Selena is supposed to be his first love. He wonders if he should ache with it, like people do in the movies. He wants to feel hot all over when he touches her. He wants to go into the studio and write an album full of songs for her. He wants all those things, but he knows wanting them won’t make them happen.
Justin reads the Frank Ocean’s announcement on a plane to Japan seated next to Selena. It hits him so hard that he slams the laptop closed and squeezes his eyes shut. Selena shifts next to him, making a small, tired sound. His palms are sweating and his eyes are burning, but he swallows hard and breathes in and out. Eventually his hands stop shaking.
When they get to their hotel in Tokyo, he presses her into their bed and kisses her. He threads his fingers through her hair and lets his hands roam over her body. He fucks her, slow and deep, and after, when she falls asleep in his arms, he lies awake and thinks of Frank’s words.
He does a few interviews and performs an acoustic set and starts to feel like he can breathe again. Being on stage brings him back and sets his feet on solid ground. When they’re off to the next city, Justin goes with it, grips Selena’s hand tighter and waits for the tightness in his chest to ease up.
He listens to Channel Orange in it’s entirety, uninterrupted, when Selena falls asleep at their hotel. He covers his eyes with his hand and blinks back tears when it ends. Knowing that someone like Frank, someone like him made an album makes it hard for him to sleep.
He grabs his phone drafts a text to Scooter and then his mom, but just ends up deleting them both. He scrolls through his contacts, biting his lip when his thumb lands on Niall’s.
have u heard the new frank ocean??
Niall texts back within a few minutes and Justin reads the words over and over.
yeh brilliant wut a legand
He stares up at the ceiling and puts Bad Religion on repeat. The words wash over it and he laughs at himself after awhile, letting his eyes fall shut. The words are simple and Frank doesn’t let the beat overpower his voice. It’s subtle and beautiful and it makes him want to fall in love.
bad religion on repeat
Selena flies back to LA and Justin’s relieved, even if he can’t admit it. He skypes with Niall the night she leaves, grabbing an acoustic guitar, smiling at him through the screen.
“Don’t laugh, okay? I haven’t had time to practice.”
Niall just grins, shaking his head. “It’s four in the morning here. Just play me something!”
Justin shrugs, ducking his head when he feels a blush creep up on his face. “Okay,” he says, strumming. “Here goes.” He plays Thinkin Bout You and sets his guitar aside, looking at Niall. “So?”
Niall just lets out a loud laugh, smile wide. “Fuckin’ brilliant. Better than the original init?”
“Shut up,” says Justin, biting his lip around a grin.
Justin is surrounded by people he loves and cares for. He knows the feeling is mutual, but he also knows that the people around him are employees. Most of them are at least a decade older than Justin and he’s never minded that, not until recently.
Niall is the breath of fresh air Justin never knew he needed. He can text Niall the dumbest things and Niall will respond with something even more ridiculous. It makes Justin happy. It makes him feel his age.
Niall is funny; so funny and charming and every time they Skype or talk on the phone, Justin finds himself grinning when Niall laughs. Niall laughs a lot and Justin revels in it. When Justin finally returns to LA, all he can think about is getting to London to see Niall.
“I’m not crashing or anything?” Justin asks.
Niall scoffs and Justin can almost hear him roll his eyes through the phone. “Nah, mate. It’ll be great. Just get here, yeah? I’ll pick you up at the airport. You emailed your flight info?”
“Yeah, I sent it,” says Justin, zipping up his suitcase. “I’ll see you tonight.” He pauses, sitting down on the edge of his bed. “I’m excited.”
“Me too,” Niall says. “Loads.”
Niall takes him to some club in London, a few of his bandmates tagging along. They’re in VIP, crammed together in a booth with bottle service. Niall slings his arm around Justin, pulling him close. Justin gets a weird feeling in his stomach, but ignores it and curls closer to Niall, face buried in his shoulder.
Zayn nods over at Justin, talking over the music. “Niall said you’re really into the new Frank Ocean album.”
Justin feels his chest tighten at Zayn’s words and sits up, disentangling himself from Niall. “Yeah, but. I mean. It’s a good album, that’s all, bro.”
“It’s bloody brilliant, mate. I’ve got it on repeat.”
“Really?” Justin asks, smiling.
Zayn just nods, finishing off his drink. “You want another?”
“I think I’m gay,” Justin says, barely a whisper. He doesn’t look Niall’s way, just keeps his eyes straight ahead, blinking rapidly. He feels Niall’s hand squeeze his shoulder, pulling him into a hug. He lets Niall thread his fingers through his hair, relaxes into it and rests his head on Niall’s chest.
“Yeah,” Niall says, pressing a kiss to his hair.
They stay like that for what feels like hours before Justin pulls away, wiping at his eyes, huffing out a laugh. “Thanks.”
Niall just smiles and stands, holding his hand out for Justin. Justin takes it.
Back in LA, reality sets in. He spends most of his time rehearsing for tour and carefully avoiding Selena until he can’t anymore. She says things are different, that they have been for awhile. She says they should still be friends. Justin lets her talk, nodding along. He doesn’t beg her to stick around, but he thinks about it. He hugs her tightly and watches her go.
As far as grand gestures go, Justin’s is sure this isn’t very grand at all. He could probably do something over the top, like tweet about Niall or mention him in an interview, but he doesn’t think that this would help with what he’s trying to accomplish.
He sets his laptop of his piano and angles the cam so himself, hitting record. “So hey. I’m. I’m trying to do one of those things they do at the end of the movies, you know. Where the guy gets the girl because he played a song outside her window or like, I don’t know bro, made her a really nice dinner. Except I can’t cook, but this is kind of like playing a song outside your window.”
He starts into the Bad Religion, fingers dancing on the keys, letting his eyes fall shut. When he finishes, he laughs nervously, adjusting the hat. “I’m going to email this to you now and if you don’t respond in like, five minutes, I’m going to start freaking out, okay? So respond.”
He emails Niall the video and keeps his eyes on his inbox, heart beating rapidly. He hears his phone ring after a few minutes, making a sound when he sees Niall’s name, hitting accept.
“Hey,” he says, his chest tight. “Are you. Did you get it?”
“Yeah,” Niall says. Justin frowns at Niall’s tone, biting his lip.
“Was it bad? Did I--
Niall cuts him off. “No, fuck it’s just.” Niall huffs out a watery laugh. “You sang me this song about love. That a lad wrote about another lad and I’m sort of a mess right now because it’d be really great if we could do that minus the whole unrequited thing.”
Justin grins, letting his head drop against the piano, his stomach full of butterflies. “Boyfriend, boyfriend, I could be your boyfriend,” he sings, groaning immediately after. “Oh pause, that was so dorky, wasn’t it?”
Niall laughs and Justin grins, soaking it up.
Justin falls in love and it’s nothing like the movies. He spends more time on the phone with his boyfriend than he does in person. They dodge paparazzi and worry over distance. Sometimes it’s bad and sometimes it’s good. Justin takes it all in because it's real.