after getting off the plane, they were ushered immediately into a car with tinted windows. even though at this point, zayn didn't really care anymore, he still wanted to do this as privately as possible. a couple of fans had seen them at the airport, but at the speed they were walking, they didn't have much time for anything else than a couple of waves for some starstruck girls. and because zayn liked to invest his time in the best security team possible made up of people that they both trusted with their life so that not a word of his plans would get out to anybody.

as a result, they were in paris and nobody but the necessary people had a clue, and zayn was quite smug about it. with harry tucked right against his side, zayn kept an arm around him and kissed his hair. "just sit tight for a bit more, yeah? we're almost there." the car ride to their destination took a few minutes, all of which they spent looking through the window at the streets of paris while they made a short list of places they wanted to visit.

"i wanna go to some museums and take a photo of you posing next to the sculptures, i doubt there'd be much difference," he teased with a pinch at harry's arm.

ignoring the confused looks from harry as the car began to leave paris and turn into a more secluded and isolated road that was surrounded by some thick woods, zayn held his hand and rolled his eyes. "i'm not murdering you on your birthday, just trust me." truthfully, zayn was a little nervous, even, but eager to see things through.

eventually, they drove into a grass-covered clearing that appeared to be the backyard of a big white mansion. on the field, a huge hot air balloon of the same color was stationed, a couple of people loading up the necessary equipment into the basket. "so uh, this is it," zayn said, gesturing at the scene with his eyebrows. "i managed to pull a couple of strings, you know, turns out a mate of a mate of a mate of mine owns a hot air balloon and can fly it, so. figured that'd be nice and romantic, yeah?" warmth crept onto zayn's cheeks, because maybe this is just a bit too sappy to be real and serious, but this was happening now.

a light gust of wind immediately greeted them as they stepped out of the car, but his hand found harry's as soon as they were walking towards the person zayn had coordinated with. it was somebody that zayn hadn't known that well, but he partially turned them into best friends within the span of a week just so he could call in this favor for harry's birthday. "this is joaquin, babe, and he's our pilot, gonna be like a proper tour guide and everything, but he promised to be quiet if we ever get a little intimate," he said half jokingly, but he threw a wink at harry anyway.

after helping harry into the basket without falling on his face, zayn hopped into the space with ease himself. he made everybody recheck if everything they would need for the trip was inside with them and secure, because even though this was going to be his grand and romantic gesture, zayn was still scared of heights and had to be given nights of reassurances that they'd be alright. they would be up there for an hour before touching down in the same place, so it was important not to be so antsy.

"i'm fine! fucking hell, don't get me psyched up," he said with a laugh, though he was taking deep breaths to prepare himself, because he still wanted to enjoy this. paris was a beautiful city and he was with the most beautiful person he knew. it wasn't hard to believe that this was still going to be an amazing experience, and he only hoped that harry would feel the same.

zayn carefully approached a small cooler on the floor and pulled out a cold bottle of champagne, "let's make things a bit more festive, yeah?" he said with a grin.