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Faking It

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Chapter 1

Harry had got out of bed two hours ago and he was already wishing he’d stayed there. Or put on a funny disguise. Maybe something with a moustache.

“Hey, Styles!”

Resigned, Harry’s feet faltered against his better judgement and he shoved his curls aside with jittery fingers. He’d been letting his hair grow out a bit, the ends of it reaching a little past his ears. “Hey.”

“So,” Guy started and Harry already knew where this was going. He wished he knew how to be firm, rude even, not having to worry about hurting anyone’s feelings. “Tomorrow is Friday and I bet you don’t have anything to do, so… how about that date?”

“I already—”

“Oh, come on. Just one date?”

It should have been fine, brilliant even, to get asked out and have fun with someone attractive, but he just wasn’t feeling it. Only no matter how many times he said he didn’t want to go on a date, Guy never seemed to hear it.

“I’m… um, I have plans.” Harry glanced around the uni quad frantically, seeking out any of his friends who might have come to his rescue. Of course, none of them were around when he needed them. Not even Louis. Louis was supposed to just know.

Even though they’d agreed to meet up by the student centre. Still.

“We can just hang out, you know. Nothing serious. See where it takes us,” Guy said, with that undertone in his voice that made Harry feel like Guy was already imagining him half naked in his dorm bed. “I can show you around my place.”

“As I said,” Harry rubbed the back of his neck, staring at the tips of his dirty white sneakers, at the smiley face right on top Louis had drawn there with a permanent marker. “I have plans. And I don’t really… I’m just not interested. I already told you that.”

The second he glanced up again, he wished he hadn’t. Guy was staring at Harry’s crotch.

“On Saturday then?”

Harry just wanted to leave.

He wished he was more assertive. That he could say ‘no, mate, I’m not ever going to go out with you, because you’re only after a shag and I’m not interested in you at all’ and just stalk off.

Instead he stood there and said the absolute worst thing he could possibly say. “I have a thing. With my boyfriend.”

The tips of his ears burned the way they always did when he lied. It was just a matter of time before he tripped himself up and confessed it wasn’t real, so he just muttered a barely audible, “Bye,” and spun on his heel.

Guy caught his elbow and asked, “Really? Like who? You said you didn’t want to date and now you suddenly have a boyfriend?”

It was incredible how Guy suddenly seemed to have acknowledged something Harry had been telling him for weeks.

“It’s new, we’ve only been together for like two days… it just kind of happened.” He hoped he didn’t look as flustered as he felt. He’d never been to good at lying on the spot. “I’ve liked him for a while, I just didn’t want anyone to know. Not before he did.”

“Really,” Guy said as if he didn’t believe him for a second. “Who is it then?”

Harry wrenched his arm out of Guy’s hold, his stomach in knots, that’s not really any of your business on the tip of his tongue.

He opened his mouth to say just that when familiar fingers curled around his shoulder and squeezed.

“All right here, lads?”

Harry breathed out and turned into Louis, relieved. “Hey.”

“I’ve been waiting for you, Harold. Can’t believe you left me stranded there with this heavy can of Coke all by myself. I had to go look for you. My arm is tired.”

“Didn’t you get me one too?” Harry asked, letting Louis wrap his arm around his shoulders even though Harry had started to outgrow him way back in sixth form.

“Thought we could share it then buy the orange fizzy one? Or just water. Wasn’t sure which one you wanted. But if you—”

“Hi?” Guy said, reminding Harry that he was still there. “We were talking here.”

Louis was still smiling when he said, “And now you’re not. Funny how that works, innit? By the way, it’s bloody rude to interrupt people who are speaking.”

Before Guy could reply, Louis was steering Harry away, not so quietly adding, “What a prick.”

Harry buried his face in his hands and groaned.

“Was he bothering you again?”

He let his arms hang by his sides and cast Louis a sidelong glance. “I mean… maybe?”

Louis sighed.

“I just can’t,” Harry said, his knuckles bumping into Louis’ hip as they walked. “He keeps asking me out, no matter how many times I’ve told him no.”

“You need to tell him to piss the hell off. Maybe then he’ll let you be.”

“I tried once. Well, I mean, I got annoyed at him but then I just felt awful and rude and he thought I was flirting.”

Louis pulled him in tight and nosed at his cheek, and Harry wished he had Louis at his side every minute of every day because being around him made everything okay.

“You shouldn’t even feel bad though. He’s a knob. He clearly doesn’t give a shit about how he’s making you feel, so why should you?”

“I know,” Harry said. “I might have told him I have a boyfriend? Maybe he’ll leave me alone now.”

Louis’ fingers found their way into Harry’s hair, just carding through and lightly pulling. Harry almost tripped over his own feet because it always made him weak.

“He didn’t seem to believe me anyway.”

He watched his and Louis’ feet move in tandem, the grass still dewy from the morning drizzle.

Louis’ feet paused, bringing them both to a staggering halt as he pulled slightly away.

“What?” Harry asked, turning to face Louis and hurrying to add, “I don’t really have a boyfriend, just so we’re clear. You’d be the first to know.”

“Hey,” Louis tapped the tip of Harry’s nose. “I know, duckling. I know.”

“Then why did you stop?”

Louis dropped his gaze, fingers pulling idly at the bottom of Harry’s blue plaid shirt. It was a size too big and Louis had got it for him when Lottie had dragged him to vintage shops during summer. It was Harry’s favourite.

“I just had a really stupid idea. Never mind.”

“What?” Harry let Louis pull him along again, their arms switching as Harry wrapped his around Louis’ shoulders and Louis wound his around Harry’s waist. He was all set and ready to start whining until Louis gave in. He knew all Louis’ weak spots.

They’d been best friends since the very first day of elementary when Harry had been crying in the courtyard, scared and missing Mum, and Louis had taken his hand and shared his cubed fruit with him even though he’d been two years above and being friends with younger kids had been considered lame.

“Okay, but it’s stupid. I can… I mean. I’ll do it. We can… you can say you’re dating me.”

Harry blinked, bringing Louis to a halt and meeting his eyes. “You would?”

“Don’t be daft. Come here,” Louis said a second before he was folding Harry into a hug, rubbing comforting circles into Harry’s back, his lips soft against the edge of Harry’s jaw. Nobody gave better hugs than Louis. Not even Mum. Not that he’d ever tell her that. “I just want you to feel okay, yeah? ‘S not like we’d have to do much. Half the dorm already thinks we’re dating.”

Harry laughed and tucked himself closer into Louis’ arms.

Yeah, most people did. They didn’t get what he and Louis had. That they were more than just something that could be summed up in one word and tied neatly with a bow. Louis was his best friend, his soulmate, the person who had always been there to support him and listen to him and make him laugh when he didn’t even think he could.

They weren’t together though. It wasn’t like that, no matter how many people thought it was.

“Do you want to go get pizza?” Harry asked.

“Is that even a question?”

When Louis smacked his bum and ran away, Harry just grinned and followed right after. He always did.

 

****

If it hadn’t been for Louis and all his other friends living here, Harry would have been considering changing dorms.

Harry pointedly leaned away and tried to ignore the way Guy’s gaze was burning into the side of his face. “I have a boyfriend? Like I told you. So, we’re doing stuff.”

“That doesn’t mean we can’t hang out.” Guy leaned his hip against the washing machine, his biceps bulging as he folded his arms over his chest and eyed Harry from head to toe in a way that implied anything but friendship. “Or is this mysterious boyfriend not letting you out of his sight? Not that I’d blame him—”

“It’s Louis,” Harry said curtly, giving up on folding his clothes nicely. This whole thing was just making him uncomfortable. “And no. I don’t need anyone’s permission to do anything.”

“Louis?” Guy straightened up. “Isn’t he your best mate?”

“He is that too.”

“Wait, I remember you telling someone he was like your brother. That Louis? Because if you’re trying to make me jealous, it’s working.” Guy’s fingertip trailed down Harry’s bare arm. “You look really hot in this top. Very sexy.”

“Well, he’s not. My brother.” Harry jerked away and gathered his laundry. He was only wearing a ratty old black vest and jeans. Maybe next time he should wear sweatpants and a turtleneck. Not that it would change anything. He had a feeling Guy would still find an inappropriate way to comment on it. “I need to go.”

He hurried out of the laundry room without waiting for Guy’s reply.

 

****

“What’s wrong?” Louis asked from where he was lounging on Harry’s bed with his legs propped up on the wall, popping gummy bears into his mouth. He always liked the red ones the best.

Harry’s dorm room was a tiny shoebox with a simple wooden wardrobe and a desk Louis had already pencilled penises on, a leather desk chair that creaked every time Harry tried to swivel and a string of lights Louis had helped him put up over his bed.

It was nice though. Cozy. He liked it.

“Lou, please don’t talk and eat at the same time. Sit up or you’ll choke.”

“You wouldn’t let me. I’m not worried.” He bit off a gummy bear’s head and threw the rest at Harry. It bounced off Harry’s shoulder and fell down on the floor. It was a yellow one. He bent over to pick it up and threw it in the paper bin. “Stop working and come cuddle.”

Harry pouted at his notes. He was almost done colour-coding the last bit. Maybe he could leave it for tomorrow. Not like he could concentrate when Louis was clearly in a mood to distract him.

“You still haven’t told me what’s wrong,” Louis said.

There wasn’t even any point in saying that everything was fine. Louis knew him like the back of his hand.

“Cuddles!” Louis screamed so loudly Harry was quite sure his next-door neighbours must have heard it. The walls in this place were thin.

“Shhh.”

“Cuddles,” Louis insisted, grinning and taking a deep breath as if to take it up a notch.

Harry got off his chair, turned on his heel and dived right on top of the bed before Louis could do any more damage. The last time Louis had attempted to recreate Beethoven’s Ode to Joy with armpit farts, Harry had got a complaint. It hadn’t even been loud.

Well, Harry’s honking laugh might have something to do with the complaint, but that was neither here nor there.

“You’re so needy.”

“Yes.” Louis stretched out his arm and wriggled his fingers. “Indulge me.”

Harry rolled into Louis, curling his legs up, knees under his chin, because Louis was lying bloody sideways and the bed wasn’t that big.

“Not too comfy,” Louis said as though he could read Harry’s mind. It wouldn’t have been that surprising at this point.

He manhandled Harry so they could stretch out their legs and pulled Harry back into his arms, his knees fitted to the backs of Harry’s. They always fit like they belonged just like this.

It’s not like that.

“Lou?”

“What’s up?”

“Do you think you could, like, hold my hand?”

Louis’ fingertips trailed down the back of Harry’s hand before Louis’ fingers curled around it and squeezed.

“Like this?” Louis asked, quiet and careful, his breath puffing against Harry’s nape. He shivered, and it was dumb. This was Louis. They’d always been close.

“I mean, like… tomorrow maybe? In front of people?”

“Oh.” Louis made to draw back but Harry caught his hand and held it to his chest, tangling their fingers until Louis slumped against him again, his chest pressed to Harry’s back with no room to spare.

“Right now, too. I just… Guy kind of told me he didn’t believe I was dating you.”

“He’s a wanker. Everyone would want to date me.”

Harry giggled and twisted around in Louis’ arms so he could tuck his face into the crook of Louis’ neck. He smelled like fresh laundry and cocoa butter. Like childhood and home.

“Yet you haven’t dated anyone in ages.”

Louis’ chest rose and fell on a deep breath. “Haven’t met anyone interesting enough, I guess. I did get with that tall lad a couple weeks ago, didn’t I? What was his name again?”

“Tom?”

“Yes, that’s it.” Louis squeezed Harry tight with his arm around Harry’s shoulders, wriggling around until Harry’s thigh fell between Louis’ spread legs like puzzle pieces finally slotting in their proper place.

“Was he… was he good?” Harry resisted the urge to bite a mark into Louis’ neck because he’d never liked other people having Louis’ attention, had always felt cast aside, even though he knew Louis loved him the best. He just… he didn’t like sharing. He didn’t even know why he was asking now, why it left this unsettled feeling weighing down on his chest.

Maybe he just felt like the odd man out.

“He gave good head.”

Harry muffled his squawk in Louis’ neck, clenching his hand in the side of Louis’ simple black T-shirt. “Louis.”

“You did ask.”

Harry was in his first year of uni and Louis was too, because he’d failed his A-levels and had to repeat a year. After that he’d said he’d just take a year off to get a job and earn some money for uni so Jay wouldn’t have to worry about it on top of everything else.

Harry had always loved how tenacious Louis could be, how determined. How he always tried to make things easier for everyone he loved.

“You got awfully quiet there, love.” Louis rubbed his stubbly chin over the top of Harry’s head, fingertips picking at the fabric of Harry’s vest over his shoulder. “You all right? Too graphic for you?”

“Not enough,” Harry joked, hoping to lighten the mood.

Louis ran his fingers over the inner curve of Harry’s arm, just shy of touching his armpit. He squirmed and dug his knuckles into Louis’ side. “Don’t.”

“We both know I won’t. I’m the one at a disadvantage here.”

Harry was ticklish, yeah, but Louis was downright dying if anyone even got within an inch of his feet, armpits or neck with anything resembling ill intent. “Remember when I made you pee your pants?”

Louis whined out, “shut up,” and Harry just laughed and hugged him tighter, his eyelids growing heavy because the warmth of Louis’ body was lulling him to sleep.

“You were fifteen.”

“Can we not relive my most humiliating moments? I don’t deserve this.”

Harry laughed into the cut of Louis’ jaw, and his breath must have been ticklish because Louis shivered, his thighs clamping hard around Harry’s before he relaxed again.

“Will you stay here tonight?” Harry asked.

“If you want,” Louis mumbled into Harry’s hair.

“Is that even a question?” Harry repeated Louis’ earlier words and refused to move an inch even as Louis huffed and puffed as he tried to yank the duvet from beneath their limp bodies.

“You’re useless.”

“Hmph,” was all Harry said, already dozing off as Louis tucked the duvet around their tangled up bodies just like Harry knew he would.

 

****

They were in the dorm kitchenette with Harry bent over a saucepan filled with pasta sauce when someone suddenly gently gripped his hips and soft, damp lips touched the nape of his neck.

“Wha—”

“Shh,” Louis whispered, his voice trailing on a barely suppressed laugh, “Your stalker is watching us.”

It was Louis. Just Louis.

Harry willed his heart to slow down, his hand limply holding the wooden spoon. He should be stirring.

Louis pressed himself up against his back, fingertips just sliding beneath Harry’s threadbare white T-shirt to brush over the sensitive skin of his hipbones. “Is this okay?”

“Um, yeah. Yes.” He gripped the spoon tight and closed his eyes.

“Think he’ll believe you’re dating me now?”

“I don’t… I don’t know.” Why was it so hard to breathe? Fuck. He needed to get away from the stove. The steam was making him dizzy.

Harry had to steady himself against the counter, the steam from the sauce making his eyes water. He really needed to stir it or it would burn to the bottom.

“He’s gone,” Louis whispered, his hands leaving trails of fire on Harry’s skin when he finally stepped away.

Harry kind of didn’t want to look Louis in the eye, his hands shaking as he started to stir the sauce again.

What the hell had just happened? What had he felt like… like… nothing. Nothing. It was just Louis. He’d have reacted to anyone touching him like that. It didn’t mean anything.

By the time he served them dinner and leaned over the table to wipe the tomato sauce off Louis’ chin, everything was back to normal.

 

****

“Where’s your other half?” Niall asked, hip-checking him as he dragged Harry down to the student centre. He wouldn’t tell Harry why, but Harry had an inkling.

Niall never failed to stop at the condom collection point.

“He has a lecture. And it’s not like we go everywhere together.”

He could see Niall turn to look at him from the corner of his eye. The cackle that followed was unwarranted. They didn’t go everywhere together. They had their own lives and hobbies and they only slept in the same bed sometimes, it wasn’t—

“That fact that you knew who I was talking about right away says enough,” Niall said, pulling at Harry’s wrist to make him walk faster, clearly disregarding that Harry was taking offense. “You’re like two tits. Or nipples. You come in a pair.”

“What are you even—”

“Wait. Does that mean Liam and I are the other, smaller nipples? You know, because you have four. I’m the bigger of the smaller ones, right?”
Harry should never have shared his Twix bar that first day of the Freshers’ Fair. He could have been dozing off under his mound of blankets right now. Instead he was being accosted, walking into the student centre and watching Niall swipe his card to get free condoms.

One second Harry was busying himself with reading a STD prevention leaflet and the next Niall was stuffing condoms into Harry’s pockets.

“Niall!” He jumped and swatted Niall’s hands away, his face burning as he bent down to pick up a couple fallen packets that hadn’t made it in. The judging glances aimed their way from a couple of students nearby was enough to make Harry want to write them a personal letter of apology before running away.

“You can’t just—”

“Haz, I love you, but you need to loosen up. Be prepared. This is bloody uni. Live a little!” He slapped Harry’s shoulder hard enough that Harry stumbled forward and almost brained himself against the condom vending machine as he was straightening up.

“I am living, and I am loose!”

The same pair of students who had been giving them glances fell silent and openly stared.

Not knowing what else to do, Harry stuffed the fallen condoms into his pockets and studiously avoided anything but the tips of his own shoes.

“You’re definitely the smallest nipple,” Harry muttered. He wouldn’t even apologize.

Niall just laughed. Of course he did. The only time Harry had ever seen him genuinely insulted was when some sophomore had called his barbecue ‘mediocre’.

“You’ll thank me one of these days.”

Bloody hell. How was he even supposed to use any of these? He wasn’t in love with anyone.

“I’m not just going to shag someone. Not that it’s wrong, just… not now.” Not like that, a one night stand with someone he couldn’t trust. And maybe it was sad for him to be nineteen and his wildest sexual story being a kiss, but… he didn’t want to do the rest until he was in love.

Louis wouldn’t have pushed him about stuff like this.

“How about we find you some nice boyfriend then, yeah?”

“I can’t,” Harry admitted even though he should probably have kept his mouth shut. Then again, he’d have to fess up eventually. “I’m kind of… Louis and I—”

“I fucking knew it!”

“What?” There was no way Niall could possibly—

“So you did finally get your heads out your asses, I was just telling Liam—”

Oh. Oh no. “No, that’s not… we’re not together! I mean, we are. I mean… we’re faking it?”

The last time Harry had seen that expression on Niall’s face was when their lecturer had added two extra titles to their reading list.

And what the hell were he and Liam discussing when Harry wasn’t around?

“I don’t know what’s going on, but I don’t like it.”

“Louis is just helping me. You know Guy? From my seminar group. He just won’t leave me alone, because apparently being single means I’m fair game. I kind of might have told him I was dating Louis so he’d leave me be?”

Niall blinked at him. “You two are so dumb.”

“Hey!” See if Harry would ever share his snacks with Niall again.

“You do realize that the second you stop pretending to date, he’ll be all over you again. If he’ll even care about that kind of stuff at all.”

Wait. “Oh. I mean… oh.”

Well. Bollocks.

But still. “You never know, he might back off. He just has to see I wasn’t making it up. Or like, at least I’ll have an excuse not to go out with him if he asks again.”

And even though Niall was studying the same modern language course, he was in a different seminar group. Harry had come to dread those because Guy always sat next to him and stared at Harry more than he did at the lecturer.

“Might,” Niall repeated, heaving a loud sigh and adjusting his snapback as if he was readying for a rant worthy of one of his spiels about the politics in America. “I reckon he could, but you’re telling me you expect Louis to not really date you, but not shag anyone else either? News travels fast around here. If he shags someone else, you might as well have finished with each other.”

And like, Harry hadn’t thought too much about it, hadn’t really considered how it would work or what it would mean. He tried to convince himself, “I’m not selfish.”

Maybe he shouldn’t have lied in the first place, or let Louis do this for him. He was in too deep already.

“No, you’re not,” Niall said, his hand warm on Harry’s shoulder. “But you really did get yourself into a proper mess.”

Rare though it was, Harry couldn’t help but think Niall was probably right.

 

****

Louis had been eyeing Harry strangely ever since he’d walked out of his lecture and found Harry and Niall waiting for him by the exit.

Harry just really wanted to empty the pockets of his jeans and hide the condoms somewhere in the back of his underwear drawer.

“You look jumpy.”

“Me?” He cleared his throat. His voice always went higher when he was trying to cover something up. “’M not. Just… don’t know. Sorry.”

“A riveting story, that,” Louis teased, tone warm and gentle, his knuckles pressing into Harry’s hip, too close to his condom-filled pockets. The second he twitched away, he knew he’d just made a mistake.

“Okay. You’re being weird, even for you.”

“M not.”

“You’re acting like I’m going to bite you.” They made it inside their dorm building, the warmth of Louis’ hand hovering over Harry’s lower back. “I mean, fair enough. It wouldn’t be the first time, but… come on. Talk to me? Is it because of the, you know, the thing?”

Harry shouldn’t know, but somehow he and Louis had never needed specifics to understand each other’s incoherent gibberish. “No. Louis, no. That’s not… I want to. I should be asking you. I’m putting you out.”

Louis trailed his fingertips down the back of Harry’s hand, their glances meeting for a split second before Harry ducked his and opened up his hand so Louis could slide his in.

“Yeah, proper torture, this,” Louis said quietly, squeezing Harry’s hand. “I honestly don’t mind, all right?”

It wasn’t the first time. They’d held hands before, to lead each other or just to touch when they were napping. Sometimes Harry would turn Louis’ hand over and fit their palms together just to tease Louis about how much smaller his was in comparison. This was… different. Maybe because there was this strange kind of purpose behind it now.

“Promise?” Harry knew they’d need to talk about some kind of ground rules eventually, about how they were going to do any of this, but right now he just needed to hear Louis promise.

“I do.”

They stayed silent on the way to Harry’s room, greeting a few of the people living on their floor.

Too distracted to stop Louis, Harry could only watch with horror when Louis let go of his hand and dived into Harry’s front pocket to get his room key out.

A couple condoms fell out right by Harry’s curved in feet.

They both froze, Harry’s gaze snapping up to meet Louis’. “I’m… this isn’t… I wasn’t—”

“Wow, um… I was not expecting that.”

Harry had more stuffed in his other pocket, oh god.

“Shit,” Harry said, dropping to his knees with a definite lack of grace, cringing at the impact and his life in general, because now Louis was kneeling down too. Harry’s face felt like someone had lit a match under his skin.

“Something you want to tell me, love?”

Louis was holding a condom. Harry was going to kill Niall. This was so bloody embarrassing.

“I wasn’t even… Niall. He did,” Harry huffed out a breath, feeling defensive because he wouldn’t be using them anytime soon. Niall always meant well, but sometimes it just made Harry feel like a bit of a freak, like look at this bloody virgin, he better gets laid soon or then it’s just weird. He didn’t regret not losing it before he was even fifteen like most of his friends, but sometimes he hated the way others made him feel about it without even knowing. “Keep it, like… I won’t be using it anyway.”

Louis sighed but shoved the condom in his hand and the ones on the floor into the other, already crowded pocket of Harry’s too tight jeans.

“Bloody hell, do I need to have a talk with Nialler?”

“Can we please not?” He got up to his feet, wobbling, desperate to get out of the open hallway and just bury himself under blankets and get Louis to make him tea.

Louis’ arm snuck around Harry’s waist to pull Harry against his chest. Harry let him, of course he did. Being close to Louis always made everything better.

“Hey now, you can use them without shagging anyone. Saves you the clean up.”

“Louis,” Harry managed, glad his back was to Louis. He felt a lot like squirming when the door finally closed behind them.

“I mean, I did buy you that dildo as a gag gift, pun kind of intended, but I won’t judge if you put it to use.” He was smiling into Harry’s neck and Harry wanted to bury his head under a pillow, but he couldn’t help but chuckle. He never could keep up self-pity for too long when Louis was around.

“Shut up. I use it as a paperweight.”

“Inventive,” Louis commented, nudging Harry towards his bed.

It was a lie. Harry used it more than he should, but Louis didn’t need to know that.

“This is so embarrassing, stop it.”

Louis spun him around and pushed him down on the bed, the mattress bouncing under Harry’s weight. “I feel like I should give you a sex-ed lesson. Make sure you’re being responsible and that you’re taking proper care of yourself. Use enough lube and prep and all that.”

Harry threw the closest pillow at Louis’ grinning face, ignoring the way his stomach swooped like that time Louis had taken him on his first rollercoaster ride.

“I bet I know more than you do,” Harry said, jutting his chin out, his eyes falling shut on instinct when Louis stepped between his spread thighs and buried his hands in Harry’s hair.

“Oh, do you? Are you a sexpert now?”

“I do read a lot.” He nudged into Louis’ hand to make him move. He did. He pulled on Harry’s hair just a little, scratching and teasing his fingers through Harry’s hair until he felt like purring. He reached out blindly and found Louis’ hips, holding onto them and slumping forward until he felt the soft cotton of Louis’ T-shirt under his cheek.

“You’re just a small duckling. Look at you.”

“Don’t stop.”

“Fine,” Louis sighed and Harry knew he was feigning annoyance because he could never keep his hands out of Harry’s hair for too long even when Harry didn’t ask. Maybe Harry would let it grow out even more, way past his shoulders. Get proper locks and have Louis braid them when he got bored. “But you’ve got to give me a foot rub.”

“After you have a shower.”

“Deal.”

“Twenty minutes?” Harry asked, because that’s how long he usually rubbed Louis’ feet. And he definitely could see why people would think they were more than friends, but he just… he trusted Louis more than anyone, knew it was safe to be as affectionate as he wanted to without it getting awkward.

“Look at you and your stamina. Impressive.”

Harry giggled into Louis’ chest, wrapping his arms around Louis’ waist so he could hug Louis hard enough to make him squeak.

“I could totally last longer than that.”

“So young and naïve,” Louis said, thumbing behind the shell of Harry’s ear. “Life will teach you, you just wait.”

Harry hoped Louis couldn’t feel the way it made his heartbeat speed up.

It had nothing to do with Louis. It didn’t.

 

****

Rain pelted against Harry’s window in a steady beat that made his eyelids even heavier, his limbs still weighed down into his mattress by the last remnants of sleep. It was a Saturday morning and he and the lads were supposed to go check out the new record shop in the city in about an hour.

Harry could hardly imagine even pulling on his socks, never mind getting out of bed. Maybe he could fake diarrhoea. Or food poisoning from that spicy chicken Niall had cooked yesterday.

He was just about to wriggle deeper under his duvet when someone knocked.

“Yeah?” he rasped, blinking at the door.

“Let me in,” Louis whined and Harry already knew he’d have his hands full. Figuratively and literally.

He got out of bed, the burgundy rug between his bed and desk tickling his bare feet. He curled his toes in and braved to step on the cold laminated floor, dragging his duvet behind him like a cape.

He wondered if his face was as puffy as it felt.

“You didn’t even brush your teeth yet, did you?” he asked when he opened the door to let Louis in.

“Neither did you,” Louis said, his warm breath tickling the side of Harry’s neck.

“Nope, was actually thinking of going back to sleep.”

Louis walked them back to Harry’s bed and toppled them over. Harry got an elbow in his side for his troubles.

“That was actually one of your better ideas,” Louis said, quiet and slower than usual. October weather always got to him.

“Your nose is cold,” Harry complained, somehow managing to shuffle them up on the bed so their feet wouldn’t dangle in the air.

“I’m not wearing socks.”

“I am shocked.”

“Stop sassing me. You’re supposed to be on my side.” Louis pressed his cold nose into Harry’s neck on purpose. “My human blanket.”

“You should set an alarm. We need to start getting ready in about forty minutes,” Harry reminded him then wrapped the duvet around them both and rolled Louis underneath him.

“Let’s just stay in today. It’s pissing outside.”

Harry fitted his thigh between Louis’s legs the way he always did, but Louis dragged in a shaky breath and tried to wriggle away. Harry knew why the second he felt Louis hard against his thigh.

“Sorry,” Louis said, shifting away just enough so Harry couldn’t feel it anymore, “Haven’t, um… haven’t had my morning wank yet.”

“’S okay,” Harry mumbled, even though his heart was beating high in his throat and he suddenly felt too warm, too heated under the duvet with Louis’ body pressed so close to his own. It was stupid. It wasn’t even the first time one of them got hard after having spooned the entire night or just… just because. It was bound to happen. Sometimes penises decided to do their own thing. Harry refused to make it weird.

“Do you want to, like, you know, go take care of it?”

“No,” Louis said, turning his head so his lips brushed over Harry’s forehead. “It’ll go down in a minute.”

Louis was right there, lying under him, sleepy and hard, and Harry needed to take his mind off it. He really didn’t need to follow suit.

“Should we talk? About the whole fake boyfriends thing?”

Louis buried his fingers in Harry’s hair, his thumb rubbing the spot behind Harry’s ear that only Louis knew turned Harry pliant.

“I was talking to Niall and he thinks we’re being dumb. That I’m not being fair to you.”

“I offered,” Louis said quietly, his thumb grazing Harry’s earlobe. “Niall doesn’t know shit.”

“He has a point though, like… it’s not like I’m giving up anything here. Because if we do this then you won’t be able to get with people and like, I don’t want you to resent me—”

“Harry,” Louis’ grip on Harry’s hair tightened, his lips resting against Harry’s hairline, “Don’t be silly. I’m not a bloody sex addict—”

“No, that’s not,” he heaved a frustrated breath. “I know you’re not. But it’s the ‘you can if you want to’ thing, you know? I don’t want to take that away from you.”

“You’re not. I’m in this, yeah? For however long. Besides, I honestly doubt he’ll keep it up much longer. He’ll get tired and bored and move onto someone else.” Teasingly, Louis added, “You’re not that hot, Harold.”

“Shut up.” Harry pinched Louis’ side, smiling at the way he squirmed. “I really hope you’re right.”

They woke up from their nap to Niall banging on Harry’s door.

The rain didn’t let up and they all felt a little gloomy for it, so they settled into the corner of the common room and shared the beanbags. Harry tucked his beanie over Louis’ ears because he wouldn’t stop complaining that his hair looked shit, and Louis shared his tea with Harry. Everything was okay. Nothing was going to change.

Then Liam opened his mouth and said, “Niall told me what you two were doing.” He looked guilty as he glanced around to check if anyone was eavesdropping, his brows furrowed in that deeply concerned way Harry was starting to think was Liam’s default mode. “If I’d known, I wouldn’t have said stuff.”

“What stuff?” Louis asked, tugging the sleeves of his hoodie over his hands, the back of his head bumping Harry’s chin. Harry tightened his arms around Louis’ middle to stop him from moving too much and accidentally knocking their heads together.

“Guy came up to me yesterday and started asking all these questions and I didn’t know, so I kind of might have said something when he asked if you two were really together?”

Harry stayed quiet, a sinking feeling in his stomach.

“Get on with it, Payno,” Louis said, impatient and verging on tetchy. “What did you tell him?”

“That you were best friends? And that you were always touchy but you weren’t dating? I didn’t know!”

Louis sighed and Harry hurried to add, “Don’t feel bad, Liam. You couldn’t have known.”

“I’m still sorry though.”

“It’s okay,” Harry reassured him even though he was starting to feel like it all had been for nothing and maybe he should just give it up and get over himself. If he just kept avoiding Guy and telling him he didn’t want to go out with him, surely Guy would give up eventually.

“We’ll just step up our game, won’t we?” Louis asked, picking at the sleeve of Harry’s sweater and tilting his head back to look at him.

Harry blinked at him, taken aback, but nodded anyway.

What had he gotten himself into?

 

****

Guy clearly hadn’t bought what Harry and Louis were selling. He’d kept asking Harry what he was doing after their last lecture the entire seminar. When Harry had deflected by saying he’d go out with his boyfriend Louis, Guy’s expression had been a clear yeah right.

‘We’ll just step up our game, won’t we?’

God, what were they doing? What was Harry doing? They couldn’t ever pull this off.

Alone and frustrated and in need of Louis, he paused with his knuckles hovering over Louis’ door, hesitating before he finally knocked.

At some point he needed to stop being so co-dependent on Louis to solve all his problems, to always be there when Harry needed him. Twenty years from now, he’d be a sad bachelor waiting his turn for Louis’ attention, the recipient of pitying looks from Louis’ husband and children. He couldn’t let that happen. He couldn’t be a burden.

He heard scuttle and a crash before the door finally opened to reveal a flushed Louis in nothing but an ugly orange blanket wrapped around his hips.

“Hi,” Harry said and fell into Louis so hard it made him stagger back and breathe out a surprised laugh into Harry’s neck.

Just… for a little bit longer. He could be selfish for a little bit longer, couldn’t he?

“What was that for?”

Harry just wrapped his arms tighter around Louis’ shoulders and shook his head. He was on the precipice of crying for absolutely no reason. Right now he didn’t need Louis to worry for nothing.

“Hey,” the door slammed shut and Louis’ hand found the dip of Harry’s lower back, “what’s wrong?”

Harry shook his head and refused to pull back, just dragged in an unsteady breath. Of course Louis would worry. It was stupid of him to think Louis wouldn’t instantly notice Harry was off.

“If you’re fine then I’m not nearly naked.”

The bare skin of Louis’ back suddenly burned Harry’s palms. Louis had always had the smoothest skin. Even when they’d hit puberty and Harry had looked a mess, constantly breaking out, Louis had sailed on through with barely a blemish. Louis had always been… more. Just beautiful.

“Sorry,” he mumbled, the silky warmth of Louis’ shoulder blades a familiar comfort. “I just barged in. Shouldn’t have.”

“You always do,” Louis reminded him without reproach, with the voice he reserved for his younger sisters and Harry. “Rude.”

Harry tucked his nose behind Louis’ ear and rubbed his hand up and down Louis’ back when he felt Louis shiver. He must have been chilly.

“Sorry, I’ll be good.”

Louis fisted his hand in the back of Harry’s T-shirt and said, “Come on then, sit your bum down. I’ll just… yeah.”

Harry glimpsed the paused screen on Louis’ half-shut laptop and froze. “Um… do you want me to leave?”

“What? Wh—” He noticed the line of Harry’s eyesight and chuckled, scratching the side of his scruffy face. “No. That’s… it’s nothing.”

“You were watching porn,” Harry stated the obvious because even when he was down he couldn’t really pass up an opportunity to tease Louis until he was blushing. He rarely blushed. It would be a crime not to take advantage of it, and it beat wondering whether Louis was naked under that blanket.

“Thank you for that terrific observation. With that skill set, you should have gone into criminology instead.”

Harry inched his way towards the laptop, blood shooting straight into his cheeks when he saw a guy with his tongue buried in some other guy’s ass. “Wow.”

“Bugger,” Louis said and then he was flattening the laptop lid and Harry was choking back a desperate giggle.

“I don’t think I’d ever want to put my tongue in someone’s bum.”

“There shall be no kink shaming in this room or I’m kicking you out.” Louis raised his eyebrows and nudged Harry to sit on his bed. “I swear you’re worse than a cat. Always have to know everything.”

“I’m not kink shaming!” He willed his face to go back to its normal, not-blindingly-red colour. “I just… wanted to know.”

“As I said. Worse than a cat.”

Harry pouted. “I can go. If you want to wank in peace.”

Louis heaved a sigh. “Don’t be daft. Stay put. I’ll just… I’ve got to put some boxers on, hang on.”

He turned his back on Harry and dropped the blanket before Harry could as much as blink. It was still early enough for the sun to filter in through the windows and hit Louis’ skin, bathing him hues of shimmery gold and cascading down his spine to the curve of his ass as he bent over to pull a pair of boxers out of his dresser.

Harry dropped his gaze to his slippers and swallowed hard. Louis was objectively nice to look at that, that was all.

“So, what’s bringing you to my humble abode?” Louis asked, drawing Harry’s gaze back up just as Louis pulled the boxers up his thighs and turned around. Louis’ boner didn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon.

“I should go.”

“Come on,” Louis said, scratching the skin above his waistband, his skin flushed. For a second Harry wondered if Louis would tremble if he touched him. Then he realised what he was doing and bit down on his lip hard enough for the pain to snap him out of it. “Don’t be a wanker and stay.”

“Poor choice of words,” Harry pointed out, releasing his lip and tucking his hands under his thighs. The room felt too small, smaller than usual, and it wasn’t because of all the random shit scattered on the floor.

“True, but… not like I’m going to die of blue balls. You’ve got a pair. You should know.”

Harry did know, but he also knew how frustrating it was to be interrupted mid-wank, so, “Would you be the one doing the bum eating or the one having his bum eaten?”

Well. Okay. He hadn’t meant to ask that.

Louis spun his swivel chair around and straddled it, his chin propped up on the backrest. He had no business looking so soft, so innocent, when they were discussing something entirely naughty and he was still straining against his boxers.

Louis hummed, his toes flexing against the floor, his calves taut. “Do you kiss your mum with that mouth?”

Harry blinked, darting a glance towards the laptop and trying to choke back the urge to start giggling. “You don’t have to answer me. If you’re a, um… a chicken.”

“How dare you! I am not. I’m a cock, if anything.”

“Oh god,” Harry rubbed his hand down his face, trying not to turn ever redder because this was ridiculous.

“How about you guess which I am? If you’re wrong, you’ll have to do my laundry all month.”

“I already do that,” Harry reminded him, biting down on a grin. He enjoyed doing laundry, which was something Louis liked to make fun of him for. Harry didn’t mind. “Fine. I guess… I guess both? Depending on your mood, or like, who you’re with?”

Louis’ mouth relaxed into a lazy grin, his fingers splayed over the back of the chair. “You’re not wrong.”

“So have you ever,” Harry widened his eyes, signalling Louis with his mind to just know. As much as Louis had never been shy about his exploits, he never bragged. Or like, given Harry anything more than a blurry watercolour version of the events that Harry had pulled out of him.

“Wanted to, but… don’t know. Think it’s more of a long term relationship thing to me.”

“Oh,” was all he could say, squirming. “Would you like to?”

“You offering to eat my bum?”

“You wish,” Harry mumbled and chucked the nearest pillow at Louis’ head. He didn’t even swat it away, just laughed and let it drop harmlessly to the floor.

He tilted his head and for a few beats he just looked at Harry, intent and no longer amused. Harry kind of wanted to look away.

“Actually, what I wish is for you to not have to deal with anything shitty ever,” Louis said.

The chair squeaked as he got up and sat down next to Harry on the bed, their sides flush. Harry pressed his thumb into the scar above Louis’ left knee, the one he’d got when he’d been ten and thought driving down a hill on an old bike without breaks was a good idea.

“Louis—”

Louis took a hold of Harry’s hand and turned it over, fitting them palm to palm. “Have I ever let you down?”

Louis’ skin was hot to the touch and all Harry could think of was that time in primary when two lads from a year above had made fun of Harry for bringing a plush monkey to school and Louis had tried to beat them up with a bag of shoes he’d worn to the gym. And even though he’d been smaller and it was two against one, they’d both run away crying.

“No. No, you haven’t.”

“And I won’t.” He intertwined their fingers and lifted their joined hands to his mouth, his lips soft against Harry’s knuckles. “I’d do anything to make you feel comfortable.”

“You shouldn’t have to,” Harry said, looking away. “I feel like a child. I should be able to handle this on my own.”

“Stop. That’s not… You’re just,” Louis sighed, frustrated, his thumb pressing into the back of Harry’s hand as he lowered them back to rest on his thigh, “too good. Too kind. And he’s a dick.”

“I think he genuinely thinks I’m just playing hard to get,” Harry glanced up. Louis’ hair was soft and falling into his face, his cheeks dusted with stubble. When had Louis grown up so much? “That this is just some kind of ploy to make him jealous.”

“We’ll just have to show him that it’s not, won’t we?”

Louis’ eyes crinkled at the corners, sunlight streaming in through the window turning his eyelashes dark gold. For a second Harry thought they might leave stardust on Louis’ cheeks every time he blinked.

He averted his gaze and rested his head on Louis’ shoulder instead. “I love you, Lou.”

“I love you too.”

“I can’t believe you’re still hard.”

Louis twisted Harry’s nipple and Harry squawked, slapping Louis’ hand away.

They were fine. Everything was going to be fine.

 


 

 

Chapter 2

No matter how many times Niall cast them a disapproving glance with a perplexed Liam by his side, they didn’t stop. It was just so easy, to hold Louis’ hand where everyone could see, so natural to be close enough to him to feel the warmth of his body.

Louis seemed to feel the same way.

“You’re my little… sugar muffin. My sweetest gummy bear, my—”

Harry muffled the rest of the sentence with his palm and got his hand licked for his troubles.

“Am I supposed to be grossed out?” Harry asked, smiling softly the way he always did when Louis was acting silly.

Louis narrowed his eyes, about as intimidating as a disgruntled kitten. Harry wasn’t worried. He just smiled until his cheeks dimpled and pulled his hand away when Louis tried to bite.

“I’m filing a complaint about being mistreated,” Harry said as they headed towards the common room.

“Well then, so am I,” Louis said. The mischievous tilt of his mouth didn’t bode well for Harry at all. It was the exact same expression Louis had had when he’d put lemons in Liam’s shoes two days ago. “I don’t feel like I’m being pampered enough. Where’s the love, you know? Where are my grand romantic gestures and poems inspired by my eternal beauty and—”

“You’re so dumb—”

“And you won’t ever let me finish my sentences! And now you just called me dumb. Fine.” Louis yanked his hand away with dramatic flourish and started to jog away, deliberately slow enough for Harry to be able to catch up in a few strides.

“I love you!” Harry called dramatically, his cheeks just a little hot as he grabbed Louis around his waist and lifted him off his feet until Louis was laughing and kicking out his legs, the squirming weight of him hard to hold onto.

“Brute! Unhand me! Someone help!”

“I’m being romantic!”

“Whoa,” Louis said just as Harry started to lose his balance and tipped forward, almost bringing them crashing face-first into the floor. Louis managed to get the ground beneath his feet and brace them, but they still stumbled, almost falling right into the common room’s doorframe.

“I can’t believe you tried to kill me,” Louis said, breathless and laughing as he twisted around and gripped Harry’s upper arms, shooting a glance inside the common room.

“I’m actually a secret agent sent here to dispose of you. I’ve been pretending to be your fr—”

Louis smacked his hand over Harry’s mouth, eyebrows raised as he mouthed ‘boyfriend’.

Harry couldn’t help it. He licked out.

“Honestly,” Louis said dryly and wiped his palm on Harry’s chest. “The worst secret agent I’ve ever met.”

“And you’ve met many.”

“Loads,” Louis said, jutting his chin out with an air of self-importance. The corner of his mouth twitched. Harry’s twitched in response.

“Hey,” Louis said, smiling widely now, his toes bumping into Harry’s. His hands dropped to Harry’s waist to pull him close.

“What?” Harry swayed closer, barely catching the impish glint in Louis’ eye before he was leaning in and nuzzling Harry’s neck.

“I see one of Guy’s laddy bro pals. He’s sitting in the common room,” Louis whispered. “Ready?”

“Ready for wh—” The rest of the words trailed out into a surprised squeak because Louis had just dragged his hand down to cup Harry’s ass and squeezed.

“Shh, come on. Where’s your acting game?”

Acting. Yeah. He was just… just acting. His heart wouldn’t slow down because he was still… just like, worked up from the effort of lifting Louis up—

Louis was kissing Harry’s neck, his mouth wet and hot, pressing right over Harry’s hammering pulse. He couldn’t concentrate or keep up with what was going on anymore.

“If you’re uncomfortable, tell me, okay?” Louis said before he parted his lips and sucked.

“No, this is… it’s good.” Harry felt like the floor was tilting beneath his feet, his head rolling to the side on instinct to bare his throat. He’d never expected his neck to be this sensitive. Louis was still cupping his bum, oh god. People could see them, could probably see exactly what this was doing to Harry.

Louis pressed his teeth in on the right side of painful, his hand sliding into Harry’s back pocket. Harry wondered how much longer he could stand it before his knees buckled.

“Louis,” he said, his voice breaking just enough for him to clamp his mouth shut and consider praying as Louis’ tongue swiped over his skin and he just… kept… sucking.

When he finally pulled back, his mouth made an obscene, smacking sound.

Harry was a second away from growing fully hard in his pants. It wasn’t even… it was just that he hadn’t been touched like that, well, ever. He’d briefly kissed a few people but he’d never gone further than that, had never made it far enough for his heart to beat so hard it might break his ribs.

“Think that should do it,” Louis said just as someone catcalled them from the common room.

It took Harry a moment to gather himself, to close his mouth and try to calm down because his face was about to self-combust.

Something over two years ago, Harry had lied.

During that stupid party at Jenny Hirst’s house at the end of Year Twelve, when Harry had been roped into playing Seven Minutes in Heaven, he’d never really done anything. The boy he’d gone in with had told everyone they’d full on snogged and that things had got heated, but… all they’d done was talk.

James had told Harry he was asexual and he’d asked Harry to lie for him, to never tell anyone. Harry couldn’t break that promise. So when Louis had asked him about it later, Harry had just shrugged, ducked his gaze and lied. It hadn’t been his secret to share.

Louis was the first person to ever do this to Harry and he didn’t even know.

“Did he see?” Harry asked, a little shaky, resting his cheek against Louis’ so he wouldn’t have to face him yet.

Louis pulled his hand out of Harry’s back pocket and gave his bum a little pat. It was fine. Harry didn’t feel like he wanted to grab Louis’ hand and keep it back there.

Fuck, maybe Niall was right. He did need a boyfriend. A real one. This was Louis. His best, seen-him-vomiting-and-even-sitting-on-a-toilet-pooping, mate. Just… no.

“Yeah, definitely.”

When Louis stepped away, he took one long look at Harry and grinned. “You’re all flushed.”

“Shut up.”

“Did you like it?” Louis arched his eyebrow, thumb rubbing back and forth over the back of Harry’s hand. “I must be really good.”

“You just caught me off guard. And now I’ve got your slobber all over me.”

“Oi, don’t be rude. You’re lucky to have my slobber on you.”

That spot on his neck wouldn’t stop throbbing, sending little shivers of pleasure straight into his belly. “I think you gave me a hickey.”

“Oh, I definitely gave you a hickey,” Louis corrected and tugged on his hand to get them moving again.

“Louis!”

“Wait. Are you really mad?” Louis asked, his smile sliding off. And now he looked worried, sad and unsure.

Harry couldn’t stand it.

“No,” he said right away, lifting their hands to his mouth so he could kiss Louis’ knuckles even though he felt like that loose, too big sweater covering his crotch was his only saving grace. “It was a good idea, actually. Guy’s friend saw us, right? And he’ll probably tell him.”

“That’s what I thought.”

He smiled wide enough to make his cheeks dimple and kept smiling until Louis smiled at him back. It wasn’t Louis’ fault Harry had enjoyed it more than he should have. It was just a game.

Nothing else.

 

****

“I’m going to kiss you.”

Harry almost tripped over his feet, halting. The pavement was wet with rain under his soles, the autumn wind blowing crunchy fallen leaves to the curb. Louis was wearing Harry’s grey woollen beanie, tucked deep into his eyes and looking guileless, as though unaware of the words that had just slipped out of his mouth.

“The dorm Halloween party is like, what? Two weeks away? Great place to show off a gross amount of PDA.”

“Kiss?” Harry could only ask dumbly, blinking.

Louis tugged at the string of Harry’s black hoodie then pulled him closer by his front pocket. Harry stumbled forward, his gaze helplessly drawn to Louis’ mouth, the way it moved, all quirky and expressive as he spoke.

“Yes,” Louis said, tucking his hands inside the pouch, his knuckles resting against Harry’s belly. It was beginning to get chilly outside, the summer definitely long gone, but they both still refused to put on coats. “That thing when your lips touch another person’s lips. It’s a thing couples do sometimes.”

“But… won’t that be weird? Like, what if I start laughing?” That was actually a real concern. Harry buckled under pressure in the most inappropriate way, usually with what Gemma referred to as his ‘donkey laugh’.

“Nah, I’ve stage kissed plenty of people. Besides,” Louis brought his hand out of the warmth of Harry’s pocket to poke Harry’s nose, “It’s not weird. We kiss hello sometimes. It won’t be that different.”

That was probably up there in the top five reasons why Harry’s mum was so convinced Harry was hiding his and Louis’ illicit affair from her. And it wasn’t even, like, a proper kiss. They exchanged pecks sometimes, quick and dry and barely there. Harry kissed his mum like that too. Louis was right. There was nothing sexual about it.

He resisted the urge to touch the fading bruise on his neck, ignoring how pressing into it a few nights before had made him come so hard his vision had blanked out. It had nothing to do with Louis. It was just a sensitive neck thing. A hint of a pain thing.

“You’re right,” he said quietly, stepping in closer so he could sling his arms over Louis’ shoulders in a loose hug, squeezing his eyes tight against voice in the back of his head telling him that this was different. That it might make him feel something he shouldn’t.

He worried about it all the way to Asda, until Louis tried to fill their shopping trolley with too many sweets and Harry had to intervene, too distracted with keeping Louis away from blowing all his food money on chocolate.

As a compromise, he’d let Louis sit in the trolley as he carted him around the aisles.

 

****

It was four hours past midnight and Harry couldn’t sleep. He’d even tried sorting through his notes before he’d given up and finally turned all the lights off. Yet here he was, tossing and turning and blinking with heavy eyelids that ironically refused to stay closed.

He just… he missed Louis. And that was ridiculous. Louis was a few doors down, probably sound asleep, unaware and content.

This wasn’t even a new thing. Sometimes he just missed Louis even after he’d spent his entire day with him. He hated being dependent, still remembered how awful it had felt when they’d gone to spend Christmas with Mum’s cousin in France.

Harry hadn’t really said a thing because it was right after Mum and Dad had divorced and the last thing he’d wanted was to make her feel even sadder, but it had been the longest week of his life.

It wasn’t bloody healthy.

Chest tight, Harry turned on his side before he finally conceded defeat. He wrapped himself up in a fuzzy brown blanket Mum had packed for him, slipped into his cat slippers that he’d stolen from Louis and padded out of his room. It was dark and he almost tripped over nothing, so he turned on the flashlight on his phone to guide his way and stopped short of Louis’ door.

He couldn’t keep doing this.

He texted Louis anyway, the entire corridor too quiet for him to knock.

He waited a few beats before he dialled Louis’ number. He could hear the distant sound of Louis’ phone buzzing through the door.

Everything fell quiet and after few moments the door opened, revealing a sleepy, bleary-eyed Louis. Harry’s heart clenched.

Wordlessly, Louis just took his hand and pulled him inside his room and onto his bed. He pushed off Harry’s blanket and nudged him beneath the duvet that smelled like fabric softener and his best friend.

Their ankles tangled, Louis’ fingers stroking the shell of his ear.

“Can’t sleep?”

“Yeah,” Harry said, trying to breathe past the knot in his chest. “Sorry I woke you up.”

“’S fine, duckling.” He petted Harry’s earlobe and something inside him finally relaxed, his body sinking into the mattress and Louis’ warmth. “You have tiny ears.”

“I do not,” Harry protested, his eyes already sliding shut under the rhythmic touch of Louis’ fingertips. He could never feel homesick when he had Louis right next to him.

“Do too,” Louis whispered, his movements growing slower and slower until he was just cradling the side of Harry’s face, his thumb occasionally remembering to pet Harry’s ear.

“I missed you.”

Louis’ nose bumped his, his chilly toes curling against Harry’s calves. It was pitch black and quiet save for the soft cadence of their sleepy breaths and the distant sound of wind ruffling the trees outside. “I’m right here.”

“Promise?”

Louis kissed the tip of his nose, his arm sliding over Harry’s waist to pull him close. “Pinky promise.”

Harry laughed wetly, his stupid eyes stinging. He didn’t think Louis could ever realise just how much Harry loved him.

He just didn’t know how he loved Louis anymore.

 

****

“So you’re just going to watch me burn?”

Harry heard Louis’ voice, but couldn’t see him anywhere, only a sliver of light sneaking in past the swaying edges of his comforter hanging down to the floor. He was face down underneath his bed, hands splayed over a black carpet. For a second he wondered how that carpet even got into his room. His dorm bed didn’t even have room under it to hide in. This wasn’t real.

“I’m not even standing!” Harry called back. Well, tried, more like. He could barely whisper. Louis would never hear him, would think Harry had abandoned him. He couldn’t—

“There you are.” Bare feet appeared before the comforter was whipped up and Louis’ knees appeared in his line of vision, his brows furrowed when he ducked down and wrapped his hand around Harry’s wrist to pull him out from beneath the bed. “What are you doing? We’re going to be late.”

“I didn’t think you’d find me.”

Louis helped him up to his feet, hands resting on Harry’s hips. “You weren’t lost, love.”

“Felt like it,” Harry said, closing his eyes when Louis caressed the jut of his hipbones under his T-shirt, his skin feverish with it.

When he opened his eyes again, Louis’ touch was nothing but an echo and he seemed too far away to reach. Harry ran to the edge of his room, the carpeted floor blurring out into white sand. He put his hand up to shield his eyes and squinted against the sun, halting when his toes touched the line where the sand began.

“Come on, Harry,” Louis called, getting smaller and smaller in the distance. “We don’t have much time! You’ll be late for rehearsal!”

“But I don’t have the script!” He felt a brief shock of panic shoot through his stomach. He wasn’t the one studying drama production. He didn’t know what he was supposed to say or do and the room behind him was growing darker by a second, pushing him forward until he felt grains of sand scrunch between his toes.

“I gave it to you last week,” Louis said with reproach from behind him.

Harry spun around to find himself face to face with Louis, his room gone. “I’m sorry.”

The corner of Louis’ mouth turned up, his eyes glinting with mischief. “We’ll improvise. That’s what I do best anyway.”

He turned on his heel. Harry’s feet felt rooted into the sand, mouth going dry when Louis lifted his T-shirt over his head and threw it aside. His back muscles flexed with the motion, sunshine glimmering down his curved spine.

“Are you really going to let me burn alone, Harry?” he asked, glancing over his shoulder and pushed his jeans down his strong thighs, kicking them off.

“No,” Harry said, helplessly moving forward, step after step after step until he was within touching distance, reaching out.

Louis’ skin was warm, smooth like petals under his fingertips. “I’ve got you. I’ve always got you. We’re the dream team, you and I.”

“You told me you hadn’t read the script.” Louis turned around, Harry’s fingertips sliding over his chest. Louis caught his wrist and flattened Harry’s hand over his heart. It thumped steadily, calmly.

“I didn’t,” Harry insisted, frowning when Louis let go and sat down on a towel with a picture of a rose speared through with a dagger on it.

“We’re going to get marks on this. You need to try your best, all right?”

“I will. I promise.”

Louis lay down and rolled onto his belly, his arms folded beneath his chin. Only then Harry noticed a group of people sitting off to the side on folding chairs, watching wordlessly, Liam and Niall among them. They were both holding a scoring paddle and a plate of cheese, big straw hats on their heads. Harry recognised them as his mum’s.

“Do it now. Everyone’s watching,” Louis whispered, kicking one of his legs out to nudge Harry into motion.

Harry dropped to his knees by Louis’ side, traced his index finger down the knobs of Louis’ spine. “I don’t want them to watch.”

“You don’t?”

“No.” He lifted his gaze.

Nobody was there anymore. It was just he and Louis and the sun beating down on their heads. Louis was going to burn up.

“Your skin is hot.”

“I’m always hot.”

So was Harry, his clothes itching his skin, turning the air around him sticky and unbearable. He was going to suffocate.

“I need to get these off,” he said frantically, pulling his T-shirt over his head and sitting back so he could take off his long johns. He couldn’t believe he’d worn this to the beach. It was bloody embarrassing. Louis was only in his boxers.

“Cool me down?”

Harry rested his palm in the dip of Louis’ lower back to keep his balance as he bent over to kiss Louis’ shoulder. “Like this?”

“You’re too far,” Louis said quietly, his eyes closed. “You’re always too far. Even when you’re right next to me.”

“I don’t mean to.”

“Just,” Louis sighed, “Please.”

Harry wanted to ask Louis if he wanted to take a dip in the water but when he looked over all he could see was a field of wildflowers. He asked anyway, “Want to swim?”

“Not yet. I’m not ready.” He tilted his head to the side and nudged a plain white bottle towards Harry. “Get my back for me?”

Up in the sky, moon and sun were slowly orbiting each other.

Harry took the bottle and nodded even though Louis was no longer looking at him. Carefully, awkwardly, he straddled Louis’ hips and shuffled back to sit on Louis’ upper thighs. They tensed beneath him before Louis relaxed completely, humming in contentment.

“Like this?”

“Just like that,” Louis said, arching his back. Harry blinked down at the smooth planes of golden skin, stretched over strong muscles and sinews, gleaming in the heat. His hands shook when he opened the bottle. He suddenly felt very naked.

“I don’t know if I can do it. I don’t want to ruin this.”

“Just do what feels right.”

A whisper of a breeze ruffled his hair as he bent over and flicked the cap of the bottle open. He squeezed out the lotion drop by drop on Louis’ back until he reached the dimples at the bottom. He thumbed over them, overwhelmed with the sudden urge to lean down and kiss each spot.

“Just do what feels right,” he repeated quietly to himself, splaying his fingers and pressing the heels of his hands into Louis’ back, sliding upwards. He massaged the streaks of white into Louis’ warm skin, felt the give of Louis’ muscles under his hands.

“I can feel you,” Louis mumbled, lazy like a cat napping in the sun.

Harry’s blood was pounding, pulsing under his skin with each swipe of his hands over Louis’ body. If he looked closely, he could see the golden glow of his blood surging beneath the surface of his skin, brightest where he was in contact with Louis.

“Yeah, just like that,” Louis moaned, pushing back into Harry’s trembling hands. He massaged deep into Louis’ tissues, pressing his thumbs on the sides of Louis’ spine and rolling upward to sweep over Louis’ shoulder blades then over his shoulders and back down his sides.

Louis pulled in a deep breath, resting his face on the side, his tongue wetting his parted lips.

Harry wanted to lean down and nuzzle the edge of Louis’ jaw, unsure if he should press in even closer or pull away because his crotch was resting in the crease where Louis’ thighs met his bum and he must have felt that… that Harry couldn’t control himself. That all he did was ruin things, too desperate to touch Louis because just saying I love you didn’t seem like enough. He wanted… he just wanted. All of Louis.

“It’s okay,” Louis said, reaching back to touch Harry’s knee. “It’s okay.”

“It’s not okay.”

Louis twisted around beneath Harry until he was lying on his back, the backs of Harry’s thighs burning from resting on top of Louis’ like this. It grew worse when Louis dragged his fingers from Harry’s knees up his thighs until Louis’ fingertips met the edge of Harry’s boxers.

His breath caught in his throat.

“Nobody’s watching. I’m not watching.” Louis closed his eyes, sliding his hands up to Harry’s waist, urging him forward. He folded himself over Louis’ body, chest to chest, their hips flush. Louis’ drawn out exhale hit his mouth.

“Louis, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry—”

“You glow where you touch me,” Louis whispered, leaning up until his lips bumped into Harry’s, soft and careful and barely there. “Can you feel it?”

Louis’ eyelashes fluttered open and shut, their parted mouths a breath away from slotting together. Harry’s blood ran hot, glittering beneath his papery skin from the tips of his hands to the soles of his feet. He closed his lips around Louis’ bottom one and gently sucked, golden sparks crackling between their mouths. Louis tasted like honey.

He scratched up Harry’s spine until Harry was shivering, parting his lips again to meet Louis halfway, their heads tilting as their mouths locked and tasted each other deep. The tip of Harry’s tongue was just touching the roof of Louis’ mouth, Louis’ hand curling around his nape when he was jolted out of the moment by a loud thump.

Thump.

Thump.

Thump.

Heart hammering, Harry rolled over in his bed, back in his dorm room, alone. Fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuc—

“Harry, come on, get up!”

No.

He couldn’t. He fucking couldn’t.

He’d just dreamt—no.

He climbed out of bed and spun around in a circle, uselessly picking up a sock discarded over his chair and holding it in his hand.

It didn’t mean anything. It was just… all that talking about faking it and his mind being constantly stuck on the kiss that hadn’t even happened yet. Even Niall had told Harry a week after knowing Louis that he’d had a wet dream about him. Harry himself hadn’t escaped a few weird dreams throughout all the years they’d lived in each other’s pockets either.

He just didn’t understand why it was hitting him so hard now.

He didn’t want Louis like that, didn’t love him as anything more than a friend. Didn’t feel like falling asleep in his arms yesterday was so much better than doing it on his own.

He didn’t.

Only Louis had never been just a friend to him. He was Harry’s favourite person.

A sock still in his hand, he trudged over to the door, heart hammering against his ribs and a taste of nausea in the back of his throat when he opened the door.

“Took you long enough,” Louis said, sleep-rumpled and soft, an impatient tilt to his mouth.

Harry squeezed the sock, his eyes prickling with the realisation.

He did. He did want to. Wanted to touch Louis in a way that wasn’t platonic.

His first instinct was to tell Louis. Only… he couldn’t bring himself to be that selfish.

“Are you okay?” Louis asked, his hand on Harry’s elbow, a crease between his brows.

“No,” Harry admitted. He couldn’t lie to Louis so openly right now. “But I don’t want to talk about it right now.”

Louis took the sock out of Harry’s hand with a concerned frown and ushered Harry to sit down. “That’s okay. Whenever you’re ready.”

He would never be ready. Not when he didn’t even know what he really felt.

“It’s early,” Harry blurted out, cold sweat breaking out on his skin.

“Just came back from my lecture. Can’t believe you only have a seminar today and it’s in four hours. You lucky bastard.”

Harry wasn’t feeling very lucky right now, so he just held out his hand until Louis took it and Harry curled it in his own and lifted their hands to his cheek until he didn’t feel as nauseous anymore.

“Do you want me to make you tea?” Louis asked, soft and quiet the way he always got when Harry was feeling poorly.

Harry just held Louis’ hand tighter and rubbed his nose over Louis’ knuckles as he shook his head. “Had a dream.”

That much was true.

“Bad one then?”

Harry lifted his left shoulder in a shrug he hoped Louis would take as a yes. It wasn’t… bad. Just, too good maybe. Painful because none of it was real.

“How was your seminar?”

Louis plonked down next to Harry on the bed, their joined hands falling to Harry’s lap. “All right. Learned a bit more about the backstage production stuff. I might have got you a scarf from wardrobe.”

“A scarf?” he asked, playing with Louis’ fingers to distract himself.

“I saw it and thought of you, so I asked Clara if I could have it.” Louis pulled a strip of slinky fabric with a pretty, heart-dotted print out of his back pocket and let go of Harry’s hand so he could crawl behind him. He buried his hands in Harry’s hair, rearranging it aimlessly. “Thought it might look nice in your curls,” Louis said, finally tying the scarf into Harry’s hair. “Don’t think I haven’t noticed you eyeing those scarves in Perrie’s mag.”

“Thank you,” he whispered, his eyes hot. “It’s so pretty. I love it.”

Louis always noticed, didn’t he? Always remembered the little details and the things people liked, always thinking of others before he thought of himself and Harry just… he loved him. Loved everything that Louis was.

“You’re pretty,” Louis said with a smile in his voice and settled behind him until he was all wrapped up around Harry, his chin resting on Harry’s shoulder and legs framing Harry’s. It felt a lot like his heart was about to break out of his chest.

He wondered how he could have felt this much for Louis all along without questioning why no one else ever compared. He wondered if everyone could see it written on his face but him.

He suddenly remembered that time where he’d been ten and they’d snuck into his grandma’s attic. It’d had an old bed right in the middle of the creaky floorboards bathed in golden light, with a soft mattress and springs just perfect for jumping.

They’d taken turns running at it full speed and lunging forward. Louis hadn’t been fast enough to roll off and Harry landed right by him, bouncing, flushed and a little breathless as he looked over at Louis lying on his back, so incredibly close.

And right now Harry remembered the way Louis had looked, pink-cheeked with sunlight streaking over his face from the attic window. And ten-year-old Harry had glanced down at Louis’ parted lips and imagined. Just for a second, he’d imagined how it would feel if he leaned in and kissed Louis. The thought of it had jolted him to sit up and he hadn’t thought of it since.

Not until now. Now he couldn’t think of anything else.

“Can I tuck my feet under your legs? They’re cold,” Louis said, his arms tight around Harry’s middle.

Harry breathed out a shaky laugh, picking at the fabric of Louis’ jeans stretched tight over his knee. His stubble prickled Harry’s neck.

“Is that why you called me pretty then? To get me to be your personal heater?”

“Depends. Did it work?”

Harry squeezed Louis’ knee, exasperated and fond, his chest tight. “Doesn’t it always?”

He ended up working on his assignment with Louis’ chilly feet tucked under his thighs as he napped.

It didn’t matter. Whatever he felt… he just loved Louis. Always had. It didn’t matter as long as he had Louis in his life at all because the way Louis loved him had always been enough. More than enough.

Harry wouldn’t let it change them.

 

****

Somehow Harry hadn’t counted on helplessly noticing all sorts of things he’d been inadvertently ignoring before. Like the way Louis looked soaked through with October rain, dripping water on his doorstep.

“Help.”

Harry ushered Louis inside and hurried over to his wardrobe to pull out a clean, dry towel. By the time he was turning around, Louis had shucked all his clothes and was standing there in nothing but his briefs practically glued to his thighs. And other parts of him. Harry needed to look away right the fuck now.

He’d always appreciated Louis’ body on an aesthetic level, never letting himself think past that because Louis was his best friend. Right now though, he just couldn’t help it. As he crossed the distance between their bodies, he let himself acknowledge the way a damp, half naked Louis made him feel.

A little breathless, maybe. Like he wanted to slide his palms over Louis’ rain-slick skin and see how it would feel under his lips.

He wrapped the towel around Louis’ drawn up shoulders instead and lifted the corner to wipe stray droplets off Louis’ pale cheeks. “I’ve got this dumb assignment I need to finish but you can cuddle up under my duvet if you want.”

“I will do that,” Louis said, subdued, and so, so soft. “Can I have a pair of your boxers?”

Harry swallowed hard and nodded, ducking his gaze and turning on his heel. “You dry up a bit yeah? I’ve got you.”

He could hear the towel drop to the floor as he knelt down by his wardrobe to open the underwear drawer.

The bed frame creaked.

Harry had to close his eyes for a few seconds, gripping the edge of the drawer. He couldn’t feel this overwhelmed right now. Not when his best friend of thirteen years was probably lying naked in his bed, his bare skin touching Harry’s sheets.

Whatever he’d been imaging, the reality beat it by a mile.

Louis was all curled up under Harry’s duvet with nothing but his pouting face peaking out, eyes bleary and tired, a towel folded underneath his head so he wouldn’t get Harry’s pillow damp. “What if I get sick?”

Harry loved him so much his body felt too small to contain it. “Then I’ll make you chicken soup. And tea. I’ll nurse you back to health like a proper Nightingale.”

He sat on the edge of the bed and brushed a wet strand of hair off Louis’ face, putting the dry briefs down on the mattress. The wet ones had been shucked off in the middle of Harry’s room like this was a crime scene. Louis always did this, just shed clothes as he went, never caring where they landed or if anyone would trip over them later.

It was a good thing Harry had always found cleaning relaxing.

Louis coughed, his eyes creasing at the corners. “I think I’m getting sick. Must have caught the deadly flu.” He coughed again.

This was the boy who usually starred in all the lead roles in the shows his uni course put up.

Harry could see right through him. “If you want my chicken soup, just say so, you big faker. I think I’ve got the stuff for it.”

Louis tucked the duvet under his chin and smiled.

Harry ended up making the chicken soup. When Louis moaned and licked the spoon clean, Harry had to look away.

 

****

“We need a practice run,” Louis said firmly right as Harry stepped out of the lecture theatre.

He blinked, startled when a student elbowed past him.

“Sorry,” he said and hurried out of the door so he wouldn’t stand in anyone’s way.

Louis took his hand and practically started dragging him out of the building.

It was cloudy and grey, but it hadn’t started raining yet.

“You didn’t tell me you’d be waiting for me.”

“It was very last minute. I cancelled a very important rendezvous with Liam for you. You should be grateful.”

Harry giggled, because that was his default mode for most things Louis said. “I am. Very much so.”

“Good. We’re getting us some chocolate because I’m in need of sugar, and then we’ll plan.”

Harry dug his heels in until Louis had to stop too. “Plan what?”

Louis frowned at him. “For Halloween! It’s in a few days.”

“Oh,” Harry said, his eyes growing wide. Halloween. And kissing. And… kissing Louis. “We, um… there’s a plan?”

Louis looked as if Harry had personally offended his entire family. “Well, what did you want to do? Just go for it?”

“Kind of?” Harry could feel his cheeks burning, partly because yes, that’s exactly what he’d been thinking, and mostly because he’d been plagued by dreams of almost kissing Louis, never quite able to connect their lips before Louis drew away. Needless to say, Harry hadn’t been getting much sleep.

Louis heaved a sigh and started to walk again, pulling Harry back into motion. “Now, that would be a proper disaster. You would look like a startled kitten and probably end up head-butting me and then it would just be one big failure. I don’t do failure. We’re going to plan this down to the last second—”

“You know, for someone so spontaneous, you’re a bit of a control freak.”

“A bit? I am a control freak, thank you for noticing now after years of knowing me.” Louis smiled at him, self-satisfied, his eyes crinkling at the corners. Harry wanted to run his fingertips over the tiny creases. So he did. He let go of Louis’ hand and smoothed his thumb over them.

“You alright?” Louis asked, laughing.

“I am. And I do, you know. I do notice.”

Louis ducked his head, his smile turning soft and private. Just for Harry. He’d always liked those smiles of Louis’ the best.

 

****

“Why are we sitting here?” Harry whispered, sitting cross-legged opposite Louis in the Halloween aisle in Asda, purple costume wigs on their heads. A disgruntled employee was stocking a shelf a few paces away but didn’t tell them off. Harry reckoned her minimal wage just wasn’t worth giving a fuck about two troublesome uni students.

“Where else would we sit?” Louis asked, grabbing a plastic skull mug off the shelf and turning it over in his hand. “Do you think I should get this? For tea.”

“No,” Harry said and took it out of Louis’ hand. Sometimes Louis needed him to be the voice of reason, especially when it came to things he’d never even use.

“Fine,” Louis said, pouting. “I guess you’re right.”

“You can have chocolate spiders,” Harry allowed, smiling when Louis grinned.

“Sick!” He pulled a pack of chocolate spiders into his lap.

“So, are we… you know—”

“Yes. Yes, we are.” Louis pursed his lips and met Harry’s gaze. They both started giggling. The employee looked over at them, glared, then went back to restocking.

“Oh God. What if I’m awkward?”

Louis smacked his knee playfully. “Stop it. That’s why we’re planning. It won’t be awkward. It will be the best stage kiss the world has ever seen. My pride and reputation are riding on this, you know.”

“You’re so full of shit,” Harry groaned, wondering why they hadn’t sat down in the frozen vegetables aisle instead. At least he wouldn’t have felt quite as hot. “You’ll be great. It’s me who’ll mess it up.”

“You won’t. I’ll lead.”

The thought of that shouldn’t be turning Harry into a squirming mess.

He tried to blink the images of Louis leading him in other ways out of his mind. It wasn’t helping ease his anxiety over the entire thing.

“Don’t be nervous,” Louis said, kneeling up and shuffling over to sit next to Harry so they were side by side, rubbing Harry’s thigh gently. “I’ll give you a signal first. Like, say ‘paint me like one of your French boys’. And then you’ll just stay still and let me do the rest. I reckon one hour into the party would be a good time. People will be buzzed enough not to overanalyze but not too drunk to not even notice.”

Harry bit down on his lip, glad that the long artificial hair of the wig was hiding the side of his reddening face. “Sounds… good.”

“Harry, we don’t have to do this.”

“I want to,” he said, too quickly, too truthfully. “I do. I’m… I just want him to stop bothering me. And like, thank you. For doing this. For always being here for me.”

Guy had been hitting on him less, probably because Harry had been too preoccupied with his own issues to even respond to his pushy remarks. Harry knew he should tell Louis, but… but he kind of, fuck. He wanted this. He needed to see if it would make him feel anything other than ‘nice with a side of disappointment’. If it didn’t, he could just go back to being Louis’ best friend without constantly wondering about what ifs. And if it did… then at least he’d have this one memory.

“You’re a sap,” Louis said warmly, getting up and reaching his hand out to help Harry get off the floor. “Come on, let’s head back to yours. I’m not kissing you in Asda.”

Harry tripped and almost took out the entire shelf of laughing skeletons.

 


 

 

Chapter 3

Harry needed to get Louis out of his room as quickly as humanly possible. This was a matter of great emergency.

Horrified, he saw the dildo he’d forgotten to put away after washing it just standing there erect on the night stand underneath the window like some kind of decadent trophy as Louis casually walked in behind him and kicked off his shoes.

Harry froze, considered ushering Louis out of his room and pretending he had an ant infestation or—

Too late. Louis was already sitting down on his bed, toeing off his socks and settling in. Harry was too paralysed to even comment on it.

Okay. All right. Maybe he wouldn’t notice. Harry would just have to keep Louis’ attention away from that side of his room and subtly dispose of the dildo once Louis was distracted.

“Are you just going to stand there and stare at me all weird?”

The sound of Louis’ voice kicked Harry into motion. He could feel his mouth twist into some kind of manic smile as he hurried to sit next to Louis so Louis’ back would be to the nightstand once he faced him.

He was so, so fucked. And not in the way he’d been last night.

Now really wasn’t the time to think about him riding that dildo. Only now he couldn’t stop.

Don’t look at it, don’t bloody look at it.

“I won’t bite,” Louis said, patting his knees as if beckoning Harry to sit in his lap. That was the kind of visual Harry definitely needed to avoid right now.

“I will suck! Not, like,” stop thinking about sucking, bloody hell, “I haven’t really… done this much.”

Louis really had no right to look so soft and gentle when Harry was about to shit himself for more than one reason.

“I know, love. That’s why we’re doing this. To not come off a bit, eh, well… awkward, I reckon.”

“Hey,” Harry pouted, his heart sinking, “So you do think I’ll be bad at it.”

“Of course not. Just we’ve never, you know, kissed like that. You and I. It’s to be expected we won’t be in sync. So we get the awkward out of the way now so we don’t embarrass ourselves later by looking like we’ve never snogged before,” Louis said, fiddling with his T-shirt like he used to do when he was nervous about something.

Knowing Louis was nervous about it too made all of it a little less scary.

“Are you nervous too?” Harry asked, sinking down on the bed next to Louis.

Louis breathed out a laugh, staring at the floor. “Yeah, yes. A little. Fuck. Sorry.”

“No, don’t be. Like, I’d hate to be the only one shitting bricks right now.”

Louis giggled, high-pitched and so cute Harry wanted to cup his face and just look at him for ages.

“It’s just us though. It’s just you. We’ll be okay. Right?” Louis asked, shooting him a quick glance, seeking reassurance.

No matter what Harry felt, he knew. They’d be all right. The two of them, they could get through anything. “Yes. We’ll be okay. I promise.”

Louis nodded to himself and twisted on his side until he was facing Harry, a resolute expression on his face. It reminded Harry of the time Louis had sworn he was going to bake cookies for Harry’s thirteenth birthday. They hadn’t been the most edible but Louis had done his best, and that was all that had mattered then. It was the same now.

“How do you want me?” Harry asked, mirroring Louis’ position, nervously licking his lips. When he saw Louis’ gaze flicking down to his mouth, his heartbeat doubled in speed. He wiped his palms on his thighs, resisting the urge to check if his lips felt too dry.

“Um, all right.” Louis got up to his knees and crawled into the middle of Harry’s bed, sitting back on his haunches. “We should get comfy, like… do you want to sit on top of me? We can do it the other way around too.”

Harry’s brain almost short-circuited. “I could,” he swallowed hard, “I can sit against the wall and you can, you know, sit in my lap?”

Harry realised the flaw in his suggestion the second they did just that, Louis straddling his thighs. He’d had always liked feeling a little trapped, a bit too much maybe. He thumbed at Louis’ knees, trying to keep his mind carefully blank as Louis tucked a pillow behind his back so he could lean comfortably against the wall.

“Look at me,” Louis said, sliding his palm down Harry’s cheek. “You’re nervous, aren’t you? You know we don’t have to do this at all.”

Harry shook his head, his throat tight, his voice a little rough with it. “I want to. I promise. I’m just… I don’t want you to think I’m awful at this.”

“I won’t think that.” Both Louis’ hands were touching him now, gently cradling the sides of his face. People who didn’t know Louis often thought he was a bit harsh, misinterpreted his teasing for rudeness. They didn’t know him like Harry did, the quiet, settled parts of him and the way he always made Harry laugh. “Just don’t lick my entire face or head straight for my tonsils and we’ll be fine.”

It startled a laugh out of Harry, releasing some of the tension that was pulling his muscles so frustratingly taut. “No one does that.”

Louis arched his eyebrow. “You’d be surprised.”

“Really?” Harry asked, resting his hands on Louis’ outer thighs, just touching to feel Louis close.

“Sadly, yes.” Louis wriggled on top of him and Harry forgot what he’d been thinking entirely. “Now, when I lean in, just close your eyes and part your lips a little. No tongue yet.”

Yet?

“What—” The back of his head met the pillow wedged between his back and the wall, Louis’ thumbs tracing the edges of his cheekbones.

“Shh, close ‘em.”

“Right,” he whispered, letting his eyelids flutter shut when he felt Louis lean forward, a wisp of Louis’ fringe tickling his face.

The pad of Louis’ thumb trailed down to Harry’s mouth, gently rubbing the corner of Harry’s mouth. “Lick your lips.”

Harry did so, gripping Louis’ thighs so hard he was surprised Louis hadn’t told him off yet. Instead his thumb pressed into the damp flesh of Harry’s bottom lip, the tip of his nose bumping into Harry’s when he leaned in so close Harry felt dizzy with it.

“That’s it. Now let me just,” the pad of Louis’ thumb swiped over Harry’s bottom lip one last time before Louis’ breath was tickling his mouth, stuttering just enough to make Harry sick with nerves and excitement, his hands shaking. “Kiss me back, all right?”

As if Harry wouldn’t, as if he could do anything but sit here, trembling and clinging to Louis like a lifeline as their parted mouths finally touched, aching to close the distance.

The first touch of their lips was soft and hesitant and Harry wondered if Louis’ heart was racing just as fast as his was, if he felt like the ground had dropped from beneath him, their kiss the only thing solid.

It wasn’t supposed to feel like this.

Their lips pressed together harder, hot and damp and electric, closing on a soft sigh Harry wasn’t sure was his own. And he was hardly even moving, too overwhelmed by the explosion of a golden glow in his chest to do anything but gently latch onto Louis’ bottom lip and suck, his nose filled with a faint scent of Louis’ aftershave that always made him nuzzle Louis’ cheeks.

Louis’ thighs were taut under his palms, the fabric of his jeans coarse when Harry wanted to feel Louis’ skin. Bloody hell, he did. He wanted to feel Louis everywhere as he tilted his head and slotted their mouths together more firmly, burning with every brush of their lips to his very fingertips until their teeth clacked awkwardly.

They parted with a loud smack.

“Sorry,” Harry rasped, his head spinning because when he licked over his mouth he could still taste Louis’ kiss, the tip of his tongue accidentally sweeping over the bow of Louis’ parted mouth because he hadn’t leaned away far enough.

“You work fast,” Louis teased, a bit winded as he shifted on top of Harry. Harry had to bite the inside of his cheek, his ears burning because he hadn’t meant to lick Louis’ mouth like that.

“That was, I didn’t—”

“It’s okay, I know,” Louis said, fingers sliding into Harry’s hair to cradle the base of his skull. Harry wanted to curl into Louis and stop thinking, wanted to pull him in obscenely close and press his fingertips into the curve of Louis’ ass right below his waistband.

“Are we,” Harry shivered, “Did you want to do the other thing?”

Louis paused, swallowing hard. “We don’t have to.”

“I’m, um,” he tried not to stutter, playing with the belt loops on Louis’ jeans, “I don’t mind.”

Before he could take a breath, Louis was tilting his head up and meeting his mouth again, open and cautious, the tip of his tongue running over the seam of Harry’s lips and slipping inside.

Harry felt pleasure pulse down his spine and settle in his belly, overwhelmed and losing his head when their tongues finally touched. They kissed long and wet and deep and Harry knew then that no kiss would ever make him feel like this.

Louis suddenly pulled away, leaving Harry leaning forward with his eyes still closed before he pulled himself together and snapped his mouth shut.

For a long moment, neither of them spoke. He could feel the tension in Louis’ body and couldn’t help but feel embarrassed that maybe he’d taken it too far, was too obvious about how much he’d liked it. That maybe Louis had broken away so fast because Harry was awful at it.

“Was it,” Harry drawled out, his words catching in the back of his throat because he was trying not to breathe too fast, to not look as though he’d just had the best kiss in his life. His head was spinning, “was I as awkward as you thought I would be?”

“Hey,” Louis said, finally relaxing a little, his fingers curling in Harry’s hair, “I never said you would be awkward and I’m… I guess we’re good? It was, eh… I think we’re done here. All finished. Done rehearsing. Ready for the—”

“Louis.” Harry’s palms burned where he rested them on Louis’ thighs, his pants pulled just a little too tight over his crotch even though he felt like his feet finally impacted with a solid ground after what felt like hours of floating. “I get it.”

For Louis, this had been nothing more than a stage kiss. One that he didn’t want to rehearse again.

Harry suddenly felt like a joke, stupid for feeling like this, ashamed because his heart hadn’t stopped thudding against his ribs so hard it was making it difficult to breathe.

“I’m sorry,” Harry said, shifting his gaze to the hollow of Louis’ throat so he wouldn’t have to see Louis’ face.

“Sorry for what?” Louis asked, petting Harry’s cheeks almost hesitantly, as if he wasn’t quite sure he should be touching him.

Harry just shook his head because he didn’t want to lie and pretend this wasn’t about the way Louis had just made him feel. He went for a half-truth, arms wrapped tight around Louis’ waist to pull him closer, close enough for Harry to hide his face in the curve of Louis’ neck and pretend everything was all right. “You’re doing this for me and it’s like, you’re not even getting anything out of this, and it’s just dumb, the way I kiss is dumb. You hated kissing me, didn’t you?”

“Harry, no. Come on. Of course I didn’t hate it. How could I?” Louis rested his cheek on top of Harry’s head and he couldn’t stop thinking please lie to me. “It was nice.”

Nice. It was nice.

Harry had felt like the spark between their mouths right after they’d parted and then met again could power up a dying star.

For Louis, it had been nice.

“Yeah.”

“Harry,” Louis said as if he could somehow feel the ache pressing down on Harry’s chest. He couldn’t possibly. “You’re upset. Please, I didn’t mean to—”

“I’m just,” he breathed Louis in. Why did Louis feel like home? When had he started to feel like it and why had Harry been so blind to what it meant? “I’m bad at it, aren’t I? You just don’t want to tell me. Like, I must be—”

That’s why you don’t want to kiss me again.

“No, that’s not what I… no. I never said you were bad—”

Maybe he didn’t want to hear Louis lying to him after all. “I get it. Like, I’m not exactly an expert. I don’t know what I’m doing. I’ve never really done this… um, the whole French kiss thing.”

“But you have. That James kid and like, the dates you went on, surely—”

That slimy, heavy feeling at the bottom of his gut felt a lot like shame. “Not really.”

A few beats passed, Harry’s heart racing faster and faster.

“What do you mean?”

“I just didn’t,” Harry said defensively, wishing he could just get up and walk off the feeling that wouldn’t leave his chest, “I promised James I wouldn’t tell that all we did was talk. And I tried… I tried to kiss the people I went on dates with, and it was all right. I liked it. I just… I didn’t like it enough to like, keep going.”

There hadn’t been a connection. It had been nice, pleasant even, but it hadn’t been anything more than that. He hadn’t wanted to give any of them the wrong idea and let it go farther than he’d felt comfortable with.

There had always been something missing.

It hadn’t ever felt like this. Like kissing Louis.

Louis drew back. Harry could feel him staring, hoping Louis couldn’t see right through him. “You could have told me, like… you know I wouldn’t ever make fun of you. Not for this.”

“I know, but just… I was, I don’t know. I didn’t want you to think there was something wrong with me.”

“I’d never think that.” Louis brushed loose curls off Harry’s face. Harry still couldn’t quite look at him, just staring intently at the constellation of tiny freckles on Louis’ left cheek.

He felt split right down the middle.

“Did you know that seeing you sad is the worst fucking feeling in the world?”

“I do know,” he said quietly, remembering having Louis curled up in his childhood bed, crying silently into Harry’s pillow after his dad had left. It had been one of the few times Louis had preferred being the little spoon and Harry had felt a lot like someone had cut out his lungs and ground them to dust. “’M not sad, I promise, I just…” feel like I’ve been pulled apart cell by cell and put back together the wrong way.

When Louis’ lips touched the corner of his mouth, his heart leapt to his throat. “I’m sorry I’m such a berk. It wasn’t just nice. You were good. Really, really good. I just didn’t want to go too far and make you uncomfortable.”

He clutched Louis tighter in a useless effort to keep his hands from shaking. “You don’t have to lie to me.”

“I wouldn’t. You know I wouldn’t. I’d call you out on being awful if you were, but you’re not. Look at me,” he gripped Harry’s chin, serious and intent as he said, “Your kissing skills are marvellous, Harry. I’m sorry I’m not better with words and stuff, but I mean it.”

It was hard not to believe him when he looked so unerringly sincere.

Harry couldn’t help but smile because that’s what Louis did to him. He both hated and loved Louis for that.

“Good enough to make a career out of?” he tried to joke, feeling embarrassed for acting the way he had even though he knew Louis would never hold it against him. Harry hated the way he sometimes needed to be reassured about things he wasn’t confident in.

“I mean, the whole gigolo gig might earn you more than most jobs, let’s be honest,” Louis whispered, pressing his smile into Harry’s cheek.

Harry laughed, shaky, his eyes squeezed shut.

“So you’ve never—” Louis started then cut himself off, idly rubbing the back of Harry’s neck. “Never mind.”

“What?” Harry asked in spite of himself, knowing where this was headed and unsure whether he wanted to talk about it at all.

“You’ve never snogged any of your dates? Properly, I mean. The whole thing. With like fooling around a little too.”

Harry could feel his face heat up, wondering if Louis could see it bright as day. “You mean with under the clothes stuff?”

“Yeah.” Louis’ fingers slid back into Harry’s hair, chest rising and falling on an unsteady breath. Harry could hardly control his own. “I just… I mean, you never talk about it and I didn’t want to ask, so tell me to fuck off if I’m being too nosy.”

“It’s okay.” He felt torn between pushing Louis off and hiding in the bathroom and staying right here because no matter how embarrassed he felt, he’d always had a soft spot for being the centre of Louis’ undivided attention. “No, I haven’t. Like, you remember Daniel—”

Louis scoffed.

“Anyway,” Harry said, his voice edging on too rough, slow like molasses, “he tried. It was… I didn’t want to. I was too young then, I guess. And then I just, I don’t know… I wanted to do all that stuff with someone I loved and it hasn’t happened yet. It’s lame, I know.”

“It’s not,” Louis said quietly, shifting on top of Harry. “You should only ever do what you’re comfortable with. There’s no need to hurry.”

A few inches closer and Louis would find out just how badly Harry was starting to get affected by this, by having a lapful of Louis, the heat of him firing up Harry’s nerve endings. “I know.”

“Harry.” His hand knotted in Harry’s hair in a way that erred on the right side of painful, unknowingly demanding enough to send a spark of static crackling down Harry’s spine and straight into his underbelly.

Harry blinked his eyes open slowly, feeling a little helpless trapped under Louis like this. He didn’t understand why Louis was suddenly pulling away.

“Where are you going?”

“Sorry,” Louis shifted away, rising up on his knees, “don’t want to be crushing you.”

“You’re not that heavy.”

“Yeah, but your legs tend to cramp up quickly.” Louis’ palm slid down the length of Harry’s neck like he wasn’t even aware of it, his thumb smoothing over Harry’s skin. And he was looking away. He was looking away. “Wait. What—”

Harry jolted into sudden, sharp awareness, almost pushing Louis off his lap entirely when he followed the line of Louis’ eyesight.

“Is that a dildo on your nightstand?”

Harry’s mind went blank.

“Um—”

“Hey, that’s the one I gave you!” Louis sounded almost surprised, his eyes wide as Harry tried to fumble out a response and failed miserably.

He reached for Louis, but he was too slow. Louis was already scrambling to get off his lap and crawling up the bed to reach the nightstand as if he’d just found his Christmas present.

Harry wanted to dig out a hole and just lie in it for the rest of his life.

“It’s not what it looks like,” was the first thing he managed once he finally regained the use of his voice, the tips of his ears burning to the point Harry wondered if they’d catch on fire. Liar, liar, liar.

Louis glanced at him over his shoulder, smiling a little as if he could read Harry’s mind. “Really?”

“I use it as a, um… paperweight? I told you.”

“All right.”

Harry knew that mischievous look. It always landed them in trouble.

Harry tried to grab Louis’ ankle right as Louis hopped off the bed and picked up the bright pink dildo, jiggling it. “So you won’t mind if I do this.”

Harry was fucking mortified.

He clambered off the bed, ready to wrestle the dildo out of Louis’ hand because even though he’d used a condom and washed it, it had been up his bum just hours before. “Louis, don’t.”

“It’s just a paperweight!”

He smacked Harry’s hand away and jumped back on the mattress on light feet, grinning manically as he held it triumphantly over his head.

“Louis, give it back or I’ll—”

“You’ll what?”

Before Louis could jump off, Harry clamped his arms around Louis’ thighs, his sudden yell of, “I fuck myself with it, you idiot!” barely muffled in Louis’ belly.

Louis lost his balance, limbs flailing as Harry stumbled back and dragged Louis down. He fell over Harry’s shoulder in an impromptu fireman carry, shrieking, the dildo hitting the back of Harry’s leg.

He accidentally smacked his palm down on Louis’ ass hard to keep him from falling off. Both of them froze, Harry’s palm still resting over the tight curve of Louis’ bum.

“Oh my god,” Harry said, hurrying to let Louis down, not really sure what he was freaking out about more; the fact he’d just admitted he fucked himself on a regular basis with the toy his best friend had given him as a joke, or that he’d spanked said best friend hard enough to be heard in the next room and might have felt Louis’ cock twitch at the impact.

He’d just accidentally turned Louis on by smacking his bum oh god, oh god.

Louis was red-faced and dishevelled, his hair all over the place. Harry had the sudden urge to bend him over the desk and spank him.

If Louis glanced down he’d definitely know Harry’s feelings were far from platonic.

They stood there facing each, suspended in time, breathing hard, Harry’s dildo still in Louis’ hand.

“Louis, give it to me.”

Louis blinked and then he was off, jumping towards Harry’s window, opening it and throwing the dildo out like it was made of fire.

“Oh, bollocks,” Louis said right away, hand covering his mouth as he spun on his heel to train his wide eyes on Harry’s slack, disbelieving face.

Louis had just flung his dildo out of the window.

“Louis!”

“I’m sorry!”

“What if there’s someone down there?” What if Louis had just killed someone with a dildo?

Harry crossed the short distance and they both leaned out, breathing out a sigh of relief when they saw no one lying there, knocked out.

Harry closed the window in a bit of a daze and turned to face Louis.

Louis swallowed hard. “I’ll get you a new one.”

“I can’t believe you just—” He blinked. Then blinked again. All the tension that had been winding him up even since he’d woken up just kept climbing and climbing until it finally snapped loose.

He stumbled into Louis, gripping his shoulders as laughter shook his entire body, his knees buckling. He was so stupid, so stupidly in love with Louis, and there was nothing he could do

Louis tried to hold him up but then he started laughing too, those breathless high-pitched cackles he rarely ever let anyone hear. They went down to the floor, Harry’s stomach hurting with it so much he was starting to just wheeze with no sound leaving his open mouth, their hands gripping one another.

“You just—” he gasped, his forehead knocking into Louis’. He was going to piss his pants, but that was okay. That was fine. He didn’t want to stop laughing, didn’t want to think about what a mess he’d got himself into.

“I’m so—” Louis laughed into Harry’s cheek, snorting like a pig, “sorry!”

“I can’t believe—”

“We just—”

They laughed so hard someone started banging on the neighbouring wall to get them to keep it down, which only set them off again.

By the time they quieted down, hoarse and teary-eyed, Harry was forced to admit to himself three things. One, he was desperately in love with Louis. Two, he could never tell him. And three, the only thing that had kept him from going mad from sexual frustration had been literally just tossed out of his window.

 

****

“Niall, I’m in trouble,” Harry announced the second he closed the door of Niall’s room behind him.

Niall blinked at him from his bed, dressed in nothing but mismatched socks and Spongebob boxers. “Okay.”

“Are you high?” Harry asked suspiciously. “Can I have some?”

“No and no,” Niall said pitifully, rolling onto his front and mumbling something into his pillow.

Harry had expected Niall to be strumming away on his guitar or watching The Wire for the hundredth time, not this… this pile of human sadness. “Are you okay?”

He sat down on the edge of the bed and patted Niall’s hairy calf. Maybe he should make him soup.

“I think I have manflu,” Niall croaked, grunting. He didn’t look like he’d showered today and the room smelled like stale air and popcorn. “Liam told me today that he had it. I bet I caught it off him and now I’m dying.”

“What the hell is a manflu?” Harry asked, squeezing Niall’s ankle before letting go. “Liam didn’t have flu. He had a bit of a cold and that was like ages ago. You couldn’t have possibly caught it now.”

“Oh.”

“But you could have still warned me not to come in, never mind get so close to you. What if I catch your manflu?”

Niall shot him a dirty look. “Stop making fun of me.”

He didn’t even look that sick.

“If you make me soup I’ll pretend to listen to your complaining,” Niall mumbled into his pillow, blinking at Harry slowly. He drove a hard bargain.

“Tomato one?”

Niall grinned.

Fifteen minutes later and one suspiciously better looking Niall later, Harry found himself sitting on Niall’s desk, watching his friend spill a spoonful of soup on his chest. Niall did his best to lick it off.

“Sorry it’s not homemade. Didn’t have the stuff for it.”

“It’s fine,” Niall said. Someone should really speak to Niall about his hypochondria. Or his manipulative streak, if this was all just a ploy to get sympathy and free food.

Harry really hoped it was one of those. If he got sick off nursing anyone, it should be Louis.

“You can complain now,” Niall said graciously, and now that Harry had had time to think, he felt a bit stuck. Where should he even start?

“Are you in love with Louis then?”

“What—” He almost slipped off the desk, stunned into silence. His mouth was gaping but he just couldn’t bloody close it. “How—”

Niall sighed and put the empty bowl aside, getting off the bed to slip into baggy sweats and what looked like a not-quite-fresh T-shirt.

“Let’s walk,” was all he said before he put on a hoodie and left Harry staring after him in panic.

 

****

The air outside smelled like fallen leaves and rain soaked earth but Harry couldn’t even properly enjoy it because Niall kept glancing at him knowingly, expecting him to actually talk.

“So,” Niall prompted, hands tucked into the pockets of his hoodie. It had Derby County logo on the back. Had Louis been here, he’d have given Niall a hard time about it. “Are you finally admitting it?”

“I am,” Harry said, for the first time out loud. “I’m in love with him.”

It didn’t feel any different. Just as hopeless and exhilarating as it did the second he’d realised.

“Took you long enough.”

Harry dropped his head and kicked at the pebble in his path. It scattered down the pavement and disappeared in a puddle of rain. The shops were still open and people were walking past them without giving them a second glance. Harry wondered how many of them had hopelessly fallen in love with their best friend too.

“Am I that obvious?”

“To anyone who isn’t Louis? Yeah, mate.”

He almost asked, so desperately curious if maybe, perhaps Louis did feel that way too and Harry just couldn’t see it. In the end, he didn’t. He’d never go behind Louis’ back like that.

“It doesn’t matter anyway. I’m never going to tell him. It would only ruin everything.”

“Hey, what’s with the negativity?” Niall took his hand out of his pocket to squeeze Harry’s shoulder. “I say you shag the hell out of him or suck him off or whatever the hell it is you would do and you’re both sorted.”

Harry chuckled, his eyes prickling. It was just the wind, that was all. “I wish I could talk to Louis about this.”

“I would say I’m bloody offended, but I’m really not.” Niall gave his shoulder one last pat before he dragged him into his favourite music shop. “Maybe you should. You know, talk to him.”

As if it was that easy.

 

****

If Harry had thought being around Louis was getting hard, watching him try to get into a skin-tight Spiderman costume was torture.

He was regretting putting on his coat, even though it was windy and cold outside. He was sweating. He took it off, folding it over the tiny stool wedged into the corner of the changing room Louis had dragged him into to get his opinion.

Harry’s opinion right now was mostly, wow, fuck.

“I don’t think I can zip the bloody thing up!” Louis wriggled in place, elbowing Harry in the process. This changing room really hadn’t been made for two people.

“Do you want me to—”

Louis sighed as if that was what he had been going for the entire time and Harry was just too thick to get it. “Yes, please.”

“Well, at least you said please,” he muttered, glad his manners had rubbed off on Louis through the years. Rubbed off. All right. He could do this without his brain taking that and running with it.

The silky smooth skin of Louis’ lower back met his knuckles. He swallowed hard, the zipper almost slipping out of his fingers as he started to slowly pull it up over the curve of Louis’ spine.

Louis’ shoulder blades flexed beneath his skin like little wings, his head hanging forward. Harry wondered if Louis could feel his breath tickle the back of his neck.

Fuck, that bodysuit left literally nothing to imagination, each twitch of Louis’ muscles visible beneath the tight lycra.

By the time he reached the top of Louis’ spine, his hands were shaking, itching with the urge to pull the zipper back down and caress Louis’ skin.

“How do I look?” Louis asked, turning around so suddenly Harry had no time to step back. The fluorescent lights of the Halloween costume shop should have washed Louis’ skin out the way they did to everyone else. They didn’t. They shattered off the blue of Louis’ irises like tiny, microscopic diamonds. Harry couldn’t form a coherent sentence if his life depended on it.

“So?” Louis asked, knuckles grazing the back of Harry’s hand.

Harry’s heart seized in his chest. “I can’t see… you’re too close.”

“Right,” Louis said with a smile, stepping away until Harry felt like he could breathe a little easier again. “Come on then!”

The curtain of the changing room swung behind him and Harry stood there alone, bracing himself for the full effect of Louis in the skin-tight costume.

He followed Louis out, had to lean against the wall when he saw Louis eyeing himself critically in the floor-length mirror at the end of the narrow corridor. He could hear Liam cursing in a changing room two down from Louis’ and a couple of girls giggling in the one right next to Louis’.

He couldn’t focus on any of that because… Louis’ bum. The swell of it was obscene, pushed high and perfectly rounded. Harry wanted to rest his cheek in the curve of Louis’ lower back right above it.

“It looks nice,” he said, blushing at Louis’ affronted expression in the mirror.

“Nice?!” He spun around to face Harry, and no. Harry snapped his gaze back up from Louis’ bulge, which was just… Harry wouldn’t even think about it.

Louis pouted. “I was expecting something more like, ‘Louis, you look ravishing, absolutely bangable.’ Instead, I get ‘nice’.”

Harry gestured uselessly, wishing that for once his mouth would correspond with his brain and compose a soliloquy worthy of how bloody hot Louis looked in that Spiderman bodysuit. “You are. You’re very… wow.”

“Now you’re just trying to butter me up.” Louis swung back around to look in the mirror, brows creased. Harry could see the second Louis started having doubts, and he just… he couldn’t have that.

He came up to Louis until he could smell the sweet warmth of him, wrapping his arm around Louis’ chest from behind. He nuzzled the little spot behind Louis’ ear, his own heart pounding as he said, “You look really hot.”

“I know,” Louis said defensively, even though his body was already swaying back to lean into Harry.

He pulled at the fabric right over his belly with jittery fingers, his lips a taut line.

Harry stayed his hand, fingers wrapped loosely around Louis’ wrist. “Lou.”

Harry knew Louis better than he knew himself, knew that sometimes Louis didn’t feel his best. That even though he was confident and bright and loud, every once in a while he got a bit self-conscious. He couldn’t let Louis doubt himself, not for a second.

“Fuck, Louis, you’re—” he touched Louis’ hip, thumbing at the jut of the bone there, “look at yourself.”

Louis huffed but did anyway. “What?”

“You,” Harry answered, resting his chin on Louis’ shoulder. He could distantly hear people talking behind him, vague sounds of conversation going outside in the shop. All he could see and feel and hear was Louis. “Nobody will be able to take their eyes off you.”

“Well, I am hot.” Louis nudged the side of Harry’s face with his cheek, his face unreadable, voice quiet as he added, “You too?”

Harry’s heart made a painful thud against his ribs. He smoothed his thumb down Louis’ forearm. “Nobody will be staring at you more than I will.”

It wasn’t even a lie.

Louis smiled, but his eyes didn’t crinkle at the edges and he stepped out of Harry’ arms. Harry didn’t understand what he’d done wrong. If maybe he’d been too honest, made Louis feel weird.

“Well, you better. Since you’re my boyfriend and all.”

Harry reached out, the please tell me what’s wrong on the tip of his tongue when Liam found them. He was beaming, a cheap Batman mask in his hand. “All right, lads?”

Harry could barely smile back.

Louis grinned and started teasing Liam in the way that always made Liam grin, but Harry couldn’t help but think that something was off.

It was maybe the first time he couldn’t tell what Louis was feeling at all.

 

****

Louis didn’t end up buying the Spiderman costume.

Harry watched Louis sit on his desk chair with his face painted white, lounging on Louis’ bed with questions he didn’t quite know how to voice burning on the tip of his tongue.

“Lou?” he asked, words stuck in the back of his throat. He didn’t even know what to say, just… he needed to hear the sound of Louis’ voice.

“Yeah?” Louis asked, focused on his reflection in a tiny mirror he’d borrowed from someone on their floor, his eyes lined with smudged black kohl as he put finishing touches to his Kiss look.

Harry got off the bed and sat down on the floor by Louis’ feet, picking at the speckled socks over Louis’ toes.

He heard the little clink of the mirror being put down on the desk before he felt Louis’ fingers glide into his curled up hair. He rested his cheek on Louis’ thigh, not even caring if he was ruining his ‘Rizzo from Grease’ make-up. Louis clearly didn’t mind Harry’s powdered cheek on his black jeans either or he would have told Harry off already.

“Love you,” Louis said.

Harry squeezed his eyes shut and hugged Louis’ leg. Maybe they could just stay here all night and Harry could pretend nothing had changed. “Love you too.”

“Good,” Louis said, low and careful, petting the shell of Harry’s ear. Harry wondered if Louis knew Harry had dressed this way because Louis had always said Rizzo reminded him of Harry. “You’re worrying me, you know.”

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to.”

“No, that’s not what I—” Louis nudged Harry’s head up and slid down to the floor until they were both crouching halfway under Louis’ desk, way too serious for two people who were covered in fun make-up.

Neither of them said anything and Harry found himself unable to look away from Louis’ face, his heart thumping in his ears.

“Talk to me,” Louis said, pulling at the front of Harry’s pink sweater. One pearl button nearly came undone.

“I want to,” Harry admitted quietly, catching Louis’ hand before he could pull back. Touching Louis always made him calmer. “I want to, but I don’t know how or… I’m scared shitless.”

That was as much as he could say.

“Of what?” Louis whispered, his hand tight around Harry’s and he hated that he was suddenly keeping secrets from Louis. About the way he felt, about how Guy hadn’t been chasing after Harry anymore.

He was being selfish and he knew it, wanting Louis to kiss him tonight because it was the last chance he’d get to do it.

It made the guilt of looking at Louis’ open face even worse.

“I don’t think I can talk about it yet.” Maybe not ever. Harry dropped his gaze to their joined hands. “It’s nothing bad, I promise. I just have a lot on my mind.”

He didn’t want Louis to worry.

“You can tell me anything, I hope you know that,” Louis said, pulling Harry into a hug. He was probably getting paint on Harry, but he couldn’t care less. “But if it’s about tonight and you changed your mind, please tell me, yeah?”

“I didn’t change my mind, I promise.” He breathed Louis in, a hint of that chemical stink of paint with Louis’s scent hidden right underneath it, cocoa butter and home. “Tonight’s going to be fun. We’ll dance and get hammered and steal Niall’s weed.”

Louis chuckled, rubbing Harry’s back absentmindedly over the cashmere. For a second Harry wondered what it would feel like on his bare skin.

“I know for a fact he went to buy some today.”

“Knew we could count on him,” Harry said, laughing a little, Louis’ heart beating steadily against his own chest. “But you’re forgetting the best part.”

“Am I?” Louis asked, a hint cheeky, his chin resting on Harry’s shoulder the way he always did when he got comfortable in a hug.

“Yeah,” Harry swallowed hard, his grin a little shaky. “Always knew you wanted to kiss Rizzo. I’m going to make your dreams come true tonight.”

Louis laughed, short and breathy, his fingertips pressing into Harry’s back. “You little shit.”

“You’re straight for Rizzo,” Harry teased, somehow feeling heavy and light at the same time as Louis laughed and hugged him tighter.

“Got me there.”

“That’s because I know you,” Harry said, pulling away a little because as much as he loved holding Louis close, he loved seeing him smile too.

Louis’ eyes crinkled at the edges, hands squeezing Harry’s waist. His smile turned soft. “You do make a good Rizzo, you know. That lipstick looks great on you.”

Louis brushed the pad of his thumb right under the pout of Harry’s red painted bottom lip. Harry’s breath stuttered as he said, “Thanks.”

Louis held his gaze for a long moment, steady and calm, his thumb smoothing over Harry’s dimple right before he suddenly let go and climbed to his feet.

“Pre drinks?” Louis asked, his sudden grin verging on manic. Harry just blinked and took Louis’ outstretched hand.

“Yes, please.”

If he was going to survive tonight, he’d need more than one.

 


 

 

Chapter 4

Harry had always had a high tolerance for alcohol, even more so than Louis. Not that Louis would ever admit it. It was a blessing and a curse, definitely the latter now as the party grew steadily louder and livelier.

His hands wouldn’t stop sweating.

“He’s here,” Louis whispered, his body pressed to Harry’s front, breath warm and sweet from that drink Liam had mixed for them both. Harry knew he would regret it in the morning. Getting drunk from cocktails always made him sick.

Harry didn’t bother to even look, nodding, his hands shaking just a little as he rested them on Louis’ hips. “Is he… is he watching?”

Louis’ damp lips pressed right behind Harry’s earlobe, the music so loud it vibrated from the soles of Harry’s feet all the way to his chest, buzzing and pounding and thrumming as Louis opened his mouth and tugged on Harry’s earlobe with his teeth.

He swayed on his feet, hoping he could blame it on alcohol, not the way Louis’ mouth on his skin made him feel off kilter.

“Yeah,” Louis breathed, hands slipping under Harry’s sweater to touch his waist. He felt goosebumps erupt all over and hid his gasp in Louis’ shoulder, grateful that the music was loud enough to drown it out.

“Why don’t you show him,” Harry ground out in a shaky voice into Louis’ ear, barely in control of himself when Louis pushed his leg between his thighs, the fabric of Louis’ jeans rough on Harry’s too sensitive, bare skin. Maybe he shouldn’t have worn the skirt. He was losing the track of his thoughts.

“Show him what?” Louis’ hand was on Harry’s outer thigh, gathering up the fabric of his prim, knee-length skirt. He fought hard to remind himself that it was nothing but a game, that Louis was just good at playing his role.

“That I’m,” he squeezed his eyes shut, biting Louis’ shoulder, “yours.”

Louis fastened his mouth to Harry’s neck, teeth sinking in, his tongue slick and smooth as Harry’s head lolled to the side to give him more access. He felt drunk on Louis’ touch, helpless to the way it made him dizzy with lust when Louis’ hand slipped under his skirt to caress the back of his thigh.

“You’ve shaved your legs,” Louis said, voice tight and surprised. Every shift of his hand as they swayed to the beat sent shocks of arousal to Harry’s helplessly swelling cock. He hadn’t got off properly since the day Louis had thrown his dildo out of the window and it was all catching up to him with Louis pressed in so close, pushing all the right buttons.

“Yeah,” he rasped, worried that Louis would be able to feel him tremble, that he was far too gone and the second their mouths touched again he’d shoot off into his briefs like he was twelve.

“He’s watching, he’s—” Louis’ hand slid up until it was resting just under Harry’s bum, pinky grazing the edge of Harry’s briefs.

He didn’t even care who saw them. At the same time he wished they were tucked somewhere in the shadows where no one could watch, where it wouldn’t be a game anymore.

Harry’s skirt fell back into place. Louis’ arms were suddenly tight around his waist, his eyes dark and glassy in the shifting lights. “Can I—”

Harry didn’t let him finish. He just fell into Louis with his palm cradling the side of Louis’ face as he clumsily pressed his lips to Louis’ in a hungry, urgent kiss.

Somewhere in the back of his mind, in the part that wasn’t consumed by the firm pressure of Louis’ mouth, he knew he’d been supposed to wait for Louis’ cue. That part of him got quieter and quieter when Louis stirred into motion, his mouth opening under Harry’s, pliant and damp and sweet.

Harry exhaled a sigh into Louis’ mouth. His knees shook as he caressed the sharp line of Louis’ jaw and slipped his hand into Louis’ hair, a little tacky with hairspray, their lips parting and meeting again harder, more heated.

There was no way Louis couldn’t feel the swell of Harry’s cock pressing into the crease of his hip, but Harry was far too gone to worry. He was whimpering high in his throat, shaking with need when the tip of Louis’ tongue swept over the bow of his lips. Harry parted them in a wordless please, clutching onto Louis to keep himself upright when his tongue licked the roof of his mouth, tilting his head to kiss Harry deeper.

He met Louis halfway, just the tip of his tongue touching Louis’, feeling weightless when they finally slid over each other, falling into a deep, languid kiss. He felt dizzy. Maybe from the way he hadn’t taken a proper breath in a while. Maybe because Louis was gently suckling on his tongue like it was candy. He felt each slow pull of it as if Louis had his lips stretched around Harry’s girth.

Please, please, please.

Louis’ hand slipped lower on his back, just shy of touching his bum and Harry wanted to push into it, wanted to pull Louis into him with nothing between them but the touch of their bare skin.

He latched onto Louis’ bottom lip and sucked, ribbing his teeth over the swollen flesh until Louis was fisting the back of Harry’s sweater and rocking his hips forward with a noiseless gasp. He was hard too, straining against his jeans and kissing Harry so thoroughly it made his head spin and his cock jerk in his pants.

They parted with a slick, obscene sound that Harry felt more than heard, panting for breath, hands clutching, eyes closed. Harry said Louis’ name so quietly he didn’t know if it even could be heard over the noise, licking the taste of the kiss off his raw, swollen mouth.

When he finally blinked his eyes open, he was almost startled to find out they weren’t alone. He felt blood rush into his face at the way some people grinned at them, the others glancing away the second Harry met their eyes as if they’d just seen them shag in the middle of the floor.

Harry hid his face in the crook of Louis’ neck. He must have had Louis’ paint all over him just like Louis had Harry’s red lipstick on his, and that that was the only pretend Harry was playing at tonight.

He felt Louis’ hard cock burn into his thigh and felt shaken, hungry for it and scared at the same time, unsure what the hell they were doing.

“I’m sorry,” Louis said, his lips brushing Harry’s ear. “Tequila always makes me… you know. I’m sorry.”

“I know,” he said, his heart sinking somewhere to his heels. “Me too.”

Neither of them was anything more than mildly tipsy but Harry bit the words back and pulled away, wishing his lips would stop burning with the echo of Louis’ kiss.

He’d never even seen Louis drink anything but beer but then Niall found them, grinning, a red cup in one hand and a joint lit in the other, and it didn’t matter anymore.

He took the joint from Niall’s hand and took a deep drag. His frantic thoughts quieted down into a pleasant buzz.

 

****

They danced, all of them together. Harry’s hair was sticking to his sweaty face and his skin wouldn’t stop tingling, glowing whenever Louis touched him. He felt like he could float away if he jumped high enough, but he was too loose-limbed, too pleasantly weighed down as he found himself stuck between Louis and Liam.

It felt like hours until the party started to quietly die down, rubbish and spilled drinks everywhere. His entire body felt too heavy as they dragged themselves down the lit up corridor with their arms around each other. Everything was too quiet now with the music playing the slower, more melancholy tunes that reminded Harry of the way Louis looked right before he fell asleep.

They didn’t talk and Harry wasn’t in any hurry. They said goodbye to Niall and Liam and Sophia, who had disappeared with Liam in his room.

Harry put his hand over Louis’ mouth before he could yell anything obscene after them.

Louis didn’t push him off, just huffed and pulled Harry along, managing to fit his key into the lock on the second try.

They changed into comfy clothes and settled into Louis’ messy bed in silence, lazy, the adrenaline having dwindled down about an hour ago. Harry still felt like he could stay up for days every time he remembered the kiss. How much he liked it.

Maybe it was because he trusted Louis with his entire life. Maybe it was because he loved him so much he could barely contain it. Maybe it was just because it was Louis. Harry had always felt like he’d known him long before they’d even said their first ‘hi’.

“What’s it like?” Harry wondered out loud, unsure if he wanted Louis to answer him at all. The air felt sludgy, lights dim enough for him to feel safe, not so on display.

“What’s what like?” Louis asked from where he’d landed next to Harry on the mattress, his hands folded over his belly. They both still smelled like smoke and liquor, Louis’ face paint almost entirely rubbed off. His eyes were still lined with kohl.

Harry felt like they were the last two people in the world.

“Sex,” he said, the word sounding weirdly clinical yet strangely thrilling at the same time.

The room was bathed in an orange glow from Louis’ desk lamp, the light bulb already hanging onto its last days. Harry watched the shadows pool in the corner of the walls and listened to Louis breathe. In. And out. In. And out.

Their sides were touching. Harry burned with it. With how much he wanted to kiss Louis again, knowing it was real.

It would never happen again.

“’S alright. Good.”

Harry frowned.

Was that what poets wrote poems for? What composers orchestrated timeless symphonies about? Just… something ‘alright’? He wanted to turn on his side to see Louis’ face and ask him how and why.

“Just that?”

“I don’t know. The orgasms are amazing. Especially when you don’t have to, like, do it yourself. It’s better than tossing off.”

Harry turned his head, helpless, his gaze following the line of Louis’ nose, the sovereign pout of his mouth. He pressed his knuckles into Louis’ thigh. “Isn’t it terrifying? Incredible? Just… something more?”

Louis turned his head too, shuffling close enough to nose at the crown of Harry’s head and inhaling, deep and slow. “I don’t know. I reckon it’s different for everyone. Depends on who you’re with, I think. Don’t take me wrong, I’ve had some great sex, but… sometimes I wonder what it’s like to be in a proper relationship, you know? Do it with someone you love.”

“Yeah,” Harry mumbled into the hollow of Louis’ throat, his eyelids heavy, fingertips itching to touch. He wasn’t tired though. He felt oddly wide awake. “I do know.”

“I’m proud of you,” Louis said, the pads of his fingers smoothing up and down the nape of Harry’s neck. “You’re just like, when you do it, it’ll be amazing because you’ll be in love and it’ll be worth it. Sometimes I wish I had waited too. That I was more like you.”

I only want you.

“But then you wouldn’t be you,” Harry said instead, and it made perfect sense to him. He’d never want to reshape Louis into anything else, wouldn’t want to tweak any part of him just to make him fit a mold. Then it wouldn’t be Louis. And Harry loved him just the way he was, right here and now in Harry’s arms, coming off his cheap high and eyeliner smeared messily around his eyes and sincere as ever.

They stayed quiet, lazily touching and sharing heat, the wind outside howling against the closed windows, warning of a rainstorm rolling in. Harry had always loved rain. It reminded him of Louis, the days they spent snuggled indoors as rain pelted the windowpanes.

“What if no one ever falls in love with me?” Harry asked, licking over his dry lips, wondering if it was even possible. To love someone with his entire being and have them love him back in just the same way. Was that what winning a lottery felt like? “What’s the point then? What’s the point of all this… this, just… hard work all the time so you can do it all over again the next day?”

He didn’t realize his eyelids had slipped shut until he felt Louis’ lips on them, soft and careful, lingering for a long beat. “If anyone in this world deserves love and will find love, it’s you. I love you. I’ll always love you.”

Harry clenched his hand in Louis’ T-shirt and wished he didn’t have that hollow feeling of one day you’ll find someone who will have all of you and I’ll only get to love you from the sidelines.

“I don’t want to die not even knowing, like… what it’s like.”

“You’re not going to die,” Louis insisted as if just saying it could make it true. “Never.”

“That’s not true.” He pressed his lips to the dip above Louis’ right collarbone, helpless to the way Louis’s fingers curled into his hair and tightened.

“It is. You and I, we’ll live forever. Even when we’re all… dust and dirt and gone, I’ll always find you.”

“Promise?” Somehow, in that moment, with his brain still hazy and Louis’ skin like honey under his lips, this seemed like the most important thing in the world. That if Louis just promised, Harry could believe him.

“I promise,” Louis said, shifting lower and rolling them onto their sides so they were face to face, the tips of their noses touching. “You know I’d do anything for you.”

“I know,” Harry said right away because he did know. “I would too.”

When Louis slowly ducked his head to kiss under Harry’s jaw, Harry couldn’t help but remember the way it had felt to have Louis’ lips pressed to his, hungry and deep even if Louis had only done it to fool the world. Harry couldn’t help but want it again. All the time, always. Just… just to be close to Louis. Closer.

“I just want to… I want to know.”

“Do you want me to show you?” Louis whispered into the edge of Harry’s jaw, his lashes tickling Harry’s cheek. “How I like it? How I… how I think you’d like it?”

Harry swallowed hard, his heart beating so fast he felt it in his fingertips. “Please.”

His voice trembled and maybe he’d have cared, but then Louis was rolling him onto his back, wrapping his thighs high on Louis’ waist. Their eyes met, hooded, pupils blown out in the dark. “Like this.”

He settled his weight down, his hips flush against Harry’s, never breaking the gaze. Harry’s mind flashed back to Louis hard and pressed against him on the dance floor and thought, maybe. Maybe, maybe, maybe. He had to feel this too, whatever this was.

“All right?”

“All right,” Harry managed, his fingers curling into Louis’ ribs, fitting into the spaces between, the fabric of his T-shirt soft and threadbare.

“I’d push in slow. Take my time. Make sure you were,” Louis rolled his hips and Harry’s breath caught in his throat, “ready and aching for it.”

Harry watched the way a longer strand of hair fell into Louis’ face, the way his eyelashes cast spidery shadows on his half-painted cheeks every time he blinked. Harry tightened his grip on Louis’ waist, thumbs brushing over the sides of Louis’ belly.

“I’d get in deep and just stay there for a while, pulling out only a little,” he ground his hips down, all Harry’s blood rushing south. He felt unhinged, wanted too much to even feel embarrassed about the way he couldn’t hold back his moan. “Then push back in, get you used to the stretch of it.”

He bent down and for a second Harry thought he would do it, just lean in and join their mouths. He didn’t. His lips met Harry’s jaw, trailing open-mouthed, damp kisses up to Harry’s earlobe. “I’d kiss you. Kiss you for ages.”

It felt bizarre to feel the fabric of Louis’ clothes, his own skin itching with the need to lose the layers and just breathe. Breathe Louis in. “Do you… is this always how you—”

Louis caught Harry’s earlobe between his teeth and pulled, licking over it. If the ceiling cracked and fell down right now, Harry wouldn’t even notice, his belly taut, heartbeat pulsing between his legs to the rhythm of Louis’ hips slowly and steadily rocking against his.

“Not always. Sometimes,” he rolled Harry over smoothly, and Harry’s head spun, his heart pounding when Louis coaxed him face-down into the sheets that smelled just like him and pressed his lips to the back of Harry’s neck. “Sometimes like this too.”

His fingers dipped beneath Harry’s T-shirt, stroking over the jut of his hipbone as Louis settled on top of him and rolled his hips against Harry’s bum.

His back arched, mouth dropping open when the added weight pressed him tight against the mattress. The friction of it drove all thoughts out of his head and only left feelings he wasn’t sure how to deal with. He wanted this, felt like he could let himself go because Louis would always keep him safe.

“Louis,” he breathed, eyes squeezed shut because the tension in his belly wouldn’t stop climbing and he just wanted to… wanted to feel them skin on skin just like this, with Louis mouthing at his neck and fingertips pressing into his hips, holding Harry open and just… he wanted this to be real.

“I could get in so deep like this, just lift you up on your knees and fuck in deep, hit your spot over and over,” Louis whispered, his voice shaking, fingers trembling as he slid one hand under Harry’s T-shirt to caress the planes of his sweat-dampened back, rolling Harry’s T-shirt up to his waist in the process.

Harry shivered when the air hit his bare skin.

“Please,” he stammered out, Louis’ hips grinding down hard, hard enough to make Harry rub against the mattress with enough friction to leave him gasping, the tension in his belly finally reaching its peak. With one last thrust, it suddenly snapped loose.

His hips stuttered, hands clenching in the sheets as he bit into Louis’ pillow because he couldn’t stop coming, could feel his boxers growing wetter with each spurt as his brain shorted out and pleasure flooded his entire body.

Oh God, oh God, oh my God.

For a long moment, the only sound in the room was the splatter of rain Harry hadn’t even noticed had started pouring, and their own frantic breaths. His ears wouldn’t stop ringing.

Louis was hard against his bum.

“God, I’m,” he rasped, already feeling like he’d ruined everything. Suddenly he felt unpleasantly sober, cold sweat breaking out on the back of his neck.

He fumbled to turn over, wishing he could just hide his face forever when he felt Louis’ hands on his waist, helping him.

“Harry—”

“I came in my pants, I’m so sorry, I’m—”

“It’s fine, it’s okay,” Louis caught his hand and held it in his own. Harry couldn’t look him in the eye and he couldn’t just leave. The only person he’d go talk to was Louis and Louis was right here. Louis had seen him embarrass himself from the first row. “It’s fine.”

“It’s not fine. I shouldn’t have just… I’m sorry.”

“God, Harry, please don’t. I’m the one who—”

Harry didn’t hear the rest of the sentence because he started crying, just letting it all off his chest. He wasn’t even sad, just… overwhelmed and humiliated.

He felt Louis’ arms around him, could smell him even over the faint scent of weed clinging to his skin, his lips pressed to Harry’ temple. “I’m so sorry, Harry.”

“Don’t,” he stuttered out, his head a mess. “Please don’t.”

“Harry—” Louis squeezed him tight, insistent, holding his breath as if he wanted to say something more but couldn’t find the right words. “Let’s get you cleaned up, yeah?”

Harry sniffed, trying to breathe through all the feelings yanking him back and forth. “I’ll go, I’m…”

“I’m going with you.”

Harry shook his head, unable to look Louis in the eye, his entire body still crackling with electricity in all the places Louis wouldn’t stop touching him. “Louis.”

Louis buried his face in Harry’s shoulder, exhaling a trembling sigh. “I’m such a piece of shit.”

“No. No, stop it,” Harry said, gripping the fabric of Louis’ T-shirt. “Please.”

Louis clutched at him back, looking small and not saying a thing, just holding onto Harry so tight he could barely move.

“Lou—”

“I’m sorry,” he whispered, pulling back, his head ducked as he scrambled off the bed, grabbing some towels and pulling Harry along with his fingers wrapped securely around Harry’s wrist. He still wouldn’t quite look at him. “Come on.”

Harry’s stomach churned all the way to the communal bathroom, mouth dry and briefs sticky as he watched the heels of Louis’ feet pad down the corridor, quiet now save for the gentle sound of Louis’ slippers hitting the dusty laminated flooring.

He held onto Louis’ hand and followed him into the bathroom, staring down at the white tiles of the floor, swallowing hard. He tried not to think about his come soaking through to stain the joggers Louis had lent him.

When Louis let go, Harry let his arm hang by his side uselessly, his eyes burning. The fluorescent lights wouldn’t stop buzzing, the leaky faucet of one of the sinks dripping rhythmically against the porcelain.

When Louis pushed a towel against his chest, he startled and looked up.

“Are you going to watch me clean up?” Harry asked hoarsely, his attempt at joking already falling flat as he took the towel.

“I didn’t mean for it to go that far,” Louis said, sucking his bottom lip into his mouth and gnawing on it like he did every time he tried to hold back his emotions. Harry’s chest felt so heavy it made it hard to stand there. Louis revealed a shower cap he must have brought along with the second towel and put it on Harry’s head, tucking his curls under it with fidgety hands.

Harry must have looked ridiculous and heartbroken.

“Don’t want to get your curls wet,” Louis explained. “I should probably wash up too. We’re a mess, you and I. Bloody look at us—”

Harry closed the distance between them until their toes bumped and his chest touched Louis’, curling himself closer into Louis’ space because he hated this. Hated feeling like there was a wall between them he couldn’t see past.

Louis’ arms came up around him, pulling him in, his chin hooked over Harry’s shoulder as he steadily exhaled.

“Tell me we’re going to be all right,” Harry said, not caring that he was pleading. He would stay on the sidelines and live with this hollow ache in his chest that only got quiet when Louis held him close. He’d do anything to keep them from growing apart.

“Always.”

“Even though I—”

Always,” Louis insisted, squeezing him tight. “I can’t not have you in my life. I can’t.”

They held each other right there in the middle of the bathroom until Harry’s chest ached with it, his bones too heavy when he finally found the strength to pull away. He knew there must have been a wet spot on the front of his joggers by now but he refused to look down and see.

One day they’d look back at this and laugh, but right now Harry had never felt less like laughing. He couldn’t stop thinking please tell me you love me the way I love you.

“I can’t either,” he said instead and headed into the shower to wash off his shame, swallowing hard when the tepid water finally hit his face. He could hear Louis in the shower stall right next to his and wished he could just walk in there and hold him close. Not even sexually, just… just hold him, no holds barred.

He couldn’t shake it off, couldn’t bear the thought of going back to Louis’ room to sleep there and pretend nothing had happened.

After they finally parted ways, Louis’ fingers lingering on his wrist, he lay in his own bed and didn’t sleep.

 


 

 

Chapter 5

Harry was a mess. He’d barely slept, waking up at 7am because he’d kept dreaming about running through endless corridors with the feeling something was right on his heels.

He was so tired of running.

“Jesus, you all right?” Liam asked him, eyeing him warily from where he stood next to Harry at the sinks in the communal bathroom. Harry still had traces of Louis’ facepaint in his hair.

“Brilliant,” he said hoarsely, forcing a thin smile. His cheeks hurt with it.

He needed a shower, needed to wash his hair and try to get some food in his stomach once he was sure he wouldn’t throw it up. Maybe then he’d feel more like a human being and less like a piece of roadkill after rush hour on the highway.

“You and Louis—”

Harry must have grimaced because Liam paused midway through lathering shaving cream on his face.

“Sorry,” Harry said. “I just… I’d rather not. Not right now.”

“Whatever it is,” Liam said carefully, “you two will figure it out. I know it.”

Harry smiled, less strained now, and squeezed Liam’s shoulder. “Thanks.”

He’d come to the realization that he needed to talk to Louis about it. About last night, about ending the whole pretend boyfriends thing.

He spent the next twenty minutes dry-heaving into the toilet.

 

****

The uni cafeteria was full of starving students who’d just come out of their lectures, and the noise of their chatter and the cutlery clinking against the plates was thankfully loud enough to drown out the sound of Niall chewing. He’d always been a loud chewer.

“You haven’t eaten much,” Niall said, suspicious, nudging Harry’s ankle with his foot as he shoved more bangers and mash into his mouth.

“I don’t feel very well.” His stomach had been clenched tight all day and he hangover wasn’t helping.

“Last night got you that good, huh?” Niall laughed, because he was the kind of annoying drunk who never got sick the next day. “You’re as bad as Tommo.”

Harry really didn’t need to be reminded that Louis was probably curled up in his bed without anyone there to hand him a glass of water and painkillers. But he couldn’t face him before he got a hold of his emotions. If he started to cry right after he asked Louis to end their fake relationship, Louis would know. He’d know and then everything would be over.

“Niall, I… I need to end this whole thing. Pretending to be Louis’ boyfriend, it’s not—” He blinked to relieve the warm pressure building in his eyes. He was fine. Just fine. He wasn’t about to cry in the middle of the uni cafeteria. “It’s not fair to him. Not when I feel like this. Why is this so bloody hard?”

“Hey,” Niall finished chewing and swallowed, reaching out to rub Harry’s shoulder. “Are you sure you don’t want to tell him?”

“I can’t. I don’t want him to think the way he loves me isn’t enough. It is.”

Niall patted his cheek, his smile sympathetic. “I love you Harry, but you’re driving me nuts.” He turned back to his meal. “Don’t even try to deny you wouldn’t love to snog Tommo on the regular. You’re just scared.”

“Of course I’m bloody scared.” Harry let his forehead drop on the table and mumbled, “If he doesn’t feel the same then everything will be so awkward. I can’t just… I can’t do that to us.”

“But how do you even know he doesn’t feel the same?” The fork clinked as Niall let it drop on the plate and turned to Harry. “Look at me, because I’m going to say something and I need you to know I’m being serious.”

He turned his head to the side, his cheek squished against the tabletop. “Niall?”

“Yeah?”

“I do. I do want to kiss him all the time. And I want to cuddle him and have kids with him and maybe even a cat.”

Niall sighed. “Which is why I’m going to say this. Are you listening?”

Harry sat up straight and nodded, the smell of Niall’s food making him a little queasy.

“Tell him.”

“But—”

“No.” His hand fell on top of Harry’s and squeezed. “Trust me, all right? I talk a lot of shit, but we’re friends, yeah? Tell him. I promise everything will be okay. I’ve never been more serious in my entire bloody life.”

Harry felt like there was something Niall wasn’t telling him and his throat felt too tight to ask so he just whispered, “Why?”

“I can’t tell you, but… I think you should tell him.”

“Is there something you’re not telling me?”

“Don’t worry about it. Just know that if this was entirely my advice I’d have told you to get your kit off and wait for him to come back to his room.”

“That’s horrible advice.”

Niall shrugged. “Usually works for me.”

“So… not always?”

“Listen.” Niall let go of him and poked at Harry’s plate. “If you’re not going to finish this, can I have it?”

“At least you asked this time.”

Niall grinned and took that as a yes. They knew each other well.

Harry watched Niall dip a chip in ketchup and suck it into his mouth. It was the least erotic thing Harry had ever seen.

“I know you like to think you’re perfectly fine but even I can see it’s eating you up. If you keep it bottled up, you will pop eventually and then you’ll definitely fuck it up,” Niall said, shoving another chip into his mouth. “That alone is reason enough.”

“I can handle it,” he said, not really sure if he was telling the truth.

“You can’t, mate. And you shouldn’t have to. I don’t want you to keep this to yourself and wait for years and years until Tommo finds someone else, and then what? You’ll have nothing but a broken heart and you won’t have Tommo like you have him now either. Just… please tell him.”

Something about Niall’s expression made him feel like he was missing a point. And he’d thought of it, of Louis finding someone eventually. Of course he had. But it had always been a distant future he didn’t have to worry about. But what if Louis met someone next week? Today?

“If Louis finds someone, I’ll… I’ll be happy for him. I’ll be gutted, but… if they make him happy—”

“You make him happy! For fuck’s sake, Harry, just trust me and get yourself together, yeah?” Niall said. “You won’t ruin anything.”

Somehow the chance of it actually happening, of him having a chance at all, terrified the fuck out of him.

“I’m scared.”

“That’s okay. Tommo’s worth it, isn’t he?”

Harry swallowed hard and said, “Yeah.”

 

****

He spent the entirety of his lecture huddled in the back row, nauseous and worried, his mind racing with all the ways things could go wrong. With how much he couldn’t tell Louis and yet… yet he was terrified Louis would take one look at him and know he loved Louis more than he’d ever loved anyone.

The phone in his hand seemed twice as heavy as he pulled it out of his pocket and clutched it in his clammy hands.

He had to tell him. At the very least… he had to tell Louis he couldn’t keep up the charade.

‘Can we talk?’

The two minutes it took Louis to reply were more nerve-wracking than they had any right to be.

‘I think we should. I can meet you after you’re done with the lecture?’

His hands shook only a little and he only had to delete and rewrite his message three times before he sent, ‘I’ll wait for you here.’

The passing time on his screen seemed to have slowed to a crawl.

 

****

Harry spotted him the second he walked out of the lecture theatre, his bag slung over his shoulder and coat folded over his arm. He froze, all the words he’d spent the last hour rehearsing in his head suddenly gone.

He hadn’t expected Louis to be early. He rarely was.

“Excuse me, mate,” a girl trying to squeeze past him said and he jerked back into motion, apologizing.

Bundled up in his coat, Louis rose from one of the seats by the vending machine and met his gaze. He looked about as well as Harry felt. As if he hadn’t slept all night.

It made Harry want to swaddle him in his favourite fuzzy blanket and kiss his cheek.

He moved forward, his limbs stiff.

Although he was the taller one, he’d never felt smaller than he did in this very moment.

“Hey,” he said quietly. “Thank you for coming.”

Louis laughed, nervously, almost manically. “You sound so formal.”

Harry managed a weak smile.

“Come on,” Louis said, reaching out. “Won’t you give me a hug first?”

Harry dropped his bag and fell into Louis so hard Louis stumbled back a bit, his arms coming up to squeeze Harry’s waist.

“Is everything alright?” Louis asked for his ears only, his voice muffled by the curve of Harry’s neck, Louis’ hand rubbing up and down his back.

The chill from the outside still clung to his clothes and hair. He smelled like the beginning of winter. Harry trembled with how much he wanted to be swept up by him.

He took a shaky breath and said, “Sorry.”

“You’re scaring me a bit, you know.”

He just shook his head and clung to Louis like a lifeline even though he could feel the eyes of the students around them boring into his back. “Maybe we should go somewhere else.”

“We can take a walk down to the park if you want.”

“Okay.”

He felt reluctant to let go but told himself he couldn’t stand here wrapped up in Louis all day just to avoid talking to him. Before he pulled away, he wondered if Louis had felt how hard his heart was beating even through the layers of their clothes.

They walked in silence, past the last stragglers hurrying to their lectures and out of the building.

The blast of cold, drizzly wind that hit his face was a welcome relief as he struggled to slip into his coat with his bag in his other hand.

“Let me help you.” Louis stepped in, slinging Harry’s bag over his own shoulder, helping Harry ease his arms into the sleeves and doing up Harry’s buttons. “There. All warm and cozy, yeah?”

“I’ll take the bag.”

“Don’t worry about it, sunshine,” Louis said, giving him a little smile. “I’ve got it.”

Harry knew when to pick his battles. Especially with Louis. “Thank you.”

He stuffed his hands into his pockets as they started to move in the direction of the park, his woollen coat warding off the cold.

“Is this about yesterday?” Louis asked. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have let it go that far.”

“Stop saying that,” he said, a sudden flare of frustration burning up to his throat. “I was there too, you know. I could have said no. I could have stopped you so easily, but I—” he smiled without humour, tight-lipped, training his gaze on his shoes, “I didn’t, did I? I’m not a child. I can take responsibility for myself too.”

Harry expected Louis to say it had been a dumb mistake, that it wouldn’t have happened if they still hadn’t been a little tipsy. When Louis whispered, “I made you cry,” instead, it made Harry falter in his step.

Louis wouldn’t quite look at him, his head ducked, the ends of his soft fringe falling into his eyes. The outside world felt distant. Even dressed in all the layers, Harry had never felt more naked.

“Lou.” His heart ached. He just wanted Louis to look at him. “I wasn’t mad at you or blaming you or… or,” regretting it. He swallowed the words back, “I just felt humiliated. I came in my pants.

The heat of embarrassment burned under his skin as he stared ahead, the touch of Louis’ knuckles on his arm startling him out of his thoughts.

“I would never laugh at you for it.”

“I know. But I still… it’s embarrassing.”

Louis’ hand wilted away. Harry’s own clenched in his pocket with how much he wanted to feel Louis’ fingers intertwined with his.

“I feel like you’re too far away from me,” Louis said quietly.

Harry couldn’t fucking start crying. Not yet.

“You can slip your hand into my pocket,” Harry said hoarsely, watching the tips of his shoes slowly swallowing the distance.

Louis’ hand was cold when it slipped into Harry’s big pocket and he automatically opened his hand to enfold Louis’ in his clammy grasp. Neither of them mentioned it. “Better?”

“A bit.”

They made it to the park, and despite how much Harry was dreading it, he knew he had to start talking.

“I wanted to talk about… about the whole thing. Like, maybe it’s best we don’t do whole pretending thing anymore because,” I love you and it’s messing with my head, “because… I feel like I’m taking advantage of you. And Guy… he hasn’t really been… He doesn’t bother me anymore.”

Louis slowed down until they were both standing still by a damp wooden bench. Louis let Harry’s bag drop on it and said, “If that’s what you want.”

What he wanted was to pull Louis so close they’d be sharing the same breath and kiss I love you into his mouth, knowing it was real. “It’s about what you want too.”

“Harry, I… um…” His hand squeezed Harry’s so hard it almost hurt, Louis’ chest rising on a deep breath. Harry watched it shudder past the worried line of Louis’ mouth.

Just as he was about to speak, a girl in a fedora stopped a few feet away from them, cursing as she ransacked through her bag, an unlit cigarette in her hand.

Louis let out a shaky exhale and laughed, reaching out to brushing his thumb over the edge of Harry’s jaw, right over the little bristles of the barely-there scruff that Harry hadn’t bothered to shave today. “Harry, I’m scared.”

He curled his fingers around Louis’ wrist and pressed his lips to Louis’ rabbiting pulse. Facing each other like this, they stood so close he could count Louis’ eyelashes. “Of what?”

“Stuff. Just… I want to ask you something but I don’t know what you’ll say.”

The girl finally walked past them, a cloud of smoke trailing behind her.

“You can ask me anything. You know that.”

Louis bit down on his lip and let his hand fall from Harry’s face. His lip was reddened with the imprint of his teeth when he finally released it. Harry wanted to brush the pad of his thumb over the bruised flesh, feel it under his own lips.

“Harry, do you… um,” he squeezed Harry’s hand, their joined palms radiating heat. “Do you have feelings for me?”

He froze. Any second now he’d turn inside out.

“Harry.”

Harry’s chest burned as if someone had lit a match under his ribs and fanned the flames out. He wondered if he was about to die.

“How,” his eyes felt hot, his vision blurring out. He could barely register anything except for the deafening pulse in his ears and his own frantic breath. “How did you—”

He pulled their hands out of his pocket, wanting to let go of Louis but Louis wouldn’t let him.

“Don’t,” Louis said, his grip like a vice. “Please don’t leave.”

“I wasn’t going to leave!” Harry let out a strangled noise, something between a laugh and a sob because Louis still wouldn’t let him go. It felt a lot like having an avalanche of stones crumbling down on his chest.

“Harry, please—”

“I didn’t mean to,” he choked out, tears finally spilling over, hot and wet. He felt like he was choking on his own breath. “I didn’t mean to fall in love with you.”

He was going to splinter apart and collapse at Louis’ feet, his eyes burning with it. He blinked, could barely see past the sheen of tears that just wouldn’t stop. “I’m sorry. Sorry that I… ruined everything. That—”

“No,” Louis said, quiet and shaky, his fingers curling around Harry’s arm. Harry jerked in surprise but didn’t move, his limbs laden. He wondered if Louis could feel him shivering down to his bones even through the fabric of his coat. “You didn’t ruin anything. Don’t ever say you’re sorry for that.”

He couldn’t look Louis in the eye, couldn’t stop shaking.

“Harry, I love you.”

“I know.” His voice cracked as he stared at the short distance between the tips of their shoes, unfocused, his head spinning a little. Maybe if he pretended hard enough that this wasn’t happening, it wouldn’t be real.

Out of the corner of his eye he could see Louis wiping at his own eyes with the back of his hand.

He’d made Louis cry. Somehow, that was worse than anything.

“No, you don’t. Will you please look at me?”

It was the last thing he wanted to do but he did it anyway, tipped his chin up and met Louis’ gaze even though all he wanted to do was curl up in his bed and pretend the outside world didn’t exist.

“I love you, you idiot. I’m in love with you.”

The sound of his pounding heartbeat in his ears turned into static. He wasn’t sure any words even passed his lips when he said, “What?”

“I can’t believe Liam was fucking right, I’m,” Louis laughed wetly, his cheeks pale, “He kept telling me that I needed to tell you, that… that maybe you’d—”

Liam and… Niall. Niall must have known too.

“You love me.”

Louis slipped his hand and out of his pocket and hugged Harry close, his hot breath puffing against Harry’s neck. He wrapped his arms around Louis on instinct, trembling as he struggled to process what just happened.

“How?”

“I don’t know how. I just… I think I always have,” Louis said quietly, holding Harry for a long, aching moment. “I just wouldn’t let myself… Couldn’t let myself think it, because you’re my favourite person and I never wanted to lose you.”

“You’re mine too. My favourite person,” Harry said dazedly, letting himself hold onto Louis tighter, feeling fragile and breakable. “You’d never lose me.”

He couldn’t stop shaking, his heart slamming against his ribcage. It was like all the tension and fear and relief were just crashing over him in waves all at once.

And there was so much he wanted to say, to bleed out all the words he’d been holding in for weeks, but right now… right now none of it mattered but this.

“Can I tell you again?” he asked even though his throat felt too tight and his breath wouldn’t stop hitching in his throat.

Louis’ lips were soft against the edge of his jaw. “If you don’t, I’ll… I can’t think of anything because you smell so fucking nice. You always do.”

Harry laughed, dizzy, because this was real. Real, real, real. “I love you.”

Louis pulled away enough so he could cradle Harry’s face. The pads of his thumbs were gentle as he brushed them over the soft skin under Harry’s eyes. “We’re dumb.”

“We really are.” Eyes closed, Harry tilted his face into Louis’ touch, Louis’ palm soft against his cheek. “I love you. So much.” He’d never get sick of saying it. “Even when you throw all your clothes on the floor and refuse to let go of me when I need to get ready for a lecture at 9 and when you get stroppy because you’re cold.”

“I don’t get stroppy.” Louis laughed against his chin and he let himself hold Louis impossibly closer, arms tight around Louis’ waist. “I love you even though your Marimba alarm clock drives me crazy and you never admit to your farts and—”

Harry laughed, a loud, croaky burst of a sound, the weight on his chest finally falling away. He hugged Louis tighter and tried not to tremble too much with how happy he was. How light he felt for the first time in a long time. “Okay, okay. But sometimes I do admit.”

“Can I kiss you?” Louis blurted out, his thumb brushing over Harry’s cheekbone gently before he looped his arms around Harry’s neck. More quietly, he added, “Just for us?”

“Please.”

The gravel of the little pathway scrunched beneath their feet as they shifted apart, the wind cold against his cheeks, yet all of it faded away the second Louis kissed him, his gentle mouth coaxing Harry into kissing Louis back. His knees shook.

Just for us.

He wanted to spend his every morning and every day and every night kissing Louis just because they needed to be close. Short, heartfelt ones just to say hello and I love you and long, breathless ones when they couldn’t bear to part.

He pressed his lips against Louis’ harder, his hand finding a home in the dip of Louis’ lower back as they tilted their heads, parting and meeting again harder, deeper, Harry’s skin burning with each wet slide of their lips and Louis’ teeth skimming his bottom lip.

Louis bit down gently and pulled, Harry’s cheeks flushing at the groan he couldn’t hold back. And even though their teeth clicked together a few times and Harry worried if his lips were a bit too chapped from the cold, none of it really mattered.

This was everything he’d wanted and never thought he’d get to have.

They slowed down a little, aware they were still in public with people passing them by. Louis pressed sweet lingering kisses against his lips, his eyelashes tickling Harry’s cheeks.

“You taste minty,” Louis said when they finally parted.

Harry kissed the corner of Louis’ smiling mouth and nuzzled his flushed cheek. “I want to, um… I want to do this all day.”

Harry’s lips wouldn’t stop tingling.

And it was okay if they didn’t have the future planned out, if they still needed to talk things out. They had all the time in the world.

“We have that.”

 

****

It felt different, better, to be holding hands with Louis when he knew it was real. It didn’t quite register still. Not when they walked into the dorms or when Louis kissed Harry against the railings on the staircase.

Harry always wanted to be kissing him and couldn’t help but tell him so, finally allowing himself to say all the things he’d had on his mind.

Louis’ eyes crinkled at the edges.

“Louis?” he asked when the door to his room closed behind them and his brain felt a little less hazy. “You know when we kissed at the Halloween party. Did you, um… did you do it just so Guy would see or because you really wanted to?”

Louis toed off his shoes, silent for a while as though finding the right words. Harry felt a strange kind of thrill, knowing that at that point they’d kissed without any pretence. That even without being aware of it, they’d met each other halfway.

“I, um… I wanted to. That whole time I was wishing we were somewhere else. More quiet.” Louis’ throat bobbed as he swallowed, shrugging off his coat and taking his beanie off. It left his hair a little electrified, soft and unstyled as it was. “’S funny, actually. Remember that practice kiss?”

As if Harry could forget. “Yeah.”

“I was scared shitless to kiss you like that in front of everyone for the first time. Like, I needed to kind of brace myself for it. It seemed easier with just you and me. And it still caught me off guard, how much I…” Louis turned towards the window and fiddled with the bottom of his dark green sweatshirt. “How much I liked it. I kind of panicked.” He grinned a little. “As I’m sure you noticed.”

Harry wasn’t sure about a lot of things, still finding his footing, but he never could stand to keep himself from touching Louis for too long. He walked over to him, his hand hovering over the nape of Louis’ neck before he made contact. Louis didn’t startle, just swayed back into Harry, his eyes closed.

Harry stepped in closer until the heat of their bodies merged, his fingers playing with the little strands of Louis’ hair. “I liked it too. Best kiss I’ve ever had. I mean, it was my first proper French kiss, but still. It counts.”

Louis laughed, tension flowing out of his body. “You’re a cheeky little shit.”

Harry hid his smile in Louis’ shoulder, watching the trees outside bend under the pressure of the wind. “You know, Niall told me to seduce you by lying naked on your bed.”

“Well, I mean, that’s how you sometimes go to sleep so I might have just thought you’d come in for cuddles.”

“Oh god,” Harry mumbled, caressing the slope of Louis’ shoulder and down his arm then slipping under Louis’ sweatshirt to touch his waist. “We’ve always been a little weird, haven’t we?”

“Not weird,” Louis protested softly, shivering a little under Harry’s hand. “We’ve just… we’ve always liked being close to each other, I think.”

“I’ve always felt comfortable around you.” Quietly, he mumbled into Louis’ shoulder, “You smell like cocoa butter.”

Louis laughed, kissing the side of Harry’s head. “The feeling is very mutual, Curly. Always been a bit obsessed with the way you smell. I guess I can admit being that creepy now.”

“I like just… watching you do stuff.”

“And I guess we’re both creepy then. Match made in heaven.” He rested his hand atop Harry’s. “Since we’re being honest, eh… sleeping with you has given me plenty of awkward boners, especially these past couple weeks. You’re so—”

Harry slid their joined hands achingly slowly from Louis’ waist to his belly to pull him against his body, the bottom of Louis’ sweatshirt gathered up around their wrists. “So what?”

“When,” Louis cleared his voice, his tone husky, “when did you get so smooth?”

“’M really not.” Butterflies took flight in Harry’s stomach and he almost felt lightheaded, Louis’ muscles tensing under his hand, his body curving into Harry’s to erase any space between them.

“Got me fooled.”

His breath sped up, matching Louis’ and he suddenly felt even more aware, attuned to every twitch of Louis’ muscles, of the softness of his skin and the tight curve of his bum pressed against Harry’s crotch.

“Lou?”

“Hm?”

“Knock knock.”

Louis paused but in the end gave in. He always did. “Who’s there?”

“I love you.”

“I love you who?” Louis asked, his voice warm with amusement.

“Don’t ask who because it’s you.”

Louis turned around in his arms, holding his smile back. “I take it back. You’re not smooth at all.”

Harry pouted.

“Maybe a little,” Louis allowed, the corners of his mouth twitching. Harry wanted to make him smile for the rest of their lives.

He hooked his fingers in Louis’ belt loops and tugged him towards the bed. “Can we cuddle?”

“Fine, but take off your clothes first. I hate wearing outside clothes to bed.”

Harry tried not to grin, the backs of his knees colliding with the edge of the bed.

“Don’t,” Louis said, arching his eyebrows. “You’re keeping your boxers on, pal.”

“Bro.”

“Don’t ever call me that again or I’ll make you sorry.” Louis grimaced and pushed him to sit on the bed, already unzipping his jeans. Harry felt that swooping feeling in his stomach, as though he’d missed a step.

“Sorry, mate,” he said, leaning forward to hide his grin in the soft cotton covering Louis’ belly.

Louis knotted his fingers in Harry’s hair and pulled. The heat of it shot right into the pit of his stomach. He bit the fabric of Louis’ sweatshirt to keep himself in check.

“Fuck, Harry.”

“Sorry, it’s just—”

“The hair, right?” Louis asked, running his fingers through Harry’s curls.

“Yeah.”

“I love that I know that about you. I love that I know so well.”

Harry’s heart softened and he let Louis push him back on the bed with his hand in the centre of Harry’s chest and tug Harry’s tight jeans off. He wasn’t sure if he should feel embarrassed about the way he’d started to tent out his boxers, how easily Louis could make him weak. Louis didn’t comment, so neither did he.

“Cuddle me,” he said quietly as he took off his T-shirt and socks and settled under the duvet, the coolness of the sheets making him shiver. “Get in, I’m cold.”

“How high maintenance,” Louis teased but finally got in, curling around him the way he’d always had. Old habits died hard. Harry hoped they never would, that they’d fall asleep just like this years from now. “I’m exhausted. Could sleep for a week.”

“I know,” Harry said, his eyes already drifting shut.

He loved how easy it was. How he knew Louis so much his touch felt like a familiar comfort. How he could be himself and the silent moments didn’t need to be filled with words.

It was easy to just be.

 

****

When Louis burst into his room, Harry almost jumped out of his skin.

“Grab your things, we need to go get duct tap—” Louis paused then hastily slammed the door behind him, blinking. “You’re naked.”

“That’s,” Harry curled his toes into the rug, a blow-dryer in his hand, “what usually happens when one isn’t wearing clothes.”

He’d got out of shower about fifteen minutes ago, had just finished blow-drying his hair. Putting on clothes hadn’t seemed like a priority.

Louis sucked his bottom lip into his mouth and hummed in agreement. For a second Harry wondered if Louis had read his mind then realized he was being dumb and Louis looked a bit out of it.

“Louis.”

“Hm?”

The way Louis looked at him made heat run down his spine and curl in his belly. “Why do you need duct tape?”

“What?”

Harry breathed out a laugh, putting the blow-dryer down so he could pull on some boxers. Not because he was embarrassed or minded Louis looking at him as if his knees might buckle any second. Just… it affected Harry more than he was probably ready for. They hadn’t discussed that kind of stuff yet.

“Duct tape?” Harry repeated, turning his head to the side to hide his grin.

“Oh,” Louis said, pushed himself off the door and smoothed his hand down his front. Harry tried not to watch the slow slide of his hand down his torso. “We need to tape Liam’s shoes to his ceiling. Obviously.”

Harry had learned not to question Louis years ago.

 

****

“Run!” Louis yelled and grabbed Harry’s hand, running out past a confused Liam who had just opened the door to his dorm room.

They’d been waiting behind the corner until Liam had left his room to disappear inside the common room and proceeded to tape Liam’s shoes to his ceiling. It had been nothing short of a miracle that Harry hadn’t fallen off Liam’s bed with Louis on his shoulders and caused them both major injuries.

“You little buggers!” Harry heard Liam call after them as they ran and breathlessly burst into Louis’ room because it was closer. They locked the door behind them, breathless and cackling, grabbing onto each other for support.

“This,” Louis said, giggling into Harry’s neck, “is the best prank I’ve ever pulled. Couldn’t have done it without you.”

Harry wrapped his arm around Louis’ waist, both of them stumbling towards the bed. “As long as you don’t do it to me.”

“As if I’d ever!” He grinned, his eyes turning hooded. “God, you’re so hot. Did you know that?”

“Maybe,” Harry said, squawking when Louis ran his fingers over his ribs, tickling him.

“I love it when we gang up on people, especially Liam. Come here.”

Harry dragged his hands lower, over the dip of Louis’ lower back until his fingertips were just digging into the swell of Louis’ ass. “Can we not mention Liam’s name when we’re—”

“And here I thought it would turn you on.” He cupped Harry’s flushed face, thumbs caressing his dimples as Louis pulled him into a kiss, both of them smiling too wide to do it properly. Harry didn’t care about proper.

They fell backwards on the bed, breaking the kiss. “Mmm, yeah. Liam.”

“Shut up,” Louis laughed, his weight pressing Harry into the mattress.

“You stopped kissing me,” Harry said, frowning.

“Maybe you don’t deserve it.”

Harry pouted until Louis finally gave in and leaned close enough for his breath to hit Harry’s tingling mouth, their noses nudging before Louis pecked Harry’s upper lip several times in a row, lingering on the last. It never failed to make Harry tingle down to his toes as though every kiss with Louis was his first.

“Like this?”

Harry whined because no, it wasn’t nearly enough, the skin of Louis’ back scalding hot when he slipped his hands under Louis’ T-shirt. “More. Deeper.”

“Deeper, eh? Like your voice?” Louis asked, a little more breathless now, his hips shifting between Harry’s spread legs as if he couldn’t help it.

Harry surged up to claim Louis’ mouth, each wet slide of their lips kicking the heat under his skin up a notch. He was going to burn up.

Louis’ hot tongue darted past the seam of Harry’s lips, their heads tilting to the side to deepen the kiss. When Harry suckled on Louis’ tongue, Louis’ skin broke out into goosebumps under his palms, his heart pounding against Harry’s chest.

Harry wasn’t sure if he could stop, if he even wanted to. And it should have been weird, doing this with Louis, but the only weird thing about it was feeling like nothing had changed. Like it all just kind of happened. It felt right.

When they parted for breath, Harry couldn’t help but follow Louis’ mouth the second after, straining up. Louis wouldn’t let him though, ducking his head to the side to kiss behind Harry’s ear.

“Wait.”

It seemed impossible to control his own breath, the unconscious need to rock his hips up. Being in love with Louis, having that emotional connection and trust, it… it made him want to do other things too, because he knew Louis would be there for him.

That it would mean something to them both.

Louis laughed, his voice hoarse as if he hadn’t used it in hours. “We should slow down a little.”

“I know,” Harry said, burying his face in the curve of Louis’ neck, pressing a chaste kiss to the smooth skin. “We should, um… talk about it too. About stuff.”

“Stuff,” Louis teased gently, his hair tickling Harry’s face.

They rolled onto their sides. Harry’s T-shirt was starting to stick to his sweaty back, Louis’ thigh tense where it was hooked over Harry’s hip. And even so close to saying ‘fuck it’ and rubbing off against Louis until they were panting into each other’s mouths, something wouldn’t quite let him. Not before they talked about it.

“You okay with this?” Louis asked, running his hand lazily up and down Harry’s back. “What we’re doing right now?”

“Very. Very, um, okay.” Their hips were flush together so he knew Louis must have been aware of just how hard Harry was. “Can’t you tell?”

The corner of Louis’ mouth twitched. “Not really. Can barely feel that rod down your pants, or whatever the hell you’re hiding there, to be honest.”

“It’s a banana.”

“Gotta live healthy. I respect that.”

Harry snorted a giggle, cuddling into Louis. “You’re not any better, you know.”

Louis’ cheeks turned just a shade redder, his grin widening. “Thank you. Wouldn’t have noticed without you.”

“Happy to help.” He kissed Louis’ chin and the sharp cut of his jaw and the spot right under that made Louis tilt his head back, his fingers faltering against Harry’s back.

“This is the opposite of helping. You’re trying to seduce me.”

“I just… need to touch you.” He hugged Louis as tight as he dared and kissed down his neck. He couldn’t get enough, wondered if he’d ever stop starving for the taste of Louis’ skin.

“I love it when you do,” Louis said quietly, his Adam’s apple bobbing up and down. “It’s still a bit, um… I can’t believe I get to have you like this.”

Harry paused, suddenly overcome with emotion, with how much he wanted to show Louis he loved him. “Louis, I love you. Love you, love you, love you. Just… in case you didn’t know.”

Louis laughed, falling on his back and taking Harry with him, his hair soft and all over the place. It was the end of November and the light outside had just started to grow dim, but it was still light enough for it to catch on Louis’ eyelashes. Harry knew he was staring, maybe even creepily so, but he couldn’t help it.

“It’s strange to think we grew up together,” Harry said slowly, gathering his thoughts. “And it just goes by so fast. I feel like if I blink we’ll suddenly be sixty and married and…” He stopped, fumbling because he kind of hadn’t meant to let that slip. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to say that marriage bit out loud or like, assume—”

“Harry, if you think that’s going to scare me off then you’re an idiot.”

“Hey,” Harry drawled, leaning down to kiss the tip of Louis’ nose. “I didn’t know. Maybe you have some commitment issues I’m not aware of.”

He’d never seen Louis look more insulted. “Excuse you, I’m in this until we’re old and grey and you yell at me because I misplaced your cane or forgot to flush the toilet.”

Harry giggled, resting his cheek against Louis’ and kissing his earlobe. “Seems like you’ve thought about this.”

“Fuck off,” Louis said, voice warm with laughter. “I can’t believe I’m still hard after all this talk.”

“I wanted to talk about joint bank accounts and mortgage but I think I’d rather not. Might get you off.”

Louis tried to knee him in the side but only ended up rubbing his crotch against Harry’s belly and collapsing back against the bed, red in the face at the whimper he couldn’t hold back. “I hate you.”

Harry muffled his giggle in Louis’ shoulder, trying to distract himself from feeling Louis pressed hard against his belly, nothing but the fabric of Louis’ joggers and his T-shirt between them.

Louis wrapped his arms tight around Harry’s waist, his chest rising and falling with quick breaths. “Fuck, Harry, if you don’t stop giggling I’ll be the one coming in my pants now. Or well, joggers. I’m not wearing any pants… Fuck, it like, vibrates against my dick. Stop it.”

Which, of course, made Harry laugh even harder. He did try to keep his weight off Louis’ body though. He wasn’t that mean. “I’m sorry.”

Louis poked his dimple, his cheeks flushed. “Yeah, you look it.”

“I walked in on my grandma scrubbing her bum in the shower once.”

Louis paused, blinking. “What the fuck.”

“I’m helping! You know, with the hard dick thing.”

“First of all, I’m still hard,” Louis said, wriggling under Harry to prove his point, and definitely not helping Harry to calm down either. “Second of all, now I’m hard while we’re talking about your naked grandma and that’s just… not okay. What if it becomes like that Pavlov reflex thing and now every time I see your grandma, I’ll get an erection?”

He sounded genuinely distressed and Harry felt bad for laughing as hard as he was but he couldn’t bloody stop.

Louis pushed him off, lips pressed into a thin line to hold back his grin. “Let’s see how you like them apples, Harold.”

He straddled Harry, thighs flexing with the motion. The way he rolled his hips, the tight curve of his bum dragging over Harry’s cock, almost made Harry see stars.

He choked, hands shooting out to grab Louis’ hips to still him. “Fuck, Louis.”

“No more teasing.”

Harry whimpered, curling his toes into the sheets. “Fine.”

Louis folded himself over to nose at Harry’s cheek and even though the heat of Louis’ body was making his brain shut down, he asked, “Lou, can I have a kiss, please?”

Louis braced his hands on Harry’s chest and looked at him, all soft and in love. “I guess.”

Louis’ lips were sweet and gentle. He tasted like home.

And even though they didn’t go any further than that, just being with Louis, holding him like this, was still was the closest Harry had ever felt to anyone.

 

****

A few nights later they built a makeshift blanket fort, which really consisted of the two of them pushing the wardrobe against the end of the bed and hanging tied up sheets from the top of it to the headboard on the other end where they’d propped it up higher with cushions.

They left the lights off and almost tripped over their own feet when they climbed inside, sitting with their backs to the wall with plenty of pillows to make it comfortable.

Harry felt like he was eight again.

“I still don’t agree on eating crisps in my bed,” Harry said. “There will be crumbs everywhere.”

“I’ll be careful!”

Harry could already feel one right under his thigh. He just sighed and dipped his hand into the packet.

“We should make this a secret sharing time,” Louis said with his mouth full. Harry couldn’t believe he was in love with him.

“You already know all my secrets though. And I yours.”

“Oh, but not really, do we?” Louis’ greasy fingers pinched Harry’s bare thigh. He squawked and batted Louis away. It took him about two seconds to relent and shuffle over until their sides touched.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean,” Louis started and even though Harry couldn’t see him well in the dark, he could almost feel the way Louis raised his eyebrow, “I want all your nasty secrets, love. The kind of stuff you’re into, all that.”

“Oh God,” he stuffed his face mouth of crisps and mumbled, “Fine.”

“We can make a guessing game out of it. How about that?”

Harry bent his legs at the knee and adjusted his socks. They were fluffy and thick and had reindeer on them because Christmas was only about three weeks away and Harry loved to be in the holiday mood ahead of time. “I’m in. Are there any stakes?”

“Whoever is wrong or doesn’t have any guess anymore will have to, eh…”

“A kiss!” Harry blurted out, blushing at how loud that came off. “I mean, the loser has to kiss the winner anywhere they want.”

For a moment all Harry could hear was the rustling of the packet, all he could feel was the heat of Louis’ body.

“That’s naughty.”

“Doesn’t have to be,” Harry mumbled, sticking his fingers inside his socks.

“I like it,” Louis decided, running his knuckles down Harry’s thigh. “How about you start?”

“Okay.” He leaned in closer to Louis, shuffled down the bed a bit so he could rest his head on Louis’ shoulder. “You like bum stuff. Like, the, erm… rimming.”

Louis choked back a giggle and slowly breathed out. “It sounds weird when you say it, but yeah. I reckon that’s true. Good memory there, baby.”

For a second Harry’s brain wouldn’t process thoughts because baby. Louis had never called him that before. He managed to croak out, “Your turn.”

“Easy. You like to have your hair pulled.”

He rubbed his hands up and down his calves. “Yeah. Um… you like to have your bum slapped.”

Louis froze. “How do you even know that? I mean… I’ve never, you know, actually done it, so—”

“But you’re into it,” Harry pressed, could hear the way Louis’ breath quickened.

“I think so. But how would you bloody know?”

“That time when you took my,” he was glad it was dark because his face must have been bright red, “dildo. And I grabbed you and accidentally slapped you, I could kind of feel… stuff.”

“Oh God. Yeah. Fuck.”

“It was hot,” Harry admitted, nudging Louis’ foot with his own. “So you’ve never—”

“Nope.” Louis picked at the crisps packet with restless fingers.

“Would you like to? I can, I mean… I’ll read it up on it first so I don’t accidentally hurt you, but I’d do it. Um, eventually.”

“Okay,” Louis said, breathy and high-pitched, throwing the packet to the side and tucking his hands between his thighs. “You like to be called baby. I know because you held your breath when I called you that just now.”

“I did like it.” He nosed at Louis’ shoulder, breathed him. His T-shirt smelled like Harry’s favourite fabric softener. “You like to be peed on.”

Louis choked out a laugh, his shoulder shaking under Harry’s cheek. “What the fuck, Haz? Not really, no. I don’t think, at least.”

Harry thought that might have been a long shot. He just wanted an excuse to kiss Louis. “Guess I have to kiss you now.”

“I guess you do.” Louis tilted his head to the side. “You can… my neck.”

“Yeah?” Harry asked, smiling as he cupped Louis’ jaw and pressed his lips to Louis’ pulse point, trailing kisses up the length of Louis’ neck until he was squirming. “Your turn.”

He pulled away, more than a little satisfied when Louis took a while to respond.

His voice was raspy when he said, “You like to be held down.”

Harry’s heart hammered against his ribcage because yeah he did, loved to feel like he had nowhere else to go and had to give in to the person holding him down. When Louis was, because Harry had always trusted him not to take advantage. “You’re not wrong.”

“Of course not. When we used to, like, play fight—”

“You say that like you didn’t try to wrestle me down last week because I wouldn’t let you put your cold hands under my shirt.”

“Anyway,” Louis said, amused, “When we play fight and I manage to grab your wrists and pin you down you always get that look on your face.”

“What face?” Harry pulled away to gawk at him even though he could barely see him.

“Like you’re seconds away from jizzing.”

Harry squawked and slapped Louis’ leg. “Why didn’t you ever tell me?”

“Shhh,” Louis said, laughing as he blindly ran his fingers down Harry’s face. Harry managed to bite his index finger. “It was funny. Didn’t want you to stop doing it.”

“You’re a sadist.”

“Wrong. I guess you have to kiss me again.”

“That wasn’t even a guess,” Harry protested weakly but played along anyway. “Fine. Where?”

“My cheek.”

“That’s lame.” Harry pushed off the wall and sat facing Louis with his legs crossed. “I kiss your cheek all the time. I want something more adventurous.”

“Kiss my bum then, Styles.”

He knew Louis was joking but he liked to take Louis by surprise so he grabbed Louis’ thigh until he was sliding down the bed a bit, his squeaks of protest muffled in the mattress when Harry rolled him over, manhandling him until he lay stretched out on the length of the bed on his front.

“Harry, I was jok—”

He grabbed the waistband of Louis’ joggers and slowly rolled it down until it was right beneath the crease of Louis’ bum, his breath stuttering. Harry had never felt his blood rush south faster.

“If you don’t want me to, I won’t,” he said quietly and leaned in until he knew his breath was hitting Louis’ skin.

“Fuck, do it.”

He gripped Louis’ hips, his thumbs just digging into the tight muscles of Louis’ bum as he leaned in and pressed his lips to the left cheek. The muscles tensed under his open mouth, jerking when Harry sank his teeth in.

With one final, open mouthed kiss, he rolled Louis’ joggers back up and sat against the wall again with his legs folded under his bum. He had to press the heel of his hand down on his cock at the way Louis just lay there, breathing hard.

“You like to have your neck kissed,” Harry said, stirring Louis into moving again.

“I thought it was my turn.” Louis rolled onto his back and got Harry to stretch his legs out so he could throw his over Harry’s, a sliver of his golden skin shining where his T-shirt had ridden up. Harry wanted to kiss it next. “You’d like to be taken from behind.”

“I would,” he admitted, his cheeks radiating heat. “But I want to say you’re wrong just so you’d kiss me.”

“I want to kiss your legs.” Louis sat up, all fluid and graceful as he kneed up to Harry and rested his hand on Harry’s thigh. “Fair warning, I want to give you a hickey, so if you’re not okay with th—”

“Please.”

He manoeuvred Harry to lie on his back and shuffle up the mattress, spreading Harry’s legs with firm hands so he could settle between them. Even in the dark, Harry could see the way he was tenting up his boxers. There was no way Louis couldn’t.

“I’m glad you didn’t wear your jammies. You look so cute in just your Stones tee and Christmas socks,” Louis whispered, kissing right above Harry’s knee.

His lips were damp and soft, lingering on Harry’s skin with each kiss up his thigh. The higher he went, the faster Harry’s heart beat in his chest. When Louis wrapped his arm around Harry’s left thigh and pushed it even more to the side, teeth grazing Harry’s skin, he had to grip the sheets and remind himself to breathe.

“Think this is the place, yeah?” He was so close to Harry’s crotch his hair was tickling him through the fabric of his boxers, nails lightly scratching up Harry’s leg.

Harry shivered and slid his fingers into Louis’ hair to feel him when Louis kissed the spot on his inner thigh about two inches below his balls.

When Louis sank his teeth in and sucked, Harry’s hips came off the bed.

“Hmm,” Louis hummed, grabbing his hips, pinning Harry to the bed as he kept suckling, running his tongue over the bitten skin until Harry had trouble breathing. If he kept it up, Harry had no doubt he’d start dripping into his boxers.

Louis broke off with a smacking sound and said, “Can’t leave the other one out, can I?”

Harry could only moan, deep and throaty, dropping his head against the mattress and biting down on his lip when he felt Louis sucking another bruise into his other thigh, flicking his tongue over Harry’s sizzling skin, teeth skimming the flesh as he suckled until Harry was a whimpering, shivering mess.

Louis then kept kissing all over his thighs, moaning as if he couldn’t get enough of the taste of Harry’s skin, biting down on Harry’s inner thighs and sucking bruises where Harry was the most sensitive. He wondered if Louis knew he liked for it to hurt a little.

The pressure of Louis’ hands wouldn’t let him buck up but he still tried, his body out of control.

“Bet the smell of dirty socks gets you off.”

It took Harry a moment to register the words over the pulse drumming in his ears.

“No,” he choked out on a laugh, his belly spasming, Louis’ shoulders spreading him wider as he moved up and kissed below Harry’s bellybutton.

“How about clowns?”

Harry shook his head, strangling the grunt in his throat when Louis slipped his thumb under the waistband of Harry’s boxers and pulled it down just far enough so he could kiss the spot under Harry’s hipbone.

He felt like his body was one big nerve that wouldn’t stop firing with each touch of Louis’ lips, each wet kiss he trailed from one hipbone to another.

“Rubbish bins then?”

Harry could only cup the back of Louis’ neck, hard and throbbing and choking back his laughter because Louis kept coming up with progressively stranger ideas just so he could keep kissing Harry all over.

He moved up to Harry’s stomach and higher, rolling up Harry’s T-shirt so he could kiss between his pecks, then right over the wild beat of his heart.

“Louis,” he rasped, clenching his thighs tight around Louis’ waist, “please.”

Louis wouldn’t let their hips touch but Harry knew he was just as hard, could tell by the way his skin was so scorching hot when Harry slipped his hand under Louis’ T-shirt to touch his back and the way Louis breathed, quick and shallow.

“Can you,” he blushed, scratching his nails up Louis’ back until it arched under his hands, “my, um… nipples. Can you—”

The second Louis’ tongue flicked out over the peak of his nipple, Harry lost his words.

Louis started out tender, just cautious little flicks and gentle lips as he closed them around Harry’s nipple and sucked. Ha trailed his hand up Harry’s side so achingly slowly Harry could feel the electricity spark in the wake of his touch, his toes permanently curled inside his festive socks.

Then Louis increased the pressure of his mouth, sucking hard right as he reached Harry’s other nipple and thumbed at it in tight circles.

Harry’s mouth dropped open and he moaned so loudly he knew they’d be getting more complaints, but he didn’t give a damn right now.

“Fuck, I need to,” he hooked his leg over Louis’ thigh and pushed him down hard enough for Louis to stutter around his nipple, his blunt nail accidentally digging into the other one when their hips finally collided. It felt like touching a live wire.

He could barely make out the flutter of Louis’ eyelashes against his cheeks as he pulled off, air hitting Harry’s damp flesh, his bruised inner thighs tender as Louis ground his hips down.

“Louis, please, do something.”

“Christ, you sound,” Louis ducked his head down, kissing Harry without any finesse. Just hot, wet mouths and teeth nipping at lips, “so fucked out.”

“Please touch me.” He dragged his fingers down Louis’ back and past his waistband so he could dig his fingertips into Louis’ ass cheeks.

“Baby,” Louis breathed, his hips stuttering, “what do you want?”

“Just this, keep… keep doing this.” The friction was making his skin sizzle, the liquid heat of it washing over him in waves.

“’M gonna mess up my joggers.”

“Take them off.” He pushed at Louis’ waistband until it rolled beneath his bum and clenched his thighs around Louis’ hips.

“You’re so bossy.” Louis pushed them further down his thighs with one hand, taking a sharp inhale when it caught on his cock. Harry could feel it hot and hard and pulsing when Louis lowered his hips again, their lengths lining up through Harry’s boxers. The head of Louis’ cock brushed over Harry’s belly every time Louis thrust upwards.

He was sweating, could feel his T-shirt sticking to his skin where it was gathered under his armpits, the love bites on his thighs shooting sharp sparks of pleasure-pain down to his fingertips with each push.

“Kiss me,” he mumbled, barely coherent because his skin felt white hot, his balls drawn tight up against his body, his mouth dry with how hard he was breathing.

“Love kissing you,” Louis whispered into his mouth, kissing Harry deeply and slowly, his hips barely losing their rhythm.

They kept rubbing off on each other, beads of precome pulsing out of the head of Louis’ cock and leaving a sticky trail on Harry’s skin. His own had soaked his boxers so much the wet fabric was sliding back and forth over his tip. He had no idea how he hadn’t come yet.

He cupped Louis’ bum in both hands and squeezed, panting against Louis’ jaw because they were both too breathless to keep kissing.

“Gonna come,” Harry said, the ball of heat in his belly getting unbearably tighter by a second.

“Fuck, want to… want to hold you down, tease you until you can’t,” Louis gasped out, biting the edge of Harry’s jaw and trailing wet kisses down his neck, “take it anymore. Want to work you over and over and over—”

Harry gripped Louis’ bum and bucked his hips up, the force of his orgasm making his body spasm, his eyes squeezed shut and mouth dropped open as he spurted into his boxers. Then Louis pinched Harry’s nipple and rubbed his hips down in a tight little figure-eight and another wave of it washed over Harry, making him incoherent.

“Fuck, Harry, please, can I—”

“Yeah,” he mumbled, frowning when he felt Louis pulling away after he finally somewhat started to come down, Louis’ hand shooting to his cock and gripping hard.

“Don’t,” Harry managed, his words a little slurred as he caught Louis’ wrist and pulled his hand away.

“Harry, please.” Louis sounded ready to cry.

“I want to, let me,” he said with a little trepidation, curling his fingers around Louis’ girth, his cock twitching weakly at the sound Louis made. He just wanted to be good for Louis.

“How do you like it?”

Louis’ hand fell to rest on top of Harry’s as he guided his fingers up and down torturously slowly.

“Squeeze the tip,” Louis said breathlessly, the waistband of his joggers stretched tight below his hips, right under his balls.

Louis was thick, much more thick than Harry had expected, a pulsing vein running down the length, his foreskin bunching around the head with every upward slide of Harry’s hand. The sound of it was slick and obscene, little ah-ah-ahs punched out of Louis’ throat.

Harry thumbed over the tip, rubbing the slickness into the head in gentle circles. Louis’ hips were rocking forward into Harry’s fist, fingers digging into Harry’s wrist so hard he’d have half-moon marks in his skin for hours.

“Want it faster?” he asked, urging Louis to knee up a little further up his body.

“Please.”

Harry gradually quickened his strokes, tight and fast, with his thumb smoothing over the wet tip. “You’re dripping.”

Louis keened, his eyes closed.

“Touch your balls,” Harry said quietly, on his way to be half-hard again just at the sight of Louis so utterly lost and powerless above him.

“Too much,” Louis said, loosely caressing his balls as Harry shortened his strokes to just the silky smooth head, tugging fast just like he liked when he needed to get off.

“I’m,” was all Louis said before his breath caught in his throat and he was coming so hard the ropes of it splattered all the way up Harry’s sternum, the last pulses of it dripping down his cock and over Harry’s knuckles as he brought Louis down with slow, gentle strokes from base to tip.

“Fuck,” Louis said and slumped over, his hand landing right in the mess on Harry’s chest. “Oh god, I’m sorry. Didn’t mean to—”

Harry laughed, short of breath and hot all over, “It’s fine.”

“Would it be weird if I,” Louis shifted back to sit on Harry’s lap, his softening length still hanging out of his joggers. The friction of the fabric against Harry’s sensitive cock felt like too much but he didn’t want Louis to move, “if I, um… like, licked it off?”

Louis wanted to kill him.

“I don’t think I can come that soon again.”

“What?” Louis laughed, already bringing Harry’s come covered hand to his mouth.

“You’re gonna make me hard again if you do that.”

Louis licked out, cleaning Harry’s hand and moaning.

Harry didn’t know what was worse. Louis moaning because he liked the taste that much or because he loved the thought of Harry coming twice in a row.

“Nobody said you couldn’t.” Louis bent over, licking and nipping Harry’s torso until he was clean.

“Would you like it if we… if you didn’t. Like, I mean… just didn’t get off for days?” Louis asked.

Harry’s head spun, his cock giving another weak twitch. “We have a little over a week before we have to leave for Christmas break. Ten days, I think.”

“Yeah?” Louis asked, folded over him and kissing his lips chastely. Harry wanted to lick into his mouth for a taste.

“I could… until then.”

“Ten days,” Louis whispered, shivering when Harry wrapped his arms around him and hugged him close. “Do you think you could?”

“Yeah.”

He was going to die.

After they took a quick shower, he found crushed crisps scattered at the foot of the bed, the packet kicked down to the floor. He was too spent to even care.

 


 

 

Chapter 6

“I’ve got a present for you.”

Harry perked up, kicking the football back to Louis. The air smelled crisp and fresh, the cold of it biting Harry’s nose, but he didn’t want to go inside yet. “A present?”

“Don’t have it with me though,” Louis said, adjusting his woollen bobble hat. “It’s back in my room.”

“That’s mean,” Harry complained, pouting as they kicked the ball back and forth. “You’re taunting me.”

Sometimes they liked to play footie in the little park close to the uni and dorms, the same park Harry would always remember as the place they’d first told each other they were in love.

Besides a few people passing by, they were the only ones here today, which was nice. At least they didn’t have to watch as much where they were kicking. The last time they’d hit Niall in the face.

Probably why he had declined coming with them today.

“Not mean. Just wanted to get you excited, you know? Good things come to those who wait.”

Harry had a feeling that was supposed to be a double entendre. He groaned and hid his blush in his scarf as he watched Louis do a few keepie-uppies. It had been three days, so he was relatively okay, but Louis certainly wasn’t making it any easier for him.

“You’re awful,” he informed Louis haughtily and caught the ball with his foot.

“And you’re going to catch a cold if you don’t wear your hat the next time.” He raised his eyebrows skeptically at Harry’s curls whipping around in the wind.

“Yes, mum.” He picked the ball up and made his way towards Louis, his breath condensing in the air on every exhale. “And you’re one to talk. You’re still wearing your bloody tennis shoes.”

“Yeah, but I have two pairs of socks on,” Louis said as though that was the only argument he needed. “I’d be even warmer if you kissed me though.”

“Maybe I would if you gave me the present.”

Louis pulled Harry in by the pockets of his coat and kissed the smirk right off his mouth. Harry dropped the ball and let it roll off to the side so he could wrap his arms around Louis’ shoulders.

“Hey,” Louis said, nudging their mouths together for another quick kiss. “I love you.”

It still made him feel like he’d swallowed a swarm of butterflies. “Love you too.”

Louis rubbed his hands up and down Harry’s sides, his cheeks pink. “Have I told you that I like your outfit today? Because I do.”

“You have now,” Harry said with a smile, his dimple deepening beneath Louis’ lips as he kissed Harry’s cheek. He wasn’t wearing anything special, just his tight jeans with a rip on the knee, his old Chelsea boots and a brown coat with warm, sheepskin lining.

“You look really cute.”

Harry’s skin felt warm despite the cold wind. “So do you.”

“I’m wearing joggers.”

“Yeah, but they’re tight around your bum and you look amazing in them.” He kissed Louis to make his point then slumped into him so he could rest his chin on the furry collar of Louis’ black coat.

“Did I tell you when I first let myself admit I was in love with you?” Louis asked, arms tight around Harry’s waist as he swayed them in place. Harry relaxed into him completely and let Louis move them slowly, eyes drooping with how comfy he was.

“When?” He nuzzled into the warmth of Louis’ neck.

“You were tying Niall’s shoelaces.”

“What?” Harry breathed out on a laugh, pulling away so he could look Louis in the eye.

“It was around the time we first kissed.” Louis ducked his gaze, lashes sweeping over his cheeks. “I don’t know why, it just… Niall’s knee was hurting that day because it got really cold out and we were in his room to make him go out with us. He didn’t say anything, proud Irishman that he is, but you must have noticed it was bothering him and you just knelt down and helped him get his shoes on and tied his laces for him and I just… I thought ‘I’m so fucking in love with him’. And it was like I knew all along but right that moment, yeah… that was it for me. I couldn’t pretend I didn’t love you like that anymore.”

Harry blinked the warmth in his eyes away and kissed Louis, long and sweet. He pulled away and pressed three more kisses into Louis’ lips. “I did when you brought me that head scarf. I just… you’re always thoughtful, always do nice things for others and that’s like, just a tiny part of all the good things you are.”

Louis kissed him again, his voice a bit wobbly. “Why are we so sappy?”

Harry laughed and rested his cheek against Louis’, hugging him tight. “Speaking of, I’m taking you out on a date.”

 

****

Harry took Louis to a quaint little coffee shop he liked to come to when he needed to work on his coursework. It was small and homey, with various knick-knacks and mismatched hand-made furniture that made it feel a bit like his grandma’s living room. The old lady behind the counter always gave him extra whipped cream.

“I can’t take you seriously when you have a chocolate moustache,” Harry told Louis, their feet tangled under the little wooden table. The tablecloth had daisies on it, their mugs of hot chocolate adorned with dancing cats.

“What do you mean? Chocolate moustaches are one of the pillars of this society. All the proper gentlemen need one!”

Harry hid his smile behind his mug, feeling cozy in his knitted lavender sweater and warm with hot chocolate in his belly as Louis took another sip and grinned defiantly, the moustache still in place.

The sun was up, the light of it filtering in through the little lace curtains and slanting over Louis’ face. He looked beautiful. A beautiful mess.

Harry finally couldn’t help himself and reached over to wipe the chocolate off with his thumb, sucking it into his mouth as Louis wiped the rest off with a napkin.

“Too bad you’re not a gentleman.”

Louis gasped dramatically. “Take that back.”

“Never!”

Louis scooted his chair closer and pinched Harry’s side until he twisted away, holding Louis by the wrists so he couldn’t do any more damage.

“Okay, okay,” Louis said, letting his hands go limp. Harry didn’t trust him to behave, but let go anyway and reached for his mug.

“You know that present I got you?” Louis leaned in until his lips brushed the shell of Harry’s ear and whispered, “It’s a new dildo.”

Harry was glad he hadn’t taken a sip or he would have spit the chocolate all over the nice tablecloth.

 

****

“It’s purple,” Harry squeaked out, moving the torn wrapping paper aside. He could tell Louis had wrapped it himself. There was too much tape and zero regard for folding the paper around the box nicely and the paper was the birthday kind even though Harry’s was weeks and weeks away. Harry loved him so much he could barely contain it.

“Your observation skills are as incredible as always.” He stood in front of Harry, bouncing on the balls of his feet while Harry sat on his bed and tried to inconspicuously shift around to accommodate his thickening cock.

“I can’t believe you—”

“I promised, didn’t I? Since I, eh… threw your old one out.” Louis scratched the back of his neck.

“This is the second dildo I own, and the second dildo you gave me. I think I know why Mum never believed me when I told her we weren’t dating.” He paused. “Well, not that I told her about the dildo.”

As Harry prodded the box, trying to choke back the nervous laugh wriggling in his chest, Louis stayed suspiciously quiet. Not for long though.

“Well, actually, this one vibrates, so not just a dildo. A vibrator. Niall helped me pick it out.”

“Oh god.” Harry curled up on his side and hid his face in the pillows. At least Louis had a lot of them. Very useful for muffling the sound of his embarrassed cackles too.

The mattress dipped beneath Louis’ weight and his warm hand rested on the fleshy part right above Harry’s hip, squeezing. Harry squeaked because he kind of wanted to burst into flames but he also wanted to feel Louis’ hands on his bare skin again. Sparks of arousal shivered down his spine, pulsing between his legs at the memory of the night they’d got off together.

Louis coaxed him onto his back, flopping half on top of him with his thigh pressed up between Harry’s legs. The pressure of it, knowing he couldn’t do anything about it, made it that much worse in the best, most maddening kind of way.

“Thought you might appreciate that. You can charge it through the USB port too, so no batteries needed. Very eco friendly.”

The noise Harry let out might have been words. He wasn’t entirely sure.

“Look at you, love,” Louis whispered, kissing his hot cheek. “It’s all right. I know you needed a new paperweight, so…”

Harry grabbed the nearest pillow and whacked Louis on the head with it. For two seconds he looked almost comically startled, his hair electrified and sticking to his face. Harry laughed so hard his stomach hurt.

It only made him harder.

“This is what I get for bearing nice, innocent study gifts. Violence!” Louis scrambled to get up, catching himself on Harry’s chest when he started to lose his balance as he straddled him. The sudden drop of Louis’ bum right over his tented crotch almost made Harry choke. “I am leaving and I’m taking the penis with me!”

“No!” Harry grabbed Louis’ wrists, weak with how much he was laughing. With how turned on he was. “Don’t take the penis!”

“Oh, so this is how it is?” Louis opened his mouth in a fake cry, “You only love me for my plastic phalluses!”

“Yes.”

A smile was pushing onto Louis’ lips, his cheeks pouched the way they always got when he was holding in a laugh, but his pupils were blown out and he couldn’t stop wriggling. Harry wouldn’t let go of his wrists, vaguely aware that the box had fallen somewhere on the floor in their struggle.

“You little shit.”

Harry pulled Louis down by his wrists, hot all over as Louis bent over to kiss him, not an inch of space between their hips. Harry couldn’t stop laughing so Louis only got his teeth, the corner of his mouth and even his dimple.

Their laughter turned into soft smiles as they rolled onto their sides and wrapped their arms around each other, Louis’ hand sneaking beneath Harry’s lavender sweater as they kissed.

“I can’t believe you’d do this to me,” Harry said tightly in between kisses.

“What?”

“Giving me this when you know I can’t use it. Not for at least a week.”

“Nobody said you couldn’t use it. Just that you couldn’t come.”

Harry sucked a needy kiss into Louis’ lips and hoped he’d survive the next seven days.

 

****

“You two are disgusting,” Niall said, eyeing them from behind his mug of shitty lager. The student union bar never had the good stuff, but it was cheap and they’d been too lazy to head elsewhere with all their textbooks and laptops.

“I mean, I love you, but you’re gross. I didn’t think you could be more gross than you were before but you keep proving me wrong.”

“We’re not even doing anything!” Louis protested with his hand halfway to Harry’s mouth from where they sat side by side on a vinyl bench inside a booth. He’d been feeding Harry almonds.

“Maybe we are a little gross,” Harry admitted and brought Louis’ hand to his mouth, sticking his tongue out.

Louis tilted his head, his eyes growing unfocused when Harry wrapped his lips around Louis’ fingers and sucked the almond into his mouth with hollowed cheeks. A coaster hit Harry’s shoulder but he couldn’t find it in him to care, not when Louis was rubbing the pad of his thumb over Harry’s spit-slick bottom lip with that look on his face. As if he was seconds away from devouring him.

The tension between them had steadily grown almost unbearable. They’d snog for ages with no space to spare between their bodies, hands darting beneath clothes to touch skin. Sometimes Louis would skim his fingertips over Harry’s bulge over his jeans just to drive him wild.

Harry wasn’t sure if that made everything worse or better.

It had been five days since he hadn’t wanked at all, and that would have been fine if Louis wasn’t there to tease him every time he thought he had himself under control.

He’d never wanted anyone so badly just a touch could get him close to begging. He just… he needed to see how much more he could take.

“We’re supposed to be studying,” Niall complained, huffing loudly. “I’m gonna laugh when you two have nothing to hand in.”

“We both have just one more thing to hand in,” Harry said, fairly sure he’d be okay. They’d spent last week finishing the toughest assignments so they wouldn’t have to freak out now.

“I hate you both,” Niall muttered, typing something aggressively into his laptop.

“A kiss for every few paragraphs we do?” Louis asked, soft and painfully endearing in his bobble hat and too big sweater and skinny jeans, fingerless gloves on his hand wrapped around a steaming cup of tea. Harry wanted to trail kisses down his spine and never stop.

“Okay,” Harry smiled, lifting Louis’ hand to his mouth to kiss his fingertips.

“Oi! He didn’t even get anything done, that’s cheating.”

 

****

Finishing his last assignment the night before had been distracting enough for him not to dwell on his sexual frustration for at least a few hours. But now as he handed it in, it was like it all slammed back into him tenfold.

He slipped into his coat, grateful it reached mid-thigh as he texted Louis, ‘All done. I’m a free man! Until January anyway.’

Louis sent him back a snap of him pouting, glasses on, huddled in a blanket.

‘Where are you?’ Harry texted him, chewing on his knuckle because that shouldn’t have made him hot, but well…

‘Last lecture before break. So pointless. Want to be kissing you instead.’

He didn’t even question the blanket. Louis would literally go to his lecture in pyjamas or slippers when he was feeling lazy. Harry loved that as much as Louis’ skinnies and soft sweaters.

‘Come back to mine when you’re done.’

Louis sent back a slew of aubergines because he was lame and always used too many emojis. Harry shouldn’t find that so endearing.

‘Do me a favour?’ Louis texted just as Harry was about to slip his phone into the pocket of his jeans.

‘Yeah?’

‘Can you put the vibe in when you get back? Just until my lecture finishes. But only if you can handle it, love.’

Harry had to brace himself against the wall, turning his face away from the students walking past him down the corridor. He swallowed hard and tried to get himself under control. The thought of using it when he knew he couldn’t come, when he knew Louis would be aware of it, almost made his knees buckle.

‘I’ll do it.’

Louis sent back a peach emoji and water drops. Even though Harry was shaking with how desperate he was, he couldn’t help but laugh.

He definitely wasn’t laughing half an hour later when he finally sank down on the thick toy and wriggled in place, breathless with how good it felt to be so full after weeks of having used just his hand. Even though he’d spent about twenty minutes slowly prepping himself, the stretch of it was still verging on too much, just the way he liked.

He hadn’t even started rocking down yet and his cock was already bobbing, precome dribbling down the length, reminding him that he hadn’t come in days. Not even in his own hand.

The second he turned the vibrations on, he cried out and fell forward, eyes squeezed shut. Too much, too much, too much.

The buzz of it shot up his spine, his ears ringing with how fast it shoved him to the precipice. He fumbled to turn it off, his breath ragged as he waited, fighting the sharp pull in his belly, the urge to turn it back on and sink all the way down.

Slowly, his mind cleared a little, just enough for him to be able to move without feeling too close to the edge.

He lazily started to ride the turned off vibrator, sweat was slinking down his chest and back, his fist clenched tight around the sheets and other hand holding the vibrator steady. He had to stop every few minutes to pull his balls down, his thighs trembling with the effort, with how hard he was holding himself back.

When Louis finally texted him his lecture was over, Harry slumped over with the relief of it, crying into the pillow as he slowly pulled the vibrator out, fighting the urge to shove it back in and turn it on until he came.

He sent a picture of his flushed, sweaty face to Louis, really hoping he’d get him hard in public. He then slipped into his bathrobe and headed off to have a cold shower and wait for Louis to come cuddle him and make him tea.

 

****

They had three days before the Christmas break and Harry already missed falling asleep by Louis’ side.

It was early morning, sun filtering in through the open blinds. His bones were still too sleep-heavy, the warmth of Louis’ body beneath him lulling him back to sleep.

With his eyes still closed, he trailed his fingertips from Louis’ shoulder down his bare arm. He was only wearing boxers and Harry’s old wrinkled Pink Floyd T-shirt with a hole under the armpit, his hair turning a little greasy. He was the most beautiful thing Harry had ever seen.

He nuzzled the curve of Louis’ neck and tried not to rock his hips against Louis’ thigh. These past few days he’d woken up hard and heavy every single time, desperate to feel Louis’ hands on him in any way.

It was almost worse when Louis did. Yesterday he’d let his hand drift down to massage Harry’s cock through his boxers and he’d had to push Louis off because it had almost made him lose it.

He felt Louis wake the second his chest expanded on a deep breath, his limbs stretching. The movement of it caused Louis’ thigh to rub over Harry’s cock and it was so painfully good he had to bite down on his lip.

“Morning,” Louis said, voice husky as he ran fingers through Harry’s hair. None of this was helping at all.

He sucked a kiss under Louis’ jaw, his heartbeat pounding behind his eyelids.

Just three more days.

Louis’ fingers tightened in his hair, his closed mouth brushing over Harry’s forehead. His heart sped up under Harry’s palm with each kiss Harry pressed into his neck.

“Louis,” he said, aware how desperate he sounded, his teeth grazing Louis’ collarbones and hips shifting because he couldn’t bloody help it. “Please.”

Louis’ breath stuttered, his hand sliding down the nape of Harry’s neck to settle between his shoulder blades. He’d only worn boxers to bed because Louis’ warmth had made him overheat.

Now every brush of Louis’ fingertips was driving him mad.

“Please what?”

“Please,” he repeated, feeling like he’d cry if Louis didn’t do something.

“What do you want me to do?” Louis asked, low and shaky as if he could barely keep this all under wraps. Harry didn’t want him to. “Tell me.”

He kissed the length of Louis’ collarbone, sinking his teeth into the curve of Louis’ neck, sucking and licking and whining, “I’m so… please, want you.”

“Fuck, you’re so hot,” Louis rolled him onto his back, his eyes dark, “So hard up for it, aren’t you?”

Harry whimpered, his hips rocking up. “Need to come,” he could feel the blush spread from his cheeks all the way down to his chest and threw his arm over his face.

“I know, love,” Louis said, soft and gentle as he pulled Harry’s arm away from his face. “Want me to touch you for a bit?”

Everything would be so much harder if he did, but he couldn’t stand to say no. He needed Louis to touch him. “Please.”

Louis gripped both his wrists and pinned them to the mattress by his head. Harry’s skin burned with it, with feeling trapped under Louis like this, helpless. “Just three more days. You can do it. I love you.”

Harry could feel himself tear up. Fuck, he wanted to. He just, “I don’t know if I can.”

Each kiss Louis planted down his neck and sternum made little shivers of pleasure race down his spine and settle in the pit of his stomach, his cock throbbing.

“Imagine how good it’ll feel,” Louis licked over Harry’s nipple, his thumbs brushing gently over Harry’s wrists, “How good you’ll be.”

“I want to be good.” He wanted to be good for Louis.

“You already are, love.” Louis leaned down to leave a soft, lingering kiss on Harry’s lips before he pulled away again. “We can stop at any point.”

“No, want to… keep going.” He shook his head, unable to form coherent words anymore.

He had to stop Louis five minutes later, trying to catch his breath as Louis slowly brought him down with gentle kisses.

They spent the rest of the day hanging out with Niall and Liam in the city, shopping for Christmas presents and hanging out to keep Harry distracted.

He couldn’t even hold Louis’ hand because every time he tried, he started to get hard.

 

****

The eighth day went by too fast and too slowly at the same time. Louis’ smell and touch and the pressure of his lips when he kissed Harry had felt ten times more intense, sharper. He wondered if everyone could see how desperate he was, how much he just wanted to drag Louis into his room and feel him skin on skin.

By midnight, even though he’d had been at least semi-hard for the most of the past eight days and had felt Louis’ hands skimming over his skin more than once, he still felt nervous approaching him.

He padded up to Louis, who was sitting on the desk chair texting Lottie, and hugged him from behind. He looked soft and comfortable in Harry’s big grey sweater, illuminated by the dim orange glow of the desk lamp.

“Lou?”

Louis set his phone down and stroked his arm, his head lolling forward when Harry kissed behind his ear.

“Yeah?”

“Can we talk? Seriously.”

Louis spun around on the chair, giving Harry his full attention. “Of course.”

Harry loved him for not freaking out or assuming the worst. He trusted Harry just as much as Harry trusted him, which made what he was going to say so right.

He knelt by Louis’ feet and rested his hands on Louis’ knees, rubbing up and down his thighs. “Can we talk about sex?”

Louis didn’t laugh at him or tease him, just like he never did when he knew Harry needed him to be serious. “What’s on your heart, love?”

“I just, I was thinking.” He swallowed, Louis’ hands resting on top of his helping him ease his nerves.

“Hold the thought.” Louis knelt down on the floor in front of him, still holding his hands. It reminded Harry a bit of the night of the Halloween party. Only he didn’t have to doubt himself anymore or what would happen between them. “There we go. Much better. Sorry I interrupted you.”

“It’s okay.”

“You said you were thinking.” Louis’ thumbs rubbed soothing circles into the backs of Harry’s hands as he waited for Harry to collect his thoughts.

“Yeah, I just wanted to say… We’ve got two days before we have to leave for Holmes Chapel and I was hoping,” he pulled in a steadying breath, squeezing Louis’ hands, “I was hoping maybe we could have sex. Before we leave, you know? I mean, we’re still going to be together every day but it will be much harder with our families around to take proper time with it and I don’t want to wait until we get back here in January.

“And I know we already planned to do stuff anyway, what with,” he blushed, bringing their joined hands to his cheek and kissing Louis’ knuckles, “the whole not being allowed to come thing. But we never specified what would happen and I kind of… I want you in me.” More quietly, he added, “If that’s what you want too.”

Louis brought him into a kiss, his lips warm and soft. “I want it too. Want you in every way. I love you.”

“I love you too.”

“You’re not feeling too dizzy, are you? Or off in any way?”

“I’m fine. Really fucking horny, but… fine,” Harry assured him, hiding his blushing face in Louis’ shoulder. “I know I was a bit, um… out of it, especially yesterday, but that’s not why I’m asking this. I’ve been thinking about it for a long time. Before we even… before I even knew you felt the same. I just… really want it to be with you, if that’s okay.”

Louis kissed his temple, breathing him in. “I love you Harry. So much. You know that, yeah?”

“Yeah,” he laughed. Even though pleasure wouldn’t stop simmering under his skin, he didn’t feel as frantic. He knew he wanted this more than anything and was grateful Louis wasn’t trying to talk him out of it or tell him he didn’t know what he wanted.

“Good. I want you to know that. Want to do this thing proper. Want it to be good for you. For us.”

“It will be. I, um… do you want to do it tomorrow night? Because the day after we’ll be packing up and Niall wanted to grab a pint and stuff so I think tomorrow might be good. I know it’s not technically the full ten days, but—”

“No, that sounds perfect. It doesn’t matter. I just want you to feel good.” Louis cupped his face and kissed him again, Harry’s lips parting under his until their tongues touched. He felt every slide of their lips more, sharper, the pleasure of it magnified.

When they finally broke apart, they were both smiling.

“I don’t think I have any condoms on me. I’ll have to go get some tomorrow,” Louis said, his palm sliding down Harry’s neck.

“No need. I’ve got the ones Niall made me get. And, um, lube too.”

“You thought of everything, didn’t you?”
“I’ll still have to clean up,” Harry admitted, his cheeks red.

“You hoovered a few days ago,” Louis said, confused.

Harry couldn’t help but laugh, no matter how embarrassed he felt. “Not that kind of cleaning up. The other kind. The bum and other stuff kind.”

“Oh,” Louis said, eyes growing wide. “Yeah. I mean… I’d still make love to you even if you didn’t shower all day. But I want you to feel as good as you possibly can.”

“Yeah, I’ll feel better.”

“I never thought talk of hygiene would make me hot,” Louis said, grinning a little.

Harry just shook his head and laughed, excitement sparking in the pit of his stomach. “I’m glad I’m doing this with you. I’m glad I waited.”

Louis’ gaze softened and Harry knew that if Niall was here he’d call them out on staring at each other like lovesick fools again. “I love you.”

Harry scrunched his nose to keep his grin in check and pulled Louis into a hug.

 

****

He adjusted and readjusted the sheets and the covers for about a hundredth time until he told himself not to be silly and just bloody relax.

He stood up, wearing his comfiest threadbare black T-shirt and joggers, pacing from the bed to the window then to the desk where he’d left the lube and condoms out. The bottle snicked open as he sniffed it.

Fruity. Nice.

He put it back down on the desk, his heart racing.

The candles were lit and the sheets were fresh. There was nothing else he could do but wait for Louis to show up. And even though they’d spent most of the day together, just hanging out and cuddling, he still felt as if he hadn’t seen Louis in hours.

This was happening. He was about to have sex, bum sex, with someone he loved and who loved him back.

He had to wipe his sweaty hands down his thighs and take a deep breath, his cock thickening even more. At this point he’d probably come the second Louis got his hands on him.

He squeezed himself through his joggers, unable to help himself, right as the door clicked open.

Harry spun around, taking in the sight before him. Louis was wearing his black skinnies and a soft burgundy sweater, sleeves wrapped around his hands in little sweater paws. The ends of his hair were still damp from the shower.

“Starting without me?” Louis asked, gaze trained on Harry’s hand curled around his cock.

He let go slowly, his breath hitching. “Come here.”

The light of the candles flickered, casting shadows over the sharp cut of Louis’ cheekbones as he kicked off his slippers and approached him on bare feet, almost shyly. “Better?”

Harry just shook his head and held out his hands, his heart picking up speed when Louis took them and pulled him in until were flush from his hips to chest. Louis smelled clean and fresh, but underneath it Harry could still smell the sweet scent of Louis that was just him. He liked that the best.

“You lit candles.”

“Is it too much?” Harry asked quietly bumping their noses together in an Eskimo kiss. Something about this moment felt reverent, as though he shouldn’t speak above whispers.

“No, it’s perfect.”

When they kissed, Louis’ mouth tasted like mint and his gentle hands caressed the planes of Harry’s back under his T-shirt, skin on skin.

“Take it off,” Harry said in between kisses, lifting up the hem of Louis’ sweater. “Want to see you.”

The sweater dropped to the floor, Louis’ skin gleaming golden in the candlelight, wiry muscles flexing right under as he popped the button of his jeans open. The sound of the zipper teeth being lowered made his heart speed up even more.

Harry followed Louis’ hands with starving eyes, watched him push the jeans down his legs, the tight denim rolling down his strong thighs, his cock already half hard in his grey boxers.

“One day I’ll want a striptease for my birthday,” Harry let slip, the fabric of his own T-shirt too coarse on his sensitive skin, his nipples stiff. Even since he hadn’t come everything felt more. It was bordering on excruciating.

A part of him almost didn’t want it to stop.

“I’ll keep that in mind. It’s not that far off, is it? Less than two months away,” Louis said as he teased the waistband of his boxers, tugging it down just enough for his dark pubic hair to show. Harry wanted to touch him so bad, pull the boxers down with his teeth and feel the hard weight of Louis’ cock on his tongue, scratch through the hair above the base.

“Come on, baby,” Louis said, close enough now to grab the hem of Harry’s T-shirt and whip it over his head. He didn’t watch it fall to the floor because Louis was grabbing his hips and his mouth was wet on his neck as he steered Harry towards the bed.

The mattress dipped beneath his weight and he shuffled his bum up higher, hands reaching out to bring Louis on top of him. He fell on Harry with a surprised huff and a giggle, their limbs knocking together.

“Look who’s eager.”

“I wonder why,” Harry said, his voice a little strangled. He could hear Louis’ breath quicken. He hadn’t put on any music because he wanted it like this, stark and honest, wanted to remember every sound Louis would make and the way they’d sound together, even if some of it would be inevitably embarrassing.

“I still can’t believe you managed to hold out. Can’t wait to make it up to you.”

He caressed the curve of Louis’ back, skin gliding under his palms like silk. “You’re so pretty, Lou. Feel so good.”

Louis’ back arched, hips pushing into Harry’s with the movement, the fabric of their boxers dragging over their hardening lengths. “Always been a smooth talker, haven’t you?”

“Just honest.” He rolled them over until he was hovering over Louis’ body, their legs tangled. “Did you know you have these, like… tiny freckles on your cheek? I love them.”

He kissed them, shivering when Louis bent his leg at the knee and rubbed his inner thigh over Harry’s side.

“And your skin,” Harry said, quietly and almost to himself as he trailed kisses down Louis’ neck, breathing him in and trailing his fingertips down the sensitive inside of Louis’ arm, his thumb brushing over the light soft hair of Louis’ armpit, rising goosebumps in his wake. “Can I keep touching you for a bit?”

“Harry—” He ran his fingers through Harry’s hair, his chest rising and falling on quick breaths as Harry caressed Louis’ side with his knuckles, unfurling his hand to splay his fingers over Louis’ ribs as he bent over to kiss Louis’ sternum.

“You smell really nice,” Harry said, leaving a trail of damp kisses over Louis’ chest, flicking his tongue out once he reached Louis’ nipple.

“Ah,” Louis jerked, his breath stuttering. “S-sorry. Sensitive.”

“I’ll be gentle,” he promised and slowly, achingly so, sucked Louis’ nipple into his hot mouth, his fingers fitted in the dents between Louis’ ribs dipping lower to settle on Louis’ waist.

Louis felt like a live wire under his hands, responsive and twitching with every pull of Harry’s mouth.

“Want to make you come,” Louis said, squeezing the nape of Harry’s neck as Harry released his nipple to kiss his way down to the indent of his quivering, silky stomach, right above Louis’ belly button. “Please.”

“Think I could come just from this,” he whispered against Louis’ flesh, his eyelids drooping with how hard he’d got without even noticing. He was straining against his boxers.

It dulled in comparison to the heat of Louis’ body soaking into his own skin, the way he couldn’t choke back the little sounds of pleasure whenever Harry struck a sensitive nerve.

He pulled back a little, watching the way his hands could span the narrow width of Louis’ waist so easily. He wanted to learn all the ways to make him undone.

“Tell me what you want me to do to you.” He wanted to be good for Louis so bad it was making him tremble.

“Just what you’re doing. Just… touch me,” he took Harry’s hands and guided them down his belly to the waistband of his boxers. “Take these off.”

Harry hooked his fingers behind the waistband and pulled them down until the dark brown hair was revealed, followed by the wide base of Louis’ hard cock.

When he finally pulled the boxers down Louis’ legs and looked back up, his mouth watered. Louis’ cock was thick and hard, lying against his belly and curving a little to the left, the head of it flushed pretty dark pink.

Harry could feel precome pulse out and soak into his own boxers as he trailed a single fingertip down Louis’ length. It jerked under his touch, swaying a little against Louis’ belly.

“I want to be good for you, Lou. Want to make you feel good. Am I doing… is this okay?” A part of him worried he wouldn’t be good enough at this. It was just a second. Just one second of doubt before he glanced up and caught Louis’ gaze, his lashes quivering as he blinked heavily, overwhelmed.

“You are,” Louis said, gentle and soft and a breathy. “Always so good for me, always. Come here, baby.”

He leaned in, pressed against Louis from chest to hips and connected their lips, soft and sweet with the undercurrent of impatient need that made him a little short of breath. The sounds they made every time their mouths parted and met again made Harry burn down to his fingertips.

“I love,” he said quietly in between slow kisses, rubbing their noses together, “you.”

Louis made a satisfied noise in the back of his throat, his warm hands sliding down Harry’s back, fingertips trailing over the bumps of his spine until he reached the edge of Harry’s boxers.

Harry whined, eyes squeezed shut when Louis latched onto his bottom lip and bit down.

“What do you want?” Louis asked, toying with the elastic, almost playful, as though he wasn’t driving Harry absolutely crazy.

“Please,” he said, too needy to feel embarrassed, “touch my bum.”

Louis grinned, finally slipping under the fabric and squeezing. Harry wriggled under the touch, losing all his breath when Louis parted his cheeks, the end of his pinkie so close to touching Harry’s rim he gasped.

“You’re a tease,” he breathed out, his mouth a little slack when Louis craned his head up to suck a kiss into Harry’s mouth. His cheeks were scruffy, the stubble just a little bit more grown out than usual. Harry might have asked Louis not to shave.

“You like it, don’t you?” Louis said, rubbing his dry fingertip over Harry’s rim. He felt the hot flush of it spill over his skin and settle at the base of his spine, his head a little fuzzy around the edges with each light touch of Louis’ fingertip. His belly quivered against Louis’, knees digging into the mattress.

“Yeah.”

“I love you,” Louis said, pushing his fingers into Harry’s hair as he kissed his swollen bottom lip.

“Love kissing you,” Harry said, breathless and desperate, back arching. The weight of Louis’ cock, hot and hard against Harry’s belly, made his mouth water. “Louis, need to… need to… please.”

“What?”

He hid his face in Louis’ neck as he whispered, “Suck you. Suck your, um… cock.”

“Fuck, Harry.” He reached between them to grip Harry through his boxers, massaging him from base to tip until Harry’s eyes rolled into the back of his head. It almost hurt how much he needed to come. “Are you sure?”

“Please let me.” The corners of his eyes felt hot, his fingertips tingling.

“Fuck, okay. Of course. Whatever you want,” Louis stuttered out.

Harry whimpered high in his throat and left fumbled, hurried kisses down Louis’ body until his lips were barely touching the hot, pulsing length. “What do I—”

Louis caressed the shell of Harry’s ear, his legs spreading further apart. “Go slow, love. No need to hurry. Just… kiss it. Make sure you’re… ah… comfortable first.”

“Okay.” Harry let his eyes fall shut and trailed feathery light kisses up the length, felt it jerk under his mouth with each press of his lips. He loved the way it made him feel, in charge and powerful but weak at the same time. Like Louis’ pleasure magnified his own tenfold.

It was smooth, incredibly silky when he finally pursed his lips around the tip and licked out. Louis’ free hand clenched around the sheets, his thighs tense when Harry curled his arms around them to hold him steady.

Louis trembled under his touch, and it was heady. Spurred him on to let go of Louis’ thigh so he could wrap his fingers around Louis’ cock, pulling the foreskin down and sucking the bittersweet bead of precome into his mouth.

It wasn’t the taste that left him moaning and grinding against the mattress when his mouth stretched around Louis’ girth as he sunk down a little bit lower and sucked harder. It was Louis tightening his hold on Harry’s hair, the way he squirmed and exhaled a shaky breath, saying, “Baby. Ah. So good.”

Harry hummed, fingers gripping Louis’ base.

“Yeah,” Louis breathed out, rubbing Harry’s scalp. “Just… like that. Tighten your lips a bit.”

Harry did as he was told, his head growing a little fuzzier.

“Rub against the mattress. Want you to… to come.”

His hips pressed down harder, hot flushes racing over his skin as he sucked, his tongue working over the underside of Louis’ pulsing cock as much as he could, lips tight.

“Going to push into your mouth a bit,” Louis said, voice wrecked as he bucked his hips, pushing himself further into Harry’s mouth. Harry gripped onto Louis’ thigh, spit dribbling out of the corners of his mouth and sliding down to pool over his knuckles as he dragged his fist up over the last few inches he couldn’t fit into his mouth. Not yet. But he wanted to. “Keep grinding.”

His boxers were soaked, rubbing wetly over his length as he sucked harder, moaning around each burst of precome on his tongue and Louis’ hand in his hair.

He pushed himself down even further, the head of Louis’ cock grazing the back of his tongue. He gagged and had to pull off, hot tears squeezing out from beneath his closed eyelids. “S-sorry.”

He’d liked it. Fuck, he’d liked that pressure so close to the back of his throat.

“No,” Louis said, stroking the nape of Harry’s neck where he hid his flaming face in the dent of Louis’ hipbone. “None of that, love. You’re… fuck. Do you know how good you are? I’m so close it’s… it’s embarrassing.”

Louis’ voice cracked on the last syllable, his skin flushed all the way down to his belly. And before he could try to ask Harry to stop, to pull away, Harry mouthed at his cock, whispered, “I, um… I really want you to fuck my mouth,” and slowly sucked Louis back into his mouth, already missing the ache in his jaw.

“Harry, Harr—”

His hips ground down frantically against the mattress, his whole body shaking with the enormity of the pleasure building up under his skin.

He just needed… he needed.

He moaned, nudged Louis’ hip with his knuckles and forced his eyes open to look pleadingly up Louis’ body, letting himself go lax and tightening his lips, humming.

“Fuck,” Louis said, bringing his hips up and watching for Harry’s reaction. Harry moaned louder, rubbing against the mattress back and forth.

When Louis started to carefully snap his hips up, stretching Harry’s mouth to its capacity, he couldn’t take it anymore. He fisted the sheets and popped off with a loud gasp, a line of spit connecting his mouth to the head of Louis’ cock. He trembled as he came into his boxers in dizzyingly long pulses that just didn’t seem to end.

“Louis,” he choked out, his hips stuttering.

Louis’ hand stroked through his hair, the wet tip of his cock bumping against Harry’s open mouth as he finally spurted one last time and collapsed against Louis’ body.

“Good boy. Fuck, Harry, you’re so…” Louis said, rubbing soothing circles into Harry’s scalp as he urged him to sit up. “Come on, love. You’re not done yet.”

Louis peeled the wet boxers down Harry’s legs, his cock still hard, red and messy with come.

“Look at yourself.”

Harry felt like the simplest touch could make him explode into a million of tiny stars.

“You can come again, can’t you?”

Harry’s tongue felt heavy in his mouth so he just nodded and let Louis manoeuvre them, him sitting with his back against the headboard, leaning against a pillow and coaxing Harry into his arms with his back against Louis’ chest. He shivered when their skin touched, sweat slinking down his chest down to his trimmed pubic hair.

He blinked against the string of lights hanging above their heads.

When Louis’ hand wrapped loosely around Harry’s wet cock, his mind blanked out. He wasn’t sure if he wanted to push into it or pull away. It felt too soon but he couldn’t help but wriggle back into Louis and hold onto Louis’ thighs, his shoulder tingling where Louis kept kissing it gently.

“There we go.”

“Too… much.”

“Want me to stop?” Louis stroked up, foreskin bunching around the flushed head and leaving him short of breath.

“N-no.”

The next few minutes felt like an eternity, his throat dry with how hard he was panting, Louis’ cock hard and hot against his lower back. He wanted to lift up and sink down on it, wanted to keep rocking into Louis’ fist and his tight, twisting strokes at the same time.

He tried to say something but the words wouldn’t come out so he just let the waves of pleasure drag him under, near tears when he finally felt the heat in his belly snap loose, his balls drawing up tight against his body as he shot over his belly and Louis’ unrelenting hand.

He shook and came apart under Louis’ touch, crying when Louis kept stroking him even after the last spurt dribbled down over his knuckles.

He was still hard.

“One more.”

He turned his sweaty face into Louis’ neck and didn’t stop him as Louis kept stroking, his other hand rubbing up and down soothingly over Harry’s belly and chest. He couldn’t control the way he was shaking, too overwhelmed.

It seemed to take hours until Louis finally told him, “Can you lie down on your front for me, baby?”

It took a moment for Harry to understand the question, to make his limbs cooperate and move, feeling sluggish as he got up to his knees with Louis’ help and lay down on his belly.

The touch of cool sheets on his over-sensitive cock made him hiss.

“Going to open you up, okay? Still want to do this? We don’t have to.”

“Yeah, want to,” he said, nuzzling the pillow. Louis’ lips were soft and loving as he kissed down Harry’s spine. “Please.”

He felt raw and undone and he still wanted Louis so much it was making him tremble.

Louis kissed the corner of his mouth as he knelt over him, his hands caressing Harry from neck to bum. “You all right?”

“Mmhm. Don’t stop.”

“Hold yourself open for me, love.”

His shoulder blades strained as he reached behind himself, way past the point of caring how needy he must have looked. How desperate and wrecked.

The lube was cold as it dripped over his hole, trickling down over his balls.

When Louis rubbed around the rim and started to slowly push the first finger in, Harry felt like his head was filled with cotton, chest tight with how much he loved the boy above him.

“Love you,” he slurred out, the balls of his feet pushing against the mattress as he tried to get Louis to go deeper. “More.”

“Not yet.”

Harry didn’t know how long it took but when Louis pushed another finger in it didn’t even burn.

The squelching sound of it, the way his walls struggled to accommodate, made him flush with heat all over. He bit weakly down on the pillow and begged.

“Louis, please, please, pleas—”

“Shh, I’ve got you,” Louis said, his voice like honey. It dripped over Harry’s skin, thick and sweet. “You’re so pretty. So good for me.”

Harry blinked lazily, his vision a little blurry around the edges when Louis pulled his fingers out and pressed in with one more tucked in to stretch Harry to his limits. He could feel every ridge of Louis’ knuckles, his heart slamming against his ribs as he wriggled against the sheets.

Louis’ knees knocked his thighs a little further apart.

The second Louis’ fingers rotated and crooked inside him, grazing over the little spot that made him see fireworks, his hips came off the bed, tears springing into his eyes. He needed Louis inside, needed to feel him pressed against his back and deep inside him until they felt like one person instead of two.

“Need you,” he whispered, his lashes wet. “Need—”

Louis stroked down his back, massaging the tense muscles with his soothing hands and littering his skin with kisses. “Think you could have a little bit of water, love? Then we can.”

He’d sprint over to a different continent if it meant he’d finally get to be full.

Louis helped him to his knees, his arm supporting Harry around his waist as he grabbed a bottle of water from Harry’s nightstand and held it to Harry’s parched mouth to let him take a sip.

“Good?”

Harry nodded and twisted his head around to meet Louis in a messy, open-mouthed kiss. He couldn’t focus, couldn’t really do anything but kiss Louis dazedly and hold onto the arm around his waist.

“Fuck me,” he whispered into Louis’ mouth. It was heady to feel Louis’ breath stutter, his arm tightening around Harry’s body as though he was just as helpless. Just as out of control.

“Do you want me to do you from behind or,” Louis swallowed hard, “on your back?”

“Behind.” He wanted to feel Louis’ fingers leaving bruises on his hips, his mouth on the back of his neck. “And then… then when you’re… want to see.”

He wasn’t sure how coherent he sounded but he knew Louis would get him anyway. He always did.

He dropped to his hands and knees, his hole clenching around nothing as he rocked his hips back and forth on instinct, just needing.

“Fuck, hold on.”

The bed frame creaked as Louis moved to grab the condom.

When Harry finally felt Louis’ heat soaking into his back, as he hunched over him, Louis’ hard, slickened cock rubbing in between his cheeks, he didn’t even try to fight the moan rumbling off his chest.

“I love you,” Louis whispered into the sweaty nape of Harry’s neck, his palm rubbing up and down Harry’s belly, his thumb stroking over the little hairs of his treasure trail.

When the thick head finally popped past the tight ring of his muscles, Harry’s arms buckled and he fell forward, catching himself on his forearms. His body sucked Louis in with a slick sound, walls stretching around Louis’ girth in a pleasantly burning way that hurt just enough to make the pleasure of it feel ten times more intense.

“God, you’re,” Louis pushed further in and it felt like he’d never bottom out, like Harry would come by the time Louis’ thighs met the backs of his, “tight.”

“Bums,” Harry slurred out, licking over his lips, “usually are.”

Louis bit the nape of his neck, the sting of it prickling down Harry’s spine. He hung his head, senses overloaded as Louis nipped all over his neck and shoulders, arms banding around Harry’s body to hug him close.

Harry pushed back, taking the last inch of Louis’ thick cock. It punched the breath out of his lungs, his cock swaying between his thighs, heavy and dripping steadily down on the sheets.

Maybe he’d never stopped coming.

“Move,” he begged hoarsely, shifting his hips from side to side, his eyes falling shut when Louis smoothed his hand all over Harry’s front, higher and higher until he was pinching Harry’s nipple between his thumb and forefinger, panting against Harry’s skin as though he couldn’t drag enough oxygen into his lungs.

“Want me to fuck you hard?” Louis whispered, raw and overwhelmed.

Harry whined, spreading his legs until his thighs burned.

“If you could see,” Louis’ mouth lifted off Harry’s skin, fingers gripping Harry’s hips as he withdrew a couple inches just to slam back in, “the way you’re taking me. Fuck. You’re beautiful.”

Distantly, Harry noticed the way their shadows flickered over the wall in the dim candlelight, obscene in the way they moved together, fluid and desperate. “Feel full.”

“Needed that, didn’t you?” Louis panted, grinding into him deep and hard, splitting Harry on his thick cock.

“Yeah.” His hands clenched around the sheets, toes curling because Louis wouldn’t stop rubbing over his spot in just the right way.

When Louis trailed his knuckles over Harry’s oversensitive cock, he cried out and arched his back, rocking back into Louis so hard their thighs slapped together.

“F-fuck, Harry,” he swept his thumb over Harry’s slit, his hips gaining speed as he fucked into Harry faster and harder, “you’re dripping.”

One day he wanted Louis to tie him up, hands and ankles with all his limbs spread apart as Louis used him for himself, maybe sat on his face or fed him his cock until he could barely breathe, helpless.

He could feel sweat trickling down his spine and temples, knew he was a mess, his nipples so stiff even air felt like a caress. “Too… much.”

Louis stroked Harry’s cock one last time and bent over to kiss the wings of Harry’s shoulder blades as he thrust in, hips grinding on every downstroke to keep Harry on his toes.

Then he gripped Harry’s hair and pulled just a bit. Just enough to pull Harry further down on Louis’ cock.

“Gonna come,” Harry sobbed, shaking, knee slipping to the side and making his thighs burn with the sudden stretch.

When Louis popped out Harry almost cried, fumbling behind him to get Louis to push back in. Only Louis grabbed his wrist and held it pinned against Harry’s lower back, his other arm wrapped tight around Harry’s thigh to keep him from falling completely over.

“Need to try something. Just,” Louis’s tongue licked broadly over Harry, right where he was open and wet, Louis’ tongue messily pushing right in.

His stubble made Harry’s oversensitive skin burn.

Harry’s brain fizzled out, cock so hard the wet tip of it kept smearing precome and come from before on his belly as it bounced with every movement of Harry’s hips.

He pushed weakly back on Louis’ wet tongue, panting. He tried to say something but his mouth wouldn’t form any words. Louis wouldn’t let him move away from his unrelenting tongue even though Harry felt so sensitive it felt like all his nerve endings were firing all at once.

Louis moaned into him, fingers digging into Harry’s flesh, teeth lightly nipping at Harry’s rim. By the time Louis was giving him one final messy lick, Harry felt incoherent with need.

Slowly pulling back, Louis helped Harry roll onto his back with careful hands.

He blinked up at Louis with blurry eyes, his thighs shaking when Louis knelt between them and wrapped them high around his waist, tucking a pillow under Harry’s hips.

“You taste so good,” Louis said, sucking his swollen bottom lip into his mouth and finally started to push his cock back in. Somehow, it felt even more intense, more raw than it had before.

Louis looked like he was barely keeping himself together, his fingers digging into the muscles of Harry’s legs.

Harry could only lift his laden arm to reach for Louis, a deep moan rumbling in his chest when Louis settled over his body and thrust in deep.

The hair around Louis’ flushed face was damp with sweat, tickling Harry’s cheek when Louis leaned in to suck at his jaw and the line of his neck and then claiming his mouth.

The heat under his skin was burning to the point he felt like he would catch on fire any second, his blunt nails digging into Louis’ back and dragging down until he was digging them into Louis’ ass so he could feel it strain with every hard thrust.

The bed frame wouldn’t stop creaking in rhythm with their frantic, rocking hips, both of them breathing too hard to keep kissing.

Louis hissed and arched his back, his balls slapping against Harry’s ass, hipbones leaving bruises where Louis’ mouth had been sucking some just days ago.

“Lo-ngh,” he moaned, his thighs falling open because he was too weak to keep them wrapped around Louis’ hips anymore.

Quick to read Harry the way he always had, Louis gripped the undersides of Harry’s knees and pushed his folded legs up to his chest, sinking in impossibly deeper, his hips picking up momentum.

Harry’s bum was starting to slip off the pillow with the force of Louis’ thrusts, hurting with how much he needed to come. The friction of Louis’ cock dragging over his prostate was shoving him closer and closer towards the precipice.

It almost felt like he wouldn’t be able to come at all, his entire body taut like a bowstring and ready to snap, but he only kept getting more strung up.

His gaze slid again to their shadows on the wall, and the way Louis was fucking him so hard made him see stars bursting behind his eyelids. He wondered what it’d be like if they did this in front of a mirror, Louis reclining in an armchair as Harry sank down on his cock and rode him in the face of their own reflection, or vice-versa, until they couldn’t take it anymore.

He strained up to claim Louis’ mouth, their tongues bumping and sliding wetly, Louis’ body glowing golden as if he had sunlight bursting right under the surface of his soft skin.

“Love you,” Louis mumbled into his mouth, grinding in deep and staying there, rocking in deep and hard in an uneven rhythm.

When Harry’s balls kept drawing up further and further and further, his skin too small for his body, he strained against Louis’ hold, tears slipping out.

Then Louis snuck his hand between their sweaty bodies to grip Harry’s over-sensitive cock, his thumb rubbing over the slit relentlessly. With one last, deep thrust, Harry felt himself falling over the edge, his head spinning and eyes squeezing shut as he cried out and came so hard he felt it splatter on his heaving chest.

He was still dribbling come when Louis gripped his thighs and keened high in his throat. His hips started to lose their rhythm even more as he nuzzled into Harry’s cheek and cried out.

Harry couldn’t stop shivering with a wave after wave of aftershocks, his muscles spasming as he struggled to pull in air, nails digging into Louis’ sweaty back.

His ears were buzzing with static long after he the last weak drop of come beaded at his tip and seeped out onto his belly.

Louis’ wouldn’t stop leaving damp kisses all over Harry’s face, making him giggle, even as weak and breathless as he was.

And even though they were messy and disgusting, Harry clung to Louis hard and curled into his arms, smiling and shaking.

“Bloody hell,” Louis croaked, his hands trembling on Harry’s skin when he finally pulled out, disposing of the condom in the bin Harry had foreseen to put by the bed.

He couldn’t speak, so he just kissed Louis wherever he could reach, which happened to be the side of his nose.

They came down slowly, hands gently trailing over each other’s bodies with an intimacy that made Harry’s chest ache.

He didn’t think he’d be able to move ever again. Didn’t think he even wanted to.

“Was it,” Louis started, lips against Harry’s cheek, his sweaty back arching under Harry’s lightly scratching nails, “was it as good as you wanted it to be?”

“I can’t feel my legs.”

Louis laughed, high and breathless, his weight pressing Harry into the mattress.

Quietly, seriously, Harry added, “It was perfect, Lou.”

“For me too,” Louis whispered into his cheek, wriggling his arms under Harry’s body so he could hug him close. “Never felt like this with anyone.”

They were sweaty and sticky and gross but Harry rolled them onto their sides, their noses bumping. “I think I’ll keep you.”

“You will, will you?” Louis smiled against his lips, kissing him softly.

“Yeah.” He let his eyes slip shut, falling into Louis’ body with the echoes of candlelight casting intimate shadows over Louis’ soft expression burning behind his eyelids. “Yeah, I will.”

 

****

The roads outside were dusted with snow.

Louis’ hair was soft where it tickled Harry’s chin, and he couldn’t help but bury his nose in it and breathe in.

The rumble of the train beneath them had lulled Louis to sleep twenty minutes ago, his shoes kicked off on the floor under their seats and his knees tucked under his chin.

“Why must we wear shoes?” he’d asked, sullen, his eyes still swollen with sleep because they’d decided to leave home a day later at 6am.

“Come on, cuddle in, you big baby,” Harry had said, extending his arm until Louis had huffed and slumped against his shoulder with a loud yawn.

It had taken Louis a couple minutes until he’d fallen asleep, his breath warm and even on Harry’s neck.

Harry resigned himself to the fact that he’d fall in love with Louis anew each day more and more. It was the kind of feeling that sank bone deep.

Mum would probably already be up by the time they arrived because he couldn’t wait and had already told her they were together over the phone.

He was glad she hadn’t told him ‘I knew it’ like he’d half expected her to. She’d just fallen silent for a bit, sounding slightly weepy when she’d told him, “I’m so happy for you two. You’re going to tell me everything, you know.”

Of course he would.

Apart from the sex bits. She definitely didn’t need to know that.

His arm tightened around Louis’ shoulders as he mumbled in his sleep, and even though nobody could read his thoughts, Harry felt his cheeks heat up.

It was everything he’d ever wanted and more. He couldn’t believe he’d have all his life to explore every inch of Louis’ body, to learn the cadence of his breath when they touched, and to discover all the new ways he could love him.

Louis’ fingers curled into the fabric of Harry’s sweater right over the steady thud-thud of Harry’s heart as he snuffled and breathed out, and Harry was suddenly struck with a thought he couldn’t shake. That maybe one day, when they were a little older and found a place to share. When he had some spare cash in his pocket, he’d… he’d quite like to see Louis’ first word he’d ever told him inked into his skin, somewhere close to his heart.

The thought should have scared him, should have felt like too much.

Only it didn’t.

Because this right here, this warm boy sleeping in his arms, a contrast of soft and sharp and confident and vulnerable, was it for Harry.

Louis had always been his home.

THE END