"Yes," Harry says in the hotel corridor, "'course we're going to my room," but when he stumbles against the girl it seems easiest to keep sliding in the same direction. She ends up with her back to the wall and Harry pressed against her. He smiles down at her and she tilts her head up to him, eyes open as if she doesn't want to miss a thing.
The doors of the lift open and close from somewhere down the hall.
Harry keeps his hand on her shoulder and bends in for a kiss. He could give her a little push downwards and she'd go to her knees right on the hallway carpet. He wouldn't do that, not here, but it's nice to know that he could.
"Night, Harry!" Zayn calls.
Harry doesn't look up. "Zayn's breaking the rules," he whispers, mouth against her ear.
"What rules?" she asks, sounding delighted.
"If you see one of the lads with a girl, you mind your own business. You don't notice a thing."
"Even if we're in the hallway?"
"We should be invisible," Harry tells her. He still hasn't heard Zayn go into his room. "I’m not here. You're not here."
"Is this here?" the girl asks, her fingers tracing his stiffy through his jeans.
"Not as far as Zayn's concerned," says Harry, louder.
"Let's go to your room," she says, and pushes him away with a hand to his chest. "Does he want to come too?"
Harry doesn't answer until he hears Zayn's door open and close at last. "No," says Harry then, and fumbles for his key card.
When they're inside his room, she seems more nervous than she was in the bar or in the hallway. "It's okay," Harry tells her, and kisses her until she's clinging to him again, until he can back her toward the bed. "Did you really think I'd want to share?" he asks.
"I don't know," she says breathlessly. "He was looking."
"Against the rules," says Harry, trying to sound disapproving. He sits down on the bed, pulling her into his lap.
Harry bangs on Zayn's door on the way back from the hotel gym the next morning.
Zayn comes to the door in a pair of trackie bottoms that probably belong to Louis. He wrinkles his nose when he sees Harry. "It's the middle of the night."
"It's nine o'clock on a lovely June morning." Harry pushes past Zayn into the room. The curtains are still pulled shut and the duvet is a crumpled heap.
"Like I said." Zayn drops back on the bed. "I'm going back to sleep."
"Can I get in with you?" Harry's top is sticking to his stomach, so he pulls it off.
"You're kinda rank right now, bro."
"I was working out," says Harry. "I'll have a shower." He pushes his shorts down and kicks them into a corner. Zayn yawns and rolls over onto his stomach. Harry pads into Zayn's bathroom and eyes all Zayn's bottles of shampoo and conditioner and pomade and moisturizer affectionately.
In the shower, he cleans his dick carefully with one of Zayn's shower gels. It's slippery and he almost wanks with it, but then he turns the water hotter instead. His scalp hurts with the heat of the water by the time he rinses the conditioner out. When he steps out of the shower, he sees a large white towel folded neatly over the bar and another one crammed messily in next to it. It's probably the one Zayn used last night. Harry wraps the crumpled one around his waist.
When he opens the door to the bedroom, Zayn's lying on his back again with his eyes closed. "You're not asleep," says Harry.
"Sshhhh," says Zayn.
"I wanked with your bath gel, hope you don't mind," says Harry. There's something about the idea that pleases him, even if it didn't happen. He stands in front of the giant mirror over the vanity to inspect his skin. He's got a spot on his forehead and the beginnings of one on his neck. "My spots are different from how they used to be," he informs Zayn. "More mature. They're rugged now."
Zayn's eyes open. "Is there something wrong with your own shower?"
"I like yours better."
"Have you even tried yours?"
Harry tries to remember last night. He was going to have a shower after the girl left, but then he went to sleep instead.
"I didn't need to," says Harry. He drops the towel and crawls onto the bed next to Zayn. "Did you know that sex helps you rid your body of toxins?"
Zayn makes room for him. "That's, like, sweating in general, but way to work your hook-up into the conversation."
"I thought you'd like that," says Harry. "You seemed kind of interested last night."
"I was fascinated," agrees Zayn. "I was like, look at that poor confused bird who probably thinks Harry is a sex god."
"I am a sex god," says Harry. He grabs a hank of his hair and wrings it so that water dribbles onto Zayn. "Anyway, you're not supposed to look."
"And you're not supposed to screw around in the hallway. There are cameras."
"We were in the blind spot," says Harry, watching a drop of water trickle off Zayn's bare shoulder.
"That's your magic," says Zayn. "You're always in the fucking blind spot."
Harry shrugs uncomfortably. "I try to be careful." He watches how Zayn's face tightens and adds, "Or it's just luck. It's luck."
It's not, though. It's because Harry knows how to be clever about it and Zayn doesn't. Didn't. Now he doesn't need to be careful or clever, not since he flew home from Thailand and Perrie broke it off. Still, Harry didn't see Zayn with any girls in Johannesburg or Cape Town when he rejoined the tour at the end of March. Now they're back on tour in Europe after a two month break and as far as Harry knows, Zayn hasn't hooked up yet.
"Anyway," says Zayn, "It looked like she was gonna suck you off right there in the hallway."
"Nope," says Harry. "We saved it for later." He remembers how she'd slid out of his lap onto the floor between his legs, bowed her head eagerly over him. Girls always wanted to do such a good job. They all wanted to be the one that he would remember. "Wasn't bad, either," said Harry thoughtfully.
"Is that what you told her?" Zayn asked.
"I was very nice, she was very happy. D'you think I'm an arsehole or something?"
"No," says Zayn. "No one ever thinks you're an arsehole." His face is blank but Harry gets it. The press has been brutal for months. Zayn's the heel who got jilted the way he deserved. Harry and Niall and Liam and Louis are the hardworking cherubs he came crawling back to.
"What you don't know," says Harry, because talking about sex is easier than getting into all that, "is that I'm an extremely generous lover."
"Right," says Zayn, and starts laughing, thank god. "Did you get that from a magazine or something? Maybe the one about the sex toxins?"
"You're a sex toxin," says Harry, kicking Zayn's leg.
Zayn shrugs. "So get me off then."
Harry kicks him again. "What?"
Zayn looks over at him. "Would you like it better if we went out in the hallway?"
"Ha ha," says Harry. "Hey, can I grab some clothes? I didn't bring anything except my gym stuff."
"Pussy," says Zayn, not unkindly. He has the duvet pushed down below his waist. Harry can see the outline of his ribs, the line of hair leading down from his navel. He wonders if anyone's touched Zayn since Perrie. Then he gets off the bed and finds a t-shirt on the floor. "Take it," Zayn says.
Harry pulls the t-shirt on. It smells like Zayn. "I'm gonna go get breakfast," he says.
"With your dick out?"
"I am about to put these on," says Harry with great dignity, holding up the joggers he found in an open suitcase. "Thank you for your help."
"Wish I could say the same," says Zayn, and burrows down under the duvet again.
Harry pauses with his hand on the door. "What's that supposed to mean? Zayn?"
But Zayn, as usual, doesn't answer.
Louis is already in the private breakfast room when Harry walks in. He's eating sausage and potatoes, wearing a jersey that probably belongs to Niall, and frowning at his phone. Harry gets yoghurt and a fruit plate and sits down across from him.
"Morning," says Louis.
"Right?" says Harry. "I told Zayn it wasn't the middle of the night." He pulls out his phone and texts Zayn: Louis is on my side!
Louis grabs his phone to see. "Nope," he says. "I’m on Zayn's side."
"But you said–"
"I did not. Anyway, we need to talk about Zayn."
"Okay," says Harry, impressed. This is what should always be happening. People should have important topics of conversation and then they should think, I need to talk to Harry about this.
"Yeah," says Louis. "It seems like he's not doing so well."
"Perrie," Harry agrees.
"Not just Perrie," says Louis. "Like—you know right after Thailand, when we thought he might not come back?"
"I always thought he'd come back." Harry arranges his fruit so the strawberries are the eyes and a line of kiwi slices are the smile.
"Yeah, well, you're an idiot," says Louis. "My point is, he was barely alive for the Cardiff shows last week. Now we're back on again tomorrow night and he still doesn't want to be here."
"He didn't want to stay home either though," says Harry. "Not with Perrie not there."
"I know that already."
"Well, I mean," says Harry. "I'm sure it's very hard for him. Imagine if you were really into being in love with somebody, and then suddenly there was nobody there, wow."
"Oh, how could I possibly imagine."
"Sorry," Harry mumbles.
"Whenever you say the word love, it sounds like some alien science experiment," says Louis. "We're talking about Zayn."
"I know that. I'm empathizing."
"A for effort," says Louis. "Does your empathy give you any ideas how we can get Zayn back in the game?"
"I suppose we could've put his song on the album," says Harry.
"You didn't want it there either!"
"I know," says Harry. "I'm not blaming you."
"Good," says Louis. "Because it's not like the rest of us are calling the shots around here."
Harry's spoon clatters to the floor, and he bends over to get it, which takes a while because he bumps his head on the leg of the table. When he's upright again, he says, "I'm not calling any shots."
"Funny how you're the one taking calls from Christopher Nolan then."
"The band is just taking a break," says Harry.
"Yeah," says Louis. "Okay. Whatever it is, it's great for morale!" He grins fixedly and then his features fall back into tired worry.
Harry tries to imagine Louis being that worried about him. "Maybe I'm not happy either," says Harry. "Did you ever think of that?"
Louis rolls his eyes. "You're fine, Harry. You're always fine."
Someday Harry will get a noble and terrible disease and Louis will put him back on his mental list of people that he has to worry about. Louis will come visit Harry on his deathbed and say, "Oh, Harry, how are you?" and in answer Harry will say in a weak and trembling voice, "Oh, I'm fine," and then die right in front of him.
In the meantime, Harry says, "I'll talk to Zayn."
"Well!" says Louis brightly. "That'll do the trick!"
It's very late in Zayn's hotel room in Vienna. "Everything has a beginning and an ending," Zayn tells Harry dreamily. "When a story is over, you have to close the book." They'd been watching telly half-heartedly when Zayn dozed off. Harry got him into bed and now he's rambling.
"Is this about Perrie?" Harry guesses. He thinks of Louis fretting about Zayn over breakfast that morning.
Zayn peers at him through half-closed eyes. "The trick is to detach from the world. Stop wanting things."
"I suppose," says Harry. "What were you wanting?"
"Nothing big," says Zayn, blinking his eyes at the ceiling. "Shave my head. Quit the band. Hang with Shah Rukh Khan. Go to the moon. Make my own album. Go back home. Fuck Gigi Hadid. Adopt a baby snow leopard. Throw away my phone."
There are too many things on that list Harry doesn't know how to deal with, so he starts with the basics. "Gigi's hot. I know her from Taylor. I could introduce you, then we could look for a snow leopard." He rubs the pads of his fingers over the stubble of Zayn's undercut.
"Harry," says Zayn. "I don't think you introducing us would help."
"Why not? Me and Taylor are on very good terms."
Zayn looks at him.
"We're on…terms," says Harry. "I'm sure Taylor didn't tell Gigi anything bad about me."
Harry respects Taylor and fully intends to try again in five years, or maybe seven. It would obviously be amazing.
"Anyway, you could totally nail Gigi," says Harry. "Anyone would fuck you." Louis would want him to build up Zayn's morale. He fits his hand around Zayn's neck and then strokes down to his belly. Zayn's body is so warm.
Zayn tenses and then relaxes under Harry's hand. "I'm listing all the shit I gotta let go. It's not a bucket list."
"When I want something," says Harry thoughtfully, "I just take it."
"Not always," says Zayn, and pushes the blanket down, off his chest.
"Yes," says Harry. "And then I don't want it anymore." Which is when he feels Zayn's dick, bumping up against the side of his wrist. He should move his hand away but he doesn't.
"Show me how that works," says Zayn.
Harry moves his hand just enough to verify that Zayn's hard. "Zayn?"
"Yeah," says Zayn.
"Oh," says Harry. "I thought before, when you said—I thought it was a joke."
"It might've been," says Zayn. "I haven't decided."
Harry touches the head of Zayn's cock with his forefinger. Zayn breathes in sharply and says nothing. "I'll decide," says Harry. He wraps his hand around the shaft and squeezes tentatively.
Zayn raises an eyebrow. "Do you even know how?"
"I know everything," says Harry. He props himself up on his elbow and looks down at Zayn's face. Zayn closes his eyes. Harry takes Zayn's cock again and starts sliding his fist over it. When he feels with his thumb, Zayn's slit is wet. "See?" says Harry. Zayn's dick feels smooth and hot and only the way Zayn's breathing quickens tells Harry he's doing it right. It's nice, being the one to make this happen, so Harry keeps going. He's about to try pressing himself closer, but then Zayn tenses up and comes. There's jizz all over Harry's hand.
"Wow," says Harry. He drops back on the bed and adjusts his own dick.
Zayn squirms himself a couple of inches away. "That's what you wanted, right?"
"…Yeah," says Harry, finally.
When Zayn speaks it's so low Harry can barely hear. "So now you won't, anymore."
Once Harry works this out in his head, he wants to protest, but Zayn's already rolling over on his side and closing his eyes. It's a bit rude, but since Harry's more helpful than Louis thinks he is, he just pulls the duvet up over Zayn and goes back to his own room.
What if I found a way to make Zayn feel better, he texts Louis.
The next morning, Louis texts back It better not be girls he's had enough trouble
It's not girls, Harry sends back.
But at the show in Vienna, Zayn still seems glum.
They're staying in Vienna the day after the concert, but they're stuck in a studio for a photoshoot to tie in with their Stockholm Syndrome video. They're given shimmery silver clothing and instructions to drape themselves over various pieces of machinery. Harry's bent uncomfortably over an antique steam engine.
"Imagine you've been kidnapped by robots, and you're very sad, but you're taking the opportunity to get to know each other better," says the photographer, through a translator.
"What kind of robots?" asks Zayn, looking up. It's the first thing he's said since they got to the set.
The photographer clearly has a complicated vision, because the resulting flood of German goes on for two minutes. The translator listens carefully and then turns to the boys. "Sex robots."
"I love this photoshoot," says Harry, who is still trying to rekindle Zayn's interest in being an international pop star, and possibly in something else as well. "Don't you, Zayn?"
Zayn's got his silver-booted foot up on a gear near Liam. "Nah," he says.
"Do you wanna hang out later?"
"We don't have to do anything," Harry whispers, so that Zayn will know he's willing to do something.
"If they're sex robots, why are we meant to be fixing their broken machinery?" Zayn whispers back, waving some kind of space wrench. "It doesn't make sense."
"Just go with it," says Harry. He tilts his arse up a bit further, but Zayn isn't even looking.
"Great shoot," says Niall later, when they're in the van. "Five ordinary lads, kidnapped by sex robots."
"That's our brand," says Harry proudly.
"If we were actually captured by robots, we could just reprogram them," Louis points out.
"Yeah," Liam agrees. "Because we'd have all those tools. We could build our own robot to fight them while we escape!"
"But in the song we don't want to escape," Niall says.
"I do," says Zayn.
"That's because you don't know the words," says Harry.
He only meant to be funny, but everyone goes quiet. Harry looks at Niall, but he's staring blankly out the window.
"Harry'd love to be kidnapped by sex robots," Zayn says at last.
"I would not," says Harry, relieved.
"You would, though," says Zayn. "You'd be like, finally. I've been waiting."
Niall is laughing now. Harry primly smooths out the silver scarf he took from the set as a souvenir.
"Fuck yeah," Zayn says in Harry's accent. "Gonna fuck all the robots."
"Clearly you don't understand what I'm looking for in a robot," Harry says, tying the scarf around his neck.
"You'd be surprised," says Zayn.
"Anyway, I would fight the robots," says Liam. "So I could get back home to the missus."
There's another silence. Zayn looks stricken. Louis looks at his hands. Harry tries to imagine saying "the missus" and meaning it.
"Sorry," says Liam. "Sorry, lads."
Niall laughs again, in the way that means he wants to get out of the van.
That night Harry waits in his hotel room, because he thinks it's only fair if Zayn comes to him. He was the one who asked Zayn if he wanted to hang out. He was the one who jerked Zayn off. It seems like it would be good manners for Zayn to be the one to text, or, more realistically, just show up.
When Zayn doesn't appear after half an hour, Harry gets tired of waiting, so he unbuttons his shirt the rest of the way and goes down the hall to knock on Zayn's door. "Hey," he says when Zayn sticks his head out. "You busy?"
"Just writing a bit," says Zayn. He opens the door wider for Harry to come in.
"So," says Harry, dropping onto Zayn's bed. He wants to get back to that dreamy vibe they had before but he's not sure how. "You really didn't like the shoot?"
Zayn grabs the notebook next to Harry on the bed and closes it. "I could've been into some seriously evil robots. With cool abilities and like maybe they wanna take over the world or something."
"But then it wouldn't have been about us," Harry says.
"You sure?" Zayn puts his notebook on the dresser and leans back on the bed next to Harry. "Anyway, bit tired of us. To be honest."
"Well," says Harry, "if they were evil I definitely couldn't fuck them."
"If they were evil maybe you wouldn't have a choice."
"Yeah? How would that go?"
Zayn slides down further on the bed. "They'd just fuck you whenever they wanted to, and you'd keep thinking you could talk them into being nice to you and appeal to their fucking humanity or some bullshit, and then they'd fuck you some more just to remind you they have no fucking humanity, because they're fucking robots."
"Would they even like fucking me?" asks Harry. "Like, would they have the capacity to enjoy it?"
"They might," says Zayn. "They could be really advanced, you know? Technology."
"Creepy," says Harry, staring at the ceiling. His dick is hardening.
"You'd love it," says Zayn. "Deep down."
"What about you?"
"I wouldn't be there," Zayn says softly.
Harry rolls over and puts his hand over Zayn's dick. "You might be."
"Once wasn't enough?" Zayn's voice is steady but he's hard in his jeans.
"With some people I need, like, twice before I get bored," says Harry.
"Suppose you should blow me, then," says Zayn.
Harry lets out his breath and thinks about Zayn's dick, Zayn's dick slippery in his mouth. He's seen girls going down on Zayn before. Once Harry shot off down some girl's throat and then pushed her head to the side for Zayn to have his turn. He knows the look on Zayn's face when he's getting his dick sucked, he knows how lips look sliding over Zayn's cock. Girls' lips though. It's never been Harry's mouth before.
Harry sits up to unbutton Zayn's jeans while he makes up his mind. It's weirdly embarrassing with Zayn just watching him and no music on. Zayn's cock is poking out of his boxers and Harry's not sure what he's going to do with it yet so he starts undoing his own flies.
Zayn says, "Don't."
"Don't get your kit off, I don't care."
Harry pauses. "Really?"
Zayn gestures to his stiffy. "I thought you were gonna do something about this."
"Fine, okay," says Harry. He grabs Zayn's dick, kneeling over one of his legs, and starts jerking him off. Probably he should've got his hand wet first but there's something awkward about trying so obviously to make this good for Zayn. It would be easier if the whole thing felt accidental.
Zayn's eyes close and then open. "You gonna blow me?"
"Maybe I don't want to."
"You do, though."
Harry does but he doesn't. He wants to get Zayn's dick wet with his tongue but at the same time that seems like the wrong side of the equation for Harry Styles to be on.
"I've never even done that before," he tells Zayn.
"Really?" Zayn narrows his eyes. "The fuck were you up to with Grimmy then?"
"We just snogged sometimes," says Harry, dropping Zayn's dick. "He never knew I was—he thought it was just—you know what, Zayn, it's none of your business."
"He's an idiot, then," says Zayn. "Anyone can tell when you want it."
Harry feels a hot surge of embarrassment spreading over his skin. "You're the one with your dick out."
Zayn shrugs, as if he's only maintaining an erection for Harry's benefit anyway. Harry doesn't know why Zayn thinks he's so desperate, but Zayn's hard dick is right there so Harry licks his palm after all and begins again. He probably looks hot like this, on his knees with his shirt slipping off one shoulder and Zayn's cock in his hand. But he can't tell if Zayn notices, because Zayn's not saying anything to encourage him the way Harry does when someone's giving him a handie. Harry's not used to hooking up with anyone this ungrateful, but it's mostly okay because Zayn's cock feels so good in his hand.
"Yeah, fuck," says Harry when Zayn comes, partly because Zayn's come slipping over his fingers is so hot and partly because he wants to show Zayn that it wouldn't kill him to express himself. Then he's not sure what to do. If it was him who'd just come into a girl's hand he'd pull the girl in and kiss her, but does Zayn want to kiss him? Does he want to kiss Zayn?
Zayn reaches down and puts the tips of his fingers on the back of Harry's hand. Right on the bone.
"Hey," says Harry.
Zayn's fingers skid to Harry's wrist and then slide away. "Hand me my fags, babe."
Harry hands Zayn his packet with the hand that's still clean and wipes his other hand on the sheet at the edge of the bed. Then he lies down so he can get his dick out as fast as possible. He's probably going to come immediately. He can't wait for Zayn's long fingers on his prick.
Then Zayn lights up. It's going to be hot getting a handjob from Zayn while Zayn smokes a cigarette. Harry wriggles on the bed to speed things along. "I'm so hard…"
Zayn glances over at him. "Yeah."
"If you could just—"
"I'm smoking right now," says Zayn.
"Okay? It's just I gave you something so I thought you were gonna give me something."
"Oh, it was a transaction," says Zayn. "I’m hurt now."
"You're such a dick," says Harry. He logically knows this to be true but when he's around Zayn he never remembers. Even now he'd lick up the drops of jizz on Zayn's stomach if Zayn would just say something nice.
"Cheers," says Zayn. He blows out a mouthful of smoke. "Did I mention, Shah Rukh Khan still hasn't called?"
"I thought we were letting go of things," says Harry. He rubs at his dick through his jeans.
"Don't do that in here," says Zayn.
"Are you mad because I didn't blow you?"
Zayn doesn't answer.
"Are you mad because you don't like the new songs?"
"Of course not," says Zayn, and then, in the deliberately blank, sing-song way of someone tired of reciting his lessons for the press, "You're one of my best mates."
"Same here," snaps Harry, getting up from the bed more clumsily than he wants to. All the way to his own room, it feels like his dick is in the way.
Harry and Niall are lying beneath a ping-pong table in a hotel lounge while Niall bounces their last remaining ball against the underside. Originally they'd been playing actual ping-pong but after one ball ended up in a light fixture and another rolled under a heavy chair and the third one just plain disappeared, this seemed like the best way to conserve their resources.
"This time next year," Harry starts, but he can practically feel Niall tense up next to him.
"It's 2015 right now," says Niall. "Live in the moment." He closes his eyes and puts the ping-pong ball on top of his left eyelid.
"Pretend it's 2016. What are you doing?"
With great precision, Niall tilts his head incrementally to the side. Harry reaches out to roll the ping-pong ball to his other eyelid for him since that's clearly what he's going for. "Pub band back home," says Niall finally. "Paid in pints."
"Good one," says Harry. He presses his head to Niall's so that if Niall tilts his head again the ping-pong ball will roll right onto Harry's face.
"Rather stay here," says Niall.
"Under the table?"
"You know what I mean." Niall jerks his head too fast, and the ball shoots off his chin.
Harry grabs it before it gets away and puts it on his eye. "I just want a really good last tour."
"Yeah," says Niall. "We know what you want. Wait, I see the other ball." He goes crawling for it.
"We all want some time off!" Harry calls. He can't see Niall from flat on his back. "It's not just me, come on, Niall…"
"I know," says Niall. "It's fine." He's back under the table. He bends over Harry and puts the ball he found on Harry's other eye.
"Why are we putting ping-pong balls on our eyes?" Harry asks.
"Paying the ferryman," says Niall. "You want to be trapped on the other side of the river forever?"
"So we're dead now."
Niall tugs on Harry's hair. "We're in transition."
Harry grabs the balls from his eyes and turns his head to look at Niall. "I want you to know that I am completely committed to the rest of this tour. We're gonna go out on a high."
"Would look better for your solo career," Niall agrees.
He looks at Harry evenly. He's not being bitter, Harry knows. He's just saying what's true.
"And for the band," Harry says, because that's also true.
"Zayn's still half gone."
"We only just came back from break," says Harry. "Give him time."
Niall doesn't say anything. They both know how many weeks are left to finish the new album. How many months are left on tour. How long it'll be before the end.
"I'm gonna fix it," says Harry. "I promise."
It's mid-morning on the day of the Brussels show and they're shooting a spot for the American leg of the tour that begins in July.
"Hi! We're One Direction! And we've got an exciting announcement for you!"
Phil, who's directing the spot, has his patient face on. "Nice, lads, but move in a bit closer, would you?"
Harry's at the end of the line. He squeezes in closer to Niall. "Hi! We're One Direction!"
"Liam," says Phil, "just a bit softer, if you would?"
"Hi! We're One Direction!"
"I still can't hear Zayn," says Phil.
Zayn, at the other end of the line, says, "Hi! They're One Direction!"
"Bro," says Louis. "Come on."
"Fuck off, Louis," says Zayn.
There's a dead silence.
"He only meant—" Liam starts.
"Hi! We're One Direction! Hi! We're One Direction! Hi! We're One Direction!" says Zayn, alone.
"Let's take ten minutes," says Phil, sounding tired. Zayn stalks away.
He finally finds Zayn leaning against an orange-painted wall in one of the basement corridors, smoking. "I suppose it's not actually a very exciting announcement," Harry says, leaning against the wall next to him. Sometimes Harry wishes he smoked, because then he'd have something to do with his hands when he's talking to Zayn. When Louis and Zayn are both holding cigarettes, they understand each other perfectly. "Louis should've pulled out a fag," says Harry. "Instead of starting a pep talk."
"What are you on about?"
"It's all bullshit," says Zayn.
"It's always bullshit."
"Yeah," says Harry. "Can we just do it though? Because we only have to do this one thing and then we're free for the rest of the day."
"Except for the show tonight," says Zayn. "Never fucking stops."
"I know," says Harry. What he knows is that Zayn makes things hard for no reason. He puts a tentative arm around Zayn's shoulders, as if they're a team.
Zayn flicks the butt of his cigarette away. "Fuck this."
"Yeah," says Harry. He loves almost everything Zayn hates. It used to be funny. He thinks about Zayn from years ago, when Zayn thought it was funny too, and kisses the side of Zayn's head. Then he pushes Zayn's hair aside and kisses his ear.
"You must really wanna record this spot," says Zayn.
"Shhh," says Harry, into Zayn's hair. He wants Zayn to go loose in his arms instead of being a sulky arsehole, but Zayn is so stiff. He's just standing there letting Harry hold him. Then Harry's phone rings.
"Yeah, I got him," Harry tells Phil.
Zayn rolls his eyes.
"Of course he's gonna do it," Harry says, and believes it as soon as he says it. "He's a professional."
Zayn gives him two fingers. Harry grabs Zayn's hand. "Ten more minutes," he says to Phil, and hangs up. Then he sucks Zayn's fingers into his mouth.
"What if I just leave?" asks Zayn.
Harry grins at him and pushes him back against the wall. He looks both ways down the hallway—still empty—before dropping to his knees. The floor is concrete and his trousers are tight and it's not comfortable, but if he can't smoke with Zayn and he can't say anything right, at least this is something he can do.
"Ten minutes," Zayn observes.
"Yeah," says Harry, "but you don't care." He opens Zayn's jeans, pulls Zayn's dick from his pants, and puts his mouth on it right away, before he can get nervous. Zayn's not all the way there yet, but he gets hard fast in Harry's mouth, and Harry gags before he can adjust.
"Knew you wanted to blow me," says Zayn.
"I wanna shoot that promo," says Harry. He pushes his hair behind his ears and goes down again. It's weird being on this end of a blowjob but he knows as long as he keeps his mouth moving on Zayn's cock it should be fine. Anyway, Zayn seems to think it's fine. He slumps back against the wall, his cock jolting out of Harry's mouth. Harry lurches forward against him and uses his hand to keep Zayn's cock where it should be: getting wetter in his mouth, sliding over his tongue, feeling more and more like something Harry knows what to do with. Harry sucks with his eyes closed, trying to go fast and steady, feeling his own dick pressed up against the zipper of his trousers. There won't be time for it—he'll have to go back to the others still hard. Thinking about that, he sucks Zayn's cock in deeper. It takes him a moment to realize that he can taste Zayn's come in his mouth.
He pulls off and swallows, pushes his hair back with the hand that's not sticky with his own spit. Zayn's dick is still right there, wet and mostly full. Zayn looks around like a tissue box is going to suddenly materialize, then grimaces and starts tucking himself gingerly back in.
Harry rocks back on his heels. "Aren't you going to say anything?"
Zayn holds out his hand to help Harry pull himself up. Then he puts his hand on Harry's cock where it's hard in his trousers and keeps it there, barely pressing. He leans forward. "Hi, we're One Direction," he whispers in Harry's ear. "And we've got an exciting announcement for you."
"Good," says Harry. "Let's take the lift back up, it's quicker."
Whatever Harry's doing with Zayn in secret is beginning to feel like some sort of hallucinatory side hustle. It doesn't feel any more real than being put into a group on the X-Factor, or being cast in a Hollywood film. It's weird how he's sucked Zayn's dick but Sarah's Kitchen is still set up backstage at the arena in Brussels like everything is normal.
"I love that we still do this," says Liam, tapping his fingers on the blue and white tablecloth. "This is my favorite thing."
"Me too," says Harry.
"Eating dinner with us is your favorite thing," says Louis. "Wow, Harry."
Harry makes a face at Louis and spoons more mustard greens onto his plate. "Zayn, do you want any more of this?"
"I never had any in the first place," says Zayn, and puts a hand over his plate.
Liam says, "We had a great editing session yesterday. Zayn, you should hear how Infinity is shaping up, you sound amazing."
"I sound boring," says Zayn, "because the song is boring. Infinity, infinity, infinity, yeah, infinity. Give me a break."
"Well, I like it," says Liam.
"Yeah," says Louis, looking from Zayn to Liam. "Yeah, it's a good one."
Niall puts down his phone. "Anyone up for a club after the show?"
"Can't, writing with Tommo," says Liam.
Harry clears his throat. "I was gonna have a quiet evening in my room…all alone. What do you think, Zayn?"
Zayn looks at him blankly, then turns to Niall. "Yeah, I'll go."
"Yes!" Niall pumps his fist. "Let's do it."
"But is that…" Harry frowns. "Are you sure, Zayn?"
"Harry," says Louis. "Zayn is showing signs of life."
"I wonder why," says Harry, kicking Zayn under the table.
"Go somewhere no one would expect to find you," Liam tells Niall. "No paps."
"Oh, for fuck's sake," says Zayn, and throws down his napkin.
"Don't storm off," says Louis. He grabs Zayn's hand and looks deep into his eyes. "We want to build you a boat, one that keeps you safe from bad pre-ess," he sings.
Zayn rolls his eyes. "All for my sake, right, Louis?"
"Harry, watch me, I'm gonna try the mustard greens," Niall announces.
"You are not," says Louis, diverted. "Zayn, save him."
"Don't do it, Niall," says Zayn. "Don't give Harry the satisfaction."
"Maybe Niall likes making me happy," Harry says. He wonders how it's possible for Zayn and Louis to be on the same side again so fast.
"You were great tonight," Harry tells Zayn in the dressing room after the show, when it's just the two of them. It's reasonably accurate. Zayn had waved to the crowd and sung to his bandmates and moved briskly from one spot to another, and Harry feels at least partly responsible. "And look, it's fine you're going out. I don't have a problem with you going out."
Zayn is up close to the mirror, working with one particular lock of hair. "Why would you?"
"I mean, you haven't spent a lot of time with Niall recently, so this should be really fun for you…"
"But like, you've barely talked to me since, you know. And I just, if you were into it—"
"Hand me that jacket, Harry, willya?"
There are two different jackets thrown over the chair near Harry. He gives Zayn the hoodie. "But maybe you weren't? You can tell me. I'm not gonna be mad."
Zayn sighs. "The other one, Harry."
Harry takes the hoodie back and tosses him the leather one instead. "Or if you're worried about how I'm gonna act, like if you think I'm gonna hurt your feelings—"
"How could you hurt my feelings?"
"Like if you thought I was gonna be a dick to you about it, or if you thought I didn't like you…"
Zayn shrugs. "I know you like me."
"Oh," says Harry. He goes back to pulling his jeans on so he doesn't have to look at Zayn.
"I'm sorry, was that like—you're telling me you'll still respect me in the morning?"
"No!" says Harry. "I mean—I dunno."
"That's cute," says Zayn, and hoists himself up on the make-up counter. "C'mere."
Harry doesn't move, but he doesn't zip up his flies either. He says, "At dinner it was like I wasn't even there."
"So it's your feelings that got hurt."
"What feelings?" says Harry. But when Zayn reaches out for him, he lets Zayn pull him in between his legs.
"I forgot," Zayn whispers, "You don't have feelings. You don't know how to care about anyone." He touches Harry's face before kissing him, as if they're having a romance. But when his mouth is on Harry's, he's not delicate at all. Zayn's spent so much time not touching Harry that it's overwhelming now that Harry can feel him everywhere: his tongue in Harry's mouth, his hand on Harry's neck, his thighs pressing against Harry's hips.
"I never said that," Harry mutters, but it doesn't seem worth arguing about, now that Zayn's slipping a hand down the back of Harry's jeans.
"I know, I know," Zayn says soothingly. His hand is warm and strong on Harry's arse. "Louis did."
Harry wants to argue but then Zayn's fingers slip into his crack and the noise he makes doesn't sound like a protest at all.
Zayn raises his eyebrows. "So that's what you want."
"Uhh," says Harry, squirming. Is it? Zayn's prodding at his hole with one finger now. "If you were sucking my dick at the same time, yeah."
"That's not what I mean," Zayn says. He keeps his finger there, barely moving.
In the silence, there's a knock on the door. "Zayn? You in there?"
Harry jerks away from Zayn and starts buttoning his jeans.
"Yeah, Niall!" Zayn calls. He slides off the counter and goes over to the sink as Niall comes in.
"You ready? Harry, you sure you don't wanna come?" Niall's open face is kind.
"Nah, that's okay," Harry mumbles, trying not to look at Zayn. It's weird now, hearing him wash his hands.
Back in his bed at the hotel, Harry hears his phone through layers of sleep. He bats at it, knocks it off the table, finally finds it on the floor, and peers at the screen. It's three in the morning and Zayn's texting him. Also, there's a knock at the door.
Harry stumbles out of bed, opens the door without bothering to put clothes on, and then retreats to flop back into bed, mostly without opening his eyes. "Hey."
"Hey," says Zayn. He closes the door and shrugs off his jacket.
"Did you have a good time with Niall?"
"Yeah." The weight shifts on the bed as Zayn sits down next to him. Harry smells smoke, whiskey, sweat. "There was this one bird at the club, really hot, you'd've been into her."
"Yeah?" Harry's starting to wake up a bit more.
"Blonde, arse on her…she reminded me of that girl in Melbourne."
"Which girl in Melbourne?"
"You're so fucking thick. The one after the Logies." Zayn's fingers brush Harry's bare back.
"Which Logies?" says Harry, just to be annoying.
Zayn flicks at his spine. "We took her back to your room, I had first go. She was riding me and you were watching."
"I was waiting my turn for her," says Harry, propping himself up on his elbows.
"Nah," says Zayn, his hand on Harry's arse like he's picking up right where they left off. "It was me you were waiting for."
There's a silence. Harry remembers Zayn sitting up against the headboard, his hands on the girl's hips, a bead of sweat running down his chest. Zayn was watching her tits bounce and Harry was watching Zayn. But then Zayn glanced over to Harry and caught him looking. Harry'd put his hand on his dick and kept his eyes on Zayn—he made it obvious, because he'd been so sure Zayn wanted him back. Anyone Harry wanted would have to want him back.
He'd got it wrong, though. There'd been shock on Zayn's face before it went blank.
"If I recall," says Harry, "she was the one I fucked when you were done." Zayn had come with a choked gasp, pushed the girl off quickly, retreated to the ensuite. Harry'd been extra nice to her to make up for it, but Zayn was still behind a closed door when she left. After that they stopped pulling girls together. They didn't talk about it. They just didn't do it anymore.
"And you were thinking about her the whole time, right?"
Harry doesn't answer. Then he says, "I had a crush. It was a long time ago."
"Water under the bridge," Zayn muses.
"Jizz under the bridge, more like."
Zayn laughs. Harry hasn't heard Zayn laugh in days.
"So the bird at the club," Harry says. "Did you fuck her?"
Zayn snorts. "Couldn't, could I? I was with Niall."
"Right," says Harry. "Did you fuck her?"
"Nah," says Zayn. "I'm fucking you."
"Whoa," says Harry, completely awake in one dizzy rush. "I mean, I know we've been—but it's not exactly—"
"No," says Zayn patiently, and pats him on the hip. "I don't mean, like, status update we're fucking, I can't betray my committed relationship, I mean like specifically, I'm gonna fuck you right now."
Harry blinks. Zayn is digging in his pocket. Is he looking for a condom? "It's the middle of the night," says Harry. "Isn't this all kind of new—"
"It's really not that new."
"A dick in my arse," says Harry, "is new."
"Happy days then," says Zayn. "You got lube?"
"Jesus," says Harry. "Yeah, hold on." He slides out of bed to dig it out of one of his suitcases. He has to turn on the light to find it. By the time he holds out the lube to Zayn, he's hard. Zayn's eyes sweep down his body and Harry's glad of it. He wants Zayn to realize Harry has something he wants. Then Harry remembers Zayn washing his hands in the dressing room and his face goes hot. Zayn takes the lube, one of his fingers brushing across Harry's palm. His touch is so gentle. Harry wants to kiss like they did before but Zayn's already frowning down at the lube so Harry just gets back on the bed instead. He lies on his stomach, his dick pressed to the mattress. He listens to Zayn take his clothes off.
How did they get to this point? Grimmy used to kiss him for a moment and then pat him awkwardly to let him know it was time to stop. "Enough of that, popstar," he'd say. "Wouldn't want to fall in love, would we?" That was years ago. And Harry never even tried to kiss Louis, but Louis treats him like an ex-boyfriend anyway. That won't happen with Zayn, because Zayn never looks at him the way Louis used to, and anyway he's not sixteen years old and stupid anymore.
When Zayn pulls Harry's thighs apart, his efficiency is reassuring. It's like being posed for a photograph. But then Harry feels the prod of Zayn's finger at his hole and flinches anyway.
"Hold still," says Zayn. Harry can feel the bare skin of Zayn's leg next to his.
Harry tries to breathe deeply and relax but twitches again instead.
"Okay, whatever," says Zayn, and stops poking at Harry's arse.
Harry looks over his shoulder. Zayn's kneeling on the bed naked, tearing open a condom wrapper. His tats make him look untouchable. Like he claimed his own skin before anyone else could. Harry knows his own tats aren't like that. They make him look like community property. Like anyone could have a go.
Zayn's got the condom on. "Have you done this before?" Harry asks.
"Just with girls." Zayn is suddenly very still.
"Did Perrie like it?"
Zayn glares at him. "Fuck off."
"Sorry," says Harry, rolling over on his side. "Doesn't matter."
Zayn's still hard, which has to mean Harry hasn't fucked up completely. Harry watches Zayn smooth more lube over his cock. Harry wants to do it for him but he also wants to grab his phone and get the whole thing on video. He's still not sure he wants Zayn's dick in him, but it seems like that's what going to happen.
It's a shock when Zayn smiles at him, suddenly sweet. "C'mon, babe." He pats at Harry's hip. It takes Harry a moment to realize he's supposed to roll back on his stomach. He gets on his hands and knees instead, which feels slightly unstable, and then drops to his elbows, which is better but more embarrassing. He goes lower, arching his back, and is reassured by the feel of his own hard dick bumping against his thigh.
"Go ahead," Harry starts to say, but Zayn's cock is already pressing at his hole. Zayn pushes a bit without getting very far and then stops. When Harry's with a girl he likes and the girl's in the position Harry's in, Harry slides a hand up her side and kisses her spine. He says something like, "You're so beautiful."
Arse in the air, Harry waits for Zayn to tell him he's special.
"Bear down, show-off," says Zayn. He still has to work at the entrance a moment before he gets past the rim and then that's it, that's his whole cock sliding in—
"Oh god," says Harry, and almost collapses.
Zayn holds him tightly, pulling back before shoving in again. Then he stops for a moment and breathes.
"Ow," says Harry, "Jesus." He squeezes his own dick, mainly for comfort. His erection is flagging.
"You're okay," says Zayn, sounding uncertain.
"I suppose," says Harry. It's a weird feeling because it hurts but Harry wants more of it anyway.
When Zayn moves again, Harry rocks forward on the bed and Zayn goes with him. "I kind of like it now," he tells Zayn proudly.
"'Course you do."
Harry pushes back on Zayn's dick, feeling open-minded. "I could come out," he says. "Everyone would say it was inspiring."
"Oh my god, shut up," says Zayn, and starts fucking him in short strokes, cock thick in his arse, pressed up close. It's like being run over, and then run over again. Harry moans and Zayn fucks him harder. Every time he shoves forward Harry's dick bounces—he's hard again. Harry grabs at himself, off balance. He can hear Zayn breathing, he can smell Zayn's sweat.
Then Zayn shifts his angle and suddenly, shockingly, Harry's seconds from coming. Even when he's spurting over his hand he can't quite believe it. Zayn goes on fucking him, and now it really burns. "Zayn," says Harry. "Please—" But before he can tell Zayn to stop, Zayn makes a noise in his throat and comes.
He's poised there for a moment, breathing hard, and then he pulls out, so fast it hurts. Harry rolls over on his back, as if he can still keep himself safe that way. His arse feels weird, weirder if he tries to clench, and his dick isn't completely soft yet. His dick is still bigger than Zayn's dick, he reminds himself. He wipes his hand on the bed. "Wow."
"Yeah." Zayn drops down on the bed next to him. He's not touching Harry anymore.
"I can't believe I came," says Harry.
"Did you?" Zayn reaches for a tissue. "I didn't notice."
"'HE WON'T EVEN TALK TO US': 1D FEUDS AS HARRY SHOOTS FOR SOLO FAME." At the television studio in Horsens, Liam reads the headline very quietly, as if raising his voice would make it more true.
Louis grabs Liam's phone. "'While Zayn Malik's commitment to the group has been in doubt since he ducked out of multiple tour dates in March, Harry Styles's habit of separating himself from his bandmates has led to internal tensions as well. According to an insider, bandmate Louis Tomlinson feels that Styles should 'focus on the band instead of Jeffrey Azoff's rolodex.'"
Harry winces. Louis's newpaper-reading voice is considerably louder than Liam's.
"Okay, first of all I didn't say that," says Louis. "I would never say that."
"Thanks, Lou," says Harry, taking the phone and scanning the rest of the article.
"Now if they'd quoted me saying you should focus on not being a pain in the arse, that would make sense," says Louis.
"What's a rolodex?" Liam asks.
"It went extinct," says Niall. "Don't worry about it."
"This is crazy," says Harry, handing the phone to Zayn. "I'm literally talking to you right now."
"And we're all very grateful," says Louis. "Zayn, are you grateful?"
Zayn looks up from the phone. "I like the paragraph about what a massive slag he is. With all the pictures."
"I don't even know that girl they snapped me next to!" says Harry.
"You didn't sleep with that one?" Niall asks, peering over Zayn's shoulder. "She looks so familiar."
"I mean, maybe," says Harry. "But I definitely don't know her."
"At least they're slamming someone besides Zayn for a change," says Liam.
Harry frowns. "Okay, fine. But I'm all about the band, you guys know that, right?"
There's a silence.
"Me too," says Zayn. "I also am all about the band." He meets Harry's eyes, raises an eyebrow.
"Well," says Niall, "I think they're ready for us in make-up. Liam?"
Liam gets up. "Maybe at the show tonight, we could like, be together more. Prove the press wrong."
"Sure," says Harry. "Louis, you and me could hold hands."
"Fuck the fuck off," says Louis, without heat. He's at the door. "Zayn, you coming?"
"In a minute," says Zayn.
"Just gotta—" Harry starts, but Louis's already walking away.
"He didn't ask you," says Zayn. They're alone in the green room.
"My mistake," says Harry, at the door of the loo. "You're the worst, you know that? 'Drama erupts as Tomlinson goes to get his make-up done; doesn't invite Styles.'"
"'In a cheating, drug-filled, radically Islamic stupor, Malik refuses make-up entirely'," Zayn intones, following Harry into the loo.
"Fine," says Harry. "You win."
"Good," says Zayn. "What's my prize?"
"You get to blow me."
Zayn shakes his head. "You wouldn't like that."
"Anyone would like that," says Harry.
"You can't do it, can you? You can't say, I want you. It's always gotta be some kind of planetary preference you're democratic enough to participate in. Or a fucking favour or experiment or symbol of how goddamn sweet you are."
Harry, murderous, feels the tears prickling at his eyes.
"See, you're actually the one who's winning," says Zayn. "When you cry, you win."
"I'm not crying," says Harry.
Zayn reaches out and touches the wetness at the corner of his eye, shows him the tear before putting his finger on Harry's lips. "Look at it this way. If I get down on my knees for frontman Harry Styles, it might make me feel demeaned. Unhappy in the band. That's why you wouldn't like it. You want to keep me here, don't you?"
Harry stares at him, licks his lips.
Zayn shrugs. "You said it yourself, you're all about the band."
"I am," says Harry. "I give every show everything I've got every single night. And you're barely even there, just going through the motions—"
"Right," says Zayn. "That's why you want to make me feel better." He takes Harry by the shoulder gently and turns him around so he's up against the sink, holds him there while he unzips his own jeans.
"This is some creepy manipulative bullshit," says Harry, who isn't crying anymore. In fact, he would totally just shove Zayn into the wall and leave, but Zayn's running his hands down Harry's sides and over his hips and under his shirt and it's lighting Harry on fire.
"Anyway," says Zayn, "I don't need you to tell me you want me, I know who you are, I know what you want—" and Harry gasps, a small helpless note of disagreement, but when Zayn pushes at the small of his back, he bends forward over the hard edge of the sink and lets Zayn tug his trousers down his thighs.
It's the best show they've had in weeks.
Zayn is electric onstage. He sings like he means it. Harry had meant to freeze him out. Not, like, in an obvious way. Just enough to show Zayn that he doesn't appreciate being taken for granted. Zayn was rough without asking, he was mean when they're supposed to be friends. But then a couple of songs in, Zayn sings his lines to Harry with such passionate sweetness it feels like Harry must've got it all wrong before. Zayn wants him. He can feel it.
Harry thinks that after the show he'll know for certain. Their eyes will meet, or Zayn will touch his shoulder and say sorry, and then Harry will know the way it's going to be. But Zayn leaves while Harry's still changing, before Harry can speak to him at all.
Harry facetimes Gemma from his hotel room. She's in her pyjamas, all ready for bed.
"Great show," he tells her. "Everyone was just on."
"Even with you there?" Gemma says. "You'd think they'd get tired, carrying all that dead weight."
Harry beams at her. "They manage. How are you?"
"Oh, you know," says Gemma. "Just dealing with the strains of global fame. Nothing I'm not used to."
"Wouldn't know anything about that."
"Yeah," says Gemma. "I saw that article, by the way. About you lot fighting."
Harry tenses. "It's bollocks, you know that."
"So you're all getting on?"
"We have dinner together."
"Right," says Gemma. "Harry—"
"They're not chuffed that I'm talking to the film people, I suppose."
"Of course not," says Gemma. "Because if it works out, you won't be back."
"Well," says Harry. "I mean, who knows, really?"
There's a pause. "Poor lonely baby," Gemma says.
Harry pouts amiably, then says, "Not really."
"Oh," says Gemma. And then, "Oh. Who is it then?"
"No one," says Harry.
"Have you been texting Taylor again?"
"Someone else. It's stupid, though. I'm probably gonna break it off, like, tomorrow."
Gemma has her concerned face on. "You don't have to do that, you know. If you like her, then–"
"I don't," Harry interrupts. "The whole thing is annoying."
"Just don't hurt her, Harry, okay? You leave people so easily. Like they were never there in the first place."
"What?" Harry says. "Who told you that? Did Taylor say that?"
"No," says Gemma. "No, of course not. I'm just observing."
Harry doesn't know whether to believe her. "Anyway, Taylor left me."
"Oh, right. I forgot I was talking to the sweetest, saddest, loneliest child in England."
"I'm not even in England right now," Harry argues.
"In the universe," says Gemma. "Let's talk about me now, I've just got a promotion."
After ringing off, Harry thinks for too long about Taylor, who had sort of left him and had sort of been left by him. It was complicated. The thing about Taylor was that she wanted everything to be hot and dangerous, but she also wanted to be in love. She wanted Harry to pick her up in the middle of the night so she could tell him they weren't going to do this anymore and then she wanted him to drive her back home and fuck her in the garage, before they even got out of the car. That was passion—not being able to wait until you were upstairs. She liked to map out all the ways in which they wouldn't be able to control themselves. That was how Harry always knew she wanted him. That was what he missed.
The next day, the five of them drink in the back of the tourbus and watch Iron Man 3 all together, like old times. Harry sits next to Zayn, but carefully doesn't touch. Liam and Niall enjoy the movie loudly and when it's over they go back to Liam's bunk to play Fifa. Louis is still there, asleep. Harry reminds himself what Gemma said. He is the heartbreaker in this situation and Zayn has no hold over him whatsoever.
"So anyway," says Harry. "You were really good last night."
"Yeah?" Zayn raises an eyebrow.
"I'm not talking about that," says Harry. "I'm talking about the show. We smashed it. You smashed it. One could almost say you were inspired."
"It's my star quality," says Zayn.
Harry lowers his voice. "You don't think there was like…maybe another factor?"
"Other than my talent and dedication to the band?"
Harry glares at him.
Zayn slaps a hand to his forehead. "Ohhhh….you mean your arse."
"Sshhhhh!" says Harry, jerking his head at Louis, whose mouth is sagging open in his sleep.
"Your MAGIC ARSE," says Zayn, enunciating clearly.
Louis's eyes flutter open. "Why's everyone talking so loud?"
"It's a secret," says Harry triumphantly. Usually Louis is the one who has secrets with Zayn, but this time it's Harry.
"I'll tell you later," says Zayn.
"You will not!" hisses Harry.
"Go back to sleep, Lou," Zayn tells Louis. Louis mumbles something about dickheads and flops over on his side. Zayn smiles at him fondly and then turns to Harry. "So, you gonna blow me or what?"
"Oh my god," says Harry. "Can we have, like, a conversation?"
Harry doesn't know where to begin. "Well, like, don't you think this whole thing is kinda weird? I mean, we're having this, like, sexuality crisis…"
"Fine," says Harry, "fine. I'm the only one who's like part gay now or whatever."
"You're not gay," says Zayn. "You're just a slut." He looks deliberately down Harry's body.
Harry can feel himself going hot before he remembers to fight back. "Me? You, you're the one who started it."
Zayn shrugs. "We can stop."
"So let's stop," says Harry, feeling himself back on firmer ground. Stopping is something he knows how to do.
"Of course," says Zayn, putting his hand in Harry's lap. "we've got three shows left in this leg of the tour. You're our leader, really. It's up to you."
Harry doesn't want to get hard, but the bus is jolting and Zayn's hand is moving with it. "Zayn…what the fuck…"
Zayn takes his hand off Harry's stiffy. "Are we done with this conversation now?"
Harry lets out a breath. "Maybe we should go to my bunk," he whispers. "You could be nice to me for a change."
"Or not," says Zayn, grinning. "It doesn't seem necessary."
"Louis's right there!"
"Oops," says Zayn. "Too bad you're so noisy. Since we have a show tomorrow and all. Think how happy the lads would be if it was a good one."
"My bunk," says Harry.
"No, I don't think so," says Zayn. He shrugs and picks up his phone.
"Fuck you," says Harry, and tips sideways on the sofa with his head in Zayn's lap. Zayn's wearing trackies, so Harry can feel the hardness of his dick against his cheek.
"Wow," says Zayn. He's finally pitching his voice low. "You know, Niall and Liam could come back here at any moment. Thought you were worried about Louis waking up?"
Louis waking up would be the single most embarrassing thing to ever happen. But instead of the thought stopping Harry, it makes him feel like they've got to get on with it, before Louis notices.
Zayn pulls a lock of Harry's hair. "You'd like that, wouldn't you? Louis seeing you taking dick from someone else?"
Harry swallows. "He wouldn't care. You know we never—"
"But you wanted to," says Zayn.
"Do you care?" asks Harry.
Zayn doesn't answer.
"Anyway," says Harry, "this is about the band."
"Oh, right," says Zayn, and turns Harry's head in his lap. "I almost forgot."
Harry tugs Zayn's trackies and pants down over his cock, waiting for Zayn to stop him, but Zayn just lifts his arse off the sofa to make it easier. "C'mon," he whispers, and pulls Harry down. Harry opens his mouth gamely but Zayn's got a grip on his head and pushes up too fast. Harry makes a noise, grabs at Zayn's hands, and Zayn lets go.
"What the fuck, Zayn?" Harry whispers furiously.
"You need to relax your throat."
"Maybe you could demonstrate," says Harry. "Like on my dick."
"Try again, babe," says Zayn. His fingers on Harry's face are soft, caressing. When Harry opens up again, Zayn's grip tightens as he slides his cock in deep.
"You're so bad at this," Zayn marvels when Harry gags again.
Harry glares at him, grabs Zayn's cock halfway up the shaft so he can't get it so deep.
"Harry, just let me," says Zayn, prying Harry's hand loose. "Close your eyes."
After a bit Zayn settles into a rhythm and it starts to get easier. Even when Zayn grabs a hank of Harry's hair, pulls him off his dick, and comes on his face, Louis still doesn't wake up.
Later, in his bunk, over a resentful wank, Harry thinks about how stupid it was to suck Zayn's dick on the fucking tourbus and how much Harry probably didn't even want it, which is why he let Zayn hold his head, thumb on his jaw, and move him up and down on his cock. Except he did want it, he wanted to be hard in his jeans with Zayn's cock down his throat and then he wanted Zayn to thank him for it. He wanted Zayn to be glad he was a member of One Direction because it meant he could have Harry right there on the tourbus, sucking his dick.
Zayn hadn't thanked him.
Harry licks his palm to get his dick wetter and reflects on what a generous person he is. Zayn gives him nothing and gets whatever he wants. If Louis knew, he'd be shocked probably. "I was completely wrong about you being a selfish jerk," Louis would say.
"Yeah, he gives me whatever I want," Zayn would agree. Harry would be right there while Zayn talked about him. Maybe he'd be touching Harry gently and possessively. "Put him on his knees. Bend him over a table. He fucking loves it—"
Harry comes, alone in his bunk.
"Your fourth tour in four years! Would you say it's had a bit of a rocky start?"
They're doing an interview for Norwegian television, all together to emphasize how they haven't got interpersonal problems.
"Our fans have been amazing," says Liam.
"Oslo loves One Direction," the presenter says, beaming. "Zayn, in March you took a few dates off to…rest. Do you feel ready for the show tonight?"
"Yes," says Zayn.
There's a silence.
"Anyway," says Louis, "we've got a crackerjack show and we're thrilled to be sharing it with our fans."
The presenter leans forward. "Let me ask you boys, is Hollywood calling? Rumor has it there are solo plans in the works. How do you plan to coordinate those with the band? Harry?"
"I don't, um," says Harry, "I mean—there's nothing to coordinate, I, um—"
"Harry loves the band," Zayn says, putting an arm round Harry's shoulder. Harry freezes and then leans cautiously against him.
"We all do," says Niall.
"Stockholm Syndrome was an absolute smash," the presenter observes. "Now your fans would like to see No Control as the next single—how do you feel about that?"
"Well, both songs are uptempo, anthemic—" Louis starts.
"I'm all yours, I've got no control, powerless,'' the presenter quotes. "Is this a song about fame or perhaps drug use?"
"It's just about sex, really," says Harry.
The presenter looks concerned. "Do any of you ever feel powerless?"
"Harry enjoys that," says Zayn. His fingers have slipped under Harry's shirt where the presenter can't see. "He's very cooperative."
Niall says, with great animation, "We're also excited about the new album we're finishing up right now!"
In the green room after the interview, Louis says, "Brilliant job, Harry, very appropriate remark. You too, Zayn, what the fuck?"
"I don't think those questions were approved," says Niall.
"They weren't," says Louis. "I'm gonna go talk to Shelley about edits." He strides off, wiping at his make-up.
"Sorry," says Harry to Liam and Niall.
"Not your fault, mate," says Niall.
They can hear Louis being offended and insistent from the hallway.
"I'm gonna go help Louis," says Liam, and does.
"Everyone's angry with me," says Harry.
"Well," says Zayn mildly. "You are breaking up the band."
Harry looks at Niall, who seems to be gazing at his phone with rapt attention. "I am not," says Harry. "I have a side project. Who doesn't? You have a side project. You left the tour!"
"Everyone's angry with me too," says Zayn.
"That's different," says Harry.
"I'm not angry with anyone," says Niall, without looking up.
"Right," says Harry. "Anyway, Zayn, it's not as if you care."
"If I was angry with Zayn, he'd care," objects Niall.
"That's true," says Zayn. He holds out his fist and Niall bumps it.
"Niall is definitely angry with you," says Harry. "He just prefers not to make a scene."
"Unlike you," says Zayn.
Niall takes a deep and careful breath. "I have an idea. What if we went back to the hotel right now and had a lie-down? And then we could do a nice, normal show tonight and sing our songs. Just a suggestion."
Harry slings an arm across Niall's shoulders. "Imagine if you didn't show up tonight, Niall. That would be a twist."
"The difference between Harry and the rest of us," says Zayn to Niall, "is that without me, you lot were still One Direction. And without you tonight, the rest of us would still be One Direction. Without Harry, though, it's game over, good-bye."
Harry's grip on Niall tightens. "If we lose anyone it's not One Direction anymore."
"You're a liar," says Zayn softly.
"Well," says Harry. "That would be one thing we have in common."
Niall squirms away from Harry and grabs his bag. "Right, then. Going back to the hotel before I become a witness to violence."
"Don't worry," says Zayn. "Harry's gonna be sucking my dick in thirty seconds."
"No doubt," says Niall. "Bye, arseholes!" He pats Zayn on the head and lets himself out.
Harry's staring at Zayn. "What the fuck?"
Zayn shrugs. "He thought I was joking. Aren't you gonna thank me for helping you out in the interview?"
"Thank you for the groping and the sexual innuendo," says Harry. His dick stirs a bit at the memory. "And I'm not gonna suck your dick, we have a car waiting."
"Cool standards," says Zayn. "I'll collect on the favor later." He's standing in front of the mirror. Harry stands next to him and looks too. Zayn leans just a bit, bumps Harry's shoulder. "I did lie," says Zayn. "Liam's the indispensable one."
"That's true," says Harry. "He's the only one who knows all the parts."
Harry takes Niall's advice and actually manages to sleep for half an hour, after which he has three coffees and feels amazing. Onstage, he's magic. It's like there are invisible threads stretching from him to every single girl in the stadium, and the threads are on fire. He couldn't give this up for the films, not completely. He could give up Louis, probably, the only person in the stadium who won't look at him, or Liam or Niall, though he loves them, of course; he'd quite like to stay in touch. He could give up—he looks across the stage for Zayn, who's hanging back, looking down. Unlike Harry, Zayn is not connected to every single girl in the stadium by a pulsating web of fire. Zayn is a smooth stone at the bottom of a waterfall, battered by its force but impermeable, self-contained. Harry bounds over, crashes up against him. Zayn steadies him with a hand while Niall sings about where broken hearts go. "Good show!" Harry mouths to Zayn. He's not certain if he means it's already a good show or if he's encouraging Zayn to have one, but either way Zayn just raises an eyebrow before he opens his mouth to sing, alive suddenly in a way he wasn't a minute earlier.
Afterwards, Harry sits next to Zayn in the car, across from Liam and Niall and Louis. No one speaks until Liam says, "Two more before the break, lads."
"Easy," says Harry. He wants to lean against Zayn, drop his head on his shoulder like it's 2011. All the way to the hotel, no one else has anything to say.
When they get off the elevator, the others disappear quickly behind closed doors, except for Zayn, who stands with Harry outside Harry's door.
"I don't remember inviting you over," Harry says, but when he slides his card in, he holds the door open for Zayn. Zayn walks in after Harry and throws his stuff down on the bed.
Harry says, "I'm just gonna go to sleep, okay?"
"'Course," says Zayn. He disappears into the ensuite and Harry hears the sound of the shower start a moment later.
"You could use your own!" Harry calls, even though he knows Zayn can't hear him. He likes that Zayn has his own room and he chose to come to Harry's anyway. Harry undresses, drops onto the bed, stares at the ceiling, and listens to the water. Maybe Zayn will lie down next to Harry and put his arms around him. Maybe Zayn will stay the night. By the time Zayn gets in bed beside him, Harry's already drifting.
Zayn rolls in close. "Aren't you gonna tell me how good I sounded tonight?"
"Mmmmmm," Harry says.
"You on the other hand were terrible," Zayn says, and he reaches over and traces Harry's mouth with his finger. "Blame it on our crap setlist if you like."
Harry opens his eyes. "I'm a fucking rock star."
"Do rock stars take it up the arse?" Zayn asks gently.
"Yeth," says Harry, around Zayn's finger. "You should twy it shometime."
"Not interested." Zayn's getting to his knees.
Harry watches Zayn stroke himself hard, adding lube. "Anyway, our setlist is not crap."
"Speaking of which, I wrote another song," Zayn says. "Shahid thinks it's brilliant."
"Write a song about me," says Harry.
"Nah." Zayn pushes at Harry's hip, and Harry rolls over onto his stomach.
"I'm knackered," Harry complains.
"I'm gonna do all the work," Zayn says. "Feel free to doze off."
"Like I could," says Harry, but he closes his eyes. He feels good like this with Zayn's hands on him. Even the slick head of Zayn's cock at his arse doesn't feel that intrusive. When Zayn pushes in, he lets his weight fall heavy on Harry. Harry feels like he's sinking deep into the mattress. "Like you said—easy," Zayn murmurs in his ear.
The discomfort of the stretch fades quickly and then it's just a familiar motion, the thick slide in his arse, Harry's face pressed to the sheet. When he wakes up to actual sunlight, Zayn still sprawled next to him, he can't remember when Zayn finished. He can't remember going to sleep.
They spend a day shooting the new perfume advert. Zayn's meant to be climbing the tallest tree in the forest to extract honey from a bee's nest, a process which involves multiple tree branch rearrangements. By lunchtime Zayn is looking grim. Harry, who had a wonderful time climbing a mountain, picks up two salads and a fruit cup and goes over to Zayn where he's arguing with Louis on the other side of the green room.
"Because I don't feel like it," Zayn's saying.
"It's maybe an hour in the studio for overdubs," Louis argues, from the depths of his spacesuit. "Big deal."
Harry sits down next to Zayn on the couch. Neither Zayn nor Louis acknowledge him.
"It's a crap song," says Zayn.
"Which one?" Harry asks.
Louis's lips are a thin line. "Perfect."
"Oh," says Harry. "I like that song."
"Of course you like it, you wrote all the stupidest lines," snaps Zayn.
"I wrote it too," says Louis.
"Look, I did my bloody job a month ago," says Zayn. "I sang my verse about Taylor fucking Swift just like I sang your Eleanor song, so you two can just release your shitty album and leave me alone."
Louis looks stricken. "It's your album too. Maybe if you'd gone to more meetings, you'd've had more input."
"Bit boring," says Zayn, "just sitting there watching you lot wank."
"I promise it's the last session. Done and dusted." Louis's rolling an unlit cigarette back and forth in his hand.
"Anyway, it's not necessarily about Taylor," Harry puts in.
"Shut the fuck up, Harry," Louis says.
"Maybe if Zayn could discuss this with Julian instead of you, we could work it out," Harry suggests.
"Zayn isn't taking Julian's calls, apparently," says Louis. "Because Zayn would rather sulk."
"You're not helping, Louis," says Harry.
"And you are?" Louis explodes. "You're the reason this is our last fucking album in the first place!"
"Actually," says Zayn, taking a piece of watermelon from Harry's fruit cup, "Harry is helping."
"That seems unlikely," says Louis. For the first time in the conversation he seems more lost than angry.
"Do you think I should go back in the studio for your shitty fucking song, Harry?" Zayn asks.
"Um," says Harry. He's still reeling from Zayn taking his part against Louis. "Maybe that would be good?"
"Would it be, like, worth my while?" Zayn asks. He leans closer and puts a hand high on Harry's thigh.
"Uh…I suppose? Yeah." Harry rips his eyes away from Zayn's hand and sees Louis's shocked face. "I could, um, make sure of that."
Zayn shrugs. "Then no problem! Louis, have Julian call me again." He pats Harry on the thigh and leans in close to whisper, "I'll see you later," before he goes.
"Well, well, well," says Louis.
Harry focuses on a tomato in his salad. His fork clatters against the bowl.
"I mean if you can't have one bandmate, move on to the next, right, Harry? Glad you finally got what you wanted."
"It's not like that."
"I think it's like that," says Louis. The unlit cigarette in his hand is crumbling to bits. "Does he know he's a consolation prize? How much money do you think your coming-out story's gonna be worth?"
"Stop it, Louis."
Louis's already ploughing on. "Does he even like you?"
"I don't know," says Harry. "Yes."
"No one likes you," says Louis.
"That's not true," Harry starts. "Everybody—"
"Only the ones who don't actually know you."
"Jesus," says Harry. "You're a fucking hypocrite, Lou. You're sitting here nagging Zayn about his vocals, which are already brilliant because at least he can fucking sing—"
"'Oh, Louis, I love your voice!'" Louis simpers, doing a passable imitatation of sixteen-year-old Harry. "'You're so expressive, Louis, you're my favorite.'"
"Well, you were," says Harry. "And you say you want to keep the band together but you'd never do what it takes to make that happen, and that's all I'm doing, Lou, all right?"
"Hold up," says Louis. "You think you're fucking Zayn to keep the band together?"
"I mean," says Harry. "Sort of."
"Unbelievable," says Louis. "Does he know about this fantasy of yours? Does he know you're using him so you can feel like a hero?"
"It was his idea!" Harry says, too loudly. He looks around the room but no one seems to be paying attention. "His idea," he repeats, more quietly.
"Really," says Louis.
"I think," says Harry. He tries to remember what they said when they made the deal, but now he can't figure out when they made the deal at all.
"You think," says Louis.
"You asked me to fix it," whispers Harry furiously. "So I'm fixing it, and now you're mad at me."
"I didn't ask you to suck his goddamn cock," Louis whispers back, just as furiously. "Or whatever the fuck you're doing. Don't tell me, I don't wanna know."
"So I won't tell you," says Harry, with some satisfaction. "Look, it's been a rough spring for all of us."
Louis drops his shredded cigarette in the remains of Harry's fruit cup. "You have no idea."
"You broke up with your girlfriend," says Harry. "I think the entire world has that idea."
Louis stares at him, then stands up, cumbersome in his spacesuit. "You can ask Zayn," he says. "Maybe when your dick's up his arse."
"Yeah, he's into that," Harry says, pleased. "You should hear him screaming my name."
"Fucking disgusting," says Louis. He grabs his helmet and stalks off.
Harry eats salad until the PA announces that it's time to go back in the studio.
After the Gothenburg show, deep in the stadium's underground rabbit warren, Zayn grabs Harry's arm and pulls him into an empty corridor and then an unlocked equipment room. It was a good show and Harry's dripping with sweat, elated. Zayn spins him up against a wall and presses his body against Harry's and then they're kissing. Harry holds Zayn's head, feels the damp sides of his skull.
"You were amazing," he mumbles against Zayn's mouth. He tries to turn Zayn, get him against the wall. Zayn's so small, really. He likes the idea of Zayn encircled in his arms, protected from people who don't understand him, maybe letting Harry get a knee between his legs.
Zayn lets Harry move him, loose, eyelashes dark against his cheek. Harry strokes a hand down his body, finds his cock hard in his jeans. "You like me," he whispers. "I knew you liked me."
Zayn freezes and pulls away. His hand is suddenly heavy on Harry's shoulder, pushing downward.
"Wait till the hotel," Harry says. "We could—we could make it special."
"Nothing about this is special," says Zayn.
"Let me just—let's kiss, okay?" Harry doesn't know how to get back to where they were a moment ago. Zayn's all angles suddenly, impossible to hold.
"I recorded those overdubs for the album," Zayn says pointedly. "I smashed it on my solos tonight."
"I know that, that's what I—" Harry breaks off and sighs. Drops to his knees. "What was Louis talking about?"
"When?" Zayn pops open the button of his jeans.
"He made it sound like something bad happened. To him."
"Maybe someone broke up his band," said Zayn.
Harry sinks back on his heels. "If I hadn't, you would," he argues.
Zayn lets this pass. "That girl he was seeing in LA? He got her pregnant."
"Oh my god," says Harry. "I didn't—why didn't he tell us?"
"He told me three days ago," says Zayn. "He just didn't mention it to you."
"But—" Harry tries to think this through. "Shouldn't we have a meeting? The PR stuff alone—"
Zayn sighs. "We’re going over everything with Shelley tomorrow, Harry. I know because Louis already screamed at me for telling him I didn't want to go."
"I can't believe you kept this from me," Harry says.
"For three days," says Zayn. "You would've found out tomorrow regardless."
"I just think I should be included."
"I know something you could be included in," says Zayn. He unzips his jeans.
The night before the last show of the European leg, Harry and Niall and the two girls they met an hour ago are the last ones left in the VIP lounge of the hotel in Helsinki. The girls are polite enough not to ask them anything about being in One Direction; the one tucked under Harry's arm had even claimed she'd only heard of them because her little sister was a fan.
Apparently everything Harry says is witty and miraculous. It's so nice to have a girl listening to him and looking gratified every time they touch. She has dark shiny hair and big tits and she's clever, too—she's studying political economics, she says, and when Harry asks what that is, she carefully explains. Finnish accents are hot.
He raises an eyebrow at Niall and Niall grins back at him. Then Niall's whispering in his girl's ear and they're getting up to go upstairs, so Harry and his girl are alone in the lounge. He ought to take her up too, only he feels a bit awkward, as if he might need to clear it with Zayn first. It's been too long, is the problem. He shouldn't have stopped having it off with girls in the first place.
The girl leans in. "Do you want to also show me your room?"
Anyway, he's never made any kind of promise to Zayn, he can't be expected to be some kind of monk—but there's Zayn now, just sauntering in. Harry feels relieved and annoyed at the same time.
"Saw Niall in the hallway," Zayn says. "Looks like he met a nice girl."
"That's my friend," says Harry's girl. She puts her hand on Harry's arm. "You should tell your friend that I'm nice too."
"This one's nice too," says Harry.
"Aada," the girl reminds him.
"I definitely knew that," says Harry. "Aada, this is Zayn. Aada's barely heard of One Direction. Can't even tell us apart."
"Neither can I," Zayn says. He points at Harry. "D'you know for certain if this lowlife is even in the band?"
It's easy to forget how charming Zayn can be when he likes. Aada laughs, looking from Zayn to Harry. "I was just telling Harry," she says, emphasizing the name. "I was saying he should show me his room, I hear it's lovely."
"Mine's nicer," says Zayn, sliding in next to Aada.
"Mine's larger," says Harry.
"Then maybe there is room for all three of us?" says the girl.
"What an idea," says Zayn. "Harry would never have thought of that idea. He isn't creative, like you and I are."
"Aada's studying political economics," says Harry.
"It's an artistic field," says Zayn. "Shall we go up?"
Rising, he holds out his hand for Aada. She goes happily, leaning into him right away. Harry stays in his seat, resentful, until Zayn puts a hand on his shoulder.
"Come on, babe," he says quietly. "Don't sulk."
So Harry shakes his hair back and goes with them.
"Just like old times," Zayn says, on their way to the elevator.
"Really?" Aada's in between them. Harry can see down the front of her blouse as she walks.
"Nah," says Harry. "Don't believe everything you hear."
"I don't hear anything," says Aada. "Not a One Direction fan, remember?"
"Who do you like?" Zayn asks, in the elevator. "Taylor Swift, maybe?"
Aada darts a look at Harry. "I enjoy death metal."
"Right?" says Harry. "Me too."
"And fucking," she adds.
"So many coincidences," marvels Zayn.
They've ended up at Harry's door. Harry opens it and ushers them in with exaggerated politeness.
"Thank you, Harry," says Zayn.
"No, thank you," says Harry. The door closes behind them.
"You two are cute," says Aada. She tosses her handbag on the bed and turns to face them, looking perfectly calm except for how she's needlessly adjusting the fall of her skirt over her hips. She shrugs. "Well?"
"How about you get on the bed, babe," Zayn says.
She pulls off her top, then sits herself daintily on the side of the bed before swinging her legs up and settling against the pillows.
"Beautiful," says Zayn. "Look at her, Harry."
Harry's looking. Her nipples show pink through the black lace of her bra. Her skirt's riding low on her hips, ready to be flipped up or yanked off. She's fumbling in her handbag, pulling out condoms.
"Who's first?" Aada asks. She reaches underneath her skirt, hand at her pussy.
She shouldn't do that, Harry thinks automatically. Zayn doesn't like it when you touch yourself.
Zayn says, "You are, sweetheart."
He gets on the bed with her and pushes her skirt up, ignoring the condoms. Her panties are barely a scrap. She lifts her arse off the bed to make it easier for Zayn to tug them off.
Harry's not bothered if Zayn fucks her first. He remembers how good it is to slide into a pussy that wet, the girl already all worked up. He hopes Zayn will be nice to her, so that she'll still want it after he's done. She probably will, because it's not like Zayn will care if she comes.
"I wanna make this good for you," Zayn tells her, taking off his shirt. Harry sees how Aada's eyes track over his tattooed shoulders and chest. Harry knows just how she's aching to touch. When Zayn pulls her legs apart and lowers his mouth to her cunt, the outrage of it makes Harry want to call time out.
It's just so unfair. Harry's been sucking Zayn's cock for weeks and Zayn's barely touched him. It's one thing if Zayn's a bitter fucking prick who doesn't want anyone else to have a good time. It's another if he's going to go down on some girl right away like it's his favorite hobby. As if he just happens to enjoy making people feel good.
"Mmm," says Zayn. He's eating her out with one hand on her hip and the other sliding up, under her bra. The knobs of his spine stand out as he curves over her, his head moving rhythmically. She's starting to make noise. Harry moves closer. He can see how she's pushing up against Zayn's face. He wants to know if Zayn's hard, but it's impossible to tell.
Zayn's lifting his head now. "You taste so good," he tells Aada. She lets out a long, shuddering gasp and puts a hand in his hair and Zayn goes down again, his hair dark against her stomach. She moans again and her eyes meet Harry's. She opens her bra from the front and her tits bounce free. It was an unspoken rule, years ago, that when he and Zayn had a girl together, they wouldn't both be on the bed at the same time. Now Harry strips off and gets on the bed next to her. Zayn keeps his head down, so maybe it's okay. Aada's hair is spread across the pillow. She squirms luxuriously as Zayn works. Harry wants to stick his cock in her mouth but since Zayn's being such a fucking gentleman he just bends over and kisses her instead. Her mouth opens slackly to his. She's compliant, preoccupied. Then she jolts and Harry lifts his head to see what Zayn's doing. It looks like he's got fingers in her now, her hips moving in slow, small jerks. At last her back arches and she cries out. Zayn keeps his mouth to her cunt until she goes quiet. Then he withdraws his fingers and lifts his head, lips and chin wet and shining. Harry would want to kiss him, lick her off him, if he didn't look so obnoxiously self-satisfied.
The girl's still breathing hard. "Oh my god," she says, "that was amazing."
Zayn's eyes go to Harry. Slowly, he wipes her juices off him with the back of his hand. Harry waits for Zayn to take out his cock. It's fine. Maybe Harry will fuck her mouth once Zayn sticks it in. She seems up for whatever.
"My pleasure, babe," Zayn says, and gets off the bed. "Harry, your go."
Harry doesn't understand Zayn at all.
"You look so lonely all the way over there," Aada tells Harry, who's right there next to her.
"I'm not lonely," says Harry, feeling around in the duvet for a condom. "I'm fine."
"Aada's just kidding, Harry," says Zayn. "But if you're not interested—"
"I think you can tell I'm interested." Harry starts rolling on the condom. His cock's still larger than Zayn's. No matter what happens to either of them or One Direction or the entire world, Harry's cock will always be larger than Zayn's. When he's got the condom on, he kisses the girl again.
"Come on," she whispers, and when he's on top of her she helps him guide his cock in.
Sliding into her slick, tight cunt is a revelation. Her legs go up immediately to wrap around his waist, her whole body yielding to him, hot and clinging. He shoves in hard and she wails like he's punching the sound out of her with his cock. He feels huge inside her. Everything is right. He's got his cock where Zayn's mouth was. She's whining for him the way she moaned for Zayn, the way Zayn should moan for him. Zayn ought to want him with his whole body like this. Harry feels his orgasm coming. He wants to fill her with everything Zayn refuses to take from him. Her arms are around his neck, her tits crushed to his chest, her face tipped up for more kisses. He speeds up, ruts in deep, and comes, collapsing on her in perfect satisfaction. Her giving body is exactly where he's meant to be.
"And now you," the girl is saying to Zayn.
Harry rolls off her stickily and works on tying off the condom. Zayn's leaning against the wall, watching them both. Harry's still breathing hard.
"That's all right, babe," says Zayn.
Aada's skin is shining with sweat. She props herself up on her elbows. "Seriously? I can take it."
"No worries," says Zayn. "You're a star but you've had enough."
Harry's both pleased and disappointed Zayn's begging off. "I'm a tough act to follow."
Zayn rolls his eyes at Harry and hands Aada her panties.
Not to be outdone, Harry hands her her bra. "You're gorgeous, angel," he says kindly. "Absolutely perfect."
"Can I, um—" Aada gathers the rest of her clothes darts a glance at the door to the loo.
"Of course, whatever you like," says Zayn, and gives her his hand to help her to her feet.
"Thank you," she says. Holding her armful of clothing so it covers her crotch, she disappears into the bathroom.
"Nice girl," says Zayn.
"And you were such a nice boy."
"Always," Zayn agrees serenely.
Harry wishes he could go to the bathroom and wash himself off, but Aada's in there already, so he makes do with a tissue and pulls his pants back on.
Eventually the girl comes out. "Well—that was—lovely, thank you." She stands by the door, looking awkwardly from Harry to Zayn.
Harry says, "Thank you," and immediately feels stupid.
Zayn kisses her on the cheek. "You know, you're not like people say," she tells him. Harry sees exactly when Zayn's face closes off, but she doesn't seem to notice. "I could give you my number?"
"Nah, love," says Zayn. "Don't get over to Finland much."
"No, of course not," she says. She rearranges her bag on her shoulder and runs her hand through her hair. Then she grins like she's been nerving herself up to it. "Anyway, say hello to Louis for me? He's my favorite."
"Surprise!" Harry says when the door clicks shut.
Zayn's laughing. "And here we thought she wasn't a 1D fan."
They're all, always, One Direction fans.
"Amazing, you not shooting your load," says Harry.
"I'm just the patient type," says Zayn. "Dunno why you put your pants on. You should get back on the bed."
"For fuck's sake, Zayn," says Harry. "You had a girl right here. She'd've done anything you liked."
Zayn shrugs. "So will you."
Harry gets back on the bed, without his pants.
"Roll over," says Zayn.
"You gonna suck my dick like you ate her out?"
"In your dreams," says Zayn. He's kneeling between Harry's legs and fisting his cock as if he's planning to go in dry. Harry reaches for the lube in the side table, shoves it pointedly at Zayn.
"This is why girls are better," says Zayn.
"I didn't tell you not to fuck her," says Harry. "She was a lot wetter than I'll ever be."
"Close enough," says Zayn, and starts lubing up his cock.
They've never done it like this before, face to face. They could kiss if they wanted to, but Zayn shows no signs of wanting to. Also, the angle's weird.
"Finally," says Harry, when Zayn gets it in. He doesn't mention the instant dizzy lurch of it, the way the slow push into his arse makes his cock start filling up like he didn't just shoot off ten minutes ago. Zayn's pulling at his left leg, so Harry brings his other leg up too, wraps them around Zayn's waist. Now Zayn's cock is hitting him exactly right. Harry lets Zayn fuck him like Harry fucked that girl, his dick rubbing against Zayn's stomach with tormenting regularity. Harry reaches between them to get at himself, but Zayn grabs his wrist and slams it to the bed instead.
"Just take it, Harry."
"But I wanna get off." Harry can hear the whine in his own voice.
"You had the girl for that. This is for me."
Harry squirms as if he's gonna dislodge Zayn's cock when it's this deep in his arse. "It's always for you."
"Are you kidding?" Zayn holds him still to pull out a bit and then slam in again. "The band is for you. The whole world is for you."
"Just like—come on, Zayn. Be my friend." Harry gets a hand free and reaches up to touch Zayn's face.
"It's not enough that I'm here? Now I gotta be in love with you too?"
"No," says Harry miserably. Now he wants his hard-on to go down, because it's embarrassing. "You wanted that girl to feel good and you don't even know her. "
Zayn's voice is low and caressing in Harry's ear. "I know you," he whispers, "and I don't want you to like it."
The next morning Harry wakes up alone, gets room service, almost rings his mum, and facetimes Gemma instead. It's an excellent decision because Gemma's just got a cat. It takes a bit of time for Gemma to get her in front of the camera, and then they've got to discuss all the ways she's the sweetest, softest girl in the world.
"She's called Olivia," Gemma announces proudly.
"What cat isn't?" says Harry.
"You can meet her properly next week on your break."
"Can't wait." Harry hadn't planned on dropping by Gemma's, but he ought to. Her flat suddenly seems like the only refuge in the world.
"Bring your new girlfriend if you like."
Harry blinks at her in deliberate confusion. "There is no girlfriend."
"Well done, Harry, that wasn't bitter at all."
"I don't even want a girlfriend."
"Of course not," says Gemma. "Why would anyone want steady mutual affection and support?"
"I can get that from friends," says Harry. He takes another sip of his coffee, even though it's going cool.
"How are the lads, anyway?"
"Well, it hasn't hit the news yet, but—" Harry stops to think if he's allowed to tell. It's Gemma, though, so he certainly should be. "Louis's got a baby on the way."
"Goodness," says Gemma. "With Eleanor?"
"Oh no, they broke up ages ago."
"So Louis's single? Now's your chance!"
"Hilarious," says Harry. "You really missed your calling in comedy."
"So how's he doing?" Gemma asks, once she stops laughing.
"If we ever have an actual conversation, I'll ask. Anyway, Liam and Niall are fine. Zayn is terrible. Mean to me, like, all the time." When he was little, if someone was nasty to him at school he'd tell Gemma about it and she'd coo over him and stroke his hair.
"Ah," says Gemma. "Zayn's off 1D completely, isn't he? "
"But it's not my fault we're on tour, is it? Louis hates me 'cos we'll be going on hiatus and here's Zayn angry 'cos we currently aren't."
Gemma's face is thoughtful. "Maybe it's himself he's angry with."
Harry remembers Zayn's easy confidence with the girl last night and how he left Harry lying on the bed half-hard and useless. "He thinks a lot of himself, if you ask me."
Gemma's face disappears from the screen, and then she pops back up again with Olivia in her lap. "Remember what mum says, what other people think of you isn't your business."
"It's this business," says Harry. "What people think of me is all there is."
"Well, I think you're an angel."
"Do you?" says Harry. "Really?"
"Sort of," says Gemma. "Close enough, I suppose."
That night, Liam's the only one at the table when Harry arrives at Sarah's Kitchen for dinner. Sarah's put up a curtain, so they can feel temporarily safe from the rest of the commotion backstage.
Liam looks up from his phone long enough to see it's Harry. "All right?"
"Not bad," says Harry, and takes a seat. "Last show for a bit, you ready?" The idiocy of the question hangs in the air. Obviously, Liam is ready. They used to have more to say to each other.
Liam puts his phone down on the table. It's open to Instagram, Sophia making a silly face. "Yeah. How's Zayn doing?"
"I don't know," says Harry, startled.
"Seems like he's been spending more time with you lately."
"You think?" Harry's pleased. Zayn picked me, he thinks. Benevolent, he points at Liam's phone. "Cute!"
"Wait, look at this one," says Liam. He taps at his phone and pushes it over to Harry. Now Sophia is in a garden store, peeking out from behind some flowers.
Harry looks at the photo. For some reason it makes his eyes hurt. "You're gonna propose, aren't you?"
"I don't know," says Liam. "I'm still quite young." Sometimes Liam forgets he isn't being interviewed and gives his press answers involuntarily, like blood clotting.
"I thought we were all having babies now," says Harry.
Liam gives him a look. "I suppose you'd like it if we were tucked away changing nappies while you make your films."
"For fuck's sake, Liam." He wants Niall to arrive. Liam won't be sour like this if Niall is there.
Liam holds out his hand for his phone. "We've all got our own projects, you know."
Harry gives him the phone, Sophia still smiling beatifically on the screen. "I know that," he says.
Then Louis and Niall are there, bumping into each other on purpose and pulling out chairs. Louis's t-shirt says THE FUTURE IS NOW. Niall squeezes Harry's shoulder before sitting down next to him.
Louis says, "What's for dinner?"
"Something with meatballs," says Liam, passing the menu over. "Where's Zayn?"
"Ask Harry," says Louis.
Harry's bundling his hair into an elastic. "I've got no idea where he is."
Louis beams. "Trouble in paradise? I'm gutted."
"Beg pardon?" says Liam.
"Didn't you hear? Harry and Zayn are in love."
"I'll go find him, all right?" says Harry, standing up.
"Very funny, bro," Liam tells Louis.
"Innit," says Louis. "If he fucks Zayn about, I'll, I'll—"
Harry pauses at the curtain.
"You'll break up the band?" Liam asks.
"A bit late for that," says Niall.
They put their hands together before the show.
Liam says, "It's been a good month, lads. I want to thank Zayn for coming back and being amazing."
Zayn bumps his shoulder against Liam's.
You're welcome, Harry thinks.
Louis says, "Proud of the work we've been doing in the studio, too."
Niall says, "Might be our last album but you'll always be my mates."
Harry says, "A lot of things are changing and I'm, I'm sorry for my part in like, you know. Hiatus or whatever. But I just want to say, congratulations to Louis, honestly mate…" He tries to catch Louis's eye. "I think you'll be a fantastic dad."
Louis looks gobsmacked. Harry nods to show him he's not taking the piss. He doesn't realize he's holding his breath until Louis nods back, blue eyes serious. Liam and Niall murmur agreement.
Zayn says, "It's been real."
They chant and they separate and then they're outside under the lights. Everyone is good. Louis helps Liam put on a banana costume. They're One Direction.
The next morning Zayn knocks on Harry's door. Harry's been kneeling on the carpet with his suitcase open, packing. He hasn't even got his kit on yet. "You're up early," Harry tells him.
"It's like ten," says Zayn. He's wearing a white t-shirt and trackies and his entire head is buzzed. "Anyway, I got a good night's sleep for once."
"Me too," says Harry. After the show, he'd looked Zayn's way and Zayn just shook his head so Harry went back to his hotel room alone. "Thanks for that."
Zayn sits on Harry's rumpled bed. The sunlight streaming through the blinds lights him up in gold. "Didn't even miss me, did you?"
"I cried all night," says Harry. "But now that you're bald I see I overreacted. Not attractive, sorry to say."
"The snow leopard's next," says Zayn.
"I thought you were going to the moon," Harry says. "Throw me that shirt?"
With exaggerated disdain, Zayn picks it up with thumb and forefinger, tosses it to Harry. "It's good what you said to Louis."
"Yeah? I meant it. Even if he hates me."
Zayn sighs. "Louis doesn't even have the energy to hate you right now."
Harry looks down at the jeans he's folding. "You know what I remember? When Louis and I used to share hotel rooms and I'd be packing up just like this. He'd be on the bed with his laptop out, reading me our press. He'd be so funny—"
"I'm not Louis," Zayn says sharply.
"Well, I know that. Louis would've got me off once in a while."
"Somehow I doubt it."
They look at each other.
"C'mere," says Zayn, and pats the bed next to him.
Harry says, "Oh, is this what it's gonna take to get you to San Diego?" Still, he does what Zayn says. Zayn smells like one of his flowery conditioners. He puts his head on Zayn's shoulder. Zayn puts his hand on Harry's bare thigh. Harry feels safe.
That's when Zayn says, "I'm not going to San Diego."
Harry's heart start to beat faster. He says, carefully, "It's not San Diego first? Santa Clara, then."
"Oh, you've got the tour dates right," says Zayn. "I'm done, that's all."
Harry raises his head from Zayn's shoulder. "But that doesn't make any sense."
"I know it's a nuisance, sharing out my parts."
"What the fuck, Zayn. You already came back. You decided to come back."
Now Zayn pats Harry's thigh twice and lets go, brisk and dismissive. "I can't do it anymore, Harry."
"You can though," says Harry. His voice is rising, high and panicky. "You can! This whole month—we had a deal, Zayn. I was, I was keeping the band together."
Zayn sighs. "That was mostly in your head, mate."
"It wasn't," says Harry. "This isn't fair!"
Zayn laughs suddenly. "Well, I'm a cheater, we all know that. I'm a cheater, so I'm cheating."
The words are ugly. Harry wants to erase them and erase the hurt on Zayn's face but he doesn't know how. "Did you tell Louis?"
"Nah, you're the only one who knows," says Zayn. "That ought to make you feel special."
It makes the whole thing seem fanciful, really. As if Zayn leaving isn't real. It's just a thing he's saying to Harry this morning. He could always decide to say something else. "What if I, like, stop asking you to give me more?"
"Why do you care so much?" Zayn asks. "You don't need me here."
"I just want—I just want—" Harry doesn't know. "I want you," says Harry, and climbs into Zayn's lap.
"Harry—" Zayn starts, but Harry kisses him.
"I want you," Harry says against Zayn's lips. "I want you, I want you."
Zayn takes him by the jaw and pushes him away. "Look, Harry, you were good, you tried, and now it's over, okay? It's not gonna work, you don't have to do it anymore."
Harry licks his lips. His mouth is burning. He just wants to kiss Zayn again. "So no matter what I do right now, in twelve days me and Louis and Liam and Niall will fly to San Diego and you won't be there."
"Right," says Zayn.
"I don't care," says Harry. "I still want you."
"Jesus," Zayn sighs, and this time he kisses Harry back.
Harry moans, loud and raw, and Zayn rolls them over. He's lying full on top of Harry, his chest against Harry's, moving against him, his tongue in Harry's mouth. Harry holds him. Daring, he runs his hands over Zayn's bony back, drops a hand to his arse. Zayn makes a noise in his throat and doesn't tell him to stop. Harry pushes up, tries to rub himself against Zayn's dick, wants to meld them together so Zayn can't leave. Minutes pass before he remembers to reach in between them to get Zayn off.
Zayn closes his eyes when Harry gets a hand on his cock and then almost immediately takes Harry's wrist and pulls him away.
"Please," says Harry. "Please, I want to."
"Stupid," Zayn mutters, and lets go of Harry's wrist to reach between them himself. Harry holds himself perfectly still and tries not to twitch when Zayn takes hold of Harry's naked dick for the first time ever. He tries not to make a single noise.
Zayn works at Harry's cock, tentatively and then with more pressure. His face is concentrated and a bit pained before he buries it in Harry's neck, his open mouth wet against Harry's skin. Harry's not sure what's happening, but Zayn's hand moves hot and purposeful and when their cocks brush together for a second he makes a noise against Harry's neck. Harry feels the throb in his balls and he wants to come and he doesn't want to be wrong. He doesn't want to scare Zayn away.
"I'm sorry, Zayn," he says. "I'm sorry, can I?"
"For fuck's sake, Harry," says Zayn, sounding for a moment perfectly ordinary, before he twists his wrist and makes Harry come.
He lies there, gasping. Zayn is silent.
"Thank you," says Harry, finally.
Zayn smiles at him sadly like everything that just happened was normal. "No problem," he says, wiping his hand on the sheet.
"That was so—yeah," says Harry. He can see that Zayn's hard. "Now what do you want?"
"Nothing," says Zayn. "I want—nothing." He adjusts himself in his trackies.
"Just tell me, Zayn, I'll do whatever."
"I know," says Zayn, getting off the bed. "I have to go now."
"Are you—I'll see you in San Diego?
"No," says Zayn. "You'll see Louis. You'll see Niall. You'll see Liam. You'll see fifty thousand birds yelling your name."
"But you're the one that I want," says Harry.
"You got me," says Zayn. "We both know what would happen next."
He closes the door firmly, gently, behind him.