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How to Forget

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We’re just friends. Zayn needs to get that tattooed somewhere so he never forgets. He needs Harry to scratch it across his back the next time they’re tangled up on another bed in another hotel room in another city because every time Harry looks at him when he’s on his third drink, his eyelids a little heavier and his mouth a little wetter, he forgets.

Zayn almost asks him sometimes, when Harry’s clinging to him and panting into his neck, he almost grabs his hair and tells Harry to bite it into him so he doesn’t forget again, to spell it out in the tiny cuts that his nails leave on his hips when he comes.

We’re just friends.

 

+++

 

Zayn doesn’t know when it starts, only when he can’t stop it, when he’s so far gone that he’d follow Harry off a fucking cliff if he asked him to. He’s tried, usually when he’s in bed, staring at the ceiling so he doesn’t have to watch Harry get dressed, he tries to trace a line back to when it started and can’t. There was no one thing, no fight that dissolved into a kiss, no drunken night that ended with them having a clumsy, breathless shag in a pub toilet. Those things happened but it started long before then, the moment Zayn saw Harry at the auditions, he knows now. All of those people in the queue – thousands and thousands of them – and Zayn saw Harry. He didn’t know it at the time, but Zayn was done for then, the moment he saw Harry ahead of him and rolled his eyes at his stupid scarf but then couldn’t look away as he watched his curls collapse in the rain.

Zayn knows now that he didn’t stand a chance – Harry the tornado and him the wooden house in his path – but at the time he thought it was nothing, that Harry was just a face in the crowd. But then Simon was putting them in a band together and before he could catch his breath, Harry was hugging him. A guy had never hugged him like that. Harry held on, his cheekbone digging into Zayn’s, and when Zayn tried to hold on, too, it started then, he thinks, because it feels like he hasn’t been able to catch his breath since.

He still thought it was nothing, though, that Harry hugged everyone like that. It didn’t mean anything. That’s what he told himself every time Harry hugged him or every time he pulled him into the corner of a club. Zayn blamed the free drinks and told himself that Harry didn’t realise that he was holding on so tight, that his fingers had slipped under the collar of his shirt to stroke the tattoo running along his collarbone. But then Harry would pull him closer and press his mouth to his ear, his breath hot and quick, making Zayn shiver at the tickle of each word and the promise of his tongue if he just leaned an inch closer. Then Harry would look at him, mouth curling into a smile that was kind of sweet but mostly not, and Zayn would tell himself that it was nothing.

He thought it was nothing.

 

+++

 

Zayn doesn’t know if they’re getting braver or more stupid, but he suspects the latter as he lets Harry lead him towards the front of the yacht. ‘Here?’ he frowns, when Harry stops at the bow and looks out at the flat blue ocean stretching out to touch the even bluer sky. There’s a burst of laughter and Zayn’s nerves jump up as he looks over his shoulder, but Harry just grins and when Zayn turns back, he presses a kiss to his mouth.

The shock of it makes him gasp and step on his toes as Harry pulls him to him, but when he recovers, Zayn takes his face in his hands. Harry’s just been for a swim, so Zayn can taste the salt on his lips and it makes his mouth water as he runs his tongue along his bottom lip. Harry takes the hint, parting them, and when their tongues touch, Zayn immediately forgets about the huddle of people at the stern and just kisses him.

Zayn’s known Harry for so long now that he’s stopped counting, but he still surprises him. Like then, usually they’d be kissing fiercely, Harry’s hand in his shorts stroking Zayn until he was panting against his mouth and his nails were leaving dents on Harry’s shoulders, tiny half-moons that disappear a few second later. But they kiss slowly, as though they have all the time in the world and can’t hear their friends laughing and jumping into the water. And Zayn can’t hear them, all he can hear is Harry and that noise he makes when he kisses him – somewhere between a gasp and a sigh – and that’s all he wants to hear as he slides his tongue over Harry’s so he makes it again.

Maybe it’s because it’s too hot to do anything else, the midday sun beating down on them, making Zayn’s skin feel too tight, or maybe it’s the steady bob of the yacht, but something about it is different. Harry isn’t being restless, trying to kiss him and lick him and bite him all at once, like he usually does, and Zayn isn’t doing everything he can to hold on. This is why it feels like he hasn’t been able to catch his breath since they met, because this is what Harry does: he catches him off guard. It’s as if they’re always moving – always shifting – like water finding its level. As soon as Zayn thinks they’re one thing, they’re something else. They’re strangers then bandmates then friends then whatever the hell they are now and sometimes Zayn wonders if they were ever any of those things because Harry has never felt like a stranger or a bandmate or a friend.

Zayn doesn’t know what they are and maybe he never will, but right now they’re kissing and he just wants to let himself enjoy it, to let himself melt under Harry’s fingers as he moves his hands from Harry’s face into his wet hair. Warm drops of seawater spill off his palms and down his wrists as he fists his hands in it, making him shiver, and it must make Harry shiver as well because his tongue stutters for a second, before continuing it’s slow curl around Zayn’s. His hands move down to cup Zayn’s arse, pulling him closer. When he does, Zayn becomes suddenly aware of the fact that they’re topless and he can’t help but grind into him as Harry’s nipples catch on his own.

He wishes that Harry would put his hand in his shorts then, wrap his restless fingers around him and tell them that they have to hurry, his voice low and cock tinglingly rough. He wishes that it wasn’t, but that’s how it always is between them – a rush. But Zayn loves it, too, how they can’t wait. How they won’t wait. Last week they did it in the dark of a car park, Harry bent over someone’s car. Zayn could only be bothered to tug Harry’s jeans down to his knees before he rolled a condom on and thrust into him so hard that Harry’s feet left the tarmac. Harry opened his mouth and when no sound came out, Zayn thought that he’d hurt him and stopped, but Harry reached back to grab his shirt. ‘Don’t you fucking stop,’ he told him. He didn’t and standing on the yacht, Zayn suddenly remembers every detail, the yacht bobbing like the car rocked, the cold clatter of the rigging as the sail flutters reminding him of the sound his belt buckle made against the car each time he fucked into him.

Zayn wants to do that to him again, wants Harry on his knees, his pink pink lips around him, but he wants that, too, to just kiss him as the sun warms his back. Zayn can smell the coconut of the sun cream Harry’s been asking him rub into his back all day and when he does, he can’t resist peeling his mouth away. Harry sighs as he does, sighing again when Zayn kisses down his neck, stopping to run his tongue along his collarbone – across then back again – before mouthing his left shoulder. He licks away the drops of seawater the sun hasn’t burned away, his mouth wet again at the taste of him as Harry runs his hand up his back, writing secret messages across his skin with his finger. Then Zayn kisses him again because it feels like such a luxury. Not just a day off or even being on that yacht in the middle of the ocean, but having ten minutes to themselves without Harry’s phone ringing or having to spring apart because they think they hear someone coming. But Harry pulls away, his lips still parted and his eyes half-closed as he dips his head to press another few pecks on Zayn’s mouth.

‘Let’s run away,’ he says sleepily, turning to face the ocean, his back against Zayn’s chest. ‘Let’s just swim and see where we end up.’

‘I can’t swim, remember?’ Zayn says, putting his arms around his waist.

Harry’s head falls back onto his shoulder. ‘But would you? If you could?’

Zayn dips his head and kisses him again because he tries not to think about the things he’d do if he could because it’ll drive him mad if he lets it. He used to. He used to lie in bed, the sweat cooling on his skin as Harry looked for his other shoe, and wonder where they were headed because it felt like Harry was driving them towards a brick wall sometimes. Now he just goes with it. He lets Harry sweep him off and wherever they end up, they end up. He can’t fight it any more. He can’t keep pretending to be asleep every night as Harry tugs on his clothes, not bothering to button his jeans in his haste to leave.

It is what it is and Zayn’s made his peace with that so if all he gets is to kiss him for a few minutes under the midday sun, so be it. If he could, he’d laugh about it, because he has no idea how this kid – man now, he supposes – who can never find his phone and apologises to furniture when he bumps into it has such a firm grip on him. But he does and Zayn will take whatever he can get, even if it’s a slow smile from the other side of a room or if he has to make a show of stopping Harry when they’re getting off the bus to rebutton his shirt properly so he has an excuse to touch him, even if it’s just his button.

The lads wind them up. They laugh and say they’re cute or poke them when they get lost in a conversation halfway through an interview, but they don’t know. They know that Zayn and Harry, the Zayn and Harry who are always talking, always saying things to make each other laugh, but they don’t know about the things they don’t say. The secret things Zayn will only let himself mouth into Harry’s skin when he knows he can’t hear.

All the things he can’t.

 

+++

 

 

Their first kiss was a dare, during a game of Spin the Bottle of all things. Zayn hadn’t played it since he was fourteen and had no desire to, concluding that if they managed to get the girls they’d met in the hotel bar to his room, the deal was done. But he guessed it was Harry’s attempt to get the girls to kiss, which Zayn had no objection to, so he went with it. Besides, he was two drinks past the point of being able to tell them apart, so it was kind of nice, taking it in turns with them while Harry watched. And Zayn watched him too, watched Harry’s hand stray further each time, so when it finally disappeared under one of their dresses, Zayn thought that was it. He was glad because he was already half-hard, so hearing her breathing shallow as the skirt of her dress fluttered was making it difficult to focus on the cigarette he was smoking, but just as he gestured at the other girl, Harry stopped and checked his watch, ‘Was that a minute?’

The poor girl in his lap was bewildered, her cheeks red as Harry lifted her off him, sitting her on the floor next to him. He looked across at Zayn with a grin as he reached out and spun the champagne bottle again. It landed on Zayn and when it did, Harry threw his head back and laughed. Zayn’s heart stopped. He knew that laugh – it was the way Harry laughed when someone jumped up as he dropped an ice cube down their back or charged into his room asking for their underwear back, a laugh of utter mischief and joy – so Zayn knew that he was up to something.

‘You don’t have to,’ one of the girls said, but Harry was already on his hands and knees, crawling towards him with a filthy smirk. Zayn barely had time to stub out his cigarette before he was in his lap and when he realised that he was actually going to do it – Harry was actually going to kiss him – he squeezed his eyes shut and laughed. Harry cupped his face with his hands and Zayn laughed again, too loud and too gleeful, the way he laughs when Louis takes the piss out of him so he won’t think he doesn’t have a sense of humour. It made Harry laugh as well, but he meant it, his whole body shaking as he pressed his thumbs into Zayn’s cheeks and told him to keep still.

The kiss was silly, a clumsy mess of giggles that made Zayn want to stop and hug him more than anything. They were laughing so much their mouths kept missing, but when they finally aligned, Harry tilted his head and slipped his tongue past Zayn’s lips. He wasn’t expecting it, so gasped, his hands reaching up to cup Harry’s elbows. As soon as he touched him, Harry rolled his hips and it made Zayn rise off the floor to meet them. Then it wasn’t funny any more. Zayn tilted his head and when their tongues touched, he slipped his hands into the back pockets of Harry’s jeans and pulled him closer. That made Harry dig his fingers into his cheeks, their tongues curling until Zayn was shaking.

All he could do after that was try to hold on because he’d never kissed someone like that before. Kissed them like he couldn’t stop, his heart spinning and spinning and spinning like a bicycle with no brakes tearing down a hill.

‘Do you want us to go?’ Zayn heard one of the girls say and when Harry pulled away, it was all he could do not to grab him and kiss him again. But Harry just laughed – wild and bright – his gaze still on Zayn as she pulled him out of his lap.

 

+++

 

Harry headed to his room, giving Zayn one last look over his shoulder before the girl he was with tugged him away. Zayn can’t even remember her name, not that it matters – he didn’t shag her – but he recalls the girl who stayed with him was called Nicola.

She was the sweetest thing and different from Harry in every way. Her hair was paper straight and blonde on top, doll’s hair blonde, and pink underneath, and she was tiny, all soft and smooth and delicate. Not like Harry with his chapped lips and big hands, so Zayn doesn’t know why he thought of him the moment before he came, thought how Nicola, all warm and wet around him, felt like the inside of Harry’s mouth then came so hard it brought tears to his eyes. He didn’t want to think why, just like, back when they shared a room and he’d hear Harry’s quick, short breaths when he thought Zayn was asleep, he didn’t want to think why he put his hand under the duvet as well. The sound of Harry coming, of his choked gasps as his head rose then fell onto the pillow, always made him come too and Zayn didn’t like to think about that, either.

As soon as Nicola left, his phone rang and he panicked, thinking he’d given her his number in a post-shag stupor. But it was Harry.

‘She gone?’

‘Yeah,’ Zayn said with a yawn, hauling himself out of the bed and looking down at all the crap on the floor for his cigarettes.

‘How was it?’

‘Alright.’

‘It sounded like she was enjoying herself.’

‘Were you listening?’ he frowned, seeing the white and gold box on the rug and reaching down for it. ‘You little perv.’

‘We share a wall.’ He laughed, clearly unrepentant. ‘It’s hard not to.’

‘What did you hear?’

‘Not much. Just her saying your name a lot.’

‘Well, I didn’t hear a thing, two minute wonder,’ Zayn smirked, lighting a cigarette and padding back to bed with the ashtray.

‘She left very satisfied, I’ll have you know.’

‘Yeah, yeah.’

‘So what was she like?’

‘Go to bed, Harry,’ Zayn told him, climbing back into his own.

‘Oh come on.’ He purred. ‘I’m not tired.’

‘Watch a film or something.’

‘I wanna talk.’

‘About what?’

‘About her.’

‘What about her?’ Zayn asked, putting his hand behind his head and lying back.

‘You know what.’

He sounded different. Weird. ‘Haz, you alright?’

‘I like your voice like that.’

‘Like what?’

‘Are you smoking?’

‘Yeah,’ Zayn said, blowing a smoke ring towards the ceiling.

‘It’s hot.’

‘What is?’

‘Just fucked Zayn.’

He chuckled. ‘Go to bed, Harry.’

‘I’m already in bed.’ He sounded weird again, his breath shorter. It took Zayn a moment or two, but when he realised why, he almost choked on his cigarette.

‘Harry, are you?’

‘She wouldn’t leave,’ he stopped to lick his lips, Zayn heard it, even down the phone, and it made his cock stir. ‘Not without Nicola. So we just kind of sat here, talking, and that’s when we heard you. It made me hard again so she sucked me off.’

Harry’s breathing bottoms out and it makes Zayn’s eyes swim out of focus.

‘Harry-’

‘Please, Zayn. I’m close.’

‘What do you want me to say?’

‘Just talk.’

‘About what?’ he breathed, his heart beating very slowly.

‘Was she tight?’

The shock of it made Zayn’s hands shake, the ash from his cigarette spilling over his knuckles onto his bare stomach.

‘Jesus, Harry,’ he muttered, stubbing it out then brushing the ash away.

‘Come on. Tell me. I’m so close.’

‘Yeah,’ Zayn before he could stop himself and he shouldn’t have said that.

He should have said that.

‘How did you fuck her?’

He closed his eyes. ‘Harry, don’t.’

‘Please,’ he said, his voice low and rough, and something in him buckled.

‘From behind, then her on top.’

‘Where?’

Zayn lost time with his breath for a second as he closed his eyes and reached for his cock. He stroked himself slowly – steadily – trying to control his breathing so Harry wouldn’t hear and just like that, they were back in their old room, Zayn pretending not to hear what Harry was doing as he got off on the sound of it. But then he heard Harry’s breath hitch and he had to move the phone away from his mouth as his did the same.

‘Where, Zayn?’ he pushed.

‘The bed,’ he forces out and he can’t stop the sharp breath that follows as he imagines Harry on his, his eyes closed. ‘What about you?’

‘Oh God, are you?’

‘Just tell me, Harry.’

‘Against the door then on the floor, me on top. I made her keep her shoes on.’

Zayn remembered the black heels she was wearing and his hips jerked. ‘Fuck.’

‘Where are you?’

‘On the bed.’

‘On top of the sheets?’

‘Yeah.’

Harry went quiet, his breathing heavier, and Zayn was sure that he could hear him through the phone, but then he realised it was him as he fisted himself furiously. He couldn’t remember the last time he touched himself like that. Not since he left home and he’d wank off on the chair in his bedroom, fierce and focused on whatever he’d found online to get him hard, desperate to come before his mother got home from work.

‘Zayn, are you close?’

‘Yeah,’ he said with a defeated sigh, biting down on his bottom lip. And he was close, so close that he was weak with it and melting into the sheets.

‘Me too.’

Harry started panting and Zayn could have got off on the sound of that alone, but he licked his lips and said, ‘Are you thinking about her?’

‘No.’

‘Who?’

‘You,’ Harry whimpered as though it hurt to say it.

‘Me?’ Zayn held his breath, a bead of sweat rolling from his temple into his ear.

‘You.’

Zayn started shaking then. He didn’t have the strength to say anything else, his whole world narrowing to the sound of Harry breathing and the orgasm that was about to tear through him. But, just as he was about to come, Harry said, ‘If you were here.’

Zayn’s eyelids popped open. ‘What?’

‘If you were here,’ he gasped and it sounded like gibberish, as though he didn’t even know that he was saying it out loud, but Zayn had to know.

‘Say it, Harry.’

‘I’d let you come in my mouth.’

Harry gasped one last time and the sound of it, of the series of quick, helpless breaths that followed, made Zayn come so hard he blacked out.

 

+++

 

The next morning it was as though nothing had happened, Harry bounding around with last day of school glee and wrestling with Niall at breakfast because he stole his last piece of bacon. Even on the tour bus he was fine, Harry finding Zayn on the sofa at the back and pulling the magazine out of his hands as he plonked down next to him. Zayn blinked at him when he did, but there was nothing, not even a flicker of uneasiness as Harry ate a grape, then fed him one. When he opened the flap on one of the aftershave ads and rubbed it against his wrist, Zayn stared at him, wondering if he’d imagined the night before, like a fever dream. But then, two weeks later, when they were on leave, Harry in London and Zayn at home for his cousin’s wedding, he called again.

‘What are you wearing?’ he said as soon as Zayn answered.

He chuckled, rubbing his eyes. ‘Hello, Harry. What can I do for you at 1 a.m.?’

‘I’m drunk.’

‘Good for you. I was asleep.’

‘Naked?’

‘Might be.’

‘Text me a picture.’

‘What? So you can put it on Instagram?’

‘No. For my own personal use.’

Zayn couldn’t help but smile sleepily. ‘Oh yeah?’

‘Yeah. Come on.’

‘Come on what?’

‘You know what,’ Harry said, his voice deep and wicked, and when Zayn heard his belt buckle through the phone, his heart slowed to a throb.

‘What are you doing, Harry?’

‘You don’t even need to say anything. Just listen.’

‘Harry, don’t,’ he said through his teeth, lifting his head to look at the living room door. ‘I’m on the sofa. My little sister watches SpongeBob SquarePants on this sofa.’

‘Don’t say SpongeBob SquarePants. You’re killing my boner.’

‘Harry.’

‘Go to your room, then.’

‘I can’t. Waliyha sleeps in my room now.’

‘I don’t care,’ he snapped, slurring. ‘I’m in the men’s toilet at the Queen of Hoxton and there’s someone waiting to do a shit so get me the fuck off.’

‘Harry.’ Zayn gasped, stunned, then winced and looked at the living room door again as he hoped that wasn't as loud as he thought it was.

‘Come on.’

‘Harry, stop it.’

‘I can’t,’ he said, his voice weaker and his breath heavier. ‘Please.’

Zayn covered his eyes with his hand. ‘What are we doing?’

‘I dunno about you, but I’m having a wank in a pub toilet thinking about your mouth.’

‘My mouth?’

‘I wanna fuck it so bad. It’s all I can think about.’

Zayn moved his hand down to his mouth.

‘You still there?’

Zayn nodded.

‘Are you nodding?’

He nodded again.

‘You don’t have to say anything, okay?’ Harry breathed. ‘Just listen okay?’

He nodded again.

‘Are you hard?’

‘Yeah.’

Harry’s breath got even quicker. ‘Touch yourself.’

Zayn did as he was told, his hand slipping under the elastic of his underwear to curl around his erection. His fingers were cold so as soon as he touched himself a low groan rolled out of him. Harry mirrored him, his belt buckle rattling again.

‘That good, yeah?’

Zayn closed his eyes. ‘Just keep talking.’

‘Wish I was there,’ he panted, his breath coming out in swift, uneven gasps.

‘Yeah?’

‘Yeah. Wanna fuck your mouth.’

Zayn almost dropped his phone as his back arched off the sofa at the thought.

‘Wanna come on your face.’ Harry whispered. ‘Gonna let me come on your face?’

‘Shit, Harry.’

‘Wanna see my come in your eyelashes.’

Zayn pressed his lips together to swallow back a moan, but Harry heard.

‘Don’t come yet.’ He warned. ‘Don’t you fucking come.’

‘I’m close.’

‘Have you ever?’ He stopped to suck in a breath. ‘With a guy? Have you ever?’

‘No.’

‘Wanna be your first.’ He sighed, satisfied. ‘Gonna be your first.’

‘Yeah?’

‘Yeah. Want you to be my first.’

‘Yeah?’

‘Yeah. Want you to fuck me so bad.’

Zayn tipped his head so far back on the pillow, his head was over the arm.

‘You gonna take me home and fuck me on that sofa?’

‘I’m close, Harry.’

‘You gonna fuck me on that sofa, huh?’ Harry said again, but it was all breath this time, the words softening to whisper. ‘Fuck me over the arm?’

‘Harry.’

They panted together for a few moments and Zayn wondered if Harry was holding on, too, if he was holding on so hard he was sweating.

‘Can I?’ Zayn gasped, gulping at air, sure he was going to pass out. ‘Please, Harry.’

‘Not yet. Not until you tell me something.’

‘Anything.’ Zayn licked his lips. ‘Anything.’

‘Tell me what you want.’

‘You.’

‘Say it again.’

‘You.’

‘Where?’

‘Here.’

‘When?’

‘Now.’

‘Do you know what I’m going to do to you when I next see you?’

Harry didn’t finish, both of them coming, sudden and messy, at the promise of it. But again, when they saw each other a couple of days later, Harry acted like nothing happened, asking about the wedding and complaining about the sunburn he got on his nose from sitting outside a pub in Primrose Hill with Nick all day. Zayn was thoroughly confused, so when he was woken up by his phone at 3 a.m. and saw that it was Harry, he didn’t answer it. He called back, of course, and kept calling until Zayn answered.

‘What?’

Harry laughed. ‘Even when you’re angry you’re hot.’

Zayn hung up and when he switched his phone off, Harry called the hotel phone.

He snatched it out of the cradle. ‘Fuck off, Harry!’

‘No, fuck me, Zayn.’

His cock responded immediately and only Harry could do that with four words.

‘Can’t you just use YouPorn like a normal person and let me get some sleep?’ Zayn said, rolling onto his back with a sigh.

Harry laughed again, light and happy and obviously drunk. ‘This is more fun.’

‘It really isn’t.’

‘No one makes you come like me.’

‘Don’t flatter yourself.’

‘I’m not. We share a wall, remember?’

‘I’m hanging up now.’

‘If I can make you come that hard and I’m not even touching you, imagine what I can do with my mouth?’

‘Harry, don’t.’

There was a knock on the door and Zayn sat up. ‘That better not be you.’

‘Don’t you want to find out?’

When he didn’t respond, Harry knocked again and it made each of Zayn’s nerves jump up at once. ‘What are you doing?’

‘Let me in and you’ll find out.’

‘What are you gonna do?’

‘I don’t know. That’s the point.’

‘Harry, we can’t,’ he told him, his scalp shivering.

‘I think we already are.’

He was right, they were. So Zayn can curse himself now, when he’s waiting for Harry to call, or when he wakes up to find him gone, but he and Harry collided long before he opened the door that night. Zayn was just so distracted by the band, by where they were going and where they’d end up, that he was blindsided by Harry, but he’s in his life in every way he can be, not just by his side but under his skin and in his blood.

So he opened the door.

As soon as he did, Harry was on him. Zayn staggered back, trying not to step on his phone as Harry let go of it to reach for his face. As Harry lifted his arms, the sheet he was wrapped in unravelled and fluttered to their feet. Zayn knew then that Harry was naked, but their chests touching – skin on skin, tattoos on tattoos – was still a shock and it made his hands shake as he wondered what to do with them. Zayn wanted to touch him, to step back and look at him, take him all in and run a finger around the line that circled his hip where his skin suddenly went from pale to paler. But Zayn just stood there, hands hovering over his shoulders as Harry licked his way into his mouth.

They tried to make it to the bed, but couldn’t, collapsing to the floor in a heap, Harry on top of him, and Zayn should have known it would be like that, that Harry would be everywhere. It felt like his mouth was on Zayn’s throat and his jaw and his shoulder, all at once, the hot, hot heat of his breath making his skin weep. Zayn wanted to do the same, to lick him and taste him. Lap him up. But Harry wouldn’t keep still, his mouth moving down to Zayn’s chest a second after he grabbed at his hair or pinning Zayn’s wrist to the rug when Zayn tried to hold his hand.

Then Harry’s fingers were under the elastic of Zayn’s underwear, tugging them down with no warning – no preamble – just a sharp breath, when he discovered that Zayn was hard. ‘See what I do to you?’ Harry sighed, then his mouth was on him, and Zayn’s sure he levitated off the floor, his blood fizzing under his skin and every cell in his body spitting then spinning like catherine wheels as he said Harry’s name.

He thinks he said Harry’s name, but he can’t be sure, everything that followed nonsense as Harry wrapped his hand around the base of his cock and started sucking. He lifted his head off the rug to look at him and Harry had never looked so beautiful, his eyes closed and his cheeks hollow as he took as much of him in his mouth as he could. Zayn watched him, watched the skin between his eyebrows pinch as he concentrated on doing it right and his curls go limp with sweat. Harry had to stop after a little while, pulling back with a gasp, his lips obscenely red, but before Zayn could ask if he was okay, Harry took him in his mouth again, a little deeper this time. So all Zayn could do was let go again, his head falling back onto the rug. And it was kind of like their first kiss, sloppy and overexcited, but still the most incredible, impossibly perfect thing he’d ever felt. But just when he neared the edge, Harry stopped and crawled up his body.

‘Taste that?’ he breathed, dipping his tongue into Zayn’s mouth. Zayn could, his whole body shuddering, but before he could press his mouth to Harry’s again, Harry rolled off him and onto his back next to him. ‘Fuck my mouth.’

He lifted his heavy eyelids to look at him and Zayn almost came.

‘What?’

‘Fuck my mouth.’

‘But we-’ Zayn panted. ‘I-’ He stopped for breath again, blinking furiously as his eyes swam back into focus. ‘Don’t you want to take it slow?’

‘Never,’ Harry said with a smile, gesturing at him to get on his knees.

Zayn hesitated, his bones shivering as he contemplated what Harry was asking him to do. But when he managed to peel himself off the floor, Harry took him by the hips and pulled him closer, telling Zayn to straddle him. He did, the muscles in his thighs throbbing as he put his knees on either side of Harry’s head on the floor.

‘You sure?’ Zayn asked, the air con a sweet relief on his sweat sticky back as he leaned an arm forward to steady himself on the bed.

‘Just do it,’ Harry breathed, closing his eyes and licking his lips.

Zayn almost lost it again, but managed to put a shaky hand around his cock and lean forward to guide it into Harry’s mouth. He felt the smooth curve of his bottom lip first then his tongue, rough and flat, then it was all he could do not to start thrusting. Now he does. Now he doesn’t even think about it, just grabs Harry’s hair and fucks his mouth until he can feel his throat fluttering around him. But that night he was careful – unaware of Harry’s limits – sliding his cock out slowly and asking again if he was sure.

‘Don’t worry you’ll be returning the favour later,’ Harry said with a wicked smile that made Zayn smile as well as he eased his cock back into his mouth. Harry groaned as he did and when Zayn felt the hum of it in his bones, he did it again and again and again, slowly, slowly, so slowly it made his back ache. Then faster and deeper until he couldn’t stop, until he had one hand in Harry’s hair and the other on the bed in front of him as he thrust into him. He was aware of Harry beneath him, perfectly still, but not quite. Zayn realised that he was jerking himself off and wanted to let go of the bed, to lean back and do it for him, but he couldn’t because he was close – close, so close – sweat dripping from the ends of his hair and down the back of his neck as he gave into it.

‘Please, Harry,’ he gasped. And he didn’t even know what he was asking him for, but when he came, it felt like he was coming undone.

 

+++

 

Zayn couldn’t stop it then, not that he ever really tried, looking back on it now. He could have, though. He didn’t have to open the door every time Harry knocked, but he did, and within minutes they’d be tangled up in each other, mouths gasping for mouths and hands reaching for hands and it was incredible. Bonnie and Clyde incredible. We’re-going-to-live-forever incredible. When they went out, every song the DJ played was for them, every star was out for them. They would drink and sing and kiss around corners and Harry would look at Zayn like he was the only one in the room, like the only one on the planet. It should have scared him, but Zayn couldn’t help but feel lucky, as though he’d worked out the meaning of life or something, because he’d never loved anyone like that. It was the sort of love that could cure cancer and end wars and he didn’t know how long it was going to last so he kept telling himself to enjoy it.

But he couldn’t, not with Harry coming and going like a ghost every night, reaching for him in the dark then not being there when Zayn woke up. And it didn’t matter what they did the night before, if Zayn fucked him, the heel of his palm between his shoulder blades pinning him to the bed until Harry was biting his name into the pillow, or if he made Harry wait until he was begging, tears in his eyes, the next morning Harry would act like nothing happened. And Zayn began to think he was going crazy, that he was imagining it, like a mad man hearing things through the walls. But then he’d find a bruise on his hip in the shower and press his finger to it just so he could feel the sting, because it was the only evidence that Harry wanted him.

The fucked up thing was, Zayn never thought it was because Harry didn’t care about him. He does – so much – but that was the problem: they’re so a part of each other’s lives that Harry would never acknowledge that he needed Zayn in the same way that he would never acknowledge that he needed his lungs. They were just there.

And so was Zayn.

‘What do you want, Harry?’ he asked him once, as he watched him getting dressed.

He turned to look at him, hand on his belt, and when he blinked slowly, Zayn was sure that he didn’t get what he trying to ask. But then he smiled.

‘Everything,’ Harry said, peeling his t-shirt off again and climbing back onto the bed.

That’s the problem, Zayn thought when he leaned down and kissed him. Harry wants to do everything and see everything and be everything people want him to be. He doesn’t sit still. If they’re in a restaurant, he’s talking to the waitress about her kids, or if they’re on the bus, he’s at the window, taking a photo of a funny billboard. There isn’t a swimming pool he won’t jump in, a line he won’t run across. Zayn can’t keep up. He’s the one always waiting for him to call or to knock, so after a while, he stopped trying to. He’d lie in his still, dark hotel room, because he couldn’t bear to watch Harry, all loud and bright and alive, running around with Lux or in the swimming pool with Niall, and not be able to touch him, to claim him with a long, deep kiss. But eventually Harry would find him, get his key card from Paul and sneak into his room.

‘You’re missing it,’ he’d say, lying on top of Zayn, nose in his hair.

‘Missing what?’

‘Everything.’

And there was that word again. But after a few minutes, when Harry drifted off to sleep, one hand in Zayn’s, it didn’t feel like he was missing anything at all.

Zayn wanted it to be like that forever, just the two of them, on a bed, in a room that no one knew about, but that’s not what love is about. It’s not something you can keep locked in a room. Not that Harry would let him. Sometimes, Zayn felt like he lived his life on the head of a pin while Harry lived everywhere, all at once, in every corner, every crevice. When he was in London, he wanted to be in Paris and when he was Paris he was asking Zayn what he thought Brazil would be like. Zayn would look at him sometimes, when he was flitting around the tour bus, laughing at something Louis was saying or pulling a face to make Lux laugh, and it was like he was a butterfly that had found his way in through an open window. One day he’d find his way back out again, Zayn knew, so that’s why he hid in his room, because he didn’t want to watch him go.

So, that night, when they get off the yacht and head back to Simon’s house, Zayn doesn’t wait for him to knock and sits by the pool because he thinks it’s the last place Harry will think to look for him. But of course he finds him and it’s moments like that when Zayn’s sure he could hide at the ends of the Earth and Harry would still find him.

‘How much did I drink?’ He grins. ‘‘Cos I swear you have your feet in the pool.’

Zayn smiles weakly and goes back to staring at it.

‘You alright?’ Harry says softly, sitting next to him and tugging up his jeans so that he can dunk his bare feet in the water. ‘You’ve been quiet since we got back, mate.’

Zayn stiffens. He hates it when Harry calls him mate. Hates it. It’s what he calls everyone and every time he says it, Zayn wants to say, Alright, I get it. We’re just friends.

But he just shrugs. ‘Tired.’

‘Hey,’ Harry says, his voice even softer as he leans over to press a kiss to Zayn’s shoulder. He’s wearing a tank top, so feeling his mouth on his skin makes him jump.

‘Don’t,’ Zayn says, shuffling along the edge of the pool. ‘Someone will see.’

‘It’s 3 a.m. Everyone’s asleep.’

‘Let’s not risk it, yeah?’

Harry rolls his eyes and sighs. ‘You still pissed about the photo thing?’

‘No,’ Zayn says, but it kicks at him again as he thinks about it, he and Harry at the bow of the yacht earlier, kissing until their shoulders were sunburnt, then Harry pulling away to take a photograph on his phone. Not of Zayn, of course (he never takes photos of him) but of a bird wheeling above them. And just like that Harry wasn’t there any more.

He holds up a finger. ‘It was one photo, Zayn. One.’

‘You give me nothing. I get, like, this much.’ Zayn hears the crack in his voice and stops, turning his head to snatch his cigarettes from the edge of the pool and lights one so he has something to do with his hands. ‘You couldn’t give me ten minutes.’

Harry is quiet for a moment, watching as Zayn takes a pull on the cigarette and blows it back out, then leans over and kisses his shoulder again. ‘I’m sorry.’

‘It doesn’t matter.’

‘It does.’

‘Just forget it.’ Zayn shakes his head, furious at himself for saying something because what’s Harry going to say? Whatever it is won’t be enough.

‘I know the photo thing is annoying.’ He sighs heavily. ‘But all of this is amazing and I know it isn’t going to last forever. I just want to capture every second of it.’

‘I thought I was the pessimistic one?’

‘It’s not supposed to last forever. That’s why it’s amazing.’

Harry lifts his eyelashes to look at him and it’s like he’s punched Zayn right through his chest.

He nods, stubbing out his cigarette. ‘Okay. Got it.’

‘Got what?’

When Zayn goes to stand up, Harry stops him. ‘Got what? What did I say?’

‘I got it. You and me, we’re not supposed to last forever.’

Harry looks horrified. ‘I didn’t say that at all.’

‘I know what you meant.’

Harry shakes his head and now he’s furious, Zayn realises, so angry that he can’t speak. It turns his stomach inside out because this is why he's not supposed to say these things out loud, because this only works if he doesn’t say these things out loud.

He doesn’t know what to say – he’s fucked it up – so he’s about to stand up, when Harry leans forward and dives into the pool. Zayn watches, startled, as he comes back to the surface with a gasp, standing up and sweeping his hair back with his hands.

‘Harry, what are you doing?’

‘Get in.’

Zayn looks at him like he’s insane. ‘Like fuck.’

‘Get in,’ he tells him again, walking back to where Zayn is sitting. He’s all in black so it makes the pool look even bluer. ‘Get in or I’ll pull you in.’

Zayn’s gaze narrows. ‘You wouldn’t dare.’

‘Try me.’

Zayn has never been one to respond to threats, so turns to stand up, but Harry grabs his leg. His heart stops like it’s been dropped on the floor. ‘Don’t you fucking dare!’

Harry doesn’t let go. ‘Get in.’

‘Why are you doing this?’

‘Please, just get in.’

Harry’s face softens and it makes something in Zayn soften – always does – so he looks out at the kidney-shaped swimming pool. It makes him a little dizzy, but he tries to ration with himself, noting that Harry can stand up and the water’s only halfway up his chest so it can’t be that deep. And it’s still, not like the sea, choppy and changeable, so he takes a deep breath and curls his fingers around the concrete lip he’s sitting on.

‘Don’t splash me, yeah?’

Harry shakes his head. ‘Never.’

He takes a step forward as Zayn reluctantly begins to ease himself into the water, watching him with a frown, his hands out, and it makes Zayn think of the first time his father took him to the park and he rode his bicycle without the training wheels. Zayn closes his eyes as the water begins to swallow him up, but that makes it worse because then all he can feel is the water against his skin, somehow light and heavy, all at once. So he opens them as he starts shaking and he doesn’t know if that’s fear or Harry or some combination of the two, but he starts to panic when his toes try to find the bottom of the pool and can’t. He can’t help but kick, the sudden splash making his heart jump up in his chest and he thinks that he’s going to fall, but Harry grabs him.

‘It’s okay,’ Harry says gently, hands on his waist, guiding him in until his toes find the bottom and with one last deep breath, his feet are flat against the smooth tile.

Harry takes Zayn’s hand, letting him get used to the cold water lapping around him, seeping into clothes, making his jeans feel too heavy and his tank top stick to his back. Then Harry starts walking and when Zayn realises that he’s leading him deeper into the pool, he pulls away, his head spinning as he almost loses his footing.

‘No fucking way.’

Harry holds his hands up. ‘Do you trust me?’

‘No,’ Zayn hisses, but he does, so when Harry reaches for his hand again, he lets him lead him further into the pool, feet bobbing unsteadily on the floor with each step.

Zayn can feel the water creeping up his chest and his heart is hiccupping he’s so scared, but just when he thinks that he has to stop, Harry does and turns him so his back is against the wall. It’s so solid that it calms him for a moment, but when he realises that the water is almost at his chin, he starts shaking his head. He’s about to tell Harry that he needs to get out when Harry lifts him up and puts his hands under his knees, hooking them on his hips. Zayn gasps, grabbing Harry’s shoulders, but when he steps forward so Zayn’s back is against the wall, he suddenly feels more steady, his heart slowing to a rate less likely to kill him as he closes his eyes and takes a deep breath. When he opens his eyes again, Zayn realises that they’re just under the edge of the pool and knows then why Harry wants to stand there: because no one can see them. That relaxes him as well, and he wraps his arms around his neck, pulling him closer.

‘You’re shaking,’ Harry says, kissing his cheek. ‘Are you scared?’

Zayn nods.

‘I’m not trying to scare you.’ Harry frowns. ‘But it’s the only way I could think of to show you how much you scare me.’

It’s Zayn’s turn to frown. ‘How much I scare you?’

‘Yeah. You.’ Harry nudges him with his nose. ‘You scare the life out of me.’

‘How?’

‘You make me want to stay still.’

‘What do you mean?’

Harry looks up at Simon’s house then back at him. ‘You make me want to give this all up. Buy a house and a Volvo. Get a dog.’

Zayn smiles, loose and clumsy. ‘A dog?’

‘A yellow lab called Alan.’

‘Alan?’

‘After that guitar tech on the last tour, Dave whathisname.’

‘Oh shit, Alan Flynn? He totally looked like a yellow lab.’

Zayn laughs then Harry nudges him with his nose again.

‘When was the last time I took a photo of you?’

That stings. Never, he wants to say, but looks down at the silver crucifix around Harry’s neck and stares at it in case he does.

‘I don’t remember,’ he says instead.

‘I do. It was the day you came back on tour after your aunt died, remember?’

Zayn nods, his heart throbbing at the memory as he lifts his chin to look at him.

‘I don’t take photos of you because you’re not going anywhere. You are the one thing in all of this that I won’t need to remember.’

Harry tilts his head and kisses him softly on the mouth. It makes Zayn's eyelashes flutter and when Harry pulls back, he looks at him, then shakes his head.

‘You’re a smooth motherfucker, you know that, Mr Styles?’

And he really is, which is surprising given he can never find his phone and apologises to furniture when he bumps into it.

 

+++

 

The next morning, Zayn does what he does every morning and reaches for Harry. He’s there this time, all warm and heavy in the bed next to him. He looks so sweet swaddled in the sheets, dark hair spilling across the pillow, that Zayn wants to take a photo of him. But then he remembers what Harry said in the pool, about the things you don’t need to remember, and as he looks at Harry sleeping next to him, that’s something he won’t need tattooed somewhere or scratched across his back, because the things you need to remember, you never forget.