It had been Drake's idea, this meeting.
Zayn hadn't felt ready, he had still been guilty and sore over the break up but really, Drake had none of that shit and here he is; sitting behind a fancy desk in a fancy chair, with apparently legions of prospective artists lined up outside the door. Drake's standing behind Zayn's chair and his warmth is a physical thing Zayn latches onto when the door opens. He's not ready for this. He's not ready for this.
Chris Brown walks into the room and Zayn looks him in the eye. "Hey, bro," Chris says, and a sleazy grin slides onto his face and Zayn inhales sharply. Drake shifts behind him and seconds later Chris is being led from the room by a burly security guard.
"I don't want you uncomfortable baby boy," Drake says, low, and Zayn exhales and relaxes his fists and he can practically see Drake's answering smile. The door opens again.
Donald Glover walks in and the first thing Zayn wants to say is 'Oh my god, I loved you in Community, Troy was the fucking funniest guy ever,' but he doesn't want to make this awkward by acting childish so he says nothing. He can feel Drake tensing up behind him, getting ready to send Donald out so Zayn stands and extends a hand. "Zayn Malik," he says, and he's proud of how smooth his voice sounds.
Donald smiles and his hand is calloused when he shake's Zayn's. "I'm Donald, and honestly Zayn? I've been waiting for this opportunity since you guys dropped Forever Young," and just like that Zayn loosens up and grins.
"Thanks man," he says, and for the next hour they talk about everything from music, to image, to future collaborations. By the time their done Zayn's face kinda hurts from smiling so much and he knows without looking that Drake's smiling too. Donald leaves Zayn with a piece of paper that has his and his agent's contact details and Zayn suddenly looks at his watch. He can feel the colour drain from his face.
"Shit," he says, and Drake is in front of him before he can blink.
"What," he says, and it isn't a question, and his face is concerned and Zayn feels like shit.
"All those people waiting," he says, his mouth dry, "I should've made appointments or something, it's not fair for them to waste an entire day---"
Drake's face relaxes and he pulls Zayn in for a hug, "Zayn," he says soothingly, "Z, it's okay, now you're at this point in the business, it's first come first served, yeah?" He presses a large hand against Zayn's back and Zayn can feel his bones turn to jelly. "You gotta chill, yeah? This is all in your hands. You don't want them? They're gone, baby boy."
Zayn grins and it's a small, quiet thing, but Drake sees it anyway and grins back. Then Zayn creases his forehead in thought. "Wait," he says slowly, "Chris, Donald...why aren't they questioning why you're here?" And Zayn's not even trying to be rude but after all these fucking years of being so carefully constructed to satisfy what the media wants of him he can't help but be cautious.
Drake smirks and it's sharp and Zayn rolls his eyes and sits back down. The next person to come through the door is Rihanna, and Zayn almost trips over himself in his haste to stand and shake her hand.
"Hey, Zayn," he says, and then freezes and backtracks, "I mean, I'm Zayn, I was just telling you, I was just saying hey to you, you know---" and Rihanna laughs and squeezes his hand and winks to Drake behind him.
"He's cute," she says, and sinks into the chair opposite Zayn's. "Call me Robyn," she says to him, and that's how he gets Rihanna's personal number in his contacts and a promise to collaborate with her on her next single. She's standing to leave when she addresses Drake for the second time. "Aubrey, hold onto this boy tight," and she's grinning lasciviously, "There's a lot of people who want him." She leans in to say to Zayn, "Me included," and then she's gone and Zayn's cracking up because honestly; how is this his life?
"Do you see, baby boy?' Drake's saying, and his lips are brushing Zayn's ear, "Do you see now?"
The door opens again and The Weeknd walks in and Zayn's mildly ashamed that he only knows his first name. But Abel strides up to the desk and fistbumps Drake and laughs, "Nice catch," and Zayn is reeling. When he sees Zayn's look he shrugs and grins, "Us Canadians need to stick together. It's a nasty business," and that hadn't been the explanation Zayn's after but it's nice nonetheless.
Abel's just finishing talking about his inspiration behind his most recent album and how he thinks he and Zayn could write really good songs together when Drake rumbles to his feet. "I think that's enough for today," he says, and Abel stops talking straight away, smirks at Zayn, and leaves. Zayn's mouth is still open and he shoots a confused look at Drake.
"It's not even noon yet," he points out, and Drake comes closer to press Zayn back into his chair.
"You're tired, baby boy," he says, mildly, and Zayn would be annoyed that anyone could read him this well if it were anyone but Drake. "I think it's time to wrap up this meeting. We can arrange something again in a couple of days." He leans in and looks at Zayn expressively, "I have a couple of things I need to do before then."