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Code of Conduct

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“What do you mean, there’s only one room left?” Harry tries not to glare at the receptionist, because it’s not her fault, and getting mad at her won’t help. He’s been in her position after all, and he knows how horrible it is to get yelled at for something that’s not your fault at all. But still. “I definitely reserved two.”

“I can see that,” she agrees. She definitely looks apologetic, is even fiddling nervously with long blonde hair. “But it seems that we overbooked, and we’ll definitely refund your reservation for the second room, and I can probably get you a discount for the inconvenience, but we really only have the one room.”

Harry sighs, and runs a hand through his hair. They could go somewhere else, probably. There has to be another hotel nearby with a room open. But…he glances over his shoulder to where Zayn’s sitting on the couch of the lobby, reading something on his tablet. Harry can’t help his exasperated smile at that—they’ve been traveling all day, and the only thing Zayn hates more than planes is, like, animal abuse, but of course he still starts working the instant the second they touch down. Sure, his day will start with an early meeting, so he won’t have time to prepare before it, but still. Sometimes Harry wants to tie him to a bed and make him sleep. Or relax in another way, but that’s something Harry likes to pretend isn’t true.

“Are you sure?” Harry asks, “We could do a suite? Or the rooms don’t have to be adjoining or anything.”

“I can look, but I really don’t think so, sir. I’m very sorry.” She starts typing something into her computer. Harry knows that look, though. That’s the look of someone doing something just so they won’t get yelled at for not checking all their bases. That’s the look Harry gets when someone insists on a meeting with Zayn and Harry has to prove he really doesn’t have time.

“It’s okay.” Harry’s used to it, by now, the smooth sound of Zayn’s voice over his shoulder, like when he leans over Harry’s shoulder at work to look at his computer. But the girl clearly isn’t, because her eyes are wide when she looks at Zayn. Harry doesn’t blame her. Zayn’s a lot to take in, even when he isn’t in a suit and tie with his hair mussed just enough from traveling that it looks like someone got their hands in it. “We can share a room for one night, Harry. It’s fine.”

“I reserved two,” Harry says, quietly, but he knows he’s being unreasonable. It might not be the most appropriate thing in the world, to share a room with your boss, but after three years that line’s sort of blurred enough that it shouldn’t really be a big deal. It isn’t to Zayn. It’s just…what if Harry does something stupid? What if he has one of the dreams he has sometimes, that start with Zayn calling him into his office and end with either him fucking Harry over his desk or sometimes a ring?

“Harry.” Zayn’s hand is gentle on his shoulder, a comforting, familiar weight. “Things go wrong, and I’m tired. It’s fine.”

“Yeah.” Harry huffs out a breath, then smiles at the receptionist. “Okay, sorry. Thanks for trying!” He gives her his most encouraging grin, because it’s never fun to have a crisis, and she relaxes slightly, though her eyes are still wide behind round glasses. “We’ll take that room. Two beds, right?” If there’s only one bed Harry will sleep in the airport or something. There are some things he’s just not capable of.

“Yes, definitely! Two queens. And I’ll talk to my manager about getting you a discount and let you know!” She grins in relief, and Harry grins back, then looks over his shoulder where Zayn’s still hovering.

“Go sit back down, I’ll deal with this.”

“This isn’t actually part of your job description,” Zayn informs him, like he always does, but he goes. It’s true, Harry might only be an assistant but he’s supposed to be doing more spreadsheets than hotels, but Harry doesn’t really care. He knows how exhausted Zayn is. He’s been working on this deal for weeks, and no matter how late Harry stays, Zayn’s always there later. Usually Harry would send him home early, would at least team up with Louis to get him out for drinks, but this really has merited that sort of overtime. Once this deal is done Harry’s going to put Zayn in for vacation time whether he wants it or not. There are perks to being the only one who knows how to work Zayn’s schedule.

Harry deals with getting them checked in, and then ordering some room service in advance, because neither of them have eaten more than airplane food and the company’s paying anyway so they can deal with it, then goes to get Zayn.

“Time to go,” he tells Zayn, and Zayn smiles gratefully up at him before he stands up, cracking his back as he does.

“Don’t know what I’d do without you,” he tells Harry, and Harry can’t help his grin.

“Be late a lot,” he retorts, though, and Zayn laughs as they head towards the elevators. It’s not a lie. According to Liam, who’s worked at the company as long as Zayn has, before Harry got there Zayn was late to everything. Harry can believe it. Zayn’s an amazing businessman and an amazing person, Harry knows, but he’s also really bad at remembering meetings. Which is what he has Harry for, Harry supposes. One of the things. The amount of things Harry would do for Zayn would be sad, if he had any regrets about that, or any intention of acting on any of them.

“Speaking of late,” Zayn says once that get into the elevator. “When—”

“Nine A.M meeting,” Harry says before he can finish the question. “We have a car picking us up at 8:30. I know,” he replies to the face Zayn makes. Zayn’s distaste for mornings is the first thing he warned Harry of when he hired him, not to take offense at anything he says before ten because he’s not really conscious then. Harry hadn’t believed him then, because he’d only seen Zayn in the interview, intimidatingly beautiful and expressionless. But now Harry’s seen him the few times he’s actually had to get into the office before nine, and he knows (knows it’s adorable, Zayn’s petulant vagueness, knows it makes him wonder what Zayn’s like right out of sleep, if he’s soft and rumpled and kissable). “But this is the closest I could get us. There’s a continental breakfast here, we can get you coffee.”

“Can we get me a caffeine IV?” Zayn mutters, and Harry chuckles before he turns to look at the buttons.


The thing is, Harry never set out to have a crush on his boss. He’d meant to be professional, really, no matter if Niall laughs at him whenever he says that and says he never could have been professional. But Harry had. He’d planned out all his suits and everything, planned how he was going to be capable and impressive and indispensible for a year, maybe two, then he’d move on with great recommendations into something a bit more interesting than being an assistant. Even after the interview, when he’d seen Zayn for the first time, he figured he could work for someone that pretty without it being a problem. Harry may be a flirt, but he knows boundaries, even if he doesn’t always pay them the strictest attention.

What he hadn’t anticipated was Zayn. Zayn, who wasn’t the stoically beautiful carved-from-marble untouchable boss Harry had expected, who joked with Harry and counted on Harry to talk on the phone for him because he was awful at it and sometimes sent Harry cute animal photos because he thought Harry would enjoy them. Who worked far too much, whose friends Harry got to know because calling him was the best way to get hold of Zayn. Who never laughed when Harry tripped over things and just sighed if Harry dropped folders and messed up the organization. Who always had time to listen to Harry’s stories, even when Harry knew he didn’t really have time. Who had let Harry fall apart in his office when he had learned his grandmother died, who had hovered like he wanted to hug Harry. Who never makes Harry feel like less than his equal in intellect or worth. Harry hadn’t had a chance.

But he did know boundaries, and Zayn was his boss. Zayn was sort of his friend, and his boss, and he didn’t feel the same way, and it was just a stupid crush. And maybe, yeah, if Zayn had been someone else Harry would have beaten past all that and ended up in his bed. But he liked this job, and he liked Zayn, and it was just a crush. He had handled it for three years, he could handle it for as long as he had to, as long as Zayn still smiled at him when he brought him coffee and laughed at his bad jokes and told Harry how much he needed him all the time.


The room does have two beds, thank god. And it’s plenty big, so Harry can just flop down on his bed and watch as Zayn hangs up his suit bag, then undoes his tie. Harry’s seen him without his tie before, of course—working late, when everyone at the office goes out for drinks, at the Christmas party—but he never gets sick of it, of watching Zayn’s throat emerge like a present being unwrapped.

Fuck. Harry stifles a groan, and averts his eyes. Maybe he won’t survive tonight.

“I think I’m just going to crash,” Zayn says, “Maybe that way I’ll be able to function tomorrow.”

“Wait a bit, food’s coming,” Harry tells him. He pulls out his phone, texts SHARING A ROOM WITH ZAYN HELP to Niall and Nick because he needs backup, then starts to scroll through his twitter feed for something to do that’s not looking at Zayn.

“You’re a lifesaver.” He can’t help but look up when Zayn says that, for the grin Zayn gives him, big and sincere, the one he only gives people he’s comfortable with. It took Harry almost six months before he got one of those grins, after he spent twenty minutes chatting with Zayn’s mum about recipes while Zayn finished up another call. That was when Harry had realized he might be having more of a problem than a vague attraction to his hot boss.

Zayn pauses, halfway between his bed and the window, then, “I know this is weird, but you can’t be comfortable in work clothes. I know I’m not. So you can change, if you want. I’d like to, if you don’t mind. Not sure we have a choice, really.”

Harry thinks probably having a lot of clothes on is the best plan around Zayn, but he can’t refuse without making that obvious. What is he supposed to do, insist Zayn sleep in his suit? “Yeah, sure, of course.” He scrambles off the bed to paw through his bag. Thank god he brought gym clothes in case he wakes up early tomorrow morning, given he usually just sleeps in his boxers.

“Cool.” Zayn nods, then grabs his carry-on and slips into the bathroom to change.

Harry’s phone buzzes while he’s in there. There’s a series of lols from Niall, which is not at all helpful, and Get some Styles! from Nick, with a series of emojis after it.

It’s not funny, he texts back to Niall, then to Nick, This is a crisis! He’s changing out of his suit!

Niall doesn’t text back, but Nick’s response is almost immediate. Perfect. Catch him mid-change. This is your opportunity!

Harry groans and drops his phone onto the bed. Why are all his friends so unhelpful? He needs new ones.

Zayn comes out a minute later. He’s in sweatpants and a tank top, which is less clothing than Harry’s ever seen him in, and Harry takes one look at him before grabbing his phone again so he has something to look at.

HE HAS TATTOOS!!!!!! he sends to Nick. How hadn’t he known that before? He guesses Zayn usually keeps his shirt on, and even his sleeves rolled down, but still, he feels like he should have known this about his boss. Known about the sleeve around his right arm, known about the lettering on his collarbone that is basically an invitation for someone to kiss it.

“You have tattoos?” he manages to choke out. Hopefully it sounds casual. Suave, even.

“What? Yeah.” Zayn ducks his head, rubbing the back of his neck. “Evidence of my misspent youth, I guess.”


“Well,” Zayn shrugs, the mischievous grin he usually gets around Louis surfacing. “Got my last one two weeks ago, so maybe not youth.”

Harry swallows. Zayn gets tattoos. Zayn’s had tattoos on under his suit this whole time, probably has been sore from them at work sometimes. Harry might have accidentally touched one, and he’d never know.

“But mainly youth,” Zayn goes on, folding up something so Harry can watch his back, can see the tattoos right at the nape of his neck. It’s like someone decided how best to torture Harry and named him Zayn and decided to make him his boss and stick them in a room together. “Or youth to me, maybe not to you. Never seen me with my earrings in either, have you?”

“Earrings?” Harry manages to get out.

Zayn laughs lightly. “Sure. Didn’t think I was always a stodgy old business man, did you?”

“You’re not old.” That at least is one thing Harry isn’t being weird about. Zayn’s only a few years older than him, even if Zayn always makes jokes about how ancient he is.

Harry’s phone buzzes again. Oooh, where? Does he have a tramp stamp?

Harry can’t deal with this. “I’m gonna change,” he says, and grabs his bag to escape to the bathroom.

Once there, he braces his hands on the sink. It’s not weird. He won’t let it be weird. He likes working for Zayn, likes seeing him every day and being in sync with him. He doesn’t want to risk that because his boss is stupidly pretty and stupidly wonderful and has stupidly attractive tattoos Harry wouldn’t mind counting with his tongue.

No. But everywhere else. And he has piercings!!!! Harry texts Nick back. It’d be weird if I hid in the bathroom for the rest of the night?

Yes, Nick replies by the time Harry’s pulled on his gym shorts and t-shirt. He can sleep in this, it’s not too uncomfortable. Stay strong. We can go out when you get back and get you laid.

I don’t want to get laid. I want him, Harry texts back, too confused to be less than honest. It’s only been a problem the last nine months or so, but it really is. How every boyfriend Harry has doesn’t seem to quite measure up. How a few have complained about how much time he spends at work.

You’re pathetic.

I knoooooow Harry texts back. But he is not going to be pathetic enough to hide in here all night, and also Zayn would probably get worried at some point and be all attentive and sweet like he did the one time Harry had a fever and had to go home sick, and Harry is not in a place to deal with that right now.

So he leaves the safety of the bathroom. Zayn’s looking out the window, his phone to his ear, and he’s just really horribly beautiful, his shoulders broad and hips narrow in his sweats, his hair curling around the nape of his neck.

“It’s fine, Louis,” he’s saying into the phone, “I’ll be fine. It won’t be an issue.” He pauses, then, “No, I’m not, are you stupid? I can’t. We’ll both be—hey,” he cuts himself off, glancing over his shoulder at Harry, then gestures to the room service cart that must have arrived while he was in the bathroom. “I’ve got to go—that doesn’t rule out much, not much you wouldn’t do.” Another space. “Stop it, Louis. I know, okay? I’m hanging up now.” He does as he says, throwing the phone definitively away.

“Louis?” Harry asks, uncovering the salad he got for himself and the hamburger he got for Zayn.

“Yeah, making sure I landed safe and everything.”

“Are you sure you aren’t going out?” Harry teases. He’d seriously thought they were for the first month he’d been working for Zayn, given that Louis’s on the list with Zayn’s family about people to always put through no matter what he’s doing, and the fond tone Zayn gets when he talks to him. Then once he’d stopped by to drag Zayn to lunch, and Harry had found out very quickly that he was happily married, and also that he was hysterical and Harry really liked him, and that watching him and Zayn together was sort of wonderful.

“I think he thinks he’s adopted me,” Zayn counters, eying the hamburger with something predatory. “Despite the fact that he wouldn’t have gotten through uni without me.”

“I think he and El are nesting.”

“Probably.” Zayn nods, and takes a bite, then moans. Harry tries very hard not to think about the moan. “God, I needed this. Thanks, Harry.”

“Of course.” Harry swallows, and looks back down at his salad. “Are they nesting, though?” he tries to turn the conversation back to safer topics than Zayn moaning. “Last I heard El was still waiting to bring it up to Louis.”

Zayn snorts. “Louis’s wanted kids since he met El. And they’re both in places where they could. I’m just waiting for my first godchild.”

“Think they’ll bring it in?” Harry asks excitedly. “I love babies.”

“Never noticed,” Zayn teases, and Harry grins sheepishly.

“Yeah, well,” he demurs, and takes another bite of his salad. When he looks back up again, though, Zayn hasn’t looked away, is still just looking at Harry with something unreadable in his gaze.

“Have you thought about that?” he asks, curiously. “Marriage, and everything? You’re probably getting to the age where everyone’s starting to.”

Not to anyone who isn’t you. Harry shrugs. “I mean, it’s filling up my Facebook feed. But I dunno, I haven’t met anyone I want to be that serious with yet.” He smiles wryly. “Don’t really have time to, with work.”

Zayn’s lips press together. “You know you work more than you have to, Harry. If you need to cut back—”

“That’s not what I was saying.” Harry runs a hand through his hair, and puts the plate back on the tray. He’s done enough. “I just don’t have time for a boyfriend now. What about you?” He’s pretty proud of how even his voice is. “You can’t tell me you don’t want kids.”

“You’d be the first to know if I found someone, probably,” Zayn replies, with a grin as wry as Harry’s. “You’d probably be the one finding time to schedule them in.” It’s a little too true. “And like you said. No time.”

“You could work less.”

Zayn snorts. “Okay, mum.”

“Hey, your mum agrees with me,” Harry counters. “I was talking to her last week and she told me they haven’t seen you for months. I’m under orders not to let you work late next week.”

Zayn grins again, something softer in it, like always happens when he talks about his family. “Who am I to stand against you and my mum?”

“No one,” Harry says sternly. This is good. This is how they usually are, casual and easy and working well together. “You’ll take lunch, too.”

“Yes, sir.” Zayn salutes, then yawns, covering it with the back of his hand. “Okay, now I’m crashing. You can still do whatever, I’ll sleep through anything.”

“No, I should get sleep too.” Harry doesn’t think he could deal with being awake when Zayn was asleep, with being able to turn over and see him there.

They get ready for bed with the sort of easy synchronicity they’ve cultivated at work, Zayn taking the bathroom first while Harry deals with the room service tray, then Harry takes his time brushing his teeth. Maybe Zayn will already be in bed when he gets out. Maybe the lights will be out and Harry won’t have to see Zayn tucked in bed.

He’s half right. Zayn’s in bed, but the lights are on, so Harry can see him checking his email on his tablet. He’s taken out his contacts, so his glasses are on, and his hair is loose and a little messy. Harry could go to sleep next to that every day, he thinks, then frantically ignores that thought.

Zayn looks up when Harry closes the door to the bathroom. “You good?” he asks, setting the tablet aside. Harry nods, because he doesn’t trust himself to sleep, then slides into his bed, careful to get all the way under the blankets, and to turn away from Zayn, so he doesn’t see when Zayn turns the lights out.


Harry’s alarm wakes him up at 7:30. He drags himself out of a dreamless sleep, thanking god that it was dreamless, and glances over. Zayn’s still asleep, curled on his side facing Harry. Harry looks away quickly. He never needed to see that. Ever. He should probably forget about it right now before it imprints forever in his mind and ruins him for every other person in existence.

He figures he has a little bit of time before Zayn wakes up, so he checks his email, then Zayn’s work email, to make sure nothing’s changed with the meeting. He flags two things Zayn will need to look at, but the meeting’s still on, and he’s just starting a leisurely twitter feed browse when he hears it.

‘It’ is a low moan from the bed next to him. Harry swallows. God, please no. He cannot handle that. He cannot even think about it. He must have been imagining it.

He’s just about convinced himself of that when he hears another moan, something low and desperate, and Harry can’t help but look over again. Zayn’s face is turned into the pillow, so he can’t see anything, but he can’t really mistake the tenseness of his limbs. He needs to get out of here.

He’s just grabbing his toiletries from his bag when Zayn shifts, and then, clear as anything, “Harry,” he moans, and holy fucking shit.

Harry grabs his whole bag and runs to the bathroom, where he drops his stuff and stares at the mirror, then starts what’ll probably have to be the coldest shower of his life.

That was—he heard that. He definitely heard that. That was—it was unmistakable. It was horribly, totally unmistakable. That was Zayn having a dream about Harry. Having a sex dream about Harry. What was he thinking about, Harry wonders immediately, helplessly, of Harry blowing him in his big desk chair? Of him bending Harry over his desk? Of—

No. That way lies madness. Harry can’t think like that. Instead, he steps into the shower, welcomes the bite of cold, then turns it up to hot. He can control himself. He can not think about that. About what Zayn was dreaming about. It was probably just—just proximity. He’d fallen asleep near Harry, so he was thinking about Harry, and Harry knows he’s attractive enough, so that’s all. That has to be all.

Harry takes his time in the shower, then brushing his teeth and getting dressed and doing his hair. Enough time for Zayn to finish his dream, hopefully. Enough time for Harry to collect himself.

By the time he’s ready, it’s 7:45, and he can’t delay any longer. He’s basically convinced himself he might have hallucinated it, anyway. Not the sex dream, but Harry’s name. Zayn—that’s not how it worked. Harry’d probably just constructed it out of his hopeless crush. Zayn’s fond of him, sure, but they have a working relationship, and that’s all.

He repeats that firmly, then leaves the bathroom.

Zayn’s just waking up. There’s no evidence he’s been dreaming, but he’s blinking awake, his eyelashes long and dark, his cheeks slightly flushed. He looks younger like this, younger than Harry’s ever seen him, like he looked in some of his facebook pictures of him as a kid.

“Harry?” he says blearily, as Harry comes in. His lips curve into a smile, his eyes crinkling into crescents. Harry swallows again. He could have gone his whole life not seeing that pleased, welcoming smile, and then he would be able to think about other things once or twice, instead of just that on replay. “You’re here? I—” he cuts himself off, the smile freezing. “Fuck. Right.” He drags a hand over his face, and by the time his face emerges it’s totally gone. “I’ll—you’re here. Did—” Harry can’t tell if he’s just flushed from sleep or it’s something else, but he drops his head so Harry can’t see his expression. “I’m gonna, like, shower. You can go get breakfast. I’ll see you downstairs, yeah?”

Harry doesn’t have time to reply before Zayn’s disappeared into the shower.

Harry frowns after the door. That could have just been a morning thing. Probably was. Probably had nothing to do with whatever Zayn may or may not have been dreaming. Probably. Almost certainly.

So he puts on his shoes, and heads down to breakfast.


Zayn gets downstairs at 8:25, which doesn’t surprise Harry at all. He looks all put together again, in his well-tailored suit and styled hair and carefully edged beard, that Harry could almost forget that half an hour ago he was soft and warm and looked at Harry with something that almost looked like an invitation. Or he could forget, if Zayn didn’t take one look at him, then detour quickly to the coffee machine.

He just needs coffee, Harry figures, and pulls up his email to check things again. Everything is still running smoothly, not unexpectedly, so he takes another sip of his tea.

Zayn drops into the seat next to him a few minutes later, blowing on his coffee. Once more, he takes one look at Harry, then looks back at his coffee. It’s getting weird. They aren’t awkward. Or, well, Harry used to be awkward, back when he was starting and it was intimidating to be around someone as beautiful and collected as Zayn all the time, but then he figured out most of that was a front and that Zayn was actually a geek who was just as weird as Harry and that Zayn never laughed at him or anything, and he settled in.

“We’re all good,” Harry says, because maybe he can just talk so the awkwardness will disappear? “Everything should be on time, and you have those reports you wanted in your inbox. I’ve talked to my opposite here, we’ve got a projector and it should be easy to work, even for you—” Zayn snorts expressively, but Harry just grins and goes on, because he knows they both remember the Fax incident of January, “And I’ve got your laptop charger if you need it, and all your notes are in your briefcase.”

Zayn smiles, and it’s his normal smile again, thank god. “Thanks, Harry. Like always. My rock, aren’t you?” Harry grins, and prays he’s not blushing. Then he starts thinking about what Zayn had said—had moaned—and what else he might have done in Zayn’s dream to deserve praise—and he knows he’s blushing now, fuck, and the silence is awkward again.

“Hey,” Zayn says, into that awkward quiet. “Did you—was sharing a room okay? Nothing weird?”

Harry knows immediately what he’s asking. Did Harry hear him? Does Harry know?

“No,” Harry answers, slowly, not looking at Zayn. It’s clearly the answer Zayn’s looking for. He doesn’t want to mess things up, not right before such a big deal. “No, nothing weird. Why?”

“Just making sure. We’ve got one more night and all.”

Right, one more night. Harry swallows down tea frantically. One more night. He can do this. If Zayn’s decided they’re ignoring whatever happened with his dream this morning, he can too.


Zayn’s in meetings all day, and Harry’s in with him a lot too, enough to justify him being there, more or less. But most of Harry’s day is waiting and answering emails on his phone for him and Zayn, sorting things into what Zayn needs to deal with in the minutes he has between meetings and what can wait until they get back. It’s not a very involved process. Some of Harry’s job is interesting—talking to the people who call Zayn, figuring out how to arrange people, when Zayn gives him projects that involve something more than spreadsheets—but most of it really isn’t very exciting. He sometimes listens to Nick talk about his work at the radio, or Niall about his consulting, and knows he never talks about his job like that. The people, sure—Zayn, definitely. But not his job.

Because of that, he has plenty of time to think about things. About how Zayn had sounded, those breathy moans that Harry will never, ever be able to forget. About how no matter how he thinks about it, how he replays it, it was definitely his name that Zayn had moaned. It was. It’s not just his imagination. There’s no other reason Zayn would act weird, and he was and is acting weird, staying a little way away from Harry, not smiling quite as much as he usually does, making sure they don’t touch when they hand each other things. It’s not obvious, but it’s there, and it’s definitely Zayn doing it, not Harry, even though Harry thinks he might jump if their fingers brushed. And why else would Zayn be doing that if he wasn’t feeling awkward that Harry heard him having a sex dream about him last night?

The more Harry thinks about it, the more annoyed he gets that Zayn wants to pretend it didn’t happen. That Zayn is acting weird and making Harry feel weird. It’s Zayn’s fault. Zayn is the one who insisted on sharing a room. Zayn is the one who talked in his sleep. Zayn is the one who is so stupidly gorgeous and tattooed and sweet and smart and wonderful that Harry had to fall for him. Harry didn’t ask for any of this. Harry would have been ready to talk about it and laugh it off and get over it and not have him sitting here and wondering about it for hours.

It seethes in him as Zayn runs in and out of meetings, as he hands Zayn his notes for the next one and sets up powerpoints and takes notes and runs out to get them lunch, then dinner. Normally Zayn ends up getting dinner with people at whatever company the deal’s with, but this time for whatever reason they’re still in meetings. Usually Harry would prefer this; there’s something about Zayn going out to get dinner while Harry eats in his room or goes out on his own that makes him remember that Zayn’s his boss, and he’s just an assistant, which he tries to ignore when he can.

But this time, he almost wishes that Zayn would go out, so he could get some distance. So he could not have to see Zayn all the time, with his jacket tight around his shoulders covering all the tattoos Harry now knows he has, wrapped up like a present that isn’t for Harry. So he could not see Zayn’s lips and imagine how they looked moaning his name, or wonder just what he was dreaming about. Would Harry have done it? He’s almost certain he would. There’s very little he wouldn’t do.

By the time they get into the car to go back to the hotel, Harry’s irritated and on edge. It doesn’t help that Zayn seems calm, satisfied even if he’s obviously exhausted in the way he always is after a day of meetings. It doesn’t help the roil of Harry’s emotions, because Harry always wants to wrap him up in blankets after a day like this, to massage the tension out of his shoulders and figure out ways to make it easier on him, and that doesn’t go away even if he’s also annoyed.

“Good day,” Zayn says at last, about halfway through their drive. He tips his head back and closes his eyes, and Harry pointedly looks out the window. He can’t see Zayn like this right now, can’t handle it.

“Yeah,” Harry agrees shortly, “Flight’s early tomorrow, remember, we’re leaving at seven.”

“Harry…” Zayn whines. Harry tries his best not to grin. He loves that Zayn gets petulant around him, loves the familiarity it means, even if—

“Cheapest flight out,” Harry retorts. “And you woke up fine this morning.”

The words hang between them before Harry can pull them back. Zayn’s breath hisses in, and Harry winces. He hadn’t meant to say that. Hadn’t meant to call attention to the elephant in the room.

Or had he? He might have. It’s not fair. Not fair that Zayn can just ignore it when Harry can’t. When maybe to Zayn it was just a random sex dream like you have about people who are attractive, when to Harry hearing that was everything he thinks he ever wanted.

“Actually, Zayn,” Harry starts. If the elephant is there, he’s going to shine a spotlight on it. Maybe that way he’ll actually get some closure, instead of having this just fuel his crush for forever. “I did hear something weird this morning. Have good dreams?”


“About anyone in particular?” Harry presses. “Anyone I might know? Maybe, say, people in this car?”

“Harry,” Zayn hisses, his voice tight. All of him is tight, tense, but Harry doesn’t care. They have to talk about this. Harry needs to talk about this, needs Zayn to explain, or else he won’t be able to push it back down again.

“No, Zayn, I—”

“Not here,” Zayn hisses, looking forward towards their driver. Harry huffs out a breath, but he has a point. And Harry doesn’t think being trapped here will be the best place to have this discussion.

So he sits, and waits, and seethes, his foot tapping, as Zayn fiddles with his tablet and they drive through unfamiliar streets. Harry stares out the window. He doesn’t even know why he needs to discuss this—except no, he does. He’s spent so long sure it was just him, that this was a simple crush on his boss, because that happens when you work for Zayn Malik. Harry’s pretty sure half the office has a crush on him, because he’s pretty and nice and funny. But this—this changed that, and Harry doesn’t know how to live with that.

He hurries them through the lobby, past a different receptionist from last night, and into the elevator. Zayn’s still quiet, leaning against the mirrors, but Harry can’t look at him and he can’t look away from him, so he ends up sort of twitching in a way that can’t be attractive.

Finally, Harry’s opening the door to their room. He lets Zayn go in, then he shuts it behind him, then he turns so he’s blocking the way out.

Zayn’s crossed the room to the windows, so he can look out of them again, like he did last night. Except this time he’s in full armor, his suit and tie and everything that makes him mouth-wateringly gorgeous.

“Now?” Harry asks.

Zayn sighs. “Yeah, now.”

“Okay.” Harry puts his hands on his hips, and fixes Zayn with his best demanding glare. “I heard you, this morning. You said my name.”

Zayn looks tired again, as he scrubs a hand over his face. “Yeah, thought you might have. And yes, I did.”

“You were dreaming about me,” Harry states. Zayn nods, and that single motion—it hits Harry in the gut, like all the breath’s gone out of him. “Like, dreaming dreaming? More than just—not just because I was there?”

“Harry.” Harry’s always loved how Zayn says his name, how he lingers on the r’s and draws it out like it’s music, but this time he doesn’t. This time it sounds like it hurts. “Harry, I’m sorry.”

“Sorry?” Harry chokes. “For what?”

“That you heard.” It’s not for the dream, Harry notices. He’s not apologizing for that.

It gives him enough hope to step forward. “Why?”

He’s not expecting a confession of love, but he is expecting—something. Something big. Something momentous. He’s not expecting, “I didn’t want you to have to worry about this too.”

“Worry?” It’s certainly not the verb Harry’s anticipating. Or wanting. “About what, that you—” He swallows, because these are words he never thought he’d say. Dreamed, sure, but never really thought. “That you want me?”

Zayn’s eyes look somehow even bigger than usual, and they’re horribly serious. “That we can’t do anything about it, Harry.”

“We?” Harry sputters, and crosses his arms over his chest to brace himself. “We’re talking about you, not we—I didn’t—I haven’t—”

“And you still can’t.” Zayn rubs at his neck again, his nervous gesture he gets when he doesn’t know how to phrase something. “It doesn’t matter how we feel, we can’t.”

Harry’s voice is barely working, but he manages to get out, “We?” He never—he’s never said anything. He’s never, ever wanted Zayn to know, to worry that Harry’s coming on to him or making him uncomfortable. Never wanted Zayn to fire him, if he’s being honest. Never wanted Zayn to send him away.

But Zayn just raises his eyebrows, gives him that quelling look he gives everyone when they’re being too loud, or just stupid. Harry’s seen that look quell boardrooms, and Harry can’t stand up to it, never could.

“You knew?”

Zayn smiles, almost sadly. “Yeah. Noticed.”

“I didn’t—I didn’t mean for you to know,” Harry gets out. Zayn knew? All this time, all the pining and trying not to touch and not to look and not to—and he knew? “I really didn’t, Zayn, I’m not—it’s not the reason—I would—”

“I know.” Zayn’s still giving him that long, soulful look. “And I could have said something, I just…” he trails off.

He only trails off like that when he knows what comes next but he doesn’t want to admit it, like when he’s asking Harry to stay late or confessing that he might have possibly double booked himself and could Harry figure it out please?

“You just what, Zayn?” Harry demands.

Zayn’s whole body seems to sag at once. “I didn’t want to give it up,” he says, softly. “I didn’t want you to stop.”

Harry thinks his heart might stop. Or maybe it’s beating so fast he can’t feel it anymore, he doesn’t even know, because Zayn can’t have—Zayn didn’t—“What?”

Zayn doesn’t look away. “I didn’t want you to stop,” he repeats. He sounds somber, almost sad. “It was selfish, I guess, but I didn’t want you to stop.”

“Why not?”

Zayn blinks. “Do I have to say it?”

“Yes.” Harry needs to hear it. Otherwise, he’s sure he’ll have imagined this scene. Maybe he dreamed it. Maybe this whole thing is a dream, and his subconscious really doesn’t like him. “Please?”

“It won’t change anything,” Zayn warns. When Harry takes a step forward, he takes one back, so he’s almost pushed into the window. “I can’t, Harry.”

But he wants to. Harry can see it now. He wants Harry, like Harry wants him, like Harry’s wanted him for years. “Why not?”

“I’m—hell, Harry. It would be taking advantage of you on so many levels.”

“It isn’t,” Harry promises. But he loves that Zayn thinks would be, or won’t because of that. It’s why he can’t get away from him. Why he fell for him when he started smiling. “Zayn, you didn’t—you aren’t pressuring me, or anything. I’m not being taken advantage of. At all.”


“You’re not much older,” Harry cuts him off. “Not really. And it’s not like you’re ordering me into anything, I’m the one pushing you, so—”

“We’d be fired,” Zayn interrupts, and it cuts Harry off hard. “I’m your boss. It’s sexual harassment no matter if you’re willing or not. If anyone found out, I’d be fired.”

Harry huffs out a laugh. “Zayn, half the department already thinks I got my job on my knees.” It’s not something he likes to think about, but he knows it’s true. He’s not very good at keeping secrets, apparently.

“What?” Zayn’s face immediately goes dark and angry, like Harry’s only seen it that one time someone started making jokes about blackface. “Who? Harry, I didn’t know, I’ll talk to them—”

“I don’t care.” It’s a little too true. But tonight seems to be a night for truths, apparently. Harry just gives Zayn his best open look. “I would have, you know.”

“I know.” Harry ducks his head to hide his blush. Well, that’s flattering. That Zayn knew all this time how willing he’d be to get on his knees for him. “But, Harry. I would be fired, if anyone actually thought it was more than just office gossip. I can’t…”

He trails off, but Harry knows the rest of the story. Knows the sisters he’s helping put through college, knows the money he’s saving to buy his parents a house. Knows how devoted he is to his job, knows that no matter how much he might want Harry, or any other four letter word Harry wishes goes there, nothing will compare to that.

“Then I quit.” It comes out of Harry’s mouth before he realizes it’s happening, but it’s almost funny to watch Zayn’s jaw drop.


Harry replays the words. “I quit. This is me giving in my two weeks notice. Now can you say it?”

“Harry, think about this—”

“You aren’t my boss anymore, you can’t tell me what to do.” Harry crosses the room until he’s close enough to touch Zayn. It’s the closest he’s ever been to him, especially now there’s intent. Now there’s the knowledge Zayn wants to touch back, that he would. That if Harry slid down onto his knees right now he wouldn’t get pushed away. “And I think you should kiss me right now.”

Zayn’s hand rises, and his touch on Harry’s cheek is almost heartbreakingly gentle, enough that Harry can’t help but turn his head into it, to feel his palm against his skin. “No.” Harry stiffens. What? No. Zayn’s not supposed to tell him no. Zayn wants him, he basically said so. Was this all Harry misinterpreting? Was. “You can’t quit just to sleep with me, Harry. You have to think about this. You’ve got debt, and—”

Well that’s pretty clear. Harry draws back. Zayn must not really want him, not if he’s putting Harry off for this, not when Harry’s thrown himself at him so blatantly. He’ll just go drown himself or something now. “If you don’t—”

Zayn’s hand snakes out and grabs Harry’s wrist. Harry’d forgotten how strong he is, when he wants to be; it stops Harry in his tracks. “I do.” His eyes are darker than Harry’s ever seen them, but his forehead’s furrowed like he gets with particularly hard conundrums. It doesn’t stop the words from echoing through Harry. “Harry, this is why I couldn’t tell you. I didn’t want you to do something rash.”

“What, because I’m so young?” Harry spits, and jerks his hand away. He’s not young. He doesn’t need this. “I’m four years younger than you, Zayn! Just because I took some time off so I’m a bit behind on the career ladder doesn’t mean I’m stupid!”

Zayn doesn’t react to his anger. If anything, he’s closing off, turning into the face he gives people before he closes a deal. “Because I don’t want to be the person who ruins your life.”

It’s such a Zayn thing to say, it almost takes the wind out of Harry’s sails. But only almost. Because he’s not a child, and he’s not a fool, and he knows what he wants, and now he knows he can get it. So he turns around, but keeps his distance from Zayn, so Zayn can see his face, can see he means what he says.

“I can make my own choices,” he tells Zayn. “And we both know this isn’t my dream job, that I can do more. That I probably should have left a year ago. You know why I stayed, don’t you?” He’s never said it, even to himself, but he knows perfectly well why he stayed longer than the planned two years. Knows that he would have stayed forever if it meant he could have Zayn smiling at him and being near him and so close.

Zayn nods. “I should have said something then.”

“It was my choice. Like it’s my choice to quit now, do something I want to do.” He makes sure he’s looking Zayn right in the eyes, as he twists their hands so instead of Zayn holding his wrist, he’s intertwining their fingers. As he takes that last step forward, so they’re touching chest to thigh. As he takes his free hand to cup the back of Zayn’s head. Zayn’s shorter than him, he always forgets, but it means he has to tip Zayn’s head up, a little, before he kisses him.

Zayn doesn’t move away, just lets Harry tilt his head up, lets him press their lips together. His lips are warm, and surprisingly soft given how often Zayn licks them. “That’s my two weeks notice,” Harry says, pulling back. The room feels very quiet. “Are you going to kiss me now?”

For a second, Harry thinks Zayn might not. That Harry might just have quit his job and crashed the crush he’s been nurturing for almost three years all at once.

Then Zayn’s hand’s on his neck and their lips are pressed together again, and this time it’s not Zayn letting Harry kiss him. This time Zayn is kissing him, almost desperate with it, like he wants Harry as much as Harry wants him. He lets go of Harry’s hand and Harry would almost object but that hand is twining into Harry’s hair, pulling him still closer, and then his teeth are nipping at Harry’s lip, and when Harry opens his mouth Zayn’s tongue slides in, and Harry can help melting against him, into him, his hands wrapping around Zayn’s waist.

It’s better than anything Harry’s dreamed off, kissing Zayn, being kissed by Zayn. Zayn’s hands yanking on his hair, Zayn’s body under his hands, them pressed together so there’s barely room for air between them. Harry barely surfaces when Zayn’s lips leave his, but his discontented whine is cut off when Zayn starts kissing down his neck instead, biting at his jaw, his stubble scraping at Harry’s skin.

He stops when he hits Harry’s collar, pulls back. His eyes are dark, but he bites his lip again, like he’s stalling. “We go as far as you want, Harry,” he tells Harry, and Harry could almost laugh, because it’s funny Zayn thinks there’s anything Harry doesn’t want from him. “Tonight or at all. I don’t want—”

Harry cuts him off by shucking off his jacket, then undoing his tie. His shirt goes next, his fingers clumsy with the buttons, so before Zayn has a chance to talk Harry’s half-naked and kissing him again. “Anything,” he says into Zayn’s lips. He shivers when Zayn’s fingers run down his back. “Anything you want, Zayn.”

Zayn groans into the kiss, almost like the sounds he had made before, when he was dreaming. Harry wants more of those sounds. He wants to be as good as he was in the dream, doing whatever he was in the dream. But first, “You’re wearing too much.”

Zayn laughs, and lets go of Harry, but as he raises his hand to his neck Harry shakes his head. “Can I?” He doesn’t wait for permission before he’s easing Zayn out of his suit jacket. “I’ve wanted to do this for ages,” he admits. He sets the suit jacket carefully on the chair, then goes to work on Zayn’s tie, undoing it carefully. He can see Zayn’s Adam’s apple bob, and grins to himself.

“Yeah?” Zayn sounds half-choked.

“It’s like unwrapping a present for me,” Harry hums, and slides the tie out. He’s not clumsy on Zayn’s buttons, not when each on reveals more skin for him to explore, stroking his fingers over the skin, hot to the touch. He outlines each tattoo as it appears, because of course Zayn would have more tattoos here, scraping his nail over the edge of the wings, circling the lips at his sternum. He gets distracted by those lips, because it’s basically an invitation to press a kiss there, then he has to explore a bit more with his tongue this time, licking at the wings and circling Zayn’s nipples until Zayn lets out one of those breathy moans and Harry grins in satisfaction.

But eventually he gets the shirt off, and he steps back a bit to admire. He’s always known Zayn’s gorgeous, but even this is a revelation, all this skin and ink, the lightly defined muscles of his stomach and chest, the line of hair leading below his pants.

“Like your present?” Zayn asks, and when Harry drags his eyes back up to his face he’s smirking.

“It’s not all unwrapped yet,” Harry retorts, and goes for Zayn’s belt, but Zayn shakes his head and pushes him back, so he falls backwards onto the bed, and Zayn’s straddling his hips. Harry grins up at him. “This is good too.”

“Good,” Zayn’s voice is nearly a growl, and the mere sound of it catches in Harry’s throat, that he got that sound out of Zayn. It doesn’t help that now it’s Zayn’s turn to explores Harry’s chest, all the ink there. He bites at Harry’s nipple until Harry’s squirming under him, his hips bucking.

“Fuck, Zayn,” Harry breathes out, when Zayn abandons that nipple to trail his lips down Harry’s chest, “Fuck, need—”

“Can I blow you?” It’s the last question Harry expects, with Zayn’s weight heavy on him, keeping him pinned down, but Harry can’t help but nod, with Zayn looking up at him through his lashes, with his lips pink and swollen from Harry’s kisses.

Zayn grins, and slides down between Harry’s legs. Harry pushes himself up to watch, to see Zayn’s undoing his belt, opening his pants. He’s about seventy-five percent sure he has to be dreaming, certain of it when Zayn slides his pants off of him, even if he lifts up his hips to help.

“Was going to offer the same thing,” Harry admits, but Zayn shakes his head, mouthing over Harry’s dick through his boxers.

“I’ve been thinking about this,” Zayn murmurs, so the vibrations hit Harry’s skin and he rolls his hips helplessly. “With your tight pants and your fucking walk.” He just breathes on Harry and Harry moans, fisting his hands into the covers. Zayn grins, and draws down Harry’s boxers. Harry hisses when the air hits his cock, but he barely has a second before Zayn’s mouth is there, swallowing him down.

“Fuck!” Harry can’t help the noise at the sudden sensation. “Fuck, Zayn—” He can’t be dreaming, he’d never dreamed of anything like this, of Zayn between his legs with his lips spread over Harry and his head bowed in concentration, one hand on Harry’s hip and the other playing with Harry’s balls until Harry needs the hand on his hip to keep him from just fucking into Zayn’s mouth.

“Fuck, Zayn, your mouth, you feel so—” Zayn hums and Harry can’t help keening, like he doesn’t think he can help his hand falling onto Zayn’s head, tangling in his hair. Zayn just hums again, pleased, and swirls his tongue around so Harry’s fingers tighten.

Zayn pulls back, and Harry curses quietly. “Shit, sorry—”

“Do I have meetings tomorrow?” Zayn asks, apropos of absolutely nothing, Harry thinks, and really not a necessary thing to ask when he could be sucking Harry’s dick.

“No,” Harry tells him anyway, because he’s conditioned. “I left you free, was hoping you’d take a day off.”

Zayn nods, then goes back down on Harry, moving his hand from his hip to his knee. Suddenly his question makes a lot more sense, and Harry groans. “You sure?” he asks, though, and Zayn pulls off again.

“You wanted to know what I was dreaming about,” he says, and that’s it, Harry’s done. Done for the thought that Zayn was dreaming about Harry fucking his mouth, that he was getting off on the thought of Harry’s cock on his tongue and his hands in his hair and Harry can’t help it anymore, how his hips move of their own accord, how he turns into a string of jibberish that’s mainly Zayn’s name until,

“Zayn, I’m gonna come,” he warns, and Zayn just looks at him, hazel eyes bright under his long lashes, eyes with a hint of a smile in them like this is all he’s wanted too, and Harry’s coming long and hard, his hands tight in Zayn’s hair.

He collapses back onto the bed after, dragging Zayn up so he’s lying on top of him. Zayn props himself up on his elbow, and his smile is soft and fond. Harry can’t help but smile back at him, pull him down for a kiss, that he expects to be hot but turns out sweet, even if Harry’s licking the taste of himself from Zayn’s mouth.

“Good as you’d dreamed?” Harry asks, once he’s let Zayn go.

“Better.” Zayn’s voice is rough, and it sends a thrill through Harry, knowing he did, he made that voice all rough and hoarse and people will hear it tomorrow.

“I can tell.” He can, can feel Zayn erection against his thigh, how he’s rutting slightly for all he seems to be in control. Harry doesn’t have enough energy left to do everything he wants to, to do everything he’s dreamed of and daydreamed of when he watched Zayn work, but he’ll have time later. He better have time later. So he undoes Zayn’s belt and pants quickly, shoving them down so he can get a hand over Zayn.

He wants to impress Zayn, to show him he’s worthwhile, that he’s living up to whatever Zayn wanted, but he doesn’t even really have time to explore Zayn’s dick like he wants, to figure out what Zayn likes, what can make him fall apart fastest, what makes him desperate. Zayn’s panting into his mouth and thrusting into Harry’s hand and he must really have an oral fixation because he falls apart quickly into Harry’s palm, mumbling words Harry can’t understand into his neck. Harry strokes his back until he stills, then keeps stroking because he likes it, likes the wiry strength of him, like the weight of him lying on top of Harry.

Finally, Zayn lifts his head. “You okay?”

“Do I look not okay?” Harry retorts. He’s still trying to process. He hadn’t even thought this was a possibility, a day ago. Had never even dreamed of it. “Have you really wanted me, all this time?”

Zayn bites his lip, but he’s smiling a little, in his eyes. “You’re really fit, Harry. You know that.”

“Yeah, but you can’t tell me you don’t have lots of fit people throwing themselves at you. Really, you can’t,” Harry goes on, when it seems like Zayn’s going to deny, “Because I’ve seen them. I’ve put them off for you.”

Zayn snorts. “Yeah, but none of them can keep my schedule like you can.”

Harry laughs too. Zayn doesn’t seem like he’s going to move, which is good, because Harry’s the world’s biggest cuddler. Harry’s not really surprised. Zayn’s always been tactile, patting Harry on the shoulder, hugging Louis, rubbing Liam’s head when he stops by at work.

“Fuck,” Harry says, the realization hitting him all at once. “I’m going to need to look for a new job.”

He feels more than hears Zayn’s slow intake of breath, but he knows the look Zayn’s giving him when he lifts his head again to meet his gaze. He’s chewing on his lip again. “If you don’t want to—we can forget about this,” he says slowly. “Like, it never happened. You won’t have to—”

Harry cuts him off with a kiss, quick and definite, because he’s never been more sure about anything. “I’m not letting you go,” he says. “You’d be lost without me. I’m going to make sure to schedule myself in as a lunch hour and then from five on every night, and your new assistant won’t be able to change it. I’m sure IT can do that, they like me. This’ll be great, now instead of shooing you out of work I can drag you home, and—what?”

Zayn’s smiling at him with a new expression on, something like the fond looks he gives Louis, but nothing Harry’s seen before, definitely nothing he’s seen pointed at him. Harry sort of wants to bathe in that look, to capture it and never let it go.

“I love you,” Zayn says, and Harry really does stop breathing. “That’s what I didn’t want to say earlier. We can pretend I didn’t if it’s too soon or it freaks you out, but I do.”

Harry can’t talk. Harry doesn’t think he has any room left in him for anything that’s not a burning sort of joy and warmth that he doesn’t know how to handle, except to kiss Zayn, again and again and again, whispering “I love you” in the spaces in between.