Actions

Work Header

i breathe you in, but honey i don't know

Work Text:

As Liam walks down his first ever red carpet, all he can really think about is how his hands are slightly shaking and the struggle it was when he was getting fitted for his suit after he’d purchased one. He’d been so anxious that he’d snapped at the poor woman doing her job, and even a genuine apology hadn’t been enough to soothe her frustration with him.

Despite the leftover feelings of guilt he had from that particular meeting, he was now nervous because of where he was. It wasn’t everyday an eighteen year old boy gets to walk down a red carpet at an award show. Liam had been invited, of course, not nominated, but he was nervous all the same. He reaches up to run a hand through his hair, mentally chastising himself. He’s lucky there isn’t a lot of product in his hair. It would be ruined if that were the case.

He’s not quite sure how he’s gotten where he is. Liam remembers uploading a video to his youtube channel one day, as he always did, and then receiving an email about a week later. Everything had occurred very quickly and he’s still not over it. So now Liam’s walking down a red carpet, his mind racing with all of these thoughts and soft smile on his lips. He’s stopped by one of the people on his team that’s with him, giving a sheepish smile when he looks up. “Sorry about that,” He chuckles softly, cheeks a soft pink at the attention now on him. The interview just gives a small nod, smile on their lips before they start to ask Liam questions.

Each question is easy for Liam to answer, but when the interviewer asks about what artists he may want to work with or that he’s just generally excited to see, he grows shy. “I, uh,” He clears his throat, cheeks pink. “One Direction’s pretty cool, y’know. Nice lads I’ve heard,” Liam smiles. “Haven’t gotten to meet them quite yet, but their lyrics are wicked.”

“I’ve heard the same,” The interviewer tells him. “Any member specifically that you’d want to work with or that you’re just excited to see?”

Liam shrugs a bit, biting the inside of his cheek slightly. “Think Zayn would be cool to work with,” He says honestly. There were only a couple of more questions, about what designer Liam was wearing-which, who cares? He was lead away by the person from his team, slipping his hands into his pockets as they walked. There were a few more interviews that Liam did, each interviewer asking pretty much the same things. Liam was an up and coming artist after all, no need to ask different things quite yet--not that they ever did anyway.

After he gets through all of the interviewers who want to talk to him, his handler goes off to do whatever it is that they do while Liam finds himself wandering around a bit. He can’t help it, really. He’s interested in everything around him--always has been too curious. Liam’s still wandering around backstage when he feels fingers tap gently against his shoulder. “Hm?” He hums, turning around to see who’s taken his attention away.

“Thought you might want to know that the show’s gonna start in a bit,” Liam hears, eyes looking up to see Louis Tomlinson. He’s caught silent for a moment, noticing a teasing quirk on Louis’ lips. “You alright, love?” Louis asks him.

“Huh? Oh, yeah, yeah,” Liam lets out a bit of an embarrassed laugh. “I’m fine,” He murmurs. “Thanks, by the way. Got a bit too caught up in everything.”

“Understood,” Louis assures him. Liam just nods a bit, hands going to his pockets again as he rocks a bit on his toes. “Liam, right?” He asks after a moment, raising an eyebrow.

“The one and only,” Liam agrees, furrowing his eyebrows after a moment. “Unless of course there’s another Liam here, but,” He shrugs, looking back up at Louis.

Louis chuckles quietly, nodding in agreement. “Very true,” He says. “C’mon, think they sat you next to us.”

And okay, meeting Louis was one thing, but Liam wasn’t prepared to meet the other three members. He goes from feeling a bit more confident standing next to Louis, to feeling rather shy and very, very young standing next to all of them. And well, he probably should feel quite young standing next to Louis more so than anyone else, but when he’s got this sort of massive crush on a specific boy-bander, then.

“Lads,” Louis says, gently clapping Liam on the back. “This is Liam. Liam, these are the lads.”

Liam murmurs a soft hello, his cheeks dusting a light pink and biting gently at his lip as the other three sound in a chorus of “hi”s and “nice to meet you”s. Louis smiles as he gestures to where he remembers seeing Liam’s name, plopping down in his seat between Liam and Zayn as Liam takes his seat.

It takes Liam a few moments for it to actually register in his mind that he’s currently sitting next to Zayn, but when he hears Zayn chuckle at something someone said on stage he’s suddenly very aware. It’s a constant fight, Liam finds, to not glance at Zayn. He has yet to speak to him, so honestly there’s no reason for Liam to even feel this way. Although, Liam also knows he shouldn’t even have a crush on the boy either--or man? He’s technically a man, Liam thinks.

Liam forces himself to shake away the thoughts that are clouding his mind, telling himself to focus on the show. That’s why he’s at the award show, after all. The show passes by quickly once Liam actually focuses on it, and he feels almost sad when it’s over.

“Bit disappointing, isn’t it?” Zayn asks him, standing up as Liam goes to do the same. He looks up at him, tilting his head. “Once the show’s done,” Zayn clarifies.

“Oh, yeah,” Liam murmurs softly, frowning a bit. “S’really cool,” He adds. “The whole thing.”

“That it is, that it is,” Zayn smiles at the boy. “You coming to the party?” He asks after a moment of silence that left Liam wanting to make a run for it while he still could.

Liam hesitates before slowly shaking his head. “Hadn’t planned on it,” He says honestly.

“Why not?” Louis pipes from a few steps behind Zayn. “It’s fun!”

“Think you’d regret not going,” Niall adds from where he’s still sat beside Harry, the lad taking a quick picture of the stage to upload to his Instagram later.

Liam bites down on his lip, still hesitant. “Guys,” Zayn says quietly. “Don’t force him, yeah?” He looks back to Liam. “You don’t have to go,” He assures him. “Don’t let these assholes make you feel pressured, okay?”

It’s quiet between them all for a moment, a small nod from Liam being the only form of communication they have before the boy speaks again. “I uh. It could be fun,” He says quietly, looking from Zayn to Louis.

“That’s a good lad!” Louis exclaims, eyes bright with a grin as he swings an arm over Zayn’s shoulder and looks at Liam. “Don’t worry, babe,” He says. “We’ll take care of you.”

--

    Liam has a problem. His problem is that he’s always wanting to impress people and prove that he actually belong there and that’s becoming more apparent to him as he’s looking around just standing with the group before Niall runs off and Harry does the same. Zayn’s quiet, Liam notices, and Louis has taken it upon himself to lead Liam over to the drinks with Zayn following behind them.

“Alright,” Louis says, clapping his hands together as he surveys the drink options that they’ve got. “What’ll it be, Liam?” He asks the younger boy first, Liam’s throat going a bit dry as he looks at the drink options.

“Surprise me,” Liam winds up murmuring, shrugging a bit. He leaned against the counter, ignoring the feeling of Zayn’s eyes on him. He accepts the drink that Louis hands him, raising his eyebrows as he takes a slow, hesitant sip. Liam may have a bad habit of wanting to impress people, but he also knows how to take care of himself. He trusts Louis, true, but he doesn’t trust him to not try and get him completely smashed before the night’s over. When he swallows the sip he took, there’s only a slight wince at the feeling of the alcohol in his throat before he nods in a small ‘cheers’ motion.

“Get me something too, Lou,” Zayn requests, glancing away from Liam for a moment to look at his bandmate. Liam watches him as he smiles lightly when Louis hands him a drink, leaning against the counter for a moment. Liam notices as Zayn raises an eyebrow, fond as he watches Louis scurry off to find Harry or someone else he can force to dance with him, and clears Liam hears him clear throat softly. “Did you enjoy the awards show?” Zayn asks, peering at the younger boy beside him.

Liam startles slightly even with the loud noise of the party going on around him. He hadn’t expected Zayn to actually attempt to make conversation. “I did, yeah,” He says softly, looking at Zayn. “It was fun,” Liam adds with a small shrug as he takes another small sip of his drink.

“I’m glad you had fun,” Zayn tells Liam genuinely, the corners of his lips quirking up into a small smile. “You don’t have to drink that y’know,” Zayn says after watching the boy continue to slowly sip at his drink. “Tommo has this way of making you feel like you need to without even verbally telling you.”

Liam shrugs a bit--feels like he’s doing that quite a bit--and just sips at his drink again, raising his eyebrows in almost a challenge to Zayn as he does so. He grins as Zayn just laughs, shaking his head.

“Not getting into a drinking game with you, kid,” Zayn tells him, smiling now. “But be careful, yeah? No telling who’s gonna see you around here and try and give you something you don’t want.” And maybe Zayn should advise him against drinking so much, but Zayn knows he did much worse when he was Liam’s age.

Liam nods, murmuring a quiet ‘thank you’ as he looks around a bit--Liam chose to ignore the use of the word ‘kid’.  He does feel a bit out of his element, and he’s not sure how he’s managed to not act like a fool in front of Zayn. Liam supposes that maybe this is his one strand of good luck--and besides, what’s the probability of him ever meeting Zayn and the boys again? The odds aren’t very high.

The party lasts for a while, but Liam drinks more than he should and while he’s not smashed, he is a little too drunk for Zayn’s liking. It appears that Liam is a lightweight though, the alcohol he has had affecting him more than it would Zayn. Liam pouts a bit when Zayn tells him softly that maybe he should get home and get some rest.

“Zayn,” Liam whines softly, looking up at him when Zayn grabs Liam’s glass of whatever he was drinking.

“Think you’ve had enough, babe,” Zayn tells him, setting the glass down on the counter before looking back to Liam. He chuckles softly at the pout still on Liam’s lips and his crossed arms.“How about I ride with you to yours?” Zayn asks, raising an eyebrow. “That make up for it?”

Liam tilts his head to the side, thinking for a moment. “I suppose that’d be okay,” He finally says, nodding slightly. Liam hums quietly to himself, following behind Zayn as the boy pulls out his phone and sends a quick text to his security outfront.

“It’ll just be a second,” Zayn tells Liam. And Zayn knows that he’s risking potential headlines if he’s seen with Liam. A guy four years younger than him no less. It wouldn’t be a big deal if the two of them were older, but Liam’s basically still a kid. And so if Zayn gently murmurs to Liam to go out with his security first and that the car’s going to come back around for him in an attempt to keep paparazzi away, then so be it. Liam doesn’t have to know.

Zayn climbs into the back of his car, glancing over at Liam and chuckling when he sees the boy has rested his head against the window and closed his eyes. “Liam,” He murmurs, nudging the boy. “Need to give the driver your address so we can get you home.”

Liam blinks open his eyes, looking over to Zayn and then nodding before he tells the driver his address, watching as he’s put it into the GPS system. He smiles a bit, leaning back and looking at Zayn once more. “Thanks for letting me ride with you,” Liam hums.

“Course, babe,” Zayn says, looking towards the front for a moment before turning his head again. “Just hope no one’s followed us. That’d be a nightmare.”

Liam nods in agreement before furrowing his eyebrows and speaking. “Why’s that, exactly?” He asks.

Zayn’s quiet for a few moments before he speaks. “Well, they’ll know where you live if they didn’t already,” He murmurs. “And if they see me there’ll be a fucking ton of headlines about you and I.”

Liam hums quietly, nodding a bit more. “I see,” He murmurs. Liam bites at his lip, nerves suddenly building up again. He’s quiet for the rest of the ride, fumbling with his fingers as he ignores the small glances he feels Zayn give him. When the car pulls up in front of the apartment complex Liam lives in--one that is far more guarded than his old home used to be--he lets out a quiet sigh.  Even though it’s just an apartment  it’s still so lonely for an eighteen year old to be in alone.

“Looks clear,” Zayn says, gaining Liam’s attention. He looks up at Zayn, smiles once, and murmurs a thank you before beginning to climb out of the car. Liam pauses for a moment, looking back to him.

“Do you-” He bites his lip, sighing. “Would you maybe mind staying?” Liam asks him quietly, looking down for a moment before speaking again. “S’just-it’s a bit big, y’know? Empty. And like. I don’t know. You definitely don’t have to like we just met and I know you said if someone sees you, but-” Zayn knows he shouldn’t do this. He really does. “-sometimes I just get really lonely because like, I’m alone and-”

“I’ll stay,” Zayn tells him quietly, cutting off his rambling. An unknown feeling is settling inside of Zayn, a small smile curving at the corners of his lips when he sees Liam’s cheeks begin to flush and watches as he lets out a small sigh of relief. Zayn murmurs a few things to his security, making sure he’s got a time to be back in front of the complex--the earlier the better, honestly.

When Liam climbs out of the car fully, double checking for suspicious people--not that he’d know anything, anyway--he leads Zayn into the complex.  Zayn watches his car being driven off, Liam opening the door and letting Zayn in first before he closes the door and walks with Zayn to the elevators.

It’s quiet between them for a moment before Liam speaks. “Probably should’ve thought this through more,” He murmurs, cheeks still a light pink as he looks at Zayn. “Dunno if any of my clothes are gonna fit you…”

Zayn chuckles softly, just shrugging a bit as he and Liam stand in the elevator. He watches Liam as the boy hits the number to the floor he lives on. It’s quiet in the elevator as it dings and they both walk out. When they reach Liam’s apartment, he lets out a soft hum and unlocks the door. Liam lets Zayn in first before he follows behind him, closing the door and locking it. He sets his key, phone, and wallet down on the counter before he starts to head towards his room.

“You can come with me, if you want,” Liam calls as he’s walking. “Gonna see if I’ve got anything you could change into.”

Zayn takes Liam up on that, following behind the boy and taking the opportunity to look around as they walk. It’s not a super big apartment. It’s big enough for Liam, but for an eighteen year old boy who’s used to living with his parents, Zayn can understand why it would get a bit lonely for him. Zayn’s not sure why he said he’d stay. Liam appears to be sobering up rather quickly, although that could be from the two glasses of water Zayn made him drink after the first two glasses of whatever alcoholic substance Louis had made the boy.

“Zayn,” Liam says from what Zayn assumes is his room, making Zayn step inside. “Think these may fit you.”

Zayn’s handed a pair of sweatpants. “Thank you,” He hums.

“I’m still looking for a shirt,” Liam tells him as he looks through his stuff. “Dunno though,” He lets out a quiet laugh. “You’re a bit more fit than I am, so probably won’t fit,” Liam bites down at his lip then, cheeks flushing as he realizes what exactly came out of his mouth. He clears his throat as he finds a shirt that’s a bit big on him, handing it to Zayn. “This may work,” Liam tells him quietly. He stands there for a moment before giving a simple nod and clearing his throat lightly. “I’m gonna be in the living room,” Liam says. “You can just ah, change, and then I’ll change when you’re done.”

Zayn watches, amused as Liam makes for a quick exit. Oh, how it must be to still be that innocent to the world. It was endearing, really. Zayn knows it’s dangerous for him to find the kid endearing, because that means he won’t want to let him go. And like, that’s not really okay. Liam’s a kid. He’s four years younger than Zayn and fuck, Zayn’s not stupid. Once Liam got signed to the same label as he and the other guys,  they all followed him on twitter when they were told to. Of course, Liam only pointed out Zayn when that happened. The other guys were a bit miffed about that. They all got over it, but Louis still teases Zayn about. He’ll tease him even more when he finds out Zayn’s staying the night. Liam’s crush is super obvious, and the guys know it. Zayn obviously knows it, but he’s not going to let Liam know that.

Once he changes, Zayn heads to the living room to find Liam curled up on the couch, TV flipped on. “Liam,” Zayn says softly, plopping down on the couch beside him. “Go change, yeah?” He chuckles when the boy beside him rubs at his eyes. “You can get some sleep after you get out of that suit.”

Liam hums a bit, nodding and getting up to go to his room. He’s still a bit embarrassed from what he said, but there isn’t much he can do about it. Liam grabs himself a pair of sweatpants after he pulls off the suit and hangs it up, pulling the sweatpants on and then grabbing an old t-shirt. Apparently alcohol makes Liam sleepy because the boy is yawning as he walks back into the living room. “D’you want the guest room?” He asks Zayn, tilting his head.

“Sure, babe,” Zayn says softly, getting up to follow Liam as the younger leads him to the room that’s a door down from his own.

“This is it,” Liam says. He runs a hand through his hair. “Dunno if you’re tired or not,” Liam says. “but if you aren’t quite ready to sleep, we can watch one of the movies I’ve got or something. Or you can. Whichever. And there’s some food in the kitchen if you get hungry, and the bathroom’s just down the hall.”

“Thank you,” Zayn says, smiling at him. “I think a movie sounds kind of nice, actually,” He adds. “C’mon, let’s go see what you’ve got. If you’re not too tired?”

Liam’s small smile is enough to reward Zayn for initiating something he problem shouldn’t have. “Sounds nice,” Liam murmurs, walking with Zayn back to the living room. He shows Zayn where he keeps his movies--most of the Marvel and Zayn can’t help the genuine grin on his lips as Liam curls up on the couch--and lets Zayn pick one.

Once Zayn puts the movie into the DVD player, he walks over to the couch and sits down beside Liam. Liam pulls down the blanket from the back of the couch, offering it to Zayn with a small smile as he just shifts his position to better watch the movie.

Zayn thinks they get through about half an hour of the movie before Liam’s half resting against him. He debates on gently nudging the boy up, but then decides against it. Zayn knows that sometimes you just need to be close to someone, and he doesn’t know shit about Liam so he isn’t pushing the boy away. Not yet. The worst that happens is the boy falls asleep.

Liam does fall asleep, His eyes close and he’s out before the movie’s half over. Zayn makes sure the blankets covering them both, and he focuses his eyes back onto the screen. He makes it through almost the whole movie, but when he focuses back in on the screen about an hour later he notices that the screen is dark and that he must’ve fallen asleep too.

He yawns a bit, glancing at Liam for a moment and then towards the guest bedroom. Zayn sighs softly, just turning off the tv and letting his head rest back against the couch. Liam’s still asleep, and Zayn doesn’t know if he can move him without waking him up. He knows he’s still thinking when he finally falls asleep again, making sure to keep a respectable distance from Liam--well as much as one can when they’re falling asleep and the other is already asleep on your shoulder.

Zayn wakes up early the next morning to his phone going off in the pocket of the pants he’s wearing. He yawns a bit, pulling his phone out and looking down at it, eyes scanning over the message from his security. Zayn goes to move before realizing that he’s actually quite tangled up with Liam. While he’s not sure how that happened, he knows that he really needs to go. It takes him about fifteen minutes to get up without waking Liam, then another ten to find someone to write down a quick note down for him.

    had to go. wanted to make sure no paps saw me. i’ll get your clothes back to you, promise. here’s my number in case you need anything, okay? just lemme know.

He writes down his number and sets the paper in a place where he’s pretty sure Liam will see it before grabbing his stuff and heading out of the apartment. He’s glad that he brought a bag with him, makes it more of a casual thing rather than a walk of shame.

“Thanks for coming to get me,” He says to his security and driver with a soft smile once he climbs into the car.

“Better hope there wasn’t anyone out already,” His security warns. “Your fucked if there is, you know that, right? Everyone knows the kid lives here.”

“I know,” Zayn says, running a hand over his face. “Trust me, I know.”

--

    Liam wakes up a little while after Zayn left, a frown on his lips when he sees that the other boy is, in fact, already gone. He notices that he doesn’t have any kind of hangover and reminds himself to thank Zayn for making him drink some water later. He bites down at his lip, an uncomfortable feeling in his stomach even as he reads the paper when he finds it. Liam goes and grabs his phone, programming in Zayn’s number and sending him a quick text to let him know who it is.

Liam isn’t really sure when his crush on Zayn started. It was probably right when One Direction actually got together. He remembers listening to their music and watching interviews, and the next thing he knows his parents are asking him why he pays more attention to them than he does the girls at his school. Liam remembers the awkward moments where he said he wasn’t sure, and then the other awkward moments when he came out a few months later. He had a crush on Zayn, so what? When he was fifteen he didn’t think it would matter. Of course now he’s eighteen, an up and coming artist,  as some would say, and he basically spent the night with his crush.

Liam sighs as he walks to his room, trying to think of what he has to do today. He’s pretty sure he’s got some studio time--doing some writing or something, he isn’t sure--and when he checks his calendar he sees that he does indeed. When Liam checks his phone again he’s got a message from Zayn--just a simple thumbs up emoji--and a message from a member of his team letting him know when to be ready because someone’s coming to get him. And oh, apparently Liam has an interview tomorrow morning. Well that’s good to know.

Liam’s studio time goes by rather quickly, and he’s happy with the progress that they all made. He’s just a big ball of energy if he’s honest. In fact, he’s pretty sure everyone who was working with him wanted to wring his neck.

“Thank you,” Liam tells the songwriters that he’s there with as they’re leaving. “Seriously.” They each give Liam a soft smile in return because he’s adorable and no one can be too annoyed with him for long.

Liam’s in the car to head back to his apartment when he gets the call from Zayn. “Hello?” He asks, leaning his head back against the seat of the car.

“Liam,” Zayn says. If Liam’s face flushes just at the sound of his voice over the phone, no one has to know, do they? Liam snaps out of it quickly though because Zayn sounds annoyed, or pissed, or both and Liam doesn’t like it.

“Zayn?” Liam asks quietly, furrowing his eyebrows and looking out the window.

“Who else?” Zayn asks, and Liam winces a bit because the older boy on the other line isn’t teasing with him. He’s serious and Liam doesn’t quite know what’s wrong. Liam thinks the tone isn’t quite warranted though, because he wasn’t the one who initiated the call. Zayn called him. Regardless though, Liam’s a worrier.

“Is everything okay?” Liam inquires, eyebrows still furrowed as he tries to remember not to take things too personally. It isn’t always his fault, he needs to understand.

“No, everything isn’t okay,” Zayn says, voice laced with annoyance. Liam closes his eyes. “There were some fucking paps outside your house that I couldn’t see. Apparently you were meant to have them and not me, but they got pictures of me leaving this morning.”

Liam straightens up in his seat then. “Zayn, I’m so sorry I didn’t-” He bites at his lip. It’s not my fault, Liam thinks to himself. That’s not what he says though. “It’s my fault. I shouldn’t have asked you to stay,” Liam’s voice goes quiet as he glances at the driver before remembering they can’t tell anyone anything anyway.

“You shouldn’t have,” Zayn agrees, letting out a sigh. “I shouldn’t have agreed though, and I’m sorry. One of my PR people said they talked to yours, and you’re probably going to be asked about it in that interview tomorrow, so please just tell them what they tell you to, okay?” After a quiet agreement from Liam, Zayn says his goodbyes and hangs up, leaving the younger boy with a frown on his lips as he arrives at his apartment. Well.

--

    If there’s one thing that Liam learns in the next twenty-four hours, it’s that he’s pretty sure everyone around him views him as a child. He sits down in the car that’s taking him to his interview, jumping a bit when there’s someone clearing their throat when he sits down. “You scared me,” He tells them, rubbing his eyes.

There’s just a hum from the person--a member of his team, Liam suspects--before they start talking. They tell him what’s he’s going to say, what the interviewer may or may not ask and what they definitely should not ask. Liam frowns as he listens. He doesn’t want to lie about it, of course. The whole thing was just friendly. Their team wants him to say he and Zayn are working together, though. Which, what? Liam knows that he said he wanted to work with Zayn potentially, but that would mean that they would have to meet up again in order for anyone to actually believe it. Although, Liam also knows that he doesn’t have a huge fanbase right now, which means that no one is really going to care if he claims to be working with ‘Zayn Malik from One Direction’.  When he begins to think of it that way, he can see how it would work.

When Liam goes in for his interview, he’s got his genuine ‘happy face’ on. That’s his trademark, afterall. He’s just naturally really happy. Liam thinks he’d get along with Niall pretty well. Their energies would bounce off of each other. “I’m excited to be here,” Liam murmurs when the interviewer thanks him for coming. He watches as his handler goes through things with the interviewer, humming a song he’d been working on the previous day quietly to himself.

He’s led into a room in the back so that they can show him what to change into and so that the stylist can fix him up to be TV ready. If he remembers correctly this will be his second TV interview. Well, that’s if the red carpet interviews can be counted. Liam’s done some radio interviews and he’s super active on twitter. He tells the team in the room with him thank you as his handler comes to bring him backstage, quietly reminding him of the things they spoke about in the car. “I’ve got it,” Liam tells her, a smile on his lips. “I promise.”

The interview starts off fine. Liam’s asked about the music he’s working on--to which he responds that there should be a single out by summer. There are also questions about how Liam’s handling the switch from small-town youtuber to up-and-coming artist. Liam says that it’s definitely a crazy switch, but he’s never been more excited for something. The interview is about ten minutes in before Liam’s finally asked about the award show and then Zayn.

“It was great!” Liam says, smiling bright. “I’ve never been to anything like it, y’know? So it was really cool to get to experience that from a place of complete enjoyment rather than being nervous because you’re nominated for something,” He rubs his hands over his knees as he looks back to the interviewer.

“And what about the One Direction boys? I saw that you hadn’t gotten to meet them yet, but it seems that you got to do that rather quickly.”

“Oh yeah,” Liam agrees easily. “I wound up being sat next to them for the show. It was like, one of the craziest things ever. I’ve been a fan for ages, actually,” He chuckles, shrugging a bit.

“And you’d like to work with them? Collaborate on something someday?” The interviewer inquires.

“Sure, sure,” Liam says. “Even more so now. They’re really chill and I still love their lyrics.” He lets out a soft laugh. “Not that I see that happening at all. I mean, c’mon. They’ve been around for a little bit of time now. I’m just a newbie.”

“And what about a certain boy-bander?” She asks, ignoring the last part of what Liam said. “For someone who you just met, seems to be a bit early for them to be seen leaving your place, hm?” Behind her there’s a screen and the images being shown are the pictures of Zayn leaving Liam’s apartment complex the day prior.

“Ah,” Liam says slowly, nodding. He keeps a small smile on his lips as he speaks. “That’s just a friendly thing, really. I ended up going to that after party, right? And he just wanted to make sure that I got back okay, asked him to hang out a bit. It was cool,” He says honestly, eyes flickering back to where he knows his handler his standing before biting his lip and speaking again. “We’re thinking of writing something together though, maybe,” Liam adds.

“Is that so?” The interviewer asks, delighted.

“Yeah,” Liam murmurs. “It’s-nothing’s set in stone yet, obviously, we just met at the show. But I think it’d be cool and like, why not, y’know?”

The rest of the interview goes by quickly after that, and even though Liam knows he did what was asked of him he’s still nervous as he walks off to meet his handler. “You did well,” She assures him and Liam lets out a soft sigh of relief. “There’s some fans outside,” He’s informed. “I think it’s alright for you to take some pictures with them, yeah? Then the car can take you home.”

Liam is genuinely smiling at that. He absolutely loves the group of fans he’s gathered from what he did on youtube and from when he got signed and his subscriber count skyrocketed. “Yeah, yeah, that sounds great,” Liam murmurs, following her back to the room so he can change again and then walk back to the door at the front. He grins as the fans see him, giving a little wave. “Hey guys!” He says, walking around and taking pictures and signing things for them.

“I think it’s so cool you got to meet Zayn,” Liam hears one fan say. He turns to look at the girl the voice come from and grins at her.

“I thinks is cool too, babe,” He tells her. “What’s your name?”

“Alaina,” The girl, Alaina, says.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Alaina. Want a picture or something signed?” Liam asks.

“A picture, please, if you don’t mind.”

“Course I don’t mind,” Liam says, scoffing a bit in a teasing manner as if to play that he was offended by such a thought. He takes a picture with her and is turning to head to his car before she speaks again.

“He was leaving your place, wasn’t he?” She asks. Liam nods. “Is that like, a thing?”

“We’re friends, I think,” Liam tells her. “That’s it though.” He waves at the fans before turning to walk towards the car and ignoring the flashes from the few paparazzi that had been called there, only turning to greet one of them with a bright smile before climbing into the car.

--

    It isn’t like Liam didn’t have his fair following of people that could be considered fans already, but when his interview airs things go from easily maintainable to a bit insane--for him at least. There are articles written about his supposed collaboration with the Zayn Malik, and Liam goes from feeling okay and happy about things to kind of freaking out.

“Was this your whole plan?” Liam asks the group of people sitting at the table with him. “Have me lie about a simple get together with someone interesting just to gain some press?” He’s frowning, looking around at all of the faces.

“Mr. Payne, it’s done wonders for your name recognition. You needed that,” One of the older men sat at the end of the table says. He’s still frowning.

“I know that,” Liam says, letting out a quiet huff. “I know my name recognition sucks, but like. I wasn’t comfortable lying about this and now I’m getting a ton of recognition at the price of someone else.”

“That’s the business.” He’s told simply. Liam sits there, biting down on his lip as he listens to what’s being said. There are going to be articles written, his following may go up since his name will be linked to Zayn, thus linking him to the rest of One Direction. Liam rubs his eyes in partial annoyance half way through. He lets out a soft sigh of relief when they finally finish though.

Liam leaves the conference room with an uncomfortable feeling in the pit of his bones. He knows that there’s something wrong with what’s happening--hell, he knew that things like this would probably happen before he accepted the offer to make an album. Liam wants this though, he wants this more than he ever thought possible and even though some of it doesn’t align with his morals he doesn’t quite know what else to do.

He sits in the car, quiet as his phone goes off. He smiles when he sees that it’s his mum calling. “Hi mum,” Liam says softly, leaning back against the seat of the car.

“Liam,” She greets, a smile in her voice. “How are you?”

“I’m okay,” He murmurs. “Kind of tired. Stressed. But I’m okay.”

“Is everything going alright?” She asks him. “Still loving everything?”

“Of course,” Liam assures her, looking out of the window as the car slows to a stop. “S’just a lot, y’know? And now I’ve got this whole Zayn thing to worry about. Make sure I don’t mess anything up.” Of course that puts Karen in the perfect position to begin to assure Liam that he’s doing fine, and will be doing fine. Liam just listens with a smile on his lips, climbing out of his car when it reaches the apartment complex he lives in.

“Is that a thing, though?” Liam hears her ask.

“Is what a thing?” He tilts his head a bit as he unlocks his door when he reaches his floor, walking inside and closing the door behind him. Liam sets his keys down on the counter, kicking off his shoes before he walks to the living room area.

“This collaboration with Zayn,” Karen clarifies. “I know you’ve been like, in love with him for ages-”

“Not-not in love, mum,” Liam says with a soft laugh. “Just admire him a bit is all. And to answer your question, I don’t think so? My team wanted me to get my name out there and unfortunately is had me lying to do it. I haven’t spoken to Zayn in a couple of days though. Not sure what’s going on over there.” He hears a hum from her side, just shaking his head with a smile as he sits down on his couch.

He talks to his mum for what feels like ages before he tells her that he needs to find something to eat and work on writing something. Liam hums after they hang up, setting his phone down and going to grab his notebook. He sets his stuff on the coffee table before heading to the kitchen. Liam looks through his cabinets before deciding on some soup, quickly grabbing one of the canned soups he had and pouring it into a bowl.

As the soup’s cooking, Liam walks back to the living room and sits down with a quiet hum. He didn’t know what the hell he was going to write about. “It has to be something that Zayn could potentially help on,” Liam was told. “If that becomes a reality, we all need to be prepared for it. Especially you, Mr. Payne.” Liam sighs, staring down at the blank page of his notebook. What the hell was he supposed to write? He’s so different from Zayn.

Liam hears the microwave go off and he walks back into the kitchen to get his soup. He hums quietly to himself as he takes the soup and a bottle of water back to the living room, furrowing his eyebrows as he tries to gain some type of inspiration.

He sits on his couch for awhile, just eating the soup he made and staring at his notebook with furrowed eyebrows. He was lost. Completely and utterly lost of any inspiration for a song that could be worthy of working with Zayn for. Liam curls up on his couch with a pout, pulling the blanket he left there around him. “I will figure this out,” He murmurs to himself. “I will.”

--    

    About two weeks later, Liam is still trying to write this damn song. He looks at his empty notebook and groans. So maybe he didn’t quite figure it out. Liam sighs, closing the notebook and relaxing back against the couch. It’s fine. Everything’s fine.

He unlocks his phone, going to the twitter app and begins to scroll aimlessly through his mentions for a bit. Liam raises an eyebrow when he sees a video attached to someone’s tweet. He clicks it, curious. As the video plays, Liam bites harshly at his lip. Zayn got into a little disagreement with a pap, and all Liam can really make out is Zayn threatening to sue and Louis pulling him towards the building they were headed towards. “Shit,” Liam mutters out loud. He closes out of the mention, quickly scrolling through and finding some people to respond to. Once he’s done with that, he goes to compose a tweet.

“@Real_Liam_Payne: Trying to write a song...isn’t going so well “

Liam adds in a few emojis for good measure, smiling lightly as he presses ‘tweet’. He laughs quietly at some of the responses he gets to that one, liking a few before he goes to his messages and begins composing a message to Zayn. He rewrites the same message about six times before he just deletes it and closes the app. Zayn’s fine. If he wasn’t fine, well, it’s none of Liam’s business anyway.

Of course, Liam’s a glutton for punishment and he gets bored rather quickly. He goes to google and types in Zayn’s name. His eyebrows rise at the number of articles that involve his own name as well. “Well, fuck,” Liam mumbles, eyes scanning quickly as he scrolls through some of the articles. His eyes land on a video, an interview it looks like, with One Direction as a group. Liam watches it curiously, frowning a bit when the interviewer mentions him. He hasn’t even seen Zayn since the day he left his apartment.

Liam didn’t think that Zayn being seen leaving his apartment complex would lead to something this big, but he also now knows that their teams are probably working together to make this benefit everyone. Liam doesn’t like it very much. Not at all. He starts thinking, running a hand through his hair. Well I saw them with my own eyes, spreading those lies. Liam sits up quickly, setting his phone down and grabbing his notebook and the pencil. He quickly writes those lines down, grinning. Finally.

He’s finally getting a good flow with the lyrics finally forming in his head when Liam gets a call. He picks up his phone. “Hello?” Liam asks, biting down on his lip as he jots a few more things down. He’s met on the other end by the same member of his team who spoke to him about working with Zayn and needing to be prepared. “I’ve got a few things, yeah,” Liam tells him. “I’m not sure it’s a good idea to-”

“You’re expected to be at the studio tomorrow at 12. A car will come and get you,” The team member says abruptly.

“But I don’t-” Liam groans when the phone clicks, tossing his own down. He honestly didn’t think it was a good idea for Zayn to be seen with him, especially since Zayn doesn’t seem to be too fond of Liam--or the idea of being seen with Liam. Of course, it wasn’t specified that he was meeting with Zayn. Liam sighs, shaking his head. He’s not stupid.

He looks back down at the notebook though, smiling as he begins to quietly hum. Liam needs to find some sort of melody for the lyrics on the page. He really thinks that Zayn could add something to this, but he’s not sure that’s something either of them should do.

Regardless of what Liam thinks is best, he goes to bed that night knowing that he’ll be meeting Zayn (or someone, but he knows it’s probably Zayn) the next day to write or something. He stares up at the ceiling in his room, frowning a bit. Liam’s looking forward to working with Zayn, he is truly, but he’s worried. Liam has a sneaking suspicion that the super sweet Zayn that he was given when the older boy stayed at his apartment wasn’t the Zayn that he was going to get tomorrow.

--

    Liam hums quietly as he walks into the building, grinning at some girls who were waving slightly at him. He adjusts the grip he’s got on his notebook and hums as he heads towards the room he was asked to meet in. When Liam walks in he heads over to the table in the center of the room, setting the notebook down and smiling at the familiar writer across the table. “Hey,” He greets, sitting down. Liam’s greeted with an equal smile.

They make small conversation for a few minutes, only briefly mentioning that the headlines are going pretty crazy over Liam right now, before they hear the door open. Liam looks up and sees Zayn walking in.

He stays quiet for a few moments as he watches Zayn glance towards the couches before coming over to the table as well. “Hey Zayn,” He murmurs when Zayn finally sits down, his computer resting in front of him. Liam watches as Zayn looks up, gives him a small smile because well, Zayn is decently nice, and then glances around for a moment.

“So,” Zayn says, leaning back in the chair. “What’s the goal here?” Liam’s looking at him as he raises an eyebrow.

“Hopefully a song,” The writer Liam works with, Julian, says with a small laugh. “That’s kind of the purpose of a writing session, Zayn,” Julian adds.

“The time they finally let me write someone outside of the group and it’s with an up-and-coming artist,” Zayn sighs, rubbing his eyes a bit. Liam frowns, looking down at his notebook for a second.

“You could go,” Liam suggests after a moment, now looking at Zayn again. “All they need is the headlines your name brings anyway,” His eyes meet Zayn’s when Zayn looks up, and for once he’s confident in the appearance he’s got on. “I didn’t ask for this,” Liam adds when Zayn’s quiet. “And I’m sorry it’s not the individual writing you’d want, but the least you could do is try to make the best of it before we’re both miserable, okay?” He sighs. “And if you can’t do that, then there are back exits for a reason, and I’ve got more than enough scribbles in here to write something with Julian on my own.”

The room stays silent, Liam’s eyes still locked on Zayn’s before he finally looks away and back to Julian. Julian just gives him a soft, reassuring smile, nodding his head once. It makes Liam feel a little bit better anyway. He likes to have approval from people. It’s why his mum and a lot of his friends didn’t think he’d be quite cut out for a job like this. There are times where you have all the approval in the world, but then there are times--like this one--where you can’t have it all.

“I’m sorry,” Zayn says after a while, making Liam look up at him again. “Seriously,” He adds. “I don’t need to be a dick to you just because things aren’t happening the way I want them to with me and the lads.”

Liam hums. “It’s not really okay though,” He says after a moment of trying to decide whether or not he’s going to excuse the behavior that Zayn had. “I’m doing the best I can with what I’ve been given,” Liam murmurs. “And you’ve been in this longer than me. You know how some of these people are. Especially since they’re with your team too.”

“I’m sorry,” Zayn says again.

“I’ve got some stuff worked out that I’ve put together in the last few days,” Liam tells him after just nodding a bit at his apology, opening the notebook up to the page and pushing it towards Zayn. “Figured you could do more with it, since their goal is to make it more your style anyway--well, they want to attempt to mesh what your solo style would be with mine.”

Zayn pulls the notebook closer to him, eyes dropping down to scan over the lyrics messily scrawled on the page. “Yeah,” He murmurs.

Liam drums his fingers lightly against the table for a moment, looking towards Julian and giving him a small shrug as they wait for Zayn to finish reading. When the notebook is then pushed towards Julian, Liam glances at Zayn.

“They’re good,” Zayn tells him, another small smile on his lips. “Think we can do something with them.”

“We can do a lot with these,” Julian says, grinning at Liam. “What else you have hiding, kid?” He asks Liam with a chuckle. “We’re gonna look at more of what you’ve got hiding later, but for now let’s do something with this.”

Liam bites lightly at his lip, smiling. “Okay,” He tells Julian, grabbing the pen that he’d brought with him and uncapping it while he lets Zayn quickly type in a few lyrics that continue the ones he already had jotted down. There’s a comfortable silence in the room, and Liam’s surprised that they’re actually managing to do this.

“Do you remember,” Zayn starts, causing Liam to look up. “When I was dating Perrie?” He watches Liam for a moment. “I just know you’ve been a fan for awhile. Thought you may remember that time.”  

Liam furrows his eyebrows a bit, nodding. Of course he remembered that--it was one of the reasons he tried to get rid of  his stupid little crush. “Yeah, I do. Why?”

“Well,” Zayn says. “It wasn’t all it seemed,” He shrugs a bit. “So I really like the first lyrics you had written down. Well I saw them with my own eyes, spreading those lies. I like those a lot,” Liam watches Zayn quietly then, letting him type out some lyrics quickly. “I think that we could add something like-- but now I truly realize, some people don’t want to compromise. It can go before the line you wrote.”

“I like that,” Liam agrees, quickly jotting down the lyric. He and Zayn continue to write for about two hours, lyrics being jotted down without speaking until one of them feel like they’ve got something worth bringing to the table. Liam thinks Julian excused himself about half an hour in--once he realized they could function alone. “Um,” He starts quietly. “What’d you mean about Perrie? That it ‘wasn’t as it seemed’?”

Zayn looks up from his computer screen, just watching Liam for a moment. He picks his words carefully. “Sometimes,” Zayn says quietly. “Sometimes your team thinks they know what’s best and they set up these stupid relationships for you. Kind of like what they’ve done here, y’know? Except Pez and I, we were meant to go far with it. They wanted us to stay together for as long as we possibly could. She told me one night she just couldn’t do that anymore. We genuinely liked each other. It was bad when we ended things, but even worse because it got turned around on me.”

Liam furrows his eyebrows as he listens to Zayn. “Why’d they set up the relationship in the first place?”

“Because they didn’t like that I wasn’t all that straight,” Zayn says softly with a shrug. “I’m not like, completely out. It’d be so easy for me to be though. Think they know that. I’ll tell you one thing,” He murmurs to Liam. “I want you to be so glad that you’re already out. Like, be grateful. Because I’d probably kill them if they did that to you. Watched them knock some people down for years until they stopped. It’s awful.”

Don’t listen to the games they play ,” Liam murmurs quietly.

“What?” Zayn asks, tilting his head.

“Another lyrics,” He tells him, quickly writing it down before repeating himself. “ Don’t listen to the games they play .”

Zayn’s watching him carefully as he starts writing more lyrics down and Liam’s cheeks begin to color a light pink. “Those are good,” He hears Zayn murmur quietly as Liam speaks some lyrics out loud.

“Thank you,” Liam murmurs. “And um, I’m sorry that they do that. Like, try to force you to not be who you are,” He sighs. “Don’t know if I would’ve accepted any deal if I’d known that part of what they do sometimes.”

“It’s a small price to pay before it becomes too much,” Zayn says quietly.

--

    The completed song sits in Liam’s notebook, untouched for ages. All that Liam can think about is the story that Zayn told him and how things are actually run in this industry. It’s nerve wrecking and Liam thinks that should be bigger one contracts. Of course, Zayn did have a point, Liam was already out. The worst that they could do to him was a stunt to up his image with another man who was interested in men. Liam hopes they don’t do that.

But the song sits in his notebook, untouched. He remembers passing the finished song to Julian when the man returned from whatever he was doing, letting him make a few minor adjustments, and then having the notebook pushed back to him with a grin. Julian approved of it.

Liam has another problem now though, and that’s that he wants to record it. He knows it won’t end up on his album, and it wouldn’t end up on One Direction’s either, but Liam wants it recorded and he wants it out there. He isn’t sure if it’s a song that could be made into a duet though, and he doesn’t want to sing it without Zayn.

There’s no guarantee that Zayn would even record it with him though. Sure, they had their heart-to-heart and Liam had his turn of being snappy with Zayn, but where did that leave them? When they’d left the studio it was with a wave as they each climbed into their respective cars and a promise from Zayn to get some kind of demo recorded, along with the background music in case Liam wanted it.

Before Liam could leave, he first met some fans. The fans had asked questions and took pictures and Liam was certain that he was going to have a whole new round of headlines if a lot of people got a hold of those pictures. It didn’t bother him too much though, because it could be a lot worse. He thinks Zayn knows that too. Liam still isn’t happy with the way their using Zayn’s name, and in turn using One Direction’s name, but it’s keeping them both in the media and it works. No matter how far from Liam’s morals it gets.

Liam stares at his phone for a few moments before muttering a ‘fuck it’ and picking it up to quickly type out a message to Zayn.

 

To Zayn

You up for recording that song with me at some point? It’s burning a hole in my notebook.

 

He lets out a sigh after he hits send, setting his phone down and leaning back against his couch. It’s not a huge deal if he says no, of course, Liam doesn't expect him to say yes. Zayn’s a busy man and they’d technically be doing this without permission from their label and team. It’s not a complete violation of contract, but if it gets out, well.

Liam’s phone goes off about half an hour later when Liam’s walking through a store to look for some more clothes, or whatever he finds really. They want more pap shots of him, Liam was told, so he got in his own car for once and headed to the shopping center he was told to go to.

 

From Zayn

Sure. I managed to get the band to come record with me, so I’ll send you the demo I made and the backing alone. I’ll probably drag Louis along too, if you don’t mind.

 

Liam grins.

 

To Zayn

Sounds sick. And I don’t mind at all! Tell him I said hiiiiiiii.

 

Liam puts his phone away then, looking up at the clothing that’s in front of him. His eyes scan over the different pieces, humming quietly. He wants something different. Something that’s not quite his style. Liam just isn’t sure what he wants or how far he wants to drift from what he normally wears. Can’t fuck up his already created image too bad. The “boy-next-door” look works for him. Or that’s what he was told.

He hums softly, his eyes landing on a leather jacket. Clichéd, he’s sure, but Liam’s drawn to it anyway. Liam has always wondered if he’d be able to pull of something like a leather jacket. It’s been a quiet fantasy for awhile. He looks down at the price, biting his lip and grabbing it anyway. Liam pulls it on, looking into one of the mirrors the store has on the wall, and grins before taking it off. He shouldn’t spend this much on a jacket, but he figures it’ll be okay eventually.

When Liam leaves, the bag with the jacket in his hand, he’s humming quietly to himself. The song he wrote with Zayn, the one they titled Walking Away, is stuck in his head. He quite likes it, if he’s honest. And if Zayn decides he doesn’t want to record it with Liam, Liam thinks that he’d be good at producing it.

Liam walks around for a little bit longer, still quietly humming as he reaches up to run a hand through his hair. He smiles at a fan who comes up. “Hey babe,” Liam greets. “How are you?”

“I’m good,” She answers, eyes a little wide in what Liam assumes is shock. “Can I um, can I get a picture?”

“Course you can,” Liam murmurs, smiling as he steps beside her and she gets her phone situated. Liam smiles at the camera.

“Thank you so much!” She says.

“You’re welcome,” Liam says, walking towards the exit of the shopping center to find his car. He knows that he’s got security close by just in case something happens--although Liam isn’t quite famous enough to be mobbed. He’s not sure he’ll ever be that famous.

He’s on his way back to his apartment when his eyes land on a salon. Haircut. Liam should get a haircut. He isn’t sure what possesses him to do this (although it’s probably a subconscious desire to seem older and impress Zayn), but once he gets to his apartment he calls the hair stylist that’s been keeping up with his hair and asks her to bring her stuff to his place.

Liam’s bouncing on his toes with excitement when he hears a knock on his door. He grins brightly when he sees who it is, opening the door and letting her in.

“You’re insane,” Lou tells him when he asks her to cut his hair.

“I know,” Liam agrees easily, the grin still on his lips.

Thirty minutes and many, many attempts of coming to a compromise later, Liam’s messy hair is gone and is now very, very short. He had tried to get Lou to just shave it all off, but she refused to do that. Liam laughs a bit, breathless as he looks in the mirror, running his fingers through the shorter hair.

“What do you think?” Lou asks him, leaning against the wall behind him.

“Fuckin’ sick,” He breathes, looking at her. “Thank you.”

“You’re lucky you’re my favorite,” Lou tells him with a quiet laugh. “They’re gonna kill me.”

“Won’t let that happen,” Liam promises, going to help her clean up. “Now, do you think this would look good with the leather jacket I just bought?” He tilts his head to the side curiously as he looks at her. “Because it’s a great jacket. I love it. “

“Yeah, Liam,” She tells him. “Think it’ll look great.”

--

    Liam always prepares himself for a lot of things. He’ll prepare himself if he knows he’ll probably get disappointed, he’ll prepare himself for his nerves, and he tries to prepare himself for the unexpected. He prepared for this recording session, listening to the demo Zayn had sent him over and over until he knew where all the words started and ended.

He walks into the studio, an air of confidence that he tends to lack surrounding him. It’s fun, is the thing, being able to walk and not care about what the people are saying about you. Liam knows that parts just for now though, he thinks he’s always going to care about what people think to a certain degree. It’s just who he is.

Liam knows that Zayn and Louis are already up in the studio, so he heads up that way, humming quietly. Zayn said that he’d printed out a couple of copies of their lyrics, and after a discussion on the phone they decided that maybe this song was better if sang solo. They talked about it for awhile before Liam agreed to sing it if Zayn found someone to produce it the way he would’ve wanted it sang.

He and Zayn had late night skype sessions where the recording played and Liam would sing, rubbing his eyes when it didn’t sound the way he wanted it. Liam remembers the first skype session they had, Zayn giving him advice and pointers as they worked through the song together. It was one of the best things he’s been able to do since he got the recording offer. And it has gotten to the point to where if Liam isn’t working on stuff for his debut album, he’s working with Zayn on the song that neither of them originally wanted to do.

He walks into the room, a small smile on his face as he sets his stuff on the table. “Hey guys,” Liam greets.

“Hey Liam-” Liam chuckles quietly as Louis raises an eyebrow in the middle of his greeting. “You,” He says, “got a haircut.”

Liam grins brightly, nodding as he reaches up to run his fingers through it. “A week or so ago. What do you think?”

“I think it fits you well,” Louis tells him, making Liam smile wider. “What do you think Z? Doesn’t our Liam look right fit with his new haircut?” Liam raises an eyebrow towards Louis at that, shrugging a bit as he looks back at Zayn.

“Yeah,” Zayn clears his throat. “Looks great, Liam,” He tells him.

“Had to do something,” Liam says. “You lot are always looking sharp. Have to make sure I keep up, don’t I?” He teases, smiling. If there’s one thing Liam’s gotten good at over the course of the past month or two, is keeping his crush and reactions at bay. It got easier when he let it sink into his head that hey, Zayn probably won’t ever like him that way.

“That you do,” Louis chuckles, a teasing glint in his eye as he looks at Zayn. Liam notices.

“So,” Liam says. “Song time.”  

“Right,” Zayn says, looking back at Liam. “You feeling okay with it now?” He asks.

Liam nods slowly. “Think so,” He says. “Although I still think you should sing it instead of me.”

Zayn shakes his head. “The whole point of this was to get eyes on you,” He reminds him. “That’s not going to happen if it’s my voice on the recording.”

“Did I miss something?” Louis cuts in. “When did you guys practice this?”

“Off and on over the past month,” Zayn says, glancing at Louis. “Skype sessions work wonders.”

“You actually-”

“Alright,” Zayn cuts Louis off, plopping onto one of the chairs at the table. Liam’s laughing softly at the expression on Louis’ face as the rest of them sit down as well.

The three of them talk for a little while, brainstorming ideas for some of the production aspects of the song. There’s one of Zayn’s friends in the room with the three of them--a professional, you could say--to make sure that everything goes smoothly and that they’re only in there for the time that Louis and Zayn managed to get the three of them.

Liam listens as they all talk and he continues to listen as Zayn’s friend goes over a few things, giving Louis and Zayn both free reign to go through the process with Liam without his help. Liam smiles a bit at that. That’s probably one of the best parts of their jobs, making the connections with people.

Eventually it’s his time to shine, so to speak, and he’s biting at his lip as he nods and walks into the booth. Liam reads over the lyrics a few more times before setting the page down on the stand that’s there. He grabs the headphones, pulling them over his head and letting out a soft hum.

He gives everyone a thumbs up when he’s asked if he’s ready to give it a try, smiles, and looks down at the paper his eyes scan over all of them and then meet Zayn’s. Okay, so he’s almost got his reactions down.

Liam loses count of how many times they go over the song with he hears Zayn’s voice through the system. “Liam, we’re gonna take a break, okay?”

Liam looks up, nodding. He pulls the headphones off of his head and sets them down, biting his lip. He knows he sounds kind of off, and Liam’s pretty sure it’s just nerves. Liam loves the recording part, but it’s one of the most nerve wrecking things for him right now.

He walks out of the booth, walking over to the couch and falling onto it. “Liam, Liam, Liam,” Liam hears and he tilts his head up to see Louis. He hums a bit in response. “You good?”

“Yeah,” Liam says, nodding slowly. His eyes glance around the studio room.

“Went for a smoke with the producer guy,” Louis informs him, sitting down on the floor in front of Liam. “Personally I can’t stand the guy, but he did this for rather cheap, so,” He shrugs a bit. “Decided to get over it long enough to help you guys.”

“Nice of you,” Liam points out, small smile on his lips.

“I know,” Louis says, chuckling. “Now, what’s up? You look like, I don’t know, someone who doesn’t know what he’s doing even though you and I both know you know this backwards and forwards.”

Liam hums a bit. “I dunno,” He says. “Not feeling like it’s as good as it was when Zayn and I skyped.” Liam shrugs.

“Ahh,” Louis says, nodding his head. “I see.”

Liam narrows his eyes as he looks at Louis. “See what?” He asks.

“Oh nothing, nothing,” Louis sings a bit, smiling brightly. He looks over to where Zayn and his friend are coming back in. “You, producer friend, we’re going for a walk!” Louis is still smiling brightly as he gets up.

“What?” Zayn asks. “Lou-”

“Just record the song, will you?” Louis says, dragging the producer out with him.

“I don’t-” Zayn furrows his eyebrows, watching them leave. “What?”

Liam shrugs a bit. “You’ve known him longer than me,” He says as he gets up, rubbing his eyes a bit. “I haven’t got a clue.”

It’s quiet between the two of them for a little bit before Zayn speaks again. “Do you want to go ahead and run it again?” He asks.

“Yeah, sure,” Liam murmurs, heading back into the booth.

Liam has a bit of a problem after that. He and Zayn went through the song about four times, but it was pretty much perfect after the first time Liam had to stop when he sang it. Liam knows that it was being alone with Zayn again and the advice he gave him when he stopped that helped him get through the song flawlessly, but Liam’s hoping that Zayn doesn’t know that.

They sit in the quiet for a little while, and Liam gently taps his fingers against the table. He’s humming quietly to himself when he feels Zayn’s eyes on him. Liam looks over to him, raising an eyebrow to ignore the light blush that has colored his cheeks.

“Something on your mind?” Liam asks him, tilting his head.

Zayn seems startled then, like he hadn’t realized he’d been staring. “I um,” He watches Liam quietly. “Just realized I don’t really know that much about you.”

“I’m sure you know more than you think,” Liam tells him honestly. “I know I rambled quite a bit when we took breaks from the song.”

“No, no, I know,” Zayn says. And as Liam watches him he’s a bit intrigued. Zayn almost looks nervous. It’s strange. As long as Liam’s been in Zayn’s presence he’s never seemed full on nervous before.

“What do you want to know?” Liam finally asks him, shifting a bit in the chair. He smiles when he sees the small twitch of Zayn’s lip, like the guy in front of him is a bit relieved.

Zayn shrugs a bit. “What’s your family like?” He asks quietly, tilting his head.

It may be cliché, and it may be a huge statement for Liam to make, but Liam thinks that this was the conversation that changed the dynamic of his relationship with Zayn. A working relationship doesn’t need all the personal details of a personal one, but Zayn asked Liam anyway.

Liam tells Zayn about his mum and his dad, and when he’s done talking about his family, Zayn just shrugs and says he’ll listen to whatever Liam wants to tell him. They talk until Louis comes back with Zayn’s friend to tell them their time’s up in the studio, and Liam leaves with flushed cheeks from all of the attention that was put on him.

Liam also now has Louis’ number in his phone. “Just in case,” Louis had told him with a shrug. Liam was weary. He had listened to Zayn tell a few stories about Louis, so there was no telling why the lad actually wanted his number.

Liam climbs into his car, humming quietly to himself as he starts to drive back to his apartment. He feels great, honestly. Like he’d done something good for himself.

He gets into his apartment and sets his keys down before grabbing his phone to go onto twitter. He hadn’t be on in a few days, and one of the things he always said he wanted to do was keep up with the fans.

“@Real_Liam_Payne: Did something super cool today. Think you guys are gonna like it.”

Liam also takes the time to reply to some fans, keeping his answers about Zayn vague. One tweet that Liam reads asks if he and Zayn are friends, Liam replies that he’s great to work with. Are they friends? Liam doesn’t know.

For the first time since he first started talking to the boys of One Direction Liam looks at his followers. They’ve shot up since then. Liam gets it, the appeal, but he doesn’t understand why being associated with someone makes you famous. All Liam has out are his youtube videos.

--

    The next time Liam hears from any members of One Direction is after he does another pap walk, this time in his new leather jacket. He’s been busy and he knows the guys have been busy, doing interviews and such to prepare for the release of their new single. When he hears from one of them though, it’s a text from Louis, one that makes Liam raise his eyebrows and sit up straighter.

 

From Louis

Zayn’s losing his mind, mate.

 

To Louis

????

 

The next message that Liam receives is one of the pap pictures of him in the jacket. It’s through a window, sure, because Liam had been waiting on his food and he was leaning against the counter in the diner. Liam’s cheeks are flushed.

 

To Louis

Why’s he losing his mind????

 

From Louis

You look fucking fit, Liam. And he’s graciously reminding me of that whenever he sees a new picture.

 

Liam bites down on his lip, cheeks flushing darker.

 

To Louis

I mean I knew you were going to mess with me but c’mon. I don’t believe you

 

He hits send on his message before setting his phone down again, humming quietly as he flips through channels on his TV. Liam lands on a channel that happens to be showing one of the interviews that they did during the time that Liam hadn’t spoken to them.

Once again, Liam watches as the interviewer asks Zayn about him, only this time Zayn shrugs a bit and says, “We wrote together, actually.” He listens as the interviewer jokingly talks about the few (very few) times they were seen together and how it’s a shame that Zayn wasn’t into men because they’d actually look nice together. And what.

 

To Louis

What the fuck is this interview I just landed on

 

As Liam hits the send button, he watches as Zayn gives a small, tight-lipped smile and nods. “He is rather fit, isn’t he?” Liam hears Zayn say with a soft laugh.

 

From Louis

The one we did a few weeks ago? Everyone keeps asking him about you.

 

Liam lets out a sigh.

 

To Louis

I figured that out, thanks. What the hell was this though. him calling me fit

 

Liam doesn’t get a response. He narrows his eyes at his phone, letting out a huff.

--

    The interviews that Liam sees of them from there on out seem to be the same. The guys are asked about their single, stuff that involve them, and as the news gets out that Liam is going to be releasing the song that he and Zayn wrote together, the interviewers ask more about him. It’s almost funny, Liam thinks, because Louis takes in upon himself to tease Zayn about it. At least in the few interviews that Liam’s seen he does. If Liam didn’t know any better he’d think the crush he has was a mutual one.

The headlines are crazy, if Liam’s honest, and his follower count on twitter continues to shoot up. He’s busier than ever, finishing up his album, and he finds it difficult to keep in touch with his fans while he’s doing so.

“@Real_Liam_Payne: Sorry I’ve been missing guys working on the album. think you guys are gonna love it!!!”

He takes the time to tweet quickly in between takes of recording, and when he finally finishes recording all of the potential songs he’s inclined to throw some kind of party. Liam knows he’s still not done yet though, because he has to pick which ones he actually wants on the album. He listens to the suggestions of his team, and he takes them into consideration, but when it comes down to it Liam wants the final say. He makes that clear during one meeting where they try and make him choose certain songs.

Liam has a lot of songs to choose from, he does, but he asks if the song that he and Zayn did could be a bonus on the album. He’s almost told no before his team realizes what an opportunity that is. He’s too happy to be annoyed.

When he finalizes the list of tracks for his album, he tweets about it. Then he just gets to wait while everything is sent off to be finalized.

A few days after Liam tweeted about his album being sent out to be mastered, he gets a text from Louis.

 

From Louis

Come hang out with us

 

Liam’s hesitant, but eventually says yes and asks them where they’re going to be. Louis sends him an address and let’s him know that it’s going to be them along with Liam and maybe a friend or two.

He wears his jacket and styles his hair, and he finally feels like he kind of belongs with this scene. Liam has an album that’s almost ready to be released, a collaboration that’s being released in a couple of weeks, and a new single that’ll be coming out soon too. Liam feels great.

When Liam arrives at the club, he slips inside and looks around to find Louis and everyone else. He smiles brightly, sliding into the booth with them. “Hiii,” He says.

“Liam!” Louis says, grinning and swinging an arm around the boy’s shoulders. “Saw you finished up your album, wanted you to celebrate proper.”

“Thanks, Lou,” Liam laughs, looking at the other guys.

“Who wants drinks?” He hears Niall ask, turning his head to watch as he stands up. There’s a chorus of answers, and Niall grins, shooting them all a thumbs up before going to get them.

The night is full of laughter, dancing, and way too many drinks. Liam guesses that’s how he ends up pressed against Zayn in the booth even though he knows he started the night next to Louis. “Zayn,” Liam mumbles, poking the boy’s arm. “Did you know that you’re really fit?”

Louis laughs loudly and Liam frowns over at him. “What Lewis ?” He asks.

“Nothing, nothing,” Louis says, still grinning with a knowing look in his eye.

Liam huffs a bit, pouting his lip at Zayn.

“Thanks babe,” Zayn says. Unlike Liam, and the rest of the lads it appears, Zayn isn’t smashed at all. He’s had a few drinks, but nothing he can’t handle.

Liam grabs his drink, taking another sip of it as he feels eyes on him. Once he finishes his drink he sets it down and just drums his fingers against the table.

--

    Liam wakes up with a pounding head and in his own bed the next morning. He furrows his eyebrows, sitting up and looking around. Liam glances to his nightstand, confused as he sees a glass of water and some advil sitting there. His cheeks flush, pleased, as his eyes read over the note that was left on the table.

    shouldn’t have drank so much, liam. text me if you meant what you told me last night, okay? -Z

Liam takes the medicine, a fond feeling for Zayn settling in the pit of his stomach. He’s confused though. What did he tell Zayn last night that he can’t remember? Probably a lot of things, but that’s definitely aside from the point.

He spends his day going back through the night and trying to remember what he said. He remembers telling Zayn that he was fit, asking him if he knew that. And he remembers dragging him to dance. Liam rubs his eyes, lying back on the couch. He should get some food. He also should get someone to come cuddle him when he’s hungover and--wait.

“Oh, fuck,” Liam mutters, rubbing his eyes again as he sits up.

“Think you’re sweet,” Liam mumbles, tucking his head into the crook of Zayn’s neck as the boy helps walk with him to the car. He feels Zayn’s smile.

“You’re so drunk,” Zayn retorts, opening the door to Liam’s car and helping him inside. Liam is half aware of Zayn murmuring something to the security that came to rescue Liam and Liam hums.

“Come with us,” Liam murmurs, pulling lightly on Zayn’s jacket. And Liam feels victorious as Zayn just nods and climbs in the back seat next to Liam.

When the car pulls into Liam’s parking space, the three of them climb out of the car. Liam hums softly, holding onto Zayn with a smile. “Pretty Zayn,” He murmurs, resting his head on Zayn’s shoulder.

They walk into Liam’s apartment after Zayn having to reach into Liam’s pocket himself to get the key and unlock the door. Liam walks, no stumbles, his way to his bedroom as Zayn murmurs directions to the guest bedroom for Liam’s security because it’s late and the man took a cab to come get them.

Liam remembers that, and he cringes. He remembers making Zayn stay. He remembers making Zayn cuddle with him--then scrambling to get up when he felt like he was going to puke--and he remembers the quiet mumblings he had right before he’d gone to bed. The one’s where Liam had told Zayn that he’d very much like to go on a real date with him, but he knows that Zayn doesn’t like him like that.

With that confession, Liam also remembers asking Zayn to go on a date with him, and the quiet “You’re drunk, Liam. We’ll talk tomorrow,” That had come after that. Liam’s cheeks are red and he bites at his lip as he walks back to his room to get his phone. He winces at the missed calls from members of his team, ignoring them in favor of texting Zayn.

 

To Zayn

I meant it.

 

Liam hits send and then falls onto his bed, listening to the angry voicemails from his PR people. He calls them back, sits quietly as they yell, murmurs an apology and promises he’ll be better next time before hanging up again. When he gets a text from Zayn, it’s a simple request to meet him that night. Zayn sends him an address when Liam tells him he will, and even though Liam’s stomach is turning with nerves, he’s biting his lip to keep in a bright smile.

When it nears time for Liam to go and meet Zayn, he’s messing with his hair. He’s dressed casually, listening to Louis’ advice. And yes, he’d texted Louis. What was he supposed to do? Liam’s freaking out he’s not going to text the boy he’s freaking out over.

When Liam arrives to the address Zayn gave him, it’s a small, hole-in-the-wall diner that no one would ever be at unless they knew about it. Liam wonders how Zayn knows about it. Liam walks inside, letting the door close quietly behind him as he scans the diner for Zayn. When he sees the familiar black jacket he walks over.

“Hi,” Liam says quietly when he reaches the table, sliding into the booth to sit down. His cheeks are a light pink.

“Hey Li,” Zayn murmurs back to him, a soft smile playing at the corners of his lips.

The two of them order some drinks, water for Liam and water for Zayn, giving themselves a moment to collect their thoughts by looking in the menu to find something to order. Once they’ve ordered though, Liam’s attention is moved to Zayn when he feels a gentle tap on his ankle by Zayn’s foot.

“Relax,” Zayn says softly, a teasing smile on his lip. “It’s me. You know me, yeah?”

“Yeah, but-”

“No butts,” Zayn says, tilting his head. It’s quiet between them for a moment as Liam nods before Zayn decides to speak again. “I like you,” He murmurs quietly.

“I like you too,” Liam says back, biting his lip gently. “You knew that though.”

“I did,” Zayn says, eyes shining a bit. Liam’s sure he sees a hint of fondness in Zayn’s expression, but he’s not going to pay a lot of attention on that.

It’s easy after that, Liam relaxes. They have a good time, talking quietly and gently knocking their feet against the other’s. Liam’s happy, and he thinks that Zayn’s happy too.

--

The next time Liam and Zayn go out it’s to a different place, but this time during the day. There’s a purpose this time, but all Liam can think about is the fact that Zayn wants the same thing as him. Liam’s cheeks flush as Zayn brings their laced fingers up to his mouth, pressing a gentle kiss against them as they sit in the small booth of the diner. A lot comes with this, Liam thinks to himself. But this makes it worth it.