fandom: one direction
pairings: zayn/niall, harry/unrequited!louis, louis/ofc, platonic ot5 love
word count: 7326
rating: uh pg-13? r maybe? idk how ratings work man sorry
warnings: not-that-graphic violence, drug use, occasional cursing, and sad harry
summary: fight club au
authors note: sorry for the lack of smut and overabundance of the word "and" and my love for run-on sentences. title and lyric credit to white shadow waltz by okkervil river. also big thanks and love to cynthia and lizz for being a queens and reading pieces of this i sent them and all the encouraging words
Much like most other things, it started with a whisper, a secret told through chapped and split lips so often that it could barely be labeled a secret anymore. Or at least Zayn didn’t think it could, not after he’d had three of his friends each corner him on different days to mutter the same thing about this secret something, this something new, this something that’s going to change his life. And Zayn thinks they don’t realize how ridiculous they sound because he seriously doubts that a fist to the face is going to change his life.
But it continues; the whispers turn to murmurs turn to ‘shush, not so loud!’ and Zayn just wonders when everyone around him is finally going to shut up about this whole fighting thing.
It takes two weeks and three straight forty-percents on maths exams to get him to reconsider. Before he knows it or has a chance to protest, Zayn is in the backseat of a beaten-up Corvette, surrounded by the familiar worn leather interior that smells too much like copper and not enough like leather and he’s happy it’s dark outside so at least he doesn’t have to see the blood too. His friends just laugh at his grimace, give him light punches to his shoulders and tell him he’ll be seeing blood soon enough so quit being such a baby, Zayn. And Zayn wants to laugh with them but, quite frankly, he feels like he’s going to throw up so they all let him roll down the window and chain smoke until the car stops.
They have to return to the car three times because Zayn’s hands can’t stop shaking and he keeps leaving things behind and he thinks maybe he should have stayed in his room to study for his next maths test instead of going somewhere to get the shit kicked out of him. After more deep breaths and cigarettes, the four of them are finally standing outside of a door and Zayn is almost laughing because whose idea was it to put a fight club below a children’s day care center?
For some reason he expects one of the three people he’s with to step forward to tap some sort of pattern into the doorframe but apparently when you run a fight club, locking a door isn’t high on your priority list. They have to shake the doorknob around a little and the wood creaks but they still make it through the threshold quick enough to not be seen by anyone who could be looking out a window. It ends up being too much for Zayn and he before he can stop himself, he’s letting out some strangled guffaw because there are fairy princesses painted on the walls and blocks on the floor and he’s here hoping he doesn’t get his teeth kicked in. His friends just roll their eyes before grabbing his wrist and, once again, it’s quit being such a baby, Zayn. as they drag him to another door in the back.
He can hear it before he can smell it before he can see it, and he wishes that the room could have been soundproof so he wouldn’t have to hear anything until the last second. The yelling squeezes under the space beneath the door frame and flies around in the air and Zayn’s heart is racing again while he tries to pull his wrists free to grab another cigarette. But his friends hold on tight, swing the door open, and he feels like he’s going to be knocked off his feet because everything is so loud and hot and it just reeks and Zayn just wants to go home.
Somehow he gets pushed to the front of the group with three sets of palms pressed flat against his back, shoving him along down the stairs. His jacket feels heavier than usual against his skin, and Zayn wonders if maybe he should feel silly about choosing to wear a leather jacket and thick boots when his friends opted for teeshirts and flip flops.
They reach the bottom of the stairs quick enough and the screaming just gets louder and louder until Zayn wants to scream too because why is he even here right now? He’s hesitating—the rest of the guys can tell—which earns him a quick not-so-light punch to his lower back. After shooting a quick glare over his shoulder, he’s opening the door and taking two steps backwards, earning himself another punch to his spinal chord.
His friends are tired of it and he can tell they wish they hadn’t dragged him along after all as they shove him through yet another threshold; and at this point it’s like everything is attacking Zayn all at once, which is ridiculous because no one’s even truly hit him yet. The basement smells like his friend’s car, only ten times stronger, and all Zayn can think about is how it’s a miracle the stench stays locked in the lower room and doesn’t permeate into the daycare center.
And it’s everything and nothing he expected all at the same time, which is pretty confusing but Zayn just keeps walking forward, not questioning anything. The room is small but Zayn feels smaller as he looks around, taking note of all the biceps and triceps and calf muscles until he finally notices that his friends’ arms look more massive than they did weeks ago.
“Should I have been going to the gym or something?” he mumbles out, expecting the question to get lost in the yelling; it doesn’t and his friends laugh and pat him on the back and apparently you’ve only just started, Zayn. And Zayn supposes that maybe this fight club is going to be a thing in his life now.
He meets Louis first and can already tell that Louis is a storm, reckless and wild and constantly running around overlooking everything. It’s easy to see that he’s the leader, the one who started this whole whatever-this-is, because everyone watches him from the corners of their eyes as he sprints around the room. Everyone listens to Louis and respects Louis and likes Louis well enough. And he likes Louis because after he slaps him on the shoulder and tells him he has to fight tonight, his eyes light up and his grin widens and he laughs out a you’re gonna win, kid. and try not to take too many to the face before you do. So Zayn likes Louis because he believes that Zayn actually has a chance against one of these could-be-bodybuilders.
But it’s only once he meets Niall that Zayn realizes yeah, this fight club is most definitely going to be a thing in his life now.
If Louis is a storm, Niall is the sun and clear skies and happy days and Zayn’s life had been lacking happy days lately, so he’s glad he found Niall.
Zayn can feel his friends staring at the back of his neck and he wishes he cared but nothing seems to matter anymore except the slight blush on Niall’s cheeks that’s visible every time the lights flicker in Zayn’s favor. If Niall is embarrassed or interested or anything, he doesn’t act it, merely offering an outstretched palm and a laugh when Zayn asks if he’s fighting tonight.
"They don’ really let me,” he chuckles, and yeah, no shit. because Zayn doesn’t think anyone would be able to hit Niall if they tried.
And Zayn likes Niall so he lets him shrug into Zayn’s leather jacket and hold Zayn’s shirt and shoes because apparently you have to be practically naked to fight someone here. And Zayn likes Niall and likes the way his leather jacket is too big on him and likes the way the blonde in his hair shines against the dark material. And yeah, Zayn likes Niall. When he hands over his cigarettes, Niall laughs before asking if he drives a motorcycle too and, for the first time in his life, Zayn considers buying a motorcycle. He settles for just chuckling and shaking his head, shoving his hands in his back pockets so he doesn’t do anything stupid like run his fingertips over the curves of Niall’s flushed cheeks to see if they’re as warm as they look.
Zayn fights and wins and for someone who never liked fighting before, he sure seems to like it enough now. The guy he was fighting, Sam or Stan or Scott or does it even really matter, went easy on him and Zayn wonders if maybe that’s just another one of the silly rules; let the new guy win one before he has to lose a few. But Zayn likes being there under the daycare center, watching people beat the hell out of each other, and he guesses maybe there’s something comforting about hitting someone without being mad.
There’s also something comforting about the way Niall grips his bare shoulder after he’s won, rough calluses rubbing against sweaty skin, and Zayn thinks he needs to be the best, the winner, always deserving of Niall’s attention.
He purposefully forgets his leather jacket on his way out, because Niall looks nice in leather and for some reason Zayn doubts he has any in his wardrobe; so he decides that Niall can keep it for a week. Zayn can tell that Niall knows what’s happening and understands this is somewhat of a promise, a way of saying I’ll see you later; he smiles up at Zayn before laughing and handing over the half-empty pack of cigarettes.
If his friends notice the absence of the leather they don’t say anything, but maybe that’s because they’re all gingerly touching black eyes and putting pressure on cuts and Zayn thinks yeah, it’s definitely a rule to let the new guy win. Once they get outside into the cold London weather, Zayn wonders if maybe he should have just asked Niall out for a coffee instead of sacrificing his favorite jacket. He places a cigarette between his lips and drags his cheap Bic lighter out of his pocket, letting the flame linger for a while. He grins and shakes his head and what a sad excuse for sunlight fire is. after spotting the eleven digits scribbled over the cheap plastic.
Zayn doesn’t call Niall but he sees him halfway through the week anyway.
He’s sitting at a table outside of some nothing cafe, hunched over his maths book and crumpled balls of looseleaf paper, so far gone that he doesn’t even notice when someone takes the seat across from him until they clear their throat; and for the first time in three days Zayn is smiling because Niall is happy days, after all. Niall is happy days and holding another cup of tea just for him and Zayn wonders if this is okay, seeing Niall outside of the fight club. He doesn’t say anything though because Niall is still wearing his leather jacket and he doesn’t want him to leave, so they sit and drink tea and smile at each other and talk about what a wretch maths is. And yeah, Niall is happy days.
Zayn still doesn’t call Niall; he doesn’t even know why because it’s not like he doesn’t want to, but he sees him four days later. He calls his friends ahead of time and tells them he doesn’t want to carpool, he’ll just take the bus or something because he’s still got to study and is going to be a little late. And of course they think he’s lying and just doesn’t want to go back so they tell him don’t pussy out, Zayn. and hang up.
Zayn gets to the daycare center early with fast-food hamburgers for him and Niall and they sit outside in the cold and eat, shoulders pressed together in silence. Zayn wonders how it’s possible for someone to radiate joy without saying anything or even moving, but somehow Niall manages and Zayn ends up grinning down at his lap for a good twenty minutes. When his friends show up and don’t acknowledge him, Zayn knows he made a wrong move but he can’t seem to care, because after lightly tugging on his sleeve and pulling him up to a standing position, Niall’s knuckles are brushing up against his while they slowly walk as a pair behind them.
Zayn sees him and watches him before he meets him, but apparently Harry Styles is somewhat of a big deal in this fight club. Louis had run up to the pair of them as soon as they walked through the door, eagerly dragging Zayn and Niall over to where thirty or so men were gathered around, watching a fight. And Louis is just so happy that Zayn decided to come back and you chose the right day to come back too because sometimes we meet on Thursdays you know? and he chatters on and on about Harry Styles, pointing and clapping and sparkling eyes.
And Harry is good. He’s the type of fighter who thinks in a way where you can see it happening behind his furrowed eyebrows and calculating eyes; he’s quicker than Zayn could ever wish to be and can definitely throw a punch. The three of them watch as he shuffles around and Zayn notices more Harry’s eyes flickering over in their direction more than once before Niall is tugging on his shirt. Niall nods towards the wall so they walk away and Louis doesn’t even notice, but it’s not like Zayn can blame him.
“So tha’s Harry. He really likes Louis.”
“Everybody seems to really like Louis here.”
“Yeah, but Harry really likes Louis.” Zayn stays silent because the only thing he can think to say is that he really likes Niall, and for some reason a dimly-lit basement doesn’t seem like the place to admit that. Their bubble of silence is short-lived because Louis’ shouts almost echo off the walls they’re so loud, and Zayn snorts.
“Seems like Louis really likes Harry.” And for some reason Niall’s smile falters, and Zayn feels like an idiot for saying that but he doesn’t know why and he swears the lights just flickered for a second.
“Nah. He doesn’t.” Niall shakes his head and Zayn lets out a breath he didn’t know he was holding in and just bites his cheek, weakly nodding his head because oh.
They both watch ahead and now every time Harry looks up, wide-eyed and overjoyed and grinning, it almost feels like a punch to the stomach and Zayn didn’t even want to fight tonight.
Harry wins, of course Harry wins, and Louis is pushing past people and running to the center of the circle to swing Harry’s arm towards the sky to announce his victory. He ruffles Harry’s mop of curls and, just like that, Harry is gone, blissed out and following Louis around for the rest of the night.
And Zayn thinks maybe Harry’s a storm cloud.
Zayn is having a bad week and his friends are still mad at him so he finally calls Niall. The two of them go and see some mess of a film at a drive-in for free because Niall knows a guy who knows someone else. They share snacks and Niall is constant laughter and jokes and maybe the man running the projector will make a mistake by just replaying the movie and maybe Niall won’t notice. But of course the man running the projector doesn’t do that. It’s over too quick and Zayn doesn’t want to be alone so he ends up taking Niall back to his apartment and smokes him out. They laugh about his maths teacher and how bad the movie was and Zayn feels like maybe he’ll never have a bad week again.
He’s afraid that if Niall leaves he’ll get swallowed up by the darkness and then maybe the sun won’t rise tomorrow. And Zayn wouldn’t want to be responsible for something so tragic so he sleeps on the couch after Niall passes out in his bed.
It’s been a full week now and Zayn still hasn’t talked to his friends, so that Saturday he goes to the fight club alone. For a second he wishes he cared even a little bit but he doesn’t because Niall’s waiting outside the painted wooden door with fast-food burgers and Zayn wonders if this is going to be a thing too. So they sit and eat and Niall talks about Ireland and boxing and how he wishes Louis would let him fight more often.
“No one wants to hit you, Niall,” Zayn kind of snorts, shaking his head like it’s the most obvious thing in the world and how does Niall not see that it’s not just Louis making this decision? “You should take it as a compliment.”
Niall knocks his shoulder into Zayn’s and laughs and Zayn is pretty sure the stars dim.
Zayn fights and loses but it doesn’t matter because Niall still acts like he won anyway. Even though he still lost at least it was expected of him considering Liam Payne is as high-up in the ranks as Harry Styles, who ended up clapping him on the back and bad luck, mate.
Zayn is quick to think that Liam Payne is a star in just about every sense of the word, bright and shining and somehow understated but maybe everything seems at least a little bit understated standing next to personified sunshine. And Liam is the best around and, after everyone else cleared out, when they all sit against the basement wall to drink cheap beer together, Louis makes himself comfortable in Liam’s lap and announce that Liam has never lost, not once. Maybe Zayn would be able to laugh, cheering along for Liam with everyone else, if Harry could stop looking like Louis had just punched him in the jaw.
But the moment passes and Harry thankfully recovers enough to smile when Louis looks over at him; and all Zayn wants to do is grab Louis by the hair because what’s so wrong with Harry? His fingers won’t stop twitching so Niall grabs his hand and traces the lines littering Zayn’s palm with the pad of his thumb.
Zayn takes Niall back to his place and microwaves him some sort of frozen chicken that says specifically not to microwave, but they’re hungry so they risk it and Zayn smokes Niall out again. Niall lets Zayn talk about Liam Payne and life and maybe things were bad for a while but they’re not now.
Niall kisses him sometime between the third and fourth hit while Zayn is talking about clear skies and happy days; it’s hesitant and short-lived but Zayn swears he felt a little bit of sunshine wrap around his bones. And Niall stays the night again and Zayn doesn’t sleep on the couch this time.
When Zayn wakes up before Niall it hurts to raise his arms above his head and his neck is sore and god damn Liam Payne and his god damn headlock; and why does he have to be so god damn nice because there’s no way Zayn can even try to hate him for making him feel this horrible. Zayn can’t even try to be mad and decides to take a quick shower and smoke a couple cigarettes before kissing Niall awake.
Niall ends up accidentally clocking Zayn in the face while grumbling about sleeping more and Zayn thinks maybe everyone shouldn’t be so worried about him fighting after all.
They go out for breakfast and somehow run into Liam Payne, who gives them both a nod of acknowledgement mixed with a puzzled look. Zayn realizes that yeah, he probably is breaking some type of rule by seeing Niall outside of the fight club but doesn’t care. He knows Liam can see the dark splotches bruised into his neck and shoulders because Liam keeps looking back at them in line and when Zayn goes to pay for his food the woman behind the register waves him off and it’s already been taken care of, hun.
Despite Liam’s protests, they all end up sitting at the same table and if Liam really is a star, Zayn thinks he’s probably going to collapse in on himself if he keeps worrying like this. But for some reason Zayn can’t see Liam as being the supernova type.
It turns out that adding Liam into the equation makes things slightly awkward at first. The three of them sit quietly while they sip on their coffee and Zayn is itching for a cigarette by the time Liam finally bites the bullet, clearing his throat and asking about the weather. And somehow that proves to be just the right thing to say because Niall is giggling with no intent to stop.
Zayn smiles and thinks maybe the weather won’t be as shit today as it’s been the past few months.
They all end up walking outside together and Zayn is reminded of the very cold truth that London isn’t actually heated by the shocking blonde of Niall’s hair, nor is it heated by the magnitude of his laughter. But, as a trio, they walk together, and somewhere along the way Louis runs into them and decides to skive off from classes in favor of a day of fun.
Zayn is about to tell him that what they’re doing doesn’t exactly fit the classic definition of ‘fun’ when the sky decides to take matters into its own hands. Louis complains about just narrowly escaping a storm a few blocks away and Zayn guesses that maybe storms travel together.
So even though they’ve all eaten and it’s nowhere near time for a proper lunch, the four of them huddle close together before running towards a small cafe to spend the rest of the morning sipping tea. And like a true storm cloud, it’s almost as though Harry was waiting for them to walk in. Zayn is about as bad in science as he is in maths but he wonders if this is like how magnets work.
They sit together and laugh and soon enough the table becomes too littered with empty mugs so the barista just brings them their own teapot to lie at the center of the table. It ends up being Zayn who first brings up the fight club, and Louis swats Liam on the shoulder for sending Zayn a warning glare before he starts talking.
And apparently Louis’ story started with a secret that wasn’t really a secret too, only whispers, wafting around like smoke, until one day Louis decided it wasn’t going to be a whisper or a secret anymore. As it turns out, Louis’ sister’s friend’s mum owns that run down children’s day care and wasn’t one to ask questions when Louis asked if he could use it on Saturday and sometimes-Thursday nights.
And this entire time Harry is looking at Louis kind of like how he looks at someone when he fights them. It’s calculated and intense and thoughtful but somehow gentle and needy and all it does is make Zayn feel strangely lonely, so Zayn grabs onto Niall’s hand and squeezes. Niall winces but squeezes back all the same because yeah, he feels it too.
Zayn spends the rest of the day with Niall and the rest of the week with Niall and Niall Niall Niall and for once in his life Zayn is thankful he doesn’t have a roommate.
For the first time since he left home Zayn is happy, truly, blissfully happy. He walks into fight club with his head held high, a loose grip on Niall’s waist, and fights against someone he already can’t remember and wins. Niall is still wearing his leather jacket so the zipper digs into his shoulder as the younger boy jumps on his back, but Zayn can’t seem to find it in himself to care. Niall leans his head on Zayn’s shoulder and points to the wall and onwards, Malik! in a deep voice that makes Zayn feel like his heart is laughing along with him. And Zayn thinks maybe he’d go anywhere as long as it was Niall telling him where to walk.
They sit against the wall where Zayn holds Niall’s hand behind his back and it’s like a true secret this time, something for just the pair of them and Zayn likes that. And Zayn likes Niall so he tells him in hushed tones because making the words fight against the yelling in order to be heard makes them feel all the more special. But do end up being heard and Niall laughs and shakes his head and Zayn hopes that this thing is as much of a thing for Niall as it is for Zayn.
Niall talks about the sea and his dad and Sunday dinner and Zayn spends the rest of the evening wondering if the sea ever gets jealous of the color of Niall’s eyes.
And for the first time, everyone wins their fights-even Louis, who can’t fight for shit despite starting up the whole club. So when the basement starts to clear out, Zayn pretends not to notice his friends’ glares in his direction, choosing to look at the ceiling instead.
Niall notices and flips them off and Zayn wants to kiss him in front of everyone but doesn’t.
And they’re all sore and leaning on each other by the time they finish drinking but at least they’re laughing because Louis is going on about his sisters’ recitals, rolling around on the floor pretending he’s some sort of ballerina. Zayn wants to say he’s never seen a ballerina move like that before but he’s too preoccupied watching the way Harry’s eyes dance.
Zayn wonders if Harry thinks of Louis as the sun instead of the storm that Zayn sees.
They aren’t even finished with a second round of drinks by the time Louis’ phone rings and sorry boys, it’s the missus. Harry’s smile just drops and oh. That’s what’s wrong with Harry.
So Zayn packs up, slapping Liam on the cheek and ruffling Niall’s hair, and grabs Harry’s arm. They go back to his place where Zayn lets Harry cry and make a mess of his kitchen and, by the end of it all, Zayn is crying too.
“Why don’t you just tell him?” He already knows that that probably isn’t the best thing to say because easier said than done, idiot and he’s about to apologize when Harry shakes his head and says he had, a long time ago before everything really fell to shit.
And it’s a cruel silence, unforgiving, making Zayn feel like someone is pulling on his hair and tugging lightly on his skin and poking at his heart.
"And he thought I was joking.” Harry laughs, but it’s shaky and heartbreaking; Zayn thinks maybe his fingers are going to snap if he keeps clutching them so tightly and lets his arms hang loosely at his sides. “Because I was sixteen and couldn't even throw a right hook yet.”
So Harry’s been a storm cloud for two years and Zayn wonders if that’s why Harry always has to be the best and fucking Louis is a fucking idiot.
And Harry might have won his fight tonight but he’s definitely going to lose the battle; they both know it so Zayn does the only thing he can think of and smokes Harry out. They let the smoke linger in the room to fill the cracks in the conversation.
Zayn wakes up to a clean kitchen and egg on toast and Louis really is an idiot because Harry could probably be on the telly with cooking skills like this. There’s a lull in conversation at breakfast before Harry admits to sorting his papers while he was asleep and your room is a mess, Zayn and offers to help him out with maths.
Zayn asks if he’s good at everything which makes Harry laugh, happy and genuine and easy this time, and Zayn thinks it’s almost as nice as Niall’s. And Zayn wonders if he’ll ever be able to look at Harry without feeling that sad sinking feeling because it’s like once you’ve seen someone cry, you can’t forget about it and it’s always there in the corner of your mind.
He hopes that Harry finds another storm to follow soon because Harry’s the type of person that should always be happy and has too nice of a smile to waste. In the next moment of silence Zayn realizes that Harry’s laughter almost sounds like thunder at times, and maybe Harry is his own storm instead of just a cloud.
Zayn has another happy week and sees Niall and passes his maths test with Harry’s help; he wonders if things are going to be this consistently good for the rest of his life because it sure feels that way.
And Saturday is the day that ruins everything because on Saturday, Niall isn’t waiting outside the daycare for hamburgers and Zayn is running a little late but not that late and this is a thing now so where’s Niall? And on Saturday Zayn walks through the three thresholds alone and faces the yelling alone and Niall is lying on the ground covered in blood and bruises and cuts and who the fuck could ever hit Niall? And on Saturday Liam has to hold Zayn’s arms back before he starts something with anyone who is laughing because it’s Niall and someone actually fought Niall and Zayn is screaming at Louis because what the fuck is this you were supposed to be the leader. And on Saturday Zayn doesn’t realize he’s crying until Harry is holding his face in his hands, telling him to calm down, Zayn, and for the first time, everything is silent in the basement.
Everyone watches as Zayn throws down the paper bag of food before pushing Liam and Louis and Harry away and scooping up Niall like it’s nothing. Niall is whimpering and the lights are flickering and Zayn lets out the worst noise because this wasn’t supposed to happen.
Zayn takes Niall back to his apartment to clean his cuts and Niall doesn’t even look like Niall anymore but is still telling him to calm down, Zayn. Zayn’s hands can’t stop shaking because he doesn’t know what to do so he lights a joint but Niall’s lips are too swollen for anything. Zayn kisses him and lets the smoke travel in between parted lips and they both cry quietly because it hurts.
Zayn hopes the sun still rises tomorrow because right now it seems unlikely.
The sun does end up rising but sheds too much light on Niall’s bruised skin. Zayn can’t take it so he shuts the blinds and pretends and wishes and hopes and decides to go back to sleep because maybe this is something that Niall can just sleep off. They dream until midday and it turns out bruises don’t go away that easily.
So they find themselves pushed close together in Zayn’s small shower, the hot water making the purple marks on Niall’s skin even darker. Zayn still can’t take it so he turns Niall around and peppers light kisses against Niall’s shoulder blades and wraps his arms around Niall’s stomach and wonders why why why.
And Niall is turning back around, rubbing circles into Zayn’s hips with his thumbs and laughing. Niall is laughing and Zayn is so close to crying it actually hurts and the back of his throat is burning and what the fuck are you on about, Niall?
Zayn can tell Niall doesn’t mean to say it out loud but it doesn’t matter because he can tell that Niall does mean it when the “I love you” leaves his mouth, surrounded by even more giggles and even more “I love you”s. And it’s the easiest thing Zayn’s ever done, saying it back to Niall. The words fly around in the steam before trickling down to swirl in the water around their bare feet and just like that, they’re back to happy days.
They spend the rest of the week holed up in Zayn’s living room with Niall watching Keeping Up With the Kardashians while Zayn watches Niall’s bruises slowly fade. Halfway through the week, Zayn finally opens up the curtains so the sun can shine in and now every time there’s a gap in conversation, it’s filled with an “I love you” because apparently after you say it once you want to say it all the time. And Niall is laughing laughing always laughing and they’re both happy.
“Harry told me you said I’m the sun.”
And Zayn doesn’t know where this is going so he just breathes out a shaky yeah.
“So what’re you? In this whole sky thing?”
He still doesn’t know where this is going, doesn’t even know how to answer the question because he’s never even thought about himself in that way, so he just shrugs and shakes his head while running his fingers through Niall’s hair. There’s a beat of silence and Zayn is wondering if he should tell Niall he loves him again but doesn’t. It ends up being quiet for a while before Niall clears his throat, nods to himself and is talking again.
“The moon, I think. If I’m the sun, I think you should be the moon.” And it’s so sure sounding that Zayn wonders if Niall’s actually spent time thinking it over in his head before saying it out loud.
“I can be the moon if you want, yeah.” It comes out as a whisper, lingering in the air around them and this is their thing. Not Zayn’s and not Niall’s and no one else’s but theirs together.
By Saturday, Niall’s finally told Zayn what the guy who fought him looks like. They skip the hamburgers and walk into fight club together and Zayn waits patiently for the floor to be free before going up to tug on the arm of this guy that Niall’s pointed out. And this is different than all the other times because it actually means something and everyone is quiet because they can tell and they remember what happened last week.
They don’t shake hands and Zayn doesn’t even think to ask his name before the first punch is thrown.
It’s quiet, eerily so, other than Zayn’s shouts echoing off the walls and even Louis, who usually narrates enthusiastically, is silent. It’s not an even fight, which could be considered odd because Zayn really isn’t even that good of a fighter, so he guesses maybe this guy isn’t trying at all. Maybe he’s letting it happen and maybe he gets it, gets why Zayn feels like he has to fight for Niall. Maybe this guy has someone he fights for too.
This guy is already lying on the floor bloody and Zayn forgot to tape up his knuckles today so he can feel them bruising and is about to walk away when he looks up to see Harry and Louis standing together; and Harry’s hand is too close to Louis’, fingers are itching to wrap around his wrist, so Zayn punches this guy once for Harry because it’s not like he could ever hit Louis.
Zayn wonders if maybe Harry fights because of Louis, if maybe he’s always fought because of Louis, and that’s why he’s so good because it must be frustrating being a storm cloud for two years for nothing.
But Zayn’s fight is officially over and it’s still silent in the basement so he just stands up, lightly pushing past people to get back to Niall. He glances back over his shoulder and Liam is looking at him in a way that makes Zayn feel lighter than air, a way that makes Zayn feel like this might have been the right thing to do because Liam is looking at him like he’s proud even if he doesn’t want to be; and as Zayn grabs ahold of Niall’s hand he knows because Niall is practically in tears and Zayn is murmuring a series of “calm down”s and a “cheer up, Sunshine” at the end that makes Niall let out this choking sob. And Niall seems happy, truly, blissfully happy.
But once again Harry is looking up at Louis like he’s lost, eyes wide and shocking and sad because he knows he’s never going to be the reason that Louis fights someone, because even if he’s been fighting for Louis in more ways than one, Louis’ never going to fight for him; Zayn still can’t find it in himself to try and take it tonight so he’s yelling and waving like it doesn’t hurt to raise his arms above his head.
“Oi, Bambi-eyes! Get your ass over here! Niall and I are taking you to dinner.”
And Harry’s never been one to turn down free food so he gives Louis an affectionate slap to the arm and waves to Liam and the three of them leave the basement early that night.
Zayn spends the new week with Niall and at school and on the couch with his face too close to the pages in his maths textbook. And maths is frustrating and Zayn hates it and ends up yelling at Niall a lot but Niall gets it somehow, nodding and just taking it which makes Zayn feel like shit afterwards. But Niall always insists he doesn’t care before yelling back at Zayn to cook him something for dinner. Zayn thinks maybe he should look for a job soon before Niall eats him out of house and home.
Zayn decides to pretend like he doesn’t notice when Niall starts ‘forgetting’ things at his place, just like he’s been ‘forgetting’ to ask Niall for his leather jacket back. Niall still looks good in leather and based on all the polos and cardigans Zayn’s found hanging in his closet lately, Niall thinks his clothes look good in Zayn’s apartment. When Harry comes over, somehow managing to trip over several pairs of sneakers placed neatly by the door, Zayn has to beg him not to mention it because what if it gets mentioned and Niall stops?
“Maybe he wants you to mention it, idiot.”
Zayn only scoffs and rolls his eyes before pulling Harry to the couch and shoving the maths book into his lap, all the while trying not to pull his own hair out.
On Wednesday, Zayn can’t take Harry’s words floating around in his mind any longer so when Niall walks through the front door he pounces on him. Niall just laughs, shaking his head before hanging up his—Zayn’s—jacket and it’s hello to you too, Zayn.
“Ni, why do you leave your stuff here all the time?”
And Niall gets so wide-eyed it’s almost funny, almost like he’s gotten caught doing something wrong, and Zayn almost laughs but doesn’t because he’s actually curious.
“Do you want me to take everything back home?” It’s quiet but steady and makes Zayn feel stupid for even asking because no, he doesn’t want that at all, because this is exactly what he thought would happen and goddamn it, Harry. So he just shakes his head and no, of course not and apparently that’s the end of that because Niall is walking away while chuckling to himself.
And goddamn it, Harry.
For some reason it takes Zayn’s old friends taunting him to make him remember that he even had friends before Niall and Harry and Louis and Liam, so he guesses maybe they were just like a bad memory he tried to repress. Zayn’s upset even though he doesn’t want to be because he was having a fairly nice night, and didn’t want that ruined by something like this. But now everyone else is huddled around the center floor watching two other guys while Zayn’s taking pointer fingers to the chest and spit to the face and he’s worried one of them, or maybe all of them, is going to end up hitting him.
And that’s definitely against the rules. No fighting unless it’s controlled on the floor and this is neither of those things so Zayn just wishes it would stop. But of course it doesn’t and they’re all yelling and it’s quit being such a baby, Zayn. all over again.
Someone does end up throwing a punch and Zayn is on the floor groaning because even though he saw it coming he didn’t see it coming. They’re spitting names at him that Zayn’s never even thought about before, and words aren’t supposed to hurt like that, not to Zayn who wears leather and smokes and fights in his free time. Apparently all his friends care about nowadays is who Zayn’s kissing in his free time, which has never been a problem before so why is it a problem now?
But it’s slur after slur until it’s not and Niall is dragging Zayn to his feet and Harry and Liam are punching, kicking, grabbing at anything they can get to. And Zayn feels it for the first time in his life and it’s almost what he feels when he kisses Niall, but not really. All he can think to do is wonder if this is what it felt like, when he was fighting for Niall, because no one’s ever fought for Zayn before and he can feel the stinging in the corners of his eyes and the back of his throat.
It’s when Louis walks over that he knows it’s done, fight club’s over for him because he’s fought off of the floor and Louis’ the leader and can’t not follow his own rules. It’s oddly calm when Louis pries Harry and Liam off of all three of his old friends and the eery silence that settled in the basement last week is back. And even though Louis isn’t a great fighter, he still has a pair of nice arms and a killer right hook so Zayn knows the punch he delivered hurt like hell.
Something in Zayn feels like it explodes and he’s finally crying, but laughing and smiling too because he’s is the happiest he’s ever been watching Louis scream at them to get out, screaming at everyone to get out because we’re closin’ up early tonight, fellas.
And maybe this is what it feels like, what real friendship feels like. As all five of them sit against the wall, tipping beer into their mouths, Zayn revels in it. If he wasn’t sure before tonight, he is now and this, this fight club and these people and Niall and Harry and Louis and Liam, is a definite thing in his life now.
So all five of them sit against the wall and scream nonsense that echoes off the ceiling. It makes Zayn want to cry some more and want to kiss Niall and want to tell everyone he loves them but he doesn’t, because they all have an understanding and they get it. And Zayn has never been more thankful in his life because he doesn’t think anyone’s ever really gotten it before, much less four people at the same time.
Zayn changes his mind, muttering a short fuck it before kissing Niall, and the pair of them end up getting the remaining bottles of beer poured over their heads. As they walk into the cold of London still soaking wet, Zayn can’t be bothered to feel chilled because Niall is still the sun, pointing up to the sky and whispering in Zayn’s ear about how he’s still the moon.