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“And more details to come on the Bachelor Bake-Off, and I’m begging you, all you handsome, single men out there who can cook, please, please sign up, and I’m not just saying this out of my own desperation, but doing things for charity is nice, innit? More on that later, though – first we’re headed over to Tina with the news,” Nick says into the microphone, slipping his headphone off one ear. “How’s it going, dear Tina?”

“Excellent,” she says with a smile as she rolls her chair up to the mic. “Could’ve done without the three Rihanna songs in a row, but apparently you’re going through something.”

Nick gasps, holding a hand to his mouth in mock surprise. “I’m offended! Clearly your ears aren’t working. If you think we should play more Rihanna just to spite Tina, tweet me and tell me which songs to play! Or tweet your hate directly to Tina, I don’t mind which. We’ll be back to the exciting stuff once she’s done being boring.”

He pulls off his headphones and clicks his mic off before sliding away from the table, sticking his tongue out at Tina. She flips him off without missing a beat, still reading the news off her prepared note cards, and Nick laughs out loud.

Fiona comes into the doorway, leaning against the frame. “Any luck with getting another contestant for the bake-off?” she asks, and Nick shakes his head sullenly.

The station has organized a Bachelor Bake-Off, where ten bachelors whip up their best desserts and auction off both their dish and a date for charity. It’s a great idea that Nick immediately jumped on board with hosting, but the problem is finding enough people to do it. He needs one last person, and though he’s been advertising for the past few weeks, only nine people have signed up. It’s not like they live in a super small town, but Nick supposes it’s small enough that this was bound to happen. He has hope another man will sign up, but the event’s in only three weeks, and his optimism is waning.

“’Fraid not,” he tells her with a shrug. “Can’t quite magically make eligible bachelors who can cook waltz into the studio on command or I would’ve stopped being single a long time ago.”

She waggles her eyebrows at him in a way he doesn’t like. “Who knows – maybe they’ll come a-waltzing.”

Nick rolls his eyes and playfully shoves her shoulder. “I’m going to choose to take that as a comment about the bake-off, not my love life, and say yes, I do hope we get one more applicant so we can round it out with ten people and make just a bit more money for charity.”

“Love is always just around the corner,” she says, and he rolls his eyes at her again, flipping her off before he heads back to his seat.

Tina is finishing up with the news, doing her typical outro, and he slides his headphones back on. “Thanks for keeping everyone updated with the utterly boring, Tina. And now back to the reason everyone is really listening – little old me. Before we hear more details about the bake-off, here’s another fun track to get your afternoon going – it’s ‘We Found Love’ here on Radio 1.”

Tina groans, and he just laughs as he sticks his tongue out at her. Maybe playing this song will lead a little love his way. Technically, Fiona isn’t wrong. Love could always be around the corner, but thinking he’s going to find love from a charity auction seems too far fetched for even him to believe.

It’s a nice thought though – getting both a date and a baked treat in the same evening. Not quite a realistic one but a nice one nonetheless.

He won’t hold his breath.

*

Harry sighs as he leans forward against the steering wheel and squints slightly as he tries to see where the Radio 1 studio is located. He’s driving slowly, thanking god there’s no one behind him so he can take a little extra time. He’s just moved back to town after moving away a few years ago, and it feels so good to be back in town, back home near his family. It was good to get out and explore, but in his time away, he truly realized there’s nothing like coming home. He knows his mum and sister definitely appreciate having him back.

He’s still scouring the street for the studio, and when he sees the sign, he’s somehow surprised it’s basically just hidden in plain sight. He parks in the tiny lot in the back and makes his way to the front of the building feeling only a bit nervous. Gemma won’t stop harping on him to sign up for the Bachelor Bake-Off as a way to meet some new people who have moved in since he left, and it is for charity, and he does love to bake, so he really has nothing to lose. It’s just that he doesn’t exactly know what or who he’s looking for as he walks in the door.

Harry supposes he’s probably looking for Nick since he’s the one that’s made all the announcements about it, but since it’s after hours, he’s not even sure if he’ll still be in the studio. His show ended an hour and a half ago, and all the programming has switched to prerecorded shows. When he enters, though, a woman with frizzy red hair is sitting on a couch in the lobby, phone in hand. “Uh, hi,” Harry says, and she snaps her head up to look at him.

“Are you here for Nick?” she asks, eyes glimmering, and Harry nods but briefly wonders if Nick has a slew of random men coming in for him on a daily basis. He decides not to ask.

He also wonders if everyone else is in on something he isn’t, since when he told Gemma where he was going earlier, she insisted he wear his pink and white striped button-down with three buttons undone and his nicest trousers. He was offended she implied any of his trousers were not nice but chose a black pair with his favorite cream colored loafers. (He did take her advice on the buttons, though.)

“Yeah, to sign up for the bake-off,” he clarifies, and she jumps up then, holding her hand out.

“I’m Fiona.”

“Harry. It’s nice to meet you.”

“Nick will be so glad to see you,” she says with a laugh, walking in front of him and motioning for him to follow. “He was looking for one last person to sign up.”

“Glad I can help,” Harry tells her earnestly, and Fiona turns around to smile at him before leading him to an open room in the back where Nick Grimshaw himself is sitting, engrossed in his laptop screen.

“Do I hear a waltz?” Fiona asks, and Harry doesn’t quite understand what that means, but Nick turns around, drawling out a, “Fiiifiiii,” before widening his eyes. “Oh, hello.” He turns to look behind him, but Fiona is already gone, only leaving a loud giggle in her wake.

Harry waves and takes a few steps into the studio, not wanting to intrude. There’s a long list of music files on his screen, probably building the playlist for tomorrow’s show. “Hey, uh, you know my sister?” Harry says, and it’s a vague introduction, but Nick’s still staring at him, nodding like he should continue. “Gemma Styles,” he clarifies, and Nick’s face lights up with recognition.

“Ah!” he replies, snapping his fingers as he turns his chair around and stands up. “Hello, yes, I have heard of you!”

He’s seen pictures of Nick of course, both with him being a local celebrity and with him being friends with Gemma, but he’s never seen him in person. The pictures don’t do him justice – and the first thing Harry notices are his absurdly long eyelashes that fan out beautifully every time he blinks. He has a warm smile that makes him feel at ease immediately, welcoming and cheerful.

He doesn’t miss the way Nick’s eyes flit down to where his shirt’s unbuttoned, and a shiver runs down his spine as he laughs, extending his hand. “I’ve heard of you as well. ’M Harry,” he says with a smile, and Nick’s hand fits easily in his. He thinks he might hold on a beat too long as he revels in the feeling, but if he does, Nick doesn’t say anything.

“Nick. You just moved back, right?” Harry nods. “What brings you here?”

“Gemma told me about –” before he can say anything else, Nick grabs his forearm excitedly.

“Are you here to sign up? Harold, for the love of Christ, please tell me that’s why you’re here.”

Harry laughs, nodding, and Nick makes a big show of pretending to wipe sweat off his brow. It’s over the top and dramatic and cute, and Harry likes him already. “Yeah, Gems won’t shut up about it, so I figured it’s the best way to quiet her down. I’ll never hear the end of this from her if I let it pass by.”

“Can you bake?” Nick asks, heading over to his desk and rifling through a stack of papers that Harry assumes includes signup sheets. “You’re already gorgeous, so you’re excelling at the bachelor part.”

Harry feels himself flush, a flame flickering on in his stomach. He’s not quite sure how to take the comment since he definitely thinks Nick is gorgeous as well, but before he can overthink it, he replies, “I used to be a baker when I was a teenager.”

Nick’s eyebrows raise, and Harry feels a sudden need to clarify. “Well, okay, that kind of makes me sound like a child prodigy. ‘S like, overstating my abilities. I was the cashier. I’m a decent baker, but I’m excellent at making quick change, so if that happens to be a part of this competition anywhere, I’m your guy.” Nick laughs, and it’s quite a delightful sound Harry quickly realizes, but he’s on the bloody radio so of course he’s pleasant to listen to. “But truly, I do make a damn good carrot cake, and that is not an overstatement in the slightest.”

“Perfect.”

There’s a beat of silence as Nick flips through more papers.

“Did rather enjoy your full afternoon of Rihanna earlier, no matter how annoyed Tina was,” Harry tells him as Nick full-on guffaws and pulls out a piece of paper from the stack. “She’s got so many hits.”

“I’m glad someone enjoyed RiRi appreciation day, though I suppose that’s every day for me.” That makes Harry laugh, and Nick smiles at him, reaching into a cup and pulling out a pen. “Just need your name, address, and number, so we can contact you if need be and all that jazz.”

“Sure, of course.” As he takes the pen from Nick, their hands brush lightly, and he giggles a bit at the contact, hoping Nick doesn’t think he’s hopelessly weird. He scribbles out his information quickly and hands the paper and pen back to him. “Is that all you need?”

Nick glances down at the application and nods, tossing the pen back onto his desk. “I reckon so. And you know how it goes – you bake a treat, bring it to the venue the day of and hand out some samples, and then one lucky man or woman will get a date with you if they bid the highest on you and your treats, and everyone lives happily ever after, blah, blah, blah.” Harry laughs a bit, nodding. “You’re a lifesaver, Harry, really. We just needed one last person, and I was bloody terrified we weren’t gonna find anyone else.”

“Oh, it’s nothing,” Harry assures with a smile. “I’m happy to do it and help raise money for charity.”

“Aren’t you a little angel?” Nick asks, tone weirdly sincere, but Harry just shrugs slightly with a smile, wondering if Nick’s flirting or just being silly.

“Not always,” he answers, with a pointed look.

Nick smiles. “Cheeky.”

He feels awkward just hanging around when he doesn’t really know Nick, hasn’t ever met him before now. He’s easy to have a conversation with, so even though he’d happily stay chatting and attempting to flirt with Nick, he doesn’t want to intrude and figures it’s best he goes. “Well, it was nice to finally meet you,” he says, starting toward the door. “I’ve heard so much about you over the years, so I feel like this was long overdue.”

“You as well!” Nick says, extending his hand again and batting his ridiculously long eyelashes. “Glad I have your number now.” He winks. “In case I need you for something. Y’know, for baking help or summat.”

Harry laughs as he shakes Nick’s hand once more, nodding. “Right, of course. Only for baking help, obviously.”

Nick heads back over to his seat and waves Harry off, calling out to him, “We’ll be in touch, Harold.”

*

Harry spends the entire drive home playing and replaying his interactions with Nick. He wonders if he’s insane or if Nick was actually flirting with him. And he wonders if it came off like he was flirting back because if it didn’t come off that way, he wasn’t flirting well enough because that was definitely what he was attempting to do. He thinks the wink Nick gave him on the way out the door says whatever he was doing was working, but he can’t really be sure.

The first thing Harry does when he gets into his building is bang on Gemma’s door a few times. He should’ve known nothing with her was completely without an underlying plan. She lives a floor down from him, and while some people would find living in the same building as their sister too close for comfort, he doesn’t mind it at all, especially in situations like this where he can drop by without much notice and ask her what the fuck is really going on.

She comes to the door wearing a wicked grin, nonchalantly asking, “How did it goooo?”

Harry brushes past her lightly and steps into her kitchen, putting his hands on his hips expectantly. “There was a reason you wanted me to sign up for this, wasn’t there, Gems?”

She closes the door behind her and turns back around to him wearing the same shit-eating grin. “The fact that you’re asking me this tells me that you flirted a bit and didn’t hate it, baby bro.” Gemma heads to the refrigerator and pulls out two bottles of water, tossing one to him. “Well done with the buttons, by the by. Bet Grimshaw loved it.”

He doesn’t mention that he caught Nick looking. “Gemma,” he groans, “I told you to stop trying to set me up with people!”

“I know, Harry, but you two are perfect for each other, and he’s just your type, and now that you’re back in town, you don’t have to worry about a long distance thing, and the time is finally right.”

“I mean...” He stalls. He has no good argument for this since objectively, yes, Nick is his type, and he’s still thinking about their conversation. Gemma raises an eyebrow at him like she’s waiting for him to surrender and admit she’s right, and he sighs in defeat. “Yeah, I guess so.”

“I told you!” She pinches his cheek, and he bats her hand away. “This was the perfect way to get you two to meet.”

Harry laughs slightly, shaking his head as he plops down in her oversized armchair. He’s sure there were probably other ways to get them to meet, but he decides to let Gemma have her victory. “He is fit, and it’s nice when you can banter with someone right from the word go.”

“Did he seem interested?” she asks, taking a seat on the couch and propping her chin up with her hand like she’s his dating counselor, ready and waiting.

Harry doesn’t know Nick that well, and he seems like the type that would be flirty by nature, just in his DNA to get along with everyone, especially since he sort of has to for his job. “I dunno.” He shrugs. “Maybe? He did tell me I’m gorgeous, but I’m assuming he’s said that to all the other bachelors when they’ve come to sign up. But maybe he’s interested.”

“Are you interested?”

Harry almost wants to be difficult, first instinct still to be a little shit toward his big sister even though they’re well past that. He almost wants to play coy and shrug a few times and get her going a bit before giving in, but he really can’t deny that this went much better than her many other set-up attempts. “I am,” he says with a bit of a laugh, and Gemma grins.

“Good! Because Nick is definitely interested.”

Harry laughs and waves her off, shaking his head slightly. “And how could you possibly know that for a fact?”

He should know by now that Gemma has an answer to everything, and she pulls out her phone, tapping the screen a few times before shoving it in his face. “He sent this text immediately after you left. Love is in the air, baby bro!”

Harry gingerly takes her phone from his hand, and sure enough, there’s a text from Nick on the screen.

YOU DIDN’T TELL ME YOUR BROTHER WAS HOT!!!!!!!!!!! WHAT KIND OF FRIEND ARE YOU!!!!!!!!! WHERE WAS THE WARNING!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Harry instinctively puts his hand over his mouth in a failed attempt to hide his grin since he feels pathetically like a schoolboy with a crush, and Gemma laughs loudly as she snatches her phone back from his hand. “I’ll tell him to ring you and ask you on a date. Proper smitten, you are.”

He shakes his head again, unable to wipe the grin off his face. “Let it run its course. It would be nice to have romantic success without my sister completely meddling and fucking everything up.”

She holds a hand to her heart, gasping in mock offense. “I do not fuck things up.”

Harry just raises an eyebrow, but Gemma stands her ground, arms firmly crossed over her chest. “Anyway,” he says, “he has my number, so he can text me whenever he wants.”

Gemma’s eyes widen, and she grins, immediately pressing the home button on her phone. “If you let me just – ”

Gemma.”

She has sense enough to look guilty at his tone, and she instead sets her phone down on the coffee table. “Fine,” she says. “I’ll let fate do her thing.”

*

A few days later, Harry’s phone buzzes with the sound of an incoming text message. He’s got a wine glass in one hand, absently scrolling through recipe sites for something he could do for the bake-off. His carrot cake will always be his tried and true, but he’s wondering if he should try something different for fun, something that’s slightly less common. He sighs as he looks away from the screen, glancing at his phone instead. The message is from an unknown number, so his brows furrow as he opens it, but he smiles once he sees who it’s from.

hiiii Haz it’s Nick :) just wondered if you had any idea what you were planning to bake cos we’re trying to get an idea of what people are making! lemme knoooow xx

Not quite sure, he replies honestly. I was thinking maybe cupcakes, but I’m definitely not sold. So I guess put me down for that right now and we can change it later? I’m looking at recipes right now while having a bit of wine .x

Harry isn’t quite sure why he adds the last detail, but before he can think about it too much, he’s already sent the text and another from Nick is coming in.

perfect :) let me know if you change your mind! enjoy the wine, a bit jealous as i’ve got none xx

Harry bites his lip as he types out and backspaces the same risky response at least six times over. He doesn’t want to be too forward with Nick, especially since he’s only met him once, but he doesn’t think there’s a problem in letting him know there’s interest there, especially not when he saw what Nick had texted Gemma that night.

You’re welcome to come over and join me for a glass .x

cheeky Harold! ;) is the immediate response. if i wasn’t so busy tonight i’d pop right over xx

Harry smiles to himself as he takes another sip of wine.

He takes it as a victory.

*

The next time Nick sees Harry in person is a week later at the grocery store. They’ve been texting here and there over the past week, but he’s still not sure if it’s been enough to warrant more than a passing ‘hello’ since they aren’t technically friends. But some of their messages have bordered on flirtatious, so maybe it does. He’s not sure.

All he knows is that Harry’s coming toward him in the bread aisle, and he’s sure he looks disheveled as all hell, but he runs his fingers through his hair in a sad attempt to make himself look a bit more presentable. He doesn’t say anything, waits to see if Harry notices him, and he does, eyes lighting up as he says, “Nick! Hi!”

He’s wrapped in a black hoodie, curls held back with a red bandana with patterned socks hiked up to an unreasonably cute level. He looks like he’s just been to the gym if the water bottle he’s toting is any indication, and though he looks a little less put together than the last time Nick saw him, he still looks cozy and adorable and soft. Nick has no excuse for why he looks so terrible today. Just that he’d rolled out of bed, walked the dogs, took them back home, and decided it was time he actually do a big shop.

“Hi yourself,” he answers, unable to stop the grin that forms on his face. Nick peers over into Harry’s trolley, absent of all baking stuff, but full of other assorted ingredients that look like he’s getting ready to feed a small army. “I see you’re not practicing your baking.”

Harry laughs and shakes his head, curls bouncing. “Not quite yet. Gemma wanted me to make a few things for her party this weekend. Even though technically, it’s my welcome back party, so I really shouldn’t have to make anything, but I’m just a good brother.”

And oh. Duh. Of course Harry would be at his own sister’s shindig. Nick wonders why Gemma didn’t mention that the party was specifically for Harry but then realizes she was probably just trying to spare him the nerves after the embarrassing text he sent her without thinking. It doesn’t matter though since the nerves are now taking him over tenfold. “Oh,” he says dumbly, nodding.

Harry tilts his head. “You were invited, right?”

“Yeah,” Nick answers, and he motions to his mostly empty trolley. That was one of the points of this grocery trip – to buy something to make for this party, but he hadn’t gotten that far yet. “I came here to do my big shop and attempt to figure out a dish to make all in one, but instead I’ve just decided it’s been a long while since I’ve had jaffa cakes, and that’s...all we’ve got so far.”

Harry laughs, and Nick notices he has dimples, something he hadn’t noticed before. The left one is so deep and perfectly carved that you could drink from it, and it takes all of Nick’s self-control not to reach out and poke it or kiss it or something equally as inappropriate. “Well, what were you thinking? Did you have something in mind?”

“Not much of a chef, really,” Nick answers with a shrug, and Harry nods thoughtfully. Before Nick can really think, the words spill out of his mouth: “What’s your favorite dish? It’s your party then, right? ‘S only right to have your favorite thing there.”

“Mmm...” Harry taps his chin, eyes sparkling green, green, green. “Do love a good beef wellington with a side of caviar. Think you can swing it?” Harry must sense the panic washing over his face because he reaches out to gently clasp his arm with painted black fingernails, giggling, “Please, I’m just kidding. I promise I’m not that insufferable.”

Nick lets out a long, dramatic breath that makes Harry giggle, not giving into his desire to ghost his fingers down the spot on his arm Harry just touched. “I was gonna say that was a bit beyond my ability, Harold.”

Harry smiles again, dimpling, and Nick feels his heart beat a little faster. “You don’t have to make anything for me,” Harry tells him, and logically, he knows he doesn’t and that Gemma is probably half-expecting him to bring store bought brownies, and Harry can make his own favorite dish if he’s already cooking, but he’d like to let Harry know he’s interested, and this feels like it might be a cute way to do it. “That’s really sweet of you though, thank you.”

“C’mon, Styles,” Nick says, sounding more confident than he actually feels. “It’s your party, and I’ll make food if you want me to,” he singsongs awkwardly, making Harry giggle again. “There’s gotta be something I can make for you.”

Harry shrugs, tucking an errant curl behind his ear. “I like sprouts in a good curry,” he says after a pause. “And that’s not too difficult to make, and you can easily make a lot of it for a party.”

Nick has never made a curry in his entire life, must less Brussels sprouts, but he chuckles saying, “No, not bad at all. I’ll make sure your party has sprouts in curry.” He smiles for effect, hoping it makes him look like he’s a confident, seasoned curry maker. “Only the best for Mr. Harry Styles.”

“Thank you,” Harry tells him delightedly, looking at Nick like he’d gotten him the best Christmas present imaginable, not just told him he’d make an appetizer he likes. “That’s so lovely of you, and it’s one less thing for me to make.”

“I can’t believe Gemma’s making you cook for your own party.”

“Heartless,” Harry says, barely able to keep a straight face as he says it. “I’d rather my cooking than hers. Not sure if you’ve ever had anything she’s made, but she’s pretty limited to take away and pasta with jar sauce.”

Nick laughs. “Me, too, pretty much.”

Harry smiles at him amusedly. “Well, I don’t wanna hold you up, but it was really good to see you.”

Nick’s about to tell him that he had no plans other than this, and he’s happy to stand near the rye bread and talk to him all day long, but he figures that sounds a bit desperate so he smiles and nods. “It was really good to see you, too, Harold. See you later this week for the party?”

“Of course,” Harry replies with a grin. “Thanks for the curry.”

“The least I can do since you single-handedly saved my bake-off,” Nick answers with a wink, and Harry giggles before giving him a wave and pushing his trolley away. Once he’s gone, it takes Nick a few moments to collect himself, wondering how one person can be that beautiful.

The first thing he does after collecting himself, though, is google brussels sprouts curry.

*

Harry’s testing out the mash when he hears a knock on Gemma’s door that panics him. He’s been cooking for the last hour and a half, and while he hasn’t been making anything too involved, all cooking is a certain level of time consuming. If any guests are arriving now, he hasn’t got a shot in hell of finishing everything up and getting himself presentable. He’s got a pink apron tied around his waist, his hair is thrown back into a messy bun with wild strands everywhere, and there are ingredients spread out all over the counter. He’s still got a roast in the oven, some apple crisp in the crock pot, and some other assorted appetizers he just has to pull out of the fridge.

Now that he thinks about it, Nick was right – Gemma shouldn’t have made him cook for his own party.

But at least Nick’s bringing the curry sprouts.

“Gems, are people really coming this early?” he asks, hoping she can pick up on the slight panic in his voice, and she just laughs in response as she breezes by him to walk to the door.

“Nick!” she says cheerfully, and Harry nearly drops the spoon he’s holding.

She didn’t.

“Hey, Gemma,” he tells her, kissing her cheek as he makes his way in. He’s kept his promise – he’s holding a pot with foil over the top of it. He’s in a paisley button-down with ripped jeans and bracelets up the arm, looking effortlessly cool and ridiculously cute. “Brought the curry sprouts Harold requested.”

Gemma turns to him with brows raised. “You requested sprouts?” she asks, voice high pitched. “You’re requesting things from our guests now, are you?”

“I am,” he answers, “because Nicholas and I both agreed it seemed rather unfair of you to make me cook for my own welcome back party. Best sister ever card has been revoked.”

Gemma rolls her eyes at him, and when she turns to Nick, he’s laughing and nodding along. “I’d have to agree. When he texted me the menu you had planned, I couldn’t believe you had him make a roast!”

Harry smiles at Nick’s mention of them texting, but when Gemma looks over at him, it’s with narrowed eyes. He hadn’t brought that up with her since Gemma is...well, Gemma, and she’d start meddling even more. To her credit, she doesn’t say anything, just gives him a look that screams we’ll talk later and shrugs, looking over at Nick again. “Roasts are his specialty! It was hardly torture for him.”

“Love a man who can cook,” Nick says with a wink, and Harry laughs, watching as Gemma throws an arm around Nick delightedly.

“And this one most definitely can,” she tells him, patting his shoulder before heading over to grab her purse off the chair at the kitchen table. “And bake, as you know, since that bake-off is coming up. But I’ve got to go pick up a few other things before everyone gets here, so I figured I’d have Nick help you if need be.” She smiles at Harry, and he hopes the panic he feels rising in his stomach isn’t written all over his face. He can do this. He’s an adult – he can definitely be around a guy he likes with minimal embarrassment. “So, I’ll see you two soon!”

Before Harry can really process it or say anything, she’s out the door.

“Sorry if I’m bothering you. When Gemma told me to come, I assumed there’d actually...be other people here.”

Harry laughs, shaking his head. “You know how Gems is. You’re not bothering me at all though.”

“Can I do anything?” Nick asks, jolting Harry back to the present as he sets down the pot on the kitchen counter. He looks around, surveying the place. “Quite the spread you have here. I’m impressed.”

“Thank you,” Harry tells him with a smile as he heads over to the crock pot to check on the crisp. “I think ‘m alright for now, but thanks. You can just sit there and look pretty.” He feels like it might be a risky thing to say, but Nick chuckles, taking it in stride.

“Ooh, my specialty,” Nick replies, brushing off his shoulders as Harry laughs. “Though you’re well ahead of me since you can cook and look pretty at the same time.”

Harry’s glad he’s facing away from Nick because he can feel the color rushing to his cheeks. “Well, thank you,” he replies. “And thank you for the sprouts.”

When he turns back around, Nick is grinning at him. “Of course, Harold. It’s the least I could do.”

He smiles back at him before heading to the fridge. Harry opens it and taps his fingers against his leg, looking at the selection. “There’s just some things that need to be plated. ‘Ve got cheese and crackers, and I got the cheese pre-sliced that’s less to do, but it’s gotta all be set out nicely. Maybe you could help with that, actually. Then some pita and hummus and veggies and shit to plate as well.”

“Oh, sure, I can do that.”

Harry pulls the packages of food out of the fridge, setting them down on the counter. “Thank you,” he tells him as he heads to the cupboards to pull out some platters and the crackers.

“You can stop thanking me,” Nick says with a laugh. “I’m happy to help you.”

Harry feels himself blush again as he puts everything down. “Think you can make it look nice or am I going to have to rearrange it myself when you aren’t looking?”

Nick scoffs, putting his hand to his chest. “I’m offended you’d think I’m not capable of making the most beautiful cheese display you’ve ever seen in your life.”

“I’ll be the judge of that,” Harry tells him with a raised eyebrow, trying his best to look menacing, and Nick nods. “Since it is my party after all.”

“Speaking of that, don’t you need to get ready?” Nick asks him, and Harry quickly turns to look at the clock. Shit. When he looks back at Nick, he’s making an embarrassed face, quickly trying to backtrack. “Not that you don’t look beautiful in an apron, but I just figured...”

Harry laughs, waving his hand to stop Nick. “No, no, I do need to get ready, but I’ve just got to finish up the roast and the dessert before I can. It won’t be that much longer. You were right – it’s quite shit Gemma made me do all this. At least I know it’ll be delicious, though.”

“It’s not a big deal,” Nick assures, reaching over to touch his shoulder comfortingly, and he feels a tingle run down his spine. Every touch shared between the two of them has felt like a trail of sparks, and he can’t help but wonder if Nick feels it, too. “I can get out a roast and turn off a crock pot.”

Harry bites his lip, looking back at the clock, and he really does need to start getting ready, even if he feels bad about making Nick do more than he’d planned to. “Are you sure?” Nick nods. “Alright, then could you get the roast out? It’ll be ready in, like, ten minutes.”

“I’m perfectly capable. I’ll make you some lovely cheese art and get the roast out all on time so you can go make yourself even more beautiful.”

Harry’s not exactly sure how to respond to the compliment, but he lets out a soft “thank you” as he watches Nick open the box of crackers. He knows he doesn’t need to stick around to babysit and see what Nick’s doing since he’s perfectly capable, but he feels weird leaving him alone in the kitchen.

He shakes off the thought and heads upstairs, knowing if he doesn’t soon, he’ll still be in his apron by the time his friends arrive.

He thinks of Nick the entire time he’s getting ready.

*

Nick’s scrolling through twitter absently having just pulled the roast out of the oven and having plated all the appetizers when Harry comes out into the kitchen running his hand through fluffy, wispy curls. “All ready,” he says with a grin, and Nick’s mouth goes dry.

He wearing wide-legged white pants and a blue button-down, so simple but so beautiful. His curls are long at the back of his neck, a few falling in his face, and while he’s always unfairly beautiful, this is the most stunning Nick has ever seen him look. “Oh, wow, you got so much done! Thank you so much. Couldn’t have done this all without you.”

“It is your party, Harold,” Nick says, pocketing his phone and trying to act like his mouth isn’t as dry as the Sahara from just looking at how pretty he is. “You’re supposed to be Princess Cinderella at the ball, not poor Cinderella scrubbing the floors.”

Harry giggles, heading to the counter to inspect the plates and popping a carrot in his mouth. Nick tries to make it less obvious that he’s following the motion. “Well, how do I look?” He spins around adorably so Nick can get the full picture, and god. “Have I managed to look like a princess?”

“Of course. You look lovely.” It feels like the understatement of the century.

Harry smiles. “Hope the party’s over before midnight, or I’ll turn into a pumpkin.”

Nick rolls his eyes but is so painfully endeared and attracted to him he could scream. “How did I do with the plating, Master Chef?”

Harry laughs as he looks down at the food. Nick doesn’t mean to toot his own horn, but he thinks he’s done a pretty good job and made everything look very appetizing. He has no idea why he’s suddenly craving Harry’s approval, but oh, he is, and he almost feels nervous as he watches Harry inspect things. “Hm,” he hums, tapping his chin thoughtfully. “I’ll give the execution a six out of ten. ‘S not the ugliest spread I’ve ever seen, but I’ve seen better at a few office Christmas parties I’ve been to over the years, so I can’t give it the highest ranking.”

Nick can’t even get a word out before Harry starts cracking up. “You’re a twat,” Nick tells him, and that just makes Harry giggle harder.

“Sorry, sorry. They look great, Nick. Truly, thanks so much for the help or I’d still be looking like pre-ball Cinderella.”

Before Nick’s brain can fully catch up with his mouth, he murmurs, “still beautiful,” and immediately wants to snatch the words from the air and put them back inside. Harry doesn’t say anything, but his dimples pop out with the hint of a smile as he picks up a cracker to munch on. “Hey!” Nick says as Harry looks up at him with furrowed brows, “I can’t believe you’re ruining my handiwork.”

Harry shakes his head with a laugh. “Making it better. Artistic license and all that.” He heads to a cabinet under the sink, pulling out a bottle of red wine and holding it in the air. “Wine?”

“Sure,” Nick tells him. “I’ll never turn that down.”

Harry smiles as he heads into a different cabinet and pulls out two glasses, carefully filling them. He passes one to Nick, and he takes a whiff of the wine thoughtfully. Nick knows nothing about wine, but he follows suit to not look like an idiot. It somehow feels right to be sitting in Harry’s kitchen about to share a drink, and his mind begins to wander to what a proper date with Harry would feel like, but he reels it back in, back to the present.

“A moment of calm before the chaos,” Harry laughs. “To us for making such a great getting ready team.”

Nick grins as their glasses clink, feeling pleasantly warm. “To us.”

*

Harry’s just finished washing his face as he climbs into bed feeling tired but happy with the way the party went. It’s always nice to see his friends, to remember how much love he has around him, and there’s a sense of contentment that he feels right down to his bones as he snuggles down into the crisp sheets. Everything feels soft and wonderful, and he’s so ready for bed.

He grabs his phone off his nightstand at almost the exact time the screen lights up with a notification.

A text. From Nick.

Hope I’ve managed to catch you before you turned back into a pumpkin Cinderella ;) it was nice seeing you tonight Harold!! hope you enjoyed your party and your curry sprouts! xx

Harry smiles, feeling warm all over as he tries to formulate a reply.

It had been nice having Nick over and getting to spend a little more time with him before all the other guests arrived. They click in a way he hasn’t felt with anyone in awhile – that indescribable spark that feels like fireworks exploding. And since Nick already knows Gemma, he fits seamlessly into the friends Harry’s always had back home, and it just feels right in all the ways a blooming relationship should.

Still a princess. ;) Thanks for being there tonight, for the sprouts, and for keeping me company while Gemma ditched me for her errands. See you soon? .x

He’s about to lock his phone again when he sees the three dots pop up almost immediately, and he feels his heart jump into his throat while he waits for the reply.

Very soon hopefully! sweet dreams princess xx

*

Over the next week, Harry and Nick talk virtually every single day. Harry’s too busy starting with his new job, and Nick’s too busy working on final touches for the bake-off for them to actually get together, but they more than make up for it with text messages and the occasional FaceTime session. It’s almost insane how well they get on. Gemma lights up like the Cheshire cat every time she asks who Harry’s talking to and he says Nick, but she finally has sense enough not to say anything, biting her tongue for maybe the first and only time in her life.

With work taking up most of his time, he still hasn’t quite figured out exactly what he wants to make for the bake-off, and it’s only a few days away. He figures there’s a good chance one of the other guys might make carrot cake, so he rules it out and tries to think of something just a tad more obscure to give the bidders something different to choose from. He feels a strange pressure because not only does he want to make something delicious for everyone, but he also wants to impress Nick. It’s stupid since they’re already friends, but he can’t get the thought out of his head.

Harry stops by the shops one day after work, listening to Nick babble in his ear about all the last minute things he’s working on. As he stands in the baking aisle with one hand on his hip and the phone pressed between his shoulder and ear, he sees a bag of chocolate chips and a lightbulb goes off. He used to make banana chocolate chip muffins all the time, so why not turn them into cupcakes? He smiles to himself as he grabs the bag, hearing Nick say, “Harold? Are you even listening anymore?”

“Oh, sorry,” he laughs, realizing he should’ve gotten a basket as he heads back to the front of the store. “Just had a baking epiphany. Keep talking.”

“Oh, do tell!”

“It’s a surprise,” he tells Nick though he already knows he knows that, picking up a basket from the pile and placing the chocolate chips in it as he heads back to the baking aisle. Harry knew Nick was feeling extra stressed from all the things he had left to do that he couldn’t bear to tell him he hadn’t chosen what to bake yet, and his it’s a surprise! charade had worked better than he thought. “I promise you I’ll have the perfect treat for everyone, but you just have to trust me.”

Nick groans slightly. “I hope you know I’ve made literally every other contestant tell me exactly what they’re making. Except you. You’re the only one who was allowed the mystery.”

Harry smiles to himself. “Well, I appreciate that. Must be so hard for you to not know something, Mr. Gossip. Noble of you.”

“Don’t go thinking you’re special though or something, Haz.” He can hear the grin in Nick’s voice, and that alone gives him a warm, fuzzy feeling.

“Never, Nicholas,” he answers as solemnly as he can, glad Nick can’t see the smile overtaking his face, though he can probably hear it. “If I start thinking I’m special, then my bake will probably come out shit, and I’ll get no bids. Karma’s always there to bite you on the ass.”

“And he’s humble, too, ladies and gentlemen, practically perfect in every way. Harry Poppins.”

“Oh, shush,” Harry says, sure Nick can still hear his grin as he puts some flour and sugar into his basket as well. “Go finish up your last minute shit, and we can chat later. ‘Ve got the next great baking idea to attend to.”

Nick groans, and Harry rolls his eyes even though he finds his overdramatic ways pretty endearing. “Fiiiiiine,” he draws out, sounding less than pleased, “I’ll go be responsible or summat.”

“Don’t sound so put off,” Harry tells him, and Nick just groans again, playing up being extra miserable. “Once you get all your work done, you can go back to talking to me for hours, and we all know that’s the bright spot of your day.”

Harry pretends not to notice how sincere Nick sounds when he says, “you’re right,” but he pockets the warmth he feels for later.

*

The day of the bake-off comes quickly, and even though Nick hosts a show for a living, he doesn’t do it in front of an audience every day, so this is pretty nerve-wracking. All of the contestants are milling about and trying to make their little spaces look the best they can so the patrons will flock to them, willing to try their treats. The original idea for the bake-off was that all the contestants would bake their dishes right there in front of the audience, but when they decided to add more people to raise more money, they quickly realized it wasn’t going to be possible. They then settled for the men bringing their freshly made baked goods to the venue and each setting up a small station where people can sample their food.

It isn’t exactly what Nick had envisioned, but he supposes making a few sacrifices to give more money to charity is certainly okay.

Nick should be looking over his note cards, but instead he’s paying more attention to Harry setting up his display for the auction. He’s gone for a pink theme – pink table cloth with pink tinsel wrapped around the edge of the table, and it’s so endearingly fitting that it makes Nick smile. Harry himself matches the display in a pink flowered shirt with grey flared pants, hair curling wildly around his ears. He wants to go over and say hello, but he really does need to go over his notes. He isn’t even that doing now, though, since he can’t concentrate on anything else when Harry’s around.

“Just go fucking talk to him,” a voice in his ear says, and he turns to see Fiona rolling her eyes. “You’re quite literally friends at this point, and instead of just talking to him, you’re staring at him like a creep across the room.”

Nick laughs, swatting her with his notes. “Shut up,” he answers, glancing over at Harry again. “Really am meant to be going over these so I don’t look like a complete tit today when everyone gets here.”

“And talking to Harry for two minutes before the craziness begins doesn’t mean you still won’t have time to go over shit. Just do it.”

He mulls it over for a second, but ultimately, Fiona is right, and even though he doesn’t really want to bother Harry, he knows he won’t mind. He heads over to Harry’s station, passing several good-looking men on his way there, but he’s only got eyes for one. “Hello, Hazza,” he says with Harry’s back to him.

He turns around holding an armful of faux flowers in rainbow colors, face bright. “Hey! Ready to host?”

Nick shrugs, trying to look nonchalant. “A little nervous, but I’ll manage.”

“Being nervous is good, I reckon,” Harry replies knowingly, setting the flowers down. He picks up a tiered cake display from underneath the table and places it in the center of the table, “because it means you care. You’ll smash it, I’m sure. Just pretend everyone’s in their underwear or some shit.”

Nick laughs and doesn’t mention that picturing Harry in his underwear would not be conducive to him doing a good job and would instead prove as a giant distraction. “Well,” Harry says before Nick can say anything else, eyes scanning the room. “With this many fit guys around, maybe that’s not the best idea. Pretty dishy, aren’t they?”

“Very dishy,” Nick agrees, but his eyes don’t leave Harry.

He watches as Harry arranges the flowers around the cake display, and it looks very cute and more put together than some of the other bachelors’ stations. He’s seen a lot of blue, green, and red, but Harry’s table stands out with the bright pink florals, and he absolutely loves it. “Looks good,” he says, motioning to the flowers.

“Oh, thank you,” he replies, beaming as he tucks a curl behind his ear. “Flowers can spruce up anything, I think.”

Nick’s about to excuse himself as he looks down at his note cards again, but he sees Harry place a stack of containers on the table, and Nick realizes he still has no idea what Harry baked. “Do I finally get to know the mystery flavor?” he asks, and Harry laughs, tapping his chin coyly.

“That’s right – I kept you hanging.” He giggles again, clearly too pleased with himself. He opens the lid carefully and holds out the container so Nick can see inside. There are six perfectly frosted cupcakes, rich chocolate frosting swirled on each of them in a meticulous point, and a banana chip stuck into the top for decoration. “Ta-da! Banana chocolate chip cupcakes with a chocolate buttercream icing. Wanted to be different and figured this might be the way to do it.”

Nick doesn’t say anything, just feels all the hair on his arms standing straight up. He fish mouths for a moment, struggling for words. “You’re proper shitting me, right?”

He places a cupcake on the display and looks up. “Why?” He’s staring at Nick like he’s absolutely insane. And maybe he is.

“Did Gemma put you up to this?”

Harry tilts his head, brows furrowing. “Put me up to what?” he asks. He looks genuinely confused by him saying that, like he truly has no idea what he could even be referring to.

Maybe Gemma didn’t put him up to this, but Nick isn’t an idiot and knows Gemma has tried to get them together. He wouldn’t put it past her to slip his favorite flavor into conversation, planting the idea in Harry’s head to make it for the bake-off. “Banana chocolate chip is my favorite flavor,” he says, and Harry’s hand stalls over the top tier, cupcake between his fingers.

“What?” he asks, eyes wide. He looks like a baby deer, and Nick nods at him, smile stretching across his face when he realizes this was all just chance. “I didn’t know that at all! Didn’t even consult Gemma about any kind of flavor because as I told you, she’s hopeless in the kitchen. I just figured everyone would do chocolate or vanilla or carrot, and I dunno.” He shrugs. “I wanted to do something a little different just so people had options if they wanted. Can’t believe it’s your favorite.” His eyes are sparkling, and maybe he really is Cinderella.

Nick smiles, and Harry holds out a cupcake to him. He waves his hand to say no. “Nah, it’s alright.”

“Please,” he says, “I made way too many extra just in case, so take one. Fate’s way of stepping in, maybe?”

Nick smiles as he reaches into the container and plucks one out, starting to peel the paper back. “Maybe,” he agrees with a nod. Harry’s eyes are on him as he takes a bite, and he can feel the weight of his gaze even when he averts his eyes.

It’s practically a surefire way to get him to bid since it involves his favorite baked good and Harry, who’s quickly becoming his favorite person, but he’s the host, and can’t exactly do that. Especially when he knows Harry, anyway, and it’s not like he needs this as an excuse for a date, but...

The cupcake is one of the best he’s ever tasted. It’s moist, fluffy, and the chocolate-banana ratio is perfect. One doesn’t overpower the other, and the frosting melts easily in his mouth. It takes his all to stop himself from moaning at how good it is, but he manages to control himself. “Holy fucking shit, Harry, this is the most delicious thing I’ve ever tasted in my entire life. Holy shit.”

Harry completely lights up when he says it, looking a mix of proud and bashful. “Quite an honor coming from you, then since it’s your favorite.”

“And this is definitely the best banana chocolate chip anything I’ve ever had,” Nick says around a mouthful, and Harry smiles even brighter. “Fucking incredible.”

“You’ve got...” Harry motions to just above his mouth, and Nick internally groans thinking about how stupid he must look shoveling a cupcake into his face and getting frosting all over himself like he’s a child. “Here,” he laughs, “I’ll get it.”

Nick’s almost startled as Harry walks out from behind his table and walks up to him, closer than they’ve ever been. He reaches out and gently glides his thumb across Nick’s top lip, licking the frosting off his finger once he wipes it off. It shouldn’t be as obscene or as soft as it is, but he feels like every nerve ending in his body is absolutely on fire as he stares right into Harry’s emerald eyes. “Did you get it?” he asks, swallowing hard.

“Yeah.” He nods, smiling like he knows exactly what he’s done. Harry lingers for a moment just looking at him before heading back behind his station. “Um, I should probably  finish setting this up, though, and you probably should take one last look at your notes.”

Nick feels like he’s been snapped out of a daze and nods, knowing he’s right. “Yeah, right, you’re right.” He takes a look at his watch, seeing that he’s got just over a half hour until it starts. “Thanks for the cupcake, Harold. I wish you the best of luck today.”

“Thank you,” he replies earnestly, starting to plate more of the treats. “Good luck to you, too! Not that you’ll need it since you’re always amazing.”

As Nick walks away, his fingers ghost over the spot Harry’s were, feeling the faint trace of his touch and grinning to himself.

*

Once the event has started, Harry feels completely in his element. He loves talking to people and loves getting to share his baking, so he feels right at home. Gemma hovers a bit like he expected her to, and he happily hands out samples to very handsome men and young and old women alike, always knowing he had nana vibes and that elderly women seem to love him. Everyone promises to bid on him – one woman even pinched his cheek saying he reminds her of her grandson who lives far away – and they tell him how amazing his cupcakes are, but as the auction portion nears closer, he’s slightly nervous.

Though Harry can admit his station looks the nicest, flowers and bright pink making everything seem extra inviting, he can’t help but worry that people were just being nice and telling him they’d bid because it was the right thing to say. He wants to be able to do his part and help raise money for charity and not embarrass himself in front of Nick. There’s a lot riding on things he can’t control, and he can’t say he likes that.

But even if everything else goes wrong, Nick loved his cupcakes, and just thinking about it makes his heart feel a little lighter and makes him smile to himself. He’s thankful Gemma really did let fate do her thing this time because she does work in quite mysterious ways.

He’d love to go on a date with Nick, but with the way their friendship is heading, he knows it could happen at any time and doesn’t have to come from the event today, so he buries the thought, busying himself with handing out more samples and grinning dimpled grins at everyone.

Once the auction begins, Nick is a great host as expected. He’s completely charismatic and charming, and it makes Harry swoon as he watches him interact with all the bachelors. All of the nerves Nick had earlier seem to have melted away as he struts from station to station, doing his best auction caller voice as he talks up each bachelor and their treat. He’d just gone down the line, and Harry, of course, is last, and now the nerves are starting to set back in.

They’ve just finished auctioning off the man two over from him for an impressive £250, and Harry wonders if he could get a bid that high. His nerves flare up as Nick makes his way over to the man next to him, audience cheering.

The man is called Mitch, and while he is extremely quiet, he seems very kind. They’d exchanged pleasantries earlier while they were both setting up their stations, and he mentioned one of his mates had forced him into this since he isn’t the best at making friends, and he couldn’t disagree. He’s gone for a deep red tablecloth and simple plates for his carrot cake, and Harry is so glad he went with his gut and chose a different flavor.

As Nick starts toward Mitch, Harry’s stomach starts to roll. It’s almost his turn, and he’s just so nervous. “Up next we have Mr. Mitchell Rowland!” Nick says into the mic, and people start clapping. There’s a few loud whoops that probably come from his family, and Mitch’s lips upturn just so. “Mitch here has made a delightful carrot cake. Tell us why you’ve chosen carrot cake, Mr. Rowland.”

Nick holds the mic toward him, and he leans forward, shrugging. “I like carrot cake.”

The crowd laughs slightly, and Nick’s eyes flit to Harry, winking at him. It makes Harry’s nerves settle momentarily, and he smiles easily back at him. “We have a scholar on our hands! Though I, too, do indeed love a good carrot cake. Aside from the occasional bake, Mitch loves playing guitar and writing songs, so we have a creative type on our hands! Love that, don’t we?” There’s a few smattered ooohs from the audience. Nick throws an arm around Mitch and says, “Let’s start the bidding at £100. Maybe he’ll even write you a song for your date. Would you do that, Mr. Rowland?”

Shrugging again, Mitch leans toward the mic. “Sure.”

His deadpan reaction makes the audience roar again, and in no time at all, someone’s shouting and bidding £100, then £120, then £140, and a date with Mitch goes with a final bid of £200.

It’s his turn now, and Nick’s walking toward him with a wide grin, waving his arm flamboyantly in front of Harry. “Hi,” he says to him, softly, not for the crowd.

“Hi.”

“And last but very certainly not least,” Nick says into the mic this time, “we have Mr. ‘Arry Styles!” The audience cheers, and Harry smiles, waving at everyone. Gemma gives him a thumbs-up and proud sister grin. He feels a little awkward being the center of attention for this reason, but he takes it in stride. “Harold has baked some delicious banana chocolate chip cupcakes, which happen to be my favorite flavor! Why was that your pick, Harry?”

“I wanted to do something a bit different but something still yummy, and banana really is one of my favorite flavors, so hopefully everyone liked it.”

“I think I can safely speak for everyone and say that we all did love it, didn’t we?” Nick asks the crowd, and they all start cheering, which makes Harry blush a bit.

“Oh, stop it,” he says, self-deprecatingly as he leans over to speak into the mic, and Nick gently swats him away and pulls the mic from him, making the audience laugh like they’re creating their own comedy bit. It feels comfortable standing there with him, almost like there’s no one else in the room.

“Not only is Harry a great baker, but he can cook as well, so you’ll never go hungry with Harry around! And he’s just moved back in town to work as a writer for the local paper, so I’m sure he can pen you all sonnets or at the very least, romantic articles about how the price of petrol has gone up five pence! Am I right?”

Harry nods, laughing a bit as Nick holds the microphone toward him. “Sure, sure. I can get all the love notes done on a deadline, too.” The audience laughs again, and Harry just shakes his head, sharing another smile with Nick.

“Shall we start the bidding at £100 for Harry and his lovely chocolate banana cupcakes?”

Harry’s stomach flip flops as Nick says it, but almost immediately, a man he’d spoken to earlier with blonde hair and a nice smile bids. “Ooh! Shall we go to £120 next?”

“Here!” shouts the old woman who spoke to him earlier about her grandson, and she winks at Harry, making him giggle.

Nick throws an arm around Harry, grip tight, and it feels right somehow, even though he’s waiting for a date with someone else. “Okay, we have a popular lad here! What about...£150?”

The blonde man bids again, and Nick’s grip on Harry’s shoulder tightens slightly. He pretends not to notice. A man with dark hair and stubble dusting his cheeks bids £200, and he and the old woman get the bid to £275. Harry cannot believe he’s garnering this much attention, and he’s flattered and can’t stop smiling as he watches the strange scene unfold. He can’t ignore Nick’s hand on his shoulder though, feeling like a protective hold more than a friendly gesture.

“Who knew you’d be worth this much, Harold?” Nick asks, and he’s smiling, but it doesn’t reach his eyes. “£300?”

The dark haired man easily bids £300 with a nod and a smile, and he’s quite handsome, Harry thinks. He most certainly wouldn’t mind a date with him.

But then.

But then.

*

“£500. I bid £500.”

The room momentarily goes silent.

Nick is very surprised to realize that the voice that called out that bid was his own. He feels Harry pull away slightly to look at him, and his face is burning with embarrassment. There is nothing he can say that’ll save this. Not a single thing.

Honesty is not the best policy in this case, considering the truth is that he didn’t like the idea of a man that wasn’t him getting to go on a date with Harry, even though it was just a bid for this event that means absolutely nothing. All the time he spent worrying about looking like a tit didn’t include him worrying about...bidding on Harry.

He blinks, unsure how to save the moment, and he can see Gemma standing in the audience grinning wildly, a satisfied look in her eyes. Everyone else looks a mix of bewildered and stunned, but no one looks more confused than the man he randomly decided to bid against, his biggest competition in his subconscious, apparently, and he has no idea how long the silence has gone on, but before he can overthink it and say something else that’s incredibly stupid, the microphone is being urged out of his hand by a laughing Fiona.

“What a plot twist we have here!” she giggles into the mic, and Nick sheepishly shrugs. “Anyone want to go higher than £500? Careful, though, or Grimshaw over here might bid against that, too!”

The crowd roars with laughter, and he laughs along because what else is there to do, but his eyes fall on Harry. He looks amused, pink lips in a smirk as he stares back at Nick, doe-eyed and beautiful. Nick’s about to say something, apologize, maybe, though he isn’t sure what for. It was an auction, and he did bid. It’s himself that he’s embarrassed, not Harry, but before he can get any words out, Fiona cuts into his thoughts. “Alright, well, then I guess a date with Harry Styles and his chocolate banana cupcakes go to none other than our own Nick Grimshaw!”

The audience applauds, and before Nick can think, Harry pulls him into a tight hug, body pressing right against his. His hands easily fall to Harry’s waist, and they fit, he thinks, they fit. He feels Harry’s warm breath on his ear as he whispers, “You’re an absolute idiot, and I’m so glad you are.”

“An idiot?” Nick asks, pulling away, and he vaguely registers Fiona speaking in the background, glad she’s taken over from him while he was too busy being unprofessional.

“You didn’t have to pay £500 for a date with me or for me to make you cupcakes,” Harry laughs, cupping Nick’s cheek in his hand. “You could’ve just asked me out at any time, and I would’ve said yes.”

“Yeah, but...” There’s no way to save this.

“You could’ve asked me over text, and I would’ve said yes, or you could’ve asked me in my kitchen when I looked like a mess, and I still would’ve said yes, but thank you.”

Nick’s heart hammers against his chest knowing that Harry’s been interested this entire time and that his leap of faith was one that was worth it, one that landed on soft ground and solid footing. “It was kind of romantic, no?”

Harry smiles, shaking his head a bit, curls bouncing. “Sure, yeah, romantic, insane, whatever. People do crazy things in the name of love.”

Nick feels like it’s only the two of them in the room as he rests his hand on Harry’s forearm, squeezing gently as they look into each other’s eyes. It feels so intimate that he can easily forget that they’re standing in front of a crowd of people and that he made an idiot of himself in front of said crowd when Harry’s looking at him like that.

“Oh, bloody hell, just kiss him already!” Fiona booms into the mic, and the audience laughs loudly.

Nick smiles at Harry who’s grinning right back at him, hand still softly resting on his cheek, and he nods slightly, an invitation.

And he does.