Louis gives up on trying to fall asleep about an hour after Harry leaves; it’s just not going to happen.
He’s been on his way out the door himself more times than he can count, the need to go after Harry and say, well, anything that’d make him come back, so strong it’s almost physical. He tells himself that it’s the paps outside that are stopping him. That Louis tearing out after Harry would be seen as confirmation of… whatever story the gossip sites are going to put up in the morning.
Harry’s gone to Nick. Bloody, smug, out-and-proud Nick Grimshaw, with his stupid posh friends and ridiculous hipster fashion sense and infuriating handsy ways. At half two in the morning.
Louis knows exactly what kind of story that amounts to.
He’s not jealous, though. He isn’t—no matter what Liam says. It’s perfectly reasonable to not be a fan of smug DJs who have horrible tastes in music and a tendency to call your best mate “love” in a tone of voice that makes it sound like a proposition.
Alright, fine, so maybe he is a bit jealous. It doesn’t seem that important at the moment, though, since Harry’s gone either way.
He pulls on some pants and a shirt and leaves the bedroom, thinking of going to go to the kitchen for a drink and ending up walking aimlessly around the house instead. Harry’s things have spread out into almost every room since they came back from their trip, mingling with Louis’s so seamlessly, it’s like they’ve always been there.
He ambles into a room at the back of the house that’s meant to be an office, but which wasn’t used for much of anything before Harry moved in and declared it his “evening room”. Louis teased him about his grandfather ways something rotten at first, before the thought of always being able to find Harry there before bed, curled up in a massive chair with a book and a cuppa, began to slowly grow on him.
Also, the massive chair has proven fantastic to have a shag on. Louis feels a small smile tug at the corner of this lips.
He turns on the reading light and sinks into the chair. There’s a whole colony of empty mugs on and around the side table next to it, as well as a small pile of books that Harry must be in the middle of reading. Louis likes that—knowing that while Harry is usually a neat person, there are little places all over the house that just seem to escape his attention. Like in here, or his sock drawer, which is even messier than Louis’s.
Bloody hell, Louis really is in-fucking-love with him.
There’s a larger book among the other ones that catches his attention, and when Louis pulls it out, he realises that it’s the photo album they got sent among the wedding gifts. He turns the first page, and then a second, looking at picture after picture of the two of them.
They look so sodding happy. Every single picture has at least one of them smiling, and Louis can’t take his eyes away from his own face, of the look in his eyes whenever his picture self is looking at Harry.
There’s one image in particular, one of the older ones. It’s another still from the X-Factor video diaries, where they’re sitting on a staircase and Harry is turned up towards him, one hand on Louis’s arm.
The caption says: Sharing a room with four of our best friends.
Louis thinks, That’s the first time I wanted to kiss you.
It gets steadily worse after that. Almost every picture brings back a memory, little things that Louis had forgotten about or dismissed as silly. Thoughts he’d chalked up to the rush of being on the show, then adrenaline when they started hitting it big, then confusion, being emotional over missing his family, alcohol, not having been able to find a quiet place for a wank for a while, or just to loving his life and his four best mates in general.
A million and one excuses.
There’s a picture towards the end, which Louis thinks is from when they were filming the video for Best Song Ever. Harry is laughing at something outside the frame, and Louis is watching him like Harry’s his moon, stars, perfect cup of tea and a hundred other things combined.
He’s not sure when he fell in love with Harry, but he knows it must have been before that picture was taken—before most of the ones in the album were, really—because he can’t look at them now that he knows and not realise exactly what the expression on his face means.
It’s always been Harry for him.
There’s a pen on the side table. Louis reaches out and grabs it, flips the pages of the album backwards until he has the one with them on the steps in front of him, and starts to write.
Harry wakes up with a crick in his neck, wrapped in sheets that smell all wrong. He looks around, sees an empty ashtray and a pile of magazines on the sofa table next to him.
There’s movement in the kitchen, and then Nick appears, a cuppa in each hand. “Move your legs a little, will you, love?”
Harry does, pushing himself up to sitting and taking one of the mugs. “Thanks.”
“So, you wanna tell me what happened?” Nick asks, pulling his own legs up under him, clearly getting himself comfortable.
Harry doesn’t much feel like talking. He says as much.
“Well, normally, I’d respect that,” Nick replies. “But my name’s written out in sparkles all over the internet sky this morning, so if you could give me just enough that I don’t cock things up further when the lovely people outside my flat try to ambush me, I’d greatly appreciate it.”
He leans across the table and picks up an ipad, opens a new tab and hands it over to Harry. The headline says, Harry and Grimmy’s secret affair! in big, glaring letters. There’s an old picture of the two of them at a party somewhere, as well as a brand new pap shot of Harry leaving Louis’s house in the middle of the night.
“Lovely,” Harry says with a sigh, scrolling down and skimming through the text. There’s nothing of substance there, of course, just the regular old rumours about Nick and Harry’s relationship and some bogus “close friend” with cryptic comments about having seen them alone together and looking very chummy on “several occasions lately”. Harry rolls his eyes and looks through a few more sites. Same old.
“There’s nothing there,” he says to Nick as he puts the tablet down and reaches for his tea. “You should be fine.”
“U-huh,” Nick replies. “What was the fight about?”
“Wasn’t a fight.”
“'Course not. And I’m considering dating women.”
“Maybe you should,” Harry says. “They might teach you something new. And you’re less likely to get your heart broken.”
“That what happened?”
Harry just shakes his head. “Nothing happened. It just got to be too much.”
“I just—It was stupid, all right?” Harry says. “I knew I shouldn’t have taken up with him like I did. He was perfectly clear about what he wanted, and I just...hoped he’d change his mind.”
“You don’t think he has? Not to rub salt in your wounds or anything, but from the pictures I’ve seen of you two lately, he’s either an absolutely terrific actor or—”
“He is,” Harry interrupts. “He’s very good, now can we just drop it, please?”
Nick looks like he’s going to argue for a minute, and then his shoulders sag and he holds out an arm to beckon Harry closer. “‘Course, love. Dropped and forgotten. I’m sorry I’m being such a knob.”
“You’re not a knob,” Harry says automatically, shuffling over to the other end of the sofa and letting Nick pull him into a tight hug. “Right now, Louis is, though.”
Nick has the grace not to reply to that, which Harry appreciates. He buries his face against Nick’s shoulder and just holds on, lets Nick wrap his arms around him and make little hushing sounds in his ear. It’s nice. So very nice.
“I wish I could have fallen for you,” he tells Nick. “This whole thing with Louis…I’m just jumping between walking on air and being so angry with him I can barely breathe; it’s exhausting.
“I know, love,” Nick replies, carding his fingers soothingly through Harry’s hair. “I’m sorry.”
“Me too,” Harry says quietly. “I’m really sorry too.”
They’re being called to an emergency band meeting.
Niall is the one to tell him, waking Louis up by throwing Louis’s mobile at his head, which lists several missed calls from their publicist.
“Oi, get up. They’re sending a car for us that’ll be here in fifteen minutes. No clue what it’s about.” Then he looks around the room again and frowns. “Where’s Harry?”
“Don’t know,” Louis says, because, Nick’s bed, probably, feels too mean, even at this ungodly hour in the morning. No matter how fucked up things might get between them, the other lads don’t deserve to be put in the middle of it. “Left late last night.”
“Louis, what the fuck is going on?” Zayn calls from out in the corridor. “Why are there pap shots of Harry sneaking into Grimmy’s flat all over bloody Twitter?”
Niall’s eyes widen; Louis groans and pulls the blankets up over his head.
It feels like déjà vu.
Harry is sitting at a conference table with Louis in the seat next to him, facing off against five management reps who all have their best “deeply concerned” faces on. The one main difference from the meeting they had about two months ago—and, Jesus, has it really only been two months?—is that, this time, Liam, Niall and Zayn are sitting there as well.
Which means that he and Louis must have truly made a mess of things. Wonderful.
“—don’t have to remind you that there’s a business plan in place that you are contractually obligated to observe,” one of the reps says. “We are happy to indulge your personal preferences as much as we can, but there needs to be a give and take.”
Harry nods, not sure what else to do.
“We let your marriage slide,” a man to the right says, “because it was generating some very positive buzz. The two of you were a sensation overnight, and while there have been some negative reactions, the majority of your fans have been overwhelmingly positive. Your numbers have gone up, and the ticket sales for the coming tour look very promising. Now, this, on the other hand…”
He presses a button on a small remote in his hand, and a grainy shot of Harry arriving at Nick’s is displayed on the big screen at the end of the room. Another click, and there’s a picture from one of the parties he and Nick went to together, back when an occasional shag was still part of their friendship. Harry is sitting on Nick’s lap in the picture, looking very much like he’d like to fuck him right there in the club (he had, Harry remembers—the two of them pulling the the toilets like the very best/worst of drunk clichés; he blushes a little at the memory).
“Could you stop?” Louis asks sharply, making Harry look up in surprise. “Those last pics are old, and we all know it. Get to the point, will you?”
“Please?” Harry adds, because it’s never been a bad idea to be polite to the suits.
“You’re supposed to have the ideal marriage,” one of the reps says. “Having a row in the middle of the night that leads to Harry storming out and staying the night with his ex boyfriend doesn’t fit very well with that picture.”
“I didn’t storm out,” Harry says, at the same time as Louis says, “Nick’s not his ex boyfriend”.
“It doesn’t matter,” a woman to the left says. “As long as no one finds out about it, you two can shag the entire national football team for all we care. All that matters is what people think happened. Surely, you should know this by now.”
“You need to put up an amicable front,” the man to the right says. “If Harry and Nick are just friends, then all three of you need to be. You should go out clubbing tonight, with Nick and a few more people. Get photographed having a normal night out, a group of friends just having a laugh. Be friendly.”
“Not too friendly, though,” one of the others says. “No pictures of just the three of you dancing together or sitting too close. Gay affair is bad enough—kinky gay threesome would be a whole lot worse.”
Harry nods again. Next to him, Louis is practically glaring daggers.
“What about us?” Liam says.
“At least one of you should come along as well,” the rep says. “Niall would be a good choice, since, for some reason, no rumours seem to ever stick to him. And one of you two,” she continues, looking between Zayn and Liam, “with your girlfriends, mind. Remind people that just because these two turned out to be secretly gay, not all of you are.”
Zayn and Liam share a look. They both already have plans for the evening, Harry knows. He looks down at his hands, feeling extremely guilty.
“I’ll do it,” Zayn says eventually. “Perrie probably won’t mind going out.”
“I’ll get a date, too,” Niall says. “Got a friend with an art show coming up who could use some publicity.”
“Guys, really,” Louis says. “You don’t have to do that.”
“They do, actually,” one of the reps says. “They’re part of the brand, same as you and Harry.”
Louis looks like he wants to argue; Harry just wants to get out of the conference room.
“Louis, please. Let’s just get it over with.”
Louis jaw clenches, then he shrugs and leans back in his chair. “Fine. Give us the specifics. We’ll make sure to do our best.”
Louis is being photographed by at least five different people, and three of them aren’t even trying to be discreet. Then again, that was rather the goal of tonight’s outing, so Louis does his best to smile and look like he’s having the time of his life.
The club is loud and packed with people, even inside the VIP section that’s been roped off for them to make things look more credible. They’re a fairly large group, and almost all couples. Even Nick’s brought a date—some blond shortish bloke that bears appropriately little resemblance to Harry and who does an excellent job of curling into Nick’s side and looking very much like he belongs there.
Louis is on the dance floor, Niall and his pretty artist friend next to him while Harry is a few feet away, bouncing ridiculously up and down in time with Perrie. It’s the closest he and Harry have been since they left the meeting this morning, and it’s still much too far away for Louis’s liking. Harry is sweating from dancing and from the general heat of the club, the vest he’s wearing nearly translucent by now and tight enough to offer an excellent view of his upper body.
Louis wants to take him by the hips and walk him backwards to a wall, fall to his knees, pull the fabric up and suck bruises into the skin on Harry’s stomach. And that’s just one of the many ideas making his head spin like a top at the moment.
Harry leans forward and tells Perrie something, and Louis watches as she laughs and then turns towards Zayn with a look Louis would normally associate with predators on Animal Planet. From the way Zayn moves closer and grabs her hips, he doesn’t seem to mind, however, and soon enough, the two of them are gone in their own little world of riling each other up, leaving Harry wonderfully, accessibly alone.
Louis holds his breath as Harry dances closer to him, lets it out in short, shaking bursts as Harry wraps an arm around his waist and moves in close. Harry tilts his head down and rests his forehead against Louis’s, and Louis wets his lips subconsciously, leaning in for a kiss.
Harry dodges it, moving his mouth close to Louis’s ear instead. “You should go buy Nick a drink.”
“Now, why would I do that?” Louis asks, then chases Harry’s lips in a second attempt at a kiss.
Harry dodges him again. “Because tonight is supposed to be about how the two of you are such good friends,” he says. “And because his mum got harassed at Tesco today because of us.”
“People yelled at her for raising a ‘queer bloody homewrecker’,” Harry tells him, and Louis can hear that he’s upset, even with the loud music drowning out most of Harry’s voice. “She was in tears, and I feel bloody awful about it, so since I’m not supposed to even sit next to Nick tonight, I’m sending you to do my dirty work.”
“Right,” Louis replies, taking a step back. “Of course, yeah.”
“Thank you,” Harry says, and then pulls Louis back in and plants a kiss on his cheek, short and sweet.
“Be right back,” he tells Harry. “Don’t go anywhere, all right?”
He heads to the bar, and takes perverse joy in ordering the most ridiculous pink cocktail he can think of, as well as beer for himself. Because while he might recognise that Nick is being rather wonderful at the moment, he’s still the smug arsehole who knows all too well what Harry looks like naked and who loves winding Louis up by implying that he’s a vain, talentless poser whenever he can.
He brings the drinks back to their table and sits down, nudging Nick with his elbow.
“Fancy a drink?”
Nick looks up and then snorts as he takes in the barbie-coloured concoction Louis is offering. He still takes a sip from it though. “What, no little rainbow umbrella to top it all off?”
“They were all out,” Louis replies. “Anyway, thanks for helping out tonight. Really means a lot to Harry.”
“Is that so?” Nick says. “I never would have guessed. I just have the hardest time having real, honest conversations with him about important matters. Oh, no, wait. That’s you.”
Insults flying in less than twenty seconds. Louis briefly wonders if that’s a new record for them. Fuckwad.
He grits his teeth and forces a bright smile, takes a slow sip of his beer. “Not quite up to your usual standards, I don’t think. Wit slipping in your old age?”
“Well, I have been up all night,” Nick replies. “Taking care of sexy popstars who need space from the inconsiderate bastards they happen to be married to takes a lot of energy, you know? Luckily, I have fantastic stamina.”
Oh, it is on.
“That’s great,” Louis says. “Might want to watch the smoking though. Since it’s been linked to early onset erectile dysfunction and all.”
“And good technique in bed has been linked to experience,” Nick replies serenely. “Gosh, could you imagine being someone’s first? All the mediocre sex you’d have to go through before they’d start catching on. When you could be taking up with someone who knows exactly what they’re doing.”
Louis opens his mouth to throw something back—something about Nick’s ridiculous quiff looking like a dead squirrel maybe—and gets interrupted by Nick’s date, leaning over and whispering something into Nick’s ear.
Nick leans close to Louis in turn, making like he’s checking the time on Louis’s mobile . “Smile, Tommo. Sean says there’s a bloke over by the toilets who’s been watching and taking pictures since you came over.”
It’s enough to pull Louis back to the reality of tonight, why he’d come over in the first place. He laughs, big and happy, as though Nick has just told him the most hilarious joke, and then raises his drink towards him and Nick’s no-longer-nameless date.
“A smile for the paparazzi?”
“Careful there, Louis,” Nick says while tapping his own glass to Louis’s, “if you go Lady Gaga on me, I’ll not be held responsible for my actions. I’ll have to battle dear Harold for your hand.”
“Aw,” Louis says, tilting his head sarcastically. “That’s so sweet. You know, if management hadn’t explicitly told us ‘no threesomes’, we’d definitely have taken you home and done you a solid. Well, both of you,” he adds, clinking his glass against Sean’s as well, “I’m guessing you’d want to bring your date. Terribly bad manners to ask someone out and then not invite them along for kinky groupsex.”
“Truer words never spoken,” Nick says. “Now, get back on the floor. You have some massive grovelling to do, if I’m not mistaken?”
Louis feels himself tense up at that; he does his best not to let it show on his face.
“How can you be so sure it’s all my fault?”
“Because it’s always your fault,” Nick says with a smirk. “Because Hazza is a lovely angel with a generous spirit and a heart of gold. And you, my dear not-quite-friend, are a fuckweasel. Well, most of the time. Some days you’re just a twat.”
“So glad we had this chat,” Louis replies, downing the last of his beer and putting a friendly hand on Nick’s shoulder. If he also manages to dig a couple of blunt nails into the skin on the back of Nick’s neck, well, no one will be able to prove it.
He spots Harry on the dancefloor, now part of a larger group, but with Niall and his date on either side of him, keeping the most handsy-looking people away. Louis wants to join them. Will join them. He needs a chance to get Harry on his own for a while, try to talk to him—find a way for them to handle Louis making a mess out of their beautiful arrangement by getting too bloody involved that doesn’t involve Harry moving out of the house.
It’s the mature thing to do, Louis knows it is. Which unfortunately doesn’t make it any less terrifying, because fuck.
He’s going to have to tell Harry he’s in love with him. Proper in love with him—hearts and bells and sparkly unicorns vomming rainbows all over the place. There’s no way around it if they are going to be able to keep their happily-married front intact without Louis’s heart getting smashed into a million tiny pieces in the process.
Louis will just have to man the fuck up.
And he will. After he’s had just a few shots of liquid courage.
Louis squares his shoulders and makes a beeline for the bar.
Harry is dancing to something slow and sultry. The club DJ seems to have a fondness for mixing house and R&B, and Harry kind of likes it, enjoys the way the bass feels like it’s travelling through his entire body.
Someone comes up behind him and puts their hands on Harry’s hips. He knows it’s Louis before he even turns his head—knows there’s only one person who knows him well enough to slide their thumbs just right over the sensitive spots at the small of his back.
Louis pulls him close and starts moving his hips, guiding Harry’s movements as he goes. One of his hands moves up Harry’s front and comes to rest right above Harry’s heart. Harry wonders if Louis can feel his pulse under his palm, then just stops thinking for a while, letting himself get lost in the familiarity of the touch.
They’ve only been apart for a day, and Harry’s missed him. It’s mental, the way his body just moves into Louis’s, how he feels happy for the first time today, when it’s because of Louis he was out of sorts in the first place.
“I’m sorry,” Louis murmurs in his ear, tightening his arms around Harry in a backwards hug. “I’m a proper knobhead and I’ve fucked everything up. I’m sorry.”
Harry closes his eyes and leans his head back against Louis’s shoulder. The apology doesn’t solve anything, and it isn’t actually Louis’s fault that Harry can’t keep his own bloody emotions in check, but it feels good all the same. Feels like Louis cares, which Harry knew he did. Caring about each other has never been a question between them.
Caring too much, on the other hand…
He knows it’s a bad idea even as he starts turning, but he can’t bring himself to stop. He’s missed Louis, and today’s been a miserable wreck of meetings and guilt and everybody’s expectations; Harry just wants a small kiss, that’s all. Just one.
Louis opens for him right away, melting into Harry and wrapping his arms tightly around Harry’s waist. The kiss deepens gradually, the two of them swaying gently together in a sea of dancing people. Louis tastes of rum and something even sweeter, cherries perhaps, which gives Harry a moment’s pause, because drunk kisses were what got them into this mess in the first place, and he really shouldn’t—
Louis slides his hands up into Harry’s hair and takes control of the kiss, and it’s Harry’s turn to sag a little, giving himself over to the touch. Louis sneaks a hand down between their bodies, and Harry gasps as Louis palms him once through his jeans, going from interested to fully hard so fast it makes him light-headed.
He know he can’t keep doing this. Can’t keep going back every time they want each other.
And he can say no even less.
“I know we need to talk,” Louis says. “But can we please just—before, just, one more time, please?”
Harry nods and kisses him again, clings to Louis as they start making their way out of the crowd. He’s fumbling in his back pocket for his mobile, intent on calling a taxi to take them back home, when Louis trips next to him and nearly sends both of them crashing to the floor.
“You okay?” Harry asks, tightening his hold around Louis’s waist.
Louis straightens up and smiles, then leans towards Harry to kiss him and ends up tripping himself again.
“Sorry, wow. Headrush,” Louis says, and Harry can hear a slight slur in his words.
“How much did you have to drink?”
“Not sure,” Louis replies happily. “Not much. Glasses were tiny. Soooo tiny.”
Shots then, which explains why it’s hitting Louis so hard when he seemed absolutely fine just forty minutes or so ago.
“Need to tell you something,” Louis mumbles, sidling close again, one warm hand sneaking in under Harry’s vest. “Was so bloody scared. Dunno why now.”
“Shhhh,” Harry tries, moving them as quickly as he can towards the exit, getting his mobile out and hitting the number for their usual car service in his contact list. “Just walk, okay? We’ll talk when we get home.”
“Don’t wanna go home,” Louis mumbles. “No you at home. Can’t have home without you.” He sags against Harry’s side, burying his face in Harry’s neck. “Love you so much,” Louis continues, words getting harder and harder to make out. “You love me too, right? Please say you love me too.”
“‘Course I do,” Harry says, swallowing hard as he feels a smile brush against the edge of his jaw. “Always will.”
Louis wakes up alone and possibly dead. Hopefully dying, at least, if that means his head will stop pounding. His room is blissfully dark and cool, at least, and when Louis musters up the energy to slit one eye open, he sees a couple of pills and a glass of water sitting on his bedside table.
Oh thank fuck.
He swallows the pills and drinks the water in deep, greedy gulps. It’s like pouring pure bliss down his throat, even managing to numb the absolutely foul taste in his mouth a little. Louis feels about a thousand times better as he puts the glass down and collapses back against the pillows.
The night before is all a blur in his head. He remembers arriving at the club, then dancing, then something about Nick where he’s a bit hazy on the details. Then the bar, thinking a whole line of cherry shots was a good idea for some reason. Remembers talking to himself, rehearsing things he wanted to say to Harry later, and—oh bollocks.
He was going to talk to Harry. And instead he got himself plastered and—unless the foggy bits and pieces his brain is trying to put together are really just part of a dream (and, dear God, please let them be)—snogged Harry on the dancefloor, tried to convince him to let Louis blow him in the taxi and ended up getting sick all over the floor.
He got vom on Harry’s shoes. After begging him for sex and getting firmly turned down. Twice.
He wonders if it’s possible to suffocate yourself with a pillow if you just try hard enough. He grabs one and holds it down against his face, shouts his frustration into the soft material.
Bugger all, honestly.
He stays in bed, alternating between feeling utterly ashamed and hopelessly sorry for himself, until the empty ache in his stomach forces him out of it. The house is quiet as he walks downstairs, and while Louis can’t blame Harry for not sticking around, there’s a small pang in his chest that makes him realise that he’d been hoping for it. He goes into the kitchen and puts the kettle on, has just started going through the cabinets in search for toast when a voice behind him nearly makes him jump out of his skin.
“Still alive then?”
Louis turns around and resists the urge to bring a hand up to clutch at his heart. “Liam. Shit.”
“Sorry,” Liam says. “Didn’t mean to sneak up on you. Just, I heard the kettle. Thought I’d see how you were.”
“Harry rang me,” Liam continues. “Asked me if I could please come over and see to it that you were all right. Sounded absolutely wretched. Figured you’d maybe like to tell me what’s up with you being such an arse to people who love you lately?”
Liam’s voice is calm and pleasant enough, but the words go right through Louis, piercing him and leaving him hard-pressed for air. Liam crosses his arms over his chest and cocks an eyebrow, clearly waiting for an answer.
“I don’t know what you want me to say,” Louis says, after they’ve been staring at each other for a while. “Any apology I can think of just feels… too small, you know? I know I was an utter cock, and I’m so sorry. I just—I don’t know what to say to make it better.”
Liam looks down at the floor for a moment, shifting his weight from foot to foot. Louis wants to go over to him and wrap Liam up in a hug. He doesn’t though; wants it to be Liam who makes that call right now. He’s been wanting and feeling so much lately, been so caught up in his own head, that it seems he forgot to listen to what people around him were saying. It’s a bitter thing to realise; Louis ducks his head as well.
“You’re such a fucking bastard,” Liam sighs, and then he’s stepping closer, pulling Louis in. “Come here.”
Louis goes easily, hugging back as Liam wraps himself around him. He puts his head against Liam’s shoulder and closes his eyes, takes a few moments just to breathe.
“I really am sorry, you know,” he tells Liam’s collarbone. “I didn’t realise I was being such a prick.”
“You were,” Liam says quietly. “But you’re also one of my best mates, so I forgive you anyway.”
Louis hugs him fiercely. It feels so good, just to hear Liam say it. To know that, even though they might not completely all right just yet, they’ll get there.
Fuck, he misses Harry.
As though Liam can read his mind, he picks that moment to draw back from their hug, tilting his head thoughtfully as he meets Louis’s eyes.
“What about him?”
“You tell me. Wanna talk about it?”
Louis thinks about it for a while. In one way he does, because sitting up all night just looking at pictures of the two of them and then spending several hours in the same room as Harry without really talking to him has possibly driven him a little mad. Getting Liam’s perspective could help untangle a bit of the mess that currently makes up his head. Then again, it’s not his and Liam’s relationship he needs to be untangled.
“Thanks, but no,” he settles on. “I need to sort things out with him first. I haven’t really been honest with him, I don’t think. Or with myself, but you already had that one figured.”
Liam snorts. “You’ve really been a right git, haven’t you?”
“Yeah,” Louis says with sigh. “Seems I really rather have.”
“Well,” Liam replies, giving Louis a clap on the shoulder. “If you change your mind, you know where to find me, yeah? I should get back. Promised Sophia we’d walk around town today. Go on the London Eye, she’s never been.”
“Go,” Louis says, smiling a little as he shoos Liam out of the kitchen. “Buy her an embarrassingly huge bundle of flowers and tell her they’re from me. And take her to lunch—spoil her rotten.”
“Already have a table booked,” Liam replies. “I’m far better at being in a relationship than you, you know.”
Yeah. Louis can’t really argue with him there. So he does the mature thing and grabs a tea towel instead, snaps it at Liam’s departing arse and tells him to get the fuck out of his kitchen.
Harry is in the middle of painting his nails a vibrant blue when his mobile buzzes in his pocket. He ignores it the first time, but when it happens a second, and then a third time, Nick looks up at him from where he’s masterfully wielding a glass of wine, a spoon and a tub of Chunky Monkey without so much as nicking the edges of his perfect French tips.
“You gonna get that?”
“Can’t,” Harry replies. “Polish is still wet.”
“Like that’s a problem,” Nick says. “Lie down on your back, go on.”
Harry frowns at him but puts the little bottle down, lowering himself carefully until he’s more or less horizontal.
“Now watch and learn, young Skywalker,” Nick says, putting down the things he’s holding before dropping to his knees on the floor.
He gets Harry’s mobile out of his front pocket in less than a minute, with his hands behind his back and using his mouth only—and probably would have been able to do it even faster if Harry hadn’t started laughing quite so hard.
Nick pushes the mobile out the last of the way, catches it with his teeth and drops it on Harry’s stomach. “There you go, love.”
“Do I even want to know how it is that you can do that?”
“Oh, you know you’re just dying to ask,” Nick says. “You should tell Louis this little story when you see him next. I’m sure he’d find it absolutely riveting.”
“Be nice,” Harry says warningly. It’s rather ruined by the way he’s still laughing. “He bought you a drink last night, didn’t he?”
“And implied I’m old and impotent,” Nick replies. “Such a charming fellow. Though I really think you should have gone with Niall. That Irish constitution’s so much easier on your shoes, after all.”
Harry cracks up again, then feels a bit bad. Louis was utterly out of it once Harry finally got him home, muttering apologies over and over. Harry got him into the shower and then put him to bed, using every bit of will power he possessed to stop himself from crawling in after him.
He slept in the next room in the end, waking up every time he heard Louis move about and finally gave up on sleeping altogether, leaving to come over and crash on Nick’s sofa as soon as it was light out. Nick woke him up about an hour ago, holding up his well-worn manicure set and a selection of rom-coms. They’ve made it half-way through The Princess Diaries so far, and Harry’s cuticles have never looked better.
“Gonna check your phone any time soon?”
Harry shifts his attention to picking up his mobile without using the tips of his fingers. There are three messages from Louis. Harry hesitates, then clicks his way through them.
So sorry about last night. :( I’ll get you new shoes. As many as you want.
Can I see you tonight? I’ll get dinner.
Please? There’s something I really need to tell you. xx
Harry’s eyes linger on the last one, long enough for Nick to start straining his neck to try and read the message upside down.
“It’s Louis,” Harry tells him. “He wants to have dinner tonight. Says he wants to talk.”
“Yeah?” Nick says, moving back up to sit next to Harry on the sofa. “Do you?”
“Not sure,” Harry replies honestly. “Seems like every time we’re together lately, we only fuck things up more.”
“Guess that’s the risk you’ll have to take, though,” Nick says. “If you want to give it another shot, that is.”
Harry sighs. “I thought I did. And then I was sure I didn’t. Feels like I don’t know my own head anymore.”
“Well, they tell you for better or for worse, remember? I reckon this bit is the worse part.”
Nick says it casually, but Harry knows him well enough to hear the meaning behind the words.
“You think I should go.”
“I think you’ll make life very difficult for yourself if you don’t,” Nick replies. “You’re married, you’re in a band and you live in each other’s pockets most of the year. Keeping all that up without trying to suss out how to at least be on good terms would be bloody awful for you both. So yes, I think you should go.”
Harry nods. Nick’s right; he and Louis need to find stable ground again. The sooner the better, really, seeing how promotion for their next album and tour will be getting absolutely mad in the next few weeks. He hesitates for another moment and then types a quick reply, hitting send before he has time to change his mind.
Louis is pacing.
It’s ridiculous. Louis doesn’t pace. He much prefers to run or bounce or simply stroll along until he gets where he’s going. Pacing is unproductive, not to mention that it makes him feel like a granny taking a walk around the flat because it’s too cold out for a stroll in the park.
It’s ten to six, and he’s just made a catastrophic mess of his second attempt at making dinner. There are currently little balls of foamy chocolate stuff melting into puddles on their plates, several burnt pans soaking in the sink and a general feeling of impending doom lying heavily over the kitchen.
Sod it. Louis should just order a pizza and be done with it. He could sprinkle some of the fancy salad stuff he bought on top of it. Light some candles and turn off the lights in the kitchen to hide the worst of the mess.
He just—he wanted to make something special. Something like the first (and only) time he cooked Harry a meal—wanted to see Harry’s eyes light up like they had back then.
Seems he’s not quite up to par without Harry there to direct him, though. Louis goes to fetch his phone.
He hears Harry call his name as he walks into the house, then the quickening of his steps as he almost runs towards the kitchen.
Honestly, the burnt smell’s not even that bad anymore.
Harry calls his name again, softer this time, and Louis imagines he’s spotted the set table, with its real napkins and fancy plates. Candles and flowers. Louis even put on a table cloth he found among the piles of wedding gifts they still haven’t found the energy to put away properly.
He hears the scraping of a chair and pictures Harry sitting down, knows he must have seen the wrapped gift on his plate by now. He closes his eyes and imagines Harry opening it, finding the photo album inside and turning to the first page.
Larry Stylinson: A Love Story
(with annotations by LT)
God, he needs to do something, anything other than just sitting where he is, waiting and being scared out of his bloody mind. He almost wishes he bit his fingernails. At least that’d be something to do. It’s all out of his hands now, however; there’s really no way Harry can mistake the new and improved version of the fan album as anything other than the declaration it is. Louis just hopes he won’t get his heart crushed too badly because of it.
He tips his head back, doing what he does whenever he needs to take a moment to refocus before going out on stage, which is to systematically go through the lyrics of each of their songs backwards. It makes for some really funny lines. Louis’s favourite is, and always will be fate of twist a but be to meant were we, because he always makes it fate of twist, a butt bee, torment were we in his head, and that will never stop being hilarious, no matter what his bandmates think.
He can feel his pulse slowing down as he makes his way through Midnight Memories, and once he’s done with Kiss You, he’s almost breathing normally again.
Which is of course when he hears footsteps coming from the kitchen and the world goes right back to spinning around him at 3000 miles per hour or so.
“I need a pen.”
He turns his head and sees Harry standing in the doorway, the photo album clutched in his arms. He looks shaken and unsure, but there’s a determined glint to his eyes as well, which sets of a spark of fierce hope in Louis’s chest.
“Um. What for?”
“Well, see,” Harry says, walking slowly closer, as though he’s hesitating before taking each new step, “I found a few mistakes—some things that were missing—so I thought I’d help correct them, if that’s all right?”
“Oh,” Louis replies faintly. “Yeah, sure. I think there’s one over by the desk?”
Harry goes and retrieves a pen and then sits down on the sofa, opens the album on his lap and starts writing.
“You going to come join me?” he asks, and Louis moves without thinking, crossing the room more quickly than he knew he could.
He sits down next to Harry, and it’s like his body is suddenly warm for the first time today. Harry has the album open on the spread with the picture from the video diaries, and Louis’s breath catches in his throat as he sees the way Harry’s changed the note Louis’d made before him.
That’s the first time
I we wanted to kiss you each other.
“I love you,” Harry says quietly. “I’m so in love with you. And the last couple of months have been the best and worst of my life because of that. Because I thought you didn’t—”
He breaks off and turns his face away, and the implications of that cut through Louis like a knife. He hurt Harry. His Harry. Jesus, Louis kind of wants to punch himself.
“I’m sorry,” he says weakly. “I’ve been so sodding blind, I’m so sorry.”
“I should have said something earlier,” Harry counters. “I was stupid being so scared. I should have bloody trusted you. I’m sorry.”
“You’ve nothing to be sorry about,” Louis insists. “Fuck, Haz, I just—”
Harry leans in and kisses him, effectively shutting Louis up. “Not now. Bed. Please.”
Louis is so on board with that plan.
They stumble up the stairs together, shredding clothes along the way. One of Louis’s socks ends up in a potted plant, and Harry’s jeans are probably blocking the door, but none of it matters when Louis has Harry right here, in his arms, mumbling little words of nonsense into Louis’s neck between kisses.
Jesus, Louis loves him so bloody much.
He lies back on the bed and pulls Harry up on top of him, arches into his touch when Harry runs a hand all the way down his body. They’re both naked, and hard, but for some reason, Louis can’t seem to focus on that, overwhelmed by the need to simply touch Harry’s skin.
They’ve been apart for less than two days and it feels like it’s been months; it’s completely ridiculous.
Louis doesn’t care.
“I want to be inside you,” Harry says, already flushed an out of breath above him. “Want to feel you all around me.”
“Jesus Christ, yes.” Louis twists on the sheets, one hand reaching out towards the bedside table to get the top drawer open. “Hurry up, fuck.”
“Want to tell you how good you feel,” Harry murmurs as he takes the lube from Louis and pops the lid. “Want to tell you all about how lovely you look, how much I love feeling you open up for me.” He slips one finger inside, and Louis moans, just from that, tries to spread his legs a little wider, urging Harry on.
Despite the initial rush, they move on slowly from there, and it’s excruciating and wonderful at the same time, like they’re learning each other all over again, touch by touch. Harry keeps talking, telling Louis every stray thought that goes through his brain. It’s like a floodgate has opened, and Louis likes it. Loves it. If he could spend the rest of his life exactly like this, listening to Harry telling him he loves him, that he’s so in-fucking-love with him, while getting slowly, achingly fucked into the mattress, he’d die without a single regret. Because Harry. Harry loves him. Louis doesn’t know what else he could possibly ask for.
His orgasm seems to build for-fucking-ever, just keeping him there, right on the edge, breathless and lost to pleasure as Harry fucks into him, over and over.
“I was wrong,” he pants, grabbing on to Harry’s arms with both hands to try and keep it together. “When I said I didn’t mean it. I did. Always meant it. Oh, Jesus fuck—”
“I know,” Harry replies hoarsely. “I know, I knew, I—fuck, I can’t—”
Louis reaches up and pulls him down into a kiss, moans helplessly into Harry’s mouth as the pleasure crests and washes over him. Harry follows him seconds later, and the way it feels to have him in his arms like this, trembling and almost weak in the aftermath, makes his heart feel too full, like nothing in him is large enough to contain the happiness welling up inside.
They lie side by side for a long time afterwards, trading kisses and lazy touches under the duvet and dozing off together now and then. It’s pitch dark when Louis wakes up, and when he rolls over to check the time, he sees that it’s well past midnight.
He considers just turning back towards Harry and going back to sleep, but he’s also hungry, and there’s a perfectly fine pizza standing in his oven, still keeping warm unless it’s burned to a crisp by now. Louis hopes not. He put the oven on low for the express purpose of not turning anything else into charcoal, after all.
The kitchen, happily, is still intact, and the pizza crust might be slightly more rock-like than it was before, but it’s still food, and that’s more than good enough for Louis. He decides to bring the whole box with him back to the bedroom, together with a bottle of pop he finds in the fridge. At the last second, he grabs the flowers from the table as well (candles are long gone, on the other hand, pity) and balances all of it in his arms up the stairs.
They’ll have a late-night dinner, and then probably another shag. And tomorrow, they’ll get to wake up together and do it all over again.
He doesn’t know how it will all work out, being married for real and making it work with all the pressure that’s constantly on them. But he has a feeling that no matter the ups and downs along the way, the two of them together will be absolutely brilliant.
And that is more than enough for now.