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Echo of Us

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‘I haven’t seen him in years. To be honest, I have no reason to.’: claims ZAYN about his ex-bandmate Harry Styles, further trying to prove that he and Harry ‘never really spoke’ while they were both still 1Direction stars.

By Kate Garter for Mail Online

PUBLISHED: 14:15 GMT, 5 December 2017 | UPDATED: 14:44 GMT, 5 December 2017

It has been over two years since Zayn Malik (24) left the world’s biggest boy band in a flurry of crying fan girls and bitter bandmates. While the ‘PillowTalk’ singer usually avoids 1D-related questions, he can never really escape them.

In a recent interview with Billboard, the singer revealed not only the plans for his (very anticipated) second LP, but also gave us an insight on his relationship with his former ‘brothers’. The insight was that there are no relationships! Zayn is apparently too cool for his ex-bandmates and doesn’t talk to them anymore.

The interviewer pushed and questioned Zayn about Harry (23) specifically, due to a recent radio interview Harry did with his old friend and BBC Radio 1 star Nick Grimshaw. In said interview, Grimshaw started teasing Harry about ‘shenanigans’ from his 1D days, asking him to tell a wild story. And what did Harry do?

He complied and proceeded to recount a story about how he and Zayn ran away from their security in Australia and spent the whole night partying. It included dancing on tables and drinking champagne straight from the bottle. Pretty regular stuff for stars like them, isn’t it?

Well, it seemed like the story was finished until Grimshaw said: “Harold, why don’t you tell our lovely listeners about the best part? The hotel room part?” to which Harry spit out a quick “shut up, I regret I ever told you anything about us.” After that, the interview ended pretty quickly.

Could there be more to this unacknowledged beef between the two young popstars? Is Zayn trying to feed us lies and deny his past friend(relation?)ship with Harry Styles? Did Nick Grimshaw start a sudden rise in the number of ‘Zarry’ shippers?

We may never know what happened for sure, but be sure to stay with us by subscribing to our newsletter HERE to not miss any new discoveries!


 

            Their first face-to-face encounter after two years, eleven months and one day is exactly like their relationship used to be. Unexpected, undiscussed before it happened and a total whirlwind of emotions. It was fitting, for them to meet like that. They saw it coming but not really. It was creeping up on them and when some concern arose, the moment that would eventually change their lives was perfectly situated in a blind spot, concealing itself and blocking them from avoiding it once again.

            The moment Harry saw Zayn at the pre-Grammy party, Harry proclaimed himself a dumbass. A real fucking stupid piece of shit. Of course, it was such a Harry thing to do, go to an industry party, get drunk off his ass with Jeff and some old men whose names he barely even remembers and then fucking run into Zayn, who he hasn’t seen in almost three years. And of-fucking-course, Zayn was mostly sober, he looked and smelled like a fucking dream and that was it really. Harry was done. He had no fighting chance because once Zayn laid his eyes on Harry again, staring at him with this wide-eyed Bambi look of his, Harry was back at the exact same place he was almost three years ago. Damn all that time he tried to get over Zayn. Fuck the angsty album that Harry hoped, fucking prayed would finally get Zayn out of his system, out of his heart. Screw it all because Harry was still in love with him.

            “Harry? Are you alright?” Oh. Yes. Zayn’s standing in front of him. Harry should say something. Talking. Communicating. Why does using his jaw and tongue sound so exhausting?

            “Y-yeah. ‘m fine. Hi.” That’s good, right? A simple greeting, like simple old friends with simple non-romantic past. Harry’s doing great, so fucking great he might as well forget how his breath is getting caught in his throat or how the liquid in his champagne glass is sloshing around ever so slightly because his right hand is shaking as if it were -50°C.

            “Hey,” Zayn replies and continues to eye Harry sceptically. Harry’s convinced his heart is beating along with the movement of Zayn’s eyes, which can’t possibly be healthy. But every single little shift, how Zayn’s gaze travels from Harry’s eyes to his hair and all over his face, every single one makes Harry feel like he’s drowning.

            “You look a bit pale, are you sure you’re okay?” Harry almost scoffs. So Zayn’s concerned about him now? Interesting.

            “I’m just drunk, you know me. Can handle my alcohol every other weekend but only if the Moon’s in the right position. Which is almost never, according to you.”

            “O-kay, I’m gonna go now.” Zayn tries to make an exit, but Harry uses the little sober part of his brain to grab his arm.

            “Where the fuck do you think you’re going? I miss you, arsehole. Just because I’m drunk doesn’t mean we can’t hang out.”

            “Hang out?”

            “Yeah. What, you think I didn’t know you met up with… pretty much everyone but me? Shit. I guess you really hate me, huh?” Harry’s grip on Zayn’s forearm must be really uncomfortable by now but Zayn barely even blinks. If the alcohol wasn’t restricting Harry from perceiving and living out this situation as he should, he’d even enjoy touching Zayn again after so long. Perhaps he wouldn’t. It’s still an option. Maybe it would make him want to crawl in bed and don’t leave for about two years. Guess he’ll never know now.

            “I don’t hate you, Harry. I never did.” Harry chuckles. If only that was true.

            “Hm. Let’s see. ‘Me and Harry never really spoke’, yeah? That’s news for me. I don’t remember us like that. Oh wait, I guess we were too busy fucking to talk, yeah? And what happened to ‘finding me when the time is right’, hm? For you the time is never right, is it?” Harry laughs and then hiccups. Fuck, he’s so drunk. He’s getting pretty damn dizzy. Fuck. Nevertheless, Harry loves the shocked look on Zayn’s face. Actually, Harry loves all of him, despite him talking shit and now gaping at him as if Harry said there’s a demon in the man’s bathroom.

            “Harry, shut up. Someone could hear you.”

            “Oh, someone could hear me? You don’t say, love. Poor you, what would people say if they knew you don’t like fucking just nice blonde girls, hm? That you loved me more than you could ever love any of them? If they knew that you broke my fucking heart because you were a coward, because you didn’t want to fight for us. Because you didn’t believe we could make it in the end. I love- “Harry cuts himself off and throws up in a potted plant.

            He feels a gentle hand on his back, soothing him and whispering ‘it’ll be alright, you’re gonna be fine’. Harry feels like the lovely voice and hand belong to Zayn, but that must be just his imagination, hallucinating his deepest desires before Harry passes out right there in the middle of the hallway.

            Harry wakes up a few hours later, the remnants of memories of Zayn’s silky voice grazing the edges of his mind. Maybe they were from a dream, maybe they were real. It doesn’t matter since Zayn isn’t the one sitting next to Harry in the back of the car, playing on his phone; it’s Jeff.

            I fucked up. That’s all Harry can think about.

            After almost three years of not seeing each other, this is the best they can do? Bicker in a dark hallway during a party neither of them really wanted to go, ambushed by fate or whatever finally getting tired of their antics. They didn’t talk properly despite it being long overdue, didn’t make any promises to catch up. The cherry on top was how this exchange ended – with Harry almost confessing his love in public and then promptly throwing up into a potted plant like a fucking sixteen-year-old at his first party.

            Harry feels sick. Not in the way he felt earlier this evening but sick of his life, sick of feeling empty, sick of eternally missing someone. There’s a great gaping hole inside his chest with his heart hanging out of it. The skin around it is torn and bloody, has been for nearly three years. He just wants to fix it. Wants to be able to love freely again. Wants to go online without his breath getting caught and his pulse racing when he sees Zayn’s name or even worse, his face. Harry wants to get over Zayn. Finally leave him in the past, un-love him and let his heart be free. It may be impossible, but he has to at least try.

            He saw it tonight. Saw it so clearly it actually hurt his eyes. Harry might’ve been hammered but not even his clouded mind could conceal how Zayn looked at him – like he was nothing. A stranger that somehow knows Zayn. An old friend that Zayn isn’t even sure what his name is. A person Zayn never thinks off anymore. If Harry were younger, more naïve, more hopeful, he might have tried to make himself believe that Zayn still loved him too. That Zayn’s wide-eyed look and shaky breaths indicated that he was just as shaken and fucking relieved to see Harry as Harry was him. It wouldn’t be the truth, though and Harry knows it now.

            Zayn doesn’t love him. A fact, a truth, a dagger. Their lives aren’t a romantic comedy where they were just waiting for a chance meeting like this to ignite the fire of their love that’s been smouldering for years. Reality is harsh, cold and never works in your favour. Harry needs to accept it, the sooner the better.

            First step of getting over Zayn is apologizing for the debacle that was tonight. A yoga instructor of Harry’s once said that he can’t move on if he’s got a hundred pounds of baggage on his back and that he should leave all the negative things in the past. And that is exactly what Harry’s going to do – cleanse his life out of everything Zayn-love related. At the end of this, Zayn will be just a past lover, someone that broke Harry’s heart and Harry won’t have to look back at some of his best years with anguish. It will be all over and Harry will be ready to love again.

+

            Harry’s chill. Relaxed, cool, serene even. He’s writing an email, not detonating a bomb, why should he be nervous? Just sending an email to an old friend apologizing for his inadequate behaviour. Nothing too weird, right?

            Except it is. It’s too fucking strange because Harry can’t think, can’t breathe or blink without his mind going back to a certain April day two years ago when he was doing a very similar thing. Typing out an email to an old friend that also happens to be the possible love of his life. He won’t know that though, because Harry is moving on.

            ‘Hello,

            I’m really sorry about the way I behaved last night. My alcohol consumption got out of hand and my blabbering was a part of the result. I apologize for talking about stupid things from our past. It’s all behind us now. Again, I’m really sorry.

            Would you like to have a drink the next time we see each other? I assume you’re going to the Grammys in two days. We should catch up. After all, we’re friends and we haven’t properly spoken in ages.

            All the love, H.’

            It’s short, straight to the point and polite. Perfect. Harry hits send and his finger doesn’t hover over the key for more than a second. He already feels lighter. So, this is what moving on feels like.

            The last email Harry sent two years ago Zayn was a polar opposite of this one. It was way too long, maybe even five hundred words long for all he knows. The email had no point, really. Well, perhaps it did if you can count Harry’s heartache wanting to find answers as a point. And that letter was definitely not polite considering Harry’s favourite adjective seemed to be ‘fucking’. Maybe he can still find it somewhere in his inbox. Harry doesn’t send many emails from this account.

            He clicks on the ‘Sent’ compartment. Jeff, his mum, Jeff, Jeff, Jeff, ten times Jeff, his mum, his cousin and there it is. Sent to justniaz93@gmail.com, subject ‘read this you dick’. Harry takes a deep breath before he opens the email. This is a good thing. I’m moving on and this will just further convince me that I’m going the best thing. Harry knows he needs to do this. After all, facing your fears is the only way to truly get over them. This is him doing just that.

            ‘Hey dipshit,

            why can’t I stop thinking about you? Why is your beautiful fucking face always on my mind when you don’t give a single shit about me? It’s four in the fucking morning and here I am, writing you a fucking email because I have no other way of contacting you since I deleted your number after you left me. You fucking left me and you’re fucking happy when I’m miserable as fuck. I know you never loved me but I still miss you so fucking much.

            I have so much to tell you Z. Like how my bed is cold without you because you were always so fucking warm I didn’t even need an extra blanket in the winter. Or how you were the first person I wanted to call when I got the role in Dunkirk because I know how much you love Nolan’s movies and how we watched The Dark Knight god knows how many times even though I don’t even like superheroes. And you didn’t mind that I always fell asleep twenty minutes in, as long as I was there with you. You were the first fucking person. Not my mum, not Gemma, not Jeff. You. I just fucking miss you. I miss basic fucking things like having breakfast together or doing grocery shopping in that 24-7 grocery store near my house at one am. You were a part of me and now I feel like I’ve been ripped apart.

            It hurts me to think that all of it was fake. But it had to be, didn’t it? If you really loved me you wouldn’t leave like that, would you? I don’t hate you for leaving the band. Fuck, I wanted to leave too so I’d be the last one to judge. But you left ME. And you never even gave me a proper explanation. Feel free to do it now because you broke my heart and I want to know why. So, please tell me. I can’t keep guessing and trying to assume something. I KNOW you had to leave, and even maybe leave me for a while, but you never came back. Why did you leave me when I loved you with everything I had?

            We ended with a fucking phone call that shattered me. One stupid phone call where you said you wanted to give it another shot with someone you claimed you didn’t love. Okay, I’m talking shit in this email. You kinda gave me an explanation. But why, why, why didn’t you call me after you left her? I was still hopelessly waiting for my phone to ring and I know I didn’t make it easy by changing my number but you talked to Liam, didn’t you? I told him to give you my new number if you ever mentioned me. My heart jumped every time my phone rang but it was never you. Eventually, I had to give up or it would drive me insane.

            I haven’t seen you in over a year and it’s driving me crazy. You walking around with Gigi with a big ass smile on your face is also driving me fucking mad. Don’t get me wrong, I want you to be happy, but why do I have to be heartbroken while you can just fucking move on like nothing happened? Did I mean nothing to you?

            It’s really fucking late and here I am, drunk on wine, crying and writing you this email. If you’re wondering how is the grammar so good, send your thanks to autocorrect. This probably makes zero sense but I just had to at least try to let you know how I feel. Because I still love you and I know we’re not a lost cause. Just say it and I’m yours in a heartbeat. I know I sound desperate as fuck but it’s true.

            All the love, H. xxx’

            Harry slaps his forehead three times after he finishes reading the old email. Why on earth did he even think Zayn would want him after everything that happened? Zayn left him, not the other way around. Harry made such a fool out of himself. He acted like a thirteen-year-old breaking up with his first boyfriend and wanting him back. No wonder Zayn never answered. He probably laughed over it, maybe even showed Gigi and said ‘Look at this stupid arsehole. He thinks I loved him. And he still loves me? That’s so funny, Gi!’ or something equally as dumb.

            He won’t make the same mistake again.

+

            Zayn answered to the short, polite, meaningful email. ‘Aha it’s okay bro we’ve all been there. And sure, see you tomorrow night. :)'

            It’s great news actually, since it kickstarted Harry’s plan to get over Zayn. Now all he has to do is not drink too much, bury all memories of Zayn’s lips on his skin into some inaccessible part of his brain and act like Niall. Be chill, don’t let anyone force you to drink more than you want and pretend like your ex is an old acquaintance. Just three simple steps that he has to keep in mind. He should manage it. Perhaps this would’ve been simpler if he listened to Dua when she shoved him the lyrics to ‘New Rules’ for the first time. ‘You’ll never get over him if you keep thinking about him, babe. Just get him out of your head, you know?’. She was right, of course. Harry realized it a bit late, but he did nonetheless. Maybe he should call her and get her to make some rules for him. It would sure make his life a hell lot of simpler.

            Seeing Zayn for the second time in one week after all three years of nothing feels alien, as if they didn’t use to be together 24/7, always touching, talking, kissing. Harry gets an eerie sense of dejá-vu, something about seeing Zayn walking up to him with a smile and whiskey on rocks in his hand both as familiar as coming home after a long day as it is strange, unknown. His heart is beating in his throat, all the blood rushing through his head so loud it overpowers the sound of the party all around him. It makes the chatter of dozens of people and clatter of hundreds of glasses almost inaudible, like something that’s happening miles upon miles away. Nothing matters right now. Nothing except Zayn being almost in front of him again.

            Harry closes his eyes for a few seconds and takes a few deep breaths. In. Out. In. Out. In. Out. Then he smiles, as wide as he can. Zayn is just his old friend, even if Harry has to chant it over and over in his head like a mantra.

            “Hey,” Harry says when Zayn’s finally in earshot. The smile stays glued on his face, as if it was the only seam left that’s keeping him together, keeping him from falling down in tiny little pieces.

            “Hi. Having a good night?” Zayn asks and takes a sip of his whiskey. Looking at his throat, how his Adam’s apple bobs when he swallows almost brings Harry to his knees and all of his hard work would be worthless. Why can’t Zayn be ugly? Just really unattractive so Harry wouldn’t feel on fire every time he looked at him.

            “Sure. You must be having an awesome one though. Congrats, by the way.”

            Zayn rolls his eyes but a smile takes over his face shortly after.

            “It’s all Taylor. These old dudes hate me.”

            “Stop being so modest. Your voice is the best part of the song and you know it,” Harry mentally slaps himself. What a way to go, arsehole.

            “It’s not, trust me. Anyways, let’s go sit down somewhere, shall we? You mentioned catching up if I remember correctly,” Zayn says with a small smile.

            Harry’s dumbfounded. How is it possible that Zayn seriously wants to talk? After all this time, after Harry’s nonsensical words at the pre-party, after everything that happened? Why does he have any kindness left for Harry? He knows that he doesn’t deserve even a proper glance from Zayn, not even a polite ‘Hello’ and yet, here he is, grasping the opportunity like a starved animal.

            Harry barely recognizes the person that Zayn is now. A certain grace and aloofness that surround him are a complete novelty. He’s all easy smiles and keen eyes, ultimately ignoring the whole room around him. There are curious eyes everywhere, staring him down with envy, admiration and lust but Zayn pays it no mind. Something that would’ve made him fidget and run out of the room for a cigarette break now slides past him like a racing car that Zayn gives zero fucks about. And Harry’s aching to know more, see more of the person that Zayn grew up into while Harry was sulking and nursing his broken heart with fleeting distractions and smooth curves.

            “Of course. Can’t wait to hear what you’ve been up to lately,” Harry clears his throat and follows Zayn through the sea of people chatting, making connections, trying to get laid. He fears he’ll lose him, gets cut away from him by moving bodies and flinging arms but Zayn stops and looks behind him with a tight-lipped smile, his eyes finding Harry’s and he waits. Harry catches up with him, fighting off party goers and ignores the way his heart is pounding in his chest. Is this how it’s gonna be like every time Zayn makes a basic nice gesture? Harry hopes not, otherwise he should start looking up some good cardiologists.

            They find an empty booth eventually and sit down, putting enough distance between them that two people could easily fit there. The space between is a happy medium – enough so they can hear each other but also enough so their knees and elbows don’t accidentally touch. Just like the old mates that they are.

            “I’m sorry I haven’t tried to talk to you sooner,” Harry blurts out. Zayn doesn’t respond. He just eyes Harry with an unreadable expression on his face, his emotions hidden. Just like the old times, he’s indecipherable, guarded by thick walls of protection. Gone are the days when Harry knew how to climb over the walls, even fly over them as easy as a bird. He used to always find a way to get through them – smash them, dig a tunnel under them. Now, all he can do is stare at Zayn’s perfect features and wonder about what’s going through Zayn’s mind. Pray that a quirk of his eyebrow or a blink will reveal at least a small bit of Zayn’s thoughts to Harry.

            “I was so fucking stupid about this whole thing,” Harry continues. “But I’ve moved on from that. Believe it or not, I got my shit together. And I want to be your friend. If you want me to. In the way we used to be at the very beginning before… everything. I miss having someone to laugh at my jokes but also to make fun of me. So, yeah. Please say something because I’ve basically laid it all out. No one’s ever gotten this much stuff from me. Especially not voluntarily,” Harry takes a deep breath as he lays his forearms down on the sticky table. He looks at his hands for a second before he musters up the courage to look at Zayn. When he does lift his head up, Harry finds Zayn looking at him with a rather curious stare. Harry can’t keep his eyes off him. They just stare at each other, and stare and stare and stare. Captivated by each other as Harry’s brain is whirring with queries and thoughts, paralyzed in anticipation of what will be said now. All until Zayn breaks out into laughter, leaving Harry utterly confused.

            “God, Harry, you’re like, so serious, it’s creeping me out. Of course, I want to be your friend. We’re adults, just because we used to fuck doesn’t mean we can’t hang out now, yeah? Like, that happened three years ago. We… ended the way we did but I think we’re completely different people now. It’s all in the past. Besides, I’ve got Gigi, so. You’re dating someone too, right?”

            “Yeah, sure,” Harry whispers. What the fuck?

            The little insignificant fact that Harry hasn’t been in a relationship since whatever he and Zayn were doing is unimportant. Harry doesn’t even know why he said he’s dating someone. Who would he even be dating? The only person Harry’s interested in and has been pining for since 2015 is sitting right in front of him. Funny thing that the person just mentioned his girlfriend and diminished their relationship from “used to be together” to deprecating “used to fuck”. But that’s a good thing, isn’t it? Harry’s plan of getting over Zayn will be a hundred times simpler for now. Well, it will be after Harry deals with the fact that their relationship was just “fucking around” for Zayn.

            Harry suddenly wants to punch him. Rearrange his perfect face, strip off the easy smirks and temporarily demolish his beauty. Used to fuck. Used to fuck. So that’s what it was? Fucking just out of convenience. Four years that were essentially nothing. Empty promises and worthless I-love-you’s. But this is Harry’s own fault. He and Zayn were always friends first and foremost and then lovers. When they said ‘I love you’, Zayn must’ve meant ‘Love you, bro’ while Harry wanted to scream ‘I’m in love with you’. And that was the biggest different between them.

            But still, they were never friends, not in the way they are with the other boys. Harry never wanted to snog the living daylights out of Niall during concerts. Zayn didn’t use to touch Louis with the gentleness that was reserved just for Harry. Ever since they first laid their eyes on each other, Harry and Zayn couldn’t’ve been friends. For years, they laid somewhere in the middle of the scale between friends and boyfriends but fully reaching neither and their ‘I love you’s’ were essentially just empty words they thought they should say. Too bad they never realized it.

            “Harry? Are you even listening?”

            Harry blinks slowly, focusing his eyes on Zayn. He forces a wide smile on his face, the lopsided one that screams ‘FAKE. FAKE. FAKE.’. It almost hurts. His face, his teeth, his heart. With every passing second, he feels like he’s going to break apart, disintegrate to dust and join the particles in the air. Disappear for good. Get to a place where he won’t ever have to look at Zayn’s face anymore and feel the misery he feels now.

            “Sorry, spaced out for a bit,” Harry chuckles.

            Zayn starts to talk again but Harry just tunes him out. He can’t deal with this, not right now. His entire romantic past has been completely redefined by one simple sentence and Harry can’t cope. He needs a drink, maybe like ten shots of tequila but he drove here to keep himself from getting drunk again. If there were some alcohol in his system maybe Harry could be just fine smiling and pretending like Zayn hasn’t broken his heart again. Acting like they were never anything more than friends and colleagues who fell out of touch with each other. But not like this. He feels raw, almost in the same exact way he did three years ago. Back when he was getting used to his bed being too empty and too cold without a warm body to hold him at night. A sharp knife slicing through his chest, exposing all the hurt that’s been hidden there left falling freely to the floor is the only way he could describe the sensation of cold running through his veins, making his heart appear heavy, as if it was pumping goo instead of blood.

            “I’m sorry, I need to go now,” Harry exclaims suddenly, letting his voice be carried over the chatter, music and Zayn’s voice. “I’ve got… an early session in the studio tomorrow, some weird scheduling conflicts, you know how it is. It was great talking to you, let me know if you ever want to hang out again. Bye, Zayn. Have a great night,” Harry blurts out the words so quickly he’s not exactly sure Zayn even hears it all between the noise of the party and loud music. But he doesn’t care. Harry needs one thing right now and that is to get the fuck out of this room.

            He gets up quickly, hitting his thigh on a sharp edge of the table and walks away as quickly as the masses of people allow him to. Something that vaguely sounds like his name being shouted follows him but Harry doesn’t stop, doesn’t turn around. What? It’s loud. If it’s a friend he can use it as an excuse.

            Harry finally gets to a relatively quiet hallway leading to the exit and he takes a first proper breath since he saw Zayn at the party. He knows it’s risky but despite that, he leans back against a wall and closes his eyes. Driving like this could be dangerous, he needs to get his head together and just breathe for a moment.

            “Harry? What’s the matter with you?” Fuck. Harry forces his eyes open and the first thing he sees is Zayn, standing too close in front of him. A concerned look is prominent on his face and Harry wants to cry. He’s actually going to start bawling like an infant if he doesn’t get away in time.

            “I’m fine. I told you I need to call it night because of an early studio session.”

            “You don’t need to lie. Not to me.”

            “Not-“

            “Hey, guys. Can I get a quick photo of you two?”

            Harry was about to yell. He was ready to start screaming at the top of his lungs until his voice gave away so Zayn would finally understand. They’re not who they used to be. There’s nothing keeping what they had alive. Hell, there was nothing between them after all. Zayn said as much this evening. So, Harry has to lie, especially to him. Every single breath he takes around Zayn is a lie. Harry’s entire being when he’s near Zayn is a fucking lie because Harry never wanted this to turn out like that. Never wanted to pretend like Zayn was just a stranger, someone he’s met in passing and shared a few moments with. Harry never wanted to act like his heart wasn’t aching for the love that was taken away from him, for the person that he could share anything and everything with. His other half that had been with him for years and suddenly, there was just void instead.

            “Yeah, of course, mate,” Harry says instead of pouring his heart out. Maybe he’ll save it for another day. Maybe one day he’ll get tired of pretending to be Zayn’s friend and he’ll finally yell, scream and shout out the truth. Blow up like a volcano that has been waiting for thousands of years to create havoc and be set free. Leave a Pompeii in its wake. All their memories and love that used to keep them together like glue now covered with the black tar and ashes of their crumbled relationship.

            Zayn’s clearly perplexed but he doesn’t protest and stands next to Harry. Their arms brush and Harry ignores it. He just smiles, as wide as he can. The flash blinds them two times before the photographer gives them a thumbs up and leaves.

            Before Zayn has a chance to speak, grab Harry’s wrist or do pretty much anything, Harry turns on his heel and with a shouted “Bye, Zayn!”, he leaves him standing in the hallway.

Chapter Text

Zayn Malik and Harry Styles finally reunited at a Grammys afterparty

1/29/2018 by Taylor Randal

One Direction fans have been waiting for this moment since Malik left the band nearly three years ago. Since then there has been all but radio silence between them. As far as we know, the two popstars haven’t been in contact for years but that changed last night after the Grammys 2018 ceremony, which was successful for both.

Each of them earned their first nominations, Styles with his debut single ‘Sign of the Times’ and Malik with a collaboration with Taylor Swift ‘I Don’t Wanna Live Forever’ which he also won. That makes them the first ex-One Direction members with Grammys nominations and Malik being the first winner.

Last night at the Marriott Marquis after party, the pair was seen talking for about half an hour. Our photographer was lucky enough to catch them in a hallway just as Styles was leaving the party. They were both nice enough to pose for a few pictures which you can find bellow.

Congratulations to both of them. Don’t miss our last night’s live Grammys coverage, complete list of winners and videos of the spectacular performances.


 

            Harry would be lying if he said he didn’t spend the drive to his apartment crying. Because he did. After he had left Zayn in the hallway, his legs did their best to carry him to his car as fast as possible. Luck was definitely on his side because Harry managed to avoid photographers, people asking for photos and also hundreds of his acquaintances. No paparazzi were waiting outside where his car was and Harry has never felt more relieved to unlock the door and get in the driver’s seat. Then he let the tears fall feely. He held them long enough, ever since they started prickling his eyes when Zayn had said they ‘used to fuck’.

            It didn’t even feel real. He felt like he was floating over his body and looking down on himself, breaking again. Maybe this was a defence mechanism, trying to deflect the cruel reality of it all. Trying to keep the memories of him and Zayn intact, hidden under a veil of blissful ignorance and naïve hope. Harry didn’t want to have the one thing that he used as an argument for getting through his heartbreak completely demolished. For years he’s been telling himself that people break up, people leave and never see each other again – it happens every day all over the world. Perhaps he and Zayn just weren’t The One for each other but they had great time and just for a small chunk of their lifetimes, they loved each other. And now, what was he supposed to do? Just accept the fact that he was nothing more than a side piece for Zayn? Or someone he fucked to answer his bi-curious queries? ‘Yeah, I like fucking blokes and don’t mind having a cock in me as well. Thanks Harry, gonna head back home to the missus now.’. Is that all it was?

            Harry let agonizing sobs tear through him to the point where he could barely breathe. Why was everything so fucking unfair? Why did he have to be still in love with a person that never loved him? Why, why, why? He slammed the steering wheel with his palm so hard he could feel it throbbing for a minute afterwards. He needed to get his shit together but he couldn’t think of any other way to achieve it than to ignore Zayn for the rest of his life. As much as he knew it was the best option for him, Harry didn’t want it. He didn’t. Despite his heart breaking once again and all the pain he’s been through, he couldn’t bring himself to choosing to eliminate Zayn from his life again. Was it self-destructive? Yes. Is Harry going to regret it? Absolutely. But even another heartbreak has a better appeal than never seeing Zayn again.

            Maybe there’s a tiny flame of hope somewhere and maybe Harry wants to find it. Nothing is ever lost until it is destroyed. They didn’t go down in flames and ruin, leaving a wasteland of hatred and loathing. There was anger, there was resentment but never hate. Their end wasn’t a war but a reluctant peace talk of two sides that didn’t want peace nor did they want war. It was foolishness, trying to maintain his offer of being Zayn’s friend but Harry was a fool for him and always will be.

            With tears clouding his vision and streaming down his cheeks, Harry sobbed his way down to SoHo. New York City traffic is always slower than any other, what would be a five-minute drive gets easily prolonged to forty-five-minute one just like that. In that moment, Harry was thankful. He had no desire to get home, to a place that felt devoid and cold and all that was waiting for him was just an empty bed. His car didn’t feel so barren. It felt more welcoming for crying over his broken heart. His bed would mock him, remind him of the person that wasn’t occupying the other side. The car didn’t do it. There were no memories of being held in someone’s arms, of promises whispered into his skin. It’s the perfect place for wallowing in self-pity.

            Other drivers honked at him only about five times and he didn’t cause a terrible accident nor scraped or bumped his car. He got home in one piece, some ounces of tears lighter but with his heart just as heavy, if not heavier than it was.

+

            After the Billboard article comes out, Harry’s phone blows up like fireworks on New Year’s Eve. His Twitter feed is one big mess – fans being excited and screaming; fans being angry and fighting. Jeff sends him about five almost identical texts, all of them trying to say: ‘Harry you’re a stupid piece of shit. But maybe we can use it for promo?’. Niall sends him a voice message that’s mainly him laughing and a: ‘how long did ya feckers wanted t’ wait for a bloody miracle? I really hope ya pricks got ya big heads out of ya arses’. His mum is a different story though.

            She calls him, waking Harry up from his afternoon self-pity slumber. She’s using her Harry-I’m-so-disappointed-in-you voice along with a posh accent and when Anne uses that, Harry knows he fucked up.

            “Harry, I can’t believe you two! How long has it been since you two boys talked properly?”

             Harry sighs, knowing that Anne probably has the time counted down to days and hours, she just wants Harry to say it out loud so he can realize his stupid mistakes.

            “Almost three years. It doesn’t matter, mum,” he mumbles. Anne scoffs on the other end of the line and Harry immediately regrets what he just said.

            “Sweetheart, I love you, but it does matter! After the catastrophe that happened when Zayn left you, how can you two pose for cameras like it was nothing? I know the world doesn’t know everything, but you do! Is something going on that I don’t know about?”

            Harry stays mute. His mum is right, like she always is. Zayn and him should’ve talked before agreeing to be friends. Too many things are left unsaid, unexplained and Harry can feel himself making a mistake.

            “Harry?! Have you started sleeping with him again?!”

            “What the hell mum, no, of course I haven’t,” Harry’s face immediately starts burning up. How embarrassing it is when even your mum knows what kind of a stupid fuck you are. If this happened a year ago, Harry would’ve dragged Zayn to a bathroom stall and attempt to suck his dick, that is true. So, Anne’s worries are indeed in order.

            “Well, at least that’s some good news. But are you okay, honey?” Anne’s concerned voice makes Harry miss home. He just wants to run back to his mum’s house and fucking cry into her skirt like a little boy.

            Harry’s not okay. He’s so far from it that okay, alright and its synonyms are nowhere near fit to describe Harry’s emotional state. His heart got broken again, trying to get over Zayn is harder than it initially seemed and he’s really fucking lonely. On top of all that, he needs to figure out how he’s actually going to get over Zayn since he ruled out the Ignoring His Existence method. So, no, he’s not okay. But his mum doesn’t need to know that.

            “Yeah, no I’m fine, mum. Last night was amazing. I missed you and Gem, though. It’s a pity you weren’t able to come.” Half-lie, half-truth. The ideal ration for successfully lying to your mother.

            “We’re so sorry, sweetheart. We’ll come next time. Have you planned your birthday party yet?” Fuck. His birthday. Harry completely forgot that in three days, he’s turning twenty-four. He’s fucking old.

            “Uh, not really? I’m not planning it anyway, it’s supposed a be a secret. Nick’s flying in and he’s in charge of it. I just hope he doesn’t order strippers again.” Anne laughs on the other side and it brings a small smile to Harry’s lips. God, he really misses being home.

            “Don’t worry, sweetheart. Take care of yourself, okay? I’m gonna have go now, I’ve got muffins in the over and I don’t want them to burn. I’ll call you tomorrow. Bye, love!”

            “Bye, mum.” Harry disconnects the call and throws his phone in the vague direction of the foot of his bed. He doesn’t feel like dealing with the world today so he shuts his eyes and wills himself to fall back to sleep. With the headache and sore eyes from crying, sleep takes over as quick as light.

+

            Harry’s 24th birthday comes in a whirl of messages, delivered flowers and friends he hasn’t seen in ages. Nick arrives a day before the party, claiming everything is already arranged and all Harry has to do is ‘look pretty and get hammered’ which is exactly what Harry intends to do.

            The first part of the party, also known as the one where Harry isn’t so drunk he can’t tell his own name, is great. Nick really outdid himself because firstly, there are no strippers. Secondly, Nick ordered Harry his favourite cake – coconut with vanilla buttercream and strawberries. And thirdly, with each shot of tequila and vodka, Harry forgets more and more about the fact that his heart is still broken, which is, at least for the time being, a positive fact.

            He dances for hours with friends and also with people he barely knows but somehow, they know him. A drink of some kind is always in his hand and he does more shots than he has in ages. After all, it’s his birthday and he’s heartbroken. This is a cleanse. An alcohol one that will make him hate himself in the morning, but it is one nevertheless.

            After that comes the second part of the party that his friends also refer to as Harry’s-gonna-start-crying-or-dancing-on-a-table-any-second-now. Which is ambitiously presumptuous because when has Harry ever done that kind of things? He’s never danced on a table, ever in his life. Fine, maybe once or twice, but he wasn’t the only one dancing so it doesn’t count. And he cries all the time – at adorable commercials, when he watches cute puppy videos for too long and while watching rom-coms. It’s just a cheap excuse most likely Nick made up so he can make even more fun of Harry and that’s just mean. But Nick is mean. Why is he so mean?

            “Niiiiiick,” Harry whines and slightly lifts his head from his crossed forearms. The table is sticky, probably from the drink he spilled about an hour ago and his skin feels disgusting. Everything feels disgusting.

            “What, dear Harold? Want another shot? Or a little bump to get your spirits up?” Nick chirps and starts to massage his neck.

            “No, you monster. I hate you.”

            “That’s how you treat your best friend that organized this spectacular party for you? I’m afraid that I’m a bit offended by that, mate.”

            “You’re mean to me.”

            “How am I mean to you?”

            Harry lets out a loud whine again. He wants to go to bed. But it’s empty and even if he takes Nick with him and forces him to cuddle, it won’t be what he wants. He wants to be loved again.

            “I want to be loved again,” Harry moans as much. Nick laughs and starts to pet Harry’s hair.

            “You are loved, Harold. Look, you’ve got me, you’ve got your mum, Gemma, literally hundreds of friends. And if you miss fucking someone I’m sure many would be willing to get naked with you, love.” Nick doesn’t understand. Of course, he doesn’t.

            “I don’t want just someone!” Harry huffs exasperatedly. Nick laughs again, throwing his head back.

            “Oh, I know who you want, love. Someone very, very handsome. Great cheekbones, lovely lashes, name starts with a Z.” Harry tries to hit Nick’s shoulder but he misses and hits the leather seat behind Nick. Defeated, he lowers his head to Nick’s shoulder and starts to sob.

            “Why doesn’t he love me, Nick?” Harry’s words come out muffled, his lips moving uncomfortably against Nick’s shirt.

            “I’ve got no idea, Harold. Sometimes people just aren’t meant to be.”

            “But we are meant to be!” Harry protests like a petulant child. Nick shushes him and lays Harry’s head back on his shoulder. They sit in silence for a moment, the music around them serving as an obnoxious background noise. Harry’s sad. Again. Because Zayn doesn’t love him. Never did and never will. Harry’s crying at his birthday party because some guy isn’t in love with him. But… Zayn isn’t the only man in the world. Fine, maybe he is the most beautiful one, but he’s not the only beautiful one. Somewhere out there, a man could be waiting for Harry, a man who would love him and wouldn’t choose a blonde supermodel over him. Perhaps he wouldn’t be as beautiful as Zayn, or as lovely, as smart or as amazing. And Harry will probably never love him as much as he loves Zayn but at least he would be loved.

            “Nick?”

            “Yeah?”

            “I need to get over Zayn.”

            “That you do.”

            “And I need to get fucked.”

            “Literally or figuratively?”

            “Literally and literally. In two ways.” Harry holds up two fingers for emphasis.

            “Jesus Christ.”

+

            When Harry set out to find a hook-up, he was already fucked in one way. He was so drunk he could barely see where was he going, but it didn’t matter in the moment. Harry needed to take someone home for the night. A man. A proper man that had big muscles and preferably a big cock as well. Thankfully, Harry found his pick relatively quickly. A guy he met while filming Dunkirk or while mixing his album or while he was doing something. Harry doesn’t remember and he also doesn’t give a fuck.

            All it took to get him to go home with Harry was a few smiles, some lingering touches on his arms and groping his dick exactly once. Before he had the chance to leave home with his companion for the night, Jeff came running to them with an NDA and holy shit, how does he have that always on him? Harry rolled his eyes at Jeff but the guy just laughed and signed it without any further questions. As always, Harry will probably thank Jeff later for thinking about shit like that.

            And everything is perfect until Harry fucks it up.

            The things is, the guy is great, nice, polite, takes off his shoes at the door. He even catches Harry from falling two times before they even reach the bedroom. They undress quickly, effectively and separately. No sensual kisses, teasing touches or built up anticipations to see each other naked. Harry’s quite impressed by him. Amazing body and big cock even without getting hard.

            A small little thing that Harry fails to tell him is that he hasn’t been fucked in three years, give or take a few days. He’s really lucky that he isn’t as drunk as Harry and takes it relatively slow.

            The first few thrusts hurt but Harry doesn’t tell him to slow down or stop. It’s borderline masochistic but Harry needs it. He lacks feeling pain that isn’t just his heart breaking over and over again. This pain isn’t even terrible since he knows that pleasure will follow it. Besides, he’s always liked it rough. Maybe not without discussing it first, but he doesn’t care. It’ll go away and you can’t remember pain. Once it’s gone, it’s gone for good.

            Pleasure overcomes the pain quickly. The guy is good and Harry’s utterly encompassed by him. His arms over his head holding onto the headboard, his lips all over Harry’s skin, his cock finally bringing back feelings Harry’s missed so much. He’s missed being with a man, after three years of being with just girls, he’s revelling in being the one that’s got a cock inside of him. No matter how good it is, Harry’s traitorous mind betrays him in the end.

            It happens when the guy puts his hand right on Harry’s throat and lightly holds him. It’s eons away from choking, the hand is just there, warm and heavy, the thumb steadily running over his pulse point. That is the moment when Harry starts to vividly look back at moments he wants to forget and never be reminded of again. But he can’t help himself, no matter how hard he tries. Maybe if he wasn’t drunk he could’ve controlled his thoughts better. Well, unfortunately Harry’s fucking hammered and he can’t stop thinking about how Zayn always used to hold his neck when he fucked him. Not choked him, even though Harry wished he did a few times, not even pressed hard. He just kept his hand there, hot and burning though Harry’s skin, his thumb always running over Harry’s pulse in an uneven tempo.

            Harry doesn’t think about the almost stranger when he comes. He thinks of soft lips, gentle hands and brown eyes.

            “What did you just say?”

            Harry almost scowls at him for ruining his daydreaming. “What?”

            “You said someone’s name and it certainly wasn’t mine.”

            “Are you joking? Of course, I said your name.”

            “Nice try, but my name sounds nowhere near Shane or Zane or whatever you said.”

            Harry’s blood turns to ice in his veins.

            “No, no, no. I- I said Jay!” Harry rambles, desperately trying to save the situation.

            “Jay?” he frowns.

            “Yeah, sure, your name’s James so I made you a nickname,” Harry chuckles nervously.

            “My name’s Peter, you piece of shit.” He – Peter, apparently- pulls out too quickly, grabs his things from the floor and leaves Harry’s bedroom, shutting the door so loudly and forcefully he possibly wakes up the whole building.

            Well, Harry was right to think that he would end up thanking Jeff for making Peter sign the NDA.

+

            Harry wakes up feeling like a piece of horse shit that’s been run over by a truck at least twenty times. His mouth is a literal desert, his entire body aches and his head’s pounding so hard it seems like there are hundreds of tiny men hitting his skull repeatedly with pickaxes. But that’s what he deserves. Getting drunk out of his mind always ends like this – the morning hangover is inevitable.

            He tries to sit up without passing out or throwing up and it surprisingly works. When he leans on his right hand, his palm lands in something sticky and slimy. Harry forcefully closes his eyes and this time, he’s doing all he can to keep the bile that’s climbing up his throat down. It’s a condom from last night because of course it is. As if Harry’s entire aching body and arse along with hundreds of regrets weren’t enough to remind him of the fiasco.

            Taking a shower and not falling asleep again is a challenge, but it manages to actually wake Harry up and after he scrubs the remnants of last night off his skin and puts some nice moisturizer on his face, the days starts to get sort of bearable. He throws the used condom out, changes his sheets and opens the window, letting the brisk February air cleanse the room. Usually, Harry would go to the gym downstairs, for at least a quick fifteen-minute session but he doesn’t feel like torturing himself any more. Instead, he goes to the kitchen and gets himself some breakfast. Over an avocado toast and a cup of coffee, Harry finds a different way to torture himself that doesn’t include working out.

+

            “Harry, you can’t be serious,” Nick judges from his perch on a barstool behind the breakfast bar. A cup of steaming coffee is in front of him and he looks about twenty times worse than Harry. Serves him right. He was the one who was strutting around the party all night with a bottle of vodka in his hand and a baggie of coke in his pocket and kept accidentally pouring the vodka into Harry’s shot glass.

            “Well, I am so deal with it. Where the fuck is my wallet?” Harry’s been rummaging through his entire flat for ten minutes and he still hasn’t found it. Did he lose it last night? Fuck, he hopes not. Calling the bank and doing all of that annoying shit with stolen credit cards is too much work and Harry doesn’t want to deal with that.

            “It’s right in front of you, stupid. In that amazing ‘everything jar’ of yours. Do you need to get your eyes checked out? And also, perhaps your head as well since your actions have no correlation to your words whatsoever?”

            Harry takes out his wallet with a deep sigh and puts it in his back pocket. He turns to Nick and braces himself on the kitchen worktop.

            “No, thank you for your concern, Nicholas. I am an adult capable of making his own decision. I turned twenty-four yesterday, have you forgotten?”

            “You look like a mother of four scolding her son Jaxon for leaving his dirty socks on the floor.”

            “Thank you. Now I’m going to leave. Don’t set my flat on fire.”

            Harry grabs his phone from the breakfast bar and starts walking to the door. Before he can actually leave, Nick’s whinging stops him once again.

            “You’re making a big mistake, Harry. This can never end well, no matter how hard you try.”

            Harry sighs as he sits on the back of a couch.

            “We’re friends, Nick. Nothing less and nothing more.”

            Nick scoffs, his back turned to Harry. Then he slowly spins in his chair and judgementally stares at Harry.

            “What did he say to you that you’ve got your knickers in such a twist you couldn’t wait to leave?”

            Harry furrows his brows. “Nothing. He just wanted to get lunch because it was my birthday yesterday. Like a friend that couldn’t come to my birthday party.”

            Nick covers his face with both of his hands and lets out a loud wail, one that he always does when he thinks Harry’s about the do something catastrophically stupid.

            “You were crying over him less than twelve hours ago!” Nick cries. Harry rolls his eyes and stands up from the couch.

            “Yes, because I need to get over him! This is me getting over him. Or would you rather I spent a week in my bed crying, eating crappy food and watching rom-coms? No, so be glad this is the way I’m doing it. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a lunch with a friend to get to.”

            Before Harry has the chance to shut the front door behind him, Nick pitches in one last time, “Don’t come crying to me when you two fuck it all up again!”

+

            Earlier that day, Harry almost choked on his toast. After making a cup of coffee and quickly putting together an avocado toast, he sat down at the breakfast bar with his phone and started answering all of the birthday wishes from dozens of people. It was a bit annoying, the repetitiveness being tiring, which wasn’t very good for his hungover brain. He pushed through it though because who is he to ignore nice people thinking off him? He even posted a Tweet, thanking fans for all the wishes and organizing a charity drive. Then, Harry decided to write Jeff an email thanking him for the NDA. When he opened his inbox, Harry almost fell off his stool.

            On the top of the list of his unopened emails snuggly sat one whose addressee made Harry’s eyes nearly pop out of his head.

            ‘Happy birthday, Harry! Kinda weird to write you an email, but I don’t have your phone number aha. Sorry to write you so late, you’re already probably celebrating. Would you like to get lunch together? Tomorrow, at 2PM, that burger place on 26th? You know the one we went to that one time after SNL? Can’t remember its name for the life of me. Anyways, let me know if you’ll come. It was really nice seeing you again after the Grammys. Enjoy your birthday!

            P.S. I’m probably gonna be there anyway because those burgers are damn delicious lol. I wouldn’t want to miss out on them if I were you ;)

            It took not even thirty seconds for Harry to reply ‘I’m gonna be there. H. x’. He had not been expecting a birthday wish from Zayn of all people and he’s still human after all. When a friend invites you to get delicious burgers, only a mad man would say no.

            There may be some truth to Nick’s words. Not a lot, just a bit. But Nick is the one who’s wrong, not Harry. Nick is still under the impression that whenever Harry and Zayn have as much as a friendly chat, it ends with them naked in bed and a disaster. Those days are long gone, though. Harry didn’t spend at hour wailing and sobbing at his birthday party only to not learn nothing from it. Hell, he didn’t spend nearly three years completely miserable and pining over someone that doesn’t love him to be stupid about this.

            Nick may be right about one thing – how weak Harry still is for Zayn. He assumed that Zayn told Harry something that was just the right thing Harry wanted to hear like promise him a quick fuck after their lunch. It wasn’t the case. Harry didn’t need promises of sex and love to go and see Zayn, all he needed was the knowledge that Zayn cared enough to write him and use the words ‘lunch together’. So, in the end, Nick is still wrong. Zayn is Harry’s friend and he can have lunches with friends every fucking day if he wishes so.

            Harry arrives to the place with five minutes to spare. It’s a relatively small restaurant, very chic and modern, clearly renovated in the past two years. When he steps in, the smell of just pure deliciousness hits him and despite the hangover, he actually starts to crave a burger. Only a few tables are occupied and the whole rooms gives off a cozy vibe no matter how many silver and grey abstract decorations there are. It achieves the unachievable – the place doesn’t seem like it’s in the middle of Manhattan at all. Harry absolutely hates it.

            The place itself is fine, it’s the memories associated with it that Harry would like to erase from his brain. At least temporarily. How is he supposed to just sit here when all he can think about is how and Zayn came here in 2014, drunk on champagne and passion, and had probably one of their last good nights? God, he remembers it too clearly. How they came here shortly before closing, the staff to busy tidying up and too tired to notice them kissing in their booth, barely even eating the food they came there for. That night was probably the last time they had sex and it meant something. It wasn’t just mindless fucking like it was on the last tour, both of them too tired and too lost in their own heads to pay attention to each other’s bodies, to kiss with tenderness, with feeling.

            Harry shakes his head softly to get rid of those dumb, pointless images.

            Surprising enough, Zayn is already there, sitting at a table for two by the window, playing on his phone. It’s as if he felt Harry’s gaze on him because he lifts his eyes from the screen and smiles at Harry, his eyes widening in delight, surprise, horror at Harry’s hangover state perhaps. Harry forces a grin, trying to push all the memories of them in the back of his head.

            “Hi,” Harry drawls when he comes to the table. He sits down in the chair right away, perhaps a bit too quickly.

            “Hi. Happy belated birthday,” Zayn smiles. His eyes get all crinkly, his straight white teeth on display and yeah, maybe this wasn’t the best idea. Harry’s not too certain about his moral strength when Zayn’s smiling at him like that.

            “Thanks, mate. It was, erm, really nice of you… to think of me,” Harry chuckles nervously. Why on earth is he so awkward? If he didn’t know any better, he’d think he had suffered a terrible brain injury that left him with a speech impairment and seventy per cent of his rational thinking gone. Fuck, it’s just Zayn. They’ve talked thousands of times before. This time, they won’t kiss or touch, but that’s not an excuse to behave like a knobhead.

            “Of course, I did. What kind of a friend would I be if I forgot about your birthday?”

            “A shitty one, I guess,” Harry murmurs. It’s becoming a serious problem and Harry’s probably starting to be inclined to masochism, but in that moment, he thinks of his past birthdays with Zayn. Harry always wanted to be with him, even if they weren’t officially celebrating together. There were lazy mornings in the bed spent kissing and fucking, doing things they didn’t usually have time for. There were late nights when Harry was tipsy after celebrating, when nothing felt better than finding Zayn sleeping in his bed, a vase of roses and a gift with handwritten note waiting for Harry on his bedside table. All of it is gone now.

            “Actually, I got you a gift.”

            Harry nearly gasps. “You didn’t have to. God, you’ve always been too nice to me.”

            Zayn just laughs, shaking his head at Harry gently and picks something up from under the table. It’s wrapped in a black and white stripped wrapping paper and it’s most likely a record. Zayn hands it to him and yeah, it’s definitely a record.

            “Can I open it?” Harry asks reluctantly, turning the present in his hands as if the more he turned it, the more transparent would the paper become and he could see what’s under it.

            “Yeah, sure, go ahead.”

            Harry doesn’t need to be told twice. He finds the seam and rips the paper around the edges of the tape. The ripping of the paper is a bit too loud for the restaurant but Harry doesn’t care, not after he catches a glimpse of black, white and a bit of colour and oh my god. Then Harry does gasp, his mouth going slack because he’s holding an original 1973 The Dark Side of the Moon vinyl. He’s swarmed with emotions and feelings he’s never wanted to feel again. There’s crying, screaming, yelling, dancing around like a child, but Harry does none of it. Instead, he just stares.

            His head is one big mess because Harry has no idea what’s this supposed to mean. Dark Side has always been their favourite album, their special thing, their matching tattoo. Harry would know since it was the only thing he listened to for weeks after Zayn had left. And now, nearly three years later, Zayn gifts him this. Had Harry been just a tad bit more naïve, he’d think that Zayn felt at least close to what Harry feels. That they still had a chance in spite of their separation, in spite of different relationships. That it wasn’t over, no longer closed off like an unsolved case that was shoved on a shelf for years catching dust. But it can’t be. There’s no way.

            “Do you like it?” Zayn asks quietly, probably puzzled by Harry’s lack of reaction.

            Harry lifts his eyes up from the record, finding Zayn already looking at him with that unsure expression of his that always made him seem younger, somehow more innocent. It always made Harry want to wrap him up in a blanket and tell him he’s never done anything wrong in his life, ever.

            “I love it. It’s probably the best thing anyone’s even given me. Thank you. But how did you find it?”

            “I found it a few months ago while I was thrifting, trying to find some cool stuff for my home studio in LA. I, uh, wanted to mail it to you for Christmas, but I didn’t know where you actually live now, so I just kept it until an opportunity presented itself,” Zayn blushes, shakes his head a bit and laughs. He doesn’t look at Harry as he continues. “When I bought it, I actually had it gift wrapped right there. Don’t know why but I just kind of knew that I had to give this to you. It’s weird I know. Sorry.”

            “Don’t you dare apologize,” Harry says fiercely, may a bit to fiercely. He clears his throat and rambles, once again trying to save a situation by ruining it a bit more. “Cause like, this is really nice, yeah? Incredibly thoughtful. Like I said, it’s probably the best gift I’ve ever got. So, don’t say sorry for such a great thing, yeah?”

            “Okay, yeah. I’m glad you like it then. Anyways, how’d you celebrate?”

            Harry’s eternally thankful for the topic change. This way, he can ramble about Nick and getting drunk and dancing all night.

            To Harry’s surprise, they talk, laugh, eat and Harry doesn’t start crying. He tiptoes around some things like Gigi, his own imaginary girlfriend/boyfriend, their past. It’s an obstacle course and while Harry’s terrible with his physical coordination, he’s quite good at avoiding talking about certain things. No wonder his fans hate him for never answering questions properly. He’s Harry Styles, the master of vagueness and avoidance.

            Harry also finds out that he doesn’t absolutely hate this. While his heart did ache when he first saw Zayn today, it doesn’t by the end of their lunch. The gift was a strong blow and for a hot minute, Harry hoped that it meant more, that it held a secret message, something like ‘I’m in love with you.’ or ‘I believe we still have a chance.’. Over the course of their meal, Harry has his proof that it doesn’t. It’s just a gift and even though Zayn bought it some time ago, he must’ve thought of it as an icebreaker, something to give Harry that’s based on their past but still isn’t too personal, to strike up a conversation without the first words being ‘Why didn’t you call?’. And Harry’s okay with that.

            He convinces himself that not cutting Zayn out of his life is not that bad of an idea. Maybe it’s stupid to think it but Harry feels like being Zayn’s friend is the correct formula for getting over him. Falling out of love with Zayn is still out of the question. There isn’t a chance Harry can just fall out of love him like that. He can’t snap his fingers and boom, he doesn’t love Zayn anymore. Maybe one day he’ll get there, but today isn’t the one and neither is tomorrow. But being his friend isn’t impossible. It’ll be tough and Harry’s prepared for it to hurt for some time, to have his heart aching and burning when he’s with Zayn, but he’ll get used to it. After weighing all the possibilities on the night of the Grammy’s, Harry knows that whether or not he still talks to Zayn, his heart will still scream in agony. This way, he may have a chance to stop it once and for all.

            While Zayn might not love him in the way Harry wants him to, he’s convinced that Zayn still loves him as a friend. In the way same way he still talks to Niall and annoys Louis by pestering him to send him videos of Freddie blabbering. Zayn still thinks about Harry to some extent, apparently enough that he kept a gift for Harry for months before he had the chance to give it to him. And he’s so lovely and nice, he talks to Harry in the same way he used to, like no time has passed at all since the last time they had lunch together and laughed about Nick’s terrible dance moves. If all Harry can get is being on Zayn’s mind, have Zayn thinking of him as a person that he’s close to and be able to do this, just hang out and enjoy each other’s company, then Harry will gladly take it.

            He’ll be the best fucking friend Zayn could wish for. He’ll send him funny tweets, take him out to get drunk if he’s got a shitty day. Hell, Harry will go as his fucking best man if he wants to. And he’ll do it all with a smile on his face because in the last few years, Harry has learned that if you really love someone, you’ll do anything to keep them happy, even if it hurts you. So, maybe Harry will feel like there’s a poisoned dagger in his heart sometimes, but if he’ll get to see Zayn happy and if some of those smiles will be meant for him, Harry will be just okay.

Chapter Text

LOVE LIVES

Unexpected power couple break-up: Zayn leaves Gigi… for Harry!

By Brie Kent  February 23, 2018

Who would’ve expected our favourite celebrity couple to break up? Absolutely no one! Our entire team was shocked by the news. People could’ve sworn that wedding bells ringing for them could be heard in the distance and everyone always eyed Gigi’s left hand more suspiciously in search for a big diamond on her ring finger. Well, there will be none of that.

Gigi Hadid shocked the entire nation and thousands of ‘Zigi’ fans all over the world this morning when she appeared on ‘Good Morning America’. The supermodel revealed that her and the talented singer were no longer together.

Yeah, I guess he’s fine. We’re no longer dating, but we’re still friends though. It’s still kinda fresh. There’s no bad blood between us, it was a mutual decision,’ Gigi commented when the host asked her how her boyfriend was. Talk about a shocker!

While Gigi and Zayn breaking up might’ve been a shock, we’ve got something even more surprising – the reason behind the adorable couple’s split up.

Exclusively for us, our source, who’s close to both Gigi and Zayn, revealed that the final nail in the coffin for Zigi was Zayn’s reunion with his ex-bandmate Harry Styles. Apparently, this time around it’s more than just brotherly love!

The pair was first photographed at a Grammys after party. Since then, they were spotted together multiple times. A lunch after Harry’s birthday, a few dinners over the past three weeks, them strolling around New York City and Los Angeles, looking very cozy.

While we can’t be sure what’s really going on, some fans are determined the two young popstars are in love. ‘Zarry’, as the pair is often referred to online, is a very popular pairing nowadays. But as many Zarry supporters may be, there’s just as many fans claiming they’re just friends and that Harry’s in a secret relationship with another bandmate – Louis Tomlinson. Which one is more likely to be true? Vote bellow and let us know!

GALLERY:

  

Out and about in Los Angeles, February 20, 2018

 

Out and about in New York City, February 15, 2018

 

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            Harry and Zayn’s friendship/relationship has always worked in mysterious ways. Never quite friends, never quite boyfriends. Ever since the moment they first saw each other, it was different between them. Harry categorized each of the boy pretty quickly. Niall was the funny one, an Irish lad that Harry could always count on to be there when he needed cheering up. Louis was his best friend, in the beginning they were the closest in the band until Harry’s ill-advised crush quite literally ruined it. Liam was the serious one, the person they could all rely on to get them up in the morning to rehearse after a night full of drinking. But Zayn, he was never labelled in Harry’s head, never fit to just one single category.

            Zayn was an enigma. A quiet, shy boy that wasn’t quiet nor shy at all when he got comfortable around you. He didn’t really talk to Harry in the early stages of One Direction and Harry put it down to their clashing personalities. As time went by, Harry’s crush on Louis disappeared and they all got a bit older, Harry started to perceive Zayn in a different way. He noticed how smart Zayn was, always pitching in words that none of them could remember, always reading a book with a deep title, by authors whose quotes people used in academical works. He started to love Zayn’s sense of humour, love the way he talked, the way he sang. Harry also started to see Zayn’s beauty. The slope of his nose, the sharp edges of his jaw, his prominent cheekbones. Not to mention his long, long eyelashes and his eyes, that Harry has got lost in thousands of times. He often found himself wondering how Zayn’s lips would feel on his and it was driving him crazy, the fear of ruining yet another friendship with a bandmate with his stupid teenager hormones.

            It was during the endless hours they spent recording the first album when Harry found that Zayn might like him back and definitely not in a friendly way. It was around that time when pining and wishful looks turned to lingering touches and fleeting kisses. And ever since then, Harry knew they would never be friends.

            They’re not friends now. Zayn might think so, but perhaps he doesn’t know about Harry’s feelings which haven’t gone away and neither got weaker. Harry doesn’t say anything about it. He smiles, laughs, talks but he never says a thing.

            The Great Mystery of Harry and Zayn only gets more complicated when they start to hang out again. To Harry, the reasons behind it are still wrapped in mist. After the lunch for Harry’s birthday, they just started to talk all the time. It wasn’t planned at all. Something about it felt natural, as easy as breathing. Falling into it was as simple as stumbling off a plane that has no doors, or walls for that matter. It’s as if they were just walking down the aisle and suddenly, they were freefalling straight to the ground. Whether they have parachutes or not, it’s still unclear.

            It started with Zayn hesitantly asking “Can I see you again?” and Harry’s heart pounding, his breath catching in his throat as he answered “Yes, of course.”. Then it was exchanging each other’s numbers, trading phones to punch in the digits, to texting every single day. It was one arranged meeting to randomly calling or texting each other, a quick ‘hi r u free tonight? dinner @ my place?’ all that it takes for them to meet up. It was a steady stream of contact, a force neither of them could possibly control.

            Maybe it’s the juxtaposition of it that makes them so consumed by their friendship. In matter of days, they went from nothing to absolutely everything. For years, they didn’t as much as glance at each other, didn’t sent a single birthday or Christmas wish. And almost miraculously, a day doesn’t go by without them at least sending a text to each other. Perhaps that’s the beauty of it, the fascination that keeps them both captivated with keeping in touch.

            Harry feels like a drug addict. One that had gotten over his addiction only to relapse so catastrophically that he could practically see his own end. Harry survived without Zayn. He was quite alright, perhaps already on the path to successfully getting over him once and for all. His rehab lasted three years and Harry did miss Zayn, sometimes felt like screaming his lungs out from the top of a skyscraper or hunting Zayn’s address down to come barging in and dramatically confessing his love. It was a rollercoaster of being broken hearted but Harry managed it just fine. Now he’s had a hit of his favourite drug and he’s not sure he’ll ever be able to let go again.

+

            February 9Th was supposed to be an ordinary day, like any other. Nothing at all would suggest that something memorable or significant should happen that day. Harry woke up, had a quick work out session, went out to get breakfast and coffee, came back home and spent the rest of the day lounging around his place, writing a bit, playing the guitar. He even watched a film which was probably the weirdest part of it.

            It wasn’t until the evening when Harry got a text from Zayn.

            Nothing about it was strange since they texted back and forth quite a bit these days. They had even met up for dinner a few days ago. So, Harry opened it, expecting a funny video or something.

            ‘Hey haz, r u home?’ Harry’s heart immediately started beating quicker in that uncomfortable anxious way where the unknown is both alluring and terrifying.

            ‘Yeah I am, why?’

            The reply came almost immediately. ‘Can I come over? I’ll bring take out?’

            Harry bit his lip, weighing the possibility in his head. Without much thinking, he typed out a response. ‘Of course. Text me when you’re downstairs.’

            The second the text was marked as read, Harry started freaking out. He hid all of the dirty dishes in the dishwasher, too lazy to actually rinse them and start the program. Then he tidied up the living room a bit. It was mostly clean, he just had to take some stray jumpers and hoodies from the backs of the couches and arranged the throw pillows and blankets. And just because one never knows, he continued in his bedroom, where he made the bed and shoved all the dirty laundry to his walk-in closet.

            After finishing it all, Harry was standing in the middle of his now tidy bedroom when he realized how foolish he was. Cleaning his entire flat, including the bedroom, as if he were waiting for his crush to come over and have sex for the first time, and wanted to leave a good impression. He and Zayn hadn’t been together together for a long time. There’s no reason for him to see Harry’s bedroom. God, it’s not like Harry would try to seduce him. Zayn’s dating someone else and while they did use to sneak behind another blonde’s back, it was a completely different scenario. Zayn and Gigi’s relationship started without the gentle nudge of men in suits responsible for their PR, Zayn’s most likely in love with her and while Harry is a quite selfish person, he had never intended to be a homewrecker.

            Before Harry’s phones chimed in with another text from Zayn, Harry had had the time to light a few candles around the living room and also pour himself a glass of red wine, nonchalantly leaving the bottle on the coffee table, another empty glass already waiting along with it.

            When Harry opened the front door to his flat, he found Zayn standing there with take out in one hand and Stitch in the other. Harry really wanted to say something about it since he doesn’t have any pets in his flat, but he didn’t even have a chance to protest because Stitch licked his nose and Zayn smiled at him and yeah, that was all it took.

            “Hope you don’t mind I brought Stitch along,” Zayn explained while walking into the flat and setting the puppy down on the floor. Harry was rather worried about his white carpet but he had to be potty trained, didn’t he? Gigi sure wouldn’t’ve kept an untrained dog in her luxury apartment, as the Americans call it.

            “I was just getting ready to leave the studio when I texted you and then Gigi called me to say that she won’t be home until late tonight. I didn’t want Stitch to be alone and to be honest, I didn’t want to be alone as well. So, here we are,” Zayn continued and handed Harry the bag with take out with a sheepish smile.

            “Your missus isn’t home so you came to my place, huh? Don’t worry, make yourself comfortable at Harry’s Home for Wayward Popstars and Adorable Puppies. No but really, go sit in the living room, I’ll get us some plates and cutlery, maybe? Or chopsticks?” Harry tried his hardest to stay aloof and joke around, but it was hard considering his mind was working tirelessly to keep suggesting scenarios and thoughts Harry didn’t want. Like how domestic this whole thing is or how Harry could see himself do this in the future, preferably forever and every single day. Harry knew it was nothing but wishful thinking and pointless daydreaming.

            “It’s Thai so maybe like both?” Zayn called from the living room. Harry didn’t shout anything back, just took out two plates out of a cabined and two forks and a spoon from a drawer. He came back to the living room only to find Zayn strumming on his guitar, some tune that Harry didn’t recognize and Stitch calmly dozing off under the glass coffee table.

            Harry’s heart did a backflip in his chest at the sight. It hurt, seeing what he could’ve had if Zayn had loved him just a bit more. He cleared his throat to announce his presence. Zayn lifted his head from the guitar and smiled at Harry, which did not help Harry’s heartache at all. Harry set all the things from his arms on the table and sat down on the carpet.

            “Mix-up? Just like old times?” Zayn asked as he slid of the sofa and joined Harry on the carpet. Harry’s breath caught in his throat.

            “Yeah, just like old times,” Harry said. His mind decided to again offer things he didn’t want like memories of them eating take out in hotel rooms, laying out multiple containers between them and eating a bit of everything. How they had shared kisses between bites sometimes, both high on lust and affection but still hungry after a show.

            “You really don’t mind that we came over?” Zayn asked as Harry was pouring them wine.

            “Of course not. I would’ve said no if I didn’t want you here, wouldn’t I?”

            “I mean… yeah. Still, feels like I’m intruding. For all I know you wanted to just chill and be alone for the evening.”

            “No, I didn’t want to be alone,” Harry shook his head softly. Not when I can be with you instead.

            “Me neither,” Zayn sighed and picked up his wine glass. He stared into it, swirling the wine inside as if it would give him answers to all the questions in the world. “I always feel too lonely in New York. Like, there’s no one except Gigi here. LA is where all of my friends are, it’s where my house is as well. I hate not having a garden here. Suppose Stitch does too. It’s really a concrete jungle, isn’t it?”

            Harry didn’t answer, he just continued to poke around his food. The thing was, Harry felt lonely too. Not only in New York, pretty much everywhere except his mum’s house. The main reason for it was him missing one person, a person who had just said he’s lonely too. Maybe we can be lonely together.

            “Yeah, New York gets like that. Always too crowded, everything’s like… on top of each other. Even Central Park feels straitened,” Harry agreed after a moment of silence.

            Then it was Zayn’s turn to remain quiet, pushing his food around with a fork. He seemed tense, kind of restless, like his mind couldn’t quiet down and leave him a moment of peace. Like he was aggressively overthinking something, probably a decision of some sort.

            “How’s your mum? Haven’t seen her in ages,” Harry tried to change the topic. He did manage to get Zayn’s attention, the words making him raise his head up from the food and give Harry a weak attempt at a smile.

            “She’s great, yeah. Talked to her earlier today and she actually told me to say hi to you. So, hi from my mum.”

            “God, I miss her. Mostly her cooking, but you know how I get when mums and grandmas start putting plates in front of me.”

            Zayn went back to pushing his food around, his mind clearly somewhere else. He only chuckled softly, Harry’s words most likely flying right over his head. Harry hated the silence that had fallen over them again, even more because he knew it had nothing to do with them. It had to be something different and Harry was aching to know what thoughts are keeping Zayn so distant.

            “What is it?” Harry asked, hoping he was right at reading Zayn. It had been some time after all but them sitting on the carpet with Thai takeout made it seem like no time had passed at all. Like there were no broken hearts, no phone call that ruined everything. Like they just got off the tour bus after finishing a sold out show in a city whose name they don’t even know and one of the boys could barge in at any moment, demanding they all get together and get high while watching a shitty movie.

            “I want to break up with Gigi.”

            The words completely changed the course of Harry’s day. From ‘almost completely ordinary’ it went to ‘cathartic’. Harry felt a surge of hope he hadn’t felt in ages because although Zayn didn’t love him, not everything was lost. There still was a chance for them, maybe miniscule but it was there, covered by ruins of their relationship and calling out weakly to be found. Zayn wanted to break up with his long-term girlfriend and there he was, telling Harry.

            Maybe he was doing it just as a friend – two mates chatting about their girlfriends and such and maybe not. Zayn might’ve wanted Harry to see through his words, to see into their past and see their old mistakes. And while their past had never been halcyon, it didn’t mean they didn’t have a chance at a future that would be everything they’d ever wished for.

            Harry was being too optimistic perhaps. The idea of having another shot at this whole ‘relationship with Zayn’ thing again, gave him a scintilla of a feeling that it may be more realistic than he had thought just a few days ago. After all, Zayn hadn’t pushed him away, hadn’t thrown all the awful things Harry had said into his face. He had started to spend time with Harry as if they were still in the band, still the best of friends to the outside world. It was different behind the scenes than it used to be, the romantic part of their ‘friendship’ completely gone now. A question popped into Harry’s head that was rather ambitious: For how long though? How long will it take us till we start fucking again? We never lasted long before.

            “Oh, sorry to hear that,” Harry said. He wasn’t really sorry. Maybe he would be after he learns that Zayn is heartbroken over it. Harry never wanted him to be unhappy just for his own sake. He could never be so cruel and selfish.

            “Nah, it’s fine. I’ve felt like it was coming for some time now. You know that feeling when it seems like what you have right now isn’t everything and you know you shouldn’t settle for that?”

            Harry nodded, mainly to keep Zayn talking.

            “I’ve felt like that with Gi for a long time. It’s not that I didn’t love her or something. I just-. It seemed like… what our love was, it wasn’t all there is to love. Like, we got bored after two years of being together. Can you imagine what it would’ve been like after two more years? Just pure shit if you ask me. So, I’d rather end it now, while we still like each other and won’t pull our hair out when the break-up actually happens.”

            Harry nodded again, unsure of what to say. What do you tell your ex-whatever, who you’re still in love with and they tell you they’re planning to break up with their significant other? This wasn’t about Perrie, someone Harry had told Zayn to leave countless times. Harry and Zayn weren’t together anymore, Harry had nearly no hope at all that the end of this relationship could bring a change in his and Zayn’s. So they sat in silence, the sound of their forks hitting plates posing as background noise. Harry nervously drank his wine, tapping his nail on the thin glass. He suddenly felt something soft touching his thigh. When he looked down, he was met with Stitch’s big eyes watching him. Harry was unable to hold off the smile as he began scratching the puppy’s head.

            “Who’s gonna get the custody of this little guy?” Harry asked, finally breaking the silence. He lifted his gaze from Stitch, who looked more than content with his eyes closed and his head leaning into Harry’s fingers, and found Zayn looking at them with a small smile half-hidden behind his wine glass. Harry felt a surge of blood coming to his face, his cheeks most likely turning a deep shade of pink.

            “Don’t know,” Zayn drawled. “I hope I’ll get to keep him. It’d be more logical as well. I’ve got more time than her, even when I’ll go on tour my sisters or parents can take care of him.”

            “What are you gonna do if she wants to keep him? Fight for a shared custody?” Harry asked. Zayn laughed, throwing his head back.

            “No, wouldn’t do that do him. Maybe I’ll just have to kidnap him. Sneak in in the middle of the night and take him away in a fruit basket or something. Be a proper criminal about it.” Zayn’s lips were an obscene shade of red because of the wine and Harry wanted to kiss him. In that moment, he didn’t give a fuck about the consequences, he just desired to have his mouth on Zayn again, taste him and find out if he could still feel the linger of cigarettes and mint on Zayn’s tongue. Harry didn’t care that it would probably end up with them not talking for another three years again, he needed it like oxygen.

            “Good thing about this though is that I can go to LA again. I missed my house.” Harry was snatched away from his daydreaming by Zayn’s voice. And fuck, Zayn was going to LA. Which meant Harry would be left alone in New York. Well, not truly alone but was there even a point in staying somewhere when Zayn wasn’t?

            “Cool. I might be going back to LA soon as well. Got rehearsals for the tour and stuff,” Harry lied. It wasn’t a complete lie, he did have rehearsals. Just not in LA.

            He felt like a complete fool. Was he really considering moving his tour rehearsals to LA just to stay close to Zayn? Yeah. Yeah, he really was.

            About a year ago, Harry had sold his house in LA. Reason? Zayn moved in just a few streets away. After all of that time, after all the things between them, they had found themselves in the same place. As if they had been drawn to the same place like there was some force field specifically for them. Harry remembered being angry about it, being almost fucking hysterical because hadn’t Zayn hated LA? Hadn’t he always complained about it whenever they had stayed at Harry’s house? And then there he was, buying a house not even 15 minutes away from Harry. Naturally, Harry had run away.

            New York wasn’t that bad, not as good as LA but still a great city so Harry had bought a flat there. And it had happened once again. Almost as soon as Harry had moved in, he started seeing pap pics of Zayn in New York online all the fucking time. Harry hadn’t moved that time because he hadn’t really been home. With filming Dunkirk, recording the album, then going on tour, Harry had spent more time in planes than in his New York flat. Before he had the chance to move once again, he and Zayn had collided and Harry never wanted to leave New York again.

            Not until then, when he started considering moving back to LA just because Zayn was doing the complete opposite of what he did years ago. Zayn was running away and Harry was willing to move mountains, everything for them to stay in one and the same city.

            “Haven’t you mentioned going to London for that?” Zayn asked. Harry froze. Fuck Zayn and his attentiveness.

            “Yeah, no I still am, just later. Gonna rehearse a bit with just Mitch, since he’s from LA, to kinda get back into the… performing mood. Tweak around the setlist and stuff.”

            “Oh, okay. Are you excited for it?”

            “Yeah, not as much as the first one, but I’m always excited for a tour. Only now, I kinda wish I had a bit more free time before it started. It feels like the last one just ended and now I’m starting another one.”

            “What made you change your mind about it? You must’ve had a say in that.”

            You changed my mind.

            “Ehm, I wanted to do this one movie… a really good drama that’s definitely gonna be a big hit. But I couldn’t because of this tour, so yeah, I’m kinda bummed.” Harry was starting to get tired of all those half-lies, half-truths. His previous desire to keep himself busy, his mind occupied at all times, was really beginning to bite him in the arse. Why hadn’t some kind of force told him that he would eventually make up with Zayn so he had the chance to build his schedule around it?

            “Sorry to hear that, mate,” Zayn said sincerely. Snitch had moved to his lap, forcing Zayn to abandon his food and focus all of his attention on the dog. He didn’t look unhappy do it, idly scratching Stitch while chatting with Harry.

            “You wanna watch a film or something?” Harry offered, suddenly too tired to lead a proper conversation. Or more so, talk to the person he loves and constantly restrain himself from saying ‘Kiss me.’ or ‘I still love you.’. The wine was probably affecting him more than it should, considering Harry hadn’t had lunch that day.

            “Sure, pick whatever you want,” Zayn said with a smile.

+

            They watched the first Kingsman movie that evening. Harry knew he would cry if they watched a rom-com and he really didn’t feel like watching other people fall in love on screen while the unrequired love of his life was sitting right next to him. It was a smart pick, something neutral, funny, a film they hadn’t seen together before. Zayn laughed, Harry did too, everything was nice and simple. Stitch spent most of it dozing off on the couch between them.

            Zayn left a little before midnight, thanked Harry for letting him and Stitch come over for maybe the 50th time and left Harry alone in his flat with a pounding heart and confusing thoughts. But Harry still felt like that night was a success since he didn’t do anything stupid like try to cuddle or actually listen to his wine-drunk brain and attempt to kiss Zayn, so everything worked out in the end.

            His muddled thoughts weren’t the only problem Harry had to deal with. Because he doesn’t think with his head, not even with his dick, Harry thinks with his stupid heart and somehow, he had decided to go to LA. Where he didn’t have a house. And not only that, he also had to move his rehearsals from London to LA, at least to some extent because he didn’t want to drag everyone somewhere they weren’t necessarily needed.

            He solved almost everything the next day. His accommodation problem was quick fix – all Harry had to do was call Ben Winston and ask him if he could stay at his house for a week or two. Thankfully, Ben agreed without questioning Harry about what did he fuck up this time. Either way, at least he’ll get to see Ruby a bit more. He’s her godfather after all.

            Jeff wasn’t as simple as Ben. He was understandably mad at Harry, complained about Harry’s love life, ‘which is almost non-existent and yet it’s the thing that fucks everything up’, but when he saw how stubborn Harry was about going to LA, he sighed and let Harry come to London a week later. He wasn’t so nice when Harry told him he needed a place to rehearse at in LA, but did he have a choice?

            Not even a week later, Zayn broke up with Gigi. He did it on Valentine’s day after he and Gigi had woken up and both felt like not celebrating the holiday. It had been, to quote Zayn, ‘a walk in a park’ and neither of them had even slightly raised their voices. Stitch stays with Zayn, much to Harry’s pleasure because he’d very much like to see the dog again. Zayn recounted the entire story to Harry the morning after Valentine’s day over breakfast and coffee. He also moved back to LA by the end of the week.

            And that’s why Harry found himself in Ben Winston’s spare bedroom not even two full days after Zayn’s plane had taken off from JFK.

+

            A few days later, Harry’s actually rehearsing. With just Mitch and a few tech guys around, it’s more like hanging out in an empty theatre. Yup, theatre. Jeff really outdid himself this time. He justified it by claiming that Harry needs to rehearse properly if his ‘ass isn’t going to do it with the band, at least do it in some kind of a venue’. So Harry spent the better part of today in a theatre singing a bit, but mostly just hanging around with Mitch, strumming along on their guitars.

            “H, I have to go in a bit,” Mitch says at around three o’clock.

            “Fine, yeah,” Harry nods and pulls out his phone. He feels like staying for a bit, but being here alone has no point really. He texts Zayn, something he finds himself doing more and more each day. It has started to feel natural, intuitive almost. Every time he sees something funny or is bored and feels like going out, Harry texts Zayn. Ben has been making fun of him while also being concerned in the same way Nick has told him ‘you two are gonna bang and then you’ll spend another three years crying over him’. Harry just ignores them. Sure, they’re worried but Harry isn’t and how they feel doesn’t really matter. It’s like Harry’s trying to catch up all the time they’ve lost, cram hours upon hours of time with Zayn into each day. He’s clingy but Zayn hasn’t complained so far so Harry doesn’t see a reason to stop. Why should he? He missed Zayn so much for three long years that his heart was just a ghost of what it used to be. Now he doesn’t have to.

            ‘hiiiii, are you busy? X’

            Harry gives Mitch a half-assed wave when he leaves, too busy scrolling through his Instagram and waiting for a reply. It comes less than two minutes after Mitch leaves.

            ‘omw home maybe? Just leaving griff’s place. Why?’

            ‘come @ the theatre I’m rehearsing at. Mitch just left and I’m alone but I wanna stay a bit longer. ???’

            ‘sounds cool I’ll be there. send me the address?’

            Harry does, while smiling like a teenager who just sent his crush a nude and got one back. He doesn’t understand himself lately. It’s as if he’s been going through a second wave of puberty, only this time without the acne and awkward body and voice changes.

            He spends the time waiting for Zayn laying on the stage with his arm over his head holding his phone. The floor is a bit cold at first and of course uncomfortable but he’s too lazy to actually get up and sit somewhere like a normal human being. So he lays there, phone in his hand, scrolling through Instagram.

            “Seems like you haven’t changed one bit, have you?”

            Zayn’s voice in the empty theatre startles Harry so much he drops his phone straight on his face.

            “Oh, for fuck’s sake!” Harry sits up while rubbing his nose. God, he hopes there won’t be a bruise.

            “Sorry, didn’t mean to do that,” Zayn says as he walks up the stairs on the side of the stage. He isn’t sorry at all. Judging by his smirk, he probably enjoys that Harry’s hurt himself.

            “Yeah, but you don’t mind that my nose is broken?”

            “Stop talking shit, it’s not broken. You would be drowning in blood if it were.”

            “Thanks, now I won’t be able to stop thinking about drowning in my own blood.”

            “Haz, don’t be a pissbaby, I’m really sorry. You’re fine, aren’t you?” Zayn looks at his face with curiosity, probably actually concerned now thanks to Harry’s whinging.

            “No, I’m fine. But if it bruises, I’ll hunt you down.”

            “Looking forward to that,” Zayn chuckles. He’s actually digging this, isn’t he?

            Zayn’s walking around the stage, inspecting the two mic stands and a few guitars left here and there. He slides his long fingers along one microphone, takes it out of the stand and flips in his hand. Without dropping it. Harry’s understandably impressed.

            “So what are we gonna do here?” Zayn says into the mic.

            “Sing, what else would be we doing? Dance? I’d love to see you try,” Harry chuckles and takes the other mic.

            “Nah, you sing, I’ll watch and judge you. All Simon-like,” Zayn says and sits down on the floor, crossing his legs and leaving the mic next to him.

            “Are you gonna give me a yes, sir?”

            “We’ll see about that.”

            Harry just shakes his head with a smile and grabs his printed out setlist from a speaker. He and Mitch did most of the songs earlier, only the covers are left. Harry sees Girl Crush there, The Chain, Can’t Help Falling in Love and another three songs he hasn’t rehearsed yet at all. He looks at Zayn from the corner of his eye and a second is all it takes to take Girl Crush from the list. Why would he be singing that anymore? Every single time he performed it, he did it with Gigi in mind, her long blond hair, supermodel body, and wondered why Zayn chose her over him. Now he doesn’t need to do it. Maybe there will be a different model in the future and Harry will have to bring the song back, or even write something of his own, but for now, he doesn’t have to.

            He goes back to the mic feeling a bit self-conscious about singing acapella in front of Zayn. It’s not that he’s not confident or thinks that his voice isn’t good enough because it is. But he feels exposed, not only his voice but him. Still, doing a cover isn’t as revealing as singing one of his own songs.

            “I’m gonna do acapella, you wanna help me out?” Harry asks when he’s standing behind the mic stand.

            “Nah, you can do it,” Zayn smiles from the ground, cheeky like Harry hasn’t seen ages.

            Harry clears his throat, still pretty undecided what to sing. The Chain doesn’t sound so good when he does it alone, especially without instruments. So, Elvis it is…

            He still has a linger of anxiety in the pit of his stomach. It’s not easy singing when he knows Zayn could stand up and out-sing him without even batting his ridiculously long eyelashes. He always could. Harry remembers acoustic sessions from years and years ago when the four of them were trying their hardest to hit their notes while Zayn just sat back and sang. Harry has to suppress a laugh when a memory of drunk Louis telling Zayn he sang Love on Top better than Beyoncé when they did karaoke drunk out of their mind that one time, pops into his mind. It wasn’t true of course, although considering the amount of alcohol in their bloodstreams, it was a solid attempt, but it was rather funny in the moment.

            “Haz, you don’t have to sing if you don’t wanna. Or are you snogging that microphone?”

            “Shut your mouth and stop being mean. You’re taking your Simon cosplay too seriously.”

            “Are you gonna sign or do I have to call security and have you taken off the stage?” Zayn says in a Simon-like voice. Harry rolls his eyes with a smile and readies himself to actually start singing.

            “This is Can’t Help Falling in Love by Elvis Presley. Enjoy.”

            Harry starts to sing. He manages to keep eye contact with Zayn only until the end of the first line. When he sings ‘only fools rush in’, he’s already looking at the vacant seats. He keeps his eyes on the floor, the ceiling, the balconies, anywhere but Zayn for the rest of the song. He can’t look at him and see Zayn’s face, his expression, how his emotions are conveying on his face. Harry’s strong but not so much that he can stare at the person he loves while singing this song without falling apart. There isn’t a scenario in the entire universe in which he looks into Zayn’s eyes right now and sings ‘for I can’t help falling in love with you’ without crying or breaking his heart all over again. He keeps falling in love with Zayn, even after all these years and he really can’t help it. Those words aren’t his but if Zayn saw his face, they might as well be.

            He experimentally lifts his eyes a bit when he sings the last word. ‘You’. Such a simple word that can mean so much. Harry finds Zayn looking at him, his lips parted and eyes focused but his face says nothing at all. Not a single hint. He’s a blank canvas that isn’t really blank. It’s bare to Harry’s eyes but there’s so much underneath the first layer that conceals everything. Harry would try to scrape it off but by doing so, he’d ruin a masterpiece underneath.

            “So, what’d you think?” Harry asks, finally gaining the courage to fully look at Zayn. He’s just laid himself bare in front of him. Flaying his own skin to the bone and taking his still beating heart into his hands would’ve had the same effect.

            “It was beautiful,” Zayn says without hesitating. “It really fits your voice amazingly. You were lovely.”

            “Thanks.” Harry’s heart pounding as if it should jump out of his chest any second now. He keeps his hands glued to the mic because he’s got a strong feeling that if he took them away, they’d be shaking like they were a month ago when he and Zayn met for the first time in years.

            “D’you wanna sing something together?” Harry asks softly, not wanting to sound like he’s talking to thousands of fans at a concert.

            “Don’t you wanna know what Simon Cowell has to say about your performance?”

            Harry laughs, giving him the sense of ease for gluing himself off the mic stand and walking to Zayn. He sits down, folding his legs into a lotus position.

            “Hey, lad, you didn’t even know if you’ve got a yes or no,” Zayn mocks and bumps Harry’s shoulder with his.

            “Stop this, you fucker. I’m gonna have nightmares!” Harry retorts and bumps Zayn back.

            “Sorry, sorry. It wasn’t that bad, right?” Zayn says through laughter. Harry turns him head to face Zayn and he’s surprised to find how close their faces are. If he focused hard enough, he’d feel Zayn’s breath on his face.

            “No. No, it wasn’t,” Harry whispers. He doesn’t look away or pull back. Instead he finds Zayn’s eyes. He starts to drown in them, his lungs getting filled but Harry doesn’t want to get ashore. They haven’t been this close in years, the distance between them now almost non-existent. Harry senses the warmth of Zayn’s body on his skin and it feels like coming home. He can shift just a bit and their shoulders would be touching, move his hand and he could intertwine their fingers. Instead, he risks everything by leaning in and pressing their lips together.

            The first contact is like touching fire. It almost makes Harry feel lightheaded. The memories of Zayn’s lips on his from ages ago echo in his head, waking up the quick rhythm of his heart, the love that was not really hibernating inside. He nearly sees stars and for a short moment, his chest nearly exploding with fear that Zayn’s going to pull back and slap Harry right across his face. That he’s just thrown any chance at being friends or something more out of the window after lighting it on fire.

            But Zayn doesn’t pull back. He also doesn’t start kissing back right away. Harry tentatively moves his lips rather than pulling away like a schoolboy after his first kiss. Then he finally feels Zayn’s lips move under his and they’re kissing, slow and languid but their mouths are open, their tongues lazily moving against each other and Harry feels like he’s going to burst with everything he’s feeling. After three fucking years, he’s kissing Zayn again and it feels unreal, like a wonderful dream that he will wake up from in mere seconds. So he keeps his eyes closed and blindly finds Zayn’s cheek and cups it, immediately running his thumb over his cheekbones like it was some instinct Harry couldn’t possibly control. Maybe he can’t, maybe Zayn’s integrated in his fucking DNA and Harry just can’t help himself but touch him, love him.

            He feels Zayn’s hand on his chest, somewhere near his collarbone and Harry smiles into the kiss. What he doesn’t expect is Zayn gently pushing him away. Harry pulls back, confused as to why didn’t Zayn put his hand on the back of Harry’s neck or grabbed his shirt or did anything except pushing him away. With his heartbeat rapidly accelerating, he desperately searches Zayn’s face for an answer but all he finds seems to be anguish. Why did he stop?

            “Harry, I’m sorry, we can’t,” Zayn whispers and looks down at his hands.

            “No, no, no. What are you saying? Why? There’s nothing holding us back, absolutely nothing,” Harry says frantically. This can’t be fucking happening. He takes Zayn’s face into his hands; each palm holding one cheek and lifts his head up gently. Zayn still doesn’t look at Harry, instead looking to the side and completely avoiding Harry’s eyes. Harry takes a shaky breath, running his thumbs over Zayn’s cheekbones and trying to somehow let him know how he feels. Put the desperation, love and want into his touch, into his gaze.

            “Zayn, please talk to me. What’s wrong? Why can’t we do this?” Harry’s heart is pounding against his ribcage, beating so hard he can feel it in his throat, his head, the tips of his fingers. Panic starting to take over him. Please, fuck, I can’t lose you now.

            “You’re dating someone, Haz. I won’t let you cheat on someone with me. Just no. You wouldn’t like it if they cheated on you, would you? This is wrong, we can’t do this shit again.”

            Harry lets out a sigh of relief and drops his hands from Zayn’s face, his heart slowing down at last. A raging sea storm finally coming to a still.

            “I’m not dating anyone, love,” Harry says with a small smile. The frantic beating of his heart is replaced by the warm feeling of love he felt just a few moments ago, when their lips were still pressed together and Harry had Zayn’s skin on his again after so many years.

            Zayn stares at him with furrowed brows and confusion clear on his face.

            “What?” he breathes out.

            “There’s only one woman in my life. Her name’s Ruby and she’s the sweetest thing. She’s also turned one a few months ago and is my goddaughter.”

            “I thought you were dating someone. You said- “

            “Yeah, I said that so I wouldn’t sound like a loser while you were gushing about your perfect amazing lovely girlfriend.”

            “Harry, I hate you so much right now,” Zayn sighs, his frown soon shifting into a smile.

            Harry smiles too, unable to control himself because he hasn’t felt this happy in years. Hopefulness that gives him a new feeling of confidence and optimism is nearly glowing around him.

            Hate me all you want, I love you, Harry wants to say. He knows he can’t. It’s too soon, too uncertain. Zayn probably doesn’t love him, Harry saying it now would just spook him up. Harry’s positive about his feelings, has been for a while and nothing will change it. He’ll wait. One day, maybe soon, maybe not, maybe never, he’ll say those three words and he won’t be the only one saying them.

            “Kiss me again?” Harry tries.

            Zayn laughs and he does kiss him. A slow tentative one that Harry’s glad for. He doesn’t want teeth and burning passion right now. Not at all. He welcomes this gentleness because it isn’t a ‘I want to fuck you right now.’ kiss and instead it’s trying to say ‘I missed you.’ and ‘I’m glad to have your lips on mine again after so long.’. This is the echo of them Harry’s been hearing for a month finally materializing and existing in the present time. They’re not a whisper of history anymore, a ghost that’s missing the soul and most of the physical form. No, this is them, present and current, new mixed with old. An unfinished book that’s been laying around for years, waiting for its final chapters to be written. Still, there’s a looming uncertainty about how long it’s going to be. They may be writing the bittersweet epilogue for all they know.

            They stop when their lungs are begging for air but they stay close. Their foreheads touching, noses grazing, their breaths mixing between them. Harry keeps his eyes closed and revels in the moment. It’s the very thing he never thought would happen again but here he is, holding Zayn’s face in his hands with his lips lightly swollen from kissing. The intimacy and pure elation from kissing has Harry’s heart mending back together.

            “I missed you,” Zayn says softly. Harry opens his eyes and pulls back a little. He looks straight into his eyes and instead of saying those words back, Harry kisses him as gently as he can, putting the melancholy of the past years and joy of their reunion into the kiss. Hopefully Zayn’s got the message because they don’t stop kissing nor do they start talking. In the comfortable silence of the theatre, they say things that’s been kept unsaid for too long with their lips, tongues, but not vocal cords. It’s nearly enough then. The tender touches and burning lips communicating for them. They don’t need words to find what they’ve been missing all this time. After all, they’re both touching it.

            “I can’t keep pretending like we’re just friends. Like that’s all we’ve ever been,” Zayn whispers the words into Harry’s cheek after they pull apart, after they exist together in silence for a moment with their cheeks touching. With the lack of Harry’s response, the silence stays. Even without words, it’s the most complete Harry has felt in a long time.

+

            Harry arrives back at Ben’s place a little over an hour later, a smirk on his lips and not a care in the world. He’s so happy he could swim in the happiness and suddenly quite optimistic about the future. That’s what love does to a person, Harry supposes.

            “Honey, I’m home!” Harry yells from the front door. He walks into the living room and finds Ben playing with Ruby on the couch. She’s started babbling now and she makes excited sounds when she spots Harry.

            “How’d the rehearsal go?” Ben asks and gives Ruby a toy she immediately starts biting into. Harry sits down on the couch, his smile only growing larger when Ruby turns away from her dad and smiles at Harry, the toy still half in her mouth.

            “Hello, ladybug,” he coos and offers her his hand, which makes Ruby abandon the toy in a blink and grab onto Harry’s hand instead. They have a little wrestling fight so she doesn’t put it in her mouth. Not that Harry minds, he just doesn’t want to put all of the germs and other nasty stuff into her since he hasn’t washed his hands yet.

            “It was fine,” Harry says, answering Ben’s question at last. Who would have the time to answer boring questions about rehearsing when there’s a Ruby in front of you?

            “Just fine? What’d you do?” Ben inquires further. Harry rolls his eyes and starts to pretend like the plastic giraffe in his hand is walking on the back of the couch. Ruby seems to eat it all up.

            “Yeah, fine. It was just me and Mitch, we played the guitar for a bit, sang most of the songs. Then he had to leave before we did the covers, but I did one acapella.”

            “Alone?”

            “No, Zayn stopped by for an hour or so. God, you’re worse than my mum. Ruby’s your child, not me.”

            “Harry.”

            Harry ignores him. He continues to play with Ruby and she rewards him with adorable laughs and clapping her hands. He tries to make giraffe noises, but he stops when he realizes he doesn’t know what kind of noises giraffes actually make and Ben says his name for the second time. Harry lifts him head with a sigh and sees Ben giving him a rather judgemental look.

            “What?”

            “What’d you two do?”

            “Nothing.”

            “Harry.”

            “It was nothing!”

            “Don’t raise your voice in front of my child. Also, I saw your smug smile the second you walked in. Did you two F-U-C-K?”

            “No, we didn’t, we just kissed. Thanks for being so invested in my love life. Also, don’t swear in front of my godchild, even if it’s spelled out.”

            Ben sags against the sofa and sighs. “Harry, I can’t believe you two are back to doing what you used to. Don’t you remember how that ended?”

            Harry rolls his eyes again and bends down so he’s almost at face level with Ruby. “Your father is terrible. My poor child, he’ll never let you date and find the love of your life!”

            “Can’t you be serious for literally two minutes?”

            “Fine,” Harry grunts. “You wanna know what’s going on? We kissed today for the first time in nearly three years. He snogged the f-heck out of me and that’s all. Promise.”

            “Have you at least talked about it before you latched onto each other’s mouths like leeches? Like, your past and what are you now?”

            Harry clears his throat and looks away from Ben. “No.”

            “Harry- “

            “I know! I know, alright? We’ll talk. Don’t worry about it.”

            “Everyone worries when it’s you two, H.”

            Harry sighs and smooths Ruby’s hair. “I know.”

Chapter Text

EXCLUSIVE: New Couple Alert? Harry Styles and Zayn Malik spotted walking hand in hand!

BY LINDA Niel @LEndai

POSTED ON March 3rd, 2018 AT 1:38PM EST

            Do we see a new adorable couple walking around Hollywood? We think so!

            A rather shocking relationship, but we’re eager to see how it plays out! It has been over a month since our two favourite popstars and ex-One Direction bandmates were spotted together for the first time in three years. If you follow our website, you already know the pair has been inseparable ever since. Hanging around Manhattan together, then coming back to LA at the same time to now attending industry parties together.

            The two lovebirds were photographed last night arriving to a party in West Hollywood, their hands snugly fit together. They were almost mobbed by paparazzi and fans waiting outside the club, but no worries, the pair made it out alive.

            Our insider tells us how adorable they were at the party: ‘They spent most of the time together, talking to people and such. Then they separated for a while but before the party had ended, they had a drink together, just the two of them. Of course, they left together holding hands. It was really cute.’

            What will this mean for the rest of their bandmates and their dedicated fans? None of the boys have commented on this, neither have Harry and Zayn so the relationship still remains unconfirmed.

            We’re all curious about what brought them together again and when this beautiful romance started. Is it a new thing? Has it been going on for years? We’re eager to find out!

            Check out the gallery bellow and don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter!

               


 

            The universe is working against him, Harry decides. Just when he feels happy at last, content with his personal life (if he overlooks the small detail of the guesswork that is his and Zayn’s relationship), he has to leave it behind. It has been a little over a month since he and Zayn started talking again, something around two weeks since the snogging appeared and that has not been enough in the slightest. The new routine is ideal – get up, work out, play with Ruby, rehearse for the tour, hang out with Zayn, sleep, repeat. And while he knows this couldn’t go on for a long period of time since he’d miss working and doing stuff, he would very much like to keep it precisely like it is for at least one more month.

            That is what he complains about to Nick, his face staring at him from a laptop screen while Ruby sits on Harry’s lap and plays with his necklaces.

            “Harold, you’re literally the spoilest brat I’ve ever met,” Nick laments and takes a bite off his sandwich. Ruby lets out an excited wail, maybe at Nick, maybe just because.

            “That isn’t even a real adjective, Nick,” Harry scoffs and shifts Ruby so she doesn’t fall off his lap. She still seems pretty captivated by Harry’s necklaces, tugging at them, trying to chew on them. The movement is probably going to chafe his skin, but what wouldn’t he do for a child’s joy?

            “It is when it concerns you,” Nick argues. “Besides, what’s going on between you two? Are you really just hanging out? Seems impossible if you ask me.”

            “No, we’re not just hanging out. We’re not fifteen. Although I did do much more sexual stuff at fifteen than I do now.”

            “That is just tragic. Have you at least sucked his dick yet?” Nick asks offhandedly, shuffling through some papers on his desk, as if he were asking what’s the weather like in LA.

            Harry covers Ruby’s ears with a gasp. She barely even registers it, being too busy chewing on the lapels of Harry’s shirt and babbling nonsense.

            “Nick! There’s a child present! At least spell it out, for god’s sake.”

            “She doesn’t know what it means anyway!” Nick cries. Harry rolls his eyes and scoffs.

            “No, only the next thing you know, she’s shouting out D-I-C-K around the house. She’s very impressionable at this age, she’ll repeat anything she hears.”

            “Why is she even with you right now?”

            “Well, her parents deserve some free time too. They don’t really trust babysitters, so it’s a good thing I’m staying at their place for now. And we’re doing great, aren’t we ladybug?” Harry coos at Ruby, who rewards him with a grin and shouted “Hawwy!”

            “See? She can even say my name.”

            “You’re a good mother, Harry Styles. But enough of that, before you start talking about diapers and bibs. I want the gossip on your lover.”

            “There’s nothing to gossip about, we haven’t slept together yet. Well, we have just not in the recent weeks or more like, years,” Harry admits rather reluctantly. He knows Nick will make fun of him, as it’s such a Nick thing to do – make jokes about something that isn’t funny at all.

            “Weird. Very, very weird,” Nick mumbles. “Don’t forget to get your arsehole bleached, love.”

            “Nick!”

            “Fine, alright, you don’t have to. But don’t you dare say I never give you any good advice. Are you at least proper boyfriends?”

            “I’m disconnecting this call, you’re being rude and inappropriate in front of Ruby. Goodbye, Nick.”

            “Wait, Harold! You haven’t answered my question!” he shouts before the Skype window makes a ‘ding’ and Nick’s face disappears. Harry sighs and stands up, holding Ruby on his hip. Harry didn’t answer because how can he answer a question he doesn’t know the answer to? Besides, Nick has not helped him at all. He should’ve called his mum, she always knows what to say. The Skype call was just wasted twenty minutes that he could’ve spent doing something useful with Ruby or simply reading a book. There’s no one in the whole world who can waste his time as efficiently as Nick.

            “We should put you to bed, ladybug. Do you wanna sleep yet?” Harry looks at Ruby, who’s staring up at his with a clammy smile and big, big eyes.

            “Dick!” she shouts. Harry suddenly has a solid urge to throw himself off of a cliff.

+

            They haven’t talked about it yet. Not a thing about their past has been mentioned, everything still kept securely in a big overflowing chest with a sign ‘DO NOT OPEN’. Harry puts it down to the opportunity for having a serious talk not being presented so far. The thought is always itching at the back of his mind, nagging him and reminding Harry of its presence. He’s wanted to try and initiate the conversation but always decided not to at the last moment. Harry never feels like ruining a nice lunch, a romantic dinner or a hot snogging session with being serious about stuff. He could ruin everything with just a few simple words and even if this… thing between him and Zayn doesn’t last, Harry wants to keep him as long as he can.

            Their entire romantic reconciliation has been seasoned by something that absolutely isn’t them. It’s like putting oregano in chocolate cake – it doesn’t fit, no matter that the dessert has all other correct ingredients. More than anything, the whole thing feels like there’s something missing. Something vital like basil in basil pesto or a cliché love declaration in a rom-com.

            In the nearly two weeks they have been constantly kissing and for the first time in their lives, going on proper dates, but they haven’t fucked. While Harry knows that sex isn’t the most important part of a relationship – it’s communication, of course – it feels oddly strange, since he and Zayn have always been better at the sex part than the communication one. Harry doesn’t hate it though, quite the opposite. He finds it selcouth – unfamiliar and yet astounding. He’s found joy in just kissing, savouring the feel of Zayn’s lips on his, their tongues exploring each other’s mouths. They’re in the middle of a lengthy process of rediscovery. With each kiss, each touch, they’re bringing back the knowledge from a time they’ve both pushed to the backs of their heads. But in the end, it’s a wonderful mixture of old and new. For instance, Harry’s in love how Zayn’s body feels under his hands now, no longer bony and sharp but strong, with new muscles Harry worships with his lips, makes a map of them in his mind.

            Harry treasures each moment they spend together, talk or no talk, because he doesn’t know how long it will last, how long till he won’t be waking up to a string of texts Zayn sent him at 4AM, pics of Stitch and random snippets of his songs. For all he knows, they can be back to pretending they’re strangers in just a few more months. So he doesn’t say anything every time the words are basically hanging off the tip of his tongue. He swallows them, pushes them to a forgotten part of his mind and kisses Zayn for the millionth time because he could never possibly get tired of it.

+

            It’s the day before Harry has to leave for tour that some of those somber words slip past his lips into the ether and most importantly, into Zayn’s ears. They’re lying on the couch in Zayn’s living room, the fireplace lit even though it’s warm enough outside that the floor-length doors leading to his backyard are open, fresh breeze slipping in and making the flames flicker. Harry’s got his head on Zayn’s thigh, doing nothing but staring at Zayn’s face. How unfair it is that he’s beautiful even from this god-awful angle?

            Zayn’s smoking a blunt, blowing the smoke up towards the ceiling, doing nothing at all as well besides puffing on the joint, smiling down at Harry between drags and occasionally caressing Harry’s face like he couldn’t believe he’s actually real. Soft, mellow music is playing from the record player in the corner which is supported by the noises of nightly outside. It’s perfect, doing absolutely nothing with Zayn, just wasting time and being together wrapped in comfortable silence. Harry would live in this moment forever if he could.

            Unfortunately, the reality’s much different and perhaps uglier. There’s a tour he has to go to in less than 16 hours, hotel beds that will be cold and desolate. Tabloids that have been anatomizing every single photo of him and Zayn, creating theories about what’s going on behind the scenes, why won’t the two of them say anything about it. And of course, fans, that are going crazy either with excitement or scepticism. Harry can already see the ‘LARRY IS REAL’ signs his audience will be littered with and hear girls scream ‘Louis’ during From the Dining Table. Those girls couldn’t be further away from the truth. On top of all that, there’s his mum, Nick, and a dozen of other people that are worried Harry’s going to end up in pieces again, with his heart broken and eyes perpetually puffy from crying.

            Harry himself is unsure what they are. Are they just friends, messing around? Is it something deeper? Can they do this for real this time around? So Harry finally says those words that have been tormenting him because the ambiguity of their relationship is killing him. Because he wants to know if Zayn will be waiting for him after they both finish touring, when there will be months of free time. Harry wants to know if he’ll be alone again, flying from city to city, trying to fit in crevices of different families and friend groups, or if he’ll have someone he loves to share a bed with, kiss, fuck, trust. Just to spend time with, all the other motives in the long scheme of life forgotten, and have a solid place to come back to, a home.

            “What are we doing, Zayn?” Harry asks, his voice a stark distinction in the middle of soft sounds of music.

            Zayn looks down at him, a small smile on his lips and he puts his hand on Harry’s cheek, caressing his jawline, his cheekbone. Harry closes his eyes for a few seconds, savouring what may be the last moments of emotion between them. He indulges himself, staying like that and committing Zayn’s touch into his memory so he never, ever forgets it. Not even when he’s all old and wrinkly, and he barely remembers his own name.

            “Do we have to be doing anything?” Zayn mumbles and with that, Harry opens his eyes. He’s still smiling at Harry, no malice or resentment in his gaze. He’s oblivious to what he just did, with a few simple words. Harry smiles wistfully, gives Zayn’s hand a single squeeze and he gets up.

            “Where are you going, Haz?” Zayn wonders, a puzzled look on his face.

            Harry takes a deep breath, ignores the stinging at the corners of his eyes, the burn of his throat and forces out another smile. “Just outside for a moment. I’ll be back.”

            He sits on a wooden bench in Zayn’s backyard, the seat uncomfortable on his arse due to the lack of cushions, and he cries. He doesn’t sob in fear of being too loud and Zayn going outside to investigate the noises, merely lets the salty hot tears stream over his face freely, making their way to his neck, even the neckline of his t-shirt. Harry sits there and cries, his heart aching and shattering all over again, just like he knew it would in the end. He feels as if a heavy cloak has been draped over his shoulders, heavy with his heartbreak and disappointment. Sitting on his shattered heart is a weight that reminds him of how foolish he was, thinking this could work like he wanted it to.

            What else did he expect? Zayn never loved him, never wanted to have a proper relationship with Harry, no matter what kind of bullshit Harry made himself believe. It has always been like this, the two of them fucking and kissing when no one else could see. Their relationship has always been a snow globe with paper thin glass that’s painted with thick black. The inside was beautiful, a bubble in which there were just them without any pretence and expectations. Harmonic, almost ideal. Then there was the outside and a seeming fortress that kept everyone from breaking in but was frail itself, shattering into million pieces and destroying what was inside. Harry’s heart may say whatever it wants, Harry can love Zayn all he wants – it’s not enough to change it.

            Now he just has to decide what to do. Should he continue in this little charade, knowing they won’t ever be anything more than illicit lovers, if you can call them that, without a chance at a proper relationship? Or should he end it, think about his poor scarred heart and general well-being and let Zayn find another blonde girl to fall in love with? Harry’s definitely a masochist by now. He was warned many times about how he and Zayn would end. All of those warning turned out to be true. Maybe not in the extent they were meant, since everyone thought Harry would be just as big of a mess as he was when Zayn left. Now he’d be the one leaving, with a broken heart but still less crushed that the first time.

            “Haz?” Zayn’s voice interrupts Harry’s thinking. Harry has never wanted him to leave more than in this moment.

            He doesn’t answer and Zayn comes to Harry, sitting down on the bench next to him but putting enough distance between them so they don’t touch at all. Zayn must’ve seen Harry’s tears but doesn’t comment on them.

            “What happened, Haz?” Zayn asks, seemingly oblivious. Harry chuckles bitterly through his silent tears.

            “I’m a fucking fool, that’s what happened.”

            “Why?”

            Harry scoffs this time. Why? Maybe because I’m in love with you and you still don’t give a fuck about us. He doesn’t say it though. He stays silent, tears still streaming down his face in tiny waterfalls.

            “Haz, please, talk to me,” Zayn pleads, his voice urgent. Usually he would touch Harry, grab his hand and draw eights on the back of it, wrap his arms around Harry and hold him close to his chest. He doesn’t do it now and Harry’s thankful.

            After another excruciating moment of quiet, Harry decides it’s finally the time for him to tell the truth. What bad or good could it do? At least he won’t regret it, beat himself up for staying silent when he wanted to say so many things he’s been saving for years.

            “I’m in love with you, Zayn,” Harry breathes out, “I can’t believe how blind you were to that, but it’s true. I’ve loved you for so fucking long that I can’t even remember how not being in love with you feels like. And I know you never loved me, or alright, I’ll give you some credit, never loved me enough. I’ve always been a fucking fool for you, always too greedy for your touch and your attention. Then you left me. I was a fucking mess for three years and that’s why I have to leave you now. Because I still love you with all of my heart and you don’t. And- and I need to… I can’t go through that again.”

            Harry is crying even harder when he finishes talking, his face drowned in tears and his nose stuffed. There’s agonizing silence around them, beating them with whips of it. Harry can hear his own ragged breathing and Zayn’s calm one. He also wants to run away, hide somewhere for months and let all the anguish out, let his heart finally rest. Wallow in the self-pity and try to put himself back together for the second time, maybe this time for good.

            “What made you think I never loved you?” Zayn shocks Harry with the question. Harry looks at Zayn for the first time since he went outside and finds that after all, Zayn isn’t calm at all and there are similar streams of tears shining on his cheekbones. His heart cracks at the sight. The last time they sat like this, both sobbing and their hearts aching, thousands of miles were between them. A phone call nearly three years ago that caused so much pain. Harry didn’t see Zayn’s face then, couldn’t possibly know if it hurt him as much as it did himself. This time they’re right next to each other and perhaps, Zayn’s feelings aren’t as miniscule as Harry thought after all.

            Harry opens his mouth a few times, promptly closing them like a fish on shore, before he can gather some words together that make sense. “I- uh, you never wanted to be with me in like, a normal relationship. You spent more time with me than any of your girlfriends, told me you supposedly loved me and yet we never did what regular couples do.”

            “We weren’t allowed to, Harry.”

            “We would’ve found a way,” Harry snarls.

            “But we did!” Zayn cries and shakes his head in disbelief, tears still glistening on his cheeks. “All of those times we ran away and did stuff at night? How we always left the boys in tour buses and got hotel rooms? How we spent most of our breaks together, just the two of us, instead of seeing our families? Wasn’t that enough for you? You know that we couldn’t’ve just walked down a street hand in hand, so why are you bringing that up?”

            “I wanted more,” Harry whispers, suddenly feeling like a child throwing a temper tantrum. It doesn’t stop him from being stubborn, spitting out more aggressive words, starting a fight, he isn’t even sure won’t tear his heart into ribbons. “What about after you left, huh? You left me and stayed with Perrie, who you supposedly never loved but still wanted to marry for some reason that is to this day unknown to me. I guess you yourself have no idea what the fuck were you doing with her. Why didn’t you call me when you left her at least?”

            Zayn looks at him all wide-eyed and Harry sees the anger showing up on his face.

            “Phones work both ways, Harry! And I wasn’t the one who changed my fucking phone number!”

            “You could’ve fucking asked Liam for it! He had it and I know you talked to him. Besides, you didn’t answer my question. Why did you want to marry her and why didn’t you want to talk to me after you left her if you say you loved me?”

            “Fucking hell, Harry, I don’t know! You’re right, I didn’t know why I was doing half the shit I did at that time. But I clearly remember telling you that I didn’t want to leave her to prevent fucking up my life even more. Like, public and personal life. That’s why we didn’t stay together after I had left, not because I loved her and wanted to spent the rest of my life with her. You were never just a… I don’t know, a side piece or a distraction on tour for me. Never. Not even in the very beginning. Did you also forget that the last words I said to you were ‘I love you’? ‘I love you’ not ‘I love Perrie, goodbye, have a nice life’. Maybe that could’ve served as a hint whether or not I wanted to talk to you. But apparently, you decided I never loved you. Just like that.”

            “God, what else was I supposed to think?” Harry groans. “You left the band, left me and you were happily running around London with her! And then, you leave her and get with Gigi at the speed of light. You moved on so fast. Like you didn’t give a single thought to the possibility of us being together again. There was a hiatus coming, we could’ve been together and well away from the band.”

            Zayn chuckles bitterly, shaking his head and wiping the tears from his cheeks. He looks away from Harry for a moment, silent, his emotions guarded by a carefully secured wall.

            “And how was I supposed to know that, hm? And perhaps I wanted to get over my ex that was spewing shit about me in interviews, maybe that’s why I started dating Gigi,” Zayn says with way more hostility than needed. Harry’s breath gets lost somewhere in his lungs, his heart missing a beat.

            “Well, I’m sorry that you broke my heart and I was bitter!” Harry argues despite knowing it was wrong to say those things to the whole world.

            Zayn sighs, hides his face with his hands for a moment and ignores Harry’s retort. Harry fears that this is it, that Zayn will leave and they won’t talk again for years. His blood turns to ice with the realization that he’s most likely fucked everything up. He knows he’ll never get a chance like this again.

            “Let’s stop fighting and talk, please. This will lead to nothing, Harry,” Zayn says softly after he looks at Harry again. Harry’s entire body relaxes.

            “Fine, let’s talk,” Harry sighs, more in relief that exasperation.

            “Great. Why’d you leave the living room? And why do you want to leave me?”

            “Isn’t it obvious?” Harry scoffs. “I asked you what were we doing and you ask if we have to be doing anything? Like, c’mon. This obviously means nothing to you.”

            Zayn laughs softly, this time not bitterly but with actual amusement. Harry’s understandably bewildered.

            “God, Haz, I didn’t mean it like that. I didn’t think you meant those words as ‘Are we dating, Zayn? and not ‘Why are we lying on the couch doing nothing?’. So please, reconsider that thought about leaving me,” Zayn smiles at Harry sweetly. Harry blinks a few times, willing his brain to take all the words in.

            “Are you taking the fucking piss?”

            Zayn laughs again, throws his head back and while still laughing, shakes his head.

            “Haz, I swear to God I didn’t mean it like that. What we’ve been doing since we met again… it means so much to me. Like, I can’t believe this is actually real. And I love you, still love you. So if that’s the only reason why you wanted to leave, please don’t. I’m not above begging at this point.”

            “Why haven’t we fucked yet?” Harry blurts out. Fuck. He almost hits himself on the forehead because Zayn has just said he loves Harry, and what does Harry do? Say something incredibly stupid. The thought has been pestering his mind for days and of course his brain-to-mouth filter decides this is the best time for not working.

            But Zayn just chuckles and looks at Harry with a smile. “Because I love you. I didn’t want you to think that we’re just fucking around. So I just kept kissing you. Anything was enough as long as you were still talking to me.”

            Harry’s eyes splur tears again, this time from pure happiness. His mind is too muddled by new information and a headache coming in from crying to actually process everything. He’s just sure of one thing – Zayn loves him. He’s said it multiple times and Harry will make him say it thousands of more times because he’s not letting go anytime soon, preferably never. So instead of talking any more, Harry grabs the back of Zayn’s neck and brings their lips together.

            They kiss with a new purpose, at least Harry does. Previously, Harry tried to not give everything into the kiss, give all of himself. Each and every time, he held something back. Now he doesn’t have to. The fear he had just hours ago seems distant now, like an old memory that appears to be sepia coloured, more of a fragment than a full image. He lets his hands roam all over Zayn’s body – clutching at his neck, his face, gripping his waist. He savours every second and every little thing about this, every flick of a tongue, every touch and every moan. This is what Harry’s wanted all along – knowing they don’t have to pretend once they’re not behind closed door. Let their love be free, untethered.

            “Are we doing this then? For real this time?” Harry asks after they pull away from each other, his voice small and wary. This is a huge thing to ask, words he never asked Zayn before despite wanting to hundreds of times.

            Zayn nods, his hand splayed on Harry’s cheek, eyes going up from watching Harry’s lips to meet his gaze. “If you’ll have me after all this time.”

            “I don’t want anyone but you,” Harry whispers. “Do you really want me? Long-term and everything?”

            “Of course. It’s you, Haz. It’s always been you.”

            “I’m really clingy,” Harry drawls, a lazy smile on his lips. The veil of dread around him has finally fallen off and a surge of happiness replaced it. He doesn’t even care that he has to leave in the morning. The tour will end one day and then they will be able to hole up at Zayn’s house and not do anything useful for weeks.

            “I’m quite aware of that and I don’t care,” Zayn punctuates it with a kiss on the corner of Harry’s lips.

            “Okay, so you don’t care that I will be literally the most annoying boyfriend in the universe?” Harry mumbles between kisses. Zayn just hums something that vaguely sounds like ‘no’.

            “I will be like ‘my boyfriend this, my boyfriend that’ all the time, you don’t mind, love?”

            “Not at all, babe,” Zayn smiles, caressing Harry’s cheek.

            Harry hates to ruin the moment, but there’s a part of their lives that most couples never have to deal with.

            “Is it going to be just between us or out there for everyone to see?” Harry asks. He feels like a fool asking this, worrying about whether they’re going to be hiding or holding hands on red carpet. But being who they are, their lives can sometimes resemble something straight out of the Victorian times when they’d lock you up for being with a man or having depression.

            “We’re not hiding this time, Haz. Not after all this fucking time. If we want to do it, then we will,” Zayn says without hesitation and Harry’s face splits into a wide smile. The uncertainly dissipates and Harry knows he can finally enjoy this to its true extent.

            “Are you serious?”

            “Of course, I am. We aren’t kids in a boyband anymore. And didn’t you notice that last week we held hands while arriving at that party Jeff’s dad was throwing?”

            “I mean, yeah. But that could’ve been just like… mates thing.”

            “Yeah, mates certainly don’t do this,” Zayn shuts him up with a kiss, gently coaxing Harry’s mouth open and slipping his tongue in, but Harry pulls back after a few seconds, having something better in mind.

            “How about,” Harry mumbles, placing a small kiss on the corner of Zayn’s mouth. He just can’t help himself. Zayn’s right here, all lush lips and wandering hands. After so fucking long, so much time spent apart and so much fucking heartbreak, Harry can kiss him all he wants without fearing all of this will end before he has a chance to fully take it in. “We move this to your bedroom, hm?” Harry continues, still emphasizing every other word with a kiss. Zayn smiles into it, their teeth clashing together but it’s not unpleasant.

            “Yeah?”

            Harry just hums, nodding his head slightly.

            “C’mon then, babe,” Zayn stands up and holds his hand out for Harry. With intertwined hands, they walk across the house, down the dark hallway to Zayn’s bedroom. Harry has never actually seen it before. He’s seen the studio and all the other rooms, just not the bedroom. It’s quite a surprise to see that Zayn’s bedroom is a complete opposite to his studio. While the other room is messy, with every wall covered in posters, stickers and all kinds of stuff, his bedroom is a poster child for minimalism. A huge bed with rumpled duvet, two simple nightstands, one cluttered with stuff, a guitar in the corner, a TV on the wall and that’s it. There are two closed doors, presumably leading to the en-suite bathroom and walk-in closet.

            Harry lets go of Zayn’s hand, walking into the middle of the room and just simply looking around. It’s so empty, barren – it almost feels wrong. He can’t help himself but think how he could make this place look more like home, a place where you like spending time and feel cozy. Firstly, replace the chunky blinds with curtains, so the room looks softer and more like a bedroom, not a hospital room. Then maybe put a dresser bellow the TV, place some flowers on it, a plant, some picture frames. As it may be, Harry thinks he’ll have a chance to do it soon. Their relationship, creating a home, a life together isn’t just a wishful thought anymore. No longer a dream Harry would lust after. It’s becoming more and more concrete and present with each second as Harry takes it all in. He’s not asleep, bundled in silky sheets with his eyes twitching behind his eyelids, his minds just visualizing his deepest desires. He’s also not here just for one night, the two of them colliding in a surge of passion and lust what won’t last when the sun is over the horizon. While Harry does have to leave in the morning, it’s not out of his own volition or because he’s scared that at breakfast, he and Zayn will be back to ‘mates’.

            “Your bedroom’s so empty,” Harry remarks.

            “Not when you’re here. ‘S all I need so it’s no longer empty. Couldn’t possibly be,” Zayn says quietly, as if he were scared his voice would disrupt the entire room. Harry’s heart freezes for a moment in a delightful way. It doesn’t howl with pain like it used to for ages but rather shrieks with the frenzy of alleviation, joy and love.

            “I love you,” Harry divulges. “Why does it feel so strange, saying it after so long?”

            “Don’t know. But it kinda feels right? Like, all of this is surreal, being with you again and being able to just be together without hiding and stuff, but it just seems like this is what we’ve been lurching towards all this time, just rolling down a huge hill and this is what has been waiting at the end.”

            “How are you so poetic even when we’re about to fuck?”

            “You’re worthy of poetry, babe,” Zayn smiles and finally puts his hands on Harry again, coming close to him and wrapping his arms around Harry’s waist.

            “I feel like a heroine from like an… 18th century book or something. Have you written me a sonnet yet?” Harry punctuates the question with a feathery light kiss on Zayn’s lips.

            “Of course, I have. Now stop talking and get those clothes off,” Zayn murmurs while already unbuttoning Harry’s shirt and honestly, who is Harry to complain about that? They undress while sharing short kisses, too impatient to spend time on something they’ve been doing more than enough of these past weeks. Harry takes in Zayn’s body hungrily, eyeing his new tattoos, those Harry doesn’t know the meanings to, those that don’t have a counterpart on Harry’s own body. It isn’t a surprise that Zayn still looks as beautiful as ever, all broad shoulders and thin hips. Harry already knows he will have an incredibly hard time leaving the bed next morning.

            “Fuck, you look so good, Haz,” Zayn curses when they finally get to bed. Harry just chuckles, his eyes closed, one hand knotted in Zayn’s hair as he makes his way down Harry’s body, leaving hot kisses and bites all over the skin.

            “Don’t be gentle, baby. Want to feel you, feel it even tomorrow when I’m thousands of miles away from you. Be reminded you were with me tonight,” Harry rambles.

            “I missed you so much,” Zayn breathes out, his voice merely a whisper. “What do you want babe?”

            “Make love to me,” Harry says without hesitation.

            So much time has passed since the last time when were together like this. Lonely years when Harry could barely fuck other people without thinking of Zayn. He missed him so much, always craved to have his hands, lips on his skin again. The memory of their last time didn’t help it at all. It was in some hotel room in some Asian country, Harry doesn’t even remember, everything was so fast it blurred into one big mess - they could’ve been in Australia for all he knows. They were too tired, spent and exhausted after a show, fed up with having to do the same thing over and over again without stopping for more than one day. Harry doesn’t even remember it all too clearly, he just knows how empty and hollow he felt. No matter how long they kissed, it couldn’t stir up the same amount of excitement it usually did. It wasn’t that they fell out of love because what Harry does remember clearly is how he woke up at five in the morning, sweaty and shaking after a nightmare of some kind and he spent half an hour just watching Zayn sleep. Harry felt the love for him overflowing in his chest and he didn’t have the heart to wake him up, not when he finally looked peaceful, with sunlight lightly kissing his skin and his chest rising and falling calmly.

            Many months after Zayn had left, Harry reflected on that night, still angry and sad because Zayn left him. That was when he realized he had wanted to do anything he could to spend every single night like that with Zayn, not only with him, he wanted Zayn to be as calm as he was then, with early sunshine lighting up his face. That was the moment most of the resentment finally left the dark cloud hanging over Harry because he realized that now, Zayn gets to be calm like that every single night. Even if it wasn’t with Harry.

            It’s different now. They can both be happy – together. No longer on that crazy carousel that was the band. They don’t have to be quiet, hiding behind a locked door or spend the night in a different country each day. Harry never thought it’d be possible – be happy and be with Zayn. And yet here he is, lying in Zayn’s bed with a reasonable tour lined up and Zayn kissing his inner thigh just like he used to when they were both a little uncertain about the meaning of their ‘I love you’s.

+

            Harry wakes up in the morning to the obnoxious sound of Marimba blaring from his phone. He reluctantly opens his eyes, only to close them right away because of the annoying sun that’s trying to burn out his eyeballs. Fuck, this room really needs some curtains.

            His head is snuggly pillowed on Zayn’s chest and he doesn’t want to move, not now, not ever. Only the fucking alarm’s blaring like a damn ambulance so he lifts himself up, his entire body aching, and somehow manages to grab his jeans off the floor without having to leave the bed. He turns it off and throws the phone along with his jeans back on the floor. It’s already six and he’s most likely to miss his plane if he continues to longue in bed, but honestly, he couldn’t care less. That’s why he lays his head on Zayn again, throwing a leg between Zayn’s and enjoys the last moment of quiet he’ll have for a long time. If only it weren’t interrupted by that bloody phone.

            “Morning, babe,” Zayn mumbles, startling Harry a bit.

            “Thought you were asleep,” Harry rasps, his voice ruined after sleeping and also last night. He places a small kiss near Zayn’s nipple, just because his skin is right there and he can, so who’s gonna stop him?

            “With that alarm? And you kicking my shin about eight times? Not a chance.”

            “Sorry,” Harry lies. He would’ve woken him up anyway when he was about to leave.

            “It’s fine. I wouldn’t want you to leave without seeing you first and kissing you goodbye.”

            Harry lifts his head up and smiles at him. “How about a bit more than a kiss? I’m going to be gone for an awfully long time.”

            Zayn playfully rolls his eyes. “You’re gonna be the death of me. And you’re gonna miss your plane.”

            Harry pouts and bites Zayn’s peck. Zayn yelps and starts laughing. “I’ll come see you, baby. No need to start getting aggressive.”

            “That’s what I thought,” Harry smirks, resting his chin on Zayn’s chest. “I’m gonna miss you so much. Just when I get you back, I have to leave you. This is bollocks.”

            “I’ll miss you too,” Zayn sighs and pushes Harry’s hair out of his eyes. “It’s just for a few months. We’ll meet a few times and before you know it, we’re gonna be home again.”

            “Still,” Harry mumbles. Zayn just gives him a sad smile, still playing with the longer strands of Harry’s hair.

            “I miss your long curly locks. Who’s cutting your hair this short?” Zayn frowns. Harry laughs, shifting a bit and resting his chin on his hand.

            “Didn’t you always use to complain about waking up with a mouthful of my hair?”

            “Sure, but I could always pull it and play with it. Also, you were so cute with long hair.”

            “Cute?” Harry cackles. He tries not to think of Zayn mentioning pulling his hair because it won’t help his morning wood situation at all and then he will seriously miss his plane.

            “Well, yeah. Cute, adorable, lovely. But it doesn’t really matter, you’re always beautiful,” Zayn smiles at him and Harry’s breath gets lost somewhere. He continues to gently tug at Harry’s hair but his eyes are set on Harry’s face, full of love and fondness. Harry’s most likely smiling dumbly at Zayn, not that he’s sure of what kind of an expression his face is actually making since he feels like he’s going to melt under Zayn’s gaze.

            “I’m so in love with you,” Harry whispers because he couldn’t think about anything else, the strong feeling of tenderness and fucking adoration overpowering all of his other thoughts.

            “Me too, baby. Fuck, I’ll miss you,” Zayn complains and Harry just smiles and finally places a small kiss on his lips.

            “See what I meant?” Harry whispers with their lips grazing each other. Zayn nods and pulls Harry in for another kiss, tempting his mouth open with his tongue, morning breath be damned, they’ve kissed like this hundreds of times. After a few minutes of lazy kissing, Harry pulls back despite it being the last thing he wants to do, because after all, he still has a plane to catch.

            “I’ll call you every single day,” Harry proclaims, kissing Zayn lightly. “Also text you all the time. And you’re not allowed to complain.”

            Zayn chuckles and kissed him three more times before talking again. “Don’t forget facetiming and Skype calls.”

            Harry just nods, returning his attention to Zayn’s lips. He doesn’t want to leave and it’s obvious in the way he’s holding Zayn’s face with one hand, kissing him just one more time, then just once more again and again. He finally pulls back for good with a whine and lays his head on Zayn’s chest for a few seconds before forcefully getting out of bed, because he knows if he stays in for thirty more seconds, he’s gonna stay there for hours, miss his plane and Jeff will skin him alive.

            Just before he walks into the bathroom, he looks over his shoulder and smirks, knowing his whole naked body is on display.

            “Wanna shower together, love?”

            He doesn’t think Zayn has ever left the bed at 6am that fast.

+

            “Hello, everyone!” Harry calls when he walks onto the stage, everyone already with their instruments, ready for the soundcheck. “How are you all? Have you enjoyed the break? I suppose you’ve seen the changes in the setlist, hope it didn’t inconvenience anyone.”

            There are many sets of eyes staring at him, all full of bewilderment. Harry gets behind the mic stand, a spring in his step and a wide smile on his lips.

            “Why’s everyone looking at me like that? I know I don’t look my best but to my defence, I’ve just got off a transatlantic flight.”

            “You haven’t been this chipper in ages, especially not after spending half a day in a plane,” Sarah says. Harry looks around, his brows furrowed, a clear question on his face. Clare nods and shrugs, giving him a sympathetic smile.

            “It’s called being happy, you people! You should try it sometimes. Now c’mon, we have to soundcheck everything since we weren’t able to rehearse it together sooner,” Harry says into the microphone and asks a tech guy for the setlist.

            “You could’ve rehearsed if you weren’t so whipped for someone you had to go to LA for three weeks.”

            Harry cackles sharply and turns to his right where he finds a disgruntled Jeff, standing by the edge of the stage with his arms crossed, even tapping his foot. He looks every bit like Paul when they used to pull pranks on him ages and ages ago.

            “Aw, Jeffrey. I missed you, man,” Harry grins and goes back to reading the setlist. It’s better he pretends like nothing happened at all. Jeff will be angry either way, no need to tarnish his first day back on the road with a pointless fight about something Jeff has already yelled at Harry about.

            “Sure you did. As if you weren’t too busy being irresponsible and unprofessional with your boyfriend or whatever,” Jeff scoffs. Harry lifts his gaze from the paper and frowns at him.

            “Harry has a boyfriend?” Adam asks, sharing a look with the rest of the band. All of them eye each other and Harry with curiosity, since Harry hasn’t shared a word with them about his relationship status.

            Harry sighs. “Yes-“

            “Of course he does,” Jeff interrupts him. “Have you not seen the tabloids? They’re what all of them are talking about right now.”

            Harry rolls his eyes, bracing himself for the avalanche of question that are inevitably about to come falling on him.

            “Wait, you and Zayn are dating?” Sarah asks.

            “Is it for the first time, or the second time?” Adam chips in.

            “How did you get back together again?” Clare continues.

            Harry groans and hits his forehead with the mic. He doesn’t need this today. They’ll talk, hang out somewhere and gossip like any friends do, just not today when he can still smell Zayn’s shampoo he used in the shower and the hickeys on his skin still hurt when he touches them. It would only make him miss Zayn even more than he does now, when he has to sing in front of thousands of people instead of doing absolutely nothing but kiss and fuck with Zayn. But he has responsibilities and a job he loves, so he has to be here today. It doesn’t mean he’s obliged to talk about his relationship right this very moment.

            “It’s none of your business!” Harry sing-songs forcefully. “Which brings me to this – Kiwi! We’re doing Kiwi first!”

            “Harry, you can’t-“

            “Kiwi!” he shouts as he grabs his guitar from the stand and slings it over his shoulder.

            “Seriously-“

            “KIWI!”

Chapter Text

'We’re dating'  Zayn Malik finally admits he and ex-bandmate Harry Styles are in a relationship

The rumoured relationship confirmed at last! Two months after being seen together for the first time, we finally know for sure that there is more between the pair than old friendship. Apparently, they are very much in love.

By Dan Wootton, Associate Editor

29th March 2018, 1:32pm

 

This was confirmed just last night when Zayn Malik appeared on ‘The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon’ to promote his sophomore album. Fallon asked not only about his music, but love life as well.

Following his split with model Gigi Hadid, Malik, 25, was believed to be single, giving hope to thousands of fans and also celebrities. Who knew that the star was not so single after all?

For two months, we were all eager to watch Malik and Styles’ relationship unfold in front of our very eyes. Since they were photographed together at the 2018’s Grammy Awards Afterparty, the two stars were always together. They were seen out and about in New York City and also in Los Angeles. Earlier this month, they were papped holding hands while arriving to a party in West Hollywood. That event pretty much confirmed all of our hopes about their relationship.

Last night, Fallon asked Malik about his past relationship with Hadid and whether any of the songs were about her, to which he replied: “She was great, yeah. We were together for some time but it didn’t seem to be working out anymore so we broke up. It wasn’t like, ugly or anything. We didn’t throw plates at each other and stuff (laugh). And I guess there are some songs inspired by her but not necessarily the break-up ones.”

Fallon continued with a question about Styles, 24, asking what prompted their reunion.

Malik said: “We met after like almost three years at a party and then Harry wrote me an email, telling me we should get a drink the next time we see each other and we did. Somehow, we ended up here. It was really easy to fall back into the old routine of always being together.”

Fallon had to ask about the rumours about their relationship. Many expected Malik to just laugh it off, but instead, he confirmed them: “Yeah, we’re dating. The media wasn’t so quick to assume it because we’re both men, we had to like, hold hands for them to realize it (laugh). It’s also kind of weird for people, I guess, because we used to be in a band together and all that. But yeah, we’re together and we’re really happy. It’s the happiest I’ve been in a long time.”

As shocking and unexpected as it is, we still wish the couple luck and many years together. We cannot wait to see what will the couple’s next move be. Perhaps buying a love nest together? Will they last long enough to have the wedding bells ringing for them? We shall wait and see.

Bizarre's Dan Wootton on Malik and Styles‘ relationship and the band.

If you’ve been a dedicated One Direction fan, you must know about all the ships everyone used to rave about. One of them is ‘Larry’, something that drove Louis and Harry apart. I’ve actually interviewed Louis about it a few years ago. Now, it’s funny to see how the tables have turned. Harry and Zayn are not hiding their relationship in the slightest and that makes me incredibly happy. They’re open with their love and it also saves me a lot of work. To be honest, they look like a lovely couple and if their pictures are anything to go by, they seem to be obsessed with each other. I wish them all the luck and love. I just wonder: how long has it been going on for?


 

            “Yeah, babe. I’ll see you at home later. I love you. Bye,” Harry finishes the call and puts his phone to his back pocket. When he lifts his head up, he’s met with two pairs of eyes. One impatient, one teasing.

            “What?” he asks, shifting his eyes from his mum’s face to Gemma’s. Magically, they both advert their gazes and mutter ‘Nothing.’. Harry sighs and sits in an armchair opposite the one Gemma’s sitting in and next to his mum. He braces his elbows on his things, readying himself for the conversation.

            “I know you two want to yell at me, or make fun of me, so go on. Better do it sooner than later.” Anne and Gemma share a look, one Harry’s always hates and still does, because he’s never included in it. It’s different from the look he and Gemma exchange when they both fuck up or the one he carefully gives his mum when it’s only Gemma getting in trouble.

            “Sweetheart,” Anne start. “We’re just really worried about you.”

            Harry rolls his eyes like a teenager. He hasn’t done it in front of his mum in ages, but now he had to.

            “Mum, you don’t need to worry. He’s not going to leave me again, I won’t be a mess. I promise. We’re doing this for real and we’re in love, so, there’s no reason to be worried about me,” Harry keeps his voice calm, trying not to sound as exasperated as he actually is. Everyone’s meaningless worries about his and Zayn’s relationship are really starting to get on his nerves.

            “This isn’t about Zayn, it’s about you,” Gemma says. Harry looks at her, confusion clear on his face.

            “What do mean about me?”

            “You see,” Anne says carefully. “You’ve never been in a proper relationship, love, so we’re understandably worried you’re going to get… frightened and get yourself hurt. See, Zayn’s been in a long-term relationship before. You weren’t so you have no idea what to except and what if it isn’t what you want, love?”

            Harry laughs. He actually laughs to his mum’s face, who he loves very much, because she’s being completely ridiculous. It’s a surprise Gemma hasn’t talked her out of giving Harry this stupid lecture about things you should talk about with a thirteen-year-old.

            “Mum, I’m twenty-four. I’m an adult and believe it or not, I’ve been in relationships before. And you know what I expect out of this? Mutual love and support because that’s what a relationship should be about. I just want us to be in love and be happy together while doing the stuff we’ve been doing all along, like our jobs. That’s all I want out of it.”

            “Harry, we’re really just worried,” Gemma says. Harry scoffs and stands up from his chair.

            “I understand you’re worried because you love me. And I love you too. But talking to me like I’m some stupid teenager about to get married at seventeen or something, that’s just- I expected more from you. Especially you, Gem, since you never let mum get too overprotective.”

            He walks to the floor-length window of his hotel room and rests his head on the cool glass. The room is quiet and he can basically see the silent conversation his mum and Gemma are having.

            “Love, you need to understand. I’m just scared you haven’t thought this relationship through. You left Camille for this, she’s such a lovely girl, and you and Zayn just jumped into this perhaps a bit too fast,” Anne’s back to using her I’m-scolding-you-without-you-noticing voice. Harry scoffs and turns around, resting his back against the window.

            “Camille and I were just sleeping together. Fucking, sexual intercourse, sin. Whatever you’d like to call it. We weren’t in a relationship.” Harry can see the remark about it forming on Anne’s face. “If you don’t support mine and Zayn’s relationship just say it,” Harry demands before she can go on and on about his past relationships. He’s really starting to feel like he’s fifteen and dating a thirty-year-old bloke, trying to make it seem normal in front of his mum.

            “Of course, I do, I’m just telling you to be careful.”

            “That in your talk means there’s a pretty big chance you won’t come to our wedding.”

            “You’re getting married?” Anne and Gemma squawk at the same time and start to throw questions at Harry. He just tunes them out, closing his eyes for a few seconds and groaning.

            “We’re not getting married!” Harry shouts over them. “It was hypothetical.”

            They both stop talking over each other, Anne huffing out an annoyed breath and Gemma shaking her head at him.

            “You didn’t have any problems when we were together the first time around, and now, when we’re not hiding anymore, there’s no other relationship in the way and we’re both happy, you start to complain. This makes absolutely no sense,” Harry laments. “For the last time – we’re in love, we’re happy and we’re both serious about our relationship. Thanks for your concern but it’s completely useless here. I’m leaving now. I don’t need to listen to this nonsense. I’ll see you at the show.”

            Harry quickly walks to the door and shouts a ‘Goodbye.’ before they have a chance to continue with their lecture again. He’s really sad about this, because not only he’s in a foul mood now, he was really excited to spend time with them again before he has to continue with the tour. And here they are, talking bullshit right after they had a perfectly lovely lunch together. Harry knows he’s going to go see them before the show because he really misses them, he just hopes they won’t start to question Harry’s ability to be in a relationship again.

+

            Harry’s sulking around his dressing room before the show starts. Clearly, he’s still in a mood and trying to make the clock go faster with the sheer power of his will isn’t really helping it. He loves performing in Manchester and yet there he is, shutting everyone out like a brat. He stands up from the couch with a sigh, deciding it’s probably a good time to exchange the sweatpants and Vans for a suit. He’s taking the jacket off the hanger when someone opens the door, walks inside and closes behind themselves. Harry sighs again, pretty sure it’s Gemma trying to cheer him up before the show or whatever.

            “Gem, please get out. I don’t need you to try and make me laugh with cheap jokes. And tell mum, I’m still upset over her stupid lecture,” Harry mumbles and takes his sweatshirt off, promptly replacing it with a white shirt. He’s buttoning it up when tattooed arms snake around his waist from behind and Harry stops in his tracks.

            “Baby,” Harry gasps out. “Why aren’t you in London?”

            “Wanted to see you,” Zayn whispers into Harry’s neck and kisses his cheek. Harry all but melts, a wide smile naturally appearing on his face. He grabs Zayn’s hands in his, intertwining their fingers over Harry’s stomach.

            “I can’t believe you’re here. You were supposed to wait for me at my house. How’d you get here?” Harry questions and rests his back against Zayn’s chest. He can’t believe that Zayn is really here, in person and not just his image on the screen of Harry’s laptop or phone. It’s been honestly too long and Harry revels in finally feeling Zayn’s skin on his, smelling his cologne.

            “I went to Bradford this morning and when I was leaving I thought that going to London and waiting for you in an empty house is stupid, especially when you’re just like an hour away. So I came here instead,” Zayn explains and pecks Harry’s neck. Harry can’t take it no more, aching to see Zayn’s face so he turns around and without any preamble, he cups Zayn’s cheek and kisses him. With their tongues languidly slipping together, Harry finally accepts that this is real, not just a dream he has as he kips on the sofa. After more than a month, Zayn is right here at his fingertips, solid and warm, with his hands on Harry’s hips and mouth pressed against Harry’s. A surge of happiness flows through Harry, sudden urge to jump and laugh and dance, because he knows he won’t be falling asleep in an empty bed tonight.

            His hands roam all over Zayn’s body before finding a stable spot cradling Zayn’s cheeks. It’s as if Harry can breathe easier now, his chest no longer burdened by a ghost weight that was the uncertainty of their relationship. Still so fragile with Harry leaving mere hours after they had talked everything out, Harry couldn’t be positive about its nature. They have talked every single day after Harry had left but it wasn’t tangible enough. All of it was just essentially an elaborate pattern of 1’s and 0’s – texts, images, Skype calls. Harry couldn’t’ve reached out through his laptop screen and touched Zayn, kissed him and assured himself that it is real, they are together, they’re still in love. He had to wait and god, was it worth it. Now they’re kissing hungrily, breathing the same air, existing in the same time zone. They don’t have to hide, their heats pounding with the fear of someone opening the door and seeing them, uncovering a secret that was meant to be kept hidden just between the two of them.

            They pull back eventually, too breathless and too eager to see each other’s faces. It’s impossible to wash off the smiles off their lips, not after so many hollow days and lonely nights.

            “I love you so much,” Harry whispers, his hands still cradling Zayn’s face. He’s got his entire world in his hands. In that moment, perhaps for the first time, Harry doesn’t give a single fuck about anything else than the man he’s in love with. Maybe it’s stupid, naïve and ludicrous but Harry isn’t fazed by it. There are thousands of fans, fame, money, and millions of other things and Harry doesn’t even see them. It’s like he has a tunnel vision, blurring everything around him except Zayn. And maybe it’s not even a new thing. Many years ago, they could’ve had an interview or be in the middle of a concert, Harry still found himself staring at Zayn most often than not, wishing and yearning to touch him and kiss him, knowing he isn’t allowed to do it until they were in the safety of a dark bedroom.

            These days, he finds himself saying ‘I love you’ at least a dozen times a day. Maybe he’s really gotten wiser with age because Harry now realizes that they didn’t use to say it not nearly enough. And that’s where the distrust came from. So Harry says it with actual words instead of kisses and bites like he used to.

            “I love you too. You have no idea how much I missed you,” Zayn says and kisses Harry again.

            “Love, I was just as far away from you as you were from me,” Harry gasps when they pull back from each other.

            Zayn smiles softly, his fingers playing with the hair at nape of Harry’s neck. “I know.”

            “Fuck, I have a show in like ten minutes,” Harry groans, wrapping his arms around Zayn’s middle and pillowing his head on Zayn’s shoulder. He breaths in the delicious smell of Zayn’s cologne, something he didn’t think he would miss once he went away. Yet Harry found himself buying a bottle of it and wearing it himself some days, on those he longed for Zayn the most.

            “You’re gonna stay, right?” Harry mumbles into the material of Zayn’s t-shirt.

            Zayn strokes his back and kisses the top of his head. “Of course I am. If you want to, I can go in the audience and be a proper fanboy about it, babe.”

            “No, they would mob you and it wouldn’t end up well. Just stay somewhere I can see you but the fans can’t. Like maybe on the side of the stage?”

            “Whatever you want, Haz.”

            Harry thinks there’s nothing harder than getting out of your lover’s arms when you haven’t seen them for over a month. Most likely, that isn’t indeed true but in that moment, Harry absolutely believes it. But perhaps it’s even harder for him to get undressed with Zayn watching him from the couch, a smirk on his lips and Harry can’t do anything but put on different clothes. They both very well know that if they have as much as kissed right now, Harry would start his concert at least an hour late. So Harry reluctantly puts on a suit, gives Zayn a short kiss and makes his way on the stage.

            The show is amazing as usual, the crowd goes wild and Harry almost falls on his arse three times during Medicine. It all happens while Zayn smiles at him (and also laughs at him) from the side of the stage, hidden from the eyes of most of the fans but there for Harry to see, to throw him a look and a smile every thirty seconds if possible. Harry laughs more than usual, is probably annoying the hell out of everyone with his positivity but he doesn’t care because he’s really fucking happy so there’s that. It’s all peachy just until he has to sing From the Dining Table, a song that basically carries all of his heartache and pain within its words. A song he poured all of his heart into, all of the longing and aching he felt after Zayn had left. Singing it now is like putting a cast on an already healed arm, but Harry still doesn’t want to remove it from the setlist. It still means too much, embodying the hurtful past that is behind him but is still impossible to forget. He also only has ten songs, so. Instead of skipping it, Harry decides to give a speech.

            “Hello Manchester!” Harry calls into the microphone as he walks from the side to the middle of the stage. “Are you still having fun? Be careful what you answer now. It better be yes otherwise I’m not really doing a good job, am I? Wouldn’t want that.”

            He stops walking and secures his mic into the stand. “The next song is a slow one, a very emotional one. I don’t usually give a speech before this one but today’s special perhaps,” Harry coughs, looking over the audience, most of them quiet in anticipation. He looks to the side then, where Zayn is standing with his hands crossed over his chest, a small smile dancing on his lips. Harry can’t hold back the smile that slips past his mouth then but he quickly adverts his gaze and continues. “The next song is called From the Dining Table and I want to say a few words of encouragement first.

            “I was heartbroken when I wrote it,” Harry says matter-of-factly. “And I was still heartbroken when I used to sing it on tour last year. It was really hard, performing it every night and baring my heart to all of you. It’s a song about… just pure despair if I’m honest. I was waiting for a phone call for years, knowing it was impossible. I hoped… that he’d hear the song somewhere and talk to me, that we’d be both able to say sorry.”

            Harry looks at Zayn again, the smile gone from his lips and replaced by a concerned look so Harry gives him an encouraging smile, hoping Zayn will be able to see the words hidden in it: “Don’t worry.” and “I love you.” and “I want the whole world to know how much you mean to me.”

            “The song didn’t serve its purpose after all,” Harry continues, looking at the audience again. “But we found our way to each other again nonetheless. So what I wanted to tell you all with this is that if you love someone, never give up on your love. If you… separate because of something you couldn’t control or just because you we both stupid, don’t give up. Love is very important and please, feel free to love anyone you want to. Love is love and this is From the Dining Table.”

            Harry sings without the sense of burden from the last tour. He no longer prays there would be a missed call from an unknown number on his phone after the show. There isn’t the need to shout out into the ether that he just fucking wants to talk to Zayn or tears pooling in his eyes. Harry doesn’t finish the song with wiping his cheeks as he so often used to last year. Instead he looks to his right and smiles at Zayn. After years and years of pain and longing, Harry doesn’t have to sing about heartbreak while reliving it all with each word.

            The looks on Zayn’s face makes Harry frown. He isn’t smiling nor he is crying but clearly, the song was a lot. Too many emotions in too little words illuminating their past mistakes, the long months they spent without each other, both regretting their goodbyes. That makes Harry do something reckless, something he never would’ve dared to a few years ago, back when the song he sang didn’t bear only his own name.

            Harry walks to Zayn, neglecting all of the curious looks from fans, from the band and crew. He comes to him and kisses him without any preamble, not even fully secluded from the questioning eyes and cameras. It comes as a shock but Zayn kisses him back, allowing Harry to coax his mouth open with his tongue for a few quick seconds.

            “I love you. Everything’s in the past now, alright? We’ll talk after the show,” Harry whispers after pulling away. The thousands of fans didn’t dissipate into thin air in the meantime and Harry knows he has to go back. He gives Zayn a smile, gets one in return, grabs two water bottles and a guitar picks as a cover for his ‘trip’ and returns to his spot by the microphone stand. A quick apology, few distracting jokes and they’re back on track.

+

            “What the fuck did you just do, Harry?”

            Those are the words Jeff uses to welcome Harry backstage after the show. Harry ignores him, choosing to focus his attention on crew member packing his guitars. But Jeff is relentless.

            “What was that stunt you pulled on stage?” Jeff demands, cornering Harry so he can’t escape and pretend to be occupied with guitars and other tour stuff Jeff very well knows Harry doesn’t give many fucks about.

            “You mean my fabulous dancing, Jeffrey? Don’t act so surprised, you’ve seen it before,” Harry says, still refusing to look at Jeff’s angry face. He knows what risks he was taking out there. Media and all that other bullshit Jeff is so fond of can kindly fuck off.

            “No, I fucking don’t. I mean you, giving a speech that basically confirmed you and Zayn were together while he was supposed to be engaged,” Jeff hisses. Harry takes a sharp breath and schools himself to keep his biting words from leaving his mouth.

            “Well, he was engaged,” Harry shrugs and runs his hand through his hair. “It doesn’t mean that what Zayn and I had was insignificant.”

            Jeff sighs and looks behind him to see if anyone’s close enough to heart.

            “Can you even imagine the media shitstorm I will have to take care of now? You can even get sued!

            Harry laughs right into his face. He shakes his head a bit, still laughing. Jeff looks like as if he’s been hit by a shovel right on his forehead.

            “What could I get sued for?” Harry scoffs. “Falling in love? I could sue Simon and all of his fucking suits for media training us like monkeys. For making us all pretend like we were in happy relationships. For making a whore out of me in the media.”

             Jeff’s face somehow gets even paler.

            “Jeff, you’re smarter than this,” Harry continues. “I know you want the best for me and my career but keeping everything secret and basically pouring fuel into the burning piles of shit that are the conspiracies my fans create isn’t the ideal tactic. We did it last year, remember? I don’t think it worked out. I didn’t mind because what was I really hiding? Nothing.”

            Jeff sighs and runs his hands over his face. Harry just leans against the boxes behind him and wait for Jeff’s lecture.

            “Harry… I’m not telling you to hide your relationship. I just don’t want you to talk about things you did that were kept secret while you were under a different contract in the middle of a concert. Not to mention that you shouldn’t fucking kiss your boyfriend in the middle of a concert too.”

            Harry hums. “Interesting.”

            “Harry,” Jeff sighs.

            “Jeffrey,” Harry says with mock concern.

            “God, you’re worse than a toddler,” Jeff mutters, more to himself than to Harry. “What do you want me to do about the articles that are most likely being written right now?”

            “Nothing,” Harry says simply. Jeff huffs out an annoyed breath and gives Harry a pointed look that says he better fucking say something normal.

            “Fine, if there’s too much of a shitstorm, just say… I don’t know, that we’re not going to comment on it. Stop the articles with batshit crazy theories or those that are like, trying to pull up some legal stuff. But if there was a scenario in which Perrie tries to use this to promote her band once again by talking shit about both Zayn and I, contact their team and say that if she doesn’t want the contract she and Zayn signed in 2012 conveniently leaked, she better keep all of that bullshit to herself.”

            By the look Jeff gives him, Harry realizes that he’s probably being a bit harsh and coming up with crazy scenarios. But one never knows in this industry. People stab each other’s backs all the damn time and Harry has learned it the hard way a few times, so have people around him. He has to take some precautions if he doesn’t want his dirty laundry to be flying all over tabloids for the next year. Personally, he has (almost) nothing against Perrie but he knows how much she and her bandmates love to talk shit about Zayn. He saw the ‘Zayn is an arsehole’ campaign supporting their single. If they did it again this time, Harry’s entire relationship would be jeopardised. So, looking at it from a positive point of view, Harry’s doing it all for love and how romantic is that?

            “Are you serious?” Jeff asks, giving Harry a dubious look.

            “Yes, a hundred per cent.”

            “Fine. Just please, don’t talk about it again, yeah? And for the love of god, don’t ever kiss Zayn during concert. Never again. That was the dumbest shit I’ve seen you do. It’s worse than the time you swam in the ocean in a dress at a wedding, drunk out of your mind.”

            “Seriously?” Harry nearly squeals. “That was my best idea ever.”

            “Harry, don’t.”

            “Alright, alright. I won’t do it again, Jeff. Promise.”

            Jeff only keeps looking at him with mildly killing look in his eyes. Harry clears his throat awkwardly and points at the space behind Jeff.

            “Can I go now?” Harry asks as if he was a schoolboy again.

            “Yeah. I don’t wanna see you until London, you gave me the worst headache ever.”

            Harry smiles sweetly and gives Jeff a wet kiss on the cheek as he passes by. “Love you too, Jeffrey.”

            After the pleasant chat with Jeff, Harry doesn’t see Zayn until he’s said goodbye to everyone and the backstage has calmed down enough, busy only with the crew moving and packing things for the next show. Zayn was waiting for him in the dressing room the whole time and Harry doesn’t say much, changes into comfortable clothes and takes Zayn’s hand, leading him outside of the arena. The silent agreement between them is obvious. They need to talk, have a conversation about important things, things that matter in the long run. Wasting time by chatting about things they usually would is pointless in this situation. It’s always been like this – silent up until they talked. Whenever a fight was imminent, looming in the air or a talk about something both of them were dreading, this was what it precedes.

            This time they’re not angry, quiet anger thrumming through their veins like lava in a volcano ready to erupt. Small smiles are exchanged and their hands are linked. But the awareness of having to put all of the cards on the table at last is mildly terrifying for both of them. Nothing they will say tonight could make them leave each other yet there’s still a little voice of doubt speaking to them. These are words they’ve kept inside for three years, let them out only in rhymes and melodies concealed as something else, something that isn’t supposed to be about them. Perhaps they’re fearful of having to look back on the pain again, after having it pushed somewhere deep into their memories where it wasn’t even a whisper of past hurt.

            They get into Harry’s car at last, getting through dozens of fans outside in record time. Harry just starts driving, the radio turned off and the engine creating the soothing background sound for them. The ride is wordless for some minutes while they’re still in the city where the traffic is slightly hectic even during the night. Horns honking and lights flashing are too distracting. When they’re finally on the motorway, Harry breaks the silence.

            “Why were you so upset when I sang From the Dining Table?”

            Harry hears Zayn take a deep breath and sigh. His eyes still on the road, Harry wonders if he’s fidgeting with his rings, twisting them around like he always does when cutting silence is present.

            “I haven’t heard your whole album before tonight so this was the first time I’ve heard From the Dining Table,” Zayn admits. “And in combination with your speech before that, it was just… too much. I never realized I hurt you this much.”

            Harry doesn’t respond.

            “I’m sorry. I’m so fucking sorry. There isn’t a way in which I can say sorry enough times. All this time, I thought you were great without me. That you got over it and never really looked back. I know we talked about this but I never would’ve guessed you felt like this. I could feel your pain in those words and I guess it made me look at things differently.”

            “I was a mess without you, Zayn,” Harry professes, his low voice almost getting long amongst the sounds of the car’s engine. “I wrote the song around the time I wrote the email, when I still hoped you’d call and tell me you’re sorry and that you want to give us another chance.”

            “What email?”

            Harry whips his head to the side. “The email I sent you like two years ago?”

            Zayn’s face falls and he looks down to his hands.

            “I never read it,” he reveals.

            The words leave Harry speechless, his jaw hanging uselessly open. He puts his eyes back on the road and thinks. Re-evaluates these pasts few months in a different light. Zayn never read it. He didn’t ignore my words. He didn’t know, still doesn’t.

            “Why didn’t you?” Harry tries a question.

            “I was scared of what was in it and at the same time, I feared that it was just you telling me how angry you are and how much you hate me,” Zayn answers simply, no hesitation, his voice steady.

            Harry stays mute, letting the engine’s whir resound the space.

            “What was actually in it?” Zayn questions him after some time.

            Harry sighs, clutching the steering wheel so hard his knuckles almost turn white. Those words he put down two years ago are still a fresh wound. Zayn has no clue about any of the things Harry felt and did while they were apart. In the past months they’ve been together again, Harry avoided talking about that grey area between the end and the beginning of them. Harry didn’t hold back in the email, shared how fucking miserable he was, how empty he felt without Zayn. It’s simpler, looking back at it now that they’re together and happy but what preceded it couldn’t be looked at through pink-tinted glasses.

            Harry’s unsure about shoving that particular part of himself. While he was agonized and broken-hearted, Zayn was able to fall in love with someone new, thinking he and Harry were doomed for good, that they wouldn’t ever speak again even as past friends and colleagues. There’s a certain hint of embarrassment Harry feels, how constricted by his heartbreak he used to be.

            “Just some crap about how hurt I was and how much I loved you,” Harry mutters, keeping his eyes on the road.

            “Nothing I should like, know about? That we haven’t talked about yet? Something really important?”

            “Nothing you should know about.”

            The silence is crushing Harry. It’s not strained or piercing but it still lingers around with an impression of something unfinished.

            “I wrote about how much I missed you,” Harry reveals at last. He couldn’t possibly keep it all in any longer. They both need to finally face their past. Everything can be rainbows and sparkles now, but it didn’t use to be.

            Harry doesn’t look at Zayn and continues. “I wrote… how I wanted to call you when I got the part in Dunkirk because you love the Batman movies so much. How I kept thinking about you all the fucking time even though I thought you hated me.”

            His futile jealousy, the distrust in Zayn’s love, missing even just sharing the same space. All of those things are better kept unrevealed. Let all the crestfallen feelings about them in the past. Nothing can give Harry back the time he spent with his heart aching and screaming out in pain. Nothing can change the past, turn back the watch and give them a chance to redo their decisions. Nothing can force them to be wiser in the past for it’s already written and the ink has dried.

            Harry feels Zayn’s hand on his thigh, the warm weight as a reminder that it’s gone, they’re here, now and together. No longer wondering what the other thinks or if they hate each other. A reassurance that despite their history, they can have a beautiful future, have everything they want because the time of hiding and vagueness is gone.

            “The most humiliating thing from the email was the end, where I said that if you wanted, you could come back right that very minute and I’d take you back without second-guessing it.”

            “Haz, it’s not humiliating,” Zayn says softly and squeezes Harry’s thigh.

            “It is considering you were happily in love with Gigi at the time.”

            “Haz…”

            “What? It’s true.”

            “Yeah, but you don’t think I would go back to you the second you asked?”

            “…No?”

            Zayn chuckles, running his hand from Harry’s knee to the top of his thigh, almost dangerously close to his dick. “Don’t be daft, babe.”

            Harry doesn’t want to fight. Because the question ‘Didn’t you say you loved Gigi?’ is hanging just on the tip of his tongue. Then another would follow ‘Did you love her more than you loved me? Is that why you stayed with her but forgot about me?’. And really, ruining his day with pointless fighting isn’t something Harry wants to do at the moment. It would turn into one big mess about ‘who loves Zayn more’. Harry did consider it for a bit before he realized how childish and foolish it is. They’re no longer twenty, fucking in dark hotel rooms and hiding behind corners. Back then Harry would have fought Zayn about it. He did many times after Zayn sent Perrie a text or kissed one of their groupies too long for Harry’s liking. Back then anything would fire up Harry’s jealousy. It’s as if he felt he had to fight for Zayn’s attention, fight for the time they spent together. He doesn’t have a valid reason for it now.

            “I know it’s dumb to ask but have you listened to any of my songs?” Zayn asks after a while.

            “Yes,” Harry admits reluctantly.

            Zayn clears his throat, his hand still laying on Harry’s knee. “On the first album, every single song is about you. At least a line about you in each. But Fool For You, that’s the… that’s the song in which I tried to explain that I loved you the whole time. Despite all the shit that surrounded us. I knew you had doubts, but I did.”

            Harry chooses to stay silent. He knows about all of this. When he started touring last month, he decided to give Mind of Mine a listen. The album was haunting him for nearly two years before Harry finally gave in and decided to listen to it. It was two years of switching radio stations when he heard Zayn’s voice coming from the speakers or even leaving restaurants and coffee shops. He had no desire to know what meaning the words and melodies held. But then everything changed and the album wasn’t an imposing threat that could ruin everything they’ve been through together. Harry didn’t really care about who the songs were about (except he did) because they couldn’t hurt him or their relationship anymore. The past is the past.

            But hearing those songs, Harry knew they weren’t about blonde girls with cheap smiles and ill-fitting fake eyelashes. Despite the pronouns, Harry knew they were about him. At least to some extent. He isn’t the girl who doesn’t love Zayn in She Don’t Love Me nor is he the one in Borderz. But he’s there in the pain in Zayn’s voice in Blue or behind the words in Drunk.

            He’s there just as much Zayn is in Harry’s songs. In Meet Me in the Hallway, hidden in the memory of their fights in hotel corridors when Harry’s jealousy was shooting through the roof. In every single word in From the Dining Table. They’re entwined even with just words and memories no one except them knows.

            Dozens of songs that chronicle their past, carry their heartbreak and their love. Harry wrote his album with the hope that he’ll be finally able to move on. It turned out he couldn’t, could never do it no matter how hard he’d try. But now it’s time to move on for good. Not from Zayn like Harry wanted to, but to leave their past behind and stop scrutinizing what they did years ago. They can’t change it and no matter how much they’d fight about it, it wouldn’t result in anything. They have to move on, do it together and welcome new and happier memories.

            “Zayn?”

            “Yeah?”

            “Is there anything you wanted to talk about from our past?”

            Zayn’s quiet. A long pause soundtracked by the car’s engine and their breathing prolongs the break in the conversation.

            “Why?”

            Harry sighs. “Just giving you a last chance to talk about anything you want to because I want to close that chapter for good. We’re together now and I realized that our past could ruin it all. Jealousy and pointless comparison.”

            “That’… good, I think. Yeah, you’re right. I don’t think I want to talk about anything.”

            “Great. I have one question though.”

            “What question?”

            Harry takes a deep breath, gripping the steering wheel tighter. “Have you really loved me all this time? Ever since you first said it?”

            “Of course, I have,” Zayn answers, like it’s the only truth in a world of lies. “Even when we weren’t together and in… different relationships, I could never get rid of the feelings I have for you.”

            Harry nods and finally allows himself to grab Zayn’s hand from his knee, bringing it to his lips and gently kissing Zayn’s knuckles.

            “That’s all I need to know,” Harry affirms. “We still love each other now and it’s all that matters, yeah?”

            “Yeah.”

            “I love you,” Harry looks at Zayn and gives him a small smile. He’d kiss him but considering he’s driving and could cause a fatal car crash, he decides against it. One kiss costing their lives would be pretty fucking stupid when he can have thousands of them if they stay alive.

            “I love you too.”

            And Harry doesn’t need much more to be happy.

+

            Later that night, or early next morning more like, they’re finally in bed. Too tired to do anything more than share some tender kisses, they’re lying in an embrace, limb over limb to the point where they’re just a big pile of bodies. Harry feels warm and content, being in his favourite place in this world which is, despite his answers of LA, New York and many other cities, Zayn’s arms. He could stay like this together, even if they were to die and go through all five stages of decay together until they were just bones and dust.

            Despite that, Harry can’t keep the nagging words of his mum off his mind. They keep coming back and pester him, make him paranoid and restless. What if she’s right? What if he gets terrified by their relationship and will be the one to run away in the dead of night this time? What if he isn’t made for a long-term relationship in spite of his friends always saying he doesn’t need any more domesticating? That’s all just a habit after all. Just because he likes to stay in sometimes, loves to bake and loves babies, it doesn’t mean he can be good at creating a life with a person he loves. That requires completely different qualities.

            “Zayn?” Harry asks quietly.

            “Hmm?”

            Harry turns in Zayn’s arms and finds him with his eyes closed.

            “Zayn,” Harry says louder this time.

            Zayn cracks his eyes open, sighing and pulling Harry closer to his chest. “Sleep, babe. We’ll talk in the morning.”

            “I can’t sleep until I get this off my chest,” Harry argues, pulling away from Zayn so he can see his face again.

            Zayn sighs one more time and manages to keep his eyes open for longer than two seconds. “What is it?”

            “Mum and Gemma don’t think our relationship is a good idea.” Letting the troublesome thought out and sharing it with someone makes Harry feel easier already.

            Zayn frowns, rubbing his eyes and blinking a few times. Perhaps sleeping and talking in the morning was really the better idea.

            “Why?” he asks simply.

            Harry takes an exasperated breath. “They think I’m… I don’t know, too immature for a relationship. That I don’t know what a long-term relationship obtains.”

            Zayn nods to himself. “Why would they think that?”

            “I don’t know,” Harry groans. Zayn quirks an eyebrow at him, making Harry groan again and sigh. “They said because I’ve never been in a proper relationship before, I don’t know what to want out of a relationship. Which is bollocks cause I told them that I just want mutual love and support. That’s what the basis of a good relationship should be, yeah?”

            Zayn takes a deep breath and turns to lie on his back. He stares at the ceiling for a while, the silence making Harry anxious.

            “I mean, yeah. Not just that but something has to be the foundation of it,” he says after a moment.

            “Fuck,” Harry blurts out, suddenly realizing that his mum’s words weren’t just about feelings and the simple question of ‘are we dating/are we not?’. “They meant stuff like marriage and kids, right? They probably thought we want different things and I’d inevitably fuck everything up with my commitment issues.”

            Zayn turns his head to look at Harry. “You have commitment issues?”

            “It was because of you, that’s not an issue now since I am with you. Don’t worry about it,” Harry rolls his eyes.

            “Hold on, I am worrying,” Zayn touches Harry’s bicep gently, a troubled look on his face.

            “I’m pretty sure you’re aware that you left me, so yeah I didn’t want to get into a proper relationship with anyone for quite some time after that because I missed you. Mum doesn’t know it’s just because I didn’t want anyone else but you. My so-called commitment issues were completely voluntary. So really babe, don’t worry about it,” Harry pecks Zayn’s forehead and lays his head on his chest, not giving Zayn a chance to continue to this conversation. “So are we serious or what?”

            “You mean like the marriage and kids part you mentioned?”

            “Maybe.”

            Zayn sighs, his chest rising below Harry’s head. “I think that it’s like, kinda early to talk about that and start figuring everything out. If you look at it from someone else’s point of view, we’ve just started dating. But we are serious because what we have didn’t actually begin last month. I’ve loved you for years and I want to be with you for a long time, maybe, hopefully forever. We don’t know what will happen in like two years. I can become a mean arsehole and you can kick my sorry arse out.”

            “I could never do that,” Harry says with a smile. “What if I start doing some weird shit? Like abandon my career and become a pottery artist? Just sitting with my clay all day long, making things out of it.”

            Zayn hums. “That wouldn’t be a bad idea. You could name your brand ‘The Harry Pottery’ and hope Rowling doesn’t sue you.”

            Harry laughs and lifts his head up, finding Zayn looking down at him with a smile on his lips.

            “I love you,” Harry says and shifts so he can reach Zayn’s lips and kiss him.

            “I love you too,” Zayn mumbles with their lips still grazing. “Now let’s sleep, yeah? We have as much time as we wish for to talk about the serious stuff. Night, baby.”

            “Goodnight, love.”

+

            The early July Sacramento heat is almost unbearable and Harry’s eternally grateful to be inside his air-conditioned suite, away from the warm humid night. The show was great, electric and thrilling as any other is. There aren’t many differences between American crowds as most of them are wild and sometimes a bit too lively but it’s okay. Harry understands their uncontainable excitement and joy; he indulges them even because he loves seeing so many happy faces. He just likes making people happy, especially his fans.

            But right now, there’s nothing better than the feeling of cold water droplets falling on his skin from the showerhead mounted on the ceiling. He stripped down while walking to the bathroom with the intend to spend at least twenty minutes in the solace that sometimes only a quiet shower can offer.  There’s a certain loneliness to it but it’s comforting at the same time. After leaving an arena full of thousands of people screaming your name, the flatness and monotony of water hitting the floor and your body is a welcoming sound. Despite this serenity, Harry doesn’t spend too much time in the shower and after doing his nightly skincare routine, he walks to the bedroom with just a towel wrapped around his waist.

            He doesn’t put on any clothes and takes out his laptop from his bag, settling on the bed with it right away. His phone is already lying on the white duvet and Harry smiles when a text chimes in. Less than a minute later, the Skype window is already open on the laptop screen, the slightly annoying sound of a call being dialled bringing excitement because this exactly is Harry’s favourite part of a day.

            “Hello, handsome,” Harry grins when he finally sees his boyfriend on the screen.

            “Hi, baby,” Zayn replies, a grin of his own matching Harry’s.

            “Can you hear me well?” Harry asks and shifts so he’s lying on his stomach in front of the laptop.

            “Yeah, but I can’t see your lovely, lovely body anymore.”

            Harry cackles and lies on his side, leaning his weight on his left elbow. “Better now? If you wanted some wanking material, you could’ve just asked baby.”

            “Much better and I don’t need to ask for that, you send me more than enough on your own.”

            “Excuse me,” Harry exclaims, faux-scandalized. “Fine, you’re not getting any until we see each other in person. And you should be at least shirtless right now, why are you dressed?”

            Zayn looks down at the plain black t-shirt he’s wearing and then back at the screen. He’s still hot, it’s not like Harry could complain.

            “I wasn’t aware we were gonna have Skype sex.”

            Harry rolls his eyes. “We aren’t. You know what I miss the most about touring when we were in the band? Not being sexually frustrated.”

            Zayn starts laughing and keeps laughing until Harry pouts and huffs out an annoyed breath. “Alright, we’re done for tonight. Goodnight,” Harry pretends to reach for the laptop to close it, having no real intention to actually end the call so soon.

            “No, baby, please don’t. I’m sorry. Your… sexual satisfaction is sort of my responsibility now and it’s been months since we saw each other in person. I miss you too. Miss fucking you, kissing you.”

            “Okay, are you trying to get me horny right now so I end up wanking sadly at 1AM?”

            “Not at all, Haz. Not at all.”

            “Fine, we need to change the topic. How are rehearsals?”

            “Good, yeah, really good. I can’t wait for the tour to actually kick off.”

            Harry smiles, all sappy all of sudden. Seeing Zayn happy about performing on his own gives Harry a warm fuzzy feeling in his chest. It’s relieving to see him be excited about something that he dreaded doing just two years ago.

            “I’m so happy for you, babe. I’ll come see you after I finish up my shows in LA, yeah?”

            “Can’t wait to see you, Haz. It’s been too long. Before I forget, you do have the key to my house in LA, right?”

            “Yeah,” Harry nods.

            “It’s gonna be mostly empty so don’t be alerted, it wasn’t robbed I just relocated almost everything to New York. There’s still some stuff left because I’m not selling it so we don’t have to stay in hotels when we’re in LA.”

            “Okay, babe,” Harry smiles.

            “I can’t wait to be home with you,” Zayn groans and lies down on his own bed in his New York apartment so he mirrors Harry’s position. Harry wishes he was there, in the comfort of a room that smelled like home and their colognes mixed together, not like cleaning products and dull hotel room scent.  He aches for it, for the feeling of sleeping with someone in a bed, waking up to the sensation of having a warm body wrapped around his back.

            “That’s gonna take some time, love,” Harry sighs. “We’re probably going to be home at the same time around Christmas.”

            Sometime between their Skype calls and endless Facetime sessions, home has become New York. It isn’t necessarily specified whether it’s Zayn’s or Harry’s apartment, but they know that city is their home base. Their places are just ten minutes from each other either way, it’s not like it matters that much which apartment is home. But ever since Harry’s first visit to Zayn’s place roughly two weeks ago, Harry’s leaning towards that one being home. Even with it being empty except for Harry (Zayn was in Europe because it seems like their schedules are the devil working against them), it felt homey and warm. Already having a few personal touches like Zayn’s books and a Deadpool mask on the bookshelf, the apartment made Harry feel sheltered and safe. His own place is lovely but he never had the opportunity to make it feel his. A box of records and a dozen of books in a cardboard box don’t usually make a home.

            “Why do we have to be the busiest we’ve ever been right now?” Zayn questions no one in particular.

            “We need to focus on the good things, babe. Every time you miss me just imagine us, in a few months doing nothing at all, all day long for weeks.”

            They both smile, these soft grins that are almost boyish. Harry wants to scream with how much he loves him, his heart wants to burst with all the love that was held back for years finally being set free.

            “Even better news, Haz. We’re seeing each other in less than two weeks, yeah? When are you flying in?”

             “On the 17th,” Harry’s smile nearly splits his face then. “I’ll have a full month just for you. I’m gonna be the best groupie you’ve ever had,” his grin then turns filthy, at the thought of them bringing back a bit from their past when they were young and wild, thrown into the spotlight and shocked with girls falling into their arms after a simple hello. It was a different time but Harry enjoyed the thrill of it, still does. He doesn’t have groupies anymore, hasn’t had for a long time but now he and Zayn can fool around, just the two of them without girls from clubs, as if they were nineteen again.

            “Better than the girls in Australia?” Zayn challenges, a smirk on his lips and Harry knows exactly which girls he’s talking about. Oh, to be young again.

            “A hundred times better baby. I give better head than them. And I love you, you don’t get that with Australian groupies.”

            Zayn smiles at him, the smirk gone and replaced by the sweet one that usually only Harry gets. “Yeah, I guess so. God, Haz, if I were there with you, you wouldn’t be wearing that towel anymore.”

            Harry raises his eyebrows, a smirk slowly forming on his lips. “Is that so?”

            “Yeah. You’re so fucking beautiful. The second we’re alone in a room with a bed, we’re locking the door and not leaving for hours.”

            Harry bites his lip, feeling himself already getting hard just from a few words. They haven’t had sex since April and getting each other off via phone or Skype is miles and miles from fucking and getting fucked. God, Harry would kill for as much as a kiss right now.

            “Just a few more days babe. We waited for so long, it’s just a few more days,” Harry says, trying to stay rational. He’s too tired for Skype sex now, too tired to even properly get himself off so he better stops it before it gets too heated.

            “I miss you, Haz,” Zayn sighs.

            “I miss you too. I’m gonna lie down, yeah?”

            Zayn just nods and picks up his phone as Harry throws the towel from his waist somewhere on the floor and settles himself under the thinnest duvet, setting the laptop down on the other pillow.

            “I wish you were here with me,” Harry says quietly.

            “I do too,” Zayn replies.

            They keep talking until Harry falls asleep and in the delicate time between consciousness and sleep, it’s almost as good as if they were in the same bed.

+

            “Baby, where’s the rest of the baubles?”

            “In the kitchen for some reason, I’m getting them right now.”

            Harry looks at the almost finished Christmas tree in front of him and smiles. These past few days were truly straight out of a cheesy Hallmark rom-com and Harry absolutely loves it. After months and months of touring and being busy with other projects, Harry declared he wouldn’t do a single thing from December until after his birthday which probably won’t be executed flawlessly, but he can still try. So for almost two weeks, he and Zayn have been doing pretty much nothing useful. The sofa and bed probably have dents shaped like them by now and the staff in their nearest 24/7 grocery store must be coming up with crazy theories as to why are they both home for so long. Harry doesn’t care – he’s on a break and no one can make him do anything.

            It was many blissful days filled with Netflix, fucking and doing domestic shit before the Christmas chaos came around. Still, it isn’t the stressful kind of chaos if you make mince pies with your boyfriend and you don’t have to fight about what you’re going to gift your family members. They didn’t have much time for each other before so they sure as hell won’t tarnish this time with meaningless fights and fretting over decorations and other things that aren’t important. Christmas fever got to them only in the best way – watching Christmas movies together with mulled wine in their hands, baking gingerbread cookies and attempting to do some British pastries, and dressing up Stitch in an elf costume and posting too many videos of him on Instagram. It’s been perfect so far and Harry wants to have his life look like that all year round.

            “Looks great, babe.”

            Harry turns around and sees Zayn with a box of baubles in his hand, his face adorned with the smile Harry loves so much. The way Zayn’s hair is falling into his eyes is making Harry’s heart wring in his chest, the strands inducing a certain softness to him. Harry will personally murder him if he shaves his head again.

            “Thank you, love,” Harry pecks Zayn on the lips, a thank you for the baubles and an I love you, just because he can kiss him as much as he wants.

            “I’m gonna warm up some mulled wine, yeah?”

            “Stay here,” Harry hums and grasps Zayn’s wrist. “We’ve had plenty wine over dinner, I don’t want to have a wine hangover every day. Help me with these.”

            “Alright, where’d you want them?” Zayn takes Harry’s hand in his and pecks the back of it, coming closer and wrapping his arms around Harry’s waist.

            “Just like… all around. So it makes sense or like, kind of a pattern,” Harry stammers. Zayn hums noncommittally and kisses Harry’s neck, placing open mouthed kisses along the line of his throat.

            “What are you doing, Zayn?”

            “Nothing,” he mumbles into Harry’s skin. Harry gasps when Zayn bites on the skin, sending a shiver down his spine.

            “Baby,” Harry moans when Zayn grabs his ass, squeezing it with his fingers. “We should finish the tree.”

            “There’s plenty of time for the tree.”

            Harry doesn’t have a good enough argument to oppose that. Actually, he doesn’t want to have an opposing argument. They’ve got the whole night for the tree and full seven days before the Christmas Eve anyways.

            “We’re gonna fuck on the couch again?” Harry chuckles as Zayn drags him towards the centre of the room.

            “Was thinking the carpet maybe?”

            Harry hums, looking at both and weighing the options.

            “Fine, but ‘m gonna ride you. I’m not gonna get my back all fucked up.”

            Zayn laughs and kisses him again, biting his lip and pulling it a bit with his teeth. They get settled on the carpet then, right in front of the fireplace and start taking their clothes off, never the most patient when they know they’re gonna fuck soon. Kissing is great, fantastic, marvellous and all the superlatives of them, but gone are the times when they bothered with it before making love. Sharing long kisses and short pecks while they were both dressed, their hands shyly exploring each other’s bodies – they used to do it all back when a door with unwanted company could be opened and the kissing and touching and fucking was more confusing that pleasurable, both of them uncertain about what it all meant. Now it’s a delightful habit when they know every nook and mole and scar on their bodies, the panes of their skin mapped and labelled, a textbook in both their brain composed of what the other likes. Harry knows what he can do with a flick of a tongue or a kiss. And Zayn knows exactly in which way to hold hips and bite skin. There’s no longer the need to explore and be wary. Perhaps this rush is a remnant from the routine of their quick and hurried fucks tightly fitted into their impossible schedules and dark rooms that came later on.

            Harry doesn’t waste too much time opening himself up, too impatient to get on with it. Besides, he’s always liked the stretch and burn, overcoming the pain with blinding pleasure. Always better that way, moving from one end of a spectrum to another in a quick moment.

            Tonight’s the brisk fast type of sex when they work in unison to be as swift as possible, their moves fitting like a puzzle to get off as soon as they can, to chase the release, the pleasure overwhelming their bodies and it’s so good. All Harry has to do after removing his fingers is sit on Zayn’s cock, already lubed up and waiting just for him. Harry gasps when he’s fully inside, staying still for a few moments, breathing hard and getting used to the fullness. He takes the sensation in as it blends with the feeling of Zayn’s hands on his hips, caressing and grabbing the skin.

            It’s a continuous tide of moans from there, interrupted by grunts or a gasped out name. The music in the background is nearly subdued by their sounds and the logs crackling in the fire. Harry nearly smiles then, how cliché this scenery is. Instead he bends down to kiss Zayn, putting one hand on his chest and the other clutching Zayn’s cheek.

            “I love you,” Harry pants into Zayn’s lips. He rolls his hips slowly, trying to keep his orgasm at bay.

            “Fuck,” Zayn grunts. “I love you so much.”

            They keep sharing light kisses, both of them breathing too heavily to do much else. With a few more rolls of his hips, Harry comes untouched, leaking come onto their stomachs. It doesn’t take long before Zayn’s coming too, inside of Harry, to which Harry groans, both in pleasure and annoyance.

            Harry half rolls of Zayn, settling on his side as he fits his leg between Zayn’s and pillows his head on his chest after he wipes them both with a discarded shirt from the floor. They’re coming down from the high for some time, their chests heaving with heavy breaths. Lying in comfortable silence, the room sounding with Christmas songs coming from the speakers and fire crackling beside them. Harry feels Zayn’s finger draw shapes onto his back and it’s perfect, all of it.

            “I can’t believe we just fucked to a Justin Bieber song,” Zayn says all of sudden.

            “What? I didn’t even realize it. What were you thinking about while we were having sex?” Harry scoffs.

            “You, always you babe. But it was weird.”

            “Your fault, I didn’t put it on the playlist.”

            Zayn laughs and places a kiss on the top of Harry’s head. “Are we still finishing the tree tonight?”

            “You’re finishing the tree. I’m taking a bath and going to sleep.”

            They do end up finishing the tree together, dressed in their boxers at least because Harry’s not an animal, he wouldn’t decorate a Christmas tree in the nude. It takes less than fifteen minutes, could take less if Stitch didn’t decide to play with a bauble, a small one he could easily swallow. With some near rescuing, they turn off the music and make their way upstairs.

            As Harry falls asleep later that night with Zayn wrapped around his back, he wonders how did he ever get so lucky. A year ago, he had nearly lost all the hope that he could glue his heart back together and find someone else that would occupy the space in it that only Zayn did before. It’s a miracle he didn’t have to after all because his heart came back together on its own. Maybe he’ll get a Christmas miracle of his own and this dreamlike life stays his forever.

            Earlier that year, Harry felt like he and Zayn were falling down and down and down. Falling into their old tracks without any guarantee they would land safely. Touching down in one piece was deemed impossible to him, an illusion of sorts that Harry wished for to come true but inevitably knew the chances for it were slim. Now he doesn’t feel like that. He’s sure they’ve landed, together and unscathed, with parachutes patched with trust and love carrying them to the ground. Maybe even pillows were waiting for them down there, fluffy and smooth to ease their landing. Their concurrence feels like it. Buoyant and stoic in a way, light as a feather. Being together feels as easy as breathing, like it’s an inherent part of their existence. Can it stay like that forever?

Chapter Text

 

COVER STORY

Harry Styles and Zayn Malik Talk Their Relationship for The First Time


BY Patrick Jerry

PHOTOGRAPHS BY Lance MCBrock

MARCH 4, 2019

Exclusively for GQ, Harry Styles and Zayn Malik give the world an insight into their very private relationship. For over a year, it’s been a delightful yet unnerving mystery. In a special three cover edition, the couple was photographed by Lance McBrock and interviewed in their NYC penthouse by Patrick Jerry. The cover story includes some of their private never-seen-before photographs.

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of meeting with Harry Styles and Zayn Malik, who were so nice they allowed us to set up the interview in their NYC home. I arrived to their place in the early evening hours and was pleasantly surprised by them. Never having the chance to see them in person before, I was happy to find that they both were very down to earth people, in spite if their popstar statuses and many achievements. We exchanged some pleasantries about my journey, the weather and the usual things before the interview started.

Their penthouse is surely lovely, giving off a warm feeling despite it being very modern and minimalistic in some aspects. Just spending a few minutes with the couple, I could see how comfortable they were around each other, exchanging looks that might as well be their own language and casually putting a hand on the other’s knee or furtively linking fingers. They seemed to be always touching each other in one way or another which I found rather romantic. Perhaps their easiness is a remnant from their One Direction days, when they both along with three other bandmates spent almost every waking hour together. Regardless, I was very curious and excited for the interview.

GQ Style: To start off, I have to compliment your home. It’s rather stylish.

Harry Styles: Thank you very much. Stylish, but still cozy.

Zayn Malik: A slice of our own paradise (laughs).

Thank you both for finding the time to do this cover story. The whole editorial office is very excited. Why did you decide to talk about your relationship now after you’ve kept quiet for a year?

ZM: To simply set the facts straight. For me, it’s always been important that my fans know the truth and now, there’s been just too much speculation about me and Harry. And while we mostly ignore the media, we can’t ignore the way our fans talk about it and how everyone’s trying to undermine it.

HS: Yeah, we just want people to stop questioning everything we do. Maybe it’s because our fans are really passionate but it’s started to affect our relationship. You know, our families and friends go online and then they see an article about us breaking up or not being in a real relationship. It’s quite annoying.

But that happens to every celebrity couple, doesn’t it? How is your situation different?

ZM: Well… (laughs).

HS: Some of our fans… don’t believe that we’re together for real. You know, we’ve been ignoring it but it’s got pretty ridiculous lately. Tabloids picked up on it on social media and it found its way into magazines. My mum was pretty shocked when she was picking up some groceries and saw a cover that said some weird stuff.

Styles is referring a recent piece of gossip released by The Sun that claimed Styles was in a secret relationship with ex-bandmate Louis Tomlinson. No further proof of this exists other than the internet theories of Styles’ fans.

That was the final straw for you?

HS: Basically, yeah. I mean, I love my fans, but this is affecting my privacy in a way I’ve never wanted to. In this industry, being private is really hard but we manage. This on the other hand, it’s not very nice. I’ve been trying to be more open about some aspects of my private life because while the conspiracies and theories used to be fun, they aren’t anymore.

ZM: This used to happen even back in the day and like, we saw it all but fans are free to write fanfictions and stuff. None of us, like in the band, minded it that much. But when it reached this extent, we knew we had to say something before it got even worse.

Let’s move onto some more pleasant things. Except your cryptic Instagram posts and stories, we have no information whatsoever. When did you actually start dating?

ZM: Like, March last year.

HS: February 23rd.

ZM: Oh, that day? I thought we counted the day at my place?

HS: No, we don’t.

Is it hard to accommodate your schedules so you can spend time together?

ZM: It was quite difficult while we were both on tour. Mine started later than Harry’s but still, I had an album coming out so it wasn’t like I could’ve just gone on tour with him. Then Harry was filming and I was doing some stuff as well, so it wasn’t exactly easy even then.

HS: Yes, we barely saw each other while we were on the road. Maybe even less when I was filming, because part of it was shot in Europe. But then we spent a few months doing nothing useful during winter, especially Christmas. We had to call a cleaning service before you came cause our place was a joke. It was so messy.

ZM: Christmas was really lovely. We baked a lot together and probably gained like ten pounds. But it was worth it cause we barely even saw other people for like two weeks.

Harry, about the movie, can you tell us something?

HS: I mean – soon. Soon you’ll know more.

As I’ve mentioned before, the world could see a small piece of your relationship on Instagram, mostly your dog though. Are you enjoying the clearer schedule? While you were in One Direction, you didn’t have the option to just relax for a few months, did you?

ZM: No, we didn’t. That’s why I left the band in the first place. It was all just too fast paced and insane to be honest. Now it’s so much better. Like, I was ghosting on my fans for the entirety of 2017 (laughs). That wasn’t a possibility in One Direction. As to the Instagram, well. I got into it once again like a year ago and talked Harry into being more active on social media. It takes a few second and like, just posting a pic of Stitch is enough. It’s a great way to keep in touch with fans.

HS: Zayn’s a bad influence (laughs). The first time I posted a story on Instagram my fans went into a frenzy and thought I was kidnapped and held hostage (laughs).

This is a question everyone’s been dying to know the answer to. Has your relationship started to some extent in the band? Or is it a thing that happened only last year?

HS: Some things… definitely happened. Like back when we were just starting to record our first album. So you could say it all began years ago.

ZM: Yeah, like, we weren’t together in the way we are now. Proper relationship and all. We didn’t- we weren’t allowed to even if we wanted to. But if I said there weren’t any feelings I’d be lying.

HS: I’d say our… relationship kind of, overlapped with some other, you know, relationships. Wasn’t ideal at all but that’s what happened. We'd rather say it ourselves than wait for someone else to do so.

Do you want to give GQ more details?

ZM: I mean…

HS: You’ve got to wait for the tell-all, mate. Like twenty years and you’ll find out for sure. From who, I don’t know. But you will.

ZM: Haz… (laughs).

How did your bandmates react to your relationship? And your families?

ZM: We weren’t a new thing to them. Niall laughed in our faces how stupid we are for waiting so long. But it’s okay, yeah. And our families… mine is quite happy about it. Mum and dad definitely, some aunties don’t see Harry as the wife they wanted me to have. But it’s okay, they’re quite traditional. Can’t change their opinions now.

HS: My mum had some doubts about us, didn’t think we’d stay together for this long. She still thinks I’m a baby sometimes (laughs). But a year later and we’re still here, together and we’re doing great. Aren’t we, babe?

ZM: Of course.

So you’re in this for the long run?

HS: Yeah, I think so. Fuck, I hope so. We better be.

ZM: Course we are. Unless you get tired of me and kick me out.

HS: Not a chance, love.

Would you mind telling GQ what kind of a couple you are?

HS: We’re definitely… homebodies, if you can call it that. We’re at home a lot if we’re not like… each on a different continent. I think it’s just great that we can be almost a couple just like anyone else when we’re out of the spotlight. We cook, watch tons of TV, go on walks with our dog. It’s simple.

ZM: Yeah, I think we have a really strong foundation, that’s why this works no matter what we’re doing. Media often tries to paint us as this… intense couple that always fights and that we’re jealous but also unfaithful. All of that is bollocks. If those people knew us, what we are like when there are no paparazzi in our faces and we're not on stage or a red carpet, they’d think that their grandparents are like… more exciting than us.

HS: That’s true. We’re boring, really. People are trying to project some weird shit on us all the time and we actually laugh at most of those stories because they’re so ridiculous. Who was I sleeping with last week again, babe?

ZM: Oh, in the UK or in the States? Cause I think it was Kate Moss in London and some actress here in NYC.

HS: Yeah, and I probably managed to squeeze some singer in the tightly fitted schedule, too.

You’re not bothered by these stories?

HS: No, not really. I mean, I’ve been reading these kind of things for years. The names only get more and more ridiculous. I apparently had an affair with Obama a few years back. It’s just a bit more disrespectful considering I’m in a serious relationship now. But it’s whatever, really. One ear in, another ear out.

Let’s move onto fashion. You both are quite style icons, have been for some time. Zayn, can we expect to see another capsule collection with the likes of Versus Versace?

ZM: No, unfortunately. But, you can expect something just from me. I’ve been working on some cool stuff that I can’t wait to finally reveal. But right now, my mouth’s locked and the key is under another lock that I don’t have the key for.

That’s very exciting indeed. Also, late last year, both of you appeared in the top 5 of our “Best Dressed” list. Do you sometimes nick pieces from each other’s wardrobes?

ZM: Harry always takes my tees. And hoodies. And sweaters.

HS: They’re nice and soft, can you blame me?

ZM: (laughs) To be honest we can both piece some nice looks with both of our clothes.

HS: Yeah. Sometimes we experiment a bit.

We’re certainly hoping to see more of those fusions in the future. However, I suppose that would be all for today. Thank you for having me at your place, GQ is immensely excited about this story.

HS: You’re welcome, mate. Anytime. It was our pleasure.

ZM: Yeah. It was cool.

Check out the photoshoot and exclusive never seen before pictures bellow.


 

            Being perpetually happy feels pretty fucking great, Harry’s decided. A lot time ago, happiness was never lacking in his life but there was always something that could make him miserable at a moment’s notice. Back in school it was grades, not being enough for his dad who left and struggling with as to why does he like boys just as much as he likes girls. He was never depressed because of it, not really. Then after the X Factor and being launched into stardom at rocket speed, thousands of things could make him feel like shit. Hate online, Louis not liking him back, not being a good enough singer, Zayn not liking him back, Zayn not loving him back and the list could go on and on and on. Despite the overwhelming happiness that the band brought, Harry was never truly happy day to day. And while it’s normal to feel down in the dumps from time to time, Harry didn’t want so many things to make him sad. So he tried to put on this mask, a costume that made him the happiest person around.

            Smile, be nice and work hard. That is kind of a motto he created for himself. It did help to fight off the negative thoughts and god, were there a lot of them. How long is the band going to stay together? When are people going to start hating us and we lose all our fans? Could Zayn and I ever be together without all this bullshit surrounding us? It was often hard, play this oh-I’m-so-happy game when he was not. But he managed to keep the act up for years, smiling and making everyone around him too.

            After Zayn had left him, it was much harder. That time almost completely broke him. He was more unhappy than happy, more days spent wallowing in self-pity in the confines of his house than out with friends or working. Keeping himself busy was a good distraction from his moods and feelings. The album, Dunkirk, the album again, tour, another tour lined up. It was just work, work, work. When he was with his colleagues he needed to appear happy, like he was on top of the world and nothing could push him down and have him tumbling down the dirt. He needed to be the Harry they had fixated in their minds – with a smile on his face and jokes always ready to be told.

            And then it all changed. Just like that. Is it stupid to rely all your happiness on one person? Absolutely. Harry knows it and yet, he could only find the genuine joy and optimism once he and Zayn were together again. Perhaps it’s toxic, unhealthy and overdependent. Actually, it is exactly that and while Harry’s aware of it, he’s not going to change a single thing.

            It’s been almost two years since they started dating, like normal people do, freely and without restriction. In that time, Harry’s sky-high level of happiness has been unwavering. He doesn’t have to fake the smiles since they’re all real and never chant anything in his head just to get through the day. Nothing is ever perfect and neither is their relationship, but even when they fight, Harry knows they’re gonna talk it out, learn from it and leave it in the past. No resentment and no animosity.

            This time their relationship is so much unlike what they had before. Back then, they never discussed the problems that happened to appear. They didn’t fight about the important things and when they were mad, they just ignored each other for a few days before they “talked it out” with passion, bruising kisses and painful love. So obviously, communication wasn’t their forte. When Harry sometimes starts to dwell over the almost three years they spent apart, that convinces him that it was actually a good thing. The time allowed them to grow up properly, like they never had the chance to in the band. To experience new things, meet new people and establish themselves as the people they wanted to be as adults. Harry doesn’t like to admit it but he knows they would’ve teared each other apart if they stayed together after Zayn left.

            Some things outside of his relationship make Harry upset once in a while, for instance the nagging he gets from all sided to be careful, his family and friends still paranoid about him and Zayn. Harry often fears it’s never going to stop. His mum wasn’t this annoying even when she spent almost a week on a yacht with him and Kendall. He’s run out of ways to explain to everyone that they don’t have to worry about things he doesn’t worry about and has a better insight into. They’re almost like gossip magazines.

            At least the things that made his younger self’s skin crawl aren’t bothering him anyone. He used to let people’s opinions on him make him feel like shit, like he was weird and not good enough to be in the spotlight. A bad article about him could’ve ruined Harry’s entire week and he’d always work on trying to change things, trying to be the person strangers that have never talked to him wanted him to be. But thankfully, he learned to ignore those expectations and foolish judgement because who are those people to tell him shit? He learned to love himself the way he is, love his choices whether it was a suit or a bridge in a song. Self-love was one of the most important lessons he’s learned in his life. He’s unapologetic about who he is and while, as any human being, he still seeks validation and success, Harry’s aware that no one in the entire world can make everyone love them. everyone will always have different opinions and taste and while decent people know not to speak out on whether or not they like a stranger on the TV, some love to run their mouths and that’s okay too because Harry doesn’t care if @glowmi8 on Twitter says his album is worse than a recording of ten toddlers crying.

            Harry also knows now that he and Zayn have landed. Safe and sound, descending into a huge soft pile of feathers that was waiting for them. He doesn’t feel like they’re crashing down, jumping out of a burning plane with no parachutes, no safety of making out it alive. For many years, Harry didn’t even dream of his current life being a realistic possibility. If someone told him in 2016 that in three years, he and Zayn would live together, be in love and be your regular boring couple, he’d laugh in their faces.

            Calling them a boring couple wouldn’t be really adequate but when they’re home, just the two of them, they’re just like any other young people in love, no matter what absurd theories the tabloids or fans come up with. Behind the closed door, they fuck, cook, spend hours watching Netflix. They go grocery shopping together, visit their families and have dinner parties with their friends. Nothing out of the ordinary. To the public, they’re a sensation, an anomaly almost. Two men in a relationship is crazy enough for some individuals. Others find it thrilling they used to be in a boyband together and they study their relationship like a dead frog in a bio lab. Like they’re an attraction in the freak show. All of it is irrelevant to them. Being in the public eye since they were basically children has taught them to ignore it all. At the end of the day, they’re together and it’s all that matters to them.

+

            Walking down a street and being able to hold Zayn’s hand still feels surreal to Harry each time he does it. For the longest time, it was just a dream, an idea that would could never possibly come to life. Now it’s pretty regular and yet Harry finds it almost intoxicating each and every time. When they’re walking hand in hand outside, Harry can sometimes almost pretend like they’re not famous, that the clicking of a camera isn’t for them and that the two girls walking towards them are just regular passer-bys. Like they have mundane professions, that he’s a lawyer or something and Zayn an English teacher like he wanted. No need to hide behind sunglasses and hoods.

            Harry still finds it equally dreamlike as they’re walking on a sidewalk right now, on their way to meet Niall for lunch. They parked the car a street away and thankfully, haven’t run into any fans or paparazzi. The spot is more than familiar to Harry since they frequent it quite often due to the staff actually keeping quiet about their whereabouts and the good food.

            Niall is already sitting at a table near the back, a brown hat on and his phone in his hands. He’s the one Harry and Zayn talk to the most and the only one they regularly meet up with. Zayn talks to Louis as well, not very often but he does, keeping up with how Freddie’s growing up and Louis’ sisters too. Liam… is Liam. They all talk to him but barely see him, except for Louis. All five of them met up at Liam and Cheryl’s wedding and it was quite weird. The lingering awkwardness about Zayn’s departure and the hiatus of the band was present and irritating. Louis didn’t want to talk to Harry, Harry didn’t want to talk to Liam, Zayn wanted everyone to talk to everyone and Niall just left and instead of being the mediator, got spectacularly drunk. Which leaves Niall truly being the only one that actually comes over to their house and their friendship is almost unchanged from when they were in the band.

            “Look who finally graces me with their presence!” Niall calls out when they come closer to the table. “Come here yer cunts.”

            He hugs them both, enveloping them in his famous bear hugs. They get seated and start chatting about their lives like they usually do. Niall’s music and also golf. Harry’s new album and movie. Zayn’s first ever movie that he almost didn’t agree to do until Harry threatened to drag him by the hair to the studio. Harry could see it on Niall’s face from the minute they sat down, the question that he will inescapably ask sooner than later. Niall’s never fidgeting unless he has something important to say or an event, that people have great expectations about.

            The question appears after they finish their food and order drinks.

            “’S a bit… weird to ask but… what would you two say about a reunion?” Niall finally asks then, his words coming out too fast, posing them as if he was asking about the weather. He doesn’t look at them, instead gazing at the menu in spite of them already having an order coming in.

            The words are quite a shock. Not groundbreakingly so thanks to Liam’s blabbering about a reunion since 2016, but Harry’s heart sure misses a beat at the displeasure. What is he thinking? Putting the band together now?

            Harry looks at Zayn, utterly dubious and suspicious, only to find him looking at Harry with very similar emotions about it displayed on his face. There are too many questions flying around Harry’s head so he starts with just one.

            “Why?”

            Niall looks up, his cheeks reddening up. “Well, you know. I met up with the boys like two weeks back and Liam said he’d quite like it if we got back together for like an album or two, maybe a tour. Even with you, Zayn, if you wanted to.”

            Harry looks at Zayn again, unsure of what to say himself, hoping Zayn won’t let them sit in awkward silence.

            “Well,” Zayn clears his throat. “I love you, Ni, but I don’t think I want to do that. I’d love to get back with the band one day for like a… Spice Girls kinda reunion, but this isn’t the one for it. There are different things I want to do with my life, not only career-wise. We’d jump on that crazy carousel that was the band again and we wouldn’t be able to leave it for ages. It feels like I just got off, I don’t wanna go back yet. I’m really sorry, don’t count with me on it.”

            Harry’s heart starts fluttering in his chest because what the hell does Zayn mean? It could be one of two scenarios. One is that Zayn has a secret lover and got her pregnant and now wants to leave Harry and start a family with her which God, please don’t let that be the truth. The second one is just wishful thinking but perhaps Zayn actually was listening to Harry’s ramblings about getting a new house. Which is of course just a part of Harry’s very elaborate plan to get engaged and eventually married. And fuck, Harry’s going to shit his pants if that’s the reason behind Zayn’s words.

            “Harry,” Niall snaps his fingers in front of Harry’s face, making Harry jerk and bring him back to reality out of the conference room of his mind. “Was asking you a question, you tool. What do you think about the reunion? You’re still in the band, if your memory serves you right.”

            “I, uh, I don’t think I want to do it, mate.”

            Niall’s face drops and Harry instantly feels bad. The truth is, he doesn’t want to actively be in the band anymore. Maybe in the future, but he’s more than content with his career right now. Besides, Louis doesn’t even talk to him, Liam has been weird for a few years now so it’d be just Niall that Harry actually wants to spend time with. And concerning music, Harry can do a song with Niall any time he wants. Not to mention the little fact that his potential future with Zayn is more important to him than Liam trying to run away from his wife or whatever.

            “You sure, Harry?” Niall asks, a sliver of both hope and disappointment in his voice.

            “Yeah, I’m sure, Ni. I’m just really happy with my career right now. I can do both movies and music and if I went back to the band stuff, I wouldn’t be able to. We’re gonna do an album in some years anyway when we all run out of money and will need to revive our careers somehow,” Harry tries to laugh and ease the situation where a gloomy cloud is setting over them.

            “Probably,” Zayn chuckles nervously, clearly seeing Harry’s intention and helping him out. He knows Harry like the back of his hand and Harry loves him so much for it.

            “Fine,” Niall sighs. “I won’t force you. It’s not like just the three of us could do things either so. We’ll try again in a few years, yeah?”

            “Yeah,” Harry gives Niall a small smile to cover up the lie.

            “But, you know, Harry,” Niall starts, looking at the floor before lifting his head up. Harry feels ice all over his skin, settling around his heart and veins. “It’s not really fair. Cause you were the one to want the hiatus and you said we’d come back.”

            Harry opens his mouth a few times like a fish before words rush onto his tongue at last. “We will. Eventually.”

            “Eventually,” Niall snaps.

            “Yeah, eventually. I don’t want to do it now. I’m sorry if Liam and Louis want to, they can’t force me to spin my entire life 180° just because they’re bored with their careers.”

            Harry immediately regrets the words, mentally slaps himself for them. Niall draws a sharps breath, like he’s ready to scream at Harry how fucking selfish he is and a shit friend too. Even shittier bandmate. He does none of it. Instead he shakes his head and stands up after downing the rest of his beer.

            “I’m not gonna yell at you, Harry,” Niall mutters as he’s standing by their table, fiddling with his hat in his hands. “It’s your life, so.”

            Niall clears his throat, looking over the restaurant before he undeniably forces a smile on his face. “You fecking love birds,” he laughs, perhaps without pretence. “I’ve got to go and actually do things, so, I’ll be on me way. See you both… in December? Should be here again next month, yeah?”

            “Sure thing, mate,” Zayn calls after Niall, who’s already halfway out of the restaurant.

            “Oh God,” Harry groans after Niall’s gone. “I can’t believe they’re trying to put the band together so soon. Like after what, four years?”

            “That’s actually a lot of time for a hiatus.”

            Harry glares at Zayn. “You’re supposed to be on my side.”

            “I am. Did I agree to the offer? No,” Zayn pecks Harry’s cheek and wraps an arm around his shoulders. Harry leans into him, tilting his head against Zayn’s.

            “I’m so lucky to have you,” Harry sighs.

            “No, baby. I’m lucky to have you.”

            Harry can’t help but feel the worry and dread churning in his stomach. If he’s fucked up yet another friendship with one of his bandmate, he’ll never forgive himself. Especially because it’s Niall. He doesn’t speak out on it, though. Instead he buries his face in Zayn’s shoulder and stops thinking altogether.

+

            “Would you eat a peach that I came into?” Harry asks, lifting his eyes from the lines in the book. Zayn stops in his tracks and turns to look at Harry.

            “What?” he exhales, putting his hand on the dresser and leaning against it.

            “This book I’m reading, Call Me By Your Name, we saw the film last year?”

            “Yeah?” Zayn nods, still watching Harry on the bed with furrowed brows, a face that could easily have its own name and it certainly would be ‘What the fuck are you talking about, Harry?’.

            “Well, in this once scene, Elio’s like… thinking about Oliver’s arse and stuff, but that’s not important. He kinda, fucks a peach? And then Oliver eats it? Like come and all. Would you ever do that?”

            Zayn starts to laugh and throws the towel from his waist on Harry’s head. When Harry emerges from under it, he’s already putting on boxers.

            “Zayn, I’m serious,” Harry groans, throwing the towel back. “It means to represent a part of their love. Wouldn’t you do that for me?”

            “You want me to eat a peach with your come in it as a love declaration?”

            Harry groans again, shutting the book close and putting it on his bedside table.

            “No, it was just a hypothetical question. I just think their love story is heart-breaking but so full of love. And like, they show their love in very different ways. It’s interesting.”

            Zayn stops staring at him like he’s just got out of a madhouse and gives him a small smile. “Well, babe, if it’s any consolation, I’d much rather suck your cock than eat a peach full of your come.”

            Harry scoffs but promptly starts laughing. “And you call yourself a romantic?”

            “I’m a practical romantic,” Zayn walks to the bed and straddles Harry’s thighs over the duvet. “D’you want that love declaration now?”

            Harry smiles and grabs the back of Zayn’s neck, tilting his face down so they can kiss.

            “No, not right now,” Harry sighs when they part. Tearing his eyes off of Zayn’s face seems more like something fit for a supernatural being, so he just keeps gazing at him with a stupid smile on his face. The comforting warmth in his chest has been a near constant presence for some time now and Harry feels like it’s his own personal armour against heartbreak. With his heart demolished so many times, it’s keeping it solid and smooth; completely recovered. The mist of warmth is being shaken by anxiety now, after Niall brought up the hiatus issue a few days ago. He can’t keep thinking about the accusing tone of Niall’s voice, how he basically lied to them all and now he’s the arsehole because he doesn’t want the band back together again. It’s not like he would agree with the reunion just so they aren’t mad at him, he wouldn’t. But this whole situation still worries him.

            “What?” Zayn asks with a chuckle. Harry forces a smile on his face that was replaced with a frown by his thinking.

            “Your face is inhumanly beautiful and I love you, can’t I stare a little bit?”

            “Not that, babe. You started frowning. What is it?”

            Harry sighs and gently pushes Zayn off of him. Sitting against the headboard, Harry takes another deep breath and decides that it’s useless to be brooding instead of talking about things. He’s put that whole non-communicating era behind him. Being an angsty fuck who pretends like everyone can just simply read his mind has never paid off.

            “It’s Niall,” Harry says after a moment.

            “What about him?”

            “Do you think I fucked up?”

            Zayn doesn’t answer right away. Harry meets his eyes with Zayn’s, gently urging him to talk.

            “Niall loves the band, Haz. Even though he loves being on his own too. But I think it´ll be alright.”

            Harry lies back down, propping himself on his elbow, facing Zayn.

            “Am I a bad person?”

            Zayn scoffs. “Of course not.”

            “I know I’m putting myself first again, just like I did when the hiatus happened,” Harry touches Zayn’s cheeks gently. “But I love my own career more than I love the band. And I love you more than I love the band. There’s nothing for me there. I don’t want another album with Louis and Liam writing everything and a tour with doing stupid shit on stage. I want you and I want to be able to make all of the creative decisions with an album and a tour.”

            Zayn gives him a small smile before placing a soft kiss on his lips.

            “I want you too,” Zayn says, his voice only a hair above whisper.

            “This is probably just bollocks but,” Harry begins, ignoring the way his heart is fluttering in his chest. “I want you not only for now. I mean, it’s too soon to have a serious talk about it but,” Harry takes a deep breath, the weight of Zayn’s gaze on him suddenly too profound.

            “When I- when I think about the future, like five years ahead, I see a lot of stuff. I could be doing anything. But I always see you, Zayn. Always, in every single scenario. I can’t possibly envision a future where you aren’t there with me. I just can’t imagine my life without you anymore. Don’t want to.”

            Harry feels like he’s being interrogated by Zayn’s eyes, his gaze set on Harry’s face. Blank, hushed, plain. Nothing giving Harry a clue.

            “Neither can I,” Zayn speaks at last. “We just… fit, yeah? This feels right. I don’t ever have an urge to be alone for a few days or feel like I’m being suffocated. People in long-term relationships sometimes feel like that but I don’t. You’re almost like a part of me.”

            A smile appears on Harry’s face before he leans down and kisses Zayn. Softly, slowly, sweetly. A chaste kiss like a butterfly just sitting down for quick rest.

            “You know that Greek myth about people having a second half? A soulmate essentially?” Harry asks hesitantly, afraid of feeling like a stupid cliché.

            “Yeah,” Zayn smiles, no witty remarks or smirks in sight. That’s one of the things Harry loves about him. No matter what crazy shit he’s talking about, Zayn will listen to it, even if he frowns and laughs by the end of the story. Surely, he teases Harry a lot but it’s not mean, cutting. Not like most people do when Harry starts rambling. And it’s not like Harry doesn’t tease him too every time Zayn goes full nerd.

            “The world probably doesn’t function like that but I feel like… we are kinda like one soul that got torn apart and glued back together. Or maybe we’re just too co-dependent on each other.”

            Zayn laughs as he lies down on his back, leaving one hand playing with Harry’s curls.

            “It’s probably the latter but I love how you think, babe. Sure, we are soulmates. There must be shit like auras and stuff, yeah? Our colours are probably compatible, that’s why this works.”

            “You know that our signs aren’t compatible? Like, at all?”

            “God, Haz. You and your astrology stuff. Our signs are supposed to hate each other and yet here we are, aren’t we?”

            “I can’t believe I fell in love with a man who doesn’t believe in the power of stars and planets,” Harry fake sniffs into the back of his hand.

            “Haz, I love you so fucking much but please leave the theatrics for later,” Zayn pleads with his arm thrown over his eyes. Harry chuckles and lies down on Zayn’s chest, nestling himself comfortably under his arm.

            “Are you excited for the dinner party tomorrow?” Harry asks and pecks the soft skin between his collarbone and shoulder.

            “That’s tomorrow already?” Zayn groans.

            “Yup.”

            “Do we have to go?”

            “Of course, we have to go.”

            “The things I do for love.”

            Harry laughs and tilts his head so he can kiss Zayn’s jaw.

            “I think this love thing is mutually beneficial.”

            “Yeah, I guess it is.”

+

            The dinner party at Ben’s turns out quite alright. Zayn eventually stops whining about spending the evening with a bunch of near-strangers but he still clings to Harry all night. The food is good, the company is decent and Harry has no complaints really.

            All is just great until Nina and Brent announce their engagement.

            Harry is well aware of being irrational but he feels annoyed by it because they’re both younger than him. Being the poster child for politeness, Harry slaps on a smile and congratulates them of course. It’s not until dessert when he realizes that his annoyance came from pure jealousy. When wine was starting to cloud up his mind, questions like “Why aren’t I engaged yet?” started popping up in his head.

            It was true – Harry wanted to finally settle down. Have a home base and spend more than two months a year in his house. Just fucking sit still for once in his life. Have something concrete enough that would be a constant reassurance that he’s loved. That there’s a person who isn’t his mum, or dad, or Gemma, who loves him unconditionally and lets him know it every single day.

            The thing is, Harry already has that person. And the unconditional love. He just doesn’t have the reassurance. And hell, does he want it.

Chapter Text

EXCLUSIVE: Harry Styles and Zayn Malik are Engaged

Ex-One Direction pop stars, who have been the most shocking new couple of the entire decade, are now engaged.

By RAY BILLOW

22:01, 15 JUL 2020

More than two years after their reunion, the surprising couple got engaged just a few days ago. Supposedly, it happened in their LA home without any plans.

Our source revealed the engagement is soon to be followed by a wedding, which we’ve been told is already being planned. The couple is thinking about a big event, comparable to the Kardashian-West wedding, with hundreds of guests.

The popstar couple surprised the world with the announcement of their engagement by posting a lovely Instagram photo of them sharing a kiss, with the caption “ Ready to spend the rest of my life with my love.” .

Many have been shocked by this decision, especially their fans who are arguing online that it is a ‘stunt’ or that the couple is ‘too young for marriage’.

After some online and media speculation, whether or not they truly are engaged, we reached out to both Styles’ and Malik’s teams where we got identical answers: “Yes, they are.”

We think that Styles, 26, and Malik, 27, are very happy with their decision since smiles don’t seem to leave their faces lately.

Congratulations to the couple from our team. We hope we’ll even get an invite to the spectacle that is supposed to be their wedding.

GALLERY:

Harry has always loved the feeling of getting something he’s been wanting for ages. Whether it was a toy when he was a kid or some fancier clothes when he was a teen, it was all the same. It only got better after X-Factor because, after the gutting feeling of coming third, everything else seemed to work flawlessly. And he’s never gotten tired of it. No matter how many times he got the things he wished for because, in reality, Harry enjoyed it the same every time. It wasn’t much different with the engagement.

The one thing he’s wanted the most in his life was to be with Zayn. The desire came when they already had money, fame and basically the whole fucking world. That’s why Harry craved love more than anything else. It didn’t matter how many fans were screaming his name each night or how much money was coming to his bank account, there was nothing that could fill the hole in Harry’s heart where Zayn was supposed to be. Sometimes it got so fucking fierce Harry thought he’d choke with it, drown with the feeling of all-encompassing want and love. He wanted nothing more than to march to Zayn’s London house, hoping she would open the door so Harry had the chance to scream ‘He could never love you as much as he loves me’ in her face before even stepping inside the foyer. But he was never allowed to.

For years and years, Harry was missing just one single piece of the puzzle. The most important one right from the middle that would bring everything together. He spent countless hours daydreaming about what-ifs. What if we could be together? What if we just said no and did whatever we wanted? What if he really doesn’t love me? What if we were never famous and met in uni like normal people? It used to drive him mad, reaching for something that was right there, he could touch it, feel it and at the same time, it was nothing but a ghost slipping between his fingertips. Zayn was right there – next to him on stage, holding him in bed, kissing him in the middle of the night. Yet it wasn’t enough. It was never enough because all they had were locked hotel rooms and dark corners and so much fucking love but they never had courage.

In hindsight, they don’t regret it. When they had that fateful phone call that would eventually separate them for three years, they knew. Zayn said that they would regret getting together then and it would drive them to hate each other because while they would gain their relationship, they would lose everything else. Their careers, their fans and ever so slowly and painfully, their love.

Harry kept thinking about a conversation he and Zayn once had a lot when they were apart and lately, his mind seemed to come back to it a lot. It took place sometime before the last tour when they had fucked off to Bali for a few days. They were high and talking about the weirdest shit, lying by the pool while the moon was shining over them. It was blissful and Harry wished they could stay like that forever. Not in Bali doing nothing all day long but happy and at ease. Zayn was playing with Harry’s hair and it seemed to Harry that they’d been doing it for decades instead of years. That was what made him ask Zayn something neither of them had the nerve to before. ‘Could you imagine spending the rest of our lives together? Maybe even getting married, adopting a fat cat and a dog with three legs. Or having kids?’. Harry’s heart was beating in his throat during the pause that separated his question and Zayn’s answer. ‘Yeah, I think so.’. ‘Really?’. ‘Yes. But I don’t think it’s possible for us. Simon would kill us and serve us as dinner to his poodle.’. ‘Fuck.’.

They didn’t bring it up again.

But things change, don’t they? Sometimes feelings stay in place, cemented down and sometimes not everything has a terrible ending. With nearly all his hope lost, Harry got a second chance on dream-like conditions. The life that was a mere wishful thought a few years ago is now the reality. Their love has been set free and Harry has no intention of wasting this chance by fucking up or doing the same stupid shit they used to when they were just old enough to be considered adults. Now them talking about marriage and spending the rest of their lives together is normal, ordinary, even expected in some way. It isn’t a dream, it’s the next step in their lives.

The engagement wasn’t a big surprise to Harry. Especially not after talking about it. Having conversations where the words “would you want to get married?” were explicitly said. It was somewhat natural, the thing that’s usually the next step in a relationship. They were committed, they were in love so why not put a ring on it and make it official? It’s never been a secret that both of them wanted to get married and settle down one day. They just didn’t dare to hope it would be with each other.

Although getting engaged was basically inevitable and Harry knew it, he didn’t know when it would actually happen.

It was a regular day like any other when both of them cocooned up on the couch with Netflix and a bowl of popcorn, tired after a day of writing and recording and filming and all the other things they did in the studio. With both of them working on their respective albums at the same time, the nightly lounging on the couch has become routine because even though one of them usually fell asleep after twenty minutes, they weren’t about to sacrifice spending time together. Even breathing in the same room and touching in some way, they needed it. Sometimes it was like they couldn’t breathe without each other, which is funny considering how much time they spend separately on different continents.

And in typical Zayn fashion, he managed to take Harry by surprise even though Harry was expecting it. It was actually pretty easy because Harry was expecting roses and romantic dinner, not Netflix and a bowl of popcorn. Literally, the ring was in the bowl of popcorn.

“Babe, I think I lost my ring,” Zayn said out of nowhere, looking around the pile of blankets around them. “Could you please check the popcorn? Maybe it’s there. I’m gonna go see if it’s not by the kitchen sink.”

Harry rolled his eyes but didn’t say anything as he started slowly digging through the popcorn with the tips of his fingers. He didn’t pay it any mind and thought it’d be pointless, a ring can’t just slip off of a finger like that into a bowl of popcorn. Despite that he kept mindlessly sifting through the popcorn, his eyes focused on the TV screen. Then he felt something much more solid than popcorn under his fingertip and with eyebrows screwed in confusion, then looked down into the bowl and carefully uncovered a small black box. His heart dropped to the bottom of his stomach as he took it out, eyeing it as if he could suddenly gain x-ray vision to see what’s inside. He could hear his blood rushing through his ears and the world around him seemed blurred. Cautiously, he opened the box to see a silver ring with a pale amber-coloured gem in the middle. It looked like the gem had wings around it. Harry took a shaky breath, all of sudden clueless about everything he could or should do. He just sat there, doing nothing but stare at the ring. It was beautiful, there was no denying it. Harry didn’t know what to do, what to think. At the moment he’s been anticipating for some time, he could do nothing because it all felt like a beautiful hallucination.

“Baby?”

Harry lifted his head up from the ring at the sound of Zayn’s voice. Zayn was standing by the wall separating the living room from the kitchen, his face carrying a dubious look.

“Yes,” Harry said, not asked. It was a definite answer to more than just the spoken question. It was the only word that seemed to make the journey from his brain to his mouth because he didn’t want to say anything more.

“That… didn’t sound like a question.”

Harry finally caught his breath after what seemed like days. He smiled a bit, lowering the ring box to his lap. “It wasn’t a question. It’s an answer,” Harry lifted the box, “to this.”

The dreading uncertainty dropped from Zayn’s face and Harry could see him fighting a full-on smile. Harry did smile then, the shock leaving his mind and being replaced by pure joy. He felt happiness settling deep inside his bones, his heart and that brought him a sense of peace he didn’t think he’d ever felt before. Their relationship was a sealed deal and Harry finally felt secure. A ring giving their relationship and love the tangibility Harry had been striving for.

“You haven’t even heard the speech yet,” Zayn smiled.

“Let’s hear it then,” Harry challenged.

Zayn started walking towards the sofa, making Harry and himself smile wider with each step he took. He sat down next to Harry, taking the box out of his hands and putting it on the coffee table. With their hands locked and eyes focused on each other, smiling like children at a fair, Harry knew it was the right step. The dreams weren’t just dreams anymore.

“Remember how I told you, all those years ago when we… broke up just before I left the band, ‘I think you’re the one for me.’?” Zayn started and Harry nodded promptly, smiles falling from their lips at the grim reminder of their past. “I still think you’re the one. There was never a person who made me feel the things that you do. The constant excitement but also peace, if you know what I mean? Like, our relationship isn’t boring. Even being a lazy arse, watching Netflix all day on the couch with you, doesn’t seem boring. And at the same time, everything’s so peaceful. Not in the way where we don’t fight because we just don’t give a fuck anymore, no. We care and value this relationship more than stupid fights. It’s amazing to see how much we grew as people since that’s all we used to do the first time around.

“I don’t think we made a mistake by spending those three years apart. Like I said years ago, we would’ve been miserable if we went the ‘us against the world’ way. And now we’re just so fucking happy, Haz. Like, this is better than I could ever imagine. I love you so fucking much and you’re the person I want to grow old with. We’re still pretty young but I’m sure, I’ve never been more certain about anything. You’re the fucking love of my life and you’re such a brilliant person, such an amazing soul. You make this world a better place, Haz. I love you. I love you so much I can’t put it into words. You’ve already answered this but, I’ve got to ask. Will you marry me, babe?”

Harry beamed at him, tears of happiness nearly spilling from his eyes.

“Yes, yes, yes,” he chanted and kissed Zayn at last. They couldn’t stop smiling so their teeth clashed together a lot but they didn’t care, they just kept kissing, revelling in the indescribable feeling of happiness. It was pure love and also relief, that both of them felt the same way. Excitement and wonder about what the future holds for them. Foolish strength that would have them believe they could take over the world together if they wanted to. It was all-encompassing love, powerful and unwavering, ready to be settled for forever.

“Wait. Wait,” Zayn pulled away with a chuckle and reached for the ring box on the coffee table. “There’s something missing on your left hand.”

They didn’t speak as Zayn took Harry’s left hand and gently slipped the ring on his ring finger, joining the old silver one on his middle finger and two gold ones on his pointer finger. It fit perfectly, the weight of it felt right somehow. It was on the finger that was always unadorned by any rings and Harry welcomed the weight, welcomed the ring he’s going to be wearing all his life.

“I can't wrap my head around this,” Harry says quietly while admiring his engagement ring. It feels surreal, almost. Like a sweet dream that he's going to wake up from any moment. He wished for this once upon a time and was convinced he'd never truly be with Zayn. This flawless reality is way more than he bargained for but he's definitely not asking for a refund.

Zayn laughs as he takes Harry's left hand in his, completely covering it with his own hands. “Babe, it's real. Don't worry, you're not being pranked. I'm in love with you and that ring is going to stay on your finger as long as you want. Let's move this to the bedroom because I don't fancy fucking on the couch right now.”

“Let me admire it,” Harry wails jokingly and for the dramatic effect throws his head back too.

“You have the rest of your life to admire it,” Zayn says and leaves a soft kiss on the side of Harry's neck. “I don't have much time to admire your body before you get all old and nasty.”

Harry stops his acting and scoffs. “I'll remind you that when you're begging to fuck me at 50. Why did I agree to marry you again?”

“Because you love me,” Zayn gives him a shit-eating grin and punctuates it with a kiss. “And I love you. Very much so. I might tease you sometimes but then again, I have to listen to your terrible jokes and act like they're funny because if I don't laugh you start pouting.”

“You're not helping yourself.”

“I haven't finished,” Zayn exclaims, one of his hands now on Harry's thigh. “You agreed to married me for the same reason I asked you - us together, it's what we need. We're better off together. I tried the whole dating-other-people thing but I missed you the whole time. And I don't want us to ever be apart.”

“That sounds about right,” Harry smiles at Zayn sheepishly. “Life kinda sucks without you.”

Their mouths meet in a kiss and they keep meeting again and again and again for hours until they're lying in their bed in the moonlight, spent but so fucking happy they could cry.

+

The bliss and euphoria of their brand-new engagement lure them out of the smog-tainted Los Angeles scarcely a week later. It's not like they want to stay in bed all day and fuck (they kind of do, truth be told), but there's this deep-rooted desire to be alone, just the two of them. Get lost in one another, talk, look back at the obstacles they've overcome to reach this point. It's simply better to do it on a private beach with room service.

One night in ethereal Belize, they fall into a seeming time vortex when they lay on the sand, stargazing and talking, mirroring a night in Bali from many years ago. Barely breaching adulthood back then, everything that was said was just hopes and dreams. Nothing seemed like a real possibility. A relationship, a wedding, a life together without hiding and looking over their shoulders to make sure their pretend invisibility hasn't budged. Now, all that wishful thinking is a part of a plan, one they're certain will work out.

“What do you think about a beach wedding?” Harry asks Zayn as they're lying on a blanket in the sand. The stars above them are so vibrant and clear they haven't been able to keep their eyes off them. The nightly chill isn't really getting to them because they're wrapped up in each other. Harry would even say his cheek on Zayn's bare chest is burning. Maybe they'll go for a middle-of-the-night skinny dip in the ocean that keeps reminding them of itself with a lovely song of its waves.

“I'm not against it,” Zayn replies. “I don't like big weddings so as long as it's small, I'm game.”

“I love the seaside,” Harry muses. “There's like… so many options. We could get married in a place like this one. Probably in like… Capri or somewhere near the mainland. Or even back home. Cornwall is beautiful.”

Zayn just hums as a response, his fingers continuously playing with Harry's hair. The comforting motion will eventually make Harry sleepy, whether he wants to or not.

"But I don't want a big wedding either,” Harry adds then. “Just our immediate family and a few close friends. I would elope with you but I think I'd feel like I'm not even married? I don't know. I mean, it's for us, obviously. But it's a joyful day that, I think, should be shared with some people we care about. What do you think?”

Zayn sighs, his chest lifting Harry's head. “I don't like a lot of attention on me in like… these private situations. But it's our families, yeah? Mum would probably throw a fit if I got married and she wasn't there. You know what I just realised?”

“What?”

“I never told you what happened after you passed out at that party back when we met again.”

“Oh,” Harry says, his voice drifting. “Please tell me I wasn't lying there until Jeff randomly found me.”

“No, of course not,” Zayn chuckles. “I sent Taryn to find Jeff or anyone from your team and stayed there with you. Was scared you'd like… choke on your own puke. But that's not important. Jeff came maybe fifteen minutes later and he was so angry. He didn't yell at me but he looked ready to just snap my neck. Or your neck maybe. He and your bodyguard took you outside and that was it. Jeff didn't say anything, really. Just asked if you were taking anything. Anyway, I've no idea why I never told you.”

Harry's blood stills. Why did Jeff ask that when he knew very well that at that point, Harry hadn't taken anything almost a year. It always comes to bite him in the arse, even though he's truly been done with everything for a few years now. It's too risky for him. And since he got back with Zayn, he wouldn't dare get fucked up knowing Zayn's “party history” from after he left and literally, Gigi saved him from.

It's in the past now and Harry takes a deep breath, changing the topic altogether. “I'll leave the wedding planning for later but I think we need to talk about like… timeline and stuff.”

“Huh?”

“When should the wedding be?” Harry starts. “How long are we going to go on honeymoon for? When should we have a baby?”

“Hold on, that escalated quickly,” Zayn laughs. “We got engaged like a week ago and you're already talking about kids?”

"What, you don't want them?” Harry asks, trying not to get worried because it'd be just paranoia since they've talked about kids before and they both want a family eventually. He just hopes Zayn's eventually isn't when they're nearly in their 40's.

“No, I do,” Zayn says. “You just took me by surprise is all.”

“Good because I want a baby before I turn 30,” Harry says, his heartbeat more relaxed already. “I really don't want to be in like… my sixties with a kid in uni. Like… right now is soon. But in three years… Oh and I don't want to adopt. I know there are many children that need a home but I want our kids to like… resemble us at least a bit since unfortunately, we can't have kids together biologically. It's a shame, we'd have handsome children.”

Zayn laughs suddenly. “Go to uni, Haz. Get a degree in genetic studies or whatever and maybe you will come up with something.”

“Ha ha, very funny. You're so hilarious you should be a comedian. Scrap that album and start doing stand up. You might even get a show on Netflix. I could call Chelsea, she might know someone who could help you.”

“I know, right?” Zayn says and kisses the top of Harry's head. “You're such a supportive boyfriend.”

Fiancé, ” Harry reminds Zayn with a blind slap on his head. “You know what's really cool?”

“You, I assume.”

Another blind smack. “Baby names that are like… the names of stars and galaxies? For example, Elara. It's so nice.”

“You know what else is nice? Binging Black Mirror in our room and eating that caramel candy we got on the airport.”

Harry cranes his head up to look at Zayn, who only wiggles his eyebrows at him with a grin. It's impossible to keep the laugh in.

“Fine,” Harry rolls his eyes for show and sits up. “But you're not getting out of this conversation, mister.”

“Not planning to,” Zayn kisses Harry quickly and stands up. He starts walking towards their little beach house, leaving Harry on the blanket.

Harry watches after him and thinks about how lucky he is to get this life, this amazing man, this unmeasurable happiness. Nothing lasts forever but Harry foolishly hopes this does. He can't imagine what he would do otherwise.

+

Months later, after the initial engagement-elation has drifted away, both Harry and Zayn are hard at work again. Each of their albums has been released, Zayn's on tour and Harry's filming. It's good to be busy, Harry loves it and adores his job but he gets lonely. The solitude of hotel rooms and planes is startling sometimes. He thinks he's grown allergic to the glow of his laptop screen in the darkness when he and Zayn Skype in the middle of the night.

It's another 2 AM Skype session just like any other when Harry's in Spain, filming on location, while Zayn is in Australia on tour. Almost a month has passed since the last time they saw each other not through a camera. Nearly four weeks since Harry didn't sleep in a cold, empty bed, longing for that familiar warm body wrapped around his back.

I met a really cute koala bear yesterday,” Zayn says, his eyes squinty since he seems to be on a balcony with his laptop on a table. “ You would have loved her. So cuddly. We need to get another pet.”

“Aw, remember when that one koala peed on Liam, was it?” Harry chuckles. “I love those little rascals. They're so chill. And we do. I'd love a cat.”

Oh god, yeah that chlamydia stuff,” Zayn laughs. “ Oh shit, it's really late for you right? We've been talking for ages, I'm keeping you up. I don't want you to be sleepy tomorrow during filming.”

“No,” Harry protests even though his eyes have been droopy for an hour. “I'm fine, baby.”

Treacherously, Harry then can't suppress a yawn.

Sure,” Zayn smirks. “Call me when you wake up, yeah? I miss you so much, baby. Can't wait to be home with you again. Being without you sucks majorly.”

“I'll call you,” Harry promises and rubs his eye with his fist. “Miss you even more. It's gorgeous here, wish you could be here with me.”

I do too, babe,” Zayn smiles wistfully. “ Okay, I'll see you later. Goodnight. I love you. Get some rest.”

“I love you. Bye. Have a great day,” Harry rushes out before yawning again and ending the call.

After putting his laptop on the bedside table, he collapses into the soft mound of pillows but Harry's mind is more restless than his body. He's worried about their relationship. Not in the way that they're not in love anymore, nothing like that. But since their engagement, they haven't really progressed with the actual wedding planning because they've been too busy. Harry was actually thinking about getting married in summer but found out it's impossible due to their schedules.

How are they supposed to build a family like this? They're rarely home and even if they are, they're working on something. Harry realized that it wasn't noticeable to them because they're not forced to work like they were in the band. The music, films, fashion, all of it is done just because they want to. It's scared Harry in a way. What if they're not ready to settle down? What if they make a mistake and then fight and start hating each other?

Harry truly loves what he does but he lacks the feeling of standing still. Of being anchored. And he desperately wants it. With the engagement, he thought everything would unfold naturally and swiftly. A wedding, a baby, a family. Things that would give him purpose other than his career.

He's been doing this since he was just sixteen and a decade of this business is the right time for a proper break. The world will not fall apart if he doesn't release an album for four years. While his work is an amazing legacy to leave behind, Harry doesn't want to let only the music do the talking.

The security of marriage and the devotion of having a family is what Harry wants at this point in his life. The family can wait a few years before he truly grasps adulthood. But after years and years of floating around without a real home base, all this is long overdue. Firstly, he and Zayn need to start spending more time on the same continent together.