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Liam hates the city.

He hates how busy and loud it is, and how smelly. The people rushing around him on feet or on bike, the congested traffic that makes more noise from honking uselessly than moving, the smells in the air that he still isn't used to. He wants to go home, to his quiet little town with half as many people, a home that is much smaller than the one they live in now, which is much too big and has too many bathrooms.

But it is better here, the money. The money is brilliant, really. It is the only reason he came back to this city that holds too many memories, and very few of them good. He can afford more than anything they need, and he can provide everything for him and more - spoil him the way he deserves.

Because Oliver deserves the world, anything and everything Liam can give to him though the boy never asks for much. He gets excited over anything really. Like last year, when Liam had brought him home a Spiderman bouncy ball, his son had practically exploded with joy when Liam gave it to him. The tiger stickers he allowed him to cover his walls with, the extra plop of butter on his pancakes.

The city isn’t too bad, he tries to assure himself now. The people aren’t as rude as he had always thought them to be, cleaner than he had remembered it to be. And Oliver doesn’t seem to be afraid of the unusual amount of people who usually look anything but friendly. He constantly pulls Liam to new people despite his constant stranger danger warnings, shaking hands with them and handing out smiles  because ‘Papa, Grammy says that is how you spwead happiness -’

He leans back against his office building, which reaches much too high into the sky, bringing the cigarette up to his lips as he takes it all in. He is supposed to be taking a break, relaxing between one bad meeting and another, but it feels hard to relax with the energy that surrounds him, and with the thoughts that plague his mind.

Nothing new, Liam just has never been the type to let things go.

He lets himself get distracted by the man in front of him, chaining his bike up to the bike rack besides Louis’. He looks only a few years younger than Liam, his hair silver blond and soft around his head. A cigarette hangs between his lips, a joint tucked behind his ear and Liam can see the tattoos on the back of his hand, trailing up to his elbows, where his dress shirt sleeves are tucked.

Liam watches him as he throws the cigarette to the ground, right before he throws a leather jacket over his shoulder, where a backpack already rests. He is attractive, very much so with his sharp cheekbones and long eyelashes, these pouty lips that look a bit obscene when he licks at them. An untamed beard, thick and unruly against his jaw.

And his thoughts of how Oliver would be excited over his ink and wanting to touch it fades away, and form into other thoughts, about how he wants to touch the man’s ink himself. Undo the buttons of his shirt to see if any tattoos lie there, creating mouth shaped ones if there aren't.

Liam isn't expecting him to approach but he does, a flush rising up the sharp of his cheeks as he nods his head towards Liam. He wants to drag a thumb across his flush, make it take over the rest of the skin on his body but he shakes his head at the thought, because it kind of makes his head fuzzy how his dangerous look softens so much by the flush in his cheeks and the flutter of his thick eyelashes.

It is a weakness of Liam’s, how someone can be a mix of the two - hard and sharp looking but just as soft around the edges. The man’s eyes are dark when they drag down the length of Liam, but there is a hesitancy around them that makes Liam nod his head in assurance.

And despite the darkness in his eyes, there is something bright about the other man when he cocks his head to the side, eyes squinting as he takes in Liam.

“You Louis?”

Liam flicks out his cigarette, shaking his head. He should have known he was here for Louis, not that he means to be judgmental. But Louis always has his type meeting him at work, to do things he really shouldn't be doing while on the clock. Not that Liam should mind that Louis smokes, because Liam does too - a lot of the time, with Louis, but Louis never seems to know when it is appropriate and not appropriate to be high.

If that is what he is here to do with Louis. He has caught Louis getting up to no good in other ways, that always leave Liam’s cheeks hot and words stammering out.

“No,” Liam says curtly, folding his arms across his chest, a habit that comes from being a boss and a father he reckons. Not an uptight prick like Niall suggests. “Reckon he should stop getting up to no good while at work.”

The man huffs out a laugh, eyes brightening considerably and it is a bit more blinding than the sun that shines down between the buildings above them. And fuck, Liam hopes he is here to see Louis for the first and not the second.  “Who says I'm here to get up to no good? Unless you’d like to?”

Liam narrows his eyes at him, wondering if he is lying and irritated that he feels even more attracted to the smirk on his face, though he is equal parts annoyed. The lad only shakes his head, laughing again before he walks away from Liam and heads into his office building.

Before Liam can think about how much he really would like to.

 

Liam likes his office, at least.

He likes that he can close the thick, cream colored curtains so he doesn’t have to look at the other tall buildings like his employees have to. He likes the teak wood desk that is much too large for him, and the massive black chair behind it that Liam swears he can fall asleep in if he is alone for too long. The walls behind his desk are lined with bookshelves, surrounding a space where Liam has placed framed pictures of his son and his parents, even one of him and Niall from their Uni days.

There is framed art around the large room that Liam has left up from the previous boss, as well as some of the books lining the walls. There is a set of leather couches and chairs across the room from him, which are covered in stuffed dinosaurs and unread children books at the moment. It makes the office better, really, especially the large brown eyes that pop over the back of the couch every now and then.

“Papa,” Oliver coos, climbing onto his lap where Liam sits behind his desk. It is a good idea getting a nanny he thinks, so Oliver doesn't have to spend all of his time here at the office while he works until he starts primary in the fall, but ideally he rather just be at home with him. The money here is good, but it means less time with Oliver on a daily basis, and being busy when he is home. “You're cold.”

Liam chuckles, rubbing his cold hands up his arms. The five year old is quite restless here anyway, constantly climbing up his legs and heavily sighing from across the room every time Liam is in a meeting with someone. He knows not to disturb Liam, but he always pushes out his bottom lip out when a meeting goes on for too long and Liam can’t help but to call him over, apologizing even though no one ever seems to mind.

“Did Uncle Niall pick a nanny for you today?”

He nods excitedly, wrinkling his nose as he talks. He is dramatic, very expressive in the way he talks with the push of his lips and the jump of his eyebrows, and Liam is afraid he may have gotten that from him. He sees very little of his mother in him, other than his curls which are starting to darken like hers. Liam is thankful though - her heart had been cold, and Liam has yet to meet anyone with one as warm as Oliver.

He doesn't understand why he had been with her now that he looks back on it, maybe because he had been just like her until Oliver came around. He has learned a lot from the little lad, changed in ways he hadn't thought possible.

“Mr. Zayn. Papa he likes tigers, he is perfect.”

Liam snorts, plopping a kiss to his forehead. The tiger thing is new - it is always something he latches onto for awhile before moving onto something else. Picked up by Caroline, who had watched and worked with him over the school year. All of their therapies had involved tigers somehow, and Liam used to have to listen to it nonstop after he picked Oliver up.

Not that he minded. Picking Oliver up from Caroline’s was the highlight of his day.

“He sounds perfect, babe.”

Niall grins from the doorway, a stack of papers in his hand as he comes in. He had been running late today, it is obvious in the way his hair sticks out all around his head and his tie is loose, his shirt buttoned unevenly. He usually spends most of his time in Liam’s office, so much so that Liam is working on getting another desk placed in the office for him so he will actually do his job. “Looker too, mate. Reckon I found you something more than just a nanny.”

Liam narrows his eyes as he takes the stack of papers from him, careful not to jostle Oliver off of his lap with a hand firm on his back as he reaches for it. “Not sure I'm looking.”

“You are,” Niall says, miming grabbing between his legs. There is a devilish look in his eyes, one he knows will disappear when he falls into a fit of laughter. “Would be good for you, mate.”

Liam flicks him off, careful to keep his hand behind Oliver’s head so he can't see.

+*

Zayn loves the city.

Well, kind of. He likes swerving through the crowds of people that never seem to notice him, too focused on getting to their destinations or whomever they speak to urgently on their phone. He likes how the air randomly fills with the scent of different restaurants, which are tucked into the corners he has etched into his brain. He moves into the street and listens to the angry cabbies’ voices fade behind him as he speeds off on his bike while they remain still, chuckling quietly to himself.

He likes when the buildings become fewer and the trees become more, the actual grass around the homes stacked on top of each other. It is still quite busy, compared to what he has heard from the outsiders who come in, but it is quieter and there is less tossed aside garbage. People, disgusting they can be when they aren’t the ones who have to clean up after themselves, and that is one of the few reasons Zayn hates the city.

Zayn eases his bicycle into the stand outside of his apartment building where he locks it up. He undoes the first few buttons of his shirt, glancing down at himself to make sure he hadn’t made a mess anywhere (though he refused to eat while wearing it, just to be safe) because it isn’t his. A lend from Danny, forced upon him when he had told them about his job interview at L&A.

Not that he told him it wasn’t for a job there, but for a nannying job for one of the head officers. The head guy, actually - of the whole company.

Zayn grins as he leans back against the bike rack, tugging  out the pack of cigarettes from his pocket as he looks up at his apartment building. He hopes he gets the job, because he is quite fond of the little boy he is to nanny and he had only spent a short time with him.

And the number he was told he would be paid for three months made his breath get caught in his throat. He can actually pay Danny and his wife, Layla back for the rent they have paid for him, and hopefully have enough to finish his classes in order to finally get his Master’s degree. For only three months of work.

“Zayn!”

Zayn glances up at Layla, whose head is sticking out from his kitchen window. Her curls fall like a waterfall around her shoulders, a new color - looks to be purple where the sun shines on it. He lives quite close to the ground floor, as he is a bit afraid of heights, so he can almost make out all of the ink that scatters up her arms and the little head that peeps up into the window beside her.

“How’d it go?”

Zayn pushes off from the bike stand, shrugging as he brings the cigarette up to his lips. “They said they would call me this week if I get it.”

Layla’s brows scrunch together as Zayn comes closer. By being close to the ground floor, he means he is on the ground floor. Most people tell him it is a bad idea, easier to get robbed there, but he quite hates heights so he is willing to take the risk.

“That fast?”

Zayn shrugs again, wiggling his fingers towards the little girl that tries to peek underneath her mum’s arm but is too short to do so without assistance. Her eyes are large and wide just like Layla’s, her hair closer to Layla’s natural color, so dark it is practically black, but the sun highlights the shades of yellows and reds if you look close enough.

“Think your pops could put in a good word f’me?”

Layla rolls her eyes, leaning her elbow against the window sill. “You don’t need anyone to put a good word in for you. Reckon they made up their mind the moment they met you, Zayner. Plus, that man doesn’t want anything to do with that company unless it has to do with money.”

Layla scoops up her daughter so Zayn can tickle her fingers underneath her chin. “But maybe I should ask anyway, since you have no business experience.”

Zayn huffs out a laugh. He knows Layla wouldn’t judge him for getting a nannying position, since half the time he watches Maria and Danny’s son for her, but for some reason he has the words locked up in his throat.

“What are you doing here?”

She grimaces apologetically for a moment, holding up Maria a little higher as a peace offering. “I have a meeting tonight. Only staying an hour, do you mind?”

Zayn can’t help the grin that takes over his face as he wiggles his fingers under her chin again.

“Of course not.”

+*

Zayn bends his knees as he leans forward, biting his tongue in concentration as he moves the spray bottle over the bricks. He is excited for Maria to see it tomorrow, the little minions he has created all over brick building that holds the bathroom to the park. The owner has allowed him to cover the walls of the rec buildings after he created the mural on the office building, and he is allowed to draw or spray paint whatever he wants, as long as it is child appropriate.

Zayn giggles slightly as he picks up the other can to circle glasses around the bobble eyes. It is quieter in this part of town, nothing at all like the city. The houses are actually spread out, though to Zayn, each one looks it is big enough to hold the amount of homes his apartment building has. There are yards and white fences, no cracks in the sidewalk and the garbage is only ever on the street for about an hour or so in the morning, before everyone wakes up.

Layla had offered Zayn to move in with her and Danny when he started struggling paying his rent, but Zayn hadn’t wanted to impose on her. They are different, Layla having grown up with money, Zayn growing up without. They butt heads a lot too, and if it wasn’t for Danny, there are times Zayn isn’t sure they would still be friends.

Zayn sighs. If he gets the nannying job, he will be moving into this kind of town within a month when he is supposed to start. The Payne family lives a bit farther, deeper into the rich area than Layla and Danny live, where the really big houses are.

A soft clearing of the throat makes Zayn jump before he drags his eyes away from the minion. It is almost dark, and the park is empty so he hadn’t expected anyone else to be around. And even though he is allowed to be here, he feels like his eyes widen like a deer in headlights as he turns around.

He softens, lips automatically quirking up as he eyes the man from outside of the L&A building crossing the lawn of the park. The tie around his neck is loosened, the buttons near his collar undone and his fingers are shoved into the pockets of his dress pants.

Zayn hasn’t been able to keep the man from popping up into his mind throughout the day. He knows who Louis is, and he was supposed to meet him after his meeting with Niall, but he had used it as an excuse to talk to him, feeling drawn to the stranger.   

His dress shirt had been tight, stretching across his chest and the bulge of his arms, showcasing the small of his hips and his dress pants had been just as tight - wrapping around his toned looking thighs. His brows had been furrowed when Zayn had first noticed him, and with the thick of his blond beard, it had given him a hard look as he wrapped those obscene full lips around the butt of his cigarette.

Those dark eyes of his had lingered on Zayn the whole time he had been outside and it had sparked something down Zayn’s spine that made him have little control over the teasing sound of his voice when he asked the man if he wanted to get up to no good.

“Stalking me?” Zayn calls as the man approaches closer, his voice falling into that teasing tone again easily.

The other man’s brow quirks up, his thick fingers rubbing across the coarse beard that covers his jaw. “Was on my way home when I saw you.”

Behind him, Zayn can see the car he probably got out of, the lights still on from the car running and allowing Zayn to see how expensive it looks. Shiny and sleek and definitely fitting for this part of town.

Zayn licks at his lips as the man comes closer. He shakes the spray paint bottle distractedly as he tries to think of something to say, something other than requesting the other man take him into the bathroom inside the building. “Decided you want to get up to no good?”

The man’s lip quirks up some, but his eyes darken even more. Zayn inhales sharply, watching the man squint around like he is taking in the area surrounding them as he shrugs. “It wasn’t my first thought, though maybe it did follow.”

Zayn grins, leaning back against the brick building. “What was your first thought then?”

The man laughs softly and it surprises Zayn, how giggly and soft it sounds despite the hard look on his face. “Did you do all of this?” The man points to the buildings around them. “The characters?”

Zayn bites down on his bottom lip, nodding as he feels his face grow warm. He hates that it does that, makes him feel shy even though he isn’t. “Yeah. D’you like them?”

It doesn’t matter if he does or not, but Zayn finds himself wanting the other man to say yes. And when he nods his head, a warmth takes over Zayn’s chest that he wants to roll his eyes at because he doesn’t know this man, at all. It doesn’t matter.

“My boy,” the other man starts, tucking his fingers back into his pockets. “Asked me to draw them at home and then basically told me I was shit, in less offensive words, ‘cause they were so bad.”

A laugh bubbles past Zayn’s lips as he watches the pink take over the other man’s cheeks and what the fuck.

“Maybe I should teach you, then.”

The man laughs again, nodding. His body tenses some and Zayn watches as he jerks a shoulder back towards his car, indicating that he is about to leave.

“Hey,” Zayn starts, pushing off of the wall suddenly. He doesn’t know this man but he wants to, badly. “Have you ever been to the Gold Club?”

The other man’s eyes narrow some, jaw tensing again as he nods his head. Zayn had been expecting him to say no, since there are rarely ever suit types there, though Zayn swears he has seen Niall there before. But Niall had been nothing like the suit types he is used to, far from uptight. Laid back and making jokes, ones that Zayn thought were a bit inappropriate but they had made him laugh so he hadn’t thought much about it.  

But he would have noticed if the man in front of them had been there before, because there is something about him that makes Zayn want to etch his face to the back of his eyelids so he can draw it later.

“If you want to get up to no good, I’ll be there Friday.”

The other man gives him a considerate look before he nods, tongue flicking out to slide against that full bottom lip that Zayn really wants to trace the shape of. With his tongue, not just a pencil.

“Are you going to ask me for my name?”

Zayn smirks, shrugging as he squints at the lad. The sky has darkened more, the moon casting shadows across the other man’s sharp features. “No, I reckon it makes it more exciting.”

+*

“Give Papa a kiss.”

Oliver smacks his lips to Liam’s forehead before falling back against his pillows. Niall and Harry have made him up a bed, practically giving him his own room in their apartment because of how often the two of them come over. Liam likes it more than his larger home, and he had been over the moon when Niall and Harry moved into the city shortly after him.

(After Liam hired Niall to work for him, though he probably shouldn’t have because they are best mates and there were others just as qualified for the job. And Niall is a great worker, but he slacks off a lot before finishing everything in a rushed manner.)

“Ya gonna be here in the morn’n, Papa?”

Liam smiles softly, wiggling his fingers through the curls sticking to Ollie’s forehead. “‘Course. Gonna get pancakes and then go see Gram, yeah?”

He yawns, nodding but he doesn’t let go of the hold he has on Liam’s sweater. His eyes flutter shut, brows pushing together before he forces his eyes open. He hates sleeping, and it is usually a struggle to get him into bed and to sleep, but they have been working on it and it has gotten better.

“Pinky promise?”

Liam warms over even more as he gently pulls Oliver’s hand away from his shirt so he can wrap his pinky finger around his little one. “You will tell Uncle Ni to call me if you need me?”

He keeps it silent, if you have a nightmare. They are the reason Oliver hates sleeping so much. Sometimes he wakes up during them and sometimes he doesn’t, but they are awful - impossible to get him to calm down afterwards. Especially when he stays asleep through them, and the night terrors make his body tremble, limbs flailing across the sheets and Liam's attempts at soothing him worthless.

“Promise,” Oliver mumbles sleepily, squeezing Liam’s finger.

Liam stays with him for awhile, until the soft snores he lets out tell him that he is finally asleep. He hopes he doesn’t wake, because Liam doesn’t go out often and he is a bit excited to -

Even though he doesn’t know the lad’s name, the one with the silver hair and skin covered in ink. The lad who has been invading Liam’s thoughts more than he would like to admit, because he doesn’t even know his name, yet every time Liam gets a moment to himself it is him he thinks of.

He had felt creepy when he spotted him in the park, watching him for a few moments because he was deciding whether or not to approach him. But he couldn't help it. He feels drawn to the lad, like a string is tugging him into the other man’s space.

“Asleep?”

Liam nods towards where Niall sits on the back of the couch, legs framing Harry’s back as he plays with his hair. “He should be out for the night. Thanks again for watching him.”

“No problem,” Niall says, a grin taking over his lips. “Anything to help you loosen up, brother.”

Liam narrows his eyes before swatting Niall playfully against the back of his head. “M’not. Just going out.”

“Meeting who?” Harry chirps, straining around Niall’s leg some to quirk a brow up at him.

“Hopefully someone to replace you two,” Liam jokes, teasing his fingers through Nialler’s hair. “Call me if he wakes up, yeah?”

The grin softens on his best mate’s face as he nods. “Yeah, alright. Have fun and remember to keep it wrapped up.”

Liam grins crookedly. It isn’t like that. He doesn’t even know the lad’s name.

+*

“You killed it up there.”

Zayn bites around a grin, heart racing from the adrenaline rush as he throws an arm over Danny’s shoulders. “Nothin’ special,” he yells into his ear, though his cheeks hurt from smiling so hard at the screams and cheers he had gotten while he had sang.

Sweat sticks to the back of his neck from the way he had been dancing across the stage, dampening around the collar of his dress shirt and he happily accepts the bottle that Danny shoves towards his chest, even though it isn’t as cold as it probably was when he had gotten it from the bar.

“Yeah right, you need to sing for Layla sometime. She thinks I’m lying when I hype you up.”

Zayn rolls his eyes as he chugs down the contents of the bottle, wetting his throat before passing it back to Danny. “Invite her out one night?”

Danny’s smile falters as he sighs. “You know she can’t.”

Zayn nods, giving Danny an apologetic look as he pats his best mate’s chest. He wants to say something else but his attention gets taken away when he recognizes those tense shoulders, hunched over as his elbows rest against the bar.

“Excuse me, need water.”

Zayn weaves through the crowd, heart refusing to slow down as he nears closer to the man. He doesn’t think he will ever be able to get over how attractive the man is. He had thought it was just the suit, because suits always make people look better in his opinion, but he looks good like this too - a thin sweater wrapped around his shoulders and jeans sagging enough that Zayn can see the brim of his briefs popping out as he leans forward. Zayn had wondered if he would fit in, the rich usually stand out like a sore thumb here, but he blends perfectly.

He is talking to the bartender Andy, face turned enough that Zayn can see the strong of his jaw moving with his words. His lips are slightly quirked up as Andy laughs, a familiarity between the two of them that makes Zayn wonder if they know each other.

Not that he should care.

“Water, please.”

The man glances over his shoulder at the sound of Zayn’s voice, leaning back some as his lips quirk up even more. Zayn eyes the bulge of his arm before he pulls it away from the bar to fully turn towards him.

“Got it, Zed. Anything else?”

Zayn shakes his head at Andy in response as he turns towards the man. He reaches out to finger at the brim of his sweater, hoping it isn’t overstepping but he really wants to slide his fingers underneath the soft material and feel the warmth that makes his skin so red instead.

“Zed,” the man says before Zayn can say anything. There is a tilt in his head, a curious glint in his eyes.

Zayn bites at his grin, reaching for the water bottle being passed to him with a nod of thanks towards Andy. The man's eyes are intent on him, and it makes his skin feel like it is catching on fire.

“I’m glad you came,” Zayn says instead of telling him his actual name.

The man’s grin makes his cheeks round. “I missed your performance. Came in while you were hopping off of the stage.”

Zayn feels a bit relieved, because he hadn’t planned on singing but the owner of the club asked him too and he couldn’t say no. And he isn’t shy but the older man makes him feel like he is. “Maybe some other time.”

“Man of many talents, I see.”

“Yeah, a few,” Zayn responds, his own lips quirking up at how his voice drops automatically, the words teasing and implying more.

He rakes his eyes down the column of his throat, at the dark birthmark that stains his skin just above his collar. There is ink on the back of his hand, the hand holding what looks to be soda, and Zayn lets his mind wander to whether there is more ink anywhere on his body - hopefully his strong looking chest.

“You come here a lot?” the other man asks, jerking his head to indicate the club.

He pulls his eyes back up to the other man’s dark brown ones before he nods. Zayn chugs some of his water before planting it back on the bar, stepping closer to the man so their knees knock together and he can press a palm to his stomach. “Yeah, fancy a dance?”

The other man looks hesitant for a moment before he nods and places his glass on the counter too. He is more pliable than Zayn had imagined, letting Zayn link their fingers as he drags them into the crowd of people. His fingers are bigger than Zayn’s, thick between his and he tries not to let his mind wander but it fails the moment the other man’s body pushes against his own.

Their fingers stay linked as the man curls his arm around Zayn’s waist, making his breath catch as his hand expands over the lower of his back and their hips align. Their bodies are roughly the same size, fitting perfectly against each other but Zayn still has to flick his eyes upwards some as he curls his other arm around the man’s neck.

He has thought about the man the last few days, but it doesn’t compare to the feel of the man’s hard body against his own, the smooth way he rolls his hips and the way his fingers ruck up the back of Zayn’s shirt enough that he can feel a wisp of cool air slide against his hot, bare skin. He tries not to react when the man’s legs spread his some to press their hips firmly together, but Zayn has never been good at controlling his body and expressions.

His lips part some as a tremble runs down his spine, and the man’s eyes flick down towards them, his own tongue peeking out to swipe across his bottom lip. Zayn tilts his head, rubbing his hips forward when the man pushes against his lower back. The song they dance too is far from dirty, and Zayn is thankful because the drops of sweat down his back are already too much.

“Zed,” the man says, quirking up a brow as he slides his fingers down lower, tickling at the top of Zayn’s jeans. “That’s your name?”

Zayn shakes his head, biting at his lip as he pulls the man further into the crowd like he can hide the dirty things he wants to do to him here. And it is closer to the speakers, so he has to pull back some so the man can read the shape of his lips to hear him. “Close.”

The man’s hand dips lower, the warmth of his palm burning through the material of his pants before it curves over his bum to press him closer. “Mine is -”

Zayn pushes forward, cutting off the movement of his lips as he presses theirs together. The man’s lips are soft, and he had been right about him drinking soda earlier as the sugary taste rolls across the tongue he swipes against the man’s lips. They part easily, his fingers squeezing at Zayn’s bum in a way that makes arousal shock down his spine.

He slips his fingers through the short hairs at the back of the man’s head, feeling them slightly damp as he pushes closer. His kiss makes Zayn’s head dizzy, the way the man sucks on his bottom lip and rolls his tongue, the vibration of a moan against his lips as his hips push harder against his.

Fuck, he is hard, aching between his legs and he knew he would be, but it is maddening the way he can feel the other man’s length grind against his own. He has an urge to ask the man to drag him to his expensive car to see if they can both fit in the backseat, since Zayn has nothing other than a bike and the bathrooms here aren’t too clean. The man had mentioned having a child so he reckons his place is off limits.

Zayn pulls away at the thought. He takes in the man’s face, the swell of his lips and the arousal in his eyes that makes Zayn press closer to his body because fuck. “Do you want to go somewhere?”

The man’s lips quirk up as he reaches up to pinch Zayn’s chin. “If you tell me your name.”

“Zayn,” Zayn blurts out, feeling his cheeks grow hot because he feels too desperate for this man and it is obvious. “Yours?”

The man’s face hardens instantly as he lets Zayn’s chin go, brows furrowing and a confused look in his eyes. “Liam.”

Realization dawns on Zayn and he pulls away, taking in Liam and the eyes he should have recognized because he has been thinking about how adorable the wide eyes of the little boy that interviewed him were ever since he has gotten the call back about the nannying position the day before.  

Fuck.

+*

Liam knocks his head against the back of his seat, fingers tapping against the steering wheel as he groans. His skin is on fire, his heart racing and his dick is so hard that it makes his head a bit dizzy and the urge to touch himself here is a bit hard to resist, even though he is still in the parking lot of the club.

And it feels wrong, because when the man said his name the first thing Liam thought of was his new nanny, and it was confirmed that that was who he was dancing with the moment Zayn’s eyes grew wide and he stopped touching Liam after he had said his name. He practically ran away from Liam, an embarrassed look on his face as he spurt out apologies like Liam was going to tell him he can’t actually have the job.

Liam groans, clenching his eyes shut. He had been on the fence about hiring Zayn, even though he was extremely qualified with an impressive resume - no arrests, an extensive list of past work at day cares, nursing homes, babysitting and an even longer list of volunteer work. Double major in Child Development and Child and Youth Care, and an impressive amount of certificates that Liam hadn't even realized were a thing. But the reason Liam hadn’t interviewed potential nannies and left it to Niall was because he would find something wrong with everyone they interviewed.

And there are red flags with Zayn, him being friends with Louis, the joint he saw in his ear, the fact he tags the park buildings, but at the same time Liam craves to ask him to start early just so he can see him again. It is just his dick talking, he knows but -

Liam groans again, swiping his palm down his face. He really shouldn’t hire someone his dick likes this much, but his brain pushes that thought out before he can linger on it for too long.

There is a tap on his window that makes him pull his hand away from his face and it shouldn’t take him by surprise that it is Zayn, but it does. There is a hesitant look on his face, a cigarette dangling between his lips as he wiggles his fingers, waiting for Liam to roll down the window.

Sweat makes his hair cling to his forehead, drops sliding down his throat and Liam feels his face grow hot at the thought of tongue at his skin there.

“So,” Zayn starts as the window rolls down, bending some so he can look at Liam better. “That was a bit awkward of me, sorry.”

Liam shakes his head out of habit. He isn’t quite sure how he would react if he realized he was rubbing his dick against his new boss, but he reckons it would be something similar. “A bit awkward in general, not you.”

Zayn gives him a soft smile as he drops the cigarette to rest his elbows on the bottom of Liam’s window. “I reckon it’s not the best start to this work relationship.”

Liam grins, pressing a finger under Zayn’s chin because he can’t help it. The memory of Zayn’s lips on his is at the front of his mind and he has the urge to pull him closer to recreate it. As much as he tells himself Zayn is a bad idea, he feels like he has no control over his actions when it comes to him.  “I think it went just fine.”

Zayn bites at his bottom lip, staring at Liam for a long moment before he holds his hand out to Liam. “I’m Zayn Malik. I hope this doesn’t make you rethink hiring me.”

Liam lets go of his chin to shake Zayn’s hand. It makes it even more awkward and Zayn grimaces some like he realizes that too. “You’re extremely qualified, and my son hasn’t stopped talking about you since, so.”

Zayn’s grin is even brighter as he nods, shaking Liam’s hand before pulling it away. When he stands up, Liam only lets his eyes linger on the outline of his hard cock against his jeans for a moment before he leans out of the window, reaching for Zayn’s hand to rub his thumb against his knuckles.

“I reckon it makes it more exciting, yeah?”

Zayn’s eyes widen a lot as Liam mimics him, giving him a grin that feels easy before he wiggles his fingers in goodbye and pulls out of his parking spot, cussing at himself because he should have just said goodbye.  

+*

“So,” Niall yawns, padding into the living room as Liam walks into it from the kitchen. The coffee is hot in his hands, burning against his palms but it hasn’t woken him up much yet even though it is his third cup. He hadn’t slept well the night before, uncomfortable and waking up before the sun popped up. “Find Ollie a new Papa?”

Liam brings the cup up to his lips before he can respond, but he narrows his eyes as his best mate as he cackles with laughter.

The humor slips off Niall’s face as the little voice echoes through the room and Liam is a second away from pinching Niall in retaliation.

“No,” Ollie pipes in, prancing into the room with them. His eyes are heavy with sleep and he rubs at them before making his way to Liam. His lip trembles something awful as he looks at him with confusion. “I don’t wanna new Papa.”

Liam sighs, placing the cup down on the table before reaching out for his son to pick him up. He is a small thing, smaller than others his age.

“That’s not what Uncle Ni means. I’m not going anywhere.”

Oliver grabs his cheeks, staring down at him like he wants to make sure Liam means it. “Can I have pancakes now?”

Liam snorts, peppering a kiss to his round nose. “We’ll leave in a minute.”

He puts Oliver down and he no longer seems sleepy as he runs out of the living room, probably towards his room to change. Liam laughs as he watches him go from half asleep to excitement in a few seconds.

Niall grabs the back of his neck when Liam turns to him. “Sorry,” he mumbles, leaning against the table chair. “But did you? Have fun?”

Liam sighs, the events from the night before rushing through his mind for the millionth time. He has to stop thinking about it, because his cock perks up at every thought of Zayn and so does the heavy guilty feeling in his chest. “Um, yeah, until I found out that the guy I was dancing with is my new nanny.”

Niall startles, staring at Liam in confusion before he bursts into a fit of laughter. His skin goes tomato red, body hunching over as he grabs at his stomach and Liam lets out a weak laugh because he doesn’t really feel like it is funny.

A joke nonetheless, kind of like his life.

“Oh god,” Niall cackles, wiping the back of his hand against the tears building up behind his eyelids. “That’s fucking great. Did you -” He drops his voice to a whisper, words choked from his laughter. “Shag ‘im?”

Liam’s jaw clenches as he shakes his head and he reaches for his coffee cup again, wanting to chug the rest until the hot liquid burns his tongue and makes it impossible for him to keep talking.

“You wanted to,” Niall says, laughter dying some but his face still burns red as he points his finger to Liam. “I told you I found you something more than a nanny.”

Liam shakes his head, stubbornly. “You have to call him and tell him he can’t have the job.”

He has been thinking about it all night. It just doesn’t feel right, because Liam has always been bad at keeping quiet when he feels attracted to someone. And he is really attracted to Zayn, like really attracted - it feels a bit like he is eighteen again and lusting over Oliver’s mum again.

Which is another reason Zayn can’t work for him. He should have stayed away from her, and he should stay away from Zayn.

“No way,” Niall gasps, all of the humor gone now as he Oliver runs back into the room. Liam can see the tag of his shirt underneath his chin, and there is a pout on his son’s lips as he shows Liam that he can’t get the buttons on his jeans. “Why?”

“I’ll be his boss,” Liam reminds him like it is obvious. He pads over to Oliver, falling to his knees to help him straighten his clothes.

“Hasn’t stopped you before,” Niall reminds him. “You’ve - um, you know with your boss before. Remember -”

Liam cuts him off with a cold stare and nudging his head towards his son, who is completely oblivious as he apologizes softly for putting his shirt on wrong as Liam takes it off of him. Ollie’s mum had been his shift manager at an L&A department store, not his boss. “It’s okay, sunshine. Let Papa put it on right.”

Oliver raises his arms as Liam turns the shirt right and pulls it onto him. “Thanks Papa.”

Liam pats his head as he stands, turning to Niall who stares back at him with a hard look on his face. “And that was a huge mistake, Nialler. Call him, yeah?”

Niall rolls his eyes as he pushes away from the table chair and off towards the kitchen, grumbling something Liam can’t hear.

+*

Liam can’t stop thinking about Zayn.

It is getting annoying really. It has been a week and he finds himself getting fidgety in the most inappropriate times. While he is at work, while he is sitting on the couch watching cartoons with his son, any moment his mind isn’t completely preoccupied with something else, he is thinking about Zayn’s body underneath his, bruising his skin with the pads of his fingers - their beards rubbing together when their lips touch.

He figures getting it out of his system will work, but he isn’t as attracted to the man that bends over for him, though he appreciates how well he listens to what Liam tells him to do. He had used too much teeth when he had taken Liam down his throat, and his moans sound faked but he is tight around Liam, and his back is strong and soft  looking at the same time.

But Zayn’s face falls to the back of his eyelids as he dicks into the man, whose name he starts to forget as Zayn’s name forms on his tongue. It fucks with his head because he doesn’t even know Zayn but he has taken over his mind like this, and Liam hates how easily people can do that to him.

He kisses the man on the lips when he leaves, using Oliver as an excuse to dip out even though Oliver is still with his mum, but his eyelids freeze open like he is afraid of closing them and having the memory of Zayn’s full lips against his own in his head again while he kisses another man.

The cool outside air drives away the heat taking over Liam’s skin as he walks home. The man lives a bit away from him, but his car is still at the bar they had met at, and it is closer to them.

Neither one of them had been drinking, but he hadn’t wanted the man to see his car. He gets nervous when people see a hint of the money he owns, though no one has ever used him for his pocket. It is still new to him, the money, and his fears are probably unfounded but he can’t help them.

Liam sighs when he pads into the parking lot, the bar still busy because it isn’t that late in the night. The music inside is muffled and he can somewhat see the bodies moving around inside through the windows but he drags his feet towards his car. He doesn’t really like bars since he doesn’t drink, but he has found there are few places around for the nightlife that he enjoys going to that aren’t bars. The clubs in his neighborhood are full of people with stiff backs and smug faces and he doesn’t feel like he fits in with them just yet.

His car lights flick on as it beeps, and it is then that he sees someone near the driver seat of his car, jumping away.

Liam’s heart thuds in his chest when he eyes the light reflecting off of the streaks of silver, the red lit up cherry of a cigarette and the shadows crossing over those sharp features.

Zayn cocks his head to the side as Liam nears closer, fingers digging into the pockets of his ripped up jeans as he drags the cigarette away from his lips. A large leather jacket hangs off hsi shoulders, making him look grungy and a bit irresistible. “I’m not breaking in. I thought maybe you were in it.”

Liam nods, clenching his fists because he badly wants to grab Zayn’s jaw and kiss him, wanting to replace the taste on his tongue with the taste of Zayn. “I’m not.”

Zayn grins, nose wrinkling as he does so. “I didn’t see you inside the bar.”

“I was earlier,” Liam comments with a cool shrug of his shoulder though he feels anything but cool. It must be a sign that Zayn is here, after Liam just spent the last hour thinking about him nonstop. “Do you go to bars often?”

Zayn frowns, cocking his head to the side. “On Fridays. Pretty normal f’my age, I reckon.”

Liam frowns too, nodding because he is probably right. Twenty four, if he remembers correctly. He hadn’t looked over Zayn’s resume over and over again since he told Niall to tell him he can’t have the job, if anyone asks. “Twenty four?”

Zayn nods, bringing the cigarette to his lips as he nudges his head towards Liam.

“Twenty seven,” Liam tells him, taking another step closer though a caution sign goes off in his head. There are a million reasons why he should back away, though him being his nanny is no longer a problem. The fact he was just with someone else is, currently.

Zayn’s grin falters some as he rakes his eyes down Liam’s torso and up again. He reaches out, pressing his fingers to where Liam’s birthmark is, where the skin is sore though Liam doesn’t remember the man kissing him there.

“Have fun?”

“No,” Liam says instantly. He hesitates for a moment as he gives Zayn a soft look. He can say it, right? He has confirmed with Niall that Zayn doesn’t have the position any longer, but Liam should still stay away from him -

He just doesn’t want to.

“Was thinking about you the whole time.”

Zayn’s eyes grow wide, but his lips push up into his cheeks and he presses them together tightly like he is trying not to smile and failing. “Did that make it better?”

Liam nods, taking a step past Zayn towards the driver seat but he lets his fingers linger on Zayn’s belly a bit more. He hates sharing his feelings in any manner, even as something as simple as that. “Yeah, hope I see you around, yeah?”

Zayn’s brows push together in confusion but he nods again, stepping away from Liam as he climbs into the car.

+*

“Mr. Zayn!”

A smile instantly pulls at his lips as he hears the little high pitched voice, head turning away from Maria in the sand pit as he watches Oliver run over towards him. Zayn is quite fond of Oliver already from the first time they met, how his face is so expressive when he speaks, his thick eyebrows jumping around, warm brown eyes constantly bright.

He looks a lot like his father with his chubby cheeks and pudgy nose, his thick eyebrows and the warmest eyes Zayn has ever seen on a kid. They even have the same birthmark it seems, heart shaped on the column of the throat though opposite sides of each other and Zayn isn’t sure how he hadn’t made the connection right away.

Niall is behind him, not bothering to catch up with the little boy as he runs towards Zayn. He had called him this morning asking if they could meet up, but Zayn is babysitting Maria and her brother, DJ, so he had them meet him here. He didn’t know Oliver was coming along, but Niall had told him that Oliver usually stays in the office with them when him and Liam are both working.

“Hi Mr. Zayn, how are you?” Oliver says politely as he stops in front of him, though he is bouncing on his toes still. Zayn snorts, tucking his fingers through Oliver’s curls.

“I’m okay, little sir. How are you?”

“Okay,” Oliver says, giving him a big smile and Zayn can see one of his bottom teeth are missing, which is new. He turns towards Niall, waving at him to come on. “Can I go on the swings by myself today?”

“Yeah, just don’t tell your Papa,” Niall laughs. He settles on the bench beside Zayn, leaning back like he is more than comfortable as he pulls the computer bag he has been carrying onto his lap. He grins at Zayn, rolling his eyes at him some as Oliver takes off. “Liam would put him in a protective bubble if he could.”

Zayn chuckles. “He’s a good dad?”

Niall nods seriously, no humor in his expression. “Oh yeah, one of the best I reckon. Not sure I’ve ever loved anyone the way he loves that boy. Which one is yours?”

Zayn points to Maria, whose fingers are deep in the sand as she giggles like mad. She can’t do much in the park by herself, and Zayn is thankful DJ hasn’t outgrown the park yet, and that he tends so well to his little sister even though he is nearly ten, and should be running around with the other kids. “Maria and DJ. Not mine, though.”

Niall looks at them, frowning some. “They’re cute. How old is the little one?”

“Two and a half,” Zayn answers. “So what’d you want to meet about?”

The other lad pulls his eyes away from Maria and DJ and instead to Oliver, who tries to swing but he doesn’t go very high. There is a frustrated look on his face as he pumps his legs and does circles instead. “Was wondering when you wanted a tour of the place? And to go over everything, about Oliver and whatnot. Liam wrote like a book of shit, but like I said - protective bubble.”

Zayn wants to suck in a breath of relief because he had been positive Niall was going to tell him he couldn’t have the job anymore. Which he would understand, because he really doesn’t think the sexual tension is going to be good for his well being, but he is really fond of the Paynes and the money being offered to him.

And he desperately wants the chance to see Liam again.

“He has a lot of rules? Or?”

Niall rolls his eyes, as he digs into his computer bag. He pulls out a stack of paper stapled together, and it does have the thickness of a book. He hands it to Zayn, where he can see the words Oliver scribbled at the top. “Rules, kind of. Like no smoking in the house, no waking up Oliver when he has a night terror, nothing but cartoons, et cetera. His quirks, I dunno, I didn’t read it all.”

Zayn grins as he reads over the first few sentences, the fondness Liam must have for Oliver clear as day. He is incredibly intelligent, but sometimes struggles with things that he should be able to do - don’t give him a hard time about it. Apologizes a lot when he messes up, gets upset easily but is easy to calm down unless it is in regards to his nightmares or being away from me. Everything makes him happy…

“He doesn’t leave Oliver alone with anyone other than his mum and me, so he is a bit nervous. He doesn’t even leave him with my husband for more than a short time, and he has known him for ten years or so.” Niall laughs again, settling the bag beside him. “The last lady that tried babysitting for Liam thought Liam was a dick, but he isn’t. Like a puppy, that one is. But a pitbull when it comes to his son.”

Zayn laughs this time, frowning at Niall because he can’t quite see that but it makes him want to. “Anything else about Liam I should know?”

Niall grins, eyes filled with amusement as he wiggles his brows. “Why? You’re not babysitting him.”

Zayn feels his face grow hot as he looks back down at the book. He clears his throat, his own lips quirking up because he wants to laugh at how embarrassed he just felt. “You know, since he is going to be my boss.”

“Uh huh,” Niall teases, biting on his lip and Zayn wonders if Liam had told him about the night at the club. “He is single, if that is what you want to know.”

Zayn frowns, but he feels kind of relieved because as much as he was pretty sure, he wasn’t one hundred percent positive. A twenty seven year old rich man with a son doesn’t seem like the single type. Liam had kissed him back, but then the next time they had seen each other, he had a dark hickey staining his neck that made Zayn’s belly feel like jello. “So Ollie’s mum isn’t around I’m assuming? Since he is only allowed to be with you and Liam’s mum?”

Niall nods, fingering a piece of hair above his ear. “Yeah, and I recommend you don’t ask about her. Liam gets his mean face going on when you do.”

Zayn nibbles at his bottom lip. He has a lot of questions really, but they might reveal his thoughts about Liam being less than professional. “Does he have a mean face a lot?”

Niall snorts. “He’s uptight, always tense or whatever. I think his mind is too preoccupied, but he is the nicest guy. Like, I haven’t met anyone as nice as him.”

Zayn warms, nodding as he puts that to the back of his mind. “When do I start?”

Niall frowns, digging into his computer bag and retrieving a small calendar booklet. He flicks through the pages for a moment before stopping on the current month, May. “How’s the last week of May? You said you need enough time to talk to your land lord?”

Zayn nods, nervous all of a sudden. He hasn’t seen Liam but he has craved to, and he isn’t sure if it is because of that or the fact that he is moving into a rich ass house for the summer that is making him so nervous.

+*

Liam lets out a harsh breath, arm against the shower wall before he pushes off and back underneath the hot water that pelts against his lower back. He lets the water drops slide down his shoulders, easing out the shake that still trembles through his limbs from his release. It hadn’t helped much, there is still a coil of arousal settled in his navel but it has been like this for the last few weeks and he feels weak from it, embarrassed by the fact that he feels like he is going through puberty again with the way his dick keeps perking up at the mere thought of soft, brown doe eyes.

“What the fuck,” Liam grumbles to himself as Zayn’s face pops up on the back of his eyes again. He tilts his head back, letting the water to slip down his face like that can wash away his thoughts before he decides he really needs to get out of the shower because the nanny is due over with Niall any time now. John, Liam reminds himself. Niall hadn’t let him seen the resume or anything, not after he cussed Liam out for making them tell the most qualified person who applied that he couldn’t have the job.

Liam glances between his legs, shaking his head at the hard curve of his prick before he shuts off the water and climbs out of the shower. His bathroom in his bedroom is much too large, so he uses the common area one because it looks like a regular bathroom - quite large, but there is just one tub, one sink and one toilet.

He slips on a pair of briefs and jeans before rubbing the towel through his wet hair and throwing it over his shoulder. He isn’t sure what time it is or how long it had taken him in the shower, but he reckons he has enough time to change before Niall gets here. Or at least enough time to think of something off putting to soften his prick.

“Papa’s in the shower,” he hears Oliver say, his voice floating through the hallway as he steps out of the bathroom, the cool air from the house making him shiver slightly. “Uncle Harry, why is Papa stress?”

Liam snorts as he pads down the hallway, ready to flick Harry in the knee for telling Oliver that. Especially since he had assured Harry over and over again that he wasn’t stressed, and he doesn’t like his son seeing him anyway other than okay.

“I am stress too.”

Oliver sighs heavily and the laugh that follows makes Liam’s brows push together. It isn’t Harry or Niall, but it is familiar and makes a warmth take over his chest. It isn’t until right before he turns into the living room that he knows where he has heard that laugh before, and a soft gasp leaves his lips as his pace quickens.

Standing in his living room with a duffle bag by his feet is Zayn, hands tucked into his pockets as he leans down some to tickle his fingers under Oliver’s chin. His hair is swooped over to the side in a different style than Liam has seen it before, his dress shirt unbuttoned some to reveal the start of ink on his collarbone.

He glances up at Liam, who stiffens where he stands in the living room entrance way, and he realizes he is wearing nothing but his jeans when Zayn’s eyes rake down his torso. There is a flush in his cheeks as he straightens and diverts his eyes, looking back at Oliver.

Liam looks to Niall, who grimaces some as he points to Zayn. “Um, Liam. This is Zayn. Er, the nanny.”

Zayn lifts his hand some in a wave, lips shifting into a grin that makes that arousal in Liam’s belly worsen.

Fuck.

“Um, hey, Zayn.”

Zayn’s grin slips away as confusion takes over his face and he glances from Niall to Liam a few times before Oliver interrupts, the only one who looks comfortable amongst the five of them. Both Harry and Niall look like they are on the verge of laughter and Liam feels his own face harden as Zayn’s remains confused.

“Mr. Zayn you wanna see my tigers now?”

Oliver looks to Liam for approval, who nods. Eagerly, he jumps from his chair at the table before grabbing Zayn’s wrist to tug him some. “C’mon Mr. Zayn, I got loads.”

“I can’t wait,” Zayn says softly, his voice genuine as he lets the little boy drag him away from them. He keeps his eyes on Liam as he moves aside to let them in the hallway, obvious in the way he lets his eyes drop back down Liam’s torso before he is gone.

Liam holds his hands out, silently demanding an explanation as he stares at Niall. Niall only shakes, lips pressing together as he tries not to laugh but Liam is really not finding it funny.

“So I’m taking it you didn’t call him like you said you would?” Liam whispers, but his voice feels like knives and Niall flinches like he thinks so too.

“What would I say?” Niall shoots back, voice a whisper too. “‘I’m sorry you can’t work for us even though you are the best for the position because Liam thinks with his cock instead of his brain?’”

Liam frowns at him, jaw tensing because he is right but - no. “Yeah, exactly.”

Niall rolls his eyes before he picks up Zayn’s duffle bag. It must be light because Niall shoves it into Liam’s torso with ease, a frustrated look on his face. “Go put this in his room while I get the other one. He only has two, by the way. His place is the size of your bathroom, dude. He needs the money, he is perfect, you’re both arse over tit for each other, it is only for three months, should I keep going on?”

Liam glares at him as he takes the duffle bag, half turning towards the hallway even though he wants to keep protesting. He opens his lips to do so, but Niall keeps going.

“No matter who it is, you’ll find a problem with them. The fact that you get on with this guy outside of Oliver is good. And he is great with Ollie, I’ve brought them around each other a few times to make sure. Because I know that is what you would do, now go.”

Liam only stares at Niall for a moment before he nods and drags himself down the hallway, grumbling to himself like he is a child and not a grown ass adult.

The room setup for the nanny - Zayn, is on the opposite of the house than his own and Oliver’s, but he finds himself wandering towards their hallway instead of Zayn’s, following Oliver’s quiet voice. The door is open and from a few feet away he can see the way Zayn’s eyes practically fall closed from the force of his smile as Oliver looks up at him with a serious set to his eyes, pointing to a large book that Liam knows has his drawings of tigers in it.

“Those are ace,” Zayn tells him. “They look real, you drew them really well.”

It sounds so genuine that Liam walks away before he can let the way that makes his chest feel consume him like it threatens to do.

+*

It is a bit breathtaking, the Paynes’ house. Zayn's bedroom is quite bigger, probably double the size of his one in his old apartment, with a glass sliding door, leading out to a balcony that Zayn is thankful for, though the idea of how high it is is a bit frightful. It beats venturing getting lost in the massive house just to get outside for a smoke.

It is lavish, with a plush couch on one end, too many dressers for Zayn to ever utilize, and a desk that he will. The bed massive, and the mattress thick - and soft, so much so that Zayn felt like he could cry from how comfortable it was when he fell back onto it.

There is a full bathroom attached, one that Zayn had only peeped his head into because he was more concerned with the fact that Oliver said there were four all together. Four - for two people seems a bit much. His bathroom holds a shower and a jacuzzi tub, a large sink and it is too much for just him.

And Liam had joked about almost buying a house with an apartment attached that he could have given Zayn, but Zayn had only laughed awkwardly because this is already too much for just him. Danny and Layla’s house is quite big, but it is nothing compared to this even though he knows Layla has enough money to probably buy one similar.

His duffle bags that he had brought with him look dingy in comparison, filled with the small amount of his things, and he isn't sure if he should empty them out or not because Liam had looked extremely confused when he had first seen him this morning, and Niall nervous - and it just confused him too.

It had been awkward when Liam had showed him around, though Oliver talked and rambled about this and that the whole time and Zayn just focused his attention on him instead. He had been dressed though, not that Zayn minded too much seeing him fresh out of the shower.

Fuck - he looked so good with water drops slipping down his bare torso. Zayn has imagined him naked more times that he would like to admit, but his imagination hadn’t done the real thing any justice. A broad chest, smattered in a thin layer of dark blond hair that ran all the way down past his navel, the ripple of muscle at the top of his abdomen before it smoothes out to a tight plain of skin. His jeans were low enough that Zayn could see the V that disappeared underneath his black briefs, and the thick muscle around his hip that pushed out when he rested his weight to one foot.

His wet hair made it curl in front of his forehead, his beard a bit more tamed than Zayn has seen it before but still thick and coarse. And Zayn isn’t sure if it is all in his head or not but he swears there was a hot red color taking over his skin and the strain of a hard prick against his jeans.

Zayn groans, pressing his fists to his eyes as his own dick jumps against his briefs at the thought. He looks the perfect type to press Zayn into the mattress, to touch him in the rough way Zayn always craves. But he could see the gentle in him when Liam had looked at his son, and it makes it worse really. In his experience, those who can be rough don't know how to balance it properly with gentleness.

Zayn huffs out an irritated breath. Maybe it would be a better idea to change his mind about taking the job, because his prick twitches against his briefs at the thought of Liam gripping his thighs, and he can't seem to fight away the images in his mind.

“But Papa, Grammy says I can stay up.”

Zayn tiptoes to the bedroom door, peeking out to see Oliver wiggling, grabbing Liam’s hand hard as he shakes it. The hallway is wide, the carpet thick and soft, and the walls lined with photos of Oliver and Liam, and a few others that Zayn has assumed were Liam’s family, by the similar eyes.

“You can stay up if you promise to not be grumpy in the morning.”

Liam’s voice gets louder as he peeks around Zayn’s doorframe, finding Zayn a few feet away where he stands, considering taking another glance at Liam.

“Hey,” Zayn blurts, feeling his cheeks grow hot from the way Liam’s dark eyes drag down the length of his torso. He feels naked from Liam’s gaze, even though the only part of his skin that is exposed is a bit of his chest and his hands.

“Hey,” Liam murmurs, cheeks tinged pink. “Nialler wants to go out tonight, um - to the restaurant down the road, thought maybe you'd like to come? But you can say no, um if you’d like.”

Zayn gives him a jerky nod, nibbling on his bottom lip - something he has to stop soon before he accidentally chews it off. “What about Oliver?”

“Ollie is off with me mum for a few nights,” Liam explains, resting his shoulder against the guest bedroom doorframe. He seems completely unaware of the way Zayn’s eyes constantly flick down his body, or that the way Liam scratches at his belly makes his prick jump underneath his jeans.

“We’re gonna watch Discovery Channel,” Oliver giggles, peeking from behind Liam’s back. He wiggles up on his toes, eyes bright as his eyebrows raise high into his hairline.

“Show on tigers,” Liam mutters, rolling his eyes some but the fondness is clear in his eyes as he glances at Oliver. “I thought I would give you a few days by yourself here, to get comfortable or whatever. And me mum likes taking Ollie, always kidnapping him for a bit.”

Oliver presses his lips together, nodding excitedly. “Gram’s house is the best.”

“Does that mean I’m staying?”

Liam frowns at him, eyebrows pushing together as Oliver glances up at him before running across the carpet to grab Zayn’s hand. He pulls on it some, a serious expression on his face that makes him look a lot older than four. “Of course, Mr. Zayn. Papa and me are so happy wiv you here!”

Liam snorts out a laugh, lips quirking up as he pushes off of the door frame. “Yeah, what he said.”

+*

“He will eat any food you put in front of him even if he hates it, but sometimes it will make him feel sick and he won’t tell you so you have to keep an eye on him.”

“He loves dogs, so be warned if you ever seen one he will insist on petting them and it is very hard to say no to him.”

“Loves tigers.”

“Hates sleeping.”

“Loves his Papa.”

The change in Liam’s face when Niall says this is instant, going from fond to overfond, cheeks pink and silencing whatever he was going to add to nod. It feels like the warmth on his face fills Zayn’s chest, and Zayn doesn't resist the urge to tap his foot against Liam's ankle underneath the table.

Liam's eyes slide to him, lips tugging up even more. “He loves everyone, really.”

“What about you?” Harry interjects, glancing over his arm where he sits next to Zayn. His tongue pokes out before he brings up a large forkful of salad, his eyes bright like something is funny.

“What about me?”

“Kids?” Niall offers as Harry chews.

Zayn shakes his head, shifting back. “No, no kids. A few little cousins, nieces and nephews, but that's about it.”

“Close with your family then?” Liam asks with genuine interest. Zayn wonders if this dinner is turning into the interview Liam and him had never had. Niall had been lax with his questions, focusing on his qualifications and ending with, “do you like kids?”

Zayn fiddles with the spoon of his soup as he nods. The smile takes over his lips before he can stop it as his sisters’ faces pop into his mind.

He brings the spoon to his lips to make it less obvious but he doesn't think it works as Liam smiles more at him, a knowing look in his eyes.

“Are they around here?”

Zayn nods again, the soup burning his throat. It tastes alright, not the best but it had been the cheapest thing on the menu and he had panicked when Liam told him he was paying.

“In the city,” Zayn explains, leaving out exactly where. He isn't ashamed of the neighborhood, but he kind of wants to avoid the judgmental looks from appearing on his first night of work.

But they mesh well together as the night progresses. Niall is hilarious, loud and vibrant and he brings out some of the same in Liam, though the older man remains distracted and hard lined throughout the night.

Harry is the opposite, though his face is just as bright as Niall’s, his voice is quieter and words slower, a bit less funny but it is hard not to laugh at the amused look Harry gives them after every attempt. They are an odd couple, but Zayn finds himself fond smiling every time they bicker back and forth.

Mostly because it makes Liam laugh, and he feels himself growing addicted to the sound.

When they head out towards the cars, Zayn knows Niall and Harry have their own place, but he still startles some when they wish Zayn and Liam good night and head in the opposite direction. The realization that Liam and Zayn are going to be alone, in his massive ass house, settles into him and causes those nerves to rattle in his belly and that teasing sound fall across his tongue.

He doesn't know how to act, wanting to be inappropriate even though he knows he shouldn't. So he presses his lips together tightly as Liam pulls out of the parking lot, and pretends not to notice the way Liam constantly glances at him until he finally speaks.

“Do you drive? That's one thing I forgot to ask.”

Though it had been casual, the night had been filled with questions from both sides - about Zayn, about Oliver. Liam had the book he had given Niall practically memorized it seemed as he rattled off a lot of it throughout the night. Zayn had read it over a few times since Niall us given it to him.

“Yes,” Zayn answers, allowing himself to take in Liam. He sits practically stick straight, a loose grip around the steering wheel and quite like how his grandma drives - chest close to the steering wheel and incredibly slow, cautious. His car is very neat too, looks barely used and it still smells new though Zayn can smell the cologne that Liam wears too. “Just no car.”

Liam glances at him quickly, shoulder coming up in a shrug that is too casual for him. “I have another one. Safer for Oliver to be in.”

“A van?” Zayn questions, the snicker obvious in his voice. He can't imagine Liam driving a van.

Liam chuckles softly too as he turns the steering wheel. They drive past Layla and Danny’s house, where Zayn can see all of the lights have been turned off for the night. “A truck.”

Oh - that is more fitting, Zayn thinks. It shouldn't be hot, thinking about Liam in his truck but what the fuck, it is.

“M’afraid of heights. Is it big?”

Zayn feels his face grow hot as Liam glances back at him, brows pushed together and the amusement sparkling in his eyes. Zayn wonders if he had looked grumpy earlier just for show, or if maybe the twinkle in his eye is just for Zayn.

No - he washes that thought away because it makes something twist in his chest that he doesn't want there.

“Quite big yeah, you’ll have to lift Ollie up to get ‘im inside.”

“Everything of yours is big, I should have known.”

Liam coughs slightly, fingers gripping at his steering wheel. Zayn grins, his own mind falling dirty even if he hadn't meant to be. He just meant his house, his truck -

Nothing to do with his body, but now he is thinking about it. Liam isn't big necessarily, his shoulders only a little broader than Zayn's own, the muscles of his arms noticeable but nothing extreme. His hands seem pretty large, his fingers thick and his dick well -

Zayn doesn't know, but his imagination has ran wild after seeing the way it had pressed against his jeans earlier today, with thoughts of the way he would stretch around Liam, on the verge of painful but perfect. It makes him shift awkwardly across the leather seat, images of Liam with his bottom lip trapped between his teeth as Zayn eases himself down on Liam’s lap.

“Ollie is quite small, I'm not sure if you've noticed. But like, slow development and all.”

Zayn sinks back into the seat, pushing his thoughts out to focus on the only reason he is with Liam in the first place. His new boss.

“I read that, lots of medicine,” Zayn replies, remembering the section on Oliver's daily routine. “Work with a specialist.”

Liam has hardened again, jaw tense and back stiff as he slows the car, pulling into the long driveway that leads to his house. His yard is massive as well, planes of greens and a mini playground set up, tall trees lining the driveway and then the yard and that is just the front. The back seems even larger, with a pool and patio, a small hill that extends down to a body of water.

“Yeah,” Liam says tightly. The driveway curves around the house, towards a garage that opens slowly to reveal the truck on the inside that Zayn hadn’t seen before. “He doesn’t like to be told he is small, though. Always goin’ on about bein’ big like his Papa.”

The change in his voice is immediate, the way it goes from tense to warm. The tension in his jaw seeps away too as his lips quirk up, and he turns to Zayn, catching him staring at the bright look on his face as he parks the car.

It is Zayn who clears his throat this time, leaning closer into Liam’s space though it isn’t a purposeful move. He is far too aware of it though, and the way he cocks his head to the side his lips tilt upwards. “You look small to me.”

Liam wrinkles his nose, reaching out to touch Zayn like the way Zayn’s mentally tugging him closer is working. He tucks a finger under Zayn’s chin, eyes searching his face. “Not so much.”

A heat takes over Zayn’s face, and he wonders if Liam can feel it when he rubs the pad of his thumb across the coarse hair of his beard. “Fancy proving it?”

Liam lets out a breathless chuckle, quiet when he moves his palm to Zayn’s cheek. “Wish I could,” he mutters before pulling his hand away.

 

Chapter Text

Zayn is thankful that Oliver’s visit with his grandmother is over, because he is pretty sure a few more days alone with Liam are going to be the actual death of him.

It is his fault, yeah. But he can’t help the way he flirts with Liam, reaching out to graze his fingers against his arm or back like he is being tugged forward by an invisible string around his knuckles. Liam is working most of the time, leaving Zayn alone to get himself comfortable in the house, but Zayn always finds himself near the front door when Liam gets home, doing something - whatever, but it probably looks obvious.

(The lad just looks really good in his work clothes, and that alone might be enough to kill him.)

And it doesn’t help when Liam flirts back, though Zayn isn’t sure if the other man intends to do so or if Zayn is just interpreting it that way. The constant way he touches under his chin when Zayn finds himself getting too close - when he wanted to try the soup Liam made for dinner the night before, his fingers had been soft pinching his chin. When Liam knocked on his bedroom door the first night to ask him if he is adjusting well, and Zayn was too far so Liam pulled him closer with a tap underneath his jaw.

Or being too close in general like now, when Liam steps unnecessarily close to his back, so close Zayn can practically feel his heartbeat against his shoulder blades as Liam taps his hip. He stands in front of Liam’s piano, in his den which seems to rarely ever be used. Zayn doesn’t know the purpose of the room, there is no television and there are a few, practically empty bookshelves and a leather chair, but he feels a bit drawn to the homey feel of it.

“Can you play?” Liam asks, his voice soft and curious as Zayn hovers his fingers over the keys. It is expensive, he can tell, and he is a bit afraid of touching it and somehow breaking it.

“Mhm,” Zayn hums quietly. He taps a few of the keys experimentally, like to make sure they won’t shatter under his fingertips. “A bit. You?”

“No,” Liam says, pulling away some. Zayn frowns, glancing over his shoulder. Oliver had came home practically asleep, and there are parts of Liam’s hair sticking out around his head from where Oliver probably grabbed for him when Liam was tucking him away in his bedroom. “Anything you can’t do?”

Zayn bites at his grin, leaning forward some now that Liam isn’t standing behind him so he can play a bit more. It is soft, his fingers still not pressing too hard and barely a complicated tune, but Liam’s eyes widen like he has never been more impressed. “Can’t really cook much. Not yet at least. Don’t like to clean…”

Liam’s lips tug up even more, and he is only a breath away from Zayn again. As much as Zayn likes how Liam looks in his work clothes, he really likes the way he looks in joggers and his cotton t-shirt, something about him making it seem a lot less casual than it is.

“Good thing those aren’t in the nanny requirements,” Liam jokes, eyes sparkling some like the stars shining through the window across from them.

Zayn gulps, a warning going off in his head as Liam reminds him once again why he is here. He ignores it though, reaching out to pinch at the fabric of Liam’s shirt. “Can’t touch like I want to.”

Liam’s eyes darken, and Zayn has a hard time resisting the urge to pull him closer, especially when he pushes his lips out into a slight pout that shows off just how full his bottom lip is. He wants to pull it into his mouth to see if he can make the dark red of them turn purple.

Liam tucks his finger under Zayn’s chin again, rubbing at the sharp of his jaw. His brows push together for a moment as Zayn licks his lips, wondering if Liam is actually going to kiss him or not.

Liam’s lips part as he guides Zayn forward a bit, but Zayn barely has time to register how close they are before a shrill cry sounds through the house.

Papa!

The sound sends a chill down Zayn’s back and Liam’s fingers drop from him instantly. He doesn’t look too alarmed, but it doesn’t make Zayn feel any better as Oliver screams again.

He follows Liam through the house. His shoulders are tensed, his feet quick but the house is so damn big that it feels like forever before Liam is finally pushing through his bedroom door.

Zayn hasn’t been in Liam’s room yet, but he doesn’t pay much attention to it as his eyes find Oliver. He sits in the middle of the bed, amongst a pile of pillows. The dark red comforter is pulled up to his chin, knuckles practically white as he grips at them.

It is obvious the way he trembles, lip pushed out almost painfully looking. Big water drops line his eyes, and the little lad practically flies away from the blanket as he spots Liam. Zayn is terrified for a moment the little lad is going to jump off of the massive bed but Liam’s feet are quick across the carpet.

“What is it, babe?” Liam coos, wrapping his arms around Oliver’s back as he tugs him to his chest. Liam was right, he is quite small for his age. Liam’s hand looks massive against his back where he rubs at his sweaty skin, his face tucked into Liam’s neck as he cries.

Zayn backs out some, but lingers in the doorway as concern stays with him.

“Papa,” Oliver hiccups, his fingers flexing against the material across his Papa’s shoulders before he grabs onto it. “You forgot my light.”

“I’m sorry,” Liam says instantly, rocking Oliver back and forth. “Did you have a bad dream?”

“Yeah,” Oliver whispers. “They hurt the tigers.”

Liam doesn’t say anything in response for a moment as he knocks his head against Oliver’s smaller one, nuzzling against his hair. “Oh no. Did you save them?”

Oliver sniffles as he pulls back, and even though Zayn hates the tears falling down his cheeks, he can’t fight the fond smile on his face as he watches the two of them.

“Sure did,” Oliver says, scratching at the back of Liam’s neck. His eyes widen with worry, and he drops his voice like he is telling a secret. “But I was scared.”

“That’s okay, Ol,” Liam says without hesitation, his voice so soft and warm.

The boy slumps back onto Liam’s chest as Liam turns around, eyes searching for Zayn. His brows furrow and he cocks his head to the side, no softness in his expression as he silently asks Zayn to leave.

+*

“You wanna catch the game t’night?”

Liam pulls his eyes away from the scatter of papers on his desk and focuses them on Niall, who sits with half his bum on the edge of his desk, and a folder in his hands that he smacks against his knee for attention.

Niall gives him a grin, adjusting the thick framed glasses that sit on his nose after a long moment of quiet. “Whaddya say?”

“What do you do here other than nothing? Remind me?”

Niall rolls his eyes, shoving off of his desk as he hands him the folder, stuffed with the papers Liam had requested. “I just spent an hour getting all of these for you, actually. Don’t be an arse to me, mate.”

Liam sighs, taking the folder before placing them on the desk - out of sight because he really doesn’t want to focus on them. He is distracted, his thoughts worried and anxious because today is Zayn’s first day alone with Oliver. “Sorry, thanks Ni.”

Niall gives him a long look, shifting on his feet and making it obvious that he isn’t going anywhere yet. “What’s up with you? Nearly bit Louis’ head off when you got in this morning. He keeps askin’ me to ask you shit ‘cause he is too afraid to come in here and lose his job if you snap at him again.”

Liam drags a hand down his face as he rests back against the large chair. He hadn’t meant to snap at Louis, but Louis has a knack for poking at the sore spots whether he does it intentionally or not. “M’worried about Ollie.”

The roll of Niall’s eyes is evident in the sound of his voice. “Don’t start.”

Liam gives him a hard look, wanting to tell him to get out. He had been worried about it, ever since he saw the worried look on Zayn’s face the night before, after Oliver had had his nightmare. He wrote in the damn book to keep a cool look when Ollie does that, or else the boy will become even more afraid.

(And he doesn’t tell Niall this because he knows he is overreacting, that it is a normal thing to react when the little boy is scared because Liam has a hard time fighting off the fast pace of his heart, and he has had five years of it. But he doesn’t know whether or not Oliver is going to be scared if Liam is gone too long.)

“He isn’t going to like, kidnap him or whatever. Stop worrying.”

“Well thanks, now I’m worrying about that too.”

Niall huffs out a laugh at Liam’s attempted grin, which Liam had tried only because it made his chest tight with how serious his words sounded.

“You have other shit to worry about, mate.” He pauses, glancing down at the watch on his wrist. “Reckon that prick from HR is here, now.”

Liam sighs, resting his head back against the chair. Great, his thoughts were too busy he forgot to properly prepare.

+*

Zayn stares at Oliver, legs crossed and fingers tapping at his knees. Oliver is in his own world, taking his stuffed tigers and walking them across the carpet like he doesn’t even know Zayn is there. He had been excited at first, practically running around the house after Liam had left for work this morning. And it hadn’t stopped until it was time for lunch. Zayn tried putting him down for a nap afterwards, but after what felt like forever of trying and failing he gave in and let the boy play with his toys instead.

And Zayn doesn’t know what to do since every time he speaks, he doesn’t get much other than a glance in response, and Oliver had specifically asked him to sit there with him.

“Ehm,” Zayn starts, clearing his throat some. “What are their names? Your tigers?”

Oliver flicks his eyes up to Zayn, fingers gripping the back of a white and black one that he makes trot across the carpet towards the pile of other ones. It takes a moment, before he pushes up onto his knees and hands Zayn the stuffed animal.

“Coconut,” Oliver tells him, cocking his head to the side as he watches where Zayn takes the tiger into his hands. Zayn strokes the back of the stuffed animal’s neck, which earns him a look of approval from Oliver before he picks up another.

He lists off each one’s name slowly, piling them up in Zayn’s lap as he does so. When he is done, he gives Zayn a wide eyed look before shifting closer until their knees knock together. “You wanna play one, Mr. Zayn? You can be Coconut ‘cause ya got the same hair.”

Zayn giggles, taking the white tiger into his hands. “Sure, buddy. Who are you going to be?”

“Um,” Oliver sings, brows pushing together in concentration as he picks the animals back out of Zayn’s lap. “Captain Stripes.”

 

Two hours later and Zayn is breathless, arms aching as he picks up Oliver to fly him around the living room for the eight hundredth time. The little lad giggles like mad, face red to the point of painful looking as he clutches onto Zayn’s arms.

“Mr, Zayn,” Oliver laughs, words choked as Zayn props him onto his feet. The boy might be small, but Zayn’s arms are starting to ache from holding him up so high for so long. “Again, please?”

“I need a break, buddy,” Zayn laughs, falling down to his knees so he can wipe the hair sticking to Oliver’s forehead. “You tired me out.”

Oliver’s brows scrunch together as he places his hands onto his hip. “Did you take your nap?”

Zayn snorts, tickling his fingers under Oliver’s chin. “Did you?”

Oliver crosses his arms, and the hard look on his face makes him look so much like his father. “I am five now. No more naps.”

“That’s not what your Papa said,” Zayn reminds him gently, giving Oliver a grin so he knows he isn’t in trouble. Zayn is learning just how apologetic he is, since he apologizes a dozen times an hour for anything.

Oliver sighs dramatically, practically rolling his eyes. “I told Papa a tousand times -”

He cuts off, eyes widening and filling with excitement again as the jingle of keys sound in the distance. He takes off after a moment, flying through the living room and towards the front door.

“Papa?”

Zayn pushes up as Oliver grabs for the door knob. He bounces on his toes, a smile making his cheeks bunch up as he stumbles back.

Zayn places a hand to his back to keep him falling as the door pushes open. Liam’s eyes are already down as he peeks his head around the door, his lips going from tight lined to smiling in an instant. It is obvious how tired he is, even though his face holds that brightness it always does when he looks at his son.

“Hey babe,” Liam says, tickling his fingers through Oliver’s curls. “Were you good for Mr. Zayn? No time outs?”

Oliver nods, glancing at Zayn for confirmation. “No time outs.”

Liam grins, shutting the door behind him. “Good. And was Mr. Zayn good for you?”

Something tickles down Zayn’s spine, and he presses his lips together to suppress the grin trying to take over them.

“Mhm. No time outs,” Oliver responds, taking Liam’s suitcase from him. He drags it across the floor, face concentrated as if it is heavy.

“No spanking required,” Zayn whispers, letting the grin slip onto his lips. Liam is close enough that he is sure Oliver can’t hear, even though he is sure the little boy wouldn’t understand either way.

“That’s too bad,” Liam whispers, eyes dropping to Zayn’s lips as he tickles his fingers against his belly. The touch only lasts a second before Liam is moving to help Oliver, laughing quietly about how the suitcase is much too heavy for him.

Zayn watches them go, silently groaning to himself as his head floods with images of Liam's hands reddening his skin, his thick fingers digging into his arse and the sting of his palm.

He closes his eyes, trying to think of anything else before his dick gets too interested.

Throughout the night, the inappropriate thoughts sneak their way back into his head. When Liam stretches and his shirt lifts, when he touches the small of Zayn's back when he is trying to move through the small space of the kitchen, when he licks his lips - a habit of his, or something purposeful, Zayn can't tell.

It just messes with his head a bit, thinking it is purposeful.

 

“Was he really good today?”

Zayn looks over his shoulder as Liam pads into the kitchen after putting Oliver to sleep. Zayn is cleaning the dishes, since Liam had insisted he eat with them. Zayn isn't sure how welcomed into their family he is, when it comes to sharing a living space, and when he had pulled out food to make his own Liam had told him not to bother.

“Great. Wouldn't take his nap though,” Zayn responds, looking back into the sink. The water is a bit hot but so is Zayn, all over it seems.

“Yeah, bit stubborn with that,” Liam tells him. “Sorry about texting you all day. Bit worried and that.”

Zayn bites at his grin. Liam had only texted him five times, but they had been clearly filled with worry and within a one minute span of each other. “Sorry for not responding right away.”

He glances over his shoulder again, at Liam's pink cheeks. His heart thumps in his chest as Liam comes closer, and he busies himself with the dirty frying pan.

“I have a dishwasher you know.”

Zayn chuckles, scrubbing harder but the flecks of food stuck to it are hard and Liam clearly doesn't realize he has enough money to buy better sponges. “I know.”

He can feel the moment Liam gets close, just a breath behind his back before he is reaching into the cabinet above the sink. Zayn can feel the heat radiating off of Liam's body, and he eyes the ink on the inside of Liam’s forearm - a feather with Oliver’s name on the underside, as the man produces a scrubber.

“Thanks,” Zayn says as Liam hands him the scrubber but doesn't move.

It is a bit silly and unnecessary, and Zayn would laugh or something if Liam wasn't pressing against his back, fingers tickling over the back of the hand that holds the scrubber. Zayn's breath catches in his lungs instead as he lets Liam guide his hand.

“Can I tell you something?” Liam says, voice low as he brushes his thumb over Zayn's. His breath is warm against Zayn's ear, and he has to will away the shiver that threatens to run down his spine from how close Liam's lips are to his ear.

“Is it how to properly wash a dish? Cause I reckon I know.”

Liam's other arm snakes around him to grip the pan, and Zayn feels completely surrounded by the other man. His cologne stronger than the scent of the bubbles, the prickle of his beard when he turns his head to look down into the sink, his arms pressing against Zayn’s -

Fuck, it kind of makes his head swarm and he isn't too sure he is going to be able to resist the urge to finally make a move like he has been wanting to.

“No,” Liam finally says after what feels like an hour. The pan is quite clean now, the water pouring onto the back of Liam's hand makes his skin red, but Zayn doesn't want him to pull away yet. “More about your comment about being spanked.”

Zayn knows the breath he lets out is noticeable, but that isn't what he had been expecting Liam to say.

“Thinking about it, are you?”

Liam pulls the pan away from the water to put into the drying rack in the section beside it, but the hand around Zayn’s and the scrubber stays, fingers nudging between the slots of Zayn’s fingers. He presses even closer, his front planting to Zayn’s back. It is a welcomed pressure, and Zayn finds it hard to resist the urge to grind back against him.

“I don’t spank my son,” Liam tells him, voice casual. “It just makes him worse, if he is already acting up.”

Liam’s hands slip away from him, and he hesitates for a moment before turning, cupping the edge of the counter with his soapy hands. “What about me?”

The other man is still close, only a miniscule of space between their bodies, so Zayn can see the look on his face that says he isn’t trying to have a conversation about his son. But Zayn hadn’t mean to say me, he meant to say partner, and his face burns under Liam’s dark gaze at the slip up.

Liam reaches out, gripping Zayn’s chin as his thumb presses down on his bottom lip. “If necessary.”

It is so quiet that Zayn takes a moment to figure out if he really heard him say that or not, but then Liam is pulling away, giving Zayn one last lingering look before he walks out of the room.

And what the fuck.

+*

Liam shifts against the sheets, the ones that are too soft but they smell like his old home. The dark room is quiet but his thoughts are loud, banging in his head.

Liam covers his face, pressing his palms down hard like that can rid the images on the back of his eyelids. It can't, and all he can think about is the red of Zayn's skin, the sound of his palm making contact, soft whimpers -

He is conflicted. The way his prick plumps to the thought of him should be reason enough to find someone else to watch Oliver. It can be messy, because Liam isn't quite sure he can resist him, or not pursue him.

But Liam has always liked messy, even if he shouldn't have. He likes the dangerous type, the adventurous type, and Zayn seems soft - making it hard to tell which one he is more of, but Liam likes that even more.

Liam cups himself, groaning quietly at the twitch of his hard prick. He can feel how wet he is, the tip leaking and soaking through the briefs he refuses to take off.

He rubs his palm against his cloth covered prick, hips rolling to grind against his hand as he huffs out. It is so easy the way his mind takes on the images of Zayn, thighs wrapped around Liam’s shoulders. It makes his groan seem loud in the quiet room and he shifts his hips up, allowing room so he can pull his clothes past his hips.

His prick slaps wetly against his navel as he rests back against the mattress, legs spreading out across the sheets before he curls his fingers around himself.

Liam moans quietly as he pumps himself, thankful Zayn's room is far from his own because the wet sound of him stroking himself seems loud and obscene.

He can't seem to resist the flirting, the teasing, the small touches that feel like they satiate his need to crowd into Zayn's space but they don't. He is frustrated, and it makes the pleasure of his hand feel dull and muted.

Images of Zayn play over in his head as his hand moves quick over his erection, until that tight bundle in his navel breaks. He tries to be quiet, but the broken moan he lets out as he comes ricochets off of the walls.

After he cleans up, his sheets feel too cold though his body is hot, his room too empty and he tries to close his eyes, ignoring the fact that his orgasm did little to ease the buzz of arousal running through him.

+*

Zayn is going to crumble, he swears.

Arousal floods through him as his prick drags across the sheets, his fingers digging into the mattress to keep him up. He takes it slow, letting out quiet huffed breaths as his mind floods with images of Liam. He wonders if the other lad understands how he affects him, if he would even care or admit if it is purposeful or not.

A louder moan escapes as he fucks his cock across the sheets faster, lowering his body so he can grind down. His muscles flex and tense across his body, arms shaking as he fails at holding himself up.

“Oh fuck,” Zayn moans, collapsing against his forearm as he humps down quickly. The bundle of pleasure in his belly is a second away from breaking, the images in his head dirtier as he edges closer. Liam’s dick at the tip of his lips, come slipping across his cheeks and across his tongue. Fucking his come down his throat with a snap of his hips that would be harsh in anything other than his imagination.

He chokes out a low moan, fingers clenching under his pillow as he comes hotly across the sheets. He shivers and trembles until the pleasure subsides, but his arousal sticks through him and makes it difficult for him to fall asleep, especially with the thoughts of Liam that accompany it.

+*

Liam doesn't pull his hands away from his face when he hears his office door opening, assuming it is Niall. But the sound of small feet running across the hard floor and a soft giggle make him, and when Liam's eyes find his son the stress of the day seems to fade away.

His face is bright and flushed, and there seems to be orange paint or something of the sort across his chin and splattered down his shirt. It is in his hair too, and Liam brushes his fingers through it before leaning down to plop a kiss to his forehead.

“Playin’ with paint, sunshine?”

Oliver nods, shoulders squaring back proudly. “Yep. Me and Mr. Zayn painted tigers, Papa.”

“I should have figured,” Liam chuckles, wrinkling his nose fondly.

He is about to ask Oliver why he is here when he eyes Zayn, a hesitant look on his face as he leans in the doorway. Liam has grown used to that look over the past two weeks, seeing as it's the face Zayn always makes now when they are around each other.

Which is Liam's fault completely, because he hasn't been exactly warm to the lad. A bit harsh like, cutoff the way he is with his employees that tick at his nerves.

It's just - he is good at being professional, but he is finding it hard to want to be professional with Zayn. He can’t quite look the lad in the eyes after a quick morning wank with the other man’s name on his tongue, because the hot of his cheeks always tell on him.

“Papa, can I get the um? The cereal with the colors this time?”

Liam looks back down at his son in confusion, hands sliding against his knees as he rests his bum against his desk.

“You asked me to go to the market,” Zayn pipes up, taking a step into Liam’s office. His fingers tuck deep into his pockets of his jeans as he looks around the large space, brows furrowed. A loose tank top hangs off of his shoulders, revealing the ink Liam has yet to see. Including what looks like wings on his chest, revealed by the low cut of his collar. “Said you couldn’t ‘cause you’re getting out late?”

Liam nods as he remembers. He bends down, palms pressing to Oliver's cheeks as if the warmth of his skin can soothe his busy mind. “Sure thing buddy. Make sure Mr. Zayn gets me those cookies I like?”

Oliver nods, nose wrinkling as Liam bends lower like he knows his papa is going to rub his nose against his.

He giggles before wiggling out of Liam’s grip to climb onto his desk chair. It is massive and his feet barely even hang off of the edge.

“That's why we came,” Zayn goes on, easing into the room further. He rolls his finger across the back of the couch, eyes latched onto that instead of Liam. “You didn't leave your card.”

“Oh right,” Liam says, pushing up from the desk to dig for his wallet. He had been in a rush this morning, having slept in a bit late after staying up with Ollie. And distracted, because as he rushed into the kitchen to get his coffee, Zayn had already had a cup for him. Leaning back against the counter with sleep tousled hair and a too noticeable morning wood pressing against his trackies.

Liam is surprised Zayn hadn’t commented on the way he had stumbled over his words before leaving.

“Sorry, been a bit distracted,” Liam mumbles, handing the card he pulls out of his wallet to him when he comes closer. He finally looks at Liam properly, and Liam is a bit surprised to see concern lining his features.

“Your job is a lot of work, yeah?” Zayn asks, cocking up an eyebrow. Up close, Liam can see the bit of red between the wings on his chest, that the shape on his shoulder is a snake and on the other - a tiger. His arms are covered, with different things to be discovered and Liam wants to discover them all. “You’re always so tired after work. Thought you were supposed to shove off all the hard stuff on the people below you.”

Liam clears his throat some, to wash away those thoughts from his head. He chuckles softly, at the small quirked up edge of Zayn’s lips. “I can, yeah, I guess. I like being in control, though.”

Zayn’s cheeks darken, nose wrinkling as he cocks his head to the side. Liam clenches the edge of his desk, fighting off the urge to cup Zayn’s jaw to bring him closer. “Yeah, seems so.”

He stares at Zayn for a moment, brows furrowing as he watches that bright look in Zayn’s eyes slip back to hesitancy. Oliver is muttering behind him, excitedly as he pretends to scribble on one of the notepads on his desk. Just wiggle shapes on each line.

“Oh,” Liam says, reaching behind him to grab for the notepad and a pen. Oliver gives him a guilty look, eyes wide and biting hard on his bottom lip. “You’re fine babe. Papa just needs a piece of paper.”

He hands it back to him before handing the paper to Zayn. There are thick rings wrapped around his fingers, and a frayed braided bracelet on his wrist. It catches Liam’s attention because he has a small box of braided bracelets in his attic somewhere, tucked in a bigger box labeled Oliver.

“I need your account info, to transfer your pay,” Liam tells him, using the tone he normally uses on his employees. (Other than Niall of course, who had kicked him in the shin the first time Liam had tried using his boss voice on him.)

Liam moves over when Zayn bends to write on the desk with his phone in hand, but not too far as he spots the fantail tattoo peeking out of his shirt on the back of his neck. He has seen it before, though not the whole thing - but his imagination compensates when Liam thinks about his lips pressing against it.

“Are you leaving again for the weekend?”

Zayn’s shoulders tense, confirming Liam’s suspicions that Zayn had left just to get away from the tension between them.

“Ah, I dunno. Plannin’ on goin’ to Gold Club t’night, though,” Zayn mumbles, shifting up before handing him the paper. He stays close, close enough that Liam could tickle his hip and pull him between his legs if he wanted to. “Wanna come?”

Liam jerks his head towards his son. “Need to spend some time with my boy,” he explains. He has been working longer hours this week, so he only gets a short time with his son after he comes home from work. “Tomorrow we’re going to the Z-O-O, if he is good at the doctors. If you want to come?”

“M’always good,” Oliver chirps up. He is, and Liam isn’t too worried about it, but he is always a wreck when he gets his blood drawn. It used to bother him, how badly Oliver would shake, the fear in his eyes and the way his hands gripped onto Liam hard enough to break skin. He still doesn’t like it, but he has grown more used to it.

Zayn nibbles on his bottom lip, looking between Oliver and him. Liam is surprised Zayn hasn’t asked about Oliver’s health, but thankful - the only thing he hates talking about more is Oliver’s mum.

“Yeah, alright. Haven’t been there since I was little.”

Liam bites his nails into the desk again, trying to fight off the urge to touch Zayn’s chin. He looks adorable, excited with a smile breaking out across his cheeks. Liam doesn’t smile back though he wants to, but keeps his face hard and uninterested as he nods.

+*

Liam Payne is by far, the most confusing person Zayn has ever known.

Warm, and then a moment later cold. Expressive and then blank. Flirting and then a moment later taking on a voice that turns on Zayn even more, though it shouldn’t. Borderline terrifying the way his eyes narrow when Zayn messes up and flirts, the tense of his jaw and how his round features somehow seem sharper when he looks like that.

But then there are small moments where Zayn catches Liam staring at him, a soft and warm expression on his face that is the complete opposite, and affects Zayn differently - making something twist in his chest instead of his navel.

“Papa can we get a tiger?”

Oliver sits on Liam’s shoulders, one hand on the glass and another curled around his forehead. It is quite adorable, the way Oliver’s eyes grow wide and slightly terrified when the tigers do something other than lay down.

Zayn had been afraid the little boy was going to explode from excitement when they pulled into the Zoo’s parking lot. He thinks the boy even started to tear up some, and it made his heart fond because even though Zayn doesn’t know why he went to the doctors, he knows the bandaids on the inside of his arms probably mean he had his blood taken and Liam is trying to make him feel better.

“Uh, no,” Liam chuckles, his hands firm on Oliver’s calves.

Oliver sighs in disappointment, leaning forward as he curls his other arm around Liam’s forehead. The tiger doesn’t do much but lay there, but the boy looks fascinated.

“A kitty?” Zayn offers. Liam’s eyes only flick to him for a moment before he shakes his head. Cold, cut off.

“A puppy?” Oliver adds, wiggling now, and Liam’s grip tightens around his legs. “Papa, you love puppies.”

Liam’s hard features soften as he smiles. “I do, but you know we can’t get a puppy.”

“Why?” Zayn asks before he can help it. They have more than enough room, and money. And he kind of wants to see Liam playing with a little puppy, probably wearing a fond smile like he does when he plays with his son.

Liam flicks his eyes towards him again. “Erm, I work too much to spend time with my son, I don’t reckon I have enough time to raise a puppy too. We visit the shelter a lot though, Ollie and I.”

Oliver nods as if to confirm, resting his cheek on the top of his Papa’s head. “They love me and Papa.”

Liam’s cheeks grow hot under Zayn’s gaze, and he frowns after a long moment, a questioning look in his eyes that Zayn ignores to look at the tigers.

+*

The shelter is a town away, on a off road surrounded by trees. But the area surrounding the small looking building is massive, and from the parking lot Zayn can see a large fenced in yard and a few kennels. A few yards away from the rundown building is a much larger one, newer and nicer looking.

He had to call Niall in order to find out where it was, since Liam had given him a very stern, “we’re not getting a puppy” when he had asked him. Zayn just wants to take Oliver somewhere other than the house, since they only ever go to the park or run errands for Liam when they do leave.

Oliver bounces on his feet, fingers curled around Zayn’s as he tugs him eagerly towards the front door. He is going on about one pup in particular, named Thor. Zayn had bitten his cheek as not to break his face from the force of his smile when Oliver had told him the dog’s name.

The bell above the door rings as Oliver pushes it open, and the woman behind the counter on the other side looks up from her computer. Recognition takes over her face as she eyes Oliver, a smile on her face that Zayn has started to realize comes whenever anyone looks at the boy.

“Mr. Payne,” the woman greets politely as Oliver rushes over to the counter. He is too short, even when he pushes up onto his tip toes. “Come to play with Thor today?”

Oliver nods excitedly. “Yeah, I brought my Mr. Zayn.”

The woman, whose name tag reads Jade, flicks her eyes up to him and gives him a soft smile. She has a friendly enough face, about the same age as himself. Her thick hair is pulled into a big bun at the top of her head, and her polo shirt is decorated in paw prints. “Nice to meet you, Mr. Zayn.”

Zayn grins in amusement, patting Oliver’s head. “I wasn’t sure if we were supposed to call ahead, or not. So sorry for just barging in here.”

Jade waves her hand in dismiss. “The Paynes are welcome here, anytime. The place wouldn’t be standing without them.”

Zayn’s face falls in confusion as he lifts Oliver up so he will stop trying to climb over the counter. Jade nudges her head to the right wall, where there is a tackboard. There is a small picture of Liam and Oliver on it, over a plaque with tiny writing he can’t read from where he stands.

“Huge donator,” Jade explains. “Paid for the new building to house the puppies and a few more staff members to help take care of them. We just had to become a no um -” she mouths kill, glancing at Oliver. “Shelter. Which was definitely not difficult, y’know?”

That warmth takes over his chest as he nods, glancing back at the picture of Liam’s smiling face.

“Do you wanna see the pups now?”

“Yes!” Oliver shouts excitedly, fists pumping in the air and making the both of them giggle.

Jade leads them to the other building after getting someone to watch the desk for her, talking about all the changes that had been made since Liam had started visiting. Oliver pipes in, talking more about the other dogs than the finances.

Oliver lets go of his hand and takes off when they step into the hallway lined with dog crates. Their barks echo loudly off of the walls, and Zayn counts ten as he follows after the little lad. All kinds of dogs, older looking ones who watch him where they lay with quirked up brows, tiny ones that make yelp high pitched, ones with mean faces but happy tails. Tiny plaques line each cage with names on them, Rosie, Clark, Annabelle, Thor -

Oliver’s fingers are through the spaces of the cage, tickling the dog’s nose. He is is quite large, with a golden brown fur coat that is thick and coarse across his torso. He sits, tail wagging across the floor as he licks at Oliver’s fingers.

“Labrador?” Zayn asks, bending beside Oliver to tickle under Thor’s chin.

“Chesapeake Bay Retriever,” Jade explain, jingling her keys. Thor automatically scooches back as Zayn and Oliver do, allowing Jade to open the kennel. “Four years old.”

“Hey boy,” Oliver coos, sliding into the room with the dog. He is quite massive compared to Oliver, and when the dog jumps, Zayn is afraid he is going to knock the boy over.

The dog only licks at Oliver’s chin before sitting back down, allowing Oliver to rub his palm down his back as he coos into the dog’s face. It is adorable, watching him rub his nose against the dog’s snout.

“Really well behaved. Mr. Payne’s favorite, I reckon. Spends a lot of time with him, takes him for walks sometimes on the weekends,” Jade tells Zayn as she rests in the doorway, keeping it half closed around her body. “Won’t take him home, though. Says he can’t raise a dog but this one here is already trained.”

Zayn nibbles at his bottom lip. Oliver wraps his arms around the dog’s neck, and it almost looks as if Thor is smiling with the way corners of his mouth quirk up slightly. “How long has he been here?”

Jade hums thoughtfully. “I’m not really sure. But he was quite scared when he came in, took a while until he would come out of the corner of his kennel without being bribed with a treat. He was scheduled for you know when Mr. Payne moved ‘round here and the man practically lost his head when I told him. The check and conditions came a few days later.”

Zayn chuckles softly, bending over to tickle the dog’s thick head. The dog doesn’t seem too interested in him, all of his attention on Oliver. “You’re a handsome boy,” he coos.

Oliver looks at him with wide, puppy like eyes as he rests his cheek against the side of Thor’s head, arms still curled around the dog. “Y’think we can take him home?”

Zayn stiffens, dread running through him as Oliver’s bottom lip pokes out. Liam had been really clear, but Oliver’s face -

“Well, your Papa said -”

“Please?” Oliver begs before Zayn can go on. “Me ‘n you can take care of him while Papa’s at work?”

“Uh,” Zayn stutters out. Jade chuckles under her breath, and he turns to give her a desperate look.

“He is so sad in here,” Oliver continues with his campaign. He drags down the corner of the dog’s mouth, and the dog must be in on it too because he gives Zayn these sad eyes that make his heart hurt. “He just wants a family.”

Fuck, the kid is good.

Zayn sighs, rubbing his palm over the dog’s head. “Fine, but we’re telling your father this was your idea.”

Oliver squeaks, pressing his face into the dog’s head as he shakes with excitement. “You comin’ wiv me, boy!”

 

Zayn was expecting Liam to be mad, yell at him about how he had made it clear that he didn’t want a dog in his house. He should have expected what he got though, a hard stare and gritted teeth as he walked into the living room where Oliver and Thor were curled up on the couch.

Zayn grimaces slightly, shifting in the lazy boy he sits in with his notebook on his lap. Liam just looks at him, arms folding in front of his chest like he is waiting for an explanation. But Zayn doesn’t have one, even though it has been four hours since they had brought the dog home and he has had plenty of time to come up with one.

“Um, how was work?”

Liam huffs out, brows pushing together as he indicates a hand towards the dog. Thor’s tail wags, but he doesn’t move because Oliver’s arm is thrown over his side. “Are you going to explain?”

Zayn presses his lips tightly together, kind of panicking that he is going to be fired. But a warmth takes over Liam’s face when he tickles his fingers on the dog’s head, the attempt at keeping a smile off of his face noticeable.

“Um,” Zayn drags out quietly. “Oliver fell asleep within minutes? Like, didn’t put up a fuss about his nap?”

Liam looks up at him, a brow quirked and a thoughtful look on his face. “Yeah?”

Zayn wants to breathe out in relief as he pushes up from the chair, feeling small under Liam’s downward gaze. “Yeah. And you didn’t warn me about the puppy dog look he is so good at so like, basically your fault.”

Liam snorts when Zayn comes near, resting his bum against the back of the couch beside Liam. “He is quite hard to say no to.”

Zayn nibbles at his bottom lip for a long moment, eyes intent on Liam’s face. There are bags under his eyes, his beard grown out and starting to get too long. It is early though, for him to be home, and Zayn reckons it was Niall who insisted he go home earlier since he had been complaining about how tired Liam has been this morning when Zayn had called him.

“So you’re not mad?”

Liam sighs softly before he turns towards Zayn more, reaching out to pinch his chin. It sparks a flame across Zayn’s skin instantly, because he has missed the small touch. It has been a while since the last time Liam touched him like maybe he feels the same attraction as Zayn.

“I am,” he says softly. He doesn’t let his chin go, but rubs his thumb against his skin. Zayn parts his legs easily when Liam moves closer, knees knocking against his. “I told you no dog.”

Zayn tilts his chin up. He doesn’t look mad any longer, just tired. “M’sorry. Oliver said he just wanted a family.”

Liam’s lips quirk up as he moves closer, practically standing between Zayn’s knees. His palm smooths across his jaw, thumb rubbing at the corner of his mouth.

Zayn’s heart is erratic in his chest, banging loudly against his sternum as his lips part. Liam’s eyes are intent on his mouth, and the silence between them isn’t awkward or tense - just good, really good.

“You said he fell asleep with no fuss?”

Zayn nods, wanting to flick his tongue out against the thumb Liam slides across his bottom lip but he stops himself, afraid of making Liam pull away.

He drops his hand anyway, jaw tensing again. “You’re a god send, then.”

Zayn wants to squeeze his legs closed and keep them there as his heart falls in his chest. Liam looks at him for just a moment before he turns around and leaves Zayn there, confused, again.

+*

“I can’t believe you’ve convinced Liam to get a dog.”

Zayn grins, leaning over the balcony some to glance down at the pup, who runs through the people scattered across Liam’s yard. Mostly all of Liam’s employees and their families, brought together for a start of the summer barbeque. There is a bounce house off to the side, which Oliver had nearly lost his shit when he had first seen it, a few of the older kids in the pool, and Zayn finds Liam amongst the grills, a floral apron wrapped around his waist.

Zayn and Louis hide up in the balcony outside of his bedroom, thick smoke around them fading away into the warm air. The sun beats down on his skin, (whenever the clouds decide to break), making his skin stick to the loose tank top he wears. He was going to put something more professional on, since he was going to be around all of Liam’s employees, but Liam’s eyes had been on him all of this morning and he decided to keep it on.

And he is avoiding everyone, anyway. He doesn’t fit in with the tilted up chins and smug looks, doesn’t know what to say in the conversations about - whatever the fuck they are talking about, and Liam’s eyes are still on him, soft and worried because it is obvious Zayn feels out of his element.

“Wasn’t too hard, Lou,” Zayn muses, grinning to himself. Liam had been put off at first yeah, but Zayn has caught him on the floor, scratching at the dog’s ears with the happiest grin on his face, more times than he can count. “I just brought the dog home.”

Louis chuckles, pinching the joint out of Zayn’s fingertips. “He has wanted that dog for forever. Doesn’t like having things that make him happy, for some reason.”

Zayn frowns, glancing at Liam again. He can’t see his face or anything, just the way his body curves backwards, hand pressing to his belly as he laughs at whatever Harry is saying to him. He wants to make Liam laugh like that -

“Yeah, seems it,” Zayn mumbles, pushing away from the edge because it makes nerves erupt in his belly. (And if they are more butterflies because of Liam than nerves from the height, he isn’t acknowledging it.)

“Should have introduced you two sooner,” Louis teases, wiggling his eyebrows at Zayn. “Looked right gone the other day when you came to visit with the boy, this stupid little smile on his face. He had been grumpy all day too, but you changed that.”

Zayn wrinkles his nose, slumping down on the wooden chair in the corner of the balcony. He had just stopped by to bring Liam lunch, a sandwich that Oliver had wanted to make for him. It looked disgusting, but Liam had ate it like it was the best thing he had ever eaten. “‘Cause his son. Not me, mate.”

Louis rolls his eyes as he puts out the joint in the plastic cup they had been using as an ashtray. “Maybe. I’ve only known him since he started working at L&A, but Nialler says he has been single for years. Can’t see why. Fit lad, y’know?”

Zayn nibbles at his bottom lip, brow creasing with the way he frowns at Louis. He has known Louis since his first year at Uni, and the lad has never stopped trying to find him a relationship. Even though he sucks at them more than Zayn. “How long has he lived here?”

Louis considers it for a moment. “Started working last summer, I reckon. Moved here from Wolver-Hampton. The guy who had Niall’s job before was so angry ‘bout not getting the promotion when old man retired that he quit.”

Zayn plays with the frayed strings of his bracelet, wondering if he should ask Layla if she knows Liam. He has only seen her a few times since he started working as Oliver’s nanny, when he had to babysit DJ and Maria for an hour or so while she was at one of her meetings. Her father had been in his late sixties when he retired from L&A, and it had been Layla’s brother who was next up for the position.

“His son?”

Louis raises his eyebrows, nodding. “Yeah, was quite the drama. Had to bring popcorn to work.”

Zayn snorts, pushing up from the chair as he hears Oliver’s giggles fill the air. He is hard to find, from the fast way he runs through the crowd with the other kids and Thor. “Bet you loved that.”

“I did,” Louis laughs, pushing up to follow him inside. His room is a bit messy though he had tried to clean it up just in case Liam offered anyone a tour of the house, but his clothes are still piled up next to his bed, a few of his shoes kicked across the floor. “You know this room is bigger than your apartment.”

Zayn chuckles, pushing opening up his bathroom door. “So is the loo.”

 

“There are five kinds,” Oliver goes on between bites of food. He wiggles on Zayn’s lap, talking to one of Liam’s employees that sits on the other side of the glass table. He looks generally interested, and so is Zayn - even though he has listened to Oliver rattle off tiger facts so much that he now has them memorized. He tucks his smile against the back of Oliver’s neck, listening to him stumble over the name of tiger species.

“And they can jump really high.”

Zayn snickers, picking a chip off of Oliver’s plate. He finds Liam again, a habit he is starting to develop and isn’t too sure that he minds. He leans against the fence of his porch, a plate in hand as he talks to someone. A petite woman, who has an annoying habit of constantly touching Liam’s arm when she laughs like a hyena.

“Papa’s gonna buy me one, I fink.”

Zayn snorts, curling an arm around the little boy’s body as he jerks forward to whisper the words to the man. Liam’s eyes flicker to them, the smile on his lips barely noticeable before he turns back to the woman.

“You reckon so?”

“Mhm,” Oliver says with confidence, mouth full of food. “Just gotta say pwease.”

Liam would probably buy Ollie a tiger if he could, Zayn thinks, as he watches Liam walk away from the woman. There is no denying the smile that takes over his face as he sits in the chair to the left of them. His foot pushes against Zayn’s, and he tries not to focus on how there is no way it could be an accident but he fails.

“Talking about tigers?” Liam asks the other man with fondness bright on his face. The man laughs, nodding.

“Yeah, and how you’re going to buy him one,” Zayn pipes up.

Liam looks at Zayn when he speaks, lips tight with amusement. His toes nudge against his again, and there is really no pulling his focus away from the unnecessary touch now. “Did you give him that idea?”

Zayn puts his hands up in innocence. “Wouldn’t dream of it.”

Oliver sighs dramatically, resting back against Zayn’s chest. “Pwease, Papa? I love you a lot.”

The amusement slips off of Liam’s face as he grimaces slightly, giving Zayn a desperate look. He chuckles awkwardly before pushing forward, tickling Oliver’s belly but his thumb slides purposefully over Zayn’s arm where he holds the little boy. It sends a heat across his skin, and he bites on his lip, avoiding Liam’s gaze. “I love you too, but I told you no tigers.”

Oliver sighs heavily, resting back against Zayn. “Fine.”

+*

Liam feels like a dead weight, bones heavy and feet dragging. There is an ache running down his back, and the muscles in his neck are so tense that it hurts to turn his head. His brain hurts from work, after trying to fix Cheshire’s branch of L&A fix their budget. Budgeting always make him exhausted, which is usually why he hands it off to Louis.

Liam rests his forehead against the front door, keys hanging in his hand. As much as he loves Oliver, with everything in him, he doesn’t have the energy for him right now. That thought makes him feel awful, and he sucks in as much breath as he can so he can at least pretend so he doesn’t make his little one feel bad.

The house is quiet as he steps into it, the living room empty but the television is on and playing quietly. There is the strong smell of cooked tomatoes filling the house, and Liam follows it down the hallway.

In the kitchen, Zayn stands over the stove, Thor on the carpet in front of where it turns into linoleum. (Liam is still a little irritated that Zayn went over him when he said no to having a dog, but not really too mad because he has been wanting Thor in his home since he first met the dog seven months ago.)

He doesn’t notice Liam, so Liam takes advantage of that to take him in. He wears a thick white sweater, that hangs off of his shoulders and bunches up around his wrists. It hangs far past his waist, covering the butt pockets of the tighter, black joggers he wears. It makes Liam’s chest feel funny, seeing how soft he looks. Even softer with the new color of his hair, whiter than it had been this morning, and fluffy around his head. It contrasts perfectly with his beard, and there is a new addition of horn rimmed glasses settled on his nose.

“Hey there.”

Zayn jerks in surprise when he eyes Liam, a flush taking over his cheeks. “Hey. I didn’t hear you come in.”

Liam pads over, not bothering with the warning going off in his head that tells him not to touch Zayn. He doesn’t care, he is too tired to care, and Zayn looks so soft it feels like he might die if he doesn’t.

It isn’t anything, he just takes the arms of his glasses between his fingers as Zayn turns away from the stove, until their bodies are a thin space apart. Liam adjusts them, smiling softly. “New?”

Zayn nods, returning his soft smile. “Finally got the money to buy me a pair, thanks to you.”

“I’m glad. They look good.”

His lips look so soft and inviting, slightly red from biting at them, and smudged with the tomato sauce that is currently cooking on the stove. Liam wipes a thumb across it before bringing to his lips, watching Zayn’s eyes follow the movement.

“Mm,” Liam murmurs, quirking up a brow. “I thought you said you didn’t cook?”

Zayn nips at his bottom lip shyly before turning back to the stove to stir the sauce. The pot of pasta beside it is small, not enough for three people. “Nialler called ‘round and said you were quite knackered. Figured I’d take over dinner tonight. Nothing special.”

Liam frowns, planting his hand to the bottom of Zayn’s spine as Zayn raises the cooking spoon and indicates that Liam should try it. It is much better than his own sauce, which usually comes in a can and is meat flavored. This one is a burst of flavors, none that Liam can pinpoint.

“S’good, babe,” Liam praises, pulling away. Zayn flushes harder at the nickname that slipped out, but Liam ignores it because it feels right to say it. “Wish Niall didn’t do that, I’m fine.”

Zayn narrows his eyes accusingly. “You look tired.”

Liam doesn’t argue, just attempts to pull away but Zayn is gripping his hip, keeping him there. He turns down the stove with his other before facing him.

“Turn around,” he instructs.

Liam hesitates, but does as he is told. It is only a moment before he feels Zayn’s palm smoothing across his shoulders, thumb pressing in. The groan is at the tip of his tongue, because he is so tense that just the small touch feels good.

“You’re hard as a rock,” Zayn mumbles. Liam feels his face grow hot, and Zayn chuckles like he realizes what he just said. “Tense, I mean.”

His thumbs rub down his spine and grind against the muscles at his lower back before moving up again. The groan Liam is holding in lets out when he rubs under his neck, his head falling forward some to let Zayn have his way with him.

He doesn’t relax under Zayn’s touch, though his muscles do. He can’t, not with the way he feels himself harden under his dress pants with every touch, listening to himself groan and the harsh breath Zayn lets out right afterwards.

Zayn gets closer, practically pressing his chest to Liam’s shoulders as he rubs down his sides. He can feel the other lad’s breath against his neck, and he mentally wills his lips to press down against the spot.

“Go get changed and shower while I finish up dinner,” Zayn murmurs, smoothing his palms down his back. He tugs on the shirt slightly, so it comes out from underneath the lip of his pants.

Liam isn’t expecting Zayn to touch his bare skin but he does, his hands hot against his skin. Just rubbing slightly at the dip in his spine. A simple touch, but it makes his nerves light up through his body,

“Where’s Oliver?” Liam says suddenly, instead of voicing what he really wants to say, to have Zayn join him in the shower. Or to touch him lower, kiss him, anything to break the tension coiling up inside of him.

“Niall’s,” Zayn says quietly, pulling his hands away. Liam turns, but Zayn avoids his eyes. “For the night. I would have left too, so you can have some peace, but I wanted to make you dinner.”

“No,” Liam says immediately. “I’m glad you’re here.”

Fuck it.

Seriously, Liam doesn’t care if it is unprofessional. There is no hiding the way his length presses against his joggers, the way the flush in his skin isn’t from the shower but arousal. Zayn is going to notice, and he doesn’t want it to be awkward - he wants to kiss Zayn. He wants to touch him and taste his skin, press him into the mattress he still hasn't adjusted to.

Liam steps up behind him where he stands at the table, having just placed a bottle of wine on the table. Zayn’s head turns slightly, the corner of his lip quirked up as Liam presses as close as he can.

“Thank you,” Liam murmurs, pressing his lips to Zayn’s shoulder. The words are hard to say, though he normally doesn’t stumble over them like this. He isn’t sure how to go about telling Zayn what he wants, but he thinks Zayn knows when he presses his hips back against his - there is no denying how hard Liam is.

He swears he has never been this hard, and it feels like he could break while trying not to rub against him.

“Liam,” Zayn says softly.

Liam cups his hand on Zayn’s cheek, turning his head so their lips are only an inch apart. Zayn’s eyes search his face, his long eyelashes spreading across his cheekbones when his eyes fall to Liam’s lips. Liam hates the desperate sound in his voice, but that is how he feels. Desperate to finally get rid of the static that has filled him since he met Zayn.

“Can I kiss you?”

Chapter Text

“Can I kiss you?”

Zayn sucks in a breath, but there is no hesitation in the quick way he responds. Just a slight nudge of his head as Liam drags him closer, even though he feels like he could scream his response. It is an awkward angle with his head turned over his shoulder, but he can’t complain when Liam’s soft lips are gliding over his own.

They are so soft, softer than Zayn had imagined. They brush lightly over his mouth like a tease before they part against his, a gentle pressure before he wraps them around his lower lip.

Zayn shifts then, turning around to kiss him properly. Liam’s hand doesn’t leave his jaw, but the other one joins it, bringing him back until the pressure of his mouth is harder. He kisses like Zayn is made of glass, lips dragging slowly against his own, noses knocking. They touch every where possible, including their hips - where Zayn can feel the hard press of Liam’s cock against his own.

His senses flood with Liam’s apple scented soap and cologne, the taste of his cinnamon toothpaste, the heat radiating off of Liam’s body. He soaks it in, gripping the cotton shirt he wears to keep him close.

Liam groans quietly against his lips as he guides them open, head tilting as he deepens the kiss with his tongue flicking past the seam of Zayn’s mouth. Arousal floods through his belly as Liam groans again, this time from the way Zayn wraps his lips around his tongue and sucks him in.

It makes Liam kiss him harder, losing some of the finesse of it but it doesn’t make it any less perfect. It is a bit desperate like, their teeth knocking before Liam bites at his bottom lip, the room filling with soft gasps of breath and low groans. He savors each sound Liam makes, his mind racing with thoughts about how it's him making Liam make those desperate noises.

Zayn’s breath knocks away from him as Liam grips his thighs to lift him. He goes easily, curling an arm around Liam’s neck to keep their lips pressed together. He wonders if Liam can feel his hard cock against his belly, if it turns him on as much as it turns on Zayn.

Liam doesn’t carry him far, and it takes him a second to realize he is sitting on the counter in the kitchen. Liam’s hands are all over him, rubbing down his thighs and under the lip of the sweater that he had knicked from the laundry. Zayn drags his fingers through the hairs at the back of Liam’s head, tugging his head back slightly so he can kiss him deeper. It feels like they are rushing, but at the same time they’re not going fast enough.

He has thought about their first kiss more times that he would like to admit. Always craving another but too hesitant to just go for it. Nearly painful it has been, watching the way Liam's lips move when he speaks and having to stop himself from kissing the older man.

“Zayn,” Liam moans quietly as Zayn bites at his bottom lip. He flicks his eyes open, taking in the dark pool of arousal in Liam’s, and the flame taking over his skin. “Can I touch you?”

“Yeah,” Zayn breathes as Liam’s fingers smooth farther up his sweater. They tickle at his ribcage before curling around to his back, tracing soft touches down his spine. “Where do you want to?”

Liam’s fingers tickle to his hips before he is pushing them past the brim of his joggers like a question. “Anywhere I can?”

Zayn huffs out, his response stuck in his throat as he lifts his hips to allow Liam to push them down. The counter is cold against his bum, the air cool against the exposed skin as Liam tugs the joggers all of the way off. But Liam warms him with his furnace hands, massive where they cover his thighs. He nudges his fingers under the legs of the briefs before pushing under them, rubbing at his skin.

Zayn moans quietly as his dick twitches from Liam’s touch, dampening the material that stretches across the head. He hasn’t been this hard in forever, the coil in his belly making him feel like he could explode if Liam doesn’t touch him where he needs it soon. He has been wanting this for what feels years at this point -

Chasing a high he hadn't realized he would get addicted to so quickly.

“Been wanting to,” Liam breathes, tugging him closer until he can wrap his thighs around Liam’s torso. “Since I met you.”

“Me too,” Zayn whispers, tilting his head back when Liam’s lips brush against the slope of his neck. His tongue is warm, licking out like he is signing his name across Zayn’s skin. He kneads at Zayn’s bum as Zayn rolls his hips forward, seeking out the friction of Liam’s belly just to relieve him some.

“Yeah?” Liam hovers his lips back over Zayn’s as he cups him between his legs, palm grinding down against his erection. Zayn shutters, lips parting around a silent exhale.

“Yeah,” Zayn responds, nudging their noses as he grinds up into Liam’s palm. “Was me implying I want you to spank me, not enough?”

Liam groans quietly at the reminder. “Be still.”

Zayn bites his tongue as not to moan at the way Liam’s voice drops into something deeper, with no room for argument. He stills, letting Liam tug on his bottom lip as he traces the outline of his cock through his briefs.

“Do you like that? Being told what to do?”

Zayn bites on his bottom lip, flicking his eyes open to take in the dark of Liam’s eyes. He doesn’t move, as if that is enough to answer. To show Liam that yeah, he does like that, but he is also good at listening.

Liam grips his chin, fingers gentle but the touch excites him as he thinks of Liam being rough with him. “Tell me.”

“Yeah,” Zayn breathes. He has never been embarrassed by it, but right now he feels that shyness taking over him that makes him want to bury his face in Liam’s neck so he won’t be able to see the way his cheeks burn.

A groan rumbles in Liam’s throat as he knocks their lips together before pulling away, fingers catching Zayn’s hands to help him off of the counter. Zayn’s legs feel like jello, and he hasn’t even been fucked yet.

He doesn't know if that is what Liam wants, but he hopes so.

They stumble across the carpet, nearly falling over Thor who only curls farther into himself so he can continue sleeping. Zayn likes Liam’s arms around his back, strong as they tug him into the living room. The feel of his heart pounding against his chest, the scratch of his beard against his chin and how careful he is when he tips Zayn back onto the couch.

The couch sinks under their weight as Liam presses on top of him, pushing up on the arms framing Zayn’s head. Zayn’s legs part as he grips at Liam’s back, pushing up his cotton shirt to touch more of his skin. His hips roll down against his just right, but there are too many layers of clothes between them.

“Liam,” Zayn breathes desperately, moving his hands up his back until the shirt pushes up into his armpits. “Can you take this off?”

“No,” Liam mutters, grinding down against him again.

Zayn tilts his head back into the couch cushions, moaning quietly as pleasure sparks up his spine. He has spent too long thinking about Liam touching him that he is worried about ruining it now by coming too soon. “Don’t tell me you’re a tease, now.”

Liam laughs quietly, nipping at his throat. “I like to test, see how good you can be -”

His heart throbs in his ears at Liam’s words, a tremble running down his spine that makes his nails dig into Liam’s back. He feels like he just happened upon a heat wave the way his body flames up.

“I can,” he chokes out quietly. Liam pushes past his hold, until he is sitting with his legs wrapped around Zayn’s thighs. His eyes are lowered, focused on where his hands spread up Zayn’s belly, pushing the sweater higher up his torso.

Zayn had chosen it from the laundry because he had liked how the sweater smelled like Liam, but right now the material irritates his skin. “Unless you prefer me to be bad.”

Liam’s eyes narrow at him for a moment as he grips Zayn’s hips, the pads of his fingertips digging into his skin. He pulls them up against his own, and it is obscene the way both of them look straining against their clothes, rubbing against each other.

Or how obscene just Liam looks when aroused, face red and eyes dark, the strong of his hands and the way his muscles flex as he moves. His thick brows are furrowed slightly, and the way he tightens his jaw as he grinds down sends a thrill through Zayn.

“No, prefer to see you come.” Liam leans forward, lips nudging against his. He is a bit breathless, like maybe he is as overwhelmed as Zayn feels. “If you were being bad, I wouldn’t let you.”

Zayn makes an embarrassing noise as he pushes his lips against Liam’s to muffle it. He has imagined the older man as quiet in bed, and he doesn’t think he can make it if Liam is going to keep talking to him like this -

“Make me come then.”

Liam groans into the kiss as he slides his fingers between them, his hand like the size of a garbage can lid when he cups Zayn through his briefs. His skin radiates a heat that fills Zayn, making a bonfire in his belly and licking flames through his limbs.

Liam scrapes a kiss to his collarbone as he pushes back, his free hand tugging down the material of Zayn’s briefs. The flames threaten to burn him when he watches Liam lick his lips when his cock springs free and slaps wetly against his navel. Thankfully he doesn’t hesitate to touch Zayn’s bare cock, and he doesn’t tease like Zayn worries that he will.

He touches him properly, fingers curling around his length and thumb rolling over the head. Liam makes a guttural sound as he rubs the precome around the head until it is swollen and shiny. He slicks down his length and Zayn’s legs shake in response, his fingers digging into the soft material of Liam’s joggers.

“Wet,” Liam comments, voice husky as he rubs under the crown. “Proper leakin’, babe.”

Zayn moans quietly, words lost as he presses his hips down into the couch to prevent himself from fucking up into Liam’s hand. His hand is bigger than his own, his strokes slower and drawn out, making the build up of pleasure in his belly seem frustratingly not enough.

But good, really fucking good. He feels on the edge of coming, but Liam squeezes at the base every time Zayn’s hips jerk up towards his palm like he knows. His lips are permanently quirked up, his cocky look softened by the overwhelmed look in his eyes.

Zayn pulls the sweater up his chest to allow the cool air to kiss his hot skin, and to keep it safe from the streaks of precome dribbling down Liam’s fingers. Liam’s eyes follow, a flush rising up his cheeks as a soft moan passes his lips.

“Beautiful you are,” Liam murmurs so quietly Zayn has to strain his ears to hear it under the slick sound of him being pulled off. It makes him feel hotter, even when Liam pushes off and away from him to stumble out of his joggers.

Zayn huffs out a laugh at Liam’s amused grin, using the distance between them as a chance to finally tangle the sweater off of himself. It doesn’t make him feel any cooler, but he welcomes the heat of Liam’s body when he climbs back on top of him anyway.

“I like these, by the way,” Liam tells him before scraping his lips across Zayn’s chest. His tongue wet as it traces the shapes of ink on his skin. His fingers attack the ones up his sides as he makes his way down Zayn’s torso, eyes flicking upwards as his tongue slides around the curves of his abdomen.

“Liam,” Zayn says hoarsely, gripping onto his shoulders. The muscles of Liam’s bum flex every time the other lad rolls his hips against the couch, and he desperately wants to feel Liam move against him again. His movements are practically imperceptible, but the soft noises Liam makes against his skin make him worried Liam could come without touching him. “Wanna touch you.”

He feels like he might die if he doesn't soon. There is a craving under his fingertips, his lips already yearning to be stitched back to Liam’s.

Liam bruises a mark above his belly button before he nods, shifting up until their hips align again.

“Touch me then,” he whispers quietly.

Zayn doesn’t hesitate, doesn’t care about the urgency in his movements and how desperate he probably seems as he pushes his hand between their hips to curl his fingers around the hard of Liam’s length.

“Fuck,” Zayn breathes as Liam knocks their lips together. Liam is heavy and thick against his palm, and he can’t stop the thoughts of the way it would feel stretching around him, the way pain and pleasure would mix together no matter how long Liam spent getting him ready. The pulse of precome across his fingers when he pushes down the foreskin, the shaky exhale he lets out as Zayn rubs across the slit makes him want to spend all night touching the other lad.

“Like this,” Liam instructs in a tight voice as he knocks Zayn’s hand away. He rests his weight on the arm between their bodies and the couch as he curls his fingers around the both of them. Zayn breathes harshly against Liam’s parted lips as he strokes them steadily, the slick sound filling the room in sync with every huffed out moan Zayn lets out.

“Oh, Liam -”

Zayn grips his nails into Liam’s hips as the coil in his navel shatters, cock pulsing against Liam’s as he streaks across his belly, hips unable to jerk up into Liam’s fist from the heavy of Liam’s body pressing against him.

Liam groans, biting hard on his bottom lip as Zayn chokes out his moan, head tilting back into the couch as his muscles tense almost painfully. The snap of his release pulses through him, eyes falling shut as he attempts to kiss Liam back.

“God, Zayn,” Liam moans, heavying on top of him more. His hand moves over them quickly, sending prickles of sensitivity through Zayn as his cock softens in Liam’s palm. He trembles and shakes with the rack of pleasure, his breath coming out harsh and wrecked sounding.

“Come on, Leeyum,” Zayn gasps quietly, rubbing his nails up Liam’s back as he shutters. “Wanna see you come, Mr. Payne.”

He had been teetering on whether or not to say it, if Liam would be thrown off, but the ripped moan that leaves his lips as he comes tells him he is far from displeased.

“You like that?” Zayn breathes, rubbing at the tension taking over Liam’s back as he shivers out his orgasms, coating Zayn’s belly.

Liam lets out a rough chuckle as he presses his lips to Zayn’s. “Mm, I reckon so.”

Zayn chuckles quietly in return as Liam’s come slicked fingers scrape across his side. He snakes his arm under Zayn’s shoulder, tickling his fingers at the back of Zayn’s neck. “Call me it again.”

“Mr. Payne,” Zayn complies instantly, nudging his lips against Liam’s. “You’re getting me messy.”

“Don’t care,” Liam shivers out. “I’ll get the nanny to clean up after us.”

Zayn snorts, locking his arms around Liam before struggling with him across the cushions to fit his body on top of him. Liam lets him after a moment of wrestling on the too small of space, letting Zayn squeeze between the back of the couch and his body.

He rests his chin on Liam’s chest, looking up at the red burning across his cheeks. The exhaustion is back in Liam’s features, heavy in the eyes that look down at him. He struggles not to yawn, and Zayn wonders if he should leave him before Liam’s arms wrap around him and keep him stitched to his chest.

“Sorry for not eating your dinner,” Liam mumbles tiredly as Zayn rests his cheek to his collarbone.

“Doesn't matter,” Zayn murmurs, taking Liam's hand. He slides his finger over Liam's knuckle before guiding it to his lips. Liam doesn't hesitate to flick out his tongue, lips quirking up some. “Probably doesn't taste as good.”

Liam snorts. “I’d like to taste you later.”

Zayn groans, shifting so his chest hovers over Liam’s.

“Tomorrow,” he whispers, grinning against Liam's lips. He hopes they can continue tomorrow, but he tries not to dwell on it.

Liam cups the back of his head, pulling him down into a long kiss that calms the erratic of Zayn's heart beat.

“We need to go clean up,” Liam murmurs softly as Zayn shifts back to rest against his chest and neither one of them make a move to get up.

“You need to sleep,” Zayn murmurs, tracing his fingers against the back of Liam's hand as he rests it on his chest. Exhaustion weighs heavily on him too, and he clings to Liam harder and gives up on his attempt to keep his eyes open.

+*

Liam can’t sleep, though exhaustion still hangs onto him and there have been a few times where he has almost fallen asleep, before his thoughts had invaded his mind and kept him awake. He watches Zayn’s back rise and fall slowly as he breathes, the way his brows push together now and then. Liam drags his fingers through Zayn’s hair, a soft pet as he lets out a sigh.

He is beautiful, truly. He looks even softer asleep, his long eyelashes spanning across his cheekbones, lips slightly puckered. The scatter of ink, more than Liam had imagined during those times where he found himself too distracted by the lad with silver hair and no name. They are coated across his soft skin and contrasting where his arm rests against his chest, and when Liam covers his hand with his own, he admires the way their ink looks together.

He is heavy on top of Liam, but it is a welcomed weight. A pressure that eases the tight feeling in his chest. A feeling he ignores, and thinks he does well to ignore, until he tries to sleep and it pushes back into his thoughts.

Zayn’s arm curls under his own as he trails his fingers down his spine. It is a bit of a tight squeeze on his couch, and he knows his back will be hurting in the morning, but he is too afraid to move Zayn and accidentally wake him up. His thoughts worry about what will happen when he does wake up, what he will say or expect. If he will regret it the way Liam feels that he should.

But he doesn’t. Touching Zayn hadn’t satiated his crave like he had hoped, only made him crave more.

Liam hums, tucking his fingers through the hair at the back of Zayn’s head as he brings his lips to the lad’s forehead. He shouldn’t because it feels too intimate, but he smiles at the soft sigh Zayn lets out before snuggling his face closer to Liam’s neck.

He shouldn’t do a lot of things, especially acknowledge the feeling in his chest while he watches Zayn sleep. But it is like an alarm going off in his head, and he can’t ignore it anymore.

+*

There is a stiffness down Zayn’s back, his shoulders slightly cramped. He groans, rolling his face into one of the fluffy pillows. It takes him a moment to remember he had fallen asleep on the couch, on top of a hard body and not soft sheets and a pillowy mattress that he still hasn't gotten used to.

He turns to take in his room and his empty bed, the blanket he had brought from home covering him. The curtains covering the sliding door to the balcony are closed, but the golden glow of sunlight peeks through just enough to streak across the carpet. He can still feel the ghost of Liam’s fingertips against his skin when he closes his eyes again, holding onto the way it made him feel before he has to drag himself out of bed and face the fact that he made his boss come last night.

He stays in bed as long as possible before finally untangling from the sheets and pulling on a pair of trackies that he finds on the floor that look clean. He runs a hand through his sleep mussed hair a few times before giving up on trying to make it neat, feeling slightly ridiculous because Liam has seen him first thing in the morning plenty of times before.

The smell of pancakes hits his nose when he steps out into the hall, mixed with the scent of coffee and suddenly his dislike of being awake fades. He still tip toes quietly in the direction of the kitchen out of habit, mind wracking with what he should say, if he should acknowledge the night before. Most importantly, if he can kiss Liam again -

He hears the rattle of Thor’s collar and his nails clicking against the kitchen floor as he makes his way closer, the smell of pancakes making his mouth water. It isn’t anything like what the sight of Liam does to him though, the planes of his back and the red marks that stain his hips. The joggers he had been wearing the night before hang loose on his hips, his hair messy at the top of his head. He glances over his shoulder at the sound of Thor moving, a pleasant smile on his face.

“I hope you like pancakes,” Liam greets, his face brighter than Zayn has ever seen it while directed towards him. He doesn’t look tired at all, but alert like he has been awake for some time. “Gonna make eggs and toast too, if you’d like?”

Zayn leans against the edge of the island a few feet away from him, watching the muscles of his shoulder flex as he lifts the pan to flip the pancake. Showing off, Zayn thinks, because of the impressed sound Liam makes when the pancake lands perfectly back onto the pan.

“Yeah,” is all Zayn says in response.

Liam turns at the soft sound of Zayn’s voice, looking at him for a moment before he closes the space between them with a smile still etched onto his lips. Zayn wants to sigh in relief when Liam's hands slide against his hips and his lips press to his forehead. “Okay?”

Zayn tilts his chin up, humming before brushing his lips against Liam's. Liam doesn't pull away, he does the opposite actually, pushing his lips firmer against Zayn's. He sucks softly on his bottom lip, which feels sore and raw from the night before. There is no intent behind the kiss, just a lazy one that makes a warm static run through Zayn.

“Good,” Liam hums, lips moving against his as his hands rub up his sides, soothing the buzz underneath his skin. “Got coffee too.”

Zayn feels a bit dazed, touching where Liam’s lips had just been as the older man walks back to the stove. It takes a moment of Thor rubbing against his legs before he moves, heading over to the coffee pot.

He can feel Liam’s eyes on him as he moves, lips still quirked up. It isn’t awkward but Zayn feels it a bit, making a choked laugh bubble past his lips as he makes his coffee.

“Why do you keep looking at me like that?”

Liam doesn’t deny that he is, only jerks his shoulder up in a shrug. “Like what?”

Zayn watches him pile the pancakes onto the plate, an amused grin on his lips like he knows exactly what Zayn means. But Zayn shrugs, because he can’t quite say that Liam rarely looks like this, because it feels rude.

“Like you're freshly fucked out and I'm the reason.”

Liam sucks his bottom lip into his mouth, eyes dragging down the length of Zayn’s torso before he turns off the stove. He doesn’t say anything at first, only busies himself with taking plates from the cabinets and setting them on the counter.

“You don’t like food much, hm?”

Zayn frowns over the lip of his coffee cup as Liam comes close. He sets the cup on the counter behind him before Liam can press against him, molding against his body like they are meant to fit together.

“I do.”

Liam makes a noise like he doubts this as he layers a kiss to Zayn’s cheekbone. “This is the second time you’re distracting me from eating.”

Zayn snorts, curling his arms around Liam’s waist. “Last night was your fault, Mr. Payne.”

Liam groans quietly, knocking their lips together. “Yours, for making me feel the way you do.”

And then he slots their lips together, distracting Zayn from asking just exactly how what he means by that.

 

Zayn tugs the cigarette up to his lips, back resting against the garage as he eyes Liam pace around. There is a permanent blush stained to his cheeks, even though they have calmed the buzz of lust between them this morning, with Zayn keeping up on his promise of Liam tasting him. 

Liam's shoulders are more relaxed than normal, his face not creased with stress as he paces over. The grin on his lips has been there all morning, and Zayn isn't sure what to make of it but it makes him smile in return.

He reaches for the cigarette before Zayn can bring it to his lips and brings it up to his own mouth. It is silly, how affected Zayn is so easily, because arousal twists down his spine as he watches Liam's lips wrap around the end, cheeks hollowing out some and eyes latched onto his own. 

It reminds him of earlier this morning, when Liam had fallen to his knees and wrapped those obscene lips around the head of his prick. A power in the palms pressed to his hips that Zayn felt like he could crumble under as he tried not to buck into Liam's mouth.

Liam blows the smoke to the side before tapping underneath Zayn's chin. He drags his thumb across his bottom lip, his eyes following the movement. 

"I have to pick up Ollie. D'you want to come wimme?"

Zayn cups Liam's hips, nodding as Liam guides the end of the cigarette to his mouth. He inhales, pulling Liam closer.

"I don't have any plans today. I just have to fill out some loan applications, but I can do that tonight."

Liam grins more, tilting his head some. "Family day, then. Maybe we can go to the beach."

Zayn bites hard on his bottom lip as Liam takes his turn to smoke. His jaw tenses and brow furrows for a moment, and Zayn circles his thumbs across his hip bone to ease it.

"You're going to be wet and half naked? I'm down."

Liam huffs out a laugh, face relaxing again instantly as he flicks out the cigarettes. He curls his arms around Zayn's shoulders, nudging their noses together. 

"Maybe we should do something else that won't result in me wanting to touch you," he whispers, the smile evident in his voice.

Zayn tilts his chin, whispering his response against Liam's lips. "Like what?"

The other man jerks up a shoulder in a shrug, eyes flutterig closed. "Can't think of a situation where I wouldn't want to touch you, babe."

"Maybe I should stay away then," Zayn chuckles, nipping at Liam's bottom lip. "Since you are such a horn -"

Liam makes a displeased noise before crushing his lips against his own to cut him off. 

+*

“Papa, your face is all red.”

Liam feels his cheeks grow hotter as he pads over towards his son, who rests back against the couch. His cartoons play loudly, his tiger slippers tucked underneath Thor and a blanket from his room thrown over the two of them.

Liam had practically been eye fucking Zayn, before he padded over to whisper “like what you see?” in his ear. And he had been a second away from curling his arm around Zayn's waist to tell him he does when Oliver caught him.

There has been an unspoken rule between them ever since they first messed around a few days before: to keep any sign of it away from Ollie. Something that had been hard for Liam to begin with and has only gotten worse.

Zayn chuckles quietly as he walks off to the kitchen, leaving Liam to fend for himself.

Oliver places the back of his hand to Liam’s forehead when he is close enough, scrunching his face into an expression of thought. “Maybe you have a feber.”

Liam shakes his head as he grabs Oliver's face to scatter kisses across his cheeks. The little boy giggles loudly, eyes squeezing shut as he pushes at Liam's chest like he is put off by the love, but Liam knows he isn’t.

He pulls back, admiring the smile breaking across Oliver's cheeks. He is in love with it, his son’s smile. “Now yours is too.”

Papa,” Oliver complains, though his fingers curl into Liam's shirt.

Liam plops another kiss to his forehead, still laughing. He feels light lately, a buzz of happiness in his chest that doesn’t fade and he really isn’t sure why, but he kind of likes the way it makes his lips quirk up so often with ease. “Want some oatmeal?”

A look of hesitancy crosses Oliver's face but he nods, probably groaning in his mind at Liam because he hates oatmeal. Even if Liam puts extra sugar in it like his mum used to do for him.

“Promise you're not sick?”

Liam nods seriously. “I promise.”

Oliver looks at him for a bit longer before settling back, sighing heavily. “Okay, bananas too please?”

 

When Liam first saw Zayn, he had been entranced by how attractive the other man is. But it is nothing compared to him first thing in the morning, face sleepy and hair a wreck around his head. The scent of his lotion stuck to his skin and the heavy of his eyes, the red marks staining his cheeks because he always seems to fall asleep with his rings on.

Liam thinks he needs to sit down with himself and have a serious talk about how creepy he can be, because he just watches and admires Zayn for a moment in the kitchen as he digs in the refrigerator, looking for something.

And he barely has the refrigerator door closed before Liam is pushing his back against it, taking the orange juice from his hands as he plants his lips to Zayn's.

Zayn hums contently, the smirk evident in the sound as his fingers trace across Liam’s hips. Liam grins around Zayn's already bruised bottom lip as he nips at it, uncontrollable as Zayn cups him playfully between his legs.

“What's the plan for today?”

Liam hums for a moment, pressing a kiss to Zayn’s jaw. “Oatmeal.”

Zayn snorts out a laugh, knocking his head back against the freezer to give Liam a judgmental look. His fingers linger against him, gentle touches that ignite a fire under his skin so easily. “Ollie hates oatmeal.”

Liam rolls his eyes, knocking their noses as cups Zayn's cheeks. He thumbs at the corner of his mouth until they lift back up. “Maybe if his favorite Mr. Zayn makes it?”

His eyes roll as he pushes Liam away gently. “You just want me to call your Mr. Payne again, and it's not happening.”

Liam doesn't deny it as he lets his hands drop to his sides. He isn't sure why it makes him feel so hot, but firecrackers go off in his belly every time Zayn says it. “You sure called me it a lot last night.”

Zayn rolls his eyes as he pinches Liam’s belly. “Someone wouldn’t let me come if I didn’t,” he whispers against Liam’s lips before pushing away again.

He pads towards the cupboard with the box of oatmeal and Liam slaps his bum playfully, making the other man jump. “I can’t seem to remember that bit.”

It seems impossible to get the memory out of the front of his mind. Zayn flushed and sweaty, legs trembling and fingers digging into the sheets as Liam swallowed him down. Teasing, biting at his thighs and kissing his belly every time Liam thought him to be close to coming.

Overwhelming, really, how the other lad seems to get off on it. The teasing, orgasm denial, wanting to be good for him. Zayn teases about being bad and Liam wants him to, so he can see if Zayn minds him getting a bit rough.

He wants to crowd into Zayn's space and promise harder, later, but the sound of tiny feet against the hardwood floor makes him take a step back and force all of the thought at the front of his mind away.

A flush crosses over Zayn's cheeks, his teeth catching at his bottom lip as Oliver bursts into the kitchen, Thor trailing at his feet.

“Papa, I fink you have to cancel your trip coz you're sick.”

The little boy looks just as flustered as Liam feels, his eyes still worrisome and bottom lip trembling. He is only going for a few days, off to one of the smaller L&A stores a few hours away for work, but Oliver hasn't stopped mentioning it since he had told him so he knows his little one is nervous about it.

And Liam is a bit nervous too. Zayn had offered to stay with him instead of sending Oliver off with his mum, and though Liam knows how well Zayn is with him - he is still a bit worried about it.

Oliver hasn't had a bad nightmare since they brought Thor home, but he is afraid he might if he leaves. Or something, anything, will happen that will ruin how happy Liam feels to have the other lad in his home.

“M’not babe, I told you.”

Oliver looks at him suspiciously, resting his body against Thor. The pup hardly minds, and taking in the sad look in his eyes Liam swears they are in on this together.

“But I'll miss you?”

“Hey Ollie,” Zayn interrupts as Liam moves to walk over to his son and comfort the pout on his lips. “Tomorrow you wanna bring Thor to the park? Teach him how to play fetch?”

Liam watches as the worry slips quickly off of Oliver’s face and fills with excitement, distracted away from his worries. Oliver squeezes onto Thor’s neck, nodding excitedly before he starts listing off a number of other things they can do there.

And for a moment, Liam considers getting rid of his rule of no kissing in front of Oliver so he can press his lips against Zayn's in gratitude.

+*

“Zayn, quiet.”

Zayn makes a frustrated noise. He is trying, really, but it is really fucking hard with the way Liam keeps constricting his throat around him, or the way he suckles at the head with a look on his face like he gets off on the taste of Zayn's precome.

And he isn't really being quiet either, filling the room with these wet sounds, mixed in with soft groans all over the tip of his dick like he does get off on it.

Liam's grip tightens where his fingers press into his arse cheeks, a warning that Zayn ignores as he lets out a sound that echoes off the walls.

Liam pops off with a slick sound, eyes dark as he glares up at Zayn. They are in the den, Zayn's fingers gripping at the edge of the piano. He had wanted to play Liam something on it, but he had gotten distracted with Liam's fingers in his lap and hot kisses against his neck.

Zayn nibbles nervously at his bottom lip as Liam stands, a rush of adrenaline shooting through him. It is quite the sight, the flush down Liam's chest, the stretch of his jeans low on his hips and the way his cock peeks out from the top of his briefs, swollen and leaking from the way he had been rolling his hand over the head while he took Zayn down his throat.

“Quiet,” Liam murmurs lowly, pulling Zayn away from the piano and closer to him until their hips press together. Zayn's breath gets caught in his throat with Liam rubbing at his skin, his body tensing.

The first smack against his bum is light, just a tap of his hand against the round of his arse cheek. But Zayn has to hide the flush in his cheeks against Liam's neck because the other lad’s eyes are glued on him and it makes him feel vulnerable.

He usually hates that, but with Liam he doesn't seem to mind.

The second slap is loud, Liam’s palm stinging against his skin. He lurches closer to Liam, gripping tightly at his shirt as he groans loudly against his throat, trying to absorb into Liam’s body.

He feels Liam breath against his forehead as he exhales, lips brushing against his brow. “Want more? Or will you be quiet now?”

A tremble runs down Zayn's spine as he murmurs his response. The clock above the door tells him they have about twenty minutes until Oliver wakes, and about an hour before he has to go babysit Maria.

“More, please -”

A minute later he is being pressed to the warm window pane, the sun burning hot against his exposed front as Liam crowds behind him. Zayn huffs out, staring down at the way the sun sparkles across the pool’s pristine water as Liam mouths at his shoulders, fingers tickling over the reddening skin of his bum.

He bucks his hips out some, elbows pressed to the glass to rest his forehead against his arm. Liam groans quietly, nipping at the bulge of muscle over his shoulder as his hand comes down hard against the round of his bum.

He muffles the noise against his arm, throat tight as he tries to keep the noise quiet even though Oliver is napping on the other side of the house. He savors the throaty sound of Liam's voice, the raw feeling of his skin and how Liam's fingers run across it after every slap.

The coil in his belly builds, sticky precome sliding across the window pane as he presses closer. He can feel Liam against him as Liam's fingers dig in, spreading his sore cheeks to fit the thick of himself between them.

“Good?” Liam asks, voice strained. “Is that what you needed to be quiet now?”

Zayn moans quietly, grinding back against him. He hopes none of the landscapers have decided to come take care of Liam’s lawn today, or at least, that they don't happen to look up towards the den window.

“No, need you to touch me, Liam.”

One of Liam's palms slide up his side as the other stays gripping his arse, and Liam plants his lips to the side of Zayn's neck. It isn't what he meant, and he knows Liam knows that.

“I am,” Liam moans softly, lips tickling his skin before he scrapes him with his teeth. Zayn makes a frustrated noise, fingers flexing against the window to fight off the urge to wrap his hand around himself.

Liam's hand moves to his belly, pulling him closer as his prick slides against him. It is frustrating. Zayn wants Liam inside of him, pushing deep and the sound of skin against skin filling the room. He wants Liam's fingers against his throat, lips bruising his skin while he dicks into him in a slow pace. No rushing, even though Zayn wants Liam to hurry the fuck up -

“No,” Zayn whines softly. His cock drags against the window, making him shudder. Liam pushes the flat of his palm against his belly, dragging his hips away from it and Zayn reckons he is gonna kick Liam or something.

“No?” Liam ticks. “Than what, baby boy?”

Zayn makes a wrecked noise as he leans his elbow against the window pane to hold himself up. The raspy way Liam had said the pet name makes him feel like he could come without his fingers, but he wraps them around the head, slicking his palm before rolling down his length.

“You like that?” Liam asks, sounding more overwhelmed than anything. His fingers tickle lower, down the trail of hair snaking under his navel. He humps against Zayn harder, the movement uncoordinated against him.

“Yes, Mr. Payne,” Zayn chokes out as his orgasm hits him suddenly. He rolls his palm over the head, catching come across his fingers as his forehead knocks almost painfully against the window pane.

“Shit, Zayn,” Liam grunts out quietly.

He bites the curve of his throat, muffling the loud groan he lets out as he slicks across Zayn's back, hips staggering and hard against his own.

His limbs feel like mush when Liam tugs him and turns him so it is his back that presses against the window this time. Liam's lips are soft against his own, palms sliding across his ribcage as his legs part to fit Liam between them.

He can't quite wrap his head around how intimate Liam is after his climax, fingers coaxing the nerves from Zayn’s skin, lips latching onto him like he is just as addicted as Zayn. How his eyes stay on him steadily as they work on their pants, something in them he can't read. Lust probably, but it makes him think too much, especially right now, with Liam leaving for a few days and Zayn is dreading it because he knows how much he will miss him even though he won't admit it.

Because he has no right to.

“Shower first,” Liam says bringing him back into a kiss after Zayn has pulled his pants back up from where they were pooled around his ankles. “I'll go check on Ollie, and clean up your mess.”

Zayn rolls his eyes, chuckling softly as he curls his arms around Liam’s shoulders like he can hold onto him and not let him leave. “Carry me there? You’ve seemed to ruin me.”

Liam grins, eyes twinkling and bright. “Anything for you, baby boy.”

He grins too as Liam lifts him with ease, though there is a groan in his throat at the nickname. He should have never let Liam know he likes it because that might actually ruin him.

“Show off,” Zayn jokes as Liam starts moving with no sign in his face he struggles. He taps the bulge of his bicep so he understands.

Liam gives him an incredulous look. “You asked me to.”

Zayn swallows his laugh at how offended Liam looks, and instead says with a serious tone, “you never ask me to carry you.”

Liam frowns even more, wiggling his shoulders as he moves Zayn out of the den. His lips part a few times, brows furrowing in confusion. “Think you're strong enough?”

“Plenty strong enough,” Zayn scoffs, jumping off of Liam. The other man grins, finally realizing Zayn is playing around. “You don't look heavy.”

“Got a massive -” Liam starts to joke, but it cuts off when Zayn lifts him up. He giggles, the last word choked as he wraps his arms around Zayn's shoulders.

He likes the feel of Liam's thighs wrapped around him, his thick fingers splaying across the back of his neck, and the breathless way he laughs as he walks Liam back. He hits the wall, and Liam grins more, immediately ducking his head down to kiss him.

“Not that massive then,” Zayn teases quietly between kisses. Liam makes a displeased noise, nipping harshly at his bottom lip.

“I don't mind reminding you.”

Zayn snorts, planting himself closer to Liam. He slides his grin against Liam's lips before moving to his jaw, trailing biting kisses down until his mouth finds Liam’s birthmark.

He kisses him there, considering moving away then from Liam because he was right about him needing a shower. But Liam clings to him tightly, grinning down at him like he's the five year old.

“I wouldn't mind that either.”

Liam's brows quick up like he has suddenly thought of something, eyes glowing more than normal. Zayn tries to adjust his hold, because Liam is actually a lot heavier than he looks.

“We could try a swing then, if you're so keen on showing how strong you are.”

Zayn stares at Liam for a long moment before he barks out a laugh, muffling it in the column of Liam's throat. It seems absurd, the idea, but there is little he wouldn't do if Liam asked.

“We could,” he snickers, kissing Liam's throat again. “But if you let me fall, I'm kicking your ass.”

He lets Liam go before heading to the shower, mind racing with thoughts about how he thinks he has already fallen.

+*

“Who are you shagging then?”

Zayn can't fight the grin on his lips as he looks away from where his fingers slide through Maria’s curls. He tries to furrow his brows together and give Layla a confused look but he knows he fails.

Layla taps her throat, a knowing look on her face. Her curls are pulled into a knot at the top of her head, which Zayn tries to mimic with Maria but it is harder than he had anticipated. He keeps losing pieces and he can't seem to get the front smoothed like her mother has, but Maria sits patiently, wiggling her bum to the music playing from her cartoons.

Zayn cups his neck with his free hand, feeling the sore skin as he presses his fingers down. Liam has reprimanded him for leaving a mark before but the man seems ruthless with his own mouth. “Nobody.”

Layla rolls her eyes, pushing up from the couch to tickle her fingers under Maria’s chin. “Is that why I haven't seen you in so long? Busy with ‘nobody’?”

“Busy with work,” Zayn explains, letting go of Maria's hair as she wiggles her arms for Layla to pick her up.

Layla does, brow quirking up as she looks at Zayn. “Is nobody from work?”

Zayn presses his lips shut, omitting a response that makes Layla roll her eyes.

“Fine, don't tell me,” she murmurs as she wiggles her nose against Maria’s. Zayn fonds. He likes watching them together, the clear love on Layla’s face reminding him of Liam.

Zayn sighs internally at himself. Everything makes him think of Liam, images of his boss floating into his mind so easily it makes him want to smack himself.

“I'll be back in a few hours,” Layla promises her daughter before plopping her back down onto Zayn’s lap.

It isn't just Liam, but Oliver that floats into his mind easily as well. Taking in the innocence of Maria, the round of her cheeks and thick curls, the shape of her mouth and the way her eyes round with worry make him think of Oliver so easily. It makes his chest fill with a warmth that he always feels when he is with Oliver.

He wishes he had never seen the two smile, because he swears he misses it even though he had just seen Liam and Olivef less than an hour ago.

“Danny is in his office. Up to something that one. See if you can get it out of him, yeah?”

Zayn nods, tickling his fingers against Maria's ribcage to distract her from her mum’s departure. It works, her giggles filling the room as Layla quietly slips out the front door.

He gives up on fixing her hair like her mum’s, and sits her in his lap to watch the toons playing on the television. Quiet and hard to hear as Zayn distracts her with tickles against her cheeks and a game of peekaboo.

(It is heaven for the little one, who always rocks and wiggles back nearly off of his lap every time he pulls his hands away from his face to surprise her. She fills the room with addictive giggles, and as much as it makes Zayn’s cheeks hurt from smiling, he finds himself wanting to call Liam so he can hear Oliver laugh.)

Layla is usually only gone an hour or so, but after that hour or so passes, Zayn finds himself peeking his head into Danny’s office after DJ joins them in the living room. He snorts when he spots the PlayStation controller between his hands, eyes latched onto the part of his office wall where Zayn knows the television to be.

“Busy?” Zayn blurts, making Danny nearly jump from his seat. A guilty look crosses his face before he flicks his eyes back to the screen.

“No, taking a break,” he laughs as Zayn walks in more. He puts the controller down as Zayn settles on the chair in the corner, a few feet away from his desk. “Layla mentioned wanting to move so I've been looking for a place but -”

Danny shrugs instead of continuing, planting his palm on a few papers on the desk. Zayn frowns, settling back into the chair.

Danny and him have been friends since forever, before primary school probably. Zayn doesn't remember meeting him; he has just always been there. So it had been a bit strange when Danny had moved out of the city, but it wasn't too far -

“Where?” Zayn blurts, knowing the frown is evident in his voice. Danny flicks his eyes up, giving Zayn a tired look.

“Dunno,” Danny sighs. “She was upset the other day, mentioned wanting to go somewhere far from here.”

Zayn nibbles on his bottom lip, heart wrenching a bit. “You'll have to leave Maria with me.”

Danny huffs out a laugh, the tired look washing from his face. The kind of money him and Liam have is nice, but they are both always too tired to enjoy it. “That's what Louis said too.”

Zayn wrinkles his nose in distaste, though his lips quirk up into his cheeks. “She likes me better.”

Danny rolls his eyes, used to the way Zayn and Louis always fight about who the little girl loves more. “Do you want to take her tomorrow then? Louis says he is going out of town for work and I want to take Layla out to dinner. Five years sober tomorrow, you know.”

“Good for her,” Zayn breathes, shifting awkwardly on the cushion. They don't talk about it much, just awkward indications of Layla’s past addiction. (Which Zayn finds annoying because five years sober is something she should be proud of). Because both Danny and Layla look constipated when it slips into the conversation.

“Yeah,” Danny breathes, taking on the smile Zayn had never seen him wear until he met Layla. “Unless you're going with Louis too?”

Zayn pushes up from the couch as he hears Maria’s soft cry for Mummy, and the sound of the front door opening. “I'm a nanny, for Louis’ boss. I don't work at L&A.”

Danny's brows scrunch together. He doesn't look judgmental, and Zayn didn't think he would be -

But it is just a difficult feeling, one that frustrates him a lot. He knows he shouldn’t feel inferior to Danny, that Danny has never purposefully done anything to make him feel that way. But he does. They grew up together, shared the same lifestyle, and now they have two completely different ones. Danny’s is better. Money, a family, a nice house that he can actually pay the rent to, a degree he could actually finish.

And Zayn is proud of him, incredibly so, but sometimes it weighs heavily on his shoulders that he can’t get his life to be similar.

“Well he has the best nanny around, I reckon,” Danny says with an easy smile. He walks over, clapping Zayn on the back. Danny knows of his insecurities, even if he has never spoken them out loud, and Zayn is glad he has never mentioned them. He doesn’t know if it would make him feel worse or better.

“Yeah, he does,” Zayn jokes, elbowing Danny before pushing out of the room because just the thought of Liam and Oliver makes his mouth form into a smile he doesn't want to share with anyone.

 

When he gets home, all of the lights are out. The only thing lighting his path is the flickering glow of the television. The volume is turned down, hard to hear even as he tiptoes into the living room.

He moves quietly, hesitant when he spots Liam on the couch, one arm tucked behind his head and the other on his chest, eyes closed. But he flutters them open, focusing on Zayn when he approaches.

Zayn is unsure at first, if he can crawl onto Liam's lap like he wants to. But the soft smile on Liam's lips feels like a go ahead, so he does.

“Sorry to wake you,” Zayn whispers as he wraps his legs around Liam’s waist. He leans forward to hover over him as the other man’s eyes close again.

It isn't late, only about nine, but Liam is always tired. He thinks he doesn't sleep well but Zayn is too nervous to ask, and he knows he may be at fault for the late nights lately.

“You didn't,” Liam murmurs tiredly. “Just laid down. Took me a bit to get Ollie to sleep.”

Zayn frowns, replacing the arm underneath Liam's head as he removes his own to tickle his fingers against Zayn's cheek. “Even with Thor?”

Liam nods. “Thinks I'm sick,” he mumbles, cupping Zayn's cheek. “Or he's just nervous ‘bout me leaving. I dunno.”

Zayn nuzzles his cheek into Liam’s palm, searching his face. He seems somewhat calm with his eyes closed, but never relaxed. Even like this, he can see the hard look that would probably be on his face if he were more awake.

“I'll take good care of him,” Zayn promises softly.

Liam’s hand falls away as he swallows, eyes flicking back open. “I know. And you -”

“Have the book of emergency contacts. I've got the morning and night routine down. I will call you every eight minutes and send you pictures of him as proof that he is well,” Zayn chuckles out, pecking a kiss to the corner of Liam's mouth.

Liam grins tiredly, warming his palm back over his chest to rest over his heart. “Every seven minutes.”

“Fine,” Zayn shoots back, muffling his laugh against Liam's cheek. I'll miss you is at the tip of his tongue but it feels too ridiculous to say. “It will be strange without you here. Just Ollie, Thor and I in this massive house.”

“No raves,” Liam mumbles tiredly, voice quieter.

Zayn places his lips against Liam's for a moment before he slowly moves off of him, careful not to jostle Liam too much even though he does attempt to curl his hands under Liam to lift him from the couch.

He is like a dead weight, grumbling quietly before he pushes up from the couch. He stands with his eyes still closed, hands reaching to cup Zayn's cheeks.

He tugs him forward, lips brushing against his forehead. “‘Night, babe. Quick goodbye blowie in the morning?”

Zayn clutches onto Liam's hips for a moment to keep him close, snorting quietly as he looks up at Liam’s tired face.

“You'll have to meet me in the kitchen for a coffee date first.”

Liam laughs lowly, thumbs digging into his cheeks. “Knew I liked you for a reason.”

Zayn's retort is muted as Liam presses their lips together. But it doesn't mute his thoughts, nor the nerves that come from wondering how Liam would respond if he were to seriously ask him out on a date.

+*

Liam’s face strains with the force it takes to keep in his yawn. Louis does most of the talking, he is just there to cut in when he needs to. They aren't making enough revenue to stay open, and the managers of the store seem it fit to argue with every budget plan Louis lays out for them, and with every comment Louis makes about potential reasons on why this could be.

“We can't stop the robberies,” the manager - Jim, says in frustration. He reminds Liam of Zayn the way his nostrils flare slightly as his brows push together, but his face is bright red and slightly bulging out. “And you can't tell me we are the only branch that deals with theft.”

“You're not,” Liam comments, settling back in the chair provided to him. This department store is one of their smallest, and has the highest report of theft. He knows he should act more concerned, but right now he just doesn’t care. “But that isn't the only problem here, Jim -”

A knock at the door interrupts them, and probably saves Liam from a constipated glare. Nialler's head pokes in, eyes on him as he waves his phone and Liam could kiss him.

“Excuse me. My son is on the phone.”

He doesn't know if it is Oliver, but he assumes so as he shuffles out of the room.

“Looked like you were about to die in there,” Nialler chuckles softly as he hands Liam the phone. “Called Ollie for you.”

“Life saver,” Liam chuckles as he brings the phone to his ear. “Hey my boy.”

It isn't Oliver he gets but Zayn, who chuckles softly in his ear. “Hey to you too.”

Liam turns before his best mate can see the burn in his cheeks. He should glare at Niall, who probably did that on purpose, but he wants to savor the feeling that takes over his chest instantly. “Everything okay? I'm probably going to come home in the morning rather than tonight.”

“Okay,” Zayn responds. “Everything is great here.”

He is lying. Liam can tell by the uncertainty in his words, and he frowns, resting back against the hallway wall. “What happened?”

“Oliver wants to talk to you, hold on.”

Liam waits a moment before his son’s watery voice is in his ear.

“Papa come home.” A sniffle sounds in his ear before his voice gets louder. He is always the hardest to understand when he is upset, and Liam has to put all his attention into the words being half shouted in his ear. “Mr. Zayn maded me stay in my room wiv out Thor!”

Liam rests his head back against the wall. Maybe he should go home tonight, even if he feels too knackered to drive. “Why? Were you misbehaving?”

The moment of silence confirms Oliver had been. Liam has been incredibly lucky with his son’s behavior. He had been worried after the diagnosis, after hours of googling it and taking in the list of possible behavioral and developmental symptoms, that it would be too much for Liam to handle, no matter how hard he tried.

And when Oliver was born, he told himself he would try and never give up, but there are moments when he is too hard to handle that the thought enter Liam’s mind again. It makes him feel sick, really, and he shoves the thoughts away and replaces them with thoughts of Oliver's giggles and smiles instead.

“Not uh,” Oliver hiccups. “I said I'm sowwy.”

Liam grins, clutching onto the phone. He wants to stay on as long as he can, because he misses his son like crazy, but he knows his absence will just irritate the people in his meeting. “Are you still in time out?”

“No, watchin’ toons,” Oliver mutters, still angry sounding. “I tol’ Mr. Zayn to go away but he won't.”

“Ollie,” Liam scolds, though gently. “That's not a nice thing to say.”

Oliver huffs out a quiet sob. He still sounds angry when he chokes out his apology to Zayn. “M’sorry, m’just mad.”

Zayn says something Liam can't hear, and Oliver sniffles again, voice softening. “Wiv blueberries?”

He mutters something else and Liam smiles softly, hearing the change in Oliver’s voice instantly.

“Bye Papa, gonna make waffles wiv Mr. Zayn. I love you.”

Liam snorts. “I love you too.”

+*

Liam's fingers run across his skin as his lips move against his own. He murmurs softly between each press of his lips, soft praises and declarations of love.

“Ew,” Oliver coos from beside them. He grabs onto Zayn’s sleeve, tugging him down. “Stop kissin’, can we make spaghetti Baba?”

Zayn pulls away from Liam to cup his fingers against Oliver’s cheeks. “Sure thing, beta.”

He glances back up at Liam, a question on his face.

“I like it more than Mr. Zayn,” he mutters, voice softer than it ever in his head,

Liam's voice echoes in his head, Mr. Zayn. Followed by Ollie’s.

Mr. Zayn.

“Mr. Zayn?”

Zayn scrunches his brows together as his dream fades away from him. It takes him a moment to realize he is awake, and he is awake because of the small boy trying to climb onto him.

Zayn turns, yawning slightly before he takes in the swell of Oliver’s eyes and the tear stains on his cheeks. He shakes like mad, fingers gripping almost painfully into his arm as he tries to pull himself up onto the bed.

“What's wrong cupcake?”

The clock reads two a.m., and he pushes up frantically, worried that the little boy walked all through the house in the middle of the night crying. Zayn had wanted to sleep closer, but the only other made up room was Liam’s and since Liam has yet to invite him into it, he hadn't wanted to invade his privacy.

He pulls Oliver onto his lap, and the boy automatically falls against his chest, clinging to his t-shirt as he huffs out a sob.

“Nightmare,” Oliver whispers. Zayn rubs his hands up his back, trying to soothe the shake in the little one but it doesn't seem to work. “I screamed but you didn't come.”

“M’sorry beta,” Zayn murmurs tiredly, pressing his lips into Oliver’s hair. He tries to fight off sleep, but he feels heavy with it. “You wanna tell me what happened?”

“Papa was poorly, in the ‘opital.”

Zayn hums as Oliver's frantic heart beat slows some. Oliver had been difficult all day, almost impossible to handle with how hyper he had been. Knocking things over and screaming, throwing more tantrums than Zayn has seen since he had moved in. He had calmed down after a few minutes in his room, though he remained pouting at Zayn until he went to bed.

And Zayn hopes putting him in time out isn't the cause of him having nightmares.

“Papa isn't poorly, and he isn’t in the hospital. He will be here in the morning and you will see it's just a dream. We can call him if you like?”

Oliver nods before he pushes away to look at him. His bottom lip still trembles, and there are tears still built above his waterline. “S’okay, but - but can I sweep in here with you?”

Zayn tugs him back to his chest before he settles on the mattress without hesitation and curls Oliver into his side. Oliver tugs the blanket up high, practically over his face before he hides it against Zayn’s. He wants desperately for Oliver to believe him that Liam is okay, to be able to ease the tremble running through him so he can sleep free of nightmares.

He brushes his fingers through Oliver’s curls, remembering when he was little and how comforted he used to be by the low of his father’s voice, singing softly against his hairline until he fell asleep.

“I want to lend you my coat,” he sings quietly, petting Oliver's hair as his eyes fall closed. “one that is as soft as your cheek.”

He drags his lips across Oliver’s hairline, humming softly before singing again. His heartbeat no longer beats erratically, but a small sniffle tells Zayn that the boy is still thinking about his nightmare.

“So when the world is cold, you can have a hiding place you can go.”

Oliver pushes closer, the tremble long gone as Zayn keeps singing under his breath. He makes a mental note to write the lyrics he makes up, in the notebook he had first started scribbling them in a few days ago.

“Oo oo ooh,” Zayn whispers out before pressing his lips to Oliver’s hairline for a long moment. He feels heavy with exhaustion, but he waits for Oliver’s breathing to slow and for the pup laying in the doorway to climb onto the foot of his bed, before he stops singing and closes his eyes.

It takes him too long to fall asleep after that as his mind focuses on the soft beating of Oliver’s heart and the way it makes his own feel.

+*

Liam leans against the doorway to Zayn’s bedroom, uncaring about the dumb smile on his lips as he takes in what he sees. He had thought they would already be awake, and he had been a bit frantic when he looked around the house and hadn't found either one of them.

He hadn't thought to look in Zayn’s room until Thor happened upon him and practically led the way. The pup climbed back onto the bed as Liam entered the room to find Zayn and Oliver curled into each other, and Liam had to laugh at himself for worrying once again for no reason.

They both sleep soundly, Oliver's arm thrown over Zayn's chest and his fingers loose on his shirt like he had been clutching it at one point. Zayn's chin rests against Oliver’s forehead, face soft as he sleeps with parted lips and soft breaths.

Liam feels like he might choke on his heart as it leaps into his throat. Nights when he is too restless and his mind too busy to sleep, he usually finds himself watching Oliver, finding ease in the peace on his sleeping son’s face. And he finds himself wanting to do the same with Zayn.

He pulls out his phone after a moment of hesitation, to take a picture to hold onto this moment forever.

And he finds himself wanting to hold onto the way it makes him feel, too.

 

Chapter Text

It becomes a thing, the way they attach to each other the moment the little one is down for the night, or when he leaves the room chasing Thor or to play with one of his tigers. Liam's big hands come down on his cheeks to bring Zayn into a kiss that never lasts long enough before Oliver is scurrying back into the room with them.

Late night hand jobs and rushed blow jobs before work, tearing off their clothes in every room of Liam's massive house other than their own bedrooms. Zayn always wakes up in his own bed though, with no memory of getting there because he always seems to fall asleep first.

They don't talk about much, except for the dirty talk to work each other up. Zayn learns just how much Liam likes to tell him what to do, and just how much he actually likes it.

He really does. He craves the stern of Liam's voice when his fingers grip into his cheeks, the tension in his back when he tries to be still as Liam teases. It always leads to soft praises, telling Zayn how beautiful or good he is.

And he might just do anything Liam asks of him for that.

“Good boy,” Liam moans quietly, hips easing forward. Tears build up in Zayn's eyes, and his nails dig into his palms behind his back as he tries to hold still. “Taking me cock so well, babe -”

Arousal floods through him, his prick untouched between his legs but streaking out stringy precome onto the tile floor with every stroke of Liam's cock past his lips, the pressure building in his throat that takes his focus to relax. His jaw aches, but Liam's fingers rub at the hinge like he knows.

Liam always touches him so gently afterwards, sliding his fingers through his hair or tracing shapes across his skin as his breathing and the shiver in his muscles calm. Those are the moments he wants to talk during the most, but he is too afraid of ruining the soft look on Liam's face so he keeps his thoughts quiet.

He doesn't miss the hard look, though he craves it when Liam gets a little rough with him, manhandling him across whatever surface they are on. That is the only time he sees it lately, and he doesn’t know why, but he hopes he is the reason for it.

“Fuck,” Liam breathes, fingers tightening in Zayn’s hair as he snaps his hips forward. Zayn groans, eyes fluttering shut as Liam slides deeper down his throat.

He comes with a muffled moan, lips pressed tightly together as if he doesn't want to disturb the calm morning air anymore than they already have. The bitter taste floods Zayn's mouth, and he sucks, groaning shamelessly like he is thankful for the come sliding down his throat.

Liam looks good fucked out, skin flushed and sweaty, this satiated look in his eyes that make him seem adorable somehow. It makes Zayn want to cup his cheeks and brush his lips all over his cuddly grizzly bear face.

“C’mere baby boy,” LIam says hoarsely when he pulls away. “Alright?”

“Yeah, fuck Liam.”

He helps Zayn to his feet, thumbing at his lips before covering them with his own. Zayn moans softly as Liam's fingers wrap loose around his cock, where it hangs hard and curving towards his belly, but there is no intent in the way he lazily strokes him other than to tease -

“Wanna try something new?”

Zayn shivers as Liam guides him back against the bathroom sink. “Yeah.”

Liam looks at him for a long moment, his fingers sliding down his length until squeezing at the base and then lower, around the right of his balls. “I want you to wait to come.”

Zayn huffs out, sounding wounded but excitement pours through him. “Until?”

“Tonight.”

Zayn knocks his forehead against Liam’s shoulder, feeling like the oxygen is being squeezed from his lungs. It excites him, though nerves buzz through him as well.

Liam is testing him, he thinks. The Payne family is coming over for the day, and he is already nervous about meeting them. He will be a wreck even more than he already is.

Liam drags a finger across his jaw before pressing under his chin. “You can say no.”

And Zayn feels ridiculous because he doesn't want to.

“You'll make it good for me if I'm good for you?”

Liam’s eyes darken as he rubs at his chin. “I will.” He drags his lips across Zayn’s cheek, increasing the arousal that pulses through him as he whispers low and dirty in his ear. “I want to fuck you tonight, babe.”

Zayn moans quietly, gripping Liam closer to him though it makes the urge to rub off against him harder to resist. They have been doing this for a few weeks now and Liam has yet to suggest that. His impatience for it has made Zayn close to asking him a few times in a serious manner, not just a teasing one.

“Yeah?”

“Mhm,” Liam hums, nipping at his earlobe before he pulls away, fingers circling Zayn's wrist. “Come on, got something for you. Not sure how you feel about toys, but I bought a few -”

Zayn's heart picks up the pace as he reaches for the pajama pants he had been wearing before Liam had joined him in the bathroom. It had been sleepy kisses, eager hands slipping underneath the red and black plaid material, and a hard press of Liam against the back of him that had pulled him into alertness this morning. Better than coffee, he reckons.

Liam pulls on his briefs, dark eyes latched onto him as he waits for a response or a reaction, Zayn isn't sure

“I - yes.”

Oliver isn't due up for another hour, so the house is quiet as they make their way through it. Liam keeps his arms around Zayn's shoulders as he tells him to head to the other bedroom in Zayn's side of the house.

“I want you to tell me if there's ever something I do that you don't like, or that you don't want to do, okay?”

Zayn shivers. They haven't really discussed boundaries yet in a sat down kind of way, but Zayn has a hard time thinking of things he wouldn't want Liam to do to him. “I will.”

“I like to use colors,” Liam goes on, lips against his ear as Zayn pushes open the bedroom door. “Green for good, red for bad yeah? Automatic stop.”

“Yeah,” Zayn breathes, ignoring the jealousy that curls through him at the thought of Liam being with anyone else. Obviously he has, and Zayn has no right to feel jealous about it.

But he does.

“What’s red for you?” Liam asks as he turns Zayn. He guides him backwards before lowering him to the bed that is still unmade from the last time they fucked around in here. They always fuck around in parts of the house that aren't their bedrooms. He doesn't know why, but it is another one of those things he doesn't want to bring up.

Liam knees around his thighs as he reaches underneath the pillow, raising a brow as he waits for a response.

Zayn wracks his mind, but the pressure between his legs makes it hard to think. “Name calling.”

Liam nods, leaning forward to scrape his lips over his chest tattoos.

Zayn feels a flush of embarrassment take over his skin. “I like rough just um, not like slapping or anything.”

Liam only hums, kissing down his ribcage. “Spanking?”

“Green, you know that,” Zayn huffs out, clenching his eyes closed. He can't think with Liam’s mouth hot on his skin when he feels so sensitive. “Choking.”

“Okay,” Liam says, licking down to his navel.

“-is green. Not too much though. Like vanilla choking.”

He jokes because of the nerves but Liam doesn't laugh. He moans quietly instead, biting at the trail of hair underneath his belly button. Zayn flushes even more, because it isn't anything he has told anyone before. He just likes the idea of Liam's big hand against his throat. Or anywhere on his body, actually.

“Cock rings?”

Zayn stiffens at Liam's words, but Liam's lips are tickling against his cock. He shivers when they wrap around the head, making Zayn push up onto his elbows to watch him even though his body trembles.

Liam looks up at him through his eyelashes as he places the toy onto Zayn’s belly, sinking further down his prick. A tremble takes over his thighs and he grips the sheets, willing away the orgasm he feels seconds away from.

He breathes out harshly from his nose, lips pressing together as Liam's throat constricts around him.

“Liam,” Zayn gasps out in warning, cupping Liam's cheek as he pops off with an obscene noise. His belly clenches almost violently, and it feels like forever until he feels like Liam can touch him again.

“Good boy,” Liam murmurs, pressing his lips to Zayn's thigh. “So green or red?”

“Green,” Zayn chokes out, and he must love torture because that is what today is going to feel like with that thing snuggled onto the base of his cock while he meets the Payne family.

Liam continues to kiss the inner of his thighs as he fits the ring onto Zayn. It looks obscene, how red and swollen his dick is. Liam presses a kiss to the underside, finger sliding down the right of his balls, making Zayn's legs jerk from sensitivity.

Liam shifts up his body, hovering over him. His voice casual when he speaks. “We’ll talk about more red and green, yeah? Gotta get ready for me mum to come by.”

Zayn pinches Liam’s stomach hard, making the older man frown down at him before he presses a bruising kiss to Zayn’s lips.

+*

Liam might as well have put the cock ring on himself, the way he feels watching Zayn. There has been a dark flush on his face all day, sweat across his brow but he pulls a smile onto his face with ease. Liam thinks only he can see the discomfort here and there, and the way his lips part suddenly sometimes when he moves like he wants to moan but he doesn’t make a sound.

The length of his sweater hides how hard he is underneath his jeans, and Liam can’t resist cupping him underneath the material whenever he gets the chance. He likes the tremble of Zayn’s body and the soft moan that leaves his lips when Liam plants himself to his back. Zayn assures him that he is green, but Liam is starting to feel far from it.

He had gone a bit overboard, buying toys. He doesn't even know if he would ever use some of them, but he wants Zayn to tell him which ones he likes. Which ones are green, and Liam would use whatever he wanted probably. But he is slightly embarrassed to actually show him, because there is a lot.

“Are you from around here, Zayn?”

Karen looks at Zayn with her normal, kind expression. She loves him, Liam can tell, and it makes something burst in his chest that he is finding harder to ignore as he spends more time with Zayn.

Zayn swallows, the pinch in his voice noticeable to Liam. “Yes, Mrs. Payne. From the East End, with me mum, dad and sisters. Moved into the city when I went to Uni.”

“Just Karen is fine, dear,” Karen says softly, reaching over to touch the back of his hand. Liam hasn’t asked Zayn much about his family, and he knows he should -

He hasn't asked Zayn much about his life at all, not even the bits he already kind of knows about. He doesn't even know his middle name.

“I’ve seen your resume, it is quite impressive. Are you still in school?”

“Thank you,” Zayn murmurs, scooping up more food onto his fork. Liam ignores his own plate, unable to take his eyes away from Zayn. Oliver sits beside Zayn, after insisting that he had to, quiet as he looks between all of the adults. “I intend to finish my graduate courses within the next year.”

Liam makes a mental note to ask more about that.

“Oh that’s wonderful. Liam here didn’t quite like school, did you? Turned down the opportunity for graduate school because, well, Liam?”

He feels his face grow tenser as he glances at his mother, and he can tell Zayn notices by the wide of his bambi eyes and the way he fidgets with the glasses perched on the bridge of his nose. “Well, I’m doing just fine without a Master’s degree, mummy.”

Karen softens, giving Liam a knowing look as she pats his hand too. “I know, my love. I am quite proud of you.”

“Me too, Gwammy?”

Liam’s eyes slide to Zayn. He shakes his head slightly at the worried look on Zayn’s face, to assure him he is okay. He just hopes his mother doesn’t try to slide Oliver’s mum into the conversation again. He knows that is what she had been doing, since it is what his mother always tries to do.

It had been Ollie’s mum, who had stopped Liam from staying and pursuing a career at L&A when he had first worked there, and from working on his degree, when she was pregnant with Oliver. They had partied too much that Liam was going to have a hard time graduating on time, but he was determined to change that when he found out he was going to be a father.

But she had left, making it impossible to go to school and work as much as he needed to, and making it impossible to stay in a city that reminded him of her in every way.

His mum insists he talk about it, but Liam thinks he should do anything but that.

“Of course sunshine. I'm always proud of you.”

Oliver glows, beaming as he turns to look up at Zayn. “Mr. Zayn is teachin’ me paintin’ and singin’ and um, um the piano?”

Zayn smiles softly down at the little lad as he tucks his fingers through his curls and tugs at Liam's heart strings. “Yeah, I can teach you the piano.”

When dinner is over, Liam collects the dishes, refusing to let his mother pick up a single one and insisting she make herself comfortable in the living room.

He had spent the better part of the morning messing up the house, trying to distract himself from Zayn but also because if he has a messy home then maybe she will take him up on his offer of moving in or letting him buy them a home closer to his.

Because when the offer for the position at L&A had came, Karen had practically packed his bags for him and shoved him out the front door. Not because she wanted him to move away, but because he had been practically rubbing sticks together to get heat into their tiny home. He would have never taken the job if it weren't for her.

“Can Gwampa take me swimmin’?” Oliver asks as he follows behind Liam, holding his own plate because Liam wouldn’t let him pick up any of the heavier dishes. “In em - twenny minutes?”

Liam snorts, taking Oliver’s dish from him. “Did Grampa bribe you to ask me that?”

“Dunno what bribe is, Papa,” Oliver tells him, eyes widening in confusion. Liam smiles fondly, plopping a kiss to his forehead as he stands up.

“Go on, then. Take Thor with you.”

Oliver’s face lights up with excitement as he runs out, calling out for Geoff and the big puppy. “Papa says you can take me swimmin’ Grampa!”

Zayn ducks in behind him, carrying the pasta dish piled with their plates on top. He looks behind his shoulder to make sure they are in the clear before pushing forward, grazing his lips to Liam’s.

“Okay?” Liam murmurs, cupping the back of his head as Zayn pushes the dishes onto the counter. It feels impossible to stop kissing him any chance he gets to, and it makes him feel a bit like a teen again - sneaking around so his parents won’t catch him.

Zayn groans quietly, plastering to his front. He rubs against him, letting out a sharp exhale that goes straight to Liam’s dick.

“Be good,” Liam scolds quietly, tapping under his chin as he grinds back. Zayn’s eyebrows crease together, a desperate look in his eyes as he parts his lips.

He has been wanting to ask Zayn to do it, having hid the toy in the spare bedroom for when he gets the chance to. And the thought had hit him suddenly this morning, settling into his thoughts when he was on the edge of coming down Zayn’s throat. They have settled into each other so easily, but he wants to talk about the relationship they are establishing here.

It makes him dizzy thinking how willing Zayn has been so far, and the comment about spanking and choking being green.

Liam groans quietly at the memory, pressing his mouth back against Zayn’s. “Green?”

“Mm,” Zayn moans quietly, flicking his eyes open to look at Liam. “But you better fuck me tonight, Mr. Payne. I feel like I’m going to explode.”

Liam blurts out a laugh as he nuzzles his nose to Zayn’s, arms circling around his shoulders to keep him close so he can kiss over his cheeks. “Maybe go for a dip in the pool and cool down.”

A groan rumbles in Zayn's throat as he drags his lips against Liam's. “Can't swim.”

“Oliver can teach you,” Liam says against his lips, pulling him closer. He feels hot all over, but for some reason he can't stop smiling against Zayn's lips. “Go on, but wait twenty minutes after you eat.”

Zayn rolls his eyes before pulling away some, a mock irritated look on his face. “Yes Dad.”

Liam grins more, not letting Zayn leave as he tightens his grip around his shoulders with one arm and snakes the other between their bodies.

“You can call me daddy if you like,” Liam murmurs, sliding his palm between Zayn's legs again.

Zayn lets out a shaky exhale, lips parting some as his brows furrow over accusing eyes.

“Nice try,” he jokes, grinding against Liam’s palm. "But no."

 

A few hours later, Liam curls up in the corner of the couch, his feet knocked against Zayn’s sock covered feet. His mother keeps sending him amused looks that make his cheeks burn, but thankfully Zayn seems completely oblivious to the way she glances between the two of them.

Or he could just be distracted. There is a permanent distressed wrinkle to his brow, and he looks tense where he settles into the arm of the couch across from him. He fidgets and shifts nonstop, in an uncomfortable manner that causes a flush to take over his cheeks every time he does so.

Oliver sits on the floor, curled up around Thor and watching some movie Geoff and Karen had brought for him. He is the only one paying attention as Zayn and Liam talk to his parents, who catch him up on the things he has missed in Wolver-Hampton.

“Wolver-Hampton?” Zayn asks, raising a brow. “Is that where you lived before here?”

Liam nods, tucking his toes under Zayn’s foot. “Yeah, moved in with me mum and dad after Ollie was born.”

Zayn gives him a long look. This is a perfect chance for him to ask about Oliver’s mum, and Liam feels vulnerable for a moment. “That’s probably why Ollie is so likeable. Gets it from his Grammy, not you.”

Liam wrinkles his nose as he laughs, nudging Zayn’s toes roughly. He is glad that Zayn doesn't ask him questions he doesn't want to answer. Either he isn't nosy, or Niall was right about the angry look on Liam's face when she is mentioned.

“Oh, I like this one, Liam,” Karen giggles, cheeks flushing as he brings a hand up to her mouth in embarrassment. “A charmer, good with kids.”

Liam clears his throat, frowning at her before she can continue because she knows where she is going with this. She has been pushing the dating scene on him since he first came home with Oliver.

“You must have kids of your own, yeah? You’re great with them.”

Zayn swallows thickly, shaking his head. “No. I like kids, but I don’t think I could ever be a parent, lot of work you know, but thank you.”

Liam hardens, a heaviness taking over his chest that makes him clear his throat again because it feels tight and clogged up. He looks away from Zayn, staring at Oliver but he can feel the other man’s eyes on him.

“One day. You're young, yeah?”

Zayn doesn't answer out loud, and Liam pushes up from the couch to go outside because the room is starting to feel too stuffy.

 

“You better quit them things, boy.”

Liam grins as he pulls the cigarette from his lips and looks at the glare on his father's face. It isn't mean, his eyes are still bright, but he has been on Liam's ass about smoking since he was nineteen and first picked up the habit.

“An addiction that can take you from your son.”

Liam flicks the cigarette to the ground guiltily, eyes narrowing at his dad as he stomps it out. “I know that.”

Geoff comes closer, a soft smile on his lips as he pats Liam on the shoulder. “You're alright, yeah? You know your mother and I worry.”

“I know,” Liam mutters. His parents are easy criers, and he really prays they don't cry tonight because Liam feels like he could. It isn’t a big deal, but for some reason Zayn’s words stick to him like glue and it makes him feel kind of shitty. “I'm good.”

“A great lad you've got in there.”

Liam rolls his eyes at his dad’s knowing look, the glint in his eye. “It's not like that, Papa.”

This time, Geoff rolls his eyes back, tapping him under his chin. “Lying doesn't look good on you, son.”

+*

Zayn groans, head knocking back against the headboard behind him. He aches, all over. He swears he has never been this horny in his life, dick throbbing between his legs, hips rolling like they have a mind of their own. His fingers clench into the blanket, his breathing labored and skin sweaty.

Liam is taking his time, he swears. He had told him to wait in his room while he put Oliver to bed, but it feels like Liam has been gone for hours now. And he loves the Paynes, but they had lingered by the door saying their goodbyes for what felt like an eternity before they actually left.

“Fuck,” Zayn gasps as his dick twitches under his briefs. He feels constricted with his clothes on, with the cock ring nested at the base of his length. It has been at the front of his mind all day, how hard he has been. And Liam didn't help any, made it worse really - dark eyes on him throughout dinner, touching him through his clothes whenever the opportunity arose.

He is an arse, Zayn swears. An arse he feels completely head over heels for.

Zayn decides fuck it to waiting as he strips off his pants and briefs, tossing them onto his bedroom floor. He doesn't touch himself where he wants to, even though it feels like he might combust if he doesn't.

Instead he warms his hands under the sweater he wears, being an ass to his own self as he teases his fingers against his erect nipples. They are sensitive and he moans shamelessly, hips wiggling back against the mattress.

He thinks about Liam after work in his suit, strolling through some X-rated store with Zayn on his mind. It makes him feel hotter, fingers bruising harder against his nipples.

He stills when the door opens, his shirt half off of his torso and fingers digging into his thighs. He pulls his eyes away from his straining prick to look at Liam, whose eyes are narrowed and jaw tightened.

“Hands and knees?” Liam offers him after a long moment of him just looking at him. His fingers go to his belt as he steps in, nudging his head at Zayn.

Zayn huffs out as he turns. He feels slightly exposed as his knees dig into the mattress and his legs spread, back arching some to show off. His dick hangs heavily as he leans onto the mattress and like this, he is unable to touch himself or grind down against the sheets.

“Good boy.”

Zayn bites hard on his bottom lip as he looks over his shoulder, attempting to get a good look at Liam. He catches the pants that he had been wearing being tossed to the side before there is a dip in the bed from his weight.

Zayn lowers to his elbows, wiggling his bum until Liam's hand cups him to still his movements. His fingers dig in, squeezing and spreading him as he groans under his breath.

“Like what you see?” Zayn huffs out. He wants to stay cool sounding, but he feels anything but cool. Teetering on the edge, his whole body tense like the pressure between his legs has spread through him.

“Mm,” Liam hums, cupping Zayn's other cheek. He can't see the other man's face as he settles between the spread of Zayn's legs, and it makes him start to hate the position he is in.

His thumbs scrape across his skin, the curve of his arse and down the back of his thighs, up to the bottom of his spine and curling around the tattoos on his sides.

“Liam,” Zayn complains, voice frustrated sounding because Liam keeps taking his time. “Come on.”

His words are cut off when Liam's mouth presses hotly against his bum, tongue soft when it wets his skin. “Be patient.”

Zayn knocks his forehead against his hands. He has been patient, all day. He keeps that to himself though, only huffing put harsh breaths as Liam tongues his skin because he wants to be good for Liam.

“Is this good?” Liam murmurs huskily as he nuzzles his nose between Zayn's cheeks, and fuck -

“Yeah, yeah,” Zayn gasps quietly, feeling Liam's warm breath against him. Anticipation makes the tension in his body worse, sweat trickling down his neck as he waits for Liam's lips to move where he needs them.

Obscene, the other lad is, tearing Zayn apart seam by seam every time they are together like this. Arse over tit no longer sounds like the proper way to explain how Zayn feels.

“Yeah?” Liam teases, rubbing a dry thumb around Zayn's hole. “I can taste?”

Zayn groans, rocking his hips back against Liam. He can do anything he wants really, but especially that.

“Tell me,” Liam demands softly.

“Please, Liam.”

It feels like the air is being squeezed from his lungs when Liam finally kisses him proper, lips wrapping around the rim, sucking softly before his tongue flattens and drags over him. It feels messy, Zayn's skin quickly covered in spit. It sounds messy too, Liam's groans and sounds of approval loud in the quiet room.

Zayn trembles, flushing warmer with every high pitched, desperate noise that leaves his lips. He tries to muffle them but he is a wreck, working back against Liam's mouth and shifting all over the sheets.

Liam fucks his tongue into him slowly, teeth scraping his skin before he replaces it with his thumb, slowly easing it in. He clenches around him, his orgasm a moment away if it weren't for the fucking cock ring making his dick feel swollen and heavy.

The feeling stays as Liam takes his time, working his thumb until the sting fades but Zayn still feels like he could break.

“You're loud,” Liam comments, with no disapproval in his voice. He mouths at his bum as he nudges another finger against him. “Gonna scream babe?”

Zayn can barely form words, only making incoherent noises as he fucks back against Liam’s fingers. His shoulders bracket with his heavy breathing, spine arching in response to the arousal building inside of him.

It is so frustrating, feeling a breath away from coming, and he is on the edge of telling Liam enough when Liam pulls away.

“Turn around, baby.”

Liam's eyes are heavy with arousal, dark as they drag down Zayn's torso as he wrangles off his damp with sweat shirt. His skin is flushed a beautiful shade of pink, and darker between his legs. He is thick, curving towards his belly and Zayn can't look away when Liam touches himself, pushing down the extra skin to thumb at the leaking head.

“Liam,” Zayn says desperately, squirming against the sheets. His own prick looks obscene, dark with the flush and leaking across his belly. His balls tight as Liam cups them, legs shaking noticeable as the muscles of his belly clench. “Please, just -”

Liam turns, reaching behind him where he produces a condom he must have brought with him. Zayn's heart pounds, excitement and relief flushing through him as Liam tears the package and rolls the latex down his length.

“Need you to fuck me, Mr. Payne,” Zayn groans, flexing his fingers across the sheets. The hard look is on Liam’s face again, jaw tense and brows furrowed as he cups Zayn's thighs to wrap them around his waist. “I've been good but -”

Liam nods like he understands. His fingers curl around his length to guide himself forward, making Zayn gasp inaudibly as the head nudges against his hole.

“Real good,” Liam mutters, eyes latching down between them. He sucks in his full bottom lip, brows creasing in pleasure as he pushes forward.

Zayn feels like he is screaming as he arches back, mouth opening wide but the sound is stuck in his throat as Liam eases in. The sting of the stretch hurts a little, his body tensing as the pain mixes with pleasure.

“Take it off,” Liam grunts, cupping each of Zayn's thighs to pull him onto his dick slowly, maddeningly slow. “Need you to come f’me, yeah?”

Zayn huffs out, his fingers shaking noticeably as he pulls the ring from the base. Liam sinks deeper, the head nudging against that bundle of nerves and Zayn hasn't even pulled his hand away completely before he is coming.

It rocks through him, his orgasm, hitting him like a truck the way his body tenses and his muscles clench. The sound he lets out is wounded as his back arches and he coats across his belly.

Liam moans softly, arching forward to bite as Zayn's bottom lip as he grinds forward. White prickles the back of his eyelids, and he can barely kiss back as pleasure continues to take over his body.

“So fucking beautiful,” Liam moans. “You good?”

“Yeah,” Zayn breathes shakily, gripping Liam's sides to keep him close.

He pulls his hips back some before snapping them forward, grinding deep until Zayn stops spitting out streaks of come, though the burst of pleasure through him doesn't stop, racking through him every time Liam dicks into him.

Liam's arms bracket his head as he strokes into him roughly, the slap of their skin louder than the shameless moans passing Zayn's lips. He isn't sure why Liam isn't pressed about him being loud this time, but he can't find it in him to care since he can't be quiet even if he tried.

He slides his fingers up Liam's sweaty back, nails marking down his skin to hold him close. Liam's heart beats against his chest, his harsh breath across his neck. He is heavy, pressing him into the mattress but it is a welcomed weight.

“So tight,” Liam groans, nipping at Zayn's chin as he strokes slowly into him. The other man shutters, the muscles of his back rippling under Zayn's fingers. “God, you feel so fucking good -”

“You,” Zayn says hoarsely, his voice cracking some around the word. “Gonna make me come - fuck, again.”

Liam groans, pressing his forehead to Zayn's as he dicks into him faster. His cheeks are redder than ever, lips parted obscenely around his moans. “Yeah? Fuck -”

Liam grips his thigh as he leans back, pulling his leg over his shoulder and between their bodies, changing the angle as Liam fucks deep, knees digging into the bed with fingers harsh on his other leg. Their hips smack together brutally, with harsh quick strokes and Zayn's failing attempt at meeting each one.

Like this he can see the way Liam's muscles flex, sweat slipping down the hair across his chest. The strength in his fingers, the sharp V of his waist and smooth thighs. His pinched brow and reddened lips, the slope of his neck as he tilts his head back to show off the heart shaped mark on his throat and the sharp of his jaw.

Looking at Liam like this is all he needs before his second orgasm rips through him, making Liam’s hips stagger from the way he clenches around him. He throws an arm over his face, trying to cover the broken look he feels taking over it.

He feels broken, shattering across the sheets like debris from an explosion. Eyes clenched shut and head tilted back, he misses the look on Liam's face as the other man comes, but he savors the pinched moan that fills the room.

Liam guides his leg back to his waist as he covers Zayn’s body with his own, fucking into him with slow, hard strokes. He kisses Zayn everywhere but his lips, placing the last one on his forehead right above the crease of his brows.

“Zayn, Zayn,” Liam chants quietly as he stills, arms sliding underneath Zayn’s head. “You know how long I've been wanting to fuck you?”

Zayn smooths his palms up Liam’s back as he grins. “About as long as I have been wanting you too, I reckon.”

He feels high, buzzing and lightheaded as a calm takes over his body. Muscles relaxing and a heaviness making him feel like he is sinking into the mattress. Exhaustion too, hitting him like a brick as he kisses Liam lazily.

His hand comes over his throat, tilting his head back as his thumb strokes over his erratic pulse like he is trying to ease it. But Liam's palm pressing against him like this only makes his heart race feel faster, even though the touch is gentle.

He wants to feel a power in his palm, pushing him into submission but he feels too wrecked for another round.

Zayn catches his lips as Liam moves away and eases out of him, gripping onto his sides and making their lips dance together for a moment longer before Liam pulls back to tug off the condom.

“Green?” Liam mutters as he leans back over him, kissing across his jaw and his throat. Zayn nods, eyes fluttering shut as he focuses on the sensation of the soft glide of Liam’s lips.

Liam pets his hair and nuzzles his cheeks, kissing across his eyelids and the tip of his nose. His breath skates across his lips before he places a soft kiss to them, fingers tickling down his cheek.

He kisses and touches him like that until the tension in his body is gone, until the rise and fall of his chest slows and his heartbeat no longer erratic. The room is quiet other than Liam's whispered compliments against his skin and their soft breathing. A heavy calm settles over them, and Zayn feels heavy with sleep until he feels Liam move away and off of the bed.

“You wanna stay?” Zayn tries, curling his arms underneath his head as he watches Liam grab the discarded condom to throw in the bin. “Tell me all about those other toys you bought?”

Liam grins, padding back over. But he doesn't climb onto the bed, instead he leans over him to press his lips to the tip of his nose. “Restraints, nipple clamps, et cetera, et cetera. You'll have to take a look. Tell me what you like.”

Zayn groans softly, cupping the back of Liam's head to drag him down so their lips can press together. He doesn't ask Liam to stay again, because he can tell he doesn't want to, so instead he pushes away the heaviness in his chest and kisses Liam until he pulls away and leaves.

+*

Liam pads quietly through the quiet house, ignoring the pull in him to go back to Zayn's room. He uses an excuse that he needs to be closer to Ollie’s room at night, but he knows that isn't the only reason.

He sighs, heading into his room and towards the bathroom. A calm has settled across his skin, a warmth in his chest that makes his lips quirk up in the dark. He wants to soak into it, let it consume him, but the alert constantly going off in his head prevents him from doing so. 

It is confusing, the back and forth emotions. He is fighting a war with himself, and it is frustrating because he can't sort his thoughts together properly enough to figure it out.

Liam flicks on the bathroom lights before taking in his reflection. His cheeks are burnt and lips stained from Zayn’s mouth. He stares at himself for a long moment like he is looking for some change that he doesn't find, before flicking off the light and heading to his empty bed.

*+

Oliver presses his lips together in concentration, brows furrowed as he pushes up the longer wet hair at the top of Liam's head into a mohawk with the flat of his hands. They are covered in hair product, a bit of it on his face too because Oliver has always been prone to messes.

Oliver pulls his hands away, giving Liam a considerate look before he starts fixing up his hair again.

“Making me look fit?”

Oliver grins, nose wrinkling as he nods. There is a sparkle in his eye, nearly blinding sometimes. “A babe ma’net.”

Liam startles, eyes widening as Oliver snickers again. “Where did you learn that?”

Oliver shucks up his shoulders, tucking his chin into one to giggle. “Uncle Ni.”

He should have known.

When Oliver is satisfied with his hair, he jumps off of Liam’s lap to hand him the mirror. It is just the two of them today, with Zayn gone for the weekend, and the house feels weird without him there.

Three more weeks, Liam thinks. Three more weeks until Oliver starts primary and Zayn leaves, going off to do whatever he has planned next. They haven't talked about it much, just that Zayn applied to take online courses to fulfill the rest of the requirements needed to get his degree.

Nothing about if he is going to come around once the summer is over, and Liam tries not to focus on the fact that he cares too much about the answer. He has looked into the cost of his schooling, but he is afraid of offending Zayn by offering to pay for it.

“Uncle Ni is a bad influence,” Liam jokes as he looks in the mirror. It isn't really a mohawk except for the front. The rest of his hair sticks up all over the place but he can't seem to mind when Oliver had looked so proud of his work.

Oliver wrinkles his nose again. “Nuh-uh. He say we gonna find you a boyfriend, Papa.”

Liam frowns, pulling Oliver between his legs and making a mental note to kill Niall later. “Don't listen to Uncle Niall. Just cover your ears whenever he talks.”

Oliver giggles, patting Liam’s cheeks. “I asked Mr. Zayn to be. Coz - coz, Uncle Ni say a good boyfriend looks at you like um, like Uncle Harry looks at the flowers.”

Liam feels how hot his face gets as he tries not to react the way he feels, but instead to stay calm and collected. He feels silly for being embarrassed about being called out like this by his son.

“I don't need anyone but you, Ollie. You're my flower.”

Oliver practically rolls his eyes at him. “What about Thor?”

“And Thor,” Liam responds, before hesitating. “What did Mr. Zayn say when you asked him that?”

“Um,” Oliver sings, tapping his chin thoughtfully. “He said he dunno."

Liam presses his lips instead of throwing questions at his five year old, who shouldn't even know about dating to begin with.

 

“I’m going to actually kill you.”

Niall's face crumples in confusion, fingers twirling a piece of hair behind his ear as he stares at Liam. They are at his place, sat in the den watching the game while Oliver cooks with Harry.

“For what?”

“Telling my son I need a boyfriend. He's five, you know.”

A guilty look crosses Niall's eyes as his lips quirk up. “He said Mr. Zayn was your boyfriend, actually.”

Liam glares, shifting awkwardly and crossing his arms over his chest like that will protect his heart’s feelings.

Feelings he can't have because this is just temporary, Liam swore off dating and Zayn never wants to be a parent.

Feelings he shouldn't have because he barely knows Zayn, it has only been two months and he can't trust himself with people he feels things for so quickly.

“From your encouragement, no doubt. And he isn't, by the way.”

Niall blurts out a laugh, shaking an accusing finger at him. “You're definitely shagging, mate. S’all over your face.”

“No,” Liam denies quickly. Though he doesn't know why. He shares everything with Niall, but he wants to keep this to himself. Talking about it will force him to acknowledge how he feels and that will just make it worse.

Niall rolls his eyes, tucking back further into the chair he sits in. “Whatever. There's some reason for that stupid smile on your face. And you haven't been as grumpy at work. Back to your usual ball of sunshine self -”

“Sod off,” Liam grumbles, pushing up from where he sits. “Not everyone needs to be in a relationship to be happy, mate.”

Niall softens as he follows Liam out, not getting the hint that Liam is trying to get away from him so he can end the conversation. Running away rather than facing it, he has always been good at that.

That is why Ollie’s mum and him worked out so well at first.

“No, but it can still make you happy. And don't try to ignore me, Li. Oliver makes you happy, but I know how much you hang on to her leaving you. This can maybe help you with that. Trust again, yeah?”

Liam stiffens before turning around in the hallway. It has been over five years, he wishes people would stop fucking bringing it up.

“No,” he says more harshly than he intends. “I'm upset she left Oliver, not me. And Zayn is leaving too in three weeks, so leave it alone.”

Niall softens but Liam doesn't as he walks off, headed towards his truck because even though he has been trying to stop smoking, he is too tired to fight the urge.

He sits on the bed of his truck, feet dangling over the edge as he tries to clear his head. He hates how easily Zayn invades his thoughts, how much he misses him even though he has been gone a day, how addicted he feels to his soft skin and slightly chapped lips.

To those crinkles by his eyes and making him smile so he can see them, the way his tongue presses against the back of his teeth. How in love he feels every time he watches Zayn and Oliver interact even if that is absurd. He isn't in love, just in lust. He knows that -

His phone ringing drags him from his thoughts and he knows it is Zayn before he even looks at the called id.

“Hey you,” Liam answers. He hates that his voice sounds tense rather than casual, and that Zayn picks up on it right away.

“What's wrong?”

Liam inhales for a long moment, and takes his time exhaling the smoke before responding. He feels on edge, worse than normal. Like he is a second from losing the composure he has been working on these years. “Nothing. Just Niall’s normal shit.”

Zayn laughs softly. He can faintly hear the sound of the television in the background, and a soft, girlish giggle. “Ignore him, babe. Are you at his?”

“Mhm,” Liam hums, frowning. “And um, you?”

Zayn snorts like he is aware of the worry in Liam's voice. “Babysitting me best mate’s daughter. We're going out tonight, Danny and I since you made me blow him off the other night.”

Zayn giggles as Liam's cheeks grow hot. It wasn't his proudest moment, and he will never admit he had been jealous thinking about Zayn dancing with others and that is why he teased and touched Zayn until he was trembling with the need to come. “I reckon it was me that you blew off.”

Zayn's shy smile fills his thoughts, and he grins, chest warming and fuck - Zayn isn't even in front of him and he feels arse over tit for his smile.

“I can't remember,” Zayn laughs into the receiver.

Liam grins more, cheeks hurting from it. “Wanna come home tonight? I can refresh your memory.”

“Home,” Zayn repeats. It goes quiet for a moment as Liam nibbles on his bottom lip, trying to come up with a response before Zayn speaks before he can. “Come out for a little, have a drink, clear your mind of whatever is bothering you and you can take me home.”

“Don't drink,” Liam reminds him. “But okay, I'll think about it.”

Zayn snorts again, and Liam imagines him rolling his eyes. “Okay, I hope to see you there, Mr. Payne.”

+*

“You want me to fix you but it's never enough,” Zayn croons, feet twitching against the stage as he clenches his fingers around the microphone. “That's why you call me ‘cause you're scared to be loved.”

The lights make it hard to see the people in the dark crowd. They are calmer than the usual party goers, though still loud. Normally he enjoys singing, but right now he is irritated because Liam stood him up. He had texted him earlier saying he would be here, but then never showed.

He sings until the heavy in his chest seeps away and all he can feel is the buzz from the few shots he shared with Danny and Louis before they left. He should probably go home too as it is late but

Home. Liam probably didn't mean anything significant by it but Zayn can't help the way it made him feel.

“I'll always be there for you, boy I have no shame.”

The crowd cheers as he jumps off of the stage, stumbling some as the world around him shifts. He giggles out his adrenaline rush, wiping his brow as he attempts to make his way through the crowd.

He can't move though, as an arm curls around his waist and a hard body presses against his back. He panics for a moment before the familiar cologne fills his nose and he relaxes instantly. This is home, he thinks.

(And he will scold himself later for thinking it, reminding himself he always falls too easily, too quick and eager to be in love that a few months into the relationship he realizes how much they don't actually work.)

Soft lips press to his throat before he turns to give Liam a smile because all of his irritation is gone. He curls his arm around Liam's shoulders for balance as he yells, “you came?”

Liam nods, that hard look on his face but Zayn swears there is a warmth in his eyes just for him. “Bit late. M’sorry.”

Zayn wants to kiss Liam badly, licking his lips like an invitation for Liam to make the first move. “You missed Danny and Lou.”

“Missed you,” Liam says, ducking forward. His lips press against Zayn's brow instead of his lips, but he doesn't seem to mind.

Zayn feels hot all over as he clings to Liam, tilting his chin up but Liam still doesn't kiss him on the lips. Though his eyes linger on his mouth for a long moment, conflict in his features.

“Gonna take me home, Mr. Payne?”

Liam's lips quirk up some as he nods, licking his lips. “Yes, but you're drunk so no funny business.”

“Nothin’ funny about what I want you to do to me,” Zayn murmurs, cocking his head to the side.

Liam's brows push together but and it is enough to finally get the other man to close the space between them. His lips are just a soft pressure, coaxing his open before he is pulling away. “Come on, let's get you home.”

“I am,” Zayn murmurs but Liam doesn't seem to hear him. He clings harder to Liam, refusing to let him move. “Is my favorite boy there?”

“Niall's,” Liam answers, the brightness taking over his hard look instantly. Zayn is in love with it. “Spent the day there.”

“I like him more than you,” Zayn jokes, nuzzling their noses. “Ollie, not Niall.”

“Good,” Liam says seriously, sliding his palms down Zayn's back before he presses him backwards through the crowd.

“And I like you a lot,” Zayn goes on, tripping over his own feet but Liam keeps him from falling.

Liam doesn't say anything, keeping his eyes straight ahead and over Zayn's shoulders. Word vomit is upon him but his mind is too fuzzy to care.

“M’gonna be wrecked when I move out,” he admits. It makes Liam glance at him for a moment before he gets Zayn out of the crowd. “I hope -”

“Zayn,” Liam says, his voice taking on that demanding tone he uses in bed but not nearly as soft around the edges. He pulls Zayn to his side, arm firm around his lower back as he walks them out of the Gold Club. “Stop talking.”

Zayn frowns at Liam, but curls into his side as the cool air hits him. It has been a thought he has pushed to the back of his head, refusing to acknowledge it until being dragged frontward by alcohol. “I hope you'll still let me come around. Maybe help Ollie with his schoolwork, spend the nights with you -”

His back hits something hard, though Liam presses him against the truck gently before covering his front with his body. He loves the feeling of being consumed by Liam, all of his senses invaded by the other man. His thoughts scatter, focusing on the feel of Liam instead of the feel of them.

Liam cups his hand under his chin before he kisses him. Hard, brushing his lips and knocking the air from his lungs. He can barely kiss back as Liam takes control, licking past his parted his lips.

Zayn gasps loudly when Liam pulls away to press their foreheads together. “Please stop talking.”

Zayn feels his face crumple like a petulant child, head spinning some. “No. Promise me you will let me.”

“Of course,” Liam grumbles, practically glaring at Zayn. He sees the insecurity cross Liam's features and it is an unusual look on him. One Zayn fucking hates. “But you can't stop coming around. You can't decide one day you want nothing to do with him.”

Zayn takes a moment for Liam's words to sink in and he softens, rubbing his hands up the other man's back. “That's what she did.”

Liam narrows his eyes, pushing away. “Come on, I'll help you into the truck.”

“Tell me,” Zayn says stubbornly as Liam attempts to pull him away from the truck so he can open up the door. The fact he can tell how much Liam is always bothered but never talks about it is frustrating.

Liam's jaw clenches as he glares, his voice coming out in a low way that isn't attractive or hot, but wounded and angry - making Zayn flinch because he hates how it sounds.

“She never wanted him. The decision was made the moment she realized she was pregnant with my son. I hate talking about it. Now please, can we go?”

Zayn goes as Liam guides him away from the truck again. He doesn't say anything else this time, though a million questions float through his head. He doesn't ask them, because he doesn't like the hurt on Liam’s face.

 

“I'm sorry.”

Zayn holds onto Liam's black and red plaid shirt as he leans over him to press his lips to his forehead. Liam has helped him into his own bed, his clothes littering the floor between here and the door. It had been awkward silence since they had left the bar, and Zayn wants to punch himself for causing it.

“S’okay. I just don't like talking about it,” Liam murmurs against Zayn's cheeks, genuinely. “Her, how I feel about you, or anything”

Zayn searches Liam's face, refusing to let him go. He wants to ask, but it is clear Liam isn't going to talk about it and Zayn doesn't want to upset him further. “Stay with me tonight? You don't have to talk about anything.”

Liam knees onto the bed, crawling over him before he drags Zayn to his chest. He still wears his jeans and boots but because he doesn't seem to mind, Zayn doesn't mention it because he hadn't thought it would be that easy to get Liam to stay.

“She drank a lot,” Liam mutters, chin pressing to the top of Zayn's head so he can't see his expression. Zayn can feel his heart though, beating quickly under the palm he rests on his chest. “A mean drunk too, always finding it necessary to remind me of how she doesn't feel the same way I did. And it got better, a lot better. But I don't think I made her feel as good for slowing down as much as I should have. 

“I was just desperate trying to get her to stop, worried it would hurt the baby. It did somewhat, we didn't know how much really at the time, and she couldn't deal with that either so the drinking got worse again, she was meaner to me and refused to hold him.”

Zayn fingers Liam's shirt, clenching his eyes closed because the sound of Liam's voice makes a pressure build up in his throat.

“So I told her to get out and she did. No hesitation, no remorse, no attempt at making it better. Didn't care for rehab, didn't care she put Ollie’s health at risk.”

Zayn tilts his head to press his lips under Liam's jaw, where his pulses beats rapidly. His words are shaky, but it barely hints at the pain Zayn is sure he must feel.

“I don't talk about it because I'm a dick for being heartless. An addiction is a hard battle, I understand that but it has been five years and she has only contacted me once, to tell me to stop trying to get her to come back after I found out she was sober. She said it in front of Ollie too, thankfully he was too young to understand. I still don't understand.”

“You're not a dick,” Zayn promises, looking up at him but Liam doesn't meet his eyes. It is a lot to process, and his mind races with questions but he wants Liam to set the pace of the conversation. “You're protecting yourself and Ollie.”

Liam curls an arm under Zayn's shoulders, reaching to card his fingers through his hair lazily instead of responding. He doesn't look at him, only stares up at the ceiling and Zayn wishes he could see his face.

“Can I tell you something else?”

Zayn nods without hesitation, hiding his face against Liam's throat because he feels as if the other man will be more comfortable sharing something without Zayn's eyes on him.

“Don't say anything in response please,” Liam mutters quietly. He knocks his lips against Zayn's forehead, going quiet for what seems like an eternity.

“Okay,” Zayn says softly, drawing hearts across Liam's chest with his finger.

More silence, heavy around them and Zayn considers Liam has fallen asleep for a moment before he finally speaks.

“I don't know what to do about,” he starts, words so quiet they are almost too hard to hear. “My feelings for you. Because every time I think about how I want you, I think about her. And I don't know if I'm protecting myself or hurting myself here.”

Zayn closes his eyes, lips pressing to Liam's throat again. It feels impossible not to respond to that, but he hopes it is enough to hint at his own feelings.

Chapter Text

Liam follows the soft sound of music floating through the house, feet dragging heavily across the carpeted floor. He had slept in much later than normal, the extra sleep making him feel even more tired than if he had slept restlessly and for a short period of time like he usually does.

And he had woken up to an empty bed, the sheets beside him thrown aside and Zayn nowhere to be found. He had been afraid he had left, scared off by Liam sharing his feelings. Because they aren’t simple ones, they are a lot. A lot to throw onto someone like that.

He doesn't know why he did, but the conversation had been at the front of his mind all day the day before. Because of Niall, most likely.

And then because of Zayn, who said he had liked him too and it made Liam want to talk about it for once. Even though the lad was probably off his head because of alcohol and had no idea what he was saying. Liam wants to get rid of the block separating him from Zayn, even though it feels scary to break it down.

But now that he has said a little, he wants to say more. He wants to flood Zayn with every thought in his head but he knows that will definitely make the other lad run away.

The sound of piano keys had alerted him to Zayn still being here, and he had pushed up from Zayn's bed without hesitation to find him. He had been afraid to fall asleep with him, knowing the feeling in his chest for the other man would worsen when he woke up beside him. And Zayn probably ran off before he woke because he knew.

A million reasons of why Zayn had left before he woke up rush through his head, all of them making less sense than the last.

The den’s doors are pulled open, and when he approaches he can see the hunch of Zayn's bare shoulders and the tilt of his head. Liam admires him for awhile before finally stepping inside, nerves making him feel tenser than he would like to be while around him.

Zayn glances over his shoulder as Liam approaches, giving him a small smile as his fingers brush across the keys.

“Morning,” Liam mumbles, seating himself on the bench next the other lad. The air feels tense, a pressure building in his chest and wrapping around his lungs as he fights off the urge to touch Zayn in case it isn’t okay. “What are you playing?”

Zayn gives him a jerky shoulder, teeth catching on his bottom lip. “Something I wrote a long time ago. Thought I forgot it, but I woke up with it playing in my head.”

Liam looks at him for a long time before finally cupping Zayn's thigh. There is an edge of nervousness around him as well, and Liam finds himself wanting to comfort him more than himself. “Sing it for me?”

Zayn hesitates only for a moment before tilting his chin in a nod.

His voice is lovely, soft and just above a whisper, a slight waver in it confirming that he is nervous. Liam hopes the pressure of his fingertips ease him. It is different than seeing him on the stage at the Gold Club. More gentle, intimate, the lilt of his words flooding the room with sadness.

“I won't, I won't, I won't,” Zayn sings, eyes fluttering shut and his brows creasing together. The delicacy of his features takes Liam’s breath away, easing his own nerves and discomfort. “Cover the scar. I'll let it be.”

Her face flashes across his thoughts before she is replaced with worry, and a different kind of anger than he has felt because of her. Anger at whoever made Zayn write a song about heart break. He hates the sadness on Zayn. Hates it, to the point where he wants to wrap his arms around him and prevent him from singing further. He wants to invade Zayn’s sad memories with nothing but good ones.

“It's you,” Zayn sings, a soft rift that makes his brows crease even more. His lips quirk up suddenly, and when he looks at Liam, there is a glint in his eyes that Liam doesn't know what to make of. “It's you.”

Liam shifts, drawn to the man beside him, to place his lips at the corner of his mouth. Zayn's fingers hesitate against the keys as he whispers another soft ‘it's you’ against his lips.

“S’lovely,” Liam tells him genuinely. Zayn's fingers have stilled as Liam drags his lips against his. “And sad.”

“I was sad when I wrote it, Li,” Zayn murmurs back, lips still tilted up. “After I broke up with someone.”

Liam pulls away to inspect Zayn's face but it is content, eyes bright like the sun rests between his eyelids. “Does it still make you sad?”

He doesn't hesitate to shake his head. “No. Not really. That's what happens when you don't bottle things up inside. Helps you move on.”

The warm feeling inside of him turns cold as his eyes narrows at Zayn’s condescension and he pulls away from him in response. Zayn doesn't let him go though, tugging him back by his shirt so his butt hits the bench they sit on.

“I have to pick up Oliver,” Liam says curtly. He would normally say something rude in defense, but he can't find it in his heart to do that to Zayn.

It is new, wanting to talk about it with Zayn, but he is still aggravated by everyone always pressuring him to. He hates how there feels to be a block in his throat, and his tongue heavy. How the words seem to lose sense to him when he starts to speak, and he seems to forget how to.

Zayn rolls his eyes before he throws a leg over his lap and settles there. He pushes Liam until his back bangs against the keys.

“I'm sorry. That came out ruder than intended,” Zayn murmurs, arms wrapping around his shoulders and nose nuzzling against his. Liam wants to push him away but his arms cling to Zayn's back like he is desperate for him to stay. At war with himself again, so badly wanting to shut down and turn icy, but unable to fight the urge to soak in Zayn’s warmth for comfort. “Let me tell you, yeah?”

“Tell me what?” Liam murmurs. It is a bit uncomfortable, his back digging into the edge of the piano, and he is slightly afraid their combined weight could damage it if Zayn pushed him back too far, but he is willing to take the risk if Zayn continues to touch him this gently. It is like the other lad knows he needs the soft drag of his nose against his skin, or his breath breezing across his cheeks.

“The song. It’s not like - it’s not the same as what you went through. Not even close,” Zayn starts, shifting back some. Liam goes with him, tightening his grip around his waist to keep him settled on his lap. “I dated a lot in college. This one and that one, and at the time I would have swore I was in love with whoever I was with at the time. But I never was. It was always great for like, a month and then it wasn’t.”

Liam tilts his chin up to look at Zayn as Zayn’s fingers rub against the back of his head. He wishes he could look as soft, with a smile etched onto his lips, when he shared his feelings.

“And no one hurt me, really. It just hurt, you know? The last one. We just faded, lost feelings for one another and I never knew why it happened.”

Zayn smiles more, flattening his palms against the back of Liam’s head. “But I know now.”

Liam searches his face as he waits for the other lad to continue. His eyes are bright with amusement and mischief, and he can’t stop the grin that takes over his own lips because of it.

“It happened so I could find you.”

Liam snorts, mouth breaking into a smile as he laughs, but Zayn’s words ricochet through his mind. It is corny, so corny, but he smothers Zayn with a hard kiss. As corny as it is, his heart feels like a balloon, sucking out all of the oxygen from his lungs and making his chest expand as it grows.

“Well, I’m sorry it hurt you. But I’m glad it happened then,” Liam murmurs, fingers tickling against his back. It is a better way to look at his situation, a positive way, but he just can’t find it in himself to apply it just yet.

Zayn traces his eyebrow before sliding the pad of his finger down the bridge of his nose. “Come on. Let's go to a bedroom and make use of some private time.”

“We always do,” Liam jokes quietly, eyes fluttering shut from the soft touch. “Every chance we get.”

“Are you complaining?” Zayn huffs out, voice teasing as he shifts his lips to rub against Liam's.

“Mm,” Liam hums, thoughts of past breakups long gone. “No. Definitely not.”

 

He feels overwhelmed, on the edge of losing all the composure he barely holds onto as he watches Zayn. The arch in his back and the dip of his spine, muscles dancing under his skin and nails digging almost painfully into Liam's abdomen. The thick tie wrapped around his wrists which were Zayn’s suggestion, and Liam couldn't find it in himself to deny Zayn what he wanted.

Liam likes them a lot, the restraints. How they look tied around the thin of his wrists, how Zayn had fallen still after they were tied on - waiting for Liam to tell him what to do. He likes being in control of when Zayn touches him, since he holds little control over anything else that the other lad does to him.

“Fuck,” he gasps, closing his eyes for only a moment in attempt to catch his breath. He focuses on the feel of Zayn around him, tight and clenching, in order to push out the run of thoughts in his head.

Zayn huffs out a moan as he rolls his hips down, nestling Liam inside before he stills. He breathes heavily as well, the tremble in his limbs noticeable before he lifts up.

He is an expert Liam thinks, working himself on Liam's cock in a smooth rhythm and showing little strain like his hands aren't tied behind his back. Liam tells him as much, praises slipping past his lips like he has no control over them. He doesn’t, not really, too in love with the way Zayn shakes out a soft moan after every one.

“So pretty like this,” Liam moans quietly, fingers itching with the urge to touch. He does, balancing him on his lap with firm hands and fingers digging into his skin. Zayn’s chest rises and falls quickly as he tries to catch his breath, or maybe because he feels as overwhelmed as Liam does.

Zayn moans loudly as Liam pulls his hips back down against him roughly. They are opposite this way, with Liam quieter, all soft groans and huffed out breaths when he can't get out the praises. But Zayn is always loud, letting out these obscene desperate sounds that always makes the air surrounding them feel too hot. Like they are trapped inside of a sauna, their skin slick with sweat and hair matted to their foreheads. He can practically see every drop of sweat slide from the nape of Zayn’s neck and down his spine.

Zayn digs his knees into the bed around Liam's waist as Liam moves his fingers to his arse, spreading him for a better view of the way Zayn swallows his prick. Rim swollen and tight around him, slick with spit. He had readied himself, giving Liam a show as he sat above him, fingers fucking past Liam’s lips to get them wet before pressing inside of himself. He had felt slightly vulnerable, giving Zayn control of the moment, fingers digging into the sheets to let Zayn take his pace. But the commands still rolled off his tongue and Zayn listened to every one with flushed cheeks.

He is so good, never hesitating to do as he is told though he gets mouthy at times. On purpose, probably, because the lad seems to crave the rough touches Liam barely gives him. He just can’t help the overall gentleness, because every bruise left on Zayn’s skin makes his belly drop. Even if it excites him at the time or Zayn assures him he doesn’t mind.

"God, you're beautiful," Liam murmurs quietly as Zayn slows, pulling nearly off of him before working back down against his length. He keeps that pace, fucking down on Liam slowly with a tension taking over his back as he trembles.

“So good, babe.”

Zayn rides the head quickly before sinking down, pushing up like a tug and pull. He pulls nearly off, clenching around the crown of Liam’s dick before rolling his hips back down his length. For all the complaints about teasing, he is quite the tease himself.

"Made to ride cock, yeah?" Liam goes on, pressing his hands to the small of Zayn's back for encouragement. He arches his back as Liam sinks deeper and grinds forward, wanting to fuck into that bundle of nerves that always makes Zayn’s moan seem high pitched and gasped. "Pro, even with your hands tied -"

"Shut up," Zayn moans harshly. "And just -"

Liam cuts him off with a hand to his bum, a slight scolding that makes Zayn tremble above him. The smack is loud, filling the room as Liam does it once more.

"Be a good boy," Liam scolds gently, rubbing the red mark that probably blossoms across Zayn's skin. "And fuck me proper, babe."

"Oh fuck," Zayn groans as his thighs tremble and tense. His nails dig into his palms as he pulls against the tie wrapped around his wrists like he is attempting to break free. He fucks down faster, rolling and grinding his hips in an uncoordinated manner, and Liam likes it more this way, watching Zayn lose the little bit of control he held onto.

He curls his fingers around Zayn’s wrists, tugging him back slightly and pressing his wrists to the small of his back as he snaps his hips forward. Zayn’s movements still as Liam rabbits into him, the sound of skin against skin growing louder in the quiet room.

A desperate energy fills him, making him gasp out in frustration before he is maneuvering them. It is clumsy, difficult to do when Zayn doesn’t have the ability to use his hands, but Liam gets Zayn flat on his belly, and himself between his legs. He drags Zayn’s hips up before pressing back between his cheeks.

“Gonna make me come, babe,” Liam gasps out, grabbing Zayn’s wrists again where they lay on his back. He presses down gently on them, taking Zayn’s pinched moan as an okay to be pinned like this before snapping his hips forward again. “Wanna fill you up -”

"Liam," Zayn gasps out as Liam leans down to cover his back with his chest. His lips knock against the nape of his neck, his praises choked sounding as his orgasm is tugged from him by the clench of Zayn’s hole.

He bites the curve of Zayn’s shoulder hard as he trembles with his orgasm, hand rubbing harshly up Zayn’s side. Zayn shivers out a sharp moan, arching back against him though his movements are still restricted from the hold of Liam’s body and the tie.

“Babe,” he huffs out after a moment, voice hoarse of slow strokes and feeble attempts at fucking back against his cock. Liam grinds forward harshly, the static arousal pouring through him feeling urgent and his orgasm frustratingly not enough.

He pulls out carefully, groaning low in his throat as he watches a few drops of come catch on Zayn’s hole. He milks out his orgasm, covering Zayn’s skin but he still doesn’t feel satiated. He feels like he needs more, more and more -

His fingers tremble as he fumbles to undo the tie, allowing his arms to relax and curl above his head. So good - Liam doesn’t even have to tell him what he wants and he does it.

“Push up,” he grunts out, harsher than he means to as he cups Zayn’s hips and pulls them into his lap. The lad still trembles, pushing up on his elbows but doesn’t let out a sigh of complaint.

Liam's palms up his thighs before he grazes his fingers over sore skin, admiring the marks he hopes will fade sooner than later and the way Zayn's hole clenches like he is anticipating what Liam is going to do.

"Look at you," Liam groans, pushing his fingers between Zayn's cheeks. He clenches around his fingers as Liam fucks his come back into him, letting out a shaky breath. “Already want to get fucked again, yeah?”

“Liam,” Zayn whines. He lets out a sharp cry as Liam rubs at that bundle of nerves, body wracking from it. They always use a condom, but this time Zayn had asked if they could go without, a quiet discussion between kisses. He would give Zayn whatever he asked for, but he trusts the words of promise Zayn had whispered against his lips to assure him it was okay to do.

“Do you?” Liam goes on roughly, his own dick starting to fatten again. He squeezes Zayn’s bum, like that can ease the tension building in him. It doesn’t, only works him up more.

“Yeah,” Zayn says hoarsely, rolling his hips back against him like to prove his words to be true. Shameless he is, fucking down on Liam’s fingers quickly enough that it makes his bum jiggle some. It is purposefully probably, putting on a show to tease. “But we have no time.”

Liam removes his fingers before bending forward to place a kiss at the bottom of his spine, trying to catch his breath. He feels too overwhelmed, and Zayn only makes it harder to breathe when he shifts and climbs onto Liam's lap so they are facing each other.

Liam reaches for Zayn’s hands, taking them into his own. He brings each wrist to his mouth, kissing the pink marks on his skin in apology. They are angry looking, standing out against his skin and promising to be there for at least the next few hours.

“Alright?”

Zayn hums, tucking his fingers through the hair at the back of Liam’s head, breathing heavily. He looks good fucked out, his bottom lip swollen and bruised, eyes heavy and shoulders drooping like his arms are hard to hold  up. “Mhm. Wanna use ‘em on you next.”

“Whatever you want.”

He traces a finger across Liam's jaw, eyes low. “Anything?”

“Mm,” Liam hums in response, eyes fluttering shut as Zayn’s finger traces over them. It slides down his nose before more of his fingers join the first on his cheek, tickling across his warm skin before Zayn presses his palm to it. Liam’s fingers smooth across his ribcage, trying to mimic Zayn’s soft touches until the static taking over their bodies fades into something calmer.

Liam tilts his chin up out of habit, in response to the warm breath chasing across his lips. The pads of Zayn’s thumbs circle at the corners of his mouth, so he parts his lips slightly, tongue flicking out in anticipation.

Zayn teases, lips hovering and tilting above his own but never making contact. Liam is stuck under his grip, wanting to push forward because he feels vulnerable like this, from Zayn’s soft touches and willingness to give up control to the other lad.

He likes it, control. In every part of his life. That is why he took his job, because he likes being the boss and having the final say. He is controlling over every step of Oliver’s day, but he is starting to lose it all with Zayn. No longer controlling the block around his heart, or the expression of his feelings. He would crumble under the palm of Zayn’s hands if the lad so much as asked for it.  

“I just want you, Liam,” Zayn whispers, skating his lips across his. “Can I?”

Liam’s lips part more as Zayn’s do, exhaling slightly as Zayn’s words sink in. He doesn’t understand what they mean, but he knows he meant it when he said Zayn could have anything he wants.

His eyes flicker open to stare up at Zayn’s dark ones, filled with a warmth that seems to consume Liam as he waits for him to respond. “Yeah, babe.”

His thumbs stroke the round of his cheeks, head tilting to the side some in an innocent curiosity. “Do you want me to trust you?”

Liam hums his response, heart beating a little faster. As much as he wants to, he hadn't thought of it before. He wants Zayn to feel safe with him, to trust that Liam will take care of him.

“Then can you try to trust me too? To take care of you?”

Liam swallows thickly, nodding without hesitation so their noses knock together, fingers stroking over his skin so softly like he is trying to prove his words true.

Something flickers in Zayn’s eyes before he closes them, and closes the space between their mouths. Finally, Liam thinks, fingers digging into Zayn’s waist to hold him there as their lips dance together.

+*

Lower than average height and weight, hyperactivity and attention problems, difficulty in school -

Zayn frowns, pulling his eyes from his phone screen and the list of symptoms to glance at Oliver. He runs around the yard with Thor, every now and then stopping to pick up his hat when it flies off. It is always difficult determining hyperactivity and attention problems in young kids, since it is in their nature to be full of energy and easily distracted he knows -

He also knows it would be better if he just asked Liam instead of looking it up online, but he doesn't know if he can stomach hearing Liam’s voice so hurt again.

He lets his eyes fall back to the screen, filled with information. His Safari is filled with tabs from different websites that seem legit, as he tries to round up the general information about fetal alcohol exposure. It all jumbles in his head as he tries to make sense of it, and to relate it back to Ollie.

Speech and language delays, problems with the heart, kidneys or bones -

A funny feeling fills Zayn’s belly, a heaviness taking over his chest that is calmed some by the laughter filling the air. He has learned about it before in his child development courses, but he has never thought of it before with Oliver. Liam had told him he doesn't go to the doctor frequently, just more often than other kids his age. More checkups, and because Liam admitted to fretting over cuts and bruises more than he should, taking Oliver to the doctor’s for every fever or runny nose.  

So he hadn't thought it to be serious, just slow physical development or something,  but it feels serious as he reads through articles and informative websites. The more harmful symptoms of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders standing out and sending an alarm through him. It helps him understand Liam a bit more, the tension that always stays with him, the way he constantly frets over his son.  

“Ollie babe, come here for a minute!”

Zayn glances at the diagram of an animated child's face, at the common physical indicators of alcohol exposure before Oliver runs up to him.

He jumps on his toes, face flushed and sweaty from running around. Zayn cups his face, trying not to draw attention to his worry as he strokes the same flat skin above Oliver’s thin top lip that is in the diagram. He smiles softly as he brushes over his eyes, which flutter shut as he giggles at the touch.

They are Liam’s eyes, the same honey brown color, the same shape though maybe the openings are smaller. He never noticed, and he doesn’t know how anyone could. His nose is Liam’s too, and he runs his thumb down the short bridge of it. Also unnoticeable.

Oliver wiggles, reaching up to cup Zayn’s face. He squeezes his cheeks until Zayn huffs out a laugh. “What you doin’?”

“You look like your Papa.”

A proud look crosses the little boy’s face as he drops his hand. He cups his hip, tilting his head to the side curiously as he peers up at Zayn’s face. “You don't look like your Papa?”

Zayn chuckles, wrinkling his nose around the sound. “I do. Me mummy too.”

He wants to catch the words and shove them back into his mouth, but Oliver doesn't look bothered. Only shrugs as he reaches for Thor, who sits loyally by his side. “I don't got one of them so I only look like my Papa.”

Zayn softens, head cocking fondly to the side as he watches Oliver rub his palm at the top of Thor’s head. He wonders if it is a comfort mechanism, or if the lad is genuinely unbothered. His exposure to people is minimal, especially other children, but he watches a lot of television and Zayn isn’t sure how common it is to show a single father. “Papa say some kids got mummies, some papas and some both. You got both?”

Zayn nods, heart hurting a bit as he thinks what could have prompted Liam to tell Oliver that. If Oliver had asked him.

Or how hard it must have been to carry the weight of that on his shoulders, knowing one day he would have to explain to Oliver that his mum didn't want him. He wonders if Liam has an alternative plan if Oliver does find out he has a mother, if he plans on telling him the truth or a lie to protect him.

Oliver looks at him again finally, eyes bright. “Does Thor?”

Zayn chuckles softly, shrugging. “I dunno.”

Ollie squeezes the dog’s neck before kissing his forehead. “Well, he's got two papas then. You and my Papa.”

Zayn scratches under Thor's neck, feeling his face grow hot from the warmth taking over his chest as he listens to the boy assure Thor he doesn't mind sharing with him.

 

Liam is tense when he gets home, shoulders hunched slightly and feet dragging. The brightness that Zayn thought he had brought out of him has seemed to diminish some since Liam told him about Ollie’s mum and they had made some progress with talking about their feelings.

Or maybe it hasn't. Zayn isn't sure if he is just worried that he has caused Liam to shut down more or not. Or if he has put pressure on the lad to trust him. He just wants him to, desperately. He knows Liam must, since he has allowed him to take care of his whole world - Oliver, but Zayn wants to be trusted with his heart too.

Oliver runs over to him, and his face changes as he bends down to kiss his forehead. A bleak smile on his lips that doesn’t reach his eyes, and Zayn wonders if he has to force it onto his lips to hide his exhaustion from Oliver. “How was work?”

“Fine, how was your day with Mr. Zayn?”

“Great!” Oliver exclaims, circling his fingers around Zayn’s wrist. “Made mac cheese for dinner.”

Liam grins tiredly, running his fingers through Oliver’s hair and not seconding a glance towards him. “Papa’s just going to shower first, okay?”

Zayn watches him walk off before he tells Oliver that he is going to go talk to him. “Grown up business,” he clarifies. It was something his parents used to tell him whenever they didn’t want him to hear, but he always eavesdropped anyway.

He heads towards the bathroom in the main hallway, knowing Liam doesn't like to use his own. He knocks softly on the cracked open door, where he can see the expanse of Liam’s bare back as his dress shirt slips off.

“Alright?”

Liam turns, nodding as he undoes his belt. Zayn takes a hesitant step inside, not wanting to bother him but wanting to comfort him. He had wanted to ask more questions about Oliver’s health when he came home, but right now he wants to ask Liam why the hell he is at a job that tires him out this much.

“You sure?” Zayn asks, reaching out to tickle his fingers across Liam’s belly. Liam doesn't hesitate to cup the back of his neck, thumb tickling against his hairline as he pulls Zayn forward to hum his response against his lips.

“You need to quit, or move down,” Zayn mutters quietly, searching Liam’s face.

“I actually don't do much most days, just long hours of listening to people bitch,” Liam tells him quietly, expression blank other than tired. “M’tired because I don't sleep well. I've been thinking about working from home a few days a week, but I dunno.”

Zayn nibbles on his bottom lip, smoothing his palms up Liam’s back. Is he to blame for Liam’s lack of sleep? Because he hates that. “You should. We can have sex in your office that way.”

Liam chuckles tiredly at his distraction tactic. “I need pros to add to my list.”

Zayn cocks his head to the side, grinning at him. It probably isn’t the best way to distract him, but he knows asking Liam to talk about why he isn’t sleeping could cause him to shut down more. “Could suck you off during a phone conference? You could bend me over your desk, dick into me from behind -”

Liam groans softly, brows creasing together. “Go on.”

He tickles his fingers down his side before touching the brim of Liam’s pants. They can't get up to anything with Oliver here and awake, but he hopes maybe he can get Liam frustrated enough that he has to relieve himself in the shower.

“Or on my back, legs around your waist and your hand on my throat while you take me,” Zayn mutters, sliding down the brim of Liam’s dress pants as he presses their bodies together. “Stroke off while you're busy, so you can see how proper turned on I get seeing you in a suit.”

Liam half laughs and half moans as he kisses Zayn, rolling his hips slightly against him. The brightness seems to be back on his face, so Zayn takes it as a win.

 

After dinner, Zayn offers to clean Ollie up and put him to bed so Liam can relax enough to maybe, hopefully sleep restfully tonight. He finds the other man on the porch outside afterwards, a joint pressed between his fingers and a far away look on his face.

He settles onto Liam’s lap, curling an arm around his shoulders as he kisses his temple. He seems a bit more relaxed, the tilt of his smile a little easier than when he first got home. “Where are you?”

“Thinking about you,” Liam answers quietly, voice thick with smoke.

Zayn's heart leaps in his chest as he watches Liam. It is getting easier to see past the blank look and see the emotion that ghosts his features. “What about me?”

Liam takes awhile to respond, taking a tote from the joint and holding the smoke, exhaling for an eternity before offering it to Zayn. Zayn puts it out in the ashtray instead of bringing it to his lips, shifting on Liam’s lap to see him better.

“You always make me feel better,” Liam mumbles, placing his hand on Zayn’s back to stroke his spine with gentle fingers. “And I think you make me, better. A better person at least. Or just feel better, I don’t know.”

Zayn warms, sliding his finger across  Liam’s beard but Liam won't look at him more than a quick flicker of his eyes here and there. “How so?”

He looks considerate, lips pressing together before he shrugs. “I told you she wasn't a good person but neither was I. We fought a lot, and I'm sure I wasn't particularly kind. Was never gentle with her like I am with you. And I like it, being gentle I think.”

Zayn frowns, trying to understand but he doesn't. He always thought Liam to be tensed and cut off, but he reckons he has always seen warmth in him too. He has always been gentle, since they met, and it was one of the reasons why Zayn had been so attracted to him.

“What do you mean you weren't gentle?”

Liam's lips part a few times before he swallows, shrugging. “It was like, I dunno. We didn't touch each other just to touch each other. And when we did touch, it was always like rough I guess. Like erm, fighting and fucking at the same time.”

Liam cups his face then, tickling his fingers along the lines of Zayn’s face. “We never touched each other like this,” he says under his breath. “Didn't have much of a relationship other than partying and shagging.”

Zayn hesitates as Liam continues to trace his features, not making eye contact but watching the path his fingers make.

“And us?”

His eyes are heavy and blood shot from the weed, his lips twitching up over and over again as he continues to look at him.

“Wanna take care of you, Zayn,” Liam says quietly, lips lifting up and staying that way. “I wanna be rough with you, yeah, but not aggressive and I hate every bruise that I leave behind. I want to touch you like this, and be able to share my feelings with you. I want to keep having you here, with my son when I get home from work.”

Zayn swallows, keeping quiet so he doesn't ruin the moment and have Liam stop talking.

“I want you to be mine because I'm yours, but I don't trust myself enough to make a decision to ask. Dating is always hard when you have a child, because we're a package deal and that can, like, be a lot on someone you know. Makes it um, hard -”

Liam's hands drop from him and he looks away, but not before Zayn can see that cut off look again as he stops talking. It hurts seeing how frustrated he gets trying to voice his thoughts, like his own words hurt him.

Zayn pinches Liam’s chin, making him look at him. “I have patience, you know. I will wait for you to ask. And I know you're a package deal, I love Oliver to pieces. I don’t want you without the little one.”

Liam still doesn't speak for a moment, and his eyes dart around like he is trying to look anywhere but Zayn's eyes. He swallows noticeably, face scrunching together. “Sorry I um, keep talking about it.”

Zayn shakes his head, rubbing circles against Liam's chin. “Don't be. You know I want you to talk about it.” He scooches closer, until they are almost pressed completely together. “I don't want your feelings for me to trouble you. And if I can help ease them, I want to, Liam. I really do.”

Liam's eyes flutter shut, lips pouting out and Zayn complies with a soft kiss before he pulls back and off Liam's lap because he can tell the lad doesn't want to talk any longer.

He grips Liam's wrist, tugging him slightly with a playful smile to hopefully lighten the mood. “Sleep will make you feel better.”

Liam rolls his eyes but allows Zayn to tug him. “Can I sleep with you?”

Zayn warms, stilling some as he eyes the soft expression Liam gives him. “‘Course babe. Want me to carry you?”

Liam's goofy smile widens, making him look a lot more like Oliver as he wraps his arms around Zayn's shoulders. “Yeah, go on then. Take me to me room.”

Zayn inhales softly before he picks Liam up. His room. He barely ever goes in there, and Liam never suggests that they do. “Ollie's in there.”

“S’okay,” Liam promises, tightening his grip around Zayn’s shoulders and knocking his lips to his forehead.

 

Despite the difficulty Liam has with falling asleep usually, he knocks out in minutes after cuddling onto the mattress with an arm thrown over the little boy squeezed between them, and his fingers laid over Zayn's hip. The smile is stitched permanently to his lips as he watches Liam’s chin press to the top of Oliver’s head, and Oliver shifts so his face is against his Papa’s chest.

Zayn strokes his cheek, breezing his finger over his skin in hopes that he had comforted Liam, or can, in the future. His skin is hot and flushed, but his face is the most relaxed it has been in a few days. No tension in it like sometimes, when Zayn is afraid he is troubled with nightmares more so than peaceful dreams.

The word family echoes through his mind as he cuddles closer to Ollie’s back, and even if it is too soon, he hadn't realized how much he wanted it. This. Family, the Paynes.

+*

A musty smell fills his nose, though the house should be too new for it. The attic is quite empty, since Liam didn’t own much until he took over L&A. Only a few boxes laid about from his mother’s house, some of his childhood things and a few boxes that need to be donated but Liam has been too lazy to bring them down.

He flicks on the light dangling overhead, eyes finding the box he is looking for right away. A heaviness settles in his chest as he looks over her writing, still familiar to him though it has been ages.

For my Oliver -

He has never wanted to give it to him. There is a bitter taste in his mouth at the word ‘my’ like she has any right claiming him as her own. She had given up all rights to him the same day she had given Liam that box, filled with items of her own.

And the frayed bracelets she had made for him, different colors and adjustable sizes. Some with his name and Liam’s. She had always made them in college, selling them for a small profit that never stayed in their pocket long. Couldn’t use her credit card for partying, he reckons, since she never needed the money. Her parents supplied her with more than enough for the two of them. A rich bird and her poor boyfriend, that was them.

Liam sinks to the ground in front of the box to open it. It has been over three years since he has, and the feeling inside of him doesn’t seem as sickening, but it is holding onto him. He remembers the heartbreak like it was yesterday, the broken “Liam, I don’t want to be his mother, he deserves someone better than me -”

He bites hard on his bottom lip, feeling the well of tears on his eyelids as her voice echoes through his head. It had been pained, her hate for herself evident and it has always made him feel bad for being so angry at her.

There is a tremble in his fingers as he tries to force away the thoughts but he can’t. They have gotten worse to ignore lately, and he doesn't even know why he is up here, opening a box of memories that will just make those thoughts worse.

The first thing he sees is a picture of her, hands spread across her lower back and eyes latched down onto her rounded belly. Liam is kneeled in front of her, palms cupping each side of her as he looks at her. She looks bright in this one, a smile on her lips and Liam remembers Niall taking it. It had been during the few weeks where she had done really well in the last trimester, though she never truly stopped drinking throughout her pregnancy. It was just better than before.  

Her nearly black hair falls across her shoulders, her face hard to see from the angle and Liam has a hard time remembering it. But he remembers what she had told him about the picture when she showed him it all of those years ago.  Tell him I was a surrogate or something, if you ever tell him about me -

Liam swallows, shoving the picture back into the box before he pulls out another one. He wants to show these to Zayn, to get his advice on what he should do with them, but he doesn’t want to put the pressure on the other lad, or continue talking about this time of his life. He doesn’t want to continuously lay it on Zayn, because the other lad might get tired of him and his problems.

His phone rings as he pulls out the frayed bracelets, wanting to give one to Oliver maybe, one day. A little piece of her or something that he can carry around.  A small sign that she had been thinking about him for those years she had been gone.

The calm that settles over him as he eyes the contact picture is overwhelming. A rush of it, pushing out every jittery nerve in his body. It is a simple picture, taking at a low angle with Zayn leaning back against the pillows. It shows off the ridge of muscles in his abdomen, the scatter of tattoos across his skin, but also the warm in the tilt of his lips and the way it always reflects in his eyes.

“S’appenin’ Papa?”

Liam chuckles softly, bringing his legs up to wrap his arms around his knees. That small, thick voice brings a calm to him too. “Hey babe, what’re you and Mr. Zayn up to?”

“Still at the market. Shoppin’. What you want for dinner?”

“Doesn’t matter, love.”

“Papa say nuggets Mr. Zayn!”

Liam snorts out a laugh, the same sound followed by Zayn but muffled. His voice is quiet on the other end, harder to hear over Ollie’s chatter.

“I’m truthin’, Mr. Zayn. I promise, I love you.”

Liam closes his eyes, Zayn’s laugh louder and more prominent like he is barking it out. “I love you too, beta.”

It is distinct, the words, and Liam warms all over. The smile on his face isn't forced, but the force of it takes his breath away. He constantly reminds himself that Zayn said he doesn't want children, but he knows Oliver has the power to change his mind. He hopes.

Oliver sighs heavily. “What's that Papa? You want the cheesy chips too?”

Liam snorts, tucking his smile against his knees. “‘Course I do.”

It goes quiet for a moment, only muffled voices before Zayn's is louder and clearer in his ear. “Nuggets and cheesy chips?”

Liam's bites around his smile at the humor in Zayn's voice. “Maybe a bag of broccoli or summat, too.”

He can practically hear Zayn rolling his eyes in response. “And ice cream, I'm assuming?”

“‘Course,” Liam chuckles, squeezing the phone closer to his ear. He thumbs at the frayed bracelet, grinning foolishly at his phone. “Ollie or you can pick the flavor. M’not picky.”

“We already have my favorite flavor at the house, Mr. Payne.”

Liam clenches his eyes to stop himself from laughing, imagining the flush in Zayn’s cheeks because he has to know that one was corny. “What? Vanilla?”

Zayn barks out another laugh. “With a hint of strawberry, yeah.”

+*

“I got it,” Oliver grumbles, a look of determination on his face as he tries to lift their grocery bags. He is trying to take too many at one time, but he seems aggravated every time Zayn tries to help.

“Let me just take one,” Zayn compromises, pointing to the bag with the most, and heaviest items.

Oliver gives him a grumpy look before he lets Zayn take it, keeping a hold on the bag with the bread and the one with the snacks. “M’strong too.”

Zayn sighs, nodding in assurance. “You are. I just want to help.”

The little boy sighs again before taking off on him, waddling as he tries to hold up the two bags Zayn let him carry. He fell into a grumpy mood easily, and Zayn isn't sure what caused it. He has missed his nap, but his primary doctor had suggested cutting them back in hopes to help the boy sleep better at night.

When they get inside, Liam takes the bags from Oliver with little complaint from the little one. He just gives his father wide puppy eyes before trailing after him towards the kitchen. They even walk the same, with their shoulders slightly hunched.

“I'm strong ‘nuff,” Oliver tells him as they walk into the kitchen. “I got it.”

Liam gives him a patient smile before settling the bags on the counter. “Stronger than me?”

Oliver puffs out his chest, curling his arm up to show his muscles off. Liam huffs out a laugh, falling to his knees as he mimics the movement.

Zayn watches on with a fond smile as Liam squeezes Ollie’s muscles and then his own. His impressed look is dramatic and overdone but it makes Ollie giggle like mad.

“Gotta get muscles like me, Papa.”

Zayn snorts as Liam nods along. “Gotta show me your workout routine.”

Oliver gives him a confused look, squeezing his father’s flexed arm. He gets distracted by the frayed bracelet around Liam’s wrist, grabbing it to show Zayn.

“Looks like yours,” he says, admiring the bracelet. “I want one.”

The hesitant look that crosses Liam’s features is noticeable. The tense of his jaw and the way he swallows thickly causing a concern to blossom in Zayn.

“It's for you,” Liam tells him. Oliver holds out his wrist, allowing Liam to tie it on after he takes it off of himself. “Found it upstairs in the attic.”

Oliver holds his arm up, admiring the rope, yellow string and leather, and the tiny beads that Zayn can't see from where he stands.

The boy hesitates, lips working around silent sounds before he speaks. “Says my name?”

Liam beams, turning brighter than Zayn has ever seen him. He holds up a hand for a high five, looking like his face might break from the force of his smile. “Good job, buddy.”

Zayn puts away the groceries, not wanting to disturb the two of them. He loves the way they both brighten the other, how they share the same smile and it always grows the largest when they are around one another.

He rolls his eyes at himself as he places the ice cream in the freezer. Head over heels definitely isn't a good enough description to describe how he feels anymore.

“Why don't you go let Thor in from outside for Papa?”

Oliver nods eagerly. He runs off, letting out a high pitched “I’m comin’, Thor!”

Zayn's heart leaps as Liam's directs that soft smile he wears at him before he stands up straight and walks over to him. His body is warm against his back, fingers tickling across his ink covered arms before he is curling his own around him with Zayn’s arms trapped underneath them. Zayn tilts his head, allowing Liam to kiss him wherever he pleases. He goes for the hinge of his jaw first, before brushing his lips across his beard.

“It's from his mum,” Liam whispers, his voice small. He thumbs across the similar one Zayn wears around his wrist. “Got a box of stuff of hers for him one day.”

Zayn stays quiet, unsure of what to say back. His mind races with questions, but none that seem fit to speak out loud.

“Don't know why I still have it. Should trash it,” Liam goes on, lips pressing to Zayn's temple. He huffs out a sardonic laugh, shaking his head some. “Don't know why I felt the need to give him the bracelet either. I just - I dunno -”

Zayn breaks from Liam's hold so he can turn and face him. He cups Liam’s cheeks, thumbs running across his skin so he can ease the tension before it comes.

“You don't need a reason. Don't overthink it. It's nice,” he assures quietly. Liam still looks unsure though, looking away from him as he shrugs his shoulders. “It'll mean a lot to him one day.”

Liam doesn't respond, only rubs the tip of his nose against Zayn's. "Can I ask you a question?"

Zayn nods without hesitation, thumbs rubbing down to the corners of his mouth. 

"What does 'beta' mean?"

His heart leaps up into his throat, pounding as he bites on his bottom lip and rubs Liam's. It is overstepping, he knows, but the word flows so easily off of his tongue that sometimes he doesn't even realize he says it. But he must a lot, because Oliver responds to it the same way he responds to his name. 

"Just like, em, a nickname. Like son- um, sunshine or love," Zayn murmurs, grimacing mentally at himself. 

Liam gives him a soft look, head tilting to the side as he kisses the pad of Zayn's thumb. "You never call me it?"

Zayn grins slightly. "It's only for Ollie," he tells him quietly. "I have a different word for you."

It plays in his head but he doesn't say it, the thought making his chest explode. He kisses Liam instead, distracting the lad from asking until the soft pad of feet signals Oliver’s return and Liam pulls away.

+*

It is last minute, after Niall had let it slip that Liam’s birthday was coming up the day before when Oliver and him had stopped by at work. He had rushed around all day, trying to get everything together and hid it all in his bedroom before Liam came home from work. He had seemed uninterested and not surprised when Zayn asked him about his birthday, giving him an offhand response about how he usually goes to his parents' house for dinner. 

“What we doin’?”

Zayn bites at his grin as he pulls out his lighter. The flame reflects off the boy’s curious eyes as he grips at the dining room table, pushing up on his toes so he can watch Zayn light the candles placed in the middle.

The table is set with the dishes from the china cabinet that Liam told him was just for decoration, but they seem expensive and fragile. The food is still in the oven, and he hopes it is finished by the time Liam gets home, or at least shortly after. He hasn’t ever cooked it before, but Niall had told him it was Liam’s favorite dinner.

“Special dinner for Papa.”

Oliver quirks up a brow, face lighting up with an innocent curiosity. “‘Cause why?”

“It's his birthday, remember?”

The boy’s eyes go wide, mouth falling open as he cups his cheeks, and it makes him fall back onto the flat of his feet. “I forgot!”

Zayn snorts, reaching over to tuck his fingers through Oliver’s curls. His hair is getting long and untamed, but Liam always seems a bit constipated when he suggests taking him to get his hair cut. But it falls into his eyes, making him clumsier than he already is, and combing it in the morning is becoming something Zayn dreads. 

“I didn't buy him nothin’!”

“We're making him dinner,” Zayn reminds him in amusement. A laugh bubbles in his chest, but he quiets it as not to offend the little boy. “And we bought him that nice shirt you picked out yesterday, remember? It's pink? And the watch?”

Oliver relaxes, using the back of his hand to wipe at his forehead in relief. “Oh yeah. It's Batman, he is gonna love it.”

Each one of Liam's watches look like they cost more than everything Zayn owns together, but Oliver had insisted on this inexpensive one with a cloth band and tiny Batman symbols all over it from the department store. Zayn is a bit eager himself to see Liam wearing it, to see if his eyes will get all crinkly around the corners when he opens it.

Oliver gasps suddenly, looking alarmed again. “Papa’s here.”

He takes off and Zayn scurries to the kitchen, trying to make haste checking on his dinner before Liam comes in. His voice floats through the hallway, making Zayn smile instantly. He is eager to surprise Liam, and he is a bit thankful that his voice doesn't sound coated with exhaustion.

“Happy birthday Papa.”

“Thank you love bug, but it's tomorrow. Remember? We're going to Grammy’s for dinner. To see Auntie Nicola and Auntie Ruth?”

“But, but - Mr. Zayn made a special dinner for you tonight 'cause it's your birthday."

Zayn cusses to himself quietly as Oliver tugs Liam into the kitchen. He wanted to surprise Liam in the dining room, a grander gesture of surprise, but he had forgot to mention that bit to Ollie.

The boy looks between Liam and Zayn with wide eyes and Zayn shrugs, giving the other man an unsure smile as Liam’s eyes latch onto him. He has already undone the first few buttons of his dress shirt and his cuffs, his tie loose around his neck and hair a bit frazzled like he has been running his hands through it.

“Said you were going to your mum’s early tomorrow,” Zayn mutters. He holds his hand out to the oven, which is opened to reveal the steak, roasted potatoes and vegetables inside. “So I figured we could celebrate tonight, together.”

Liam's smile breaks across his cheeks as he nods, his skin darkening in a blush. There is a shy tilt to his head, a jerky move of his hands as he tucks them into his pants pockets. “Smells good Mr. I - Don't - Cook.”

Zayn wrinkles his nose, closing the oven. “Shush. And don't change, yeah?” He clears his throat, glancing at Ollie so Liam will get the hint that he is trying to be discreet. “Wanna try something.”

Liam gives him a cheeky grin, eyes wagging as he nods.

When Oliver tugs him by, his fingers tickle at Zayn’s belly. There is a smile on his lips that seems just for him, a secret shared only between the two of them. "You know you're welcome to come to me mum's tomorrow, yeah?"

Zayn nibbles on his bottom lip, nodding unsurely. "Thought it was a family thing?"

Liam frowns slightly, brows pushing together as he pinches Zayn's hip. "It is. Come."

 

“Are you going to tell me why I can’t take my work clothes off, yet?”

Zayn bites at his grin, admiring Liam. He sits very still, though seemingly relaxed with his legs parted and hands loose in his lap. Zayn wasn’t sure if he would like it, the blindfold over his eyes or being told not to move. But he listened right away, and that kind of messes with his head. (Though, definitely in a good way.)

“Just like you in a suit,” Zayn teases. It isn’t a lie. He really, really likes it. The material stretching across his shoulders, the way his pants tighten around his thighs when he sits. He is a bit jealous of all the people Liam works with, who get to see him like this all day when Zayn only gets to for a few moments in the morning and when he comes home.

He wears the Batman watch as expected, wrapped around his wrist above the expensive black and diamond one he usually wears. When he had opened it, Zayn doesn't think the overjoyed look on his face was forced or dramatic, but genuine. And Oliver has shined right back, watching him.

Liam snorts, lips quirking up as his fingers dig into his knees. “So are you just going to stare at me or are you going to touch me, babe?”

Zayn sucks in a breath, heart stuttering in his chest at the tone of Liam’s voice, telling him he will never give up full control here.

“That’s what you have planned, right?” Liam goes on before biting his full bottom lip.

Zayn pads away, flicking on the iPod that is ready and stationed on the dock. He keeps the music quiet, because they are in Liam’s room instead of his own, and he doesn’t want to wake the little boy. He is already nervous about locking the door on him, but he can’t quite having him walk in if he wakes up in the night.

Liam’s palms smooth over his thighs before he is cupping his knees, Adam’s Apple bobbing as he swallows again. “You can.”

“Where do you want me to?”

Zayn’s fingers curl under his shirt to lift it off, legs spreading some. He is sort of uncomfortable, having gotten himself ready for Liam while he had tended to his son with a toy he had ordered for himself. It is quite cute, with a pink heart at the base that spreads his cheeks, and Zayn hopes Liam finds the ‘Be Mine’ inscribed on it to be more endearing than amusing.

(It was on sale, and he imagined Liam’s laugh and smile when seeing it which convinced him to click ‘add to cart’.)

“Anywhere,” Liam tells him as Zayn approaches. His own voice floats through the room, a song he had recorded the other day. It is a song he had written for Liam, one he hopes Liam can tell is for him.

Climb on board -

Zayn settles onto Liam’s lap, fingers tickling against his shoulders. The other lad doesn’t hesitate to cup his bum, his hands massive against him, before he starts to roll his hips.

It makes the toy rub against him just right and he moans quietly, lips parting around the sound. He wonders if Liam can feel how hard he is already, cock thick and leaking underneath the red briefs he had picked out.

Nobody but you, ‘body but me, ‘body but us -

A rumble of a groan sounds from Liam’s throat as his grip on Zayn’s bum tightens, fingers flexing against him. The flush on Liam’s skin grows darker as his prick fattens, every roll of Zayn’s hips eliciting a sharp breath that seems less controlled as the climax of the song grows. In the place that feels the tears, the place to lose your fears -

He loves when he can feel the power under the pad of Liam’s fingers, when they grow a bit eager moving against him. The push down the back of his joggers, uncaring about finesse as he spreads and kneads at Zayn’s bum like he can’t help it. It makes Zayn’s heart race as his fingers move closer to the plastic.

When Liam touches it, the moan he lets out is much louder than Zayn is used to coming from him. A rough surprised sound that makes the other lad drag Zayn’s hips closer to his own until their cocks press together just right.

“Zayn,” Liam grunts, pressing against the heart shaped base. “You didn’t -”

Zayn knocks their lips together, pushing off of his lap some. “Yeah,” he breathes. “Wanna see?”

Liam’s hands are possessive on his back after he has stripped from the clothing and settled back onto his lap, leaning forward and legs spreading to show off his bum. He can hear the moment Liam lifts the blindfold from his eyes, the sharp intake of breath pounding through his ears.

Liam touches him all over, tracing the heart and spreading his palms over his bum. It is a rough touch with an edge of gentle, dragging him back against his lap further.

‘I’m yours,” Liam groans, cupping his cheeks and rolling Zayn’s hips back and down against him. “I’m yours, baby. Just yours.”

Chapter Text

 “You can’t swim until twenny minutes after you eat!” Oliver scolds from the shore, wiggling his finger at Zayn with his brows furrowed. Zayn tries to fight off the smile that takes over his lips because of it, but he fails horribly.

“Says who?” he challenges jokingly, stepping back further into the water. Oliver’s hand goes to his hips, his frown even more prominent. He refuses to even put a toe into the water, and he skips back every time the tide sends the water rolling over the top of his feet.

It isn’t funny, because he is quite sure the little lad is very serious about this, but Zayn can’t help the amusement. He looks like a tiny little adult, a tiny little Liam -

“Papa!” he yells, the word coated in frustration as Zayn takes another step back. The water is barely to his thighs, no real threat to his safety, and he has been trying to convince Oliver to join him into the ocean for at least ten minutes now. “‘M tellin’ on you!”

Zayn rolls his eyes, blurting out a laugh as he lowers himself until his bum is pressing against the sand. The water is cold, making him shiver when it slides across his ribcage. “I’m sitting, now. Not swimmin’. I’m safe.”

The little lad is getting better at rolling his eyes, he thinks. He throws his arms up into the air in frustration before sitting in the dry sand, far enough away from where the tide comes in so it won’t touch him. Zayn waits about a minute before he pretends to look at the waterproof watch on his wrist.

“It’s been twenty,” he calls, waving his watch at Oliver.

Oliver only frowns for a moment before he is scrambling up, splashing through the water quickly to tackle Zayn. His arms curl around Zayn’s neck, legs wrapping around his waist because he is too small to actually knock Zayn back too much. “Take me deeper?”

“You gonna be scared?” Zayn asks softly as he stands up with some struggle as he tries to support Oliver at the same time.

“A little,” Oliver admits, peeking over Zayn’s shoulder before he turns and walks him in deeper. “Jus’ don’t lemme go.”

“I wouldn’t,” Zayn promises softly. The little boy’s grip tightens when the water hits his bum, and even more so when Zayn sinks his knees so the water comes up to his shoulders. “See? You’re doing great.”

The boy looks exhilarated, wiggling against Zayn’s grip and giggling wildly. But he shakes too, eyes flying wide from the cold. “The water is almos’ as tall as you.”

Zayn snorts, tucking his laugh against Oliver’s cheek. “Than it is way taller than you.”

Oliver lets out another breathless laugh, fingers tickling the back of Zayn’s neck. “Papa’s gonna be proud of me.”

Zayn fonds, nodding instantly. “‘Course he will. He always is. Loves you a lot, you know.”

Oliver nods seriously, teeth chattering as he stares out at the ocean before he turns to Zayn. His brows furrow, and it is oddly adorable the way he looks nervous for a moment. “You love me too?”

Zayn pauses, at a loss for words. He really is like a little adult, and he doesn’t want to overstep. He can’t quite explain that to Oliver, so he settles with what Oliver wants to hear - which just happens to be the truth. “‘Course.”

Oliver relaxes the grip of his legs around his waist, kicking out into the water around them as his arms tighten around his shoulders even more. “Good. Papa and me loves you too, loads.”

Zayn looks away before Oliver can call him out on the look that takes over his face, which he tends to do whenever his Papa turns red. His heart thumps heavily in his chest, and he rolls his eyes at himself. Liam doesn’t love him, it is much too soon if that would ever be something Liam could let himself feel for him, he knows. But hearing it makes his chest feel like it is going to explode from the way it expands.

“Come on,” Zayn breathes, moving to tuck his palms underneath the boy’s armpits. “Want to swim now?”

The little boy gives him a nervous look, but he nods. “Yeah, but pwease, pwease don’t let me go?”

+*

It isn't until Zayn is about a foot away from his desk, saying his name softly, that Liam notices him. He jolts slightly in surprise, tugging his eyes away from the graph he is trying to make sense of.

“Hey,” Zayn murmurs, a glint in his eyes as he makes his way around the desk. Liam shifts his chair back, the stress from the day seeming to fade away as he takes in the other lad. His skin is darkened from the sun, hair a frazzled mess around his head, and he is dressed in all black, despite the heavy humidity outside. A simple black shirt over black jeans and thick boots.

“Hey you,” Liam utters back with a smile as Zayn's fingers tuck under his chin, the pads scraping over the stubble of hair there. “What are you doing here?”

Zayn shrugs, but his eyes light up even more. It makes him look younger, innocent even though Liam knows the look means Zayn is being anything but innocent. “Wanted to see you.”

“Yeah?” Liam murmurs in amusement, shifting back even more as Zayn moves to settle into his lap. “Could have Skyped me.”

“Wanted to touch you,” Zayn clarifies, pressing his knees on either side of Liam’s waist. Liam groans quietly as Zayn’s fingers chase his cheeks to tilt his head backwards.

It is almost amusing, how easily the other lad can make his heart pick up the pace, or his dick twitch in his dress pants. Or how his breath gets stuck in his lungs and he has to swallow thickly just to feel like he isn’t choking on his words. How comforted Liam is by the weight of Zayn in his lap and their exchange of breath, the familiar scent of his cologne -

“What are you up to, love?”

“We only have a few minutes,” Zayn mumbles as if that is a response to his question. There is an energy surrounding him that makes him bright. Liam doesn’t understand but he doesn’t mind, gripping Zayn’s hips to pull them flush together. “Left Ollie with Nialler.”

The other lad brings his palm up to cover Liam’s throat, fingers tapping against his pulse and pushing his chin up enough for him to slot their lips together just right. They fit perfect, like the soft round of Zayn's bottom lip is meant to be between Liam's.

He moans quietly as Zayn snakes his tongue past them, curling behind his teeth and tracing across the roof of his mouth. He tastes like apple juice, the scent of ocean salt on his skin and hair slightly wet like they had left the beach and came right here to his office.

“Did you lock the door?” Liam grumbles against his lips, fisting underneath Zayn’s shirt to feel the damp, soft skin underneath, still hot from the sun. It is one of his shirts, he thinks, an expensive one he had been reluctant to buy because it is so simple for so much, but he doesn’t say anything as he is kind of in love with Zayn wearing his clothes.

“No,” Zayn murmurs, sliding his fingers down Liam's throat to tug and loosen the tie he wears enough for him to latch his lips under the collar. It is very rushed, his movements, creating a fast paced energy around them. “Makes it more exciting that way.”

Liam groans, palming across Zayn’s torso before he does his thighs, rubbing at the insides with rough fingers as Zayn’s hips roll down eagerly against his own.

“What’s gotten into you?” Liam chuckles softly as Zayn cups him between his thighs, no wasting time. He definitely doesn’t mind, but he hasn’t seen Zayn this keyed up before.

“Want you in me,” Zayn mumbles against his lips, rubbing his palm down against his hardening length. “But no time.”

“Tonight,” Liam promises tightly, tucking his palm under Zayn’s chin as he holds back the moan forming in his chest. “What do you want now?”

“Nothing really,” Zayn murmurs as he fumbles with Liam's zipper. “Just want to see you come.”

Liam feels like he is sinking into the oversized chair as Zayn's fingers finally curl around him. The fast pace of Zayn’s movements stop as he strokes him slowly, lips forming bruises across his jaw with biting kisses, until he feels heavy and leaking against Zayn’s palm.

“Babe,” Liam whispers like he is afraid of being overheard. But Zayn ignores him, shifting off of his lap until his knees are digging into the carpeted floor and his body is pressed between Liam’s calves. The eagerness in his face and the lack of hesitation in the way he kisses the tip makes Liam gasp out, a soft noise that sounds wrecked already.

“Fuck,” Liam huffs, stroking his fingers through Zayn's hair as he eyes the entrance to his office. The desk in front of them is big enough that if someone came in they probably wouldn't be able to see Zayn sinking down on his swollen prick, but the nerves from thinking about it getting caught work him up even more. And he isn’t sure he would be able to keep a straight face if someone were to walk in, because he feels overwhelmed and slightly on fire, lips permanently parted open.

Zayn’s long eyelashes flutter as he looks up at Liam, cheeks hollowing out as he takes him further. There is no finesse, no taking his time as he bobs his head, gagging slightly when he sinks too deep too quickly.

“Baby,” Liam moans quietly, cupping Zayn’s cheeks as he rubs at the corner of his mouth, rubbing around the spit that collects there. He rolls his hips slightly, and the reaction from Zayn jolts through him.

He groans roughly, relaxing under Liam’s palms and stilling his movements. His eyes flick back up at Liam, a look in them that Liam can’t put his finger on. Trust, maybe. Eagerness -

“Want me to fuck your mouth?”

Zayn only groans in response, head tilting back farther as Liam lifts his hips up from the chair some.

“Desperate for it?”

The other lad’s brows crease together at Liam’s words, fingers rubbing into his thighs even more as he tongues under the head. The rest of him is still, waiting for Liam to move.

Liam rolls his hips again, fucking his cock past Zayn’s lips. The other lad’s eyes flutter shut, knuckles turning white as he grips onto Liam’s dress pants. Liam grips onto the back of his head, fingers circling against his scalp as he fucks Zayn’s mouth with uncoordinated thrusts, trying to be careful but every rough thrust has Zayn moaning shamelessly around him.

He slides his fingers farther down Zayn’s back as he hunches forward, nails digging in and legs clenching underneath Zayn. Zayn  moves then, sliding further down Liam’s cock on his own until the head hits the back of his throat, and he constricts, his moan vibrating straight to Liam’s navel.

White prickles at the back of his eyelids as he smoothes his fingers across Zayn’s neck. He chokes out his warning, fingers digging in as the coil of arousal in his belly breaks.

Zayn’s groan as his mouth floods with come seems loud in his office, muffled and wounded sounding. It bangs in Liam’s ears before he rests back against the chair, breathing out harshly as he bucks his hips up again to milk out his orgasm across his tongue.

“So fucking good, babe,” Liam whispers as Zayn curls his hand around the base.

Zayn pulls off with a hoarse chuckle, lips parting as he strokes Liam until he blurts out another streak of come across his lips. He licks at it, sucking on his bottom lip before he is climbing back onto Liam lap. It is obvious how hard he is as his legs spread around Liam’s waist, the length of his prick clear underneath his jeans. “Have a good rest of the day at work.”

Liam laughs, warming his palms up Zayn’s sides instead of touching him where he wants to because he was right - they don’t have much time. “Don’t go. I’m gonna be distracted now.”

Zayn’s grin disappears as he lowers his face to knock it against Liam’s lips. A simple kiss, just a slot of the lips before Zayn is pushing off of him.

“See you tonight, Mr. Payne?”

Liam grins, fingers going to his zipper as he stands up from his chair. He probably should stay in his office until his skin feels cooler and drier, or until he gets rid of the fucked out look his face probably wears. But he is confused, kind of giddy feeling, and every muscle in his body relaxed.

“Are you trying to convince me to work from home?”

Zayn shrugs, a look of mischief on his face as he wrinkles his nose. “I dunno what you're talking about.”

He follows after Zayn, feeling like there is a string attached to the both of them tugging him along, the words at the tip of his tongue that he can’t say. And he thinks Zayn can tell, because his face softens as he reaches to pull Liam closer when they near the door.

His lips are soft against his own, expression even softer as he searches Liam’s face. Liam just grips his chin, tilting his head some. “See you tonight, baby.”

Yours, yours, yours, plays over in his head, and he wonders if it means the same to Zayn as it does to him. He is Zayn’s - he needs Zayn to understand that but the words seem lost every time he tries to speak them outside of the bedroom.

Liam walks out of his office behind him so he can see Ollie before they leave, but he regrets it the moment Niall mimics throwing up from behind his desk, a glare in his eyes that makes Liam’s face feel hot.

Zayn grins, cheeks flushing some and shoulder jerking up awkwardly at Niall before he tucks his fingers under Oliver’s armpits to lift him off of the desk he sits on.

“Are you being good?” Liam asks, holding out his fist for Oliver to bump his own against it.

“Yup! Went swimmin’.”

“Going to watch Monsters Inc now,” Zayn adds. Liam’s gaze falls on him, his heart expanding for no reason other than Zayn just existing beside the only other person that makes him smile for no reason. “My pick today. Don't think Ollie's too happy with it. Says I watch it too much.”

Liam pulls his eyes away when he hears a soft giggle, finding his son cupping the side of his mouth as he leans towards Niall. The little boy completely fails at whispering, not even attempting to quiet his voice.

“Just like Uncle Harry and his flowers.”

He knows Zayn's face is forming into something puzzled as Niall barks out a laugh, face reddening almost as much as Liam's, though for different reasons.

Liam coughs, glaring at his best mate. “I forgot to tell you. You’re not allowed to be around my son any longer.”

Niall cackles even louder, but Oliver’s eyes go wide with worry.

“Flowers?” Zayn cuts in, confusion in his voice.

The laughter continues, so much so that the other secretary a few feet away, Ned, glances over in amusement.

“Harry is a florist. Works in gardens,” Niall tells him, eyes starting to tear up from how hard he laughs. It really isn’t that funny, but Oliver’s laughter in response is a bit addictive. The little one probably doesn’t know why his uncle is laughing so hard, but he looks overjoyed by it. “Sometimes I get jealous because he doesn’t look at me like he looks at them.”

Liam glances nervously at Zayn, whose face fills with realization. But it makes him soften, lips quirking up in amusement as he glances back at Liam. He suddenly feels shy, like he wants to kick Niall in the shin and run back inside of his office.

Instead, he takes Oliver’s hand and pulls him away from the desk. “Come on, babe. Say goodbye to Uncle Nialler. I have grown up things to say to him.”

Oliver gives Niall an alarmed look. “Uh oh. Uncle Ni, you’re in trouble wiv Papa.”

Zayn rubs against Liam’s side as he takes Oliver’s hand, hand over his mouth to muffle his laugh and that same mischievous glint in his eyes.

+*

The mirror Oliver and him had brought into the bathroom sits in front of Zayn, perched against the bath tub, so he can watch the way his hair starts to change color. He can see Oliver’s impressed face over his shoulder as he inspects it like he knows what he is doing.

They are sat on the bathroom floor because Zayn said they could pretend Oliver was doing his hair after he already put the color in. He even let Oliver pick out the color, after which the boy insisted that it was a secret why he did. He is a little nervous about, having had chuckled at himself the whole time in the store because he can't deny how wrapped around Ollie's finger he is.

“Almost ready,” Oliver tells him, making eye contact with him through the mirror. He had tried to convince Zayn to let him color his hair too, a vibrant shade of purple, but he is pretty sure Liam would kill him if he even suggested it.

(Not that Oliver understands, because he is five so like, practically an adult in his mind. But luckily, he hadn’t thrown a tantrum in the store - only pouted at Zayn until they got home.)

“Do you think Papa will like it?” Zayn asks, checking the time because it isn’t close to being ready to wash out. They just put it on a few minutes ago.

“Oh yeah,” Oliver assures, plopping down on the floor next to him. “Babe ma’net.”

Zayn barks out a laugh, looking at the little boy in shock. His eyes are wide and innocent, shoulders shrugging in response to Zayn’s look.

“Uncle Ni tol’ me it.”

Zayn tries to frown as he cards his fingers through Oliver’s hair, but he can't. “Uncle Nialler is a bad influence.”

The little one sighs heavily, fingers tucking in his lap. He looks smaller like this, the way he hunches forward and folds in on himself. “Papa say so too.”

Zayn snorts, tucking his fingers under Oliver’s armpits to pull him into his lap. His face brightens instantly as he presses a gloved hand to Zayn’s cheek. It is much too big on him, and it had kept falling off which had caused Oliver to get frustrated before Zayn put a loose rubber band around his wrist and the glove.

“Are you excited to visit your new school tomorrow?”

Oliver jerks his shoulder up as he continues to wipe at Zayn’s cheeks like he has hair color on them. “No.”

Zayn frowns, searching the little boy’s face. He looks casual, and calm, but he nibbles at his bottom lip as he continues to trace his fingers across Zayn’s face. “Why not?”

Oliver sighs heavily before climbing off of Zayn’s lap. “‘Cause I’ll miss you and Papa,” he says distractedly before walking out of the bathroom to call for Thor. It makes his chest heavy, because he will miss him too, and the little boy doesn’t even know his time as a nanny is coming to an end when he goes to school.

 

Nerves settle in his belly as he stares at his reflection. It is pink, very pink. Like he poured pepto bismol in his hair. He knows it will fade, and it doesn’t look bad or anything, but it is very different from what he is used to. And the white hair had taken some time getting used to when he first changed from his natural black color to that.

Oliver giggles like mad, bouncing on his toes excitedly beside him with his fingers flexing into fists by his side. “Now you look like Papa’s cheeks.”

Zayn snorts, working his fingers through his hair to push it into something presentable. He can't believe some of the things the little one picks up on, though he is certain it is all Niall’s doing. “I’m a babe magnet now?”

Oliver covers his mouth with his hand, eyes clenching shut as he trembles with laugher. “Yeah,” he giggles. “A Papa ma’net.”

Zayn’s face feels like a match has struck across his skin as he whips his head down to look at Oliver, who still trembles and shakes with laughter. “Excuse you?”

Oliver laughs even more, the sound coming out hiccuped now and Zayn can’t stop the laugh in response as he falls to his knees and clutches onto Oliver’s chest, afraid the boy is going to laugh himself into not breathing.

“We are keeping you far away from Uncle Ni,” Zayn laughs quietly, wiping Oliver’s hair from his forehead as he fonds at the little boy. “Far, far away.”

+*

The car engine idles quietly, the radio only a tad louder. It is Liam’s thoughts that are the loudest, muting every other sound as he sits in the driver’s seat of his car, parked in his driveway. His eyes are glued to his lap, where he has opened the Cartier box to just stare at the bracelet inside.

It makes his chest tight, his belly jittery. He is unsure, nervous about giving it to Zayn. He doesn’t know if he will be able to find the words to explain what it means, what he wants, when he does give it to him, because he has been trying and he has been doing a shit job at it. Or if he will like the rose gold that Oliver picked out, laugh at him and refuse to wear it.

Liam smiles at the memory of his son picking it out, tracing a finger across the metal indented with circles with lines through them. Oliver had picked it out right away, going on about how much Mr. Zayn was going to like it, and talking under his breath once Liam told him he has to keep it a secret. He was going to get silver, to match the chunky rings Zayn sometimes wears, but there was no arguing with his son once he made up his mind.

He sighs quietly as he closes the box, resting his head back against the seat. He feels a bit ridiculous, wanting to chuck the box at Zayn and make a run for it like he always does. He could get away with it, hiding in one of the many rooms inside until it was safe to come out and confront Zayn about why he threw a box at him.

After a couple minutes of conflict with his thoughts, he shuts off the engine and grabs his briefcase. His heart is beating erratically as he shoves the box into his briefcase and ventures inside. It is a good feeling, the nerves, but the worry that comes with them isn’t.

Zayn could reject him. He could tell him that he likes fucking around with Liam, but it isn’t anything more. That his feelings aren’t returned, that he doesn't want to be Liam’s boyfriend.

God, Liam feels sick. He hasn’t felt this way about anyone since Oliver’s mum, hasn’t let himself. And he doesn’t want to now, either. He is too nervous about it, but he can’t fight the feeling anymore and he isn’t sure if he wants to.

Things Zayn has said, that he has done, replay in his mind as a way to comfort his worries. He holds onto those as much as he can, focusing on what that means more so than anything in his past.  Zayn has said he has liked him, that he wants him - him and Oliver, and he wishes he could focus on that instead of the worry that maybe he was just saying those things to make Liam feel better.

Then can you try to trust me too? To take care of you –

 “Fuck, Liam,” Liam grumbles at himself under his breath, feeling frustrated as he pads his way to the front door. He holds onto that memory the tightest, because of how genuine Zayn had looked when he said it. Even if he doesn't feel as strongly as Liam does, he still feels something similar. “Get your shit together.”

Thor meets him at the door, tail wagging as Liam places his briefcase down and tickles the top of the dog’s head. He can hear a distant giggle, a mischievous one that makes his head perk up.

Oliver pokes his head around a corner to look at Liam, the mischief clear on his face before he prances out with his chest puffed.

“Ahem,” Oliver clears his throat, nose wrinkling as he tries not to laugh again. “Are you ready for y’suprise Papa?”

Liam frowns, walking over to his son. He falls to his knees, straightening his shirt that is buttoned wrong. He has been fighting off help of all kinds lately, and now isn't any different. He fidgets and swats at Liam's hands until they pull away from his buttons. “What are you up to, sunshine?”

Oliver knocks his forehead against Liam’s, tickling under Liam’s chin. “Your face is gonna get red.”

Liam rolls his eyes, laughing softly as Oliver turns his head over his shoulder. Niall admitted to telling Oliver that was a thing that happens when you fancy someone, and Liam had really wanted to punch him afterwards. “Come on out, Mr. Zayn!”

He is confused for a moment before Zayn appears, a shy grin on his lips. Liam pays it little mind, though he normally can’t look away from his smile, because his attention flies up to the bright pink of his hair.

Zayn tucks his fingers through the pink strands nervously, giving Liam a shrug of his shoulders as Oliver bounces between them. Liam just stares up at him, resting his bum on the back of his calves.

If he wanted to try and deny his feelings, right now it feels impossible.

“Oliver picked the color,” Zayn tells him, eyes widening some. “D’you like it?”

“He loves it!” Oliver exclaims, giggling again. He taps Liam’s cheeks, but Liam can’t pull his eyes away from Zayn. He feels slightly in shock, or speechless, - fucking in love, more like. “Tol’ you his cheeks gonna be red.”

Liam flushes even harder as he stands up, chuckling breathlessly at himself because he feels a bit foolish for being so embarrassed. Oliver grips onto his belt loop right away, tugging him slightly forward so his feet drag across the carpet.

“Looks good,” he tells him, though it is the understatement of the year. He thought it impossible for Zayn to look any softer than he already had with the white silver hair, cotton in human form really – but now –

Fuck, I love you, I love you plays over in his head, tickling against his tongue and threatening to bounce off.

Zayn quirks up a brow, rubbing at the thick scruff on his jaw. His eyes are bright, head cocked to the side and he seems younger like this, with the shyness around his features but the amusement in his eyes. “Yeah?”

Liam nods, fingers twitching with the urge to grip his cheeks and pull him in for a kiss. But Oliver is right there, glancing between the two of them with wide, curious eyes. His tongue feels swollen, his words sounding thick in his ears. “Fancy it quite a bit, yeah.”

Oliver tugs on him harder, his other arm reaching out to grab Zayn’s waist until he is tugging him forward too. Zayn grins crookedly, rolling his eyes some as his cheeks darken with the same flush that takes over Liam’s. It is all very preteen like with the flushed cheeks and fluttering eyelashes, the embarrassed half laughs that send a rush of warmth through him.

It is nearly painful fighting the urge to touch Zayn, so when Oliver has his arms curling around both of them, Liam finally tucks his fingers through Zayn’s hair, knocking his head back some so his chin tilts up.

“I think we have a little match maker on our hands,” Liam whispers, ducking his head forward as the fuck it screams loudly in his head.

“Called me a ‘Papa magnet’,” Zayn chokes out in a laugh quietly as he reaches out to cup the hip that Oliver isn’t holding on to.

“S’true,” Liam whispers, knocking his nose against Zayn’s. He tilts his head some, licking his lips. His mouth feels dry from nerves, heart pounding heavily in his chest because he shouldn’t kiss Zayn in front of Oliver, but he really needs to kiss the other lad right now.

Zayn’s lips part as his eyes flutter shut, and Liam takes that as an okay to press their lips together. He drags his lips against his softly, nothing too much. Just a light kiss to satiate the urge Liam has building inside of him.

Oliver giggles quietly, burying the sound against Liam’s hip. He can feel the quirk of Zayn’s lips against his own as his fingers dig into his side, keeping him closer as he applies a little more pressure.

“Okay, ‘nuff,” Oliver laughs, letting go of the both of them to cover his eyes with his hands. He stumbles back, before turning around and running off with his fingers still spread over his eyes, and Liam takes advantage of the moment to cup the back of Zayn’s head and deepen the kiss.

When Zayn pulls away, Liam swears he can see the warmth in his chest reflecting in the other lad’s eyes. Zayn's tongue presses behind his teeth as another half laugh passes his lips.

“Is this all I needed to do to get you to fall for me?” He whispers, amusement clear on his face. “Color me hair pink?”

Liam hums quietly, knocking their noses together because he wants to kiss Zayn again. He always wants to kiss Zayn again. Hours and hours of doing so probably wouldn't be enough for him. His lips could ache and his tongue cramp, but he probably still wouldn’t be able to pull away.

“No, I think I fell after you said, ‘you Louis?’”

He attempts to mimic the other lad’s thicker accent, and Zayn shoves him playfully for it before grabbing onto his work shirt and tugging him back so they are chest to chest.

“What a wonderful start to a great romantic story. It'll live on for generations, babe.”

Liam warms as he curls his arms around Zayn’s shoulders, ears pounding with the replay of his words. “Don't ever call me Louis again, though.”

Zayn chuckles, smoothing his palms over his chest. “Not into that kind of foreplay?”

Liam rolls his eyes, kissing across Zayn’s cheek bone. “Mr. Payne works perfectly fine.”

+

Liam rubs his palms up Zayn’s back, waist trapping Zayn’s bum to the mattress. He digs his fingers into his muscles there before he is scraping his lips down his spine, eliciting a noise of content from Zayn.

“Liam,” Zayn murmurs, resting his cheek against the arm that lays across his pillow to look back at him. Liam hums in response, lips skating across the fantail at the back of his neck. There are tiny finger shaped bruises starting to blossom across his skin, and he licks over them like an apology. “I was wondering something.”

Liam moves his lips higher, tickling the side of his neck as he curls an arm around the one Zayn rests on. He is nervous all of a sudden. Zayn hasn't made him talk about his feelings or Ollie’s mum out loud lately, and he knows he will eventually.

“What is it?”

“Well um,” Zayn starts, the pinch of hesitancy in his voice apparent. “When Ollie starts school, it will only be for a few hours a day, you know.”

He hums again, kissing his throat softly in hopes it will ease the nervous sound of Zayn’s voice, and himself.

“And um,” Zayn goes on, clearing his throat as Liam tongues over his pulse. “Well, you’re going to need someone to pick him up right? And be with him until you get out of work?”

Liam pauses for a moment. That thought hadn’t occurred to him, and he isn’t sure why. It makes sense. His heart expands at what Zayn is implying, and he skates his lips higher, until they brush against his cheekbone.

“Mhm.”

He shifts off of Zayn’s back some so he can rest beside him, arm still curled around him but he can now see Zayn’s face properly. The other lad bites at his bottom lip, eyes slightly wide and bright as they look up at Liam.

“So I was thinking -”

“Yes,” Liam interrupts, grinning. The look of relief crossing Zayn’s face is instant as he huffs out a laugh.

“You don't want to get rid of me?”

Liam wrinkles his nose before brushing it against Zayn’s. “No, I was actually going to -”

He pauses as his heart rate picks up even more, and he swallows before plopping a kiss to Zayn’s lips and wiggling away.

Zayn frowns, rolling to his back. Liam can feel his eyes on him as he turns to look for the pants he had been wearing before Zayn stripped them off earlier. He has been wanting to give it to Zayn all night, searching for a time to do so but it never seemed right. Because he was so nervous, he knows, but it is hard to fight off the nerves when they are building up in your throat.

He didn’t even give him the bracelet when Zayn asked him why he was wearing a rose gold ‘screw driver’ around his neck.

He holds the bracelet in his hand as he makes his way back to the bed. He climbs onto it before throwing his leg over Zayn’s waist so he can sit in his lap. Zayn shifts up some, not hesitating to rub his fingers against Liam’s bare thighs.

“Got this for you,” Liam mutters, flicking his eyes up. He hates how shy he feels as he reaches for his necklace to unlock the bracelet. He meant it when he said he was would work on trusting Zayn, and this here feels like a huge step. “Ollie and I.”

Zayn swallows some, eyes heavy with what Liam thinks is the same feeling in his own chest. At least he hopes so, because he needs that -

“What is it?”

“Just a bracelet,” Liam lies, laughing at himself softly. A love bracelet, but he doesn’t dare say so as he reaches for Zayn’s wrist with delicate fingers. He has spent all day trying to figure out what to say, but suddenly he feels like it is all wrong. “And the screw driver I'm wearing is a key to it.”

Zayn huffs out a breath, admiring the bracelet as as Liam holds it up for him. “It matches my hair.”

Liam grins. “I think that was Ollie’s doing since he picked them both out.”

Zayn grins too before he is cupping the back of Liam’s neck before he can put the bracelet on. He drags him closer, a power under his fingertips that Liam hasn’t experienced yet.

And it makes something flutter in his belly.

“I love it, Mr. Payne,” Zayn murmurs against his lips.

The words are at the tip of Liam’s tongue. He could say them, take a chance and maybe be wrong, but he doesn’t. Instead he traces them against Zayn’s lips in hope he can somehow understand.

“You like those handcuffs a little too much,” Zayn teases, pulling back and resting his head against the headboard. “Had to go on and get me one I can wear all of the time.”

Liam snorts, hating the way his cheeks flush as if he is shy. “No, nothin’ like that.”

He takes the bracelet and his necklace so he can wrap it around Zayn’s wrist. He smiles softly at how it looks, rubbing the underside of his wrist before he lets his hand go.

“You can take it off, but you'll have to fight me for the key,” he jokes, wiggling his brows at Zayn. "Even saying red won't make me take it off of you."

Zayn snorts, eyes latched onto the bracelet instead of him. The pink of his hair seems to bring out the flush in his cheeks, though faintly there.

“Wouldn't want to,” he mumbles, smiling softly. “Makes me know you're finally getting it, jaan.”

Liam's brows push together in confusion as Zayn flicks his eyes up to him. They are bright and playful, and Liam doesn't understand. He doesn't know what the last word is either, and he wonders if it is similar to what Zayn calls Oliver. If it is another language -

Shit, Liam is sitting here wanting to confess how in love he is with the other lad and he knows very little about him. 

“What do you mean?”

Zayn cups his thighs before pushing up so their chests are aligned. “Nothing. Just kiss me yeah?”

Liam hesitates, but he nods and does exactly that, wiping the question at the tip of his tongue against Zayn's.

They fumble across the sheets then, Zayn's delicate fingers pressing into him with a force that is rare coming from the other lad. Liam chuckles into it, belly swooping as Zayn plasters him on his back. It is more playful than rough, filling the room with a choked out giggle from the other man. 

“Can I ask you something?” Liam breathes, lips tilting up so much he feels like his cheeks could break. He is starting to fall in love with how easy it is being with Zayn, forgetting about the troubles he usually plagues himself with so he can soak in the boyish chuckle from the other lad. They come back full force when he is away, but when Zayn is pressing against him, it is difficult to focus on anything other than the steady thump of his heartbeat. 

“Go on,” Zayn tells him, elbows pressing beside Liam's ears so he can look down at him.

Liam taps a rhythm up Zayn's spine, trying to fall in sync with the steady beat of his heart. “What's your favorite color?”

The other lad’s nose wrinkles, brows pushing together almost judgmentally as he slides a finger under Liam's eyelid. “Brown.”

Liam mentally rolls his eyes, fluttering them closed as Zayn's nail scrapes across the round of his cheek. “And red.”

He peeks one eye open, swallowing down the feeling in his chest as he takes in the amusement in Zayn's eyes. “For real?”

Zayn snorts out a laugh. “No, it's green. Yours?”

Liam huffs out a laugh in response, arms curling tightly around his back. “Yellow. It was the color of Ollie’s nursery.”

He tells him about how they decorated it with elephants and giraffes, how Liam accidentally broken the rocking chair trying to be funny. He tells him about the flowers that bloomed outside of the window the day they brought him home, and how when he was old enough to be in his own room Liam slept in the new rocking chair the first few nights. Zayn listens on with a soft smile, finger continuing to trace along the edges of Liam's face.

“Sounds nice,” Zayn murmurs when Liam finishes, finger sliding against his beard. “I remember planting flowers outside of me sister, Safaa’s, window when she came home.”

Liam tilts his chin up, letting Zayn trace down the slope of his throat. The other lad’s face grows incredibly softer at the mention of his sister.

“Your only sister?”

Zayn shakes his head, eyes dropping to follow the path of his fingers. “Three. Safaa, Doniya - she's older, and Waliyha. She thinks she's older.”

Liam grins, tickling his fingers against the low of his back. “You should have them visit here. We have plenty of room.”

Zayn's eyes flick back up, teeth catching on his bottom lip. “Yeah? They're a handful.”

Liam rolls his eyes. “So are you.”

He gives Liam a look of mock offense, pinching at his collarbone. “You like to get a handful.”

Liam tries to look confused as he cups Zayn’s bum, squeezing gently, but he knows he fails. “A handful of what? There's nothing there.”

Zayn's eyes rip open wide in offense, but he lets out a laugh. “Your ass isn't anything to brag about either, Mr. Payne.”

Liam gives him another squeeze, smothering his laugh against the other man’s lips. “Love it though. Tell me more, about you?”

Zayn places a kiss to his lips before he pulls back. “Like what?”

He shrugs, arms wrapping around Zayn's body so he can tug him to the side until their face to face, both on their sides. “Dunno. Anything. Where'd you learn to play the piano? What's your family like? What does jaan mean and what language is that?

Zayn huffs out a laugh, eyes crinkling some. “My dad - my Baba, taught me how to play it. My family is very close knit, the best people you'll ever meet, you'll have to see.”

Liam grins, warming over at the way Zayn's face lights up even more as he talks about them.

“And jaan?”

Zayn's eyes drop from his face, lingering on where his fingers brush over Liam's chest. “It's Urdu, means Liam Payne.”

Liam snorts, chasing Zayn's fingers so he can slide his own between his. “For real?”

“Somethin’ like that,” is all he responds, amusement in his features.

Liam wrinkles his nose, squeezing Zayn's fingers. “I'm gonna google it if you don't tell me.”

Zayn barks out a laugh, curling back over him. “Try spelling it then?”

Liam frowns at him, crunching his face together as he sounds it out in his head. “Oh, um-"

Zayn cuts him off with a laugh smothered to his lips. Liam feels his face flush, heart stuttering in his chest as he kisses him back hard. He cups the back of his head to keep him there, fingers tangling through the newly pink hair as Zayn's trace across the key laying over his heart.

+*

The classroom is small, only a few round tables to the left with chunky chairs, blue knapsacks hanging on the back. The walls are covered in cartoon characters and letters, child drawings that remind Zayn of the scribbled on paper they have covered Liam's fridge with.

The teacher has a kind face, smiling at them as they enter the room. Oliver squeezes Zayn's hand tightly but he doesn't shy away from her. Zayn thinks he is more nervous than the little boy, because he is considering tugging Oliver out of there and telling him he isn’t ready for school just yet.

“Hi there,” Ms. Mila greets, squatting down to Oliver's level. She is young looking, about Liam’s age and there is something about her, maybe her kind eyes, that remind him of his mother. It is comforting, easing the thoughts of escape he has. “You must be Oliver.”

Oliver nods seriously, holding his free hand out to shake her's. “Oliver Alexander Payne.”

Ms. Mila smiles more, shaking his hand. “Nice to meet you, Oliver. I'm Mila.”

Oliver glances up at Zayn, face twitching about before he speaks. “This is my Mr. Zayn.”

The teacher stands up, shaking the hand Zayn offers to her. “Li told me you'd be bringing in the little one today. It's nice to meet you.”

Zayn nonchalantly scratches at his beard, showing off the rose gold band around his wrist. He doesn't know what the lock and key bracelet set means to Liam, but it feels a lot like a commitment he is chasing and Liam seems to run away from.

Or Liam's way of asking him to be his even though he feels like he already is.

“You as well,” he mutters. He isn't jealous because of the familiar way she said Liam, okay? Just - he is. “Ollie's excited, aren't you babe?”

Oliver nods excitedly, eyes wide with it.

“Well come on then, I'll show you your seat,” Ms. Mila says, reaching a hand out to him.

And Zayn isn't jealous of the quick way Oliver lets go of his hand to grab her's, either.

 

“Oh man,” Oliver exclaims excitedly as they walk out to the school’s playground. He runs off towards the climbing frame, feet quick across the grass. It is the last part of their tour, which Liam had asked for to make sure Oliver familiarizes with the school.

“Careful!” Zayn yells, watching him go. He knows he won't climb too high, since he squeals if Zayn pushes him too high on the swing. (Even though he begs for him to do it in the first place.)

“Oliver is great,” Mila tells him, watching him too. “I can tell you’re nervous about him going to school.”

Zayn frowns, a denial on his tongue even though it hardly matters if she thinks so or not. He hasn’t known Oliver long, a small amount of time, but he feels so attached to the little boy like he does with his sisters, his cousins. A huge chunk of his heart just filled with love for the little one.

Mila looks at him, laughing quietly. “It's okay. Most parents are. I get emails from Liam quite frequently with questions about the school, loads of questions.”

Zayn grins fondly, knowing Liam has put alot into finding the right school for Oliver. And he still catches the other man worrying about a lot, usually unnecessarily. But Zayn doesn't judge, only rubs his shoulders because he feels the same nerves, and Ollie isn’t his son.

There is a specialist here, Ms. Watson, who has worked with Oliver since he was little. An early intervention program, and Liam had been resistant to talk about it at first, until he started talking about how well Ms. Watson has said Oliver is going.

And then it all came out, and Liam started telling him about the work Oliver has done with Ms. Watson, and then the parent training he went through when Ollie was younger. How Ollie hasn't been given a specific diagnosis, and how much he hates having to give him so much medicine. The stimulants more so than the vitamins. How he worries about Ms. Watson’s warning about him struggling in school, because he remembers how difficult it was for him because he did as well.

“Mr. Zayn!” Oliver squeals, head poking out where the slide starts. “Watch me!”

He giggles, lips twisted in something equal parts excited and nervous as he sits down and pushes himself down the slide. Zayn snorts, biting at the fond smile he wears because of how excited Oliver gets.

“Great job, beta!”

Oliver runs back, face flushed slightly. “Proud of me? Did it by m’self.”

“Sure am,” Zayn promises, cupping his cheeks and wiggling him slightly until he giggles breathlessly again.

“I think some of the other kids should be here now if you want to go meet them,” Ms. Mila interrupts, nodding her head back towards the school building.

Nerves reach Oliver's face instantly, and he ignores Ms. Mila’s hand to reach for Zayn, grabbing on with a vice grip. He nods, but his eyes are wide and his teeth chatter against his bottom lip.

He stays like that as they make their way to a room bigger than their classroom, where his future classmates and their parents have gathered for the orientation. His eyes are wide with worry as he looks around, fingers clenching around Zayn’s almost painfully.

“Come on,” Zayn whispers, bending down so he can be level with Oliver after struggling to get his hand free. “I'll go with you.”

Oliver looks unsure, brows pushing together. “They're not mean?”

Zayn gives the boy a soft smile as he tickles under his chin like his Papa does. “No way. They're nice, like the kids at the park.”

He pauses for a moment, thinking about Ollie usually plays with himself or Zayn when they are at the park. He doesn't remember seeing the boy nervous there, but he always seems content playing by himself.

“And if they are,” he goes on, hoping his voice is as assuring as he wants it to be. “I'm right here.”

Oliver frowns more before nodding. “Okay. But hold my hand.”

He is hesitant when they approach, keeping by Zayn’s side but after awhile the tension in his face seems to relax. Though he doesn't seem to stray from Zayn much, eyes getting nervous whenever he moves too far away. It is unusual, because he has seen Oliver go up to strangers without hesitation, at the market or the ice cream shop, but they had all been adults.

“Hi.”

Oliver clenches onto Zayn’s fingers, looking from the other small boy that walks up to him before he utters out a weak, “hullo” in response.

“S’your name?” The boy asks. Zayn eyes the tiger on his shirt under his overalls, grinning slightly in hopes Oliver notices too. His hair is quite short, just a thin layer of coarse hair across his scalp, his eyes big and innocent like Olivers. He seems small for his age, though bigger than Oliver. “I'm Alfie.”

Zayn nudges Oliver slightly in encouragement after a long moment of silence. The other boy cocks his head to the side, though seemingly patient as he waits for a response with big eyes.

“I’m Oliver Alexander Payne.”

Zayn bites at his grin, heart expanding in his chest. His voice is small, his face tucking towards the arm that stays up to grip onto Zayn’s hand.

“Oliver,” Alfie repeats as he bounces up on his toes. “Wanna color wimme? Over there -”

Oliver's fingers relax slightly, though he still seems unsure as he nods and follows where Alfie points. “You like tigers?”

Alfie’s face brightens as looks down at his shirt and grips his overalls to tug them down some. “Yeah, look. Got one on me shirt.”

Oliver drops his hand, laughing some as he pulls up his shirt sleeve to reveal the fake tattoo of a tiger Liam had put on him a few nights ago. “We can draw ‘em. Like this.”

“Okay,” the other boy chirps, reaching for Oliver’s hand. “Come on.”

Zayn watches him go, nodding some when Oliver looks over his shoulder. He wants Liam here beside him, so he too can feel the mix of nerves and pride running through him. So he can hold Liam’s hand and be comforted by the warmth his palms always have.

+*

“I'm headed out early,” Liam says as he pads towards Niall's desk. He hadn't wanted to come into work at all today, but there was a phone conference he couldn't miss. During the time of his son’s orientation, of course. Just his luck.

He has been worried all day about it, ever since this morning when Oliver tickled his neck and refused to get out of bed because he was nervous about the other kids being mean. He is considering cutting off all television for his son, at this point, because he doesn’t know where else Oliver could have learned that kids can be mean.

“I'll be home, so if it's important send it to my home office, yeah?”

Niall nods, fingers to his brow before he salutes him. “Yes sir. Give the little one a kiss from Uncle Nialler, or bring him and the boo around for dinner tonight.”

Liam’s lips quirk up slightly as he hands Niall the paperwork for his next meeting that he is taking over for him. “Come to ours. Haven't seen Hazza in forever.”

Niall nods, taking the papers. “Will do.”

He hears Niall laughing under his breath as he pads off, and he ignores the “you didn't deny it!” being called after him.

When he gets home, the house is empty, all of the lights off. He frowns as he walks around looking for them, and even searches the backyard when he lets Thor out but they are nowhere to be found.

It isn't until about half an hour later of Zayn not responding to his text messages that he hears Oliver’s voice as he smokes outside and considers planning a search party, coming from the front of the house. He screams, “Papa’s here!”, making Liam grin uncontrollably as he puts out his cigarette.

He sneaks in through the back sliding door, listening for Oliver calling for him and the pad of his feet. It takes a few minutes until the little one pokes his head around the corner where Liam is, and his eyes spring wide and bright.

“Papa, I went to school,” Oliver chirps proudly, running over to him. Liam picks him up, stitching him to his chest. “Made a friend. His name is Alfie and he likes tigers just like me! And Ms. Mila was really nice.”

Liam’s smile breaks into his cheeks as he watches Oliver go on, his face jumping with every word. Zayn eventually pokes his head in, and Liam doesn't hesitate to curl an arm around his shoulders as he comes near.

Zayn tickles his lower back, muffling his laugh against Oliver’s arm as he talks about how after Mr. Zayn took him for ice cream, and dropped his whole cone onto his lap.

“Did you share yours then?” Liam asks, quirking a brow at him.

“‘Course,” Oliver says seriously. He curls an arm around Zayn’s neck, pulling him closer. “Brought you some to work but you wasn't there.”

“Came home to see you and Mr. Zayn,” Liam tells him softly before plopping a kiss to his cheek.

Oliver giggles, cupping Liam's cheeks and distracting him from the way Zayn kisses his shoulder.

 

Oliver sits on the kitchen counter, feet dangling as he talks Liam’s ear off. Liam can't help but smile, enjoying some time with his son and only interrupting here and there to ask him to pass him the seasonings and utensils as he cooks.

He feels so at ease, witnessing the bright look on his son's face and hearing the echo of his best mates and Zayn from the other room. He won't admit it, but his smile nearly hurts every time he hears Zayn's choked out laugh, though he worries about what Niall is telling him to make him laugh so hard.

The feeling comes with something uncomfortable lingering at the edges, and he tries to push it away for good, hating the fact that it is still bothering him. He knows he is just hesitant, but his worries are always about who he brings into Oliver’s life and Zayn is already in it. He just can’t get past the thoughts, no matter what he does to get them to shut up.

It is beyond irritating.

“Sunshine,” Liam starts when Oliver goes quiet for a moment. “Did you have a good day with Mr. Zayn?”

“Mhm,” Ollie hums, kicking his feet, wiggling his bum against the counter. “You have a good day at work?”

Liam chuckles, nodding. “Missed you.”

Oliver brows jump up as he looks at his Papa. “Miss you all the time.”

He softens, setting the spoon in the pot so he can grab Oliver's cheeks and press his lips to his forehead. After a long moment, he starts to fidget underneath him.

“Papa’s not going to work tomorrow. What do you want to do?”

He has a lot of meetings, and one with the founder of the company that he had wanted to cancel on already, but he knows Nialler will think of some excuse for him. His heart feels heavy suddenly, and he misses his son. Soon he will be in school, and he is worried their time together each day will be even less since Zayn has a habit of bringing him to visit him at work, but he won't be able to once Ollie is in school.

Oliver presses his lips together, scrunching his face. “Ummmm, dunno. Watch toons, make waffles wiv the blueberries.”

Liam snorts, rolling his eyes. “That's it?” He teases, tickling under Oliver's chin. “We can do anything you want.”

“With Mr. Zayn?”

He warms, watching his son’s eyes widen some. “‘Course. You can ask him to come along.”

He picks up Oliver to carry him into the living room, where he runs straight to Zayn who sits on the couch, legs tucked underneath him and facing Harry.

“Mr. Zayn!” His son says excitedly, climbing onto his lap without hesitation. With no sense of personal space or care that he is interrupting their conversation about Harry’s flower shop, but neither seem to mind.

“What is it beta?” Zayn mumbles quietly, a bright smile on his face as he looks up at the boy. Liam wants to kiss him suddenly, his thoughts once more fighting each other. He hadn’t googled the words Zayn uses that he doesn’t know like he said he would, because it is clear that Zayn doesn’t want him to or he would tell him what they mean, but he is kind of in love with them anyway. Special for just the two of them, he hopes.

“Wanna watch toons with me and Papa tomorrow? He's gonna make the blueberry waffles too."

Liam snorts, padding over to them. He wonders if Zayn would mind kissing in front of Niall and Harry, who both wear these amused grins every time Zayn and Liam get within ten feet of each other.

He cups the back of the couch, leaning over Zayn to look at his son, but it is only an excuse to be close to Zayn. He always wants to be, as close as he can, and he kind of hates every moment he isn't. “Whaddya say?”

“Um, pwease? I love you a lot, a lot and it would be so much fun.”

“Laying it on thick there, buddy,” Liam grumbles as Zayn huffs out a laugh.

Oliver ignores him, giving Zayn an expectant look. He cups Zayn’s cheeks, squeezing them playfully.

“Of course. Is Papa not going to work?”

Zayn tilts his head back to look at him and the urge to kiss him is even harder to fight off when he watches the flick of Zayn’s tongue against the corner of his mouth. But Niall and Harry's eyes practically burn through him.

“No,” Oliver answers for him. His face pushes together as he waves an accusing finger at them both. “And no kissin’, or I'm gonna play by myself and not you!”

Liam's face burns as the laughter fills the room, Niall’s barked out and Harry’s soft, Zayn’s choked out and embarrassed.

“I knew it,” Niall laughs, face reddening. “Hazza, you owe me twenty quid.”

Liam narrows his eyes at him before he grabs under Oliver's arms to lift him from Zayn’s lap “Can I kiss you then?”

And he brings Oliver’s face closer so he press kisses across his cheeks and fill the room with his laugh instead of Niall and Harry’s bickering about their bet.

“You made a bet?” Zayn asks, both amused and offended sounding. Oliver wiggles until Liam lets him go, planting another kiss to his hairline as he places him on his feet.

“Not surprising,” Liam mumbles as Niall says seriously, “Frickin’ right.”

Niall puts his hand up when Oliver nears for a high five. “Good work, little laddie.”

Oliver looks slightly confused but proudly slaps his hand to Niall’s before squeezing and shaking his fingers.

Liam groans, bending back over the couch to cup Zayn's cheeks as he tilts his head back. Fuck it, he thinks before he lowers his head until his mouth hovers over Zayn’s. “Can we kick them out now?”

He can feel Zayn’s smile ghosting against his mouth before he kisses him. A disgusted noise comes from both his best mate and his son, but he ignores it and pushes his mouth harder against Zayn's.

 

Chapter Text

Zayn inhales deeply through his nose, his fingers flexing nervously. His senses are cut off, the blindfold pressed over his eyes keeping him from seeing where Liam is but he knows he is close. The restraints keeping his hands up above his head are loose enough that he could pull out of them if he wanted to, but he doesn't.

His heart beats quickly in his chest in anticipation, making his long exhales come out shuddered. It feels like he has been laying here for hours, and Liam could have left him and he wouldn't know.

Zayn trusts that he wouldn't though. And the fact that Liam is probably standing near him, taking in his naked body but Zayn can’t see him courses arousal through him. His cock is achingly hard and heavy, leaking out on his belly and twitching every time he hears Liam move. He can feel his presence more so than hear him though, the heat of his gaze warming across his skin.

“Green?” Liam asks suddenly, voice soft and coming from the left of him he thinks.

“Yeah,” Zayn breathes shakily, fingers tightening into a fist.

“I’m going to touch you,” he tells him then, voice casual but lined with the usual warmth it holds. Zayn can only swallow, head jerking into a nod as he anticipates Liam’s fingers.

Another long pause, and the tension starts to seep through him, causing him to flinch as something light tickles across his skin. Feathery light, trailing across his collarbone and tickling across his tattoos before moving lower, to breathe over an erect nipple and lower.

Zayn lets out another shaky exhale as the feathery object slides to his waist and hip, moaning quietly when it brushes across his inner thigh. It tickles pleasure as it moves, leaving a static across his skin that builds the arousal in his belly.

It feels consuming, little prickles of pleasure all through his limbs, coating his skin like a blanket. Even in his toes, which curl as Liam brushes whatever it is over his foot. He can pinpoint where the object makes contact with his skin, but it feels as if it is touching him everywhere at one time, his nerves bundling and dancing all across his body.

“Focus on it,” Liam instructs, voice low as he trails it back up his torso. It tickles his side, and Zayn tightens his fists again as not to tremble. He hates being tickled normally, at least not for too long, and even though this tickles - it is different, overwhelmingly so. “And relax. You can move.”

Zayn lets out a soft moan as his chest heaves, his breathing harsher as Liam continues to tease him. He does as he is told, putting all of his focus on where the feather touches him. But he can't relax, not with the build in his belly and the erratic beat of his heart.

“Does it feel good?”

Zayn swallows thickly. “Yes.”

The feather disappears, and the bed dips as he feels Liam move closer. “What about this?”

Something sharp slides across his nipple and it is a simple touch, but it wracks through him, pulling out a sharp gasp from his lips. It takes him a second to realize that Liam is trailing his nails across his skin, when he feels the pads of his fingers there as well.

“Good,” Zayn moans as Liam traces his lips. His touch is more gentle than it has ever been, his nails skating across his beard, tracing his nose before his thumb rubs over his eyelids. Even gentler than the feather, a kind of touch that Zayn never thought would make him feel so sensitive before.

“Beautiful, beautiful,” Liam whispers under his breath and then he is gone, his weight lifting off of the bed and his warmth disappearing from Zayn’s side.

It should be calm but there is an energy heavy in the air as he listens to Liam’s feet against the floor, with no idea of what direction he is walking in. His fingers twitch against his palms even more, his ribcage expanding quickly with the way he breathes.

“Baby, be still now.”

Zayn stills instantly, sucking in a breath that he holds. He hadn't even realized he was rolling his hips back against the silky sheets, too focused on the tickle that seems tattooed to his skin and refusing to fade. The sheets are new, and he wonders if it was purposeful in order to stimulate his back just as much as front.

“Don't want you coming too soon,” Liam says, a slight lilt in his voice that could be amusement but it is equal parts warm. “I know you like to nut off without touching y’self.”

Zayn lets out a huffed laugh, which sounds as on edge as he feels. He hates the blindfolds for a moment, craving to see the forever pink tint of Liam's cheeks. “I won't.”

“You'll be good for me?” Liam mutters, voice casual as his fingers circle around Zayn's ankles. He rubs at the bone, fingers flexing up to his calf.

“Yes,” Zayn shudders out. Liam's skin is hot against his own, easing away the lingering tickle from his skin and wrapping a warm blanket over him instead.

“You always are.”

His nails tickle over the inside of Zayn’s thighs, and it is hard to fight off the urge not to wiggle against his restraints or grind against the mattress. He wants Liam’s mouth there on his sensitive skin, harsher though he is kind of in love with the gentle touch.

Like Liam can read his mind, he feels the wet warmth of Liam’s mouth against his skin a moment later after he knees back onto the bed between his spread legs. It is gentle, his tongue rolling against him and teeth grazing.

He teases, breathing a path across his skin before his balls, trailing his breath over the length of him but never making contact. Zayn lets out a string of harsh breaths, clenching his eyes closed as he tries not to roll his hips up against Liam’s mouth.

“Liam,” Zayn says desperately. The plea has the opposite effect, making Liam pull away.

“What do you need, baby boy?”

He can’t focus on one thought with the fast way he breathes, making him feel light headed. There is a pressure building under his skin, covering his body and he just needs Liam to touch him. He feels high from the ghost touch against his skin, pulling into himself like he does when he has smoked more weed than he should.

You, you plays over in his head. A chant of Liam’s name but his tongue never forms the word.

Liam goes quiet for a moment as he waits for a response that doesn't come, his palms rubbing up his thighs and to his waist. “I'm right here. I got you, baby boy.”

Zayn would make a frustrated noise, but Liam is climbing up his body, rubbing a palm against his skin as he does until it lands against his throat. His thumb presses against his chin as he feels Liam's breath against his lips, and there is too much stimuli to focus on now even if he could try. He feels overwhelmed, heart erratic in his chest as he tries to focus but he can't.

Zayn gives into Liam’s touch as his grip tightens. It is nowhere near hard, still extremely gentle, holding him together as Liam continues to assure him that he is doing good, that he is in good hands, how badly Liam wants to make him feel good.

“I want to make love to you babe, for being so good for me.”

The desperate plea is at the tip of his tongue, but Liam’s mouth finally makes contact, quieting him even more.

It is a hard press of his mouth, contrasting with the gentle way Liam's strokes his tongue behind his teeth. He pushes under his chin with his thumb, guiding his head back like he wants to kiss him deeper.

Liam strokes his fingers against his skin as he pulls away, nudging their noses. Every glide of Liam’s fingers against his skin, he can feel everywhere. Overwhelming, really, but his heart warms with a trust for Liam.

It feels like he is floating maybe, like Liam truly is a high he has become addicted to.

“Gonna undo the restraints,” Liam whispers before he does, lifting up just enough so he can untie them. He guides each hand down, kissing the inside of his wrist. “And then make love to you, babe. Can I?”

Zayn nods, whimpering quietly in response. Liam can do anything at this point, he just needs more. He needs his release, to ease the ache in his prick and the tight coil in his belly that makes him tremble.

Liam’s fingers skate up his cheeks, nails sliding under the blindfold to push it up as he kisses Zayn.

Zayn inhales sharply as he focuses his eyes on Liam’s flushed face. There is an admiring look in his eyes, a warmth radiating from his features.

“Beautiful,” Zayn breathes shakily as he looks into Liam’s warm, honey colored eyes.

He swears they are in sync with one another when Liam finally sinks into him a few minutes later, hand coming back up to wrap around his throat the way Zayn was mentally willing it to. Liam licks at every moan that rolls off of his tongue as he works deeper, the stretch like a pinch against his skin. Liam had taken his time prepping him, soaking the sheets with the amount of lube he had covered his fingers and Zayn's skin in. Bruises formed across his hips from Liam's mouth as he had worked his fingers past the rim, making it frustrating for Zayn as he had refused to touch his cock even once. 

He is sensitive all over, the pleasure in his belly spreading throughout him. In his fingers, legs, toes and hips. He feels it everywhere, nerves fireworks shooting off across him. It is evident in the way he moans, overwhelmed and sharp noises, pinched off and gasped, a melody growing in volume.

Liam dicks into him at a steady pace, slow and harsh, pulling back and fucking deep. He trembles and shakes, but Liam holds him, trapping him with his weight against the mattress. He grips Liam's hips, fingers creating blossoms of purple that match his own there. 

Those dark eyes are intent on him, thumb stroking his chin as Liam builds up the pace of his thrusts. And then he stops, pulling back so his knees dig into the mattress and he is lifting Zayn’s hips to follow.

Liam stills, nestled deep as he dances his fingers across ridges of Zayn's abdomen, using his nails to trace the blocky heart on his hip.

“Want you to be mine,” Liam grunts out softly, palms spreading up his sides as he grinds his dick slowly into him.

“Yeah, yeah,” Zayn murmurs as Liam lifts his hands above his head, making the other lad hover closer to him, changing the angle so the head rubs insistently at that bundle of nerves. He laces their fingers, squeezing reassuringly. “I am.”

Liam adjusts, finally moving his hips properly again. Shallow, slow thrusts that make Zayn clench onto his fingers harder, his prick dragging against Liam belly just right. 

“Mine too,” Zayn gasps out, on edge now that he finally has the friction he needed against his cock. 

Liam moans quietly, seemingly struggling with the slow way he fucks Zayn as his face twists with pleasure. “Yeah, yours too.”

His orgasm feels as if it touches every part of him, his heartbeat pounding under every inch of skin. So loud in his ears that the wrecked moan Liam lets out seems distant and quiet, though the lad is close enough to knock their noses together. His own noise seems foreign, a steady rhythm of gasps brushing past his lips and onto Liam’s.

Liam kisses him hard, teeth knocking against his lips as he thrusts into him harshly. His cock pulses inside of him, filling him up and he bites hard on Liam’s bottom lip as he focuses on the feeling.

“Liam, Liam,” Zayn huffs out, head tilting back as he shivers out.

It seems like forever until he can catch his breath, pleasure still tickling his skin and the fuzzy feel still lingering along the edges of his brain as Liam pulls out and lays over him. His fingers are in his hair, mouth hot across his neck as their chests fall in sync with one another, like Liam’s breathing won't calm until Zayn's does.

“Beautiful babe,” Liam praises, nuzzling against his cheek. “So good for me. Can't believe you're real, sometimes.”

He goes on with it, tattooing praises against his skin until Zayn feels like he is sinking into the mattress from the heavy warmth taking over him. Arms even heavier, and hinting how badly they will ache later, as he lifts them to wrap around Liam’s back.

“How do you feel?”

“Good,” Zayn breathes before swallowing thickly, not wanting to let go of the feeling he clings to. “Liam -”

He lets out an overwhelmed breath before Liam presses a soft kiss to his lips, fingers pushing back the pink hair stuck to his forehead.

Liam rubs his smile against his lips before pulling back, eyes heavy with something he can't put a name to. But he always sees it when Liam looks at Ollie. “Come on, fancy a bath?”

Zayn lets Liam drag him out of the bed, hands constantly warming his skin as he guides Zayn to the bathroom attached to his room. Liam's is even bigger than his, with two sinks, a toilet with a door, a stand up shower and a jacuzzi tub big enough to fit at least three people, if not more.

The sink counter is cool against his sore bum as Liam places him onto it, and he wraps his weak feeling legs around Liam’s waist to keep him close a moment longer. There is a soft look on Liam’s face as Zayn traces the shapes of it, just like he had done earlier.

It is always in the front of his mind, how much he loves Liam, and it could be the after effects of his orgasm, but it bangs angrily at his mind and pressures his tongue to finally say it. It feels like now or never, even though he knows he isn’t - so he swallows the words down and kisses Liam instead.

“Come on,” Liam whispers, eyes crinkling some as he smiles. “Lavender or apples?”

Zayn only shrugs, letting Liam go reluctantly but he admires the way his muscles ripple across his back as he moves. The pad of his feet, the span of his legs, the small round of his bum, it all has him smiling fondly at as Liam sorts through the different bottles of soap on the shelves beside the bath tub.

He chooses the one that smells like smells like lavender, filling the room with the scent and heat from the water as it fills, nearly flowing over when Zayn steps into it. It is a little too hot but it eases the ache in his limbs as Zayn sinks into it, scooching forward so Liam will get the hint and sit behind him.

It is intimate, the way Liam’s toes drag against his calves, fingers massaging his shower lotion across his belly. His lips tickle his throat, teeth gentle against his beard.

“Babe,” Liam murmurs quietly, wrapping his strong arms around Zayn and pulling him tight to stitch his spine to his chest. Zayn traces the inked feather across his skin, the nervous flutter in Liam's voice becoming more familiar. “Are you going to stay here when Ollie goes to school?”

Zayn bites his bottom lip, resting his head back against Liam's shoulder as he sinks farther into the water. They haven’t talked about whether he is staying here or not while he continues to nanny Oliver, even though it is nearing closer and closer to Ollie’s first day of school. “If it's okay.”

“Mhm,” Liam hums. “Closer to campus, yeah?”

He nods, frowning some. His loan application hasn't been approved yet due to bad credit, and it makes him nervous as it gets closer and closer to the start of the term. “Yeah, and closer to my favorite boy obviously.”

Liam doesn't respond, only squeezes him tightly like a reflex.

Zayn grins, turning his head and looking up at Liam as much as he can. He too is grinning softly, a brightness in his eyes that makes him feel hotter than the water. “And you too.”

Liam reaches up to rub his bottom lip, but he presses his own into the mat of pink hair at the top of Zayn’s head. The tickle that had taken over his skin earlier now settles in his chest, and he bites at Liam’s thumb to fight off the words he wants to say.

+*

“I forgot my packback!”

Oliver’s voice is frantic, his eyes widening as he grips his shoulders where the bag’s straps would rest. Liam laughs softly, feet quick across the carpet so he can hand him the backpack before he panics too much. It is much too big for him, and covered in Spiderman because they couldn’t find a tiger one.

(It had been a bit of a shit show, but like always, Zayn had saved the day by telling Oliver how he had had a Spiderman backpack once.)

“Papa's got it. Here you go.”

Oliver wipes a hand over his head in relief, dramatically like always, before putting it on his back with help from Liam. “Thanks. Come on, we're late Papa.”

Liam snorts, letting Oliver grab his hand and tug him along towards the driveway. He has taken the day off of work so he can bring him in on his first day of school, and thankfully Zayn had asked if he could come too. Hesitant like it wouldn’t be something that was okay.

He needs Zayn there, because he knows he is going to get upset the moment Oliver walks away from him and into the big boy world. Ms. Mila had told him it was perfectly normal to be this nervous, but he really doesn’t think so. He is kind of embarrassed by it, but he is too worried about Oliver to focus on that too.

And Zayn hadn’t seemed judgmental when he stayed up with him the night before, fingers in his hair as Liam whispered his nervous thoughts against his forehead.

Zayn holds the truck door open as Oliver bounces over to him. Liam is thankful he is excited and not scared or nervous like he is. His parents had told him he had cried and cried on his first day of school, and if Oliver did the same, he knows he would comply with the little lad and keep him home. For the rest of his life, probably.

He lifts Oliver, making a flying noise like an airplane taking off before he helps him into the truck. Zayn's fingers tickle his hip, knowing Liam is pretending to be excited for his son’s sake.

“Off to school!” Ollie cheers, fists in the air as Liam pulls the backpack from him so he can strap him into his booster seat. “Gonna be learnin’.”

Liam snorts, tickling under his chin. “Lots of stuff, yeah? Gonna teach Papa what you learn in school when you get home?”

Oliver nods seriously, reaching out to tickle under Liam’s chin too. “We’re gonna get smart, together.”

He gives his son a smile, eyes fluttering closed from the force of it as Zayn laughs from the front seat.

“You’re already wicked smart, beta,” Zayn says, turning to look at him. “Ready for uni and allat.”

Liam chokes a bit at that, dread running through him. He already feels like Oliver is growing up too quickly, he can’t stand the thought of him being an adult just yet -

It is far off, but his mother always talks about how Liam grew up in the blink of an eye, and how it was easier to protect him when he was younger - too little to understand much of anything. He feels the same with Oliver, watching him grow up so quickly, worrying about bullies at school and how he won’t be there to protect him from them.

“Not yet,” Liam mumbles, glaring at Zayn but it only makes the other lad laugh even more. “You’re gonna stay little forever, yeah?”

“Papa,” Oliver whines, glaring at him the same way. “I am big.”

Liam sighs, smacking a kiss to Oliver’s cheek. “I know, babe. Come on, let’s get to school.”

The closer they get to the school, the worse the uneasy feeling gets. His throat is tight, and he can't seem to swallow the feeling away though he tries. Oliver's excitement makes him feel a little bit better, going on about how he is excited to see Alfie again, but the moment they walk in it hits Liam full force.

And Oliver’s excitement dies a bit, a nervous look edging his features as he looks around the classroom at the other kids and grabs for both Zayn and Liam’s hand.

“Hey there,” Ms. Mila greets, wiggling her fingers at Oliver the moment they walk through the door. “Are you ready for your first day of school?”

Oliver glances at Liam with a worried brow. “Yeah, Papa?”

Liam bends his knees so he can be at his level, and straightens Oliver’s shirt. He insisted on putting it on by himself and without any help from either one of them, but it is buttoned all wrong again. It is a red and black plaid shirt, and he had also insisted on wearing his tiger shirt underneath it. “What pumpkin?”

“Your face is all red,” he mumbles, placing the back of his hand to Liam's forehead. He looks concerned, head cocking to the side.

He swallows the feeling down, even though it feels like it could choke him, and smiles. He hopes it is reassuring. “I'm okay. You okay?”

Oliver nods, kissing his nose. “Yeah. I'll miss you. Have a good day wiv Mr. Zayn.”

Liam's smile doesn't feel too fake then, and he lets go of Oliver's hand to kiss his forehead before he stands.

Zayn's fingers skate across the dip in his back as he waves to Oliver, who only gives them a lingering look before running off to his seat, next to the little boy that Zayn tells him is Alfie.

 

Liam grips the steering wheel until his knuckles turn white, eyes focused on the brick school building. He knows Zayn is watching him, can feel his eyes burning into him as his thumb strokes over his jean clad thigh. It is comforting, the touch, but not enough to ease the stuttering of his heart.

He sucks in a breath, the rumble of the engine in his ears but he can't pull off and out of the school parking lot. He is considering going back inside and telling Oliver he has to come home, right now, immediately. He isn’t ready for school - Liam isn’t ready for him to be in school.

“Babe,” Zayn says softly after a long moment of silence. He has been patient, letting Liam take his time, not making him feel bad for being so unnecessarily worried. “Wanna go get some coffee while we wait for him to get out?”

Liam swallows, frowning at himself and mentally telling himself to get it together. Oliver needs to go to school, to learn, to socialize. It is only for four hours a day. He can do this, he can calm down. He just needs to call his mum, or kiss Zayn -

“Can we make it a date?”

He glances at Zayn, who wears a warm but amused look on his face. His nose wrinkles, brows pushing together and head cocking to the side as he searches Liam’s face.

“Yeah, sounds alright.”

Liam swallows again, tapping his fingers against the steering wheel. He had been trying to come up with ways to ask Zayn this, running through grand gestures, and nothing like this moment, but it feels right and he knows it will make the panic in his chest diminish some.

“Like, as boyfriends.”

Zayn's smile grows bigger as he digs his thumb into Liam's thigh. “Yeah, okay.”

Liam watches him for a moment, a sense of relief flooding through him. “Okay.”

Zayn grips his thigh more as he leans over to press a kiss to the corner of Liam’s mouth. “Come on, and with an empty house I'll show you what else we can do as boyfriends.”

Liam grins, turning his head so he can kiss Zayn proper. It does calm him, flooding him with a warmth that wraps around his erratic heart.

+*

He feels slightly giddy, a constant tickle running through him every time a smile cracks across Liam’s face, which makes his eyes crinkle and his mouth fall open around his laughter. Their feet keep knocking against each other underneath the table, and Liam doesn't stop reaching over it to just slide his fingers over Zayn's. Just a simple touch that seems unconscious, but it burns across Zayn’s skin in a comforting way.

Boyfriends. It makes him giddy. They act like it all of the time, he thinks, but having the title feels important. Like Liam is getting more comfortable with him, or his feelings for him, whatever they may be.

Liam isn't as tense as he was while dropping Oliver off at school, but he does continuously glance at the expensive looking watch on his wrist. His work phone is turned off, but he checks his regular cell constantly like he is waiting for Ms. Mila to call. She won’t, and Zayn tells him this, but he only looks distressed when he does.

“I start my classes tomorrow,” Zayn tells him to change the subject, hooking his ankle around Liam’s. His coffee is no longer hot, and his muffin is torn to bits more so than eaten. “A few online, one on campus. That one is on the weekend, but I should have my degree by the end of the school year if everything goes as planned.”

Liam flicks his eyes at him as he reaches across the table for a piece of his muffin. “Straightened your loans all out then?”

There is a guilty hint in his smile, eyes sparkling some as Zayn swats his hand from his plate. He had thought he had straightened his loans all out, until he received the email saying his loans were refunded back to the company a few days after he had told Liam about how he was stressing over it.

“I think I have a secret admirer or summat, or a sugar daddy who has gone and paid for my tuition.”

Pink crosses Liam’s cheeks as he laughs, judgement making his brows crease and nose wrinkle. “A sugar daddy?”

Zayn shrugs, grinning around his fingers as he puts more muffin into his mouth. “Dunno. Hope he's fit, though. If not, well, I guess I'd be okay with licking his wrinkles for that kind of money.”

Liam kicks his foot, pressing his lips together to hold in his laughter, but his words are choked sounding. “I bet he's real fit. Muscles, big cock, all that.”

Zayn sighs, dramatically like Oliver does sometimes. “Too bad I'm stuck with you.”

Liam's eyes grow wide, an amused and offended look crossing his features as he lurches from his seat and over the table. Zayn blurts out a laugh as Liam grabs his chin, fingers gentle against his skin as he pulls him into a kiss.

“Quiet,” Liam chuckles quietly, biting harshly at his bottom lip before letting him go. “Wouldn't mind spanking you in front of all of these people.”

Zayn's retort is lost as his lips part around nothing. Liam is playing he knows, but his words settle heavy in his navel. “Take me home then. Been waiting for you to get rough with me again -”

Liam's lips part, eyes darkening, but it isn't him who speaks then. Zayn hears his name being called from across the cafe, distracting him from whatever Liam might say as he spots Danny and Maria walking through the entrance.

Maria runs from her father when she spots him, bounding across the tiled floor between the tables. Zayn is barely out of his seat before she is jumping on him, a soft laugh hitting his ears.

“Zay,” she mumbles, a smile tugging at her lips that make her cheeks bunch up and round. It has been forever since he has seen her, and he hadn’t realized how much he had missed her until now.

Before he started working for Liam, he had been at Danny’s and Layla’s nearly every night. Babysitting yeah, but they often insisted he come over for dinner - unhappy that his diet consisted of fast food and microwaveable dinners.

“Maria, this is Liam,” Zayn says, tucking her into his chest and turning so she can see Liam. She has grown so much it seems like, a lighter weight than Oliver, but heavier than he remembers. Her hair is a bit longer too, tied into a large bun at the top of her head like her mother’s.

Her smile falters as a shy look takes over her face, eyes widening like Oliver’s. Liam wiggles his fingers, but it makes her bury her face into his neck.

“Lam?” She says into Zayn's throat as he laughs. Liam's eyes go wide, cheeks reddening like he is embarrassed and he shoves his fingers into his pants pockets quickly.

“Yeah, that’s Liam. My -”

“Liam, eh?” Danny interrupts before he can continue, a shit eating grin on his lips as he catches up with his daughter. He looks from Zayn to Liam, giving Zayn a slight nod with amusement in his eyes before his face hardens into a glare at Liam. “Who is this Liam?”

The two of them have gone months without seeing each other before, but it never changes their friendship. They get too busy, too preoccupied with life, but it is always the same when they see each other again. He is like an older brother he has never had, protective but enjoys teasing him in front of everyone like Zayn does with his sisters.

“Liam Payne,” Liam greets, a bit tense and awkward like as he stands up to shake Danny’s hand. “And you -”

“Me best mate,” Zayn clarifies, trying not to laugh. He can't tell if Liam is jealous or nervous, but he looks constipated either way. He has told Liam that over and over again, but there have been times where Liam looked as if he hadn’t believed him. Like the one time Danny had invited him out dancing, and Liam had used his mouth against his throat, hands gripping his thighs, to convince Zayn to stay with him instead. “Danny Riach.”

The hard look stays on Danny’s face he claps his other hand over the back of Liam’s, their gripped hands tightening even more. “Are you the one that has been holding him hostage? Forgot what his face looks like.”

Zayn frowns, wanting to elbow him, but holding Maria prevents him from doing so. Liam chuckles, shrugging some as he glances at Zayn for help with a response. Danny reminds him of Nialler, constantly teasing him whenever he fancies someone because it is always so obvious, and Zayn easily gets flustered by it.  

“I reckon so. Bit of a greedy - erm, boyfriend, I guess.”

Zayn snorts as Danny's huffs out a laugh, and he claps Liam on the back. Not jealous, possessive more like, it is obvious in the way the muscle over his jaw flexes and his brows push together when he says the word boyfriend.

“Well, have Zed bring you ‘round for dinner sometime before we move. Make sure you’re an alright lad, protective of him and allat, you know. Like a little brother to me, and I don’t appreciate you taking all of his time away from us.”

He is teasing, but Liam nods seriously in response. “Sorry about that, mate. You are welcome to mine, any –“

“When are you moving?” Zayn interrupts, giving Danny a confused glare as he rocks Maria. He knew he was looking for a place, but he never told him why or when, or – “Where?”

Danny grimaces some, running his fingers through the neat quiff at the top of his head. “At the end of the month. We are with the in laws for now. S’been a shit show mate, I’ll ring and explain.”

Zayn sighs, pressing his lips against Maria's temple as her grip around him tightens. Layla’s parents live quite far, having moved out of the one Layla and Danny live in now when her father retired from L&A.

He clings onto Maria when Danny tells them it is time to leave, promising to come by soon. He feels slightly bad that he hasn't, after having been too wrapped up in Oliver and Liam. But they haven't reached out either, and it makes something heavy settle in his belly as he worries if they are actually okay.

This is their home, he doesn’t understand why they would leave.

“Seems nice,” Liam mumbles after Danny and Maria leave, lips tilting up some as he pulls out his wallet to pay.

Zayn snorts. “Possessive doesn't look too good on you.”

Liam bites at his bottom lip as he places the money on the table, leaving their server a large tip. He looks guilty, the pink crossing his cheeks a sign that Zayn is right.

“Everything looks good on me,” he teases before throwing his arm over Zayn's shoulders, shoving the wallet into his back pocket.

Zayn tucks closer into Liam’s side, fingers tickling against his belly as they head towards the door. He feels a bit possessive too, wrapped around Liam as they walk past the other diners. It is silly, but it feels good being able to be cuddly with Liam around other people. “You know what you would look really good in?”

Liam only quirks up a brow as he pushes the glass door open, making the bell chime above them.

“Crop tops,” Zayn laughs, digging his fingers in.

Instead of chuckling, Liam flushes, giving him another guilty look. “Got me a few in the closet. From my uni days.”

Zayn feels his eyes widen some, as he pulls back. He had been joking, teasing the other lad, but he actually really likes the idea of it. So much so, his dick perks up under his jeans as he imagines the ridge of Liam’s muscles bare, the definition of the V slipping under his joggers, and a tighter shirt wrapped around his chest and shoulders. “Hidden away with those toys you still haven't showed me?”

Liam groans quietly, turning him so his is back pressed against the side of his truck. “Do you want to see them then?”

He swallows, nodding slightly as Liam’s hands move possessively down his sides. He doesn’t care that it is bright outside, that there are people around them and they can probably be seen by everyone in the cafe, he just wants Liam’s full body pressed against his own and his lips against his.

He curls his hips forward some, just enough to show Liam how easily he makes him hard. “Right now then?”

Liam nods, hovering his lips over Zayn’s before pulling away without kissing him like the tease he is.

 

 

“So are these to make me come or make me dead?”

Liam blurts out a laugh, knocking their shoulders together. “Shut up. I didn’t buy anything that would actually cause you pain. Not even a flogger, though you like being spanked.”

His face is burning hot taking in the collection of toys piled up in the box in front of him, most of which he has never seen before. Some he doesn't even know what they could be used for. He isn't inexperienced, but the most adventurous he has gotten with toys was the vibrating dildo he had done a shit job at hiding in uni, causing plenty of frustrating of jokes from Louis.  

The box is a lot larger than he had expected, filled with a lot more toys than he had expected.

“Why didn't you?”

Liam folds his hand over the small of Zayn's back, breath tickling his ear. “I like to use my hands.”

A shiver runs down his spine, the security of Liam's hand easing the sudden shyness he feels. A feeling only special to Liam, a feeling he hates normally.

Liam tells him what each one is as he picks them up, showing them off like a salesman. A swing, restraints that tie your hands to your feet, ones that go on the door, a handful of nipple clamps and a prostate massager -

“What is this?” Zayn gasps, half laughing as he picks the black toy up. It looks like a basketball hoop, with the ridged bottom and the way it extends out to a ring on the other end.

Liam’s cheeks pink suddenly, as he takes it from Zayn and holds it up for him properly. “S’called an Ass-Gasm cock ring or summat. The lady that works there suggested it.”

Zayn burns even more as Liam slides his fingers to the base, explaining how that is supposed to nestle inside of him like a butt plug, the hoop part coming up to nestle around the base of his prick.

He tries to wrap his head around Liam, but he just can’t. He soaks his briefs, cock twitching under the fabric as he watches the strength of Liam’s finger stroke the toy, the tendons in the back of his hand dancing under his skin.

“Oh,” Zayn breathes. It is getting ridiculous, how he is more turned on by just looking at Liam’s hands than the way Liam drops his voice to tell him about how he wants to use it. Even though he is aroused by that too.

“Yeah,” Liam responds, lips quirking up some as he tucks his finger under Zayn’s chin for only a moment. “And then these -”

He shoves the Ass-Gasm back into the box before digging around, pulling out a couple unopened boxes of dildos that causes Zayn to laugh again. There are too many, like he bought every possible kind the store had.

“Got these too. For when I go away on a business trip or summat. Figured I could get you to make it less boring f’me. Didn’t know which ones you’d like, so I just kind of erm - bought them all.”

Zayn sucks in a breath, taking in each one and seeing even more in the box of toys. He grins playfully, placing all of them back into the box except for the one that looks realistic. (Except for the fact that it looks quite larger than a normal sized cock. And his butt already hurts just thinking about it.)

“When are you leaving? Soon?”

Liam gives him a mock offended look, brows furrowing as he takes the dildo back. “Next week, for a few days. But don’t get too excited, you’re not allowed to come while I’m gone.”

His face grows hot as his eyes narrow. “That seems unfair.”

Liam shrugs, a crooked grin taking over his lips. “I want to be the only one to make you come, babe.”

Zayn mentally rolls his eyes, but his breath seems to escape from him as he fingers the belt loops on Liam’s pants, tugging them slightly. “You are. Will be thinking about you, riding that thing babe.”

Liam groans slightly, his brows pushing together as he closes the space between them. The box goes forgotten as Liam runs those possessive hands down to his hips, moving him until his back plants against the wall.

“Turn around,” Liam groans quietly in his ear, fingers chasing down his hips to play with the lip of his pants.

Zayn complies easily, heart racing as fast as the energy surrounding them. He will never get used to it, how quickly and easily the air changes around them, how easily they get worked up and desperate to touch each other.

“Don’t take it easy,” Zayn shivers out as Liam’s hands drag down his pants down with the way he grips at his bottom with gentle fingers. His fingers dig in harder as he spreads him, the sound of his groan quiet and rumbled in his throat.

“Is that what you need?” Liam asks, nearly bruising his skin with the force of his fingertips.

Zayn knocks his head forward, rocking his hips back against Liam’s as a quiet way of telling him yes, it is.

 

 

It is too early to pick up Oliver when they arrive at the school, and Liam stares at the building again, fingers rubbing over the back of Zayn’s hand distractedly.  

“Do you think?” Liam starts, brows furrowing as he glances at him. There are bruises at his collar, revealed by the shirt he hadn’t finished buttoning up. It is buttoned wrong, and he doesn’t seem to notice. “Do you think they are going to make fun of him?”

“I’ll destroy them all,” Zayn assures, shifting his thumb across the lines of Liam’s palm.

The other lad doesn’t laugh, which was Zayn’s intention. Instead, his face hardens even more as his eyes fall to their entwined hands.

Zayn grabs the divider between them, pushing it up so he can drag himself across the seat and closer to Liam’s side. He sinks into it, tightening his grip on Liam’s hand. “Kids can get made fun of for everything, babe. There’s no way of knowing.”

Liam looks up at him, not relaxed any. “Kids are assholes.”

Zayn grins, pressing his lips to his cheek. “They are.”

Liam turns then, knocking his lips against Zayn's as he squeezes his fingers. “Is that why you don't want any of your own?”

Zayn pulls back, searching Liam's face for the tension that tints his voice. It isn't there, just a warm expression with a bit of hesitancy in his eyes.

He tickles his fingers under Liam’s chin. He could tell him how he feels about Oliver, how he wishes the boy was his own, but he isn't sure if it is crossing the line, or how Liam will react. It took him so long just for them to be boyfriends, he isn’t sure it is in Liam’s best interest to rush into this topic.

“Do you think I would make a good dad?”

Liam nods without hesitation, the warm look burning hotter. “A great baba, babe. You're great with Ollie. I reckon he loves you more than me now.”

Zayn rolls his eyes, smothering Liam with a quick kiss. “Impossible. He loves his Papa more than tigers.”

Liam chuckles breathlessly, the smile stitched onto his lips seemingly permanent. “And almost as much as his Mr. Zayn.”

Zayn links their fingers back together again, knowing there is a worried set to his brow but he can’t help it. He forgot about saying that, and hates that it is something that Liam remembers. “Has that been bothering you?”

The smile falters some, but it doesn’t disappear. He just swallows, shrugging awkwardly in response.

“Not a good answer,” Zayn tries gently, reaching to rub the fingers of his other hand against the back of Liam’s neck. He has noticed it is something Oliver does all of the time, especially when he gets sleepy and Zayn is rocking him.  

Liam purses his lips, giving him a pretend annoyed look. “Yes. And no. The way you talk about Oliver makes me feel better. I have scattered thoughts you know, they are all over the place.”

Zayn nods, stroking Liam’s hairline. “Can I tell you something? And tell me if I’m overstepping?”

A concerned look takes over the other man’s face as he nods, his hand coming up to cup Zayn’s cheek. It is kind of uncomfortable, their position, with Zayn’s knees knocking against the dashboard, but any space between him and Liam would make him miserable.

“Beta means son,” he says quietly as he leans into the touch and hopes the nerves aren’t obvious in his voice. “And that’s how I feel about Oliver.”

Liam grips his chin, something wounded breaking across his face and for a moment Zayn worries it is too much - too soon. But then Liam is closing the space between them even more, crushing a kiss to his lips that would be nearly painful if it weren’t for that gentleness that is always lingering at the edges.

“Not overstepping,” Liam says against his lips between kisses, the force of it making Zayn lean back some. “Fuck, babe.”

Zayn giggles into it, catching Liam’s cheeks between his palms so he doesn’t fall backwards with the way Liam kisses him. That giddy feeling is back, a sense of relief flooding him because he really thought it would make Liam shut down.

He pushes Liam back straight, soaking in the smile on his lips. “And do you want to know what jaan means?”

Liam nods seriously, eyes opening to look at Zayn.

“Too bad,” Zayn jokes, filling the truck with the laughter that Liam only frowns at, no amusement in his expression.

 

 

Liam seems fully at ease when they finally have Oliver back with them again, and it probably helped that Oliver had bounded towards him when he was brought out to the pick up by his teacher. He hasn’t stopped talking since they’ve picked him up, a smile on his lips and excitement in his voice as he goes on about every single detail about his day.

It continues as they walk back inside, his feet skipping across the floor as he struggles to take off his backpack at the same time, a frustrated look taking over his face but he doesn’t stop talking about what they did in class and ask for help.

“Let me help,” Zayn murmurs, trying to take the backpack from him once it is off but Oliver clings onto it, working quickly at the zipper.

“I even made this for you,” Oliver says, giggling after he gets it open. He presses his tongue between his teeth as he digs in it, the backpack practically swallowing his arm up before he produces a folded up piece of paper. “Ms. Mila says I’m the bes’ drawer.”

Zayn’s heart leaps up into his throat as he falls to his knees and takes the paper from the little one. He can feel Liam’s eyes on them from where he stands a few feet away, the same soft smile on his lips on Zayn’s.

The little one has gotten a lot better at drawing, no longer just scribbling across the paper but actually forming distinguishable shapes. The lines are still shaky because he clenches onto his pencils too hard, but Zayn can make out the three stick fingers and what looks to be a dog.

“Ms. Mila say to draw somethin’ we love,” Oliver explains, looking over the top of the paper before he reaches down to point at the stick figues. “So I drew my family.”

Zayn feels like his face is about to break as he smiles, pulling the paper away so he can curl his arm around Oliver and smother a kiss to the boy’s rounded cheek. He feels on top of the world today, a lightness taking over him that he hasn’t felt in a long time.

“I love it, babe.”

“Yeah?” Oliver giggles, plopping a kiss to Zayn’s cheek as well. He glances up at Liam as Zayn hands him the drawing. “You too, Papa?”

Something unreadable crosses Liam’s face as he looks down on the drawing. His smile isn’t as pronounced, a lot softer, but there is a glow surrounding him that is rare on the other man.

“Yeah, Ollie, I love it. I love it a lot.”

+*

Liam runs his fingers over the curls lying across Oliver’s forehead as the boy fidgets, resisting sleep. He keeps talking, forcing his eyes awake even though he looks knackered, and Liam doesn’t know how he hasn’t broken his voice box yet.

“Am I going back to school tomorrow?” He asks, eyes widening as he rests his hands on his chest.

Liam nods, pushing his curls back. “Yeah, do you want to?”

Oliver tilts his chin in a nod, slow and drawn out. “Yup. It’s fun, Papa.”

The smile that takes over his lips is genuine, even though there is still a heaviness in his chest about Oliver getting so big so quickly. It feels like just yesterday that he held him in his arms for the first time, wrapped in a yellow and green swaddler with tiny ducks printed all over it. “Good.”

Oliver shifts and fidgets, making Thor crawl up his bed to lay closer to him. “Mr. Zayn going to school tomorrow too?”

Liam nods, lifting the blanket some so Thor can tuck his face against Oliver’s arm. “Do you like having Mr. Zayn around? He was only going to stay for the summer, remember? But he is going to stay longer.”

Oliver nods seriously again, brows jumping around. “Yeah, I love him, he’s great. He can stay as long as he wants.”

A smile takes over Liam’s lips and he presses it to Ollie’s forehead, humming softly in attempt to tire the boy out more. Beta means son echoes in his head, making his heart expand ten times the size of it. “He is great.”

Oliver’s hand comes up to tickle at the back of his neck, moving against his hairline like he used to do when he was a baby and Liam would rock him. It is something that comforts him now, even when he doesn’t need to be comforted. “You love him too?”

“Mhm,” Liam hums again, resting his cheek against Oliver’s forehead. “Now you go to sleep, okay? So you can wake up for school in the morning.”

Oliver lets him go, sighing dramatically as he grabs onto his blanket and tugs it up to his chin. “Okay, Papa.”

When Oliver’s eyes are closed for more than a few minutes, close to being asleep, he finally leaves his room in search of Zayn. There is a need pounding through him, a need to place his palms against Zayn’s cheeks or just feel the other lad pressed against him.

He finds him outside on the porch, a thick sweater on and what looks to be a sketch book perched on his lap where he sits on the cushioned bench. The glasses are hanging off the bridge of his nose, his hair fallen in front of his forehead. It has faded quite a lot, only a dull pink now.

Liam pulls up his legs so he can sit underneath them, fingers curling around his ankles as he rubs at the bone. Zayn’s lips quirk up some as he pushes up his glasses, but he doesn’t pull his eyes away from his sketch pad. The air is getting a bit colder once the sun falls, crisper against his skin but Liam soaks in the warmth of Zayn to keep himself from shivering.

“What is it, Mr. Payne?” Zayn says after a moment, voice teasing. He glances up, a brow quirked. “What are you looking at?”

Liam shrugs, teeth dragging against his bottom lip. The porch light is dim, glowing off Zayn’s skin and casting a shadow across his features, and he just can’t look away. “You’re beautiful, you know.”

Zayn’s nose wrinkles as Liam shifts his fingers up his calves, underneath the joggers he wears. “Almost as fit as you, I reckon.”

“More,” Liam corrects, folding his palm over Zayn’s calf as he runs it up higher. He shifts then, and Zayn moves like he is in sync with Liam.

He shifts over Zayn, the other lad’s legs spreading some to fit him and sketchpad moving to the floor, so he can drag his lips across the corner of his mouth. Zayn’s head tilts back against the arm immediately, fingers running up his belly.

It isn’t a kiss with intention, but just a kiss to kiss. Just to feel Zayn’s lips against his own, to satiate the never ending crave he has to taste him, to trace the I love you’s playing over in his mind against the roof of the other’s lads mouth.

+*

Liam stares up at the ceiling, his palm resting over the empty space beside him. Bringing Oliver to school allows him to sleep in some, though only about an hour, but he normally wakes up early to make breakfast and to have enough time if Oliver puts up a fight with him about his outfit for the day.

But Zayn must be tending to it, as Oliver had crawled between them sometime in the middle of the night, but now both of them are gone. Thor is with him though, his wet nose touching his arm as the dog stares at him.

“Yeah, I’m getting up,” he grumbles, tickling his fingers tiredly against his snout. “Lead me to my boys.”

He pads after Thor, who doesn’t take him to Oliver and Zayn, but to the glass sliding door he normally uses to let him out, because it is part of the yard that is fenced. There is a swing set for Oliver, and Liam had it fenced just in case he needed to leave Oliver unattended for a few minutes.

He walks away, leaving the door open as he hears the flow of music coming from Zayn’s side of the house. All of the lights are off still, but he can smell the coffee brewing from the kitchen.

The sound of the piano leads him to the den, where he can hear Oliver’s voice distinctly, wide and awake sounding.

“Can you sing that song for me and Papa?”

Liam watches from the entranceway, hiding behind the edge enough that he is not noticed, but he can see them fully. Zayn smiles fondly, head turned just enough so he can see the way his nose wrinkles as he pulls Oliver into his lap. He looks soft as always, the thick sweater he knicked from Liam loose around his shoulders and bunching at his elbows, hair fallen in front of his forehead and sleep still clinging to his features. Oliver is the opposite, a brightness in his eyes as he wiggles excitedly in Zayn’s lap.

“But be quiet,” Zayn tells him gently. “Papa is still sleeping.”

His son nods, settling back against Zayn’s chest as Zayn moves like he is positioning his hands over the keys in front of him. The music is soft, floating through the room and he can just make out the way Oliver hums along, like he has heard this song before.

“I want to lend you my coat,” Zayn sings softly, cheek pressing to Oliver’s temple. “One as soft as your cheek.”

Warmth fills Liam’s chest as he watches on, mixing in with something else he still doesn’t want to put a name on just yet. Even if it feels impossible because the word bounces off in the front of his mind whenever he looks at the two of them.

“So when the world is cold,” his son sings along, not as quietly as Zayn. He loves the way their voices float through the room, soft and loud, a melody he wishes he could put on replay and listen to for forever. “You’ll have a hiding place to go.”

Zayn turns his head then, pressing his lips to his son’s temple before he moves his fingers back over the keys, his eyes finding Liam. Oliver sings out a soft ‘oooh - oo - oo’, his voice cracking some as he ends it with a giggle.

“Everything I need I get from you,” Zayn sings, lips tugging upwards and something in his eyes that matches the feeling in Liam’s chest, before he looks back down at the piano. “Givin’ back is all I wanna do.”

Oliver huffs out a small laugh, turning enough so he can wrap his arms around Zayn’s neck. “Love you, Mr. Zayn.”

Zayn bites at his smile, eyes flicking up to Liam. “Love you too, Ol’.”

Liam clears his throat, smiling back at his boyfriend as he pushes his way into the room more. Oliver gasps, scrambling from Zayn’s lap within seconds.

“Is this how you get ready for school?” Liam scolds playfully, arms already reaching for Oliver the moment he starts to move.

“Yeah,” Oliver exclaims, bouncing on his toes as he grabs Liam’s hands and tugs him downwards.

Liam wrinkles his nose, pretending to sniff. “You should be brushing your teeth actually.”

Oliver rolls his eyes, grumbling as he lets go of Liam’s hand. “Fine, Papa.”

“Fun killer,” Zayn mumbles as Oliver runs off. He doesn’t move from behind the piano, his fingers still dancing in the air above the keys before he lands them. Liam watches on as Zayn rocks back and forth, his grin growing even more before he sings again.

“I can taste it on your mouth, and I can’t leave it.”

Liam wiggles his brows at Zayn’s smile, padding over until he can rest his palms on the piano. “You’re a freak like me, can’t you see?”

Liam blurts out a laugh, shaking his head at Zayn’s playful look. He nods his head towards the bench, indicating that Liam sit beside him but Oliver calls for him before he can.

“I got it,” Zayn says, dragging his fingers across the keys before pushing up. “I’m glad you woke up, I’m starving.”

Liam snorts, following after Zayn. “Isn’t that the nanny’s job?”

Zayn turns, slapping him gently on the belly as he scowls. “I reckon it is time for you to stop calling me that.”

He only laughs, curling his arms around Zayn’s shoulders and stitching his chest to his back as they waddle together towards Oliver.

+*

It gets easier, taking Oliver to school. Liam insists on bringing him and going to work late, and the wait in the parking lot gets shorter, distracting him easier. It helps, how excited Oliver is talking about school, and Alfie. It seems to relax Liam, though there is always this sad look in his eyes when Oliver goes running off into his classroom.

It helps that Liam starts working from home, planning to only go into his office a couple days a week or for one or two hours a day, getting to spend more time with Ollie. Even if he is shut up in his office most of the time, Oliver can still peek his head and giggle with Liam here and there - and that seems to be enough for the two of them.

And though Zayn loved the small attempts that Liam made to tell him how he felt, the constant ‘I'm yours’ and the bracelet, he loves the constant reminders that they are boyfriends lately. It is constant, Liam throwing the word around whenever - even if it is out of place. It is different, a side to the older man Zayn hadn't seen before but he is kind of in love with it.

There isn’t a block around his eyes, a troubled look on his face like he is getting too stuck in his thoughts. It is easier between them, the tension in Liam’s face only showing up when he first gets home after being at work.

Zayn shuts the trunk of Liam’s sports car, having just packed it with his suitcase. He is only leaving for a week, catching the train after work, but he had packed enough clothes to last him the next two or three if need be, rolling them up so they would fit.

He grabs the mug of coffee had had brought from home before heading inside the L&A building, heart already fluttering like it does when he is around Liam.

“Zayner!” Niall greets from where he sits on his desk. His finger twirls rapidly through his hair, and there is a nervous glint in his eyes. “Showed up right in time.”

He shoves two cups of coffee from the desk into Zayn's arms, grimacing slightly. “Payno’s in there with the big boss. The one who had his job before.” His grimace worsens as he shifts awkwardly. “Liam is gonna be on edge. Maybe seeing you will relax him some, you are the only one who can I reckon. Bring their coffee in will ya? Bit nervous to me'self, been sitting here for a minute with them.”

Concern fills Zayn. It was Layla’s father who had owned the company before he retired and Liam somehow stepped in. He is a bit scary looking, his face hard lined most of the time, but though he has only met the man twice, he has always been quite kind like his daughter.

“Yeah, alright.”

A look of relief crosses Niall’s face. “Door should be opened. Liam always keeps it open when he thinks a meeting is going to be tense. Thinks I'm gonna save him or summat.”

Zayn snorts, knocking his shoulder against his playfully. “Great friend you are, mate.”

Niall grumbles something in response that Zayn can’t hear as he moves away, heading towards the hall where Liam’s office is.

The door is cracked open when Zayn nears, a muffle of voices filtering out. It is loud, and the tone makes Zayn fall short in his tracks. It isn’t angry but tense, like a scolding.

“I gave you my company to show you how much I care about him, Liam. You don't have to tell him who I am. Make up something, I don't care. Uncle Alex is fine.”

Through the crack, he can see the back of Layla’s father. And Liam, who sits against the back of his couch with his fingers pressing into his temples and not saying anything. There is a tension in him again, his shoulders slightly hunched like he is trying to curl into himself and make himself smaller.

“I understand your hesitancy, but I just want to meet him. I feel like it is perfectly reasonable for you to grant me that much. ”

Liam's hand flies from his face, the anger on it apparent. It is a strange look, worse than the hard look he wears sometimes. His brows are furrowed, eyes narrowed like knives and skin a shade of red that makes Zayn's skin crawl.  “It's been five years,” he says roughly. It is choked sounding, and it is difficult not to push through the door to comfort him.

But Zayn's feet feel glued to the ground as his mind races. They have to be talking about Oliver, but he doesn’t understand why.

“It's not an easy situation son,” Alex goes on, hands moving as he speaks. He sounds much calmer than Liam. “My daughter said no, so we stayed away. But she has a little girl now -”

Liam's hand goes back to his face, his fingers nearly turning white as he presses them into the side of his head. His other arm curls around his belly and Zayn’s fingers flex across the coffee cup, wanting to tickle him there for comfort.

“- and she's an angel, nothing makes me happier than her. And it's been hurting my wife being away from Oliver, I'm sure you understand. We thought you moving here, if she saw him maybe she would change her mind -”

Liam rubs his temples, and Zayn feels as if he should rub his own from the way his heart races, pounding in his own temples. He should just walk away, and yell at Niall for making him walk in on this, but his curiosity gets the better of him.

“Will she be with you?” It is Liam who speaks then, voice quiet and tight as he cuts Alexander off. “Layla? Will she be with you if I bring him?”

“We're trying to get her to change her mind, Liam. But she's quite stubborn about it. Says he is your son, and your son only. She left when she found out you were in town.”

“Good,” Liam grunts out harshly, but the anger doesn’t mask the pain that coats his voice. "I don't want her near him."

Alex sounds frustrated now, crossing his arms in front of his chest. "She is his mother, Liam -"

"No," Liam interrupts, standing up straight. "She said it herself. He is my son. Not hers. I don't need her telling Oliver that. If you care about your grandson so much, I'm sure you can understand that."

Zayn sucks in a breath, the sound of his best mate’s wife’s name ungluing his feet and allowing him to take a step back. His mind races faster than ever, trying to process the information he was just handed.

Fuck, fuck

+*

It all makes sense, and honestly, Zayn isn’t sure how he hadn’t put the pieces together before. Layla is five years sober, Oliver is five and a half.

Layla has always lived here, and Liam had at the time of Oliver’s birth. Liam runs her father’s company, the bracelets, if he focuses his thoughts enough he can almost see how they resemble each other. How Maria and Oliver do. 

Zayn cups a hand to his face, one elbow leaning against the kitchen counter as he tries to make sense of it. He should tell Liam he knows, but he had run out of the office before he could see him - and he doesn’t want to admit he had been eavesdropping.

He should tell Danny. As his best mate, it feels like a requirement. But -

Fuck, how? Zayn laughs at himself, a bit crazed sounding as he shakes his head. Every way he considers sounds ridiculous. 

He has felt a hatred towards Ollie’s mum, created by the fierce need to protect the little boy and Liam. But it is Layla, who Zayn has always admired with Maria. She looks at the little one like Liam looks at Oliver, fiercely protective over her daughter the way Liam is over his son.

He doesn’t know how Liam will take it when he tells him. He has been in a great mood lately, and Zayn is afraid of ruining it – of going back to when he fell into that hard lined face so easily. Any mention of her seems to do it, unless Liam is reminiscing about when Oliver was first born. She is mentioned, but barely, and 'Ollie's mum' is always said with distaste, her name never being mentioned like Liam refuses to say it. 

Zayn makes an aggravated noise, glancing at his phone. It takes him a moment before he decides to finally call his best mate, heart pounding nervously in his chest. He could know already, but Zayn reckons he would tell him, unless Layla hadn’t told him who her son is.

“Hey,” Danny greets after a few rings. Zayn heads out towards the back, in desperate need of a cigarette and the cool air outside. “Vas happenin’ bro?”

“Hey,” Zayn says, the edge in his voice clear as he steps outside. “Alright?”

Danny sighs into the receiver. “Trying to be. I meant to call and explain, just - we need to talk, Zed. I'm glad you called, because I haven't had the nerve to do so.”

Zayn sucks in a breath, falling back onto the cushioned bench. His fingers shake slightly as he pulls out his pack of cigarettes, and he isn’t sure why he is so nervous. This is Danny, his best mate, and it isn’t like he did anything wrong here. It could come between them, maybe -

He closes his eyes, shaking his head. Slow down -

“What’s happenin’?”

“So, erm - Layla came home one day upset, like, more upset than I’ve ever seen her. And since then she has been staying at her parents’ while we look for a new home, the kids are with her. I didn’t fancy the idea of moving too much, but like - I’d never seen her so upset. Said she would leave me if I didn’t want to come with her, and I didn't get it.”

Zayn sucks in as much smoke as he can, until his chest slightly hurts from it. He wants Danny to get on with it, to just tell him that he knows because it is clear that he does. 

“She told me - ah.” Danny clears his throat, a nervous hilt in his voice when he speaks again. “She has a son, that I didn’t know about. It’s a long story mate, one I hope you understand I can’t go into too much detail about. Her demons, you know?”

“Mhm,” Zayn says softly, eyes latched onto the cherry of his cigarette. It makes sense, but at the same time - he is dying to know Layla’s side, since he already knows Liam’s. It feels like two people, Layla and Oliver’s mum, and his mind can’t seem to wrap them into one person. “I get that, yeah.”

“So we’ve been fighting even more, you know? It’s hard for me to er, understand,” Danny explains, voice tight. “But I love her so, like, I’m trying? But - and this is what I have to tell you mate, and I told her I was going to ‘cause you’re me best mate and all. But it sounds like you already know, you don’t sound surprised.”

Zayn waits for it, tensing up slightly at the accusation in Danny’s voice.

“I told her about you and Liam,” Danny goes on, words coming out rushed. “Was excited for you, you know? Liam seems ace, and you looked arse over tit for him. And I wanted her to be here with the kids when you two came ‘round for dinner. So we looked like a family, and not the broken one it feels like we are, right now.

“Well, she got upset again. And it’s because like -”

“Oliver,” Zayn interrupts, throat tight as he tilts his head back and stares up at the stars in the sky above him. “Oliver is her son.”

It goes quiet for a long moment before Danny responds quietly. “Yeah, Oliver is his name? She wouldn’t tell me anything about him.”

“Yeah,” Zayn responds. “I just um, found out. That’s why I called. I wasn’t keeping it from you.”

It goes quiet for a long moment before his best mate speaks again.

“Best mate duties,” Danny laughs quietly, though it sounds forced. “Tell me about him?”

Zayn does. The fond is clear in his voice, heart clenching in his chest with every word. He is angry though, fingers shaking some because he doesn’t understand how anyone could not be in love with the little one. Every moment with him, even the harder ones that are frustrating, make Zayn’s heart swell.

He wants to tuck the boy into his side and hide him from this whole situation, from ever finding out he had a mum who didn’t want him. There is an acidic taste in his mouth as he imagines Layla telling Liam she didn’t want him, right in front of the little one, whose eyes were probably wide with innocent curiosity and lips tilted up because Oliver loves everyone he crosses paths with. Even the woman who doesn’t want him.

“Best thing to ever happen to me,” Zayn goes on to say, clutching on the phone. He knew it to be true, but it becomes clear to him in that moment just how true it is. “Meeting him. Like, you remember telling me about how it felt seeing DJ and Maria for the first time? That is how I feel every time I look at the boy.”

“I’m happy he has you then, mate. Like, genuinely. She doesn’t um - she doesn’t want to be around him, ashamed you know? Hard headed. But maybe, like if she sees him -

“No,” Zayn blurts immediately, jaw tensing some as that feeling of protectiveness takes over him again. “Liam won’t agree with that and I don’t blame him.”

Danny sighs again. “Yeah, I get it, Zed. But she wouldn’t, like in front of him –“

“She has,” Zayn tells him softly, tucking his knees up to his chest. His heart breaks for Danny, who must be having a hard time making sense of this than he is. “I’m sorry, mate.”

The sound of the door sliding against the frame makes him jump, pulling his attention away from his heavy chest and Danny’s apologetic voice. And to Liam, whose shoulders droop as he steps outside, he tight and a miserable look on his face that makes Zayn push up from the bench.

“Hey Danny, we'll talk more tomorrow yeah? Thanks for telling me.”

Liam's hands are on him before he can hang up, palms sliding across his cheekbones as his eyes flutter shut like he doesn't want Zayn to see how tired he is, or how red rimmed his eyelids are.

“Okay?” Liam mumbles, dragging his fingers through the stubbly hair on the side of his head. Zayn curls his arms around his waist, unsure of what to say.

He is worried - worried that he will tell Liam how close he is with Layla and Liam will get upset. Angry with him, or something, even though he has no reason to be, but Zayn couldn’t blame him for it. He doesn't trust many people with his son, and it could ruin the trust he has for Zayn with Oliver, even though it shouldn't

His thoughts and worries are running around his brain too much to make sense of them, to speak them out loud, and the lad already looks like he has been hit by a train today, so he knows he shouldn't.  

“Okay,” Zayn mumbles, scrunching his brows together. “Aren't you supposed to be on the train right now?”

“Got another one,” Liam sighs, eyes flicking back open. He curls his arms around Zayn’s shoulders, stitching their chests together. “Shit day, babe. Really awful, I just wanted to be home. I'll head out in the morning.”

Something cracks in Zayn’s chest as he squeezes the other man tighter. “Are you alright?”

Liam's nose knocks against his as he angles his head, nodding. “Yeah, I will be. In one second -”

And then he pushes his lips against Zayn’s, kissing him in a slow way that makes his heart race and his skin warm.

Zayn draws traces against his skin as Liam knocks their foreheads together, shoulders bracketing some like he is crying though he doesn’t make a sound.

“Want to talk about it?”

“No,” Liam mutters, tugging Zayn closer so he can bury his face into his shoulders. “I just don’t get why she hates him so much, Zayn.”

Zayn rubs at his back, closing his eyes as the pressure builds in his throat. “I don’t understand it either, jaan.”

Chapter Text

Liam hates being at the hotel.

The sheets are too crisp and cold, the bed much too big for just one person. He has become too used to the smaller frame tucked into his side, the quiet rumble of his voice, accent thick from sleep and lips moving against his skin because he talks in his sleep sometimes. Always indecipherable, but it is soothing when Liam struggles with falling asleep.

He misses the warm skin beside him, and sometimes it is too hot with the both of them tangled together, making both of them twist and turn until the sheets are tangled around their ankles. Especially when Oliver is between the two of them, who Liam swears turns into a furnace at night. He misses those little fingers gripping at him as he falls asleep, and the sound of Zayn humming soft lullabies to help.

The outside air is cold, blowing in through the cracked balcony door. Along with the noisy sounds of the city, which he had needed when the empty hotel room was becoming too quiet after Niall left to go to his own, grumpy after the shit show of a meeting they had today. He can close it now that Zayn is on the phone, but he lays tangled in his sheets and unwilling to leave the massive bed.

“Are you on Facebook right now?”

Zayn chuckles lowly in his ear, a pinch of arousal in his voice. Liam eyes where his computer rests a foot away from him, opened and revealing that Zayn Malik just accepted his friend request. He had added him while in the meeting, in hopes that it would fix his mood and ease the stomach drop that comes from missing him.

It hadn’t, because Zayn’s profile was set to private. So Liam only stared at the crinkly eyed smile in his profile picture while cussing at himself for not having any photos of Zayn in his phone other than the one of him and Oliver sleeping, and the inappropriate one saved as his contact photo.

(Both of which he had stared at for much too long, overwhelmed by the way it made him feel and missing half of what Alexander, the last owner, and the other founders of the company had been saying.)

“Yeah,” Zayn chokes out around a quiet laugh. “You told me I can’t touch meself Liam, what else am I supposed to be doing with my hands?”

Liam groans quietly, lips tilting up as he knocks his head back against the headboard. It is nearly painful being away from his own bed right now, where he knows Zayn is from the videos he had sent before Liam gave in and called him after hours of teasing.

Obscene ones, taken from an angle that showed off the way his cheeks spread and his hole swallowed the tip of the dildo he favored. Close enough that Liam could almost see the tremble in the muscles of his legs and back as he rode it, letting out soft cries every time he stopped himself before he came.

He tickles his fingers between his legs before cupping himself, rubbing his palm down to take the edge that he feels building inside of him from thinking about how good Zayn always is for him. Mad really, that he can push himself that much just to prove he is. “Come here and touch me.”

“I would if I could,” Zayn says softly into the receiver. Liam lets his eyes flutter shut, brows pushing together because there is something else in his voice other than arousal, but he can’t put his finger on what.

But Liam knows it could just be him over thinking it, but the other lad has been acting a bit cut off the last few days. A nervous edge in his features the morning before Liam left, in the tone of his voice when they speak on the phone, fading off in the middle of a conversation. He doesn’t know why, and everytime he parts his lips to speak, the words don’t come out from fear of the response.

“But since you have such a thing for restraints, I probably wouldn’t get to, even if I were there with you.”

Liam grins, squeezing himself a bit as he listens to Zayn’s voice drop lower, tongue curling around teasing words and promises that make Liam’s fingers fumble with his zipper and forget about his worries with ease.

He exhales out softly as he curls his fingers around his length. He strokes himself loosely, dragging down the extra foreskin and rubbing his thumb against the slit before sliding down the length of him. “Want you here.”

He can hear the smirk in Zayn’s voice as he teases, “for m’body?”

Liam rolls his eyes, huffing out his laughter before his voice falls into something more serious, the tug of his cock slowing as the confession passes his lips. “All of you. I hate being away from you.”

It goes quiet for a moment, only the soft, slick sound of Liam’s hand on his cock and the sharp breaths he lets out. He lets his eyes fall closed, imaging Zayn with his lip trapped between his teeth like he does sometimes when he falls silent.

“Good thing I'm not going anywhere,” Zayn finally says, promise in his voice.

“Good,” Liam huffs out, rubbing his palm over the head, his legs flexing out across the sheets as a tremble of pleasure runs down his spine. “I would definitely miss your body the most.”

Zayn barks out a laugh, making Liam’s moan come out breathless and sharp as he smiles around it.  The rough of his palm feels good against his length, but he imagines the wet warmth of Zayn’s mouth, his thinner fingers pulling him off, the sloppy way he tongues at the head like he gets off on the taste.

“My body misses you now,” Zayn tells him. “Might be a little bad and touch meself since you’re not here to punish me for it.”

Liam clenches his eyes closed, moaning out as his head dips back into the pillows, hips rocking up into his hand from Zayn’s words.

“You can come, by the way just - just, fuck, say my name when you do, yeah?”

There is a muffled fumbling sound from the other side of the phone, followed by a breathless laugh from his boyfriend.

“No problem,” Zayn half laughs, half moans, voice loud in his ear like the phone is too close to his lips. “Might nut off anyway just hearin’ you moan in my ear like that, Mr. Payne.”

He comes a bit later with Zayn's name on his tongue and his encouragements in his ear, sweat clinging to his skin and a static of arousal still gripping at him. He doesn't think it will go away without Zayn beside him, without Zayn touching him, but he still has two more days out of town so he has to manage the sexual frustration that comes from Zayn’s teasing somehow..

“Ah fuck, Liam,” Zayn huffs out breathlessly after he comes down from his own orgasm, the harsh of his breathing clear in Liam’s ear. “Don’t miss you all that much, I reckon. Not with this massive -

“Shut up,” Liam laughs as he rolls onto his belly, stuffing the pillow under his head and gripping the phone close to his ear. “And don't hang up. Fall asleep with me.”

“What are we? Teens?”

Liam groans tiredly. “I heard a rumor we’re boyfriends, actually.”

Zayn doesn't laugh in response, only lets out a soft ‘yeah’ that makes Liam's stomach drop. He stays quiet for a moment, trying to push away all the thoughts that rush through his mind so easily as he listens to Zayn fumble around on the other side.

“What is it?” He finally says, voice filled with concern.“What's wrong?”

“Nothin’, babe,” Zayn huffs out, the attempt at laughing clear. “Me butt hurts a little but I’m sure you’ll help to - ”

“Zayn,” Liam interrupts, attempting to sound scolding but his voice softens from the concern making his face feel like it is cramping up. “I know something is bothering you.”

“It’s nothing, babe. We’ll talk when you get home.”

Liam slides his teeth across his bottom lip, brows knitting together and relaxing over and over again as the words weigh on him.

“Will it change the fact that we are boyfriends?”

Zayn snorts, his amusement seemingly genuine this time. But Liam can’t be sure, not with the way his mind races trying to figure out what he has done. “Never, babe. I promise.”

It doesn't make Liam feel too relieved, but the corners of his lips lift up automatically at the sound of the smile in Zayn’s voice. It could be something silly, he tells himself, like the surprises Oliver and him always plan for Liam when he gets off of work, or calling him and being ominous before showing up at his office. “Tell me.”

“No,” Zayn drags out, sounding like Oliver does when he is being stubborn and trying to negotiate his bed time. “I don't know how you'll react.”

“Then why did you bring it up?” Liam asks, shaking his head some before shoving his face into the pillow.

“Did I?”

Liam sighs, rolling over until he is on back, giving his arm a break as he uses the other to hold the phone. He stares up at the ceiling, which is covered in that stuff that sparkles sometimes if the lights hit it just right.

“What are you and Ollie doing tomorrow then?” He opts for instead of continuing to beg Zayn to tell him whatever it is. He can tell the lad won't, and he wants to ignore the way ‘I don't know how you'll react’ makes him feel anyway.

“Me mum is coming ‘round for a visit. Hope that's okay. She'll probably bring the whole family, but I’ll make sure they don’t mess up the house too much.”

“Of course,” Liam murmurs genuinely, tickling his fingers over his belly and wishing they were Zayn’s fingers instead. There is a static across his sweaty skin, needing Zayn’s touch to ease it. “Does her coming over have anything to do with what is bothering you?”

He can hear Zayn shifting around for a moment before he responds, his voice closer to the phone when he does. “No, I just haven't seen her. And she wants to meet Ollie, you.”

Liam grins, flattening his palm so it rises and falls with his stomach as he breathes. “Did you tell her that we are dating?”

“No,” Zayn balks. “But she knows anyway, I reckon. Says I talk about Oliver so much that she feels like she knows him already, but I don't talk about you enough so I must be trying to hide you from her. She thinks that is why I haven’t come around for a visit in awhile.”

Liam lets his eyes flutter shut. It is easy, the way Zayn can drown out the jittery feeling inside of him and replace it with warmth. “Are you?”

“No,” Zayn insists, but he lets out a guilty laugh. “Well, kind of. But not because of you, babe, I swear. She is just a bit - erm? Forward? Her first words to you will probably be about wedding plans. Grandchildren, allat.”

Liam grins even more, fingering the screw driver laid on his chest. “I'll tell her she can have full control of it. We’ll make the baby’s middle name hers.”

The words slip out, before he can stop them, with the intention of being teasing, but they make his heart skip a beat as he realizes how badly he wants that. Zayn with a ring on his finger and Payne as his last name, to grow a family with him.

But he can’t even take the first step and tell Zayn just how much he loves him.

“She’ll love that,” Zayn hums softly a moment later. “Shouldn’t you be going to bed soon? Since you have to wake up early in the morning for your meeting.”

Liam rolls his eyes to himself, snuggling further into the pillow. “Yes, dadd -”

“Red,” Zayn blurts before Liam can finish, his laugh choked sounding and prolonged, until Liam’s cheeks turn sore from smiling so hard. “Don't call me that.”

He bites at his smile, squeezing the phone tightly to his ear. “Fine, but stay on the phone please, babe.”

“I will,” Zayn promises. “But if you snore too loud, I’m hanging up.”

+*

Zayn has been sitting in the windowsill facing the driveway practically all day, nearly bouncing on his toes in excitement the moment he saw the familiar cars pull in. Three of them, filled with his whole family he is sure, after his mum had told him about the gossip with his aunties over Liam, and how they were all excited to meet him and Oliver.

He is a little nervous about Liam meeting them, remembering how Liam wasn’t particularly warm when he had met him. But he seems warmer now, softer around the edges and not so grumpy, and he knows he would be good with his mum. Maybe just a little thrown off by the hugs and kisses.

“Where is the little one?”

“Nice to see you too, Mum,” Zayn jokes, smiling softly into her shoulder as his grip tightens around them. He is flooded with the scent of her perfume, the smell of his old home, the comfort that comes with it.

It is a ruckus behind her, as his family comes through the door one by one and reaches for him before he can let the person before them go. His sisters and cousins, only a few of his aunties, and then his Baba, whose hand is strong gripping his shoulder and chest hard against his own when Zayn pushes his hand away for a hug instead.

It is overwhelming, but the bubble in his chest makes him feel lighter.

“Are you the little one I've heard so much about?” He hears his mum say as he pulls away from his father. Oliver had been napping, though due to wake up a bit after his family arrived, since he had woken up so early in the morning excited for them to come. And they are loud, filling the house with noise as soon as they step through the door, probably causing him to wake up.

“Yes I am,” Oliver mumbles tiredly, red marks across his cheeks from his hands. He clutches onto a stuffed tiger named Papa, still dressed clad in his footie pajamas. His other hand comes up to rub his eyes as he brings the toy up to hug against his chest.

He doesn't shy away from Trisha when she bends low to his level, though Zayn hadn't expected him to. But his wide eyes still search for him when she reaches out for him, a question in them that Zayn gives a nod to.

“Me mum,” Zayn introduces, cupping the back of his head to urge him forward gently enough that his feet drag across the floor towards where his mother stands with her arms held wide open.

Oliver hugs her tentatively before pulling away, head cocking to the side before he looks back up at Zayn.

“You're right, Mr. Zayn. You do look like your mummy.”

Zayn snorts, reaching for him before his cousins can get ahold of them and pass him around. It might be too much, overwhelming with the amount of kisses he is sure his sisters are going to plant onto his cheeks. They are chubby enough that they just fall victim to his aunties’ pinching fingers and he wants to save the boy from it if possible. “And me Baba, right there.”

Yaser extends his hand and wiggles his fingers, chin tucking downwards. Oliver gasps in response, eyes going wide and mouth falling open.

“Whoa,” he says, his voice half amazed and half shocked as Zayn pads him over. There is an impressed look on his face as he looks between the two of them. “He's stronger than my Papa.”

Yaser blurts out a laugh, fondness clear in his eyes, which crinkle from the force of his smile. He holds his hand out for Oliver, but Oliver reaches for him for a hug instead. “Nice to meet you, little one.”

“Nice to meet you, Mr. Baba,” Oliver says back, squeezing around Yaser’s neck and shaking him some in a big hug. He stays clinging to Yaser when he pulls away, but looks at Zayn. “You look like him, too. Just littler-er.”

Oliver takes his family well, though his face is burning red after his sisters and cousins have smattered it with kisses. He lets out a dramatic breath after the last one, looking almost relieved when Jawaad goes for a knuckle punch instead of a kiss. Even though his nose wrinkles when Jawaad shakes his fingers through the sleep mussed curls at the top of his head.

And the feeling in Zayn’s chest grows when he takes it all in, Safaa kissing Oliver’s cheek, his mum fonding over him, the way his face brightens up when Jawaad talks to him, the choked out laugh his father lets out after everything Oliver says. The way Oliver seems reluctant to let go of Yaser, constantly looking up at him with a smile that makes his cheeks round.

Nearly all of his favorite people with each other, in one room. He just needs Liam.

Yaser puts Oliver down when he is safe from cheek kisses, and Zayn tucks his fingers through his hair as he cranks his head up to look at all of the taller people around him with a curiosity in his eyes.

“No wonder you haven’t been around, it must be easy to get lost in here,” Yaser jokes, looking around with an impressed look on his face as he pats Zayn’s back, rubbing at his shoulder to ensure him he is just teasing. “Come on beta, show me around this massive house. I'd like to take a look inside that garage too.”

“Okay,” Oliver pipes up before he can respond, reaching for Yaser’s hand. He tugs on it, gripping it with both of his much smaller hands and pulling him away. His father follows easily, throwing a knowing look at Zayn from over his shoulder.

Trisha chuckles quietly, sliding her arm around his waist as they watch the two of them walk off, Yaser’s body bent slightly to be closer to Oliver and a bounce in the little boy’s step. “He is a sunshine.”

Zayn bites at his smile, leaning into his mum’s touch. “Yeah, he is.”

She rubs at his back as the rest of his family go off and explore, following after Oliver and Yaser. “I have been waiting for you and your sister to give me grandchildren -”

Zayn groans in complaint, tilting his head back before he pads off after them, running away from the conversation. His mum only follows after, chuckling quietly.

 

Zayn swears that Oliver has doubled in size over the summer. He grunts quietly as he lifts him up, unable to resist picking him up when he holds his arms out for him. Even though Liam and him had discussed how he is getting too old for it, but Zayn catches Liam doing it just as much as he does.

He is sleepy, clenching his eyes closed and scrunching his face over and over again like he is trying to fight it off. It is earlier than his normal bedtime, but he had been running around with Yaser and Thor all day, refusing to leave his father's side unless Trisha called him over.

“Sleepy, bub?” Zayn whispers, rubbing his palm down his back as Oliver snuggles his face into his neck.

“No,” he mumbles, fingers flexing at the back of Zayn's neck. He can feel his mother watching them from where she sits on the couch, Safaa curled into her side and Waliyha tucked under her feet. Only his parents and sisters are still here, leaving the house quieter than before. “Your Papa says I can have ice cream so you have to listen to him. Papas are the boss.”

Zayn narrows his eyes at his father, who puts his hands up, a guilty look on his face. His mother had spent nearly her whole time here cooking, and Oliver had eaten more than he ever does - Zayn is surprised there is any room left for dessert.

“Have you gotten me Baba wrapped around your finger?”

Oliver nods, squeezing him more. “Uh huh.”

He snorts out a laugh as he pads out of the living room and towards the kitchen, unable to say anything because he too is wrapped around the little one’s finger.

The sleepiness fades some as Zayn props him on the kitchen counter besides the refrigerator, but it still lingers around the edges of his expression.

“Can I um - can I have five scoops?”

Zayn pulls out the carton, eyes going wide in surprise. “You can have one.”

Oliver sighs dramatically, propping his elbows on his knees with his fists under his chin. “But I’ve been good, all day.”

Zayn tries not to grin too much, lips trembling slightly as he tries to keep his face stern. “You have, babe. But if you eat too much ice cream, it will hurt your belly.”

And give you nightmares -

He hasn't had them as often, but Zayn doesn't want to take the chance with Liam being gone. He has spent nearly every night in Liam’s room, the door cracked wide enough for him to be able to hear Oliver if he wakes, or needs to climb into bed with him. He has only came in once, when it rained and the heavy thud against his window pane woke him up.

Oliver wrinkles his nose, disbelief in his eyes. “I don't fink so, Mr. Zayn.”

He snorts, handing Oliver the bowl. “I know so, Mr. Oliver.”

He looks a second away from rolling his eyes before he perks up instead, eyes jerking go the entrance of the kitchen, where Safaa appears.

“Hey there, cutie pie,” she greets Oliver, tickling under his chin before planting her hands on her hips and looking at Zayn.

“Where is mine then, bhaiya?”

Zayn grins crookedly, hooking his arm around her shoulders to pull her into his side. She is getting wicked tall, practically to his shoulder now though and he wishes he could press on her shoulder and make her shorter, younger. Or at least, slow down the process of her growing up.

He wants to do the same with Oliver, a nervous twist still in his belly every time they bring him to school or he watches Liam mark higher in the pantry door for his height.

Oliver holds up his bowl, eyes wide as he jerks it towards Safaa. “You can have some o’ mine.”

“Thank you sweet pea,” Safaa says, pretending to take a bite before she stops and digs into her pocket to produce the phone she had kidnapped when she noticed all of the games he had on it. “Oh yeah, Liam called. Nice contact photo by the way.”

Zayn feels his face burn as he snatches the phone. It isn't anything too obscene, other than the part where his bum nearly pops out from the sheets that lay over him. He lays on his stomach on his bed, smiling softly and eyes crinkled shut because he was giving Zayn a hard time about taking the photo.

Looking at it makes his heart stutter in his chest every time, a soft smile as a side effect because he can’t wrap his head around how hot and adorable Liam looks in it.

He dials back quickly, ignoring his sister’s laugh as she scoops more ice cream into Oliver’s bowl without him asking for it. There is a knowing look in his eyes, a smirk on his lips and Zayn knows he will have her wrapped his finger in no time.

“Hey,” Liam answers after the first ring, the muffled sound of music and Niall’s laughter in the background. “What're you doing?”

“Getting Ol ice cream,” Zayn says, a grin tugging at his lips at the sound of Liam’s voice. “Niall's there? You must be getting into trouble then?”

Liam huffs out a small laugh, tinted with something that sounds too tense to be amusement. “No, but he told me something so -”

Zayn slips a bit farther away from Oliver and Safaa, though close enough to keep an eye on them in case Oliver convinces her to give him the whole gallon as he presses the phone tightly to his ear.

“What is it?”

“That you probably heard me talking to erm, Oliver’s grandfather? The day before I left for my trip?”

Zayn sinks back against the wall, nibbling on his bottom lip. He doesn't know quite what to say, has been going over and over possible ways to tell Liam, but just none of them sound right. He shouldn't have said anything the day before, or let on that anything was troubling him, because Liam just won't let it go.

Thankfully, Liam doesn't give him a chance to respond.

“That's what you want to talk about, right? I didn't want you to see me like that, I hate that you did. I'm just so angry, babe. It’s hard not to be heartless like that, I just -”

“No,” Zayn interrupts, shaking his head to himself. He hates the pain that coats Liam's voice, and the way he clears his throat like he is trying to get rid of it. He only hated seeing Liam like that with Alex because it broke his heart, being unable to comfort Liam and get rid of the pain that still clings to him. “I told you you're not heartless. Scared maybe.”

Liam goes quiet for a long moment as Zayn sucks in a deep breath, nerves fluttering in his belly. It isn't what he wanted to talk about, he wanted to talk about how he knew Layla, and his worries for what that meant for his relationship with Liam, or balancing his relationships with both Liam and Layla and Danny.

But he does want to tell Liam that Layla is different, not cruel and awful like he thinks her to be. It just makes him nervous, like he is overstepping again, or he will cause Liam to close up and shut down. He just needs Liam to  understand that Layla doesn’t hate Oliver, and he should have told Liam that before, but he had just been confused himself.

“Like she is, probably. I think it would be a good idea to, I dunno, give them a chance. At least talk to her, or her um, father.”

Each millisecond that passes by without a response from the other man feels like a life time, and Zayn holds his breath the whole time.

“I gotta go babe,” Liam says, voice lack of anything that could tell Zayn how he feels. “Nialler's been trying to get me to go out so, to shut him up. Give Ollie a kiss for me.”

Zayn sighs quietly. It is a conversation meant to be had face to face, but he can’t ignore the slight irritation that comes from Liam ending the conversation so abrupty, even though he knows that is what Liam does when he doesn’t want to talk about something upsetting. “Yeah, alright.”

+*

Liam is excited, a little too excited. It makes his fingers fumble with the keys, and he is practically bouncing on his toes as he finally manages to unlock the front door.

He is always excited to see Oliver when they are away from each other. He has missed him, but he has also missed Zayn. It is strange, how badly he has missed him - missed things he didn't think he would.

Like the soft way Zayn touches him, and the way his eyes light up when he smiles. That choked out laugh he does sometimes when his eyes crinkle closed.

The comfort that every touch brings. The comfort he has needed because he can't stop troubling himself with thoughts about Ollie meeting his grandparents. Both Niall and Zayn have told him he should, he just can't take the chance of her being there.

Of her looking at Oliver and treating him the way he worries she will. Showing no remorse, no care.

He wants to roll his eyes at himself, because it has only been a week, but he wants to savor the jittery feel of his heart because he has missed feeling this way about someone.

When he steps inside he can hear the distant sound of unfamiliar music and Oliver’s voice behind it, a muffled chatter sounding through the hallway. He follows it like he is being tugged forward by each word, towards the kitchen.

He stops when he hits the threshold, confusion taking over his face as he eyes the back of a woman he doesn't know, her dark auburn hair pulled into a knot at the top of her head. Oliver stands on her tip toes beside her, trying to peek into the large pot on the stove but he is too short.

“Is it done?”

“No, sunshine. Not quite yet.”

Oliver sighs dramatically, turning to rest against the cupboard with a pout starting to take over his lips but he lights up the moment he spots Liam.

“Papa!”

He scurries towards him, arms reaching out and even though Liam has been trying not to pick him up so much lately, he does anyway. He doesn't want to keep babying him so much, but it is difficult not to when he craves to hold Oliver in his arms.

The woman turns them, and Liam's confusion disappears as he takes in the familiar soft, but sharp features. Defined cheekbones and a familiar shaped mouth, a face that brings warmth to his chest even though he has never seen it before. She wipes her hands on her apron, a soft smile on her lips as Liam kisses Oliver’s cheek.

“Papa, Mrs. Trisha and me makin’ um?” The little one’s face scrunches together, head tilting up as he taps at his chin. “Lots of stuff, for dinner.”

Trisha laughs softly as she pads across the tiled floor to them. “You must be Liam, then? Come here, honey.”

She reaches out to cup Liam’s shoulder when he places Oliver on his feet, and it is so familiar like, like they have known each other for a long time, the way she squeezes tightly around him and rubs at his shoulders when he leans down for a hug.

“It is good to meet you, Liam,” she says, pulling back to get a good look at his face. She grins, amusement in her eyes that make them bright like Zayn’s. “I see why my son hasn’t invited you around to my home. Quite handsome you are, I’m sure the girls would have a field day teasing Zayn about you.”

Liam feels his cheeks burn hot as Trisha pulls away and plants her fingers through Oliver’s hair, also a familiar touch. The little one’s eyes are wide as he watches between the two of them, fingers clasped together behind his back. “Thank you ma’m.”

“Trisha,” she corrects, patting Liam on the chest gently. “I hope you don't mind me taking over your kitchen. Zayn had to do something for school. Asked me to watch the little one, and he is quite a good little helper.”

“Uncle Harry’s comin’ over, because um, Uncle Niall is,” Oliver pipes up, before cupping his hand around the edge of his mouth and leaning forward, his voice is no where close to being a whisper. “A bad word.”

“That you better not say,” Liam scolds firmly before Oliver can get the chance to.

“That reminds me,” Trisha says, as Oliver takes Liam’s hand again, fitting his fingers against his palm with an innocent look on his face. She reaches for the house phone perched against the wall. “Zayn should invite Danny and Layla as well. It has been forever since I’ve seen them. Would that be okay with you?”

She keeps talking to Liam as she brings the phone to her ear but Liam doesn’t hear her. A icy cold slides down his spine, a drumming in his ear that makes it difficult to process the names she just spoke.

He turns to ask, but she is turning away and heading back towards the stove as she speaks to Zayn. He lifts up Oliver instead, soaking in the way his fingers instantly skate across the back of his neck like he knows how comforting it is to his father.

“They moved? When?” Trisha goes on with shock in her voice as she stirs whatever is in the massive pot.

“They're fightin’?” Oliver asks, squeezing Liam's neck like he knows his father isn't paying attention.

“Who?” Liam says, frowning as he takes in his son’s face. He pushes her name away, but can't ignore the confusion that takes over him. It could be anyone else, not Ollie’s mum -

Zayn is younger than her, and he has no idea how old Danny is. They are from different parts of the cities, Zayn being from an area that Layla would turn her nose up at if she was told she had to step foot near it.

“I pray it isn't the alcohol again,” Trisha says quietly, like she intends to whisper but Liam is straining his ears even though he knows he shouldn't. “Give Danny a hug for me when you see him, yeah? Layla too.”

Nausea makes his throat tight as he walks out of the kitchen, placing his temple to Oliver’s so the boy won't see the strangled look he feels taking over his face.

“Uncle Ni and Uncle Harry,” Oliver clarifies, fidgeting until Liam pulls back. Oliver looks frustrated for a moment, face starting to turn red.

“What? No,” Liam tells him, walking him to the living room where cartoons play on silent. “Uncle Harry just has a bad mouth.”

Oliver nods enthusiastically, grimacing slightly as he holds up his fingers, wiggling them until he decides to stick up four. “Yep. He said like, three bad words.”

Liam props Ollie on the couch, shaking his head in mock disbelief. “They're bad. Papa will be right back.”

His feet nearly trip over the floor as he makes his way through the house and out to the porch he favors to sit at night. He digs in the cushion, pulling out the black box he had hidden his cigarettes and lighter in hope that ‘out of sight, out of mind’ really worked.

The smoke makes his head swarm, a pleasant but icky light headedness taking over him. It doesn’t relax him, and halfway through he decides to stub it out as his heart rate picks up even worse.

He takes out his phone instead, pulling up the Facebook app. He had intended to go through Zayn’s page, smiling to himself in his meetings as he thought about finding embarrassing ones from his uni days, but he had left early and had been too busy trying to wrap everything up quickly to do so.

And he doesn’t go through it now, but clicks on his friends and hits the search bar.

It feels like his heart pounds against his temples as he types in the name he wishes he could forget, and it feels like the movement of it stops all together when a hit pops up. Layla Riach.

It isn’t the surname he knows, but he clicks on it anyway, because the baby in her profile picture has a familiar face, familiar shaped eyes and ‘she has a little girl now’ repeats over in his head.

My precious Maria, you’ll never fully understand how much Mummy loves you -

A toxic taste takes over Liam’s mouth as he reads the caption, making his belly twist angrily and he is flicking to the next picture before he can finish reading. That feeling only worsens though, when he eyes the white of Layla’s outfit, the smile that takes over her lips and the way her body bends from the force of it.

The familiar face of the man that stands beside her, a hand on her back that Liam wants to think about how he looks to be dressed in wedding attire but he focuses too much on who she has her hand resting on. A man that is too familiar to Liam, his nose wrinkled and eyes practically closed as he laughs as well, fingers rubbing at his chin like he does sometimes. He wears a similar outfit to Danny, though the outfit he wears is a solid color rather than designed like his best mates, and the scarf around his shoulders a different shade of red.

He is so beautiful when he laughs like that, but right now Liam doesn’t feel that that butterfly feeling in his belly like he normally does when he witnesses it.

Liam doesn’t look through any more, shoving his phone into his pocket after it is confirmed that Zayn knows Layla. The swarm of emotions takes over him but he swallows them down, catching the cold and angry feeling instead that makes him feel like his face goes blank and his emotions shut down even though he knows it isn’t true.

Even though he knows it is what he always falls into, a habit of his that he convinces himself it is the easiest way to build a wall up for protection even though he knows it has never worked.

“Papa?”

Liam turns to see Oliver peeking his head around the glass door, a big smile on his face.

“What sunshine?” Liam mutters, padding over to him.

The little boy only shrugs, giggling some. “Happy you're home. Love you.”

And then he runs off, giggling for Trisha and yelling about how he needs to find his coat so he can go outside with his Papa. Leaving Liam to wonder what he did to deserve the little boy that makes these moments easier to deal with.

+*

Zayn feels like Liam, sitting in the parking lot of Oliver’s school and unmoving. Except this is a driveway, and he sits behind Danny’s SUV.

He pinches his nose with one hand, the fingers of his other hand tapping continuously against the steering wheel. It is too late to drive off now, he had told Danny he was coming, knows he had probably see  him in the driveway already

He exhales, knocking his head back against the headrest. He is supposed to be picking up Harry, so he needs to get a move on with it but he feels glued to his seat. His mum had asked him to invite Danny, Layla and the kids over, but he couldn’t figure out how to tell her it was complicated.

She would ask too many questions that Zayn doesn't know if he can answer.

After a long moment, he finally gets out of his mum’s car. It is confirmed that Danny knows he is already here when the door opens before he can get to it.

Layla’s father’s house is a lot smaller than Zayn would have expected, though still quite large compared to most homes. His money is spent all on his cars, which take up most of the long driveway. Expensive looking ones he takes to shows, auctions off and some that he builds himself.

“Hey,” Danny greets, grabbing the back of his neck to pull him into a hug before he can step fully into the house. “She isn’t here.”

“I came to talk to you,” Zayn tells him, hugging back like squeezing his best mate can comfort the erratic beating of his heart.

Danny nods as he steps outside, closing the door behind him. “C’mon, let’s go around back and smoke.”

His best mate digs his fingers deep into his pockets as he guides Zayn around the house, which seems a lot larger as they walk around it.

“She is ashamed. Took Maria and DJ out for ice cream when she heard you were coming by. Can’t handle what she did, you know,” Danny goes on, leading Zayn towards a gazebo. The yard is massive, covered in toys and a few footballs, a swing set that looks brand new. There is a pool in the distance, and a grill area closer to the back porch. “She thinks you hate her, thought I hated her when I first found out.”

“I kind of do,” Zayn admits apologetically, tucking his fingers into his own pockets. Danny doesn’t look mad when he nods in understanding, shoulders coming up into a half shrug. “But not Layla. Oliver’s mum. I’m still like, trying to put them together in my head.”

“I get it,” Danny sighs, stepping into the gazebo. There is an ashtray already waiting for them, and Danny pulls out the lighter from his pocket before grabbing the joint snuggled in his ear. “When I met her, she was just getting out of rehab. So when she tells me about it, what she was like before, I don’t know. Hard to imagine.”

Zayn nods, sitting on the round bench. “She was with you when she told Liam she doesn’t want Oliver then.”

Danny’s face breaks some as he fidgets with the blunt, running his thumb over the leafy paper. It sounds harsh, though he doesn't mean it to be. “Like I said, she was ashamed because she made a mistake. And then she went and made it worse. I’m not justifying it just like - explaining, you know?”

“Yeah I know,” Zayn says softly, watching Danny’s brows push together almost painfully looking as he wraps his lips around the end of the blunt. “That is why I wanted to talk to you. To ask you if you can get her to talk to Liam, at least. Just to make them both feel better, you know?”

Danny nods again as he inhales, voice tight when he speaks. “I think she wants to, she is just afraid so it stops her. Do you think Liam will listen? Will agree to it?”

Zayn shrugs, reaching out to take the blunt between his fingers when it is offered to him. “I  really don’t know, mate. He's angry still.”

Danny exhales, nodding. “I bet. I would be too.”

Zayn nibbles at his bottom lip, playing with the blunt rather than bringing it to his lips. He keeps his eyes down as he talks, trying to make sense of every thought. “If he doesn't, might make raising our families together like we always planned a bit difficult, yeah?”

Danny sighs, giving him a long look before he nods. “I'm a bit worried about that too, yeah.”

+*

Zayn tucks his fingers through the longer hairs at the back of Liam’s head, admiring the tilt of his lips as he talks to Niall. He had surprised him by coming home early, and Zayn is glad. There has been a heaviness in his features all day, just like there always is after a lot of work.

It had been nice, dinner with all of them and his mum. He had felt bad lying to her about why he needed her to watch Oliver for a few hours, saying it was for school, but Danny had texted him after dinner saying Layla agreed to talk to Liam so it feels worth it.

He leans closer to Liam’s side, legs thrown over his and bum half on his lap. They are in the living room, because of how cold the night air is becoming. The TV is quiet, and Niall tries to be since Oliver is down for the night.

Zayn presses a soft kiss to the hinge of Liam’s jaw, the coarse hair of his beard tickling his lips. It is quite thick, like he hasn’t shaved in a longer time than usual, and his hair longer than Zayn has ever seen it. He is a bit in love with it, really.

His own is shaved, which Doniya had done for him the night before because of the color the faded pink was taking on. Oliver had stared at him all morning with wide eyes, giggling like mad. Liam’s response had been quite similar, though his amusement softer and faded as he rubbed his palm over his scalp.

“I love your friends,” Zayn says quietly in his ear so Niall and Harry can’t hear, though both of them seem to have their attention on the television instead of them. Some show Niall has been raving about, but Zayn doesn’t see the appeal. “But can we kick them out now?”

Liam turns his head, fingers chasing against the back of his neck. His head shakes just barely before his lips are on his, a hard press with Liam’s teeth nipping harshly at his bottom lip. Zayn holds the noise in his throat, shifting closer until Liam’s lap makes him taller than the other lad.

“Why not?” Zayn tries, knocking their noses as his lips part against the other man's.

Liam doesn’t respond for a moment, only covers Zayn’s cheek with his palm to guide his head away from him. His jaw tenses, his thumb smoothing over Zayn’s. “I’m tired.”

Zayn furrows his brows together, laughing at him softly. “So, even better reason to kick them out, innit?”

“Get a room,” Niall grunts out before Liam can respond, and Zayn laughs again, though there is no amusement in Liam’s face. Cut off, cold, no warmth in his eyes just a glaze of trouble that makes Zayn’s chest fill with worry.  

“I’m trying,” Zayn calls back, tracing the shape of Liam’s mouth. “Baby, what is it?”

Liam plants his palms to Zayn’s lower back, settling his own farther into the couch. “I'm sorry for ending the conversation last night. About um, Oliver’s grandfather.”

Zayn rubs at his bottom lip softly, shaking his head. It had irritated him, but he reminded himself about the patience Liam needs, the patience he wants to prove Liam he has so the other lad knows he is in good hands. “You don't have to apologize.”

Liam doesn't look so sure, a grimace making his lips turn down. “Is that what you wanted to talk about? Me allowing Oliver to meet his grandparents?”

Zayn sighs, sliding his palm to cup Liam’s hot cheek. “We will talk tomorrow.”

His frown worsens, and his face is going to wrinkle prematurely from the way his face hardens so quickly and forcefully. “No, you can tell -”

“No,” Zayn interrupts, ducking forward to press his lips against Liam's and hopefully rid the frown there. “Tomorrow.”

It works at ending the conversation, but Liam doesn’t smile. Instead he kisses Zayn back harder, with a hand planting at the back of his head to keep him there.

“This isn’t an orgy,” he hears Harry say distantly, disgust in his voice. “And we’re fighting, don’t try to snog me you knob-”

“But Hazza,” Niall cackles out. Zayn goes to pull away to laugh, but Liam bites hard at his bottom lip again, making him gasp hopefully quietly enough that the other two don’t hear. “You weren’t mad when you were eating it off of me - ”

Liam groans in disgust, head knocking back against the couch and fingers pulling away from him as he narrows his eyes at Niall and Harry. Zayn slides off of his lap hesitantly, keeping his fingers sliding against his belly in case the other lad needs the comforting touch.

“My face blew up, Niall. This is the second time I've had an allergic reaction to one of your edible body things -”

Okay,” Liam exclaims, pushing up from the couch and shaking his hands at his best mates. “I don’t want to know what you were eating, or what happened to your face. I’m knackered, so I’m off to bed.”

Niall snorts, wiggling his brows at Liam. “Sure, that is a polite way to kick us out so you can shag your boy.”

Liam doesn’t laugh again, and Zayn feels like his brows are going to be knitted together permanently as he watches Liam walk off with tensed shoulders. He looks at Niall, who seems to notice Liam’s behavior as he frowns after him.

“I have to go check on him,” Zayn says, excusing himself before he scurries after Liam.

He doesn’t get a chance to insist on knowing what is wrong, because as soon as he steps into the bedroom, those massive hands are on his cheeks and guiding their lips together. Liam’s hard body presses against his own, plastering him to the door he doesn’t bother to shut until a gasp rushes past Zayn’s lips.

“Don't talk please,” Liam whispers, voice pleading and confusing Zayn because he was the one that insisted they talk about it, and then became even more grumpy when Zayn refused. “Just kiss me, yeah?”

+*

Liam feels exhausted, mentally and physically, but he knows he won’t be able to sleep. He distracts himself instead, from lying awake and staring at the ceiling with his palms smoothing across Zayn’s skin, lips trapped against the curve of his neck that is covered in mouth shaped bruises.

He savors every gasp that passes his boyfriend’s lips, the sound of their bodies moving together. It is slow, dragged out, their skin slick and tangled in every way possible. Zayn’s hands are everywhere, rubbing up his back and tangling in his hair, tickling against his beard and sliding across his throat.

The night air is heavy around them, weighing down on Liam’s bare back. Zayn’s breath skates across his lips, their noses knocking with every thrust. His heart feels like it is blowing up in his chest, pounding against his sternum but heavy.

“Fuck,” Zayn breathes, eyes fluttering shut as he tilts his head back into the pillows some. His arm curls around Liam’s shoulders, his hips working up to meet each press of Liam’s cock. Liam takes advantage of the angle of his head to scatter kisses across the column of his throat, grinding forward as he curls his arms around the top of Zayn’s head.

“I love you,” Liam breathes with barely any volume, lips moving against Zayn’s pulse. He groans quietly, wrapping his lips around the skin there to leave another mark before whispering out a quiet chant of the three words against his skin.

Zayn’s moans are quiet, but louder than his, muting the confession Liam prints across his skin. He can’t stop saying it, not with the way his chest cracks every time he does, filling with a warmth that doesn’t match the icy cold he felt earlier.

It had been the worst, the push and pull between his anger and confusion all day, his need for Zayn and the trust he has for him. They just need to talk about it, he wants to, but now Liam rather just kiss him until it goes away.

Zayn’s fingers dig into the back of Liam’s neck as he thrusts forward harshly, breathing heavily as he comes hotly inside of him. He feels a bit wrecked, desperate for nothing in particular other than Zayn as he kisses him roughly.

“Fuck,” Liam gasps, grinding forward as the coil of pleasure in his belly pulses through the rest of him. “I love you.”

“What?” Zayn breathes, shivering out the rest of his own orgasm, clenching around Liam as he knocks their foreheads together.

Liam doesn’t respond, only presses their lips together as his dick twitches with the last thick drop of come and he stills his hips.

“What’d you say?” Zayn insists, gasping out the words between kisses. Liam only shakes his head, biting at Zayn’s bottom lip so he will get the hint that he doesn’t want to repeat himself, even if the words won’t stop replaying over in his head.

“Don't say anything back,” Liam pleads, plopping one last kiss to Zayn's lips. He knows he must be confusing, insisting on talking and then refusing to, expressing his feelings and then shutting off completely. He doesn't know how Zayn can deal with him, because he gets frustrated with the back and forth himself.

Zayn's face crumbles as he tries to catch his breath, fingers working their way through Liam’s hair. His other hand holds him tight, fingers digging and rubbing at the muscles across his back before he nods.

“Okay, jaan,” he breathes, flexing his fingers against Liam's spine. There is a worried set to his brow, making Liam feel bad because he knows he has been acting off.

He knows Zayn deserves someone who doesn't always do this, who he doesn't have to tread water around like he has been doing all day. If he knows Layla it doesn’t matter, he shouldn’t be nervous about telling him unless he is hiding something.

Liam nods, pulling his hips back before he pulls away completely because of the thought. That worried brow creases more, Zayn's lip bruising more from his own teeth that Liam’s hard kisses.

“Are you staying?”

Liam looks at him, and the moment of silence that follows Zayn's question seems to be the wrong move as Zayn pushes up quickly from the bed to follow him. All he is doing is throwing away the condom he pulls off, but Zayn grabs onto him like he is trying to make a getaway.

He links their fingers, his thumb rubbing across soothingly across his hand. “You can't say that and leave.”

“M’not,” Liam whispers, squeezing his hand. He wants to, a sudden waterfall of insecurity taking over him as his mind plays over reasons why he is bad for Zayn.

Zayn, who is sunshine and warmth while he is nothing but rain clouds and cold wind. He is angry, over something that he keeps telling himself he shouldn't be angry about. Worried, even though Zayn is the only other person he trusts as much as his parents and Niall. He hates himself for being so angry, for easily running off from talking about what is bothering him though it is obvious something is, for making Zayn worry and probably confusing him with his mixed emotions, for constantly being an emotional wreck, jumping from this emotion to that, from this angry thought to the next.

“You were going to,” Zayn tells him, a patient look on his face. He tucks his other hand under Liam’s chin, pulling him closer. Liam goes willingly, pouting some. “But stay with me, yeah? I know you always sleep better with me.”

Liam nods before kissing him, though he feels like sleep won't come either way.

+*

Liam tucks his fingers through his hair as he pads his way into the living room, finding Zayn there. He is dressed, from having brought Oliver to school, there is a mug of coffee in his hands and another waiting on the coffee table in front of him. He had let Liam sleep in, leaving him to wake up to an empty bed.

He hates that, but he also hates the heavy feeling settled onto his shoulders, the nagging part of his brain that what Zayn really wants to talk to him about has to do with Layla. It makes him angry, but he is also angry at himself for always being angry.

“Morning,” he greets, finally stepping into the living room after a long moment of breathing through his nose. He just needs to get it over with, needs to not take ‘tell me later’ as an excuse to run away from the conversation like he wants to.

Zayn turns to look over the couch, lips pushing up into an easy smile. “Sleep alright?”

“No,” Liam says honestly, voice more tense than he intends it to be. It had taken him ages before he finally fell asleep, with his face tucked against Zayn’s chest. “Kept thinking about what you want to tell me. Don't tell me that you'll tell me later, please? Just tell me now?

The other man sighs before patting the couch for him to sit. Liam's stomach twists as he does, especially because of the nervous look that takes over Zayn's face. He twists his bottom lip between his teeth, shifting across the cushions.

“Is it about Ollie’s mum?”

Zayn's brows push together, lips parting a few times before he finally nods his head. “Layla.”

The name still makes Liam's stomach turn sour, but he swallows the acidic taste down, hoping the anger will seep away too because Zayn never deserves it. “You know her.”

Zayn nods again, shifting closer to him but Liam doesn't move.

“Is that why you applied for the job as Ollie's nanny?”

The words leave his lips before he has time to realize that it was something he is worried about. Layla's father admitted to giving him the job not only to help him take care of Oliver, but to move them closer in hopes of them meeting again. A fucked up move on his part really, which makes Liam trust the older man with his son even less.

“What? No,” Zayn blurts out, bewildered sounding. “I didn't know until I overheard you talking with Alex. Louis was the one who told me about the job, you know that.”

Liam takes this in, mind whirring at what Zayn had overheard. He doesn't seem to be lying, but - “then why? Like, why didn't you just tell me the other day then? Why make it a big deal?”

“I didn't know how you would take it,” Zayn goes on, defensively. “She's my best mate’s wife, we are really close. You shut down at any mention of her, I didn’t want you to push me away because of it.”

Guilt fills Liam and he frowns, finally taking Zayn’s hand into his own as a quiet way of apologizing for making Zayn be afraid of talking to him. “Does Danny know?”

“He - he knows, yeah. Called me up because he had wanted to meet him but -”

“No,” Liam snaps, pulling away some as that instant anger makes his throat tight.

Zayn grips his thigh, shaking his head and talking over him, something about how ashamed she is and that is why she had ran from them, but it makes the tight feeling in his throat worsen, his whole body tensing from the rapid pace of his heart at every word leaving Zayn’s lips that defends Layla, defends her actions.

He was preparing himself to talk to Zayn about Layla, not hear his boyfriend take her side. It catches him off guard, making him feel queasy, his finger shaking as he stops caring about not being angry.

He pushes away from the couch, regretting having the conversation, not wanting to hear about how great Layla is now. He doesn't want to know if Zayn has some plan to get Oliver and Layla to see each other because of it, their conversation about him giving it a chance replaying over and over again in his mind.

“Liam, I told him no,” Zayn continues, following after him without skipping a beat. “I wouldn't do that, I would never ask you to do that again. I want to protect him too but -”

“But what?” Liam says over his shoulder, shaking his head at Zayn. “If you're going to tell me to just give it a chance again, save it. I don't want her seeing him. I don’t want her in our life, and if that is a problem for you, then go.”

Zayn makes a strangled noise behind before he is gripping Liam’s shoulder so he will stop storming off. His face is hard lined, and Liam kind of hates it more than he thought he ever would.

“Just listen, don’t say anything for a minute,” Zayn demands, relaxing his fingers some and rubbing at the tense junction of his shoulder. Liam nods petulantly, crossing his arms in front of his chest even though his whole body screams run.

“I was going to say, I know her very well. It is hard for me to see her like that, she isn't the same. But I'm a bit unsure about what to do here because I understand why you are afraid of how she will be around Ollie, I am too. I just think maybe you should talk to her, without Oliver. She doesn’t hate him, she is terrified of facing what she did, Liam.”

Liam huffs out a sarcastic laugh, but presses his lips together after as not to say the harsh words running through his mind. He doesn’t want Zayn to know those kind of thoughts run through his mind.

“Whenever you're ready, not now, just consider it, for you, for us. It is something we are going to have to talk about babe, because they are my family just as much as you. And I don’t want - I don’t know, it is selfish but I am worried about how I am going to balance the two.”

Liam stares at him, at the frustration on his face but his voice is softer. It feels like there is something cracking in his chest as he realizes what Zayn is implying here. It makes him angrier, if he is trying to guilt trip him into talking to Layla.

“So if I say no, it is going to make it hard for you to be with us?”

Zayn parts his lips a few times, shoulders coming up in a shrug. “No, I don't know. Liam, that is why I wanted to talk. I don't want to choose or anything, I’m not going to. That's not what I mean, I -”

“Then just go,” Liam interrupts before he can finish, feeling his body stiffening again as he hardens himself and waves him off. The words sound so simple, so casual even though they shatter his chest. “I don't want to hurt your relationship with your family in anyway, so just go”

Zayn looks furious for a moment, but Liam turns away and walks into his bedroom, ending the conversation.

Or so he thinks, but Zayn pushes himself in, most of his patient look gone. “You're not listening to what I'm saying Liam. I'm not going anywhere. I do want you to give it chance, but I'm only asking you to think about it. Or just talk to me about it. Baby steps.”

“I did, we did. And I want you to leave now,” Liam continues, pretending to make himself look busy as he tidies up the bed so he doesn't have to look at Zayn. It all sounds wrong, and he wants to catch each word and shove it back into his mouth but he can't. “I'm going to the office today, so, take your time.”

He thought Zayn understood, supported his decision to stop begging Layla to come back. And now it's too complicated. Layla is his family and it makes Liam feel like he just dipped his heart into a blender.

“Stop telling me to leave,” Zayn says, no room for argument in his voice. “Because I'm not.”

Liam looks over his shoulder to see Zayn standing with his arms crossed, a defiant look on his face that reminds him so much if Oliver. It makes him feel more frustrated than angry.

“Well, if you’re going to keep talking about it I rather you just leave. Just go so you don't have to deal with this shit, there is no point because I’m not changing my mind.”

“You mean just go so you don't have to deal with it. Even if it might be good for you, help you move on.”

The other lad’s words are soft, hesitant before he comes over to plant his hand to Liam's tense back. As much as he wants Zayn to leave so he can stop being angry at him, he leans into the touch because he craves the comfort it always brings. His words are true, he doesn't want to deal with it, and it just makes him angrier to be called out on it.

“I honestly think talking to her will help you, and I'm not asking you to do it right now. Yeah, I’m worried about my relationship with Danny because of it, but mostly I want to help you. Because I love you, Liam. I love Oliver, you’re my family and I’m not going anywhere.”

He feels Zayn’s lips press to his shoulder as they both fall quiet. Liam bites hard on his lower lip, wanting to do what he normally does when he gets this angry - to tell the other person off and be done with them.

But it's Zayn, and he just said the three words Liam has been wanting him to say for forever, the ones he hasn’t allowed Zayn to say, really.

“Please go,” Liam says quietly before clearing his throat. He pulls away, to pad towards the bathroom, before his face can break and his voice betray him. “I'll pick up Ollie after school so you don’t have to.”

He shuts the door before Zayn can say anything other than his name, locking it so he won't come in. He hopes the hot water of the shower soothes him, rid the way Zayn’s voice had sounded like a plea before he closed the door, but it doesn't.

It warms away the coldness that has taken over him though, filling his belly with guilt because he just told Zayn he can't leave them a few weeks ago and then he demanded he gets out, giving him no option but to do the one thing he is afraid of happening.

Just because the other lad cares about getting rid of the pain he constantly holds onto.

Liam stumbles out of the shower, barely drying off before throwing back on the pants he woke up in. Regret makes his heart heavy, hate for himself replaying back over his thoughts as he makes his way through the house and to Zayn’s room.

It is messy, as always, a few drawers left open and socks strewn across the floor. Thor lays fast asleep on the bed and Liam knocks his face into his palms, letting out a wounded sound because Zayn is gone.

Chapter Text

The sliding door to the balcony of Zayn’s room is open enough that Liam shivers, the cool air hitting his wet bare skin. But his fingers tremble because of something else, a ripple running through his muscles that would almost hurt if it wasn’t for the pain settled inside of his chest taking all of his attention. He presses his palms against his face, trying to fight away the urge to cry but the amount of emotions flooding through him makes the pressure in his face feel like it could shatter his features.

He just can't continue to look at the empty room, or the pulled out drawers of the dresser like Zayn had been rummaging through them. He can't go for a walk around the house in hopes he is somewhere else, in the den perhaps, because Liam knows he won't be able to handle it if he isn't.

“What the fuck is wrong with me?” Liam groans at himself, dragging his hands through his wet hair in a rough manner. It is the worst feeling, the tension that takes over him and the tightness in his chest that makes him want to wrap his arms around himself just to feel like he is preventing it from shattering into pieces.

He is so angry, angry that Zayn pushed a subject that he knows is hard for Liam to talk about, but angrier at himself for telling Zayn to leave because of it. Everyone pushes him, tells him things he should do when it comes to Oliver’s mum, but he has never reacted like that. He usually just falls silent, gets grumpy.

And fuck, all Zayn asked was for him to think about it. Just to put it in his head, and Liam acted like he had Layla waiting in the living room, ready to talk to him, or to see Oliver or something. Because that is how he felt, attacked really.

He looks up as a small whine sounds through the room, taking in the tilt of Thor’s head, the alert expression and the way his tail wags rapidly across the made bed.

“Do you know?” Liam murmurs as he walks over so he can scratch his fingers under the dog’s chin. He is comforted by the way the dog pushes into the touch, eyes falling closed as his tail wags faster. “I could make a list the size of a book. A big book, like Harry Potter sized.”

Liam sits beside him as the puppy looks up at him, tongue flicking out to wet his palm. He is confronted by the smell of Zayn, and it is overwhelming the way his nose fills with the scent of his cologne, shampoo, something else that always lingers on his skin but Liam isn’t sure what it is.

He looks around, finding the blanket that Zayn had brought from his old home scrunched up beside him. It is tattered around the edges, a few holes in it and even looks quite old with the way the stuffing inside is scattered, but he has found Zayn snuggled up with it more times than he has with the thick comforter than came with the room.

Liam grabs the blanket, tugging it to his chest before he pads back to his own bedroom, Thor trailing behind him. He might as well go into the office today, since the house seems suddenly quiet and way too big. It might help distract him, but he should just call Zayn and apologize.

If he accepts it, and doesn’t get frustrated about Liam’s inability to say what he means, his struggles with putting his thoughts into words. Because it feels impossible at the moment, to find the words to explain why he told Zayn to get out. In a way that doesn’t justify it, that he didn’t mean it, he just reacted -

He finds his phone on the nightstand, sucking in a deep breath he holds in for a long moment before he picks it up with shaky fingers. Don’t run, not from Zayn, he tells himself, feeling those tears push against the back of his eyelids again.

Fuck, he wishes he could shut off his thoughts first as Oliver’s face pops into them. The little boy is too young to understand anything, to understand why his Mr. Zayn is gone and that it is his Papa’s fault. He would be gutted if he did understand, and it would be all his Papa’s fault.

Zayn’s name is the first thing he sees when the phone lights up, two missed text messages from him that he stares at for what feels like hours before finally unlocking his phone. Nerves eat away at his belly, making his throat tight and it is worse than the anger he had felt this morning.

im coming back, its ok if you need space when youre upset but pls don't tell me to leave like that again. meant it when i said i love you in case u dont believe me x

(the x is a kiss by the way)

Liam places the phone back down on the nightstand before he can say anything to make this worse before sorting out his thoughts, to make Zayn decide he actually isn’t coming back. He doesn’t know why the lad would.

He lets out a frustrated noise, slumping down on his bed instead of heading towards his closet to get dressed like he had planned. Zayn said he loved him and he didn’t say anything back, and that hurts his heart worst of all.

It had felt like a bullet going through him, a mix of pleasure and pain because he has been dying to hear it, but it hurt because he hadn’t felt it to be true. He doesn't understand how it can be.

+*

Zayn kicks his bike stand up, dragging the cigarette from his ear to his lips as he relaxes his bum on the seat. He tugs out his cell phone, sighing as he sees Liam hasn’t responded to his message yet.

He only left to give Liam his time, his space if he needed it. And he wants Liam to tell him when to come back, though he isn’t planning on staying gone too long, regardless of whether Liam tells him to come back or not.

He had almost thrown up during the conversation. Not just because of Liam’s anger, but he knew he had to push Liam to see how serious he was about thinking about it, even though everything in him screamed for him not to. He doesn’t care if Liam takes a year, two years, to decide whether or not to allow Layla’s family into Oliver’s life, or if he even wants to talk to her, he just didn’t want Liam to shrug it off as some off hand suggestion.

Zayn sucks in smoke until he feels like his chest could break from the expansion, eyes falling closed as he tilts his head back to exhale. In his past relationships, problems that weighed heavily on him would cause him to leave, and not come back. But the idea breaks his heart, and he wants nothing more than to comfort Liam. It isn't an option this time, and he prays Liam didn't really mean it.

He doesn't think so, but he isn't positive if coming back will make things worse or better.

Zayn stubs out his cigarette before heading towards the building reaching high into the sky in front of him. He can't quite stay at his mum’s or she will ask too many questions, catch on to something being wrong even if he acts as happy as possible. Danny is too far and he had stopped Liam’s money transfers, so he is technically broke unless he uses the credit card given to him by Liam.

He sighs, knocking on Louis’ door in hopes he hadn't left for work yet. He is always late, and Zayn could see his lights on from outside.

The door opens, and he finds Louis stumbling into his work shoes, tie loose around his neck and an overwhelmed look on his face. His apartment is messy, clothes strewn across his studio apartment worse than Zayn's bedroom.

“Hey?” Louis greets, stepping aside to let him in. “I'm late as fuck, did Liam send you?”

“No,” Zayn chuckles, holding Louis’ elbow as he loses some of his balance trying to get his shoe on. “I was wondering if I could stay here tonight?”

Louis stills, face crumpling in confusion. “Yeah of course. Alright?”

Zayn nods, shuffling in farther so he can toss the small bag he had brought with him on the couch already covered in clothes. “Yeah. I won't be here long, I just need a place to sleep.”

A concerned look crosses over Louis’s face but he only presses his lips together, walking over to where his keys hang by the door. “Make yourself at home, you can stay as long as you want.”

“Thanks mate,” Zayn says, taking the key Louis hands to him. They are close, but not close enough that he feels he can talk about it with him. And he definitely can't talk to Danny about it, not really.

Louis looks at him as he rummages through his bag, like he wants Zayn to explain but he doesn't. He only pulls out his phone, smiling softly at the round cheeks and bright eyes that look back at him with crinkles around the corners, his curls hanging in front of his forehead and a toy tiger tucked under his chin. He had taken the photo himself, squeezing onto Coconut for dear life as he held the camera too close to his face.

“Alright, well I have to go before I get written up,” Louis grimaces slightly, glancing at the clock hanging crookedly on the wall. “Probably will, I reckon.”

Zayn chuckles. “Liam is there today.”

Louis’ eyes go wide before he is scrambling across the floor to grab his jacket, waving over his shoulder as he rushes out of the door.

Zayn falls onto the couch, stroking his finger over his screensaver like it is possible to feel the warmth of Oliver’s cheeks.

He is what makes this different, why he feels more patient than he has before in his past relationships. Why he is confident Liam didn't truly want him to go when he told him to leave.

+*

Being at the office isn't any better, because Niall notices something is wrong the moment Liam walks through the door. And he feels bad for treating Zayn the way he had so he doesn't tell Niall, doesn't answer any of his questions, doesn't want to hear disappointment in his voice when he finds out. He just walks into his office and shuts the door behind him.

Niall pokes his head in though a little while later, without knocking, and finds Liam laying on the couch with his hands pressed over his eyes instead of at his desk where it would be easier to pretend like he is too busy to talk. Liam doesn't move when he comes closer, only sighs because he knows a talk is coming.

The other man leans over the back of the couch, so Liam can see his normally bright blue eyes narrowed and a frown set on his lips. “Did you kick Zayn out?”

Liam pushes up instantly, nearly knocking into his best mate as he frowns at him. “What did he say? You talked to him?”

Niall punches him hard in the shoulder instead of answering his questions, the scowl worsening on his face. It throws him off guard, so he only glowers back as he rubs his shoulder.

“Louis just told me he asked to crash at his place tonight,” Niall informs him, face starting to get a bit red like it always does when every any emotion takes over him, especially frustration. And the other lad always gets more (understandably) frustrated with him than Liam would like to admit. “Tell me you didn’t, Leemo.”

“I didn’t,” Liam denies, though he reckons he technically did. He didn’t clarify what leave meant when he told Zayn to. He doesn’t even know what he had meant when he said it, he just wanted Zayn to go away so he didn’t have to think about it.

The other lad felt selfish for worrying about balancing his relationships with him and Danny, but it was Liam who was selfish for not caring about that, for dismissing it so easily just so he didn’t have to deal with it.

For telling him to go, even when the only thing he seeks when he is upset is his son and Zayn’s touch. When he doesn’t even know where Zayn would go, since he no longer has his apartment, or Danny around, so his stomach has been rolling with worry all morning. He reckons the lad would go to his mum’s, and he has been lying on this couch trying to convince himself he shouldn’t find her phone number and call her house just to make sure.

“I just told him to leave.”

Niall practically flails his arms in the air as he groans before hopping over the couch to sit beside him. His brows push together as he pats Liam’s shoulder, jaw tense as he searches his face. He looks strangled for a moment before he huffs out and speaks.

“What did he do?”

Liam pouts, tucking his hands between his thighs and hunching forward some to make himself feel smaller in this massive room. This massive building, and city, which he had hated before Zayn came along. “Asked me to consider talking to um, Ollie’s mum. He knows her.”

Niall’s face hardens as he nods, but he no longer grips Liam’s shoulder, instead rubs the junction there before pulling away. “How well does he know her?”

Liam lets out a painful laugh, because he is still trying to process the fact that Layla is Danny’s wife, practically Zayn’s family. “If Zayn were me, he would be the Harry in this situation.”

A slight look of yikes takes over Niall’s face before he quickly washes it away, eyes darting worriedly back up at Liam.  “Why does he want you to talk to her?”

Liam lets out a frustrated noise, clutching his face again. He had been too caught up on his anger to actually listen to a word Zayn had said to him, the leave replaying over and over again in his head. He had caught bits and pieces, but it had felt like each word rose the temperature of his blood. “She has a daughter, sober. Different, just scared. Would help me move on, I don’t know.”

He glances at Niall, who wears a sad look as he claps the back of Liam’s neck gently. “You know I agree with him.”

Liam nods, attempting to swallow the ball building up in his throat. Everyone close to him has been very clear with him how they feel, and he never felt as if they understood his anger, his hurt. Because he never talked about it, because all they ever did was tell him that he should, and then move on - like it was the easiest fucking thing to do in the world.

And Liam doesn’t want Zayn to see how the hate and anger inside of him can twist the words off of his tongue to be sharp and nasty, he doesn’t want to be that way with someone so close to Zayn, someone Zayn cares about as much as he assumes he does because his heart is ten times the size of his own.

“It just made it more complicated,” Liam breathes out, resting his chin on his knuckles. “I haven’t like, dealt with any of it and now there is more. I just -”

Niall soothes his thumb across the back of his neck, interrupting him. “I think the lad is just asking you to try, because you don’t. And no one is willing to push you into it. I’m not, because it hurts me to see you upset about it still. And if not thinking about it worked for you, I wasn’t going to remind you.”

Liam smiles softly, remembering how Niall had been through it all. They were a few blocks away from here where Liam had lived, a small apartment that he had cleaned spotless the few days Layla was in the hospital. It helped distract him, worrying about the little bundle and the mother whose face became a blank slate whenever she held him. She only ever cried at night, away from Oliver, away from him.

Niall had lived beside him, and had just been coming home from a meeting with his wedding planner when he found Oliver wailing and Layla halfway through a bottle. He had taken him to Harry’s before Liam and Layla’s voices sounded through the wall, before he chucked every bottle of hers with as much strength as he could muster so they smashed onto the balcony, covering it with glass, before he screamed for her to get out so loud he is pretty sure every floor could hear him.

Before Oliver could hear the things his mother said about him, even though he was much too young to understand them anyway.  

The nastiest of words had rolled off Niall’s tongue afterwards in an attempt to comfort him, and he had been the one to prevent Liam from begging her to come back after a few weeks, convincing him it was good she was gone. Getting help, according to her brother who Liam had worked with at the time, and Oliver had him and Harry - he didn’t need her.

So he knows the situation, knows it better than anyone, knows why Liam is angry better than anyone, and he agrees with Zayn.

“I’m fucking terrified,” Liam shutters out, giving Niall a desperate look. “I’ve always been afraid of how she'll treat Oliver but I'm scared to just talk to her myself.”

Niall tucks his fingers between Liam’s clenched ones, giving him an encouraging squeeze. “Trust Zayn. He loves you. I don't think he would ask you to do something like this unless he was certain it would be okay.”

Liam stares at Niall for a long moment, mind racing. “What if he is wrong?”

Niall shrugs, grimacing slightly but his expression is soft. “I don't know, that's something you'll have to consider. But wrong or right, I reckon the lad is still coming from a genuine place here, mate.”

+*

Liam squints, hand cupping over his brows as he spots Ms. Mila leading the class out from the building and towards the pick up spot. Oliver is at the front, leading the rest of the group with a big smile on his face as he holds his teacher’s hand.

As badly as he has wanted to see his little one, he has dreaded it at the same time, because Oliver has become too accustomed to Zayn picking him up, or them picking him up together, that he is sure he will notice. Sure he will ask why Mr. Zayn isn't with him. Reasons have been playing over and over again in his head, and even though he knows the little lad wouldn’t notice if he were to lie, it still makes him feel bad.

“Hey sunshine,” Liam greets, holding his hand out for his son as he lets go of his teacher’s to run over to him.

“Hi Papa! Where’s Mr. Zayn?” Oliver asks with wide eyes as he grabs for Liam’s hand. He looks around, peering at the empty truck that waits for them a few feet away.

“Um,” Liam tries before clearing his throat, his mouth filling with an acidic taste. He didn't think it would be the first thing Oliver said to him. “He is busy babe.”

Oliver looks up at him, a pout forming over his lips quickly as he follows Liam’s lead towards the truck. “But he said we could go see the dinosaurs at the park after school, Papa.”

He cusses at himself quietly as he opens the door to his truck, reaching down to pick up Oliver. There is a massive park on the other side of the city, that has huge statutes of life size dinosaurs hidden throughout the trees, but Liam hasn’t had the chance to take him yet.  “Papa is going to take you.”

Oliver sighs, not looking too pleased with this as Liam helps him into his booster seat. “We can wait for him to be unbusy. He was really excited to go wimme, said so himself.”

Liam smiles softly, smothering it against Oliver’s forehead. “That is very nice of you. But how about I take you today, and we can go with him at another time? We are going to Uncle Niall’s house tonight, anyway. He lives closer to the park.”

Oliver looks unsure, but he shrugs. “Okay, Papa. But we can take pictures for ‘im?”

He nods, sighing softly as Oliver takes his backpack from him. Liam spots the bracelet hanging on his wrist, the one he had found in the attic and the one that Zayn normally wears beside it.

“I love you,” Liam tells him quietly, an attempt to soften the build up in his chest.

Oliver's eyes go wide as he reaches for Liam, tickling his fingers against his beard. His face brightens, his smile making his cheeks round even more than they already do before Liam wiggles his nose against his smaller one, making him giggle out his, “I love you more, Papa.”

 

Liam smiles as he brings his phone up, until the camera focuses on Oliver’s patient expression. He stands in front of the massive dinosaur, fingers tickling against it.

“Ready?” Oliver asks, yelling much louder than necessary but Liam doesn’t mention it because they are outside. The coat he wears is too puffy, practically swallowing him up, and it isn’t cold enough for it but he had insisted they go back home to get it before going to the park.

“Go on,” Liam urges, bending down some as he hits record.

Oliver stands proudly, chest puffed out and head tilting up as his voice grows even louder. “Hello, Mr. Zayn, we went to the park wiv out you but I wanna um, make sure you see my favorite dinosaur.”

He turns, pointing to it and Liam tilts the camera up to get a full view of it as Oliver rattles off the name, completely getting it wrong and making Liam huff out a laugh, before listing off random facts that he isn’t positive are true. He doesn’t even know where Oliver learned them, unless it was something he made up himself.

“And Papa’s gonna buy me one so my tigers can have a dino friend and we can play wiv them later, okay? See you at home, I love you to the moon and back.”

Something tight squeezes in his chest as Oliver cuts his arm through the air, his way of telling Liam to cut the video. He lets out a breathless giggle, easily excited as he runs back over to Liam so he can watch the video himself.

“Is he gonna be sad? That we didn’t wait for him?”

Liam wraps his arm around Oliver’s shoulders so he can pull him close, pressing a hard kiss to his temple. “No. I think this will make him really happy. Want to go to Uncle Niall’s now?”

Oliver nods, peeking at the phone again. “Yeah, tell me when Mr. Zayn answers, Papa.”

Liam watches Oliver push away to grab the bag they had brought, resting by his feet, his heart sinking in his chest because he doesn’t know if Mr. Zayn will.

He closes out of the video rather than sending it, not wanting to know if he will or won't.

+*

After calling Louis and finding out Zayn isn't at his flat, he drives, phone in hand and Zayn's contact opened and ready. But every time he goes to press the call button he chokes, afraid of getting a voicemail or a harsh response.

He drives to clear his head, but his eyes dart around and his speed is slow just in case he spots a familiar figure. It feels impossible, until he stops at the park, thoughts of their second encounter playing over in his head.

Stopping after work and approaching Zayn had been one of the best decisions he has ever made, he thinks. He hadn’t been nervous about it, had just strolled up to him the moment he stopped the other lad that had intrigued him earlier that day.

It must be fate or something, the tie between them tugging him towards the other lad when he spots a shape by the buildings.

It could be anyone really, the outline of a figure crouching in front of the brick buildings he can see from the road. But the street lights reflect off the orange and whites that replace where the minions once were, and as he gets out of his car and walks closer, he can see the shine of rings and the bracelet on the hand holding the spray paint.

He sucks in a breath, tucking his fingers deep in his pockets as his eyes follow the path of Zayn’s hand, where it draws out the curled tail of the tiger he is drawing. They are different colors mostly, spread out across this building, and the three others around it.

Liam clears his throat as not to scare Zayn before he speaks, but the other lad still jolts away from the building. “Hey.”

Zayn’s face relaxes when he turns, a soft smile taking over his lips as he shakes the spray can. He wasn’t sure how Zayn would be when Liam found him, if he would be cut off or warm, and he should have expected Zayn to be warm. He always is, even when Liam’s coldness attempts to wash it away. “Mr. Payne. Where's your coat? Bit chilly tonight, innit?”

Liam jerks his head towards Zayn, indicating the leather jacket that hangs loosely over his shoulders, over the red and black plaid shirt he hadn't been wearing before he left this morning. “You've got it on.”

Zayn gives him a guilty smile, cocking his head as he squints his eyes at him. “What are you doing here, Liam?”

Liam shrugs awkwardly, shoving his fingers farther into his pockets that his body curves forward as an attempt to make himself smaller. He hates how nervous he feels, how scared he is that Zayn is going to be done with him. Because he wouldn't blame him.

But he swallows it down, wanting to run away but keeping himself rooted in his spot, encouraged by the smile on Zayn’s lips.

“I don’t know if you need space from me right now, or if it you just left because I told you to,” Liam starts, the shake in his voice obvious and he hates it. “If it is the first tell me, but if it is the second - Zayn, I shouldn't have told you to leave. Even if I wanted to be alone. It's your home just as much as it is mine.”

The smile stays soft on Zayn's lips as he drops the spray paint to step closer, burying his hands in the pockets of Liam’s jacket. “It's okay, Li. I know -”

Liam shakes his head. “It isn't,” he insists, grimacing slightly because he hadn't meant to cut Zayn off again. He just needs to get the words out, before he swallows them down and runs for it. “It's not your fault I'm not handling any of this right.”

Zayn sighs, closing the space between them so he can lay his palms flat on Liam’s chest. A broken gasp rushes past Liam’s lips from the touch, frustration making tears well over his eyelids. He can't even find the proper words to apologize right now, and Zayn keeps looking at him so softly like it doesn't matter.

“All you have to do is talk to me, let me help,” Zayn tells him, gripping on the collar of his dress shirt before smoothing his fingers underneath them, his thumb tickling over the rose gold necklace he wears. “I know you’re not angry at me, that you’re scared. But you don’t have to push me away. I should have taken it slower, I was just afraid taking it slower would have meant going right back to avoiding it. I shouldn’t have gotten frustrated with you, I know how hard it is for you.”

Liam swallows thickly before leaning forward to press a tentative kiss to Zayn’s forehead. He doesn’t get how Zayn can understand him so well, when he doesn’t even understand himself. He doesn’t want Zayn to apologize for being frustrated with him, because he would be inhuman if he wasn’t he reckons. “You didn’t do anything wrong. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to push you away.”

Zayn tilts his head back, catching Liam’s lips for only a moment before he is smoothing his fingers up his neck and around the back of it to keep him close. “It was easier, wasn’t it? Instead of facing the truth of what I was saying?”

Liam tenses, but Zayn rubs at the back of his neck, brows creasing together as he smiles again. It isn’t funny, and Liam thinks he might be trying to comfort him but his stomach twists painfully because he is right.

He runs, always runs away from difficult situations. If Liam said he would think about it just to get Zayn to stop talking about it, he would have avoided every chance of the conversation happening again.

“It was at the moment,” Liam says quietly, unsure if his voice can be heard over the soft sound of wind whirring around them. “But it wasn’t the moment you left.”

“I was always coming back,” Zayn promises softly as Liam curls his arms around his waist. He doesn’t care that they are standing outside in the cold, in the middle of a playground, he just wants to hold Zayn for as long as he can. “I just wanted to give you your space, to sort out your thoughts if that is what you needed. I’m still right by your side through this, even if I’m not physically next to you. I wouldn’t ask you to do this and not do it with you, jaan.”

Liam nods as Zayn wipes at a tear sliding down his cheek he hadn’t realized he let go. He hates it, but he savors the feel of his thumb sliding against his cheek. “Are you sure she doesn’t hate him?”

Zayn’s face falls serious as he nods, dragging his finger over the slope of Liam’s nose. He touches him feathery light, tracing the shapes of his features until the tension of his body seems to seep away. “I’m sure. She left because it was the easiest thing to do, I think. Didn’t want to deal with the shame she felt.”

Like me, Liam thinks, frowning at Zayn. “She said she didn’t want him, she didn’t have to say that. She could have just left.”

“I don’t know, Liam. That is why you should talk to her. When you’re ready. I in no way meant to put pressure on you to do it soon, I am sorry if it came off that way.”

Liam nods, tucking his face into the curve of Zayn’s neck to press his lips over his pulse. It is calming, though he feels like the heaviness taking over him isn’t going to go away anytime soon. He just needs to trust that Zayn is going to help him carry the weight, even if he shouldn’t expect so much from the other lad.

“I love you, Zayn.”

Zayn shifts back, making Liam pull away to look at him. There is a soft smile on his lips and Liam chases his fingers across his cheeks, rubbing at the corners of his mouth.

“I love you and I have for awhile, I'm sorry I didn't tell you.”

Zayn's nose wrinkles from the force of his smile. “It's okay, I knew.”

“You did?” Liam asks, brows furrowing. He has to be lying, or just being nice, because Liam knows he hasn't done a good job at showing it.

Zayn nods, rolling his eyes at him. “Of course. It was you that didn't know how much I love you.”

He shifts his thumbs over Zayn's cheekbones, an apology on his tongue but Zayn shakes his head like he knows. “Can you tell me again?”

Zayn's face brightens as he smiles, pressing their chests together. “I love you. I'm in love with you, but I’d rather us talk about this somewhere warm so you stop shivering so much.”

Liam pouts his lips, tilting his head some so he can press them against Zayn’s just right for a brief moment. He doesn’t want Zayn to know he is trembling because of the rocket of emotions playing through him right now, and not because of the cooler night air. “Things like this are just going to keep on happening.”

“Not if we work on them,” Zayn mutters, looking up at him with bright eyes. “Easy as pie, babe. Just trust me, yeah?”

Liam nods, shifting his fingers up Zayn’s spine and pressing their bodies closer together, pretending to shiver as an excuse to soak in the warmth of Zayn’s body.

A playful grin takes over Zayn’s lips as he tilts his head to the side, eyelashes fluttering across his cheekbones for a moment. “First, can we work on you saying you love me back when I say it?”

Liam grins, nodding as he waits for Zayn to say it.

“I love you.”

He goes to pull away, lips pressed shut like he isn't going to say it back. But it only lasts a moment before he is pressing forward, kissing away Zayn's mock offended look as he chants the words between every press of their lips.

Liam curls his arm around Zayn’s shoulders as he asks him to come home, fingers tickling over his shoulders and a sense of relief flooding through him. He isn’t fully relieved, still a bit scared about what steps he is going to have to take next, if Zayn will be able to handle how he reacts, if he will be able to handle how he reacts, but it all seems so minimal compared to how it would feel if Zayn weren’t there at all.

He reluctantly lets go of the other lad long enough for him to pick up the spray cans he has discarded on the ground, and Liam admires the tigers once more before they head towards the car.

“Do you know what the worst part was?” Liam mutters, knocking his lips against Zayn’s temple as he unlocks his car. “My son talks about you about eight times a minute when you aren’t around.”

Zayn lets out a soft chuckle, patting his palm against Liam’s belly. “He is a sunshine. Felt weird being without him today, probably because - well, I dunno.”

Liam shifts awkwardly, reaching for the passenger door handle before reaching into his pocket for his phone. He hands it to Zayn, an apology on his tongue. “He wanted me to send you a video of him today, I didn't.”

Zayn softens, not looking at the phone but at Liam, instead. “Why not?”

He shrugs jerkily, shoving his hands deep into his pockets. “I was afraid you wouldn't answer.”

The other lad frowns as he tangles his fingers in Liam's shirt, pulling him close. There is a serious expression on his face, a determined look in his eyes that matches the way he speaks. “I would have. No matter what happens between you and I, whatever you're afraid of happening, I will always be there for him.”

+*

Zayn folds his hand over Oliver’s cheek, careful to be gentle as not to wake the sleeping boy up. Liam had wanted to go home, to talk more, but Zayn reckons they should slow it down some. Talk about it in a few days, when Liam has some time to actually think about it.

He doesn't want to push him too much, to overstep, and he appreciates how willing Liam is to try to work on things for him - for them, Oliver. But the lad looks too overwhelmed every time he starts to, probably having reached his limit for the day.

And he really just wants to bring Oliver home, not only because it comforts him, but he knows having the boy between them as they sleep tonight will comfort Liam as well.

“My boy,” Zayn whispers, pushing the curls fallen to his forehead away. His face scrunches together but then relaxes, as Zayn traces his thumb across his thick eyelashes. “I love you most of all.”

He presses a kiss to the tip of his nose, and that is when not only his face crumples but he fidgets, reaching out for Zayn though his eyes remain closed.

“Mr. Zayn,” he mumbles, a soft whine in his throat as Zayn pulls him to his chest. “Did you have a good day?”

Zayn smothers his smile in his hair, heart warming as he picks the half asleep boy up. “I did. Did you?”

Oliver clings to him tightly, burying his face into Zayn's neck. “Mhm. Went to see the dinosaurs.”

Zayn rubs at his back, cheek pressed to the top of his head as he slowly eases out of the room Niall has set up for him. “I saw your video.”

“Did it make you happy?” Ollie whispers, fingers flexing against the back of his neck and playing with the short hairs at his hairline. “Papa say it would.”

“It did. You always make me happy, you know that?”

Oliver stays quiet for a moment before he hums out a soft, ‘mhm’. He heavies in Zayn’s arms as he carries him out to Liam, who sits by the front door with Niall by his side, talking under their breath.

Liam comes over to take him, pressing a soft kiss to Zayn's cheek. “Come on, let's get our boy home.”

Niall claps Zayn on the shoulder as Liam pulls Oliver to his chest and turns towards the door to leave. “You're a good lad.”

Zayn gives him a crooked grin before pulling him into a hug. It feels a bit awkward at first, until Niall’s arms wrap tightly around his shoulders.  “You’re good for him.”

Zayn smiles in the crook of Niall’s neck, squeezing back. “I’m glad I have your approval, mate.”

Niall huffs out as he pulls back, a serious look on his face as he cups his hands to his own hips. “Approval? Nah, I’ll fight Liam if that is what it takes for him to let himself be happy.”

Zayn rolls his eyes, but the laugh slips past his lips anyway as he claps Niall on the shoulder as a goodbye.

+*

Zayn peeks through the crack of Liam’s office door, making sure he isn’t on the phone anymore. He isn’t, but his face rests in his palms, elbows propped on his desk and he just sits there like that for a long moment.

Zayn frowns, easing the door open slightly with his elbow as he holds the hot coffee between his palms. Behind Liam he can see the steady fall of the snowflakes through the tall windows, whose curtains are pulled back though the outside sky doesn’t offer much light.

Liam rubs his face and looks up when Zayn places the coffee to his desk, offering a smile but it is tight, nothing about his features relaxed. “Thanks, baby.”

He is trying to seem relaxed though, that much is obvious, so Zayn doesn’t mention it. Only circles behind the desk so he can stroke fingers against Liam’s shoulders. “Want to take a break from work?”

Liam shrugs, adjusting as Zayn places his bum on the edge of the desk, so he can rub his hands up the outside of his thighs. “Just doing payroll, what were you up to?”

“Applying online for a new job,” Zayn tells him, before shifting onto his lap. Liam spreads his legs, hands resting on his hips as his head tilts back so Zayn can see his frown. “Close to Ollie’s school, only a few days a week. I would only be an assistant, but after I get my degree I could qualify to move up.”

Liam runs his hands up Zayn’s back. “Doing what?”

“Working with young children,” Zayn tells him softly, tracing his nail along the edge of Liam’s beard. “An early prevention program, I would be focusing on social settings and social interactions.”

There is a knowing look in Liam’s eyes though he doesn’t go into more detail. He isn’t confident he is going to get the job anyway, because he hasn’t had a lot of experience in psychiatric or educational services, he just prays that he will.

Liam’s fingers tickle underneath the thick sweater he wears as he props a kiss to Zayn’s chin. “I told you, you don’t have to work if you don’t want to. Anything you need -”

“I want to,” Zayn explains, for the millionth time. He doesn’t want to rely on Liam any longer than he already has, though living with him kind of takes the responsibility of paying bills away. “Or people might get suspicious.”

“Of what?” Liam laughs, fingers ticking under the waistband of his trackies. “That you’re my sugar baby? S’true, innit?”

“Liam,” Zayn groans in distaste, knocking their noses together. He slides his palms across Liam’s chest, feeling the rapid pace of his heart beat before smoothing them up to the slope of his neck. “I am not.”

He cuts off the laugh Liam lets out with a hard press of his lips, using his hands to tilt Liam’s head back so he can lick past his lips. He smiles into the kiss, trying to hold back his laugh as Liam’s words play over in his head.

“I can’t believe you said that,” Zayn gasps as he pulls back, still laughing. Liam’s shoulder comes up towards his chin, eyes crinkling practically closed as he shrugs.

“I was just joking,” Liam clarifies, amused as he slips his fingers further under the synthetic material. “You're more like, the love of my life or summat.”

The amusement slips away but Zayn's smile stays as he presses his lips to Liam’s. His chest feels like it could shatter at that moment, but in a good way. He has been trying to say it more, even though he doesn't need to. At first he would stop, brows furrowing before he whispered the words like a secret but now they seem to slip out so easily.

“You're mine,” Zayn murmurs, moving his lips to Liam’s jaw as his head rests back against the chair. He scrapes his lips across the thick layer of hair there before falling lower, breezing his lips over his skin. “Mr. Payne.”

Liam moans lowly as Zayn latches his lips to his skin, his hand coming up to cup the back of his head and keep him there. It sends an excitement through him, his hips pressing against Liam’s and a soft rumble of a groan leaving his lips as he sucks a mark over his heart shaped one.

Zayn teases his fingers down the buttons of Liam’s dress shirt, gasping quietly as the fingers of Liam's other hand dig into the thick of his thigh. The room quickly feels hot, despite the slight draft of cold air seeping through the windows behind Liam.

It had made his skin nearly cold to the touch, but now it starts to pink, his breath coming out in short, nearly inaudible gasps as Zayn continues to rut down against him.

“Does that get you proper turned on? Me talking about my feelings for you?”

Zayn snorts, pulling back some so he can watch the expanse of Liam’s chest be revealed as he pops open the buttons of his shirt. Liam just looks at him, his eyes starting to heavy with arousal and his bottom lip trapped between his teeth.

“A bit,” Zayn chuckles, spreading his shirt when he has it unbuttoned. He sighs to himself at the sight of Liam’s belt before gripping it gently. The way Liam sits makes his dress pants stretch tightly, revealing the hard line of his cock underneath the material. He wants to touch but he doesn't, wants to take his time until he is sure whatever that is troubling Liam gets forgotten. “You should probably go on.”

Liam makes a low noise in his throat as he palms Zayn's thighs, eyes trapped on where their hips meet as Zayn slides against him. “You'll have to stop doing that so I can think properly, babe.”

Zayn grins, trailing a finger down Liam’s zipper. “We can wait until later, then.”

 

Zayn pulls Liam’s back to his chest, his legs spread enough on the small couch in Liam’s home office for him to fit between. He trails his fingers through Liam’s hair, admiring his features as his eyes flutter closed.

Liam pulls the throw blanket over their legs higher, until it covers the hand he has resting on his belly. “Did you know?”

Zayn smoothes his palm over Liam’s scalp, curling his other arm over his chest. “Know what?”

“That something was bothering me,” Liam says quietly, keeping his eyes closed. They need to pick up Oliver from school soon, since the school called and announced an early dismissal due to the snowstorm picking up outside.

“I assumed,” Zayn tells him honestly.

“Why didn't you ask?”

It isn't accusing, only curious but Zayn frowns anyway. “I figured you would tell me eventually. I'm not going to push you to talk all of the time babe.”

Liam sighs, tilting his head back to look at Zayn before looking forward again. He reaches up, tangling their fingers together before resting their hands on his chest. “Layla called.”

Zayn falls quiet, sinking lower so he can curl his other arm around Liam’s chest too, and slides his toes down his calf so they are touching in every way possible.

“I didn't say anything. Just listened to her talk for a few minutes,” Liam goes on, voice lacking any emotion that can clue him in on how he felt about it. “She said she would call back in a few days, but I just hung up.”

Zayn drags his lips against Liam’s hairline, searching for the right words to say. “Listening to her is a good first step, babe.”

Liam nods, squeezing his fingers like a reflex. “I - I don't really want to talk about it just yet, but I just wanted you to know.”

Zayn squeezes his chest, rocking him gently as he kisses his temple. “Okay, babe.”

It goes quiet for a moment, but the way Liam fidgets and swallows over and over again tells Zayn he isn't done speaking, so he waits, humming quietly until he does.

“What if she asks to see Oliver?”

“I reckon you should focus on whether or not you're going to answer when she calls again first, Li,” Zayn suggests gently. “And if you talk to her, tell her how you feel and decide on that later. Take it slow, babe, one step at a time.”

+*

Oliver sighs heavily, chin resting on his hands as he stares outside of his bedroom window. The snow falls heavily, building up on his windowsill and coating the already snow covered ground. Thor is curled around him, tucked underneath the afghan Zayn had thrown over him.

Zayn holds the hot cocoa between his palms as he admires Oliver’s profile, the twitch of his eyebrows with every soft sigh. He hates the snow, but it has been difficult getting him away from the window since he first settled there this morning.

“Beta,” Zayn says, announcing himself before stepping into the room. “Papa is coming home soon. He is bringing a friend, so we have to get dressed.”

Oliver’s thick brows scrunch together as he looks away from the window. Zayn tries to keep his expression cool, to not let the little boy know that he is a mess of nerves.

He has been all day, ever since Liam left this morning to meet with Layla again. He had stayed up all night with Liam, trying to relax him though he doesn’t think he succeeded too much.  

And it had gotten worse, those nerves, when Liam called to tell him he was bringing Layla home with him. He doesn't know what happened between them, Liam doesn't share too much of their conversations, just that they have had a few, but Zayn knows he will one day. When he is ready to really talk about it.

Oliver is a bit reluctant to get dressed, fussy and close to throwing a tantrum when it comes to his hair, but Zayn scratches under his chin and gives up on combing out on the tangles. He lets Zayn help him with the buttons of his shirt, but refuses to put on any other pants besides the trackies he has that match the ones Zayn has.

“What is wrong today, babe?” Zayn says coolly, rubbing his hand over Oliver’s cheek. It is burning red, and there is a frustrated look on his face.

The little one shrugs, lips pouting out. “I don't want to meet Papa’s friend, I wanna go to Alfie’s house. I wanna go to school.”

Zayn sighs, tilting his chin up. “It is snowing too much to go to Alfie’s. He can come over after school on Monday, if you want.”

Oliver lets out an annoyed sigh. “That is in twenny days.”

Zayn bites hard on his bottom lip as not to laugh at Oliver’s ability to come off so dramatic. “It is in three, my love.”

This doesn't satisfy him any, and he only crosses his arms and darts his eyes away from Zayn’s face. “You get to see your bestest friend every day, why can't I?”

Zayn laughs this time, softly in confusion as his brows push together. “Who?”

“Papa,” Oliver huffs out, keeping up with the dramatic movement of his arms, flailing them to emphasis his annoyance.

“I thought you were my best friend.”

Oliver's eyes go wide as he sighs softly. “I am,” he insists, hands going to his hips. “But s’different, Mr. Zayn. You're old.”

Zayn gasps in mock offense, bending forward to tickle his fingers against Oliver’s ribcage until he is squirming and screeching out giggles, clutching onto him to get him to stop. “I'm not old, you boogar.”

Oliver practically flails his body from the force of his laughter as Zayn scoops him up into his arms and carries him back towards the living room, fingers still dancing across his stomach. “Yeah you are, like eighty eleven years old.”

Zayn blows a raspberry against his cheek before propping him down, falling to the floor in front of him to hold him up as he continues to hiccup out his laughs. His small hands cup Zayn’s face, squeezing gently. “All daddies are old, Mr. Zayn.”

He warms, cupping his hands over Oliver’s. He doesn't know what to say and he knows Oliver probably doesn't mean anything by that, so he doesn't say anything, only tries to fight off the quick way the pressure builds behind his eyelids.

A throat clearing behind him makes him jump, bringing the nerves in him back to life as he eyes Liam. There is a tight set to his jaw as he adjusts the buttons of his collar with anxious fingers.

Layla pokes her head in behind him, and it is difficult to determine which one looks more nervous. She looks right past Zayn, eyes latching onto the boy still attempting to hold his face.

Zayn takes Oliver’s hands away as the little boy goes alert, chest puffing out and Zayn can't help but peck a kiss to his nose before he stands.

“Hey babe,” Zayn says, reaching out to cup Liam’s elbow. The touch noticeably relaxes him, or at least, enough that he clears his throat and steps towards his son.

His heart pounds roughly in his chest as Liam bends down, his face looking strangled worse than before as he presses his lips to Oliver’s forehead. He had been crying, it is so obvious in the red swollen look of his eyes, the way he inhales shakily.

Layla too, but those red rimmed eyes are still latched onto Oliver, an overwhelmed look on her face as she sucks in a deep breath. Her hands fumble with the bottom of her shirt and he is afraid Oliver might notice, but he figures they can't help it.

“How was your day, babe?”

Oliver shrugs, giving Zayn a guilty look. “I wanted to go to school. I hate the snow.”

Zayn can see the small way the corner of Liam’s lips lift up as he tucks his fingers under Ollie’s chin. “You didn't want to play outside with Mr. Zayn?”

The little one wrinkles his nose, holding his arms close to his chest as he makes a show of shivering. Layla laughs quietly, dragging Oliver’s attention back to her.

“Ollie, this is Papa’s friend, um, Auntie Layla.”

Oliver gives her a curious look, one brow quirking up as Liam moves away reluctantly. Zayn plants his hand on the dip at the bottom of his spine, hopefully comforting him as Layla bends closer to Oliver.

“Hello,” she says, the shake in his voice barely noticeable but obvious to him.

“I'm Oliver Alexander Payne,” Oliver introduces, holding out his arms. Layla's eyes go a bit wide, but she hugs him, her face clenching together painfully over Oliver’s shoulders as she holds him for a long time.

Liam presses his face to Zayn’s temple, and he can feel the shake of the other lad’s body, hearing the soft sob that he lets out, though it is so quiet, hopefully quiet enough that Oliver doesn't catch on.

“You are so handsome,” Layla says, voice tight with tears as she pulls back to look at Oliver, holding his shoulders.

Oliver wrinkles his nose, brows furrowing. “You got allergies? Papa gives me allergy med’cine, you want some?”

Liam blurts out a laugh, pulling away from Zayn. It is admirable how easily Oliver breaks the heavy tension in the room, and he looks around confused when everyone else laughs before laughing himself, awkwardly like he doesn't know why he is laughing.

“I'm okay. Your Papa was actually telling me about your tigers. I wanted to see them?”

Oliver bounces on his toes, face brightening considerably. “Oh yeah! Alright, come on.”

He takes Layla’s hand as Zayn presses a long kiss to Liam’s cheek before urging him to follow. He stays behind, throat tight as he watches the tension in Liam’s back as he walks after them.

+*

The nerves haven't faded any, still gripping at his stomach to the point of nausea, a cramp taking over his back from how tense he is as he guides Layla towards the front door.

But it had gone well, though Liam counts it as one of the strangest moments of his life. She has only been here about an hour or so, sitting with Oliver as he showed off all of his tigers and his drawings, praising each one quietly and looking at him with a constant overwhelmed expression. He felt like he was standing guard rather than joining them, but just her being in the same room as him was as much as Liam could handle.

And Oliver spoke about Zayn more times than he can count, comforting Liam every time. The only thing that makes him happier than how much Oliver loves Zayn, is how much Zayn loves Oliver.

“Thank you so much, Liam. I - you really don't know what this means to me.”

“I'm doing it for Oliver, not you,” Liam says, his voice harsher than he intends. But it is warmer than he thought possible for her, and warmer than when they had first started speaking. He feels bad, for how difficult it had been to feel anything but coldness when she had cried on the phone. He is trying though, the regret clear in every word she speaks, in every apology she has uttered since.

And she has said it quite a lot. He didn't think he wanted her to see Oliver, but after a few times speaking with her, he had offered. Just to meet him, to see how it goes, with clear and firm instruction that he doesn't know her to be anyone but a friend. For now, at least, until Liam can catch his breath and figure out how to handle all of this.

One step at a time,

“I know. He is lucky to have you.”

“He has never known your absence, and I'm not going to allow it to happen again,” Liam says, voice wavering. He has repeated it probably too many times since he had offered for her to meet Oliver, and though the broken look is clear on her face every time, he can't help it.

“You don't trust me,” Layla interrupts, eyes already starting to water again. She looks so much older than Liam remembers, though her face is fuller and brighter. Everything about her seems different really, from the obvious color change to just how she holds herself. “And I understand that. But I want you to. I'll be around as much as you let me. As long as you let me.”

Liam nods, his emotions troubling him because she seems genuine with her words, but his thoughts scream at him to be hesitant about it. An hour is all he could take, though deep down it feels really good to see Ollie with his mum.

She takes one of his hands, though the movement seems hesitant. There are frayed bracelets around her wrists and he knows she must have seen Oliver’s. “I really am sorry, Liam. Worst decision of my life, leaving him.”

Liam only nods again, not wanting to be cruel but he wants to tell her it was.

She laughs softly, the sound watery. “I guess it is good he didn't have me, it wouldn't have been good for him those first few years. No bad memories, only good ones with his Papa.”

Liam swallows, squeezing her fingers as the words sink into him. She has only told him bits about rehab, to tell him how she had thought about Oliver every day but never got up the urge to call. “I make sure of it.”

+*

“I am so proud of you, babe.”

The words make Liam's chest expand as he presses it to Zayn’s. He can't get rid of the on edge feeling, though he knows it will go away eventually. And even though today had gone well, he doesn't want to talk about it just yet.

Zayn's fingers slide across the water droplets on his neck, over where the stream of the shower head pounds against his back. It is hot, almost too hot but it relieves a bit of the tension still holding his muscles.

“Thank you,” Liam murmurs, scraping his lips across the stubble on Zayn’s jaw. “For being there.”

Zayn hums, head tilting back like he knows Liam's lips will move to his neck next. “I always will be.”

Liam shifts them back carefully, until Zayn’s back presses against the tiled shower wall. “I think I'm in love with you.”

Zayn sighs, slipping his fingers down Liam's slippery back as his legs part to fit him between. “I think so too.”

Liam grins, maneuvering so he can hover it over Zayn's matching smile. “I also think it is time you move your things into my room.”

Zayn’s smile pushes even higher into his cheeks, nose wrinkling as his tongue presses behind his teeth. “Most of my things are already in there.”

Liam runs his palm up his chest, over the ink staining it before cupping his neck gently enough to keep the other lad still as he continues to tease his lips over his. “So stop wearing my clothes.”

“Not a chance,” Zayn exhales, tilting his chin to kiss Liam but he adds pressure to his hand to stop the movement. He really doesn't mind, is kind of in love with Zayn’s smaller frame in his clothes, though it had tortured him the other day when Zayn was walking around in his crop top and he couldn't touch because Oliver was due to wake up at any moment.

Liam hovers his parted lips over Zayn’s, noses knocking and his thumb pressing into the steady beat of his pulse. “I can just buy you more or, transfer money -”

Zayn’s face crumples as he lets out a displeased noise, fingers ticking at Liam’s hips to drag him closer carefully. They need to get out of the shower, so Liam can distract himself in the soft planes of Zayn’s skin, but he feels like teasing - drawing it out so his mind can be cleared by those high pitched, desperate sounding moans Zayn always lets out when he takes his time.

“Talking about your money is not proper dirty talk,” Zayn jokes, lips quirking up. He remains still other than the movement of his fingers, like he already knows what the placement of Liam’s hand means. “Instead, you should say something like -”

“I love you,” Liam interrupts, pressing his lips harder against Zayn’s as the words fall in sync with the same ones that roll off the other lad’s tongue. “Mera jaan.”

Zayn stills even more, eyes flicking up to look at Liam. He just had to google it after Zayn whispered it in his ear before nodding off. It plays over in his head - beloved, darling, love, soul, life -

The warmth in Zayn’s face seems to soak through him, burning more than the water drops pelleting his back. “You looked it up?”

Liam doesn’t respond at first, because his face is forming into something guilty as he presses his other arm to the wall around Zayn’s head. He tilts his head back, thumb stroking his bottom lip in sync with the way Zayn parts them. "I got it without spelling it properly -"

“Did you see one of the dramatic translations?” Zayn breathes out, his palm sliding up Liam’s torso until resting over his chest. His lips quirk up as Liam closes closer to his space. “Do you know you’re my beloved, my life?”

Liam nods, moving his thumb a side to hover his lips over Zayn's instead. “I know. I'm working on not doubting that."

Zayn looks at him for a long moment before he closes them, so Liam can see the water droplets sticking to the long, thick of his eyelashes. "Take your time, jaan. I'm patient. But right now, I need you to kiss me yeah -"

Liam half laughs as he complies, pushing his lips against Zayn's, his fingers stroking across his neck and tugging through his hair. The words continue to play over in his head, and he licks them across Zayn's tongue and traces them across the back of his teeth, hoping Zayn knows how true they are.

Chapter Text

One Year Later

Liam stays quiet as he admires Zayn, sliding across the tiled floor in his socks, his bum wiggling some as he scoops the grounds of coffee into the coffee pot. He sings under his breath but it is loud enough for Liam to hear.

“As long as you look me in the eyes, I'll go wherever you are, I'll follow behind.”

The song has been stuck in his head for days, since Zayn has been practicing it every moment possible for his performance tonight. Nothing too big, but it is his first time performing a song that he has written himself to anyone that isn't family.

He slides on his toes, going in for a spin but he stops dead in his tracks as he eyes Liam. His eyes go wide, a shy smile taking over his lips and Liam knows his cheeks would be hot to the touch.

“Sup, babe?” Zayn tries coolly, turning back around to pick up the coffee pot to fill with water.

Liam laughs as he pads over to him, relaxing the butterflies in his stomach. He feels a bit nervous, has been all morning as he has stared at the box in his nightstand. He was going to ask him tonight, but every moment he doesn't feels like a lifetime, and it is getting harder and harder not to just blurt it out.

“You know I hate waking up to an empty bed,” Liam laughs, snaking his arms around Zayn’s bare waist.

“Not my fault you sleep like the dead,” Zayn tells him, sinking back against his chest. “And Ollie wanted me to make chocolate chip pancakes for him and Alfie.”

Liam makes a noise of disapproval, hiding his smile against Zayn’s shoulder. “Our son has gotten you wrapped around his finger, doesn't he?”

Zayn turns, so he can rest the flat of his palms against Liam's chest, a soft smile on his lips that he nibbles at for a long moment before he speaks. “Yeah, he does. You know what he told me this morning?”

“Hm?” Liam hums, gripping the edges of the counter on the sides of Zayn’s waist. He should probably pull away before he gets too caught up in the taste of Zayn's lips, especially because his son isn't the only innocent set of eyes inside of his home right now.

“You have a surprise for me,” Zayn murmurs, eyes bright.

Liam groans, pushing away as his heart falls into his stomach. “Did he tell you what it was?”

“No,” Zayn promises, shifting his palms to his neck to smooth his fingers across the skin there, his nose wrinkling at the sudden change in his expression. “But he says he is the happiest and I will be too.”

A smile breaks across Liam’s lips. When Liam had asked him how he felt about it, the little boy had exploded practically, clapping his hands together and jumping around, a smile so big on his lips before he hugged Liam tightly and shook him around.

Even though Liam is sure the little lad doesn't really know what marriage is, except for what he sees on tv. Since he asked Liam if he would cry like the peoples on the telly do.

“I hope so,” Liam mutters, jaw tensing some because he really isn't sure how Zayn is going to respond. “I really hope so, babe.”

+*

Liam inhales as deeply as possible, trying to ease the butterflies in his belly. His clenches onto the box in his hand, but it only makes his hands shake worse.

Zayn is in the living room, legs tucked under his bum and a book on his lap. His sweater hangs loosely off his shoulders, an old tattered one that Liam thinks was his originally. He had spent the day preparing for tonight, before passing out on the couch and being done with rehearsing when he woke.

“Mr. Zayn,” Oliver calls, grabbing Liam’s wrist and tugging him to follow his footsteps. He feels underdressed suddenly, like maybe he should have worn something other than his black and red plaid shirt.

Or maybe he should have filled the room with flowers, or taken him to a fancy restaurant. Maybe the beach, a lit up tent on the sand -

Fuck, it is going to be awful, and he feels like he is choking suddenly.

“What is it beta?” Zayn asks, shifting the book off of his lap. His eyes dart to Liam before he reaches for Oliver, tugging him into his lap even though he grimaces slightly from his weight, which makes it harder to pick him up now that he is getting so big.

“Gotta question,” Oliver starts, pushing back the hairs hanging in front of Zayn’s forehead. Zayn's lips quirk up, and Liam knows he looks constipated just then, because he realizes what Oliver is going to do a breath before he does it. “Will you marry my Papa?”

The shock takes over Zayn's face instantly as his mouth falls open, eyes darting between Liam and Oliver but the little one doesn’t let him respond as he grabs Zayn’s cheeks. “Oh please , Mr. Zayn.”

Zayn still doesn't respond, only looks at Liam with nothing on his face other than shock and Liam wants to run far away. Instead he shrugs, revealing the box in his hand. His legs feel like jello, and he sucks in another deep breath before he falls to one knee.

“Erm, yeah,” Liam tries, voice as tense as he feels. Zayn shifts up, an arm curling around Oliver’s back to keep him from tumbling as he looks at Liam. “I planned a speech but I guess we will just jump right into it.”

Zayn lets out a breathless laugh at the same time as Liam does, to breathe out the lingering nerves. He had planned a speech, or attempted to - rewriting it a thousand times because it never sounded right. There isn’t a way he can put into words what Zayn means to him, what he has done for him - and Oliver.

He has never been good at talking about his feelings, but he knows even if he were good at it, he would remain speechless when it comes to telling Zayn just how much he loves him.

“I don’t know er, if this is too soon,” Liam tries. He has worried about it, and Zayn has asked him to tell him when he worries too much about something, even if he feels like keeping it to himself. “And you can say no, but I have to tell you how I feel. How often I think about it. You are already our family, the love of my life, and I want to show you how much I mean that in the only way I know how since I'm shit at putting it into words.”

Liam swallows thickly. God Oliver was right, he is going to cry.

Zayn shifts Oliver off of his lap to pull Liam’s hands into his own, ignoring the box he holds between them. “How many times do I have to tell you you're not as shit as you think you are?”

Liam huffs out a laugh, rolling his eyes some because that isn't the point.

He scrapes his thumbs over the back of Liam's knuckles, smiling softly again. “You called Oliver our son this morning.”

The words are practically whispered, and Oliver looks on with bright eyes and his head cocked to the side slightly.

“You do a lot, actually. There is a lot of things you do that tells me how you feel, even if you don't realize. You don't need to do anything elaborate for me to know.”

Liam nods, swallowing thickly before he urges the ring closer to him. “I'm not doing this to prove a point. I'm doing this because there is no one else I want to spend my life with, to raise my son with, to grow a family with, than with you. You're my life and I want to spend the rest of it with you.”

Zayn nods, letting Liam's hands go so he can open the box in between them. He has rarely ever seen Zayn cry, but his face contorts for a moment like he might as he takes the ring from the box.

“So will you marry me, Mr. Zayn?” Liam chokes out, taking the ring from him so he can hold it out for him.

Zayn lets out a watery laugh, nodding. “Yes, jaan .”

A soft sniffle sounds from beside them as Liam takes Zayn’s hand to slide the ring onto his finger. Liam looks over, to take in his son’s beet red face and the way he rubs his knuckles under his eyelids.

“Aw babe,” Zayn laughs, reaching for him before Liam can. “Why are you crying?”

Oliver blurts out a soft sob as tears slip down his cheeks. “I don't know.”

Liam covers his mouth before he can laugh, his own eyes filling with tears as he knees across the floor to be closer to Oliver. “Can you tell Mr. Zayn what you asked me when I asked you if we should get married?”

Oliver sniffles again, but he nods, squeezing his arm around the both of their necks. “Uncle Ni tol’ me um, that um if you marry me Papa then that makes you my Papa, too. So I erm, asked Papa if he was right.”

Liam keeps his eyes on Zayn as Zayn keeps his eyes on Oliver, his expression changing into the one Liam has come to realize he always wears when looking at Oliver.

The one Zayn claims he wears too, when he looks at his son.

“What did Papa say?” Zayn says. The ring feels like it is burning in Liam’s palms, and he just wants to put it on Zayn’s finger, even if he already said yes.

But his response to Oliver’s question feels more important.

“I can have anything I want if I just say please,” Oliver tells him. Liam feels his face burn as he laughs, because he had said that when Oliver had asked for ice cream, not if Zayn could be his Papa. But he doesn't say so, because he wants how adorable Oliver is to work in their favor.

Zayn presses his lips to Oliver's cheek as Liam takes his hand, hovering the ring over the tip of his ring finger as he waits for Zayn to respond.

“I couldn't say no to my favorite boy.”

Oliver beams, his face still red but the tears have dried as the little one pulls the two of them closer to him. Liam pushes the ring down Zayn’s finger before placing a soft kiss to his lips. A brief one just to satiate the urge to before he settles onto to the couch beside Zayn, their son sat on both of their laps.

Ten Years Later

Liam is in a fired up mood when he gets home, Zayn can tell by the shit eating grin on his face that he can see through the bathroom mirror. He undoes the belt around his dress pants as he walks in, his tie around his neck already loosened.

Zayn furrows his brows, grinning as he leans forward to make sure he wiped any loose hair from his chin.

“How was work?” Zayn asks, but Liam doesn't respond for a moment. Instead he comes closer, those strong hands gripping his hips and he looks down between them.

“Good, just missed you.”

Zayn grins as Liam pushes down the soft material of his joggers, kneading his bum as his lips press to the curve of his neck. Zayn moves in sync with him, arching back and head tilting.

“Where's my boy?”

“Louis took him and Freddie for ice cream,” Liam mutters before sucking softly at his skin. Zayn lets out a soft moan as Liam spreads his cheeks, pressing his hips against him so he can feel the hard line of his cock.

“You left Wally with them?” Zayn sighs as Liam guides his hips to rock back against him. The last time Walter had came home from Louis’s place, he had discovered a new cuss word.

“Wanted alone time,” Liam tells him, voice tight with arousal. He pushes the joggers down even more before sliding his palms to the inside of Zayn’s thighs, making him moan out as Liam’s strong hands spread his legs.

“We have to pick up Ol-,” Zayn breathes out, words cutting off as Liam cups him between his legs. He is already achingly hard, dick pulsing out against his briefs just like he always is. After all these years, it is still so easy for Liam to work him up, to make his skin hot or his chest fill with warmth.

A prolonged honeymoon stage or summat.

Liam pulls away, giving Zayn a teasing grin as he taps his bum and cocks his head towards their bedroom. “We aren’t picking up Ollie, Connor and Alfie are.”

Zayn turns, narrowing his eyes in suspicion. “ You ? You let Connor pick him up?”

Liam pouts his lips, planting his hands on the sink counter around Zayn’s hips. “What is that supposed to mean?”

He wants to laugh, but Liam’s face looks so serious he can’t. The poor boy is practically terrified of Liam, always looking like a dog with his tail between his legs whenever Oliver invites him over. It always makes Oliver get frustrated with his Papa, but he had admitted to preferring Liam’s cutoff behavior with his boyfriend rather than Zayn’s habit of telling him embarrassing stories.

“You hate Connor,” Zayn reminds him, gripping Liam’s dress shirt to remove it from underneath his dress pants.

Liam glares at him, but the amusement in his eyes brightens them. “I do not hate him. But if I catch him snogging my son again, I’m calling the police.”

Zayn blurts out a laugh, knocking it against Liam’s lips. “I’m pretty sure they have learned how to be discreet after you caught them that one time -”

Liam groans in distaste, pulling away from Zayn completely. His expression is strangled, just like it had been when he walked in on Oliver and Connor snogging in the den. “You have just completely ruined the mood,” he jokes, turning around to pad away from Zayn.

Zayn chases after him, laughing along the way before he wraps his arms around Liam’s chest, fingers tickling over the screwdriver key that rests there. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I just love you.”

Liam turns, a grin tugging at his lips as he smoothes his palms over Zayn’s cheeks. “I love you too, Mr. Payne.”

+*

Liam distracts himself in the kitchen, cleaning off the counter surfaces between checking on the stew. He always gets antsy when Oliver comes home after being away, the wait feeling like forever, and his sister is coming too which makes him even more nervous. He hasn’t seen the little girl in a few years, and he had been surprised when he found out she had wanted to stay with them.

“Papa, s’dinner ready?”

Liam looks over his shoulder as Wally pads into the kitchen, tucking his toy tiger under his chin. It is old, barely holding together but it is a fight to get him to let it go because ‘ my big brother gave it to me, Papa ’.

He says the same about the frayed bracelets he wears, much too big on him but Oliver gets new ones every year and he always hands off the old ones to his little brother.

“Almost. Where’s Baba?”

Walter shrugs as he comes up to him, tucking himself into Liam’s side so Liam can drag his fingers through the thick, nearly black strands of hair at the top of his head. “I fink cleaning Maria’s room.”

“You excited to see Ollie?”

Walter’s eyes grow big as he nods, bouncing on his toes. “Yep. I missed him bunches. I want to tell him the surprise.”

Liam's heart swells as he falls to his knees so he is at Walter’s level. “Do you think he will be happy?”

He nods, cupping the side of his mouth though he fails to whisper. “He might cry like Baba did.”

Liam snorts, tucking his fingers under his chin. When the news came they were approved to adopt a little girl last week, Zayn had cried so hard Liam hadn’t been sure what to do. He had kept it a secret for a few days, wanting to surprise Zayn because he too gets antsy when Oliver leaves for too long, but it had been difficult when he, too, was filled with joy. “You know Baba cried when we brought you home, too.”

His youngest looks at him with wide eyes, laughing quietly. “I guess we are gonna make sure to hold him real tight when we get me sister.”

“We will,” Liam mutters, chest expanding as he plops a kiss to his round little nose.

His  heart leaps into his throat as he hears the door open, and Oliver’s laugh. He practically runs to welcome him, a smile taking over his lips like always. It had taken him awhile to let him visit his mother on his own, and at first he had asked Zayn to go with him each time, but it has gotten easier as Oliver has gotten older.

The anger still lingers there, but it is easy to ignore when he listens to Oliver talk with a bright face about the other side of his family, only calling her Layla as he tucks himself into his Baba’s side.

“How was the train?” He hears Zayn ask as he wraps his arms around Oliver’s shoulders. He is still short for his age, short enough that he can tuck his face into Zayn’s neck still as he hugs him. Connor stands behind him, shifting awkwardly on his feet as he glances at where Liam enters with Walter.

“Alright, knackered though,” Oliver tells him, before cupping the back of Maria’s head to urge her forward. She looks almost identical to her mother, her thick black hair even tied into a big bun at the top of her head like Layla used to do. There is some resemblance there between the two of them, but Liam swears Oliver has taken on Zayn’s appearance as he had gotten older and it makes him look less like his mum.

In the crookedness of his grin, the way his tongue presses against the back of his teeth when he smiles big. They even walk the same, like every step is one taken on a runway. He had shaved his curls a few months ago, keeping a slicked back quiff that resembles the one Zayn used to have.

“How’s your mum?”

Oliver shrugs, leaning into the palm Zayn presses to his cheek. “Alright. Bit moody, you know. Pregnancy hormones.”

Zayn blurts out a laugh, in sync with Liam as he moves back to allow Liam to hug him. “Don’t say that.”

“Me baba does,” Maria adds, giggling softly as she looks up at all of them with wide eyes. “All the time.”

Liam places a kiss to Oliver’s nose as he leans closer to Maria so he can hug her too. “And how are you princess?”

She gives him a shy smile, her shoulders coming up close to her chin in a shrug. “I'm good, Mr. Liam. Thanks for having me.”

“You are welcome here anytime,” he promises, tickling under her chin.

It is an act, the way he hardens his face as he turns to Connor, reaching his hand out. Connor shakes it tentatively, eyes blowing out wide in hesitation just like they always do when they see each other.

He doesn't actually dislike the lad, it just makes his stomach twist painfully because his little boy is growing up too fast for him to handle.

“And you?”

“I’m good, Mr. Payne,” Connor coughs out, fidgeting with the glasses propped on the bridge of his nose.

“No more snogging my son -”

“Papa!” Oliver complains, tilting his head back in frustration as Connor’s face turns a violent shade of red. Zayn chuckles softly, planting his hand to Liam’s lower back.

“Would you like to stay for dinner, Connor?” Zayn butts in as Oliver glares at Liam. Liam doesn’t let his hard expression go though, because he is completely serious about calling the police even if he acts like he is joking.

“Yes sir,” Connor says as Oliver slides his arm around Liam’s waist, continuing to frown at him. “Thank you.”

Liam grumbles quietly to himself as he hugs his son back. “Come on, sunshine, I want to show you something.”

“S’our sister!” Wally exclaims, grabbing for Oliver’s free hand. “She's beautiful .”

Oliver’s mouth falls open as he looks between all of them, his eyes going big and it is easy to see the young boy he once was, even though his features have become more defined and less rounded. “For real?”

Liam nods, feeling his throat tighten some. “Yeah, for real.”

Oliver picks up Wally though he is much too tall for it, looking up at him brightly. Despite their age difference, they are practically inseparable. Wally is always trailing after him, tucking into his side whenever possible. When they had first brought him home, Oliver had been too nervous to hold him, but he refused to leave his side - even dragging his blankets and pillows into his nursery in the middle of the night.

“Did Baba cry?” He hears Oliver whisper as Zayn takes his hand, his thumb smoothing over his wedding band before he can lead Oliver to where they have a photo of her tucked away. He wants to put it up in the living room, amongst all of their other family photos, but Zayn decided they should wait until they have her home.

“Yes,” Wally squeaks out. “And Papa cried when you left.”

“He always does that,” Oliver tells him quietly as they follow behind. “That is why you gotta take care of him when I leave.”

“I did,” Wally insists eagerly. “Just like I promised.”

Zayn tucks his face into the crook of Liam’s neck, where he can feel his husband’s lips form into a smile.

“Baba too?”

Walter scoffs, and Liam looks back in time to see the offended look he gives his big brother. “Of course.”

+*

Zayn closes his eyes as he knocks before pushing open the cracked bedroom door. He can practically hear Oliver’s eye roll in his voice as he tells him to come in.

“Studying for maths.”

He sits at his desk, Connor beside him, with papers spread about and textbooks opened in front of him. His face is bright red when he looks over his shoulder at Zayn, eyebrows stitched together like he is frustrated.

Zayn walks over to pet his hands through Oliver’s hair, peering over his shoulder. It is all scribble to him, none of it making sense. He spends hours helping Oliver with his work usually, but maths is always the one that feels impossible to help with.

“I can't do it,” Oliver mutters, before going onto mumble something under his breath about being shit .

“Watch your mouth,” Zayn scolds gently, sliding his hand to his cheek as Oliver tilts his head back, a troubled look on his face.

“Papa says the new baby is like me,” he half whispers. Connor politely looks away, eyes training on the paper in front of Oliver.

“What?” Zayn tries, mustering up a smile as he pats Oliver’s cheek. “Smart, funny, handsome, big hearted -”

Oliver grins, but his brow wrinkles. “You know what I mean.”

Zayn bends lower, so he can wrap his arms around his chest and touch his cheek with his own as they look down at the scribbled writing together. “It isn’t anything to worry about, love. And you know what I told you about getting discouraged when you are struggling with something.”

“Doesn't make it easier not to do,” Oliver grumbles back. “And don't tell Papa, or he'll get all worry faced.”

Zayn snorts, squeezing him tight before letting him go. It isn't funny, but Liam has always been hard to calm down when Oliver gets too hard on himself, discouraged by a disorder he has been labeled with. And even though he is good at hiding it from the boy, Oliver is so in tune to his Papa that he always knows when there is something bothering him. He tends to tease Liam about it, and Zayn isn't sure if it's for Liam’s sake or his own.

It bothers Zayn as well, but he is always the one there to remind Oliver and Liam how well he is doing, despite the struggles he faces. Because he is doing well in school, very well, he just gets discouraged easily when he is frustrated and it takes a lot of effort to get past it. But he always does.

“Take a break right now. Go back to it later, you’ve been at it for hours. And go see your aid again when you go back to school. I know you believe her when she says how well you are doing more than you believe Papa and me.”

Oliver sighs, cupping his fingers around the back of his neck to rub at the skin there. “Yeah, alright.”

Zayn points at him with a scolding finger, though it is more playful than anything as he walks backwards towards the door. “And keep the door open or it is guaranteed your Papa will be worry faced, I love you.”

His forever little one chuckles, nodding again. “Love you more, Baba.”