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This Life Of Sin

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This Life Of Sin EDIT 1

This Life Of Sin
by thisonegoes
artwork by Roxie at babyxnanas.com

 

Armed Robbery at Terry Co. Pawn Shop, Suspects On The Run
Posted: Jul 12, 1:22 PM PDT
By LSPA Staff
 
LUBBOCK, Texas - Deputies in the small town of Brownfield are searching for two suspects in an armed robbery that happened Thursday morning.

It happened at Ray's Pawn on Livingstone Road at 7:45 a.m.

Authorities tell us they are looking for two males, both around 5'9" tall, wearing black jackets, black jeans, and black gloves.

The suspects were last seen fleeing the scene in a black Ford Mustang, heading east.

They are both armed with handguns. Assume they are dangerous and do not approach them.

If you have any information that may help, call 911 or Crimestoppers at 1-888-CRIME-TX.



***


"Many a thief is a better man than many a clergyman, and miles nearer to the gate of the kingdom." - George MacDonald



***


"Heat brings out the crazy, you hear? You kids never forget that."

That's what Grandma Styles always used to say.

She'd spill those words in her drawl, too fast, too unlike the true proper southern ladies she knew growing up in Savannah. She'd drip those words, every year around Memorial Day, when the heat waves made their way across the top of their steep hill on the farm, the one to the south of the old cracked barn. She'd sit on the front porch and look out over it, Harry and Gemma at her feet, as the heat literally waved at them, shimmering in a pattern that reminded Harry of a ripple in a pond, but all side to side like, instead of in a circle.

"People go crazy when it's hot. They get restless. Anxious. They let them little things become too big, see? It all goes crazy when it's hot. So you listen to me, and be good. Don't let the heat getcha."

Harry always nodded, afraid of the impending summer when he was little, of the heat, of what it could make him do. He didn't much like the thought of losing it.

Before he grew up (probably too quickly), that refraction of light, the way the heat sat on top of that hill as it bounced off the tractors, fascinated Harry. Because his granny said heat made people crazy, and Texas was much too hot for months on end. Harry was afraid to walk through the haze in those early days, instead going right around it. Too hot. Too crazy.

He was afraid of it, that harsh heat, until suddenly he wasn't afraid at all, when the heat did get him, over and over, with a smile on his face, when he chased the heat like he chased storms with Niall and his dad a few times.

"Don't drive too fast, Anne. The temp is too high, so you know them folks from town will be driving too fast along side us, and we don't need a damn accident when it's this hot."

Grandma Styles always used to say that, as well, when they drove into town every Saturday, her coupons cut and sorted in her purse, to buy what little luxuries they could afford, fancy soaps being her favorite. Harry would watch her fan herself with this little booklet she had from church, some prayer collection she had practically attached to her palm, as his mom drove them past acres of field, miles of dirt. Her rings would glint in the sunlight, her tightly curled hair close to her head, pretty and poised, before the sun hit her just right and it wilted. Like clockwork. Harry never saw the point of curling hair, to be honest. Every car ride, when granny would get like this, reminiscent like, Harry would hold his journal and his dad's old camera tighter in his hands, slipping a little from sweat.

"Lord, your daddy used to work in this heat for months, Harry," she'd sigh, fanning herself faster, craning her neck to see Harry in the back seat of the Buick, Hank Williams singing on the radio, Gemma next to him, looking down at her nails from boredom.

Grandma got on a roll almost every Saturday, almost the same speech every time. Usually Harry just stared at her, grasping for each word about his dad, before they slipped away into the next, she talked so fast.

"His daddy did too, of course. So when you get out there on your own some day, when you're up on the tractor or combine, you make sure to bring yourself some water. And lord, cover up. Jesus Christ himself prolly woulda had a burn on the back of his neck, had he lived in Texas, in this heat."

Grandma Styles talked about the heat a lot.

That's what Harry thinks about now, years later, as he makes hot chocolate the first weekend in May, only arriving that afternoon with a backpack of clothes, in a stifling hot kitchen he knows like the back of his hand. Milk in the shitty green Frigidaire, marshmallows in the right cabinet, hot chocolate in the pantry.

The entire farm house is open, the one Niall inherited, the one that has been in his family for generations on the outskirts of town, inviting a nonexistent breeze in. It does nothing. There's no wind to be felt. The heat seeps through the cracks in the wood, under the floorboards, licking at their feet. Harry thinks it, as he looks through the busted screen covering the window over the sink, that Niall must've gotten a touch of the crazy this summer, wanting hot chocolate in this heat. And even though Harry isn't afraid of the heat like he was as a young kid, he still remembers what his granny always said. Much too crazy.

It's already set in for the summer, it seems.

Music begins booming from somewhere in the living room, as someone plugs in an iPod for this impromptu get together. Harry curses as he rolls his eyes, George Jones crooning through the speakers. Niall must've called Sean and a few of the boys from high school to come over, to celebrate Harry being home, with instructions to bring their girlfriends and favorite brands of liquor.

Harry doesn't realize he's talking out loud, but he is.

"Fucking idiot," he mutters, looking down at his hands, as he stirs the instant hot chocolate. "You break your arm and wrist doing a fucking flip off the roof and I'm expected to wait on you hand and foot first thing when I arrive? Bullshit."

Harry stirs faster, as some of it bounces out and stings his thumb.

"Fuck," he hisses. "What kinda idiot wants hot chocolate in May? At dusk like this, when people are cracking open beers? Christ."

A few more stirs. Harry shakes his head, tries to remind himself that Niall is going to let him stay on the couch for free, as a favor, and he should be grateful. After everything that happened at home, after the last four months when Harry was away, even if Niall's an idiot with a pink cast on his arm and cigarettes behind both ears, he let Harry in. He knows how poor Harry is, how he can give Niall nothing in return, and Niall is still going to let Harry crash.

And well, when Niall looks at you with those big blue eyes and asks for something, even something as stupid as hot chocolate, good luck trying to say no.

Harry still doesn't realize he's talking out loud.

"All the same… It's too hot for this shit," Harry mutters, continuing the conversation from within his own head, sweat dripping down his temples from under his mess of hair.

"You talkin' to yourself?"

The voice from the doorway startles Harry, as he drops the marshmallows into the mug a little too fast, sloshing hot liquid over his fingers again. He quickly turns, his center of gravity thrown off, as he trips over a foot.

Harry's never seen the guy leaning against the door frame, because Harry knows everyone from town. The guy crosses his arms, wearing dark jeans and some homemade cut tank top, frayed around his shoulders, dipping low under his arm pits. Harry can see his waist from both sides, it's that loose, that open. He might as well be shirtless. Tattoos litter him everywhere. Harry takes them in before looking back at his face. The stubble. The smirk.

Too hot. Too crazy.

"Maybe," Harry replies, easy as ever, wiping his hands on his jeans.

"S'at you makin?" the guy gestures with his chin, to the mug on the counter, eyes questioning.

"Hot chocolate."

"Why?"

"Niall asked for it," Harry furrows his brow, at this stranger asking too many questions, in what is clearly a central Texas twang. City kid, most likely.

"Sounds like Niall's fucking with you," the guy smiles, friendly like, readjusting his arms over his chest.

Harry stares at him. Because he's probably right, now that he thinks about it. Niall's probably in the living room with two beers in front of him, laughing his ass off, as Harry stands there sweating in the kitchen, hunched over a hot mug like a goddamn idiot.

Harry glances back at the counter, annoyed.

"Hey, he asked for it, right?" The stranger laughs, stepping into the kitchen now, closer. "Might as well go give it to him."

Harry looks at him again, confused.

"You worked hard for that mug," the guy smiles. "Niall oughtta enjoy it. S'real hot for hot chocolate, but you made it for him. Good friend, right?"

Harry smiles.

"I'mma watch him drink the whole thing," Harry nods in return, catching on to the joke, grabbing for the mug. "Watch him sweat his nuts off. He deserves it."

The stranger laughs. Hard. Big and bright, his eyes shining. Harry can't even help his own laugh, the one from his belly, because this guy thinks he's funny.

"I'm Zayn," he says, holding his hand out.

"Harry."

Zayn's got a good handshake, something his dad probably taught him, like a good southern boy, unlike the west Texas folks he himself grew up with, too busy to worry about handshakes. Harry feels the thick callouses, across his palm, his fingers, and maybe he's not such a city kid after all. He's worked on some farm, in some field, Harry would bet on it.

"How do you know Niall?"

They haven't let go yet. They stand still. Touching.

"Through our moms. Old friends. I needed a place to stay, so he said I could stay here," Zayn nods, adjusting his fingers, still not letting Harry's hand go.

"Same," Harry nods.

Zayn doesn't say why he needs a place to stay. Harry doesn't either.

"Well alright then. Guess we're roommates for now."

"Guess so."

Zayn smiles. Harry smiles back.

They eventually let go, and Harry already misses the heat of him. But Harry grabs the mug of hot chocolate, still hot as shit, and swiftly walks out of the kitchen to Niall in the living room, and hands it to him, right into his waiting un-casted hand. Niall laughs at him, because he really was just fucking around, until Harry nods at it and sits across from Niall on the couch.

"He's gonna watch you drink it up," Zayn laughs from across the room, lighting a cigarette.

"Fuck y'all," Niall laughs, as he takes a drink, as the group of people Harry grew up with laugh around him.

He's sweating buckets by the time he slams the empty mug on the table minutes later.

Later on, as the party builds, as more young men in busted cowboy boots and girls in fancy jeans waltz in, when Niall passes out in the front hallway, a beer bottle in his good hand, Zayn pulls out a Sharpie from no where. He draws a very detailed dick on his pink cast as another form of payback.

Harry clutches his stomach from laughter.



***


It happens that night. It happens that fast, that quickly, in the hazy summer heat they both know all too well. Sticky skin, hot breath, sweaty.

Niall was already gone, long passed out in the midst of the party, as Sean and his two cousins who showed up around midnight start another poker game in the dining room. Shelley, a girl a few years older than them, from down in O'Donnell, brought her hookah. The group seemed to be revving up, not stopping, continuing the party. No one noticed them sneak up the creaky wooden steps, the smoke too thick around them.

Because Harry couldn't help it. Harry looked at Zayn, watched him take the last drag of another cigarette near the front window. He had laughter in his eyes, from snickering at a joke someone told, a joke Harry's heard a thousand times from about a thousand people, in this fucking town he loathes. Harry watched him pick tobacco off his tongue, watched him scratch at his arm, watched him cough into his fist once.

Zayn finally looked over at him near the stairs, watched Harry watch him, takes in Harry's tight jeans, the white tshirt with holes in it, and that was it.

Harry jutted his chin towards the stairs. Zayn followed.

It's so hot, the dead of night doing nothing to ease what the sun brought in, and as Harry climbs the stairs with Zayn right behind him, he feels a bead of sweat dripping down his forehead. Zayn hooks his finger in the pocket of Harry's jeans, and despite the languid slowness this kind of heat brings to most movements, Harry hurries, now taking two steps at a time.

Zayn holds tight, grips Harry's jeans with his fingers, as Harry makes his way to Niall's bedroom door. It sticks, it always has, so Harry has to throw his shoulder against it a few times. Zayn presses against his back, hands on his hips, stilling him.

"There's no hurry," Zayn says in a low voice, against Harry's neck.

And Harry Styles, hand to God, against all odds, actually shivers.

"Speak for yourself," Harry mumbles with a smile, shoving at the door again, cock already half hard in his jeans.

Harry loves to hurry. The rush. Especially after four months of only his own hand.

Zayn laughs again, the loud one from the kitchen and Harry feels it in his gut, that laugh. He wants to etch it into his brain, he decides then, as the door finally flies open. They stumble in the room, completely dark except for the moonlight coming through the uncovered window. Niall never took over the master bedroom when his parents died and left the house to him, so Harry almost rolls his eyes at the movie posters still tacked to the wall, yellowing on the edges, Niall's unmade bed and shoes flung everywhere.

Harry turns, tries to stand up straight, uncurl his spine, to look at Zayn. Zayn stands there, solid, as if some flimsy door could do something as ridiculous as shake his stance. He smiles at Harry. Endeared. Surprised. And Harry almost shivers again.

"M'gonna fuck you," Zayn states simply.

The music seems far away now, but Harry feels the bass through the floor boards, as he stares at Zayn.

"Alright."

They meet in the middle, which Harry is thrilled about, an equality he thinks he felt the second Zayn smiled at him in the kitchen. One of them doesn't kiss the other, they just… start kissing. Harry exhales into Zayn's mouth, right as Zayn takes a breath, as they realize it's happening.

Harry grabs for Zayn's hips, holds him under his palms, his skin hot to the touch, as Zayn winds his hands through Harry's hair, knocking the scarf off his head. You taste good, Harry almost says it out loud, but he saves it, there's time.

Zayn hums into it, makes this little sound, and maybe he's saying Harry tastes good, and maybe they're thinking the same things, and maybe Harry is so fucking fucked already. Harry pushes against Zayn harder now, fingers digging into his skin, holding on, as Zayn grunts and bites at him.

"Niall… will kill us," Harry pants, between presses of their lips, as Zayn keeps coming forward, pushing back. "He… will fucking kill us… if we do anything on his bed."

Harry whines, actually whines, when Zayn ghosts his hand across Harry's erection, left to right, and then down, down, down, fingers reaching underneath now, at his balls, towards his ass.

"Then we won't," Zayn says against his cheek, a kiss there, before licking up towards his ear.

Harry's so sweaty, probably gross and salty and too warm to feel good, but Zayn doesn't mind, so Harry grips him tighter.

"Fuck," Harry whispers as Zayn's palm presses against him again.

"Wanna feel you," Zayn moves back to Harry's mouth, tongue darting out to taste again. "S'at sound good?"

Harry can only nod, before he regretfully lets go of Zayn's slim hips and turns towards the wall. He braces himself against it, one hand on the peeling green paint, one on the cracked window frame. He can see the old Sutter house from the second floor, not too far from the road, and as he pants against his hand, he feels Zayn behind him, undoing his jeans. Luckily no one has lived at Sutter's for years, luckily no one can see them through the glass.

Harry smiles again, because Zayn said there wasn't any hurry, and yet now bites at Harry's shoulder, fingers on his belt. Harry then realizes he should take his shirt off, so he fumbles with it, tossing it to the floor.

"Did you know," Zayn says conversationally, tugging Harry's jeans, "that the Irish settled in west Texas because the farming was a lot like Ireland's?"

Harry almost laughs, as he bites at his forearm against the wall, Zayn's hands roaming his chest, his stomach, his thighs, before pushing his jeans and briefs to his ankles. Zayn tosses his own shirt to the floor.

"No," Harry smiles, "I didn't know that."

Zayn gets a hand on him, finally, his thick calloused hand, thumb running against Harry's slit, other hand on Harry's hip, his teeth on Harry's bare shoulder.

"S'true. They been farming here ever since. Niall's family. And this house has been here all along, for like a hundred or some odd years, see?" Zayn continues, like they're having a fucking beer after a long day of work, like they're not naked and sweaty and panting, in full view of a window.

Harry nods, moving his arm, face pressed against the wall now, ready for whatever Zayn wants. He'll listen to Zayn talk about Niall's house all night, if he has to. He pants against the wall, waiting, savoring Zayn's hand.

But Zayn stops, takes his hand off Harry's dick, to pull at his shoulders instead. Harry, confused, pushes up on his hands, away from the wall. He turns his head, to see Zayn looking right at him, smiling.

"The paint. It's old. Probably has lead in it. Not good, see?" Zayn smirks, this half smile, nodding at the wall. It's peeling, the green paint that's always been there, in this old farm house.

"Yeah."

Zayn leans back in, shifts Harry's head to face away from him again, and licks up his neck.

"So don't put your face against it. Don't breathe it in," Zayn whispers, with another smile.

"Okay," Harry exhales.

It's kind of the nicest thing anyone's ever said to Harry, reminding him to be careful around bad paint. It's definitely not what Harry expected, from tonight, from Zayn, from this entire interaction, and yet as Zayn grabs for him again, starts pumping his hand up and down Harry's dick, Harry bites his lip to keep himself from smiling too hard, it's all so ridiculous. I'm fucked, he thinks again, as another grunt escapes his chest, as he gets wetter with pre come, as Zayn's nails dig into his hip.

It's a dumb thing to feel, the adrenaline rush of knowing they're doing something as "dangerous" as fucking against lead paint, because technically Harry's done dangerous before, loads of times, his pockets full and his mind clear. But they're doing this together, in a rush now, and maybe Zayn feels it too. Because he spits into his other hand, harshly, before running his fingers between Harry's ass, right as Harry pushes back against him.

This is bad. Dangerous. This could hurt us, the fumes, the friction, no prep. We could get caught. I like it. Do you?

Harry doesn't say any of it, but he thinks it, and Zayn nods into his neck, so maybe he's thinking it along with him.

Harry's chased a version of this feeling his entire life, this rush of getting in trouble, this intensity, and the fact that Zayn's behind him, holding on, pushing in, keeping Harry from leaning against the wall, from breathing in something that could hurt him, makes it even fucking better. Harry didn't even know he wanted something sweet, someone sweet, until this very moment, and he chases after it.

It feels like a gun goes off, a boom, breaking the sound barrier. It's faster now, more intense, as Harry sucks in a breath as Zayn presses another finger into him, just on the right side of too rough. Harry groans.

"Fuck," he bites into his forearm.

"Good?" Zayn worries.

"Good," Harry nods, because it is, it so is.

Zayn must need it, must need to feel it, because he removes his fingers quickly and spits into his hand again. Harry hears him slicking himself up, with the only thing they have, and Harry slams his palm against the wall when Zayn finally pushes in. He's big, thick, and it's so raw, so fucking needy, Harry's entire body reacts.

It's too hot, the sweat mixing between them. Harry eventually brings one of his hands down, to hold onto Zayn's fingers against his hip, as Zayn bites his shoulder, harder.

The friction is almost too much, as Zayn spits again to ease it, snapping his hips forward. Harry pushes back, tries, his jeans still around his ankles. The sounds coming from his mouth sound feral, like a buck shot in its hind leg when it still thinks it can get away. Zayn breathes into Harry's skin, their bodies getting warmer. It's too hot.

"M'gonna come," Zayn says, barely a whisper, his rhythm erratic.

"Do it," Harry pushes back harder, clenching. "I want it."

Zayn speeds up, hand slipping as he brings one up to hold Harry by the back of the neck, pulling Harry into him, onto him. Harry chases it, like he chases a lot of things, follows Zayn to hell and back, reaching to pull himself off.

Harry comes first, into his fist, with Zayn's name escaping his mouth, in a final groan.

With one last choked sound, like it's caught somewhere in his chest, Zayn pulls out and comes on Harry's lower back, down his ass, strings of white, warm against Harry's already burning skin.

They breathe for a few seconds, Harry into his arm, Zayn into Harry's back, as they drift back down.

Harry tries to turn around, feet still caught in his jeans, Zayn reaching for his forearms to steady him. And as they face each other, Zayn smirks again.

"You're a mess," he gestures to Harry's hand, his ass, smiling.

"Your fault," Harry laughs.

They laugh as they try to clean themselves, sticky and flushed, from each other, from the heat. They dress quickly, tossing their shirts into open hands.

But because it's Texas and it's fucking hot, when they fall back onto the couch in the living room an hour later, after everyone clears out, Harry briefly wonders if Zayn wants to separate, their body temperatures too high to sleep that close.

Zayn grabs his hand and pulls him against his side, so Harry goes with it.



***


The first thing Harry ever stole was a balloon at a county fair when he was seven.

It's not an especially exciting story, and looking back on it, Harry can honestly say he didn't mean to, at first. But the old man at the cart, the one twisting and pulling balloons into animal shapes for fifty cents, turned his back to tie one off and Harry couldn't be bothered to wait. So Harry shrugged and walked away, the purple balloon dog in one hand and a Fudgesicle in the other.

His mom asked him where he got the balloon and he pointed to the man across the way. She smiled down at him, probably thinking it was free, or not caring either way, and nudged him towards Gemma to head home. Harry remembers smiling, because he got a balloon, and ice cream, and didn't even have to spend the money from his stash under his pillow. And when he heard the man calling after him, he ran to the parking lot faster.

In the car, as he licked at the remnants of his ice cream, he wondered if he should've paid for it. He had the fifty cents in his pocket. He could've left it on the cart, could've waited to hand it over, he should've. But he didn't, and he wasn't really upset or bothered.

Harry got a balloon, ice cream, and he got to keep his money. All on the same day. He smiled the whole way home.

So a few years later, when he wondered if he should take the tshirts from Walmart, he did. Because he had done it before. And it was easy, and he liked the feeling, and it was a rush. It was the middle of summer and he wasn't afraid of the heat making him crazy anymore, because he sort of chased it, and he really liked the feeling. He worked his way up to jeans, which were trickier than shirts. Jewelry for mom. A quilt for granny. CDs for Gemma.

It got worse (or better, according to Harry) the first summer his uncles had him doing what his daddy did for years and years, out on the combine, high up in the tractors, fixing the fence. The thought of doing it forever, in this town, was suffocating, so whenever Niall or his friends wanted something, Harry filled his pockets with as much shit as they could hold.

Sometimes his mom found his stashes, and sometimes she didn't. Her looks of disdain never lasted long, and Harry never cared to ask why.

He only got caught once, but he got out of it. In high school, the manager of a Best Buy saw him slip a camera into his pocket, some brand Niall said he liked, and he actually convinced the guy it was for his dying father. All Harry had to do was beg the guy not to call his mom, said that he couldn't get in trouble over it, that it would only cause her stress, and wasn't she stressed enough, with her husband dying? (Harry also couldn't have his mom hear the lie, seeing as how his dad died when he was two. Luckily he was let out of the store in a flurry of sympathetic looks before any phone calls were made.) That was the first time he realized he could actually speak to someone, in the middle of a pull, and actually get away with it, or at the very least, get out of it.

Harry saw a tangible reaction, to his crime, from a real human being, and he didn't know it then, but he fucking loved it.

From then on, he was a master at slipping product into his pockets, a hoodie, down his pants if he got desperate. He spoke to sales associates, managers, check out girls, old men behind counters, and savored the attention. Sometimes he knew the bulges in his jeans were prominent, fat and obscene, clearly stuffed with shit, and sometimes the eyes of others wandered to him. But no one ever said anything. No one ever stopped him from leaving a store. No one called the cops.

He never got caught, never even worried about getting caught, especially that day as he waltzed into the mall in Lubbock. So then maybe it was his own fault. He got too comfortable.

His mug shot wasn't terrible, he supposes. He was sweaty, of course, but not gross. He didn't smile for it, just stared at the camera.

He also didn't smile in the court room, when the judge read out his crime and sentence: five months in jail for the theft of four Rolex watches from a high end jewelry store. His mom and Gemma stood behind him, as he was led away, their eyes wide, and he probably should've been more upset by the whole thing.

But in all honesty, Harry was mostly just pissed, because he was finally going to have some money, after selling a few things of real value, and now he'd never know how much he could've gotten.

It was a shame.



***


Zayn's almost positive he's about to combust.

The world comes back to him a little too slowly, the colors blending together too quickly, as he opens his eyes and looks around, the sweat dripping down his face, his back.

Niall's house. Duh. He rubs his eye with one fist. He almost forgot, almost felt like he was back on the shitty cot he slept on for the last five months. It just felt too real, too similar, judging by the awkward position of his body this morning. Shit, maybe the cot would've been better. Niall's couch blows.

He hears the sniff before he remembers. Harry. Laying with him on the couch, bunched up next to him, hot as hell, skin on fire.

"You're up," Zayn hears behind him, Niall's voice gravelly and tired.

Extricating himself from the couch, from around Harry, is difficult, but he makes it to the kitchen to sit with Niall at the table. Niall has coffee, and Zayn loves Niall, because Niall gives him coffee this morning, and that's a nice thing to do. There's even a hint of a breeze making its way through the windows and open back door, and now that he's not practically hermetically sealed to Harry's body, he doesn't feel as flushed.

"You're a fucking asshole," Niall yawns, eyeing him accusingly.

Zayn stares at him.

"I have to go see my fucking cousin later," Niall huffs, moving his pink cast to the table, Zayn's perfect dick drawing on full display.

Zayn smiles slightly as he looks down at his coffee and shrugs.

"Deserved it."

"How?" Niall laughs.

They laugh together like they used to when they were kids, when their moms would sit on the back porch as they ran around the forested creek, the one Zayn's older sister fell in once and broke her ankle.

"Alright, so how long you staying?" Niall drawls, pouring himself more coffee, scratching at his eyebrow.

"Not sure, I guess. I need money. Job or somethin, guess we'll see," Zayn nods.

Niall eyes him, before standing up.

"Since you're fucking Harry now, and by all means, do what you wanna do… Y'all just better not come to me when either of you get into trouble."

"Me? Trouble?" Zayn smiles.

"Yes, you. Yes, trouble. Harry, too. You have more shit in common than you realize, and you're definitely more trouble then you're worth, both of ya," Niall yells out as he rounds the corner and up the stairs, calling over his shoulder: "And you're covering this dick with a nice landscape or something!"

Zayn picks at the wooden table with his thumbnail. He does tend to get into trouble, and if he's honest with himself, he knows he'll probably get into trouble here, even if he is grateful for Niall's help. He could cool it, stop fucking around, especially now, but he knows himself. He loves that rush. The crawl of his skin.

And since Zayn is an honest person in general, he smiles, wondering what kinda trouble Harry gets into. Maybe they'll get into something together.

Zayn drinks his coffee in silence, thinking back to the night before, when he saw a crazy person in Niall's kitchen, talking to himself, making hot chocolate during a summer heat wave. Harry had this little ass, small, shifting from side to side, because Zayn noticed Harry moved from foot to foot almost constantly, never standing in one place for too long.

He also noticed, when they shook hands, the electric current that seemed to flow between them, the one that surged even brighter when he fucked into Harry for the first time up in Niall's room. Fuck, that sound he made… Zayn hadn't heard a sound like that in a very long time.

Zayn smiles again.

Then he remembers to tell Niall how much of a jackass he is for having lead paint, for being careless and subjecting his friends to that kind of danger, so he does, walks right upstairs to go pester him about it.



***


"The road to hell is paved with good intentions," or however the saying goes.

And five months ago, when Zayn had his picture taken in the police station, his hair standing straight up, his fresh fade perfect on either side of his head, he almost smiled. Because when he finally got caught, when he finally felt the cool metal of the handcuffs around his wrists, he knew that saying was true. At least for him.

But that first night, the first night he took something that wasn't his, the girls needed dinner, was the thing.

They hadn't eaten all day, except for a few apples Zayn dug out of the bottom drawer in the fridge, split between the four of them into slices. Doniya had to cut them up, she was the only one allowed to touch knives then, and Zayn felt like a child as he watched her meticulously slice through the fruit. He was supposed to be the man of the house when dad was working, and Doniya still had to serve him lunch.

But that was hours ago, and the girls were hungry. Zayn could hear them crying in their room, quietly, not making a fuss, but crying. The fridge was officially empty that day, the apples were gone, and they couldn't exactly eat mayonnaise or ketchup. Dad wouldn't be home with his check, with food, for hours. So there really wasn't any other option.

"When you need somethin, you take it," Zayn whispered to Doniya, voice heavy, as they looked on at the dumpster in front of them.

"I don't want to," she whined, turning her head to look at him, her long hair blowing in the wind.

Zayn glared and shushed her, swatted her shoulder even, to shut her the hell up. Their dad was gonna be gone all night, at the fertilizer plant a county away, and he would drop everything if he knew they didn't have dinner. That couldn't happen, he couldn't leave work, Zayn wouldn't let him, and mom was sick again. This was it. This dumpster, behind the diner near their cramped house, with the No Trespassing sign above it, was all Zayn could think of.

"We'll just… we'll get the stuff that looks good, okay? We won't eat rotting food, shit. Just… find what you can find," he told her, voice set, before running to the dumpster, hunched like a cat, all sharp reflexes and quick feet.

Zayn had to be the one to throw the lids up, smacked them against the brick wall behind it, before holding his breath and shoving his arms down into a pile of trash. His small fingers probably worked in his favor, since he could claw his way through the plastic bags no problem. The smell wasn't even that bad, after a minute or so, and that's what he told himself over and over, as he dug through it, his older sister at his side.

Doniya cried the whole time.

And that night, the two of them set plates in front of their youngest sisters, with cold toast, some cut up fruit from a to-go container that looked alright, and bits of a sandwich that only had a few specks of dirt on the outside, specks Zayn wiped off like they were never even there. The girls clapped, when he said he picked up dinner from the diner, not having the heart to admit it came from the alley behind it.

Zayn Malik made a promise to himself that night, as he stared at his bedroom ceiling, that it would never come to that again. He decided he would never serve his family garbage, he would certainly never tell his dad about how bad it got, some nights. So he began working after school on the ranch near their place, the one owned by the Flynns, for spare grocery money, to help Yaser as best he could. And when that stopped working, when the work ran out, when the ranch shut down, when it seemed desperate again, Zayn did what he always did: he took what he needed.

He knew, from an early age, from sheer observation, that playing by the rules doesn't always pay off. His parents always told him to be good, to play fair, to listen. But he saw it every day: people who take, who demand and fight, scratch for what they need, no matter the price, those people never want for anything, whereas his family does everything "right" and his mom still gets sick, his dad still has to work around the clock, and their fridge still empties too fast. So when Zayn smacked Doniya and told her with his eyes to get her shit together, maybe she listened to him, because maybe she saw it too.

The world is really fucking unfair, so you do what you have to do, to tip the scales in your favor.

Zayn kept his promise though, because he never again reached into dumpsters outside of restaurants. He got better at taking, read up, studied, and eventually picked back door locks to instead take the food from inside them. He never got caught.

And when that wasn't enough, Zayn learned to crack safes, small ones, ones in back offices of pawn shops and grocery stores, ones he could open now with his eyes closed. He could sneak in during business hours, in broad daylight, and take anything and everything. With a smile on his face. Because it started with a dumpster, with needing food money, and ended with Zayn taking what he wanted, whenever he wanted, because he could, because Yaser eventually made more money, because his mom got better, because he was bored.

It was a rush, every single time, when his hands slipped on a lock wheel, when he heard footsteps in a hallway, seconds from being caught. He craved the money, sure, but he ended up craving the adrenaline more.

The rush.

That's what Zayn thinks about as he showers in Niall's bathroom, as he scrubs at his face with calloused fingers, how that dumpster led him to where he is now. He also remembers how small the girls were, how tiny they used to be. He hasn't seem them since January, and he doesn't know if he should go home, if they should see him now, after getting caught. Doniya said they were fine, said mom was good. Doniya has been taking care of them when Yaser started working nights again, and he's proud of her, for being there when he got too selfish to be.

Eventually his thoughts stray to Harry. To Harry's trouble. Because even after they were all fed, after the bills were paid, Zayn still got off on taking what he needed. Or wanted. Whichever. Maybe Harry would want to get into some trouble with Zayn, now. Soon. Because maybe Zayn can't stop, probation terms be damned, because maybe he doesn't want to. Maybe his skin will start to crawl like it has in the past, when he goes too long without taking, without wanting it.

Zayn gets pulled out of his thoughts when the bathroom door creaks open, the hinges crying out, loud enough to be heard over the rushing water.

"Zayn?"

Zayn smiles behind the curtain, as he reaches for the shampoo.

"Yeah," he answers Harry, waiting.

"Uh… Did you want something to eat? I was gonna make a sandwich. If you want one."

Zayn knew, then, that Harry didn't know how to approach him, after their night together. Poor Harry probably paced earlier, wondered if it was just a stray hookup between new acquaintances. He must've woken up on the couch alone, Niall gone to town, Zayn no where to be seen.

Zayn wants to feel that electric current again, the one he first felt when they shook hands, so he throws the shower curtain back, almost rips it clean off the rod.

Harry's mouth falls open at first, surprised, before his lips curl into a grin. Zayn smiles at him, naked, wet, shampoo in his hair.

"Sure you don't want to shower first? You probably smell like shit," Zayn shrugs.

Harry only waits two seconds, before grabbing at his shirt behind his head, tugging it off.

"You gonna tell me more about paint?" Harry wiggles his eyebrows. "Talk dirty to me again?"

"Doesn't have to be paint. I know lots, about a lot of stuff," Zayn smiles, as Harry steps into the tub.

"Me too."

"Well alright then."

Zayn thinks he might be fucked, as Harry laughs and kisses him, he might truly be fucked. He proves it to himself minutes later, once his hair is rinsed and he's on his knees with Harry's cock down his throat.



***


The cigarette Zayn has after sex is his favorite cigarette. It's the one that settles him. The smoke undoes the kinks he works into his muscles from exertion and sheer will to last as long as he can. The up/down motion of his hand, the inhale/exhale, that methodical movement, turns his brain back on. It brings him back, brings the analytical Zayn back out, after he quite honestly shoves it to the back of his brain for awhile. And after fucking Harry in the shower, and then again on the couch after they realized Niall was still gone, he needed a smoke somethin awful.

He just usually has it alone.

So when Harry saunters out onto the porch as the sun sets, in nothing but a pair of black boxers, Zayn's surprised to see him.

"Wonder if Niall figured this would be our day," Harry laughs, sitting next to Zayn on the porch swing, his massive feet curled slightly.

Zayn noticed that yesterday, that Harry tends to curl when relaxed: his feet, his spine, even his hair curls a little more, when it's wild and freely blowing around his face. He must know how good he looks.

"Yeah, I definitely think he guessed," Zayn smiles, as he throws his arm behind Harry, clutching onto his shoulder.

Harry curls into him entirely.

"How long are you staying here anyways?" Harry wonders, nose against Zayn's bare chest.

"How long are you?"

Zayn never expected to answer that kind of question with a question of his own, especially with someone like Harry, but here they are. They haven't talked much, haven't had much of a chance to, and Zayn supposes now would be the time.

Harry looks up at him.

"I can't really go home right now. I mean, I'm home here in Tahoka, but I can't go home to my mom's house. So I'll be here. For awhile, probably."

"Can't go home either," Zayn exhales, smoke billowing above Harry's head. "My parents and sisters need a little more time, before I go back, I think. I kind of fucked up."

Harry leans up to kiss him then, smoke in Zayn's lungs be damned, runs his tongue along Zayn's mouth as he opens up. The angle's a little off, Harry's too far down on Zayn's chest, but Zayn loves how Harry tastes. He could do it all night.

Harry actually makes a sound, like he's eating his favorite dessert, a little mmmm that Zayn would laugh at, if he wasn't seconds from doing it himself. Whoever Harry is, wherever the fuck he came from, Zayn doesn't even care because Harry makes that sound a second time and Zayn wants to fuck him all over again.

"Where were you? Before you came here?" Harry asks, as he sits back, yawning slightly.

Zayn almost lies. He almost shuts his mouth, says nothing. He almost gets defensive, because Harry doesn't need to know, he's a stranger, he's just Harry, Niall's old friend. But he feels that charge again, as their skin sticks together, even after the sun is gone. Zayn feels it, feels that spark, or whatever the hell country songs are always talking about.

So he tosses his cigarette to the porch and turns his body more towards Harry, tugging his arm, so they can sit easier, face to face.

"Jail."

Harry stares at him.

"I was in jail for five months. Up north. Shared with a dude named Alan, real nice guy, actually," Zayn nods, like it's normal, like this is fine, like Harry won't have a million questions that he may or may not be able to answer in a tangible way.

Harry stares.

Zayn's about to give his speech, about the dumpster and how ever since, he takes what needs, how he always has, how he sort of likes it, when Harry smiles at him, big and bright like a fucking light bulb.

"Me too," Harry smiles, biting his bottom lip.

Now it's Zayn's turn to stare.

"What?"

"Four months. In Hutchins," Harry laughs now, like he can't believe it either.

Zayn Malik can usually peg people pretty easily, it's something his dad taught him early on in life, how to read people, how to see them, when they were fixing the car together in the garage, over cans of Pepsi. But this is something he didn't expect, this nice kid from Niall's hometown, with a laugh that makes his stomach ache and a cock that makes his mouth water, to be someone who just spent time in a cell, just like Zayn.

"What were you in for?" Zayn questions, shaking his head, not believing it.

"Larceny. Stole some Rolexes. It wasn't even that bad, I had never been caught before, my sentence got reduced," Harry sits up further, grabbing Zayn's hand. "Felt like I was staying in just a really shitty Motel 6, to be honest. What about you? Why? What happened?"

"I stole a car," Zayn laughs, running a hand through his hair, shaking his head. "I jumped it, drove it to my friend's place to try and get some money, got busted. Pulled over. But it was a shitty car, not even worth much, so my sentence was hardly anything."

Harry laughs harder. Zayn pushes his face into Harry's neck.

Niall was right, about them having shit in common, and about being alike. Being trouble. In their own ways.

"Why?"

Zayn knows immediately what he's asking, and he can't say he was about to ask Harry the exact same thing. So Zayn speaks into Harry's neck, near his ear, as his cock stirs in his briefs, because even though he hates to admit it, he gets off on it.

He also gets off on Harry, and it seems as though they both had time to make up, both being away for so many months with nothing but spit in their hands and lonely nights.

"Because I like it."

"Yeah?" Harry smiles into Zayn's skin.

"I wanted it," Zayn exhales. "When I want something, or when I need it, I take it. I wanted money, needed it, so I jumped it."

He bites at Harry's neck. He's asking why in return, Harry must know.

Harry breathes into his ear, like the fucking tease he is.

"I like knowing I can get caught. I never do though, only this one time," Harry says, before biting at his ear. "But I take shit, when I want it, for me mostly, but sometimes for other people.  Fuck with the system, right? It's that rush, you know?"

"The best part," Zayn says, bringing his hand to Harry's boxers, palming at him, rough.

Harry pants into his neck when Zayn's hand finally slips beneath the black fabric, already hard and wet at the tip. Zayn feels dizzy, from the nicotine, from the charge of who Harry is, what they just revealed, and when he thinks about making Harry come again so soon, out in the open on the porch, he smiles.

So that's how it happens.

It happens that night, unknowingly, as they jerk each other off and whisper about the rush they feel, when taking, when winning. It happens that fast, that quickly, in the hazy summer heat they both know all too well. Sticky skin, hot breath, sweaty.

They become a pair. A pair of thieves.



***


The next few weeks are a blur and bore at all once. They burn like a tree on fire, like something purposefully set, but in a field full of dirt. A contained burn. Set for a reason. In a place where the flames can't jump far.

It's body heat and sex, but outside of themselves, outside of Niall's house, it's all so monotonous. The both start working again. And surprising absolutely no one, they hate it. Harry and Zayn both forgot how bored they can truly get, and neither remember until Niall reminds them over a few beers on the porch.

It's weeks of fucking and serving at the bar on the other edge of town. It's blow jobs on the couch and in the shower, Harry's hands against the kitchen counter when Niall is gone, Zayn fingering him open until he's shaking. It's drinks during parties and get-togethers, taking orders from drunk men who knew Harry's daddy "real well in school, son, and then on the farm, a'course."

Harry rolls his eyes, and Zayn laughs at him, because if Harry had a dollar for every nice thing he heard about Des Styles, he'd be fucking rich. Which would be pretty convenient. But it's always the same nice words, from the same nice people, and that's real nice, but it doesn't do much for Harry. Not anymore. Zayn calls home, talks to the girls, and it's fine, but he's bored.

So those weeks, it's about fucking harder, faster, more often, as Niall thumps on the walls with his cast, to announce his way into rooms of his own goddamn house, so he doesn't see any more naked body parts than he has to.

It's also about their first gifts. First prizes. First scores.

"Got you a present today," Harry shoves Zayn onto Niall's bed, because fuck it, climbing onto his thighs.

"Yeah?" Zayn puts his hands behind his head, waiting.

"You needed one," Harry grins down at him, all toothy, like the fucking Cheshire Cat he is, hair falling in his face.

Harry holds up a watch, a nice one, the ticking almost silent around them. It's all stainless links, sleek, not too flashy or bright, and it's perfect. Zayn takes it from Harry, fingers the face of it, feels the glass, before looking up to his face.

"Tell me."

Harry smiles again, because he's smart and he gets it.

"So there's this store in town," Harry says, like he's chatting with a few church ladies, fingers undoing the buttons of Zayn cut sleeveless shirt. "Mr. Schilling owns it. Nothing fancy. Some jewelry in the corner. They have watches under the counter, under glass."

He pushes Zayn's shirt open, fingers running up and down his chest, thumb nails catching on his nipples. Zayn hisses, holds the watch in his hand tighter.

"Go on," Zayn bites his lip.

"I asked if Mr. Schilling had any more rings in the back. Maybe my momma might want one, right? I'm such a nice son, see," Harry smiles, leaning down to kiss Zayn at the top of his sternum. Grinding their hips together. Slow.

Zayn waits.

"So when he went to the back room, I just leaned right over and stuck my hand under the glass. Took the one in the corner. The nicest one, though. The best one. And he won't even notice it's gone, till at least tomorrow."

Harry shifts his weight. Harder. Zayn's dick is trapped in his jeans and he has to bite his lip harder. This is the first thing Harry has stolen since he got out, and it was for him.

"You missed it, right?"

Harry sits back for a moment, surveys Zayn's face. He only nods. Smiles again.

Zayn flips them over and has Harry's jeans undone in mere seconds. But before Zayn does anything further, he has Harry watch him put the watch on, slips it onto his wrist and latches it. Harry looks about ready to jizz in his jeans before Zayn even gets his mouth on him.

They fuck twice that night.

And the next day, Zayn takes three scarves from a Walmart, shoves them in his back pockets like nothing, before walking out of the store with his head held high, a cigarette lit before he's even to the parking lot.

Harry about dies when Zayn holds them up, almost smacks Zayn's head against the side of the house, he shoves him against it so hard.

The fuck twice that night, as well.



***


Zayn steals cash from the register of a little gas station over the Fourth of July.

It was a pretty good plan Harry had, when he asked the store owner to check on something in the back for him, when he got Zayn his watch. It was ballsy, to speak to someone before taking, something Zayn had never done. He always broke safes during business hours, of course, but he's never been that blatant. Never done it after exchanged words, his face right there for someone to see, to pin a crime on. He figures he can try. And well, since Zayn's skin has been crawling ever since he showed up in Tahoka, he only goes a town over, in Niall's truck, to see what he can scrounge, to see if he's good at it.

So he asks the young girl at the register if she has any more types of beer in the back.

"I mean, I can drink just about anything," he smiles at her, leaning on one elbow on the counter. "But my momma likes the dark stuff, and you don't seem to have any out here."

He also liked how Harry brought his mother into it, how that probably gets people to do what you ask.

"I can check," she said with a laugh, her teeth too big in her mouth, hair too thin on her shoulders. "I'll just… go check."

She blushes so hard when he smiles at her, all big and sweet, like Harry Styles. She scurries off towards the door with an Employees Only sign, and Zayn almost laughs right there, it was so easy.

Quick as anything, he reaches over the counter to the register, presses the big button in the corner and it pops open. He grabs the rather small stack of twenties first, then the tens. And then because he's not an idiot, he lifts the entire change drawer up and out, to get the single fifty and hundred underneath it.

He's out the door and back in the truck in seconds.



***


"Are you fucking serious?"

Harry looks up from the floor in the living room, where he's stretched out, watching the TV. Zayn's behind him on the couch, lounging with his hand in Harry's hair. It was beyond stifling hot, in the house, outside, everywhere, so they were both practically naked. Slow. Tired even though they slept all morning. Too hot. Too crazy.

Zayn looks at Harry first, confused, then to Niall.

"You used my truck, didn't you," Niall demands, staring at Zayn.

Harry turns to Zayn, as he sits up on the couch.

"I mean… I just went to Post. I didn't take it out too far, just down 380 a ways. I can give you gas money."

"I know you can. Because you took money. Right? From someone? In Post? Sean said he saw you driving into town. In my truck."

Harry knew then, that Zayn must've done it the day before, while he was finishing his shift at the bar. He must've snuck in somewhere, into a safe or a drawer, in some store or restaurant, with his quick feet and eyes on the floor so no one notices him.

And maybe he was saving the money, or going to put it towards something. For Harry. For Niall. So he only smiles at Zayn, because he's almost positive that's why Zayn didn't say anything, and it shouldn't make him as giddy as it does, especially with Niall pissed about it.

"I mean, yeah. From a gas station. Not much, though," Zayn shrugs.

"Fuck, Zayn. I knew it. You just got out of jail like a month ago. And you took my truck!"

Niall stomps his foot. Actually stomps it. The lamp in the corner shakes slightly, the shade rattling against the light bulb, sending a shadow across them.

"Look. I know you both… do this. You do this shit. You always have. Whatever. Just don't take my truck, dude. If they see the license plate, I'm fucked. Please don't fuck me over. You're staying here, until you go… wherever you're going. And it's fine. Just don't fuck me over."

Harry stops smiling. Zayn scratches his neck, before standing up.

"Shit, Ni. I'm sorry. I really didn't even think of that. I swear," Zayn thumps Niall on his good arm. "I love you too much to fuck you over. You know that."

"Yeah, well," Niall shifts, a small smile creeping onto his face. A little. Niall's never really been a tough guy, harsh or over powering with his voice. He's already cracking under it. So Zayn squeezes his arm a little tighter.

"Besides. I got some of it for you," Zayn smiles, reaching for his jeans on the couch.

Niall stares at him.

"I figured you might need some cash. For whatever."

Zayn hands Niall the money and Harry smiles again, because he knows Zayn is like him: he steals because he likes to, because he wants to, but he also does it for other people. It's just as fun to give gifts as it is to have a pocket full.

"Well thanks then, I guess," Niall smiles, normal and big, like always.

Zayn settles back on the couch, as Harry leans against it now. He wants Zayn's hand back in his hair. He'd actually like to suck Zayn's dick, because they're the same and he has a feeling Zayn would do the same for him, if he had just stolen a wad of money.

But then Niall throws a wrench in that plan. It may be the wrench in Harry's entire life plan, believe it or not.

Niall starts to turn, to go back up to his room, when he stops and looks down at the cash.

"Thanks again," he mumbles, smiling back to Zayn. "Least I know if you ever rob a fuckin' bank, guns ablazin' like a couple'a idiots, putting fear in everyones' eyes, I'll at least get a cut, maybe."

He smiles one last time, looking at the money in his hand, before he stomps up the wooden stairs, his feet heavy like always, making sound wherever he goes.

Zayn looks down at Harry, and Harry looks up at Zayn.

And that's it. That's how it happens.

That's the spark.

 

 

 

   

Chapter Text

This Life Of Sin 2

This Life Of Sin
by thisonegoes
artwork by Roxie at babyxnanas.com


That night Niall leaves to stay at his cousin's house in town, and not ten minutes later, the both of them still practically naked, Zayn's upstairs on his bed, before he can even catch a breath.

"Did you know," Harry tumbles to his knees at the edge of the bed, tugging Zayn's briefs down harshly, swiftly, "that one of the worst bank robberies in Texas history happened not far from here?"

Harry leans in to lick one, long fluid stripe up the underside of Zayn's already hard cock. Zayn grips him by the hair with one hand, his toes curling on the hardwood floor.

"No," Zayn snarls, Harry's nails digging into his thighs.

Zayn loves when Harry tells him stories, when they swap "did you knows," when they get silly and stupid and one-up the other with weird facts. He really does love it.

But at the expense of his dick getting sucked, Zayn isn't especially happy, so he grips Harry's hair tighter.

"It's true," Harry nods, looking up at Zayn, wide eyed and innocent, like they were having tea and a chat on the porch. "Back in the twenties. Four guys walked into a bank together, middle of the day. No one even noticed they were robbing the place for a minute or two."

Zayn huffs out a breath as Harry takes him in his mouth, sucks him down hard, cheeks hollowed, his tongue moving side to side. Zayn grips his hair tighter. He can already feel the tug in his navel, the telltale sign that Harry is about to suck the orgasm right out of him.

But only a minute later, Harry pulls off, mouth slick, pumping Zayn in his hand, continuing his story.

"Wanna know why?"

Zayn grips Harry's hair with both hands now, and it must hurt. But he doesn't want to come anywhere but inside Harry's hot mouth, again, because if he's not coming in Harry, or on Harry, it doesn't really seem worth it these days.

Harry rubs the head of Zayn's cock along his bottom lip first, lightly, slowly, then over his top lip, like he's putting on fucking lipstick. Zayn exhales sharply. It feels good. Harry always makes him feel good, even in small moments. But it's not enough, it's never enough.

So he nods. Frantically.

"Tell me."

"It was the day before Christmas Eve. So one of the guys dressed up like Santa," Harry grins, gripping Zayn's cock between his finger and thumb, not tight enough, keeping Zayn right on the edge.

Zayn bites his lip. Draws blood. It almost hurts, he needs to come.

Harry licks at the head, lightly, slowly.

Zayn hums into his bloody lip, sweating now.

"No one questioned Santa as he walked to the counter, and then went behind it. Because he's Santa, right?" Harry continues, eyes locked on Zayn's, flicking his tongue on the underside of the head, slick and wet. "The other three pulled out their rifles and kept everyone quiet. Kept it calm. And Santa filled a money bag from the safe. Easy as that."

Zayn bites his lip harder, needing Harry's mouth back on him, needing something. He pushes Harry's head down and glares at him, come on, please? but Harry shakes his head. Stills his hand. Zayn groans.

Harry smiles.

"Fine," Zayn huffs, knowing Harry better now. "What happened? Did they get away?"

Harry lightly slaps Zayn's cock against his face a little, right cheek, left cheek, licks at the head again. He teases before pumping his hand, firmer now, holding Zayn's cock with his whole fist.

"The guy dressed as Santa, they think he fired first. Shot the window or something, or the ceiling maybe, like a warning," Harry says, rushed now, sitting up on his knees, closer to Zayn. "So the cops shot at them, shot back, and something like 200 bullets flew that day."

Zayn stares at him. Harry stares back.

"They used little girls as human shields. To get to their car. Shot at police, killed a few. Killed the Chief."

Zayn claws at the sheets, at Harry. He's confused. He doesn't like this story, doesn't like the ending. His face must show it. Harry again sucks on the head of his cock, just for a few seconds, before pulling back.

"How'd it end?" Zayn licks his lips, almost there.

"One died. The other three got away, after another shoot out. Stole a second car, but forgot the money in the first one, left it right there next to their dead friend and forgot it," Harry licks up his cock again. "They got caught a week later. Prison. Death penalties."

Harry speeds up his hand, his thumb stroking the underside of the head, right along the slit, so fucking deliciously, Zayn almost smacks him for it.

"Gonna come," Zayn whispers, weakly, his head falling back onto the bed.

Harry stops.

Zayn groans and forces himself up again, onto his forearms, hovering over Harry. Harry stares up at him, willing him to hear it.

"So when we do it, we're not shooting. Not at a window, or a ceiling," Harry says seriously, licks his lips, stares into Zayn's eyes. "And we're not getting caught."

Zayn nods furiously, eyes crazed. Guns. Shooting. We have guns? Since when? But yeah, no shots, of course.

"Okay."

Harry finally, after much too long, takes Zayn back into his mouth and sucks hard and fast, his throat constricting around the head of Zayn's cock, gagging for it now, their eyes locked. Zayn's legs tense, his feet literally leave the floor, as he shoots come into Harry's mouth, right there between his ruby red lips.

When Harry sits back, when he closes his eyes with a smile on his face, Zayn wheezes as he comes down. He also realizes, a smile on his own face, that Harry had been working himself with his hand, and came in his briefs.



***


The main take away from that night, besides the physical remnants (marks Harry has over his tattooed hip bones and bites on Zayn's neck and tattooed shoulders), is a simple thought.

I've never had this before.

Harry stares at the ceiling, Zayn fast asleep curled against his side, foot tucked under Harry's calf, hot breath on Harry's chest, and Harry can't sleep. He can't stop thinking about what happened earlier, the way Niall threw an offhanded comment their way, inadvertently creating a tsunami.

More than that, he thinks it over and over: how he's never had this happen before.

Harry used to listen to his dad's old Elvis music, on cassette tapes, inside his truck that's still parked in the barn to this day. He used to lay across the seat that smelled faintly like manure, and listen to the songs his granny said daddy used to dedicate to them all, his little family, when they went into town and danced all night at the Crow's Head, before Anne hardened and gave up, before Gemma decided she wanted to leave Tahoka when she turned 18.

Granny said they used to twirl for hours at the Crow's Head, Des dancing with Anne and Gemma for most of the night, but other times he got up to sing with the band. Apparently Des would bring Harry up on stage with him, in his little overalls, when Harry could barely hold a microphone. No one ever thought to take a picture, which was a shame.

But Harry never knew, never really got what Elvis kept going on about, until he looks down and runs his hands through Zayn's hair.

Fools rush in, and all that.

It's sentimental and reckless, he knows. But just as Harry Styles has always done, once his mind is set on something, it's set. It's unshakeable. And he knows this, whatever this is, until Zayn sends him away, is it. Once he wants something, he wants it.

It's not something he ever sought out, the kind of companionship that comes with knowing glances and understood intentions, wordlessly, effortlessly, but here he is. They've known each other barely a month and Harry already knows how Zayn likes to drive with music blaring, how Zayn holds his fork, the order in which Zayn gets dressed in the morning. (Normal people don't generally do sock-shoe-sock-shoe, and it was something they bickered about for an hour one morning, but Harry lets Zayn have it.)

Harry knows the minuscule movements of Zayn's eyebrows, how they move when he's excited or nervous, the way he cracks his knuckles when he wants a cigarette, the look of concentration on his face when Harry tells him a story. Zayn didn't scoff at the fact that Harry isn't close to his family, when they never really recovered after his dad died from the heart attack. Zayn told Harry about his sisters and how even though he feels selfish now, how he sometimes feels guilty for the shit he takes, it started with a dumpster, and in the middle of the story, Harry very nearly cried.

There hasn't been a "what are we?" conversation because they're just them. There hasn't been weirdness or jealously or a big fight. It's been… easy. Fast, of course, but easy. Harry thinks that must mean something, that when two people come together for a reason, it should be easy. Drama is for children, and they're grown men. Together.

The second Harry looked up at Zayn from the floor earlier and knew, without a word, that they both wanted it, something big, bigger than them, his mind was already working. The cogs began to turn. They both felt the rush, the itch under their skin, when they took small things, here or there. But this idea, this tiny suggestion to do something crazy, out of control, something they've never done separately and immediately wanted to try as a pair, was enough to send Harry over the edge right then and there.

He started formulating a plan, even as his hands undid Zayn's jeans, even as he told Zayn about the Santa Claus Robbery in Cisco, the havoc it caused, how one of them died before ever getting far from the bank, how one single gun shot set off the events that lead to death and destruction, cops dead, a man left behind, the money forgotten, no riches to be had by anyone.

Harry decided. So the plan was in motion. Harry, the kid who can't stand still for too long, the one with sticky fingers and a restless heart, already decided what he wanted. He wanted a bank, a big one, full of cash for them to take and spread out, to roll around in, to fuck on, because when Harry wants something, he takes it. Zayn's the same, he said so.

They were going to be smart about it. Stealth. Safe and fast, not hurting anyone, because that's not what it's about. It's about them, about control and taking what's theirs. It's about what they can do together, if they do it right. They were going to put their individual strengths to good use, teach each other, learn. Together.

Harry runs his fingers through Zayn's hair, the coarse hair at the base of his neck, and he tries to close his eyes. He wonders if Zayn knows how he feels, how he's a fucking idiot thinking about Elvis lyrics, if Zayn knows and if Zayn feels the same. He wonders if Zayn has his own version of the plan going in his head, if he wants the bank, the money, Harry.

Zayn fell asleep knowing all of it. He fell asleep feeling the same way.

Harry's sure of it.



***


Days later, they begin.

They begin to plan, to get their heads straight, deciding how and why and where.

"Are we sure?" Harry had whispered to Zayn on the couch, in the darkened living room, the TV playing silently in front of them.

"I'm sure if you're sure," Zayn whispered back, their eyes meeting.

"I think I'm sure."

"Harry," Zayn stated, harshly, trying to convince himself, "I want what you want. I want us in it together. If we're going to do it, we're doing it all the way. We start small, somewhere close by, to see how it goes, to see if we can. We get in, get out, and come back here, lay low. We don't tell Niall. We don't tell a soul. We don't get hurt."

Harry nodded. Face set.

"Okay. We can't just walk in and smile and ask for cash. We need them to fear us. To want us gone, to let us go. We need the right tools," Harry stares at Zayn, willing him to remember his story, about Santa Claus in Cisco.

"No shots though," Zayn remembers, nodding.

"No shots."

Harry grabbed Zayn's face and shoved his tongue in his mouth, chasing the taste. Zayn let him right in.

So the next afternoon, they had to promise Niall they wouldn't get into any trouble with his truck. Pinky swore like children, even. Harry promised to bring back beer, Zayn swore he'd draw over the dick on his pink cast, the dick that still sat there along his inner forearm like an eyesore, because Zayn still thinks it's pretty funny.

Niall tossed his keys over with a laugh and held them to it.

"So," Zayn wonders, his hand out the passenger window, sweat glistening across his chest, "is your mom gonna be home?"

It probably wouldn't be the best idea, to do this "supply run," the first half of the plan they came up with, and have Harry's mother present.

"Not sure," Harry shrugs, shifting up a gear, revving the engine.

Dust billows around them as they fly towards Harry's place, the house he hasn't been back to since he got out. Zayn can't read Harry sometimes, when his family gets brought up, when he mentions he still can't go home. And as his hands grip the steering wheel and he touches a finger to his lip, picking at the skin a little, Zayn wants to touch him.

"She gonna ask you a million questions? About jail and all that?" Zayn wonders, grabbing at Harry's right ear and tugging.

Harry shrugs again.

Neither of them said much about their time in their respective cells. Jail isn't all "don't drop the soap" and gang members; it's pretty tame when you're not in massive federal or high security prisons. They were both in smaller jails, both young shit heads there for something as stupid as getting caught with their hands in the cookie jar. Boring, mostly. Annoying, being told what to do every second of every day, something neither of them deal with especially well. They're too head strong, two little rolling stones who can't stand to lose the upper hand. There was just never much to tell.

And in any case, Zayn knows that Harry didn't tell his mother about anything really, because they don't talk much. Hardly at all. So maybe they'll use the afternoon to talk about it. Harry mentioned how she and Gem were surprised when he got arrested, pissed that he went and got caught after so many years of dodging it. She told Harry as much in a letter about a month after he got into his cell, in the same letter where she said it would probably be best if he "stayed somewhere else" besides the house when he got out, for "a little while, at least." It was the only thing Anne ever sent Harry, while he was locked away, and Zayn knew he threw it into the toilet next to his bed.

Zayn frowns, as he looks at Harry's profile. Zayn's family want him home, they've asked a few times when they'll see him next. They sent him photos and presents and candy, some of his favorite comics and tshirts from his bedroom, while he was away, whereas Harry's family didn't take the time to send him comforts from home. Zayn should want to see his sisters, especially now, but he still feels like an asshole, like he's bringing them down, like they still need time before he strolls back in.

He also knows now, that if he ever had any intention of stopping this thing he does, picking locks and safes and car doors, the minute he met Harry Styles, it was all out the window. So if he doesn't go back soon, they'll be better off for it.

Harry parks at the top of the long driveway, a large grey house sending shadows across the truck, and shows Zayn in through the back door. Harry calls out, his voice echoing up the stairs and through the airy farm house, all the windows open, stifled by the heat. Zayn takes it in, this massive old house with shutters and everything. It's not exactly warm, the furniture too old and creaking, the floors too scuffed and worn. There are pictures all over the wall leading into the sitting room, black and white ones with old crusty white people sitting in straight backed chairs, weird and stiff. If Doniya were here, she'd probably be in stitches along with Zayn.

Harry's face peaks out from a few of the photos on little spindly-legged tables in the sitting room, on either side of a massive bay window looking out over the front porch and fields beyond it. Zayn glances at Harry's smiling face, at various ages of his childhood, Gemma by his side, before his eyes land on an especially large photo on the mantle. A man with a round face, dimples and dark hair, holding a baby on his lap, laughs at the camera.

Zayn watches Harry, watches him look around a minute, before heading into the dining room, over to the stairs leading to a basement, up to the first landing of the second floor, calling out for his mom.

Harry walks back into the main room, with his hands in his pockets and shrugs.

"Not here," he says simply. "So. No worries, I guess. I'll show you the safe in the barn."

Zayn looks at him, takes in the curl of his spine.

"In a minute. We're here, and we might not be back for a while, once we, you know… So… you should take what you need," Zayn grabs for his hand, interlocking their fingers.

"What do you mean?"

"This is your house too. Your stuff. Whatever you need, take it," Zayn squeezes his fingers.

Harry looks at him, with a tinge of confusion, before he gets it. Their thoughts are interchangeable most days, and it's no different in Harry's house. Zayn tells him, without telling him, they never sent you shit, because they couldn't be bothered, so let's take what's yours, and get the fuck outta here.

Harry smiles, big and bright, and Zayn kisses it right off his face, before smacking his ass to hurry up.

Harry shows Zayn his room and swiftly fills an old backpack with shirts he always loved, a pair of boots, his childhood journal, a camera. He even goes into his mom's room, and grabs an antique cigar cutter from her dresser, something Des used to carry with him, before heading back down the stairs. They grab a few bottles of liquor from the chest of drawers in the dining room, the good stuff Harry was never allowed to touch. Harry glances to the living room, takes a step forward even, before he instead walks towards the kitchen. Zayn reads the look plain as day, so Zayn does it for him.

He grabs the photo from the mantle, in a simple silver frame, of Harry on his dad's lap.

Zayn doesn't even say anything once they're outside, shoes kicking up dirt and gravel. He just grabs for the backpack from Harry's hand, and shoves the frame in, as they walk towards the barn.

Harry bites his lip and smiles.



***


Harry knew early on that he could quite honestly watch Zayn's every movement, of every day, putting it all to memory, and be happy. He'd be just fine watching Zayn smoke a cigarette or shift his weight or walk or speak, or just breathe, and never need another goddamn thing.

But now, watching Zayn, his ear on the safe, his eyes closed, tapping his finger against the dark metal, Harry knows this is what he wants to watch for the rest of his fucking life. Just this. Over and over.

"No talking," Zayn told him as he pulled on black gloves, eyes set, as they walked towards the gun safe at the back of the barn.

Harry listened because he always listened to Zayn, when his voice sounded lower, steadier. He nodded as Zayn took it in, the tall black safe Harry's dad kept out of the house so Gemma and Harry wouldn't go near it. Harry used to hunt with his uncles, knew what was inside and how to handle the firearms, but he didn't have the combination. He knew it didn't have a key, but a dial lock, Zayn's favorite.

Zayn almost salivated when Harry described it the night before, where it was, what it looked like, what it held, how maybe they could go to the barn to crack it. Zayn nodded, said he hadn't broken a good solid lock in a long time. He could do it. I know I can, don't worry, we'll get into it.

Harry watches intently, Zayn's long slender fingers turning the dial, over and over, listening. It's sort of the sexiest thing Harry's ever seen, but he shakes his head, to focus.

"I gotta hear the clicks, in the right order," Zayn whispers. Harry can't help himself, he has to grab on, so he stands right behind Zayn and holds his hips, tight, watching over his shoulder.

He has no idea how Zayn does it, how it happens or how long it takes, but eventually Zayn's eyes fly open. He turns his head to stare at Harry, before his eyes bounce around, settling on nothing.

"21 - 3 - 1," Zayn stutters, face screwed up, "21 - 3 - 1. 21 - 3 - 1."

He whispers it over and over, to remember, as Harry grips his hips tighter.

Zayn's hands go into overdrive, as he puts his left palm against the metal and works the lock with his right. Turn right, turn turn turn, turn left, turn, turn right, Harry tries to keep track of the movements, but Zayn is in the zone and can't be bothered to let him in on it.

Click.

Zayn steps back, right up against Harry's chest, as they stare at the safe. Zayn reaches for the handle, turns it swiftly, and the door creaks open.

"Holy shit you did it," Harry breathes out in a rush, a smile creeping onto his face, giddy now.

"Course I did," Zayn half turns, smirking. "Did you think I wouldn't?"

"I was hopeful and optimistic," Harry winks.

"Dick," Zayn laughs, turning back to the safe, pulling the door open even farther.

Their eyes are met with the contents of Des Styles' safe. Some of Uncle Mark's hunting gear sits on the shelves along with the guns, but their eyes skate right over it, to see the "ole shooters" Harry learned on: two shotguns, a rifle, an ornate Smith & Wesson 2nd model revolver, two Colt pistols, and boxes of ammunition in stacks on the lowest shelf. Harry's almost positive his dad had more guns, guns his brothers probably have at home, in safes of their own, but the best one, the one Harry hoped to see, sits right on the middle shelf.

None of them are loaded, it's a family rule, always has been, so Harry feels no qualms in reaching out to hold the revolver.

Zayn stares at him, watches the slow movement of Harry's arm reaching around him, to grip the gun.

"Daddy got this from his daddy," Harry smiles, holding the gorgeous .44 caliber, feeling the smooth metal with his thumb, repeating word for word what granny told him years ago. He rests his chin on Zayn's shoulder, as they both take in the gun sitting in Harry's hand.

"S'nice," Zayn offers, stupidly, for lack of anything better to say.

"My first shot was with this gun," Harry nods, chin digging into Zayn's muscle. "Gemma's too. We were so nervous, my granny was a mess over it, but she agreed that we should know how. So my uncles taught us out back in the woods, had us shoot at a log."

"Oh," Zayn nods.

Harry remembers that day because Gemma absolutely hated it, handed the gun right back to Uncle Mark, whereas Harry wanting to fucking jump for the moon after he shot his first bullet. There was something so masculine, so primal, about having that kind of force at your fingertips. It was the rush of knowing he was in charge, in control, doing what Harry wanted to fucking do, on his terms. He didn't need to shoot at an animal, much less a person, to feel the power. It was just the sheer force, the smell of the heat emanating from his hand, the sound.

Gemma looked at him in fear, at her little brother with a revolver in his hand and fire in his eyes. Uncle Rick snorted into his can of Copenhagen long cut, sent tobacco flying, when Harry's long limbs got into a tangle as he asked to do it again.

Now that he thinks about it, maybe that's why Harry's so excited now. This whole thing, the way he feels, the way Zayn makes him feel, the whole plan. It isn't about guns or bullets or fear. It's about control. It's about taking it into your own hands, your destiny, your path, and above all else, because he's not an idiot, it's about piles of fucking money.

"You ever shot one?" Harry asks softly.

"No," Zayn smiles, thinking about what Yaser would do if he even saw Zayn with a gun.

"I'll teach you some day," Harry smiles, turning into Zayn's neck, resting his mouth against his warm skin.

"Alright," Zayn reaches behind, grabs Harry's thigh, smiling.

"I think we should leave the shotguns. Not much use for them. Too big to handle anyways," Harry nods, shifting slightly so Zayn can move behind him now.

Harry crouches down, to sift through the boxes of ammo on the shelf, assessing, wondering. The boxes of shotgun shells rattle as he moves them to the back, as Zayn makes a sound behind him. Harry turns to look up at his face.

"Well since we're not going to shoot, since we said we weren't going to start a fire fight, or hurt anyone, we shouldn't even load them… right?" Zayn crosses his arms, brow furrowed.

Harry touches Zayn's calf for a moment and smiles, turning back to the safe.

"We will never walk into any place with a loaded gun, babe," Harry nods, grabbing the boxes. "But you never carry guns without ammunition, you never take the vessel and leave behind the cargo. We also gotta make sure if anyone ever finds out we took these guns, they think we're all dangerous and scary, with rounds of ammo to take out a whole goddamn city."

Harry turns to hand Zayn the bullets, laughing. Zayn's cheeks look red, embarrassed, fingers grazing over Harry's.

"And besides," Harry continues, "if I'm gonna show your fine ass how to shoot, we'll need a bullet or two."

Zayn stares at him.

"Before I fuck you, that is," Harry shrugs. Because he plans on it. Soon.

Zayn laughs. Hard. Big and bright, his eyes shining. Harry can't even help his own laugh, the one from his belly, because even now, Zayn thinks he's funny.

"Yeah we'll see, tough guy," Zayn sniffs, still laughing, as Harry stands up to grab the guns.

"We sure will."

Harry shoves the revolver into the back of his pants, before grabbing for the pistols, Zayn's laugh still ringing in his ears, and he's pretty sure about then that he loves Zayn, but he doesn't say so. Not yet.



***


"Did you know," Zayn reaches over in the truck, grabbing Harry's dick through his jeans, "that some male spiders pluck their webs like a guitar, to attract female spiders?"

Harry inhales sharply, as Zayn applies more pressure, as he plays the game they've had going since they met.

"No," Harry shakes his head, trying to pay attention to the road in front of him.

"And that spiders don't actually eat? They have to liquify their prey first," Zayn nods, easy as anything, thumb running the length of Harry, hardening before his eyes. "They break down the tissue and then suck it up like a straw."

Harry grimaces, which Zayn smiles at, because he knows Harry dislikes spiders. He also knows Harry hates when he teases, when he does the very thing Harry seems to enjoy so much. So Zayn presses into his crotch harder, moves his hand just a little faster, as Harry makes another pained expression.

The sun sets around them as they make their way to Walmart, for more supplies. Zayn plans on making Harry wait until they get home, to get off, but knowing Harry has a truck load of guns under the very seat they're sitting on, does something Zayn definitely never anticipated. Even though they're not loaded, even though they'd never shoot them with intent, Zayn feels… powerful. Untouchable. He vaguely thinks that maybe, he wouldn't mind holding one, to really see how it feels.

Harry screeches the tires into a parking space in front of the massive discount store, families walking around them to their cars, and turns to him expectantly, reaching for Zayn's jeans.

"Oh please. Like we'd get off here, with children present," Zayn rolls his eyes dramatic like, removing his hand to reach for the door.

"You little fucker," Harry hisses, as Zayn jumps out of the truck and towards the store, laughing his ass off, feeling the cash he stole from that gas station in his wallet.

Zayn heads to the men's section, grabbing black clothing as he finds it. Sweat pants and jeans, tshirts and hoodies, Harry flitting behind him, holding up clothing of his own. They don't necessarily have to wear black, but Zayn told Harry it would help them get in the right frame of mind. It'd help them match, feel the same, before they did anything. Harry also said that while they could just steal half the shit they need, it's probably best to do it the old fashioned way, considering what they have in Niall's truck just outside.

Zayn catches him adjusting his jeans just once, Harry's cheeks red.

Next they get duck tape, just in case anyone ever tries to get "handsy" with them. New shoes for each of them. Face masks, in the hunting section. Gloves for Harry, to match the pair Zayn's had for years. Beer for Niall.

Harry pushes the cart around the store, Zayn at his side, quietly taking in his surroundings.

As they pass the toy section, Zayn slows down. They watch a boy peek around one of the aisles, to the pink aisle to his left, where a little girl stands and stares at the various Barbie boxes. She bounces on her feet, her dress balled in her hands, as her eyes scan the dolls she so badly wants. Just then, the boy pops out of no where, screams with his hands up, right next to her.

The girl jumps, startles, her entire body moving away, as he begins to cry.

"I hate you Dustin," she wails, shoving at him. "I'm telling."

She runs away, her crying louder than ever.

"It was just a little jump!" he calls after her, chasing her down the aisle, probably searching for his parents before his sister can get to them first.

Harry moves to keep walking, but Zayn holds his arm out to stop him. Because he's an idiot, thinking of what it would feel like to hold a gun, and not thinking about what it means to hold a gun. He realizes, this is real and it's actually fucking happening.

"Are we bad people?" Zayn wonders, stilling them both.

"What?"

"Getting scared like that fucking sucks," Zayn shrugs, gestures to the Barbie aisle. "That fear. That pain behind your eyeballs, when your blood rushes too fast."

Harry's forehead creases up, like it does when he's thinking hard.

"We're about to scare people, Harry," Zayn whispers now, getting closer. "We have guns and we're buying masks and tape, and we're going to walk into a business, and scare the ever living shit out of someone."

"We're not hurting anyone," Harry reminds him, leaning in, leaning down, his hand on Zayn's lower back.

Harry's forehead still has that crease, even as he tries to convince himself with his own words.

"But they think we are," Zayn touches his arm. "They're going to see guns in our hands, or our pockets, and think we're about to kill them. That we're capable of hurting them. And if they call the fucking cops and we get arrested, that's it, Harry. This isn't a fucking watch or a shitty car. This is armed robbery."

"I know."

Zayn stares at him. Harry stares back.

"Come on, we got shit to talk about. Let's do it at home," Harry licks his lips, pushing the cart away.

Zayn follows.

They divide and conquer, paying separately for the items, knowing that if they threw all of it at one cashier together, they'd probably be arrested on the spot, it looks so sketchy.

They don't talk in the truck, as they drive. Unlike earlier, Zayn doesn't think about the guns under his ass, the ones with ammo right there in little boxes, from a brand Zayn's never seen, growing up in a house without firearms at the ready.

Harry does, however, pop a cassette into the tape deck of Niall's old Ford, a tape Zayn never saw Harry take, something he must've snagged from his mom's house.

Elvis starts singing and it's slow and sweet, all strings and piano keys. Just when Zayn is about to turn, to ask Harry if he's really sure, if they're really going to do this, Harry reaches over and tugs on his left ear, pulling the smile out of him, throwing the tension on his face out the window like a cigarette.

Zayn tugs on Harry's ear right back, his teeth in his lower lip, because they are fools, and they have rushed in, and it's been pretty good so far, all things considered.

They hold hands after that, as the highway rumbles beneath them.

Zayn knows, is pretty sure about then that he loves Harry, but he doesn't say so. Not yet.



***


Harry lets Zayn push him against the truck, right before he's about to reach in and grab his backpack and the plastic bags of stuff. He lets Zayn hold him against it with his entire body, arms on either side of him, face contorted. He lets Zayn have a minute.

Zayn looks at him, looks through him, as Harry brings his hands to Zayn's hips.

"Did you know," Harry says, leaning in to kiss Zayn, "that when you get anxious or stressed, your face looks like you just kicked a puppy?"

"No," Zayn shakes his head, with that look still on his face.

"It does," Harry nods mournfully, teasing.

"I don't think we should do it yet," Zayn exhales, plowing ahead. "I think we should wait. We need to get our heads right first. Or like, at least I do. I want us to do this, I want to follow through with the plan, I swear. I want that rush, the itch, the money, with you. I swear. I just… I don't want to be scared. And I don't want to fuck it up."

"Okay," Harry kisses him again.

"Okay?"

"I don't want to be scared either," Harry nods. "And I don't want you to doubt what we can do."

Zayn stares at him.

"So," Harry continues, "we'll get our shit together. Plan. Talk. Be ready."

"Just a few days," Zayn nods.

Harry knows Zayn by now, knows that Zayn, much like Harry, sets his mind and decides what he wants. He wouldn't let Harry talk him into something he didn't want to do himself. He knows Zayn likes the trouble, the knowledge that his actions could get him into all kinds of trouble. But he knows Zayn well enough to know that Zayn doesn't half ass, he doesn't get into anything he can't get out of, and he won't let Harry jump into anything without him at his side, steady and good.

"A few days, babe. We're fine," Harry says, his forefinger running down Zayn's stupidly angular cheekbone.

Zayn surges forward to kiss Harry, hard. Harry holds Zayn's face in his hands, his fucking gorgeous face, a touch of stubble under his fingers. He holds tight and licks at Zayn's tongue like they're both aching for it.

And maybe they are.



***


With the pressure off, with the impending first hit shoved to the side, Harry and Zayn both feel lighter. Free again. Like they just met the night before and want to keep touching in the shower, like their electric current just ignited.

Niall catches them in the kitchen the next day, Harry with his jeans around his ankles, as Zayn blows him against the stove. Harry still has a spatula in his hand, from the pancakes they were making, and Niall just about beats him with it.

"Come on," Niall yells, his good hand over his eyes, backing out of the kitchen. "Why is everyone in my house getting laid more than me? How is this fair?"

Zayn sits back on his haunches and laughs, his hands over his eyes, as Harry tugs at his hair.

"You're gonna at least finish," he whispers, before yelling out, "Sorry Ni! But we got you beer, I promise!"

Zayn sinks back onto Harry's cock, his teeth tucked behind his lips, as he tastes Harry again, that salty hot skin against his tongue. Harry finishes on his face, because he's a bastard. So as Zayn pulls Harry's jeans up for him, before their food burns, he rubs his beard against Harry's shoulder as he finishes their breakfast. Harry laughs, that excited squawk that sometimes bursts out of him.

Niall stomps back into the kitchen mere minutes later, as Harry holds up a plate for him in one hand and a beer in the other, a smile on his face.

"Fuckers," he mutters, grabbing from each hand, sitting across from Zayn at the table.

Once Niall's left for work, they get to work themselves.

Zayn follows Harry out the door, towards the back fence near the tree line, and he can't help but feel anxious. His dad never entertained the idea of guns, even for hunting, so to watch Harry casually load a fucking revolver right in front of him, is jarring to say the least. It's quiet, so quiet on the edge of town, nothing but the crickets singing around them, the sun beating down on their shoulders.

Zayn watches Harry slip the bullets into the chamber, one after the other, turning it, and Zayn is briefly reminded of how his hands feel when he's turning a lock, once he's cracked it, once it's his.

Suddenly it's not so foreign and not so different. This is just another rush, another thing they both enjoy, in different ways. Zayn wants to see it, wants to hear the blast, wants to see Harry hit a target.

Zayn shuffles his feet, antsy now, as Harry clicks the chamber into place and looks up at him.

"The kick back isn't too terrible, at least I don't think so," Harry shrugs, turning away from Zayn to look at the rudimentary target they set up across from them, a piece of paper tacked to a tree.

Zayn licks his lips now, watching.

"I'm not good at explaining this, so just… aim, I guess," Harry starts, his arms extended in front of him, right hand holding it, his left hand cupping it underneath. "Eyes right over the barrel. Straight."

"You look like you're on one of them cop shows," Zayn smiles, watching Harry square his shoulders and spread his feet.

"You into that kinda thing, Malik?" Harry smirks at him over his shoulder, eyebrows wagging, finger moving to the trigger.

"Hit that target and we'll see," Zayn crosses his arms.

And well, Zayn's into it.

Because Harry fires the gun, easy as anything, and hits the piece of paper no problem. He was right, the kick back didn't get him, Harry's arms barely moved, his body didn't fall back from the pressure. The sound jolts them both slightly, as it echoes around them like a whip crack, reverberating off the house and the neighboring trees. The shreds of paper flap in the wind, the bullet lodged into the bark, and Zayn's so fucking into it. He's into the sound and the sight of it, Harry with all that power rushing through him, coursing through his hands, up onto his face, as he turns to Zayn with a smile.

"Fuck," Zayn whispers, already propelling forward to take the gun. "I wanna try."

Harry hands it to him, gives Zayn his daddy's revolver, and it's a new sensation. It's heavier than Zayn thought it would be, maybe just as figuratively as it is literally. It's hot to the touch, which is nice, and Zayn recognizes, very much realizes, what he's about to do for the first time.

"Square up," Harry grabs his shoulders and turns him, "feet apart. You don't want to fall over. You want the shot to go straight, you don't want your arms surprised by the force of it or pull up at the last second. You don't want to miss."

Zayn nods, listening, Harry speaking directly into his ear, breath hot against his skin.

"Eyes over the barrel," Harry whispers, hands on Zayn's hips now. "You make it go where you want it to go. Feel it out, aim straight."

"Okay," Zayn bites his tongue, squinting with one eye slightly.

Harry holds his hips tighter.

"We're not going in loaded, right? Ever. But you need to hold it like you mean it. We need to mean all of it, babe. We're not hurting anyone. And even if we scare people, even if it's hard and we feel bad, and even if we're a little nervous… we take what we want. We take what's ours. We don't shoot. We run. And we don't get caught."

Zayn shivers slightly, his hands adjusting to the gun beneath his fingers.

"The rush. The surge. We want it, we need it, so we take it, right?"

"Right," Zayn nods.

"And if you ever need me to, you know… take the picture off the mantle for you, or whatever… I always will," Harry kisses his neck then, just once.

Zayn nods again, because he's ready now. He's ready.

Harry steps back, steps away and lets him go. And even though Zayn has never done it before, never thought about this exactly, he does know this feeling all too well. The feeling he gets right before he pulls on a pair of gloves and slips into the back room of a store, or an office, when he kneels in front of a safe or a lock box and sets his mind to it. It's the feeling right before he takes, before he grabs and runs, before he hot wires a car, before he speeds off.

Zayn shifts his feet again, a little, sets his shoulders, adjusts his right hand, blows the hair off his forehead. Finger on the trigger. Blinks twice. Presses. Pressure. Harder.

Fires.

Zayn feels it from the tips of his fingers all the way to his chest, the sheer energy flowing from the gun to his body, fast, so fast he barely breathes. The sound is identical to Harry's shot, the boom ringing around them, louder in Zayn's ears this close to the gun. But he doesn't fall over, he doesn't lose it, he sees the small shred of paper still stuck to the tree blowing in the wind.

He aimed a gun and shot a bullet into a tree, slightly to the right and above where Harry's hit. He did it, with intent and meaning, and if he could take the rush of adrenaline coursing through his veins and bottle it into whiskey, he'd take shots of it every fucking morning to get out of bed.

Zayn lowers his hands finally, and turns to look at Harry.

Harry just smiles.

It's another spark.

And it's not about fear, it's about doing what they've always done, and taking what they need.

They're almost ready.



***


Harry thinks it's part of the game they play, the "did you know" back and forth they've adopted since that first night.

Most people, at least in Harry's experience, tend to tell stories or anecdotes or facts because they want to feel smart, or better, bigger badder stronger, when in a discussion or argument. Half of what a person does while "listening" to the other half of a conversation is preparing their next line, the next chunk of their soliloquy. It's exhausting.

But with Zayn, Harry never feels like they're trying to one-up the other for real, trying to make the other feel stupid for not knowing something. It's simpler than that, innocent. It's sitting with someone and openly saying facts, "did you knows" for fun, to enlighten, to play.

It's showing each other, presenting, wowing, with their skills, those last few days of lead up.

It's Zayn walking into a drug store and sneaking into the back hallway, Harry holding onto his jeans pocket, feet jumping slightly. Zayn picks the lock to the storeroom, shows Harry how to listen for the clicks, to feel the pins inside the lock shift into place. Harry wants to try, he always wants to try, so he holds the hook pick, bites his tongue, as Zayn bites at his ear and tells him how good he looks.

"You never want to damage it, see?" Zayn tells him, touching Harry's wrist as he takes the pick back, shifting it the right way.

And Harry does see, because Zayn's a much better teacher than Harry ever was.

It's Harry walking into a gas station, Zayn holding onto his jeans pocket, feet steady and set. Harry leans on the counter and asks the girl, Megan with the freckles, if she can go check in the back room for extra Camel Silvers. It's the smile Harry wears, the smile Zayn mimics, two boys staring at this girl like she's on fire, like she's beautiful and amazing and the shelter in their storm of needing nicotine. So when she walks into the back with her neck red, Harry grabs four boxes of Zayn's favorite brand of cigarettes because he can, and he wants Zayn to be happy. Zayn could watch Harry charm the pants off people who don't know any better all day, and some days it feels like he does, when they still do a few shifts at the bar across town, when they're bored and waiting to go back to Niall's and practice more.

It's Zayn showing Harry how to hot wire his dad's old truck, in the barn when Harry's mom is gone again. Pop the steering wheel apart. Find the battery wires. Red. Strip the ends.

"Wait for the spark," Zayn says, "You'll feel it."

And Harry does feel it, because the live wires between his fingers connect and it's another burn, another rush.

Zayn revs the engine with his foot, roars it to life, and Harry shoves his tongue in his mouth.

It's the two of them sitting on Niall's living room floor, in just their boxers, sweating their asses off, practicing over and over on two old locks, the hook picks and wrenches in their hands, Zayn's cigarette smoke billowing around them.

It's fucking and sucking and tasting, and even though it's sort of a game, it also isn't.



***


Harry feels wrung out, like a damp dish towel all nasty and limp, as he lays on top of Niall's made bed in a pair of briefs. It's so fucking hot, one of the hottest days of the summer so far, and it's not even mid July. The beads of sweat drip, too slowly, down from his hair line towards his neck, teasing him, because his arms feel limp and he's too tired to wipe them away.

Harry told Niall he'd help him all afternoon, fixing the old boards on the back porch that had started to warp. Zayn left without saying much, as they took a break to drink a few beers, his sunglasses perched on his nose, his good boots on his feet. Niall stood next to Harry with a hammer in his good hand, as Zayn walked towards the road.

"You can take my truck, idiot," Niall sniffed, wiping dirt on his forehead instead of removing the sweat like he intended.

"Nah, feel like walkin," Zayn shrugged, walking backwards, staring at Harry.

Harry knew what he was about to do.

So Harry let Niall direct him how to pull up the boards on the porch. He made dinner, before showering and scrubbing the day away, not that it mattered much as he continued to sweat his ass off well into the night. Niall left for the bar, said Harry should join him instead of waiting around like a "goddamn lovesick fool" for Zayn to get back, but he didn't much feel like it. He felt like he and Zayn both were mentally preparing for the next day, when they were finally going to do something with their plan. Somehow. Somewhere.

Harry folds his hands on his bare chest, and closes his eyes, to have a think.

He eventually hears the front screen slam, wood against wood, boots scuffling against the floor, then on the rickety stairs that lead to the cramped bedrooms with bad paint.

"Figured," Zayn says with a laugh, making his way into the room, toeing at Harry's foot to shake him.

"Long day," Harry sighs, eyes still closed. "Don't let Niall put you to work, I tell you what. Manual labor with that asshole ain't worth it."

"Alright," Zayn laughs, making his way to the bathroom.

Harry dozes as Zayn showers, as they continue their streak of being apart for the day, in their own heads. A small, ever so slight breeze makes its way through the open window, and if Harry had the energy, he'd go stick his head out it, just to feel it on his skin even faster.

But he doesn't, he just keeps his eyes closed, even as Zayn makes his way into the room, humming a little, getting dressed.

"You too tired to talk?" Zayn tries again, knocking at Harry's foot.

And Harry sort of is, he thinks, as he cracks open his eyes. But then he remembers what Zayn Malik looks like, how he's sort of obsessed with Zayn's face and his body and his soul, standing over him, smiling down, and Harry slowly sits up.

Zayn moves away to stand across from him, leans against the dresser a little, in boxers and a black tank top, some old tshirt he cut the sleeves from, and he's staring at Harry intently through the damp hair over his eyes.

Harry stares back, waiting. Waiting for whatever Zayn has to say.

"Got you a present today," Zayn juts his chin to the window, face set.

Harry suddenly finds his second wind, because he's up and off the bed in no time at all, to really stick his head out it now. And there, down past the end of the driveway, tucked and hidden slightly near the tree line behind the house, is an old black Mustang with a busted window. The moon hits the hood just right, shows the dents in the frame. Harry stares at it, at the prize, Zayn's project for the day, and he can't help the smile that creeps onto his lips.

Zayn comes up behind him, grabs his waist tight, breathes into his neck, inhaling Harry's scent.

"So I had this epiphany today," Zayn begins, easy as anything, as Harry brings his hands to Zayn's fingers around his middle. "And I think this is how we'll be able to do the hard stuff."

Harry waits, let's Zayn collect the rest of his thoughts.

"I was on this side street in town, right? The sun had just gone down. I was walking, kept my head down so no one paid me any mind, and I saw this house with a blue Buick in the driveway. It was all old and dusty, and it was perfect, right? I could wire it in my sleep."

Zayn runs his hands up and down Harry's sides, as they look out the window together.

"And as I was walking towards it, I knew, I figured at least, that it was some little old lady's car, probably the car she took to church on Sundays," Zayn kisses Harry's neck. "And I felt bad taking it, a little, even as I walked closer to it. But we need a car, and it would've worked just fine, so I made the decision."

Harry glances down at the Mustang, confused.

"And then this asshole, some fuckin teenager in a Mustang, flew around the corner, music blaring, and parked it in the driveway across the street. He almost hit a cat, I swear, he was going fast and didn't give a shit," Zayn kisses Harry's neck again. "And then it was like I knew. I knew what to do."

"Yeah," Harry understands now, knows Zayn's thoughts as they catch up to him.

"If we're gonna take shit, big shit, we make the choice to fuck the right people over. If we can," Zayn nods, like it makes all the sense in the world. "I turned around, walked right over to the Mustang and got in the driver's seat. I wired that car faster than I've ever wired anything in my life, and I brought it home. And that's our car. For tomorrow."

"We don't even know where we're going," Harry smiles, holding Zayn tighter. "We don't even know what place we're gonna hit."

"Exactly. We can't just rob a bank. Not yet. You know this area, Harry. You know this county. Where is somewhere small? Where should we go? Who can we take from and not care about it? If we're gonna walk in with guns in our hands and inflict that fear, the fear that fucking sucks, where should we go?"

Harry's brow furrows even further. He thinks. Hard. Zayn is challenging him, forcing him to find the right teenager speeding with a Mustang, as it were, and if Harry were a better person, he wouldn't have an answer.

But Harry smiles.

"Brownfield," he finally turns around to face Zayn fully, holding on to his arms. "There's a guy in Brownfield who fucked my uncle over once, who sold him a piece of shit guitar from his pawn shop. Sold it to him like it was nothing, like it was the best guitar he'd ever buy, and when it broke a day later, my uncle never got a dime back. Total asshole."

Zayn smiles at him, licks his lip.

"Well alright," he nods, "there's our answer. We hit it in the morning, before anyone realizes the car is stolen, when he opens up, when he's not expecting us. And we do it, just like we said we would, right?"

"Right," Harry nods, excited now. "And we don't shoot, or say anything to give us away, or get caught. Right?"

"Right."

"Eyes open, mouths shut, no one gets hurt."

"Especially not us," Zayn smiles.

Harry leans in, ready to stop talking, to taste Zayn after a few hours of nothing, when Zayn presses a hand to his chest, stopping him.

"Got you another present," Zayn says against Harry's open mouth, lips ghosting against lips, hot breath.

And at that, Zayn steps back towards the bed, slow as anything, reaching behind his head to pull off his shirt. Harry's used it, by now, Zayn revealing himself, the skin over his bones and muscles, the way it moves and shifts as he lifts his arms or doubles over in laughter or tenses as he comes. Harry knows his stomach and his chest and his belly button, knows every inch of skin on him, so he's surprised that now his breath gets caught in his throat.

There, as Zayn tugs down on his briefs, Harry sees it. There on Zayn's side, fresh and raised on his skin, is a revolver. Harry's dad's revolver, the gorgeous Smith & Wessen with the detailing on the grip, the engraving on the barrel, the .44 from the safe worth more than either of their entire lives.

"I get new tattoos sometimes, for the big stuff," Zayn stares him down, slipping his briefs off entirely.

Harry looks at Zayn's naked body, up and down, and he feels like a fucking lion about to pounce on an antelope. Because the revolver looks beautiful against Zayn's skin, and it's a piece of Harry that Zayn only just discovered, and maybe it's the one thing Harry always wanted but never realized, to see someone branded with him, because of him, for him, and maybe he'll need to return the favor someday.

Harry steps closer, slowly, already hardening in his briefs like a teenager, and Zayn just continues to stare at him. Waiting.

"M'gonna fuck you," Harry points at him, eyes set.

Zayn blinks.

"Alright."

It's all so hot after that, like it always is, but amped up just that much more.

Harry reaches for Zayn's face and holds him, their tongues swirling, messy, needy, as Zayn claws at Harry's bare chest. Harry feels Zayn's cock against the fabric of own briefs, teasing him, as he bites at Zayn's lip.

Zayn's hands scramble to remove the last bit of clothing covering Harry, fingers dipping into the waistband and shoving them down his thighs, their mouths hot and wet against each other, not moving much beyond to breathe. He takes Harry in his hand for just a minute, sliding his fingers over his wet head, tongue darting out to lick Harry's top lip, where he's already sweating, before dropping him.

Zayn steps away, swiftly turns around, to get on the bed on all fours, since they gave up giving a shit about fucking on Niall's bed a long time ago, and immediately falls down to his forearms. It's about then that Harry nearly has a stroke.

He had told Harry once, in a heated moment as he fingered Harry open, that he'd touched himself before of course, but he had only let another guy touch him once, and he hated it. It wasn't good, wasn't fun, he stressed too much about how it would hurt. So for Harry to see Zayn willing and ready now, with a fresh tattoo on his hip for Harry's sake, is a lot to take in.

But Harry gets the lube from his jeans on the floor, a smile on his face, before climbing up behind Zayn, eyes traveling from the top of his spine, down to his gorgeous ass, spread open and waiting.

"Did you know," Zayn huffs a breath into his forearm, as Harry runs a finger down his ass, "that a guy once bought a bunch of negative film at a garage sale, and it ended up being original Ansel Adams works?"

Harry laughs lightly, kissing him at the base of his spine, knowing Zayn is distracting himself.

"No, babe. I didn't know that," Harry says sweetly, running his forefinger from the top of Zayn's ass down to his perineum, slowly, still just testing the waters.

"Was worth something like half a billion dollars," Zayn exhales, hands gripping his own hair, cheek against the bed.

"Can't wait for us to be fucking rich," Harry kisses his hole, once, helping with the distraction, as Zayn curls in a bit. "Can't wait to take all of it, yeah? Everything we want? Us two little shit heads who want what isn't ours?"

"Yeah," Zayn breathes, as Harry lightly runs his tongue around his hole.

"Can't wait… to see you with a gun… in your hand," Harry whispers now, between long licks, bottom to top, over the ring of muscle the color of sweet caramel. "See you hold it, like you were made for it, babe. Both of us. Walking in there… demanding it… Easy as pie. Because fuck everyone, right?"

Zayn's thighs shake, as Harry tongues him open, slowly, so fucking slowly, Harry's jaw starts to ache.

Harry slowly works his forefinger into Zayn, alongside his tongue, as Zayn moves and shifts, slightly away from it. So Harry grabs for his hip, the other hip not covered with fresh ink, to still him, to hold him against his face.

Zayn lets it happen, goes with it, and Harry almost smiles.

He licks around Zayn's rim, his finger pressing in, feels the muscle loosening, trusting him, feeling the intrusion. It's wet and hot and Zayn tastes like a fucking ice cream cone, Harry swears it, as his nose bumps against his skin in a rhythm now. Zayn's toes curl, his body shakes, but he doesn't pull away, he doesn't move. Harry grips his hip tighter now, pulls him back onto his tongue and finger, before adding a second.

"Fuck," Zayn grunts into the mattress, voice muffled, his back arching, the stretch burning.

"Did you know," Harry tries again, "that Jennifer Lopez insured her own ass?"

Zayn's body stills at that, entirely, as Harry smiles against his skin.

"How in fucking Christ do you know that?" Zayn turns his head, serious now, speaking into the open room.

It works because Harry slides a third finger in, Zayn's hole wet and open now, stretched and fluttering against Harry's tongue.

"Mother fucking…" Zayn starts, hands smacking the mattress, Harry spitting onto his rim, sliding his fingers in and out.

Harry knows he's ready now, knows he can't keep teasing, for fear of his cock exploding off his body entirely. So he slides his fingers out slowly, and taps at Zayn's thigh to sit up. He does, barely, his arms shaking as he pushes up onto his hands, his head hanging between them, breathing deeply.

Harry can't help but stare, at how wet Zayn is, how his hole flutters and moves as Zayn does, ready for whatever Harry wants.

Harry bites at his ass, once, before sitting back.

"Want you on top," Harry bites his lip, shifting Zayn, to lay on the bed now. "Want to see your face."

Zayn nods, sort of, his head still hanging down, his cock hard and aching between his legs.

Harry puts his hands behind his head, laying there waiting for Zayn to come back to himself, nudging the lube with his knee towards Zayn's hand. And eventually, after another minute, Zayn fully sits up onto his knees now. He's sweating, his face flushed, his eyebrows creased up like they get sometimes, before he grabs for the lube with an unsteady hand.

"Get us wet," Harry nods, before then nodding at his cock, telling Zayn what to do.

Zayn nods, flips the cap and wets his palm, before rubbing it on Harry, first at the head, then slowly working his hand down a few times. He drizzles more onto his fingers and reaches behind himself to rub at Harry's handiwork.

Harry watches as Zayn's eyes roll back, as he works a finger in himself, feeling the sensation, of being used and needy all at once, before climbing onto Harry. And then Harry watches Zayn's ribs, the skin across them, across his hip, as the revolver made of ink shifts and moves as Zayn swiftly grabs his cock and lines it up. Harry has to bite his lip as Zayn lowers himself, as he sinks onto Harry's dick like he's been doing it for years.

Zayn's eyes fall shut as he balances his hands on Harry's chest, nails digging into skin, palms sweaty, thighs shaking as he bottoms out. Harry watches Zayn's face, the twitches of it, the way he licks his lips.

"Shit," Harry huffs, too hot, too crazy now.

"You…" Zayn tries to speak, shaking his head, eyes closed.

"Tight," Harry can barely speak either, fingers running up Zayn's thighs, the hair there like silk.

"Touch me," Zayn finally huffs out, as he slowly lifts up and then back down, setting his own pace.

Harry knows then, that neither of them will last, not by a fucking long shot, so he quickly reaches for Zayn's cock, spitting into his palm as he goes. Zayn has never looked better, Harry thinks, as he fucks himself on Harry's lap, moving his hands from Harry's chest, back to Harry's thighs behind his back.

Zayn arches again, groans, when he shifts and makes Harry's cock hit that one spot inside himself Harry knows pretty well. He grips Harry's knees now, leans back so Harry can see him better, can see where their bodies meet, the slick sound bouncing around them, as Zayn clenches over and over.

Harry knows he's almost there, would bet his life on it, so he speeds up his hand, grips Zayn's cock and twists his wrist in just the right way so his thumb catches, and that's it. Zayn's spine contorts, his body curls to the right, as he shoots his load into Harry's hand and grunts through it.

Harry can't help but smile, his feet tensing, as Zayn breathes through it, still fucking himself in small little movements as he comes down, not letting up, not getting off.

"M'gonna come," Harry exhales.

And he does, up inside Zayn before either of them can think better of it, his hand finally falling away from Zayn's dick to grab his arm instead. He feels the white hot surge of it, as he pumps up into Zayn, the wetness suctioning against his cock.

Too hot, too crazy.

Zayn doesn't even move for another minute, just sits on Harry until it's too much, too sensitive for both of them. Their breathing evens out about the same time as Zayn opens his eyes and looks down at Harry, like he's drunk on it, hazy and slow and just a little too heavy.

Harry cleans them up afterwards, helps Zayn put on a pair of fresh briefs without Zayn ever having to get up from the bed. Harry is careful to let them sit low, so the fabric can't rub against the revolver on his skin, his ink, Harry's ink.

He kisses it, even. Just once. It's still hot to the touch, still a little red and inflamed. And it's probably stupid, and Zayn would probably smack the top of his head for it, if he were awake, but Harry can't help himself.

He settles in next to Zayn, as Zayn sniffs and leans up, resting his lips against Harry's neck, already in a deep sleep. Harry feels the warmth beneath his palm on Zayn's back, and it's good.

They're ready.



***


It's like their final motions, the last few movements of the plan, are scenes in a movie. Like it's not real, like it's not Zayn's real, honest life. It's like he's watching it from far away, with a bucket of popcorn in his lap and grease on his fingers.

He's a thief, a young man with a record and a parole officer, and he shouldn't be this amazed by the whole thing, but he is.

It's simple, really. Once they start. Once they decide and the spark ignites the fuse, burning down for only a few minutes, before blasting. It's simple once Niall leaves early for work, drives off in his truck before sunrise, not having noticed the Mustang tucked near the trees, or the bags they hid in the hall closet.

It's simple. They dress in black. Jeans and hoodies. They put their masks and gloves in their pockets.

The two small black pistols shoved in their waistbands.

Zayn wires the car.

Harry sits in the passenger seat. Directs Zayn to the small town 30 minutes away, down 380. It's a quiet ride, the radio low.

Park outside Ray's Pawn. Easy as pie.

They stare at each other, take in the man sitting on the seat opposite, with his black clothes and unloaded gun tucked away. They touch hands for a minute. Steady.

"Eyes open, mouths shut, no one gets hurt," Zayn states, pulling on his gloves.

"Especially us," Harry exhales, tugging the mask over his face.



***


Without a backwards glance, Zayn Malik and Harry Styles leave the Mustang of a stranger running, exit it, and walk into the pawn shop like they were about to stroll the aisles as a loving couple, and glance at random products, like it's a lovely afternoon made for browsing.

Ray sees them coming, recognizes what's happening the second two men in black masks walk in his door, their hands empty, but not for long.

Harry walks to the counter, Zayn right behind him, as they both stare down the man who fucked over a Styles once.

"Shit," Ray hisses, his drawl pronounced, his long beard fluttering around his breath.

This has happened before. He's been robbed, been taken over before, and it ain't the most pleasant experience. Cops are fucking idiots as it is, let alone when they gotta come into your place of business and look around for "clues."

Harry looks down at the register, which has the key sticking right out of it. A black safe sits below and behind the counter, plain as day, and if Harry weren't here to rob him, he'd probably take pity on a dumb ass like Ray and tell him to wise up. You're fuckin asking for it, man. Come on.

"Open the drawer. And the safe," Harry says clearly, voice level.

"Do not reach for anything under the counter besides the safe," Zayn adds. Clear. Level.

Ray stares at them, really tries to see through to their eyes, in slits, the only thing visible through the masks. Brown eyes on one. Light eyes on the other.

The boys see him, they know what he's doing, as his eyes bounce back to Harry.

Zayn is the first to reach in his jeans, the first to grab his gun because he doesn't like anyone looking at Harry like that. But he doesn't hold it up, doesn't point it at Ray. He just, easy as anything, holds it in his right, gloved hand, right there on the counter.

Harry follows, grabs his own gun, holds it at his side.

Don't make me point nothin at your head, and I won't. Just do as we say.

Ray was right, their hands wouldn't be empty for long, they never are, so he gives up. He sighs, turns the key to the register, pops it open, and removes the entire cash drawer to set on the glass counter covered with stickers and dirt. He turns his body half way, so they don't think he's pullin a fast one or doing anything crazy, and punches in the code to the safe. He places the stacks of money, still wrapped up from the bank, next to the cash drawer, and looks up again.

"Well g'won then," he crosses his arms, sitting back on the stool.

Zayn stuffs the gun back into his jeans as Harry backs away to cover him. Zayn grabs the money from the drawer, the hundreds, fifties, and twenties, before stacking the money into his left hand. He gets a firm grip, a good hold, savors the feeling for a minute, before glancing at Harry.

Harry nods to him, has Zayn walk out first, in a slight run, as Harry backs away, eyes on Ray.

Harry keeps the gun at his side, stares him down, until his back hits the door.

With a final salute, a final flick of his hand, Harry smiles behind the mask, and slips out after Zayn, who revs the engine.

They're back on 380 before Ray, of Ray's Pawn in Brownfield, Texas, even has the phone in his hand. Their masks are off and they're panting, sweating bullets and laughing, before the Texas authorities even know what happened.

They dump the car in a ditch outside of town, run fast as they strip the hoodies off, and are in Niall Horan's living room before noon.

Zayn sucks on Harry's tongue, on the floor and everything, their money in stacks next to them, and it's much too hot to go this fast, for their hands to be this frantic as the tear into each other, but they can't stop.

Because heat brings out the crazy.

 

  
 

Chapter Text

This Life Of Sin 3

This Life Of Sin
by thisonegoes
artwork by Roxie at babyxnanas.com

 
The first thing Zayn notices, the first thing his eyes catch once he comes back to himself, are the scratches across his hands.

They're small, across his knuckles, up to his wrists, red, inflamed. Scratches from a shrub or a tree, hardly anything, just on the wrong side of painful in that searing sort of way. The kind of scratches that shouldn't hurt, but do, the ones that remarkably burn worse than true injuries, nature's way of reminding us how weak human skin really is. They're already scabbing over, the skin around them sealing up, minimal blood loss.

But they're there, and as Zayn flexes his hand, extends his fingers as he sits on the couch with Harry's head in his lap, they move like lines on the old television they had in their garage. Zayn used to sit on the metal stool near the work bench, halfway paying attention to "I Love Lucy" reruns, as Yaser's feet kicked out from under the car for what felt like hours on end, cursing up a storm when he got oil on his face, to make Zayn laugh.

Back when he was a child, when they were close, Yaser used to take the brunt of it, when they fixed the car, even if Zayn moved his hand the opposite way, or misplaced the wrench. Yaser never raised his voice or made Zayn feel bad for doing something wrong, even after saying the instructions out loud a few times. And Zayn still appreciates that, the way his father taught him lessons while physically and literally teaching him skills.

It carried over into everything, Yaser Malik leading the way for Zayn.

At the cabin his coworker owned, on weekends when they could afford to cram into the car and drive up to Lake Buchanan, Yaser used to wade the waters ahead of Zayn, to tell him how far he could walk so that his feet would always be touching, to show him it was safe. He would hold the canoe paddles in his hands, both of them, as Zayn clutched the sides of it to get his bearings, to steady himself and his breathing, before his dad handed one over. It's alright, I'll show you how. And before long, Zayn held Waliyha's hand to show her the best place to run into the lake, where their feet would always touch, where it was safe, how to paddle, Yaser smiling with Safaa on his shoulders. Maybe he knew Zayn needed that.

No matter what it was, it seemed like Yaser would teach Zayn, so Zayn could teach the girls.

"Gotta look at the landscape," Yaser would say, over the hood of a car, looking out over a lake, or a road, or a field, his hand on Zayn's shoulder. "Feel it out first. See?"

"Yessir," Zayn would nod, because even if he didn't see, he always tried.

As Zayn looks down at the scratches on his hands, he thinks of Yaser, of when they were close. Because it was such a Yaser thing to do, a Yaser lesson, and Zayn knows.

When they left the Mustang in a ditch off the main road heading into the town, after making sure every trace of them was removed, they ran for the tree line quick as anything, masks and gloves in their hands, money stuffed in their pockets. They were high off adrenaline, happy and giddy, but focused, as they ran towards Niall's house.

Zayn made sure to go ahead of Harry, to push through the branches and leaves, hands in front of his face, shifting and moving the brush away from them, Harry on his tail. He made sure to go first, to lead the way, to show Harry where to step. To show him how. To keep him safe.

Zayn glances down at Harry in his lap, cheek against his bare thigh, hot breath on his skin, and he knows Harry doesn't have a scratch on him.

It's a new feeling, a new sensation for Zayn, as he stares at Harry in the low light of the TV that night. Even when he scrounged in a dumpster for food, or worked his ass off on a ranch to have extra money, it ended up serving Zayn more than it served anyone else. When they didn't need him anymore, when his job was done, the decisions he made were mostly selfish. So this, whatever this wave of emotion he feels as he stares at Harry, is unbelievably new.

Zayn has never felt such an overwhelming sense of protectiveness before now. He's never felt this kind of visceral, raw need to protect, to hold, to care for. He didn't realize it until that guy in the pawn shop stared at Harry's eyes a beat too long, giving him that feeling in his gut, the feeling that made him reach for a fucking gun. Zayn held a gun. For real. Harry doesn't need his help, doesn't need to be shown where to step, and half the time he's the one leading Zayn somewhere, everywhere, every morning when they wake up.

But this is what Zayn knows.

So maybe he gets it now, what his dad did all those years, for him and his sisters, protecting them before protecting himself, even when they didn't need it. Maybe that's why Zayn reached into a dumpster. Maybe that's why afterwards, he never let himself do it again. Maybe he should've taken a photo from his own mantle back home. Maybe some day he will.

Maybe when he feels brave enough to face Yaser again, after what feels like years of being apart, maybe he'll say he's sorry. For getting caught, for not seeing the landscape in front of him, for being a thief. Maybe he'll call home soon. To check in. Before they go off and do it again.

Zayn knows, they'll do it again. Soon. Regardless of where they come from, their reasons for being the way they are, the lives they've lived up until now. The fear, the guilt of inflicting fear, the anxiety of being unsure with a gun in his hand. It's all gone. They will do it again. It's only a matter of time.

Zayn runs his hand through Harry's hair, the mess across his forehead, slightly damp from the heat. Harry sniffs in his sleep, just once, as he moves his face against Zayn's thigh. He decides how nice it is, to be on the other side of this. Zayn knows he tends to fall asleep quickly, before Harry, rarely reflecting on his life anymore. It's nice to have this time to himself, to look at the scratches, to think of his family, to look at Harry, and know they could do this. Because they need to, because they're selfish and crazy and reckless, two loners with no place to go just yet.

Because it's about the money, the rush, the itch. It's about a lot of things.

But with Harry's face against his skin, for Zayn, it's about them.



***


They jolt awake when the front door slams against the wall.

"Boys!"

Zayn's neck aches something awful, as he brings his head up from the back of the couch where he fell asleep sitting up, Harry's head still in his lap.

"The fuck," Harry groans, eyes still closed, as he shifts his body.

"Boys. My boys. I missed you," Niall stumbles into the living room, kicking off his boots, one hitting the coffee table with a thud.

They haven't seen Niall all day, since he left early that morning for work and they hopped in their stolen car. He clearly went to the bar after punching the clock, probably with his cousins or guys from the mill, jacked up from the heat, whiskey on his fingers, smoke in his hair.

They wondered when they'd see him, in hushed voices as they sat on the couch after coming together in a rush. Their skin burned as they got off together, with their money hidden under their asses in an old shoe box.

But the feeling didn't last long, when no soon after, they sat side by side in their briefs, biting their nails, not completely convinced that a sheriff cruiser wasn't about to show up on the front lawn, sirens blaring, asking them to walk out with their hands on their heads. They spent all day on the couch, blood pumping, first straight to their dicks but then to their brains, waiting. Wondering. Until Harry fell asleep and Zayn thought about his daddy wading into a lake ahead of him. Until Zayn eventually fell asleep with his hand in Harry's hair.

Niall probably would've brought them down first thing, eased their minds some, but he's finally home now. And Zayn is grateful.

"I was worried y'all woulda been fuckin in my bed," Niall smiles, his eyes hooded over, tongue darting out to lick at his dry lips.

"Never," Harry yawns, even making a feeble little cross over his heart, before shifting, to fall back asleep.

Niall makes a sound, somewhere between fuck off and a grunt, laughter mixed in somewhere.

"Come on, cowboy," Zayn stands, stretches, grabbing for his arm. "Let's get you water and a pillow."

Zayn sits on the kitchen counter, picking at the scratches on the back of his hand, as Niall drinks three full glasses of water. He breathes through it, heaving slightly like only drunk people can, sucking down God's magic elixir to ease the headache sure to follow in the morning.

Niall surveys Zayn sitting before him, gulping his water, eyes set.

"M'glad you got him," Niall helplessly wipes at his face with his good arm, grabbing for the water again. "Good together."

Zayn just smiles, looks down at his lap.

"One of the guys at the bar, said he saw you two with linked fingers last week, in town. Saw you all 'loved up' and touching. Called you queer," Niall says, voice level finally.

Zayn shrugs at that, because that sure ain't new. He's from Killeen, a city about a million times larger than Tahoka, where he had about a split 50/50 experience, growing up liking boys. But Texas is still a red state unto itself, where some people can handle him and his life, and some can't, and it's just something he pushes to the back of his mind. His family seemed fine with it, and he never wanted to go to prom anyhow.

"Fuck him then," Zayn looks up at Niall, telling him with his eyes that it's okay.

"S'what I told him," Niall nods, slapping at Zayn's cheek a little. "And I only tell you, because like I said, m'glad you have each other. It's good to be loved up. You know? Fuck everyone else. Fuck everything. S'what I always say. So just… be good. Together."

Zayn holds onto his good shoulder.

"We will," Zayn lies.

"I mean be good to each other, not be good, because lord knows you can't keep those goddamn sticky fingers out of cash drawers," Niall rolls his eyes, pushing away towards the kitchen door.

Zayn laughs then, big and bright. Niall gets them, and it's always refreshing to be reminded of it.

"He needs someone who wants him, looks out for him, always, even when his stubborn ass acts like he doesn't," Niall continues, feet trudging up the stairs, Zayn's hand on his lower back so he doesn't fall. "And you remind him to hold onto you when your face does that thing. Remind him to show you which way to go. 'Case you get lost."

Zayn smiles, but Niall can't see it, as he pushes at his bedroom door, the wood sticking like it always does.

"Loved up bastards," Niall sighs, his voice so low Zayn can barely hear.

"Bed," Zayn points to it.

"And I'll paint," Niall finishes, closing his eyes, huffing out a breath as he falls face-first on his bed. "I'll paint the whole fuckin house, promise."

"Sure you will," Zayn whispers, slapping Niall's cheek in return.

As he makes his way back down the stairs to Harry, he thinks the term "loved up" is about the dumbest thing he's ever heard. It's something old grannies say, something only assholes in shitty bars going nowhere say, and mean it. It's ridiculous.

But he is, and they are, aren't they.

So he makes the decision to shake at Harry, instead of letting him sleep on his lap again.

"Stop," Harry groans, his face in the couch cushion, slapping at Zayn's hand. "What?"

"Get up," Zayn smiles, pushing his arm again.

"Why?" Harry whines, like a child.

"Wanna talk to you," Zayn sits, pulling at his hand, until Harry exhales and sits up.

Zayn nods to his lap, his eyes bright, not at all tired anymore, as Harry stares at him like he's fucking crazy. And maybe he is, but Harry indulges him and climbs into his lap, thighs on either side of his, both of them in just their sweat pants.

Harry's hair hangs in his eyes, long and curly and sweet, sleep in his eyes, cushion marks along his cheek, and Zayn very nearly bites his lip to shut himself up, before he gives it all away. Finally.

"What do you wanna talk about?" Harry yawns, not angry, just quiet.

Zayn stares at him.

"And it can't wait until tomorrow?"

"No."

Harry rolls his eyes with a smile, but settles further, hands on Zayn's neck.

"Alright," Harry relents, thinking. "It was easy, right? We did it. We did it together and we didn't seem scared. Or nervous. And we were good. We did so good."

Zayn nods, but it's not what he wanted to talk about.

"And if we did it today, we can do it all the time. I think we should. We proved we can. So we'll keep going, we'll get to that bank in no time," Harry smiles at him.

"Yeah," Zayn nods again.

Harry knows Zayn though, can read his face like he can read a room, and sees right through him. He reaches up to cup Zayn's jaw in his hands, looks at him, does the thing with his face that Zayn does, the thing with his eyebrows. And Zayn laughs.

Harry just waits.

"Niall," Zayn starts, hands tighter on Harry's hips. "He said you need someone to look out for you."

Harry bites his lip.

"And he said I need to tell you… to show me which way to go, if we get lost."

"Well alright," Harry smiles again, loosening up.

"He also said we're loved up," Zayn stares harder. "Said we're all loved up, us two."

And as Zayn takes in Harry, the light from the TV bouncing off his hair and skin, turning him a slight shade of blue, he prays Harry gives him something, says the thing he hasn't heard from another human being in a long time, something he's never heard from a man before. Because if Niall can see it, if an asshole from town can see it, then Harry has to, he must.

You feel the same. I know you do. Right?

Harry leans in and kisses him, slow and soft, much softer than the kisses they bit into each other hours before on this couch, their black clothes falling to the floor as they fell onto it, Zayn jerking them off together in one hand, high on the energy and light and power that came from their innocent little hands holding guns and taking.

The kiss is sweet, like it's their first time, like Zayn's first kiss behind a closet door with Amy Johansen in sixth grade, slight tongue, warm.

"You ever think you woulda robbed anyone like this? That you could?" Harry says against his mouth.

Zayn shakes his head, nervous now.

"Me either," Harry leans back to look at him. "I never thought I'd ever do this. Be this. Ever."

Zayn stares at him.

"And then you pulled my face back from lead paint, said to be careful," Harry smiles, fingers running along the scratches on the back of Zayn's wrists. "Looked out for me, even then."

Zayn exhales, finally, after a century, because he gets it now.

"You make me brave," Harry kisses him again. "You make me crazy, do crazy things. The heat got us, of course. It always does. But it's more than that."

"You make me brave, too," Zayn whispers, kissing Harry now.

"So yeah, babe. We're loved up."

"Alright," Zayn smiles.

Zayn thinks that's it, thinks it's enough, the words and the smiles, all mixed up together on this couch, Harry's heat radiating off him like a furnace. It's too hot, and he wants nothing more than to have Harry's head in his lap again, like earlier, asleep and quiet and his.

But Harry always throws him off, always finds a way to surprise him.

"I think I loved you right away," Harry says on an exhale, content, into Zayn's neck now. "First time I made you laugh."

Zayn snakes his arms around Harry's chest, holds him tight against his body, not letting up even for a second.

"I loved you when I knew you could read my mind. When you started walking up those stairs that first night, had me follow you, like you knew I was about to walk over to you. Like I wanted to. S'like you were inside my head. Loved you then, I think. And then I loved you all over again when you said you were in jail, too. Like a caged bird, just like me," Zayn smiles into Harry's hair.

Harry kisses Zayn's neck.

"Again, huh."

"Again."

"Good."

"Good."



***


They're slower with it, that night.

After rushing into the house earlier and getting off as quickly as they could, with beating hearts and racing minds, it's different now. After hours of reflection, of wondering if they were done before they started, ears perked up for sirens, after saying all the words they both saved… they go slower.

Harry doesn't even open himself up first, doesn't even let Zayn get a hand on him.

He just reaches for the lube in his jeans and slicks Zayn's cock up, steady and calm, before sinking onto him, slowly.

Achingly slow. Inch by inch, a slow burn, a continuous stretch.

Zayn helps, eases Harry down, fingers digging into his hips, as they savor it, second by second.

They don't fuck, or push or pull, there's no skin slapping against skin. It's just a tide, a continuous roll of waves, as Harry shifts his hips forward and backward, fingers on Zayn's rib cage, eyes closed.

Too hot. Too crazy.

Zayn's hands run up and down Harry's thighs, as they roll through it together, as Harry pants like he can't handle it. Zayn bites his lip, because he knows Harry can handle it, he can handle anything, knows Harry needs the reassurance, and Harry nods against his mouth.

Harry swears he doesn't know who comes first, or if he just blacks out for a second as his body tenses, as he grunts against Zayn's cheek. But within the high tide, he comes, and Zayn comes, and it's sticky and messy and too much.

At the end of it, Harry lets Zayn take care of him and clean them up, before he grabs Zayn's hand when he doesn't know where and how to lay down, when he looks lost. And Harry's pretty sure he falls in love with Zayn again right then.

There's no need to keep it in anymore.

"Again."

Zayn says it back, into Harry's chest, kissing him twice below each collar bone.

"Again."



***


It's dizzying, being happy and content, in Tahoka, no less, with a man by his side.

Harry truly feels punch drunk over the next week, as they lay low and keep their heads down.

Sort of.

They can't help but celebrate and cause a stir, smiles slapped across their faces each night at the bar, working shifts even though they don't really have to, after they made away with a couple grand from Ray's pawn shop. It was like after that day, after they spent hours on the couch nervous and slightly crazed, after they solidified themselves as a pair, nothing could touch them.

So they buy rounds for everyone, even the people who glance at them a little too long when they kiss behind the bar, as the speakers blast country songs.

Night after night, drink after drink, as Niall's laugh rings around the room, they play a game that whenever a shotgun reference comes up in a song, they have to sneak off to the bathroom.

And that Thursday, Zayn purposefully walks to the juke box and plays that Randy Rogers Band song, a smirk on his face, fingers already on his belt as he locks eyes with Harry across the room. Harry's beer is halfway to his lips when he smiles right back and heads to the back hallway.

"You're naughty tonight," Harry smiles against Zayn's cheek as he shoves him up against the stall door, praying no one barges in to use the other one.

"Like you're not?" Zayn undoes his jeans quickly, smiling just as big.

"We throw the L word around and suddenly you're gagging for it in the bar. I'm just surprised is all."

Zayn laughs, so Harry laughs with him. He loves this, he decides as Zayn bunches up his shirt under his arms, taking Zayn apart and then putting him back together, piece by piece. It's such a privilege, seeing Zayn beg for something when the world so often bends at Zayn's will, falls to his feet. Harry sees the way people look at him, like he's made of fire, hot and intense and burning, fulfilling his needs like it's a gift. His smile lights up any room he walks into, even at the small ones only meant for Harry. At least one stranger always sees Zayn's smile, always notices.

Zayn's impatient with it tonight, Harry's hands or his cock or maybe just his time. And Harry wants Zayn to need him like oxygen. It's only fair. Returning the favor, and all that.

"M'gonna fuck you when we get home. But I want you ready."

Zayn just grunts as Harry spits onto his fingers and works them into his ass, easy as anything. Zayn takes it, hands on the wall, completely at Harry's mercy. And he shouldn't smile, he knows Harry hates it when he does, when he looks like he'd give it up anyways, but he can't help it.

Harry sees and bites his shoulder.

"Did you know," Harry starts, a slow slide to his fingers now, as he spits down onto them, "that I love a particular sound you make?"

Zayn's eyes slide closed, nothing more than a hmmm? coming from him now.

Harry can feel, can see, Zayn's mind wandering from his words. He won't have that.

"You hear me?" Harry bites him harder, punching his hand forward, fingers sliding into Zayn harsher now.

"Yeah," Zayn spits, eyes still closed.

"I said I love a sound you make," Harry tries again, before leaning to Zayn's ear fully, whispering, teasing. "The sound you make when I do… this."

And Harry has him by the balls then, he knows, because he swiftly twists his wrist and crooks his fingers, the tips of them catching on either side of that bundle of nerves he knows so well.

Zayn's forehead smacks against the wall, pretty hard, which Harry only slightly feels bad for. But Zayn does that sound, the guttural one from deep down somewhere, long and slow, and if Harry could dick into him right then and there, he would. But they don't have lube and they're not home and he wants Zayn to have to wait.

Harry spits down onto his fingers again, as he shoves into Zayn over and over, rubbing against that spot again and again, until he's pretty sure the only thing holding Zayn upright is the arm around his waist.

He should leave it, let the tease be enough, but it's like he can't stop now. So he bites onto Zayn's shoulder again, through his shirt, and moves his other hand down to Zayn's dick, gripping him hard. Harry loves every part of Zayn, every piece, but this might be his favorite, when Zayn's voice cracks and his knees buckle, the piece he's only let Harry see.

Zayn comes, face against the wall, both of Harry's hands working him over, working him through it, as his lungs wheeze. Harry licks at his ear as he comes down, the hair on the back of his neck slick with sweat. He looks so good, Harry's tempted to stay, use Zayn's come to jerk himself off, Zayn on his knees with his mouth open, but he stops himself. They got all night.

"Better clean up, babe," Harry smirks, bringing his hands to himself, "and do it quick. Need you at the bar."

Zayn just stays as he is, breathing against the wall, jeans around his ankles, as Harry adjusts his cock in his jeans a little.

"And don't think I'm not gonna fuck you when we get home. Because I am," Harry finishes, walking out of the stall to wash his hands.

"You… are a dick," Zayn calls from the other side of the door, as Harry laughs on his way back to the bar.



***


Two nights later, after they tuck Niall into his bed, drunk as all hell again, they sit on opposite sides of in the living room in just their briefs, backs against the cool walls.

The windows are all open, like always, the July heat laughing at them, taunting them, breezing in through the screens as the cicadas sing to each other, back and forth. Harry knocks his head against the wall, feels the semi-cool plaster against his spine for some relief, as he looks over at Zayn.

Zayn's got his feet crossed, a cigarette dangling from his mouth, cash in his hands, counting.

It's the sexiest thing Harry's ever seen, he thinks yet again, as he holds his dad's revolver, slapping the empty chamber over and over, the metal whirring in a circle.

"I figure since we went west last time," Zayn mumbles around his cigarette, taking a drag, exhaling through his nose, "we should go north now. Hit another small town, do the same thing, dump the car, come back here so we can run home."

Zayn sets a stack of bills next to his thigh, before going to count again, fingers swishing the twenties.

"Sounds good," Harry nods, chamber clicking his hands again.

"I think we can do it like this. A few times, I mean. Before it gets too suspicious."

"And then we stop?" Harry questions, face screwed up, a bead of sweat dripping down his neck.

"No," Zayn looks up at him. "Then we move on. We leave."

Harry stares at him.

He sort of forgot about that part, the leaving part, the way this would continue to work. They wouldn't be able to rob small stores in a direct radius around his hometown, around Niall. They'd have to move on for real, for awhile, if they want to keep going. If they want to get a bank eventually.

"Where do we wanna go?" Harry asks, telling Zayn with his eyes that it's okay with him, to go. When they have to.

Zayn stubs out his cigarette, sets the last stack of money next to his thigh.

"Wherever you want."

They sit in silence for a few minutes. Thinking. Weighing options.

"You ever been to North Carolina?" Harry says as he scratches his eyebrow.

"No."

"Me neither. But it looks nice, from what I've seen. All green and pretty. Towns near the beach, they look nice," Harry shrugs. "And that's where Cheerwine comes from."

Harry nods at him, urging him to remember how they clinked bottles of the cherry soda earlier that week over the bar, before they hit the hard stuff, before Niall barged in and demanded they drink whiskey with him to celebrate the fact that it was a Tuesday.

Zayn smiles at him, slow and lazy, one side looking like it got caught by a fish hook, one of Harry's favorite versions of Zayn's smile.

"Well alright then," he nods.

Harry whirrs the chamber again, to his dad's revolver, and that's the plan.



***


Zayn takes it in, the parking lot of the Food Town two towns away, the one he had Niall drop him off at after work, eyes rolling as he pulled away.

He feels the burn beneath his fingernails, as he touches the picks in his pocket, the tools he's had for years, the gloves in his belt. He waits and listens, does the thing he told himself makes it easier, searching for the right car, the right person, to take from this time. The street lights illuminate the parking light, sending eerie shadows across the concrete, but Zayn's not nervous. Not anymore.

It's like taking candy from a baby, as he watches a hefty guy with a belt buckle the size of a hubcap, pull up his jeans as he steps out of his car. He yells at his friend, or maybe a coworker, over the phone, too harshly, as he walks inside. Zayn almost laughs, as he casually walks to the car, a beat up Dodge Neon with a peeling bumper sticker. He's about to reach for his kit when he feels the handle, and realizes with a laugh that the idiot left it unlocked.

He's flying down the highway back towards Niall's in seconds flat, the wind in his hair. He parks in the tree line behind the house, just like last time.

Harry isn't inside, he realizes as he yells through the screen calling his name, Niall at the bar for the night, then to his aunt's house until morning.

So Zayn showers and lays out their clothes in Niall's room, like it's the night before the first day of school, a cigarette between his lips. He paces for a minute, thinks about calling home to hear his mom's voice, when the door downstairs creaks open.

Zayn lays on the bed naked, props his head up on his hand, when Harry walks in.

"Look at you," Harry laughs, kicking off his shoes.

"Look at you," Zayn smirks.

"Shower with me," Harry says as he undoes his jeans.

"I just did."

"So take two tonight."

Zayn rolls his eyes, before rolling off the bed, because alright, he can do that.

The mirror fogs up fast, the water coming out too hot, as he adjusts the tap, Harry behind him.

"I got the car," Zayn feels the water with his hand, not satisfied, too hot. "We should be good. I looked it up and that place right outside of Lubbock is perfect. They made Niall pay extra, for his truck to get the exhaust fixed that one time, were total dicks about it."

"Zayn."

"Yeah," Zayn tries the tap again, the water starting to cool off, finally.

"Got you a present today."

Zayn, still slightly bent over with his arm in the shower, turns around. His eyes travel up, from Harry's ankles, from the ink there, to his thighs, hips, torso, stomach, chest.

And there, where Zayn once whispered into Harry's skin, two kisses, below his collar bones, sit two new tattoos. Birds.

Not doodles, or stupid words, or random ink along his arms.

Birds. Looking at each other. Wings extended. Not in cages, but flying.

Zayn's on him, so fast, too fast, the two of them stumbling backwards into the sink. Harry's bare ass hits the edge of it, and if Zayn could stop, he would, he swears, because it probably hurts.

They're so loud in the shower, so shamelessly loud when Zayn slips into Harry, that if Niall were home, he'd be thumping his cast against the wall, cursing like a sailor.

They're loud as they bite and laugh, as they taste, the water rushing over their heads.

They're loud in bed afterwards, Harry's fingers inside Zayn, lips on his cock, the hot wind breezing in through the window.

Again, and again, and again.



***


Growing up in small towns means getting used to monotony. It means getting used to the same routines, day after day, with the same faces staring back at you, in the same boots, on the same time table as everyone else.

It's all about sameness: same brands of cars ("American made, son. The hell else you think we buy from?"), same brands of tractors ("No idiot has John Deere mixed in with their Kubotas, it just ain't right. Pick one or the other and be done with it."), same beers ("American brewed, son. The hell else you think we buy from?").

And for boys like Zayn and Harry, monotony just doesn't sit well.

They both get bored, restless, aggravated, when forced to live the same life, day after day. It's why Zayn, even though he loves his family, can't live in the same place as them and watch them settle into the life their grandparents led. It's why Harry loathes Tahoka. It's why they seek out that rush of blood, the manic high that comes with taking what they want. So normally, doing the same thing over and over, they'd be bored by now. Annoyed. Rolling their eyes.

And yet.

There's something to be said about this routine, the routine they've set up together the last few weeks.

It's always the same.

Harry walks up the block, or into the parking lot, as a look out. Zayn wires the car. Hide it behind the house overnight. Fuck. Twice. Dress in black. Gloves. Masks. Eyes open, mouths shut, no one gets hurt, especially us. They walk in, calm, ask for the money, guns in their hands, and leave. Dump the car. Run home. Fuck. Twice.

It's almost identical, time after time, as they work their way around the small towns in their county, five total, including the first time at Ray's. They hit a mechanic, two more pawn shops, and a hardware store, all full of people they've either encountered themselves and found to be assholes, or owners they overheard in town conversations as being total dicks. Two of the store owners get uneasy, look like they're about to lunge for guns of their own, tucked under counters or behind registers, and one even flips open a phone from inside his pocket.

But their voices are steady. Set. And people know: do as they say, don't fuck it up.

Open the drawer. And the safe.

Do not reach for anything under the counter besides the safe.

So they do. Each time, they open drawers and punch codes, or spin dials, on their safes. And each time, Zayn's fast fingers reach out to stack the money, tossing it into a bag now, before exiting the store first. Harry walks backwards, until he hits the door, before slipping out after him.

It's the same. A routine. They're good at it. Swift. Direct.

They have twelve grand in just over a month.

They're getting better.



***


Police search for 2 men responsible for robbery crime spree around Lubbock
Posted: Aug 18, 2:33 PM PDT
By LSPA Staff

WOLFFORTH, Texas - Two men entered a hardware store in Wolfforth on Monday and held up manager Steve Coyle.

The armed robbery happened at the C&C Hardware store, located on Delta Avenue.

The bandits wore ski masks and robbed Coyle at gunpoint.

"The one told me to give him everything from the drawer," said Coyle. "And the other made me open the safe. Had guns on me the whole time."

Within the last month, four other small business surrounding Lubbock, in Brownfield, Wilson, Slaton, and Post, were robbed.

Witnesses at all robbery locations all stated that they saw two men, around the same height of 5'9" in ski masks and dark clothing. Specific vehicle descriptions could not be confirmed by all witnesses.

Police cannot comment or confirm if the recent string of car thefts around Terry County are related to the robberies.

Police warn business owners in the area to be on the lookout.



***


Niall slams the paper down on the kitchen table, shaking their cereal bowls dangerously close to the edge of the wooden surface. His face is murderous, mere inches from Zayn's, as he stares them down, hand shaking on top of the front page. It's another hot morning, sticky and wet, with the two of them in just loose fitting boxers and damp hair.

Harry takes one last chew of his cereal, Zayn hears the final crunch of his teeth, before setting his spoon down and swallowing.

Zayn licks his lips and readies himself.

"Y'all must be the dumbest motherfuckers I ever met," Niall spits out, finally shifting away from them, nudging the paper closer. "Really? Is this really your thing now?"

Niall tries to cross his arms, in vain, since his large pink cast prevents him from bending his arm the way he'd like. That frustrates him even more, as he throws both arms down to his sides, making a fist with his good hand.

"Guns? You have guns now? Pointing them at peoples' heads, demanding their fucking money? Really?"

"Niall," Zayn tries, holding his hand up to calm him.

"Shut the fuck up, Zayn," he glares at them, bouncing his eyes back and forth, crazed. "Since when do you have guns? Have you been planning this shit since day one? Is my house your little command post? Do I gotta worry about the fucking state police barging in my door in the middle of the night? What, have you shot anyone? Are you fucking murdering people now?"

"Hey," Harry interjects, face upset now, hand out. "Hey."

Niall can't catch his breath, eyes still bouncing back and forth.

"We haven't hurt a fly. Swear," Zayn crosses his heart. "We just… we wanted to do this, because we… just wanted to. So we take in unloaded guns, just so they know we're serious, and we empty drawers and safes. Just like we've always done."

"Fuck," Niall runs his hand through his hair.

"And it wasn't a plan we always had, it just sort of happened, and then we kept doing it," Harry adds, guilt lacing every word. "But we never would've gotten you in trouble. And if we thought we were going to be caught, or if they knew it was us, we never would've come into your house, Ni. Swear."

Zayn nods, willing him to understand.

"But you're robbing people," Niall's face screws up, hurt. "You're robbing them for real. Not just taking some cash from offices."

"True," Zayn winces.

"But we're taking from shitty people! Like that guy Ray who fucked my uncle over, remember? And the mechanic who fucked with you! And no one gets hurt, we swore it from the beginning. No bullets, nothing. Just tools," Harry tries again.

Niall shakes his head again, looking down at his feet.

Zayn thinks it then, how they've taken advantage of Niall and his hospitality all along. They're shitty friends, two shitty people, a fucked up pair of thieves who let their best friend down, more than once.

He looks at Harry, and Harry's lip shakes.

"Well," Niall exhales, "I really shouldn't be be surprised, I guess. I knew y'all couldn't stop, I knew it. And now that you're whatever you are, together or whatever, I guess it makes sense that you'd break bad at some point."

They both turn to look at Niall, dumbfounded.

Niall smiles. A little. Just a little smile, at his own joke.

"But seriously," Niall rubs at his neck, "you can't keep this up here. You can't keep hitting places here. What if you get caught? What if they know it's you?"

"They won't," Zayn assures him.

Niall stares.

"If you're gonna keep it up, and fuck knows, I can't stop you," Niall pushes away from the counter, to get away from them, "you have to be smarter. You gotta keep moving. You gotta… you just gotta go."

He looks at them both, from one to the other, his two oldest and best friends, and shrugs.

"You gotta go."

Niall leaves the kitchen, his feet much quieter than normal, as he walks out the front door. It slams behind him, the sound rippling through the little farm house like a bomb. Zayn looks down at Harry's uneaten cereal, thinking about what it'll mean to leave the house, leave this town, leave Niall, together.

"We'll be okay," Harry pulls him out of his thoughts, grabbing his hand.

"Yeah."

Zayn nods and Harry nods, and they both start thinking of plans, of what to do and how to do it. Because it's time to go.



***


It's a swirl of color and music, two nights after Niall told them to leave.

The house, normally quiet, swaying lightly in the wind, with its wide open windows and creaking floorboards, the simple and unassuming farm house Harry thinks has become more of a home than his ever was, is full to the brim with people.

There's no George Jones, no twang to fill the space, no cigar smoke hanging in the air from country boys taking a lazy night off to drink beer and watch their girlfriends line dance in their scuffed boots in the living room. It's nothing like Niall's ever hosted before, nothing any of them expected, for a going away party.

It's a rave. It's flashing lights near Dave Lawler's laptop, where he stands with his headphones on, blasting the music he's been listening to in Houston, loud, booming, shaking the foundation.

Harry looks around, a drink in his hand, and can't help but smile. It's fitting, to go out like this, in a flurry of body heat and sweat, with body paint on his face from Missy McGranaghan's makeup box. She insisted, and Harry's never been one to say no. Zayn's drunk, right on the edge of too drunk, and he clings to Niall on the other side of the room while he can. They have yellow dots above their eyebrows, pink diamonds on their cheeks, their teeth glowing from the black light, and Harry wants to tug both of them under his arms and keep them there for awhile.

Harry forgot that while he stayed behind in Tahoka for a few years, breezing along easy as can be, with his hands in his pockets to conceal his prizes, these people went to school. While he stayed behind, and then stayed in jail, they all went off, moved to Austin and Houston, only coming home for the summer, this summer, and Harry thinks he took it for granted. He didn't realize the nights they all spent drinking at the bar, or getting messy in Niall's living room, were short lived with or without him.

It's their going away party, but it's also everyone else's too. They're all heading off again, to big things, innocent things, and Harry thinks it's kind of nice. To do this together, one last time, before he leaves for good. Before he continues the life he's been leading, of sin, of danger, of consequence.

Zayn turns his body and they lock eyes. He winks at Harry, all slow and sloppy, grinning. Again? Again.

Harry cheers him.

Zayn grabs Niall's good arm and pulls over to Harry by the stairs, the three of them stumbling against each other and laughing like they were twelve. Harry gestures to the stairs, and it's all very deja vu, as Niall follows him and Zayn up to his room.

"Y'all might want in my pants, but it ain't happening," Niall laughs, throwing himself at the door that always sticks.

"You fucking wish," Zayn slaps his ass.

Harry just smiles. This is harder than he thought, and it occurs to him that they probably won't have this, just this, for a very long time.

Zayn sniffs as he shoves Niall to the bed, and his face sets, all serious eyebrows, so maybe it dawns on him, as well. Harry grabs his hand for a beat, squeezes and applies pressure, because it's time. And they gotta go.

"So," Harry scratches his forehead, around the paint.

"So," Niall laughs.

"We're gonna miss you," Zayn adds, grabbing Harry's hip.

"Miss you," Niall nods, serious now. Even drunk, he must sense this is about to get heavy.

Harry reaches under the bed, with a dexterity he rarely has, and pulls out the shoe box he hid earlier that afternoon. Zayn and Niall had been flying around the house getting it ready for the party, playing Drake and smoking too many cigarettes, and if Harry could've joined, he swears he would've. But he spent that time in Niall's room, sitting against the bed, before sliding the box underneath for safe keeping, as he pondered his nonexistent life in Tahoka. He thought about how he hated it, he always has, the burden and shadow of Des Styles hanging over his head, an unknown man he never got to know, with people who bore him to tears. He wants this, he knows he does. So he let himself remember it.

He sets the box in Niall's lap and stands back, grabbing Zayn, grounding them together.

"S'this?"

"Open it."

They made sure to stack the bills in such a way that they looked neat. Nice. Not crumpled, like they were grabbed too quickly from a safe or stuffed too harshly in the bag Zayn grips as they run through the woods. The money, with the faint smell of overworked fifties and hundreds, sit together, in a shoe box, size 10s.

Niall's wide eyes travel up to them.

"Consider it rent money. And for keeping us all this time," Zayn smiles.

"But."

"Don't think about it too hard. Don't… don't ruin it. Just have it, Ni. And know it came from us, just us, nowhere else. From friends, to you," Harry stares at him, holding Zayn tighter.

"But."

"But please use some of it to paint the goddamn house," Zayn adds, leaning in the ruffle Niall's hair.

Niall laughs so hard, his body heaving so hard, he somehow manages to swing his cast up to smack himself in the face. Harry's almost positive that, more than anything else, will be his last image of Niall Horan. Pink cast, with a hidden dick underneath a Sharpie drawing, hitting himself in the face after getting five grand in cash from his best friends.

Harry whispers to Zayn ten minutes later as they hold each other, when they're back down stairs in the living room, the lights hitting their friends and townsfolk just right, that Niall will never paint the fucking house because he's a lazy sod. Zayn bites into his neck, as they sway to some thumping song, that yeah, Harry's probably right.

Maybe Niall reads their lips, or their minds, because he dances past them and smacks the backs of their heads with his cast.

"You ready?" Zayn laughs as he slurs into Harry's ear, the music getting louder.

"Are you?"

"I'll go anywhere you want to go, Harry. You know that."

"Me too," Harry kisses him.

"Just… The rush, remember? We both said we liked it. On the porch. It's the best part. And look at us, we've been rushing ever since. We haven't gone home, we haven't split up, we hate being tied down anyways. Right?"

"Yeah."

"So let's do this. Let's really fucking do this," Zayn huffs, right into Harry's ear so he can hear. "We haven't been scared in a long time. Let's not be scared now. Let's enjoy this."

Harry pulls back to look at him. Because the feeling he had been walking around with all day, tucked up under his ribcage, was in fact fear. Fear of the unknown, of leaving, of never turning back, of progressing further and further into the game, of getting caught.

But Zayn stares at him, his eyes fluttering from the lights, and he's not afraid because maybe Harry's old words, the way he detailed the Santa Claus Robbery with a level voice and steady hand, maybe he's been squashing Zayn's fears all along and never bothered to fix his own. Not deep down. He never feared walking into a store with a gun, with Zayn by his side, right here in Terry County, and maybe forcing himself to leave is what he's always needed.

He just needed Zayn to show him how. Maybe Zayn's taking the photo off the mantle for him, again.

"Alright then," Harry eventually smiles, leaning back in, lips on Zayn's cheek. "We're gonna go. And fuck shit up. No fear."

It's another spark, to add to their list of sparks, the spark that ignites them truly, for real, never to be extinguished. It's the spark that says you bring out the best in me, even if the best is society's worst, and it's sort of the final nail in the coffin.

That's the spark.



***


"Hello?"

"Saf, hey."

"Zayn?"

"Yeah, it's me. How are you, babe? How is everyone? Good?"

"We're good! I miss you. I start school soon, few more weeks. I gotta get my books and stuff. I'm excited."

"That's good."

"And everyone's good, we're all fine. How are you?"

"I'm good, babe. But hey… Can I take to dad? Is he there?"

"He's right here, hold on… Dad, it's Zayn."

"Hello?"

"Hey pop, how… how are you?"

"Fine. And you?"

"Fine. Real fine. Just… I haven't talked to you since, like since I got out. Just the girls and mom. So I wanted to say hi. And that… that I'm going away for awhile."

"Where? Are you in jail again? Are you there now? I knew you should've come home right after…"

"No, no not like that. I'm just… gonna travel some. Get out for awhile, see the sights and what not."

"Oh. Well, that's. Okay. Okay, that's real nice."

"Yeah."

"That's probably good for you, son. To go out and do something for yourself. You know, like something not for the girls or mom. Just for you. Outta trouble and just getting on, and all that."

"Uh, yeah. Yeah I guess."

"We'll be here. So check in, when you can. If you want."

"Alright then."

"Alright, Zayn, you be good. And call your sisters sometimes, so they know you're alive."

"I'll try."

"Good. That's good."

"And pop?"

"Yeah."

"I'm sorry. For everything. For... a lot. I'm just... I'm sorry."

"I know you are, Zayn. I know."

"Okay. Well. I'll talk to you soon then, yeah?"

"Of course. Be good."

"I'll try."

"Bye, Zayn."

"Bye."



***


"Hello?"

"Hey momma."

"Harry, is that you? Why are you talkin so quiet?"

"Yeah, it's me, sorry."

"I heard you were back in town weeks ago, but you haven't been by the house to visit."

"Didn't know if you wanted me there."

"I said you couldn't stay here, not that I wanted you gone forever. Lord, Harry."

"Sorry then, I guess. I've been at Niall's. It's been nice."

"Well that's good. The Horan boy never had much sense, to be frank, but he at least never got sent to jail. So maybe it's been good for you."

"Maybe."

"So what are you doing? You need somethin? Money or somethin?"

"No momma, I don't need money. I just had a favor to ask."

"Alright."

"Can I take daddy's truck? For a few weeks? I was gonna go like, travel some. See the sights and what not."

"Jesus, Harry. That truck is old. You sure you want it?"

"Yes."

"Well alright, come get it whenever you want. I probably won't be here. I've been volunteering in O'Donnell, with the kids at the church. Lord knows they don't have many people at home, or any sort of guidance, bless them. They need someone to tell them where to go, how to be grown. It's been real nice, to do this type of work, I tell you. Real gratifying like."

"That must be nice. For them to have your guidance. Someone should."

"What was that? Harry, I can't hear you. Speak up, Jesus Christ."

"Nevermind."

"Okay then, well. You have fun on your trip."

"Okay."

"Bye baby."

"Okay, bye."



***


Zayn's conversation with his dad went about how he expected, with Yaser telling him to go off and do his own thing. He never knew about the dumpster, but he knew his son. He knew that even when Zayn got selfish with his grabby hands, he still always tried to stay out of trouble, for his sisters, for the life they led.

But listening to Harry's, hearing his mom's sharp tone coming through the line like a bullhorn, it wasn't what he expected. Because he never thought a woman, a human being, a parent of Harry Styles could be so cold and uncaring.

"Did you know," Zayn states, grabbing the phone from Harry's hand, "that the guy who came up with AA wanted a glass of whiskey on his death bed?"

Harry shakes his head.

"Just goes to show you can stop giving a shit about something, stop needing something, and still want a little taste at the end. And that's not a terrible thing. It's just… how we all are, I guess."

Harry holds his hand on Niall's couch, their bags at their feet. Niall had left an hour before for work, his chest heavy, his shoulders curled, as he said goodbye, as he looked at them both, speaking to each of them.To both of them. Equally.

Take care of him.

I will.

Zayn twirls a stray curl near Harry's neck between his fingers, the sweat starting to get to them both.

"So let's go get the truck. Let's throw our shit in it and get the fuck outta this town. Good?"

"Good," Harry surges forward, locking their mouths.

So they do.



***


Harry feels it, as Zayn drives them west, Elvis crooning through the air, the insane rush of emotion and adrenaline and fucking love he felt when he shoved Zayn's pants down and blew him on Niall's bed. He feels the same frantic energy he felt when he told Zayn about Santa robbing a bank, the way they felt in that room together, on the cusp of possibility, after the initial bomb went off in their brains that yeah, we can do this, can't we.

It's like they leave every negative thought, every doubt, every shitty encounter from Harry's shitty hometown, right there in their rearview. It's like the physical act of leaving, of glancing over and seeing Zayn's profile is all he needed, to be one half of their dynamic duo.

"Did you know," Harry stares at him, "that this truck has been in my family for years?"

"Yeah, you told me," Zayn scoffs, smiling, because Harry usually always tells him something new.

"But did I tell you what I always wanted to do? In this truck?"

"No."

"I wanted to suck someone off in it," Harry shrugs, like he's talking about the weather. "I wanted to be a little crazy, a little slutty, for fun. Momma never let me drive it in high school, so I never got the chance. Poor me, huh."

Zayn shifts in his seat, the smile creeping up his face.

"You better be careful with it," Harry shrugs again, shifting to the middle of the seat, his left hand slowly working its way up Zayn's thigh.

"You gonna keep talkin about it or actually do it?"

Zayn challenges Harry, and he appreciates that. Probably always will.

Three seconds later, and Harry knows because he counted in his head, Zayn's jeans are open and his cock slaps up against his belly. Harry's fingers work fast, he's good that way, as he leans down and sucks him into his mouth.

Zayn grunts and grabs Harry's messy hair.

"S'good. Yeah, like that," he huffs, as Harry sinks lower.

It's fiercer, a little more rushed than normal, but Harry needs to show Zayn how much he wants him, this, for as long as they can swing it. So he sucks him off like he's trying to win a race, breathing from his nose as best he can, the rough drag of Zayn pulling at his hair, up and down, making him take it.

"Fuck, babe," Zayn groans again, "there's trucks ahead. Bet a few truckers are gonna get a nice little view."

Harry feels his cock twitch in his jeans and whines, eyes shut tight.

"You want that? Want them to see me fucking your mouth?"

Harry tries to nod.

"Bet if you were naked, had your ass in the air, they'd see that, too. Bet they'd want to fuck you, hmm?" Zayn says, Harry hearing the smug smile in his voice.

Tears form in Harry's eyelashes and it's so fucking good.

"But I'm the only one, huh. Just me," Zayn takes his hand from Harry's hair and tries to wiggle in under Harry's tight as fuck jeans, under his briefs, only getting half way as Harry pushes back at him.

Harry speeds up, spit slicking his chin, Zayn's cock hitting the back of his throat like it's a punching bag, as Zayn tenses and comes with a jolt. He shakes through it, entire body moving, his foot on the gas pedal to a dangerous degree.

Harry eventually sits up and wipes at his mouth, cheeks red.

"Next time," Zayn licks his lips, "I'm gonna blow you. And I bet I can get you off faster."

"I'll take that bet."

"Good. Because the bet is two grand, wherever we hit next. Winner gets to spend it however he pleases," Zayn smiles.

"Deal."



***


It's another game, a new game, and their dicks are very grateful.

They get better at taking, at wanting the money, and it only takes one time to realize they don't need to find people who "deserve" to be robbed. Because outside of their shitty county full of shitty people, maybe no one technically deserves it. And maybe that's okay.

Maybe they just want the rush even more than before, and it doesn't matter where it comes from.

Maybe their selfish natures get compounded the farther they get from home. From real life. From true sanity.

They hit various small liquor stores and pawn shops as they make their way through Texas, first through Abileen, on their way down to Austin eventually. It's the same routine, early mornings when places are just opening, when streets are empty. It's the same except they don't have a house to go back to. Instead they tuck the truck behind the buildings, hiding it from possible wandering eyes, before hopping in it and flying off.

They sleep in shitty motels, saving their money in a duffle bag instead of spending it yet. They have plans for it.

So they play the game.

Zayn sucks Harry off significantly faster than Harry sucked him off, winning the bet, and Harry isn't happy. So the next store they hit, Harry almost smacks Zayn as he holds up the cash from the drawer and fans his masked face with it. Harry shakes his head at him, smiling behind his own mask, as the owner of the shitty liquor store growls at them.

When they wave to him, to the stranger they steal from without caring anymore, they laugh. Because they've gotten better at demanding the attention of those from whom they take, from the people who hold the money. They stand taller, straighter, firmer. Some days they don't even bother to take their guns from their waistbands and instead just let themselves talk their way through it. They're sure of it now, that they could take and take and take, from anyone who crosses their path, and not even blink.

But sometimes they hear sirens in the middle of the night, wailing past their motel bed, and they both freeze. They tense, every muscle group turned to stone, as they stare at each other wide eyed.

Is this it? Are they coming?

But they never do. They never stop them in the truck, never ambush them as they eat in restaurants along the highway with their feet tangled under the table. They don't get a text from Niall, the text he promised he'd send if he saw anything about them on the news.

They feel invincible.

So when a woman in Mason, Texas shakes her head at them and crosses her arms behind her grocery counter, Zayn stops to stare at her.

"You little assholes. I can't wait for you to get caught. It's comin," she snarls, as Harry passes Zayn the stack of twenties.

"What did you just say?" Harry counters.

"The whole state knows what y'all are doing. Two skinny mother fuckers, robbing good people for fun. They'll get ya. Soon, prolly."

"Fuck you," Zayn spits.

Harry touches his arm and steps closer to settle him, as the woman looks down at the contact, the press of a gloved hand to a bicep. And maybe she's putting the pieces together, that these aren't two bored teenagers, or brothers robbing together to take care of their family. They're together. Touching.

She smirks.

"You ain't gonna hurt me," she sniffs, nodding to the door. "Go on then. Git."

They stare at her, for only a few seconds, the first person to call their bluff for real. They leave the store and are flying down the highway before they remove their masks, breath heaving. Lungs expanding. Fast.

"You can't touch me like that," Zayn wipes off his upper lip, nervous.

"We gotta be calm," Harry counters, sternly, his fingers on the wheel too tight.

Zayn closes his eyes and nods because he's supposed to be the cool one to Harry's hot head. They're supposed to be smart, Niall said so, so he nods harder to remind himself. And when Harry's hand holds onto the back of his neck, the sweat dripping down both of their backs, it's better.



***


"I love this skin, right here," Zayn pants into Harry's stomach, fingers running behind both of Harry's knees. The scratchy motel sheets under Harry's back must be itchy, and if Zayn were nicer, he would've started this in the shower. But he likes Harry on his back. Open.

"Yeah," Harry breathes, labored, as Zayn's face lowers to his ass.

"M'gonna taste you again. I want you to come from my tongue. No touching."

Harry nods.

"And then you're gonna suck me off."

Harry nods.

"And tomorrow when we hit the next place, no touching. We only touch here. Or in the truck."

Harry nods.

"Again."

"Again."



***


Harry thinks it's almost ironic, as they sit side by side in the sheriff's cruiser, hands cuffed behind their backs, the way in which they were finally brought in.

They didn't slip up or get caught in the middle of a pull, there wasn't a gun pulled on them by a store clerk and a phone call to 9-1-1, or even a witness who spotted them jumping into the truck. There wasn't a car chase. There wasn't an anonymous tip over a phone line.

It was in a bar, two towns over from the grocery store, after a guy with tobacco under his lips spotted them kissing in the corner. They needed the come down after such an intense morning, whiskey and beer and shots of tequila, to drift a little, their pockets stuffed with twenties.

It was in a bar across from the motel they dumped their shit at, the truck parked in front of their room with the guns hidden under the seat, after the guy punched Harry, hard as hell, for being such a queer in his local spot.

It was outside a bar, Zayn shoving him out of it, hands in fists as he beat the guy back, a hook to his right eye and then to his gut, the gut hanging over his jeans.

They got arrested, for fighting, for disturbing the peace, in a disgusting and broken down town in the middle of Texas, with blood on their faces and dirt on their knees.

They got arrested, knew their parole officers were about to get phone calls about their whereabouts (after lying to them for weeks on end, during their weekly court ordered check ins), and if Harry could spit the blood from his mouth onto the floor of the cruiser, he would. Just to be a shit head.

But Zayn gave him an eye, his face set, the handcuffs clinking behind his back, to get his shit together. To put his own game face on.

They were in for it. They were about to be in a cell together. Finally. After all of it, before they even got the bank they wanted. Before they got to North Carolina. Before they even got to spend their money.

They were about to be questioned, in separate rooms, apart, about why they were in town. How did you get here? You got a car somewhere? Where are you staying? You got something to tell us, son?

As they pull into the tiny police station a few miles from the bar, as the sheriff looks at them in the rear view mirror, locking eyes with each of them, Zayn finally speaks, in a low voice, bringing his eyes down, right to Harry.

"Mouths shut."

Harry looks at him, readying himself.

"Mouths shut."

 

  

Chapter Text

This Life Of Sin 4

This Life Of Sin
by thisonegoes
artwork by Roxie at babyxnanas.com

At least my hands are in my lap now. That's something.

Fuck, the air in here feels good.

Zayn's thoughts are surprisingly clear and collected, as he sits there. The hands awkwardly held behind his back outside the bar, as the cop cuffed Harry, now lay across his thighs, his shoulders relaxed. The air conditioning, the sweet nectar of chilled air pumps from a vent in the corner and Zayn swears it's been months since he had a goosebump, a breeze across his skin, a moment of relief. If the situation weren't so shitty, it might actually be pleasant. He cracks his neck and settles in.

He glances at the walls of the small grey room, covered in grimy whiteboards, Most Wanted posters, mugshots from various decades pieced together with tape, strings connecting a few.

Try a little fucking harder, why don't you.

Zayn rolls his eyes.

As if this shitty town in Texas has any need for posters of America's most hardened and dangerous criminals, as if the (most likely) four people who work this station have any leads, as if they're viable to the FBI, or even the county, to catching anyone of merit.

As if the man about to come in and sit down to question him has anything on Zayn Malik, or Harry Styles, or anyone else with a gun under their seat.

Zayn knows a room away, a room identical to the one he sits in with it's equally delicious frigid air and grey walls, Harry sits on a stiff chair of his own, in the same dusty, bloodied clothes, with an identical pair of cool, steel handcuffs around his tattooed wrists. Zayn smiles, wonders how Harry is passing the time in there alone, when he seldom likes to be. Even when he was locked up, Harry told Zayn he constantly hung out with other guys his age just to hear the words they so carelessly threw around, about their girlfriends back home and the credit cards they stole, the times they smacked their dads around for smacking their moms around, the ones with the sticky fingers just like him. Like them. Zayn spent his months in jail with only a few close acquaintances, when he felt like leaving his bunk. Sometimes he chatted with Alan whenever asked a direct question, but Zayn could sit in a silent room no problem.

I bet he's knocking the handcuffs against the table. Making noise. No, wait. I bet he's kneading his temples with his thumbs. I bet he's chewing his nails. And not because he's nervous, poor Harry, but because he's restless and bored.

Because they robbed that grocery store this morning and that woman threw off their groove, and they needed to take the edge off. Because when the guy who punched Harry called them queer, they were just about to go get off in the bathroom, mere seconds away from Zayn undoing Harry's tight jeans. Because even though they had a moment in the truck after the pull, when they let their tempers flare, they still hold tight and still need to feel the throb of blood under their fingertips.

Zayn smiles and lays his head in his hands, on the old table in front of him. The light overhead is a tad too harsh, probably on purpose, and Zayn's suddenly tired. They had a crazed morning, followed by too much tequila too early in the day, and his knuckles hurt from beating the shit out of someone who dared to touch Harry. So he waits.

Zayn knows he's first, knows whoever is going to talk to them, will come to him first because he was the one to open his mouth in the cruiser, the one who told Harry to keep his closed. Zayn knows this drill, just as Harry probably does, that after they drove to the sheriff's station, they'd be questioned this way, about their fight, about their situation. Maybe the stereotype will live on and they'll get an especially homophobic asshole asking questions with answers that'll make his little stomach queasy. Zayn almost hopes he's asked something about fucking men. Make him squirm.

Zayn watched Harry get his mugshot taken first, before his own, and Zayn smirked. Harry looked at the camera with a defiant expression, the marks on his face started to plump up, flushed, the blood rushing to where it hurts. And while Zayn looked at the camera afterwards, still in his black long sleeved shirt covering his neck to hide his tattoos, as Harry stood to the side with their paperwork, he couldn't help but be defiant as well.

They were two little assholes with glints in their eyes, I don't have time for this shit expressions, and just like the first time Zayn got arrested, he almost laughed. Because they really didn't have time. They robbed that grocery store a few towns over and they wanted to get drunk, of course. They wanted to fuck in their motel room like always, like every other time since they left Niall's comfortable house and not so comfortable couch. But they move on now. They don't stay put. They hop in Harry's daddy's truck and get the fuck out because it's what they're good at. It's what they enjoy now.

Zayn knows, because he's smart and read a whole lotta books while in jail, that sure, they were arrested and booked for disturbing the peace. And sure, their parole officers were probably on the phone right then as they waited. But they couldn't be held for this, not long term, because even if they fucked up their parole agreements, there would be a hearing at a real court house, on another day.

And if Harry Styles is anything like Zayn Malik, which he is, they won't be there that day. They will be in the wind, like they have been for weeks now, with their middle fingers held high. They won't give a shit about parole or plea agreements or lawyers provided by the state. They won't care at all. Because once you leave, once you decide once and for all that the life you had before was bullshit, it's all pretty simple. Surprisingly clear. Collected.

Fuck this.

Zayn sighs, bored now, as well.

Just then the door clamors open, slamming against the grey wall in which it sits, the awkward officer who arrested them barging in. He holds the door for another man, a man Zayn almost rolls his eyes at, the one who probably put all the posters up, the one who wants the glory or the recognition of hunting people down. Sheriff Monroe, so says the badge on his chest. Tall, broad, probably ex-military, dark brown hair, peppered with grey because life's a headache for this man, clearly. He's the guy who would jump on a live grenade for his comrades, but then write about it and do a book tour in places like New York and Chicago, in fancy suits and expensive shoes.

This man looks like the small town wonder boy, set on making his mark somehow.

Zayn flashes back to the dumpster, to why he foraged in it in the first place: the world is unfair. It's full of people like this man with the badge and the gun strapped to his waist. Zayn didn't anticipate this, someone actually knowing how to do this, how to question him. Zayn reminds himself that he's just tipping the scales in his favor, like he taught himself so many years ago, and says it in his head again: mouths shut.

Monroe settles in the chair opposite Zayn, slipping the file folder in his hand to the table, smooth as anything. He slides a cup of coffee with the other hand towards Zayn. His dark eyes skim across Zayn's face, assessing him, looking through him. Intimidating him. Or trying to, at least.

Zayn reaches for the coffee, his entire body leaning into it, his cuffed hands grabbing for it and pulling it towards his bloodied face. The guy only got one punch on him, but it was a solid one. Definitely solid, if Zayn's wince is anything to go by, as he takes a long drink. It's shitty coffee, of course it is, but it's welcomed.

"Zayn Malik," Monroe reads the report he himself wrote up, the smarmy bastard, nodding his head, drawl dripping around Zayn's name like he's tasting it.

Zayn stares at him, the coffee between his palms steaming nicely in the cold, air conditioned room. Harry and Zayn agreed, in the cruiser and long before that, to not say a word, and Zayn's glad they reminded each other all over again. The more you talk, the more you give up. And the more you give up, the less of yourself you'll be able to hold onto.

So Zayn assesses Monroe right back, using his eyes to send the message that yeah, he knows what the fuck this all is. They fought in a bar and then outside it. They threw punches. They disturbed the peace. And then they got arrested. So now, it's simple: get read their rights, get booked, sign out. Done. This should be simple. This should last five minutes. And once they're outside, rubbing their wrists to rid the sensation of metal against their skin, they'll leave and continue on. This sheriff, this man across from him in all black, touching the scruff on his chin, doesn't have anything on them. Not anything real or tangible. They're still safe.

So bored.

"Zayn Malik," Monroe repeats, bringing his eyes up to Zayn.

Zayn continues to stare.

"It's so hot, right? So goddamn hot. I can't wait for the fall to set in. For the leaves to change and this heat to kick the bucket. Feels good in here though, right? Nice and cool," Monroe smiles, with a nod. He's trying to connect with Zayn, on a basic level.

So Zayn stares at him harder. Not going to work, man.

"Well," Monroe sets down the file, gives up the small talk. "Seems we should talk, hmm?

Zayn stares.

"You and your… friend. You were arrested for disturbing the peace, son. But you know that. And you know how this goes because this ain't your first time in a station. Certainly ain't your first time talking to someone like me. I already called your PO, already have your court date set."

Zayn stares.

"You're probably smart. Probably know what this all means. Right?"

Zayn stares.

Monroe shifts in his seat, putting his hands on the table to cross his fingers. Cool. Calm.

"I can't hold you here. Legally speaking. Because y'all did something small, something fixable, technically. Your PO wasn't happy, of course. And the state of Texas probably won't be happy either. But you know, and I know, that you might have a hefty fine. Might do some community service. Maybe take a class about alcohol dependency. Who knows."

Monroe tosses his hands up a little, a smile on his face.

Zayn holds his coffee tighter before taking another long, slow drink.

"But see, I feel like we should talk. You and me. Because Zayn Malik, maybe you haven't heard, but there's been a string of armed robberies across Texas. Starting out west aways and ending about two towns over from here, just this morning. Did you know that? You read the papers? Watch the news ever?"

Zayn stares.

This is… different. Than how I thought it would go. But I can do this. Because I see you better than you see me.

This Monroe, now more than ever, as he smirks like he's about to tell a ghost story, gives off the air of a desperate small town cop. His entire face says that he's dead set on helping the state police catch the bad guys, the kind of cop who has his radio on 24/7, the kind to write on message boards online, alone in his kitchen after his wife left him, on how best to interrogate "shitheads" like Zayn Malik and Harry Styles. He probably read a real long manual about it. Maybe he watches "Law & Order" every night before he passes out.

Zayn almost feels sorry for him, this guy trying to pry, trying to get Zayn to fess up and cry on his shoulder about how sorry he is. Maybe he's expecting Zayn to give Harry up. Maybe he's expecting Zayn to say something he can use, to put in a file folder he's no doubt been collecting of newspaper headlines about the robberies.

Zayn can peg people pretty easily, can see through them before they realize what he's doing. It's something Yaser taught him as a child, over cans of Pepsi, and Zayn almost smiles at the thought.

Zayn sighs instead.

Monroe stares at him, willing him to blink, so Zayn doesn't. He stares and stares, the fingers on his coffee cup warming up.

"Those two suspects, they're skinny like. Kind of tall. But only the kind of tall that don't mean much, the kind of tall that ain't short. Does that make sense? See, I'm 6'4" myself, real tall. I've always been tall. But to little old guys, the ones who own small stores and shops, guys who are like 5'4", maybe 5'5", well to them, these suspects are tall as trees!"

Monroe chuckles, his chest puffed out, the black shirt parting near his collar bones to reveal the sweat-lined wife beater underneath.

Zayn stares.

"They're about 5'8", maybe 5'9" in a pair of boots. Thin. Wiry."

Zayn stares.

"They originated in Terry County, see. That's where they started. Went into them shops with guns in their hands. They were calm. Always calm, that's what everybody says when they call us. The suspects aren't assuming or tough. They might even be sweet. Nice. Polite. But they hit small places without security cameras, so we just don't know how to pin them exactly. We don't have much to go on."

Zayn stares. This guy thinks he's apart of the us, the we. It's pathetic.

Monroe sits up, closer, the light in the room casting a shadow across his thick brow.

"So imagine my delight, when I get a call about two young boys kissin and fightin in our bar. I ran your names straight away, see. And what do I find? Only that your friend Harry, he's from Terry County," Monroe says in a whisper, his eyes set on Zayn's. "And that you were staying in Terry County. I know because that's what your PO said. As far as he knew, you were still there. It's what Harry's PO said as well. That y'all were in Terry, working, being good boys. And yet here you are. Together. As the robberies traveled across the state, I'm guessing y'all did too. I'm guessing y'all were bored. Tired, maybe. Looking to have fun."

Zayn stares.

"Where are you staying? You got a car around here?"

Zayn stares.

"Do you have anything to tell me, son? Anything at all you wanna say?"

Zayn stares.

"Because like I said, I can't keep you here. And I can't pin nothing on no one. I just think we could talk, s'all."

Zayn stares at Monroe for only a beat longer, before purposefully moving his eyes down to the coffee cup between his palms, almost cold now. He uncurls his fingers and pushes the cup towards the center of the table, towards this ridiculous man in front of him who thinks he's about to crack a case in a Scorsese movie.

Zayn has nothing to say. Because Zayn keeps his mouth shut.

And even though he can feel the sweat going down his spine, his entire body temperature heating up like he was stuck in a furnace, he can never let this man see. Everything Monroe has said is currently bouncing around in Zayn's brain like a pinball machine, the facts laid out and open, Zayn's name and face in a file folder between them, waiting for the pieces to be put together.

Zayn can feel the sweat, the rush of adrenaline shooting through him, the fear that Harry won't keep his mouth shut pummeling his ribcage, over and over, but Monroe can't know. Zayn feels the intense rush of protection, to protect Harry at all costs, but he can't protect him unless Harry protects himself. He can't protect anyone if he loses his cool and let's a cop into his head.

So Zayn looks up, sets his cuffed hands in his lap, and waits.

Monroe looks at him one last time, his eyes unwavering, before he stands up.

"Alright, son. I'm gonna go see your friend in the other room. Maybe he's more of a talker," Monroe shrugs his shoulders, grabbing the file. "Maybe he has some sins he'd like to admit to now, before anything gets worse. Before anything else happens."

Monroe smiles as he goes to shut the door.

"Oh, and before I forget," Monroe turns to stare at Zayn right back. "I talked to your daddy. Yaser. He said you should give him a call. You know, whenever you get the chance."

Monroe smiles before the door clicks shut after him.

Zayn's breath whooshes out of him like a hurricane, as his head hits the metal table.

Fuck this.



***


Zayn gets released first, by the cop who arrested them, the homophobe who promptly tipped his hat at the guy who hit Harry in the first place. And if Zayn weren't already on thin ice, he'd deck this fucker in the jaw.

But he undoes the cuffs around Zayn's wrists and signs him out.

"Y'all need a ride somewhere?" he asks dumbly, because he must think Zayn's some kind of idiot. "I can take y'all to where you're staying."

Zayn really does roll his eyes this time, rubbing his wrists, kicking open the station door to head outside. He waits near the front entrance, the sign for the Mason County Sheriff's Station against his back, and lights a cigarette. He can't be sure if anyone's watching him now, so he schools himself to not pace or let his hands shake.

He thinks about Yaser then. He wonders how his family took the news, of him getting arrested again. If Zayn couldn't let himself go home before, he definitely can't let himself now. If he ever planned on going back, even for a visit, it won't happen any time soon. And his mom's birthday is coming up. It's a shame. It's also a shame that all the bad ass energy he felt in that station, about not giving a fuck, about being bored, about beating the system, all suddenly flew out the fucking window when his dad's name got brought up.

The thought plagues him then, won't weasel its way out of his head once it's there, that maybe they will go to their court date. Maybe they'll stop this. Maybe they'll go home and back off from the plan. Maybe Harry actually doesn't want to be in the wind with his middle finger up. Maybe this is it.

Just then, Harry walks out the front door, hands on his wrists, getting the blood back into his fingers, when they lock eyes.

Zayn shakes his head.

No touching.

I know, Zayn. Jesus.

Harry rolls his eyes as they have a silent conversation, before they start the long walk back to the motel. Zayn hates himself, for questioning Harry, for wondering if Harry would say anything even briefly, because the second they get away from the station and kick up dirt on the highway, he knows Harry didn't say a word. Harry stuck to the plan, he trusted Zayn just like Zayn trusted him, and they were okay.

Harry must sense the tension in his back, so he reaches for his hand and interlocks their fingers.

The sun starts to set as they walk, heads aching from the tequila.

"He called my dad," Zayn nods.

"He called my mom," Harry shrugs.

"I bet he said all the same things to us both. I bet he read it to you like he read it to me. He thinks we did the robberies, he thinks we're guilty as fuck."

"He's a low rent cop from a shitty, forgettable town, Zayn. Even if he has a 'hunch' that we did it, he has zero proof. He doesn't even exist anymore. We're fine."

"I know."

They walk a few more miles without speaking, still holding hands, even though it's too hot for the skin on skin contact. Zayn hasn't stopped sweating since he felt the first bead drip down his back in that uncomfortable chair in that empty room. If Harry's sweating, if inside, deep down he's freaking out, he doesn't say so.

Harry doesn't say anything once they unlock their motel door, or even as he strips his clothes to wash the blood, sweat, and grime off his body. Zayn could join him, like he normally does, but they both need a minute. It's like the night before their first pull, when they separated to get their heads right, to come to terms with what they were about to do. It's like when Harry needed the afternoon before the party to say goodbye, even just in his head, to the world around him.

Zayn strips down to his briefs to wait his turn and sits on the bed. They can't stay the night, they can't risk anyone seeing them in the truck in the morning, wondering where they're going next, or following them. They need to leave. So Zayn pulls out the phone from his bag, the phone he's had for years and barely turns on. He briefly wonders what kind of call he'll make, if it'll be brief, or pathetic, or sorry, or laced with tears.

Harry comes out of the bathroom with a thin off-white towel around his waist, his thumb nail in his mouth.

His eyes bounce around, crazed, nervous.

"Are we done?"

Zayn looks at him with wide eyes.

"Tell me, Zayn. Are we done? Do you want to go home?"

Zayn stares at him.

"That asshole called my mom. He called her and thought it would make me feel sorry for myself, or for her, I don't know. He thought it would make a difference. But it didn't. Because I know my mom, Zayn. And I know she probably hollered down the line about me, about being sorry and that I'm a good boy, but she doesn't really give a shit. She won't be calling me, because I know now, she's done. She's done with me. Officially."

"Harry."

"It's fine because I'm over it. And I have my dad's picture and revolver in my bag, so it's okay. I swear, it's okay. But he called your dad. And you have sisters who love you, a mom who has a birthday coming up, and a whole life you could go back to."

"That's not true."

Harry paces, hands in his wet hair.

"It is true, and you know it. Even if you fucked up beyond repair, your dad would still let you come home. So tell me. Do you want to go home? Do you want to go to your court date? It's in six days. We have six days to decide if we go back to the shithole towns we grew up in. Is that what you want?

Harry stops pacing and stands in front of Zayn, lungs heaving.

"You remembered my mom's birthday is coming up," Zayn can't help but smile, even in the midst of the heaviness surrounding them.

Harry rolls his eyes.

"You told me it was," he puts his hands on his hips.

"I did tell you that," Zayn grabs for his towel, unwinding it with slow fingers.

"Zayn."

"Look," Zayn throws the towel into the corner, pulling Harry onto the bed to lay beside him. "You are the only thing that's important to me. And when we were in that station, in separate rooms, waiting, anxious and fucking nervous as fuck, we still got through it. Because we're good at this."

Harry nods.

"My dad is probably livid. I can't go home. I don't want to go home. And fuck these court dates," Zayn kisses his shoulder. "Fuck parole and fuck checking in. Fuck all of it. Fuck this entire thing. Fuck that woman in the grocery store. Fuck Monroe and his little files. Fuck that guy at the bar who hurt you."

Harry smiles and kisses Zayn's chin

"Fuck anyone or anything who made us feel shitty, or anxious, or bored. We don't want to sit still, so we won't. We don't want to be at the mercy of this shitty state anymore, so let's not do it. Let's fucking go. Let's go to North Carolina and stay in a big ass house on the beach."

Harry starts to relax then. He makes a sound, a sweet sound like he's savoring chocolate on his tongue, as his eyes slip closed and his hands wind around Zayn's arms. They think of North Carolina together, unspoken words about the green trees and the sand between their toes.

"I want Cheerwine," Harry smiles.

Zayn thinks back to the day they drank the specialty cherry soda at the bar, when their lips touched, sticky and sweet, the day they laughed until they cried over Don Romano's story about his daughter's first date coming to the house, when he held a shotgun up for the kid to see. His daughter Madeline, only a few years younger than Harry in school, screeched so loudly, Don said only the dogs could hear it. They drank Cheerwine until they were high on sugar. It was a good day.

"You know what I want?"

"What's that?" Harry yawns, his body finally coming down from the tension he acquired in the shower.

"I wanna spend the money I won from our bet," Zayn whispers, lips ghosting at Harry's ear down to his neck. "I wanna take you on a fancy date, at some slick restaurant in some big city. Get you a steak. Buy you a nice bottle of wine, one of them expensive ones where you gotta sniff at it first."

Harry laughs into his neck, the sweetest sound in the world.

"I wanna take you out, buy you drinks and flowers and I wanna blow you in a cab."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah."

Zayn kisses him, brings their mouths together, sliding his tongue against Harry's with a moan held tight in his throat. They have to leave, he has to shower, they have to go. Zayn starts to pull away, is about to tell Harry to pack quickly, when he sees Harry's face again.

Harry touches Zayn's cheek, his forehead a mess of confusion.

"If we leave, if we really, truly leave… If we skip court… Zayn, we'll have warrants out for our arrest."

Zayn feels the sense of deja vu, to the slurred conversation at their party, about being ready, about leaving. Zayn had to remind Harry then, and maybe he has to remind him again now, that they can't be scared. No fear. Harry's not afraid anymore, neither of them are, of the act itself. But maybe they need to get rid of the last bit of fear a human being can have: of getting caught in a trap.

"I know," Zayn nods, willing Harry to remember.

"On the run. For real. No bullshit. We'll have to go, disappear."

"I know."

"You sure?"

Zayn kisses him again, more insistent this time, before climbing off the bed to head into the bathroom. Harry exhales, his body deflating against the too-hard mattress covered in their clothes and bags. Harry remembers, he knows they'll be fine, that this is another spark, another instance when they have to remind each other who they are. And what they can do, if they keep their eyes open and their mouths shut. You can only get caught in a trap if you step in one.

Zayn wills Harry to remember the rest of it. To remember the conversation on the porch. To remember why they do this in the first place. And why they can't stop.

I wanted it. When I want something, I take it.

I like knowing I can get caught. I take shit, when I want it.

Harry smiles at him, and Zayn knows they're back on the same wavelength, ready to fight this through.

"Pack up, babe. We got a drive ahead of us," Zayn stares at him.

Harry stares back.

I'm always sure if you're next to me.

Good. Me too.



***


"Hey pop. It's me. Uh… y'all are probably out with mom. Celebrating. So I just wanted to leave a message. Tell her happy birthday. Say hi and all. And… I know the sheriff called you, I know he said some things. It was a fight. In a bar. A guy said something to my friend and it was… it was a mistake. And I'm sorry for getting into trouble again, for letting you down. But I wanted you to hear from me that I'm sorry, and that… I might not be calling again for awhile. Because I have to go. I just really have to go. And it's not your fault, or mom's fault, it's not anyone's fault but mine. I think I need this. To really be on my own, for good. I'm this person, I am the way that I am, and I can't stop it. So I need to go be that. Wherever I end up. With someone who is really, really important. You always said to see the landscape, pop. You said to feel it out. And I finally am, I really am. So… that's it. I hope work is good. I hope the girls are good. Hope everyone is doing just fine. I'll miss you. And… yeah. Bye."



***


"Hey momma, it's Harry. I heard you got a phone call, so yeah, that happened. A guy called me a queer and my hot as fuck boyfriend punched him in the face. It was a rush, I tell you what. Just wanted to say that… I'm very happy. I am a very happy person. I do what I want, when I want. I make choices and I follow through with them. I have someone who loves me, over and over, until he's absolutely sick with it. And I love him so much, it's like Elvis makes sense. I'm happy. I'm free. I laugh and play and can light up a room. And it's a shame you never gotta see that. Uh… the truck is running great. Oh, and tell Gemma I say hello, whenever you talk to her. I gotta go now. I'm going someplace permanently. So… Have a good life, momma. Be well. Bye."



***


They spend the next week celebrating. Savoring. Engulfing. Cherishing Texas in all its glory, as they inch their way closer to the eastern border of their home state. It's nights in motels, days spent driving, fucking, eating waffles drenched in syrup. Zayn thinks of home, but Harry knows it's brief, while he himself shut the phone after the message to his mom with a smile on his face. It's a weight he didn't realize he still had on his back.

They're proud of each other, for deciding to leave for good, for picking this life together. Zayn says it into Harry's back when he fucks him slowly. Harry bites it into Zayn's thighs when he teases him for twenty minutes afterwards.

They absolutely flourish in Austin. Harry can't wait to do exactly what Zayn said he wanted to do, that night after they got arrested.

Harry uses his charm to check them into a nice hotel in the heart of downtown, a few extra hundreds handed to the front desk so they won't have to put a credit card down. Zayn stands next to him with his hands in his pockets, smiling, as Harry leans on his elbows to tell Alicia how pretty she is. Zayn throws a few smiles of his own at her, the pair of them a sight for sore eyes as they shamelessly stare at her, as she touches their arms, her lip between her teeth.

"I bet we could fuck her," Harry whispers in Zayn's ear as they ride the elevator to the top floor.

"We could totally fuck her," Zayn laughs, grabbing his hand. "She was practically begging for it."

Harry bites Zayn's neck, because it might be a rush, but it's not the kind Harry's interested in exactly. And the look Zayn gives him as he waltzes out of the elevator first says just as much. Their room is massive, with a sitting room, a stocked bar, a view of the skyline through a wall of windows. Harry watches Zayn drink a beer lazily, his eyes scanning the city at their finger tips, the possibilities of what it holds. Harry wonders if Zayn is thinking about their court dates, the ones they decidedly skipped that morning.

"You here with me?" Harry cocks his head, undoing his shirt.

Zayn turns to him and smiles.

"I'm here."

"Good."

"Go shower. I'll make us reservations and plan this fancy ass date," Zayn wiggles his eyebrows, reaching for the phone near the couch.

Harry rolls his eyes and does as he's told, grabbing his toiletry bag and slipping into the bathroom the size of his childhood bedroom. He showers quickly, efficiently, before getting down to business, for Zayn's surprise. Harry shakes his head and looks at his own reflection, reaching into his bag.

It's not exactly easy, fingering yourself while also trying to hurry. But Harry does his best, lubes his fingers beyond what he normally does, to really get the job done. He relaxes as he leans against the sink, hand behind himself, working the ring of muscle he first discovered as a teenager. It's sloppy and messy, too messy after a shower, but the cool air from the vent blasts his face and sends a shiver down his spine. It's good. He can feel his cock fattening, the thoughts running through his mind of what this night holds, and he forces a hand to his groin to settle down.

Once he's stretched and ready, Harry grabs the plug from his bag, the one he bought a week ago from a seedy little porn shop next to their motel, after Zayn fell asleep. It's not big, just a standard black plug that made Harry smile his wicked smile the second he saw it. He lubes it and carefully works it into himself, the widest part around the middle stretching him so far, almost too far, his mouth falls open. His body doesn't know what to do with the intrusion right away, his fingers slipping slightly as his thighs tense up. But he pushes through, pushes it in, until all at once it breeches him entirely and sits snug inside his ass, the rubber end of it sitting beautifully against his cheeks.

Harry almost laughs. It fucking worked. Look at that.

Harry stands straight, turns to look at his ass in the mirror, and as his muscles shift, the full feeling running from his cock to his chest, multiplies. Harry has to grab the sink to steady himself.  It's good. It's so fucking good, he can't wait to show Zayn.

"Babe, hurry up," Zayn calls through the door, annoyance laced in every word.

"Don't rush me," Harry pouts.

If only he knew. Harry smirks again.

Harry quickly changes, as quickly as he can with a rubber butt plug shoved inside his most precious orifice, and strolls into the main room. He has his best jeans on, not as tight as his beat up black ones, so as to not give away the weird circular shape sitting at ass height. Zayn eyes the black button up, the slick of his hair, the smile on Harry's face, and he knows something is up.

"You look excited."

"I am," Harry nods. "Of course I am. It's our first real date."

Zayn eyes him. He knows Harry too well.

"Okay…"

"Go shower. C'mon, I want you to wine and dine me, Mr. Malik," Harry leans against the fancy fireplace set in the wall, the plug shifting slightly, making him bite his lip.

Zayn bites his own lip before turning away and shutting the door.

"And don't you dare touch yourself, sir."

"Fuck off," Zayn laughs from the bathroom.



***


Austin at night is beautiful, not that Harry entirely notices. He's too focused on the plastic sliding up inside his ass for hours on end, as Zayn talks his ear off at the restaurant he booked them for.

Harry listens, of course he listens, but he can't help but think about what's to come. He drinks the expensive wine, he orders the most expensive steak on the menu, and when the bill comes, he watches Zayn pull out a stack of hundreds from his jacket pocket like he was one of them high rollers for real, like some business man or heir to a fortune.

Zayn actually laughs, when the waiter's eyes bulge slightly, from the money he holds. The waiter goes to a computer in the corner and Harry sees him whispering to two of his coworkers.

"I bet he thinks you're my sugar daddy," Harry swirls his wine.

"We're literally the same age. And you look nicer than I do. You look like you fit here better," Zayn nods to the restaurant, at the ladies in their cocktail dresses and the men in three piece suits.

Harry rolls his eyes.

He shifts in his chair and feels the jolt of pressure, of pleasure, shoot through his body.

"Are you okay?"

"Yeah."

"I wish you would stop saying that. Because you keep acting weird. You keep getting this look on your face."

"I do not."

"You can't see your own face. Shut up."

The waiter brings them the second bottle of wine they ordered to go, as they stand up. Harry has to grip the table for a second, as his legs get used to standing straight, as he lets the weight of his body settle on the plug in this position again.

Zayn sees his face again and grabs his bicep, curling his fingers around Harry, tugging him towards the door. They're outside and away from the windows with wandering eyes, when Zayn rounds on him.

"What are you doing?"

"What?"

"Stop, Harry. Why are you acting weird?" Zayn pushes at him slightly, forcing Harry into the brick wall of the restaurant. "What's wrong?"

The sharp intake of breath Harry takes when his ass brushes the hard surface of the wall doesn't exactly help his case. Zayn gestures to him, as if he could possibly explain this away, when Harry knows he needs to fess up. So much for getting that blowjob in a cab.

"Babe?" Harry smiles, pulling Zayn against him. "Did you have much else planned for tonight?"

"Well, no. I was like… I don't know, thought if we wanted to, we maybe have a drive around the city. Or take a walk."

"Oh, okay. Well… maybe we should just go back to the hotel."

Zayn narrows his eyes.

Harry grabs Zayn's face and kisses him deep, his tongue doing that thing where it's like he's fucking into Zayn's mouth with it. Zayn opens up, lets him right in because Zayn's so amazing and always knows what Harry wants. Harry reaches for Zayn's hand and slowly places it on his hip first, licking at Zayn's bottom lip.

Zayn starts to make like he's about to pull away, to question Harry again, when Harry moves Zayn's hand around to the small of his back and finally down to his ass. Harry smiles against Zayn's mouth as his hand comes in contact with the hard plastic trapped under his briefs.

"What the fuck," Zayn moans, hand pressing against it.

Harry whines then, a true whine escapes his mouth, as Zayn presses at the plug harder.

"Wanted to… fuck, I wanted to be open and wet. For you," Harry pants. "Because today's our day, you know? We said fuck it, to everything and everyone today. We did it, babe. We're so good and we're here, and we still have the plan. And I wanted… fuck… I wanted you like this. Inside me like this."

"Babe," Zayn whispers, before kissing him again.

Not thirty seconds later, Zayn grabs Harry's hand and tugs him in the direction of their fancy hotel, on their fancy date night, the bag holding their wine swinging in Harry's clenched fist.



***



We're very present.

That's what Zayn thinks as he rests his face against the back of Harry's neck, when he's asleep under Zayn's hands.

It must be a job requirement, doing what they do, being who they are, to be present. Because most people, at least in Zayn's experience, tend to check out. And often. They let go of their emotions, let their hands be used only for typing in cubicles, squash how they feel, suppress urges, rid themselves of happiness if happiness means breaking a rule. Zayn and Harry have to be present, have to feel everything, every emotion and fear, to do what they do. Walking into a business with a firearm means having to understand the consequences, the backlash, the intent, the need. There's no time to turn off the brain, to rid the senses of what's happening around them.

They break the law, sure. But they're the lucky ones, Zayn nods with his thoughts, lips brushing Harry's skin. They're lucky to be as present and visceral as they are. Because it means in moments like this, moments like before when Harry came so hard he cried, they feel all of it. They have to.

Every one of their senses were on fire that night. Their night. The night they stopped being functioning members of society for real, on paper, in the eyes of the law.

Zayn watched Harry walk in front of him, down the hall to their hotel door, his hips swaying only slightly. The pressure of the plug in his ass made him squirm in the car, breath hot against Zayn's ear, and he knew how to move to get Zayn there with him, antsy and anticipating.

Zayn felt the smooth, expensive sheets under his knees when Harry got naked and crawled up the bed ahead of him on his hands and knees, the suctioned end of the black plug slipping in and out of him slightly. Zayn felt the hair under his finger tips, from Harry's calves, as Harry slowly turned his head to watch Zayn watch him.

Harry reached for the plug and pulled at it slowly, so fucking slowly, Zayn's eyes burning into him as it slid out. The stretch probably burned, the muscle Zayn's had on his tongue a thousand times, moved beyond what Zayn's ever given with his cock or his fingers, red and wet and slick. Zayn heard the sound, the small pop when it finally came out, when Harry dropped it to the bed with an exhale, like the air in his lungs breathed life into the static air around them.

Zayn saw Harry drop to his forearms, his cheek against the sheets, sweat on his shoulders, as Zayn felt how stretched he was. His skin glistened from the lube, his hole wide and pulsing, Zayn's fingers feeling, over and over, Harry's rim, the place only Zayn gets to see.

The longer he teased, the closer he brought Harry, Zayn realized he could smell Harry's cologne from earlier in the night mixed in with his own. Harry's, fresh and outdoorsy, mixed with Zayn's, cedar wood and musky, made them smell all their own. Zayn wondered if it's what their house will smell like one day, the house they pay for in cash, with a porch over looking the ocean and a dog running out towards the beach.

And when Zayn tasted Harry, the skin of his thighs, the thick muscle of his ass between his palms as he tongues Harry open even further, up over his waist to his lower back, tongue dipping into the dimples there, up his spine to his neck, it all tasted so very much like Harry always tastes. It was familiar all over again.

They felt all of it, every cell in their bodies, when Zayn fucked into Harry in one quick push. It's animalistic, Zayn realized, an intense burning desire to mark Harry, to give him something physical and primal. He held Harry tight against his body, one hand just above Harry's cock, the other pulling at his shoulder, so they were both up on their knees, back to chest. Harry's head fell onto Zayn's shoulder, his neck too loose, and they locked eyes for a few seconds, both smiling. Zayn fucked into Harry over and over, Harry's grunts filling the air as he held tight back, hands over Zayn's hands.

It wasn't as hot as normal, in that air conditioned hotel room, on that bed that felt like a cloud, but it was just as frantic. Just as wild and burning. Zayn came first, pumping up into Harry's spent and languid body until his brain told him to stop feeling the blood pumping through his veins and instead feel Harry's. When his hand wrapped around Harry's cock and pulled him off, Harry clenched around him and they hissed together when Harry came, tears down his cheeks, it hit him so hard.

Zayn had to wipe his face and kiss his mouth until Harry came back, until he floated down again, and he had to whisper again into his ear four times before Harry could get his tongue working to say it back.

They're very present people, Zayn thinks as he sighs, Harry turning over in his sleep to bury his face in Zayn's chest, on this day, their day.

We're lucky.



***


Days later, Harry waits outside a 7-Eleven as Zayn buys his cigarettes. It's another hot day, balmier than usual, as Harry tugs at the hair around his ears. It's getting long. He'll need a serious hair cut soon, he thinks, as he scuffs his feet against the curb.

A cowboy walks past him, some ranch hand with a Copenhagen ring practically branded into his front pocket, and Harry briefly thinks of his uncles and smiles. They're probably getting his cousins ready for their birthday party, the one they throw every year with balloons tied to the front mailbox just off the road. Gemma used to sing for it, while Harry helped Uncle Mark at the grill, flipping burgers and franks, burned a little, like his dad used to do it. The man tips his hat to Harry, a polite nod because even when preoccupied and sweating, good cowboys are always polite.

Harry smiles at him, picking at the dirt under his fingernails.

Just then he feels the vibration in his pocket, the telltale ring of his phone that hasn't gone off in weeks.

"Ni!" he smiles, bringing it to his ear, slapping his thigh. "Miss you."

"Miss you," Niall breathes into the phone, heavy like, probably in his truck with the windows down.

"S'goin on back there? Tell me everything."

"Everything's fine, real fine. Everyone's good. My Aunt Bridget hired two new hands for her place, two guys from Oklahoma who seem real nice. Crazy strong, too."

"Wow, good for her."

"Yeah."

"How's the house? You paint it yet?"

"Fuck off, Haz," Niall laughs, the blinker clicking in the background. Harry bets he's turning right on Grant Street in town, on his way to Sean's.

"Never," Harry smiles.

"And you're good? You both good?"

"We're fuckin great. I swear it, it's like this is what we were supposed to do all along," Harry nods, as Zayn walks the aisles behind the glass of the store. "We've done good. Been quick as ever, not causing too much trouble. No harm, no foul, I suppose."

"Harry."

Niall has his serious voice, the voice he only uses when it's bad, like when his parents died and he called Harry right away, or when the factory half their extended families worked at shut down just outside the county.

"Say it."

"I got a call at the house earlier. From a parole officer. Said you skipped a court date, that you're in trouble."

"Oh."

"You're both in trouble. Warrants are out now, they know you're not here and they know you're not coming back."

"Is that all they know?"

"If you've been careful, then yes. Ain't nobody asking questions about robberies, not with your names attached. Not yet."

"Good."

"What did you do, H? Why did you have a court date?"

"A fight."

"Fuck."

"But it's fine. We just… we like, decided, is all. That we never planned on going back anyhow, and we want to keep going. We want this. We want to do it big, you know?"

"I know."

Zayn makes his way out the door, a plastic bag in his hands, his boots smacking the pavement as he makes his way to Harry. They lean against the concrete, Zayn's eyes serious, questioning. He mouths a quick who is it? as Harry bites his lip.

"Ni, you're our best friend. Thanks for the call. And thanks again, for all of it. But this… this is what we decided. So we're not coming back."

Zayn's eyes soften at the name, at Niall calling from miles away. He places a cigarette between his teeth and leans in to listen.

"Figured as much. I knew y'all could never sit still. Not here, at least."

"You get us," Zayn offers into the phone, a smile in his voice.

"Fuckin wish I didn't get you, that's for sure. My life would be a lot less stressful."

Harry and Zayn both laugh, and then laugh harder when they hear Niall's wheeze, the laugh he can't help from throwing out, when he's excited over his own joke.

"Alright, well," Harry starts, unsure how to end this, not knowing when it'll happen again.

"Be smart, boys," Niall sighs. "Toss this phone, close any accounts you have. Bills or whatever. Toss any credit cards."

Zayn eyes Harry, surprised.

"Okay."

"Y'all thought I didn't know how to do this right?" Niall laughs. "I read up, ya fuckin idiots. If you're goin off the grid, if you're livin a life of crime with cash in your pockets, do it right. Don't get caught."

"We'll try."

"And call me. When you can," he finishes, quiet like, sad.

"We will," Zayn exhales smoke, away from Harry.

It's quiet on the other end of the line, Niall probably parked now, no wind sailing past his window. Harry knows he's probably touching his neck, his calloused fingers running across the tanned and freckled skin there, from years of working outside shirtless.

"Be good," Niall finishes.

He hangs up before they can say anything else.

Niall doesn't realize it, Harry thinks, that he's just as independent and fierce as they are. He just finds the comfort of their town, of his old house, to be part of him. He's good at giving instructions, at taking care of those around him, at being a man, at leading. Harry admires that. And he'll really fucking miss it.

Harry does as Niall says, because he listens when it counts, and throws the phone into the dumpster near the backdoor. Zayn grabs a curl near his ear as they walk towards the truck and does a thing with his eyes, a thing that probably says Harry needs a haircut.

Harry also thinks it says that they'll be just fine, that the plan is set, that they'll be out of Texas in no time.



***


They decide to keep it light, the last few days of build up, as they lay low just on the other side of Houston. The drive through the city is a good one, a city Harry has never explored before, as Zayn shows him around. They eat tacos at a little hole in the wall on the south end, with so much hot sauce, Harry's mouth tingles for hours. They visit the San Jacinto monument, which Zayn isn't thrilled about, being so high up in the air, but the view is sick. They also take cash to various acquaintances of Zayn's, a few guys he knew from jail, their wives and mothers, handing out cash.

Momma Shay, a round woman with the best kind of laugh wrinkles around her eyes, cries into Harry's shoulder when they hand her a bag. Two of her sons were in jail with Zayn, his age, for selling weed, and Zayn made sure to send their love, along with the money.

It's gratifying, and Harry reminds himself all over again why he loves taking, not just for himself, but for others. It's why he gave Zayn the watch he wears on his wrist everyday. Zayn gives him a knowing look, a sweet one, before their last stop.

"Like a coupla fuckin Robin Hoods," Fernando laughs, clapping them both on the shoulders.

He had tried to put up a fight at first, his hands out in protest, when Harry handed him a stack. But eventually, once Zayn leaned in and spoke in his ear, too quiet for Harry to hear, Fernando's face softened and his eyes got a little wet. Maybe he had told Zayn why he needed it, back when they were locked up. Maybe his family needed it. Maybe he needed to hear where it came from, the greedy hands that Zayn took from, with Harry at his side.

They nod together, Harry still behind Zayn. Harry wonders about the guys he befriended in jail, the ones from across the state, and he thinks that he'll find their addresses, if he can. He'd like to do this for them, too.

Zayn gives Fernando a look then, a serious one. Fernando sends his daughter back into the house, the screen slamming behind her, as her giggles sound farther away.

"I just have a favor," Zayn says, as Fernando wipes at the sweat on his upper lip.

"Anything."

Ten minutes later, Harry hands the keys to his daddy's truck to Fernando's brother, with only a slight shake to his fingers. When the keys to a Mustang are handed back to him, he tries to smile through it.

It's oddly fitting, the fact that they'll be leaving Texas in a black Mustang, just like the first car they used for their first hit. That's what brings him back to himself, as they drive off with random plates stuck to the bumpers of this car, the car they needed to truly leave. It wouldn't be right to hit a bank with his dad's truck parked in an alley, with their warrants. Zayn knew, because Zayn's so smart, that they needed a swap, a real one, not a stolen car to trace anywhere.

Zayn throws his arm out the passenger window, let's his hand skate through the dusty air, as they head to the motel they planned ahead of time.

Harry hums to the Motown station, programmed in the radio, number 3.

"I want a nice car," Zayn offers.

Harry looks to him, tries to gauge the conversation, as Zayn looks back at him. Smiling. So Harry smiles too. Because Zayn knows him and knows they need to visualize. Plan for the future, instead of dwelling on the past. A truck is just a truck is just a truck, Harry decides. It's all behind them. In their rearview.

"I want a few nice cars," Harry counters.

"I think we should have a game room in our house. Or a massive redone basement, with a pool table. And a bar. And a huge TV. Hung on the wall and everything, one of those nice ones with the good speakers."

"I want a dog."

"I want four dogs. Big ones," Zayn runs his hand up Harry's thigh.

"I want a nice living room. Not so nice that we don't sit in it, like my mom's, because it's ridiculous to have a fancy room no one's allowed to step foot in," Harry smiles, holding Zayn's hand against his leg. "But a nice one. Where we have our Christmas tree. And where I can get a big couch, to face the windows. So we can see the ocean."

Zayn kisses his hand.

"I want a garage. Like my dad's. Where I can fix all our nice cars, if they break."

"I want to blow you in that garage. Against the cars," Harry bites his lip.

"Well alright then."

"Alright."

Two more days.



***


It's not a big bank. But it's a bank.

Crosby National Bank. Not far outside of Houston. A small, unassuming brick building with the name carved into stone above the door. It almost resembles a small courthouse. Hell, maybe it was, once. This tiny town with hardly any people, using old buildings as new property.

Harry had gone in the day before to check it out, pretending to use the ATM.

No cameras. Only two tellers at a counter not covered by glass. A small walk-in safe, left wide open, behind the two girls at the counter. A man walked behind them, towards a back office, the bank manager who looked about two years away from retirement. Tired. Ready to go home the second he arrived in the morning. It's the type of bank little old ladies visit every week to deposit Medicare checks, the bank that gave out only a few loans a year to respectable farmers, the kind of place to exist because every small town needs at least one bank. It's there to fill a quota, like a game of Monopoly needs a banker.

It might as well be another store, except for the fact more than one person would be there when they hit it. It wouldn't just be little old men tending the stores left to them by their great granddaddies, alone and withered, ready for the day of steady customers asking for help. This was a bank. A real one, with real money counters, a real safe. They knew when it opened, knew it only housed three employees, but it's more than they had ever done before. More people to deal with. More fear. More eyes.

Zayn realizes as they dress in the motel, carefully covering their bodies in black clothing, that they sleep like babies the nights before they hit. They eat breakfast, drink coffee, talk about the weather. It's like they're getting ready for desk jobs, like they're normal, tax paying, members of society, instead of the vagabonds who circle prey like wolves. Maybe it should worry him, the fact that they've acclimated as fast as they have, but it doesn't. Because there's nothing to be afraid of anymore.

Eyes open, mouths shut, no one gets hurt, especially us.

So when they walked in that morning with their masks and gloves, it was with level heads and steady hands, ready to be in charge of the room with three separate people.

The girl on the left sees them first, her eyes widening to the size of saucers.

"Oh my god," she whispers, already trembling.

The other girl, a little taller, looks at her before her eyes travel to the two figures coming through their front door.

Zayn vaguely wonders if they're sisters, if the bank manager is their father. Maybe it's easier if it's family. Maybe their threats will be enough to get what they want, none of them able to risk the harm to their loved ones.

Zayn sees the fear and it hits him like a bullet, sears through his skin, cutting through his internal organs as it dawns on him that this is what they wanted all along. This is what they planned for ever since that first night when Niall brought it up. This is it. This is their mountain, the one they've been steadily climbing since they met all those weeks ago when they worried about inflicting fear. They cared so much back then, about strangers, and now all he sees are the things they want. The things they need, to get away, to feel truly free. He wants the dogs, the house on the beach, Harry at his side. This is just another way to get there.

Harry looks at him and they lock eyes, right as they get halfway to the counter. They're so ready for this, the fear and stress mounting in the room be damned. They own this place. This is their Everest, this is what they trained for. And they're so fucking ready, so jacked up on the high of it, Zayn almost laughs. It's like a hit of morphine straight to his veins. He wants to savor it.

"Ladies," Harry starts, hand resting on his hip, over his gun. "Open your drawers."

Both of them start crying. Loudly. Wailing. The bank manager emerges from his office, his entire body almost collapsing on itself as he takes in the scene in front of him. The girls at the counter. The two men in all black with gloved hands and bulges on their hips from guns. Guns that fire, that could fire at his children.

"Stop crying," Zayn says, steady as ever, eyes traveling to the man in the office doorway.

They stop.

"Darlin, you open these drawers," Harry gestures to the girl on the left, before eyeing the other. "And you go take this bag into the safe and fill it."

Zayn steps forward, his hand on his own hip, on his own gun, still looking at the manager through the holes in his mask.

"Do not reach for anything under the counter. Do not cry. Do not talk."

All three stare at Harry and Zayn, unmoving. But Harry nods at them all, each one, willing them to go, to follow instructions.

"Now," Zayn finishes.

The girl on the left blinks wildly, finally reaching for her drawer, entire body shaking. The other girl gingerly takes the bag from the counter and steps to the safe, hands slipping as she puts the stacks of money into it. They both sniff, no longer crying, bodies trying to go as fast as their brains can process.

Zayn locks eyes with the manager again. Waiting. Watching to see if he'll move. He doesn't. He's frozen.

"Good girl," Harry says in a low voice, as the bag is set back on the counter, as the first girl takes the money from the drawers and adds it to the bills placed inside it by her sister.

Zayn looks at Harry, for just a beat, with wide eyes.

Zayn grabs for it, zips it quickly, backing away towards the door like always. He's outside and gone, as Harry slowly makes his way to it. Once his back hits glass, he takes one last look at the three people in front of him, the girls with long black hair, their greying father with a trembling chin, and then he's gone.

The heat brings out the crazy yet again.



***


"Fuck, you did so good," Zayn pants against Harry's mouth as they crash through the motel door.

"You did," Harry mumbles back, lips smashing against Zayn's with every syllable.

Zayn tosses the bag of money onto the bed. The peeling yellow walls, green carpet, and itchy bedspread were a sight when they checked in earlier, the musk of the place too strong even for them. It's one of the more disgusting places they've stayed and Harry hates to admit it, but Zayn was probably right when he said they should check their bags later for cockroaches, before tossing their belongings into their new car.

But now, after their first bank, it's like a fucking palace.

Harry's about to grab Zayn by the shirt, to pull them closer again, to finish what they started in the car and then on the walk to the door, when Zayn holds a hand out with a wicked smile on his face.

"Strip," he commands, Harry immediately weak in the knees at his tone.

Harry starts to remove his clothing, frantically, his tshirt sticking to him slightly. It gets caught over his head as he tries to kick his boots off at the same time. When he finally, thankfully, emerges from the stupid fucking fabric around his face, he looks to the bed and sees Zayn, already naked, elbow deep in the bag of cash.

He smiles at Harry as he starts tossing it in the air, around them, onto the bed.

"Did you know, I almost nutted in my fucking jeans," Zayn tosses another handful, "when you said 'good girl,' I fucking swear."

Harry kicks off his jeans and pounces on him, like a cat, like a child on a jungle gym, knocking them to the bed on top of their money. He pins Zayn down, hands over his head, knees on either side of his hips and kisses him hard.

"Did you know, when you touched your gun, when you told them what to do, I almost got on my knees," he grunts into Zayn's mouth.

"Fuck, I love you," Zayn groans, hands still trapped under Harry's palms.

"I love you and I want to fuck you and I want to grow so fucking old with you, you get all grey and gross," Harry rambles, kissing Zayn's face, down his jaw. "And when we feel like we could kill each other, when we're old and mean and yell at the neighborhood kids for trampling our lawn, I'm going to fuck you then, too."

Zayn surges up, Harry's entire body moves with the force of it, as he flips them over. Harry laughs, the big laugh, all bright and beautiful, as his arms fall to the bed. He spreads them, closes his eyes, feels the money under his back, like he's paddling in it, like they're swimming in a lake with no bottom.

"How much do you think we got?" Zayn bites Harry's nipple.

Harry moves his legs now, along with his arms, still swimming.

"I bet it's at least twenty grand."

"I bet it's twenty three."

"I'll take that wager," Harry pinches his hips.

"You're on."



***


Harry wins the bet, when the total is just over twenty grand. Zayn's not happy about it, because he doesn't like to lose their games, but in the end, Harry decides to tie him up face down on a fancy hotel bed with his ankles and wrists bound together, so all in all, it sort of goes in his favor.

The next bank they rob, it's more south, another small one. They check it out the day before and are surprised to see that only one person opens it each weekday, before the rest of the staff comes in an hour later. They walk in at 8:00 on the dot, as Mrs. Nancy Blanchard-Smith turns the key in the first cash drawer, a small money bag in her hand with rolls of quarters.

She stares at them with wide eyes and a blank expression, her hair in a tight bun on the top of her head, and once they ask her politely a second time to fill the bag, she obliges.

They take sixteen grand.

The third bank in Angleton is trickier. The man they thought would be opening, the man they saw the day before, ends up not being there. Instead there are four other people, three women and their boss, earlier than Zayn and Harry anticipated. They let customers in before the sign says they're open, and as perplexing as it is at first, it makes sense because small town Texans rarely make each other wait outside when the polite thing to do is let them wait inside, for their computers to boot up, for the money to be sorted into nice piles in teller drawers.

Zayn sees the apprehension on Harry's face, the dance his brain does, wondering if they should pack it in and try the next morning instead. They could always come back, earlier, less people, like they're used to.

But Zayn reminds him, no fear, and that's that. Harry nods and knocks their masked foreheads together, just once, and Zayn can see in his eyes that he's smiling.

"Ladies and gentlemen," Harry announces minutes later, voice loud as they walk into the bank, "please do not make any noise."

Zayn follows behind him, hand on his waist already, as the entire room quiets instantly. It's weird how sound can cut out so quickly, how human bodies know instinctively when and how to shut up. The four employees put their hands up, like a robbery movie, like a real "stick up." The few customers with their hands in their purses, curled on check books and shitty bank pens, stare at them.

"If you do not work at this bank," Zayn walks forward towards the tellers, "please kindly step towards the far wall."

The few people scurry to the wall, not needing to be told twice, and stare at them again.

"If you do work at this bank," Harry stands next to Zayn, his hand on the counter, "please kindly fill this bag with cash. No talking."

It's a starter pistol, Harry's voice that could cut glass, and Zayn has to bite his lip to stop himself from smiling, sure it would show through his mask this time. It's just so fucking easy now. It's good. They're fast and efficient, they practically finish each others' sentences. It's a dance, a tango, a rhythm no one would ever understand.

They're out the door only minutes later, and they make off with a whopping twenty eight thousand dollars.

"Holy shit," Harry pants, as he peels off his mask and they drive away. "That was fucking insane. There were so many people this time."

"We did it," Zayn smiles. "We did good."



***


The fourth bank is where it all goes to shit.

They decide to head back north, to outside of Houston again, to the marginally larger city of Pasadena, Texas. They rent another motel, a much nicer one near the airport, with a mini bar and even a microwave. Real luxurious.

Harry fucks Zayn slow the night before, after they watched from outside the bank that day, to see how it worked. It felt easy enough, didn't seem too busy in the mornings, sure they would be fine hitting it as it opens, like always. So they don't worry, they don't think or talk or wonder, as Harry opens Zayn up with his fingers, tortuously slow and steady. Zayn's back arches as Harry bites at his thighs, the cash in bags at their feet, making the whole room smell like the cottony fiber of money, printed with special ink by these here United States.

It's a good night, spent of tasting and kissing and teasing. Harry can't help himself, as he kisses Zayn's ankles, the left and then the right, back and forth, when Zayn throws his legs over Harry's shoulders. Zayn responds well to that, small bits of affection within the act itself, and Harry always gives it to him.

So the next morning, they feel lucky all over again. Lucky to be so in tune with themselves and each other, lucky that this life they lead is so right for them together. They're lucky bastards. Harry almost says it, almost whispers it as they walk into the bank, how lucky they are to have found each other and know, on the deepest level possible, what it means to understand a person.

But he doesn't because when they walk in the doors, expecting to only see two tellers, they see a little girl.

She's standing right in the middle of the main room, next to the writing counter where people fill out their deposit forms. She's holding a cherry lollipop, her dark hair in dreadlocks, cascading down her shoulders and dress.

Her mom stiffens at the counter, as she realizes seconds later what's happening, as the two male tellers behind the counter gasp.

Harry's not sure why it stops him, why it stops both of them, to see a child like this. But she looks up at them, her mouth red from the sugar, and sniffs.

Zayn looks at the tellers, the girl's mother, the girl, and finally Harry.

Harry looks at her.

She sniffs again harder. Wipes at her nose.

"I have allergies," she says simply, sniffing again.

The room is deadly quiet. Her mom slowly reaches a hand for her, to grab her baby, to pull her close. Harry sees that, and for a brief moment, his fucked up brain flashes to his childhood and wonders what that feeling would've been like, his mom reaching for him. For whatever reason, Anne Styles could never be affectionate with her children. She wasn't cruel or unloving, but she rarely touched them.

She slapped Harry once, when he presented her with thousands of dollars worth of jewelry for her birthday, because she knew where it came from, the ways in which he dodged the law to steal it. It never stopped her from wearing the necklaces though, from bragging about her son's sweet gifts. And Harry thought that described his mother perfectly: she could dislike Harry, and still find ways to make it look otherwise.

"I have allergies sometimes too," Harry offers, his hand flying around a bit.

"Harry," Zayn scolds, grabbing his arm.

That snaps him out of it. Harry shakes his head and looks to Zayn's uncovered eyes, concerned and pissed and incredulous.

"Right," Harry nods. "Right. Okay, if you don't work at this bank, please go stand against the wall."

The woman picks her daughter up now, pulls her face into her neck and shuffles to the wall, facing away from them. She shields her little girl's eyes and Harry can hear her praying, can hear the tiny squeak of a child being held too tight. Momma what's wrong?

"Fill this," Zayn grunts, throwing the bag to the first teller, a guy with glasses too big for his face.

Minutes later they're back in the car, flying down the highway. Harry grips the steering wheel, angry at himself for stopping, for standing still in the middle of a pull. He doesn't dare look at Zayn, sure he's even worse for wear, pissed off and cracking his knuckles.

Harry's not sure how, if it's ESP, or fate, or some fucked up connection they have, but they realize it at the same time.

"You said my fucking name," Harry whispers.

They didn't keep their mouths shut. They touched.

"I know," Zayn smacks his hand against the dashboard and curses under his breath.

Maybe they're not as lucky as they thought.



***


Police Appeal to Public to Trace Robbery Suspects
Posted: Sept 7, 11:44 PM PDT
By P. Lincoln, The Pasadena Citizen

Pasadena police are appealing for help to trace two suspects who may have committed the recent robbery of the Texas Coastal Bank.

Harry Styles, age 21, from Tahoka, and Zayn Malik, age 21, from Killeen, are wanted in connection with the robbery on Spencer Hwy yesterday morning. A teller of the bank told police one suspect called the other "Harry," alerting authorities to robbery suspects with that name and general description within the Texas parole system.

The suspects are also wanted for questioning about a string of robberies across the state of Texas between July and August.

Sheriff Christopher Monroe of Mason County first alerted state police to the suspects, after they were apprehended for disturbing the peace last month. He said: "We have made numerous inquiries at addresses where Styles and Malik have lived and places we know they visited, but so far we have been unable to find them. We cannot say for sure if these suspects committed these robberies, but we need the public's help to bring them in for questioning."

Styles and Malik were both separately in prison earlier this year, for larceny. They did not attend court hearings in relation to their Mason County crimes and warrants have been issued for their arrests.

"I'm confident that by releasing their pictures and descriptions, someone will be able to tell us where they are or may have spotted them recently. It's important we question these suspects as quickly as possible."

Anyone with information should contact Pasadena police or call Crimestoppers at 1-888-CRIME-TX.



***


Zayn can usually tell ahead of time how he'll react to certain situations.

He knew even as a kid before his first day of school, that when presented with difficult homework, he'd put it off for hours, whine about it being too hard, ask Doniya for help, and then eventually do it around bedtime. After his first high dive at the city pool, he knew: if it's heights, he can do it, but not happily. If it's the flu, he pukes until he cries, which he's not ashamed of, because the flu is terrible and everyone is allowed to be sad and pathetic when sick with the flu.

This time around, Zayn had nothing to go on. He never prepared or thought about his reaction to seeing his face and mugshot on the nightly news, until it's happening. It's days after the robbery, after they cooled down and realized how lucky they still are, when they're in a bar eating onion rings and drinking shitty beer, when the news starts up on the corner TV.

Harry sees first, his chewing slows. Zayn sees his face, knows the small ticks Harry has, every emotion he possesses, so he knows immediately something is up. Zayn follows Harry's line of sight to the screen and he almost drops his beer.

Their mugshots from a few weeks back in Mason stare at them. Harry's face, set and pissed, Zayn's profile, his black shirt and beard offset with the white background. There's no sound, just the blaring music coming from the speakers. No one seems to notice the news, or give a shit about current events, as random girls in short jean skirts dance around them to Johnny Cash songs.

When he was caught all those months ago and sent to jail for stealing the car, there was no chase. He had his picture taken because it's procedure, but it never got posted anywhere. His family never saw it. His sisters knew he got in trouble, but they didn't press further. Now he stares at himself, sees what other people see when they hear the name Zayn Malik now, and it should make him feel bad or angry or even resigned, now that he's officially a criminal on the run.

But he catches himself thinking he looks good, they both do. They look intense. Their I don't have time for this expressions went off without a hitch. After their anger in the car immediately following the bank, the slight fear they each felt from the touching and name slip, they thought it would go away. And now that it hasn't, now that it's really fucking real, they should be shitting their pants in fear.

Harry catches his eye and they must agree. Zayn feels the stir in his jeans right as Harry licks his lips, and it's so fucking ridiculous to be turned on by it, but they sort of are the way they are now, no apologies.

Minutes later they're holding the cell phone of the bartender, tucked in the hallway to the bathroom, fingers dialing Niall.

It's a testament to their friendship that Niall must see the random number and immediately know it's them.

"Apparently someone heard the name Harry, a name said during a robbery, and it set off the hunt for local thieves with that name," Niall rushes out, as he pushes the door to the bar, the sounds of his cousins ringing in their ears. "Nothing's been charged, they don't know for sure if you did it, if you did all of them. But it's serious now, boys. They have your faces out. You're out there and you need to fucking stop."

"Niall."

"Shut the fuck up, Zayn. I'm serious. Quit it. No more games, no more of this bullshit you think is just a laugh. I don't want you in prison. You'd be locked up for the rest of your fuckin lives, apart most likely, and that ain't right. So get out of Texas and move the fuck on from this."

"Ni," Harry tries.

Zayn looks at Harry, holds him by his belt loop, at a loss for words. How can they tell Niall that they can't stop? That this is their thing, their connection, the only thing they're good at. It makes them feel alive, makes them feel crazed and on fire, keeps them tethered together. They have matching mug shots now, like their tattoos of a gun and birds, and they can hot wire cars, break locks, send a room full of people against a wall with just three words. It's them. It's everything.

Niall groans then, loudly. Angrily.

"If you keep this up… You're just. I think… You're gonna get caught. Or get hurt."

"We're sorry," Harry touches Zayn's arm, still not knowing how else to say it.

"We won't," Zayn states, like fact. Like he can control their destinies.

"I just want you to find a place. Go find that place where you can stop this, but still be free. Still be yourselves, together, happy. I just… I know it's not here. But you need to find it before it's too late.

They're silent. They don't know what to say.

"Please be careful."

Niall hangs up. They stare at each other, the feeling from before dissipated and gone, the rush of seeing their faces on TV now just a wisp of air. They don't touch in the car, or that night in the hotel. They just sleep. Wrapped together of course, but it feels different.



***


They make the decision to keep going, silently, because it's still their thing. And once a person finds the thing they're good at, it's hard to give it up. Zayn knew that after the first time he rummaged through a dumpster and came out on top. He knew it when he arrived at Niall's house that fateful night, before walking into the kitchen and seeing Harry, that the itch under his fingertips wouldn't go away any time soon, that he'd take take take, because he's always so fucking bored. And because he can.

But the phone call with Niall hangs over their heads, they both sense it. When they check into another hotel, another nice one paid in cash, overlooking the small city they find themselves in, there's not as much luster. There's no shine or glint from any of the cold, hard surfaces. It all just blends together after a while, hotel room after hotel room. The bed is the same as every other bed they've slept in since they left, the shower is about the same. They don't keep many toiletries, just a few things in their bags, and Zayn realizes the hotel shampoo he took a few weeks back is the same as this hotel, same brand and everything, and it makes him frown. If it's all supposed to be different and exciting, if they're supposed to be doing this to feel new emotions every day, it shouldn't feel monotonous now. And if they are going to settle down, keep up a routine together like a normal couple, he'd very much like to do it in the house they keep talking about, with the things they both want to buy with their newfound fortune.

He catches Harry's eye as they eat breakfast that morning, eggs from room service that might as well be eggs from the last four hotels they stayed in. They drink shitty coffee at a table in a random room and it's not as exciting as it once was.

I want our house.

Zayn pictures it, the way he could build a real nice wrap around porch, with a swing and everything. They could carve their names into the wood, like his daddy taught him, to claim it as theirs for real.

But Harry doesn't say anything, doesn't tell Zayn if he wants their house now too, or if this is their path. If this is what they're going to keep doing, hell or high water.

That morning, they rob a bank in Freeport, another town south of Galveston, still inside Texas lines. They're officially on the Texas border now, couldn't go more east if they tried. And neither of them realize it, but they're dragging their feet. They're still in Texas. They haven't left. They haven't talked about it. The walk into the bank feels tense, too tense, more than they're used to. Zayn hates it. He has a weird feeling.

The bank manager puts up a fight, a small one, as she crosses her arms and tells them to hurry.

"Excuse me?" Zayn sneers at her, hands shoving money into the bag.

"You heard me. Hurry the hell up. Gotta call the police before y'all can get too far. And I'd sure like to get on with it."

Harry touches Zayn's arm, close, their thighs and hips against each other, to calm them down. They said no touching while on a job like this, and it seems the farther they get from home, the more money they take, the less of the rules they remember.

Zayn shakes his head as he walks out of the bank, because he realized as they crowded together in front of that woman, that they didn't say their phrase earlier, the promise they made months ago.

"We didn't say it," Zayn scowls, throwing his gloves to the floor.

"What?"

"Eyes open, mouths shut, no one gets hurt, especially us, Harry. The thing we always fucking say before a pull. We didn't say it today."

Harry turns the car too quickly, Zayn's knee smacking into the door painfully. The car is smaller than the truck and Harry forgets sometimes, to take in the space they're in, and not the space he knows from before. Zayn glares at him and rubs his skin.

An hour later, they pull into a new motel, having shoved all their shit into the car before the bank that morning. Zayn reaches for the door handle, when Harry stops him, grabs his arm.

"Don't be mad at me."

"I'm never mad at you," Zayn sighs, calmed down. "I could never be mad at you. I just get… mad."

"I know."

"I feel like… I feel…"

Zayn doesn't know how he feels. He doesn't know how to quit this, how to ask if Harry wants to, if they're near the end. He has a bad feeling, an odd feeling, set off by the fact they didn't say their thing before the pull. The scales feel tipped. He feels off.

"Let's do something," Harry cuts him off, pulling the car back out of the motel, Zayn's questioning eyes on his face.

And because Harry Styles knows Zayn, they go to a post office and immediately fill envelopes with cash. Huge stacks of it, more than they would normally bring out into the open with wandering eyes around them. But they do it discreetly, Zayn's messy scrawl on the outside of envelopes with a Sharpie, to send back to the people who matter. Harry looks at Zayn, and Zayn knows: they've been doing this for weeks now and haven't given back. Not lately.

So Zayn writes the note to his family, while Harry writes to Niall. It's silent, a comfortable silence they can fall into easy as anything, as they put into words how they feel. The I miss you and the call you soon in their different handwriting.

Zayn addresses his to Doniya, because if it went to his parents, they'd never speak to him again. They'd see the cash and know, understand that he did it, that he's been doing it, this thing they do. Doniya will remember the dumpster. She'll remember to tip the scales back in their favor, like the team they used to be. She'll save it. She'll recognize the intent.

Zayn misses her, suddenly. He misses all of them. And even though he's selfish and can't face them, not yet, this helps. Harry knew it would.

"Better?" Harry kisses him in the car afterwards, their heartbeats slow.

"Better."



***


Harry believes in signs. He always has. His granny told him about the heat when he was little, because she believed in signs as well. She believed in God sending messages, when they're most necessary, to the people who need them most. And every year, every summer, God told the people of Texas to gear up, to settle in, to get ready.

"He's tellin us to look out, Harry. See? See how hot it gets? I toldja. People do crazy things and the heat's just a warning shot."

Harry would eat his Popsicle on the porch, sitting at her feet, as she rocked in the porch swing and told him about his daddy. She missed her son, more than she let on, but Harry could always tell when she got most sad about it. So he'd listen to her complain about the heat for an hour, before she got to the good stuff. Des. Who he was. How he walked through the world. His habits, his favorite candy, the way he used to curl up at her feet as boy, just like Harry did.

The sticky Popsicle would drip down his forearms, he'd have to hurry and lick the syrup, as she'd remind him again how hot it is. It was a cycle with granny. Let her ramble and she'd get to Des eventually. That was the sign granny gave, if she started to talk about hot summers.

September comes to a close, and the heat starts to die down then. And that's Harry's first sign, that the craziness in their blood, deep down in their bone marrow, is dissipating. The itch Harry feels, the rush and excitement he gets before every robbery, doesn't rev him up as much. And the adrenaline afterwards, the carnal need he feels to fuck Zayn over and over, doesn't last as long either.

They don't need the air conditioning in the car as much. The hotels aren't as crisp and cool, to combat the heat waves beating against the windows. Summer's dying a slow and delicate death, the temperature doesn't lick their heels as they scurry across dirt roads, into motels with overused sheets. Harry feels it, feels the itch lessening every day. He can see the looks Zayn gives him when they're quiet, when Letterman comes on at night as they curl around each other. Zayn's antsy with their situation, Harry can see it as it sits under his eyes, in bags, like luggage. Harry senses it's about that time, knows Zayn is tired of the moving, of the beds that aren't theirs, the envelopes with cash sent home not being enough anymore.

Harry sees the signs within himself as well. The morning of one of the last pulls, they ate eggs for breakfast. The food arrived from room service cold and bland, and Harry had the thought that he'd like his own fucking kitchen so he could make them himself. He wants his living room, a dining room with a low light, curtains over the windows to blow in the breeze, a doggy door leading out the back towards the beach. The next time it gets hot, when the heat pulls every ounce of perspiration from his body, next summer, he'd like it to be comfortable. Settled. The two of them drinking nice wine with fingers in each others' hair.

I want our house.



***


Port Arthur. It's the last official stop before they leave Texas for good, Harry thinks. It's right on the edge of Louisiana, blue and crisp water surrounding the city. The people around them talk in an accent unlike anything Harry's ever heard, a mix between that true southern drawl and cajun country. It's a nice change of pace.

It feels easy today. Harry wonders when it became so easy, so simple, that they don't even blink when getting ready anymore. It's crazy to think how nervous they were that first time, not during the act itself, but afterwards when their bodies sat alert, waiting for sirens that never came. They were good at this from the start, but they're even better now. They're lucky.

"Did you know," Harry says as he tugs on his mask, "that Janis Joplin's from here?"

"I didn't know that," Zayn checks his eyes in the mirror, fixing his mask in place.

"S'true."

"Did you know," Zayn opens the door to step out, "that if we get another twenty today, we'll officially have about ninety grand in our trunk?

"I'm gonna fuck you on it," Harry laughs, cheekily, their eyes on each other as they enter the bank. "Again."

They forgot to do the saying, see. Harry realizes it a half second after Zayn does, his eyes ahead of them on the scene at hand. They forgot to say the thing they've always said, again. They didn't look at the place as closely as they should've the day before, didn't pay attention to the corners, the security guard who was either on a break, or tucked in a hidden area of the bank. Harry was too busy thinking about their house, about the lack of heat. Zayn was busy watching him, waiting for him to say something, to admit they need to go.

They got too busy being lucky to remember that luck runs out.

But now, today, Harry sees right away, the cameras in the corner of this bank, the bank they figured was too small, too innocuous, to have high security. He also sees the security guard slowly walking forward, a semiautomatic handgun extended towards them. Aimed at their chests. Back and forth.

Zayn stops.

Harry stops.

The bag in Zayn's hand trembles only slightly, Harry can feel it against his leg. The gun in his own hand would've slipped by now, had Harry not been wearing gloves to hold onto it.

The tellers at the counter have their hands over their mouths. It's too early for any customers. They all stare. The silence is deafening.

Harry wonders then, how they'll get out of this. If they will. If this is the end of the line. He's just about to turn to Zayn, to say something, anything, before they'll have to set their guns down, when Zayn takes a step towards the counter.

"Fill this," he says, steady as ever.

Harry catches on, that they can't go down without a fight, that's not who they are. So he raises his gun quickly, aims it at the security guard as if it's loaded and ready, as if he ever could shoot a bullet at a human being, as if he were a grown up instead of a child with a toy.

The money gets stacked in the bag, as Harry stares at the young man in front of him with the cropped hair cut, the slight belly hanging over his baggy black pants. His shoes are too big for his feet, he's sweating. He's not even that much older than they are, so maybe he's a kid with a toy, too.

"We are walking out of here," Zayn states, grabbing the full bag, backing towards the door.

"Don't make me do this," Harry pretends, the sweat dripping down his back.

"Don't make me," the guard practically whispers, scared, almost crying. "Stop right there."

"We are walking out of here," Zayn says again, almost shouting.

Harry turns his head to see Zayn, to catch his eye. Maybe he wants to tell Zayn to go first like always, or maybe he wants to tell him he's the most beautiful person he's ever laid eyes on. He wants to say their house will be beautiful. It'll be theirs. And Harry's not sure why all this occurs to him in succession, all at once, in that order, but it does and he opens his mouth.

Harry believes in signs. And that's his sign, that train of thought, as their eyes lock. That's the final sign, as his flesh burns and his vision clouds.

The sound of the bullet ricochets off every surface inside the Rockwood Community Bank. It bounces across the tiled floor, off the vaulted ceiling, against the wooden door leading to the back hallway. It announces itself as quickly as bullets do, right as it hits Harry, right as Zayn screams his name. Harry feels the pain, of course he does, but he doesn't acknowledge it, as his thoughts swirl, as his eyes look down to see the blood on his upper arm.

Zayn grabs his opposite wrist and they fly out the door, the guard stunned, frozen in place.

"That was probably his first shot," Harry mumbles, as his head hits the back of the seat in the Mustang. "He let the kick back get him. His arm tensed too fast."

He's speaking. Out loud. He didn't realize he could. He didn't realize they were back in the car.

"Babe, you have to hold onto your arm. Put pressure on it," Zayn yells, like he's at a baseball game, like he doesn't know they're in a small, contained vehicle where shouting isn't necessary.

Harry almost reminds him they're right next to each other, not across a crowded room, but he doesn't. Because he passes out instead.



***


Zayn saw his dad cry once. Just once.

It was at the doctor's office after Safaa stepped on a nail in the park. She was so tiny, running after Waliyha and Doniya, when Zayn was off talking to a boy he knew from school, a boy with bright eyes and soft skin. Zayn knew even then, he wanted to touch, to feel the skin under his palms.

But he came back to himself, his thoughts drifted back to the ground, when he heard Safaa screaming. It wasn't a cry, like when she was angry at not getting her way or frustrated over not getting to play with her siblings. It was a true scream, a wail, gut wrenching. It tore Zayn into pieces, his eyes scanning the park at breakneck speed, to find her.

"Safaa!" he screamed back, searching, running so fast back to where he last saw her near the swings, tears in his eyes.

When he found her, she was already in Yaser's arms, blood dripping from her foot into the grass. Zayn almost fell to his knees, with relief to see his dad, fear to hear her cries, pain in his stomach from the blood.

They rushed to the doctor, Safaa on Zayn's lap as they sped down the highway. His dad was a strong man, proud and fair and just, their family always playing by the rules set by society, by people who made rules for a reason. It was just another instance of life being unfair. A little girl like Safaa just wanted to play and instead she gets hurt after tossing her shoes into the sand? Zayn remembered again, how messed up the world could be.

Yaser cried when Safaa got the shots. They said nails could carry diseases, she could catch a touch of something in her blood. Zayn and the girls watched as Yaser held her in his arms, as she cried harder and harder, her face red, tears spilling down her shirt. She didn't understand, the pain in her foot, the pain these people inflicted. Zayn tried to tell her that it was to keep her safe, but Yaser just shook his head. Words can't help, when someone is in pain, when it's too far beyond reason and understanding. So Yaser her held close, held her down, as they poked and prodded her over and over with needles.

Zayn asked him that night, before bed, why they both cried when Safaa cried.

"Sometimes," Yaser petted his hair, "the worst pain you can feel is the pain of someone else. When you love them so much it aches, when you can't help them. So you can cry, Zayn. If you need to. Just be strong afterwards."

"Yessir," Zayn nodded, because his dad was always right.

He's always fucking right, Zayn thinks, as he wipes his nose again in the motel.

Harry leans against the bathroom wall, tears streaking his face, as Zayn peels his tshirt up and off his body.

"Gonna clean it, babe," Zayn says, voice wet. "The bullet just… it's just right there, babe. I can get it out, I promise."

Harry nods, his eyes closed tight.

Zayn has no idea how he does it, he really doesn't. Ask him tomorrow and he'll swear it was someone else who ran into a drugstore for supplies, with sirens wailing in his ears, and then sat with the massive tweezers in hand, digging into the tender and seared flesh of Harry's beautiful arm.

He doesn't remember telling Harry to bite down on the towel he shoves in his mouth, but apparently he did. Harry screamed into it until he was hoarse, blood across his chest, down his stomach, even on his forehead from when Zayn tried to wipe the sweat there. He screamed as Zayn worked the metal into Harry's skin, through muscle and tissue to reach the foreign object they swore from day one would never cross their paths, from their guns or otherwise. Zayn doesn't know who this person is, the person who loses feeling in their feet from crouching on the floor, tears flowing, as the bullet gets removed.

But he does it. The bullet falls to the floor, even bounces once, before it settles near the sink.

Zayn looks at the wound, small, still bleeding, the bullet having lodged itself in the thick muscle of Harry's bicep. He thinks he's done, thinks they're safe now. The intrusion is gone. It's going to be fine now. A quick bandage and they're in the clear.

But Harry shakes his head, the towel falling from his dry mouth.

Zayn realizes he has to stitch it up. He has to put needle and thread into Harry's skin, lace it back together like a shoe, like a zipper, and he almost vomits. Harry cries again, tears falling as he nudges the rest of the first aid kit towards Zayn's hand.

Zayn swears a second time that it's not him, that it's someone else's hands working, when Harry directs him through clenched teeth, how to stitch. How to move his fingers, the needle, the thread.

Harry's body gives out right as Zayn bites the thread off with his teeth, face much too close to blood and carnage, his stomach turning. He slumps against the wall entirely, when Zayn ties it off. He doesn't wake up when Zayn pulls him up off the floor to the bed in the other room. He doesn't wake up when Zayn wipes the wound with alcohol and puts the bandage over it. He doesn't say again when Zayn whispers it into his ear.

He doesn't wake up all night, too spent, too far gone, and Zayn wants nothing more than to call his dad.



***


It ends as simply as it begins.

Harry thinks it's fitting, the way they decide to stop for good, the time it takes them to come to the conclusion that this isn't good anymore.

Zayn must sense the conversation is coming, because slow as anything, he extricates himself from Harry's long arms and slinks down his body. They were too afraid to leave the motel, afraid of the outside world with their faces still on the news, so they clung to each other all night, like that first night on Niall's couch.

Zayn leaves marks near the birds on Harry's chest first. His tongue dips between Harry's nipples, down to his belly button, as Harry squirms. His arm aches like hell, too sore to move it much, and Zayn knows. He grabs Harry by the hips, tugs his body slightly, to move Harry's thighs on either side of his head, and gets to work.

The finger in his ass stretches so good, it's so welcomed after the day they had before, and Harry bears down on it.

"Right there," he whispers, hands clenching into fists, as Zayn works his prostate like he's clicking a fucking mouse. "Fuck, yeah… babe… okay, right… there."

He groans loudly, as Zayn takes him in his mouth, fast and deep. It's a beautiful suction, wet and noisy. Harry reaches for Zayn's unshaved face, the hair between his fingers, under his finger nails, as he holds on for dear life, as Zayn fingers him faster, sucks him harder.

"M'gonna come," Harry whines, thighs tensing.

Zayn goes faster, slips a second finger in dry, the burn too much, but too good to stop. Harry cries out, his feet curling like they do sometimes, as he spills into Zayn's mouth. Zayn swallows around him over and over, breath heaving through his nose, as his throat flutters around the head of Harry's cock as it softens.

Zayn's up on his knees in no time, jerking himself quickly over Harry's stomach, strings of white painting Harry's hips, the hair at the base of his cock, his ribs.

Zayn must feel dirty with it this morning, because he leans down and licks Harry clean, his entire load up into his own mouth, before leaning down and feeding it to Harry with his tongue. Harry sucks Zayn's tongue and swears all over again, that no one has ever gotten him like Zayn Malik does.

Harry positions himself to lay his head on Zayn's chest, careful of his arm, as his eyes fall. He's still so tired, his body too exerted, the adrenaline that used to surge through him now gone. Probably forever, he'd guess.

Zayn grazes his fingers over Harry's shoulder, inches from the wound inflicted by a bullet, from the very thing they tried to pretend couldn't hurt them, when their naivete could be considered innocent instead of fucking reckless.

"You wanna go get that house?" Zayn whispers into Harry's hair.

Harry hears it, the fear in Zayn's voice, the intent to end this for good. Harry hears it because if it were the other way around, if he had to snake a bullet from Zayn's body, they'd be in the car this very moment, driving to the fucking coast at 90 miles an hour. If anyone hurt Zayn like this, Harry would be crying for four days.

"I want everything you want," Harry turns to him.

"Yeah?"

"Did you know," Harry moves closer, their hips touching under the blankets, his arm sore and tender to touch, "that the day they died, Bonnie and Clyde got shot like fifty times each?"

Zayn moves Harry's curls from his forehead, with his slender fingers, his nails short, blunt.

"I didn't know that."

"They killed so many people. They robbed banks and took what they wanted. They did it together, didn't give a shit what happened. They said they'd go out in a blaze of glory, even. In poems Bonnie used to write. She said they'd go out together. She figured it was inevitable. So when they were ambushed by cops, they just drove right into it."

Zayn stares at him.

"I don't want to go out at all. Not now, not together, not in any kinda blaze. I take what I want, I always have," he sniffs, kisses Zayn once. "And I know you're the same. We're the same, right? But… we said we'd never get hurt. Never hurt anyone else."

"I know."

"If we ever did get ambushed, I know we would go out together. I know we could. Heads high, middle fingers up. Jail isn't an option. But…"

"I know."

"Let's say fuck it. Let's go. We have more money than we know what to do with. Let's get the fuck out of here," Harry whispers the words a lot like Zayn's, back on Niall's couch that last day.

Zayn thinks of his family at home, probably seeing the news again with his face, about needing to be questioned about the robbery from the day before, when a suspect was injured. They need to be rid of him, for good, for a long time. His face needs to disappear, from the news and from their lives. They deserve peace, without him fucking it up again. If being done with all this means stopping, if it means quitting the very thing he always intended to continue, it also means leaving this place. Leaving it all.

They stare at each other and know, remember, that they always said they'd leave Texas together. It's time.

"Okay."

"So let's go get our house," Harry whispers, lips against Zayn's open mouth. "Let's be done. Let's go home."

We're done.

"Well alright then," Zayn smiles, pulling Harry closer.

And that's it. That's how it ends.

That's the spark.



***

After they get out of bed, the call to Niall from the motel pay phone is a short one. A happy one. Niall doesn't say so, but Zayn knows he cries.

He got the money they sent. It sat in his glove box for a few days, until he pulled it out and realized that his fucked up pair of friends sent him stolen money through the U.S. Postal service, which, all things considered, is pretty fucking hilarious.

They promise to call when they can. They promise to stay out of trouble for real this time, and Niall calls them fucking idiots again, for old times sake.

Harry asks Niall to check on his mom, if he ever gets the chance, to see how she is. If she needs anything fixed around the house.

Zayn asks Niall to call his mom and say they're okay, that he'll be just fine, that he'll call when he can.

"I knew you'd figure it out eventually," Niall chuckles before he hangs up. "Knew you'd get there, wherever it is, on your own stubborn ass time. Y'all were always bigger than Texas. Than us. And that, boys, is quite the feat. So go on. And be good."

"We will."

***


Sheriff Brighton hangs up the phone and rubs his face much too hard. It's too goddamn early in the morning to be getting calls from insane, raving lunatics from stations in the middle of nowhere, talking about the robberies, yet again. Not this morning, of all mornings, when the plan is in place.

The current spree in east Texas is just like the spree that started in west Texas over the summer, the one that then traveled down towards Austin. It's been a steadily growing problem, those two fuckers in black who keep hitting little banks in little towns without cameras, smart enough to hide their getaway car in advance.

Even the bank from the day before, when one of the suspects was shot, lead to nothing tangible. Still no evidence, no blood on the floor, no camera footage that gave them anything other than what they already know: two men, 5'9", in all black. It doesn't take an idiot to know that it had to be the kids from out west, the ones this Monroe fellow keeps calling him and all his county sheriffs about. The asshole is probably right, if he's this dead set on a hunch, because he himself knows, when you hunch this hard, for this long, it can't be without reason. Without some sort of truth.

Zayn Malik. Harry Styles. Every small town sheriff across the state has seen their pictures. Young, thin, easy on the eyes. Even Brighton's daughter asked about them, the two boys from the news people couldn't help but stare at, the ones probably loaded with guns and polite words. They still can't be charged or formally named as suspects, but he's not stupid. He knows they probably did all of them.

But the plan is in motion, the plan Monroe kept calling to ask about, the ambush awaiting the car they were last seen in. An anonymous tip came in right after the robbery, about a black Mustang parked outside a motel in north Port Arthur, not far from the state line these two were sure to cross soon. Today.

The car had been parked over night.

So Brighton makes the call, to set up men on either side of the road leading towards the state line.

"Positions ready in ten," he says over the radio.

"Sir, the road forks. It heads into Louisiana from two points," the voice cracks from the speaker. Brighton exhales.

"I know, Thomas. What's your point?"

"Sir, should we post officers on both? Or just the north fork?"

"The north fork is most likely. They won't take the south fork, because it leads into swamp country, and only an idiot would go south. So I'll say it again, positions in ten."

Brighton rubs his eyes, his hand still clenched in a fist around his radio. It's too early. Too early for this type of call, and much too early to unlock the rifles in his office. He'd like to go home without blood on his hands, on any of his guys' hands, but he knows now, like he knew every other time this has happened.

Orders are to bring suspects in for questioning. Monroe heavily implied that these two are the two who robbed the good people of Texas, over and over, with no regard for anyone, with pistols in their hands. They stole, pulled guns on simple people living simple lives, just trying to get by and support their families. They did nothing but take, laughing on their way out doors, hands on their hips like it was nothing. Monroe said it, and Brighton hates to agree, that these fuckers need to be caught.

So they'll be ready. And if these idiots with guns decide to speed past them, well… orders are to take out the tires. Shoot at the car.

Take them out.

If they have to.



***


It's another cusp of possibility, that day as they fly down the highway towards Louisiana.

They each feel it, in their own ways, fingers tangled between them, because they're very present people who feel everything at once. They both get it, together, that just because they're thieves, doesn't mean that's all they are. Taking, surviving, needing it, is what they're good at. But it's not everything.

Some things are more important.

Harry Styles grew into the person he is because he had no one around to shape him. He could blame it on that extenuating circumstance, could blame his mother, or his father's heart for giving out much too early. Or maybe it's just Harry. And maybe Harry likes that, that it doesn't have any logic or explanation. He met a boy and that boy lit a fire inside him, inside both of them, and it can't ever really be put out, sticky fingers and warrants be damned. It can't be contained in a box, or a jail cell, or a house on the edge of a too-small town with too few people who never got him. It's a flame that grows with oxygen, from the wind in the air as it breezes through the open windows. Harry feels it within his grasp, the life they want together, from now on. It doesn't involve banks or guns or wiring cars. It's simply them, entwined, with their cash at their feet.

Zayn Malik never really saw a point to the life he's lead and he certainly never thought to blame anyone for it but himself. It's always been about the chase, about something neither of them ever understood, not really. His father taught him well, taught him how to navigate the world and see it for what it is. Zayn also taught himself, when he realized you create your destiny by any means necessary. Zayn saw Harry in a kitchen doing a good deed for a friend, and ever since, their destinies have been woven together by fate. Ever since, they've been trying to prove their worth. To one another. To the world. And maybe worth comes in the form of money, and maybe it doesn't. But Zayn could fall off the face of the earth if he needed to, if it meant Harry could come with, if Harry could be one step behind him as they venture through it. And if that means coming up with a plan for the perfect house on the beach, he'll draw it a thousand times for Harry to see the vision, too. Zayn feels the new beginning like he feels out people, easily and effortlessly.

It's a cusp of possibility, a feeling of promise, one they found when they agreed they'd go out together if they had to, if it came to it. And that feeling doubled when they agreed to stop, when they chose each other over the chase itself, when they decided they didn't want to go out in a blaze.

If they're going to burn, it'll be on their terms. Far, far away.

Small towns can't contain people like Harry and Zayn. They always knew it. Niall came around to it. Texas is full of small towns, a place where even the big cities feel like boxes. So they decide to leave it all behind. For good.

They toss the pistols out the windows, letting them fall to the wayside, only Harry's daddy's good revolver in a bag next to his photo, next to the photos Zayn's kept of his own family. Elvis sings over the speakers, deep and slow, loving and sweet.

Zayn looks over at Harry, as Harry looks back at him, as they near the fork in the road to two different roads leading to two new places. East. As far east as they can go. Two roads that lead to possibilities and happiness and a new kind of rush that doesn't involve breaking the law, to places they can be whoever they want to be, laying low. And if the road they take ends too soon, if they don't make it to the coast or drink sugary Cheerwine while overlooking the ocean, at least they'll be together. Blazing on their own. On fire. Because even if the heat's gone for the summer, if the crazy left with it and they don't sweat as fiercely, they still burn.

Not so hot anymore. Not crazy. Their hands grip tighter.

All along, this was the rush. The true best part.

"Which way?" Harry smiles at Zayn.

"You choose," Zayn smiles at Harry.

"Again, yeah?"

"Again."

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Places like Tahoka, Texas adapt just fine to change, thank you very much, despite what slick city folk seem to think.

Sure, if a young man struts down Main Street with a smirk and tattoos up his arms, people talk. But people always talk, when there's not much else to do. They get riled and excited, whispering behind hands about the newcomer, like they did last summer when a stranger showed up on the Horan boy's doorstep with a backpack and cheekbones jutting to high heaven. They got even more riled when he kissed Des Styles' boy over and over, like everyone wanted to see that all the time.

Eventually the talk died down because it stopped being interesting quick enough.

It's the same when someone leaves, when someones decides to go for good. It might be a topic of conversation for a day or two, until the town and the people hardly notice. If someone isn't there to stare back at them, people hardly pay it any mind. Other gossip to focus on. Businesses to run. Babies to feed. Politics to discuss.

When the Styles boy, a Des Styles clone more like, leaves town with his new found partner, people don't pay attention. The Malik boy worked the bar for a few weeks and he was real polite, but he didn't seem the type to stay anyhow. So the town forgets.

Sure, their ears perk once those boys are on the news, once people realize the string of robberies and car thefts in their tiny county might be pinned on them. And well… it causes a ruckus in the diner and at church and in the bar on the edge of town. People wonder why they did it, if they did it. They wonder how Anne is, if she's holding up alright. They whisper about those boys, the ones they all saw kissing all over town, and pity their mommas.

"It's a shame they went and did them things. A real shame they robbed some good people. Wonder what went wrong with 'em?"

But eventually it dies down. People don't care much for the young ones who decide to leave their town, for good. And they definitely don't have time for theories spun over and over, about where the two of them went, if they'll ever come back, if they miss Tahoka.

They all move on. Adapt to the change of people coming, and then going, because they've done it before and they'll do it again. They all forget. And that's that.



***


Niall Horan doesn't forget. Not by a long shot.

He doesn't forget Harry Styles or Zayn Malik because even as kids, when they were sitting next to each other in a classroom, or far apart, it was always the same. A connection, a feeling of home, of belonging. He couldn't forget them if he tried, the pieces they left behind too big to ignore.

The impression in the old couch in the living room, from nights of sleeping on it together, a mess of sweat and curls and dirty fingernails. The hole in the wall behind the front door, from their going away party, when Shannon Laird threw the door too wide to give Harry a hug. The chipped paint in Niall's bedroom and across the house, the house his parents used to laugh and sleep and dream in, the lead colors chipped and old, still wrecking lungs day after day. The new back porch. The box of cash under his bed.

Niall doesn't forget his friends.

He thinks of them often. He thinks of them constantly. Niall wonders if they made it, if they left Texas with their heels kickin dust, like they always said they would. He drinks too much whiskey some nights and calls their old phone numbers, the phones disconnected to plain dial tones.

Niall likes to think they made it to the coast, somewhere they won't feel boxed in, closed off or held down, free and free and free.

Niall hopes so.



***


It happens on a Wednesday afternoon.

Later on, Niall won't remember the exact date because numbers never stick in his head long. But it's long after he last heard from his best friends, when he pulls up to his house with the truck wheels screeching somethin awful, yet again.

He questions it at first, even has his arms up as he jumps from the truck, one elbow slanted a little since it never healed right after he broke his arm and said fuck it to the extended cast. He sees the men on his porch, up on the small slanted roof, walking around the house like they own the place.

Painting.

Niall's laugh rings out like a ripple.

The box on the porch holds more cash than he's ever seen in his short little life. A letter to Anne. A letter to the Maliks. A paint brush for Niall to "help out" the hired hands with. A new phone number he can call when he hears a new joke or meets a girl, eventually.

A letter for him.

And two pictures.

Summer's about to set in soon, Niall realizes, as he wipes his brow of the single bead of sweat there. It's gonna get hot again, quick as ever, licking at his feet. It'll set off the whole town into summer mode, working long days, savoring the nights, praying for that nonexistent breeze like the do every year. The leaves will wilt, the sprinklers will be tended to like the precious gems they are, the ice cream will taste a little sweeter. Niall wipes off his upper lip, more sweat sticking to his skin.

And when he grabs the paint brush and heads over to the porch, it's with another laugh.

Because it's just like Harry Styles and Zayn Malik to force him to paint his entire goddamn house as the heat sets in for another long Texas summer.

Niall shakes his head.

"Fuckin idiots."

 

***

 

Wish you were here.

xx

 

 

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Gus and Riggins say hi.

Miss you.