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hold you like it's not goodbye (before you fall for someone new)

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He’s not sure how he ended up here.

Or, he knows how he got here. He remembers getting in his car and following the GPS instructions for 10 minutes, before he pulled up to a house that he’s never really been to before.

10 minutes isn’t a long drive, really. Hard to think that someone who’s felt so far away for so long has been this close all along.

But he doesn’t really know why he’s here. He’s been in London for a week now, and it’s been nice – busy, but nice. He’s been to meetings, met some old friends, caught up with his family. But today he had a day off, and he had been planning on just lounging about, catch up on some sleep and listen to some new music. But he’d opened Instagram on a whim, and before he knew what he was doing he was looking up Niall’s profile, looking at his story and… now he was here.

Outside Niall’s door.

At least he’s pretty sure it’s Niall’s door. Niall had moved a couple of years back, but Harry found his new address in the (mostly quiet) group chat with the lads. The thought that he might have the wrong house passes his mind briefly, but his body has kind of been acting on auto-pilot ever since he opened Instagram, so before he can think better of it, his finger has pressed the bell icon on the doorbell, and there’s a loud buzz.

He considers turning around, getting back in his car and driving home. It’s not too late – Niall might not even answer his door. Maybe he isn’t even home – maybe the story on his Instagram wasn’t from his own house, maybe it was –

The intercom crackles and before Harry has the chance to make a run for it, Niall’s voice is filling his ears.

“Come on in, mate” he says, and the door clicks as it’s temporarily unlocked.

Harry’s brows knit together – how did Niall know it was him? As he grabs the door and opens it, he spots a camera in the corner. Ah, must be it, he thinks. Niall didn’t sound very surprised though, mind. Which is odd to Harry, as he’s quite surprised to be here himself.

Once he’s inside, he takes in his surroundings. The hallway isn’t massive, just a small space. There are some jackets and coats, shoes. Just a perfectly normal hallway, to be fair. But Harry feels stuck in place, because there’s a smell that’s so distinctly Niall, and Harry just wants to take it all in for a bit. In the back of his mind he thinks that probably says a lot about how long it’s been since they’ve seen each other, but even more about how much he’s missed him. Before he can dwell too much though, he can hear footsteps coming down the stairs and around the corner.

He turns around just as Niall steps into view. Harry’s mouth falls slightly open as his system is overwhelmed with feelings of – he’s not sure. Fondness? Nostalgia?

Longing?

Niall freezes the second he lays eyes on him; stops right in his track, the easy, casual smile on his face dropping slowly, turning into an expression of shock.

So, he hadn’t known it was Harry then. He must have been expecting someone else , Harry thinks, with the small part of his brain that isn’t busy taking in everything about Niall that has changed since the last time they saw each other. He’s got a bit of a tan; his hair is a bit longer. His arms look a bit more toned. There’s some stubble on his chin, like he hasn’t shaved in a couple of days. He looks good .

“You’re –” Niall starts, but he doesn’t seem to know how to finish.

Harry clears his throat. “Surprise?” he tries, and smiles weakly, and prays that Niall isn’t able to pick up on the hundreds of emotions that lie behind that one word.

“What are –” Niall says, and Harry can see the gears turning in his head, the confusion clear in his eyes. “I mean, you’re… I thought you… what?”

“I was in the neighbourhood,” Harry says, as way of explanation. He tries for a light tone; wants it to sound casual. No big deal. Easy. Please let this be easy , he thinks.

Niall’s eyes are still big, filled with questions. Harry knows they’ve not been in touch in a while, and that Niall probably isn’t exactly the same person that Harry used to spend all hours of the night talking shit with, but at the same time he feels like he’ll always know Niall, always been able to read his face like an open book.  

It seems like Niall is just about to try to form a sentence again when suddenly –

“Niall!” a voice shouts from upstairs. And it’s a voice Harry knows, but that’s… what?

“Is that –” Harry starts slowly, brows knitting together, but he’s interrupted before he can finish.

“Niall!” it shouts again, “Where’d you put the new shampoo?”

Niall looks at Harry, over his shoulder, and then back at Harry again. “It’s, err –” Niall starts. Suddenly there are footsteps coming down the stairs again, and before either of them can get out another word, Louis Tomlinson is standing in front of them both, wearing nothing but a white towel hanging low on his hips.

They must paint quite the picture, standing there in Niall’s hallway, staring at each other like three goldfish in a bowl.

It doesn’t take long for Louis to get over the initial shock though, and mere seconds after he stepped into the hallway, his face breaks into a smile.

“Harry!” he says, “I didn’t know we were expecting you!” He looks at Niall, and then back at Harry. When neither of them say anything, both stunned by the pure absurdity of the situation, he goes on. “It’s been ages, mate! I’d give you a hug, but err– ” he gestures to his state of undress, and smiles slightly. “I was just getting ready for the shower.”

Louis doesn’t really seem to pick up on the tension that to Harry is so clearly hanging in the air.

“I was just in the neighbourhood,” Harry says again. “Thought I’d… pop in, say hi.”

Niall is still looking at Harry as if he’s got two heads, but Louis doesn’t seem fazed. He smiles and nods. “Alright, that’s nice! Isn’t it, Niall?” he says, looking at Niall. Niall clears his throat and smiles slightly.

“Yeah!” he says. His confused expression shifts, a bit too quickly Harry notes, into what looks eerily similar to his interview smile. “It’s great to see you, H!” He moves towards Harry, and pulls him into a brief hug.

The hug ends a lot sooner than Harry imagined their first hug in this long would. Not like any of this is anything like what Harry thought it would be like. For one, Louis is there. And he’s half-naked.

“Well!” Louis says, “I really should get back to that shower, I left the water running –”

“Jesus, Lou, I’ve told you to stop doing that,” Niall says.

“But you should stay for dinner! We’ve ordered pizza, should be plenty to go around!”

Harry looks at Niall, for… something. Niall smiles, and nods.

“Yeah, stay!” he says, “We can catch up, swap stories, all that!”

Harry smiles, and nods. “Yeah, sure. Sounds good.” He looks at Niall, and Niall looks back. His face is still carefully fixed with that interview smile, but Harry thinks he can see a hint of confusion still lingering in his eyes.

“Great, that’s settled then!” says Louis, “I’ll just hop in the shower. Niall, the shampoo?”

Niall doesn’t respond.

“Niall,” Louis says, again, more pointedly, and puts a hand on his shoulder. Niall seems to snap out of whatever it was running through his mind, and looks back at Louis.

“Yeah, right, shampoo,” he says. “Should be under the sink.”

“Thanks, love” he says cheerily, and Harry’s eyes go wide at the term of endearment. Louis waves a hand to Harry as he heads back up the stairs.

Once Niall and Harry are alone again, a silence settles between them. Niall scratches the back of his head, and shuffles his feet.

“So,” Harry says, “Louis is –”. He doesn’t know how to finish that, doesn’t really know what he wants to ask, or if he wants to know the answer to any of the questions that are running around his head right now.

Louis is living here?

Louis is walking around your house half-naked as if it’s the most normal thing in the world?

Louis calls you love now?

“Yeah, it’s… a long story” Niall answers, shrugging his shoulders. It’s vague and it doesn’t really explain anything, but he doesn’t meet Harry’s eyes, and that’s all Harry needs. He gets it.

It’s not like Harry thought Niall would never find anyone. Niall is quite possibly Harry’s favourite human in the entire world; he lights up every room he’s in, and Harry’s pretty sure that everyone that meets Niall falls at least a little bit in love with him. But Niall and Louis? Harry had definitely never seen that coming. Never picked up on the slightest vibe between them during the five years they spent together in the band. Was actually pretty convinced that Louis was very much straight. But the current situation is making his head spin, and rethink everything he ever knew and thought about his two bandmates.

Before his thoughts can spiral even further, the doorbell goes off again, and both Niall and Harry jump a bit.

“That must be the pizza, then” Niall says, moving past Harry and towards the door.

Harry draws a breath and tries to compose himself. He can do this! It’ll be fine! He’s known Louis and Niall for most of his life, he can hang out with them for an afternoon. Even if his chest does feel kind of tight at the thought of it all.

***

Turns out, Louis hadn’t been exaggerating when he said there would be plenty of pizza to go around.

“Were you expecting the entire neighbourhood?” Harry asks, as he helps Niall carry the boxes of pizza up the stairs.

Niall huffs out a laugh. “Think you’d need a few more pizzas to feed an entire neighbourhood, to be fair.” He leads the way into the kitchen, and they put the pizzas down on the kitchen island.

Harry hums. “Might do,” he says, his mouth tugging up on one side, “if the slices were small enough. Went to a pizzeria in LA once that specialized in organic, small-sliced pizza. One slice was the size of a thumb. But the flavours were really concentrated, so there was like, so much taste in that one small bite.”

Niall’s looking at him with furrowed brows and a hint of a smile playing at his lips. Harry shrugs, and smiles.

“You should try it, next time you’re in LA” he says. He looks away from Niall’s face in favour of opening one of the pizza boxes. “Ah sweet, pepperoni” he says, mostly to himself.

“No way that’s an actual thing,” Niall says. Harry looks back up. Niall’s giving him a look of disbelief, but Harry can tell he’s amused.

“Pepperoni?” he asks, feigning confusion and trying to hide his smile.

“What?” Niall says, “No, the tiny pizza thing. You’re making that up, you have to be” Niall says. He seems more relaxed now, than he was earlier in the hallway. His smile is more sincere, less of a clear result of media-training.

Harry tries to hold his mask for a bit longer, but can’t stop from smiling as Niall holds his gaze, challenging him.

“Fine, yeah,” Harry says, “it’s not a real thing. With pizzas at least, I have been to a restaurant that does something similar.”

Niall laughs and shakes his head, “Same old Harry Styles,” he says, and it sounds fond. “Remember that time you tried to convince Liam that Saturday Night Live actually aired on Thursdays?”

Harry smiles fondly at the memory. “Yeah, that was a good one.”

Niall scoffs, “It really wasn’t. You’re rubbish at lying.”

“Hey!” Harry says. “I’ll have you know I had Liam fooled for a solid minute and a half.”

“That’s Liam though, he’ll believe anything a pretty face tells him.”

“You think my face is pretty?” Harry asks, without missing a beat. It’s easy, it’s what he would have said to Niall if this was 5 years ago and this was a hotel room, or backstage at a gig. It’s banter, it’s fun, and just a bit flirty. He regrets it the second he says it.

There’s a beat, and Harry is about to take it back, or laugh it off and change the subject, but then –

“Technically,” Niall says, smirking. “I think I said Liam thinks your face is pretty.”

Harry lets out a laugh, and he’s sure Niall picks up on the hint of relief on his face. This is good, Harry thinks. Feels good, being around Niall again. They look at each other and share a smile, and it feels so normal that Harry almost forgets that heavy feeling that he’s been carrying around since he’d heard Louis’ voice.

“So, anyway,” Niall says. He turns around and gets out some plates. “Louis was really hungry when he ordered the pizzas, so your timing couldn’t really have been better.” He hands Harry a plate, before he grabs himself a slice.

“Should we wait for him?” Harry asks.

“Nah,” Niall says, “fucker’s been putting off showering for a couple of hours now, ‘s his own fault if the pizza gets cold while he’s in there.”

Harry hums, and grabs a slice of pepperoni pizza. He’s still got so many questions about the whole Louis situation. The LouisandNiall situation . But he thinks hearing the answers might be too much for him right now, so instead of asking any of them, he takes a bite of his pizza and smiles at Niall. Niall smiles back.

“So how have you been, Haz?” Niall asks. “Not seen you since… Jeez, how long has it been?”

“Dunno,” Harry shrugs. That’s a lie though, he knows exactly how long it’s been. Well, not down to the exact minute, that would be a new level of stalking - and that’s saying something considering he came here today because he saw an instagram story. It’s like I’m one of the fans , he thinks to himself, and can’t help but let out a small chuckle. 

“What’s so funny?” Niall asks, amused. 

“Nothing,” he’s still smiling though. He looks up at Niall and catches his eye. Niall smiles back, clearly still confused, but he doesn’t push it any further. There’s something about this though - seeing Niall, talking to Niall, laughing with Niall - that makes Harry’s chest feel tight. 

Niall’s still smiling at him, a small, almost shy smile. Harry doesn’t really register what’s happening when his mouth opens, and starts speaking. “San Francisco” he says, and Niall’s eyes go a bit wide. Harry clears his throat, “I mean, that’s…” he looks away from Niall, focuses on the slice of pizza in front of him instead, “The last time we saw each other, I think. When we were in San Francisco.” 

And - Harry really hadn’t needed to say that. He’s pretty sure, no he knows , that neither of them had needed the reminder. Niall doesn’t say anything, at first. Harry just takes a bite, so that he doesn’t say anything else that he regrets. Coming here was a mistake, clearly, as his brain and mouth have decided to take some time apart. 

“Right,” Niall says, after a few beats, and his voice sounds strained, somehow. Like he’s not sure how to approach it. “That’s - yeah, that… ‘course it was,” he lets out a breath. “That’s a while ago, then.”

Harry hums and nods, taking another bite. He keeps his gaze soft, and lets it wander around the kitchen - not looking at Niall, but trying to not make it obvious that he’s Not Looking at Niall. 

Niall clears his throat, “Listen Haz, about that” he starts. “About… San Francisco -”

He never gets any further than that, because just then Louis comes wandering into the kitchen, hair wet but thankfully clothed this time. His shirt looks just a bit too big though, which makes Harry wonder if it’s actually Nialls.

“Alright then lads!” he says, all smiles. “Good thing I ordered all this pizza, isn’t it Niall?” He places his hand on Niall’s shoulder. Harry should probably look away, for the sake of his own sanity, but he’s not quick enough, and suddenly he’s staring at Louis rubbing his hand slightly back and forth on Niall’s shoulder. 

Harry’s already impossibly tight chest gets even tighter. 

“This one was complaining we’d have enough to feed the entire neighbourhood” Louis says to Harry, rolling his eyes. Niall dips his head and smiles sheepishly. “Anyway, let’s not stand around here like idiots, let’s grab a box and head over to the sofa!”

Louis grabs a box and starts walking. Once he’s left the kitchen, Niall looks at Harry and he looks like he’s about to say something again, but then - 

“Nialler, grab us some beers would you lad?” Louis shouts. Niall and Harry share a final look and a brief smile, before Niall turns around to grab the beers, and Harry grabs a pizza and heads out to join Louis.

Chapter Text

“San Francisco” he says, and Niall’s eyes go a bit wide. Harry clears his throat, “I mean, that’s…” he looks away from Niall, focuses on the slice of pizza in front of him instead, “The last time we saw each other, I think. When we were in San Francisco.” 

 

Harry spots Niall from across the room, and a warm feeling spreads through his entire body immediately. 

They’re at a networking event - something about connecting up-and-coming songwriters with artists. There are a few familiar faces around the room, some people Harry’s worked with, some he only knows from a distance. He’s spotted a few bigger names - said hello to a couple of them as well. But he wasn’t expecting Niall to be there.

He’s stood listening to a young, Canadian songwriter and producer when he spots him. It’s not that this guy (Ryan? Roger? Harry doesn’t remember, but he’s pretty sure it started with an R) doesn’t seem like a nice and talented guy, but he’s been talking about his fondness of EDM for the better part of 10 minutes, and while Harry respects the genre it’s definitely not where he’s thinking of taking his next album. So he’s already tuned him out when he spots Niall.

He’s talking to a small, blonde girl who looks familiar, throwing his head back laughing at something she said. He’s too far away for Harry to actually hear his laughter, but he’s heard it so many times before that he thinks he hears it anyway. He can’t help the smile that spreads across his face.

“Right?” Ron asks (or maybe it was Rob?), bringing Harry’s attention back to him. Harry has no idea what he’s talking about anymore, but he smiles politely.

“Right, yeah” Harry says. His eyes drift towards Niall again, as Ralph starts back up again, saying something about his writing process, how he’s inspired by nature or something, Harry’s still not paying attention. Niall is still with the blonde girl, a big smile plastered all over his face. He looks good, Harry thinks. He always does, to be fair, but Harry’s not seen him in person in maybe seven or eight months, and it’s not that he’d forgot how good Niall looks, it’s just… damn.

He’s wearing a dark blue shirt, with short sleeves and the top buttons open to reveal a white singlet underneath and a generous amount of chest hair poking through. He’s got some stubble on his chin, and his hair is styled into a messy quiff. It still looks impossibly soft though, and there’s a fleeting thought in the back of Harry’s mind about running his fingers through it - but he squashes that thought just like he’s squashed similar thoughts about Niall so many times before. 

“Listen, mate,” Harry says, interrupting Rick-or-Ryland-or-whatever, who stops in his tracks and looks expectantly at Harry. “It’s been great meeting you, but I like, really need to go for a wee, so-”

“Oh yeah, sure, man!” R-something says, as he’s reaching into his side pocket for something. He takes out a card and hands it to Harry. “Give me a call if you ever wanna write something together though, I think we could do something really cool!”

“Thanks,” Harry says politely, and takes the card. With a last smile and nod, he makes his way through the crowd and towards Niall. He feels a bit bad, for leaving so abruptly, and also for knowing that he probably won’t call him, or have his people call him. But he forgets all of it as soon as he’s close enough to actually hear Niall.

Thinking back, Harry’s always had a bit of an obsession when it comes to Niall. There’s just something about him that makes Harry forget everyone else in the room, like it’s just the two of them, and it’s Harry’s sole mission in life to make Niall laugh, or smile or blush, or roll his eyes. Anything really, just as long as he acknowledges Harry. He tries not to think too much about what that means, because he knows that going down that path isn’t going to end well for him. 

He stays close to the edge of the room as he moves closer, wanting to surprise Niall. He comes up behind him, and Niall is calmer now, not laughing loudly but still smiling big and friendly. The girl is talking about a songwriting session she’s had, it seems. Harry feels awkward for a second; doesn’t want to interrupt her, but at the same time he can’t just stand there and say nothing. 

“What’s a nice, Irish lad like you doing in a place like this?” he says, keeping his voice low and warm, placing a careful hand at Nialls side, before he can overthink it too much.

Niall jumps slightly and turns around. His face lights up immediately when their eyes meet. 

“Harry Styles!” he exclaims, eyes and smile as big as Harry’s heart feels. “As I live and breathe!”

Harry’s hand is already at Niall’s side, so when Niall wraps his arms around him in a big hug it feels like the most natural thing in the world. He wraps his own arms around Niall, and allows himself to breathe in the other man for a moment. 

Niall takes a step back for a second, but keeps his hands on Harry’s shoulders. “I didn’t know you were gonna be here!” he says. 

“Small world, I guess” Harry says, feeling his skin tingle where Niall is touching him. Stop that , he thinks to himself. He’s not sure why he’s reacting like this to seeing Niall, he was pretty sure he’d had his feelings under control the last time they’d seen each other. But now he’s here , and Niall is here, and he’s looking at Harry like he’s the only person in the fucking world and Harry feels intoxicated - just like he always did when Niall would look at him like that. So Harry thinks fuck it , and pulls Niall back in for another hug. Niall laughs into it. 

“It’s been ages, mate” he says into his neck. Harry hums.

“Too long,” Harry whispers, suddenly aware that they’re not actually the only people in the room, and that he kind of wishes they were. He pulls back again, and looks around the room. There are some eyes on them - nothing obvious, everyone is in the industry, so there’s no gaping or any phones flashing. Niall seems to be dragged out of the bubble too, and he turns back around. Only half-way though, he still leaves one hand on Harry’s shoulder. 

“Shit, sorry, Jules” he says to the girl, who Harry had almost forgotten all about. She’s smiling at them, it looks genuine but also slightly awkward. The way you smile when the person you were talking to suddenly starts talking to someone else entirely, Harry thinks. “Harry, this is Julia!”

And oh , that’s why she looks so familiar. “Julia Michaels?” he asks, smiling and reaching out to shake her hand. She smiles back, looks a bit stunned.

“Wow, yes, hi!” she says as she grabs his hand and shakes it. She looks at Niall and he lets out a chuckle.

“I’m Harry,” he says. “Big fan of your work, you’ve got some great tunes!” Harry had heard Issues, obviously - everyone and their mum had heard that one. But he had also checked out her album, after he’d seen the announcement that she was opening for Niall on the Flicker tour. 

She smiles at the compliment, big and genuine. “Wow, thank you so much, that means a lot!” she says. 

“Yeah, I really liked, uh” he says, trying to remember the name of the song, “Pink, was it? Great track, really.” 

She smiles again. “Thank you!” she says, and laughs awkwardly. “Wow, sorry, I’m like, really bad at taking compliments.”

“No need to thank me,” Harry says.

“Alright, steady on there, Styles!” Niall says. He puts a hand on Harry’s chest, casually. Just like he’s done a thousand times before, probably. No big deal. Harry can feel goosebumps forming at the nape of his neck, though. “Keep your flirting to a minimal with this one-”

“I wasn’t-”

“She’s a taken woman,” Niall says and winks at Julia, and she blushes slightly, and looks at the ground. And oh , that’s… Harry feels a bit sick, suddenly.

“Oh,” Harry says, looking between the two of them. “I didn’t know the two of you were…” he trails off. 

Niall laughs, “Jesus, no, Haz” he says. “Not by me!” 

Relief washes over Harry, and he prays it doesn’t show all over his face. He smiles though, tries to play it off as if he’s embarrassed that he had jumped to conclusions. “Oh, right, sorry,” he mumbles. 

Before it gets a chance to become awkward, Julia’s phone lights up with a text message. “Oh, sorry boys,” she says, “this is from my agent, she’s around here somewhere, says she has someone for me to meet! It was nice to meet you Harry!” They shake hands again, and smile at each other. She turns to Niall and gives him a hug, which means that Niall’s hands leave Harry’s body for the first time since he’d turned around. 

“It was lovely seeing you again, Michaels,” Niall says, his words laced with affection. 

“You too, Niall,” she says. “Text me about that songwriting session!” And with that she waves them goodbye, and heads into the crowd. 

Niall turns back to look at Harry. “I can’t believe you’re here, mate!” he says. “Let’s go get a drink, yeah?”

The corner of Harry’s mouth inches up into a lopsided grin. “You haven’t changed a bit,” he says, teasing. 

Niall laughs at him, even though it wasn’t really that funny, and curls his arm around Harry’s shoulder to lead him over to the bar. 

Niall orders for them - a beer for himself, and a glass of red wine for Harry. He doesn’t even look at Harry for confirmation after ordering, like he just knows - remembers. The butterflies in Harry’s stomach riot at that, and Harry tries his very best to focus on anything else. 

There are a couple of bar stools by the bar, and it seems like a good place as any to sit and catch up. Harry knows that he won’t be doing anymore networking tonight, and by the look on Niall’s face, he’d guess they’re on the same page. Why would they want to, when they could just talk to each other?

They talk about everything, it feels like. It starts off with a simple “So what have you been up to?” from Niall, and Harry tells him about the work he’s been doing - the songs he’s writing, the shows he’s playing. They talk about tour - they’d been to a lot of the same places during their first solo tours, and they swap stories of the crowds, the cities.

“Don’t know how it was for you,” Niall says, “but for once I felt like I actually got to see some of the places. Lot less hysteria without you lot around.” There’s a smile and a wink, and a chuckle. Harry returns it. 

He couldn’t tell you how long they sit there. At one point Niall goes to get another beer, but Harry stops him. 

“Actually,” he says to the bartender, and Niall looks at him in expectation, “do you do pornstar martinis?” The bartender nods with a smile. “We’ll have two of those then,” he says with a smile, and he directs a wink to Niall. 

“We’re not messing about then, eh?” says Niall around a smile. 

They get their drinks, and Niall starts telling Harry about the latest news with his golf thing. 

Harry’s heard Niall talk about golf a lot in the nearly eight years that they’ve known each other. And from anyone else, Harry thinks it might get boring. He likes playing golf just fine, but talking about it? Not on Harry’s top 10 list of riveting conversation topics. Unless, of course, the person he’s talking to is Niall.

Niall makes everything interesting, Harry thinks idly as he listens to Niall, and he can picture what he must look like now. Smiling like an idiot, staring at every inch of Niall’s face, trying to commit it to memory.

“So, we’re really hoping that the PGA tour will be good this year,” Niall says, “so that our players can climb the-”

“Niall Horan!” someone says, and there’s a man coming up beside them and putting a hand on Niall’s shoulder. Harry’s never seen this guy before, but he’s got the look of a semi-successful producer, maybe a few years older than themselves. In his late 30s, probably, if Harry had to guess. 

“John!” Niall says, and he sounds surprised - not in the same way he had sounded when he’d seen Harry though. That had been pure joy and excitement to see an old friend again, this was - something else. More subdued, slightly - panicky? Flustered? Or maybe Harry was completely over analyzing things. 

“Thought that was your laughter I heard!” John says, in a thick, very American accent. The kind of accent that’s kind of hard to pinpoint to an exact location, and is just ambiguously american . Harry doesn’t like it, he decides. Or maybe he just doesn’t like John’s hand still planted firmly on Niall’s shoulder, or the way that there’s a slight blush creeping onto Niall’s cheeks. 

Niall chuckles, albeit a bit awkwardly. Harry doesn’t think John picks up on it though, knows he can only tell because he knows Niall, and he’s pretty sure John hasn’t been friends with Niall since they were teenagers, and… Harry shakes his head, he’s being ridiculous. How many drinks were they on now? He’s lost count. 

“Ah, busted,” Niall says, looking down. He tries to shrug his shoulder, but John’s hand stays firmly in place. He turns to Harry, and gestures, “John this is-”

“Listen,” John says, interrupting him, and he doesn’t even spare Harry a glance, which - rude . “I’ve gotta get back, I’m talking to some big people over there,” he nods his head back in the direction that he came from, and Harry needs to hold back a scoff at that. Someone thinks a lot of themselves . “But I just saw you,” he drawls, and leans in closer and drops his voice to a whisper, but Harry can still hear him clear as day, “and thought I might come say hi.”

Niall’s blush has deepened, and his eyes look a bit panicked, they keep flitting between Harry and John. Harry’s a bit… dumbfounded at the whole thing. He doesn’t know what John’s deal is, but he’s clearly making Niall uncomfortable, and Harry can feel the need to step in bubbling inside him. 

“I’ve got a, uh,” John is still talking, low and slow and so close to Niall. “A room, at a hotel just down the street. You’ve got my number, just give me a buzz.” His hand is still planted on Niall’s shoulder, squeezing. Niall still looks a bit like a deer caught in the headlights, but when John leans back and looks at him, he gives him a small, tight smile, that clearly screams alright mate, time for you to leave now. 

But John really, really must not know Niall that well, because he shoots him a sleezy smile back, and winks at him. Pats him once on the shoulder, and then disappears back to his big people. 

When he’s gone, Niall turns his attention to the drink in his hand. He clears his throat, but he doesn’t say anything, and Harry can see the tension in his shoulders and the nervous look in his eyes. 

“What was…” Harry says, “or, I mean like, who was-”

“It was nothing,” Niall mutters, cutting him off. 

“It didn’t seem like nothing,” he says carefully, “you’re like, really tense right now, Niall.” He has half a mind to reach out and place a hand on his shoulder, but it doesn’t seem like it would go over well right now. 

“It’s...” he lifts his gaze from his drink and quickly glances around the room. He locks eyes with Harry for a brief second before he looks away again, letting out a deep breath.

“Niall-”

“Let’s get out of here,” Niall says suddenly. He downs the rest of his drink in one go, and then gets up from his seat, looking at Harry expectantly.

Harry’s not sure where it is they’re going, but in the end, that doesn’t really matter. He downs his own drink, before getting up and following Niall.

Chapter Text

It’s been a while since Harry’s been around Louis, and it’s… weird. It’s been a while since he’s been around Niall, too, to be fair, but that’s weird for a whole different reason. But no, he’s not been around Louis in a while, and it’s hard getting back into the rhythm that they used to have back in the band. He’s trying though, as the three of them reminisce on the good old days. 

What’s even harder is getting used to being around Louis and Niall together. LouisandNiall. 

The two of them had always been close; of course, all five of them had been. But Harry’s never seen them quite like this before. After the whole Larry thing had blown out of proportion, and Louis and Harry had to cut back on their public interaction (and as a consequence, their personal interactions as well), it had created an unspoken division in the band as well, almost like a custody arrangement in a divorce. Louis had got custody of Liam and Zayn, and Harry had got custody of Niall. And so, surely Niall and Louis had interacted a lot, but maybe not so much in front of Harry.

He certainly hasn’t noticed them being so comfortable with each other before.

Louis tells a funny story, and Niall throws his head back laughing (which isn’t unusual for Niall, but it seems so genuine and fond, and Harry’s stomach turns).

Niall talks about his next single, and Louis beams at him and tells Harry that he’s already heard it, and that it’s absolutely beautiful (Harry thinks about a time when he was the first to hear a new song Niall had written, and his heart sinks in his chest).

Harry asks about Freddie, and Niall looks fondly at Louis while he tells him about what he’s been up to lately, how big he’s gotten and how clever he is. Niall interrupts him half way through. “Show him the video!” he says, as he nudges Louis’ thigh with his knee. 

(It’s a video of Freddie dancing to Girl Almighty. It’s probably the cutest thing Harry’s ever seen, but he also can’t stop looking at how Niall’s knee is now just resting against Louis’ thigh.)

They’re a couple of beers in each, and Niall is halfway through a story from the last time he was in Australia, when Louis (who’s apparently heard the story before) gets up to get them some more beers. 

“ -and then, remember, these guys have no idea who I am,” Niall says, laughing, “Slow Hands come on, and one of the lads groans, looks straight at me and tells me what a shit song he thinks it is.”

Harry laughs with him, he’s been there himself a couple of times. “And what’d you say to that?”

“Looked him straight in the eye,” Niall says, as he leans forward just a bit “and said, if you think this is shit, you should hear the rest of my album!”

 “‘course you did,” Harry says, “and how’d he take that?”

“Honestly, I don’t think he heard me over the music,” he chuckles, “he just smiled and nodded and turned back to one of his mates.”

“Bad news, lads!” Louis’s voice announces, and Harry looks up to see him standing in the doorway, pulling on a jacket. “We’re all out of beer. Good news, I’m going out to get us some more!”

Harry’s brow furrows. “Actually,” he starts, “I should probably get going soon, so-”

“Bullshit!” Louis says, “I’ve not seen you in ages, and knowing you you’ll probably drop of the face of the earth again as soon as you leave-”

“I don’t-” Harry starts to protest.

“So you-” he points at Harry, “stay, and you,” he points at Niall, “make sure he doesn’t run off!”

Niall snorts and mutters something under his breath that Harry doesn’t catch. 

“Right, see you then!” Louis turns around and starts walking.

“Lou,” Niall shouts after him. Louis stops and turns around. 

“Yes, love?” he says. He sounds exasperated. 

“You're not driving.”

“I’ve had two beers, Neil, ‘m not a lightweight!” Louis says, and starts walking again.

Niall snorts, “Right, and I’m shagging the queen!”

“Pretty sure that’s treason,” Harry mutters.

“Fuck you, Niall!” Louis shouts, “And I’ve already called an Uber!”

They hear the door shut behind him, and Niall cackles. “Idiot,” he says, fondly. Harry’s stomach turns again. He smiles though, when Niall looks at him.

“Then there were two,” Niall says, and leans back against the sofa. 

“Yeah,” Harry says. He’d been doing fine, when it had been three of them. Well, if barely holding it together could be defined as fine. But Louis and Niall had done most of the talking, so really all he’d had to do was laugh at the right times, and answer questions when they were directed at him. Now though, with only him and Niall in the room he’s at a loss for what to say. There’s so much hanging in the air between them, and Niall seems completely oblivious to it. 

“How’s Greg?” is what he ends up saying, which. Alright, as far as small talk goes, that’s not too bad. Niall seems taken aback though, and Harry realizes that he probably blurted that out a bit too suddenly. 

“Greg’s good, yeah,” Niall answers. “Theo’s getting real big now, it’s mad!”

“Yeah?” Harry says, and his heart clenches a bit at the proud look on Niall’s face. “You got any pictures?”

Niall huffs. “‘Course I do, what kind of uncle do ya take me for?” He fishes his phone out of his pocket and starts looking through it. After a bit, his eyes flicker up towards Harry again. “Well, come on then,” he says.

Harry looks at him dumbly. “What?”

“Come over here so I can show you the pictures,” he says, nodding his head to the side. 

Oh, right.

“Oh, right,” Harry says. He gets up from his spot on the other sofa, and walks over to Niall. He sits down, making sure to leave plenty of room between them. Niall looks at him with furrowed eyebrows, but he doesn’t say anything. He turns his attention back to the phone.

“This one’s from a couple of months back,” Niall says, holding out the phone between them. “And then this one,” he swipes through to another photo, “is from the last time I went out to see them,” it’s a picture of Niall with Theo on his shoulders, they’re both smiling from ear to ear.

“He looks like you,” Harry says, without thinking about it.

Niall smiles. “Yeah? Mum reckons so too. Oh!” he’s swiped to another picture, “this one’s from halloween last year! Little bugger went as the Hulk!”

“That,” Harry says, “might just be the cutest thing I’ve ever seen.”

“Cuter than Freddie dancing?” Niall asks. He’s smirking slightly, eyebrows raised.

Harry considers it. “Maybe just a bit,” he says. Niall laughs. “But don’t tell Louis I said that.”

“He’ll have your head for that,” Niall says, but he’s smiling, big and bright. 

Harry’s heart beats faster at the sight, and his stomach fills with butterflies. He’ll have my head for that too, Harry thinks. He doesn’t realize he’s staring before Niall turns his head and their eyes lock. There’s still a good amount of space between them on the sofa, but Harry suddenly feels like they’re sitting right next to each other. 

“Niall, I-” Harry starts, but his mouth and brain are doing that thing again where they aren’t cooperating, and he has no idea what to follow it up with. Niall’s looking at him expectantly. “I…” he tries again. Still, no words follow. 

Niall’s mouth quirks up into an amused smile. “Cat got your tongue?”

Harry can feel a small blush creeping onto his cheeks, and he smiles despite himself. “Yeah,” he mutters. 

Niall nods at him, and gives him a small, reassuring smile. “We should talk, probably, yeah?”

Harry takes a deep breath. His insides are screaming, but Niall is right. They probably should. “Yeah,” he says.

“So, Niall says. He’s put his phone down, and is now leaning back against the sofa. “San Francisco?”

 

***

 

Turns out they’re both staying at the same hotel. The world really is small, Harry thinks. 

Niall’s leading the way, so they end up in his room. It’s a nice enough room, not the biggest nor the fanciest they’ve seen, but that’s not so much about the quality of this room as it is about the lavishness of the other rooms they’ve stayed in. 

Niall grabs a couple of beers from the minibar and heads out to the small balcony that overlooks the hotel pool. Harry follows him, still aware of the tension in Niall’s shoulders. 

There’s a small table and a couple of chairs out there, Niall is sitting in one of them. Harry sits down on the other one, and grabs one of the beers off of the table. 

“So,” Niall says. He’s picking at the label on the bottle, avoiding Harry’s gaze.

“So,” Harry echoes. 

“How’s Gemma doing?”

“She’s fine,” he takes a sip of the beer. He can tell that Niall is trying to avoid talking about whatever it is that’s bothering him, but he doesn’t get what that something is, or why it’s making Niall act all tense and weird. He’d been fine all night, how could one encounter with a random guy change his mood this much?

“That’s good, then” Niall says, still focusing intently on the beer bottle in his hands. 

“Niall,” Harry says pointedly, “are you gonna tell me what’s going on or are we just gonna make small talk for the rest of the night?”

“Dunno,” Niall mumbles. “What do you think is going on?” He looks up then, and meets Harry’s gaze. Harry can tell that he’s schooling his features carefully, and he hates it, hates not being able to read Niall’s face like a book. 

“Dunno” he shrugs, brows furrowing. 

“If you had to like,” Niall says, “guess. If you had to guess what happened back there. What… how would you describe it, like?”

Harry considers him for a second. “You’re being really strange right now,” he says, in lieu of answering. 

“Harry, just… Please, will you just… guess?” he almost begs. 

“Alright,” Harry breathes out, “yeah, alright, I… You were fine, and then that guy-”

“John,” Niall supplies.

“John, right, he came up, and… From where I was sitting, I guess it seemed like he was, er…” He searches for the right word, “Propositioning you?”

Niall nods, but he’s not looking at Harry anymore. 

“And that… made you uncomfortable?”

Niall shakes his head, “No, that’s not… I mean, it’s… Ah, jesus fucking-” he leans his head back against the wall and lets out a deep breath. “For the record, this is not how I pictured this conversation going,” he says, and there’s almost the hint of a chuckle in his voice.

“What conversation?” Harry asks, confused. 

“It’s…” he starts, and then trails off again. “Ok, listen, I wasn’t… John’s a friend, right. Sort of, at least. Like, he’s a friend, you know?” He looks at Harry expectantly. 

“I… don’t think I do?”

Niall sighs frustratedly. “Oh for fucks sake, Haz, we’ve slept together,” he says in a rush. 

And that’s. 

“Oh,” says Harry. Oh. 

“And I freaked out,” Niall continues, “not so much because he was propositioning me, but like, because you were there, and… I hadn’t told you yet.”

“Hadn’t told me that you were sleeping with John?” Harry asks, furrowing his eyebrows.

Niall scoffs, “That I was sleeping with blokes, I guess.”

Blokes. Plural. And that’s when Harry gets it. 

“Oh,” he says. Niall actually laughs at that.

“Yeah,” he says. “ Oh.

They look at each other, and Niall smiles carefully. Harry returns it, and Niall visibly relaxes. 

“You… you didn’t think I’d have a problem with that, right?”

“No,” he shrugs, “reckon I knew you’d be cool. It’s just… I don’t know, it’s weird.”

“It’s not weird, Niall” he leans slightly over the table, to place a hand on Niall’s shoulder, “it’s who you are .

Niall looks at him and lets out a small laugh, “That’s not what I meant, but thanks, Harry.”

“Oh, right.” He leans back, and takes another sip of his beer. 

It’s quiet around them, the only sounds coming from the traffic on the streets below them. 

“You know that I…” Harry starts. “That I’m, I mean, I don’t do labels or anything, but. You know that I’m, like, open , right?” He feels like maybe he shouldn’t bring it up, because this isn’t about him, but he also. He also needs to know that Niall knows.  

Niall laughs. “Yes, Harry, I know.” He sounds fond.

“Good. That’s… good.”

“I do, you know.” He looks out over the balcony, and takes a breath. “Use labels, that is.”

“Yeah?”

“Bisexual” he states simply. He catches Harry’s eye as he says it, and the corner of his mouth turns up slightly. 

Harry can’t stop the smile that spreads across his face. “That’s good,” he says, “suits you, that.”

Niall laughs, big and open as the last of the tension he’s been carrying around seems to leave his body. “I’ll drink to that!”

They both smile as they clink their bottles together. 

“Jesus,” Niall chuckles, “I did not see this coming when I woke up this morning.”

“That makes two of us,” Harry smiles slightly as he looks out at the view that surrounds them.

He hadn’t even expected to see Niall, and he definitely couldn’t have predicted this. It’s a lot of information to take in. Harry’s spent a good portion of his life telling himself that how he feels about Niall is a bad idea. Whenever he’s started to feel like the feelings might get out of hand; like the carefully constructed walls he’s built around them might crumble, he always repeats three things to himself.

Best mate, bandmate, straight.

Whenever Niall would laugh extra loud at his jokes, or his hands would linger on Harry for just a second too long, that’s what he’d remind himself of. But now, sitting on a hotel balcony in San Francisco, of all places, his mantra doesn’t really work anymore.

Niall isn’t straight. 

Niall isn’t straight, and he’s technically not his bandmate anymore, either. Suddenly the only wall that’s left is best mate, and Harry’s not sure that wall is strong enough to withstand the sheer force of the feelings that are threatening to burst out of him at any second. 

He’s not sure what to do. So, like most reasonable adults, he gets drunk. 

They order champagne from room service. ( Harry orders the champagne. “I’m good with beer, mate,” Niall tried to insist, but Harry waves him off and mutters something about celebrating and friendship.)

And after a few glasses (added on top of the wine at the party and the beer they’d had earlier) Harry is pleasantly buzzed, sitting on the floor with his back against the bed and his head resting on the mattress. Niall is sitting cross-legged on the bed, with a guitar in his lap, because of course he’s got a guitar; he’s Niall.

“Hey, Niall,” Harry says. He’s acutely aware that if he turns his head just right, his face would be mushed into Niall’s thigh and he desperately needs a distraction from that. 

“Yes, pet?”

“Am I the first?” Harry asks.

“First what, Harry?”

“To know,” he says, and when Niall just looks confused, he continues, “about you, I mean. Like, I know I’m not the first , but like, in the band?”

“Ah,” Niall says. The strumming stops for just a second before it picks up again. “Yeah, I guess?”

“You guess?” Harry asks, brows furrowing. 

“I mean, you’re the first one I’ve told” he clarifies, and Harry has to hold back a smile at that. “But,” he continues, “I reckon… I reckon Louis might know, a bit.”

Harry turns his head slightly (carefully, as to avoid the face-thigh situation), “What’d you mean?”

Niall just keeps strumming, but Harry’s sure he sees a blush creeping onto his cheeks. But then again, they’ve been drinking and Niall tends to turn red when he does that.

“Niall,” Harry says, and raises a hand to nudge his knee. “What d’you mean?”

Niall clears his throat, “Nothing.”

“Niiiiaaaall,” Harry whines. He sits up straight and turns around so that he can look Niall in the face. Niall laughs, but it’s a bit awkward and strained. Harry just keeps looking at him.

“I, er…” Niall starts, and he’s only looking at the head of the guitar now, focusing intently on the way his fingers move from one chord to another. “Tried to kiss him once,” he says quickly. 

Harry looks at him, confused. “Tried to kiss who?”

“It’s whom, actually,” Niall says. He laughs and dodges when Harry tries to slap him. “Louis,” he says, once he’s settled down again. “Tried to kiss Louis, once.”

Harry feels like someone just punched him in the face. “What?” he says, and he doesn’t mean for it to sound like he’s an old victorian lady that’s just found out that her granddaughter is having a child out of wedlock, but that’s exactly what he sounds like. 

“It was a long time ago,” Niall says. 

Harry’s not sure what to say, so he just stares at him. Niall apparently interprets that as please keep talking i want to know more, when in fact Harry’s not sure he does want to know more. 

“It was during the X-factor tour,” he’s smiling slightly, but it looks a bit strained; embarrassed, “I was very drunk, so were you lot. We were in a hotel room, and the three of you fucked off to do God knows what. And, I dunno, I was drunk, as I said, and just starting to figure out that I liked guys. And, I mean, you know what Louis was like.”

Harry nods dumbly, but really he just wants to tell Niall to shut up. He really doesn’t want to hear this.

“He was so cool , and a couple of years older, and I just… fuck, I don’t even know why I’m telling you this,” he chuckles slightly, and runs a hand through his hair. 

Harry’s still just looking at him. 

“Anyways,” Niall continues, “our lips touched for about a second before he backed away. Then he looked at me with this small, sad smile, patted my head, and went to find you lot. Never mentioned it again.” He lets out a quick snort.

“Shit,” Harry says, “that’s…”

“Yeah,” Niall chuckles, “so he might have an idea. But I’ve not told any of the other lads.”

“Right,” Harry says, and clears his throat. That’s what they had been talking about. Should probably stick to that, or change the subject, Harry thinks. Maybe talk about football, or golf, or anything else, really.  “So was that your first kiss with a bloke?” is what comes out of his mouth instead. 

Niall snorts, “Wasn’t much of a kiss, at all really. But yeah, I suppose, if we’re being technical.”

Harry fixes his gaze on the wall, and tries to compose himself. Ok, so Niall’s first kiss with a bloke was Louis. That’s ok, right? It’s not like Niall is confessing his undying love for one of their mates. It was barely even a kiss. Harry shouldn’t feel like his heart is shattering just because two of his mates touched lips once, years ago. Alright, so he’s been half in love with one of said mates all of his adult life but that’s… neither here nor there. 

“Why’re you being weird?”

Niall’s question snaps him back to reality. He briefly shakes his head, trying to get some clarity. 

“‘m not being weird,” he mumbles. “‘m just drunk.”

Niall snorts. “Me too,” he says. He puts the guitar down on the floor and lays down on the bed, staring up at the ceiling. Harry’s still sitting on the floor facing the bed. He watches as Niall’s chest rises and falls as he breathes. 

“Niall,” he says. Niall hums in reply. “Niall, don’t fall asleep.”

“‘m not,” he says, but it’s followed by a big yawn.

Niall, ” Harry practically whines. “If you fall asleep I’m gonna draw on your face.”

Niall laughs, but he still sounds sleepy. “Fine,” he says. “Come up here and entertain me then.”

When thinking back on this later, Harry will realize that laying down on the bed next to Niall probably wasn’t the best idea. But right then, the wine and the champagne, along with the overwhelming amount of emotional stress he’s been put under so far today, his mind is just clouded enough that he doesn’t think that far ahead. He gets up, and flops down on his back next to Niall.

“Well?” Niall turns his head slightly to the side to look at Harry. Harry just looks back, confused. “Go on then, entertain me.”

Harry snorts. “What, d’you want me to do a little dance?”

Niall snorts right back, “I’ve seen enough of your dancing for a lifetime mate.”

Harry scoffs, “You’re one to talk!”

“I’m an excellent dancer, I’ll have you know!” Niall says with a smile. He tries to somehow do an irish jig whilst lying down; it doesn’t really work and mostly looks like he’s just kicking the air. 

“Oh, right,” Harry laughs, “when are they announcing your Strictly debut?”

“Oh, any minute now!” Niall grins. “ Can Niall Horan please come to the dance floor for his irish jig? ” he says, in his best impersonation of the Strictly Come Dancing announcer.

“Hah! I’d pay to see that,” Harry says. “I’m gonna call the BBC, tell them you’re interested. I’m sure they’d have you in a heartbeat.”

Niall laughs, big and loud. Harry smiles, pleased as ever to make Niall laugh. Not that it’s hard, like. But it still feels good, fills his stomach up with butterflies. They settle into silence for a minute. Harry keeps his gaze fixed on the ceiling, but he can see that Niall’s head is facing him out of the corner of his eye. 

Suddenly, Harry feels a finger poke him in his side. He turns his head slightly and raises an eyebrow at Niall. “What?”

“You’re not being very entertaining,” Niall says.

“Jesus, you’re demanding,” Harry mutters and turns his eyes back to the ceiling. “Isn’t my company entertainment enough?”

“Hm,” Niall considers, “no, not really. Come on, sing us a song. Heard you’re good at that!”

“Eh, I’m alright,” Harry quips, smiling. Niall starts poking his sides again, repeatedly this time. Harry squirms, and tries to fend him off, but he just keeps going. 

“Come ooooon, Haz,” Niall whines. He keeps poking.

“Jesus,” Harry mutters, “stop that!”

“I’ll stop when you sing!” He starts attacking him with both hands then.

“Ow!” Harry says, after a particularly painful jab. “Fuck, fine, fine! I’ll sing, just stop poking me, jesus!”

Niall hums, satisfied, and stops poking. He flops himself over so he’s on his stomach, props his head up on his arm, and looks at Harry expectantly. 

Harry clears his throat, and tries to think of something to sing.

“I’m waiting,” Niall says, mock serious. 

“Demanding and impatient” Harry mutters. He clears his throat again, “You’re insecure-”

“Booo!” Niall says immediately and pokes him in the side again, “that doesn’t count. I’ve heard you sing that a billion times!”

“So?” Harry says, with a laugh. “It’s what I’m offering!”

“No,” Niall insists, “sing something else, something I’ve never heard you sing before.”

Harry looks at him then, ready to give him a death stare. But when he sees the look on Niall’s face, so earnest and fond, he falters. 

“I, yeah, that’s…” he says, “alright.” He looks away, back to the ceiling. He starts trying to think of a song, and there’s one that crosses his mind immediately, but no, that’s-

Looking back, through changes, where we started from, ” he sings, before he can stop himself. He can see Niall’s face shift in the corner of his eye, but he can’t read his expression. He resolutely keeps his eyes fixed on the ceiling. “ Don’t know about you but I, knew it wasn’t wrong.”

“Harry,” Niall whispers, but Harry’s started now, and his mouth isn’t listening to his brain that’s telling him to stop.

You know I kept a place for you in my mind.

He can feel his heart beating in his chest, and it feels so loud he’s sure Niall can hear it too.

I know you did the same ‘cause you’re just the kind .”

Niall shifts besides him on the bed, and he rests one of his hands right next to Harry’s shoulder, just barely touching.

So if you knew all along, why did it take so long? We’ve known it since we were young, why did it take so long?”

Niall’s fingers stretch out and touches his shoulder then, making Harry turn his head towards him.

You know you make me feel loved, ” he sings, quietly.

“- make me feel like I’m home ” Niall joins in. Their eyes lock and Harry’s honestly surprised that his heart hasn’t jumped straight out of his chest. “ So if we knew all along-”

“- why did it take so long?

They let silence settle between them, as they look at each other. Niall’s fingers feel heavy on Harry’s shoulder, where they’re curling into his shirt while Niall looks at him with an unreadable expression.

“How’d you even know that song?” Niall asks quietly. His eyes are fixed on his hand on Harry’s shoulder. 

Harry’s brows furrow, “It’s yours, of course I know it.”

“No, but like,” he says, “it wasn’t even on the album.”

Harry clears his throat, “I uh… I mean, I heard it around, on like, twitter and stuff, and then on that album with the RTÉ.”

Niall looks confused, but he doesn’t say anything. Harry shifts slightly, so that they’re facing each other a bit more.

“What’s wrong?” he asks. He’s got the urge to reach out and smooth out the wrinkles that are forming on Niall’s forehead, but for once he’s able to control his impulses.

Niall lifts his gaze from where it’s been fixed on his fingers on Harry’s shoulder and meets Harry’s eyes. Slowly, he moves his hand up and touches Harry’s cheek. Harry’s heart is going wild in his chest, and he feels breathless. 

“Niall,” he whispers, but it still feels too loud in the quiet that surrounds them, “I-”

Whatever it is he’s about to say gets cut off when Niall leans in and kisses him. 

Harry has imagined this happening more often than he’d like to admit. What it would be like if he just said fuck it and kissed Niall; how soft his lips would be, how he’d be tender and sweet, or desperate and messy. 

No matter how many times he’s imagined it though, nothing could have prepared him for the reality of it. He freezes up, not sure what to do; where to put his hands, how to kiss him back. Niall’s lips are soft, and they’re moving against his ever so slightly, and Harry’s brain is short-circuiting because what. 

Niall pulls back a bit and looks at him. His eyes are filled with emotion, and it makes Harry’s heart beat impossibly faster. 

“Sorry, I-” he starts, and that’s what kicks Harry into action. He moves his own hand to cradle Niall’s cheek, and leans up to kiss him. Niall makes a surprised noise, but he doesn’t freeze up like Harry did. Instead he returns the kiss, and carefully strokes his thumb across Harry’s cheek. 

It’s slow and tender and good. Niall tastes of champagne, and something else that must just be Niall. Harry’s hand travels from Niall’s cheek to the back of his head, as his other hand goes to Niall’s side to pull him closer. Niall’s hand moves to the back of Harry’s head, and tangles in his hair. He shifts his weight and pushes closer to Harry, leaving their bodies flush together. 

It’s mad, really. Harry’s senses are overwhelmed with Niall - his smell, his taste, his touch. He wants so much, wants to touch and feel and kiss every single inch of skin he can get his hands on. He settles for pushing Niall down and settling his weight across his hips, straddling him. Niall smiles and hums into the kiss, and his hands go down to Harry’s waist. It’s still slow, but this new position adds a new level of intensity to it, and Harry can feel his dick stirr in his pants. 

He draws back a bit to look at Niall. His eyes are closed and his cheeks are flushed, and his hair is a mess from where Harry’s hands have been buried in it. He leans back in, first brushing their noses together, and then reconnecting their lips. Niall’s grip tightens on his hips, making his breathing go heavier. He moves his lips down to Niall’s neck, kissing slowly from one side to the other. His hands move from his head down to his chest, and starts trying to unbutton Niall’s shirt. Niall is breathing heavily, his hips moving slightly against Harry’s. 

“Harry,” he says, voice low. Harry hums in return, but doesn’t stop his kissing. He’s moved on to his collarbones now, and he’s got the shirt mostly unbuttoned, revealing the white undershirt underneath. He starts pulling it up from where it’s tucked into Niall’s trousers, and finally gets his hands on the soft skin of Niall’s stomach. 

“Off,” he mutters, as he pulls at the shirt. Niall chuckles, before pulling Harry back into a kiss. He rolls them over. It’s a bit of a struggle and not as smooth as he probably wanted it to be, but they get there in the end; Harry on his back and Niall on top of him. He leans in to kiss Harry again, before sitting up. Harry looks up at him, and their eyes meet. Niall breaks into a smile, big and open. He’s beautiful like this, Harry thinks. His hair a mess, his cheeks tinted red, and his smile bright. 

Harry’s hands settle on Niall’s waist, as Niall takes off his shirt and then pulls his undershirt over his head. The room around them is quiet, except for the sounds of the San Francisco traffic filtering through the open balcony door. They’re looking at each other, Harry’s thumb is stroking the soft skin of Niall’s hip, just above the waistband of his trousers. 

“You’re beautiful,” Harry says, into the quietness. It makes Niall’s cheeks tint even redder, and his smile turn bashful. The corner of Harry’s mouth turns up into a half-smile, and he lets out a small chuckle.

“Harry,” Niall whispers. He grabs one of his hands, bringing it up to his lips and places a kiss on the inside of his wrist.

“Niall,” Harry returns. He moves his hand to the back of Niall’s head, and pulls him down to meet him in a kiss. Their lips join together, and Harry thinks he could never get sick of this. Harry opens his mouth, and Niall’s tongue slips in, making them both moan into each other. Niall’s hands go to Harry’s shirt, which is still buttoned up. His fingers start working the buttons, but he doesn’t break the kiss. Once he’s got the shirt fully open, he runs his hands down Harry’s chest and stomach, leaving behind a trail of goosebumps on Harry’s skin. 

Harry’s mind is going a mile a minute, but everything around them seems to have slowed down. He can feel his heartbeat and he knows it’s going fast, but the way Niall’s hands are slowly, so slowly , moving towards his trousers and unbuckling his belt buckle makes it feel like time has stopped completely. 

He’s staring down at Niall, where he’s placing slow and gentle kisses just over his hip bones. He lifts his hips as Niall drags his trousers and underwear down in one go, and his breath hitches at the sudden rush of cold air hitting his skin. Niall looks up at him, and their eyes lock. Niall smiles at him, carefully. His eyes are big and filled with emotions that Harry’s sure are written all over his face as well. 

Niall leans down again and places a kiss on Harry’s thigh, making his breath hitch again as he lets out a low moan. He’s fully hard now, and Niall hasn’t even touched his dick yet. If he wasn’t so out of his mind right now, he might be a bit embarrassed about that.

“Niall,” he croaks out. His tongue feels too big for his mouth. Niall looks back up at him, and there are a million things that Harry wants to say, but none of it would make any sense or be even a little coherent at this point. 

“This is ok, right?” Niall asks, and that’s probably the stupidest question Harry’s ever heard. Ok? Ok doesn’t even begin to cover it. The look of Niall right now, between Harry’s legs and hair all messed up from Harry’s hands, lips red and swollen. It’s better than anything Harry could have ever imagined. 

He nods his head, yes . Niall smiles at him, and he looks relieved. As if he actually thought Harry would stop him. Ridiculous, really, but Harry doesn’t have the time to dwell on it, because Niall’s taken his nod as permission, and is currently taking him into his mouth. 

Harry groans, low and slow, and tries to keep his hips steady. His eyes fall shut, and he tries to steady his breath. The part of his brain that’s still capable of coherent thinking is struggling to understand that this is actually happening; it feels like a dream. A really, really good dream.

And the thing is, Niall is really good at sucking dick. Harry had never thought he would be bad per say, but he had imagined talking him through it, telling him what to do; what he likes. But Niall doesn’t need to be told, apparently, because he’s taking Harry apart like it’s the only thing he’s ever done. Harry’s hands have found themselves tangled in Niall’s hair, and just as Niall’s tongue does something particularly interesting, his grip tightens and pulls at Niall’s hair. It makes Niall moan around his cock, which sends a shiver down Harry’s spine and pushes him closer to the edge. 

“Niall,” he manages, through one breath and the other. “Ni, ‘m close.” Niall just hums, and keeps bobbing up and down, and brings one of his hands to work in rhythm with his mouth. “ Shit, Niall, ‘m gonna come.”

There’s a pinch at Harry’s hip, and realizing what that means is what sends him over the edge in the end. His entire body feels electric as he comes. Niall’s grip on his hips tighten, and grounds him through it. 

When he comes back to, Niall has pulled off, and he’s licking his lips and staring up at Harry with big eyes and a crooked smile. Harry thinks it might be the best thing he’s ever seen. 

He smiles back at him, and at a complete loss for words, he lets out a chuckle, and turns his eyes upwards to look at the ceiling. “ Holy shit, ” he says. 

Niall laughs at that, as he crawls back up and settles down next to Harry, tucking his head into his neck. He leaves a brief kiss there, and curls his arms around Harry. Harry presses a kiss to the top of his head. He smiles to himself and chuckles.

“What?” Niall mutters against his skin. 

Harry chuckles again. “Nothing, just,” he says, “was that entertaining enough for ya?”

“Shut up, you idiot,” Niall says, but Harry can feel his smile against his neck. 

Harry lets out a big yawn. “Just gimme a sec, and I’ll return the favour,” he mutters into his hair.

“No, that’s fine,” Niall says, and yawns just as big. “‘m knackered. You can return it in the morning.”

“Deal,” Harry mumbles.