“Oh, Louis… I love this!”
Wait for it…
And there it is.
Louis has done this enough to turn his grimace into a smile even though he wants to yank Mrs. Samuel’s purse that an average person probably can’t even afford to look at, dump it’s contents out the window and then the bag itself and stomp out of this amazing flat that he spent weeks looking for. This is after she turned down the four other flats he showed her.
“What is it this time?” Louis asks through clenched teeth.
“I know I told you I wanted a view, but,” She sighs dramatically and stares out of the large glass wall, overlooking the city of London. “This huge glass wall window doesn’t do anything for privacy, now does it?”
This is where Louis Tomlinson, the youngest and best real estate agent in London comes out. He knows how to sell flats and sure, he could have done this four fucking flats ago, but he likes a little challenge. And also because he’s not your typical real estate agent who just tries to sell a home just to get money. He really wants to sell his clients the perfect homes they are looking for. If that means he has to stay up all night drinking copious amounts of coffee and pulling his hair out to find the right home, then he’ll fucking do it.
“Who needs privacy nowadays? C’mon, Mrs. Samuel,” He throws an arm over her shoulder and guides her to the glass window, looking at the London Eye, all the cars zooming away and people walking about below them. “A little spice in your life wouldn’t hurt your relationship with Mr. Samuel, now would it?”
Mrs. Samuel lets out a bashful laugh, her cheeks flushing red. Louis watches her take in the view and he mentally pats himself on the back because it really is a gorgeous sight.
“Plus, you guys are on the twelfth floor, whatever you two may be doing – I’m not suggesting anything – will surely not be seen,” Louis says. “This view… you won’t get anything like it anywhere else. It captures the entire essence of London and you get the chance of waking up to it every morning and having it be the last thing you see each night, next to your lovely husband.”
And damn, he’s reminded of why he’s one of the best real-estate agents in London. He can see the change of answer in Mrs. Samuel’s soft brown eyes, tired and restless from killing time day to day or letting time kill her, he doesn’t know. All he knows is that he wants to find this woman the house that she will spend the rest of her life in with her husband.
His words, no matter the effect they’re having on Mrs. Samuels, come back and cut him because it reminds him that he’s almost 27 years old and he still doesn’t have anyone to share a view with. He’s not even close. He doesn’t remember the last date he’s been on and that’s just. Well, that’s just fucking sad.
Louis shakes his head out of his small reverie. His mind does this occasionally, wanders off without him even knowing and he hates thinking. He doesn’t like thinking about the future or where he’ll be in two years. He doesn’t even like thinking about what he’s going to have for dinner. The future scares the shit out of him and he does everything he can to avoid thinking about it.
So. Back to business.
“Yeah, I’ll take it,” She says softly and turns to him with a smile on her face. Her eyes crinkle and it may be cheesy, but it seems like time stops around them. This is why Louis loves his job so much; the moment when a client accepts a house and thinks Welcome home.
Fitzgerald once said that life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.
Well, as much as Louis likes good ol’ Fitzgerald, he hates that quote because why couldn’t things just stay? If life starts all over again, then that means something is ending and Louis doesn’t want things to end, not at this point in his life.
Louis knows he’s being dramatic. It’s not like when fall starts, his life will fall apart in a blink of an eye. It’s just that it’s a reminder that another entire season has gone by and his life is at stagnation. He’s been dedicated to nothing else but his job for the last nearly three years. He may not have someone to sleep with at night, but he has friends and an entire clientele that loves him. He’s damn good at his job and he’s worked his arse off to get to where he is, even if that means having a huge flat with no one to share it with.
He’s never liked dwelling on things he can’t change. If he had the kind of mindset where he is so adamant on changing, then he can kiss his job goodbye. He may hate it, but what the fuck can he do? Louis has learned that the only thing constant is change.
Maybe Louis isn’t very fond of that quote because he hates September. September means going back to school (which he doesn't go to anymore, but, details), fluctuating weather because it’s so damn unstable, it means uni kids occupying every coffee shop known to man.
It also seems to mean that every uni kid in a five-block radius chose to be at the same pub he's at.
"Christ, don't they have a paper to do or a blog to be on, ranting about a professor?" Louis groans, taking a sip of his beer. It’s one of his very, very rare days off and why he decided to spend it at a shitty pub is beyond him.
Zayn bumps his shoulder with his own, nearly causing Louis to spill his drink.
"Hey, I'm here with you, aren't I?" Zayn says, spinning Louis’ keys around his finger by the key ring. To a stranger’s ear, that might sound romantic, but Louis knows that Zayn is just being a little shit.
"Cause I'm paying for your drinks, you twat." Louis laughs easily at his best mate.
Zayn was a client of his when Louis first began as a real estate agent three years ago. Louis remembers them getting along right from the get go. Zayn was a struggling artist trying to find a studio apartment to get some work done so he can pay his bills and to “take my girl out every once on awhile, for fuck’s sake, it’s getting embarrassing at this point, mate”. Louis was able to find him the perfect place with a view in less than a week. Louis came over to the studio with a bottle of champagne after the papers were signed, only to hear Zayn and Perrie christening the place already.
"Screw you. I'm here cause I missed your fat arse," Zayn gulps down the rest of his beer and releases a loud and rather disgusting burp. "And because you're paying."
Louis laughs and shakes his head fondly. Zayn stumbles off the bar stool, with a mumbled explaining that he’s going to take a piss. Louis drums his fingers on the sticky bar and bobs his head to the thrumming music. He sort of wishes that he spent his day off at home watching the telly with a mug of tea and if that isn’t a sign that he’s turned into ball of self-pity, then he doesn’t know what is. He downs a large gulp of his drink and rubs his eyes.
"Just one drink, mate! It won't hurt your wallet. Drinks here are cheap, anyway," A man says as him and his friend takes a seat next to Louis at the bar.
He usually isn't one to snoop, but with Zayn gone he really has nothing else to do.
"It's still money, Nick. You know I'm short on it. S' fine, I don't want to drink anyway," The other guy says with a deep, rough voice. Louis can see only the back of his head, which is a mess of brown, greasy and muddled curls that’s pulled back by what seems to be some sort of scarf.
The guy sounds tired and Louis definitely knows that feeling. Hell, he doesn't remember the last time he wasn't tired, it's like a constant state of being for him. And seeing as he's not the poorest guy around, he clears his throat and his words escape his mouth before he even knows what he's doing.
"Order whatever you guys want. Drinks are on me," Louis says. He decides that it's the shit beers' fault that he isn't in control of his loud mouth, but also because he has two days and if he wants to buy a couple of what seems like financially struggling guys some drinks, then he fucking will.
They both look at Louis, Scarf Boy having turned so he can face Louis and Christ, there must be something strange in the drinks at this pub because he's never seen someone so pretty. Louis has met a lot of people because when you're one of the top real estate agents, that's the sort of thing that's bound to happen. He's met guys that make him subconsciously lick his lips or have his eyes travel down their bodies, but he has never met a guy that actually takes his damn breath away. Even under the dim lighting, Louis sees that Scarf Boy has piercing emerald green eyes and these full, pink lips that Louis would very much like to feel on every inch of his skin.
And fuck it all if he's saying cheesy and cliché lines in his head. He makes a mental reminder to smack Zayn 'round the head for bringing him to this crappy place and comes back to reality.
"Well there's a good lad! I'm Nick," Nick reaches over his friend to extend his hand and Louis takes it with a small smile. He can see now that Nick is older, his under eye bags apparent with subtle wrinkles around his mouth and eyes.
"Hi, I'm Louis," He says and it's not like he's expecting them to know him or anything- he doesn't have his head that far up his arse- but he’s been on covers of magazines for being the youngest and most successful real estate agent in London and even interviewed on the news. But fuck, even he doesn’t watch the news so there’s that.
"Hey, nice to meet you, I'm Harry," The other guy takes Louis' hands and gives him a polite, dimpled smile. "Might want to revoke your offer while it still stands, Nick will drink for the both of us and then some."
"Just drink a couple of pints, mate. It’ll do you some good," Nick claps his hand on Harry's shoulder.
“Seriously, order whatever,” Louis encourages.
“It’s fine, I don’t need to wake up with a hangover tomorrow. I have work in the morning,” Harry shakes his head, but he has a polite smile on and Louis really just wants to kiss him.
Louis is about to reply when he's tackled forward, his upper body suddenly too close to Harry. He feels a warm, sweaty and heavy body on his back and arms that are wrapped around his chest.
"Lou! Liam rang me asking if I could drop by his flat to feed his fucking goldfish. I tried getting out of it, but you know how Liam is with that damn thing. D'you think you can get a cab home? Unless you want to come with," Zayn explains.
God, Nick and Harry- not that he cares much about what Nick thinks about him, but Harry, yes his opinion is very important to him- must think that Louis is a loser who has friends that need him to feed a goldfish. Liam won it at a festival and has been obsessed with it ever since, calling it Squishy and promising to take good care of it. He bought a fish tank that could probably house twenty turtles and has an entire shelf dedicated to its food. He's only known Liam for a couple of months after he found him a house next to the gym that he works at as a fitness trainer. It's sad that his friends are people he's met through his line of work, but he has no social life. And wow, these two thoughts makes Louis very tempted to go rot in his bed.
"Get off me, you brute! And as thrilling as feeding a goldfish seems, I’ll pass.”
Zayn laughs and flips him the bird. He reaches for the shot in front of Louis and tips his head back as he downs the shot. Louis admires his jawline for a second and thinks that if Zayn swung for his team, they would be friends with benefits. If his face wasn’t flushed from sweat and alcohol already, he would be blushing from the memories of himself getting off to the thought of Zayn blowing him. Christ, he really needs to get laid, and soon. Zayn waves off and disappears into the crowd of sweaty bodies.
Louis hangs out at and makes friendly conversation with Harry and Nick for awhile longer. He can’t fucking figure out if Nick and Harry are together or if they’re just mates or if Harry is even gay. (Louis’ confirmation that Nick is indeed gay happened when a bloke bought Nick a drink and he planted a wet kiss straight on the guy’s lips.)
"I should probably get going," Louis pulls out fifty pounds from his wallet and gives it to the bartender. "S'on me, whatever these lads want." He turns to Harry and soaks up as much of him as he can, from his raggedy plaid shirt to his beat up brown boots that looks like it will fall apart if he took one more step.
"Cheers, mate. Nice meeting you," Nick says with a raise of his pint. Louis nods in acknowledgement, gives Harry one final smile and walks out of the pub.
It's chilly out, his thin shirt not doing him much good (September and its damn weather, he hates it) and he lets out a frustrated huff of breath. He sees pissed uni students stumbling down the streets and an older woman walking to her car with a red nose and tissue in one hand, a box of medicine in the other. Louis hopes that she gets better and wonders if she had to run out at two in the morning to get medicine because she's alone or she doesn't want to wake up her significant other. He then wonders what he would do if he were in that situation and then remembers that it doesn't matter because he's alone. Louis quickly adverts his eyes away from the woman because he fucking hates thinking and even when he's not wallowing away in his bed, he still manages to have his thoughts run off.
Louis' heart stops and he’s frozen in place and thinks god fucking shit I’m going to be brutally murdered, when the voice calls out, "Louis!"
Louis recognizes that deep and rough voice, even if he's only known it for half an hour, but he hopes that he’s lucky enough to hear it more. He prays that he’s done enough good deeds in this world to hear this voice moaning his name in the near future.
He also prays that he’s lucky enough to get laid sometime in the near future, thanks.
Harry stops his jog in front of him and smiles, his face flushed and starting to glisten with specks of sweat and Louis really, really wants to go before he starts ravishing Harry right then and there.
"Decided to take a midnight stroll instead of hailing a taxi?"
"Huh? Oh, um, yeah." Louis is stuttering and he's the poster child for suave and cool, so if he's fumbling with his words around a guy who he has only been around for all of forty minutes, then Louis should really take that as a warning sign.
"Let me walk you home."
"What? No. No, it’s fine, my flat's only like two blocks from here."
Harry shrugs and Louis takes in his shoulders and how broad they look compared to his slim hips and fuck. "A lot can happen in two blocks. What if I never see you again?"
They stand across each other, Louis blinking and a playful smile slowly forming on Harry’s lips.
"So... maybe I want to see you again."
Louis stands there dumbfounded because who even is this guy. This- this guy who wears a goddamn scarf around his hair and hangs out with older people (well, person, but he might have other older friends, okay), walks in boots that are falling apart, wears fucking rings and offers to walk a stranger home in the middle of the night.
And Louis should be concerned, there should be bright red flashing lights going off in his head because he's not ready to be in a relationship, but this guy is flirting with him and he so desperately wants to flirt back and it’s his day off and when the hell is that ever going to happen again? His head is swimming, he's tired and he really just wants to get the fuck home and sleep for the next five years.
"I'm not some stalker or anything. Just say the word and I'll head back to the pub and watch Nick get pissed off his arse while finding some bloke to hook up with." Harry shoves his hands into his pockets- which, how because his jeans look like they're painted on- and rocks back and forth on his feet, looking expectantly at Louis.
"Right. Fine, let's go, I'm freezing my bollocks off." He really isn't and being around this person can't be beneficial for Louis' health in any way, but Louis just doesn't care about anything besides getting home and if Harry's asking to accompany him, then Louis would be mental to say no.
"You don't have some paper to be slaving over?" Louis asks. They're walking a safe distance between them, perhaps a bit too close if Louis can feel the slight warmth of Harry beside him.
"No, dropped out of uni. Just wasn't for me, y’know?"
Harry takes a deep breath and exhales and you can actually see his breath. Louis loathes September. “School just sucks, to put it bluntly. I mean, I’m all for education, but I felt suffocated at school. It’s a place of judgment and teachers who care more about money than actually educating students, suppressing creativity by expecting students to follow a bunch of bullshit guidelines and rules. Schools don’t seem to understand that learning and knowledge isn’t this straight concept that can be measured by how well people memorize things- things that they won’t remember the next day. Nowadays, grade is an incentive rather than really measuring how smart someone is, which is fucked up as it already is.”
Louis doesn’t know what to say because if it weren’t for all of his business and economic classes, then he wouldn’t be where he is right now. He wouldn’t be the one of the top real estate agents in London and…
Well that’s just it, isn’t it? And nothing. Louis might have more money than he can think to spend, but what is the point if he doesn’t have someone to share it with, someone to spend it on? Louis has had this thought before, it’s not like it hasn’t occurred to him in the time of his success. But, well, Louis always has alcohol in his vicinity to deter him from such thoughts that make him want to chew on gravel.
"It's just... I love learning, don't get me wrong, but school isn't for me. Geometry and photosynthesis and all that crap, I don’t have much care for it. I’m not saying it doesn’t matter, because it does, but I feel like I could be making more of myself out there in the world. I can make real mistakes- not pointless mistakes on a math test- and learn and grow from it. Exploring cities, learning the culture, meeting new people instead of seeing the same faces day by day. Does that make sense?”
This- this, he understands. It’s on the tip of his tongue to just say that yeah, I travel enough that it does make sense. He wants to say that walking the streets of Venice and swimming in Australia has educated him in more ways than some mundane class. He wants to tell Harry that he’s met the most genuine and kind people all across the world that he doesn’t really even know, yet they have taught him more than any of his professors.
Louis clears his throat, even though there’s nothing to clear, he just feels like there are so many words that are piling up and he doesn’t know how to put them together, how to say anything that can even be an adequate response to what Harry just told him.
“Yeah, it makes a lot of sense.”
They finally arrive at Louis’ flat and he doesn’t even question when Harry follows him up the stairs. Louis reaches into his pockets and the blood drains from his face when he realizes that his twat of a friend that goes by the name Zayn has his keys.
Harry seems to have caught on because his face is full of genuine concern and Louis doesn’t think he can stand another minute in his presence.
“Do you have a spare key?”
Louis wants to laugh at the thought of a spare key because a spare key usually means one of two things: that he’s unorganized and forgetful, which he can’t afford to be either in his line of work, or that he has some significant other waiting to have the key handed to them. Louis is far from having someone special in his life and that’s the last thing he needs to be thinking about right now; about how utterly and pathetically alone he is and has been for the past three years.
“No, I usually don’t need one,” Louis mumbles and he has the urge to slam his head against the door until his head just smashes through so he can stick his hand through and just open the damn door but he can’t do that without looking fucking insane, so. Back to square one.
“Up until now.” Harry is fucking smiling at Louis’ misfortune. Louis was not intending his night to be going this way and he’s so exhausted, this boy probably being the most exhausting thing of the night. At first, Louis thought that he was in a kiddie pool when he first saw Harry, but now he’s so out of his fucking depth that he feels like he’s flailing around pitifully in the Pacific ocean.
“Up until now.” Louis repeats. “It’s okay, I can just go to my mate’s.”
“You can come back to mine? Well, not really mine. I share a flat with my mate, Niall.”
Louis blinks a couple of times at him, a mix of exhaustion and adoration for this complete stranger.
“No, really Harry, it’s-“
“C’mon. I just spent my time walking you home like a gentleman and you can’t even get into your own flat. I’m tired and I have to walk back home anyway, so maybe you can return the favor and walk me home.” Harry’s towering of Louis and he’s never felt so small in his life. With Harry’s eyes gazing down at him that flick quickly down to his lips and back up to meet his eyes, Louis gulps and nods.
“We’re taking a taxi this time, though. So, it’s more like I’ll be accompanying you in a ride home, but it’s all the same.” Louis shrugs as they exit the flat building and stand by the curb.
“No it’s not. That’s like saying writing letters and writing emails are the same thing.” Louis turns to Harry and he has his eyebrows scrunched up and it’s so fucking endearing.
“When it comes down to it, it is the same thing,” Louis replies just as a taxi pulls up to them. Harry’s quick to open the door for Louis and it can’t be healthy the amount of times Louis wishes death upon himself tonight.
Harry tells the driver this address and then turns back to Louis, his face determined to prove Louis wrong. “It’s not. Letters are more personal, fingers have imprinted on the paper, their scent sort of lingers on it and when you touch it, it’s like you’re touching the other person. Emails are a part of technology and you can’t further yourself more from true human contact than with electronics.”
And, well, what the fuck. Harry has gone off on his tangents two times this night and has left Louis speechless – which, if you asked Zayn, you have a better chance at winning the lottery than getting Louis to shut up.
“Not true, I use my mobile to phone my mum and sisters all the time. Our phone calls keep us connected when we can’t physically be there. What, are you saying you don’t have a mobile?”
“As a matter of fact, I don’t,” Harry states proudly. “If I want to see my parents or my sister, I’ll go see them. If I want to be connected to them, I’d write them a letter. There would be more a sense of me in a letter than some email. There’s nothing about me in an email. I always thought it was funny that every electronics’ slogan is like, ‘Always stay connected with this phone!’, when I personally think we haven’t been more disconnected.”
Louis just doesn’t know what to say to that. He feels a damn migraine coming on just from being around Harry. He wants to argue that his phone and emails have kept him and his family in touch when he’s gone. Sure, he can write them letters, but he doesn’t have the time. He never has enough time for anything. He barely has time for himself, nonetheless sit down and write his family letters for half an hour when he can shoot them a tweet or text and it’ll take him no more than a minute.
And, what about his clients? He fights the urge to break out in laughter at the thought of writing letters to his clients. Granted, it would result in less migraines and saving money on paracetamol. On the other hand, his line of work wouldn’t last five minutes if they communicated through letters.
Louis’ lost in his train of thought and is snapped out of it when the car slows to a stop.
“I’m sorry, I don’t have any money on me. I would split-“
“Hey, don’t worry about it.” Louis flashes him a reassuring smile as he hands over the money to the driver. Harry’s staring at him one second too long to be considered normal when he stumbles out of the car with his gangly limbs and Louis crawls out after him. The walk to the flat is quiet, but Louis is sort of glad for it because he’s done enough thinking for the night and really, his brain is just not functioning enough to hold up a coherent conversation.
When Harry opens the door, the lights are on and it’s almost three in the morning. Louis takes in the flat before him and well. Calling it a flat feels wrong because it looks like one big room. There’s no indication to where the kitchen or the living room starts or ends, it’s just a room filled with furniture with a sink, some cabinets along the walls, and small counter space to the left of the room. To the right is one small table that looks like it’s about to collapse if you set a paper plate on it and the rest of the room is dedicated to what Louis is assuming the living room. There’s a hallway that probably leads to the bathroom and rooms and that’s it.
“Harry! You’re home late, I was assuming you’d be in earlier and just crash the rest of the day.” A thin and shirtless guy with disheveled, blonde hair comes down the hallway with a tired smile, rubbing away sleep from his eye with the back of his hand. He blinks his eyes a bit, adjusting to the light and stares at Louis. “Oh, didn’t know you were bringing someone home.”
“This is Louis; he forgot the keys to his flat. Mind if he crashes here for the night?” Harry says, toeing off his shoes and losing his balance a bit, grasping Louis’ shoulder for balance. Louis falters a bit at his strong grasp and suddenly feels so uncomfortable. Harry straightens up and squeezes his shoulder before letting his hand drop and Louis ignores it because doesn’t have the ability to decipher what it can mean at the moment. It probably means nothing anyway; it was probably a muscle spasm. Louis needs some sleep.
“Nah, of course I don’t. It’s just… I think I saw you on the news the other day?”
Harry turns to Louis with a confused look and Louis wonders if this is all a hallucination. His social life- very close to nonexistent that it should be more of a concerning problem to Louis- has never caused him to be so exhausted and have such a headache. Maybe it was the pub. Maybe it’s Harry. Louis is pretty sure this is all fake, anyway.
“Uh, yeah. Real estate agent. It was just a short segment,” Louis shrugs.
He hates doing interviews because it’s the same thing over and over again. He doesn’t have anything to say. There’s only so many ways he can explain what he did to be where he is today. The only thing that people found interesting about him was that he was 23 when he started and that he was gay. Now he’s edging towards 30 and there’s bound to be a new young and homosexual real estate agent on the way.
“Right, well, make yourself at home,” Niall nods and retreats back into his room.
Harry scrunches his nose and scratches at it and something as trivial as that shouldn’t be so painstakingly cute, but it is because everything this boy does is endearing.
“So, are you some kind of celebrity?”
“I don’t think real estate agents can even be categorized as celebrity, no matter how successful they are,” Louis says as he collapses on the couch. He hears Harry shuffle to him and then his legs are lifted in the air before they’re settled back down but this time, they’re on Harry’s thighs.
“Well you’re successful enough to be on the news, that says something,” Harry’s tapping his fingers against one of Louis’ calves now and this should be weird for two guys who just met, but it isn’t and that makes Louis relax even more.
“Like I said, it was just a short segment. What do you do? I need to know if I’m spending the night at a murderer’s flat or something.”
“If I was a murderer, which I’m not, I wouldn’t tell you. I work at a retirement home,” Harry says and even with Louis’ eyes shut, he can tell how proud Harry is of that fact.
Louis opens his eyes and slowly sits up and just stares at Harry. He’s staring back with a soft smile and tired eyes and he’s known Harry for an hour but he’s never met somebody so interesting.
“You can kip in my room, I’ll take the couch. Don’t even argue with me because I know you’re too tired and your arguments will be shit.” And well, he isn’t wrong on that count. The way Harry says it, like he’s known Louis for years and how Louis is when he’s sleepy, makes Louis’ stomach lurch. Harry stands up, making Louis’ legs fall against the cushions before he takes Louis’ forearm and pulls him up. Louis follows him down the hall and into a small bedroom and Louis’ eyes rake over what’s in it, which isn’t much. There’s a mattress in the further right corner of the room with a thin blanket strewn on it and a window at the foot of it, a small closet on the left of the room with barely any clothes hanging in it. There’s a small bedside drawer but looks unused as there’s nothing on it. Louis’ sure that if he says anything that it will create an echo because it’s just so empty.
Before Louis can comment on anything, Harry pushes him forward gently with a hand on the small of his back.
“Get some sleep, you’re knackered.”
Louis falls onto the mattress and wraps himself in the blanket and cuddles his head into the pillow until he gets comfortable.
Louis falls asleep as soon as he hears the door close.
There’s the sweet sound of someone strumming a guitar and humming when Louis wakes up the next morning from what seems like his hibernation. His back aches a bit from the lumpy mattress as he sits up and stretches. It’s then that he notices how fucking freezing it is. Louis shivers and wraps the thin blanket around himself, but it does practically nothing to provide any source of heat. According to his phone, it’s almost 1. He doesn’t remember the last time he woke up that late, even during his occasional days off when working and he smiles at that. He takes in his surroundings for a moment when his eyes fall on a piece of paper on the floor beside the mattress.
Good morning, Louis!
I had to get to work, but I’ll be home around 4:30. You can stick around if you want, I made breakfast but I don’t know what time you’ll be up. Either way, help yourself. Niall will be home so you’ll have company.
The note seems almost on the border of domestic, so Louis crumples it up as if it’ll crumple the thought away, stands up and goes to find the bathroom. He opens one door and sees that it’s Niall’s room. It’s similar to Harry’s, except not as bare. At least Niall has a bedframe, a desk, dressers and actual clothes to fill his closet. Louis feels creepy looking at his room when Niall is only five feet away, so he quickly shuts it and opens another door, happy to see it’s the bathroom so he can wash away his morning breath. He squirts toothpaste onto his finger and starts brushing his teeth, examining the room. The mirror is cracking along the corners, the toilet and shower look like they could use some bleach. Or a lot of it. He quickly rinses his mouth with ice cold water and walks into the living room. He sees Niall strumming away on his guitar on the couch with a beer on the coffee table.
“Morning, mate,” Niall greets. “Harry made pancakes, they’re ace. Better when they’re fresh, but you can just pop them in the microwave.”
Louis loads up his paper plate with pancakes and cooks them quickly before joining Niall on the couch. The pancakes practically melt in his mouth and Louis actually has to bite back a groan of satisfaction because they’re better than his mum’s pancakes.
“You writing?” Louis asks, pointing to the pen and paper on the table with his fork.
“Trying,” Niall laughs as he sets his guitar down and runs his fingers through his already disheveled hair.
Louis is starting to feel awkward and he doesn’t do awkward, so he stuffs his mouth with a forkful of pancakes to occupy him, but when he finally swallows he starts to panic again. Louis doesn’t take Niall as an awkward guy. He has an easy smile and he doesn’t seem bothered by the quiet. Maybe he’s use to it, judging by his empty and squalid flat. Maybe Niall is even inspired by the serenity of his lifestyle and it inspires his next song that will come to be the next number one song on the charts. Louis doesn’t know; he’s so out of his fucking realm.
“No work today?” Louis asks.
“I grow and sell pot,” Niall says offhandedly.
Louis practically chokes on his pancakes, but manages to swallow down the lump of carb-filled and buttery goodness. He glances around the room, but doesn’t see anything to suggest that this person next to him grows marijuana. He inhales deeply but can only smell the scent of the pancakes and at that, he takes another large bite and glances questioningly at Niall, who is suddenly flat on his back and laughing.
“Man, I wish I had some pot left, you could probably use some,” Niall says once he’s recovered from his laughing fit.
“I could use some tea or coffee right now,” Louis mumbles under his breath. “So what do you really do?”
“I busk, mostly. Trying to find some label to sign me, but it’s tough shit,” Niall says with a shrug of his shoulders. Louis appreciates the way Niall says it, like even though it’s difficult, he doesn’t mind. Louis wishes he were that way when he was in uni studying his arse off for his exams so he would be successful. But then again, all that studying paid off because four years later, here he is. Successful and sitting in a stranger’s crappy flat eating homemade pancakes from another stranger.
“Not to sound like an arsehole, but how are you guys living off of busking money and Harry working at a retirement home?”
Niall smiles easily at Louis and he really likes him. He wants Niall’s carefree outtake on everything; like nothing affects him and if it does, Niall will probably throw it the middle finger.
“You’re a real-estate agent. Look around, this isn’t the most amazing place around.”
And, yeah, he isn’t wrong.
“It’s fine, I have everything I need. Harry’s a good flatmate, he cooks and cleans and all that shit. Never complains about how crappy the flat is, I think he actually loves it,” Niall explains. He leans back against the armrest and picks up his guitar again, strumming a melody that would probably put Louis into a nice slumber if he were in his bed.
Louis’ interest is piqued at the sound of Harry’s name. He hopes his face doesn’t show a reaction, but he shoves a forkful of pancakes into his mouth for good measure before speaking.
“Yeah. We have a mate, Lou, who lives in a proper house. She has a kid and a husband, so maybe he didn’t want to, I don’t know, intrude on them or something. But he just really wanted to live here. He said he loves the flat and can’t imagine being more comfortable anywhere else. I don’t really know what he’s on about, considering this place is a right shithole, but then again I kind of understand. It’s my home. You could probably understand that.”
Louis doesn’t understand it. He feels bad because he knows he’s being pretentious. He just doesn’t know how someone could view this flat as comfortable. It’s absolutely freezing, the floors creak; he doesn’t want to touch anything because he’s afraid it’ll crumble before him. He figures that as long as Niall and Harry are satisfied, then it doesn’t matter what he thinks. To each their own.
“That’s good. You don’t meet people like that too often,” Louis replies.
“You really don’t, mate. It’s a shame.”
Niall and Louis hang out until Harry comes home and the thing is, they don’t really do anything. There’s only so much you can do in the flat, which is pretty much nothing except watch the telly with crap channels (“I found it on the street and just had to nick it before anyone else could,” Niall explained), listen to Niall play his guitar, or just talk.
So they’re in the middle of singing a dumb song they wrong together when Harry comes in.
“Having a right laugh, lads?” He smiles and Louis feels fuzzy all over again, the feeling he had all of last night. He’s sensing a pattern and he almost wants to narrow his eyes at Harry and shout, “It’s you! You’re the source of all of my misfortune!” However, he’s not mental, so he just smiles at him.
“We’re writing a hit, probably going to be a one-hit wonder, but look at that Gangnam Style guy,” Louis says. “How was work?”
“Good, nothing better than being around the elderly all day.”
He doesn’t even say it sarcastically; he’s genuine about it. Louis doesn’t know anyone who prefers to hang out with old people and right, Harry’s friends with that other bloke, Nick. Hm.
“Do you have a secret affinity for an older generation? I wouldn’t judge, everyone has their preferences,” Louis asks and Niall lets out a bark of laughter.
“You should have seen that lad he brought home the ot-“ Niall began until Harry charged over and clasped his large hand (Jesus, it took over half of Niall’s face) over Niall’s mouth.
Louis feels like dancing a merry jig around the empty flat because now he knows Harry likes dick. So, onto more important matters, Louis wants Harry to like his dick. He can do this; he’s Louis goddamn Tomlinson. It may have been awhile since he shagged someone but he hasn’t lost his touch. He hopes not. Dear god he hopes not.
“No, I don’t prefer older people!” Harry exclaims indignantly. He doesn’t have a scarf wrapped around his head today, so his hair is flopping to one side and Harry runs his fingers through it to push it back up. Louis is so endeared.
“So what are the plans for today?” Niall asks once Harry extracts his hand after Niall licks it. Harry just rubs his hand on the back of Niall’s shirt and laughs.
“I dunno. I wasn’t really planning-“ Louis begins.
“Heyyyy! How about a picnic?” Harry beams. Niall and Louis exchange a glance that says what the fuck is he on and turn back to Harry who is already scrimmaging through the kitchen. Louis has no idea why because whenever he closes a cabinet, he hears a slight echo that indicates that there’s virtually nothing in there.
“Harry, we don’t have shit in the kitchen,” Niall shakes his head slightly and resumes playing the guitar.
“We have granola bars, some fruit, and apple juice boxes.” Harry walks all of five steps back into the living room with his arms full of what he just listed, along with a blanket and a basket.
“That’s our breakfast!” Niall argues.
“I’m getting my paycheck at the end of this week, I’ll do grocery shopping. You don’t do that anyway,” Harry says offhandedly.
Louis is enjoying the bickering, something he encounters often when a couple can’t decide on something in a house he’s showing them, but he never gets tired of it.
“Harry, nobody even has picnics anymore,” Louis says.
“Exactly, it’s a dying activity. We need to save it before it’s extinct. You don’t want that on your conscious, do you?”
“It’s a beautiful day out and what else are we going to do?” Harry presses.
He looks so adorable with his arms full of picnic essentials and wide, hopeful eyes. Harry is probably used to getting things and Louis sure as hell doesn’t want to be one who gives into him, but he already knows his answer.
“Fine, fine,” Louis huffs like a child.
“You two can have your picnic while I busk,” Niall says.
It’s official. Louis is going on a picnic.
Louis is sitting in the shade under a tree on a plaid blanket with food neatly spread out before him with the most attractive person he’s ever seen in his entire life next to him. This doesn’t feel like Louis’ life, he feels like a completely different person.
Who? Louis Tomlinson, the real estate agent? Nope, never heard of him.
It feels nice, he’s decided.
It feels especially nice when Harry has his head tilted back with his mouth open (Louis tries really hard not to envision this scene in a different situation lest he gets hard in his trousers right then and there) while Louis attempts to throw grapes into his mouth.
“We’re wasting grapes,” Louis laughs as one rolls off of Harry’s cheek and onto the blanket. Harry picks it up and plops it into his mouth, a lazy smile on forming on his lips as he leans back on his hands.
“It’s not my fault you don’t have good aim,” Harry shrugs.
“This was your idea in the first place.”
“I thought you had good aim!”
“Well, that was your mistake, wasn’t it?”
Harry sits up and they’re sitting with their legs crossed, facing each other. Their knees are touching and Louis doesn’t remember when their proximity was so close. He feels Harry’s gaze on him so he takes his stupid little apple juice box and sips from the straw, looking down. His heart is thumping against his chest and he’s sure that Harry can hear it, how can he not? It’s so intense and loud in his ears and he feels like he’s going pop a blood vessel.
“Louis,” Harry whispers.
His voice feels close but thinks that Harry’s face is a good distance away. He doesn’t know. He constantly thinks that he can feel Harry everywhere, from where their knees are touching to where Harry is looking at him. The thrumming his blood to his fast-beating heart is screaming this is it don’t fuck it up you guys are going to kiss and it is going to be amazing let’s do this.
Louis gulps and looks up to meet his eyes.
And a grape hits his face.
“What the hell?!” Louis shouts. It’s just a grape, he knows, but he still feels the need to cause a commotion.
“Would you like another juice box?” Harry asks, his hands together in his lap.
Louis doesn’t know whether he wants to grip his neck and strangle him or grip his cheeks and kiss him. He digs his hands into the grass and tugs them out from the dirt and sprinkles it into Harry’s hair.
“I hope this isn’t how you treat the elderly,” Louis says, picking up the container of strawberries and eating one.
“I treat them with the utmost respect and tender loving that they need,” Harry responds happily. “I hope you don’t go around putting grass into your clients’ hair.”
He looks ridiculous with grass in his messy hair, half-buttoned up plaid shirt to reveal his tattoos and ripped jeans. Louis is certain he wore this outfit last night.
“Of course I do, that’s how I became successful,” Louis says. His words register only after he says it. He sounds like such a prick that if somebody said these words to him, he’d hate them.
“Jesus, I mean-“
“S’okay, Louis. You don’t have to be modest,” Harry laughs lightly. “It’s good that you’re successful. I’m happy for you. What’s that one quote? ‘Do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life’? I never feel like I’m working, that’s one of the things I love about my job.”
Louis doesn’t feel like that at all with his job. He loves his job, he really does. He loves meeting all kinds of people and having enough money to go on vacations in different countries. He loves the fact that there are people who find comfort in their homes when they end their day from their exhausting jobs and he’s the reason why. He found them their homes.
However, it’s really hard fucking work and he’s just constantly working. Louis is tired all the time and he’s pretty sure his body weight is 90% caffeine. He’s probably lost ten good years of his life due to all the stress. Louis barely has a day off.
But, on his rare day off, he met Harry. And, well, that must mean something.