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joining up the dots

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The thing about Harry is, and Nick really should know this by now, is that he has very little filter between his brain and his mouth.

Oh, sure, he's gotten better at it the more the band's PR yells at him, but Nick has been with Harry enough (in varying states of sobriety) to know that when Harry's relaxed, he forgets that he's supposed to think before he speaks. So yeah, possibly he should have thought a little more carefully before dialing Harry's number for his very well thought-out prank phone call. He had spent a great deal of time changing Harry's clocks to make him think it was later in the day than it was and he had even draped some thick sheets over the windows to dim the sunlight.

So he says, "I'm going to call Harry Styles of The Wanted and surprise him," and everyone laughs and it's going good, Nick is pleased by this. He has a good feeling about this one.

And Harry picks up saying, "Jesus, how long have I slept?" and Nick has to stifle his laughter into his fist before he says, "Hey, Hazza, I just got off work. What are you up too?"

"Still scraping your come off me, to be honest," Harry says, and Nick just – freezes.

"I mean," Harry says, oblivious to the fact that he's on air (and currently everyone is making sort of shocked faces at Nick, who is trying to will himself to wave at them, tell them to cut off this call jesus but he is in shock here, why aren't they doing anything?) "It's all over my pants and my stomach and did we even throw the condom away last night? Did we use one?"

"Oh my god," Nick says faintly, and someone finally has the presence of mind to take them off air and Nick frantically starts the next song without even checking what it is. "Oh my god."

"Nick?" Harry asks. "Are you all right?"

"Harry," Nick says, strangled, "you were on air."

There is a long pause on the other end. Then Harry says, in a very small voice, "Just now?"


"So that thing I just said, about your jizz –"

"Yes, everyone in the nation heard that," says Nick.

Harry is quiet for a moment longer and then says, "Well, fuck."

Nick kind of spends the rest of the show dreading leaving the building, because he has absolutely no faith in the British media to be useless when he needs them to be. He's also pretty sure he's going to lose his job and possibly his boyfriend, so he distracts himself thinking about how Harry had looked when he'd left his flat, the way Harry's stupid hair had been spread around his head like a halo and the faint imprints of hickeys fading from the pale column of his neck. Nick is careful, usually, not to leave marks, but Harry is on an Official Holiday and doesn't have to meet people or do interviews or take photos and that means Nick can take all the time he wants with him.

He is now slightly regretting that, because it means that any reporter with a modicum of intelligence is going to take a look at that and god, Nick is going to kill Harry and then very possibly kill himself too.

He's fully expecting to have to face this on his own. Nick has dated closeted boys before – it's kind of inevitable when you date within the entertainment industry pool – and he's had a fair number of them go south thanks to unexpected outings. And those weren't nearly as public, nor the guys as famous as Harry.

To his surprise, though, Harry shows up at the station towards the end of the show in the worst disguise ever, mostly comprised of Nick's clothing and a hat that Nick thinks someone gave him once, and slumps against the door looking miserable.

"Well, we're fucked," Harry says as soon as Nick is done. "They told me not to come over here, but fuck that, I am not doing this alone."

"Is it awful outside?" Nick asks miserably. "Am I going to be murdered by thirteen year-old girls?"

"Probably," Harry says, "but not before my publicist kills both of us. She shrieked at me. She's a Geordie, Nick, do you know how terrible that is at seven in the morning?"

"You just outed us as a couple on national radio," Nick says. "Shouldn't you be more worried about this?"

"Honestly," Harry says, "I think I've gone past the worried stage through grief and anger into acceptance. And this is mostly your fault anyway."

"Okay, fair enough," Nick allows. "But god, we are so, so fucked. If we do this – and we do this properly – they're going to make us go on talk shows, Harry. "

"In for a penny," says Harry, and he kisses Nick full on the mouth before dragging him out of the station, arm in arm.

Nick has never really deluded himself into believing that this thing with Harry could last, not while Harry was, well, Harry Styles from One Direction. Nick is on the wrong side of twenty-five to be content with a relationship that is based entirely on hiding and Harry's apparent age difference kink.

But then again, it's very hard to resist when a young, attractive pop star is throwing himself at you, particularly when you spent most of his rise to fame lying on the floor of your flat with a bottle of wine crying about how you had a crush on a sixteen year old. Nick...tries not to think about that phase of his life too much.

The point is, Nick has always known there was a shelf life on their relationship. He had figured Harry would meet someone more appropriate – someone closer to his age, hopefully – like the next companion on Doctor Who, or some Disney pop queen. Someone bubbly and blonde and as ridiculous as Harry.

So the fact that Harry actually walks out of the studio with Nick, hand tucked firmly into the crook of his elbow, is enough of a surprise that Nick doesn't protest, not even when they come outside to find a posse of paparazzi waiting for them.

Harry groans and says, "I think they've multiplied since I came in."

"Probably because you came here." Nick flips down his sunglasses in the vague hope of protecting himself from the camera flashes. "That wasn't very smart."

"Smart is for other people." Harry slips his hand down into Nick's. "I'm going to kiss you now, yeah?"

"What?" Nick tries to say, but Harry's mouth is already on his and Nick is reflexively closing his eyes. Harry's hand tightens on his, thumb rubbing over the back of Nick's hand.

Nick pulls back, but can't bring himself to let go of Harry. "Harry."

"Our publicist is going to murder me," Harry says, grinning, and he darts in for a lightning fast kiss before backing off entirely. "Hopefully that will make them happy."

"Harry, are you going to think about this?" Nick asks, a little desperately. "You didn't have to do that, you could have let me deal with by myself –"

"What kind of dick do you think I am?" demands Harry. "Shut up, I'm your boyfriend and we can finally kiss in public without you freaking out about getting in trouble. Come on."

And so Nick lets Harry pull him through the throng of reporters and tries not to think of it as a metaphor for their relationship. Harry waves off the reporters with long practice and shoves Nick into a black car before following him in, shouting, "No comment!" behind him.

"Boyfriend, huh?" Nick asks when they've got the door safely shut behind them.

"That's all right?" Harry looks at him, smiling a little nervously.

"You know I'm ten years older than you?" Nick says, because it bears repeating.

Harry rolls his eyes. "Yes, darling, you have mentioned it before." He scoots over to Nick, throwing one leg over Nick's lap, and kisses him. "I think I've made it clear I don't care."

Nick still vaguely feels that they're doomed, but Harry has this ability to convince people to go along with what his mad ideas and Nick has always been susceptible to young, attractive men who claim to like him, so he says, "All right."

Harry tucks his head with his stupid hair against Nick's neck and says, "Good, I'm going back to sleep."

Nick kisses Harry's forehead and rests his cheek against the top of Harry's head. "Sounds great."

"And later," Harry says into Nick's neck, "we will talk about how we can recreate that prank on Louis."