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Puppy Dog Tales

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It doesn't take Niall very long to figure out he's woken up as a dog. It's disorientating at first, waking up completely under the duvet, warm and confused and smelling so many things, but once he wriggles around a bit, works out the shape and size of his body, and finally pushes his nose out from under the hotel sheets, it's fairly obvious. He gives a little 'wuff!' to confirm it. Yep, he's a dog. Maybe there is only room in his doggy brain for a certain number of things. Enough for knowledge he is a dog, a faint bafflement as to why he is a dog, and no more room for actually worrying about it.

He sniffs the air - it's cooler than under the duvets, and there are so many more smells, oh my god, it's amazing. He can smell his own shoes and the soap from the open bathroom door and the pizza they ate last night even though he knows he definitely ate it all and - he can small Zayn. Zayn! Zayn is brilliant! He works his way out from under the duvet completely and wobbles to the end of the bed - it's hard to walk on something this soft and his legs don't seem very cooperative yet - and pauses for a moment at the edge of the bed. It seems quite a long way down, as he hasn't turned into a very large dog, but - either he stays here, or he jumps off and gets to go sniff Zayn, so there's only one option. He picks his feet - paws, he supposes? - up a few times, readying himself, then leaps.

He definitely falls over when he lands, but it's okay, because he's a dog and fluffy and it doesn't hurt at all. He shakes himself and makes a little involuntary doggy noise, then peers up at Zayn, who's still asleep in the bed across from Niall's. The distance up looks a lot longer than it did down, but - Niall has definitely seen dogs jump pretty high up. He tries it, and doesn't make it the first time, dropping back down to the floor, but again, it doesn't hurt, so he tries again, scrabbles at the bedding with his claws - wow, he has claws! - and finally gets up onto the bed.

Zayn is moving, now, shifting sleepily and rubbing at his eyes. "Piss off," he says, eyes still closed, and Niall is distantly glad that he can still understand human speech, as he's about eighty per cent sure normal dogs can't.

"Hi! Wake up! It's me!" he says excitedly. Of course it comes out "Woof, ruff!", and Niall is also distantly glad he can't still speak in human speech, because that might be a bit fucking weird. Not that turning into a dog isn't weird but, you know, there are lines.

"Wha--?" says Zayn, dragging his eyes open and propping himself up on his elbow. "Bloody hell!"

Niall can't help it; he bounds over to Zayn and presses his nose into his neck, hearing Zayn yelp, and sniffing in deep all the lovely Zayny smells.

"Christ!" says Zayn groggily and pushes Niall away; he sits up properly and blinks a lot. "What - where did you come from, little mate? Niall--" he glances over to Niall's bed and stops when he sees it empty. "Huh," he says, then "okay, whoa, mate, calm down!" when Niall lets loose a flurry of excitable barks trying to let Zayn know that no, he's Niall! He hasn't gone anywhere!

"Shh, shh," says Zayn, scratching Niall behind the ears, and it feels really nice so Niall subsides even though Zayn is being really stupid by not realising.

"Alright," says Zayn after a moment. "Soo--"

He sighs and gets out of bed, then scoops Niall up in his arms. Niall wags his tail - it's odd how immediately natural that feels, like, wagging your bum around, of course that's what you do when you're happy - and gives another little woof.

Zayn struggles the door open - Niall helpfully digs his claws in so Zayn doesn't drop him and Zayn swears at him, which really, is unwarranted - and walks out into the hotel corridor, then stops and looks around like that was the extent of his plans.
Luckily, the door two down from theirs bursts open and Harry bounds out, in his pyjamas, holding Liam in his arms.

Liam is also a dog, but Niall honestly notices that second because he smells them first, and that's so cool! Harry smells of Harry and Liam smells of Liam, and Niall barks and starts going a bit wriggly and crazy in Zayn's arms because he wants to go over and say hi.

"Bloody--" says Zayn, and half drops Niall, half puts him down, and Harry is having the same trouble with Liam, who leaps out of Harry's arms and trips over his own paws before bounding over to Niall.

"Hi Liam!" woofs Niall happily, and Liam barks back, and Niall is a bit disappointed it just sounds like a bark, that he can't hear secret dog language, but he can definitely tell it's a happy, welcoming bark. He shoves his nose at Liam excitedly, because Liam smells so great, like Liam and friendship and safety and things Niall didn't really think he could recognise via smell, but dogs are great.

Zayn sounds stressed. "I woke up and Niall's buggered off somewhere and there's this dog in our room and--"

Harry interrupts him excitedly. "Liam's turned into a dog!"

Liam and Niall both bark at that, and Niall is quite sure Liam's means the same as his, which is to say, "Thank god someone here has a brain!"

Niall nuzzles his face at Liam's excitedly as Liam nuzzles back; Liam has smooth soft velvety fur compared to Niall's tightly curled fuzz, and it feels lovely to run his nose over, and Liam barks happily and bats out at Niall with an overly large paw. Niall can feel his entire lower body shaking with how hard he's wagging his tail because Liam is a dog too! Liam! If anyone else could have been turned into a dog, Niall would have chosen Liam! They can play together and stuff! Liam is so brilliant and he's a dog too!

"Harry, I don't think Liam turned into a dog," says Zayn doubtfully, watching Niall and Liam. "But--"

"Look, that one must be Niall! He's an Irish terrier!"

"How do you--"

The door in between them opens and Louis sticks his head out grumpily. "Why the bloody fuck are there dogs barking at this time in the morning? Where did they come from?"

Harry turns to him with a big grin. "I woke up and Liam had turned into a dog! And Zayn said Niall has too."

"I did not!" says Zayn loudly.

Louis comes out of the room and bends down to stroke Niall and Liam, and he smells of sleep and food and Louis, and Liam and Niall are both going a bit crazy trying to climb onto his lap. He grins like he can't help it. "Very cute as these pups are, where did they come from?"

"I told you!" says Harry indignantly.

"Harry," says Louis carefully, scratching behind Liam's floppy ears until Liam's leg thumps on the floor in happiness, "I love you, but I'm going to listen to Zayn for just a minute, okay?"

"Ugh," says Harry petulantly.

Liam and Niall both whine, because he's right, and Harry gives them a sympathetic shrug as Louis looks at Zayn.

"I dunno, mate," says Zayn. "I woke up with a dog in my face trying to lick it, and Niall was gone. His phone's still on his bedside table, so I can't call him to ask where he is."

"And do we know where Liam is?"

Harry opens his mouth, then shuts it again. Then he says, "Same story. I woke up with Li-- this happy chappy all over me, and Liam's bed was empty, all his stuff still there."

"So no-one's seen Niall or Liam since last night?"

Zayn and Harry both shake their head no, and Niall nudges Liam with his head as if to say these idiots, eh? Liam gives him a long suffering look and licks his nose. Which should be weird, but it's nice too.

Louis considers for a moment, both Harry and Zayn - and Niall and Liam - looking at him expectantly. "Okay," he says after a while. "Harry, why do you think these dogs are Niall and Liam, and not some very weird prank?"

Harry puts his hands on his hips and looks smugly at Zayn, who rolls his eyes. "Well," he starts, "look at Li - that one's eyes. I'm sorry, that is Liam's puppy face that he pulls. And that one," he points decisively at Niall, "is an Irish Terrier. I mean, duh."

"It's shaky logic, I must admit," Louis starts, and Zayn chuffs, and Harry interrupts him.

"Wait!" he says. "Wait, wait wait."

"We're waiting," says Zayn, when Harry just looks thoughtful for a few moments.

Harry glares at Zayn. "Why," he says, "don't we let the dogs tell us?"

Louis raises his eyebrows.

"No, look," says Harry. "Liam and Niall, come here."

Liam and Niall obediently detach themselves from where they had their paws up on Louis's knee and trot the few feet over to sit in front of Harry

Harry smiles at Zayn and Louis, who are standing there open-mouthed.

"Now," says Harry. "Two barks for yes, one for no, okay? Doggies, are you Liam and Niall?"

Liam and Niall bark twice in perfect unison.

--

They burst into Paul's room with their emergency key card, Zayn and Harry carrying Niall and Liam, Louis confidently leading the way, all five of them - human and dog - talking at once.

It's chaos, and Paul is pretty used to chaos, but - Niall imagines - not so much with canine additions, so he stands up from where he was packing his bag and hollers, "Shut the fuck up!"

Paul doesn't swear very often, so all of them do so, Liam giving a little whine that Niall can't help but echo. Harry cuddles Liam closer protectively and Zayn rubs his hand over Niall's ears.

"You're scaring them," whines Harry in a very similar tone.

"Where the heck have the dogs come from? I need to call the front desk--"

"Paul, listen," says Louis in the sensible voice he does actually possess, the one that reminds everyone he's the oldest. "That's what we need to talk about."

Paul puts his hands on his hips and looks at Louis, eyebrows raised expectantly. "Okay?"

"They're Niall and Liam."

Paul frowns. "Where on earth have Niall and Liam got dogs from, and why? That sounds like something you'd pull, Lou--"

Harry stamps his foot like a frustrated toddler, and Louis shakes his head. "No no no," he says. "Not Niall and Liam'sss. The dogs are Niall and Liammm."

Paul considers the group of them for a while. "Okay," he says, slowly, with the infinite patience and caution of a man the subject of far too many One Direction pranks. "Why, exactly, do you think that?"

"Well," says Harry, holding Liam out like an offering, who looks hopefully at Paul, "with Liam it was easy. I mean, look at his face! That, you know, puppy face that Liam does. It's exactly the same, only Liam is actually a dog now," he says. "Obviously."

Obviously, Zayn mouths rolling his eyes.

"And Niall, well." Harry tucks Liam back in against his body. Liam wriggles, looking impatient, and Niall gives him a little yip of solidarity, because being held by Zayn is very nice but he has all this doggy energy buzzing in him and he wants to run around and bounce and play and sniff Liam a lot more because he smells like Liam and dog and it's great. Harry nods towards Niall. "He's an Irish Terrier, so--"

"Harry." Louis has dropped his face into his palm. "Make them do the barking trick, for goodness' sake."

--

After a lot more discussion - "You could easily have found two dogs trained to do that."

"If any of us were going to turn into a dog, it would be Liam, though!" says Harry, as though that's still a reasonable argument. "And Niall is quite like a puppy too."

"I dunno," muses Zayn. "He always seems like a kitten with you. You two are always stroking each other's hair."

"That's because Harry is like a kitten, though," says Louis. "Niall is like a puppy with Liam, you know, all bouncy."

"So Niall is like - an animal characteristics chameleon," says Zayn with an air of great epiphany. "What's he like around me?"

The others frown at that, looking confused, and Zayn looks hurt. "Am I not like any cute animal?"

Harry and Louis rush to reassure him, and Niall and Liam paw at his legs because Zayn is brilliant and should never look sad that he isn't as obviously as puppy or kitten-like as the others, and Paul blows out an explosive breath and asks what he did to deserve this.

- anyway. Eventually, Niall and Liam nose at each other and when Liam starts dragging Paul's belongings around, Niall gets it, and after they spell out "HI PUAL" - Niall blames Liam for the spelling - with Paul's socks, he sort of blinks at them a few times, and moves on to calmly discussing how to deal with the fact that Niall and Liam are dogs. There's definitely a reason he's paid to do what he does.

Niall and Liam start running circles around the room after about five minutes of said discussion, because they've been inside forever and it's sunny outside! Paul sensibly sends the boys, dogs, and some security out to a fairly large park not too far from the hotel, and continues to make contingency plans. Niall should probably worry about what will happen if he and Liam, you know, remain dogs, but the worry part of his doggy brain really doesn't seem to be working. Being a dog so far just seems great, and it's about to get so much better because they're about to play!

The park is so big, it's almost overwhelming - there's so much space and sky! But Liam keeps nudging at his nose and bounding away and coming back with little woofs, trying to coax Niall to come out and play with him, and Niall thinks that as long as Liam's here too, it's going to be fun, Liam won't let him get lost or anything.

Zayn, Harry and Louis throw a tennis ball for them, and Niall don't know why it's so exciting to go haring off over the grass to find that little green ball and tussle with Liam over it and bound proudly back to the boys, but it really is. Zayn does crap throws, the ball landing hardly any distance away, and Niall and Liam don't even bother to run at it, just stare up at him reproachfully.

"Fine, I get it, I'm shit at sport, shut up," says Zayn shirtily and flops down onto the grass to watch them. Harry gives great throws, his long arms and boundless enthusiasm throwing the ball so far it's sometimes hard to see where it's gone; and Louis give ideal play throws, the ball going just far away enough to be fun but not so far they have to nose round random people's picnics trying to find where Harry chucked it. The main problem with that is how good everyone's food smells, and Liam has to take Niall's ear between his teeth and gently pull him away before Niall forgets enough of his human manners to go snuffling around in people's tupperware.

Abruptly, after a while, Niall gets tired, and when Louis throws the next ball, Niall just sort of looks at him and decides he really can't be arsed, and flops down in a pile.

Liam hurries up to him, whining worriedly and nosing at him, so Niall just gives a little woof and licks his nose in a just tired, mate! reassurance, and Liam falls down half on top of Niall for a doze.

Niall loves cuddles usually, of course - you can't be in this band and not love cuddles, really - but as a dog it feels even better, because it's not uncomfortable to have someone literally lie half on top of you, it's actually lovely. Liam is really warm and smells nice, and Niall can feel his doggy heartbeat pounding fast and happy where his chest is wedged against Niall's shoulder. They nap for a while, even as Harry nudges them with his toe and complains about them being boring, and what's the point of coming to the park if they're just going to sleep.

"Harry - officially more energy than an actual puppy," says Zayn fondly. "Want me and Louis to throw a ball for you?"

"...yes," answers Harry slowly.

They all pile back into the car an hour or so later, and Niall feels warm and sleepy and happy, and Liam yawns massively before turning around twice and nuzzling at Niall in the seat they've been plopped on.

--

That night, they keep the rooms like before, Zayn plonking Niall down in the middle of the far too big bed and telling him sternly to not wake him up with his fucking nose in his neck in the morning. At first, it's great - Niall bounds around the bed a bit, delighted in how big and soft it is and how it seems like a whole playground now he's puppy-sized; but when he settles down to sleep, it feels a bit lonely, really. Niall's never had trouble sleeping alone, but - he'd been snuggled up with Liam all afternoon, and now the bed is really big, and Zayn is wonderful but will get very grumpy if Niall tries to squeeze in with him, he bets.

He's already off the bed and at the door before he realises he's going to have to make Zayn grumpy anyway, but he's committed, now. He sits at the door and paws at it plaintively, whining, and Zayn groans and flips on his bedside light.

"The fuck. What is it, Nialler?" he says, and his face softens when he sees Niall sitting dejectedly by the door. "Aw, pup," he says. "You wanna go out? Need to--" he wrinkles his nose. "Do your business?"

Niall shakes his head no, and Zayn blinks. "I know you're Niall and you can understand me, but it's still a bit weird when you do that."

Niall gives a little yip, and paws at the door again. Gently, of course, he doesn't want Paul yelling at them about damaging the hotels that already put up with enough, housing One Direction.

Zayn sighs and opens the door, and Niall immediately scampers out into the hallway and makes a beeline for Liam and Harry's room, then sits there trying to look even sadder than he did before.

"Awww," says Zayn again. "You wanna go say hi to Harry and Liam? I dunno, mate, it's late--"

The door opens then, and Liam bounds out and falls right over Niall, and they roll around together playing at biting each other's noses for a minute.

"So that's what he wanted," says Harry, warmly. "I thought he needed to - you know."

"I think it must be a bit weird being a dog for no reason," says Zayn. "Maybe it's a bit scary, like, and they feel better when they're with each other."

"Awww," says Harry, and Niall plans to give the lot of them so much shit for how much cooing they did over them when he's back to normal, but for now he's grateful they understand. He gives a very quiet woof and rubs himself around Zayn's legs more like a cat than a dog as a thank you, then trots back to Liam.

"They can both share Liam's bed," says Harry. "I'm less likely to get pissed off in the morning with two dogs waking me up."

Zayn laughs. "Thanks, mate."

Harry scoops Niall and Liam up, one pup under each arm, and drops them on Liam's bed, which smells like a delightful mix of dog Liam and human Liam.

"There you go," he says. "Nighty night, don't let the fleas bite." He laughs like he's hilarious, then drops a kiss on each of their heads. Niall licks at him automatically, and Harry sputters. "I'm going to lick your face for that when you're a person again," he says, but rubs Niall's head affectionately anyway.

Niall and Liam circle each other a few times, wriggling and nudging at the covers until they make a nice little nest in the middle of the bed and flop down together. Niall isn't very sleepy yet, after the nap this afternoon, plus his doggy energy-sleep cycles seem different to his normal ones. A whole night seems like an awfully long time to sleep straight through. But it's perfectly nice to lie there with Liam, feeling the rise and fall of his breathing, communicate with him in little near-silent whuffs and nudges. Niall doesn't know exactly what he's saying, but it's probably what Niall means: this is weird and fun but also maybe a bit scary but I'm really glad you're in it with me.

Liam starts, like, grooming him after a while, long warm passes of his flat doggy tongue over Niall's head and ears, and maybe - no, definitely that should be weird, because his mate is licking his head. It doesn't feel weird, though, it just feels really nice. Like it's tripped some dog instinct, something that goes ping in his newly canine brain and makes him feel loved, safe, warm, cared for. All things Liam's always been great at making him feel, anyway, so it just feels right to have Liam the one curled over him, cleaning him, taking care of him. Niall grooms him back a bit, licks in steady calming strokes over Liam's paw where it's crossed over his own, and they stay like that for a while, until Niall falls into an easy, deep sleep.

--

Niall wakes up, and for a moment doesn't feel different. He's warm and happy still, and he can smell Liam all around him still. But after a moment or two, as his brain wakes up more, he realises the smell isn't quite as nice as it was before, and then he realises that's because he's got his human nose shoved into Liam's human sweaty armpit.

Much as he loves Liam, a night's worth of sweat is never the world's most pleasant smell, so Niall jerks his head away quickly, gulping in fresher air from the hotel room. Then he realises that they're lying on top of the covers, both very much people again, arms and legs all tangled up together, and they're both bloody starkers.

Niall's first response to this is irritation that he's going to have to roll away from Liam and put some clothes on, because that involves moving, and he's so warm and comfortable, armpit-awakening notwithstanding.

Still, even if Niall is willing to ignore the nudity in favour of prolonging cuddles, he can only imagine Liam's face when he wakes up and realises that their bits are closely acquainted with each other's thighs, and Niall sort of wants to spare him that embarrassment, so he carefully disentangles himself and gets off the bed. He staggers for a moment, his sleepy brain still half-expecting him to be able to scamper around on all fours, and christ, the floor is a long way away! But he manages to wobble over to Harry's bag. He tugs out a pair of Harry's boxers and slips them on, then goes back over to the bed where Liam has rolled into the warm depression Niall left in the blankets, and tugs the duvet around so he can throw a corner of it over Liam's naked bottom half. He determinedly does not look at Liam's bum. It's a very nice bum, Niall has certainly noticed before, but it doesn't seem quite right to look at it when Liam is asleep and thinking he's probably still a dog.

Harry's snoring away in the other bed, so Niall settles himself at the head of Liam's, and starts poking Liam gently in the cheek until Liam wakes up with a snuffle.

"Whu--?" he says, head jerking up and looking around wildly before he focuses on Niall. "Oh!" he says, then looks down at himself, then back at Niall. "We're back!"

"Morning," says Niall, grinning. "We are! All human again. Careful--" he says as Liam sits up. "You're a bit, er, bare, under there."

Liam's eyes go wide and he glances down and tugs the duvet over himself nervously.

"Nothing I ain't seen before," says Niall loftily, like it's no big deal, but he's more aware than he thinks he should be of Liam's nakedness under the cover. "Anyway, you were licking my head last night, mate. What's a little nudity between friends after that?"

"Oh, god," says Liam, dropping his head down. "I swear it seemed normal when I was a dog. I'm so sorry."

"No!" says Niall, feeling bad. "It felt nice last night, it wasn't a bad thing, I promise! Just - a dog thing. Like, y'know, a drunk thing. It doesn't count once you're no longer drunk. Or no longer a dog."

Liam raises his head, one eyebrow quirked sort of sceptically, but he shrugs. "I'll take that, I suppose."

Harry wakes up, then, and from there it's all a bit of a rush - Harry hugs the both of them, proclaiming how much he'd missed them, ignoring Liam's squawk when Harry's enthusiastic hug dislodges the duvet. Harry gives Niall the threatened lick on the face, and then the others come in as Liam's getting dressed, and there are hugs and loud discussions about what it all meant, and Niall sort of wishes he could be a dog again so he could hide under the bed, because he loves his bandmates, he does, but god they can be loud.

"No, like!" Zayn is proclaiming loudly. "I bet it was the fans, somehow. Like I bet there's some of them into witch - Wicca stuff, yeah? And they did a spell."

"Why on earth would some fans want to turn Niall and Liam into dogs, Zayn, honestly, that's ridiculous," Louis dismisses. "No-one even knew or saw! It would literally be pointless."

"Well, maybe it didn't work like they wanted it to. Maybe they wanted it to happen on stage."

"But why would they?"

"Because, I dunno, it's cute?"

"They were very cute," Harry puts in. "I think it was, like, a lesson. You know, like Groundhog Day, or Freaky Friday. They had to learn something for it change back."

"After one day? " says Liam. "I don't think I learned anything. All we did was chase a tennis ball and sleep."

Paul declares it a "bloody fuckin miracle" when he comes in to check on them, and sweeps them all off to the promo they had scheduled for today that he was not looking forward to cancelling, and from there it's the standard chaos of a One Direction day of interviews.

By the end of the day, Niall feels more exhausted than he had after chasing the ball, and this time he can't just flop down on the grass with Liam and nap it off. He curls against the window in the van on the drive back to the hotel, and tries to swallow against the pathetic little whine he can feel building at the back of his throat. It was okay to whine and looks sad when you were a puppy, but it seems kind of silly and pathetic to just sit here and whine now he's back to normal, even if he is tired and just wants to cuddle with Liam again.

Harry gives him big sad eyes when they stumble out of the van. "Niall, you look sad," he says. "Can I do anything?"

He reaches out to rub at Niall's hair, scritching his fingers through it like he had when Niall was a dog. Niall closes his eyes and smiles because it does feel nice.

"Nah," he says, "s'okay. just a bit tired."

Louis rubs a hand over his shoulder and nods sympathetically. "Animal transformation can take a lot out of a chap, or so I've heard."

Liam stumbles out of the car, yawning, followed by Zayn who also has a worried hand on Liam's shoulder.

Harry looks between Liam and Niall and his eyes light up. "Lesson!" he says.

"Huh?" says Niall.

"Like I was saying! Which two of you turned into dogs? You and Liam. What did you spend most of your time doing while you were dogs? Snuggling together. You only turned back after a whole night of cuddling each other."

"Soo--?" says Liam, frowning and looking confused and Harry had a point, he looks very much like he did yesterday when he was actually canine.

"So, the lesson was you should cuddle with each other!"

"We sort of do that, Harry," Niall feels obliged to point out. "Like, all the time. All of us cuddle with all of us. I don't know why some magical powers would turn us into dogs for 24 hours to get specifically me and Liam to cuddle more."

Harry still looks convinced, though, and widens his eyes meaningfully at Niall in a way that Niall doesn't - really understand, but makes him feel a bit funny.

Liam yawns again, massively, and makes a funny little noise at the end of it, like he also sort of wanted to whine. He looks embarrassed. "Sorry."

Niall reaches out and grabs Liam's hand. "You're tired, I'm bloody knackered, Harry thinks we should nap together, so let's go fuckin' nap."

Liam grin at him. "You know how to make a boy feel special," he says, then goes a bit pink when Louis cackles.

"I think Harry's talking rubbish," Liam says as they take off their shoes in Niall's room, "but I mean. It was nice, when we were both dogs, lying together. I mean - obviously I like cuddling all the lads, but I'm glad it was you that was a dog, too."

"Yeah, me too," says Niall, getting under the covers. "I've got no fucking clue whey it happened, but - now that I'm me again - I'm sort of glad it did? I mean, being a dog was pretty cool."

"The smells!" says Liam excitedly, getting in next to Niall. "And how fast you could run."

"And fall over without hurting yourself! I jumped off the bed like five times in a row because it was fun."

Laim grins. "Harry gasped like I'd done something terrible everytime I jumped off something or fell over." Then his smile falters just a little bit, because there's about a foot of space between them and Liam looks awkward about closing it. It's a horrible expression on Liam's face, so Niall reaches out a hand and hooks it around Liam's shoulders, tugs him right in until they can properly cuddle, legs slotted together, Niall's head tucked under Liam's, his forehead against Liam's throat. It's - they've cuddled before, obviously, but not this close and entangled, so though Harry is wrong, he sort of has a bit of a point in a way, in that - it's nice that he can cuddle this close with Liam now, after how much they snuggled as dogs.

"Glad we changed back, though," he says quietly. "I missed human food."

"Yeah. And talking to the lads instead of trying to get them to understand stuff through like, mime and hope."

"And talking to you. You were there but I, uh. Sorta missed you too?" Niall feels a bit stupid - Liam was there, closer to him than the other lads had been - but he had missed him, talking to him properly.

"Yeah," says Liam. "Me too." He draws Niall in a bit closer and sighs. Niall can feel Liam's heartbeat again - not the rapid beat of his puppy one, but just as comforting, the steady thump-thump where Niall has a hand splayed out over Liam's chest.

They lie there for a while; Niall is tired, but not sleepy, so he doesn't drop off, and it doesn't feel like Liam does either, from his breathing.

Liam shifts a bit after a while, so his face is closer to Niall's, and Niall can feel the movement of his jaw against Niall's temple when Liam yawns. Liam sort of nuzzles into him, and then there's the unmistakable wet touch of his tongue against Niall's skin along his hairline.

It only lasts a split second, and they both freeze, which is somehow obvious even though it wasn't like they were moving much before.

"Um," says Liam. "I. I completely, actually just forgot I wasn't a dog just then. Like, that was some weird instinct from - shit, I'm sorry."

Liam sounds mortified, and that's just - not acceptable, so Niall wriggles up until they're face to face.

"Don't worry about it, mate," he says. Liam is very close to him, a line still in between his eyebrows, so Nial worms a hand in between them to rub his thumb at the line until it fades away and Liam smiles, eyes creasing up.

"There you go," says Niall comfortably. "All good."

Liam keeps looking at him, and Niall feels something fizzy bouncing around nervously in his stomach, because - Liam is so close, and not moving away.

"You know," he says slowly, feeling brave, "you know the - licking thing. That instinct."

"Yeah?" says Liam softly.

"I think - I mean, I'm pretty sure there's a human equivalent, that might work. If you wanna."

"Oh yeah?"

"Yeah," whispers Niall, and tips his head forward before he loses his nerve, presses a quick soft kiss to Liam's lips.

He starts to pull back, but Liam gets his big hand on the back of Niall's head, rubs his fingers through the hair softly and tugs Niall back in, kisses him, properly this time.

Liam's mouth is soft and so warm under Niall's, and it's everything the grooming had been - loving, comforting, warm, making Niall feel flushed and happy all over - but with sparks of something different underneath, an edge of something hot and bright and exciting and promising a whole lot more. Niall opens his mouth into Liam's firm kisses, takes Liam's bottom lip between his own lips and sucks it gently. Liam makes a little noise, a whimper that makes those sparks of more shine brighter, a hot tug in Niall's stomach, but they don't ignite, not yet. For now it's slow and warm and comfortable, even when Liam's tongue teases along the curve of Niall's bottom lip, slips teasingly over his teeth.

They kiss for a long while, the intensity urging up into gasps and nipping bites, then calming down into slow, syrupy, calming kisses, until they finally break apart.

"You know," says Niall after a long minute, "Harry was sort of right."

Liam blinks at him for a moment, then sighs. "Oh god, he sort of was. I mean, I still don't know why it happened, but maybe it was a lesson, leading us to - like, this. He's going to be really smug."

"He always seems to be right about things that sound crazy."

"He'll be bloody insufferable."

Niall grins, leans in to kiss Liam again. "I think it's worth it this time."