Liam’s clutching his mum’s hand as he walks into nursery, his other hand gripping his pumpkin tub for sweets desperately hard. He’s wearing his pirate costume with the trousers that are too long for him so his mum had rolled up the pants legs, promising him that he still looked like a scary pirate.
He finds Zayn almost immediately, dressed as a bat which Liam thinks is super cool and he drops his mum’s hand, racing over to fall down next to Zayn and grin at him.
"Hey," Zayn says. His face softens and he reaches for Liam’s hand, closing his fist around Liam’s, a habit that Liam’s grown used to in the two months he’s known Zayn. "Cool outfit."
"Zayn, you’re a bat," Liam says in complete awe. "You’re like Batman!"
Zayn giggles and turns his face into Liam’s shoulder. “No I’m not,” he says but Liam can tell he’s lying.
"You are," Liam insists. He reaches out to stroke Zayn’s wings, his tiny fingers soft and careful as he handles them with the utmost care. "S’beautiful Zayn."
They huddle together while the teacher goes through their lessons and when it’s reading time, Zayn helps Liam with the harder words because Zayn’s really smart and Liam still has trouble with long words. And every now and again while Zayn’s scribbling on his paper, his tongue pressed against his teeth as he concentrates, Liam just stares at him in awe.
"You’re so smart," Liam mumbles as he puts a neat line through his misspelling and tries again. Zayn never has to cross anything out because he always gets it right, to Liam’s utter amazement.
"You’re smart too," Zayn says. Liam giggles because he knows he’s not really, but Zayn’s his best mate and Zayn’s never wrong.
Liam does his best pirate impression during break and waves his plastic sword around while Zayn looks on wide-eyed and impressed. Liam giggles his way through the pirate noises that he learned from Nicola yesterday.
"You do it," Liam says, pressing the sword into Zayn’s hands and tearing off his eyepatch to hook it around Zayn’s head. Zayn tries a pirate accent that has Liam giggling into his hands and by the time Zayn’s jumping around and yelling about treasure, Liam’s on the floor and his belly hurts from laughing too hard.
"You make a better pirate," Zayn decides when he hands the sword back and Liam tucks it into his waistband. Zayn’s hand slips into his and squeezes and they head for their favourite sleeping spot, right under the window where they plop themselves down and shove at each other gently until Liam’s on his back and Zayn’s tucked into his side. Liam’s trying to teach himself to stop sucking his thumb because he’s almost four now and only babies suck their thumbs, so he grabs Zayn’s hand and twines their fingers together while Zayn closes his eyes and huffs out a tired breath that sweeps over Liam’s skin where they’re so close. With a yawn, Liam closes his own eyes and shuffles a bit closer.
"You make the best Batman," Liam mumbles before he drops off to sleep. "The best Batman ever."