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Cute as Buttons

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it's like you're my mirror/my mirror staring back at me/I couldn't get any bigger/with anyone else beside of me


"Best meeting ever!" yells Louis, when they're back in the van.

Harry doesn't look up. He's staring at his hand. At some point in the melee he got a paper cut, and it's still oozing blood. Then Louis's shoulder is in his face, and Harry has to slump down in his seat to give him room to lurch over and fist-bump Liam in the seat opposite.

"Whooooo!" Liam shouts back, elbowing Zayn. "I am a god!"

Zayn makes a Kanye face. Harry knows it's a Kanye face because Niall explained it to him last week. "I just talked to Jesus—"

"—He said, what up Lee-zus," Liam shoots back at him, happily jamming his thumb into his own chest in case anyone doesn't get the joke.

"I said, shit I'm chillin," Louis puts in.

"TRYNA STACK THESE MILLIONS," Louis, Liam, and Zayn yell together.

There's a loud sigh from the driver's seat, where Pete is trying to manoeuvre the van into traffic.

Niall nudges Harry. "You okay?"

"I got a paper cut," says Harry. He holds his index finger out for Niall to inspect. Niall looks at it with deep concern and then kisses the tiny drop of blood away.

Louis looks over at them, still grinning. "Yeah, Harry? Best meeting ever?"

"It was all right," says Harry agreeably, because he likes it when Louis looks this happy. But the truth is that it was all a bit much. What he'd like to do now is go back to the hotel, light a candle, play ocean sounds on his iPod, and do a google search for Harry Styles asshole. He needs a good cry.

"All right?" Louis squawks in disbelief. "Me and Zayn flipped a table over and it was just all right?"

"That was class," agrees Niall. He squeezes all the fingers of Harry's hand that don't have a paper cut. "But Harry jumped on a desk and trashed a laptop, you know. That was cool too."

"Don't forget Veronica danced with me," says Zayn dreamily. "She was fit. I mean, not as fit as Perrie, but fit."

"She had no arse, though," objects Louis. "I know, because I looked."

"We all looked," says Liam, glancing over at Harry for agreement. "Anyway, I personally don't care about that. Zayn, do you care about that?"

Zayn shifts fussily in his seat. "What're you asking me for?"

"No reason," says Liam.

"Some people actually value the existence of a backside," says Louis stiffly.

"I know I do!" says Niall. He unbuckles his seatbelt and, disloyally, plunks himself down in Louis's lap.

"Seatbelts!" barks Pete, instantly.

"I am a god," mouths Louis, under his breath. Niall makes a quick grab at Louis's arse and then plops back in his seat.

Harry moves a bit closer to Niall, just so Niall will know he's back in the right place. He's still not quite satisfied. "Um," says Harry. "Do you think that girl had anything important on her laptop?"

"Pardon?" says Liam.

"The laptop I broke," says Harry, more impatiently. "Like if she had pictures of her mum or her cat, or maybe an email from her boyfriend."

Zayn leans forward, puts a calming hand on Harry's knee. "Harry, babe. If she had pictures, they were probably backed up in a million places, and her emails would be on her phone as well. Did you break her phone, too?"

"No," says Harry. It's the wrong thing to say, because it means Zayn nods and takes his hand away. Harry thinks about the way the office looked when they left it: papers everywhere, furniture upended, spray paint on the walls. "Do you really think you should've knocked over that bookshelf though, Zayn? People can get hurt that way and if you killed somebody it would be really bad publicity."

"No one was hurt, Harry," Louis tells him. "I mean, except for the blokes who kept calling Zayn Zack. The post trolley might've smashed into them a couple times. By accident, like." Zayn and Louis exchange a fist-bump.

"It was a favour, really," says Liam. "I mean, that bookshelf has officially been touched by Zayn Malik. Half the people in that office are probably rubbing themselves against it right now." Zayn looks at Liam. Liam's face colours a bit. "Just saying," Liam mumbles.

Harry should drop the whole thing and discuss being touched by Zayn Malik with Liam instead. Good mates show interest in the topics their mates are interested in, and it's particularly easy to do that if it means watching Liam's lips move. The problem is that now he can't stop seeing Marcel's agonized face, Marcel's hands raised in despair as Harry and his good mates trampled on his dreams. Marcel had been so happy, and then Harry had said, "Absolutely not." Harry tries to imagine a meeting with someone—his accountant, a bartender, twin Swedish beauty queens—where hearing such a thing would even be possible, and he can't. Mainly the people who say no to him are his mum and Louis Tomlinson.

"In retrospect," says Harry, "I think we were maybe impolite."

"They probably have insurance," says Liam.

Niall nods. "Boyband insurance! Louis, is that a thing?"

"I don't know," says Louis, "but who cares? They were trying to control us."

"Exploit us," Zayn agrees.

"And they disrespected Zayn," Louis finishes.

"That's true," says Harry, conceding this point. No one should disrespect Zayn, ever. "Also, it didn't seem right that the bosses were men and the staff were almost all female. I was uncomfortable that a woman had to bring us our mineral water."

Niall snorts. "You seemed pretty comfortable to me."

"I was in the moment," says Harry. "I was uncomfortable on an inner level that I'm only just now getting back in touch with."

Louis raises his eyebrows. Harry's sure that Louis really does value his ongoing journey of self-discovery, but for some reason he doesn't like to show it. "Anyway," Harry continues, "regardless of how Jonny and Harvey treat their office staff, I just think—like—what if we made everybody feel bad?"

"Feel bad," Louis repeats.

"Like if Leeroy put a lot of time into thinking up a dance routine," says Harry, "or Marcel tried really hard with those posters, the way we acted just seems kind of, well, mean?"

Harry looks up. Zayn is looking at him like he does when he has to save Harry from a stage flare when he'd rather be poking Niall's nipples. Louis is looking at him like he does when he has to prevent Harry from getting hit by the platform when he'd rather be tackling Liam to the stage. Niall just looks concerned. "Do you want me to kiss your paper cut again?" he asks.

Harry shakes his head wordlessly. For some reason he thinks of Marcel's glasses. He hopes no one knocked them off.

Liam clears his throat. "Okay, Haz. Do you want me to tweet about it? Because if that's the way you feel, I'm happy to tweet about it." He starts fumbling in his pocket.

"God, no!" says Louis. "Please, Liam. Please don't tweet about it."

Zayn holds out his hand. "Give me your phone, Liam. Right now." Liam folds his arms across his chest. Zayn glares. Liam slowly and reluctantly unfolds his arms and passes his phone to Zayn. Zayn puts it in his pocket.

"I feel like this is something you can't solve by tweeting," says Harry. "I feel like, um." He turns around in his seat. "Pete?"

Pete grunts.

"Can we swing back around, Pete, please?" asks Harry. He feels better immediately. He knows he's doing the right thing.

"Oooohhhh are you fucking kidding me," Louis says.

"I just," says Harry. "I need to go back there."

"Harry," says Niall. "Do you really think—"

"Yes," says Harry firmly. "Pete?"

"I just want to share something with you in case you don't know," says Pete, not taking his eyes off the road.

"Yes?" says Harry politely.

"We are driving. In LA. We are in a car, and we are on a street located in Los Angeles."

"I know that," says Harry, confused.

"He means the traffic's a bitch and you'll hold us up, genius," explains Louis.

"Oh!" says Harry. "Yes, I'm really sorry, but it's important. If you want, you can just drop me at the corner."

"Hazza," says Liam. "Are you expecting us all to troop back in there? Because I don't really—"

"No," says Harry firmly. "Just me. Pete'll let me out and I'll get back to the hotel on my own."


The office suite is strangely deserted when Harry pushes the doors open, and there's no evidence that anyone's tried to sort out the mess. Chairs are still knocked over. Business post and bulldog clips litter the floor. Harry looks at the giant poster on the wall: ThiS iS US!!!

"This is me," he says, very quietly. He feels stupid. He should've just sent over a cleaning crew, and then a florist. Everyone who works here deserves flowers after all that. Especially Marcel. Harry walks along the rows of desks until he finds the laptop he'd broken personally. There are a lot of pieces, and they don't really seem like they'd snap back together.

Clutching a piece of keyboard, Harry makes his way down the hall to Jonny and Harvey's office. He hears an oddly familiar rushing sound that gets louder as he gets closer. By the time he's outside the frosted glass door, the rushing noise has resolved itself into the sound of the ocean, waves breaking over and over against the shore. Harry smiles. He doesn't understand how Jonny and Harvey knew he was coming back, but he is kind of a big deal. Maybe they called Paul and asked about his favourite CD, just in case.

When he swings the door open into Jonny's office, though, he doesn't see anyone, only the late afternoon sunlight slanting in through the elegant rows of narrow windows and making the entire disaster area glow. The golden face of Buddha is presiding over a scene of carnage. Harry picks up the bamboo plant and sets it upright again. There are bits of earth in the shag rug; it'll probably have to be steam-cleaned.

"Hello?" calls Harry, just in case there's someone behind the side door. His plan was to make a touching apology and then leave fast, but it's kind of annoying being sorry about something when there's no one around to see how thoughtful he is.

"Hello," says a small voice from the vicinity of the floor. Harry's so surprised he trips over a golf club. It's Marcel, on his hands and knees under Jonny and Harvey's desk. When Harry meets his eye, he collapses into a sort of foetal position.

"I'm sorry," Harry says quickly, seeing his chance. "Marcel, I'm really sorry." Probably there's no one he'd rather apologize to. He looks about for something to tidy, to show his sincerity, and puts an antique statuette back on the bookshelf.

"Have you brought the others?" Marcel asks, his voice trembling.

"No!" says Harry. "God, no!"

Marcel takes a deep breath. "I—if you wanted to speak to Jonny, or, or Harvey, they've gone home, okay? They gave everyone the rest of the day off."

"Uh," says Harry. "Then why are you here?"

"Because I take my job seriously," says Marcel. He's hugging his knees and rocking himself just slightly on the shiny grey floor.

"Me too," says Harry. "I practise a lot."

"Last March I was employee of the month," Marcel says proudly, uncurling a bit, and then his face falls. "Now Jonny and Harvey are blaming everything on me."

Harry nods understandingly and sits down on the glass-topped coffee table. "Sometimes I sing so hard I have an asthma attack and people think all I do is have sex."

"Oh," says Marcel. He pulls at his collar. "What else do you do?"

"Things," says Harry, lowering his voice without really meaning to. If people don't want him to flirt, they shouldn't be rolling around on the floor looking sad. "Like I'm really busy with being the best I can be as a human being and a popstar, but I'm also making an experimental film about Niall, uh, and I do upper body workouts with Liam, and sometimes Zayn lets me watch while he draws Louis, plus I have to call in to the Radio One breakfast show a lot. What do you like to do?"

Marcel thinks. "I like writing in my inspiration journal."

"That's great!"

"That's where all the ideas you hated came from," says Marcel dully. "I'm sorry everything was awful."

"No!" says Harry instantly. "No, Marcel, we were awful."

Marcel shakes his head. "You're the client," he explains. "If you don't think I can strengthen your brand appropriately then it's your prerogative to—to—" He shakes his head and sniffs, then takes a large brown handkerchief out of his pocket and blows his nose.

"This is terrible," says Harry. He's going to get Marcel a new job. He's going to record a song just so Marcel can market it.

"I know I am!" wails Marcel, from behind his handkerchief.

"No, you're not!" says Harry. He wishes Liam were here. He knows from personal experience that Liam would know exactly how to comfort and affirm Marcel and distract him with his muscles. "You're a very thoughtful person. Who else would be playing ocean sounds just in case I came back?"

"What?" says Marcel, and peeks out from his handkerchief. His nose is red.

Harry points to the speakers. "Tide Music. Volume 17, right?"

"Volume 23," says Marcel, and they're both quiet a moment, listening to the splash and gurgle of the waves. "But I didn't put it on for you." He crawls out from under the desk.

"Huh," says Harry. "Weird."

"It's soothing!" says Marcel, picking up a piece of broken easel and glaring at it. "It's not weird!"

"That's not what I—never mind." Harry spies the drinks table, miraculously still upright, and makes his way over to the scotch. "Maybe I could help—" he starts, and then he sees the snowstorm of posterboard shards by the desk. Marcel seems to be picking up the broken remains of his ad campaign, piece by piece.

"Oh," says Harry. "Oh dear."

Marcel doesn't look at him. He finds a piece of the poster where they're all dressed in white and puts it in a pile. "I don't care," he mumbles. "It tested well."

Harry doesn't know what to say. He watches Marcel crawl around on the floor for a minute, and tries not to think about his arse in those tight, carefully ironed trousers. Anyway, by Tomlinson standards, it really isn't much of a bum at all.

"Excuse me," says Marcel, and Harry realizes he's standing on a piece of posterboard. God, he's the worst person in the world. Harry drops down to the floor by Marcel and rescues the top half of Niall in purple. Marcel holds out his hand, heaving an exasperated little sigh. Harry gives it to him, and then, impulsively, grabs Marcel's whole hand. It's a surprisingly large one.

"You didn't deserve the way we treated you," he says, ignoring the prickle of heat that goes through him at the touch of Marcel's skin. "I know saying that doesn't really mean anything."

Marcel sinks back on his knees, fingering his left earlobe nervously. What there is of it. Marcel's ears are kind of weird-looking. Harry would like to inspect them more closely, maybe with his tongue. "Your friends," Marcel's saying. "They hit me over the head with my best poster."

"Oh no," says Harry. "I didn't see that. Was it Louis? It was Louis, wasn't it."

"No?" Marcel says. "It was Liam and Zayn."

"What?" Harry's honestly shocked.

"What what?" says Marcel crossly. "From what I hear, everyone always blames Louis for everything, don't they? But Liam and Zayn thought treating me like that was hilarious."

"You said Zayn's name right," says Harry, distracted.

"Not everyone around here's like Jonny and Harvey," says Marcel. "I've done my research. But I'll tell you what, I don't think your bandmates are cute anymore." He takes off his glasses and starts furiously cleaning them on his sleeveless cardie.

"Oh, Marcel," says Harry. He sees that Marcel's got a sweet, open face, and that his eyes are red-rimmed, and there's the track of a tear on his left cheek that he wouldn't mind licking off. "Do you hate me, too?"

Marcel sniffs. "Why shouldn't I?" He goes back to picking up the pieces. Harry bites his lip and decides to help. He picks up a piece of policeman-Liam and puts it in the right pile—so far so good—but when he shuffles over to reach for builder-Louis, his head slams directly into Marcel's.

"Ow fuck!" says Harry.

"Oh fudge!" says Marcel.

They look at each other. "Sorry, mate, I'm that clumsy," says Harry.

"It's okay," says Marcel, but Harry thinks he can see the tears in his eyes forming again. "I'm, um. I'm clumsy too."

"Don't cry," says Harry. He's feeling a bit teary himself.

"I'm not," says Marcel, sinking back on his knees. "I'm going to finish cleaning this up and then I'm going to go home and light a scented candle and never google One Direction shirtless again, so there."

Harry stares at him. Then he reaches out, trying not to startle him, and gently brushes his index finger over Marcel's cheek and up under his glasses. Marcel is absolutely still. Harry pulls back his hand and shows him his finger, glistening with a single tear.

"So what," says Marcel, blinking furiously. "You hit my head really hard."

Harry sees crying people all the time. There are a lot of girls who have only to catch a glimpse of him before they burst into tears, real tears. Harry always tries to be nice, but if he's honest he's got quite inured to it by now. Crying is like blowjobs, just something that happens when people are near him. But there's something about the way that Marcel leans in to examine Harry's finger that makes the unshed tears still trembling on his lashes even more devastating.

Marcel frowns. "You're hurt," he says. He's found Harry's paper cut, a thin red line under Marcel's tear. "Tears are salty, they could make it worse."

"It's okay," says Harry bravely.

Marcel shakes his head. "I'll get you a band-aid."

He starts getting to his feet, but Harry pulls him back down. "Don't go," he whispers. "Please, Marcel."

Marcel stares at him. "Did you want to finish cleaning up first?"

"No," says Harry, and tries to think of something to say. "Did you ever consider parting your hair on the other side?"

"That wouldn't be right," says Marcel. "I have an instinct for these things."

"Me too," says Harry, and reaches out to stroke, ever so gently, Marcel's right ear. "Oh, me too."

Marcel makes a small, stuttered sound, leans his head almost imperceptibly into Harry's hand.

Harry wants to give him a kitten and an iced lolly and a trip in a hot air balloon and a year pass to a yoga studio, but he's a logical thinker and there's only one thing he knows he can offer right now. "Baby," he says, and starts pulling at the knot of Marcel's tie. "Let me make it all up to you."

"Heeyyyy," says Marcel, and grabs his tie back.

But Harry sees the way Marcel's lips have parted, so he leans in anyway. He knows how to do this; he feels at least fifty percent less stupid than he did twenty minutes ago. "Marcel," he says in his sensible voice, "I know you didn't hate all of it. I saw you dancing."

"No," says Marcel, but his voice is uncertain.

"Just a bit!" says Harry. "You did. You had more rhythm than I'd ever have guessed."

Marcel stops inching away. "Really? Because I feel like everyone always thinks I'm a flop."

"That's ridiculous," says Harry firmly, and starts tugging at Marcel's tie again. "And I'm sure not everyone. Does Leeroy think you're a flop?"

"N-no," says Marcel. He looks with worried eyes down to where Harry has finally managed to pull one end of the tie loose.

"Does Veronica?" Harry thinks about whether he wants Marcel to take his glasses off. Not yet, anyway. They're sort of hot in an opposite day kind of way.

"I'm not sure," says Marcel. "Half the time I'm scared to talk to her."

Harry finally pulls the end of the tie free, lets it dangle round Marcel's neck. "Don't be. Girls like that, you just have to take a firm hand. You saw me dancing with her, right? She softened right up. Ow!" Harry clutches his suddenly stinging cheek, scrambling to his feet. "You slapped me!"

"Don't you dare talk about Veronica like that," say Marcel. His voice has dropped a register, and he's got a look in his eyes like he could carve Harry in pieces and toss them one by one off Santa Monica Pier. "You don't know her at all."

"Mysterious type, is she?"

Marcel glares up at him. "She's not a type, she's a person."

"A person who liked dancing with me," says Harry.

"You don't know anything," says Marcel. He gets to his feet, stalks over to the iPod dock on the bookshelf, and turns off volume 23 of Tide Music. His voice is loud in the sudden silence. "Veronica's leaving on Monday to open her own studio. She was only slumming it here to fill her rolodex, and she was only nice to you lot to get in with—"

"With who?" Harry frowns. Marcel's trying to reknot his tie. That's not good. Harry weaves his way around the coffee table and the white sofa—a gash in the leather and stuffing coming loose—and goes to Marcel where he's backed up against the shelf. He puts his hand over Marcel's hand to still it, then stretches his fingers to brush against the skin just above Marcel's tightly buttoned shirt. Marcel quivers and softens right up. Harry can feel the pulse beating in his neck. "Hey," breathes Harry, because Marcel's pulse is some kind of magic fucking magnet, deep and overwhelming like the pull of the tide he can no longer hear.

Marcel swallows, his throat moving under Harry's fingers. "Don't tell anyone?"

"No one," agrees Harry, which means no one except Niall and possibly Zayn.

"Little Mix," says Marcel. "All Veronica cares about. She wants to sign them to a movie deal. She says it'll be bigger than Spiceworld."

"But what does that have to do with—oh." Harry drops his hand, embarrassed.

Marcel nods. "Zayn. She'd dance with anyone if it meant getting Perrie's phone number."

Harry frowns. "I don't know why you think Zayn would fall for something like that."

Marcel just looks at him. Then he digs a piece of paper out of his pocket and hands it to Harry. Zayn's handwriting is unmistakeable.

Hey babe! Great time today! 07735 683 752 Perrie's number. Here's mine too, just in case lol. 07969 268 757 Call anytime! Maybe the three of us can have another 'meeting' aha!! x

"Oh Jesus," mumbles Harry.

"Veronica put Perrie's number in her phone and then tossed this in the trash and walked out," Marcel explains. "Well, if you'll excuse me, I need to finish cleaning up."

He sidesteps Harry and goes back to his bits of posterboard, his little checked jumper sliding up as he bends over. A bit of white shirt has come loose from his trousers. It occurs to Harry that Marcel's back is the stem of a lonely, beautiful flower. His arse is heart-breaking and forlorn. All Harry wants is to stick his dick in it. But he's got to be careful. He wants to do this right. For example, he should probably tidy the desk.

He shuffles all the papers on the desk into a pile, puts the pile neatly in the centre of the brown desk pad, then thinks a moment and stashes the whole lot away by the Buddha statue. He replaces the telephone in its cradle and sets the telescope-looking lamp thing upright. They go in the corner of the desk, so they won't be in Harry's way either. There's a box of tissue upside down on the floor, so he takes a tissue and wipes down the desk for good measure. Then he turns back to Marcel. Marcel has got out a roll of sellotape and he's carefully taping together that poster where they're all shirtless in black leather. Every once in a while he jabs himself with the teeth of the tape dispenser and grimaces.

"Marcel," says Harry gently. "What's the point? You must have other copies of that picture."

Marcel hunches his shoulders a bit more and drags the tip of his finger across Niall's torso. Harry feels a rush of sympathy. "Just tell your print shop to make you a private copy! It's not anything you have to be ashamed of."

Marcel clears his throat. "But this is the one, um. This is the one that Zayn and Liam touched."

"Oh sweetie," says Harry. "After they treated you like that and everything? C'mere." He puts out his hand and pulls Marcel to his feet.

Marcel comes, stumbling, eyes cast down. "I know it's stupid," he mutters.

"I'll touch you, baby," Harry says. "D'you want me to touch you?"

"I don't know," says Marcel softly.

"You don't want me? Is it just Zayn and Liam for you?" Harry tries not to feel disappointed. The main thing is for Marcel to be happy again, to make him beam like he had at the beginning of the meeting. "Because I bet I can arrange to send you a pair of Zayn's boxers or something instead. Maybe an apology note from Liam? I'm sure he'd like to do that."

"No!" says Marcel. "I mean yes, I'd like to have—those things—but it's not just—it's, um." His voice grows so low it's almost inaudible. "All of you."

"Ah," says Harry. He thinks of Niall, scowling on cue for a Vine; of Zayn, pulling him in firmly to murmur in his ear; of Liam, pressing up behind him to bite at his shoulder; of Louis, ruffling his hair in the studio when Harry nails his part. "I know exactly how you feel." He clears his throat. "But also—including me, right? You like me too?"

Marcel nods, blushing. "I know it's not professional."

"Professional schmofessional!" says Harry cheerfully. He's back on familiar territory now. "Don't worry about it. Look, I cleared the desk off."

Marcel looks at the desk and then raises shining eyes to Harry. "You mean—you really—"

Harry grins. "Can't fuck you all better in a pile of clutter, can I?"

"Oh," says Marcel. "Oh, goodness." Then he bites his lip with a bit of a grimace. It's the single most sexy thing Harry has ever seen. He wants to kiss the hell out of the suddenly dirty twist of Marcel's mouth. He wants to go to a mirror and see if he can do it too. But then Marcel opens his mouth and says, "In that case, okey-dokey!" and Harry forgets the mirror, forgets everything except lifting Marcel onto the desk and crowding up between his legs.

"Um!" says Marcel. "But! Just! What about—!"

"Ssshhh," says Harry, and kisses him.

"Uhhh!" Marcel manages, disobediently, but then subsides. Harry mouths at his lips gently and romantically while he counts to five in his head—ever since Taylor complained he's tried hard to wait a polite amount of time before sticking his tongue in—hits five, and then goes for it. Marcel clutches at his shoulders and opens right up. Harry can taste the scotch he'd seen Marcel sneaking earlier, and then there's a hand in his hair and Marcel's kissing him back, so much more boldly than Harry expected. Harry grabs hold of Marcel's collar and pulls. When a button comes loose, Marcel lets out an affronted squawk, so Harry ducks his head to suck at his throat. He closes his eyes when he feels Marcel's pulse again, this time thrumming against his lips. He pulls him closer, kisses his way back to his mouth, and then winces because the rim of Marcel's glasses pressing into his cheek is becoming actually painful.

"Is it all right?" asks Marcel when Harry pulls back. They're both breathing hard. "Do you want me to take my clothes off?"

Picking at the buttons of his own shirt, Harry casts his eyes over Marcel's sleeveless jumper, his shirt with its collar pulled awry, his ironed trousers that are a bit dusty at the knees. "No," says Harry.

Marcel looks like he's going to cry again. "I'm not…I'm not Liam, but my body's not awful, are you sure?"

"Gonna take them off you myself," says Harry briskly, removing his own shoes and socks. Then he takes out his wallet, thumbs through a pressed flower, a fortune cookie fortune (YOU are the one you've been looking for), and Salman Rushdie's phone number, pulls out two packets of astroglide, and hands them to Marcel.

"What's that?" says Marcel feebly. "Oh. Really? You just had those with you? Do you do this often?"

"Don't worry about it," says Harry. He twitches off his shirt and lets it drop to the floor.

Marcel is looking at his chest, wide-eyed. "…three, four," Harry hears him counting under his breath. Then: "I always wanted tattoos."

"You don't have any?" Harry pushes down his jeans and pants, kicks them aside.

"No sirree!" says Marcel. Now his eyes are on Harry's dick. For some reason it gets Harry even harder to know that Marcel's skin is untouched. Harry should probably cover it in jizz. On the other hand, he should probably also come in Marcel's arse, so. Problems. "I would have," Marcel continues, "but I just couldn't decide on one? I had, I don't know, ten, twenty, thirty different things I wanted, and I couldn't get them all, so."

"Oh, Marcel," says Harry, because he's back between Marcel's legs now, and Marcel's hand is hovering above his cock. "Wrong again." It's not a good time for a tattoo encouragement speech, though; Marcel's already touching the head of his dick with two careful fingers.

"Hmm?" asks Marcel, rubbing curiously with his thumb.

"Yeah," says Harry. "That's right." It's kind of weird that Marcel isn't making any kind of comment on how big he is—that usually happens as soon as Harry gets his kit off—but it's fine. Everything about Marcel is fine. In fact, he wants to kiss him a bit more, which is odd as well. Often once his cock's out that sort of thing feels unnecessary. But Marcel's head is tilted up and his lips are red, so Harry pulls off Marcel's glasses and examines Marcel's naked face. "Pretty," says Harry, putting the glasses down carefully. "Such a pretty boy." Marcel lets out a surprised gasp and his hand closes around Harry's cock. "You didn't know that?" asks Harry. Marcel closes his eyes and sways toward Harry. Harry kisses his eyes, his cheeks, his left ear, while Marcel's hand moves in dry, inquisitive jerks on his cock. "I don't know why I thought you'd be shy," Harry whispers. "You're the one who designed those posters."

Then Harry reaches down for Marcel's cock. He doesn't care, he thinks, it could be small, a rigid pink doll of a dick, and he'd still want it. When Harry makes contact, Marcel's head falls forward onto Harry's shoulder. But Marcel's not small. Harry's only feeling it through his trousers but nothing is clearer than the fact that Marcel has a monster cock.

Harry unzips him with eager fingers, expecting to find plaid cotton boxers, or maybe plain white briefs. But there's—nothing. Just Marcel's cock pressed up against his hand, hot and stiff and glistening a bit at the head.

"What the fuck," says Harry. "You don't wear pants?"

"I wear pants!" says Marcel, offended. He gestures at his trousers. His dick bounces.

"No, pants," says Harry. "Underwear. Never mind. I like it." He leans in to whisper in Marcel's ear. "You're a dirty boy, you know that?"

"Hmmm," answers Marcel, somewhat squeakily.

"And you've got a beautiful cock." Harry pushes closer so their dicks are bumping together. "Fucking huge, I like that."

"Yes," Marcel moans, his eyes fluttering shut.

"Almost as big as me," says Harry generously.

Marcel's eyes fly open. "Definitely as big as you."

Harry frowns. "No, see, it just looks like that 'cause you're cut, right, and that always makes dicks seem—"

"Nope," Marcel interrupts, sliding peevishly off the desk and putting his glasses back on. "Look, if you line us up right here, you'll see—stop going up on tiptoe, that's cheating—I'm happy to get a ruler, you know—" He's fussing at their cocks with careful, darting fingers, arranging them against each other in agonizing little butterfly touches, and Harry can't think of a way to stop him talking except to grab Marcel's gaping waistband in both hands and yank. Marcel stumbles, off-balance, and Harry drops to his knees to get his trousers all the way off, Marcel's dick bumping against the side of his head as he goes down.

"Anyway," says Harry, "I like it. Lift up your foot."

Marcel blinks down at him. He's got his hand on his dick as if he's still ready to measure. But he lets Harry pull off his shoes and then his trousers. To put him at his ease, Harry even folds the trousers before putting them aside. Marcel pats him weakly on the head. Harry leaves Marcel's argyle socks alone, licks briskly at his dick a few times since he's already down there, and rises to his feet.

"You," says Marcel. "B-b-but—"

"I know," says Harry, "I’m not gonna suck you right now, baby, but don't worry, I'm still gonna make you feel good. Inspiration journal good."

"Oh," Marcel whispers. "Okay." He's still got his shirt on, not to mention the cardie, but Harry hasn't got the patience for it. He pulls Marcel against him, chest to chest, cock to cock, one hand going down to squeeze at Marcel's arse while Marcel does the same to him, mirroring him perfectly. They kiss. Harry slides his hand up the back of Marcel's neck and into his Brylcreemed hair. He concentrates on the prod of Marcel's tongue, the wet slide of his lips. Harry doesn't have to tilt his head up or down because they're exactly the same height. It's nice. It's nice until Marcel's knee starts pushing insistently between Harry's legs, until Marcel's groin starts moving in a slow slide against his, and then it's not enough anymore.

Hands on Marcel's waist, Harry steers him till he's backed up against the desk. Marcel puts two fingers up to straighten his glasses. One lock of hair hangs lankly over his forehead now. His dick pokes out between the flaps of his dress shirt, pink and swollen.


"Turn around now, sweetheart," Harry says. He pushes gently at Marcel's hips, and Marcel turns so he's facing the desk. The tail of his shirt covers most of his sweet little bum. "Yeah," says Harry encouragingly, and moves in.

The thing is, Marcel's so easy. Harry can press Marcel down to the desk with one firm hand to the small of his back and he just stays there. Harry strokes his hands down Marcel's sides, pulls up his shirt. He can hold most of Marcel's arse in his two hands, and he does. Marcel quivers, bucks up into Harry's hand, so Harry squeezes his bum reassuringly and then more insistently. His hands go everywhere.

It's when Harry presses up to him, cock stiff against Marcel's arse, that Marcel starts to whine.

"Tell me what you want," says Harry breathlessly.

"Y-you," says Marcel. "That."

"You want me to fuck you, sweetheart?" Harry grinds his dick into the crack of Marcel's arse, just to make the point clear. "How do you want it?"

"Um," says Marcel. He seems to be thinking it over. Harry grabs one of the packets of lube. "I'm sure I'll be very happy with however you want to handle the situation. As long as you—"

"Yes?" asks Harry kindly.

"Can you just—at some point during—at your convenience, obviously—can you just say something like, 'I love your design'?"

"What," says Harry.

"Or, 'great concept, let's roll!' You know, something like that. Just—just so long as you're telling me yes."

"Wow," says Harry.

"Obviously if it's too much trouble—" starts Marcel.

Harry looks at the way Marcel's got his hands clasped on the desk in front of him. "No," he says slowly. "No, it's fine."

Marcel makes a breathy little sound and wiggles.

"I actually," says Harry, "I actually meant, you know, do you want it hard or fast or slow or what."

"Oh," says Marcel slowly. "You decide. I mean, I like it best when I—don't decide."

Harry's hips jerk forward before he can help it. "Fuck, Marcel. Yeah. I can do that. I can decide."

"That's dandy," says Marcel, and drops his head trustingly back down to the desk.

"Gonna get you ready then," says Harry. His voice sounds hoarse even to his own ears.

"Please," says Marcel. "Oh, Harry, please."

Harry drags his dick between his cheeks one more time and then steps back and tears open the lube. He puts a slick thumb to Marcel's hole and presses lightly, circling the rim. Marcel's breath catches. "It's okay," says Harry. "Not gonna hurt you." He thumbs at the rim again, pushing in this time, and Marcel whimpers. "That's it," says Harry, "that's it, let me—" When he's in up to the knuckle Marcel lets out one long shuddering breath and it gets easier. Harry pushes a bit deeper, keeping a firm hand on Marcel's hip. "Stay still now," he warns, and when Marcel visibly tries to control his shaking, Harry feels—well, he feels a bit jealous. Because what's better than having nothing to do but obey? What's better than being bent over, opened up, knowing that more is coming, knowing that if he's good, if he does what he's told, he'll be pleasing? Someone will stroke his hair. Someone will tell him what a good boy he is.

"Oh god," blurts Marcel, when Harry pulls out, and Harry chases the envy away, because right now it's Marcel who needs to be praised, Marcel who needs him the most.

So Harry says, proudly, "Good boy." He presses a kiss to the bottom of Marcel's spine and squeezes out more lube. It isn't long before he's got two fingers crooked in, pushing deeper with every little roll of Marcel's hips. "You love this," he tells Marcel, and when Marcel wails encouragingly, Harry keeps talking. He can say sexy things. He's definitely had sex with people who've told him sexy things. "This is what you really need," he says, stalling, and then, with a burst of inspiration, "You don't need me dancing in black leather. All you need is me filling your arse."

Marcel lets out a short noise of protest.

"Yeah, right," Harry agrees. He gets a third finger in, listens, pleased, for Marcel's yelp, and starts pushing his fingers in more rhythmically, a slow, insistent groove. "The others too. I'll see what I can do."

Marcel sighs like there's nothing to be said to this, and after a bit Harry pulls his fingers out. It's enough, Harry thinks; for himself, it would be enough. Marcel's bracing himself with his forearms on the desk. He turns his head to Harry, his cheeks flushed, his glasses askew. Harry can see a bead of sweat on his neck, just above the collar.

"You ready, sweetheart?" Harry asks kindly. He's slicking up his dick. "It's gonna be a lot."

Marcel nods violently.

"Ask me to fuck you," Harry suggests.

Marcel looks stricken. Harry leans in closer. "So fucking creative, Marcel. You're testing really, really well."

There are tears in Marcel's eyes again. "Fuck me," he whispers, and then, with more conviction, "Ah, god, please fuck me."

Hearing Marcel say "fuck me" in his singsongy, smarmy little American accent makes Harry's head spin. "Dirty mouth," says Harry, and leans all the way forward to kiss it.

"You would know," Marcel answers smartly. "Hmm?" But he kisses Harry back, bites at his lip even, and then smiles.

Harry grins back at him, straightens, and lines his cock up. Marcel is perfectly still, waiting, head in his arms. Harry can see the backs of his ears, vulnerable and trusting. The boy he'd devastated with two words: absolutely not. The boy who's bending over for him anyway, thighs so sweetly spread. Harry slides a hand under Marcel's shirt, rubs a couple of big, warm circles on his back, hoping Marcel knows he's grateful. Then, cock in hand, he guides himself in.

Harry and Marcel moan at exactly the same moment, in exactly the same keening key of surprise and pleasure.

"Oh," says Harry, only halfway there. "Oh, yeah."

"More," mumbles Marcel, "more."

Harry knows just how it feels, being opened up but not nearly full enough. "Gonna take care of you," he says. "Gonna give it to you like, like—" Harry can't think what it's like. He grips Marcel's hips, drives all the way in. He can hear Marcel's noises from what seems like a long way off. He breathes carefully, wills himself to be still. "Like, um, if I'm a stand mixer, right, and you're a batch of shortcrust pastry—no wait—like if I'm a bulldozer and you're a—"

"Oh—my—stars," Marcel interrupts. "Could you just do it?"

"Right," Harry says. "Sorry." He withdraws incrementally and then in one tight hot slide shoves back in. Marcel gasps and shifts his position on on the desk, and for one terrifying second Harry thinks he doesn't like it after all. Then he realizes Marcel's just trying to push his arse up higher.

"Let me," says Harry softly. "Marcel, let me decide." He takes Marcel's jaw in his hand and gently presses Marcel's cheek to the desk, his fingers tracing just for a moment the line of Marcel's mouth. Marcel whimpers and puts out his tongue. Harry groans at the sight, the sheer slutty want of it, and thrusts helplessly inside him.

"Harry," Marcel's whining, "Harry, Harry," so Harry braces himself with one hand on the desk and starts fucking him properly. He gives it to Marcel hard and deep, because that's how Harry likes it, and Harry somehow knows that what he likes will be what Marcel likes, knows the sound of Marcel's sobbing gasps even before he hears them. Oh, he's such a good boy, bent over and taking it, clenching his fists and not even trying to touch himself, not even going for his cock, now swaying uselessly, bumping up against the desk when Harry grinds in particularly hard. Harry moans in appreciation, shoves up Marcel's shirt and jumper to expose the curve of his back, bends to bite at the heat of his skin.

He doesn't understand it, the way he wants Marcel. It's like he wants to smash himself against him and leave no space at all, like he wants Marcel's blood flowing through his veins. "Ahh-h-h-," Marcel's droning. "Ah, ah, ah," and Harry tries to push in deeper, harder, bury himself there. "Harry," gasps Marcel, "please," so Harry spits in his hand, reaches for Marcel's cock, groans when he feels it pulse in his grip.

"Fuck," says Harry, meaning, "you're perfect," meaning "your perfect cock is perfect," and tries to jack it to the rhythm of his thrusts. The fucking desk is in the way though, and his legs are getting shaky, so he drops Marcel's cock and scoops his body up against his chest with an arm wrapped round his torso, keeping his cock sunk deep as he can. Marcel follows, stumbling, and Harry takes his weight as he staggers back. Clothes, Marcel's still covered in clothes, so Harry gets a handful of Marcel's shirt and pulls. There's a ripping sound and then Marcel's smooth chest is bare under Harry's hand, his nipples hard peaks—his nipples—wait—

"No," says Marcel, "no, no, you're stopping, you can't stop."

"You've got," says Harry wonderingly, "you've got more than two—but I—"

There's a sound from Marcel that's very like a growl as he grinds his arse back hard on Harry's cock. "Do you think," he says, "do you think you're so special?"

"Well—" says Harry.

"No," bites out Marcel. "No, absolutely not."

The phrase echoes through Harry's head, piercing in its clarity. It feels so good, someone telling him no.

"Say that again," Harry says, slowly.

"No," Marcel groans, and squirms against him desperately, in the way that Harry knows means more cock, more cock. "Absolutely not."

Everything goes cloudy then, like a haze before Harry's eyes, like he could use a pair of Marcel's glasses himself, and he pulls out of Marcel so fast that Marcel yelps in surprise and a bit of pain. "Sorry," says Harry, "sorry, sorry, please I need you like this—" and he pulls Marcel frantically over to the shag rug. "You need me like this," Harry explains, and pushes him down. Marcel's knees buckle willingly, and then he's on his hands and knees amidst the scatter of torn paper, his shirt hanging half off and his arse in the air, and Harry's following him down, knees banging hard onto the rug, shoving back into Marcel in one fierce push and grabbing clumsily for Marcel's cock. Marcel's whining is high-pitched and continuous, but it's Harry who's grunting loudest as he grinds into Marcel's arse, Harry who can barely see as Marcel rocks forward into his fist and backwards onto his dick, until Harry doesn't know which of them is making anything happen anymore.

"Close," Marcel gasps. "Close, I'm gonna—"

"Dirty boy," Harry rasps, and takes his hand away. "You wait."

"No," Marcel moans, and his protest sounds so good that Harry stops thrusting, has to before he shoots off immediately. "No, Harry, Harry, touch me, please—"

"Wait," says Harry, and he yanks Marcel up and sinks back so Marcel's straddling his knees, sliding back onto his lap. "Like this," says Harry, "like this when I tell you." He manhandles Marcel upwards a bit, holding him by the hips, and Marcel lets Harry move him, easy and pliant, until Harry slides him back down on his cock at a different angle. The noise Marcel makes is both ecstatic and prayerful.

"That," says Marcel, "there, god there," and his head falls back on Harry's shoulder.

Harry raises him again, pulls him back down so he hits the same place deep inside, and then Marcel arches his back and finds the rhythm of it, helping, so Harry can get a hand back on Marcel's cock. "Whenever you want now," Harry tells him, and Marcel rolls his face into Harry's neck gratefully. It's the heat of Marcel's mouth that reminds him to say it. "Love your design," Harry groans, meaning every word. "Love it, oh, I love it," and that's when Marcel trembles all over and comes in spurts that streak his own thighs.

"Fuck," Harry breathes, "fuck, fuck," and then he's pushing Marcel forward, holding his hips tight to keep his cock in, until Marcel's back down on his hands and knees. "Was it okay," says Harry, before he can stop himself. "Tell me, Marcel, tell me it was good."

"It was—good," Marcel whimpers. He sounds utterly wrecked. "Good—boy," and then he drops limply down to his forearms.

"Jesus," Harry moans, and drives his cock in deep. He holds Marcel like he'll never get enough, crazy with the pleasure of it, feeling the high-tide rush of the end on its way. Everything's erased except the heat and the hunger, and then Marcel whines, turns his head again as if he needs to see it for himself, Harry's face when he's coming inside him. Harry meets his eyes as he draws back and plunges in one last time, as urgent as if it's this final thrust that will bind them together, as close as Harry, coming, feels they were somehow meant to be.


About twenty minutes later, they're sitting side by side on the rug, leaning against the couch, and listening to ocean sounds. Harry's sipping scotch straight from the decanter. Marcel's still dabbing at the rug with a wet wipe. He'd allowed only a few minutes of cuddle time before tsk-tsking and padding off naked in his glasses and argyle socks. He came back with cleaning supplies, a box of plasters, and a fruit basket.

Marcel's not happy about the drips on the rug—"but it's a white rug," Harry says, "so it blends. Anyway, you can send me the steam-cleaning bill."

"That reminds me," says Marcel, and he takes out a plaster and holds out his hand for Harry's. "This one time Jonny spilled coffee on his suit, so I was taking it to be cleaned, not that he told me to do it, just that Veronica asked me and I said you betcha! Because I know Veronica doesn't like it when Harvey asks her to do those things." He wraps the plaster tightly around Harry's paper cut, even though it's mostly closed up already. "Anyway, uh, on the way to the cleaners I saw this kite stuck in a tree, which was kind of a coincidence because it was a blue kite, and the thing about blue…"

The story lasts about fifteen minutes. Marcel is fascinating, Harry thinks. He's an observer of human nature and the urban environment. Harry hangs on every word.

"And that is the last time I will ever discuss horse breeding with a street musician!" Marcel finishes. He leans against Harry's shoulder and opens a banana. "Do you want an apple?"

"Nah, banana's good," says Harry, and starts peeling his own. "You're an amazing storyteller."

"Do you really think so?" says Marcel. "Veronica used to make fun of me when I tried to explain anything interesting that happened to me."

"Definitely," says Harry firmly, and leans over to kiss Marcel. His mouth tastes like banana.

"This is swell," says Marcel. "I think I probably like you best."

Harry shrugs generously. "You should probably spend more time with Niall before you decide."

"Could I?" says Marcel. "Does that mean I was—well—"

"Go on," says Harry. He chucks the peel aside and it lands on a broken Golden Globe. He'll tidy it up later, he'll tidy everything up later. Right now he feels like he did when he first sang for a crowd who loved him: completely, one zillion percent happy and satisfied. When you feel like that, you shouldn't make yourself less so.

Marcel bites his lip. "It's just, I know you must've done this with a lot of people. So I was just wondering. Was that okay?"

"Oh, Marcel," says Harry, and he takes Marcel's big hand in his, puts it to his cheek. "You were absolutely one of a kind."


and I'll tell you baby it was easy/coming back into you once I figured it out/you were right here all along