Some people are born with their Abilities.
Some people receive them as gifts.
Some people, the people with money, buy them.
Harry doesn’t have any Ability. But he receives one from Angela, his childhood friend. Angela has been born with her Ability. It runs in the family, apparently, because her grandma has the same one.
Angela hates it, and she wants to get rid of it, so on a sunny summer day shortly after they graduate high school, she asks Harry if he wants it. Because she knows Harry finds it amazing.
Angela explains everything about it to Harry, like Harry hasn’t been there the few times Angela has used it. He knows it by heart, what she can do, what she can suffer. She warns him about the dangers, tells him about the greatest danger of all when it comes to that Ability, and Harry feels a bit nauseous and a bit angry, that an Ability so useful has to come with such a price.
But he accepts it anyway. Angela is very excited to get rid of it, and Harry is excited to get it. He knows he can’t overdo it, but he will make good use of it. He’ll help people with it.
His mother almost has a coronary when he gets back from the Ability Centre and tells her that he made the transfer with Angela. Anne cries, tells him he doesn’t know what he’s done, that the Ability will debilitate him, mentally and physically.
Harry doesn’t believe her.
At least not until he uses it for the first time.
It’s December when the car accident happens. Harry’s driving home from his college in Leeds for Christmas break, and he’s on the highway when a loud crash deafens him, and he sees a pile of cars collide into each other in front of him. He slams his foot on the brakes, stops the car, and doesn’t even care about the car behind him lightly bumping his own, because the mayhem in front of him is so much more serious.
He runs out of the car, assessing the damage. He can already hear people shouting in their phones, frantically calling ambulances. Right that moment, he sees a woman crawl out of her destroyed car. Harry runs to her, helps her out, and then his breath is cut off.
She has a deep cut on her stomach. The blood is flowing from it, and she’s gurgling. Harry looks frantically in her bloodshot eyes, holding the back of her head while she raises her hand and tries to say something, not managing.
Harry knows the woman is not really dying yet, he can feel it in his bones. But he also knows she’s suffering, will be suffering more and more before an ambulance arrives to take care of her.
So he braces himself, and hugs her.
It’s like someone starts to gut him with a scorching iron, shoving it through his belly button and twisting it repeatedly. He screams, holding the woman close to his chest, and gasps for breath as he feels her pain, all of it, like he’s the one who got his stomach cut open in a car accident.
He doesn’t know how long it lasts. He just knows it’s long enough that he starts to feel his consciousness slip, and he briefly wonders if he’s made a fucking mistake. Maybe the woman was already dying too much, and now he’s gonna die. He also wonders if he’s made a fucking mistake into taking that Ability from Angela at all.
Harry doesn’t die. When the pain subsides, he hears the woman speak, hugging him just as tightly. She’s asking him how he did that, what happened, she’s thanking him.
Harry recovers his breath, wipes the tears pooling in his eyes, and looks at the woman when they let each other go.
The blood on her blouse is still there, but Harry can see that she no longer has a wound on her stomach. He healed her.
You have to be careful, Hazza, Angela had told him. Your hugs will heal people, yes. But you’ll feel all their pain, amplified, even, for the whole time it takes for them to heal. And Harry, just remember. You can heal everyone from everything, wounds, illness, whatever. But you can’t heal them if they’re really about to die. If death has already started to take them, and you try to heal them, you’ll die.
Harry didn’t think that giving healing hugs would be such a painful Ability.
So after the woman’s safe and the ambulances have arrived, Harry drives home with his now bumped car, and decides he’ll never use his Ability again.
Nine years later
Harry knows that what he does is selfish and that he objectively takes advantage of suffering people.
Granted, he’s not done it that many times because his fees are kinda ridiculous, which means he also has to keep a normal job to have a stable income, but he still can’t bring himself to totally enjoy the stupidly heavy stack of money he just received for a fucking hug.
Niall doesn’t think Harry takes advantage of anyone, which is the reason why Harry’s going to see exactly him, now that he’s done with his client. He presses a hand to his chest, where half an hour earlier his heart was twitching in a painful way as he hugged Mr. Barnes and healed him from his terminal heart cancer.
Harry never does terminal patients, as a rule, because it’s too difficult to know for sure how close to death they are. But after Mr. Barnes had told him he’d pay whatever price, and after showing Harry all his clinical history which made it totally fair to say that Mr. Barnes was not already dying, Harry had decided to do it.
It had hurt like a motherfucker. Mr. Barnes had started shushing him while Harry screamed and cried in his hug, and had even said sorry to Harry about the pains. The fifty-year-old man had paid Harry what he was due, shocked that his pains were completely gone. Harry had needed to lay down on his couch for twenty minutes to get his own pain away from his chest. Mrs. Barnes had made him tea, which Harry had felt like a dick for taking, considering he’d already taken a handful of thousands pounds from them.
Harry needs the money, though. And the pain is fucking unbearable sometimes. So he doesn’t use his Ability often, but sometimes he does.
He’ll be good with this batch of money for probably at least three years. He’ll pay the lease for Gemma’s house, and he’ll pay for her wedding. Hell, he’ll fucking pay for his mother’s dress as well. Harry knows how much Anne and Gemma have worked for him to be able to enrol into the university he liked and finish his own studies. Gemma had postponed her own studies for Harry to have a chance at doing what he wanted, so Harry might as well repay her by not having her spend a single pound to marry the man she loves.
He smiles, feeling more at ease thinking about his sister rather than the ill and wounded people he took the money from in the course of the last nine years.
It’s never a good path to tread, that one, Niall always says.
Niall thinks it’s fair that Harry doesn’t want to use his Ability on just anybody, because it fucking hurts. And he also thinks that when Harry does it, he might as well get something out of it.
Harry doesn’t know if Niall’s right, because he feels like a fraud even if he’s not tricking anyone. Sometimes he feels like a little bit of pain is nothing compared to the possibility of saving someone’s life, like he thought before Angela gave him the Ability. He thinks about all the people with illnesses and serious wounds in hospitals, and thinks that he could save them all if he could just grow a pair and tolerate a little bit more pain.
But he can’t do that, so he sucks it up, and does it for selected people who have money. He tries not to do it if he doesn’t extremely need it, though.
He clutches at his chest again, to make sure his heart is still there, functioning and not spasming in his ribcage due to the cancer pains of someone else, and sighs.
Niall works at a café called By All Beans, and the pun never fails to make Harry laugh. He sighs again as he enters the place, immediately spotting Niall’s blonde head behind the counter.
Harry must look like total shit, because Niall takes one brief look at him and sighs heavily, stepping out from the staff area and strolling to him, hugging him.
Harry inhales Niall’s cologne as they hug. He never takes normal hugs for granted, not since he first experienced how awful his Ability hugs feel. The thought that there is someone in his life who just hugs him because he loves him, and not because he needs the healing, makes Harry feel a little more settled.
“I’ll never be at ease until the day you finally stop doing this” Niall mutters with his face in Harry’s shoulder.
Harry chuckles. “I’m helping people, Niall” he says, but he’s sarcastic and also a bit self-deprecating if he’s honest.
Niall scoffs. “I don’t care about people. I care about you” he retorts “How bad was it?”
“Heart cancer” Harry replies grimly “Should have seen him though. Seemed even happy to give me all that money. Looked like a new man after I was done with him”
Niall barks a laugh. “Not the first and not the last to awaken at the hands of Harry Styles” he declares with a wink “You don’t need to almost die to get that feeling. It’s enough for you to go on the pull in any club and you’ll find a shitton of blokes who’ll feel like new men once you’re done with ‘em”
Harry, despite still feeling a bit out of sorts, laughs. “Shut up” he replies, lightly punching Niall in the arm. He notices Lacey, Niall’s boss, giving them both the nasty eye. He smiles brightly at her, and when she scoffs and ignores him, he turns to Niall again. “Your boss is gonna fire you if you don’t go back to your job. Bring me a latte? I’ll sit over there for a while and then I’ll go home and wait for you to finish your shift so we can go to dinner. It’s on me”
Niall rolls his eyes. “I’d rather spend that money on drinks and have shitty takeout as dinner, and you know that” he answers, and then shoos him to his usual booth by the window “Go sit. I’ll bring your latte”
Harry chuckles, feeling a bit better with Niall close to him, and obeys his friend’s commands. He sits in the booth and starts to fidget with his phone while Niall returns to his job.
The café is almost completely deserted, which is the reason why the sound doesn’t go unnoticed by Harry’s ears.
There’s someone sitting alone at a table, not really close to Harry but close enough that he can see the guy’s burying his face in his hands, and silently crying. He sniffles every once in a while, and then tries and fails to get a grip, stroking his face with his palms to get rid of tears that keep flowing anyway. When he removes his hands from his face, Harry makes out silky black hair kept back by a thin headband, and dark circles under big, brown eyes framed by absurdly long eyelashes.
“Been here crying for an hour already, the poor sod” Niall whispers to Harry when he sets his latte on the table.
“Niall” Harry hisses, and turns his head to the black-haired guy, afraid that he heard them.
But the guy is still mildly crying, although he seems now also concentrated on a newspaper copy, scanning something on it with huge, widened eyes and his lovely cheekbones pale.
Niall goes back to the counter, and Harry sips on his latte. He tries not to stare at the guy, but it’s hard. Even if he looks utterly wrecked, he’s probably the most beautiful man Harry’s ever seen. The guy keeps running his eyes from left to right on the newspaper, and then he frantically rustles through his pockets until he extracts his phone, and starts typing with shaking hands.
Their eyes meet for a split second when the lad brings his phone to his ear and waits for a call to go through. Harry feels his cheeks warm up at the thought he’s been caught staring at someone while they were clearly having a breakdown, and lowers his eyes to his mug.
That’s when his own phone starts ringing.
Harry sees the unknown number flash on his screen, and briefly thinks he needs to remove his Ability ad from the newspaper so that people stop calling, and… Fuck.
He eyes the guy again, who is still waiting for someone to pick up, and feels absurdly nervous when he picks up his own incoming call. “Hello?”
Right on cue, the guy in front of him frowns. “Hello?” he says.
His voice is sweet and kinda shaky, and is coming from his mouth as well as from Harry’s phone pressed to his ear.
They look at each other for a second, and then the guy’s face goes a bit pinker, and he ends the call.
Harry can see the words of his ad like they’re written in the air as the guy slowly stands up and moves towards him. Harry Styles, Ability in healing people. Call this number to discuss fees and schedules.
“Harry Styles?” the guy asks when he finally reaches Harry’s table. His eyes are even more golden up close, and certainly also more bloodshot.
Harry nods. “Yes” he says, politely stretching out his hand to the guy.
“I’m Zayn. Zayn Malik” the guy says, and when Harry lets his hand go, he starts fidgeting with his own fingers. “Can I… do you mind if I sit? I was hoping I could talk to you, that’s why I was calling your number. I saw the ad”
Harry sighs, already knowing where this is going, and briefly wondering what Zayn’s problem is. He doesn’t look particularly ill, just extremely tired and like someone who’s been crying themselves to sleep for at least a couple days. He nods at Zayn and gestures to the other chair at his table.
Zayn draws a shaky breath and sits down. His hands are also shaking when he sets them on the table and looks at Harry with his huge, perfect eyes. “You… you heal people?”
Harry nods, feeling something cold crawl up his spine.
“How?” Zayn asks in almost a whisper.
Harry shrugs. “I hug them”
Zayn frowns, like he wasn’t expecting that, and Harry kinda feels him. Most people think Harry’s gonna do some weird trick with his hands or recite some kind of formula. They never expect the hug.
“Can you… can you heal whatever?” Zayn asks, sniffling.
Harry sighs. “What’s your problem?”
Zayn shakes his head. “Not… not me. My father. He’s a patient at St. Catherine’s hospital. He… he’s got sclerosis. Can you heal that?”
Harry has to fight everything in him not to recoil from what Zayn has just said. Yes, he can heal whatever. But what Zayn doesn’t know is that Harry perfectly knows how painful sclerosis is, because he already healed someone from it once, and he’s sworn to never go there again.
“No” he says, coldly.
Zayn’s lips press against each other before he speaks again. “No, you can’t heal that, or no, you won’t?”
“I won’t” Harry says honestly.
Zayn gapes. “Harry, please, I beg you. They… they said he’s only got five months tops to live. Please, I’ll pay you, I’ll do whatever you want, just…”
Harry feels a small bubble of anger pop in his chest. “Why did you ask me how I heal people, but you didn’t think to ask what it takes?” he interrupts Zayn, and he can feel the ugly tilt of his voice, but he doesn’t care “Why do you people never ask that?”
Zayn stutters, and doesn’t reply.
“I’ll tell you what it takes, Zayn Malik” Harry says showing off a calm he feels slipping “Whenever I heal someone, I experience the same pain they’re in, sometimes even amplified. So no, I don’t feel like healing fucking sclerosis at the moment”
Zayn’s eyes are full of tears. “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, I would never want anyone else to suffer like he does, but I beg you, please, you’re our only chance, we’re losing him and I…” he chokes on his own tears, and Harry has to tear his gaze away from those eyes because he feels his resolve crumbling, and he can’t let it.
“But you’re fine afterwards?” Zayn asks when he recovers his breath.
Harry chuckles bitterly. “Yeah, peachy”
“Then why? Why won’t you do that?” Zayn whines “You’ve got the power to save lives, and you just keep it to yourself, you even want to get paid for it”
Harry stands up, feeling blood rush to his cheeks and his heart hammer unevenly. “You don’t know shit about what I do and how I feel about it” he says coldly “Have a good day, Zayn”
Zayn stands up too, and leans over to Harry, staring at him right in the eyes with his teary ones. “Fuck you, Harry Styles” he hisses, and then leaves.
Harry feels the air punch out of his lungs all at once when the door slams closed after Zayn’s angry stride, and he falls back on the chair, burying his face in his hands and feeling dangerously close to crying himself.
“Haz?” Niall’s quiet voice calls him.
He raises his head. Niall is sitting in the chair where Zayn was sitting a minute earlier. “Haz, don’t cry”
Harry feels a couple tears roll down his cheeks. “I’m an awful person, Niall” he murmurs “He’s right. I have this… power, and I’m too cowardly to use it right. I’d rather let a man die painfully than take a bit of his pain on myself for a moment”
Niall’s hand slides over Harry’s, and he sighs. “We perfectly know you’re gonna cave in and go look for that man in the next ten minutes, and you’ll heal him even if it’s painful and you shouldn’t overexert yourself this much” he states with a sad chuckle “I just wish you realized there are a lot of really awful people on this planet, and you’re the furthest from being one of them”
Harry really tries to forget all about Zayn and his father, and about what Niall has to say about it, but Niall’s right, because an hour later Harry is in front of St. Catherine’s Hospital, looking at the gloomy white building.
He goes to the reception desk, and tries to smile as earnestly as possible. “Hello? I’m here to visit someone but I’m not quite sure where to go” he says.
The girl behind the desk, a petite red-headed girl, smiles back. “What’s the name of the patient?”
“Malik” Harry says.
The smile fades a bit from the girl’s lips. “Yaser” she sighs “Are you family?”
Harry shakes his head. “A friend. I… I’ve been told he’s not doing great. I want to say hi to him”
The girl offers him a pitiful nod. You want to say goodbye, her eyes say, but Harry keeps his smile in place. “Room 34 on the third floor” the girl tells him at last.
Harry thanks her and heads in the direction she’s pointed. The stench of blood and disinfectant gives him a mild nausea, but he keeps going up the stairs and through the corridors, bracing himself for the pain to come, because it’s gonna be a thousand times more intense than a little bit of nausea.
When he reaches the room labelled 34, the door is ajar, and he can hear a weak manly laugh. “I’m stuck in this bed for the rest of my short life, beta” the man says “Your mum won’t hold it against me if I amicably flirt with my seventy-year-old nurse”
Someone else laughs, but the tone is sad and bitter when they answer. It’s Zayn, Harry recognizes the voice. “You would be home and well if that guy helped us, baba”
Harry winces, but Zayn’s father sighs and replies. “Beta” he says “You can’t blame him for not wanting to. This pain… it’s shit. It hurts like a motherfucker. I wouldn’t do that either, if a stranger asked me”
“No buts” Yaser Malik interrupts Zayn “It is what it is. This Harry Styles lad must have had a shitty life, with this kind of Ability. So you’re gonna forgive him. And when I’m dead, you’ll call him and you’ll say sorry for how you spoke to him”
Harry knocks on the door before Zayn has any chance to reply or protest. He hears Zayn murmur a “Come in” and he does, lightly pushing the door until it opens.
Zayn gapes a little when he recognizes him. Harry smiles, shaking his hair and combing them back with his fingers.
“What are you doing here?” Zayn asks him coldly.
Harry shrugs. “I changed my mind. I came to help” he says.
Zayn doesn’t reply, and he doesn’t move from his father’s side either. Yaser is in bed, his back only slightly raised against the pillows, and his eyes are vigilant, even if the rest of his body looks too still to be normal. Zayn is sitting on a chair by his father’s bedside.
“You’re the lad my son told to go fuck himself?” Yaser asks. He slurs, but there’s amusement in his tone, although Harry knows how much pain he must be feeling. He gulps down and nods.
Yaser moves his hand to beckon him closer, and the movement is completely off and wrong and too strained. The man winces and drops his hand on the bed.
Harry moves anyway. He reaches the two of them, while Zayn is still not speaking and just staring at Harry.
Harry sighs. “You need to help me if your father can’t move” he says, trying to be as matter-of-factly as he can “I need to give him a proper hug. Wrap my arms around his middle”
Zayn doesn’t question it. He scrambles to his feet and moves to pull his father up, so that his back is completely propped against the pillows.
Yaser Malik looks at Harry. “You don’t have to do this” he says, seriously.
Harry shrugs again. “I want to” he says “Your son is right. I’m a shit person because I don’t wanna deal with a little bit of pain even if it means saving people’s lives. So I guess I’ll deal with it”
“I…” Zayn says, and his voice cracks “I’m sorry”
“It’s okay” Harry says, but he can’t quite manage to look at him.
He circles the bed and sits next to Yaser on the mattress, looking at him in the eyes. “You’re probably gonna fall asleep for a bit after I’m done” he tells the man “It’s normal. Your body will release the sickness, it’ll feel like it’s flowing from you to me. So don’t worry if you feel a bit like your guts are melting”
Yaser laughs. “I already feel like that, son”
Harry, despite the hammering of his heart, grins. “Right” he concedes, and then finally manages to look at Zayn. “I’ll probably pass out as well” he tells him “I’ll most certainly scream, so don’t panic if I do. When I release your father from my hug, please make sure I don’t fall from the bed and split my head open. I can’t hug myself” he tries to make a joke out of it, but neither he nor Zayn laughs.
Zayn just nods and comes to stand right next to Harry and Yaser. Harry turns to the ill man again, and smiles. “See you later, Mr. Malik” he says, and then leans into him.
He wraps his arms around Yaser, and he feels it, the weird sensation that tells him the person does have something wrong and is about to heal through him. It’s like the feeling you get when you go on a swing too fast, and your stomach drops. That’s the feeling that tells Harry people are sick or hurt.
Once he gets the feeling, he closes his eyes and lets go. He opens his mind and body to the one pressed against him.
The pain starts right about then.
It’s like someone is ripping his skin, inch by slow inch, peeling it off his bones and exposing tendons and flesh. He’s sure he’s already screaming, as he feels like his bones are cracking one by one, his arms, his legs, his kneecaps and his elbows, all of his ribs and his phalanxes. He keeps his arms tight around Yaser, but Harry’s slowly going down, feeling his head swim and his eyes water. He buries his face in Yaser’s neck, and he knows his Ability is working, because the last thing he feels beyond the overwhelming pain is Yaser’s arms slowly hug him back, and then he hears Zayn gasp.
He goes down after that.
Going down is an experience. Harry knows it only happens when he’s being too reckless, when he heals someone who’s not irreparably close to death but almost there. He knows it’s what people feel before they die.
It only happened to him twice before Yaser. The first time, it was a child. A car had run over a little girl, and Harry hadn’t thought, had just hugged the little thing to heal her split head. He’d woken up next to her, and she was perfectly fine. But he’d almost died.
The second time, it was Niall.
Harry didn’t know him at the beginning of that semester, but Niall knew Harry, apparently, because he came straight up to Harry and just started talking to him like they were the oldest of friends. Niall was sick with a rare degenerative disease of the bones which made him paraplegic, going around in a wheelchair. They were in the same literary critique class, and by the time the semester was over, Niall had crawled into Harry’s heart much like he managed to slip into every space no matter the wheelchair and his impending death. And Harry, stupid, young Harry, had no chance against Niall’s smile and love for life, so they became best friends after merely two classes together. Harry had hugged Niall a lot of times, but never with the intent to heal him. On a summer night, then, it hit Harry that Niall would live maybe only another year, and he realized he couldn’t live without him. So when Niall hugged him that night, Harry felt his stomach drop and opened up to Niall, taking the disease away from him, and going down in the process.
Niall swore so loud at him when he came to, that Harry laughed a lot despite knowing he almost died.
Harry thinks, when he wakes up in Yaser’s hospital room, that Niall will probably swear at him twice as loud when he’ll go home and tell him he went down healing a stranger.
When he blinks and manages to open his eyes properly, the first thing he realizes is that he’s on a bed, and the ceiling is so white it hurts his still weak pupils. Then, he hears a little bit of a commotion coming from his right side, so he carefully turns his head, not daring to sit up yet because he feels like he might throw up if he does.
Yaser is there, standing up with a smile that would be stupid if it wasn’t so endearing in its happiness. He looks at least ten times better than the last time Harry saw him, which is admittedly probably not that long ago. Harry doesn’t exactly know how long he’s been down, but he guesses not that much, because the sunlight coming from the window tells him it’s still some time in the afternoon. There are three doctors and two nurses around Yaser, checking his blood pressure and moving his arms, hands, fingers. Yaser looks totally fine, and the doctors are shaking their heads in disbelief.
Zayn is not around, which Harry finds a bit weird, but he doesn’t have time to dwell on it before the doctors and the nurses realize he’s woken up.
One of the doctors, a tall woman with brown hair held up in a bun so tight it looks kinda painful, stares at him. “He’s awake” she says.
Harry tries to nod, probably failing, and forces himself to sit up. It takes a while. He feels his head swimming a little, and the remnants of Yaser’s pain are still there, in a slow burn under his skin, a phantom ache in his bones.
The three doctors step closer to him, and Harry knows their hungry gaze, the gaze every doctor has had for him after they came to the knowledge their patients were indeed not clinical miracles, but the result of an Ability.
“How did you do that?” the doctor with the bun asks.
Harry takes a breath, he suddenly feels claustrophobic and wishes he’d have woken up before the doctors realized Yaser was all healed. “It’s my Ability” he says, his voice rough and gritted “My hugs heal people”
A second doctor, a short man with a perfect tan that is probably fake since it’s still the middle of March, hums. “You should put that to use” he says “We can bring you to our patients, you could heal them. It’s such a great, important Ability, you shouldn’t keep it to yourse…”
“Back off. Leave him alone”
The cold voice which interrupts the doctor comes abruptly from Harry’s left side, and when he turns, he sees Zayn, next to a chair right by his bed. He’s standing and his jaw is set, and Harry wonders if Zayn was really sitting by his bedside and waiting for him to wake up.
The doctors don’t back off. “It’s selfish to keep such an Ability to yourself!” the third doctor exclaims, and Harry doesn’t even look at him, because he feels his heart crack and his stomach turn upside down. He knows, he knows how selfish it is, but it’s…
“I said” Zayn says even more coldly “Back off. Don’t touch him. What he wants to do with his Ability is none of your business. Now do whatever check-ups you need to do to my father, and stop staring at Harry like he’s some circus freak”
Harry notices that Zayn’s hands are balled into fists, and he’s lightly shaking in some emotion that Harry doesn’t know how to interpret. He slowly turns to look at the doctors, and smiles politely. “It hurts a lot” he explains as best as he can “And I can’t overexert myself too much”
The doctor with the bun nods, frowning. “We heard you scream”
“Yeah, we all fucking did” Zayn deadpans “So now back off”
The doctors, to their credit, give Harry a last longing glance like they would kill to be able to vivisect him and study every crevice of his body, but then they do back off. They focus on Yaser again. “We’re gonna take you to do a couple of CT scans, okay?” the tan doctor tells him “And we’re probably gonna keep you here a couple more days just to be safe and do some more tests”
Yaser chuckles. “Yeah, I’ve been here for months, I can stay a couple more days”
He’s standing on his own legs and follows them to the door, but before going out of the room, he turns to Harry with a smile that crinkles his eyes. “Thank you, Harry” he says.
Harry doesn’t feel like his voice is working anymore, so he does his best to smile back, and nods.
He turns to Zayn only when they’re left alone, the door closing after the last nurse.
Zayn looks at Harry with many things written on his face, only in a language Harry can’t read. “How… how are you feeling?” he then asks him, sitting on the chair next to Harry’s bed and tormenting his fingers, looking at them.
Harry chuckles. “A bit shit, I’ll be honest” he admits “But it’ll be better in a while. Sclerosis is one of the worst”
Zayn nods. “We’ll pay you. I don’t think there’s any amount of money that can be worth my father’s life, but we’ll give you what you want, and…”
Harry’s shaking his head before even questioning it. “No” he interrupts Zayn “It’s fine. I don’t want any money”
Zayn blinks. “But it said on the ad that you have fees”
“I only do it when I need it” Harry retorts, feeling his cheeks burn at admitting that he takes so much advantage of people who suffer “I don’t need it now. I didn’t do it for the money. You were right, I am a shit person. I’m trying to make amends”
Zayn shakes his head so hard Harry’s afraid it’ll pop off his neck any moment. “I… I’m so sorry. I was so rude to you, I diminished the way you feel about this, I didn’t care about how you suffer” he says, looking at the ground and sniffling “But you do suffer a lot. When you were hugging my father, I… it was so fucking painful to watch, I was happier and happier the more my father started to move again, but you were screaming so hard, it was like someone was torturing you, and I felt so guilty for having you go through it that I… I…” Zayn doesn’t finish his sentence, because his eyes are watering dangerously, and he just emits a brief, sad chuckle and wipes at them.
Harry stares at him. It’s been so long since anyone except Niall has given a fuck about how he suffers, that he realizes he can’t find it in his heart to blame Zayn for their first encounter.
Harry smiles. “It’s okay, Zayn” he tells him “You’re allowed to be happy about your father healing, even if it means a stranger’s suffering. I won’t hold it against you, and you shouldn’t feel guilty about it”
“But it’s not right!” Zayn exclaims heartedly “It’s not right that this Ability comes with such an unbearable pain for the one who carries it. And I understand now. That’s why I snapped at the doctors. I got scared they were gonna make you their lab rat or summat, or force you to heal everyone and they wouldn’t care whether you died over it or not in the process” he lowers his voice “And I also understand how you felt when I told you that you’re just keeping it to yourself and refusing to heal people. So I snapped even harder when that doctor told you the same thing”
Harry has to smile at that. “Well, Zayn, thank you for understanding me and defending me from the big bad doctors” he grins “It’s okay though, really. You didn’t tell me anything but the truth, and I’m afraid I beat myself up over it every day, so no news there either. And I know it’s… morally questionable, or whatever, but I swear I don’t do it that often. Only if I really need the money, and I have it to spare now. I’ll pay for an amazing wedding for my sister with what I’ve gotten from my last… client, and then I’ll keep living my life with my normal, Ability-less job”
Zayn looks at him with a sigh and eyes that are full of something akin to both sadness and relief, and Harry smiles some more. Zayn has got these big eyes with long eyelashes, and he feels like he wants to retreat from such an open gaze, but also like he only wants those eyes to look at him.
“If you don’t wanna be paid” Zayn says after a moment “Then tell me something else I can do to thank you”
Harry has always prided himself on recognizing a chance when it presents itself to him. He recognized the chance of making money through his Ability when he needed it.
And now, he recognizes the chance of flirting a little bit with the fit bloke whose father he’s just saved. “The café across the street has the best almond pastries in the world” he sighs “I could really use the calories”
Zayn’s face does something, then, and Harry thinks he won’t be able to ever forget it, not even when he’ll be old and wrinkly and forgetting other stuff. Zayn smiles, brightly and with his whole face. His eyes crinkle, sparkling with a mirth that makes them look more golden, and his teeth show through his smile with his tongue peeking behind them.
“Be right back then” Zayn says, and promptly flees the scene.
They don’t talk that much when Zayn comes back with three almond pastries, telling Harry that two are for him because he’s not totally convinced he’s feeling better.
Harry makes a show of how much he likes the pastries, because he can feel Zayn staring apprehensively at him even when Harry doesn’t look back at him.
It’s not just Zayn being grateful to him for saving his father’s life, not entirely, Harry thinks. Zayn could have just dropped the act once it was clear that Harry is indeed okay, but instead he’s still there, looking at him and studying his face as they eat.
Zayn doesn’t seem to particularly agree with Harry leaving, after the pastries are gone and Yaser is still off somewhere with his doctors. Harry takes his time in the adjacent toilet in Yaser’s room, washing his face and hands, and looking in the mirror at the dark circles blooming around his eyes. He feels better, though, and he thinks it’s better to leave before the rest of their family comes to the hospital. Harry doesn’t think he’d feel at ease with the lot of them, because he’d never know if they take him into their circle only because they’re grateful. Harry doesn’t really know how to deal with gratefulness friendships. They’re not genuine most of the time, and fade quickly. He’d been scared it would happen with Niall as well, after he healed him, but Niall had just swatted at him in the head and told him “I didn’t even know you could do it, you nitwit, so that’s obviously not the reason I’m your friend and I should be mildly offended that you even thought it but I won’t be offended ‘cause I love you”.
He decides to leave Zayn and whoever comes with him alone, before it gets to Harry’s head too much and he starts wondering about how they truly feel about him, Zayn included. He’d rather have him be a nice memory, and nothing more.
Zayn sighs when Harry wears his jacket. “Are you sure you’re okay?” he asks “You can stay some more. My mum is coming here, she said she wants to meet you and thank you”
Harry shakes his head with a smile. “Then you tell her that I accept her thanks and I wish her a happy, long life with her husband” he says “Take care, Zayn, yeah?”
Zayn nods, his face falling a bit when he moves to probably hug Harry before remembering that they’re basically strangers. Harry would very much like having a normal hug, especially from Zayn, but as it is, he doesn’t force it. Zayn seems to be very thoughtful and he’s probably also thinking that he doesn’t know how Harry feels about “normal” hugs.
So they shake hands in a very polite and just as meaningless way, and Harry gives him another smile before leaving the room.
He’s still a bit out of sorts as he decides to take a bus back to his place instead of walking (fucking up the direction twice), but he honestly doesn’t know if it’s the aftermath of healing sclerosis, or if it’s just the image of that eye-crinkling smile of Zayn’s which seems to be burned behind his fucking eyelids.
Harry eventually manages to get home, and as he pushes his apartment door open, he rummages through his pocket to find his phone and text Niall that he’s alive and (almost) thriving. His hand wraps around the phone and some scrap paper. “Always leaving fucking receipts in every pocket I own” he curses himself as he texts Niall a quick I’m home, everything ok, I’ll go to sleep and I’ll see you in a while for dinner.
Harry then moves to throw the stray receipt away, but then it catches his eye for a second. It’s from the café across the street from St. Catherine’s hospital, and Harry himself hasn’t been there in forever. He frowns at the bill for a simple black coffee, and he realizes what’s going on just a moment before turning it and getting confirmation.
There’s a small drawing on the back of the bill. It’s undeniably Harry, with his crazy curls shot in every direction, and he’s hugging an anonymous someone. Harry’s face in the drawing is set to a happy smile with sparkly eyes, and there’s bubble text on his head saying By the power of my hugs, I heal you! with a heart at the end of the sentence. He’s wearing a cape and has a big H on his chest, in Superman-fashion.
He chuckles and reads the two lines scribbled under the drawing.
I wanted to hug you, but I didn’t know if you felt like it. I wish I could know you better. Thank you, Harry.
Harry’s heart does a small somersault when he realizes Zayn has scrawled his phone number at the end of the message, and even if it’s unnecessary because Harry does have Zayn’s number already in his call register from that morning, Harry understands why Zayn has written it down for him anyway like an official invitation. He feels like his own phone is burning a hole in his palm, like a request to call him, he’s different, he wants to talk to you.
He doesn’t call Zayn, because he’s still a bit suspicious. He can’t help but being suspicious when people try to talk to him afterwards. Is it gratefulness, do they genuinely want to keep talking to him, or do they just feel like they should?
Harry knows he overthinks everything to the point of exhaustion, but he can’t help it. So he doesn’t call Zayn.
But, because Harry’s still Harry, stupid and a bit hopeful, he texts him.
I would have loved the hug, he just types and sends.
He crawls under the covers after stripping down to his underwear, and sets an alarm for two hours later so that he can go pick up Niall and have their dinner/drinks like they’ve planned.
He doesn’t even realize he’s fallen asleep until he wakes up at the alarm going off with the voice of Lady GaGa singing The Edge Of Glory.
He feels insanely better when he sits up and strokes his face with his palms. He doesn’t have that underlying ache through his body anymore, and his limbs and joints don’t sting. He sighs and shuts off the alarm, his eyes falling on a notification from an unknown number.
It takes him a second to piece everything back together, texting Zayn and going right to sleep without even saving his number. He does so now, before even reading the text, because he feels like he needs one more moment before dealing with life again.
Harry saves him just as ‘Zayn’, and then finally opens the text. Well, then I hope we see each other again soon so I can give it to you, Zayn has written mere minutes after Harry’s first text.
Harry feels his whole body go on fire before re-reading the text he himself has sent to Zayn and realizing Zayn’s talking about a hug. He shakes his head and hair, combing it backwards with his fingers, and chuckles to himself for how flustered and stupid he’s being.
Hey, sorry I’m replying so late, I kinda passed out as soon as I got home, he texts Zayn.
Zayn, again, replies in a matter of moments. Are you okay Harry? Do you live alone?
Harry chuckles at Zayn’s evident worry, and types back a bit faster. I do live alone, but don’t worry, I just meant I fell asleep very soon, I didn’t actually pass out
Are you sure you don’t need any help?
Harry looks at his own reflection in the mirror, and he rolls his eyes at himself for how wide his grin is spreading on his face. I’m peachy. And I have dinner with someone in a short while, so I won’t be alone
Oh, is the only thing Zayn texts back.
Harry curses a bit more loudly than he usually does when he realizes he’s probably giving Zayn the wrong impression, and then he has a minor freak-out about overthinking it again and reading Zayn’s tiny syllable completely wrong.
He forces himself to calm down then, and replies. My best friend Niall, he’s cool. The blonde guy working at the café this morning
Zayn has never replied quicker when he texts back Oh right, the Irish lad. Seemed a nice guy, sorry I wasn’t exactly in any condition to chat him up.
It’s fine, Niall’s got a big and understanding heart like you, Harry texts back, deciding on a little bit of honesty.
Wasn’t that big and understanding of a heart this morning, eh
Harry rolls his eyes. It’s okay, Zayn, stop making it a thing, yeah?
Might have to offer you another one of those pastries to make up for it properly
Harry stares at his phone for a good three minutes before realizing what Zayn’s implying. He briefly wonders if it’s really a good idea, to get involved with someone who would probably never have given a fuck about him if it wasn’t to save his father’s life. But then Harry decides it’s been ages since he’s allowed himself to have any kind of intimacy with anybody, always too afraid his Ability and what he decides to do with it is going to get in the way somehow. Hell, it’s been ages since he even just innocently flirted with anyone.
You might just have to do that, then, he replies.
Tomorrow morning okay? I have to work in the afternoon but I’m free until then.
Harry smiles stupidly at his own reflection. Perfect, he texts.
When Harry gets to the place Zayn linked to him in his text, he sees a cute little café with the façade painted in greens. It’s simply called John’s and it’s got a vintage vibe as Harry goes inside and takes in the black and white pictures littering the walls, and the mahogany tables and chairs.
Zayn is already there, and it takes merely a second for Harry to notice him.
He’s wearing a simple grey sweater over what look like black skinnies even if he’s sitting, combat boots at his feet, and his hair tied up in a topknot. His sides are freshly shaved, and Harry realizes that they give Zayn kind of an edgy look, although his lovely doe eyes make it milder.
Zayn smiles and waves at him when he catches sight of Harry coming in, and Harry wiggles in between tables and chairs – only a few are occupied – until he reaches him.
“Hey” Zayn smiles, looking up at Harry from his chair. He stands up, and without further ado, he wraps Harry in a hug.
Harry finds it absurdly easy to hug him back. “Hey. I like this place”
Zayn grins and releases Harry. “It’s cool, right? I come here to draw when I feel too uninspired to stay home” he tells Harry “It’s got the best marmalade croissants in the world, I swear”
“Might have to get one of those then” Harry replies, shrugging off his coat and setting it on the back of the chair in front of Zayn.
Zayn grabs his wallet, leading Harry to the counter. “Sorry if I didn’t meet you at the café by the hospital” he says, his cheeks lightly blushing “It’s just… baba came back home this morning. And I don’t think I wanna go near that hospital again for a while”
Harry nods. “Perfectly understandable” he smiles “Besides, I need to lay off the almond pastries. I believe I ate two in a row yesterday”
Zayn laughs, this light rumbling chuckle that goes shamelessly right to Harry’s dick, and Harry takes a deep breath to hide how already affected by Zayn he is even if they basically don’t know each other.
They get to the counter with Harry managing to only take out one single chair in his passage, which makes Zayn laugh again and a couple customer eyebrows arch, and Zayn precedes him in line. “What’ll you have besides the croissant?” he asks Harry.
Harry hums. “Maybe… a chai latte?”
“Posh” Zayn grins, and then turns to the girl at the register “Hello, we’d like a chai latte, a cappuccino and two blueberry croissants”
The girl nods and gives him the total. Zayn pays for both of them, and just shoos Harry away when he tries to interrupt him to pay for himself. “Said that I needed to make up for it, didn’t I?” Zayn just grins again at Harry.
Harry feels his face get warmer and it must show, because Zayn’s still grinning and the girl behind the counter arches her eyebrow with a badly concealed grin of her own as she gives Zayn his change and tells them to go sit and she’ll bring their order over at their table for them.
Zayn smiles at Harry when he trips again, his foot catching at the leg of their table. He steadies Harry with a hand on his hip, which feels warm and firm even through the admittedly not that thick layer of his sheer shirt. “Jesus, might have been better off if you could heal yourself” Zayn mutters, but there’s no heat behind his words.
Harry giggles embarrassedly and plops on his chair without further incident. “Yeah” he agrees “Sorry, I’m a bit of a klutz. Niall also says that the one who needs my power the most is myself. I cut my hand while holding a knife and tripping on my own foot a month ago”
Zayn sits down in front of Harry and snorts. “Niall’s right” he assures Harry.
Harry chuckles. “But then again, Niall would be dead if my power only worked on myself, so there’s that” he says light-heartedly, but he feels Zayn go rigid and he sees his big eyes widen.
“Oh” Zayn says “You saved his life as well?” he adds, lowering his voice even if the few other customers are sitting too far from them to overhear. And besides, it’s not like it’s a secret. Harry put a fucking ad on the newspaper about it himself not that long ago, after all.
So he just nods. “Yeah, yeah. He had a bone disease. We met in uni and I just… I didn’t wanna lose him. He was one of the really bad ones, but totally worth it” he tells Zayn with a smile, hoping to have lightened the mood.
Zayn looks at Harry for a beat too long before sighing a smile and replying. “You really don’t do it for the money most of the time, do you?”
Harry shrugs. “I try not to. And even when I do it for the money, I just… I choose rich people. People that I know won’t, like, get in debt or something to pay me. The man I healed yesterday, before your father, he’s an entrepreneur, so he won’t be too affected. And I didn’t do it for years before him. I just want my sister to have the wedding she deserves, to repay her for all the things she gave up to put me and my studies first, you know”
“Hey, babe” Zayn says, his hand settling on top of Harry’s and giving Harry a small heart attack “Don’t justify yourself. It’s okay, I think I understood you weren’t really taking advantage of people probably the moment you told me that what you do hurts you. So don’t feel bad about it. I was upset and desperate and I took it out on you. I don’t think you’re selfish or a shit person. I can’t, after I saw just how it affects you. I don’t have any Ability, but if I had one that came with such a price, I would probably do the same, to be honest”
Harry smiles, despite the grim feeling sitting in his stomach as he tries to explain to Zayn how he tries with all his might to avoid using his Ability for money. His gaze lands on Zayn’s hand on top of his, warm and comforting, but Zayn slides his hand away when the waitress comes with their orders, to give her more space on the table.
The croissants look warm and sugary, and so do their hot drinks. They thank the girl and Harry attacks the pastry immediately, feeling it melt in his mouth and giving out an appreciative groan. “Zayn, this is good” he moans.
Zayn laughs. “Told ya” he says with a wink, biting his own croissant “So, Harry Styles. What do you do when you’re not off hugging people?”
Harry chuckles. “I’m an editor for Jameson & Olsen”
“Oh wow” Zayn gapes a little “They’re, like, a big publishing company”
Harry nods. “Yeah” he replies a bit sheepishly “I really love working for them. They have a lot of cool writers in their payroll and I basically get to read all the books in advance”
“Did you study editing and shit?”
“I took a master’s in English literature to be honest” Harry admits with a shrug “But my teacher at Oxford advised me to look into editing, and I followed her advice, and I really liked it”
Zayn’s mouth is making a perfect ‘o’ now. “You went to Oxford?”
Harry laughs, feeling the embarrassment creep in his tone when he replies. “Yeah” he says, shaking his hair and hoping Zayn doesn’t notice it’s a nervous tic of his “As I said earlier, my sister sacrificed a lot of things for my studies. The tuition was crazy, even if I got a grant. So Gemma postponed her own studies to help me do what I wanted, because she knew how important it was for me. I doubt I’ll ever repay her completely”
Zayn smiles. “Well, you’re gonna give her an amazing wedding, you said? So I guess it’s a start”
Harry nods. “What do you do, Zayn Malik? You said you draw?”
It’s Zayn’s turn to blush a little. “Yeah, but I never went to any posh uni for it” he says with a grin “I have a master’s in comic and graphic novel writing. A bit dumb, I know, but I like it”
“Not dumb” Harry retorts instantly “Nothing’s dumb if you’re good at it”
“You don’t know if I’m good at it”
“That comic you drew of me was sick” Harry grins “Loved the outfit especially”
Zayn snorts. “I tried to keep your floral sheer shirt, but there wasn’t much space to draw the H since you apparently never button ‘em” he grins back “I drew that while you were unconscious. I was waiting for you to wake up and felt a bit inspired”
“I think you’re very good and you should try and send something to Jameson & Olsen” Harry declares.
Zayn scoffs. “Yeah, like they’ll ever consider me” he says, not unkindly, but matter-of-factly.
Harry shrugs. “You’ll never know if you never try”
“Fair enough, I suppose” Zayn shrugs too “I’ll think about it when I finish my graphic novel then”
“I promise to edit the text as little as possible”
Zayn hums with another grin, and Harry feels like everything’s just easy with him, too easy, so he does what he does best and overthinks it about five times in the span of a second, ending up voicing his concern because he just wants to know before he falls in this Zayn-shaped hole too deep.
“Can I ask you a question, Zayn?” he asks.
“Why are you here with me? Is it… because you feel like you owe me?”
Zayn’s eyes shoot open and he hesitates for a moment. He then takes a deep breath and he’s about to reply when Harry hears a happy squeal and turns around to the source of the noise. There’s a toddler walking on unsteady legs with his little fists in the air, laughing as he makes his wobbly way to them, stomping in his tiny shoes and with his dark blue onesie tight around a diaper, which makes the child’s stride even more unsteady.
He’s got big blue eyes and thin blonde hair, and his mum doesn’t seem particularly preoccupied with him strolling off to strangers, so Harry just waves at the little thing as he keeps kinda running.
It’s when he’s almost reaching Harry, making grabby hands at him for some reason like he wants Harry to pick him up, that he trips and falls face first.
Harry jumps from his seat as the kid begins to cry, and quickly pulls him up from the floor, grabbing him under his armpits and lifting him in his arms.
Harry hugs him. He doesn’t even think about it, he never does when they’re this small and hurting. When he feels his stomach drop and then a dull ache to the side of his head, he realizes that luckily the hit was nothing major. He sees the mum jolt up from her seat and run to them, but he keeps hugging the kid until he stops crying on his shoulder.
The pain to his head subsides, and Harry smiles at the woman, handing her the toddler. “He’s okay” he just tells her.
The woman sighs, checking her son’s head for a damage that Harry’s sure is not there. “He is” she sighs in relief “Thanks for helping”
Harry shrugs. “I’m a bit of a toddler learning to walk myself. We klutzs gotta stick together” he chuckles “What’s his name?”
“Take care, Thomas” Harry says, stroking his hair.
Thomas just giggles from his mother’s arms and bumps Harry’s wrist with his tiny fist.
Harry says bye to the two of them and turns back to Zayn, only to find Zayn staring at him with his unreadable gaze again, his eyes shining a bit as Harry sits back down. “Sorry about that” Harry clears his throat.
Zayn shakes his head, and there’s something fond in his smile. “Not all heroes wear capes” he declares, biting down the last piece of his croissant.
Harry’s cheeks flare. “I’m not a hero” he mutters.
Zayn grins and continues like he didn’t even hear Harry’s objection. “Some of ‘em wear shirts with flamingos”
Harry looks down fondly at his own shirt, his favourite one with indeed flamingos printed all over it, and that’s why he misses Zayn’s expression when he speaks next. But he hears him, and what he says never truly leaves Harry’s mind or heart afterwards.
“What you just did is the reason I’m here with you now, Harry Styles”
“So you save this bloke’s father’s life, and he suddenly becomes smitten with you?”
Niall is staring at Harry with an arched eyebrow from the couch in Harry’s living room.
Harry rolls his eyes. “Stop acting like you don’t trust him. You trust everybody, Niall”
“I do” Niall concedes “But I worry about you as well, Haz. He treated you like shit when you first met”
“His father was dying, Niall” Harry replies patiently “His father was dying and I refused to help him. He didn’t know me. We both made amends. And I honestly also thought that maybe he was hanging out with me out of gratefulness, and you know how I hate that. But it’s been a month, and he’s still wanting to hang out with me. So now I want you to meet him. And he’s not smitten with me”
Niall only arches his eyebrow higher. “If this bloke is still hanging around you despite the fact that you haven’t given it to him yet, then he’s smitten”
Harry feels his cheeks go a deep shade of crimson as he chokes on his soda. “Stop calling him this bloke” he mutters “And it’s not like that. We’re friends”
“Sure” Niall scoffs “I’m sure you giggle and jump to my texts same as you do for Zayn’s”
Harry kicks him in the shin and grunts frustratedly. “Okay, I like him a little” he admits, feeling the lie almost burn on his tongue, because he likes Zayn so much more than a little “But he’s never done anything to make me think the feeling’s mutual, so I’m trying to forget about that, and you’re not helping. Now, will you come have pints with us and his friends? Please don’t make me show up alone when he’s gonna introduce his own friends to me”
Niall sighs. “Yes, Haz, of course I’ll come” he concedes, resuming his FIFA game “But if this blo… Zayn doesn’t like you, then it means he’s stupid”
Harry loves Niall so much he doesn’t even find it in him to scold him.
Zayn arrives to Niall’s favourite pub with his friends Louis and Liam right as Harry and Niall are settling in their usual booth by the bar.
Harry has never met Liam and Louis before, but he recognizes them from pics Zayn’s shown him and from the countless stories he told about them. Louis is the shorter and thinner one with the blue eyes, while Liam looks fairly muscled, with a buzzcut and a kind smile as they follow Zayn towards Harry and Niall.
“Hey” Zayn smiles brightly, pulling Harry in a hug before any of them can do anything. Harry goes willingly, he always does, wrapping his arms around Zayn’s middle and enjoying the total absence of stomach dropping and pain. The only thing he gets from Zayn’s hugs is a fluttering to his heart and the pleasant whiff of his cologne, and Harry wouldn’t have it any other way.
His mood and feelings about the whole hug thing are slowly deteriorating, and Harry knows, because he realizes how he spends more and more time staring at himself in the mirror and asking himself how he can when he knows how many people need the same help he provided Zayn a month ago. Those people will die, and Harry has the power to save them, only saving them all would mean die or hurt beyond recovery, and Harry loathes himself for not being ready to give up on his own life yet.
Zayn grounds him, though. Much like Niall, Zayn is always there to realize when Harry is spiralling into a bad place, and he’s quick to pull him out with a blissfully normal hug, a hug that heals Harry a little in return.
So Harry cherishes those hugs more than all the money he’s ever gotten from his own, and if he secretly wishes he could get more than a hug from Zayn, nobody has to know. Not even Zayn, because Harry would very much rather die than lose Zayn, so he shuts up, and does nothing about what he feels because Zayn hasn’t ever shown him that those feelings are requited.
It might as well kill Harry on the long run, but for now, he manages to force himself to believe he’s doing just fine.
Zayn grabs Harry’s arms and gently pushes him away from himself enough to look at him in the eyes and smile one of his heart-breaking crinkly smiles. “Alright, babe?”
Harry nods. “Hi”
“Hi” Zayn replies with a grin.
“Hi, lovely, really” someone snickers.
Harry turns to the voice. It’s Louis, who is exhibiting a grin of his own. Zayn chuckles and punches Louis in the arm for good measure. “Haz, this is Louis, and this is Liam”
Harry shakes their hands and then takes care of introducing Niall to the three of them, and they all slide inside Harry and Niall’s booth while Liam insists on offering the first round. “I might just love you loads, my friend” Niall tells Liam as he comes back from the bar with a pint for each of them.
“Be careful, it’s like a life sentence after he says this” Harry says dramatically.
Niall shoves at his shoulder while Liam and Louis laugh, but Harry doesn’t miss the way Zayn’s whole body flinches when Niall’s hand lands on Harry’s shoulder with a smack. Like he wants to jump and defend Harry. Harry is decidedly a fan of Zayn trying to unnecessarily defend him.
They’ve all finally managed to convince Zayn to dance with the rest of them when a girl stumbles by their booth, more than a bit drunk, and falls.
Harry’s whole body freezes when he perfectly sees the glass in her hand shatter once she lands on the floor. It cuts her hand, blood flowing, and he hears her whine in pain.
“Fuck” he murmurs, and then sighs, because he just knows what he has to do.
He slides out from the booth and reaches the girl, kneeling next to her. “Are you okay?” he asks, even if he knows she’s not.
She sits on the floor, cradling her bloody hand with tears rolling down her face. “My hand…”
“Do I need to call an ambulance?” someone asks worried from the small group of people who have noticed the commotion.
Harry shakes his head. “No, no, it’s fine. I can use my Ability” he says, and then focuses on the girl again “Love? Can I hug you?”
The teenage girl just shrugs, with makeup smudged around her eyes and a pitiful sniffle.
Harry smiles and hugs her. His stomach drops in a way that just feels more and more familiar as he thinks that he’s never used his Ability as often as he’s been doing since Yaser. His hand starts to burn as he keeps the girl against his chest. It’s not that bad of a pain, he’s felt much worse. It stings, mostly, but it’s still pain, and he immediately understands the girl’s tears.
He hears her gasp, as do the people around them, and when Harry feels the pain subside a little bit, he lets the girl go, examining her now perfectly fine hand.
“Holy fuck” someone says.
Harry keeps his eyes on the girl. “You okay?”
She nods. “Wow. That’s… that’s sick. Thanks”
He stands up from the floor and helps her up as well, and he’s a bit startled when she gives him one more hug, just for the sake of itself, and then disappears through the throng of people on the dance floor.
Harry knows the hand that grabs him by a shoulder like the back of his own, he thinks as he turns to meet Zayn’s eyes. All the lads are with him, Liam and Louis with various degrees of shock on their faces. Niall’s just sighing a little defeatedly, but Harry doesn’t pay it much mind, because he’s concentrating on Zayn.
Zayn looks angry.
“Are you okay?” Harry asks, frowning.
“Yeah, Haz, I am okay, and so would have been that girl with normal stitches” Zayn replies, his fingers digging in Harry’s shoulder a bit harder.
He frowns deeper. “But it was quicker like this, right?”
“You’re doing it too much, babe” Zayn sighs “I don’t want you to use your Ability when it’s not necessary. You know how it debilitates you. It’s like you’re looking for them to use it, lately, Harry. First it was that kid who broke his arm at the park. Then it was the woman hurting her foot at the mall. The teen banging his head against a light pole ‘cause he was distracted with his phone. And now that girl cutting her hand. It’s small things, Haz, they can be solved without you being hurt”
Harry knows he’s overreacting to Zayn’s worried scolding, but he feels the anger mount inside his chest anyway. He shrugs Zayn’s hand away. “It’s never good enough, is it?” he snaps “I don’t use it? You’re so selfish, Harry. I use it? You’re overexerting yourself too much, Harry. What’s it gonna be, Zayn? When am I gonna be good enough?”
He’s almost screamed in Zayn’s face, and he realizes it by the way Niall’s hand grabs his, like he wants to settle him. Zayn looks utterly hurt by Harry’s outburst, and Liam and Louis are looking at him with something that looks a little bit too much like pity. He’s honestly done caring, because he’s felt this breakdown coming for weeks, probably since the very fucking day he saved Yaser Malik and realized just how torn he felt about his own Ability.
So he doesn’t stop speaking now that the floodgate is open. “I cannot do shit for the people who really need it, so I might as well do something for the things you call small, Zayn” he tells him with a mean snarl “Besides, you didn’t worry about me doing it too much when I saved your father. You would have let me die right there and then without a single fuck given about the weird guy with the flower shirt and the crazy hair. So you’re not different from anybody else”
“What the fuck, Harry?” it’s Niall who speaks, with a horrified gasp like he can’t believe Harry just said that. Harry thinks Niall really trusts anybody on the spot, because it’s taken him only a night out to take his own liking to Zayn, and scold Harry for letting out what he’s feeling right there next to a dance floor, where the music is too loud but not loud enough to cover all the filth he’s just unleashed on Zayn. Just because Zayn dared worry about him when Harry doesn’t even know how to worry about himself anymore.
Zayn is as still as a statue for one more second, and then he pushes at Harry’s chest, albeit weakly. “Fuck you, Harry” he says, and Harry probably imagines the tears in his eyes. It’s just the dim lights. Nobody ever cries about Harry, so he has to believe Zayn won’t either, or Harry will have to come to terms with the fact that he just broke both their hearts in less than three sentences.
Louis grabs Zayn’s wrist to stop him, but Zayn doesn’t try to shove at Harry again. He just keeps speaking. “I’m never gonna be good enough either, am I?” he hisses “I put my father before you? You’re so insensitive, Zayn. I worry about you fucking dying over someone’s wound? You’re not really worrying about me, Zayn. Well, Harry, guess what. I do fucking really worry about you, I’ve been since the day I bloody met you, but you’re too self-absorbed in your own angsty Ability spiral to realize it, same as you never realized how fucking gone I am for you”
Harry feels like someone has just pulled the floor from under his feet. Gone for me? You’ve never shown me that you were.
Harry realizes he really cannot deal with this new revelation at the moment, so he just stumbles backwards, shrugging off Niall’s hand trying to steady him. “I… I need some air. I’m sorry” he stutters, and trips more than three times as he frantically stomps towards the exit. Zayn’s hand doesn’t settle on his hip to ground him.
Sometimes Harry wishes he smoked. Now, for example, as he leans with his back against the back wall of the club, breathing in the chill air and having absolutely nothing to do other than curse himself for how he’s just taken all his frustration and anger out on Zayn. Lovely Zayn who only worries about him, and Harry has just gone and fucked it all up.
When someone comes out of the back exit and leans into the wall next to him, Harry thinks it’s Niall. But then the cologne he loves so much hits his nostrils, and he understands it’s Zayn.
He looks up, a bit afraid to meet his eyes, but wanting to anyway.
Zayn isn’t looking back at him. He’s fidgeting with his packet of cigarettes, without taking one out. “Louis said I was a dick to you and now you were a dick to me so we’re even” Zayn murmurs, eyes still on the cigarettes.
Harry sighs. “I guess” he says without any conviction “Zayn? Look at me, please?”
Zayn immediately does. His eyes are dry, but Harry can perfectly see where his eyelashes are clumped with tears he’s recently shed, and it hurts his heart to know it’s his fault. He wishes his hugs could heal this kind of wounds as well. “I’m sorry, Zayn” he whispers “I shouldn’t have said any of it”
“But you think it, Harry. You still think it, and that’s the real problem, more than the fact you said it out loud to my face”
“I’m just so fucking frustrated, Zayn” Harry admits, feeling his throat constrict “It’s like I have this gift that can save anyone, but I don’t know how to use it, I don’t know how to deal with the pain and I feel like a coward for not doing it, and I…”
“Fuck, Harry, how can you think you’re a coward?” Zayn breathes “It’s not cowardly, wanting to avoid fucking dying. And you scare me so much, Haz, because since we met, you’ve been abusing your Ability, and I can do nothing but watch you, and be scared senseless that one of these times is gonna be the last, and you’ll never gonna understand how fucking much I like you, despite your broken parts, despite your self-destructive tendencies”
Harry, despite the weigh of their whole conversation, feels his cheeks go red. “You never said”
Zayn chuckles. “Did I really have to? Harry, I’ve been waking up at arse o’ clock almost every morning so that we can have breakfast together before we go to work” he says “I thought you would get the hint. Liam and Louis have been joking that you fucking brainwashed me for the past month”
Harry gapes. “How was I supposed to know that that’s your way of… of… of fucking wooing someone or whatever?” he exclaims “Fuck, Zayn, I’ve been wanting you since the fucking day I met you! And I didn’t do anything about it because I thought you didn’t feel the same, and…”
Harry never manages to finish his incredibly eloquent love speech, because Zayn grabs him by the shoulders and shoves him hard against the wall, kissing the living daylights out of him before Harry can even process what’s happening.
He’s been dreaming – and wanking to the thought – of Zayn’s mouth for weeks, now, but not even his wildest fantasies could compare to the real thing. Zayn’s lips are soft and warm against Harry’s, and his tongue is smooth and slick as it prods at Harry’s bottom lip to make him open his mouth. Harry obliges, and Zayn licks over the roof of his mouth with a groan that really shouldn’t happen since they’re in public, but Harry can’t honestly be arsed about that.
His hands run up Zayn’s arms until they’re in his hair, which is loose and soft that night, resting on his right side and covering one of his shavings.
“I didn’t do shit ‘cause I was too scared you were gonna push me away” Zayn whispers on his lips when they interrupt the kiss to gasp for some air “Sometimes it feels like I have to handle you with gloves or you’re gonna break right through my fucking fingers, Haz”
Harry has to roll his eyes at that, and he surges forward to kiss Zayn stupid again. “I’m not made of glass, Zayn” he assures, and slips a leg between Zayn’s thighs just to make his point extremely clear.
Zayn produces himself in a full-body shiver, and Harry can feel how hard they both are against each other. They kiss again, a bit more eagerly and a bit less controlled, and Harry is about to tell Zayn that they need to go home, now, when a voice interrupts them.
“Oi!” Niall shouts “And here we were, wondering if you’d killed each other”
“Gave each other a massive boner, more like” Louis adds.
“And fucking finally” Liam supplies.
Harry and Zayn have the decency of separating their mouths before turning to face their friends. Harry is vaguely conscious of the fact that his thigh is still slotted in between Zayn’s, but, for the umpteenth time, he can’t be arsed to care about it.
“Come in, you’re gonna freeze” Louis says with an eyeroll “We’re gonna have one last drink and then we can go home and you can fuck the shit out of each other and be done with the pining”
Harry thinks that he and Zayn managing to keep their hands off each other for the rest of the night means that they’ll fuck each other raw against the door the very moment they step into Zayn’s place.
But when they do enter Zayn’s apartment, none of them seems to know what to do.
It’s Zayn who speaks first, after a moment, crowding against Harry and bracketing his head with his arms against the wall of his living room. “Don’t ever think again that I’m like all the others, Harry” he whispers, almost chokes, with his lips brushing Harry’s every time they move.
Harry nods. “I’m sorry, Zayn. I know you’re not, I swear I know”
“Good” Zayn nods too “Because I’m afraid I bottled this up long enough, and I can’t take it back now”
Harry doesn’t want him to take anything back. In fact, Harry needs Zayn to know that he bottled his own feelings for him for what feels like a hundred years, even if it’s really only been a little bit more than a month.
So Harry does the only thing he seems to remember how to do. He leans forward and kisses Zayn.
The kiss it not wild and breathless like the angry, frustrated one they exchanged outside the pub. It’s tentative and light, and Zayn’s hands slowly slide up Harry’s sides, over his arms and shoulders, like Zayn’s making sure Harry’s there with him in one piece.
Harry is. So he parts his lips and swipes his tongue over Zayn’s, sighing and groaning a little when Zayn gives him more access to his mouth. They stay there, snogging and mapping each other’s body with their hands like teenagers, until Harry’s leg finds its way in between Zayn’s thighs again, and Zayn shivers bodily again like he did less than two hours earlier.
“Bedroom” Harry whispers.
Zayn nods and shakes his head alternately, like he doesn’t know what to do. “We don’t need to do anything you don’t want, Haz, this is not why I told you that…”
“Then good thing I do want to” Harry interrupts him, because he knows Zayn, he knows how attentive and sensitive he is, how he is the exact opposite of all the rude things Harry’s told him during their mini-fight, and Harry wants Zayn to know as well.
Zayn sighs and nods again, taking Harry by the hands and pulling him across the dark perimeter of his apartment, walking backwards until he hits a door with his back, causing it to open. It’s Zayn’s bedroom, and Harry has been to his place before, but never in the room where Zayn’s most private thoughts and possessions are.
Harry doesn’t have time to look past the queen-sized bed, because Zayn is on him again, kissing him within an inch of his life. Harry feels the edge of the mattress against the backs of his knees, and falls sitting on it. Zayn is towering over him, staring at him like he can’t even believe Harry’s there on his bed, looking up at him.
“I want you to fuck me, Zayn” Harry says.
Zayn’s breath hitches, but he leans over Harry with his knees on each side of Harry’s waist, pushing him down gently until Harry’s lying down and Zayn is properly straddling him. “Are you sure, babe?” Zayn asks.
Harry chuckles. “I think I’ve never been so fucking sure about anything in my whole life” he replies, honestly.
Zayn’s eyes roll back in his head after Harry says that, and he nods, leaving a trail of kisses from the corner of Harry’s mouth to his jaw, and neck, and collarbones. He keeps kissing his way down Harry’s chest, unbuttoning his shirt as he goes. “You’re so fucking beautiful” Zayn murmurs, his lips ghosting over Harry’s abs and belly-button. It’s like Zayn is saying it for himself, like it’s not even meant for Harry to hear, it’s so quiet. But Harry does hear, and shivers in response as Zayn pulls his shirt down until it slides off Harry’s shoulders. Zayn throws it away, and immediately turns to open Harry’s jeans and pull them off as well, sliding them down Harry’s legs and taking off his pants and socks with them.
Harry feels his dick hard and slapping lightly against his lower stomach. Zayn takes a deep breath and just stares at Harry, his eyes raking up Harry’s naked body. Harry feels so fucking exposed already under his gaze that he holds his arms up to make Zayn reach him again. Zayn does, leaning again over him and taking off his own clothes in much more haste than when he’s undressed Harry. Soon, they’re both naked and on top of each other, and Zayn slowly grinds his hips down. Harry gasps when he feels their erections catching together, and then his breath is completely cut off when Zayn wraps his hand around both of them, stroking them together, and the friction is just so beautiful Harry wouldn’t mind ending up doing just this for the rest of his fucking life.
“Zayn” he murmurs, his lips pressed on Zayn’s collarbone “You should know that, like, it’s been a long time for me. I might not even last one more minute”
Zayn chuckles, and kisses Harry, dirty and slow. “Hazza, babe, if you think that after making me wait and pine for this long you’ll get to come only once tonight, you’re sorely mistaken”
Harry laughs and doesn’t answer. He just kisses Zayn again, already feeling warmth pooling at the bottom of his stomach as it takes Zayn just a brief sliding of his thumb over Harry’s slit, and Harry’s already coming, arching his back and baring his neck for Zayn, who keeps wanking him through his orgasm and sucking at his pulse-point at the same time.
When Harry comes down from it, he doesn’t know what to do except kiss Zayn until the end of time. So he does, and he doesn’t let his lips go, not even when Zayn pushes them both further up the mattress, so that Harry’s head is properly resting on a pillow.
Harry watches Zayn as he leans over his bedside table, retrieving lube and a condom, and then Zayn stares at him in the eyes again.
Harry just nods, kissing Zayn some more. “I got you, I got you” Zayn is whispering in his mouth, his voice shaking and his hands roaming up and down Harry’s sides “You’re here, you’re fine, I won’t let you break ever again”
Harry smiles. “I’m fine, Zayn, I’m not gonna break”
Zayn nods, and keeps kissing Harry even as he blindly coats his fingers in lube. When Harry feels Zayn’s finger at his entrance, he thinks he hasn’t felt that in years. He relaxes into Zayn anyway, though, because he believes Zayn when he says that he’s got Harry and he won’t let him break.
Zayn’s finger slides in to the knuckle, and Harry doesn’t feel any pain. It’s when the fingers become two, and then three, that he starts to feel the burn of the stretch. But Zayn’s eyes never leave his, and his mouth doesn’t go far from his lips either, and Harry wants more, wants it like he’s never wanted anything before.
“I love you” Zayn blurts out on his lips. He gasps at his own words, his eyes scanning Harry’s frantically, like he means it but he didn’t mean to say it out loud.
Harry doesn’t gasp. He’s just kinda awed, because he’s never thought that he’d get to hear those words, not so utterly and sincerely directed at him. And he does love Zayn, has started before it even probably was appropriate, so he doesn’t feel the need to keep them down anymore. “I love you too, Zayn” he replies.
Zayn sighs and kisses Harry like they haven’t ever kissed before. His fingers leave Harry’s body, but he doesn’t have time to protest before he hears Zayn roll on the condom and then his dick is lined up with Harry’s hole. Zayn’s hands grab Harry’s hips as he starts pushing inside, slowly, so slowly Harry feels his whole body shake with it, inch by slow inch.
When Zayn’s fully sheathed, he stills. His eyes are still frantically roaming over Harry’s face, looking for the discomfort which is surely there, but that’s not the only thing Harry feels, and he’s felt so much pain in the course of his life that he thinks this is nothing, this is worth it.
So he nods at Zayn and wraps his arms around his neck. Zayn bumps his forehead on Harry’s, and keeps Harry’s thighs pressed against his own hips as he starts to move. It’s slow at first, but when Harry groans and asks for more, Zayn obliges.
“You feel so good, babe, so perfect” Zayn whispers, his eyes closed “You’re perfect, you’ve always been, you’re… Harry”
Harry sighs a smile and arches his back after a particularly deep thrust. “You are” he just replies, and then “Zayn” when Zayn grabs the back of his knees and pushes his legs up higher, over his shoulders.
The change of angle has Harry seeing stars. “Fuck” he grits out, followed by a litany of Zayn’s name while Zayn relentlessly hits his prostate.
“Do you wanna come for me, babe?” Zayn asks.
“Can you come like this? Just like this?”
Harry nods again, and Zayn kisses him again. The position is weird, with Harry’s legs in the way, knees pressed against his own chest every time Zayn thrusts forward, but Harry still comes untouched when Zayn slides out almost to the tip and then roughly slams back in. Harry shouts and comes, spilling between their chests like he did not long ago as well, and Zayn stares at him in awe, like he’s some fucking miracle happening.
Harry thinks Zayn’s the real miracle, though, because Zayn smiles. His lovely, crinkly smile adorns his face as he watches Harry come and then come down, and Harry kisses that smile on his lips. “Come for me now” Harry murmurs, and Zayn nods, his breath ragged as his thrusts become erratic and shallow, though they don’t even slightly feel worse.
Zayn chases his own orgasm and it doesn’t take him long to come as well, as Harry keeps clenching around him, not even minding how sensitive and sore he’s already feeling.
Zayn buries his face in Harry’s neck and comes with a grunt on Harry’s name. Harry feels him spill hotly in the condom, and then he winces when Zayn slowly and carefully pulls out. “Sorry, sorry, sorry” Zayn whispers on his lips, his nose, his cheeks, kissing every spot he can reach like he can’t have enough.
Harry chuckles and swats him away. Zayn pouts and takes care of throwing away the condom, then cleans them both with some rag Harry hasn’t even seen him pick up. When they’re kinda clean, Zayn is quick to slide in bed with Harry and pull him closer into his side.
Harry sighs, and leans his cheek on Zayn’s chest, and that’s how he falls asleep.
“Harry?” Zayn whispers some time during dawn. They’ve woken up and fucked again, only to fall back asleep and then wake up once more now that the dawning sun is painting the sky in oranges and pinks outside Zayn’s window.
Harry’s still curled up in Zayn’s side, and he hums. “Yeah?”
“What do you feel? When you go down?”
Harry sighs. They haven’t extensively talked about Harry’s Ability, because Zayn always looks like he doesn’t want to know too much. On hindsight, maybe it’s because Zayn worries too much about it, same as Harry. “I don’t know how to properly explain” he answers slowly “It’s like… I feel the pain, and then at some point it starts to be too much. And I pass out. It only happens when people are close to dying, like terminal patients for example. I think it’s… I think I die a little, when I go down. And what I feel is what people feel when they’re dying. Only I woke up again afterwards”
Zayn takes in a breath, and it’s audibly shaky. “Did you go down? With my father?”
Harry nods. “Yeah” he admits “It was only the third time it happened to me, though. The first was a little girl, she’d been run over by a car. And the second was Niall. I go down when people are close to dying, but not too close”
“What happens if you heal someone who is literally dying? Like, right in that moment?” Zayn asks in barely a whisper, his arm still around Harry’s shoulders and holding him a bit tighter “Can you do that too?”
Harry shakes his head. “I can’t heal them when death has already taken over” he says, feeling his throat constrict at the thought he’s never said this to anyone before, except Niall “Or maybe I can heal them. I can’t say for sure, because what I know is that if I try to heal someone who’s too close to dying, I’ll die too”
Zayn’s breath hitches. His arm tightens even more around Harry, so much it kinda hurts, but Harry doesn’t say anything about it. He needs the grounding, especially if it’s Zayn. “Do you promise you’ll never do that?” Zayn asks, and he’s looking at the ceiling “Please, Harry. I don’t… I don’t wanna lose you. I know you feel like you’re not doing enough, I can read it in your eyes every fucking day” he gulps down “But your life is just as important as anyone else’s. And I think I’ll never recover if you die to save someone else”
Harry feels his heart crack a little, at the clear admission that his life and pain can be so important to someone else. “Okay. I promise” he assures, snuggling Zayn’s chest with his face and inhaling the remnants of the scent of his sweat and cologne “But you have to promise not to freak out if I heal a minor injury or sickness. It’s fine if I do. It doesn’t hurt that much, and it’s safe for me”
He feels Zayn nod. “Okay. I promise too, then” he concedes “Haz?”
Harry chuckles. “Yeah, Zayn?”
“There’s something I never told you about me”
Harry’s stomach freezes a little, but there have been so many things he’s never told Zayn, like what going down feels, like how he can die using his own Ability, so he can’t exactly hold it against him. “Do you wanna tell me now?” he asks instead.
Zayn nods again. “I… I volunteer at a hospital. With cancer children” he reveals “I’ve been doing it for ten years now, since I was eighteen. I stopped going three months ago, when my baba started to get worse. And then I never had the guts to go back, I came to loathe hospitals so fucking much. But I’ll go back today”
Harry feels his heart hammer its way out of his chest, and he knows Zayn must have noticed as well, seeing that Harry’s torso is plastered against Zayn’s ribs. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Because I know how torn you feel about what you can do” Zayn replies “I noticed. I always notice when it’s you, babe. And I thought that if I told you, it would only make you worse. That you’d start thinking about my kids and how they could be home and well if you hugged them. I didn’t want you to feel guilty about it, or even to think I’d hold it against you for not helping them”
Harry doesn’t notice he’s crying until his tears are flowing, running down his cheeks and onto Zayn’s chest. Zayn jolts up, and Harry’s head falls onto the pillows. He doesn’t have time to say anything before Zayn is shushing him, kissing his tears right from his eyes. “Shh, babe, I’m here, I got you” Zayn keeps murmuring over Harry’s eyes “Cry if you have to. Cry and let this go, ‘cause you need to. I’m here”
So Harry does. He cries his heart out, thinking that a simple mention of cancer kids is all it took to finally open his floodgates again, and he keeps crying, while Zayn keeps kissing the tears off his eyes and shushing him.
When Harry finally calms down, he feels like Zayn kissed the hurt and frustration away from him as well, because he feels more at ease. “Do you wanna come with me to the hospital, later?” Zayn asks before they fall asleep again “They’re cool kids. And you’ll love them. And I’ll show you how I can do something for them even if they can’t be healed”
Harry knows that it’s probably not the best idea, but Zayn’s smiling again. So he nods.
“There’s only seven of them” Zayn grins as he leads Harry through the corridor of the oncology wing of the hospital “You’ll love them, Haz, I swear, there’s this kid, his name’s Kyle, and he’s only nine but he makes sick drawings, I’ll show you, he even helped me with my graphic novel”
Harry chuckles at the evident excitement in Zayn’s eyes and voice as they’re about to reach the doors of the playing area for the kids. Zayn has brought his own supplies, though, a heavy-looking bag full of toys and colouring books and pencils, and Harry’s heart constricts a little at the thought he’s spent more than a month without knowing maybe the most important detail of Zayn’s life.
It only makes him love him more, if he’s honest.
When they finally enter the room, Harry barely has time to see the colourful, small tables and chairs, and a long series of drawings stuck to the walls, before screams pierce his ears.
“ZAYN! YOU’RE BACK!”
Zayn grins and screams a “Vas happenin” that pierces Harry’s ears even more.
Harry counts six kids, the oldest being maybe nine or ten, as they shuffle to Zayn and they all hug his legs. The kids are very pale, all of them, and Harry’s stomach drops when he sees almost none of them has hair anymore. They’re wearing colourful pyjamas, and two of them, two little girls with matching pink onesies decorated in flowers, are the only ones who don’t throw themselves at Zayn, because their arms are linked to two small IV bags hanging from two equally small wheeled hangers. They seem utterly dismayed that they can’t hug Zayn as well, so Harry kneels by them and smiles. “Hi” he says “I’m Harry. What are your names?”
“I’m Liza” one of them says, with huge brown eyes that remind Harry of Zayn’s.
The other little girl sighs. “I’m Karen” she offers with a frown “We have needles in our arms”
Harry tuts. “I’m sure that must suck. Does it hurt?”
Liza shrugs. “Not really” she admits “But we can’t move. Who are you? Are you a friend of Zayn’s? We missed him”
“Already stealing my favourite ladies?”
Harry looks up when Zayn speaks in a fake-annoyed tone, and he grins. The little girls giggle as Zayn kneels in front of them as well and hugs them both, very lightly and very carefully. The other four kids surround them, and Harry smiles when he hears one of them ask Liza if she’s hurting, if she wants to sit.
“I missed you too, you guys” Zayn smiles brightly “But I’m back! Who wants to play Name, Place, Animal?”
They all shriek and raise their hands. One of the boys, a thin little thing with dark circles around his eyes, nods and rummages through the drawers of a dresser until he retrieves a stack of paper, distributing a sheet to each of them, together with pens.
A nurse comes in right about then, and she smiles at Zayn. “Lucy” Zayn grins, and stands up to go hug her.
“We missed you, pretty boy” she says. She’s probably in her fifties, with a blonde bun on top of her head, and her smile is bright and sincere.
“Where’s Kyle?” Zayn asks her.
Lucy’s face drops. “Zayn…” she whispers, her hands going to grab him by the shoulders “You weren’t here. I knew your father was sick, I didn’t wanna… add to your grief”
Harry’s stomach does a painful one-eighty as he keeps concentrating on the other kids and the game while half of his brain is still straining to catch the conversation Zayn’s having with the nurse.
Zayn’s voice is shaking when he speaks again. “When?”
“Three weeks ago. He went peacefully. In his sleep”
Harry feels tears sting his eyes. “Are you not feeling good, Harry?” Liza asks him, her big eyes clouded with worry.
He forces himself to smile. “I’m great, doll, I just got distracted”
Zayn comes to sit next to him after one more minute. Lucy the nurse is apparently gone, and when Harry looks at Zayn, Zayn is not crying, but his long eyelashes still carry the remnants of tears. Harry squeezes his knee, and Zayn smiles. “Who’s winning?” he asks.
One of the boys, a kid named Oliver, rolls his eyes. “Liza and Karen, of course”
Karen giggles. “That’s ‘cause we read, Olly”
Harry snorts. “That’s kinda rude, doll”
Liza arches an eyebrow. “You’re boys” she declares “You need the rudeness every once in a while”
“Touché” Parker concedes.
Liza gasps. “How do you know that word?”
Parker, a small boy who’s maybe seven or eight, grins. “That’s ‘cause I read, Liza”
Harry looks at Zayn with a barely concealed grin of his own, and Zayn grins back, wiggling his eyebrows. “Told ya” he mouths at Harry “Coolest kids in town”
Harry ends up loving every single moment he spends with Zayn and those kids. That, of course, means that he’s feeling even worse by the time they get home.
Or, well, not home, but at Zayn’s. Harry doesn’t feel like leaving Zayn alone in his place after that afternoon, so when Zayn asks him to stay for dinner, he accepts.
They don’t talk about the kids, though, and they don’t talk about Kyle, Zayn’s favourite kid who died without Zayn being there or even knowing.
They don’t talk about how Kyle could have been still alive and well if Harry had known.
Zayn and Harry eat in silence, cuddled up close on the couch, and they kiss without speaking about anything, because they both feel like the other needs the silence and the closeness, and they know.
By the time they’re in bed and Zayn has fallen asleep, Harry is wide awake, spiralling deeper and deeper into a panic.
Zayn is wrong, is the thing. Because he’s said he’d show Harry what he can do even if the kids can’t be healed, but the truth is that those kids can be healed.
Not by medicine and doctors. By Harry.
And Harry feels like his whole life of solitude and getting money healing people has gone and led him exactly to this moment, wide awake in bed by a sleeping Zayn, because it’s the moment he figures out he does matter, he is enough.
It’s only meant to be happening with his own pain, with his own death.
Zayn has said that Harry’s worth it, that he’s just as important as anyone else. That is true, but only to an extent, because Harry’s just one single life in an ocean of dying people, and if he has to die to save them, well.
As he dresses again, silently not to wake Zayn up, Harry thinks about Angela.
He’s lost any contact with her shortly after high school, but sometimes, when he’s feeling particularly down, he thinks about her and how she cracked under the pressure of her Ability.
Harry has cracked under it as well, repeatedly and painfully.
But while Angela has solved the problem by getting rid of it, Harry’s gonna solve it in a braver way. He needs to be brave, needs to be something.
So he stares at Zayn’s sleeping form for one more moment, and then he goes out.
The hospital is silent and mostly deserted, and the night nurse almost threatens to call security on him when he asks her to go see the children at that time of night.
Harry doesn’t know how to tell her what he wants to do, but he’s saved by the last person he was thinking about.
There’s a doctor coming their way, and Harry recognizes her as the doctor with the tight bun, the one who took care of Yaser shortly after Harry healed him.
She frowns when she reaches him and the nurse, but she surely recognizes him, because her mouth goes a bit tighter. “Doctor Mills” the nurse says “This man is asking to see the kids and…”
“Doctor Mills” Harry repeats “Let me see the kids. You know why”
The woman stares at Harry for what feels like a small eternity. “Are you sure?” she asks him then, with a sigh “They are in a lot of pain, Mr. Styles”
Harry nods. “I know. That’s why I’m here”
Doctor Mills sighs again, and then nods. “Okay. Then go do what you have to do”
Harry feels the weight of what he’s about to do crush him more and more the closer he gets to the room shared by the six kids he’s met mere hours earlier.
He has to stop in front of the door, leaning against the wall and taking a deep breath, and he realizes he’s probably not gonna make it out of that hospital alive.
He has loose ends to tie before doing that, so he takes out his phone.
He sends the same text to three people. Niall, his mother, and his sister. I love you, he just types.
Then, he opens Zayn’s chat. I love you, he writes for him as well, and I’m sorry, he adds, because he’s breaking Zayn’s promise and Zayn’s heart as well, probably.
He pockets the phone again, and enters the room.
The six small frames are vague in the darkness, but Harry needs the kids to be awake. He closes the door, and then turns on the lights, his eyes blinking furiously at the harsh, sudden brightness.
The kids mutter something and slowly start to wake up. “Harry?” Liza mutters, sitting up and stroking her eyes with her small hands “What’s happening? Why are you here?” she murmurs. She looks like shit, so much worse than she did in the afternoon.
“Why are you crying, Harry?” Karen adds, frowning.
Harry chuckles, and realizes he is indeed crying. I never thought it would be this hard to let it go, he briefly thinks before kneeling in front of their six beds. “Guys?” he says, his voice shaking “I’m not feeling that great. Do you mind coming here and giving me a hug?”
Dying is not like going down.
Harry almost doesn’t feel any pain, after he hugs Liza and then Oliver. At first he does, feels every bone in his body crack, his lungs shatter and his stomach melt.
But then, at some point, somehow, he stops feeling it.
Some part of him knows that it’s because going down means coming back as well, and that’s why it hurts.
This time, it doesn’t hurt because he’s not coming back.
Harry does come back, though.
He blinks, and when he does, the pain has come back as well. Every bone in his body feels like it’s broken, and he can’t properly breathe, but he does open his eyes.
He knows something’s very wrong, because the sun filtering through the window tells him it’s been hours since he healed the kids and went down, and if the pain has not subsided yet, it’s because it probably never will.
He feels it in the pit of his stomach.
Death. Too close, already taking over.
It takes him a while to notice he’s not in the kid’s room anymore. To be fair, he’s not even in the hospital anymore.
He’s back at Zayn’s, and he realizes half a second before hearing the sniffles.
“You promised you fucking promised you’re so fucking stupid I love you so much and you promised me” Zayn is murmuring. Harry moves his hand, and feels a vice-like grip around it. Zayn’s hand, he decides.
Zayn gasps. “Haz, babe? You’re awake, you’re awake” he moans, his lips resting on Harry’s temple.
Harry sighs, feeling despair mix with the pain. “Not for long” he has to say, because he can’t bear the sliver of hope he feels in Zayn’s voice. Harry’s awake, but he’s still dying. He knows it, he feels it.
Zayn burst out in real tears. He buries his face in Harry’s neck, climbing in bed next to him, and it takes Harry all the strength he has left to wrap an arm around him and shush him. “I’m sorry” he mutters “I’m sorry I broke my promise”
“You promised” Zayn cries “You promised and then you went and now you’re dying”
Harry nods. “I’m sorry”
“I woke up when my phone buzzed with your text” Zayn sniffles in Harry’s neck “I never ran so fast in my whole fucking life. I just knew what you meant. I came in there and I heard your screams from down the hallway. I came into the room and you were there, unconscious, and my kids were fine”
“Are they? Are they okay?”
Zayn cries harder. “They are” he tells Harry “They were just scared because they were feeling great all of a sudden and you were there, going down and down and down and I couldn’t do anything about it. Doctor Mills said Liza was not gonna last the day”
Harry smiles. Then it was Liza. He’s gonna die for Liza. And it’s okay, he thinks. “Then I’m glad I hugged her first”
“You’re so fucking stupid, Harry” Zayn says in a weak chuckle “I didn’t bring you to the hospital because I wanted you to have a last breakdown and throw your life away. I brought you there because I wanted to show you that even without your Ability, we can still do something for them. But of course you took even that the wrong way, and it’s my fault”
“It’s not” Harry sighs. His eyes are drooping, and his whole body feels colder and colder “Even if you hadn’t brought me to those kids, I would have come to the same conclusion eventually. It’s not your fault, it’s thanks to you. This is what my Ability means, Zayn, don’t you get it? This is my purpose. And if I’m gonna die over it, then so be it. They’re fine. Niall is fine. Your father’s fine. And you, Zayn. You’re fine and I love you, and I’m honoured to die knowing that you loved me in return”
“I hate you” Zayn just says, and Harry chuckles, because he knows Zayn means the exact opposite.
Harry shivers. It’s so cold, everything’s so cold. Why does death have to be cold?
“What can I do to make it better, Harry?” Zayn asks, and Harry feels his hot tears still staining his neck.
Harry, absurdly, grins. “I might use one of those almond pastries. Consider it a last wish”
Zayn chuckles. It’s the best sound in the world, and Harry loves that he’s been able to hear it so much over the past weeks. He loves that he’s the one who causes it.
Zayn sits up. “Can you make me one more promise, Harry? One that you’ll keep this time?”
“Be still here when I come back with your fucking pastries”
Harry chuckles, and nods again. “I promise” he says, and he knows he can’t control it, and he knows Zayn knows as well.
Zayn kisses him, and runs out of the house.
Harry falls asleep and then wakes up again.
He has barely time to wince when he tries to settle on his side, before he hears a loud crash and a louder scream.
All his insides seem to be boiling as he realizes it comes from just down the street, and he knows that kind of commotion, the commotion that comes from someone being hit by a car in the middle of the day, because he’s heard it already once, when the van ran over little Mandy Olsen, before he saved her life and proceeded to go down for the very first time right on the asphalt.
There’s something slowly eating at Harry’s guts as he forces himself to crawl out of bed, and out of the room, and out of the house.
He knows he’s dying, and he doesn’t know if his Ability still works. He also knows one more hug will kill him for sure, and he desperately wants to be still there for Zayn when he comes back, but Harry’s done ignoring people who need his help.
He’s falling on his knees as he pushes the apartment door open, and standing back up takes all he has left.
When he drags his feet to the sidewalk, he sees the car in the middle of the street, and he gently pushes past the people calling for an ambulance. He gets to the victim of the accident, lying down on the concrete in a pool of blood.
He takes in the black skinnies, the leather jacket, the combat boots, and the deep, too deep cut on the throat.
It takes him a long moment to realize what he’s looking at. He falls to his knees, startling someone next to him, but he doesn’t care, because Zayn’s there, Zayn’s hurt, Zayn’s dying, dying so much Harry feels his stomach dropping in its familiar way before even touching him.
“Zayn Zayn Zayn no no no” Harry whispers, frantically, feeling his limbs give up as he crawls next to the man he loves.
Zayn’s gurgling, blood rushing out of the wound on his neck, and Harry understands there’s nothing else that can be done as soon as he realizes his stomach is not stopping dropping, signalling death coming death coming to him with a clarity he’s never quite felt before.
Zayn, in the absurdity of it all, smiles and raises his hand. He’s got a paper bag, sprayed with blood. “Got ‘em” he wheezes “Two for you”
Harry starts crying. He laughs and cries at the dark irony of it all, that he’s dying and Zayn didn’t want to let him go, and now Zayn’s dying as well.
Harry doesn’t know if it’ll work. But he knows the universe owes him at least this, that the last person he tries to save is Zayn, he needs it to work.
Zayn widens his eyes and starts frantically blinking and shaking his head when he understands why Harry’s pulling him up by the shoulders. “I promised” Harry whispers to him, and then hugs him.
It doesn’t work like it usually does. The pain is unbearable, too unbearable for just a cut throat, but then Harry understands why. It’s because Zayn is dying, and Harry’s body is trying to make him let go of that hug with all its might, sending jolts of pain through his whole body.
Zayn squirms and whimpers against Harry, and Harry screams, but he doesn’t let go.
He bears every second of that scorching iron shoved through his neck, his back, his stomach.
He doesn’t let go of Zayn, until Zayn wraps his own arms around him.
There are worse ways to go, he thinks as he goes down for the last time.
The room is very bright, and Niall’s screaming.
That’s how Harry comes to, wondering how the fuck exactly, because he’s fairly sure he has just died twice over the past twenty-four hours, and there’s no way he’s still alive after the second.
If death has already started to take them, and you try to heal them, you’ll die, Angela had told him the day they made the transfer.
And Harry knows Zayn was already in death’s arms, he could feel it even before touching him.
Niall’s screaming. “Why the fuck is he not waking up then?”
“I don’t know, Niall! I never used it before, I don’t know how it works!”
It’s Zayn who’s screaming just as much. He’s alive he’s alive he’s alive, Harry’s brain screams as well, and Harry instantly decides he doesn’t care about the how the fucks. Not if he managed to heal Zayn, not if Zayn’s fine.
“Why didn’t you tell him that you could do this?” Niall is asking.
Zayn takes a ragged breath. “I… I thought it was bullshit. I never believed I really could. Lifesaving Abilities were just a fucking legend to me, Niall, before I met Harry”
Harry tries to speak. He doesn’t know what he says, but the rumbling noise coming from his throat is enough, because he hears at least four people gasp, and suddenly the bed he’s on dips, and Niall’s face comes into view, red and blue and blonde mixing in front of Harry’s weak eyes. “Haz?”
Niall laughs. “I’m gonna fucking kill you when you’re okay”
“Niall, let him fucking breathe, yeah?” someone says. It’s Louis, Harry thinks.
“I… wanna… sit” Harry manages to utter.
Hands are sliding between his back and the mattress a moment later, and as his friends pull him up and place him against too many pillows, Harry realizes he’s weak, but not hurting anymore.
Not like he was hurting constantly after healing the kids and dying himself.
Only when he’s sitting does he see Zayn.
He’s fine. His white tee is soaked in blood, but there’s no wound on his neck anymore. His beautiful, golden throat is smooth and kissable like the very first time Harry saw it. He’s standing by the window, his arms limp by his sides, and he’s staring at Harry like he’s a miracle.
And well, Harry probably fucking is.
“Hi” Harry grits out.
Zayn sags, his shoulders hunching as he chuckles. “Hi”
“Hi, yeah, lovely” Louis offers.
Niall laughs. “Haz? How… how are you feeling?”
Harry feels like many things. He feels like someone just cut his throat. He feels like he just underwent lung cancer, bone cancer, stomach cancer and heart cancer. He feels like he’s covered in dried blood, which to a closer inspection reveals itself to be true.
“How… how am I alive?” he finds himself asking.
Zayn finally, finally closes the distance between them, and comes to sit by his side. He’s smiling his usual smile, and Harry loves it. “I… I saved you” he says, and laughs mid-sentence like he can’t fucking believe it.
Harry can’t believe it either. “How?”
Zayn shakes his head. “I… when my grandpa Walter died, I… I inherited his Ability. I never knew he even had it, and it was a one-time thing, he said he never used it ‘cause he never needed it so he left it to me in his will” he says, sliding his fingers through Harry’s “I thought it was bullshit. The Ability Centre implanted it in me after he died, but I thought it was just nothing, you know. I never thought about it, not until this very day”
Harry feels his breath punch out of his lungs. “What can you do?”
“My grandpa gave me the Ability of saving my soulmate’s life no matter how they’re dying, just one single time” Zayn says, and his whole face goes a dark red.
Harry stutters. “Saving their life? Your soulmate?”
Zayn nods. “Yeah, babe. I never thought much about it, because before meeting you, I didn’t even believe lifesaving Abilities existed. But when you healed me, I thought about what you told me about saving lives too close to dying, and I knew I was practically already dead, and I knew you were dying to save me” he speaks quickly, his eyelashes fluttering as he keeps his eyes trained on their entwined fingers “And I couldn’t let you. And as I was dying, it’s like I heard my grandad’s voice, telling me you’re fucking stupid, Zain, and I knew what I had to do, so I just wished you back to life, and you came back to me”
Harry chuckles. “Oh, Jesus” he grins, going for a joke because he knows they have an audience, although the only thing he wants to do is snog the shit out of Zayn, bloody clothes and all “That’s cheesy even for you, Zayn”
Zayn laughs. “Yeah, babe. I know. It is what it is, though”
After their (near) death experience, Zayn loses his one-time Ability.
Harry’s Ability also changes.
His hugs still heal people, but they don’t work on terminal diseases and deathly wounds anymore. The day they realize, when Harry tries to heal another one of their new kids at the hospital, and nothing happens apart from the usual stomach-dropping, Harry cries.
The kid, Pamela, shushes him even if she doesn’t understand why he’s crying, and she keeps on fighting, taking the chemo and the surgeries and getting better on her own, slowly and painfully. She won’t live for long, but she still fights, and Harry admires her.
Zayn had been angry about Harry doing it, because even after months, he still gets upset when Harry overexerts his Ability. But when Harry tells him he’s lost the power of healing terminal illnesses, Zayn doesn’t sigh in relief.
He holds Harry tightly against his chest, and tells him something that Harry will keep close to his heart until the day he really, completely dies.
“That was not your purpose, babe, not really. Your purpose is to help. But that pain was too much, for you and for the people carrying those diseases and wounds, and I think you lost that power because it was just not meant to be. Every life is important, yours included. And you shouldn’t die to save anyone else’s. That’s not your job, that’s God’s job. And I think God realized it and took care of it”
Harry nods, because he knows, now.
He knows that he’s good enough even if he can’t save everybody.
He still welcomes the pain when it means healing someone else, though, and Zayn keeps his promise of not freaking out if Harry uses his Ability when he feels it’s needed.
Harry cries when his boss gives him his next job, and he sees the name of the author on the graphic novel for children. Zayn hasn’t even told him that he’s finished it, hasn’t told him what it’s about, and most certainly hasn’t told him that he was going to send it to Jameson & Olsen.
He edits it as little as possible, and cries as he reads the story of Mr. Hug, a curly superhero with floral shirts and a cape who discovers he has the power of healing people with his hugs, and proceeds to save the world one tiny wound at a time.
A year later, when their relationship is steady and sure – not that it wasn’t from the beginning, but still –, Zayn brings Harry to his family’s place, because Trisha is still wanting to meet the guy who saved Yaser.
And when they ring the bell and she opens the door, the first thing Trisha Malik does is pull Harry in a bone-crushing hug.
Harry smiles in it, because he loves normal hugs, and he now knows they won’t stop coming anytime soon, not with all these charming Maliks constantly wrapping their arms around him just for the sake of it.