Nick's spent plenty of time near hotel pools in his life, and he's sure this one doesn't even touch the top ten, but there's something quirky about the way the water reflects light and casts shadows in a gentle wind, how the breeze feels a bit stronger near the pool, and the way the loungers have faded in a way you can tell they're well used. He's been installed on one himself for the better part of the last hour, drink on constant refill from a very nice looking waiter. He thinks maybe he shouldn't be eyeing the waiter too hard, as he did come here on a weekend getaway date. Except that he hasn't seen his date since last night, after a fumbled bedroom encounter in which both of them had drunk too much to make enough sense of each other to get beyond half unbuttoned clothes and some heavy petting. Nick isn't proud of the moment, honestly, but he expects that both of them will have a right laugh about it later on the plane. He's got six hours until he has to be packed and ready to go, though, and he intends to spend them as lazily as possible.
The sound of his phone ringing breaks through his thoughts and he squints at it through the sun’s glare to figure out who could be calling him when he explicitly and repeatedly asked everyone he knew to text only if it was important, adding some mumbo-jumbo about wanting to disconnect from the world in hopes they’d take him seriously.
"Harry, how's my favorite popstar?" he slurs, the snippet of a terrible tinny MIDI file of Careless Whisper right at its end when Nick finally picks up. He hasn't quite grown accustomed to the phone always on silent mentality everyone else he knows has subscribed to, still has unique ringtones for at least six of the people who call him regularly. He knows Harry hates that he downloaded Careless Whisper as a ringtone, so it always makes him smile.
"Sleepy, mostly," Harry replies. “Curious what you’re up to, I suppose that’s why I called.”
Nick doesn't know how he knows, but he can tell Harry's smiling on the other end of the line. "Been a bit since you've made the time to call me. Or text, really." It comes out a bit whinier than he'd like, but he can't help it. There for a bit they were texting several times a day, conversations that lasted well into the night about the dumbest of things ("Do you think the bird knows it's not on key?" / "I don't think the bird can even tell it's 4 in the morning”), but Harry's been so busy lately the most Nick's gotten the last few weeks is a "Good Morning" or a "Good Night." Always properly capitalized and punctuated, proper, succinct, and frankly, disappointing.
Harry sighs into the phone. "I know, I'm sorry. I’m really sorry. I'm calling to say I'm sorry that I'm busy."
Nick decides to not comment on the number of ‘sorrys’ in the one sentence. "Well if you're calling to apologize then. Please ignore how I sound like a petulant child who thinks the world revolves around him."
Harry gasps dramatically. "It doesn't?"
"You're ruining my peaceful by the pool time, you know, with your apology."
Harry ooohs. "By the pool, huh. Fancy."
"You're lucky I even answered the phone, I told everyone else to not disturb me upon pain of death."
"You're on holiday?" How long has it actually been since they last talked, Nick wonders. He's certainly been not so subtly reminding everyone of this trip for weeks prior.
"Long weekend away, yeah. Johnny wanted a weekend to ourselves. Though I haven't seen him in a bit," he trails off.
The ‘hmm’ noise Harry makes on the line sets Nick’s teeth on edge a bit, like there’s a comment just hanging there waiting to be picked up on. "Johnny, huh. What happened to...what was it, Keith? Kyle? Something with a K."
"Nice to see you listen to me. Kenneth. His personal hygiene left a lot to be desired."
"Ah," Nick can picture the way Harry bobs his head in detached agreement when he's not really sure he should comment on the subject matter but feels he needs to keep the conversation going. "You know, I always listen, Nick. Sometimes I don't remember it all, but I'm listening. I'm hurt you would think otherwise," he pauses, and he sounds so sincere that Nick's about to apologize for doubting him, even though he wasn't really in the first place.
"I know," Nick says quietly.
The moment hangs for a minute, neither of them saying anything for so long it feels a bit pointed and a bit awkward all in one. Finally Harry sniffles a bit, breaking the silence, and says, "So you rolled on to the next one, then."
"I ain't getting any younger, Mr Styles. Some of us don't have the benefit of youth and perfect genes on our side. I like this one better, though. Think he might stick around for a bit. Bit in the closet still, but I've worked with that before, I can again."
"Nick-" Harry starts, taking a deep breath like he's about to say something important, just as a bug lands on Nicks leg. He kicks it away, jostling his body just enough that his phone slips out of his hand, and into the pool. He stares at it for a moment, wondering briefly what exactly Harry was about to say.
"Well. I guess truly no one is gonna be able to contact me now," he says as a bit of a hysterical laugh slips out of him, and then shakes his head and slides in down the edge of the pool after the phone. There's no way it works but there's no reason to leave it in the pool, either.
Johnny finds him asleep on a lounger several hours later, and the rest of the weekend passes by in a weird fugue state of last times and packing for the real world. Despite his decree to not contact him and the number of phones he's lost and broken, Nick doesn't like feeling disconnected from his phone. By the time he gets a replacement on Monday afternoon he's swearing up and down that he'll take better care of this new one, his third for the year. He texts Harry a hey would love to continue our conversation I dropped my phone in the pool before what seemed like was going to be your big confession, please get back to me when you can. Hope all is well and attaches three kissy face emojis to it. All he gets back a few days later is a Doing well, thanks for checking up, reply, followed a few hours later by a Take better care of yourself, please.
It's radio silence from Harry after that, and Nick finds himself watching clips on YouTube to keep up with how Harry is doing for the next few months.
Nick's become one with his couch when the doorbell goes off, Pig hopping off her end of it and darting to the door barking. He hears it open and close, and Pig stops barking, so he only hopes its someone he knows and not someone come to rob him of his fine china or designer shoes. Pig is a terrible guard dog, honestly. "Piggy, who is it? Which of my horrible friends is here to tell me how poorly I look?"
As he’s finishing the sentence, Harry appears from round the entryway hallway carrying a duffel and a crinkled bag from Pret and says, "Wow you do look terrible." He's dressed head to toe in black, jeans tighter than seems possible and ripped at the knees and the shirt saggy at the neck. He looks incredibly comfortable and uncomfortable all at the same time and Nick can't decide if he's happy to see him or if he'd rather throw all the pillows on the couch at him and mock him endlessly for making life seemingly look so effortless. He knows it's not all effortless for Harry, of course, the last time they spoke Harry wasn’t sure of the songs he was writing, didn’t think the band would be together much longer, and was so exhausted he fell asleep in the middle of the conversation. It’s been weeks since they spoke on the phone, let alone in person.
Nick tries to scoot himself up out of the couch but mostly only succeeds in causing the blankets to slide to the floor. "Don't make me regret giving you a key to my house, young Harold."
"I told you you didn't need to, young Nicholas. I'm barely around enough to use it." Harry shrugs in that way that Nick has learned over time means that he's feigning nonchalance when what he's saying actually does affect him.
"That's certainly true. You're here now, though. Why?"
"A little birdy told me you might want some company."
"Well," Nick starts, sniffling a bit as he feels a sneeze coming on, "Yes. But not from someone who gets ill when someone even sneezes the wrong way at him."
"Heyyyy. Having chronic hay fever isn't the same as being sick and you know it. My immune system is quite fine." He punctuates his sentences by taking a soup cup out of the bag and placing it and a spoon and napkin on the coffee table in front of Nick, gentle as a nursemaid.
Nick replies to the gesture with a sneeze, tucking his head as far into his arm as he can in a lame attempt to shield Harry. "Your immune system is probably barely hanging on, with how you travel everywhere constantly."
"Life of a popstar and all that, you know," Harry waves his hand dramatically while doing the voice Nick knows is supposed to be an imitation of him. He hopes he doesn't sound like that to other people.
Nick picks up the soup Harry's sat down on the coffee table and breathes in deeply, inhaling as much steam as he can. He misses breathing through his nose. "I was supposed to be on a date right now, too. Nicco got us tickets for some sort of interpretive dance thing. We were gonna go and pretend we were those dudes from the Muppets, Statler and whatever the other one's name is."
"I'm sure he's devastated. Did you shave your legs and everything?"
"Shut up Harry, don't make me laugh it hurts."
"I'm sure he appreciates avoiding whatever disease you're spreading all over that shirt."
"That's very diplomatic of you, Styles. Maybe you should go, too, avoid me some more, at least until I'm all over this." Nick doesn’t mean to sound cruel, but he tries to get the thought out before a coughing fit takes him over and it definitely comes out harsher than he meant it to be. He coughs a few more times before looking up to find Harry frowning at him in a way he's never seen before.
"Avoid you some more, huh. I don't know why Aimee thought I'd be the best choice to be your nursemaid for the night. I'm off on a plane to LA in the morning, anyway, so I should probably just go."
“Enjoy the soup and feel better,” Harry tosses back at him before disappearing around the corner and out the door just as quickly as he arrived.
“Thanks,” Nick mumbles into the confusing silence he leaves behind.
Harry's sat with his feet dangling in the pool when Nick finds him, face flushed from the heat and probably a bit from the drink, as well. He looks really good, frankly.
"We keep meeting in these places," he says, trying for a casual 'how's the weather' type opener on someone he hasn't spoken to or received text message responses from in at least a month. Harry's life is busy, so busy, all the time, and Nick's always known that and he thought he'd gotten used to it, but limited contact and none at all are very different lines.
Harry shrugs, leaving Nick to stand awkwardly above him and shuffle his feet around, deciding briefly whether to cut his losses and say goodnight or push through.
"Nice wedding, wasn't it?"
Harry at least looks up at Nick when he speaks this time, frowning at the question. Or frowning at Nick's face in general. Harry's gotten a lot better at keeping his every emotion off his face as time has passed. "What were you doing in there?"
It's Nick's turn to frown. "In where? Oh you mean the dancing? Just having a bit of fun, that."
Harry scoffs, kicking a bit of water up with his right foot. Nick watches the water drip off his 'Never Gonna' tattoo as Harry scratches at a spot on his foot. "Did you even know who that was?"
"Some friend of Pixie's I think. Think I met him at a party eons back. Ned? Ted? Something terrible that's short for an even more terrible name," Nick says, deciding that despite the cold shoulder Harry's giving him that he'll stay for a chat. His knees feel like they creak a bit when he flops down next to Harry. "I don't know. He danced terribly, too, you mustn't have noticed by the way you stormed away." He strains to roll his trouser legs up to keep them out of the water, rolling one up then watching it fall as he works on the other one.
Harry watches him, then huffs a sigh and bats his hands out of his way. "You're like a child when you've been drinking, you know? Always needing someone to look after you."
"I don't feel like a child with the way my whole body just groaned getting down on your level, here, mister in-the-best-shape-of-his-life."
"Always looking for someone to hold your hand, to pour you a drink, fix your pants, dance with you."
"Hang out by the pool with me. Not sure I like your tone, Harold, it sounds like you're quite jealous."
Harry strips off his undershirt and struggles out of his pants - Nick refrains from mockingly asking if he needs help, despite the chiding Harry's just given him - and slides off into the water, leaving Nick there to ponder his thoughts in silence as he swims three laps in quick succession while Nick watches, desperately trying to tamp down on the growing arousal he's feeling towards Harry.
"You done showing off now?" Nick asks once Harry's head pops out of the water close enough and long enough for him to understand.
"What if I am?"
"Probably best, you really don't need to show off to me I know how fit you are?"
"Jealous, Nick. What if I am jealous."
"I know I'm not around. And I know that like, we haven't spoken in awhile and it's my fault. I've just been-" Nick opens his mouth to echo the usual 'busy' comment, but Harry holds a hand up to stop him and Nick lets him continue. Lots of words at once aren't exactly a strong suit of Harry's, especially not when he's been drinking. "I've been busy, sure, but I've also just been working through some things. It's weird, being on my own now but still being surrounded by so many people trying to tell me what I should do. And I can listen to some, and confide in some, but-" He cuts himself off suddenly and Nick wonders what the story is there, that surge of protective feelings he's always had for Harry starting to surface even as Harry's shaking it off and continuing with, "But I can't seem to talk to any of them about you."
Nick kisses him, surprising them both and knocking Harry off balance a bit even as he's grasping at Harry to pull him closer.
They've kissed before, a few times, quiet little things in the dead of night when they've shared Nick's bed and one of them has woken the other or stumbled in too sleepy to function. Once on a dare at a party, and once just because Nick likes to kiss all his friends and Harry likes to do what he's told. But it's never been like this, like all of Nick's buried feelings about settling down with Harry are bubbling to the surface, met shockingly by the ocean swirl of Harry's feelings, echoed in the tidal wave they create together.
Nick's clothes are nearly soaked before Harry ever pulls him down into the pool with him, and a lost cause afterward. He tries to protest, but Harry keeps his mouth too occupied, kissing him until his lips feel swollen and tingly.
"We should go somewhere," he squeezes out, while Harry pants against his cheek.
"Might lose the moment, if we do that. You might find someone else to dance with, you never know?"
"Harry," Nick says, as serious as he can be. He takes his hand and tilts Harry's face so they're staring into each others' eyes, only inches apart. "If you told me never to look at anyone else but you ever again, I would, and I think you know it."
Harry surges against him and crashes their lips together, gripping Nick's neck so hard it hurts, so hard it keeps him in the moment, helps confirm that he's not having a snooze by the pool from too much alcohol consumed.
"You want a blowjob?" Harry asks, dropping his arms to his sides and floating back just enough that the breeze can fit between the two of them. Nick shivers as Harry looks him over, his arousal clear in his flushed face and posture. "I've never given one in a pool before."
"But you...have given one?"
Harry rolls his eyes. "Yes, Nicholas, I am not the blushing virgin image you must still have in your head of me."
"No, it's not. Sometimes I used to wish that I'd be your first one," he mumbles.
"Well if we're sharing confessions, sometimes I used to wish that you'd let me give you a blowjob in a pool."
"If you're so worried I'm going to drown myself or something just hop back up on the step and I'll settle in between your legs."
"Someone could see!"
Harry gently steps in and kisses him, sliding a hand slowly down Nick's side as Nick shivers, until it reaches his hip bone, just inches away from Nick's crotch. then Harry starts rubbing his thumb back and forth. "Do you really care if someone sees?" He asks, scooting his hand closer to Nick's hardening cock.
Nick gives in, like he always does to Harry, if he's honest with himself, and hops back up onto the ledge of the pool, water dripping off him in a way he's certain is less Bo Derek and more beached whale, cock tenting out and proud closer to Harry's face than he ever imagined it would be. "You don't have to do this right now to get me to stop dating other people, you know" he reiterates. "All you have to do is ask."
"Okay," Harry says. "I'm asking. But I'm also doing this." Harry reaches for the zipper on Nick's soaked trousers and pulls, flopping them open as far as they'll go while Nick's still wearing them, then rubs a hand over Nick's very tented underwear. "It's good to know you're doing it with me."
"Absolutely," Nick says, cupping Harry's face and guiding his head down. He has to spread his legs wider to sink low enough in the pool to align his face to the level of Nick's crotch, but he manages it so gracefully Nick meets little resistance as he pulls him down.
Nick tries to keep quiet, still peripherally aware that they are in fact, in a public space, but he can't help the little moans that slip out whenever Harry flicks his tongue a certain way. "Harry," he gasps softly, over and over, trying to focus on not gripping Harry's hair too tight, on pulling it just a little bit every so often to get Harry to moan around him, the way his hand catches in the wet tangles of it. Harry's mouth is wet and warm, juxtaposition to how Nick's feeling now that he's not down in the pool with the heat from Harry's body up against him, so he wraps his legs around Harry as best as he can and squeezes as best he can, locking him in place.
Harry pops off Nick's cock after Nick's held him there for a minute, grasping for breath, and Nick wipes at the spit and pre-come across his chin, then rests his thumb against Harry's lips, pushing just slightly against them. Harry opens his mouth easily.
"You looks really good like this, you know," Nick says, and Harry beams at him.
"Thank you," he says, panting slightly. He doesn't break eye contact with Nick as he wraps a hand around Nick's cock and starts working it with little twisting motions before dipping back down to swallow as much as he can. Nick's very impressed, and he even starts to say so, and then Harry flicks his tongue in a way that causes all Nick's words to catch in his throat. He moans, and manages barely to tap on Harry's shoulder to warn him before he's coming down his throat.
Harry takes a hop back and slowly scoots himself back up to his full height, looking quite pleased with himself. Nick watches the goosebumps form on his skin as the cool breeze hits it and unconsciously reaches out to pull him closer to warm him up. Harry's still slightly shorter than Nick while he's sitting on the edge, so Nick has to bend down to place a gentle kiss against Harry's swollen lips once he gets close enough, the light salty taste of himself upon them. He slides back down into the pool after a minute, wanting to be as close to Harry as possible.
"Can I tell you a secret?" Harry's face rests softly against Nick's cheek, mostly leaned against him in support as they sway back and forth with the ebb and flow of the pool current. The night's gone chilly and he's shivering a bit here and there, so Nick keeps a gentle hand running up and down his back, for comfort and warmth, and maybe just a little to keep a tactile presence to reassure himself that the moment is real.
"Anything," Nick says, ducking his head down to kiss Harry as his mouth falls open, gentle as can be.
Harry breathes slow and even against Nick's lips, bobbing up and down slightly with the gentle waves of the pool, the silence building to a confession. "I lied, earlier, about the blowjob. Yours is the first I've had in my mouth. I've handled plenty of dicks but yours is the only one I've ever wanted to taste."
Nick feels his cock twitch a bit against the zipper of his trousers, still half undone, and he tosses his head back and puffs out a laugh. He tries not to think about what a serious confession it actually is, shoves down all the apparently unfounded jealousy he’d collected over the years of all the men he’d seen Harry pictured with and wondered. "Ah, Styles, were I a spring chicken you could have it in your mouth again."
Harry knocks him gently against the knee. "You're not old, stop it."
"Guess I'll have to keep you around to keep reminding me of that."
"Actually keeping me around will probably remind you of the opposite, when I run circles around you at our wedding."
"Wedding, huh? You move fast." A breeze blows through and Harry shivers, shoulders exposed out of the water, so Nick pulls him closer and wraps his arms back around him. Little alarm bells sound off inside Nick's head, like this conversation - like this whole night, honestly - has taken them too far too quickly from formerly best buds and current distant friends to intimate lovers and future husbands, and he's not sure either of them are yet sober enough to actually understand what it means for the two of them.
Harry doesn't seem to notice any of this inner turmoil, though, languid and happy and still gently swaying with the pool current. "What you think, Grimshaw, a big fancy to-do like Pix and George?"
Nick lets himself indulge in the fantasy, picturing a life outside of labels, contracts, work and family obligations, and social stigmas, and lets all the dreams he's had about Harry flood in as best as he can remember them. He smiles, then says, "I think...I think Beyonce with a wind machine walking me down the aisle on a private beach because you can pay for whatever I want."
There's a loud clatter from somewhere close enough Nick's on high alert that his zipper isn't up all the way and that they're wrapped up far too much in each other in the pool to be just friends. Harry's hand darts to Nick's arm and grips tightly and when Nick next looks at Harry his eyes are wide and his mouth is open and Nick realize it's highly likely Harry's still very hard. They stare at each other for a long minute, listening to someone apologize to someone else and the quiet bustle of a mess being picked up. Caterers, maybe, Nick wonders idly. He'd forgotten they were technically at a wedding reception, the pool far enough removed from everything and all his attention focused on Harry. They should wrap this up and take it somewhere else, but where, he wonders. He's afraid saying they need to leave the pool will break the moment and set Harry back into distant aloofness. So they wait, silent and still, until the sound of voices recedes again into the night and all there is is the quiet lap of water against the pool and their breathing.
Eventually, Harry whispers, "I'm not sure I have that kind of pull with Beyonce, unfortunately," and Nick stifles his laugh as best he can, startled that Harry picked back up the silly thread. Because, he reminds himself, it has to stay a silly conversation, at least for now, because thinking about anything serious opens up a flood gate and unloads a bunch of feelings he's been shoving into a box for nearly five years now. A bunch of feelings he's starting to think maybe Harry reciprocates.
Nick giggles, the euphoria of the rush of secrecy and discovery of the evening catching up with him. "Shame. Suppose I could settle for something a little more down to Earth. Beachside would be a bit cliche. Probably too many bugs and things there, too. Hmm. Church doesn't really seem like our thing, but it'd be nice to get all the family together in one, perhaps. Or maybe just somewhere with an endless bowl of crisps and Annie Mac as the DJ. Our mums could give us away. Stevie Nicks could officiate."
Harry nods along, smile growing as Nick rambles on. Once Nick's grown silent, lost in his thoughts imagining this wedding that may or may not always be a fantasy ideal, Harry says, "Definitely somewhere with a pool, too," and Nick laughs, a whole body laugh startled out of him. He tosses his head back and looks up at the sky, bright with stars in a way they'd never be in the city. He breathes in deeply, takes in the smell of the pool, of the ocean nearby, of Harry's sweaty, pool-soaked skin against him, and tries his best to cement the memory in his mind forever. Marrying Harry. The idea would've been absurd a week ago.