“When love feels like magic, you call it destiny. When destiny has a sense of humor, you call it serendipity.”
― Serendipity Trailer
Zayn can hear the words the woman at the counter is saying. He can. But he’s having a hard time processing them into a coherent thought that makes sense in his brain.
“I’m sorry,” he says, blowing the fringe back and away from his eyes. He tightens his fingers on the strap of his rucksack and hikes it up higher on his shoulder. “What was that again?”
“Your flight’s been overbooked,” the woman explains for possibly the third time. Zayn understands that she most likely wants to throttle him. He can’t say he blames her. If he were in her position he’d want to do the same. “But we’ve got you all set on the very next flight into Heathrow.”
“But…” Zayn trails off. The woman is staring at him expectantly. She blinks wide eyes at him and looks over his shoulder, no doubt taking a glance at the queue that’s forming behind him in the airport. When she looks back she lets out a quiet sigh.
“Sir, I apologize again but there were unforeseen circumstances on your flight and you were moved to the next available.” She smiles at him kindly, her eyes tired. Despite being cross about his flight, Zayn feels badly for the woman. This isn’t news he’d wish on anyone to have to give.
“I’ve made sure to upgrade you to first class for your trouble,” she chirps, voice falsely bright. “The next flight’s in a few hours. And if you’d like I’d be more than happy to provide you with a voucher for some dinner and drinks for your inconvenience.”
Zayn opens his mouth to argue one more time because he’s got a bloody ticket. A ticket for this flight. Surely that should count for something.
The woman looks to be at her wits end though, and when Zayn thinks about it he’s sure she’s going to get much more of a hassle from anyone else she tries to change flights on. Zayn had wanted to be home later tonight, but honestly, he’s been gone for months at this point. He’s sure Louis and Niall can last a few more hours without him in the flat.
“All right,” Zayn says. The grateful way the woman smiles at him tells him he’s definitely made the right decision. “Tell me more about this free dinner and drinks.”
Zayn takes his new boarding pass and asks the security guard if it’s all right for him to step out for one last smoke since he’s going to be stuck here for much longer than he’d expected. He’s sighing a lot as he says it, and the guard must feel badly for him at least a little bit because he just rolls his eyes and shoos Zayn out the door, pretending to look the other way and not see him as he goes.
Zayn flashes him a grin and leans against the wall, one foot propped up behind him and his knee bent. The cement is cool against his back. He can feel it chilling him even through his leather jacket, and he shivers as he digs his mobile out of his pocket along with a lighter and a pack of fags.
flight changed will text you the new time to come get me, Zayn sends to Danny.
Danny texts him back almost immediately, his mobile vibrating with the message: all right just let me know!
Zayn flicks the lighter and sucks in a deep breath as he lights his fag, the sting of smoke tickling the back of his throat. He shoves his mobile back in his pocket and leans back to watch the bustle around him. It’s oddly soothing in a way. Standing outside with literally nowhere to be for hours, while everyone around him is so busy rushing around they can’t even pay attention to what’s happening around them.
He watches as a family pulls up in a taxi, the dad paying the driver and holding a little girl by the hand as they get out of the cab. The mums got a baby cradled against her chest, and the cabbie actually smiles at them as he gets their bags out from the boot. The little girl has a long brown ponytail and is clutching a worn looking stuffed bunny in her arms. She looks up as Zayn is watching her and smiles, showing off the space in her teeth where a front tooth must have been. Zayn finds himself helpless to smile back, his face splitting into a wide grin.
A businessman pulls up next, curtly getting out of a shiny black Towncar with his ear pressed tightly against his mobile. A group of girls spill out from a van, wearing wide brim hats and brightly colored dresses far too light for the current weather. They must be going somewhere tropical, he thinks, smiling and ducking his head when a girl in the group with long red hair lowers her eyes and blows him a kiss as she makes her way inside.
Zayn’s smoke is nearly done and his stomach growls, reminding him that he’s got plenty of time to eat now. He figures he should take his airline voucher and blow it on some pints and a burger. If he’s going to be stuck here he should at least take advantage of it.
He stubs out the head of his fag and tosses the unlit butt in the bin, then leans over to grab his bag. He hears a car pull up with a screech of tires. When he looks up again he sees the passenger door of a shiny red Toyota open and a tall bloke with a mop of curly hair spill out and onto the sidewalk. He stumbles over his own feet and Zayn goes to help on instinct but the boy rights himself before Zayn can get there.
“Careful, Gem!” the boy yells into the car. He’s laughing as he says it, his back curved as he leans into the passenger door.
Zayn shakes his head and rubs his hands together, trying to get some feeling back into his fingertips. The airport isn’t overly warm when he steps inside, but it’s a lot warmer than where he’d been standing on the kerb for the past fifteen minutes. He stops just inside the door to cup his hands and blow into them, rubbing his fingers together as they start to tingle.
He hears the door slide open again just after it closes behind him. Zayn goes to move out of the way, but before he has a chance he’s being slammed into from the back, his bag flying off his shoulder and his feet nearly leaving the ground.
“Oi!” Zayn yelps. He doesn’t fall over but it’s damn close. As it is he stumbles to the side far enough that his bag is completely behind him, and he has to take a second to steady himself before standing back up. “What the fuck--”
“Oh my god, I’m so sorry..” Big hands pat at Zayn’s shoulders and back and Zayn bats them away, smacking out in general at whoever is touching him. Zayn’s not worried about taking care of himself in the least, but he’s heard stories about airports and people pretending to bump into you just to pick your pockets and the like. He whips around as quick as he can, hands going down to make sure he’s got his ticket and wallet and mobile before whoever banged into him manages to escape.
He doesn’t expect to see the bloke from outside standing in front of him - the one that he’d just seen falling out of the red Toyota - but putting it together now he’s not as surprised as he’d been a second before.
“You need to watch where you’re going,” Zayn scolds.
The boy looks sheepish. His face is bright red and he’s biting his lip as he keeps trying to pat Zayn’s chest and fumble around to make sure he’s ok. Zayn scrunches his face up and shoves the boys hands away. He makes a soft little sound and mumbles, “Oh, sorry,” as he clasps his hands behind his back and steps away. “Sorry,” he says again, “I’m just like, super clumsy.”
Zayn waves him off, because he sounds so upset that he bumped into him that Zayn’s starting to feel guilty. Plus, now that he looks at him Zayn figures if he was going to get knocked over in the airport at least he got knocked over by the fittest lad he’s ever seen.
Just...the boy is fit. Tall, with wide shoulders and a bright smile. He’s got green eyes and long, curly hair that tumbles over his forehead. He’s wearing a half unbuttoned plaid flannel shirt, and his hands and chest and the inside of his arm are covered in ink. Zayn shivers. If he were to magic up someone he’d like to pull in a totally random scenario, this would be what his brain would most likely come up with.
Zayn shakes his head to keep from staring. The boy just smiles back a little and hands Zayn his bag. Zayn takes it from him, trying not to notice how much bigger his fingers look wrapped around the strap than Zayn’s do.
“It’s all right,” Zayn says. The boy keeps standing there looking at him intently. Zayn has to shake his head and force himself to look away from his eyes. His big, bright, green eyes.
“Just be more careful, yeah?” Zayn says, voice silky and smooth. He winks at him a little and the boy flushes. This is fun, Zayn thinks. He gives the boy his best smile and adds, “The next person you knock over might not be as nice as me.”
The boy doesn’t say anything, just keeps standing there grinning at him.
Zayn laughs. “Have a safe flight,” he says. He lifts his hand in a little wave and the boy finally moves to smile and wave back.
“You too,” he calls, and Zayn nods again as he wanders off to get some dinner.
Zayn would feel guilty pretending he’s already landed at Heathrow, if not for the increasingly frantic text messages from Niall which do nothing to convince him that the flat’s not in a tip and probably has been the entire time Zayn’s been gone.
are you on your way home? haha ! everything is fine!
I mean do you need a ride? did you already call Danny? or I could send tommo or liam??
just wondering when exactly your flight lands ! for no real reason! at all! ah ha!
At least Niall is still talking to him, though. Louis had been texting Zayn in the beginning of the day but then the texts abruptly stopped, probably around the same time Louis started disinfecting the flat from his bedroom out. Zayn’s seen Louis’s bedroom before. He’s not surprised at all that Louis has been disappeared for hours.
I’ll be home soon! Can’t wait to see you lads! x ; )
Zayn sends his last message and gets nothing back but silence. He’s just finished eating his dinner and is listlessly picking at the chips on his plate when a shadow falls over his shoulder, a deep voice chuckling quietly.
“No, I know,” the voice rumbles good naturedly. “It’s proper posh. First class and everything.”
Zayn doesn’t mean to look but the voice is close enough and oddly familiar. He flicks a glance over his shoulder and laughs quietly when he recognizes him as the boy who barreled him over in the terminal hours before. Honestly, what are the odds.
“It’s mad, yeah,” the boy says into his mobile. He’s just as fit as Zayn remembers. Probably more so. The first time Zayn hadn’t noticed how long his legs were, or how thick his thighs. He’s noticed now, though. Has he ever.
The boy looks up then and sees Zayn staring at him. Zayn should probably look away, but the boy smiles at him slowly. Zayn feels his face go hot, the back of his neck and ears burning. The boy keeps looking at him, keeps staring, and then at the last minute he crosses his eyes and pokes his tongue out the corner of his mouth. Zayn chuckles and shakes his head. He looks down and busies himself with dragging another soggy chip through the pool of ketchup on his plate.
“Can I get you anything else?” the bartender asks. Zayn looks up and finds him standing with the bill in his hand. They’re going to call his flight soon, and he needs to go get a bottle of water and some snacks for the flight. He can hear the boy’s voice behind him still, quietly murmuring his goodbyes to whoever he’s talking to on his mobile, but Zayn forces himself not to listen.
“Nah, I’m good. Thanks, mate.” Zayn hands over the voucher the airline gave him along with the majority of American bills he’s got left from his trip. The bartender smiles in thanks and Zayn pockets what he’s got left and picks up his bag as he stands. He looks behind him one last time but the boy’s got his head down and is turned away slightly, long hair falling over the side of his face and hiding him from view.
It’s probably for the best, Zayn thinks. No reason to start chatting someone up ten minutes before he’s to get on a flight to take him nearly eight hours in the other direction. He shrugs his rucksack onto his shoulder instead and waves goodbye to the bartender before slipping out of the restaurant and into the bustle of the airport.
Zayn’s seat is maybe the poshest seat he’s ever had on a flight in his entire life. He’d been sad at first to have to wait an extra few hours before flying home, but this overly cushy chair and the little box of sweets he’d had waiting for him on the tray before he sat down are more than making up for it. The airline attendant keeps passing by to check on him as she gets everyone else settled, and she’s already told him she’ll bring him a cocktail and some food as soon as they get up in the air.
All in all it’s not half bad.
Zayn’s got his head leaned against the window and is entertaining the thought of closing his eyes and trying relax enough for a kip, when he hears a bag hit the floor and some shuffling from the aisle next to him. Zayn knew it was too good to be true that he’d have the space of both seats to himself. He’s only a little disappointed as he moves closer to the window and pulls his arm off the rest to make room.
He’s planning on keeping his eyes shut and ignoring whoever it is for the duration of the flight no matter how much they try and make conversation. It’s a solid plan, Zayn thinks. He’s fully committed to keeping to himself for the next eight or so hours. He decides to put his plan into action, stretching and yawning and making out to be so very tired as his seatmate comes closer.
The person doesn’t move away, though. Instead they say, “Oh,” really softly.
Something about the voice has Zayn’s heart pounding double time in his chest. He turns his head slowly and blinks his eyes open.
“Oh,” Zayn says dumbly back. His mouth falls open a little and he just stares, because it’s him again. It’s the same boy from the street and the terminal and the restaurant stood right in front of him with a beaming smile stretched across his face.
“Oh,” the boy says again. His lips curve into a teasing smile. His voice is deep and slow and something fluttery and quick lights up in Zayn’s chest. He has to bite his lip and look away, already embarrassed at the things his face seems to be doing without his permission. “It’s you.”
Zayn laughs then, a quiet burst of air more than anything else. He looks back as he hears the boy clearing his throat and finds himself greeted with a hand thrust in his face.
“‘M’Harry,” he says as he introduces himself. “I figure if we’re going to keep bumping into each other we might as well be on a first name basis, yeah?”
Zayn looks up from his long fingers, sparkly silver rings twisted around his first and middle, and into Harry’s smiling face. He’s got a tattoo inked into the curve of his elbow, and his hair isn’t long and loose like before. It’s pulled back now instead, secured at the back of his head in a bun with just a few stray curls falling loose around his face.
Zayn holds out his hand and slides their fingers together. Harry’s hand is warm and strong. He’s got a callous at the base of his thumb and he rubs the pad of his finger over the top of Zayn’s knuckle.
“Yeah,” Zayn says, then shifts over a little more when Harry shoves his bag into the overhead bin and falls down into the seat next to him. “I’m Zayn.”
“Zayn,” Harry says like he’s trying the word out to see how it sounds. Zayn watches Harry’s lips curve around his name, commits the way his voice sounds to memory after only a few sentences.
“So wait, “Zayn asks. “This is your seat?” He can’t believe it, actually. What are the odds the same bloke he’d been bumping into all bloody day would be the one to be sat next to him on his flight home for the next eight hours.
Harry nods though, and tucks a loose curl behind his ear as he answers. “It is, yeah. I was supposed to be on a later flight but got here early and they moved me up.” He shrugs easily. “I told Gemma we were leaving far too early but she said it was fine, that it would all work out.” He looks at Zayn and grins, his smile transforming his face from sharp and handsome into something outright beautiful. “Looks like she was right.”
Zayn blinks. This is all just - it’s just odd. Harry frowns a little, the edges of his mouth pinched down and Zayn shakes his head. He doesn’t want Harry to think he’s upset at all.
“What?” Harry asks.
“Nothing, it’s just…” Zayn laughs a little. His own hair is falling across his face and he pulls the top part up and fastens it with a hair tie he’d found in his pocket. Harry’s watching him intently, his green eyes tracking Zayn’s every move. It makes something warm curl up low in his belly. It’s a feeling he doesn’t think he ever wants to lose.
“I was supposed to be on the earlier flight,” Zayn explains. Harry’s eyes go wide as Zayn explains. “Something happened with the flight though. Overbooked, or summat. They moved me to this one and put me up in first class.”
Harry blinks. “That’s mad,” he breathes out. Zayn has to agree with him. It’s just - it’s just strange. “They told me they had one extra seat up here when I got in so early. He made a joke about it at the counter even. Early bird gets the worm, or in this case the first class seat!” Harry trills, voice sloping around a truly terrible American accent.
Zayn laughs. He barely knows him and Harry already seems to make everything seem lighter, funnier somehow. It’s just odd already. Nice in the strangest way.
“Almost like fate or something,” Harry says, so quietly Zayn doesn’t know if he was even meant to overhear. He pretends not to because the idea of that it truly ridiculous. Fate. Honestly.
Zayn shakes his head a little and looks away as Harry starts chatting up the flight attendant as she passes by. He’s asking when they’re going to be taking off and how long the flight will be and if they’ve got any coconut water on board. Zayn laughs and Harry nudges him with an elbow to the side and it’s so oddly familiar Zayn feels a bit off balance. He’s not sure how he can feel so comfortable with someone he’s literally just met.
He not going to question it though. If nothing else it’ll make for a pleasant trip home.
“So how long were you in New York for?”
Zayn blinks his eyes open and yawns. He didn’t mean to fall asleep but apparently he had if the crick in his neck and the fuzzy feeling in his head is anything to go by. He rubs his eyes and looks over at Harry who’s twisted around so he’s facing Zayn from the side. His hair is mostly loose again now and held back by a bright purple head scarf. He’s also unbuttoned a few more buttons on his flannel shirt and Zayn can see he’s got two birds inked on his chest and some numbers on his collarbones and...are those wings on his belly?
“About six months,” Zayn says and Harry nods. Zayn waits to see if Harry’s going to say anything else but he’s just watching Zayn expectantly and oh. Apparently Zayn is supposed to talk more.
“I was doing an internship for a while and then decided to just hang back when it was over.”
“What kind of internship?” Harry asks.
Zayn’s lips quirk in a smile. “At a tattoo shop.”
“Nice.” Harry starts flitting around with his sleeves, pushing the left one up as high as it can go to show off all the ink he’s got. Zayn had seen the one on his right elbow but he didn’t notice just how covered he is on his left. He makes out a ship and a rose and a mermaid and a bunch of smaller things. They’re all odd and mismatched and remind Zayn of the things he’s got colored onto his own skin; things that are memories and symbols and match only in the sense that they all mean something to him.
“I’ve got some more up here too,” Harry says when his sleeve wont go any higher. He taps under his bicep and Zayn can see the flash of something familiar. “A black heart and a star and some other things.”
“A black heart?” Zayn asks. “Let me see.”
Harry fusses with the shirt a little more, pushing it up as high as it can go. Zayn leans over to look, leaning in close and touching Harry’s arm with his fingers. He can’t see all of the tattoo but he can see the bottom point and the general idea of the shape and that’s enough for him right now.
“‘S’crazy,” Zayn mutters. He’s left his fingers on Harry’s arm and his skin is so warm. Zayn can feel the shift of muscle under his hand and he traces the outline of the bottom of the heart with his thumb before taking his hand away. Harry blinks at him curiously and Zayn shakes his head.
“I’ve got the same tattoo,” Zayn says when Harry looks at him curiously. “On my hip.”
It’s just so odd. It’s not that it’s an uncommon thing for someone to have tattooed on them but it was one of Zayn’s first. He’s always felt a special kind of connection with it and to be sat here next to this almost perfect stranger who’s got the same exact thing inked on their skin...It’s just a bit mad, is all.
“Huh,” Harry says quietly. His face is scrunched up into a frown. He looks like he’s having similar thoughts but it’s a bit too much, honestly. Zayn clears his throat and leans back. A little distance between them probably isn’t a bad thing right now.
“So what were you doing in New York?” Zayn asks and he lets Harry’s soothing voice telling him about visiting his sister and their friend and his goddaughter wash over him.
Harry eats his food tongue first. Zayn honestly can’t believe his eyes. The first time he pulled a sandwich out from his bag and started eating it, Zayn thought he was seeing things, but then snack after snack it’s the same thing. Grapes, crisps, a banana. He made eye contact with Harry when he was eating that one and had to look away, his face burning up from embarrassment.
“I always say that,” Harry says, nudging Zayn’s shoulder with his own. When Zayn looks over Harry’s eyes are twinkling, his lips curved up in a smirk.
“Never make eye contact with anyone while eating a banana,” Harry says seriously, and Zayn can’t help it, he bursts out laughing.
They’ve been doing that a lot, actually. Laughing hysterically for no reason. He and Harry have the same ridiculous sense of humor, the same dry delivery when poking fun of something or taking the piss. The flight attendant keeps walking by and giving them indulgent little smiles, and it’s fun. Nice. Relaxing, even.
Zayn’s never really clicked with someone this quickly. He’s got his mates who he loves but it can take Zayn a while to open up to someone, to really let his guard down and let someone see the real him. He feels like he skipped that step with Harry entirely. Like Harry somehow got him right from the start.
Zayn would think it would freak him out a little, but it doesn’t. It’s nice, actually.
Harry’s got his earbuds in now, and he’s bopping along to whatever he’s listening to. Zayn puts down his book because he’s curious. He leans closer and tilts his ear towards Harry’s and is that - is he really listening to--
“Jessie’s Girl,” Harry says, answering Zayn’s questioning gaze. His smile is bright. He looks down at Zayn’s mouth and back up again and licks his lips. Something curls up tight and hot in Zayn’s belly. “It’s a classic.”
“Jessie’s Girl?” Zayn asks. When Harry nods he clarifies, “By Rick Springfield?”
“Come on, do something with me,” Harry says. He takes the earbuds out and turns the volume up so Zayn can listen along to the song, muffled and tinny through the tiny speakers. Harry nudges his shoulder against Zayn’s then holds his hand out, the watch on his wrist slipping and gleaming in the dull overhead airplane light.
Harry shakes back and forth in his seat in time to the music and sways his hand slowly to the side. Then he lifts the other and does the same thing. Over and over again.
Zayn blinks and stares. “Have you gone mad?”
“Come on, Zayn,” Harry says happily. He wiggles his eyebrows and laughs. “It’ll be our own special dance. Follow me.”
Zayn shakes his head and chuckles quietly. “I don’t dance, mate. I feel like an idiot.”
“It’s dancing in your seat, Zayn,” Harry argues. He’s smiling at Zayn though, and he touches the back of Zayn’s hand with his fingers. “Come on. It’ll be fun.”
Zayn sighs. He shouldn’t indulge Harry. He barely knows him, but he knows already that indulging him would be a bad thing to do. Harry turns the music up though, and Zayn can hear it, can hear the song as Harry starts his ridiculous dance again. He vows that he’s not going to do it - he’s absolutely not going to do whatever this stupid dance is with Harry.
He makes it about five seconds before he joins in, Harry’s laughter bright and sharp as it cracks over the air.
After their impromptu dance party Zayn falls asleep even though he doesn’t mean to. He doesn’t think he’s been sleeping all that long, but when he wakes up it’s to the pilot’s voice over the speakers telling them they’ll be arriving at Heathrow within the hour. Zayn blinks sleepily. His head is pillowed on the seat and tilted toward Harry who’s nodded off as well.
Zayn watches him for a second; how pretty his face is when he’s sleeping, and the way his eyelashes fan dark over his cheek. He snuffles a little as he wakes up and Zayn should move, he shouldn’t be caught leaning in quite so close to Harry’s face and mouth, but when Harry blinks his eyes open Zayn’s caught. He’s frozen in his space and can’t seem to move away.
“Hi,” Harry whispers. It’s like everything around them is a bubble. Fragile and soft and only for them.
Zayn licks his lips and Harry drops his eyes down again to watch. “Hi.”
“Still can’t believe we wound up getting seats right next to each other on this flight, you know?” Harry says thoughtfully. His voice is so soft Zayn has to strain to hear him. “Crazy, really. What are the odds.”
Zayn doesn’t know what to say. He’s been thinking about it too, is the thing. How random it was for them to both be here. If that means anything at all. He’s about to say something to that effect when Harry beams and leans in closer to poke Zayn’s cheek.
“So pretty,” Harry says, voice light. “Look at those cheekbones.”
Zayn’s face feels like it’s burning up. He can hear the teasing note in Harry’s voice, but the way Harry is watching him isn’t a joke. Zayn’s ears are ringing. He laughs nervously because they’re so close all Zayn would have to do is lean in the tiniest amount and they could be kissing right now. He could have Harry’s lips on his. He could be sitting here and kissing this beautiful, sweet, lovely boy in front of him.
Harry wouldn’t say no, Zayn doesn’t think. He keeps looking from Zayn’s mouth up to his eyes and back down again, and Zayn can hear him breathing. He can hear the ragged punches of breath from his chest the closer he leans in and that should mean something. It probably does mean something. Zayn’s almost sure of it.
He should just say fuck it and do it. Zayn knows he should. He should lean in right now and kiss him. Or at least ask him if he wants a kiss. It definitely wouldn’t hurt to ask. Zayn could--
“We’re going to be starting our descent soon so please make sure your safety belts are fastened.”
The flight attendants voice is loud above them and Zayn whips his head up, trying not to frown too severely in her direction. She smiles at him politely, and motions toward his and Harry’s lap belts with her hand before wandering down the rest of the aisle.
Harry laughs quietly. Zayn looks at him and he can see Harry’s cheeks are a warm pink, a tangle of curls falling loose over the side of his face. He bites his lip a little and looks at Zayn from the corner of his eye and Zayn can’t help it, he can’t do anything but smile back.
“That was, uh…” Harry’s voice is rough. He clears his throat and looks at Zayn helplessly.
“Yeah,” Zayn agrees. He rubs a hand over his face and breathes deeply. He feels like he’s just woken up again, like whatever was happening between him and Harry was all part of a deliciously wonderful dream. “That definitely was,” he says nonsensically.
Harry seems to get it, though. He seems to get Zayn. Zayn looks at him again because maybe he can get it back. Maybe whatever it was that was happening between them is still there and he just has to look a little harder for it.
It doesn’t work. The plane is getting louder, people chattering as they gather their belongings and get ready for landing. The flight attendants are wandering up and down the aisles and there are belts snapping and people back and forth to the loo. Zayn’s heart gives a quick little thump, and then it thuds back to normal time because it’s too late. Zayn knows it now even if he wishes he didn’t. Whatever moment there was - or Zayn thought there was - has disappeared as quickly as it came.
And Zayn’s fine with it, really. After all, their flight’s about to land.
Zayn and Harry are in the first group of people to get off the plane. They walk quietly out to the terminal, shoulders bumping and feet kicking against each other’s as they walk. Zayn’s combat boots look bigger than Harry’s trainers, but Harry’s shoulders are broader, and his hair is longer, and the way he curls his fingers around the strap of his rucksack is easier because his hand is so much larger.
“Did you check a bag?” Harry asks. They’re nearly at the end of the tunnel. On the other side Zayn knows there will be crowds of people and so much noise. He’s already gotten used to Harry and him being quiet together. What they have is their own thing, and Zayn’s not happy with the idea of sharing it with the rest of the world. Adding too many people to things always ruins it. Zayn just wants to keep whatever this is with him and Harry to themselves, even for just a few minutes longer.
“I didn’t,” Zayn says and shakes his head. He fiddles with his rucksack and Harry nods. He smiles sadly and gestures over to the right and out the doorway.
“I’ve got one to go pick up,” Harry says. They’re stopped now just outside the door and Zayn wants to do something. He wants to - he just --
He doesn’t even know is the thing. He just knows he doesn’t want this to end.
“My mum is meeting me on the other side of baggage claim,” Harry says slowly. His eyes are wide. He’s watching Zayn so intently, like he’s trying to tell Zayn something without actually saying it. Zayn opens his mouth and just stands there. He’s got no idea what to say.
“I mean, I guess I should--” Harry starts, only for everything to be cut off by people coming over and interrupting them both.
“Oi!” Zayn hears, and then everything goes muffled when he’s wrapped up in the middle of a tangle of arms, Niall’s voice booming loud in his ear. “You fucker! You said you were going to be home hours ago!”
“You think you’re so slick, you fucking twat,” Louis says, reaching out to twist Zayn’s nipple. “Well I’ll have you know I’ve not cleaned a bloody thing,”
Zayn’s bag falls from his shoulder and he reaches out to hug them all back. He’s so happy to see the lads - Niall and Louis leeching onto him and Danny hanging out behind them all. Danny reaches over and rubs a hand over Zayn’s hair, messing it up and pulling on the ends, and Zayn is happy. He missed his boys. Missed being home and missed seeing everyone and - and wait, fuck, he needs to--
“Harry,” he calls out. It takes him a second to drag his face out of Louis’ armpit but when he finally does he looks around quickly for Harry. Zayn spots him farther away, hugging a lady with long black hair and a heavyset man with a bald head in a pair of glasses. They’re probably Harry’s parents, Zayn thinks, and he waves off Niall when he starts talking again, trying to make his way over to where Harrys stood.
“Haz,” Zayn calls again. Harry pulls back from the woman and looks in Zayn’s direction. His eyes look sad almost, the corners damp as if he’s trying not to cry. Zayn gets it. He’s happy to be home too. He pulls away from the group and takes a few steps closer to Harry, meeting him halfway in the middle.
“It was so great meeting you, Zayn,” Harry says. His eyes are bright green and he leans in and kisses Zayn quickly on the cheek. “I had so much fun.”
“I did too,” Zayn says. He realizes with a start that it’s true. He did have fun. He opens his mouth to say something else, but Niall is back now and dragging him away, his fingers curled tight around Zayn’s wrist.
“Come on, mate. Danny’s like, triple fucking parked,” Niall barks. “We’ve got to go.”
He’s pulling Zayn in the opposite direction, Louis’ arm around his waist and Danny’s hand still patting his shoulder and hair. Zayn knows they’re all happy to see him, but there’s too much going on right now. He can’t concentrate but he knows he’s forgetting to do something. He feels like he’s leaving something behind, that something’s gone lost.
Zayn opens his mouth but everyone is talking over him, voices and chatter and the din of the rest of the airport. He looks back at Harry one last time, but Harry’s being pulled in the other direction, his mum’s head tucked in close to his ear. Zayn lifts his hand up to try and wave and get Harry to come back, but there are too many people and too much going on to see where he’s going. By the time Zayn looks again he’s lost him, swallowed up into the crown of people until he’s lost every trace of Harry’s hair and shoulders and smile.
Zayn lets out a heavy sigh. He squeezes his eyes shut and stops walking, just for a second.
“All right, mate?” Louis asks.
Zayn takes a deep breath. It rattles his chest, bangs around in the empty space and makes his insides ache.
“Yeah, I’m great,” he says, managing to smile just a little bit. “Let’s go home.”
“I still don’t understand,” Louis says, for possibly the thousandth time in the past five days. “You were on a plane with him for hours.”
Zayn grits his teeth. He’s stood at the sink scrubbing the pan Niall used to cook eggs in this morning and then left on the hob to rot for three hours. Louis is bustling around behind him, still yapping about Harry like he’s done non-stop since Zayn got home.
“What did you even talk about if you didn’t manage to get each other’s names?”
“I got his name, you fucking cock,” Zayn grunts. He scrapes at a bit of dried egg with his nail and puts the pan back down the soak. Niall is out for the day already and it’s just him and Louis. Zayn can hardly contain his joy. “Just not his last name,” Zayn adds.
“Oh, sure. Because that’s brilliant,” Louis deadpans. He comes over to stand next to Zayn at the sink, back leaned against the counter and his arms crossed over his chest. “I’m sure it’ll be so easy to find ‘Harry from who knows where and also he’s got no last name’ so you can see him again. Good job.”
“I’m not trying to see him again though, so…”
Zayn sighs when Louis just rolls his eyes and pats Zayn on the head. Since the day Zayn got home and told them all about Harry and how odd it was to meet him all those weird ways, Louis has been insisting it was fate and that Zayn should try and meet up with him again. Not that Zayn would mind exactly. He had liked Harry, sure. It’s not that he would be opposed to seeing him again. It’s just that--
“Everything got all cocked up,” Zayn says quietly. Louis goes to open his mouth and protest but Zayn shakes his head and cuts him off. “Look. I would have liked to see Harry again, yeah? But it’s just - the way we met over and over again was so mad. Like, everything just kept falling into place until the very second it didn’t. Maybe it just wasn’t meant to be,” he finishes with a shrug.
Louis is watching him intently. His face is open and sympathetic and he pats Zayn on the shoulder, leaves his fingers curled there and Zayn thinks all right. Maybe he’s finally going to leave Zayn alone. Maybe he’s finally over it.
“Zayn, that’s…” Louis says, then trails off. He sighs deeply, squeezes Zayn’s shoulder and says, “The absolute biggest load of crap I’ve ever heard.”
“Hey!” Zayn yelps. He turns off the taps and flicks water in Louis’ face. He’s drying his hands when Louis starts counting things down, ticking them off on his fingers.
“You sat with this bloke for like, eight hours, mate. You heard about his sister, and his tattoos, and the weird smoothies he eats, and the story about the time he got sick because he ate a bloody orange he found in a lift.” Zayn snickers a little at that. He’d taken the piss about that one for ages.
“It’s just - you liked him, didn’t you?” Louis asks. His voice is serious now, and it’s that more than anything that has Zayn flopping down into a kitchen chair and rubbing a hand over his face.
Because yes. Fine. He did like Harry. He probably does like Harry. Not that it really matters much right now. It can’t.
“It doesn’t matter though, Lou,” Zayn says flatly. This is the worst part right here. The admitting and then the knowing that he can’t do anything to change it. “Even if there was something and I did like him…” he trails off and shrugs. His chest aches. The back of his throat burns and he runs a hand through his hair, tugging on the ends.
“I don’t know his name. I don’t know where he lives. I don’t know where he works.” Zayn shrugs and laughs, but there’s nothing funny about it. “We never asked each other anything that really mattered and I just - I can’t let myself be sitting around wishing for someone I’m literally never going to find again.”
“You don’t know that,” Louis says. He pulls a kitchen chair out and straddles it. His hands are clasped together and he’s got on the face he has when he’s about to try and beat Liam at a footie game or kick Niall’s arse in FIFA. “You can find him.”
“No, I mean, you can look for him.”
Zayn rolls his eyes. “Where?”
“I don’t know!” Louis yelps. “Places! You can take out an advert!”
“Take out an advert?”
“Yeah,” Louis says, face beaming the longer he talks about it. “Like a...you know. Dear fit Harry who I met on the plane from New York to London...”
Zayn stares at Louis with his mouth hanging open. He blinks and says slowly, “Louis. You do realize we’re not actually in a film, yeah?”
“Ugh, I know,” Louis says and tosses a balled up napkin at Zayn’s head. Zayn ducks out of the way and stands, kicking Louis lightly on the ankle as he goes to leave. He needs some fresh air. Maybe a walk around the shops will help him clear his head about Harry and the whole situation.
“Anyway, I’m not taking out an advert, so...thanks for the idea but I’m going to pass,” Zayn says.
Louis huffs and lifts his nose in the air. “Fine. See if I give you any more advice when you ask.”
“But I didn’t ask,” Zayn deadpans. He blinks slowly. Maybe Louis has got a head injury. It’s possible he should be worried for Louis’ mental state. “Like. Ever.”
“Ungrateful twat,” Louis says and sniffs. He looks so offended Zayn actually feels bad. He grabs his leather jacket and shrugs it on, leaning over to press a kiss to the top of Louis’ head before he leaves.
“I love you, Lou,” Zayn says. He ducks away when Louis tries to pinch his nipple and runs from the flat as Louis chases him out the door.
It’s chilly out and the dried leaves scattered across the ground crunch under Zayn’s boots. He didn’t want to admit it back in the flat but he is upset about not getting Harry’s phone number. Or his full name or anything so he’d be able to stay in touch with him. He’s actually really kind of bummed about it.
Because they just. They just fit. Him and Harry had such an awesome time and Zayn wanted to enjoy it. He wanted to savor it and be able to remember it fondly and didn’t want to ruin it or make it awkward by making things too formal or forcing them into someplace where they maybe weren’t meant to go. He realizes now that he was being daft. That he should have pushed, that Harry probably would have wanted the same thing, but at the time he thought it was better not to ask and then it was too late.
Zayn didn’t expect to be so rushed when it was time to leave. He didn’t expect Harry to be whisked away from him so quickly. He just - he had thought it was going to go differently. He’d thought he was going to have more time.
“Stupid,” Zayn murmurs to himself. He turns a corner and wanders down the street getting further and further away from his flat. He passes the coffee shop Liam goes to sometimes and the cleaners. He watches a lady lean over and feed her baby a bottle in a pram. It’s nice out and the air is crisp. Everything feels oddly still though, the streets quiet and the air whistling softly across his face.
Zayn’s stopped at a corner trying to dig his pack of fags and a lighter out of his pocket when he looks up and across the road. He barely sees him at first. It’s just a flash of hair and a red flannel shirt but Zayn’s heart almost stops beating.
It doesn’t make any sense. Zayn’s brain literally cannot process what’s happening, but there’s someone across the road that looks insanely, ridiculously, strikingly like Harry. He’s got the same long legs, the same tangle of hair. He stops to look in a shop window for a second, and then turns the corner walking down and away from Zayn’s line of sight.
Zayn’s frozen. He’s stood on the opposite corner with his eyes bulging, watching someone who he thinks is Harry walk away, and that just...When it finally clicks in his brain what he’s seeing - that he’s most likely looking at Harry right now and watching him walk away again - he jumps into action, his pack of fags falling and spilling to the ground.
“No fucking way,” Zayn breathes. He looks both ways then takes off across the road in a sprint.
It takes him a minute to catch up, because Harry had a head start and his legs are kind of freakishly long. He dodges around a group of school girls huddled together and giggling over something in a book and past a man carrying a briefcase and barking into his mobile. Harry is up ahead of him, still loping along the sidewalk, and Zayn can hear his heart pounding in his ears, his breath rattling hard in his chest.
“Harry!” he calls out, because if this is what his life has come to - chasing after a boy he sat next to on a plane for eight hours down the middle of the street - then he’s going to own up to it. He cups his hand around his mouth as he slows to a jog and bellows, “Haz!” still trying to get the boy to stop.
Harry doesn’t stop. He does slow down though which is good. Zayn would hate to fall over and die before he reached him. That would most definitely put a damper on his plan. Zayn can hear his own footsteps pounding on the cement, and it only takes another minute before he’s there. He’s right behind Harry, close enough to touch.
Zayn reaches out, grabs Harry by the sleeve and gives a little tug because god, how is this possible? How did he manage to find him when he wasn’t even looking?
Zayn is smiling so wide his face hurts. “Harry, oh my god,” he says, and then Harry turns around and--
“Oh. Um. God, fuck, sorry.” Zayn drops his hand away when this strange boy looks at him because, “Shit. I.” Zayn bites his lip. He can feel his eyes start to burn and god fucking dammit, this is the worst. “I thought you were someone else,” he finishes softly.
The boy smiles at him, and now that he’s closer Zayn realizes he doesn’t look like Harry at all. His hair is shorter and it’s the wrong color. He eyes are brown and his shoulders are skinny. He’s got a pleasant enough smile, and he pats Zayn on the shoulder before he walks off. “No worries,” he says, and it’s just. It’s not the right voice or the right smile or the right eyes.
Zayn’s heart feels like it’s splitting down the middle right here where he’s stood. He can feel the ache in his chest, the push of air in his lungs and he squeezes his eyes shut to keep himself from doing something mortally embarrassing like cry right here in the middle of the road.
He’d just - he’d been so sure. He’d really thought he found him, and it hits Zayn then just how badly he wants to do that. If nothing else, thinking he was seeing Harry and then having it not be him just makes Zayn have to admit to himself that he does need to do something about this. He needs to look for Harry. He needs to actively try and find him. Zayn hates to admit Louis was right but maybe he’ll take out an advert. There’s got to be a way to do that that Harry will see.
Zayn breathes out, a long, shaky breath and rubs his hands over his eyes. “Ok,” he mutters to himself. “All right.”
This time when he starts moving again he walks slow. He’d followed the boy he thought was Harry for so far he’s barely got any idea where he actually is right now. The street he’s on is a bit quieter, tucked off to the side with a small law office and a smoothie shop. Zayn blinks and looks around. He pats his pocket for his fags and remembers letting them drop as he took off down the road to chase after the boy. It makes him smile sadly and laugh. Now that he’s decided that he’s committed to finding Harry it’s like he can finally admit to so many other things.
Because he liked Harry. A lot. And he wanted to kiss Harry and talk to him and see him again. He wants to find Harry and take him places. He wants to introduce him to his mates properly and meet his sister Gemma and see the rest of the tattoos Harry’s got inked across his skin.
Zayn walks a little more and looks up. He’s stood under the small awning of a pub, the window dark and etched with gold trim. The door swings open as an older man walks out, and Zayn can hear the clink of glasses and quiet laughter from inside. He thinks that a pint might do him good; maybe some food, even. He’ll sit for a few minutes and regroup and figure out the best way to tell Louis that he actually agrees with his plan without Louis being so obnoxiously smug about it that Zayn will want to drown him in the tub.
The pub is dark and fairly empty. He lets the door shut behind him and makes his way over to the bar, pulling out an empty stool and sliding onto it. There’s tinny music playing from the speakers, and the noise of someone banging around in the kitchen in the back. Zayn can smell the grease from chips frying, and someone barking out a sharp laugh, and he looks down and fiddles around in his pocket to make sure he’s got his wallet before he goes to order anything.
He hears the kitchen door open and the sound of footsteps coming up behind the bar. A voice says, “Hi, what can I get you,” and everything stops. It just - it stops.
Zayn’s almost afraid to look up. He heard his voice and he can feel somehow that this is really happening this time, but he’s still afraid to look, petrified that he’s going to be disappointed like before. It doesn’t make any sense, is the thing. How can he have been chasing someone he thought was Harry, to have it not be Harry, to then wind up in a random pub with actual Harry. It’s impossible. There’s no way it can really be happening.
Then Zayn hears a gasp. A short, sharp burst of air, and Harry’s voice breathing out, “Zayn?” and he finally has to raise his head.
Zayn sits frozen in place as he stares. He feels his mouth hang open a little, his eyes blinking wide. Harry seems to be in a similar state and Zayn takes a minute to just look at him. His pink cheeks and bright green eyes and the sheer black shirt he’s wearing that’s unbuttoned so far Zayn can see nearly every swirling line of the butterfly on his belly.
Harry’s clenching his hands in fists, and his breath stutters out of him in a rush. Zayn wants to touch him. He wants to feel Harry’s hand under his but he can’t move, can barely think. He honestly can’t believe this is actually, really happening.
“Hiya, Harry,” Zayn says, and Harry finally breaks apart and smiles.
“Oh my god, I just - what are you doing here? Are you really here? I mean--”
Harry babbles incoherently and Zayn laughs. His chest feels light, like it’s filled with tiny bubbles that keep pushing up and popping the happier he gets.
Harry’s here. Zayn somehow found him.
“I was walking around,” Zayn says. He slides off the barstool and goes to meet Harry where he’s walking out from behind the lip of the bar. Harry nods and Zayn follows him around a corner so they’re by themselves, tucked away from the few other people who are sat in the pub.
It’s quiet for a second, and Zayn laughs nervously. Harry laughs back and touches the tips of his fingers to Zayn’s cheek. Zayn’s skin feels like it’s burning up. He swallows thickly and steps close enough that the tips of their boots are touching. He looks up and into Harry’s smiling face.
“I thought I saw you,” Zayn says breathlessly. “I followed you. Well, him, actually. Whoever he was, but it wasn’t you.”
“No,” Harry says. His lips are curved in the sweetest smile. “It wasn’t.”
“But then I kept walking and I saw this place and I came in and--” Zayn stops. He sucks in a breath because it’s too much. All of it is too much. Every single thing that’s happened between him and Harry has been bizarre and crazy and chalked up to chance or fate. Zayn loves it, he does, but he can’t let it keep happening like that anymore. He’s got to do something about it this time.
“What’s your name?” he asks Harry suddenly. Harry grins sharply, his mouth twisting into a teasing smile.
“It’s Harry,” Harry says slowly.
Zayn rolls his eyes. “Harry what?”
“Oh, Styles,” Harry says. He laughs almost nervously, covering his mouth with his hand. There’s a flash of black ink on the back of his wrist, but it’s new. Zayn knows it is. Besides the fact that it’s surrounded by the familiar new tattoo sight of bruised pink skin, Zayn remembers every tattoo he’d seen on Harry’s wrist. He’s been thinking about them since the last time he saw Harry, and he knows this isn’t one Harry had. Zayn’s never seen this before.
“What’s your name?” Harry asks.
Zayn reaches for Harry’s hand, shivering when their palms touch. “Malik,” he says distractedly, eyes narrowing as he focuses on the tiny string of numbers inked into Harry’s skin. “Harry--”
“Oh. Ah. Shit,” Harry mumbles. He pulls his hand away and when Zayn looks up he looks embarrassed, his face flushed pink and his smile nervous. He shifts from foot to foot and Zayn wants to calm him down. Wants to tell him that whatever it is he doesn’t need to worry about Zayn. That Zayn is all in. That whatever Harry’s done Zayn’s okay with it.
“So like, I had a really good time that day on the flight, yeah?” Harry says quickly. His voice comes out in a rush. It’s the fastest Zayn’s ever heard him speak. “But then you left and I couldn’t find you and I couldn’t...I couldn’t stop thinking about you.” His eyes are soft, the green so deep Zayn can’t look away. His own heart is beating so fast he’s surprised no one else can hear it.
“I just thought...the flight, you know? Everything was so strange that day,” Harry muses. “I bumped into you, then I saw you again, and then we got these seats, you know? On a flight neither of us were even supposed to be on and I just…”
“Oh my god,” Zayn breathes. He blinks up and into Harry’s eyes when the numbers finally make sense. “That was our flight number, wasn’t it?”
Zayn takes Harry’s hand again and runs the tip of his finger over the bruised bump of the numbers on the back of Harry’s wrist. He feels Harry shiver. Zayn knew the numbers looked familiar, he just hadn’t been able to place from where. Now that he knows though it’s all he can do to keep from dragging Harry away and back to his flat instantly.
“Zayn, I’m sorry, I don’t know if that’s weird or creepy or--”
“Shut up,” Zayn says firmly. Harry snaps his mouth shut. He sways forward into Zayn’s space and blinks wide eyes at him. “Harry, I just, I want--” he looks down at Harry’s mouth, then back up again.
Harry’s lips have parted and breathes out, “Oh. Yes. Yes, please,” as Zayn leans in and kisses him.
It’s every single thing Zayn’s thought about for every second since he laid eyes on Harry. Harry kisses slow and sweet. His lips are gentle and he slides his fingers into Zayn’s hair, tilts his head to the side and licks into Zayn’s mouth like he’s already familiar with the shape and feel of Zayn under his hands. Zayn can finally admit that he’s wanted this desperately. He can give in to the feelings of desperation and want he’s had since he lost Harry. He can finally let himself ache for him.
Zayn drags his hands up Harry’s chest, fingers brushing the skin showing from under his shirt, and Harry whimpers and pulls Zayn closer. His kisses Zayn with everything that Zayn’s been wondering about. If Harry liked him and wanted him the way Zayn wanted Harry. Harry’s kisses are like an answer, and a hello, and a beginning. Zayn never wants it to end.
“So, okay. Zayn Malik,” Harry says quietly. He’s got his forehead leaned against Zayn’s and he’s smiling. They’re so close Zayn can feel the whisper of Harry’s eyelashes brush against his cheek. He never wants to step back. “Can I have your number? And call you? And see you? And--”
Zayn laughs, and leans in to kiss Harry again once quickly on the mouth. “Yeah. Yes. All of it,” Zayn says. Harry laughs along with him and Zayn’s heart is so full, his chest pressed so tight he can barely breathe around it.
“I’m just…” Zayn says and trails off. Happy doesn’t explain enough. Excited sounds so trite.
It doesn’t matter though, because Harry somehow gets him like he’s done from the first moment that they met.
“Yeah,” Harry says simply. Curls are tumbling down around his face and he cups Zayn’s cheeks in his hands and pulls him closer. Harry’s breath is warm against his mouth. “Yeah, I know,” he says, and kisses Zayn again.