“I think you should wear this one,” Harry says, holding up one of his garishly printed silk blouses that probably cost more than the average student’s semester of uni. “Would really make your eyes pop.” Something not quite a smile quirks at the edge of his lips, and Zayn frowns.
There’s already a protest on his tongue, Harry can probably see it, but it’s cut off before Zayn can even get it out as Harry crosses the hotel room and plants the quickest of kisses on Zayn’s lips. It’s domestic and intimate, Zayn in just a towel and Harry only in briefs, both of them still damp from a shared shower.
“I know what you look good in,” Harry rumbles, breath puffing out warm and minty against Zayn’s mouth. “Don’t you trust me?”
It’s just four words, said so casually yet in that intense way that only Harry can say words in. A subtle nudge, a blunt but unspoken expectation, the questioning prod that makes you wonder what he’s really asking, but pushes you in the direction Harry wants you to go all the same.
Zayn shrugs, aiming for unaffected but feeling the entire opposite. They share clothes all the time, the five of them, but this top is like draping a giant silken “Harry Styles Was Here” sign across his chest. He puts it on anyway, and pretends not to see the way Harry’s eyes darken.
It’s far too big on Zayn, was probably already tailored to suit Harry’s solid frame instead of Zayn’s tapered waist. He turns around to look at himself in the floor mirror sitting in the corner, and catches Harry’s eye as he walks up.
Harry’s chin hooks over Zayn’s shoulders and his hands land on Zayn’s hips, ruffling the top so just the barest hint of his fingertips brushes Zayn’s skin. There’s another quick kiss, this time on Zayn’s cheek, and the not-smile has evolved to a cheeky grin.
“See,” Harry says, half boast and half glee, “I told you it’d look good.”
“Are you having a good time?”
Harry and Zayn are sitting in the same booth, and Harry leans in close to be heard over the booming music of the club. Probably closer than necessary, actually. Close enough that Zayn can smell sugary sweet alcohol on his breath, and see the high flush in his cheeks that’s from a combination of the drinks he’s had (none of which he’s paid for) and the last fifteen minutes or so he spent jumping around on the dancefloor with strangers.
“Yeah,” Zayn replies, “It’s cool.” That’s stretching it a bit; this isn’t his kind of scene or his kind of music, but Harry’s having fun and making a right fool of himself, and that at least was worth coming out to see.
Another half-smile is creeping back onto Harry’s face, his eyes darting down to Zayn’s lips and then back up again. Sometimes Zayn wonders what Harry sees when he’s looking at Zayn, but it’s probably better for both of them if Harry keeps that to himself.
“We should dance,” Harry says, leaning in impossibly closer, lips brushing the shell of Zayn’s ear and hair wisping across Zayn’s cheeks. “Let’s go dance.” His hand lands on Zayn’s thigh, riding high across the inseam of Zayn’s jeans, fingertips massaging at the muscles there.
All Zayn can think about are the people who could be watching, people who shouldn’t be seeing this thing between him and Harry. Zayn’s not sure what it is exactly, but it’s been kept semi-private between them and Zayn’s never seen any reason to change that.
“What are you playing at, Harry?” Zayn’s voice comes out sharper than he intends, but there’s embarrassment creeping down his spine, a sickly sixth sense that there’s a ‘gotcha’ just around the corner, the familiar feeling that he’s being played with, that there’s a joke everybody’s in on except for him.
Harry grins, unaffected by Zayn’s tone, and shrugs. He takes his hand off Zayn’s thigh, only to drape his arm around Zayn’s shoulder. Their knees knock together, bodies pressed together from shoulder to thigh, and suddenly Zayn has other things on his mind than who could be watching them right now.
“You look hot tonight,” Harry says through a smirk, eyes dropping down to take in the top Harry had thrown at Zayn and told him to put on. Another gaudy silk thing, way too brightly printed for the club, but the way Harry looks at the fabric that pools around his shoulders and hips makes him feel… weird inside.
Zayn’s used to feeling weird around Harry. He’s got this way of looking at Zayn like he’s planning in his head exactly how to take Zayn apart, but hasn’t even considered the idea of putting him back together.
“Maybe I just wanna show you off,” Harry continues, and his hand slides from Zayn’s shoulder to the back of his neck, heavy and warm, palm rubbing at the outline of the fantail he must have memorized by now.
Zayn just really wants some part of himself to be memorable to Harry. It’s an inexplicable desire to be on Harry’s mind, to be someone he thinks about, to be a different sort of important to him.
So Zayn nods, getting drunk on tequila and Harry’s not-smiles, and allows himself to be led onto the dancefloor. It’s worth it, he truly believes that, to have Harry’s eyes on him as he trails behind, and Zayn tries to make himself unforgettable.
We’re not even supposed to be up here, Zayn thinks, as Harry pushes him up against a metal railing, kissing at that spot behind Zayn’s ear that makes his legs go a little wobbly. He moans when one of Harry’s hands snakes down the front of his pants, and he doesn’t bother to consider how Harry’s already got both of their jeans unzipped.
It’s easy to get caught up in the moment with Harry, forgetting your surrounds and yourself and basically any and every person or thing that isn’t Harry Styles. But Zayn would be lying if he said the sound of Louis, Niall, and Liam laughing down below the metal rafters where he and Harry are currently hidden didn’t send his heart pounding into a flurry. Zayn curses under his breath, tries to wriggle out of Harry’s arms, but Harry just groans and holds Zayn tighter around the waist.
“No, come on,” Harry whines, dragging Zayn’s attentions back to him, “Don’t you think you’ve earned a bit of personal time? Cause I do.” He presses his lips to Zayn’s again, kissing Zayn with the lazy insistency that Harry has perfected, the expectant demanding that always leads to Zayn opening up for him.
“But,” Zayn halfheartedly protests, feeling the need to make some kind of comment on the danger of it all, even if he has no actual interest in leaving.
“But,” Harry drawls, dropping to his knees and lifting Zayn’s cock gently out of his boxers. He wastes no time in fitting his mouth around the head, sucking at it and fisting the base, while looking up at Zayn through his lashes. He pulls off, then licks up and down the sides to leave slick trails of spit behind, never taking his eyes off Zayn. “But what, Zayn?” Harry continues, jacking Zayn’s cock just this side of too tight. “Finish your sentence.”
“I, fuck, I dunno.” Zayn’s trail of thought is long gone, fleeting and immemorable, and he doesn’t have the wherewithal to chase it. Not when Harry’s on his knees, cheeks flushed with arousal and lips a plush pink. Not when he can’t form a thought worth a damn except Harry, Harry, Harry, buzzing over and over in his head.
“It’s okay,” Harry says, voice soft and warm and reassuring. He nips a bite into Zayn’s hipbone, and Zayn can’t help the whimper that cuts out of his through. “I’ll do the thinking for the both of us.”
They’re on the tour bus, speeding down an interstate, travelling from one city Zayn’s never heard of to another, and Zayn’s been restless all night. He’s agitated, vibrating inside his own skin, feels his bones chattering. There’s unsteadiness in his head, too much moving too much motion, and he just wants to be stationary. Grounded. He wants the Earth to stop moving beneath his feet, both literally and figuratively.
Zayn’s in his bunk with his beanie pulled low over his ears when Harry searches him out, and his eyes are already burning from exhaustion and his chest is tight from a gamut of things he doesn’t have the energy to examine right now. If Harry’s come looking for a source of entertainment, Zayn’s not sure he could even halfway convincingly keep Harry’s attentions tonight.
“Sort of late for a lie in, isn’t it?” Harry asks, hip cocked against the doorway, peering down at a nonexistent wristwatch for confirmation. “Or are you having a secret sleepover?” He leans into the room and checks behind a door, as if looking for other occupants, then peers over at Zayn, eyebrows raised. “That’s alright, I suppose,” Harry continues, foregoing his search, “As long as I’m invited.”
He enters the room, closing the door behind him, and strips off his jeans. Harry leaves on his briefs and his faded Pink Floyd shirt, and scrambles over to Zayn’s bunk. Zayn huffs when Harry motions for him to make room, but does it anyway.
“Seems like you’ve invited yourself, mate. What if I wanted to be alone?” Zayn isn’t sure why he says it. The urge to be contrary, perhaps, or the intrusive desire to live up to everyone’s expectations of him to be an asshole.
Harry doesn’t say anything for a moment, choosing instead to yank off Zayn’s beanie and toss it somewhere in the vicinity of Harry’s jeans, and maneuver their bodies into a semi-comfortable position. Harry’s arms wrap around Zayn’s back, pulling him in tight to his chest and squeezing until Zayn chokes out a laugh and Harry loosens his hold.
“Alone isn’t as much fun, I think. But if you have to do it, I reckon it’s better with me. Most things are, to be honest.” Harry says it in the matter-of-fact tone he employs often with Zayn.
Harry wiggles around, settles in as comfortably as they’ll get in the cramped bunk, and starts telling Zayn about a hilarious fan encounter Gemma had at a Starbucks. His hand runs lazily up and down Zayn’s back, only pausing to gesticulate during particularly important parts of the story.
“Why you bein’ so nice?” Zayn asks later, after Harry has successfully recounted the past twenty-four hours of his life. The words come out needier than Zayn intended, less questioning and more desperate, which is probably more accurate to Zayn’s feelings when it comes to Harry anyway. But the question still stands, even if Zayn wishes he could take it back.
“Maybe I wanna be sweet to you” Harry responds, fingers combing through Zayn’s flattened hair, and Zayn still doesn’t understand how he can just say things like that. Unembarrassed and sure of himself, sure of things in their relationship that Zayn can’t even begin to understand.
“Thanks,” Zayn whispers, in lieu of anything else to say, and they leave it at that. Zayn turns his head so his ear is pressed to Harry’s chest, and focuses on the slow rise and fall of his breathing and the steady thump-thump of heartbeat.
Harry’s been quiet since Zayn told him. Not early morning yoga quiet, or post-orgasm nap quiet - not the kind of quiet Zayn’s familiar with. He’s sad-quiet. Blank and distant and not Zayn’s Harry. Zayn’s not even sure if he ever really had Harry, but he sure as hell doesn’t recognize this one.
“Would you stay if I asked?” Harry’s words break the silence, no beating around the bush. Zayn almost doesn’t know what to say. He spends so much time searching for the right answer with Harry, and hasn’t learned yet that there almost never is one.
“I dunno. Maybe.” Zayn shrugs, and Harry scoffs, but Zayn continues on. “Would you ask?”
“Would I -” Harry cuts himself off with another scoff, hand running through his too-long hair then tugging its way back out through his unbrushed curls. “Would it even make a difference, Zayn?” He sounds tired, like Zayn makes him tired, like their drama exhausts him, and something sad and small cracks open inside of Zayn.
“I’m asking if you’d give me a reason,” Zayn says, trying to find the words he’s been hiding away where Harry can’t see them, “I’m just asking if - what - I don’t know, just, aren’t I allowed to fucking ask that?”
“No,” Harry shouts, visibly agitated. It’s the first time in a long while that Zayn’s seen him properly upset, cheeks flushed with anger and shoulders tense. “You’re not allowed to put this on me. Don’t come in here asking me to make decisions for you, to make the choice for you, as if you don’t already fucking know what you want.”
Why not? Zayn thinks, eyes painfully dry when he blinks, standing in place so Harry can stare him down. Why not this time, like all the other times? Why not now, when I don’t have a clue what the fuck I’m doing? When I don’t know what the fuck I want? What’s so different now?
But Zayn doesn’t say it aloud, because he knows what’s different. He knows it’s not fair, to ask if Harry’s willing to take on the burden of pleading with him to stay, and risk furthering the resentment that’s already been festering inside Zayn for so long.
It doesn’t hurt any less though when Harry storms past him, slamming the hotel room door on his way out. It doesn’t stop the pang in his chest and the desire to undo every decision he’s made in the past week, and just lay in a bed with Harry and let him do all the thinking.
But Zayn doesn’t run after him, like in the romcoms Harry loves so much. Doesn’t profess his love in the lobby of the hotel or in the pouring rain or in a stadium full of people. Whatever they had, whatever they were doing, it wasn’t enough, and Harry was finally seeing what Zayn had known for years: not even the great Harry Styles can steer Zayn’s life in a direction that doesn’t end in a colossal fucking mess.
“You can still back out, you know.” Harry’s hand is warm, rubbing at the tense bundle of nerves beneath Zayn’s suit, and Zayn looks over at him. He still looks so good, after all these years, still meant for every bit of the luxe that Zayn struggles to fit into.
“I can hear your brain cranking from here,” Harry continues, sliding closer to Zayn in the backseat so that they’re pressed together from shoulder to thigh. He looks like he’s holding back a sigh. “If you want to go back home -”
“I don’t,” Zayn interrupts. He appreciates Harry giving him the out, but it’s not that he doesn’t want to go, he just… wants to feel like they’re doing the right thing. “I’m just, I dunno, I just keep thinking - ”
“How about,” Harry cuts in, turning Zayn’s body so they’re facing each other, grounding Zayn with his hands and his eyes and his presence, “How about I do the thinking for the both of us?”
They haven’t talked about it, not really, what they did when they were younger and life was simpler yet infinitely more complicated. But Zayn misses the quiet moments and the loud moments and the in-between moments, when Zayn was too tired or too anxious or too caught up in his head, and Harry would just put a warm hand on the back of his neck and lead him where he needed to go.
“Do you… do you think we’re doing the right thing?” Zayn hates to ask, hates opening up room for Harry to doubt him, but Zayn needs to hear it out loud.
“I think,” Harry drawls, reaching out to straighten Zayn’s tie, “That you should kiss me.” Harry’s smiles is soft and fond and so fucking gorgeous, and Zayn can do nothing but lean in and press his lips against Harry’s.
It’s sweet and raspberry-flavored like Harry’s lip balm, and Zayn huffs out a laugh when Harry chases his lips as he pull away, hand gripping the back of Zayn’s neck and pulling him back in. It’s slow and unhurried, Harry’s preferred way of kissing, expectant and deliberate in the way that always puts Zayn’s mind at ease.
“See,” Harry says, eyes drinking in every inch of Zayn’s face, reaching up to tuck a lock of hair behind Zayn’s ear. “Right as rain.”
The car’s stopped, and outside Zayn can already hear the clamoring noise of people waiting to dissect their every move, but all Zayn can focus on is the raspberry-red of Harry’s lips, and the mesmerizing steadiness of his voice. Zayn thinks that right now, that can be enough.