Zayn’s probably walked the entire length of an Olympic-sized swimming pool by the time the door of the hospital room opens, the soles of his trainers squeaking to a halt for the first time in the past half hour as he spins around to face the head peeking out at him from the doorframe.
"How is he?"
"You’re still here?" the nurse says with her lazy Aussie drawl, tucking a lock of frizzy curls behind her ear and shooting Zayn a look that reminds him of his mother’s face that time he asked her if he could paint the wall of his old room and turn it into a large-scale page of a comic book.
"I just need to make sure he’s alright."
"He’s fine. Usually when a patient is in recovery and not in the ER, it means they’re fine."
"So can I see him now?"
"Like I told you the first four times you asked, I can only let you in if you’re family."
Zayn squeezes the half-empty V8 bottle in his hand, the crick-crack of plastic echoing off the walls of the empty corridor. Shirley, the silver nameplate pinned to her Hello Kitty lanyard says, has not budged an inch since they wheeled Harry off into surgery a few hours ago, and looks to be as unmoved as ever even with Zayn full-force Bambi-eyeing her from beneath his lashes.
"Look," Shirley says and maybe the Bambi eyes are doing the trick after all, "He’ll be fine. We’ll be releasing him before noon and no one needs to know that anything ever happened."
Zayn made the mistake of letting Harry convince him to tell the (completely fabricated) story of how he hurt his foot when they crashed his mother’s car into the garage door and how much trouble they will be if she found out. Harry had babbled on in the cab ride to St. Luke’s saying how it’s far more exciting and definitely less embarrassing than owning up to being stone cold sober and tripping on his own feet while barely stepping foot into a bar they shouldn’t even have been at in the first place.
“It hurts. This hurts,” Harry griped, squeezing Zayn’s hand at the back of a cab like a woman in labor.
“This is karma for us skivving off, you know.”
“I don’t see you writhing in pain, how is this fair?”
“It was your idea. I just went along with it.”
“Paul is going to kill me if my foot doesn’t.”
“I will if you crush my hand.”
So Harry let go of his deathgrip on Zayn’s hand so long as Zayn promised to go along with the story. No one was really bothered that a couple of teenagers were stumbling into a mostly empty hosptial receiving area, not really with three drunk men sporting matching bruises on their foreheads bellowing rugby chants in the far corner, and the sight of a couple of leather-clad bikers, one of them uncharacteristically wearing a dubious-looking bright red fedora. Zayn was more concerned that they’d be recognized but the tired and wrung-out faces of the night staff barely shifted when they passed a glance at Zayn shuffling over to the reception desk while holding a hobbling Harry up by his shoulders. That was nearly two hours ago, two hours that Zayn could have used to chainsmoke a few cigarettes instead of loitering around the corridors and using Harry’s bottle of juice as a squeeze toy.
“I just didn’t think it was that bad.” Zayn says.
“Surgery doesn’t always mean it’s bad.”
“Still didn’t think he needed surgery, though.”
“You should go and take a nap at the waiting ward, darling,” Shirley says, the shrill timbre of her voice softening ever so slightly, “Your friend is in good hands.”
“He’s my boyfriend,” the lie escapes Zayn’s mouth before his mind could even process what he’s doing.
“Oh,” Shirley smiles for the first time, her stiff matte lipstick cakeing over cracks of her stretched lips, “I should have known. No wonder you’ve been in a tizzy.”
“Okay, listen before I change my mind,” Shirley says as she pushes the door open to let Zayn in, “I’ll give you ten minutes with him.”
Shirley’s surprisingly strong for a tiny Asian lady, her acrylic nails digging into Zayn’s arm as she ushers him into the room.
“Mind you, though, he might be quite loopy. It’s the meds.”
“I’ll keep that in mind,” Zayn bites his lip to stifle a smirk because Harry Styles on weed is a wonder in itself to behold. Harry Styles hopped up on medical-grade anesthesia? Maybe the night hasn’t been wasted after all.
“Ten minutes, alright? You can make sure he eats something while I check on his vitals.”
“Yes. And thank you,” Zayn replies dazedly because he thought this sort of thing only happened in movies.
“You can stop looking at me like that now,” Shirley levels Zayn with an unimpressed look, “You got what you wanted, save some of that for your lovely boy.”
Zayn chokes on what he’s about to say and starts to panic when Shirley goes over to the head of Harry’s bed and starts nudging him awake.
“Darling?” Shirley leans over and smoothes the fringe off Harry's face.
“Who’sit?” Harry grumbles.
“Look who’s here to see you.”
“Who’sat?” Harry says after a too long beat and squints up at Zayn.
“Oh dear,” Shirley says taking a peek at her clipboard before sighing, “Not to worry. I told you he’d be out of it,” she tells Zayn, “Just didn’t think he’d forget who his boyfriend is.”
Zayn tries to laugh but it comes out as cross between a sob and whimper instead.
“He’s fine. He just needs to eat.” Shirley grabs a banana from Harry’s food tray and hands it to Zayn.
“You’re my boyfriend?” Harry says, gingerly trying to sit up with Shirley’s help.
“Yes,” Zayn purses his lips and darts a wary glance at Shirley who’s fussing over Harry with her stethoscope, “I’m your boyfriend.”
“Wow. Really? Are you sure? You’re my boyfriend?”
“But. You’re so pretty. Can I touch your cheek?” Harry attempts to lift an arm but ends up flopping it back down on the bed, “S’that your nose? How is that possible?”
“How can you have that nose. And those eyes. All of that… on one face? How?”
Zayn ducks his head and busies himself with peeling open the banana in his hand.
“Hey,” Harry prods on when Zayn doesn’t answer, “Babe. Babe? Do we call each other babe?”
“You hate it when I call you that because that’s what I call everyone else,” Zayn says, and it isn’t exactly a lie because even though Harry’s never said it out loud, Zayn notices the way Harry’s mouth flattens into a line whenever Zayn says it without meaning to.
“Everyone else," Harry says, " Everyone else before me?”
“Yeah. Before you,” and it isn’t a lie either.
“How can I… How is it… How did I it— how did I get to have you?” It takes Harry about a full minute to get the sentence out, and Zayn should laugh at how ridiculous Harry sounds right now but he doesn’t. Can’t with how Harry’s smiling and looking up at Zayn like he’d slay dragons for him.
“Here,” Zayn says, grabbing a fork on the food tray, “Just eat this, Harry.”
“Harry! My name’s Harry?” Harry manages to fling his arms open and nearly decks the piece of fruit cleanly off Zayn’s hand.
“Yes. Your name is Harry.”
“Harry. Harry, Harry, Harry. Why’sit sound different when you say it. Say it again.
“Wow. Say it again.”
“Shut up and eat your banana, Harry," Zayn says and rolls his eyes.
“Harreh,” Harry draws the letters out, “You say it like that. That’s the way you say it. I don’t ever want to hear anyone else say my name except for you,” Harry coughs when Zayn stuffs a chunk of banana into his mouth.
“You have to eat.”
“Harry, listen to your boyfriend,” Shirley chimes in from the foot of the bed where she’s checking on Harry’s cast.
“Everyone else can call me George from now on,” Harry says around a mouthful of banana, “Only you can call me Harry.”
“Alright,” Zayn laughs.
“What’s your name?”
“WAIT,” Harry interrupts, “Let me guess. It starts with a Z?
“Well, that’s all the Z-names I know.”
“Zayn,” Harry says and no one else says Zayn’s name quite like Harry does either, like Harry’s rolling it around in his mouth like a piece of candy.
“You look like a Zayn. Definitely. I don’t know what a Zayn is but you look like one. Zayn.”
“Finish your food, Harry,” Zayn says while handing Harry his half-eaten banana.
Zayn watches on as Harry thoughtfully— but more importantly, quietly— chews on the rest of the fruit. He catches Shirley looking at the pair of them before she ducks her head down and scribbles something on her clipboard. Zayn hears her mutter something that sounds a lot like the word adorable but he chooses to ignore it.
“So. Zayn. Tell me the story.” Harry says, wiping his mouth with the collar of his hospital gown.
“Of how you wooed me.”
“What makes you think I did the wooing?”
“That was a trick question, of course. You probably just looked at me and smiled and I was gone,” Harry laughs.
“That was me, actually. I always said that I liked your smile,” Zayn thinks he’s suffering from contact high because he barely registers what he’s said.
“My smile? That’s nice. What else?” Harry says with clear eyes and a tilt of his head.
“What else what?”
“What else do you like about me?”
“Alright, boys,” Shirley interrupts as she taps her ballpen on the edge of her clipboard, “Three minutes. I’ll give you three minutes to say goodbye.”
“Goodbye?” Harry asks.
“Zayn can’t sleep here, love,” Shirley smiles as she needlessly fluffs Harry’s pillow for him, “He’ll be waiting for you outside when you wake up, don’t worry.”
Harry’s face lights up at this and Zayn finds himself mirroring that same smile on his own face.
“I’ll just be outside, then,” Shirley says before turning on her heel and closing the door behind her.
“So what else do you like about me, Zayn Malik?” Harry asks eagerly, folding his hands over his stomach.
“I’m not,” Zayn starts to say, “Hold on. You never asked me what my last name was.”
“Yes I did,” Harry says and Zayn notices how much clearer Harry’s eyes are, and how much faster he’s talking, and how he doesn’t know who he wants to deck with a pillow more, Harry or himself.
“You’re a twat,” Zayn says, avoiding Harry's gaze.
“We only have three minutes, Zayn,” Harry says shuffling closer.
“Yeah. I should look for something to knife you with, quick.”
“I do hate it, you know,” Harry says, “I hate it when you call me babe,” Harry says the words carefully, as gently as he’s wrapping his fingers around Zayn’s wrist.
“Almost as much as I hate that it took me falling on my arse to get us here.”
“You did this on purpose?”
“I wish I was smart enough, but no.”
“So you weren’t taking the piss?” Zayn asks even though he thinks he already knows the answer.
“It was just me talking. Right from the start. Right when you said ‘yes’ when I asked if you were my boyfriend.”
“So I guess I’m your boyfriend now?” Zayn asks with a quirk of his brow.
“Only if you want,” Harry says, his grip on Zayn’s hand slackening slightly, “Only if you’ll have me.”
And Zayn does something he’s been wanting to— waiting to do— for a long time. He closes a firm hand on Harry’s and pulls him in, closes the space between them and fits their lips together, kisses Harry until the back of Harry’s head hits the pillow on the bed, until Zayn is half on top of him and can’t decide if he wants to thread his fingers through Harry’s hair or keep them locked with Harry’s hand.
“That would be our three minutes,” Harry huffs when he has to pull away from Zayn because of the loud series of knocks at the door.
“It's alright," Zayn says, meaning it fully as he looks down at Harry smiling up at him and Zayn thinks he's found his favorite place to see that smile, "I’ll see you in the morning?”
“I’ll see you in the morning.”