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The Rhythm of My Heart

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i | when i see you smile, i can face the world


“That was Will Young on your local university radio. I’m your host Niall Horan, it is quarter to eleven on the 28th of December, and if you’ve listened to the show before you’ll know what that means! It’s time for Make Niall Smile! We’ve got a bunch of texts in and a couple of callers lined up, so let’s get this show on the road.”

Zayn grins idly at his radio and cradles his phone in between his shoulder and his face so that his hands are free to keep shading his drawing with a yellow coloured pencil. Niall reads out a few jokes from the texts and laughs at nearly all of them, even when they’re not funny at all, and then Niall’s producer Fiona is talking in Zayn’s ear.

“You ready to go?” she asks. “Radio off?”

Zayn puts down his pencil and reaches to click the radio off with one hand, using the other to hold his mobile properly. “Ready,” he tells Fiona.

“Hello there, caller on line one,” comes Niall’s voice after a break of silence.

“Hi,” Zayn says, swapping his phone to the other ear.

“Zayn!” Niall exclaims immediately. Zayn smirks--he always listens to Niall’s show, but he doesn’t always call in. He likes to save it so that Niall will be surprised and get genuinely excited about it, because Niall is adorable when he’s excited. “Now I know why Fiona didn’t write down your name. How are you tonight? Busy working on that drawing you won’t show me?”

“Yes, but I’m just taking a break now to make you smile, Niall. That all right?”

“Of course, Zayn, I love you,” Niall says quickly, grin already evident in his voice. “Let’s hear your joke.”

Zayn grins stupidly into the phone. He clears his throat and says, “Why did Cinderella get cut from the footie team?”

“Mmmm,” Niall says slowly, playing it up, “is she just bad at football?”

“She ran away from the ball,” Zayn answers, and Niall starts laughing.

“Good one, made me smile,” Niall says. “Add that to your points tally. Thanks for calling.”

“Anytime,” Zayn says, and he waits for his mobile to tell him the call’s ended before turning his radio back on and switching his yellow coloured pencil for a blue one.

Niall plays a song and then speaks to two more people before the news, and Zayn likes to think that he isn’t totally imagining the way Niall doesn’t laugh quite as genuinely for the others as he had for Zayn’s joke, even though he’s secretly sure that he’s making it up. When the news reader turns it back over to Niall, the first thing he mentions is the number of texts they’re getting in.

“Lots of people mentioning how cute my boyfriend is again,” Niall says, “as happens every time he calls or texts in. I’m actually pleased to once again tell all you ladies out there that that cutie is still available, but I do reserve the right to keep him on weekends and bank holidays. Now here’s a little Jay-Z for you guys.”

Zayn smiles to himself as he shades in the eyes on his portrait, because he knows Niall knows he likes Jay-Z. It makes the fact that he’d said he wasn’t dating Zayn a lot more bearable, thinking that he’s probably silently dedicating this song to him.

It’s been a long year since he admitted to himself he’s probably a little bit in love with Niall, he thinks wryly as he swaps blue for brown so that he can go back and shade Niall’s hair better.


When Zayn wakes up the next morning, the first thing he sees is Niall sprawled across his bed, half his limbs hanging off and his face smushed into his pillow, mouth hanging open. He’s probably dribbling a little, too, and Zayn finds it unspeakably adorable and not at all fair to wake up to in the morning given that he can’t touch it.

Zayn rolls over and drags himself to his feet, stretching out his muscles. He decides it’s perfectly acceptable to walk down to the kitchen in just his boxers, figuring that most of the guys will still be sleeping at half past ten, and besides, it’s nothing he hasn’t done a million times before.

He’s actually kind of surprised when he walks into the kitchen to find Liam fully dressed and making eggs.

“G’morning,” Zayn says, coming up behind Liam and hugging him, hooking his chin over Liam’s shoulder. “Are you making enough of those for me?”

“I am, yeah,” Liam says. “If you stop hanging off me.”

Zayn lets him go and sits down at the kitchen table to wait. The eggs had been almost done when he arrived, so he doesn’t have to sit for long before Liam is handing him a plate and sitting down as well.

“I thought you were staying over at Alpha Sig last night,” Zayn says, waggling his eyebrows suggestively at Liam as he takes a bite of eggs. “Didn’t Louis just get back?”

“I did and he did,” Liam says. “But I woke up early and Louis told me to fuck off when I woke him, too, so I left. We’ll meet up later or something.”

“Ah, young love,” Zayn says.

“Eh, well, at least he liked his Christmas and birthday presents. Thanks for the help with those, by the way.”

“My pleasure,” Zayn responds through a mouthful of eggs. “Although I still don’t know why you asked me out of all your options.”

Liam shrugs. “I trust you. Also, I’ve been meaning to ask you--what did you get Niall for Christmas?”

Zayn pauses, fork halfway to his mouth. “Nothing?” he says.

“Really?” Liam looks almost appalled. “Aren’t... aren’t you dating?”

Zayn resists the urge to shove his face into his eggs. “No,” he says. “Do you suddenly believe every rumour you hear?”

“Uh, no, but,” Liam says, “I heard it around and thought you guys had gone public or whatever.”

Zayn frowns. “You thought there was a time we were together but not public?”

Liam looks a bit uncomfortable. “Well, Louis and I just sorta thought... after the rest of us got together...” He gestures helplessly.

“Definitely not,” Zayn says. “Ever since Niall took over Nick’s slot at the beginning of this school year it’s been insane. I couldn’t get a girl to sleep with me if I wanted to because they all think I’m secretly dating Niall.”

“But you don’t even want to?” Liam says, eyeing Zayn speculatively.

Zayn curses Liam’s sudden ability to pick up on subtle word choice. “M’busy,” Zayn says, shoving eggs in his mouth so he can’t talk anymore.

“Uh huh,” Liam says, and he doesn’t press the matter, which does a good job of reminding Zayn why he even bothers keeping him around.


Zayn puts the conversation out of his mind until later that day when he and Niall are getting a late lunch at their regular cafe, sitting down at their regular table, and talking about the same regular things. It hits Zayn that that is a lot of regular. They’ve been meeting up here for lunch between classes since last year, had even worked their class schedules this year around it, and Zayn has never really thought anything of it.

Except, well, maybe he should.

“So then Greg was like, no way am I touching that, and I laughed and told him that if he didn’t he was a wuss, but of course my mum got mad at me for that,” Niall says, “so I ended up having to do, like, twice the helping with dinner that Greg did while he sat with a pint of beer and looked smug.”

“Sucks to be you,” Zayn says. Even their friends think they’re dating, not just nameless people who know them from the radio. That seems like a problem. “Did you get back at him later?”

Niall grins. It’s a grin Zayn knows well from many a terrible idea that inevitably ends with them both very drunk and very close to being arrested for something stupid. That or nearly naked. Or both. He loves that grin. “Put shitloads of fake spiders in his bed. He wouldn’t sleep there for the rest of the week.”

Zayn snorts. He wonders if scheduled meeting up for lunch is a thing couples do. Zayn thinks it might be. He feels like he should have something to say to Niall, some story to tell him about what his sisters did over the hols, but he can’t stop staring at the flop of Niall’s hair over his forehead and thinking about how he wants to smooth it back and how that’s maybe not an appropriate thought to be having about one’s best mate, and he’s been aware of that for ages, but why is everyone else so sure they’re actually dating?

“Reminds me of the time we pranked Liam,” Niall is saying. “Y’know, the time with the spoons?”

Zayn nods absently. He would know if they were dating, wouldn’t he? There would be a lot more, like, actual kissing and stuff. As far as Zayn knows, Niall is getting his kisses or whatever from various girls at parties. Definitely not from Zayn, anyway.

“Are you okay?” Niall asks. “You look super pale, and you’ve barely eaten your food.”

“I’m fine,” Zayn says. “Liam’s face when we did that was priceless.”

Niall lights up like the star at the top of a Christmas tree, giggling. Zayn really wants to kiss him. It’s not a new thought, but it’s the first time Zayn’s really considered the idea that other people could maybe tell. Is that why they think they’re dating? Does Zayn stare at Niall like he really clearly wants to have sex with him or something?

Oh God. If that’s the case, can Niall tell, too? Has he just been politely not saying anything? Zayn can never look at him again.

“I need to go,” Zayn says abruptly, interrupting what Niall had been saying about Liam refusing to talk to them for a solid week because of the prank. He gets to his feet. “Sorry, I’ll see you later.”

“Zayn?” Niall asks, making a move to get up as well. Zayn gestures for him to stop.

“I’m fine, I just.” He swallows. “I need to go.” Before something terrible happens, he thinks hysterically, turning to duck out of the cafe, walking as fast as possible to get to the door before Niall can possibly catch up with him.

Outside, he leans against the building and breathes sharp cold air in, trying to calm down. It’s fine, he tries to reason. Nothing has changed, not really.

He doesn’t really believe himself, is the thing.


ii | if it’s a dream i don’t wanna wake up


“Whatcha drawing?” Louis asks, sitting down in the foldable chair that’s next to Zayn. Tau Kappa Epsilon, Alpha Sigma Phi, and their sister sororities are all collaborating to put on a huge holiday fundraiser for a local children’s hospital, and Zayn is stuck manning a table of baked goods by himself. There are about two other tables of the same with more enthusiastic people bringing in customers, so Zayn has been content to wait patiently until they run out and people start actually bothering him, passing the time by doodling in his small sketchpad.

He looks at what he’s drawing and blinks, because it’s Niall. He hadn’t even been thinking about it. Louis is already tired of waiting for his answer, leaning over to look. “Is that Niall?”

“Yeah,” Zayn says reluctantly. Niall’s not even anywhere in sight--this is by Zayn’s own design; he’d been determined to avoid Niall at all costs all day.

Louis whistles lowly, sitting back in his chair. “You got it bad,” he says. Zayn wants to die, because Louis is right and it’s bloody inconvenient. “Hey, I actually came over here to ask if you and Niall wanted to go to the cinema before dinner tomorrow.”

“Sure,” Zayn says without thinking, then pauses. “I mean, I guess you’d have to clear it with Niall, too. This isn’t like a double date, is it?”

“Why do you ask?” Louis asks, quirking an eyebrow. “Are you two dating?”

Zayn sighs. “You know we’re not.”

“I’m still not convinced,” Louis says flippantly, “but it’s a shame if not, to be quite honest.”

Zayn makes a face at Louis, to which Louis sticks out his tongue and hops to his feet. “Must get back to my post,” he declares. “See you at the party tonight, yeah?”

“Yeah,” Zayn agrees, and resolutely does not think about how impossible it will be to avoid Niall at a party in his own frat.


Zayn decides to do what any self-respecting frat brother with a problem does--he drinks the problem away.

The inherent problem with this strategy, however, is that it ends in him very drunk and the problem is still there because, like, Niall is right there.

Zayn hates his life.

Somehow he gets it into his head that now is the moment he can actually do something to solve the problem, which is how he ends up stumbling over to Niall and throwing an arm over his shoulders, turning his face into Niall’s neck and nosing at the skin there. “Hi,” he says, heedless of the conversation Niall is already having with someone.

“Hey,” Niall says, smiling carefully. “Good party?”

“S’your party,” Zayn says. “Your parties are always good, y’know that.”

Niall laughs. Zayn loves his laugh; it sounds like rain falling outside and a good cup of hot chocolate.

“You should come upstairs with me,” Zayn mumbles. He attempts to add something about sex, because that’s his game plan here, but he says it so quietly that he doesn’t even hear himself.

“In a minute, yeah,” Niall says, and Zayn hums happily. He waits while Niall wraps up his conversation, and then Niall is wrapping his arm around Zayn’s waist, supporting him easily. “Can you do the stairs?”

Zayn blinks a couple times. “Yeah,” he says, because he isn’t exactly seeing two of everything, and besides, Niall is steady next to him.

They make it up fairly easily, and Niall frowns as they pass the room on the right at the top of the staircase. “Hey, I’m just gonna go say hi to these people. I think Liam’s in there. You should probably lie down, okay?”

Zayn’s heart drops down to somewhere in the pit of his stomach. Niall didn’t want to come up here with him for any reason but to make sure he’s okay. That’s pretty nice, really, but it doesn’t exactly feel that way when it wasn’t what Zayn was going for.

“Or you--” Niall is saying, but Zayn shrugs him off and steps away. He’s feeling a lot steadier.

“M’fine, you go,” Zayn says, and he makes it the rest of the way to their room without looking back once. He lies down on Niall’s bed because it’s closer, then changes his mind and walks the rest of the short distance to his bed, curling up in the middle of it, facing the wall. He’s really regretting the whole drinking thing, and the talking to Niall thing, and the whole thing. All of it.

It’s only a few minutes of feeling sorry for himself before he hears Niall come into the room and close the door behind him. He doesn’t know what he was expecting, but it wasn’t for Niall to come over and lie down next to him, wrapping his arms around Zayn’s middle.

“What’re you doing?” Zayn asks.

“Cuddling you,” Niall says. “You seem like you need it. You’re still acting weird like the other day.”

Zayn sighs and rearranges himself so he’s lying on his back, Niall accommodating him and then curling into his side, Zayn’s arm wrapped around his back with his hand resting on Niall’s hip. They’re quiet for a long while, during which Zayn’s thoughts get clearer but no less scattered, and then he finds he’s stuck on Liam asking what he got Niall for Christmas and Zayn having to answer saying he didn’t get him anything.

“Liam asked me what I got you for Christmas,” Zayn says finally.

Niall starts a little, then settles back down. “Yeah?”

“Yeah, but I didn’t get you anything,” Zayn says.

“Thought we weren’t going to,” Niall says, and there’s a long silence in which Zayn tries to decide if his tone implied he was angry about it or not before he adds, “You’re my best friend, you know? That’s all I need from you.”

It’s ridiculously sappy, and if Zayn were a little more sober, he’d probably laugh. As it is he just tugs Niall a little closer and squeezes his hand around Niall’s hip. “You’re all I need, too,” he says into Niall’s hair.

They’re silent again, and Zayn’s brain starts properly deconstructing Niall’s sentence to the point where he’s freaking out because Niall had said that all he needed was for Zayn to be his friend, so he obviously doesn’t want anything else at all ever, and Zayn should probably quit uni and move to Siberia or something.

Except Niall’s not in Siberia, and even though that’s kind of the point, Zayn’s heart hurts thinking about it.

He shifts so he’s more comfortable, which coincidentally presses whatever bits of their bodies that weren’t touching before together, and concentrates on not thinking about anything at all, lest he feel the need to run away again. He doesn’t want to run away; Niall is warm and here, and if he closes his eyes he can pretend Niall didn’t just say he only wants to be friends.

Zayn’s nearly drifting off to sleep when Niall nudges him awake. “Zayn,” he whispers.

“Mmm, what?” Zayn asks, blinking his eyes open.

“So, like, did you know I think of us as dating but without the sex?” Niall says all in a rush, like if he didn’t say it all in one breath he’d never say it at all.

It takes a moment for Zayn’s brain to process that, and even when it has, he’s still not positive he hasn’t actually fallen asleep. “What?” he asks.

“I think of us as dating,” Niall repeats, “but without the sex.”

Zayn stares at the ceiling for a while before saying, “What the fuck, no.”

Niall fidgets and shifts back a little. “What do you mean by no?” he asks.

“I mean, no, I didn’t know that, what the fuck.” He turns his head to look at Niall properly. “Don’t you think that to date, um, like, both parties have to be... aware of it?”

Niall shrugs. “I obviously knew we weren’t really. I just, uh... thought of myself as taken. By you.”

Zayn thinks that over. It’s very heady, the idea that Niall thinks of himself as Zayn’s. Zayn just convinced himself that Niall only wanted to be friends, and now Niall’s telling him in no uncertain terms that he was wrong? What the fuck.

“If we’re dating in your head, why aren’t we having sex?” he asks after a minute. It seems a very prudent question for the situation, and he prides himself on getting it out calmly when he’s currently having an internal meltdown.

“I don’t know,” Niall says. He shifts away a bit more, but Zayn doesn’t let him get too far. “Did you want to?”

Zayn stares at Niall a moment, from where he’s worrying at his bottom lip with his teeth to where his cheeks have flushed pink to where his hand is still wrapped reassuringly around Zayn’s side, and then he leans in a little and says, “Yeah, fuck.”

Niall gets the hint at that, at least, and covers the rest of the distance, pressing his lips against Zayn’s. Zayn makes a soft noise and kisses back, letting his mouth fall open a little so they can slot their lips together.

It’s not like it’s the first time they’ve ever kissed, because it’s definitely not, but it’s the first time it’s ever felt real, and the first time, Zayn discovers when Niall pulls away a bit, that it doesn’t leave a bitter taste in his mouth. He tugs Niall back in immediately, tangling his fingers into the hair at the nape of Niall’s neck and turning the kiss dirtier this time. He licks into Niall’s mouth and Niall moans appreciatively, chasing Zayn’s tongue back even as he throws his leg over Zayn’s waist and shifts so he’s right above him.

He pulls away for a moment to ask, “Is this all right?” and Zayn nods, clutches at Niall’s hips and leans back up to kiss him again. It takes a few more minutes of kissing before his brain catches up entirely, and even then he keeps getting sidetracked by Niall moving to suck at the skin behind his ear, or grinding down the slightest bit on Zayn’s hips, or biting into Zayn’s lower lip.

“Wait,” Zayn manages to say after a long struggle, “when I said yeah, I wasn’t really thinking ahead, I don’t--”

“No, me neither,” Niall interrupts. “Just this right now, yeah?”

“Yeah,” Zayn agrees, and then they’re kissing again, and that exchange seems to have given Niall the courage he needed to shove his hands under Zayn’s t-shirt, and Zayn drags himself up with Niall in his lap so he can pull the offending article off, tossing it to the floor and following it with Niall’s shortly after.

Zayn honestly doesn’t know how long it takes, but eventually the frantic kissing turns languorous and slow, like they have all the time in the world--which they do, Zayn marvels--and they’ve moved so they’re lying down again, on their sides this time, limbs thoroughly tangled together.

“How are you doing?” Niall asks quietly between kisses at one point, and Zayn is hit by how weird the situation is, that he’d just, however long ago, been thinking that all Niall wanted to be was friends and now they’re shirtless and making out in his bed.

“Surreal,” he says, and kisses Niall again.


iii | so i’m straight in a straight line running back to you


The first thing Zayn sees when he wakes up the next morning is Niall’s empty bed across the room, and then Niall shifts in the bed next to him, pressed up against Zayn’s side because the bed is tiny, and Zayn turns to see him burrowing into the covers, face half hidden by a blanket. He’s adorable, and the best part is that Zayn is like eighty percent sure he’s allowed to touch now.

He errs on the side of caution, though, because he can be a cynic like that, and rolls out of bed, fishing around on the ground for a new pair of trousers and a shirt.

“What’re you doin’?” Niall asks sleepily from the bed when Zayn’s tugging the shirt over his head, and Zayn turns to look at him.

“Was going to go help clean up,” Zayn explains.

Niall shakes his head. “No,” he says, “come back here and let someone else do it.”

Zayn opens his mouth to protest, then abruptly changes his mind and does as Niall asks, crawling back into bed and letting Niall cuddle up to him again.

“Morning cuddles are important,” Niall says seriously. “I require lots of them.”

Zayn snorts. “Duly noted.”

He definitely isn’t exactly adverse to the morning cuddles, though, and he’s nearly dropping back into sleep when their bedroom door slams open and a familiar voice yells, “LADS!”

Zayn opens his eyes to glare at Louis. “What do you want?”

“Ooooh,” Louis says. “What’s this? Did you have sex?”

Zayn rolls his eyes, though he can feel his cheeks heating up. Niall gigglesnorts into his chest, then looks up to say, “No, Louis, but thank you for thinking to ask.”

“Always thoughtful, that’s me,” Louis says. He looks disappointed at the answer. “Come on, get up, we’re gonna go to the cinema in like half an hour.”

“Why are you waking me up now, then?” Zayn asks, because it’s the principle of the thing. “That’s half an hour I could have spent sleeping.”

Louis merely cackles loudly and steps out of the room, slamming the door dramatically behind him.


Zayn’s not exactly sure, but the entire time they’re at the cinema kind of feels like a date.

Which is to say, it feels exactly like normal, with Zayn buying the tickets and Niall buying the popcorn like they always do, and Niall makes Zayn hold the popcorn but eats most of it himself, so he’s always leaning over into Zayn’s space. Halfway through the movie, popcorn finished, Zayn leans over and rests his head on Niall’s shoulder, and Niall reaches for Zayn’s hand and tangles their fingers together.

The holding hands is a bit new, Zayn thinks as they leave the theatre, but the rest of it is exactly like it always is. It’s almost unnerving.

They have time to kill before they have to meet up with Nick and Harry for dinner, and the place they’d booked at table at is a bit away, so they decide to walk. Liam and Louis get into an argument about a stupid plot point of the film while Niall throws in random comments to rile them up and keeps a firm grip on Zayn’s hand.

Nick and Harry are already at the restaurant when they get there, standing outside waiting for them, and Harry runs halfway down the street to meet Louis in a hug. “Missed you!” he crows. “And all of you, come on, hugs. Nick, come say hi.”

“Hi,” Nick contributes from a fair few feet away, and Harry rolls his eyes.

“Hey, mate,” Zayn says, breaking away from where Niall is babbling out a story to Harry. “How’s London?”

“Large, loud, devoid of Harry,” Nick says. “But great, really, despite its faults. How are you doing? Y’got something new happening there?” He jerks his head toward Niall.

Zayn shrugs and shoves his hands into his pockets. “Maybe, sort of.”

Nick raises an eyebrow. “We’ll get that story out of you yet, Malik.”

Zayn’s saved, however, by Liam loudly insisting they’d better get inside or they might lose their booking, and from there the dinner conversation moves quickly from topic to topic, Nick regaling the details of the internship he’s got and the shitty flat in Camden he lives in, Harry attesting to its shittiness and seguing into a story about one of his lecturers, Louis bursting out that Liam is going to be considered for the Olympic team and Liam blushing and saying in turn that Louis was going to audition for the musical next term and totally get the lead part.

Nick quizzes Niall about the radio show, wanting to know if he’s taking good care of Nick’s old slot. Niall assures him that it’s going well and teases him that the January stats will probably show that Niall’s more popular than Nick, which makes Nick pout.

“It’s totally shit though,” Niall says, “since I only got your slot because the audience liked when I sat in with you, I don’t have any seniority and I have to work tonight.”

“At midnight?” Harry asks, looking distraught.

Niall nods. “Yeah. We could have had a holiday pre-recorded show, but I thought it would be more fun to be able to do phoners and things.”

“But you’re going to miss Big Ben,” Liam says. “And the fireworks and everything.” He looks almost as sad as Harry, and Harry’s sad face isn’t anything to sneeze at.

Niall shrugs and glances sideways at Zayn. “It’ll be fine.”

Zayn frowns and looks down at his lap before looking back up. He’d known that Niall was working New Year’s Eve, but it hadn’t really sunk in at all what that meant before.

Now it does, and the sad looks of everyone at the table aren’t helping the way Zayn’s heart is sinking a little.


“It’s fifteen minutes until the start of the New Year, and we’re still waiting to hear from some of you. What’s your New Year’s resolution? Call in and let us know!”

Zayn sits on the edge of his bed, fidgeting, and waits for Fiona to come on the line to put him through. It takes barely a minute before he can hear Niall introducing him as he fades up the mic.

“And we’ve got a mysterious anonymous person on line two. What’s your New Year’s resolution?”

“Yeah, hi,” Zayn says, attempting to pitch his voice a bit lower, even though he knows Niall probably won’t fall for it. “My New Year’s resolution is to find a boyfriend. Where do you think I could do that?”

“Well, I know I’m an advice show,” Niall says, “but I don’t quite know how to help you out. I seem to have just stumbled across a boyfriend myself, no effort required.”

Zayn’s heart skips in his chest. “Oh?” he prompts.

“Yep,” Niall says, “not even sure he realizes he’s my boyfriend. But if he wants to be really fantastic, he should come down to the studio and kiss me at midnight.”

Zayn has to swallow a couple of times before he can say, “That sounds nice.”

“I hope so,” Niall says. “Thanks for sharing your resolution, caller. Have a happy New Year.”

Zayn’s already hitting the end call button ferociously and checking the time. He’ll be cutting it close, but if he runs right now...

He shoves his trainers on his feet and laces them up as fast as he can, running down the stairs of the frat house and out the door, flat out sprinting down the road past all the other Greek culture houses, and across campus, heading for the student union building. He wishes, about halfway there, that they weren’t so fucking far apart, and also that he didn’t smoke, because he kind of feels like he might hack up a lung at any second.

He can hear random people at various parties or whatever yelling at him, though--some of them know his name, and quite a few seem to know what he’s doing, shouting at him to get it, Zayners. It’s kind of encouraging, really, if he needed encouragement at all.

He slams the door to the student union building open and has to shove his way past a couple of people in the common area before a path just sort of magically opens up for him. It’s very movie magic, and Zayn has never appreciated that more.

“One minute!” someone in the crowd yells. There’s a loud cheer, and Zayn nearly trips and brains himself on a vending machine.

He arrives in the radio station out of breath and coughing, and he’s greeted by the raised eyebrows of Fiona, looking suitably impressed. “Did you run here from TKE?” she asks.

Zayn doesn’t trust himself to speak, so he just nods instead.

“You can go in,” she tells him, shaking her head fondly, and Zayn salutes her before doing so.

“Ten, nine, eight,” Niall is pretty much yelling into the microphone. He turns as he does so, obviously hearing the door, and breaks into a huge grin. “Seven, six,” he continues, and Zayn joins in for, “five, four, three, two, one! Happy New Year everyone! Excuse me a moment, I’ve got someone to snog.”

Niall hits play on the first song of the new year and takes the two steps over to Zayn, fisting his hands in his shirt and pulling him into kiss him. It’s insistent and sweet at the same time and feels just like Niall has always seemed to Zayn.

“Hi, fantastic boyfriend,” Niall says when they break apart. “Did you run across campus for me?”

“I don’t know what came over me,” Zayn says. “I’m just sickeningly in love or something.”

Niall grins and leans in to kiss him again.