—” He bit his lip. It sounds ridiculous, even his head, but he says it anyway. “I’m trying to save them.”
“Save them,” Louis echoes. “From who?”
Zayn grunts. “From a tyrannical, psychotic pop star, that’s who.”
“Right.” Louis taps the spoon off the side of his bowl. He looks unconvinced. “Does this tyrant have a name?”
Zayn slinks lower into the cushions. “Doesn’t matter what his name is.”
“So, it’s a he.” Louis looks triumphant.
Zayn’s phone buzzes loudly from his pocket. He pulls it out and grimaces.
Zayn nods and—possibly against his better judgement—answers the call. “Hi, you.” He goes for light, casual.
It doesn’t work. “Where are they?” She hisses down the line.
“Don’t play dumb with me, Zayn. I know you have them. Where are the jackets? Are they in your flat?” She whimpers. “Please tell me your flatmate hasn’t been anywhere near them.”
Zayn rolls his eyes. “Of course I wouldn’t let Louis near them. I’m not stupid.”
“So, they are at your flat.”
“N—No,” Zayn stammers. “I mean—”
“This how you want to play it, Zayn? Because I can play dirty, too.”
The line went dead. Zayn stared at his phone. “What the fuck does that mean?” He mumbles.
“So, what now?” Louis asks.
“What are you going to do with them now that you’ve rescued them?”
Zayn is silent. If he’s honest, he really didn’t think that far ahead. Now that he’s got them here, what is he going to do with them? Send them back to Gucci on behalf of the studio? Keep them hostage until he knows the video shoot is over? He scrubs a hand over his jaw. “I dunno,” he replies simply.
“Master criminal you are,” Louis mutters and gets off the sofa. “Put them in your room. I don’t want to be an accomplice to this.”
Zayn does what any normal person would do. He tries one on. He strips down to his jeans and carefully slides one of the jackets out of the bag. He glides it up his arms, settles it over his shoulders and lets the material fall heavy against his bare chest. He steps over to the full-length mirror in the corner of his room and a slow smile creeps over his lips.
It’s a little too big for him, really, but he doesn’t care—it’s not like he plans on wearing it out anywhere. The material feels luxurious against his skin; warm where it envelopes him. When he moves, tiny fibres tickle his arms and send goosebumps racing over his skin.
The doorbell rings and Zayn starts.
“You get it,” he calls out.
Louis curses from down the corridor. The sound is followed by the shuffling of feet.
Zayn tiptoes to the door of his bedroom and cracks it open a fraction. He sticks his ear to the crack.
“Ah,” Louis says. “You must be the tyrannical, psychotic pop star.”
Zayn panics. What is Harry doing here?
“Charming description,” Harry says. “Is he here?”
“In his room, end of the corridor. Not sure what he’s doing in there. I can’t be sure he’s not having sex with one of those jackets by now so enter at your own risk.”
“Louis!” Zayn yells, backing away from the door as Harry walks into it.
Harry takes in his appearance and the corner of his mouth quirks upwards. “Well, you’re not far off,” he calls out to Louis. He closes the door behind him.
“I’m not having sex with it,” Zayn snaps. He hurries out of the jacket and hangs it up before looking round for a shirt to pull on.
“Don’t get dressed on my account.” Harry sits down on the end of Zayn’s bed and leans back onto his elbows.
Zayn pulls a grey t-shirt over his head. “What are you doing here?”
“Caroline sent me.”
“She suggested that maybe I could be more persuasive than she could.” Harry smirks and spreads his thighs.
Zayn gapes at him. “You’re not serious.”
Harry laughs, his cheek dimpling. “You should see your face.” He wets his lips. “No, obviously I’m not serious. Your boss did not, in fact, send me to seduce you and then sneak off with the jackets. This isn’t a heist movie.”
“That would be a pretty terrible plot for a heist movie,” Zayn points out. He looks at the jackets and sighs. “You don’t get it,” he murmurs.
Harry clears his throat and settles more comfortably on the bed. “Explain it to me, then.”
Zayn stares at Harry, so quickly at ease in his space. Less pop star, more boy next door. Zayn fidgets under Harry’s gaze. “What do you care?” It comes off a little more brash than he intended it to.
Harry wets his lips. “I suppose you could say I’m curious. It’s clearly important to you, even more so than you’re job.”
“This is my job,” Zayn protests. “This is why I got into the industry in the first place. People talk about fashion as though it’s just clothes but it’s as much art as anything hanging in the National Gallery.” He runs a hand through his hair in exasperation—Harry doesn’t look like he’s getting it. “You wouldn’t walk into the Tate Britain with a pair of scissors and cut a corner off because you want it for your wall.”
“Well, no. I’d buy the painting first.” Harry grins. “I’m kidding, obviously.”
Zayn can feel himself getting increasingly worked up. “Not everything is about money. Some things should afford a level of respect that goes above the figure on a price tag. A level of respect that includes not cutting a corner off a David Hockney or making a hole in the back of a Gucci coat.” His hands twitch at his sides and his cheeks are hot.
Harry’s expression softens. “I’ve never heard anyone talk about clothes the way you do. Not even designers.”
Zayn drops his gaze and tugs at the loose skin by his thumbnail. “I guess I was brought up to appreciate things for what they were. Not everyone can afford to drop a few thousand quid on a jacket on a whim.”
Harry is silent for a long moment. “I had the idea for this music video before I’d even finished writing the song,” he says finally.
Zayn looks up, a small frown knitting at his brows.
“I felt so free, like I could float. Like this song was everything I’d been waiting to say after years of being told who I could and could not be.”
Zayn has read the articles and the gossip columns: about how Harry’s change of management had come at a pivotal moment in his career, a move away from cookie-cutter heartthrob into a serious artist.
“The way you talk about fashion—that’s how I feel about music.” Harry stands up and walks over to Zayn.
There’s something disarmingly domestic about his socked feet padding over Zayn’s floors. Zayn takes an instinctive step back and smacks into the wardrobe. His cheeks flush and his mouth
Harry’s mouth quirks at the corner. “How about I make you a deal?”
Zayn narrows his eyes. “What kind of deal?”
“Come with me for the video shoot. Maybe seeing it all come together will help you understand why it’s so important to me.”
Zayn huffs out a sigh.
“What if I have a styling emergency?” Harry dimples a cheek. “I might require your professional services.”
Zayn is very aware of how close Harry is. Of the dusky hints of his cologne that tickle at Zayn’s senses; of the loose thread at the collar of his t-shirt; of the deeper shade of emerald that runs through his eyes.
“So?” Harry prompts.
Zayn’s cheeks are burning. There’s no way Harry didn’t catch him staring.
“What do you say?”
Zayn wets his lips and takes a breath. “You’re not going to take no for an answer, are you?”
Harry’s grin widens. “Nope.”
Zayn’s resolve crumbles in the blinding energy of his smile. “When do we leave?”
Zayn balls his hands into the sleeves of his jumper and shivers. His breath leaves a ring of condensation against the window frame and he presses his nose into it. Outside of the window, there is nothing but sloping green hills against a blue, cloud-dotted sky. He can’t remember the last time he was somewhere so peaceful, so quiet. For all its noise and chaos, he loves the city—but it can’t compare to the rise and fall of the scenery in front of him.
But it is cold. The wind hit him the second he stepped out of the car, whipping right through his thin jacket down to his bones. The chill still lingers on his skin, even after he’s put on both of the jumpers he’d brought. He glances over at the small bed, heaped with blankets in the middle of the room, a little wistfully.
There’s a light knock on the door and Zayn’s stomach flips. He hasn’t seen Harry since he’d waved him off from his flat with both Gucci jackets tucked under his arm and that was over two weeks ago.
But it’s not Harry at the door. Zayn squashes down the disappointment and forces a smile onto his face. “Hey, Jamie.”
Jamie had only arrived half an hour ago, same as Zayn; they’d been on the same flight up to Glasgow and had driven over with a few of the other crew members. But unlike Zayn, who has spent the thirty minutes gazing at the view out of his window, Jamie already looks rushed off his feet.
Zayn picks a leaf out of his mussed blond hair with an amused quirk to his mouth. “You alright?”
Jamie huffs out a laugh and runs a hand through his hair. “It’s windy as fuck out there,” he comments. “There’s a car going down to the water where they’re shooting. You coming down or do you want to chill out here for a while first?”
“Is Harry down there?” Zayn nearly bangs his head off the doorframe as soon as he’s said it.
“Uh, yeah?” Jamie chuckles. “At least, I hope he is, or it’s going to make shooting a little difficult.”
“Right.” Zayn grabs his jacket and shoves his feet into his boots. “Let’s go.”
The cold sets in anew as Zayn steps out of the guesthouse and he stuffs his hands into the pockets of his jacket. It’s not far to the water’s edge and, as the car bumps over the uneven track, Zayn takes in the rich colours that pass by outside.
The tents and cars set up by the water look out of place, although it’s a modest-sized team compared to what Zayn’s seen before on the few similar shoots. But the beautiful quiet of the guesthouse is gone down here; voices echo from down by the water’s edge. His gaze flickers over the unfamiliar faces as they trek down the grassy bank.
“Do you know where Harry might be?” He asks Jamie, trying to keep his tone casual. “Just should probably, like, make sure his clothes are all…” He flounders. “On.”
Jamie looks at him curiously. “I don’t think you need to worry about that but you might need to wait a little while to talk to him.” He points up towards the sky.
Zayn squints as he tilts his head up and nearly goes flying himself.
Jamie grabs his arm before he hits the ground. “Woah, there.” He looks at him in concern. “You alright?”
“Is that safe?” Zayn asks, panicked as he looks back up to the sky where Harry is hanging, seemingly suspended unsupported midair. Hearing about it and seeing it are two very different things and despite the helicopter that flies low overhead from which Harry is obviously suspended, it really does look like he is flying. Terrifyingly, so.
Jamie hasn’t let go of his arm. “Don’t worry, they know what they’re doing,” he assures him. “So, how long have you known him?”
Zayn can’t take his eyes off Harry’s floating silhouette against the bright light. “Harry? A couple of weeks.”
“Oh.” Jamie squeezes his elbow gently and lets go as they continue heading down to the crew. “I thought— I thought maybe you were a friend of his. Or, uh.” He clears his throat. “If I’m honest, from the way everyone was talking about you, I thought you were his boyfriend.”
Zayn looks at him in surprise and feels his cheeks heat despite the cold. “I’m a stylist,” he replies. “I’m just here about the jackets.” It’s not really a lie but it’s not quite the truth, either.
Jamie’s expression brightens. “That’s cool. Maybe we could—”
Jamie sighs and shoots him an apologetic smile. “Duty calls. Will you manage to stay upright without me?”
Zayn chuckles. “I’ll be fine. Go.” Jamie jogs off ahead and Zayn ambles towards the tents that are set up.
A kind of hush falls on the ground as the helicopter soars higher, everyone’s faces turned up to the sky. Harry looks ethereal against the stark sky; angelic, almost, although Zayn nearly kicks himself for the comparison as soon as he makes it.
And then, as quickly as it comes, a direction is barked out to the crew and the bustle and business starts anew. Zayn tucks into himself and tries to keep out of the way as best as he can. For all he tries, he can’t take his eyes off of Harry.
It strikes him that he doesn’t even really know why he’s here. Harry’s warm smile tugs at his memory and Zayn buries his face into the collar of his jacket. He’d let himself believe that Harry wanted him here; that maybe they’d get to know each other a little better. But Harry wanted the jackets here, alterations and all; and charming Zayn was the only way to get to them.
Somehow, Caroline’s plan in sending Harry to his flat had worked after all, and Zayn hadn’t even gotten a snog out of it.
Zayn glances up the slope to where the cars are parked but it’s not as if he can just leave. Everyone’s busy, he can’t drive, and it’s probably optimistic to assume he could walk back to the guesthouse in this weather, as much as he’s tempted to try. He sighs and continues on to the tent, trying not to notice the way that half of the crew turn to stare at him as he approaches.
“You must be Zayn!” An older guy with a warm smile beams at him and gestures him into a spare camping chair. “Harry will be happy to see you. It was so nice of you to come all the way out here.”
Zayn sits, a little bemused. “Caroline could spare me for a few days, so…” He trails off, a little awkward as he tucks his ankles together under the seat.
The guy looks at him for a moment and then nods. “Right, of course. You work with Caroline Watson. Harry mentioned that.”
Zayn’s quickly starting to see how Jamie might have gotten the wrong idea about his relationship with Harry.
“So, no issues? I know Harry was concerned about balancing the safety and the look of the harness.”
“Yeah.” The guy flips through something on his phone. “Right, no issues. Don’t worry, it’s perfectly safe.”
“That’s not really what I—”
“Excuse me a moment, Zayn. Feel free to help yourself to tea or coffee, yeah?”
Zayn lets out a sigh and leans back in the chair. What am I doing here?
He wanders over to the refreshments table for a lack of anything else to do, his hands grateful for the warmth as he pours a cup of hot water and dunks a teabag into it.
“No milk? What kind of heathen are you?”
Zayn catches the cup before it goes flying. “Glad to see you’ve made it back down onto solid ground.”
Harry chuckles. Short curls flop into his eyes and his cheeks are pink from the cold. “My knees are still a little wobbly,” he admits, bouncing on his heels.
Zayn takes a breath. “You looked incredible up there,” he says, staring down at his cup as he pokes at the teabag with a plastic spoon. “Terrifying to watch, but…” He looked up at Harry. “I get it. What you wanted to do. It wouldn’t have worked with a harness on top.”
Harry manages not to look too smug. “I’m glad you’re here.”
“I, uh.” Zayn laughs under his breath. “I feel like I’m in the way,” he admits.
Harry frowns, coming around the table to wrap a hand around Zayn’s wrist. Zayn swears he feels his pulse flutter underneath his skin. “Who said that? You’re my guest.”
Zayn shakes his head. “No one said anything. But I…” His breath hitches as Harry rubs his thumb over the tree of veins on the inside of Zayn’s wrist. “I’m not sure if I’m here as a stylist or as… Zayn.”
“Can’t you be here as both?” Harry murmurs.
“Harry.” Zayn can’t help but smile at him. “I’m not exactly doing much work, am I?”
“You are!” Harry protests. He smacks his lips together and then grabs the bottom of his knit sweater and tugs it up.
“Harry, what are you doing?” Zayn asks, glancing around quickly as the action attracts more than a little attention.
“I’ve got a loose thread on my belt loop, look.” Harry points at a thin thread that Zayn has to squint to make out. “Could you fix it for me, stylist?”
Zayn’s mouth quirks up at the corner involuntarily. “You’re ridiculous.” He sets down his tea and rubs his hands together to warm up his fingers. He realises with a start that he didn’t even take as much as a pair of scissors with him, let alone the repair kit he’d bothered to pack with him. “Stay still,” he instructs, crouching down. He loops the thread around his finger, keeping ahold of Harry’s waistband with his other hand, and cleanly snapping the thread loose.
“There we go,” Zayn murmurs. He looks up at Harry, one hand still curled into his waistband. He’s suddenly very aware of the position they’re in. Harry’s skin is warm against his knuckles. If he tipped his head forward just a little he could press his cold nose into the soft skin at above Harry’s waistband. But that’s not what’s startling so much as the fact that he wants to.
“Zayn,” Harry says, so quietly Zayn barely hears him over the whistling wind.
“Sorry! I didn’t mean to interrupt.” Jamie looks even more flustered than he had earlier.
Zayn straightens up and tucks the thread into his pocket. “You weren’t interrupting anything,” he assures him. He clears his throat, not looking at Harry. “Do you want a cup of tea?”
Jamie shakes his head furiously but his eyes are fixed on Harry.
“Hi, I don’t think we’ve met yet?” Harry says smoothly, tugging down his sweater and offering a hand to Jamie. “I’m Harry.”
“Jamie Cork. I’m just one of the runners.” He laughs, flushing as he shakes Harry’s hand.
Zayn watches quietly, letting the hot steam from his cup warm the tip of his nose. The effect Harry has on people is fascinating. Is that what he looked like, the first time he met Harry? Is that still what he looks like?
“There’s no just about it. I’ve heard you’ve been invaluable.” Harry smiles. He glances over his shoulder with a small frown. “I think they’re calling for me, I should probably go.”
“Oh!” Jamie runs a hand through his hair. “Yeah, sorry, that’s what I came to tell you. They’d like to carry on while the weather keeps, if that’s alright?”
Harry nods. “I’ll be there in a second,” he says pointedly.
Jamie sways on his heels for a moment and then starts in understanding. “Right. Of course.” He hurries away, not even sparing Zayn a second glance.
Harry turns to look at Zayn.
“What are you still doing here?” Zayn says with a teasing smile, giving him a soft nudge.
“Right,” Harry murmurs. He wets his lips and takes a step closer to Zayn. “Can we talk later?” He asks quietly. His hand brushes lightly over Zayn’s hip.
“Yeah,” Zayn breathes. “Yeah, of course.”
Harry smiles. “Good. Okay. I should go.”
“You should go,” Zayn agrees. “And I should…”
“Relax and enjoy yourself?”
“Would you feel better if I handed you a lint roller?”
“Maybe a little,” Zayn admits. “I’ll be fine. Go on. They’re ready for your close-up,” he teases.
“Shut up,” Harry laughs. “I’ll see you in a bit.” He takes a step back and then pauses, darting forward and touching his cool lips to Zayn’s cheek. “Bye.”
Zayn watches him as he darts off, the rich navy of his coat flaring out behind him as he disappears into the crew. He’s still not quite sure why he’s here but he’s not sure he minds anymore; not if it means Harry keeps looking at him like that.
“God, he’s a lot in person,” Jamie comments quietly as he steps into Zayn’s side. “I must have come across like a right twat.”
Zayn chuckles. “I think he’s used to it.”
“Have you really only known him a couple of weeks? You seem very… Comfortable around each other.”
Zayn thinks of Harry sprawled out across his bed as if he’d been doing it for years. “I guess we are.”
“Feels sort of wrong, doesn’t it?”
“Hmm?” Zayn lifts his head from the arm of the couch. The warmth of the living room after a day spent in the crisp, cold air, combined with the half-drunk beer in his hand have left him dangerously close to falling asleep right there in the corner of the guesthouse living room.
Jamie pokes at the fire in the hearth with a pair of charred metal tongs. “Having a fire in May.”
Zayn takes a sip of his beer to take away the dry taste in his mouth. “A little,” he admits with a shrug. “But it’s too nice for me to care.” He chuckles and stretches his legs out, wriggling his toes in front of the heat.
Jamie stands up, brushes off his jeans, and settles back into the space by Zayn’s side. It’s a bit of a squeeze: every couch, armchair, and patch of carpet is taken by the sprawling crew. They look like more tucked into such a small space compared to out by the water.
“What would you be doing if you weren’t here?” Jamie asks, slinging an arm around the back of the couch.
Zayn yawns and scrubs a hand over his jaw. “Nothing exciting. Probably watching a film with my flatmate or having a catch up with my mum.” The corner of his mouth quirks up. “I’m a bit of a homebody, if I’m honest.”
Jamie chuckles. “It suits you,” he comments, nudging his shoulder gently.
Zayn hums and glances around the living room. He catches Harry’s eye; he’s watching him intently, one hand curled around an empty beer bottle, his chunky rings tapping out a rhythm against the glass. Zayn raises an eyebrow and cocks his head.
Harry shifts and tears his gaze away. A second later, he looks back and idly points a thumb towards the door, raising both eyebrows in question. Zayn clears his throat and nods. He takes another swig of his beer and sets the bottle down by the side of the couch.
“I’ll be right back.”
Jamie looks up, his smile slipping a little. “Sure, okay. I’ll save your seat.”
Zayn smiles. “Cheers, mate.” He murmurs apologies as he steps his way between people towards the door. He slips out, his feet sinking into the thick, burgundy carpets as he walks over to sit on the bottom step of the staircase up to the rooms.
It’s a few minutes later when Harry slips out. “Sorry,” he says in a loud whisper. “I didn’t want to make it too obvious that we were sneaking off together.”
Zayn chuckles. “Half of them already seem to think I’m here as your gigolo.”
Harry barks out a laugh. “They do not!”
“Alright, maybe boyfriend more than gigolo,” Zayn concedes. “Although, last time I checked, I’m neither.”
Harry purses his lips together and sinks down onto the step next to him. It’s a squash; their bodies pressed up tight together. Harry loops his ankle around Zayn’s. “Shame, that.”
Zayn quirks an eyebrow. “Which one?”
Harry grins cheekily. “Both?”
Later, Zayn will say that Harry leaned in first, but it’s a close thing. Crammed together on the stairs like they are, Harry’s nose bumps into Zayn’s cheek and his mouth lands more on his chin than his lips.
A grin curls at the corner of Zayn’s mouth as he cups Harry’s head with one hand, twisting his fingers into the curls. “Slow down,” he murmurs. He lifts Harry’s jaw with his thumb and brings their mouths together.
Harry makes a soft noise against his lips as they kiss, and Zayn feels as much as hears his intake of breath. For the first time since Zayn got to the island, he knows why Harry asked him to come—and why Zayn said yes. Because, if Zayn’s honest with himself, he’s been wanting to kiss him since the moment he walked into the studio, jackets be damned.
Zayn says as much when Harry pulls back with half-lidded eyes, his mouth a blooming red.
Harry grins, his cheek dimpling. “Knew it,” he whispers.
“Cheeky shit,” Zayn mumbles, nipping at Harry’s lower lip with his teeth gently.
A burst of laughter comes from the behind the closed door to the living room and Zayn reluctantly pulls back. He rests his forehead against Harry’s. “Maybe we shouldn’t do this here.”
Harry lets out a whine from the back of his throat. “I don’t care if any of them see.”
Zayn chuckles. “Didn’t realise you were the type that wants an audience.” He pauses. “Actually, you totally are the type, aren’t you?”
“Zayn,” Harry protests, pinching the top of his thigh gently. “That’s not what I meant.” He rubs the tip of his nose over Zayn’s. “Come to my room later, then?” He breathes. “Once everyone’s gone to bed?”
Zayn hums and nods, pecking his lips once, twice, three times. Just because he can. “Later,” he agrees.
But later feels like an awfully long time when Zayn’s back in his corner on the couch with Harry across the room, out of reach. He wants to run his hands through Harry’s curls as he talks and press his nose into his dimple when he smiles and curl up together under one of the woollen blankets so he can tiptoe his fingers up Harry’s thigh without anyone knowing.
Zayn starts out of his daydream, nearly knocking his beer sideways. His lower lip throbs from where he’d been biting into it without even realising and the top of his cheeks turn pink as he looks at Jamie. “Sorry, what were you saying?”
Jamie chuckles. “You were really out of it for a second there. Everything alright?”
Zayn nods and takes a swig of beer, grimacing as the lukewarm liquid slides down his throat. “Good, yeah. Just tired.” He mimes an exaggerated yawn. Out of the corner of his eye, he notes that Harry’s watching him. “I might turn in for the night.”
“Oh, right.” Jamie nods. “’course. It’s been a long day. I’ll see you in the morning, then, I guess?” He smiles hopefully.
Zayn barely notices. “Yeah, see you in the morning.”
It seems to take an age for the sounds of the crew heading to bed to die down in the hallway outside of Zayn’s bedroom. He reads a few pages of the battered paperback he has with him and doesn’t take in a single word. The moon is so big and bright outside of the window that the curtains barely do anything to shield the light of it so he couldn’t sleep, even if he wanted to.
When it’s been ten minutes since the last floorboard creaked, Zayn slips out of his room and into the hallway. He takes the stairs two at a time up to the top floor and crosses the hallway to Harry’s room, tapping his knuckles gently against the wood.
“Finally,” Harry says with a sigh as he swings the door open and pulls Zayn inside. He presses Zayn against the closed door and pushes his face into the crook of his neck. “That was painful.”
“I know,” Zayn murmurs. “Feels like it’s been hours.”
Harry shakes his head. “Not that.”
“Watching Jamie flirt with you.”
Zayn laughs in surprise. “Are you serious? He wasn’t flirting with me.”
Harry huffs out a breath. It’s hot against Zayn’s skin and Zayn shivers. “He was.” Harry’s mouth latches over the patch of skin where his neck meets his shoulder and Zayn’s eyes flutter shut.
“Maybe a little,” Zayn mumbles—not because he believes it but because it might make Harry keep doing that.
Harry’s hands fold over Zayn’s hips, the length of his body pressing against Zayn’s as he nips at the mark he’s left. Zayn wraps an arm around Harry’s back, the other hand slipping into the back of pocket of Harry’s jeans. Harry hums, his lips tracing a path up Zayn’s neck to his earlobe.
“I don’t want to talk about Jamie anymore,” Harry murmurs. His hands skate between them, pushing at Zayn’s jumper and fumbling with the button of his jeans. “Don’t want to talk about anything unless it’s what you’re going to do to me.”
Zayn kisses him, then, pushing them away from the door and into the room as he licks past the seam of Harry’s lips. “What do you want me to do to you?”
Harry hums, sucking in a breath. His pupils are blown and he’s already breathing heavily. “I want you to fuck me in that jacket you love so much.”
Zayn can’t help the whimper that falls from his lips.
Harry grins. “Does that sound good?”
“That sounds so good,” Zayn breathes out in a rush, tugging at Harry’s sweater with shaking hands. “Take your clothes off.”
Harry chuckles low. “I feel like you’ve said that to me once before,” he teases as he steps back towards the bed, tugging off his sweater and t-shirt in one go and tossing them to the floor.
“Only this time, I get to touch.” Zayn slides a hand up over Harry’s torso, tweaking one of Harry’s nipples with his fingers.
Harry’s breath hitches. He loops his fingers through Zayn’s belt loops and tugs him in close. He kisses him and pushes him down onto the bed. Zayn feels dizzy with it all but it’s nothing compared to how he feels looking up at Harry as he moves to straddle him. Harry’s all bright, blown eyes and red lips and loose curls and Zayn has to pinch himself to believe it’s real.
Zayn shivers as he sheds his clothes into a pile on the floor. The cool air of the room followed by Harry’s warm hands sends goosebumps flaring out over his skin. He curls a leg around Harry’s hips and tugs him down, the lengths of their bodies pressed together on the tiny bed. It’s a single, and a little on the short side at that. Zayn’s other leg flops off the side of the bed and he hitches up as he scrapes his blunt nails down Harry’s back.
“I think,” Zayn murmurs as he pushes Harry’s jeans down over his arse and sinks his fingers into the globes. “You should ride me.”
“Is that so?” Harry breathes out against his mouth, his hands pressed either side of Zayn’s head as he grinds his hips down. The tip of his cock pokes out of the top of his underwear, smearing precum over Zayn’s bare stomach.
Zayn hums, fingering at the waistband to Harry’s underwear and grazing over his cock. “Yeah,” he whispers. “Reckon you’d look pretty fucking amazing.”
It’s a bit of a struggle, in such a small bed. Zayn’s still trying to get out of his jeans while Harry’s tearing open the travel-sized packet of lube with his teeth and reaching a shaking hand around behind himself. They nearly go tumbling off the bed more than once as they shush each other’s laughter under their breath.
For a first time, it feels strikingly familiar: as though they’d done this a hundred times before; their bodies already attuned to one another. Zayn can’t keep his eyes off Harry’s face as he fingers himself open. He strokes Harry’s hip with one hand and spreads his cheeks with the other, slack-jawed and mesmerised himself by how Harry’s eyelids flutter and his cheeks turn red from the effort.
Zayn can’t help himself, nudging the tip of his finger in between Harry’s behind him. He wants to feel him.
“Fuck, you can’t, I’m gonna—” Harry gasps and then lets out a breathy laugh. “Need you, Zayn.”
Zayn rubs his thumb over Harry’s rim when he pulls his fingers back, cursing quietly as he feels him give under his touch.
Harry digs his fingers into Zayn’s chest and whimpers. “Zayn.”
“Yeah,” Zayn breathes, almost delirious with it as he tugs on the condom and slicks himself up. He guides Harry over him, rubbing a hand over his thigh as he lowers himself down. “You look so good like this,” he murmurs as he nudges his hips up a little, burying himself deep inside of Harry.
Harry’s hips sit flush against Zayn’s, his cock throbbing red and full up against his stomach. “S’good,” he slurs, his eyelashes fluttering as he rocks his hips forward.
Zayn holds onto Harry’s hips tight and rolls his hips up to meet Harry’s. He’s hot and tight around him as Zayn digs his heels into the mattress to push up from. “Come here,” Zayn whines, lacing his fingers through Harry’s and tugging him down so he can kiss him.
Harry lets out soft pants as he fucks himself back onto Zayn’s cock, his lips grazing over Zayn’s with every thrust. He keeps letting out a soft sigh of Zayn’s name, almost as though he’s not even aware he’s doing it.
Zayn wraps his arms around Harry’s back and thrusts up with a little more vigour and enthusiasm than the narrow bed can take. Harry’s squawk is the only warning he gets before they’re toppling onto the worn carpet with a light thud.
Harry starts to laugh first, burying his face into Zayn’s neck.
“Fuck,” Zayn mumbles. He tries to shush Harry but it only makes him laugh harder and then Zayn is laughing, too. He rolls Harry onto his back and presses his mouth to Harry’s to try and quieten him, their noses bumping together. “Someone’s gonna hear, this place is tiny,” he murmurs between his giggles.
Harry looks blissed out and he’s not even come yet. “Don’t care,” he murmurs. He grabs Zayn’s hips and guides him back to his entrance. “Let’s just do it here.”
Zayn is in no position to protest. Not when Harry’s threading his fingers through Zayn’s hair and cupping the back of his skull tightly. Zayn presses their foreheads together and rocks his hips deep into Harry, fucking the most beautiful noises out of his mouth.
He barely even needs to get a hand around him before Harry’s coming in ropes over his stomach. Harry presses his mouth over Zayn’s jaw, his hands shakily clinging to him as Zayn fucks his hips forward once, twice, before he’s coming with a cry that he muffles into Harry’s shoulder.
How they make it back into the bed, mostly clean and not at all clothed, Zayn can’t be sure. But he wakes up to sunlight streaming through the curtains with a mouthful of Harry’s hair and definite carpet burn on his knees.
Harry’s already awake—or, more or less awake, anyway. His eyelids are heavy as he kisses Zayn. Their legs are entwined under the blankets, their bodies pressed tight together. They have to be, or one or both of them would end up right back on the floor.
Zayn lets out a soft sigh and stretches his arms out above the blankets. “I’m too warm,” he grumbles, batting Harry away. “You’re like a human hot water bottle.”
Harry grins and blows a raspberry against Zayn’s ribs. “Yep,” he says with pride before snuggling back into him.
Zayn closes his eyes and tugs him close, blankets and all. He presses a kiss to the top of his head. “My knees hurt,” he comments idly, not so much a complaint as an observation.
Harry hums. “Would you like me to kiss them better?”
Zayn cracks one eye open. “There’s something else you could kiss, if you like.”
Harry pinches his side and Zayn chuckles. He glances over to the clock on the far wall, his gaze sliding over the wardrobe. He huffs out a sigh.
“What?” Harry mumbles.
“We forgot the jacket.”
Harry pokes his head up out of Zayn’s chest and scratches a hand over his belly. “That’s a shame.” He quirks an eyebrow. “Guess we’ll just have to give it another go, then.”
Zayn presses him down against the sheets, nipping at his lower lip. “Guess we will.”
There’s a light knock on the door and Zayn quickly stuffs himself under the blankets.
Harry doesn’t even try to muffle his laughter, even once the door creaks open. “It’s a tiny bed, Zayn, it’s pretty obvious you’re under there.”
Zayn pokes his head out. “Well, you could have at least tried to pretend I wasn’t.” He looks towards the door where Jamie hovers awkwardly. “Morning.”
“Morning.” Jamies clears his throat. “There’s breakfast downstairs.” He shuffles from one foot to the other. “I drew the short straw.”
Harry pouts. “We’re not so bad, are we?”
Jamie stares at him. “It’s a pretty small house,” he replies diplomatically. “Thin walls,” he adds.
Zayn snorts and buries his head into the pillow, his cheeks glowing a flaming red.
Harry mumbles an apology. “We’ll be down in a few minutes.” The doors closes with a soft click and Harry sighs. “Well, now they’re going to think you’re my gigolo.”
Zayn tilts his head around and nudges Harry’s calf with his toe. “Shame that,” he murmurs, the corner of his mouth quirked up into a smile.
Harry pecks his lips once, twice, three times. “Or maybe boyfriend?” He whispers.
“Slow down,” Zayn murmurs. “To be continued.”
“This conversation, or us?”
Zayn grins. “Both?”
“Both is good.” Harry smiles. “To be continued.”