Have a little Lirry, because I of course can’t visit a zoo without getting some fanfic ideas (and when I say I’m going to be completely off tumblr for three days, people should never believe me).
“Harry, don’t you think we could-”
“Shh. It’s going to move.”
Liam very much doubted that sloth was going to move. It hadn’t moved in the (Liam looked down at his watch) twenty long minutes they’d been standing in front of the pen, staring at it. Possibly that sloth was dead and no one had noticed because it made no difference.
“Liam, stop talking, you keep scaring it stiff.”
Liam took a deep breath, forcing himself to keep quiet. This was supposed to be a lovely day, and he wasn’t going to let his impatience (or rather Harry’s seemingly endless patience) ruin it. It was only half past two in the afternoon. There was still plenty of time, even if Harry refused to walk away from the aviary (why did a sloth end up in the aviary, Liam had no idea) until the sloth had done something.
Harry’d always had an affinity for the slow-paced creature. There was a reason Liam used the word as a term of endearment, after all, born out of many hours spent listening to Harry’s slow rambling stories, voice like treacle seeping into Liam’s bones and making him pleasantly sleepy. But Liam had never quite realized just how intent Harry was on befriending the actual animal.
“Sloths are creatures full of surprises,” he’d told Liam when they’d stopped in front of the pen, his grin so wide that Liam hadn’t minded waiting a bit to see if its occupant was going to move.
After two minutes, Liam had started looking around, waving to the little bright colored birds that were freely skipping about around them. After ten minutes he’d gently cleared his throat and stared at his watch in a way he hoped drove the point across. After fifteen minutes he’d finally dared speak up, but Harry had shushed him straight away, and every time since.
Some people would stop in front of the pen, take one glance at Harry’s intent look, and stick around for a few minutes, clearly under the misconception that something interesting was about to happen. They all left with slightly baffled looks on their faces, and Liam was getting tempted to just follow them and come back to pick Harry up at the end of the day.
Except he had something planned for this trip that really required Harry to be with him when it happened.
He looked at his watch again. They’d been there for going on thirty minutes now, and the giraffes’ pen was on the other side of the zoo.
“Haz, I think it’s sleeping,” he hazarded, keeping his voice low. Harry just raised a hand, still staring at the sloth as if he was hoping to make it move from sheer will alone.
Knowing Harry, it might just work.
Liam sighed, nervously patting his jeans pocket. There were still a lot of things to see before making it to the giraffes. At that rhythm, they’d never get there before closing time.
Maybe he should just do it here. Wait until the sloth finally moved, if it ever did, then get down on one knee and ask Harry to marry him.
But he’d wanted to do it in front of the giraffes because that was where he’d fallen in love with Harry, on a day out with the lads, watching Harry beam like a little kid in front of a baby giraffe, excitedly giving everyone all the facts about giraffes that anyone could have ever wanted to know.
“Do you realize that baby fell to the ground from 5 feet high when it was born?” he’d accusingly fired back at Louis when Louis had made fun of the giraffes’ gait, before stumbling three feet sideways and crashing straight into Liam’s side, seemingly for no reason at all except for the fact that Harry seemed amazingly maladjusted to standing on two legs. Louis had snorted the coke he was drinking out through his nose and Liam had focused hard on that - and Louis’s subsequent swearing - to avoid thinking about how nice it felt, having Harry plastered against him.
Harry had stayed in front of the giraffes so long that everyone had left him behind except for Liam, who’d admittedly been more enthralled by Harry’s profile than by anything that was happening in the pen.
“I knew you’d get it,” Harry had told him, wrapping an easy arm around Liam’s waist, blissfully unaware of the hammering of Liam’s heart behind his ribcage. “You always get me.”
He’d turned to look at Liam, all eager and youthful and impossibly beautiful, and Liam had leaned forward and kissed him full on the lips without even thinking, drawn to him as surely as a magnet to a fridge door (on which Liam later pinned the selfie he and Harry had taken that day, Liam grinning so hard you couldn’t see his eyes, Harry’s cheeks flushed from pleasure, both of them with lips pink-tinged from kissing).
“Harry, don’t you want to see the giraffes?” Liam whispered now, getting desperate. He really really wanted to do it there. And he really really didn’t want to lose his nerve. “I heard they’ve got a new baby…”
“But it was supposed to move,” Harry whined, gently tapping the cage’s wire with his open hand. “C’mon, slothy. I believe in you.”
“You should know better than to believe a sloth,” Liam teased. Harry’s hurt look took him aback. “Look we can pop by later on? Maybe it’ll be feeling more energetic then…”
“No, it had to be now. I thought it could - never mind.”
Harry looked really upset, which worried Liam in turn. This didn’t bode well for his marriage proposal. He wasn’t about to ask Harry for anything while Harry was reeling from sloth-induced sadness.
He coaxed Harry away from the pen and out of the aviary, trying to be extra jovial to make up for Harry’s forlorn sighs, but nothing seemed to cheer him up, not even the otters, who were rambunctiously playing in their pen and sliding down into their basin again and again.
“Look at that one,” he said, pointing to an otter who had pressed itself to the pen’s fence, small otter paw scrabbling for the wet twigs stuck on the other side of it, trying to drag them inside.
“It’s adorable,” Harry said absent-mindedly, hands stuck deep into his jacket pockets, leaving Liam feel strangely cut off; Harry was usually only too happy to hold his hand.
“Harry, have I done something wrong?” Liam finally asked, ready to go back to the aviary and spend the rest of the day there, if only it’d make Harry look a bit more like himself. “We can-”
“The sloth was supposed to move so you’d make a joke about how it reminded you of me and then I could ask you if you’d mind having your very own sloth till death do us part,” Harry blurted off, speaking faster than Liam had ever heard him speak before.
Harry took his hands out of his pockets. He was clutching a tiny red box in one of them. He looked absolutely miserable. “I thought I’d take out the ring and ask for your hand, I thought it’d be nice to do it in front of the sloth pen,” he moaned, looking at the otters with a pout. “But that lazy bum wouldn’t move.”
Liam kept staring at Harry’s hand, or rather at the hints of red visible through his clenched fingers, heart beating so hard he could feel his pulse thrumming in his throat. “Harry,” he croaked out, before clearing his throat and trying again. “Harry… can I see that box?”
“No,” Harry very nearly wailed, slumping down against Liam, forehead pressed against Liam’s shoulder. “That stupid sloth ruined everything.”
“I really don’t think it ruined anything at all,” Liam said, trying to keep his voice as calm as possible despite the whirlwind his brain seemed to be caught in. “Can you please let me look at the box?”
“How about,” Liam said, reaching into his own pocket to get his own box out, “how about I trade you for it?” His box was black, but he was pretty sure its contents were identical to Harry’s.
“Trade what?” Harry mumbled into Liam’s jacket. Liam raised his hand palm up, the box in its center, right between their bodies where Harry would see it. He felt Harry tense up against him, then Harry raised his head, eyes wide.
“I wanted to do it in front of the giraffes’ pen,” Liam said with a small smile that grew bigger as Harry’s face went from surprised to elated… but then Harry’s face fell.
“Fuck. The giraffes was a much better idea. Why didn’t I think of that?”
“I don’t know,” Liam said, feeling warm from the tip of his fingers down to his toes. He couldn’t stop grinning. “Maybe because the ‘where’ didn’t matter at all?”
“Maybe,” Harry nodded, before kissing Liam so hard he almost dropped his box.
The picture they pinned on their fridge that day had them both holding hands, rings catching the sun, three little brown heads peeking up on either side of them as the otters tried to get into the shot.
For their wedding they had their guests send donations to the zoo. It was the least they could do, really.