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heart's already sinned

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The theme song to Sesame Street, classroom instruments version care of Jimmy Fallon and the Roots, is the first thing she hears when she wakes up, groaning.

It's supposed to be a joke. She's ’Barney’ on Taylor’s phone, because what else would it be, complete with the ubiquitous ‘I Love You’ end theme, because Taylor was a nerd and found the most random shit funny. In turn, she'd named Taylor ‘Cookie Monster’ on hers, and her ringtone had followed. She regrets the choice now, not because she doesn't like Jimmy Fallon, but from what she can see from the blinds is that the sun is barely waking up itself, and the night before had been pretty rough.

“Oh, god,” she mumbles, twisting around on the bed and making a small “oof!” noise as the bus goes over a bump rather ungracefully. She groans again, and grabs the phone, glancing at the tiny numbers at the top, groaning louder and frustrated when she sees it’s barely six in the morning.

“This better be good,” she says shortly when she finally takes the call.

“Sel,” Taylor’s voice makes her sit up, more alert and a bit cautious. It's on the edge of yelling, pure joy and giddiness and Taylor is hardly ever unhappy these days, but the moments she sounds like she's genuinely out of breath with her joy is very few and far in between. “Selena, you won't believe. I can't believe, oh my god-”

“Taylor,” she says, tries to reel her in. “What happened?”

“Ed proposed!” she answers, shouts it, and Selena goes very still. “Oh my god, Sel. He proposed, I so wasn't expecting it, I'm freaking out.”

“Um, what did you say?” she asks, not quite sure of how to approach any of this. She's happy for her best friend, her sister. Of course she is, and it honestly was a long time coming. They'd been friends for so long and Taylor had been with too many people who just didn't understand her as well as she trusted them to. Ed was the one person who could with little to no trouble at all, and it had been a relief for all of them when the two of them had realized it a few years ago.

It's just. Amplifies her own loneliness, she supposes, but she shakes it off, and waits for Taylor to reply, more awake and more prepared for the shorts bursts of squeals and small happy noises.

“He did it after dinner," she says, and she listens, knows she'll want to mention everything, down to the smallest details. "He had my parents flown in and everything, he even cooked, it was so sweet. Then he drove us out to one of those English gardens? Full of roses and it was so pretty, I was dying. Lights everywhere, and my cats! All of my cats! He lined them all up and made me read all their collars, and they said, 'Will you marry me?' Selena, oh my god, it was so romantic, I was crying, my mom will show you the video when you get back, it's actually pretty hilarious."

"What did you say?" she asks again, patiently, and Taylor makes a happy sounding sob on the other side.

"I'm getting married, Sel!" she says, and Selena fills in the several exclamation points in her head, and she smiles to herself in the quiet of her tour bus bedroom.

"Oh, Tay. Finally," she says, so genuinely happy for her. "You two deserve this so much. I'm so happy for you."

“Be my maid of honor?” she asks, and it's so forward it makes Selena laugh in surprise. “I mean, I know you have like three more weeks until you get back and everything but I couldn't wait until then to ask you. I need you and Abigail to be there by my side. Please be my maid of honor?”

“As if it were a question in the first place,” she says. “Of course, I'll be the best co-maid of honor ever. Get you all the strippers you don't want and shit."

"Oh god, don't even start," she says, and she can almost see the blush on her. "No Chippendales, I think my mom's brain would explode."

"Please, she'd love it," she snorts, and she is in serious need of some food, and Starbucks. "So, will Ed be having two best men?"

"Well, for the sake of symmetry," she muses, and Selena snorts again, but it turns into a strange sort of yawn, and she tries to hide it, pulls the phone away from her face, but no dice. Taylor's heard it, tutting as she puts the phone back to her ear. "Oh, gosh. I'm sorry for waking you up, I was just so excited. I'll let you go back to bed."

“No, I'm fine,” she says, but he flops down to the bed and everything is just so warm and soft and comfortable around her, and sleeping seems like such a nice sort of thing at the moment.

“You're already half-asleep,” she says. “I'll let you go. I'll see you soon! I need to go be engaged.”

“‘Kay,” she sniffs, nuzzling into her pillows. “I'll see you soon, sis.”

“I'll make you a cake when you get back,” she promises, and Selena makes a small noise she knows Taylor will understand to mean, ‘I'm holding you to that,’ just before she nods back off.

.

Tour wraps up not quite long gone after that, and she makes the trip to see Taylor a week after she gets back home, Selena is knocking her best friend to the ground with a fierce hug just as her car door opens and lets her out to the front gardens of Taylor’s Rhode Island beach house.

“Let me see it,” she says, and they're still sprawled out in the ground and she's grabbing Taylor's hand, and the ring shines and twinkles at her, a rather large round stone of brilliantly cut diamond sitting on a thin platinum band that fits perfectly around her long finger. "Oh man, that is a rock."

"I'm afraid I'd break it just by staring at it for too long," she says, and they're getting up on their feet and going inside.

"My 'Welcome Back' cake?"

"Vanilla bean cake with royal icing and sugared flowers," Taylor answers proudly, and if anything had ever described her perfectly in a single phrase.

"So where's the lucky man?" she asks a bit later as they're settling down in the living room, cake slices in tow with dainty cups of tea on the side. "Is he here?"

"Oh, he's in England, taking care of some stuff," she replies, and she looks like she's about to jump out of her seat. "He'll be back soon. Abigail's coming over soon too, once her baby's adjusted at home."

"Oh, engagement party?" Selena asks, taking a bite of her cake.

"Well, not really," she answers, and her eyes are flirtatiously mischievous and excited.

"I. I don't like where this is going," she mutters, watching her wearily, and Taylor giggles, full on, and she grasps her knee.

"We decided. We're getting married here, first week of July," she says, and she looks so happy but so incredibly sincere and Selena drops her fork. "Now, I know it's a little soon-"

"'Soon?!' Tay, that's barely three months for planning," she says, and she knows it's something for the sake of being romantic, and Taylor is a romantic and an optimistic if anything, but. "How are you going to plan a wedding in that amount of time?"

"Hear me out," she says, and Selena knows instantly there's no changing her mind, and she groans internally, and she waves a hand before getting up to grab a tri-colored popsicle from the kitchen. Knows she needs some ice cream of sorts to handle all of this, never mind that there's still a bite in the air outside.

"Okay, so. I thought about it, and I just don't want a big wedding," Taylor tells her, and Selena look at her as she licks at her ice cream. "I mean, I thought before that I might want it, but now. I don't care, I know Ed doesn't either, and honestly, all I need are my girls, my family, and him. I don't want a big thing."

"What about a dress? You can't seriously get married without a real dress, in the very least-"

"I called Elie, he's sent me sketches and he's started on already," she says quickly, and Selena snaps her mouth shut. "He's also doing the whole entourage's wardrobe, all taken care of."

"Taylor, I mean, I'm all for it, but don't you think it's a little. Soon?" she asks her, and she shakes her head resolutely, decisively.

"I mean, even if I had more time, I don't think I'd do it any other way. So why wait?" she says with the easiest shrug. "And think about it. If I do it sooner, no one will really suspect anything. People coming down here in July? They'll think it's just for my Independence Day thing. They won't know, and it'll be a quiet thing. I want a quiet thing."

"Did you a hire a wedding planner, at least?" At the completely silent pause she gets as an answer, she sighs tiredly. "Oh, fuck. You for real, sis?"

"The less people that know," she says in explanation, and Selena decides to take Taylor's untouched slice of cake, too. "And it's not as if we need to really do anything. Flower arrangements, food, the cake, marriage certificate. Need to find an officiant, but that's fine! Maybe I can ask Tom Hanks, that would be fun. Mom will help us out, it'll be okay."

“Helping you out, you mean,” she says, and Taylor's eyes get all sad at her. “No! No, I love you, but absolutely not.”

“We won't be doing it alone,” she says, as if it's an incentive. “Ed’s promised to be hands on, and he's also making his best men actually stay over with us here to plan everything. It'll be fun!”

“Three months here, planning a wedding,” Selena mutters, and she crushes the sugared flower between her fingers, knowing full well she's going to do anything Taylor asks her to, regardless of whether or not she thinks it's a good idea. “Who're his best men? They better be ready to be bossed around.”

At this, Taylor goes quiet again, and for the first time since she's told her about her engagement, she seems nervous. “I don't. Um, don't overreact.”

“Oh god,” Selena says, reaching out to grab her hand tightly. “Did, fuck. Did Ed ask Harry?”

“No, no, he knows better than to do that,” she says, and Selena knows she and Harry have been on okay terms for the last few years, especially since she and Ed became a thing. But to be around him for the next few months everyday, it's asking for much, and she knows Ed is smarter than that. “He'll be on the other side of the world filming, anyway. Whatever.”

“Okay, so,” she prods, doesn't like it when she goes quiet and contemplative, doesn't really bode well. “Who's helping us out here?”

“Jake,” she answers at first, and she expected that. But she doesn't quite expect, “And. Oh god, Niall. He asked Niall to be his other best man.”

Selena goes silent, not exactly sure how to describe how she's feeling. She settles for a lackluster, “Oh,” and. She doesn't know how to react.

“I tried to tell Ed-”

“No, come on, Tay. It's his wedding too,” she says, shaking her off, and she's not that selfish to ask the groom to reconsider his best man. Thinks it over, realizes it's the less dramatic option, the smarter choice, too. She doesn't blame him for going with Niall, who just won't give in to the pressure to be controversial. “He can ask whoever he wants. And it's not like Niall and I are on bad terms.”

Taylor raises a perfect eyebrow at her, and says, “Okay. If not talking for the last few years is your definition of not being on bad terms, okay.”

“It was just awkward!” she says, feels herself get flushed. “How was I supposed to react, he gave me a piano, Tay. It was just so. Much. But I don't hate him or anything.”

“You loved him, Sel, please.”

“We'll be fine,” she says, face getting red and her heart achingly full. “We'll be okay. Being in the same house isn't going to be the biggest problem, not when there's a wedding to plan. I promise you now, little to no drama.”

“Come on, it's us. There's always going to be some sort of drama,” Taylor shrugs lightly, and it's a very honest joke, just to lighten the mood. Selena rolls her eyes at her, full of love and affection and fondness all the same. “It'll all be okay. I'm getting married, that's still the most important thing.”

“And you won't let anyone forget it,” she says, and it's not a topic that's really over and done with, and she still doesn't know what she's supposed to do.

.

Ed comes in a few weeks later, quietly announcing his arrival with several luggages, one smaller bag for his clothes, and the rest, his instruments and his other custom machinery.

Taylor reels him into an easy embrace, kissing him and they're so affectionate Selena rolls her eyes, just because she can. They're so happy together they won't take offense to it, anyway.

“Hair Goddess,” Ed greets her solemnly, and she rolls her eyes again, pulling him into a side hug.

“Gingerbread,” she says in turn. “Where’s the promised help?”

“Jake’s going to be having a baby soon, so he won't be coming for a bit,” he tells her, “and. I actually don't know where Irish is, he said he'd be arriving before me.”

“Oh, alright,” she nods, trying to not to show that she's still feeling pretty all over the place about it. She knows she doesn't hide it very well, but neither of them say anything to call her out on it.  

“When's your mum coming over?” he turns to Taylor instead, and Selena watches as their hands tangle together easily, as if it were second nature to them. She hasn't felt anything like that in a while, and it makes her feel lonely, more than anything else.

“She's coming soon, hopefully by the end of the week. She's just fixing some wedding stuff for us at home,” she tells him, and Selena feels awkward around them. It's not that she's never been a third wheel, it's just apparently much too clear to her now that everyone around her is coming to the point of being really happy, and she's happy too. Just not in the way they are.

It's close to dinner by the time Niall actually comes round, and he looks tired, but his smile is wide and kind, as it always is.

“You look like shit, mate,” Ed says frankly from where he's sitting in the living room, looking on amused as Taylor stands immediately, concerned look on her face as she tries to take the bag he's carrying away from him, but he just kisses her cheek in greeting, shaking his head.

“Would hug you, but I stink,” he says, adjusting the straps of his backpack and holding on tighter to the handcarry when she tries again. “No, it's okay.”

“Are you sure?” she asks, and he just smiles again. Selena watches them, watches him, and she just realizes how long it's been. His hair is dark, almost black, and his shoulders broader than she's ever seen them, on full display in the tank he's wearing. His arms also look bigger, but his eyes are the same, still bright and so blue and achingly transparent, unable to hide anything.

“What took you so long?” Ed asks him, accepting the kiss to cheek Niall gives him wordlessly, a little too comfortably. “You said your flight arrived before mine did.”

“Uber guy got lost,” he shrugs, as if it weren't a big deal. “Ended up just walking here instead, ‘Where does Taylor Swift live?’ It was pretty funny, people here are nice.”

“You should have just called me, Niall,” Taylor frowns, but he just laughs it off.

“Don't worry about it, it was fun,” he tells her, and that's when he finally looks at Selena. His face doesn't change much, maybe his smile the slightest bit softer, and he says, “Hey, Sel.”

“Ni,” she says, clears her throat as discreetly as she can, and it kills her a little to see that he's not treating her any different than before. He comes forward to kiss the corner of her mouth, and she closes her eyes at the contact, not expecting it to feel so welcome as it did.

“Hi, it’s really good to see you,” he tells her, and Selena knows him well enough to know that it’s full honesty she hears in his voice. “It’s been some time.”

“Yes, yeah,” she says, clearing her throat as quietly as she can afford.

“Right, I still have cake in the kitchen, and you’re most probably hungry, Niall,” Taylor says loudly, disrupting the unintentional quiet after Selena had trailed off, and she’s thankful that she did. Ed launches into questioning Niall about how the Uber driver had gotten lost, taking his bag and leading him towards his guest room. Selena stands there, listening to him answer and his voice is still so full of quiet joy, genuine and it comforts her and gets her chest feeling strangely tight, all at the same time.

“‘Little to no drama,’ please,” Taylor snorts, curling her hand around Selena’s wrist and walking them over to the kitchen where she’s got a chicken roasting in the oven. “You fool no one.”

“Shut up,” she mumbles pathetically, and she’s immediately put on mashed potato duty, the topic not quite dropped, but for the moment, postponed.

.

Dinner had been surprisingly calm, warm and full of comforting laughter and many stories and good food, because Taylor wasn’t capable of cooking badly, and Niall, never shy about his love for the kitchen, had helped her with the other sides, because of course he did. It was a good meal, and at least for the night, Selena had thought they were out of the woods.

They manage to make it to the coffee after dessert, with warm snickerdoodles and eggnog icing on little saucers as they sip their teas and coffees, before Ed asks the inevitable, “So. This won’t be awkward, will it?”

“What you on about?” Niall says, eyebrow raised, and Ed throws a cookie at him.

“Don’t be daft, you know what I’m talking about,” Ed snorts at him, and he eyes Selena. Taylor tuts at him, but he goes on, turning to ask Niall, “We’ll all be living together, essentially, for the next few months. Will it be awkward for you two to be around each other everyday?”

“This couldn’t have waited until tomorrow, Ed?” Niall says, carefully avoiding Selena’s eyes. Shouldn’t be hard, as she couldn’t look at him either.

“Might as well get it out of the way,” Ed shrugs. “Like, you two’ve made out and everything, so maybe it shouldn’t be so bad.”

“Ever thought that it’s exactly because of that that it might be weird, Ed,” Taylor says, a very slight hint of fondness and much more of exasperation in her voice.

“I dated Ellie and you wrote a song about me, you of all people should know that obviously, it’s going to be awkward,” Niall says, knowing well enough that as much as Selena can speak for herself, it’s not quite that simple. So, he’ll speak up for her, put an end to the conversation, and she’s thankful. “Doesn’t mean it will be forever. Look at us, you made me your bloody best man, you twat. Sel and I, we’ll be fine.”

He looks at her, and the look on his face tells her that he means it, and she smiles back, appeased. He’s not wrong, and she knows it will be weird for a while, but eventually. They’ll be okay.

“You’re an idiot,” Taylor says, throwing another cookie at her fiance, and it breaks the ice, and just barely, manages to leave them feeling pretty optimistic for the next few months.

.

It takes some time before they eventually get there.

As a team, the four of them, with some help from Taylor’s mom, work surprisingly efficiently. Taylor with her expert organizational skills had revelled in the task of planning, and surprisingly, Niall had been unexpectedly invested, and had probably been of more use than Selena had been. She thinks, in the back of her mind, that she should have known, with his innate ability to always be on top of things and put things in order. From helping pick out flower arrangements and calling designers for suits for the groom’s party, to handling the marriage certificate and catering, he had been a complete godsend. Ed, as everyone had expected, had been wordlessly assigned to be the well meaning cheerleader, supporting and providing a beer or baked good or stupid silly song on the fly for trying moments.

With how busy they’d been for the first few weeks of planning, they hadn’t had the opportunity to be truly awkward around each other. Niall had been unfailingly well-mannered, with his kind smile and words of kindness and the occasional small talk between phone calls to florists and specialty bakers, and Selena had tried her best to do the same.

There is still something there, between them. She’d be very stupid to not know it’s there, not acknowledge it, and she knows in the way Niall looks at her that he knows it’s there as well. But, they aren’t there yet, and they both know it.

In time, her head often tells her, and her heart agrees.

.

They plan and plan until it’s just bit over a month before the wedding, when actual work comes in, and eventually Taylor gives in to Niall’s and Ed’s and Selena’s and her mom’s advice and she agrees to recruit the bridesmaids and groomsmen to help out with the other details; soon the beach house is welcoming twelve more guests, some in and out, the majority staying over and making the house just a bit less empty. Cara and Gigi and Karlie and several of Ed’s friends from Suffolk and, Selena may have blinked in surprise when Pharrell Williams had randomly come in one day and helped Abigail with making place cards. He had been surprisingly good with calligraphy,

The house is full of people, hardly ever quiet, and she’s not quite sure if it’s better for it or not. More food to cook, more noise to deal with, more people fighting over the bathrooms. It’s not that she doesn’t like being around people, but she had enjoyed the quiet, with just the four of them, early on.

But maybe, the full house had filled in the awkwardness that still lingered between her and Niall. They’d been getting better, but the strange cautiousness she’s not used to anymore that sits in their skin when they’re around each other is still present, and she wonders often when they’ll truly move past this.

.

“No, no, we didn’t ask for that many bottles of champagne,” she’s saying through gritted teeth, and the snippy receptionist gets short in turn, her voice shrill on the other end of the phone. “Listen, we can always get from another place if you don’t want to check the order, it’s fine - yes, I actually will. Don’t try me, miss. Please check again.”

She hangs up before she can be replied to, and she sighs as she sets down her phone. She reads through the agenda today, and her heart sinks further still when she sees not even halfway through the list, and there are only so many hours in a day.

“Christ, why did I agree to do this,” she murmurs to herself, covering her face in her hands as she leans forward on her elbows, slumping in her seat.

She hears someone step out to the patio, and she’s not alone anymore. She looks through her fingers, and her heart does a funny flip in her chest when she sees it’s Niall, tortoise glasses perched on the bridge of his nose, observing her carefully.

“People being ridiculous?” he asks her after he’d given her some time to calm down, let her head cool down.

“When are they not,” she replies, the slightest bit bitter. She sighs, and runs her hand through her hair, and she notices that he looks away when she throws her head back and raises her arms up to gather her hair to put into a high ponytail. It had finally been getting warmer, progressively, and while the core group that composed of the engaged pair and the two pairs of best men and maids of honor hadn’t had the luxury to go out to swim or go for hikes or jogs between working, like the rest of the house had, she didn’t miss the opportunity to bring out the sundresses and denim cut-offs and currently, a low-cut romper.

She watches the blush on Niall’s skin spread as he decidedly doesn’t look at her, and she blinks, because it’s been some time since someone had looked away, put manners first with her. Thinks maybe that it must have been Niall, the last time, as well.

“Um,” she tries, clearing her throat as she finishes fixing her hair, prompting him to look back at her. “Uh, nice glasses. Looks good with the outfit,” she says, trying to start a conversation, and it’s not a lie. Black sweatshirt, jeans, sneakers. She’d always liked it when guys would dress simply, and Niall had never been the type to do too much with clothes aside from dressing well.

“Wh - oh,” he says, realizing that he has them on. “Yeah, was doing some accounting, trying to make sure this wedding stays on budget. Which is ridiculous, Ed and Taylor are stupidly rich-”

“Wait,” she says, still stuck on his words. “Those, those aren’t just for show? They have an actual grade and everything?”

“Uh, yeah,” he says, “mind, my eyesight isn’t horrendous. It’s just, I need help sometimes with reading and stuff, so I got these. Haven’t been using them for very long, and I don’t always need them.”

“Oh,” she says on an exhale, and it dawns upon her that she’s not been in his life much, the past few years. It’s not anyone’s fault, it’s just the way things had turned out. But she’d missed a lot, and she feels a slight pang of regret bloom across her chest.

He must hear it in her voice, because he clears his throat, and he comes closer, and says, “Got you a donut, and an iced coffee.”

She blinks, and it’s only then that she notices the glazed donut on a plate he has on one hand, and the grande-sized cup in the other. He sets it down in front of her, and he's got that same bright, shy smile on his face as he draws back.

“You, you didn't have to,” she says, and Niall’s smile gets softer, and she knows that he’s thinking, “I wanted to.”

“Let’s take a look at that list of yours,” he says instead, leaning forward and lifting her copy of her day’s agenda. He’s quiet for a moment, reading through it thoughtfully, and it takes her a moment’s hesitation before she takes a tentative sip from the coffee, biting back a moan at how good it is, especially in this warmer weather.

“Hmm, well, I can help you out with a few of these,” he says, eyes still on the sheet, but she starts, eyes growing wide. “I can go to the other shops, help out with the gift registry, and I saw an antique store along the way going here that had the vinyls that can be used as for the godparent’s gifts-”

“Wait, no,” she says, shaking her head. “It should be me doing all that, you have your own shit to do-”

“It’s okay, I’m almost done with mine,” he tells her, and he looks at her so kindly, so fondly. The way he always has, like nothing’s changed when too much had. She feels like it’s much more than she deserves, after what had transpired between them. “I really don’t mind.”

Selena looks at him, and the stupid thrum of her heart in her chest makes it harder to think and breathe. “I don’t want to be any trouble-”

“You never are,” he tells her, simply, like he’s not making the ground beneath her shake, like he’s not making her want to pull him in and never let him go, not again. He looks up then, small smile still on his face, and he says, “Take a break, you’ve been working so hard. I’ll go take care of what I can.”

He makes to leave, but she calls out, “Niall.”

He looks back, and all she can say in the end is, “Thank you. For, um. For the coffee, and. And this.”

“Of course,” he says, smiling again, then he leaves.

It’s not the same, and she knows it. They both know it, the way they’re acting around each other, still too polite and careful and still not completely comfortable. But it’s a step forward, and she feels the tight feeling in her chest dissipate slightly, gradually.

.

Taylor had been dangerously close to a hysterical breakdown when Tom Hanks had to gently deny her request to be officiant, as he had to be with his wife on her tour stop somewhere in Canada the day of the wedding, so Ed had put his foot down and demanded that everyone take a break. So he had arranged for a nighttime bonfire down at the beach, with an actual fire and many marshmallows and booze and chocolate and singalongs and everyone had welcomed the break in the pace the rushed wedding planning had forced on them.

It’s just after midnight, the beach empty except for their party, still going quite strong even after several hours. Cara and Karlie are dancing next to the fire, no doubt drunk off their minds, everyone else singing around the campfire with one of Ed’s musician friends, Selena can’t tell which one, starts a string of songs, seamlessly flowing from one to another. There’d been a few talking quietly on the sides as they nursed their beers, and Taylor and Ed, off in a world of their own, are walking along the shore, shoes in their hands that aren’t linked, feet sinking into the wet sand.

Selena watches them from her spot on the patio, having retired from the evening just a bit earlier, smiling at their finally found, well-deserved peace. Leaves her yearning, but also content.

Then, a blanket is being placed over her shoulders, and she jumps slightly. Looks up, and Niall is settling next to her, watching the scene before them as well. He looks especially cozy, in a soft-looking, patterned sweater, his hair flat and free of product, glasses perched on his nose.

“Been doing accounting again?” she asks, and he smirks before shaking his head.

“Reading. Been trying to read ‘The Little Prince’ in Spanish, but I’m rusty. It’s taking forever,” he tells her, and he hands her a mug of hot chocolate, curls of steam rising above the surface. Days have been bright and sunny, but the nights still had the slight chill, and she welcomes the warmth the chocolate and Niall bring. “Think you can help me?”

“I doubt my Spanish is any better than yours, Niall,” she laughs, and he grins with her, and slowly, slowly. The air lightens between them, and it’s a different feeling, a different something between them, but it’s not bad.

“We’ve been so busy, we haven’t really had the chance to talk, just the two of us,” Niall says, and she looks to him between sips of hot cocoa. Niall had been lovely enough to make sure there were mini marshmallows, and a light hint of cinnamon. “How’ve you been?”

It’s Niall, so she knows it’s a genuine curiosity with how she’d been doing, a genuine interest in how the past few years where they hadn’t been in constant communication had been for her.

She nods as she mulls over her answer, mulls over the taste of the chocolate in her mouth, lets it linger, and she says eventually, “I've been doing well. Album sold better than I expected. Tour was really good. I really loved it.”

He nods quietly, tells her, “It was. Good, I mean. Amazing. You put on a great show. Amazing to watch.”

She blinks at him, “You went to a show?”

“In the Australian leg,” he answers her. “Was visiting my cousins down there, and I caught your show in Melbourne. Sorry I didn't tell you then. When I called Brian up, he said you had a flight straight after to go to Japan, and I didn't want to bother you, so.”

“I wouldn't have minded,” she tells him, and he just shrugs shyly. “I would've loved to have seen you.”

“It's alright,” he says. “Really. Good show though.” She knows Niall wouldn't lie to her; he's one of the few people she's dated that would never treat her less, regardless if they were together or not.

“Y-yeah, thank you,” she says, and she goes on to tell him, “I heard your album, and everything. It’s amazing. I can’t wait until you tour it. Save me a seat on the front row.”

He blushes, and looks down on his lap, wrings his hands. She looks at him, observes him, and her eyes linger on the small dots scattered on his neck, so inexplicably endearing. “I think I’d put you to sleep.”

“No, don’t be like that, it was so good,” she tells him, touches his arm. The warmth seeps through the fabric, and it makes her clutch on tighter.

He turns to look at her, gives her an even warmer smile, still shy, and she’s known Niall for years. Hasn’t seen him act like this around her since the time they’d first met, and she wasn’t single then. His crush on her so obvious, endearing, but he hadn’t done anything, wouldn’t have done anything, so long as she was still with Justin. He had been a good friend, to them both. It makes her feel better that she’d gotten him, in the breakup. Justin wasn’t very good to his friends, and she’d hate for Niall to have to experience it firsthand had he really stayed for the long haul. Also, selfishly, Niall had been so unfailingly kind to her, in a way that none of her other guy friends were. She’s wanted that to herself. Wanted his light and brightness and kindness to herself.

She knows she has a similar look on her face, soft and gentle as it is when she’s with him, and they’d always been good together. Maybe not as eventful, as it had been with Justin, or maybe not as passionate, as it had been with Nick, but Niall had been stable and sure, his love for her steady and unwavering. It was the calmest she’d ever had.

“But, really,” he breaks the silence, his voice still so gentle, carrying over the hum of the waves. “How are you? If, if it’s okay for me to ask.”

She realizes. Realizes that the last time they'd really seen each other had been at an awards show, when he’d made his way through so many people just to give her a short hug, the brightest smile, a comfort in a time when she was coming to terms with her then deteriorating mental health. Just as she was detoxifying from a relationship that had been good, really good, but then eventually all the bad outweighed that good. Just as she was regaining her confidence in herself, becoming more sure of who she was at her core.

She knows what he’s asking. It doesn’t take her much to tell him honestly, “I’m doing a lot better. The time off, it really did me good. I’ve been a lot happier. I hope it shows.”

He beams, the beautiful way it does when he’s really happy, and she files it away for herself. “It does.”

It goes quiet again, not uncomfortably, and she’s sipping her hot chocolate, warming her from the inside out, and when she offers him some of it, he turns pink as she brings the rim to his mouth, chocolate staining his upper lip after. He’s stupidly adorable.

The rest of the party retires, one by one, in varying states of drunkenness and holding each other up, one by one, until Ed and Taylor are walking up to the patio, still hand in hand, and she gives Selena a look when she sees them sat together, but says nothing.

They close the door behind them, and it’s just her and Niall left, very much alone with no company but each other and the waves and the moon.

She feels him shuffle slightly next to her eventually, and he says, “Is it too late? To apologize for the piano?”

So, they’re doing this now. She takes a thoughtful sip, finishes off the chocolate, before she says, “You don’t have to.”

“It made things weird.”

“I use it a lot now, actually,” she shrugs, and she really does. Breathes, and dives in, “It was, it was just a lot, then. I was just coming off from Justin, and I wasn’t expecting it. Wasn’t expecting something so big and serious so soon. I didn’t not like you, Niall. I really did, still do,” she admits, red coloring her cheeks quickly. She’s heartened to see that he blushes, as well. “It’s just. I wasn’t ready then. I hope you understand.”

“I do,” he tells her, after a while. “I’d thought about it a lot, and. Looking back, it was pretty forward of me. Couldn’t really read the signs.”

“It’s fine, Niall,” she tells him, means it in every way. “We’re more than okay.”

He nods, and he looks back down on his lap. She feels the conversation slip, and decides to ask, makes her voice as casual as she can, “Have you been seeing anyone? Since, since me?”

He smiles quietly, and replies, “A few people, here and then. Not anyone serious. No one now, though.”

She pauses. Then, “Me too.”

He doesn’t say much else, and neither does she. They sit there for a few more minutes under the moonlight, waves crashing gently, and soon, he’s getting up, offering his hands to help her up, and they retreat silently back into the house, the shift in their dynamic very much felt, but not acknowledged.

.

She wakes up early to help get breakfast started for the house, as is usual. Doesn’t expect to see Niall already downstairs, bowls of batter already mixed and fruits sliced and cans of whipped cream and bottles of all types of syrup and Nutella and cookie butter jars open all spread out on the counter, ready to be assembled.

He hums under his breath to himself, and she starts when she realizes it’s one of hers, would recognize ‘Who Says’ anywhere. He’s already starting, pouring the thin batter out and angling the pan he’s cooking on, getting a thin layer of it all over the surface.

She blinks, and watches as he flips it over, perfectly golden, spreads butter and sprinkling sugar and folds it a little clumsily, but manages to get it on a plate, and squeezes a bit of lemon on top. Watches him take a bite, humming even louder as he swallows happily.

He sees her eventually when he turns to get the fruit and a bowl of some cream sauce from the counter, and he blinks at her, but just smiles. Greets her gamely, “Good morning.”

“Morning,” she greets back, and comes closer when he beckons her forward.

He doesn’t say anything else, and gets another crepe going. Batter, flip, then he fans out some mango on the cooked surface, spoons some sauce, and folds it, just a little more surely, and sets it on a plate. Hands it to her, smile still set on his face.

“Mango still your favorite?” he asks her, and she nods dumbly, belatedly.

He hands her a fork, and when she takes a bite, she fights to keep her face blank. Feels the corner of her mouth twitch slightly, anyway, because the cream, whatever it was that he’d used, was genuinely sinful.

His face falls, misreading the look on her face for dislike, and he walks over to the fridge. Rustles around a bit, and when he comes back, he’s got a pint of Mantecado Vanilla ice cream.

“This is from my stash,” he tells her, voice hushed and maybe the slightest bit frantic, “maybe, maybe you could put some, on top? Like, I know Taylor says no ice cream before 11 am, but-”

She takes the ice cream from him, puts it down along with her plate on the counter behind him. She comes forward, until her body is flush with his, and she holds his face in her hands, grazing the tips of her fingers over his jaw, stronger, more defined from what she’s remembered, the slight bristle of his unshaven fuzz scratchy, and she slants her mouth over his, kissing him.

She wouldn't ever imagine that her first kiss with Niall after seeing each other again after so long would be like this. Way too early in the morning, in the middle of Taylor's beach house kitchen with breakfast nowhere near ready and with still so much shit to plan and stress lining all of their faces. It's much better than she had even hoped.

It doesn’t last very long. Just a simple press of her mouth on his, just enough for the sugar still on his lips to transfer to hers. She leans back after a few moments, instinctively licking over the thin skin of her lips, and when she looks at him, his mouth is just slightly ajar, his eyes closed. When he opens them, they’re so, so blue, bright and blinking dazedly at her.

His hands settle on her hips, and she hears the sigh of relief pour out of her mouth when he reels her in, and kisses her again. His lips are gentle, languid as they move against hers, warming and she feels it throughout her body. When he pulls back briefly, she chases after his mouth, gasping and wanting, and his eyes snap open again to look at her. They're still gentle, still calm, but the undercurrent of heat and more is clear in the blueness of them.

She latches onto his lips then, both of them breathing hard through their noses, the sound audible as the kiss deepens. His hair is soft under her hands, his palms warm where they hold her, resting on the bit of skin exposed from her cropped sleep shirt, and his touch so gentle still, wanting but still careful.

She remembers kissing him, before. How he would let her set the pace, only to make it better, lick in carefully and slow and make her feel so taken care of, always what she wanted first. It's better than she remembers, now, encouraging her to suck on his bottom lip, exchanging soft, quick kisses with deep, slow motions of their lips against each other, sometimes licking into each other’s mouths, always, always good, making her feel like liquid and ready to melt into his arms.

A crash behind them causes them to jump apart, and they come face to face with Taylor, who'd just barely caught herself from completely falling over, the bowl of sinful cream sauce now splattered all over the floor, and all over her.

They all stare at each other for several moments, and eventually, Taylor straighten up, clears her throats and tries to be as dignified as she can be with the waste of deliciousness spilled all over her front.

“Right, well,” she starts, clearly not having thought it through, but she soldiers on. “I will, change. Right. And wake everyone else up. Yes. Um. Thank, thank you, for the, um. Crepes, Niall. Sorry about the sauce.”

“I can make more, it's no problem,” he says, but Taylor’s already leaving, giving Selena a wicked, knowing look, however brief, and they’re alone again.

It’s silent between them, awkward and weird, and she’s sure she’s blushing and she can’t quite look at Niall, who’s looking down at his feet and his skin very pink.

She clears her throat, tries to get her face less red, and says, “What’s in that sauce? It’s so good.”

Niall laughs, not because it’s particularly funny, but it puts them both at ease, and when he looks at her again, he touches her wrist gently, inviting her to link their hands together, and says, “I’ll show you.”

.

They fall into it rather easily, gently. They sit next to each other during meals, help each other with their daily itineraries, and in their quiet moments, they sit out on the patio, just talking.

It’s after dinner, and Taylor is staring at them from her perch on the couch, curled around Ed. She and Niall are on the floor, cutting mats laid down and specialty cutters in hand as they try to cut out the names, fancy calligraphy, as neatly as they can, to make the stencil name cards for the tables.

“Whose idea was this, this is stupid,” she bites out, Niall humming across her as he cuts out his own name from the card.

“Mine, and you were all for it then!” Taylor says.

“That was before I realized I would have to be cutting it myself,” she replies heatedly, and Niall just snorts. She kicks his foot where it's stretched out next to hers, and he barely reacts other than the small smile on his face. “Your aesthetic is irritating me right now.”

“It will be so worth it, though,” Taylor says, and Selena glares at her, blowing the hair out of her face from where it had fallen from her haphazard bun. “So pretty, people are going to want to steal them.”

“Imagine that,” Ed starts, petting his fiance’s hair gently. “Stealing the wine-splattered namecard of the best member of One Direction-”

“Ed, don’t-”

“-One Mr. Louis Tomlinson,” he says, and Niall chuckles, still focused on the name cards. At Selena’s harsh stare, Ed just shrugs, adds, “Not like Niall disagrees with me. You think he’ll bring his little lad?”

“Ask him yourself,” Niall tells him, shoving his glasses up his nose as they fall slightly. Selena wants to kiss him, dearly.

“We need to get to sleep,” Taylor then says, looking down at her watch and standing, pulling at Ed’s hand. “We need to pick up your parents from the airport.”

Ed makes a disgruntled noise, but is pulled up easily when she tugs on his arm. “Time zones are terrible.”

She rolls her eyes at him, and looks down at them sprawled out on the floor. “You two can lock up and everything?”

“Yeah, we’ve got it,” Niall’s the one who waves her off, and she and Ed take a moment to consider them. Taylor looks hard at Selena, who just stares back, confused, then they both leave, go up the stairs to their room, and she and Niall are alone.

He’s concentrated on his work, and she tries to do the same. They make good time, the two of them working together in comfortable silence, and they’re more than halfway through the pile before she accidentally cuts the skin of her thumb.

“Ah, fuck,” she mutters to herself, lifting her thumb up to her face to inspect the damage. Niall immediately stops what he’s doing, and is at her side in a moment, gingerly taking her hand in his and looking at her wound.

“It doesn’t look deep,” he says quietly, and he’s standing, disappearing for a minute, coming back with a wet towel, which he cleans her cut with.

“I'm, I'm fine,” she stutters, isn't used to being fussed over, not like this, not anymore. It makes her feels strange, a little embarrassed and warm all over.

“It's alright,” he says quietly, his eyes kind when he looks at her. He goes to look back down at her wound, pauses, tells her, “I’m going to disinfect it, it’s going to hurt a bit”

She breathes, tries to tamp down her feelings, and says, “Yeah, go for it.” Grits her teeth and prepares herself. The sting of the alcohol-moistened cotton ball makes her bite her lips, but it’s gone a moment later, and Niall’s covering her wound with a bandaid.

“There,” he says gently.

“Thank you,” she says, and he smiles at her, tender, and he’s setting back down next  to her, taking her share of the still unfinished cards.

“I can do the rest-”

“Wh-no, Niall, it’s okay,” she says, tries to get her stack back, but he brings it farther. “Niall, hey, I am not a gentle flower, I can do that shit-”

“I know you can, I’m not questioning that,” he grins at her, “But I’ve been watching you, and I’m going mad with how much you’re cutting outside the lines, still so messy-”

“Hey,” she says, laughs at his gentle teasing, and she gets on her knees, tries to reach out for the cards, but he leans back and stretches his arms back, shaking his head with a solemn look on his face. “Niall, don’t be a shit!”

“Never,” he says, voice so deeply serious, and she’s laughing, still trying to snatch back her cards, and he just keeps leaning further and further back, until she falls over him, sending them both to the floor.

She topples on top of him, not very gently, but he laughs underneath her, the noise infectious and she follows, laughing into his neck.

“A graceful pair we make,” he says, and she thumps on his chest, still snickering. She leans back, palms on either side of his head, and they look at each other, still grinning and happy. His eyes are impossibly blue, cheeks rosy, smile wide and she wants to melt into the dimple that people often overlook, and he’s so bright, wants to somehow share in that brightness.

She leans down, fitting her lips easily over his, and the air is still playful, still light, but with something else lingering with it. Niall kisses back easily, his chest heaving beneath her, his hands on her waist, helping her settle properly on top of him.

He sucks on her bottom lip, making her gasp against his mouth, and she feels warm all over. He undoes her hair, and her hands skate under his shirt, feels the subtle hardness of his stomach and hips, and his hands glide on her bare thighs, careful to stay there.

“Maybe,” she murmurs against his mouth, shuffling slightly so she's fully on top of him. “Maybe we can finish up upstairs? We can do the rest of these cards in my room.”

“Right,” he says, not mentioning the flimsy attempt at being subtle, and he cranes his neck to kiss her one more time, quick and sweet.

They gather their things silently, and instinctively, he holds out his hand, searching for hers, and she takes it easily, and they walk up to her room.

It’s one of the better guestrooms, and since she’s maid of honor, she’d had the privilege of not having to share a room unlike mostly everyone. From the corner of her eye, she sees Niall look over the room, quiet and considering, and she pulls him along, taking the cards in their hands and depositing on the desk along the way.

“So, we’re not actually cutting those,” Niall says, and she snorts, but she pulls him in anyway, putting her arms over his shoulders and her lips find his naturally.

He kisses back, sucking her bottom lip into his mouth and kissing it gently as he releases, and his hands are warm on her back, slipping under her top and resting there comfortably.

Selena pulls back, making him chase after her mouth, and she snickers at him quietly, dragging her fingers all over his darkening hair. She licks at the corner of his mouth, and says against the skin there, “I’ve missed you. Really missed you.”

His mouth is twitching slightly into a soft smile under her lips, and he’s asking her, “Bed?”

She nods, and he’s guiding them back to the bed, lays her down gently on the covers still rumpled from where she hadn’t fixed them that morning. He settles carefully over her, slotting their hips together and they’d always fit really well together, his weight comforting above hers, and he’s cradling her face in his hands and kissing her, easy as breathing.

“What do you want to do?” he asks her.

“Anything,” she replies, and he pauses, before nodding, ghosting his lips over the length of her jaw.

Niall stands up, and with careful hands, helps her to the edge of the bed, lets her legs drop over the edge. He spreads her thighs gently to lie between them, and he kisses her, kisses down her throat, the sweep of her breast, over her ribs, tries to calm her heaving stomach with his mouth.

She expects it, but when he pulls down her joggers slowly, his mouth warm over the garter of her underwear, she still gasps, squeezes the life out of the duvet.

“Niall-”

“Right,” he says, his voice hoarse and deep, and he pulls them down as well, and settles himself on the floor between her legs. The first touch of his lips against where she's wet makes her whine, the sound guttural and she arches up from the bed.

“I've barely started,” he murmurs, and he's smiling lightly, the idiot. But he doesn't let her wait, is too nice for that, and he licks at her, slow, then builds up a pace, making her melt and give in.

“Oh, oh god,” she moans, eyes fluttering shut, and she can't quite help but lock his head in between her thighs, but he doesn't stop, goes even faster, makes her feel so incredibly good as he licks her out.

He gets her legs over his shoulders, holds her thighs, doesn't stop tonguing into her, sometimes out to glide his tongue over her clit, then back in.

She tries not to move her hips too much, but she feels like it's a losing game, and he's making it too good. Her chest heaves as she breathes hard, she has to bite her lips to keep the worst of the noise in, and her hands are making a mess of Niall's hair.

He jabs his tongue inside her, and a sob fights it's way out of her mouth, and he does it over and over until her head is thrashing all over the sheets, her legs twitching uncontrollably.

Her orgasm builds up slow, the sensation heightening with every swipe of his tongue over her, and when he gets a finger inside her alongside his tongue, she doesn't hold it in.

She gasps, moans loudly, body arching off of the mattress and thighs squeezing him in as she comes, the feeling rippling throughout her body. Feels her walls tighten around his tongue and finger, throbbing and sensitive.

“Oh, fuck,” she breathes shakily, her entire body still tingling, loosening visibly as she relaxes, and. She starts laughing, giggling for whatever reason, throwing her head back and letting her joy take over.

Hadn't been that good in a long while.

She looks down, still laughing, and Niall's eyes are closed, cheeks pink and a hint of a smug, happy look on his face where his cheek rest against her inner thigh.

She pats his cheek, musses up his hair even more, tells him, “Still got it.”

He just kisses her thigh tiredly in reply, soft smile on his face.

.

Selena wakes up alone, sun bright and shining across the white covers pulled over her. The sheets feel relatively warm next to her, so Niall hasn't been gone long.

She blinks sleepily at the light, and looks around. She sees the cards, surprised to see them finished, stacked neatly with their materials gathered to the side. Her other things are sorted as well; clothes folded, bags set aside, shoes lined up, and she knows a Niall cleanup when she sees one.

The door opens then, and Niall comes in, glasses on and dressed for the day. He sees she's awake, and a warm smile takes over his face.

“Hey,” he says as he approaches, sits down next to her on the bed. “Breakfast burrito? Got that chorizo in it you like so much, too.”

She groans, taking the foil-wrapped burrito gratefully, and he sets a tall glass of water on the nightstand as she peels off the wrapper and takes a bite, groaning again at the eggs and cheese and hashbrowns and spicy fancy sausage.

“Figured you'd want to eat here,” he tells her as she eats. “Cara congratulated me on the sex over breakfast.”

She chokes on her food, and stares at him.

He shrugs, blushing still, “We weren't very quiet. But I didn't say anything, swear.”

She swallows, and considers her words. “I don't mind. It's not like we're hiding, are we?”

“No,” he says, but she can hear the relief in his voice, sees it in the soft quirk of his mouth. He offers her the water when she slows down her chewing, and asks as she's drinking, “How's your wound?”

“What? Oh,” she realizes, looks down at her bandaged up thumb, having completely forgotten about it. Completely understandable, because last night. “Well, it doesn't hurt or anything. I'll live.”

It doesn't stop him from taking her hand, looking at it closely, glides his thumb against hers carefully.

“A relief,” he says solemnly, and she gives him an exasperated, fond look. Imagines it must be close to the look Taylor gives Ed on the regular, and it's a sobering thought, one that makes her turn her attention back to her food.

He stands, either not having noticed or if he had, respectfully giving her a moment to think, and he looks about the room, nodding at his work.

“Think you can do the bed on your own?” he asks, and she throws her pillow at him. He laughs as he tries to dodge it, but fails, hitting him squarely on the face, and it makes her laugh too, making her feel lighter than she has in years.

That day, Abigail and Jake had given them a brief reprieve, and encourage them to go to the beach. They’d also forced all the bridesmaids and groomsmen, who’d been spending most of their days surfing and snorkeling and whatever, to actually do the work they’d been brought over to do, and Selena had finally brought out the black swimsuit she’d been saving.

Niall’s eyes go dark when he sees her, his smile fighting not to go too wide, but he fails, and the brightness of his beam is so achingly lovely. And he’s quite cut now, still lithe but the slightest bit broader, his arms toned again, and she’d always loved those yellow shorts on him, so.

He offers his hand out for her to hold, and she reaches out to take it, but pauses.

“What’s wrong?”

“I just,” she says, thinking of the right way to phrase herself, and she’s not afraid, it’s not that she doesn’t want to, or she won’t, but she states, just is. “There might be cameras, watching. Around. There always are.”

He blinks, and gives her a small smile, frustratingly understanding yet misunderstanding her point. “Alright. It’s no problem.”

He goes to bring his hand down, but she takes it, linking her fingers through his and holding on tight, and she rolls her eyes at him fondly. “I was just saying. I’m okay with it. Unless, you aren’t?”

Niall looks at her, quiet smile on his face, and it’s really enough to answer her, but he says, making it all the better, “What reason would make me not be okay with this?”

So they walk along the shore, hand in hand, and it’s such a cliche, couple sort of thing, toes sinking into wet sand and waves rolling over their feet, but she can’t care. Not when Niall is talking, telling her about sunsets in Boracay and tuktuks in Thailand and incredible rock islands, like mountains jutting out of nowhere from under the water, in Maya Beach. She remembers that photo, She’d liked it almost immediately.

“The beaches here must seem pretty lame, compared to all of that,” she says, and he makes a sound that she can’t quite distinguish, but his hold on her hand gets the slightest bit tighter.

“Company here is loads better, though,” he says simply, and she's not beyond pushing him onto the sand and making out with him.

She refrains, and tells him instead, “Must be nice, to be brave enough to actually do that. Country-hopping, motels, living on a backpack’s provisions. ‘Finding yourself,’ that sort of shit.”

Niall snorts, and she shoves at him a little. He quiets after a moment, considering, and tells her, “Nothing really very brave about it. Just wanted a break. A vacation.”

“Please, you could have hired a jet to be at your beck and call the whole way through, if you'd wanted a vacation,” she says. “You know what I mean. People like us, we all keep saying we’re grounded, but it gets to our heads, for so many of us. But you, you’re actually still the same.”

He stays quiet, just swings their linked hands between them, and Niall is probably the most humble person she knows, happy with the smallest of successes but proves everyone wrong when they say he can’t be more, blowing them all out of the water with the loudest of laughs and brightest of eyes. But, with all that, he still can’t quite take an innocent compliment. She hopes that doesn’t change much.

“Did I make it awkward?” she asks, but he chuckles softly.

“Not piano level, I wouldn’t worry,” he says, shifting the focus away, and she reaches over to wrap her arm over his waist, just to pinch his hip. She’s endlessly endeared at the slightest softness of his skin giving in to her touch, still hard, still toned, but a small amount of the baby fat still clinging on, something to hold onto and melt over.

He laughs, jerking at the pinch but otherwise not moving away, and he looks out to the horizon, pondering the sun. Then, taking hold of her hand again, he starts walking backward into the water, beaming at her.

“Fancy a swim?”

“Not gonna make out in the water, are we?” she teases, eyes narrowed playfully at him, lets herself get pulled into the sea.

He rolls his eyes, “Please. We’re not that celeb-ish.”

She snorts, and follows him in, until the water reaches their chests. They float around a bit, and she drags her wet hands all over his hair, getting his hair flat and dripping, and she wants to bite on his lip as it curls into a smile.

He keeps a careful distance, though it's kind of useless, with the handholding earlier on and everything, but she comes closer, until their bodies are flush under the water.

“Chill,” she tells him when he jerks slightly when she moves her face closer towards his, and she can't quite keep the laughter and fondness out of her voice.

“Thought we weren't celeb-ish,” he murmurs, but he has a small smile on his face, almost twitching, as if he's fighting and failing to not let it get any wider.

“Oh, well,” she shrugs, before holding his neck and pulling him in, kissing him. His mouth is wet with saltwater, and she licks in, curling their tongues together and his arms go around her waist, holding her close. She floats above him, and he cranes his neck back as she rises above, still kissing him.

It's so very cliche, so very typical rich Hollywood couple and she doesn't care. Kisses him deeper, fuck all the photographers and paparazzi and whoever might see them. She's happy by herself, learned to find genuine joy in her independence, but she'd forgotten how freeing it could be, to feel a different sort of happiness with someone else. She hasn't been this happy and calm with another person in such a long time, and she doesn't give any shits about whoever will find out. Let them find out.

Of course, Niall somehow leans back too much, and goes underwater completely, and she yelps as she's dragged into the water along with him. It's only for a few seconds, and they come back for air, sopping wet.

“Shit, I'm sorry,” he gasps, before he's laughing, and she laughs along with him, hitting half-heartedly at his chest.

“Guess we’re not completely celeb-ish, too clumsy,” she remarks, coming closer and putting her arms over his shoulders.

“Do you think we should snog a bit on the sand? Make up for it?” he says somberly, and she just kisses him again, pressing her lips onto his grin.

.

“You'd think they'd get better cameras. These pictures are awful,” Taylor remarks from the threshold to her room for the summer. She's scrolling through her phone, and she'd shown her some of the more reputable articles; People, Vanity Fair, blah blah.

Selena had a feeling there'd be cameras, and she wasn't disappointed. Hundreds, thousands of sites had caught on the next day, and she'd seen the pictures. Not the best angles, or the best resolutioned images, but it's clear what she and Niall were doing on the beach. It gives her a tight, warm, pleasant feeling in her chest when she sees how natural it had looked, though. How happy she and Niall really were, and how that had translated to these shit quality pictures. Several thousand people on Twitter had agreed.

Selena hums from the bed, not looking up from where she's answering emails on her laptop. “That's too bad. Wanted a pic for my phone background.”

“Only the highest quality pictures will be tolerated,” Taylor says seriously, exiting all the sites she's on and locking her phone.

“Max it up on the screen brightness, pull a Gigi and make it staged airport appearance official,” she says, not looking up. Taylor snorts, and she comes to sit on the edge of the bed.

She doesn't say anything at first, so the only noise is the rapid clicking of her keyboard as she types out email after email in a frenzy. Eventually, the silence gets to Selena, and she asks, “What?”

“You sure about what you're doing?” she says in a low voice, serious and careful, and it makes her pause in the middle of typing out a reply to the florists.

“Well, I think so,” she says. “I trust him.”

At this, Taylor snorts, much to her surprise. “It's Niall. I think, frankly speaking, everyone trusts him,” she says, and. She's not wrong. “I meant, for you. Are you sure about this?”

Selena pauses, and she considers what to say, only to find that she doesn't even know how to begin.

“There, that's what I thought,” Taylor says, leans on her palm and stares at Selena expectedly. “Do you really know what you're doing? Have you really thought this through?”

“Tay, sis, please,” she says, voice soft and quietly pleading, almost. But she doesn't add to it, just looks at Taylor and Taylor looks right back, waiting but not for an answer.

“Slippery slope, Gomez,” she says somberly, a small quirk of her lips and a soft shine in her eyes.

“‘Slippery Slope Gomez,’ is that a ride? Six Flags, Disneyland? Sounds dangerous.”

They look over to the source of the inquiry, and Niall’s standing by the door, dressed simply and a thoughtful look on his face. She wonders, panics, if he'd heard, but all he offers after a stare is, “Actually, sounds rather fun, too.”

Selena snorts, throws one of her useless throw pillows at him, and he just catches it deftly, laughing. She's careful not to show any reaction at the way his eyes scrunch up, his cheeks red. Taylor doesn't seem to be fooled, though.

“You're dressed,” she notes, giving him the once over. “Going out?”

“Yeah, me and Sel are just going to go to that fancy arts and crafts place you like, see if we can add anything to the gift registry,” he replies, and Selena watches Taylor’s eyebrow arch at them.

“Plan on having dinner out too?”

“Well, no, but we were gonna stop by the chicken place Ed won't shut up about, get takeaway for everyone for later,” Niall answers easily, innocent and unknowing and genuinely nonchalant.

Selena takes matters into her own hands, jumps on top of Taylor then, pinning her to the bed and causing her to groan in surprise and slight pain.

“Right, just let me put on some pants,” she says cheerfully, amidst Taylor still slumped on her bed and Niall staring at them, sweetly confused. She grabs the jeans hanging over the chair, grabs Niall’s hand and drags them both out of the room, waves haphazardly as she call out a hurried, “Bye, sis!”

“Don't forget the extra sauce!” she yells back, and Selena hopes Niall can't hear the glee in her tone.

.

It had been a productive day, on their part at least. They'd added some great stuff to the registry, which was getting much too long, but she figures it would be worth adding the bird cage shaped like the Statue of Liberty and the customizable guitars.

She and Niall had come back to the house, arms laden with plenty of chicken and several bottles of extra sauce, two bags worth, just to be shits to Taylor, and the house had been in a rather organized mess. Bridesmaids making headdresses, groomsmen attempting to hand sew bow ties, and it had startlingly felt like home.

One look to Niall as they observed the scene in front of them, and the soft look on his face confirms similar sentiments.

Later, as she washes her face before getting ready to sleep as he's answering emails on her bed, she remembers the expression on his face. She bites her lips, pauses in washing the suds off her cheeks, suddenly overwhelmed.

She breathes, breathes again, her exhale audible in the ensuite, and she shakes herself off, and splashes the rest of the soap from her face.

She walks out, patting her face dry gently with a soft towel, and is about to ask him how many more emails he has to reply to, but stops a few steps in.

He's slumped on her bed, still in the day’s clothes, laptop open but the screen’s black, one hand in the keyboard, and it's obvious enough that he'd fallen asleep in the middle of typing. His face calm, illuminated gently by the lamp next to the bed, his glasses skewed, and it strikes her then that she hasn't seen him sleep much, these past few months. The image is endearingly adorable, and she finds herself overwhelmed again, chest tight and heart thudding within it.

She hangs the towel up, won't hear the end of it from him if he sees it anywhere else, and she pads quietly over, settling on the bed. She carefully moves his hand away from the computer, and she sets it aside, all the while watching him. She realizes it may come off as strange, watching him as he sleeps, but she needs a moment more, just to take it in.

Niall doesn't snore, not really, but he breathes deeply, and the soft noise he makes as he breathes out sounding like comfort, and she's always been so fond of it. Fond of him, really.

“Ni,” she says softly, brushing her fingers over his hair. “Ni, wake up.”

It's when she traces the line of his jaw, feeling the slight fuzz from his facial hair that he wakes up, eyes blinking open slowly, then scrunching back up as he adjusts to the room’s dim light.

“Shit, sorry,” he groans, stretching before he sits up tiredly. “Didn't mean to fall asleep.”

“It's okay,” she says, attempts to fix his hair for him, and his head relaxes under her touch, leaning back against her fingers, making her chest even tighter. “Too many emails about flower arrangements?”

“Actually, it was Harry,” he snorts, “Can't decide whether to go to Miami or Mexico next week. Was asking for opinions on which had nicer beaches.”

“Mexico, honestly, no question,” she snorts as well, and he chuckles quietly. “How celeb-ish.”

“Harry Styles, if anything, is the personification of the made up term, ‘celeb-ish,’” he says, smiling fondly. “Ah, fuck. I miss him. Them. All of them.”

His eyes shine, and the smile in his face so tender and he looks so soft, so pretty and handsome and Selena doesn't know what else to do, but lean forward, and kiss his cheek, long and loving.

She feels the dimple of his smile deepen under her lips, and when she pulls back, he gives her the most endearing, fondest look. He kisses her, short and chaste, in turn.

“Well, I'll be going,” he says, sounding every bit as reluctant as she feels to let him go, “took over your bed for long enough.”

He stands, goes to take his things with him, and she thinks quickly, moves before her window of opportunity disappears.

“Wait, no,” she grabs on to his wrist, stopping him. He pauses, and looks at her, questioning gaze meeting hers. “Don't. Don't go to your room tonight,” she asks him, feeling a little bold and completely terrified all together. It's not something they haven't done, have done it many times over the past few weeks, but it feels different, and she knows it, knows that he knows it too.

Niall stays silent for a few more moments, her heart hammering away in her chest, then. He pulls his arm, and her heart sinks, thinking he's rejecting the offer, but all he does is slide his hand into hers, linking them together.

“Oh, thank god,” she breathes, doesn't care if it's out loud, and he smiles, on the verge of grinning, and brings her hand up to his mouth and skims his lips over her knuckles.

She watches him, then can't wait much more. She rises up to her knees, pulls him in and kisses him, wanting and fierce and he inhales sharply, parts his lips for her and lets her lick into his mouth.

He holds her, wraps his hands around her waist and gripping her, reeling her in and they kiss deeply over and over until she has to pull away, just to breathe.

“Get down here,” she says, running her palms over his annoyingly clothed chest.

“Right,” he exhales, and he settles down on the mattress, over messy sheets and unmade covers, and she makes him lean against the headboard before sitting on his lap, her legs bracketing his thighs. She kisses him again, sucking on his thin bottom lip, and she feels his hands glide across her thighs, up her torso, over her back.

“Nice shirt,” he mumbles, and she snorts, before gasping as his hands slide underneath the Duck Tales printed kid’s shirt she's sure once belonged to her father in his youth. His hands are warm in the skin of her back, and she can barely concentrate as her fingers shake as she goes to unbutton his top.

She makes her way down his body, lips leaving a trail as she goes, over his neck, his chest, his tummy, and when she reaches the waistband of his pants, she sneaks a glance at him. He watches her, glasses still skewed on the bridge of nose, but beyond that, his eyes are dark, want clearly shining in them, and it makes her flush, feels the heat creep up all the way up her neck.

She undoes his belt, and slides his pants and underwear down in one go, just enough to free his cock. He's almost there, half hard, and at the first touch, he groans, and she thinks it's the thud of his head tipping back to the headboard she hears.

“Sel,” he breathes, and she takes a moment to take it in. Her name pouring out of her lips, him wanting her, and it's been awhile, but she knows that Niall will make her feel good, knows it will be good with him. So she grips him at the base, squeezing, and gets her mouth on him.

He makes a strangled noise, and she taps his hip sharply, reminds him that they're sharing a wall with Gigi, Karlie and Cara, of all people, and she licks at him, everywhere and then taking the tip into her mouth. She watches him as she gets his dick into her mouth, and with every inch his breathing gets more ragged, his skin more red, and she thinks he bites his lips hard enough to break skin.

She goes up and down his cock, getting him wet and hard, and she can't help but grind down on the mattress as she goes, feels herself getting wet in her shorts and it provides her little relief.

She pops off his erection not long after, breathing hard and her chest heaving and his dick slaps against his stomach, fully hard and glistening from her spit, and she's hauled up to her knees again, and Niall holds her close and carefully and kisses her full on the mouth, never mind that she's had his dick in her mouth. She whines against his lips, and he slots his thigh between her legs, knowing what she needs, and she grinds down on him, utterly thankful and really desperate.

He sucks her bottom lip into his mouth, and she whimpers, thoroughly distracted as he rolls them over, and starts kissing down her neck, careful not to leave marks as he locks their fingers together. She gasps, back arching and tries to get their hips to meet, and she hears her breathing, hard and wanting in the silence of the room.

“Fuck, I - ridiculous,” he mutters, his glasses sliding down his nose, and he gets rid of them haphazardly, all but throwing them in the nightstand, and she would laugh, but he grinds down on her, his dick hard on her stomach and she moans instead, wanting more.

She can't get enough friction, and she groans in the still air, and snakes her hand between them, slides in under her shorts, and at the first touch of her fingers against where she's achingly wet, she gasps against his mouth. She slides one finger inside, angle horrible, but she persists, and she thrusts it in as best as she can, and it takes her several moments before she realizes he's stilled above her. She pauses, looks up at him, and his eyes are set on her, careful and dark.

“May I?” he asks, unerringly polite, and she has to kiss him again, attack his mouth and make out with him, because fuck, if manners weren't her favorite thing.

She takes his hand, guiding it down into her shorts, and his fingers take over hers, reaching into her better, his fingers thicker and gentler and as he pushes one into her, she wants to scream, settles for biting into his shoulder. She catches the wince in his face, but before she can apologize, he kisses her again, his free hand pushing her shirt up, up to her neck. He bends slightly, and mouths at the mound of her breast, licking at her skin and over her nipple, and it hardens under his tongue.

“Oh, oh god,” she moans, another finger thrusting into her and his mouth incessantly sinful on her chest. “Ni, in me, fuck. Please.”

He shudders against her, and looks up, looking desperate and thoroughly wrecked, making her feel incredibly smug and satisfied.

“Are you sure?” he asks, still so careful and always waiting for what she wants to do, and she nods, reaching for his dick and pumping it in her hand.

He groans, and she sees his arms quiver dangerously on either side of her, and she cranes her neck to suck on his neck, over his Adam's apple. “Come on, don't make me wait, please.”

He nods, but then pauses, and makes a nervous noise in his throat that vibrates against her mouth. “Um, I don't, um. Fuck.”

“What? What is it?”

“Don't have a condom,” he admits, sounding, incredibly, shy. “Didn't pack any.”

“Really?” she says, surprised, and she smiles at the blush that spreads across his skin. “Figured you would. For, you know.”

“What?” he blinks, genuinely confused, and if he couldn't be any more endearing.

“You know, hooking up with the bridesmaids,” she says, and at his deer-in-headlights expression makes her feel ashamed, almost. “Like, part of the tradition of the wedding is the bridal parties fooling around.”

He blinks again, and says slowly, “I don't want to fool around with anyone.”

“Then, you didn't plan this? With me?” she asks him curiously, and he melts, devastatingly effective.

“Sel, the most I’d hoped for was to be friends with you again,” he tells her, truth seeping into every syllable. “This was, is much more than I could have ever wanted.”

“You're so frustrating,” she breathes, means it in the best way, and he just doesn't stop, making a sexy moment really touching and emotional and maybe she's just not used to it, thought once that it's supposed to be that way when it matters, but she'd just gotten used to something else. She reels him in, kissing him, completely overwhelmed and he's so frustratingly earnest and sweet, and she feels way too much.

“God, fuck, you're too much,” she murmurs against his mouth, and he chuckles, warming her up from the inside out. “Maybe, ah, maybe Taylor left something in here-”

Niall snorts, but gives her room to moves towards the nightstand and dig around in the drawers. She emerges successful, thanking Taylor’s creepy perceptiveness for once, and watches as Niall rids himself of his clothes, drinking in everything. He helps her remove her shirt, pulls down her bottoms, and she says shakily, “Sit, sit over there.”

He nods, and settles back against the headboard, and she crawls over, tearing the packet and making quick work of getting the condom on him making him groan.

When she gets the tip inside her, they both gasp, and it's been awhile. Not just with each other, but with anyone, but it feels familiar, as she slides down on him, getting his dick inside her carefully.

They both moan, breath shuddering as she's fully seated on him, and he feels so good. She clutches on to his shoulders, trying to kiss him but mostly it's breathing against his mouth as she adjusts around his length.

“You alright?” he asks her, voice gruff and low.

“You have no idea,” she says, feeling too close too soon, and she's raising her hips slightly, then dropping back down, already too good.

He groans, hands on her waist, then sliding down to her ass, squeezing her cheeks and making her whine. He helps her along as she gets a pace going, up and down on his cock, taking him deep.

Niall thrusts up, jolting her slightly, and she moans loudly, flopping forward and hiding her face in his neck, and they fuck like that for a while. She rolls her hips, bouncing and grinding down on his cock and riding him and he pushes into her, thrusting up and soon enough the sound of the skin slapping together resonates in the room, though it's drowned out by their moans and cries. Cara would have a field day tomorrow, but it's an unimportant, distant thought.

“Ni, Niall,” she whimpers, her legs tired and so close to coming and he nods, understanding.

“I got you,” he tells her, and he's guiding her to lie on her back, and he settles on top of her, not once pulling out. He takes her legs and she wordlessly wraps them around him, and he drives in, harder and slower, and she throws her head back and cries out.

He goes at that pace, hard and slow, and he doesn't stop kissing her, doesn't stop telling her how good she feels around him, how incredible she is, and it’s sickly sweet and it's her favorite kind of dirty talk.

“Fuck, fuck, Niall,” she whines, when he goes a bit faster and pounds into her, hitting every spot just right. “I'm close.”

“Gonna get you there,” he promises her, and he pulls back slightly just so he's looking at her properly. He places a kiss on her lips, short and wet, “You're perfect, fuck.”

“Not so bad yourself,” she tries, but her voice comes out breathless and she doesn't care. She moves her hips beneath him, and she shakes when he gives her a particularly hard thrust in, hard enough to shove her up the bed.

“God, fuck, you feel so good,” she says, wants him to know, and it doesn't stop. “You're so good, know how to make me feel good.”

“All for you,” he says, and her sex addled brain melts at his words.

She arches her back, tries to get their bodies flush as they fuck, and he complies, bending forward and slotting their bodies together, effortlessly, easily.

“Almost there?” he murmurs, and she nods, afraid that moans and whines will all be what would come out of her mouth if she tried to speak, but they come out anyway when he gets his hand down to rub against her clit.

“Oh, oh, oh,” she whimpers, and he's fucking into her faster then, harder, every part of him working to get her to come. “Niall, Niall. Fuck me. Don't stop, don't stop.”

“Come on, love,” he breathes, fucking in, in, in, and he touches her just right, and she comes, moaning way too loud and she feels it surge out of her, everything too good and she's getting them wet.

“Fucking hell,” Niall grunts, driving into her when she’s calmed down a bit, and it doesn't take much. She tightens around his dick, makes him feel it, and he almost shouts as he comes and spills into the condom, minute thrusts into her body as he wrings it out.

They breathe together in the quiet for a while, comfortable and content, then the heat and sweat and release get to them. He pulls out, making her wince, but he kisses her cheek to make up for it somehow.

“So,” he says as he ties up the condom, disposing it. “You liked that.”

“Don't get too smug,” she snorts, but her blush betrays her. He doesn't push it, and just gives her a quiet smile.

He cleans her gently, wiping off her release from her body, holding her hip down with a soft, but firm touch, and she realizes that she's still trembling from her orgasm. He helps her to lay on her side, and she watches him clean himself off, and then he's pulling her in, tangling their legs together and their satisfaction turns into exhaustion from exertion as they get comfortable.

“We're doing that again,” she says before she drifts, snuggling closer and breathing him in.

His content beam is the last thing she sees before she falls asleep.

.

“What is that?” Selena mutters, and Niall, the idiot, is laughing next to her, and it's too early for this.

“Breakfast,” Cara tells them in every seriousness, and she flourishes her hands again, reiterating the pancakes spelling out ‘NELENA’ and the heart next to it, clumsily executed that the ‘N’ looks more like a snake and the heart is something akin to a misshapen peanut, but Ed is taking pictures, and Taylor had volunteered to make an accompanying strawberry sauce from scratch, already on the counter and measuring the sugar.

“You're all ridiculous,” Selena deadpans, but she didn't help things when she went down to the kitchen in Niall’s shirt from the night before, and Niall’s white as fuck skin had shown all the evidence of what they'd done.

“Please, this is tame for me and you know it,” Cara tells her, and Taylor hums as she spoons the bright red sauce over the heart, taking care to not let it spill over the edges of the pancake. “Niall seems to like it.”

He rolls his eyes, but takes the plate all the same, and makes the short trip to the fridge and takes out his ice cream, grinning when he meets Taylor's glare.

“Patio?” he asks her, already heading out there.

“I'm - yeah, okay,” she blinks at his level of ease, and she's increasingly tempted to flip the bird at the rest of the kitchen when they smirk. She takes the pair of forks Gigi’s holding up, fighting not to give them the satisfaction of blushing, and follows him out to the patio, where he's sat by the table and taking in the morning sea breeze.

“Could have been less happy,” she pinches his side after she sets down the forks, and he laughs, loud and endearing. It's too much, and she has to kiss him, setting her knee between his thighs on the chair and tilting his head back to get a good angle to get at his mouth.

“Sorry,” he says, grinning against her lips. “Can't not be happy.”

“You're too much, I swear to god,” she says, rolling her eyes and sitting down on the seat in front of him, both feet up in the chair and off the ground. She picks up the first ‘N’ snake pancake with her hands, and bites off what she presumes would be the head.

“Can I bring you out for dinner, later?” he asks her, leaning back on his chair and smiling quietly at her, stupidly sunkissed and bruised spots where her lips had been, and she pauses mid chew.

She swallows, blinking at him, caught off guard. “On a date? A, a date?”

“A date,” he confirms, saying nothing of her slight stutter. “I realize now that we haven't had much time alone, and I'm more than content with what we have now, what we’re doing now. But I'd really like to take you out proper. And I know there's still a shit ton to do, but we deserve a break, and-”

“Yeah, I'd love to,” she says, cuts his cute rambling, and her cheeks heat up, but as Niall's eyes widen in surprise, then melt into something heart achingly tender, it's very much worth it.

.

“How did you and Ed figure things out?”

Taylor glances up at her from where she's decorating her mock wedding cake with sugared daisies and peonies.

“What?”

“When did you get your shit together?” Selena asks her, mixing the bowl of champagne colored buttercream half heartedly.

Taylor pauses, straightening slightly as she considers her. Then, she says, “Date went really well, then?”

“He cooked,” she says, trying for nonchalance, but she blushes anyway. “Beach picnic. Cliché. It was okay.”

Taylor snorts, taking out a piping bag and filling it up with icing. “You're in love with him.”

She doesn't answer, doesn't speak. The statement had sounded foreign and familiar at the same time, and she didn't know what to feel.

“It's just. It's fun, he makes me happy,” she says, trying to be casual about it, not confirming anything.

Taylor hums, side-eyeing her; and it makes her feel uncomfortable suddenly, too invasive, too much.

“How did you and Ed, just,” she persists, poking Taylor’s side as her blush gets deeper. “How did you get here?”

She pauses, and straightens up, considering. She looks calm, and the most tender look spreads across her face slowly, her eyes softening, then the rest following all at once.

“We just. We just did,” she says, voice gentle. “It was around this time, a few years ago. Year after Tom, and I asked him to bring pie for dessert for the Independence Day dinner.”

“Didn't he bring that thing with mashed potatoes?”

“Shepherd’s Pie,” Taylor confirms, nodding. “He said something like, ‘Should have said if you wanted a specific kind of pie.’ He was being an idiot, and I just. It came together. I fell in love, and he told me he felt the same over eggnog the next night.”

Selena listens, and takes in the look on her face. Quiet, no doubt happy, but in the calmest, most stable way.

“That's the worst getting-together story ever,” she says, clearing her throat of emotion, and Taylor scoffs at her, rolling her eyes and positioning her piping bag to get started on decorating. “Over a meat and potato pie.”

“But it's ours,” she says, smiling as she makes a heart with icing. “It may not be eventful, or exciting. But it's mine and his and I just knew that it was it. This was it, I'd finally found him.”

“Scary, wasn't it?”

Taylor looks at her, and not missing a beat, “Worse than those rumors of Harry and me getting back together.”

Selena snorts, and Taylor slaps her hand away as she made to dip her finger in.

“But he made everything better. It's not that I needed him or anything, but he just. He makes my good days even better, my bad days kind of tolerable,” she says. “All these years of being friends, i felt so stupid for not realizing earlier, but I don't regret the time we took to get here. It took time before I was really ready for it, but now, I can't wait to be married to him. He made not giving up on it all worth it.”

Selena pauses, and finds she has nothing to say to that. She looks at her, and the expression in her face is enough proof.

And the feeling, the realization Taylor had described. It is a familiar thought.

.

“I, shit, I hate it when Cara’s right,” Selena says through staggered breathing and moaning as Niall locks the door behind them and sets her on top of the sink easily, his mouth going straight to her pulse point.

“You hate it?” he just hums, careful with her ivory, pearl gown, but his hands still sinful on her thighs, gliding up beneath the slit and stopping where she's getting wet, fast.

“I - oh,” she gasps when he presses his fingers flat over her underwear, over her clit, and he swallows her noise into his mouth in a deep kiss.

She's sure her nails can rip his suit jacket if she drags them the wrong way, so she doesn't take her chances and buries her fingers in his hair. It feels especially good when he lowers his head, skimming his lips over the swell of her breast not covered by the neckline of her dress.

They'd all told Taylor it would be a terrible idea to have final fittings after the rehearsal dinner, which was just a nighttime bonfire on the beach, but she always had things her way regardless.

“It'll close on the day of, I'm just food pregnant,” Ed had said of his white tuxedo jacket, at that moment unbuttoned because the button would pop off if they had attempted.

“Hmm,” Taylor had hummed at him, obviously not in her dress because she's completely the type to believe in the superstition, and instead in a silk champagne robe. She'd poked at his stomach lovingly, telling him, “It better.”

“Hubba hubba,” Cara had whistled when Niall buttoned up his ivory cream suit, and Selena could just have imagined the blush on his face.

“It's the suit,” he had said to the room at large.

“It's you,” she had retorted, complete with a snort, and Selena walked out of the bathroom to see for herself, Gigi scrambling behind her to get her zipper done up.

“Oh, it’s you,” she affirmed, and he looked so ridiculously handsome, clean and like he'd had everything in his life in order, which probably wasn't far from the truth. Niall's gaze had followed the line of her body, then back up. When his eyes met hers, they were dark and bright and adoring.

“Hubba hubba,” he had said solemnly, the hint of a grin appearing only after a few moments after he’d spoken.

“Don't be a shit,” she'd muttered at him, coming closer to make some semblance of order with his hair. His eyes were steady as he looked at her, otherwise not moving as she had fingered through his thick hair, softer than it looks, and his gaze was caring, but full of want. She felt it, that heat, just simmering beneath her skin, and she'd known then that she had a similar look of desire on her own face.

“Innit bad luck for you to see each other in your wedding clothes before the ceremony?” Cara had spoken then, reminding them that they were very much not alone.

“Only applies to the bride and groom,” Taylor answered matter-of-factly, and Cara waves it off, pausing to think and consider them.

“They're gonna shag,” she had declared, eyes still on them in a confident stare.

“Well, they do every night,” Abigail shrugged, and Selena had given her a reproachful look.

“We don't.”

“No, like. Right now, in that dress, in that suit,” Cara had waved her off as well, eyebrows arched. “Gonna leave in a bit, lock themselves in a room and go at it.”

“No, we won't,” she said, staring them all down.

That had been two hours ago, and to be fair, they'd lasted longer than she'd expected.

“Very glad to be wrong, then,” Niall murmurs against her chest, lips soft on her skin, his fingers rapidly pushing in them out and over and over inside her, under her underwear.

“Idiot,” she says breathily, head tipping back to the mirror and she stares at the ceiling, seeing nothing but little pinpricks of light. “Get in me.”

“Right,” he says obediently, pulling his hand out, wiping it on a towel patiently, because they had absolutely no time for laundry these days and he wasn't that stupid to ruin her gown with bodily fluids a few nights before the wedding. Any thought of taking off their very expensive, very important clothes fly over their heads though.

They hear a soft noise, a slide against tile, one at first, then several following, and they both look down to follow it. Condoms, several packets, a giant box’s worth, are individually slipped through the crack in the door, and Niall snorts while Selena watches the foil packets whizz through the floor, transfixed and embarrassed and confused.

“We’re covered. Thank you Cara,” he says.

“Better safe than sorry!” she replies, voice muffled from behind the door and sounding too cheerful, but she's already ignored as Niall kisses Selena, licking into her mouth and she melts into it, feeling too far away already.

She rubs his erection, hard and ready in his pants, and he groans against her lips, bucking into her touch. They get his cock out, just enough, and slide down a condom on him. Niall hooks his fingers on the sides of her bottoms, slide them down her legs, and he's hiking the dress up, fabric pooling around her hips and she spreads for him, aching to have him inside.

“You good?” he asks her, not moving to push inside her just yet, but he waits for her reply as he always does, palms hot on her thighs.

“Fuck me,” she asks him, and he smirks before thrusting in in one try, all of him in at once.

She gasps, arms flying out over his shoulders, and he doesn't wait, establishes a hard, fast pace that's utterly satisfying and sets her nerves on fire in the best ways.

“Oh, oh god,” she can't stop talking, can't stop making noise, and he keeps fucking in, keeps making her feel incredible and her body trembles around him, and all she can do is take what he gives and hold on to him tight, all of

which she does so willingly.

“Don't, fucking hell, don't you want to stay quiet?” he asks, swear between every other word and breath lost as he goes on driving his cock into her body. “She's probably still there.”

“I will not stay quiet for Cara Delevingne,” she grits out, and she gives fuck all about the “Cheers!” from behind the door. She can't and won't, not when Niall is fucking her so well and perfectly and it's an impossible thought, to try to keep her sounds in. “And you shouldn't either.”

“I - fuck!” He gasps and groans when she tightens around him purposely, making him shove in and grind in deeper into her body. “Quit making your point, christ.”

“Go faster, then,” she breathes, and he snorts before complying, fucking faster and harder, driving himself deeper into her.

Niall leans forward to thrust in at a deeper angle, and the change makes her moan, fingers curling up in his hair, throwing her head back against the mirror. His palm slaps up against the mirror’s fogged up surface, right next to her head, and his pace is faltering, erratic and inconsistent, and they're both close to coming.

“Ni,” she whines, and he kisses her hard, gripping her hips, and jolting her body to his, their bodies meeting together suddenly and their skin slapping louder from the contact.

She gasps, moans and comes, breaths short and labored as she spasms around him.

He pauses thoughtfully, letting letting her cling to him as she comes down.

“You okay?” he asks gently, mouth at the hinge of her jaw.

“Yeah,” her voice shudders as she replies, and she bites at his earlobe as she trembles. “Go ahead.”

He nods, and starts thrusting again, slow then quick and hard, and it feels doubly good, just on this side of sensitive, and it doesn't take much longer before he's hiding his face in her neck, coming with a quiet grunt.

“I'm not giving her the satisfaction,” he mutters, answering her unvoiced question, and she giggles, laughs, and they cuddle right there, ignoring the incessant knocking on the door.

.

The day itself is oddly chill.

Despite not having a real wedding planner, having to do everything themselves, it had paid that Taylor wanted it small and intimate. Things just fell into place, as they should have, and everyone in good spirits as they got ready in various rooms of the house.

“You're calm,” Selena notes before the ceremony, as they're waiting for everything to begin.

Taylor is beautiful, simple makeup, eyes shimmering, her hair woven and braided loosely like an ethereal goddess, dainty gold chains holding everything together. Her dress had come out perfect, billowing and draping her body perfectly, and everything about her evokes calmness, serenity.

“I feel it,” she says, her bouquet of white and pale green roses and smaller flowers dotted everywhere completing her. “I'm excited, of course. But, this is where I'm supposed to be, you know? My roads would have lead me here. It's like coming home.”

Selena doesn't reply, and just observes her. Her smile so peaceful, her entirety, and she's so happy. Genuinely, honestly happy, that she's gotten to this point. To be so sure of her path, of her choices.

It's not long after that the ceremony begins, the atmosphere casual and relaxed just a ways off the shore but no less beautiful, and when it's her turn to go down the aisle, right before Taylor, it's instinct, an automatic gesture, for her to find Niall's eyes first.

She'd seen the suit on him already, knows that strictly speaking, that all that's different is that his hair is styled better in a soft swoop to the side, and his glasses perched perfectly on the bridge of his nose, but.

His smile is gentle, completely just for her as he watches her walk up to the altar, looking utterly handsome and a sense of calm and overwhelming affection and adoration washes over her.

If she'd been doubtful before, there was no question about it now, what she had felt.

It was honestly terrifying.

She fights not to let it all show on her face, and smiles back at him, just for him, and walks over to her spot, keeping her conflict internalized.

The wedding itself just breezes past; Taylor walks down, Ed shamelessly teary-eyed, chuckling at himself when Niall wordlessly hands him a handkerchief, and Taylor breaks soon enough, laugh-crying when she gets to him, letting him wipe at her face.

It's short, a little informal, and completely Taylor and Ed through and through. Full of music and beautiful words strung together and honesty bleeding through everything, genuine and full of life.

She'd made it as far as the moment right before the kiss before she couldn't not look at Niall anymore. Her gaze turns to him, and finds that he's already looking at her. He doesn't hide that he's been watching her, just smiles, his expression growing softer and warmer and his eyes bright with emotion, and.

She blinks away the wetness in her eyes, and the overwhelming sense of knowing, that moment she realizes that this was the moment and this was the person, it makes her relieved and scared all at once.

.

The reception had been no less beautiful, no less them, full of good food and genuine company and always music, music to fill them all up from the inside out.

Many speeches, all of them made in the fly, and a lot of dancing, clumsy and unpracticed and perfect.

Try as she might to mingle, be the maid of honor of dreams and dance with all the girls, the parents, with Taylor, she'd found herself gravitating towards Niall, giving him her first dance, then the last several.

It's when Ed comes to take the microphone, guitar in tow, serenading them all, Taylor mostly, with “a song I haven't done in ages, so I might get the notes wrong,” and began to sing a slower, softer version of  ‘Thinking Out Loud,’ that her resolve gradually then completely dissolves.

They'd already been dancing together to the song that had come right before, but when Ed begins to sing, Niall asks with his eyes if he can hold her, and she swallows, feeling her heart rabbit in her chest.

She moves closer, not saying anything as he puts his arms around her, keeping them flush together. Her arms reach up to wrap around his neck, and the look on his face is so soft and gentle and quiet, never looking away from her.

They're hardly dancing, barely even moving around on their spot, everyone else simply moving around them.

Niall begins to hum softly, harmonizing with Ed’s melody, and she can't stop looking at him, tries to take him all in and finds it too difficult, impossible to do, because he's too much in every way she finds too good to be true.

Selena clings to him, hiding her face in his neck and her nails biting into his shirt where they're wrapped around him, and she breathes. Breathes him in deep, and it's like she's drowning and that needed first breath after coming up for air, all at once.

“Ni,” she's quiet as she starts, several songs later, Ed having gone back to his wife and now dancing with her as Ellie takes the mic. He hums, letting her know he's listening. “Can we go inside?”

He leans back, and he looks at her, takes her in, and he answers, “Okay.”

She lets Niall lead the way, feels Taylor’s knowing gaze setting itself on the back of her neck, but it just makes her hold on to his hand tighter.

They go to his room, and it shouldn't startle her so much, realizing that this is the first time she's seeing it, knows that they always end up in her room for some reason, but it still does. She knows it's not so far from her room’s aesthetic; same kind of bed, same sort of furniture,but it seems so starkly different from hers all the same. Quiet suggestions of Niall's presence; his bags, his guitar neatly standing in one secluded corner, and his laptop, his phone, his planner set in an organized pile on the desk, and it's all very him. It makes her chest throb, her skin feeling like it's stretched too thin over her heart.

She's on him as soon as the door’s locked, pulling him in for a kiss, much sweeter and slower than she'd intended, but she makes no move to quicken her pace, not when Niall's hands settle on her hips and brings them flush together, and kisses back slow and sweet and soft.

Her breath hitches when he skims his lips over the line of her throat, taking special care with her moles, and her skin is thrumming under his fingertips with a gentle but nevertheless needy want.

“Get the zipper please,” she mutters, and he wordlessly, effortlessly, finds it, pulls it down and his hands then squeezing her ass. She gasps, dragging her nails over his back, suddenly dissatisfied with his lack of nakedness.

Her fingers are quick over his buttons, on his belt, and he inhales sharply when her hands tease the front of his slacks to search for his zipper.

Niall slides her dress off her, getting down on his knees to get her underwear off, and she gasps when he gets his mouth on her as soon as she's naked.

“Oh, fuck,” she sighs, her hands finding their way to his shoulders as she finds her balance, and then he gets his tongue inside her, and it's all she can do to not collapse. She tips her head back, back arching as he licks her out.

It's over too soon, but Niall doesn't leave her waiting. Gets rid of his remaining clothes, and then they're on the bed, her knees bracketing his hips as he settles on top of her, condom on and he's pushing in slow, sure.

It feels like too much, though they've barely begun, and Niall won't stop looking at her, eyes blown but still soft, quiet, and his pace is unhurried yet hard, making her feel every bit of his cock as he drives into her.

She doesn't know if his mattress is softer than hers, or if she's drank too much even though she's sure she’d only gotten those two flutes of champagne, but it feels like she's sinking into the bed, deeper still with every roll of Niall's hips.

“Oh, oh,” she breathes, arches into him and craning her neck back, and he fucks in just right, and she's moaning, whimpering, tightening around his length and throbbing.

It feels the same and still completely different, right that moment. Knows that the shift is felt, knows Niall isn't oblivious to it, but neither of them say anything, and he fucks in the slightest bit faster, and it's enough.

“Niall,” she breathes, her voice higher pitched than she's heard it in years, and she's there, Niall fucking in perfectly and she's coming.

“Sel,” Niall sounds completely breathless as she convulses around him, and he rabbits into her, and she knows he's just come as well. He shivers, trembles after, feeling the shock of it, and she doesn't think, just pulls him in close and stops him from pulling out of her body. Breathes his air and shakes with him, tangling limbs and touching skin not feeling like enough.

It's different, the air is charged with it, a comfort and a terror at the same time, and she doesn't know what to do with it.

.

When Selena wakes up with Niall's arms around her the next morning, she loses her breath. In the “shit-I’m-so-happy” way, but also in the “shit-I-don't-know-what-to-do” way.

She turns, just enough to look at his face, and it's a sea of calm and quiet and she breathes a great breath, and she's never wanted anything so much, and it's terrifying.

She breathes, trying to take him in, but she can't. So she slips out, trying not to jostle him too much and wake him, and pulls on her underwear and his shirt, and she leaves the room silently.

She knows that she should let them have their morning after the wedding glory, that they shouldn't have to worry or bother with her and her messy love life, that they should get the chance to just never leave the bed until thy absolutely have to, but. She finds herself standing in front of Taylor and Ed’s room, staring at the door and unsure of whether to knock or not. The opportunity is taken from her when someone else’s fist raps on it sharply three times, and she jumps in surprise.

“Gomez is in a rut, help her out,” Cara says loudly, not a full on shout, but loud enough to make Selena shush her desperately. “Good luck,” she pats on her cheek, quiet, genuine smile in her face, then she walks away, leaving her even more confused.

“Not even for my post-wedding morning,” Taylor says, looking frustrated and endeared as she opens the door, silk robes on. “I'll never have a moment of peace. Ed, out.”

“Being kicked out of my own honeymoon,” he moans in a teasing note, giving her a kiss before he gives Selena a knowing look. “Don't steal my wife from me.”

They both roll their eyes at him, Taylor swatting his ass once to get him moving, and then they're alone, Taylor locking the door behind her.

“Sit,” she orders, and Selena settles on the chair by the desk, wary of the bed and what might have happened there. “Alright. What happened?”

She doesn't reply immediately, unsure of what to say. “I. I don't know.”

“Sure you do, you're in his clothes,” Taylor raises her eyebrows, and Selena blushes, realizing how she doesn't have pants on. “And you left even before Ed and I did. Crazy kids.”

“It's too good,” she says, the words rushed and more quiet than she intends, and she knows her apprehension is clear in her voice. “It feels. It feels like it's too much to hope for.”

Taylor doesn't move, just stares at her. Then, “Well. Bieber did a number on you, didn't he?”

Selena looks up, not understanding, and she goes on, “You know, you're supposed to be happy. To expect the best from the person you're with. They're supposed to make you happy, give you everything, everything and more you deserve. You don't just settle for the scraps. They're supposed to make you feel like you're everything. Justin lost sight of that, and you just got used to settling when you shouldn't have. It looks like someone's finally giving you that love that I've known you've always deserved, and more.”

“I don't want to get hurt,” she says quietly.

“You think Niall will?” Taylor asks her, voice void of judgement.

“I know - I know he would promise that he won't,” Selena starts. “I know he'll do everything to not hurt me. But sometimes relationships will hurt you, no matter how good we are for each other.”

Taylor watches her, takes her in silently, and is endlessly patient. She goes on, floodgates open, “You know, we'll make stupid decisions sometimes for the right reasons, and we’re going to fight about stupid things. It'll happen. We'll both get hurt one way or another, even if we won't intend to.”

“So you don't want to get into that again?” she asks. “It's a rarity, to find someone who makes you want to try. Unless, you're not ready?”

“No, it's not that I'm not ready,” she says, and her heart is jumping out of her chest, and she's getting stupidly emotional too early in the morning. “He, god. He makes me so happy. I want to be with him. I want to try, with him.”

“Then what's the problem?” Taylor asks her with a certain finality, and when she asks it, Selena pauses, and has to laugh at herself, because. As hard as she made it out to be, it really wasn't actually that difficult. He wasn't a difficult choice.

“Shit. Shit.”

“You better go on tell him, then,” Taylor says, knowing, quiet smile on her face, and Selena hugs her tight, feeling relief and sureness.

The feeling dissipates, though, with every step back to Niall’s room, and as prepared as she thought she was, when she walks into the room, she's jumping out of her skin, heart pounding furiously hard in her chest.

She's momentarily distracted, however, when she looks around, and. The room is spotless, strangely clean. The bed empty and made, and all there is to prove that there had been someone staying there at all were the bags and guitar in the corner, all packed.

She blinks at the emptiness, and goes out to the balcony, finding Niall, dressed and leaning against the railing, watching the beach below and a cigarette pack in his hand, but he's not smoking.

“Do you still smoke?” she asks, and he looks at her, eyes no less warm than usual, but all the same, there is a difference. “Your asthma-”

“I don't,” he tells her, his mouth set in a small smile. “I'm just hiding it from Jake. His wife told me to.”

“Oh. Okay,” she says, and the air isn't exactly heavy. Just strange in a way she's not used to when she's with Niall. She shuffles, acutely aware that she's in his shirt and not much else, and she clears her throat. Tells him, “I'm sorry. For, for leaving - shit. No, for making you wake up alone.”

“Don't think about that anymore,” he tells her, smile still on his face, and Selena knows it well enough to know that it's sincere, but strained.

“You're not angry?” she asks, curious and scared.

“I'm not,” he tells her. Then his smile dims slightly, and he looks down. “But I won't lie and tell you I wasn't hurt.”

She looks at him, not really surprised at the honesty, but it still makes her happy, all the same.

“I'm. That makes me feel relieved, honestly.”

He looks back up at her, and she sees that carefully hidden away pain, quiet but present. She feels bad, immediately.

“I thought,” he starts, searching for the right words. “I thought they were getting somewhere, but I don't blame you,” he tells her, and he pauses, breathes. “I'd wait, no matter how long it took.”

Selena feels her eyes sting, knows they're shining, and she comes closer. Says, “I just wasn't ready. Wasn't ready in 2015, wasn't completely ready these past few weeks, but I think I'm ready now.”

“Ready for what, exactly?” he asks her patiently. “Ready for love?”

“Ready to get hurt.”

“I won't hurt you,” he says, body straightening as he looks at her.

“We don't know that,” she tells him, touching his cheek and giving him a gentle smile. “Even the best relationships have their lows.”

Niall looks confused, trying to understand. “Then, what are you saying?”

“I'm saying, I’m ready to not give up on a relationship for those lows, because I know you won't let them ruin us,” she says, terrified but as soon as she tells him, she wonders why she hadn't said it sooner. “I won't let them ruin us. I know now you won't change me, I know you'd give me everything if you could. And, I know now, I know I can return that love.”

He blinks, and his eyes are shining too, and shit, she loves him.

“I'm ready now, because I'm secure and sure and I'm ready to love you the way you deserve. If you still want that,” she adds, scared but hopeful.

He blinks and stays quiet and. It's occurring to her that she just shouldn't have assumed that he would say yes. She bites her lip, feeling a little foolish and hurt, and she tries to go back into the room, but he's quick to slide his hand into hers, link their fingers together, and he places a soft kiss on the hinge of her jaw.

“Sel, I've been ready to love you the way you've deserved for years,” he tells her, a lightness in his voice that makes her chest tight with joy. “Shit. I'm really happy.”

“Should be,” she says, but it's a weaker attempt at teasing. She's too happy herself to make it truly effective, and she wraps her arms around him, breathing him in, a sense of calm washing over her.

“What would be an appropriate gift, at this point?” he asks her, tipping her head back slightly to get a good look at her. “I don't want to have another piano moment and make everything awkward and too important.”

She stares at him, reluctantly endeared at his pleased beam, and she just tells him, “Taking your shirt off is a good start.”

“Of course,” he tells her softly, and does as he's told.