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Posted originally on the Archive of Our Own at

Archive Warning:
Additional Tags:

Choose Not To Use Archive Warnings, Graphic Depictions Of
One Direction (Band)
Zayn Malik/Liam Payne, Harry Styles/Louis Tomlinson
Niall Horan, Cher Lloyd
superhero au, multiple POVs
Published: 2013-11-11 Chapters: 2/2 Words: 87566

Burning Away From Inside

by scottmcniceass

They're a little too dysfunctional to be considered superheroes, but they do their best.


Extended summary of sorts: Zayn/Louis/Niall and Cher save the city, Liam's a mechanic
with a habit of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and Harry's a little too curious
for his own good.
(title from the Jimmy Eat World song Littlething)
I don't think I've ever been so nervous to upload a fic before, but I had a lot of wonderful
encouragement from both Lea and Jesse to do so, so thank you both for you moral
support. <3 (also extra special thank you to lea because without her this fic would not be
what it is. she helped so incredibly much and i am indebted to her forever.)

Chapter 1

"What did you do, Zayn?"

The words echo in his mind over the sirens from the fire truck, over the shouting of the firemen
putting out the blaze. His mother's face lights up with both the flames of the house behind her and
the flashing lights of the truck behind Zayn, and she looks horrified.
What did he do?
He was fighting with Doniya. That's what he remembers most clearly. She was yelling at him
about what was it? Taking too long in the shower, maybe, or did she find out about that time he
hacked her Facebook and posted those embarrassing pictures of her? It doesn't really matter, he
realizes. All that matters is they'd been fighting and he'd gotten angry.
It happened so fast. He didn't mean it. He just got so angry all of a sudden, and the next thing he
knew her entire mattress was in flames, she was shrieking and running from the room, and he'd
just stood there, watching it in horrified fascination.
He did that. That was his fault. Just like the birthday cake when he was twelve, and that failed
History test when he was thirteen that he'd been told to bring home for his parents to sign, and that
horrible vest his mum tried to force him into last year for school pictures. When Zayn gets angry,
things catch on fire. He's tried explaining it, tried telling his mum and his family but no one listens
to him, and it never works when he tries to show them.
This time he thinks they might actually believe him, but it's too late for him to explain it now. His
mother's screaming at him, shrieking as she holds Safaa close to her, like she's afraid Zayn will
hurt her or something. Like he did this on purpose.
And maybe she's right. Maybe he didn't do it on purpose, but he could hurt her. He could hurt all
of them without even meaning to, tonight proved that.
What happens next time? What happens the next time his mum tries to ground him and he gets
angry at her? What if next time it's not the mattress that burns down? What if next time it's not the
house the firemen are left trying to salvage? What if next time it's someone he destroys, not
Oh, god.
Deep down, he knew this day was coming. Deep down, he knew it was only a matter of time.
From the very first instance, the first time he'd held out his palm and watched as the flames danced
around it, never hurting him, almost caressing his skin with their warmth, he knew he was wrong.
He knew that there was something fundamentally wrong with him, dangerous, unnatural. And he
knew, deep down, that it was only a matter of time before everyone else realized it, too.
He doesn't wait for her to yell at him again, to tell him to pack his bags and get as far away from
her and the rest of their family as he can. Instead he takes one last look at their house, old and run
down even on the best days, now charred and destroyed from the fire. He takes one last look at his
sisters, at Doniya wrapped in a gray blanket with wide, glassy eyes, and Safaa and Waliyah, both
confused as their mother clutches at them. He looks at his mum but she doesn't look back at him,
and he tries his dad, too, but he's too busy talking to one of the firemen.

And he runs. It's the only option, isn't it? He can't stay here. He's too dangerous. He can't risk
them again. Whatever it is that's wrong with him, whatever it is that makes him this way, it's his
problem. He's not going to make it their problem any longer.
But he's young, is the thing. Fifteen isn't the best age to run away from home, and he has no idea
where to go. He has no money, nothing but the clothes on his back and the pack of cigarettes in
his pocket. He doesn't have any friend's houses he could go to, not that he would. He doesn't have
a car or a way out of here.
He's not even sure how far from home he is when the car pulls up along the curb beside him,
going too slow to be coincidental. He's on a different side of town, the nicer side with bigger
houses and flashier cars. It's easier to get lost here because he's never spent much time in these
neighborhoods, and he isn't quite sure of where he is exactly.
The car next to him rolls down its windows and Zayn slows a bit, breath heaving, something
coursing through his veins. That same burning that started the fire in Doniya's room, the same
burning that makes him sweat even though it's late October and it's been hours since the sun went
down. It scares him as much as it excites him, the power of it, the promise of what it could do if he
allowed it, willed it.
"Hey," someone calls, leaning out through the window. All Zayn can see is blue eyes and a smile
that's probably supposed to be inviting.
Zayn's not stupid. He might not be a kid anymore, but he knows that, even at his age, you don't
get too close to strangers in cars. So he ducks his head and picks up speed, turning down the next
street abruptly to throw them off.
The car keeps following him.
"Are you deaf?" the guy yells at him. "Niall didn't say he was deaf. Maybe you're just stupid?"
Zayn's eyes narrow and he comes to a sudden halt. He doesn't really have anything to worry
about, does he? If the guy leaning out of the car wanted to try something, Zayn could have his
skin burning off his body in seconds. "Can I help you?" Zayn demands.
"Oh, so he's not deaf," the guy says, turning to address whoever's driving the car. "Convenient. I
don't know any sign language."
"Stop being a twat," a female voice snaps. "You're scaring him off, you should hear his thoughts.
He's considering setting you on fire."
The car comes to a complete stop and the guy he's definitely not the creepy old man that Zayn
usually pictures in situations like thisgrins at him. "Am I scaring you off?" he asks.
"Can I help you?" Zayn repeats, blood boiling. It's not just anger that does it, sometimes. It can be
frustration, or annoyance, or even one time when he was wanking and he no, he doesn't want to
think about that, it was too embarrassing. (Embarrassment also gets the fire blazing inside him,
too, actually.)
"I think," the blue-eyed boy says, his look turning considering, "that we can help you, actually."
And then, in the blink of an eye, so sudden it shouldn't be possible, he's standing in front of Zayn
with a hand outstretched. "Louis Tomlinson, resident teleporter. Nice to meet you."
"God damn it," he hears that same female voice groan, and then a car door slams as Zayn's head
gets suddenly dizzy.

"You were just the car and now"

"I was there and now I'm here," the guy says with a roll of his eyes. "Spooky, isn't it?"
Zayn takes a shuddering breath. His hands are shaking, his heart is pounding, and there's this
concerning buzzing in his ears. And that's the last thing he notices before everything goes black
and he faints.

Several Years Later

"Why do I never get to drive?" Louis whines.

Zayn steers the sleek black car around a corner, not slowing down. They don't have time to slow
down. They don't have time for Louis' whining, either, but that isn't stopping him. Never does,
really. And it irritates Zayn, the fact that he never takes any of this serious even though it's really
"Because you're the sidekick," Zayn snaps. "That's why. The sidekick doesn't get to drive."
Louis gapes at him. He shouldn't have said that; he knows he shouldn't have said that. That this is
a very touchy subject for Louis. "Who the fuck said I'm the sidekick?"
"No one," Zayn says quickly. "I'm sorry. I'm just a little hot-tempered right now," he tries feebly.
"You think that pun was funny?" Louis asks. "Because it wasn't."
And then he's gone in the blink of an eye. Not a sound, just poof. "Fuck," Zayn hisses. Under
his hands, the steering wheel suddenly groans and creeks. He lifts one, and the plastic underneath
is twisted and melted. Niall is going to kill him. And Zayn is going to kill Louis.
"Turn left at the next set of lights," says the always chipper GPS, in that same stilted, metallic, prerecorded voice that is almost as familiar to him as Louis' or Niall's. "Louis Tomlinson can be
found at 179 Wilburg Street. Do you wish to change your destination, Zayn?"
"No," Zayn says. Louis will come back. He always does.
There's a thundering in his ears as he drives, one that he's accustomed to. That familiar rush of
adrenaline courses through him and he embraces it, rides it out and lets it be the thing that keeps
him moving. He easily drives the car through the nearly deserted city. At this time of night, most
people are sleeping. And the ones who aren't? They're going to wish they had been.
As he's turning the last corner, Louis pops back into his seat, slightly breathless. He grabs Zayn's
thigh as they round the corner, and it's such a testament of their friendship that Zayn barely bats an
eyelash at his sudden reappearance. But then, Louis' been doing that shit since the day Zayn met
him, and it's about time that he stops screaming like a little girl every time it happens.
"Sorry," Louis says insincerely. "Shouldn't have stormed off like that. The sidekick comment got
me a little heated."
Zayn's lips twitch, and he tries his best to resist it but a grin fights its way onto his lips anyways.
"Now who's the one with the bad puns?" he teases.

"Let's just get this over with, okay?"

"Yeah, alright."
Zayn pulls into the nearest parking lot and shuts off the car. There's this horrible, shudder-inducing
sound as his suit slides across the leather. It's something he's talked about with Niall. If you're
going to put plastic belts on the suit, don't give them a car with a leather interior. How hard is that
to understand?
At least this suit is better than some of other prototypes, he muses as he shuts the car door. Better
than the second ones, with the itchy material that never quite worked right with their powers. Or
the sixth one, that left Louis naked every time he teleported (still funny to think about). Or the
ninth ones, which were extremely inflammable, or so they learned that time Zayn was fooling
around and suddenly his entire uniform was on fire and he couldn't work out how to stop it.
"What are we supposed to be looking for again?" Louis whispers.
Zayn looks around. They're in the lot of a grocery store on the east side of town. There aren't
many houses in this area. It's more business, stores, that kind of thing. Every single one of them is
closed, the streets deserted. The nearest streetlamp flickers, and Zayn rolls his eyes. How fucking
clich is that? What next? Is someone going to jump out of the shadows?
"Niall said there was something going on with the security system at Walton Bank," Zayn recites,
as the two of them start down the street. "That's only, like, two streets from here."
"Whatever," Louis snips. "I don't see why we can't just drive straight to the bank."
"Because we're trying to be discreet," Zayn says impatiently. He has to focus on his breathing,
keeping calm. Fighting with Louis right now will not help the situation, even if he's an irritating,
sarcastic little No. He's not going there. He's just a little moody because this stupid power fucks
with his, like, body chemistry or something sometimes. He's not normally this hot-headed. (Fuck,
not another accidental fire joke.) "Pulling up in that fucking car isn't discreet, okay? Now shut the
fuck up."
"I doubt Batman ever told Robin to shut the fuck up," Louis complains. "Asshole."
"I wonder if Batman ever punched Robin the face," Zayn muses. "Because I'm about to"
In the distance Zayn hears a gunshot, and then another, followed by someone screaming. Without
speaking, the two of them start running. The sound of Louis' footsteps pounding just behind him
only last for about three seconds and then they disappear completely, like Louis remembered, oh,
right, he can teleport. Why the hell is he running?
Sadly Zayn doesn't have that power and he's losing his breath fast. He's going to have to put in
more time at the gym, and he thinks this every damn time but he never goes through with it.
When he rounds the corner, there's a single black van parked out front of the bank. Why is it
always banks? Seriously? Ugh. Whatever. But they've shot through the glass doors, leaving sharp
shards of glass on the ground. Zayn carefully makes his way over it, the sound of it crunching
under the soles of his boots loud in the silent street.
Glass isn't the only thing lying on the steps outside the door. Zayn approaches the body
cautiously, stomach twisting. Please don't be a dead body, he thinks. Please don't be a dead body.
It isn't. He bends down and presses his fingers to the pulse point on the man's neck, and he's
definitely alive. His chest, wrapped in a ridiculously tight black t-shirt, rises and falls with weak

breaths, and Zayn lets out one of his own. He's unconscious, then. There's a wound on his
forehead and a scrape on his chin, as if he'd fought with someone. As if he'd maybe tried to stop
whoever broke into the bank, which is just stupid. The unconscious guy can't be any older than
Zayn, really, not that Zayn can see his features much in the dark, and he's completely unarmed
and vulnerable.
Zayn presses a finger to his earpiece, static filling his ears as he says, "Niall? Can you hear me?"
"Roger that," Niall says immediately.
Zayn rolls his eyes, but now is not the time to remind Niall that they're fighting crime, not driving
transports across America. "I need an ambulance," he says quickly. "Someone's unconscious out
front of the building. He's alive, but he's got a head wound and I'm not sure if there's anything else
wrong with him."
"Got it," Niall says, just before Zayn lowers his hand and the static in his ear disappears.
With one last look for the unconscious man out front, Zayn steps inside the building. It's dark,
none of the overhead lights on, and the first thing he does is press the button on his watch.
Immediately the small light Niall installed in it illuminates a few feet in front of him, and he groans
as he notices another body.
Just like with the first, the man is only unconscious. The difference is that he's actually a security
guard, unlike the random man out front. Zayn leaves him behind, too, just as the sound of a gun
going off again rings in his ears. He jumps, eyes widening, and starts running in the direction the
sound came from until he hears a feminine giggle.
Instantly he slows, rolling his eyes. That giggle can only mean one thing.
He finds them in an office room just off the vault. Cher sits on the desk, legs dangling, wearing
that ridiculous pink suit of hers. (Seriously, it looks like someone coloured her in with a
highlighter. What part of discreet is so damn hard for the rest of his team to understand?) On the
floor, leaning against the wall, are three men. Two of them are unconscious and wearing ski
masks, and the third has duct tape slapped over his mouth and panicked eyes that dart between
Zayn and Cher.
"You're late," she says, sing-song like, swinging her legs. "You two always leave me to do all the
hard work."
Zayn snorts at her and rolls his eyes again. "Where's Lou?" he asks, eying the conscious guy on
the floor. He looks about eighteen years old, if that, and Zayn frowns at him. What the hell is this
kid doing robbing banks?
"Went to check out the rest of the building," Cher informs him, sounding bored. She tugs off one
of her gloves and checks out the state of her manicure.
As if he could hear them (which he can't, thank God, because a Louis with superhuman hearing
would be horrible), Louis suddenly pops into the room, landing just shy of Zayn, grabbing his
shoulder for balance. "Building's clear," he says, "and the manager's been reading Fifty Shades."
"How do you know that, exactly?" Cher asks.
Louis grins. "Checked the desk. There was a bottle of hand lotion, too, but I have a feeling it's not
there to prevent dry skin."
Cher peers closely at him, eyes going out of focus. "Liar," she declares. "Liar, liar, pants on fire."

"Enough with the fire jokes," Louis moans. He glares at Zayn. "This never happened before we
adopted you into our group. There aren't many puns you can make when it comes to teleportation
and mind reading."
Just to be spiteful, Zayn narrows his eyes at the legs of Louis' suit and, in seconds, Cher's earlier
claim becomes reality. The conscious thief makes frightened sounds through the duct tape
covering his mouth. Louis only blinks mildly down at his legs, sighing. "You're lucky this suit is
fireproof," he says, sounding almost bored even as the flames lick at his legs, thankfully protected
by his supersuit.
Zayn snaps his fingers and the fire extinguishes, leaving no traces behind except the smell of
burning rubber. "Can we hurry this along? I've got three episodes of Hannibal on DVR."
Cher rolls her eyes. "Worst superheroes ever," she mutters. "Who the hell decided to give you
two powers?"
"The same twisted God who thought you weren't terrifying enough without the ability to read
minds," Louis answers.
"Speaking of which." Cher hops down off the table, approaching the nearest robber. She crouches
down, peering closely at him, and turns to look at Zayn over her shoulder. "Something's wrong
with their minds. Something's off. I can't tell what it is, but something doesn't feel right."
"I don't think it's their minds that are the problem," Louis says. "I think you're still hung over from
last night. What did I tell you about mixing your alcohol?"
The sound of sirens in the distance cuts off their bickering. They can fight later. Right now, they
need to focus on getting out of here before the police show up. Despite the fact that the three of
them were the only thing standing between the guys on the floor and a bank full of money, he has
a feeling the police won't see it that way.
When they're back in the car, Zayn once again behind the wheel and Louis once again pouting in
the passenger seat, Zayn loops around to the front of the bank. It's hard to get close enough, since
there are police vehicles parked along the street, as well as an ambulance, but he can see two
officers carrying one of the unconscious thieves towards one of their cars.
He can also see paramedics carrying the unconscious guy in the black t-shirt to the back of the
ambulance, and something inside of Zayn that he hadn't even noticed until now relaxes a bit.


Growing up, Zayn hated his power. It took away everything he needed in life. It made him a
freak, dangerous, unnatural. And leaving home was the hardest thing he ever did, but he's come to
realize it was also the best for everyone involved. Without the others, he never would have learned
to control it. Without Niall's help and constant training, or Cher pushing him to his limits, or Louis
being there just to be there for him, he doesn't know what would have happened to him.
They were there for him, though, and he's slowly learned to accept the gift he has as just that: a
gift. And he's also learned to appreciate it.
But sometimesnot very often, but still he wishes they were normal. He wishes they'd been

born without special abilities, him and Louis (and maybe Cher, too, because that mind reading shit
gets real old when she walks around the apartment in nothing but a towel and he can't help but let
his mind wander), because sometimes they make their lives more difficult than necessary.
Like right now, for instance.
"Louis!" Zayn shouts, nearly slipping in the tub. "Get the fuck out!"
Louis grins at him around the shower curtain, looking a lot less uncomfortable than Zayn feels.
And he wishes this were the first time, that Louis has never popped in on him when he was
showering, or changing, or even that one horrible time when he was getting off to shitty free porn
on the internet, but it's not, unfortunately.
"Just came to let you know that breakfast is ready," Louis says pleasantly. "Yours is in the
"Get out," Zayn growls, eyes narrowing. The room fills with more steam, and he has a feeling it's
because of the heat radiating off his body right now. It's a good thing he's in the shower, too,
because he's about three seconds away from bursting into flame and setting Louis ablaze along
with him.
"Okay, okay," Louis says, lifting his hands defensively. He backs up, grabbing Zayn's towel from
the towel rack. "Nice cock, by the way." And then he pops back out of the room, taking Zayn's
towel with him.
One day Zayn may actually kill him.
For some reason, his shower just isn't relaxing after that. He turns off the water and steps out,
dripping water everywhere and pulling on his clothes while he's still soaking wet, since Louis had
taken the only towel with him (the bastard). The shoulders of his shirt are damp and his hair is
dripping on his face when he pushes open the bathroom door, stalking straight past the living
room where everyone else is seated.
As he goes, Zayn flicks his fingers and sets Louis' breakfast on fire. He hears Louis shriek behind
him, and his morning just got a tad bit better.
" attend the University of Wilshire," he hears a voice on the TV say. He plops himself down on
the sofa beside Niall, plate of breakfast in his lap as he focuses on the news anchor with the
extremely pointed chin. He hates watching the news, but it's sort of unavoidable, given the
circumstances. It's always good to make sure their faces aren't turning up on a most wanted list.
"In fact, all three of the men involved in the robbery were said to be students attending the school.
I'm here with Jordan Kale, the History professor at Wilshire, and Thomas Johnson's teacher.
Would you like to say anything about the incident that occurred yesterday at the bank?"
"It's unbelievable," the older man on screen, Jordan Kale, says gravely. "Thomas was a great
student, absolutely brilliant, bright future ahead of him. Perfectly respectable young man. I just
can't believe it. It doesn't make sense that he would ever do something like this."
"Such a travesty," the news anchor says, shaking his head. "It's absolutely devastating seeing"
"See? Going to University doesn't make you a better member of society," Louis says, turning the
TV down. "I love when the world makes my bad choices look like good ones."
Zayn snorts at him, finishing the last bite of his toast and jam. He drops his plate onto the coffee
table and kicks at Louis on the way to his bedroom, and then his eyes land on his alarm clock and
he starts panicking. Shit. He thought he had an extra ten minutes, but of course he doesn't. It's not

that Zayn means to be late to everything, he really doesn't. He's cursed, he swears he is. No matter
how hard he tries, he's never on time.
He's rushing as he dresses, has no time to do his hair so he pulls on a beanie and shoves his
homework from last night in his bag before rushing out of his room. His shoes are only halfway
on when he dashes out the front door, no time to call a goodbye to his roommates as he jogs for
the elevator.
Tapping his foot impatiently, he pulls out his cigarettes and holds one between his lips as he waits
to get the ground floor, and he only has just enough patience not to light it up right there in the
lobby, just making it out the door as he flicks his finger and lights the tip, inhaling immediately.
He hates walking and smoking. If he had it his way, he'd be sitting down, maybe with a coffee,
enjoying his first of the day. But his creative writing class starts at a satanic hour, and it's not like
he has a choice.
The sounds of the garage next door irk him as he passes by on the sidewalk. He loves their
apartment, he does. They're on the top floor, and it's beautiful and modern and way too expensive
for Zayn to ever be able to afford it himself, but there's a downside. The garage is
literally right beside the building, and even on the days he's allowed to sleep in he can't leave his
window open unless he wants to wake up to honking and the sound of metal scraping against
metal. He hates it so much.
He doesn't look up as he passes the shop, doesn't meet anyone's eyes on his way down the street,
though he passes enough people. He makes it all the way to the corner and goes to turn, following
the familiar path, when someone grabs his arm.
It's instinct, the way he jerks his arm out of the grip on him, whirling as fast as he can, cigarette
slipping from his fingers. He's done too much martial arts practice with Niall for it not to be, and
the guy who grabbed him is lucky he let go instantly because Zayn can feel it, that fire that feels
like it courses through his veins, ready to strike out at a moment's notice, maybe even without his
It seems to fizzle and die out the second he meets the guy's eyes. His mouth goes dry, and his
snapped "What the hell do you want?" dies in his throat.
"You dropped this," the guy says, holding out a bundle of papers. "Must've forgotten to zip your
Zayn's can't think. The guy who grabbed him continues to give him an expectant look, holding
out the papers, and Zayn can't do anything but blink at him. He's just shit. He's gorgeous, is the
thing. Brown hair pushed off his forehead and wide brown eyes to match. He's wearing a white
tank top that's stained with grease, and it shows off these arms that make Zayn a little dizzy,
honestly, because they're tan and corded with muscles, and he's got this blocky, inky black tattoo
on his forearm. And he's wearing jeans, too, with more grease stains and ripped knees, hanging
low on his hips with a black bandana tucked into the pocket. And his mouth.
He is literally every bad-boy wet dream Zayn has ever had come to life, except the eyes. The eyes
are too wide, too soft. They scream "Be gentle with me" while the rest of him screams "Let me
fuck you against a wall!" which Zayn would, if anyone's wondering.
Finally his mind whirls back to life, but that's probably not a good thing. "I thank thank you,"
he stutters, mouth suddenly dry.
"No problem," the guy says, handing the papers over. It's a miracle, it really is, that they don't

burst into flame the second they come in contact with Zayn's skin. He feels so heated all of a
And then he notices the bump on the guy's head, and the scrape on his jaw, and it hits him.
Unconscious guy from the bank, the one Zayn figured had tried to stop the robbery all by himself.
"I should probably get going," the guy says, rocking back on his heels. "I'm Liam, by the way."
He's holding out his hand, and it takes Zayn almost a full minute to realize he's supposed to shake
it. So he reaches out, clasping Liam's hand in his, and as soon as they touch Liam jerks his hand
back, hissing in pain.
Zayn's eyes widen. Shit, shit, shit. This is why he doesn't talk to people. This is why his social
circle consists of a psychotic teleporter, a hostile telepath with super strength , and a reclusive
genius who spends most of his free time monitoring the city's security cameras.
"Shit," Zayn moans. "I'm so"
"Must have burned myself while working," Liam muses, looking down at the red welt already
forming on his palm. "Guess I didn't notice it. And I didn't get your name."
"I'm Zayn," Zayn says slowly, as if he'd somehow forgotten or something. Fuck, he's an idiot.
"I know," Liam admits, grin widening. "I mean, I've seen you before. You live next door to the
shop, right? You walk by almost every day. At least when I'm working."
It takes him longer to put the pieces together than it should have, but he takes in the grease stains
on Liam's clothes again and the comment about burning himself at work, and suddenly it makes
sense. "Oh, right. You're a mechanic?"
Liam nods. "If you ever need an oil change or something, just stop by. Give them my name, I'll do
it myself, get you a discount."
"I don't have a car." Because he doesn't, technically. There's the shared car that they all use, but
that's only when they're on the job. Niall doesn't let any of them touch it at any other time, since
the thing is practically his child. He's fairly sure Niall gets anxiety every time one of them even
touches it, but he seems to trust Zayn a little more than Louis or Cher, which is why he always
gets to drive.
"Oh." Liam's grin slips, and he winces while tugging a hand through his hair. "Well, I really
should get back to work. Nice meeting you though, Zayn. Don't forget to zip your bag next time."
He jogs off before Zayn can say anything, which is probably a good thing. Zayn watches him go,
eyes trailing down to where Liam's pants hang past his ass, despite his belt, which is something
that's always irritated him. Like, why even bother? But Liam's wearing tight black briefs
underneath, and his shirt doesn't hang that low, and Zayn is starting to see the upside to this
ridiculous fashion statement, he really is.
When Liam disappears inside the shop, Zayn pulls his bag off his shoulder and shoves his papers
in before zipping it tightly. He checks the time, groans, and starts jogging. He's late now for sure,
and his creative writing teacher's such an ass that she'll likely single him out the second he walks
in the door for interrupting her class. Awesome.


The campus coffee shop is notorious for their bad service, lukewarm coffee, and cramped tables.
Louis hates the place, he really does. But the campus coffee shop has Zayn, and since Louis sort
of loves him or whatever, he puts up with it. Only Zayn's late. His lunch break started, like, half a
fucking hour ago, and he's still not here.
"Can I get a caf mocha?" Louis asks the girl behind the counter, giving up on waiting for Zayn to
get his drink. He's thirsty.
The girl gives him a blank look. "Whatever's on the menu board is what we've got. Do you see
caf mocha up there?"
Louis checks, can't find it, and sighs. "I'll take a medium iced coffee, then."
"Coming right up, sir," she says with fake cheerfulness.
It takes too long for his order to be finished, but Louis isn't complaining for once. Zayn still isn't
here, even as he makes his way past exhausted looking university student after exhausted looking
university to seat himself at the only unoccupied table in the entire shop. Which isn't surprising,
actually. Zayn is always late. Always, no matter how far in advance they make their plans. He'll
be late to his own damn wedding one day, Zayn, mark Louis' words.
Sighing, Louis sips at his drink and looks around. Everyone is preoccupied. There are people on
their phones, texting away or talking loudly over the chatter from the rowdier groups of people so
they can be heard. There are people cramming for their next classes, or working on something
from previous ones, that same stressed, dead look on their faces that Louis has learned to associate
with overworked students.
He's considered it more than once, the whole 'higher education' thing. He has the money,
certainly, to attend if he wanted, only he couldn't ever think of what he'd want to take. Where
Zayn's known for being late, Louis' known for avoiding the future. He'll deal with it eventually,
but not today. And probably not tomorrow, either.
His eyes land on the only other person sitting alone and not doing work. Without even meaning
to, Louis' lips curl up and his nose wrinkles. Part of him wants to laugh at this guy, and another
desperately wants to help the poor kid. He's wearing thick framed glasses, and his hair is slicked
back with so much gel it's embarrassing. And he's wearing a sweater vest. An honest to fucking
god sweater vest. Fucking hell, who let him out of the house looking like that?
But then the guy is smiling, and oh.
Suddenly there's dimples and pink lips stretched over perfectly white teeth. His green eyes light up
under those glasses, and shit. Louis is thirteen again, still learning how to control his power and
allowing his emotions and hormones to control him instead. One second he's gaping at Dimples
across the room, and the next thing he knows he's standing outside on the sidewalk, looking inside
the shop.
Shit. He looks around quickly, praying no one saw him. Zayn is always yelling at him about not
being discreet, and he knows Zayn has a point. If someone found out, they'd be screwed. He
really doesn't fancy the idea of being locked up in a government facility and being poked and
prodded at for the rest of his life, but it's not like he did it on purpose.
Thankfully everyone else seems to be too busy to realize what just happened. Everyone inside the
shop is still too preoccupied with their own lives to have noticed that one of the customers just

teleported out of their seat and ended up outside the shop. And everyone outside the shop is too
busy with their heads ducked, running from one class to another with their focus on the phones in
their hands instead of the boy that just appeared on the walkway out of thin air.
Everyone except one single person is oblivious to what just happened. Dimples is gaping at him
through the window, glasses askew. His drink is halfway to his mouth, as if he was about to take a
sip and had been frozen solid. His lips are parted widely, and he's just staring at Louis.
And Louis' heart sinks into his stomach. Shit.


"What the hell is up with you?" Zayn demands.

Louis stares resolutely out the window of the restaurant, expression unreadable. "Why do you
think there's something up with me?"
Because he's been weird all day, Zayn thinks. When Zayn got to the campus caf, Louis was
gone. Sometimes that happens, he gets irritated with Zayn because Zayn was late and storms off,
but he hadn't messaged Zayn back when Zayn texted him. And afterwards, back at the apartment,
Louis spent the entire afternoon and then well into the night locked in his bedroom. He didn't pop
into Zayn's room once, or sneak up on Cher or anything, which is extremely out of character.
And he'd skipped out on dinner. They had tacos. Louis never skips out on tacos, which is why
they're out right now. Zayn had dragged him out of his room and down to the diner two streets
from their apartment. Louis loves this place almost as much as Zayn does, and usually it's a good
way to get him out of a mood. Plus, having heart-to-hearts with Louis is always best in public
settings; he tends to get violent, and he's less likely to do so with an audience.
"You've been quiet," Zayn says, instead of bringing the rest of that up.
"Why does something have to be up for me to be quiet?" Louis snaps, finally turning his gaze to
Zayn. He looks almost manic, eyes red and wide, hair a mess. "Why can't I just be quiet? You're
quiet all the time, but you don't see the rest of us trying to give you a psych exam every fucking
day, now do you?"
Zayn raises his eyebrows. Most people might be taken aback by someone snapping on them like
that. Sadly, Zayn's gotten used to Louis, and this kind of blow up is normal. Sometimes it's for an
actual reason, and sometimes it's just because one of them put an empty carton of chocolate milk
back in the fridge.
"Okay," Zayn drags out. He lifts his hands in the universal gesture of 'calm down' before reaching
for his drink. "I was just checking. Don't bite my head off for worrying about you."
"If you were worried about me," Louis hisses, "you would have been there at the caf. But you
weren't, and it's actually all your fault, and now I'm stressing the fuck out, okay?"
Zayn lowers his coffee without taking a sip. "What happened at the caf?" he asks carefully.
Louis winces. "I did something bad. Something really, really bad."
Instantly Zayn's heart starts racing. He knows Louis too well, at this point, to not be sufficiently

alarmed by that kind of statement. "Scale of one to ten," he says. "One being that time you popped
in on Cher while she was changing, ten being nuclear warfare."
Louis debates this for a moment, face scrunched up in thought. "Seven," he decides eventually.
"A solid seven, I think."
Zayn groans, heart plummeting into his stomach. "What did you do?" Because this is Louis. It
could be anything, really, and Zayn's got a good imagination. He doesn't even want
to consider what Louis might have done. He'd go insane with worry.
"Technically," Louis starts, "it's your entire fault, like I said. I mean, I was only in the caf because
I was waiting for you, and if I hadn't of been there it never would have happened."
"What never would have happened?"
Louis sighs. "I teleported out of my seat. I didn't even mean to, it just happened, I swear! One
minute I was sitting there, and this geeky guy with a fucking sweater vest, Zayn, an actual sweater
vest, smiled at me. And then the next thing I knew, I was standing outside the shop and the guy
was staring at me. He totally saw the whole thing. There's no way he didn't."
Zayn rubs a hand over his face, focusing on his breathing like Niall taught him. Ten, nine, eight.
He counts down slowly in his head until he gets to one, and that simmering heat inside of him
dissipates. When he feels calm enough not to set Louis on fire, he says, "That's not a seven.
That's, like, a five. And seriously? How many times do we have to tell you to be more careful
about this shit, Lou? Come on."
"I know," Louis admits. "I didn't mean to, I told you! It was an accident this time, completely. I
wasn't showing off or goofing around. I honestly didn't mean to. He had dimples and I couldn't
control it!"
Zayn steadies Louis with a look that clearly conveys just how done with Louis' shit he is right
now. He wanted a nice, relaxing coffee and piece of cheesecake at the diner, but of course he can't
have that. You don't get relaxing when Louis Tomlinson is your best friend. "You're telling me,"
Zayn says slowly, "that you completely blew your cover because a guy had dimples."
"Fuck off," Louis says heatedly. "Don't be an asshole about this. I fucked up. I know I fucked up.
You don't have to tease me about it, too."
"I wasn't teasing," Zayn denies. "I was clarifying. There's a difference."
"Whatever," Louis says. "It's not even a big deal, actually. He probably won't even remember me.
Or maybe he'll chalk it up to a hallucination, or"
The sound of a gun going off has them both freezing. It's a very distinct sound. Some people think
it's easily mistaken for a car backfiring, or something else, but it's not. When you've really heard
gunfire, there's no confusing it for something else.
Several people in the diner look around uneasily, but Zayn's already slipping out of his seat and
pulling out his wallet. He drops a few bills on the table and Louis steals the last bite of his
cheesecake before they hurry out the door.
This is different than the night at the bank. This is a populated area. There're always people
around, even late at night, what with the university only minutes away and most of the people
living off campus in the general area. Several people are heading in the direction that the gunshot
had come from, going to investigate most likely, just like him and Louis.

When they round the corner, Zayn skids to a halt. There're so many people, all of them piled
outside that corner store that Zayn goes to late at night because it's one of the only ones open. The
whole area is taped off, and there're police cars parked precariously along the street, as well as a
news van. There're people crowding the sidewalks, too, trying to see and trying to hear.
"We need to get closer," Louis says, directly in his ear.
"Ew." Zayn makes a face and wipes at his ear. "What did I tell you about your damp breath in my
Louis slaps him on the arm. "I'll be right back. If we try to push through the crowd, there's no way
we'll get close enough. Just stay here, I'll figure out what's going on."
Zayn nods and stands on the tips of his toes, trying his best to see from this far away. He can't,
though. All he can see are the crowds and that news anchor, the one that's always on the local
news at six. He's got a microphone in hand and he's gesturing wildly as he talks, though Zayn
can't hear what he says.
Louis materializes right beside him. Zayn doesn't even give him shit for doing it in public. No
one's paying attention to them, and there's too much of a crowd for someone to notice.
"Someone's holding up the store," Louis says in a rush. "There's two employees, one's a male in
his late fifties who owns the place, the other's a teenager; two gunmen or women, one of them
is female, I think I heard and at least two customers inside, one of which is a child. They've got
a hostage, and apparently they're refusing to let anyone go until they've cleared the streets and
they're allowed a clean getaway, which of course the police aren't agreeing to. They're trying to
reason with them, get them to come out, but they're not listening to the police, either."
Zayn nods, mind whirring. Before he can say anything his phone rings in his pocket. He pulls it
out, pressing talk on the way to putting it to his ear, and Niall's voice is raised when he says, "I'm
watching the news and"
"We're right here," Zayn cuts him off. "We're ten feet away from the scene."
"Good," Niall says. "Cher's on her way. She has your stuff."
Zayn nods again, more to himself since Niall can't see it. "We've got this," Zayn assures him.
"I know you do. Just deal with it without anyone getting hurt."
"Will do," Zayn promises. He ends the call and pockets his phone. "Niall says Cher's on her
He can't remember exactly what started this whole 'superhero' thing. Not that he'd call any of them
superheroes, really, because they're a little too dysfunctional for that. All he does remember is
Niall showing them the suits, and Louis laughing about how funny it'd be if anyone of them
actually attempted to, like, save people. And the next thing Zayn knew, they were doing it. Which
is still really weird to him, but they're good at it. Even he has to admit that crime in the city has
dropped, and he doesn't mind that they never get the credit for it, that the police always do even if
they usually don't show up until the entire thing is already dealt with.
Zayn is pulled from his thoughts when a car honks loudly. They're not the only ones who turn, but
they're the only ones who head towards the sleek black vehicle. Both he and Louis jump into the
back, and Cher speeds away from the scene.
It's not the first time they've had to get ready on the go, and Zayn's gotten accustomed to pulling

his suit on in the backseat. While he and Louis are changing, Cher starts talking. "There's access
to the store from the roof," she says. "Niall sent me a picture of the layout. There's no way we're
getting in the front door, not without someone getting hurt. They'll think we're the police and
they'll probably fire immediately."
"Pfft, they're gonna wish we were the police," Louis says.
Cher ignores him. "So I figure Zayn, you and I will go in the back. I'll go in first, since I'm easily
the least intimidating"
"You picked up an entire car last week," Louis says. "Remember? You dropped your lipstick and
it rolled underneath, and no one was around so you literally lifted the entire fucking thing. How is
that not intimidating?"
"I'm easily the least intimidating looking," Cher corrects. "And I'll be able to read the situation
better than either of you, so I go in as the distraction. Zayn, you're going to come in behind me
and make sure no one's hurt, and work on getting people out safely. And if I can't talk them out of
lowering their weapons and giving up, we'll go into plan B."
"What's plan B?" Zayn asks.
"Plan B is you set yourself on fire, and while everyone's flipping the fuck out over that Louis gets
the signal and teleports right behind them, apprehending the one with the hostage using the
element of surprise, and I take out his partner."
Zayn pauses, hand on the zipper of his suit. "Any plans where I don't combust into flames?"
"Course not," he mutters. "Alright, I'm in."
They pull into a back alleyway. There's nothing back here except dumpsters and the back door to
several shops on the block. There isn't a fire escape or anything, though, no way for someone to
access the roof. At least, no way for normal people.
Cher and Zayn both get out of the car, leaving Louis behind. Zayn stares up at the building in
front of him, and it's not the tallest, exactly, but he's got this thing about heights where he, you
know, hates them. "I'll go up first," Cher offers. "And I'll throw a rope down and haul you up."
Zayn nods, crossing his arms over his chest as he waits. It takes no time for her to make it onto the
second story roof.
Niall spends ninety percent of his time in the basement of their apartment building. It's like his lair,
or Batcave or something. And while they might tease him about it, how much time he spends
down there, there are definite benefits like the super cool gadgets he makes for them, like the
one Cher used to get onto the building. It's like a grappling hook, only better. It's designed to hook
into anything, and it's able to hold several tons of weight. The only downside is it's a one-use only
type of thing, since there's absolutely no getting the hooks out once they've sunk in.
Zayn tightly grips the rope Cher sends down to him, and she hauls him up like he weighs nothing.
(That super strength comes in handy fairly often, not that he'd ever admit that to her.)
The access to the store is through an old, metal door that takes a bit of time for them to get open.
Cher's shit at lock picking and she knows it, but she's such a damn control freak that she doesn't
move over so Zayn can do it, and he has to physically move her out of the way.

"Don't follow me in until I give you a signal," she whispers to him as they make their way down
the creaky stairs leading to the back room of the store. "We don't want to overwhelm them, have
them do something because they're afraid."
Zayn nods silently.
He lingers back, trying to hide in the shadows as Cher pushes open the door to the main part of
the store. Light pours into the room, and he discreetly moves behind the boxes back here, some
filled with inventory, some completely empty. He can only just see into the store, only the area
behind the counter visible. He watches Cher saunter into the room, wrapped in that fucking pink
suit, and he almost wants to laugh. Only this isn't really a laughing situation
"I've just come to talk," Cher says loudly, drawing attention to herself.
"Who the hell are you?"
Zayn can't see who says it, but Cher's hands instantly go up above her head. She says something,
but Zayn's too busy watching her feet to hear. He waits for it, creeping towards the door, and
when she taps the tip of her toes three times on the linoleum floor, Zayn slips into the room.
Within seconds he takes in the scene in front of him. The store isn't huge, but it's not all that small,
either. He's behind the counter, and to his far left is the door. Unfortunately it's one of the only
stores in their neighborhood without huge front windows. The only way to see outside is through
the door, which means the police are completely blind to everything happening inside, and Zayn is
completely blind to everything happening outside.
The first robber the female, by the looks of her body, since her face is completely covered by
her mask has her gun trained in the direction of the door, making it impossible for anyone to
come in that way. Her partner is fairly far away from her, and he's the one with the hostage. The
woman in his arms looks to be in her late thirties, and there are tears streaming down her face.
Not far from them is a huddled together group. There's an older man and a teenage girl, probably
the employees Louis mentioned, and a little kid. He can't be any older than six or seven, and the
way he's looking at the hostage makes Zayn think that she may just be his mother.
And standing in front of all of them is the mechanic from this morning, Liam. There's no
mistaking him for anyone else. He's wearing the same grease stained outfit from earlier, only now
there's a denim jacket over the tank top. He's got one arm curled behind him, ensuring that the kid
is completely concealed by his body, and his chin is lifted defiantly like he refuses to be
intimidated. Zayn's stomach does this weird, horrible flipping thing.
"You don't need them all, right?" Cher argues, as Liam's eyes meet his, and Zayn's grateful for the
mask because he knows that there's no way Liam can see him underneath it. Earlier Zayn had
thought Liam's eyes contrasted so much with the rest of him, and this isn't any different. While
Liam's entire stance is confident and unwavering, there's something terrified in his eyes that says
it's just a front. "One hostage is enough. If you let us evacuate the rest of them, the police will be
more willing to cut a deal with you."
What's weird is that the two robbers don't converse with each other. In fact, they don't even look
at each other. But simultaneously, so in sync it's almost creepy, they both nod. "Evacuate the
others," the male says in this flat, emotionless tone. It's so weird, but Zayn doesn't have any time
to dwell on it.
Cher gestures for him to go, and Zayn moves past the counter, heading for the small group. The
man holding the hostage moves his gun so it's pointed at Zayn instead of pressed dangerously to

her temple. A shiver runs through him but he easily ignores it. Having a gun pointed at you is
never ideal, but he's got more pressing concerns.
"Is anyone hurt?" Zayn asks first, taking a quick look at each of them.
The rest of them seem too stunned to answer, so Liam answers for them. "Scared, but not hurt."
Zayn nods. "Okay, I need you all to listen to me carefully, yeah?" He meets each of their eyes,
and then chances a look at the robbers, making sure that they're not going to change their minds at
the last second and go off on everyone in the shop. "I'm going to take each of you out one by one.
As soon as I open the door, you're going to raise your hands high above your head. There are
going to be cops with guns pointed at you, but they're not going to shoot, don't worry."
He says don't worry, but he's worrying himself. The thing is, there's only so much time before the
police make a move. He can still see the flashing lights through the door, and he knows they're
either waiting for the robbers to give up or thinking of a way in. They could easily fuck this whole
thing up if they aren't fast and careful.
He takes the old man first, since he's closest to the door. There's shouting as soon as the door
opens and, just as Zayn instructed, the man lifts his arms high above his head. The door swings
shut behind him, and Zayn stays clear of it. They could easily mistake him for the robbers (all it
takes is one bold cop to try and get a good shot on him) and he doesn't really feel like being
riddled with bullet holes at the moment. Maybe next time.
The teenage girl is next. She's trembling when Zayn takes her hand, careful to keep himself
between her and the robbers. She sobs when the door opens but she doesn't run. She steps
carefully outside with her hands above her head, and Zayn breathes a sigh of relief.
When Zayn returns for the kid, he's got his arms wrapped around Liam's middle. "Not without my
mum," he sobs. "Not leaving without her."
Zayn didn't consider this being an obstacle. He shoots Liam a panicked look, and Liam carefully
extracts the kid's arms from around his waist. He turns and kneels, but Zayn notices that he doesn't
ever move so that the kid is vulnerable, his body constantly shielding him. "Your mum's going to
be okay," Liam says slowly. "I promise. No one's going to hurt her, I'll make sure of it. But right
now she's probably really scared for you, so we're going to make this easier on her, okay? You're
going to let him take you outside, where it's safe, and I promise I'll make sure your mum meets
you out there."
The kid rubs at his eyes with shaking hands. "You you really promise?"
Liam nods. The kid turns to Zayn, and he wastes no time, instantly picking him up and carrying
him to the door.
When the door closes behind him, Zayn waves Liam over. Liam, of fucking course, stays exactly
where he is, halfway between the back wall and the door, up against the freezer. Zayn groans and
moves towards him, acutely aware of the gun following his every movement, and of Cher still
trying to reason with the robbers.
"Why aren't you?"
"I promised him," Liam says simply. "I'm not going out that door unless she goes out it first."
Zayn makes an annoyed sound, ready to physically tug Liam from the building, when Niall's
voice rings in his ears. He's still not worked that out yet, the built in ear pieces, and it sounds like
they're communicating through two cans connected by string, but it still works. "You've got less

than two minutes until the police come in," Niall says frantically. "They think everyone but the
hostage has been evacuated. They're not waiting any longer."
Zayn turns to Cher, and she meets his eyes only briefly, holding up two fingers. Plan B,
Without thinking, Zayn shoves Liam to the ground. He wasn't expecting it, and Liam goes down
easily even if he's bigger than Zayn. When he's sure Liam's out of the line of fire (seriously, he's
not even making these puns on purpose) he gives in to that burning in his veins, and the next thing
he knows flames are flickering in front of his eyes, obscuring his view. His whole body feels hot,
like he's sitting too close to a campfire, and he doesn't need a mirror to know that his entire body is
encompassed in fire.
Everything after that is a little hard to follow. He hears a surprised gasp, Cher is a pink blur as she
jumps the female robber, wrestling her gun from her hands, and Zayn hadn't noticed Louis appear
but he manages to knock the male robber unconscious while plucking the gun from his fingers.
It can't take more than thirty seconds before it's over. Louis helps the woman hostage stay upright,
and Cher's kicking the gun far, far away from the unconscious woman. Zayn's busy trying to
remember how to turn it off, how to get rid of the fire that surrounds him. It takes him a beat or
two, and he's just starting to panic when the flames disappear, all at once, as if they were never
there in the first place, leaving only a lingering cloud of smoke and a burnt smell in the air.
The second it happens, it feels like all the energy has been sucked from his body. He has to focus
on staying upright, and it takes effort. Until he remembers Liam, and all thoughts of exhaustion
slip from his mind.
"Come on," Cher shouts. "We've got less than a minute before they come in here. Do you really
want to be caught by the police?"
Zayn ignores her. On the floor, not far from him, Liam is still sprawled out on the ground. One of
his legs is lying flat against the floor, while the other is bent at the knee. He's propped up on the
palms of his hands and his mouth is gaping open. Zayn would explain as best as he could, if he
had the time. But he can't, so he settles with offering Liam a hand up and a short, "Sorry, had to
be done."
Hesitantly, Liam's fingers wrap around his own and Zayn tugs him to his feet. "No, it's it's
okay," he says breathlessly. "Did you just? Did that just? Your whole body was on fire."
Zayn shrugs. "Yeah. That happens."
He expects to find shock and horror in Liam's eyes, but instead he finds awe. Like he's amazed,
in a good way. "That was so"
"We don't have time for this." Louis appears on his left and grabs his arm roughly. He tugs Zayn
towards the door he'd come in through, and they just make it behind the counter when the police
burst through the front door. He watches as Liam's hands go up instantly, but Louis doesn't let him
linger behind to make sure that he's definitely safe. He's drags Zayn all the way up the stairs at a
Cher's waiting for them on the roof, and she grabs Zayn tightly around the waist before grappling
down the side of the building. They hit the ground hard, hard enough that it makes Zayn's teeth
ache, but he knows it would have hurt a lot more if he'd done that himself. Cher can resist a lot
more pain than he can.

The police are on the roof by the time they get into the car, but there's nothing the cops can do.
They're already speeding out from behind the building, and Cher keeps her foot planted hard on
the gas as they put distance between themselves and the crime scene.
"Fuck we're good," Louis whoops when they pull into the garage of their building. "We're
fucking incredible. We're awesome."
"You barely did anything," Zayn points out.
Louis looks offended. "I knocked that guy out with a can of beans!"
"He did," Cher vouches for him. "It was hilarious."
"And no one got hurt," Zayn adds, "which is good."
Louis tugs off his mask, revealing the knowing smirk underneath. "And you got all up close and
personal with the pretty boy mechanic from next door."
"That was Liam?" Cher asks. "I didn't even notice."
Zayn looks between the two of them, pulling off his own mask so he can see better. "You know
"Not everyone's as antisocial as you are," Cher teases. "And Liam's been working there for two
years. Of course I know him. Now hurry up; I want to get upstairs in time to catch the last of the
news. I want to see what they say about us."
Zayn can't argue with that. He wants to make sure that everyone's okay, that no one got hurt after
they'd bailed. He quickly pulls his clothes on over top of the suit, and he follows Cher and Louis
into the elevator.
Niall is on the sofa waiting for them, TV turned to the news channel. He doesn't even look up
when they walk in, but he does pat the spot next to him on the couch. Cher meets Zayn's eyes for
just a split second, and then they're both rushing for the spot, sneakers skidding against the
hardwood floor. Cher tries to push him out of the way, Zayn makes a dive for the spot, and Louis
appears in it at the very last second.
"You're both pathetic," he says happily, curling up against Niall's side. "You never learn. I always
Zayn groans and falls onto the spot next to Louis, and Cher pouts before sliding onto the floor at
Niall's feet. On screen, that news reporter is still out front of the store, only now the door is wide
open and he's interviewing witnesses.
" claim they saw a man burst into flame," he's saying, and Louis punches Zayn's leg hard while
giving his complete attention to the screen. "You were inside, tell us what really happened."
The camera zooms in on Liam's face. Something like relief floods through Zayn, painful and
sharp. But he's okay, right? So that's that's something, anyways. And he's got those damn arms
crossed over his chest, and his eyes are narrowed. "On fire?" he repeats. "What do you mean on
"Everyone claims," the news reporter says, "that one of the masked vigilantes burst into flame,
only to have the fire die out seconds later while he remained completely unharmed."
Zayn tenses. It's been a while since they've been this exposed. There's been speculation for

months about them, people making claims about the girl in the pink suit who could hear their
thoughts, or the boy who could move from one place to another in the blink of an eye. But it's a
little hard to shut down rumors when Zayn literally combusted in front of four people, not to
mention anyone outside who'd been looking too closely through the door.
Liam snorts on the TV. "Really? That's a little farfetched, don't you think? How could someone's
entire body catch on fire without them getting hurt? I think it was a trick of the lights. When
people get all riled up, they don't always know what they're seeing."
The news reporter looks more than a little frustrated. "That's true, but"
Liam walks away from the camera.
Zayn blinks at the screen. "He's lying," he states. "He watched it happen. There's no way he
missed it. Why would he lie about it?" It doesn't make any sense. There's no doubt in his mind that
Liam watched the whole thing, and there was no mistaking that what the news reporter said was
true. So why would Liam deny it?
"Is that Liam from the garage next door?" Niall asks. "He was there?"
"Does everyone know him but me?" Zayn demands. He sounds almost upset about it, weirdly
enough. Like he's jealous of that fact. And maybe he is, a little bit. He can admit that.
"Maybe he was trying to protect you," Cher says from the floor. "Maybe he lied about the whole
you bursting into flames thing because he knew that people would ask a lot of questions about it,
and this is his way of, you know, preventing that from happening."
"Yeah, but why?" Zayn insists.
Everyone else, for the most part, seems happy to shrug it off without an explanation. But Zayn's
"We've just been informed that the two perpetrators have been identified," comes from the TV,
and Zayn stops wondering about Liam for a second to listen. "Mary and Howard Dawson, 38
and 42, are currently in custody for the crimes committed tonight."
"Shit," Louis breathes. "Really?" Everyone looks at him, and his expression turns haughty.
"What? Don't tell me you three don't know who they are."
"No idea," Niall says.
"Beats me," Cher puts in.
Zayn shrugs silently, just as in the dark as they are, which makes Louis sigh. "You three know
nothing," he says. "They hold the charity ball every year? You know, the one that everyone who's
anyone goes to? They're, like, saints. Last year they were given the city's annual Peace Award
and everything."
The apartment gets quiet after that, nothing but the sound of the news anchor talking in the
background on the TV, interviewing another witness.
"Then what the hell are they doing holding up a corner store?" Niall finally asks. "That doesn't
make any sense."
Cher's eyes widen, and she slaps at Zayn's leg. "Remember the other day when we took out those
guys at the bank and I told you their minds were weird? It was like that again tonight! Something

was off. I couldn't get a proper read on them, everything was fuzzy and confusing. All the guy
was thinking about was some sports game that happened, like, a year ago, and all her thoughts
were on a family vacation to Spain last summer."
"What about the guys at the bank?" Niall asks her.
She shakes her head. "The only one I could get a proper read on was stressing out over a midterm
paper he had due. It was weird."
"Maybe you're broken," Louis considers, reaching town to pat Cher's head. "I still maintain that
the problem isn't their minds, it's yours."
Cher turns around, smiling sweetly at him. "When I threaten to snap you in half, you realize that
I'm actually capable of doing it, right?"
On screen, the camera catches another glimpse of Liam and Zayn forgets all about the
conversation they were having before those two started bickering. But something in the back of
his mind keeps nagging at him anyways, even as he tunes them out and watches the news.


"Do you want anything?" Louis asks while pulling on one of his hoodies. He sniffs at the collar,
just to be sure, and deems it worthy to wear for another few days or so before he has to wash it
Niall looks up from the sofa. "Where're you going?"
"Coffee shop down the street."
It's about the normal time that he'd head to campus to have lunch with Zayn, but he's effectively
avoided campus for the last week or so, not that he has a choice. He needs to lay low until
Dimples forgets what he saw, and until then Louis is stuck spending his lunches alone.
He could always invite Niall instead of asking him if he wants something, but Niall doesn't leave
the building all that often. He's almost worse than Zayn, and that's saying something. But Niall's
always been like that; reclusive. It's different than with the rest of them because he knows that
Zayn avoids people because he's 'different' and Louis avoids people because they all fucking suck,
and Cher actively does the opposite, trying her hardest to fit in as best as she can and be normal,
while Niall is more content to stay at home, probably because home has all of his comforts. It's has
his TV, it has his evil laboratory in the basement, and it's got the rest of them, most of the time.
Sometimes he wonders if Niall gets annoyed with them, though. He never gets into fights with the
rest of them, and while Niall's younger than him and Zayn, he's easily more mature. He's like their
teacher, their mentor. When one of them has a problem, they go to Niall. He's their glue, is what
he is. Super glue. Sticky and strong. And Louis can admit that they often fight for his attention,
like deprived children whose father isn't around enough. Because Niall is just nice to be around,
in a way that Louis knows he himself isn't, and Zayn usually isn't because he's a moody shit, and
Cher isn't because she's a bitch most of the time. Niall doesn't get like that.
And Louis takes deep pride in being the clear favourite. Cher can pout all she wants, and Zayn
can steal Niall to play video games all the time, but Louis is definitely Niall's favourite; it's a
known fact.

"Donuts, maybe," Niall debates aloud. "If they don't have any of those chocolate glazed ones, get
me an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie. The giant ones, you know? Size of my face? One of those."
Louis rolls his eyes. "When you're thirty and your metabolism stops working on overdrive and
you can't see your feet, I'm going to say I told you so."
"And I'm gonna say 'Pass the mashed potatoes,'" Niall says without care. "When we get to that
point, we get there. Until then: giant cookie."
"Yeah, alright." Because maybe Niall's Louis' favourite, too.
He doesn't take the elevator, obviously. Instead he focuses, sees the lobby in his mind, the exact
spot he wants to go, and there's this tugging inside him, starting in the middle of his body, working
its way outwards. And when he opens his eyes again, barely any time has passed and he's in the
lobby of their building. It's probably a good thing Niall's hacked the security cameras here since
Louis does that about five times a day, and wouldn't poor old George, their security guy, have a fit
if he caught Louis teleporting on tape.
Louis smirks to himself as he pulls the hood of his sweater up over his head and tucks his
headphones into his ears. Music blasts through them the second he presses play on his iPod. The
song is already half over from when he'd paused it earlier, and he turns it up a little higher as the
music bleeds through the headphones, "If you want a taste then take a bite right out of me; I don't
give a fuck."
There's a long queue at the shop, unsurprisingly. That's what happens when you try to get coffee
at lunch. He should have come earlier.
When he gets to the counter, Louis tugs out his headphones and smirks at the barista. "The usual,
"My name's Carrie," the barista says flatly. "And you don't have a usual. You get something
different every time you come in here."
Louis waves a hand. "Surprise me, then. And one of your stupidly big oatmeal chocolate chip
cookies, too, thanks."
The girl behind the counter makes a face at him and turns to make his drink. It's just banter, of
course. He knows her name and she secretly loves him, which is why she'll give him a large of
whatever she makes but charge him for a medium.
As he's impatiently taping his foot on the ground, resting on the counter, braced on his elbows,
someone stumbles into the shop. His glasses are falling down his nose, and he's weighed down by
several boxes. Louis' debating the chances of him falling and making Louis' entire day (maybe not
his whole day, but some dork tripping and making a scene at the coffee shop would make his
afternoon, at least, and a nice story to coax a laugh out of Niall later) when the guy says, "Sorry,
sorry!" while sidestepping another customer. And their eyes meet for just a second before Louis'
heart plummets into his stomach.
He whirls as fast as he can, pulling his hood up higher. When Carrie turns to him, he gives her a
panicked look that he prays she interprets as "Get a move on!" If she does, she ignores it and
seems to move even slower, if possible.
When his drink is finally ready, he grabs it and the small paper bag with Niall's cookie and ducks
his head on the way out the door.

Louis groans, hand halfway to the door, ready to push it open. He wonders if he can pretend he
didn't hear it so he doesn't look like an asshole, but then he reminds himself that he doesn't care if
anyone thinks he's an asshole, so he continues out the door.
Only the entire front of the store is glass, and he can't help but turn to look inside just in time to see
Dimples reach for the door, probably trying to come after him. Except he's still got the boxes in his
hands, and apparently his long limbs are too big for him to control properly, because his foot
catches on the lip of the doorway and he stumbles.
It's not even conscious, just like the first time. One second he's taking a step forward, ready to
hurry away to avoid whatever might happen if he doesn't, and the next he's right in front of the
guy, grabbing the boxes as they tumble from his hands. They're lighter than he'd thought they'd
be, and he catches them easily before taking a quick look around, assuring that no one else
witnessed the fact that he'd moved from one place to another in the blink of an eye.
No one except Dimples had, apparently. He's gaping at Louis through his crooked glasses, eyes
practically bugging out of their sockets. He takes a hesitant step forward and the door to the coffee
shop swings shut behind him.
"Here," Louis says waspishly, shoving the boxes at the guy.
Dimples pushes his glasses properly onto his face first, and then he grabs the boxes with a slightly
dazed grin. "I didn't think I'd see you again," he says as he balances them in his arms. "I thought
Louis turns on the spot and starts away from him. He can hear the footsteps behind him, though,
and he wonders if he should risk teleporting back to the apartment to avoid this. But he can't, can
he? Because their city isn't all that small, and Louis can't just avoid campus for the rest of his life,
not when he gets bored and wants to visit Zayn at lunch. So he turns abruptly, realizing he's going
to have to just deal with this, and Dimples nearly runs into him.
"Leave me alone," Louis says sharply. "Okay?"
"But I just"
"No," Louis shoots down before he can finish. "I don't know you, you don't know me. Let's keep
it that way."
"But I have questions!" the guy says loudly. Louis starts walking again, and Dimples struggles to
keep up with him even as he rounds a random corner, heading nowhere near his apartment
because he doesn't want this guy to have any idea where he lives. "I promise I won't tell anyone!"
That's going to be an issue.
Louis stops again, eyes narrowed dangerously when they meet Dimples'. "Won't tell
anyone what?" he asks carefully.
Dimples almost looks afraid as his green eyes dart around them. Louis turned them onto a smaller
street. There's only cars and shops, no one walking around. They're virtually alone.
"About what you did," he whispers, once again struggling with the damn boxes. He shifts them
and gives Louis what is probably his most sincere look. "About the you know."
"I really don't," Louis says flatly. "I have no idea what you're talking about."

"Liar," Dimples says cheerfully. "You're just saying that because you can't tell people, right?
Because you're trying to hide it. But I saw you. You were in one place one second, and in another
the next."
"It's called walking. I don't know where you're from, but it's kind of a well-known concept here."
He frowns to himself. "And shouldn't you be in class or something?"
Nothing Louis says seems to be fazing this kid. He moves the boxes so they're both tucked
precariously under one arm, and he pulls a pen and notebook out from his back pocket, like that's
something people just casually carry around or something. What the fuck. "I have an internship on
Tuesdays," he says hurriedly. "I have to get back to work, but let me give you my number. I write
on the school newspaper, and I'd love to write an article on"
"You want to write an article on me?" Louis demands, standing up a little straighter. "What the
fuck do you think I am, a zoo exhibit?"
Finally Dimples looks taken back, sunny disposition cracking into something regretful. "N-no, of
course not!" he says quickly. "No! I just think that you're you're amazing, right? What you did,
I mean. That's that's crazy. People would die to read" His words cut off when Louis takes a
step closer to him.
With a frightening glare on his face, Louis puts his hand flat on top of the boxes and pushes until
they fall from Dimples' grip, hitting the sidewalk with a muffled thud. "If you know what's good
for you," Louis says lowly, "you'll forget whatever it is you think you saw. Got it?"
Dimples swallows thickly, but he says, firmly and unwavering, "I'm not afraid of you."
"Then you're dumber than you look," Louis tells him. "Which is kind of incredible, given the fact
that you're wearing a fucking sweater vest."
Surprisingly enough, Dimples has the audacity to ask, "What's wrong with my vest?"
"Oh my God," Louis groans, throwing up his hands. "Just leave me alone!"
"I will," Dimples insists. "I promise I will if you just answer a few questions. I won't even put it in
the paper, I promise. I just want to know."
Why is Louis still entertaining this? He should have ditched off a while ago, but he's still standing
here, boxes at his feet, arguing with a kid in a sweater vest. What is his life coming to? "Want to
know what, exactly?"
Quickly, probably so Louis can't stop him, Dimples scribbles something on the notepad and rips
out the page. He hands it to Louis and, for reasons unknown to him, Louis takes it. "I just want to
know how you do it."
"How I do it," Louis repeats. "How I do what?"
Dimples waves a hand. "The disappearing thing. The the teleporting thing."
Because he can't help himself, Louis smirks and steps even closer. He expects Dimples to stumble
backwards but he holds his ground, peering curiously down at Louis. "Like this," Louis says.
The last thing he sees before he goes is Dimples eyes widening, and then he's standing in his
apartment. He stumbles, off balance, and nearly drops his drink. His head feels light, as it always
does when he travels anywhere that isn't within five feet.

Niall is still on the sofa, and he looks up at Louis with his eyebrows raised. "I hope you did that
shit from the lobby," he says, "because if you're doing that in public again, Zayn's gonna kill you,
you know."
"Of course I didn't do it in public," Louis says breezily. He tosses Niall the paper bag with the
cookie. "Gosh, people could see if I did it in public, and we wouldn't want that, now would we?"
"No," Niall says slowly, eyebrows drawing together. "We wouldn't." But because he's Niall, the
suspicious look in his eyes slips away almost instantly. "Wanna watch Animal Planet with me?"
"Later," Louis says. "I'm going to take a nap."
Niall shrugs. "Okay, sure." He's already pulling out his cookie, breaking a piece off to shove in
his mouth.
Louis heads on to his room, locking the door behind himself. He digs into his pocket, pulling out
the paper that he'd stashed there just before he'd teleported.
Harry Styles, it reads, followed by a phone number. Louis crumples it up and goes to throw it in
the trash. He almost does it, too, so damn close, little ball of paper dangling from his fingers just
above the wastebasket. At the last second he smoothes it out and stuffs it in the bottom drawer of
his dresser.


"Can I borrow the car for a bit?" Zayn asks.

He and Niall are in his room, Niall on his bed, him on the floor. It's his typical spot. He's got a
carpet down, his room is always really clean, and his bed isn't exactly big enough for two. So
whenever someone comes in and sits with him, he's happier to sprawl out on the floor while they
take his bed.
Niall doesn't look away from the screen. He's putting up a good fight. Zayn is the self-proclaimed
Video Game Master, but Niall's a tech genius so they're pretty evenly matched, for the most part.
"For what?" he asks.
Zayn shrugs. "Just thought it might need an oil change or something," he says casually. "I won't
take it far, just to the garage next door. I just want an excuse to get out of the apartment for a bit."
Now Niall does look away from the screen. He grins knowingly down at Zayn, and Zayn has a
feeling Louis and him have been talking. Not that there's anything to talk about, really. "You
know I hate you guys using the car unless it's for a mission."
Niall always calls them missions, like they're secret agents or something instead of a ragtag group
of misfit superheroes. It makes them sound a lot more professional than they are, as if Louis hadn't
teleported right on top of Cher once, nearly letting a pair of criminals escape.
"Yeah, I know," Zayn admits. He figured Niall would say no.
Only, Niall shrugs at him and says, "Sure. Just be careful with her."
"Really?" Zayn grins. "I'll try not to crash into any walls."

"Not funny," Niall says, while he shoots Zayn's character perfectly in the head on screen. A deep,
loud voice says 'Headshot!' while Zayn respawns. "I'm still pissed about you melting the steering
wheel. Took me three hours to fix that shit."
He forgot about that. "Sorry," he says quickly. "I got upset with Louis and it just sort of
"It's cool," Niall says, waving him off. "I know how it is. Well, not really, because I'm not, you
know, like you. But I get it."
Louis is his best friend, hands down, without question. And Cher is like his step-sister (he's had
too many inappropriate thoughts about her to ever call her his actual sister). But Niall is like his
brother and best friend, all wrapped into one. When Zayn first met him, he was still freaking out
about everything, and he was still kind of disbelieving. But Niall had been so freaking normal and
calm. He wasn't bold and blunt, like Louis and Cher. He was easier to talk to. He explained
everything to Zayn while the others were gone, offered Zayn a beer, and Zayn was just
instantly comfortable around him. Because that's the kind of person he is. He's welcoming and
easy to talk to and easy to be around. It takes a lot to piss him off, and he doesn't hold a grudge.
He's more understanding than that.
"Thanks," Zayn says simply, because it's not like he can just go off and tell Niall how much he
means to Zayn. That's just not the type of person Zayn is, not that he loves them any of them any
"And while you're down there," Niall says with a grin, "maybe invite Liam for dinner."
Zayn nearly chokes on his own spit. He sucks in a harsh breath and drops his controller. "That's
that has nothing to do with why I'm going there," he denies as quickly as he can. "I just wanted
to get out of the house. And the car could use an oil change, right? How often do those thing even
need to be done? When was the last time the car was looked at properly? There could be a lot of
things wrong with it. I'm looking out for all of our safety."
Niall raises his eyebrows, looking more than a little amused. "You realize I practically built that
car myself, right? And if you let anyone touch it for more than an oil change, I'll strangle you in
your sleep."
"I'll keep that in mind," Zayn says seriously, because he has no doubt that Niall really would lose
his cool if something happened to the car.
They play video games for another hour almost, but Zayn's antsy the whole time. Niall starts
kicking his ass, and he knows it's because he's distracted. He sort of wants to bail on the game,
make up an excuse to get out of there, but he has no doubt that Niall will know exactly what he's
doing, so he doesn't. Instead he waits until Niall yawns and gets bored and tosses the controller
onto the bed with a simple, "I'm gonna go start dinner. You go have fun ogling Liam while he
Zayn doesn't even bother to pretend that's not what he's going to do. They both know it is, as sad
as that is. He's just hot, and there's also the fact that he'd kept Zayn's secret. Well, not Zayn's, since
he had no idea it was Zayn under the mask of his suit, but still. Zayn's curious about him. And he
hates not knowing things.
There's no excuse for him spending ten minutes getting dressed. He changes his shirt twice, fixes
his hair, and groans at himself in the mirror about a million times. It's not that he's that conscious
about how he looks, it's just that really, his looks are all he's got, and they're not that great. Not
enough to make up for the fact that he's socially incompetent.

Fuck. Maybe he won't even go. It's not like he has to. He could just tell Niall he's not doing it after
all and spend the rest of the day playing Skyrim. That sounds like a really fucking good plan,
But he doesn't. He pulls on his coat, pockets the keys to the car, and heads out of the apartment.
He's restless the whole ride down to the lobby, and he's wishing he brought a cigarette with him
when he steps outside.
He leaves the car in the lot, just in case Liam's not there. He'd feel really fucking stupid if he went
to the garage with the car and ended up paying for an oil change done by some guy who he's
never met before. But he's not exactly sure what to do. The garage has one of those sliding doors,
like an actual parking garage for a house, and they're usually wide open, revealing the interior of
the shop. Just like always, the sounds from inside are loud on the street, and Zayn stands on the
sidewalk for a moment, peering inside.
He feels like an idiot the entire walk up to the garage. What does he do? He's never had a car in
his life. He's never had to get one fixed. Does he just, like, walk in and ask for help? Or is there an
office or something? What does he do?
Walk back out, is what he decides. He steps one foot onto the cement covered interior of the shop
and turns on his heel, heading back to the apartment building.
"Hey, you need something?"
Shit. Zayn turns, eyes wide. The guy who called out to him is nothing like Liam. He's shorter,
scruffier, a potbelly sticking out a bit between his shirt and the waistband of his jeans. He raises
his eyebrows, looking a bit annoyed, and Zayn swallows.
"Um, is is Liam working today?" he gets out before he can bolt. Right now, he wishes he had
Louis' power.
The man gives Zayn one slightly haughty, suspicious look before shouting, "Payne! You got a
Zayn winces at the raised voice, and he's still considering running when Liam straightens up from
behind a car. He has a towel in his hands as he walks towards Zayn, wiping grease from his
fingers. He throws the towel over his shoulder, and Zayn thinks Liam may just get a repeat of the
show from the store, because he's feeling heated already. Liam's wearing another tank top today,
is the thing, only he's got this denim vest pulled over it, and he walks in this deliberate, slow way
that makes it impossible for Zayn to take his eyes off him.
"Hey," he says slowly, gaze flitting from Zayn to the other guy. "I've got it from here, Mark.
Thanks." The guy Mark nods and moves farther into the shop, leaving Zayn and Liam near
the entrance. "What's up?"
Zayn's mind fucking blanks. "I just um. You said something about a, uh, free oil change the
other day? Or something?" he stumbles out, wincing inwardly. The thing is, he's fully capable of
talking like an educated individual. Just not around Liam, apparently.
"Right." Liam grins at him. "Thought you didn't have a car."
"Technically," Zayn corrects. "It's sort of Niall's? I mean, we all share it, most of the time. So it's,
like, not mine, exactly. But it's my responsibility to get the oil done every month, so I figured I'd
take you up on your offer." The lie falls effortlessly from his lips, and he pray that none of his
roommates show up randomly and catch him on it.

"Cool," Liam says with a shrug. "I've got a break in about ten minutes. I can do it for you then, if
you want. Free of charge, like I said. Friends and family discount. Just bring it by."
"Okay." Zayn nods and slowly backs away. "I'll ten minutes. Yeah. I'll be back, then."
"I'll be waiting, Zayn," Liam says, grin widening.
Zayn nods again and turns abruptly. When he's far enough away, he wipes a hand over his
forehead. It's slick with sweat, and he's practically fucking drenched in it. His power keeps acting
up, and he has no doubt in his mind that it's Liam's fault, and that it's also only a matter of time
before he fucking combusts because Liam looks at him the right way.
Which is why he heads inside the building instead of getting in the car and waiting the ten
minutes. Instead of going to the apartment, though, he gets in the elevator and puts his key in the
little lock below the rows of buttons, turns it, and presses the button for the basement.
When Niall was seven, his dad passed away. It's not something they talk about a lot, since it's one
of the only sure-fire subjects to get Niall in a bad mood. But when he turned eighteen, Niall
inherited a shit ton of money. His parents were always loaded, and his dad left a percentage of his
money to Niall.
Niall is the reason any of them have a place to live. He pays for the apartment, and the rest of them
chip in with things like food and internet and hydro and shit. Zayn's tried offering him more
money, but Niall had showed him the numbers from his bank account once and Zayn stopped
feeling bad about it. There were so many commas he'd gotten light-headed.
The basement is a perk of that money. If Zayn's bedroom is his slice of heaven on Earth, Niall's is
the basement. He's got everything down there: computers, a station to work on his gadgets,
another station for them to work on their training. It spans out the entire bottom of the building,
and it's possibly the coolest thing Zayn's ever seen.
He doesn't take time to appreciate it right now, though. When the elevator stops he heads straight
for the training area. There's everything here for whatever your needs. There's the weight lifting
area, which they'd used once to see just how strong Cher really is. There're punching bags and
dolls for practicing combat. There's a rock-climbing wall, and a small, matted area for one-on-one
training. Zayn bypasses all of them, heading for a simple stretch of cement with nothing close to it,
and he lets go.
The temperature in the whole room rises from his body, he can feel it, and that only seems to make
him burn hotter, stronger. He lifts his arms, taking in the way the flames flick at his skin. It's a
glorious feeling, letting go for just a moment. Not worrying about hurting anyone or anything.
And, just because he can, Zayn tests it out. He'd already done training with Niall, but this is just
for fun.
He flicks his fingers in the direction of the wall, and a scorching fireball sears across it, leaving a
black mark in its wake. Zayn grins to himself and does it again, and again, until he's breathless and
his knees feel weak and his aim is almost perfect.
It's not conscious, when the flames start to die out. It's like he has an energy bar, and he's only
allowed so much before it fizzles out. When it does, he feels weak, close to collapsing, but he's
used to it. Whenever they train, he always pushes himself to that point. And right now it's good to,
since he's going to be heading back to Liam in minutes and it'll be a little easier when he can do so
without having to worry about turning into a human torch whenever Liam smiles at him or flexes
his stupid arms.

He gets the car to the garage a few minutes late. He's not sure what to do, if he parks it out front or
what, but Liam's waiting for him in the entrance. He waves Zayn in, and Zayn slowly follows his
orders until Liam pats the hood of the car once. He shuts it off, pulls out the keys and gets out.
"She's beautiful," Liam says when Zayn's shut the door of the car behind himself. He takes an
appreciative look at the vehicle, lip caught between his teeth. "You know how much this thing
"No," Zayn admits. All he sees is a nice, sleek black car. He doesn't know what it costs, the name
of the make. All he knows is it is expensive, and Niall will kill him if anything happens to it.
"It's a Koenigsegg," Liam says, like this is supposed to mean something. He gives Zayn a wide
eyed look. "This car costs about two mill, Zayn. I'm honestly afraid to touch it."
Zayn chokes. "Two are you serious? Who pays that kind of money for a car?" he blurts.
"Someone," Liam says, gently caressing the roof of a car like it's a delicate, precious thing, which
it apparently is, "who has really, really good taste in cars." Once again, he grins at Zayn. "I'll be
gentle with her, I promise."
"Um." Zayn's a little dazed, and he wonders if Liam would be the same way with his body.
"If you want to go get a coffee or something, or go home for a bit, it'll be done in about twenty
minutes. Or you could stay, but it's going to be pretty boring."
"I'll stay," Zayn says immediately. "I mean, um, just so Niall doesn't get anxiety. He's kind of
OCD about this thing."
"I bet."
Before Zayn can say anything, someone's coming up to them. And then another, and another,
until it's like every single person in the shop is examining the car with these wonderstruck looks
on their faces. Honestly, it's just a fucking car. Zayn really doesn't get it. But Liam's face is lit up,
too, so Zayn can't even get properly irritated about it as he lingers back, steering far away from the
group of people treating Niall's car like the second coming.
"You even qualified to touch this thing?" one of them asks Liam.
"It's just an oil change," Liam says with a shrug.
"Come on, Jackson," another guy says with a roll of his eyes. "I've been working here for twenty
years and this kid's more qualified than me or you and you know it."
Liam laughs the compliment off and pats the guy's back. "Thanks, but maybe I could actually get
this done before my break's over?" The crowd slowly dissembles, everyone going back to their
own jobs. When they're gone, Liam claps his hands together and turns to Zayn. "I could get you
something to sit on, if you like."
Zayn shakes his head. "No, I'm"
Liam is already walking away from him. He returns with a wooden stool that Zayn honestly
doesn't fully trust not to collapse under him. But Liam seems to have confidence in it, so Zayn
thanks him and gingerly sits while Liam starts to get to work on the car.
Zayn gets a full, drawn out explanation of what he's doing. Liam keeps up a running commentary

and Zayn's not sure if this is how he always works, of if he's trying to make Zayn feel more
comfortable over him touching the ridiculously expensive car. Or maybe he's trying to keep Zayn
from getting bored. Whatever it is, Liam tells him about certain tools, and the lifts that do just as
their name suggests, lifting cars high off the ground so they can work underneath them. And he
works while he does, getting underneath the car and everything.
"So," he says at one point, "you mentioned that it's your job to take the car to get an oil change
every month, right?" He peeks his head out from under the car and Zayn nods silently. "So, what,
you each have to take care of certain parts? So like, you do oil, someone else pays gas, someone
else makes sure the tires are good. Sort of like that?"
"Yeah," Zayn answers. Lies. His tongue feels sticky, words coming out thicker than he meant
them to. Liam does things to him, is the problem. "Yeah, that's the way it works, I guess."
"See," Liam ducks out from under the car, wiping his hands on his towel. He crosses his arms
over his chest and oh God, why? His arm muscles bulge obscenely, and it displays the four
blocky arrows on his forearm, tattooed in dark ink. Zayn's wondering if it's possible to burn
Liam's shirt right off his body without accidentally hurting the guy when Liam continues with,
"you don't actually need your oil changed every month."
Zayn blinks. "You don't?"
"No. Once every six months is recommended, usually."
Zayn's cheeks burn. It's not just an expression; they literally burn, and he has to focus on his
breathing to stay calm. "I I didn't know," he says quietly. "I know shit about cars."
Liam laughs, but it's not mean the way it could have been. "It's fine," he says. "My girlfriend used
to be the same way. Knew nothing about cars, and she never listened when I tried to explain
anything to her."
Girlfriend. Of course. "Right."
"Did need an oil change, though," Liam says. "So it was good that you brought it in, anyways."
"Right," Zayn repeats.
Liam goes back to work, and Zayn goes back to sitting in mortification and now jealousy.
Girlfriend. He's got a girlfriend. Fucking obviously, he thinks. Look at the guy, and he's nice, too.
It'd be against nature for him to be single, really. It still feels like a tiny hope inside of him was
crushed anyways. The first guy he's been interested in in years would be unavailable. Which is
actually a good thing, he realizes, because it's not like he can just date people. Dating makes things
complicated, since there's the whole 'superpowers' issue. How does he explain that to someone?
And how does he trust someone enough to want to?
When he's done, Zayn pulls his wallet out and asks Liam how much, but Liam shakes his head.
"Free of charge, I already told you."
"Seriously," Liam says firmly. "I'm not taking your money."
"Alright." Zayn puts his wallet away. "Thanks, then."
"No problem," Liam says, easy and genuine. "You're good company."

"I am?"
Liam chuckles. "Yes. I'll see you later, Zayn. And just so you know, you don't need an excuse to
come by. I'm here Tuesday to Saturday. My breaks aren't really scheduled, so as long as we're not
swamped I'm usually free to take a bit of time off."
Is he, like, telling Zayn he can come over and hang out whenever he wants? That he wants that?
"Um, I'll keep that in mind," Zayn mumbles as he gets in the car. "Thanks again."
Liam waves him off, and Zayn pulls away. When he parks the car in the lot of his building, he
shuts it down, pulls out the key, and bangs his head against the steering wheel. The horn honks,
and he jerks back in surprise.
He has no idea what he expected, he thinks as he heads to the apartment, but he feels like he
definitely didn't get it. And he feels like an idiot, first for lying and Liam catching him on it, and
also for assuming that there was even a slight chance of but nope, he's got a girlfriend. Which
isn't even surprising but it is disappointing.


"Wake up. You sleep like the fucking dead. What'd you do, drink an entire bottle of Nyquil?"
Zayn jerks awake, alarmed, which is not a good thing. In the darkness of his room, all light
blocked from the window, only the hallway light bleeding in through the cracks in his door frame,
he can see the sleeve of Louis's shirt. And the fact that it's burning. Louis screams.
Zayn screams in reaction, his sleep muddled brain too confused to do anything else, and Cher's
echoing scream sounds from across the hall, followed by Niall's shouted, "It's midnight! Go to
Zayn can only kind of make out Louis flailing in the dark, trying to put out the fire. The smell of
burning cloth clogs his nostrils, and his heart pounds in his chest just as the fire dies out.
"God fucking damn it, you son of a You lit me on fire!" Louis shouts.
Zayn tries to feel bad about that. Maybe he's too tired, or maybe it's because it's Louis, but he
really doesn't. "Go away," he mumbles, reaching around for his pillow. He finds it, covers his
face, and prays Louis listens to him.
His bedroom light comes on, though, of course. He's never lucky. "Get up," Louis hisses. "Now
you have to. You lit me on fire and now you owe me."
Zayn groans into the pillow. No one should ever have to live with Louis. Sure, he's lovable
sometimes. Sure, he gives the best hugs. Sure, he's a great friend when you really need him. But
the guy is batshit insane. "I owe you shit," Zayn mutters, words obscured by the pillow. "Now go
The pillow is tugged away from him, and Zayn reaches blindly for it, not opening his eyes
because he knows the light will be so bright. He whimpers pathetically. He didn't get much sleep
last night, and he'd had to get up early for class. He just wants to sleep.

"I know," Louis says, barely sympathetic but there is a twinge of pity in his voice. "I wouldn't ask
you for this if it weren't important, but it is."
Zayn gives up and opens his eyes. "What's important?"
"We need to break into someone's apartment," Louis admits, all casual, like this is a sane
"Batshit," Zayn says out loud this time.
"Admittedly, yes," Louis says. "But seriously. This is important. It's that guy, remember? Harry?
The one who I teleported in front of? I saw him again the other day, and I did it again. I know, I
know, I'm an idiot. But he's a journalism major, Zayn. He writes for your school paper. He
even said he wants to do an article on me. We have to make sure he hasn't already written
Zayn seriously debates lighting him on fire again, but then Louis' words really, fully sink in, and
he frowns. "Wait, Harry?" he asks. "Harry Styles? The, uh, one with the glasses and the hair and
"Sweater vests!" Louis says excitedly. "That's him!"
Zayn knows him. Or, Zayn knows of him. He's seen Harry around campus a few times, and
they've had two classes together. Where Zayn spends all his free time in the library, Harry spends
his in the newspaper room. He writes a column every week, and Zayn sometimes makes a point to
read it because it's usually interesting, well written, and occasionally funny, in a dry sort of way
(Zayn's favourite). "What about him?" he wonders.
"Jesus, you really are useless when you're half asleep," Louis comments. "I told you. He's the one
who I teleported in front of, and once again, we need to break into his apartment to make sure that
he hasn't written anything about me."
"And what do you suggest we do if he has?" Zayn demands.
Louis shrug. "We'll destroy it."
"And he'll write it again."
"Then we'll threaten him."
"He knows what you look like, remember? He could call the police."
Louis sighs. He tugs a hand through his hair, eyebrows knitting together, lips pursing as he thinks.
"We'll offer him money to keep his mouth shut, then," Louis decides. "Bribery. It's foolproof."
"What if we get caught?" Zayn rationalizes, and wait, why is he even considering this? He's
not. He's not considering this. It's fucking crazy, and stupid, and he's not helping Louis this time.
Louis is on his own.
"That's why we wear our suits," Louis says, like he's already thought this all through. "And if he
catches us, we run and he'll think we were just, like, robbers or something."
"Oh my God," Zayn groans. "No, Louis. We're not breaking into some poor kid's apartment."
"Fine," Louis snaps. "Then I won't tell you what Liam said to me today when I stopped by the
shop for a chat."

Zayn looks up at him so sharply he thinks he might have given himself whiplash. He hasn't
spoken to Liam in three days. Not that they spoke at all before that, really, but Zayn never
purposefully avoided the shop. Never went so far out of his way to not walk past it that he's
actually had to get up twenty minutes earlier to take a new route to school. He just feels so dumb
after that whole incident with the oil change and the girlfriend mentioning and the fact that he can't
even form coherent sentences in Liam's presence that he figured it'd be best to not give them the
opportunity to speak to each other ever again.
But Liam said something about him to Louis, so maybe he's not as adverse to future interactions as
Zayn is.
"Tell me," Zayn orders.
"Break into Harry's apartment with me," Louis counters.
Zayn bites his lip. He can't. It's not worth it. It's morally wrong, for one; abusing their powers, for
another; enabling a psycho; being an accomplice to a crime. It's just an overall really horrible idea,
and finding out what Liam said about him in no way outweighs those cons. He's so not doing it.
No way.


"Did you tell Niall we took the car?" he asks while pulling on the mask part of his suit. It covers
almost all of his face, except his eyes. The material changes over his nose and mouth, becoming
more flimsy and easier to breathe through, though it looks exactly the same if you don't get too
close. His suit is pure black everywhere, where Cher's is pink and white, and Louis' is dark blue
with a red belt to match.
Really, they're sort of badass, the suits. He can't even deny that. Or maybe he's biased, having
grown up reading comics and possibly secretly fantasizing about being a superhero one day.
They're kind of uncomfortable, though. They don't leave a lot to the imagination, and Niall is
always experimenting with them, adding new features. Like changing the material so it's virtually
bullet proof (they haven't exactly tested that, though, so it could very well be only semi-bullet
proof), adding the belts with the grappling hook and the really cool smoke screen that, again,
they've never tested but sounds pretty awesome. But with experimentation comes accidents, and
the suits don't always work as well in reality as they do in theory.
"No," Louis admits. "He knows now, though. You know he's got an alarm hooked up in his room
that goes off any time someone gets within five feet of this thing, right?"
"I do now."
Streetlamps flit by, the car barely making any sound as they speed through the streets. Zayn stares
out the window, sighing every few minutes, and Louis tries his best to make conversation. Zayn
completely ignores him.
"I get the feeling that you're upset with me," Louis eventually says. "Is that right? You're upset
with me?"
Zayn snorts. "You're blackmailing me into breaking into one of my classmate's apartments in the
middle of the night. Why would I be mad?"

"You're weak, Zayn," Louis scoffs. "Real friendship is willing to risk going to jail for each other."
"I really don't think that's true."
"Weak," Louis repeats.
"Shut up and drive, Louis."
Harry lives on the opposite side of the university. It's not the longest drive, but it feels like forever.
All Zayn wants to get this over with and hopefully get back to bed as soon as possible. A bed
that's not in a prison cell, preferably, but he's not convinced that he's going to get that luxury. He's
always had an inkling that Louis would get him arrested one day.
"Do we have a plan?" Zayn asks, as Louis parks a few places down from Harry's building. There
are other buildings around it, as well as townhouses that are rented out exclusively to students who
want to live off campus. "Or are we just going to pick the lock on his door and pray he doesn't
hear us?"
"The second one."
"I had a feeling."
Louis pulls on his own mask. "Ready?"
"Not really." But he undoes his seatbelt anyways.
Louis is out the door first. Zayn follows behind him, feeling ridiculously conspicuous, and Louis
just strides through the front door of Harry's apartment building, pushing it wide enough that it
doesn't hit Zayn on the way shut as he hurries through it.
Harry's apartment is on the third floor. He doesn't have to ask to know that Louis somehow
convinced Niall to figure out his address. Niall probably hadn't even questioned it, since he enjoys
having something to do.
(Once, Niall admitted to Zayn that he feels useless compared to the rest of them. Zayn had hugged
him and told him that wasn't true, because it isn't. Niall is the most integral part of their group. He's
their brains, their intel, but more than that, he's their glue. He's what brought them together. He's
what stops Louis and Cher from killing each other on a daily basis. He's what stops Zayn from
going insane. He's so, extremely important.)
"Okay," Louis whispers when they're outside Harry's door, "new idea. You wait here."
Zayn opens his mouth but Louis is already gone. A second later there's a clicking sound and the
door is opened, revealing Louis grinning at him from the other side of the threshold. "That was
pretty smart," Zayn admits, careful to keep his voice as quiet as he can.
He hurries into the apartment, and Louis shuts the door as gently as he can. Zayn still hears it click
into place, and he prays that Harry's either not here or a really deep sleeper, as he presses the
button on his watch that turns on the built in flashlight.
Harry's apartment is incredibly small. There's a kitchen, a miniscule living room, and two doors
off it. No hallway. Zayn surveys the area, finding a desk jammed in the corner. They both make a
beeline for it, and Louis doesn't hesitate before flipping through the papers littered over the top.
Zayn goes through the drawers, thinking they'll get out of here faster if he helps, even if he feels
icky going through someone's stuff without their permission.

"Nothing," Louis hisses. "All I can find is something on recycling and articles on sleep
deprivation in university students, and work for his internship."
Zayn finds much of the same. Saved newspaper clippings, paper work, the occasional rough draft
of an old article that Zayn remembers reading in the school paper. Nothing about Louis, or people
teleporting, or superpowers or anything that could be possibly incriminating to any of them.
"A lot of this stuff is typed out," Zayn says slowly. "I don't see a computer or a printer, but there's
no way he doesn't have one of both."
Louis nods. "I was thinking the same thing," he whispers. "You wait here."
"Don't you dare," Zayn hisses. He knows what Louis' planning. "Louis don't you"
"Calm your tits," Louis snaps. "I'll be fine. And if I'm not, I'll create a distraction so you can get
away and I'll figure something out for myself."
Zayn still thinks it's a bad idea, goes to say so, too, but Louis' already moving. He bangs into the
fucking sofa, like an idiot, and groans and curses in pain before he seems to realize that they're
breaking into someone's fucking apartment and he needs to shut up. Zayn freezes, and he sees
Louis freeze, and they both stand like that for a moment. Distantly, Zayn can hear someone
snoring softly. Thank the fucking heavens.
Instead of taking that as a sign that he shouldn't, Louis continues forward. Zayn watches, bottom
lip caught between his teeth, as he pulls open the first door. It's just the bathroom. He wants to
laugh but he holds it in as Louis opens the next door and slips inside.
It's the most nerve wracking two minutes of Zayn's entire life. He keeps waiting for it, waiting for
Harry's shout of alarm, threats to call the police, anything. Instead he gets silence until finally
Louis comes out of the room carrying a laptop in his arms.
"More paperwork in there," he explains in a rush, placing the laptop on the desk. "This guy is a
fucking neat freak. He's got all his socks organized by colour, and he owns about six sweater
vests. I should steal them. I'd be doing him a personal service."
"You went through his dresser?" Zayn demands. "Louis"
"It was necessary," Louis says flippantly, while opening the laptop.
Surprisingly enough, there's no password to get onto it. It opens instantly to an internet page that
Harry must have left open, some news site. There's also a Facebook tab open, and a stream for a
movie, as well as a Youtube tab. Louis minimizes the internet and says, "Now what?"
"How should I know?" Zayn asks.
"I don't know, you always think your ideas are better than mine, so come up with one."
He doesn't want to. He's already done enough in this to feel guilty for weeks. But once again, the
faster they get this over with the better. So he pushes Louis out of the way and searches through
Harry's documents. They're all neatly labeled, easy to sort through. Campus Animal Ban Article
21. 4. 2013. Summary and date included right in the filename.
Zayn reads them all over, finds nothing they need to worry about, and closes the documents,
bringing the internet tab back up so it looks like they never went through it. "We're good," he says
as he closes the laptop. "Nothing about you."

Louis almost looks offended. "Huh."

"Go put this back," Zayn urges. "Let's get out of here."
Louis nods. This time he takes a fraction of the time in Harry's room, and then he's shutting the
door behind himself, bumping into Harry's sofa again, and Zayn's rolling his eyes as he heads for
the door. Just as he curls his hands around the knob, he hears, "Is someone there?"
"Oh, fuck," Louis says. And then, because he's the biggest asshole on the planet, he disappears.
Zayn's heart drops into his stomach and he hurries to get the door open. He's just stepping into the
hall when Harry's bedroom door opens, and he meets Harry's eyes for only a second. Harry's
struggling to put his glasses on, and he's wearing nothing but a loose, worn pair of pajamas. His
hair is a fluffy mess all around his head, and he looks mildly alarmed and extremely confused.
Zayn slams the door shut and runs.
Louis has the car running and waiting for him, and Zayn falls into the passenger seat, barely all his
limbs inside before he's pulling the door closed and Louis' speeding away.
"You fucking left me!" he shouts when they're far enough away from Harry's building that he can
breathe again.
"I was getting the getaway car ready," Louis protests. "If you hadn't come out, I would have gone
back in to make sure you were okay."
"Would you of?" Zayn asks. "Would you really?"
"Yes," Louis promises. And Zayn believes him instantly. "You know I would. I'd never let you
take the fall for something that was my idea."
Zayn looks out the tinted window, a sigh passing his lips. "I know. But no more breaking into
anyone's apartment ever, under any circumstances."
Zayn's adrenaline is still pumping as they drive. He rolls down his window to let the cool air
soothe his warm skin, and he's grateful for the fact that the suit is thin. It lets the air pass through
the material easily, making him feel worlds better.
He's not really paying attention to anything out the window, just leaning heavily out it to get more
of that cool air, but when they pass by an alley and he hears shouts, and the sound of skin hitting
skin, he tenses. "Go back," Zayn says, trying to see behind him. "Louis"
Louis obeys, doing a dangerous u-turn without slowing down, and then they're speeding past the
alleyway again. Zayn peers closely, sees a group of what looks like three or four guys ganging up
on one lone figure. And maybe he's imaging things, but he knows that he's not.
"Stop the car," Zayn orders.
"What? Are you?"
"Stop the car," Zayn repeats, louder, more forceful. "Don't follow me."
"Why?" Louis demands. "Why can't I?"
"Because that was Liam." He's already pushing open his door. "He'll recognize the car. He knows

this is Niall's car. Just go. I'll handle it."

"I'll handle it."
Louis doesn't look at all happy about it, but he speeds off as soon as Zayn's pushed his door
closed. He doesn't turn to see which direction Louis goes in, too busy sprinting towards the
alleyway. The closer he gets, the louder the sounds coming from within. There's a low laugh that
makes his skin crawl, and someone says something before he hears the sound of someone getting
hit. Someone getting hit hard.
Panic sets in, and he expects to find Liam on the ground, surrounded by a group of guys. When he
rounds the corner, he instead finds one guy unconscious on the ground and Liam wrestling with
the other two, holding his own fairly well.
Zayn's not exactly sure what to do. Yelling stop seems cheesy, telling them to get off Liam seems
dumb. And then someone pulls out a knife. It's always knives and guns, isn't it? Fucking hell.
That was the wrong thing to do, though, because Liam turns to him and the guy with the knife
lunges, and the next thing Zayn knows the guy is lit up like a fucking candle. He shrieks, knife
clattering from his fingers, and his partner takes one look at him, then at Zayn, and he bolts. The
one on the ground seems to come to, and he scrambles backwards, too, trying to get to his feet.
Zayn has to focus on stopping the fire, which is the only reason he lets the other two run. He was
trying to protect Liam, not give some guy third degree burns.
The fire slowly dims and dissipates, and the third guy looks between him and Liam before
running. Again, Zayn lets him go. He's too focused on moving down the alley, heading straight
for Liam. There's blood trickling from his nose, there's a bruise already forming on his cheek, and
he's panting, staring at Zayn with his mouth hanging open, illuminated by the streetlight not far
behind them.
"You set him on fire," Liam says, sounding dazed. His words are thick and Zayn's not sure if he's
angry, or awed like he was in the store.
"He had a knife," Zayn says, weakly defensive. "I"
"Where did you come from?" Liam demands.
Zayn has to resist bringing his hand up to touch Liam's cheek, make sure he's really okay. He
keeps his hands planted firmly at his sides. "I was out, heard fighting, thought I'd come
Liam nods, eyes falling to the knife on the ground. It's a switchblade, the actual blade not that
long. It looks sharp, though, reflecting the light of the moon and the streetlamps. Lethal. Liam
seems to get this, too, because his shoulders slump and he lets out an almost whimpered, "Fuck,
they could have killed me."
Zayn doesn't want to think about it. They could have, is the thing. Easily. If Louis hadn't dragged
Zayn out tonight; if they hadn't been driving by at the right time; if Zayn's window was up and he
had been talking with Louis, too distracted to notice; if he had been another minute late, Liam
could very well be dead, or at least extremely wounded. "But you're okay," Zayn points out.
"Right? You're fine?"

Slowly, Liam nods. "Yeah," he says, a little breathless. "Because of you."

Zayn almost denies it, goes to brush it off or stammer out a thank you. But he's not Zayn right
now, is he? He doesn't have to worry about embarrassing himself or looking like an ass. With a
mask on, you hide who you really are. You can be whoever you want to be. And Zayn wants to
be someone who can talk to Liam easily, who doesn't stumble over his words or flush red when
he says the wrong thing.
"I'm starting to think you have a knack for being in the wrong place at the wrong time," Zayn
teases. "I think this is the second time I've saved your ass, Liam."
"It's not my fault," Liam protests. "I was heading home from a friend's house, and there was this
group of guys harassing this poor girl and I couldn't not interfere. She was practically running
from them, and they followed her so I got between them. And then they kind of, uh, dragged me
in here and tried to kick my ass for it. Until you showed up."
Zayn's chest gets all tight. Fuck, he really is just a good guy, isn't he?
"Wait," Liam says slowly, before Zayn can think of a reply. "You said my name. Twice. I never
told you my name."
Zayn goes cold for what feels like the first time in years. Shit. Normally he'd blurt out the first
excuse he could think of, tell a horrible lie that he'd likely get caught on. Instead, he leans against
the wall of the alley and lifts his hand. He may be showing off, just a bit, when the flames appear
at the tips of his fingers even through his gloves. He waggles them casually and grins, even if
Liam can't see it. "That's really what you're focusing on?"
Liam wipes the blood dribbling down his chin. "Fair enough," he says. "I should probably go,
though. I need to get cleaned up."
Zayn examines him again. While Liam is okay, he thinks, in the sense that he's not, like, dying of
a stab wound or anything, he doesn't look alright. He's a little wobbly on his feet, and that mark on
his cheek seems to get worse every time Zayn looks. His nose is still steadily trickling blood, even
as he wipes at it, and there is no way in hell Zayn's letting him go anywhere alone.
"Where do you live?" he asks. "I'll walk you home."
Liam crosses his arms over his chest. Zayn bites down on his tongue. That should be fucking
illegal, what with the blood and the scrapes Zayn can now see on his knuckles, as well as the
denim vest and the tattoos on his arms. He looks dangerous, Zayn thinks. He says, "I'm fine to
walk by myself," and Zayn knows that he is, for the most part. He definitely looks it, at least.
"I didn't ask if you could," Zayn says anyways. "I'm walking you home."
Liam goes to bite his lip, and he ends up wincing in pain. "Okay," he relents. "It's not far from
here. Just a block or two." He starts down the alley, Zayn following, and he gives Zayn a
sideways look. "Are you serious with this whole thing?"
"What whole thing?" They turn and head in the opposite direction of Harry's building, and Zayn's
grateful. He was hoping he wouldn't have to pass it.
Liam snorts a laugh. "The whole 'superhero' thing. I mean, first you show up at the store when
someone's holding it up, and then you appear out of nowhere right when I really needed help. Not
to mention what you're wearing, and the whole fire thing, or whatever."

"Fire thing," Zayn repeats. "Does that freak you out?"

It takes Liam a moment to answer. There's nothing but the sounds of their feet on the pavement
and the occasional car driving in the distance. "Not as much as it should," he eventually says. "I'm
still not convinced any of this is real, though."
"It's real," Zayn says.
Liam's hand brushes his own, and his fingers slip around Zayn's wrist for just a second before
releasing him. "Yeah, I guess it is." He grins, looking up at the sky. "Fuck, I should probably be
freaking out about this, right? But mostly it's just sort of the coolest thing to ever happen to me."
"You think it's cool?" Zayn asks, surprised.
In all his life, Zayn has only told a total of five people what he can do. One was his mother. She'd
adamantly denied it when he showed her, called him crazy, took away his comics for months
because she thought they were a bad influence. And then there was his friend, Jake, who'd run
away from him, terrified. After that, he'd avoided Zayn at all costs, no longer sitting with him at
school, pretending he didn't know him when they passed each other in the hallway. He's the
reason no one was friends with Zayn for about four years. Everyone avoided him because Jake
told them he was insane, dangerous, a freak, even if he never told anyone why. And then there's
Louis, Niall, and Cher, but they don't really count.
All in all, Zayn's track record with showing normal people his powers is not good, and he always
figured everyone would react the way his mum and Jake had. Either they'd deny it, pretend they
hadn't seen it, or they'd treat him like a freak. He never thought he'd hear anyone call it cool.
"It'd be cooler if you took off the mask, though," Liam adds.
"Not happening."
"Didn't think so," Liam sighs. "Still cool, regardless."
They walk in silence after that. It's a bit chilly, the late September air, but Liam seems completely
comfortable in his sleeveless shirt and Zayn doesn't really get cold. It's honestly the most relaxing
thing Zayn's done in years, with no one else on the street but them, and Liam's warmth and
presence beside him. He never wants it to end.
Which is probably why it does, almost seconds after he thinks that. They're in front of another
apartment building, this one shorter than Harry's, a little nicer. The front windows are all glass,
and he can see into the lobby. It's nice. Clean. "This is me," Liam says, sounding a bit regretful.
Or maybe that's just Zayn projecting his hopes.
"See you around, Liam," Zayn says, already backing away.
"Wait." Liam reaches for him, but his hand falls a little short and he seems to decide the better of
it, letting it fall back to his side. "Do you want to come in for a bit?"
Zayn's heart races, but he sounds fairly calm and unaffected when he says, "Probably should,
what with your magnetism for danger. Who knows, someone could be hiding in your closet.
Might need me to save you again."
Liam rolls his eyes. "I told you, I can take care of myself," he says while he tugs open the door.
"But the company would be nice. Just try to be quiet. I don't want one of my neighbors to wake
up and see us in the hallway and ask questions."

Liam leads Zayn down the stairs instead of up them. His apartment is in bottom left corner, and it
sort of bothers Zayn a bit. Basement apartments aren't all that safe, are they? It'd be so easy to
break in.
When Liam unlocks the door, Zayn's a little surprised. It's nice. It's big. The kitchen is separated
from the living room by a wall with a small window with a ledge, the floor is all hard wood, and
the windows are high up, touching the ceiling and looking out onto the street, each of them
covered in thick metal bars probably made to prevent break ins(which makes him relax, just a
"Are you seriously going to keep that thing on the whole time?" Liam asks as he kicks off his
shoes, interrupting Zayn's surveillance as he gestures at Zayn's suit.
"Yep," he says, because he is. Because he has to, for two reasons: one, if he reveals himself, it
wouldn't be that hard to put the pieces together and place Louis and Cher as the two suited figures
who work with him, and he can't do that. It'd be spilling their secret as much as his, and he has no
right to. And then there's the fact that he's finding it a million times easier to talk to Liam like this,
when he's hiding who he is, when he feels more confident than nervous. He's not ready to give
that up just yet.
"Suit yourself," Liam says with a shrug. He's taking it all fairly well, Zayn thinks. Better than he
would in Liam's position. "You can sit, if you want. I'm going to go clean up my face."
Zayn nods. He feels a little odd being left in Liam's living room while Liam ducks down the
hallway. He heads for the sofa anyways, wondering what the fuck he's doing. Is this really
happening? Is he seriously sitting on Mechanic Liam's sofa in the middle of the night in his
fucking stupid nylon/plastic suit, after rescuing him from a fight in an alleyway?
Liam's sofa is comfortable, even if it's a bit old and worn. There's a TV across from it, something a
little dated, not like the flat screen they have at home or the one in his bedroom. There's shelving
all along the walls, too. There're books (most of them have to do with cars, he thinks, judging by
the covers he can see) as well as a few model cars and airplanes. There are superhero figurines,
too, three of them: The Hulk, Iron Man, and Captain America sit on the same shelf as his small
collection of DVDs. It makes Zayn smile.
Until he hears a hiss of pain. Normally, Zayn would ignore it in this type of situation, would stay
planted awkwardly on Liam's sofa until Liam came back. But he finds himself getting up, doing
the exact opposite of what he usually would. Slowly, cautiously, a little worried that Liam's going
to snap on him and kick him out, he steps into the hallway.
The bathroom is on the right side, the door wide open. He can see Liam easily in the bright light,
wincing as he tilts his head and moves his hands through his hair, like he's searching for
something. There's a small, open first aid kit on the sink, balancing precariously on the edge, and
Liam nearly knocks it over when he meets Zayn's eyes in the mirror.
"What is it?" Zayn asks.
Liam winces at him, still feeling around the back of his head. "Before you showed up," he
explains, "they pushed me against the wall. My head hit it pretty hard. I can feel the blood, but I
can't see the wound. It's too far back."
Normally Niall's the one who helps them if any one of them gets hurt. He's the one who knows
what he's doing with medical supplies (to an extent; Niall's knowledgeable in most things to an

extent though), but Zayn's watched him a fair amount of times. Which is why he jerks his head in
the direction of Liam's toilet and orders, "Sit. I'll do it."
He hasn't earned Liam's trust. Sure, he hasn't given Liam any reason not to trust him, but he hasn't
given Liam a lot of reasons to trust him, what with the fact that Liam doesn't even know what he
looks like, or his name (technically, Zayn reminds himself). But Liam sits on the toilet without
hesitation, without question, blindly listening to what Zayn tells him to do.
He tugs off the gloves of his suit instead of thinking about that, and lays them on the sink next to
the first aid kit. Then, before he can stop himself, he cups the back of Liam's neck and places a
finger under his chin, tilting his head to the side.
Instantly Zayn can see what Liam was talking about. How he hadn't noticed it earlier, he has no
idea. Why Liam hadn't mentioned it earlier he also doesn't know, because it looks fairly bad. Bad
enough that it makes him nauseas.
At the back of Liam's head, just where his hair starts to get longer and thicker, as opposed to the
short sides and back, there's blood. A lot of blood. It's matted down the longer bits of his hair, and
it's so dark that Zayn can't really tell where the wound is.
"I need a towel or cloth," Zayn says calmly. His voice should shake, but somehow he stops it
from doing that.
"Under the sink," Liam instructs. Zayn pulls open the cupboard and finds extra rolls of toilet
paper, soaps, and a few neatly folded hand cloths. While he wets one, Liam says softly, eyes
closed, "Hurts. Just a little."
"You should have mentioned it earlier," Zayn tells him. He sounds kind of annoyed but that's only
because he's worried. He wrings out the towel until it's just a little damp, and turns back to Liam.
"This is going to make it worse, for a bit. Let me know if I'm too rough, okay?"
Liam smirks at him for a moment, and Zayn refuses to think too hard on that. "Okay."
Zayn carefully cleans the wound. The hand cloth goes from a pale, baby blue to an alarming
reddish brown colour. Liam squeezes his eyes closed the whole time, and at one point he bites
down on the palm of his hand but Zayn still hears the tiny sound he makes, still pauses in his
movements until Liam opens his eyes and glares at him for it, as if to say 'I am fine, keep going.'
The wound itself isn't all that big, thankfully. It's just a surface wound, really, ragged and raw
flesh about the size of a coin, probably from scraping against the brick. At least he doesn't have to
rush Liam to the hospital, because he was seriously considering doing just that when he'd first
taken in all the blood.
"'s not too bad," Zayn tells him. "Going to be really sore for days though, I think." He reaches for
one of the antiseptic wipes in the first aid kit. "This might hurt," he warns. He'd been very gentle
with the cloth, trying to touch the wound as little as he could, but now that he's cleaning it he has
no choice. "Just so you're prepared."
Liam sucks in a breath. "Just get it over with."
Zayn rips open the little package for the wipe, and he goes back to carefully cleaning the wound.
Liam winces more, but he stays completely still and silent until Zayn's done. He tosses the
wrapper and wipe in the small garbage can tucked between the sink and the toilet before patting
Liam's shoulder. "We're done," he says. "It's not bleeding anymore that I can see, and you don't
really have any bandages that I can put over it."

He goes to step back as Liam stands up, but Liam grabs his hand before he can. Zayn freezes,
eyes wide as Liam's thumb brushes over the back of his hand, which he's certain feels burning hot
right now. All of him feels too hot, actually, from the way Liam's gently touching him to the soft
look in his eyes and the way his teeth bite down on his plump bottom lip.
"Thank you," Liam says, quiet and pointed, like he's trying to put as much into those two words
as he can. "I don't like being the damsel in distress," he says, "but if you're going to make a habit
of saving me every time that I am, I might not mind it as much."
Zayn can't help but grin at him. "Good thing I don't mind rescuing you, then, because you've got a
habit of being at the wrong place at the wrong time."
"Feels like I'm in the right place right now, though," Liam tells him, stepping even closer. He
reaches up, hands reaching for Zayn's neck. He feels around for a moment, and Zayn sucks in a
harsh breath. He should stop Liam right now, he knows. He's seconds away from being unmasked
and he can't have that, he really can't, but he can't stop Liam either. "Just your mouth," Liam
pleads. "Help me out here."
Oh. Right. Zayn nods rapidly, reaching up with trembling fingers. He's careful as he rolls his mask
up, keeping most of his face covered but the bottom half unclothed. It's easier to breathe like this,
or it is until Liam reaches up, thumb pressing at his bottom lip, and once again Zayn finds himself
unable to think in Liam's presence. The man is going to kill him, he really is.
"I was really into superheroes, growing up," Liam informs him, taking that final step forward, no
more space between their bodies. One of Liam's legs fits easily between his, and Zayn has to grip
the counter hard to avoid tumbling backwards. "I always pictured myself as the Peter Parker in
this kind of situation, but I guess being Mary Jane isn't so bad."
Under any other circumstances, Zayn would snort at that analogy. But Liam's leaning in,
separating those last inches between their mouths, and every single thought he's ever had
disappears as Liam's lips brush his own.
It's the softest kiss Zayn's ever had, not that he has a lot of experience with this type of thing. A
few drunken hook-ups, only confident enough to approach someone after he's drunken his weight
in alcohol. Rough, forceful kisses from Alexandria Corbin behind the bleachers when he was
fourteen, and then there was Luke from his Chemistry class who lost interest in him after he
realized Zayn was such a freak.
Liam doesn't kiss him like any of those people. He kisses Zayn likes he's breakable, and that's so
ironic in Zayn's mind because Liam's the one who was bleeding from several places just minutes
ago. He kisses like he's afraid Zayn's going to pull away from him at any second and run off, as if
that's something that would actually happen.
Zayn doesn't. He grabs Liam's hips, gentle in case he's been hurt there, too, pulling him ever
closer. He tilts his head, breaking the kiss only to capture Liam's lips once more almost instantly,
trying to coax them open, get more, more, more. He wants more. Needs more. It's a burning desire
that sets everything in him on fire, and
Not just in him, apparently. Liam pulls back, a grin tugging at his lips as he says, fairly calmly,
"The towel's on fire."
That stupid hand cloth, the one Zayn had left on the edge of the sink when he was done with it
burns and smokes up the bathroom. Zayn yelps, instantly reaching for the tap. He drops the towel
in, wincing at the hiss of steam as the water puts out the fire, and he's so fucking embarrassed.

"Oh my god," Zayn groans. "Shit, I didn't mean to, Liam. Fuck, I"
Liam grins at him, silencing him immediately. He reaches out, folding Zayn's face mask back
down again. "It's fine," he says.
"Right." Zayn nods, cheeks still burning, grateful that the mask covers that.
He steps backwards, out of the bathroom, and Liam tells him, "You can go sit down again. I'll
clean this up, just give me a second."
Zayn nods again, ducking into the hallway and back into the main part of the apartment. He can't
sit down, though. He's too hyped up, pacing the room and reaching a hand to touch his lips
through the mask, thrumming with energy because Liam kissed him. Liam kissed him. Holy
fucking shit, Liam kissed him.
His mind is still whirling from this when Liam comes out of the bathroom. He leans in the
doorway between the hallway and the living room, smiling softly as Zayn comes to a halt. "You
not going to sit?" he asks.
Zayn shakes his head. He wants to. He wants to stay, but he can't. He needs to get out of here and
clear his head, because he might not stop at setting Liam's towel on fire if Liam gets too close to
him again. Setting Liam's entire apartment on fire is probably not the best way to get into his
pants. "I should go," he says. "It's late, my friends are probably wondering where I am."
Liam nods, and maybe Zayn's imagining things but he looks a little disappointed. "Okay," he
says. "Thanks again, you know, for everything."
"Anytime," Zayn says, and he means it. He pulls open Liam's door and steps into the hallway, but
at the last second he turns around and asks, "Why didn't you tell anyone? The other day, when
they interviewed you after what happened at the store, you denied it. Why didn't you tell them
what you saw?"
Liam shrugs, crossing his arms over his chest. "You run around in a full body suit," he points out.
"I figure it's supposed to be a secret." He steps towards the door, grinning. "And I kind of like
being one of the only ones in on that secret."
Zayn smiles to himself the whole way out the door.


Louis stares down at his phone, at the numbers he'd pressed into it five minutes ago. His thumb
hovers over the 'call' button, but he can't make himself press it. He can't make himself erase the
numbers, either. Not with that stupid twisting guilt in his stomach that's been there for
fucking days, like some kind of personal hell inside of him.
Louis very, very rarely feels guilty. There was that time he popped in on Cher when he was
changing, and that didn't make him feel guilty (though her hand hitting his cheek made him
feel something), and that time (or times, really) that he'd nearly given Niall a heart attack by
randomly appearing at his side never made him feel guilty, or that instance where he'd broken
Zayn's Xbox after sneaking into his room didn't make him feel guilty (though he did have to
replace it). But he feels guilty right now.

It's a horrible feeling, like someone's tugging at his heart, and he hates it. How do people live with
this feeling on a daily basis? He has no idea. He's glad he has a very small conscious.
"Fuck it," he mutters to himself, and he presses 'call' before he can think this through any longer.
He brings the phone to his ear and listens as it rings. It keeps ringing. He prays that it reaches
voicemail or something because then he could say he tried, at least, and it's not his fault Harry
didn't answer.
"Shit," he blurts.
"Who is this?" Harry asks, pleasant but confused.
"I'm sorry I broke into your apartment," Louis says in a rush. "Okay? I'm sorry."
The line is quiet for a moment. He can hear Harry breathing, but that's it until he says, sharper than
the first time, "Who is this?"
Louis winces. Fuck, why is he doing this? He could have lived with the guilt, he rationalizes. It'd
go away eventually. He still could, actually. He could hang up right now and pretend that this
never happened. Only he doesn't. "It's Louis." He pauses, can't remember if he ever told Dimples
Harry his name. "The one from the coffee shop. Shops, actually. Plural. The campus one
and the one on Johnson."
"The one who knocked your boxes out of your hands, and "
"I know who you are." He sounds almost torn between annoyance and amusement. "I'm just
trying to wrap my head around the fact that it was you who broke into my apartment. You realize I
called the police, right?"
"That was probably smart," Louis says. "Crime in this city is a serious problem, you can never be
too careful."
Harry laughs. It's sort of a dorky laugh, Louis thinks, but it's still nice. "You nearly scared me to
death. I thought I was getting robbed."
"I didn't take anything," Louis quickly says. "I just kind of searched your apartment to make sure
you weren't writing an article on me or something." As soon as he's said it, he realizes how dumb
that sounds. Zayn was right; it was the dumbest idea ever. Someone really needs to stop Louis,
and he usually trusts Zayn to do just that, but he'd been a bit unfair about his bargaining chip and
he knows it.
Harry, on the other end of the line, says quietly, "I would never do that. I would never, ever do
that. Unless you consented to me doing an interview with you, I would never tell anyone. I
Louis bites down on his lip. Harry sounds so sincere, and it makes that disgusting guilty feeling
even worse. "I'm sorry for thinking you would," he says, praying that doing so makes it go away.
It doesn't.
"You can make it up to me," Harry says brightly.
God, he's so weird, Louis thinks. How is he this cheerful after Louis admitted to not only breaking

into his apartment, but also going through his personal items? Louis would be livid if he were
Harry. He'd be on a warpath. He hates other people touching his stuff, especially people he
doesn't know or trusts. If the roles were reversed, Louis would be popping into Harry's apartment
right this second to strangle him to death.
Which means that Louis probably owes him. "What do you want?" he hesitantly asks.
"Go out for coffee with me," Harry answers. And that is not at all what Louis expected to hear.
"You're asking me out?" Louis demands. Seriously? The guy wears sweater vests, Louis cannot
stress this enough. But he's also got dimples, he reminds himself. And his eyes are sort of nice,
and maybe no.
"No, no, I'm not," Harry says quickly. "I'm definitely not asking you out."
Ouch. "Why the fuck not?"
Harry's quiet for a moment. "Okay, you just snapped on me when you thought I was asking you
out, and then got angry when I said I wasn't. I'm not sure what I'm supposed to say here. Um. I
just wanted to ask you a few questions, you know, because I'm still curious about the whole thing,
but I'm not asking you on a date. Not that I wouldn't ask you on a date, because you're really
attractive and you seem like you might be nice underneath the um. I'm going to shut up now."
"That's a good idea," Louis says flatly.
"So was that was that a no?"
Louis stares up at his ceiling, a hundred reasons not to flitting in his mind. But Niall's out, for
once, and Cher's got a date or whatever with some guy (Jordan? Jacob? Louis wasn't paying
attention to what she said) and Zayn has been at the library all day, writing some stupid essay. So
it's not like he has anything better to do, right?
"Where?" he asks.
"Seriously?" Harry stammers. "Um, I anywhere you like. I'll pay. Just pick a place."
Louis debates. If he's paying, Louis could be an asshole and make Harry take him somewhere
expensive, like that caf on Williams with the nine dollar cheesecake slices and the eleven dollar
drinks. "Same place as last time?" he offers instead.
"Sure!" Harry says quickly. "In an hour, maybe? Or whenever you want, really, don't feel rushed.
I mean, I don't want you to think that "
"An hour is fine." Louis hangs up before Harry can have an aneurism, and before he can change
his mind and call it off.
He refuses to shower first or change his clothes. That would make it feel like a date, and they both
clearly stated that it was not a date. So he spends the hour raiding the fridge, sneaking into Zayn's
room to play video games and borrowing Cher's laptop to watch videos on Youtube of animals
doing people things. Fifteen minutes before he's set to go see Harry, he pulls on his shoes, grabs a
fresh sweater and his wallet just in case. Louis has had guys promise to pay for dinner and stick
him with the bill anyways with the excuse that they 'left their wallet at home' several times, he's
not going to risk it.
He almost changes his mind and heads home three times. Twice he literally stops, turns, and starts
in the other direction before turning back around and heading towards the coffee shop. The people

that pass him on the street look at him like he's crazy, and they're probably right.
Harry isn't there when Louis arrives. He checks the time on his phone and frowns. He's late,
which means Harry's really late. It crosses his mind, the fact that maybe he's being stood up.
Maybe he's being stood up by a kid who wears sweater vests. Oh, God, is this really what his life
has come to?
He's just about to order himself a giant slice of cake to sulk into when the bell above the door
chimes and Harry stumbles through it, glasses once again falling off his face. His coat billows out
in front of him, and he's got a scarf messily tied around his neck. He looks flustered, cheeks red,
and his gaze darts around the shop until it lands on Louis and he lets out what looks like a sigh of
"I'm so sorry," he says once he's made it over to where Louis had been sitting near the counter. "I
locked myself out of my apartment and I had to get the superintendent to unlock the door so I
could get my keys, and then I couldn't find my phone and I had to run all the way here, and"
Louis gets out of his seat, and Harry's words trail off. He puts a hand on Harry's shoulder, over his
coat, and says slowly, "Calm. The fuck. Down. It's fine. I'm not upset, okay?"
He's going to get emotional whiplash, spending extended periods of time near this kid. Harry nods
and then, in seconds, goes from flustered and panicked to grinning like the sun shining through the
clouds on a rainy day. "Let me get you a drink, then," he says, moving towards the line-up. "What
do you want?"
Louis steps into line beside him and stares up at the board. "No idea," he admits. "I never know
what to get. Usually Margret surprises me."
"How do you not know your own coffee order?" Harry asks, looking genuinely shocked. But
then, this is the same kid who had all his clothes folded and colour coordinated. Louis has a
feeling that he likes order, and he doesn't understand people who don't schedule every second of
their day.
"Spontaneity, Harry," Louis says. "It makes life more fun."
The line slowly moves forward, and Louis lets himself get lost in the sound of the machinery
working behind the counters, in the people giving their orders, or chatting on the phone, or having
intimate conversations in the corner. Beside him, Harry stays completely silent, eyes reading over
the menu.
When they get to the counter, Louis grins at Carrie and says, "The usual."
Carrie groans at him. "How many times do I have to tell you You know what? Never mind.
What about you, Harry?"
"Um." Harry licks at his fucking offensively pink mouth. "Same as him?"
Carrie's eyes narrow. "Don't let this one corrupt you." She waves a finger at Louis. "He's a good
kid. You're not."
Louis smiles sweetly at her, and Harry pays for their order. He looks nervous as they wait for it to
be ready, jittery and unable to stand still. If this is what changing his coffee order does to him,
Louis has a feeling he'd have a break down if someone fucked up his neatly organized drawers at
home. Which makes Louis want to do just that to fuck with him. Except that stupid guilty feeling
is back, and he knows that he won't. He plays pranks on a lot of people (what's the point in his
power if he doesn't?) but he knows he won't with Harry. It'd be too cruel.

"Where do you want to sit?" he asks when their drinks are done.
"The corner," Harry answers, nodding towards the far left one, completely unoccupied with no
one else sitting around it. This is the kind of coffee shop that people don't really linger in. Most get
their drinks and go.
Louis heads over to the small table and Harry follows him. When they sit down, Louis sips his
drink and Harry pulls out a notebook and pen from the folds of his jacket, before shrugging it off
and hanging it on the chair. He forwent the sweater vest today, instead opting for a cardigan that
he's buttoned up over a white dress shirt, and Louis has to make a conscious effort to not tease him
about it.
"I thought I told you I wasn't doing an interview," Louis says. "What's with the notepad?"
"This is just for me," Harry assures him. "I like to take notes. I won't show them to anyone, I
promise. It's just personal research, like the time when I was thirteen and I spent the summer"
"Yeah, no." Louis reaches across the table and steals the notepad and the pen for good measure.
"You're not allowed to write any of this down. And if I find out you've got, like, one of those tape
recorder things and it's stashed in your coat, recording this conversation, I'll find you. I'll find you,
and I'll do things."
"What kind of things?" Harry asks, looking more interested than intimidated.
"Bad things," Louis snaps. "Christ. Can you not tell when someone's threatening you?"
"Oh, sorry." He pushes up his glasses and smiles. "So, erm. I'm not sure where to start. Um. So is
the, uh, teleporting " he whispers it, barely audible, while quickly looking around the room "
all you can do? Or do you have other abilities?"
"Many talents, but no other abilities," Louis admits. "Which is such bullshit, actually, because
Harry waits for him to continue, but Louis isn't about to do that. He's cursing himself for even
saying her name. He's always been pissed about how unjust it is, though, that Cher can read
minds and she puts even the strongest weight lifters to shame. And then Zayn gets his super cool
fire thing, and all Louis gets is teleporting. Not that teleporting isn't the most badass power one
could have, but still.
"Okay," Harry says slowly. "So that's still interesting. Do you know why you can do it? Are there
others like you? What causes it? Is it hereditary? Can your parents do it, too, or are you the only
one in your family? Is"
Louis cuts him off. "One at a time," he pleads; Harry nods. "And I don't know why I can do it.
I've never been able to figure it out and, as far as I know, neither can anyone else. That's just how
it is."
Harry frowns behind his glasses. "How do you not know?" he whispers. "That's such an integral
part of who you are. I'd die if I didn't know if I were you."
Louis shrugs. He'd been curious, before, but he's sort of accepted that it's just one of those
mysteries of the world, like the ending of Inception, or people who think it's okay to wear socks
and sandals. "When you're thirteen and you wake up naked on the roof of your house with no
recollection of how you got there, and you realize that you can move from one place to another,
cross impossible distances in the blink of an eye just by thinking it, you kind of stop questioning

Harry seems to accept this answer. He nods yet again, looking deep in thought. His lips sort of
pout out when he does, and he clasps his hands together on the table. One single strand of his hair
has fallen out of its immaculate style, and Louis itches to fix it. Itches to put it back in its spot, or
ruffle the rest of his hair so it's all a big mess. He doesn't do either of those things.
"How does it work, then?" Harry wonders. "Is it really that simple? You just think of a destination
and it happens? That's so baffling to me because, scientifically speaking, that's"
"Just how it works," Louis finishes for him. "Like I said, if you question it, none of it makes
sense. So I just go with it. It's one of the only things that keep me from going insane."
"Not completely, obviously," Harry points out.
It takes Louis almost an entire minute to get it. Harry's lips are twitching, and he's just sitting there
patiently like he knows Louis' working it out in his head. "Was that a joke?"
"An attempt," Harry corrects. "You didn't laugh, so I don't think it counts." He sips at his drink,
looking pleasantly surprised. "This is actually really good. What is it?"
"No idea," Louis admits, but he agrees. "That's the fun in it."
"Right." He can see Harry longing to take the notebook and pen from him, so he uncaps the pen
and scribbles on the page aimlessly until Harry asks, "Can you take people with you when you do
Louis drops the pen with a sigh. "No, I can't."
"That's curious. Do you sorry if this is intrusive, and feel free to ignore the question, but do
your clothes come with you when you do it? Or do you, um, arrive at the destination naked?"
Louis snorts at the flush in Harry's cheeks from that question. "Uh, no, the clothes come with me.
If they didn't, you'd have gotten an eyeful twice now."
"Of course, right, yeah. Sorry." He looks down at his drink until the red is out of his cheeks. "But
if your clothes come with you then it's a little odd that you can't take other people, right? I mean,
obviously you can take things with you when you travel, so it can't be impossible. Maybe you're
not powerful enough. Or maybe you haven't practiced it enough. If you worked at it, maybe"
"It doesn't work that way," Louis says firmly. He's tried countless times to take Zayn or Cher or
Niall with him, but he can't. Though maybe, just maybe, Harry has a point. Because when he was
younger, when he was still figuring it out, he couldn't take his clothes with him (which meant a
hell of a lot of embarrassing moments where he'd accidentally teleported into semi-public areas
with no clothes on) and it took practice to keep the clothes on, and then more practice to keep his
cellphone in his pocket. Sometimes he still screws it up.
"Sorry, that probably sounded like I was questioning your abilities," Harry says. "I wasn't trying
to, I swear. Sometimes I say things without thinking through whether or not they're offensive, and
I honestly didn't intend to hurt your feelings."
He looks so wide-eyed and innocent and sincere that Louis finds himself reaching for Harry's
hand, covering it with his own, assuring him, "Hey, it's no big deal. You were just asking."
"So what about"

"Let's do you instead," Louis says abruptly. He rips off the page of the notepad that he'd been
scribbling on, and he writes Harry's first name at the top. "Styles. Was it a 'y' or an 'I'? I can't
"It's it's a 'y', but what are you doing?"
Louis grins at him, scratches down his last name and underlines both words. "Bet you've never
been on the opposite side of the interrogation, huh?"
"No, I"
"So, Harry Styles," he starts, while tapping the pen against his lips, trying to think of what to ask,
"tell me about yourself."
Harry looks sufficiently uncomfortable. He tugs at the collar of his shirt and looks around, like he's
expecting someone to save him. When no one does, he says quietly, "I, um, work for the school
newspaper. I'm studying, um, journalism at the University, I have an internship at the, um, news
station and I I'm not doing this. Give me the notepad, Louis."
Louis resolutely shakes his head, lips tilted up as he jots down journalism major and works on
school paper (lame). "Come on, give me the grittier details, Harry. You're not applying for a job.
I'm not asking for your credentials. Give me something to work with here."
"Like like what?"
Louis thinks on it for a moment. "How many people have you slept with?"
"That's none of your business," Harry says flatly.
Louis blinks at him, surprised by the conviction in his voice. "Fair enough. Boxers or briefs?"
"Both, depends on the No, I'm not doing this. I'm uncomfortable, Louis."
"Good." He writes down the last fact and continues. "Favourite type of ice cream?"
Harry sighs, resigned. "Banana fudge."
"How old are you?"
"Legal, that's good." He writes it down and looks up just to catch the way Harry's lips part in
surprise and his cheeks go even redder. "Favourite TV show?"
"Just stop," Harry nearly shouts. He reaches across the table, jerking the pen and paper from
Louis' hands. Louis gapes at him but Harry ignores it, briskly pulling on his jacket as he stands up.
He stuffs the notebook and pen back in his pocket, and snatches his drink off the table.
Louis gets up, too, ignoring the fact that several people are watching them. He's used to it; he's
spent the majority of his life making scenes. "Wait," he says, hurrying after the other boy as he
makes his way towards the door.
It's like their roles are reversed from last time. This time it's Harry rushing out the door and Louis
trying to catch up to him while Harry ignores him. Just like he had, Harry doesn't stop or turn
around. He pushes outside, head ducked against the cold wind.
Louis left his drink on the table, and it's not even half done. He considers going back for it but if

Louis left his drink on the table, and it's not even half done. He considers going back for it but if
he does Harry will get away. He silently mourns the loss and steps outside.
He's got long fucking legs, Harry, and he makes his way quickly and easily through the crowded
sidewalk. Louis has to jog to keep up with him, but even when he manages to Harry just keeps
walking, eyes on the ground.
"I don't understand why you're so upset," Louis admits. "I was just"
"Making fun of me," Harry snaps. "Yeah, I got that, thanks."
Is that honestly what he thought? Shit. Louis knows he's an asshole, okay? He's self-aware
enough to know this. But it's usually not an issue, really, because most people that he's close with
can tell he's joking. And the people that he's close with are also just as thick skinned as he is. Cher
gives his shit right back to him without batting one of her five ton eyelashes, and Niall just laughs
it off, and Zayn rolls his eyes and sighs at him for it.
This is different. Harry doesn't know him enough to know that he doesn't mean to be hurtful. He
also looks like the kind of kid that got his ass kicked in school a lot, the type who was constantly
ridiculed, and Louis realizes his mistake. Realizes just how easy it would be for Harry to interpret
what just happened as mocking instead of playing around, and that's not Harry's fault, it's Louis'.
He should have known, should have toned it down.
He reaches out, pulling Harry to a stop right there on the sidewalk, people sidestepping them with
narrowed eyes. Harry barely even fights him on it, but he won't lift his gaze from his shoes.
"I was trying to get to know you," Louis says forcefully. "I wasn't trying to make fun of you, or
hurt your feelings. I'm really, truly sorry if I did. I'm an asshole by nature, that's just who I am. It
hadn't even occurred to me that I was upsetting you."
Harry looks up at him with sad, wounded green eyes. Louis decides that the gut twisting guilt
feels like swallowing knives that jab at his stomach whenever he moves. "I told you I was
uncomfortable. I explicitly said it."
"Yeah, I know, but I thought that was just banter! I didn't think you were serious," Louis admits.
"Like I said, I'm an asshole."
Harry's lips twitch, and hope takes place of the knives in his gut. "You're not an asshole."
"Maybe you could tell that to my friend Zayn," Louis jokes. "He'd argue that for days."
Now it's a full-out grin on Harry's face, but it slips away when he looks around. "Could we, um,
not do this in the middle of the sidewalk?"
"Sure." Louis starts walking slowly, waiting for Harry to fall into step beside him. "Where do you
want to go, then?"
Harry adjusts his scarf. "Um, I was thinking I'd just head home, actually, after we had coffee. I
have an article that I still need to finish and a bit of work for my internship."
Disappointment clouds Louis' mood before he can stop it. He can't figure out why, though,
because it's not like it's not like but maybe it is, isn't it? Since that first dimply smile, it's been
like that.
"I'll walk you home, then," Louis decides.
"You don't have to do that," Harry tells him. "I'm sure you have better things to do."

"Not hardly," Louis scoffs. "I live the most boring life ever."
Harry laughs. "You can teleport, remember? I don't think your life could be considered boring."
Eh, true. Louis' life is actually the opposite of boring a lot of the time. But when he's not fooling
around, or when they're not, you know, saving the city and taking down criminals, it really is
boring. He doesn't go to school. He doesn't have a job. He doesn't have a hobby. When all his
friends are busy (all three of them, because he's pathetic) he really doesn't have anything to do.
"I still want to," he says, firm, no room for argument.
Harry's eyes are still on the ground as they walk, but there's a slight smile on his lips now. Louis is
the opposite of him. He walks with his chin tilted up, fully grinning. Bold and brash where Harry
is hesitant and muted. The urge to tilt Harry's chin up, mess up that hair, make him stand a little
straighter goes through him, but he pushes it down.
"You mentioned Zayn," Harry says, as they turn onto a side street, less crowded, more deserted.
"Is he the one who goes to the University? Dark hair, kind of, um"
"Broody?" Louis offers.
"I guess," Harry admits. "I'd go with quiet, but broody works, too."
Louis chuckles. "That'd be the one. And he's not always broody, though he does love his angst.
He's actually quite ridiculous when you get to know him. Biggest dork I've ever met, too, spends
all day reading comics and playing video games."
"What's wrong with that?"
"So, so many things, Harry," Louis says darkly. "One time, during the summer, he didn't leave the
apartment for a week and a half."
"You live together?" He sounds kind of surprised, and this awkward look crosses his face. "Are
you two, um, like just friends?"
Louis smirks at him. "Would you be jealous if we were more than that?" he asks, bumping their
shoulders together. Harry jolts to the side a little more than Louis meant for him to, and he looks
embarrassed and uncomfortable again. "Shit. Just forget I asked that, okay?"
"A little," Harry replies.
Louis frowns. "A little what?"
"I'd be a little jealous," Harry says softly. "If you two were together, I'd be a little jealous about it."
He has to consciously stop himself from looking too pleased about that, but he can't stop from
feeling it. And shit, he's got a crush on a guy who wears sweater vests. He knows he does. There's
no denying it. "Good."
When they get to Harry's building, Louis pulls the door open and holds it for him, and he follows
Harry up the stairs. There's this awkward moment when Harry unlocks his door, and he gives
Louis a nervous, unsteady look before asking, "Can I call you? Or text you, or would what that
be okay?"
Louis stuffs his hands in the pockets of his sweater and rocks back on the heels of his feet. "I
guess that'd be okay," he says.

"I'll, um, do that, then," Harry says. "Bye, Louis."

The door closes between them, and Louis stands there for a moment until he hears a thump on the
other side, followed by a groan. He turns, goes to head back down the stairs, but at the last second
he changes course.
He screws up the landing a bit, winding up facing away from Harry when he pops into the
apartment. Harry, who's leaning against the door with his eyes wide and his mouth gaped open.
"What are you?"
Louis kisses him. It's soft, not forceful and maybe even a little hesitant. Or it is until Harry's eyes
close and he kisses Louis back. He pushes farther into Harry's personal space after that, trapping
him against the door. Harry's head tilts down, angling better, and this soft sound slips from his lips
as his hands move up to cup the sides of Louis' face, so gentle and careful.
"Bye, Harry," he whispers against Harry's lips, and then he's gone, landing on his bed at home
with a groan, his lips still tingling.


Late does not even begin to describe what Zayn is right now. He has ten minutes (ten fucking
minutes) to get dressed, get downstairs and run to class. There's no way he's going to make it. He
knows there's no way, even as he pulls a beanie over his head and hops around while tugging on
his socks and trying to find that paper he finished last night at about two a.m. (which, come to
think of it, is probably one of the reasons he's late).
He runs out of his room, swinging his bag over his shoulder, and Niall intercepts him on the way
to the door. "Breakfast is "
"No time," Zayn rushes out, breezing past him with a pat on Niall's shoulder. "See you after!"
"But you need to eat something before" Zayn closes the door on the rest of what he says,
bolting for the elevator.
The entire inside of the elevator is made of metal, and it shows a blurry image of his reflection as
he impatiently waits to get to the bottom floor. And he looks like hell. Even his obscured reflection
looks exhausted, bags under his eyes prominent. His hair, sticking out of his beanie, looking
greasy and terrible, and his clothes are wrinkled and thrown on carelessly. Fuck.
Whatever. He doesn't have time to care. The elevator dings when he gets to the bottom floor and
he hits the ground running, heading straight for the doors, pushing them wide open. Normally he'd
be lighting up his cigarette right now, but he doesn't have time to do that. He jogs over the
sidewalk, already out of breath and he's not even a tenth of the way there yet.
Shit. He doesn't have time for this, he really doesn't. He should keep running, keep going and
definitely not stop, because he doesn't have time to stop.
He stops.

Liam runs up to him, a grin on his face and a sheen of sweat on his forehead. Why does he always
have to look so damn good? The black t-shirt he's wearing is just crossing the line between muscle
defining and so-tight-it's-obscene, and he's wearing yet another pair of grease stained jeans with
rips in the knees, only the bandana sticking out of his pocket today is red. Zayn wants to jump
him, he really does, and all he can think about is Liam kissing him, over and over. Which leads to
him thinking about Liam kissing him in that damn garage, bending him over one of the cars and
fucking him into oblivion.
He wipes his sweaty palms on his thighs and prays he doesn't burst into flame. "Hey," he says.
"You look like you're in a rush," Liam comments.
Zayn winces, having forgot for a second. "I am, actually," he admits. "I sort of I mean, I have
class and I'm already late, so I kind need to sorry."
For some reason unbeknownst to him, Liam doesn't run off at his idiotic babbling. "I can drive
you," he says quickly. "I don't have to work today. I was just dropping off some paperwork for
Carl. I'll go get the car, you wait here. I'll be two seconds, promise."
"That's really not" Liam runs off before he can finish his protest, leaving Zayn standing there.
He can hear people inside the shop yelling, a loud clanking sound as someone drops a wrench or
something, and he feels like an idiot. He's so late already, and he really can't afford to just stand
around here. He's actually considering leaving Liam behind and running the rest of the way to
school, praying he's only a minute or two late, when a car pulls around from behind the building
and Liam grins at him through the window.
It's old and beat up and easily one of the cheapest cars Zayn's ever seen, but when he climbs into
the passenger seat he finds it immaculately clean inside, sort of like Liam's apartment had been,
actually. "Thank you," he says awkwardly, pulling on his seatbelt.
"Least I could do," Liam says. He pulls away from the garage, grinning at Zayn as he pulls up
behind a van with a nearly naked woman superimposed on the back window. "You always seem
to be rushing whenever I see you."
"I'm always late," Zayn admits. "Like, always."
"And I'm always early," Liam boasts. "We balance each other out."
"Right." Zayn rubs his hands on his jeans again. He can actually feel it, the temperature rising in
the small cab of the car. Even Liam doesn't seem oblivious to it, a bead of sweat dripping down
his temple. He reaches for the heater, turning on the air-conditioning.
Zayn wishes so badly that he had the suit to hide behind right now. It's so quiet in the car, the only
sounds coming from the rumbling engine. Liam, on the other hand, doesn't seem to find the
silence awkward. He's still smiling faintly, and Zayn can't help but take a moment to appreciate
If you look at Liam, he seems sort of intimidating. There's something about his style, paired with
the wide shoulders and the strong jaw and heavy eyebrows that you wouldn't want to fuck with if
you walked by him on the streets. But the more Zayn gets to know him, the softer Liam seems.
Zayn really wants to kiss him.
Embarrassingly enough, his stomach rumbles. He jerks his head up, eyes wide, and Liam looks
over at him, teasing smile tugging at his lips. "Hungry?" he asks.

"Didn't get to eat this morning," Zayn confesses. "I sort of had to run out the door."
Liam nods, expression turning considering as he drums his fingers on the steering wheel, stuck at
a red light. "How important is your first class?" he asks.
Not very, Zayn thinks. It's just his creative writing class, and he has it three times a week.
Technically he's allowed to miss a certain amount of classes without flunking, and he hasn't
missed a single one. "I don't know," he mumbles. "Um. Why?"
"If you missed it," Liam says, "would you be totally screwed?"
"Not not really," he admits.
Liam nods, grinning once more. He turns left at the lights, but he should be turning right. The
university is only two streets from them, and Liam's going in the total opposite direction.
"Kidnapping you," Liam explains a moment later with possibly the most endearing smile Zayn
has ever seen. "You can't do a whole day of school on an empty stomach, you know. I'm looking
out for your health."
It's way too hard to think with the full focus of those brown eyes on him. "Youyou are?"
"How do bagels sound?"
Hesitantly, Zayn smiles. Liam takes that as a yes, apparently, because five minutes later they're
parked outside a coffee shop with the radio playing softly in the background and Liam eating half
a bagel in two gigantic bites. It's impressive, and also makes Zayn wonder what other things he
can fit in that mouth of his.
"So what are you studying, anyways?" Liam asks as they eat. He's a neat eater, which doesn't
surprise Zayn at all. He carefully unwraps the paper his bagel comes in, smoothing it out on in his
Zayn takes a bite of his own and chews to stall for time. Talking to Liam is not easy for him,
okay? He's distracting and Zayn isn't exactly a social butterfly under the best conditions.
"English," he finally says.
Liam nods, grinning. "You look the part," he says. Then, for the first time ever, Liam is the one
blushing and stammering, not Zayn. "I mean, you just, um, with the the mysterious thing and the
glasses you sometimes wear and the tattoos and. You look like you'd write poetry. Good poetry.
Beautiful poetry. You kind of look like poetry yourself, actually, I"
Zayn is frozen, bagel halfway to his mouth. Liam keeps blushing, staring resolutely out the
window, and did he just call Zayn poetry? Did that happened, right? Zayn's not imagining
things? Living with Louis hasn't made him insane, right? Apparently not, judging by the
embarrassed look on Liam's face.
"What about you?" Zayn blurts, trying to pull attention away from what Liam just said. Only he
realizes a beat later how dumb that question is, since Liam doesn't go to university, right? He
works at the fucking garage and Zayn is an idiot.
Liam gives him a grateful look anyways, grin sliding back into place. "I thought about university,"
he admits. "My mum tried to push me into it, actually, but I like cars. I like working at the garage.
I'm good with my hands."
Zayn nearly chokes to death as his mind goes to places it probably shouldn't. "Oh," he says,

strangled. "What would you have taken if you did? Go to university, I mean."
Liam contemplates for a moment. "Architecture, maybe," he says. "I don't know. School was
never my thing."
Zayn can't relate to that at all. School is the only thing he's ever been good at, honestly. Books,
writing, facts, they're easier than people. Anything that doesn't involve the rest of the world is
something that Zayn likes. "Oh," he says again.
"You a fan of superheroes?" Liam asks abruptly.
Zayn's eyes widen. That question is a little too close to home for him, and something settles
heavily in his gut, his guard up so high all of a sudden. "Why do you ask?" he questions, careful
to keep his tone neutral.
Liam reaches out, brushing his thumb over Zayn's Zap tattoo. He'd shrugged off his sweater a
while ago, and he forgot about that damn tattoo. "Just a guess," Liam chuckles. "So?"
Zayn wonders if Liam can feel how hot Zayn is under his touch, burning up from nothing but the
gentle brush of a calloused finger. And then he remembers Liam's shelf back home, the Avengers
figurines sitting amongst miniature planes and books on automotive repair.
It's probably not fair, using that to his advantage. He's not supposed to know those things about
Liam, but he uses them anyways. "Yeah," he says. "Did you watch the Avengers? It's was
"If I told you how many times I watched that movie you wouldn't be sitting in this car with me,"
Liam says. "It's embarrassing. I'm pretty sure I spent a whole paycheck going to see it in theatres
over and over."
"I would have gone every time with you, if I'd of known you," Zayn blurts. It's the truth, though.
He has a feeling Liam's the type to get really into movies. The kind of person who gasps at the
best parts and grips his seat tightly when he's worried about his favourite character. He'd want to
go just to watch Liam's reaction to it, honestly.
Which is ridiculous, he thinks. But something about Liam pulls at him like gravity. There's
something magnetizing about him that Zayn wants to sink into.
"Maybe next time, then," Liam says. He balls up the paper from his bagel and tosses it in the bag
it came in. Zayn does the same to his own, handing it over, and then Liam pulls away from the
coffee shop and Zayn sighs as he leans back into his seat.
He doesn't want this to end. He was enjoying learning things about Liam, finding out more than
just the fact that he looks painfully gorgeous in anything and he's got a smile that could melt the
coldest hearts. He really does have to get to school, though, and Liam's probably got plans or
The drive to campus takes about, oh, five minutes. Way too soon they're pulling up near the main
building and the library, and Zayn's reaching for the buckle on his seatbelt.
"So I guess offering to drive you to school so you won't be late and then whisking you off to get
breakfast is kind of counterproductive, huh?" Liam asks with something almost nervous in his
smile. "If I promised to get you there on time, would you let me drive you again tomorrow?"
Zayn halts. He was in the middle of pulling on his bag, but he forgets how and it falls back to the
floor in front of his seat with a thunk of his books. "You you want to?" he asks, because it feels

like a foreign concept. Why in the world would someone like Liam willingly spend extended
periods of time with Zayn?
Liam grips the steering wheel tightly, knuckles turning white. "If you'd let me," Liam says. "I'd
like to get to know you, maybe."
Zayn bites down on his lip, and Liam follows the movement with his gaze. Is he thinking about
the kiss they'd shared? Wait, obviously he's not. He doesn't know it was Zayn. But Zayn knows it
was him, and fuck he wants Liam's lips on his again. He wants to chase the taste of coffee on his
tongue and kiss him until they both forget how to think.
"Okay," he says, nodding dumbly. "That'd be, like. Yeah. Yeah, that'd be cool."
"Cool," Liam says back. "Have a nice day, Zayn."
Zayn gets out of the car before he can give Liam a hundred reasons to change his mind about his
offer. But he heads off to class, bag over his shoulder, with an irrepressible grin on his face that
he's starting to associate with being in Liam's presence. (He's so lost already and he knows it.)


His good mood because of Liam doesn't last very long. In fact, it lasts to the end of his second
class of the day when Louis starts calling him. At first all Zayn does is frown down at his phone
and shove it back in his pocket, ignoring the vibrating against his thigh. But then he calls again,
and again, and his phone beeps quietly with four new messages before he puts the alerts on silent,
By the time he gets out of class, he has sixteen (six-fucking-teen) missed calls and eleven
unanswered texts. He's going to kill Louis for this, he really is. Louis knows better than to do this
shit when he's at school. Any other time of the day, Zayn is available for whatever the fuck Louis
needs, but the few hours that he's in class are off limits and Louis knows better.
"What the hell do you want?" Zayn demands. "You've been calling me non-stop for the past ten
"You need to get home," Louis says in a rush. "Right now. You need to get home right now."
Zayn frowns, pulling the phone away to blink at it as if Louis can see him through the screen. "I
don't, actually. The only thing I need to do is get to my next class, and "
"Get home now!" Louis shouts at him, and then he hangs up.
Some girl walking by him gives him a look, like she could clearly hear Louis yelling at him
through the phone. Zayn gives her a sheepish look and puts his phone away, taking one step
towards the building for his twelve o'clock class. But at the last second he sighs, heading for home
Louis doesn't interrupt him at school often. Okay, so he's popped into the backseat of Zayn's
classes more than once, but Louis knows Zayn has his limits and he tends not to cross them often.
But there has to be a reason for what just happened, right? He wouldn't order Zayn home
immediately unless something was wrong.

Something's wrong. Shit. How had he not realized that straight away?
Without a second thought, he starts jogging. He's sweaty and disgusting by the time he pushes
through the front doors, but he doesn't slow at all. He presses the button for the elevator three
times, slamming his fist into the metal doors when it doesn't come fast enough.
Fuck. He hates getting like this. When his power takes over, the heat becoming too much to fight
off and he's suddenly so hyped up he can't think or stop moving. It burns through him every time
he stands still, until he's pacing in front of the doors and hissing under his breath when they don't
open fast enough.
It doesn't really matter what he's feeling. Excitement, anger, worry, they all blur together when he
gets like this until he's too heated to calm himself down. The button for their floor melts under his
touch when he presses it, mutating the number until it looks more like it reads 11 than 17. He
doesn't care. Niall will fix it.
It's a miracle the entire door to their apartment doesn't burst into flame when he pushes it open,
instantly looking around. Niall and Louis are on the sofa, both of their eyes wide as they stare at
the screen. Zayn follows their gaze, nudging the door closed with his foot as his mouth hangs
The fire burning inside of him reflects in the screen, only no, that's not his reflection. That's
actually happening.
"I am at the scene of the fourth fire," the news anchor is saying on screen, and Zayn takes a dazed
step forward, his own fire sizzling and dying out without a sound. He moves beside Louis as the
camera pans back, showing a building going up in flames. The firemen are attempting to stop it
but it just keeps on burning. "We are now being told that this is a case of serial arson. More
details will be available after"
"What's going on?" Zayn asks breathlessly.
Niall and Louis both look up at him as if they hadn't realized he was home. The both look horror
struck, and Zayn's throat closes over. "That's the fourth one in the last hour," Niall says quietly.
"Fourth what?" Zayn demands.
"Fire," Louis answers. "That's the fourth building someone's lit on fire in the last hour."
Zayn barely hears him. He's too busy reading the passing letters on the screen, just below the
giant, bold, white letters screaming "SERIAL ARSONRY". Three casualties with twelve
seriously wounded, the moving text says, and it continues to add more but Zayn can't read it
because it all blurs together.
Three deaths. Three people have died already.
"I'm being told there's a fifth fire," the reporter says suddenly, camera moving back to him, away
from the blaze. "I'm sending you over to Debra at the scene. Debra."
"Thank you, Tristan," the dark haired woman says as the scene changes drastically. Here, the
firemen look like they're panicking. There's only a single fire truck, unlike the three that Zayn had
counted at the other scene. They must be swamped, he realizes. If this is the fifth fire in an hour's
time, the whole fucking department must be out right now. "As you can see"
Everything else she says is lost because there's a thundering in Zayn's ears. All his blood rushes to
his head and he swears his heart stops beating as the camera moves to show the building on fire.

The whole fucking thing is ablaze, and the firemen are trying their best to put it out but they look
like they're struggling. And everything inside of Zayn stops because he recognizes that building.
"Get the car," he says to Louis, jumping up off the sofa. "We need we need to get the car now."
Louis' eyebrows raise as he looks up at Zayn with concern in his eyes. "Zayn, what?"
"Now," Zayn snaps. He's suddenly encompassed in fire, entire body lit up, and there's a hiss and
the smell of smoke filling his nostrils as he steps over the hardwood floor, leaving behind scorch
"Okay, okay," Louis says quickly, scrambling to his feet.
It takes way too long. It feels like forever before he's in his suit and impatiently snapping
directions at Louis as they speed down the street. And they are speeding, the sleek black car going
far past the speed limit as Louis steps down hard on the gas, but not nearly hard enough for Zayn's
"Just calm down," Louis coaxes, reaching out a hand to grab Zayn's thigh. He jerks it back
suddenly, like Zayn's a hot iron that scalds his skin the second they touch, which is probably what
happened, realistically. "What's gotten into you?"
"Left," Zayn says flatly. "Fucking turn, Louis!"
Louis fucking turns. By the time they make it to Liam's street, the stench of smoke seeps through
the cracks of the car, acrid and heady every time Zayn inhales. It makes him dizzier than he
already feels, and it's surprising that he hasn't accidently flared up again during the ride, but thank
god he didn't because Niall would actually kill him for it.
The car doesn't come to a complete stop before Zayn's jumping out of it. They're too far away, too
many vehicles blocking the way. Fire-trucks (three now, finally), two ambulances, four police cars
block them off, but Zayn doesn't care. He bolts right past them, even as someone calls after him.
The whole scene is so familiar. The woman sitting on the steps of the building next door,
clutching her children to her body as the firemen attempt to salvage what's left of their home.
There's a woman sobbing into a man's chest, and another couple staring up at the fire like their
whole lives are being lost under its destruction. Under any other circumstance, Zayn would feel
bad for them. Right now, he's too busy scanning the many faces and panicking when that one
familiar one doesn't stick out in the crowd.
He turns back around, eying the front door of Liam's building, and hears one of the firemen say,
"The fire started in the basement hallway. All the windows down there are barred. If anyone's
down there"
"We're doing our best to put it out," another snaps back at him. "We're limited right now. Half the
bloody city is on fire, we can't"
If Zayn wasn't already panicking, he is now. Liam's in the basement. If he was home when the fire
It's not even a conscious decision. He's pushing past the firemen instantly, ignoring it when they
yell after him. Someone tries to grab his arm, but Zayn bolts past, ducking inside the propped open
doors, stepping right into the fire.
It's bad. It's hot even for him, and he can feel the flames licking at his body like they're attracted to
him more than the wooden bannister of the staircase, or the carpet on the floor that's already

singed to nothing but ashes. Only it doesn't hurt him at all. In fact, it makes him feel powerful, if
anything, as he steps on the stair leading down into the basement.
It groans and creeks under the weight of him and the fire trying to destroy it. Zayn ignores the
worry that twists his stomach and thunders down them anyways, jumping the last two steps as he
bolts into Liam's hallway.
The door to Liam's apartment is wide open, giving Zayn clear view of the wreckage. Everything
he owns is gone, melted and burning. The sofa, the shelf with his books and figurines, the TV
screen's cracked and the smoke is so heavy. The fire is his friend, the smoke is not. It clogs his
lungs and threatens to cut off his breath, but whatever Niall designed the suits out of protects him a
bit, and he takes a gulping breath as he pushes into Liam's apartment.
It's empty. There's no one here. Worry slips away for just a second and he breathes a sigh of relief
even as he grieves for Liam and everything he's already lost in the blaze. It doesn't matter. All of it
is material possessions. It doesn't matter because Liam's not here, which means he's okay. His stuff
is replaceable; he isn't.
Then he hears it. It's soft under the shouts of people outside, the crackling of the fire, the screams
of someone in the distance. The dog barks again, weak and feeble, and he knows it's coming from
across the hall.
And he knows with everything inside him that if he follows that sound, he'll find Liam.
He bolts from Liam's apartment, door falling off its hinges as he pushes it away. He grasps the
handle of the door across the hall, feels the warmth bite at his skin in a way that's almost
pleasurable to him but would likely burn the skin right off a normal person. As soon as he pushes
open the door, smoke billows out into the hallway, looking for a way to escape but not finding
one because there's more smoke in the hallway, too. There's smoke everywhere, actually,
obscuring his view, making everything more difficult than it already is.
The fire continues to roar in here, too, and he wonders how long the firemen have been here
because it doesn't look to be stopping anytime soon. The dog barks again, and he starts in its
direction, heading for the hallway, trying to see past the smoke that's stinging his eyes now.
The bathroom door is jammed shut, and he has to slam his whole body against it three times
before it pops open. There were towels pressed against the cracks, probably to keep the smoke
out, but they weren't doing a very good job. It's gray in the bathroom, but the fire hasn't reached it
yet. It's still swelteringly hot anyways, and it spreads into the room within seconds of Zayn
pushing open the doors, like it won't stop until it's taken down everything it can.
Liam's in the bathtub, huddled with a small dog in his arms. He's got his shirt pulled up, covering
his mouth, and he meets Zayn's eyes with his own watery, bloodshot ones.
"We have to go!" Zayn shouts at him, as something groans overhead. There's a crashing sound,
and something inside Zayn tells him that the ceiling is collapsing under the onslaught of the fire.
"Now, Liam!"
Liam scrambles over the tub as the dog fights to get out of his arms. It's barking up a storm now,
and Liam's reaching for him with his freehand, grabbing Zayn's hand like a life raft.
He's never practiced with a fire this big in his life. Niall had set up a station for him once, an
enclosed area where he let Zayn test out his ability to not only start fires but control them. It's not
something he's very good at. Even then, in that little enclosed space, he'd had trouble putting out
the fires he started, and that is nothing compared to what he's dealing with now.

But that was just for fun. That was training. This isn't. This is real and he's holding Liam's life in
the palm of his hand.
It takes everything in him to focus, to clear a path ahead of them. The flames part way under his
will as Zayn drags Liam behind him, coughing the whole way. Even he can't breathe right now,
and he has a feeling that if he takes any longer Liam won't be making it out of this.
The hand in his gets limper as they make it into the hallway. The fire and smoke makes it
impossible to tell where he's going, but he feels along the wall and focuses on keeping the fire
from coming anywhere near them as they move, but it's not enough. It's not enough because
Liam's fingers are slipping from his own and when he turns Liam's eyes are heavy and it looks
like he's seconds away from collapsing as he gasps for breath.
"Don't you dare give up on me right now," Zayn snaps at him, jerking his arm probably painfully
hard. "Come on, Liam!"
"I can'tI can't breathe," Liam gasps at him, but his fingers tighten in Zayn's hand.
Getting up the stairs is the hardest part. They threaten to collapse under each step, but somehow
they just manage to hold, they just manage to get up them, they just manage to get into the lobby
of the building when Liam's fingers finally slip from his.
Everything after that is a bit hazy. A fireman pulls them the rest of the way out of the building,
someone takes the dog from Liam's arm, and Liam is instantly rushed to an ambulance. Someone
tries to help Zayn, too, but he pushes them away and moves in Liam's direction, watching as
someone slaps an oxygen mask over Liam's mouth.
"Sir! Did you just run into that building and?" Zayn pushes the microphone out of his face,
trying to shoulder past an EMT to get to Liam.
"Is he okay?" Zayn demands. "Is he alright?"
The nearest fireman gives him a weird look, and he realizes that everyone's staring at him. He
doesn't get why, doesn't understand until he looks down and remembers what he's wearing. When
he looks back up, Liam's meeting his eyes, pulling the mask away to mouth "Go" at him.
He doesn't want to. He needs to stay behind, make sure Liam's definitely okay, but he has to. The
news reporter is making a beeline for him again, but so is the nearest police officer. Zayn takes
one last look in Liam's direction, biting on the inside of his cheek before he jogs in the direction
he'd left Louis.
He finds the black car parked just around the corner, with Louis still sitting in the passenger seat.
He's gnawing at his pinky nail, and he jumps when Zayn pulls open the door.
"What the fuck did you do?" he demands, eyes wide. "You smell like you just"
"Drive," Zayn snaps at him. "Now."
For the first time in his life, Louis shuts his mouth and does exactly as he's told.
Whatever energy he has lasts just until they get home. Suddenly he feels drained, like he'd been
running on overdrive for hours and he'd finally hit his limit. He stands on wobbly feet after
stepping out of the car, and Louis has to come over to his side and wrap an arm around his waist
to keep him upright.
"What did you do?" he asks again, this time a little more gentle as he guides Zayn to the elevator.

"Liam," Zayn explains, shaky and exhausted. "It was Liam's building. Had to had to make sure
he was alright."
Louis' eyes widen as he presses the button for their floor. He almost lets go of Zayn, but Zayn
clings at him, suddenly needing someone right there. He needs Louis to stay with him for just a
second because he's freaking out, what just happened really sinking in. He's been running on pure
adrenaline since the moment he stepped through their apartment door, and it's finally wearing off,
reality setting in.
"He almost died, Lou," Zayn breathes. "If I hadn't gotten there, no one would have gotten to him
in time. Fucking idiot was trying to save the neighbor's dog. He would have died."
"But he's okay," Louis says. "Right? You got him, he's fine?'
"I think so," Zayn nods. "I shit, I just ran in there. I didn't even think, I just acted. People
watched me do it. There were witnesses. There's no way there wasn't, there was a fucking camera
crew and everything. Shit. I'm so screwed."
The elevator dings, and Louis guides him onto their floor, steading Zayn's wobbly stance as they
make their way to the apartment. Niall pulls the door open for them, and then Zayn's being traded,
pushed into Niall's arms instead, and he clings at Niall, too, head resting on his shoulder, breathing
"You're a hero, you know that?" Niall asks him. "It's all over the news. Everyone's freaking out
over the masked superhero who stepped into a burning building to save a man's life. That's you.
You did that."
Zayn pulls back, eyes wide, and he lets Niall carefully pull off his facemask as he reminds himself
how to breathe steadily. "I did," he says. "Yeah."
Louis snorts at him. "Okay, so when Zayn uses his power in public it's 'heroic' but when I do it it's
'stupid and reckless'. Totally fair."
"Zayn saved someone from a burning building," Niall reminds him. "You use your power to jump
in line at the grocery store."
"Those lines are long," Louis pouts.
Normally Zayn would laugh at their exchange, but he doesn't have the energy. There are black
spots on his vision, and he can't see straight. He stumbles backwards out of Niall's arms, reaching
for the zipper on his suit. He's too hot, he needs it off. He needs everything off. He needs a cold
shower, maybe, or a trip to the arctic. Something, anything to cool him down before he passes out.
Unfortunately he doesn't get it. He bumps into the sofa, eyes widening, and then he's falling,
falling, falling into darkness and he can't claw his way out of it.


"Wake up, baby," someone whispers hotly in his ear. "Come on, drink up Zaynie."
Zayn bats open his eyes slowly. They feel like they weigh a ton, and it takes a fuckload of effort

to get them actually open. When he does, he meets pale blue eyes and he narrows his own again.
"What the fuck did you just call me?"
"Oh, great, you're awake," Louis says, leaning back. "And still an asshole."
Zayn glares at him, sitting up. His head rushes instantly, spinning enough to make him want to
throw up. And his throat is painfully dry, like he'd swallowed hot coals or something. Just as he
thinks this, he zeroes in on the glass in Louis' hand, filled to the brimming with juice, condensation
dripping down the sides.
"Here," Louis says, handing it over. "Niall says the sugar will help."
"Help," Zayn repeats, sucking the straw into his mouth. He gulps down half the glass in one sip,
finishes the other half in two more. "What happened?"
"You fainted like a little bitch," Louis says happily. "It was awesome.
Zayn groans at him, putting the glass on his bedside table. "Great."
"Niall thinks it was the smoke you'd inhaled," Louis explains. "Or shock. He said it could be
either/or, but you're fine. You landed on the sofa so you didn't crack your head open or anything."
"Great," Zayn repeats.
Very slowly, the events of this afternoon replay in his mind. Breakfast with Liam, class
afterwards, Louis' harassing phone calls and running all the way home. The panic when he found
out what happened, the drive to Liam's, running into that burning building and finding Liam
inside, pulling him out, somehow getting them both to safety. Fuck. No wonder he fucking
"He's fine, in case you're wondering," Louis says offhandedly. "News reporters won't leave him
alone. He's all over every channel. They keep asking about you, about the guy that pulled him out
of the building. He won't say anything. Just keeps mumbling that he can't remember what
happened after he broke into the apartment across the hall because he heard a dog barking."
"He's an idiot," Zayn mutters. Only Liam would risk his entire life to save someone else's dog.
That's not his job. That's the firemen's job. His job is to look after himself first, that's it. Zayn's
going to have to lecture him on this at some point. "But he's not hurt or anything?"
"You can come see for yourself, if you want," Louis tells him. "I'm sure they're still covering it on
every channel. It's only been a few hours."
Zayn nods mutely, and Louis helps him out of bed with a hand on his elbow that he shrugs off as
soon as he's sure he won't collapse again. Niall and Cher are both waiting for them in the living
room, Cher on the floor like always, legs pulled up to her chest, Niall watching the TV with a
blank look on his face.
Cher jumps him instantly, pulling him into a tight hug that threatens to crush his bones. "Iidot,"
she blubbers. "You could have died, you moron."
"You realize fire doesn't burn me, right?" Zayn says.
"Fire cannot kill a dragon," Louis says lowly. They both ignore him.
"Yeah, but smoke can still kill you, fucknut," Cher snaps. "I can't believe you."

"What did you expect?" Zayn demands, sinking onto the sofa next to Niall. "That I leave him in
there? Liam would have died."
"You weren't even sure he was inside," Cher hisses. "You ran in there on a stupid whim."
Zayn rolls his eyes and chooses to ignore her, too. Instead he focuses on the TV as another news
reporter relays the events of the night. Zayn watches raptly, stomach sinking as he does.
There were six different fires altogether, all over the city. Someone had lit them all within minutes
of each other, somehow, and three of the six buildings are completely demolished. Twenty-seven
people are at the hospital with burns ranging from minor to nearly fatal, and seven people died.
Seven. Liam could have been one of them, and he shouldn't be focusing on that because Liam is
alive and well, but he is anyways. (But more than that, Zayn wonders how many he could have
saved. How many other people's lives he could have spared and he failed to.)
"Keep listening," Niall urges, turning the volume up. "It gets even more fucked up."
"Information on the arsons is not being released by police at this moment, but several sources
claim that mayor William Kensington has been brought into custody," the woman on screen says,
and Zayn's eyebrows draw together.
"The mayor," he says. "What? Why is the mayor in custody?"
"He did it," Niall says. "He confessed. It was all over channel five half an hour ago. He stepped
right in front of the camera and said 'I did it.'"
That doesn't make any sense. Zayn's mind whirls, but no matter how he looks at it, it doesn't make
sense. "Why the fuck would the mayor wouldn't start a series of arsons. That doesn't make
"Something weird is going on here," Cher says. "And don't tell me it's all in my head this time,"
she adds, glaring at Louis. "First those uni students robbing the bank, then that rich couple holding
up the convenience store, now this. Something isn't right."
Zayn nods his agreement, and Niall says lowly, "Something is definitely not right."
"I'll talk to Harry about it," Louis says suddenly. The three of them give him a look, and he
shrinks down in his seat. "What? He interns at the news station, right? Maybe he has information
we don't. I'll ask him to look it up for us."
Cher goes on to tease him about Harry, Niall gets up to get Zayn something to eat, insisting that
it'll be good for him after fainting, but all Zayn can do is sit there as the news reports the events
over and over, occasionally changing news anchors, flitting between someone behind a desk and
reporters standing in front of roped off, burnt down building after burnt down building.
Occasionally a picture flashes, too, one of himself in his suit, blurry and backgrounded by Liam's
building burning down behind him, but he tries not to think about that. He'll freak out about that
tomorrow. Right now, he's still trying to piece together all of what happened, but no matter how
many times the image on the screen changes, the information stays the same.
Zayn has to agree. Something is definitely not right here.


Louis isn't grasping for reasons to see Harry, he isn't. This is serious. This is serious superhero,
city-saving related business, okay? And Cher can hop off his dick, because this has nothing to do
with Harry, or his dimples, or anything like that, no matter how many times she argues that it does.
There's really no excuse for him popping into Harry's apartment unannounced, though. He could
have called or texted first, asked Harry to meet him at their coffee shop or something. But he didn't
even consciously make the decision to come here. He was lying in Zayn's bed (his room is cozier
than Louis', and his bed is comfier), staring up at the ceiling, definitely not thinking about dimples
or soft lips or ravaging boys in sweater vests, and the next thing he knows he's standing in Harry's
living room.
Harry jumps, nearly falling backwards out of his chair. He's sitting at his desk, laptop open and
running in front of him. His glasses fall down the bridge of his nose as he gapes at Louis, and all
Louis can do is offer him a sheepish shrug.
"What are you doing?" Harry demands. He stands up, straightening his vest over his shirt, fixing
his glasses.
Louis falls onto Harry's sofa like he owns the place, or at least like he's been here more than once
and had been invited to do so. He props his feet up on the coffee table, lounging back carelessly.
"Came to ask you a few things," he explains, sounding a bit bored.
"You couldn't have called first?" Harry wonders, but he looks amused, at least. "Do you do that
often? Just pop into people's apartments unannounced?"
Louis shrugs, but he doesn't. He doesn't really know that many people, is the thing. Whose houses
would he pop into? He lives with the only three people he ever associates with. "Maybe," he says
anyways, because he doesn't want Harry to get the impression that he's, like, special or something.
(Because he's not.)
Harry shakes his head, looking between Louis and his laptop. His teeth clamp down on his bottom
lip, and he looks lost in contemplation for a moment before he says, "I, uh, sort of have work to
"So work," Louis tells him. "I'm not stopping you."
"But you're distracting," Harry points out. He sinks down into the wooden chair at his desk,
turning it so he's facing Louis. "What did you, um, want to ask me, anyways?"
Why does he have to be so endearing? It doesn't even make sense. He defies the laws of the
world, with that damn sweater vest and the gelled hair, but those bright green eyes and obscenely
pink lips. Everything about him dictates that he should not be hot, not even remotely, and yet.
But no. Louis came here on a mission, and he isn't going to get caught up in that. "You said you
intern at the news station, right?"
Harry lights up like a fucking Christmas tree. "Yeah," he says excitedly. "It's really great. I mean,
all I do mostly is make coffee for people and file paperwork, but I learn a lot, you know? And I
work with Tristan Steele, the news anchor? You know who I'm talking about? He's brilliant. He
was the editor of the school's paper before he graduated. It's so incredible working for him
because I've looked up to him since I was sixteen, and his work on the studies of "
"I really, really don't care," Louis says flatly.
Harry's entire expression falls, and he sinks lower in his seat, shoulders drooping. "Right," he says

quietly. "Sorry. I shouldn't have assumed that you would."

Damn it. "I care a little bit," Louis retracts. "I just don't want to listen to you wax on about Tristan
Whatever-his-name-is all day."
Harry's lips twitch, and there's something about the look in his eyes that says he's smirking, not
smiling. "Jealous?" he asks.
Louis snorts at him. "Hardly," he says, tucking his arms behind his head, closing his eyes. Harry's
sofa is comfortable, nothing like the white leather one they have at home. It's worn and it sinks in,
and Louis sort of wants to grab Harry's hand, drag him over to it and curl up beside him on it,
possibly naked and sweaty after a good round of sex.
When he blinks his eyes back open, Harry's giving him a curious look. One that makes him a little
uncomfortable. "What?" he snaps.
Harry grins at him. "Nothing," he says. "You're just interesting."
"Interesting how?"
Shrug. "I don't know. You just are."
"Anyone ever tell you that you're weird, Harry Styles?" Louis wonders.
"Almost every single person I've went to school with from the time I was nine until now," Harry
says easily. He stands back up, rubbing his hands on the thighs of his jeans. "Do you want a
drink? Or a snack? I'm not really sure what to do here. I don't ever have guests."
Louis sits up, dropping his feet back to the floor. "A drink would be nice," he admits. But that's
not what he came here for. He didn't come to visit. He came to ask Harry important questions
about about what, exactly? He can't even remember. "Thanks."
Harry disappears around the back of the sofa, and Louis can hear him rummaging around in the
small kitchen. He returns a moment later with two glasses of chocolate milk (honestly, Louis is not
even surprised at this point), one of which he hands to Louis before asking, "Can I, uh, can I sit?"
He gestures to the sofa, and Louis raises his eyes.
"It is your sofa," he points out.
"Right, right." Harry gingerly sits down beside him, sipping at his drink. When he lowers his
glass, there's leftover milk above his top lip and he doesn't seem to realize it as he grins at Louis.
"You, uh" Louis gestures to his face, and Harry frowns. "You have milk on your face."
"Crap." He wipes at his mouth with the back of his hand, and his cheeks turn a delicious shade of
pink. Louis pities him as much as he wants to kiss him. "I wish I weren't so awkward," Harry
blurts. "I mean, you're gorgeous and I just want to impress you but I keep saying stupid things and
looking like an idiot, and I can't stop thinking about you kissing me the other day because I
haven't worked out yet if you liked it or not and"
"Harry," Louis says, cutting him off. He places his glass carefully on the table and shifts a little
closer to where Harry's sitting.
"Yes?" Harry asks patiently, expectantly waiting for Louis to continue.
Instead, Louis fists a hand in that god-awful sweater vest of his, pulling him in and slotting their

mouths together. Harry makes a surprised sound against his lips, but he immediately tangles his
hands in Louis' hair, eyes falling closed. Louis kisses him to shut him up, to ease his nerves a bit,
but also because he wants to. He wants to because he likes the stupid vest wearing, fumbling dork.
Oh, god.
Louis falls back against the sofa, pulling Harry down with him until Harry's on top of him,
struggling to balance himself with one leg tucked between the back of the sofa and Louis' body,
and the other dangling off to the floor. Louis grabs at the back of his thighs, steadying him, and he
curls his tongue in Harry's mouth, groaning as Harry's hands scratch desperately at his chest
through his shirt.
And then Harry grinds down against him. Louis isn't expecting it at all, and a moan falls from his
lips before he can stop it. Harry pulls back, fixing his glasses again and grinning down at Louis,
almost smug. "So you do like me, huh?" he asks.
Louis glares up at him, hands on Harry's waist. "You wear sweater vests," he says instead of
answering that.
"And you like me," Harry says, sounding absolutely positive.
Louis teleports out from underneath him, popping back in on the other side of the room. He's fast
enough that he gets to watch Harry sprawl face first into the sofa, and now who has reason to be
smug? He crosses his arms over his chest, smirking as Harry pushes himself back up, eyes
narrowed slightly.
"That was sort of rude, you know," Harry informs him.
Louis shrugs at him until Harry goes to stand up. "No," he says quickly. "You stay over there. Far
over there. I came here for an important reason, and I don't need you distracting me again."
"I distract you?"
"Yes," Louis admits. "But that's really beside the point right now."
Harry sighs, tucking a strand of hair behind his ear. "Okay. I'm here for whatever you need."
Right now what he needs is a bit of relief on his cock, because he's hard as fuck in his jeans. He
has a feeling that Harry might actually be willing to help with that problem, too, which adds to the
distraction because Louis came here on business, not pleasure.
"Did you see what happened on the news the other day?" he asks, trying to stay on tasks. "With
the fires, and"
"The mayor confessing to them," Harry finishes for him. "Yeah, I did." He gets out of his seat,
returning to his desk, and he digs around in one of the drawers until he pulls out a few sheets of
paper. "I've been keeping track of everything happening in the city lately. Did you know that the
crime rate has risen, and we've doubled our annual death rate in the last two months alone?"
Louis takes a hesitant step towards him, looking over Harry's shoulders down at the papers in his
hands. "What are those?"
"Just a few articles I've been keeping around," he explains, flipping through them.
Louis recognizes the first one, the couple who held up the convenience store. There's also the
article on the arsons from yesterday's paper, as well as two different clippings from the attempted
bank robbery by the university students. But there's also articles on a happily married woman who

shot her husband for not taking out the garbage on their 30th anniversary, and one on the head of
the Mothers Who Care society (a local charity that raises awareness of child abuse and negligence
and holds fundraisers for underprivileged children year round) leaving her two children locked in
her car outside the mall for six hours.
"This isn't even all of it," Harry says, shuffling them all together when they're done. "I'm not
supposed to talk about any of it, because I signed a confidentiality contract when I started my
internship, but the details are worse. All of them confessed afterwards to having no idea why they
did what they did, not to mention the fact that each and every crime is out of character for those
who committed them. It's insane."
Louis bites his lip, reaching for the papers. "Can I borrow these?"
Harry nods. "Yeah. You're going to figure it out, right?" he asks. "You and your friends, the ones
who stopped the robbery and "
"How do you know about that?" Louis asks sharply.
Harry smirks at him. "I know a lot more than you think," he says. "Like I know that Zayn's the
one who walked into that burning building the other day, and you've been aiding the police in this
city for over a year now, but they're trying their best to cover it up because they don't want anyone
to think they're incompetent."
Louis heart sinks into his stomach. It's one thing for Harry to know about him, but Zayn and the
others? That's different. And how the hell does he know? Do other people know? Should they
start worrying, maybe pack up their stuff and leave? Louis doesn't want to think about what would
happen if people knew about them, it's too terrifying to dwell on. Zayn lectures him all the time on
how dangerous it would be.
"You can't tell anyone," Louis pleads. "Do you understand me, Harry? You can't."
"I'm not stupid," Harry says patiently. "In fact, I'm actually fairly intelligent, actually. I know I
can't tell anyone, and I won't, I promise. I get it."
"You get it," Louis repeats.
"Yeah, I do," Harry says, almost defiantly. He tilts his chin, daring Louis to question him on it.
"You can't tell anyone because it'll be dangerous for you. You spend your whole life hiding the
biggest part of who you are because you know society will reject you if you don't, but at the same
time you do everything in your power to help protect those very people that are so unwilling to
accept who you are."
Louis blinks at him. "You make it sound really noble when you say it like that, but in reality I just
like to wear the supersuit and punch people in the face. Usually bad people but, you know, I'm not
really all that picky."
"You're still incredible," Harry says earnestly. "You're the most fascinating person I've ever met."
Louis tries to play off the flush in his cheeks, rolling his eyes and muttering, "Flattery won't get
you into my pants, Styles."
Harry's eyes widen. "I I wasn't trying to" he stammers, looking horrified and so apologetic
it's almost funny, only it's really not. Playing with Harry Styles is nowhere near as fun as Louis
thought it would be. All he wants to do is wrap his arms around the guy and kiss him until he
stops looking so mortified.

"I'm gonna go before you start crying or something," he groans instead of giving into that urge. "If
you find anything more on these cases, let me know."
"I will," Harry promises.
Louis busies himself with shoving the papers in his pocket, and when he's done Harry is looking
at him with this expression on his face that says he really does find Louis incredible. He's never
had someone look at him like that in his whole life. He has a track record of dating assholes that
looked at him with lust and mild contempt at best, and if he caught Zayn or Cher or Niall looking
at him like that he'd kick them, but something about Harry doing it makes his breath catch in his
"My friends and I are going to this club tonight," Louis blurts before he can stop himself. "Tetris?
It's on 1st and Lansdowne. We'll be there at around ten or something, if you want to come."
"Really?" Harry asks excitedly. "You want me to go to a club with you and your friends?"
"Not if you're still wearing that vest," Louis deadpans.
Harry plucks at the material, eyebrows knitting together. "D'you think my cardigan is okay
"Oh my god," Louis groans. He pops out of Harry's apartment before he can blurt any of the
many, many insulting things that came to mind at that question. For some reason he doesn't want
to hurt Harry's feelings, and that's a first for Louis.
Harry seems to be the exception to so many of Louis' rules.


The last thing Zayn wants to do is spend his Friday night at a shitty club, watching Louis get
shitfaced and pretend not to make heart eyes at Harry, while Cher giggles and pretends to be one
hundred percent normal until some guy tries to touch her without her consent and she snaps his
arm in half. He has too much history with these things, and he swore the last time he went out
with the two of them, and someone (he's still not sure which) vomited on his shoes, that he
wouldn't do it again.
Clubs are not his thing. People are not his thing. He'd rather stay at home and watch Niall tinker
around with the car in the basement, or play video games, or stab himself in the face with a fork.
Which is why he has no idea how the hell he ended up at Tetris tonight.
The lights are so flashy they can't be described as anything but nauseating, swirling and cutting
out and coming back on in the blink of an eye, making everything Zayn had eaten today churn in
his stomach. The music isn't terrible, admittedly, and he nods his head reluctantly along to some
Nelly song he hasn't heard in years as he curls his hand around his glass.
"Try to look like you're having fun," Louis snips at him, leaning up in his chair, trying to see over
the crowd. "Harry said he was already here, like, ten minutes ago. Where the hell is the fashion
challenged little shit?"
"Probably avoiding you," Cher says happily as he sips at her beer. "I know I would be."

"Then why are you sitting right next to me?" Louis snaps at her.
"I'm sitting next to Zayn," she corrects. "I have to protect him in case someone tries to socialize
with him and he has an aneurism."
"You're both annoying," Zayn mutters, downing the rest of his drink in one sip. If he's going to do
this, might as well do it drunk. It might make the two of them less irritating, and he prays it makes
the lights less sickening.
Across the bar, he meets a pair of brown eyes (or are they blue? The light changes, flickering over
them, and Zayn honestly can't tell from here). The guy is staring at him unabashedly, and it makes
Zayn sit up a little straighter in his seat. Without even thinking, Zayn checks him out. Not because
he's interested, but because there's something about the guy that's off to him. He doesn't look like
he wants to be here either, is the thing. His shoulders are squared and he's dressed in a black
hoodie, nothing flashy or flattering, definitely trying to blend in instead of stand out.
And he's looking at Zayn with this weird expression on his face that makes Zayn uncomfortable.
"Looks like you've got an admirer," Louis teases, elbowing him and smirking in the direction of
the guy, who finally lowers his gaze under Louis' attention. He flicks it back up to Zayn a second
later, though.
"Fuck off," Zayn sighs. He steals Louis' drink, trying not to shiver under the stare.
"Maybe you should go hit on him," Louis suggests. "Ask him for a dance. Try to have fun. He
looks interested enough."
But he doesn't. He doesn't look interested in Zayn at all, not in that way. Zayn's had people look at
him with interest before (until they get too close and actually speak to him, and whatever sixth
sense they have that alerts them to how fucked up Zayn really is kicks in) and this guy definitely
isn't doing that. He looks Zayn isn't even sure how to describe it, but he's on edge when the guy
gets out of his seat, coming towards him.
Before he can make it over to them, and Zayn can make an excuse to duck away, a blur whizzes
past him and flings itself into Louis' arms. Zayn's eyes widen, and Louis pushes the guy away
from him as his eyes practically bug out of their sockets.
"Harry?" Louis blurts, looking shocked.
Zayn is, too. He's seen Harry around campus enough times to recognize the guy, but the person
standing in front of Louis' only slightly resembles the dorky, nerdy boy Zayn's used to. For one,
the glasses are gone and his eyes suddenly look huge and bright under the flashing lights of the
club. For another, his hair isn't gelled down like it normally is, but instead it looks messy and
fluffed up around his head, curls matted with sweat and tousled, probably from running his hands
through it. And he's not wearing his normal sweater vest.
In fact, he's not wearing anything, aside from his jeans. His shirt is gone, and Zayn's surprised to
see a plethora of tattoos covering his pale body. And Louis looks seconds away from drooling, he
honestly does. Zayn doesn't even blame him for it. Who knew Harry was hot underneath the geek
persona? Definitely not Zayn, and judging by the disbelief on Louis' face, definitely not Louis.
"I've been looking for you for ages," Harry whines, trying to wrap his arms around Louis' neck,
but Louis resolutely keeps him arm's length away.
"Where's your shirt?" Louis demands, eyes darting down Harry's body before returning to his

face. "And your glasses? And your hair is"

"Right?" Harry laughs, swaying a bit to the beat of the music. "I got here and I suddenly just I
had to change. Do you like it?"
Zayn takes a step back, suddenly feeling intrusive as Louis shakes his head, lowering his gaze. "I
liked the glasses," he says quietly. "I like you the way you always are."
"Yeah, but this is better," Harry argues. "You should you should come dance with me, right
now." And, before Louis can protest, Harry pulls him onto the dance floor.
"Shit," Cher mutters when they're gone.
"What?" Zayn asks.
"He's hot," she complains. "How am I supposed to tease Louis about him now, when his
boyfriend looks like that?"
"Maybe you could not tease him about it," Zayn proposes. "You could always do that."
Cher snorts, and they both know that isn't going to happen. Zayn rolls his eyes at her and
impatiently taps his fingers on the bar, needing another drink. Brown-eyes from before is watching
him again, once more in the exact same seat across the bar, and Zayn doesn't know if he should
keep ignoring it or maybe say something.
Zayn turns around abruptly, deciding to survey the area instead. He's not used to coming out to
places like this, and the dance floor is a clear example of why. Everyone's pressed too closely,
bodies writhing against each other. The song playing now is no longer enjoyable, and seriously?
Is that couple really ripping off each other's clothes right fucking there on the dance floor? Christ.
"Are you seeing this?" Zayn asks, watching as the guy literally pulls the girls shirt right down, and
the girl continue to dance up on him without a care for the fact that her breasts are nearly
completely exposed.
"Seeing and wanting to join," Cher says. "I'll be back."
Zayn makes a face at her as she disappears into the crowd, leaving him alone. He's just about to
turn around and call out to the bartender to hurry up with that drink when he spots a familiar figure
in the crowd. Zayn's willing to bet everything he owns that he would recognize that chest straining
against that plain white t-shirt anywhere, no matter how big the crowd.
"Is that Liam?"
Zayn looks up sharply to find Louis beside him once more, panting and sweating with a hand on
Harry's chest to keep him at bay. Harry's struggling against it anyways, gripping Louis' hips,
trying to attack his neck with his lips. "Um," Zayn says awkwardly.
Louis looks at Harry, then back at Zayn. "He's drunk," Louis explains, having the decency to look
a little sheepish, at least. "I can't keep him off me. I swear he's normally not like this."
Harry grins, leaning in to whispers something in Louis' ear that makes Louis' cheek flush a deep
red, even the tips of his ears going pink. "Meet me in the bathroom and I'll show you," he adds.
Louis makes a face and firmly pushes Harry away from him. "In a minute," he bargains. "I need a
drink. And to get Zayn laid." He grabs Zayn's arm, turning him back in the direction Liam had
been. "Go get your mechanic, babe."

"I don't want" Louis shoves him forward before he can argue, and he stumbles, nearly falling
off his feet.
Only Liam is suddenly right there. He steadies Zayn with a hand on each of his arms and a grin
on his face. "Hi," he says over the music.
"Hi," Zayn says tightly.
"Funny running into you here," Liam says, letting out a chuckle, his eyes scrunching up from the
force of it. "Get it? I mean, you literally ran into me."
Zayn takes a step back, flooding with embarrassment. "Sorry," he says quickly. "My friend sort of
never mind. Sorry."
Liam lets his hands slide down Zayn's arms before they fall back to his sides. He looks incredible,
like always, with his hair trapped under a snapback and his stubble a little heavier than usual. "I
didn't say I minded," he says lowly.
Oh. "Right." He looks over his shoulder, expecting some kind of encouragement from Louis, but
Louis' too busy shoving his tongue down Harry's throat to notice, with Harry groping his ass in
front of everyone. But maybe it's good Louis is busy, because it gives him no choice but to talk to
Liam or sit by himself, and he wants to talk to Liam. Only he doesn't want to sound like an idiot.
He needs a drink.
As if reading his mind, Liam pulls off his hat and runs a hand through his hair while asking,
sounding a little nervous, "Can I get you a drink?"
Zayn starts nodding before Liam has even fully finished asking the question. "That'd be great," he
adds. "Yeah, you can. Yeah."
"Yeah," Liam says back. He nods at the bar and starts towards it, Zayn trailing after him. "I'm
actually really glad you're here," he says as he leans his hip against the bar, waiting for the
bartender. "I know I said I'd drive you to class today, but I've been a little busy. I hope you
weren't waiting for me."
Zayn shakes his head quickly. Only Liam would feel guilty about not coming through with an
offer to drive Zayn somewhere literally days after his entire apartment went up in flames. "I
watched the news," Zayn says quietly. "It's fine. I didn't expect you to be there. I'm just glad
you're okay after everything that happened."
Liam nods jerkily, dropping his gaze. He takes a deep breath, looks up into Zayn's eyes, and
Zayn's chest tightens impossibly. "I'm okay," he confirms. "A little shaken, but."
Zayn wants to touch him, wants to put a consoling hand on Liam's arm, but he knows that he
probably doesn't have any right to. "I was really worried about" He cuts himself off abruptly
when Liam starts turning around, looking away from him, his attention no longer on Zayn at all.
Instead he's searching the bar for something, and Zayn follows his gaze.
They're still waiting for a bartender, and Zayn finally spots the woman who served him his earlier
drink. Only she's literally kneeling on top of the bar, hand fisted in some man's shirt as they kiss,
her pulling him out of his stool. And he looks for Louis again, too, but he's disappeared
somewhere, as has Cher. In fact, that bar is mostly deserted, everyone else on the dance floor aside
from him, Liam, and the couple making out.
"Is it weird in here to you?" Liam asks him. "Where's the bartender? Where's"

Zayn waits for him to finish but Liam's eyes suddenly glaze over, like he's lost deep in thought. It's
the weirdest thing Zayn's ever seen, as if someone flicked a switch and shut him off.
He can't resist this time. He reaches out, grabbing Liam's arm, and he hopes his hand isn't too hot
as he curls his fingers around Liam's bicep. "Liam," he says, "are you?"
That dazed look slips out of Liam's eyes, and he's suddenly crowding Zayn against the bar
without any warning. Zayn makes a surprised sound in the back of his throat, hands trapped
between their two bodies with Liam curving into him, forehead almost resting against Zayn's.
"Fuck the drinks," Liam says roughly. "Dance with me instead?"
Zayn has a feeling he's the one who looks dazed now. This close up Liam smells like sweat and
cologne, a heady mixture that has that familiar fire igniting in his veins. "I yeah," Zayn says,
nodding stupidly. "Sounds good. Let's dance."
Not that Zayn can dance. In fact he's dreadful at it, but fuck if he won't agree to any suggestion
that comes out of Liam's pretty mouth when he's standing this close.
That mouth that spreads into the widest smile as he grabs Zayn's hand, tugging him into the throng
of people. They're all moving so close, packed in like sardines, and Liam has to use those broad
shoulders of his to move past couple after couple after group, until they're finally in a more
secluded area, closer to the booths than the bar.
As soon as they stop, Liam tugs him closer, one hand curling around the back of Zayn's neck, the
other secured on the small of his back. Music thumps loudly through his body, you take the lead
and I'll take off my disguise, and Liam starts swiveling his hips against Zayn's, brushing their
groins together in a way that makes Zayn's head spin.
If I confess, would you come clean? You take off the mask and we'll live like royalty. Zayn can't
think past the music and the way Liam moves against him like he was made to do this. Like his
body was designed to caress Zayn's like this, because it definitely feels like it was. It makes him
forget, for a moment, how to be embarrassed about this type of thing, and all he can do is fist his
hands in the front of Liam's shirt and hang on as Liam wrecks him.
"Do you know how hot you are?" Liam whispers in his ear, his teeth catching on Zayn's earlobe
when he's done.
Zayn makes a humiliating sound, tipping his head back. Is he drunk right now? How much did he
drink? There's no way this is happening. There's no way Liam is saying things like that to him,
moving like this against him. There's no way.
Over Liam's shoulder, Zayn can see a different couple going at it on the dance floor. The girl has
her back pushed against the guy, and he's got a hand slipping into her jeans. Zayn's eyes widen,
and he looks away just as the girl's eyes close and her mouth falls open in a moan. But then he's
watching two girls grope each other, and then two others sandwiching a guy between them as
their tongues dance together the way their bodies do, in perfect synchronization.
Zayn pulls back from Liam a bit, eyebrows drawing together as the girl next to them takes off her
shirt and her boyfriend starts unbuttoning his jeans. The girl on their right has her dress hiked up
so far that Zayn's cheeks burn just from darting a look at her, and everyone around them is
suddenly either half-naked or ravaging the person closest to them.
In fact, everyone single person Zayn can see is on the dance floor. The bar is completely
abandoned, and not a single person in Zayn's sight is drinking, either. They're all too busy dancing

and groping at each other. Even the booths are empty, for the most part. Aside from the one where
the two guys are grinding each other into the upholstery and another where a single man sits
surrounded by women. (Zayn can't see his face, it's too dark where he's sitting and he's too far
away, but he seems to be the only person in the entire building not moving desperately to the beat
of the music.)
An alarm goes off inside of Zayn, one screaming wrong. Something is wrong here. Something is
off. He pushes farther away from Liam, hissing, "What the hell is going on here?"
Liam ignores him. He reaches for the bottom of his t-shirt, tugging it seamlessly over his head,
tossing it away, abandoned. Zayn sucks in a breath, trying so hard to meet Liam's eyes but, fuck,
he's so fit it's ridiculous. He's toned and tanned and, shit, Zayn's not a fan of chest hair, he's really
not, so why the hell are his jeans so tight at the sight of the dark hair curling over Liam's chest,
down his navel, disappearing under the waistband of his jeans?
"Liam," he tries, weak and feeble, but he knows that this, too, is wrong. Out of character.
"Wanna fuck you so bad," Liam confesses, pulling him back in. He mouths at Zayn's neck
without warning, and Zayn is putty in his hands, melting seamlessly against him, fluidly fitting
their bodies together perfectly as his eyes close. "Would you let me? Right here? Fuck, I'd make it
so good for you, Zayn."
Zayn's dick twitches, but he pushes Liam away anyways, using all of his self-control to do so.
"Something isn't"
Liam turns him around, tugging until he's plastered against Zayn's back and Zayn can feel the
length of him pressing against his ass. Liam rocks his hips into Zayn, cock pushing insistently
against Zayn's ass through their jeans while his hand snakes down, cupping the bulge in Zayn's
"Or you could fuck me if you want to," Liam murmurs, breath hot and damp on the back of
Zayn's neck. He squeezes Zayn through his jeans, and Zayn has to focus on not coming in them
like he's six-fucking-teen or something. "Bend me over, make me beg for it. Or I could suck you
off." He reaches for the button on Zayn's jean. "Let me, yeah? Fuck, please."
Zayn's eyes snap open and Cher's glaring at him, looking seconds away from slapping him. It's
sort of hard to focus on that, though, because Liam's still going, saying, "She can watch, if she
wants. I don't care. I just want you. They can all watch, just fuck"
"We have to go!" Cher shouts over the music.
Zayn grabs Liam's hand, stopping it from crawling down his pants the way it's trying to
do. Something isn't right, he thinks, giving Cher a pleading look.
"No shit!" she yells at him. "Grab your boy and let's go!"
Zayn nods, turning around to face Liam. The second he does, Liam pulls their entwined hands,
using his and Zayn's to palm himself through his jeans. He's so fucking hard, and Zayn can't think.
He's too hot, Liam's too hot, the music is too loud, the lights are too blinding. "Please," Liam begs,
panting, as the song changes and baby if you give it to me, I'll give it you, I know what you want,
you know I got it plays loudly all around them, adding to the heady atmosphere.
Liam doesn't look like he's going to listen to anything Zayn says right now. "Okay," he agrees,
nodding. "Outside, though. Whatever you want, just come outside with me."

Liam nods raptly, pulling Zayn through the crowd like he's desperate for it. Zayn's helpless to do
anything but follow behind him, nearly stepping over a couple going at it on the floor, shouldering
past another that look to be fucking literally up against another couple. He reaches for Cher's
hand, too, for some sort of normalcy in the midst of all this chaos. She grabs his tightly and he
pulls her along behind them.
Just like earlier, it's like watching a switch flick. The second Liam steps outside, the cold air
almost stinging at Zayn's skin, it's such a sharp contrast from the inside of the club, the light in
Liam's eyes goes out. His hand falls from Zayn's and he doubles over like he's going to be sick.
"Liam," Zayn says, rubbing at his back.
"Oh, god," Liam moans.
Zayn looks to Cher for help, but she's looking between him and Liam, then up at something else.
Zayn lifts his gaze to find Louis supporting a still shirtless Harry, with Louis' arms tightly around
him like he's trying to keep Harry warm as he pets his messy hair.
"What the fuck?" Zayn blurts. "What the fuck just happened?"
"I feel sick," Liam says, straightening up. He looks it, too. His skin is ashen and slick with sweat,
and he's still shirtless, too. "I need to go. I I don't know what got into me. I don't even those
things I said, I"
Zayn shakes his head, cutting him off. He tugs off his hoodie, handing it to Liam, and Liam
hesitates for only a second before taking it. "Don't worry about it," Zayn says.
As much as he needs to make sure Liam's okay, Cher's giving him a look like she knows
something he doesn't, but she can't say it with Liam around.
Liam tugs on the sweater, and he looks horrified and embarrassed as he says, "I need to head back
to the hotel. I'm sorry. I I'm sorry."
"We can drive you," Zayn says quickly, "if you need"
Liam presses the heels of his hands to his eyes. "No, I need to clear my head," he says. "Thanks.
I'll, uh, see you later. Maybe."
Zayn nods, and Liam walks off with his shoulders hunched and Zayn's sweater pulled too tightly
over his back. When he's gone, Zayn turns to Cher. "Tell me what you know."
"Remember the kids that robbed the bank, and I said their minds were fucked up?" she asks. "And
then the couple that help up the convenience store, and"
"Cher," Zayn hisses, darting his gaze to Harry. He and Louis are standing far too close for
comfort, and there's no way he can't hear every word she's saying.
"Oh, he already knows everything," she says, waving him off.
"He does?" Zayn demands, glaring in Louis' direction. He knows better than to tell people. None
of them are allowed to. He knows that.
"I didn't tell him shit," Louis snaps at him. "Harry figured it out on his own."
"You're not very good at being discreet," Harry mumbles. "I feel sick."

"It's like they were all drugged," Cher continues, ignoring them. "It's like when you and Louis use
to smoke weed in the bathroom and lie and tell Niall you didn't, but I could always tell because
your minds were fucked, clouded, all foggy and shit. It's like someone slipped something in all of
their drinks and they started going crazy."
"We pretty much just witnessed an orgy," Louis adds. "And you know what? I always thought
they'd be more enjoyable than that, but I was extremely uncomfortable, honestly."
Zayn makes a face at him, but he asks Cher, "What could cause that? Liam didn't even have
anything to drink. I was with him from almost the moment he walked in. I know for a fact he
didn't touch anything."
"I don't know," Cher says, looking lost. "All I do know is something's going on around here.
There're too many instances of weird shit happening for them not to be related. Someone's
screwing with all of us, and we have to stop it."
"Can you guys work on saving the city after you bring me home?" Harry pleads. "I'm gonna
throw up."
Louis gives Cher a helpless, lost look. "Is it still like that?" he asks. "Is his mind still like that?"
She takes a long, hard look at Harry, and Harry winces. Zayn knows why. When she does that,
when she crawls inside your head, you can feel it. It's like someone carding their hands through
your hair, only it's inside your skull.
"No," says Cher after a moment. "He's clear. Exhausted and confused, but he's fine. And it
doesn't affect us. Did you notice that? The three of us were the only ones in there not affected by
whatever was screwing with everyone else."
"We need to talk to Niall," Zayn decides. They can't figure this out on their own. Niall will know
more than they do. If there's anything they can do about this, Niall will know just what it is.
The four of them head to the car where they left it three streets down. Whatever drinks Zayn had
earlier are not affecting him at all, but he lets Cher drive anyways, getting in the passenger seat for
once while Harry and Louis pile into the back. They decide to drop Harry off first before heading
home, and Zayn spends the whole ride thinking about Liam.
He feels like an asshole for not stopping Liam and getting him out of there sooner, but he couldn't.
He's never met a single person who's affected him the way Liam does. Even just thinking back on
it makes Zayn uncomfortable in his jeans, but more than that, he worries. If Harry's still sick in the
backseat, looking like someone really had slipped something into his drink, something that's made
him ill and exhausted, then Liam must be going through the same thing, right?
By the time they've dropped Harry off and made it back to their building, Zayn's made up his
mind. He follows Louis and Cher inside and the first thing he says to Niall when they walk in the
door is, "I need you to figure out where Liam's staying."
"Zayn," Cher snaps at him, eyes narrowing dangerously. "Worry about your boyfriend later. We
have more important things to deal with right now."
Zayn crosses his arms defiantly over his chest. "I'm not helping with anything until I'm sure he's
Niall looks between the two of them, eyes zeroing in on the massive hickey on Louis' neck before
he asks, "Do I even want to know what happened?"

"We witnessed an orgy," Louis says. "Zayn and I partially participated."

Zayn flips him off and repeats to Niall, "I need you to figure out where Liam is staying."
"You can't just run off and"
"I'm not helping until I know Liam's"
"Harry offered to rim me in the bathroom when we were"
Niall raises his hands, and all three of them instantly clamp their mouths shut. It's kind of
impressive how he does that, and if Zayn didn't know better he'd think Niall had some kind of
mind control power, but he knows that's not true. Niall just has a lot of influence over them, like a
father that they don't want to upset because he rarely yells but when he does it is terrifying.
"Okay," Niall says slowly, "I'm going to help Zayn first because he's stubborn and we all know
this isn't going to go anywhere until he gets his way." Zayn grins smugly. "Then you two are
going to explain to me what happened, and we'll figure out a solution to whatever the problem is.
Sound good?"
"Fine," Cher snaps, stomping away, the soles of her converse slapping against the floor as she
"I need a shower anyways," Louis adds.
Niall nods and jerks a thumb in the direction of the door. "Come on," he says.
Zayn dutifully follows him out of the apartment, heading for the elevator. They get in, and Niall
presses the buttons for different floors in a random sequence that has Zayn's eyebrows raising.
"Forgot my key," Niall explains. "I rigged this whole thing to work with a passcode just in case I
ever locked myself out, and I can also lock the entire basement down from here in case someone
ever breaks in."
"I'm impressed," Zayn says honestly.
Niall shrugs, like it's no big deal. He never thinks it is. He's a genius, Niall. Sure, it's hard to tell
when you look at him or talk to him, but sit him down in front of a computer and it's like watching
a magician work their magic. Zayn has no idea how he does it, and Niall's tried to teach him a
thing or two but it was like hearing static. He couldn't retain a single word Niall said, let alone
understand any of it.
The lights are all on when they get to the basement, and Zayn's not surprised. Niall's been down
here for days almost non-stop, coming up only for bed and dinner and to check on the rest of
them. Niall's probably working on a new gadget. All he can do is hope it's not another prototype
for their suits, because they end up disastrous more times than not.
His curiosity gets the best of him and he has to ask, "What is it this time?"
Niall knows what he's talking about instantly, and a sly grin slides onto his face. "Can't tell you
just yet," he says, "but if it works out, we won't have to deal with Louis' teleporting into our
rooms anymore. And I'm not sure yet, but I might be able to keep Cher from reading our minds in
certain places, too, but try not to think that around her because she'll probably try to stop me."
Zayn's brow furrows. "You lost me."

Niall rolls his eyes. "In layman's terms, I'm working on producing a metal that will be able to cut
off your abilities. Obviously not permanently, but when within the barriers of said metal, you three
should be unable to use your powers at all."
Zayn's eyes widen. The thought terrifies him but, at the same time "Is that really possible?" he
breathes. If it is, maybe he could maybe he could be normal again. Maybe he could attempt to
fix the frayed and broken pieces of his life that he thought he'd never get to.
If this works, could Zayn ever go back to his family? Apologize and promise things would be
different? Surely they'd be hesitant to let him back, but he wouldn't be at risk of hurting any of
them ever again.
"Not sure," Niall admits. "I'm still working on it. In fact, you can help me. I'm almost done with
the prototype, and"
"No way," Zayn says instantly. "I'm not being your guinea pig. Let Louis do it. You know he
loves to test your stuff out."
"It's not anything big, I promise," Niall says. "It's just a bracelet for now. At worst nothing
happens and your powers work the way they're supposed to, at best it inhibits your abilities
completely until you take it off."
Zayn gives him a wary look. "You're sure?"
"Positive," Niall says. "I think." Zayn groans. "It's not done yet, though. I'll bring it to you when it
is. For now, what am I supposed to be looking for?"
Niall sits himself at his computer station.
The computer station is huge. There's an entire wall of screens that flick between different sections
of the city. Sometimes Niall sits down here all day, monitoring them. Sometimes he doesn't, and
he has an alert system set up that informs them when something's going wrong. There's also a
desk with eight different computers set up and three different keyboards that all perform a different
function. Once, Zayn attempted to play video games on it and ended up ruining the whole system.
Niall didn't talk to him for a week.
Careful not to touch anything, Zayn leans against the desk and thinks for a moment. "He's staying
at a hotel," Zayn starts, eyebrows drawn together. "Any chance you could figure out which, and
what room specifically?"
Niall snorts at him. "Uh, yeah," he says. "Simple. I track his credit card and, unless he paid with
cash, his recent purchases should tell me what hotel he's staying at." As he talks, Niall's fingers
blur over one of the keyboards. "Then I just hack into the hotel's computer system, find which
room he's assigned to and voila."
"How hard will that be, though?" Zayn wonders, worrying his bottom lip between his teeth.
Niall grins at him. "Not very," he says. "He's staying at the Willow Hotel on Hampton Street,
room 709."
Zayn blinks at him for a moment before pulling Niall up into a tight hug. "You're brilliant, you
know that? Absolutely brilliant."
Niall laughs it off, pushing him away sheepishly. "It was easy," he says. "What's not will be
getting into his room. I have a feeling you're not going as you, huh?"

No, he's not. "I was planning on wearing the suit," he admits. It's just easier. And if he doesn't,
how could he possibly explain to Liam that he knew where he was staying and what room? He
couldn't. Not without Liam thinking he was a creepy stalker.
But superhero Zayn, on the other hand.
"There's no way you'll get past there security wearing that," Niall informs him, "but I might have
something that'll help."
Zayn's eyes narrow. "What?"
Niall grins.


"How's it working?"
Niall's voice erupts in his ear, accompanied by a loud crackling of static. Zayn winces and nearly
falls, and he's currently five floors off the ground. If he falls, he has a feeling he's not going to be
getting back up.
"Don't do that," he hisses. "Fuck. You scared the shit out of me."
"Sorry," Niall says, sounding barely concerned. "So? Do the gloves work?"
Zayn pulls his hand away from the brick wall with difficulty. He's wearing a new pair of gloves,
ones Niall created specifically for wall climbing. He feels sort of like Spiderman right now,
actually, as he crawls up the wall like a giant, creepy spider in the dead of night, sharp pegs in his
shoes keeping him from tipping backwards and special grips on the palms of his gloves that stick
him to the wall.
"They work," he confirms, panting a bit. "It's hell climbing this wall, though."
"You need to spend more time at the gym," Niall reminds him.
"Yeah, yeah," Zayn mutters. "I'll talk to you after. I'm almost at his room."
"No, you're not. You're two rooms to the left. If you keep going up from where you are now,
you'll end up in the room of an elderly couple from Norway spending their anniversary visiting
their grandchildren."
Zayn gives the wall a blank look. "How do you even know that?"
"Watching you on monitor 18," Niall says, all chipper like he's not being creepy as fuck right
now. There's a crunching sound, like he's eating popcorn or something, and Zayn rolls his eyes. "I
did a great job on those supersuits, by the way. It actually looks like you have an ass in that. It's
"I'm not talking to you anymore," Zayn tells him, pulling out his earpiece. He pockets it and starts
climbing the wall again, but he heads Niall's warning and moves to the right as he goes.
By the time his fingers are curling around the edge of Liam's window, he's out of breath and his
limbs ache. He should have just used the fire escape to climb to the roof and used the grappling

limbs ache. He should have just used the fire escape to climb to the roof and used the grappling
hook to lower himself down instead, but he figures he owes Niall for helping him find Liam's
room (and not teasing him about it, which the others surely would have done), and trying out this
new gadget isn't the worst price to pay for that.
Zayn feels extremely creepy for a moment as he looks into the room through the window, but it
can't be helped. He doesn't want to accidentally break into the wrong room, so he waits until he's
The lights are on inside, and he can see the bed (perfectly made) and the lights from the TV (out
of sight at the moment) flickering over the wall behind it. There's a small duffle bag at the end of
the bed and nothing else, which means this room could belong to virtually anyone. There's
nothing that stands out as Liam's.
Until steam wafts into the room and Liam steps out of the bathroom in nothing but a towel. In the
light of the hotel room, he looks even more incredible than he had in the club. His skin glistens
with water from the shower, and his hair is damp and curling with it as drops slide down his chest.
Zayn swallows and knocks on the window.
Liam jumps as soon as he does, and his mouth gapes open as he turns to the window. The second
his eyes land on Zayn, he relaxes, a disbelieving look crossing his features. Zayn tries not to fall
off the ledge as Liam comes over to him, each little dip of his stomach muscles getting more
prominent the closer he gets, as do the indents on his hips that look like they were made for Zayn's
fingers to press against.
The window opens and Liam's look turns confused, but there's an amused tilt to his lips. "I should
probably be surprised, right?" he asks. "But I'm really not."
Zayn clears his throat. "Can I come in?"
Liam shrugs, stepping back. "I'm not going to make you spend the night on my window ledge, so
you might as well."
Zayn grins, even if Liam can't see it, and swings his legs into the room. When he's safely inside
with his feet planted firmly on the ground, he closes the window to stop the cold air from drifting
into the room. (Even though he was sort of enjoying the effects it had on Liam's body, because
there're goosebumps on his skin and his nipples are standing up invitingly.)
"How're you feeling?" Zayn asks, sounding as neutral as possible. "I heard what happened at the
Liam gives him a sharp look as he bends down to riffle through his duffle bag. Zayn tries not to
pray for that towel to fall off as he turns around to give Liam a bit of privacy, turning to watch the
TV instead. It's set to the news station, and the news reporter is currently standing outside Tetris.
"I'm still not entirely sure what exactly happened at the club," Liam admits with a sigh.
"Can you turn this up?" Zayn asks him.
Liam locates the remote, and he turns up the volume on the TV. "I'll be right back," he adds.
When he ducks into the bathroom, Zayn focuses on the screen, eyes narrowed. "At this moment,"
the reporter on screen says, "we're not entirely sure what happened. Authorities are claiming that
some sort of chemical was released into the air that "
Airborne chemicals? That's what they're claiming? There's no way. If that were it, why didn't it

affect Zayn and the others? Unless something about their powers made them immune to it. Could
that be it? But then, why would the effects wear off as soon as those exposed stepped outside?
With Liam the change was instantaneous, happening the second he stepped out of the club. If it
were mind altering chemicals, wouldn't they take time to wear off? It doesn't add up.
"We have insider details thanks to our very own reporter who was actually present at the scene
tonight, Tri"
"Do you mind if I turn that off?" Liam asks, coming out of the bathroom. He's fully dressed now
in sweats and a t-shirt that both look brand new. It takes Zayn a beat to realize that they probably
are. After the fire, he must have had to buy new ones. "I don't really want to think about it."
Zayn nods, pressing the 'off' button on the TV. Liam goes and sits on the bed, and Zayn hesitates
a beat before joining him. Normal-Zayn wouldn't dare, but he's not Zayn right now, is he?
"You alright, babe?" he asks, concerned, as Liam tilts his head forward and breathes heavily.
"I'm okay," Liam promises. "Just a little rattled." He looks up at Zayn with a sad smile. "This is
really not my week, in case you haven't noticed."
Zayn doesn't second guess himself. He instantly wraps an arm around Liam's shoulder, pulling
him closer. He tugs off his gloves, too, dropping them into his lap so he can card a hand through
Liam's still damp hair. "You're okay, though," Zayn reminds him. "At least you're alright."
"Thanks to you," Liam sighs. He tucks his head into the crook of Zayn's neck. "I haven't forgotten
that you saved me, you know. I owe you my life."
"You don't owe me anything," Zayn says fiercely.
"I do," Liam mumbles. "I owe you everything, actually."
Zayn chews his lip. He doesn't want Liam to feel like he does. Zayn doesn't want anything in
return. He saved Liam for completely selfish reasons, because he couldn't handle not doing so.
But, "Maybe you could promise not to put yourself in dangerous positions again, then?" he
bargains. "It seems like every time I turn, you're getting hurt trying to help other people."
"Not tonight," Liam points out. He pulls back, lips twitching. "And superheroes don't have the
monopoly on saving people, you know."
"But I can't have you getting hurt," Zayn argues. "I can't."
Liam goes to laugh at him, but he cuts off with a wince, rubbing at his eyes. "Fuck," he moans.
"My head. It's it feels like something was crawling around inside of it."
"Maybe I can help," Zayn says, pulling back a bit. "Do you trust me?"
Liam snorts at him. "I'd be crazy not to, at this point."
Something about that admission has heat pooling in Zayn's stomach and chest, but he ignores it.
He kicks off his shoes and crawls farther up the bed until he's sitting behind Liam with his legs
spread on either side of Liam's body, and then he tries to remember what happened during that
massage Louis forced him into a while ago.
He starts out kneading at Liam's shoulders, pressing his fingers in a little tightly because he feels
tense under Zayn's touch. Almost immediately Liam shifts and asks, "Can I take my shirt off?"

Fuck yeah. Fuck yeah he can. "Go ahead," Zayn says.

Liam does, and then Zayn's running his hands over the smooth planes of his back. Liam is so
incredibly gorgeous it takes his breath away, but he tries not to focus on it because he doesn't want
to get worked up. If he does, he could end up hurting Liam more than helping.
Liam seems to like it, though. He sinks into Zayn's touch, head tipping back, and his eyes are
closed. "Do you always run this hot?" he wonders.
"Sort of," Zayn admits, as he digs the heels of his hands into Liam's back. "Is it too much?"
"No," Liam assures him, a breathless quality to his voice that makes Zayn shift a bit. "I like it."'
All Zayn can think about is earlier, Liam pressing up against his back, hands possessively roaming
his body. He wants that again. He wants all those things Liam proposed, too, but that wasn't Liam.
That was the influence of whatever the fuck happened back there, and he probably doesn't even
want those things the way Zayn does.
Slowly, the tense set to Liam's body relaxes and Zayn smiles as he rubs at Liam's back instead of
massaging it, just gentle brushes of his warm fingers on Liam's soft skin until he can't resist
anymore. He rolls up the bottom of his facemask, and he kisses at the back of Liam's neck
hesitantly, pausing right afterwards to gauge Liam's reaction.
Liam makes a soft whimpering sound that goes straight to Zayn's dick, and his hands are on
Zayn's thighs now, slowly rubbing up and down them. Zayn takes that as encouragement, kissing
his throat again, nosing at the stubble along his jaw that's softer than it looks. He smells so good,
fresh out of the shower, and there is a literal sinking feeling inside him as Liam tries to push back
against him.
Zayn is falling so incredibly hard and so impossibly fast, and he can't seem to do a thing to stop it.
"You going to rub my back the whole night, or are you going to kiss me?" Liam asks cheekily.
Zayn inhales sharply, and Liam twists around, moving until he's facing Zayn, still between both of
Zayn's legs. He pushes Zayn back, hands on his shoulders, until he hits the bed. And then he's got
Liam's weight pressing him into the mattress and his hands grabbing at Liam's back to steady
himself as Liam kisses him.
When Liam pulls back to make sure Zayn's okay with this, Zayn chases after him, teeth nipping at
Liam's bottom lip, tugging and sucking it into his mouth because Liam's lips are soft and plump
and he can't get enough. But as soon as Liam kisses him properly again, the kiss goes back to
something soft and slow, such a contrast to the way they were at the club.
There's something incredibly intimate about it, about the way Zayn gently slides his hands up
Liam's back again, memorizing every inch of it under his fingertips, with nothing but the steady
breathless sounds coming from both of them. Zayn wraps his legs around Liam's waist, pulling
him even closer, and the sound Liam makes is no longer soft and verging on innocent. It's low and
rough and dirty, and Zayn swallows it down, licking desperately into his mouth.
It's a whirlwind, kissing Liam. Everywhere they're pressed together is burning up, and there's a
thundering in Zayn's ears and a tingling in his veins. The temperature in the room rises, rises, rises
until the back his hands are caressing is slick with sweat under his touch. He's suddenly sweltering
in his suit, and Liam's panting steadily into his mouth, and Zayn can feel his restraint slipping, his
fingertips burning like a hot iron that he has to pull away from Liam's skin.
"Liam," he hisses. "Babe, you gotta"

"Sometimes I can'tbelieveyou're even real," Liam says between kisses, peppering them along
Zayn's jaw, down his neck. He sucks at Zayn's skin, and Zayn needs Liam off him now.
Liam doesn't hear him, or he's too lost in kissing Zayn to pay attention. He doesn't want to, but
Zayn has to physically push Liam off him as he scrambles off the bed, just planting his feet on the
floor when everything inside him gives into the fire.
On the bed, Liam lays with his legs spread, propped up on his hands. He looks both rejected and
amazed as the sound of crackling fire fills the air and that fire surrounds Zayn completely. He has
to focus on stopping it before the fire alarm goes off, but Liam's leaning forward, biting his lip,
and Zayn can't shut it off.
Liam starts moving towards him, cautiously standing up, and Zayn shakes his head quickly,
backing away from him. "Don't," Zayn warns. He lifts his hands and the flames caress his skin,
wrapping it in a glove of orange fire. "Don't get too close."
Liam ignores him because Liam is a fucking danger magnet and he doesn't seem to know how to
protect himself. Zayn keeps backing up and up, but he hits a wall, trapped, and he can feel the
plaster burning underneath the heat wafting off his body as Liam keeps moving towards him.
He flinches when Liam reaches a hand out, desperately shaking his head, pleading, "Don't. Don't
be stupid, Liam, don't"
Liam places a hand flat on his chest, eyes wide as he says, "It's fine. Look, it's fine." And he's
grinning so wide as he mirrors the action with his other hand, both pressed firmly and flatly
against Zayn's body.
Zayn's having trouble breathing as he waits for Liam to start screaming in pain, but it never comes.
Liam's still touching him, and the flames are licking playfully at his skin, crawling up his bare
forearms as Zayn watches on in wonderment.
"Liam," Zayn says, but Liam cuts him off with a sharp shake of his head.
"It doesn't hurt, I promise." He sounds almost giddy, pulling his hands back. The flames retreat
immediately, enveloping Zayn again instead, like they can't stand to not be touching him. "This is
Timidly, Zayn lifts his hand. Everything inside him is fighting himself on it, but he cups Liam's
cheek anyways, brushing his thumb along his jaw, breath catching when nothing happens. The
flames dance along Liam's skin but otherwise he seems completely fine, unharmed. "How?" he
breathes. "How is this even possible?"
"It likes me, I think," Liam says, covering Zayn's hand with his own, and the fire instantly
envelopes Liam's hand, too, until they're both encompassed in flame. "It feels nice," he adds.
Zayn lets his hand drop, and suddenly the fire goes out without any warning, like a flame doused
in water. He stumbles forward, off balance, legs feeling too weak to hold him, and Liam catches
"Are you okay?"
"Drained," Zayn admits, voice cracking. He shakes his head, trying to clear it, and pulls back. "It

takes a lot of energy. Usually I don't let it last that long."

Liam nods like he understands. "What makes it happen?" he asks. "When you don't do it on
purpose, I mean. What makes your power flare up randomly like that?"
If it were anyone else, Zayn would snort at the pun, but he has a feeling Liam didn't even do it on
purpose. "A lot of things," he says vaguely, because he doesn't exactly want to admit that this time
it was because Liam got him so heated he literally caught on fire. "Whenever any of my emotions
get too strong it sort of acts up like that."
Liam grins brightly. "I make you feel strong things, huh?" he teases.
Zayn's cheeks burn, and he tugs his mask back down over his jaw to hide it. "I should go."
"Oh." Liam takes a step back, nodding. "Right. It's late."
"Yeah." He reaches out but lets his hand fall back to his side at the last second. "I just wanted to
make sure you were alright after everything that happened."
"I'm fine," Liam says. "Better now, anyways."
Zayn can't help but hope he's part of the reason for that.
He heads for the window, using his grappling hook this time. Liam leans over the sill, watching as
he pushes off from the wall and lowers himself slowly to the ground. When his feet hit the earth
with a thud, he looks up to find Liam still there, watching him silently.
Awkwardly, Zayn waves at him before he jogs off, and once again he's leaving Liam with a wide
grin on his face that he can't seem to wipe away.
It doesn't take him long to get to the car, and the drive home is even shorter. He feels wiped,
though. He wants to go home and sleep for days, and since he doesn't have school for two more
he might actually do it. Maybe get up to eat periodically, but ultimately spending the whole
weekend in bed sounds like a fucking ace idea. Or maybe he'd dawn his superhero suit and visit
Liam again, spend the whole weekend in Liam's bed. That sounds like an even better plan.
He's expecting everyone to be in bed when he gets home, but Niall's awake, lounging on the sofa
with the TV muted. He looks up when Zayn comes in, a soft, sleepy grin on his face. "Wanted to
make sure you got in alright," he explains with a yawn.
Crippling fondness makes Zayn's chest so tight. He kicks off his shoes, moving though the
apartment to go and ruffle Niall's hair. "You're too" He cuts off, eyes wide, and yanks at Niall's
hair until his throat is exposed. "Holy shit," he says. "Is that a hickey?"
Niall jumps up, slapping a hand to his neck. "It's a burn. I was straightening my hair," Niall spits.
"Fuck off."
Which okay, that was weird. And totally uncalled for. What the fuck?
But Zayn doesn't let it get to him. Instead he shakes his head and raises his hands defensively.
"Okay, okay, it's not a hickey," he says. "Can I ask you something?"
"Is it about the hickey?"
"I thought you just said it wasn't a hickey," Zayn points out.

Niall's cheeks are so red, contrasting with his naturally pale skin tone. "Shut up," he says without
heat. "If it doesn't have to do with the hickey that isn't really a hickey, then ask away."
"It doesn't," Zayn promises. But tomorrow, when Louis' awake, Zayn is so telling him about the
hickey. Right now, he goes and sits on the sofa, too tired not to. "It's about Liam."
"Shit." Niall sinks onto the sofa next to him, slinging an arm over Zayn's shoulder. "I'm probably
not the best to do this, but I'll try. See, when a boy and well, in this case another boy, really love
each other "
Zayn punches him in the shoulder, and Niall bursts into laughter. "You're not funny," Zayn says.
"This is serious."
"Sorry." Niall leans back, tucking his arms behind his head. "Go on."
Zayn chews the inside of his lip, not sure how to proceed. While he's thinking, he lifts his hand
and turns it over, letting the warm simmering heat of the flames calm him as he thinks, and then he
realizes and he holds his hand out to Niall. "Touch it."
Niall frowns at him. "Uh, no thanks, man."
"Seriously," Zayn urges. "Touch it. Touch the fire."
Groaning, Niall gingerly holds out his hand and waves it close to Zayn's, never getting close
enough to actually touch the flames. At the last second he dives in, hand jerking into the flames
before he yelps and pulls back, sucking his finger immediately into his mouth.
"The hell would you make me do that for?" Niall demands. "Dick."
Zayn frowns at him, then down at the flames lifting up from his hands. "It didn't do that to Liam,"
he says. "He touched me and I sort of combusted and"
"I don't need details about your sex life," Niall says.
Zayn gives him a blank look. "I mean I caught on fire," he retracts, "and then he touched me
anyways, while I was still burning." While he talks, he focuses on the flames, letting them
disappear except on just the tips of his fingers, like five perfectly lit candles whose flames flicker
and grow, higher and higher and higher until he lowers them again. "It didn't hurt him at all."
"Huh," Niall says, and Zayn lets the flames die out.
"Do you think he's immune to our powers, maybe?" Zayn asks. "Why wouldn't it burn him? Or
maybe he's fire resistant. Maybe he's got powers of his own, and "
"No," Niall cuts him off. "Neither of those theories work. If he were resistant to fire you wouldn't
have had to save him the other day, remember?" Zayn does. Zayn remembers vividly, thanks.
"And he's not immune to powers because Cher can read his mind, so that doesn't work, either."
"Oh," Zayn says. "Then why would that happen? Like, it didn't hurt him at all."
Niall shrugs. "I've got a bit of a theory on that, maybe. I've been trying to figure it out for years,
why you're all the way you are, and I still can't figure that part out. But while I can't figure
out why you have these powers, the powers that you have make sense, and I think they're linked
to the type of person you are, you know? Like, Cher. She's one of the strongest people I've ever
met, and that reflects in her power. But she cares way too much about what people think about
her, and because of that she can hear it. And Louis' flighty, you know? He doesn't sit still, and it

makes sense that he'd be able to teleport."

But what about Zayn, then? Why does he get pyrokinesis?
That's not important right now, though. "None of that explains why my flames wouldn't burn
"Sure it does," Niall argues, standing up. "Your power is a reflection of yourself, and you don't
want to hurt him so your power doesn't, either."
"But I don't want to hurt you and I still did," Zayn points out.
Niall gives him a wry smile. "Yeah, but you're not in love with me. I think there's a difference."
Zayn chokes, bringing a hand up to his throat. But he doesn't make a single move to deny that
claim, doesn't think there's any point. "I barely know him," he says feebly, but that's still not an
"So?" Niall shrugs at him. "The heart wants what the heart wants, man. Sometimes it's the mind
that needs to catch up."
Zayn bites his lip as Niall heads to his room, and then he falls back against the sofa with a sigh,
closing his eyes, watching the flames dance along Liam's skin in his mind.


"There's an incredibly attractive mechanic waiting for you out front in possibly the cheapest car
I've ever seen," Louis informs him, leaning against the bathroom doorway.
Zayn nearly chokes on his toothbrush. "Excuse me?" he manages to get out, spitting into the sink
"I said your boyfriend's car is broke as fuck," Louis says with a smirk. "Which is really funny,
actually, because he's a mechanic but it looks like his car needs a mechanic. Or a trip to the
"His car's not that bad," Zayn grumbles, because it's not. It's sort of nice, actually. Charming,
maybe. It has character, and it's not like everyone can afford to drive two million dollar cars
imported from other countries. And "Wait, Liam's waiting for me?"
"Yep. With coffee and bagels. I peeked on my way in from Harry's."
Now Zayn's the one who smirks. "You were at Harry's all night?"
"No. I've been at Harry's since precisely 6:37 this morning. He's into sunrises, apparently. And
astronomy. And paleontology. He's literally the nerdiest person I've ever met and I'm so fucking
smitten it's sickening," Louis declares dramatically, pinching the bridge of his nose. "I'd ask you to
kill me if I didn't think you might actually do it."
"And you walked home?" Louis doesn't walk anywhere.
"Harry walked me home," Louis corrects, cheeks a little red. "And since Liam's waiting outside to
drive you to school, you actually don't have a right to tease me about it."

drive you to school, you actually don't have a right to tease me about it."
Zayn thinks he still does, but then he realizes that Liam is actually waiting out front for him and he
starts panicking. He rinses his mouth, throws his toothbrush unceremoniously into the toothbrush
holder, and then he takes a single look at his hair and groans. No time to fix it, and it looks like
hell. Fuck.
"Has he been waiting a while?" Zayn asks as he throws on a t-shirt and nearly trips while stepping
into his jeans. "Does he look annoyed?"
"Does he ever look annoyed?" Louis wonders. "But no, you're good. He was smiling when I
passed him."
"Huh," Zayn says. He finds his beanie and tugs it onto his head while turning in circles, looking
around for his shoes. "Are you sure he's waiting for me? He's not parked outside of the garage and
maybe you read it wrong?"
"He's parked literally right out front the doors," Louis says. "If he's not waiting for you, then
maybe he's just stalking you and he comes prepared with snacks."
Zayn gives him a look as he grabs his bags, slinging it over his shoulder. He shoves past Louis on
his way out the door, ignoring Louis' teasing laughter, ducking past Niall and ignoring his
questions, too, because he doesn't want to have to explain the grin on his face. He doesn't even
want the stupid grin on his face, either, but Liam's waiting for him outside and he can't fucking
stop it.
As he's waiting in the elevator, lowering floor by floor, he realizes that Louis very well could be
lying and he could be getting his hopes up for nothing. In fact, it would be just like Louis to make
this whole thing up, and with Zayn's luck he'll step out front to find Louis cackling at him.
Only he wasn't lying. As soon as he steps off the elevator, he can see Liam's car through the
glassy front doors. He's parked just out front, windows rolled down even though it's starting to get
chilly out. He has one arm resting on the door, drumming his fingers, and he's chewing his lip
while he stares out the windshield as Zayn approaches.
"Hey," he says a little awkwardly, a little low, as he hikes his bag farther up on his shoulder.
He wants Liam to be here for him, but he's not exactly convinced yet. And wouldn't he feel like
an idiot if he just got into the passenger seat and it turned out Liam was waiting for someone else
or something.
Liam jumps, startled, and he shields his eyes with a hand cupped over them as he smiles up at
Zayn, eyes squinted from the sun. "Hey," he says, dragging it out. "Heading to school?"
"Was planning on it," Zayn admits. "You?"
Liam shrugs. "I was thinking about offering this guy a ride," he says, curling his hands around the
steering wheel, no longer meeting Zayn's eyes. "He's really attractive, and I'm pretty into him, so
I'm trying to win him over with rides to school and bagels."
Zayn feels his whole face get hot, but he forces it down, swallows and makes sure his voice isn't
going to crack when he asks, "How's that working out for you?"
Liam grins at him. "You tell me."
Before he can psych himself out, Zayn heads around to the other side of the car, climbing into the
passenger seat. A bagel falls into his lap as he does up his belt, and he could really get used to this.
If he got to see Liam's grin every morning, he wouldn't complain about getting up so early for

school (as often).

They make it to campus long before Zayn's class, and Liam parks in the lot, keeping the windows
thankfully down as they eat. It's still too hot, and Zayn's regretting the sweater he wore because he
knows he's radiating waves of heat, but he can only pray Liam doesn't feel it, too.
"So," Zayn says awkwardly, wondering why this is so hard. Why can he talk to Liam like a
normal person when he's in his mask, but the second he takes it off he's a mess of awkward
silences and too many pauses and blurting the dumbest things that come to mind? Like right now.
"Bagels, huh?"
Liam snorts at him, and Zayn doesn't blame him for it. "What, you don't like bagels?"
Zayn shrugs. "I mean, they're yeah, I like bagels. But as far as breakfast foods go, bagels have
nothing on muffins." Oh, god, why doesn't anyone stop him when he opens his mouth to speak?
"Muffins," Liam repeats. "You're not telling me you like muffins more than bagels."
Zayn shrugs again, picking at said bagel with a hesitant smile on his face. "Maybe I am."
"That's it," Liam says. "Get out of my car, right now."
"You going to make me?" Zayn says before he can stop himself.
Liam's eyebrows raise at the challenge. "You think I couldn't?"
No, he definitely thinks Liam could, actually, looking at the way his arms strain against the tight
material of his denim jacket. "I'd like to see you try," he says anyways.
Liam waggles his eyebrows like he's actually considering doing just that. Zayn wouldn't even
mind, honestly. "So you like muffins more than bagels," he says. "What else do I not know about
the mysterious Zayn?"
Zayn takes another sip of his drink before answering, filtering through his thoughts for some sort
of response to that. What can he answer that with without making Liam actually kick him out of
the car and regret ever trying to get to know him? "First of all," after a moment he starts, "I'm not
mysterious at all."
"Not even a little," Zayn admits. "I'm just, like. I don't know, shy, maybe?" He confesses that with
a burning in his cheeks and his head ducked. "Other people tend not to like me, I guess, so I sort
of stopped trying to get them to a while ago, and maybe that comes off as being mysterious but
really I'm not."
"That's kind of bullshit," Liam tells him. "There's nothing not to like about you."
"You don't really know me all that well," Zayn points out.
Liam shrugs, uncaring. "Still."
Zayn continues before Liam can argue any longer. It's not true, is the thing. There're a lot of
reasons to not like Zayn, but mostly because he's a freak. He's accepted it, sure, but that doesn't
mean that everyone else has, and people avoid him as much as he avoids them, for the most part.
"I like video games a lot."

Liam grimaces. "I'm terrible at video games. All of them. Universally horrible at every single one
of them."
"Maybe I'll have to teach you sometime," Zayn offers, hesitantly lifting his gaze to Liam's. "If
you'd like. I'm actually pretty good at them."
"I'll definitely take you up on that offer," Liam promises before continuing with the onslaught of
questioning. "So English major, right? What's your favourite book, then?"
Zayn groans. He doesn't even mean to, it's just such an automatic response to that question at this
point. He doesn't realize how rude it sounds until Liam's eyes widen a bit, and he quickly adds,
"It's just that like you said, I'm an English major, so when people ask me that question they
expect me to answer with some, like, life-changing novel written a century ago, the type that you
could quote and any literature buff would be impressed by, but it's not."
"What is it?" Liam prompts. "Come on, I won't judge."
Zayn doesn't think he will, actually, and that's why he blurts, "Harry Potter and the Deathly
Liam sucks on his bottom lip for a long time, but finally he cracks a smile, like he can't stop it.
Zayn winces. "It came out when I was going through a sort of tough time in life," he explains.
Back when he'd first left home, and he didn't know what to do with himself. He was fifteen and
living in a strangers home, missing his family and the life he should have had, and still learning to
accept that a 'normal life' is just something he's never going to get. "It got me through a lot of
things." He'd lain in bed for days with that book, reading it and then rereading it over and over.
And that, right there, is exactly why he wants to write when he's older. Books are an escape for
him. They're a way to live a million lives, but they're also a way to avoid your own. Maybe not
permanently, but stepping out of his own life for just a few hours, just a couple hundred pages, is
something he craves. And he wants to give that to someone else, wants to offer that escape to
other people, too.
Liam's thumb is suddenly brushing over the back of his hand, like it had that day in his bathroom
before they'd kissed. "Maybe one day I'll earn the right to hear about that time," he says.
"Maybe," Zayn mumbles.
"But for now," Liam continues, "you've probably got to run to class. I refuse to make you miss
another one. I'm trying to make a good impression here."
"Shit," Zayn blurts, eying the clock on the dashboard. He has exactly two minutes to run to the
other side of campus, and he can't miss class again today, he can't. He grabs his bag, juggling his
coffee in one hand and the last of his bagel in the other as he pushes open the car door. "Thank
you for the ride," he says on his way out.
"Any time," Liam says, leaning over the seat divide as Zayn shuts the door between them.
"Really. It was no problem."
Zayn grins at him, going to jog to class, but then he leans down, hand on the door. "You are, by
the way," he says. "Making a good impression, I mean."
Liam's grin is nearly blinding. "So does that mean I can ask you out now, or should I wait until
next time?"

Zayn's throat goes dry. He eyes the clock again, and his anxiety rises as another minute ticks by,
leaving him with even less time to get to class. But suddenly that doesn't seem important at all,
because "You want to go out with me?"
Liam's shoulders droop a little, and any confidence in his expression disappears. "If you want," he
mumbles, sounding uncertain now. "I mean, if you're interested. If not, then pretend I never asked
that. Friends is good too. In fact, I probably shouldn't have even crossed that line, and I "
"That sounds nice," Zayn says slowly. "Dinner, maybe?"
Instantaneously, Liam says, "Dinner sounds brilliant. Tonight? Pick you up at six?"
Zayn has no idea where it comes from, but he finds himself nodding, saying boldly, "You know
where I live."
"I do," Liam chuckles. "See you then, Zayn."
Zayn waves at him awkwardly before pulling his bag up higher on his shoulder and jogging off
towards his class. At the last second he turns back, and he finds Liam still sitting there, grin still in
place, and he realizes he's not the only one that finds himself unable to stop smiling every time the
two of them part ways.
He's so busy looking at Liam's smile that he walks backwards right into someone else. He turns,
eyes wide, and starts apologizing before he recognizes the guy as the one from the club the other
night who'd been looking at him across the bar.
The guy opens his mouth, goes to say something, but then his phone rings in his pocket. He gives
Zayn one last look before pulling out his phone and ducking away, pulling the hood of his sweater
up over his head. Zayn watches him go, something inside of him ringing in alarm that he can't
quite figure out.
What the hell?


"Am I the other person in my own relationship?" Zayn asks.

Louis looks up at him from where he's standing in front of Zayn's closet, looking through his
clothes. "What?"
Zayn pinches the bridge of his nose. "Like, Liam kissed Superhero-me, but now he's asking out
Normal- me, and we're the same person but he doesn't know that. So is am I being cheated on
with myself? Not that he's dating either of us, because technically we've never even talked about it
and this is the first date for him and Normal-me, but. Am I the other man in my own relationship?"
Louis opens his mouth, closes it, and gives Zayn a long, hard look. "You've got some serious
fucking issues, mate," he says. "Dear god."
Zayn sinks down onto the edge of his bed, breathing heavily. It's half-past five. He has half an
hour to get ready, and he's panicking. He's never been on a fucking date in his life, especially not
with someone he's as into as he is Liam. What if he fucks up? Oh, who is he kidding. He's going

to fuck up. He's going to fuck up, and Liam's going to be as polite as possible because he's Liam,
but he won't want anything to do with Zayn after this, Zayn knows it.
The best way to make Liam not want to date him is probably to try and date him, honestly.
And, nerves aside, he has nothing to fucking wear. Nothing. "All my clothes are shit," Zayn
moans. "They're fucking horrible."
"That's not true," Louis says gently, still flipping through Zayn's closet. "I mean, you've got this,
um. No, that's hideous. Maybe you nope, that has a hole in the sleeve. What about oh, god,
no. This should be burned. Your whole wardrobe should be burned."
Zayn closes his eyes and falls back against his bed. "I'm not going," he decides. "I'm just not
going to go. That's what I'm going to do. I don't know why the fuck I even agreed to it in the first
"Oh, stop being a bitch," Cher scolds, coming into his room. "It'll be fine. He likes you already,
just calm down."
Zayn sits up fast. "He does?"
Cher rolls her eyes at him. "Yes," she says pointedly. "I've been inside his mind, remember? So
calm down. And wear red. He likes you in red."
"And those jeans," Niall puts in, coming into the room beside her. "The ones with the, uh, knee
rips or whatever."
"And your leather jacket on top," Louis adds. "You'll look hot as fuck."
Zayn bites his lip, looking up at the three of them, and he finds it harder to breathe all of a sudden
because, like. This is his family. The three of them are his family. They're all fucked up in their
own right, they're extremely dysfunctional. The four of them would rather yell at each than say it
out loud, but they love each other. He needs the three of them so damn much and they're always
here for him, always.
"He's going to cry," Cher says loudly. "Ew. I'm out."
Louis makes a disgusted face, Cher leaves the room, but Niall comes over to him and pats his
shoulder. "It's cool if you wanna cry. We're not gonna judge you, man."
"Yes, we are," Louis argues.
Zayn glares at him and stands up. "I'm not going to cry," he denies. "Throw me my clothes."
Louis does, and Zayn changes in front of the two of them because, at this point, there's no such
thing as privacy between them. Zayn's changed in front of Louis more times than he can count,
and he'd stopped being embarrassed about it a long time ago.
As he's heading to the bathroom to fix his hair, this loud beeping echoes through the apartment.
It's like a fire alarm, only lower and each beep is drawn out more. And Zayn knows exactly what
that alarm means. His heart plummets into his stomach, and he looks back at Niall and Louis in
"No," he says, raising his voice to be heard over the alarm. "Not now. Not tonight."
Niall bursts from Zayn's room, phone in hand, and he's pressing buttons on it with a stressed look

on his face. "Sorry," he says to Zayn. "I know tonight's important to you, but you know that this
isn't the kind of job you clock out of. You're always working. You can't risk someone else's life
because you've got a date."
Zayn actually stomps his foot on the ground like a petulant child, heat rising in him. He can almost
feel steam coming out of his ears as he snaps, "This is bullshit!"
Niall looks up from his phone for only a second. "You're not the only one who has to cancel on a
date now," he says. "Get in the car. I'll update you all on the details while you get ready."
Very suddenly, Zayn is lifted right off his feet. He hangs over Cher's back like a sack of potatoes,
and he slaps at it in annoyance but it doesn't hurt her at all. "Come on," she says gently. "Liam
will understand. This is just another part of the job, Zayn."
But it's not a job. It's not like he has a choice! The rest of them dragged him into this whole thing.
When did he ever agree to give up his life to save other people? When did he sign a contract that
said he'd give everything up at a moment's notice to dash around the city, saving the lives of
people who wouldn't hesitate for a second to let him die? Where's the fairness in that?
He stops fighting anyways. As angry as he is at this situation, he knows that the others are right.
Maybe he never agreed out loud, maybe it was never spoken, but this is his job. No, his life. And
as much as it sucks, he'd feel immensely guilty if he ducked out of a job to go on a date and
someone got hurt.
Sacrifices have to be made, Zayn knows this. It just sucks.
Cher puts him down in the elevator, and Louis meets them downstairs, already in the car. Zayn
dawns his suit in record time, pulling the mask on as he gets behind the wheel and peels out of the
parking lot. Louis' still struggling with his own in the back, Cher's impatiently drumming her
fingers on the dash like she's too hyped up to sit still, and Niall's voice suddenly fills the entire car
as the visor above Cher's seat flips down, revealing a screen with Niall's face on it.
"Kidnapping," is the first thing out of his mouth. "Well, kidnapping and a high-speed chase.
Apparently two men hijacked a car with three children in the backseat. Police are trailing them but
they're afraid to do anything and cause a crash. Right now their only plan is to wait for the car to
stop, but every second the kids are stuck in that vehicle is another second closer to danger. We
have no idea what the kidnappers want, and the police have no way to communicate with them."
Zayn winces, hands curling tightly around the wheel. Kids. It's always worse when there are kids
involved. "So what are we going to do?" he demands.
"Any chance you could pull children from a car going a hundred miles an hour without hurting
anyone?" Niall asks Louis.
Louis considers for a moment. "I'm going to go with no, probably not."
"Didn't think so," Niall says, as Zayn takes a left, following the coordinates Niall already set into
the GPS. There's a little red dot signaling the car with the children, as well as three white ones just
behind it being the police, and a helicopter in the air as well. "Anyone got a better plan?"
Zayn hits the button that covers the license plate as he considers all their options. Just like the
police, it's not as if they could run the car off the road. Someone would end up getting hurt and,
knowing their luck, it wouldn't be the criminals. And like Niall proposed, Louis could teleport
inside the car and remove the children one by one, but what are the chance of him being able to do

that without a) one of them getting hurt or b) the kidnappers getting in the way? Too slim to
chance it.
"I could pull them to a stop," Cher considers. "I'm strong enough."
Which sounds like a stupid, impossible plan, but a part of him thinks it might actually work.
"Think you could do that without it crashing?"
Cher gives him a haughty look. "Of course," she says waspishly. "Who do you think you're
asking? Tomlinson?"
"What the fuck is that supposed to mean?" Louis demands.
"Means that I'm a scalpel and you're a machete. I'm good for delicate situations and you're good
for hacking apart bodies."
"Oh. I thought you were insulting me but it turns out you weren't."
Zayn groans at them as he pulls onto the highway. It's easy to maneuver their car around the
others. It goes faster than anything else on the road, and he presses down hard on the gas pedal
while weaving between minivan after SUV after truck as they move closer to the little red dot on
the GPS.
"We're coming up on their left," he warns Niall. "Are the police going to give us any trouble?"
"Probably not," Niall says. "I'm hacking into the frequency right now. I'll try to convince them
you're here to help."
"We're got visual!" Cher says loudly, and Zayn's eye focus on the two marked police cars and the
single undercover vehicle, and then he's weaving past them, coming up alongside a tiny green car
with a single little face pressed against the window. It's a girl, and she can't be any older than ten,
maybe. Her hair is in pigtails, and Zayn's stomach clenches as his hands do the same around the
steering wheel.
And then the front window is being rolled down and a man holds his arm out and shoots a pistol
at them. Zayn's eyes widen and he swerves, nearly going off the road, waiting for the bullet to
bust through the glass and kill him. Only the windows (and the entire car, actually) are one
hundred percent bullet proof, thankthe heavens.
"What the fuck?" Louis spits, rolling down his own window. "That was really uncalled for, just so
There's a ting of metal on metal as a bullet ricochets off the car just beside Louis' head, and Louis
squeaks, leaning back in his seat, hastily closing his window as the passenger in the other car starts
shooting at them again. Zayn has to turn in his seat, and Cher does the same, both of them giving
Louis blank looks.
"I see now how that was a bad idea," he admits, sinking farther in his seat.
"Now what the fuck do we do?" Zayn demands. "They've got a fucking gun! If you stop them,
they could shoot the kids in the backseat."
Cher's eyes are showing signs of panic now, too, and Niall looks helpless on screen as he clacks
away at his keyboard, trying to figure out his own solution to their problem. Zayn can't think of
one at all, and surprisingly enough it's Louis who says, "I'll teleport into the car, grab the gun, and
we can go through with the rest of the plan from before. Cher pulls the car to a stop, and I'll make

sure no one gets hurt."

"You are not jumping into a car with two psychos with a gun," Cher says flatly. "It's too risky."
"So you propose what? I leave those kids in there with two psychos with a gun? I don't fucking
think so." And then, before they can protest or think of a better plan, Louis is gone.
"Shit," Zayn moans. "Now what?"
In his peripheral, he can see Louis in the car, watches as the car swerves and Louis uses the gun to
knock out the guy in the passenger seat. The other is still going, though, still controlling the car,
and if they don't stop it soon it's going to crash and this will all have been for nothing.
"Pull up beside it!" Cher shouts at him. "As close to the back as you can get me!"
Zayn does as he's told, running on adrenaline, pulse thundering in his ears. He can't think, all he
can do is move, and everything blurs together as he pulls back and rears forward again on the
other side of the car. He can't pay attention to what's happening inside it right now. Either Louis'
holding his own and no one's getting hurt, and he has nothing to worry about, or people are
getting hurt and he can't focus on that because he'll lose his cool if he does.
Somehow they do it. Cher pushes her door open, reaching out for the fender of the car as she hops
out of her seat. It's like a scene from a real superhero movie, so incredible it's unbelievable as Zayn
speeds forward and leans over to pull her door closed, and then watches out her window as she
digs her feet into the road and the car drags her forward slowly, like she's on wheels instead of the
soles of her converse shoes, and somehow the car comes gradually to a halt.
Zayn pulls their own car to a screeching halt, too, jumping out of it the second he does. He dashes
around to the other, not oblivious to the fact that Cher's leaning over the back of the car, panting
and gasping in pain. The soles of her shoes are completely obliterated, and the gloves of her suit
wore thin from the force of pulling the car to a stop. Even from a quick glance he can see the
angry red welts on the skin of her hands.
In the distance, the police are still trying to catch up. They have seconds, maybe, before they get
here, and Zayn and the others need to be gone before that happens.
The door to the car opens and one of the kidnappers falls out of his seat, unconscious. Zayn opens
the other door, pulling the driver off Louis as Louis claws at his face and the kids in the back
scream. "Make sure they're okay!" Zayn shouts at him, pulling the other man from the vehicle.
There's a struggle, and he can still hear the kids screaming and the sirens blaring and he
can't focus. That's probably why it happens. He's too caught up in everything else, he
underestimates the threat of the man in his grip, and pain explodes in his left shoulder blade.
He ignores it. He has to ignore it. Instead he focuses on kicking at the left knee of the man fighting
him, and he instantly crumples with a scream of pain. Broken knee, Zayn thinks. Good. He's out
of commission, at least, no longer a threat because he can't move and he's too busy moaning in
"We have to go!" he shouts, as the police pull up behind them. "Now!"
Cher dashes for the car, sliding into the passenger seat. Zayn doesn't wait for Louis before
following suit, starting up the car and peeling away as quickly as he can. He doesn't look behind
him for the longest time, but when he does he finds that the police have let them go without
following and he lets out a sigh of relief. They could have, if they wanted to, and Zayn could have
outrun them, too, but he'd rather not start up another high-speed chase after going to such extreme

lengths to stop one in the first place.

As they're driving, Louis appears in the backseat. "All the kids are safe," he confirms. "Police
have apprehended both of the men, and you broke the one's knee, Zayn."
"Good," Zayn says. "Good, yeah. Fucker deserved it. Who the hell kidnaps three kids and brings
them on a fucking high-speed chase?"
No one answers him. He turns to find Cher gaping at him, and he meets Louis' wide eyes in the
rear-view mirror. "Uh, Zayn?" he asks.
"What?" Zayn snaps.
"You've been stabbed. In the shoulder. Doesn't that hurt? The knife is still sticking out of your
back, bro."
Zayn looks over his shoulder and, oh. The hilt of the knife sticks out of his shoulder blade, and
distantly he remembers it going in but he'd sort of forgotten about it, somehow. But now that he
knows it's there, he's suddenly drowning in pain, waves of it washing over him, making his
stomach churn.
"Weird how our suits are bullet proof but not knife proof," Louis says, cocking his head to the
side. "That's quite dumb."
Honestly, Zayn has no idea how he does it. He takes long, calming breathes, alternating between
breathing through his nose and his mouth, and he manages to get back to their building without
passing out or screaming. Cher's crying steadily as he parks the car, and he and Louis have to
carry her down into the basement. Her feet are ripped to shreds, and Zayn sort of throws up (into a
trashcan provided by Niall, thankfully).
"I didn't think about the friction," Cher whimpers, as she lays out on one of the cots Niall keeps
down here for precisely this reason. "It kills. It feels like someone cut my feet off."
Louis soothingly pets her hair back while Niall comes up on her other side with a container of
ointment. "This'll numb it," he explains, "but there's nothing I can do to heal it faster."
"I don't care," Cher growls. "If you don't give me something for the pain right this second, I'm
going to pick up your stupid car and throw it at your face."
Niall hastily moves to do as she says, and Zayn sinks into a seat as exhaustion settles over him.
The throbbing in his shoulder is distant now, and his eyes feel so heavy.
Someone slaps him. He blinks open his eyes and Louis grimaces at him, almost apologetic.
"Sorry. You were about to pass out on me."
Zayn blinks dazedly, bringing a hand to his burning cheek. He lifts his gaze to where Niall's
standing over Cher, and he finds her unconscious, which is probably good. He can't imagine how
much pain she's in, but he knows she's handling it better than any of them would have.
"Can, uh." Zayn stops, clearing his throat. "Can someone maybe get this knife out of my


Rain pours down on him as he grips the ledge of Liam's window. It's late and the storm is just
starting to pick up, wind lashing at him as he secures his grip, lightning flashing in the distance,
thunder rumbling overhead. It's as if the rest of the world is telling him not to do this, and he
should probably listen. But he isn't going to.
If Liam hadn't been in the hotel room, he probably would have taken that as the final sign and
returned to the car, giving up. But Liam is here. The lights are on and he's lounging in bed in
sweats, flicking aimlessly through the channels on his TV as Zayn watches him.
Eventually he realizes how creepy he's being (and his arm starts to hurt from the force of keeping
himself up, though whatever Niall had put on the stab wound has already muted the pain quite a
bit) and he knocks on the window, bracing himself against both the winds and what he knows is
about to come.
Apparently he's making a habit of scaring the hell out of Liam, because Zayn can see him visibly
jump as he raps his knuckles against the glass. But just like last time, he relaxes almost
immediately, coming over to the window with his eyes narrowed slightly.
"It's storming out," Liam chides, stepping back to give Zayn room to get inside. "You should have
just come in the front lobby."
"Do I look dressed to stride through the lobby of a four star hotel at eleven at night?" Zayn asks
Liam puts a hand on his hip, and Zayn suddenly realizes that Liam's in a foul mood. Not so bad
that he looks ready to kick Zayn out or anything, but he's considerably less sunny and welcoming
than usual, and almost bordering on standoffish.
Sheepishly, Zayn rubs at the back of his neck and Liam gives him an expectant look. "Is there a
reason you're here?" he finally sighs.
"Yeah," Zayn says immediately. "Yeah, there is. Do you maybe you should sit, yeah?"
Liam crosses his arms over his chest. Zayn refuses to focus on that because he'll get distracted. "I'd
rather stand."
"You're pissed," Zayn realizes. He winces, balling his hands into fists.
Liam's expression softens, and he finally goes and sits on the end of the bed. "I'm not pissed," he
says, level and calm. "I'm a bit disappointed, but you're hurt." He stands back up, coming right
over to Zayn, alarm on his face. "What happened?"
Liam's hand hovers over his shoulder, thankfully never touching it. The concern in his eyes
shouldn't make Zayn feel good, but it does. "It's nothing," he says offhandedly. "Just a little stab
"Oh my god," Liam croaks. "I watched the news. They didn't mention you got stabbed."
Zayn wets his lips and tries not to like the way Liam frets over him so much, but he does. He likes
it a lot. And that's probably why he says, "It sorta hurts." He sucks in a sharp, feignedly pained
breath. "It's just part of the job, though."

Liam's hands rub up and down Zayn arms over the suit, his eyebrows drawn together in a soft,
worried look. "I don't like your job very much," he says quietly, voice wavering. "I thought I was
the danger magnet here. You're not supposed to be the one getting hurt."
"Hey." Zayn cups his cheek, tilting his head up just a bit. "I'm okay. Don't worry about it."
"I'm going to worry about it," Liam tells him, a little fierce. "Just so you know, I'm always going
to worry about it. You might think you're invincible, fire-boy, but you're not. So I'm going to
worry about you. You're just going to have to deal with it."
Zayn's lips quirk up, and fuck, yeah, he's in love. Maybe it's too soon to say that, maybe he's
every dumb person in every dumb romance novel that falls too fast into vapid affection for another
person, but he can't fucking help it. "Fire-boy," he repeats. "Really?"
Liam shrugs, stepping back. "What else am I supposed to call you? It's not like you told me your
name." There's a sharp edge in his voice, and that undercurrent of annoyance in his demeanor is
back the way it had been before he realized Zayn had been hurt.
"That's sort of why I'm here," Zayn admits, and before he can stop himself he's pacing the room.
Is he really going to do this? Fuck, he hasn't done this in years, and it's not like it's ever went over
all that great. But, he thinks, Liam deserves to know. He stood Liam up tonight without a single
explanation, and Liam doesn't deserve that. And if there's anyone out there that Zayn trusts with
this, it's him. He doesn't know why, either, all he does know is that, no matter what, his secret will
be safe with Liam. He has no doubt about it.
"It is?"
Zayn nods, finally stopping as he stands in front of Liam. "You're probably going to be pissed at
me," he admits. "But I didn't keep this from you on purpose. Or I didn't at first. It just sort
of happened, yeah? It's so much easier to talk to you like this, and I didn't want to give that up.
And I get that maybe it wasn't fair, that I've kind of been playing you this whole time and you
have every right to be mad about it, but I honestly didn't do it to hurt you, I swear."
"Okay," Liam says slowly.
"And technically," Zayn continues, "I never really lied about it. I mean, I probably should have
told you a while ago, I've had so many opportunities, but I've never technically lied about it."
"Are you going to take off the mask or not?" Liam demands, impatient, but he's grinning.
"Right." Zayn closes his eyes, he has to, as he reaches for the bottom of his mask.
Like ripping off a bandage, he does it as fast as he can. He pulls his mask off and keeps his eyes
closed, balling it up in his hand as he lowers it to his side, and then he waits. He waits for Liam's
gasp of surprise, or for him to start yelling at Zayn for not confessing a while ago. He wasn't
kidding; he's had a lot of opportunities to come clean about his with Liam. This morning during
the ride to school; the other night after the club; at the club. Fuck, he'd be pissed at Liam if it were
the other way around.
Only Liam doesn't make a sound. Zayn blinks open his eyes to find Liam grinning up at him from
the bed, and that is not what he was expecting.
"You're not you're not freaking out," Zayn says confusedly. "Why aren't you freaking out?"
"My turn to confess?" Liam grabs Zayn's hand, brushing his thumb over the back of it. "Do you

remember that day in my bathroom after you saved me from those men in the alley?" Zayn nods
because, yeah, he does. "You took off your gloves," Liam explains, and his thumb is still brushing
over the back of Zayn's hand. "I already had a feeling, you know. I mean, your voice is fairly
recognizable, Zayn, but aside from that, your tattoo gave you away."
Zayn blinks down at the spot Liam's finger is brushing, and he opens and closes his mouth like a
fish out of water, too stunned to speak for a moment. "But but that was you've you've
known this whole time?"
Liam laughs. "You're not very good at the whole 'secret identity' thing. I just didn't tell you
because I figured you'd let me know when you trusted me enough, and I'm glad that you do now."
"Oh, god," Zayn groans. He sinks down onto the bed beside Liam, looking down at his mask in
his hands. "This whole time I thought it was easier to talk to you because you didn't know who I
was, but you did anyways."
"I don't want you to feel like you have to wear a mask to be real with me," Liam says, slotting
their fingers together, giving Zayn's a light squeeze. "I like you both ways. I like you when you're
running into the line of fire to save people, to save me, but I like you when you're stumbling over
your words, too, and arguing with me over breakfast choices."
"Don't bring up the bagel thing," Zayn pleads. "I'm still mortified over that."
Liam snorts a laugh at him, leaning in to press his lips to Zayn's neck, nose brushing over Zayn's
jaw. "I'm into you," he whispers against Zayn's skin. "Really, really into you, okay? You don't
have to be nervous around me, mask or not."
Zayn shudders, he can't help it. "Somehow that makes me more nervous."
Liam laughs, but it's not mean at all. It's low and throaty and fond, and Zayn sinks into him, still
disbelieving. Liam knew this whole time, from that day in the alley. Which means that the other
night after the club, when Zayn acted like he wasn't there, Liam just let him lie even though he
knew the truth. Fuck, Zayn probably looked like an idiot.
But, "You know that I didn't stand you up on purpose tonight then, right?" he asks, pulling
back. "I really didn't. I was getting ready and we got called out. I didn't want to go, I didn't want
to ditch you off without an explanation but I had to."
"I know," Liam admits. "I get it. It's part of the job, right? When you're dating a superhero,
sometimes you've got to accept that your dinner plans are going to get cancelled so he can go and
rescue children from a burning building."
"It was a car," Zayn corrects, "not a burning building."
Liam moves in to kiss at his throat again, muttering, "You have no idea just how amazing you are,
do you?"
"I'm really I'm really not," Zayn denies, a little shaky. He can feel goosebumps breaking out on
his skin, and he's starting to sweat in the confines of his suit.
"Guess this is another thing we're going to have to disagree on," Liam says. He moves his lips up
Zayn's neck, over his jaw. "You owe me, you know, for missing out on our date."
Zayn tries to remember how to think, but it's hard. "I do, yeah," he admits. "I will. I'll make it up
to you, whatever you"

"Take off the suit," Liam says before he can go off rambling, which he's a little grateful for. Or he
is until the words sink in.
He pulls away, eyes wide, and he's so glad that he's never been an obvious blusher, the way Niall
is, because he doesn't have his mask to hide behind right now and his cheeks are burning up.
"You want me to?"
"I'll give you something else to wear," Liam hastily adds. "I just" He bites at his lip, lowering
his gaze. "I want you tonight, not the superhero. Just Zayn, if that's okay?"
Zayn nods numbly, climbing off the bed. Liam comes up behind him, hands on his waist, and
Zayn closes his eyes, leans back into him. "Okay," he says.
Liam mouths at the back of his neck as he finds the zipper for Zayn's suit. Outside, the rain
continues to pelt at the windows, the wind continues to howl, and the whole room lights up as
lightning brightens the sky. Liam pulls the zipper down slowly, carefully, and he pushes the suit
off Zayn's shoulder, cautious of the bandage covering his shoulder.
He's not naked underneath, he's still in his boxers, but he's never felt so exposed as he does when
the suit falls down his hips and he steps out of it, Liam still pressed up against him, lips on his
other shoulder now, opposite of the one with the bandage, kissing his way down Zayn's back with
soft, wet lips and whispering touches. "I'll get you something to wear," he offers, as his hand
slides over Zayn's bare stomach, thumb brushing over the trail of hair there.
"Right," Zayn says, even though he'd rather not get dressed again. Even though he'd rather get
Liam out of his clothes and see where this could go. His shoulder is too hurt, he doesn't want to
risk it. If he gets a chance to fuck Liam, he doesn't want to be wincing in pain from a stab wound
"I'm sort of living out of a duffle bag at the moment," Liam admits, heading over to where the bag
is left in front of the TV stand. "I didn't think there was any point in in trying to replace
everything until I get a new place, so."
Zayn moves to put a hand on his back, feeling the stiff set to Liam's shoulders. "I'm sorry," he
says lowly, but it feels pointless and pathetic because an apology doesn't bring back what he lost.
Liam shrugs, straightening up. He hands Zayn a pair of sweats and a t-shirt and says, "It's fine. It's
just stuff, right? I'm alive and well, and that's all I can ask for."
Zayn takes the clothes from him, bunching up the soft cotton in his hand. Without second
guessing himself, he leans forward and plants a soft kiss on Liam's lips, pulling back almost
instantly to make sure that was okay.
Liam's smiling at him, cheeks a little red. "You might want to change," he says. "If you keep
kissing me, I might not let you get dressed."
Zayn pulls on the t-shirt, first, then steps into the sweats. It's hard not to notice how comfortable
they both are, or the fact that they both smell distinctly like Liam, like sweat and soap and cologne
and, underneath that, oil and grease from the garage. They fit well enough, too. Zayn doesn't want
to give them back.
Liam looks like he doesn't want Zayn to give them back. He's biting on his lip, lashes sweeping
low as his gaze wanders of Zayn's body. Heat rises inside him but he doesn't try to hide it, lets it
out a little and allows the flames to dance along his fingertips without embarrassment or worry.
Liam's hand brushes his and, just like last time, the flames do nothing but move over his hand,

never burning him. "Stay with me tonight?" he asks.

Without hesitating, Zayn nods. "Least I could do after standing you up," he jokes.
"It definitely won't be that easy to make it up to me," Liam informs him, pulling Zayn along to the
bed. "It's a start, though."
He falls back onto the bed, pulling Zayn down on top of him, and Zayn doesn't put up any fight.
It's too easy to fit his body over Liam's, to spread his legs on either sides of Liam's hips and place
his hands flat on Liam's chest. And it's too easy to let Liam pull him down, one of his hands fisted
in Zayn's hair, to slot their mouths together.
What was his reasoning for not having sex with Liam? He honestly can't remember because
Liam's hips are rolling up into his, and his tongue is tangling with Zayn's, curling and tasting of
toothpaste and sugar, somehow at the same time, and any argument against this feels weak. The
heat rises in his body, and he can feel it burn hotter where Liam's mouth moves against his jaw,
where Liam's hands grope at his ass.
He's panting embarrassingly, and he knows Liam can feel how hard he is. The sweatpants do little
to hide his erection, but he can't care about that because it's so easy to get the right amount of
friction between their bodies as he ruts against Liam, losing himself in the kiss and everything
about Liam that sparks something so warm inside of him.
"I was planning on us watching a movie," Liam says suddenly, breathless and rough. "You
distracted me."
Zayn pulls up, once again planting his hands on Liam's chest for balance. His lips feel puffy and
tingly, and he licks at them, chasing after what little bit of Liam he can get. "That's that's
probably a good idea," he says afterwards. "I might not burn you if I, you know, um"
"Burst into flame," Liam provides, smoothing his hands up Zayn's sides.
"Yeah. I might not hurt you if that happens, but, like, I'm pretty sure the bed will still catch on
fire," he admits, awkward and wincing at himself.
"So then we'll watch a movie instead," Liam says easily, sounding just as happy to do that as he
was to leave marks on Zayn's neck.
Watching a movie with Liam doesn't really calm him down at all, though. Liam's hand is on his
thigh the whole time, and Zayn can't help but be incredibly aware of it until he leans in, waiting
with his lips hovering over Liam's cheek for Liam to turn to him. When he does, the movie plays
on and Zayn memorizes how the hairs at the back of Liam's neck feel sliding through his fingers,
the gasp Liam makes when Zayn nips at his lip, how Liam's cock feels under his hand when he
moves it over Liam's leg, brushing over him through his jeans.
"We should" Liam bites at his earlobe, gently sucking it into his mouth which, yeah, that turns
Zayn on a lot apparently. Who the fuck knew? "Oh, fuck."
Liam giggles at him, right in his ear, which pisses him off when Louis does it but when Liam does
it, well. "I feel like a teenager again," Liam says, still chuckling. "Like, this isn't new to me at all
but it it feels new. It feels like I'm on my parent's sofa again, listening for their car so I don't get
caught but I just can't stop, fuck, can't stop touching you anyways, you know?"
Ignoring the stupid, uncalled for jealousy that bubbles up inside him at the fact that other people
have gotten this far, farther with Liam, Zayn admits, "Not really. I mean, I never got that? I
moved out of my house before, like, I could do any of that stuff."

Why would he bring that up? He has no idea why the hell he brought that up. The last thing he
wants to think about with Liam's lips so close to his own is his family. It hurts still, raw and ragged
like a fresh wound even though it probably should have healed years ago.
Liam pulls away from him, hand resting on Zayn's neck, soothingly rubbing at it like he can tell
that this is a touchy subject for Zayn. "Do you want to talk about it?" he asks, lips quirking up.
"Every superhero has a tragic backstory, you know. Do I get to hear yours?"
Zayn swallows, finding his tongue dry enough to stick to the roof of his mouth. "I thought youI
thought you wanted me to put away the superhero for the night?"
"The tragic backstory doesn't happen to the superhero," Liam reminds him. "The superhero
happens because of the tragic backstory."
And he has a point, it's just that Zayn's never really sat down and told anyone about it. The
others just know, but they're never talked about it out loud, not with him. And it's not even that
bad, really. Not as bad as Niall's, say, because Zayn hasn't lost anyone. And Louis willingly left
home, still keeps in touch with his family all the time, visits them during holidays, and Cher had
been passed from foster home to foster home before she and the others got together. So Zayn's is a
little worse than Louis', maybe, but he's got nothing on Cher and Niall, and it feels sort of pathetic
that he's still so hung up on it.
"I'm dangerous, yeah?" he says anyways. "Like, I'm not safe to live with normal people. I'm a
hazard. When I get too emotional, my power acts up, you've seen it."
"I have," Liam agrees, reaching down to grab his hand.
"I got in a fight with my sister," Zayn continues, "and things went bad. Her mattress just burst
into flame, and neither of us knew what to do to stop it. The entire upstairs of our house was
destroyed by the time the firemen put out the flames, and I ran away from home after that. I
couldn't do that to them again. I couldn't risk it. Like I said, I'm not safe."
"But you can control it better than that now, right?" Liam says. "Can't you?"
He can, maybe. He's learned, over the years, to control it better than he had. He still has slip-ups,
still makes mistakes, but not ones like that, not anymore. He can't remember the last time he
accidentally set something on fire. Okay, he catches on fire all the time, but he doesn't burn other
things anymore, and he hasn't in a while.
But still. "I don't think they'd want me back now even if I chose to."
"Do you want to?" Liam asks, timid and quiet.
"More than anything," Zayn confesses. "Family's it's always been important to me. Like, I love
my sisters more than anything in the world, and I was close with my mum before I hit puberty and
my power took over my life, and my dad always thought I'd take over the family business for
"I'm sorry you had to give that up," Liam says, sounding genuine, and Zayn doesn't doubt that it
"What about you?" Zayn asks, feigning cheerfulness, poking Liam's side. "What's your tragic
backstory, then?"
Liam raises his eyebrows. "I don't have one. My life's as normal as you can get, honestly. Two

parents, two sisters, grew up in an alright neighborhood, never struggled for anything. I was
bullied a bit when I was younger but then I learned how to defend myself and it stopped. Went on
to become a mechanic, and you know the rest. It's not very interesting, obviously."
Zayn disagrees. Maybe it's not tragic, Liam's life, but he wouldn't call it boring. Not when the guy
so shamelessly puts himself in front of other people, willing to get hurt before he'd let anything
bad happen to a complete stranger. Sure, Zayn does the same, but it's different. Liam's painfully
normal, vulnerable, and he does it anyways without backing down.
He's brave and stupidly reckless and the farthest thing from uninteresting that Zayn can think of,
honestly, except maybe Louis.
Liam yawns before Zayn can say any of that. His eyes are tired, and Zayn realizes it has to be
pushing one in the morning, maybe later, and he realizes how tired he feels, too.
"Maybe we should sleep," he hesitates to offer, but he does it anyways. He's just he's never
slept with someone else before, ever. Not once in his entire life has he shared a bed with someone
else. Growing up, he'd had a few friends but whenever they'd stayed over, they slept on the sofa
and vice versa. At home, Louis sleeps in Zayn's bed all the time but they never share.
And sleeping with Liam scares him, a little. You're the most vulnerable when you're asleep, but he
wants that with Liam. Wants to wake up with their limbs tangled, wants to hear Liam's voice
crack when he wakes up and watch him rub at his blurry eyes.
"Sounds good," Liam yawns. He eyes the light switch. "Too bad all you can do is control fire. It'd
be cool if you could move stuff with your mind, because I really don't want to get up."
"All I can do," Zayn repeats, pretending to be offended.
Liam laughs into his shoulder, moving to press a kiss to the spot where Zayn's sleeve is pulled too
far to cover it. "I didn't mean it like that," he says. "You know I think you're incredible."
Zayn smiles and drops a kiss to Liam's head, thinking that he could get used to having Liam call
him incredible.

Chapter 2
Chapter Notes
See the end of the chapter for notes

Zayn awakes to someone tracing his tattoos.

Scratch that. Zayn wakes up to Liam tracing his tattoos. His mind is still fuzzy, he still can't
exactly grasp where he is but he knows he's not in his own bed, and Liam's leaning over him,
lazily dragging a finger over the lips tattooed on his chest, his own caught between his teeth, as
shirtless as Zayn is.
And Zayn doesn't want him to stop so he schools his breathing and closes his eyes and pretends to
be asleep as Liam outlines the wings, then moves down to the writing on his hip, the heart on the
other, until finally he stops and gently shakes Zayn shoulder (not the hurt one, thankfully).
"Zayn," Liam says softly, a note of regret in his voice. "Zayn, you've gotta get up."
Zayn is sort of a shit actor, but he fakes confusion, sitting up and blinking open his eyes slowly.
Liam smiles gently at him, playing with the drawstring on Zayn's his own sweats. "It's halfpast seven," Liam tells him. "I forgot that the real world exists, but I've got work and I think
you've got class."
Zayn opens his mouth to speak and promptly falls back against the pillows with a groan. He
forgot, too. He shouldn't have stayed last night because he does have class. In an hour. Fuck. His
apartment is at least a twenty minute drive away from the hotel with little traffic, and then he has to
get to school after stopping there, too. And on top of that, he doesn't want to get out of this bed.
Liam must have turned the heat down because the sheets are almost cool to the touch (not quite,
but nothing ever really feels cold to Zayn) and Liam's foot is brushing against his ankle, soft and
No, he definitely doesn't want to get up. But he has to.
"Yeah," he admits, rubbing at his eyes. "I should go."
"I'll drive you," Liam says immediately. "I'll call Carl and let him know I'll be a bit late. We can
stop and heave breakfast first, too, if you'd like."
"You can get a muffin," Liam promises.
He wants to know if he can get a kiss, too, but he probably shouldn't. His breath is probably rank,
and he needs a good shower and to change his bandages. How he's going to do that in the time he
has, he has no idea. But he doesn't really worry too much about that because Liam's off the bed,
riffling through his bag, and then he's pulling off his sweats and changing into his work clothes
right in front of Zayn.
Watching Liam tie his work boots should not be such a turn on, but it is. He gets out of bed, too,
finding the shirt he'd pulled off in the middle of the night, gathering up his suit and pulling on his

own shoes as Liam tugs at his laces to tighten them and then loops them the way Zayn used to
when he was a child. It's both adorable and attractive, somehow.
"Ready to go?" Liam asks, standing up and clapping his hands together.
Just as predicted, the drive to his apartment is a long one. Liam promises to wait for him as he
dashes inside, and Zayn can't resist a kiss on the cheek that makes Liam giggle (and, fuck, he's
such a man, Liam, but all it takes is a simple kiss and he melts into this adorable thing, and it's
really starting to do things to Zayn) before he gets out of the car.
The second he steps into the apartment Zayn's berated with "Walk of shame!" "Get it, Malik!"
"Zayn finally got laid!" that he tries his best to ignore, but his cheeks heat up anyways and he flips
them all off.
"I hate all of you," Zayn adds, in case they can't tell.
"I thought getting fucked would make you less of a prick," Louis says. "Apparently I was
Zayn glares at him on his way to his room, and he slams his door on Cher's, "He didn't. They
watched movies and made out like teenagers. Adorable."
Somehow Zayn gets ready in record time, and Niall comes and helps him with his shoulder
bandage before he runs out the door. Liam's car isn't there, and Zayn's heart sinks into his stomach
until he notices it coming down the street, pulling up out front seconds later.
"Figured I'd get food while you were getting ready, you know, to save time," he explains, holding
up a paper bag and a coffee. "You weren't waiting long, were you?"
Zayn shakes his head and gets in, and Liam hands him a bag with four different types of muffins
inside. His heart crawls back into his chest and it feels like it swells until it's too big to fit, cutting
off the airflow to his lungs. "Thanks," he just manages to get out.
"Not a problem," Liam promises. He pulls out of the lot, heading in the direction of the university.
"I have to go look at an apartment today, but do you think I could text you afterwards? Or maybe
I could actually get your number first?"
Zayn manages to swallow the rest of his muffin before he bursts into a laugh that he can't help.
Liam gives him a confused look, eyebrows scrunched up, and Zayn waves his hand, reaching for
his drink because he's choking a bit on muffin crumbs. "Feels sort of backwards, dunnit?" he says.
"I mean, after everything and we're only exchanging numbers now?"
"I'll have you know that I'm not the conventional dater, Zayn. I ride down my own path. I don't
follow anyone else's rules."
Zayn snorts at him, but he says, "I think I kind of like that."
"I think I kind of like you."
Now he lowers his gaze, biting on his tongue. "Only kind of?"
"Are you trying to change the subject so you don't have to give me your number?"
Zayn shakes his head so quickly he almost gets dizzy, and Liam teasingly laughs at him but drops
a hand to his thigh to make up for it. Everything about him, in that moment, is so warm. His eyes
are crinkled at the sides, cheeks pushed up, lips spread in a wide smile, and Zayn thinks, dazedly,

that he'd do anything to get that smile again and again, just for him.
He's so fucked.


Zayn Malik can honestly say that he's never dated before, so he has nothing to compare
this thing with Liam to. But while he doesn't have any experience with it, exactly, he still thinks
that maybe whatever he and Liam have is a little easier than what most people get.
It's just it's the simplest thing. It's not as if he suddenly stops fumbling all over himself around
Liam, but it gets easier. He stops second guessing himself, and he stops (mostly) thinking through
what he's going to say long before he says it, because Liam's just so easy to talk to, so easy to fall
into (and for, or whatever).
Their first date is sort of disastrous, though. Liam insists on paying for them to see a movie, and he
also insists on Zayn choosing said movie. And because he's an idiot, he spends, like, hours going
through the list of everything playing before deciding on the most romantic sounding one because
that's what you're supposed to do on your first date, right? Watch a shitty romantic movie with just
the right amount of boring scenes to allow them to makeout in the dark of the theatre, surrounded
by other couples.
Except it's the worst movie Zayn's ever seen. The acting sucks, the plotline is overdone and
contrived, and Liam starts yawning halfway through as Zayn's palms start to sweat and he starts to
fidget nervously.
"Oh, Samuel," the woman on screen coos, "I gave you my heart and you handed it back to me,
tattered and broken."
Zayn cringes and Liam actually snorts out loud. Someone in front of them turns around and
shushes them, and they both sink farther into their seats.
Without and warning, Liam moves the drink from the holder between them and leans into Zayn.
His breath smells of salty popcorn and sweet pop, and Zayn can't make out his features in the dark
but his lips look slick and shiny, reflecting the light from the movie. "Want to get out of here?" he
"Fuck," Zayn breathes, "yeah. Yeah, I do."
Liam grabs his hand, pulling him out of his seat. Zayn lets Liam drag him out of the theatre,
leaving behind the shitty movie and the sound of the couple behind them going at it quite heavily.
They duck past the concession area where a teenager sweeps around popcorn and another flips
through a magazine while leaning over the counter, and then they're outside.
"I'm really sorry," Zayn says immediately. "All the reviews said it was great, and I"
"It's not your fault," Liam assures him, pulling him down the sidewalk. "And it just gives us an
excuse to do something else."
"Like what?" Zayn wonders. "It's nearly ten. There's not all that much we can do. Most things are

"There's plenty to do," Liam argues. "It just depends on how picky you are."
Which is how they end up at the twenty-four hour arcade three streets down from the university.
The guy behind the counter looks up at them when they walk in, a bored, tired expression on his
face. Zayn's pretty sure he recognizes him from one of his classes, but he can't figure out which.
The lights are distracting in here, and it's not nearly as private at the theatre. There's a drunken
couple playing a racing game, a group of university students playing a game where you throw
basketballs into a hoop and you get tickets for every basket you get, and a smaller group of kids
that look like they're out far past their bedtimes.
"We need tokens," Liam says, dragging him off to the machine. It smells like pizza in here, too,
Zayn notes, but he also knows from experience (Niall doesn't leave the house often, but when he
does this arcade is one of his favourite places) that it tastes like cardboard and is never hot. "And
then you're going to prove to me just how good you are at video games."
"Most of the things in here aren't video games, though," Zayn points out. There're slot machines to
win more coins, games where a wheel turns and if you land on a certain spot you get a set amount
of tickets, more games like the basketball one only with baseball and little punching bag that's
supposed to gauge your strength.
Liam raises his eyebrows challengingly as he puts a bill into the token machine. Zayn fights him
on it and pays for his own, and then they look around, not sure where to start.
By the time they're done, Zayn has a stack of tickets and Liam's got about, oh, thirty. He's not
pouting over it, though. He's just cheering Zayn on when he wins more. And it's it's so much
better than the movie. It's a lot more fun, and it's easier to get behind Liam, grab the joystick of the
game he's playing to help him win, steering him. And it's easier for Liam to do the same to him
when they finally make their way over to the basketball game (the only one where Liam actually
won more than one or two tickets at a time) and he helps Zayn sink his only two baskets.
"Four hundred and seven," the guy behind the counter says. "You can choose from anything in
here." He gestures to the glass case the counter is made out of and the numerous boxes inside,
each filled with some stupid, cheap little toy and labeled with how many points they're each
worth. "Just let me know."
"Cover your ears and close your eyes," Liam orders.
Zany blinks at him. "Excuse me?"
"Cover your ears and close your eyes," Liam repeats. "I'll pick something for you and then you
pick something for me, both of us staying under two hundred points. Deal?"
"Okay," Zayn says. He feels about ten years old while he does it, but he does do it. He covers his
ears, closes his eyes, and waits until Liam taps his arm. "My turn?"
Liam nods and mimics Zayn's earlier position, and then Zayn's left to figure out something for
Liam. Everything they can chose from is so pointless, the kind of things you'd find in a bag of
party favors from a child's birthday, inexpensive and they'll probably be lost within hours of
getting them.
There're spin tops and a few selective types of candies, little figurines and pencils, bracelets and
wax lips. Zayn stops at the basket full of tiny cars, and then he points to them and asks for a red
one. It's so much smaller than the ones Liam used to have on his shelf back at his old apartment,
and it's sort of dumb or whatever but it's the best he can think of.

He tugs at Liam's arm until he drops his hands from his eyes. "You first," Liam says quickly. He
pulls a pencil out of his back pocket, grinning as he hands it over. "What do you think?"
Zayn turns it over. It's purple and glittery and it reads #1 GENIUS in silver, sparkly writing. He
snorts a laugh and tries not to like it so much, but he does anyways, even if he'd never be caught
dead with the thing in public. "Okay, here," he says once he's pocketed the pencil. He holds out
the car in the palm of his hand, waiting for Liam to take it. "Because, like, you had a bunch of
miniature cars on your shelf back home and I figured that you'd, I don't know, like it, maybe?"
Liam stares down at it, grin falling away into a look that's much solemner. He carefully picks it up,
chewing on his bottom lip, and there's something watery in his eyes as he swallows. "Thanks," he
says. "I thanks, Zayn."
Liam puts his car in his pocket, like Zayn had with the pencil, and then he fists a hand tightly in
Zayn's shirt, pulling him into a searing kiss that makes Zayn's lips burn almost as much as his
cheeks. The guy behind the counter is still right there, but Zayn forgets about that as Liam's
tongue lazily licks into his mouth and he lets out these low, helpless sounds. Or he does until the
guy coughs and says, "If you're gonna keep doing that I'm gonna have to ask you to leave."
Liam giggles and grabs Zayn's hand, once more pulling him along. When they get to the car,
Zayn's grinning, too, unable to stop himself. Until he looks at the dashboard and realizes the time,
and remembers that Liam has work tomorrow and he has a huge paper he has to write for one of
his classes.
"I should probably get you home," Liam says, sounding as regretful as Zayn feels. "It's getting
"Yeah," Zayn agrees.
It's nearing one when they make it to Zayn's building. Liam idles the car out front, and the he says,
"Remember how you told me you left home before you got to do a lot of normal teenager stuff,
like discreetly makeout while your parents aren't around?"
"Yes," Zayn says, because he does. And it's still embarrassing.
"We can make up for that," Liam tells him.
"We can?"
"Making-out out front of your house in the car after a date even though you were supposed to be
home fifteen minutes ago," Liam says. "It's a classic teenager-on-their-first-date move."
Zayn chuckles, leaning over the seat divider. "I don't think we have to worry about my parents
coming out and telling us to stop, though."
Liam meets him halfway and Zayn tangles a hand in his hair. It's slicked back with product but
surprisingly soft anyways, and Liam makes the loveliest sounds when Zayn kisses him, he really
does. And Zayn thinks it's good too because he doesn't want to be interrupted, he doesn't want to
this to end, he
"Is this adorable or disgusting? I can't decide."
Zayn barely reacts to Louis' voice coming from the backseat, only groaning in irritation, but Liam
literally jumps, eyes wide, letting out a loud squeak as he turns to face the backseat of the car.

"How'd you get in here?" he demands. "What?"

"You didn't tell him about the teleporting?" Louis asks, frowning at Zayn.
Zayn pinches the bridge of his nose, and Liam goes from slightly terrified and surprised to
interested in seconds. "Teleporting?" he asks. "So you have powers, too? I knew about Cher, but I
didn't know about you. How many of you are there?"
"Well, funny you should ask, dear Liam, because"
"Get out, Louis," Zayn snaps at him. "Now."
Louis gives him a look, nose wrinkled, lip curled. "Fine," he says. "But you better be inside in
five minutes, young man, or I'm sending out Niall."
Zayn flips him off and doesn't relax until Louis is gone from the backseat without a sound. Liam
looks at the spot he just vacated, then back at Zayn. "That's so cool," he breathes.
Jealousy and irritation bubble up inside of him. Liam's supposed to be impressed by Zayn's power,
not Louis'. "It's really not," he says, flat and low. "It's annoying as hell."
Liam laughs, brushing a thumb over Zayn's jaw. "It's probably good that he did that. I really
should go."
Zayn sighs at him. "Yeah," he says, but he doesn't want to go inside and he doesn't want Liam to
leave, either.
"I'll see you soon," Liam promises. "I'll be here Monday to drive you to school at the latest."
Zayn nods, leaning in to kiss him once more. Even as he leaves the car, gets inside the building
and steps into the elevator, he can still see Liam sitting out front through the glass doors, watching
him like he's making sure Zayn gets inside safe, a soft grin on his lips.
So maybe it wasn't the worst first date.


"You're seriously the worst," Zayn laughs, breathless and loud, face pressed against Liam's
shoulder. "When you said you were terrible, I thought you were exaggerating. You weren't."
"Maybe you could, you know, teach me," Liam suggests, "instead of just laughing at me."
"I'm sorry, babe," Zayn says. He kisses Liam's neck soothingly, easy access from where he's
sitting on his floor with his legs spread on either side of Liam's body. "Just you jump with A,
shoot with the trigger. It's not that hard."
Grand Theft Auto is not Liam's game, apparently. He keeps getting killed by other people online,
and he's been arrested three times already for accidentally punching the wrong person. It's the
funniest thing Zayn's ever seen, honestly. He's horrible, but in an adorable, not-frustrating way. In
fact, Zayn could sit here all day and watch Liam's pout grow as he tries and tries to learn the
"Let's play something else," Liam says eventually. "I'm getting nowhere with this one."

"Let's play something else," Liam says eventually. "I'm getting nowhere with this one."
"Okay," Zayn says, using Liam's shoulder for balance as he stands. "What do you want to play,
"Your favourite?"
Zayn grins, pulling Skyrim from its case. "You get to customize your character and kill dragons,"
he says. "It's wicked."
The game is still loading when his bedroom door opens. Niall instantly covers his eyes, pulling the
door almost all the way closed, and Zayn snorts to himself as Niall asks, "I didn't know Liam was
here. Are you decent? Can I come in?"
Sometimes it really does feel like Niall's his parent. "You can come in."
"Hey," Niall says to Liam, coming back into the room. He gives Zayn a slightly nervous look. "I
was coming to ask you to help me with that thing in the basement we talked about, but you're
busy so just come down when Liam leaves, okay?"
Liam pretends to be busy with the game, but Zayn knows he's not. He's just being polite. And he
knows that Liam's curious, can see it in the darting glances he gives Zayn when he thinks Zayn's
not looking his way. "I'll come now if I can bring Liam," Zayn offers.
Niall hesitates, but then he slowly nods, backing out of the room. "I can't see the harm in that. You
trust him, I trust you, so I trust him by extension."
"What's in the basement?" Liam asks, looking like a child sprawled out on Zayn's floor like that
with the controller in his hands.
Zayn grins. "You'll see."
If anyone will appreciate the basement as much as he and Niall do, that person is Liam. Just last
week Liam had dragged him to this comic shop that Zayn didn't even know existed downtown
below an old coffee shop, and they'd spent hours going through everything they could get their
hands on. Now that Liam's moved into a new apartment, he's trying to replace most of what he
lost and apparently a lot of that is comic books. Zayn is so fucking in love with this gorgeous,
secret dork. It's almost pathetic.
Zayn helps Liam to his feet (or he takes Liam's hand and Liam pushes himself up off the floor)
and they follow Niall out of the apartment and into the elevator. Liam's eyes widen when Niall
uses his key to access the basement, and this is nowhere near the best part.
As soon as they hit the bottom floor, Zayn squeezes Liam's hand, and even Niall looks kind of
excited to show him. No one else has ever been down here but the four of them, and it's been a
while since Niall's had the chance to do a grand tour of the place.
"Holy shit," Liam breathes as the doors open. "Holy holy shit."
"Come on," Zayn urges, pulling him out into the room.
Even he's taken aback by it sometimes. The cavernous space, the gadgets, the monitors set up
against one wall, the boxing ring in the center. It's fucking cool. "It's like a proper superhero
hideout," Liam says, and that yeah, that sums it up. "Do you guys have superhero code names
and everything?"
Zayn and Niall exchange a look. "Not really," Niall says.

"We have a lot of codenames for Louis, but most of them we can't say to his face," Zayn adds.
"You coming?" Niall asks as he heads over to the workshop area. Zayn couldn't identify half of
the tools over here, but he has a feeling Liam can. "It's done, I think. It's still just a prototype, but I
think I've finally worked it out."
"Worked what out?" Liam asks. He's still looking around in wonderment, even as Zayn drags him
over to where Niall is.
"I'm working on creating a metal that will inhibit superpowers, basically," Niall says.
Liam pauses, eyebrows scrunched up. "Why would you want to do that?"
"Convenience," Niall says with a shrug. "Sick of Louis teleporting in on me wanking, and I'm
sick of Cher reading my thoughts when I'm thinking about wanking."
Liam turns a pretty pink colour. "Oh."
When they get over to the station, Zayn notices a sweater hanging off the back of the chair Niall
usually sits on as he works. Something nags at his memory, something about the colour and the
look of it, but he knows for a fact that's not Niall's sweater. Zayn steals enough of Louis and
Niall's (and even Cher's, occasionally, but only because she wears cool boots) clothes to know
that this particular article of clothing doesn't belong in his wardrobe.
"Whose sweater is that?" Zayn demands, picking it up.
Niall's eyes widen, and he snatches it out of Zayn's hands. "I don't know," he says. "Never seen it
before in my life. That's weird. How did it get down here?"
As he's talking, it hits Zayn. The guy from the club had been wearing the same sweater both times
Zayn had seen him, he's sure of it. But no, there's no way that's the same sweater. It's too
coincidental, for one thing, and it's impossible to get into the basement for another. So he lets it go,
brushing off Niall's weird behavior, pushing it to the back of his mind.
"Anyways," Niall says, a little tightly, "here. Try it on. Test it out."
The bracelet he hands Zayn is thicker than he'd expected. It's made of a dark, almost black metal,
too, and it's weirdly cool to the touch. Something uneasy settles in Zayn's stomach even as he
holds it, and everything inside of him is screaming don't. Don't put it on.
He puts it on anyways. The metal seems to cling to his skin, tightening to fit just perfectly, even
though it had seemed a little big when he was sliding it on. Liam's eyes widen at this, and that
uneasy feeling in Zayn's stomach intensifies.
"So?" Niall prompts. "Does it work?"
"I'm not sure." Zayn turns his hand over and focuses. He searches for that fire in his veins, tries to
ignite it, but he can't find it. It's just it's gone.
Zayn has never felt so cold in his life. It's like standing outside in the middle of winter without any
clothes on as wind and icy flakes of snow stab at his body. He's always known that he runs a little
hotter than most people, but he never realized by just how much. And he never realized how
incredible the difference would feel without that extra heat.
And he feels significantly weaker. He can't explain it, exactly, but he feels almost tired and
groggy. He doesn't like it. His whole life he's imagined how amazing it would be to be normal, to

not have this power, but now that he can't feel it, can't make it work, he feels wrong, off. If he
thought he was unnatural before, it's nothing to how this feels. Nothing.
"I can't," he finally admits. "I can't make it work."
"Are you sure, though?" Niall wonders. "Are you sure you're not just convincing yourself that the
bracelet works, and your power isn't working because your mind thinks it's not supposed to?"
Zayn gives him a blank look. Not a lot of people make him feel stupid, but Niall sure as fuck does
sometimes. "Huh?"
"I get it," Liam says suddenly. "And I think I know a way to prove whether it actually works or if
it's just in his head."
Liam pulls Zayn into him, hands trapped between their bodies. He cups the back of Zayn's neck,
leaning in until their lips are just hovering against each other's, barely touching. And then he kisses
Zayn roughly, all of a sudden and without warning. It's filthy and wet, his lips moving hard
against Zayn's, tongues almost battling (which is such a stupid saying, and it's always pissed him
off, but it's the only description that fits) as his other hand moves down Zayn's side.
Zayn kisses him back as eagerly as he can, closing his eyes, forgetting where he is as he usually
does when Liam kisses him. He's getting short of breath, and a whimper falls from his lips,
swallowed by Liam, when Liam's hips start moving rhythmically against his.
Liam pulls back. He's red in the face, his lips wet, and he reaches up to rub at them with the back
of his hand. "It definitely works," he confirms. "Usually he'd be bursting into flames right now."
Zayn makes an indignant sound, and Niall's flushed red, too. "That's that's, uh, good," Niall
mumbles. "I'm gonna you know what, you two have fun down here, I'm gonna go. When you
take the bracelet off, put it back in this box. And don't touch my fucking monitors or I'll kill ya."
Zayn takes the box from him, and he doesn't miss the fact that Niall 'discreetly' snags the sweater
on his way to the elevator. When he's gone, he looks down at the bracelet, then up at Liam. "Do
you want to explore?"
"Please," Liam pleads, looking like a kid on Christmas morning. "This is the coolest thing that's
ever happened to me."
"I thought I was the coolest thing that ever happened to you," Zayn jokes, twisting the bracelet
around his wrist. It's almost too tight, but not quite. And he hasn't taken it off yet, though he
doesn't know why.
"Okay, this is the second coolest thing," Liam corrects. "You're definitely the first."
"You're such a dork," Zayn can't help but say. And he's in love with that dork. Fuck.
That bright look in Liam's eyes refuses to go out as Zayn gives him a short tour of the basement.
He takes him through every station, starting with the small, closed in room Niall made for him to
test his powers, and the obstacle course he'd had them run through for training. Liam looks excited
and Zayn eyes it skeptically when they stop near the climbing wall. He had a bad experience with
that wall, which probably contributes to his fear of heights.
They stop at the monitors next, and Zayn feels like he did when he was younger and he used to
break into his mum's room to steal change for candy (which he still feels guilty about) from the
change jar she used to keep on her vanity, when he touches the mouse and brings the computers to
life. If he fucks anything up, Niall'll kill him.

"Can you see my new apartment on here?" Liam asks, looking up at the screens with
"You can see everything on here," Zayn tells him. "Niall's hacked into every public camera in the
"That's an invasion of privacy," Liam says, bordering on disproving. "But it's for good reason, I
Next they stop at the boxing ring in the center. Zayn's gotten a bloody nose or two in this thing
(from Cher) and given his fair share, as well (to Louis). Maybe he tells them all this, but Niall said
he was the best at combat, said he picked it up easier than the others, even if Cher has the power
of her strength to back her up.
"Can we use this?" Liam asks. "I've always wanted to box in a real ring. I used to take boxing
lessons, but our instructor only let the adults use it. I was always really jealous."
"Sure," Zayn says, climbing onto it. He offers Liam a hand, but Liam gets himself up just fine.
Liam steps around, that curious look back on his face as he paces the small area of the ring. When
he's done, he turns to Zayn with a grin. "You know," he considers, "with your power not
working, I could probably take you."
Maybe, if Zayn didn't have training. "I doubt that," he says confidently. "I'm highly trained in
combat, Liam. 's part of the job."
"You wanna bet?"
Zayn is starting to get that Liam is just a little bit competitive. Normally this would irritate him,
only Liam isn't a sore loser or a sore winner. He just likes a challenge, Zayn thinks, and if he
loses, well, he'll try better next time. And if he wins, he always tells Zayn he did good no matter
what they're doing. It's sort of sweet, like everything about Liam, almost.
But because of that competitive streak, he probably should have seen it coming. Only he doesn't,
and Liam suddenly has his arm in a firm but not painful grip, he's gently kicking Zayn's legs out
from under him, and they're both tumbling to the mat with Zayn on the bottom and Liam grinning
victoriously on top of him.
Zayn's breath was knocked from his lungs when he fell, and he's gasping when he says, "Cheater.
That's not fair. You caught me off guard."
"I'm a dirty fighter," Liam confesses with a swift grin. "Still think you could get the best of me
Zayn channels all the training he's had. He knows he's slightly smaller than Liam, so his weight
isn't an advantage. But he's bony, is the thing, and his slightly smaller build gives him the
advantage of being able to move faster. He bucks his hips and ducks out from under Liam's arm,
rolling over and pushing himself up in one smooth, fluid motion.
Liam looks up at him from the floor of the mat before climbing to his feet, and then they're circling
each other, playful glints in their eyes.
It's Liam who moves first. He darts in, and Zayn jumps back easily, moving out of the way of a
blow that wouldn't have hurt even if it landed, he could tell. Liam laughs, moving in again, and
this time Zayn stays planted firmly where he is, not moving an inch as Liam approaches him. At

least, not until Liam swings again, and at the last second he ducks, charging Liam, wrapping his
arms around Liam's waist.
This time it's Liam who hits the ground with a soft 'oof' as Zayn lands on top of him. "You're not
the only one who can fight dirty," Zayn informs him.
But it's a lot easier for Liam to get back on top. All he has to do is wrap his legs around Zayn's
waist and twist, and suddenly the world flips and Liam's pinning him down again. "Puny
superhero," he says, and Zayn honestly can't believe that he's really quoting the Avengers right
now, only he totally can.
It goes on like that, the two of them trying to best each other. Zayn's winning with five pins to
Liam's four by the time they're both sweaty. Liam rips off his tank top, moping his face with it,
and then they're tied as Zayn's eyes rake over Liam's body and Liam pins him back on the ground
with little to no effort needed.
This time Zayn doesn't fight him. He wraps his arms around Liam's neck, pulling him into a kiss
that starts off already breathless and leaves them both gasping when Liam breaks it. He holds
himself above Zayn on his arms, muscles straining under his own weight, and when his hips
stutter against Zayn's, Liam's lips open in a silent 'o' and he looks into Zayn's eyes, like he's trying
to see if Zayn wants this or not.
Fuck, he does. He definitely fucking does.
"Come on," he pleads, pulling Liam back down.
It isn't long before Zayn's lips feel swollen and Liam's flipping them back over, arms secured
around Zayn's waist to hold him steady. He leans up somehow, supporting both their weight with
one arm, and pulls at Zayn's shirt, trying to get it off.
Zayn helps him out, stripping out of the t-shirt because it's too hot for it anyways with their bodies
pressed this close and so much heat radiating between them. Power or not, Liam burns him up in
the best possible ways.
As soon as Zayn's shirt is gone, Liam rolls them over once more, and then he kisses at Zayn's
collarbone. "Have I ever told you," he asks between kisses, "just how much I love your tattoos?"
"N-no," Zayn gasps. "You never."
"I really do." His lips fit perfectly over the ones on Zayn's glistening chest before he moves lower,
looking up at Zayn through his lashes as he makes his descent. All Zayn can do is try to hold on
but his fingers are scratching helplessly against the floor of the ring. "All of them," he adds, fitting
his lips over the heart tattoo, and then he goes and fucking ruins Zayn by moving to the writing on
his other hip, outlining it with his tongue "A lot."
"Fuck," Zayn hisses, leaning his head back. Liam's fingers tug at the button on his jeans without
actually undoing them, and Zayn lifts his head to look back down at him, finding Liam looking up
at him questioningly. "Does it look like I'm telling you not to?" Zayn asks.
"No," Liam admits. He pops the button open with a smirk. "Looks like you sorta want to beg
me to, actually."
Zayn doesn't deny it because he doesn't see the point. Plus, arguing would take more time, and
he'd rather focus on getting out of his clothes. Or have Liam focus on getting him out of his
clothes, which he does, tugging Zayn's jeans down his hips, waiting for Zayn to lift them up so he
can pull them off. And then he's pulling at Zayn's boxers without hesitation, and Zayn pauses for a

beat before lifting up to get those off, too.

As soon as they're gone, Liam stands up, leaving Zayn lying there on the floor of the boxing ring,
completely fucking naked and panting desperately. He looks down at Zayn with this look on his
face, like he knows he has Zayn completely, could do whatever he wants, but he also appreciates
that fact. It unravels Zayn.
So does the way Liam shucks his own clothes, nothing teasing about his hasty movements. His
jeans hit the floor, he steps out of them, and his boxers follow a second later. Zayn bites his lip,
unable to stop from reaching down, wrapping a hand around himself as he takes in everything
about Liam.
There's something sinful in the curve of Liam's skinny legs. Somehow he's tan everywhere, sweat
glistening skin spreading tight over his taught muscles. Working in the garage pays off apparently;
he's so fucking fit that it's criminal. And Zayn pumps himself slowly, loose-fisted because he
doesn't want to come, he just needs to take the damn edge off, as he lets his gaze wander to where
Liam's hard and curving up towards his stomach, uncut and thick. (Fuck, Zayn wants to blow him
so bad.)
Liam drops back down to the floor between Zayn's legs, wasting no time moving up his body,
slotting their mouths together. Zayn's legs naturally wrap around his waist, clinging to him,
grinding them together tightly as he tries to remember how to kiss and breathe at the same time,
but it's just too damn hard when he can feel Liam everywhere.
"I don't think this is what boxing rings were intended to be used for," Liam says, chuckling as he
nips at Zayn's jaw.
"I I don't think that this is the time for jo" Liam does this thing where his hips roll down into
Zayn's, and his cock brushes against Zayn's, and there's friction and sweat dampened skin and he
smells like Liam and musk and Zayn can't remember what he was trying to say.
"Flipping us over," Liam warns only a second before he does just that, leaving Zayn straddling
him, his knees digging into the ground a little painfully. Liam kisses him again as he grabs at
Zayn's ass, and his fingers move teasingly slowly until he's sliding a finger between Zayn's
"Oh," Zayn gasps. He doesn't mean to, it's just he's never had someone touch him there before,
and he didn't think it'd make him push back against Liam but it does. "Fuck."
Liam kisses down his neck before pulling Zayn up, up, and Zayn is too dazed and foggy to do
anything but go where ever Liam moves him, which is, apparently, onto his chest. When he looks
down, Liam's mouth is painfully close to his dick, and he has to squeeze his eyes closed.
"When I fuck you," Liam says, mimicking his earlier actions, spreading Zayn's cheeks, teasing
him with the tip of his finger, "fuck, it's gonna be on a bed. Romantic and fuck, romantic and
everything, I promise."
Zayn tries not to buck his hips forward because Liam's mouth is right there and his lips are on the
inside of Zayn's thigh. It's a miracle he doesn't, and it's a miracle he's staying balanced where he
straddles Liam's chest because he's never felt so off balance in his entire fucking life.
"Okay." He nods, not really paying attention to Liam's words. "Can you Liam."
Liam's mouthing at his cock, looking almost innocently up at him. Something in his eyes says go
on, and Zayn does, after a beat, wrapping a hand around himself for guidance, nudging the head

of his cock against Liam's gorgeous lips.

Fuck, his mouth is so warm and tight around him, and Zayn's freehand is scratching at his skin,
fisting and releasing and tightening again as he tips his head back. But the angle isn't the best, the
position a little awkward, and this time Liam doesn't warn him at all before pulling back off his
cock and flipping them over again. (Not that Zayn's complaining. Complaining is the farthest
fucking thing from his mind right now.)
The list of things Liam can do wonderfully is long, but this this may be the best. He holds Zayn
down with one hand pressed firmly on his hip, and he wraps his lips around Zayn's prick again,
barely pausing before swallowing him down until he's breathing around Zayn, panting, trying to
deep throat him until tears well in his eyes.
"Babe," Zayn gasps. "Liam. Fuck, you fuck. Incredible, you're fuck." He's not even making
sense anymore but he doesn't care. The words fall from his lips as he tangles a hand in Liam's hair
to ground himself, not to guide Liam at all. He couldn't even if he wanted to.
Liam's fingers are teasing his entrance again, but they're too dry and he's not even trying to push
them in at all, but something about the action sparks Zayn's insides anyways, make his legs shake
and his hand tug at his own hair because it's all so much.
When his eyes fall to Liam's crotch and he watches Liam work a hand over himself, thick fingers
wrapped tightly around his own cock, tugging quickly at it like he's as desperate as Zayn feels,
everything gets cloudy and sharp at the same time, the world around them blurred but Liam so in
focus it's almost painful.
"Li" It's broken and wrecked but Liam hears it anyways, pulls off him with a wet sound before
he continues to jerk Zayn off in the same rhythm he's using on himself.
Liam ducks his head, eyes closed, and groans when he comes, coating his fingers and the floor of
the ring. That's all it takes for Zayn, watching that, and he's following suit, losing himself for a
moment, a thundering in his ears that makes the rest of the world seem hazy.
When he comes to, Liam's licking at the head of his cock again, soft brushes of his tongue that
makes Zayn's limbs jerk and everything feel too hot. He squirms, gasping, and Liam finishes his
assault, pulling away, and Zayn's not sure if he's regretful or thankful.
Zayn's still catching his breath when Liam settles in beside him, tucked against him perfectly, flat
on his back the way Zayn is. "Alright?" he implores, grabbing Zayn's hand, sounding actually
"'m good," Zayn assures him. He's more than, actually. He tilts his head, watching Liam watch
him. "Do you know that almost every book I've ever read has some kind of romantic subplot?"
Liam frowns, seeming confused by Zayn's sudden change of topic. "Really?"
"And, like, almost every movie, too," he continues. "That's hundreds. I've read or watched
hundreds of people fall in love fictionally and it never prepared me. None of them mentioned
how fucking easy it was; none of them prepared me for how quickly I've fallen in love with you.
Not one of them."
Liam's hand squeezes his, and he's looking at Zayn in silence, lips parted slightly. "Zayn," he
finally says.
"I mean, shit, Liam," Zayn continues, pushing down any embarrassment, "it was one of the easiest
things I've ever done, I think."

"Zayn," Liam says again, quieter, strained. He leans up, propping himself up over Zayn's body,
and kisses him gently. "Me too, okay? I me too. Easiest thing I've ever done. And possibly the
most terrifying."
It takes a bit for that to settle in, but when it does Zayn's grinning and leaning up to kiss Liam
again, laughing into his mouth because he can't help it.
Afterwards, when he literally can't continue, not without permanently forgetting how to think,
Zayn stares up at the ceiling. "I'm, like, one hundred and twelve percent sure Niall has cameras set
up in here."
Liam squeaks and covers himself.


"It's just weird," Louis complains.

"What's weird?" In the kitchen, Harry hisses in pain and Louis whips his head around, eyes wide
until Harry shakes his head and waves him off, sucking his thumb into his mouth as he continue to
push around vegetables in a frying pan. When Louis still looks at him in alarm, he adds, "I'm fine.
Continue. What's weird?"
"Zayn," Louis sighs. "He's so so happy. It's not natural."
"He's never been happy before?" Harry prods, sounding confused.
Louis rolls his eyes. "Obviously he has. I've watched the freak cry happy tears over a new Call of
Deputy game or whatever, and one time he watched all the Lord of the Rings movies in one sitting
and I swear he grinned the whole time, but. He hasn't argued with me for no reason in weeks. He
hasn't slammed a door on me since the thirteenth. And the other day? I teleported in on him in the
bathroom and all he did was sigh at me. He didn't even yell!"
"He's in love," Harry reminds him, sounding pleased. As if the whole notion isn't disgusting.
"And I'm sure he's having a healthy amount of sex now, and studies have proven that sexual
release and moods are significantly correlated to each other. I did an article on it once, and it's
quite interesting how"
"Did you?" Louis asks, cutting him off. "Maybe we could do some more research on that
There's a thud and another hiss of pain, and Louis doesn't have to turn around to see that Harry's
dropped something and his cheeks are flushed red, but he does anyways just so he can smirk in
satisfaction and appreciate the fact that all it takes are a few choice words to get Harry worked up.
"Um, maybe," he mumbles, straightening his sweater vest (Louis swears he's wearing them now
just to be irritating, and another part of him swears that it's still hideous while a third part argues
that maybe, just maybe, they're sort of adorable) and avoiding Louis' eyes. "Are you still going
through those articles?"
Louis'd gotten off topic, but now that Harry's reminded him, he remembers why he's so irritated
with Zayn's good mood. Because he's happy for his friend, he is. He knows it's not easy for Zayn,

having relationships with other people, romantic or not. And it's sort of nice that he has someone
that fits him as well as Liam (who does fit him, he'd be blind to argue that) but it's also a)
disturbing and b) a distraction. It's like Louis' the only damn person who seems to remember, uh,
hello, someone's fucking with the whole city and they should probably try to stop it. Zayn's too
caught up in his relationship, Niall's too caught up in his 'secret' relationship that he thinks he's
being so discreet about, and Cher's not left her bedroom much since the kidnapping incident
(which Louis swears to fix as soon as the city isn't in danger anymore).
"Yeah," he says, reaching forward to pick the articles up again. "There's nothing in here that we
don't already know."
"Hmm," Harry hums. "Do you want two fajitas or three?"
Louis sniffs the air. It smells amazing, and he doesn't hesitate to say, "Three."
"One second, then." There's more banging, and Harry is just as awkward in the kitchen as he is
with everything else. The food really does smell good, though. He just hopes that Harry hasn't
injured himself making them though he doubts they'll be that lucky. "Here."
Louis takes the outstretched plate of food as Harry sinks down next to him. He picks up a fajita
and bites into it, and seconds later he lets out a low moan that has Harry's plate nearly slipping
from his fingertips. "These are amazing, Harry."
"It's just fajitas," Harry mumbles. "And, um, about the articles. I think I might be able to get us
more? Back at the station, I know they have full reports and files on almost everything. Only
certain things get printed or aired on the news, though. Usually the police request that, um,
specific details are kept out, especially in an open investigation."
"I knew it," Louis says. "Government conspiracies."
Harry makes a face. "Um, no. It's usually because they can't release all the details on a specific
crime if they're still trying to catch the persons who committed said crime, or because the
information isn't one hundred percent reliable and they can't base news reports on rumors or
suspicions, most of the time."
"Oh," Louis says, taken aback. "Right."
"But I might be able to get that stuff," Harry adds, biting into his own fajita. He chews, swallows,
and continues, "My boss, remember the one I was telling you about? Tristan? The other day he
was going on about how I was his prodigy" Harry sits up a little straighter at this, like he's
proud. " and he told me that if I ever needed his help with writing an article or anything, he'd be
more than willing to do whatever he can. So maybe I could ask him, or something. I'd have to lie,
surely, but he might allow me to look at the files, at least."
Louis tries extremely hard not to get slightly annoyed, but he fails. Harry talks about
Tristan constantly, though. If he didn't know better, he'd swear he was being cheated on with a
damn news reporter, but he knows (deep down, anyways) that that isn't the case. Still, hearing
Harry wax on and on about the guy is getting on his last nerve.
That's not Harry's fault, though. That's Louis own bitter insecurity, so he swallows it down and
says, "Good, you should ask him, then."
"You could come with me," Harry offers, looking delighted by the idea. "You really should,
actually! I'm fairly busy this week, but next week you could come down to the station with me.
You'd love it, Louis."

"I'm sure I would," Louis says, and it's a miracle (or maybe an effect of spending so much time
with Harry) that he sounds sincere.
"You would," Harry repeats. "It's incredible, seeing all the work that goes into it. You don't think
much about it when you're watching the news, or I didn't, at least, but there's so much research
and effort put into every single clip and segment. Not to mention Tristan's amazing. You'd like
him, too. And that way if he doesn't let me take any of the files home, we'll have another pair of
eyes looking them over and memorizing as much as we can."
It's a good idea, honestly. But all Louis does is shrug apathetically and say, "Okay."
Harry puts his plate on the coffee table, adjusting his glasses as he peers closely at Louis. "You're
jealous," he realizes.
"I don't get jealous, Harry," Louis lies.
"You are," Harry argues. "Every time I bring Tristan up you get this pinched look on your face."
"I do not," Louis denies. "That's just how my face looks. It's genetics. You shouldn't make fun of
people for their appearance." Harry raises his eyebrows, clearly not buying that. "Okay, fine, I'm
jealous. You talk about him all the time. What do you expect?"
"If it makes you feel any better, I'd talk about you all the time to anyone who would listen, if you'd
let me."
Damn it. This is why Louis' still here. This is why Louis' on Harry's stupid sofa, eating
(admittedly delicious) fajitas and silently watching New Girl play on the TV. Harry Styles is the
type of person that makes you like him even when you really, really don't want to. He's fucking
impossible to hate. Louis hates him a little bit for that, which he's aware doesn't even make sense
but whatever.
Fucking Harry fucking Styles.
"You could if you really wanted to," eventually he says, offhanded. "As long as you don't
mention the, you know, teleporting, saving the world thing."
"City," Harry corrects.
"Don't be rude."
"Don't you find it interesting how often people get offended when you state a fact to them, despite
the fact that it's completely true?" Harry wonders out loud.
"Not really."
Louis sighs, putting his plate down, too. Normally, Louis can hurt people's feelings without even
batting an eyelash, but when it comes to Harry that ridiculous guilty feelings stabs at his stomach
every time that he does and he finds himself doing everything in his power to make up for it.
So he leans in, rubbing a hand over Harry's thigh. "I find you interesting, though."
"Really?" Harry grins.
"God help me, but yes."


Zayn looks down at his phone, watching the time tick from 8:17 to 8:18. He bites his lip, shoving
the phone in his pocket, and buries his hands in them a moment later. It's starting to get pretty cold
out, and he's wearing his jacket over his normal sweater and t-shirt. And Liam's late.
Normally he'd be here ten minutes ago with breakfast (every damn morning, no matter how many
times Zayn tells him it's really not necessary) and a warm smile, but he's not today. And Zayn
really can't afford to wait for him any longer, because if Liam's not coming he needs to jog to get
there on time.
On his way past the garage, Zayn sneaks a peek inside. He can't see much past the cars and
equipment, but then Liam's ducking his head up from behind a car, wiping his hands clean on a
white towel that he slings over his shoulder. For just a second his eyes meet Zayn's and hold his
gaze. He doesn't smile or indicate in any way that he's really seeing Zayn, and then he's ducking
back beneath the car, out of sight.
Obviously he's just busy, Zayn tells himself, and he keeps walking. Driving him to school every
morning isn't Liam's job; this is, working at the garage. But maybe a little part of him is slightly
annoyed that Liam couldn't have given him some warning. He could have started walking twenty
minutes ago because he's been outside since eight waiting for him.
But whatever. It's not a big deal, and he knows Liam'll call him over after school or something and
apologize with soft kisses and sincere words. That's just how Liam is.
And that thought brings him back to two nights ago, painting Liam's room in his new apartment.
Maybe he didn't move into it under the best circumstances, but Zayn likes the new apartment. It's
smaller, yes, but there's a balcony and a window in the bathroom, and it's on the second floor. No
matter what, there's an exit in every single room, but it's on a floor that would make it difficult for
someone to break into. It helps Zayn sleep at night.
Painting it had been one of the most enjoyable things Zayn had ever done, too. They'd gotten
nearly as much paint on themselves as they had the walls, and afterwards they'd showered
together, watching the navy blue swirl down the drain while Liam used that talented mouth of his
to ruin Zayn again.
Yeah, definitely one of the best memories Zayn has.
And he gets by his first class of the day replaying it in his mind and dozing off. It's not like
anything important is happening anyways. He's automatically taking notes with that ridiculous
pencil Liam got him while mostly droning everything out, and he's a little surprised when
everyone around him starts packing up their things and leaving.
He checks his phone on his way to the caf to get some much needed caffeine, but there's no new
text from Liam, no explanation for this morning, so Zayn sends him a short hi. Usually Liam texts
him back right away, but by the time Zayn makes it to the front of the queue, orders his drink,
waits for said drink to be finished and finally leaves the shop with it in hand, he's gotten nothing
back. But again, Liam's probably just busy.
All day, apparently, because he's still not messaged Zayn by the time he gets home, either. He
steps into the elevator, frowning down at his phone, barely noticing the person stepping off it until

the doors are shutting, and then he calls out, "Hey!" but the guy doesn't stop and the doors close
between them.
But Zayn knows for a fact that it's the guy from the club. Same eyes, same build,
same sweater that he'd sworn had been in the basement the other day. Which makes Zayn's lunch
churn in his stomach because something about the guy sets Zayn on edge, and he can't tell what it
is. It's just this feeling inside of him that he can't place, and now he's seeing this guy everywhere.
What the hell is his deal?
The elevator jolts upwards and his phone vibrates in his pocket, and Zayn forgets what he was
worrying about because he's reading Liam's can you come c me? and everything else goes to the
back of his mind, forgotten for the time being.
He hastily sends back sure, right now? and stuffs his phone away while stepping out of the
elevator and heading for the apartment.
When he steps inside, Niall's in the living room, tugging on a shirt with his cheeks red and his hair
disheveled. Zayn takes one look at him and makes a face. "You better not be wanking on the sofa
again," he warns. "What did we tell you about that?"
"One time," Niall grumbles. "And I wasn't. I was, uh, sleeping."
Zayn's phone vibrates again. I get off in 2 hrs. C u then.
It's missing the normal smiley or wink, which is a little off but Zayn chooses to ignore that, too, as
he shoulders past Niall, who's still flushed and won't meet his eyes, as he heads for his bedroom,
stuffing his phone back into his pocket while he goes.


He's a little late to Liam's but for once it's on purpose. He didn't want to show up too early and
seem clingy, so he had hung back and changed three times before finally heading out for Liam's
on foot. The new apartment isn't all that far from Zayn's, just a few short streets over and, if Zayn
looks out Louis' window he can actually see it from their place, off in the distance.
There's music playing from behind the door as Zayn knocks, something soft and recognizable, and
he thinks that it's Bruno Mars as he drops his hand to his side and waits. He can hear Liam coming
for the door, but there's a pause between him twisting the door handle and actually opening it.
"Come in," Liam says immediately, pushing the door open wide.
Zayn bites his lip, checking him out as he sidesteps Liam on his way into the apartment. He's fresh
out of the shower, jeans hanging low on his hips, hair dampening the shoulders of that's Zayn's
t-shirt, not his own. He left it here the other day, and he wonders if Liam even notices. (And he
wonders if maybe Liam did it on purpose, but then he's grinning like an idiot so he stops.)
"You busy today?" he asks, kicking off his shoes, padding towards the living room in just his
socks because he's been here as much as Liam has, honestly, and he stopped feeling
uncomfortable and intrusive a while ago in this apartment.
The living room is about half the size of Liam's old one, and it's nearly bare. There's an old, worn

sofa against one wall and an empty TV cabinet against the other, the top of which is littered with
comics and a few new auto repair books, as well as that single, tiny little red car that Zayn had
gotten him at the arcade. He's still working on replacing his things, and it makes Zayn's chest
clench every time that he remembers this.
"A bit, yeah," Liam says vaguely from the kitchen. "Do you want a drink?"
"Sure, whatever you've got," Zayn answers, falling onto the sofa. It doesn't smell like Liam yet,
but it's comfortable, at least, and one of Liam's sweaters is lying against the back of it. Zayn's just
wondering if he can nick it when Liam comes into the room, a bottle of water in one hand, a can
of coke in the other.
Liam passes him his drink and goes to sit on the opposite side of the sofa. Zayn tucks a leg up
under him, popping the tab of his drink while he grins brightly against the unsettling feeling in his
stomach. It comes out of nowhere, like a stomach flu that took him without warning, and he has
no idea what the fuck caused it but it's this tight pain in his stomach that makes him want to throw
It's so damn quiet, too. The windows are all closed, so the only sound is the faint traffic outside,
barely audible, and Liam cracking open his bottle to take a swig. Afterwards, he wipes at his
mouth as Zayn wipes his hands on his jeans, and then he decides to fuck it all, putting his drink on
the coffee table, moving closer to Liam.
"Missed you this morning," he admits, and he knows he sounds a little bitter but he can't help it.
He leans in, lips almost on Liam's. "Can I stay here tonight?"
Liam recaps his drink, eyes carefully watching each of his own movements. He's stiff, not leaning
into Zayn the way he usually does, and that tightening in him gets worse. "Zayn," he says softly.
"I think I don't think, actually. I don't think that would be a good idea."
"Oh, right," Zayn says quickly. "Yeah, you're right. You have work in the morning and
shouldn't have even sorry."
"Don't apologize," Liam pleads. He finally meets Zayn's eyes, but there's something in his own
that makes Zayn want to move away from him. "Fuck, just don't do that right now, okay?"
Liam reaches for him, but then he jerks his hands back and settles them in his lap, tightly knit
together. "I think we should talk," he says.
"Aren't we doing that already?" Zayn jests. Liam gives him a serious look. "Okay," Zayn relents.
"We can talk."
Liam gets off the sofa starts pacing the small room. He runs shaking hands through his hair, and
he's darting panicked little glances at Zayn every few seconds while licking nervously at his lips.
"You know I it's not like I don't, because I do, Zayn, I do. Yeah?"
"Yeah?" Zayn says, confused. Was that even a real sentence? It didn't sound like one.
"I just need you to know that," Liam says. He takes a deep breath. "Because this is this is hard
for me. I don't want you to think that it's not. It's really, really freaking hard, but"
"But?" Zayn prompts. He has no idea why he does it because he has a feeling he's going to regret

Liam stops his pacing. He faces Zayn with a stoic look on his face, shoulders squared. "I can't do
this anymore."
Zayn frowns at him. Moments tick by in silence as he tries to figure out what the hell Liam's
saying, but he can't. He's been confused since almost the moment he stepped into the apartment,
and Liam's not doing anything to make any of this any clearer. "Can't do what anymore?" he
finally asks.
"Us," Liam says. "You and me. I can't do this anymore." He waves a hand at the space between
the two of them, which suddenly seems so vast and incredible. "It's not working, Zayn."
He but what? "What?" How is this not working? What is that doesn't even make sense.
"How do you mean?" he asks, sounding calmer than he feels. He's sweating, suddenly, and his
hand feels slippery with it as he reaches up and rubs at the back of his neck. "I'm confused."
Liam sighs at him. "I thought I was at a place in my life where I was ready for something like
this," he says, and the whole thing sounds practiced, like lines from a play. "I'm not, though. I'm
not ready for this, and it's it's freaking me out. It's just too much for me, and I think I think it
would be best if we didn't see each other anymore."
Suck in, hold it, let it out. Zayn repeats this to himself in his mind, trying to remind his lungs how
to do it, do this, how to breathe because they seem to have forgotten. It feels like he's at one end
of a tunnel and Liam's at another, every sound hollow and tiny, everything else in existence
blocked off and unreal. All there is in this little tunnel is Liam and him and the ragged sound of his
own gulping breaths.
Liam doesn't he doesn't want Zayn anymore. That's what he just said. And it's not like Zayn
doesn't get it. Fuck, he gets it. He wouldn't want himself either, but he thought everything
felt good between them. Everything felt so fucking perfect these last few weeks. Shit, just
yesterday morning he'd missed the first ten minutes of his class making out with Liam in the front
seat of his car, going at it like they couldn't get enough of each other because they couldn't.
Or Zayn couldn't. Maybe Liam had. Liam got enough of him, found he didn't really like Zayn
after all, and now he's calling it off.
He's surprised, maybe, but he's also not. This is coming out of nowhere, it really is, he couldn't
have guessed he was coming over here tonight so Liam could sit him down and break up with
him, but at the same time he always knew, distantly, that this wouldn't last. It couldn't. Whatever
he and Liam had was way too good to be true. Too good for Zayn, anyways.
"Please don't," Liam begs, coming over to him. He kneels down, hands on Zayn's knees. "Don't
don't cry, Zayn, shit, please don't."
"'m not," Zayn promises. He isn't. Maybe he will, but he's not right now. "It's nah, it's fine,
Liam. It's cool, yeah? It's yeah, I'm good. I'm good."
It's sort of hilarious, how well he holds it together. It sounds believable to his own ears, even, and
maybe he is a good actor. Maybe he should go into theatre or something, because that right there
was a fucking academy award worthy performance.
"I don't want to hurt you," Liam says, almost desperate, which is also funny because he follows it
up, contradicting it when he adds, "I just don't want to do this anymore."
"I get it," Zayn tells him, forcing a grin onto his face. "I get it, Liam. It's fine, like. It's cool."
Liam bites on his lip and nods with watery eyes, like Zayn is the one doing this, not him. "You

should go," he says gently. "I'd like you to leave, I think. Please. Right now."
Like he needs to get Zayn away from his as fast as possible. Like not only does he not want to be
with Zayn, he doesn't want Zayn near him at all. Which okay. Okay, he can deal with this. He
nods, too, standing up. He takes a jerky, unsteady step towards the door, but at the last second he
steals Liam's sweater.
Liam watches him do it, doesn't even comment, and Zayn feels like an idiot but he takes the damn
thing anyways because Liam's got Zayn's fucking shirt on, right, so it's only fair that Zayn keep
something of his. He focuses on gently shutting Liam's door behind himself because he's not mad.
He's not going to slam it and get angry, because he's not angry. He's hollow, maybe. That
tightening in his stomach is gone and there's nothing there at all except this deathly chill that
shakes him in his bones.
It starts raining on the walk home, but Zayn barely notices. He ducks his head, balls the sweater
up and stuffs it inside his jacket so it doesn't get wet. His hair is dripping by the time he steps into
his building, and his shoes make a wet slapping sound against the floor. He dazedly presses the
button for the elevator and ignores the look Mrs. Williams from the third floor gives him as he
steps onto it.
The apartment door is locked for once when he turns the knob, but all it takes is the computer
system Niall built into it to recognize his fingerprints and it unlocks by itself, letting him in.
"Hey," Louis says from the sofa. "We were just"
Louis trails off as Zayn slumps past them, heading for his room. He grabs his towel and a pair of
sweats before moving into the bathroom, where he runs the shower water as hot as he can before
getting in, letting the steam fill the room, but he still feels cold. So cold, actually, numbingly so as
he sits down in the tub, letting the water wash over him.
So he cries. Whatever. It's his first fucking break up ever, and he thinks he's earned it. There's a
hole inside him where Liam had been, and he gasps out sobs while trying to figure out a way to
fill it back up. Only he can't. It'll likely be there forever, he realizes, because that's how Zayn is.
That's what Zayn does. He cares too fucking much about every single person in his life, and when
they're not there anymore it breaks him into pieces because he's sort of pathetic, when it comes
down to it.
There's a soft knock at the door, followed by a gentle, "Babe? You all right in there?"
Zayn snorts a bitter laugh, wiping at his eyes. So this is what it takes to make Louis respect
personal boundaries. Who knew. "I'm fine," he calls, even as his voice cracks. The sound of the
shower hides it, though.
"Are you sure?" Louis prods. "You've been in there an hour."
Oh. Zayn stands up, switching off the water that probably should have turned cold a while ago.
But maybe it did, actually, and he can't tell because he's still freezing anyways as he reaches for
his towel and dries himself off. He pulls on his clothes, adding Liam's stupid sweater on top
because he wants to wear the damn thing. (He's already accepted that he's pathetic, might as well
live with it.)
He's expecting Louis to be waiting for him just outside the door, but he's not. Instead he gets Cher,
and that weird feeling of fingers combing through his brain makes him shudder and his eyes
narrow. "Don't you fucking"

"Oh," she says quietly. "Oh, Zayn."

He shoves her out of the way, even though the action barely budges her. "Don't," he snaps.
"But I'm just"
"Stay out of my head!" he snaps at her. "Fuck."
Niall's there, too, stepping up to Cher instead of him, putting a comforting hand on her shoulder as
Zayn stomps towards his room. Now he's angry enough to slam his door, but only because she did
that. She shouldn't just go through their heads like that; some things are private, and this is
definitely one of them. He doesn't need everyone worrying about him over something so stupid.
Of course he can't even be alone in his room. Louis is on his bed, giving him a concerned look,
and Zayn's blood continues to boil, hot, hotter, fucking scalding as he points his finger in Louis'
direction. "You've got five seconds before I turn you into ash," he warns.
"You wouldn't," Louis says flippantly. "Don't be dramatic."
"Five," Zayn says. "Four. Three. Two."
"Fine," Louis snips. "If that's what it takes, go ahead."
He spreads his hands out, like he's ready for whatever Zayn's going to give him. He's trying to call
Zayn's bluff, actually, but Zayn isn't bluffing. In his mind he watches Louis go up in flames, ones
that climb higher and higher and higher, but in reality
"That's all you've got?" Louis asks, patting out the burning edge of his t-shirt.
Zayn frowns, tries again. There's a flicker of fire inside of him, he can feel it, but it's so weak
against the onslaught of the cold that he can't channel it, can't control it or make it do what he
wants. It fizzles and dies out, like a campfire in the rain.
"I can't," Zayn says, snapping his fingers. "I can't do it."
His bedroom door creaks open, and Niall's putting the comforting hand on Zayn's shoulder this
time. "You okay?" he asks.
"I can't do it," Zayn repeats. His eyes go out of focus and it's like grasping for straws as he tries
and tries to harness that fire inside of him, but he can't. He can't. It's there but he can't reach it. "It's
not working."
Louis climbs off the bed, hesitantly coming up on his other side. Zayn doesn't even shrug off his
arm when it goes around his waist; he's too busy flicking his fingers, watching as nothing
happens. "Are you wearing the bracelet again?" Niall asks, but his tone says that he knows Zayn
"I'm not," Zayn gasps. "It just I can't. I can't."
A third hand rubs at his back, and he doesn't need to look to know that it's Cher, the three of them
trying to comfort him. He's panicking, though. It's almost as bad as it had been when he'd put that
stupid bracelet of Niall's on, only this is no, this is worse, because he couldn't feel the burning
then but he can now. Only it's out of reach, untouchable, and that's terrifying to him.
"You should sleep," Cher suggests. Her tone is even gentler than Louis' or Niall's, and he has a

feeling it's because she's the only one who knows what's really going on. "I'm sure things will
look better when you wake up."
Zayn nods numbly, stumbling towards his bed. He falls into it and pulls the covers up, trying to
fight off the cold, but even fully dressed with Liam's sweater on still and everything, he's freezing.


November bleeds into early December, and Zayn starts walking by the garage bundled up in a
heavy jacket, his leather one useless in this cold. The doors aren't permanently open any longer,
but some days they are to let another car in, or to let one out. On these days Zayn walks a little
faster, resolutely not looking in because he can't.
It's. Fuck, it's hard, is the thing. He didn't even realize how much he needed Liam in his life until
the moment he asked Zayn to step out of his own, and now But he isn't going to dwell on it. It's
not like he thought it would last forever, it's not as if he wasn't aware that they had an expiration
date from the second Liam kissed him in that bathroom. He knew, and he knows, and it's fine.
Plus, he's busy. Exams aren't in very long, and he's out constantly with the others. It seems like
everywhere they turn, someone's in trouble and needs their help, and Zayn's sort of grateful for it.
Louis and Harry are working on getting more details on their own personal investigation, but for
the time being Zayn's enjoying the fact that he gets to spend his nights punching people because
it's pretty cathartic.
(But that's all he can do. He's tried to use his power over and over and he can't. It's still terrifying,
and Niall's doing his best to figure out what's causing it and how to fix it, but it's not like he's
useless without it. Maybe his fists aren't as effective, but they still work. And he knows, in the
back of his mind, that his power isn't lost. He can still feel it flickering inside him, only it's too
weak to use.)
The first day of snow they have, Zayn watches Liam's car drive out front of his building twice as
he burns a cigarette down to the filter. Both times he's staring straight ahead, and Zayn has no idea
what the fuck he's doing and trying to figure it out hurts too much, so he drops the cigarette,
stomps on it, and starts walking, and he pushes Liam from his mind the way he has been since
they broke up, because not thinking about it is a lot better than trying to deal with it.
Later, when he's in bed, legs crossed, papers spread out in front of him because he's trying to write
an essay but he can't remember any of the damn notes he'd written at all, his mind strays back to
Liam this morning, and like his thoughts summoned him or something, Zayn's phone vibrates.
msis uuuu he reads, and his eyebrows scrunch up. It's followed almost immediately with, sooo
mchu zyn and finally im srry.
Zayn bites his lip, and he's not stupid enough to be oblivious to the fact that Liam is apparently
fucking wasted right now. But he doesn't bother replying. He drops his phone onto his bed and
shuffles his papers around and pretends he didn't read any of them.
Drunk texts don't count. He's probably wasted and lonely or maybe he's wasted and horny and
he thinks Zayn's an easy enough lay. And he would be. If just reading Liam's name at the top of
the texts didn't make his stomach churn, if thinking his name didn't hurt and remembering what it's
like to kiss him didn't make him want to cry, he'd be up for it. But he can't, so he ignores it when

Liam texts him later on, and then he brings his phone out to Louis and asks him to delete the texts
so he doesn't have to read them.
Liam said he wasn't ready for this, and obviously Zayn wasn't either. If he had been, he wouldn't
feel so fucking terrible right now; he'd be able to deal with this. But he can't, so clearly he was not.


"You keep checking your phone every five seconds," Harry comments, but he doesn't sound
annoyed, just interested like he always does. Louis fucking swears that there isn't a single thing on
this whole planet that doesn't interest Harry Styles. Which only reminds him of that saying
'Curiosity killed the cat' and, well, Harry's seriously lucky he's not feline.
"You'd be checking your phone 24/7 too if you were waiting for your best friend to have a break
down," Louis says, sighing when he reads over the text from Niall that says nothing but a
simple, he's fine. He's on the sofa with me and cher. Don't worry.
But Louis does worry. Louis worries quite a fucking lot, actually, because Zayn is it's scary,
honestly. The guy's been moping for almost two weeks now, and it's pathetic, sure, but it's also
painful to watch. Niall had sat him down a while ago to discuss their powers, and he remembers
Niall clearly stating his reasoning behind each of them having the power they do. Cher's had fit
pretty well, actually, as had Louis'. And Zayn's, too.
"Because he feels too much all the time, you know?" Niall had said. "He's passionate about
everything. Only makes sense that sometimes that passion burns a little too hot. Explains why it
acts up when he gets too emotional. It's linked so closely with his feelings." And Niall was right,
he thinks. It's usually a good thing, too, how much Zayn feels about everyone and everything that
matters to him, but right now it isn't.
"He'll be fine," Harry says, sounding confident. "Zayn's stronger than this. It's his first break-up,
that's all. He's just learning how to deal with it."
Louis makes a face at him, shoving his phone into Harry's pocket because his jacket pockets are
much deeper than the ones in Louis' jeans, and it's not like Harry's going to be leaving his side any
time soon. "Since when are you a relationship expert?" he demands.
"Since I had to write an article on it a few months ago," Harry says chipperly.
Louis rolls his eyes. "Why did I even ask?"
Harry leans in, pressing a kiss to his cheek, before pulling the cord that signals for the bus to stop
at the next bus stop. "This is us," he explains, already standing up even though the bus is still
moving, which nearly knocks him right off those damn gangly legs off his, only Louis reaches out
and steadies him before it can. "Thanks."
Louis tugs Harry down onto his lap, playfully pulling his beanie down so it covers his eyes,
laughing at Harry's own giggles, ignoring the fact that an older lady near the front of the bus is
watching them with a distasteful look. Or, maybe he doesn't ignore it. Maybe he plants a sloppy,
exaggerated kiss to Harry's lips because of it. Whatever.
When the bus comes to their stop, Louis grabs Harry's hand and proudly tugs him off the bus and
onto the snow covered streets. As soon as they're on the ground, he says, "We're never doing that

"What?" Harry asks, fixing his hat.
Louis' lips curl. "Public transit." He says it like a dirty word, since it sort of is. "I'll pay our cab
back to your place. That was horrible."
"How was that horrible?" Harry wonders, linking their fingers, guiding Louis down the street.
"There were people," Louis says. "I hate them."
"The people on the bus?"
"People in general."
Louis' passed the news station enough times in his life. It's located in the center of downtown, a
huge building with billboards along the side, the entire bottom floor made of glass walls so you
can see into it. In the mornings they do a news segment down here, and occasionally when
celebrities sink low enough on the social radar that they do interviews on city TV, they hold those
interviews down here as well.
The rest of it Louis has no idea what's on any of the other floors, honestly. He doesn't really care
too, either, but Harry's been trying to drag him down here for days, and Louis' finally run out of
excuses. After that teenage couple was found trying to plant explosives in the underground tunnels
but had instantly surrendered the second he and Zayn and Cher had gotten to them, he realized he
couldn't put this off any longer. Whatever is going on in their city needs to be stopped before more
innocent people get hurt.
But he's dreading this, admittedly. Even Harry's soft, gloved hand in his own doesn't make it any
more enjoyable. "You're gonna love it," Harry says, not for the first time, and Louis seriously
doubts that. But he loves Harry, the annoying little shit, so he goes with it anyways.
Harry holds the door open for him, and they step in from the freezing cold into the warm building.
Harry instantly moves him through the front lobby, past a secretary that blinks at the nametag
Harry holds up before waving them through to the elevators.
"All the work I do is on the fifth floor," Harry explains, "but we're going to stop at the sixth first.
That's where Tristan's office is."
Tristan. "Goodie," Louis says flatly.
Harry pulls him into the elevator, and once the door has closed he kisses Louis slowly,
thoroughly, until Louis can't think past Harry and Harry's damn sinful mouth. "Don't be jealous,"
he whispers. "You've got nothing to worry about with anyone."
Louis huffs, straightening his jacket, but he's smiling in satisfaction anyways. He already knew
that, but it's nice to hear it out loud.
As soon as they step out onto the sixth floor, Louis raises his eyebrows. It's more like an office
than he'd thought it would be. There are cubical and people furiously typing away at computers.
There's a woman pushing around a cart of files, and another squawking into a phone. There's that
horrible florescent lighting that's almost painfully bright, though half the walls are made of glass,
showing the snow falling softly outside the windows.

"Come on," Harry says, weaving him through the aisles of cubicals and desks, where people sit
on chairs with wheels (Louis used to have one until he wheeled around the house with it and hit
Zayn in the shins, and mysteriously he found it in a melted heap the following morning) and
continue to work even though it's nearing nighttime, and shouldn't they be heading home for
Harry stops at a handsome wooden door with a gold nameplate on the front that reads Tristan
Steele. Harry knocks lightly on it, and he looks giddy enough that Louis squeezes his hand tightly
in initiation.
The door finally opens, and Louis is faced with a man that's taller than excepted. He's taller than
Harry, pushing six-something, definitely, and he has one of those news anchor faces. His skin is
pulled a little too tightly over his sharp cheekbones, and he's too tanned to be natural. He's got a
pointed chin and a narrow nose, and Louis hates him instantly when he smiles this slimy, faux
"Harry," he greets, pleasant enough, and, yeah, Louis hates him. "Aren't you supposed to clock
out at two, or are we over working our interns now as well?"
Harry laughs and Louis' eyes narrow. "I finished hours ago but Maria asked me to do a bit of
paperwork for her tonight, and since I'm not busy I said I didn't mind. But I was wondering if you
could do me a favor, actually."
"Anything for my brightest pupil," Tristan says, before his eyes slide to Louis'. Something flashes
in them, something that sets Louis on edge. "And who might this be?"
"This is L"
"Simon," Louis says, though he doesn't know why, only something in him is screaming lie. "I'm
thinking of joining our school paper, and Harry told me he'd show me around this place as a sort
of incentive to do just that."
"Another aspiring young journalist," Tristan says. "How wonderful."
"Journalism is my greatest passion," Louis says flatly.
"What can I do for the two of you, then?" Tristan asks. "An interview, perhaps? An autograph
maybe? Or are you looking for pointers?"
Harry shifts a little, but his grin is still bright and sunny. It's so obvious that he idolizes this man.
He might look like a creepy scumbag, but Harry looks up at Tristan like a celebrity. "We're
actually co-writing an article on the recent increase in our city's crime rate," Harry says, speaking
calm and slowly and oh, so believable. Louis is impressed. "I was wondering if you had any files
on it the recent crime sprees that I could borrow, or even just scan over for research purposes."
Tristan's pleasant smile instantly gets tight. "I'm sorry, Harry, you know I can't release any of that
to the public."
Harry blinks, but he's not deterred. "No, of course," Harry says quickly. "It's not for the paper. It's
only for our writing class. Our teacher asked us to write a fake news article, and since Louis is
looking into joining the staff I thought it'd be a good judge of his abilities if we used our class
assignment as a sort of test run for him. It won't be published anywhere, and only the three of us
will know that the article is written based on real, concrete facts and not false ones."
Tristan hesitates. He looks over his shoulder and Louis follows his gaze, looking into his office.
The floor to ceiling windows face the harbor and it's a beautiful view. The room itself isn't much,

though. A simple desk with a high chair behind it and two lower ones in front; there's a bookshelf
against one wall with what looks like countless pictures of Tristan himself lining the shelves.
There's also a filing cabinet against the other, and that's where Tristan looks now.
"I do have the files," he admits, slowly and carefully, "but I honestly can't give them to you,
Harry. As much as I'd like to help, one reporter to another, I can't compromise my job for
something like this. I'm sure you understand."
Harry's grin brightens, if anything. "I do, I shouldn't have even asked, I didn't realize that you
could get in trouble for that. Do you think you could read something over for me in the future
instead, then? I have this article coming up and I'd love a second opinion on it."
"I'd be delighted," Tristan tells him. "Drop it off with Barbara when it's finished and I'll let you
know what I think of it."
"I will," Harry says, slowly backing away. "But Maria promised I'd be here late tonight doing
photocopying, so I should probably go get started, and Louis has to be home soon anyways.
Thank you for your time."
"Anytime, Harry," Tristan simpers. "I'm always here to help."
This time it's Louis dragging Harry back to the elevators. They step inside, Harry presses the
button for the ground floor, and Louis groans, "That was pointless. And he's a douche."
Harry's mouth falls open. "Do you really think so?" he asks, looking scandalized. "Louis! He was
so nice."
"No, he was a douchebag," Louis corrects. "And once again, that was pointless."
Harry looks hurt on Tristan's behalf, but Louis refuses to apologize this time. That guy was
something is off about him. Louis doesn't trust him, and he lied. When he said he couldn't give out
the files, he was lying. Louis is an expert liar, okay. He's been doing it since he could talk, and he
knows that guy was bullshitting them. And he gives off a bad vibe.
"But it wasn't a waste of time," Harry says when they get to the ground floor.
"How was that not a waste of time?" Louis demands.
Harry grins, holding up a finger to signal for him to wait. They head back outside and Harry pulls
them back down the street in the direction of the bus stop (but he's seriously misguided if he thinks
Louis is getting on that thing again willingly) before he finally says, "We know he has the files,
Louis, and we know they're in his office. He looked at the filing cabinet. There's no way they
aren't in there. And I also have an excuse to be at the office all night."
"Okay," Louis drags out. "But he's not going to give them to you even if you ask him again later."
"Obviously not," Harry says with a roll of his eyes (so maybe Harry isn't the only one having an
influence on the other). "Tristan won't even be here later. He leaves at exactly eleven every night
after doing the ten o'clock news, which means that his office will be empty. Most people in the
office will be gone around that time, too, except the night staff, so his office will be free to get
into. He keeps it locked behind him, but"
"But I can just teleport inside the room and unlock the door," Louis says slowly, Harry's point
dawning on him. He tugs Harry to him, a grin splitting his face. "You sneaky little bastard. You're
an absolute genius, have I ever told you that?"

"No," Harry laughs, "but I wouldn't mind hearing it again."

"You're a genius," Louis repeats, pecking his lips gently. "Genius." Another kiss. "And
attractive." Another. "You're making me feel a bit inferior."
Harry makes a face at him. "Really?"
"God, no. I can teleport, Harry, remember? No one can make me feel inferior."
"You know, I'm not trying to criticize or anything, but modesty is an attractive characteristic,"
Harry tells him. He brushes his lips against Louis' cheek. "Head home for now. I'll text you when
the coast is mostly clear. Do you think you could stick a landing straight into his office?"
"Of course," Louis says. "Again, this is me we're talking about."
"Good. I'll text you later."
Louis fishes his phone from Harry's pocket, and then he says, "Push me against the wall."
Harry frowns at him. "Excuse me?"
"Push me against the wall," Louis repeats.
"I don't"
Louis rolls his eyes, dragging Harry into him, backing up past a couple holding hands that has to
sidestep them as he backs himself against a wall with Harry pressed tightly against him, his body
curving around Louis'. He's not that much bigger, but his coat is thick enough and he's slightly
taller and Louis is fairly certain Harry's blocking his body enough. So he uses that to his
advantage, pulling Harry into a deep, lingering kiss that he only breaks when he's sure no one's
looking in their direction.
He lands on their coffee table, which is unfortunate. He tips backwards, arms pinwheeling, and
winds up splayed out on the floor with an ache in his back. "Shit," he groans.
Niall looks at him from the sofa. "You better not have"
"Yeah, yeah," Louis says, waving him off. "I better not have done that in public, I know." He
stays there on the floor, back still hurting a fuck ton. "So, what are you up to?" he asks casually,
and then he leans back against the floor and tries to pretend like his spine isn't fractured.
"Watching the news," Zayn says. "Idiot."
Louis sits up fast, eyes narrowing. That sounded insulting, but Zayn hasn't had the energy to
insult him in days. Louis takes him in where he's seated on the sofa between Cher and Niall, like
they're both bookends on a shelf, holding him in. He's wearing Liam's sweater and he has the
sleeves pulled down past his hands, and he looks tired and sad as he always does lately but there's
a slight grin tugging at his lips.
"Fucker," Louis tries, but it doesn't have his usual conviction behind it.
"Prick," Zayn says back, grin widening even more.
Louis teleports into his lap, legs falling over Cher. "I missed you," he says passionately, pulling
Zayn into a tight hug. "No more moping, please. If you're going to be this hung up over a break
up, the least you could do is write a million songs about it and get famous like Taylor Swift."

Zayn makes a face, pushing Louis off him. "Fuck off."

"That's the Zayn I know and loathe," Louis sighs happily.
"Can you two shut up?" Niall asks. "I'm trying to watch this."
Louis settles in on the floor at Zayn's feet, leaning back against his legs. Absently Zayn leans
down and brushes his hands through Louis' hair, and normally he'd get annoyed but he allows it
for once. Anything to keep Zayn in a good mood.
On screen, Louis focuses on a now familiar face, his eyes narrowing again. His lips curl, too, and
he lets out a low hiss before he even realizes he's doing it. "That man is the biggest douchenozzle
I've ever met," he says roughly.
"Apparently you've never looked in the mirror," Zayn comments. Louis slaps his leg.
"No, seriously," he says. "He's the one Harry works with. Tristan Steele. He's creepy as hell."
"You're just jealous," Cher tells him.
"I'm not," Louis says passionately. "Well, I am, but that aside, he's creepy. I got this really bad
feeling around him."
"Like what?" Niall asks, but Louis can tell from his tone that he's barely listening.
That's irritating, and he's about to say something about it when it hits him like a train, coming out
of fucking nowhere. "He's always there," Louis says, a little breathless. "At all the crime scenes,
he's always there. Remember that night at the bank? When you made us loop around, Zayn? The
news van was there, and it was Tristan reporting what happened. And then at the convenience
store, he was out front and he interviewed Liam afterwards."
"A news reporter reporting the news," Zayn says. "Shocking. Alert the media oh, wait."
Louis glares up at him, frustrated because they don't get it. "He was at all of the crime scenes!"
Louis snaps. "The fires, too, remember? And then the night at the club, they even said on the
news that he was there at the club when it happened! There's no way that can all be coincidental,
it's too"
"You seriously think he has something to do with all of those things?" Cher asks, sounding
amused. Louis winces at the feeling of her going through his mind. "Don't let your bitter jealousy
cloud your mind, Louis, honestly."
"It's not it's not just bitter jealously," Louis insists. "I'm telling you, he gave off this vibe, and
then he's just conveniently at the scene of every single major crime committed in this city? You're
telling me that's all just coincidence?"
"That's his job," Niall says patiently, like Louis is too slow to understand this.
"Yes, but he's not the only damn news anchor in the city!" he snaps.
The three of them continue to look at him like he's crazy, and it gets on his last nerve. Louis
pushes away from the ground, standing on unsteady feet (he really hurt himself during that last
landing) and he stomps towards his bedroom. "Fuck you all," he adds, and then he slams his
bedroom door.
Maybe they won't believe him, but Louis knows he's onto something. He can feel it, some

unknown alarm system inside of him going off. Whatever is happening in this city, Louis has no
doubt that that creepy, slimy news anchor has something to do with it.
And Louis will prove it.


"Are you sure I'm not going to get you arrested?" Louis whispers, shining the light of his phone
towards the filing cabinet.
"No," Harry assures him. "We have about fifteen minutes. Julie's in the bathroom crying over a
break-up, Mel's always at the coffee shop down the street at this time picking up orders for
everyone, and Maria's been sleeping with William from the ninth floor for two months now and
they always sneak into the janitor's closet on eight around this time to discreetly have sex because
they think no one's onto them."
Louis shines the light at Harry with a blank look at his face. All Harry does is raise his eyebrows
expectantly, and Louis sighs at him with a smirk on his face. "You're good," he says. "Definitely
in the right career field, anyways. If you ever back out of journalism, I'd suggest a celebrity gossip
blog. You'd be good at it."
Harry gives him a sweet smile. "Just open the cabinet before we really do get arrested. I like this
"You don't even get paid," Louis mutters. "That's the whole point of an internship, isn't it?"
The set of cabinets is three across, each one with four different drawers. They're not labeled or
anything, which makes their job incredibly difficult. Harry pulls out his own phone, too, but they
keep the room's lights off so anyone who comes into the main office won't be able to tell that
someone unauthorized is in here.
"What do you have?" Harry asks, as Louis goes through the first drawer on the cabinet nearest the
window, and Harry goes through the one closest to the door.
"Nothing," Louis mutters, flipping past files with dates and labels, not very different from Harry's
document folder on his laptop. "Shooting, June 15th. Power outage, September ninth, 2012. I'm
way far back over here."
"Keep checking," Harry says. "None of the stuff in this drawer is crime related."
Louis sighs impatiently, shutting the drawer and checking the next. Much of the same, though the
dates begin to get earlier. There's just so much to go through, and Louis' anxiety is rising by the
second. He could get out of here without a worry, but Harry can't teleport. If they get caught,
Harry is so fucked.
And he's "Where are you going?" Louis demands, watching as the dark blurred shape of Harry's
body moves towards the desk in the center of the room.
"Just making sure he didn't hide the files," Harry says. "You never know. I'm checking his desk."
"You little criminal," Louis says, sounding a bit awed. "I'm really attracted to you right now."

"Get to work, Louis."

Louis flicks through folder after folder after folder, trying to shut the drawers of the cabinet as
quietly as he can. He hears Harry open the drawers of the desk and he flicks a look to the door,
listening, but he can't hear anyone coming. It's completely silent out there, actually, and Louis
hopes it stays that way until they're done.
"I think I've got something," Louis says suddenly, finding a folder labeled Bank heist, September
2013. "I think I'm actually" Louis trails off, guiding the light towards Harry again. "Harry?"
Harry has a hand covering his mouth, and he's staring down at a folder stuffed full of papers. Very
slowly, worry sinking his heart into his stomach, Louis nudges the cabinet drawer closed and
heads for him, carrying his own folder in hand.
"What is it?" Louis asks, laying a gentle hand on Harry's shoulder. "Harry"
Harry shakes his head mutely, hand still covering his mouth. Louis shines his light on the folder,
and confusions settles in him when a blurry picture of Zayn stares back at him. "Louis," Harry
says weakly.
"What the fuck," Louis says. He picks up the picture, and underneath it is a news clipping, the one
from days after the fire from which Zayn had saved Liam, the one where they'd talked about the
masked superhero who walked through fire.
Underneath that, there's another blurry image, this time of a figure in a pink suit. And below that,
there's a candid of Louis. He remembers it. It's a school picture, and he's about sixteen, give or
take, from just before he'd left home. He flips it over and he finds his name scrawled on the back,
along with his birthdate, a general description of his features, and the word teleporting.
"He has one of all of us," Louis realizes. There's a photo of Cher, a little newer than the one of
Louis but not recent, and on the back hers says super strength, mind reading(?). "What the hell is
your creepy boss doing with this?"
He looks up at Harry, as if he'll have an actual answer to that, but when he shines the light in
Harry's eyes they're blank and glassy. "You shouldn't be here," he says.
Louis frowns at him. "What? Why do you"
"You shouldn't be here," Harry repeats, sounding robotic, almost. "You shouldn't be here. You
shouldn't be here. You shouldn't be here."
Suddenly Harry grabs him in a grip that's far too tight. He squeezes Louis' arm, and the phone
falls from his grip just as Harry's other hand wraps around his throat. Louis sucks in a breath just
before his airways are cut off, and then he's tugging at Harry's hands, squirming and desperate,
eyes bulging.
"You shouldn't be here," Harry drones again, just as the door to the room opens, light falling over
"He's quite right," Tristan says.


The smell of nail polish makes his nose wrinkle, but he can't force himself to get up off the sofa.
He's too comfortable, pressed against Niall's side with Cher on his other, swiping baby blue polish
over her toe nails (the bottoms of her feet nearly completely healed). He feels okay right now, and
he doesn't want to give that up even if the smell is making him nauseas.
"We should order pizza," Niall comments, but he doesn't look like he's going to move to do so
any time soon.
"Pepperoni?" Cher asks. Zayn kicks her in the back. "Okay, fine, peppers and onions?"
Niall yawns, rubbing at Zayn's hair. "Yeah, I'll"
Without warning, Louis crashes into their living room, much like he had earlier in the day. Only
now his face is red and he's gulping for breath. There are tears, unshed and watery, lining his eyes,
and he's reaching for Zayn with one hand, the other curled around his own throat.
Zayn's eyes widen, and Cher's nail polish bottle is tipped over as she jumps to her feet, grabbing
Louis and tugging him up. Zayn watches their eyes meet and Cher's go out of focus for a long
moment, and then she's releasing him, stumbling backwards.
"I told you," Louis wheezes. "I told you and no one listened to me and I left him! I left him back
"What" Niall doesn't get to finish.
"Mind control," Cher breathes. "Fucking it makes so much sense. We're so stupid."
Zayn carefully pushes up from the sofa. He grabs Louis' elbow, because he looks close to
collapsing, and gently lifts a hand to brush over the hand-shaped red mark on his neck. "Harry,"
Louis says. "He Tristan, I told you all he was fucking creepy!" Louis yells shrilly. "I told you
"Louis," Niall says, "calm down and elaborate."
"I was at the news station," Louis spits, "doing research because I'm the only one who cares that
the whole city is being manipulated by a fucking crazy person. And Harry found this folder in
Tristan the news anchor, remember? in his desk, and it was all about us. He had information
on our powers, pictures of us. And then Harry started telling me I shouldn't be there, only it wasn't
him. I know Harry, and it wasn't him, only it was but and Tristan storms into the room, dramatic
and bad guy-like, and Harry grabs me by the throat and tries to fucking kill me and I teleported out
of there and left him behind!"
The three of them go still while Louis attempts to catch his breath. Zayn's mind is whirring, still so
confused, too many pieces missing to put the whole thing together.
"At the club," Cher says. "Everyone was acting that way because he had their minds under his
control. It's the same with the crimes. Think about it, all of them were out of character for those
who committed them. It didn't make sense because they really wouldn't do those things. Not
unless someone else was controlling them."
Niall's nodding, and Cher's adding more, but Louis' grabbing Zayn's sweater in his fists, looking
deeply into his eyes as he says, "I left him, Zayn. I fucking left him behind."
Zayn covers Louis' hands with his own, nodding. He's never seen Louis look like this before. He
looks fucking terrified, eyes wide and bright and manic. Zayn knows, deep down, and Louis and

him are similar in the fact that neither of them are good at expressing love. They'd both rather act
like they're above that kind of thing, exchanging harsh words instead of loving ones, but he knows
that Louis cares about Harry. Hell, anyone would know if they looked at him right now, it's
written so clearly in every one of his features.
"We'll get him," Zayn promises. "We'll go get him. Don't worry."
"Now," Louis pleads. "Now, Zayn."
Zayn nods hastily, and Cher cuts off in the middle of a sentence, nodding her own agreement.
"Now. His cover is blown and he knows it. Who knows what he'll do."
"What do you mean?"
"Before he was being careful," she explains. "Before, he was doing his best not to get caught. But
now that he's been found out, he's a loose cannon. Who knows what he'll do. He could go on a
rampage, Zayn. We've already seen what he can do with an entire club full of people. What if he's
even more powerful than that? He could control the whole city."
Zayn's eyes widen, and dread makes him feel suddenly exhausted. There's no adrenaline this time,
it refuses to pump through his veins. He digs into his pocket with a shaky hand, already moving
steadily to the door, aware of the others running for the elevator behind him.
It takes him all the way to the basement to get his phone out and dial Liam's number. His fingers
aren't cooperating, terror making them shake and unsteady. He holds it up to his ear as Niall
throws his suit at him, and he's barely aware of anything else as the phone rings loudly.
Liam doesn't pick up right away, and Zayn's panic increases until it feels like he's going to burst.
Just before he gives up and chucks his phone at the nearest wall, he hears Liam say, "Zayn."
"Oh, god," Zayn gasps. "You're fuck, thank god. Liam, you"
"Can I help you with something, Zayn?" Liam asks.
Zayn's stepping into his suit, panting as he tugs it up his body, phone pressed to his ear with his
shoulder. "Don't leave the house," Zayn orders. "Okay? I know we're not I know you don't
want to be with me anymore, and that's fine. But you need to promise me you won't leave the
house tonight, Liam. Stay inside, no matter what. Promise me. I need you to promise me."
Liam is quiet for a long moment. Finally, he says, "I'm sorry, but I can't do that, Zayn."
In the background, Zayn hears, "Now hang up the phone, Liam."
The call ends, and Zayn looks down at his cell. The voice in the background had been far too
familiar. He's heard it almost once a night for years reporting the news, interviewing witnesses.
Zayn's throat closes over and the phone falls from his fingertips, hitting the floor and cracking as it
bounces along the cement, but he doesn't care.
"Shit," Zayn says. "Shit." Shit, shit, shit. He grabs Louis' arm roughly, squeezing hard as he tries
to steady himself. "He's got Liam too."
"Fuck," Cher moans.
"Just get there," Niall snaps at them. "Now. I'm hacking into the news station's security cameras as
we speak, but you three need to go."

Zayn nods dumbly, zipping up the back of his suit, pulling on the face mask. He slides into the
driver's seat of the sleek black car, with Cher getting in the passenger and Louis getting in the
back. The tires squeal as he peels out, heading for the wall that's already lifting, opening up into
the main part of the building's garage.
The worst part is that the rest of the world seems so normal. It's late, but there are still people on
the streets, a few drunken groups stumbling from one place to the next, cabs and other cars slowly
driving down the roads with not a care in the world. Everyone else is acting like this is just any
other night, but Zayn's whole world is crumbling down because, fuck, of course Liam is in
danger. Somehow it's always fucking Liam at the center of all these things, and Zayn swears that
if he gets Liam out of this alive he's going to drag Liam to a cabin in the middle of nowhere and
keep him out there for his own damn safety.
"Are you sure you two should even come in with me?" Cher asks. "Maybe I should go by
Both Louis and Zayn gape at her, which isn't the best idea, given the fact that Zayn's driving. The
car swerves, and he jerkily steadies it before blurting, "Why the hell would you even suggest
"Because you're too close to this!" she snaps at him. "You're both too close to this. You'll be
"If you think for even a fucking second," Louis begins.
"that we won't be going in there to save them," Zayn continues.
"then you're out of your batshit insane mind," Louis concludes.
Cher sighs at them and flips down her visor. Instantly Niall's face fills up the small screen, and he's
frantically typing away at his computer, disappearing from the screen for a moment as he wheels
around his computer station. "I've got eyes on the building," he says. "Someone's keeping me out
of hacking into their security system, though. Either that or the cameras are just out, so I can't get
an inside view, but there's a city camera across the street and if I switch it to infrared I can see
Zayn turns down the street, praying that no one calls the police on them. Or maybe he's praying
someone does, actually, because he has a feeling they're going to need backup tonight. "And?" he
demands. "And, Niall?"
"And I can't see movement on most floors," he says. "The fifth and the sixth are packed, though.
I'm talking twenty, thirty people at least."
Zayn pinches the bridge of his nose and breathes slowly. "Fuck."
"They're probably all under his control," Cher says. "That's going to be a problem. What if he pits
them against us? We can't hurt any of them. It's not as if they'd be fighting us on purpose."
"Agreed," Niall says. "Cher, remember that gun I gave you? The one with the new sleep serum?"
"Got it on my belt," she says, pulling it out and holding it up. It's small, the size of a pistol, but it's
clear and inside he can see a small dart-like bullet sitting and waiting to be fired. "You sure it's
"Considering it's a prototype and I've only tested it on myself, no," Niall admits, "but it's the best
we've got."

"And what's our plan?" Louis asks. "Are we just storming the building, then?"
"No." Niall continues to clack away at his keyboard. "No, definitely not. That'd be stupid. We're
going to have one of you go in as a distraction, and"
"It's me, isn't it?" Zayn asks, cutting him off.
Niall winces at him. "Yeah."
"It's always me," Zayn grumbles.
"Sorry about that." But he doesn't really sound it, honestly. "So you're going to go in the main
floor. They'll be expecting you, so be careful. Then you're going to use the elevator to get to the
sixth floor because that's where the main group is held. Louis, you're going to"
"Find Harry," Louis says immediately. "I'm going to find Harry before anything else."
"Figured as much," Niall says. "And Cher, you're going to head to the roof. Use the elevator in
the building next to it, then use your grappling hook to get onto the roof. There's an entrance to the
building from the landing pad on the roof, and from there you're going to get to the back stairwell.
If all the cameras are out, like I think they are, we're not the only ones in the dark. They will be,
too, which means you'll have the element of surprise."
Louis nods along, as does Cher, but Zayn seems to be the only one who notices the loophole here.
"Then what?" he asks. "Then what the hell do we do?"
Silence. "You're going to have to take him out," Niall finally says. "The one in control. If
he is using mind control, then you have to take him out, it's the only way."
Zayn nods, having no qualms about that at all. "Okay."
"We're all so calmly discussing murder," Louis comments. "This is such a bonding experience."
No one seems to know what to say after that. It's not as if they've ever had to do this before.
Everyone else they've apprehended had been nothing but normal. Slap on a pair of handcuffs and
boom, they were done. But this this is different. They don't have a choice, and realization of
what they're going to do seem to settle of them all, hushing them into silence.
When they pull up to the building, Zayn leans forward to look at it through the windshield. It's lit
up inside, looking as normal as it always does. A homeless man sits in front of a closed shop two
doors down, and a couple holding hands walk a dog past it, smiling and chatting away,
completely oblivious.
"Pull around to the next building," Cher orders, already getting ready to jump out of the car. Zayn
does as he's told and, just before she exits, she leans forward, pulls up her masks, and kisses his
own masked cheek. "Be safe, both of you."
"You too," Zayn says, a little dumbfounded.
"If you die I'm taking your room," Louis calls after her.
"You can leave, too," Zayn points out to him. "You don't need me to drive you."
"And what are you going to do?" Louis asks.
"I'm going to go pay the parking meter so we don't get a ticket."

He's not serious, though. As soon as Louis teleports from the car, Zayn pulls up right out front of
the news station, despite the fact that it's a no parking zone. He does just that, taking a deep breath
as he exits the vehicle. The street suddenly seems deserted, the couple from earlier gone in the
distance, the homeless man having ducked down a random alley. It's just him and the bright lights
from the streetlamps and the building in front of him.
Zayn pockets the keys and heads for the building.
There's a woman sitting behind the desk in the front lobby. She has blonde hair pulled back in a
tight bun, and an even tighter smile. Zayn looks around, uncertain, waiting for her to freak out
because he's not exactly dressed like a normal person, and he's pretty sure most people aren't
allowed in here at night. In fact, shouldn't there be security watching the doors? But there's no
one. It's just him and her.
"Please proceed to the fourth floor, Mr. Malik," she says, chipper and pleasant.
Zayn looks around again, but they're completely alone. "Excuse me?" he asks. There's something
odd about her, and Zayn has a feeling that's usually not the case. But if this is mind control, why
had everyone at the club seemed so normal? There was nothing stilted in their voices, or jerky in
their movements. They seemed just like regular, normal people who were into public sex, or
"Please proceed to the fourth floor, Mr. Malik," she repeats, just as bright as the first time, the
exact same inflictions on the words as the first time. "Mr. Payne is waiting for you."
Zayn gives the creepy, almost robotic-like woman behind the desk one final look before sprinting
for the elevator. He presses the button in rapid succession, breathing getting more ragged by the
second because Liam's definitely here, then. If he's waiting for Zayn, he's definitely here.
As soon as he steps inside the elevator and presses the button for the fourth floor, he realizes how
stupid he is. He could have just stepped into a trap, and the elevator could go crashing to the
ground any second now. That's always been a fear of his, too, dying in an elevator, but he's
already in it. All he can do is close his eyes and pray nothing happens.
There's a beeping sound, and the doors open to the fourth floor. Zayn carefully steps out into the
room, cautious of his surroundings.
He recognizes this place. It's the set for the sports section of the news. There's the desk, as well as
the normal fake view of the city's central park. There are cameras set up around the room, and the
lights are bright and florescent. Zayn frowns, moving slowly around one of them, wondering why
the hell they'd send him here, and wondering why he'd fallen for it. Niall said the fifth and sixth
floor. He didn't say anything about the fourth.
Zayn whirls around, eyes wide. He's faced with a man taller than him, on the slimmer side,
dressed in a perfectly pressed suit with a red tie. He grins and Zayn stiffens, a familiar alarm going
off inside of him. It's the same one he gets whenever he sees that guy from the club, only this is
definitely not him. The guy from the club, and school, and the elevator at home that one time, was
on the shorter side. This guy is definitely not.
But he's still recognizable. "Tristan, right?" Zayn asks, flat and hostile.
"Oh, let's be polite, please," Tristan says, holding out his hand as he moves closer. "I've been
dying to meet you for a while now. If you could, I'd like it if you'd take off the mask, please."

His hand is still out stretched, like he's expecting Zayn to shake it or something. He doesn't. But
he does remove the mask of his suit. This guy already knows who he is, at this point, and hiding it
won't help anything. Plus, he sees better without it on, so he carefully removes it and tucks it into
his pocket while taking a careful, discreet step backwards.
"Do you mind if I ask you a few questions?" Tristan wonders. "I've never had a conversation with
someone like me before. I'm intrigued, especially by your abilities. Pyrokinesis, yes?"
"Don't know what you're talking about, mate," Zayn says sharply.
Tristan rolls a pair of flat grey eyes. "I figured you'd be uncooperative. Maybe if I shared first
you'd be more willing to open up?" He snaps his fingers. "I brought incentive, of course. I'm
always prepared to pull teeth to get the informative I need."
Zayn turns when he hears footsteps behind him. He has no idea where the hell Liam came from,
but he slowly makes his way over from the back of the room. He's grinning, bright and lovely,
and he looks so much like Zayn's Liam that it unsettles him. He walks the same, holds himself the
same. That smile is the same, aside from his eyes. They're lifeless.
And he walks straight past Zayn without acknowledging him, going to stand at Tristan's side.
"Impressed?" Tristan asks Zayn, reaching out to cup Liam's cheek. Liam instantly nuzzles into it
like an obedient dog, eyes falling closed, smile softening. "His mind is painfully easy to
Zayn's teeth grit, but he doesn't say anything. He doesn't move, either, because he's having trouble
remembering how, watching Liam's body curve easily against Tristan's like he wants it to, the way
he's done to Zayn so many times.
"Every person I've ever met has had a switch," Tristan explains, finally dropping his hand. At his
side, Liam straightens up, military style, unmoving except for the rising and falling of his chest.
"It's like a little, metaphorical light switch in their minds and all I have to do is" He snaps his
fingers again and Liam slumps, shoulders drooping, warmth returning to his eyes. He reaches out
a hand for Zayn, and Tristan snaps once more, Liam standing up straight and stoic again. "It's that
easy. And I can do whatever I want with them. Of course, it used to be more difficult. I couldn't
actually fully control an entire person, but the more I practiced the easier it got, and now I don't
even have to be near them to do it. I just give them an order, send them on their way, and they do
whatever I want."
"But," Tristan continues, "it doesn't seem to work on you or your friends, unfortunately. There's
no switch. But I have the next best thing, don't you think? If I can't control you, controlling him
works just as well."
Which means that Liam's only in this position because of Zayn. If it weren't for Zayn, he'd
probably be at home safe right now. And guilt stabs through him, sharp and horrible because if
something happens, if he gets hurt, it's all Zayn's fault.
Fuck. Zayn thinks for a long moment, licking at his lips, and then he says, "Not really."
Tristan raises his eyebrows. "Excuse me?"
Zayn clears his throat, forces himself to look away from Liam. "Controlling him has no effect on
me," he says confidently. "If you'd of done your research, you'd know we broke up. I mean, I
don't want to hurt him, yeah, but if I have to go through him to get to you, don't think I won't."
Instead of faltering, Tristan laughs. He throws his head back with it and everything, and Zayn

feels even colder than he normally does, as of late. "Oh, you two are perfect for each other," he
says. "Honestly. Pretending to not have feelings for him to keep him safe? You realize that's why
the idiot broke up with you, yes? Quite noble, actually, but so stupid. See, he knew eventually
someone would use him to get to you, and he didn't want to be your weakness. He figured you'd
be stronger if you didn't ever have to worry about him, so he left you. It was such a sad tale.
Broke his little heart, and I forced him to tell me all about it before I made him get on his knees
Zayn doesn't even consciously remember moving. One moment he's standing feet away from
them, and then he next he's reaching for Tristan's throat, ready to tear it out with his bare hands if
he has to. Only he doesn't get that close. Liam steps in front of him, grabbing Zayn's hands in his,
squeezing painfully tight.
"You need to learn to take a joke, Zayn," Tristan says to him. "But unfortunately for you I doubt
you'll live long enough to do so. Liam, could you"
Above them, there's a loud crash that seems to shake the whole building like a strong clap of
thunder. There's a shout above, too, and Zayn squirms in Liam's grip because he recognizes
Cher's scream better than anyone else's.
"I should go deal with your friends, too," Tristan says. "Liam here will take care of you Zayn.
Hopefully I'll get to finish our little interview before I decide you're too useless to keep alive any
Liam holds Zayn steady as Tristan heads into the elevator. As soon as the doors slide closed
behind him, Liam's face goes carefully blank and he throws Zayn over his shoulder like he weighs
nothing. And Zayn can't even fight him on it because he can't fight Liam, whether he's in control
of his own mind or not.
He's unceremoniously dropped into one of the chairs behind the news desk, and Liam warns, "If
you try to run, I'll catch you and snap your neck," before digging around in a bag underneath the
desk, producing a long length of rope.
Zayn doesn't doubt that he will, so he stays very still, breathing shallowly as Liam begins to tie
him up with careful fingers, expertly knotting the rope like he's done it a million times. His hands
fumble against Zayn's skin and Zayn feels hot everywhere Liam touches him, but too soon Liam
stops, pulling Zayn's chair backwards a few feet before moving right in front of him, arms crossed
over his chest.
It's so wrong, the look on Liam's face, this whole fucking situation. If he could, Zayn would burn
the rope off him, but he can't. He's still unable to reach and grasp that fire inside of him, and while
he tries all he manages to do is make the room around them a little smokier than usual, but that's it.
The only other option is to get Liam to untie him, but how is he going to do that?
"So, what, you're supposed to just watch me, then?" Zayn demands. Despite the fact that he can't
move, his arms behind his back and his legs tied to the edges of the chair, he's not tied tightly. In
fact, he'd be almost comfortable if he weren't, you know, tied to a chair with rope.
Liam is staring straight above his head. "My instructions were to apprehend you and keep you
here while Master deals with the rest of your group."
Zayn makes a face, scrunching up his nose. "Master," he scoffs. "That's so fucking creepy. Does
he really make you call him that?"

"So how does it work, then?" Zayn wonders. "You can still think, clearly. You still Liam in there,
or does he wipe out all your thoughts when he takes control of them?"
Liam looks pained for a moment, lines appearing on his forehead. "I can still think," he finally
says. "The only difference is that my thoughts are wired to obey the actions of my Master."
"Creepy," Zayn says again. "But you're still you then, yeah? Still my Liam in there?"
Liam frowns down at him for just a moment before flicking his gaze back up above Zayn's head.
"I wasn't yours even before Trist he found me."
"Bullshit," Zayn spits. While he's talking he tries to feel around the ropes with his fingers, but his
hands are tied tightly. He can barely move them, but he can move them a bit. Maybe if he twisted
them around he could spread them and loosen the knot enough to get them free "I know you,
remember? And I know you loved me, Liam. You can't just throw those feelings away, whether
we're together or not. Maybe over time they'll go away, yeah, but not not right away. You still
care about me."
"I" Liam's face twists like he's in pain. "The other day, when it was snowing, I wanted to drive
you but" He cuts off, shaking his head. "It doesn't matter what I do or don't feel. I have direct
orders and there's not a thing you or I can do to make me break them."
Zayn raises his eyebrows but he refuses to believe that, because if he believes that then they're
both fucked. "Liam," he says, softer this time, biting his lip. "Liam, come on, untie me."
Liam stares stoically ahead as if he didn't hear a word Zayn just said.
"I still care about you too," Zayn tries, going with a different approach. He can get to Liam.
He knows he can. "You know that, right? That fuck, it kills me every time I see you now
because I know you don't want me anymore. And, shit, I miss you. I miss eating breakfast with
you before class, and watching superhero movies with you in bed. And that stupid pencil? The
one you got me at that arcade on our first date? I can't even sharpen it anymore because it's so
small, but I can't make myself throw it out because you gave it to me."
Something flickers in Liam's eyes, there and gone as soon as it came. But it was there.
"I just miss you," Zayn adds. "All of you, Liam. I meant it when I said I loved you, and I mean it
when I say that doesn't just go away. I wish it did, because it hurts a fucking lot right now, loving
you, but it won't. It's still there, even right now. I just want to kiss you. We're in this fucked up
situation and all I want to do is kiss you."
Liam stumbles backwards, grabbing at the desk behind him. He grips it so tightly his fingers go
white, and he ducks his head, breathing heavy and fast. "Stop."
"I don't think I'll ever be able to fall in love with someone the way I did with you," Zayn
continues, barreling on. "You're it for me, Liam, whether you want me or not. And I can live with
that, with you not wanting me back, if that's what you want, but I'll still love you. Every single
day. It was so damn easy to fall in love with you, and it's too damn hard to stop."
"Zayn," Liam gasps. "Just stop for a second. I can't think. I can feel him in my head, you don't
know what it's like. I can't think."
"Untie me and I can help," Zayn promises. "Just untie me, Liam. You can do it. I know you can."
Liam's shaking his head no, eyes on the floor, but he takes a step towards Zayn anyways, and
another, until their knees bump together and Zayn's chair skids back a few feet. He's suddenly

terrified he's going to tip right over when Liam grabs at him, steadying him.
His movements are wrong as he unties the rope, his hands jerking in different directions at random
like he's warring with himself even as he undoes Zayn's bind. When they're free and he can move,
he stands up and pulls Liam into him, unable to stop himself, and the chair rolls away from them
as Liam sinks into his arms, head resting on Zayn's shoulder.
Above them the ceiling rattles, and Zayn knows that someone's fighting up there. And he knows
that they have to go help. "Liam," he says gently.
"One more second," Liam pleads, unsteady. "Just let me clear my head. Please."
Zayn nods, going to step back to give him space, but Liam pulls him back in desperately, nosing
at Zayn's neck, gasping helplessly. Zayn rubs at his back, wishing he could do something to help
right this second, but he can't. Not until they get upstairs and take this fucker out for what he's
When Liam finally pulls back, he looks more like Liam. He looks tired, too, and sweaty and pale,
but his eyes are warm and he gives Zayn the softest, weakest smile. "I'm okay," he says. "I'm
Zayn reaches up, thumbing at his jaw, reveling in the feeling of Liam's stubble under his fingertips
again. "Yeah," he says. "Come on, let's go."
Zayn starts dragging Liam towards the elevator, but Liam shakes his head, pulling him in the other
direction. "Stairwell," he explains. "If we take the elevator they'll see us the second we get to that
He's got a point, so he lets Liam drag him to the exit. He holds the door for Zayn, and Zayn
hurries past him, taking the stairs two at a time as something thumps against the door of the next
floor. Instantly Zayn freezes, turning to Liam.
"What?" Liam asks, sounding worried.
Zayn bites on his tongue for a second, knowing it's not going to go over well when he says, "I
think you should go. Go home. I don't want you getting hurt because"
Liam ignores him, stomping up the next three stairs. "If you actually thought that would work," he
says over his shoulder, "then maybe you don't know me as well as I thought."
Zayn sighs and follows after him.
Liam pulls open the door for the next floor, not pausing to let Zayn through first (which Zayn isn't
surprised about, but he wishes he'd of done so anyways) and almost the moment they step onto the
floor, Cher bolts for the door, grabbing both of their arms and pulling them right back into the
She's holding the door handle with one hand, keeping it closed, and then she tugs a little harder
until the metal door creaks and groans, bending to her will. There's a crack as the lock breaks, and
she releases the door with a grin. "Journalists are savages," she pants. "Let's go."
"Did she just warp the door so they can't get out?" Liam whispers, eyes wide.
"Yes I did," Cher says proudly. "Let's go."
Liam looks a little apprehensive as they follow Cher up the stairs. She opens the next door for

them, pushing it open wide behind her and striding immediately into the room. Zayn shivers as
cold air lashes against his skin, one of the floor-to-ceiling windows broken widen enough to let in
the air from outside. (What the hell could have done that? Aren't those windows shatter proof?)
This room is different than the other hand been. It's all cubicals and tables and people fighting. Or
Louis fighting people, actually. He's in one spot one second, going at it hand to hand with a
woman like the one in the main lobby, only her hair is dark and her tight bun is falling out, strands
getting in her face as she expertly throws a punch in Louis' direction that only misses because he
disappears before it can hit.
There is about seven of them all together, not including Tristan, who's sitting in an office across
from the door at a large desk, a smirk on his face as he watches everything in the room play out in
front of him. Harry stands at his side, much like Liam had, only there's a gash in his cheek and his
glasses are cracked.
"I'm waiting on Niall," Louis says, popping in on Zayn's right. "He's coming as fast as he can
with his bracelet. Until then, you can't touch him."
"Touch who?" Cher asks, grabbing the nearest chair. She pushes it forward with all her strength,
and it knocks into the woman who had been fighting Louis, sending her sprawling to the ground,
unable to continue towards them the way the others in the room are, like attack dogs. Which
makes them the intruders, the ones they're ordered to attack.
"Tristan," Louis snaps. "He's got them all ordered to fucking off themselves if anything happens
to him. Until Niall can cut off his power, we can't touch him.
"Bullshit," Liam says, pushing past him.
He's fast, Liam, weaving past the tables and everyone else in the room. Another member of the
station's staff tries to intercept him, but Liam ducks when the guy swings and does a graceful turn
that leads him away from the man and back on the path to Tristan.
This time it's Harry who steps up and tries to protect him, but Liam easily pushes Harry out of the
It's almost comical, watching Tristan's eyes widen as Liam continues towards him. "You're
you're not supposed to be able to do that," he says, scrambling out of his seat. "You're supposed to
be under my control!"
"But I'm not," Liam says. And then he punches Tristan in the face.
Tristan's head snaps back, and the sound of it echoes even over the loud whistling of the wind
coming in through the window. "Holy shit," Louis says. "Holy shit, your boyfriend just punched
the bad guy in the face."
Zayn grins. "Let's discus my awesome choice in men after, yeah? We've got a job to do."
"Knock them all out," Cher says. "No matter what he orders them to do, they can't do it if they're
unconscious. Then we take him out."
After that, the only thing missing is awesome fight music. Louis disappears, coming up behind a
woman under Tristan's control, grabbing her arms and twisting them behind her back. Cher jumps
over the nearest table, landing on top of another, using her gun with the tranquilizers to put the
person below her to sleep.
Two of them come at Zayn at once, both of them reaching for him, and he ducks, summersaulting

forward, coming back up just in time to watch them knock into each other. He pulls off his belt
while he sidesteps another, and then he comes up behind the nearest person, using it to tie their
hands together under Cher can put them under for the time being.
It's so fast. There are nine of them all together, that Zayn can count, and he's just taking out the last
one, careful not to land any fatal blows as she kicks at him, using only defensive moves because
they were right earlier; these people aren't in the right mind, and hurting them wouldn't be right.
But not hurting them seems impossible, so he's trying to do as little damage as he can.
The woman fighting him freezes, and Zayn would take advantage of that if he weren't freezing,
too. He looks up, watching as Harry steps towards the broken window. He curls his hands around
the edges, and Zayn watches the blood drip down his wrists from it as he steps one foot outside.
"If anyone moves," Tristan warns, "he jumps." He turns to Louis. "And if you even think about
teleporting and pulling him back inside the room, I'll make sure he hits the ground before you get
Time seems to stand still. Louis' looking panicked, darting glances between Harry and Tristan like
it's taking everything inside of him not to move to Harry right that second and do exactly as he
was told not to do. Zayn gets that, he does, but he has a feeling that Tristan isn't bluffing and he's
never doubted Louis' power before, but he also has a feeling that Louis would never make it to
Harry on time.
"You insolent children," Tristan snaps at them all. He moves out of the office, rage etched into
ever crease of his face. "That's what you are! You're children running around playing games. You
think you can save the world, do you? Because you can't! That's part of growing up,
unfortunately. You realize that you can't. You can't do what you'd always dreamed of. You'll
never accomplish your dreams. You will fail, no matter how hard you try."
"What's he on about?" Louis asks. "Is this oh, man, is this the part where you go off on your
psychotic bad guy rant and explain why you're doing all this stuff and it's supposed to make sense
but really you just come off sounding like an idiot?"
Tristan's mouth opens and closes with a snap as he glares at Louis. "You have no idea what my
life is like," he growls. "You're too young to understand. You haven't realized what the world is
really like yet. You've never had to work a day in your pathetic little life, have you?"
"I worked at McDonalds once," Cher says considering. "I could definitely see someone going on
a rampage and attempting to destroy a city after that."
"Shut up!" he hisses at her. "You think this is a joke? Working your whole life towards
something, putting all of your time and effort into it, only to have someone else, someone younger,
prettier, stupider than you take your place without earning it? I've been working in this business
for fifteen years! Fifteen years of interviewing school lunch ladies about the quality of their food!
Years of talking to old women who moan about mold in their houses, or a group of construction
workers complain about not getting paid enough money while someone else gets sent to crime
scenes and bank heists? And I finally, finally get to start reporting real news, something that
matters. I finally get my break, my chance to make a name for myself, to get the fame I rightfully
deserved, that I worked so hard for, and what happens? The three of you come in here and try
to stop me? How dare you."
"Wait, pause," Zayn says, lifting his hands. "You did all this because you want to be a famous

"Seriously, dude?" Louis adds. "Come on, you can control people's minds. Aim a little higher. Go
for world domination. Control of the city at the least, man. Fame is seriously selling yourself
Tristan looks between all of them, confused, but that confusion seems to only fuel his rage. "Did I
not tell you to shut up?" he demands.
Someone's fist connects with the side of Zayn's face, and he stumbles backwards, the copper taste
of blood filling his mouth as Louis' screech fills the air. Out the corner of his eye he watches Harry
step out the window, and that's the last thing he sees before someone kicks at the back of his knee.
He crumples, yelping in pain, and lands flat on his back. He can see Liam, near the office, make
an upset sound and start towards him, but at the last second he freezes, eyes glazing over, and
Zayn ignores the pain in his leg because no. No, no, no.
Liam starts moving backwards, heading for Tristan instead of Zayn. "I wonder how this will look
on the news tomorrow," Tristan says, pulling a knife out of nowhere. "Group of vigilante
superheroes go rouge and kill an entire building of people. I'll be the lone survivor, of course, and
maybe the pretty one from the front desk. She'd be good to interview, would definitely kick up
ratings with a face like that. A few tears, countless confessions of having to watch you all
slaughter her coworkers. The rest of you will have to either disappear or surrender to the police
afterwards, and I'll go back to controlling my city without you getting in my way."
"Cher!" Zayn yells, watching as Tristan puts the knife in Liam's hand.
"I'm a little busy!" Cher shouts back at him. He cranes his neck, watching her go at it with a group
that had just come in from the stairwell. She's holding her own, obviously, but she's falling under
them, too afraid to cause any serious damage to stop them from coming at her.
And the one Zayn's fighting jumps on his chest, straddling him, hands going for his throat. He
doesn't even have the energy to fight her off. He's getting lightheaded, too busy watching Liam so
far away from him as his hand curves around the hilt of the knife.
"Liam!" Zayn screams. "Liam, don't"
"Watch him," Tristan orders. "Watch him while you do it."
And Liam's gaze lifts to Zayn, his sweetest smile on his lips as he holds the knife to his stomach
and plunges it in. The world around Zayn suddenly erupts in flames, everything burning. The
woman on top of him shrieks, Tristan screams, even Cher's shouting unintelligibly at him but he
can't hear it, can't focus on anything but Liam standing in the blaze with the knife in his stomach
and that grin still on his face even as the flames caress his skin.
The flames die out as quickly as they came, leaving almost nothing in their wake to show that they
were actually there except a burning smell in the air. Zayn kicks the girl on top of him away,
pushing himself onto his feet even though his leg protests, pain shooting through him, begging
him to stop.
He can't. He limps towards Liam as fast as he can, and he watches Liam pull the knife from his
stomach. His white t-shirt is already stained with red, and the knife clatters to the floor beside him
just as that glassy look leaves him eyes and he becomes himself once more.
Liam stumbles. Zayn reaches him just in time to wrap his arms around Liam and cushion their fall
with most of his body. They hit the ground hard enough that Zayn gasps in pain, Liam landing
wrong on his hurt leg, but he doesn't care. He doesn't care because Liam's gulping in breaths,

hands touching his stomach and coming back stained with scarlet.
"Oh, god," Zayn says, pulling his limbs out from under Liam's body. He pulls Liam's head into
his lap and tries to think, tries to think of something, anything he can do because no. No, no,
no. No. This isn't happening. This can't be happening. No. "No."
"H-hey, don't," Liam says, looking up at him. He wipes his hands on dryer parts of his shirt before
lifting one to reach for Zayn's cheek. "Don't cry, Zayn, please."
"This isn't happening," Zayn insists. "Tell me this isn't happening."
Liam tries to smile and ends up wincing. The whole world disappears with that smile, nothing else
but Liam after that. There are shouts in the background, and Zayn sees a blinding blur of white in
his vision. He swears he hears Louis underneath everyone else, but all that's real is Liam in his
arms, breathing shakily, and the red slowly taking over the white of his shirt.
"Can't can't do that, unfortunately," Liam says quietly. "But it's o-okay, Zayn, honestly. Calm
"Calm down," Zayn repeats. "Calm Liam, you're you"
"Danger magnet," Liam says, eyes closing for a long moment. When they open again, he looks
tired. "That's what you call me, right? Dange-danger magnet. Are we really surprised?"
"No, no, no," Zayn says out loud. "No. Liam, no. You're not you're not. That's not fair. This
isn't fair."
"People are shouting," Liam says weakly. "You should you should go help your friends, yeah?"
Zayn shakes his head mutely, biting on his lip until he tastes blood. "No."
"I'll be fine," Liam assures him. "Just gonna lay here until help comes, okay? You go you go do
your superhero thing, I'll be right here until you're finished."
But he won't be. The blood is rapidly spilling from his body, and it's soaking into the legs of
Zayn's jeans, creating a puddle around them. He looks so pale already and, fuck, Zayn isn't a
doctor, he doesn't know how long someone can survive like this, losing this much blood, but he'd
say minutes, tops. Minutes.
Which isn't this isn't fair. Why did it have to be Liam? It's the most selfish thought he's ever
had, but why did it have to be him? Why couldn't it have been anyone, anyone else in the entire
world? Why did it have to be Liam?
This isn't how it's supposed to go. They were winning. They had this. They were so close, and
somehow it all went to shit and now Liam's fucking dying in his arms and Zayn can't do a fucking
thing to stop it, and it shouldn't be happening. They should be they should be getting in the car
right now, heading home victorious. He should be getting dropped off at Liam's apartment with
him while Cher and Louis tease them mercilessly and Harry politely refuses to laugh on their
He should be laughing into Liam's neck while Liam's fingers fumble with the lock on his door;
following him inside the apartment and falling onto the sofa with him because they're too
impatient to make it to the bed, pulling at each other's clothes, bruising each other's bodies with
their mouths.
But instead Liam's eyelids are growing heavy and his breaths are coming out shallower, and

he's dying.
"Liam," Zayn says helplessly.
"You're not going anywhere, are you?" Liam realizes, closing his eyes again for moments, one,
two, three, Zayn counts to fifteen before they finally blink back open.
"No," Zayn says firmly. "Not going anywhere any time soon. Staying right here."
"Me too," Liam says. "Too tired to move."
"Don't sleep," Zayn says quickly, panicked. Everything inside of him is absolutely sure that if
Liam doesn't stay awake, those eyes will never open again. "Stay awake with me, come on. Don't
close your eyes."
Liam blinks rapidly, trying to nod. "Okay, right, okay."
Zayn reaches up, absently wiping tears from his eyes. He's never felt so surreal in his life. None of
this can actually be happening. It's too impossible. It's not happening. He's going to wake up any
second now and he'll be back at Liam's apartment after the last night he'd stayed there. They never
broke up, this never happened, Liam is fine. This is all just a really long, really shitty dream, that's
"At least he's not in my head anymore," Liam says with a feeble chuckle. "Can't feel him at all.
That's good."
"Can you can you feel anything?" Zayn wonders. He prays that he can't.
"A bit," Liam admits. "Hurts, but 's not so bad, actually. Mostly I'm just tired." He looks sadly
up at Zayn. "But you're going to be upset if I fall asleep, aren't you?"
"Pissed," Zayn corrects automatically, digging his fingers into Liam's shoulder without meaning
to. "Don't you fucking dare, Liam."
"Okay," Liam gasps. "But need you to distract me, then. Could you could you do the thing?"
he waves a hand (or he tries to, but it barely lifts off the ground, fingers jerkily uselessly, weakly).
"The fire thing?"
Zayn cups his cheek, pushing a sweat-dampened clump of Liam's hair off his forehead first. He
focuses and, for the first time in weeks, he channels the fire and it dances along his hands,
crawling up Liam's cheek, down his neck, over all of him until his entire body is engulfed in
flames along with Zayn's hand.
"Still so cool," Liam says, but his eyes are closed again, and they're not even fluttering, not even
attempting to open. "And I don't regret it, okay? If no matter w-what happens, I don't regret any
of this for a s-second, alright? Don't ever think I did."
"Greatest thing to ever happen to me," he says, as if Zayn had never spoken. "You're the greatest
thing to ever happen to me, and I don't regret it at all, even if this is all we get. It's more than
enough for me. All of it. No regrets."
The fire burns out and Zayn shakes at Liam's shoulders until his eyes open for just another second.
"Stop that," he orders. "Right now."

Liam smiles up at him. "Don't cry, I told you not to do that."

"Then don't leave me," Zayn hisses.
"I'm not going anywhere," Liam promises.
Everything inside him aches. He's still crying, but Liam's eyes are closed so it's not like he can see
it, and Zayn has a feeling they're not opening any time soon to catch him and call him on it. He
brushes his thumb over Liam's jaw, pressing against his bottom lip, biting his own because Liam's
a little too cool to the touch and it's scaring him.
"Damn it," Zayn mumbles, trying not to pay attention to any of the blood surrounding them, but
there's so fucking much of it. "I love you so much." Zayn is fairly certain that a declaration of love
has never sounded so much like an apology.
"I love you, too," Liam says back, and Zayn thinks that those words have never sounded so much
like a goodbye, either.
Liam's breathing gets shallower, and he doesn't say anything else. He doesn't say anything else for
a while, and Zayn's still shaking him, trying to get him to open his eyes again, but he won't.
"Liam," he croaks. "Liam, answer me. Keep talking. Liam."
Zayn lifts his head, looking around the room with blurry eyes. Someone touches his back, and
Louis looks down at him with a split lip and terrified eyes. "Help," Zayn says to him. "Justfuck,
someone help me." He shakes Liam's shoulders again. "He won't answer me. Someone
fucking help me!"
The rest of the world comes back into focus, and he swears he hears Niall say, "We have to get
him to the hospital now. He's lost too much blood. Nothing I can do for him."
"I'll carry them," Cher says instantly, and someone her, he realizes distantly tugs at Zayn,
trying to pull him away from Liam. "Zayn, come on."
"Just help me," Zayn pleads. "Just"
"I think he's in shock." And that's that's definitely Harry, but Zayn distinctly remembers Harry
falling out a fucking window.
"Zayn, you have to let us move him," Louis says gently, and he pulls at Zayn's arm, too, but
Why are they trying to take Liam away from him? Why aren't they helping? Why aren't they
waking him up? "Just fucking wake him up!" Zayn shouts, shrill an desperate. "Someone "
"I'm sorry," Cher says, and then something pricks the back of his neck and the world gets hazy
before it goes black.


"I'm doing the best I can," someone says.

Zayn tries to open his eyes and sits up, but he's strapped down to something and he can't move.

Zayn tries to open his eyes and sits up, but he's strapped down to something and he can't move.
His eyes are too heavy, his mind can't focus, and he doesn't recognize the voice at all.
"Keep trying," someone else says, but that voice is familiar. It's Niall, definitely, he thinks. "I
know you can do it. He's not dead yet. Just keep him stable until we get him to the hospital."
"I'm trying," the unfamiliar voice says again. "I'm not used to doing this on someone so hurt."
"Uh, guys." Louis. "I think Zayn's waking up."
Zayn opens his eyes, and the first thing he sees is the metal roof of some kind of vehicle that's
definitely not their usual car. He realizes a beat later that he's being held down against a gurney by
Cher and Louis, and both of them are giving him panicked looks. And then he tilts his head and
finds Liam mirroring him, only his shirt is torn open and he looks he looks pretty dead to Zayn
as someone who tugs at Zayn's memory presses their hands to his chest.
Zayn fights Louis and Cher, trying to get up. "Oh god," he breathes. "Liam, can he is he
fuck. Tell me he's not?"
"Knock him out again!" Niall hisses, and seconds later Zayn's world goes black once more.


Light falls over the room, his curtains pushed open. It seems warm, despite the fact that, when he
his eyes, he can see fat, lovely snowflakes falling just outside the window. All Zayn can do is pull
his blankets up a little higher and try to find more of that warmth, rolling over, nuzzling against it
with his eyes closed again.
That warmth presses back against him, paired with a soft press of lips on his cheek and a brushing
of fingertips over his jaw. "You're finally awake?" a quiet voice asks, and Zayn squeezes his eyes
So, what? Did he die, then? Is this what heaven is? Did whatever Cher used to knock him out kill
him, and this is what's to come after life? Because Zayn isn't complaining at all. He opens his
eyes, meets Liam's, and, yeah, okay. If this is death, then it's much more beautiful than he ever
could have imagined.
"Hey," Zayn says quietly, smiling when Liam props himself up with an arm on each side of his
body. His voice is rough with sleep, rumbling and cracking. "Morning, gorgeous."
"It's two in the afternoon," Liam informs him, but he doesn't sound like he minds that fact.
"So even in heaven I sleep late," Zayn says. "Good to know."
Liam frowns down at him for a moment, but then he shakes his head, chuckling, as he leans down
to whispers, "Dork," against Zayn's lips before sealing theirs together.
Morning breath surely isn't a problem in the afterlife, so Zayn wraps his arms around Liam's neck,
pulling him closer, tangling his hands in Liam's hair. Liam kisses him back softly, slowing him
down until there's nothing but lazy brushes of their tongues and soft sighs into each other's

Zayn missed this. He missed this so much.

"Can we just" Zayn pulls back, and he almost regrets doing so because Liam licks at his own
lips for a moment instead of Zayn's. "Do we get to stay here forever, then?" he asks. "Just like
this? Because I think I'd like that."
Liam gives him a peculiar look, sitting all the way up, adjusting his shirt. "Wait," he says slowly,
realization dawning in his eyes, and he realizes that Liam didn't know. That he didn't know they
were dead. And, well, shit. "We're not"
Zayn pulls him back down, kissing lightly at his neck. "It's okay," he says. "It's not that bad, is it?
I mean, eternity like this would be"
Liam jerks back, shaking his head. "Zayn, we're not"
"Is he awake?" someone shouts, and Zayn's eyes widen before he groans.
"Please tell me that prick didn't follow us into the afterlife," he begs. "Please."
Louis pops into the room right beside Zayn's bed, grinning down at him. He's bouncing up and
down on the heels of his feet, looking like an excited puppy, almost, if you ignore the scruffy
stubble and the messy hair, the tattoos on his arms and the sweatpants that look like they needed to
be washed a long, long time ago.
"You're awake," Louis says. "He's awake!"
His bedroom door opens, and Cher and Niall fight each other on who walks into the room first,
getting jammed in the doorway before Cher uses her strength to push Niall back into the hall and
rushes for the bed, skidding to a halt just at the end of it. "Oh thank god," she adds when she does.
"I thought I killed you. Niall didn't warn me that double doses of the sleep serum would knock
you out for days."
Zayn blinks rapidly, looking at them all then back at Liam. The light in the room doesn't seem
quite so warm, the snow falling outside the window doesn't seem quite so gentle, and he's
suddenly excruciatingly aware of a pain in his leg.
"Fuck," Zayn moans. "I'm not dead, then?"
"Unfortunately, no," Louis says. "I was looking forward to stealing your bed, but the sleep serum
doesn't kill, apparently. It just has coma inducing properties."
Zayn rubs a hand over his face, and Liam takes his other in his own, squeezing like he knows
Zayn needs it's. Zayn's pretty sure no one has ever been this disappointed to be alive ever, because
he wasn't kidding. Eternity with Liam in this bed sounds like the greatest thing ever, and the others
coming in and ruining it is definitely not.
"How long was I out?" he finally asks. "What did I miss?"
"A lot," Cher admits. "Sorry, again."
"You have a lot of catching up to do," Louis adds. "Like, a fuck ton."
"And you probably shouldn't get out of bed until Josh gets up and comes to see you," Niall puts
in. "He should be up to healing again soon, and your leg is fractured in more than one place, so."
"Who the hell is Josh?" Zayn asks.

The four of them exchange looks, and Zayn's suddenly irritated with being on the outside.
He hates being in the dark. "Uh," Niall says. "That's a good question for another time. For now
you should probably eat."
"I'll get him something," Liam says instantly. "Just let me"
"I don't think so," Cher says, pushing him back down. "You're still healing, too. You both stay in
"Seconded," Niall says. "At least until Josh checks you both out."
"Again, who the hell is Josh?" Zayn asks. No one answers, so he groans and falls back against the
pillows. "Fine, whatever. Get me a drink, too."
Louis hangs back when the others leave, but Zayn tilts his head and narrows his eyes until Louis
rolls his own and pops out of the room, flipping him off before he goes. As soon as he is gone,
and Zayn's bedroom door is closed, Zayn sits up and rubs a hand down Liam's back.
"So you're still hurt, then?" he asks.
Liam shakes his head. "Not really," he says. "A bit, maybe, but I'm mostly healed up."
Zayn bites his lips, dropping his gaze to Liam's stomach, covered by his t-shirt. "Can I see?" It's a
morbid curiosity that makes him ask, and he's not sure if he even really wants Liam to say yes.
Liam reaches a hand for the back of his shirt and tugs it over his head in one easy, smooth move.
The light from outside illuminates him, and Zayn's eyes move from those shoulders he loves to
bite, down the check he loves to presses kisses to, to his stomach.
The wound is mostly healed. It looks weeks old, maybe, the skin a little puckered, the entrance
point of the knife clearly visible though it's not gaping or anything. It'll scar, though, without a
doubt. A bad one, too. A permanent memory of what happened, though he doubts Liam would
forget even without it.
"I'm so sorry," Zayn says to him. "Fuck, I'm so sorry."
Liam gives him a disbelieving look. "Don't blame yourself for this."
Zayn shifts, uncomfortable. Something tugs at his memory, and he says, "This is why you broke
up with me, isn't it? Because you knew this would end up happening and you wanted to avoid it."
The weight of Liam's body is suddenly pressing him into the mattress, Liam practically lying on
top of him with the fiercest look on his face, like Zayn had said something seriously offensive.
"That is not why I broke up with you," he hisses. "I broke up with you to protect you, not because
I was scared of getting hurt. Not because I couldn't handle something like this happening. I did it
because I knew eventually that I could be used against you, and I never wanted that to happen. I
never wanted to be your weakness."
"You're not," Zayn promises. "You're definitely not, Liam."
"Yeah, well." Liam falls onto the bed next to him with a sigh. "I know a lot about superheroes,
okay, and this kind of thing? It never works out, Zayn. Ever. Eventually you leave me behind for
my own good, or the bad guys kill me to add to your tragic backstory."
Zayn sucks in a breath, grabbing Liam's thigh tightly. "That's not even funny."

"It's not," Liam agrees. "It's really not. And that's how these things always end. That's always
what happens next. Superheroes don't go off and get married, Zayn. You don't get a happily ever
after with two-point-five kids and a dream house and a steady, nine-to-five job. And that's that's
fine with me, I'd be here for you no matter what. I don't need any of that. But I refuse to be
something that someone can use against you, because if you get hurt over me, it'd kill me."
"Breaking up with me doesn't stop that, though," Zayn says. "I'll still care about you no matter
what. And if there are any people out there, which I doubt, by the way, that are looking to use
someone against me, you'd still be a prime candidate, whether we're going out or not."
"You were still you when that freak had you under his control, so you heard everything I said,"
Zayn says lowly. "I wasn't bullshitting you, Liam, I meant every word of it."
Liam sighs, resting his head on Zayn's chest, looking up at him with wide, dopey eyes. "So now
what, then?"
"Maybe" Zayn trails off, brushing his hands through Liam's hair. "Maybe we can stop trying to
be martyrs and just enjoy this."
"For how long?" Liam wonders.
Zayn shrugs, kissing the top of his head. "As long as you want."
Liam smiles shortly before closing his eyes, using Zayn as a pillow. Zayn keeps alternating
between playing with his hair and rubbing at his back, but he's not tired in the slightest. In fact,
he's itching to get out of bed and shower, and the others haven't returned with food yet, but he
doesn't want to leave Liam behind.
So he waits until Liam's fast asleep, and he kisses Liam's cheeks quickly before climbing out from
under him, careful not to jostle him when he gets out of the bed, and he succeeds. All Liam does is
pull the pillow Zayn had been using to his chest, wrapping his arms around it and burying his face
in it, using it as a replacement for Zayn's body.
Zayn plans on being as quick as he can.
Only the second he steps out into the hallway, he knocks into someone. Someone that definitely
does not live in this apartment, but he's familiar enough. He's not wearing his signature sweater, is
instead of one of Niall's t-shirts, but it's definitely the guy from the club.
"You're up," he says, talking to Zayn like they're old friends, or at least two people who know
each other.
They're not. And that weird alarm goes off in Zayn as it always does, on high alert. With Liam in
the room just behind him, Zayn can't even stop himself. Fire gloves his hands threateningly, and
his eyes narrow. "Who the hell are you?"
"Stop that," Niall says, coming up behind him. "Christ, Zayn."
Zayn slowly lowers his hands, fames fizzling almost all the way (but not quite) out. Niall wraps
his arm around the guy's waist, and Zayn narrows his eyes, watching the two of them. "Someone
going to tell me what the fuck is going on or not?"
"How about I check out your leg and Niall explains?" the guy asks, eyebrows drawing together at
the way Zayn's standing so absolutely none of his weight is on his hurt leg.

He doesn't trust this guy at all, even if he's a doctor or something, because of that alarm inside him.
But he nods anyways because if Niall thinks he's safe, Zayn will stop from turning him into a pile
of soot (for now), and he lets Niall help him to the sofa, wincing in pain every few feet. Louis did
say something about a fracture, right? Fuck.
As soon as he sits, weird-dude comes over and kneels between Zayn's legs, which "The fuck
are you doing?"
Niall slaps his arm. "Don't be a dick," he scolds. "Josh is the only reason Liam's even alive right
now. Show some respect."
Zayn sits up a little straighter, guilt flooding him, and Josh's cheeks go a little red as he says,
"That's not completely true. He did a lot of it himself. I mean, he held on pretty long. Most people
would have been too far gone for me to save after that."
"How?" Zayn demands. "How did you do it? He wasn't when" Zayn looks to Niall for help.
"When they knocked me out, he was barely breathing."
Josh grins up at him, pushing up the leg of Zayn's sweats without even asking. He wraps both
hands around Zayn's leg, eyes closing, and suddenly there's this rush of he can't even explain it.
It's like the feeling of drinking something cold and refreshing on the hottest day of the year. It's
like spring rain and crawling into bed after a long day, all at once. Whatever pain had been going
through his leg completely dissipates as it happens, and then Josh falls back on his ass and Niall
moves for him reflexively.
"I'm fine," Josh says, holding out a hand. "I think I need to cut it out for a few days, though. That
shouldn't take so much out of me, but I was drained trying to save the other one."
It dawns on Zayn, then. "You have powers?" he demands. "Is that why you've been stalking
Niall leans back in his seat, crossing his arms over his chest. "You've been stalking Zayn?"
Josh doesn't look embarrassed at all. He stays there on the floor, legs crossing, and gives Niall a
petulant look. "One, I wasn't stalking him. I was trying to introduce myself. Two, I wouldn't have
had to if you weren't so against us telling everyone."
"Wait, you're the one who's been giving him the hickeys?" Zayn asks. "Seriously?"
Finally Josh looks sheepish. "That was one time."
"That was not one time," Niall argues. "That was a lot of times, in a lot of places."
Josh rolls his eyes. "Are you going to tell him what he missed while he was out or not?"
"Someone should definitely do that," Zayn adds. "Like, right now."
Sometimes Zayn swears Louis eavesdrops on conversations and waits until the most dramatic time
to make an entrance. He falls onto the sofa gracefully, propped up on his side with one arm. "I can
do that," he says.
"No, you can't," Niall says, "because you're an idiot. I'll tell him." He turns to Zayn. "What's the
last thing you remember?"
Zayn scrunches up his face as he thinks long and hard. His mind is sort of groggy, though, no
doubt a side effect of that damn serum. It takes him far longer than he shoulder to work it out in

his mind, replay that night over (and it hurts, too) but he finally manages to say, "Harry had just
fallen out the window and Liam was he was bleeding, and I tuned everything after that out. I
had to go help him."
"I saved Harry," Louis interjects before Niall can even open his mouth. "I'm sort of a master at
carry-on teleportation now. I can bring people with me. Sort of a horrible time to realize it when
the love of your life is falling six floors to his death, but. Better late than never, right?"
Zayn tries really damn hard not to give Louis the satisfaction of being impressed with that, but he
is. "Shit," he says.
"And after," Niall says, pulling attention back to him, "while you were freaking out, and Cher was
busy fighting, I came in with the neck brace I've been working on to go with the bracelet"
"Wearing that all-white supersuit," Louis puts in. "I didn't even know you had one."
Niall's cheeks colour a bit. "I thought it might come in handy," he mumbles. "And it did. I saved
the day, really. Rushed in there, strapped it on the guy, and the second I did everyone else sort of
just, like, stopped moving aside from Cher and Louis, and then we gathered up you and your boy
and we left."
Zayn waits for him to continue, but he doesn't. "And?" he asks. "What happened to Tristan,
"Oh, dude's in jail," Louis says happily. "Remember how Niall couldn't hack the security
cameras? He did at the last minute, and he broadcasted the whole thing live to the police. Since
you're an idiot and you took off your mask, they sort of know exactly who you are now, but you
should be fine. We cut a deal with them. They keep the neck brace on Tristan and don't arrest you
for interfering with a crime scene or something, and we won't tell everyone how incompetent they
"And that seriously worked?" Zayn asks, a little disbelieving.
"Niall also gave them a lot of money," Cher adds, coming into the room. "Probably helped a bit."
Niall shrugs. "You gotta do what you gotta do. All that matters is that we're all safe and alive, the
bad guy's in jail, and the city's pretty safe, for the time being."
Of course, Niall's alarm system goes off right then, warning them of a crime being committed.
They all groan aside from Zayn, who pushes away from the sofa, aware that his leg barely hurts at
all. In fact, it feels only like he'd twisted it, maybe, a faint aching in the back of his mind instead of
a sharp, excruciating pain.
"Thank you," he says to Josh. He realizes that he owes this guy his whole life right now. And he
also realizes that the weird vibe he's been getting was probably caused from Josh's power, not him
as a person. How he didn't realize it sooner, he doesn't know. He should have gotten it from the
moment they met. "For the leg, but also for Liam."
"It's sort of my job," Josh says. "Not a big deal."
Zayn nods, but he knows that he's going to do everything in his power to make up for it. Just
not right now. He has an extremely attractive mechanic asleep in his bed, his stomach is rumbling,
and he needs a shower. He'll deal with that all first.
Or not. Instead he grabs a leftover pizza box from the fridge and carries it to the room, curling
back up beside Liam, nudging him slowly awake.

"Hey," he says, and Liam slowly sits up to grin at him.

They eat there in his bed, and Zayn feels weirdly normal, like any other university student. Tired,
a tiny bit stressed, but he's got someone close to him and pizza, and he feels perfectly okay, at the
moment. Perfectly normal, aside from the way Liam's curiously watching him.
"What?" Zayn asks around a slice of pizza.
Liam shrugs, carefully swallowing his own bite. "I was just thinking that this isn't nearly as good
as bagels."
"You're no telling me you like bagels more than pizza," Zayn says flatly, teasingly.
Liam shrugs again, smiling defiantly. "Maybe I am."
"Get out of my room," Zayn orders, but he pushes the box away, wraps his arms around Liam's
neck, and forgets all about eating, or broken legs, or stab wounds and psychotic news anchors
with the ability to control minds, losing himself in everything that is Liam because it's too damn
easy not to.


"You realize you're the literal worst at disguises, right?"

Zayn hisses, slapping Liam's thigh. They're seated at the back of the gymnasium, hundreds of
people surrounding them. And they're inside, too, so Zayn's sunglasses are probably not
necessary, nor is the hat that obscures most of his face. He doesn't care. He can't get caught, not
right now.
"Which one is she?" Cher asks, sitting up higher in her seat.
Why the hell did Zayn bring all of them? Well, not all of them. Harry and Josh opted not to come,
since this was sort of an immediate family type thing, and while he figures Josh and Harry are sort
of like his brother's in law, he's happier with just his Liam and his dysfunctional family of misfit
"They're gonna call her name when it's her turn to get the diploma," Niall points out, but he's
craning to see over everyone, too.
Zayn isn't. He stopped doing that as soon as they walked in, because he'd spotted his mother about
four rows from the front, seated with his dad and Safaa and Doniya. His stomach clenched at the
sight of them, but it wasn't so much painful anymore.
He's sort of been keeping in touch with them. Not directly but through letters, mostly. It's safer that
way, for now, because in light of recent events, and the police releasing the tape of what happened
that night (though Zayn's face had conveniently been blurred out, thanks to Niall), they're sort of
in a tight spot with the whole 'superhero' thing.
They've all sort of known, in the back of their minds, that they weren't the only ones with powers.
Hell, Josh is proof that they extend past their little group, but Zayn didn't realize just how many of
them are out there. It's like every single person with powers nearby has flocked to their city

because of them, looking to bond with more of their kind, maybe, or perhaps they're just curious.
Either way, they've been pretty busy with keeping everyone safe. That many supernatural beings
in one city is a recipe for disaster, but they're dealing. And while they're dealing, Zayn doesn't
want to risk getting in contact with his family and having them get hurt.
But in the near future, hopefully, he will. He plans to mend that bridge between them that broke,
but for now he'd rather do it from a distance.
Which is why they're at the very back of the gymnasium.
"Waliyha Malik!" the man at the podium booms, and there's a smattering of applause as a small
figure at the front of the room moves towards the stage. "In the fall, Waliyha plans to attend"
There's a collective gasp when she trips in her high heeled shoes (since when does she wear
those? When Zayn left, you couldn't get her out of her trainers), arms flailing, falling backwards.
Zayn's glasses are ripped off his face, and the next thing he knows Louis is there at the front of the
room wearing them instead, steadying her.
The gasp at this is even louder, and chatter follows close behind it, a hush of it wafting over the
crowd, echoing off the high walls of the room. "Congratulations," he hears Louis says, and then
he pops back into his seat between Niall and Zayn.
Somehow no one seems to notice, and Zayn lets out a relieved sigh. "So much for discreet," he
"Zayn," Louis says patiently, like they've had this conversation a million times, "we're
superheroes. Being conspicuous is part of the job. Now shut up, smile and clap."
So he does, and he's fairly certain he claps louder than anyone else in the room.

Chapter End Notes

So yeah. IDk. This fic became like my child and I just don't know if. Idk. IDK. Hope
you guys enjoyed it. .... D: -- C

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