Louis doesn’t think he’s the emotional, needy kind of Sub who needs a Dom to coddle him at every turn, thank you very much. He’s independent, has an (admittedly kind of useless) History degree, and is perfectly content with his job at the record store. He’s perfectly happy with his other half, the love of his life Harry Styles and they’re going to get married and have tons of kids and a house by the countryside one day.
The only days when life isn’t fine and dandy is when Harry and Louis get into one of their petty fights over Harry flirting with some Dom or Louis not cleaning up after himself again and there are slammed doors and hurt feelings and Liam gets an armful of pouting, huffy Louis while Niall takes Harry in by default.
While Zayn is relegated to making tea (tea!) for a whinging Louis who’s made a home in Liam’s arms (Not cool. Zayn’s. Off. Now.) and swears never to go back to that lying, cheating, son-of-a-bitch ever again.
In between trying to make Liam love him, looking for a job in this city, and fending off Niall’s countless advances, Zayn’s not exactly the most pleased person on earth at the spectacle on the couch now. Sure, he knows that Liam’s not interested in Louis in that way, and though Doms with multiple Subs are not exactly uncommon, Liam’s supposed to be a one Sub kinda guy, isn’t he?
It’s not his place to be jealous, he knows. After all, the younger boy has been more than kind to Zayn even after Yaser had sprung this whole betrothal thing on him. Zayn could have had it much worse, he knows - Liam could have just ignored him, or worse, used him and left him hanging. Back home, there were Doms who had four or five Subs, and Zayn always wondered how they would divide their love and time among so many clamoring for their attention at once.
If Zayn were honest, Liam’s pretty close to the faceless Dom of Zayn’s dreams. He was male, for one - and Zayn was relieved because he had realized he was gay before he presented, and was terrified that Yaser would pick a girl for him. He was tall, though not as tall as Zayn would have liked, but enough so that Zayn would have to tiptoe just a little to kiss him - if they ever got to that point, that is. Liam also had those thick, muscular arms that Zayn imagined could lift him right off the ground, toss him on any flat surface and... let’s not go there. He had always imagined he’d marry someone clever and brilliant with words, and they’d read poems and write songs together while his Dom played the piano, or the guitar - he wasn’t picky. But it turned out that Liam was better with balls than he was with books, and his grammar and spelling were honestly quite atrocious.
Still, Zayn thinks, Liam’s probably the best deal he could have gotten. Liam who gives him the literal butterflies in his stomach and who is so much like Danny in every way that Zayn can ever imagine - his patience, his willingness to hear what Zayn has to say and his earnestness. Except with Danny there were rules, and Danny expected certain behavior from his Subs that Zayn was eager to comply with. With Liam however, it’s a free-for-all - no getting up to do chores, no having to report his whereabouts at every hour of the day, no unquestioning obedience or strict routines. Hell, they rarely even take their meals on time.
And Zayn - Zayn loves this new life. Every single day was different with Liam, be it calling in favors from his Art student friends to sneak Zayn into the school’s studios, crashing Harry’s classes, or cheering Liam and Niall on from the bleachers - Zayn loves it all.
All he wants, is for Liam to feel the same way about him.
“You know Hazza would never cheat on you Lou,” Liam says reasonably.
“How would I know that?” the Sub in Liam’s arms retorts, “I saw him! He was laughing and flirting with that girl from his class, and he moved away guiltily as soon as he saw me looking.”
“You know he only flirts with them to get notes,” Liam replies as he runs a comforting hand up and down the raging Sub’s back.
“But I don’t like it!”
“I know, Lou, I know.”
“Tea?” Zayn asks pointedly and Liam shoots him a look of surprise.
“Thanks Zee,” Louis replies softly and Zayn almost feels guilty. It doesn’t stop him from sitting down quite forcefully next to Liam, as close as possible. Liam raises an eyebrow as though to ask what’s up with you but Zayn pretends not to see it in favor of glaring at the TV instead.
Niall chooses to ring the doorbell at this precise moment and Liam untangles himself from the mess of limbs to answer the door, re-enacting the same drill for what must be the 137th time in this year alone.
He isn’t disappointed. Niall’s wearing the same resigned look that Liam’s been sporting the entire afternoon, with Harry behind him looking properly chastised.
“Hazza’s got something to say to Lou,” Niall states, a tinge of amusement in his otherwise somber voice.
“Tell him I don’t wanna talk to him!” Louis says from his spot on the couch.
“Uh, he doesn’t want... ” Liam repeats before catching himself, “Hey, why am I taking orders from you? Besides, Hazza can hear you just fine.”
"I don't want to talk. Make him leave!"
There is silence for a while before Liam throws his arms up and stalks over to the couch, bodily pulling up Louis and pulling him to the doorway where Harry stands awkwardly, not knowing what to say.
“Now, talk. Seriously, this is getting out of hand,” Liam chastises, and this is the sternest that Zayn has ever heard Liam.
Harry mumbles something that Zayn can’t hear from his spot on the couch and Louis appears to soften. Liam is playing a moderator of sorts, speaking softly to the both of them, his brows slightly furrowed. Zayn can hear snatches of what sounds like act like grownups and talk it out before running out the door but honestly, he doesn’t really know what to do because now everything is awkward, the three of them are muttering, and Zayn just wants to sink into the sofa and pretend he’s not there.
He settles for heading to the kitchen, and if anybody asks, he’s just bringing out snacks for everyone.
“Here to hide from the storm?” a familiar, accented voice teases and Zayn turns back to see a grinning Niall.
“Makes two of us,” Zayn teases right back, smiling. He does like Niall, really. As a friend.
“You know, I’ve never gotten round to thanking you for getting us out of quite a spot last Friday” Niall says, “Liam told me you broke that jerk’s jaw. Impressive.”
Zayn’s fingers scratch the back of his neck embarrassedly at Niall’s praise and mumbles, “It’s nothing, really. You guys would have done the same for me.”
“I’m just going to cut to the chase here,” Niall says as he crosses the kitchen to where Zayn is, “Liam tells me that whatever you two have is just contractual, so I’m thinking I still get a chance with you. So, one date?”
“C’mon, Zayn. Just one date. If it doesn’t work out, we’ll still be friends and there’ll be no hard feelings. Live a little!”
Just one date, Zayn thinks. It doesn’t sound like an altogether terrible idea. After all, Liam did say that he needed to get out more, and Niall’s a nice enough guy. Besides, Liam had been (unintentionally) making Zayn jealous with Louis all day, it wouldn’t be all that unreasonable for Zayn to play a little hard to get sometimes, would it? Besides, what was it they had said in Sub class in high school - yeah - tantalize your Dom a little. Now Zayn has never tried that, opting instead to wear his heart on his sleeve, but hey, new city, new life right?
“Yeah. One date. One date’s fine I guess.” Zayn says.
He tries to quash the feeling of rising guilt at using Niall to attract Liam’s attention, and ignores the sick feeling in his stomach at doing something so bad and wrong and bordering on unfaithful. Sure, it’s not the way he was raised, but survivors adapt, don’t they?
“Right, I think they should be finished about now,” Niall beams and takes his hand, leading him out to where, sure enough, Lou and Hazza are embracing while Liam looks on like a proud father.
Zayn wants to let go of Niall’s hand but Liam’s catches sight of them soon enough and raises an eyebrow at their clasped hands before breaking out into a slight smile. Zayn tries not to be disappointed.
New city, new life. Right?