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Solace

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"Ma’am… ma’am, you’re going to have to find somewhere else to stay if you can’t pay for a room." You jerk awake at the touch to your shoulder, groggy eyes traveling up to find the stern face of a hotel security guard. You don’t know how long you’ve been out, just that it feels like forever and moments all at once.

"Oh, I’m… I’m sorry," you say quickly, but it was a mistake to open your mouth; as soon as you suck in a breath just to speak there are tears pricking at the corners of your eyes.

The vivid image of your fiance, entwined with a complete stranger in the hotel bed, flashes violently behind your eyes. Just remembering is like a physical pain that radiates out from your heart to the rest of you in strangling pulses. For several seconds, you’re frozen, half to your feet with your hand clutching the single bag you’d managed to throw some things into. Did you tell the manager you were checking out? Yes, yes - well, you’d asked for another room, but found that the rest of the place was solidly booked until the day after next.

You desperately pull in another breath. “I’m sorry,” you mumble, though your words and the guard’s none too gentle insistence you find your way out are swallowed up in sudden commotion.

"Wait a second, sir," a young man comes jogging over. "Wait…" He’s beautiful, face etched in concern. When his so very green eyes slip over you, it’s more like someone checking on a lost child than checking out a potential lover. Like he’s trying to make sure all your parts are in the right place. "Did you forget?" he says, and his gaze is imploring, long fingers cupping your elbow.

Swallowing hard, and somewhat dumbfounded, you turn your teary eyes up to him. “For-forget?”

"Our room number," he teases, like you’ve been best friends forever. "Sweetheart…"

"Ah… I," it’s already clicked, but you’re not one hundred percent sure jumping into the unexpected charade is a good idea.

But the young man doesn’t wait anymore and that hand at your elbow becomes a gentle arm around your waist. “I’m terribly sorry, sir, my girl-” He glances back at you again, seems to notice something new and amends, “my fiance here, she’s awfully forgetful. So, you know, I’d appreciate it if you let her be; I’ll take her back to our room.”

This time the guard looks dumbfounded and if you could find anything funny at the moment his face would be it. But he doesn’t try to shoo you out anymore, rubbing the back of his neck and saying skeptically, “Well, all right, Mr. Styles. Um, congratulations.”

"Thank you very much, then," ‘Mr. Styles’ tells the guard and as you clutch at your duffel bag, he uses his grip around your middle to turn you away to walk with him. His voice lilts in a sing-song fashion, "I’m going to get into so much trouble for that one, love."

You’ve got the good sense to wait until the two of you are alone in the elevator to blurt, “Who are you?”

He looks familiar, like you should know who he is, but you don’t. Messy, dark hair is held away from his face with a black headband and you can see tattoos peeking out the collar and sleeves of his shirt. When he glances down at you, he’s grinning like an idiot. “You don’t know your own fiance?”

Startled, your cheeks color up in a combination of embarrassment and frustration. “Look, I… I guess, I appreciate what you did for me back there, but I- I’m not-” You’re really not sure where this is going? Is it some excuse to pick you up? You hadn’t taken off your engagement ring (yet) so it just doesn’t make much sense. Maybe you should have let the guard lead you out.

The young man holds up a finger to his lips, shaking his head. “I know you’re not, babe. I’m sorry.” He holds out one of his hands for you to shake. “My name is Harry Styles and yours would be?”

"Harry Styles?" you ask dumbly. Could it…?

"No, that’s already taken; it’s mine," he says, and his laugh is soft but probably the best sound you could have heard right now. "So, what’s your next choice?"

Still not sure about this bazarre turn of events, you stammer out your name, quickly followed by, “Are you really- well, that Harry Styles?”

Frowning, he glances down at himself, pretends to pick at his clothes and then smiles up at you. “As long asthat Harry Styles is a good thing, yeah, guess I am.”

"Wow." For a few moments your cheating fiance is completely forgotten.

"One Direction fan, then?" he wonders idly, shoving his hands into the pockets of a pair of black jeans that looks like it was poured on.

"Well, not exactly…" By now the two of you have reached the floor that Harry’s room must be on. He holds you off at the doors for a moment, taking a long peek down each side of the hallway and then ushering you out. You’d ask if he’s really taking you to his room, only the answer looks quite obvious.

Harry puts his fingers to his lips again and in silence the two of you pad across the garish hallway carpet and into a suite that you could only dream of staying in - it may as well be an apartment, boasting a living room and a bedroom, with a bathroom attached to the latter. All it’s missing is a kitchen - though there’s still a miniature refrigerator nearby. At the door, Harry takes off his shoes, stooping to untie them.

"So, not a fan, you said?" he wonders, encouraging you to pick up where you left off.

"Oh, uh…" You almost feel bad as you explain, "Well, my sister’s the real fan, you know? She buys the stuff and watches the things, but sometimes I listen too."

"Close enough," he chuckles. Straightening up, he sweeps an arm out to encompass the suite. "Make yourself at home."

"You can’t really mean you want me to stay here," you say, wide-eyed, your fingers still curled in a death grip around the handle of your bag.

"That’s just not true. I can, I am."

Gingerly, he moves past your stationary form to head over to the minifridge. You’re not sure you want to turn around. This is much too surreal for you to handle properly. You really probably shouldn’t be here and Harry really shouldn’t have told random yon security guard that you were his fiance and -

There it is again. You actually gasp a little and struggle to stem the new threat of tears as Harry’s form enters your vision again. He doesn’t ask why you’re crying again, not right away, instead pressing a glass of something into your hand, his own wrapping around yours until he’s sure you won’t drop it. Then he gently pries away your bag and carries it over to sit it by the long sofa that dominates one wall.

"C’mon now," he says, motioning you over too. He all but flops into the plush cushions, stretching out his long and slender legs to prop socked feet up on the coffee table.

There’s only water in the glass and you sip it nervously before giving in, though it does nothing to soothe the heat in your cheeks from the tears that’ve built up again. You settle onto the couch beside him, feet in the floor, hunched slightly over your lap.

"Tell me what happened," he prods gently and when you look over at him, the way his eyes hold right onto you is unnatural. Like you’re absolutely the only thing he sees, everything else fallen away until there is only your eyes and his.

You can’t stop the words from pouring out of your mouth. Back home, you’d just lost your job, and the trip was on business with your fiance - you’d been ecstatic the second he asked you to come along, as he was always flying off to points unknown - and maybe it would have been a nice vacation while you worked through the shock of being unemployed. But then you’d walked in on him and that other woman mere hours ago, tangled up in ways he’d never seemed so eager to be with you. You have to set your glass on the table when your hands begin to shake too much.

As you let out a little sob, Harry crowds close and you can feel his hand on your back, rubbing in little circles. His voice is so soft, close to your ear when he murmurs, “I’m so sorry, babe. That’s awful, what an awful man…”

"He wasn’t supposed to be-to be awful," you tell Harry, because he’s just so fucking genuine that it hurts. Why would he even give a damn about you? Why did he ask you up here? You’re not angry, just so hurt and confused that you can’t quite think straight. "We were going to get married in the spring."

Leaking eyes shut tight, you can only feel Harry’s hand slide along yours, fingering the gold band around your ring finger. The diamond isn’t much, but it’s real and the cut and the setting had been so perfect, what you’d always imagined a proper engagement ring looking like. The hand on your back reaches up to pet the hair from around your face.

"You shouldn’t marry someone like that," he says decsively, carefully returning your hand.

Still, he threads his fingers back through your hair, his touch so soothing. For a long while, you hide your face in your hands and he lets you cry. His hand is warm and reassuring along your back, through your hair again and when he thinks you’ve finished, he loops both arms around you and hugs you tightly. You almost push him away, but he holds you in a way that only makes you melt into his embrace. It’s okay, even easy, to sink into his arms and pretend that there is nothing wrong at all. In fact, it only hurts again when he’s let you go, to lean back and press your hair behind your ears.

"Now, I’m not very good at, um, laying down the law, you know. But tonight, you’ll stay here. One of m’mates will let me crash with them so you can have the whole thing to yourself. You know, watch anything you like or order all the room service," while he talks, he gesticulates outward as if things will begin magically appearing at his gesture.

"Oh, wow, gosh, H-Harry, I don’t think-"

You are instantly quieted when his fingertips touch your mouth. “No, none of that. I may have just told the whole world we’re engaged and unlike some fiances, mine won’t be sleeping in the lobby.” His lips are split in a cheeky grin and despite everything, you can’t help but giggle against his fingers.

He takes them away to allow you to speak again, “Well, okay, but… You don’t have to go anywhere. I’ll sleep right here and you can still sleep in your bed.”

Glancing doubtfully across the way, he says, “Innit it rude to let a lady sleep on the couch?”

Another laugh escapes you, and Harry seems to smile all the more brightly. “I won’t accuse you of being rude. It’s my choice.”

"Well, when the lady insists…"

When Harry finally saunters off to get changed for bed, you allow yourself a few seconds to relax and stretch all the way out on the couch. It’s still a bit like the room is spinning, too many awful and strange things happening at once, but at the same time, you couldn’t be more moved by Harry’s kindness. What other man, famous or not, would do something like this for a complete stranger?

The last thing you remember before sleep fully claims you is Harry draping a blanket over you, his fingers idly petting your hair one more time as he whispers, “Sleep sweet, babe.”

Chapter Text

"Wake up, sleepy-head," an unfamiliar voice coos directly over your ear.

Instantly, you jerk up, knocking heads with whoever had been speaking to you. Both of you cry out in an equal amount of surprise and pain.

"Not gonna… be eggs the only thing scrambled this morning apparently."

Your eyes are actually watering when you realize what’s happened. Almost falling off the couch in your haste, you jump to your feet. “Harry, I’m so sorry, are you all right?”

He rubs on his head through hair crazily strewn about by sleep and squints at you, but decides after a moment, “I’ll live. But only if you calm down and have breakfast, alright?”

You catch yourself pouting at him - you haven’t been told to ‘calm down’ in a long time - and quickly press the expression into a neutral one. “What’s for breakfast?”

"Lots of stuff," he says, heading for the door to wheel back a covered cart. "Ta-da." He pulls off the silver dome to reveal a selection of fruits and bread and jam and even two tiny plates of scrambled eggs and sausage. "See?"

Chuckling softly, the two of you set about eating breakfast, which is a quiet but oddly companionable affair. You can’t really remember the last time you’d had such a peaceful meal with your fiance. Those thoughts are even more sour than you thought they would be - has he even noticed you’re gone? Given the lack of messages on your phone, you doubt it. Shouldn’t he have called and called or at least texted? Did he kick the unnamed woman out or let her stay when you didn’t seem to return?

You’re startled out of your morose questions when Harry pokes you gently in the shoulder. “You’re hurtin’ my head, thinking so hard.”

You glance over at him, but you can’t bring yourself to laugh and you don’t offer what had just clouded up your mind. Either way, Harry doesn’t press it, instead encouraging you to eat by showing you how he does it with gusto. So you make an effort to finish up what’s left of your half and pile the dishes neatly back onto the cart.

After a short silence, Harry says, “I want to offer you a job.”

Your head whips around hard enough to hurt for a second. “What?”

His eyes seem to search your face for something, but he patiently repeats himself, waiting for you to understand.

"Harry, I don’t think that’s a good idea." He’s already done himself enough damage claiming to a stranger - within earshot of other strangers - that the two of you were engaged. You’re still not sure how he’s going to get out of that one, at least not without rumors following the two of you around forever - you know how that stuff works. You were a teenage girl once, following the media behind your favorite band. "I mean, I’m… I’m so grateful for you letting me stay here for the night, but I should… I need to go home."

You need to, you know that, but you really don’t want to. Going home means collecting the last of your memories with a man you’d given several years of your life to only to have it thrown away on the first trip you’d ever taken together.

Running his hands back through his messy hair and then clapping them lightly on the skintight black pants he’s already squeezed into, Harry shakes his head. “I understand, you know. It’s a huge mess. But I mean it.” He considers you a moment, his very green eyes meeting yours, and he offers, “It doesn’t have to be permanent. Just for now.”

That brings up some unexpected, interesting thoughts. Ones that you’re sure would get you into heaps more trouble than you might already be in. Quickly, you stow them away. “I’m still not sure it’s a good idea.”

"I’ll clear up the misunderstanding about our relationship, you know."

You don’t know why he’s trying to convince you so much. But he seems determined to help you until you can’t be helped anymore. Would he come down to the room you shared with your fiance and help you get the rest of your things? Would he fly home with you, to the apartment you’d shared with this man for years, and help you clean that out too? And would any of that really help clear up the “misunderstanding” about your relationship? You are one hundred percent sure that it would only cement it for some prying eyes.

But how many times does something like this fall into your lap? Not a beautiful boy - whom you are just now reminding yourself is a few years younger than you - but just an immediate offer of work? The last time you’d been out of work, you had to move back in with your parents and spent the better portion of a year trying to find employment again.

Finally, deflating and leaning back against the sofa, you ask him, “What kind of work are you offering me?”

Harry looks startled, as if he hadn’t actually expected you to relent. “Um.”

"You mean you don’t know?!" You’re somewhere between amused and frustrated.

With a sheepish grin, Harry admits, “I hadn’t quite gotten that far… Just wanted to make sure you wouldn’t turn me down.”

Your eyebrows shoot up, but you don’t think about what else that could mean.

"How about, ah," he sinks back into the couch beside you, flinging his bare feet out to sit on the table by your empty dishes now. "Oh, you know, I could really use, like, a personal assistant." He lights up like a kid at Christmas come early, as if it’s the best idea he’s ever had.

"Personal… assistant?" you wonder, eyes gone a little wide. Yes, he’s insane. That’s officially the worst suggestion he could have made. "Harry, you - that’s -"

"It’s the best!" He sits up now, and startles a noise out of you when he flings his arm around your shoulders. "Look, it’ll work out, all right? People can’t speculate if you’re givin’ ‘em the answers, and I will. Well, I won’t tell ‘em anything you don’t want me to."

You’re not sure how you feel about him squeezing you to him, even if the gesture’s meant to be reassuring. How he can just throw himself around like you’ve been pals for ages is kind of astounding, and almost endearing. You find yourself relaxing without even thinking about it. Taking that for a positive answer, Harry’s hand rubs up and down your arm a little before he lets you go, like he’s realized he shouldn’t be holding onto you so much.

"Right, then," he says, wiggling around and then hopping up off the couch. "So, starting today, you’re my new assistant! But I’ll be nice and you can have the day off, while we get your things all sorted out and stuff."

You really have no idea what you’ve just gotten yourself into.

Chapter Text

Later on that day, you’re eating lunch by yourself - Harry claimed he had something to do, so he’d run off about an hour ago - when your phone rings.

You’re so used to answering that particular ringtone that the phone is at your ear before you realize it. Wincing, you say, “Hey…?”

On the other end is a very familiar voice, demanding, “Where the hell have you been?! You didn’t come back to the room last night.”

Swiping your lips with your tongue nervously, you glance at the phone like he might come crawling out of the receiver. With a cough to clear your throat, you tell him, as bravely as you possibly can, “I didn’t think you wanted to be interrupted.” You weren’t going to roll over for him, not for this.

"Interu- What?" And you can just imagine him, the way he shakes his head, rolling his eyes when he doesn’t quite understand what you’re saying.

"I saw you, Jack, with… with that other woman," you tell him bluntly. You marvel at how steady your voie sounds when your insides are quivering harder than gelatin, your fingers icy with anxiety. "Yesterday, when… when I came back from the museum."

He’s absolutely silent on the other end for several seconds, before saying, “I don’t know what you’re talking.”

"Jack, I… don’t fucking lie to me," you say, your voice growing shaky as your nerves get the better of you. You don’t know if you’re going to scream or cry, maybe both, if he doesn’t just own up to it. "Don’t fucking lie, Jack, I saw you- I saw you fucking her."

He lets out a harsh laugh. “So, you just ran away? Nothing to say? Did you cry?”

For a moment, you’re stunned. That’s definitely not the reaction you were expecting. “J-Jack, what are you-“

"Oh, cut the shit, all right? I’m surprised you even admitted to seeing it."

"That- Jack, you-" Your voice is cracking and you just can’t stop, all the anger gone from before.

"Oh, so you’re going to cry now. Well, that’s just swell, look, why don’t you just get your ass back to our room so we can pack and get home."

"N-No, I’m not…" But the tears are still coming.

Before you can say anything else, your phone is snatched right out of your hand. You look up, startled, to find Harry standing by the couch. You hadn’t heard him return. When you try to protest, He presses one fingertip to your mouth and shakes his head. With heat rising in your cheeks, you can hear Jack calling out for you, but it’s Harry who answers.

"Yeah, um, Jack, is it? If you could just stay where you are, me and the lady’ll be down for her things." He frowns and you can hear yelling on the phone, enough that Harry’s expression deepens and he holds the phone away from his ear a bit. "Doesn’t really matter who I am, sir, just matters that this lovely woman has her things. What? Absolutely not. Look, we’ll be down in ten, just have it ready." Without any other ceremony, Harry swipes the button that ends the call and holds the phone back out to you. "I wouldn’t answer it if he calls back."

You’re just kind of gaping, cheeks still blazing red from Harry’s finger on your lips. “He’s… he just went nuts,” you say.

Harry peers down at you, that frown still on his face, though it’s colored now with concern. “He’s an asshole,” he says, very matter of factly. Carefully he reaches out and you don’t realize what he’s doing until his curled fingers swipe one of the tear tracks down the side of your face.

You swallow hard, glancing down and away, shame bubbling uncomfortably in your stomach. His touch lingers on your skin in a way you don’t dare think about.

"C’mon, love, let’s get your things," Harry says, his voice a quiet encouragement.

You almost tell him that you don’t want to go, you’re not ready to see Jack, and to really face up to your feelings. Maybe you can just leave whatever’s there and he can burn it or the hotel can just throw it out. But you know that’s not smart. So, while Harry very quietly keeps his hands to himself, you pick yourself up off the couch, freshen up in the bathroom - which, like most of the hotel room, is surprisingly tidy - and then show him down to the room you’d been staying in before.

Wisely, Harry alerts some personal security on the way down.

Jack is positively livid when he opens up the door, looking between you and Harry as if he’s the one who caught you cheating instead. He had such a handsome face, with his floppy black hair and too blue eyes, but it’s twisted up now into a person you don’t recognize. Funny how a space of heartbeats can change a person. The guard with you and Harry keeps him from doing too much, but Jack still calls you everything he can think of, he still accuses you of doing ever dirty thing he can think of to the boy following you around with clenched fists.

Harry’s eyes are so vivid when you look up to meet them, alight with a kind of fire that can only mean one of two things.

You hurry; the last thing he needs is to give into his chivalrous streak.

"How," Harry begins, when he’s slammed the door shut behind the two of you; his voice is gravel in his throat, "How could a man like that not have been awful the entire time?"

You feel chilled, clutching at the one thing Harry and the unnamed guard would let you carry. Peeking over at the singer, you see his knuckles are white around the handle of your suitcase. Quietly, almost defensive, you tell him, “He’s really never been like this before. Well, I-” You lick your lips, unaware that Harry’s eyes are on you like a hawk, “I knew he had a temper but he’s never- he’s never said anything- he never called me a-any of those names.”

You shudder, trying to shake it all off, but your eyes are still burning.

"I should have hit him," Harry says with feeling.

**

Days later, your hand still feels incredibly bare without your engagement ring. While you’re gathering toiletries out of your old bathroom, you pause to look at it, the space where the band had made an indent on your finger. You wonder what Jack’s done with it now. Of course, you could have kept it, maybe sold it, but in the end, you’d simply slipped it off and left it in the hotel room.

"Need any help in there?" drawls a familiar voice, stirring you out of your thoughts.

You peek up at Harry, feeling caught, and hurriedly shove your lady things into the bag. Whatever you can’t take with you will be going into a storage shed, but packing up and deciding what can and can’t go is harder than you thought. Swallowing, you shake your head. “No, no, I got everything.”

Harry gives you a smile, just enough to bring out a dimple. “Are you sure? I’m not rushin’ ya, babe, just want to make sure everything’s all right.”

You flush, uncertain why you feel so flustered, but his concern is as always endearing. “Well, I… thanks.”

He’d jumped on the chance to come help you with this tedious work, as if one fifth of the most popular boyband in the whole world didn’t have anything better to do. And you’d been sort of powerless to stop him. The help was nice anyway, and you were glad he wasn’t family or a close friend. Harry didn’t really press you about your feelings unless you started talking about them, whereas your family would be grilling you harder than a pair of angry cops.

"You’re welcome," he says, grinning a little wider.

You move around to step past him, bag in hand, but your foot catches on the shaggy rug by the sink. Before you can properly concuss yourself on the tile however, an arm goes around your front, and even though Harry falls on his ass and your knees hit the ground, both of you are okay. Your eyes meet Harry’s and there is something electric there, in his grasp still around the front of your body, his forearm just under your breasts. But then he laughs, this adorable little guffaw and you find yourself giggling with him.

"Thanks for, um, not letting me smash my head open," you say, shy, the moment passed but not forgotten.

Harry carefully unwinds his arm from around you, still chuckling. “I’ll take it out of your pay,” he teases.

Chapter Text

When all is said and done, the media still has a field day with you and Harry. You’re pretty sure someone from higher up called and reamed him out over the phone as well, but while you were getting settled into your new occupation, he did whatever talking he needed to do to smooth it over.

You’re sure it’s not completely gone away though, no matter how many times he waves one of those huge hands at you and says, “It’s fine, absolutely fine.”

Your family wasn’t too keen on the drama either, but they were much easier to sort out than a tabloid magazine, especially when they found out that Harry only amounted to your employer, and possibly friend, but no more than that. And while your father had threatened to beat your cheating ex to within an inch of his life, you’d managed to calm that down too.

And now, officially, on paper and everything, you’re working for Harry Styles.

You just wish that when he told you “personal assistant”, that he hadn’t actually meant “babysitter.” Or maybe “person I drag around to do everything ever.”

Now, legitimately, you are getting paid for this, so it’s not one hundred percent the headache it could be and Harry is ridiculously pleasant to you so there’s that as well. Still, it’s weird and sometimes it’s just like you’re hanging out with him when he insists you come along for a meal out, or that you don’t hole yourself up in the hotel and go shopping with him.

Admittedly when you’re shopping with him, that’s when you feel the most like an assistant.

Or perhaps the better phrase is “coat rack,” you think, as Harry drapes another ridiculously expensive button down shirt over your arm.

He looks over his shoulder at you, “What do you think of that one?”

You blink, peering up at him. All in all, you actually look like a walking clothes rack; there are three shirts on your left arm, two now on the right, a ballcap that Harry claimed he was getting for Niall sitting backwards on top of your head and a scarf you didn’t have the heart to tell him was hideous hanging around your neck. “Um…”

He turns now, boots bumping your worn out sneakers, to regard you. “Be honest,” he prompts, but there’s this tiny little pout to his bottom lip.

You remind yourself not to think about his lips, dragging your eyes back to the shirt laying on your arm. It doesn’t look like anything special, if you’re being completely honest, but it is a nice shirt - very simple, black with black buttons, but there’s some intricating silver detailing embroidered on the collar and cuffs. “Well, I like it a lot better than the scarf,” you say aloud before you can help yourself.

"What’s wrong with the scarf?" Harry cries, pretending to be scandalized. His hands come darting out for the edges of it, and you step forward unconsciously in an effort not to get choked.

There is a very brief moment when the two of you are only inches from each other, his eyes meeting yours in that soulstripping way they do, and when you breathe in you can smell his cologne, the lingering scent of the shower he’d had just before the two of you came out to shop.

You force yourself back a step or two, trying to swat his hands away with your fabric laden arms. “There’s nothing wrong with it,” you tell him, face flushed and eyes on the ground. “If you like, get it.”

"But you think it’s bad," he says, voice grumbly with obvious pouting.

Admittedly, the scarf is incredibly soft, and when you think of the way it had slipped against your skin as his hands tugged at it, a shiver ripples through you. Mercifully, it’s hidden by all the other ridiculous clothing you’re draped in. But the fact still remains that it’s the worst shade of green you’ve ever laid eyes on and it ends in a fringe of multiple green hues that just don’t compliment it.

"It doesn’t matter what I think, you’re the one who wants it," you try again. You are not dressing Harry; your fiance- your ex, Jack, absolutely hated it when you had an opinion on his clothing. Some people buy their significant others ties or jackets, nice shoes; you had never once even looked at an article of clothing for Jack after a fiasco one birthday when you’d gotten him a shirt you thought would be perfect for work.

It was probably the biggest row the two of you had ever had, the purest example of his bad temper. You realize you haven’t thought about it in a long time and wonder if there are other instances you’ve packed away just like it.

"Uh, hello, babe, you still in there?" Harry waves a hand in front of your face and you start hard enough that you have to clutch all the clothing to you to keep it from falling.

"Yes, um, sorry, I was-"

"Thinking about something pretty hard," Harry finishes for you, lips pressing together in concern.

You really wish he’d stop that. Shaking your head, you tell him, “It’s nothing. And the scarf is… I mean it, if you want it, Harry, I’m not going to tell you not to get it.”

"Why is that?" he wonders, reaching for the item again, his fingers brushing up against your collar in way that tenses you up straight down to your toes. "I just want to know what you really think of it."

This isn’t going to end until you’ve told him, you realize, so you give in with a, “It’s… I’m sorry, I think it’s really ugly.” A waste of whatever ludicrous amount of money he might drop on it.

In a single motion, he’s curled his hand up in the scarf and slipped it off of you, the soft material catching once in the short hairs at the back of your neck so that you have to catch your breath. All over again the crimson bleeds into your cheeks. What in the world is wrong with you?

"Stay right here," he says, "I’m going to put this back."

***

He hasn’t yet told you when he’ll be meeting up with the rest of the band again, though he’d mentioned upcoming performances, a television appearance or two. It’s something you’re really nervous about, although there are many, many reasons you know you ought not be. Harry’s pleasant enough, and through him and time you’d spent with your sister, you have a good idea that the rest of the guys will be fine as well. There’s just this stigma of they are all talented and rich and famous and you’re feeling pathetic and inadequate in the wake of your relationship falling apart, not to mention your humble station in life before all this.

It’s a dumb thing that keeps you up sometimes, when you’re lying in the dark of your hotel room. Harry has his own suite a floor above you and he’d tried to convince you to get one there, but you had insisted on a more modest place to sleep. At least, you thought it would make you more comfortable.

Your phone begins to buzz before the sun’s even come up. It rouses you out of your half sleep and through bleary eyes you can see it’s Harry calling. Given the routine he’s kept since you started “working” for him, this is a strange time for him to be awake.

"What’s up?" you answer the phone, voice rough from sleep.

There’s a little, “mmm” on the other end of the phone, and defenseless as you are in this state it takes a lot to ignore it or the way it causes a shiver to snake through you. “What does a personal assistant do?” Harry asks through a yawn, voice more gravelly than usual.

"What?" you attempt to sit up now, pushing your body towards wakefulness. "I… shouldn’t you know?" you wonder, your voice evening out a little. "I mean-"

He cuts you off with, “Can they go get Starbucks and bring it to my room?”

Laughter bubbles up out of you before you can stop it. Clearing your throat you tell him, “I think that’s part of the job description, yeah. What do you need Starbucks at-” You pull your phone away to look at it for a moment, “almost six in the morning anyway? You didn’t tell me you had anything planned.”

He hums again, letting out a breath that has you imagining him curled up in his plush comforter, head thrown back on the pillows while he tries not to fall back to sleep. “I forgot to tell you I have a radio call-in this mornin’.”

"Harry," you say, voice coming out in a mixture of exasperation and unexpected affection. "I have to get dressed and find a Starbucks, so I might be a minute…"

"Just hurry," he whines.

An hour later, you’re sitting in Harry’s hotel suite, watching him lazily sip at his frappuccino, in nothing but the pair of poured on black jeans you’re used to seeing him in. He’s got his hair pulled away from his face in the usual way, half lidded eyes somewhere across the room while he taps idly on the huge butterfly tattoo just under his pectorals.

You are desperately looking anywhere but directly at him. On the one hand, people might argue that you just had an awful, utterly fucked and failed relationship, but you aren’t dead and Harry is gorgeous. On the other, they might tell you that you’re pretty trashy for this war your hormones are raging with your broken heart. You don’t know how much you care either way, but it’s enough to quash the weird flutters in your belly.

"Harry, why don’t you get dressed?" you finally suggested, when you see him shifting around in his seat to straighten up.

He glances down at himself, licking whipped cream away from his top lip, and then looks up at you. “Why? I’m just callin’ from here.”

"Um, right, yes, but, uh, you know, if you could." You force your eyes to his face.

The smirk that curls up the corners of his mouth is almost too much. Right, you should have kept your mouth shut. You feel too hot under your clothing, your face flaming as you jerk your eyes away from his.

"All right, all right. I’ll go find a t-shirt." 

Chapter Text

In a couple of hours, you’ll be boarding a plane with Harry to meet up with the rest of the boys in New York City. You’re packing up the meager things you’ve been traveling with, contemplating adding a few new things to your wardrobe once you make it there. Nothing like Harry would purchase, mind you, but just some new things. You had recently received your first actual paycheck and while you wanted to hoard most of it, getting a new shirt or two couldn’t hurt.

Of course, you’re also trying to think about anything but meeting the rest of the band. You’re nervous and intimidated. It’s bad enough following Harry around on his own, how are you going to survive him and four of his best friends? You know they’re all just people and Harry is more like a friend than an untouchable employer every day, but that doesn’t make it much easier to think about.

Just as you zip up your second and final suitcase, there’s a knock on your door. A glance at the little alarm clock by the bed says it’s not supposed to be Harry for another half an hour at least, and that’s only if you don’t go up to his room to meet him instead. So you pad curiously towards the door, pulling it open just so without looking through the peephole.

Thankfully it’s just Harry, but he looks surprisingly anxious. There’s a small cardboard box in his hands and when you catch his eyes, he gives you this big dumb grin. “Hey, can I, uh, come in?”

“You’re early,” you comment instead, stepping back enough to allow him into your hotel room. You’d already cleaned it up enough that any maid coming in behind you won’t have much to do but maybe fluff pillows and vacuum, take out the trash. “Everything okay?”

Clutching that box still, he says, “I’m alright, I just wanted to catch you before you were done packing…”

“Oh?”

In response, he hands you the box. There’s nothing special about the packaging. It’s white cardboard, oblong, no markings, obviously something for a small garment. You hook your fingers into the side and pull it open. Inside there’s a little bit of tissue paper and black fabric that your fingers slip across with ease. You set the box down on the nearby armchair and pull out the fabric, revealing a large black rectangle that is probably the softest thing you’ve ever touched. You glance up at Harry and he makes this motion for you to put it around your shoulders. Oh.

You do, slipping it on, feeling silly since you’d simply thrown on a t-shirt and jeans and this is obviously not meant to be worn with that kind of dress. But it’s warm and where it touches your skin, it’s slick enough to give you goosebumps. Although that fades when a curious flip of the fabric gives you a good look at a particular identifying mark.

“Harry,” you say, blanching, as you look up at him. “Please tell me you didn’t.”

He’d been watching you the whole time, something a little bit strange in his gaze, eyes a little darker. Your voice seems to startle him out of a trance and he licks his lips as his eyes meet yours, trying to go for an innocent face. “What are you talkin’ about?”

“Please tell me you didn’t buy this from that- that designer you love so much.”

A grin, somewhere between child caught in the cookie jar and the devil himself, spreads across his face. “Alright, I didn’t buy it from that designer I love so much.”

“Harry.”

“You told me to,” he says, lips quickly turning down in a pout. The bottom one pushes out so plush and pink and you’re afraid of the way your body heats up at the thought of it.

Tearing your eyes away, you tell him, “Harry, that’s- I can’t-”

Two strides and he’s nearly pressed up against you, the black silky stole still wrapped around your shoulders, his hands coming down on top of it. Your insides react violently, churning into a tight hot mess. What the hell? No, no, you’re not going to think about that anymore, no. Mercifully, Harry knows nothing about your unexpected internal struggle, even if he’s not helping it whatsoever.

“It’s just a gift,” he tells you, something in his tone imploring, tugging at you as if you’re being unreasonable. “I know you’re working for me and stuff, but…” He pauses, uncertain, eyes meeting yours. You’re pinned to the floor. “We’re friends too, right?”

“Yes,” you breathe before you can think about it. Things low in your belly are still burning like a warm wind ghosting over smoldering coals. “But it cost-”

He cuts you off with a finger to your mouth and there is that tension again, something wound tight enough to twang between you. It’s not quite gone when Harry says, “That isn’t the point. Do you like it?”

You’re so thankful for the excuse to rip your eyes away from his that you almost sag when you take a look down at the stole. His fingers are curled in it, resting on your shoulders. It wraps around you enough that you can’t see your t-shirt, giving the illusion that what’s underneath is much fancier than something bearing the Hard Rock Cafe logo. “I do like it,” you tell him quietly, lips tingling where his finger lay against them.

“That’s all I care about,” he says, and his head is bent just so.

A tilt of your chin and a breath and he could kiss you and for a moment that’s all you can think about. It’s ridiculous; you know you’re not really over all that went on between you and Jack, but Harry is… He’s so many things, complex and thoughtful, silly, downright devilish at times. So damned charming and beautiful, you’ve practically watched the panties drop when he walks into a room.

You realize you are hanging off a very precarious cliff. You can’t think about these things; he’s your employer, your friend. No matter how lovely he acts or looks, it can’t be more than that. There are too many reasons it’s just not right, not going to happen. carefully, you slide your hands over his and pull them off your shoulders so you can step back. You don’t want to see what his expression is, so you turn, carefully slipping off the stole and beginning to fold it up.

Uncertainly, behind you, Harry says your name.

“I’m just going to put it in with my things,” you tell him, and now you can chance a small smile over your shoulder. “It’s… I do like it, Harry, it’s lovely, thank you.”

***

You grab a quiet lunch together, and the plane ride is spent with you watching the clouds out the window and Harry playing with one of his phones. Getting through the airport in New York is crazy, people gathered in a number larger than you’d seen so far, but there’s security and you hide your face in sunglasses, sloughing off Harry when he tries to walk too closely to you. Tabloids still think you’re already fucking each other, you don’t want to give them any other fodder. Harry stops to sign a couple things, with heartfelt apologies that he can’t reach but a few people, and you carry on, slipping into the car you’ll be taking with him.

For a few seconds, everything is quiet save a greeting from the driver, and you give him a tired one of your own. The sleep that eluded you on the plane threatens to claim you now, and you’re startled out of your brief dozing when the door opens, letting in a barrage of screams and Harry Styles. He pokes your thigh as he settles in, grinning at you.

“Don’t sleep yet, babe, the rest of the guys are waitin’,” he says, touching a bit at the wrap holding his hair back from his face and then popping a stick of gum in his mouth. His cheeks are a little ruddy from the chilly air outside and his eyes are bright with excitement. “Niall says they’ve got food at the hotel, so we won’t have to fight anyone to go out.”

“Thank goodness,” you breathe, because time not spent in public is time you don’t get your picture snapped and pasted around the internet.

It’s a short ride to the hotel, something huge and fancy; you don’t even want to look at the name. Harry checks in on his own, with you closely in tow, security flanking you both. You hear something about a two-bedroom suite and whip around. “What?”

Harry shoots you a cheeky grin, “Best I could get on short notice…”

“You’re trying to get me killed, aren’t you?” you accuse, horrified on so many different levels. Sharing a suite? Is he crazy? He is, yes, that’s it, he’s crazy. Utterly insane. Off his rocker.

With you goggling at him like that, Harry cackles. “Our things are already up there.”

“I hate you,” you tell him, aware of how childish you sound as you head for the elevator. You know he’ll follow - which is good because you were so surprised you can’t remember the room number - and you can hear him clomping along behind you.

“Ah, no, you’ve cut me to the quick. Don’t hate me, sweetheart, I just figured it would be easier…”

“Easier to what?” you say, when the elevator doors have whooshed shut behind you two. “Easier to look like we’re really doing it with each other behind the scenes?”

His jaw stills on the gum when you say it, face tightening up.

You feel your own cheeks flush, embarrassed and whip your head around so you can’t look at him. Shit. How far up is your room again? Why isn’t the elevator opening yet?

“Hey,” Harry tacks on your name, “Look at me…”

“No,” you say as firmly as possible. It seems important that you don’t, that you can’t.

He calls your name again, and his voice is a little rougher. The strangeness is enough to prick at your resolve, coupled with the sudden nearness of his body, his chest inches from your side. Heart beating like caged bird against your ribs, you look up.

Harry’s lips part like he might tell you something, but then his mouth is descending on yours, heated, demanding. You make a startled sound that he swallows up like a man starving. Though unable to move, it feels like all of your nerve endings are on fire, Harry’s lips plush and slick on yours, his hands huge but gentle on either side of your face as he kisses you. Something inside you snaps and you groan into his mouth, turning, letting him push you back against the wall of the elevator.

His body presses the length of yours, hard and unyielding; you feel soft and boneless beneath him, more vulnerable than you’d ever felt with Jack. Heat coils in the pit of your stomach like something waiting to strike and escape and a little gasp escapes you as his thigh finds its way between yours to rub up against you.

But the elevator dings and the doors groan loudly as they start to slide open. Harry springs across the elevator like he might go through the wall on the other side, leaving you flushed and breathless.

You can’t look at each other as you exit.

Chapter Text

The first thing you hear when you meet the guys is, “You don’ look like a personal assistant.”

It comes from resident “blonde” and Irishman, Niall Horan, who’s got one corner of his mouth quirked up.

You frown slightly at him, “And what does a personal assistant look like?”

Over your shoulder, Harry echoes, “Yeah, Niall, what does a personal assistant look like?” He almost sounds serious and you can feel something like dread in your stomach; you pray Niall doesn’t answer.

Your prayers are ignored. “Ehm, glasses,” Niall begins, making half circles around his eyes with his fingers, “Maybe a pinstripe skirt suit or somet'in.”

 

Around him, the other members of One Direction sort of nod and “hmm” and you can feel your face burning. “There’s nothing wrong with what I’m wearing,” you claim, looking down at your t-shirt and jeans. The tee is black, advertising the Hard Rock Cafe with a couple of Asian style dragons around it and the jeans are just… well, jeans, though there’s a little bit of a hole in the knee of one of them. After that, there’s just your sneakers which you’ve had for a while, so they’re noticeably worn out.

“Aw, we didn’t say there was, love,” Louis says, from somewhere to your left, your gaze swiveling that way. “Just, you know, you could’ve looked the part a bit more.”

You glance around at all of them, and then back at Harry who’s still standing behind you with this considering look on his face and simply shake your head. No way. No. But your face is still pretty damn red.

At least regular introductions ensue after this and though you already know all their names, it’s just nice getting acquainted in an official sort of way. When they hear your sister’s a proper fan, they even agree to sign a few things for you to send to her, and just maybe drop in for a visit if or when their schedule takes them that way. You’re a bit floored by it, but Harry just looks so thoroughly pleased, like a cat with a particularly fat canary. Like he’d told you so about something, though you’re not quite sure what.

“Oh, hey,” Niall says, “I told Harry, we got food. So, uh, you guys help yerselves, we’ve already been eatin’.”

“You didn’t wait for us,” Harry pouts, giving you a hidden nudge in the small of your back.

You start, sucking in a breath, glad you’re already flushed so that no one can see how much that little touch has affected you. In stark clarity the kiss in the elevator comes back to you and maybe you stumble a little too quickly away from Harry. Fuck, what were you thinking? What is going on? No one really seems to notice though and you’re able to skirt through the boys to get at the boxes of pizza lying open on a nearby coffee table. At least when the aroma hits your nose, you’re very suddenly starving. Before getting on the plane, you’d been too nervous to eat much despite going out to do so.

“Shouldn’t have taken so long then, should you?” Louis says, unexpectedly following you around to the pizza. Before you can bend to pick up a slice, he’s thrown an arm around your shoulders, “So, tell me, what have you personally assisted our dear Harry with so far?”

All eyes swivel to you, and you are frozen under Louis’ warm, tattooed arm. “Uh, it…”

“What do you do anyway?” Niall wonders, approaching from the other side with a huge grin. “Make sure he’s got clothes on before he leaves the hotel and stuff?”

You’re pretty sure that you are going to spontaneously combust. Across the way Harry’s eyes meet yours and there’s something a little strange in them, well, stranger than you’ve seen before. Carefully, you grab a slice of pizza and duck out from under Louis’ arm to find a safe perch on the only single person chair in the room.

“No, I don’t… he can dress himself just fine,” you mumble as you sit and there’s a round of snorts from every other boy in the room, a “Hey!” from Harry. “I just handle some of his… appointments. Or if he needs me to go get something or whatever.” That sounds a lot better than “I babysit him when he’s shopping and eating” right?

“What kind of appointments do you have, Harry?” and this time it’s Zayn, looking amused from his place on the sofa by Liam. Once the initial introductions were over, they’d gone back to some video game that you haven’t paid any attention to.

“All kinds of appointments,” Harry claims, finally getting his own slice of pizza.

From your seat, you can’t help teasing, “Hair, nails… pedicure.”

Niall cackles, unexpectedly plopping himself on the arm of your chair. “Yeah, that sounds about right.”

Harry just ends up rolling his eyes as he begins to eat and you think for a second that he’s going to go sit by one of his bandmates but at the last moment, he makes a detour, settling himself down on the other arm of your chair opposite Niall.

“Oh, well, ain’t this cozy,” the blond teases, reaching out to ruffle your hair. You nearly choke on your pizza. “You know, there’s room for you over there, Harry,” Niall says, jerking his head towards the other sofa where Louis is sitting. Just as Niall finishes speaking, the older boy grins rather mischievously and stretches out both legs.

“Dunno what you’re talking about, Ni, no room here. You three look rather comfy just like that.”

You are very suddenly very sure that these five boys are going to be the death of you.

***

Finally, mercifully, you are able to escape the members of One Direction, making your way as discreetly as possible to the suite you’ll be sharing with Harry. You’d only seen it for a few moments earlier, long enough to drop off the things you’d been carrying before he whisked you away to meet the rest of the band.

The bedrooms are side practically side by side, divided by a bathroom, which opens up into the larger room and into the living area as well. In the main room a pair of sliding glass doors dominates one wall, opening out onto a balcony that overlooks the city. In all, everything is spacious, rich in color and texture. When you throw yourself down on the L-shaped sofa, it’s like sinking into clouds.

Here you can catch your breath and try to put your thoughts in order. Not that the latter is easy to do. Your mind keeps straying back to the way Harry’s lips had felt on yours, the lingering taste of his mint gum in your mouth. His hands on either side of your head. Your body grows warm and tense and you roll onto your side, curling up tight and trying to ignore the heat pooling in your belly and lower. It’s foolish to be attracted to him; he’s younger than you are, he’s famous, you’re nothing but leftovers from a man who didn’t want you. And Harry kissing you - it’s a novelty. You’re just a shiny new toy. When the gleaming has worn off, he’ll realize …

There are tears rolling down your cheeks and the warmth you’d felt tingling in your thighs is gone.

***

There are fingers in your hair and you don’t know for a moment if you are dreaming of Harry or Jack, but a very soft sigh escapes you anyway. It just feels nice, such a small and affectionate gesture, petting your hair gently back behind your ear. But then you realize you’re not dreaming at all and your eyes pop open.

Sitting on the floor in front of the sofa, looking caught, is Harry. His hand falls away and he doesn’t quite look at you when he says, “Sorry, you…” But instead of finishing, he lifts his hand again, touching the slightly sticky trail the tears had left on your cheek and now his eyes meet yours, questioning.

Unwilling to spill your thoughts, you shake your head and tell him, almost whispering, “I’m fine.”

“Is it because I kissed you?”

“What?” You jerk a little, and begin to sit up. You hadn’t expected him to say anything about it.

“You can pretend it didn’t happen if you like,” he tells you, his voice thickening up; his gaze hadn’t followed you, somewhere now on the floor.

“It’s not- I’m-”

“It’s probably best if you do.”

Your voice stalls in your throat, where a lump like a fist squeezes them off until you’re sure it’s cutting your air too. How are you supposed to pretend that never happened? Is that what he wants? Has he already figured out that you’re not really the kind of prize he wants to win? Just someone else’s discarded, broken toy. Eventually, you manage to wheeze at the back of his head, “Okay.”

Maybe you don’t look like you’re suffocating when he looks up at you again, something like a smile on his lips. “So, the guys and I are all going out tonight.”

“Oh,” you say, and the sound hardly makes it out of your lips. “Well, I hope you all have-”

“You should come with us?”

You very nearly ask him what kind of game he’s playing, but your jaw doesn’t quite work, until all you can say is, “Harry, that’s maybe not a good idea.”

“Nonsense, they love you already, you know,” and now he’s grinning, though his eyes remain somewhere far away. “Niall practically begged me to convince you to come.”

“Well, I wouldn’t want to disappoint Niall,” you say weakly, “But I just… where are you going? I don’t even know if I have clothes to go out in.” You’d mostly packed a lot of practical, comfortable things. Not that you would look dumpy, just casual, normal.

“What about that dress?”

“Dress? Did you-”

He holds a hand up, “No, I just saw it when you were packing up at home. The purple one?”

“Oh, so it’s… where are we going?”

“Just a place to hang out. But that dress’d be perfect.”

“I…” But you know by now that getting out of doing something Harry has it in his head to do is futile. “Do I have time to shower?”

“Plenty.” He stretches all the way up to his feet now, starts to lean down and you tip your head up. Your eyes meet and then he’s straightening up again. “I’ll be in my room so just yell for me when you’re ready.”

“Okay…” But it’s not until Harry’s disappeared into his bedroom and you’ve heard the distinct click of the lock that you’re even able to get to your feet.

Chapter Text

The dress Harry referred to is a very simple one; a solid plum color with a tiny black belt to cinch at the waist. While the neckline is just low enough to tease at a peek into the cleavage, the dress is sleeveless and the hem stops maybe an inch above your knees. The material itself is very soft and fluttery, comfortable but a little too light on its own.

The only coat you brought would look absolutely awful with it.

And then you remember the stole that Harry bought for you. 

Shit.

 

You don’t really know how you feel about it, except “unsettled” in a way that makes you wonder if you’re being paranoid or if he’s somehow contrived this in an effort to make you wear it when otherwise it would have just lain in your suitcase. Considering what happened before your shower, you have to tell yourself you’re being absolutely ridiculous. And it’s not like anyone will know or care where it came from besides you and Harry.

Uncertainly, you dig it out of said suitcase. It’s even softer than your dress when you wrap it around you and take a look in the mirror over the bedroom’s dresser, you have to admit the combination is flattering. You’d taken a blowdryer to your hair and tamed it so you wouldn’t have to tie it back unless you got too hot, and slid on a pair of hose under the dress. Though you don’t own much jewelry, you’d dug out a pair of silver hoop earrings to put on. The finishing touch when you tear your eyes away from the mirror - what does it matter how good you look anyway? - is a pair of black flats. You own a couple pairs of heels, but you hadn’t brought them with you.

You’re not really a makeup person, so all that goes on in that regard is a sheer gloss. And then you’re done, except your heart is beating madly against your ribs again and you’re pretty sure you should just take everything off and hide in the bed. Harry can’t actually make you go; you might work for him, but this isn’t part of that. He doesn’t need you there. You’re more than sure the other boys couldn’t care less, even if they do like you.

But somehow you find yourself standing outside your bedroom, the stole draped over one arm, though both are folded across your midsection. Harry’s waiting by the sofa, in his usual poured on black jeans, but he’s wearing that black button down with the silver detailing on the cuffs and collar, a nicer jacket over that, and a pair of glittering boots that are distracting enough to make you forget yourself for a moment, a little smile twisting up the corner of your mouth. You don’t notice Harry drinking in your appearance as well, and don’t meet his eyes until he’s asked, “What?” at your smile.

“Those boots,” you say, unable to help yourself.

“What’s wrong with them?” His mouth turns down in an all too familiar pout.

You bite your lip. Unlike that scarf you’d accidentally convinced him to put back, these really aren’t that bad, you’re just so amused at them. So you shake your head, “Nothing’s wrong with them. I like them.”

He eyes you skeptically.

“I mean it,” you say, with feigned exasperation.

His head turns to eye you from the other side, but then he lets it go in a way that’s almost visible, cracking a little grin as he tells you, “You look lovely, you know.”

You look away, heating up from the compliment even as you wish he hadn’t said it. That’s not fair, he shouldn’t say things like that when he wants to forget kissing you on the elevator. When he wants you to forget about it. You can’t tell him that though, so you murmur a properly humble, “Thanks…” Like it or not, you are flattered he thinks so. Maybe you’re also a little relieved he hadn’t mentioned the shawl draped over your arm.

“Let’s go,” he says abruptly, drawing your attention back to him, a not quite smile on his face as your eyes meet and he tilts his head for the door.

***

You’re about nine thousand percent thankful that you enter the lounge with the boys through a back entrance, especially when you discover you are the only girl accompanying them into the VIP room. Don’t some of the other guys have girlfriends? Couldn’t Niall have brought a date? After all those tabloid shots at you and Harry, you can just imagine what sort of spin would get put on this. Hell, you sort of have to hope that if anyone saw you, they’ll assume Harry brought you with him and not for anyone else to enjoy - and yes, you know that’s presumptious, you don’t really think you’re all that amazing as to have their attention like that, you’ve just witnessed first hand the tales that can be told of stuff like this.

The place itself had looked nice from the outside though, and the room is good too, intimate lighting, overstuffed leather couches gathered around a low silver table with a huge glass square in the middle. There’s a big screen TV that dominates one wall and music thumping at a reasonable level from speakers on the rest. The host explains your waitress will be along shortly and then leaves you all to get settled.

At the same moment that Harry shifts toward you, Louis reaches out for the stole still wrapped around your shoulders, sounding as snooty as he can when he says, “Let me take that for you, Madame,” with a little grin.

An unexpected giggle escapes you, so you gingerly shrug your way out of the shawl, letting him slip it off you and fold it up. He thumbs at it a bit, catching sight of the same mark you had.

With a little smirk at the both of you, Louis says, “You’re spending way too much time with, Harry, love.”

As he’s plopping down on one of the leather couches, Harry answers for you, “It was a gift,” and if you didn’t know better you would think he sounded annoyed.

Both Louis’ eyebrows nearly climb into his hair and as you stand there sort of awkwardly, he shares a rather smirky look with Niall. You wonder if they’re thinking what they ought not to be, and your shoulders slump.

The waitress shows up with two buckets of ice, one for your drinks, and another with two bottles of wine sticking out of it; you know only Zayn and Louis can properly drink here, but you have to wonder how closely they’ll monitor the others. Still, she flirts amiably with the guys and she’s even polite to you, as she fills glasses and takes down food orders, reminding everyone there’s the opportunity for dancing downstairs.

As far as drinking goes, you’re definitely a social drinker. On your own, it’s not much fun, but when you’re with people… The boys who can’t drink are vocally jealous, but you maybe relish in it a little as you and Louis and Zayn waste no time getting into that wine, and order a couple cocktails as time goes on. You’re nestled into the leather couch between Harry and Niall, giggling at something Louis’ done, dress riding up as you wiggle around and laugh, your knees alternately bumping either boy.

“Hel-lo,” Niall laughs, as you accidentally teeter towards him, a hand on his shoulder so you don’t go spilling into his lap while you’re laughing.

“I know, I know, I’m just a riot,” Louis says from across the way, where he’s looking a little rosy cheeked but nowhere near as warm and tipsy as you’re getting.

“Hi,” you tell Niall, snickering as if it’s a great joke, letting out a little yelp when Harry gives you a sudden tug from the other side. “Hey, what’s… what’s that for?” you wonder, peering at him. Like this, you’ve already forgotten feeling so confused and awful about whatever it is that isn’t going on between you two.

He looks like he’s trying to grin at you, but there’s something tight in it. “Just tryin’ to make sure you you don’t fall off the couch, sweetheart.”

“Oh, that’s… you’re so sweet, Harry, thanks,” you tell him, leaning over to bump your head affectionately on his shoulder.

When you straighten up again, Niall’s on his feet, grinning down at you. You miss his eyes sliding over to Harry when he asks you, “Hey, wanna go dance a bit?”

“Oh, yes, dancing would be awesome,” you say, surging to your feet enthusiastically. You do take an uncertain glance around the room, “Up here?”

Niall chuckles, “Nah, nah, downstairs, hear t’ music better down dere.” Without warning, he slips an arm around your waist, turning you towards the door with it. “Back in a bit, guys~”

You wave over your shoulder at everyone, to the sounds of muffled chuckling, as you and Niall make your way out of the VIP room and down the stairs. In the back of your mind, you know this maybe isn’t the greatest idea, going to mingle with people who’ll easily spot you, dancing with yet another fifth of the world’s most popular boyband, but maybe you’re enjoying that Niall wants to dance with you, and that you get to dance at all. You really haven’t felt this good in a while, except maybe for that brief and heated moment when Harry’s mouth had touched yours.

Shaking that off, you let Niall pull you into the crowd of people. Down here it’s dark and almost hot, the place lit by colored lights that twirl every so often. Of course, the music is much louder, thrumming through your body in a way that just begs you to move to it. You follow Niall’s lead, only a little unsure about the bodies moving against each other around you, but he pulls you in like you haven’t just met, turning you around so that your back presses up against his chest.

It’s exhilerating, the swaying, the grind of his body against yours, his hands on your arms until they slip down to your hips, bunching up once or twice in your dress as he moves you with him. Niall doesn’t even seem to mind when you lean your head back against his shoulder, just letting him keep you two in rhythm. As the music eases into another tune, he uses his hands on your waist to turn you again, and you hang onto his shoulders.

From behind, just over the thump of the bass, you hear Louis’ voice, cheeky, “Mind if I cut in?”

You tilt your head back enough to see him, and it doesn’t really matter if Niall lets him, Louis just sidles up to the two of you to join. His hands land on your bare shoulders, sliding down to your elbows as he moves behind you. Your face blazes from more than just the alcohol as you find yourself pressed intimately between the two of them, hips moving together in time to the beat.

You hope to whatever powers that be that no one sees the three of you, or recognizes them, but it’s not enough to stop you from enjoying it. You had hit it off okay earlier today, they’re all rather attractive young men and now here you are dancing between two of them, their bodies pressing into yours now and again.

“You havin’ a good time?” Niall wonders, dipping his head in close to your ear. On the other side, Louis leans in as well, almost close enough for his lips and nose to touch your shoulder, as if he’s waiting to hear the answer too.

You swallow hard, feeling suddenly hot under your clothes and their proximity. It’s not quite the same as the ache you feel near Harry, but it’s still enough to make you shiver. “Yeah, great, I mean I’m having a great time.”

As Louis lifts his head up, he chuckles, “Good, we’d hate to bring you down here and make you feel uncomfortable.”

You shake your head, the attention is strange, but not unwelcome or unwanted. The three of you dance a little longer, until you’re all flushed and sweaty, you being spun at least once more to face Louis at some point. Then he’s suggesting you all go back upstairs to the promise of food and more drink.

When you get back, Liam and Zayn are engrossed on some sports event playing on the big screen and there’s a huge spread of appetizers laid out on the tables, several bottles of water and soda in place of the wine and cocktails you’d demolished earlier. Harry’s still in his corner of the sofa, phone in hand, playing a game or texting, you don’t know. He looks somehow tense and bored and while you might have sobered up a little, enough to feel a tiny pang or two in your chest, you still trot his way, flopping down beside him.

“Havin’ fun?” you wonder, attempting to lean over and see what he’s doing on his phone.

He’d jumped when you sat, and now he looks at you, eyes taking in your flushed face, the slight skew of the belt around your dress, and maybe the way it bunches up around your thighs while you’re sitting, legs pressed together. His lips purse up, the line of them growing thinner when Louis and Niall share a laugh over a bowl of nachos and then he’s obviously trying to relax again. A smile that is more teeth than mirth appears on his face. “Loads, you? Dancin’ fun?”

You glance over at the other boys as they plant themselves down with Zayn and Liam, demanding details on the game playing.

“Ah, yeah,” you say, feeling your face heat up all over again. It’s more for distraction than actual hunger when you lean forward, snagging a basket of what looks like chicken tenders to eat out of.

Very suddenly Harry asks, “You wanna get out of here?”

You blink at him, swallowing the food in your mouth before you ask, “Get out of here? And… do what?” You’re definitely not trading one club for another; in fact, you feel like you’ve drank and danced enough to just go back to the hotel and crawl into bed.

Harry hesitates, but this time you don’t miss his eyes sliding over the other guys. “I dunno, go for a walk or something. It’s a bit stuffy in here.”

“It’s cold outside,” you protest, confused at this behavior. He’d been so excited to get back together with the guys, so you don’t really understand wanting to get away.

“Bring your shawl,” he tells you, and then comes the pout. “We’ll come back, I just need a little air.”

“I… all right,” you say, finally, but you gulp down one more piece of chicken and grab a bottle of water to bring with. Your wrap is hanging on the back of the couch, so you get it once you’ve stood up, slipping it over your shoulders while Harry explains where you’re going.

Your cheeks burn at the obvious catcalls and whistles, but Harry just puts his hand to your elbow, gently urging you on. “C'mon, sweetheart.”

Chapter Text

The night isn’t too chilly, but as it greets you with a short burst of wind when you and Harry step out, you pull the shawl tighter around your shoulders. You watch him silently as he takes a glance one way and then the other, before deciding on a direction to go. He offers you his arm and you hesitate for more than one reason - you tell yourself it’s because you’ve already let yourself have one kind of adventure with Niall and Louis, that being seen arm in arm with Harry on top of that can only make it worse, especially since the media still isn’t convinced you two aren’t sleeping together. But there’s something in his eyes that worsens the longer you wait, turning them dark, so you shift your wrap enough to let Harry slide his arm around yours.

A tiny sigh escapes him, though the arm against you is still tense.

“Are you feeling okay, Harry?” you venture when the two of you have walked a short while together.

His gaze is off in the distance somewhere, not quite in the glittering darkness of the city ahead. Your question obviously startles him and he finally looks at you again.

“Yeah, I’m fine. Why wouldn’t I be?” There’s that grin again. All teeth. Only a smidge of the warmth you’re used to seeing is there.

“I don’t… know,” you say, uncertain. “If you’re uncomfortable or something, I can go back inside.”

“No,” he says too quickly before realizing it, his eyes skittering away again. “I mean, I want you to walk with me, that’s why I asked you out here.”

Dubious, you bite your lip, but you want to be out here with him too, so you don’t protest again.

***

Liam’s living area seems to have become something of a communal space for everyone when there isn’t work to be done. And while you’re Harry’s assistant, you seem to have absorbed the other boys’ schedules as well, when they coincide. At the moment, you’re sitting in the floor with your back against the sofa, where Harry is engrossed with something on his pair of phones and Liam is poking out replies to fans on Twitter via his laptop. Moments ago, Zayn had stumbled in, only to disappear into the bathroom where you can hear a faint buzzing. Your own laptop is open in front of you, where you’re composing an email to your mother, telling her not to worry so much about those blurry photos of you dirty dancing between two members of a famous boyband. Sometimes, you wouldn’t think you were a grown woman with all the worrying and fussing she does over you.

Not that you can blame her. You’re just glad she hasn’t shown them to your dad.

Just as you’re finishing it up, Louis appears from seemingly nowhere.

“Harry,” he begins, with a flourish, “ I need to borrow your personal assistant.” There is a grin on his face that even you aren’t sure should be trusted.

You don’t have to look up to know Harry is eyeing him warily. “Why?” he wonders, phones forgotten.

“To assist me personally with something that requires personal assistance.” Louis winks at you when you catch eyes and you definitely have to smother a laugh behind your hand.

Harry glances down at you, disapproving, and your shoulders shake all the harder. When you tilt your head back to look up at him, you also discover that Liam is watching the exchange with barely concealed amusement.

“You can’t borrow her,” Harry finally says, “She’s not a thing.”

With a snort, Louis concedes, “Well, I know that, Harry. I want to borrow her services, then.”

Now Liam is the one snorting and you’re pretty sure that “services” couldn’t have sounded any worse if Louis had wiggled his eyebrows suggestively along. As it is, he’s grinning pretty widely still while Harry continues to consider. You fidget, closing up your laptop in the meantime.

“Harry, I don’t mind going,” you tell him, in case he’s worried about that. You could use some fresh air anyway, cramped up as you’ve been in the hotel all morning.

Your comment seems to startle him. “Oh, well… um,” he flounders, “I guess, all right.”

Louis cheers, barely giving you a second to get to your feet. “C’mon, c’mon.”

“Wait! I haven’t even showered, I need to put on better clothes for going out…” you protest, glancing down at your jeans and frumpy tee; in fact, you’d slept in the t-shirt, and just thrown the jeans on underneath it.

Louis hesitates, but a glance back at Harry has him sighing, “Okay, fine, go get ready.”

***

You should have expected that when Louis wanted to borrow you, he didn’t really need any assistance - not to buy himself several pairs of shoes, that he seemed pretty confident he wanted anyway. What you didn’t expect was the security escort - although that was sort of a nice change - nor did you think he’d pick up that pair of peacock paisley Vans you were eyeing while he tried on his own.

“Louis, no, you can’t just…” you plead when you see the open box on the counter.

“Those are clearly for me,” he says cheekily, throwing an arm around your shoulders while the cashier rings up three more boxes and bags everything. “But I’ll let you wear them, for comin’ out with me today.”

You duck out of his grasp, huffing all the harder when he cackles at you.

When the two of you return to the hotel, you’re carrying your own bag with the shoes in it. With what Harry’s paying you, you could have bought these yourself, but you are sort of flattered Louis got them for you. Not to mention they’ll be a welcome change to the tattered sneakers you’ve been wearing around.

You part ways with Louis when you discover that Harry isn’t in Liam’s suite anymore, and head for your own, where you find Harry stretched out on the sofa with a pillow over his face.

“Are you sleeping, Harry?” you wonder, quietly in case he really is, but the sound of your voice has him stirring.

He sits up, letting the pillow fall into his lap instead and he looks strangely like a child that’s been in time out all day. His hair is messy and his lower lip juts out - you wonder if he knows he’s pouting and you smother a smile. “What’s that?” he wonders, genuinely curious, of the bag in your hands.

“Oh, uh,” you hesitate. “I got a new pair of shoes.” That’s true enough, although you’re not a hundred percent sure why you don’t just tell him Louis got them. What does he care anyway?

“Well, let’s see them,” he says, patting the sofa. He offers you the first warm smile you’ve seen in the week since you arrived in New York.

Your insides twist up in that familiar way and you try to douse them with the cold water that is the knowledge Harry wants you to forget that kiss in the elevator. It doesn’t entirely work, and you just feel all the warmer when you plop down beside him. Extracting the box, you open it up for him to see.

“Pretty sick,” he offers, grinning at you, “I didn’t know you liked Vans.”

“Well, I mean, I just thought they looked nice and Louis just-” you stop, watching Harry’s face do this interesting sort of tug-of-war with expressions, “I told him not to, you know. None of you listen to me.” And now his face is just pinching up. With a small sigh, you look down, picking at the shoes in the box.

When Harry doesn’t say anything for too long, you get up, figuring you’ll just put your shoes up, maybe crash for a few, but before you can get to your bedroom, Harry says, “Let’s watch a movie or something on the telly.”

You peek over your shoulder at him, and find his face imploring, the lines that had been etched into it smoothing out. Smiling faintly, you say, “Alright, let me just put these up.”

Harry ends up finding some cheesy romantic comedy to watch, which you’re both excited and apprehensive about, as you plop down on the sofa beside him. At least it’s one you’ve seen before and found enjoyable, but at the same time… You look over at the boy beside you, watching the way his face lights up with laughter and you realize that these fluttery feelings aren’t going to go away, but they’re never going to get returned either.

Still, when he falls asleep halfway through, head coming down on your shoulder, you don’t move him. You just let out a small sigh and lay your head on top of his.

Chapter Text

It feels like it’s been an incredibly long day, with the boys running all over the city, doing several interviews, taking one dip into a huge shopping mall, and then eating out at a restaurant you couldn’t have dreamed of attending before at dinnertime.  When everyone gets back to the hotel, it’s clear that sleep is the first thing on their mind.  Except perhaps for Niall, who bounces a bit to catch up with you and Harry as everyone filters out of the elevator to the floor most of the suites are on.  

“Yo, wait up,” he calls, and you both turn as one, you rubbing your eyes a little.

Niall grins as he makes it to you, the rest of One Direction calling out goodnights as they begin disappearing into rooms.  “Close your eyes,” he tells you, ignoring the way Harry’s eyebrows scrunch together at his request.

“Um, okay,” you say, too tired to argue.  As your eyes slip shut, you feel hands on either side of your head, something metallic and cool settling against your ears and nose.  There’s a weird sound of protest from Harry’s direction and before Niall’s completely pulled his hands away, you open your eyes again.

 

Although you’d figured he’d slipped some kind of glasses on you, you’re still startled by the vaguely violet tinted world around you.  But then you reach up to pull the glasses off and look down at them.  The frames are sort of rounded, a gunmetal gray, with lenses that aren’t too darkly black.  They’re light and rather nice to look at, until you catch the logo in the topmost curve of one of the lenses.  

As you blanch, Niall’s grin falters a little.  “Do ya like ‘em?” he wonders, and when he glances at Harry, you can practically feel the reproachful look he gets in return.

“Uh, I do, but um…” You glance up at him, at a loss.  Of course, these aren’t half as expensive as the shawl that Harry had bought for you, but they’re certainly not cheap.  It’s a brand you often see Niall himself in.  “Please tell me they’re knock offs?”

Niall looks confused, “What, no?  Got ‘em from t’mall when we stopped earlier.” He starts to grin again, looking proud of himself, despite Harry looming over your shoulder.  “T’ought you’d look good in ‘em.”

Your cheeks heat up, he thought… you’d look good?  You push the glasses up until they’re resting atop your head, unable to keep your face from turning red, your lips turning up in a flattered smile.  “I, uh, okay…”

As if this is what he intended for all along, Niall’s face splits with a grin and what you think, strangely, is triumphant laughter.  He kisses you on the cheek without warning and darts off to the sounds of Harry’s, “Niall!”

You glance up at Harry, finding his own face red, eyes bright - is he… angry?  He must be, you’ve seen that clench to other people’s jaws, face dimpling even though he isn’t smiling at all.  At least his gaze is off the hall after Niall and not trained on you.  “Harry?” you venture quietly, slipping the sunglasses of your head and carefully folding them up.  

His head jerks in your direction, eyes still blazing, reminding you briefly of tiny jade statues you’d seen in a trinket shop once.  After a second, he squeezes them shut, and takes a breath, his head shaking back and forth twice to clear it.  “What?” he asks, and while he tries to sound normal, you don’t miss the deeper pitch to his voice.  You know it shouldn’t, and you try so badly to ignore it, but the gravelly sound sends particular tingle down your spine.

“Are you okay?” you ask, your own voice faltering.

He hesitates and you can see the anger bleeding out of his gaze into resignation as your eyes meet.  “Yeah, ‘m fine,” he tells you and promptly turns on his heel to walk toward your shared suite.

With his long strides, you break into a bit of a trot to keep up with him, the sunglasses now hooked into the collar of your t-shirt.  He’s inside before you can reach out and grab him, hand closing around his upper arm as you shut the door behind you with your free hand.  Harry’s gaze snaps to your grip like you’ve burned him, but he doesn’t pull away.  His eyes slip up your arm to your face.  You’re slightly winded, chest moving as you suck in air.

“You’re not fine,” you accuse when you’ve found your voice again.  “You’ve been… acting weird ever since we got here.” Well, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but he has been off for quite a while since you met the rest of the boys.  You really don’t like the confrontation, can feel the chill of anxiety seeping into your fingers; you just want to know why he’s acting this way.  If he doesn’t care about you that way, there’s no reason to act like he has about the dancing and the shoes and going along on personal outings, now the sunglasses.

“Don’t,” he says, voice still rough from the escalated emotions in the hall. 

When he starts to pull away, you squeeze his arm, hand clammy against his warm skin.  “No, tell me… please, just tell me what’s wrong.”

Harry doesn’t yank his arm away, instead turning toward you and using his other hand to very gently peel your fingers off of him.  “I can’t…” he lets out a hard breath, “I shouldn’t say anything.”

You fold your arms against yourself when he’s made you let go.  Still, you don’t back off, expression imploring - you wish you could ask him outright, was he lying about the kiss?  You still haven’t forgotten it, the race of your heart in your chest, the warmth spreading out from the center of you.  Even now you shiver with the memory.

He seems riveted at the motion and you must have remembered a little too vividly, feeling the heat climbing up your neck and into your face, turning even the tips of your ears scarlet.  In moments, his body hits yours, forcing you back against the door.  The breath is knocked out of you with no time to suck it back in when his mouth covers yours.  He kisses you like he’s starving, desperate for a taste, and you yield, melting into the gesture.  You feel just as desperate.  

Harry’s body presses the length of yours, rigid until you’re kissing him back, when it eases up and he’s no longer pinning you to the door so much as letting it hold you while he kisses you.  His mouth moves down the line of your jaw, up underneath your chin where his lips touch your throat.  You pant for breath, hands against his chest, his own on either side of your body on the door.  His lips nearly meet the warm metal of the sunglasses tucked into your shirt and then he lifts his head and those bright irises are darker than you’ve ever seen them, his mouth swollen and darkly pink from kissing you.  

“You told me…” you breathe, pressing your eyes shut, “to forget…”

“Sometimes I say stupid things,” he mumbles, resting his forehead against yours.  “Really stupid things.”

Chapter Text

Gently, Harry pulls you away from the door and you follow his lead to the couch.  As he sits, he pulls you down with him, ending with your legs on either side of his lap.  A hot blush spreads across your face, though it’s soon covered by the palms of his hands as he pulls your face down to his to kiss you again.  There’s some hesitation in you, lingering doubts because of what happened the first time he kissed you, and all the times you’ve had to hold back the burgeoning attraction inside you, reminding yourself that he’s too young, that he’s famous, that you’re too plain and simple.  The crimson on your cheeks fades under the tension twanging through you and when Harry realizes you’re not entirely responding to him anymore, he lets you go, eyes searching your face.

 

“What’s the matter?” he asks, voice a little rough.

 

You swallow hard, shaking your head.  “It’s nothing,” you tell him, and you want that to be the utter truth, so despite your muscles feeling so tight, you run your hands up over his shoulders and bend your head to kiss him again.  

 

Although you know he doesn’t really believe you, Harry still kisses you in turn, your mouths meeting for sweet pecks and deep exploratory swipes of the tongue.  His hands weave back into your hair, fisting for a moment until you whimper just so for him.  Then they are running down your back, digging into the small of it.  Your own hands wander into the collar of his t-shirt, touching the bunched muscles of his neck and shoulders, his skin warm under your fingertips.  Harry kisses you like he has all the time in the world to savor the way you taste, lazy and open mouthed, sucking your bottom lip into his mouth a time or two.  Each time he does, you can feel heat racing through you, goosebumps prickling along your skin as it ends in a throb between your thighs.  You wonder what those hands would feel like down there, fingers sinking into you, running along the tenderest of places.

 

 

With a small groan that Harry swallows as easily as any other sound you’ve made, you can’t quite stop yourself grinding against him.  It’s his turn to whimper, and you can feel him underneath you, already hardening in his jeans.  He breaks away, curls haloing his head as it falls back against the hotel sofa.  “Fuck…”

 

Your hands tighten on him, trapped between his head and neck, while his own are clutching at your hips.  “S-sorry,” you mumble, wondering if you’ve done something wrong.

 

Harry blinks hazy viridian eyes up at you, obviously confused, but with a deep chuckle, he lifts his head to kiss you again.  “Love, no, don’t be sorry, I just…” His fingers massage soothingly into your sides.  “M-maybe we shouldn’t go that fast.” Though husky, his voice is almost coy.  You’re kind of startled, to be honest.

 

“I… okay,” you say, anxiously looking down at him.  You don’t want to move.  

 

“We can still do this though,” he says, leaning up again, kissing you breathless.

 

Despite lingering too long outside the small space that separates the doors to your bedrooms, you end up alone in your bed.  You don’t want to be disappointed - you’re not a hundred percent sure you’re actually ready for that again anyway - but you’re still warm and throbbing, remembering his lips and hands on you.  Little tingles still race along your skin in places where he’d touched you longer and you let your own fingers run along them once, feeling the goosebumps still hanging on.

 

Swallowing, you run your hand down under the blankets, feeling out along the soft skin of your stomach.  You bite your lip a little, squeezing your thighs together when you reach your panties.  With Harry just next door you’re not sure you want to do this, but at the same time you practically ache from getting so riled up with him earlier.  Hoping you’ll be able to keep silent, you slip the crotch of your underwear aside and touch the damp, heated lips between your thighs.  If you close your eyes, you can almost imagine it’s Harry, those long spindly fingers parting you, touching your clit, slipping in familiar circles around it.  You curl up as the first little jolt of pleasure shoots through you and continue on your way, lifting one leg to get better access to yourself.

 

When you slip the first finger inside your wet center, you can’t muffle the whimper that escapes you.  It’s been much too long since you’ve felt anything here, yourself or otherwise.  Before that awful trip with your fiance, the two of you hadn’t even had sex in over a month.  Ridiculous, considering the fact that once you got going, you weren’t shy about the activity.  But now it’s all amplified, the sensations causing little shudders to ripple through you.  Sliding another finger in alongside the first, you begin to pump them in and out of yourself, running your thumb up your slit to tease at your clit.  

 

You’ve always been a little noisier than most during sex, with little gasps and moans, and getting yourself off is no different.  You turn your face into the pillow, trying to smother it as you work yourself harder, approaching that pinnacle much faster than you thought you would, especially when you imagine Harry’s the one pleasuring you, coaxing you.  You think of his kisses, the slick of his lips moving with yours and his hands in your hair, tightening just shy of pain.  As you come hot and damp around your own fingers, you don’t quite stifle the breathless whines that escape you.  

 

For a few moments, you lay there, panting softly in the dark, muscles still clenching in the most pleasant of ways.  Eventually, you stumble out of bed to the door that leads into the main bathroom, where you wash your hands and splash cool water on your face.

 

After you’ve crawled back into bed, it takes almost no time to fall asleep.

 

***

 

In the morning, you lie in bed for a little while, listening to the distant sounds of the city below, trying not to think too hard about the previous night lest you need to take care of yourself again.  The hotel room is quiet otherwise, you can almost hear your own heartbeat.  Today is a rare day off, for the boys anyway, you’ll still perform your… regular job duties, whatever those are.  Honestly, you’d rather stay in after running all over creation the day before and then the way the night ended, well, you’re still rather tired.  

 

However, your stomach eventually begs to be tended to, and you crawl out of bed, finding a pair of pajama pants to slip on underneath your Aerosmith t-shirt.  As you wander out into the living room, you’re surprised to see Harry already awake, curled up on a corner of the sofa and tapping away at one of his phones.  You know you’re one of the few to possess both numbers, though you still wonder who he’s texting all the time.  He’s constantly glued to one of them.  Still, looking at him now, the night before comes rushing back.  Your clothes feel much too warm.

 

“Um, morning,” you mumble.

 

Harry jumps a bit, and looks up at you like a deer caught in the headlights.  As his eyes take you in, from your loose pajamas to your sleep-disheveled hair, you watch them widen and his adam’s apple bobs up and down once.  “Mornin’,” he says, eyes not quite making it to your face.

 

Okay, weird.  Vaguely uncomfortable, which is like a good dose of ice water to the heat under your skin, you wander past the couch and into the kitchenette.  No one’s gone grocery shopping, but there’s leftover Chinese and a few cans of soda, so you grab some of each and sit at the table to eat.

 

Only a few minutes pass before you distinctly feel the weight of Harry’s eyes on you.  

 

Glancing at him, you ask, “What’s up?”

 

He opens his mouth, frowns a little.  “Um, last night, like…” But he stops, chewing anxiously on his lip.

 

Your chest feels tight, wondering what he might want to say.  You’re torn between fearing that this is the elevator all over again, and fearing that he heard you touching yourself.  Clearly the former would be worse, but the latter is still mortifying.

 

Whatever it was though, Harry still doesn’t finish.  “Nevermind.  Um, do you… want to go out today?”

 

Uncertain whether you’re relieved or even more anxious, you shrug your shoulders.  “If you want to go somewhere, we can.  That’s fine.” At the back of your mind, you can feel the questions bubbling up in you - what was he going to say?   What exactly was last night and what does it mean for the two of you?  Harry has never really struck you as the casual relationship kind, so you hope that isn’t the case.  But you don’t want to drive him off by bringing any of this up.

 

“Well, I mean, um, you can pick if you want to go.  I don’t have anything to do so, uh, you know, your day off and all that.” He scratches through his hair sheepishly.

 

“Oh, um…” You lick your lips, not unaware of the way his eyes dart to the motion.  Shit.  Maybe you should get out of here, being cooped up in the hotel room with Harry when your thoughts are a mess like this is probably not a good idea.  “Well, I guess I wouldn’t mind doing a little shopping.”

 

A smile blossoms across Harry’s face.  “Great.  Um, Liam wants to know if he can tag along?” he waves his phone at you.

 

Now you’re a little disappointed, but you stow that as quickly as it tickles your brain.  “Yeah, sure, whatever.  The more the merrier,” you manage to laugh.

Harry cheers softly, but you can only feel somewhat glum as you listen to him tap at his phone again.