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Niall doesn’t know how or why it happened. It just did.

One minute, he’s peacefully tuning his guitar on the sofa and the next, he’s admiring Liam’s behind when he bends down to pick up his mobile on the way to the kitchen.

It takes him by surprise and he stops and thinks about what had happened for a moment, trying to come up with a plausible explanation about why his eyes found themselves glued on the back of Liam’s jeans in the first place.

It’s not like he had a choice, really, not when it seemed like Liam purposely stopped in the middle of the living room, dropped his phone, and gave Niall a private show not unlike something he would see in a place Harry likes to frequent with a wad of bills in his pocket. Niall thinks it’s a plot to corrupt him because his innocence is almost angelic in nature and he knows out of all the boys, he’d be the first one to go to heaven. His bet is on Louis because he knows he hasn’t forgiven him for spilling those spicy nachos on his shirt and it seems like something Louis would do to get revenge.

But then again, maybe Liam really  did  drop his phone by accident and Niall isn’t as innocent as he thinks he is.

He slides his guitar off his lap and tries to erase the image burned in his brain but it’s difficult to ignore the way the fabric stretches against it, forming the most perfect curve that would make the greatest mathematicians weep in their coffins.

Then it goes from trying to forget it to wondering how it feels, and he stands up in a flash and locks himself in his room for the rest of the day, scared he’ll never be able to look at geometry the same way ever again.

 

-

 

When Zayn enters the house, it’s quiet. Too quiet.

He calls out a few times because he just got back from the hardware store to build the tree house they’ve been discussing for a month and he can’t carry everything in by himself, but nobody answers and he stands at the door trying to figure out how on earth he’ll get everything to the backyard.

Just when he’s pulling the boards inside, Liam walks out with a popsicle stick in his mouth and Zayn almost drops the wood on his toes.

“Need some help, mate?” Liam says after pulling out the ice pop and it’s almost indecent, Zayn thinks, and it gives him three hundred and seventy-two ideas and none of them he can say out loud or they might land him in jail. But the way Liam’s licking at his fingers like he’s reading his mind makes it hard to contain himself and he lowers the boards down next to his feet before it sends him on a trip to the hospital and he wipes the sweat from his forehead with an awkward smile.

“Sure, thanks.”

Liam smiles and wipes his mouth with the back of his hand.

“Let me finish this first,” he says, and he slides the popsicle back in his mouth, and it’s like he’s doing it on purpose and it’s embarrassing how Zayn’s jeans seem to get tighter and tighter against his thighs, and he swallows hard when Liam takes the whole thing in one bite and he feels like he’s about to faint.

“Alright, let’s go,” Liam says after putting the stick in his pocket, and it takes a moment for Zayn to register that Liam said something before jolting back to action and grabbing the other side of the boards.

They haul them all the way across the house and Zayn tries his best not to look at Liam too long, which proves very difficult to do because there’s still some blue clinging to the corners of his mouth and he’s slowly licking at it every now and then.

Zayn just wishes they could stop to get a damp towel and wipe that bloody stain off once and for all.

They make it to the backyard without any accidents and Liam lowers the boards on the ground, Zayn following suit.

The sun’s high in the sky and he can see a heatwave in the distance, and the sweat around his brow’s coming more easily.

Maybe it wasn’t the best idea to do this in the summer.

“Want me to help you set up before the boys come?” Liam asks, hands on his hips, and Zayn watches the way his shirt hugs his body and it really should be against the law to wear tight-fitting clothes.

“If you don’t mind,” Zayn answers after a second, tearing his eyes away and letting them come into focus on Liam’s face. He’s smiling and Zayn can almost feel his knees shaking under him, and he crouches down and slides the boards out one by one.

He almost wishes he didn’t look up when Liam said “it’s hot, innit?” because he knows nothing good ever follows the words “it’s hot” and it might have been the single, most life-ruining moment in his life when he lifts his chin up and sees Liam sliding his shirt up and over his head.

He’s never been this close to Liam’s abdomen and he can almost see the veins popping out against his perfect skin.

Zayn’s jeans have never been tighter.

 

-

 

Niall thinks that God must have worked on especially hard on Liam because there’s just no possible explanation how someone could be so smart, nice, and good-looking all at the same time.

He thinks it’s unfair for the rest of humanity and it’s probably one of the reasons why there’s so much wrong in the world, and one day, Liam would just rip his shirt off in the middle of a performance and fly away on his red cape because if he wasn’t perfect enough, he’d be the living, breathing reincarnation of Superman, and nothing could be more perfect than that.

Looking back on it, maybe he wasn’t so far off and Liam really did have superpowers. He had an uncanny ability to pacify Louis when he was getting too rowdy and had innate knowledge of the right amount of liquor Harry needed to ingest before it became too much to walk in a straight line, and it’s like he had a radar whenever Niall felt down and he was always there in the nick of time to place a hand on his shoulder and tell him with a smile that everything’s going to be fine.

One event stuck out in particular.

They were in the airport, having just arrived from a long flight to the States, and naturally, there were fans all lined up along the entrance. Some of them managed to break through and rush at them with papers and posters on hand, and they indulged what they could before they had to go to their car waiting outside.

The last of them were three giddy girls with a disposable camera, and the moment they spotted Liam, they crowded around him with bright, excited faces (and one of them looked like she was about to faint) and asked if they could take a picture with him.

Niall, who had been standing right next to Liam when it happened, gave a curt nod and tried to hide the look of disappointment in his face. It always happens no matter where they go, and he should be used to it by now, he thinks, but the feeling of emptiness still gets to him, still as sharp as a blade on his chest, and all he can do is grin and bear it because if they didn’t want him, what else can he do?

As two of the girls positioned themselves in both Liam’s sides, Niall dropped his head and started to walk off the frame, but he stopped when he felt something tugging at the back of his hoodie, firm and strong, and it took him a second and a half to realize (until the flash of the camera had already gone off and he knew right then that he had just pulled the stupidest face in his life) that Liam had been holding on to him to keep him in the picture, and when the girls all thanked him (stealing a few hugs along the way), they walked off tittering and squealing amongst each other and Niall was left to wonder why Liam did it.

But he never bothered to ask because the smile on Liam’s face said it all.

 

-

 

Zayn’s tried to quit smoking for a while now.

At first, it was something that he did to make himself look cool and aloof, basically someone who didn’t give a shit, but then it turned into a habit and the next thing he knew, his hand would always be itching to reach for the pack in his pocket in just about any given situation; when he felt nervous, when he was angry, when he had to take a piss.

But now, as he blows a puff of smoke on the rooftop, he promises to himself that it’ll be the last one and he won’t be doing it again for the rest of his life because he’s too young to have cancer and he’d like to live past forty if he could.

He pulls the cigarette out and smashes it with his shoe.

He pauses for a second, thinks oh, what the hell, takes another one from his pack, and reaches for his lighter.

He doesn’t sense Liam coming up and it’s not until he’s standing right next to him that he discovers he’s not alone anymore.

Liam flashes a smile at him and he smiles back, and he lights his cigarette and fixes his attention back to the building in front of them.

“I thought you were going to quit,” Liam says. Zayn shrugs.

“Me too.”

“I never did figure out why you love these things so much.”

Zayn laughs. Liam’s always been the good kid. Never a hair out of place, toes always in line, always knew when to stop. Perfect, even, and sometimes he has to wonder if Liam ever got drunk or high or did something that’s even remotely considered as a social stigma, and if maybe he’s not as perfect as his outward appearance might lead everyone else to believe.

“Have you even tried it?” Zayn asks, turning to Liam with a smile. Liam shakes his head

“Can’t say I have. What’s it like?”

Zayn grins and holds out the cigarette in front of Liam’s mouth. “Why don’t you figure it out for yourself?”

Liam slips it out of his fingers and slides it between his lips and Zayn has to contain the sigh that almost leaves his mouth. Liam looks at him with wide eyes and he nods, smiling because Liam looks so much like a puppy dog and all he wants to do right then is to pet his head just to know what his hair feels like.

Liam closes his eyes and inhales, Zayn watching with anticipation and bright eyes, and he laughs when Liam begins to cough, and he takes the cigarette off Liam’s hand and puts it back in his mouth. Liam doubles over and coughs at the concrete, eyes red and watery, and Zayn rubs his back as he catches his breath.

“That was terrible!” Liam says incredulously, standing up straight and rubbing his chest vigorously. “Why in the world would anyone want do that to themselves?”

Zayn chuckles and wraps his arm around Liam’s shoulder. “Don’t knock it, mate. Just takes a bit of practice.”

“I suppose,” Liam says with a laugh, and Zayn can feel his face starting to red.

It’s not until he feels Liam’s arm reaching across his own shoulder that Zayn feels his heart race, and he tries his best to contain himself from turning to Liam and planting a big one right on the kisser.

 

-

 

When Danielle enters the picture, it’s like a storm ripped through Niall’s life in the span of a second and destroyed everything like blowing on a house of cards.

In all honesty, it’s not her fault. Not even when she seems intent on spending every waking moment of her life attached to Liam’s hand and being with him literally everywhere he goes (would probably even follow him in the loo and hold his hand while he took a piss if it didn’t give people the wrong idea). More Danielle usually meant less Niall, and it’s a depressing thought when Niall can’t bring himself to like the girl just on the principle that she’s sharing kisses with Liam and he’s not.

Not that he had a chance in the first place.

Liam’s straight as a ruler despite all the touching and kissing on stage and sometimes, it’s hard to separate what’s real and what’s fanservice and it gets frustrating because he can’t help being a hopeless romantic (and Liam’s as Romeo as Romeo could get), can’t help that one touch from Liam’s hand can send his head reeling from ecstasy, can’t help that every time Liam whispers close in his ears, he gets the urge to turn his head at the last possible second on the off-chance that their lips would finally meet.

He could handle knowing that the touches are only pretend because he has a vivid imagination and they make it easier to deal with the fact that he could never have Liam to himself, but what he can’t stand is knowing that the touches he gives Danielle are completely and utterly genuine and it tears his heart to pieces when he sees pictures of them making out in public.

That’s probably why he’s kept his distance from Liam for the last few days and it surprises him when Liam suddenly noticed.

“Everything alright, mate?” Liam asks in that puppy dog voice of his and Niall tries to let it roll off his shoulders, wants more than anything to say “shouldn’t you be with your girlfriend somewhere?”, wants to break the connection he involuntarily threaded with Liam the moment they became a band because thinking about what he’s feeling hurts too much and he just wants to curl up in a ball and hide in a corner somewhere so he doesn’t have to experience Liam breaking his heart into a million pieces with a single smile.

“Nothing,” Niall says instead and he wants to leave it at that, doesn’t want to dig the hole deeper than it already is, but Liam watches him patiently and Niall tries his best not to look into those eyes because they always work, always make it seem like nothing’s wrong, that everything’s going to be fine, and Niall hates how Liam can control him with a few simple gestures like he’s nothing more than a robot especially made for him.

“You sure? You’re not sick or anything, are you?”

The concern weighs heavily on Niall’s chest and he doesn’t want it, more of a burden than anything else and he stands up from his seat and shakes his head.

“I’m just tired,” Niall replies, voice softer than he intended, and when he turns to leave, he feels Liam’s hand on his wrist and a jolt of electricity passes through veins and his breath hitches against his throat.

“You know you can talk to me,” Liam assures him, though it does anything but, and he pulls his wrist out of Liam’s grip and makes his way to his bedroom in long strides.

He can still feel Liam’s touch burning his skin when he closes his eyes to sleep.

 

-

 

Zayn doesn’t hate Danielle.

Severely dislike, maybe. But not hate.

It’s not anything particular that she did (hell, they haven’t even spoken two words to each other ever since Liam introduced her to the lads), and it’s not because she’s going out with Liam, not really (he knew he didn’t have a chance in the beginning but it was still nice to pretend).

It’s that Liam seems to have changed completely from inside out the moment she started attaching herself to his hand like an overgrown tumor. What used to be time set aside for him was now spent on Danielle’s every whim.

“Let’s go to this place, babe, I heard it’s wonderful.” “I think I need new clothes. Shop with me?” “If you spend any more time with that Zayn bloke when I’m not around, we’re over, alright?”

Okay, maybe that last one wasn’t true but it might as well have been at the rate she’s going, and the sound of her shrill voice echoing against the walls was enough for him to seriously consider shaving off his hair because ripping it from his scalp might be a bit too painful for his tastes.

It’s like Liam’s every thought revolves around her and it makes his stomach churn because he can’t begin to understand what’s so bloody special about her.

She’s all hair and legs and absolutely no substance in between. It’s probably not even her real hair. And when she came up to the boys backstage one day with “freshly-baked cookies” (yeah, fresh from the store) to congratulate them for a successful concert, it was all Zayn could do to stay civilized and smile and take a bite because Liam’s watching them expectantly and the last thing Zayn wants to do is disrespect his girlfriend in front of him.

Which is why he bites his tongue when Liam comes up to him one day and invites him to a movie.

He can’t believe his ears and he wonders if he heard right, or if it’s even Liam at all, but when he looks up, he sees his face watching him, eyes practically glittering out of their sockets like they always are, and the words catch in his throat for a moment, trying to get the gears in his brain going again.

“Er—you and me?” Zayn asks, at himself then Liam and back again.

Liam nods and smiles and Zayn wants to melt into a puddle on the floor. “And Dani, of course.”

It’s like a sledgehammer hit him square in the chest and he knows he should have seen it coming because they’re never alone for more than two minutes at a time but he was hoping everything’s changed now and he’s back to spending time with the boys again like he used to, back to spending time with him.

“Oh” is all Zayn can say and his heart drops when he sees the sudden change in Liam’s expression. He hates it when Liam goes into puppy mode without warning and it’s like the word “no” is erased permanently from his vocabulary and he can’t physically refuse him because it’s practically equivalent to punching cute little babies right in the face, and who in their right mind would punch cute little babies in the face?

“Come on, mate, it’ll be fun,” Liam persists and he doesn’t know what in the world gave him the idea that he liked spending time with Danielle (maybe it’s because he’s not sassy enough like Louis when it comes to talking about her but then again Louisdid have an iron grip on sass in the group), but he sighs and relents because there’s no getting out of it once Liam makes that face and he watches Liam erupt into a grin the hug that came next takes him by surprise.

“Thanks mate, it’s gonne be so much fun, you’ll see,” Liam says and Zayn likes to think that Liam’s so excited about this because he feels suffocated by Danielle and he needs some male bonding time or else he’ll go crazy.

Somehow the thought makes him feel better about the whole movie date.

 

-

 

Niall doesn’t know how to react.

He doesn’t know whether he should be jealous or sympathetic or confused and he just sits there and looks at Zayn like he’s just recited a particularly long mathematical equation and expected the answer in the next ten seconds, and Zayn watches him with narrowed eyes, almost like he’s trying to read Niall’s mind and he wishes Zayn could tell him because he has no idea what he’s supposed to think.

“Well?” Zayn asks and it’s like Niall’s momentarily lost the ability to speak, which he can’t really help because the revelation was just so shocking.

Never in a million years did Niall think Zayn liked blokes because he’s the epitome of physical perfection and he could literally get any woman he wanted with one stroke of his thick, lustrous, beautiful hair, and before this, he’s never shown any indication that he “swings that way” and Niall’s just assumed that he was into girls like they all are (minus himself, of course, but he doesn’t have the balls to actually say it casually like he’s talking about the weather the way Zayn just did and he’s starting to wonder if there really is something going on between Harry and Louis behind the curtains because every day, they seem more and more surgically attached at the hip). Then again, Zayn’s never really shown any particular interest to girls and sort of just handwaves any rumors that pops up in the internet like he couldn’t give two shits.

That was all well and good because Niall’s glad they finally have something in common, something to share between themselves like Harry and Louis, and more power to him, really, wanting to embrace it and telling someone and it’s always the first step to loving yourself, Niall’s always read in self-help magazines, and of course he’ll be supportive and encouraging and all that, but then he drops the bomb immediately after that he’s got a thing for Liam, and it’s like Niall’s mind is wiped completely and he blacks out.

Figuratively, of course, because he can still see the expectant look in Zayn’s eyes and he reckons it’s been at least a minute and a half since he stopped talking to wait for Niall’s reply and Niall shakes himself out of his stupor and tries to grasp at words flying in his brain to at least attempt to show that he’s not as fazed and surprised as he actually is.

“Erm—Wow. Okay,” Niall begins, involuntarily blinking rapidly and Zayn leans closer and narrows his eyes even further, and by his body language, Niall can feel him practically itching out of his skin to hear what he has to say. Niall decides to wing it. “First of all, thanks for telling me and I feel honored that you trust me enough and I think it’s cool that you like blokes because they’re brilliant and, you know, there’s less drama and crying and you can’t really get them pregnant, can you? So, that’s great and I’m happy for you and I promise I won’t tell any of the lads because that’d be pretty cruel and—”

“What in blazes are you going on about, Ni?” Zayn interrupts and Niall takes a deep breath because he has the tendency to ramble when he’s nervous and when he gets going, he can’t bring himself to stop. “You’re not answering my question. It is right to like someone in the band?”

Niall’s probably the worst person to ask because he’s facing the same dilemma and he wishes he can help just so he doesn’t have to see that look in Zayn’s eyes.

“I’m… probably not the right person to answer that question, to tell you the truth,” he says, avoiding Zayn’s gaze.

“What do you mean?” Zayn asks and Niall’s pulse quickens. He might as well just say it now when everything’s out in the open and save him the trouble of explaining himself in the future when he’s bound to let it slip that he likes blokes too, and maybe it’s better this way because he’ll finally have someone to talk to instead of bottling everything inside like he’s done all his life.

He takes a deep breath and looks at Zayn square in the eyes, focused and unblinking, and Zayn knits his brows even closer and draws back a bit because the attention’s making him look visibly uncomfortable.

“Why are you looking at me like that, you weirdo?”

Niall keeps his gaze fixed and unbroken and tries to subdue the rapid beating of his heart.

“I’m just like you Zayn,” he finally says, and Zayn’s eyes start to widen. “I have a thing for Liam, too.”

 

-

 

It shouldn’t have surprised him as much as it did because, to be honest, he’s sort ofknown already.

It wasn’t an obvious thing, really; just something he picked up on Niall every now and then.

He’s never had a girlfriend as far as Zayn was concerned, mostly busied himself with his guitar and food and between those things, there really isn’t much room for anything else. At least, that’s the conclusion he and the lads came up with when all of them seemed to be getting girlfriends left and right (except him, of course, for obvious reasons) and Niall’s just off to the side with a goofy smile on his face like he doesn’t mind not having a relationship, and he distinctly remembers Niall telling them he has commitment issues or something of similar effect back when Louis and Eleanor started going out and they all just accepted it for what it was and left it at that.

Of course, now that he knows the real reason, he doesn’t really know what he should feel about the whole thing.

He doesn’t mind that Niall’s a homosexual because he’d be a raving hypocrite if he did, and in reality, he should be pretty psyched about it because he’ll finally be able to talk to someone about his boy problems (not that he had any at the moment but it’s still nice to know he can), but the fact remains that Niall’s got a thing for Liam like he does and he’s not exactly eager to share the attention, not when it concerns Liam. Then again, he’s not really Liam’s boyfriend; hell, he can’t be farther away from it now that the soul-sucking harpy’s clawed her way into his heart (probably against his will but hey, Liam’s always been into odd things so who knows?), but he still can’t help but feel jealous now that he knows he’s not the only one who’s got eyes for him.

And just when he thought he finally broke the surface of Niall’s personality that the rest of the boys have tried their hardest to scratch, another dimension presents itself like peeling back the layers of an onion, and he had no idea just how complex Niall really is until he takes him aside one day when the other boys have gone out for some time in the sun and sat him down on his bed like he’s about to pitch something important to a big company.

“Alright, here’s the deal,” he starts, and Zayn just watches him curiously as he pulls the computer chair over and sits a foot away from him. “I like Liam, you like Liam. I don’t like Dani, you don’t like Dani. I’m a boy, you’re a boy. I like boys, you love penis.”

Zayn chuckles and shakes his head. The things that come out of Niall’s mouth. “What exactly are you saying, Ni?”

Niall bites his lip and stares at Zayn like he’s got something on his face and Zayn stares back, trying to figure out what’s going on in Niall’s head like they’ve all been doing since the band was formed.

“Well, I was just thinking that maybe we should do it. You and me.”

If Zayn had been drinking something, he surely would have spat it all over Niall’s face.

“Wh—what?” Zayn asks, raising a brow and tipping his head close, still working out if he had heard him incorrectly or if he actually did insinuate what he thinks he insinuated.

Niall keeps his face rigid and serious. “Maybe we should have a date and see how it goes. You know, just to try it and stuff.”

Zayn straightens out his spine and keeps his narrowed eyes to Niall, who’s watching him like a hawk.

It’s not because he finds Niall particularly revolting; on the contrary, he thinks Niall’s one of the better looking lads in the group, and ever since he got his teeth straightened and started working out with Harry at the gym, he’s developed this air of confidence that he didn’t have when they first started out in the group, and for all intents and purposes, that confidence actually made him seem more… sexy, if that’s the right word. Not that Zayn’s had any sexual fantasies involving Niall before, he just thinks that being comfortable in his own skin’s made him more attractive, makes everyone more attractive, just like Liam, but to be honest, he’s never really looked at Niall in that way.

“That’s, erm…” Zayn starts, not entirely sure if it’s a good idea. He hasn’t been in a proper date in ages and maybe he’s become a bit rusty at these things.

“Oh, come on, mate,” Niall persists, rolling the chair closer until he’s only a few inches from Zayn’s nose. “If it doesn’t work out, then it doesn’t work out. What’s the harm in trying?”

“Well…” Zayn says, trying to convince himself otherwise but Niall has a point, and it might get his mind off the whole Liam thing so it’s probably worth a shot.

He sighs and gives Niall the tiniest of smiles.

“I guess it can’t hurt. But you’re buying, alright?”

 

-

 

After mulling over a dozen possible romantic places for two days straight, Niall eventually settles to take Zayn out on a date at Nando’s.

Zayn pretends like it’s a surprise but it doesn’t really matter because he likes the food there, too and it’s not going to burn too big a hole in Niall’s pocket so it seems like a perfect match.

At first, Niall doesn’t know what to say. He doesn’t really know how to start conversations, just usually piggybacked on something someone already said, and for the first few minutes after sitting down, he just picks at his watch and looks at Zayn silently, like he’s waiting for him to speak. He’s not really waiting, though, just running through his head the best conversation starters he can think of, like “Nice weather, innit?” or “Your hair looks pretty today,” or “I’ve got this itch on my bum and I really want to scratch it.” That last one might break the ice a little bit, he admits, but talking about his bum probably isn’t the best idea for tableside discussion.

Zayn beats him to the punch.

“I like your shirt, where’d you get it?”

“My shirt?” Niall looks down and reads the upside-down RAMONES splashed across his chest area. “Oh. I nicked it from Harry’s closet.”

Zayn laughs. “You crazy, mate? He loves that shirt.”

“He won’t even know it’s gone,” Niall dismisses with a wave of his hand, and Zayn settles back in his seat and Niall resumes watching him.

Zayn’s got real pretty eyes, he thinks, just the perfect shade of hazel. It reminds him of tea. He’s also got long eyelashes and sometimes, Niall likes to think that when he was born, a pair of camels came through to their house in the middle of the night and gave him a pair of magic eyelashes from each eyelid, proclaiming that he’ll be the best-looking member of a boy band in the future and that he’ll eventually rule the world with his perfect hair before disappearing in a flash of light.

“I like your eyelashes,” Niall says before he can stop himself and Zayn blinks a few times, wondering if he’d heard right, and Niall blushes at once, and he sinks back in his seat thinking oh god, he’s gonna think I’m a creep who the fuck says I like your eyelashes like it’s the most normal thing to say but to his surprise, Zayn leans forward until he’s only a few inches from Niall’s face, looking at his eyes like he’s never seen them before, and he settles back into his seat with a satisfied smile.

“I like your eyelashes, too.”

Niall smiles.

It’s going to be a good day.

 

-

 

Zayn can’t put his finger on it but something about Niall changed.

It wasn’t many things but it’s not just one thing either, like how a caterpillar eats and sheds its skin and grows bigger over a long period of time without anyone really noticing. Mind you, Niall has been eating quite a lot lately (more than usual anyway), but it’s not that he’s gaining weight or anything (and he is quite envious of the fact that the boy just can’t seem to put on weight no matter how much he eats). Maybe it’s the way he started wearing his hair different; sort of just tousles it a bit when he wakes up in the morning to keep the mess of bed-hair but doesn’t have it so unruly that it makes him look unkempt. Or maybe it’s the way his smile seems to get brighter when Zayn enters the room. Maybe it’s both and maybe it’s none of them at all, but all he knows is Niall’s changed ever since they started dating, and Zayn isn’t really complaining, not one bit.

Zayn finds him on the sofa tuning his guitar for what seems like the hundredth time today and Niall looks up when he hears him making his way across the room, flashing that one hundred kilowatt smile without missing a beat, and Zayn takes his place next to him and props his feet up on the coffee table.

“Hey,” Niall says, turning back to his guitar and strumming a few notes before messing with the tuners again.

“Havin’ fun?”

“It passes the time,” Niall replies with a shrug, and he lifts his eyes to meet Zayn’s and asks, “What about you?”

“Don’t have much to do, really,” Zayn says, stretching his arm across the backrest and moving closer. “Can I watch you?”

Niall smiles. “I don’t mind.”

He goes back to his guitar and Zayn doesn’t really know why but it’s mesmerizing to watch Niall play his guitar. He doesn’t treat it like a regular instrument, like it’s an ordinary thing that can be replaced when it’s not doing what it’s supposed to; he almost has this spiritual connection with it, like it’s an extension of his body and without it, he’d feel like someone who lost at limb at war. He told Zayn he’s had it since he was a kid and he’s been taking care of it ever since, taking care of it like it was his own child, and all things considered, Zayn’s a bit jealous of his relationship with his guitar because he’s never had anything he considered spiritual, the cross slung around his neck just a symbol of his beliefs, never any sentimental reasons behind it.

“You want to learn?” Niall asks all of a sudden and Zayn takes a second to reply, has never played an instrument in his life.

“Sure,” he says, and Niall places the guitar on his lap and guides his fingers to where they need to be. His hands are warm, fingers a bit rough from playing throughout the years, and Zayn listens to him when he tells him about notes and chords, tries to follow where Niall’s long fingers lead him and in no time, his heart’s speeding up and his face is getting hotter, and he doesn’t know if it’s their closeness or the fact that Niall’s hand just feels so good on his, but before he can stop himself, he calls Niall’s name and presses his lips against his.

The action takes Niall by surprise but it doesn’t last long, and in the next second, he’s grabbing the guitar by the neck and putting it on the floor as he turns Zayn on his back and climbs on top of him, and it’s Zayn’s turn to be surprised because he’s never known Niall to be aggressive when it came to these things, wasn’t really expecting this, but then again, he’s not really sure what he expected. All he knows is that it feels good and right and Niall presses himself closer to him until he can hear his heart beating and Zayn wraps his arms around his neck and buries his hands in his hair, the kiss going deeper and deeper and stronger and harder until Zayn lets out a moan in pure ecstasy.

“Guys?”

Zayn’s eyes snap wide open at the sound and Niall stops at once and sits up, still straddling him, and it doesn’t take him long to discover that the sound had come from Liam standing just behind the sofa, hair disheveled and face slightly puffy.

“Fuck, mate, I thought you’d left,” Zayn says, sitting up properly after Niall quickly slid his legs off him.

“I just woke up,” Liam replies, eyes narrow either from curiosity or from getting out of bed a few minutes ago. “I couldn’t find my mobile and thought it might be in the sofa somewhere.”

Zayn looks at Niall, still a bit breathless and euphoric, and sees him dig between the cushions and fish out a mobile deep within the crevice a few seconds later.

“Oh, you’re right,” Niall says, turning around and reaching the mobile to Liam, who takes it and checks to see if he’s missed any messages.

“Thanks,” Liam says, looking up and watching them with eyes still narrowed, like he’s trying to work everything out but his mind’s not really cooperating, and he scratches the back of his head with a yawn. “I, er, I guess I’ll be going back to sleep now.”

“You do that,” Niall says with a smile, and Liam lets his gaze linger for a moment before hesitantly turning back to face the hall and taking slow, groggy steps back to his room.

Zayn doesn’t really know what to think, doesn’t know if Liam’s fine with it or if he thought it was all just a dream, but he doesn’t think about it too much because Niall’s looking at him like he’s about to burst out laughing, and Zayn feels his own laughter pushing out of his chest and before long, they’re both cracking up, shaking the entire house with the sound and drowning themselves in their tears.

After what seems like forever, Niall’s calmed down enough to ask, “Now, where were we?” before pushing Zayn back down on the sofa and pressing another kiss on his lips, and Zayn thinks it can’t get any better than this.

 

-

 

Niall wakes up and he feels Zayn’s heart beating softly on his back, arms around his waist, legs twined like vines under the cover, and he can still smell the faint scent of smoke hanging in the air because he likes to smoke when he wakes up in the middle of the night and Niall’s getting used to it, just as he’s still getting used to the fact that he’s lying on a bed next to Zayn, their clothes a messy heap on the floor, and he’s surprised at how everything just fits, like they’re tiny little gears in a big, complicated machine.

He listens to Zayn’s breath and there’s a rhythm to it, and it’s warm on his neck and soothing in all the right places and Niall wishes he can just lay there and not have to worry about anything because it feels good to be in Zayn’s arms, feels right and he turns around and faces him with a smile.

Zayn groans and Niall watches each strand of his lashes like they’re the most interesting thing in the world, watches his eyelids flutter like butterfly wings and he grins when he opens them a crack, hazel eyes searching for his and Niall moves closer until their foreheads are touching and presses a kiss on his nose.

“Morning,” he says.

Zayn chuckles and kisses his lips. “Morning.”

He pulls Niall close and Niall plays with his hair as he drifts back to sleep, and it might be too early to tell but he thinks it’s only the beginning of something wonderful.

Liam can keep Danielle.

Niall’s found someone better.