It's close to noon and almost everyone attending this year's academic science fair has presented their projects for the judges. Crowds of people are still going around tables covered in poster boards and mechanical equipment, gawking at a few presentations; Harry's personal favourite is the robot dog. Honestly though Harry would rather be anywhere else. He would be too if his dad hadn't been the lead judge, so he's stuck coming to these things because his dad does.
Des Styles is always looking for young, brilliant new minds that will inevitably inherit the world and take over in science and technology fields. He hosts these fairs and invites the world's best and brightest to compete for a full ride scholarship to any college or university of their choosing, as long as it's in science. Harry only comes to these things to please his dad; his dad's schedule is already stretched far enough this is one of the only ways Harry is guaranteed to spend any time with him.
He's with his dad and three other judges making rounds to every display while they ask multiple questions and make notes on their clipboards and Harry is kinda forced to just stay quiet and observe. This would have been more bearable if he wasn't forced into a suit, his dad insists though. Apparently he's representing the Styles name and he isn't allowed to represent it in skinny jeans and a patterned button up, whatever. He will say that he looks damn good in a slim fitted blazer and skinny tie.
There are droves of people maneuvering around the auditorium, and a few security guards standing behind him and his dad to ward off any fans while they deliberate. And they've done their job, already on more than one occasion they've had to fight off the girls that have been trying to hit on him.
While his dad is the CEO of Stylotech, the world's largest and leading corporation in science exploration, Harry is considered his playboy son. Harry doesn't really fit the stereotype, he's not actually having sex with a ton of people even if he could.
Unlike other kids of successful, wealthy parents Harry isn't skating by on good looks. Nor is he fifty piña coladas deep in Hawaii. Instead he spends his time learning, whether it's by reading a mountain of texts or hands on at his father's lab. There's an unspoken understanding between his father and himself that he'll take control of the company when his father no longer can. Harry would rather be well versed when he does, science really does interest him. If it interests him because it's genuinely cool or if it interests him because his father pays some kind of attention to him, well.
They're getting down to the last few people and Harry's discreetly trying to text Zayn that he's going to have another alcohol fueled night at his place, invite only. Considering his dad is staying at the lab overnight, again.
"Harry, are you paying attention? Honestly, boy," his father sighs heavily as they head towards the next entry. "Please start asking questions and paying attention. You never know when you'll be asked to provide an opinion."
Des Styles is one of the top scientists, turned billionaires in the world and he's continuously stated that his company is all about one thing: scientific advancements to help all mankind. He wants to make the world a better place, but he knows that soon enough, the next generation will have to carry on that mission. "Harry, do the introductions for the next contestant. I want you taking point for this one."
Refraining from rolling his eyes, Harry slips his phone back into the pocket of his slacks and leads the way to the next presentation. Harry looks over his dad's shoulder at his clipboard. "So, Niall Horan then?"
Harry looks up and his demeanor changes when he sees a relatively attractive guy wearing thick rimmed glasses. "I'm Harry, this is my father-"
"Desmond Styles," immediately Niall blushes. "Sorry I'm a big fan of yours. Your work in cross-species genetics is outstanding."
"Thank you, Mister Horan. I'm actually conducting a search for a new team member for the science. What is your project about?" Des asks as he looks over the board behind the blond. "Parkinson's research? Fascinating. Go ahead and present."
Nodding, Niall points back towards his poster board. "The idea of cross-species genetics is to take the best traits and skills an animal possesses and gives them to the individual. A world without weakness essentially."
He moves onto the diagram he has framed. "Taking this idea we can adopt it into practice. A person gets Parkinson's when the brain cells that produce dopamine start to disappear, but the Zebra fish has the ability to regenerate cells on command. If you give someone this ability that's that, they're essentially curing themselves."
Des Styles stops writing and looks at the blond. "Did you run tests on human subjects? Have you applied this to actual testing?"
"No, sir. I'm not exactly qualified to have human test subjects." Niall explains with a small laugh. "However I have a computer simulated program and in theory it should work. I have the formula I came up with, I found your unfinished one, figured out what was missing and came up with a finalized procedure. It's all here on the poster board."
Looking over the board and reading the work, Des nods as the calculations and tissue samples all match and look correct. "You found the genetic sequence to detect Parkinson's..." He looks over the board in awe. "How were you able to do this? My company has been trying for years..."
"I did what you always say to do in your lectures, I worked backwards. I went from the solution and worked my way towards the problem. I found that the theory didn't have a catalyst to stabilize the foreign cells, the body will fight anything it doesn't recognize. So if you modify the cells with antibodies it should stabilize and eventually the body will accept it." Niall explains.
Harry's trying to take mental notes. His dad wants him to ask questions, but how is he supposed to focus when Niall's ass looks good in white golf slacks? He blames his libido and how tight those pants on him are.
"This is... Amazing. I think this could be a permanent cure. Have you isolated the chromosome mutations? Could we, for example, pick out the mutations at an early age, infuse the tissue, and have them carry on a normal life? Would offsprings still have remnants of the mutation or would the integrated tissue be passed onto an offspring?"
"The serum would mutate the cells thus altering the DNA, said DNA would pass on to future generations, essentially eradicating hereditary disease."
Des makes notes on his clipboard before reaching into his jacket pocket and handing Niall a business card. "Mister Horan, I want you to contact my office first thing in the morning. We'll work with you and try and push this through quickly. If this is a cure for one of the worst diseases known to man... I'm still in shock. Great work, Niall."
He looks at Harry out of his peripheral. "Any comments or questions, Harry?"
"Nice ass- assessment. Nice, good assessment. Would totally work," Harry says with his chin sitting on his fist like he's deep in thought.
"That's all you have to say? You're looking at one of the most advanced leaps in modern medicine and all you can say is nice assessment?" Des looks heartbroken. He doesn't understand how make his son understand the importance of a discovery like this. "I hope to see your name in the winning envelope, Niall. Good luck to you."
The judges start to wander off to the next table and Harry hangs back, still pretty embarrassed that he couldn't say anything better. He holds his hand out and shakes Niall's hand. "I was a bit distracted but good work, really. I can try and talk my dad into letting you intern at the lab, he's always looking for people."
Niall shakes the boy's hand. "Interning at Stylotech would be amazing. The leaps and bounds your company alone makes in the medical field is remarkable. I mean, a foot in the door would always be appreciated though."
Paul, Harry's personal security guard, puts his hand on Harry's shoulder. "Come on, kid. The paparazzi are looking at you like a pack of vultures. You're lucky there's no flash photography."
"I can't help that the camera loves me, Paul." Truthfully Harry really doesn't like the attention, he hates being followed and he hates the lack of privacy but he has to remain professional. He isn't a reality tv star, he can't be trashy.
"Nice talking with you, by the way." Niall smiles and waves as the guard drags him away.
Des looks up as he sees Paul directing Harry to the judging table. "I think that's all the projects. Shall we deliberate?"
That's Harry's cue to walk away, it's up to his dad and colleagues to make the final decision since he's not really a judge himself. He should have given his number to Niall when he had the chance. Instead he has a group of girls swarm him and Harry tells Paul it's fine. It's not, but he won't be mean. They all have a copy of a magazine with him on the cover as the most eligible bachelor under 30.
He's quick to sign his name off, his dad absolutely hates that Harry does photoshoots and interviews and lets himself be papped everywhere. 'You're a science prodigy not a cast member for Geordie Shore', at least that's what Des always tells him. Usually he's good about not doing it around his dad but sometimes he can't escape it.
The talking period is short as the judges all seemed to already have the top three narrowed down. Soon enough the entire room is called to attention so that the winners can be announced.
The mic squeals a little before the voice of the announcer fills the arena. "Ladies and gentlemen, the decision has been made. If the following three finalists could please make their way to the stage: Olly Murs, Niall Horan, and Stan Lucas."
Niall's heart is beating a mile a minute, any faster and it'll probably beat right out of his chest and onto the gym floor. All he can think is that he really hopes he doesn't trip walking up the stairs. Thankfully he doesn't and soon he's standing between the other two the judges called. One of them had the robot dog and the other improving prosthetics for amputees. Seriously, a robot dog.
"All of these projects that were seen today were fantastic leaps and bounds in your respected fields. Choosing a final three was tough, but we came a consensus. This year's third place is Olly Murs and his robot dog."
There's some cheering and applause while Olly collects his prize. "Mister Murs’ advancements in robotics are years ahead of his time. He hopes that one day, robotic animals will be available for children with autoimmune diseases and children with severe allergies."
If Niall's nerves weren't already going, they are now. It's between him and the guy, Stan, next to him. He either gets a full ride scholarship or he doesn't.
"And the winner of this year's science fair and the grand prize of a full scholarship to any university of their choice is," the announcer pauses and reads over the card in front of him. "Stan Lucas and his prosthetics for amputees."
Niall's heart stops and plummets into his stomach, his only chance of being funded for university is gone. How is he going to tell his parents he can't afford the tuition to go? He doesn't let it show though and he shakes Stan's hand, heading off the stage so Stan can have his moment. Well fuck.
The crowds start to disperse as the winner is announced. Bitter losers are tearing down their boards and talking about next year's projects already.
Des makes his way over to Niall, watching as the boy starts to pack up. "Two reasons you didn't take first place. Can you guess them?"
Surprised, Niall stops and offers a hesitant smile. He hadn't expected his hero to want to talk to him after the fair. "My project is only in theory and prosthetics are a more tangible solution?"
"Partly. The fact that you can't test on humans makes all of work work theoretical and extremely hard to prove. Based on the writings on your board though, everything looks correct." Des picks up the presentation’s accompanying paper and tucks it into a stack of notes he plans on taking back to his lab. "The second reason? I told them you couldn't win. If you win and get the scholarship, I can't offer you a spot on my lab team till you graduate. Four years is exceedingly too long to wait."
"You want to offer me a spot at your lab? Did your son talk to you?" Niall can't help the way his eyes wander to where Harry is talking to his bodyguard.
Des frowns. "Harry? Not at all. He's... He doesn't really appreciate this sort of aspect of the science world. Now, would you like the position as part of my lab team?"
Niall still doesn't really believe it. It's been his dream to get to work at Stylotech now the president and CEO himself is offering a position to him? He realizes that he's probably been quiet for too long so he nods swiftly. "Yeah, yes."
"Perfect!" Des cheers and holds a hand out for the young man to shake. "I took a copy of your research paper to look over. You have my business card, it has my office number and my son's work phone number on it. Give one of us a call on Monday and we'll bring you in to set up all the necessary paperwork. Sound good?"
"Sounds great, sir. Thank you, really, thank you." Niall can't fight the radiant smile on his face as he says it, shaking Mister Styles' hand.
"Well then. Have a pleasant evening. I have a research paper to read and cross-species experiments to do." Des nods curtly and turns on his heel, shouting at Harry to come along.
Harry isn't far behind offering a wink to Niall on his way by, if the media got one thing right he is a shameless flirt.
Once in the limo, Des looks to his son. "Thank you for not causing a scene today. Those young scientists deserve their day in the spotlight."
"You act like I'm not a young scientist." Harry doesn't get why his dad doesn't seem to take him seriously, so he hasn't built a fucking robot animal. When he was six he singed his bangs while he was playing with his chemistry set. How many six year olds are trying to create a nitrogenous base?
"You are, but these people have worked all their lives for that moment. You'll have a respected job in science even if you don't win an experiment based contest like that." Des doesn't get why his son has to turn everything into a situation about him.
Harry would really rather not be in the limousine right now, or anywhere near his dad in a closed environment. "It's not about the job, dad."
Des sighs. "For those kids it is. It's about trying to make a difference and getting the financial help they need to make it through college."
"That's not- when are we going to be home?" He doesn't bother trying anymore. It's not about the job, it's about his dad paying attention to his career more than Harry. The way he treats his prodigies more like his kids than he does his own son.
"We have a dinner with the president of American and French branches of Stylotech corporation. We need to discuss incoming talent and cross check to ensure all research being conducted is ethical and on track."
Harry makes a face at the window he's staring out of. "Why do I need to attend again?"
"Because," Des huffs as he looks at his son, "I won't be here forever. You need to start taking over more responsibilities in this company and this is one of them."
He's not in the mood to argue, arguing isn't going to solve anything and he knows that. It's pointless anyway they're both smart. "Will it be long? I was gonna kick back with Zayn and a few friends."
"Two hours? Maybe longer?" Des scrunches his nose at the thought of Harry's friend. "I can't believe you continue to hang out with that art boy. I would have thought you would have surrounded yourself with the science majors by now."
"They're all condescending pricks. I'd rather surround myself with good people," Harry says and looks to Paul. Paul has always been friend to him, a fill in dad really, and a decent buffer when Harry and his dad are having a row but not really having a row. It's usually casual insults and backhanded compliments. They're very passive aggressive.
Paul clears his throat. "Sir? Harry actually has a massive project he should be working on. I can escort him back to the house instead of dinner if you'd prefer."
Harry is quick to nod, "thanks for reminding me Paul. He's right, a big paper and presentation for biology. A huge chunk of my grade kinda thing."
Looking between the two, Des tries to see if it's all a ruse. Sighing he nods, "please do, Paul. Harry, just try to take this all a bit more seriously. This is all going to be yours sooner or later."
He has a lot to say to that, but he won't. Instead he just nods and looks as serious about it as he can. "Sure, dad."
Des has the limo drop him in front of the restaurant and he gets out, clenching his right hand as it involuntarily starts to shake. "Go get your work done. I expect great things from you."
Once the door is shut and the car is driving away, Paul shakes his head. "I'm not helping you anymore."
"I'm not voluntarily putting you in the middle." Harry reaches over and grabs a bottle of wine and a glass from behind the mini bar.
"Listen," Paul says as he takes the wine from the boy's hands, "I know he isn't the greatest dad, but he is right. He won't be here forever. I'm guessing from the shaking in his hand he's already figured out that time is of the essence. He just wants you ready for when he's gone."
Beyond frustrated, Harry sits back with his arms crossed. "And what if I don't want to take over the stupid company?"
The bodyguard just shakes his head and mimics the boy's posture. "You should have told him that a long time ago. Contrary to what you think, he would still love you and talk about your accomplishments even if they weren't in science."
"Because he totally does that when I pretend to like science." Harry's dad is only really around him when it has to do with science.
"Harry, I'm not here to tell you how to live your life, but if you're doing this to please your father then you will have a miserable existence."
Harry shrugs, glad when he can see the large iron wrought gates come into view. He's going to be miserable anyway.
Niall loosens his tie a bit as he heads down the streets of London. He was so nervous about today that he ended up leaving a full hour too early and getting to the correct area with forty-five minutes to spare. Seeing as he had so much time, he had stopped for breakfast to try and settle his stomach.
Staring up at the building in front of him, he doesn't think that was such a good idea. The lab building is one of the tallest in London- he knew that- but seeing the one thousand feet tall, jet black building in person? He's pretty sure he'll be seeing that breakfast again soon enough.
There's security posted outside the door and one of them looks at Niall. "Can I help you?"
"Is this the Stylotech Labs building? It seems so... Daunting." Niall asks nervously. He knows in theory it's the right building, but for someone who wants to make the world better, Mister Styles sure does pick some intimidating decorating.
"It is. There's a reception desk to the right when you enter; they'll tell you where to go." He explains.
Niall just nods his head in thanks before stepping forward as the door swishes open at his presence. He steps through and turns to watch the door close before heading to the reception desk. "Uh, hi. I have a meeting with Mister Styles at eight? I'm a few minutes early, but..."
"Name?" the receptionist asks with her eyes still glued to the computer screen and her fingers on the keyboard.
"Niall Horan," Niall answers back. He tries to keep his composure, but he's trembling in fear and excitement. Working for Stylotech has been a lifelong dream and he's finally able to conduct research to help the greater good.
Her long fingernails peck at the keys, mouse hovering over files until she finds what she's looking for. "You'll be on floor 53, take a left when you exit the elevator and they'll direct you to your room."
Niall nods and heads over to the elevator, stepping aside as others step out. Once in and on his way up, he takes a deep breath. "Get ahold of yourself, Horan. You came up with a cure that could eradicate a hereditary disease that affects millions. You're a great scientist."
The elevator stops and the doors open. There, waiting for him, is Harry Styles. Niall can definitely feel his stomach start to feel queasy at the sight of him. "Uh, um, good morning?"
Harry doesn't fight the smirk that makes its way onto his face. "Morning. Dad wanted me to show you where to go."
"O-of course. After you then." If Niall wasn't nervous before, he is now. “So, um, do you greet all the new employees or no?"
"It's not often we have new employees." Harry says with his hands in the pockets of his dress pants.
Niall can feel the weight of those words weigh heavy on him as he realise just how big an opportunity this is for him. "Of course you don't. This position is so highly sought after, I can't imagine anyone leaving or doing something to get fired."
Harry laughs as he walks down the spacious hallway, one wall made entirely of glass and the other framed photos of scientists with new, life changing inventions. "We've had people fired before."
"I highly doubt they would do anything on purpose." Niall shrugs. He doesn't understand why anyone would purposefully do something against Mister Styles.
"You'd be surprised, a lot of people in the industry are in it for the salary." Harry turns a corner and they arrive outside of a room. "I wish I could stay and talk more, but I've got a photoshoot to do."
Niall looks at the door apprehensively. "You won't be in there with me? I was sort of expecting a friendly face in there."
Harry checks the time on his phone, sighing. "I can always push it back, they can't really start without me."
"I don't want to make you late for anything. It's... Fine. Your dad isn't too bad, right?" Niall tries for a joke hoping to make it all easier.
Hesitantly Harry starts to chuckle and squeezes Niall's shoulder. "He's fine, totally fine."
The doors open and Niall glances inside. "Wish me luck. Hopefully he hasn't changed his mind."
"Trust me he hasn't, good luck." Harry cheekily pats him on the bum and walks off towards the elevators.
Niall yelps at the cheeky pat and watches the taller boy go. He shakes himself out of the cute boy induced haze and steps into the room. "Mister Styles?"
Des smiles when he sees Niall. "Mister Horan, please come in and have a seat."
"Of course," Niall scrambles in and grabs the first chair he can find. He hopes to say something clever or charming, but instead he focuses on the wrong part. "Harry does photoshoots?"
The demeanor in Des' attitude changes and he's quick to look at his assistant. It's not that he lives under a rock, but he does not have time for trivial things like pop culture. "He told me he stopped doing those, if he spent half the amount of time on science like he does... Anyway. We're not here to talk about my son. Give him the paperwork."
Niall winces as he seems to have hit a nerve. He looks down as a few papers and a pen are set in front of him. He uncaps the pen and starts to sign them immediately. "What are these exactly?"
"A pay agreement understanding that you will not be paid while you are interning, an non-disclosure agreement to ensure that any projects we have going on here will remain a secret, and a whistleblower protection form. If you see any unethical activity taking place, you can bring attention to it without consequence," one of Des' present lawyers explains.
"Unethical? What kind of experiments are we doing here, sir?" Niall looks up after finishing signing all the forms. "I know you want to make the world a better place, but what does that entail exactly?"
Des doesn't miss a beat when he says, "There are people that have their own agendas, Niall. They don't always align with what's morally right."
Niall frowns. "But everything you do here is ethical... Right?"
"Of course," Des smiles, "now, do you have any other questions?"
"Why me? I mean... Why are you interested in my area of study? I'm just a lad getting ready for university." Niall really doesn't get why they've picked him above top rated scientists.
"Well, and this is to remain in this room, I was diagnosed with Parkinson's about three months ago. My muscles are growing weaker and I'm afraid that if it doesn't get better, I will have to resign. And Harry is not ready to inherit the company." Des loves his son, but he's not mature enough yet to handle the responsibility it takes to run a mega corporation.
Niall frowns. "But all I had was a theory. It's never been tested, not even on animals. There's no way of knowing that this will cure you."
One of the other scientists present looks to Des, then to Niall. "If I may, your theory is extremely promising. We've run the data through simulations and tests and it has a ninety-five percent success rate, that's closer than any of us have gotten."
"You mean it worked? It actually..." Niall's face lights up at what this could mean.
Des nods. "You could change the world of science and medicine."
"Oh my god. This is... This could apply to all diseases that are caused by deteriorating tissue! This could go farther than Parkinson's! This could- this could cure Alzheimer's!" Niall looks excitedly at the man who made this all happen. "How would we test it? There's no way we would get anywhere near a clinical trial."
"We would test on lab rats and work our way up to human trials," he says.
Niall sits back in his chair trying to take this all in. "This is huge. I have to see this through. Sir, please."
"And you will," he promises while pointing towards the papers he signed. "You will be credited if this works out."
"When do we start?" Niall is so anxious to get in the lab knowing that he has a working theory and a ninety five success rate in computer models.
Des' demeanor turns serious. "Before we can, I'm going to ask that you work on this with my son. I need him to start being more hands on in the lab."
"Does he have a basic knowledge of biological components and how to spot the chromosomal pairs affected by the mutation?" Niall knows he'll end up saying yes, but he wants to make sure he can say he put up a small fight.
"He was able to break down a molecular code at the age of five." Even if his son can be laid back he isn't stupid, quite the opposite.
Niall nods, a bit surprised. "Sounds exactly like the guy I need then. I'm so thankful you're taking a chance on me, Mister Styles."
With that Des stands and looks towards his assistant. "Please give Niall the full tour, I have a meeting I need to go to."
Once it's just Niall and the assistant, the blond lets out a huge sigh of relief. "I thought for sure I was going to say something stupid in front of him."
Breslin, one of Des' colleagues, laughs. "He can be an imposing man."
"I've wanted to work here since... Well since forever, but I never thought it would come true. I mean, the cure to Parkinson's? That's..." Niall is still shocked and in awe of himself.
"You're a brilliant young man, Niall. I think you'll enjoy your time here at Stylotech."
"You think I should text him?" Harry asks, his phone in one hand and a Guinness in the other.
Zayn hums from where he's staring at the screen of his laptop actually trying to get some work done, he's the only one that has a huge essay he needs to complete by tomorrow night. "Wouldn't see the issue in it."
Louis is cramming a chopstick full of lo mein noodles into his mouth as he stares at his management textbook. "Whatever you do, just do it and shut up. Some of us are trying to figure out how Manchester United became the team heard around the world."
"Louis, I insist that you ice your knee. My textbook says even the slightest twinge in the knee could be a massive sprain." Liam holds out a towel wrapped bag of ice, pouting when Louis pushes the bag away.
Rolling his eyes at his friends, Harry quickly texts Niall a hello text.
"Zayn, do we have an essay due in philosophy this week or next week?" Louis looks at his friend. He's sure he's forgetting something.
Harry's phone pings as a text comes through. 'Oh! Hello, Mister Styles. Anything you need from me?'
Zayn's response is automatic, his eyes still glued to the screen. "Next week, I wouldn't be here if I had that much homework."
Harry smiles to himself. 'I thought getting 2 know each other would benefit for the project. I have a few friends over now, do u want 2 drop by?'
"Louis," Liam whines until the other huffs out of annoyance and takes the bag of ice and settled it on his knee.
Louis bites at his highlighter, getting the blue dye of his marker all over his lips. "Can we share resources for that one? It's on ethical practices, yeah?"
'I don't think that's a good idea. We're just meant to get the project to clinical trials. Why do we have to know each other for that?'
"Well shit," Harry says, he doesn't really know what to say to that. 'Thought it'd be nice, you don't have to of course. I'll see you when we start.'
Zayn ignores Harry's small outburst. "It is and we can."
Louis looks over at the youngest. "Why are you not doing anything productive? Come on, your dad will kill you if you fail another course."
"I don't get why I have to take courses I'm not even interested in." Harry wishes he could pursue what he wanted but he doesn't want to disappoint his dad.
"Take them as electives. You do have a few holes in your schedules." Liam shrugs, knowing that Harry supplies his elective credits with an internship at his father's company.
"You don't know my dad." Harry is pretty sure he's just going to be miserable the rest of his life running a corporation he doesn't want to manage.
"Once you're at the top though, you can do whatever you want. You just have to sign things and play golf." Louis sighs and sits up, stretching as something pops in his back.
Zayn, who finally looks away from his laptop, can see how uncomfortable Harry is with the turn of their conversation. "So the cure to hereditary disease, huh? That's pretty impressive."
"How old is he? He sounds amazing." Liam smiles as he looks up at his friend. "Does he go to our school or anything?"
Harry shakes his head, he would remember someone like Niall. "I don't think so, think he just finished secondary. He's like 18 maybe." His phone beeps loudly. 'Okay. I'm intrigued. Where should I head for this get together?'
Louis rolls his eyes. "So what's so special about this kid. Sounds like a genius douche."
Harry can't help the shit eating grin that appears, giving Niall his address. 'Text me when you're at the gate, security won't let you through the gates without me.'
"He's pretty nice from what I've gotten to see, cute, decent ass."
'That's on the other side of London. I'll be there as soon as I can.'
"Shagging an employee? Isn't that how your dad got his wonderful son?" Louis chuckles and closes his textbook.
Harry snorts, "she wasn't even in his department. At least I can't get this one pregnant."
"I can only imagine what your dad would say," Liam laughs. He can't imagine Harry changing dirty diapers and getting up every few hours.
Zayn frowns. "I know you all seem to want to play and talk about boys, but some of us actually have stuff we have to do."
"Oh, we're so sorry Mister future Prime Minister. Allow us to bow and grovel for forgiveness." Louis shifts, watching as the bag of ice falls to the floor.
"I invited you for a drink," Harry reminds him, taking a swig of his beer for emphasis.
"Getting drunk and studying isn't exactly the smartest thing to do, but it is the best." Louis says as he nudges Liam with his toes.
With a heavy sigh, Liam gets up to get them both a drink. "You sure you don't want anything, Zayn?"
"I can't afford the hangover." Zayn says trying to just get back to work considering his friends are hopeless.
"Pop a movie on. Take your mind off the fact that lover boy isn't here." Louis reaches out for his ice pack, whining when he can't reach it.
Liam doesn't hesitate to grab the ice pack, settling it back on Louis' knee.
Rolling his eyes, Harry says, "Christ you two are like an old married couple."
"Try rooming with that for four years. Thank god it's senior year." Zayn groans as he sits back and rubs at his eyes. "Fuck this class. Why did I think political science was a good major?"
"Because you're a nerd and that's like nerd candy," Harry teases. He stands to go and grab another beer, messing with Zayn's hair as he walks past.
"Grab me one!" Zayn says as he shuts his book.
Louis rolls his eyes, fingers combing through Liam's hair. "So what is Captain Cute Ass' name?"
"It's Niall," Harry calls as he walks down the long stretch of hallway towards his kitchen.
Harry's phone buzzes next to Liam's head. Grabbing it, he opens the text and grins. 'I'll let the guards know.'
"Niall? Ew. What kind of name is that? I'm sticking with Captain Cute Ass." Louis shouts as he searches the on demand choices. "Is everyone okay with Fantastic 4?"
"The only cringeworthy Marvel movie," Zayn says. "Honestly no one can ever do superhero teams justice."
"The Avengers was okay," Liam shrugs. "They definitely got better as the chemistry advanced though. I haven't seen this one yet though."
"Does anyone born after the turn of the century even know who the Justice League are?" Zayn asks. "If we had powers we'd have a better team name like those Superhero guys or something."
"Of course. For starters, we would be more Avenger like than Justice League. The JL just stands there and uses logic and don't do a lot. The Avengers have heart." Louis frowns when there's a knock at the door.
Shrugging, Liam stands and opens the large, oak front door. "Oh, hello."
Niall smiles shyly. "Hi. Uh, is Harry here? I'm a coworker of his and he invited me over. I can... Come back later if need be."
"Right, Captain Cute- never mind. Come in, he's in the kitchen." Liam pulls open one side of the massive double door entrance.
Niall steps inside and looks around in awe. He follows the boy into the kitchen and smiles when he sees a familiar face. "Hey! Did you want me to come back later? If you've got friends over..."
Harry looks up from where's half bent inside his fridge grabbing a handful of drinks so he doesn't have to get up so soon again. "It's totally fine; that's why I invited you here. Thought you'd be more comfortable if there were other people around."
"Yeah," Niall chuckles nervously. "So are we working or socialising? I didn't bring any of my research so I'd have to ask to see anything you'd have on the subject."
"Mostly socializing. We're gonna be working a lot together, I'm talking over-nighters at the lab if everything is promising. Figured everything would be less awkward and more comfortable if we're on friendly terms. My dad probably told you why this project is so important and I'd like if everything went smoothly."
"Makes sense. What am I crashing then? A slumber party or a study party?" Niall plays with his fingers, itching to grab one of the beers in Harry's hands.
Harry notices the twitch and he holds a drink out to Niall. "They usually crash here. We have a ton of spare bedrooms if you would also like to stay."
Niall nods his thanks as he takes the drink. It's not his first, but he's finally legal to take a drink outside of his home and he feels a bit giddy at the thought. "I probably won't. Da and I have a routine in the morning and it's a bit shit if I'm not there."
"Totally cool too, follow me." Harry walks back towards his family den handing out beers to the other three.
Liam takes his and Louis' beer placing them out of reach of his best friend. "You took some paracetamol about an hour ago. You can't mix alcohol with that- you know that, Lou."
"And yet he does it all the time." Zayn sits up to make room for the newcomer. "I'm Zayn. Those idiots are Liam and Louis. They're practically the same person so it's okay if you mix them up."
"A whole new meaning to the phrase go fuck yourself." Harry sniggers.
Liam flushes, it was only one time, not that these fuckers would ever let it go.
Niall chuckles and sits with Zayn on the couch. "I'm sure watching you two is just adorable."
Louis flips them off. "I'm giving Captain Cute Ass a pass since he's new, but you two can go play in traffic."
Harry's eyes immediately widen when Louis calls Niall by his unofficial nickname. "Louis, I think it's time you stopped talking."
"Captain... What?" Niall can feel the flush on his face. He's flattered, but he needs to keep everything professional.
"We're watching Fantastic Four!" Liam yells loudly as he hits play. He doesn't want Niall asking questions about his nickname.
"The best part about this movie," Harry says trying to change the topic entirely. "Is that we get to see Chris Evans in tights twice."
"Chris Evans makes a great Captain America, but watching him in this movie makes me wonder how Marvel even thought he would be a good idea." Zayn shrugs as he sips at his beer.
Louis nods. "Jessica Alba though. Her ass looks great in that spandex. I mean, fuck, it's just so nice and perky."
The movie starts up and Harry settles in on the sofa he's sitting on while drinking his Guinness. "How as scientists are you going to be so irresponsible, they could have avoided the radiation."
"I mean, things happen all the time. You also have to keep in mind that Von Doom was dumb enough to kind of want this to happen." Niall shrugs as he watches the movie. Accidents in the lab happen, he knows that. Shouldn't Harry know the dangers of being in the lab better than anyone?
"That's why you take precautionary measures, my dad had to do the same thing within his own company," Harry says.
Louis hums. "I remember when we were quarantined in here for a good two weeks because of a radiation leak at the lab. Had to reschedule my management final and I got two extra weeks to study."
"The only good thing to come out of it." Zayn remembers those two weeks and he was ready to go crazy after spending every waking moment with the others.
"Do you remember when your dad had to put us on the security list because of the security breach that one time?" Liam hated that. They had been interrogated and basically yelled at for three hours straight.
"Or the time we accidentally wandered into the wrong lab and busted open a huge human testing scandal. Your dad was actually very happy about that one." Louis tries to reach the beer that Liam had taken from him.
"That nasty son of a witch got what he had coming." Harry doesn't really ever talk about what happened then, but when he does he never has anything nice to say.
Niall frowns. "Human testing? I thought your dad said that human testing wasn't done in the lab unless we're a hundred percent sure of outcomes."
"The corporation paid off everyone to keep it under wraps but as you probably know my dad started the company with his colleague Simon Cowell, back when they called it Stycotech. Simon was more hands on in the lab at the time and my dad ran the business side of things, but they had a common goal, to create a better world, a world without weakness." It's been awhile since Harry's had to tell this story. He doesn't even really know Niall, but Niall doesn't seem like the type to go flapping his tongue.
"Eventually my dad decided to see how their big project was going, they were trying to figure out how to use cross-species genetics as you already know. My dad found out Simon was doing human test trials under the guise of animal testing and my dad immediately fired him and compensated the families. He went on to tell everyone that Simon decided to retire, my dad threatened him saying if he didn't retire, he'd go to the press and willingly tank his own company. Thankfully Simon agreed, probably to save face, and he's no longer a blip on the radar."
"Is that why your dad was so set on making sure I report unethical behaviour?" Niall can't believe anyone breaking the ethical unspoken code of scientists. "I hate even putting alcohol on a cut because it causes pain, but testing?"
Zayn shakes his head. "What exactly was he testing anyway? I know it was cross-genetics, but like... Medicinal or something more, uh, evolutionary?"
"Well," Harry starts shifting his body to make himself more comfortable, "he was trying to prove that his formula was correct by testing it on people missing limbs that signed up to be paid for experimental drug use. They thought they were going to be taking a new pain killer to reduce inflammation. Essentially he was trying to inject them with lizard DNA because lizards, when they lose body parts, can regrow limbs at will. None of the five people he tested it on took the serum well and they ended up dying, which is how my dad found out."
Louis shudders. "I'm all for curing diseases, but don't you ever worry that sometimes it's like playing God? I mean, growing back limbs? I just worry that someday all these modifications with science will ruin us."
Harry can see both sides, wanting to create a better world but also understanding that it can go too far. "It's about as controversial as stem cell research."
Niall looks back to the television to see Chris Evans popping a thing of popcorn in his hand. "I think diseases are one thing. If we had the technology though like Star Wars though where prosthetic limbs could be as realistic as Luke Skywalker's, I think amputees would have a much easier time."
"That's what I think, it just has to be developed by the right people. Like me and Niall here, we're gonna revolutionize the industry." Harry smiles over at his new co-worker.
"Of course you are. You have a genius and... Well, whatever you are, Harry." Liam smiles cheekily at his joke.
Harry snorts and jokes, "I'd watch it if I were you. You'll be the first person we test on Payne."
The room descends into silence as they all settle in to finish the movie.
Once the bad guy is beaten and the credits have rolled, Louis shifts to look at his friends. "If you could be a superhero, what power would you want and what would your name be?"
Zayn's already put a lot of thought into this before. "I'd be like a psychic or something, maybe a telepath. Everyone would call me Zee-Man like He-Man but with more clothes."
"Guess I can't have an S on my chest without it being copyright infringement. I don't know I guess I would like to fly or the power of suggestion," Harry says with a laugh.
Liam scrunches his nose as he thinks about the question. "Something that's more about complimenting someone else's power. Maybe the ability to shape shift. As for a name... I don't know. Something intimidating for sure."
"I'd say dark magic or something similar. I always liked Raven from the DC universe. Maybe a name like Illuminator though so it's a nice juxtaposition." Niall finishes his only beer of the night, checking the time.
"You remind me more of Starfire," Harry says with a grin, Niall just seems too bubbly.
Zayn yawns and stretches his arms. "Think I'm gonna go crash in one of the rooms, finished my essay and I'm exhausted."
Louis nods and yawns as well. "Liam and I will share. Have to cuddle with someone since Eleanor isn't here."
“Does she know that you have a boyfriend as well as her?” Zayn jokes as the three of them stand and grab their stuff. Their rowdy language and laughter can be heard until two bedroom doors close down the hall.
Niall chuckles and shakes his head at their behaviour before realising he’s alone with Harry again. He can feel the butterflies in his stomach start to stir. “Do you mind if I stay for a bit longer? The tube is open till later and I don’t want to head out just yet.”
"I always love company." Harry says and then follows it with, "television on."
There's a beeping noise and then the television flares to life once more.
Niall shakes his head and smiles. "I'd kill for a voice activated anything. I was a bit disappointed when I was told that this position at the company was only an intern position and non-paid, but luckily my boss at Tesco was pretty understanding. Told me to just come in whenever I could. He also requested that I get a raise since I have to cut my hours, but I couldn't pass up this once in a lifetime opportunity."
"Don't worry," Harry says, "I overheard my dad on the phone the other day and he said if this works they'll offer you a full time, paid position at the lab."
Niall nearly chokes on his spit. "Really? I don't think I'm that great, but hopefully I don't mess anything up. I mean, I've never even gone to college. I'm sure your dad would want someone more qualified than me in the lab full time."
"If he wants someone like me running the whole thing I think you'll be fine." Harry jokes, he hopes it'll at least calm Niall's obvious nerves.
"Sorry. You probably don't want to talk about this. You probably talk enough to shop with your dad." Niall chuckles and tries to relax a bit. It's hard when he's starting to notice the differences between him and Harry. He still doesn't get how Mister Styles could pick someone like him over anyone else for the company.
Harry shrugs and gets the documentary up, keeping it paused. "Things have a way of working out, it may not be what you want but it'll be what you need."
Niall thinks about that and nods. "True enough. The experience alone will probably put me on the short list for any university or other lab."
Smiling, Harry hits play and settles into his sofa. Exploring the universe is better with someone else.
"Sir, come take a look at this." Lieutenant Dan Wooton calls over his superior as they look over the crater. They had gotten a report of something falling from the sky.
General Louis Walsh heads towards the concave hole in the ground, boots skidding through the dirt trying to get to the base of it.
There's a small meteor lying out, but when he uses his flashlight to get a better look he sees a glowing green substance splattered across the rock. "What the hell is that?"
"I'm not sure. Whatever it is, it's moving on its own." Wooton looks at the green sludge as it slowly streaks across the space rock. "It's leaving a glowing trail too. It's like something out of a bad science fiction movie."
"Or an old horror movie." He stands and looks towards his men, yelling out orders. "I want a sample of this collected and sent immediately to Stylotech for an identification."
There's a shout as things start to move towards following out the orders. Dan finally gets a vial and manages to get a bit into the glass container.
He hands the sample up and winces as a pain flares through his hand. "Fuck," he rips the glove from his hand and looks at his blistering finger. "Don't touch this stuff. It burns through your gloves."
"Lieutenant Wooton, I want you to immediately go and take a chemical bath. I will take that." General Walsh grabs the vial and climbs out of the crash site, handing the foreign substance to one of his men with instructions to overnight ship it to London.
Dan looks at his finger. He frowns as he watches the skin bubble a bit before smoothing out like the chemical burn never even happened. "Sir?"
Walsh, who had watched it, looks at him seriously. "We don't know what we're dealing with, go wash your hand."
"Should... Should we quarantine me as well? I'm not sure what- or where- that stuff went." Dan tries not to start freaking out at the idea of an alien substance inside of him.
"It would be for the best, now go, we don't know how urgent this." He dismisses Dan and heads over towards his convoy, telling his team to make sure no civilians come within a five mile radius.
Harry has the sleeves on his lab coat rolled up to his elbows and his goggles pushed up onto his forehead instead of over his eyes. They've been in the lab for awhile trying to figure out what they could use to totally stabilize Niall's theory. "We could try a sequestrant."
"We could. I'm just worried that it won't reach the damaged tissue. That's where we need it to get to." Niall sighs and looks over all the work spread across their work table. "Let's see if we can synthesise it and get in the rats' food."
Nodding, Harry looks at Niall's formula scrawled across a piece of notebook paper. "Your theory looks fine, but I feel like there's something missing."
Niall hums as he sets about looking at the DNA tissue in front of him.
The doors to the lab swish open as Des walks in. "Harry, we have a problem." He frowns as he spots Niall in the lab, but figures the NDA will have to be enforced.
Harry tries to pull his goggles down over his face fast enough so his dad doesn't yell at him- again- but he only ends up snapping them against his skin. "Son of a bitch."
"Harry Edward, were you not wearing your goggles in the lab again?" Des sighs heavily before remembering why he was in the lab in the first place. "No, not important. We need to discuss something else."
Harry sits on a stool and hopes his skin isn't as red as it feels. "What did you want to discuss?"
Des reaches into his pocket and pulls out a vial filled with a glowing green substance crawling up the sides. "We got this from a military unit in Northern Ireland. They want an analysis and report on it within two weeks. Who would you assign to this task?"
"Someone who would be able to identify what that is?" Harry doesn't understand where this is going but looking at the vial he's pretty intrigued.
Des frowns. "It's from a meteorite so we should focus more with astrophysicists or regular scientists?"
"Well its origin is space, but scientists have the general knowledge of molecular structures and chemical properties," Harry says and shrugs.
"Name the team," Des says. He wants his son to start making important decision for the company. "Pick two scientists and an intern to study it. You'll be moved to that team as well."
Harry thinks about it and says, "I'd go regular scientists. Probably Mcllroy, Bressie, me and, well, Niall."
"Do you really think that's the best team for this project?" He looks over at the blond skeptically. The kid just started and he doesn't want to throw him into the deep end just yet.
"His theory has a potential 95 percent success rate, that's even closer than you've gotten. I'll take full responsibility if it doesn't work out for some reason." Harry says.
Des stares at his son, trying to figure out if Harry really trusts Niall that much already. He hands the vial over to his son. "Fine. Put this on the back burner. This new substance is your main concern."
Taking the glass tube, Harry stares at the way it glows, the slime almost looks like it knocks against the vial when he holds it in front of his face. "Yeah, we'll start analysis as soon as Breslin and Mcllroy arrive."
"I'll have them sent here right away." Des says before turning to leave the room. "Good luck, boys."
Niall heads back over once the door is shut behind his boss. "What the hell is that?"
Honestly Harry doesn't really know himself, he's never seen anything like it. "Whatever it is, it looks aggressive."
"Fuck. It's just slime. How the hell is it moving like that?" Niall reaches out for the vial, wanting to get it under the microscope as soon as possible.
"Your guess is as good as mine." Harry slips the vial into his pocket for safekeeping, until the others get there.
Niall frowns and looks at where the faint green glow of the sludge filters through the fabric of Harry's pocket. "Let's get this workstation cleaned up a bit so the others have room to work as well."
Harry nods and they get to cleaning in silence.
Niall rubs at his eyes and yawns as he stares at the chart in front of him. It's been two weeks since the research into this slime began and so far they've learned nothing. It's infuriating, but fascinating at the same time. "Fuck, I need some coffee. I can't fight with this shit without caffeine."
Breslin and Mcllroy are looking at smaller samples through microscopes, taking notes on whatever traits they notice.
The door whips open and Harry is standing there in a blazer, but he's wearing bathing suit trunks and a blue inner tube around his waist.
Niall smiles at the get up. "Not really sure that's dress code, Harry. Besides, you're late. You get to make the coffee run."
"Actually, I'm not late. I'm early. We're gonna go meet Liam, Louis, and Zayn at the beach." He says.
"Have you gone crazy?" Niall actually laughs at Harry with that one. "I can't go to the beach. I have to stay here and figure out what this flubber thing is."
Harry rolls his eyes and puts his hand over the eyepiece attached to his microscope. "Come on, we've been working nonstop for two weeks, we're allowed to take an afternoon off. I'm the CEO's son."
"And I'm an intern," Niall shoots back. He can't afford to miss a day. He needs to impress so that he can get hired at the company full time. Harry doesn't seem to get that no matter how many times he tells him.
"But you're with me and why would I get you in trouble?" Harry's cheek dimples and he hopes the smile is reassuring. "Just a few hours, he'll never even know we're gone."
Niall looks across the room where Bressie and McIlroy are busy running tests. The two haven't acknowledged his presence all morning; they probably wouldn't even realise they were gone.
"You sure we won't get caught?" His voice is a low whisper as he looks up at Harry.
"I'm sure," Harry confirms. He does every now and then but he's usually alone, however Niall's just an intern right now.
With one last look at the lab, Niall smiles. "Let's go. I need some sun."
Grinning, Harry leads the way out of the lab and eventually out of the building towards his Bentley.
"Fucking hell. I always forget how rich you are and then things like this happen." Niall can practically feel the drool on his chin as he carefully climbs into the car. "Fuck, this costs more than my flat."
Harry laughs, it's been awhile since he's gotten a reaction like that. He pulls the inner tube up his torso and tosses it into the back seat. "I figured it was more practical than a Lamborghini and more environmentally friendly than an SUV."
"Yeah..." Niall stares at the interior, too scared to touch anything. "The cost of this car could probably feed my dad and I for a few years. Maybe even allow us to go out to dinner once in awhile."
"Trust me, if you get a job at my dad's company you'll be able to go out to dinner every night." Harry opens the sunroof and turns the radio on.
"If being the key word," Niall says quietly. It's a few minutes before his brain truly catches up with everything happening around him. "Wait, I'm still in my lab clothes. I can't go to the beach like this."
Harry's already about seventeen steps ahead of Niall. "I got an extra pair of trunks, sandals, and a tank top in a bag in the back. Figured you can change in the bathroom when we get there."
"Got this all planned out then?" Niall smiles and feels a small blush at the fact that Harry likes him enough to think to bring him stuff for the beach. "So you all are in university? How old are you then?"
"I always have a plan," Harry says and stops at a red light. "I'm twenty-one."
Niall's eyes widen at the age. "Are you all in your twenties then? God, I'm hanging out with people older than me."
Harry just laughs and shrugs. "And I'm the baby of the group. What have you never had older friends?"
"Well, I've never really had a lot of friends. Was working at a young age. School, work, homework, sleep." Niall shrugs. He knows he had to grow up a lot faster than other kids his age, but he'd much rather help his father out having him hurt himself.
Harry can understand that, even growing up the way he did he was pretty isolated. "I didn't have many friends either."
"I find that hard to believe. You're overtly charismatic. Bet you had people lining up at your door to be friends with you." Niall chuckles as he tries to pictures a mini Harry acting cool for everyone to see.
"There were people lining up but it wasn't to be my friend, at least not for the right reasons. Most people when they look at me, they see money." It had been a pretty lonely time growing up, most of the people he had befriended were only around to leech money off of him and for a while Harry was fine with it, figured paying his friends was better than not having any friends. Eventually he came to the conclusion that he was wrong.
Niall frowns and shakes his head. "That's sick. I hate people who leech. I don't get it. Some people are out there making just enough to get by and people above them feel the need to be fake to others so they can get something for free. Just irks me."
"I met Zayn, he's my best friend, when I was fairly young. Before I was on magazines and doing interviews; he knew my father but not me. I didn't tell him my last name for the longest time because I knew it would draw anyone, especially the money grabbers. Zayn and I met at school, he became my friend just to be my friend. Then he introduced me to Liam and Louis. I can't even begin to explain the look on their faces when I first invited them to my home. And you know something? They've never asked me for money."
"They sound like true friends." Niall could tell the bond between the four of them was tightly knit, but knowing that Harry had to search to find the people who were accepting of him for him and not his money makes it better. "Do you all go to the same school now?"
Harry nods. "We made a deal that whatever school all four of got accepted to then we would go. Liam, Louis, and Zayn share a dorm on campus. I figured it was kinda pointless considering the size of my dad's place."
"Must be nice," Niall blushes when he realises how bitter that sounds. "I mean going to school together. I'm sure you all got accepted to a top school too."
"Manchester University is pretty sweet." Harry had also gotten into Oxford but Liam and Louis hadn't so he decided against going. It's a top school but considering he's almost guaranteed a job anyway it doesn't really matter which university he attends.
Soon enough Harry's pulling up to the beach, finding a parking space close to the water. "Here we are."
Niall gets out and takes a deep breath. The smell of the ocean is peaceful. He can't tell you the last time he actually went to the beach. "Oh, this is going to be so nice."
Agreeing, Harry tosses his blazer back in his car so he's only wearing a muscle shirt, grabbing the bag with Niall's temporary things packed in them. "Here, there's a bathroom just right down there in that little brick building. I'll wait outside for you."
Liam spots Harry quickly and the three make their way towards him. "Did he actually come with you? Oh, this is going to be great. It'll be nice to get to know him."
"Slow down, Li. He's not a puppy or a toy." Zayn rolls his eyes at the boy's eagerness. He always had thought Liam was the odd one of their friend group.
"He's not an animal at the zoo, he's about as interesting as- well he's more interesting than you lot." Harry teases.
"I highly doubt that," Louis says with an air of indifference. He hates when Harry finds someone to become his project. He just doesn't want Harry to get hurt anymore.
Harry ignores Louis, instead focusing on the water. It looks relatively calm, only small blips for waves and the sun hung above bright and radiant. The perfect day to go to the beach really. "You'll like him, he's nice. I haven't exactly known him for very long but I can tell." 'He's not the same as the others,' he wants to add but ultimately decides against it.
Louis is ready to retort when Liam elbows him hard in the ribs. "If he's good enough for you, he's good enough for us."
"Who's good enough?" Niall's voice breaks their small huddle as he steps out of the bathroom dressed in Harry's extra clothes. He self-consciously rubs at his naturally pale arms, feeling a bit exposed.
"I'm finally good enough to swim," Zayn says, but he consciously pulls on one of the bright orange floaties he has around his arms. He's not much of a swimmer.
Leading the way, Harry spreads a large beach blanket out on the sand by the water. "I brought a volleyball if anyone wants to play later."
"For sure. I know Louis brought a football as well, but he'll have to put his knee brace on before we play." Liam side glances to the brunet to let him know that he wouldn’t be getting out of it.
Niall perks up a bit at the mention of something he knows so well. "You need a brace too? My knee has been popping out of place for as long as I can remember."
Still wary, Louis cautiously nods his head. "Fairly recent accident, got sacked on the pitch and my knee got the brunt of it."
"We had to restrain Liam from going out on the pitch." Harry chuckles, Liam looked ready to blow his lid along with everything else.
Niall smiles softly. "I love me a game of footie. Couldn't play with a real team or anything because of my knee and work schedule, but a kick about in the park with my da was always nice."
"Good. We have you, then we can finally replace Harry," Zayn says. "Apparently it's not allowed to replace someone with an imaginary friend."
Pouting, Harry crosses his arms and looks at Zayn defiantly. "I'm better than your imagination that's for sure."
"My imaginary friend doesn't have two left feet." Zayn laughs.
"Alright you two, that's enough," Liam scolds as he stabs the large umbrella in the sand and opens it up. "I'm thinking a bit of tanning would do us some good."
"Speak for yourself. I'm naturally tan and Zayn is half Pakistani. Seems like you're the one who needs the sun, mate." Louis rolls his eyes, but lays out on the blanket Harry had brought.
Harry reaches into his bag and tosses Liam sunscreen. "You'll need that. The last time we were here you returned more red than tan."
"Would you mind if I borrowed some? I wasn't exactly prepared for a beach trip." Niall chuckles awkwardly and rubs at the back of his neck.
"You're whiter than Liam. Use however much you need." Harry kicks his sandals off and pulls his shirt off over his head, tossing it back into his rucksack.
Louis stands and nudges Liam in the ribs with his foot. "Race you to the water!"
"But..." Liam doesn't get to say anything else before Louis is taking off for the water. Sighing, Liam stands to run after him.
Rubbing the sunscreen into his shoulders, Niall watches the two of them go. "Are they always like this?"
"Like what? An old married couple? Basically." Harry watches them fondly for a long moment then says. "I'm gonna go take a walk down the beach."
Zayn looks up from where he's already got his textbook open and looks cozy. His eyes shift to where Niall is still rubbing sunscreen into his skin. "Did you want company?"
Normally Harry walks alone, but considering he's the only one Niall really knows it might be better to have company. "Well if anyone wants to join me they can."
Niall looks up and shrugs. "I think I'm going to stay here. I'm pretty tired from working late the last few nights and having to get to the lab early recently."
"I'll see you guys in a little bit then." With that Harry starts his walk down the beach.
Zayn settles into the folding chair he brought, trying to find his place again.
Niall tries to remain silent as he can see that Zayn is studying, but he left his phone in Harry's car and he's never been good with silence. "Harry says you all are best friends?"
Zayn nods, his eyes still on his book. "Have been for years now."
"Cool," Niall nods. "So... How did that happen?"
"Met at school. Harry was always pretty quiet and so was I; after hanging out with those two morons for years it was nice to find someone who appreciated silence the way I did." That and Harry excelled in science, something that intrigued Zayn.
"Really? I told him on the way here, I thought he was very charismatic and would have had a ton of friends growing up." Niall frowns and looks at the shape of Harry walking alone down the shoreline.
Zayn looks at Harry as he gradually becomes smaller and less defined. "Harry is charismatic, and kind. People like to take advantage of it."
Niall looks back to Zayn, a questioning look in his eyes. "Do you guys think I would take advantage of him?"
He's silent for a long moment, trying to pick his words carefully. "The people that have taken advantage of him, we had no idea they would. We've gotten more protective the more it happens."
"That's why Louis doesn't trust me." Niall smiles sadly and looks to Zayn. "The walls of the bathroom were pretty thin. Heard the whole thing."
"I wouldn't take it personally. I will warn you now, if you are like the others. If you're just talking to Harry to get to his money or to get a job at his dad's company then I would suggest you leave him alone after today. Harry doesn't deserve it." Zayn is stern when he says it.
"I don't... I wouldn't do that. Harry keeps telling me his dad will give me a position there, but I haven't done anything to earn that position yet. As for money, a few extra pounds would be nice, but it's not worth ruining a friendship over." He doesn't know how to prove to them that he isn't after money or a job, but he does understand their protective nature.
Zayn finally looks over at Niall. "We'll know soon enough I'm sure."
Just then Louis comes barreling back and starts shaking his hair out like a dog, spraying water over Zayn and his textbook.
"Oi! This book is rented!" Zayn shouts as he quickly tries to cover the pages. "You're like the worst mangy mutt ever."
"Louis! Don't run! You're not wearing your knee brace!" Liam wailed from the ocean where he was trying to brush as much wet sand off of himself as possible.
About fifteen minutes later, Harry comes back with a few new seashells in his pocket to add to his growing collection. He sits down next to Niall on his blanket. "Hope they weren't too difficult, haven't properly trained them. They aren't housebroken yet."
Niall smiles brightly, leaning into his friend's space and using Harry as a sort pillow. "Zayn and Liam weren't too bad. That Louis though. Maybe take him back to the shelter. He can be someone else's problem."
Louis rolls his eyes and presses at the tender skin of his knee cap. "Oi, piss off, brev."
"I already tried returning him, said they didn't want the yappy one back." Harry teases kicking a bit of sand at Louis' legs.
"Fuck both of you. Let's play a bit of footie and then get some food." Louis flips them off and stands, holding a hand out for Liam and Zayn.
Soon enough they're split into teams and Harry's left to keep score, not that he minds. He'd rather not humiliate himself anyway.
Liam looks over at Niall- his teammate- with a huge smile. "You'll be alright to play, yeah? You said you usually wear a brace, but I only have one."
"If it starts acting up I'll just sit out and Harry can replace me." Niall's knee has been pretty good lately so he's hoping it'll keep up.
"Just wear my brace. I'll be good, mate." Louis goes into his and Liam's bag to grab the football and the brace Liam insisted they bring.
Zayn rolls his eyes as he slips the floaties off his arms. "So what are we playing till?"
"Eight?" Liam says, it's usually what they go to when they're not trying to be overly competitive. He glares over at Louis. "Put that on! You can't play without it!"
Louis pretends not to hear his friend and drops the ball into the sand. "Eight it is. Incoming!"
Niall watches as Louis kicks the ball high up in the air and it arcs its way over to land in front of Liam. "Should I build two sand piles for a goal?"
Instead, Liam drags his foot through the sand to create a line, the goal line. The game starts and it’s the best way for any of them to relax, there's more laughter than kicking actually going on and Niall turns out to be surprisingly good.
"7-6 in Louis and Zayn's favor, this is game point." Harry says from where he's keeping count in the dirt.
"If we win, Liam has to write my ethics paper," Louis shouts loudly as he keeps the ball from hitting the ground with his knees.
Niall chuckles. "C'mon, Liam. You don't need another paper to write."
"I didn't even agree!" Liam shouts, keeping near the goal.
"Wouldn't it be a laugh if someone else wrote your ethics paper? That's irony right there." Harry says as he thinks about the conundrum.
Louis rolls his eyes and passes the ball to Zayn. "Let's get that point, Malik!"
Zayn dribbles the ball down the sand only to have Niall take it out from under his feet, kicking it hard enough for it to make it over their line for a goal. Both of Niall's arms go in the air and his hands are in fists. "Yes!"
Louis curses and looks to Zayn. "Really? That was an easy steal!"
"Didn't see you stopping the ball, Beckham." Zayn rolls his eyes and kicks the ball back to Harry so he can toss it in.
"Game point," Harry says as he tosses the ball into the middle of their makeshift field.
Liam hurries up to dribble the ball up the sand. He sweeps by Zayn, missing a challenge from the darker boy. He puts a bit of power behind the shot to get it past the goal line.
Louis' eyes widen and he dives in front of the ball, stopping it just in time. "Zayn!" He passes it and hops up, his knee twinging a bit as he nearly skips down the field to ensure he's open.
Zayn has to sweep the ball between Liam's legs, kicking it straight towards Louis down at the other end of the field.
Louis takes off, charging the goal and letting his foot sail across the ball and watching as it heads towards the open goal line. "Get in!"
The ball barely manages to make it over and Harry is soon whistling around his fingers. "Game over!"
"Yes!" Louis jumps in the air, pumping his fists wildly. "I don't have to do my ethics paper!"
"We never shook hands!" Liam says going towards Louis to argue his point.
Harry rolls his eyes fondly and looks at his watch, it's already starting to get late.
"Let's get some food and head back to Harry's. You two can settle this later." Zayn says as he throws an arm around Niall's shoulders.
Soon enough both Harry and Niall are in the Bentley with everything packed tightly in the back. "So did you enjoy your afternoon?"
Niall smiles brightly and nods. "Yeah. I'd probably still be in the lab if I had stayed at work."
"Every now and then you need a break." Harry gets out on the road and turns his radio on for background noise.
"I guess that's true. I wonder if Bressie and McIlroy ever noticed we were gone." Niall yawns and gets comfortable in his seat.
Harry doubts it, even if they had they probably won't mention anything. The drive back is quiet, the hum of music the only noise in the car, it's not awkward though. It's a comfortable silence that makes Harry feel like he's known Niall since forever.
Bobby sighs as he flips through the mail from the day. He sees the pile of bills growing and wonders how they were going to make it this month. With Niall's internship, half of the income to the household was now gone and nothing seemed to be affordable anymore.
He places the mail in his lap and wheels himself out to the living room where he can hear Niall watching television. "Niall? Are you busy?"
Immediately Niall sits up, dazed from having almost fallen asleep. "Do you need something, da?"
"We need to talk." Bobby stops his wheelchair next to the couch and reaches down to lock the wheels in place. "How much does your internship pay?"
"Well it's an internship, dad. I don't get paid, but I get credit for uni." Niall reaches for the remote and mutes the television.
Bobby sighs and rubs a hand down his face. "Okay. How many hours are you managing at Tesco between days at the lab?"
"I'm working twenty hours a week right now. I'd work more, but Doctor Styles assigned me to a pretty important case study." Niall explains. Analyzing this foreign substance has eaten up the majority of his time.
"Oh," Bobby shifts his eyes to the floor as he thinks about what he's asking of his son. "Do... Do you think you'd be able to work another ten hours a week? It's just, we're falling behind on bills and I'm already hitting forty a week. They won't let me work any more."
Niall tries not to frown. It's not that he would mind, but he feels likes he's being stretched thin going between work and the lab. He doesn't really have an option though, his dad can't do it which leaves it to him. "Sure, da."
"Are you okay with that? I know it's a lot, but maybe you should cut back at the internship. I don't want you running yourself scarce." Bobby hopes his son understands that he really has no choice. "I applied for a night job as well so hopefully I'll have another full time job to help out around here."
"I'll just have to make it work, can't really cut back on the internship." The last thing Niall wants is for Doctor Styles to think he's not fully committed to the program and decide not to hire him after.
Bobby nods and looks at his son once more. "I'm sorry you had to grow up so quickly, kid. I promise that once I get this second job though, you can quit Tesco and focus on that science stuff you love."
Niall leans over and kisses his dad's cheek. No matter how frustrated he gets he'll never blame his dad. "Things will get better, da, trust me."
"We always say that." Bobby smiles softly and reaches out for Niall's hand. "I talked to your mother the other night. She said that the offer for you to go live with her is still open."
"You know I can't." Niall loves his mom, he does, but he can't leave his father alone. Who's going to help him with bills? Who's going to make sure he takes his meds?
"Niall, we both know how this going to end. The meds are going to stop working one day and not even a wheelchair will help me. I would much rather you worry about your own life than be worried about me."
Niall just shrugs and smiles softly. "I'm never going to not worry, da."
Bobby sighs and shakes his head. "You're absolutely crazy, you know that? Most kids would take the out, but you want to stay."
He coughs a few times, unable to truly ever catch his breath. He unlocks his wheels and gives Niall a small smile. "Nonetheless, your mum wants to meet you for dinner soon. Give her a call at some point."
"I will," Niall can at least promise him that. "I'm gonna go start on dinner, does Dublin Coddle sound alright?"
"Sounds perfect. I need to lay down. Medicine is making me a bit dizzy." Bobby pushes himself back a little, making sure Niall has room to walk around him if need be.
"Need my help?" Sometimes Bobby is pretty good about lifting himself out of his chair and into bed and sometimes the muscles in his arms are just weak enough to not hold up his weight.
Bobby can feel the embarrassment flare up inside him. "A bit of help would be lovely. It's been a bad day overall from my strength."
Niall pretends not to notice the flush of his dad's cheeks. His dad has always been a proud man and it took so long for him to properly accept any sort of help. "You're the strongest person I know, da."
"If you say so," Bobby whispers and starts to roll his way towards his bedroom. He wonders what he did to deserve this sort of life.
"We'll see you tomorrow." Breslin calls to both Niall and Harry, closing the door behind himself and Mcllroy on their way out.
It's a quarter to midnight and both Niall and Harry decided to stay behind. Harry had found something promising and there's no way he can leave the lab now, not when he's possibly on the verge of finding out what this stuff is exactly. Harry heightens the magnification on his microscope. "This thing is producing cells as fast as they're dying. Do you know what this means? Niall, we might have found the missing puzzle piece to my dad's theory."
"So... Immortality?" Niall is dead tired. He's been working late hours at the lab to try and get more time at his paying job, but it all seems to be catching up with him. "I'm sorry. That wasn't helpful. Run it all by me one more time."
Harry just smiles and pushes the stool he's sitting on back. "Want me to put some coffee on?"
Niall stretches a bit and yawns once more. "That would be great. I'm glad you've got something though. I feel like we've been staring at this shit for weeks and have gotten nowhere."
Harry had been feeling the same way, any longer and he would have ripped his hair out. He digs a bag of coffee beans out of a cupboard and pours two scoops into a filter. "Hope you like French vanilla."
"Sounds fancy," Niall stands and grabs his now cold French fries and throws them away. He sees Harry's phone light up, and he frowns. "You got a text. Thought we weren't allowed to have phones in here?"
"We aren't, but since when do I follow the rules?" Harry flips the switch on the machine on and heads back to retrieve his phone, seeing Zayn's name on screen.
'Please tell me you have somewhere we can study. Some asshole just set off a fire alarm in the building and we have to evacuate.'
'At the lab. Don't know if I trust Louis after last time.' Harry had gotten in so much trouble the last time he allowed his friends to stay at the lab for a few hours.
'We're grabbing our shit now. Told him to bring a pillow and blanket so he can sleep in the lab. Also, tell your pilot to come pick us up. It'll be quicker.'
Rolling his eyes Harry shoots a message off to Andy, who's always on standby with a helicopter. It's the only thing Harry really likes about being rich, the convenience.
"So what were you trying to say about this stuff? Super quick healing or something?" Niall shakes the fuzziness from his head wanting to be able to focus on what Harry was saying.
Harry shakes his head quickly. "It's not healing itself; it's regenerating its cells. If it was trying to heal itself, the activity would have stopped but it's not. It's creating entirely new cells, it's mutating. Niall, I don't think we found the possible cure to just Parkinson's."
"This... This could cure anything. Alzheimer's, cancer, Guillain-Barré syndrome- the possibilities are endless." Niall perks up and looks over at Harry excitedly. "Is there any chromosomal similarities to humans in this slime?"
"That's what I've been trying to find out. With the new info I found do you want to see if you can find any common traits? I need a break." He's been staring at nothing but fluorescent sludge for hours now.
"Yeah," Niall nods, ready to do his part. "Give me like, thirty minutes to recover and get the caffeine in me."
Speaking of, Harry grabs the pot of coffee and pours out two cups for the both of them, adding creamer and sugar to his while he let Niall add his own sweeteners. By the time they've almost gotten through their second cup there's a sharp knock on the door.
Niall frowns, but moves to open the door. "Finally. Was hoping you dweebs hasn't fallen asleep at the desk."
Liam smiles sheepishly. "Sorry about Louis. He's basically a five year old when he's tired."
"He's always a five year old," Zayn says without looking up from his phone, the last one to enter the room.
"Can you lot keep it down, I'm breaking about six rules just having you guys here." Harry mutters setting his now empty mug to the side.
"Man, I forgot how science fiction-y this place is. What are you working on anyway?" Louis yawns and drops his stuff off in the middle of the room before going to play with the microscope in front of Harry.
Harry doesn't feel sorry when he slaps at Louis' hand. "Niall and I are working on a possible discovery that could revolutionize modern medicine. If you mess this up I will legitimately have you shipped off to Siberia."
Liam frowns and pulls Louis away from their work bench. "Louis, why don't you do some sprints before bed? It'll be good recovery for your knee."
Niall shakes his head as he heads back to Harry. "Do you want to see if you can imitate your father's equation while I figure out chromosomal similarities?"
Nodding, Harry pulls up the equation simulator on a computer and projects a hologram out into the middle of the table. He pulls on a pair of latex gloves and grabs the slide out from under the microscope.
He has a pair of steel tweezers in his hand, immediately seizing the foreign slime between small prongs when he opens the glass. It tries jumping but Harry has a good enough grip to force it into a container attached to the control center, the computer scanning over it. "It'll take a few minutes to process but we'll know for sure if... Well if we just changed the name of science."
Niall bounces a bit in his seat as the computer scans the slime. The watches the infrared laser sweep over the sludge a few times before he notices something weird. "Uh, Harry? Have we ever applied infrared to the slime before?"
"Not that I'm aware of." Harry sits back on his chair and waits.
Zayn, who's taken a break from homework, is trying to play chess online while watching Harry and Niall work.
"It's... I don't even know to describe this." Niall leans a bit closer to get a better look.
Liam looks over from where he's coaching Louis through some sprints while doing crunches for himself so Louis wouldn't feel completely out of place. "Are we witnessing history in the making?"
Niall frowns. "It's like... Boiling? I don't think it likes the infrared." He goes to grab a pencil to write down his findings and somehow ends up slicing his hand open with paper. "Fuck!"
"I'll try and enter in my dad's theory." Harry starts to type the formula in while he watches the computer generated lab rat.
The voice from the monitor begins to speak. "Pending. Pending. System failed. System failed."
The faux mouse rolls over onto its back with the word deceased under it and Harry is ready to give up when he hears, "pending. System accepted."
"Oh my god." He has to take his goggles off to look properly, it worked, it fucking worked. Cheering, Harry turns and he attaches his hands to Niall's face pulling him in for a celebratory kiss. He's never been this excited about something.
The lab gets bathed in red light and Niall would like to say it was because him and Harry are super romantic and that's just how he remembers their first kiss, but it's not that simple. The emergency light in the lab has started flashing and that can only mean one thing.
"Warning! Unstable organism detected. Critical temperatures reached. Evacuate immediately."
Before anyone can do anything, there's a bright flash and the room suddenly gets exceedingly hot. Niall pulls away from Harry just in time to watch the entire work space go up in flames.
"No!" All of their work, gone. Harry goes for the fire extinguisher mounted on the wall and tries dousing the flames in foam. "Please, please be salvageable."
Only the glass holding the weird green goo explodes and Harry's splashed with it, immediately feeling the weirdest most excruciating sensation he's ever experienced. Harry cries out and drops to the floor looking at his hands, the skin looks like it's melting off.
"Harry!" Louis is quick to run to his side. "Shit, shit, shit! Hold on! I'll get a-"
The words never finished before there's a terrible rumbling sound and everything goes quiet. Zayn looks to Liam in fear before the entire room is engulfed in flames.
"Oh, fuck." Liam heads for the door, but the flames licking up the sides of the wall have weakened the structure enough for part of the ceiling to come crashing down, barricading them inside. He ignores the burn when he grabs the debris trying to lift it away. "Someone call emergency services!"
There's a sickening crack and everything goes blinding white, the computers explode and every window in the room breaks from the pressure. The slime is discharged through the air, looking very alive, almost like it's purposely trying to attach itself to them, and it does.
Shouts of fear and pain ring through the air as all of them are burned by the green slime. Niall barely manages to cover his face before taking a brunt of the foreign sludge across his torso.
Louis screams in pain as the substance catches him in the face directly beneath his eye. In his panic, he reaches up to hold the injured area and gets more on his arms and hands.
Zayn, who had been running for the door and trying to dial the fire brigade, can feel the slime burning through his clothing and reaching his back. His phone falls to the ground, switching back to the chess application in a cruel twist of fate.
Reality feels like it's slipping away, the sound of fire trucks not far off but sounding very distant, someone probably saw the flames and called. They're all the way up on the 53rd floor though.
Finally the faulty fucking system starts to work and water comes pouring down from the ceiling combatting the fire raging through the room, destroying most of the work they kept stored here.
Niall takes a deep breath and looks around at his friends. Everyone seems to be in pain and not able to really move. He tries his best to inch his way towards the wall where the door release is and when he gets there, he manages to hit the button hard enough to open the lab doors.
Smoke billows out into the hallway and Liam tries his best not to inhale any as it rushes past him on its way out the door. His vision starts to swim though as his eyes water. The last thing he sees before slipping unconscious is the emergency personnel placing an oxygen mask over his face.
Waking up, Harry sees only white. He's pretty sure he's dead, and if he's not he hopes he is. How would he face his father after having destroyed the lab?
His eyes shift and he can see both a heart monitor and an IV drip next to him. A hospital, he's at the hospital, he could even venture to say the others are probably here too. Harry's fingers go for his mouth, touching hard plastic, an oxygen mask.
"Harry?" Des' voice calls to him and soon enough the older man is by his son's side. "Jesus, you're awake. Scared the hell out of me, kid."
Harry looks up at his dad and he hopes it’s obvious how apologetic he is.
"Dad," he wheezes out, wow his voice sounds bloody awful, "I'm so sorry. About the lab."
"Fuck the lab. You're alive, that's all that matters right now. I got the call about the explosion and I knew you were staying late." Des grabs his hand and holds it tight. "You're the first one to wake up."
Harry shouldn't feel this relieved that his dad isn't pissed at him. "Are the others- well are they alive?"
Des lets his face become as passive as possible. "They're alive. They just haven't woken up. Louis has some pretty bad burns across his body and Liam inhaled a lot of smoke. Niall and Zayn seem to be mostly okay. They're just in a medically induced coma until the doctors can be sure everything's okay. They both seemed to hit their heads pretty badly. Minor burns on everyone, including yourself, but the doctors are sure everyone is going to make it."
He nods, closing his eyes afterwards. "It's all my fault. I shouldn't have tried putting that slime into your theory without knowing everything about it."
"Don't worry about it. We aren't assigning blame here. Besides, you figured it out. Everything that happens on lab computers are immediately backed up to the main server. We went ahead and looked at the work to see if we could determine what happened." Des smiles softly, a proud look in his eyes. "You did good, kid."
Harry smiles up at his dad. It's weird that this is the closest he's felt to him in a long time.
There's a knock on the door as a doctor steps in. "Harry, good to see you up. Can we do a quick oxygen test to see if your lungs are functioning fully?"
"Okay." It's not like Harry's going to disagree, but he keeps any sarcasm he has out of his voice.
"Perfect." The doctor moves to help Harry sit up a bit and removes the oxygen mask from around his face. He grabs what looks to be a breathalyser with a weird ball in it. "So you're just going to blow in that tube. The ball will be raised when you exhale so we can mark your oxygen intake. So, take as deep a breath as you can without straining yourself."
Harry does as instructed, only it hurts when he blows the air out, his lungs don't feel quite right.
The doctor frowns and records what he needs to on his charts. "Not quite fully functional, but we can pull back on intensity." He fiddled with the oxygen machine before slipping the mask back onto Harry's face.
There's a crashing sound down the hall and the sounds of muffled shouts before Harry's door is flung open. "Louis woke up, sir. He's kind of violent."
Honestly Harry can't help but feel relieved, but he does notice something. It feels like all of his senses have been jacked up to a ten.
He can hear Louis down the hall asking where his friends are, he can smell the disinfectant running through the hospital, and under that he breathes in the aroma of a powerful sleeping aid they're about to inject into him, according to two nurses he can hear whispering down the hall. "You should tell your nurses Diazepam isn't going to be strong enough, try Diprivan."
The doctor sighs and tries for a reassuring smile. "The nurses are going to give you a sedative. If you're asleep, your body can heal itself better. I need to go check on Mister Tomlinson. Hopefully he won't bite my nurse this time."
Once the doctor is gone, Des looks to Harry. "I really am happy that you're okay. I thought I had lost you and... Well, I couldn't lose the last of my family."
"Thought I was dead too." Harry remembers lying there watching the flames slowly engulf the room, his friends cries and screams sounding eerily far away from him.
"Get some sleep, Harry. We'll talk more after you've recovered." Des says and squeezes his son’s hand.
A nurse comes in, smiling and being reassuring. "It's a weak sedative. Just want you to sleep, love."
"Don't have a say do I?" Harry settles back against his bed and looks up at his dad.
Des smiles softly. "You'll be fine. Don't worry. I'll have them set up a room for you all as soon as possible."
Harry eventually closes his eyes and welcomes sleep.
When Harry wakes up again he immediately realizes he's in a different room, the vents don't sound the same in here as they did in the other room. He sits up easier this time only to see the other four are all in the room too, talking. "Morning?"
"Late afternoon," Niall says with a small smile. He's in the bed next to Harry and seems fine. "Finally got your oxygen mask removed."
"We all did. Well, except Liam," Louis says with a sad smile to his best friend. "He inhaled so much smoke. The doctors were worried they were going to have to put him on a ventilator."
Even if his dad had reassured him Harry can't help but look and feel a little guilty. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have even let the three of you come over."
"Now, don't go pulling that blame card shit. You know that it isn't true." Louis rolls his eyes.
Zayn nods. "Yeah. Besides, we asked to come over. We're always in the lab."
"I'm just glad everyone's alive." Harry finishes, looking over at the meal left next to his bed. He's not even hungry.
Everyone murmurs their agreement before Louis addresses something that's been on his mind for a while. "So, not to complain, but I'm pretty sure that stuff you were experimenting on burned my face. There's no burn scar there. Is that... Normal?"
Harry reaches for his new phone and looks at his reflection in the screen. Nothing, no chemical burns. "This is really fucking weird."
"Didn't the file say the army guy didn't have any damage either?" Niall asks as he looks at his body. "Honestly, I don't think I'm burned at all. Not even from the fire."
"This isn't right, it should have left-" Harry is beyond puzzled, burns don't just heal.
Liam moves the oxygen away from his mouth so he can be heard. His voice is rough and scratchy, but it's a small price to pay. "I was really concerned because I know Niall took the brunt of the slime and flames. He was right by everything when it exploded."
Harry hadn't mentioned it to anyone else, he didn't want to sound crazy but he figures everything that's happened to them has surpassed that. "Earlier I could hear a few nurses talking about me, they were all the way down the hall."
Zayn nods. "I could hear Niall talking to his dad before we were all moved into the same room. You guys were whispering in your room and it was like you were standing right next to me."
"I... I'm not wearing my contacts." Louis says softly. "Doctor said they had to peel them out since the heat from the fire started to melt them to my retinas. I haven't had them in since being in the hospital and my vision is perfect all of the sudden."
"Even through the mask I could smell a cherry flavored soda someone opened by the vending machine. Do you think this slime... Enhanced things?" Liam croaks.
Niall rubs at his temples. "It's possible. The slime was regenerating itself so we could be suffering side effects of an alien organism."
"How much would the alien organism take over?" Zayn asks. Harry stays quiet, he can't really answer that one.
Louis looked pleased as punch. "Fucking sick! We're like hosts to aliens then! Fucking hell that's cool."
"No it isn't," Niall says from his bed. "We have absolutely no clue how this will affect us. It could just be senses, could be something else. We could lose all sense of self if it invades the brain."
"We could die," Harry says. It's grim, but there's an endless amount of possibilities on how this could go down.
Liam coughs, wincing with each intake of air. "Is there a way to tell what will happen to us?"
Harry sighs and slowly shakes his head. "Only time will tell."
"Jesus..." Niall can't imagine sitting around and waiting for something to happen.
Louis, who still seems in good spirits about the whole thing, shrugs. "As long as they don't experiment on me, I'm down for anything. Right now though, there's a Marvel marathon on. I'm in the mood for some superheroes. Someone toss me the remote."
Reaching over to grab it from the table next to him, Liam's just planning on just tossing it but the plastic literally crumbles in his hand. "What the-"
Harry's eyes widen as he looks at the remains in Liam's hand. "What the hell did you do?"
"I just picked it up!" Liam tries going for the remote to alert the nurse but that ends up breaking too and he's just holding onto plastic and wires. "I swear I'm not doing it on purpose!"
A nurse rushes in and looks around. "Liam? Which one of you is Liam?"
The boys point and she hurried to his side. "Your heart monitor spiked. Are you okay? Should I get the- what is in your hand?"
Liam doesn't even know what to say, he unfurls his fingers and loosens his grip to show her. "It just broke. Like porcelain."
She frowns and grabs his charts. "Did you notice a spike in pain? Maybe like you just clenched your fist too tightly?" She clears the debris from his hands and gently tries to massage away any tightness in the muscles there.
"No, I don't feel... I don't really feel anything." Liam can feel but pain isn't registering. In fact a shard from one of the remotes should have sliced his hand, but there's no puncture.
"Okay. Let me finish relaxing the muscles." She massages the tendons and hopes for the best. "Squeeze my hand and tell me you can feel anything."
Nervously Liam takes her hand and hugs it tightly with his, but something doesn't go right because there's the sickening crunch of shattered bone.
The nurse's face pales and she can feel the bile tossing in her stomach. "I... I think I'm going to vomit."
Louis looks at his best friend in horror. "Liam... You just... Oh my god."
Liam's jaw is literally in his lap and he feels like he's the one that's going to vomit, letting her hand go. "I didn't, that wasn't, I'm so, oh my god."
Harry immediately sits up and looks at the others, this had to be a side effect.
The nurse cradles her hand, every bone in the appendage tugging at the skin around it. She swallows rapidly trying to keep the bile and tears at bay. "I'll call for the doctor. I have to go get my hand set."
"I didn't mean it! I'm so sorry!" Liam looks like a wounded puppy. He's the last person that would want to hurt anyone.
After she leaves Harry looks at Louis. "Pick up that cup and squeeze it."
Louis frowns, but does as he's told. It squishes a bit, but it doesn't break in his hold. "What were you thinking?"
"Thought it might have been a side effect of something." Harry frowns, there had to be something going on.
"Maybe... Maybe everyone is different? We'd have to see if the military officer has any side effects." Niall says as he tries to wrap his mind around the new development.
Liam is still sitting there in shock with tears in his eyes. "Her poor hand. It was an accident! I didn't mean to hurt her."
Louis frowns and throws the blankets on his off his legs. There are burn scars all over them and he's sore beyond compare but he winces and limps his way over to Liam's bed. "Calm down, Liam. It's alright. You just got super stressed. It's fine."
Zayn watches as his friend climbs into the hospital bed with the other. "What does this mean for the rest of us?"
Instead of answering Harry reaches into his bag and grabs his laptop, he'll figure this out.
"Niall? You home?" Bobby shuts the door to the apartment behind him as he wheels himself into the living room. Since the accident in the lab, Niall has been told to stay home from the internship until he's completely healed. The boy has tried telling Bobby he's completely ready to go back to work, but Bobby is having none of it.
He pushes himself down the hallway to Niall's bedroom and knocks on the open door. "Just letting you know I'm home, sport."
Niall looks up from where he's holding a book, having been staring at the same page for a solid twenty minutes. He's been so bored just staying at home, texting Harry every now and then to keep himself somewhat entertained. "Hey, da. How was work?"
"Terrible. They assigned me to shipment today. Had to try and unload the truck. Luckily I had Sean with me, he did a lot of the lifting." Bobby says as he wheels into the room a bit. "How are you feeling? The boys okay?"
"They're all recovering," Niall says and sets his book off to the side.
Bobby frowns, noticing that he doesn't say how he's doing. He figures he should let it slide. "Your mother called on my break today. Apparently the explosion made headlines in Scotland. You and that Harry kid were mentioned by name so she freaked out and flew to London. She's coming over for dinner to see you."
Niall tries not to groan, his mom is so overbearing whenever he's distressed in any way. "She didn't have to come all the way out here."
"You know how she is. I tried to tell her that she could come over later this week, but then she said she'd be over at seven. I'm going to cook dinner in a little while. I need to lay down for a bit first." Bobby stretches his arms above his head and sighs. "Do you mind cutting the chicken up so I can just season it and throw it in the oven?"
He gets to his feet and stretches his arms along with his dad. "Yeah, I can do that. Do you need me to do anything else?"
Bobby shakes his head. He really needs help getting into his bed, but he's been sleeping on the floor since the explosion. He wants his son to heal and not worry about him. "I'm fine, son. If you need me I'll be in my room. Just knock before coming in."
Niall ducks down and kisses his dad's cheek, maneuvering around him and heading down the hall towards the kitchen. Getting the chicken out of the fridge where it had been left to thaw, he rolls his shirt sleeves to his elbows and washes his hands.
His phone buzzes on the counter next to him, a picture of Harry flashing across the screen as an incoming call. He doesn't hesitate to answer, putting his phone between his ear and shoulder. "Hey."
"Hey," Harry's voice crackles in his ear. "The boys are coming over. Apparently stuff’s been happening to them. Are you okay? Nothing weird going on with you, right?"
"Uh, no; not that I've noticed." Niall grabs the handle of a knife and starts to cut into the chicken.
"Okay. I'm just making sure. Zayn's yelling about stuff moving by itself and Liam is too scared to hold anything." Harry sighs as he scrolls through his laptop. "I'm trying to get ahold of that military officer, but they put him in quarantine and haven't let him out yet."
"What do you think this is?" he asks, looking up at the clock to see the time. That's when he missteps and the knife slices through the skin between his thumb and index finger. "Fuck!"
"You okay?" Harry's voice is louder than Bobby's muffled call. "What happened?"
"Cut myself!" Niall says it loud enough for the both of them to hear. He goes to grab a napkin to mop up some of the blood but when he looks down the wound slowly closes and the red, coppery substance dissolves.
"What the-" He stares in open mouthed shock, it's like he didn't even cut himself. "I take back what I said earlier, something very very weird is going on."
There's a silence on the phone. "What happened?"
He doesn't even know how to explain it himself. "The cut just vanished, and the blood too. It's like I didn't just slice my hand open. Harry... Do you think whatever that slime was, was the equivalent to being bitten by a radioactive spider?"
"Possibly? Louis and I aren't exhibiting any signs of anything out of the ordinary. Then again, Louis has been confined to his bed because of the burns on his legs. He starts physical therapy tomorrow. I'm a bit worried now."
"It goes against everything science says and what I stand for, but I think, fuck, Harry, this feels very superhuman. Liam crushing things, Zayn probably making those things move, my cut just healing." There's no other explanation for it.
There's a muffled noise on the other end before Harry speaks again. "Why is it only you three though? Why isn't it all of us?"
"We could all be experiencing it at different times, developing at different speeds. Just, just be really careful about everything." Niall says.
"Of course. Liam and Zayn are stopping by around ten. Come over and we can figure this out together."
Niall tosses the cut up chicken into a deep dish pan, figuring he can just take care of it rather than calling his dad out of his room. "Don't think I can tonight, my mom is stopping by soon. Apparently we made headlines all over the UK."
"Just come by when you're done. I just... It's been awhile since I've seen you."
Niall can't help the smile that makes his way to his face. "We never did discuss that kiss."
"Exactly. We can work and discuss kisses and such. I'm sure your dad won't mind, yeah? He seemed nice enough at the hospital."
"My dad won't, my mom is another story." After what happened it'll be a miracle if she'll let him leave his room.
"Have you completely recovered? If so, she'll see there's nothing wrong. C'mon, Niall. I would very much like to discuss the incident with you."
"Which one?" Niall can't help but say. He wouldn't really call the kiss an incident but he definitely didn't see it coming.
"I'm trying to be discrete over the phones, Niall." Harry's voice is twinged with laughter and amusement. "Although, I wouldn't mind the one happening more frequently."
Niall can feel his face flush, cheeks burning with a mix of flattery and embarrassment. "We'll have to see about that."
Harry laughs, a smile being permanently etched on his face when he's talking to Niall. "Just text me and let me know, yeah? You can stay over if need be. Plenty of guest rooms or we can share if you want a cuddle."
"If my face gets any redder I could be sold at a farmer's market," he jokes, and rubs the back of his neck.
"You're too cute for your own good, Horan. I have to go, but text me about tonight, yeah?" Harry sounds reluctant to hang up, but the military scientist is finally returning his call on Skype.
Niall nods despite Harry not being able to see. "I will, I promise."
"Awesome. Talk at you later then." Harry hangs up quickly to make his other call.
"So you and Harry?" Bobby asks from the doorway to the kitchen. He hadn't meant to eavesdrop, but when he noticed his son on the phone he had gotten a little curious.
Niall drops the knife that he had been about to put into his sink. "How long have you been standing there?"
Bobby quirks an eyebrow at Niall's choice of words. "Standing? Not for five years. But I came out after I heard you screaming about cutting yourself. Wanted to make sure you were okay is all."
Niall can't help but laugh at himself, cleaning the kitchen up. "You know what I meant. You came here after, what all did you hear?"
"Nothing much. Just Harry wanting you to go over tonight. And apparently you kissed him." Bobby smiles softly. "So you and Harry, huh?"
"He kissed me!" Niall says but there's a smile on his face.
Bobby rolls his eyes. "Either way, you're happy it happened. You can head to his after your mum leaves. She might even drive you over since you're on the mend."
This night definitely isn't going how Niall planned, in the back of his mind he can't help but think about the cut and how inhumanly fast it healed.
They make it through dinner and chatting with Niall's mum before any of the hard stuff is brought up. "I want you to come back to Ireland with me. Obviously being in London is too dangerous. Plus, you can go to University."
"I can't, mom," Niall says with a frown, "I have a huge opportunity here. If I get a job at Stylotech my future will be set."
"Stylotech? They nearly killed you. You're not going back to that company," Maura says as she gathers the dishes to take them to kitchen.
Niall has to basically put his foot down on this one, his mom just doesn't understand how valuable a career at Stylotech is. "I'm eighteen now, I can decide what's best for myself. I'm going back and that's it."
"Niall," Maura sighs as she sets the dishes in the sink. "Look, I know like it seems like the only option now, but University and a degree will open so many doors. Besides, you need to let your dad get used to doing things for himself."
"I guess you'll be disappointed because you're not talking me out of this one. I want to go to university to get a job at Stylotech, but I already have the potential to get a job now. I know you don't understand it and you never have but dad's always been supportive. You're just trying to talk me out of it like you tried to talk me out of moving in with dad; you're just annoyed you didn't get everything in the divorce." Niall regrets it as soon as it leaves his mouth but instead of apologizing he goes silent.
Bobby looks between the two. "I think that we should just calm down. We need to consider everything."
"No, he needs to learn that not everything is going to be okay. Your disease is getting worse. In six months, you could be completely paralysed," Maura snaps at Bobby. She knows that he had been keeping his doctor's visits secret from Niall, but maybe it's time he knew.
Niall frowns and turns to his dad. "Is that true, is she telling the truth? You didn't tell me?"
Bobby sighs. "I didn't want you to give up an opportunity if something came up for you."
"So you lied to me instead? You know what?" Niall heads to his room and grabs his bag, shoving some clothes inside knowing that Harry will let him stay the night. After slipping on both his shoes and his jacket, his car keys already in his pocket he heads back out.
"Niall! Niall, don't-" Bobby doesn't get to finish his thought since the door slams shut behind the boy. "Why can't you ever keep your mouth shut, Maura?"
Maura glares at him. "Don't act like I'm in the wrong. He's barely eighteen; he's still a teenager. Are you going to subject him to bring your nurse for the rest of his life? He's a child."
"I didn't want him to know because I knew he would want to help me." Bobby nearly shouts at her, coughing into his hand violently.
"He would have known eventually, Robert! Do not raise your voice at me," she says loudly, a hand on her hip.
Bobby just sighs. "Maybe you should go. He isn't coming back tonight and you've left once. Maybe you should just go back to the hotel."
Maura won't argue with that. She turns her nose up at him, snatched her purse off the counter and storms out.
Harry opens the front door when he hears knocking and frowns when he sees Niall standing there. "Hey. Didn't think you were going to make it over. Liam and Zayn are still here so we can catch you up on the latest side effects list."
"Right, I almost forgot." Niall stares down at his injury free hand, flexing his fingers.
Grabbing his wrist, Harry pulls him inside and drags him into the living room. "Niall's here."
"Perfect. Maybe he has an idea about what's going on," Zayn says as he sips at his water.
Niall really doesn't, at least nothing rooted in science and well reality but. "That blast didn't just enhance our senses, whatever was in that goo gave us... Abilities."
"Abilities? It made me a monster. I can't hold anything. I'm too scared to," Liam says bitterly as he thinks of everything he's not been able to do.
Harry places a comforting hand on his shoulder. "Everything is going to be fine. Niall and I will figure this out."
"You're not a monster. You just have to mind your, uh, strength from now on." Niall joins the others in the living room and sits on an armchair.
Harry turns the laptop he's been working on towards Niall so he can see the data they've collected. "So far Louis and I are the only one's not exhibiting abilities."
"Louis starts physical therapy tomorrow though so that could change," Liam whispers. He's planning on going with Louis in case something happens.
"Should we, well should Niall and I demonstrate then? Since we've seen the extent of Liam's... Ability?" Zayn asks.
"If you feel comfortable with it," Harry nods. He's not yet seen the two actually show their abilities.
Niall looks to Zayn, wanting to know what he can do. "After you, mate."
Nervously, Zayn concentrates on a magazine sitting on the coffee table only instead of it moving he ends up levitating the entire table with it for a few seconds then lets it drop back onto the ground with a thud.
"Fuck," Liam says as he grabs his drink before the table comes crashing back down to the floor. "That's sick, mate."
"I keep moving things around whenever I concentrate on them." His laptop almost broke the other day because he was trying to write a term paper.
Harry makes a few notes on his laptop. "Are you focusing on the bigger object or the smaller objects? How focused are you normally?"
"I don't know. I don't think I've got a handle on it yet. I'll try to make one thing move like the magazine and I'll end up moving everything I'm staring at." Zayn shrugs.
Niall, who's on his computer, looks up. "Telekinesis. The ability to move objects with the mind."
"I wonder..." Harry purses his lips as he thinks about a plan. "I could take this to my dad. We could set up a lab and training centre. Maybe something to help you guys cope with the effects of the substance."
"Are you mad? Have you seen what they do to- to freaks? They keep them locked up in cages and dissect their bodies!" Liam says, looking between his friends.
Harry frowns and looks at his friend. "My dad wouldn't do that to you guys. He fights against unethical human testing every day. Why would he suddenly start and on people he likes?"
"When this gets out you don't think the government is going to want to do something about it? They could easily decide to make this a national security issue if they find out there are superhumans," Liam is quick to explain. He knows Dr. Styles wouldn't do it, but other people probably would.
Harry opens his mouth to say something, but Zayn beats him too it. "Liam, calm down. I think... I think we need to take a chance on Mister Styles. We need a place to get used to these powers. It might not be ideal, but we need help."
"Unfortunately Harry and I aren't qualified enough to help us discover and possibly get rid of the foreign cells that have entered our bodies. Stylotech is our safest bet." Niall understands Liam's concerns but what else do they have?
Zayn looks at his hands as they shake slightly at the gravity of the situation they've found themselves in. "What if you can't separate them? I mean, you were conducting DNA altering experiments. What if this is just us now?"
"Then they help us learn to control it," Niall says.
Harry looks at Niall with what he hopes is a reassuring smile. "You're up. Show us what you can do."
Agreeing, Niall moves to stand in front of everyone. "Uh, does anyone have anything sharp?"
Liam frowns but turns to the end table where he had set his plate earlier. "I have a butter knife. Is that sharp enough?"
Niall cringes and tries to imagine cutting himself with one of those. "I'd rather make a clean cut of it."
"Hold on," Harry gets up and heads to the kitchen. He makes sure to drag his fingers gently against the shoulders on the blond. He can't wait till the other two are gone and he can get Niall alone to talk.
"So... What can you do again?" Zayn asks softly.
"I can heal really fast." Niall is a bit anxious, he's not good with blood but how else is he gonna show them?
Liam frowns. "I can't even manage to cut myself. It's like everything just bounces off my skin now."
Harry enters with a carving knife, carefully handing it over to the blond. "I wasn't sure if a regular dinner knife would work either."
Niall outwardly cringes when he looks at the serrated edge of the blade. He holds it against his arm right below the bend of elbow. Quickly he drags it and hisses at the sting, pulling the knife away so they can see. The wound doesn't drip blood like it should, instead the beads that form along the seam clot and his skin stitches itself back together. Both the blood and the cut itself dissolve until it's like he never cut his arm. "Doesn't hurt now, but that fucking hurt."
Liam stares at his arm, slightly horrified. "Fucking hell. Jesus that's... Oh god."
"Hold on a minute," Zayn says watching it all happen, "you're just like Deadpool now. Does that mean you can't die?"
"I..." Niall frowns. "I don't know. All I know is that I can't die of a gunshot wound or anything." He hadn't thought about it that extensively really.
"This sounds like a Marvel movie." Harry doesn't know when he got sucked into the realm of science fiction but it's happening.
Liam looks between his friends. "So how come only three of us have powers? Why didn't you and Louis get any? And why did we get what we got?"
"There's a number of different theories, maybe Louis and I didn't absorb as much of the foreign species as the three of you did. Maybe there's a gene, like a mutant gene if you will that only exists in certain people and it was activated during the blast? Or maybe Louis and I are just late to the party." Harry doesn't mean to sound so grim when he says it.
There's a slam of a door down the hallway before Harry's dad's voice can be heard through the house. "Harry?"
Liam glances at the clock. "Shit. I need to go. I promised Louis I'd go to physical therapy with him tomorrow and I have to be up early for that."
"In here dad!" Harry calls to his father. Then more quietly, to his friends, "I think all of us need to stay away from anyone else right now, we don't have much control here and we don't need anyone getting hurt or to cause any panic."
Zayn nods, "I think- I think that's for the best. Until we go to Stylotech."
"I'll talk to him tomorrow about it all. It'll be my first day back." Harry stretches and tries to make everything look as natural as possible just as Des steps into the room.
"Oh. Hello, boys. How's Louis doing?" Des smiles in what he hopes is a calming matter.
"He's doing better, he's back to being a nuisance," Liam says but he says it fondly.
"Excellent. I'll be sure to Louis-proof my building once more." Des smiles brightly before yawning. "If you'll excuse me boys, I need to get some sleep. Your rooms were cleaned since the last time you were here."
"Night, dad." Harry says and watches his dad walk away, waiting until he can't hear his footsteps. "First thing tomorrow, we'll figure this out."
Liam nods and stands as he grabs his stuff. "Keep me posted. I'll fill Louis in."
"Me too," Zayn agrees. They say their goodbyes and he follows Liam out through the front doors.
Harry looks back Niall once the room settles into a nice quiet air. "You staying tonight? I saw you had a bag with you at least."
"If you don't mind." Niall says, hitching the strap on his bag higher up.
"Not at all. I can show you to a guest room," Harry can feel his face darken a bit as he thinks about Niall being so close to him as he slept. "Or, if you're feeling adventurous, we can share my bed."
He pauses, then quietly he asks, "What kind of adventure do you want to go on?"
Harry looks at the blond. He's not really in this for sex- no matter how carnal he comes across. "Maybe one where we cuddle, make out, and talk a bit."
"I think I could handle that adventure." Niall smiles faintly.
"Perfect. Especially since my bed is like floating on a cloud." Harry smiles brightly and takes the bag from Niall's shoulder and motions for the blond to follow him.
His smile grows until he's radiating towards Harry. "Never slept on a cloud, I have a twin."
Harry stops in his tracks and looks at Niall in horror. "A twin? Fucking hell. I haven't fit on a twin in at least six years. I can't imagine trying to sleep on that every night."
"You get used to it," Niall shrugs, not entirely true but he won't complain.
Harry shakes his head before pushing the door to his bedroom open. "This is my sanctuary. Best room in the house, I swear."
When Niall actually walks inside he's floored. "Room?! Don't you mean floor? This place is ridiculous!"
"I get that a lot." Harry laughs as he sets Niall's bag down near his dresser. "Louis nearly cried when he first saw my room."
Niall can understand why. Harry's room is the size of a small flat. On one side there's a wall mounted flat screen at least 90 inches. His bed is a four poster dressed in beautifully soft and silky bedsheets with the fluffiest mountain of pillows. Niall's pretty sure he's seen these type of beds in a king's castle. There's a mirror on Harry's ceiling above and Niall blushes at the thought of being able to see himself in bed with Harry- sleeping of course.
It's the bar on the far side of his room that really amazes him, it's made of cherry wood and the stools are leather, it's fully stocked with alcohol even. The part that more than likely made Louis cry is the incredible video game set up Harry has, the shelves holding everything inside the wall under the television. His personal favorite is the aquarium shaped like a cylinder filled with exotic fish and plants, this thing is worth more than his place. Honestly that's all just the beginning of the laundry list of things every guy wishes they had in their bachelor pads. Harry's room is surprisingly decorated and lavished, like something out of a Better Home and Garden catalogue. "I might start tearing up."
"It's not that great. Honestly the closet is the best part. I have each piece of clothing scanned into a database and type in what I want to wear or, as I like it to call, go shopping in my closet." Harry loves some of the inventions his dad had made. The closet was made specifically for him after complaining to his dad that he could never find the exact shirt and pants he was looking for.
Niall is willing to bet the rest of Harry's room is equipped with the latest in technology. "I have a broom closet and share a bathroom with my da."
Harry's smile falls from his face. "Are... Are you serious? A broom closet? Niall, I didn't know. I'm so sorry." He feels horrible, like he's rubbing his money in Niall's face.
That gets a laugh out of Niall. "Not an actual broom closet! I'm exaggerating."
"Oh thank god," Harry says with a sigh of relief. "I was actually worried for a second."
He sighs, kicking his shoes off and hopping up into his bed. "So what made you decide to come over? Not that I'm complaining. It's just that you said earlier that your mum was in town."
"We got into an argument." Niall doesn't want to lie to Harry.
Harry has to really think to remember his mother. The divorce had happened when he was super young and then his mother had just disappeared a few years after that. "That's it? With your mum? Does that happen often?"
“More often than it should probably.” Niall says softly as he thinks about the few times he’s seen his mother since the divorce.
"Sounds exhausting," Harry frowns. He pats the bed next to him and gives a small smile to the blond. "Get up here. We can cuddle the problems away."
Niall sits next to Harry and looks up at the ceiling towards his reflection. "Why the mirror?"
Harry blushes as he looks at the ceiling. "You know when you're fifteen and all you want is sex? Yeah. I thought I would be a sex god. Funny enough, never had sex in my bed."
"Where do you have sex then?" Niall isn't sure if that's personal but he isn't the one who brought it up.
"Well," Harry can practically feel the blush growing in intensity. "The three times I've had sex were all at other people's homes. I didn't trust them so not sell our home location to magazines or anyone else.
"Three times." Niall almost refuses to believe he's had more sex than Harry. Harry who graces magazines and does interviews and has the girls and guys swooning. "I figured you would have been... Uh, more experienced."
Harry let's out a breath of relief. For some reason he was expecting Niall to be put out that he's had that much sex. Being three years older than Niall, he figured the boy would have known he was most likely sexually active. "It's hard to find someone who isn't just interested to sleep with you for money or a story."
Niall immediately feels bad, he can't imagine someone wanting to willingly take advantage of Harry. "None of them are worth your time anyway."
"I know. The three I did have relationships with were at least kind and caring. I'm still friends with one of them. The other two are classmates so it's hard to not talk or be friendly with them." Harry shrugs. He doesn't regret his choices, especially since he's made the correct choices in partners.
Niall sinks back against Harry's bed feeling the soft sheets and plush blankets. "This bed could probably solve all my back problems."
"I could order a mattress for your bed at home. For twin it would only cost a couple hundred." Harry rolls onto his side, smiling at the blond. He's taken quite the liking to Niall, he's sure that's obvious, but he doesn't want to push any farther than Niall wants to go.
"No I couldn't ask you to do that. My bed isn't all that bad, yours is just magnificent," Niall says.
Harry just smiles. "So... I think we need to talk about my celebration at the lab that day."
Niall blushes thinking about it. "Yeah, we haven't really gotten a chance to do it yet."
"I hope I made it obvious that I don't want it to be a one off or anything." Harry wants Niall to be sure of his intentions right off the bat. "Honestly, I kind of want to do it again right now."
"I wouldn't mind," Niall says, letting his hand cover Harry's.
Harry pauses and looks over Niall's face, looking for any sign of hesitation. When he sees none, he licks his lips and leans in to press his own against Niall's.
Niall slides his hand up to grab the back of Harry's head, tangling his fingers within his curls.
Harry pulls back slightly wanting to look fully in Niall's eyes. His lips quirk up in a teasing smirk as he looks at the slightly fuller lips of the blond. "I like to think I'm a great judge of character, but just as a warning. If you turn out to be like everyone else, I know a guy who can break your hand with just a squeeze."
Niall laughs softly. "Won't really work on me though will it? It'll just heal."
"I don't want to cause permanent pain. Just enough to have my point made." Harry rolls his eyes like it's obvious before laughing and leaning in to kiss Niall once more.
His hand comes up frame the blond's face before steadily making its way down towards his collarbones. "Marks or no?"
"The last thing I need is to eventually return back to the lab with love bites all over my neck," Niall says.
Harry laughs and places small kisses along Niall's jaw. "When are you coming back?"
Niall grins while Harry mouths at his skin. "Next week sometime, I don't think I have any side effects. Well other than you know."
"I'm going to talk to my dad tomorrow after my classes. I know Liam is hesitant, but I feel like he's our best option." Harry sighs, pulling back and lying flat on his back. His mind is trying pull him back to the problem he'll face tomorrow.
Niall looks at his hand from where there should have been a cut, but instead there's only unblemished skin. "You know as a kid I would have loved this."
Harry smiles softly and chuckles. "But now that we're adults..." He sighs.
Niall wonders if, under other circumstances, maybe he wouldn't mind this. He's basically what every boy wishes they could be, a superhero with a superpower.
"I still can't believe that we're dealing with powers. It has to be the slime. The report on that army officer is saying that he's been slipping in and out of an invisible state since the incident." Harry looks at the blond once more, looking over his features with a new appreciation now that he knows he can touch.
"There has to be a reason you and Louis haven't started displaying anything." Niall looks thoughtful, rolling onto his side to properly stare at Harry. "If you had a power, what power do you think it would have been?"
Harry shrugs. "There has to be a connection between the person and the enhancement. I don't know what yet, but maybe it's something on a molecular level- maybe even something on the subatomic level. I'd like to think it would have been something fun though. Maybe like Beast Boy from DC comics."
"A species shapeshifter. Would you like become a vegan then?" Niall asks.
"I want to say no because I love bacon so much, but I think it would really depend on my mentality in each shape. If I was shifted into a chicken and thought like a chicken, then shifted back and had no recollection of the feelings I'd still eat meat and all. Guess it doesn't matter since that stuff is science fiction."
"Not really science fiction any more is it?" Niall flexes his fingers into a fist.
"Guess not," Harry mumbles as he starts to drift off. It's going to be a crazy day tomorrow. "Although, I think you'd look damn good in a Starfire costume."
Niall laughs and tries to imagine wearing a purple mini skirt with a matching crop top. "Don't think it's really my style."
"It'd still be super hot." Harry shifts, knocking Niall flat on his back and laying half on top of the blond. He nuzzles in the crook of Niall's neck, getting comfortable and keeping close.
"I'd rather wear Raven's costume, a unitard with a cloak." Niall thinks that if they ever make costumes he'll get a cloak.
Harry hums and brings a hand to Niall's waist and lets his thumb rub softly against the skin below his hand. "All that leg on display... I'd like that, but I don't know if I'd like that everyone else got to see that as well."
Niall rolls his eyes. "You're ridiculous. Besides it doesn't really matter, I'm never gonna put on one of those goofy looking costumes."
Harry frowns. "Do you think... Do you think that if the government finds out, they'll make you three join the military or something?"
"It's a possibility, we'd make super soldiers I guess." Niall feels like he's been pulled into a Marvel comic.
"Let's think about anything else. I'll depress myself if I keep thinking this way, especially since it's my fault." Harry reaches up to his headboard and presses a small button on the top of it. The lights dim slowly before completely shutting off.
Niall wants to argue with Harry that it's not his fault, but he knows Harry won't believe him. So he props himself onto his elbow and leans down from where he's hovering over Harry, kissing him.
Harry smiles and brings a hand up to grasp at Niall's waist. "Come to work with me tomorrow. Everyone misses you."
"I'd rather wait until after you've talked to your dad, I don't think I should be around anyone who doesn't know right now." Niall says.
"Yeah," Harry sighs. "It makes sense. I promise I'll figure this out. I'll give you your life back."
Niall doesn't really know if his life has been taken from him, honestly this power or whatever it is, is pretty cool. "We'll figure things out tomorrow."
Louis winces as he has to put pressure on his legs to get out of the car. He looks to Liam with a sort of grimace on his face. "You should be happy I got burned as badly as I did. It kept me from playing football on my bad knee."
"If I was trying to prevent you from getting any more injured in the first place," Liam says while he gets out of the car himself, "then why would I be happy?"
"Because this is an outer issue. My knee should be all rested and ready to go." Louis leans against the car, trying to make his wince seem more like a cool smirk or sly smile.
Liam comes around to stand in front of Louis. "Now I can help you or I can piggyback you in."
Louis smiles devilishly before making grabby hands at his best friend. "A piggyback ride would be great. I'll walk out, I promise."
Rolling his eyes, Liam helps Louis out of the car then turns and drops down low enough for Louis to climb on.
Gripping onto his best friend tightly, Louis buries his face into Liam's neck. "What if my legs don't regain their strength? What if I can't play footie again?"
"I'll be your legs, we'll walk onto the pitch with you on my back," Liam says heading through the automatic doors.
"There you are! We were wondering if you were going to show up." A physical therapist smiles as he sees the two. "The doctor called and faxed over your latest scans."
Louis smiles brightly. "Yeah. Twenty percent muscle loss. Should be fun. Can I swear if it hurts?"
His therapist laughs. "You can swear anyway you want. Besides these tests shouldn't cause you anything more than mild discomfort."
"That's what they all say." Louis narrows his eyes and tries to convey the seriousness so that his trainer knows he won't take any shit.
"Ignore him. He's harmless." Liam rolls his eyes and sets Louis down on the floor being sure to keep an arm around his waist.
Louis pinches Liam's hand between his knuckles like he was taught in primary to prove a point. "He's lying, I'm dangerous."
The therapist just chuckles and waves the two over. "I promise that we won't hurt you, Louis. In fact, we're going to have you warm up on the bike. Ten minutes of pedalling- as fast or slow as you want. Just want to get those muscles used to moving again."
It sounds easy enough and Louis is used to more intensive training with his footie coach anyway. "Yeah, alright." He swings his leg over the stationary bike and sits down, sliding both feet into the pedals. "When do I start?"
"Just let me set the timer and you'll be ready to go." The boy pushes a few buttons and the countdown starts. He smiles and starts to walk away, telling Louis he'd be back in ten minutes.
Liam stands next to the machine and watches as his friend starts to pedal. "At least this was the most serious of injuries. If muscle loss and burn scars are all you have to deal with, I'd consider the five of us super lucky."
It was an awful explosion and considering they were surrounded by other chemicals and foreign substances he's pretty surprised none of them were seriously injured. "I don't know about luck but no one is dead and that's all I can really care about. Do you smell that?"
It smells like melting plastic or burning rubber. Louis sniffs then sees the smoke billowing up from where he's moving his feet, his legs are only blurs at this point.
Liam frowns and looks at the screen on the machine that Louis is using. "Jesus! You're hitting over two hundred kilometres per hour! Louis, stop!"
"What?" Louis looks at the screen watching it flicker and short circuit, the smoke fanning out around them.
Waving his hand at the smoke, Liam coughs and tries not to inhale all the smoke. "Slow down! Fucking hell!"
Louis does stop, only for the pedals under his feet to fall to ground, now broken. "Holy shit."
"What... What did you do?" Liam looks at his friend in confusion and a terrified air radiating off of him.
"I was just pedaling..." Louis climbs off, his entire facial expression changing when he feels cold tile. He looks at the sole of his shoe only to see the bottom of his foot, the treading had been completely stripped away. These were his favourite shoes too.
Liam looks at Louis. "Were you paying attention at all? What did you do?" He looks at the bike and frowns. "Did you even notice how fast you were pedalling?"
"I was just pedaling like I would if I was running. Liam, I want to try something." Louis looks back over to a ping pong table near the back of the room. If his superhero logic is correct, then it proves to him him what he already knows, he's the Flash.
Louis picks a paddle up along with the ping pong ball, tossing it up and slapping it towards the other side. Then he runs, he's not doing anything special but everything looks like it's slowing down, the ball is still sluggishly arcing over the net. He picks up the second paddle, already there before the ball is, hitting it back to the other side again.
To Liam he can only see a blur running around the table playing ping pong.
Liam's eyes widen as he watches his friend run in a blur. He looks over his shoulder to see the therapist coming their way. "Louis, I would stop if I were you. We need to tell Harry about this."
Before the therapist can even fully turn the doorknob Louis is now standing by the bike trying to appear casual. "What do I tell him about the bike?"
"Just tell him it started beeping and smoking so you jumped off," Liam panic whispers to his best friend. He has his phone out, texting Harry about the situation they now found themselves in.
Louis stops talking when the man walks back into the room. "Something went wrong with the bike, doc."
"What are you- holy shit!" The young man looks at the broken equipment before looking between the two. "What happened? Are you okay?"
"It malfunctioned." Louis shrugs, staring over at the broken pedals lying on the ground.
"Okay... Um, let's move you to a different room and maybe try the treadmill or something. You aren't hurt are you?" He's worried about a lawsuit for negligent behaviour or faulty equipment.
"I'm fine, totally fine!" Louis assures, waiting until he leaves to turn to Liam. "I can't run on a treadmill who knows how I'll break that."
Liam bites at his lip as he tries to think of something- anything. "Just pretend to be really shaken up. I'll talk to the guy and get you out of here. We need to head right to the labs."
Louis agrees and startles to tremble, biting at his thumbnail and hoping he's pulling off the whole stressed vibe.
"Come on, Lou," Liam says softly as he places an arm around his best friend's waist and leads them out the room to follow the therapist.
Once he catches up with the young man, he softly clears his throat. "Um, excuse me?"
The man turns, looking between the both of them. "Yes?"
"He's feeling pretty shaken up. I think the machine failing the way it did put him back at the lab accident." Liam holds a trembling Louis close to him. "I need to just get him home and relaxed. Can we reschedule this appointment?"
"I have him on doctor's orders," he explains looking Louis up and down. There really isn't any physical damage, honestly he doesn't really understand why someone like Louis would need physical therapy even if he was in a lab explosion. "But I can say he fell ill."
"Thank you," Liam says as he supports Louis out of the therapy office. He holds Louis tightly until they manage to make it outside. "Oi, we're clear. Can you walk, oh fast one?"
"I can do more than walk, mate." Louis smirks and before Liam can even blink he's standing next to the side of his car at the end of the lot.
Liam shakes his head and smiles softly. "You're going to be a fucking menace."
He makes his way to the car and unlocks the doors. Once in and buckled, he looks to Louis with a huge smile. "Let's get to Harry then. He'll need to see this new... Progression."
"You know what," Louis says with a new thought, "since I'm experiencing these symptoms, you think Harry might be too?"
"Possibly. I'd wonder why Harry didn't show signs earlier though. We figured you either didn't get a symptom," Liam says calmly as he pulls out of the parking lot and into Manchester traffic, "or that yours was a physical symptom that had yet to manifest since you were bedridden for the last three weeks. Harry has been up and about since... Basically since we were released. Why hasn't his manifested yet?"
"I'm not good at this science-y shit, man!" Louis' brain feels like it's short circuiting from all the questions. "I just want to get back to playing footie and getting high in my bathroom."
"Footie is out of the question until you get this speed under control." Liam changes lanes as he heads south towards London.
"Are you kidding? I could play for the Rovers at this rate!" Louis says excitedly.
Liam gives him a practiced cool look that he has given the older boy plenty of times throughout their friendship. "Louis, that would an unfair advantage and cheating. I think footie needs to be tabled until you can learn to control this or Harry can figure out how to undo it."
Louis rolls his eyes. "Only you could try and take all the fun out of having superpowers. Didn't you have a childhood?"
"Yes, I did. Coincidentally, it was with you. I know what you were like in childhood." Liam rolls his eyes and looks to Louis out of the corner of his eye.
"All I'm saying is that things happen for a reason, there's a reason we got these powers instead of dying." Louis looks down at his hands, flexing his fingers.
Liam honks his horn loudly as someone cuts him off. "Just because we have them doesn't mean we can abuse them."
"I think we need to tell Harry you're not just super strong, you're a fun sucker too." Louis sighs dramatically while they're at a red light. "Bet I would already be there if I ran."
"Louis, just drop it. Harry wants us all to lie low until he figures this out. If the wrong people find out, we could end up as government projects." Liam doesn't see how Louis isn't freaking out about the whole situation.
It's weirdly not the first time Louis has heard that. "Let's just get back to Styles' bat cave."
Instead of responding, Liam shifts onto the highway and pulls into the far right. He presses down on the gas pedal and pushes the car to top speeds.
Louis can't help but think he'd be faster on foot.
Harry shows up to Stylotech with a styrofoam cup of lukewarm coffee and five minutes to spare. He steps off the elevator onto one of the top floors and hangs a left at the corridor, rapping his knuckle against his dad's ajar office door. "Hey, you wanted to see me?"
Since the incident Harry's had to move down to the temporary lab on one of the ground floors which basically means he never really sees his dad.
Des looks up from his morning paper with half a bagel hanging from his mouth. He makes a surprised noise before taking a bite of his breakfast and swallowing so as to be able to talk. "Yes, yes, yes. We're taking a walk. Want you to see the lab and the schematics for the new one."
Harry hasn't seen the lab since he was lying face down on the tile surrounded by a chemical fire. He shudders a bit and tries his best not to take in the mass amounts of damage. He can’t even fathom the fact that he and his friends could have died here. It never even occurred to him that his job- this building- could be a dangerous aspect of his life. "Yeah, alright."
"The damage was pretty extensive, but once the fire squadron declared it safe we moved in to pick up the pieces. Unfortunately, none of the alien organism survived the inferno, but you five came out okay." Des leads the way through the halls and back towards the elevator.
He supposes the others, including himself, are as okay as they can be. "Will anyone else be joining us?"
Des shakes his head as the elevator doors open as soon as he scans his identification badge. "There might be a few contractors down there, but no one from Stylotech. Do you want me to call your lab partners?"
"No! No, I actually needed to talk to you." Harry looks around the corridor to make sure they're alone while they walk.
"Alright. Oh! Before I forget, Doctors McIlroy and Breslin wanted you and Niall to meet with them to go over the last of the data collected about the sludge." Des stops outside the destroyed lab, a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. "Apparently they also want to take you two out for drinks. They said you and Niall worked very well together and were respectful of their seniority."
Harry flushes, he's not used to his dad looking at him like that. "I guess, I'll take them up on the drinks though."
"That's a good lad," Des laughs loudly as he opens the door and steps into the destroyed laboratory. "So... This is it."
It's definitely destroyed, there's no semblance of what Harry knew what once stood there. "Whoa."
"Yeah. The electronics blowing apart from the heat are what did a lot of the appearance damage. The fire, obviously did some structural damage. This is actually in better condition than we found it in." Des runs a hand along a fresh support column. He's constantly thanked whatever god is out there for keeping his son safe. "Harry, how did you... There's no way anyone could have survived this."
"That's what I need to talk to you about. Just before the explosion we were all exposed to high levels of radiation. That green goo, I've taken to calling Foreign X, attached itself to all of us and merged with our DNA during the fire," Harry explains, still looking out for other people.
Des frowns and looks at his son. "The alien substance... Is inside you five? Harry, this is dangerous. We need to run medical tests and quarantine all of you. This could be a medical disaster. What if this is spreadable? This could lead to a pandemic."
"If it was spreadable it would have happened by now." They've all assimilated back into daily life and so far no one else has reported moving objects with just a look or accidentally ripping doors off hinges yet.
"There's more I haven't told you. Some of the others were... Anxious about me telling you what's been going on. I convinced them that Stylotech was our best option, that you and the team could help us reverse the effects or at the very least discover a new normal. I do ask that what I'm about to tell you stays only between the people you trust the most, what I have to say is right out of the pages from a graphic novel. I need you to suspend your disbelief and reconsider that what we thought was impossible is only improbable."
"Harry, just tell me. I can't promise anything until I know. I have certain oaths and vows I'm subjected to as well. As long as no one has been hurt because of what has happened, then no one needs to know." Des wants to help, but he's bound by law to report any viable threat to the government.
Harry wants to believe that his dad wouldn't allow them to become lab rats, he just had to trust him this time. "Well three of us have been having very abnormal, inhuman, side effects. Your theory worked, dad, all of our senses are heightened. Devine over there is going to come and ask you to have dinner at his estate tonight. Something about a new oven or something of the sort."
Devine, one of the other many scientists employed by Stylotech, is across the room talking to a colleague when he breaks away from conversation and makes his way to Des. "Dr. Styles! Just the man I wanted to see! I just got a brand new stove at home and I want to break it in tonight. Would you like to accompany me and a few others for dinner at my home?"
Des looks at his son in astonishment before agreeing to the extended offer. "Of course, Devine. I'll be sure to be there. Red or white wine?"
"Both," he jokes then says, "whichever you prefer, Doctor. I'll write my address down and hand it to your assistant."
Harry waits until he's walked away to continue their conversation. "That's not it, dad. Whatever the hell that meteor was carrying it mutated our genes. I'm talking superpowers, dad."
"Superpowers..." The older man sighs and covers his face. "Harry... Do you know what this could mean? This is... I need them all here. Now."
Harry sends out a group text about meeting at the company. "Louis and I haven't exhibited any... Abilities except the heightened senses. Zayn's moving things with his mind, Liam doesn't know his own strength, and Niall heals within seconds."
"Tell them to bring enough clothes and things for a month. We need to quarantine all of you and I'm not sure how long we'll need to figure this all out." Des turns away from his son and pulls out his phone. He's wondering just where to put these five kids.
"Dad, I'm not exhibiting any abilities. If I start to turn invisible or something I'll call you, but I don't think Louis or I need to be quarantined." Harry really doesn't think he can deal with being locked up, he's unjustifiably a celebrity and the media would have a field day, or rather month.
Des looks over at his son, ready to yell. He stops when he sees the contractors around the rooms. "Can my son and I have the room please?"
Once everyone else has left, Des sighs heavily. "Harry, can you please understand the gravity of this situation? We cannot allow any sort of media attention. If we can keep you boys indoors, we run less of a risk of someone finding out."
"Dad, I'm all over magazines. I do interviews! If I stop that's going to create attention. Look I'll put all of that on hold, but I still need to attend classes. I won't go anywhere other than the university, home, and here."
"Harry," Des sighs and runs a hand over his face. "Fine. You and Louis are free until you show symptoms. I only want you here or at school- same for Louis."
Harry counts this as a small victory until a thought crosses his mind. "Who's all going to know about this?"
"I'll put Breslin and McIlroy on as scientists. Are there any doctors or nurses who might know about this that I can get on this? I want at least two doctors and three nurses."
"I can think of one, but Liam crushed her hand. On accident of course." Harry is quick to add.
Des sighs and shakes his head. "Okay. I'll contact the hospital and get the names of those who took care of you all in there. Harry, this doesn't change anything between us. You're still my son, no matter what."
Harry pulls his dad in for a hug, it's the first hug he's given him in a while. "Thanks, dad."
"Get them here by the end of the day, Harry." Des gives him a smile before pulling his phone back out and starting the arrangements.
He stares after his dad for a moment then heads out with his phone in his hand. Things are going to really change.
Harry swears under his breath, swiftly walking across the campus courtyard towards his lecture hall. The last class he needs or wants to be late for is math, not only because it's his worst subject and therefore he needs all the practice he can get but the professor totally hates him. Legitimately he hates Harry, he's always targeting him and humiliating him in front of everyone because he's the son of arguably the best scientist of the millennia.
"Fuck," he mutters while keeping track of the time on his wristwatch. Finally he makes it to class, quietly trying to slip into his seat when the bell rings.
"Good evening class. I hope you’re ready to take another exciting look at Calculus II." Professor Watson starts writing equations on the board. "I want everyone to solve equations in the ninety minutes we have together. If you are unable to finish all ten, you'll receive a zero for today's class. If you finish and any turn out wrong, you will receive a zero for today's class."
He turns around and looks at his students. His eyes lock and narrow on Harry Styles about halfway up the lecture hall. "Good luck."
Harry starts chewing on his thumbnail looking at the lined paper he fished out of his binder. He can't afford another zero, he's almost failing this class already.
The room around him works in pairs or groups trying to hammer out the math to ensure a decent grade. The professor walks around, spying over shoulders and pointing out mistakes. When he makes it to Harry's paper, he grinds his teeth in frustration.
"Mister Styles," the gruff and aggravated voice seethes, "I understand that you have a job already lined up and don't actually have to work for anything, but a little effort would be appreciated. You should have the first one down by now and all I see is the original equation and doodles."
Harry's face flushes all the way up to his ears when everyone turns to look, it's not just evident to Harry that Watson hates him. "I've tried working through them but I don't understand, they don't make sense."
"We've been studying this for weeks. How have you not grasped the concept yet?" Watson fumes above him. "Obviously science and math aren't your strong suit. Maybe you ought to consider a life of flipping burgers and get out of my classroom. I don't have time for pompous students who glide by on daddy's achievements and money."
There's an inexplicable current of anger that runs through him, he almost snaps at the man but he manages to bite his tongue. "Well if you would take the time to allow me to come to your office after class I would have had my questions answered and I'd probably know what I was doing. Maybe you shouldn't have picked a profession in teaching if you can't teach someone with an IQ of 180 calculus."
"Interesting." Professor Watson looks around the room. "Miss Edwards? You have the highest grade in this class. Please, enlighten Mister Styles to your IQ."
Perrie looks around a bit sheepishly before mumbling out a soft, "175."
Harry already knows he probably should have kept his mouth shut, but it's a bit late for that now. "That proves nothing."
Watson moves back down towards the white board and turns to look up at Harry. "Class, please stop your work. Mister Styles here doesn't think I can teach. Knowing your grades, I know only two of you have grades below a B. So, we're going to have a contest."
He erased all but two of the hardest problems and calls Harry and Perrie to the front. "If Mister Styles manages to finish first everyone will receive full credit for this class, we will get out early, and we'll have no assignments for the next two weeks. If Miss Edwards manages to finish first everyone with an eighty-five of higher will will be allowed to leave early and enjoy full credit on all assignments for the next two weeks."
Dreadfully, Harry stands and wipes his sweaty palms on his slacks. Perrie will figure it out before he'll manage to get the cap off his dry erase marker. He heads down to the board and rolls his sleeves up to his elbows, well he's ready to fail.
"Remember to show your work." He hands them each an erase, but before Harry can take his the professor begins to cough. He brings his hand with Harry's eraser up on instinct to cover his mouth.
He's been coughing nonstop lately because of allergies and his throat is ripped up from this. Unbeknownst to either of them, he coughs up a few droplets of blood that fly out and onto the plastic grip of the eraser. "Sorry about that. Here you go, Styles."
Harry takes the marker only to feel something wet, when he looks he sees the tiny droplets sprayed across part of it. Disgusted, Harry drops the marker but when he looks at his hand the blood absorbs into his skin.
"And begin," Watson says as he sits down to observe the onslaught.
Perrie takes a quick look at the problem and opens her marker. She slowly starts to try and figure out the problem.
Harry feels like he's been overstimulated, every cell in his body is ready to implode. He's experiencing sensory overload and he almost tells Professor Watson when, as quick as it had come, it disappears and he's left bent over picking up the marker he had dropped.
When he looks back up at the problem it's almost instantaneous. Swiftly he begins to write out the work to the point that his usually pristine handwriting looks sloppy but he finishes both problems in under a minute. Something he has never accomplished in his 13 years of math courses. "I... I'm done."
Perrie steps back and looks at the board in confusion. Her eyes dart over the writing and her jaw drops. "It's right... Everything is right."
"It's right." Harry is in as much disbelief as everyone else is.
Watson frowns and stands up, looking over the work. He narrows his eyes at Harry before turning back to the rest of the class. "You all are dismissed. I'll see you all on Wednesday."
He faces the board again. "You may go, Miss Edwards. Mister Styles, I want to have a word with you."
"What did I do now?" Harry goes back to his desk to gather his things, joining his professor at the front again.
"I'm asking that you be transferred to an online class. You are disrespectful, a disruptive student, and too smug for anyone to deal with." Watson grinds his teeth together as he looks at the smarmy young adult.
Harry mouth drops open in shock. "What! I just answered two of your equations right and you want me transferred? This has nothing to do with this; this is everything to do with you. I heard that you applied for Stylotech and got rejected, I bet that's your problem."
"Oh please. Let's not forget that I've seen your past mathematics work. You've barely passed any sort of heavy theory math class. You should have majored in something you might actually have a chance of getting the degree for. If you stay in my class, you will not pass if your current grade is anything to go by. You need this class for your diploma and I'm the only teacher who teaches it on ground. Your pick, Mister Styles."
"Considering I just destroyed those equations I think I'll stay," Harry says smugly.
Watson steeples his fingers together. "As you wish, but I don't expect you to pass."
For the first time Harry leaves math with his head held high.
Liam rolls his eyes as Louis tries to convey what happened to him earlier at the doctor's office. "Can you believe that Louis gets the useful power? Like, he can't hurt anyone with his power. It isn't fair."
"I think your power suits you though. Strength? That's you. Out of all five of us, you're the rock. You keep us from doing anything too drastic." Zayn shrugs as he watches his pen float into the air in front of him and watches it spin a bit.
"We've all got pretty useful powers." Niall says.
"Really? I can't see the use after hurting someone. I crushed that nurse's hand." Liam still hasn't forgiven himself for that one.
Louis rolls his eyes and stops zooming around the lab. "That's because you don't know your own strength. We'll all learn how to better control them at Stylotech."
Zayn chuckles as the pen drops into his lap. "You sound like a damn commercial for the company. Try not to to sound like they're the saviours here."
The door swishes open and Harry walks in with a giant smile on his face. "Hey, guys. Dad wants to know if there's anything specific you want for dinner."
Louis, who was standing next to Liam, is now next to Harry, holding Harry's platinum card. "Let's get something lavish, it's on me."
"What the..." Harry looks at the outstretched hand and then at Louis. His gaze is full of astonishment and awe. "Super speed? Figures you'd get something like that."
"What about you?" Niall asks looking at Harry. "Have you been experiencing any symptoms?"
"Well..." Harry shifts his weight from foot to foot nervously. "I don't really understand it, but I absorbed blood today and then experienced sensory overload. It was a weird class."
"Well what happened? Did you shoot flames out of your hands, lasers out of your eyes?" Liam asks.
Harry shakes his head. "I got really good at math. It was my teacher's blood. Super weird." He shudders just thinking about it.
Niall hums. "And you weren't good at math before?"
Liam laughs hysterically at that. "Harry? Good at math? That's the joke of the day! He's the worst math student I've ever seen."
"Thanks, Liam. Real vote of confidence," Harry says, a bit of sarcasm laced through his words.
"That has to be a side effect then." Niall says and looks at the others. "Maybe you're super intelligent now, what's the capital of Uruguay?"
Harry shrugs, not even having a chance of getting it right. "Rio? Paraguay? I have no clue."
"Mate, tell me you didn't just say Rio." Zayn looks half way between terrified and amused.
"That's near Japan, isn't it?" Liam asks looking at his friends who all openly stare at him.
Niall has to put his face in his hands. "Well, after Dr. Styles lets us out of quarantine I say you two should enroll in a geography course."
"If we ever get out of quarantine," Zayn mumbles a bit angrily. "So is he going to experiment on us or what?"
Louis frowns and looks at the others. "Experiment? I thought we were learning to control these powers?"
Harry scowls at Zayn. "You know my dad better than half the people who work here, you really think he'd do that to us, to you guys? We'll be under surveillance but we won't be imprisoned."
Liam shrugs as he reclines back onto the loveseat that had been set up in the room. "We know your dad, but things have changed. We aren't the kids who sat in his living room everyday after school."
"Harry's right," Louis says pouting when he sees he's run off the soles of yet another pair of shoes. "We haven't really changed. We've got abilities now, but we're the same people. I still try and terrorize Liam every chance I get, Liam still watches Saturday morning cartoons in his rabbit slippers. Zayn uses curlers before bed and Harry has an unhealthy obsession with the gym. We are still the same kids that sat in Des Styles living room and we still will be."
"Just because certain parts of us are enhanced doesn't mean we stop being us." Niall looks around at his friends hoping they all see that this isn't a hopeless situation.
Liam grabs Louis' wrist before the boy can start running again and pulls him into his lap. "I guess that makes sense. I still don't like it, but I get it."
Harry smiles thankfully at his best friend. "Okay I already briefed my dad about you guys, however he doesn't know about me yet. I haven't had the chance to tell him."
"Do you want someone to go with you?" Niall looks around the room they've been given and doesn't know how he's going to make it a month in that space with four other people.
"I don't know. I'm not really sure how I'm going to demonstrate. I think I need to figure out what my power is." Harry doesn't believe Niall's guess of super intelligence, but Harry doesn't have a better idea.
Liam smiles and nods. "Makes sense. Maybe we can help you figure it out."
So they sit around talking, debating about what Harry's power might possibly be. "Well," Harry begins,"I didn't start feeling anything until I got his blood on me."
"Vampire," Louis shouts out loud. He smiles like he's solved every problem in the world.
Niall huffs. "Come on, Louis. This isn't the time for jokes. Especially if he's going to be stuck in here with us for a bit."
"And then you knew the answers. That's got me thinking," Zayn says and sits up straighter. "Would anyone other than Harry be willing to prick their finger?"
Liam holds out his hand. "After everything he's doing for us I don't see why not."
Zayn gets a service knife from his pocket and heads up to stand near Liam, grabbing his wrist and bringing the serrated blade down to rest against the pad of his thumb. Only the blade breaks off and Zayn's left to stare, dumbfounded. "I loved this knife! My dad gave me this knife!"
"What the hell did you do?" Niall asks as he quickly comes over to check at the outburst. "Fucking hell, you weren't supposed to try and kill him."
Liam looks at his hand with a frown. "There's so blood. Not even a mark. If Zayn pressed as hard as he would have needed to break a blade I would have a huge gash on my hand."
"The IV wouldn't go in his arm at the hospital either." Harry says. He's glad he was a comic geek growing up, he never really thought it would come in handy but it is now. "If my superhero knowledge is correct Liam has to have impenetrable skin."
"Fucking hell. You get all the good stuff don't you." Louis says as he comes to a stop next to his friend. He grasps Liam's hand and squeezes. "It's still soft and squishy though. Feels no different than normal skin."
"Well I'll need to cut someone else then." Zayn looks between Niall and Louis.
"I heal," Niall says with a shrug. He looks to Louis.
The brunet pales a bit, but nods. "Fucking hell. Of course. Liam might have to hold me down. Don't do well with seeing my own blood."
Liam wraps his arms around Louis and nods to Zayn, watching him use the broken blade to slice Louis' finger, hovering it over Harry until a couple drops of blood splatter across his hand.
Harry jerks back, disgusted, but before he manages to wipe the blood away it absorbs into his skin and he feels even more overloaded than he did in the lecture hall. It feels like every part of him is expanding but nothing is exploding. He doubles over and tries to wait until the feeling passes.
Niall is at his side instantly, rubbing at Harry's back. He frowns as he can practically feel Harry start to vibrate beneath his touch. "You okay, mate?"
Slowly the feeling of being consumed is ebbed away and Harry feels somewhat normal again. "I'm fine, I just feel like I'm going to burst open."
Louis is looking away from his finger and having Liam take care of him. "I don't understand. What was the point of Harry drinking my blood?"
"I just wanted to cut you," Zayn answers sarcastically and rolls his eyes. "Alright Harry I want you to just run around the room."
"I did not drink your blood," Harry says with even more disgust. He gets into a runner's stance and takes off, only when he does everything looks like it's going in slow motion around him.
Niall frowns and looks around. "He's... Just a blur."
Harry stops when he's standing back in front of the others. "Now I've got super speed and I'll pass math, this year has gotten considerably better."
The door to the secured room slides open and Des Styles strides in. He looks at all of the boys and smiles stiffly. "Boys, I think we should have a talk about what this all means for us and you."
Harry can't help it, he has to tell his dad anyhow, he goes from standing by Niall to standing next to his dad holding his dad's notepad. "You don't want us to tell anyone in fear of widespread panic, understandable. Suits? Anything but spandex please."
"Harry," Des gives his son a hard look as he takes his notebook back. "Yes, we don't want you tell anyone. We will let you go back and forth between here and school. We'll have an agent with you at all times. They will be armed with a heavy sedative in case your... Abilities flare up in public and you become a threat to those around you. We have a team of scientists and small batch of doctors and nurses from the hospital to monitor your health."
He looks around at the other four and tries to seem menacing but comforting. "We will figure out what happened to you, but it will take your full cooperation."
"We're all willing to cooperate. We were actually just trying to figure out what Harry's power was," Niall says.
"Mimicry," Zayn interrupts staring at his computer screen. "I had a feeling when you were telling us about your incident at the lecture hall, but I'm positive about it now. That's a sick power, mate."
Louis frowns. "So he has my power now too? That's not fair! Give me my power back!"
"Boys, please," Des sighs and looks down at his notebook. "Look, we've ordered Chinese food for dinner tonight. Tomorrow you'll all be moved to a bigger lab that's fully furnished, but this is all that was available on short notice."
"I'm sure some of us won't mind sharing." Zayn looks pointedly between Niall and Harry.
Harry's eyes widen a bit and throws Zayn a desperate look. "Sounds like a plan. Louis and Liam share every night anyway."
"Oi, fuck off." Louis loudly shouts, but never truly denies it. "So what do we do tomorrow?"
Harry has an idea, if anything to keep his dad from knowing about him and Niall, he zooms by Louis and taps him on the shoulder. "We'll worry about tomorrow then, right now you're it."
Louis frowns before he recognises that glint of crazy childishness in Harry's eye. He breaks out into a grin and reaches out to tap Harry's shoulder. "You want to play? We can play."
Harry's across the room before Louis can touch him. "Then why don't you put your feet where your mouth is, Tomlinson?"
Breaking into a run, Louis chases after his friend in an intense game of tag.
Liam shrugs and turns back to Harry's dad. "So what does this mean for us? Are we confined to the building then?"
"For now, yes." Des watches his son and Louis wearily while they jet around the room.
"What about our families? Safaa graduates next week. I'll be able to go to that, right?" Zayn has already promised to come home from classes for that.
Des can only shrug. "Unfortunately I can't give you a guarantee, your abilities and learning to control them is our priority."
Niall bites at his lip as he thinks about his father. "What if our family isn't expected to be able to live on their own?"
"I can send someone to watch over them." Des knows about Niall's family, he has to the know the backgrounds of all of his employees and interns when they work for a company as highly rewarding yet dangerous as this one.
Harry frowns and looks to Niall, coming to a screeching halt beside him, wanting to comfort him in this trying time. "If the four of us are allowed to go back and forth between school, shouldn't Niall have a back and forth point?"
Sighing, Des tries to take on an air of authority. "You're only allowed to school to avoid failing. I'm sorry, boys, but you five are extremely dangerous and we need you in the lab running tests until we have a solution."
"Tests?" Liam frowns and stands from the couch he was relaxing in. "We don't want to become experiments and be poked and prodded. We're still human beings with rights."
"You will not be an experiment, Liam. Do you really believe I'd allow my son to become a lab rat? We have to know what we're dealing with and how we can help." Des looks at them, all looking very pale, they're all just kids.
Liam studies the man carefully. He just wants them all to live normal lives. "Fine, but you have to promise me that we don't become weapons or you make us into a way for you to profit. We know you're a decent guy, but we have to look out for ourselves now."
Des looks to Liam. "This is only to help, no one other than the team working with you will know about your powers. That means you cannot tell family, friends, or anyone else. This isn't just for your safety but the public's safety as well. Now I have Mcllroy and Breslin engineering suits that are designed to try and harness your powers and want you all to wear them under your clothes from now on. Harry, your suit will take more time in light of your recent development."
Louis comes to a stop besides his friends and smiles brightly at the mention of suits. "We're like a proper superhero squad! We need a name now, I guess."
"Don't let Louis pick the name," Liam says. He doesn't even know if they'll use a name but he does not need to be stuck with something Louis came up with.
Zayn cracks a smile at that. "Maybe we should just calm down for the night. There's nothing we can do about all of this now."
"I agree, we should probably try and get some rest for now." Harry says, his run turning more into a slow jog until he comes to a standstill. Pouting, Harry looks at where the sole of his boot had been, only to find that it had been eroded away and he was left looking at the bottom of his foot instead. "These were my favourite pair!"
Louis starts cackling as his friend finds the misfortune he's been dealing with all day. "I've already ruined three pairs of Adidas. You get no sympathy from me."
They all agree to call it a day and Des promises to bring them their food once it arrives. "I'll see you all tomorrow then. Get a good night's sleep."
Once Des leaves, Harry unzips his now worthless boots and tosses them aside by a duffel bag he had brought. He zooms by Louis to flick him in the nose. "Like we're actually going to sleep, what's he expect leaving a room full of grown children with superpowers."
"I would do as he says." Liam looks through his own bag. He pulls out his textbooks and everything he'll need to get some work done.
Louis frowns, liking Harry's idea more. "I think Harry's right. We should explore these things."
"How are we ever going to harness them if we don't test em out?" Harry asks.
"Well that's what your dad is for isn't it? He already mentioned testing us." Niall says.
Liam just rolls his eyes. "Can we at least eat before anything else? I haven't eaten since breakfast and I really don't want to think about anything except food."
"Does this mean that Louis' just going to eat everything since he'll be running everything off? I'm not paying for the influx of food we'll have to buy," Zayn says offhandedly as he tries to levitate his bag to his side.
"I'm pretty fast. I could just steal." Louis says and rolls his eyes at the looks everyone gives him. "Joking! It was a joke!"
Liam rolls his eyes. He just wants to make it through the night with no freak accidents.
Harry can't sleep. Call him spoiled but he's used to his goose feather pillows and Egyptian cotton bedding, how he's expected to sleep on a cot he doesn't know. Restlessly he rolls over onto his back and stares up at the ceiling blankly, maybe he'll grow so bored he'll pass out.
Niall looks over at the restless figure, making out Harry's hair in the darkness. "Can't sleep?" He tries to keep his voice low, not wanting to wake the others.
"You've got to have your head raised four centimeters to keep your spine aligned and this pillow isn't even half that," Harry groans quietly and figures he probably should give up.
"Actually, I've had the same bed since I was eight. I was thinking that the change was nice." Niall chuckles softly and shifts so he can look over at his friend. "I guess you aren't used to a small bed since your is huge."
Harry's quiet for a moment, he doesn't want to sound pompous. "No, not really."
"Let's move to the couches. At least then there will be a bit of cushion." Niall sits up and listens as the metal legs groan under his weight.
Harry doesn't really think that'll solve his problem since there will be even less room, but he gets up anyway and grabs his blankets.
Once they're settled in and practically laying on top of each, Niall sighs. "That's a little better I guess. At least we can snuggle a bit too."
"You're comfier than the bed." Harry says, using Niall's chest as a pillow.
"Thanks. It's all the junk food my da and I eat." The blond throws an arm across Harry and starts to play with his hair. "I can't believe my da is home alone. This is going to be so hard."
"Didn't you find a nurse to look after him?" Harry asks, quietly preening under Niall's touch.
Niall sighs and shakes his head. "We can't afford one. Besides, it wouldn't help. We know what's wrong and there's no cure. That's why I wanted to pursue medical science."
Harry hums and lets his fingers skim along the hem of Niall's t-shirt. "I could always send one over."
"I don't... I don't want to be a bother or spend your money all wildly. I think Louis would kill me if I agreed to that." Niall hasn't forgotten the wary and protective vibes from that day at the beach.
Harry shakes his head. "You're not bothering me or spending my money wildly."
"Harry," Niall sighs and closes his eyes. He isn't sure how to explain this to someone who has never wanted for money his whole life. "I can't accept the offer because I know how much that would cost. Medical bills and in-home care is astronomical in pricing."
"But you're my friend and I would do it for the others in a heartbeat." Harry doesn't see the big deal, if he has the means he doesn't mind.
"It's just... Complicated. You've known them forever. You've barely known me for two months." Niall hopes to make Harry see reason, but he has a feeling Harry will do whatever he wants.
Harry sweeps his eyes around making sure the others are asleep, when he confirms it he sits up and instead straddles Niall's thighs. "I don't like them the way I like you."
Niall tries his best to hold in the blush and pleased smile at Harry's words. He sits up a bit and presses his lips to Harry's covered collarbones. "I should hope not. But, you still don't know me that well."
"Well sure I do! You're from Mullingar, you have an OCD for cleaning, your dad is disabled and you look after him." Harry lists off the things Niall has shared because Harry remembers everything. "I also know that you're an incredibly caring, kind person with a heart bigger than your head sometimes, but you always mean well. I may seem like I'm really far up my own ass, but I pay attention."
"I never meant to imply that you didn’t," Niall says with a smile. It's nice to hear these things about himself pass through Harry's lips. "But did you know I have brother and a nephew? My mother who lives Edinburgh that desperately wants me to go live with her?"
He doesn't want to push Harry away, but he doesn't want Harry to be blinded by the nice side of his personality as well. "Everyone has a weakness, a darker side, to their brightness. The bigger the brightness, the more darkness there is to cover up."
"You must be full of secrets then." Harry says it quietly, but it's still very audible in the mostly silent room. Harry's not really sure if Niall isn't just trying to talk him out of sending a nurse to his home.
A horribly familiar feeling settles in Harry's stomach and he can't help but slowly climb off of Niall. Honestly maybe Louis is right, Harry doesn't know Niall's intentions he's not made any moves to ask Harry out on a date even though Niall says he likes him. "This couch is too small."
"Harry..." Niall doesn't know how to put into words the feelings and problems of himself and his family. "Let's just... Let's get to know each other a bit. You don't know me, and I don't know you."
Harry doesn't look at Niall but he nods. "Uh, yeah. I figured that's what we've been doing these past two months."
Niall sighs. They've been getting to know each other, but he's still so worried about jumping into a relationship with his boss' son. "Look, I like you- a lot. But you're the son of the guy who might hire me. Then, when your dad hands you the reigns, you'll be my boss. That doesn't sit well with me. I need to know that I can get this job based on my merit and scholastic achievements."
"Well why the hell else are you here? You won that science fair didn't you? Obviously on your own merit." Harry just shakes his head and stands. He can't sleep anyway. "I'm going for a walk."
"Harry! Harry, wait!" Niall watches as the door opens and shuts behind the boy. He huffs before getting up and heading after his friend.
He spots the boy at the end of the hallway. "Harry Styles, you stop right there. You know damn well I didn't win that science fair and the only reason your dad asked me to work here was because my research benefits him explicitly."
"My dad already told me you were as good as hired! Isn't that what you wanted, a job? I don't really care about the company, or my dad, or anything about that for that matter! You can kiss me but you can't even ask me out on a date? Jesus fucking Christ." Harry didn't mean to say the last sentence, when he does he immediately averts his gaze, face flushed red.
"You kissed me!" Niall shouts back. He closes his eyes and pinches the bridge of his nose. "Look, I just don’t want people to get the impression that I'm getting a job or anything because I'm dating the CEO's son. I want to go out with you, but what if we don't work well together? The probability that we would find our partner in our own field of study... It doesn't happen that often."
"You don't have to worry about it, there's not a chance in hell I'd go out with you now." And with that Harry heads right for the lift.
Niall groans in annoyance as he trudges back into the quarantine room. He's done. He can't make thick headed pretty rich boys understand anything.
Harry doesn't return to the lab until the next morning, wearing a lab coat he hasn't bothered to wear since he himself was only interning, over a button up and tie. Rarely does he dress like a business professional, especially for work, but after the row he had the previous night he decided it's best if he focuses on his career at Stylotech above everything else.
Opening the door to the quarantined room, he doesn't look around to see who else is awake. Instead he heads to one of the virtual tables set up and when he swipes his finger over the screen he's immediately greeted with a robotic female voice, "Hello, Mr. Styles."
Louis wakes with a start and sits upright at the voice. He looks around for a moment or two before seeing Harry at one of the mainframe computers. "Haz? What are you doing up? It's," he checks his phone, "six in the morning."
"I'm gonna have to start getting up this early eventually." Shrugging, Harry begins conversing with Gideon, the computer, pulling up their case file.
"Yeah, but you don't have classes till the afternoon." Louis yawns and gets up from his cot, back cracking as he does so. "Is your dad making you work even though you're in quarantine?"
Harry shakes his head negatively. "I'm doing this voluntarily. If I'm gonna run this company I'm going to need to do whatever I can to make the transition easy."
Louis frowns and looks at his friend. He's never seen his friend this pressed about the company he's supposedly taking over. "Are you okay? I mean you've never really shown an interest in the company before."
For the first time since he's entered, Harry looks at Louis. "I'm fine. Can't my interests shift?"
"Is that a tie? Fucking hell, mate. You've really gone mental." Louis gets up and heads towards his friend. "What happened? You only do this when you're stressed."
Harry sighs, exasperated. "Well we all have superpowers don't we?"
Narrowing his eyes, Louis looks at his friend. "Don't fucking bullshit me. You weren't really all that worried about it yesterday."
Harry turns back around and starts talking to Gideon again, eyeing the new suit design they would soon be wearing.
Louis slams his hand down on the table next to where Harry was working. "Stop. You need to talk to me. Does this have to do with your sexual frustration at not being able to rub one out for awhile?"
Harry snorts, trying and failing to fight the grin on his face. "What? No! I can just use the private bathroom if I want."
"Harry, tell me what you're thinking then." Louis is fed up with Harry thinking that it's him against the world. If they're going to be on a superhero team together then they need to trust each other with everything.
"I just feel like I'm never going to find someone that doesn't think of my money or job first," Harry finally says, shrugging it off.
Louis' eyes narrow and he turns his head to look towards Niall. "What did he ask for? How much money does he want from you?"
Harry knows Louis would react like and he knows Louis would immediately assume Niall. "It's not like that! He just doesn't want to date me because I'm the boss's son. Look I get it, he's right. I'm just sick of people thinking about my job or my money before they think about me."
Harry absolutely hates the way his voice cracks when he ends with, "I have feelings too."
"I'm going to kill him. What does he want to do? Choke on your old man's cock instead? Never should have trusted him." Louis glares at the sleeping blond. He told Harry he would only bring trouble.
"Oh my god! Louis, no! I'm pretty sure he doesn't want to date my dad either." Harry shudders at the thought.
Louis frowns, "I don't see the problem. He doesn't want to date you...? Does he only see you as friends? I'll date you if you just want someone. I'm sure Eleanor won't mind."
"He doesn't want people to think he got his job because of me." Harry's pretty done with this conversation.
"Well, that's a good fear. Nepotism and favouritism are two of the three things were are told to avoid at all cost in my business classes." Louis lowers his voice a bit when he sees Liam stirring behind him.
Harry doesn't say anything. He welcomes the distraction when he feels his phone buzz, looking to see an unknown number he doesn't recognize. "Weird." He opens the message and he's really glad he set down his coffee earlier otherwise it would be on the floor. "Shit," he breathes out.
'Hey, Styles. It's been such a long time since we've seen each other. We should grab dinner soon. I miss hanging out with you. -Nick xo'
Louis reads the message over his shoulder and frowns. "No, absolutely not. I forbid you from seeing that asshole."
"Who said I was gonna see him?" Harry fidgets before tucking his phone away.
"You aren't. So that ends that. He was a rat." Louis slips on a fresh pair of trackies and an old t-shirt as he talks. "Besides, remember how much he hurt you? I'm willing to bet you anything he hasn't changed."
Harry shrugs, it's been so long since it's happened and he's pretty over it now. "Scientists say people change every few years."
Louis rolls his eyes, but focuses on waking Liam up. "Whatever you say, pal. I'm going on a run with Liam. Want to come with? You might be able to actually keep up this time."
Harry laughs and rolls his eyes. "You're on, Tomlinson."
"You're both going to die for being so loud and waking me up." Zayn's angry voice can be heard from across the room. He had purposefully shoved his cot in the farthest corner away from everyone else so he could sleep soundly.
Liam groans and turns to look at Louis. "I'm with Zayn. What the hell are you doing up this early?"
"Well I was trying to work, but now Louis here wants to race- run I mean." Harry smiles mischievously, he's always had a bit of a competitive streak.
"And you're coming with us, Leemo. After all these years of you begging, I'm finally going on a run with you." Louis smiles and yanks the covers off of his best friend.
"Just be sure you leave before they shower together, Harry," Niall mutters from his cot, wanting to go right back to sleep after the trio left.
Harry doesn't acknowledge Niall. Instead he uses Louis' speed to his advantage and is dressed in his workout gear before Niall can even roll over onto his side. "You two are slow."
It takes Liam another ten minutes to get out of bed and changed before the three of them can head out.
Once they're gone, the room descends into quietness. Zayn huffs as he grabs his textbook from his bag. "Finally. Harry is quite possibly the worst whisperer I know. And he never puts his phone on silent."
Niall, figuring he's not going to fall back asleep, sits up and stretches. "Louis wasn't much better."
"Yeah, but at least Louis seemed like he wanted to go back to bed. Harry's in workaholic mode. Usually means something has upset him."
"Yeah..." Niall sighs, perturbed. He wasn't trying to upset Harry really, he just doesn't think dating the CEO's son is a good move right now- no matter how badly Niall did want to ask Harry out on a date when he brought it up.
"Well, if he hangs out with Nick, workaholic Harry will be gone so that's always a plus. Bad part is that Nick is Simon's nephew so we don't really trust him at all." Zayn shrugs. He didn't really have a problem with Nick until he left. The way he left was a bit harsh, but he did what he felt was right.
Niall hopes he comes off nonchalant rather than irrationally jealous. Harry could be friends with this guy. "So who's Nick?"
Zayn looks at Niall with a questioning face. Sometimes he forgets that Niall is only a recent addition to their friend group. "Nick was Harry's first... Well I don't know what to call him. Fuck buddy isn't strong enough, but boyfriend is too strong. Whatever they were though wasn't great. They were like oil and water."
"What made it so bad?" Niall can't help but let his curiosity get the better of him.
"They wanted different things. Harry wanted to please his dad, be the help the world needed. Nick was exactly like his uncle. He wanted human advancement at any cost. They disagreed on a lot of the ethics behind their work." Zayn wonders what Nick could possibly want with Harry after all this time.
"Human advancement? Is there really enough to end a relationship or whatever, there has to be more to it." Niall will agree that he wouldn't work with those conditions, but that's just work.
Zayn bites his lip as he tries decide if telling Niall all of this is a good idea. "Simon was fired for human experimentation. Even though his access and security was wiped from the building database, he was still finding out ways to get his hands on top secret research. Research that only the top scientist and his lab assistant would know. Harry was that lab assistant. He was telling Nick about the experiments they were performing and Nick would relay it to his uncle."
Niall's frown only deepens. "Jesus... Human experiments? Well did Harry find out?"
"Cowell Labs opened and had the exact same experiments- parameters and all. He got suspicious and took the issue to his dad. Nick was fired the next day and was hired at Cowell Labs." Zayn shrugs as he thinks of what happened after that. "There's never been a report to come out of Cowell Labs that ended with the test subject making it out alive. The experiments were too intense and usually ended up killing the subjects in horrible ways."
"That's- well what happened to Cowell? He had to have gotten shut down, arrested." Niall can't possibly begin to understand wanting to test on human subjects.
Zayn sighs and shakes his head. "The government got involved and privatised their corporation. Last check, they're trying to create a super soldier for the military. Less Captain America, more... Magneto level."
Niall looks disturbed. "That's pretty fucked if you ask me."
"Exactly," Zayn sighs and looks at Niall. "It wrecked Harry when Nick and him stopped... Whatever they were doing."
"Was he like an awful person to him or was he all right… When their thing was going on? Did he treat Harry okay?" Niall can't really describe the overwhelming hate he feels at anyone that would take advantage of someone like Harry.
"He took advantage of Harry's kindness. Nick was older so he thought that he was in charge." Zayn friend as he thinks of the way Nick treated his best friend. "Harry won't tell us, but we're pretty sure Nick was the first person he had sex with. It would explain why he was so attached and heartbroken over the asshole."
Niall has never met Nick, but he already hates him. "I think I get where he was coming from last night now."
Zayn looks at him skeptically. "What was he saying last night? He rarely talks about Nick or potential partners."
Niall flushes, he wasn't really planning on telling the others. "He wants to go out and I do too but I just don't want people to think Harry is the reason I got a job here you know? Have to carve my own path, blaze my own trail, whatever."
"Well, I admire you wanting to know that you can get the job do to your accomplishments, but I think giving up what could an amazing relationship just to prove something is idiotic."
Maybe Zayn is right, even if other people might think he got a job through Harry he knows he didn't. "I'll try and talk to him when we're alone. Maybe I should ask him on that date."
"You need to apologise first. Harry is a proud individual and he won't accept until he knows that you know that you're in the wrong." Zayn gives the blond a pointed look.
Niall nods. "Yeah, I'm not exactly used to Harry not talking to me and I kinda miss him."
Zayn shrugs. "If nothing happens, you need to at least be friends. I have a feeling we're all going to be working together for the foreseeable future."
"We're all going to need to get on too." If they have to be on a team they'll have to act like it.
"Exactly," Zayn says as he opens his textbook. "Oh, and don't tell Harry I told you about Nick. It's... A sensitive subject for him."
Niall quickly nods. "He'll never know."
Niall's sitting on the cot opposite of Zayn, watching him levitate his lighter around in midair. The door behind them slams open, rebounding off the wall and startling the quiet.
"Jesus." Zayn drops his lighter and it scatters somewhere under him.
Louis and Liam both come in, carrying an unconscious Harry between them, both of his arms slung over their shoulders respectively.
Zayn opens his mouth and Louis cuts in answering his question before he can ask. "We got into a little wager and we wanted to see who could run faster, and Harry just went too fast. I mean too fast and then he just collapsed, but he was going so fast he crashed into a postbox."
Liam manages to take the unconscious form of his friend and carry him over to the cot he had used the night before. "It was weird. It was like he just... Had enough. He's breathing, but he hasn't been conscious since collapsing."
Niall is by his side instantly. "Get his dad. He said there was a medical team being brought in today. Let's start them off with something normal."
Zayn wastes no time running out of the room straight to Des' office.
Louis lies Harry out on a cot, Harry was bleeding pretty heavily. He'd cut his head open and the copper red is still freely flowing down the side of his face.
Niall grabs Harry's hand and checks for a pulse. "How long has he been bleeding like this? His heartbeat is a bit slow; could be from blood loss."
"We were really far, a few hours maybe," Louis says quietly, worriedly.
The doors swish open and Zayn and a man in a lab coat are quick to enter. "How's he doing?"
Niall scoots over a bit to let the doctor in. "His head wound is what I'm most concerned with. Slow heartbeat and shallow breathing; I'm thinking overexertion initially."
Liam shakes his head. "I knew it was a bad idea. We could have been seen, I should have said something."
The doctor grabs the closest shirt to him and starts applying pressure to the gash. "Luckily, this cut isn't too deep. Pressure should be enough to get it to stop bleeding. You all are scheduled to move to the top floor after lunch. We can check him better then."
Des rushes into the room, eyes falling on his injured son. Normally he tries to remain professional but he can't help the edge in his voice and the concerned look he casts at Harry. "What happened to him?"
"He just... Collapsed. We went on a run and he just couldn't control his speed." Louis is back away from the action, staring down at his friend. He's biting his fingernails nervously.
"He should be fine," Niall says as he stands to address his boss. "I would move him upstairs now though- just him. Give the doctors some time to get him stable and help before moving all of us."
Des shoos everyone away and picks Harry up bridal style. "Well, I'm going to need someone to open the doors."
Liam heads over and steps in front of the automatic sensor to hold the door open. "Tell us when he wakes up?"
Des nods and heads out with his son in his arms.
Harry groans as he feels an incessant pounding in his head. It feels like he's been hit repeatedly with a baseball bat to the head, but he can also feel plenty of cool air being blown onto him. He cracks an eye open to place himself, but the brightness only causes him to groan loudly.
"I think he's up! Harry? Harry, can you hear me? Come on, buddy. You can't leave me here with these idiots." Zayn is quick to his best friend's side.
"I'd only be leaving you with one," Harry says his eyes still closed, "Liam and Louis are two halves of a whole idiot."
"Oi," Louis tries his best to sound offended but he can't wipe the smile off his face at the sound of Harry's voice. "You okay, Styles? I know you must be heartbroken since I beat you in that race."
Niall rolls his eyes, but stays where he is. He's not sure if Harry really wants to be near him after last night.
Harry snorts and finally looks at Louis. "If it weren't for that postbox you wouldn't have won by default."
Liam bites at his lip. "About that... What happened? You just sort of collapsed. We had to carry you back as you bled all over the place."
Harry goes silent, he can't really tell them if he doesn't know himself. "I don't know how to explain it. I felt like my energy was totally zapped out of me. I felt exhausted, dead on my feet and I just crashed."
"Maybe," Niall finally speaks up, "Zayn was onto something last night. Did you eat since last night? Maybe it was a metabolism thing." He hopes it's something simple. "Otherwise it might be a side effect of these... Abilities."
"I did eat. I had breakfast before the run." Harry and the other two had stopped by a bagel shop before they had gotten started.
Niall frowns. "Obviously Louis was fine... What if your body didn't adapt the way it needed to? I mean, it's not really your power. It's just a copy of it."
"I think," Des says from where he's standing near the corner of the room, "we'll have to run some tests. I have a few theories, and I would like to confirm them."
"Tests?" Harry can't help but ask, sitting up more properly to address his dad.
Des looks up at the wall. There's a pane of tinted plexiglass hidden from view. If he didn't know it was there, he'd never be able to see it. "Rory, Niall, want to come down here and explain to the boys?"
Both Mcllroy and Breslin come in through the door a minute later with clipboards. Rory Mcllroy, who’s worked fifteen years at Stylotech and has never encountered anything like this, smiles kindly to Harry. "They're nothing harmful, I promise that we both are very against human testing like your father. We, as well as him, have theories about why you couldn't retain your speed. This is all only to help you, I can promise the worst of it will be at most a blood draw. This also goes for the rest of you. We will be running different, but safe tests, on each of you. Harry's just a bit more, eh, urgent at the moment."
Liam looks skeptically at the two scientists. "I'm still not too keen on this whole testing thing. What exactly do you want to accomplish from this?"
"To find out what mutated. See, this stuff just doesn't happen. Something in your DNA had to change. We want to see if this is now genetic. If you have kids, what is the likelihood of them having abilities." Breslin doesn't get why the kids think they have any choice in the matter.
"I think you all have been conditioned to be afraid of these abilities since you got here, but we want you to embrace them. This substance we were studying- Foreign X we've been calling it- has bonded with you on a molecular level. You will have these powers for the rest of your lives. We've already talked to the government about it," Mcllroy pauses. He's not sure how much he should really disclose, but he figures they all have a right to know.
"They have agreed to let us be responsible for you so long as you all cooperate. They will not interfere, not just because we asked them to, of course, we had to give them something in return; you know the government. We think, when that explosion happened, something very extraordinary happened. Just from the small blood work we did of you, Harry- sorry we took some from your gash when you were sleeping- you used to be diabetic. But we've ran the tests and every medical issue you have is gone. It's truly remarkable. We think you can be a lot of help to a lot of people. We can find cures to diseases we never thought possible."
"At what cost?" Liam seethes with anger at the news that the government knows about them. "I didn't want the government to know. They'll let you keep us sure, but what happens when they need to plant a bomb and can't get out fast enough? Who do you think they'll send? What if they need a combat soldier who can take a punch with no damage? Who is their first call going to be?"
Zayn frowns. "Li, that's enough. We have to be monitored. These could be dangerous. You broke someone's hand!"
"Zayn is right, you all pose a threat. They do not see you all any differently than five atomic bombs. As long as you all stay in check, they have signed a contract that they will not intervene. We've had top lawyers comb it over to avoid any potential loopholes. We have your best interest in mind." Breslin knows it might sound like an unattractive idea, but there's more and he hopes it's enough to get them to agree. "You all will get something in return. We will help you totally harness your abilities and allow you to perform to your maximum potential, as well as compensate you with money and provide you with a plethora of other benefits. This is your best option. Your other option is to be handled by the government and we can't promise they'll be so accommodating."
The room falls silent as the five look around to each other. Niall, wanting to keep the peace, quickly changes the subject. "Dr. Styles said something about suits you want us to wear?"
Breslin, who was the one overseeing the suits engineering, steps up this time. "We've been developing suits to transform with your abilities. I'm sure Louis and Harry will get sick of going through so many shoes, we've made a dozen with special soles to avoid that happening."
"Sick! Any Adidas designs? Maybe some Vans or Converse?" Louis loves his shoes. They're usually the most expensive thing he owns. Not wearing them down sounds like a great idea.
"What about the rest of us? They aren't exactly physical manifestations." Niall can't think of suit that him or Zayn would have to wear. Even Liam's ability is more internal than external.
"We believe you haven't unlocked the full extent of your powers. Zayn as an example, is a young telekinetic. We believe that if trained, you should be able to concentrate that power through every part of your body and will be able to create an essence around you, allowing you to essentially fly. Your suit will have to withstand the energy, all energy- even invisible energy- can be felt. It will be magnified by the intensity and will be able to withstand the elements," Rory explains with almost childlike enthusiasm.
"As for you Niall, you have the extraordinary ability to heal at an incredible rate. We believe because you can heal so fast that you may be able to eventually manipulate your own blood. The suit will have your blood encoded through the DNA and will aid in blood regeneration and cell repair allowing you almost instantaneous healing. Although we theorize the nastier the wound the longer it will take for your skin and blood to come together."
This time Breslin speaks, looking at Liam. "Liam, with your strength we created your suit to withstand any element including things like heat and ice allowing you to pick up anything without consequence, we made it as impenetrable as your skin. We also made you a very special set of gloves, we believe if you were to hit the ground with your fist you could create a type of sonic boom. There are other elements to the suits but those are the basics."
"Why do we need any of that if we're just being used for medical research?" Liam snaps at the scientists.
Louis looks to his best friend with a disheartened look. "Liam... I think you know why we all need these super suits."
Harry, who's still trying to get used to the fact that he's no longer diabetic, eventually nods. "He's right. This is our best option."
Liam just shakes his head. "You all are wrong. We should have never trusted anyone with this." He looks to Louis, disappointment in his eyes before storming out of the room.
Zayn looks to Louis as well, almost expectantly. "You need to have a talk with him. I think he's scared and you're his best friend."
"What can I do? He's going to just yell about how it was wrong to trust anyone." Louis hates when he has to be the voice of reason.
Niall shakes his head. "It has to be you. You guys have this bond that we don't get, you know?"
"Just get him on board, you talk him into every dumb idea you have. Now talk him into a good one." Harry says, managing to get onto his feet.
Louis sighs, but nods. "Fine, fine. I'll talk to him. I can't promise anything, but I'll try."
He heads out into the hall, looking for his friend. He can't believe this is their life now. He wonders how his mother will react if she ever finds out. "Liam? Liam?"
Liam's just down the corridor sitting on the ground, his back to the wall. "Nothing is ever going to be the same."
Louis hurries towards his best friend's voice and finds the overgrown puppy. "Li..." He gets down, deciding to be on Liam's level.
"You know they'd never make us do anything we didn't want to. What's got you so worried?" He rests his head against Liam's broad shoulder and grabs at the boy's hand, entwining their fingers together.
"They might not, but the government knows about us too! You heard them, we have these powers for life. We're going to be monitored and poked and prodded until we die and maybe even after that." Liam doesn't hold Louis' hand as tightly.
"Liam, I won't let them near you. You know I wouldn't let anyone hurt you or our families." Louis can't figure out why this is bothering Liam so much. He feels great about these abilities. "Are you scared you'll hurt someone or...?"
"You can't protect me when we're in the same damn boat! I don't think you understand at all how dangerous this is for us. We should have never come to Stylotech."
Louis frowns, looking at his best friend. "Look, this is the right decision. If we had kept this from them, who knows what would have happened. You could have gone to hug your mum and crushed her. Just because you're jealous that you got a destructive power instead of a tame one like mine doesn't mean you can have a full on strop about it."
"I'm not the only one that could be destructive! You heard what Mcllroy said. We're no different than bombs to the government."
"How is running fast destructive? If we use that logic, Usain Bolt is a threat to us as well!" Louis can feel his anger start to rise and his body starts buzzing in response to the pent up frustration.
"You're thick if you can't use logic and realize why it could be a threat. You could commit crimes and no one would see you; even if you can get caught you can get away," Liam says, growing just as irritated.
Louis scoffs. "I honestly just think you're jealous. You're a death machine now. Get used to it. One punch, one hug, whatever you do- you are a killing machine. And you're scared someone is going to harness that power and use you. Well guess what? That's pretty much all you’re good for anymore."
"All I'm good for? All you've been good for, Tomlinson, is a lousy stand in as a father for your sisters and a pretty mouth guys could stick their dicks in. You're almost as bad as that mental case Harry. Why I ever trusted someone like him I'll never know. I knew what kind of person he was and I still let him charm me into a false sense of friendship. He's just as bad as his father, bet he's secretly elated about all this so he can prove to him he's worth more than he's ever cared to show!" Liam finally erupts, words quick and acid like.
A throat clearing behind them is what catches their attention. It's Zayn standing there staring at the two. "Uh, I don't know what's going on out here, but you two better knock it off."
Louis looks at his so called best friend and glares daggers at him. "Just keep him away from me. I don't even want to look at his fucking face. You're damn lucky Zayn showed up to protect you."
"What makes you think I'm going to go back in there? I'm not going to be a lab rat for them to experiment on! You lot can stay in the hands of an obviously greedy and unsafe company, but I'm not going to and they can't legally keep me here!" Liam says, his voice only marginally quieter.
"You walk out that door and they have to tell the government everything about you. Is that what you want? To live life on the run? Put your family in danger?" Zayn tries appealing to Liam's more compassionate side.
Liam doesn't have a response, not a good enough one at least. It's this exact reason that he's so angry, if the government hadn't of known he would be able to walk out of here right now and pretend like he's not different, that he's not capable of doing horrible things to good people. Now that they know it just cements the fact that they don't have an option anymore, not really. He goes quietly, doesn't spare Louis a glance when he maneuvers around him to stand by the farthest corner of the room away from everyone else.
Zayn watches as the once peaceful and calm one of their friend group becomes angry and withdrawn. Turning to Louis, he frowns as he can see the boy vibrating in anger. "He didn't mean it, Lou. He's just stressed and scared. Take a lap or two if you need it."
"I don't care what he wants to say about me; I've heard far worse from far more important people. He doesn't get to open his gob up about Harry. He's just as nervous as we are. If he says one thing to Harry, super strength or not, I'm punching him."
They enter the quarantine room once more. It's quiet as the scientists hook Harry up to machines to monitor him as he does their tests.
With Liam brooding in the corner and Louis going off into his own little world, Zayn finds himself alone with Niall once more. "I've never seen them fight like that. It was weird. Liam always backs down when it comes to Louis. And he didn't say anything that he would normally say. It's like he lost his filter or something."
"You think it's a side effect? We can't only be experiencing good things with whatever inhabited us," Niall asks curiously. He had just been thinking about something similar.
"Possibly. Louis' ability became more apparent as he got angrier. It seemed that his whole body was thrumming with it." Zayn runs a tired hand over his face. He wonders what would happen if he lost control of his emotions. Could he seriously hurt someone?
Niall is quiet as he watches both Mcllroy and Breslin working.
Breslin has what looks like a sweatband hooked up to a multitude of wires. "We're going to secure this around your head, when you start to run you will begin to feel electrical impulses. They don't hurt, they're only to measure your brain activity. We'll also have you on a heart monitor, don't want to push you too hard."
Harry nods and looks over at his friends. It's impossible not to notice the tension in the room. He lets the wave of sadness hit him hard. He knows this whole situation is his fault. He just wants to go back in time and stop this from happening.
"Yeah, got it," he mumbles to the scientists. He figures he may as well do his best to fix this situation.
Breslin straps the black band snugly around Harry's head, strapping the heart monitor around his bicep right after. Mcllroy gets the machines up and running, giving his thumbs up to Harry.
Harry steps onto the reinforced belt of the treadmill and hits start. A slow jog quickly becomes a sprint until he looks like a vibrating blur to everyone else.
Zayn frowns as his friend moves quickly enough that he can barely see him. The heart monitor beeps as if Harry were at rest, picking up only slightly at random intervals. "Are we sure having him run this soon after passing out is a good thing?"
"He's fine, everything checks out on the monitor. Like I stated, we have a theory. I ask only that you trust us," Mcllroy says making notes on his clipboard while he watches Harry.
Niall bites his tongue. He agrees with Zayn, but he also knows that nothing can be found out without pushing the boundaries. He just hopes Harry proves what they think they know.
Harry concentrates all his energy in his feet, feeling impulses vibrating through his sweatband. It feels like he's operating on a battery pack, he can start to feel his energy being zapped this time. It's different than the feeling he gets from running, like it's draining his emotions as well. He feels almost sad.
Breslin frowns as he records the brain activities. "I'm getting strong reactions from the amygdala and the hippocampus. The activity from the cerebellum seems to be decreasing as well."
"If they get too low we'll hit the shock button." It's nothing that'll hurt necessarily, but it'll be enough to get Harry to stop running.
"Shock button? Hold on, I thought you said these were safe." Zayn doesn't want to see his friend hurt over nothing.
"Uh, Rory? You might want to come see this. I'm getting blackouts in specific areas of brain patterns." Breslin doesn't understand how the brain can be shutting specific sections. It's impossible in human physiology.
Mcllroy hovers his palm over the bright blue button, waiting until Harry's heart dips to push it. Both of Harry's arms fly out and he grabs the bars for support, his running slowly slowing down until he's just standing there feeling queasy and faint.
Breslin hurries over and grabs the headband from around the boy's head. After tossing it aside, he helps Harry off the treadmill and makes him sit on the floor with his head between his knees. "Get me water. He needs water."
Louis is already holding out a cup of water before anyone else can turn towards the mini fridge. He pushes past Breslin and gets onto his knees in front of his friend. "Harry, I need you to drink this. Can you drink this?"
Harry blinks a few times before nodding slightly. His arms feel like lead and he pouts at his friend. "Can you help? I can't... I can't move my arms. Too tired."
"Yeah, sure." Louis tilts his head back and pours water down his throat. "How are you feeling?"
"Like shit," Harry says once he's swallowed his water. "I got like, incredibly sad and exhausted all the sudden. It was-"
"A brain spike," Breslin cuts him off. "The parts of your brain that control emotions spiked and the movement part of your brain started to shut down. When it got to be too much, other parts of your brain systematically started to go dark. I think the foreign substance is trying to alter your brain chemistry."
"Lovely." Harry doesn't know whether or not he should be worried by this.
"This confirms it though," McIlroy smiles as he writes on his clipboard. "Glad to know that our theory was right."
"That's what's important here," Louis sneers still bent down, concerned in front of Harry.
Liam scoffs from his corner, turning to look out of the window. "Told you all. We're just experiments to them."
Neither Breslin or Mcllroy say anything. Instead they help Harry onto a cot and lay him out. "When you think you feel fine, tell us immediately."
Louis glares at the two. "Are you sure you two are the most qualified to be taking care of us? Maybe you should go finish those suits so we can get back to normal lives."
"Louis," Harry says looking up at him. "Relax. I'm not injured alright?"
The fast friend looks at the exhausted figure of Harry and frowns. "It doesn't matter. We're still humans."
McIlroy rolls his eyes. "Barely," he mutters under his breath.
Harry frowns and immediately ducks away when Breslin tries to grab his arm to insert an IV into him. "What was that? Don't make me remind you who my father is if you want to see his name signed at the bottom of your check."
The door swishes open as Des enters the room, an angry look on his face. "McIlroy, get out. Did you really think I wouldn't have this room monitored? Your comments and attitude won't be tolerated here. Pack your lab up; you're fired."
"Sir," Mcllroy looks at his boss in shock. "My comment was inappropriate I apologise, but is it worth dismissal?"
"Yes. That boy you are badmouthing will one day run this company. Now, pack up your lab and leave." Des can feel his face heating up in anger. He promised these boys protecting and value for their lives. He will not break his promise.
Mcllroy glares at Des for a long moment, then swiftly heads out the door. He'll have to pack when he isn't feeling so angry.
The room is quiet for a moment before Niall's stomach growls loudly. "So... Pizza?"
It's takes Harry a day and a half to respond to Nick's initial text. With Louis keeping such a protective watch over him he hadn't felt comfortable enough to reply not with Louis around who could see and would say something. He finds some time grabbing coffee.
'How did you get my number?' It was and still is his initial thought, he had spent time to wipe Nick out of his phone, going so far as to get a new set of digits to completely avoid contact.
Instead of texting his reply, Nick rings Harry's cell wanting to be able to talk to the boy. He's hoping to avoid the tension and constant bugging about personal history since they parted ways. "Hey, you. Been a while since we've talked. I've missed you."
"Don't think I can return the sentiment," Harry says cooly, standing in line to order.
"Oh, come on, Harry. You missed me." Nick laughs through the receiver before plowing on without waiting for Harry's retort. "I have the afternoon off and was wondering if you wanted to grab lunch. Maybe talk about some things and where we stand."
Harry rolls his eyes at the typical arrogant behavior he's come to expect from Nick. "The only thing I'm standing for is my non fat latte. People don't forget the past as well as you do."
Nick smirks into the phone. "Latte? So you're at the shop down the road from the office. Perfect. I'm actually down the street."
Closing his eyes, Nick takes a deep breath. His smirk deepens as he feels the small rumble in his tone. "Don't go anywhere. I'll be right there."
Harry feels a dull haze settle in his mind and when he gets up to the barista to get his drink he orders it to stay.
"See you soon," Nick says happily as he hangs up the phone. He checks his quiff in the rear view mirror of his car before getting out and paying the metre enough for two hours.
Smirking the entire way there, he makes it to the coffee shop and quickly spots Harry. "There you are, mate. Now we can finally talk."
Harry's in the middle of drinking his coffee when Nick approaches him. "I really don't want to talk to you. Don't know why I waited."
"Come on. Aren't you all about letting people explain themselves and second chances?" Nick smiles charmingly at his old fling. "Besides, I really did miss you. It's been so long since I've had a partner on the same intellectual level."
"Why are you really here?" Harry asks him, looking very much like he feels, a mood that is not up to taking bullshit right now.
"Really? I just tell you that I missed having intellectual conversations with you and you doubt me?" Nick asks super offended as he stares into Harry's eyes.
"Because you hardly wanted to talk when we were together." Harry flushes, his ears twinging pink. "So why? I think I deserve to know why you've decided to text me randomly after so long."
Nick shrugs, making sure not to break eye contact. "Well, another roll in the hay would be great, but I just miss the friendship too. You truly were my best friend for awhile there."
Shifting uncomfortably, Harry is delighted when he feels his phone vibrate in his pocket, a message from Louis asking why he hadn't returned. "I should go, people will notice if I'm gone too long."
Nick grabs at the boy's wrist and takes a deep breath. His mind is quiet until Harry's voice pops into his head. 'Louis is going to kill me if he finds out about this.'
Another smirk plays on his face as he opens his mouth, the rumble back in his voice. "Tell Louis that you're a grown adult and you don't need a babysitter. You have a craving for four star food and you'll be back a bit later."
Harry stiffens, but other than that he types out what Nick says and sends it to Louis without a moment's hesitation.
"So what are you thinking food wise? My treat of course. I wouldn't ask you out and then make you pay." Nick chuckles as he smiles brightly at Harry.
Harry shrugs looking outside the shop to try and spot something but all he can see is the towering glass building of Stylotech glinting in the sun. "Nothing too far would be preferable."
Nick clears his mind again, pushing into Harry's to get a read on the boy sitting across from him. "There's a nice little Italian restaurant around the corner. Italian sound good?"
"Yeah, alright." Harry follows Nick out the shop door towards his parked car.
Opening the door for the boy, Nick ensures that no one is following them as they start on their way. "So what have you been up to? Still hanging out with Zayn and all them?"
"Why wouldn't I be hanging out with them?" Harry's known the guys as long as he's been able to tie his shoe, Louis maybe even longer than that.
"Just asking. I know that you all were pretty close four years ago. University can change things though." Nick shrugs as he navigates through the streets. "You still poised to take over the company?"
Inside Harry's head he tells himself he'd rather be poisoned versus poised, but out loud he says, "Yeah, it's... Exciting."
Nick smirks as he senses the lie. "Really? You always said you hated the company. There has to be something else you'd rather do than run a science corporation."
"Nothing my dad wouldn't find pointless." Harry shrugs. He's grown accustomed to the idea of inheriting the company and running it himself. Doesn't really see a way around it with his predicament. Of course given the chance, Harry would probably sing for a career.
Nick lets the rumble build up in his throat a bit before carefully choosing his next words. "It's your life, Harry. You should pursue what you find meaningful. Let us science geeks take care of everything else."
"Pretty impossible to do that now," Harry murmurs, smiling wanly. He can't help but think about the treadmill they had him run on. It makes sense to take over the company when you practically live there.
Parking the car, Nick pressed more insistently. His voice is rough and more domineering than he usually allows it to become, but he needs information. He knows Stylotech has been receiving stuff from the military and his job is to find out what. "I'm serious, Harry. I don't want you stuck in a job you hate because of your dad's wishes. Think about it. How happy are you right now? What are you doing in the lab?"
Harry looks out the passenger side window rather than at Nick. "Right now I'm living at the lab with the guys. We're supposed to be quarantined, but my dad is a bit more relaxed about the rules with me."
Now they're getting somewhere. "Why are you quarantined? Was there a chemical leak? Are the four of you infected with something?"
"Five," Harry corrects him his mind immediately turning to Niall. He can't really help how fond he gets when he thinks of Niall smiling, only for the smile on his face to drop. He needs to stop letting his thoughts wander. "There was an explosion at the lab, all over the news. Said there was a gas leak but there was a chemical fire. Alien species bonded with our DNA."
It's amazing that Nick manages to keep his cool when the image of a blond male enters his mind through Harry's subconscious. "Alien? Is it contagious, what is it exactly?"
He hurried out of the driver's seat and over to help the other boy out of his side and into the restaurant. "And I want to hear all about your new friend."
Harry climbs out of the car and stares up at the looming, forest green sign written in filigree, 'the Château.'
"It's non-communicable. We never got to study all its properties before the incident so we're not really sure what it is either we just know it's come from space. We also know that it causes molecular mutation, hence why any of us can do what we can do."
He pauses, does he really want Nick to know about Niall? The lab is one thing but his shoddy love life is another. "Well what do you want to know about him? His name is Niall."
"Whatever you want to tell me I guess. You've already given me so much." Nick lets the rumble dissipate from his voice, figuring Harry would figure it out too quickly if he continued to suggest and lead the conversation.
Harry doesn't really want to tell Nick much, Niall is still a sensitive topic for him. "Came second in London's science fair, interning at the company. Happened to be there when everything happened. Nothing exciting I suppose."
"Interesting. Fairly smart then. Wonder if he'd consider coming to Cowell Labs. Uncle Simon is looking to expand the Experimental Procedures Department." Nick smiles at Harry before turning his attention to the hostess.
While Nick's back is turned, Harry's phone vibrates with a text from Louis. 'Get back here. We need to talk. I think... I think we're taking matters into our own hands.'
Harry's heart sinks into his stomach when he reads through Louis' words at least three times. 'What? What happened?'
'Nothing yet, but we're starting to get restless. We need to do something about these powers. Where are you anyway?'
"Right this way," the hostess says with a cheery smile as she features for Harry and Nick to follow her.
'Restaurant remember?' Harry pockets his phone and sits down across from Nick, hiding himself behind his menu. He's starting to wish he never agreed to come.
"Why don't we just take matters into our own hands?" Liam whispers to the group. He's not a fan of Stylotech treating them like experiments and he's ready to smash his way out of here.
Louis sighs. "I kind of agree with Liam. They were making us suits. If they're finished, we steal them and hightail it out of here."
"And go where exactly? We won't be able to go home you know. We would have to move and they'll probably have people monitor the airport so it'll be pretty hard to fly out out of here," Zayn says reasonably.
Niall frowns. "What about a compromise?"
"What kind of compromise?" Liam looks skeptically at the blond. Niall works for the company; he can't be trusted.
"We steal the suits," Niall says with a small nod. "We steal them and use them and we use these powers for good. We'll stop crime- big or small. We stay under their surveillance, but we need to protect people too."
"So we're going to break out of a lab we've been quarantined in and steal high tech equipment and expect the government to meet our demands?" Zayn says skeptically.
"No," Louis says as he catches on to Niall's plan. "We become the superheroes we've always dreamed about. If the government tries to shut us down, it looks like they don't want protection for their citizens."
"They had an airtight agreement with Stylotech. If they're not overseeing us the government will. Isn't being under their surveillance good enough?" Liam's eyes shift between his friends.
"That's the point though. Make the deal with Stylotech and then they can 'supervise' us while we're out in the world." Niall knows it's a long shot, but he's sure that Des will work with them.
"If Harry's dad will go for it," Louis nods. Des is a reasonable person he would listen.
Zayn bites at his lip. "Should we run this by Harry first? I mean, he can't be too much longer. It was just lunch, yeah?"
Louis nods, although still very suspicious about the entire thing. "Yeah, Des would probably react better to his son demanding these things anyway."
Hoping that what he says next will be taken as true concern, Zayn says exactly what he's thinking. "You don't think he went to lunch with a specific someone... Do you?"
"You know you can say his name, right? Everyone is thinking it. He went to lunch with Nick." Niall tries to keep the anger and jealousy from his voice.
"Why don't we ask him?" Louis says as Harry comes walking in being very careful to avoid eye contact.
Eventually Harry walks up to them carrying a bag with a box of the leftovers he couldn't finish at the restaurant. "Hey guys, sorry for the impromptu lunch break."
"You didn't bring us back any?" Niall tries for teasing, but even he can hear the twinge in his voice. It's not like he can smell a weird cologne on Harry or anything.
Harry definitely doesn't look at Niall, trying to ignore the feeling of guilt, he shouldn't even feel guilty it's not like he still had a thing with Niall. "Don't have enough hands."
Liam rolls his eyes. "Oh come off it, Harry. We all know exactly where you were. Must be nice to leave the building. Wouldn't really know though, we would."
"Yeah, you guys know where I was because I told you. I had lunch as that Italian restaurant not far from here. It's really not on me, ask my dad for permission to go out." Harry shrugs.
"That's actually what we want to talk to you about," Niall says quickly. He figures there's no better time to bring up the plan. "We have an idea, but we thought it would be best if you brought it up to your dad."
Zayn jumps in, feeling how ramble-y Niall was getting. "We want to take the suits they built for us and fight crime."
There's a long pause then Harry snorts and tries to cover up his laugh with a cough. "What? Do you know how incredibly dangerous that would be?"
Liam bristles at the mocking tone. "They want to know what these powers do? They want us to comply? Give us this small freedom."
"Look," Harry says eyes shifting between the others. "You're all getting cabin fever, it's normal when you've been confined to one place for so long. We can't actually fight crime, vigilantism is a crime in itself."
"Harry," Louis looks at his friend with an annoyed look. "Your father won't let us leave unless we're going to school. You can leave to go to lunch and get coffee? That's hardly fair. This will let us get out of this building- hell, this room- and will allow them to collect data on our powers and abilities."
"I can't go against my dad like you all seem keen to do, he's my father. If you guys plan on stealing from a multi billion dollar company and doing a jailbreak you can count me out." Harry walks off, away from the rest of them.
"Knew it. Just like his dad." Liam turns away from the group, ready to pack a bag and run. He can't live like a caged animal.
Even Louis, who had been so keen on accepting help seems ready to jump ship. "What does he care? He doesn't have a family to miss. His family is here. My mum thinks I've fucked off to the continent."
"Maybe, well maybe the four of us should do it anyway." Zayn would rather have Harry on his side but he knows that regardless Harry probably won't tell.
"I don't know. It's super risky." Niall looks between his friends and notices that they've already made up their minds. "Besides, him and I don't really have offensive powers like the three of you do."
"Maybe I've seen one too many superhero movies," Liam interrupts, "but maybe we can learn hand to hand combat? It's just as useful."
"That could work. Our senses are heightened, so what about our balance? We can learn a few moves like Captain America or something." Louis shrugs. He's not really sure what else they could do.
Zayn nods. He's super excited about the prospect of being a superhero like his childhood dreams. "Maybe we can get someone to whip up some weapons and you can be like Robin from that Teen Titans show we watched as kids."
Niall chews on his lip. "Weapons and combat training? Where are we going to get the money for any of that?"
They grow silent for a minute as they think.
"Well, there has to be combat training videos online or something. And weapons..." Liam trails off as he thinks it over.
"We call Nick," Zayn says with a grimace. He doesn't want to get him involved, but he's the only other person besides Harry who has access to the latest weapon technology.
"You want to trust Nick and his father after what they did?" Louis looks like he has every intention of arguing against going to Cowell labs.
"Of course I don't trust him," Zayn says with a roll of his eyes. "But I'm certain that they'll help if we say we're working against Stylotech."
While Zayn has a point, Simon has always operated dangerously- carelessly treating humans as test subjects and Louis really doesn't want to know what it's like to be a frog in a sixth year science class.
"We have to try. If Harry won't help us, then we have no choice." Zayn argues. He's hoping that Nick has changed at least a little.
Liam scoffs. "At this point, I'd trust Nick over Harry."
Louis scowls and almost says something, thinks better of it, and glares over at the wall of windows instead. "Fine, but if any warning flags raise we cut off all contact."
Zayn nods, "agreed. And we don't tell him about the powers."
"Are we sure about this?" Niall looks worriedly at his friends. "Everything you've told me about this guy screams bad idea. Are we that desperate to get out?"
"Do you want to be trapped like a caged rat or do you want to know what fresh air smells like again?" Liam asks.
Niall looks to the ground. He does want to see his dad again and he needs to be able to see other people besides the four of them. "I guess... I guess I'm in."
"It's settled then," Louis nods and he's never looked more serious. "Tomorrow night, Stylotech gets their monthly shipping of new equipment and the alarms will be disarmed long enough for us to get out."
Zayn nods and looks at the blond of their small group. "Do you still have access to the base files? We need to see what kind of security we're up against and what these suits look like."
Sighing, Niall shakes his head. "After Harry and I had a falling out he restricted my access to everything, says I know too much for an intern."
Liam huffs and rolls his eyes. "Of course he did. He didn't get his way so he threw a fit. Seems right. I swear, I'm going to kill him one of these days."
Louis immediately gets to his feet looking at Liam like he's daring him to repeat that. "Bite your fucking tongue, mate."
"It's a figure of speech, Louis. Stop acting like a butt hurt asshole and get a life." Liam snaps back at the boy.
Zayn groans. "Both of you stop. If this is going to work, we need to be a team. What the hell is wrong with you two? You're best mates. Fix this."
"Best mates don't say the things this fucker did. You should learn how to talk to your friends, Liam, considering no one talked to you before we did." Louis says venomously, he's not over that comment about him messing around with guys.
"Alright, I've had enough." Zayn looks at the two sternly knowing how strong willed they both are. "I don't care if you make up, but you at least have to respect each other."
"We can't let the petty bickering get in the way of things. You two have to at least set aside your problems when we need you to." Niall crosses his arm over his chest as he glares. He wants them back to friends and being the nauseating married couple they were, but at this point he'll take less fighting over nothing.
Louis sits back down, keeping his distance. "We can try and be civil I guess."
Liam says nothing, but looks at the ground. "Works for me."
"Good," Zayn says as the door to their room swishes open to reveal Des, Harry, and Breslin.
Louis looks over at Harry’s cot. The boy had been gone for the last three hours so he knows that he’s probably out with his dad or something. "The loading dock is all the way down and on the south side of the building. The delivery is due in thirty minutes. How are we getting out of this room without tripping the alarm system?"
"Leave that to me," Zayn says grabbing the bag he packed and hidden underneath his temporary bed.
Niall looks over intrigued. "What's in there?" He can't think of anything in this room that would be useful against the state of the art security system. "Are we sure this is a good idea?"
Zayn unzips his backpack and sifts through the snacks and few possessions of his that he packed. Finally he pulls out a hairpin, holding it up. "I checked the doors and they're all five point locks, it'll be tricky but I know how to pick it."
Liam frowns. It seems too easy. "Are there alarms on the doors? It can't be as simple as picking a lock."
"He's got a point." Louis says with a quick look to Liam. He knows the boy is as antsy to get out of the room as he is.
"There's definitely going to be alarms," Zayn says and rolls his eyes, "that's where Lou and I come in. If we want to get out of here we're going to have to use our powers."
"Our powers?" Liam shakes his head adamantly at that line of thinking. "No way. We can't control them enough yet. We can't hurt the guards or anything."
"It's that or we stay quarantined until they hurt us." Zayn says it quietly, he doesn't want to use them either but it's really the only chance they have at breaking out.
Louis sighs. "It'll be okay, Li. We'll help control each other. We won't let you hurt anyone."
"We're down to twenty-five minutes," Niall says quietly with a quick glance at his watch.
Nodding, Zayn softly tiptoes towards the door and looks out through the small, circular plexiglass window. "Okay the hall is empty. I'll pick the lock and as soon as the alarm goes off I'll try and create what Breslin was talking about, a force field almost to muffle the sound and Liam will take out the security cameras."
Liam just sighs, but nods hesitantly. He's never used his power intentionally. He's hoping he doesn't hulk out or something equally as terrifying.
"What about Louis and I?" Niall whispers as Zayn starts to pick the lock.
"Louis has probably the most important job. One by one he's going to run us to every door we need to open until we're out of here. If my math is right we should be out in ten minutes. Niall, well your power isn't exactly... Helpful for a breakout." Zayn's voice is light, airy, hoping Niall doesn't get offended.
"What about the suits? Can you guys make it to the exits and I'll see if I can break them out of where they're locked up?" Louis knows a bit about the biometrics behind those stupid spandex suits, but he doesn't know if they'll be valuable on the outside.
Zayn reaches into his rucksack and pulls out a floor map of what could only be Stylotech, settling the parchment on the table they were surrounding. Tapping his finger against the far East corner of the building, Zayn makes eye contact with the others. "This, is us. The suits," Zayn says and slides the pad of his thumb over to another random part of the corporation floor plan, "are in there. Overheard Mcllroy mention it during Harry's tests."
Niall nods along, impressed. "So we just need a plan. We can't do this half assed otherwise if we get caught Dr. Styles really might lock us in here."
They all stare at the map taking in the details and the location of certain things. They're in over their heads, but they're desperate.
"What if," Liam says hesitantly, "Louis gets the cameras covered and then Zayn... How good at you with your power? I don't even know if you're capable of doing anything with it yet."
"We didn't exactly get a crash course in controlling them," Zayn sighs. While it would have been incredibly helpful if they had some sort of formal training. He wouldn't allow himself to be subjected to the types of trials Harry has already been through. "The only way to know is to try, can't really guarantee I'll be able to do whatever it is you're thinking of though."
Liam frowns, but nods. "Right. We've been together twenty four-seven. I don't know why I asked." He dares a look over at Zayn. "Can you short circuit the alarms? Breslin said that your power is energy based so I didn't know it you could overload them or something like that."
"Brilliant. They'd run diagnostics for hours looking for the power problem." Niall nods and smiles. He likes where this is going.
"I can definitely try," Zayn says, drumming his fingers over the map they were all huddled over.
"Well," Louis starts if not somewhat hesitantly. Louis by no means is dull but compared with his friends, half of whom are literal science protégés, he's usually willing to leave the scheming to them. But this isn't a normal plan, this is breaking the law, and that Louis can do. "We already know Liam is scary strong, use those Wreck-It-Ralph fists and bust the doors open."
Zayn suppresses a chuckle as best he can before looking at Niall. "Do you want to go and actually get the suits? You're an employee here so they'll be less likely to question you and if there's codes you'll most likely know them."
"And if everything is like protected with lasers or whatever you won't have to worry about getting hurt." Louis offers.
Niall sighs. "Unfortunately, regenerative healing or not, everything still hurts like a bitch."
Liam frowns. "Do want me to do it? My skin is impenetrable so lasers and stuff might not affect me."
"It has to be Niall," Zayn says quickly. He hasn't forgotten Liam's attitude from the other day. He wants to keep an eye on him at all times.
Niall hums his agreement with Zayn. "Zayn's right, besides it'll give each of us a chance to try and test our powers. A crash course in superheroing 101."
Louis looks at his friends and notices the absence of one more than normal. "At least most of us can get a chance."
"We can't afford the emotions right now. We need to get out here and get out of London." Liam squats down, tying his shoes as tight as he can stand. They can't afford any slip ups.
Sighing, Zayn stretches across the table and squeezes Louis' shoulder reassuringly. "He wouldn't have gone through with this and you know it, Lou. His dad kinda owns the place."
Niall turns to Liam with a look of concentration etched across his face. "Where are we going to go when we get out of here?"
The room falls silent as they all realise the flaw in their plan.
Liam knows what would really hurt Harry and his dad. "We can go to Nick."
Zayn and Louis immediately shout their protest. "Are you kidding? That's worse than Stylotech. We know they do human testing."
"When did you become such a vindictive bitch?" Louis snarls angrily at his once best friend.
Almost immediately Niall can feel the tension spike. "Guys we need to keep it together. If we fight, this entire idea is just going to crumble and we won't have gotten anywhere."
"Right. So where are we going to go?" Zayn tries to pull the conversation back to friendly territory.
Louis sighs as he thinks of their only options. "We'd have to leave the UK. There's no way we could stay hidden here. The government knows about us."
"That's what they'll expect though. Probably have security guarding the airports to keep us from flying out of here." Niall says, nervously biting his thumbnail.
"Where then? Cardiff? Glasgow? Somewhere we can walk across the border." Louis knows he can make it, but he wonders if rest of them can.
Liam huffs, crossing his arms in frustration. "This is why I didn't want the government to know about us."
They stand in silence, trying to formulate a plan of escape when the door behind them swiftly slides opens. Harry slips his keycard into his pocket, only to stop his movements when he notices his friends surrounding a table. "Uh, hi?"
"Nothing! Nothing at all." Louis smiles and hops up on the table, making sure to sit on the map of the building. "Where have you been? Out with Nick?"
Harry's confused smile falls away, looking between the four boys in front of him. "I didn't ask what you were doing, so what's going on? Zayn is usually passed out, dead to the world by now."
Liam glares over at Louis. For someone who took theatre classes in his spare schedule slots, he sucks at being subtle. "We're leaving. We can't be locked up like animals."
"Look we appreciate everything you and your dad have done for us, but keeping us here is worse than human testing." Zayn sighs. He can't look Harry in the eye.
"Well," Harry says still trying to process what he walked into, "I think you guys are making a terrible mistake, Stylotech is the only place you'll truly learn how to harness your energy. But I'm not going to stop the rest of you."
"Wait. What?" Liam's head whips up to look at Harry. He expected a bit of pushback at least. "What's your angle? You wouldn't just let us go."
"I don't have an angle. Sometimes best friends are more important than the rules." Harry absolutely doesn't want to destroy his bond with any of the boys, they're the closest thing he's ever had to brothers.
Niall smiles softly. He knows he and Harry have been on the rocks the last few day, but he hopes this means Harry is back to being his regular self soon. "Thank you. Do you know where we could hide out for awhile? Somewhere the government and Stylotech wouldn't look for us."
Harry looks over his shoulder, checking the hallway for any sign of people. "Stylotech used to have an astrophysics department, we have an abandoned testing site in a discreet location underneath the streets of London. It's the safest place I can offer."
Zayn smiles and goes into hug him. "Thank you. You can come with us you know. The five of us can hide away until this all blows over."
"Or," Louis says hesitantly, "he stays here and works as a double agent type situation. He can feed them false information and keep them off our trail."
Harry leans into Zayn's arms easily. "I'll try and visit, I know these streets as well as I know the hallways in my house. I'll try and send you food so you can avoid going out. I'm assuming," Harry pauses, hesitant to tell them the probable truth. "Well I'm assuming when they find out you guys are no longer here, they'll likely paint the city with your faces, trying to look for you."
"So we'll be on the run." Niall sighs heavily as he thinks of the ramifications of this decision. "I guess I can kiss a place at this company good bye."
Louis checks his watch. "Hate to cut this short, but our window of time is closing."
Harry strides up to the table while he slides a sharpie out of his breast pocket, thumbing off the cap. He dots the map then circles it. "There, it's an old dead end alleyway. You'll see a pile of debris, it's a trap door."
Liam commits the map to memory before clearing his throat. "Uh, thanks, Harry. I'm sorry I doubted you."
Niall watches as the other three head towards the door. He lingers back with Harry. "So... I guess we won't be seeing each other for awhile."
Harry smiles softly, hesitating for a moment before he saunters over and stops in front of Niall. "Yeah, so I hope you don't mind if I do this."
Harry is sluggish in his movements, allowing Niall time to push him off. Skimming his fingers around the side of his head to cradle Niall's skull, keeping eye contact the entire time. Harry can feel Niall's breath fanning over his face, soft and barely audible. Harry crosses the divide between them and joins their lips.
Niall is tentative in reciprocating. He knows they've had a rough patch, but he wants Harry to know how much he wants this. He pulls back and looks at the older male. "Promise you'll come visit us? And that you'll stay awake from Nick? I don't trust him."
Harry smiles more genuinely, keeping his close proximity with Niall. "I promise, to both."
"Oi! Lover boy, let's go!"
Niall kisses Harry once more, quickly and chastely before turning and heading after the other three. "See you soon!"
"Yeah," Harry says, "soon."
Louis, who had found a roll of duct tape in a cabinet while Niall and Harry were snogging, zooms down the hallway slapping large enough pieces over every lense on every security camera.
Zayn gives one last look at Harry before shutting his eyes and taking a deep breath. He reaches out with his sense, feeling the energy in the air around him. He can feel the wake of Louis' presence from where the boy had been running. The energy flowing through the walls leads him to the central hub for the alarm system.
"I think I found it," he says quietly knowing that Liam and Niall are still beside him. "Gotta figure out how to move the energy."
Niall steps up next to Zayn. "Close your eyes, feel the electricity pulsing through the wires. Follow the spark until you find the power source then imagine squeezing it so hard it breaks."
"You can do this, Zayn. Just focus," Liam says encouragingly.
Zayn does as told. He draws as much energy as he can to himself without feeling like he's going to pass out. He can see the power source in his mind and he can feel the electricity flowing out of him and towards it. He winces as the feeling grows too much and the bubble bursts, shutting off all energy currents that he can feel. "I think I did it."
Niall can't help but laugh in exhilaration. "We didn't need a lab, we can figure this out on our own."
Zayn smiles brightly as a feeling of accomplishment washes over him. "Come on. We have to catch up to Louis and get those suits."
They run down the hall, adrenaline swelling and coursing through their blood streams. They come to the door the suits are supposedly being kept in. Liam looks both ways despite the fact that they're practically the only people in the building and punches a fist sized hole through the door. His fingers grope around until he latched into the doorknob and opens it.
"Well done, Liam." Niall says as he steps into the lab. "I always forget what your power is since it's a physical manifestation. Bloody powerful though."
Zayn frowns. "No traps? I was expecting lasers and motion sensors."
"You've seen one too many Sci-Fi movies," Louis says as he skids to a stop next to the others.
Liam rolls his eyes, but smiles nonetheless. "I still would think there would be some type of security."
Cautiously, Niall peers around, taking a tentative step inside. As soon as his foot passes the threshold, three high beam lasers activate, shooting one through Niall's shoulders, one through his stomach, and one through his calves. It's a searing burn Niall feels all the way down to his bones. "Fuck!"
"Niall!" Liam hurried to try to help his friend, but Zayn's hand holds him back.
Louis nervously bites at his nails. "Do... Do you want some help? I can run in there. I might be able to get you out of there without much more pain."
Niall shakes his head once. "No, no this is why I went first. They'll heal. It just fucking hurts."
Zayn tries his best to be encouraging, but he feels terrible making Niall go through this. "Liam's skin is impenetrable, right? Let him do this. He might not even feel anything."
Painfully, Niall moves his limbs and collapses to his knees on the other side of the lasers. Soon enough the burnt holes in Niall's body close up and his skin returns to its unblemished state. "Jesus I'm fine, I'm okay. I'll disable the code."
Louis watches in fascination as Niall's flesh closes itself up and heals like it never even happened. "You want us to head in after you disable it? Snatch it all up and make a quick getaway?"
Niall immediately nods his head yes. He makes his way to the far side of the room where he can see five suites tailored to mannequins. They're black nylon and spandex with embellishments that either help or make it look cool. There's a computer mounted at the base and Niall is quick to start typing.
The three watch from the outside as five spotlights quickly flash on and highlight the suits. Plaques rise from the floor reading each name in front of a specific suit.
"Whoa," Louis says as he steps towards the door.
Zayn grabs his arm. "He hasn't entered the code yet."
"User ID recognised. Access granted. Welcome, Niall Horan," the computer sounds loudly through the room. The voice sounds distinctly female for being a piece of metal.
Grinning, Niall watches the lasers surrounding the outfits fade away and the locks clicking open. "Louis, your turn."
"Yes!" Louis dashes into the room and within seconds grabs all of the suits they needed. "These are great! Wonder how nice they'd make my arse look."
Liam rolls his eyes. "Let's get out of here. They have to be almost finished with the delivery by now."
Niall nods and turns to Louis again. "With the speed you travel at you can pick up anyone. One at a time run us to the alley Harry pointed out."
"Feels wrong leaving without him doesn't it?" Zayn asks quietly.
"Should we go back for him?" Louis says as he hands everyone their respective suit. "I can have him here in seconds."
Liam shakes his head. "No way. He's needed here."
"He didn't seem like he wanted to leave with us. I don't think he wants to leave his dad." Niall says, sighing on the last syllable.
Zayn nods curtly. "Right. Let's at least get out of the building then have Louis run us to the entrance. The longer we're in here the higher chance we have of getting caught."
No one argues. They all bolt down the emergency staircases, Louis keeping pace with them. Niall feels uneasy about the whole thing. "Is anyone else concerned about how easy breaking out of the world's leading corporation in science and medical research was?"
Zayn stops a few steps above them. He had been wondering why it was so easy, but he thought luck had been on their side. "What are you saying? Too easy? A trap maybe?"
"I don't think so, everything just feels... Off." Niall can't quite explain the feeling twisting around in the pit of his stomach.
"Don't look a gift horse in the mouth," Liam says as he turns to look up the stairs at his friends. "Now let's go before Louis trips on a stair at super speed and breaks his neck."
Within literal seconds Louis has the other three and himself standing at the entrance of a stark, abandoned alleyway.
Niall is still shaking from how fast Louis just ran each of them over, bent forward with his hands braced on his knees. "So that's what motion sickness feels like."
"What motion sickness? God, I want to be out on the pitch again. I'd run circle around Rooney and Ronaldo!" Louis chuckles as he looks down the ginnel.
"So a rubbish pile is what we're looking for, yeah?" Liam doesn't want to linger on the streets for too long.
They head down to the end of the short road and sure enough there's a pile of trash on the ground. Zayn is the first to move towards it. If Harry hadn't told them about it Zayn would not have seen the handle but it's there among crumpled compost and soon enough the door is opened up and there's a big square missing from the street.
Niall shakes his head at the absurdity of the whole ordeal. Secret underground labs and superpowers. He wonders when life started reflecting the movies he loved to watch so much.
"I think," Zayn whispers as he stares down the tunnel, "that we should gather resources first. Food, blankets, water, soap. That way we don't have to come up to the surface that often."
"Before they start hunting us down." Liam mutters, arms folded tensely.
"Should... Should we steal it? I mean, I didn't bring my wallet with me when I broke out of jail." Louis hopes for lightheartedness, but he remembers Liam shouting at him in the hall about how Louis could be the perfect shoplifter now.
No one says anything for a moment. Liam shares a look with Louis and eventually says, "we don't really have a choice do we?"
"Guess we'll play both sides of the law," Zayn mumbles.
Louis nods. "Yeah. I know my allergies and I know Liam's. Are you two allergic to anything? I'll make a quick run or two to the store."
Both Niall and Zayn shakes their heads no. "Maybe take Liam with you, he could use his super helpful strength," Zayn says.
Louis looks to the boy and hopes that they're still friends enough to go grocery shopping together. "Yeah? What say you, Payno."
"I'll race you," Liam yells and starts sprinting down the alley.
"Oi! You cheat!" Louis shouts back and takes off at a jog, knowing he can beat Liam easy.
Zayn watches them go and turns back to Niall. "Do you want to go down the dark scary tunnel under the street first?"
"Gee that sounds so tempting," Niall quips but he grabs the flashlight tucked into the pocket on Zayn's bag.
"If anything tries to eat me please use the force and snap it's neck." Niall turn the light on and sits down, letting his legs swing out over the hole. He braces the soles of his feet on the ladder and starts to descend.
Zayn watches as best he can as his friend descends into darkness. "Let me know when you hit the ground. I'll follow after that."
"Wow it smells rank." Niall jumps off the last step and lands on the concrete. He takes a quick look around, waving the light in an arc. It's about as grim and damp as he imagined it would be but there's the promising glow of light down the end of on tunnel. "Okay come down!"
"Right... On my way." Zayn tentatively makes his way down, following the sound of Niall's voice. "Fucking hell. I think something died in here."
"That's the smell of abandonment. And raw sewage." Niall brightens the path and starts to walk, shrinking away when a couple of rats skitter away from the light.
Zayn scrunches his nose. "Smells magnificent. They should sell this as a febreeze scent."
"Pretty sure Louis already does in his dorm." Niall snorts, looking around as they pass tunnels branching off of the current one they're walking down. "Where do you suppose the rest of these lead to?"
"I'd rather wait for Louis and Liam to explore. This place is fucking creepy as hell." Zayn screams as he steps on something fluffy and squirming.
Niall crinkles his nose until he sees two large metal doors up ahead. "That must be it."
Zayn sticks as close to Niall as possible. "Hope it's like a luxurious hotel in there. This is all just a front for homeless people."
Niall presses his hands palm flat against the door, gliding it to the side. He reaches his arm in and his fingers hit the light switch. "Holy shit."
"Whoa..." Zayn looks at the room they've just stepped in and can't believe his eyes. He had been joking when he said he wanted the five star treatment, but this was pretty damn close. "What kind of experiments were they doing down here?"
"This is probably where they stayed. It would be hard to hide hidden tunnels underground if people continually went in and out." Niall jumps over the couch and lands on a cushion. "An abandoned couch underneath the streets of London is softer than mine, wow."
They're quietly conversing when there's a knock on the giant metal door.
Zayn looks at the blond, a wary look in his eyes. "Do you want to get that or should I?"
"Well if it's... An enemy, your power is probably more combative," Niall says quietly, but he's still ready to fight if it comes to it.
"Right... Combat. Next time, we should leave one of the two fighters in each group." Zayn mumbles in a suggestion as he makes his way towards the door. He takes a deep breath before reaching out and opening the slab of cold steel.
"Fucking finally. Leave us out there where is smells like fucking shit. Smart move, dumbasses." Louis' voice fills the chamber as he pushes his way into the room.
Niall sighs quietly in relief, smile replacing the grimace. "You're not gonna care when you get a good look at this place."
Liam is already staring at the pristine walls and overly fluffy furniture. "Fuck. Sometimes I forget how crazy rich Harry and his dad are and then stuff like this happens."
"It's okay," Louis says as he drops the supplies into the middle of the floor. "First thing we need to do though is devise a secret signal for that door. We can't keep opening it for strangers."
Zayn knocks three times in quick succession against the wall. "There, that's the password, anyone that doesn't do it is going to get jumped by four super humans."
Niall smiles lightly. "That was great teamwork back there, by the way. I think we're still just scratching the surface of what these powers can do, but it worked really well."
Louis starts unpacking the supplies, throwing a bottle of water to each of them to start. "Yeah, but what about these suits. Should we put them on now? Keep them under our clothes like a Clark Kent and Superman preparedness?"
"Clark Kent is probably the best way to go," Niall says and the others agree, nodding their heads.
Liam looks doubtfully at the suit and shakes his head. "This isn't going to help, is it? I mean, what's the point of these tacky things other than to uniform us?"
"Mcllroy mentioned the suit is fused with our DNA. Think of it this way, our molecules were already moving to begin with. Now they're going haywire, pinballing all over the place. These suits should calm them and get better control over our powers." Niall explains. He had listened to most of what the scientists said and filled in the rest.
Louis is already pulling off his shirt and pants, trying to get the tight material of the suit over his body. "Plus, we won't need costumes for Halloween. They look so legit that people would question their comic book knowledge."
Zayn snorts zipping the suit crotch up to the base of his neck. "They do look like suits a comic book artist would design."
Twisting and trying to see every angle, Louis nearly vibrates with happiness. "Fuck this is so cool. If we had masks or hoods or something, we could be actual superheroes."
"Well," Liam says slowly, "Zayn is great at design and stuff. Maybe we can... Procure some material and supplies and create masks."
"We'll have to preserve our identities, they're going to assume we're criminals." Niall can't help but let his eyes bounce around trying to see himself in the suit.
Zayn holds up his sketchbook from the bag he had been toting. "Not like I don't already design comic book characters."
"It's settled then. Get to sketching!" Louis happily flops onto one of the couches. He doesn't even put his street clothes back on. He's too content with just lounging around in the lycra and spandex creation.
Liam nervously looks over his shoulder after he changes into their new uniform. "Should we sleep in shifts? Just in case."
Niall nods in agreement. "I don't care how safe Harry says this place is, we need to sleep in shifts. Maybe I'm just paranoid, but it was too easy to get out of there."
"Harry's timing was convenient," Zayn says casually while he's drawing up a design.
Louis sighs heavily as he tries to get comfortable in his suit. "I think you all are overreacting. Besides, we've got Liam. He can just bash their skulls in if anyone breaks in."
"This place has a better television set than I do," Louis says, vaulting over the back of the sofa and diving on top of Zayn and Niall. Half of the popcorn spills out over the lip of the bowl he was holding onto.
"I don't even have a television," Niall mumbles from underneath Louis, trying his best to knee him in the back.
Liam sits on the floor in front of the chaos, hoping to avoid being covered in greasy, salty snacks. He checks his watch and frowns. They've been here a few weeks already and still no word from Harry. "Hey. Turn on the news. It's about seven after. Usually when they start talking about stuff other than weather and traffic."
Louis grabs the remote from where it's haphazardly lying on the edge of the couch arm, thumbing the power on.
"In other news no sign of the four college students turned thieves or the technology they managed to steal from Stylotech," the news anchor says monotonously.
"Perfect timing. Well, now that we know that, let's think about dinner. I was think-"
"Harry Styles, son of multibillionaire Des Styles and heir to the Stylotech company, is now missing. Sources say he left for a night out with friends three days ago and has yet to return. His father only reported him missing about six hours ago. Mister Styles apparently 'didn't think it was strange when his son didn't come home immediately. Harry likes to be independent and do as he pleases.' The police believe those four teenagers have kidnapped Styles to use as leverage for when they surface again."
Niall's lips start to gold fish, stunned into silence. Harry was missing and they're now the main suspects.
Zayn can feel his heart rate speed up. "Harry..."
The scene shifts to a woman outside of the ever recognisable company building. "It was here that Harry Styles, famous social media billionaire and playboy, was last seen. The boys that are prime suspects are four university aged boys that broke out of the Stylotech Labs building behind me. The four, who have yet to be named, appeared on Styles' Instagram account multiple times the weeks leading up to their escape."
Louis jumps up, the rest of his bowl toppling over and scattering the rest of the popcorn onto the floor. "We have to do something! We obviously don't have Harry so who does?"
"What can we do? We have to stay hidden." Liam is just as worried about their friend, but knows they have to stay hidden to be able to help him at all.
"I don't know, but we're not doing anything by sitting around!" Louis pulls on his customized boots and starts heading for the door.
"Louis! Louis, stop!" Liam gets up, ready to grab his arm if need be.
Zayn stands as well, unsure of what they should do. "Maybe... Maybe we should wait until dark. That way we can be hidden and help Harry?"
Louis' body vibrates with the energy from his speed, punching a clean hole through the wall. "Damn it! I promised him I'd always look out for him and now he's... Gone."
Zayn looks back to Niall. He's the smartest of them all so he must know what their plan of action must be. "What do you think... Niall?"
Niall really wants to hit a wall himself but he's still paralyzed in place. "We just lie low and continue to watch the news for new information. Harry could be anywhere."
"What? Niall! You can't be serious. This is Harry, the guy you like. He could be in serious trouble! Do you want to really want to chance it?" Louis isn't afraid to beg if it comes to it.
Liam frowns. He hates watching his friend suffer. "What if just Louis and I went out at night? Maybe we can figure it out."
"Don't you guys see? How convenient everything about this is? There was no mention of a ransom even though Harry's dad probably shovels money into a furnace to keep the house warm. It's well documented that we're friends with Harry and now Harry is missing. They're trying to get to us," Niall says thoughtfully.
"But who?" Zayn says thoughtfully. "Maybe we should investigate. If not to find Harry, then to see who is behind this."
"That's our best bet. Harry would want us to do it this way," Niall mumbles, he would rather be out looking but they wouldn't get anywhere.
Liam looks at Louis, seeing merely a shaky blur where the boy stood. "Just a few more hours, Louis. Just wait till dark."
All Louis can do is head into his room and away from the others, to relax and maybe privately look through his old Instagram photos with Harry.
"He'll be fine. He just needs a little time." Zayn won't let the room descend into sadness. "We need to just... Ride it out."
The others nod and the quiet takes over.
"We have five hours until sunrise. Split up in groups and do not go alone. I expect four people back at the safe house tonight. Liam, you stick with Niall. I'll take Louis." Zayn slips a tshirt over the suit and looks at the three of them.
"Where do we even start looking?" Liam asks.
Niall finishes tying his shoes and looks up at Liam. "Start at the company work your way out from there. Check all the normal places Harry would go. Check out Nick's company. Check everywhere."
"What should we do if we find him?" Louis quietly asks. He wants to find his friend, but he knows that might cause more problems than it would solve.
"Well we return him home, yeah? Unless he's hurt..." Zayn frowns thinking about Harry possibly being hurt.
"He's not hurt. Stop thinking like that," Louis interjects from where he's waiting at the door. "Now let's go. We're wasting darkness."
Liam waves the two of them off and sticks by Niall. "You can go when you want. I've got to wait for my buddy."
"We'll check in with each other every half an hour, if anything goes wrong immediately contact one of us." Niall says, pouring over the map of London one more time.
Zayn nods and pulls the mask they had managed to make over his face and tapped at the circular medallion over his ear. "Roger that. Can you actually hear me?"
Niall nodded as he pulled his over his head as well. "Yeah. I'm glad we had Louis steal the com-links from Stylotech. Otherwise we have to use regular walkie-talkies."
"I'm feeling very superhero like." Louis says, squatting to bend and test the spandex that is pulled taut around his legs.
Liam rolls his eyes as he and Niall head towards the exit, finally ready to go. "Be careful. Remember that you are not Batman. Nor are you Superman."
"But I am the Flash," Louis tuts pointing to the lightning bolt painted across the com attached to his ear.
"Louis," Niall sighs heavily but decides to let it be. There's nothing he can really say to make Louis take this seriously.
"Come on, Lou. We're losing darkness by sitting here discussing superhero references." Zayn shoots the other two a look as he manages to get Louis out of the door.
Niall follows the others, closing the door behind his back. It's eerily quiet and even with the flashlights, pretty dim. "I hope we find something useful."
Liam shakes his head in agreement. "I have a sinking feeling we won't find anything at all, but we've at least got to try. He's been gone for days now."
"What," Niall hesitates, not wanting to bring the mood down entirely, "what do you suppose happened?"
"It just seems too... Inconsistent. Like you said, it all seems too easy. I feel like we're being played with. Like a cat dangling a mouse above his face before eating him." Liam shivers, a combination of the chill night air and his words.
"Do you think he's alright? What if he's not?" Zayn doesn't want to be that guy but it's a very harsh very real possibility.
Niall scrunches his nose in thought. "I think we're playing right into whoever's hands." He leads them down the tunnel towards the ladder. "But there's no other option right now. I can't say if Harry is hurt or not, but I do know that searching is our only option right now."
It falls silent, the only sounds are their footfalls and the quiet drip of the water hitting the concrete. Zayn opens the hatch, looking around before climbing out and onto the street.
Once they've all made it to the surface, Liam looks at his two friends that are going off on their own. "Remember, don't do anything that will draw attention to yourselves. Stick to the shadows and try to find Harry."
"Right right, have no fun, got it." Louis shoots Liam a thumbs up and nods his head towards Zayn. "Let's go, we can discuss a team name while we search."
Niall watches the both of them leave, turning to look at Liam. "I was thinking we go to a library. I could try and track Harry's cellphone."
"Yeah. Yeah, that's a great idea. I think there's one a few blocks from here. We can head there first." Liam smiles at his luck at being placed with the sensible member of their small team.
Niall flips the hood of his jacket up, staring back over his shoulder. "You think we look more suspicious walking around with masks at three in the morning?"
Liam chuckles at that one. "Probably. Considering that our faces have been splashed across the news lately though, I'd rather look suspicious than get recognised immediately."
Niall keeps to the dimmer parts of the roads, staying away from the orange glow of the street lamps. They turn right, the library now within their field of sight.
"So... How do you want to get in there without breaking anything? I mean, I can punch out a window, but I'm sure that would cause a scene." Liam checks both directions before hurrying across the street with Niall in tow. This is absolutely crazy, but he's never felt such an adrenaline surge before.
"Rip the doorknob out, it'll make less noise." Or at least Niall is hoping it'll make less noise.
Liam nods and grabs the brass handle lightly before squeezing his hand around it and crushing it. He smirks as he jerks his arm back and rips the whole section of wood from the door. The barrier swings towards them a bit now that the thing securing it was gone. "Took a bit more than the lock, but we can at least go in now."
Niall watches Liam in interest. "Jesus remind me never to piss you off."
Liam smiles sheepishly. "My bad. Let's just get in there before someone sees."
Slipping in through the doorway, Niall shines his flashlight ahead of him and hurries towards the technology corner.
"Do you need any help? I could... Well, maybe you could just tell me what to do." Liam rubs awkwardly at the back of his neck.
"Stand near the entrance, make sure it's clear." Niall says, booting up the computer.
"Right," Liam says as he turns to head back to their entrance. It's quiet outside and that worries him more than comforts him.
Niall looks like a proper hacker from a spy movie as he sits hunched over trying to track Harry's IP address. "Come on, come on," he mutters over and over as he watches the signal bounce through a network of fake addresses and satellite paths.
Liam diligently is on the lookout for anything suspicious or coming towards them. He shrinks back into the shadows when headlights start to creep closer to their location. "Niall, someone's pulling up."
The car is a monochromatic black with richly tinted windows, moving at a sluggish five miles an hour. The glass attached to the back door rolls down far enough for an arm to fit through. All Liam can make out is the admittedly ostentatious platinum Rolex watch around the wrist of the passenger. He, whoever he is, tosses something out. Something that catches the moonlight as it arches through the air and skids across the pavement. As soon as it lands the car speeds off and away, the headlights fading into darkness.
Liam frowns as he tries to catch the license plate number. "They threw something out the window."
"Check it out," Niall calls out distractedly, fingers flying across the keyboard. Harry's number is heavily protected and there are a hell of a lot of firewalls to go through.
Nodding his head, Liam looks up and down the street before hurrying out to the alley way. He has a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach, but he doesn't know why. He grabs the object without looking at it.
He heads back in and heads back towards the computer. "How's it going? Find anything yet?"
Niall sighs in frustration, every code he breaks two more pop up. "What is this kid, the Queen of fucking England? His phone line is safer than the White House's."
He looks at Liam offhandedly, eyes falling on the shiny object gripped tight in his hand. "What do you have there?"
"Didn't really look." Liam shrugs and looks at the object. There's red paint smeared over the one side of it. He flips it over and his stomach turns. "Niall..."
Concerned, Niall stands and looks into his open palm. His heart plummets to his feet like an elevator. It's Harry's Stylotech identification card, smeared with what looks like blood. "We... We'll run a sample when we get back. They have loads of equipment."
"If this is Harry's card, who was in the car? What if Harry's hurt? What if he's..." Liam hopes to God that this is all an elaborate prank.
"We can't think like that right now. I'm going to track Harry's phone and then we'll head back." Niall is quick to sit back down, his hands moving faster than his brain at this point. Finally the screen starts to blink repeatedly and Niall knows this is it, he's broken through. A map of London appears and slowly the screen zooms in until an address pops up and a moment later a house comes into view. "No that can't be right."
Liam looks at the screen and frowns. "Is that where I think it is? But why would Des say he's missing if he's there?"
"Unless his phone is there and Harry isn't." Niall is growing increasingly worried. It's totally uncharacteristic of Harry to not have his cellphone on him.
Liam can feel the dread building inside of him. "Harry always has his phone. And now we have his blood covered ID! He's dead!"
Niall gets back up and grabs Liam by the shoulders. "Liam, you need to remain calm. Freaking out is only going to get us caught."
"We need to go to the cops. We need to show them everything." Liam is now on the verge of tears. He's worried about his friend and scared that things are going to end badly for everyone.
"If we go to the cops we'll get detained and either go back to Stylotech or the government will step in." Niall is just as worried but their faces are all over the city.
Liam freezes as the fact that they can't even do anything to help sinks in. He starts crying, sobbing loudly as everything runs through his mind. "Let's... Let's head back to the safe house. We need to run that blood."
Niall slips his hand over Liam's mouth. "Someone could hear you. I'm just as upset, but we need to be quiet, alright?"
Liam shuts his eyes tightly and tries to shake his head. "Okay. Okay, okay." He takes a deep breath and tries to calm himself. "We need to find Zayn and Louis."
Niall almost forgot about the embedded walkie talkies sewed into their masks. He touches the circular communication device placed over his ear and pushes the blood drop symbol twice. "Louis, Zayn. What's happening on your end?"
There's the crackle of static, Louis voice breaking through sounding distracted. "A lot is happening right now! Shit he almost stabbed me!"
"This is fucking boring. Walking the street at night like fucking crusaders and we can't do anything." Louis groans as bends down to pick up a rock before tossing it down the street.
Zayn rolls his eyes. "This is a search and rescue mission, Louis. We don't have time to give ourselves away by using our powers."
Louis huffs and looks at his friend. "Haven't you ever wanted to be a superhero? Zayn, this could be our chance."
"Yeah but without all the money, and a butler, and the fancy gadgets, and the dead parents." Zayn's voice drips with sarcasm.
Louis shrugs. "Fine. You can be Raven from the Teen Titan comics. I'm more Flash. Come on, Zayn! Let's be heroes."
"And we can do that when we have a plan." Zayn usually lets Louis get away with things, legal or not, but this is something otherworldly, alien almost.
"But what about-"
"No! Stop!" There's a scream down the road ahead of them.
Louis perks up. "Can't our plan be to help people?" He looks to Zayn, pouting when he knows that the girl's shrill protests will make Zayn cave.
Zayn shoots Louis a look, eyes shifting to stare down the road trying to pierce the darkness. "We can at least see what's going on."
"Yes!" Louis breaks out into a grin before speed walking towards the cries for help.
Zayn is close behind, the cries for help steadily growing in volume. They stop at the mouth of an alleyway, the streetlight above them flickering.
A woman, too dark to make out any distinguishable features, has her back pressed up against the brick wall, a group of five men surrounding her, shouting obscenities that even make Zayn cringe.
"We need to help. Zayn, we can't leave her alone with them. What if that was Waliyah and some guys saw and left?" Louis is hoping to appeal to his better nature.
"Fuck, alright." Without another word Zayn sprints down the trashed back street towards the crowd. "Hey! Leave her alone!"
The men turn to look, but laugh loudly when they see the spandex clad teenager coming towards them. "What the fuck are you supposed to be?"
Another jeers and lets go of the girl's arm. "I think it's time you went home, kid. Just leave and we'll act like this never happened."
"Please help me," the woman sobs from where the largest guy has her pinned to the wall. His hand is dangerously high on her thigh, fingers lost under the hem of her skirt.
If there's one thing that crawls under Zayn's skin, it's being called a kid. His scowl darkens and his hands ball into fists. "I said. Leave. Her. Alone."
Louis is at Zayn's side in the blink of an eye. "Are we going to have a problem here?"
The men startle a little at the appearance of a second boy. The leader scoffs though. "You won't do anything. You're just a bunch of schoolboys wearing diving suits. Now, last chance. Leave."
"Alright, but I warned you." Zayn raises his hand, centralizes his energy and visualizes his plan of attack. Suddenly, the dude trapping the helpless girl against the wall, flies back and hits the opposing side of the building.
"What the fuck?"
Louis is another's face, smirking. "Can't take a couple of schoolboys?" He throws a punch, catching the guy in the stomach. His power isn't great for close range fighting, but he'll manage.
There's a burst of static in their ear, their coms buzzing. "Louis, Zayn. What's happening on your end?"
Louis ducks away from a right hook thrown his way. "A lot is happening right now! Shit," Louis breathes as one other guy breaks a beer bottle and tries to stick him with the fragmented glass, "he almost stabbed me!"
"Stabbed? What do you mean stabbed! Are you guys in trouble?" Niall frantically asks.
Out of his peripheral, Zayn can see one of the dudes in a tacky tracksuit reach for a holstered gun strapped around his thigh. Without thought Zayn jerks his hand and he can hear the man's arm snap like a kit kat. "Uh, you could say that."
"Fucking hell," Liam chimes in through the com link. "Where are you? We can provide backup."
Louis jumps back as the guy takes another swipe at him with the broken glass. "We're in an alley down on third street." He picks up a trash can lid and slams it against the man's head. "Hurry up."
Zayn figures this will probably be over by the time they arrive, either for the assailants or for them. Zayn snatches the broken beer bottle away from the dude with his mind and throws it at the other end of the road. Next moment the guy is flung along with it.
"You're fucking monsters." One of them leers and soon the group of guys are running away in fear.
Louis fist pumps the air and hurrahs. "Yeah! Don't let me catch you back here again!"
Zayn rolls his eyes at the childish antics before turning back to the woman. He crouches down and extends a hand to her, smiling in a friendly manner. "You alright?"
She recoils from his hand, face pale with horror and covered with a sheen of sweat. "Y-you broke that guy's arm. Oh my god... Thank you!"
"Do you need a way home?" Louis asks, helping the woman stand on her feet.
She shakes her head in the negative. "My fiancé is supposed to be picking me up. Can... Can you wait with me till me gets here?"
Both Louis and Zayn share a look, Louis nodding in confirmation. "Yeah, we can do that. What's your name, love?"
Zayn grabs her purse from the ground and hands it to her.
She takes it graciously and tries to collect herself. "Lillian, but everyone calls me Lily."
"Louis!" Liam's voice rings out from the top of the alley way. "You both safe?"
"We're not alone so can it with the names?" Zayn yells in reply, turning to smile softly again. "Don't worry, just a few friends of ours. We can stay here or we can go sit on the curb if you prefer."
"He'll be waiting up on the street." She looks warily up at the figure that called down to the other boys. "Are you certain he's okay?"
"Well if you can trust us you can trust them." Louis says cheerily, the adrenaline still coursing through him after that epic brawl.
Niall heads down the alley and stops besides Zayn. "Ma'am, are you hurt? I have some medical experience if you need anything looked at."
She steps closer to Zayn and Louis, wanting to keep her distance from anyone that wasn't her rescuers. "I'm fine. Thank you."
Zayn places a hand at the small of her back and gently pushes her up towards the street. "Come on, love. Let's get you back up to the curb so your boyfriend can collect you."
Once Zayn is away Louis turns to Niall. "Before we get reprimanded we weren't looking for trouble, we ran into it. Did you find anything that'll help us find Harry?"
Niall's face falls, he can almost feel the burn of Harry's ID in his pocket. "We did, but I think I should wait to tell you guys until we're back in our bunker."
It doesn't take long before a sleek black car is rolling up and the window rolls down to reveal Lily's boyfriend. She says her goodbyes and thanks Louis and Zayn once more before leaving the scene.
"So... How did you end up with a woman in an alleyway?" Liam asks quietly as they walk back towards the entrance of their secret hideaway.
"When the cries of help can be heard, the League of Justice will answer the call." Louis uses his best narrator voice, hands on his hips in a superhero-esque stance.
Zayn stares at Louis in a complete lack of disbelief. "Really Louis? The League of Justice?"
Louis just shrugs, "Justice League is already copywritten."
"Doesn't matter. We aren't fighting anymore. We need to lay low. I think we're fucking with really connected people." Niall looks both ways before turning into their alley. He's a little paranoid now that he had Harry's ID card.
Louis just rolls his eyes. Typical Niall. "Is it possible that you're overreacting? We saved some girl from getting gang raped! We're obviously needed on the streets."
Liam who usually goes along with Louis' plan, illegal or not, has to side with Niall on this. "You might not feel the same when we tell you what we found."
Zayn frowns as he finds the handle to their tunnel and opens the secret door. "What did you find? Did you find out who took Harry?"
Niall swallows the bile that's been stuck in his throat since they left the library. Instead of answering he continues through the tunnels and waits until they're all sitting down. "When Liam and I were at the library, a car crept by and threw this out the window."
He fishes through his pocket and produces the laminated, blood dried, identification card.
Louis frowns looking down at the evidence in his hand. "This... This isn't possible. It's just a bad joke. Harry is playing a joke on us."
"Lou, I don't think Harry would be this mean." Zayn is just as confused, but he's sure that Harry wouldn't fake his own kidnapping and then leave a false trail of murder clues behind for them.
"That's not it," Liam is quiet but his voice sounds loud in the silence. "Niall tracked Harry's phone and it traced back to his house."
"Is this for sure his blood?" Louis asks softly, pain burning deep in his chest.
Niall can only shrug. "I won't know until I run a few tests."
"Run them. Can you pull prints? We need to know who is behind all this." Zayn is trying to keep everything inside. He doesn't want his emotions to get the best of him.
Louis, on the other hand, isn't holding anything back. "You find out who did this. You find out, and I'll kill them. You don't fucking mess with my friends."
"Prints aren't guaranteed if whoever threw this was wearing gloves." Niall sighs and grabs the card off the table heading towards the makeshift lab to start tracing whatever he can find.
Liam shoots Louis a stern look. "Louis, we need to be calm about this. Let's focus on getting Harry back instead of revenge."
"Fuck that. I'm tired of sitting on my ass and not doing anything. We're going to find whoever the fuck is setting us up and save our friend." Louis stares at his friend, hoping he conveys the seriousness in his words.
"Unfortunately, Louis, you're outnumbered. We don't know where to begin with this search, we don't have much to go on, and we need to lay low otherwise we're going to become caged zoo animals." Zayn doesn't get how Louis isn't understanding this.
Louis lets out a frustrated huff. He can feel himself start vibrate with the anger and itch to find Harry. "You don't get it! I need to get out here and find my friend."
"Louis," Zayn sighs, "we'll look for him. Can we just see what we can find with the ID and then we'll do something?"
Liam grabs his friend's wrist as gently as he can. "I promise you we will do something, but we need to make a plan. Running up there and winging it is suicide."
Louis pulls his wrist from Liam grasp, but agrees. "Fine, but no matter what those results show, we're doing something."
They all nod, the room falling into a tense silence.
Beeping, all Niall can hear is a beeping. He lifts his head up from where he'd been resting his face on his laptop keyboard, wiping his dried drool with the back of his hand. It takes a few waking moments for him to realize it's his computer that's beeping, and it takes him another two to remember what he had been doing last night.
"Guys!" He yawns, cupping his mouth to stifle it, "the results. They came in."
Zayn, who had been dozing to the early morning news, startles awake and groans. He stretches his limbs and sits up, "so what's it say?"
Liam stretches as he gets up from the couch. "Let Louis sleep through this. He might just go crazy and try to hurt someone."
"Can't blame him at this point," Niall mutters as he looks at the results. "Our fingerprints are all over this badge. Louis', for example, is dried into the blood, but when we got it the blood was already dry and Louis never touched it."
Niall shakes his head. He's just as confused as everyone else. "That's not even the worst part. The blood is a ninety nine percent match to Harry's blood. There's no way to ensure a hundred percent, but there's no denying that it's Harry's blood on that ID badge."
Before anyone can say anything else the television gives a long drawn out beep, 'Breaking News' flashing across the screen.
"This just in, a videotape has been widely distributed to eleven different news stations across Great Britain. The videotape, said to have no return address, shows billionaire playboy Harry Styles strapped to a chair with what appears to be a shock collar. We will play the tape but viewer discretion is advised."
Liam looks worriedly back at his friends. "Well... At least he's alive?"
"Let's just watch. Hopefully, it'll help shed some light on what's going on." Niall pushes his chair back and rolls over towards the television.
The video cuts to a still of harry bound to a folding chair by his arms and legs, chin resting against his chest. The rest of the room is dim, with only a single lightbulb lazily swinging above him.
"Harry," an inhumanely deep voice says, "Harry Styles."
Groaning, Harry lifts his head up, blood dried down the side of his head from where he remembers being knocked unconscious. There's a thick, black band hugging his throats and duct tape slapped over his mouth. Harry's words are muffled against the adhesive, trying to say something.
"You're going to answer a few questions about Stylotech for me. If you don't," the obviously altered voice laughs a little, "well you'll get a little surprise. Shall we test it out?"
The tape gets ripped off his face and Harry hisses in pain, glaring up at the person addressing him. "I'm not going to tell you anything."
"Test it for him," the voice says to another off camera presence.
There's a clicking noise before Harry's body begins to spasm. His hair bounces around his face as he squirms and twitches every which way as the fifteen hundred volts of electricity course through him.
"Enough." The shocks stop as suddenly as they started, leaving Harry slumped against his chair heaving and gasping for breath. "That was only the first setting."
Harry's breathing tediously through his nose, clenching both armrests. Through gritted teeth he spits out, "didn't even hurt."
"We'll see. First question. Where are the scientists they headed up the alien substance project? McIlroy and Breslin." The voice bellows at the lanky figure sitting across from the camera.
Liam frowns. "Are McIlroy and Breslin missing too? Who would be privy to that info?"
"No idea." Harry has some clue courtesy of being so close to the CEO, but he's not going to give valuable secrets.
The switch flips and Harry feels the electricity course through his veins. Hissing, Harry's knuckles turn white from holding onto the chair, his back arching involuntarily.
The voice says something and the switch is flipped again. Harry collapses once more against the chair.
"Let's try something simpler. They were working on a way to contain these gifts. Have they succeeded?"
Harry imagines his father being here and what he would tell him to do. "Bite me."
"Twenty five hundred volts." The flips switches and sends the intensified electricity coursing through the boy's body.
Harry's muscles spasm, his body and wrists straining hard against the rope binding him. Sweat bursts out across his hairline and his skin starts turning a blistering red from how hard he's fighting to get loose.
Zayn can't watch this. It's brutal and inhumane. He's glad they let Louis sleep through this. He can only imagine what the older one would do if he saw this. "Is there anyway to figure out who that is? They're obviously using a voice scrambler."
Once the voltage has stopped and Harry is once more drawing ragged breaths, the voice speaks again. "I don't want to do this, Harry. Liam and I just want you to answer us so we can let you go."
Harry's slumped over in his chair trying to calm his jumping nerves. He closes his eyes and imagines the boys being there.
Niall feels bile in his throat, his stomach curdling in disgust. "No, whoever we're dealing with is a professional."
Liam grabs the remote and quickly hits the power button before they see any more. "We're being set up and we can't even figure out by who. I'm starting to feel like throwing ourselves into the line of fire may be the only way to clear our name."
"Liam is right, we have a slim margin for error and this sick fuck is going to continue torturing Harry if we don't find him." Zayn says.
Niall sighs heavily as he tries to think of a way to get them out of this whole ordeal. "You guys keep telling Louis to wait till we have a plan of action. Do you have that plan yet?"
"You're the smart one, Niall! I thought you would have come up with something!" Liam sighs in frustration.
"Stop arguing," Zayn hisses at the two of them. "Now is not the time to be arguing. Fighting amongst ourselves is probably what this person wants."
Niall looks to the ground. Zayn's right. "I'll figure it out, but I need you to help me. As much as I don't want to admit it, Louis is right. We're a league- a League of Justice."
Harry awakes with a start as he feels eyes watching him in his sleep. He had forgotten where he was until the freezing cold makes him suddenly remember.
He sits up shirtless, welts across chest from where whoever is keeping him hostage had restrained him. He's freezing cold, but a sheen of sweat has broken out across his skin. His hair hangs around his face, dirty and disgusting. "I know you're there."
"Always the observant one," Nick sneers, stepping out of the shadows and into the dim light of the swinging lightbulb.
Nick sits cross legged on a table across from Harry. "You made such a mess, getting your blood all over your shirt and on my clean floor."
Harry scowls, numb to the pain he endured earlier prior to passing out. "You know this isn't how you go about getting a guy's phone number."
"This isn't about you anymore, Curls. Sorry to disappoint." Nick unfolds his legs and stands to his full height. He's normally not much taller than Harry, but with the bruised and battered young male slumped against the wall he's able to easily tower over him.
He picks up a book from the table behind him. "Tell me Harry, where are your friends? Why haven't they tried to find you and save you?"
"How do you know they're not trying? I know them, they wouldn't just let something happen to me." Harry glares.
Nick chuckles and flips open the book to a random page. "Considering that I've framed them for your kidnapping and torture, I don't expect they'll be able to even show their faces without being arrested."
Harry's nostrils flare, lifting his hand high enough to flip Nick off. "Ooooh, when I get out of here I am so kicking your ass."
"Let's see if you'll be saying that next week. Have you ever heard the word dalliance, Harry?" Nick looks down at the page in front of him. He has the dictionary definition there and smiles. "Makes me think of you every time."
"I don't know why it would considering I could give fuck all about you." Harry spurs out. Technically Nick isn't right but Harry won't give him the satisfaction of agreeing.
Ignoring the younger male's outburst, Nick barrels on. "Dalliance, a noun. It seems a brief love affair. Isn't that just so us? A brief love affair."
He walks over towards Harry and squats down in front of him. "You have to admit, we looked good together."
Harry just looks away, he doesn't have anything left to say to Nick.
"I hope you can hold your breath. I think maybe it's time for a swim." He backs up and motions toward a hidden window. "Remember that word, Harry. Dalliance."
Harry has to look up at Nick, completely confused. "What the hell does that mean?"
Suddenly the door to the room is yanked open and two men come in and roughly grab Harry by the arms. They quickly drag him from the cell and down the hall.
Nick watches them go, smirking. "It's such a shame to have to drown such a pretty face."
Water, all harry can see and breathe is water. His fingernails are grating against the basin, trying to fishtail his way out from under the hand forcing him down. There's an itch in the back of his throat that feels like kindling fire.
Nick watches Harry flounders under the grip holding him steadfast. He nods for the man to bring the boy above water. "Do you know why I'm doing this, Harry? I have big plans for you."
"Fuck you." Harry spits, water spilling out of his mouth and down his chin.
"Do you know what I want you to do? I'm going to make you kill your father and all your friends. And the best part?" Nick smirks as he leans in to whisper into Harry's ear. "I'm going to make you enjoy it."
Angrily, Harry takes the opportunity to slam his head into Nick's. "I'd rather die."
Nick grunts and grabs at the side of his head as it erupts in pain. He stumbles backwards and glares at the boy. "Put him back in there and don't bring him up until he's passed out."
"We've got a better idea." Is all harry hears before his head is shoved back underwater. It feels like a million needles are stabbing and prodding into his flesh, lighting his skin on fire. He's trying with everything he has to not breathe in but he can feel it in his chest, can feel the need building and building and building. His vision starts to grow dim and black. It feels like his throat is caving and against his will he pulls in a breath, only it's not air just water.
Everything is growing more painful, Harry's hands are only scratching at the metal tub now. Then out of nowhere his face is being yanked up again, lips goldfishing for oxygen, wheezing entirely too harshly.
Nick smiles as he hears the spluttering coming from the boy. "Oh this will be much more fun. Harry, darling, what word did I tell you to remember?"
Harry glares, weakly lifting his middle finger at Nick.
"Dalliance, Harry. Repeat that to yourself. Dalliance, dalliance, dalliance." Nick motions for him to shoved back into the water.
Harry breaks through the surface of the water, and the burning pain is back stronger than ever, the only real thought in his mind is his own impending death. Slowly his hands stop clawing at the basin and his head stops thrashing. He's so close he can almost feel the grim reaper's icy touch.
Looking over to see next to no movement, Nick smirks. "Bring him up. I think he's exactly where he needs to be for this work." He watches as the man holding him under water plucks Harry from the basin and drops him to the ground.
Harry's lying limp against the now wet concrete, rapidly pulling air into his burning lungs.
Nick looks at the once proud heir and nods happily at his handy work. "I think he's ready. Tie him up and play the audio."
Stepping outside the room and into the adjoining one, Nick watches as his orders are carried out. He can feel the guards behind him, watching the scene as well. "Do you boys know what's on that CD?"
The two men look at each other and shrug. "Not really."
"The human brain is most vulnerable right after a traumatic experience. Playing the same word over again is just annoying. Combine that with subliminal messages such as 'you are a human warrior' or 'you are a trained assassin' can really mess up a person's mind. Couple that already crippling mind fuck with my new found power of persuasion thanks to that alien substance, he won't be able to resist."
"Brainwashing then?" one of the guards asks.
Nick rolls his eyes at the oversimplification of his plan. "Yes. Brainwashing. Don't you see the significance of having someone on the inside?"
The one armor clad guard shrugs his shoulders. "He'll listen to you?"
"As long as I say the magic word," Nick smiles as he watches the boy squirm in the next room over.
They all fall silent, the only audible sound is the muffled, almost far away, sound of the words being replayed.
The four friends are spread throughout the secret bunker. It's been weeks that they've hidden under the streets and they're all starting to feel it.
Niall's pulled up to a table with Zayn sitting across from him, messing with the antenna of a radio trying to get a signal from a station somewhere. The television hasn't given any other update regarding Harry and he's hoping to hear something.
Liam is sprawled out on the floor, just lying there. He doesn't like the quiet, but everyone is starting to feel a little snappy and hateful towards the others.
"Fucking hell," Niall whines as the tool he's using slices across his palm. It stings, but quickly heals. In frustration, he slams his now healed hand on the old radio. "Work, dammit!"
"Tell it a little louder," Zayn says with a hint of sarcasm, "it can't hear you."
Niall glares at the boy. "Well maybe you'd like to try and fix it then? I'm sure your technological knowhow is far superior to mine."
"Would you both just bite each other's heads off already so I can get some peace and quiet?" Louis mutters, mundanely tossing a ball in the air and catching it.
"Guys," Liam sighs heavily, "let's not fight. We're all a bit anxious, but we need to stay calm."
"Everyone just shut up." Niall slams his hand against the table, sending the radio thudding against the table. The machine comes to life, blaring an obnoxiously old pop tune through the room.
"Like a virgin! Touched for the very first time!" Madonna's high pitch voice wafts through the speakers, echoing through the room.
Louis can't help the laughter that comes out of his mouth at the song. It was so out of place in their dark little world.
Zayn's lips quirk up a bit at melody. "Like a virgin, when your heart beats next to mine."
The tension nearly evaporates and soon enough all four of them are having an impromptu karaoke night singing along with Madonna.
The song ends and Liam is smiling wider than he has since the accident in the lab. "Guess Madonna still is pretty good for parties."
"Honestly, Liam. Aqua is the new Madonna. At least with the cringing songs that make you have nice memories." Louis chuckles a bit as he picks up the ball from where he had dropped it.
"I'm sorry if I've been a bit of a twat lately," Zayn apologizes.
Niall waves him off, turning the knob on the radio down. "We've all been, it's the cabin fever."
There's a ding from across the room as a new file pops up onto the main computer.
Louis frowns. "You've got mail."
Niall heads to the laptop and opens his account to find an email sent from an unknown source with a file attachment. He's cautious, aware that opening strange messages from strangers is almost always a bad idea, but he clicks on it anyway.
The subject line is empty, but there's one sentence in the body portion of the email. 'Do you want your friend back?'
Liam is there quickly and reading over his shoulder. "Can you trace the sender?"
"It's encrypted, even if I could break through the firewall it could take weeks to find out who sent it and even then it might be a dummy account." Niall sees the file is a video, unable to stop himself from hovering and pressing the mouse over it.
By now the other two have gathered to watch and investigate as well. The video pops up to fill the screen and immediately the sound of disturbed water reaches their ears.
The only thing in frame is that of a bulging forearm holding something down in a metal basin. The arm, obviously belonging to a man, has a fistful of short, sopping wet hair. Yanking it back a face snaps up and is in plain view of the shot, it takes a moment to register that it's Harry. Harry, mouth goldfishing, wheezing for air.
Louis, who had yet to be told about the shock collar video, is immediately outraged. "What the fuck is this?"
"Not again," Zayn says softly. These videos are troubling to say the least. It's taunting at this point and he just wants them to figure out who is behind this.
"Say it, Harry. Say it and it'll all be over." A distorted voice on the other side of the camera soothes.
Harry tries to say something but only water bubbles out of his mouth, and almost immediately he's forced back in. Harry's struggles for a good minute and half, his movements growing sluggish to the point that the arm he was using to try and pry the gorilla like hand from his hair falls limply to the side.
Liam shakes his head. "We can't just sit around anymore. We have to do something. Even if it's sneaking back into Stylotech and trying to research from there."
"Who would want to torture Harry like this? You guys were his best friends, did he have any enemies?" Niall can't imagine Harry pissing anyone off enough.
Zayn shakes his head. "The only person I could think of would be Simon or Nick, but they don't know about us and whoever is doing this clearly does."
Louis starts pacing and when Louis starts pacing it's almost never a good thing. "We can't just sit here while some twisted fuck goes medieval on Harry! You said we would do something when we had a plan and we're no closer to forming one! If we don't fucking do something we might get Harry's body in the mail next!"
Liam grabs at his friend's wrist to get him to halt. He looks worriedly over at Niall. "You're the leader of this team. What do you think we need to do?"
Niall sighs, a long drawn out sigh, closing the lid on his laptop. "Louis' right. We're no closer to finding him than we were when he first went missing."
"Fucking finally! Someone has some common sense!" Louis wrenches his wrist free from Liam. "Where do we start? Should we draw attention to ourselves? Cause a little havoc?"
"We're not trying to get caught or maimed," Niall shoots a look at Louis, "we'll start with nightly patrolling. We'll check abandoned buildings and plots first, then go from there."
Zayn nods. "Go groups like last time. No getting involved with anything this time though. We're on strict mission this go round."
"That could take forever though! Maybe if we show a little force, these guys will come straight to us." Louis is tired of the sneaking around.
"Show a little force to who? The petty criminals infesting London? Whoever these people are, they're trained professionals." Niall audibly sighs.
"No! I'm saying do something big, something heroic. Make these guys come out of the shadows." Louis knows he isn't expressing himself well.
Liam shakes his head. "That's not what we want. These people are dangerous. One wrong move and Harry could be seriously injured."
Niall frowns, mulling over Louis' words in his head. "Maybe Louis is right. We have next to no leads. Instead of going to the kidnapper, get the kidnapper to come to us."
"That's a death wish," Zayn says with a shake of his head. "Are we certain there's no other course of action we could take?"
"Look, typically if someone is missing for over a week you can assume they're… Dead. This sick fuck is sending us videos, sending the media videos, the magazines, the tabloids. They want the world to know that they have billionaire playboy Harry Styles. Why? Because I think whoever is doing this wants to put on a show, broadcasted as far as they spread it. We're going to keep receiving videos until we do what he wants. If we don't, we might get more than a video of Harry, a body part would be the next predictable step in an unpredictable plan. Even if I'm wrong about all this I know you don't want to see Harry hurt anymore than the rest of us." Niall, for the first time, has to side with Louis on this.
Louis nods, eyebrows furrowed in anger. "It's settled then. We need to get up there and cause a huge fuss or stop a huge fuss."
"For once, your destructive personality is coming in handy," Liam quips with a small smile.
Niall's mopping sweat off his hairline, rapidly firing his fists at the punching bag chained and hung from the ceiling.
Since they decided to come out of hiding they've been spending their time training figuring that their powers, especially Niall's, won't always be able to bail them out and close combat fighting will. The substance that had absorbed into their skin some odd months ago had jacked up their performance levels to a twelve, exercising and reflexes were almost inhuman.
Louis takes a deep breath before focusing intently on the sparring dummy. His whole fist vibrates as he swings his arm forward at an inhumane speed. He had learned quickly that he could speed up his punches and create a sort of sonic boom. He feels ready to take on the world.
"Deep breaths. Focus... Focus," Zayn whispers as he puts himself into a trance like state. With all the quiet in their bunker, he's been able to clear his mind and figure out his abilities. He's now able to project himself outside of his body and effect matter that way.
Niall groans, letting his arms fall listlessly to his sides. He still hasn't been able to manipulate his blood into physical shapes like Mcllroy said he would and he's beginning to wonder if they only told him that so he would train harder. "What am I doing wrong?"
Liam is sitting off to the side. His workout is less physical and more mental. He mostly just sits and tries to calm his mind since the more angry he gets, the less control he has. "That seems like a very hard skill. Maybe just try to practice with daggers and knives for the time being."
"Maybe try and visualize it? That's what I do." Zayn points his palm at a practice target, a dark energy engulfing his hand in black flames.
Niall huffs and crosses his arms. "This is ridiculous. Why are you all able to master your powers so quickly?"
"It's easier to focus your mind and energy than your blood maybe. Blood pumping through your veins is as involuntary as blinking and something that the brain subconsciously controls, it's not something people get control over," Louis says.
Everyone in the room stares at him like he's grown another head and Louis can't help the flush of his cheeks. "Sometimes I say smart things."
"I was expecting that more from Liam since he's the sports medicine major." Zayn says with a shrug as he continues his practice.
"I mean," Liam says still looking shocked, "he's not wrong. We just don't know if that's for sure the reason."
Niall rolls his eyes. "Whatever. Is there any new info on the scanner? There's got to be something happening that we can stop."
Zayn lets the dark energy around him die as he looks over at the contraption in question. "Not sure. I thought someone else was listening to it."
Liam, who isn't getting anywhere anyways, stands up and heads to the police scanner they stole last week. He powers it up and immediately a female voice fills the speakers, "we have a 10-31 in progress, requesting all back up to 31st and Norfolk."
Niall's nose wrinkles. "31st and Norfolk? Isn't that where 1st National Bank is located?"
Louis perks up. "It is. Does this mean... What's a 10-31?"
"I'm guessing it's a bank robbery if it's at the corner where the bank is. Back up probably means hostages inside." Zayn hopes he doesn't sound as giddy as he feels.
"Let's go then, Louis you can run us over one by one!" Liam says starting to feel an excitement growing in his chest.
Louis rubs his hands in glee. "Here we go. Our moment to shine."
"Everyone down on the floor now!" One of the masked men yells, producing a gun from inside his vest and waving it at the crowd of onlookers.
There are screams of terror as people lay out on the tile with their hands laced behind their heads.
One woman is crying, shielding her young toddler son in case bullets start to fly.
"You won't get away with this. I hope you realise that." One guy says as he's patted down and has his wallet taken from his back pocket.
One of the men squat down next to the man and laughs. "And who's going to stop us? You?"
"Us actually," Zayn says, stepping forward.
The robbers quickly turn, aiming their guns at the four men now standing in the front of the main doors. They laugh as they take in their appearance. "Four little boys in tights? Here's a hint, leave it to the negotiators."
Louis frowns and walks over calmly to the woman and small boy. "You okay? Don't worry. We'll get you out of here. I promise."
"Hey! What did we say about moving?" Without hesitation one of the men fire off their revolver now directed at Louis.
The bullet stops short of piercing Louis' head, floating inside a black box dangling in mid air. Zayn tsks, "you were saying?"
The guns are lowered slightly as they look at the now encased bullet. "How did you...?"
"Here's how this is going to go down. You're going to drop the weapons, release the hostages, and turn yourselves in. Otherwise, we're going to have to make a mess. And honestly, I don't think you really want that." Liam cracks his knuckles at the end of his little speech, hoping to display the brawn he had to throw around.
Each of the armed assailants are wearing a different colored arm band with some foreign symbol, probably belonging to an organized crime group. The one in the red raises his semi automatic without hesitance, firing three high caliber ballets into Niall's chest.
"Ow!" Niall pouts and watches as the gaping holes in his suit and flesh wane until he's completely healed. "Why do you guys always go for the hard way?"
Liam slams his fist into the granite floors of the bank. The impact breaks the hard stone and sets the building shaking as it's foundation absorbs the shock.
Using the distraction, Zayn encases the wooden tables from the waiting area in dark energy and hurls them towards the bank robbers.
"Niall, help me get these people out of here," Louis squawks into their earpieces. He's grabbing for the crying toddler and hoping the mother will trust him. "We've got to get moving!"
Niall pole vaults over a counter and offers his hands to the terrified customers still sprawled out on the ground. "Come on! Move, move, move!"
The robbers move to defend, guns making holes in the tables as they dodge them and continue to fire. "Get the hostages!"
Liam watches in terror as the assault rifles are turned on the fleeing citizens and Louis and Niall. The screams are sharp and piercing as he rushes to take down the gunmen. "Watch your backs! Incoming gunfire!"
Using his body, Niall turns and becomes a makeshift human shield to keep anyone from being injured while Zayn uses his other hand to reroute the barrage of bullets into the ceiling.
The glass doors almost shatter with the force of being slammed open, hysterical patrons running out and behind police barricades to safety.
Niall groans, watching the bullets be expelled from his body and hit the ground with a noiseless clatter. "Getting shot fucking hurts."
Louis does one last sweep, making sure everyone is clear. He's by Niall's side once he knows everyone is safely outside. "Stay outside. Make sure no one got hit by a stray bullet. We'll wrap up in here."
"We won't take long. I'm already bored with this." Zayn rolls his eyes as he encases the guns in dark energy and rips them from the robber's hands.
Niall pushes the glass doors out and jogs down the cement steps towards the now freed hostages. "Do any of you need medical attention?"
The mother who had shielded her son grabs at his arm. She's crying, but smiling nonetheless. "Thank you. Thank you so much. You saved us. You saved my boy."
Niall can't fight off the smile that pulls up the corners of his mouth. "It was no problem, that's what we do."
The now free hostages are crowding him and giving their thanks. It's a bit overwhelming the mass amount of praise the four are getting.
The bank doors are thrown open and out comes Louis. He's dusting his hands off as Zayn and Liam both drag two unconscious would be robbers behind them. "We came, we saw, we kicked their asses."
Almost immediately a stream of paparazzi break through the police barricades, pushing microphones into their faces and slightly disorienting them with the camera flashes. There are about a hundred questions being thrown at them and Louis is absolutely loving this, he can see now why Harry found this shit appealing.
"Hello people of the greater London area! My name is Lo-Flash! Flashpoint. I average about five hundred miles an hour."
Niall whips around to face his friend. "Uh, Flashpoint... What are you doing?"
Liam has handed off the criminals to the cops and is checking on some would be hostages to ensure they're fine. "Give him his moment. He thrives for attention."
Louis does his best dramatic bow, springing back up to face the dozens of cameras trained on him. "I'm one fourth of the League of Extraordinary Heroes. We have Dark Matter over there, he's telekinetic. Over there is General Payne, don't ever get into an arm wrestling match with him. And over there is the leader, Angel, he can heal inhumanly fast."
Zayn gives a half heart wave as focuses on filling in the police about what happened.
"General Payne? Really? How come everyone else got a cool name?" Liam shakes his head as he makes his way over towards the blond and the speed demon.
Louis smirks and shrugs, "well I almost went with the Fister. I can change it if you'd like."
"No!" Liam shouts at his friend, half in shock at what he just said on national television. "General Payne is great! Love it already."
"Mister Point, can you tell us anything about the perpetrators? Are they connected to any gangs or anything of the sort?"
Louis, who's posing so only his good side is photographed, waves off the question. "We don't investigate, we just kick ass and take names! Take no prisoners!"
Niall heads over after briefly chatting with every individual that had been inside the bank, rolling his eyes as he catches the tail end of Louis' soliloquy. "We believe this is an isolated incident and not connected to anything larger."
"Mister Angel, where did you all come from? I mean, crime has always happened in this city. Why show up now?"
Liam grabs Louis by the wrist and pulls him away from the cameras. "What are you doing? Getting the bad guys attention doesn't mean acting like a show off in front of cameras."
Niall's never been one to like being on camera, especially one broadcasting to so many people. "We just recently acquired these powers from an accident that I won't go into detail about."
"Is this linked to the kidnapping of Harry Styles? This is where he's seen banking after all," one woman questions loudly. Her outfit pegs her as a celebrity gossip type of magazine.
Niall fidgets, feeling a little too warm under the collar. "I don't believe so but we are searching for him, he's as part of British culture as the Queen."
The reporters laugh a little as they scribble his words down.
It's started to rain a bit and the crowd is starting to disperse in the droplets' wake. "Well, thank you, Mister Angel. You've been more help than Stylotech security has been. They refuse to even acknowledge that Harry is missing."
Niall pauses, choosing his next words carefully. "I'm sure that Dr. Styles is trying to process his grief. It can't be easy to have a son go missing, especially so publicly."
"That's enough questions," the chief of police butts in gruffly and starts to try and disperse the media.
The female reporter stands her ground. "Just one more question for my readers! Are you four here to keep us safe for good now?"
Niall, who's never liked being under the scrutiny of a camera- he almost always feels like a bug under a magnifying glass- is trying his best to speak as direct and as clear as he can. "When you can do the things we can do, and then the bad things happen, they happen because of you. Morally we're obligated to save the day, and that's what we intend to do."
Liam steps up next to Niall, ducking to whisper in his ear. "The cops want to talk to us. They want to fingerprint us."
Niall almost immediately says back, "No. Vigilantism is illegal, for all we know they probably suspect that we were part of the Stylotech robbery. I'm already forced to live with you lot, I don't want to be chained to you too."
"I don't think they're going to give us much of a choice." Liam jerks his head over towards Louis.
Even from this distance, Liam can see the white knuckle grasp one of the officers has Louis' wrist. For his part Louis looks jovial, but there's a slight intonation in his voice that betrays his fear. "We gotta go. Now."
Niall looks back over his shoulder to ensure that their conversation isn't being overheard. "Louis is our fastest option to leave, talk to him and he should be able to shake the police off pretty easily."
Liam nods and hurries over to his friend.
Zayn is by Niall's side in an instant. "We got to go. Too many questions are being asked. Any longer and Stylotech will hear about this."
Zayn barely manages to finish his sentence when a flash of what looks like lightning whizzes by and he's gone, then Liam, and finally Niall.
Niall feels a hand latch around his wrist and drag him at a dizzying speed, stumbling over his feet as soon as he comes to a standstill in the alley where their hideaway is.
"God," Niall groans, disoriented, settling his hands palm flat against his knees. "Major motion sickness."
Liam, who always goes with Louis on supply runs, shrugs as he places a steadying hand on Zayn's back. "You get used to it after awhile. It's actually pretty freeing."
"The first time we ran, I think Liam threw up he was so motion sick." Louis chuckles as he opens the door to their secret home.
Niall hangs back, letting the others descend the rust spattered ladder first, looking over his shoulder again. He has the nerve tingling sensation of being spied on and he doesn't like it at all.
Pain. The only thing Harry feels, the only things he knows now is total and complete pain. The band around his head is shooting high electric volts through his temples, his body convulsing and straining against the metal binding around his chest trapping him to a high tech chair. Every muscle is cramping, pain seeping into his bones. The only thing he can do now is scream, scream until his throat is red and raw.
Nick pushes the button to stop the electrical current from flowing into the beaten and battered body. "Where's the four teenagers that escaped your dad's building?"
"I. Don't. Know." Harry seethes, inhaling sharply with the temporary relief.
"I think you do. You know exactly where they are and you know how to get to your father." Nick taps the surface right next to shock inducing button, wanting to see the boy flinch. "Harry, don't make me do this the hard way."
Every vein and tendon strains against the surface of Harry's skin, his hands scratching against the armrests until his fingernails crack and bleed. "Fuck you!"
Heaving a sigh, Nick shakes his head. "The hard way it will be then. Just remember that I gave you a way out. I guess that it's time to show you just how seriously I take this all. Tell me, Harry, how much do you love your father?"
"He's my dad, you twat." Harry groans once the electricity stops pulsing through him, relaxing into the chair.
"We'll see about that." Nodding towards the guards standing next to Harry, he waits until the restraints have been removed before having them let go of the boy entirely. "Harry, we had a beautiful... Dalliance."
Harry's chin sits against his chest like a heavy weight, body heaving with exhaustion and addled with pain. He doesn't make eye contact, trying to shut Nick's voice out.
Nick sighs heavily. "Really, Harry? Don't make me say it again. You know how much I hate to cause you pain."
With the last shred of strength and dignity Harry has left, his raw and red throat croaks out, "take your fake concern and stick it up your ass."
The last bit of patience Nick has leaves him as Harry defies him once more. "I've had enough of this. Hold him up."
The guards grab Harry by the arms and haul him to his feet.
"It's time to do some horrible things, Harry. Dalliance, albertopolis, chilliad, mimsy, disenthral!" Nick is practically shouting, wanting to break this son of a bitch.
A switch buried deep within the recess of Harry's mind switches, his weakly thrashing arms going slack against the rough hold he's in.
"Soldier?" Nick asks, standing within inches of Harry's bruised and battered shell of a body.
Harry raises his head enough to look at nick through his eyelashes, the life in them gone. "Ready to comply."
Doctor Des Styles has been called many names. The Father of 20th Century Science, a Man Married to His Corporation, The Real Doc Brown, but none has he felt more deeply than to be label 'A Poor Father' by the public. He had been in his office with a coffee, extra cream and light sugar, when he had gotten the news from his secretary minutes before the video of Harry with a shock collar infested the news stations and internet like an eyesore for a cockroach that would not go, that would not die. For the first time in fifteen years Des cried, truly and painfully sobbed until he was crying salt into his palms and Harry's name was the last dying note being whispered from his lips.
Even if he had an unpopular way of expressing it, he loved Harry more that he could ever love Stylotech, because to him Harry is Stylotech. The heart of his work and the reason for his success. His greatest accomplishment had been fathering such a lovely person, holding the small weight that had been Harry in one hand. How Harry looked at him with a newfound light that could almost strangle Des with how curious they were.
It burns the back of his eyes thinking about it, unlocking his front door and letting himself into the house- his house. After setting his briefcase down and hanging his coat up on the rack under the crystal chandelier he heads to the place he usually goes to after work nowadays. The liquor cabinet.
With the deftness of a man familiar with his actions, he gets a glass of ice and pours whiskey in, watching the honey yellow color and being reminded of Harry's mum's eyes, they were the only two people he really thought of anymore.
The maid looks up in pity as he entered the dining room. "All done for the night, sir. I'll see you in the morning."
As she makes her way out, a rustling in the bushes outside catches her attention. She huffs, knowing that whatever animal decided to dig up the rose bushes that night would just make more work for her in the morning. "Stupid cat. I'll just have to deal with you later."
Des says his goodnight, letting his alcohol steadily stream down his throat while he went to his living room to start his record player when he hears it. A faint creak, like a footstep light tramping over the floorboards in the hall. "Sonya, is that you? Did you leave something."
With the sound of a click, what looks like a black canister rolls across the floor and stops at Des' shoes. Soon enough smoke begins to leak out of it.
The sound of breaking glass can be heard as Des drops his tumbler to hardwood floor. His lungs fill with the smoke and he's coughing. Suddenly, a heavy weight tackles him to the floor.
A deep, almost robotic voice, starts to talk in his ear. "Doctor Styles, your presence is requested at Cowell Labs."
With a fist twisting into the collar of his shirt, Des is forcefully slammed into the beige wall behind him. Des hits his head hard enough to see stars, staring at a figure hidden behind a black mask covering the lower half of his face and a pair of goggles with honeycomb colored lenses.
He splutters a bit trying to catch his breath. Once he finally recovers enough to draw in ragged breaths, he looks to the covered eyes with a glare. "Like hell I'm going there. This is an outrage! Let an old man grieve the loss of his son. Even Cowell isn't that heartless."
With the agileness of a feline, the masked man flips a knife out of his utility belt, snatching it by the handle mid air and bringing it to rest against Des' neck.
"Really? You're going to kill me? What good would that do for Cowell? I swear, you silent types are the worst at this." Des knows he sounds cocky, but he's honestly terrified. After seeing what had been done to his son in that video, he knows that someone is out for his family. "You aren't the first to threaten my family and you won't be the last."
"I've heard enough, dispose of him." A thinly audible voice crackles from the masked man's earpiece. "Why don't you remove the disguise?"
With the serrated blade still in position the man shoves his goggles up his forehead and yanks his face covering down and off his jaw.
Des can feel his widen as the greenest eyes he's ever seen stare back at him. He knows them all too well. "H-Harry? What are you doing? Listen to me, boy. You've got to stop this. I'm worried about you."
Harry only stares at the man with stark recognition. With the ease of a butter knife, the steel blade cuts through the meat of his father's throat, spraying out a sprinkler of blood across Harry and the floor.
Nick whispers those words Harry's come to associate with abject obedience, the control over his mind breaking long enough for him to understand who this man is and who he is and what he had just done. "Dad?! Dad!"
Harry falls to his knees in a blanket of blood, his father in his arms, his neck slashed open and smiling mockingly up at him.
"This is what 'doing things the hard way' entails, Harry. You could have kept him alive. If only had answered my questions." Nick's voice is harsh in his ear. "Pity that the last thing your father saw was you standing over him with a knife to his neck. Even more of a pity that your friends will suffer a similar fate."
The bloodied knife slips out of Harry's stained fingers and clatters to the floor by his boots. Both of his hands grab at his ears while he shakes his head furiously. "Get out of my head! Get out, get out, get out!"
A chuckle comes through his earpiece and Nick's voice echoes mercilessly through his mind. "I can't leave you, Harry. Whatever will you do without me? Now, I do believe it's time we made an example of friends. Don't you think?"
"We're getting absolutely nowhere," Zayn's groans. He turns the police scanner off, shoving a mountain of files Niall managed to compile of Harry's possible whereabouts away from him.
Louis agrees, switching the television on instead. "It's been nearly a month. You guys think Harry's… Well that he's-"
Before Louis can finish his thought a breaking news bulletin flashes across the screen and the normal anchorwoman is sitting behind her desk. "This just in, the body of well known scientist Dr. Desmond Styles' body was found early this morning by the family maid."
"Oh my god," Liam gasps as he pictures the kind older lady having to find Harry's father. "Do you think he... You know, offed himself?"
Zayn shrugs, but looks doubtful. "It's possible. I'm sure that the escape of four teenage mutants and the disappearance of his son would put a damper on things, but I don't think he would do something like that."
"The assailant wanted for questioning was picked up by the late Dr. Styles security camera at eleven last night." A grainy, poor quality video surfaces, a silhouette of a man dressed in all black with a mask draped over his face and goggles passes by. "The whereabouts of Dr. Styles son, Harry Styles, are still unknown, but with this latest development things are looking grim."
"Fucking hell," Louis' voice quietly says. "We need to figure this out and fast. If they've killed Dr. Styles then Harry won't be far behind. And I have a feeling his murder will be much more public."
The static of the television hums, the only audible sound in the bunker. Liam opens his mouth to say something when the anchorwoman says, considerably much louder, "this just in a man matching the description from Dr. Styles security footage is said to be blocking off traffic at 1st and Main, police officers are responding as I speak."
Zayn stands from the table looking at the others. "I think that's our cue."
"Let's go. He's the closest link we got to Harry." Niall is quickly pulling off his shirt to leave himself only in his suit.
Without question Louis individually snags each of their shoulders and nearly teleports them to a stainless, glass paneled skyscraper stationed a block from the intersection of 1st and Main.
Niall, who still hasn't gotten used to the motion sickness, heavily leans against a brick wall disoriented. "Now I know you guys are a 'shoot first ask questions some other time' kinda lot, but I think we need to change our strategy. Let's try and talk to the guy."
"You can try, but I'm ready to tackle him if I need to. I love the 'we came, we saw, we kicked their ass' type of confrontation." Louis shrugs as he smirks and looks around the corner of the building.
A woman's scream catches Zayn's attention and he curses under his breath as he sees a woman stuck in her car, door pinned shut by debris from the madman's earlier rampage, with a gun pointed to her head. "Guys..."
"We'll try it your way Niall but if he doesn't see reason I'm punching his ticket with my fist," Liam's says and then adds, "you guys get it? Punch his ticket, with my fist, like they do when you're traveling the inter rails, only I'm going to send him flying. Because I got him."
"You're about as funny as a wet rag mate," Louis quips, nearly queasy from such a lame pun.
Niall just rolls his eyes before quickly walking into view of the street. "Hey! Hey, you!" He puts his hands up in surrender hoping to show that he doesn't mean any trouble. "We want to talk to you. Is that okay?"
The lean, towering figure adorned in leather with carbon steel weaponry embellishments pivots around, staring at -or through- the other equally ostentatiously dressed teen. Surrounding vehicles continue to play an off key tune with their continuous horn blasting while traffic builds and clogs up the roads.
Niall's pace is painfully slow, treating each step like a step further into a mine field as he treads across loose gravel and asphalt. His hands stay palm out on either side of his head as he talks, "don't you think there are better places to stand? Maybe something that's not in the middle of one of London's busiest intersections."
Zayn, who's remaining still by a light post in order to keep this maniac's attention on Niall whispers to the other two, "I think it's working."
"I think he's toying with Niall," Louis whispers back.
The figure turns more towards Niall, stepping towards the leotard wearing boy. His hands find their way to his pockets, looking casual and as though he was just taking a leisurely stroll.
"Why don't you stop playing in traffic and come with me, we can talk." Niall offers.
The soldier ceases walking, hands gliding into one of the pockets attached to his belt. With the force and speed of a bullet a razor sharp, serrated hunting knife punctures the soft meat of Niall's neck, thick, viscous blood fountaining out around the wound.
"Oi! Didn't your mum teach you not to impale people with knives?" Niall cries, wrapping his red gore painted glove around the handle, ripping it out of his throat, soaking his suit in a mess of copper scented liquid.
"Fuck," Liam stutters in his movement as he watches Niall pull the knife from his neck. "Be careful. This guy has pinpoint accuracy. Judging on the amount of blood, looks like it hit a carotid artery. Basically, you'll bleed out in minutes."
"Great, a fucking madman with a death wish." Zayn picks up two manhole covers and has them wielded behind him if need be.
Niall manages to look up, as the laceration in his neck starts to close, just as the figure flings another needle sharp bayonet at him.
"Shit!" With a quick somersault Niall manages to get behind a car before the projectile hits its target.
Louis shakes his head and whizzes past Niall. His vision focuses on the assailant's hands. Everything seems to happen in slow motion when he runs so he figures he can see it coming in time. "Can we kick ass now?"
Louis whizzes by before Niall can properly answer him, his speed gathering as he comes within striking distance. He barely manages to get a fist raised when the assailant becomes a blur of lightning, zooming behind Louis and putting his heavily booted foot against his back, shoving Louis at a force of about a hundred elephants.
"Who the hell is this dude?" Zayn manipulates the solid, bronze tinted sewer covers and shoots both out, aiming for this obviously trained professional.
Liam shrugs. "That doesn't matter now. All that matters is taking him down." He watches as Louis lands with a heavy thud on a car, denting the hood deeply with the force of his fall.
"Don't kill him or anything. Just make sure to disarm and restrain him. He has powers too. He might know something about Harry." Niall, who is rubbing at the tender spot of his neck, staggers towards his comrades.
The figure manages to dodge one flying disk, but takes the other into his side. He manages to somehow keep his footing and slides back across the asphalt.
Louis rolls off the now smashed in bumper of a minivan and hits the asphalt, groaning. "I think I'm just gonna lie here, don't mind me."
"This guy's skills are insane," Zayn says latching his mind onto a postbox, tearing the metal bearings out of the concrete and launching it.
It manages to sail through the air a few feet until the masked man charges at it with the gathering speed of a train, fist out and punching it. It ricochets back and slams into Zayn, sending him flying through the paneled glass of a storefront window.
Liam watches as his two friends are hurt and down for the count. "Niall, can you distract him? I've got a plan of sorts."
Not seeing any choice anymore Niall nods and comes out from behind the car with his hands in the air. "You're a pretty hard guy to beat. What gym do you train at?"
The figure only stares, his hand sliding into his belt and retrieving a steel cut serrated ninja star, ready to project it across the now heavily damaged street.
Louis sits up as best he can, but there's a gash across his calf. He curses under his breath and does his best to staunch the bleeding. He can see something in the guy's hand and he's worried once more for Niall's safety.
"Looks like a fucking throwing star. What the hell are we in? Naruto?" Zayn's voice buzzes through the com-links as he stumbles out of the now smashed up store front. There are cuts all over his face from the broken glass and a rather large shard sticking out of the back of his hand, but it hasn't punctured straight through so he figures he'll be good after a bandage or two.
"A throwing star," Niall says not so subtly cupping his neck, "that's very anime of you. Are you going to go super saiyan next?"
Without hesitation he drives the shuriken forward, one razor sharp point sticking Niall in the thigh through his femoral artery, blood contesting and raining down like the Niagra Falls.
The blond collapses to the ground, grimacing in pain. "Fucking hell! It was just a question. I didn’t mean to insult your taste in television." With a firm grasp, and ripping his hand open in the process, he pulls the star from his leg hoping to get this healing process done soon.
Liam, who had been maneuvering behind cars and making a wide sweeping arch around this guy, reaches the lamp post mounted into the cemented sidewalk, grabbing the base firmly with his hands. With the force of breaking a pencil in half he tears the green spray painted light out of the ground. "Hey psychopath! Catch this!"
The masked assailant turns just in time to see half of a streetlight torpedoing at him, using the same strategy to punch it through the air. Only Liam is smart enough to launch the other half at him knocking the guy square in the face the same time the rebounding lamp post smacks into Liam, sending him flying backwards into a brick wall, debris and rubble showering down on him.
The unknown man hits the asphalt and rolls across the road a few feet, sprawled out on his back. Unlike Liam he manages to get up, mask lying at his feet and goggles hanging around his neck like a fashion accessory.
Zayn is ready to attack again, an empty car encased in black energy at the ready, when he falters. "No fucking way. There's no way you would..."
Niall manages to scramble back to his feet. "Come on now. Is that all you got? You can't do..." His words trail off as the figure turns to face him. "H-Harry?"
Louis' stomach plummets ten floors, falling back onto his ass after attempting to stand, staring in complete and total shock.
Harry stares at him, through him, reaching for another blade in his belt. "Who the hell is Harry?"
The tense moment is broken as camera crews start to turn up, recording what they hope is going to be a good fight.
Liam shifts under the rubble before standing stumbling over to his friends. "What do we do now? Do we...?"
Sensing the added danger, Harry quickly scoops up his mask and runs for the concrete barricade, jumping over the overpass and disappearing.
"What the hell just happened?"
Liam does what he can to stitch up his friends. Louis' leg wasn't too bad, deep but not long, but Zayn's hand was a bit more difficult. The glass had not only sliced open his hand, but it had sliced deep into the muscle that controls the movement of this fingers. "It might take some time to move your ring finger and pinkie, but it should heal as time progresses."
"Forget that. What are we going to do about Harry?" Louis says from where he's gripping Zayn's non-injured hand. He winces with every tug at his friend's skin.
Zayn, who has a washcloth shoved into his mouth to keep from biting his tongue in half, tries his best to speak. Although his words are stifled and his voice is muffled.
Niall reaches forward and pulls the blue fabric out of his mouth, settling it next to Zayn's thigh.
Looking grateful, Zayn says, "Thanks, Niall. I was trying to say I don't think Harry is aware that he's Harry. He looked like he genuinely didn't recognize us."
"But that makes no sense. I know we basically up and left him, but how could he not recognise us? We're still..." Louis' voice trails off. He was going to say they were still best friends, but he couldn't say that with absolute certainty.
Niall shrugs. "Zayn might be onto something. Plus, since when has Harry ever been able to fight like that? He trips on his own feet when he walks."
"You remember when we visited Belfast last summer, we were on a train and Harry stands to go the bathroom and somehow he tripped into the armrest of his seat and gave himself a concussion." That's only one of a million instances Liam can bring up, Harry has the coordination of a newborn giraffe taking his first steps.
Zayn can't help the laugh, they're still giving Harry shit for that, quickly falling back into solemnity. "He has been missing, you think someone took him and made him forget?"
"Well you guys mentioned Harry got a text from Nick not even a week prior to him vanishing and from what you guys told me," Niall says, knowing he might just be assuming, "him and his father don't sound like ethics is of much concern to them."
Liam frowns, but doesn't look up as he finishes the sutures on Zayn's hand. "It's possible. That would mean he has to know about Harry's abilities and- by extension- ours."
"But Harry wouldn't betray his dad like that. He knows how much Nick just wants take down Stylotech." Niall huffs, confused. He doesn't want to think about Harry being taken advantage of or, being tortured till he tells all.
Louis rolls his eyes, wrapping gauze around his leg and taping it off. "It's obvious isn't it? The answer is right in front of us, Harry's been brainwashed."
"Louis, this isn't a comic book, mate. People don't get brainwashed," Zayn says a bit haughtily.
Liam shrugs. "People also don't survive laboratory explosions and get super powers. Let's leave brainwashing on the table. Why would Nick do something like that?"
"Well what's a super villain's usual M.O? Revenge or money, and the Cowell's have enough to buy and run an entire country so it has to be revenge. Harry's the one who found out and told his dad about the human experiments, Simon loses his job, gets ousted from the science community like a pariah, most of his assets got frozen, sounds like enough to want to seriously injure or maim someone." Louis shrugs.
"But why not kill him then instead of setting up an elaborate scheme to turn Harry into GI Joe meets X men?" Zayn asks.
Niall looks up from where he's been staring at his lap. "Or murder them. It just... Harry's disappearance, the torture videos, Mister Styles' death, Harry being the masked man. Do you think Harry could have killed his own dad?"
"Don't really have a choice if your brain is the equivalent of food in a blender. Harry loved his dad. Fuck, do you think they're trying to set him up? Like Zayn said why else would he come up with such a detailed plan, who knows how long it took to put together." Liam's believability in Louis' story is starting to grow, doubt ebbing away the more they talk. Everything just fits too well.
Louis just sits back in his seat, crossing his arms as he tries to think of a good enough explanation. "I think, right now, we just need to find Harry and get him back here. Get him away from the poison."
"And out of prison." Niall says, looking back towards his laptop. "I'll torrent the shock collar video off YouTube and see if I can track the IP address. It's not much but it's a start."
Zayn tries flexing his fingers as best as he can, staring at the dressing swallowing his hand, tears building in his eyes. "I don't think I could live with myself if Harry di- if something bad happens to him. The four of us have been palling around since primary, Harry paid my mom's medical bills when she was going through chemo. He doesn't deserve this."
"We're going to get him back. I promise you that," Liam squeezes at his friend's shoulder before making eye contact with Niall. He hopes the small nod is enough for him to know to go get started. The sooner they find him the better.
"C'mon," Louis whines pulling up a pair of black slacks over his skintight spandex clad legs, "it'll be more efficient plus I'll get us there before Des even shows to his funeral."
Niall rolls his eyes working on the buttons of his dress shirt. "For the last time running us into a crowded and most likely security outfitted event kinda makes the disguises we're wearing completely irrelevant."
"We really need to lie low, we don't need Nick or whoever is presiding over Harry to know that we know literally anything that hasn't already been made public," Zayn replies as Liam helps him dress considering it's still incredibly difficult to move his fingers.
It's been a week since their encounter with Harry and no one knows quite how to feel or proceed. They've all been doing their own kind of detective work. When they heard that Des' funeral was open to the public though, they knew they had to attend.
"We just need to take precautions. Plus, at least this way we're nearby in case something happens," Liam says as he smooths down the front of Zayn's shirt. He thinks the healing process for his hand is coming along quite nicely, but he's still too nervous to take the stitches out yet.
"I'm usually all for a kickass superhero showdown but I'm really hoping this event is, well uneventful." Louis sighs, looking over at the mirror hanging on the wall. "I look like I take my laptop to Starbucks to write incredibly angst ridden poetry and create unnecessary dialogues about politics."
"Perfect. You look nothing like yourself then," Niall says as he finishes putting contacts in that change his eyes to brown. "Can't believe he wants a public funeral like this."
Zayn smiles softly, barely enough to see the corner of his lip raise. "The Styles have always been very public people, Harry will probably request a parade when he goes."
Liam finishes getting changed and looks at the rest of them. "Mister Styles said he served the city of London. He was always looking for a way to give back. Maybe he expects that love to be reciprocated."
"Do you think," Zayn hesitates trying to choose his words carefully, "do you think Harry was aware when his father died?"
"Hopefully not," is all Louis can murmur as they make their way towards the secret entrance. He can't imagine knowing that you killed your father and having no control.
Niall lifts the lid on the door and crawls out onto the dirt and loose gravel, wiping at his suit. "Do you guys expect a big turnout?"
"A sizeable crowd probably. Des helped so many people with medicine and such, all of London felt related to him. Veterans, cancer patients, anyone who was sick has probably been given a Stylotech drug if it existed for their disease." Louis can't count the number of people who had sent Des and Harry thank you cards every year.
The four of them walk down the streets of London, passing by a wall plastered with their own wanted posters, not one person giving them a second look. Zayn sighs contently, "I almost forgot what walking down the street like a normal person felt like."
"Yeah, it feels sort of-"
“Lottie?" Louis completely cuts Liam off he spots what he is pretty sure is his sister. In fact, once they make it to the public ceremony, he can see all three of their families seated on the platform and who he can only assume is Niall's father in a wheelchair. "What are they all doing here?"
"Moral support? Harry's been hosting sleepovers for the two of us since we were old enough to spend the night at someone else's house." It makes sense to Zayn, their parents were all friendly with each other and considering the circumstances with Des' untimely murder and Harry's disappearance it all fits.
"But what about my dad? He's never even met Harry or Mister Styles. It just... Doesn't feel right." Niall slows as they come to a halt behind the crowd. "Who is throwing this shindig anyway?"
Louis shrugs looking around at the lavishly decorated funeral, flowers almost swallowing the party with vivid colours and a painting of Des with Harry as a child resting his head against his father's chest. "Whoever it is, money wasn't an issue."
"Maybe it was everyone at the labs collectively?" Liam whispers as a piano begins to play some music softly.
The music begins to crescendo, falling silent once more as a sort of introduction. Out from behind a velvet curtain comes Simon Cowell dressed in a crisp royal blue suit with a matching tie, sunglasses over his eyes, and an almost unnerving grin on his face. He heads to the podium and taps the microphone with his finger. "Check, check. Can everyone hear me?"
All of their mouths drop, Zayn staring in total disbelief. "No fucking way."
"He's a fucking murderer," Louis hisses under his breath. He clenches his fist, willing it not to vibrate in his rage.
"We are gathered here to mourn the loss of a great mind. Desmond Styles, innovator and father, was a great man and a great colleague." Simon begins to spin his tale of woe.
"Please tell me no one else is buying this," Zayn huffs under his breath. It takes everything in him to not hurl something at the man standing before them.
"Des and I started an empire together and very much wanted the same outcome. We still want the same outcome- progress in science that will benefit all mankind." Simon's voice is loud and clear over the speakers and the crowd around him murmur their agreements. "That is why, in light of recent tragedies to the Styles family, the Board of Directors has asked me to fill in until Harry can be found."
"No!" Louis involuntarily cries out, face blooming red with embarrassment. Everyone shifts their eyes to stare and Louis has to awkwardly laugh and wave his phone. "Sorry I, uh, just found out Princess Leia died. Carry on."
Simon blinks a few times, staring at the figure in the crowd. He looks familiar in the face, but he can't quite place him. "I can promise those who may be on the fence about this decision that my efforts to find Harry and bring him home will be my main concern. I am also doubling the efforts to find the four students who escaped from Stylotech and bring them to justice. Their families, gathered here behind me, are all in support of my plans."
"There's no way my dad would think I'm guilty." Niall refuses to believe it. Bobby wouldn't go along with any sort of plan that would throw Niall in prison.
Zayn nods. "And Tricia would want to hear from me before agreeing to anything."
"Seeing as these adults were the closest thing that Des has to family, I've asked them to speak on behalf of the Styles family. They will also make a plea to their children to come quietly back to Stylotech." Simon moves to the side, welcoming Karen and Geoff Payne to the front of the stage.
Karen is misty eyed, hands trembling as she grips the wooden stand in front of her, her voice carrying with the microphone. "My son Liam, our only son, is a good person. He volunteers at shelters, receives excellent marks, and religiously attends church. He's not a criminal, he's just lost. Liam if you're hearing this I know you're scared, terrified even, but running from people who only want to help you is only going to cause you more pain. Mr. Cowell promises that nothing will happen to you boys if you peacefully return, they will only help navigate these abilities you possess. Even in a mask I recognize my boy, I knew when I saw that fight on the news that you all were involved. Let them help you and come home. We miss you baby, I miss you. Dearly."
Liam frowns as he can feel the tears pool in the corners of his eyes. He misses his mum and he knows his dad is the more emotional of the two. He takes a half step forward before he can feel a tight grip on his wrist.
"Remember who we'd be going back to," Louis says quietly. The anger in his voice makes it shake and waver.
"If Cowell, a psychopath with an experimentation fetish, is in charge now what's keeping him from turning us into year six classes dissection projects?" Zayn whispers fiercely, no matter what any of them say they can't go back.
"Liam?" Geoff is now at the microphone, voice all over the place as the tears begin to spill. "Liam, please come home. I won't let them take you, son. I just want you back in my arms. I miss you. I need you back. Just please come home."
Zayn lightly catches Liam's wrist. "Whatever they say you can't listen to, if we reveal ourselves we're never going to see them again."
Liam fights against the hold. "But my dad never lies to me. We would never let them take me."
"We have to remember what they'll do."
Simon steps back up to the podium and shakes hands with Geoff and clapses Karen in the upper arm in a sympathetic gesture. "I'm sure Liam misses you dearly and will heed your plea."
The service continues as Louis' sister and Zayn's mother plead for them to come home as well. There's a small tribute for Harry between sobbing employees and the maid who found Des' body. Overall it's a touching small wake for the Style's duo.
Things are starting to wrap up as Simon steps back up to the microphone. "We appreciate everyone who has showed up and paid their respects to them. We have one final speaker and that is the dad of Niall Horan."
Niall almost swallows his tongue watching his dad wheel his way up the ramp and onto the stage, taking the offered microphone.
"Niall, I know you're out there somewhere listening, and in the eighteen years you've stayed with me you've never disobeyed me and I expect you to do the same. Everything this man is saying is a farce. All these men care about is strapping you to a table and dissecting you and your friends. They'll paint it as doing what's right for the greater good but as a father I couldn't live with myself if I let those bastards hurt my baby son. Don't turn yourselves in boys, evade capture, these people claiming to want the best for you are only concerned with money and greed! Don't come home!"
The entire crowd took a collective gasp as Bobby's words rung out. Security was already making their way towards the disabled man and trying to get him away from the amplification device.
"No! I won't let you have him! He's safer out there on his own!" Bobby is thrashing about as the black suited men restrain him.
Louis can't help but take a step forward to try and help. "This isn't right. He can't even properly fight back."
Niall is ready to sprint up those stairs but Zayn firmly grabs his forearm to restrain him. "He'll be alright, they won't do anything to him. You need to listen to what he's saying, exposing yourself now is no different than turning yourself in. Don't do it, Ni."
"But my dad is so weak..." Niall takes a deep breath as he watches them take his father off the stage and away from prying eyes.
Liam looks down, torn between justice and comfort for his friend. "They won't hurt him. They can't. After such a public display of disloyalty and trust, anything against your father would be investigated. Simon won't chance them finding anything on him or the company."
"Alright," Louis says turning away from the stage and towards the other three, "let's get out of here before anyone tries approaching us."
Simon, who had been disinterestedly watching Niall's father get wheeled away, has the microphone yet again. "Sorry about that, it's the medication talking. I can promise no harm will come to those poor boys. We're working tirelessly on their safe return while I temporarily am in charge of Stylotech."
They all nod in agreement and quickly make their way out of the crowd. It was a lot to process. How could the Board ever agree to something like this?
As they walk away and back towards the alley, they are unaware of eyes watching them from up above.
Nick watches with a smirk as Harry pants to catch his breath. His favourite thing to do is take Harry out of mind control mid-fight and watch the lanky teen trip over himself with the unfamiliar movements of his assassin mindset. "Come on, Harry. Surely you can stay on your feet better than that. I know most of our time together consisted with you being on your knees for me, but come on now."
"Fuck," Harry pauses to inhale, oxygen supply low, his hands braced palm flat against his thighs, "you. Fuck you."
"Trust me, I know you want to, but let's stay professional." Nick saunters over to his captive and rubs a cold hand along his back. "Do you need a break? Maybe some time to process the fact that you murdered your own father? Or how about the fact that you may have crippled your friend's hand for life? Do you need time to process that?"
Harry growls, getting on his feet and squaring his shoulders, hands balled into vein popping fists. "I'm gonna rip your fucking head off!"
Nick just laughs loudly at that. "I'd like to see you try. You can't even get close enough to hit me." He shrugs and leans against the wall. Harry was acting more and more like a caged animal and he found it amusing. "Maybe next time, I'll have you capture the blond one. Get him under my control as well. He'd be more of like sex slave type deal though. What do you think of that? Good plan?"
Harry legitimately screams in absolute frustration, charging at Nick, no one gets to talk about Niall like that.
"Oh, Harold," Nick sighs heavily and shouts the commands at Harry. He figures putting him back into a controlled state will calm him down more.
Harry's feet skid across the soft rubber training mat, fists still raised and held out in front of him, but this time he's waiting for instructions.
"Good," Nick says softly. He walks towards his captive, slowly circling the boy and looking him up and down at every angle. "You have so much pent up anger. You can see it in the stance. You need to relax."
Adapting quickly, Harry's stance becomes more loose and fluid, eyes trained in front of him rather than on Nick, he won't do a single thing without a proper command.
Chuckling, Nick comes back around and pats Harry's cheek. "Good boy. Now, let's beginning. Your hand to hand was extremely sloppy. We need to fix that. We're going to spar together."
That’s how it goes on for another twenty minutes. Nick training and pulling Harry out of his assassin headspace when he was getting too close to actually hitting the older male. He thinks it’s the funniest thing to jar Harry back into reality and he always finds himself nearly doubled over when Harry ends up injuring himself.
He doesn’t pay attention as closely as he should at one point though and Harry’s fist connects with his nose, a sickening crunch sounding through the room.
“Fuck!” Nick stumbles back, holding his nose and trying to ensure that he doesn’t get any of his own blood on his shirt. “How fucking dare you!”
Harry is ripped from his assassin headspace suddenly and stumbles over into the concrete wall. He takes a deep breath, hands braced on his knees to try and catch his breath. He winces as he looks down and sees blood on his knuckles. He’s ready to wipe it off when he watches it absorb into his skin. Nick’s blood!
“Lock him back up,” Nick’s voice is muffled as he leaves the room.
Two guards nod and grab Harry roughly around each bicep, dragging him back towards his room- more like a jail cell. It’s not exactly what Harry really would prefer, but he figures at least he has a bed.
“What would I have to do to get you guys to let me go?”
The one guard huffs. “That’s not bloody likely. First of all, Nick would see that we’re the next to be experimented on for sure. Second, you wouldn’t get far. He doesn’t even need to put you in the assassin mindspace to get you stay. Son of a bitch had Simon inject him with something and now he just gets his way with everyone.”
“It’s like he controls them without making it seem like he is. He’s fucking creepy,” the second guard agrees, but quickly shuts up when he sees the look the other gives him. “Is he not supposed to know that?”
“No, you fuck up,” the first guard growls. “We were under strict orders to not say anything to him- especially that. We’re not supposed to talk about Simon’s experiments to anyone.”
Harry frowns as he listens to the bickering. Control them? Injections? Could Nick have powers as well? If he does and Harry absorbed his blood… He clears his throat and tries his best to sound suave and sophisticated. He thinks of how his dad sounds- sounded- in board meetings and tries his best to emulate the confidence he can practically see in his mind. “You know, I don’t particularly like this room. I would much prefer to be outside for a bit. Can’t one of you escort me there?”
The guards freeze and look a bit startled for a moment before shrugging. “Can’t see what it would hurt. He did just get the shit kicked out of him for a long while. Fresh air might do him some good.”
They gently let Harry go and direct him to a side door.
“Thanks! I’ll only be a minute. Just wait here,” Harry says happily as he pushes up the large metal door. The wind hits his face sharply and he shivers slightly as he realises just how cold it is outside. He steels himself against the wind though, determined to get the hell out of there before Nick catches on to him.
He lets the door shut softly behind him before taking off down the side alley.
“So what do we do now? We can’t just go to the police. Simon Cowell has made us public enemy number one. Ironic considering we’re the ones saving the public every time Harry is brainwashed into causing trouble.” Louis groans as he flops onto the couch in what they’ve come to refer as their common room.
Niall bites nervously at his nails. “Well, short of kidnapping Harry from the kidnappers, there isn’t much we can do. We’ve been pushed underground and the only man who could help us is dead thanks to his own son.”
There’s a knocking on the door suddenly.
The four of them look at each other skeptically It obviously isn’t one of them, but who else knows about this place? Maybe a handful of Stylotech employees and Harry.
They all sort of scatter about the room, hiding behind whatever furniture they can find. Louis pokes his head out from around the edge of the couch as the door swings open.
“G-guys? Are you here?” Harry quickly shuts the large vault-like door behind him and locks it. “I just want to talk.”
Louis scoffs loudly. “Is that what you said to your father right before you killed him?”
Harry’s inhales sharply at the memory. “It… I wasn’t myself. Nick, he’s got powers too. He controls people with his mind. The people under is control think it’s all voluntary though. He… He went a step further with me. He actually puts me into a sort of trance. It’s hard to explain, but you have to believe me. I would never have killed my father if I had known what I was doing.”
Liam and Niall make eye contact with each other, a silent conversation passing between them. Niall nods softly before standing up from his hiding place. “You understand why we are taking no chances, yeah?”
“Niall,” Harry’s voice is thick with emotion as he runs forward and throws his arms around the blond’s neck. “He kept threatening you- all of you- if I didn’t comply. It was horrible. I knew that he had no clue where you all were though. I knew you’d be safe. That’s when he started torturing me. First it was the shock collar and then the water torture. He made me so vulnerable. Fuck, it was like Bucky from the Captain America movies.”
Zayn slowly creeps out from his hiding spot as well. He motions the others to do the same and soon enough they five of them are all hugging each other tightly in a small huddle.
“And it’s not like they can put out missing person reports since I’m technically already missing. At this point, Nick is going to have to go looking himself.” Harry shrugs. Cowell Labs had been smart about Harry’s kidnapping, but they never thought Harry would actually manage to escape and that had been their only downfall.
Liam frowns as he listens to the whole story . “He made you kill your own dad and then pulled you out of the killer headspace so you could watch him die? Harry, that’s…”
“Brutal,” Louis says grimly as he tries to keep himself from seething in rage. The angrier he got, the more he vibrated and right now that was the last thing they needed. “We should have stayed. We could have protected you. Your dad might still be alive if we hadn’t been so selfish.”
Harry smiles sadly. “Actually, I have a feeling things would be worse. Nick is looking for you all. He wants to collect you and turn you into these enforcers. It’s better that you ran.”
Zayn nods. “Harry’s right. Plus, now we know what we’re up against and taking him down will be easy. I think Harry needs to go to the police and close the missing persons case. Go public with everything- the alien substance, the powers, clear our names, and damn Cowell Labs. That way the four of us can get back above ground and have a fighting chance against Nick. We also need to find a way to block Nick’s voice from Harry’s hearing.”
Niall grins. “I can work on that. There’s enough high tech equipment in here that I can probably tamper with the frequency on the extra comlink we have. I’ll need a recording of Nick’s voice and a frequency analyser.”
“Perfect. Liam and I will accompany Harry to the police station just in case we run into trouble. We will let ourselves be placed into custody until Harry explains everything.” Louis rubs his hands together gleefully. “Taking Nick Grimshaw down has been my dream and aspiration ever since he fucked you over.”
Harry swallows nervously as they exit onto the street. He’s half-expecting a fight, but when they’re met with normally everyday London foot traffic, he’s more than relieved. He’s got a beanie pulled over his signature hair and aviator on to obstruct his eyes from view, but he still feels like everyone knows it’s him. Liam and Louis are wearing little is way of disguises. Simple tracksuits and backwards snapbacks, but nothing that draws attention to themselves. They look like a typical group of London lads.
“The station is just up around the corner. I haven’t seen anything out of the ordinary,” Liam says as they pause at a crosswalk and wait for the walk sign.
Louis huffs, a bit put out. “Should have let me run us there. Probably safer.”
Harry shakes his head. “We don’t want any attention.”
They cross quickly once the light changes in favour and soon enough they’re standing at the reception desk inside the room. Quickly pulling his beanie and sunglasses off, Harry clears his throat to catch the policewoman’s attention.
She looks up, ready to teach the lad some manners, when she drops her pen and jumps quickly from her chair at who she sees before her. “Bloody hell. You’re back.”
“Um, hi?” Harry’s sheepish grin is all he can muster besides a small finger wave.
“Hi, er, hello? I mean, let me grab the inspector.” She hurries around the desk, grabbing his wrist as she goes to run towards the processing room. “Better yet, you should just come with me.”
Harry looks over his shoulder at his friends who are trying their hardest not to laugh as they follow the two quite closely.
Every eye turns to see Harry Styles being dragged through the processing room and straight to the inspector’s office door. It’s quiet for only a moment before the room bursts into a buzz. Cork boards are quickly cleared, papers are shuffled around, phone lines are quickly being used. It seems as if the whole department was on the task of bringing Harry home. Then again, with his popularity status across the country, they probably were.
A burly brunet steps out of the now open door and smiles brightly at Harry. “Well, Harry Styles. Aren’t you a sight for sore eyes? Come in, come in.”
Harry, still in a bit of shock at how everyone seemed to be in on finding him, follows him in and takes a seat. He realises that Liam and Louis are also in the room and flank him on either side. “Inspector…?”
“Inspector Corden,” Harry says softly, “I do believe we need to have a chat about my disappearances and the men responsible.”
Corden nods, quickly pulling out a thick file and placing it on his desk. “Yes we do. Now don’t worry, we’ve already been researching the perps. Seems like your four friends are quite the con artists. We’ve done intensive look into their backgrounds and even questioned their families. Shouldn’t say I’m surprised by some of them. We think that Horan and Tomlinson are the ringleaders though. They have the most to gain from this. We believe-”
“Inspector,” Harry says quite loudly and firmly.
Corden looks up quite startled by the authoritative tone. “Please, call me James.”
Harry takes a deep breath trying to calm himself. “James, they are not the kidnappers. They were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. It’s… It’s a bit of a long story.”
“I’ve got nothing but time.”
So Harry tells him everything. He started with Simon Cowell and the human experiments. He starts with his father’s business dealings with the military and the company’s reputation. He brings up his sordid past with Nicholas Grimshaw and his connection to Cowell Labs. He tells the inspector about the latest experiments with the alien slime. The explosion, the powers, the abuse- all of it. Everything comes tumbling out. Once he starts, it’s as if he just can’t seem to stop.
When he does finish, the room is plunged into silence.
“Nick Grimshaw and Simon Cowell are responsible for your kidnapping and the murder of your father?” James sounds doubtful, but it does make sense. “How did these boys get involved?”
Harry shrugs. “Nick knew that my inner circle was small. If he took out my only source of protection and friendship, I would be an easy target.”
James nods, rubbing his chin. “If that’s the case, he probably doesn’t want the world to know you’re back. I’m thinking a press conference in about ten minutes. I can have all the major networks here as soon as possible.”
Looking over to his friends, Harry tries to see what they think. I public press conference hadn’t been in the plans, but it would put Harry in the public eye and make him harder to kidnap again. “I think that would be fine. Afterwards, maybe an escort to Stylotech can be arranged?”
“I think that can definitely be arranged.”
Nick laughs happily as he takes the glass of champagne Simon offered to him before taking a seat on one of the plush couches in the lavish office. “Say what you want about Des Styles, but he certainly did have taste.”
“This is just his private office. I guarantee he spent many nights here after working down in the lab. Had to be nice and comfortable as it double as a bedroom. This is where he took investors and anyone who wasn’t actually interested in the science side of the business and only saw it as a way to get rich.” Simon poured himself a glass of whiskey and took his seat behind Des’ desk. “This is where I belonged. He should have known I would come after him after he ruined my reputation as a scientist.”
He turned the television on and rolled his eyes as the science channel begins to play. Flipping through the channels, he stops on the news when he sees a press conference with the London Inspectors department. He frowns and turns the volume up so he can hear it clearly.
“... and we are happy to announce that we have found Harry Styles and closed his missing persons case. Mister Styles was happy to sit down with us and talk about his abusers and tell us the names of the perpetrators. Due to his helpfulness to supply answers, we are able to clear Niall Horan, Zayn Malik, Liam Payne, and Louis Tomlinson of all involvement and suspicion in this heinous crime. We are now looking for Simon Cowell and Nicholas Grimshaw of Cowell Labs for the kidnapping and torture of Mister Styles and the murder of Mister Desmond Styles. If the general public encounters them, we encourage you to immediately contact our office and do not engage them as they are considered highly dangerous. We thank you for your time and we will be answering your questions a bit later. Mister Styles is not quite ready to appear in public again.”
The reporters jump into a frenzy, shouting questions at the retreating form of Inspector Corden.
Nick’s eyes are wide and rage is reflected in them as he looks to his uncle. “There’s no way they found him. We was held in a secure location on the outskirts of London. There is no way. They have to be bluffing.”
Simon slams his glass against the desk and curses when it shatters and covers his hand in the dark liquid he had yet to drink. “How would they know then? God damnit, Nicholas! I told you to kill him before he became a liability and now look! Your need to play with your victims before killing them has just gotten us caught!”
There a loud banging on the door. “Security! Open up!”
“We’ve got to get out of here,” Nick hissed as he tries to think of something to do. He scoffs at himself when it hits him. He clears his throat and straightens his jacket. “Come in.”
The security guards throw open the doors, guns trained on the two men.
“Gentlemen,” Nick’s voice is smooth and deeper than normal. “You’re going to escort us to our car. If anyone tries to intercept us, you’re going to shoot them.”
The security guards look at each other for a moment before nodding. “Let’s get you to your car, sirs.”
By the time the police arrive, Grimshaw and Cowell have escaped. Forty-three employees are injured and eighteen are dead.
Harry is welcomed back into the Stylotech building with cheers and celebration. He’s smiling softly, shyly, and trying to make his way towards the elevators to get to his office. He’s got his four friends behind him and for once he wishes he had Louis’ super speed all the time.
“Mister Styles,” a small timid voice calls from close by. He turns to see his dad’s assistant smiling bashfully over at him. “Um, your new office is ready. We took the liberty of moving everything in your office already so you should be all set up and ready to go.”
He has almost forgotten that he was now the CEO of the multibillion pound company. “Right… I guess you can lead the way then. And can you please have Breslin brought to my office as soon as possible? We have a few matters to discuss.”
She nods quickly and swipes her badge to access the topmost floor of the office building.
Soon enough, the five boys are sitting in Harry’s new office.
“Sweet digs,” Louis says as he looks out the window and across the Thames. “Amazing view as well. Hell, probably better than the Queen’s.”
Harry slumps onto the white couch, head in his hands. “Don’t get used to it. I won’t be CEO for long once the police find out that it was me who murdered my father.”
“But it doesn’t count. You did have proper control of your mind. We are going to take Nick down and then build this company up so high, your father would be jealous,” Niall says adamantly. He isn’t about to let Harry blame himself over something he couldn’t control.
A knock on the door interrupts them all. “Now go tell Breslin we need supersuits and then let’s go kick some ass.”
Liam stifles a laugh as Harry seems to become empowered by Niall’s words. He hangs back at the window with Louis, bumping their hips together softly to get his attention as the three scientist try and figure out what to do next. “So… Are we-”
“Yeah. Never really was mad at you. Sort of knew it was all because you were a bit nervous and scared. Honestly,” Louis looks over at his best friend and smiles sheepishly, “I’m scared too. I mean it was all fun and games, but now we’ve got ourselves a proper villain.”
Liam looks down to the carpet, biting at his lip. “True, but you’ve read the comics. The heroes always win. Plus, Niall and I are pretty much immortal. Zayn can fight from far away so he should be relatively safe. We’ll be sure to have Harry absorb some of Niall’s blood so he’ll be safe and you? You’re too fast to even get hit.”
“Obviously you’ve never read the comics, Payno. Barry Allen dies saving the world.”
“So does Captain America, but life doesn’t imitate art. It’s the other way around.” Liam smiles brightly. “Besides, imagine the comic book characters that will be made after us. We’ll be action figures in no time.”
Louis can’t help but laugh at that.
“So that settles it,” Niall’s voice breaks through their bubble. “We’ll upgrade the suits and go after Nick.”
Harry nods. “Breslin, assemble a team- as many people as you need. I want these upgrades done as soon as possible. We’re going to take the fight to Nick.”
Zayn looks at his four friends. He thinks he should start praying for safety now.
Niall pulls back from Harry’s lips needing to catch his breath. “We should be working.”
Harry chuckles and pushes back in his office chair. Niall obviously follows as he straddled across his lap. He spins them around a few times before smiling up at the blond. “True, but I’m sure Breslin has everything under control. Besides, we missed too much time apart. And… Well, I tried to kill you. I think that deserves a few hours of alone time together. I still have to apologise you getting a throwing star stuck in your jugular.”
“My thigh actually, and it’s fine. It wasn’t really you. At least I hope it wasn’t. We did have that fight. Thought maybe you were still mad about that.” Niall teases as he leans in to press kisses to Harry’s neck.”
“By the way,” Harry says breathily, “I’m not hiring you here at Stylotech.”
Freezing at those words, Niall pulls back once more and frowns down at Harry. “Excuse me?”
Harry shrugs. “Don’t think it’s really fair. I mean, you getting the job after spending so much alone time with the boss? People will talk.” He tries to hold in his laughter. “You’d make a much better shareholder or business partner. Maybe help revamp the image. Horan-Stylotech. It sounds pretty wicked to me.”
“Horan-Stylo… Harry, are you…?”
“Offering you a partnership in this company? Absolutely. I want to open a whole new department dedicated to human research. Genetic Theory is great, but I want to take it a step farther. And who better to pitch, oversee, and run the expansion than you? No one because you’ve now been on the other side of the microscope,” Harry says like it’s no big deal. “You’d get a fancy office just like this one. Cowell’s old office is across the hall. I’m sure we can spruce it up and make it more suitable to your liking.”
Niall blinks a few times, before breaking into a smile. “I’d love that. God, I would. I could move my dad closer to me and I could afford a nurse to look after him and- What?”
Harry gives the boy a nervous grin. “So I know you told me not, but I sort of hired a personal nurse for your father after we were put in quarantine. You were just so worried about him and I couldn’t let anything happen to him. You would have blamed yourself for not being there.”
“You hired a nurse for him?” Niall smiles softly, loving this side of Harry. He tries to contain the happiness he feels for the man below him. “You’re insufferable.”
There’s a knock on Harry’s office door that cuts their conversation short. Harry sighs as Niall climbs from his lap, but straightens his shirt out before calling for the visitor to enter.
Breslin steps through the door, a giant smile on his face. “So we’ve just finished with the suits. We’ve managed to add more protection. A light layer of Kevlar to protect from bullets and such around the vital areas of the body. We upgraded the masks as well. They were a bit crude, but considering what you boys had, I’m impressed. We replaced the comlinks you guys were using with official Stylotech ones. All conversations will now be recorded and stored in case they’re needed. We’ve also equipped them with body cameras. It’ll be a great way to see everything back in case something goes wrong. We’ve made them heat and cold resistant and other small modifications. These are top of the line and ready to go.”
“Perfect,” Harry stands quickly. “Breslin, position your team in headquarters control room. I want at least five workers for each of us- one must be a medical physician. I want you monitoring everything as it happens.”
Niall watches as the two quickly jump into action. He doesn’t really comprehend everything they’re talking about- emergency protocol, security bunkers, necessary employees only- but he knows that shit just got real. It’s not until Harry calls his name that he even realises he zoned out. “What?”
Harry smirks. “It’s time to kick some ass.”
Breslin quickly shoves his headset over his ears and boots up the old computer protocol for emergency sessions. He looks out over the room to see around thirty scientists and doctors all shouting at one another and pulling up their data files. It’s a it chaotic and he knows that he needs to get everyone calm. “Oi!”
Every eye in the room turns to him.
“We’ve got a lot to get done and not a lot of time to do it. Each team has four scientists, a doctor, and a nurse. You’ve already been assigned to one of the fighters. I want you all set up and be ready for a teams check in five. Be sure you are near your fellow team members.” He lets them go about their way, grabbing the security report from Harry’s assistant. “You, Miss Cox, should not be here. Go home. There is no guarantee Stylotech is safe.”
The lady grins. “True enough, but you’ll excuse me if I stay. I want to make sure my son stays safe. After all, he already lost his father.”
Breslin looks up at her, shocked. “You’re the one-”
“Desmond didn’t want me in the labs once I was pregnant with Harry. I also didn’t want to have a kid and leave the company. We worked something out. Now, shouldn’t you be…” She waves her hand in the general direction of the room.
“Right.” He shakes his head to clear it and reads over the report. Most of the labs had been evacuated and all research had been backed up to the main server. Some employees decided to stay, but not enough for mass casualties if something happened. “It’s go time. Team checks?”
“Doctor Campbell on the comlink for Tomlinson Team. I’ve got Jungwirth, Lucas, Wright, and myself watching the data for any sort of malfunctions on the suit. Doctor Aoki and nurse Rexha are watching vitals.”
“Horan Team, standing by. Bird, Curran, Morgan, and myself on suit duty. Doctor Whitmore and nurse Morris are in place.”
“Samuels here for Payne Team. Zaslavski, Sheeran, Bunetta, and me are going to get him through this. Doctor Ryan and nurse Scott aren’t going to have much to do really.”
“Malik Team checking in. Edwards, Hadid, Khan, and myself are ready to go. Doctor and nurse Riach are here as well.”
“Styles Team is go. Swift, Leopold, Jenner, and I are awaiting orders. Doctor Myers and nurse Winston are standing by.”
Breslin looks over the roster of scientists and medical professionals cleared to work in the control room and makes sure they’re all on the list. Once everyone checks out, he takes a deep breath. “Okay. let’s give these boys all we got.”
“Nick Grimshaw, we have the place surrounded. Come out with your hands up.”
Louis shifts nervously from foot to foot. Nick had been spotted having lunch at a cafe down the street from Stylotech and now, it was time to confront him. The whole street had been blocked off and every entrance and exit was covered. All that was left was for Nick to come out of the shop. “You get the feeling like we forgot something?”
A woman’s scream pierces the air as the cafe doors are blown from their hinges. Nick strides out confidently, a female worker in front of him. “Go ahead. Shoot me. Hope you don’t miss though.”
“Let her go!”
“Now see, where’s the fun in that?” Nick laughs as other figures stumble out of the shop. They aren’t running for cover though. They’re congregating around Nick, making a human shield. There was no way to get a clean shot.
Harry furrows his brow angrily and jumps onto the hood of a cop car. “Come on, Nick. You’re after one thing. Let’s finish this. Superhuman against superhuman.”
Liam hums softly. “Guess that’s our cue.” He moves forward, feeling the other follow him to make a united front against Grimshaw.
The taller male smiles lazily when he sees all five of them standing there. “Superhuman you say? Well, if you insist.” Suddenly, another man is standing beside Nick. “Lieutenant Wooton here is from the crash site of the meteor. Thanks to that alien substance, he can turn invisible. Have fun with that.”
With a flick of his wrist, Nick has the Lieutenant jump into action. Throwing punches towards Liam almost immediately.
“Obviously, you aren’t the only one who can lead a team.” Three others are at Nick’s side soon enough, all twitching like they’re waiting to be set free. “Compliments of Cowell Labs. To be honest, I don’t know what these three do. Should be fun though. Go ahead.”
With a sickening grin, one of the experiments blinks out of existence only to appear at Louis side. “Ain’t it great? You might be speedy, but I can easily follow you. Teleportation is ace, mate.” He throws a massive punch, sending Louis reeling.
The other two engage as well, using their new found powers and weapons to try and get a leg up on Zayn and Niall. The street descends into chaos as the police start to open fire, hoping to hit the new terrors that have been unleashed.
The street quickly turns into a war zone, Harry only has eyes for Nick.
“You and me, Grimshaw.”
“Niall, watch your back!”
“You’ve got a gun trained on you, Zayn!”
“Jesus, Louis, stop trying to tell him jokes.” Danielle groans as she tries to get Louis to grasp the seriousness on the situation. She flinches as a knife comes too close to his side for her liking. “Watch your fucking sides!”
The control room is in chaos as the teams relay info to their respective superhuman. They activate certain functions of the suit remotely when need be and generally just try and keep their person alive.
Wooton disappears from sight, causing Liam to hold the giant boulder above his head.
“Where’d he go?” Liam asks his team. There’s no need to wait though as he feels something try and cut through his skin. He turns and sees Wooton there, staring at his army issued knife in disbelief. “Someone wasn’t told I have impenetrable skin.”
He goes to drop the boulder on the soldier, but there’s a fast popping noise and a shout of pain as Wooton scrambles back.
“Way to go, Liam!” Louis gives him a quick thumbs up as he realises the teleporter had pushed the soldier out of the way at the last minute. “One down, four to go.”
The cry in his headset isn’t quick enough for him to react and he gasps in shock at the feel of something jagged piercing his body. He looks down to see a street sign impaled deep into his side. His eyes widen as he can already feel something wet soaking the suit around his wound. “Fuck!”
The pain intensifies as the metal is ripped from his body, slicing him worse as it hits new nerves on its hasty exit.
“He got a severe laceration to the abdominal. You need pressure immediately to try and contain the bleeding. Don’t move him at all. Any movement could cause further damage.” Doctor Aoki is at the Payne Team monitors looking over the giant gash in Louis’ side.
Nurse Rexha is frowning at the picture. “Doctor, I think that section is intestine. If it’s not fixed immediately then-”
“I don’t think there’s much we can do,” she whispers quietly. “Just make him comfortable.”
Doctor Aoki licks his lips nervously. “Liam? Can you hear me?”
Liam holds his friend in his arms, one hand pressed tightly against his side in hopes to keep everything inside. He’s got the doctor in his ear, telling him there’s nothing they can do. The intestines are hit and without immediately attention Louis isn’t going to make it. Liam wants to yell at the doctor, tell him to get out of his bunker and come fulfill his hippocratic oath. He looks around at the destruction and tries his hardest not to cry.
“Liam?” Louis’ voice sounds a bit higher than normal and he’s paler than Liam has ever seen him. “Liam, you look so tense.”
“Of course I’m bloody fucking tense. You’re fucking off without me.” He tries to keep his voice teasing. He doesn’t want to cause more pain- to himself or Louis.
Louis just smiles a bit. “Yeah, but what a way to fuck off. Reckon there will be comic books of me one day? That’d be cool. Flashpoint and General Payne taking out London’s toughest villains? I’d read it. We could do crossovers and have Dark Matter and Angel in there too sometimes.”
Liam chokes on his tears and tries his best to keep them at bay as he laughs. “You’re fucking dying and all you care about is the fucking comic books.”
“Of course, mate.”
“His pulse is weakening. He’s nearly gone.”
Liam shuts his eyes as the voice of the doctor fills his ears. “I’m going to miss you, mate.”
Louis just blinks slowly up at him. “Tell my family I love them and… And make sure Eleanor is taken care of, yeah?”
Zayn places another shield around himself and Niall as the mutants coming after them attack once more. “Jesus. There’s got to be a way out of this mess.”
“We’ve got to take down Nick. Then their control falls.” Niall says like it’s obvious. He’s cowering behind Zayn, too scared to actually try and help. He knows he can manipulate his blood flow now that he’s had months of practice, but he’s never tried it on others.
The attacks stop and Zayn quickly realises that the mutants have been hit by a flying cop car. He spots Liam shaking and screaming a few yards from them and lowers his shield quickly. He encases the nearest lamp post in dark energy and rips it from the ground. “Liam, catch!”
Looking over just in time, Liam does in fact catch the lamp post and wields it like a baseball bat. He smirks as he sees the two mutants charging toward the three of them once more. He swings the pole forward with all his might, crashing into the bodies and sending them flying backward into a building front. They fall to the ground with a lifeless thump.
“Where’s Wooton? He’s going to be the hardest to catch.” Niall is on alert. He and Liam might be able to heal, but Zayn and Louis can’t.
“He’s… Been taken care of.” Liam won’t tell them how he let his anger get the best of him. He hadn’t killed the army man, but he was certain he wasn’t getting up just yet either.
Harry ducks as Nick’s fist comes towards his face. He’s sweaty and hot and gross and he can hear his own heartbeat in his ears, but he does his best to give as good as he gets. He won’t let Nick hurt anyone else because of him or his father. “Nick, just stop. It doesn’t have to be like this.”
Nick scoffs as he steps back to get a better look at the curly haired boy. “Like what? Like being a disgrace to the science community? Please. Your father made my uncle a hero. We’ve made so many advancements in the name of science since your father banished us. We have deals with over fifty countries to make super soldiers. We are gods because of our research.”
“It’s never been about the science for you. It’s always been about the money.” Harry looks at his old fling with disgust. He can’t believe he ever thought the arrogant attitude was attractive. “You’ve killed innocent men and nearly ruined the lives of four university students just to get back at my father and me. You are the scum of the Earth.”
“Tell me something I don’t consider a compliment.” Nick lunges at him again, knocking the boy off balance and sending them both to the ground.
They struggle for the upper hand. Punches and kicks and blows land on each other and grunts fill the destroyed coffee shop that their fight is taking place in. Harry is just grateful that Nick had been too focused on killing him to keep control of the citizens to make a human shield. The civilian casualties should be kept to a minimum and that is enough to make Harry count this day as a victory.
Nick manages to get the upperhand quickly though in their hand to hand and Harry soon finds himself being pinned to the floor with Nick’s hand around his throat. “Time to meet your dad in the afterlife.” He snickers as he tightens his grip around the younger boy’s windpipe.
Clawing at Nick’s wrist, Harry tries his hardest to throw the other man off of him. He kicks out with his legs, hoping to hit something of use.
Nick’s hand abruptly lets go of his throat and rolls off of him. The panicked looked on the older man’s face is priceless and Harry knows without a doubt that they’ve managed to catch him unaware. He scrambles to his knees, coughing and taking huge lungfuls of air, and sees his friends in the blown entrance of the shop. “Niall!”
The blond looks murderous, arm outstretched towards the two previously fighting figures. He slowly raises his outstretched arm and a howl of pain comes from behind Harry.
Nick looks as shocked as Harry does at the sudden turn of events. Nick is fighting against his own body as he shakily gets to his feet. “What- what’s happening?”
“You might control someone’s mind, but Niall can control your blood flow.” Zayn smirks at the terrified look on Nick’s face. “So, you might want to beg for forgiveness before he blocks off the flow to your heart.”
“Niall…” Harry looks at the blond in awe. He’s never seen Niall this angry before and while it terrifies him to no end, he’s also never seen the boy more confident.
“He killed Louis. He caused all this destruction. I haven’t seen my sick father in months because of him. I can’t think of one reason why I should let him live. With his ability to control people, he can’t be trusted in lock up. I can’t think of a good reason to let him live.” The voice coming from the blond is murderous and deep.
Harry can feel a shiver run down his spine at the tone. He shakes his head though. “If you kill him, you become no better than him. You can’t do this.”
Niall looks at Harry, tears streaming down his cheeks. “You’re wrong. I can do this.” With a glare at Nick, Niall quickly closes his hand into a fist.
Nick’s eyes widen as he can feel his heart constrict. The organ beats quickly in panic as a sharp pain radiates from that part of his chest. He clutches at his own skin, trying desperately to tear it off in an attempt to try and get any blood to flow. His lungs feel as if they’re exploding from the lack of oxygen as he suddenly finds himself unable to take a breath.
Liam winces as he can see the man’s face drain of colour and his eyes become bloodshot. It’s disturbing to watch, but he knows Niall’s pain. He can practically see the life drain from Nick’s body. “Niall…”
Letting go of his control, Niall lets Nick body drop to the floor like a marionette without strings. He takes a deep breath, blinking back tears. “I just… I killed him. I’m sorry. I was just… So angry.”
Zayn rushes forward to check on the villain, pressing two fingers to his neck. “Don’t worry. He’s not dead. He’s got a very weak pulse, but I think he’s going to make it.”
Harry is quick to wrap himself around Niall and hold the blond tightly. “Come on. Let’s turn him over to the authorities and end this.”
“And that is why Stylotech is expanding.” Harry says with a smile. He’s standing behind a podium in front of the Stylotech building and delivering his very first press conference as CEO of his father’s company. “This campus behind me will continue to do Genetic Theory research and continue my father’s dream of scientific advancement to help all humankind. The building behind me is being dedicated as the Desmond Styles Institute of Genetic Theory.”
Flashing cameras and television reporters are trying to capture this historic moment.
Harry ducks his head a bit as he realises he’s ready to tell the world about the next big innovation from his company. “What good is Genetic Theory though if there is no impact from what we find? Stylotech is ready to commit to the next step and that is why, from this moment on, the company will now be known as Horan-Stylotech. Here to explain what this step forward entails is my new business partner, Niall Horan.”
Niall smiles timidly as he steps forward and shakes Harry’s hand for the cameras. “Thank you,” he whispers to his boyfriend.
“You deserve this and so much more,” Harry whispers back and flashes him the brightest smile he can manage.
Trying not to blush, Niall turns towards the crowd outside the building and begins his prepared speech. “Good morning. My name is Niall Horan and I work here for Horan-Stylotech. I began at this company less than a year ago, but my time with Mister Styles and Harry changed my life in many ways. One conversation I had with Mister Styles before his death was the need for Genetic Theory testing. I am happy to announce that Horan-Stylotech will now be expanding into this field. Every breakthrough made here at the Desmond Styles Institute of Genetic Theory will then be subsequently tested at the Louis Tomlinson Institute of Genetic Testing. We have already purchased and renovated a building here in London to house this expansion. Horan-Stylotech will now be involved from inception to medicine. We want to create a better future for everyone and that starts here with providing access to the public for medical treatment at an affordable rate. The first floor of the Louis Tomlinson Institute of Genetic Testing will house a clinic staffed with the best doctors and nurses. Our commitment to you, London, is to finally be transparent and open about how what we do impacts your life everyday. Thank you.”
He nods a bit to the reporters and steps back as questions begin to be shouted at them from every which way.
Harry declines to comment any further and leads his business partner and boyfriend back inside the building. “Not bad for your first press conference.”
“Thanks. I had a great coach.” Niall smiles and stretches up to press his lips to Harry’s.
“Well, I guess everything is finally settled.” Zayn flops onto couch in the living room of Harry’s home. He tries not to think about how the last time they were here there was a fifth presence with them. “Nick is locked up and Simon has been arrested. Your dad and Louis are being memorialised at your company… Seems like everything is wrapped up with a pretty little bow on top.”
Liam hums as he takes a sip of his beer. “Can’t believe he’s been gone for nine months though. I swear it was only yesterday I was yelling at him to put a knee brace on before getting back on the pitch.”
“How’s Eleanor doing?” Niall asks as he sits next to Harry. It had been so long since they had had a peaceful night with the boys. Every since taking over (Horan-)Stylotech, the two have been constantly working. He misses the quiet movies nights with the lads.
“She’s okay. I think she’s seeing someone else or trying to.” Liam shrugs and picks at the label of his bottle. “She still thinks it’s too soon, but I keep telling her to go for it. She went on one date about a month ago and ended up at my apartment crying her eyes out because he reminded her too much of Louis.”
Zayn looks at the beige carpeting. “It’s hard. God, he was our best friend and we feel like shit. Imagine being in love with the daft idiot. Can’t be easy for her at all.”
A silence falls over the remaining four and it’s a little awkward to say the least.
Harry clears his throat. “Liam, if you’re still looking for a job, the clinic is looking for a physical therapist. I know you did more sports medicine, but I’m sure we can get someone qualified to help out and teach you. I have a few applicants, but I thought I should offer you the job before even looking at their qualifications.”
Liam smiles brightly. “That’d be great. Plus, I like it down here in London. Need to stay with my boys.”
“Harry and I will always be available. It’s Zayn you have to worry about.” Niall teases. “This new internship at 10 Downing Street? We’ll never see him! We’ll call him up for a lads nights and he won’t be able to make it because he’s in Berlin trying to broker a deal between China and Russia!”
“It won’t be anything like that,” Zayn says with a bashful smile. He knows that he will accompany the Prime Minister on her trips and be able to sit in on all of the diplomacy meetings, but he’d never be given the option to actually have input. “Although, having Harry as one of my references definitely impressed. They’ve asked if in addition to interning if I would be interested on working on the humanitarian relief council. Obviously, I said yes. It’ll look great on my political resume when I finally do make a run for Prime Minister.”
“And when you do,” Harry says gleefully, “you’ll have the full backing of Horan-Stylotech. First things first though, do well at your internships and we’ll make sure you get yourself into the House of Commons.”
Niall smiles and takes in the moment.
Horan-Stylotech has finally done it!
After decades of searching and many, many false claims of perfecting a cure for a plethora of autoimmune diseases. The scientific company has apparently been working on this for over a year now and, after extreme testing to ensure it is safe for public consumption, is ready to unveil its latest achievement.
The project has been close to both of their hearts after watching Niall Horan’s father pass away after a long tough fight with Guillain-Barré syndrome. Harry Styles knew that he had to help out a growing portion of the population after watching his partner go through such a difficult time. “Niall doesn’t really like to talk about it, but I know how much it hurt him to watch his father slowly become unable to do things for himself. Eventually, Bobby was moved into our house and we were with him for his final days. It sparked something in Niall and me and we both didn’t want anyone else to go through that surge of helpless feeling and pain.”
The company put out a statement this morning stating that they are dedicated to continuing their research and hopefully be able to help even more families soon by providing the cure for other devastating ailments. Number one on Horan’s list? Cancer.