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The Sunrise and Your Sins

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“Oh, fuck!” Niall gasps, throwing his head back against the pillow and fighting the urge to buck his hips up from the mattress. The intensity of the suction surrounding his cock relents for a few moments, allowing him to focus on the more...subtle sensations. The velvety cushion of slick lips, the gentle but insistent pressure of an eager tongue, the wet heat that’s fully enveloping him as the tip of his cock nudges at the back of her mouth, filling him with anticipation before, suddenly, she swallows around him, pulling him further in, just past the entrance to her throat. 

Overwhelmed, he jerks his head up from the pillow to look down his body. The sight of a mass of bleached blonde hair bobbing insistently and thoroughly at his crotch pulls another gasp from him as he squeezes his eyes shut and a memory flashes – unbidden and unwelcome – through his head. 

Tangle of blonde hair, pushed gently back from her face so he can see her better. Bright blue eyes flashing coyly from beneath impossibly long eyelashes. Glistening pink lips somehow smirking up at him while still stretched around his cock. An expertly crafted wink intended specifically to pull a laugh from him just before she sinks back down, taking him by surprise as she takes him all the way in, swallowing hungrily as she hums around him. 

“Shit! Fuck.”

“Ummm, are you ok? What happened?”

Fuck. 

Snapped out of his memory by the question, Niall opens his eyes and forces himself to look down again, finding a different, and decidedly more confused, blue-eyed blonde looking back at him, her flushed face hovering mere inches above his rapidly softening dick. 

“I was so sure you were close. Did I do something you didn’t like?”

Her words seem concerned, but her tone has an edge of annoyance. And Niall can’t blame her. She’d given it a proper go and was clearly talented – even Niall and his failure of a prick could admit she’d been doing a bang-up job. It wasn’t her fault his ex had weaseled her way into his mind at an incredibly inopportune time. 

“No, not at all,” he tries to assure her. “You’re amazing. Must have just had one too many whiskeys. Sorry about that, love.”

“You sure? You definitely didn’t seem to be suffering from whiskey dick a minute ago.”

“I promise it’s nothing to do with you. You can never be too confident what the hell’s going on with these things, can you?” he jokes, motioning to his traitorous dick. It doesn’t land. 

The woman – Rebecca, he thinks? Hopes, anyway. He’s not quite ready to be the sort of prat who can’t even be bothered to learn the name of someone kind enough to polish his knob – huffs a frustrated sigh and rolls off the bed. 

“If you say so.”

“Sorry for spoiling the mood.”

“Don’t sweat it.” She sounds genuine, despite the circumstances, and Niall can’t believe he’s managed to fuck this up so badly with someone who seems so cool. 

“I’m just gonna head out, though.” She leans down to grab her blouse from the floor and quickly pulls it on, buttoning it up without another word. 

“You don’t have to. Just because I’m not...up for everything. I could…” he gestures vaguely towards her, meaning to aim for her skirt, implying he’d be happy to explore under it a bit. 

Her grimace may be understandable given the circumstances, but it still stings. 

“Think I’ll just head home, if it’s all the same to you.”

“’Course, yeah. Whatever you want. And, sorry again…”

“Rebecca,” she fills in, either taking pity on him or just eager to get the fuck out. 

Either way, he appreciates that she says it without seeming to take offense at having to supply it for him.

“Cheers, Rebecca. Thanks for being such a sport.”

She shrugs. “Not even the worst Tinder date I’ve ever had.”

“Well that’s an absolute shame,” he says. “I really hope it’s the worst I’ll ever have.”

She quirks an eyebrow at him and he quickly realizes what that sounded like. “Shit, sorry. Not at all what I mean. You’re absolutely lovely. Just mean...fuck.”

Rebecca – bless her – just laughs and nods in understanding. “Don’t stress, Niall. I’m well aware it’s naught to do with me.”

He laughs, so immensely grateful for her levity. 

“Let me at least call you an Uber,” he offers. 

“Listen,” she says, pulling her jacket on, “you seem like a decent enough guy, and I appreciate the offer, but I make it a point not to give my address to strangers. Even ones whose dicks I’ve had in my mouth.”

Niall barks a laugh but nods. “Wise, yeah.” 

“So,” Rebecca asks, her tone a bit more serious, “lemme guess? She cheated on you?”

“Holy shit, how’d you know that?”

“Like I said,” she shrugs, “not my worst Tinder date.” 

“Fuck, I’m so sorry,” he rushes out, “again, really sorry. It’s just...she’s got the same blonde hair and when I looked down at you in there, I got a flash of a memory with her, and, fuck, it just took me completely by surprise and absolutely wrecked the moment.”

“Look, as much as I’m chuffed to have confirmation it wasn’t me who killed your hard on, I definitely don’t need to hear all the details, yeah?”

“Shit, sorry. Of course you don’t. I honestly can’t believe the full extent to which I have fucked this.” 

“It’s cool, just...do better next time, yeah?”

“Should be able to manage that,” Niall smiles sheepishly. “Nowhere to go but up, eh?”

Rebecca smiles kindly. “And if I could offer one particular suggestion? When trying to get over someone who cheated on you–”

“Who I walked in on in the act of cheating on me,” Niall can’t help but add.

“Right, ok, then. Someone who you walked in on fucking someone else. Maybe don’t pick someone to shag who looks like her?”   

“Fair point, yeah. You’re being far too helpful – and far too kind – to me, Rebecca.”

She shrugs again. “Just looking out for the women who might come after me...God willing.” 

Niall laughs, grateful for her honesty and graciousness, and for her humor most of all. 

“Good luck to you, Niall. Hope you find someone to help you through this tough bit. It won’t last forever,” she says with a smile, turning to leave. 

“Cheers, yeah. Same to you. It’s been an absolute pleasure – one minor bit excepted.”

That elicits a light laugh from her and Niall starts to feel a bit more himself. 

“Get home safe. Better luck with the next bloke. Any guy would be lucky to have you.”

“Don’t I know it,” she says, pausing with her hand on the door knob. “If you know one who actually deserves that kind of luck, you know how to DM me.”

Niall laughs again as Rebecca opens the door and steps through. “As if a knob like me would have mates cool enough to be worthy of you.”

“Ah well, a truly wasted night then,” she says with a wink as she steps through the door. “Take care, mate.” 

Rebecca closes the door behind her and Niall sighs with a mix of relief and amusement before pouring himself a glass of water to take back to the room he’s staying in. As he walks down the hallway to its door, he sighs again – this one much heavier – bracing himself for tonight’s attempt at rest. 

*

Niall swears the night didn’t used to have this many hours. 

And hours definitely didn’t have this many minutes. 

“Fucking minutes used to go by faster, too,” he mutters bitterly to the resoundingly empty room. 

He can’t even laugh at his own absurdity, a skill he used to have in spades, distracted as he is by his failure of a night. 

His failure of a life. 

“Alright, ease up, ya prick.” So, ok, at least he’s still a little bit on his own side. 

It’s not easy, though, when his own self is the bastard refusing to let him get any sleep. And sleep is what he needs after the last few hours. After the last few months. 

Months of sleepless goddamn nights, thoughts of her wrapping around him like a fucking boa, smooth at first, delicate even, lulling him into a peaceful sensation of almost-sleep before suddenly constricting his heart and his lungs just as he’s about to fall into slumber, yanking him back into consciousness with a harsh gasp. Trying to sleep now is like nearly drowning in a bathtub over and over until the sheer exhaustion from months of insomnia and heartache and repeated rushes of adrenaline finally pulls him below the water’s surface to stay. 

Until the sodding alarm screams into his ear what feels like minutes later and he has to face another day just for the privilege of ending up right back here, tangled in sheets, wide-eyed and wired and sad and furious and so fucking tired. 

And those are the mornings he’s lucky enough to be woken by an alarm. He’d take the abrasive shock of robotic bleating over the alternative any day. Those cruelest mornings where he’s ripped from slumber by nightmares vividly replaying the worst day of his life, leaving him utterly depleted.  

Hours after Rebecca had gone and Niall had settled himself best he could in bed, as he allows himself to hope he’s finally teetering on the edge of sleep, he whispers a desperate wish into the dark room that the next thing he’ll have to face is merely his alarm.

The next thing Niall does face is more confusing than anything, which he supposes isn’t the worst option. He’s just walked into his flat and met with a baffling quiet. But why baffling? It should be quiet. This is what empty flats are meant to sound like, and no one else is here save him. He hadn’t expected anyone to be here – in the time it had taken him to get to work, realize he’d left his laptop at home the second he exited the tube station, and turn right back around to come retrieve it, Emma would have not only finished getting ready but been long gone to her job as well – so Niall can’t make any sense of his brain whirring insistently as if it’s grasping at an explanation for something he can’t even sense. 

It’s just, something’s a bit off. And if it’s not the silence–

Oh. It’s not silence. It’s not silent in this flat. It should be quiet in an empty flat, and Niall’s finally realized that it’s not. 

The hairs on his neck stand at attention as his confusion transforms to something more like panic. What is it? 

There’s a faint sound floating through the air surrounding him. Intriguing in its familiarity, but quiet enough that he can’t quite place it. Too soft to be echoing, yet that’s the precise feeling it invokes as it seems to permeate the entire flat. So close, but flitting stubbornly about, just beyond his recognition. That kind of haunting, low volume that seems to come from everywhere at once so is impossible to trace to any particular source or direction.

“Sod this,” he thinks, insisting on bravery. It’s too early in the day – too bright in this living room – to be scared of something he might not actually even be hearing. Probably just a buzzing in his ear left over from having been on the tube twice as long as usual this morning. 

Resolved to get on with what he came home for, Niall walks further into the flat, not bothering to close the door since he’s planning to be in and out, and turns toward the hallway that leads to their bedroom. Normally his laptop would be on the kitchen table or the floor near the couch, but the night before he’d taken it to bed with him to watch the day’s football highlights, headphones in so as not to disturb Em. 

As he approaches the hallway, Niall notices he can hear the noise again. Or, not again, as it never stopped, he’d just forced himself to ignore it. But it’s louder now, he realizes. More distinct and thus more naggingly familiar. Maddeningly so, as it’s still evading recognition. It’s just there, like a word clinging to the tip of your tongue, refusing to hop off. As if his brain knows exactly what the sound is, but is toying with him out of boredom, holding back the source for its own amusement. 

Even louder now, clearer, he still can’t quite place it. 

And then, suddenly, he does. 

And just like that, he’s at the door to their bedroom, no recollection of actually walking the length of the hall. No memory of the steps themselves. He had been at one end and now he’s at the other. 

He had been blissfully ignorant, and suddenly he’s aware. 

He could hear it, but didn’t know it. 

And suddenly he can see it – can see them – and there’s no more hiding from what’s been trying to make itself known since the moment he stepped into the flat. 

There she is. Em. His Emma. Not at work, where she’s expected to be. But here, in their flat. In their bed. 

Sat atop someone who is decidedly not Niall. 

And the most fucked up thing of it all is how fucking stunning she looks. 

How stunning she looks fucking. Niall’s never seen her from this perspective, of course. And the newness of it catches him almost as off guard as the circumstances that have presented the opportunity. 

Such smooth skin, it almost looks like satin. Her supple hips providing gentle cushioning to the fingertips pressed into them, helping to keep her balance (reverse cowgirl always a slightly trickier position for steady bouncing) as her own hands are occupied, tangled in her thick mass of long, wavy blonde hair, holding it up to display her elegant neck and delicate shoulders. Niall’s almost hypnotized by the undulating curve of her breasts, nipples pulled taut, when suddenly their eyes meet and she gasps, ripping him from his haze. 

Niall realizes immediately her gasp is colored by pleasure, rather than by shock or surprise. Definitely not by guilt. There’s no sign of any such emotion in her eyes, either, and Niall’s stomach drops.

Desperate to run but unable to move, he stands frozen, stunned and unable to look away. Emma just stares at him, her eye contact never wavering save occasional, slow blinks, as she – fuck – actually picks up the pace of her bouncing, biting her bottom lip seductively as she continues to ride the nameless, faceless bloke stretched out beneath her. As if she’s staring at someone who’d asked to watch. As if she’s been found by absolutely anyone other than her boyfriend of three years. 

She stays staring at Niall, a challenge in her eyes, and Niall wants nothing more than to tear his eyes away, but he simply...can’t. So he stays still, watching helplessly as Em draws one hand from sweat- and sex-tangled hair and runs a fingertip down her jaw, leaning her head slightly to the side, enough to expose her throat as her fingertip traces the length of it but not so much that she breaks eye contact. He stays watching as her hand reaches the bottom of her neck and she playfully walks two fingers along her collarbone before continuing their journey to her breast, brushing over her pert, darkened nipple – which pulls a shudder from her and Niall both. Her hand lingers there for a few moments, circling and pinching her nipple, and her eyelids flutter as a moan escapes her bitten lips. But Niall still can’t look away. Not when she opens her eyes again, burning with more intensity than before as she stops bouncing and begins vigorously grinding, pushing herself as far down on this other man’s cock as she can while holding Niall’s gaze. Settled into this new rhythm, her hand moves again, fingers meandering down her side and ghosting over the hand gripping her hip before finally settling between her glistening folds, eliciting another gasp as her fingertips apply pressure to her undoubtedly throbbing clit. With that gasp – sharper than the one before – she finally draws her eyes closed and tosses her head back in ecstasy as she lets out a guttural groan that mixes with a deeper one from the man below her.  

A third voice joins their growling harmony and it takes Niall a few moments to realize it’s coming from him – a broken cry of agony desperately trying to drown out the rapturous mix of shouts being hurled at him from his own bed.  

His scream doesn’t drown out the sounds, but it does, mercifully, rip him from his nightmare. He gasps awake, choking on his own sobs, drenched in sweat and kicking wildly to escape the tangle of sheets trapping him in place. 

The second he’s free, Niall leaps out of bed, huffing a prayer of gratitude that Louis and Harry are still out of town, and hurries out to the living room. He flings himself onto the couch, pulling the closest throw over himself to cover as much of his body as he can be bothered to, and flicks on the telly, urging himself to pay rapt attention to the eager, amateur bakers tackling the week’s technical challenge until his eyelids finally take pity on him and close for the final time tonight. 

~~~

Louis and Harry aren’t still out of town, after all. 

“Shit, Lou, I think we woke him up.”

“It’s half eleven and his face is smashed into the back of a sofa, love, I think he’ll survive being woken up.”

Niall groans into the cushion of said sofa before he shifts to his back, slowly blinking his eyes open until the ceiling stops being blurry. 

“Fucking hell,” he mutters. 

“I told you!” Harry gasp-whispers. “Sorry, Niall! We were trying to be quiet. Didn’t mean to wake you.”

“Speak for yourself, Haz,” Louis answers. “Oi, Nialler, join us, will ya? Harry’s made pancakes.”

“Yeah yeah,” Niall mutters, bracing himself for the way he knows his neck is going to crack along with his knee as he gets up. “Be with you momentarily, Lewis.”

“Take your time,” Harry says softly. “I’m only just finishing up the last of the batch.” 

“Fancy a cuppa?” Louis yells, apparently trying to balance out Harry’s attempts at keeping things gentle. The little shit. 

“Yeah, ta,” Niall replies, standing slowly and stretching his arms toward the ceiling, the throw blanket falling to the ground. He ambles groggily to the kitchen, pulling out one of the stools at the breakfast bar. 

Louis places a cup of steaming tea in front of him with a wink. “Morning, sunshine. Have a good night, did we?”

“You know I didn’t,” Niall replies, voice still gruff from his awful night’s sleep.

Harry leans over and smacks Louis’ arse with his spatula. “Leave him be, Lou.”

“You better be done flipping the pancakes with that, Haz,” Niall says, lifting the cup to his lips. It’s a bit too hot, but he almost appreciates the way it burns his tongue and the top of his mouth, the physical pain a welcome respite from the anguish his brain and his heart have been putting him through. 

“Breakfast is ready, boys,” Harry sing-songs, setting a plate stacked high with pancakes on the counter next to the already set out butter and syrup. “Boo, grab us some forks, will you?”

Niall rolls his eyes fondly as Louis silently complies, grabbing three forks and setting them down one at a time with a clatter next to the empty plates Harry’s placed in front of each of them. 

“So,” Harry says, settling himself onto one of the stools next to Niall. “Couldn’t sleep again last night?”

Niall clears his throat as he sinks his fork sideways into the short stack he’s served himself and doused with syrup. “Yeah, sorry to have been on the couch. Thought you two weren’t due back ’til tonight, so didn’t realize I’d be in your way.” 

“Don’t be silly,” Harry replies, carefully spreading butter across his own pancakes before dribbling what never looks to Niall (or Louis) as anywhere near enough syrup. “You weren’t in the way.”

“Just surprised to see you out here, is all,” Louis adds with a smirk, “given that you had a...guest over last night.”

“What?” Niall nearly chokes on his sip of tea and Louis laughs in reply as Harry reaches over to pat Niall gently on the back. 

“How’d you know I had someone here?” Niall asks once the air is flowing unimpeded to his lungs again. 

“Well,” Harry starts, his voice so slow Niall would think his tongue were coated with syrup if he didn’t know him better. “We sort of...heard you, when we came in.”

Niall furrows his brow, thinking back to the rather unmemorable tryst and trying to remember a moment when they’d even been loud enough to be overheard from outside the guest room. 

Oh.

“Fuck.”

“That was it!” Louis laughs. 

“Louis…” Harry chides. 

“Shit, sorry, mates. Not exactly a model house guest, am I?”

“You’re alright,” Louis chuckles. “Just busting your balls.”

Niall starts to smile but is interrupted by Louis adding, “hopefully not worse than your lady friend last night.”

Niall’s ears heat and he hangs his head dramatically.

“Don’t listen to him, Niall,” Harry says, leaning forward to shoot a meaningful look at Louis. “We barely heard anything.”

“Didn’t sound great, mate, that’s all I’m saying,” Louis counters matter-of-factly. 

“Yeah, it wasn’t,” Niall admits. “But no fault of hers. She was lovely, actually. And...talented, if you must know.”

“Oh?” Harry asks, sounding hopeful, bless him.

“Niall, lad, I’m trying to eat here.”

“Piss off, Lou,” Niall chuckles, his embarrassment fading. Thank God for these two, honestly. Harry with his earnest, nurturing sweetness, and Louis always somehow knowing exactly when to take the piss to lighten things up. Lord knows Niall has needed both these last three months, and as helpful as they’d been in the first two after he walked in on Emma and their neighbor, he’ll never be able to thank them properly for demanding that he finally leave the flat he’d shared with her and stay in their guest room until he was ready to move into his own place again. 

Emma had moved out that same day, after apologizing profusely but acknowledging there was no saving their relationship, but even after she’d gone, her presence had loomed. And as much as Niall had tried to rid the flat of any hint of her, he saw her everywhere. Felt her everywhere. Couldn’t even get the scent of her out completely. So when Louis and Harry had insisted, he’d given in, and let the place go. 

And while he clearly still isn’t over Emma or what she’d done or what he’d lost when their relationship ended, he has been doing better since coming to stay with them. 

That’s why he’d finally thought he was ready to actually use one of the dating (hook up, really) apps Louis had downloaded to his phone weeks ago. It’s why he had swiped right when he saw Rebecca, with her crystal blue eyes and bright smile and thicket of blonde hair. How he’d convinced himself to message her and replied immediately when she’d offered to come over for a bit of fun. 

He’d thought he was ready for fun. 

“So what happened?” Harry’s deep drawl breaks through Niall’s thoughts, pulling him back to the moment.

“Oh,” Niall replies. “You know, just your average vision of your cheating slag of an ex popping into your head while another perfectly nice girl deep throats you, causing your dick to betray you and go soft while it’s still in her bloody mouth.”

Louis barks a laugh and Harry whispers, “oh no,” and hearing those disparate reactions from either side of him feels exactly right to Niall. 

“My thoughts exactly, lads,” he laughs in response. “Both pitiful and hilarious at the same time.”

“Fuck, sorry, lad,” Louis says, his laugh flagging but his voice still bright as he slaps Niall on the back and grips his shoulder comfortingly. 

“Well, now I understand why the shout we heard coming from your room when we got in last night sounded so strange,” Harry says, bringing his hand to Niall’s other shoulder and rubbing gently. 

“Sounded God awful, actually,” Louis adds, giving Niall’s shoulder a harder squeeze. “But, honestly, I just chalked it up to hetero sex being shit.” He winks and Niall can’t help but laugh. 

“Well I can’t say I agree with you fully there, Lewis,” Niall replies. “But it was, indeed, shit last night. Poor girl. She didn’t deserve to get stuck with a poor sod like me. She was just looking for a bit of fun.”

“Don’t be so hard on yourself, Nialler,” Louis says. “She’s got a great story to share with her friends now, doesn’t she? Girls love that shit, innit? You did her a favor, really. Sounds like you saved her having to take a load down her throat, too.”

Niall and Harry both crack up at that as Louis proudly takes a bite of his pancakes, his smirk somehow shining through as he chews.

“Fair point, Tommo. You always see the bright side, don’cha?”

Louis nods emphatically, smiling smugly, and Niall laughs again, turning back to his own breakfast. 

“Anyway,” Harry eventually says after they’ve all devoted some time to eating in easy silence, “I’m proud of you for getting yourself out there, Ni. First time was bound to be awkward at best. But you did it, and it can only get easier from here.”

“Thanks, Haz. I hope so. Honestly as humiliating as the failed sex was, that wasn’t even the worst part of last night.”

“Jesus,” Louis says, “you’ve been holding out on us all morning? What could have been worse than what you’ve already told us?”

“Nothing exciting,” Niall sighs. “Just a really shit night’s sleep. Bad dream.”

“Oh no,” Harry coos. “It’d been so long since the last one, though, hadn’t it?”

“A few weeks, yeah,” Niall nods. “It’s not like I was so sure I was past them, but this one, fuck. Absolute worst yet.”

“What happened?” Louis asks.

“Same shit,” Niall says, “at least to start. Back in our old place. Me walking in, feeling like something’s wrong but not knowing what it is. Then finding her shagging that tosser in our bed.”

Harry rubs his hand back and forth across Niall’s back and Niall forces a smile. 

“Which, you know, is enough of a nightmare to relive on its own.”

“Of course it is,” Harry affirms. 

“But last night, my brain decided the truth of what happened wasn’t torture enough, so instead of Em shrieking when she saw me and jumping off him to throw a blanket around herself and start shouting obscenities and apologize, she just…”

He stops himself, not wanting to give life to what he’d seen last night – so graphically that just the memory of the nightmare has his heart pounding in his chest.

“She what? What happened?”

“When I…” he starts, pausing again to take a gulp of air. “Wh– when I got to the door and saw them, she just...locked eyes with me and kept going. Kept fucking riding him. Like she was getting off on me catching her in the act.”

“Fuck,” Louis and Harry both say in stereo. 

“Yeah,” Niall huffs a bitter laugh and scrubs his hands up and down his face as if he might be able to brush the memory from his cells if he scrapes hard enough. “Fuck.”

The three lapse into silence once again, Harry’s hand continuing to rub soothing circles on Niall’s back and Louis squeezing the back of his neck gently.

Eventually, Harry asks if Niall has any idea why the nightmare came back last night. Why it was so much worse than it had been before. “I mean, can you think of anything that happened yesterday that might have triggered it?”

“Seems bloody obvious to me,” Louis says, earning him looks from both Niall and Harry. “I mean, not only did you try to shag someone else for the first time since Em, but it ended up a disaster, mate. Doesn’t seem too big of a stretch that your poor, exhausted brain got that all twisted up with an old classic and boom: sex nightmare.”

Niall nods in response. “Probably right, Tommo. Plus, this girl last night did, I mean – not like I haven’t already fessed up way worse this morning – she did bare a bit of a resemblance to Em.”

“Oh, Niall,” breathes Harry, increasing the pressure of his back rubs. 

Louis chuckles and slaps Niall’s back playfully. “Well, Nialler, s’pose that’ll do it.”

“Yeah yeah, probably not the smartest move,” Niall acknowledges.

“You think?” Louis asks playfully. 

Niall reaches over to tweak Louis’ nipple through his threadbare t-shirt and Louis squawks in faux-outrage. “Oi, save something for your next Tinder date.”

Laughing again, Niall tries to explain what he was thinking. “It’s not like I went searching for someone who looked like her or anything. Just happened to come across this gorgeous gal while I was swiping, and by the time the resemblance occurred to me we’d already messaged a bit. Just figured maybe shagging someone who looked like Em would feel satisfying or something. Maybe be a bit like closure. Like if I could manage to fuck someone fit who looks like her and then be done with her right after, it would be my decision to be on my own after, you know?”

“I get that,” Harry says. 

“Best way to get over someone is to get under someone else. Isn’t that what they say?” Niall jokes weakly.

“Although, mate,” Louis replies. “I think for someone whose sexual prospects are as open-ended as yours are, might be a better strategy to get under someone as different from Emma as possible.”

“Oh!” Harry says, gleefully. “I think Louis’ right.”

“Pretty sure for you lot the saying’s a little different,” Louis continues.

“Oh is it?” Niall asks, prodding Louis to just get on with whatever nonsense he’s been wanting to say.

Louis nods, the self-satisfied smile flashing once again across his face. “Mmm. Believe it’s something like, ‘best way to get over a bird is get fucked by a bloke.’”

Niall half expects Harry to chastise Louis, but he just laughs instead, and Niall can’t help but join. 

“Aye, Tommo, you might be onto something there.”

“I know!” Harry practically shouts in Niall’s ear. “You should come with me and Louis tonight. We were feeling up to a classic cheesy gay night out at Heaven maybe.”

“There we go!” Louis agrees.

“We’ll see. I may have to think about whether I want to risk two nights in a row of sexual humiliation.”

“Oh come on, Nialler. Let us help you get back on a horse,” Louis winks.

Niall rolls his eyes but can’t help but laugh. “I promise I’ll think about it, alright?”

“Fair enough,” Harry says. “Right Louis?”

“Fine,” Louis pouts, picking up his empty plate and standing to walk it over to the sink. 

“Think I’m going to go for a run,” Niall says, “clear my head a bit. Thanks for breakfast, Harry.” He moves to pick up his mug and plate but Harry shoos him away. 

“Go on and get ready for your run,” Harry says. “We got this.”

*

Niall wouldn’t say he’d ever loved running, but he’d always tolerated it well enough before. Even if he didn’t actively enjoy it like some mad people seemed to, it at least made him feel like he was doing something good for himself. And focusing on that bit of it often allowed him to actually force other thoughts from his mind. When he was able to get a good enough pace going, especially if he managed to time hitting his stride with just the right song, it could actually feel freeing. 

As with so many things he used to consistently enjoy before Emma so spectacularly blew up his routine but perfectly lovely life, though, satisfying runs were fewer and farther between these days. 

Not that he should be surprised after the night he’d had, but Niall still feels deflated as he tries and fails to push through the thoughts tormenting him by running faster and harder with every block. 

It doesn’t help that Harry and Louis’ flat is in the same neighborhood as his and Em’s had been. ’Round every corner is another memory from their relationship. The bookstore where they’d met. The Italian bistro where they’d had their first date and then had returned each year on their anniversary. The farmer’s market they’d start most Saturdays with, casually browsing hand in hand. Mrs. Linden even still waves at him from her tomato stand every time she sees him run or walk by now, her enthusiasm never flagging despite his failure to step foot into the market for over three months now.

As he forces himself to smile as he waves back this morning, trying to pretend the aching in his chest is his lungs screaming for more oxygen rather than his heart longing for the life he’d had so recently and thought he’d keep forever, Niall thinks Louis and Harry might be right. 

He needs a new distraction. A proper one. 

He needs to try something different.

Some one different. 

He wastes no time once stepping back into the flat, out of breath and eyes probably wild. “So,” he huffs, causing Louis and Harry to look up from the couch in unison. “What time we leaving tonight?” 

~~~

The throbbing club music sending pulsing shockwaves through the air which in turn vibrate Niall’s eardrums at the same frequency that they rattle his sternum isn’t quite enough to fully distract him from the unending sadness that his life has become, but it’s a good start. 

He and Louis and Harry have been at Heaven for about an hour, joined by their mates Liam and Nick, who seem all too keen to remind them all how recently they got together and how therefore completely unable they are to keep their hands and lips off each other. Maybe it’s the steady base or the throngs of dancing, laughing men or the drinks Niall’s managed to imbibe at exactly the right pace to build and maintain a perfect level of buzz – probably a mix of all three – but Niall finds Liam and Nick’s honeymoon phase entirely endearing. He’d expect to be put off by it, sitting as he is in the wreckage of a relationship that started off in much the same way. But just as he’s more settled than upset by Louis and Harry’s whole soulmate thing, he finds himself watching Liam and Nick with more amusement than jealousy or heartache. 

Niall’s not come to this club night looking for his next relationship– far from it. His only intention for the night, aside from having a good time with his mates, is finding someone fit to snog and possibly shag. But sitting between a couple at the beginning of their relationship and another fully settled into their forever fills Niall with a sense of ease that makes him all the more excited for someday feeling ready to try again. 

And in the meantime, he’s noticed quite a few prospects among the masses here tonight to distract him thoroughly and enjoyably until that time comes. 

Or at least until he does.

*

A few drinks later, Nick and Liam’s tongues have been down each other’s throats and their hands have been groping each other’s...everything, for the last song and a half. Harry stood up and started dancing right next to their table a few minutes ago, throwing some truly interesting shapes to Niall’s great amusement and Louis’ neverending fondness. After watching him for a few more sips, Louis turns to Niall with his eyebrows raised. 

“Alright, Niall?”

“Right as rain,” Niall says, clinking his beer bottle against Louis’. 

“Think I better take my boy here out to the dance floor to show the rest of these poor saps how it’s really done.”

Niall chuckles and nods. “Please do.” He gestures toward Harry’s dancing form. “Before this one flails an arm a bit too vigorously and takes us and our beers out.”

“Right you are,” Louis says, swallowing the last of his beer and placing his bottle on the table before he stands. “Come here, you,” he says to Harry as he places his hand on his back, “come have your way with me out among the peasants.” 

Harry beams at Louis and turns his head back to Niall. “Come join us, Niall!” 

“Nah, you’re alright. You two go on. I’m going to finish my drink here and take a look around. See if I can’t settle my plans for the rest of the evening.”

Louis winks and tosses an “atta boy” at Niall before leading Harry out to join the writhing mass of humanity under the roving colored spotlights. 

“See you boys at home!” Niall calls after them, surprising himself a bit at his confidence that he’ll pull. 

God, he loves beer. 

He leans back in his chair, tossing a glance towards Liam and Nick, still sucking face a few feet away, before taking a long, slow pull from his beer as he scans the space. It’s been a while since he’s been with a guy, or even really looked at one with much interest. He’s been with men before, and though his last two relationships were with women, he hasn’t stopped finding men attractive. But Niall tends not to check people out – no matter how fit – when he’s happily involved with someone. So he just hasn’t paid much attention to men in a while, not in an appraising kind of way. 

Now that he’s single, sharing space with hundreds of men, many of whom are exactly the physical types to get him excited about the fact that he’s single, Niall allows himself to take his fill. 

This tall, pale, muscular ginger with no rhythm but a dazzling smile. 

That dark-skinned, lithe absolute stunner leaning against the bar, licking his lips in a way that instantly makes Niall’s throat dry. 

Those green eyes. 

These razor sharp cheekbones. 

Full, pink lips. 

Large hands and small ears and strong jaws. Firm thighs and soft bellies and hard nipples. 

Messy hair and stubble-dusted cheeks and sweaty skin.  

God, Niall loves beer and men. 

But as much as he’s enjoying window shopping, objectifying – no, just appreciating – individual parts of many, many men in the club, he can’t help feeling disappointed that no one person has captured his full attention the way he’d hoped someone might. 

He sighs and decides he should take a break from scanning for a fuck buddy. Maybe head to the bar for another drink. Maybe try to amuse himself by seeing if he can convince Liam and Nick to stop snogging and chat for a bit. But when he turns to where they’d been doing their level best to make as many strangers uncomfortable as possible, he finds the chair they’d been sharing empty. 

“Horny bastards.” 

It’s just as likely they’re jerking each other off in the toilets as they are tormenting some poor Uber driver on their way to one of their flats, but Niall decides there’s no need for him to sit around waiting to find out. 

He turns back to face the room with a chuckle and sucks down the rest of his beer, about to get up to make his way to the bar, when his eyes land on someone who nearly makes him drop the bottle he’d been about to set down. 

“Jesus,” he whispers to no one but the Man himself, so sure he’s the one to thank for placing this absolutely stunning person in his line of sight. 

He’s standing near the edge of the dance floor, swaying slightly rather than actually dancing, a half-filled rocks glass in one hand, and a fit twink plastered against his front.

He’s absolutely beautiful. 

And dead fucking sexy. 

Niall takes him in in snippets, not certain his overwrought brain or strained nerves could handle the image if he tried to absorb it all at once. 

He’s got jet black hair, artfully mussed with undoubtedly expensive product and disheveled further from his own sweat and strangers’ wandering hands (the twink’s arm is stretched up, his hand gripping the back of the taller man’s head, his fingers hidden but surely tangled in his hair). Strands fall onto his forehead in pieces just long enough to brush past his eyebrows when he leans his head forward just so.

Niall doesn’t often notice eyebrows, honestly, but this man’s demand his attention. They’re dark and straight and dense – so dense Niall can’t imagine he’s even able to lift them. Thank God, Niall thinks, seeing as his face oozes a sensuality so potent a quirked eyebrow would render it debilitating. His brows rest just far enough above his eyes so as not to crowd them, but close enough that it’s like they don’t want to be too far from them. Which seems fair enough. 

Because those eyes. 

Fuck, his eyes. Deep brown – the kind most would call brooding but Niall swears even from across the dark dance floor contain a playful glint – and framed by the most devastatingly lush and long lashes Niall has ever seen on a man. On anybody, actually. Em’s expensive, individually applied false ones included. 

Niall can’t stop cataloguing this man’s perfections, his eyes flicking greedily around every part of him. His nose and his cheekbones and his lips – all perfectly crafted in a way that would have inspired princes of lore to call for his death in fits of jealous rage. His long, slender arms so completely covered in ink, it takes Niall an extra second to realize his black t-shirt is short-sleeved. His thin fingers – half wrapped around his glass and half lying flat against the abs of the man in front of him – the exact right amount of delicate to be attractive without seeming like they’d break off inside you. 

Niall might not need another drink after all, the way his mouth has started watering. 

He’s the most beautiful man Niall’s ever seen. 

Not just beautiful. Striking.

Breath knocked out of your lungs even while standing completely stunned-still striking. 

Niall wouldn’t think he were even real if he weren’t standing in the same room, precious few meters away, that desperate but desperately-trying-to-hide-it younger man practically strapped to his front.  

He doesn’t seem possible. 

And yet he’s here. 

Faced with the unfathomable depths of his beauty, Niall’s nerve receptors short-circuit, flooding his brain with a far too potent mix of whichever chemicals trigger wildly vivid fantasies. He’s overcome with images so clear he almost feels like he’s been transported somewhere. Hopefully to his own future. 

Because these are all images of what he’d very much like to do to this man. 

He’s grabbing his hair from behind and yanking his head back to expose his neck so Niall can lick it up and down, nibbling along the length of it.

He’s sucking his bottom lip into his own until it's slick and swollen, growing more biteable by the second.

He’s shoving his hand down the front of his trousers to grip his cock as it hardens.

And then come the flashes of things Niall’d like done to him. 

Sucking on his collarbone so hard he can picture the marks that’ll remain tomorrow, maybe even the next day.

Nibbling on his ear lobe before allowing his tongue to explore. 

Snaking his hands up under the back of Niall’s shirt before allowing both hands to dip beneath the waist of his trousers, long fingers teasing down the length of his crack before his hands grab both cheeks and spread them apart, making just enough space for one finger to dip in and press against his dry hole, fluttering in anticipation.  

Ok then. 

Niall hadn’t needed to worry about not being attracted enough to someone tonight after all. That’s now unbearably clear. Not just from the fantasies that have only just stopped whirring through his mind, but moreso from the erection they’ve elicited, straining painfully against its tight denim cage.  

Unfortunately for Niall and his dick, this walking wet dream looks to be well on his way to taking his dance partner home. They don’t look like a couple – the drape of the other man’s arm is too strategic to be comfortable. He’s clinging to him like he’s terrified if he lets go he might dance away and end up with someone else. And Niall can’t blame him. But he can wish him ill. 

He shakes the petty thought from his head with a chuckle and tries to dampen his hopes a bit. It’s not looking like it’s in the cards for him and the object of his desire tonight.  

He sneaks another glance and loses his breath again, his heart pounding in his chest as though it’s not aware there’s absolutely no more room for the blood where it seems to be trying to send it. 

Screw this twink, then. Can’t hurt to give it at least a little go.

But he needs another drink first. And quickly. So he rushes to the bar where, luckily, a bartender spots him immediately – a fit one too, he notes a bit absentmindedly, in case things with Mr. Stunner don’t work out tonight – and he’s walking back to the dance floor with a fresh drink in hand in no time. 

Niall’s nervous his man might have left by the time he gets back, even as quick as he was – wonders if that’s part of why he insisted to himself he needed a drink, to spare him having to actually try and maybe fail to pull this guy. But he’s still here. Niall notices him in his peripheral vision as he walks by him – close enough that goosebumps cover his arms despite the humid air – on his way to Louis and Harry, still dancing together amongst the crowd but not too far from Niall’s intended. 

Of course, Harry’s immediately and adorably and still drunkenly excited that Niall’s finally joined them, flashing his wide-open smile and throwing his arms up and out as he screams Niall’s name and jumps up and down. Louis, just as unsurprisingly, wastes no time in pulling Niall in towards him, throwing his arm around him and whispering gruffly into his ear, “I know that look, mate. Where is he?” 

He turns them slowly around as though he’s scanning the club, looking out conspiratorially with his cheek pressed against Niall’s, waiting for Niall to point him out. 

Harry finally catches on and tries to join them, wrapping his arm a bit too tightly around Niall from the other side and practically shouting directly in his face, “Oooh! Did you find someone, Niall? Who is it??”

Niall turns toward Louis and shoots him a pleading look. 

“Harry, love,” Louis says in his sweet voice, “could you be a lamb and run and get us a round of drinks?”

Harry pouts but Louis immediately explains it’ll make it less obvious they’re checking out Niall’s target if they have drinks covering half their faces. Giddy over having such an important task, Harry shouts his agreement, leans in to kiss Niall and Louis both before skipping off toward the bar, completely unaware that he very nearly knocks directly into Niall’s fantasy man.

While Harry’s gone, Louis renews his demand that Niall point out his target, and Niall manages to tell him who it is without drawing his notice. 

“Fuck me,” Louis exhales. “Nicely chosen.”

Niall knew Louis would appreciate this man’s particular brand of beauty. 

“We need to move fast, though, mate,” Louis says. “Not only is he bloody gorgeous, but he looks awfully cosy with that precocious little youth strapped to him.”

“I know,” Niall sighs. “He’s been all over him since I first laid eyes on him. Seems like they may be about ready to leave together, right? May be a lost cause for me tonight.”

“Come now, Niall. That’s a quitter’s attitude, there.”

Niall laughs, grateful for Louis’ commitment to being his wingman but also for the fact that he knows he’ll back off if Niall tells him it’s really over for the night.

Before Niall can do that, though, Louis positions them directly in the man’s line of sight, placing himself directly in front of Niall. Niall doesn’t know how the fuck Louis did it, but right then the beautiful man looks square at them. Louis immediately dances back into Niall, shoving his arse into Niall’s crotch and reaching up to grab Niall’s neck. Niall can’t see Louis’ face but he knows he’s putting on a convincing show, making clear to anyone watching he thinks they’re mad to want to be pressed up against anyone other than Niall right now. 

It seems to work, too, because the next time the gorgeous man’s eyes meet Niall’s, he lets them linger for a moment before he looks Niall and Louis up and down. His eyebrow raises a tiny bit (so he can lift them) and after letting his eyes have a thorough meander, he drags them back to meet Niall’s, his heady gaze making Niall break out in a sweat. Niall somehow manages to focus enough to give the man his most intense, and hopefully at least somewhat sexy, stare. He swears he sees a smirk flash across the man’s mouth, and it emboldens him.  He reaches around Louis’ waist as he holds the stranger’s gaze and quirks his eyebrow as he sucks in his bottom lip to wet it. 

The man mimics him, biting gently into his lip just after he licks it.  

Niall’s dick twitches in his jeans and he sends up a silent prayer that if Louis feels it, he’ll know it’s because of the stunning man he’s presently engaged in eye foreplay with, and not because of Louis’ admittedly ample and well-shaped arse pressed back into him rather mercilessly. 

Just then, the smaller man dancing with the stranger – that fucking guy who Niall had almost managed to forget the last few moments – turns around and whispers something into the beautiful man’s ear. The ear that Niall is starting to become incensed to not be nibbling currently. The man leans down to hear his dance partner better but doesn’t break eye contact with Niall. 

At least not until that fucking twink pulls him suddenly and gracelessly into a messy snog that lasts just long enough to completely deflate Niall. He steps back from Louis just as the other men pull their faces apart. Niall tries to school his face into a disinterested expression, but any chance of being successful flies out the window when the man finds his eyes again and smiles. Niall’s cheeks heat but he can’t do anything but watch as the stranger continues to allow the other man to hang on him. He shrugs exaggeratedly at Niall and flashes him a look Niall can only interpret as meaning “what are you going to do?” before turning with the younger man towards the exit. 

The last thing he does before fully turning away from Niall is wink. And Niall knows it’s meaningless, but he still allows it to land on his chest, burrowing into his skin and feeling an awful lot like hope. 

Luckily, before he can think too much about how ridiculous he’s being, Harry returns triumphantly with their drinks, sloshing them a bit but less than Niall’d expected given how much Harry resembles an excited goldendoodle bounding towards them. 

“How’s it going?” Harry asks, much too loudly, but it hardly matters anymore. “Where is he?”

“Just left,” Niall replies, sounding a bit sadder than he’d intended. 

“We gave him a solid show before he did, though,” Louis assures Harry. Or maybe he’s trying to assure Niall. “He was practically undressing our young Niall here by the end. I wouldn’t be surprised if next time you see him here, he walks right up to you and bends you over in the middle of the dance floor.”

Niall laughs at his friend. 

But he can’t pretend the image doesn’t stay with him. 

*

Niall’s sleep is just as fitful as the night before, his dreams just as vivid and visceral. 

But they’re anything but nightmares. 

As soon as Niall wraps his arm around Louis’ waist, the man he’s been working to make jealous, whose eyes are currently boring into Niall’s but whose body is pressed up against an entirely different man, grabs the hand grasping the back of his neck and removes it. He steps out from behind the body attached to it and moves around him without paying him another moment of attention. 

He walks towards Niall, never breaking their eye contact, looking like a jungle cat prowling for prey.  

Niall stiffens as the man approaches him and Louis and removes Louis’ hand from Niall’s neck just as he’d removed the poor discarded man’s hand from his own moments before. Niall can’t see Louis’ face but he has no doubt he’s putting on a convincingly outraged expression despite this going exactly as he had planned. 

Niall’s dream man doesn’t even spare a glance at Louis’ face though, his acting talent going to waste, which Niall can’t bring himself to give a fuck about presently. The man grabs Niall’s arm and pulls him out from behind Louis and into his own surprisingly solid form. Niall thinks for a moment that he should thank Louis but suddenly he’s just not there anymore. It’s just him and his gorgeous stranger, pressed together in the middle of the crowded dance floor, sweaty bodies pressed into them from all around, forcing them closer together. 

Niall slots his thigh between the man’s legs, leaning into him until he feels the full weight of his hardness, which matches his own. The man gasps and it’s the most beautiful sound Niall’s ever heard. His hands rove all over the man’s chest and around his back as he leans his face into his neck, inhaling deeply and getting lost in his scent. He reaches under the man’s black t-shirt, hoping his fingers pressed directly into the soft skin and firm muscles of his back will keep him from falling. 

Just as he’s grounded himself, he feels the man’s hand palm the aching bulge in his crotch and Niall pants directly into his neck. 

He has no idea how it happens so quickly, and somehow doesn’t give a thought to the fact that it’s happening on the dance floor, but suddenly there’s a hand around his cock, working him over in precisely the way he loves, and before he can figure out what to do or say in response, he’s coming.

The shout he’d started tucked into the man’s shoulder finishes in his room – Louis and Harry’s guest room, to be precise – as he startles awake, snapping his mouth shut as he realizes where is he, suddenly very aware of having soaked through his briefs and probably his friends’ sheets as well. 

“Fuck,” he breathes out into the dark, empty room. 

He has no idea the last time he had a wet dream. First time in years, definitely. 

And after he quickly and sheepishly cleans himself up, it’s also the first night in months he falls asleep easily and doesn’t stir again ’til morning. 

~~~

Niall hasn’t been clubbing this much since his early twenties. Over the past few weeks, he’s returned to Heaven nearly a half dozen times, sometimes dragging Louis and Harry – or if he’s desperate, Liam and Nick – and sometimes braving it on his own. 

Tonight’s one of those times he’s come on his own, and he’s determined to pull, whether he finally finds his mystery man again or not. He’s also made a promise to himself that, after tonight, he’s done looking for him. Whatever happens – or doesn’t happen – this has to be it. The chase has gone from being an exciting and useful distraction to making him feel more than a little pathetic. 

But he hasn’t been able to get the man’s eyes out of his head. And he hasn’t been able to shake the feeling of the dream he had the night he saw him. He has to try one more time. To give himself one more chance of making that feeling real. If just for one night. 

Drink in hand, Niall takes a purposeful lap around the club, scanning the dance floor and the tables that line the walls, and comes up empty. A bit deflated but not nearly ready to give up, Niall looks to see if there’s an empty table or spot at the bar. Before he can, he senses someone right behind him, the hairs on the back of his neck standing at attention, causing him to grip his bottle so hard he half-expects it to shatter in his hand. 

“I was hoping to see you again.” He both hears and feels the statement, the breath of the person behind him heating his neck as the words reverberate in his ears. 

Fuck, he can’t even see him, but his voice alone – the depth of it combined with the thickness of his accent – sends a rush of blood to Niall’s cock. It’s a voice designed for talking dirty, and Niall has to fight to keep himself from falling directly into a fantasy of exactly what else it might whisper in his ear if he’s very good and very lucky. 

Somehow, he keeps his fantasies at bay for long enough to turn around. 

Fuck. 

He’d known it was him. But seeing him, this close, and equipped with that smirk and what Niall now knows is that voice, is something else entirely. 

“Hey, ’m Zayn,” are the first words Niall ever sees exit the gorgeous mouth that’s now mere inches from his own. He – Zayn – doesn’t offer his hand to shake. There’s not enough room between them for it even if such a formality would make sense in this context. 

Zayn’s lips twist from a friendly smile to a smirk, making Niall realize he’s just been staring at them since he turned around and Zayn spoke. 

Flushing with embarrassment, Niall yanks his eyes up to meet Zayn’s. 

He’d always thought the term “bedroom eyes” was rubbish, is the thing. 

Now he’s just baffled that anyone could have come up with such a perfect description for this man’s eyes what must have been years before he was even born. 

Honestly, at this point, though, Niall’s half convinced this Zayn is at least a demi-god, so he supposes it’s possible. 

Oh god. The smirk’s reached his eyes now. 

Somehow, Niall remembers himself enough to finally say something.

“Zayn,” he breathes, and the man huffs a laugh. 

Fuck. 

“I mean...Zayn, nice to meet you. I’m Niall.”

Zayn tilts his head slightly back in a nod of acknowledgement, his smirk fading into an amused smile, his pink tongue visible between his teeth as he regards Niall for a second. 

“Pleasure, Niall.”

Niall’s swallow gets caught in his throat but he manages to smile back. 

“So,” Zayn drawls in the slightly graveled voice that has already become Niall’s favorite all-time sound, “should we dance, Niall?” 

“Fuck yeah, we should.” Niall would be embarrassed at his eagerness, but he’s too turned on to be bothered. And, anyway, it earns him a subtle eyebrow raise and crooked smile from the most stunning man currently alive on this earth, so he can’t possibly regret it.

Wordlessly, Zayn places his hands on Niall’s hips and pulls Niall into him, their bodies pressed together from chest to groin. Despite feeling immediately that Zayn’s as affected as he is, Niall manages to maintain control of his motor functions well enough to bring his left hand up to tangle his fingers in Zayn’s hair while his other grabs Zayn’s hand and guides it around his waist, placing it on his own back before he rests his own on Zayn’s hip. 

Niall has no idea what song is even playing, but they must both be aware enough of the music to be moving in time with it. Because there’s no adjustment period before their motions are synchronized. When one of them sways to one side, the other comes along. When one of them grinds forward, the other receives the movement with a balance of resistance and give that results in a delicious pressure. And when Zayn finally presses his thigh into Niall, Niall spreads his own just enough to grant Zayn entrance without leaving him an extra inch of space.

Zayn’s firm thigh pressing into Niall’s half-hard cock creates a spark of pleasure that forces Niall’s head back as he moans into the thick air around them. Zayn takes advantage of the exposed skin immediately, attaching his hot, wet mouth to Niall’s neck, licking and kissing and sucking every inch he can reach as he squeezes Niall closer and grinds against him. 

“Fuck,” Niall grits out, overwhelmed by the sensations attacking him from all sides. 

“Mmhmmm,” Zayn offers by way of response, the vibrations on Niall’s skin sending a wave of heat through him. He responds by fisting his left hand in Zayn’s hair, tugging a final time before guiding his hand down the length of Zayn’s torso, pausing long enough at the top of Zayn’s skin tight black jeans to give Zayn an opportunity to stop him. He doesn’t stop him, nor does he stop the maddening attention he’s lavishing on Niall’s neck and shoulder with his tongue and his lips and his teeth. So Niall keeps going, squeezing his hand between their tightly pressed bodies to awkwardly palm Zayn’s bulge. 

Zayn’s lips release Niall just enough to let out a groan that goes straight to Niall’s dick, already achingly hard from where it’s trapped between their bodies. 

Zayn’s cock feels too tempting beneath his palm – too warm and too insistent – to only feel through denim, so Niall moves to pop the button of Zayn’s fly, just to give himself a little more room to work. He succeeds and leaves the zipper alone as he flattens his palm and fingers against Zayn’s torso, ready to dip below the denim waist when suddenly Zayn’s hand is on top of his. 

“Wait.”

Fuck. 

“Shit, sorry, I–” 

“No, stop. I mean. Don’t stop. Just don’t apologize. I just mean, wait. Not here.”

“Oh…” Niall replies, sending a silent thanks skyward. 

“Come with me,” Zayn huffs out, grabbing Niall’s hand in his, not bothering to re-button his fly as he tugs him off the dance floor. 

To Niall’s surprise, he’s neither pulling him toward the front exit nor the loo. 

“Where are we going?” he asks, but doesn’t receive an answer. 

They end up at the side of the club opposite the bar, and before Niall can ask again, Zayn’s pushing open a door so inconspicuous Niall doesn’t think he’d ever have noticed it if he weren’t being yanked through it. He barely has time to register that they’re in a dark, narrow alley before Zayn grabs Niall by his lapels and pulls him along with him as he backs into the brick facade of the club. Niall’s chest crashes gracelessly into Zayn’s and Zayn pulls again on his lapels, yanking Niall into a desperate, crushing kiss. 

And, fuck, Niall had thought his lips felt amazingly against his skin. But against his lips? It’s like the entire concept of sin has somehow been distilled into a sensation. It takes Niall a second to catch up, and then he’s right there with Zayn, licking and nibbling and sucking, fervent and messy and fucking incredible. 

When they come up for air, gasping against each other’s sloppy, swollen lips, Niall’s thoughts are whirring madly. He can’t think of what he wants to do next, because he wants to do everything to Zayn. 

“Want to suck you,” Zayn purrs into his mouth. 

And, well, Niall can hardly argue with that. 

Except. 

Fuck. 

Niall flashes back to the last time someone did him that kindness, and how terribly it had gone. And Zayn couldn’t be further from Rebecca – they’re opposites in almost every regard – but Niall can’t shake the dread that the outcome might be the same regardless. And he can’t let that happen. He needs them to do something else. Something that will distract him thoroughly enough that there’s no chance his traitorous thoughts will conjure Emma. Something that won’t remind him of her at all. 

And before Zayn can wonder at his hesitance, it comes to him. He almost laughs at himself but manages to bite it back, determined not to give Zayn any reason to think he’s not fully into this. 

“Let me,” he whispers, “please.”

Zayn pulls back a few inches to meet Niall’s gaze, a question flashing in his own lust-blown eyes.

“Please,” Niall repeats. “You’ve no idea how much I want to. Need to.”

“Fuck,” Zayn huffs. “Ok, yeah, yeah. Be my guest.”

Niall huffs a laugh and drops to his knees as Zayn leans back against the wall. Niall winces at the broken gravel digging into his knees through his trousers. He’s going to pay for this tomorrow, but right now he can’t imagine caring about anything less. 

“Y’alright?” Zayn asks from above. “Sounded like a hard landing.”

“Never better,” Niall says, eyes on Zayn’s fly, as he grips the zipper pull and tugs it down slowly, his mouth filling with saliva at the sound of Zayn’s anticipatory shudder. He licks his left hand as he tugs Zayn’s jeans down just enough to free his cock. Of course he’s not wearing pants, Niall muses, surer by the second that Zayn’s not actually human, but some magical creature Niall’s somehow conjured from the fantasies embedded in the deepest recesses of his mind. And of course he’s got a beautiful dick – long and thick but not too much of either, a velvety expanse of brown skin, flushed with just enough red that Niall can make it out in the dark alley. 

Niall may have wanted to suck Zayn off to distract himself from the worry of what might happen the other way ’round, but now, with Zayn’s gorgeous cock in his hand, and Zayn’s mouth responding beautifully from above to his loose but quickening strokes, Niall’s desperate for it. 

He dives in without notice, skipping any precursor of tentative licks or gentle sucking on the head and taking Zayn down as far as he can manage all in one go. 

“Fffffuck!” Zayn yells, thrusting hips slightly forward and smacking his palms back against the wall. “Shit, sorry,” he huffs, pulling his hips back, pressing his arse into the wall as if trying to ground himself to maintain better control. Niall responds by leaning in, taking him down even further. 

It’s been so long since he’s had a cock in his mouth, and it feels incredible. He feels full and powerful and there’s no room for any thoughts in his head other than wanting to make this amazing for Zayn. 

He thinks it’s the best blow job he’s ever given, and if the way Zayn completely falls apart against that brick wall, his groans and curses sounding more and more wrecked with every second, Niall’s fairly certain he’s enjoying it quite a lot as well. 

Before too long, not long enough if Niall’s honest, Zayn grabs Niall’s hair and Niall knows he’s close. He hums around his cock, trying to get Zayn’s attention, and it works. Zayn looks down to meet Niall’s eyes and Niall gives a slight nod, hoping Zayn understands his meaning. 

“Fuck,” Zayn grunts. 

Good.

“Y-you sure?” he asks, his voice cracking.

Not wanting to pull off, Niall replies by swallowing around him and Zayn releases a broken moan. 

Gripping Niall’s hair tighter, he pulls him toward him, forcing his cock further down his throat, and cries out as he spills hot inside Niall. Tears fill Niall’s eyes as he chokes around Zayn’s release – his vision whiting out for a moment as he’s completely overwhelmed – but he recovers quickly enough to swallow it all down. Zayn loosens his grip on Niall’s hair and eases himself out of his mouth, shuddering as Niall gives a final lick to the head as it pops out. 

Niall expects Zayn to collapse back against the wall, possibly even sliding down it, given how affected he seems to be as he tucks his cock back into his pants. Instead, to Niall’s complete shock and absolute delight, Zayn reaches down, his eyes blazing, and grabs Niall’s bicep, yanking him up and twirling him around so Niall’s back is pressed against Zayn’s chest, his arse flush with Zayn’s crotch. 

Before Niall can say, or even think, anything, Zayn’s reaching around to undo his fly, unceremoniously pulling his pants down low enough that he can grab his achingly hard cock. For a second, Niall panics at how exposed he is, facing outward with his dick out for anyone to see in an alley just outside an absolutely packed club in a very popular neighborhood on a Saturday night. 

But before he can question it or worry too much, Zayn whispers gruffly in his ear, “Relax, babe. I got you,” spits into his hand, and starts stripping Niall’s cock at an absolutely merciless pace. 

Niall cries out a few indecipherable syllables and then squeezes his eyes shut, completely losing himself in the intense pleasure of Zayn’s hand flying over his dick and his mouth suctioned to his neck from behind. The thought of how out in the open he is – that someone might wander into this alley from the street or even just out the very door they used to get here – turns him on more than he understands. Between that, Zayn’s hot, wet mouth on his neck, his long, dexterous fingers wrapped around his cock, and the fact that he’s somehow hard again and softly fucking against Niall’s arse the entire time, it’s the single most erotic hand job Niall’s ever gotten. It barely takes any time at all before his shouts fill the alley and he’s shooting hot ribbons over Zayn’s hand and onto the pavement. 

Zayn spins him back around, more gently this time, once his breathing has settled, and helps Niall tuck himself back into his pants with one hand as he licks the cum from his other.

Niall thinks he might pass out. 

Instead, he zips and buttons his fly and leans in to kiss Zayn, able to enjoy the softness of his lips in a way he hadn’t earlier. They trade a few sweet, lazy kisses – far too sweet for what they’ve just done to each other – until Niall pulls them apart and rests their foreheads together. Both panting softly, they smile shyly but contentedly at each other for a few long seconds before Zayn breaks the silence. 

“So, we’re doing this again.” 

It’s not a question, but Niall answers anyway. 

“Fuck yeah we are.”

“Good,” Zayn whispers, capturing Niall’s lips again, the kiss heated but still signaling the end of an evening, rather than the start of another round.

“Next weekend?” Niall asks when they pull apart again. 

“Definitely,” Zayn answers, smiling at Niall with a sweetness and excitement that makes his heart swell.  

Next weekend, then. 

When Niall gets home, the flat is quiet and dark, Louis and Harry nowhere to be seen or heard, and Niall goes right to his room, falling immediately into his bed and straight to sleep. 

~~~

It’s 11:30 p.m. exactly on Friday night when Niall and Zayn find each other on the dance floor, and they don’t leave it or each other for an hour. 

They barely exchange ten words between them the entire time, relying on their wandering eyes and hands and lips to do their communicating. But for all that the careful regarding leads to caressing leads to grinding leads to groping, the growing intensity between them doesn’t end in an alleyway blowjob this time around. Or a sloppy cubicle handjob. Not even a subtle over-the-trousers bulge squeeze in the middle of the dance floor.

Maybe it’s because they broke the tension last weekend. Maybe it’s the fact that their meeting tonight was planned, so they know they’re a sure thing. Maybe they’re just enjoying the excruciating pleasure of delaying the inevitable. Whatever the reason, their movements are less hurried tonight, more deliberate. Their chemistry hasn’t flagged – it’s obvious in the intensity of their stares, the electricity in the air surrounding them – but it’s taken on a thoughtfulness. The desperation of last week replaced by a certainty that’s somehow even more tantalizing. 

Eventually, though, that certainty takes on an urgency. And they both agree without speaking that it’s time to take their leave. 

It’s just past 1:00 a.m. when Zayn slams the door to his flat shut and backs Niall into it, harshly enough to pull a groan from Niall, but not too hard that the groan isn’t entirely one of pleasure. After steadily working each other into a frenzy in the club, and snogging each other breathless the entire cab ride over, it’s all they can do to yank each other’s trousers down just enough to get at each other’s cocks – both angry and glistening with precum – aggressively jerking each other off, exchanging kisses that are little more than clashing teeth and panting hot into each other’s mouths. 

It’s only 1:08 when they start shuffling down the hall, trousers ’round their thighs, toward Zayn’s bedroom, paying no mind to the cum that’s sticky between their fingers and drying on their stomachs and half-hard dicks. They claw at each other’s jackets and shirts, depositing them one by one along the hallway as they bump into lamps and side tables and walls, unwilling to pause their slow, needy kisses, growing filthier with every stuttered step. 

Niall’s never been part of a bigger cliche and he can’t be arsed to care, so unbothered that he starts begging Zayn the second they cross the threshold into his bedroom to get naked already so he can finally suck him off properly, giving his beautiful cock the attention it deserves on the comfort of a mattress. 

“Fuck, where did you even come from?” Zayn huffs, his lust blown eyes glued to Niall’s lips as he moistens them with his tongue. The moment Zayn’s vest joins the rumpled pile of his clothes on the floor, Niall’s shoving him onto his back on the bed. 

Of course he has the most luxurious bedding Niall’s ever felt – let alone been fucked on. Feels appropriate, Niall thinks, given that he’s planning to give a blow job worthy of royalty. He chuckles to himself and Zayn raises his head, brow furrowed. 

“Something funny down there?”

Niall looks up at him as he wraps his hand around his cock, stroking him back to full hardness, and swirling his tongue around the head a few times before pressing it into the slit and licking the bead of precum off the tip. 

“Absolutely nothing funny about what I’m about to do to you.”

Whatever Zayn’s about to say is lost to the moan he chokes out as Niall sucks him down, hollowing his cheeks and humming his approval. 

He’d loved sucking Zayn last weekend. But this time, without his knees digging into gravel or the looming possibility of being caught (both of which had added to the hotness but also created a sense of urgency), Niall is able to really enjoy it. Every lick and kiss and swallow revealing something new about Zayn and what he likes. Every gasp and curse and groan Niall extracts from him going straight to his own straining cock. And when Zayn finally stops fisting the sheets and grabs onto Niall’s head, Niall knows exactly what it means. And knowing he’s gotten Zayn this worked up – and the anticipation of what he already knows it will feel like to have Zayn thrust up into him and spill down his throat – turns him on so thoroughly he thinks he might come along with him. 

He doesn’t, but it’s close. And he feels almost fucked out himself as Zayn’s cock slips from his mouth and he licks the remaining cum from the head, causing Zayn to whimper and roll to his side, protecting his oversensitive cock as his panting fills the room. 

Niall crawls up the bed and collapses on his stomach next to Zayn, wincing at the friction that results from trapping his cock between himself and the bedding. 

With a heavy sigh, Zayn finally flops onto his back and turns his head to face Niall, flashing a tired but satisfied smile. 

“You’re really starting to spoil me, mate,” he says, his voice deep and rattled. 

Niall chuckles. “It’s been my pleasure, I assure you.”

“Well,” Zayn replies, before licking his lip and shifting his gaze down to take all of Niall in, “I think we better–” 

His own laughter cuts him off and Niall frowns. 

What the fuck?

“Sorry, babe, it’s just...your trousers are still wrapped ’round your thighs. All I can see right now is your arse peeking out between your vest and your belt.”

He giggles and Niall can’t help but join him as he twists himself just enough to get a glimpse. 

It does look ridiculous. 

Still laughing, he pushes against the mattress with his hands and bends his legs to knee himself up and off the bed. But halfway there, Zayn stops him. 

“Freeze,” he huffs out, and Niall couldn’t disobey him if he wanted. 

Holding himself still on his hands and shins, his elbows bent and knees tucked under him, he feels ridiculous, and somewhat exposed, but his need to know what Zayn has planned is more urgent than his need to get into a more reasonable position and finally get his clothes off. 

He doesn’t say anything. Has no idea what to say, even. 

Luckily, Zayn doesn’t make him wait any longer. 

“Just...please don’t move. Fuck.” The curse is somewhere between punctuation and a prayer and Niall shudders in anticipation. 

Zayn gets off the bed from his side and walks around to the foot. Niall tenses imagining Zayn’s view. But he’s immediately distracted when Zayn reaches up and yanks his trousers and pants off at once, pulling them fully off and tossing them on the floor before crawling onto the bed behind Niall, settling himself between his legs. 

Niall exhales a shaky breath that turns into a moan midway as Zayn grips both his arse cheeks and squeezes once before running his hands slowly – reverently – up and down Niall’s thighs, and then his back, slipping his hands under Niall’s vest and scraping gently with his nails. His hands return to Niall’s arse and he kneads it firmly, pulling his cheeks repeatedly apart and squeezing them back together in a rhythm that has Niall groaning eagerly. 

It’s been years since anyone’s paid attention to Niall like this, and he’d forgotten how simultaneously exciting and nerve-wracking it can be. But even without being able to see him – even with how quiet Zayn’s being (maybe because of it) – just the way Zayn’s touching him, Niall feels more at ease than he ever has in this position. Especially with a stranger. 

“Yeah,” he hears Zayn whisper. 

Fucking hell. 

When Zayn pulls his cheeks apart and keeps them there, Niall’s back tenses in anticipation and he sucks in a gulp of air, holding it in without meaning to. Before he can talk himself into exhaling, Zayn licks a slow, fat stripe from his balls all the way to his exposed hole, ripping the breath from him. 

“Godddd daaaamn it.”

Zayn holds his arse perfectly in place but leans back and huffs an amused breath, which Niall experiences as a hot gust of hair on his moistened, puckered skin even before he hears it. 

“This alright with you, then?” 

“Fuck yes,” Niall moans. “Please keeping go–”

Zayn interrupts him by diving back in, lavishing wet, insistent attention exactly where Niall needs it. His pressure is unyielding, his pace maddening. Niall can’t even believe he can do what he’s doing without pausing to breathe or rewet his tongue. He just licks and hums and sucks and nibbles and maintains a grip on Niall’s arse so firm there’s no way it won’t bruise. He’s like a man possessed and Niall ends up collapsing onto the mattress, Zayn following him without missing a beat, his tongue never leaving Niall’s hole. 

Within seconds of his body meeting the mattress, Niall’s writhing desperately – partially seeking friction for his poor neglected cock and partially because he can’t physically stop himself given what Zayn’s doing. He’s vaguely aware that the choked sobs he hears must be coming from his own mouth, but he’s too overwhelmed by the competing sensations from Zayn’s ministrations and his own rutting to give a fuck about how desperate and needy he sounds. 

The moment Zayn’s tongue breaches his tight ring of muscle, Niall clenches around it and comes with a scream so loud he can’t believe it’s muffled by the pillow he’d plunged his face into earlier. 

Zayn gives him a few final kitten licks before he releases his grip on Niall’s arse. He teasingly bites one cheek, places a kiss on each one, and crawls back up the bed before collapsing on his back, his head landing with a soft thud on the pillow next to Niall’s.

It’s nearly 3:00 a.m. when their breaths finally even out. Zayn rolls out of bed with a groan, and returns a minute later with a warm, wet flannel and two glasses of water. After he helps Niall clean himself off, he tosses the flannel off the bed in some direction or another, and settles in next to him, resting his head on Niall’s chest, his fingers toying absent-mindedly with his chest hair.

Niall’s not quite sure how or when exactly it starts, but he’s suddenly aware they’re kissing again. Soft, languid kisses, the kind that stretch on so long you’ve no idea when one ends and the next begins, where you feel at some point you must need to pause to breathe but somehow your body’s found a way to absorb oxygen another way, so you just...stay kissing. It’s messy, but not sloppy. Lazy, but not without intention. 

It’s easy and familiar and quiet. Until suddenly it’s not. 

Again, without quite realizing how or when or why, Niall realizes something’s shifted. Where the kissing had been its own activity, now it’s a preamble. 

Zayn’s gone from lying beside him, his arm the only part of him overlapping with Niall, to practically being on top of him, his leg flung over Niall’s and his chest and crotch pressed so urgently against his side that one heavy breath from either of them will undoubtedly jostle him over the precipice. Somehow, suddenly, in the midst of that fervor, Zayn slows them down enough to say, between kisses, “So,” and more kisses, “it seemed like,” and yet some more, “you enjoyed my tongue.” 

“Mmmm,” Niall murmurs against his lips, unwilling to join Zayn in interrupting their kissing. 

But Zayn pulls back fully at Niall’s lack of further response, Niall’s only consolation that he can now take in Zayn’s dilated pupils and flushed cheeks and swollen lips. 

Sensing Zayn’s waiting for him to elaborate, Niall concedes, “I think I made it pretty obvious I did, yes. Fucking loved it.”

Zayn licks his lips like he wants to devour Niall. 

Right answer, then.

“Think you might like my fingers just as well?” Zayn asks, his voice rough with want. 

Niall leans in and nips Zayn’s slick, pink bottom lip with his teeth, then soothes it with his tongue before pulling back to answer him. 

“I definitely would.”

Zayn smiles, his pupils blacking out the very last outline of brown that’d remained.

“So long as I know they’re making room for your cock.”

Zayn’s smile drops instantly and Niall’s never gotten so hard so fast. 

“They can definitely do that,” Zayn purrs. “Yeah, I can do that.”

And he takes his sweet fucking time – to Niall’s dismay and absolute delight – but Zayn’s true to his word, opening Niall up with his long, thin, deft fingers over the span of what feels like hours, bringing him right up to the edge and back again multiple times, peppering Niall with words of praise and littering his thighs and arse and cock with soft licks and kisses all along the way. 

If Niall hadn’t already come twice tonight, he never would have been able to last as long as he does, and Zayn is all too aware of that. 

When he finally (fucking finally – Christ) pushes into Niall, both of them sweaty and panting and blissed out beyond any ability to focus their vision and yet refusing to stare anywhere but each other’s eyes, Niall lets out a noise so primal he’d be mortified if he could focus on literally anything but the exquisite feeling of being so full. Full in a way he hasn’t been for years. 

Full in a way that’s not just physical. 

Zayn’s inside of him forever, as far as Niall can tell. The pace of his thrusts so slow, the drag of his cock inside Niall so heavy, Niall loses all sense of time.

He can see Zayn’s mouth move occasionally, but can’t hear – or at least can’t understand – the words he’s saying. He’s aware that Zayn occasionally re-positions them, lifting Niall’s leg to rest over his shoulder or flipping him over and pressing Niall face down so he can fuck him into the mattress – still slowly (so fucking slowly) – before turning him back over when he seems to miss his face, but Niall doesn’t actually feel any of that happening. The only feeling he registers is Zayn’s cock inside of him, stretching him and filling him, lighting up every nerve ending inside of him.

When he finally comes, Zayn’s hand wrapped around his cock, his own buried so deeply in Niall that all he can do is grind into him, Niall’s amazed his muscles have the strength left to clench as tightly as they do. If Zayn’s shout is any indication, he’s surprised at the pressure of the sudden squeeze as well. Niall thinks Zayn follows him right over the edge, but he can’t be sure. He’s not entirely convinced he doesn’t lose consciousness for at least a few seconds. 

Zayn must manage to fetch the flannel he’d used earlier, because Niall’s vaguely aware of being delicately tended to as he lies boneless on his back, eyes shut so thoroughly he’s not sure he knows how to open them.

He doesn’t have to. 

He just gets to lie there, focusing on the way his breathing and heart rate are evening out in pace with each other, and smiling as Zayn presses a single kiss at the corner of his mouth before settling back into his side, his fingers again caressing Niall’s chest, not too light to tickle him, but lightly enough that it feels like a lullaby.  

The sun’s begun its ascent, casting the bedroom in a soft, orangey glow, when Niall finally flutters his eyelids, witnessing the gentle light just before drifting off to sleep. 

The last thought he’s aware of, lying there completely spent, this beautiful still-stranger nestled against him, is how he doesn't at all mind this kind of sleepless night.