He's not thinking about it when he does it - or perhaps subconsciously he was, he thinks later. He was just messing around on stage, the way they all do, the way the others do loads more than him, even, just being a bit of an idiot with Liam, pretending to slap him round the face.
Liam goes with it easy and playful in the moment, going with the momentum, laughing away, but after, Zayn can feel Liam's eyes on him, following him around the stage, hot and bright, happy but sort of needy. Zayn viscerally remembers him peeping across the plane aisle like before last time, a hunger Liam isn't even totally aware of in his face.
They hadn't really talked about it much, after last time, and Zayn was just glad it hadn't been awkward. But it's not until he feels Liam needing him like - like that again, that he realises he's been wanting it, too. It's just - it's nice to be needed, right? Especially by Liam who they all need so much. Nice to give him something back.
He follows Liam to his room afterwards - because they have nearby hotel rooms, because they're apparently famous enough to get hotel rooms if they want them even when they live in the same bloody city they're playing in, so they don't have to go far after the afterparty, and Zayn tries not to examine their lives too closely but sometimes it's fucking ridiculous. And sometimes useful.
Liam grins at Zayn and looks like he's going to keep up the pretence, maybe ask why Zayn's here, then he scrunches his face up in a resigned sort of acknowledgement. "Um," he says instead, half smiling.
"Yeah," says Zayn calmly.
"So, you, like. Remember--?" says Liam, rubbing a hand over the back of his head, rocking slightly from his heels to the balls of his feet, back again, a tightly restrained nervous energy that's reminiscent of the constant movement he has on stage, but tenser. Like the energy in him now is constraining his body instead of freeing it, and Zayn knows, with a calm sort of certainty, that Liam, when he's like this, needs Zayn to free it for him.
"Course, mate," says Zayn and steps in closer, proper close, and Liam's shoulders tense up right around his ears then drop down as he blows out a breath. His lips purse out.
"Alright," he says, and it looks like he's fighting to meet Zayn's eyes, so Zayn puts a finger under his chin and pushes it up slightly.
"Look at me, yeah?" he says.
"So," prompts Zayn.
"So," says Liam, keeping eye contact, and Zayn feels proud of him. "So like, we were messing about on stage - it was funny, when you--" he trails off, like he knows he can't pass it off as being 'funny' this time. "I, um. I liked it. When you like, pretended--" and he gestures weakly. "So. Maybe - I mean, it's stupid, weird, like, but maybe you could?"
Zayn tilts his head a bit, processing. "You want me to - slap you around the face?" he says, and he says it too quickly, not hiding the slight hint of disbelief he didn't know was there until he hears it.
Liam cuts his eyes away immediately, and laughs, a weird empty sound that Zayn hates intensely. "No, yeah, don't worry, it's stupid, I was, like - it's fine--"
"No," says Zayn, straightaway, and reaches out to cup a hand against the side of Liam's face. Liam stills immediately. "I was being a cock, sorry. I can do that. I can definitely do that."
"It's not - I mean, it's a bit weird," says Liam, in a small voice. "I know it is. But I'm - like, I keep thinking about it."
"It's not weird," says Zayn, pressing his hand a bit harder against Liam's face until Liam looks back at him dead on. "Not if it's what you need. " He remembers what Liam responded to last time. "Not if it's what you need to be good and quiet for me."
Liam's eyelids flutter.
"If you need a good smack to be a good boy for me, then I want to. 'Cause I like it when you're good for me." He's running on instinct, but Liam likes being told he's being good - or even, Zayn thinks, that he's being naughty, so he can then be good - and Zayn likes it, too. Likes telling Liam he's good. Likes Liam going quiet and obedient and well behaved for him; it's making something fierce and warm unfurl in his stomach. He moves his hand so he's gripping Liam's chin slightly.
"Walk back for me - careful," he says, and Liam does, takes careful steps backwards until he's at the bed, then Zayn lets go of his face to press down on his shoulder until he sits on the edge. Zayn nudges his chin up again so Liam is looking at him again.
Liam's hands are curled into tight fists on his knees and he's breathing quickly, shallowly.
"Calm down, babe," says Zayn, and Liam twitches at the endearment but shakes his head. Zayn doesn't know if he means he won't or he can't, but either way he can fix it.
The first slap he goes fairly gentle, left hand to Liam's right cheek, but the slapping sound of it still surprises him, loud in the still room. Liam gasps and his head flinches to the side, eyes fluttering shut and mouth opening. Zayn can feel the sting of Liam's skin and the prickle of his beard against his palm, and he flexes his fingers.
There's a light pink bloom over the apple of Liam's cheek, and Zayn likes the look of it. It's not enough, though - for Liam or for him.
He brings his right hand up next, waits for Liam to look back at him, then goes for it, lets the power in his arm and shoulder travel down, his open palm whistle through the air.
The crack is unbelievably loud, and Liam's head snaps to the side; he yells, a guttural half-groan torn roughly from him. Zayn's palm smarts sharply, so sharply he can't imagine how it felt for Liam, and he can't see Liam's expression, just the place on his cheek that's flooding with red, the stark outline of his fingers; his stomach jolts with fear and adrenaline.
"Liam?" he says softly.
Liam sucks in a shuddery breath, eyes tight closed, and forces his head back to centre. He swallows and licks his lips, eyes still shut, then breathes out, "Thanks."
The fear that he'd done it too much and too hard releases like a fist, drops down into a warm ball of satisfaction in Zayn's belly.
"Quiet for me," he says. "Look at me."
As soon as Liam's eyes open enough to meet Zayn's, Zayn hits him again, other cheek this time. It's hard enough that Liam's whole body sways to the side, and the shocked groaning noise he makes arrows right into Zayn's gut, fuels the heat he's feeling, powerful and caring. Already there's something more than last time, for Zayn. He's letting himself like it.
He keeps on hitting, three or four more loud, hard smacks on each cheek, right across Liam's face; Liam's head is swaying heavy on his neck and it takes him longer each time to bring it back to centre, look up at Zayn so Zayn can hit him again. He's looking at Zayn but not truly looking at him; his eyes are dilated wide and black, eyelids falling half shut, mouth softly open with spit gleaming thoughtlessly at the corner of his lips. His cheeks are glowing a vibrant boiling red, and there's a forest of Zayn's finger shapes layering up over his cheekbones. He's fucking out of it, and Zayn feels a bit mad with it, with how much he likes it, that he did that.
He stops, and takes Liam's face softly between his own throbbing palms, breathing in sharply at the blazing heat of Liam's slapped skin.
Liam blinks slowly and takes a long, slow breath. He shifts on the bed, and Zayn can see he's hard through his jeans, and he feels viciously satisfied about that, too.
"C'mon babe, talk to me." Zayn runs his thumbs over Liam's glowing cheekbones.
Liam drags his eyes up to meet Zayn's. He nods. "Yeah," he says quietly, then drops his gaze to where Zayn's own half-hard cock is pushing out the fly of his jeans, just a bit. Liam sways forward, mouth dropping open. "I want--" he says indistinctly, then looks up at Zayn again, gaze sharpening a bit, focusing in the moment. "I want," he says again. "Could - can I--?"
If they hadn't discussed the spanking, they definitely hadn't discussed the sexual aspect of this; but it's not a surprise, and the truth is Zayn wants it, fuck, and Liam is trusting him to make this good. Liam looks hungry for him, and he wants to make Liam feel good, and he wants to feel Liam's pretty slapped cheeks thrumming with heat as he sinks down on Zayn's cock, fuck.
"'Course, babe," says Zayn, sweeping his thumbs across Liam's cheeks. "'Course you can. You're doing so well, being really good. Go on."
Liam drops his head forward until his face is pressed against Zayn's flies, hands coming up shaky to rest on Zayn's thighs. Zayn watches, breath punching out, as he hardens all the way up against Liam's face, erection pushing against his soft mouth, and Liam nuzzles into it.
"Wanted," he says, then sighs. He fumbles at Zayn's zip, and Zayn reluctantly lets go of his too-hot face to help, biting back a moan as his cock pushes out as the teeth of the zip split open. Liam tugs his pants down far enough to tuck under his balls then gets his mouth on Zayn's cock, no hesitation. And it's surprising and not; given everything, Zayn had thought maybe, maybe Liam might want this and like this, but he hadn't known; no way he could have predicted Liam's sloppy hungry mouth on his dick. He's inexperienced and messy, but so, so careful - of course he is, he's Liam, and Zayn can't fully get his head around that, that it's Liam, Liam here in front of him, lovely mouth wrapped around his dick, giving these excruciatingly good soft little sucks, noises swallowed in his throat.
He holds Liam's face again, red cheeks still bleeding sore heat, and feels Liam's hands fall lax on his thighs, mouth go slack around him, eyes darting up then falling shut.
"Yeah, okay," he says, breath getting short. "Okay, I gotcha," and he starts moving, fucking Liam's face carefully as he can, which isn't that carefully because Liam is sucking him down and he feels so, so good, mouth soft and so wet. The back of his throat spasms and clings softly to the head of Zayn's cock as Zayn pushes in as far as he dares.
"Gonna swallow me, babe? Be good?" he asks when he feels his orgasm tugging hot and ready, and Liam makes a noise that Zayn takes as a yes. He presses firm but deep, the back of Liam's throat squeezing around the sensitive head of his cock, and Liam's throat undulates around him as he comes in fierce long pulses, pulling back to let Liam swallow it all down.
He praises Liam all the way as he pulls out slowly, wiping off the bit of come that dribbles down Liam's swollen lips, as red as his scarlet cheeks. Tears are beading in Liam's eyelashes, whether a physiological or emotional reaction Zayn doesn't know, but it makes something dip and swoop sharply inside him when one trickles down Liam's cheek. He kneels in front of Liam, and kisses him because he feels like he should, and he wants to. He can taste the salt of Liam's tears and the tang of his own come, and Liam's breath hitches against his mouth as he coaxes Liam's mouth open. They've never kissed - properly, like this - before.
"Well done, babe, you did well," he whispers against Liam's mouth. "What do you need?"
Liam doesn't say anything, just breathes in all shaky and nudges his face into Zayn's.
"Okay," says Zayn. "M'here." He drops a hand from Liam's face and runs it up his thigh, along the lean muscle, to grip onto the straining heft of his cock. Liam's body jolts and his cock twitches hard under Zayn's hand; it doesn't take much, just Zayn moulding his hand around the hot stiffness of it and squeezing gently, before Liam comes on a broken hitched breath and a long sigh, wetting the inside of his jeans.
He slumps like a puppet with its strings cut, all his weight into Zayn, nearly sliding right off the edge of the bed.
Zayn swears under his breath, grabs onto Liam's biceps so hard he hopes he isn't hurting him, but Liam is unresponsive, totally gone. Zayn pushes and rolls him back onto the bed, kicks his own shoes and jeans off - tucks himself back into his boxers - and climbs on after him.
"Liam?" he whispers, but Liam isn't with him. He's not asleep, he's just - absolutely out of it. Like before, only even more so. Zayn's read about it, though, tells himself not to freak out, he just needs to wait and make sure he doesn't leave Liam like this. He wraps himself around Liam, big spooning him even though Liam's bigger, and tugs the duvet over them even though they're sort of splayed diagonally on the bed.
Liam's so still, so deeply calm under him, fingers curled softly against the bed and eyes fully closed now; Zayn doesn't feel big enough, wants to become broader, taller, bigger all over so he can wrap himself over every inch of Liam so no-one else would ever get to see him like this, no part of the world except Zayn should get to, because Zayn did this for him.
After a while, Zayn nearly dozing off himself, Liam shifts a bit, yawns and smacks his lips like a puppy waking up from a nap, and Zayn rolls his eyes at himself for the bloom of warmth in his stomach, presses his head to Liam's shoulder.
Liam shifts again, then slowly turns around in Zayn's arms. "Mmm," he says.
Zayn opens his eyes. "Hey."
Liam looks sleepy but present. "Hey," he says back.
"Y'okay?" says Zayn, running his fingertip over Liam's pink cheek.
Liam sucks in a little hissing breath through his teeth, but smiles. "Yeah," he says. "Like - thanks, again."
"I think--" Zayn says, then stops, thinks it over. "We should, like, talk about this."
Liam doesn't say anything, but he blinks very carefully. "I know it's, like - a bit weird--"
Zayn shakes his head straightaway, hair rustling against the sheets. "No, mate. Not in a bad way. I mean--" He stops again. He wants to say it right. "You like - you need this, right?"
Liam bites his lip, lets it go. "I think so, yeah."
"And I like giving you what you need. But I also, like. I really like doing it, not just 'cause you need it, but because I like it. I like how it feels, and I like making you go all - calm."
Liam looks at him. "Well, that's good, isn't it?"
"Yeah. Definitely. I just mean. Maybe we don't just wait months and then do it without talking about it. Maybe, like, we talk about it properly whenever you want it and it's like--"
"A thing?" says Liam, grinning so wide his eyes start to disappear, creases folding into his still-pink cheeks. "I'd like it to be a thing."
Zayn huffs out a laugh. "Yeah. It can be a thing. The sort of thing where you - y'know. Tell me what you want, and we make it happen."
"I have final say. And I'm not gonna do anything where you aren't - where I can't make sure you're safe. But you can ask me for anything. Promise."
"You're not gonna think I'm weird? Sometimes - fuck. Sometimes I think I want really weird things."
Zayn puts his finger on Liam's mouth. "Can I admit something?"
"Making you cry was one of the hottest things i've ever seen, Liam. Like. I really, really want to do it again. So if you're weird, so am I. Or weirder."
"You aren't weird," says Liam immediately. "Or we're weird together. That's good, I think."
"Yeah," says Zayn, and nudges forward to kiss Liam. "S'good."