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Throwing Rocks at the Sky

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August 27, 2014

Summer is officially over. Goodbye to the plethora of overhyped music festivals, unnecessary amount of crop tops and Birkenstocks (those will never be in style), getting a mouthful of sweaty, hairy armpit in the pit (I had to use two bottles of mouthwash afterwards), and a round of tours with semi-good lineups, but HELLO to fall aka new music season. I won’t be missing the income of tourists or the muggy, humid prison that NYC becomes during the summer. Onto more important things...

Did you guys check out the Black Hearts song I linked to in my last post? Wasn’t it just amazing? Did your pulse not drop with bassist Jim Kero’s steady, lullaby like notes in the beginning and then rise to dangerous levels when lead guitarist Pete Smith came in with the kill with that awesome rift. All the while singer Heath Burns croons soulfully to you, carrying you through the epic journey that is “Lover Like A Dream?” Well, if you guys liked the Black Hearts and their newly dropped EP, Kerosene Lamps, be sure to check out this week’s selection.

The Prancing Ponies (LOTR reference—I love it) reside in our beloved NYC. The quartet hails from the East Village having met each other their first year at NYU. If you’re into folky rock with a techno twist, you definitely need to check out The Prancing Ponies. I first heard out about this quirky band through lead singer and guitarist Niall Horan. We met each other in our Classic Mythology course, and the rest, as they say, is history. They are set to drop their new self-released EP, Valhalla, (I see what you did there, Horan) in a few weeks. Until then, check out their latest single, “Mighty Giants,” linked below and leave your thoughts in the comments section!

The Prancing Ponies will be playing a small showcase at Trash this Friday. $5 cover charge, but lots of cheap beer, FREE TATOR TOTS, and good tunes ahead. See you there!

z.m.

---

@RIFT currently jamming “Lowkey Loki” by @prancingponiestheband. Duh. Can’t wait for tonight!

@niallprancingpony @RIFT @notsomrbrightside Thnx 4 the shout, bro! C u 2nite.

@notsomrbrightside @niallprancingpony @RIFT It’s still an awful song title.

@niallprancingpony @notsomrbrightside says the dude w/ the most awful twttr handle. Real brill, Zaynie.

---

“You’re late, Malik.”

Zayn sidesteps the punch his roommate aims towards him with a bashful smile. Louis doesn’t look amused. Zayn wouldn’t be either if he had been waiting for a solid hour in the grimy, stifling air that encases New York in August.

“I was wrapping up stuff for my next post, and there seemed to be some delay on the train here. I swear that mole people theory of yours is true. New York will be overtaken by these mysterious folks one day.

Louis rolls his eyes. “Oh shut up. Don’t try to butter me up. I know you hate that theory, and I know nothing was wrong with the train, because I fucking took it earlier.”

Zayn shrugs and laughs. “Fine, fine. It really was the blog. I had to meet up with someone from the new band I’m reviewing. They’re so sick, Lou! Like, a funky clash of the Stones and Marvin Gaye, I swear. They have a show coming up, and from what their album sounds like, it’s going to be fucking amazing.”

Louis looks over at him fondly, just a bit of resentment in his eyes, but then Zayn’s leaning forward to kiss his cheek, and the older boy laughs, shoving his best friend away.

“Gross. Now, let’s get inside before Niall gets too drunk and starts flinging beer bottles at us.”

“We’re not that late.”

“They’re on their third song.”

Zayn shakes his head. “They’ll be playing all night. We’ll be fine.” He shoves Louis through the door first and follows after they’ve respectively paid their dues at the front.

The Prancing Ponies are shredding it on stage when Zayn moves into the main room, a longneck in one hand and basket of tater tots in the others. He nods at Dan, one of the guitarist as he makes his way towards a high table off to the side and smirks when Niall flips him off when they catch eyes.

Louis is right beside him, his arm around his girl-of-the-month. Monica? Zayn doesn’t remember her name, so he just sends an enthusiastic hello her way.

“This one is for the jerk that just walked in. Fuckin’ late to your own friend’s gig. Asshole,” Niall laughs into the mic, Dan playing a few notes to make the speech more dramatic. “This one is called ‘You’re an Asshole.’”

Zayn almost spits his beer out as his body wracks with laughter, Louis’ body knocking into his side not helping. He’s so caught up in Niall yelling in the mic that he almost misses the murmurs going through the crowd, heads turning towards the bar in a domino effect. He cranes his neck to see what the fuss is about, but he can’t see over the crowd, and then Louis is pulling him into his side, an arm slung around his neck, and he forgets about it once Niall jumps into an actual song. One he can probably write a decent review about for RIFT.

When he first created RIFT, he was just looking for a side project to work on during high school. Something he could put under his list of extracurricular activities. Zayn had just been a boy growing up in Queens caught up in the music scene that was starting to bloom all across Brooklyn, a new band or venue popping up every other day. He would drag Louis after school to some show or another, both of them slipping through the ticket barrier on one stub and shuffling back from the station at night, tired but elated grins and their pockets carrying the band’s CD or EP. It was his older sister, Doniya, who snapped at him one night at the dining table when he wouldn’t shut up about a band he’d seen the night before. She just wanted him to babble to someone else, and Zayn lit up with the idea of his own blog. Louis helped him with the technical stuff—creating a decent layout, enabling a comments section, coding the necessary parts and adding things here and there that made Zayn’s blog stick out amongst the sea of others.

It just grew from there. Zayn got his friends’s bands to interview with him and promoted their work. Then, by word of mouth, he had music being sent to him, emails asking to meet up because a friend of a friend sent a link to Zayn’s blog to them, and suddenly it seemed that half of NYC’s underground music scene knew who he was. It was surreal. His blog was no Rolling Stones or Spin, but he had power, albeit small, to sway audiences, his followers, towards new and upcoming music, to possibly uplift a career. It grew from a hobby to a somewhat career. One that paid in connections and free gigs and free music rather than money.

The blog is Zayn’s baby.

“Hey! I’m gonna go get another drink,” Louis shouts in his ear once Niall moves onto a legit song. “You want somethin’?”

Zayn motions to his beer. It’s almost done. He downs the little that is left and hands his empty bottle to Louis.

He’s too caught up in the music, swaying his body side to side, nudging his hip against Louis’ girl’s to get her to enjoy the night, too. He doesn’t notice how packed the room is until Niall mentions it on stage right before their last song.

“Didn’t know the Ponies were this popular, yeah? We’re gettin’ there, boys!” Niall laughs into his mic. He gestures to his bandmates who play a few notes on their instruments. “Gotta thank RIFT and the dude who runs it. You beautiful asshole. I love you, man. Thanks!”

Zayn is glad the room is too dark for anyone to notice his blush. Not that they would anyway since most people don’t know the face behind his blog.

“This is the last song. We’re the Prancing Ponies, and we hope you guys have nice night. Let’s rock!”

Once the band finishes their set and Louis’ returned, Zayn excuses himself. His finger taps anxiously against the side of his beer in anticipation for the cigarette that’s tucked away in the packet he’s already packing against his hip on his way outside. It’s a bad habit. One that he’s picked from his cousins and his friends, but he figures it’s a better addiction than coke or meth. He lights up as soon as he’s a few feet from the entrance, inhaling and slowly exhaling.

The sweat decorating his beer covers his hand when he brings it up to his lips to take a sip. Today’s been good. He got his schedule for work for next week—no opening shifts, thank the universe. He got the news he’s been promoted to entertainment editor for the university’s newspaper. The band he reviewed is amazing, the guys being kind and not self-absorbed assholes. Niall’s gig went great. And he got an interesting email a few days ago from a fucking publishing company that’s interested in his blog and wants to talk future plans and projects.

Zayn’s on fucking cloud nine.

So, it’s really a shame his night turns for the worse.

He hears the door open beside him and a bottle rattle out before he sees the tall, looming shadow that follows. Zayn’s inhaling when he sees Harry Styles—Harry fucking Styles, indie rockstar, Grammy winning rock legend, top five in Heat’s Hottest Men Harry Styles—stumble outside. Zayn almost chokes. He sputters, gasping for breath when Harry Styles looks around wildly, spots Zayn, and turns towards him, a beer in his own hand and his eyes squinted at Zayn. Harry Styles’ lips are pressed in an angry, tight line. His shoulders hunched. He’s waving his bottle haphazardly. He’s heading straight for Zayn.

“You!”

Zayn thinks he’s going to almost choke again.

“Me?”

Zayn wants to pinch himself. It would be unreal for Harry Styles to be standing here. Maybe a few years ago when the guy was just another musician playing a set at some small venue and trying to make it big in the Big City. But not now. Not when he’s on the cover of every magazine or tabloid, being praised for his looks, his fashion sense, his lyrics or being dragged for his drug fueled parties, for the men and women pictured following him into his apartment building late at night, for the stories about his angry, drunk behavior. Harry Styles attending a Prancing Ponies show in Brooklyn seems next to impossible.

But it is possible. Harry Styles is there, stumbling closer and closer, one finger pointed at him and his other hand lifting towards his mouth so he can take a swig of his drink.

“Yeah. You. Pretty boy. Mind if I bum one?”

“Excuse me?”

Harry groans, rolling his eyes. “Your smoke, man.” He gestures towards the filtered down cigarette hanging from Zayn’s fingers.

Zayn’s still in shock that there’s a high profile rockstar in his midst when the cherry of his cigarette burns his finger.

“Shit!” he yelps.

He throws the rest of the cigarette on the ground and brings his finger to his mouth.

“So...”

Zayn’s eyes widen as Harry Styles impatiently waits beside him.

“Oh! Oh, yeah. Here, man. No problem.”

Zayn quickly shoves his carton towards Harry Styles who plucks one out and places it between his lips.

“You got a light?”

Zayn quickly pats his pockets and retrieves the engraved lighter Louis got him on his eighteen birthday. He hands it over to Harry Styles who lights up and hands it back over to Zayn. Zayn nearly drops his lighter when their hands touch.

“Thanks, Pretty Boy,” Harry Styles breathes, a stream of smoke preceding his words.

“No problem, Mr. Styles.”

“Harry. Just Harry is fine.”

“Okay...Harry.”

“Mr. Styles is my dad, init?”

Zayn shrugs. “I guess?”

He can’t believe he’s standing outside some small venue in Brooklyn talking to one of his favorite musicians. Zayn’s sure his sixteen-year-old self would have fainted. He remembers the day he first heard “Cheetah Print Coat,” which he admits isn’t the greatest name for a song, but the lyrics—oh man, the lyrics. Zayn knew he just had to look up the genius behind the song. It led him to knowing everything about Harry Styles, singer/songwriter from London, England looking to make it big in America. Five years go at the time of his first release, Harry Styles was just another twenty-four-year-old face in the crowd who shared a cramped apartment in Williamsburg and handed out his mixtapes outside shows every night, hoping one day he’ll get picked up. It wasn’t until some indie label found his songs online and gave him a chance. His first album, WHITE OUT, made it to number one on fucking Billboard, and Zayn remembers running to the nearest music store to get a hard copy. That album helped him become the music lover and writer he is today.

Sure, once Styles hit it big, selling out arenas then stadiums, Zayn began noticing a difference in the music and lyrics and didn’t listen as often as he used to. But, he was still in awe of a man he appreciated and looked up to.

After all, Zayn had to thank Styles for inspiring his first blog post.

Zayn’s thinking about how cool he’s going to sound when he tells everyone how he shared a smoke with fucking Harry Styles and how he might just write another post about him, maybe something about how he’s sure something amazing is going to be released from the rockstar soon that they all should expect since he’s so brilliant. How the twenty-seven year old rock legend looks amazing despite the rumors flying about how he’s addicted to drugs and parties too much. Zayn wants to squash those rumors. Harry Styles is standing in front of him, albeit drunk, but looks amazing and he’s at his friend’s tiny showcase. It’s surreal. His thinking gets interrupted when Styles exhales smoke in his face and narrows his eyes, a smirk on his lips and a look in his eyes that has Zayn rising his own hackles.

“So, you what do you want for this?” Harry asks, voice huskier than before as he gestures with his cigarette.

“Excuse me?” Zayn sputters.

Styles shrugs. “You want a pic? Gonna upload it for your friends on Instagram or some shit?”

“No, no,” Zayn starts with a quick shake of his head.

Harry’s smirk turns more sinister, a hint of lust in his eyes now as he moves closer to Zayn, exhaling another stream of smoke that has Zayn coughing and his eyes watering.

“You wanna head back to yours then?”

Zayn’s eyes widen to comical proportions as he watches Harry fucking Styles throw down his cigarette, kill it with the toe of his boots, and then leans forward until his nose brushes the top of Zayn’s cheek. He can smell smoke, cologne, sweat, and the strong stench of alcohol coming off him as Styles hums in Zayn’s ear.

“Mmm, you look like you’re up for a bit of fun, Pretty Boy,” Styles whispers. “Definitely would not mind those eyelashes of yours brushing my di-”

“Dude, what the fuck?” Zayn interrupts, pushing away from Harry. His outburst shocks himself. He almost trips over himself and knocks his shoulder into the building behind him.

This was not what he was expecting. Harry Styles being a sleazy fuck definitely did not register when he would think about meeting one of his favorite musicians.

Styles doesn’t look bothered, and Zayn’s confusion, irritation, and anger grows as the drunk rockstar advances forward and places on hand on the building behind Zayn and brings his beer bottle up to his lips to take a long drag.

“What’d you say, Pretty Boy? Come back to mine,” Harry whispers huskily, his breath hitting Zayn’s lips as he starts leaning forward, eyes trained on Zayn’s mouth.

Zayn’s shoving the rockstar before the move even registers.

Styles stumbles back, his beer bottle dropping and crashing into a million pieces of glass when Zayn takes a few steps away from him.

“What the hell is wrong with you?” Zayn shouts, surprising himself at the volume of his voice and the anger shaking his body.

Harry’s eyes narrow down after a awkward beat. “What the hell is wrong with me? What the fuck is wrong with you?”

“Me! You—”

Harry interrupts Zayn, slamming a hand down on the brick wall behind him. “How the hell are you going to think there’s something wrong with me when I’m the one offering you a once in a lifetime opportunity to fuck me?” he slurs. “Like, what the fuck, dude?”

“You are really some pretentious, narcissistic fuck after all, then?” Zayn sputters, wide-eyed, confused, and in shock that one of his favorite artists is upset and lashing for something so ridiculous.

Harry’s eyes narrow, lips quirk up in a bitter, coy smirk, one that Zayn’s familiar with after seeing it appear on the covers of tabloids and gossip rags. “Oh. Oh, I know your type. The self-righteous hipster. Don’t think I’m good enough now that I’m mainstream, huh? Too well-known. Sellout. In it for the fame and money not the music. Get over yourself!”

Zayn sputters, again. Him? A pretentious hipster?

“Fuck you! Maybe you should listen to yourself, dude! I’m not the one selling more mags than singles!”

Harry sputters, lips gaping open, close, open close. He stumbles back a bit. Zayn resists the urge to help him—he blames the manners his mother has instilled in him.

“I—well! If you knew anything then you’d know that I have a single coming out!” Harry shouts. “And, and, those articles are all fabricated! Made up! By people like you! Hipster fucks.”

Zayn scoffs. “You’re trashed, dude.”

He can’t believe he’s arguing with a rockstar outside a small venue in Brooklyn. A rockstar he’s idolized for years. A rockstar he’s defended multiple times and praised countless times.

Harry Styles could fall onto the dirty pavement and hurt himself now for all he cares.

“You’re trash!”

Zayn shakes his head. He’s upset. He’s tired. And Harry fucking Styles has ruined what he’s sure would have been an amazing night. He needs to get out of there.

Zayn turns on his heel. He needs to get home. He’ll just slip in and let Louis and Niall know—

“Hey! Where are you going? I’m talking to you, Pretty Boy! Gonna go write shit about me, huh? Gonna go make shit up about me so you can cash in? Gonna get your fifteen minutes of fame like everyone else?”

He’s thrumming with anger and heat and disappointment when he quickly turns and shouts, “Fuck you, asshole!”

Instead of letting Louis know he’s heading back to their apartment, Zayn flags down a taxi after downing the rest of his beer and tossing it in a trash nearby. He can hear Styles stumbling behind him and then a few more voices joining in. Maybe someone’s caught the infamous rockstar outside. Maybe it’s fans. Maybe it’s paps. There is a small part of him that wants to turn around and help. But then he remembers the shit that’s just happened, and he finds himself shaking his head and clenching his firsts. He doesn’t fucking care. Harry Styles can go to hell.

The anger is still there when he unlocks his door and steps inside. It’s vibrating in his bones, heating up his blood, pounding in his head. He can’t even think straight as he tosses his jacket off and stumbles out of his boots.

So, Zayn does what he does best. He writes.

---

August 28, 2014

I’m going to start off by saying is this isn’t the usual RIFT post. Sorry for that. It’s the wee hours of the morning. Technically Saturday now. You would think the normal twenty-two year old would be out drinking right now. Catching the F train home from a show. Or trying to find your way back to the East Village after your friends dragged you to the newest club opening in the Meat Packing District that you’re sure will shut down with a few weeks only to be renovated and replaced by a new one. Maybe wandering through Central Park (not safe, guys) to find the Imagine mosaic because you didn’t think of just walking in from 72nd. Most likely you’re fitting that last cigarette in while your friends pay for your shawarma from a Halal Guys cart. Anything, really, then here on the internet writing what might come off as a hate post but really is an opinion. Keep in mind. OPINION. As Americans we have the Freedom of Speech, right? Whatever. Point is there’s something that’s currently gnawing at my mind and that is fame. The quote always goes “fame is a fickle friend.” Is it because fame convinces you to sellout, become entitled, and produce songs that are subpar versions of your best singles? Do you forget to be the “real” you and settle for the image your label, your fans, media, etc. creates for you?

There are tons of musicians and artists alike whose music changes over the years, which is natural and not something to be discouraged or upset by. But, when it’s clear your music changes, for the worst to be honest, because it’s what sells more and keeps you current then you should probably reevaluate a few things.

Take for example rocker Harry Styles. Award winning artist, highly sought out by fashion moguls, and popular amongst any age group, Styles came from humble beginnings and was thrusted into the lime light with the sudden popularity of his single “Cheetah Print Coat” off his first EP. Styles was discovered during his early to mid twenties. Hailing from England, the young rocker journeyed to NYC for the same reasons millions of others do. For a chance to create and share his art. Now, don’t get me wrong, I was a huge fan of Styles, too. Was. His early work is outstanding, completely deserving of the accolades and praises. He deserves the awards he got for his first two albums. The problem arises with the quick release of his third and last album, BLUE.

BLUE was a surprise. It was released less than a year after REFLECTION, the second album by Styles. It’s lyrics were subpar. The instrumental seem unoriginal, and the overall producing seem hastily pieced together. They also lost lead bassist Matt Surrey, and the new unnamed bassist they replaced him with wasn’t able to create the same memorable notes Surrey could. BLUE was an album hoping to achieve success riding the coattails of WHITE OUT and REFLECTION. Styles claim to fame was his sultry, seducing lyrics paired with low rifts and deep bass lines, but BLUE had nothing close.

I had the displeasure of meeting Styles recently. Never one to quickly judge, I, like other fans of Styles, disregarded BLUE. Maybe it was something he had been experimenting with and didn’t come to fruition. Whatever. I still thought the dude would be the humble, alluring guy I met during one of his first CD signings during WHITE OUT’s release. I can still remember standing in front of the store having skipped class in order to be one of the few to get a chance to meet Styles. Styles was kind, engaging, funny and still kept his edgy persona during the two minute exchange we had. It secured my interest in him, and I became an avid fan the following years. Unfortunately, my recent experience with Styles was nothing of the sort.

I’m not one to believe in gossip rags and whatever is spreading on twitter, but maybe everyone has it right about Styles nowadays. Instead of the 25 year old man I met when I was 16, the 29 year old rockstar was just as most articles describe him: a drunk, rude shell of a rockstar with a sense of entitlement that couldn’t even encompass all of the hipsters in Williamsburg. More hipster wannabe trash instead of the effortless cool he had many years ago. Maybe the problem is how easily accessible the artist is now. Maybe the artist is given too much these days and they have no idea what to do with it. What happened to Styles between REFLECTION and now that caused him to be bitter and arrogant? Fame. Most likely. We put these artists on a pedestal and give them whatever they want, and they become accustomed to the glory and the attention and forget the reason they ever picked up a pen or a guitar or a paintbrush. Maybe as a collective group of fans we are more preoccupied with what the artist is wearing, how they look, what they are doing, eating, etc, we, too, forget about the art that brought us together.

Maybe these thoughts don’t make sense at three in the morning, and I should probably be asleep.

Whatever the reasoning, it’s clear that media and the lack of privacy that exists now in entertainment turns the best artists into spoiled little shits who find themselves offended when denied even the most ridiculous of requests. Maybe if Styles focused more on his music instead getting drunk every night thinking he’s the shit and can pull whoever and get whatever he pleases he’d still be relevant in the music world instead of just gracing the covers of trashy gossip mags.

z.m.

---

“Hey! Zayn! Dipshit! Get up. You need to get up. Now!”

Zayn’s head is pounding. He feels hungover, but he clearly remembers only having just the two beers at the concert. It’s an emotional hungover. The kind you get after an spending all your mental energy in one large push. He groans and buries his face further into his comforter, willing for Louis to shut the fuck up.

“Zayn! I’m serious. You need to see this. Now.”

“Louis, fuck off.”

His door stops rattling and a second later he hears a boom, a crash, and then there’s a weight on top of him, legs straddling his ass and a wet finger in his ear that makes him yelp in disgust and buck against Louis who is struggling not to laugh above him.

“Fuck! That’s disgusting. Get your fat ass off me, Lou!”

Louis’ finger is slimy and hot in his ear. He shoves his roommate hard, kneeing him in the side on purpose as he rises up onto his elbows to wipe away excess spit. His roommate has always been a gross fucker.

“What the hell, Louis,” Zayn growls, wiping his palm onto his sheets. “That was so unnecessary.”

Louis is a student. He too has a job. Is he not aware of how precious sleep is on days off? Clearly not.

“Up. Now.”

Zayn kicks at his knee, shifting his body away from Louis to bury his face into his arms. “Leave me alone,” he groans, dragging out his words. “I just want to sleep, Lou.”

“This is serious. Have you checked your twitter?”

“I’m sure @notsomrbrightside has no notifications,” Zayn mumbles, eyes already slipping shut.

He tries not to cringe at his handle. He made it up when he was fourteen. There are some things he regrets in life, this being one of them.

“Not that one, idiot. RIFTS’s twitter. How the hell has your phone not blown up by now?”

Zayn’s eyes flash open and he’s sitting upright a second later.

“What happened? Did someone famous retweet an article or did someone contact me?” he asks excited and grinning. Then the grin falls into a scared grimace. “Did someone steal an article? Are they shutting me down? Shit, did my monthly fees for the site not go through? Lou, fuck, I—”

Louis straddles his waist again and places a hand on Zayn’s mouth, effectively shutting him up.

“No. Listen. Do you remember last night?” Zayn nods against his sweaty palm. “Do you remember that you wrote a fucking article on Harry fucking Styles basically trash talking him? Because you did. And it’s out there. On the internet. Accessible by everyone. And it’s been viewed by, like, thousands of people. Which is amazing, really, Zayn. I commend you. Your reader count went up from. And you probably knocked that sellout fucker down a peg, but shit dude, that article is everywhere. Motherfucking Buzzfeed tweeted about it.”

“Shit,” Zayn whispers, his response muffled against Louis’ palm. “Shit, shit, shit.”

“Yeah. Shit. I didn’t know this Styles fucker was this popular, seriously, but apparently he is, and apparently anything written about him, especially something that calls him—what was it you wrote, ‘wannabe hipster trash—’ gets picked up fast.”

Zayn’s head is spinning. He’s awake but his mind isn’t registering things fast enough with half of him still stuck in the hazy blur that is post-sleep.

“Lou,” he whispers as Louis starts to remove himself from him.

“Your site crashed because of all the hits, but no worries, I quickly fixed it. You should seriously pay me for all the work I put into your social media, really, Zayn.”

Zayn always knew he wanted his blog to be successful. He’d always wanted people to read his posts, share their thoughts, connect with him, discover new music, but he never wanted this much attention. At least not the kind of attention that could be damaging to his writing and career.

“Is it really bad, then?” Zayn finally asks, looking over to where Louis is rifling through his closet.

“I guess it’s how you look at it. Lot of people are on your side. They agree with the whole fame got the best of Styles. But, a lot of his fans are also threatening to cut your balls off. Teenage girls. Some can be vicious, man.”

Zayn shudders and cups his crotch at the thought just as Louis throws a NYU sweatshirt his way.

“But dude, we’ve got more serious shit to deal with first,” Louis chimes, and his voice gets higher. It’s the voice he uses when he’s about to say something Zayn really isn’t going to like, and it has Zayn tensing, fingers clenching into the comforter.

“What could be worse than strangers wanting your balls chopped off?” Zayn groans.

“Oh, you know,” Louis says, shrugging as he tosses a pair of jeans at Zayn. “Just Harry Styles and his rep sitting in your living room.”

“What?” Zayn shouts.

“Shush!” Louis whispers, bringing a finger to his lips. “They’re right outside, y’know. Best you get changed. Quick.”

“What the fuck, Lou!” Zayn hisses. His eyebrows furrow and he quickly stands up to reach for the sweatshirt to slide over his bare chest. “Why the fuck are they here?”

“Probably to sue your ass,” Louis chuckles but then drops his grin when Zayn glares at him before he starts panicking. “Zayn, chill. I’m sure they’re just here to talk. They can’t sue you. I don’t think so. First amendment and shit, right? I mean, it’s just an opinion. You have the right to say what you want.”

“Shit, what if they find a way to sue me,” Zayn groans, hopping in his jeans to get them up his legs. “Shit, Lou! I don’t have money for a lawyer. I barely have money for rent!”

“Hey, hey, relax. They said they just want to talk. C’mon, finish getting ready,” Louis says, clapping him on the shoulder. “I left them outside with Monica and she looked like she was about to faint in front of Styles. That fucker.”

Louis starts to head out of Zayn’s room, and Zayn begins to panic and takes a step towards his roommate, his jeans halfway up his thighs, and his sweatshirt rucked up under his armpits.

“Louis,” he hisses. “Fuck, wait. Just wait for me.”

Zayn doesn’t want to go outside alone. It’ll be ten times more awkward. And he can’t deal with awkward. Acting confident and all-knowing on the internet and in a fit of rage is one thing. Any other time is mortifying for him.

Louis sends him a reassuring smile before slipping out of his room.

“Fuck,” Zayn whispers as he runs his hands through his hair.

When he wrote that post in a fit of disappointment and rage he wasn’t thinking. Well, he was, but he didn’t think the post would blow up. He had just wanted to vent. Get the thoughts of his head, the heat out of his body, the thrumming in his veins. He just wanted some way to cool down. And he’s a writer, so he does what he does best. He writes. He gets out the bad thoughts, the good thoughts immortalized. He sorts through his feelings and releases them in the constants and syllables he strings together, no matter how articulate or not they are. The post was supposed to be harmless. A means of cartharsis. He was supposed to delete it this morning. His post wasn’t supposed to end up on fucking Buzzfeed and shit.

He was so fucked.

Harry fucking Styles was in his overpriced shithole of an apartment in the East Village. He was probably going to sue Zayn. Rip him a new one. No one will read Zayn’s posts anymore. That publishing deal will probably taken off the table now. His writing will be useless. His career, or the goals he had set for himself, all over. Just like that. All because some arrogant, washed up indie rockstar threw a tantrum.

And to think. There were times he sort of, might have, definitely had gotten himself off listening to Styles’ music once.

“Fuck,” Zayn hisses as there’s a sharp knock on his door.

He stumbles towards it, takes a deep breath, and pulls it open.

He can do this. Fake it. Act like he knows what he’s doing. Exude bravado. He didn’t do anything wrong just because he called Harry Styles out on being a class A douchebag. He’s got this.

---

Zayn so does not have this.

The meeting is horrible. A shit storm, really. He wants the entire experience erased out of his memory along with the night before, possibly even the moment he discovered Styles, because all the rockstar has done in the past twenty-four hours is give him a headache. Oh, and he might have possibly ruined his career, too. Zayn’s trying not to think too much about the email sitting in his inbox from that publishing company he had a meeting with a few days ago.

“Dude, it wasn’t that bad. C’mon...” Louis tries, placing a reassuring hand on Zayn’s shoulder only for Zayn to shove him away from him and slouch further into the futon in their living room. Maybe if he pushed himself into the cheap material with enough force it’ll swallow him up whole. He’s contemplating asking Niall to run him over with his bike so he could be diagnosed with amnesia and forget everything since last night.

Everything is a mess the second he steps into the living area.

Harry Styles is there along with two other men. One’s younger than the other with a lighter build. He assumes he’s Harry’s manager. The other, a tall and extremely broad man, is standing near sliding doors that lead to the balcony immediately snaps his eyes onto Zayn, assessing him before sending him a sharp nod and mild glare.

When he accidentally stumbles into the bookcase, all eyes snap to him, including a very amused Louis who keeps motioning with his hands at Zayn. He clears his throat as he feels a blush creep up the back of his neck, and he curses himself when his eyes lock with Harry’s eyes.

He looks like a cross between pissed and amused. His eyes drag from Zayn’s down his face and finally land on his lower half which causes Zayn to clench his fists as his cheeks warm up. One eyebrow arches up and then Harry’s lips quirk into a smirk, his eyes lowering, and he sits up a little, nodding at Zayn.

“I’m assuming you’re z.m.”

“Huh?” Zayn mumbles, snapping his eyes from Harry’s and taking a step towards Louis who is standing behind the kitchen counter.

“Liam Payne,” the man continues, standing up. “Harry’s manager. We’re here to talk about a few things.”

Zayn looks over at Louis, but his roommate is too busy stifling his laughter in the crook of his arm.

“Caught you in a bad time or you just happy to see me,” Harry rasps, catching Zayn’s attention once more.

“What?” Zayn snaps, his eyes falling into slits as he glares over at Harry who looks too pleased with everything. His long legs are crossed, and he looks like he’s seen better mornings, but somehow he pulls off the whole tired, hungover rockstar look well. Zayn hates him.

Louis slaps his stomach, and when Zayn looks down to scowl he realizes he never finished putting on his clothes. His jeans are unzipped and his sweatshirt is still rucked up under his arms. He quickly zips his jeans and drags his the hem of his sweatshirt down, avoiding everyone’s eyes on him.

“You didn’t have to do that. Was quite enjoying myself,” Harry pipes up.

“Shut up,” Zayn hisses.

Liam steps forward, blocking Harry from Zayn’s view.

“We wanted to discuss your blog post, Mr. Malik.”

“Zayn’s fine. Just Zayn,” Zayn murmurs.

“Pretty Boy works too.”

“Are you always this way, dude?” Zayn hisses, looking around Liam’s shoulder.

Harry smiles, leaning back into his seat. “Like what, Pretty Boy?”

Zayn opens his mouth to answer, but Liam clears his throat, sending him an embarrassed look before turning his head to glare at his client.

“Ignore Harry. He’s just hungover and upset he’s out of bed. He just needs a few minutes.”

“And a Xanax.”

This time it’s Liam who hisses at Harry to shut up. When he turns back around to face Zayn Liam looks sheepish and slightly embarrassed. He clears his throat and moves forward until he’s sitting beside the stool Zayn’s perched on.

“I understand that last night my client might have said or done a few things to upset you,” he begins. “I’d like to apologize on his behalf. He didn’t mean the things he said, and he’s extremely sorry for anything that might have offended you. There were a few drinks consumed at the show, and I understand things got way too out of hand. If there is anything we can do to fix this situation we are willing to work with you.”

“Ask ‘im take the post down already, Liam,” Harry huffs. “Hurry up. I have shit to do.”

Zayn snaps, taking a step forward towards Harry. “What the hell is your deal, man? Are you always this way?”

“Zayn—”

“Sorry, but your client is a class A douchebag,” Zayn continues. He can feel himself getting riled up, and there’s a punch of heat and anger when he sees how amused Harry is by all of this. He’s sitting in front of Zayn smirking and looking completely at ease, his legs spread wide and apart.

“Tell me, Zayn. Are you into douchebags? Do they turn you on?” Harry says, and Zayn almost loses it when he hears Harry laugh when Liam steps in between them.

“Shut the fuck up, Harry,” Liam interjects. “You’re making this worst.”

“I’m just having a bit of fun, Li,” Harry replies, shrugging. He looks too smug, like he knows exactly what he’s doing. He sends a loose smirk towards Zayn and then a wink. Zayn wishes he could reach over and punch him in the face.

Louis steps with a loud shout that catches everyone’s attention, and Zayn reminds himself to wake up and make pancakes for his roommate more often.

“Listen. I don’t care for his fuckery,” Louis starts, pointing at Harry. “I frankly want him the fuck out of my apartment. So, if you could get to the reason why you’re here other than to make Zayn feel guilty for publishing his opinion. So, hurry the fuck up.”

Interrupting each other seems to be the theme of today, because just as Liam opens his mouth to respond, Harry does, standing up and brushing imaginary lint off his jeans in the process.

“I want that post gone. Deleted. Whatever. It needs to not exist anymore,” Harry states casually as though he were one of Zayn’s customers and ordering his regular nonfat latte.

“Excuse me?” Zayn starts as he gets up from his stool. “Who the fuck are you to tell me what to do?”

“The person you wrote about, love,” Harry responds. “And as the main subject of that post, I want it the fuck gone. Alright, Pretty Boy?”

“Get the fuck out of my apartment, dude,” Zayn hisses, losing it as Harry flashes him a smirk. “I can write whatever the fuck I want.”

“It’s called having an opinion,” Louis interjects.

“It’s called slander.”

“It’s called Freedom of Speech.”

“I can sue you.”

Liam steps in once more. “No one is suing anyone,” he quickly says, looking at Zayn who is on the verge of throwing a mean right hook right towards Harry Style’s handsome face. He wishes he could create a nice bruise. Something to go with that damaged ego of his.

“Listen. We’re just here to talk. We want to work something out with you, Zayn. Something that could benefit all of us.”

Harry’s eyes snap to his manager, his smirk dropping. “What the fuck are you on about, Liam?”

Liam ignores him and keeps his focus on Zayn. “I’m not saying to delete anything. I’m just saying maybe we can move forward from this.”

Before Liam can go further, Zayn interrupts him. He’s tired of this conversation, and he wants them out of his apartment, so he interrupts.

“Look. I don’t understand why this is affecting you so much. It’s not like I’m so big publication. I’m just a normal dude with a blog. That’s hit. I don’t even get that many hits. I’m not Billboard or Rolling Stones or Times.”

“Well, normal dude. Your blog is popular. It’s get picked up and talked about in the music community,” Harry scoffs.

“Not by anyone important to you. Don’t you have a legion of fans? What’s a bunch of kids looking for music recommendations to you?”

“Your blog is hip,” Liam says. “It’s big in the underground community. It gets picked up by alternative sites and independent mediums.”

“How is that important to Harry Styles?” Zayn retorts. He spits the name like it’s a brand rather than a person, and he feels a small pinch of satisfaction when Harry scowls at him.

Liam sighs, his eyes shutting for a second like he’s tired too of this conversation. Zayn feels pity for him. He has to deal with a diva twenty-four seven. He’d rather jump off the Brooklyn Bridge than work for Harry Styles.

“Look. I’m sure you’re aware of celebrity culture these days. The media loves to write terrible things about people. Fabricated things. Not that I’m faulting you for what you wrote. It’s one of the more nicer articles out there, really. But, we really like the audience of your blog. We wouldn’t want anything to deter fans or listeners like you.”

“He’s done that himself,” Zayn mumbles.

“We just want to work with you, Zayn. Help us and we’ll help you.”

Zayn’s pissed, but he’s intrigued. He looks from Liam to Harry who seems just as confused as Zayn is. He still doesn’t quite get why they’d approach a lowkey writer like himself. His words, before today, didn’t reach much of the world outside of America. Sure, his blog was popular in here in New York, and he had a fair amount of readers from the west coast, but nothing big on the international scale. Nothing that would prompt someone like Harry Styles and his team to reach him for writing one measly post.

“What are you proposing?”

Louis asks instead of Zayn. Zayn watches the calculated look in his roommate’s eyes, and he seems to know whatever Liam is about to propose, because his defensive stance is in place, and yet he has an amused smile gracing his lips.

“You’re a writer, correct?” Liam begins and Zayn nods and rolls his eyes. “We want to give you an exclusive.”

“Liam—”

“Shush, Harry. You’ve done enough damage. Zayn, look, we’re willing to give you an exclusive. A personal interview with Harry Styles. Maybe a day to day or what’s to come type of article. You could follow him around, get a feel and sense of what an actual Harry Styles day is. Not that bullshit at the bar and none of the shit that’s all over the gossip rags. You’ll be the first. It’ll help both of us without any other necessary actions needing to take place.”

“What the fuck, Liam?” Harry hisses. He steps forward to pull at his manager’s elbow, but Liam shrugs him off with a cold look and a hard tug.

“You hired me to fix your messes, Harry. That’s what I’m doing,” Liam replies.

Harry huffs. “Your fired. Again.”

Instead of replying back, Liam rolls his eyes.

Zayn stands in shock and confusion. On one hand, he’s being offered an opportunity of a lifetime. On the other hand, he can’t stand Harry Styles. Louis answers for him, stepping in front of him with his arms crossed.

“What’s the catch?”

“There is no catch.”

“Bullshit,” Louis says. “There’s always a catch with your kind.”

“Our kind—” Harry begins.

“No catch,” Liam interrupts. “We just want Zayn to write an exclusive on Harry. We want people to know the real Harry.”

“We know who he is. An asshole,” Zayn mutters.

“Is that so, Pretty Boy?” Harry pipes up, a sly smirk on his lips. When Zayn catches his eyes, he winks, making Zayn blush and shift his focus back to Liam.

“What makes you think I’d even want to write this exclusive?” Zayn adds, his eyes cutting to Harry. “I’d rather eat my foot than work with him.”

“That can be arranged,” Harry mutters then scowls when Liam slaps his stomach.

“Look. You’re a student looking to make it somewhere in journalism. We know you work on your university’s newspaper, have part-time shifts at a cafe nearby, and run your music blog in your spare time. It’s hard getting your name out there, and while you still are somewhere and are making strides in the underground scene, it’s nothing compared to the struggle of getting anywhere in the big leagues. This’ll help you get there. Anywhere, really. People will be fighting each other to get the rights to re-publish this article after it hits your blog.”

“What if I told you I was already on my way up there and didn’t need any help from you guys?” Zayn bites.

“That publishing company you’re in talks with?” Zayn raises his eyebrows at Liam, surprised he knows about the meeting he had earlier this week.

“How’d you know about that?”

Liam shrugs with a loose smile. “It’s nothing permanent though. They’re just interested in you right now. Think about when they find out about this project. They’ll snatch you up. Hell, Rolling Stones will make a play and personally deliver a contract to you. You’re writing is good. Your audience includes the type of listeners everyone wants—the ones that find out about bands first, hype new music, idolize classics. The ones with the actual voice because they set the standards. They decide what’s in. Zayn, you decide what’s in.”

“Hipster trash,” Harry mumbles.

“You’re hipster trash,” Zayn throws back. It’s childish, he thinks a second later, but Harry’s glaring, and that’s enough satisfaction for him.

“Are we done here?” Harry snaps, sliding his sunglasses over his eyes. He nods at the body guard still standing near the balcony doors and then at Liam.

“Look, i’ll write up an email and send you an NDA soon. This is a good opportunity for you, Zayn. You’re smart and have talent. Think about it. It’s the better option here.”

“Are you threatening him?” Louis hisses, eyebrows furrowed and mouth tightly pressed in a line. Zayn thinks he looks menacing enough.

Instead of responding, Harry storms out of the apartment with his body guard hot on his heels. Liam just shrugs and follows after placing his card on the coffee table. He slams the door shut and leaves the two roommates in loud silence. They wait until they here the gate of their building slam shut with a heavy groan before they do anything.

Zayn groans loudly first and stomps over to the futon. He flops down, face pressed into the cheap seat. When the heavy scent of musk, smoke, and expensive perfume hits his nose, he scowls and flops onto his back, forearm pressed into his eyes so he doesn’t have to look at an amused Louis standing over him.

“Well, that was fun,” Louis says.

“More like a nightmare.”

“Aw, c’mon, It wasn’t that bad. Could’a been worse, dude.”

“Yeah?” Zayn asks. “How?”

“They could have somehow slapped you with a lawsuit,” Louis replies, shrugging. “You know rich people. Any excuse, really.”

Zayn groans, again, this time louder and whinier.

“Fuck my life.”

“I’m sure Harry Styles would be more than happy to fuck you, really. Couldn’t keep his eyes off you. Could fuck you up the other way, too, really.”

“Shut up, Louis.”

“Not a bad sight for sore eyes, though. C’mon! You know I’m right. Don’t glare at me, Zayn. I’m not the one that jerked off to Styles’s—”

“Shut up, Louis!”

Zayn hears Louis laugh, and he sits up just so he can throw a decorative pillow at him. A leftover from one of their past relationships they can’t quite remember.

“You’re an awful friend. I hate you. Please fucking leave,” Zayn snaps.

Louis dodges the pillow, bends down to grab it, and aims at Zayn before he can even blink. The pillow hits Zayn right in the face.

“You love me, Malik. Best friends forever. Bros for life. My ride or die. All that forever shit.”

“I hate you,” Zayn replies half-heartedly, his lips struggling against the smile that threatens to form.

“Yeah, yeah. Hate. Love. Same shit. What’s more important is if you’re going to write this exclusive or not?”

Zayn wipes his face with the heels of his palm. Just thinking of Harry Styles has him feeling frustrated and tense.

“Why are so strung up over this anyway?” Louis asks, his voice softer. The amusement from his eyes is gone, replaced with curiosity.”

Zayn sighs.

“I don’t know. It’s like. I idolized this man, right? And like, last night, I was so pumped when I saw him. Like, fuck, dude! My hero, the guy i’ve looked up to for years. This brilliant musician is right here about to talk to me. It was surreal. And he just fucking...he just fucking ruined it, man. Like everything I used to defend him about was for nothing. He acted just like those shit articles about him. He thought I wanted something from him just ‘cause I let him bum a cig from me. Wouldn’t believe me when I tried to tell him it wasn’t like that. Just got angrier after he fucking tried to hit on me. As if I would sleep with him just ‘cause he’s Harry fucking Styles—”

“Well, you would.”

“I wouldn’t have, Louis!” Zayn snaps at him. “You know I’m not like that. Fuck. He just kept going on and on. Like I’m some kind of phony when he’s out here trying to act like he’s not the trash diva people write him as.”

“Maybe he’s not. Maybe you caught him on a bad day. Maybe this entire rockstar sex god front is just that. A front. Something to throw people off or keep people interested in him,” Louis says.

Zayn scoffs. “No way, dude. Not possible.”

Louis shrugs and stands up. “You’ll never know unless you write this exclusive. If I were you, I’d milk it for everything its worth.”

Zayn falls back onto the couch.

“I don’t know,” he mumbles. It’s a great opportunity. He knows that. But he just can’t find it in himself agreeing. Not just yet. Not when he still feels hurt from the night before.

“Think about it. And when you do agree and explode into this famous dude. Like legit famous dude. Not that pseudo shit you’re right now. Don’t forget about me.”

Zayn answers him with his middle finger stuck in the air.

“By the way. Have you seen my girlfriend? Where the fuck did she go?”

---

@notsomrbrightside Where did the sun go? Rain, rain, go away.

@htylesgirl21 @notsomrbrightside You deserve to die.

@harrysnumberone @notsomrbrightside How could you do that to your own boyfriend. What the fuck is wrong with you. You should be thanking God for Harry. Unworthy asshole.

@harrystylesupdates1 looks like Zayn just set his personal account to private

@niallprancingpony truly sum crzy mofos out there.

---

The temps have been dropping slightly, but it’s enough for Zayn to start carrying a hoodie with him wherever he goes. He’s always cold. Always ran on the chillier side his mother would say. Winters are hell. He prefers the constant burst of sun on his skin and the satisfying haze standing outside in the sun gives you. It’s why he’s cursing as he steps outside his work after a closing shift and is met with cold rain and a slight breeze.

He curses and zips up his hoodie before tightening the straps of his backpack. His apartment isn’t far. He can make it if he walks fast.

It’s been a week since Harry Styles and his entourage showed up in his apartment, and he can’t get the rockstar out of his head. Liam had sent the email the very next day. It was very detailed, and if there was a way of seeing Liam just to commend him for his proper use of commas and semi-colons without seeing Styles, he would jump the chance to do so. Rather, he’s just been ignoring his inbox all together after the follow up email he received four days ago.

Everyone’s been on his case after TMZ published photos of Zayn looking “cozy and loved up” with Harry Styles outside TRASH. At least the people that recognize him and aren’t ashamed to walk up to him. A girl in his Romantic Poets seminar had the audacity to sit next to him and ask if Harry’s dick is big as it looked in the Playboy special he did. He almost threw his copy of “Kubla Khan” at her, but his parents at taught him better than that, so he opted to scowl and change seats instead.

Zayn had looked at the photos themselves. Yelled at Louis for messaging them, but kept them saved in his phone for a reason he doesn’t quite want to admit to himself. There’s also photos of them yelling at each other and Zayn storming away. A “lover’s quarrel” People had called it. Apparently Zayn and Harry have been seeing each other for some time. It’s serious. It won’t last though. Harry’s going to break his heart soon. Bullshit.

Zayn is soaked to the bone by the time he enters his building. He wipes his shoes on the dirty communal welcoming mat at the entrance and shakes water off him like he’s a dog. Louis is MIA when he enters the apartment, but there’s a plate of pasta sitting in the microwave. Probably something one of his girls cooked for them and Louis saved for Zayn.

He starts eating it without warming it up and checks his phone while trying to balance the bowl. His mom sent him a text after he missed her call. A message asking for him to call her. One of his sisters probably ratted him out. Most likely Waliyha because she thinks her and Harry are going to get married when she turns eighteen. Over his dead body.

“Hello, my sunshine. How are you?”

His mother’s voice always reminds him of the first burst of sun that meets your skin when you step outside. A warm welcome. Zayn smiles and sits down on a stool and swings around so he can set the bowl and phone down that’s now on speaker.

“Could be better. Miss you. Should’a came home last weekend. Sorry. How are you, ammi?” he answers back.

He does miss his mom. Even if she’s a just in Queens. Sometimes it seems like months since he’s seen his family and eaten his mom’s homemade food. In reality it often just spans days or weeks. Especially if he’s caught up in schoolwork and his blog. He tries not to dwell on the guilty feeling too much.

They exchange stories. His father’s auto shop is doing well. They hired someone new. Zayn’s classes are going well, but he hates on his professor. Doniya’s talking to a new guy. Zayn got the Entertainment Editor position at the newspaper. His mom tried a new recipe and saved a tupperware of it for him. He’ll swing by tomorrow to pick it up or send Louis if he gets caught up.

“I saw the article, sunshine.”

Zayn closes his eyes and sighs. He’s been waiting for this conversation since he saw Doniya fielding tweets on twitter after a special group of Harry’s fans found out about him.

“Ma, look...”

“I know, sweetheart. You know I am not one to believe in everything I read. I’m just worried about you. You’re my son. My baby boy. I just want you to be alright,” she says softly.

Zayn bites his lip. “I didn’t mean to yell at him. Just got angry...” he says before he goes on to explain the entire situation. He brings up the exclusive offer at the end.

“I don’t know what to do.”

“What do you want to do, jaanu?”

“Forget this ever happened,” he mutters as he plays with his pasta. He’s not hungry anymore after their conversation.

“Do you want to write this exclusive, Zayn? Because if you don’t want to and feel uncomfortable doing so, just email them back saying you don’t. We’ll deal with whatever follows. We always have your back. I’ve got you. Always.”

“Thanks, ammi,” he whispers. He can feel his throat constricting. It’s one of those moments where he feels a great burst of love and appreciation for his parents. He really is lucky to have such amazing parents. He reminds himself to do something to show them his appreciation soon..

His mother stays silent on the other end, but he can hear the crackle of the stove, and he imagines the smell of fried cumin and onions. Zayn can hear the radio on in the back switched to some Pakistani program his mother and father like to listen to stay up with current affairs and what’s going on in their community. He lets it all sink and bathes in it until he’s relaxed from all the familiarity.

“Do you think I should do it?” he asks.

“Up to you, sunshine,” his mother answers back immediately.

“I don’t want to regret not having done it, y’know,” he murmurs.

“If you feel comfortable in doing it then go for it, darling.”

Zayn exhales and rubs the tension building in his forehead.

“I think. I think I might do it.”

“Then do it, Zayn. It could be good for you.”

“Just ‘cause it’ll be a great opportunity. To get my name out there, y’know,” he quickly says.

“Your reasons are your own.”

“Not that I’m, like, giving Styles another chance. He’s done in my books. Finished. I don’t care about him. It’ll just be something other writers have never written before, I think. A day in the life, but, like, not staged like most of those pieces are.”

“Never said for you to give him another chance. I trust you know yourself more than I do, sunshine.”

“Love you, Ma,” he mumbles.

“Love you, too, sunshine.”

---

September 5, 2014 1:14 am

To: liamjpayne@gmail.com

From: riftzm@gmail.com

I’ll do it. Attached the forms with this email. I have some conditions though.

Zayn Malik
RIFT

---

September 5, 2014 7:34 am

To: riftzm@gmail.com

From: liamjpayne@gmail.com

Thank you for agreeing with us, Mr. Malik. I’m sure we will both benefit from this opportunity. We can discuss your conditions in person. When is a good time for us to meet? Please contact the number on the card I handed you last time we met for more details.

Thank you,
Liam J. Payne.
Modest Management

---

“Not possible.”

“I’m not writing the article then.”

Liam sighs. He looks exhausted. Probably is since he has to deal with a diva like Harry. Zayn would feel more empathy for him if he wasn’t trying so hard to fight Zayn on one of his conditions.

“Zayn. I can’t just take away the clause that says you can write just anything about Harry. We are trying to keep him in good light. Your article did do some damage, and we’re trying to fix that. No offense. I understand as an artist you want honesty and integrity, but they won’t back down from this. I’m sorry.”

Zayn scoffs and pushes away his cup of coffee. They’re at Liam’s apartment in the Upper West Side. Zayn took the subway right after class to make it to their meeting, and he’s feeling easily frustrated because of his lack of sleep.

“I don’t understand,” he sighs. “This article is going up on my blog anyway. My readers don’t even listen to Harry anymore. I’m sure. They seem too stuck up to follow any mainstream artist. Sure, maybe when he was rocking out locally he was a legend here. Still is in some way. But, dude, I don’t think they care about him anymore. Or they won’t admit to it, at least.”

“That’s just it,” Liam exclaims. His eyes are bright and there’s a bright smile on his face. Zayn is confused.

“What?”

“Harry wants his original listeners back. Those entitled know-it-alls. No offense, again. The industry hates to admit it, but it’s guys like you—”

“Guys like me? Excuse you, Liam.”

“Sorry, sorry. But, you know it’s true. You guys run the show. You decide what’s hot. What’s in. What’s cool. Even if an artist makes it big in mainstream, it’s nothing to them if they don’t get acceptance and praise from the toughest listeners.”

“Harry really is a dick,” Zayn mumbles, slouching back into his seat.

“He just want things to be right,” Liam says, leaning back into his seat. “Thinks it’s about time he spoke up.”

Zayn shrugs and looks out the window. It’s a nice view. He can see Fordham from where he’s sitting. It’s Doniya’s alma mater.

He hears Liam sigh and looks back to find Liam staring right back at him like he’s trying to figure Zayn out.

“Did you know Harry and I have been friends since kindergarten?”

Zayn shakes his head. He doesn’t recall ever reading that.

“Mmm, yeah. We’re actually best friends. Have been since he stood up for me after some bullies tried to steal the 100 pack of crayons I had to beg my mom for. We’ve always had each other’s back. I’d like to think we know each other pretty well by now. I don’t think there is much we don’t know about each other. So, trust me when I say that the Harry you met that night was nothing like the real Harry. That shit people read in magazines only brushes the surface of who he is. An amazing and genuine person. Kind and considerate. The most loyal person I know. Don’t be so quick to judge him because of a twisted first impression. Let him redeem himself. Let him show you the man he really is. I want you to be the messenger and then tell everyone that Harry fucking Styles is the most hard working person out there, and he doesn’t deserve his name smeared because of a few bad nights here and there.”

Liam reaches forward and finishes the last bit of coffee he has left, and Zayn’s left staring at him. He doesn’t know what to make of Liam’s speech. He admires him for his love and dedication for his friend, but he’s torn from one bad experience. Then again he’s an artist. A journalist and writer above all. He just wants to write the truth. Maybe his post was bias and highly opinionated, but he can’t just agree to write something that would just list all of Harry’s best qualities and negate everything else.

“Look, Liam. I understand you. I do. I get it. But I can’t just agree to this. I’m a writer. I can’t report something false. I just can’t. I’m not saying I’ll write Harry in a bad light. I just want to write how he truly is. I just want the real Harry.”

Liam stares at him, his tongue prodding his cheek in thought before he sighs and flexes his fingers. “I’ll see what I can do, Zayn. I’m not saying they’ll agree. But i’ll run it by everyone. I’ll get back to you.”

“Thanks, Liam.”

“You’re a good kid, Zayn.”

Zayn finishes the rest of his coffee before he leaves.

---

September 7, 2014

It’s been a while since my last post, but i’m back. And we’re going to stay focused on music this time. Last Call is quartet that consists of all girls. They formed when all the girls were paired up to be suite mates their freshman year at Berkley. They nurtured their share love and respect for music into a electro-pop punk band that’s being talked about everywhere. Even all the way here in Brooklyn. Sidenote: they have a show coming up in a few weeks. Details at the bottom. The girls are signed to Warner Brothers, and they’re newly released album, “Mothership,” is quickly climbing the charts. I first heard of them through my older sister who met lead singer Perrie Edwards at a summer conference her senior year and was blown away by the small blonde. They became fast friends, and my sister invited her out to meet our family a couple of times. It’s not hard to befriend the easy going blonde who is quirky, kind, and passionate about her studies and her career. (cont.)

---

“Dude, I can’t believe you’re writing a special on Harry fucking Styles.”

“Perrie, shut up. I’m only telling you ‘cause you won’t blab about it until they release an official statement.”

Zayn hears her laughing on the other end of the phone. He looks up at the building whose address he was sent to and scowls.

“This is hilarious, Z. You were just bitching about him the other day and not agreeing to this whole shit. You sellout.”

He thinks of hanging up on the girl just to get her to shut up.

“I’m not a sellout. I’m just trying to form a career.”

“Hmm, sure. He’s pretty hot, isn’t he? You should fuck him.”

“Why are we friends again?” he sneers.

“Because I might have hooked up with that idiot friend of yours once in a drunken blur, and you were my knight in skinny jeans the next morning. Oh, and that brill sister of yours. How’s her dissertation coming along?”

“I don’t know. Call her and ask,” he snaps.

Perrie laughs again. “I will as soon as I get off the phone with your sorry ass.”

“I called for moral support, and I am getting nothing but shit from you. Fuck you.”

“Maybe if you were into girls, honey.”

“I’m hanging up on you.”

“You got this, babe. Tell me all about it at the show in a few weeks!”

“Yeah, yeah. Bye.”

“Later.”

Zayn slips his phone into his pocket and takes a deep breath before he presses the buzzer. It takes a few minute but the gate door unlocks a few seconds later and he steps into the building.

Liam contacted him last night and told him his condition had been met with. He was to start today at 7 am since that’s time Harry starts his day. He was surprised to learn that and made a note of it in his moleskin. He will be following Harry throughout his days, recording what the singer does in his free time and his album making process. There wasn’t a set time the exclusive has to be done by. Not yet at least. Everything must be approved by Harry and his team before Zayn is allowed to publish or say on anything dealing with Harry Styles and his friends and family.

Harry owns the top two floors of the building having reconstructed both floors into a luxurious multi-room apartment. Only approved personal are allowed up to his apartment. Zayn had to send his I.D. ahead of time to make sure security knew his face and name. It’s all a bit ridiculous, Zayn thinks.

Once he’s cleared with the front desk, he heads for the elevator. He’s got this. His moleskin is in his backpack along with his laptop just in case he needs that too. Liam said they’d have a professional photoshoot later, but Zayn borrowed Louis’ camera. He prefers candids than staged photos. The real Harry, they said.

The elevator opens up into the apartment, and the first sound Zayn hears is the slow crooning of The Temptations playing softly over the large space. When no one greets him, he steps forward, hesitant but too curious to just stand there.

He’s standing in the front room that’s just one large lounge room. The right side wall is covered in windows with guitars of all colors and types lining the wall. He steps forward and trips over a rug, one that looks antique and probably costs millions. It’s ugly to Zayn. He makes a face and follows the smell of pancakes into an open kitchen.

Zayn is surprised to find a shirtless Harry at the stove singing quietly along to the song playing. He’s even more surprised to find a small girl with a head full of straight dark brown hair sitting on a barstool, face in palm and half asleep.

“Chocolate chips or cinnamon chips t’day, Lots?”

“Cinnananamon.”

“Cinnamon,” Harry corrects. “Alright, darling. Finish your fruit.”

“Yuck,” the girl shouts before gleefully laughing when Harry throws a chip over his shoulder towards her.

Zayn’s caught up in the scene before him and doesn’t hear the footsteps behind him. He’s never read anywhere about Harry Styles having a kid. It’s Liam booming voice and a hard clap on his shoulder that has him stumbling forward in surprise.

“Zayn. Good morning. Nice to see you.”

Harry whips around looking just as shocked as Zayn. It quickly turns into anger as a scowl twists his lips downward.

“Morning Uncle Liam!” Charlotte shouts. Her eyes pop open with alert and mirth. “Who’re you?” she asks Zayn with a curious smile.

“Zayn,” he answers with a smile. She giggles and it makes him grin.

“Do you like pancakes?” she whispers loudly.

Zayn laughs. “I do. My mom makes the best.”

Charlotte pouts, looking offended. “Nope! Grandma makes the best.”

Harry interjects. “I thought I made them the best? I am offended, darling.”

Charlotte giggles again and swings around in her stool with a cheeky grin. Harry sends her a wink before turning to Liam.

“What’s he doing here? Liam, what the hel-heck. What the heck?”

“Oooooh, you almost said a bad word. I’m telling mommy,” the girl sings and follows it up with a giggle.

“Now don’t go doing that, darling. Mum would kill me. Then you couldn’t play with Arthur anymore,” Harry says, his voice immediately turning softer. “Did you feed him today and let him out of his cage?”

“Oh!” the girl exclaims before hopping off the stool and running out of the room.

“No running Charlotte!”

They hear a door slam somewhere upstairs and that’s when Harry turns back towards Zayn.

“What the fuck are you doing here?” Harry then looks at Liam and flicks him off. “Fuck you too, Liam. What the hell is he doing here? You told me Charlotte wouldn’t be involved in this shit.”

“H, she isn’t. She won’t be,” Liam quickly stresses. “I promise. He signed an NDA, and he has to go through us and have everything approved before he publishes even a single tweet on you.”

Harry turns to Zayn and takes a step forward. There’s a look in his eyes that makes Zayn scared for once.

“Nothing about her. Okay? Or I will be the first to fuck shit up for you.”

“Yeah, y-yeah. Of course,” Zayn stutters out. “I wouldn’t. I never would. I’m not going to write anything bad about her.”

“Nothing about her. Nothing. Unless I say so.”

“Of course,” Zayn repeats, nodding his head.

Liam presses down hard on Zayn’s shoulder. “Zayn wouldn’t do that. Right, Zayn?”

“No. I wouldn’t. I promise you.”

“Good,” Liam cheers. “Now. I just came over to take Lots to school like usual. Call her down.”

Harry eyes him before walking over to an intercom. “Get your butt down here, Lottie. Time for school, little miss.”

He steps back and makes his way back to the counter where a full coffee pot sits.

“Coffee, Li?”

“Yes, please.”

Harry hums and prepares a tumbler for his manager all the while Zayn watches. Even annoyed with Harry, Zayn finds him fascinating to watch. He moves fluidly and with ease. He even looks healthier here in his home compared to the last few times.

“Here. She has that kids theatre camp at Tisch after school. Gem said she’ll pick her up from there. I’ll have Ronnie take her bags to the car,” Harry says as he hands Liam his coffee before making his way back to the intercom. “Charlotte Anne! Downstairs, now!”

There’s some stomping around before a door opens, hurried footsteps down the stairs, and then Charlotte is running into the kitchen, teary eyed and tiny lips quivering with a black bunny clutched to her chest. It makes Zayn want to take a step forward and comfort her, but he watches instead as Harry drops the lunch bag he had picked up on the counter and rush forward.

“What’s wrong, darling?” Harry rushes out, crouching down to run his hands over the girl.

“I think Arthur is sick again. He’s warm,” Charlotte croaks as she extends her arms and offers Harry the bunny.

“Is he now?” Harry hums as he clutches the bunny to his chest. “Hmm, are you sick Mr. Arthur? Not feeling well? Shall Dr. Harry fix you now?”

“Yes,” Charlotte answers making all three men laugh.

“I see, I see.” Harry brings the bunny up to his eyes and checks inside his mouth and looks closely over its body. “Hmm, seems fine to me, but maybe I should take him to the big doctor and have him checked out.”

Charlotte nods and reaches forward to pet Arthur.

“As for you, little miss. You have school. Unfortunately. Let’s go.” Charlotte pouts and Harry tuts. “Not going to work. Backpack is in the lounge. I tucked your sweater in your bag. Pancakes all packed up. Eat it in the car. The fruit too. No frowning. It’s good for you. Ronnie has your blazer in the car. Try not to tear a hole in it again. Mum’ll kill me, yeah?”

Charlotte nods and then makes her way to the lounge.

“Ronnie will swing back and escort you to the studio once he’s done dropping us off. I’ll check in in a few hours,” Liam states as Charlotte stomps back into the kitchen with a Batman backpack on. “Right. Ready then, little miss?”

Charlotte nods and makes her way towards Harry who hands Arthur to Zayn without a word. When he looks down he sees the bunny chewing on his shirt. Zayn frowns.

“See you this weekend, Charlotte. You be good now. No naughty stories from Grandma or Mum,” he says as he crouches down again.

“Arthur’s going to be fine?” she asks with a pout.

“Of course, darling. He’ll be great. Dr. Harry’s on it,” Harry laughs.

They do an intricate handshake before placing their index fingers on the other’s nose.

“Love you, Harry.”

“Love you, Charlotte.”

“Bye!” she squeals and kisses Harry before reaching for Liam’s waiting hand to pull him towards the elevator.

“Behave!” Liam shouts before they hear the familiar ding of the elevator arriving.

Zayn waits for the lift to depart before he clears his throat. Harry’s cleaning the kitchen and tossing dishes into the sink. He pays no attention towards Zayn, and Zayn grows annoyed again. He clears his throat again.

“What?” Harry deadpans. “You can leave now.”

“Um,” Zayn starts. There’s an awkward tension between them. He doesn’t know what to do or say. “Uh, strange she calls you Harry.”

“How’s it fucking strange?” Harry snaps crossing his arms over his chest. Zayn notices again how shirtless Harry is. His sweats sit low on his hips, and it makes Zayn’s cheeks warm up. From the smirk on Harry’s lips, it seems like he notices Zayn’s reaction.

“She’s your daughter, right?” Zayn asks.

“No,” Harry replies before turning his back towards Zayn to continue to wash the dishes. “Aren’t you supposed to be writing whatever this shit is on me? Then she’s nothing for you to worry about. Let’s not stray from me, Pretty Boy. I’m important after all. Handsome, too. You into curls? Gotta whole head full of ‘em.”

Annoyed, Zayn rolls his eyes. “Whatever.”

He wonders for the hundredth time why he’s here doing this. It seem like it’ll benefit Harry more than Zayn. Lift his name up after Zayn dragged it down. He sighs. Reminds himself this is for his career. And exhales.

“So, I was thinking we can start off with a few basic questions...”

Harry switches the sink off and turns around. “You’re fuckin’ with me, yeah?”

“Um,” Zayn starts, biting his lip. “No?”

“This is supposed to be somethin’ different, ain’t it? Why the hell would we start with basics. Fuck that.”

“Sure,” Zayn mumbles.

Harry sighs before rolling his eyes and walking out of the kitchen.

“C’mon then, Pretty Boy. Studio. Don’t want Liam on my ass for leaving you behind.”

“What about some questions? I have other ones. Unique ones. Nothing basic.”

“No questions. Hurry. Don’t got all day.”

Zayn groans and looks down at the bunny in his hands. It stares back at him then tries to chew a hole through his shirt. He doesn’t look sick. Then again he’s not some fucking vet or something.

“Wait! You forgot your fucking bunny.”

---

Zayn slouches back into the leather seat once the driver shuts the door. He’s tired. Bone tired. Can feel exhaustion leaking out of him. Today’s been too long, and he’s more than glad it’s over. Almost over.

“You good there?”

Zayn turns his head to Liam who is watching him, amused, from the other side of the car. He shrugs and shuts his eyes.

“Dunno.”

“I’m sorry about the pictures. We don’t know who leaked them, but we’ll find out. We’re releasing a statement soon stating your actual reason for being around Harry. It’ll all work out.”

“Whatever,” Zayn murmurs and runs his hands up and down his thighs.

The day had turned from bad to worse. Harry had been a complete horror the entire day. He refused to answer any questions Zayn had, brushed him off, didn’t inform him whenever he stepped outside the recording studio, and shut Zayn out completely at one point by locking himself in a room for a few hours. To top it all off, there were pictures of Zayn leaked outside the studio when he had stepped outside for a smoke. They were everywhere within an hour, and it didn’t help the whole “Harry Style’s young boyfriend” rumors circling everywhere.

“Look Zayn. This comes with being around someone famous as Harry. Unfortunately there are a lot of ugly people out there willing to invade someone’s privacy for just a bit of money.”

Zayn sighs. “He didn’t even try, Liam! Didn’t answer any questions. Fine, okay. But he wouldn’t even let me inside the studio or tell me where he was going if he stepped out of the room. It’s frustrating. I don’t know what to write about. All I have today is Harry Styles: great father, horrible rockstar.”

Liam sits up. “We talked about not publishing anything about Charlotte this morning, Zayn.”

“I’m not going to write anything about her,” Zayn replies. “I promise. I was just venting. I’m just frustrated.”

Zayn looks out the window. They’re passing just over the Brooklyn Bridge now. He’s almost home. He can take a nap. Relax and forget about today before editing the articles for his section for the newspaper. He’ll knock out some reading next. Another nap. Then shower and school. He’s got this. Listing things, reminding himself of what he has to do—it all calms him down. Grounds him.

“She’s his niece.”

Zayn tears his eyes away from the cyclist he was following.

“What?”

Liam’s staring at him as though he’s trying to figure him out again. Then his lips quirk up a little to the right and he shrugs, leans back into his seat. “She’s his niece,” he repeats. “Charlotte isn’t Harry’s daughter. She’s his niece.”

“Oh. I didn’t know. I just assumed—”

“Most people do when they meet her. Especially if she’s with Harry. They look alike, don’t they? Act the same, too. Both are a bit crazy with too much energy. He’s her only father figure, too. Figures his personality would rub off on her.”

“What happened to her father?” Zayn asks hesitantly.

Liam’s eyes snap to his eyes. “Not my story to tell.”

“He seems to really love her,” Zayn adds quietly.

Liam nods with a small smile. “Loves her a lot. She’s his everything. He’s ready to sign everything over to her if he was to die tomorrow. He’s great with her. I’ve never seen him more happy than when he’s with her. Pretty much raised her along with her grandmother. He’s a good man. Most loyal, kind, genuine person I know, Zayn. That Harry you saw this morning with Charlotte is the real Harry. I want you to show them just how happy and in love with life he can be. Not that drunken, jaded rockstar everyone makes him out to be.”

Zayn’s even more confused now. He wants to believe Liam. Believe what he saw today. He wants to know that Harry, but Harry makes it hard too with the stunt he’s pulled before and the shit he pulled today. It’s all making Zayn’s head hurt and itch for a smoke.

“Don’t let him know I told you that,” Liam pipes up as the car slowly comes to a stop. “He’ll kill me. Acts like a big dog, all threatening and scary but a real softie underneath.”

“Right. Yeah,” Zayn mumbles as he grabs his backpack from the floor.

“See you tomorrow, Zayn. We’ll have a car pick you up from school.”

Zayn scratches his cheek with a frown. “I actually have work tomorrow after school. Don’t know if I can make it.”

His door is open by the driver and he almost stumbles out since he had his shoulder pressed against it. When he straightens himself up and steps out, Liam leans over so he can still see him.

“When’s your shift end?”

“Uh. Nine, I think.”

“Do you work the next day?”

“I have Saturday off.”

“Great! See you tomorrow then.”

“Wait!” Zayn exclaims. “What if I wanted to go out after work? Doesn’t Harry go out on Fridays?”

“Do you want to go out tomorrow?”

“No, not really, but—”

“Great. Harry doesn’t usually go out unless there is a reason. He’ll be up. Doesn’t go to bed for a while. Try to get some questions out of him tomorrow. If not, I’ll have Ronnie drop you back as soon as you want.”

“Fine,” Zayn sighs.

“Have a nice night, Zayn.”

“Yeah. Bye, Liam.”

When Zayn finally drags himself up to his apartment he finds Louis sitting in his boxers with a bowl of cereal in front of the t.v. He throws his backpack on the recliner and then sits down beside Louis and steals his cereal.

“Alright, dude. Just go ahead and take my dinner. Friend of the year,” Louis snaps.

Zayn groans and cuddles into Louis’ side. “Stop. I had a bad day.”

“Are you saying that’s an excuse to eat my cereal?” Louis scoffs.

Zayn nods as he takes a bite. It’s soggy like Louis prefers, but it’ll do.

“Sorry your day with a rockstar was horrible. So horrible being driven around and having this opportunity of a lifetime.”

“Stop,” Zayn whines through a mouthful.

“Poor you,” Louis goes on. “You know what your problem is? You need to get laid.”

“Louis,” Zayn chokes out, milk dribbling down his chin.

“It’s true. You need some dick in your life. You should fuck Harry. Get all that anger out. Angry sex. It’ll be great. You can thank me later.”

“Fuck you, Louis.”

“No, fuck Harry. Fuck you for stealing my cereal.”

---

Excerpt from Zayn’s notepad:

Harry Styles is still an arrogant bastard. Even if his niece is cute...

---

“Look alive, Malik!”

He hears Niall’s shout just before he’s smacked with a hand towel in the face.

Zayn scowls, rips the towel off his face, and aims it back at Niall who unfortunately catches it before tossing into a sanitation bucket next to his feet. Zayn wipes his face with his apron and turns back to stare at the clock. He has five minutes until he can clock out.

Niall slides by and presses into his side. “What’s up? You look out of it.”

“Tired,” Zayn mumbles into his palm.

“You coming out to the show tomorrow?” Niall asks as he messes with Zayn’s notepad.It has all of his observations and thoughts. It’s precious to him, so he swipes it away from Niall before he could do any damage.

“Of course, Niall,” Zayn replies with a smile. He reaches over to twist his nipple and earns a yelp from his friend.

“Fuck you. That hurts.”

“Look alive, Horan,” Zayn mimics. He dodges the slap Niall aims at his stomach.

“How’s that article or whatever your working on coming along?”

Zayn answers with a groan.

“C’mon. Even if he is an asshole. The dude is a musical legend. Can’t be too bad.”

“I think I like this friend of yours, Pretty Boy.”

Zayn whips around to see Harry smirking at him. His shades are on even at night, even inside a restaurant. Zayn makes a face.

“No hello? We’ll work on your manners,” Harry quips before taking a seat on the stool in front of Zayn.

“Shit dude. You’re Harry Styles,” Niall exclaims. He looks too excited. Zayn jabs him with his pen.

“That I am,” Harry replies politely. “And you’re the singer from the Prancing Ponies.”

“Shit!” Niall laughs. “You were at my show. That’s right! Why?”

“Read you guys were good,” Harry says, snagging a couple of fries from the plate Zayn had been picking at since the cafe was so dead. “Thought I would check it out. You really got a sound there, mate. That guitar solo on “Fallen Ones.” Gold.”

“Holy fuck,” Niall laughs. “Thanks so much. Means a lot coming from you.”

“Niall,” Zayn hisses. Niall waves him off and leans forward.

“Okay. Be honest with me here. Musician to musician. Do you think if we played took out the bass rift in “Dragons—”

“Was that the first song you played?” Harry asks through a mouthful of fries. He looks serious and thoughtful. Zayn’s floored.

“Yeah, yeah! If we took it out do you think it’d sound better?”

“Hmm,” Harry hums. “Maybe you could replace it by playing keyboard’s part. Try for a higher note.”

“Brilliant!” Niall exclaims. “I could kiss you, man.”

Harry laughs and bumps his fist with Niall’s. “No problem. You should swing by the studio. Bring your bandmates. We’ll jam, yeah?”

“Definitely,” Niall replies with awe.

Zayn’s just about to scoff and pull Niall by the ear when his manager walks out from the kitchen and tells him to clock out.

“Damn. My shift doesn’t end until midnight,” Niall groans and smacks his head down on the counter. Harry reaches forward and pats him on the head. It’s not the first time Niall’s made fast friends with someone. Zayn’s always amazed by it.

“You ready then?” Harry asks Zayn.

Zayn tucks his apron and notepad into his backpack and pulls it from under the counter.

“Sure,” he mumbles.

“Don’t forget this.”

He turns around to see Mike the chef handing him a box of food and grins.

“Thanks!”

“Take care, kid,” Mike answers, eyes Harry warily, then nods at Zayn. “Horan! Dishes.”

“Can I be famous already?” Niall whines.

“Be careful what you wish for,” Harry says softly, looking down at this hands before standing up. “See you later, Horan. Car is waiting, Pretty Boy.”

“Stop calling me that,” Zayn mumbles half-heartedly.

Harry smirks at him and walks out the cafe without a word. When Zayn follows he finds Ronnie standing by the car door. He nods at Zayn and opens the door.

“So, you work here. Quaint,” Harry says once Zayn sits down.

“Sorry i’m not some millionaire rockstar,” Zayn bites.

“Shame. Could make millions with that face of yours,” Harry hums.

“Whatever,” Zayn mutters, turning to look out the window.

“Shame we didn’t get along that night. Wouldn’t be in this mess. Could have had a good time,” Harry adds.

Zayn scoffs. “Like I would fuck you.”

“Hmm, maybe you’d let me fuck you, though.”

Blushing, Zayn turns his face even further away from Harry’s gaze. “Yeah, right.”

“You could at least stop pretending we’re not attracted to each other,” Harry laughs.

“Maybe when hell freezes over,” Zayn mumbles.

“Then again. Don’t think I would like a night with you anyway. Maybe you’ll just write all about it. Harry Styles: selfish lover in bed.”

“Fuck you,” Zayn hisses. “I’m not like that.”

“Didn’t seem to mind writing that post,” Harry bites back.

“Maybe if you didn’t think every person with two legs is willing to spread them. Or maybe if you weren’t also quick to judge people.”

“Oh, got words to say, eh? Keep ‘em coming, love.”

Zayn glares and turns back in his seat. He can feel the tension building in his forehead again. He remembers what Liam said to him. To give Harry a chance. Zayn’s career is also on the line. He exhales loudly, taps his fingers on his jeans, and turns to look at Harry.

“Look. I’ll say sorry if you apologize, too. Let’s just get over this. For both our sakes. It’ll be hard working together if we just keep trying to hurt the other.”

“Maybe I don’t even want to work with you,” Harry replies with an eyebrow arched.

“I’m trying here,” Zayn hisses. “You could too.”

Harry eyes then sighs. “Fine. Sorry.”

“I’m sorry, too.”

“Whatever. Let’s just get this over with,” Harry mumbles and then turns away from Zayn for the rest of the ride back to his apartment.

---

@niallprancingpony Legend! @Harrystyles

@harrystyles @niallprancingpony ;)

---

“Where were you born?”

“This is fucking lame.”

“Harry,” Zayn sighs. “C’mon. I have to start somewhere.”

“Start from somewhere else. Ask shit I haven’t been asked,” Harry groans. He downs the bit of wine left in his glass and then pours more.

“Stop drinking so fast,” Zayn mumbles. He’s bitter from earlier when Harry decided to eat his dinner and leave him soggy fries. He’s also annoyed with the blank page he has out in front of him. Harry’s making this extremely difficult, and exhausted Zayn has no time for this.

Harry just eyes him and takes a sip.

“Fine. How was life growing up?”

“You are so unoriginal, Zayn Maaaaaaalik,” Harry sings then laughs at himself when he almost spills wine. “That stain would have been a bitch to get out.”

“C’mon. Can we please be serious for a second?” Zayn sighs. He’s seconds from throwing his pen at Harry who looks smug on the other side of the couch.

“I am being serious. Your questions so far have been trash,” Harry answers back. He leans further into his seat and uncrosses his legs, splaying them wide. Zayn’s eyes follow as Harry’s hand rubs down his thigh before he brings it back up and rests it on his stomach. Harry throws a wink at him and takes a sip of his wine.

Of course he’s attractive. Zayn knows that. Is totally aware. He doesn’t try to let it show he’s attracted to him though and looks down hoping his blush doesn’t show.

“Fine. Why was BLUE produced in such a rush? What you think about all the negative reviews it got? How is this new album going to differentiate from it?” Zayn spits out.

Harry’s smug grin falls a bit. He downs the rest of his wine and stands up. “I think we’re done for tonight,” he announces and starts to walk away.”

“What the fuck? You didn’t even answer a single question!” Zayn exclaims. He stands up and follows Harry to the kitchen and watches as the older man reaches for another bottle of wine and begins uncorking it. “Are you seriously drinking again right now?”

“We’re finished here. You can leave,” Harry tells him without looking at him. He doesn’t bother pouring the wine into a glass and takes a swig from the bottle, his hooded eyes trained on Zayn.

Zayn swallows. He doesn’t want to start another fight, but he’s about to lose it. He doesn’t know how he’s supposed to write this when he can’t even get along with Harry who seems hell bent on making this difficult as possible.

Zayn grits his teeth and looks down at his moleskin.

“You’ve listed your inspirations as Stevie Nicks, Elvis, and the Beach Boys? How so? Would you say WHITE OUT is your best work compared to REFLECTION and BLUE? There’s rumors you participate in writing getaways with other musicians where you guys compare and often lend each other lyrics you’ve written. Is this true? Why did you pick New York out of all the cities in America to move to beside the obvious reasons? Do you have any comments on the rumors surrounding your label threatening to drop you? Your charity single last year, “Dear Charlotte,” received critical praise and is up for a few awards this year. Did you write the song for your niece?”

Zayn’s interrupted by Harry slamming the bottle of wine in his hand down on the counter.

“Fuck you. Get out of my apartment.”

Zayn raises his eyebrows and walks closer. He’s going off track, but he could care less right now. He’s finally seeing something from Harry. “Is Charlotte the reason for your hiatus from the music scene? Is it why you released BLUE in such a rush? What happened to her father?”

He manages to quickly step to the left and avoid the wine Harry throws his way. It hits the floor and wall behind him, but that’s not his problem. Harry looks furious, and now Zayn finally has something other than the smirks and tasteless pickup lines.

“Fuck you!” Harry yells stepping away from the counter. “Who the fuck do you think you are? I told you she was off the record. Nothing about her!”

“Harry,” Zayn begins. “I’m not going to write anything about her.”

“You reporters are all the same. Liars,” Harry hisses.

“I just wanted to get something out of you,” Zayn exclaims. “You weren’t giving me anything!”

“Maybe I didn’t agree to any of this! Maybe I never wanted to do this in the first place!”

“That seems like an issue with your management team. Not me,” Zayn spits out. He closes his eyes and counts to five. He needs to end this fight before it blows out of proportions.

“Get out. I’m not answering shit.”

“Harry, please.”

“Fuck you,” he shouts behind him as he begins climbing his stairs.

Zayn screams into his hands for a few seconds, cleans the wine up, and lets himself out.

---

Excerpt from Zayn’s notepad:

Why did I agree to this? Harry is nothing but the man they say he is. The man I said he was on my blog. I would rather pull my teeth out than continue to work with his pathetic ass.

---

“I hate him,” Zayn hisses before he takes another swig of his beer. “A fucking dick. Entitled dick.”

“You’re the one who went overboard,” Louis hums beside him.

“Fuck you, Louis,” Zayn snaps. He leans into the sliding door behind him and rests his feet on the steel bars of his balcony before taking another swig. “Let me stew in my anger.”

“You should be apologizing,” Louis says before passing the joint in his hand over to Zayn. “You were kind of a dick, too. You both are dicks. I don’t get this fight anymore. Do you guys?”

Zayn doesn’t answer him. He takes a hit, holds it in, and blows it out slowly.

“Seriously. This is all ridiculous. Why are you two fighting anyway? I say apologize, again, and get over it. I’m serious. You can’t keep holding it against him for that night, and he needs to let go of that article. Then maybe both of you can fuck all the tension between the two of you out.”

Zayn scoffs. “What tension?”

“Niall told me he felt like he could slice the tension between the two of you with a knife at the cafe.”

“Niall is a pathological liar.”

“No, that’s you.”

“You really are the worst friend,” Zayn says, frowning.

“I’m always right,” Louis laughs taking the joint back. “Apologize. You were in the wrong tonight. Not him.”

“No.”

“Zayn,” Louis deadpans.

“We’ll see.”

---

@RIFT See you all tonight at the @prancingponies show!

@harrystyles A monster woke me up, and I realized wine before bed is not always a brilliant idea.

@notsomrbrightside A way to someone’s heart is through their stomach, right?

---

Zayn’s met with a loud, shrill giggle when he steps into Harry’s apartment the next morning.

He sees movement to his left and takes a step closer to find Charlotte hiding under the table that holds a bowl of keys. Raising his eyebrows, he crouches down and places the box of donuts he picked up on the way here as an apology on the ground.

“Good morning,” he says only to be met with a loud shush.

“I’m hiding,” Charlotte whispers. She hugs her knees tighter as they hear footsteps down the stairs and brings her mouth to her lips.

“Why are you hiding?” Zayn whispers back, peering over the side of the wall to see Harry entering the lounge.

“Where are you, little miss? We both know who the real champion of hide and seek is. Come out, come out,” he yells before hooking a left towards the kitchen.

“Ah,” Zayn says before winking at Charlotte. “My lips are sealed then.”

Charlotte giggles then shouts, “Oops!” before covering her mouth with her hands. Zayn laughs and stands up with the box of donuts as Harry shouts from the kitchen and comes running towards the entrance.

“I thought I told you to not hide near the elevator, Lottie!” he scolds. When he finds Zayn standing there he stops and his smile slips. “What are you doing here?”

“Um,” Zayn begins. He lifts the box in his hands. “Donuts?”

“Donuts!” Charlotte shouts beside him before latching herself to his legs. He looks down to see her arms wrapped around his knees and her feet on top of his boots.

“Charlotte,” Harry tuts. “Donuts are extremely unhealthy for you. We talked about this.”

“Please!” she begins shouting, and when Zayn looks down he sees two large, brown eyes staring up at him. He gives in and nods.

“If your uncle says so,” he begins.

“Harry, pleeeeeeeeease,” Charlotte begs as she lets go of Zayn only to run and latch onto Harry. “Donuts are my favorite!”

“I thought my pancakes were,” Harry scoffs. He picks her up and sets her on his hip. “You little liar!” He begins tickling her stomach.

“Stop,” Charlotte squeals. She tries to bat Harry away, and Zayn is met with a scene he doesn’t want to admit he finds extremely endearing. Once again Harry Styles has him confused.

“Please! Please! Please!” Charlotte shouts through her giggles. “I won’t tell Mom!”

“You best not tell your mum!” Harry laughs over her. “Fine. But only one. Go set the table.”

Charlotte squeals and grabs her uncle’s face between her tiny hands and smacks a kiss on him before wriggling out of his hold. Once she’s down she runs to the kitchen.

Zayn watches Harry follow his niece out the lounge with a fond look, and he’s floored. He can’t grasp how different the Harry he has to deal with and this Harry are. Liam’s words resonate with him, and his curiosity to figure out the real Harry peaks.

When Harry turns to look at him with a ghost of a smile Zayn smiles hesitantly and takes a step forward. “I, um, wanted to apologize for last night. For pushing you. I don’t know what I was thinking. I think we should just try to let go of this whole fight. Truce?”

Harry crosses his arm and asses Zayn, and Zayn squirms where he stands. He’s not sure what the rockstar is thinking, and it has him feeling awkward.

“Is that why you brought donuts?” he asks, and Zayn nods. “You were extremely rude last night.”

Zayn bites his tongue from replying back and just nods his head.

“Fine,” Harry quips before turning on his heel to walk into the kitchen. “Hurry up, Pretty Boy.”

Zayn follows Harry into the kitchen and keeps his eyes on the back of his head instead of the way his hips sway to the song he’s humming. Charlotte is sitting at the built-in nook near the bay windows that display a busy Tribeca. Harry slips into the seat beside her and tucks a napkin into her collar before nodding at the bench across from them.

“I love donuts,” Charlotte pipes up when Zayn sits down and opens the box. She squeals and reaches for the one with blue icing and white sprinkles, and Harry grabs it from her hands and gently places it on the plate in front of her.

“Don’t make a mess,” he chides before breaking the donut into thirds and nodding his head at his niece. She nods her head eagerly back and grabs a piece and shoves it in her mouth. When she smiles at Harry and Zayn her mouth is stained blue. It garners a laugh from both men.

Charlotte begins to hum happily. Zayn watches Harry eye the donuts warily, and he rolls his eyes before pushing the box towards him.

“They’re really good. From a bakery near my apartment that’s five stars on Yelp and everything. One won’t hurt,” he says before swiping a plain chocolate for himself and taking a bite out of it. Charlotte nods her head in agreement and grabs the second piece and shoves it into her mouth.

“I think it’s been ages since I had anything fried,” Harry confesses with a frown. He looks over at Charlotte who grins at him before letting out a laugh. “Ah, what the hell.”

Charlotte swallows and then points a sticky finger in her uncle’s face. “Bad word!”

“Don’t tell your mum,” Harry replies and takes a large bite out of a plain glaze. “F-Dang! This is really good,” he moans and takes another bite.

“Told you,” Zayn quips.

“Told you,” Charlotte mimics with a giggle and shoves the last piece into her mouth.

Harry narrows his eyes at both of them before taking another bite. When Zayn looks down and to the side, Harry has his middle finger aimed towards him under the table. Zayn grins, winks, laughs at the surprised expression on Harry’s face, and finishes his donut.

---

“So, you won’t mind a few questions today then?” Zayn asks in breathes as he struggles to keep up with Harry and Charlotte.

They’re walking in a lowkey neighborhood towards a store Charlotte wanted to visit, and he’s honestly amazed they haven’t been caught yet. He figures most people are at work and wouldn’t bother in this neighborhood to stop Harry anyway. Especially not with a large man such as Ronnie following a few steps behind them.

“Later,” Harry yells over his shoulder and Charlotte continues to lead him. She seems to know where she’s going.

“Okay, but where are we even going?” Zayn yells over a loud honk that sounds right next to him. He glares at the car and continues in his attempt to match his stride to theirs.

“Books, Pretty Boy!” Harry laughs and Charlotte tugs and they hook a right.

The bookstore that Charlotte is eager to reach comes into view, and the little girl squeals before fastening her pace in a hurry to get to it. Harry doesn’t scold her. Rather he goes along with her, laughing as Charlotte begins to jump up and down once they reach the front door.

“Grab as many as you want,” Harry tells her when they step inside and then lets go of her hand. She runs away with Ronnie at her heels, and Harry walks towards a recliner and falls into it. Zayn huffs before following. He sits in the one beside Harry’s and pulls out his phone.

“Can we please discuss your career now?” he asks Harry who groans and waves a hand at him.

“Can we do this later?”

“No,” Zayn bites. “I need something. Anything Harry.”

“I’m sure you can Google my name and get something,” Harry replies as he messes with the bridge of his sunglasses, sliding them up and then sliding them down.

“C’mon. Please.”

“Ugh. Good Lord. I guess,” Harry groans before sliding his glasses off. His eyes come into view, and Zayn looks away.

“Thank you,” he mumbles quietly before pulling out his moleskin and opening the voice recording app on his phone.

“But first. I want to know more about you,” Harry says, leaning forward in his chair. “Who are you, Zayn Malik?”

Zayn laughs nervously. “Just a student who loves music and writing.”

“Hmm,” Harry begins before he smiles loosely. “There’s more to you than that. I thought we were supposed to be trying here. Letting go. Starting over.”

“I guess,” Zayn murmurs.

“Then tell me about yourself first. I’ll answer your questions after I figure you out a bit.”

“Figure me out?” Zayn repeats, frowning.

Harry smirks and leans back into his chair, crossing his legs as he goes. “Yes. After I find out a little bit of the real Zayn. Then you’ll know more about the real Harry.”

---

Zayn answers all of Harry’s questions. He seems satisfied when he’s done and flashes Zayn a grin that makes Zayn fidget in his seat. Harry’s eyes gleam when he catches the blush on Zayn’s cheek, and he lowers his eyes at him before standing up and walking over to where a stubborn Charlotte is struggling with an armful of books.

He figures now that Harry knows what food he likes, what bands are his favorite, his favorite book, how many sisters he has, his biggest fear, etc., he would answer Zayn’s questions, but he doesn’t. He shrugs Zayn off and hands the bag of book to Ronnie when they step outside of the store.

“Later,” he says, and Zayn huffs. He’s never going to finish this exclusive.

They hail a taxi instead of walking, and Zayn slides in beside a bouncing Charlotte who wiggles when Harry tries to buckle her in.

“Where are we going now?” he huffs, eyeing the driver warily once Ronnie slides into the passenger seat.

“Lunch,” Harry replies.

“Are you ever going to answer my questions?”

“Of course,” Harry replies nonchalantly.

“How old are you Zayn?” Charlotte pipes beside him.

Zayn looks down at her, and she reminds him so much of Safaa, he starts smiling. “Old.”

Harry snorts.

“I’m five,” she exclaims and holds her hand up to display all five fingers.

“You’re so old,” Zayn exclaims.

“No, you are!” she giggles.

“No. Harry is,” Zayn pretends to whisper. When he looks up Harry is smiling.

“He’s so old!” Charlotte giggles. “Grandma is so old too.”

“Everyone is old compared to you,” Zayn laughs, reaching over to tickle her arm. “You’re teeny tiny.” She squeals and presses herself into Harry to get away.

“I like you Zayn. You bring donuts,” she tell him seriously, and he begins to laugh.

“You like me because of donuts?”

Charlotte nods with a grin. “Sophia makes me donuts too.”

“We’re actually on our way to see her, little miss,” Harry adds to a grinning Charlotte.

“She’s the best,” she tells Zayn.

“Who’s Sophia?” Zayn asks curiously.

“She cooks!” Charlotte answers. “She’s my favorite. After mom.”

“That’s not all she does,” Harry corrects her. “She’s Liam’s fiancé,” he tells Zayn. “And I thought I was your favorite?” Harry asks Charlotte in faux anger; he earns another round of giggles.

Zayn spends the rest of the ride answering all of Charlotte’s questions much like he did with her uncle earlier. His eyes are on Harry the entire time and the way he looks at Charlotte the entire time. It causes an uneasy swoop in his belly, and when Harry’s eyes flick up to him from time to time, Zayn pretends to himself he doesn’t feel a thing.

---

“Eel? You need a reservation for this place,” Zayn exclaims when they step out of the taxi somewhere near Broadway.

“That’s ridiculous,” Harry laughs as he presses a few dollars into Ronnie’s hand to give to the driver before he clutches tightly to Charlotte’s hand and walks into the restaurant.

“This place has a three months waiting list,” Zayn adds in awe. He would know since he had tried to book it for his dad for his parent’s anniversary but was turned down.

Harry hums and lets Charlotte lead them again. She makes a beeline towards the back where waiters are whizzing by with their arms full. It smells amazing inside, and Zayn realizes he’s actually hungry when he almost runs into a plate of ceviche being carried by a waiter.

“Sophie!” Charlotte yells, catching the attention of a few patrons.

A young woman steps outside the kitchen and grins when Charlotte lets go of Harry’s hand and runs into her arms.

“A little birdie told me you were visiting today,” she laughs, kissing Charlotte’s cheek before letting her down. She looks up and smiles at Harry before stepping into his arms. “Hello Harry. How are you?”

“Amazing. You look lovely. Gem said you guys had a spa date the other day. Where’s Liam?” he asks, looking around.

Sophia rolls her eyes and waves at a table half hidden away from others. Liam is sat there with a table full of papers with his phone glued to his ear. “Working,” she sighs.

Harry tuts before nodding at Zayn and making his way towards Liam. Sophia turns to Zayn and smiles hesitantly with an arm stretched out.

“You must be Zayn,” she says shaking his hand. “I’m Sophia.”

“Nice to meet you,” he gets out before he’s interrupted by a groan from Charlotte.

“I’m hungry,” she whines.

Sophia laughs and sends Zayn an apologizing look. “Want to help me finish making your lunch?”

“Yes!” Charlotte shouts.

“I’ll see you in a few minutes,” Sophia says to Zayn before being dragged back to the kitchen by an eager Charlotte.

Harry and Liam are talking about this morning when Zayn takes a seat. He tucks his backpack between his feet and shifts uneasily. He’s never been in such an upscale restaurant. Figures he could never afford one even if he did find a decent career in the journalism field. He ignores the looks being sent their way most likely because of Harry. The other two don’t look too bothered, and Zayn tells himself to relax. Chill out. He’s got this.

“Good job this morning,” Liam says turning to Zayn. “Can’t believe you got Mr. Health Freak here to eat a donut. You’re my new hero!”

Harry scowls. “I’m old, Liam,” he drawls out. “Have to make sure I take care of myself, don’t I?”

“You are turning thirty next year,” Liam replies thoughtfully then laughs when Harry tries to make a swipe at him.

“You’re already thirty!”

“I own up to my age though.”

Harry scowls. Liam makes a strangled sound a few seconds later and looks up to glare at a smug Harry. “Was it necessary to kick me?”

“Of course.”

“Do you see what I deal with, Zayn?” Liam says, pointing at Harry.

Harry sighs loudly before sitting upright. “How’s the planning coming along then?”

Liam smiles bashfully. “Soph’s got the catering all figured out. We’re gonna have Eel do it.”

Harry rolls his eyes. “I suggested that in the first place, loser.”

Liam ignores him and continues. “The hotel is booked, too. Next summer. June 1st, 2015. Book your calendar.”

“It’s been booked for ages, mate,” Harry replies with a smile.

Liam grins and leans forward to pat Harry’s hand. “Thanks again. Soph is over the moon. Dream wedding and all.”

Harry shrugs, and it’s the first time Zayn’s seen him blushing bashfully since he’s met him.

“Don’t get all sappy on me, Payno,” he huffs out. They hear some chatter as the kitchen door swings open, and Harry nods at Sophia and Charlotte who emerge. “Go help your bride out then. I’m starving.”

Liam flicks his nose and stands up to get help his fiancé with the plates as Harry sighs and falls back into his seat.

“How did you manage to get a table here?” Zayn asks for conversation’s sake.

Harry shrugs and looks around. “Own the place. Part of it,” he answers.

You own Eel?” Zayn manages to get out. Of course Harry Styles would own the hottest restaurant in New York City.

“They own the other half,” Harry goes own, nodding towards Liam and Sophia. “Soph’s the head chef. Got this place for them once WHITE OUT when platinum in thirty countries. Soph is an incredible chef.”

“Why would you do that?” Zayn asks just as the three of them near the table.

“Those two have done more than I can repay them for,” he replies softly. “Least I could do.”

“He’s selling himself short,” Sophia adds placing a plate in front of Harry before setting one down in front of Zayn. “He’s paying for our wedding too. Stubborn lad.”

Harry blushes again and clears his throat. He busies himself with helping Charlotte into a seat then leans away when Sophia takes over and helps the girl.

“You’re always sell yourself short, H. Always telling you that,” Liam says taking the seat next to Zayn. “If only people actually knew how selfless you were.”

“Okay, okay,” Harry exclaims clinking his fork against his plate. “Can we eat already? I’ve been waiting all day for Sophia’s salmon.”

Liam rolls his eyes and shares a smile with Sophia before nodding at Zayn’s plate.

“Hope you don’t mind the fried Eel. Soph didn’t know what you would like, but she figured she couldn’t go wrong with her speciality. Built this place on it.”

Zayn nods his head and takes a bite. The food’s good, and he tells the other three as much, but his mind is too busy with the new curveball Harry’s thrown his way.

He just can’t figure Harry Styles out.

---

Excerpt from Zayn’s notepad:

Harry Styles continues to confuse me. Who is he? The man he pretends to be or the man who spends all his free time parenting his niece, taking care of his friends, and being an overall decent guy?

---

@notsomrbrightside that feeling when you have lots of work to do but still bail on it to go see a show.

@niallprancingpony @notsomrbrightside you better be there!

@louiswt @niallprancingpony @notsomrbrightside you owe me a beer. We’ll be there.

@harrystyles Where will the night lead?

---

“He’s confusing.”

“You’re just mad you don’t find him horrible.”

“I find him annoying.”

“Only because you know Liam is right, and Harry is actually a decent person. You find yourself annoying. So do I.”

“Shut up.”

“You’re just mad at yourself because your crush on Harry Styles never left. Does he know you got off to his Rolling Stones covers when you were sixteen?” Louis asks with a smirk.

“I fucking hate you. I really do,” Zayn hisses as he blushes.

“Just tell me I’m right. I always am.”

“Louis, how come you’re never on my side?” Zayn asks him and throws a packet of sugar at his roommate from behind the pastry case. His shift is almost over, and Louis’ swung by so they could hit up Niall’s show together.

“I like to play devil’s advocate. Keep you on your toes,” Louis replies tearing the packet of sugar open. He dumps it into his mouth, makes a face, and reaches for the iced tea Zayn made him earlier.

“Look. The dude made me pissed off too. I always got your back, bro. But maybe you gotta give him a clean slate. He could surprise you,” Louis sighs.

“I dunno,” Zayn says as messes with the pastry tongs. “I feel like he could be playing you.”

“You think Sophia and Liam are lying and Charlotte actually finds her uncle am absolute monster? Louis laughs.

“No. I’m not saying they aren’t genuine around him. What the hell. I just don’t get it,” Zayn huffs. “He was so rude that one night, and sometimes he can be too much with his smirks and suggestions. I feel like that is fake. But why? Why do that?”

“Who knows,” Louis says. “Maybe he finds messing with you fun. Maybe he was drunk that night. He apologized. Get over it, dude.”

Zayn replies by throwing another packet of sugar at Louis.

“You’re no help,” Zayn says.

“You’re no help just standing there,” Louis bites back.

“I’m working,” Zayn replies.

“You need to hurry up and get off. Heard Boy Easy was opening for Niall.”

“Really?” Zayn asks leaning forward eagerly. “How’d Niall manage that?”

Louis shrugs. “Who knows. Niall manages to befriend even the most talented hermits. Now hurry up. Are we going or not?”

“Just the question I was going to ask.”

Harry steps forward behind Louis’ back, surprising Zayn. He needs to stop showing up to Zayn’s work without a warning.

“What are you doing here?” Louis asks with an air of indifference. He could mess with Zayn all he wants, but Zayn’s glad his best friend truly has his back in the end.

“Niall DM’ed me about the show tonight. Said you’d know where the place was,” Harry answers back. He’s dressed in a plain white shirt and tight, black skinny jeans. Zayn’s jealous he can pull off even the simplest looks.

“Of course Niall DM’ed you,” Louis scoffs.

“How’d you know I had work today?” Zayn asks at the same time.

“I like him. Talented lad,” Harry says and reaches forward to grab a biscotti sitting to Louis’ left. He unwraps and takes a bite. “And Liam told me.

“Of course,” Zayn sighs. “So, you’re coming with us now?” He’s unsure how he feels about this.

“Yeah. Love the Ponies. Plus, Liam mentioned we should spend some time together. Befriend each other. Let’s spend time together, Pretty Boy.” Zayn twitches when Harry winks at him.

“I did not sign up to be the third wheel,” Louis groans.

“Louis,” Zayn hisses as Harry smirks and takes another bite of his stolen biscotti. “Also, you have to pay for that, rockstar.”

“I love it when you call me that,” Harry tells him before slapping a five on the counter. Zayn doesn’t return his change and drops it in the tips box instead.

Zayn looks over at Louis as if to say “see what I mean,” but Louis shrugs walks away mumbling something about a smoke.

“So, where is this place?” Harry says through a mouthful of food.

“Bushwick,” Zayn answers thinking Harry will blanch. He doesn’t. Just nods.

“You really want to come along?” Zayn asks, eyeing the clock. He has a minute left.

“Yeah,” Harry answers. “Seems fun. Your friend is really talented. He’ll be signed soon enough.”

“What if people recognize you?” Zayn asks.

Harry eyes him before looking out the window. “They won’t. Made sure of it.” He sounds cryptic, but Zayn doesn’t question it. Sighs and clocks out. He reaches for his backpack, takes off his apron and packs it, and pulls his snapback on.

“C’mon. Louis’ll kill us if he doesn’t have a beer soon.”

He sends some prayers into the sky tonight doesn’t turn out like last time before stepping outside.

---

Louis is drunk before Niall’s set can even end.

He’s hanging onto Zayn and Harry, jumping up and down to Niall’s set, and Zayn wants to kick him for being so obnoxious. Especially when he’s four beers in and Harry looks too good for words in the dim lighting of the venue. Zayn doesn’t want to think about it too much.

Harry’s surprising him tonight. Again. There weren’t many people who recognized him, and the few that did didn’t approach them. Unlike Zayn and Louis, Harry is drinking at a slower pace. He’s been commenting here and there about the different sets and artists, dancing and singing along, and overall is keeping it chill.

“He’s enjoying himself,” Harry yells over the music. Zayn laughs and nods, letting go of Louis once Monica makes her way back to them with three beers. Zayn grabs two and hands one to Harry as Louis latches himself to his girl.

“To Niall,” Louis shouts then takes a large gulp of his beer. Monica whispers in his ear before pulling them both away, and Zayn thinks he just might like this girl. He’ll be sure to tell Louis he thinks so.

Zayn downs half his drink, but when he looks over Harry is merely taking sips. His eyes flicker between the stage and Zayn, and Zayn’s going to blame it on the alcohol when he decides it’s a great idea to move closer and press his side against Harry’s.

“Hello,” Harry shouts in his ear, and Zayn feels a familiar swoop in his belly as his cheeks warm up.

“Hey,” he responds keeping his eyes focused on Niall singing into his mic.

“Thanks for letting me come along,” Harry says as a song comes to an end and Niall moves to the side to retrieve his water bottle.

“As long as we don’t have a repeat of last time,” Zayn responds then winks. He blinks a second later not having believed he just did that. When he looks up at Harry he finds the older man amused. Zayn doesn’t wink. Not really. Not ever.

“Promise not to if you promise too. New beginnings, remember?”

“Deal,” Zayn quips up.

Harry leans close enough that Zayn can smell the expensive cologne he’s come to associate with Harry. He swallows as Harry’s lips brush the top of his cheek before hitting the shell of his ear. His hot breaths scatter across his flushed skin, and Zayn feels himself fidget with unease as his toes clench.

“Pinky promise?”

“What?” Zayn laughs pulling back enough to see Harry’s shine as he chuckles.

“Charlotte,” he answers simply.

Zayn hums in recognition. He’s used to pinky promises with his sisters. They are sacred. He understands, so he nods.

Harry links his pinky with his then leans down to press a kiss against his own thumb, and when Zayn goes to do the same, he closes his eyes so he doesn’t have to see how close Harry is to his own face. He focuses on his beating heart, and he’s thinking he’s starting to hate Louis for ever putting thoughts about fucking Harry Styles in his head.

Zayn goes to pull away, but Harry keeps his pinky locked around his, and for once, Zayn doesn’t feel like commenting or arguing. He goes along with it, keeping his pinky linked with Harry’s, and lowers their hands down to rest against his side.

“Last song! Thank you guys for coming out and supporting us. This one is “Mighty Giants!” Niall screams and Zayn hears Louis scream from somewhere in the room in response.

Harry’s hip bumps into Zayn as he dances beside him, and Zayn joins in, screaming Niall’s lyrics back at him. Once the set finishes, he downs the rest of his beer and crushes the plastic cup before dropping it to the floor.

“Let’s go find Niall,” he shouts, and Harry nods.

He slips his pinky from Harry’s, but Harry grabs his hand before he can move away and twines their fingers. He keeps his grip tight, and Zayn responds back, squeezing his hand in agreement as the crowd starts to widen.

“This way,” Zayn shouts.

He leads them against the crowd and towards the small hallway in the back. He can feel Harry pressed against his back, and he leans into it, bringing their joined hands to his side so Harry can press his body completely against his.

It’s easy to find the Prancing Ponies’ dressing room. Niall has the loudest voice. He opens the door without entering and is met with a few grapes thrown his way.

“It’s only Zayn!” Niall laughs. “Oh! And Harry!”

“Hello,” Harry greets from behind him. The timber of his voice has Zayn digging his shoes into the ground, and he goes to let go, but Harry keeps their hands locked, again.

While Niall goes onto introduce his band and their friends to Harry, Zayn moves to sit down. He can feel a thrum in his head, and he knows he’s drunk from the way his body seems to loose and fluid. Harry follows, of course, and manages to sit down beside him, pressing his body alongside his. He finally removes his hand from Zayn’s only to throw an arm across the back of the couch. Zayn rests the back of his head against his forearm.

“Where’s Louis?” Dan asks Zayn.

Zayn shrugs, opening his eyes and blinking. “Fuck if I know.”

He’s exhausted. It’s been a long day, so he decides he’s going to rest his eyes. Just for a few minutes, and the next thing he knows he’s been jostled away. When he blinks his eyes are heavy and they sting. He groans and tries to bury his head into his own arm but it’s pulled away from him.

“C’mon. Let’s get you home, Pretty Boy,” Harry whispers and pulls at his arm.

“See you tomorrow at work, Zayn!” Niall shouts, and Zayn flips him off.

Zayn pulls away from Harry when they’re outside. He pats his pocket for his cigarettes and finds them in his back pocket. Harry eyes him but doesn’t say a word. Nods in agreement and pulls the cig from Zayn’s lip after the initial inhale to take a drag himself.

“Niall likes you,” Zayn mumbles and steals the cigarette back.

Harry laughs and smiles. “I like him, too.”

“Louis likes you too. He just won’t admit it,” Zayn tells him.

“Hmm, and what about you?” Harry asks and moves closer. “Do you like me too?”

Zayn doesn’t answer and blows smoke in Harry’s face.

“Maybe,” he finally says but it’s followed by a loose smile. “We’ll see.”

Harry hums and hip checks him before stealing the cigarette back.

Zayn shuts his eyes for a second, but it’s a bad idea because when he opens them he feels dizzy.

“I’m drunk,” he groans, and Harry laughs, “You are.”

They kill the cigarette, and somehow Ronnie is already there waiting for them with the car. Zayn grabs his backpack once he’s inside having left it in the car when Harry convinced them to let him drive them to Niall’s gig. He hugs it and presses is face down into it, humming, and closes his eyes.

“Zayn’s apartment, Ron,” Harry says before the door is shut, and Harry shuffles in next to him.

“Could’a walked. Not far,” Zayn mumbles.

“I know. This is easier, yeah?”

“Sure.”

He opens his eyes to find Harry staring at him with a thoughtful look. Fuck. He’s beautiful. It’s making Zayn’s head spin.

“You’re pretty,” Zayn blurts out, and he watches a smile form on Harry’s lips.

“Hmm, I think that’d be you,” Harry answers.

“Nah,” Zayn scoffs. “You. Like. Like, I could kiss you right now.”

Harry’s smile tightens and he moves closer. “Interesting.”

“You’re not supposed to know I think that,” Zayn whispers.

“But you know I think you’re pretty. I think this is far then,” Harry laughs.

“Can I kiss you?” Zayn asks.

Harry eyes him before shaking his head and moving back. “Don’t ask for something you’ll regret.”

“I won’t,” Zayn argues. He just really wants to kiss Harry.

“Maybe when you’re not drunk then.”

Zayn groans and shuts his eyes.

His apartment is only ten blocks from the venue. Zayn’s used to walking that. Prefers it. But if Harry wants to drop him off that’s fine too he decides. He opens his eyes once they’re there, and he lets Harry pull him out of the car.

“Code and keys,” Harry asks.

“1957, and the keys are in my backpack,” Zayn answers.

Louis isn’t home when they step inside. Zayn throws his backpack on the couch then starts making his way to his bedroom. He can hear Harry following him.

“Didn’t see your room before,” Harry comments.

“Didn’t want you in my room before,” Zayn answers and sits down on his bed.

“I like it,” Harry comments.

Zayn watches him walk around his room, touching a few things here and there. In the dim lighting he manages to look even taller. Zayn presses his legs together.

“Are you really not going to kiss me?” Zayn asks.

Harry looks up from Zayn’s desk and smiles. He has Zayn’s notepad in his hand.

“Eager.”

“Maybe,” Zayn huffs. “Don’t touch that it. It’s my notepad. It’s personal”

Harry drops the notepad and walks towards Zayn until he’s standing right in front of him and Zayn has to arch his neck and look up.

“If you weren’t drunk I would just about have kissed you,” Harry whispers before crouching down.

“I’m not drunk. Not that drunk,” Zayn argues. “You’re really hot,” he adds when Harry looks up at him with hooded eyes.

“Thank you, Zayn. My ego is at an all time high,” Harry laughs and begins unlacing Zayn’s boots. “I think i’ll like this friendship thing. At least it’s got you admitting you find me attractive.”

“Whatever,” Zayn scoffs. “I don’t get why you’re denying me.”

Harry lifts Zayn’s foot and removes his shoe before doing the same to the other foot. “Because Zayn,” he starts looking up at him when he’s done. He rests his hands on Zayn’s thigh and they manage to cover a good portion of them. Zayn places his own hands on top of his.

Harry’s eyes flicker to their hands then to Zayn’s bed frame. He reaches a hand out and pulls on one of the steel bars and hums in approval. “Because Zayn,” he starts again. “I don’t think I could just kiss you right now. Told you I wanted to fuck you, didn’t I? I didn’t lie. I would kiss you first then maybe tie you up and fuck you right into the mattress.” Harry smirks at him, and Zayn swallows. His face is too hot, and he can feel his entire body responding to Harry. “If you were into that of course.”

“Fuck,” Zayn whispers, and Harry just smiles at him before pushing him back until he’s laying down.

Harry throws Zayn’s blanket over him before running a hand down his chest. “Good night. Tomorrow’ll be fun,” he says, winking, before stepping back and leaving Zayn alone and extremely turned on in his room.

---

Excerpt from Zayn’s notepad:

I. Am. A. Fucking. Idiot.

---

@harrystylesupdateaccount94 Harry was spotted with Zayn in Brooklyn last night. Apparently they left a show together.

@Celebupdates Rockstar Harry Styles was spotted once again with young boyfriend Zayn Malik. The two looked cosy leaving a local show last night. Click link for pictures.

@harrystyles Good morning world.

---

“Zayn. Zayn, wake up.”

Zayn groans and turns to bury his face in his pillow. He hears a laugh above him.

“Fine. Go on then. You wake him up.”

Suddenly there’s a large weight on top of him. His breath is punched out of him, and when his eyes fly open he sees a grinning Charlotte sitting on top of him.

“Zayn! Wake up!”

“What?” he groans. Harry is standing at the foot of the bed with a smirk.

“I asked you nicely. She’s not so nice,” Harry says.

“C’mon. Get up, get up!” Charlotte shouts and repeatedly slaps his chest.

Zayn thanks his father’s genes for never getting a hangover. Unfortunately, he also remembers everything from last night, and when he glances at Harry, the smirking rockstar seems to remember too.

“We have bagels, Zayn,” Charlotte informs him. She grabs his face and brings her face down until their noses meet. “They’re like donuts but healthy.” She makes a face at that. “Do you like cream cheese?”

“Um. I guess?” he says. She looks at him more seriously and he nods slowly. “Of course I do.”

“Good! We have that too!” she says. “Get up. I’m hungry.”

“All right. Time to get down now,” Harry says and picks Charlotte up. She pouts but it’s gone as soon as her feet hit the ground. She’s out of the room soon after.

Zayn closes his eyes. Maybe he can fall back asleep. Maybe he can dream last night didn’t happen and he hadn’t been so thirsty for Harry. He tosses the cover over his head when he feels himself blush.

“She’ll be back if you’re not up soon. We always eat together. She’ll be mad if she has to wait any longer,” Harry says above him.

“Why are you here?” Zayn groans. “How the hell did you get in?”

“Louis was on his way out. Why? Throwing me out already? And to think last night all you wanted was for me to kiss you,” Harry teases.

“Stop. I was drunk,” Zayn retorts.

“Not that drunk. I’m sure you’d still want me to kiss you, and I still would want to fuck you right into that mattress of yours,” Harry whispers right before he tears the covers off him. “C’mon. Get up. You wanted me to answer your questions, right?”

He remembers he still hasn’t gotten any questions out of Harry. Zayn flips him off before stumbling out of bed. He shuts his bathroom door in Harry’s face to get ready.

When he walks into his living room he finds Harry and Charlotte sitting cross legged on the floor around his coffee table. Charlotte has her mouth full with crumbs all over her mouth, and she smiles at him mid chew.

“Good morning,” Zayn mumbles taking a seat himself. Harry slides him a plain bagel along with a plastic container of cream cheese and a plastic knife.

“Morning,” Charlotte replies. It’s muffled though, but Zayn smiles nonetheless.

“Didn’t think I would be seeing you today, Miss Charlotte,” Zayn says as he prepares his bagel.

“Mom said I could spend the day with Harry,” Charlotte tells him.

“Picked her up on my way here,” Harry adds. “Gem lives just over in Williamsburg.”

Zayn hums and nods.

“Last night was interesting,” Harry comments after a few minutes of silence.

Zayn blushes and takes another bite of his bagel.

“I’m sure if you asked me right now what you wanted last night I wouldn’t be so quick to say no,” Harry goes on.

Zayn’s eyes flick to Charlotte. “Harry...”

Harry looks at Charlotte who is finishing up her bagel and wipes her mouth for her. “Go clean up in the restroom, Lots. Rinse your mouth too.”

Charlotte pouts but gets up after Zayn points to the bathroom.

“So.”

“So,” Zayn repeats, looking away.

“You think my face is pretty.” Harry smirks.

“I was drunk,” Zayn says into his bagel.

“I though honesty was the first rule in building a solid friendship.”

“I think we should forget about last night.”

“Hmm, I don’t think so,” Harry says before leaning in. “I think this could be interesting. I wouldn’t mind taking this further.”

Zayn almost chokes. He reaches for the glass of water in front of him and takes a gulp. “I think you’re insane.”

“I think you want me,” Harry says. “I think you’re just too prideful to admit it sober.”

“I think we should keep this professional,” Zayn bites back.

Harry grins teeth and all. “I think we should make this more fun.”

“I think you’re wrong.”

“I think you were really turned on by the idea of me tying you up and having my way with you,” Harry whispers, his lips brushing Zayn’s cheek.

Zayn grows flustered. He ignores heat traveling up his neck and the stutter in his breath.

“Uncle Harry I can’t reach the sink!”

Harry sighs and pulls away. “Duty calls.” He stands up and brushes crumbs off his thighs. “This conversation isn’t over.”

Zayn avoids the looks he’s thrown in favor of stuffing the last bit of his bagel in his mouth. He’s not attracted to Harry Styles. Nope. He hears Harry joking with Charlotte and groans from how endearing he finds it.

He’s fucked.

---

Zayn joins in on Harry and Charlotte’s date to MOMA.

He soon realizes Liam was right, again, and Charlotte is a big part of Harry’s life. In the weeks that follow he finds himself accompanying Harry and his niece on various trips throughout the city. They take trips to various parks. He finds out Charlotte and Harry are fond of the Imagine mosaic as much as he is. They often pick up Charlotte from school on the days Harry has her and eat donuts or bagels per Charlotte’s request. Other times it’s just Zayn and Harry at the studio spending more time questioning one another rather than Harry working on his music or Zayn on his writing. When they bore of that Harry convinces him to follow him back to his place so they could continue their conversations in the comfort of his apartment. They still argue, and Harry still gets in his moods, but they’re more controlled now.

Zayn’s had no chance to actually ask Harry any questions and has only observations to go by, which he records into his notepad fondly, and which are more than he can ask for when it seems to be next to impossible to get Harry to actually sit down and answer a proper question. He’s slightly agitated by it all, but he blames his lack of motivation to try harder on his growing infatuation with the duo. It doesn’t help that Zayn actually gets along with Harry like he knew he would. They have too much in common. He doesn’t admit to Louis he’s right.

He figures if he ignores that night, ignores his growing feelings, and everything in general he’ll be okay.

Liam and Harry’s team did release a statement about Zayn writing an exclusive on Harry, and he’s been hounded by everyone from his reporters at the newspaper to his distantly related cousins. Louis had to convince him to keep updating the RIFT twitter account and put a filter on the account for him.

Harry hasn’t brought up the night of Niall’s last gig. He chooses to throw Zayn smirks and flirts in between questions about school, work, the song Harry is working on, the latest band Zayn discovered, and their long rants about their mutual distaste for award shows.

If he didn’t hate Harry before he hates him now for leaving him constantly flustered and annoyed with himself.

---

October 14, 2014

Boy Easy is a DJ hailing from our northern neighbor Maine. His signature bass drops and added vocals to his remixes have his name buzzing in every club on the east coast. He first started gaining recognition in 2013 when he did a clever remix smashup of various Rihanna songs and followed it with a surprise collabs with a round of artists including big namers in the RnB community. If you, like me, have had the pleasure of attending his string of surprise shows around Brooklyn, then you can agree there is nothing like attending a Boy Easy show. If you’re looking for something fun, catchy, and original, pick up Boy Easy’s LP LIGHTS. You won’t regret it.

Also, for those who have been hounding my twitter and the comments section of this blog, yes, there is a RIFT exclusive on Harry Styles to look forward to. Nothing else to say, but be on the look out. More information later.

Currently listening to: “Headlines” - Drake (Boy Easy Remix)

z.m.

---

“You should hear the new song, Lou,” Zayn exclaims as he sets his backpack on the counter and starts to prepare a bowl of cereal for himself. “It’s sick. Harry’s lyrics have really improved since BLUE.”

Louis hums and watched him from the couch. “You seem to be spending all your time with Harry these days. Thought you hated him.”

Zayn shrugs. “He’s still a dick, but like, not a dick, too? I mean. He’s chill, you know? Charlotte loves him.”

“Do you love him too?” Louis asks with a smirk.

“What?” Zayn scoffs. “Don’t be ridiculous.”

“When did we go from enemies to lovers?” Louis goes on.

“We’re not lovers!” Zayn retorts quickly. “We’re, like, acquaintances.”

“Acquaintances that see each other every day, have the same taste in music and literature, and desperately want to fuck each other.”

Zayn blushes but doesn’t answer earning a loud laugh from Louis.

“You bastard.”

“Louis,” Zayn mumbles into his spoon. “I’m not gonna fuck him. He’s like a client. Sort of.”

“You’re not getting paid, Zayn,” Louis adds.

“Yeah, but remember that publication house that was interested in me? They contacted me after the statement was released. If I sign with them and release it under them I’ll get some sort of compensation.”

Louis waves it off.

“The fact is still that Harry wants you Zayn. And you want him.”

“Not going to happen,” Zayn says.

“Okay, but you’re still falling for him.”

“I’m not!” Zayn fights back. He can feel tension in his forehead as his eyebrows furrow.

“You fall quickly. Remember Michael in eleventh grade?”

“He was an ass.”

“Stephen during orientation.”

“That was a fluke.”

“Camden during—”

“Okay Louis!” Zayn interrupts. “Stop.”

“I’m just saying,” Louis says, shrugging.

Zayn sighs. “I know, okay. It’s not like that. I promise.”

“Whatever you say, dude.”

---

Zayn’s lying, and Louis is right.

Zayn doesn’t want to admit it.

“Okay, but Hardy has nothing on Joyce,” Harry exclaims. “Ulysses is the best literary work every produced.”

“I don’t agree,” Zayn mumbles into his coffee. “I also can’t believe you graduated with a degree in English Lit. How did I not know that?”

Harry shrugs. “Don’t talk about it much. Put that in your exclusive.”

“I will,” Zayn says.

“Good.” Harry smiles.

“More coffee?”

“No, ‘m good. Thanks,” Harry replies.

Zayn stares at the clock. He unfortunately has a few hours left into his shift, and he thought he’d get some work done, but then Harry showed up, and they’ve been talking for hours in between work, and Zayn’s copy of the latest articles for his section that need to be edited have been abandoned.

Harry’s phone goes off with a loud chirp, and he scowls before digging it from his pockets.

“It’s Liam,” Harry mumbles. His scowl deepens a second later. “Apparently I have some appearance to make. Bullshit.”

“Sucks to be famous, dude,” Zayn quips as he moves towards the register as a customer walks in.

“Dammit,” Harry groans and smacks his head down when Zayn returns.

“Can’t be that bad,” Zayn says.

“Just a club appearance,” Harry mutters. “Don’t even like clubs all that much.”

“Good luck.”

Harry’s head whips up and he grins. “Come with me?”

Zayn stops wiping the counter he has just begun cleaning. “Excuse me?”

“Come with me tonight,” Harry repeats excitedly.

Zayn barks out a laugh. “No way.”

“Please,” Harry whines. Zayn can’t believe the man is almost thirty most days.

“Not my scene.”

“We’ll drop in and then leave. It’ll be quick. I promise,” Harry continues, and he grabs Zayn’s arm, curling his fingers around Zayn’s bony wrist.

“Harry,” Zayn sighs.

“Just do it,” Harry whines again.

“Fine,” Zayn mumbles, and Harry grins even wider.

“Perfect. It’s a date,” he says with a wink.

“It is not,” Zayn stutters out. “Absolutely not.”

“Absolutely yes,” Harry sings. “I’ll have Ronnie pick you up at ten. Be ready. See you tonight, Pretty Boy.”

“I hate you,” Zayn yells at Harry’s retreating back.

Harry doesn’t answer and waves as he exits.

Zayn is not going. Not to a club. Not with Harry. Not on a date. He’s not.

---

@notsomrbrightside How do clubs still exist?

---
Harry is halfway to drunk by the time Zayn is dropped off at the club.

It’s close to eleven as Zayn is lead towards the VIP section at the very front of the building on the second floor. The security guard lets him through, and he finds a bored looking Harry sipping on a drink. When he spots Zayn he stands up with a grin.

“Zayn,” he exclaims. “You made it.”

“Why is one of us always drunk when the other is sober?” Zayn shouts over the music as he makes his way towards Harry.

Harry laughs and hands Zayn his drink. “Dunno. Drink up.”

He takes a sip and blanches. “What the fuck is this?” Zayn asks. Harry shrugs and Zayn sighs. He counts to three and downs the rest of the glass.

“That’s it!” Harry shouts in his ear before passing him another glass of the same thing. “Drink, drink.”

Zayn flinches as he takes another sip. He looks over at Harry who is in the middle of throwing back his drink. Zayn sets his glass down on the counter. He’s not looking to get drunk tonight. He doesn’t really even know what he’s doing here with Harry in a club of all places. He squirms in his seat when he feels eyes on him on the other side of VIP.

“You okay?” Harry whispers in his ear after a few minutes. His voice slurs and his words come out wet, but Zayn just nods and pats his thigh.

“I’m fine.”

“We can go,” Harry says as he stands up. He picks up the bottle with little liquor left on the table, downs it, smacks it back onto the table, and reaches for Zayn’s hand. “C’mon.”

“But I just got here,” Zayn shouts. He presses himself close to Harry’s back as the older man starts dragging him towards the exit. Immediately they’re surrounded by Harry’s security.

“This place is lame anyway,” Harry replies. “And hot. So fucking hot,” he whines, reaching with one hand to unbutton another button on his shirt.

Zayn stays close to Harry and ignores the shouts thrown their way. He can feel tugging on his arm and back, but it’s gone as soon as they step outside. Harry lets go and slides into the car, and Zayn follows.

“Fuck,” Harry groans throwing his head back. “It’s so hot.”

“I think you’re just drunk,” Zayn laughs. He smiles when Harry sticks his tongue out at him.

“I think it’s all this hair,” Harry whines picking at his hair.

He takes the tie off his wrist and tries to hairband it up but keeps struggling as the car starts. Zayn sighs and scoots closer.

“Gimme that,” he says taking the hairband off of Harry’s fingers.

Harry turns for him, and Zayn scoops up Harry’s hair until he has it neatly tied up in a bun that exposes the long, clean span of Harry’s neck. He bites his lips and scoots back into his seat.

“Thanks,” Harry whispers flashing him a small smile.

Zayn thinks he looks beautiful. His smile is bright along with his eyes, and there’s a curve to Harry’s lips that Zayn just wants to trace with his fingers first before following it with his lips, and he really wants to smack himself in that moment for being so attracted to Harry. He scratches the side of his cheek and turns to look out the window. To focus on something else. Anything else.

It doesn’t take long to reach Harry’s apartment, and Ronnie helps Zayn with Harry until they reach the elevator. He pats Zayn’s shoulder before leaving him alone with the drunk rockstar, and then it’s up to Zayn to help Harry up to his apartment.

The elevator ride seems to long. Harry keeps sending him looks from the other side of the lift, and Zayn keeps avoiding them. He knows what they mean. He just doesn’t want to give into them. He’s more than glad when the elevator finally reaches Harry’s apartment and opens up into front entrance.

With Harry’s long limbs and drunk status, Zayn stumbles as he helps Harry navigate his apartment in the dark. Harry’s warm whispers against his neck and his fingers biting into Zayn’s hip don’t help. He reminds himself to take deep breathes and to ignore the hot swoop in his belly and the flush in his cheeks. It takes a few minutes, a handful of trips because of Harry’s hideous antique carpets all over the place, and then Zayn’s pulling Harry towards his large bed.

He exhales once he pushes Harry forward and the older man lands on the bed. Drunk, he’s slower than usual as he turns onto his back and sits up on his elbows to look up at Zayn.

Zayn’s aware, has been aware, of how beautiful Harry Styles is, but looking down at Harry now sends a punch to his gut. He inhales sharply as he finds Harry staring up at him, eyes low and hooded and dark. His hair is now out of the bun Zayn helped him with in the car, and it hangs down his shoulders, the tips touching his collar bone. Zayn follows Harry’s tongue as it peeks out to lick at his lips, and he bites his own in reaction.

“Come here,” Harry rasps out, and Zayn takes a step forward.

Harry’s shirt, which was already dangerously unbuttoned to his sternum, no longer is tucked into his jeans, and it falls over his sides, exposing the expanse of his chest and his nipples, his tattoos gleaming against the shine of his skin.

There’s something hot and sharp forming in Zayn as Harry’s hands travel down his chest to rest at the sides of his hips and his legs splay open wide and bent at the knee. When Zayn takes another step, his breathing stutters from surprise as Harry’s leg suddenly snaps up and his boot is pushing against Zayn’s chest. Stop.

Zayn almost forgot about this Harry. He’s been so preoccupied with the other Harry. The one that wakes up early to cook Charlotte pancakes, pretends to be a vet for Arthur, pays for his sister’s college, and is paying for Liam’s dream wedding Harry. Zayn shouldn’t have though. There were always smirks and challenging looks sprinkled in between the niceties these past few weeks. The ones that reminded him of the Harry he first met and started this whole project. The sly, alluring Harry with a wicked mouth and even worse tongue that has a penchant for dirty words.

He should be turned off by this. By having Harry’s shoe pressed against chest in some warning, he thinks, but the action along with the smirk that’s gracing Harry’s lips have the fluttering beneath is ribs worsening. He doesn’t know what to do, though, and just as he is about to take a step back, Harry pushes down on Zayn’s chest and flicks his eyes to the zipper.

Oh.

Zayn unzips the boot and tosses it to the side before rolling down Harry’s sock and throwing it the same direction. He finds himself following the instep of Harry’s foot with the tip of his finger before he can stop himself, and he drops Harry’s foot fast when he hears a small gasp from above him. When his eyes flick up to Harry he finds the man staring down at him with even darker eyes. Zayn can only tell how affected he is by the stuttering of his breath and the light flush crawling up his chest. He moves to take a step back again, but then Harry brings up his other foot.

And presses down, hard on Zayn’s stomach. Zayn looks down and follows the tip of the boot as it slides down until it’s pressing against his crotch with a significant pressure. He looks up to see Harry watching him carefully, the pressure increasing the longer Zayn just stands there.

Zayn removes the shoe and sock again, this time more slowly in order to give him some time to regain his breathe, and once he’s finished, Harry sits up. He’s on the edge of the bed, his bare toes pressing into the carpet a sharp contrast against Zayn’s dirty boots. Harry’s half dressed, looking throughly mussed up, and Zayn knows it’s time to go, because something is about to happen, and it’s either stay and fuck himself over even more or leave and hope Harry doesn’t get into one of his moods tomorrow.

There’s a foot of space between them now that his legs aren’t up anymore, and Harry seems to realize this, because he looks up at Zayn and nods at him.

“Come here.”

“I think I should actually go,” Zayn says taking a step back. He swallows when Harry tilts his head at him.

“Why would you do that when I finally decided it was a good time to kiss you?” Harry asks.

Zayn chokes out a laugh. “It’s not a good time. This time you’re drunk.”

Harry shrugs and leans back onto his elbows again. “I don’t mind.” He looks over at the space beside him then at Zayn. “You wouldn’t be taking advantage of me.”

“We have horrible timing,” Zayn groans shaking his head as Harry unbuttons his jeans. “Harry. Stop.”

“I can’t really take all this sexual tension anymore, Zayn, really,” Harry goes on after ignoring Zayn. “I haven’t gotten off with someone in ages. And I want to get off with you.”

Zayn groans again. “Rain check?”

“I’ve had to use only my hands, you know?” Harry adds. He gives up on trying to shrug his jeans past his thighs. He leaves them stuck there. “Not the same thing, okay.”

“I’m going to leave you now,” Zayn says taking another step.

Harry narrows his eyes. “Don’t you dare leave me hanging.”

“Like you left me last time?” Zayn quips with a smirk. “See you tomorrow.”

“Zayn,” Harry warns, but he doesn’t make a move to get up.

“Night,” Zayn says before completely stepping out of the room and shutting it. He presses his face against the door and tries to calm his breath. His jeans are straining and the image of Harry on his bed half naked is burning behind his eyes.

He groans and starts to make his way downstairs.

It’s the couch for him tonight.

---

For the second time in his life Zayn is woken up by Charlotte jumping onto his chest.

“Zayn! You’re here!”

His eyes slowly open this time. He groans and catches Charlotte before she can fall off.

“It’s too early, hmm?”

“Mommy wants to see Uncle Harry.”

Zayn’s eyes fly open then. “Mommy?”

“Good morning.” A blonde woman steps out from behind the couch and smiles hesitantly at him.

“Good morning,” Zayn replies politely. He sits up and Charlotte adjusts herself so she’s sitting beside Zayn now. “You must be Gemma.”

“And you must be Zayn,” she adds. She nods at Charlotte. “Heard lots about you from her.”

“He’s my best friend, mom,” Charlotte says with a large exhale. “I told you.”

“I must have forgotten,” Gemma says shaking her head. “Sorry, Lot.”

“It’s okay, Mommy,” Charlotte sighs. “I guess.”

Zayn laughs and pats her head.

“Just like Harry this one,” Gemma goes on.

“I can see that.”

“Where is he?” Gemma asks looking around. “Saw the pics from last night. Seems like you two had fun.”

“Oh. Oh, no,” Zayn quickly says. “We. Um. No.”

“No?” she repeats with a smirk. It’s too similar to Harry’s. “You’re pretty. Smart too from what these two tell me. Just his type.”

“He is, isn’t he?”

Harry steps into the lounge and Charlotte runs to him. He catches her and lifts her onto his hip to press a kiss to her nose.

“Morning.”

“Your niece wanted to see you face this morning,” Gemma says. “Didn’t know you had a guest over.”

“It’s just Zayn,” Harry replies. He sends a warm smile towards Zayn. “Morning, Pretty Boy.”

Zayn blushes and tucks a decorative pillow to his chest. He clears his throat a second later and stands up.

“I think I should go home.” Harry sends him a confused look. “Just wanted to make sure you were okay this morning.”

Harry laughs and turns to Gemma. “Isn’t he cute?”

Gemma rolls her eyes.

“I’m hungry,” Charlotte whines. She tugs on Harry’s hair before her mother scolds her.

“You’re always hungry, little miss,” Harry growls. He pretends to bite Charlotte’s face, and she squeals and tries to get away. Gemma grabs her and sets her down, and she makes her way back to the couch and takes a seat.

“Let’s go grab some brunch,” Harry says with a grin. “C’mon Zayn. Join us.”

“Yeah!” Charlotte chirps beside him.

“Oh. I’m good. I promise. I have an essay to start on. Plus a shift at the cafe.”

Harry rolls his eyes. “You can start it later. Call in.”

Zayn shakes his head. “I can’t. Really—”

“Zayn,” Harry interrupts. “Please.”

“Please,” Charlotte mimics beside him.

“Really. I can’t—”

“Please,” Harry says louder, and Charlotte giggles and joins him until they’re both harmonizing, and Zayn can’t take it anymore.

“Fine,” he sighs throwing his hands up. “Let me ask Niall to cover for me.”

Harry sends him a smirk before he turns back to Gemma. “Brunch it is.”

---

Brunch it at some small hole-in-the-wall near Harry’s apartment.

Harry doesn’t look drunk, and the bit of swelling he has under his eyes are covered by a large pair of sunglasses courtesy of Gemma. Once they reach the place, Zayn is tasked with helping Charlotte find her way to the bathroom while Gemma and Harry order and find a table.

He waits for the girl outside the restrooms, and when she emerges she grins at him and shows him her hands which are clean and dry.

“Good job,” he comments and grabs her hand to lead her back to the table.

As they near the table, he catches the last bit of Gemma and Harry’s conversation and slows himself down.

“Transferred the money into your account for next month’s payment. You should be good,” Harry says.

“Told you I could have just taken out loans like every other student,” Gemma argues half-heartedly, and then whines when Harry slaps her arm.

“Told you I got you,” Harry murmurs.

“Thanks H,” Gemma sighs with a smile. “Really. Everything you do for us—”

“It’s my job to take care of you two.”

“It should have been Matt’s.”

“Well he’s in rehab, isn’t he?” Harry scoffs.

The conversation ends when Charlotte pulls away from Zayn’s grip and runs to the table. Zayn follows and takes a seat next to Harry who grins over at him. He feels his chair scoot closer to Harry a moment later, and when he looks down he sees Harry’s foot curved around his chair’s front leg.

“You left me last night.”

“You left me the other night,” Zayn retorts/

“Didn’t wake up to you in my bed,” Harry whispers. “Was a shame.”

Zayn feels his cheeks warm up. He looks up at Gemma to see her occupied with trying to help Charlotte color her menu.

“Hmm, maybe next time I wake up in the mood to wake you up to a blow job you’ll be there,” Harry continues.

“Maybe,” Zayn adds. Harry grins at him before leaning in closer.

“Thanks for last night,” he mumbles before brushing his lips lightly against Zayn’s cheek. “Just wait until we’re finally alone. I’m tired of the chase. I can’t wait to get my hands on you. And my lips. And maybe my dick—”

“You two can stop now. I can hear everything,” Gemma interrupts loudly. She flashes a glare at Harry and throws her napkin at him.

Harry laughs, his breaths hitting Zayn’s skin in warm bursts, before he pulls away to throw a piece of bread at his sister.

---

Zayn’s head hits the wall of the elevator as soon as the doors shut.

Harry cages him in with his arms on either side of him and leans forward.

“Do you think I could kiss you now?” he asks as he presses his knee into Zayn’s thigh.

Zayn swallows and looks up at the camera in the lift. “Can we wait until we’re in your apartment?”

Harry’s eyes follow and he shrugs at the camera. “I don’t care.”

“I do,” Zayn argues, narrowing his eyes.

“Don’t want to be seen with me?” Harry challenges him.

Zayn rolls his eyes and pushes at Harry’s chest. “Not like that.”

“Don’t try to protect me if that’s what you’re thinking,” Harry says. “Unless you’re trying to protect yourself.”

“I’m not trying to do anything,” Zayn exclaims. “I just want to wait until we’re alone. Why are you arguing with me?”

Harry’s in one of this moods. Ready to argue. Ready to fight. Arguing for argument’s sake.

Harry pulls away and is the first one to step off the lift when it stops. Zayn sighs and follows.

“Harry, wait,” he says catching his arm.

Harry turns to him with an eyebrow raised. Moody little shit, Zayn thinks. He’s over fighting with himself though. He wants Harry Styles.

“You’re so ridiculous,” Zayn states before pulling Harry’s face towards his and kissing him.

Harry responds eagerly and grabs Zayn’s face and groans into his mouth. Zayn’s face burns and he digs his toes into his shoes as presses himself into Harry’s chest. Kissing Harry causes a deep swoop in his lower belly, and he stumbles when his chest stutters for breath.

Harry pulls away first. “Thought you were never gonna kiss me,” he mumbles.

“Me too,” Zayn agrees with a smile before he leans forward again after a deep breath and kisses Harry again.

Harry pulls Zayn against him and drags one of his hand down Zayn’s back until it rests just above Zayn’s ass. Harry’s mouth is hot and wet, and when Zayn opens his to let Harry’s tongue in, he’s surprised with a quick bite to his lip from Harry.

“Can I fuck you?” Harry breathes when he pulls away from Zayn a few minutes later. Zayn’s shirt is fisted in his hands, and he can feel the bulge of his jeans brush Harry’s, and it’s all too much for him.

“Yeah, yeah,” Zayn murmurs trying to pull Harry back to his lips, but Harry pulls away and starts walking towards his stairs.

“Should we fuck nice and slow in my bed or should I just take you here downstairs, hard, on the couch?” Harry asks. He throws a smirk at Zayn when he sees Zayn flip him off. “I’m indecisive.”

“Harry,” Zayn growls.

Harry laughs before disappearing up his stairs. Zayn stumbles upstairs after him with clammy hands and a racing pulse.

Harry’s in the process of taking off his belt when Zayn walks into his bedroom.

“Get on the bed,” Harry tells him without looking up.

Zayn nods and goes to sit down at the very edge of the bed.

Harry drops his belt beside Zayn and then crouches down. He smiles up at Zayn, rousing those pesky butterflies caught beneath Zayn’s ribs, and then bends down. He lifts Zayn’s ankles and removes his shoes, slips his socks off, and then brushes his fingers across the tops of his feet before looking up at him.

“I want to make this good for you,” Harry tells him. He picks up on foot, kisses the arch and then leans up to unbutton Zayn’s jeans.

Zayn’s breath is caught in his throat as Harry slides his jeans down his thighs, his fingers teasing the inside of Zayn’s thighs, and he arches into the touch and bites down on his lip when Harry places a kiss right below the hem of his boxers.

“You’re going to have to give me something here,” Harry mumbles into Zayn’s skin before lifting his face up and looking at him serious. His eyes are wide and bright and his lips are shiny and pouty and Zayn’s a second away from pulling him up towards him so he could kiss him.

“What?” Zayn says, and Harry’s eyebrows furrow as he yanks the rest of Zayn’s jeans off and tosses them somewhere behind him.

“Reactions. Words. Groans. Cursing. Something, Zayn,” he says as he dips his fingers into Zayn’s boxers. “Tell me what you like. Do you like it when I do this?” he asks right before brushing his nail across the head of Zayn’s dick.

Zayn gasps and reaches for Harry’s shoulder to hold onto. Harry smirks up at him and nods to himself before pulling off Zayn’s boxers and standing up. If Zayn wasn’t so turned on he would smack the smirk right off Harry’s face. Egotistical bastard.

“Lay back on the bed,” Harry says before ripping his own shirt off.

Zayn scoots back until his back hits the stack of pillows. Harry follows, knees on either side of Zayn, and he looks down at Zayn before rearranging the pillows and pushing Zayn’s head down to rest against them. He looks down again, his eyes starting from the top of Zayn’s head all the way down to his clenched toes, before flashing a proud smile at Zayn.

“You look so good, fuck,” Harry groans. He leans over Zayn and brushes his lips against Zayn’s. Zayn tries to deepen the kiss, but Harry turns his head and starts kissing down Zayn’s chin and across his jawline, and Zayn thinks he’s going to come before Harry is even inside him. He’s half embarrassed with himself and half amazed with Harry/

“Next time—?”

“Next time?” Zayn interrupts with a laugh.

Harry nips him for interrupting before running his tongue over the spot. “Yes. Next time. I want to tie you up.” He takes Zayn’s wrists in one hand and presses them up against the headboard. “Right here. And next time i’ll ride you. Fuck you slowly until you fucking come so hard.”

Zayn groans and tries to pry his hands from Harry’s grip, but Harry holds on and tightens his grip.

“You’re such a fucking tease,” Zayn hisses at Harry.

“And you really like. Don’t you?” Harry replies with a grin. Zayn blushes, and Harry looks ecstatic. Zayn wants to hit himself. “This is great.”

“Harry,” Zayn growls. He’s so turned on, and this is taking forever. He’s about to punch Harry in the face if he takes any longer.

“Pretty Boy,” Harry sings then giggles as he shifts until his nose is pressed against Zayn’s. “You continue to surprise me. I knew we’d be so good together.”

“I’m going to kick you,” Zayn warns Harry. Harry pecks him and lets go of Zayn’s hands.

“So eager,” Harry hums as he makes his way down to Zayn’s hips.

“Harry,” Zayn whines when Harry brushes his lips against pubic bone but then lifts his head up.

“Don’t worry. I’ve got you,” Harry murmurs. He presses his thumbs into Zayn’s hip bone and leans forward to mouth at Zayn’s dick.

The breath Zayn takes in rattles him. This is what he wants. He’s sure of it, but he can still feel small beats of nervousness. He takes in another breath, pushes away the worries, and tries to clear his mind from the haze it’s beginning to fall into. He wants to be here for this. Wants to remember this.

When he looks down it’s to the image of Harry’s head of curls tucked between his thighs, and Zayn tucks the picture away in his head. It might just be his favorite. He tries to voice what he’s seeing, but his mouth shuts when Harry takes him into his mouth and sucks.

“Fuck,” Zayn gasps and reaches for Harry’s hair. He tugs too hard and tries to pull away but Harry clamps one hand down on top of Zayn’s, keeping his hand purchased there. He tugs on Zayn’s hand, pulling his own hair, and when Zayn hears Harry’s moan vibrate on him he almost loses it.

Zayn feels another punch of air escape him when Harry looks up at him, his mouth full, lips wet and swollen. There is pride, excitement, and lust in his eyes, but Zayn can see the tiny bit of hesitance there too, so he rolls his hips just a little bit and nods his head, moaning, to let Harry know he’s doing every right. Everything perfect. Harry winks at him and tucks his head back down.

Harry pulls off just when Zayn thinks he’s almost there. He pulls off, licks his lips, and then moves off the bed. Zayn’s just about to smack him for leaving when he returns with lube and a condom. He goes to remove his jeans, but Zayn sits up and scoots down until he’s back at the edge of the bed with Harry standing in front of him.

He unbuttons Harry’s jeans and pulls them down. When he realizes Harry isn’t wearing any underwear he laughs, leaning forward to boldly nip Harry’s hip. Harry brushes a hand over Zayn’s hair, and when he looks up he’s almost at a lost for words.

“Ready?” Harry asks, brushing a hand down Zayn’s face until he wraps it around his neck, and Zayn nods.

He scoots back onto the bed as Harry steps out of his jeans. He spends a minute too long staring at Zayn from the foot of the bed, and when Zayn scowls Harry smirks and finally moves.

“I promise this’ll be good,” Harry murmurs when he’s leaning over Zayn. “Promise.”

“Okay,” Zayn says, and Harry grins.

“Trust me?”

“Yes.”

“Okay,” Harry breathes. Then he moves down, pushes Zayn’s legs apart, and brings his knees up.

He begins to nip at Zayn’s rim and holds down Zayn’s leg to keep them pried apart. He’s slow, too slow, Zayn thinks. He can feel the pressure in his belly building again and the familiar gasping heat in his chest, but it’s not building fast enough. Harry surprises him though and presses a cool finger against Zayn’s rim and pushes his way in.

“You’re really tight,” Harry chokes out.

“It’s been a while,” Zayn admits. He’s feeling a bit embarrassed, but Harry brushes his lips where his finger is, and it’s so soft and tender, unlike Harry at the moment, Zayn thinks Harry doesn’t really mind.

Harry keeps working his fingers in until he’s three fingers deep and Zayn’s ready to let go again.

“I’m ready,” Zayn breathes. “C’mon, c’mon. Hurry.”

Harry laughs and pull his fingers out, leaving Zayn feeling empty, but then he’s hovering over Zayn again, his face flushed but still beautiful.

He leans down to push his lips against Zayn’s just as he pushes himself into Zayn, and when Zayn gasps, Harry swallows it, one hand still guiding himself in, and the other caressing Zayn’s side in comfort.

Zayn feels too full and overwhelmed, but Harry is right there whispering in his ear, brushing his side, and he waits until Zayn nods his head before he thrusts hard stealing a breath from Zayn.

“You look so hot,” Harry pants. He noses Zayn’s throat before lifting his head to drag his lips across Zayn’s jaw. “You’re so hot.”

Zayn tries to laugh but it comes out strangled. He puts his energy in trying to keep up with Harry.

“Harder,” Zayn mumbles, and Harry nods and moves his hands to Zayn’s hips, pins them down, and thrusts hard enough to push Zayn into the mattress.

Zayn watches Harry who keeps trying to look cool and collected, but he can tell from the hard rise and fall of Harry’s breath that he’s close. His breath gets shaky and his jaw tightens with tension, so Zayn starts coaching him, whispering to him how good he looks, how good he feels, to go harder, rougher, to fuck> him.

“Fuck, fuck, fuck,” Harry groans as he hangs his head. Zayn mouths the side of Harry’s face, and Harry turns his head and captures Zayn’s lips in his.

Zayn closes his eyes when he feels his stomach drop and then a sudden rush of sensation runs up and down his body until he’s finally letting go.

When he finally collects himself and opens his eyes he sees Harry above him with a hand on himself. Zayn sits up and places his hand over Harry’s and starts to talk him through it while mouthing at his nipples. Harry comes across Zayn’s chest with a loud groan.

“Thanks,” Zayn says sarcastically, and Harry laughs as he opens his eyes.

He grabs some of the sheets and wipes Zayn’s chest before throwing them off the bed. He falls back onto the bed and tugs at Zayn’s thigh.

“C’mere.”

Zayn looks down at Harry who looks beautiful post sex. He has a slight shine to his skin and there’s a large smile on his face, and Zayn just wants to bury his face into his chest and sleep, but he doesn’t know where this is going, what they are, how’s supposed to act, so he stays sitting upright.

“Zayn,” Harry whines.

“I, um, I have some work to do,” Zayn mumbles.

Harry opens his eyes and his smile drops a little. “Are you seriously leaving me right now?”

Zayn feels his cheeks warm up, and he grabs a pillow beside him and covers his lap. He barely feels embarrassed and unsure of himself. He hates this feeling and this unfamiliar territory.

“I, I—I don’t know what you want,” Zayn says. “What is this now?”

Harry looks at him for a beat too long. He then tugs hard on Zayn’s wrist and pulls him down.

“This is just us enjoying ourselves,” Harry answers. “It’s just us playing it by ear right now.”

Zayn’s never done this. Never just went into a relationship, or whatever Harry and him are, not knowing where he stands. But he likes Harry, is attracted to him on an insane level, so he nods and allows Harry to tuck his body against his.

“Is that okay?” Harry murmurs as he smoothes his fingers across Zayn’s back.

Zayn smiles and closes his eyes.

“Yeah, it’s okay.”

---

Excerpt from Zayn’s notepad:

Harry Styles is still an ass, but there’s something else there. It’s intriguing and frustrating at the same time. I can’t tell if he’s still making up the whole egotistical rockstar act or if it’s really him. It’s hot and annoying either way.

---

Zayn’s high on life.

His editor at the newspaper has been commending him for running a great section. His blog has been getting more and more hits. His grades haven’t dropped. And his relationship with Harry is going amazing.

Zayn’s back hits the coffee table and he slides down it and rests the back of his head against it.

“Fuck. You’re amazing,” Harry pants above him. He’s fully sated and lying against the back of the couch.

Zayn smiles and closes his eyes.

Sex with Harry is thrilling and satisfying. It’s unexpected but comfortable and familiar. It’s something Zayn’s never experienced before.

Zayn stands up and goes to sit beside Harry on the couch, but Harry pulls him into his lap instead.

“You’ve got something right there,” Harry chuckles.

Zayn blushes and goes to wipe his mouth, but Harry beats him to it. He uses his thumb to wipe the corner of Zayn’s mouth and brings it to Zayn’s lips and slips his thumb into Zayn’s mouth. When Zayn goes along with Harry and licks his thumb clean Harry’s eyes brighten.

“You’re really something,” he mumbles before leaning in to kiss Zayn.

Zayn pulls away before Harry can deepen the kiss. He ignores Harry’s whine and stands up.

“Where’re you going?”

Zayn cracks his neck to remove the stiffness and ignores the look Harry throws his way. “You still have those questions to complete.”

“We’ll do them later.”

Zayn sighs and touches the bridge of his nose. He’s gotten used to Harry trying to put off working on the article. It’s starting to annoy him especially with Liam and Harry’s team starting to hound him for any results. All he has is his notepad full of observations and thoughts, and he can’t show anyone that. Not with his feelings about Harry written in there amongst every thought and emotion recorded along the way.

“Harry. C’mon, let me do my job,” Zayn says and goes to grab his backpack from the ground.

“So all this is is a job to you, then?” Harry quips up with a cut to his voice.

Zayn turns around to see Harry buttoning his jeans and sitting up. He’s looking at Zayn with a hard look, and Zayn groans internally and drops his backpack. “Harry. It’s not like that.”

“You’re always trying to push questions on me and pull statements, and it’s always killing the mood,” Harry continues on.

Zayn feels a rush of blood to his cheeks. Out of embarrassment. Out of awkwardness for the situation. For no reason, maybe. Just because he doesn’t know what to do in this situation. He just wants to do his job, but he also doesn’t want to upset Harry.

“It’s not like that,” he replies moving back towards Harry.

“Why can’t we just enjoy each other without work getting in the way?” Harry spits out work like it’s poison in his mouth, and Zayn resists the urge to roll his eyes. Instead, he goes to sit back down in Harry’s lap, knees on either side, and Harry naturally wraps one arm around his lower back and places his other hand on Zayn’s upper thigh.

Zayn thinks they have been enjoying themselves. Nothing but enjoying. It’s been late nights at the studio sharing kisses and touches in between lengthy conversations about music, life, and Harry’s growing procrastination to write new music. It’s been late lunches in cafes tucked away from the general public going over Zayn’s classes and the new article he’s working on and the new band he’s discovered. And, it’s been early mornings being woken up by whispers of want and need and slow, intimate thrusts. If Zayn knew any better, enjoying each other is all they’ve been doing.

Which is why Liam asked him to meet up the other day and remind him the reason they contacted him in the first place.

“Look. It’s obvious that there’s something going on between Harry and you. All I’m gonna say is to be careful. Harry is the most amazing guy. He is. But he’s human. He has his own issues, and one of them is trust. He’s also stubborn. I think you’re aware of that by now. What he wants he gets. Vice versa. He’ll make sure things go is way. He’s difficult. I thought you knew what you were getting into, but maybe you don’t.”

“What’re you trying to say, Liam?”

“Just to be careful. Also, I think it’s highly inappropriate for you two to be doing anything before this article is even posted. So keep a low profile. We don’t want this to go out of hand. Don’t mess with him either. If this some sort of ploy to get to him—”

“How could you think so little of me?”

“I’m just being careful. Harry’s my best friend. He comes first.”

“I know what I’m doing.”

Zayn thought he knew what he was doing.

Liam is right, though. Harry’s difficult. Zayn likes him, he really does, but they still butt heads. There’s still arguments, especially when it comes to Zayn trying to pry answers from Harry. He’s aware by now Harry doesn’t want to do this interview. Never wanted to. He’s stalling. Distracting Zayn whenever he brings up the interview.

“I promise to do it some other time,” Harry whispers. He brushes his lips softly against Zayn’s jaw and makes his way up to his ear. “Tomorrow. Promise, baby.”

“Charlotte and you have a date to the aquarium tomorrow,” Zayn reminds him. He arches his neck as Harry makes his way back down, nipping skin here and there.

“Come with us,” Harry suggest. He pulls away and grabs Zayn’s jaw between his fingers. “You, me, and Charlotte. Like always. It’ll be fun.”

Zayn shakes his head. “I’ve got to edit my section. It’s due tomorrow night.”

“Do it after.”

“Can’t. Busy.”

Harry arches an eyebrow and leans forward. “Busy with what?”

Zayn huffs out a laugh when he notices the slight annoyance in Harry’s eyes. “A show. Friend of mine. Can’t miss it.”

Harry nods before smiling. “I’ll come along then.”

“It’s a bigger show. You’ll be recognized.”

“I promise I won’t be.”

Zayn rolls his eyes. “You can’t promise me that.”

“No, but I can try.”

Zayn sits back on Harry’s lap and crosses his arms. “Only if you promise to answer some questions before the show.”

“You won’t let me come otherwise?” Harry scoffs. He runs his fingers down Zayn’s side to get a reaction, but Zayn bites his lips and holds it in. He’s not going to fall for it. Not yet.

When Zayn doesn’t back down Harry sighs loudly.

“Fine, fine. You win.”

Zayn grins and grabs Harry’s face to bring him in for a kiss.

---
Excerpt from Zayn’s notepad:

There’s something going on here that I should stop before it goes any further. But I don’t want to. I don’t think I can.

---
@RIFT Can’t wait for @LASTCALL tonight! Gonna be a sick show. See you guys there.

---

Harry doesn’t answer any of Zayn’s questions the next day.

It’s half Harry’s fault and half Zayn’s. He’s running late after class since one of his professors pulled him aside to talk postgrad goals. It makes Zayn nervous to think about the future, so he’s left feeling uneasy once that conversation is over. After that he rushes to the newsroom to layout the final edits of the articles in his section to submit it to the head editor. By the time he’s able to catch the train back to his apartment it’s time to head to the venue.

Harry’s been texting him periodically throughout the day asking him to meet up, for lunch, if he wants a ride to the venue. Zayn declines all of them. He hinted at the interview and Harry brushed him off, so Zayn started ignoring his texts no matter how suggestive they became.

He reaches the venue an hour before the show, pays his cover fee since his ticket fee is waived, and slips inside. The venue is empty except for workers and crew members, but he knows this place well enough, and he knows the blonde making her way towards him.

“Little Z,” Perrie greets and brings him in for a hug.

“Pez,” he laughs and returns her hug.

“The girls are waiting in the back. Let’s do this,” she says as she loops an arm through his and leads him to their changing room.

Zayn rolls his eyes. Meg and her band have interviewed for him before back when the only readers were his and his sister’s friends. She nice enough to do it again for Zayn though. He’s glad to give her exposure in return, especially since her music deserves all the recognition it can get.

The interview goes well, and jots down all the answers in his notepad. Things are easy between Perrie, him, and her bandmates. They’re all well acquainted, and there’s not much he doesn’t know about Perrie’s band and music. They quickly switch to him, and he tells them how his family is doing, how his sister’s dissertation is coming along. His phone keeps going off the entire time, but he ignores it.

“Where’s Mr. Hotshot then?” Perrie asks throwing a grape at him and then another into her mouth. “Thought you’d bring him. Been reading some interesting stuff ‘bout you two.”

Zayn turns away from her and picks the grape off his lap and puts it in his mouth to avoid answering her.

She giggles and the moves closer to him. “What’s this then? There’s something actually going on here?”

“It’s nothing,” he murmurs.

She gives him a knowing look then looks over at the roadie that walked in a few minutes earlier. “Why’s he asking to come backstage then?”

Zayn whips his head towards her and scowls when he sees her grinning. “What?”

Perrie nods her head at the door. “He’s waiting outside apparently. Wants to come in.”
Zayn blushes. “You don’t have to let him in. Just tell him to go away.”

Perrie cocks her head at him. “You sure you want that?”

He does, but he doesn’t.

She stares at him for a moment before nodding at the roadie. He opens the door and in walks Harry, long limbed, cock first. He spots Zayn on the coach, flashes a toothy grin his way, then switches his gaze to Perrie who stands to greet him.

“Harry Styles, a pleasure,” she says and extends her hand.

“Pleasure is mine,” Harry replies and pulls her in to press a polite kiss to her cheek.

“Didn’t think you’d know about little us,” Perrie says. There’s a slight tilt to her voice, and Zayn hides the smirk wanting to make its way onto his lips. His sister and Perrie are the same. It’s comforting.

Harry grins and shrugs. “Might of heard of you guys from a little birdie. Might’ve read about you somewhere.” He shoots a quick glance at Zayn and winks. Zayn rolls his eyes.

“Little birdie,” Perrie repeats. “I just call him Zayn.”

“Do you?” Harry asks. It comes out too strong, and Zayn throws a look Harry’s way. He doesn’t know where this ‘me v.s. you’ act is coming from. It’s unusual, but knowing Harry, not unpredictable.

Perrie looks confused. “Yeah,” she says slowly. She looks over at her bandmates then takes a step towards Zayn who’s standing up now after feeling the tension in the room.

“I have to go to soundcheck now. But enjoy yourself out there, Mr. Styles,” Perrie says without looking at him. She turns to Zayn and pulls him in for a hug. “See you out there, Z.” She kisses his cheek and exits the room with her bandmates and crew, leaving the two alone.

“Thanks for answering my texts,” Harry says immediately.

“Is that why you showed up here and started acting all rude?” Zayn throws back. He’s not standing down. He’s in a mood to fight from the day he’s had. He doesn’t care if it’s with Harry.

“I wasn’t being rude,” Harry mumbles. He’s messing with the bowl of grapes the girls left. He picks up a handful and throws them in his mouth.

“You weren’t being too nice,” Zayn says.

“You two hook up before?” Harry asks after swallowing. He takes a step towards Zayn, one leg in front of the other with a swing to his hip that tells Zayn all he needs to know.

Zayn scoffs. “You are truly ridiculous.”

There’s a gleam to Harry’s eyes now. “It really bothered me that you didn’t answer my texts.”

“It really bothers me that you keep putting off the interview,” Zayn challenges.

The smirk that Harry had on his face drops. “I thought we talked about this, Zayn.”

“You agreed to it last night then brushed me off today when I brought it up.”

“You ignored my texts!”

Zayn scowls. “The texts asking to come over for sex? Is that what I am then?”

He’s feeling the heat in his face and the frustration in his bones, and he knows he should stop, that Harry probably didn’t just mean it as a sex call, but he can’t stop, and he gets some sort of sick satisfaction watching Harry’s smile twist into a scowl and his eyebrows furrow.

“You know it’s not like that. Am I just a way to get ahead then?” Harry throws back. “The most exclusive piece you’ll ever read by Zayn Malik. Going to give your readers an in depth paragraph on how I come?”

“Fuck you,” Zayn hisses. “It’s not like that.”

Harry doesn’t say anything. Just looks away, and Zayn takes a deep breath.

“Why are we fighting?” he asks.

“I don’t know,” Harry answers softly.

“I do. It’s because this interview is getting to me, and I’ve had a bad day. I’m sorry for ignoring your texts, but you made me angry when you brushed me off,” Zayn says. He’s going to be the bigger guy here. He knows how Harry is. Stubborn. He’s got to be the one to make the first step.

“I told you I’d do it later,” Harry says.

“Will you though?” Zayn challenges.

Harry takes a step towards Zayn and reaches for his hand. “I promised you I would. I’m not ready right now.” Zayn wants to ask him what that even means, but he doesn’t. He sighs instead and allows Harry to pull him into a hug.

“We good then?” Harry murmurs in his ear, lips brushing the side of his head a moment later. Zayn doesn’t answer. He just shuts his eyes.

---

“How are you then? Feels like it’s been forever since we’ve seen your face.”

Zayn’s huddled around a coffee cart that’s parked near Washington Square Park with Niall and Louis. The weather’s gotten cooler now that it’s fall, and the warmth from the coffee is welcomed, so he clutches it between both hands and takes slow sips, savoring the heat.

“Busy,” he answers.

It’s true. He’s been busy with school since things have geared up and midterms are due soon, and he’s picked up more shifts at the cafe since Christmas is coming up, and his spare time is spent in typing up posts for his blog and spending time with Harry.

“I miss you,” Niall mumbles into his coffee. He’s flushed from the wind, and Louis and Zayn move closer to him to keep him warm.

“Break is coming up,” Zayn tries to add in, but they both just send him unamused looks, so he sighs. “Sorry, guys. I’m horrible.”

“No. You’re just wasting all your free time with Harry,” Louis spits out.

“You’re the one who told me to fuck him,” Zayn scoffs. “And, I see you all the time, dumbass. We live together.”

Louis rolls his eyes. “To get rid of that weird sexual tension between you two. To not start whatever the fuck this thing is. Has he even taken you out on dates?”

“Of course,” Zayn replies. “We go out all the time.”

“But, like, in public, not hidden in hole-in-the-wall places. Not surrounded by others.”

“Louis, you know we can’t do that. Not yet,” Zayn answers. He shifts his eyes to watch some runners that are about to pass them by. It’s better than keeping up eye contact with Louis who is terrifying when he’s angry or annoyed.

“Is that what he tells you? When did you become okay with no labels? I thought solid relationships were everything to you,” Louis says.

“They are,” Zayn fires back. “We are a solid relationship. He just hasn’t asked me, like, officially.”

“Is he going to though? Never really pegged him to be monogamous.”

Zayn turns to glare at Louis now. “You don’t really know him now, do you?”

“And you do? All this time you guys have spent together, and you think you’ve got him all figured out. Tell me this: do you think he trusts you as much you trust him?”

Zayn doesn’t answer. He takes a sip of his coffee instead. The awkward tension between Louis and him makes him feel jittery, so he starts to tap his foot to do something in the silence that follows Louis.

“C’mon. Let’s not fight. We still on for tonight?” Niall asks. “I’ll even bring the beer this time.”

“Good. You owe us,” Zayn says with a smile. He hasn’t forgotten about the biweekly tradition he has with his best friends. Louis started it, and they get drunk and pick an awful movie on Nexflix to watch. Zayn or Niall usually cook. It’s one of Zayn’s favorite things to do.

“Are you going to even show up? Don’t you have something to do with Harry?” Louis says with a sniff.

Zayn rolls his eyes and throws an arm around his roommate who hesitates but then brings an arm around his waist. “Of course I’ll be there. Tonight. I’m down. No class or work tomorrow. We’ve got all night, boys.”

Louis smiles then and squeezes Zayn’s hip. “I’ll pick up pizza.”

“Great. See you boys then?” Zayn says as he looks at his watch. He’s going to interview a band he found last week. The lead singer goes to Fordham, so he just has to walk a few blocks to meet him up there.

“You better not flake!” Niall yells as he starts to walk away.

“I won’t!”

---

@RIFT check out the boys from @firestone! post up soon!

@harrystyles retweeted @RIFT

@notsomrbrighside cool weather, more cuddles?

@harrystyles favorited @notsomrbrightside

---

Excerpt from Zayn’s notepad:

I think I could love him.

---

“Hey Ronnie. Hot chocolate with nutmeg?”

Zayn hands Harry’s bodyguard his drink as he steps off the lift and Ronnie steps inside. Ronnie nods at him then leaves, and Zayn smiles and continues towards the kitchen where he knows Harry will be since it’s Tuesday, a day Charlotte is normally with Harry because Gemma has classes well into the night, and it’s close to her dinner time.

“But why are meatballs round?”

“I don’t know.”

“Who made them round? Do they have to be round?”

“You’ve got some fair questions there, little miss. Did you wash your hands? Dinner is almost ready.

Zayn steps into the kitchen and sees Charlotte running out of the room and Harry carrying a large pot of spaghetti towards his breakfast nook.

“Hey,” Zayn greets with a grin, and Harry’s face snaps up to flash him a similar grin back. It makes Zayn’s toes clench.

“Hey, babe. Dinner is ready. Hungry?”

“Starving.”

Harry nods and continues towards the table. “Can you grab a plate and fork?”

“Sure.” Zayn moves around the kitchen with familiarity, and when he looks up he sees Harry watching him with a fond smile.

He’s just placed down his plate and fork when Charlotte runs back into the room and launches herself at him with a squeal.

“Zayn! You’re here!” she giggles before kissing his cheek and letting go of him. She slides down and takes a seat, first on her knees then back down on her butt when Harry sends her a look.

“Spaghetti is my favorite,” she says as Harry places a good portion in her plate.

Zayn laughs and takes a seat beside her as Harry sits across from them. “Is everything your favorite?”

“No,” Charlotte scoffs through a mouthful. She swallows the food in her mouth and then points at her plate with her fork, “Spaghetti is.”

“No talking when you’re chewing,” Harry says before handing Zayn is plate and making his own.

“How was your interview?” Harry asks Zayn.

Zayn nods his head with his mouth full and waits until he’s done. “Good, good! They have a show coming up soon. Should be good.”

Harry smiles at him and then nudges his toe against Zayn’s ankle.

When dinner is over and Harry’s left to put Charlotte to bed Zayn pulls out his notepad to fill in his day.

He’s caught up in his writing when he feels a hand brush across the back of his shoulders and looks up to see Harry smiling down at him. He scoots to make space for Harry and tosses his notepad onto the coffee table in front of him.

“Feels like I haven’t seen you in days,” Harry comments as he throws his legs over one of Zayn’s. He brushes his nose against Zayn’s throat, and Zayn feels his cheeks up. It’s ridiculous how Harry can still make him feel like this after so many weeks.

“It’s been, like, a day,” Zayn laughs. “School’s been crazy.”

“Mmm, could have made time for me,” Harry says right before he nips Zayn’s collar.

“I couldn’t even make time for myself,” Zayn jokes, and Harry laughs, his breaths hitting Zayn’s collar before he pulls away to look at Zayn.

“Fair enough.”

“Saw your tweet,” Harry says, and he grins when Zayn blushes. Harry loves to see Zayn blush, and Zayn hates him for it. Only not really. “Definitely more cuddles.”

“Stop,” Zayn groans as he shuts his eyes.

“Probably more than cuddles,” Harry whispers as he presses his face against Zayn’s cheek. “Definitely more than just cuddling.”

Zayn inhales sharply when he feels Harry’s palm on his crotch and then takes in another sharp intake of breath when Harry’s fingers creep under his shirt and start unbuttoning his jeans. Zayn grabs Harry’s phone with his hands and pulls him in for a bruising kiss. Harry quickly slips his hands into Zayn’s jeans and tugs them down along with his underwear before wrapping a tight fist around him that has Zayn moaning into Harry’s mouth.

He almost comes when Harry runs the edge of his thumbnail across his slit. Instead, he bucks into Harry’s hands and grabs his shoulder for purchase when Harry increases his speed. Zayn pulls away to moan, but Harry captures his lips again to muffle the noise.

“Shh,” he breathes when he pulls away. “Lottie is sleeping.”

Zayn buries his face into Harry’s neck and pants as Harry begins whispering all the things he wants to do to Zayn, how pretty he looks, how bad he wants Zayn to let go. Zayn finally comes when Harry’s hand brush down and grab his balls, and he slumps against Harry’s body when he’s done, wrapping his arms around his neck.

Harry pulls his hand away, licks his palm, then wipes the rest on his own jeans. He pulls Zayn’s face away from his neck, and Zayn doesn’t mind the stickiness to his hands when he’s pulled into a slow, languorous kiss.

He licks himself from Harry’s mouth, his tongue sweeping his front teeth, his favorite, before he pulls away to get Harry off.

---

Zayn excuses himself to the bathroom once Harry comes. He buttons his jeans back up and makes his way to the small bathroom tucked under the stairs. His face is flushed and his lips are swollen when he looks at himself in the dim lighting. He looks happy though, radiant, and he feels good. He’s thrumming with excitement and happiness, and he feels like he can do anything. His eyes shut as he remembers the small gasps Harry made when Zayn was blowing him, and he clenches his fingers over the edge of the sink when he remembers how Harry whispered in his ear when he was coming. How much he liked Zayn. How happy he was. How good they were.

His eyes open, and he knows what he wants to do. He’s ready. Screw the interview. Screw what others will think. He just wants Harry. He wants them to be official. He wants to go out with Harry and show him off to his friends. He wants more trips to the park with Charlotte and Harry after a day of classes. He wants more lazy, mornings in bed under the sheets thinking they’re the only ones in the world. He wants more with Harry, because he thinks this can go somewhere and this can be something beautiful, and he wants Harry to admit it how serious he is about Zayn. He wants to be Harry’s.

He washes his mouth and wipes a hand down his face before jumping up and down for three seconds and pulling the door open to make his way back to Harry.

“Hey, can we talk?” Zayn asks excitedly when he steps back into the lounge.

Harry Styles comes off as a cool, brilliant artist, but his true personality makes you want to wring your own neck. His arrogance, selfishness, and mediocre taste in decor tell a different story from the leather jackets, late night parties, and songs about whiskey and sex.

Zayn’s smile drops when he sees his notepad in Harry’s hand, open, and Harry flicking through it still undressed.

“Harry,” he starts.

Harry cuts him off with a choked laugh. “His only redeeming quality is his fatherless niece who he plays the role of parent to—”

“Harry, wait! Stop, look, let me explain,” Zayn interrupts, but Harry holds a hand up to him.

Someone should tell her her uncle is not what he seems. If she continues to stay with him who knows how she’ll turn out. Probably a worse version of him.

“Harry!” Zayn shouts desperately. He takes a step towards Harry, but Harry throws his notepad at him to stop him.

“Fuck you!”

Zayn feels his throat tighten when he sees the anger in Harry’s eyes and the glare on his face.

“Let me explain!”

“Explain what?” Harry hisses. “Is this your interview? Were you going to publish this? Without my consent? With stuff about Charlotte and my family? Is this what you think of me? Of us?”

“No!” Zayn shouts back. “I wasn’t going to put up any of that. It’s not what it looks like.

“Then what the fuck is this?” Harry says. “You said yourself these are your own private thoughts. What the hell is this?”

“Harry,” Zayn gasps. “Please.”

“Please what, Zayn?”

Zayn wants to explain that yes, these are his thoughts, and yes, they were terrible, but he didn’t know Harry back then as well as he does now. He just writes what coms to him. He vents. It’s what he does, but he’s not heartless, and he’s not incapable of changing his perceptions, and he wants to tell him to pick up the damn notepad and read the rest what Zayn has to say. He wants to shout at Harry his feelings and at himself for being so careless.

“I don’t think that now,” Zayn answers pathetically. “That—those things, that stuff—they’re from so long ago.”

“But you still thought these things and wrote it down!”

“I write everything down!” Zayn yells. “It’s what I do!”

“I know,” Harry scoffs. “Isn’t that what got us in this mess in the first place? You and your brilliant blog.”

Zayn bites his lips to stop the tremble. “You think this is a mess?” It’s all he can get out past the knot in his throat.

“I shouldn’t have trusted you. I knew this interview shit was a horrible idea,” Harry says.

“You never even answered any of my questions! What interview?” Zayn yells. “You never wanted to do it in the first place.”

“Is this why you’re so eager? To get more shit on me?”

“No! Harry, please, listen to me. I don’t care about the interview. I’m sorry for what I said, but it’s not true,” Zayn begs.

Harry scoffs and turns away from him. His shoulders are tense, and his hands are clenched by his sides, and Zayn wants to hit both himself and Harry out of frustration.

“Get out.”

“Harry—”

“I said to get out!”

Zayn picks up his backpack and wipes his face before heading towards the elevator. Harry’s still turned away from him when he steps inside the lift. He doesn’t look when Zayn call his name out one more time, and Zayn clenches his fists tight and holds himself together the entire train ride back home.

It’s when he sees Niall and Louis smiling at him when he steps into the apartment that he loses it. He throws his backpack on the floor and takes in a sharp intake of breath. Their smiles drop, and he gasps when they reach for him.

“Zayn—”

“I think he just broke up with me?” Zayn says. It’s more of a question aimed at himself, but he laughs bitterly a second later. “No, wait, we weren’t even together.”
“Hey,” Niall starts, but he’s cut off when Zayn gasps and wipes his face.

They don’t say anything and pull him into their arms instead.

---

@harrystylesupdates Harry’s management just put out a statement that there isn’t going to be an exclusive anymore. Click the link to read more.

@notsomrbrightside currently listening to “Fuck ‘Em Only We Know” by @hernameisbanks.

---

December 12, 2014 2:14 pm

From: liamjpayne@gmail.com

To: riftzm@gmail.com

Terms and conditions have officially been terminated. Any information you gained throughout the project cannot be legally published. Attached is a thorough list of things you can and cannot do.

Thank you,
Liam Payne
Modest Management

---

December 12, 2014 3:41 pm

From: liamjpayne@gmail.com

To: zaynjmalik93@gmail.com

Can we meet up to talk?

Liam

---

“I ordered you coffee. Dark. No sugar or cream.”

Zayn nods his thanks and takes the cup from Liam. He hisses as a burst of wind slaps his face and adjusts his scarf around his neck. They hook a right and enter Central Park. Zayn’s already feeling overwhelmed and miserable from the past couple of days, and he doesn’t understand why Liam would want to meet up at the park when it’s freezing outside.

“I think it’s going to snow soon,” Liam comments as they step around a group of bicyclists.

Zayn nods slowly. “Why are we here, Liam?”

After Niall and Louis helped him put himself together, Zayn decided he wasn’t going to lash out over this. He wasn’t in the wrong, and if he was, then Harry was too for leading him on for so long not only with the interview but also with where they stood together. He didn’t care about the interview, doesn’t anymore. He would have rather Harry told him straight out he didn’t want to do it then keep putting it off. He was more pissed off with the fact that Harry didn’t give him a chance to explain. And, he was more pissed off that Harry put him in the wrong when he was so hesitant to officially commit to whatever the fuck they were doing.

So, he decided he was going to put it out there that he was still into Harry, and if Harry wanted to look pass their fight then he knew where Zayn stood.

The problem is they’re both stubborn, Harry more so than Zayn, to make an actual move.

“I’m not going to say I necessarily forgive you for what you wrote,” Liam starts. Zayn wants to cut in, but Liam takes a deep breath and goes on. “But I understand. You use your writing to vent. It’s unfiltered, but it’s you. I get it. I also read the rest of your notepad, though.”

Zayn snaps his head to look at Liam. His cheeks are flushed, but he’s sure this time it’s not the wind.

“So, I understand even more why you wanted to explain. Harry told me what happened and what he read. Only the beginning of your journal. I’m sure if he skipped to the back, to the most recent, he wouldn’t have acted out like he did. Maybe.”

“I’m not going to apologize again if he doesn’t,” Zayn adds in catching Liam’s attention. “He kept pushing off the interview. Fine. Whatever. We were past that anyway. He could have declined. But it felt more like he was pushing off defining what we meant. If we meant anything. I felt like I had a marginal chance going into this thing with him. Like I had to prove my trust and worthiness to him, and any time we stumbled across an issue I was at fault. Like, suddenly, there was reason to be suspicious about me. I feel like he didn’t think I was genuine, and I was. The entire time I was honest. I might not have voiced my thoughts, but I was never blatantly rude or overstepped our boundaries.”

Liam just hums and they continue their walk a few more steps before he asks, “Did you tell Harry all of this?”

“Didn’t really give me a chance.”

“You can’t blame him.”

“No,” Zayn says. “But we could have calmed down and talked this through. He didn’t give us that either.”

“You’re making it seem like it’s his fault,” Liam says.

“I’m not. I feel like it’s both of us. We kind of rushed in to this, didn’t we? Like, how did we go from can’t standing one another to can’t getting enough from one another in such a short amount of time? I think we just didn’t take the time to process it all before jumping in. Maybe we’re just looking for two separate things, but we’re insanely attracted to each other. We might not always get along, but I like that. We’re not picture perfect.”

“I gave him your notepad back. Told him to read it,” Liam confesses, and Zayn stops walking.

“What?” he asks. He can’t decide if he’s angry or if he’s glad. “Why would you do that?”

Liam shrugs before exhaling out a puff of air. “He’s my best friend. You make him happy. All that stuff. You’re a good guy. You deserve a chance. He should know the truth now rather than the truth from before.”

Zayn nods his head and takes a sip of his coffee. It burns his tongue, but he doesn’t mind it. His mind is elsewhere.

“You think he’ll talk to me then?”

Liam points to the left and they hook it towards the Imagine mosaic. “Maybe. Who knows.”

“You do. You always say you know the real Harry. You would know.”

Liam flashes him a smile and tucks his hands into his pocket.

“I guess I would.”

---

@notsomrbrightside finals are over. I can rest in peace now.

@notsomrbrightside currently listening to: “Figure It Out” by @royalblooduk

@harrystyles tick tock, tick tock, tick tock...

---

“Are you heading back to home then? Home, home?” Louis asks when Zayn meets him outside of Tisch where Louis had his theatre final.

Zayn rubs his hands together to gain some sort of friction for heat, but it doesn’t work, and he gives up and tucks his hands into his pocket.

“Yeah. I think it’ll do me some good. Kind of just want to spend a few days eating and sleeping, y’know?”

Louis nods and looks an arm through Zayn’s. “Yeah. Think i’ll take the train back to. We can spend a few days being spoiled then regroup for New Years. Heard Nialler booked a gig for the night. Free booze for the band.”

Zayn grins and nods his head.

“There’s a few shows between then and there—”

Louis rolls his eyes and smacks Zayn’s stomach. “Of course, Zayn. You don’t have to ask. I’ll be there. Text me the details.”

Zayn hugs Louis when they have to separate, Louis towards Monica’s, who he made it official with the other week, and Zayn towards the subway.

“See you, man,” Louis says, returning the hug, before he takes off.

Zayn stomps his feet a bit to get some feeling in his toes again and turns towards the closest station, but he stops when his name is shouted. He looks towards the street to see Ronnie waving him off and a familiar car parked behind him. His step falters, and he feels a rush of blood to his head just at the thought of who is waiting for him.

“Hey Ron. How’s it going?” he shouts over the sound of traffic.

“Good.”

He nods at Zayn and opens the door, and Zayn sighs and makes his way towards the car. He throws his backpack in before slipping inside and is immediately met with a blast of heat to his face He sighs in relief.

“Here.”

A scarf is wrapped around the one he already has on, and Zayn looks to his left to see Harry sitting beside him in a long, navy trench and leather gloves. His face is flushed from the heat in the car unlike Zayn’s who can’t even feel his face.

“Thanks,” Zayn mutters. The scarf smells like Harry, and he inhales slowly, taking it in.

“Read the rest of your notepad. Interesting stuff.”

“Was it?” Zayn asks just as the car takes off.

Harry nods. He’s still staring at Zayn with an intense look. It makes Zayn squirm.

“You really like the Imagine mosaic that much?” he asks. There’s a ghost of a smile on his lips, but it’s enough for Zayn, so he smiles and nods.

“It’s my favorite.”

“Think it’s Lottie’s favorite now, too.”

“How is she?” Zayn hesitantly asks.

Harry sighs and nods his head. “She’s good. Says she misses her best friend.”

Zayn bites his lips. “I miss her too.”

“Do you miss me too?” Harry asks. This time the ghost of a smile is replaced with a ghost of a smirk. Zayn shakes his head. It’s very Harry of him to this.

“Maybe,” Zayn sighs.

“Maybe?” Harry scoffs. “I read those tweets of yours. Didn’t know the new thing was to tweet out songs.”

Zayn laughs and shrugs.

“Do you really think we could be something? Even if we fight a lot?”

Zayn looks over at Harry who looks solemn now. “I think we can. I like that we don’t get along perfectly. It’s interesting. Keeps us on our toes. I like our arguments. The ones about trivial things, at least. We should probably work on our communication though. If you wanted to.”

Harry nods. “Communication.”

“I don’t want to guess what we are either. We’re something official or nothing. I’m sorry, but I don’t like feeling like I have to prove myself to you in order for us to be official.”

“I’m sorry you felt that way,” Harry says.

“I’m sorry for what I wrote.”

“It’s okay.”

Zayn looks out the window to see they’re on Broadway before he looks at Harry again.

“So, what are we?”

“What do you want us to be?” Harry asks. He moves closer until their thighs are touching. There’a that spark Zayn always feels whenever they touch, and he moves closer until their shoulders touch.

“For us to be a normal couple. To be official. To be honest with each other. To start over. Slowly. Properly.”

Harry nods his head and touches Zayn’s hand before moving his hand back onto his lap. “I think I can do that. At least as normal as my life allows.” Zayn nods to that. He’s ready for whatever Harry’s fame will bring.

“Really?” Zayn asks. He drops the polite tone and doesn’t bother to hide the excitement in his voice. “We went through all of that and just solved it this easily?

Harry grins and grabs Zayn’s hand for real this time. “Communication, remember? And, yes. Really. We can work on us. Together. Officially. Slowly. Properly.”

“Okay then.”

“Okay then,” Harry repeats. He intertwines their hands and brings it up to his lips. “Missed you, too, by the way. Didn’t have anyone to argue with.”

Zayn rolls his eyes but smiles. “Poor you.”

“Poor me. Poor Charlotte too. Think you could be up for a round of hot chocolate with us before you have to go off do whatever you were going to go do?”

Zayn laughs and tucks his face into Harry’s neck.

“Sounds perfect.”

---

@celebupdates We just spotted @harrystyles with beau and writer of @RIFT on the streets of NYC. The longtime lovers of three years looked to be going strong and were apparently furniture shopping!