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We All Succumb

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Matt switched his cigarette from his right hand to his left, immediately shoving his right hand into the pocket of his leather jacket after the exchange. It wasn’t quite winter yet, but it was certainly starting to get cold. Cold enough for the wind to bite at his fingers and numb them, making being a man addicted to nicotine a bit terrible. New York was harsh with its winter --at least in comparison to Wales-- and as Matt thoughtfully looked up at the sky he dreaded the moment he would have to retire his leather jacket in exchange for one that would keep him warm. His leather jacket had become a defining aspect of who he was a person. His leather jacket and his vast collection of Smiths shirts. He knew it was more than a bit silly to base his existence off of things as trivial and materialistic as his clothing, but he truly believed that they helped define who he was as an individual. Without them he wasn’t quite Matthew Hitt, was he?

Matt was drawn from his thoughts when he felt a finger dig into his side. He lazily looked down, knowing full well that his eyes would take in an orange head and then a pale face. When he made eye contact with Aimee he couldn’t help but grin. While he was an image of various shades of black and grey, she was his polar opposite, adorned in colour from head to toe.

“Are you ready to go?” she questioned, grinning up at him in a way that indicated nothing less than pure joy.

“I suppose so,” Matt murmured and dropped his cigarette on the ground, putting it out with a deft twist of his boots. It was that grin of hers which had him agreeing to this outing in the first place. He wouldn’t have come if she hadn’t set her mind to it. Big parties just weren’t his thing. “As ready as I’ll ever be, anyways.”

With a grin Aimee hooked her arm with Matt’s and confidently led him to what he feared was his death.

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Matt had most certainly lost track of time. Instead, he was more focused on hanging out at the bar, forearms against the table and shoulders hunched forward, determined to go unnoticed by most because he didn’t have it in him to strike up a conversation filled with fake politeness and small talk that he didn’t have the time nor patience for. He needed something more than that. Craved it, even, and he knew he wouldn’t be able to find it in a room like this. That’s why Matt had always preferred small pubs and small groups as opposed to large ones like this. Places like this induced an even greater feeling of loneliness in Matt even if he was in a room filled with loud, sweaty people.

Absentmindedly, the young male toyed with his pack of cigarettes. To say he needed one was the understatement of the year, but he swore to Aimee that he wouldn’t leave and Matt knew very well that if he went outside to have a smoke he would just end up walking away. Away from this room of people with their forced smiles and pseudo concern. These people with their judging eyes and wandering glances.

Without thinking about it, Matt habitually took a cigarette out and pressed it between his lips. He didn’t realize he was doing it; he just did it.

“You can’t light that in here,” a quiet voice came from his side. At first Matt didn’t know if the voice was talking to him or not, but he reckoned it only made sense since he was the one with a cigarette dangling between his lips.

Matt took a deep breath, bracing himself and plastering a smile on his face before he turned his head to address the voice. The corner of his lips dropped down as his eyes were met with one of the most beautiful men he had ever seen, and Matt had seen a lot of beautiful men. Seeing as he worked as a model, after all. After a moment Matt came to two realizations. The first was that he was openly staring at boy wonder, pop princess, Harry Styles. The second was that the motion of dropping the smile from his face had caused his cigarette to fall to the ground. Matt’s hand tightened around his glass as he watched Harry bend over to grab the cigarette that had unjustly ended up on the ground due to Matt’s surprise. The Welsh man couldn’t help his eyes from trailing across the curve of Harry’s back and down the length of his forearm. What a beautiful man he was indeed.

Matt had composed himself by the time Harry straightened up and offered the cigarette back, a smile already on his face.”There was once a time where one could simply pull out a cigarette or even a cigar and one could smoke it wherever one pleased. Alas, now is not that time.” he said and graciously accepted the cigarette from the young man in front of him. The smile on his face surprisingly genuine and not at all forced.

“Now people like you have to go all the way outside,” Harry said with an amused lilt to his voice. He turned from Matt only so that he would be able to order a drink from the bartender. Matt took the opportunity to properly take in Harry. His hair which was pushed back from his face curled under his jaw and fell to his shoulders. His shirt was unbuttoned a third of the way down and Matt was able to see the birds on his chest because of the way he was leaning against the bar on one elbow.

Matt nervously licked his lips and swallowed, turning his attention to the drink in his hands which he brought to his lips. He downed to rest of it in one go and placed the glass back down on the table, quick to order another one. When he turned back to Harry he was startled to see that the other male was looking at him intently.

“People like me?” he asked belatedly in a tone of mock indignance. Matt would be lying if he said he wasn’t pleased when it elicited a smile out of the man in front of him.

“People who choose to smoke cancer right into their bodies.” Harry said with mock sternness, even furrowing his eyebrows and wagging his finger at Matt.

The sight of the man in front of him trying to be serious was enough to earn a soft chuckle from Matt. He was about to retort but was cut short when he saw a bright orange head approach them through the crowd.

“I see you’ve met,” Aimee said once she was standing next to both of them, a mischievous glint in her eyes.

“Not really,” Harry interjected before Matt had the chance to reply, “I was just doing my civil duty to the world and telling him he couldn’t smoke in here.”

“Matt, you know you have to go outside!” Aimee scolded and looked at Matt disapprovingly, pinching his waist gently.

“Aimee, you know I would never,” he said with a lopsided grin, wrapping an arm around her shoulders and languidly leaning against her. “But it’s true, we haven’t been properly introduced yet.”

“Well, Matt, this is Harry Styles from some pop band I can’t remember the name of,” she said teasingly and laughed when Harry clutched his chest in mock hurt, his bottom lip easily jutting out in a pout. “And Harry, this is Matt Hitt. Model extraordinaire, fourth sexiest man in Wales, and vocalist for some shit band named Drowners.”

“It’s true, we’re pretty shit.” he said and kissed the side of Aimee’s head, ignoring everything else she had said. Harry knew more about Matt than Matt knew about Harry and he didn’t particularly appreciate the imbalance.

“I’m afraid I’m going to have to see for myself before I draw any conclusions, sorry.” Harry said with a smile and tilted his head back so that he would be able to finish off his drink. Matt couldn’t help but trail his eyes down Harry’s throat, watching the way his adam’s apple bobbed up and down. He wondered what it would be like to press his lips against the sensitive skin there. He wondered whether Harry would gasp or whether he would moan.

Matt was drawn from his thoughts when he was jabbed in the side with a sharp elbow. His sides had come in contact with that elbow enough for him to know that Aimee was the culprit, and Matt had to admit that he was rather glad she had shaken him from his thoughts. He didn’t think he quite liked the way they were beginning to head.

“You’re staring,” she hissed before putting the grin back on her face when Harry put his glass down and looked at them, an eyebrow raised inquisitively.

To Matt he looked like the most beautiful human being he had ever seen. What, with his sharp green eyes and the soft curves to his face.

Wait.

What?

What was he thinking? What was he even doing? Harry was a member of the masses that he was trying to avoid that night. He didn’t even know Harry, and Matt never, never eyed people the way that he had been eyeing Harry. He never just...did that. With a soft barely audible sigh, Matt removed his arm from around Aimee’s shoulders and went back to leaning against the bar, flashing the girl a quick smile when she excused herself and bounded back from where she came from.

Matt ordered another drink and toyed with his hands as he waited for it. He could feel Harry’s gaze on him but he refused to look up and meet it. To say it was going to be a long night for the man would probably be an understatement.

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Matt woke to a pounding headache that he undoubtedly deserved after all the alcohol he had consumed the night before. Not to mention the lines he had done before going to sleep. He had wanted to forget the night and forget he had. He tried his hardest to remember something from last night as he rolled out of bed and ambled to the kitchen. His eyes were half open as he rummaged through the drawers until he found painkillers. He took two with a bottle of water before he put on the kettle so that he would be able to make himself some coffee. Matt leaned against the counter and crossed his arms. He closed his eyes to shield himself from the light that was pouring into the kitchen, and he took the opportunity to think back onto last night but every time he tried he drew a blank. He truly could not remember anything at all and that scared him more than a little bit.

He was drawn from his thoughts when the shrieking whistle that indicated that the water had boiled echoed through the quiet and nearly empty flat. Matt hastily turned off the stove, hoping he hadn’t woken Marcel, his flatmate and best friend. He quickly poured himself a cup of coffee before he made his way out onto the balcony, pack of cigarettes in hand, ready to be smoked.

Leaning against the railing, he exhaled slowly, appreciating the way the smoke curled around him before dissipating in the air. He reckoned it was late afternoon, nearing on evening based on where the sun was sitting. Even though he didn’t remember what had happened the night before, he was still glad that he had slept as much as he had. Matt hadn’t been sleeping well lately, so for him to get more than three hours was a pretty big deal.

When he heard a noise from behind him he slowly turned his head, a small smile turning the corners of his lips up as he saw Marcel walking towards him. The other male wrapped his arms around Matt’s waist and leaned his bare chest against Matt’s clothed one.

”Glad to see you’re awake,” Marcel mumbled against the crook of Matt’s neck, “I thought you had died and joined the ranks of the dead.”

Matt chuckled slowly and carefully wrapped his arms around the man in front of him, being careful not to burn him with the cigarette that was between his fingers, “This headache has me wishing I had, honestly.”

”Serves you right. You stumbled in right as the sun was rising.”

”Sorry mum, I’ll do better next time.”

With that Marcel disentangled himself from Matt, stealing his cigarette and puffing at it, grumbling something about not being Matt’s mum. With a laugh, he reached forward and ruffled up the hair on his best friend’s head. Immensely grateful for him, even if he stole his cigarettes. Having Marcel around always relaxed Matt. The other male soothed his discomfort and alleviated his anxiety. Perhaps it was because Marcel was so quiet, or maybe it was because Matt genuinely believed Marcel cared deeply for him and would do whatever it took to keep Matt happy. For Matt it was a bit difficult to believe that anybody cared for him, but he believed Marcel.

”I think Alexa’s coming around soon,” Marcel added almost as an afterthought as he handed Matt’s cigarette back to him.

Matt made an appreciative noise, both because he had his cigarette back and because Chung was coming ‘round. He adored Alexa, even if he suspected that she wouldn’t have ever been his friend in the first place if he didn’t wear a leather jacket and sang in a tiny band.

”Is she bringing Al?” Matt questioned as he put his smoke out in the ashtray and grabbed his coffee instead, taking a sip of it before leaning into Marcel’s side a little bit, thankful for the warmth he provided. Both emotionally and physically.

”I think so,” Marcel said and wrapped his arm around Matt’s shoulders, pulling him closer. He knew that sometimes Matt just needed to be held and that was beyond okay with him. As long as his best friend was okay. “Uhhh, Ali is coming as well.”

Matt did his best to hold back a groan, choosing to take another sip of his coffee. He didn’t particularly like Marcel’s girlfriend, but Marcel was his best friend and Matt refused to be the reason Marcel was distressed. So he always kept his mouth shut about his dislike for Ali, and he was always nice to her. Albeit, he wasn’t particularly warm and he didn’t really treat her like they were friends. But he was nice and that was all that mattered.

”I best go take some more painkillers and hook myself up to an intravenous supply of caffeine, then.” Matt mumbled before finishing his coffee and pulling away from Marcel so that he could go inside and change.

Matt wasn’t as nervous for that night as he was for the night before. These were his friends and this was the company he preferred. These were the people he could truly be his nerdy, dorky self around and that was all that mattered to him.

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Chung bustled through the door half an hour later, a box of what Matt knew had to be cupcakes in her arms. “I heard you had a really rough night last night, so I brought you your favourite cupcakes,” she said and reached up on her toes to kiss Matt’s cheek.

He couldn’t help but grin as he took the box from the girl and leaned his cheek into the kiss, “I can’t remember shit from last night but you’re still a true godsend, Chung.” he said before she winked at him and made her way inside.

Alex walked in behind her, clapping Matt on the back and grinning at him. Matt returned the smile and watched Al walk after Alexa, a hand on the small of her back but not possessively. The touch seemed more comforting than anything else and that made Matt rather pleased for an assortment of reasons. One of which being that Alex was comfortable enough around them that he didn’t feel the need to get all possessive.

Matt was about to shut the door without looking when he heard a strangely familiar voice pipe up from behind him, “I get that I didn’t exactly bring you any pastries but that doesn’t mean you can shut the door in my face.”

Matt quickly turned around in surprise, his eyes taking in the man standing in front of him. Matt was too surprised to do anything other than open the door wider, watching Harry Styles walk in before shutting the door behind him. “I hope you don’t mind that I invited him. He said he knew you!” he could hear Chung shout from the living room where she had settled on Alex’s lap where he was sitting on the sofa.

”Well, he didn’t bring me any baked goods but I suppose he can stay,” Matt said after he had regained his composure, walking into his flat so that he would be able to join his mates.

Since when did he know Harry Styles?

Chapter Text

It had been a few hours since everyone had shown up. There was enough food to feed a small army and Matt didn’t mind that at all. He had found long ago that his stomach was similar to a bottomless pit, even being compared to Hermione’s bag from Deathly Hallows a few times. It used to worry the welsh man that he consumed so much food, but when he realized that he wasn’t actually putting on any of the weight, he relaxed and continued eating the way he always had.

Matt got up from the arm of the sofa where he was sitting next to Alexa and made his way into the kitchen. His flat with Marcel was designed in such a way that even though he was in the kitchen, he would still be able to see his mates and even interact with them if he spoke loud enough. But Matt didn’t want to speak loud enough. Instead, he chose to eye Ali and Marcel. She was draped over him as per usual and had just licked his neck extravagantly. It was nearly enough to make the pizza he was eating seem unappealing. Nearly.

”I can't believe I’m only a few feet away from the actual Ali Michael,” he heard a voice say from beside him, accompanied by the sound of the pizza box opening and a slice being slid out. Matt turned his head and glared at the owner of the voice, hoping to burn a hole in his head with his gaze for interrupting him in his ‘I hate Ali’ fest with words that could be considered as praise.

”I can’t believe you’re actually pleased by that,” Matt retorted and took a bite of his pizza, curiously watching Harry open his mouth and do the same.

”Excuse me, what do you mean by that?” Harry asked as if he was personally offended by Matt’s statement.

”Marcel is too good for her,” he said automatically without even thinking about it. He watched Harry thoughtfully chew his pizza and suddenly Matt needed to look at something --anything-- else. So he looked back at Ali and Marcel again, grimacing at the sight of them. “She’s just...eugh.”

”What do you mean by ‘eugh’? She can’t be that bad, can she?” Harry asked and nudged Matt over with his shoulder so that he would be able to stare out the gap in the wall that worked as a type of window into the living room. Matt grumbled and moved over so that he was no longer touching Harry, trying his hardest not to think about the simple contact.

“But she is, though, look at her!”

”What about her? What am I supposed to be seeing?”

”She hasn’t let go of him for more than two seconds! She needs to chill.”

”Oh?” Harry asked as he reached for another slice of pizza.

”And I get that Mars is a weeb and all, but she is, like, the weeb queen.” he continued as if Harry hadn’t said anything and followed the other male in suit by grabbing another slice of pizza. He was beyond famished.

”Weeb...queen…? I’m going to need an explanation…” Harry said, the confusion in his voice evident.

Matt turned to him, the disbelief evident on his face, “Do you just not know what a weeb is, then? Or do you not feel the weeb emanating from her in waves?” he asked and looked at the man in front of him.

”I don't know what it means...?” Harry said slowly, feeling as if he was missing out on something major.

”I can’t believe this,” Matt said as he pulled out his phone, disbelief still colouring his voice. He quickly pulled up the Urban Dictionary page that defined the word weeb and read it out to Harry, watching the other male’s face as he captured his bottom lip between his teeth in concentration. It was rather endearing, but a part of Matt wished he wouldn’t mess up his lips like that.

”Oh, well I honestly don't see anything wrong with that I mean that's her thing innit,” Harry said and looked at Matt challengingly, seemingly expecting him to argue.”I mean I did enjoy death note or everyone else did and if they say otherwise I'm pretty sure they're liars.”

”Yeah, and that’s fine because I certainly encourage people to do their own thing,” Matt said readily, “Whatever makes them happy, right? But look at this, mate.” he murmured as he opened the picture of Marcel and Ali covered in blood with Marcel holding a knife to Ali’s throat, and showed Harry the screen, watching him closely and trying not to get nervous when Harry leaned in closer so that he would be able to see the picture, his curls brushing against Matt’s cheek.

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”What is this photo?” Harry questioned and took the phone from Matt, bringing it closer to his face so that he would be able to see it better.

Matt took the opportunity to pull away from Harry and walk to the fridge, using the excuse of grabbing a beer to get out of Harry’s personal bubble. Or to get Harry out of his.

”I can’t tell whether that’s jam or blood…” Harry admitted when Matt moved back to him and took his phone back, putting it in his pocket. After Matt took his phone back, he stayed a few feet away from Harry, finding that their close proximity was doing weird things to his mind. He smelled...familiar.

”It’s definitely blood,” Matt said confidently and opened his beer with one hand before pressing the cool can to his lips and taking a large gulp of the liquid into his suddenly dry mouth.

”You’re taking the piss,” Harry said, the shock evident in his voice and on his features.

”I’m serious, Harold!”

”Where did they acquire the blood from? Why is Marcel holding a knife to her neck? I have so many questions…”

”I reckon she punched him in the nose or sumat to make him bleed and then relocated the blood to her throat,” Matt grumbled saltily and turned around to glance into the living room, seeing that Alex and Alexa were snogging and so were Marcel and Ali. Matt would be lying if he said he were surprised.

The sound of Harry’s voice caused Matt to turn back around again, ”well, I mean.. I guess this is modern romance..” Harry murmured a bit questioningly.

”If that’s romance then I want no part in it,” Matt scoffed and took another drink from his beer.

”You sound like a bitter old man,” Harry accused, “doesn’t really work since you look twelve, though..”

Matt nearly choked on his beer, and he fought to keep a grin from exploding onto his face, “I can’t believe this, you come into my house and you insult me?” Matt said in mock anger, biting his bottom lip to keep him from smiling, “I’m going to tell Chung.”

”Might want to pass on that. She seems pretty busy at the moment,” Harry said and jerked his thumb in Al and Chung’s direction. When Matt glanced at them it was clear that their snogging was getting a bit heated.

Matt hummed slightly, acknowledging that he saw the two of them. “Hey, why did you even tell her that you know me? I don’t know you,” Matt said as he remembered what Chung had said to him earlier when Harry walked in.

”What do you mean..? I do know you..” Harry murmured and looked at Matt with a raised eyebrow, unsure if the older man was pulling his leg or playing a game or what.

”I mean I don’t know you.” Matt said with conviction before hesitating slightly. Unless.. “Or, I don’t remember knowing you.”

”At the party last night…” Harry prompted, looking at Matt questioningly, the curiosity evident in his eyes.

”That'd explain it, then. I woke up this morning and didn't remember anything,” Matt admitted sheepishly, offering Harry a lopsided grin of apology. “What happened last night anyways?”

”Oh, nothing, we just chatted a bit.” Harry said with a smile and patted Matt’s shoulder.

It seemed like such a mundane thing for Harry to do, and Matt didn’t think twice about it before reaching forward and tousling Harry’s hair with his hand, “sorry for not remembering, mate.”

”All’s well, Matthew.” Harry grumbled before hastily letting go of his grip on Matt so that he would be able to fix his hair.

Matt couldn’t help but laugh at the sight of Harry fixing his hair, as if it wasn’t just a pushed back mess on the top of his head, anyways. He was about to comment on the state of the man’s hair when he heard a low moan from behind him. Cheeks flushed, Matt whipped his head around and Harry did the same. He saw that Ali and Marcel had relocated, probably to Marcel’s room, but Matt knew for a fact that Marcel would never shag her when he was around. Perhaps when other people were around, but never when he was around because he knew how uncomfortable it made him feel. So he wasn’t worried about them, but Chung and Al were getting a bit heated, and he figured it was about time for him to interject. He couldn’t believe they were getting really into it right now on his sofa in his flat. Chung knew better than to do that. Even Al knew better.

”I have to go break this up,” Matt mumbled and carded his hand through his hair before he dragged both hands down his face. There was nothing in the world that he wanted to do less than go over to his snogging friends on the couch. There was nothing in the world that he wanted to do less than awkwardly break the two of them up. With a loud sigh Matt braced himself before turning around and slowly heading out of the kitchen. He grabbed the coat rack from next to the door and held it in front of him like a sword before slowly inching towards them. He hoped that the coat rack he was balancing with one hand would provide to be the instrument he needed to prod them apart without having to get too close or having to actually touch either of them.

By the time Matt was nearly close enough to touch the two, hoping to literally prod them apart, Harry had come up from behind them with what appeared to be the biggest container in Matt’s kitchen, filled with water. Harry winked at Matt as he extended his arms so that the container was above Alex and Alexa’s heads. Matt couldn’t believe what he was seeing, but at the same time he certainly could. Alexa had told him stories of Harry and the rest of his band members’ various pranks. Albeit, she had screamed these stories in his ear while they sat in on one of their shows, but she had told him nevertheless. Straightening up the coat rack so that it was standing next to him, he backed up a few steps and watched the scene before him unfurl. He barked out a laugh as Harry dumped the contents of the container onto the heads of Alex and Alexa. He watched them shriek and move apart, Chung jumping up and shouting a stream of various profanities. The look on Alex’s face was one that would have made a weaker man cower in a corner, but he was no weaker man. Instead, Matt was keeled over in laughter and Harry had moved out of Alexa and Alex’s reach which was certainly a good idea since they both looked absolutely furious.

After a moment or two, even Alexa and Alex couldn’t stay mad and ended up laughing alongside Harry and Matt, “I’m absolutely drenched! I can’t believe you two,” Alexa said loudly in her raspy voice, “and why on Earth have you got a coat rack, Matthew?”

”Ah, well, I didn’t exactly want to touch you two...or talk to you two...so I was going to poke you with the coat rack,” he admitted truthfully and looked at the ground, a slow flush crawling up his neck. He knew it was ridiculous, but what else was he meant to do?

”I thought it was rather brilliant,” Harry said and walked over to Matt, nudging him with his shoulder and smiling at him.

Another simple touch. Another moment where Matt had to take a step back so that he would be able to breathe properly. What was wrong with him? This had never happened to him before. The way his heart lurched in his chest was insane. The way his face got warmer was insane. Everything about this was insane, and Matt wanted no part in it. He did not know Harry Styles and Harry Styles did not know him. He planned on keeping it that way.

Matt pulled away from Harry and gave him a closed mouth smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes before he walked to the guest bedroom. He opened the door and then stepped in, taking a deep breath as he walked to the wardrobe that held Alexa’s change of clothes that she kept at his flat just in case she ended up staying the night. God forbid Alexa Chung be seen in the same outfit two days in a row. Matt shook his head, laughing softly to himself before he walked into his own room, grabbing a pair of track pants and a shirt for Alex to change into. Even though his life seemed to be going haywire from the party he had attended the night before where he had allegedly met Harry Styles, and Harry Styles now being in his living room, casually touching him as if they were best mates, he was glad he still had this sense of normalcy he could cling to. He had Alexa’s clothes in his hands and a set of his own clothes for Al. These were his friends and this was where he belonged. He had been exceptionally miserable lately, but three was still hope because he had a carefully curated support system around him.

When he walked back into the living room, he saw that Chung had already shed her shirt. Matt covered his eyes with his hand and stuck the clothes out in her general direction, slowly inching towards them. “I am an innocent child, I can’t believe you’re subjecting me to this abuse,” Matt grumbled when Alexa took the clothes out of his hands.

”Innocent my ass,” he heard Harry retort from further into the room.

”What’s that supposed to mean, mate?” Matt asked indignantly, resisting the urge to lift his hands from his eyes because it still wasn’t safe yet for him to do so. Well, he didn’t think it was safe, anyways. Not until Chung said it was.

Matt heard Harry scoff, and his eyebrows furrowed in confusion. He opened his mouth to ask Harry to explain himself, but Alexa interjected, telling them that she and Alex were done dressing themselves. With a sigh of relief Matt removed his hands from his eyes, all previous thoughts abandoned as he yawned and looked at the time. It was a lot later than he thought it was. Probably time for him to head to bed anyways. He was meant to see his mate Chad in the morning and quite frankly Matt just didn’t feel all that great anymore. He had to take his medication but he couldn’t do that with his friends around.

Not long after Alexa and Alex had gotten changed, Matt ushered both them and Harry out his door, claiming to have a busy day laying await for him once the sun came up, and he wasn’t exactly lying; it just wasn’t the whole truth. Once Matt said his goodbyes, he shut the door and pressed his back against it, slumping down to the ground. He had only been up for a few hours but he was ready to go back to sleep. Maybe when he woke he would still remember Harry Styles this time around.

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It was always a good time when he went ‘round to Chad’s. There were always beers passed back and forth, new pictures to develop, and stories to reminisce about. Every day that went by and every encounter Matt had with one of his mates simply solidified the thought in his mind that he was one lucky man. Some people searched their entire lives for a group of friends as good as Matt’s were, and he just happened upon them when he moved to New York to model.

”Matt, what the fuck are you thinking about?” Chad asked him as he handed Matt another beer.

”The unequal distribution of wealth and how the rich are getting richer while the poor are getting poorer,” Matt said automatically, still staring off into the distance for a moment longer before he turned his attention to Chad, an easy smile on his lips. However, the second he looked at the man he was met by a blinding flash. He was used to it by then. Being mates with Pete, Marcel, and Chad made it so that in their presence not a single moment was safe from the flash of a camera. Matt understood it, though. He understood that the lads felt the desire to document everything around them. Matt was the same way; he just wrote songs and poems instead of taking pictures or making art.

”Of course,” Chad said knowingly, quite used to Matt and the seemingly random things he would say, “wouldn’t expect anything less from you.”

”Good.”

”So do you want to go develop those rolls of film now?”

”’Course, mate.”

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Matt loved working in Chad’s dark room. The process of developing a roll of film was so methodical that it was oddly comforting. Marcel had wanted to use the guest bedroom in their flat for a dark room, but Matt insisted that he just use Chad’s because he reckoned it was easier. Even Pete used Chad’s room on occasion. When all four of them were at Chad’s all at once it was a proper riot.

Chad had gotten a call while Matt was hanging the pictures produced from the first roll to dry and the last thing either man needed was for the light from Chad’s phone to ruin the photo paper or even the chemicals, so he had hurried out of the room, leaving Matt to his own devices. Matt hummed a tune to himself as he worked on the second roll of film. This roll was a more recent one, and it featured him and his mates over the course of the last month. Matt would smile to himself every time an image appeared on the papers he washed in the chemicals, remembering the day from the image and the feelings attached to the memory.

Matt was nearing the end of the roll when he realized that he didn’t recognize any of the pictures he was developing. There was Aimee with her bright orange hair, and then there was RJ and Ben with Ron Barkundy as per usual. But when was this? Where? Why wasn’t Matt there? Had he been excluded from an event?

Before the man had a chance to get worked up about being left out, he watched the very last picture begin to develop. It slowly appeared on the paper, fading into existence. At first all Matt could see were outlines of people. They looked like ghosts to him, but this was his favourite part of developing photos; seeing the image magically appear in full. He swished the paper around in the chemical a little more, waiting for the image to finish developing. When it did, Matt felt his blood run cold. What the…fuck was this? When did this happen? Matt was barely breathing as he finished developing the photo hastily. He mechanically went through the motions and barely allowed to photo to be rinsed properly in the cold water before he was rushing out the door, the sopping wet picture in his hands. In his haste he nearly ran into Chad who was beginning to head back to the dark room from the living room, clearly done with his call.

”What the fuck is this?” Matt asked the man, shoving the photo at him. His voice was wavering slightly, so he cleared it in an attempt to mask the fact that he was actually quite affected by the content of the photo.

”Well, it looks to me like it’s a picture of you and Harry Styles snogging,” Chad said after a quick glance at the photo. He looked up at Matt with a smirk on his face and that did nothing to alleviate Matt’s stress levels.

People had seen that happen. He had snogged Harry Styles and clearly people had seen it happen because there was photographic evidence in his hands. There was evidence of something he couldn’t even remember for fuck’s sake. “When did this happen?” Matt asked Chad, struggling to keep his voice neutral.

”Oh, it was just a few nights ago,” Chad said nonchalantly and handed the photo back to Matt before he started ambling towards the dark room once again, “You were both sloshed and snogged as a joke, remember?”

”I finished two rolls and Marcel’s waiting for me at home, I’ll see you later, yeah?” Matt called out and walked right out, not even waiting for Chad to say anything, the picture clutched tightly to his chest. He refused to allow himself to think about anything until he was out of there. His body moved out of the flat and onto the street below on autopilot.

Harry hadn’t told him that they snogged. He had just said that they chatted a bit. But of course Harry wouldn’t tell him. It was just a joke, after all. A joke. Matt wasn’t even able to remember what had happened, but he still felt embarrassed nonetheless. He had probably come on to Harry and Harry had probably gone with it as a joke. He hadn’t told Matt that they had snogged because he hadn’t wanted Matt to feel embarrassed. He had probably come on to the other male so strongly that Harry probably felt like he had no choice but to snog Matt.

Those were the thoughts that were looping around Matt’s head during his entire walk. He was going to go back home but when home had approached too quickly and he still hadn’t relaxed, he decided to keep walking. He couldn’t believe himself. God, Harry probably thought he was a proper fool, and rightfully so. Harry was probably laughing at him behind his back. He could only imagine what the other male thought of him now. He probably thought Matt was a proper slag.

Matt was drawn from his thoughts when he felt his phone vibrating in his pocket. He pulled it out so that he would be able to hit ignore; not wanting to talk to anyone right then, but when he saw that it was Justin he knew that he wouldn’t be able to just ignore the other man. He was one of his closest friends, after all.

”Yeah?” Matt mumbled into the line after he held the phone to his ear. He was still gripping the photo in his other hand, and every time he caught sight of it he just felt ill all over again, so he shoved it into the pocket of his jacket. He didn’t know why he didn’t just destroy it, but there was a part of him that did want to keep it.

”Chad rang me and told me you ran out of his flat like a bat out of Hell,” Matt heard Justin’s deep voice say on the other end.

”I’m fi--” Matt started to say, but was cut off.

”You don’t have to tell me what’s wrong, but you’re also not allowed to lie to me and tell me that you’re fine. I’m going to come pick you up and we’re going to go out so that we can get your mind off of whatever is bothering you.” Justin said firmly, leaving no room for arguments. Matt knew better than to argue with Justin anyways.

”Okay.” he said meekly and hung up.

----------

The first thing Matt noticed when he walked into the bar with Justin by his side was the increasingly large number of men in the bar. At further inspection, Matt realized that there were in fact no women in the bar whatsoever. Where had Justin brought him?

”Did you bring me to a gay bar?” Matt hissed and tugged at Justin’s sleeve, a bit roughly.

”Perhaps,” Justin said, having to raise his voice to be heard over the music which just got louder as they made their way over to the actual bar.

”I can’t believe you, I’m leaving.” Matt said and turned around with full intent to leave. That was, until he saw Harry. When he did, he quickly turned back around again, his hand curling around Justin’s bicep as his blood ran cold again.

”Actually, I guess I’ll just stay,” Matt said and forced his lips to curl up into a smile. The concerned smile that Justin returned to him was an indication that he didn’t believe Matt but chose to go along with it anyways.

Matt could have and should have just left as soon as he saw Harry. He reasoned that Harry was now standing near the entrance which meant that he would have to walk past the man in order to leave, and a conversation with him wasn’t exactly what Matt wanted right then.

After a couple rounds Justin declared that he had to get home because he had a bad meeting in the morning. He joked that the lads would kick him out if he missed one more, and it was enough to bring a genuine smile to Matt’s face. After a hug goodbye and a kiss to Matt’s forehead, the other male left, Matt being left to his own devices yet again. He reckoned he would leave as well once he was finished his drink. Well, he thought he would until a bloke plopped himself down in the seat that Justin had just vacated.

Matt looked at the man with a shy and confused smile, but a smile nonetheless and that smile was enough for the man to start talking to him.

----------

Of course Harry had seen him the second he walked in. Of course he couldn’t keep his eyes off of his inhumanely long limbs. Of course Harry studied the back of his head in length as he put back drink after drink. It was hard to miss him. He was all long limbs and vaguely curly hair and sharp cheekbones and lopsided grins. How dare he look so bloody good in an old shirt and simple jeans? Who did he think he was? And who was this lad with his hand on Matt’s knee?

----------

When Matt looked up, he was surprised to see Harry walking towards him in a way that could only be called determined, even if there was a slight sway to his step. It was probably the alcohol. What was he doing anyways? Harry wasn’t coming over to mock him, was he? To ridicule him for the kiss. Brain a bit foggy with the beers that the lad had bought for him, Matt didn’t know if he would be able to handle Harry right then. He felt a light squeeze on his knee. It was the bloke who had been supplying Matt’s drinks. What was his name again? Started with a J, maybe? J..ason? No, that wasn’t right. Ja..Jake? Yes that was it. Jake. Jake was such a nice bloke. Buying Matt drinks. Giving him reassuring pats on the back and knee and arm.

Matt was in the middle of giving Jake his number, the numbers half out of his mouth when he felt a hand snake around his waist, “Hi, love,” he heard Harry’s voice by his ear, slurring only slightly. What the fuck was this?

He heard Jake clear his throat from in front of him, causing Harry to lean imperceptibly closer, which only caused Jake to squeeze Matt’s knee again. It was like dominoes, Matt thought faintly in the back of his head. Or even like chess. One move resulting in another. What an odd thought. His life wasn’t a game. Was it? Matt felt disconnected and far away as he watched Jake and Harry talking. There were little gestures here and there. A hand across his back, a squeeze of his forearm. What was happening? Why didn’t Harry’s smile reach his eyes, and why did Jake look like he was baring his fangs? Also, why was Harry nearly in his lap? If Matt’s head wasn’t swimming with the alcohol, it would be swimming with Harry’s close presence. Maybe it was. Maybe it was the alcohol and Harry both. Whatever it was, Matt needed out and he needed it now. For the sake of his slowly deteriorating mental health, he needed to get out.

”Alright, it’s been fun, lads,” Matt said and stood up abruptly, causing Harry to stumble backwards a little bit. He had practically been on Matt’s lap, after all.

”I’ll come with you,” Jake said without missing a beat. He stood up and stepped closer to Matt, able to do so now that Harry was a step or two away.

It all happened very quickly. Matt’s head spun, he reached out and grasped the closest thing to him, steadying himself so that he didn’t fall over. Unfortunately the closest thing was Jake’s arm, and the second his hand gripped it, Jake was there, his arm around Matt’s waist, supporting him. What a great new mate. When Matt was balanced again, he looked up sheepishly, more drunk than he originally thought he was. How foolish of him. Maybe it was because Jake had kept the drinks coming and Matt wasn’t mental enough to turn down a free drink.

Immediately after he looked up, he caught Harry’s narrowed eyes on his grip on Jake’s arm and Jake’s arm around his waist. Without another word the younger male turned around and stormed off. Matt wanted to run after him. Where was he going? Matt even tried to run after him, but the movement was too fast and his head spun, causing him to fall into Jake’s arms again.

But he wanted to go after Harry, he wanted to ask what was happening, he wanted to make sure he was alright.

----------

”Zayn? Come pick me up right now. I wanna fuck.”