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For Better, Worse And Mischief (I'm All Yours)

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“You can’t be serious.”

Harry’s glad Louis says it, because his own mouth has gone strangely dry all of a sudden. On the other side of the conference table, the five management reps look back at them, each with a stonier expression than the next.

Clearly, they are very serious. Harry looks down at the dossier in his hands. There are several headshots inside, each girl prettier than the next. And he’s supposed to pick one of them. To be his future wife. Because, apparently, at twenty-one, he’s getting too old for the womaniser image and needs something more “settled”. And less gay, which goes without saying, as they called Louis in as well to address the rumours about the two of them that just refuse to die down completely.

“But why?” Harry manages. “We’ve done everything you said. We haven’t even complained much. Why would I need to be married all of a sudden?” He shoots Louis a desperate look. A second later, a warm hand wraps tightly around his beneath the table; Harry squeezes back, gratefully.

“Don’t be silly,” Louis says. “You’re not getting married. No way.” The last part is aimed directly at the management reps.

“This is exactly what we’re talking about,” a woman to the left says. “You don’t even seem to notice how you gravitate towards each other at every turn, and even when you’re in separate interviews, it’s all ‘Harry this’ and ‘Louis that’. Your numbers have dipped over the past six months, and with the new album coming out and the world tour following it, we need to get a firm handle on the situation and re-establish your brand.”

“By forcing Harry to get married?” Louis asks, incredulous, and, wow, that’s probably the coldest Harry’s ever heard his voice go. “No one can expect another person to do that. Especially not for some shitty publicity.”

“He’s not actually getting married, of course,” one of the other reps says. “The financial and legal repercussions of essentially bringing a sixth person into your brand would be complicated, to say the least, and a divorce at Harry’s age, though expected when marrying someone so quickly, would not rate a positive response among your fans. We’re suggesting an engagement.”

“Oh, so he only has to pretend to make the biggest commitment of his life,” Louis states. “That makes all the difference. Why don’t I tweet the happy announcement right now?”

“We’re merely saying that—”

“You are telling Harry that he needs to lie. To everyone. Including all of our fans,” Louis says. “Do you even know what that would do to him? Do you even care?”

“There’s no need to be dramatic,” the woman to the left says. “No one is asking him to change his life around. It’s a few dates here and there, a couple of photoshoots and an extra person backstage with you now and then. It’s nothing he hasn’t handled before. It will be perfectly fine.”

“Oh really?” Louis snaps. “Perfectly fine, is it? Well, if it’s such a simple little thing to ask, then maybe you should actually ask, instead of just talking over his head when he’s sitting right here.”

“Louis,” Harry says softly, “It’s okay. Just. I’ll be fine.”

Louis simply looks at him.

“Fuck this,” he says, standing up and taking Harry’s hand, pulling him to his feet as well. “We’re leaving.”

They’ve made their way back to the studio, managed to find some lunch, and Louis is still seething. He doesn’t know why this particular request (ha!) makes him so mad, but just the thought of seeing Harry’s face on cover after cover, smiling brightly next to some girl who’s probably launching a career in acting/modelling/whatever from being associated with him makes him want to punch something.

“Listen,” Harry says. “Thanks for sticking up for me, but you know as well as I do that the only real options I have are to go along with their plan or quit the band. And I really don’t want to quit the band.”

Louis stabs at the bottom of his glass with his straw. “I’m sorry this is happening to you. I should have known they’d—just—I’m sorry.”

“What?” Harry says, clearly confused. “What are you on about? It’s not your fault our management are idiots.”

“I shouldn’t have broken things off with El,” Louis replies. “That’s when they started bothering you about seeing girls again. If we’d just kept going as we had, you wouldn’t have—”

“Hey, no,” Harry says firmly, shuffling closer to Louis on the couch and nudging him with his elbow. “It was time. You said it yourself, the two of you’d been over for a long time.”

“If we were ever really together,” Louis sighs. “Shit, Harry, I don’t even know anymore. It’s all so confused in my head.”

“Still not your fault that management wants to marry me off, though.”

“But if—”

“No,” Harry says. “Just no, Louis, all right?”

Harry’s hand is on his chin, tilting Louis’s face up, and Louis can’t help but smile when Harry’s looking at him like he is now—like Louis is one of his favourite things.

“Marry me.” It just tumbles out, but as soon as he realises what he’s said, he knows it’ll be completely brilliant.

Marry me.

Harry does a double take. Then another one. Because that can’t possibly be right. Louis is looking at him like he just thought of the coolest thing ever. So clearly, he must have misheard, just—

“Sorry, what?”

“Me,” Louis says, something desperately soft creeping into his voice. He tilts his face into Harry’s hand, and Harry suddenly finds it very difficult to breathe. “Marry me.”


“Listen, they want to put a stop to the rumours, yeah?” Louis says. “And generate publicity while they’re at it. Let’s give them what they want, but we do it our way.”

“By getting married?”

“Just think about it,” Louis says. “Once it’s done, they wouldn’t be able to say or do a thing about it. We could move back in together. Neither of us would have to date anyone we don’t want to date or field any more stupid questions about what we’re looking for in a girl for a long time. And we’re both already in the band and have signed all the same contracts, so when we divorce, there won’t be any financial hassle. Because we already own half of each other’s everything. Or a fifth of it, if you want to get technical.”

Harry tries to picture it. He can’t. He really, really can’t.

Except he can once the shock wears off a bit and he starts thinking about it. There’d be hell to pay from their management, and the media would go absolutely mental over it, but at the same time... Harry swallows and looks up at Louis, trying not to feel the small hope of something close to freedom too acutely. “We could move back in together.”

“Tea in bed,” Louis says, smiling now. “Tea and toast, Hazza. I’d even make an effort to buy milk.”

“You really think we should do this? You and me?”

“Haz,” Louis says. They’re holding hands again, Harry realises. He really loves Louis’s hands. “You’re the only one I’d want to do this with.”

And just like that, it’s all so easy. Harry feels a smile spread on his face, sees Louis answer it before he’s pulled into a hug so tight it makes Harry a little breathless. The laughter starts somewhere at the small of his back, bubbling up the length of his spine and down his legs all at once, making him feel lighter than he has in forever. They sit together, foreheads touching, and laughing until they’re shaking with it, because how is this their life, honestly? How is this madness anyone’s life?

“Let’s go find the lads,” Louis says. “Big news to tell and all that.”

The next few days pass in a whirl. Harry tells the management people that he needs the weekend to think, and with them temporarily off his back, he and Louis go to work setting up their scheme. Liam, Zayn and Niall are right there with them, just as furious at the announcement of Harry’s pending fake engagement as Louis had been and determined to help out in any way they can. Even if that means a fake wedding, which none of them seem too thrilled about, if Harry is completely honest. Liam, in particular, looks permanently worried, and Harry is starting to lose count of how many times the three of them have asked if he and Louis are really sure about what they’re doing.

They are, though. Very sure. The more Harry thinks about it, the better it feels. Especially when he wakes up on Saturday morning and there’s tea and toast next to his bed with a small note saying Mr Harry Tomlinson.

“I’m not taking your name,” Harry says, once he’s managed to find his mobile. “You can be Louis Styles if you want.”

“I think I’m good,” Louis replies. “You still want to do this?”

“Why? You having second thoughts?”

“Not on your life,” Louis says, and Harry can hear the smile in his voice. “Niall’s picking me up in half an hour. We’re going shopping to give the paps some good shots for the day. El’s promised to join us. Hopefully, that’ll keep everyone too busy writing are-they-back-together stories to keep an eye out this afternoon.”

When the two of them will be sneaking into the Registrar’s Office. Harry grins. “Did you tell her?”

“Last night, “ Louis replies. “She asked me to tell you that she’s very happy for us. And that if you ever break my heart, she’ll hunt you down etc etc.”

“Duly noted.”

“Oh, and I spoke to your mum,” Louis continues. “She, Robin and Gemma will get into Euston at two. Nick’s picking them up.”

“This is really happening, isn’t it?” Harry says. The air around him feels thinner all of a sudden, causing his head to spin a little as he breathes.

“It is,” Louis confirms. “Isn’t it mad?”

“Our families certainly seem to think so,” Harry says. “My mum keeps asking me what we want for a gift. I keep telling her that it’s not a real wedding, but she doesn’t seem to be listening.”

“Well, in a way it is rather real,” Louis says. “Legally binding and everything.”

“That’s exactly what my mum said.”

“Yeah,” Louis says, and Harry suddenly wishes they were in the same room, so Harry could reach out and touch him, just to remind himself that he’s not having some kind of absurd dream. “Just, don’t worry about it,” Louis continues. “Our real fake wedding will go off without a hitch. And it’ll be fantastic.”

“If you say so,” Harry says, just as the doorbell rings. “I have to go. Liam’s here with my suit. I’ll see you in a bit, yeah?”

“Five hours, forty-five minutes,” Louis replies. “Prepare to be swept off your feet and carried down the aisle.”

Harry cracks up at that. Louis starts to hum the wedding march in his ear, and Harry’s still laughing when he opens the front door to let Liam in.

He keeps himself from being nervous until they’re sitting in a private waiting room in the Registrar’s Office, waiting for their turn to go in. Despite it being Saturday afternoon, there aren’t a lot of people about, and Harry’s thankful for it. The whole point of them being there is for the press to find out, but Harry prefers if it doesn’t happen just yet.

“Hey, don’t worry so much,” Louis murmurs, leaning in to rest his head on Harry’s shoulder. His hand comes to rest on Harry’s leg, palm up in invitation. Harry takes it, lets the contact ground him.

“Sorry, I’m being silly.”

“Not silly,” Louis says, squeezing Harry’s hand a little more. “Lovely and wonderful. Never silly.”

“What about the time in Australia when I lay down on the stage and pretended to be a finishing line so you all could have a piggy back race?”

“That wasn’t silly, that was genius,” Louis says. “Also, I won.”

“You are the champion of everything,” Harry confirms, and gets a satisfied smile in return. “What time is it now?”

“2:53,” Gemma says, cutting into their conversation. “Exactly two minutes later than when you asked the last time.”

“Be nice or I’m revoking your maid of honour privileges,” Harry says, giving her a stern look. Gemma just rolls her eyes and smirks at him.

An assistant calls their names a few minutes later, and Harry and Louis hang back as their families and friends file into the main room and take their seats. Louis is fiddling with the buttons of his jacket, opening and closing them in indecision. Harry stops him and moves the hands away, undoes the buttons again so that the jacket hangs loosely, then reaches up and adjusts his tie.

Louis smiles. “Making me presentable?”

“No,” Harry says, keeping his hold on the tie as he leans in, brushing a kiss across Louis’s cheek. “I just always wanted to do that.”

“Are you, Louis William Tomlinson, free, lawfully, to marry Harry Edward Styles?”

Louis is starting to feel an ache in his face from smiling so much. “I am.”

The Registrar turns to Harry, whose voice is slightly unsteady as he makes his own declaration. He’s smiling just as widely as Louis, though, so everything’s fine.

So much better than fine; Louis is feeling positively giddy.

“Then, Louis, repeat after me, please,” the Registrar says. “I, Louis Tomlinson, take you, Harry Styles, to be my wedded husband.”

Louis repeats the words and watches Harry’s eyes widen slightly. A moment later, he understands why—something about the way the word “husband” sounds directed right at him makes his heart skip a couple of beats.

Jesus Christ, he’s getting married. They’re actually doing this.

“Do you have additional promises prepared that you want to share with one another?” the Registrar asks. Harry starts fiddling with something in the back pocket of his trousers and pulls out a crumpled-looking piece of paper.

“You wrote me something?”

“Shut up,” Harry says, and, is that a blush? How interesting. “Of course I did. Are you saying you didn’t?”

“Not at all,” Louis replies. “I know mine by heart is all.”

“You’re such a show off,” Harry says, trying to sound exasperated, Louis can tell. It goes about as well as Louis trying to look solemn. “In that case, why don’t you go first?”

“Not a problem,” Louis says. “Niall, ring, please.”

Niall steps up to them and puts the ring he and Louis got on their very secret shopping mission a couple of nights ago into Louis’s palm. He also winks at Harry, which prompts Louis to frown at him. Niall just winks at him too. Cheeky bugger.

Louis reaches for Harry’s left hand, then thinks better of it and reaches for both, nudging the ring in his hand onto the tip of his thumb to keep it out of the way as he weaves their fingers together. There. Nice and snug. He pulls Harry half a step closer while he’s at it so that he has to tilt his head back slightly to look Harry in the eye.

“I, Louis,” he starts, “take you, Harry, to be my husband and partner in crime. To always make you tea and toast when you want to stay in bed, make sure you remember to put a hat on when it’s cold and do my best not to whistle in the shower. I promise to be your best friend, to support you when you need it and bugger off when you want to be alone. I want to share my life and living space with you, get fat from your gorgeous cooking and have you nag me for being such a slob. You are the best person I know, and there’s nothing about you that I would ever want to change. And I’ll keep thinking you’re brilliant and lovely, and be by your side until the sun explodes, the cows come home and the fat lady sings. The end.” He takes the ring off the tip of his thumb and pushes it gently down Harry’s fourth finger, then raising Harry’s hand to his mouth and gives it a quick kiss. “Your turn, babe.”

Harry stands frozen, just looking at Louis like he has no idea what to do. Then his eyes flicker downwards, and there’s a split second of suspended time when Louis thinks Harry is going to kiss him. A moment later, Harry is laughing delightedly, turning around to beckon Liam to come forward (while Zayn remains in his seat next to Perrie, both of them playing happily with the petals in the small flowergirl basket Zayn insisted he should be responsible for). Then he turns back to Louis and takes his left hand.

“The moment I met you, I knew you were utterly mad,” Harry says, with a quick look down at his sheet of paper. “I’ve never met anyone like you, and I don’t think I ever will, because you, Louis, are one of a kind. You make me feel like I can do anything, that I’m always free, no matter how trapped I might feel sometimes. I love being with you more than anything. You’re funny and kind, and so loyal to the people you love. I promise to always respect you, and to always support you. I promise to be the best friend I can be, and the best partner. Because you deserve everything.”

Harry clears his throat, and Louis blinks, and, wow, he mustn’t have done that in a while, because his eyes feel rather strained all of a sudden. Then Harry bites his lip, and there are crinkles at the corner of his eyes as he adds, “Also, I promise never to own more than two cats at a time. And to always buy you extra socks for Christmas.”

Louis cracks up at that, and Harry follows him, both of them laughing as Harry gets the ring onto Louis’s finger and they straighten up again, doing their best to put on a serious face in front of the Registrar (it’s a wasted effort).

The Registrar smiles indulgently and goes into a short speech about the joy of shared laughter making love grow stronger or some such, and before Louis knows it, she’s asking their friends and family to stand up, declaring Louis and Harry legally married.

Someone (Nick; of course it’s Nick) starts applauding, and everyone else joins in. There’s even whooping. Harry’s mum looks like she has tears in her eyes.

“Do we kiss?” Harry murmurs, just loud enough for Louis to catch the words. “We should, right?”

“Yeah,” Louis agrees, watching his little sisters hugging each other in sheer glee out of the corner of his eye. “Tradition and all. Come here.”

“You come here,” Harry says, but he starts leaning in even as he says it, eyes flickering back down to Louis’s mouth. Louis tilts his head up, decides that since they’ve decided they’re doing this, there’s no reason not to make it the best fucking kiss of the most brilliant wedding ever. He puts his hands on Harry’s chest and takes a second just to feel the way Harry’s heart beats under his palm before closing the last distance between them.

The cheers and applause get louder—a lot louder; honestly, their friends are all a bunch of dirty perverts—but Louis couldn’t care less. Because he’s kissing Harry, and while it’s not exactly the first time that has happened, it is the first time in a long while, not to mention the first time when both of them are sure to remember it the next day.

It’s a lovely, lovely kiss. Louis would happily keep it going for the rest of the night. Except other couples are waiting, and they’re supposed to go to dinner with their families, and—most important fact for Louis’s brain to remember—they’re not doing this for themselves. There are pictures to be taken and tweets to be made, about a million things they need to do before their PR team descends on them in righteous fury for daring to fuck with their plans.

So Louis pulls away. Reluctantly. Harry chases his mouth, and Louis figures, what the heck, and leans back in for one more kiss.

Harry’s keycard is not working. It’s too big for the slot in the door, for one thing, or the wrong shape maybe. Possibly it just doesn’t want to let them into the room; Harry’s heard doors can be evil like that.

Also, the fact that he’s currently seeing double isn’t helping matters. Or that he’s got Louis draped all along his back, mouthing at the back of Harry’s neck and putting his hands in some very distracting places.

God, they are so beyond drunk. Proper sloshed, the two of them. Harry feels something in his belly do a little flip in anticipation.

“Come on, Hazza,” Louis mumbles. “Get us in, already. We’re wasting valuable wedding night time here.”

“Card’s not working,” Harry says, pushing it at the door once more. The little light blinks red.

“Here,” Louis says, taking the card out of Harry’s hand and turning it over. It slips in like it was meant to go into the door, and the lock blinks green and makes a happy whirring noise. The traitor.

Harry doesn’t have time to be annoyed, however, because the door is open, and Louis is walking him backwards through it, hands clumsily tugging at Harry’s clothes to get them open, get them off.

Harry is so very on board with that plan. His hands find their way to Louis’s tie, working open the knot and pulling him closer. Louis comes easily, tilting his head up for a kiss that Harry’s more than happy to give him.

It’s really been far too long. Not since some random birthday party they both went to that got a little out of hand. Before El. Before everybody, really.

Louis drops to his knees, pulling Harry’s trousers and pants down and helping him out of them, one foot at the time. Socks go next, and before Harry knows it, he’s been pushed down on the bed in the middle of the room, and Louis is between his legs, playfully biting his way up Harry’s thighs, and—whoa, yes, that’s—oh fuck.

Harry closes his eyes and lets his body melt into the mattress.

Chapter Text

Louis wakes up with a pounding headache. The room is too bright, and there are birds chirping outside the window, which is clearly the universe having a good laugh at his expense. He pulls a pillow over his head with a groan. There’s movement to his right, and moments later, a very warm and very naked Harry rolls closer to him, one heavy arm draping itself across Louis’s back.

Right. So that happened. Whoops.

“Did we have tequila?” Harry rasps, and, wow, he sounds even more hungover than Louis. “Please tell me we didn’t have tequila.”

“We didn’t have tequila,” Louis replies, because he’s helpful like that. And a liar, because he distinctly (well, blurrily, but good enough) remembers them standing at a bar and Niall lining up a row of shots. “How’s your head?”

“I wish I was dead,” Harry says. He shifts again and lets out a pained moan. “Christ, I’m so sore. How many times did we shag last night?”

“Um,” Louis says, trying to think back through the current mush that is his brain. “Three, I think? I’m a bit fuzzy on the details.”


“Why, thank you, Harry,” Louis says. Can’t help himself, really, not when Harry makes it so easy for him. “It’s important to keep your husband well-shagged and satisfied. Makes for a good, strong marriage, Cosmo says.”

Harry flips him off, but there’s a small tug at the corner of his mouth. “We’re married.”

“We are. Top marks for planning and execution, if you ask me. Really fab wedding. I’ll cherish the memories for years to come.”

This time, there’s a definite smile on Harry’s face. “Good cake too. I didn’t know you could get pricks with veils on as cake toppers.”

“Just goes to show how much you still have to learn.”

Harry chuckles. They lie together in blissful silence for a while, until Louis’s stomach interrupts with a rude, rumbling noise.


“Yeah,” Louis replies. “Guess I am. You reckon they have any good room service in this place?”

“Seeing how fancy these sheets are, I’d think so,” Harry says. “Wanna order one of everything and take pictures for Twitter?”

Louis smiles, thinking of the pictures they already posted last night and wondering just how crazy a place the internet is at the moment. He looks over at Harry, who has managed to raise his head from the pillow and is looking back with a definite glint of mischief in his eye.

Oh, they are going to rock this marriage thing.

“I hate to tell you, babe, but those glasses are ridiculous.”

“Shut it, they’re my favourite pair for getting papped,” Harry says. “And the ones you’re wearing are a lot worse.”

“Can’t have me outshine my groom,” Louis quips. “Speaking of. Two girls with camera phones right behind you.”

“Oh no,” Harry says, stepping closer to Louis and leaning in so that his lips are right next to Louis’s ear, “we’ve been discovered trying to super sneakily leave the country together. Whatever shall we do?”

“I might have an idea or two,” Louis says, and the next thing Harry knows, he’s being thoroughly snogged right in the middle of the check-in line at Heathrow. His initial reaction is to freeze up, because public place, but then Louis changes the angle a bit, deepening the kiss while he’s at it, and Harry figures that, hey, in for a penny and all that; he might as well make them look as good as possible.

The low moan escaping Louis’s throat as Harry tangles a hand (left hand, ring perfectly on display) in his hair and takes control of the kiss is highly gratifying. So is the sound of the rapid clicking of cameras next to them.

If Harry’s learnt anything about how the gossip mill runs in the years since X-Factor, it’s that pictures such as the ones that are currently being taken of them go viral at the speed of light. Combined with their own not-so-subtle tweets over the past 24 hours, the news of their marriage should be both out and verified by now. Meaning their management is probably doing everything they can to track them down for damage control.

“Hey,” Harry says, hiding his face in Louis’s hair, just enjoying being close. It feels like old times, before the rumours about the two of them got started and they were told to tone things down. “We should get through security before anyone else notices us.”

“Sounds good,” Louis replies, grinning as he casually slides his right hand into Harry’s back pocket. “Just as soon as you’ve sweet talked the lovely lady behind the counter to upgrade our tickets. We’re on our honeymoon, after all.”

“Fine, but you’re going to help.”

“‘Course, love,” Louis says. “For better, worse and mischief, I’m all yours.”

They get papped again leaving the airport in Cancún, but after that, it’s smooth sailing all the way to their hotel. Harry had called in a favour from Taylor, of all people, who had made a number of half-shocked, half-amused noises at him, before telling him she’d call him back and then doing so an hour later, giving him an address and a fake name for their reservation.

And here they are.

“Now this Louis says, indicating their suite with both hands. “This is what I’m talking about. Nice work, hubby dear.”

“Thanks, sugarpop,” Harry says. “Taylor picked it. Still like it now?”

Louis makes an exaggerated face, and moves over to the windows, pulling the curtains aside to reveal an absolutely stunning view of the ocean. “Hmm. I guess I’ll have to accept her genius. Just this once, mind you. I still think the restaurant she made us go to when we were in LA was absolute shite.”

Harry grins. “You might have told me that. Once or twice.”

“And I’ll keep telling you,” Louis says. “Grass on my plate. Honestly. I don’t care that it was some fancy Japanese grass. It was still bloody grass.”

“The hotel’s okay though.”

“We’ll endure,” Louis replies, stepping out on the balcony that spans the whole front of the suite. There’s a jacuzzi in the corner of it, next to a plush love seat. “Now, let’s go down to the beach and see if they have any good waves around here.”

Louis is woken up in the early evening by Harry’s mobile, interrupting the well-deserved nap they’re taking together, sunsoaked and jetlagged. Well, Harry’s second mobile, the one only his closest family and friends have the number to. The official one has been put on silent and dumped in one of their bags, together with Louis’s phone, since it just wouldn’t stop beeping.

“Yeah?” he hears Harry say. “Oh, Liam, hi. No, no, it’s all right. Just taking a nap. U-huh. Really? Wow. That’s—”

“Put me on speaker,” Louis says, shuffling over and grabbing the phone out of Harry’s hand. “What’s up, Li?”

“You guys are still in bed, aren’t you?” Liam says. “Lucky bastards. The rest of us have been in meetings for two days. Management’s livid. They might be sending someone over to kill you. And then torture the dead little bits that are left. Fair warning.”

“They’ll have to find us first,” Louis says dismissively. “Which I’m sure they will, but really, what are they going to do? It’s all out there, isn’t it?”

“Oh yeah,” Liam replies. “It’s out, all right. You are on every bloody cover in the tabloids and there are paps everywhere. We’re keeping score who gets asked the most offensive question about your sex life. So far, Zayn is winning.”

“I’m really sorry you have to deal with that,” Harry says. “When are you and Sophia leaving for France?”

“Day after tomorrow,” Liam says. “Thank God. Zayn and Perrie just booked tickets to Thailand to get away as well. And Niall buggered off back to Ireland this morning.”

“How’s the internet doing?”

“See for yourselves. I think you might have actually killed Tumblr.”

“Is it mostly good or mostly bad?” Louis asks. They’ll have to deal with it either way, but better to be prepared.

“It’s very mixed, to be honest,” Liam says with a sigh. “I’d love to tell you that everyone is just falling all over themselves to show their support—a lot of people are, don’t get me wrong, but, yeah. It’s a mixed batch. You might want to stay away from Twitter for a while.”

“Got it,” Louis says. Next to him, Harry is worrying his lower lip between his teeth. “Thanks for keeping everyone off our backs, Li. It really means the world to us.”

“So much,” Harry agrees. “Tell everyone we love them, okay?”

“Love you too,” Liam says. “I have to go. Enjoy your holiday.” He hangs up, and both Louis and Harry keep staring at the phone for a good long while afterwards.

“Do you think we fucked up?” Harry asks quietly. “Put everyone in a huge unnecessary mess?”

“Yeah, maybe,” Louis says. “I don’t know. I hope not. We should probably make some calls, though. Take some of the heat off our families and some such.”

Harry nods. He looks about as into the idea as Louis is. Urgh.

“Tomorrow, yeah?” Louis decides, which is cowardly, he knows, but he’s had a really good day. Surely being responsible can wait another 24 hours.

“Tomorrow,” Harry agrees. He rolls over on his back and stares up at the ceiling. His hand reaches for Louis’s, lacing their fingers together and holding on tight.

Louis squeezes back and focuses on the sounds of the ocean.

Harry wakes up to the crashing of waves against the shore and the feeling of sun against his lower back. He stretches languidly, letting himself enjoy how smooth the sheets feel against his skin. He turns his head and spots Louis next to him, still sleeping peacefully and drooling a little on the pillow.

They’re married.

He lets the thought fill his head, swirling all around and leaving him a bit dizzy. Less than a week ago, he was in a meeting, being told to pick a fiancee out of a pile of headshots, and now he’s here, in Mexico, far away from the pressures of his daily life and married to one of his best friends besides. No more fake dating in his immediate future. Hopefully a lot less girls trying to get into his hotel room and “surprise” him in bed. He and Louis can make up a story, and it’ll be the very best of inside jokes. They’ll field questions in interviews, have a snog or two in front of the fans and then go home and order curry from the little place next to Louis’s house.

Their house now. Harry is stupidly excited about that perk in their arrangement. Living with Nick’s been good, but living with Louis was always better. And they had a toaster oven. Very important fact, that.

He props himself up with one arm and leans closer to Louis, blowing thin currents of air against his face. Louis moves a little in his sleep, and his face contracts in the funniest ways, but he doesn’t wake up. After about five minutes, Harry gives up and picks up the menu for room service.

He might as well eat while he waits.

Louis wakes up to the smell of bacon. It’s not entirely pleasant, seeing as jetlag always makes him a bit nauseous, but in the end, the promise of salt and grease wins out, and he drags himself out of bed, pulls on a robe that’s been conveniently laid out on a chair, and makes his way over to the balcony.

Harry’s already there. Spread out on the loveseat with a truly decadent amount of breakfast foods in front of him, complete with a pot of tea and a cooling stand from which a bottle of champagne peaks out behind a linen towel. Louis’s mouth waters.


Harry turns, smiling at Louis around a bite of watermelon.


“Shift over, would you?”

Harry moves obediently to the right, and Louis sinks down next to him with a happy sigh. He starts filling up a plate while Harry pours tea for both of them, then grabs a fork and leans back against the cushy pillows. “You sleep okay?”

“Yeah,” Harry says. “Internal clock’s a bit off as usual, but other than that. You?”

“I’m good,” Louis replies. “What do you want to do today?”

“Build a sand castle,” Harry says. “Possibly on top of myself after we man up and check our messages.”

Louis winces. He’s definitely not looking forward to that part of their day. “I’ll bury you alive if you drown me after?”

“My ghost will do its very best,” Harry promises solemnly. “Now come here. The hotel sent up a bottle of champagne to congratulate us on our marriage, and I really don’t want to be sober when we call the suits back.”

“Good plan,” Louis says. “Very much with you on that.”

Harry grins and reaches for the flutes standing on a fancy tray next to them. He pours them each a glass and hands one to Louis, holding up his own in mock salute. “To not being forced to marry a stranger.”

“I’ll drink to that,” Louis agrees, touching his glass to Harry’s. He’s about to raise it to his lips when Harry stops him.

“Wait. Let’s do it right.”

Louis frowns, then starts laughing as Harry hooks his arm around Louis’s, tilting his glass back while giving Louis a saucy smile.

Louis tilts his head back and downs his own glass in one go.

Harry’s warm. The sun is lovely. It’s making him all crisp and toasty. Like toast, except less burnt. Hopefully. He should probably put on some more sun block soon. He might also be a wee bit tipsy. Just a little, tiny bit.

He takes another sip of the fruity drink standing next to him in the sand. This one has strawberries in it. Harry likes strawberries.

Louis is playing in the water, body boarding close to shore since the surf rental place didn’t have the kind of surfboard he wanted. Harry watches him catch another wave that takes him almost all the way back to the beach. Harry raises his hand and motions for him to come closer.

“You all right?”

He’s dripping water on Harry’s legs. It’s cool and rather wonderful against his overheated skin. Harry sighs happily.

“Forget I asked,” Louis says. “You’re getting a bit burnt, though. Need some help?”

Harry mumbles something agreeable in response and nods his head in the general direction of his bag. Louis makes a show out of rolling his eyes, but leans down and rummages around their things until he finds the bottle he’s looking for. “All right, move over.”

Harry shifts a little to the left, and Louis sits down next to him on the sunbed. He pours some sun block into his hand and starts with Harry’s right foot, then moves upwards over his calf and knee, rubbing little circles into the skin he passes. He slows down as he reaches the midpoint of Harry’s thigh, hesitating briefly before moving back down to start on the left leg. He stops again once he’s done past the knee; Harry raises an eyebrow in quiet challenge and spreads his legs a fraction wider.

He can see a small blush start to creep up the back of Louis’s neck, but his face and body language is calm as anything as he starts kneading the muscles in Harry’s left thigh, pushing the fabric of Harry’s shorts higher as he goes. Harry tries to keep his breathing as even as he can, relaxing into Louis’s touch even as his body starts to react to the gentle pressure in a lot more exciting ways.

He can feel himself getting hard in his shorts, blood slowly filling his prick until it’s an insistent, aching pulse trapped between his legs. There’s no way Louis hasn’t noticed, not with the way his touch falters again, right at the top of Harry’s thigh, one thumb sneaking past the netting holding everything in place and pressing gently against the area right behind Harry’s balls.

And then, those lovely hands are gone again, coming down to work on the area around the knee on his other leg. Harry groans in frustration.

“You should drink some water, love,” Louis murmures. “Clear your head a bit.”

“‘M good here.” He tries to tilt his hips into Louis’s touch, wanting his fingers closer. Negative distance would be good. All warm and slick and sliding into him just right. Yes, please.

“You are the horniest drunk I know,” Louis says, withdrawing his hands with a small chuckle.

What? No. That’s not at all what Harry wants.

“Louis, come on.” God, he sounds desperate. Then again, whatever works.

“Have some water, Haz.” Louis sighs. “Interviews in a couple of hours, remember. Making amends and all that.”

Right. That. Five telephone interviews and one live stream to be precise. ‘Re-branding’ or some such. Apparently, now that their public image has shifted from ‘just friends’ to ‘married’, it’s critically important that they be the most revoltingly happy couple ever to grace the cover of a magazine.

“Hey,” Louis says, leaning closer so that he can press their foreheads together. If any paps are watching them right now, they’ll probably be able to retire early from the pictures they’re getting. “We’ll be fine. It’ll be just us, them and the best inside joke ever.”

Harry closes his eyes for a moment, pushing back the happy holiday haze. Fake marriage, inside joke, empty comments to a bunch of faceless reporters. He mentally checks a few topics off a list of things it’s likely they’ll be asked about and then looks back at Louis.

“Ready when you are.”

“It was sobeautiful,” Harry says. “A hundred live doves, cake as tall as myself, fifty thousand red roses. Everything I’ve always dreamed about.”

Louis bites his lip to keep himself from laughing out loud. They’re on their fourth interview, and with each one, Harry’s retelling of their wedding has grown more and more ridiculous. So far, their wedding has been a) parachuting out of a plane, b) barefoot on a beach, c) in a Scottish castle, Harry Potter style, and now, d) a fairytale affair in Tuscany, complete with a string quartet and five-star cuisine.

Louis has to give it to him: when Harry gets fake-married, he really goes all out. Louis is a lucky chap.

“So, Louis,” the reporter says, “tell me a little about the proposal. Who proposed? Did the other one see it coming?” For some reason, she’s the first one to ask. Which is too bad; Louis has some fantastic answers prepared for this one.

“Oh, I definitely saw it coming,” Louis says. “Harry hasn’t exactly been subtle about how eager he’s been for us to get married. I’ve been finding wedding mags sneakily added to my bedside drawer for months. Pics of rings on the mirror in the loo. Wedding cake samples in the fridge, that sort of thing. So when our anniversary was coming up, and he started fretting something terrible and smiling like a loon as soon as he thought I wasn’t looking, I figured he probably had something planned.”

The reporter positively melts at that, gushing about how incredibly sweet they are. Louis smirks. Harry—five year old that he is—pokes out his tongue at him.

“He brought me back to the X-Factor studio and dropped to one knee in the middle of the stage,” Louis continues. “Told me he’d known I was the one for him from the first day there.”

“I did,” Harry adds, pitching his voice into that low, low register that never fails to make people swoon. People in general, that is. Not Louis. He’s far too savvy to fall for obvious tricks like that. “I stood next to him on that stage and felt this surge go through me. Like I’d found a piece of myself I never knew was missing. I just didn’t know what it meant at the time.”

He looks away from Louis as he says it, almost like he’s embarrassed about his story. Louis frowns. There’s really nothing to be embarrassed about—the story’s pure gold, not to mention that, whether Harry meant it to or not, it will likely go a long way of appeasing the egos of their management reps. He can picture future An X-Rated Romance! and A Love That’s Got the X-Factor! headlines very clearly.

The reporter goes into a line of questions about how their new marriage is going to affect their music (“All love songs from now on. I need to find more words that rhyme with ‘Harry’, though.”), stageshow (“Much the same, really. I don’t think I’ll flirt with Louis less on stage just because we’re married”/“Good to know, babe. I was a little worried about us already losing the magic there for a second.”) and dynamic within the group (“Not at all. The lads are really very much used to us being disgustingly cute on the bus”). Once it’s finally over, Louis feels as though he’s been put through a grinder. His body is still out of shape from the jetlag, and his brain currently feels like wet mush.

“Time for a break,” he declares, walking over to the wall and pulling the plug on the room phone. “Live stream will just have to wait. I’m too exhausted to smile right now.”

Harry makes an agreeing noise and stretches out on top of the covers. His unnaturally long limbs cover almost the entire thing. Louis does what every sane person would do in that situation and curls up right next to him. Taking a nap feels like a brilliant way to spend whatever’s left of the day.

Harry wakes up first again. This time, however, instead of finding Louis on the other side of the bed, he’s in Harry’s arms, happily letting himself be spooned. They’ve both lost their shirts at some point, and there’s a naked shoulder right below Harry’s lips, one of Louis’s hands tangled with his and resting at the top of Louis’s surfer shorts, as well as one of Harry’s legs wedged between Louis’s, pressing their hips closely together.

Harry’s heart skips a beat, some kind of aroused-confused-more-than-a-little-guilty shock settling in and making him very aware of the fact that he’s more than half-hard and moving his hips in little stuttering grinds against Louis’s arse.

Not good.

He breathes in slowly, holds the air in his lungs for as long as he can and then lets it out carefully. He shifts back one inch, then another, and has already started to congratulate himself on his stealthy escape when Louis mumbles something unintelligible in his sleep and rolls over, effectively pinning Harry beneath him. He buries his face in Harry’s neck, and it’d be so very easy to just dip his head a bit and wake Louis up with a kiss. Harry swallows.

Definitely not a good idea.

Harry’s been here before, is the thing. First time he and Louis ended up in bed together was the same night as they’d been told that they’d been put through to the next round of X-Factor, as a group. The five of them had celebrated until the early hours of the morning, steadily drinking their way through several bottles of vodka. He remembers the first kiss, losing his balance and falling, giggling, into Louis’s lap. The way Louis had tilted his head up and given Harry a look that made a surge of heat go through Harry’s entire body. He’d grabbed Louis’s shirt and crashed their mouths together without thinking, and they’d rubbed off on each other right there on the sofa, too drunk and uncoordinated to do more, not caring where they were or whether any of their new band mates were still around to mind. When they woke up the next morning, Louis hadn’t even remembered.

It did get better after that. There was even a time while they were living together when almost every Thursday night was spent going to the pub, getting properly sloshed and then walking home together, Louis whispering dirty little things into Harry’s ear. It’d be hot and frantic or slow and lazy, but the one thing that never changed was that the next morning, Louis would always brush it off. He wouldn’t be dramatic about it, just joking around like it was any other day, being his usual flirty self and making passing comments along the lines of ‘Last night, eh? We were so bloody pissed. Also, my prick feels chafed. Can’t believe we actually did that.’ Simple enough to interpret, really.

Except every time, right when he woke up, there’d be a moment when Harry looked at Louis and thought maybe this time it’ll be different. It never was, and Harry got very good at pushing the nagging feeling of want to the back of his brain. The smart thing would probably have been to just not go drinking together, but when it comes to choosing between being smart and being with Louis, Harry has resigned himself to the fact that he’ll always make terrible choices.

He just loves Louis too much, is the thing. Not in love-love—he’s managed to keep himself out of that particular mess at least—but he’s gone through pretty much every other flavour, from crushing on him something fierce back when they first met, to feeling Louis’s warm presence with him everywhere he goes, like a permanent imprint, the same way he carries his mum and Gemma, his nan, the other lads.

Louis moves in his sleep, and Harry wants. He allows himself a moment of burying his face in Louis’s hair, breathing him in, before carefully extracting himself. Louis’s unspoken rules allow for drunk kisses and clumsy touches, not lazy mornings in bed discovering the finer details of just what it would take to utterly wreck both of them.

And there he goes again. Sometimes, Harry really hates his complete lack of control over his brain when it comes to Louis. He gets out of bed and narrowly manages to cross the suite without looking back.

Cold shower it is.

Louis has a love/hate relationship with live interviews. Especially live interviews with fans, since you never, ever know what kind of questions they will come up with. Granted, there is usually some kind of moderation going on, but things sneak through, and before you know it, you’re in a discussion about things you later realise you did not want posted on the internet forever. So Louis is a little wary, is all. Then again, Harry seems to love interacting with the fans in almost any setting, so Louis should be able to leave most of the weirder questions to him.

It all goes well until about ten minutes in. They field wedding questions, make silly faces at each other, show off their rings, and Louis starts to relax. He’d even go as far as to say he’s having fun. Which is, of course, when everything comes crashing down.

Did you cheat on Eleanor?

Louis does his best not to let his reaction show on his face. They’d been told that questions about El would be filtered out, same as with the telephone interviews they’d done. Obviously, someone has not got the memo. Or sent it off, Louis thinks bitterly.

The question is displayed at the top of the main chat window that everyone logged into the stream can see, so they can’t just ignore it. Before Louis can figure out how to play this particular minefield, a whole line of similar questions appear on the screen.

You did! Didn’t you?!

Just how long have you and Harry been together????!!!!

Why did you lie to us?

The last one is the worst, because what is Louis supposed to say? “I wasn’t lying to you then. I am now, though. Thanks for asking!” Next to him, Harry is reading the same questions with a worried frown on his face. Louis reaches for his hand under the table and gives it a warning squeeze when it looks like Harry is going to speak up. These questions are definitely ones that Louis needs to take care of himself.

“Okay, so I guess I should answer this,” he starts. “Because if I don’t, I know that someone—if not you people, then someone else—will think it’s a good idea to go bother El with this kind of bollocks. Which is what it is—utter bollocks. I never cheated on El. She was one of my best friends when we were dating, and she still is. My relationship with Harry has nothing to do with her.”

He looks at Harry, who gives him an encouraging smile. Louis rubs the top of his hand with his thumb in quiet thanks underneath the table.

“Now, the only thing I’ll say is that dating someone who’s never home, who travels all the time, who you’ll be photographed with almost every time you go out? That’s not an easy relationship. She had to take a whole lot of shit for my sake, and we both hated that. We did date for a while, and, as I said, she’s still a great friend, but we didn’t last nearly as long as the papers claimed we did.”

So far, it’s all perfectly true, so Louis shouldn’t have any difficulty making people believe this part. He wishes he hadn’t been quite so complacent about all the ways PR kept boosting the public relationship between El and him, however. Things would probably be easier for him and Harry now, if he’d put a stop to that earlier.

“I’d say we were pretty much over after the first year, definitely a couple of months after,” he finishes with a sigh. “You guys all know what the media is like, though. And I didn’t particularly want to be linked to every girl I ever talked to, just as El didn’t want to deal with being part of a high-profile breakup in the middle of her exams. So we figured we’d just not say anything. It was no one else’s business anyway, so we didn’t really see the harm in keeping the status quo. And then time just passed by really quickly.”

He takes a break and drinks some water. First part done. Fuck, he hates live interviews.

“Maybe I can shed some light on the rest,” Harry says, which, no. Harry does not have to deal with this particular problem.

“It’s okay, I have this.”

“I don’t mind,” Harry says, completely ignoring Louis giving his hand the warning squeeze again. “Now, you remember back when I said Louis was my first real crush? Well he was. It took me a stupidly long time to get over it too, but I did. Or thought I did, maybe.” He ducks his head, as though trying to hide a blush. It’s a very nice touch. Bonus points, Louis thinks.

“It’s hard to tell sometimes when you’re so close as the five of us are,” Harry says then. “You’re away from everyone else for so long, and you’re rather isolated during that time, so your band becomes your family in a very real sense. You’re always there for each other. When you’re happy, or sad, or need relationship advice, or just someone who will listen when everything falls apart. So I’ve loved Louis for a long time, same as I’ve loved Zayn, Niall and Liam, except with Louis, it was always—more. I don’t know how to explain it, really.”

He’s talking to Louis now, not the camera, and Louis will have to re-evaluate Harry’s acting skills, because everything he just said sounded completely sincere.

Louis swallows. “I think I always knew,” he says, which, where the hell did that come from? Next to him, Harry looks equally surprised, even though he’s hiding it well for the camera. Louis gives himself a mental shake and figures he might as well just charge ahead. Attack being the best defense and so on.

“Harry was just so easy to be around,” he continues, cringing a little. Sounding like a proper tit. Wonderful. “I just loved being with him.” Even worse, that. He takes another sip of water and tries to refocus. Timeline, right. They have one of those. Harry drew it up in sharpie on a napkin, even. “We got together about a year and a half ago. And kept it quiet for obvious reasons. And that’s all we’re willing to share. Next question, please.”

Next to him, Harry shuffles closer, then leans in and presses a soft kiss right below Louis’s ear. It makes Louis smile—Harry really knows what their fans tend to like—and he answers a couple of less intrusive questions easily.

They wrap up the session, and while Harry turns off the laptop, Louis heads straight for the minibar. He takes out two beers and tosses one to Harry, then nods his head towards the balcony and sets about getting himself royally pissed.

Harry’s head is spinning something terrible, and he knows he’s being far too loud for where they are, but right now, he can’t bring himself to care. He’s got both legs hooked over Louis’s shoulders and Louis’s mouth around his cock. It’s sloppy and rather uncoordinated, but still more than enough to bring Harry to the edge embarrassingly quickly.

“More,” he, well, begs is probably the most accurate word, not that Harry really cares about whatever pride he ought to have at the moment. “Louis, please. I need—please.”

He’s rewarded with two fingers, sliding into him oh so easily, working him open a little more roughly than Harry normally likes, but right now, it’s perfect. He moves his hips to get them deeper, tries to find the angle he needs and makes a needy whine in the back of his throat when he doesn’t. He pulls at Louis’s hair ineffectively, trying to get him to move. As much as he loves Louis’s mouth, it’s not enough. Not tonight.

Louis gets the hint and attempts some kind of sexy shimmy up Harry’s body that utterly fails and nearly lands both of them on the concrete. Not that Harry would even care at the moment; his only focus is grabbing Louis’s arm with one hand, helping him up to where he needs to be, while fumbling for the lube with the other. He needs this, needs it so, so fucking much.

When Louis finally pushes inside, Harry has to bite down hard on his lower lip to keep himself from crying out. He’s still loud enough that Louis actually puts a hand over his mouth, which really only makes matters a lot worse. Because now, all Harry can feel is how perfectly Louis’s body is pinning him to the sunbed and how tight the grip on his shoulder is, where Louis is holding on to keep himself balanced.

He comes in less than a minute, dizzy to the point of almost passing out from the combination of orgasm and all the beer in the minibar having already pickled his brain. Louis fucks him through it, and Harry wraps his legs around his lower back, holding on even when it starts to get too much. Louis is close now, his hips stuttering with every stroke, and Harry pulls him in even more, relishing the slight pain that’s starting to build in his lower body. He wants to feel this tomorrow, wants to have at least the slow ache whenever he moves to remind him that this actually happened.

“Jesus, Haz, so fucking good. Love you so fucking much. Never want to stop doing this, nev—oh fuck, I can’t—Haz, I—”

Harry grabs both sides of Louis’s face, pulls him down and shuts him up with a deep kiss. Louis moans into his mouth, shuddering above him as he comes, hips twitching helplessly as he rides it out and then collapses heavily on top of Harry. They keep kissing for a long time, staying connected until it isn’t physically possible anymore. Louis is beyond beautiful like this—all spent and boneless, looking perfectly content with the world. He falls asleep on Harry’s chest, snoring lightly, and Harry feels a familiar pang in his chest, followed by an even more familiar surge of anger at himself, because he just never learns, does he?

Or maybe it isn’t as bad as all that. Maybe he’s overreacting. At least he’s learnt not to listen to all the things Louis says during sex—things he doesn’t mean outside of the moment, that used to freak Harry out to no end. He knows Louis loves him, just not in the way it may sound like when he’s in the process of coming his brains out. Harry’s okay with that.


They get a very polite call from the front desk the next day, a deeply apologetic woman telling them in broken English that she in no way wishes to interfere in their personal affairs, but there have been some complaints, and would they please try to be a little more quiet from now on?

Louis laughs for almost an hour after he puts down the phone, and then continues to make jokes for the rest of the day.

Harry suggests they go downstairs and ask for directions to the nearest sex shop.

Chapter Text

After traumatising the poor receptionist (who has a world-class pokerface; Louis is impressed) by asking for directions to local sex shops (two in the surrounding area), fetish clubs (fifty miles away for the closest one) and nudist beaches (only a couple of miles away—handy, that), they head down to the beach again. Louis surfs while Harry falls off his board a lot, and while they’re in the water, everything is just as it should be, with Harry’s smile bright and genuine as he demonstrates some fifty thousand different ways of ruining a pop-up.

Once they’re back in their room again, however, Harry’s mood changes, and when Louis suggests they go down to the pool bar for happy hour, he claims he’d rather stay in and read. Since Louis is a great friend who leaves his friends alone when they need space, he takes the hint and buggers off down to the pool by himself, spending the night playing billiards with some German girls.

When he gets back, Harry is deep into what Niall calls his ‘solemn mood’, meaning Harry goes off into his own head and starts looking at the horizon a lot. He usually puts on a happy face well enough for strangers, but Louis knows the difference. Really, if Harry thinks Louis can’t tell his moods apart by now, well—he’d be rather offended, actually.

The next four to five days are much the same, and by the sixth, Louis is genuinely sick of it. They’re in Mexico on holiday, for crying out loud. There’s sun and sand and waves everywhere, and to top things off, they just played a truly epic prank on most of the world. So unless something’s happened at home (which it hasn’t, one of the other lads would have phoned him), Louis really doesn’t see a reason for Harry to look like he has a million and one difficult things on his mind.

Unless he’s already thinking about what will happen when they get back to England, of course.

Louis is a very firm believer in procrastination. Would be fully prepared to enter a religion devoted to the concept, in fact. Nothing good ever comes from thinking about bad things before they happen, because either things turn out just as shitty as you predicted, and then you’re going to be miserable about it anyway, or things turn out better than you feared, and then you’ve just been fretting for no reason. So carpe diem and all that.

Still. Harry is his friend. And as of a little more than a week ago, also Louis’s husband, so Louis feels he has a rather strong moral obligation to help him pull his head out of his arse.

Luckily, Mexico just so happens to be about the perfect place for staging the kind of intervention Louis has in mind. The local liquor store alone stocks 53 different kinds of tequila, by Louis’s last count. Harry needs to stop worrying so much, and Louis has an idea to remedy that, which, if he does say so himself, is really rather brilliant.

The Mexico sunset is beautiful. The ocean below is almost still, and there are a hundred differents shades of red, pink, gold and yellow melting into the regular blue. Zayn would have found some great way to describe it, Harry thinks.

He’s been looking at it for a while now, just watching the play of colours over the sky and enjoying the stillness of early evening. Louis is moving about inside the suite, doing whatever it is that he’s doing; Harry’s been listening with one ear ever since he came back from the pool. It’s comfortable, knowing someone’s close by, ready to keep Harry company if he wants it, but otherwise content to go about his own business.

Right now, Louis’s business seems to have something to do with food, because there’s a smell of barbeque floating out to where Harry’s sitting, which gets stronger when the door to the balcony is opened and Louis steps out, pulling a small cart behind him.

“Room service!”

He’s looking exceedingly pleased with himself. Harry hides a smile behind the book he’s been reading on and off for a couple of days. “You got me dinner?”

“That I did,” Louis replies. “Never let it be said that I don’t provide for you, Styles. And I come bearing gifts, as well.”

He reaches beneath the cart and pulls out a bottle of tequila with the kind of flourish usually reserved for rabbits coming out of hats. Harry raises an eyebrow.


“Really, really,” Louis says. “We’re in Mexico. It’s the Mexican way. You can’t say no to that. It’d be shunning a great culture.”

“Do you remember what happened the last time we drank tequila together?”

“I do,” Louis says. And then he winks at Harry. “It was very nice.”

“I—” Harry starts, and then realises he has absolutely no idea what to say. “Nice? I could barely walk the next day.”

“Harry, Harry, Harry.” Louis shakes his head. “What a filthy mind you have. I was obviously referring to making Liam do the Macarena.”


“Might have managed to film it, just saying.”

Harry makes a show out of rolling his eyes, but can’t keep himself from smiling. “All right, pour me one.”

“Your wish is my command,” Louis says, and fills two shot glasses to the brim with golden liquid. He sits down on the sunbed next to Harry’s, hands him his shot and then reaches over to the cart and grabs a saltshaker and two slices of lemon. “Now, tilt your head to the right.”

“No,” Harry says. “Tequila, fine. Taking shots off my body, no.”

“Spoilsport.” Louis’s pout could rival a puppy’s. Worse, it could rival Zayn’s.

Harry takes the salt from Louis’s hand and sprinkles some on his own wrist. “I know, I know. I’m old before my time, no adventure left in me etc etc.”

He taps his glass to Louis’s and downs it in one go, then bites into a slice of lemon and closes his eyes in pleasure as the tequila burns its way down his throat. Louis is already holding up the bottle for refills when he opens them again. Harry shakes his head and reaches for a plate and some cutlery instead. “I said one, remember?”

“I maintain that with shots, the counting system starts at five,” Louis says, grinning as he takes another one himself. Harry shakes his head at him and lifts one of the domes that’s keeping their food warm.

Barbequed ribs. Louis really does love him best, Harry thinks with a happy sigh.

“Look, the bottle is spinning,” Louis says. Or maybe there are two bottles spinning. He frowns and tilts his head, narrowing his eyes to get them to focus better.

“Let’s just hope it doesn’t fall off the ledge,” Harry says. “Bit hard to explain to hotel management if someone gets hit in the head and dies.”

Louis nods, then gets a brilliant idea. “We should play.”

“Play what?”

“Spin the bottle,” Louis replies, pointing. “Look, it’s already started without us.”

“I think the point of spin the bottle is that you won’t know who it’ll land on. Bit useless with only the two of us,” Harry says. He’s too far away, Louis thinks. All the way over on the next sunbed, a whole yard, maybe even one and a half. And—why is that, again? Louis is sure he meant to go over and join Harry a long time ago. He starts to sit up and then promptly sinks back down. Right, moving. Tricky thing, that.

“Truth or dare then,” he decides. “Come on. You’ve said no to body shots, and now you’re vetoing my splendid bottle idea. Just, give me something, okay?”

“Fine,” Harry says. “Truth.”

“What’s the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?”

“African or European?” Harry asks, and mimics a person being catapulted high into the air.

“European,” Louis says. “Didn’t see that one coming, did you?”

Harry is silent for a minute, fiddling with his something in his lap. Louis would like to think it’s his prick, but, well, the movement is all wrong. Louis knows these things.

“24 miles/hour,” Harry says sounding very smug. “What? I know how to google.”

“Cheating,” Louis says firmly. “Definitely cheating. You’ll have to pay a penalty now.”

“Really?” Harry replies. “Says who?”

“I initiated the game,” Louis says, and, wow, ‘initiated’ is a very difficult word to pronounce when you’ve gone through half a bottle of tequila. “So I’m the sole king and ruler. Everybody bow down to me.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” Harry says, and, wait, is that a smirk? That’s definitely a smirk. “What if my knees can’t handle it?”

Louis immediately has a hundred lovely images of just how good Harry looks on his knees playing on the inside of his eyelids. He takes a deep breath. Game, right. Louis should try to focus. Then again, Harry really is terribly far away…

“Kiss me,” Louis says, holding his hand out in Harry’s direction. “Come over here and kiss me.”

Harry looks weirdly hesitant for a moment. Louis adds a pout.

“All right,” Harry says, swinging his ridiculous legs off the sunbed and practically stalking over to where Louis is sitting. “Okay. One kiss.”

One kiss. Right. Louis does his best not to let his own smirk show.

He expects Harry to sit down next to him, or perhaps even go so far as to straddle his hips and drape himself on top of him. Instead, Harry sinks to his knees on the balcony floor, right by Louis’s head, then leans in and presses the sweetest of kisses to his lips.

Louis is too surprised to react quickly, meaning Harry’s touch is gone again before he can start to kiss back. He reaches for Harry to pull him back down, and a low, needy whine escapes from his throat in the process.

Harry leans back in, kisses Louis again, and Louis feels like he’s floating. He’s too hot all of a sudden, restrained like his skin is suddenly on too tight, and every touch of Harry’s lips is a moment of relief. He reaches for Harry’s shirt and starts working on the buttons. Before he has managed to get the first one undone, Harry pulls back, out of Louis’s reach.

“You’re absolutely sloshed,” Harry says. “And I’m not. So this isn’t happening. Just… go to sleep, okay?” He sounds conflicted. Louis pushes himself up, manages to get his body into a sitting position. He reaches out a hand and touches the side of Harry’s face, just resting there against the warm skin.

“Haz.” It comes out sounding like an invitation and a plea all at once. Harry’s eyes fall closed, and for one, wonderful moment, he leans into Louis’s touch like it’s the only place he’d want to be. Then—

“We can’t,” Harry says. He covers Louis’s hand with his own briefly, nuzzles into the contact once more before pulling away. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Wait,” Louis tries, catching Harry’s sleeve before he can move away completely. “What—”

“I just can’t,” Harry says, which makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. “Not tonight. I’m sorry.”

He pushes himself to his feet and walks around Louis and back into the suite. Louis blinks, then does it again for good measure. Harry just left. He shakes his head once, trying to clear it a little and stop the world from spinning around him.

Harry’s still gone.

Harry wakes up to an empty bed. A quick look around the suite confirms that, yes, Louis never made it off the balcony the night before. He’s curled up on the same sunbed where Harry left him, shivering slightly in the cool morning air. Harry wants to wrap him up in a million blankets, climb inside and live in a little nest of just the two of them forever.

Yeah. He’s in trouble, all right.

Saying no to Louis last night was the right decision—Harry is even more convinced of it now—but a major part of him keeps insisting that it wasn’t. That he could have handled it fine, just needed to get into the right frame of mind. Casual might not be a thing that comes natural to him, but he’s managed friends with benefits perfectly well in the past. He enjoys the intimacy that comes with really knowing somebody, but he doesn’t let himself get carried away. Hasn’t, up until now.

He has a feeling that all of that is changing. More than a feeling, really. Harry knows he can be just as blind to things as anyone else, but he does make a point of trying not to lie to himself if he can help it. Shit, they should never have come up with this whole marriage idea. What the bloody hell was Harry thinking?

He needs some air. More air, whatever. He leaves the duvet he wrapped around himself with Louis and goes inside the suite to find a pair of joggers and some clothes. He’s already smoothing the shirt down over his front when he realises that it’s not one of his.

Fuck everything.

He grabs his mobile and heads out, calculating the time difference as he rides the lift down to the ground floor. 6 AM in Mexico means it’s noon back home. Nick should be awake then. And if he isn’t, well, Harry will just have to wake him up and apologise for it later.

Nick picks up on the third ring with a cheery, “Harry! Love of my life who’s abandoned me so cruelly. How’s the honeymoon?”

Harry clears his throat. “Why didn’t we ever fall in love?”

“What are you on about?” Nick says. “We’re absolutely mad for each other. I am weeping into my pillow every night, making voodoo dolls of the dastardly villain who’s stolen you away from me.”

“Nick, I’m not joking.”

There’s a pause on the other end, then Nick’s back again, sounding suddenly serious. “What, really?”


“Shit,” Nick says. Harry fully agrees with that assessment. “Shit, really? You and Louis? Again? Really?”

“I know,” Harry says. He’s made it down to the beach now. It’s beautiful—the perfect setting for celebrating being madly in love. Harry wants to laugh at the irony. “I think I’m really fucked this time.”

“Literally and figuratively, I assume,” Nick quips, which puts a small smile back on Harry’s face. “But being honest here, I can’t say it’s a complete surprise.”

“It’s not?”

“Well, see,” Nick starts, then hesitates. “I’m not sure you want to hear this part.”

Harry isn’t either, but well. “Tell me anyway.”

“Why did you and I never fall in love?” Nick starts carefully. “I’ve given that a lot of thought, actually. I thought it would happen last year, with you living with me, us falling into bed together on the regular and not really seeing anyone else. I started to kind of expect it. Freaked me out good and proper, if I’m completely honest. Started thinking all sorts of things like, was I ready to be in love with a teen sensation? Ready to be in love at all? Turned out I needn’t have worried.”


“Because it was never going to happen,” Nick says with a sigh. “You, Harold, have been emotionally unavailable for as long as I’ve known you. You’re just not someone who gives their heart lightly, and once it’s been taken, well... Yeah, I think you’re really rather fucked. Sorry about that.”

Harry slumps down into the sand. That’s pretty much what he was afraid of. “Shit.”

“I take it he’s not on the same page?” Nick asks gently. “Or you wouldn’t sound so bloody miserable.”

“No, it’s—” Harry says, then pauses, because what is it like, really? Harry isn’t even sure. “It’s pretty much like it was,” he decides on. “He wants me when he’s had too much to drink, acts like nothing’s happening the rest of the time. Except sometimes, there’s a moment, and I think—I don’t know, Nick. I have no bloody clue what I’m doing right now.”

“Story as old as time,” Nick says sagely. “Well, you’ve got two options. Or, three, really.”


“Door number one,” Nick says, “is the one of bravery, emotional maturity and all that jazz. Meaning you sit him down for a nice long chat, lay your heart on the floor and hope that he doesn’t panic and trample all over it.”

“Tempting,” Harry says dryly. “What’s my second choice?”

“You cut your losses and run,” Nick replies. “Granted, that might be a bit tricky since you two just got hitched and everyone and their nana wants a piece of you at the moment. Speaking of, I’ll be needing you to come in for an interview sometime next week, or the show execs will have my hide. Hazards of being best friends with a hot, scandalous pop star.”

“Fine,” Harry says. “Third option?”

“You wait and see,” Nick says simply. “Keep it casual for a while. Test the waters a little where you can. Use the fact that you now have the perfect excuse to act like a besotted idiot around him in public to let things simmer a bit. Throw out a few hooks. Pull him in slowly.”

“He’s not a fish.”

“Harold,” Nick says, in that special way of his that Harry knows means he’s smirking. “Louis Tomlinson is your bloody white whale.”

Harry groans and drops his face in his hands.

Louis’s day is turning out absolutely lovely, hangover from last night aside. He woke up to the sound of waves, wrapped up in the gorgeous duvet from the bed, and the view of Harry pouring them both a cup of tea and pushing a deliciously buttery scone in Louis’s direction. After that, he took a nap, had lunch and went surfing. And now he’s curled up on the bed in their suite, reading a magazine in Spanish that he understands about 5% of, with Harry right next to him, reading a book and carding his fingers through Louis’s hair.

He seems happier than before. Louis is the master of alcohol-fuelled interventions.

“So, I’ve been thinking,” Harry says.

“That doesn’t sound too good,” Louis replies. Harry’s still playing with his hair, though, so he’s not overly concerned. “Planning on divorcing me already?”

“Shut up, I’m serious.”

“So am I,” Louis says, grinning. “Please don’t divorce me, Haz. I can change, I promise.”

Harry cuffs him over the head. “I’m trying to be practical here. Would you work with me, please?”

“Always,” Louis says, rolling over on his side so he can fix Harry with his best lascivious glance. “How about working together right now?” He puts a hand on Harry’s thigh and strokes the inseam of his shorts playfully.

Harry bats his hand away. “I’ve been thinking that maybe I should keep living with Nick.”

That definitely pulls Louis out of his drowsy, happy mood. “What?”

“I know it’s not ideal with our story,” Harry continues. “But maybe it’s better that way. Less blurring the lines, you know. I just—you know how things tended to end up when we were living together before. And now it’s the same, here, and it’s not that I don’t want—because clearly, I do—I mean, I did—but it’s. It could get messy, you know? With us having to act in love and mad for each other as soon as we’re in public. I just think that maybe we should keep our private time more… rational.”


“Well, yeah. You know.”

“You living with Nick instead of with me is rational? Isn’t that going to blur the lines, as you put it?” It comes out angrier than intended. Louis finds he doesn’t really care.

Harry ducks his head. “I’m not married to Nick.”

“Would the two of you still fuck?” Louis demands. He has a sudden flashback to waking up on the sofa after one of Nick and Harry’s parties, finding Harry in the kitchen making breakfast, fresh lovebites all over his back that were definitely not Louis’s work. He feels a little sick at the memory. “Would you cheat on me like that? Is it all so fucking easy to you?”

“What are you—I don’t even know what you’re on about right now,” Harry shots back. “Yeah, sure, I’ve slept with Nick. So what? We were both single, and it stopped being a thing months ago. I don’t get why you’re so upset.”

“I’m not upset. I just don’t want to be cuckolded in every paper in the country by fucking Nick Grimshaw, all right?” Louis replies. “I do have some pride.”

“Really? ‘Cause it sounds like you’re being a possessive arse.”

Oh, fuck this shit.

“I’m a possessive arse?” Louis says angrily. “I am? You would find the flimsiest excuse to pull me to your side whenever you and El were in the same room when we were dating, but no, I’m a possessive arse. Honestly?”

Harry flinches and then looks away. He slides off the bed and walks over to the glass doors leading out to the balcony and just stands there, stiff and unhappy-looking. “I’m sorry. I was just trying to be practical.”

He sounds defeated, somehow. Louis feels his own anger deflate. He closes his eyes and tries to focus on the facts. Harry said he wanted to be practical. Maybe he’s right. Except—

“Don’t stay with Nick,” Louis says quietly. “I’m not sure what got you worried about moving back in, but we’re a team, yeah? We’ll figure it out. Come live with me.”

“I do want to,” Harry says, still facing away. “It’s just—I don’t know, Lou. Maybe I’m just being stupid.”

“You’re never stupid,” Louis insists. “And I get what you’re saying about not blurring the lines. I do. It’s just—can we think about that when we get back? Postpone the discussion, like?”

“Yeah, sure.”

He doesn’t sound very sure, Louis thinks. So he gets off the bed and walks over to where Harry’s standing, wraps his arms around him from behind and puts his chin on Harry’s shoulder. Harry leans back against him, relaxing his body into Louis’s hold. Louis smiles. Regular Harry-whisperer, he is.

“Hey, let’s go out to dinner tonight,” he says. “It’s our last night here, and we’re heading back to a bloody mess of furious suits, who probably have a promotion schedule from hell prepared for us. So let’s just enjoy being here, before we go back to that.”

Harry nods and relaxes further into him. Louis slides one hand under the hem of his shirt, lets it rest against Harry’s stomach. He’s warm, and firm, and smells absolutely lovely, and Louis can’t resist tracing the waistline of his shorts for a moment, letting the tip of his first finger dip in slightly, just a quarter of an inch.

“We’re on a break from everything right now,” he says, turning his head slightly so he can trace the line of Harry’s neck with the tip of his nose. “I just want to enjoy being here with you, and just being us, before we head back to reality. So let’s go have dinner. And if we should happen to fuck ourselves into a coma afterwards, then so be it, you know? Rather decent way to end your holiday, if you ask me. We probably shouldn't shag anyone else for as long as we keep this marriage thing up, anyway.”

Harry looks out at the ocean for a long time, clearly considering. He’s being a bit overly dramatic at the moment, Louis thinks, because, honestly, they’ve managed just fine not to complicate things until now. So what if they end up in bed together every once in a while when they both need release and the other is there to give it? Isn’t that what best friends are for?

(All right, Louis does see the flaw in that particular argument, but sod it. He and Harry have always been special. They fit. It’s easy. Having drunk sex every once in a while is just the icing on the cake.)

“Okay,” Harry says. “Let’s have dinner. On one condition: neither of us drinks tonight.”

Louis feels a small sting of something unpleasant at that, because he might, subconsciously, have given the whole ‘last holiday shag’ idea a bit more thought than he’d originally meant to, and just thinking of sitting at a small table opposite Harry, feeling alcohol gradually cloud his brain and open up door after door of endless possibilities is making him half-hard in his shorts. Then again, if Harry really doesn’t want to sleep with him anymore, plying him with alcohol to change his mind wouldn’t be very cool. It’d probably be considered date rape actually, which no. Louis winces. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to—”

“Louis,” Harry says gently, and, wow, his face is really close all of a sudden. “I didn’t mean I wouldn’t shag you. I just don’t want to be pissed doing it, that’s all.”

Louis must look just as confused as he feels, because Harry takes pity on him, rolling his eyes and planting a smacking kiss on his cheek before pulling back. “Stop looking so wounded. We’re just fine.”

“You don’t mind us having a shag, but you want to do it sober?” Louis asks, double-checking. It doesn’t make any sense to him, but hey, maybe Harry has some kind of secret kink he’s never told Louis about. Maybe he’s got a craving for something that actually requires balance. Maybe it’s Louis taking him standing up against a wall. Louis could definitely get behind an idea like that.

Then a horrible thought hits him.

“I didn’t do something awful last time, did I?” he asks, a million embarrassing scenarios popping up all over his mind. “Like, forgetting to cover my teeth or something? Fuck, I totally did, didn’t I? I bit your prick because I was too pissed to give a proper blowie. Jesus, I’m so—”

Harry’s face crumbles, no other word for it. There are actual tears forming at the corners of his eyes from how hard he’s laughing.

Okay, honestly now.

“Don’t worry, you didn’t bite me,” Harry manages once he comes up for air. “Well, not anywhere I didn’t want you to.”

Oh, that little piece of—

The high-pitched squeak Harry makes as Louis tackles him to the floor and starts tickling him with all his might is very satisfying.

Harry spends roughly a million years picking out what to wear that night. It’s silly, he knows. Most likely, nothing is going to happen. But he’ll give it one more chance, all the same. See if there’s something more to what they have than convenience and lowered inhibitions. It’s possibly one of the most stupid choices he’s made when it comes to Louis, but.

He just needs to know, that’s all.

In the end, he picks out a white shirt, short-sleeved and airy, perfect for a warm Mexican night, and a pair of jeans that will definitely be too hot, but which does very nice things for his arse and legs. He styles his hair, puts on a little bit of cologne and steps out of the bathroom. Louis is lounging on a sunbed out on the balcony, still in surfer shorts and the shirt he was wearing down at the beach earlier. When he sees Harry, he does a double take, and there’s a moment when they’re just staring at each other, before Louis looks away and pulls a hand through his messy hair, looking suddenly uneasy.

“I, um,” he says, gesturing towards Harry and then down at himself. “I should, um. Change. I should go change my clothes. One sec.”

He walks past Harry into the suite, goes over to the wardrobe and starts flicking through the hangers with unusual speed, before grabbing what must be half the clothes in there and making a beeline for the bathroom. Harry swallows. Making Louis feel underdressed and uncomfortable was not the impression he’d hoped to make.

He’s of half a mind to follow Louis into the bathroom and tell him to forget the whole thing. Suggest they order room service instead. Watch a string of bad films until they crash, and then wake up just in time to swear over not having done their packing tomorrow. Before he has a chance to go through with it, though, Louis comes back out, dressed in a pair of tight jeans of his own, paired with a black shirt that makes Harry want to push him up against the wall and kiss bruises into his collarbones.

“You ready?” Louis asks, grabbing his wallet from the back pocket of his shorts and throwing a quick look in the mirror.

Harry can’t say that he is, but he follows Louis out the door all the same.

Louis is nervous. It’s completely ridiculous. He’s just having dinner. With Harry. Who’s sitting next to him babbling on about whether he should get his next tattoo on his right or left calf. All in all, a very normal evening in Louis’s life, so the sudden butterflies in his stomach can kindly bugger off and leave him alone.

It’s not like it’s a date.

It’s not. And even if it were (but it’s not), why would dating Harry even make him nervous? Harry would be a lovely date; Louis is very certain of this. He’d be attentive and funny, and they’d probably have a wonderful time. Not to mention that he’d have a very pleasant end to his night to look forward to.

Actually, that might be part of the problem, right there.

Shit, why did he agree to the whole no-alcohol thing? Now he has a brain that’s actually alert and able to think about things. Like how Harry is eating fresh grilled shrimp in a manner that’s probably illegal in several countries. Or how he keeps leaning in close to whisper things in Louis’s ear, even though they’re quite alone in their corner of the restaurant patio. He keeps stealing little bites off Louis’s plate as well, knowing full well how Louis feels about people doing that. In fact, Harry is one of only three people who Louis will let get away with that kind of deplorable behaviour. The other two are toddlers; this has made Harry think that he has some kind of special status at the dinner table, apparently.

As though to prove his point, Harry leans over and steals a slice of avocado from Louis’s plate. The back of their hands brush on the way, and Harry lets the contact linger, holding Louis’s gaze as he brings the bite to his lips and takes extra care to suck his thumb and finger clean after putting it in his mouth. He’s grinning at Louis, clearly enjoying the hell out of seeing him off balance like this. Louis narrows his eyes.

Two can play this game. And since Harry explicitly stated that sex wasn’t off the table for tonight, Louis really has nothing to lose, now does he?

Jesus, it feels like he hasn’t shagged anyone in months. Which he knows for a fact is not true, what with exhibit 1A sitting right in front of him and all.

“Hang on, you’ve got a little something—” he says, indicating a general spot in the vicinity of Harry’s mouth. No points for originality with that one, but then Louis has always been one to appreciate the classics.

Harry gamely wipes the corners of his mouth with his napkin. “Better?”

“Not quite,” Louis says. He takes Harry’s napkin out of his hands and leans in close, makes sure to tilt his head just enough so that Harry will feel the warmth coming off his skin as he runs a corner of the fabric around the contour of Harry’s mouth. “There. Got it.”

“Thank you.”

“No problem, let me just…” He trails off deliberately, moving his touch down to Harry’s jaw, then his neck, keeping every movement feather light and teasing.

He sees Harry swallow—with some difficulty even, it looks like—and Louis congratulates himself on his smooth seduction moves. He looks up into Harry’s eyes and notes a definite dilation in his pupils. This is very good. If it’s a game of chicken they’re playing, Louis is going to win, hands down. Hell yes.

“I think you missed a spot just behind my ear,” Harry murmurs, tilting his head to the side to give Louis better access. There’s a small, fading bruise marring the skin there, and Louis suddenly has a vivid flashback of putting his lips to that very spot, sucking hard while fucking into the tight, perfect heat of Harry’s body.

He realises he’s been staring, when Harry not-so-subtly clears his throat.

Bugger. He definitely lost a few points there. Harry raises an eyebrow at him teasingly, tilts his head to the other side, and Louis sees additional marks there, right below the hairline, remembers leaving them with his teeth.

Fuck. Harry is far too good at this. And Louis is clearly out of practice. He pulls back a little and picks his fork back up, shovels some food into his mouth mostly to have something else to focus on. He’s pretty sure the food is excellent, but right now, he can barely taste it. Harry leans in and touches his forehead to Louis’s, and Louis promptly forgets how to breathe.

“You said something about fucking ourselves into a coma?” Harry says quietly. “Wanna get started on that?”

It’s a hell of a good thing that they’re both filthily rich by now, because Louis doesn’t even want to know how much money he throws down on the table. He takes Harry’s hand and pulls him towards the exit. Seconds later, they’re running together towards the hotel.

Louis has slept with exactly five people in his life to date. Four of them were girls, the fifth one’s Harry. He likes sex. Has always thought of it as really nice. Very satisfying. Grand old way to pass the time. He’s been more or less pissed for all of it, because alcohol makes him horny and removes that pesky fear of the other person rejecting you. He hadn’t thought much of it before, though, because, really, how different could it be?

He’s revising that opinion now. Oh wow, is he ever.

Harry’s got him on his back in the middle of the bed, arms stretched out over his head. He’s been touching Louis for what feels like ages, mapping every single inch of his body with his teeth, tongue, lips, hands. Only to reach the last remaining spot and start all over again. Louis is close to shaking, conflicted between wanting what Harry is doing to him to go on forever and telling him off for being a bloody tease.

Harry’s hands are exploring the inside of Louis’s thighs now, circling steadily closer to where Louis most wants them to be. He sucks in a sharp breath as one finger brushes the underside of his balls, holds it as the finger slides further back, stroking gently.

“Can I—?” Harry asks, looking up at him as the tip of his finger traces the rim of Louis’s hole. “God, you’re so gorgeous like this.”

Louis swallows hard. “I’ve never.”

“I know,” Harry says. His finger gets a little more inquisitive, pressing against the opening just firmly enough to give a hint of everything that could happen if Louis let it. “Do you want to?”

“Yes,” Louis croaks, straining to lift his hips just a little bit more. Harry’s finger presses just a little harder, and Louis feels it like a surge of liquid fire all the way up his spine. “Oh, fuck, yes.”

“Sorry, was that a ‘yes’?” Harry asks, because he’s a little shit, and Louis is going to get him back for this. He is. As soon as he gets enough blood flow back in his brain to think of something excellent.

Harry shifts his weight where he’s lying between Louis’s legs, giving himself a better angle. He leans in and puts his hand around the top of Louis’s prick, playing with the ridge right below the head in that way of his that never fails to make Louis fall apart. Louis is about three seconds away from coming when Harry suddenly pulls away, moving his hand down to squeeze the base of Louis’s cock almost painfully tight.

“Don’t come yet,” he says. “It gets really sensitive after, and that can hurt pretty bad. And I don’t want to hurt you. So. Tell me to stop if you get too close.”

Don’t come. Right. Louis has no idea how he’s supposed to comply with that. He can feel himself leaking, which he didn’t even think was something his prick did, and his balls are tight and heavy between his legs. A hand on himself right now, and it’d be over in seconds. Frankly, he’d be surprised if he got more than a single stroke in.

“Breathe, Lou,” Harry says. He’s moved back a little, giving Louis some room to breathe, stroking his hands up and down Louis’s thighs in steady, calming motions. Louis swallows hard and does as told, breathing in deeply through his nose and letting the air out again through his mouth as slowly as he’s able to. It takes him a while, but eventually, he feels his body start to respond, pulling him back from the edge. He gives Harry a small nod.

Harry lowers his head back down, nosing his way up the inside of Louis’s thigh. Louis tilts his head back and stares up at the ceiling, does his best to keep his breathing slow and even as Harry’s mouth gets closer and closer to his aching prick. He’s had Harry’s mouth on his cock before, has loved it every single time. With the way his body is responding now, though, with every nerve fully functional and a clear brain to let him in on every little detail, he’s almost afraid of letting it happen.

“Just relax,” Harry says, which funny. Real stand up comedian, Harry is. Louis opens his mouth to tell him so, and gets rudely interrupted.

By Harry’s tongue. Licking a path down past his balls and flicking lightly over his hole.

Jesus Christ, Louis is going to actually die.

A loud moan escapes him when Harry flicks his tongue again, then another one when Harry shifts impossibly closer and starts rimming him in earnest. He loses his sense of time completely as Harry opens him up, has to ask him to stop twice when his orgasm comes so close he can taste it. When Harry finally climbs up the bed to get the lube and condoms they put on the nightstand earlier, Louis is an absolute wreck.

“Hey,” Harry murmures, right next to Louis’s ear. “You still want to do this?” He presses open-mouthed kisses against Louis’s neck while Louis tries to formulate a reply.

Truth be told, he’s not 100% sure he’s ready. Everything that’s happened since they came back from dinner has been overwhelming in the extreme. Add to that the concept of surrendering what little control he has left over his body and putting it entirely in Harry’s hands—

It’s a little daunting, is all. And by ‘daunting’, he means ‘fucking terrifying’.

Then again, he is completely and utterly sure that if he doesn’t do this now, he’ll regret it horribly. Because he does want it, is the thing. He more than wants it—doesn’t have a word for the relentless pull he’s feeling, the positively greedy heat in his whole body that’s so much more than want or need.

He tilts Harry’s face up and tries to put everything he can’t say into a kiss. By some miracle, Harry seems to get the gist of it, because he pops open the cap on the lube and smears some on his fingers. He kisses Louis again as he slides the first one inside, and Louis is grateful to have the familiar feeling of Harry’s mouth on his to distract him a little. Harry adds another finger, and he’s being so bloody gentle with his touches, getting Louis used to the stretch by increments and fuelling the need inside him to impossible levels.

“Harry, please,” Louis manages, reaching down Harry’s body and feeling a surge of almost relief as he wraps his hand around Harry’s cock. “If you don’t start fucking me within thirty seconds, I’m gonna—”

Harry leans back in and cuts him off with another deep kiss, and then he’s finally, finally tearing open a condom and putting it on. Louis helps. Or tries to. He’s only just started trying to slick Harry up when Harry bats away his hands and gives Louis’s hip a little shove.

“Turn over.”

Louis does. He grabs a pillow and puts it under his chest, suddenly needing something solid to hold on to. Harry keeps going maddeningly slow, just hovering above him for-fucking-ever before positioning himself and starting to push inside. The almost painful stretch as the head breaches him makes Louis’s head spin, and he props himself up on his forearms, trying to get some leverage so he can push back, take in more. God, he feels so deliciously greedy.

“Jesus, Lou,” Harry moans. “Please stop doing that, or I’m not gonna last.”

Louis ignores him and pushes back harder, throws his head back at the gorgeous slide and stretch of it all. How is it even possible he’s never done this before? Bloody hell, he’s been missing out something wretched, that’s for damn sure.

Harry lets out a pained-sounding whimper, but starts moving his hips. Louis can tell that he’s still trying to go slow, be gentle. Which—enough is enough. Seriously.

“More,” he demands, moving his hips experimentally in a small figure eight. “I’m good. Haz, I’m so, so good. Please just fuck me already.”

“Jesus, you’re going to be the death of me,” Harry pants, picking up the pace at last, grabbing Louis’s hips with both hands and fucking into him with deep, perfect thrusts that make tiny pinpricks of pleasure erupt all over Louis’s skin.


God, yes.

Louis buries his face in the pillow and lets himself go, lets Harry move him where he wants him, use his body however he needs. He doesn’t realise one of his hands has started to wander until he has it wrapped around his cock, and after that, it’s all wave after wave of pleasure, pulling him under and bringing Harry with him over the edge.

They lie panting, side by side, for a long time afterwards. Louis can’t feel his legs; he’s not even sure he’s still got a pair. Maybe he can stay in bed with Harry forever, he thinks sluggishly. Never have to walk again. That would be good.

He turns around gingerly, curls into Harry's side. Harry pulls him closer and buries his right hand in Louis's hair, playing with it sleepily and scratching Louis's scalp in a way that makes him want to start purring like a kitten.

He leans into the touch and sighs happily, feeling himself drift closer to sleep.

Yeah. Forever seems like a solid plan.

Chapter Text

Di dum di di dum di dum dum. Di dum di di dum di dum dum.

Harry groans and tries to turn away from the sound. The alarm gets louder, and Harry feels a strong urge to simply grab whatever’s making the noise and throw it into the nearest wall. Which he shouldn’t, since he set the alarm on his mobile.

“Bloody hell, turn it off,” Louis begs next to him, sounding equally hoarse and miserable. They should probably have gone to sleep a lot earlier than they did, seeing how it’s still dark outside and their flight leaves in less than three hours. Shit, they really need to pack.

“We have to get up,” Harry says. “Morning flight.”

“Sod the flight,” Louis replies. “Lets just stay here forever. Mexico seems like a good place to live.”

“Wish we could,” Harry says, then sits up and pulls away the duvet. “Come on, Lou, up.”

“I hate you,” Louis says, curling into a ball and trying to tug the duvet back up to cover himself. “I take back everything nice I’ve ever said about you. It was all lies. Clearly.”

“Love you too,” Harry replies automatically, and something inside him aches a little as he says it, at how perfectly casual and unimportant it sounds. He leans over and presses a quick kiss to Louis’s hair before shoving him unceremoniously off the bed. “Start packing, I’ll ring down for some tea.”

Louis is dead, deader, deadest. The most dead. Whatever. Point is, he’s in the back of a car, heading to the airport on something ridiculous like three hours of sleep. It’s sadly not anywhere near a new experience, since they have to do it all the time when they’re on tour, but this morning, Louis is both exhausted from lack of sleep and sore from getting spectacularly fucked. So he’s practically a zombie. And, as such, he should be cranky. He can tell from the way Harry keeps offering him energy drinks and snacks every few minutes that he’s expecting crankiness as well, is so used to it, in fact, that he’s placating Louis on auto-pilot.

Louis isn’t cranky, though. He’s dead tired, yes, and definitely sore in places he’s not used to, but mostly he’s just… really, really horny.

Thing is—he thought he’d been having good sex, some of it bordering on great, even. And after last night, he knows he hasn’t, and also what it can feel like, and basically Louis just wants it again and again. Immediately, if possible.

And since he and Harry have to keep up the image of being a happily married couple in front of everyone else, Louis can’t really go out and hit every gay bar in the greater London area to find other hot people willing to fuck him, now can he? Which means that Harry’s whole idea about not blurring lines and keeping their private relationship strictly platonic once they get back home is an absolutely awful idea that needs to go die in a ball of fire.

Louis needs a strategy.

Figuring out why Harry doesn’t want them to keep shagging seems like a good place to start. Everything he’s said so far points to him being worried that sex will somehow complicate things, which—sounds unlikely, to be honest. Piles of sex and no complications sounds like a fantastic idea to Louis. And Harry can’t be worried about himself, because he’s incredibly good at casual. As far as Louis knows, Harry has picked almost every person he’s slept with in the last few years from his circle of friends, and he’s stayed on good terms afterwards with every single one. So why he’d—


This one might be on Louis, actually. He’s a talker during sex, he knows he is. He also knows that sometimes, alcohol and sex in combination make him say a lot of things he doesn’t mean. He freaked El out completely by telling her he loved her and wanted to marry her one of the first times they shagged. In his defense, they’d been in the middle of tour, there’d been sambuca involved, and something about the way her hair smelled that night had made Louis go a little crazy. Still. Bit of not good, to put things mildly.

And since he was completely off his tit both after the wedding and when he and Harry shagged on the balcony, chances are he blabbed out something horrific then. Which Harry might have interpreted wrongly, and then decided that cooling things off was a wise thing to do.

Which means that Louis needs to clear things up. Make sure Harry knows they’re on the same page. And then hopefully push him down onto the nearest horizontal surface and start making up for lost time.

Except when he looks over, Harry is curled up in his seat with his head against the window, sleeping soundly. And there’s just no way Louis can bring himself to mess with that, not with a ten hour flight ahead of them and so little rest the night before. So he does the next best thing he can think of, which is to shift over to the next seat and snuggle into Harry’s side.

It’s fine. He’ll just take a nap, too; they can talk on the flight.

And join the Mile High Club, if Louis gets a say.

Harry is in the middle of his in-flight meal when Louis leans in close and says, “Last night was bloody incredible, you know.”

Conversationally, as though remarking on the weather, or on the food in front of them.

Harry responds by choking on the piece of fish he just put in his mouth.

It’s a blessing in disguise, because all the coughing and careful water-sipping that follows gives him a few moments to pull himself together, moments that he sorely needs, judging from the way his pulse is suddenly racing.

Okay, so. He should probably say something to that. Something nice and easy. Let Louis set the pace and all.

“Um, thank you?” is what comes out. Which, all right, is not ideal. It could have been a lot worse, though, so Harry counts it as a win.

“So, you know how I’ve tended to tell people I’m straight,” Louis continues, still breezy as anything. “Because no matter what I might think about a fit bloke walking by, girls are lovely, so I’ve been lazy. But last night… I don’t even know. Clearly, my arse has a different opinion about my orientation.”

Harry takes another drink of water and tries to keep his brain from jumping right into replay mode. “You can be straight and like having things up your bum, you know.”

“Yeah, fine,” Louis says. “But when the thing up your bum comes attached to a really fit bloke, I’m rather sure most people would place it on the gay part of the scale. Including me. Not to mention all the other things you and I have done together. Rather fabulously gay, all of it, when you stop to think about it.”

“Fit, am I?” Harry says, trying to bring the conversation back to more familiar ground with some gentle teasing while his stomach does little flips in anticipation. What if?

Louis leans in close, close enough to bring their foreheads together. “You’re the fittest bloke I know.”

Harry closes his eyes and breathes in deeply. Happiness is surging up fast, and he’s torn between closing the last few inches of space between them and kissing Louis now, or listening to what else he has to say.

“You’re rather wonderful too,” he says, loving the way Louis’s eyes light up at the compliment. For someone who’s been voted onto ‘Most Handsome’ lists several times, Louis gets ridiculously pleased at hearing he’s attractive. “Dead sexy, in fact.”

“I’m glad you think so,” Louis replies. “Because I’ve been thinking about what you said.”

“Oh? What part exactly?”

“The one about not blurring lines,” Louis says. He turns his head a fraction, stroking the top of Harry’s face with his own, and it takes everything Harry has to keep himself still, stop himself from reaching out and just pull Louis in for a kiss.


“I think we should blur them,” Louis says quietly, right next to Harry’s ear. “In fact, I think we should blur them over and over again, in many different, and possibly slightly deviant ways.”


“I think I’m really gay,” Louis continues. “Bi, possibly, but the more I think about last night, the more I doubt it. I just—I have never felt like that. And it changed things. For me. And it’s overwhelming and bloody scary, but I just can’t—I can’t ignore what it was. So.”

“So?” Harry echoes. His hand is on Louis’s thigh, stroking mindlessly up and down. This is it; this is the moment when it all falls into place.

“So I want you to know that I can keep things separate,” Louis says.

Harry freezes, hand stopping mid-caress, because what? How is—

“I realise I might have said things when we shagged before and I was completely pissed,” Louis continues. “But no matter what it was, I promise I didn’t mean it. I want to keep shagging you. Morning, noon and night, if I can have it, because last night was just—but I am fine with it being nothing more than that. In fact, I think that would be perfect.”

It’s like trying to leap, only to realise you’ve had a cord attached to your back all along: the shock of everything just stopping, of crashing back to the ground. Harry pulls his hand back, mind reeling.

“You really don’t have to worry that I’ll fall for you,” Louis says earnestly, because he clearly has no idea what he’s doing to Harry right now. Probably thinks Harry’s reaction is some kind of—yeah, no, Harry has no means of processing what’s going on at the moment.

“I mean I love you, of course I do,” Louis says. “You’re pretty much my favourite person. But that’s all it is, yeah? So you don’t have to be the responsible one in this. I know exactly what I’m asking for, so let’s just reap all the benefits of our fake marriage and shag like bunnies, all right?”


“Please?” he adds, when Harry doesn’t answer. Can’t answer, because his throat is suddenly impossibly tight. “Haz, please. You have no idea how much I need this.”

Harry ducks his head and closes his eyes, fighting back the sudden, overwhelming urge to lay into Louis for being a bloody, oblivious idiot who can just go fuck himself.

Honestly, what the bloody hell?

He can feel himself close to shaking, and he can’t let Louis see that. Not right now. Can’t let Louis know how pathetically far Harry has let himself fall without even meaning to.

Just. No.


He miraculously manages to get out of his seat without upending the food tray and escapes to the loo, locking the door and collapsing on the lid of the small toilet with his face in his hands. He doesn’t cry—absolutely refuses to go back out with puffy red eyes for Louis to see—so he just sits there for a long, long time, lets his body work out the shakes and does his best to breathe.

Fuck it. Just—fuck everything.

“Harry, mate, you all right in there?”

Harry stifles an ugly laugh. All right, yeah. Oh, he’s perfectly fine. Just had a little heartbreak. Detail, really.

Fuck, he’s so angry. At himself, at Louis; he can’t even tell.

“Haz, open the door.”

Harry watches his hand rise, feeling like he’s seeing somebody else’s movements as the hand slides the lock to the side. Anger is filling him up, blinding him almost, and the thought that he needs to show Louis how wrong he is, how he has absolutely no idea what he’s really asking for, cuts through him like a knife.

He opens the door, drags Louis into the small space with him and pulls him into a rough kiss. Louis makes a sound of surprise, and Harry shuts him up with another kiss, presses him up against the door as soon as he’s got it locked again, and drops to his knees.

His movements are harsh as he pulls Louis’s jeans and pants down. Harry puts both hands on Louis's hips and flips him around to face the wall.

Louis makes it back to his seat in a daze. There’s a definite hitch in his step, and, bloody hell, sitting down for several more hours is not going to be fun. At the same time, he’s riding too high on endorphins to care, so, details.

He and Harry just shagged in the aeroplane toilets. Not once, but twice. And Harry didn’t just get him off with a hand or giving him a blowjob, no—he went the whole nine yards, getting Louis off once with his fingers and then adding his tongue to the mix, opening him up with slow, teasing movements until his prick started to fill again, his body ready for another round.

If this is what having gay sex is like, then Louis never wants to shag another girl for as long as he lives. He wonders idly just how many blokes Harry has shagged to get so bloody good at it. Seems him spending so much time with Nick and his slutty group of friends has had its advantages, after all.

Which, wow—definitely a thought Louis would like very much to erase from his brain. Right away, please.

Harry is curled up in Louis’s window seat when Louis gets back to their row, staring out at the clouds with a blank look on his face that Louis can’t fully read. He looks… tired, mostly, his body probably catching up with the sleep deficit. Louis feels much the same—could probably sleep for a thousand years right now if the world would only let him.

He sits down and shifts around until he’s found a position that’s at least tolerably comfortable, and then moves to cuddle up to Harry’s side, bask a little in the afterglow.

Harry pulls away with a wince, and when Louis looks up, Harry’s face is a study in guilt.

Louis frowns. “You all right?”

Now that he thinks about it, why did Harry disappear to the toilets in the first place? Louis had been worrying he’d said something really stupid when he’d gone and looked for him earlier—that he'd pushed too hard, maybe, or come on too strongly—but then, well. He’d been very reassured about Harry’s willingness to keep reaping the benefits of their situation. Louis smiles at the memory.

Harry, on the other hand, is not smiling. Has turned his head away, even, pulling a little further away from Louis’s touch. Louis waits, feeling a little queasy, all of a sudden.

“I’m sorry,” Harry says, after several long moments. “That thing. Jumping you like that. I shouldn’t have—I’m really sorry if I hurt you.”

Louis blinks in surprise. Harry curls even further into himself, even going so far as to shrug off the contact when Louis places a hand on his arm.

Louis feels like he’s missing something.

“I beg to differ,” he says carefully. “That thing was absolutely brilliant. In fact, feel free to do it again any time you want.”

“I was out of control,” Harry protests. “That was definitely too rough. Shit, you just had your first time last night. You needed to rest up, and I just—”

“Hazza,” Louis interrupts, smiling again now, because trust Harry to get his knickers in a twist about something so simple. “Don’t worry, all right? Yeah, last night might have been my first time getting buggered, but I’m hardly a blushing virgin. I can handle it a bit rough. In fact…” He lets the sentence trail off, illustrates his point by taking Harry’s hand in his and brushing it surreptitiously over his groin.

Harry shakes his head unhappily, but after a little bit of time, there’s also the smallest hint of a smile at the corner of his mouth. “You’re impossible.”

“True,” Louis agrees. “It’s why you love me, after all.”

Harry is quiet for a long while, just sitting there, staring blankly at the sky and clouds outside. Then he turns towards Louis and moves in close, puts his head on Louis’s shoulder. “Yeah. I guess it is.”

He squeezes Louis’s hand, then wraps it up in both of his, and everything just rights itself. They’re good. More than good—considering the events of the past hour, they’re absolutely perfect.

Louis hums happily and presses a kiss into Harry’s hair.

Heathrow is absolutely swarming with paps.

They’ve had it bad before: when leaving for or getting back from tours; when the film premiered; whenever Harry had a high-profile “girlfriend”.

All of those instances put together have nothing on this.



“Hey, newlyweds!”

“Harry, who tops?”

“Who bottoms?”

“Louis, are you taking it up the arse, then?”

“Hey, fags, look here!”

“Give us a snog, come on!”

“Harry, mate, give your husband a kiss for the camera!”



“Over here!”

Harry keeps his head down and tries to move as quickly as possible. Louis is right next to him with a protective hand around his waist, steering him through the madness and mouthing off to the paps left and right. Harry wants to tell him not to bother, that he’ll only make it worse, but he knows from experience that Louis won’t listen, so he stays quiet and just keeps walking instead.

They’ve got security meeting them, thankfully, so it’s not long until they’re packed into a car and driving off. Harry slumps back into the seat.

Bloody hell.

“Bloody hell,” Louis says. “That was absolutely mental. Bloody nerve of some people, honestly.”

Harry swallows. “Is this what it’s going to be like now, do you think? People shouting rude things at us wherever we go?”

“They were already shouting rude things,” Louis replies. “They’ve just added a gay twist to it, is all.”

“I guess.”

“I figure they’ll get bored with the fag angle eventually,” Louis says. “At least I bloody hope so, because no matter how long we decide to stick with this marriage thing, I plan to be out from now on. Gay all the way. And the more it bothers people, the more I’m going to play it up, because fuck them, right? Homophobia needs to be outdated already.”

There’s a fierce note of pride in his voice, which sends a small shiver down Harry’s spine. Louis is formidable when he’s passionate about something, and Harry wants to stand right next to him on the barricades, shouting to people until his voice gives out.

He really is utterly fucked.

The anger from earlier has faded by now. Was pretty much fucked right out of him, if he’s honest. The crushing guilt still lingers, but it’s a shadow at the back of his mind rather than a vivid presence now, easy to forget.

Far too easy.

“We’re about twenty-five minutes away from Mr Tomlinson’s residence,” their driver tells them from the front. “I’ve been instructed to drop both of you off there, unless Mr Styles has other plans?”

Harry hesitates. If he’s smart, he’ll tell the driver to let him off at Nick’s. It would hurt Louis, yes—Louis, who’s looking at Harry right now with so much fucking hope and excitement in his eyes—but definitely a lot less than it will hurt Harry to move back in and be a casual fling for someone he’s managed to fall helplessly in love with.

Because if he moves back in, they will end up shagging again. Of course they will. Even through the mess of anger, hurt and a hundred other conflicted emotions quietly keeping up the fight for dominance inside him at the moment, Harry knows that all it will take is Louis leaning in for a kiss, and Harry’s resolve to keep a bit of distance between them will shatter.

And unlike yesterday, when he thought Louis might want more than just sex as well, he knows better now. So he should cut and run. He should.

And yet.

“You can drop us off together,” he says, and the words make him feel inexplicably lighter somehow. At least he’s made his choice—taken a leap of faith (or delusion, more like), and if (when) he crashes and burns, well. So be it.

He reaches for Louis’s hand and weaves their fingers tightly together.

For better and for worse.

Louis’s home has been invaded by wedding gifts.

He and Harry carefully navigate their way past piles upon piles of brightly wrapped boxes on their way to the upper floor to drop off their bags. The sitting room looks like a flower shop exploded all over it, and the kitchen is covered in fruit baskets, chocolate and enough bottles of champagne to open up an off licence.

Someone has been trying to arrange everything, it seems, because some things are grouped and put in neat rows, before whoever did it obviously got sick of the project and left the rest of the stuff wherever there was a spot of floor left open. Louis suspects Liam. And Zayn’s probably the one who got him to stop.

“Can you believe this?” he asks as Harry comes up next to him, carrying a blender with a big purple bow. “Who is all this even from? Do you have a million invisible friends you’ve never told me about?”

“General celebrity gifts, I’d guess,” Harry replies. He puts down the blender and picks up one of the boxes from the floor. “Look, this one’s from David Beckham.”

“Are you having me on right now?” Louis exclaims. “Really? Give it here!”

Harry hands over the box, and Louis tears into it excitedly.

It’s a football. Clearly used, and signed by not only Becks, but by most of the national team. The card accompanying it says, Nicked this at the last World Cup. Wedding gifts are boring. Thought you’d like something a bit more fun.

Louis just stares at the ball for several long minutes. It’s possibly the nicest gift he’s ever received from someone not part of the band or his family. Harry peeks at the card over Louis’s shoulder.

“That’s pretty ace.”

“Right?” Louis replies, turning the ball around to read the autographs on the other side. “Who is that big one on the stove from?”

“Stephen Fry,” Harry says once he’s opened it. “Card says, Welcome to the club. You do us proud, gentlemen.”

“Wow. That’s—um.”

“Intimidating?” Harry suggests.

“A bit, yeah.”

Harry is quiet for a while, busying himself with looking through the piles of gifts while Louis starts working on putting the champagne bottles into the fridge.

He’s filled up most of the shelves (one good thing about having absolutely no food at home—plenty of free space) when he hears Harry pull in a sharp breath. He’s standing by the counter, looking through a book of some kind. Louis’s interest is peaked.

“What’s that?”

Harry looks up and seems to hesitate for a second before taking a step to the side, making room for Louis to come stand next to him. “It’s from some of the fans. Photo album.”

“That’s sweet of them,” Louis says. “What kind of photos?”

“See for yourself.”

Louis closes the fridge and walks over to him. The spread Harry is looking at is full of pictures from their first year as a band, back when they were gangly and awkward and trying to catch up with their sudden popularity. There’s a still from one of their video diaries, with the five of them on a flight of stairs, a blindfold covering Louis’s face as he and Harry high-five each other with big smiles on their faces. Wow, they were all so very young back then.

“They’re all of us,” Harry says. “Our relationship right from the start, according to the note. Larry Stylinson: A Love Story.”

Louis snorts. “Guess we made all the shippers very happy.”

“Guess we did,” Harry replies, and then flips the album shut with more force than strictly necessary. “Do you have any take out menus around somewhere? I’m starving.”

Louis gives him a ‘you’re weird’-look but goes to collect a stack of fliers from beneath the cutlery drawer. “Pizza or Indian?”

“Pizza,” Harry replies. “One that’s big enough to give me a five-months-along food baby and put me in a coma, please.”

Louis grins and pulls out his mobile.

“I am so full,” Harry tells the kitchen table. He put his head down to rest for a minute after he finished the last slice. It’s been a while since. “Not sure if I’ll be able to ever move again. You might have to carry me around on stage for next tour.”

Louis laughs at him. “Would you like a mint?”

“Definitely not.”

“But they’re wafer thin,” Louis says innocently, then laughs some more.

Harry manages to lift a single finger in his general direction.

“All right,” Louis says, “you’re knackered. Come on, bed.”

Harry lets himself be manhandled away from the kitchen, takes the opportunity of Louis half-carrying him up the stairs to bury his face in his neck for a little while. He wants to wrap his arms around Louis’s chest and hold on tight, tug him closer until every single part of their bodies are touching and Harry forgets what it feels like to be on his own.

He can’t, though. For a whole string of reasons.

95% of him doesn’t seem to care. Jesus, when did he become such a glutton for punishment?

“So, what room should I sleep in?” he asks, pushing himself off of Louis and putting a few important inches of space between them.

“I was thinking—with me?” Louis replies. He looks unsure and adorably eager. Harry really needs to start building up some kind of resistance to that expression. “I mean, why not, right?” Louis continues. “Convenience and all that.”

“You kick in your sleep.”

“And you do the octopus thing,” Louis counters. “But I still—I don’t know. I just like having you there.”

Something in Harry’s chest does a treacherous little flip. “Yeah?”

“Always sleep better when you’re in my bed,” Louis says. He pulls Harry close again, slides an arm around his waist. “Come cuddle with me.”

Sod it. Harry doesn’t even know why he tries to object anymore. He might as well just go for it and take what he can before Louis tires of their arrangement. “All right. But if you kick me, I’m moving.”

“Fair enough,” Louis says. “Now come to bed.”

Harry does.

Chapter Text

Louis wakes up on the opposite side of the bed from where he usually sleeps, sheets tangled around him and with his face buried in a pillow that smells like Harry’s hair. He has no idea what time it is, and he doesn’t really care—happy to stay in bed until someone forces him out of it. Harry can probably be persuaded to bring him food so Louis doesn’t die from starvation.

Harry, who lives with him now. Who’s allowed to keep living with him for as long as they want.

Louis smiles into the pillow.


His good mood wears off about an hour into the photoshoot the PR team put on their schedules for the day. There’s nothing special about it, really, just the regular stand, stand, turn, pose, turn, smile, while melting into little puddles of sweat under all the lights that are on them.

The problem is the photographer.

It’s someone Louis knows he’s met before, recalls him shooting the band for some magazine cover last year. He’d been a rather awful flirt then too, but what Louis remembers from that time has nothing on how the bloke is behaving now.

It was fine when he was shooting the two of them together. Louis even thought it was nice, being told to put his arms around Harry and hold on tight, not having to think about whether there was enough space between them, or making sure his body didn’t face towards Harry’s, or that he was looking “too fond”, or whatever other bollocks the PR guy that normally directed their shoots liked to complain about.

It was nice and comfortable, simple as that. But now Louis is off to the sidelines, watching Harry getting shot on his own, and the photographer is behaving like an absolute arse, talking to Harry like he’s nothing more than an object.

A sexy object, if the kind of poses the guy is asking Harry to do is any indication.

Right now, he’s having Harry straddle a plastic chair—a completely transparent one, at that—and telling him to make eyes at the camera. While Harry’s only wearing a pair of briefs so tight they’ll probably turn off circulation in his thighs if he has to keep them on for much longer.

“That’s good,” the guy says, creeping closer to Harry with the camera in front of his face. “That’s excellent, love. Just, give me a little more. A little sexier. Imagine you’re right at home, just waiting for someone to come through the door and have his wicked way with you. Yeah. Like that. Perfect. So hot right now, love. Hold that.”

Harry turns his head after a few more frames and meets Louis’s eyes. He looks absolutely fantastic—Louis can admit to that much—but he also looks deeply uncomfortable, especially when the photographer walks right up to him and puts a hand at the top of his thigh, spreading Harry’s legs even more to “improve the angle”.

Louis is out of his chair and on the set before he can even stop to think. “That’s enough, mate. Move it along.”

The photographer looks up, then snorts. “Just doing my job, kid. Your management asked for a sexy shoot. I’m just giving them what they want.”

“Well, I’m sure Harry can move his legs just fine without your assistance,” Louis replies pleasantly. “In fact, I’ve seen him do it. He can walk, even, imagine that.”

“I don’t have time for this,” the guy says. “Why don’t you take your little hissy fit back to your chair and wait for your turn. I’m thinking nudes, what do you say?”

“I’m thinking you’re about to get reported for sexual harassment,” Louis replies, smiling oh-so-sweetly. “Might make people a little reluctant to hire you, with a reputation like that.”

Out of the corner of his eye, he sees Harry bite back a smile.

The guy smirks, but there’s a glint of uncertainty in his eyes that Louis finds very satisfying. “You clearly know nothing about this business,” he says. “I could snort coke off your prick, tell The Sun all about it and still have agencies breaking down my door. Because unlike you and your little popstar boytoy here, I’ve got some actual skill to go with my pretty face.”

“Really?” Louis throws back. “That must be very nice. Good for you. How many copies did our last record sell in the first week, again? Harry, do you remember?”

“Um. About a million, I think,” Harry says, looking like he’s having a hard time keeping up a straight face.

“That’s right,” Louis says. “Nine-hundred-and-seventy-five thousand, to be precise. And it’s gone triple platinum since. And the one before that sold about 4.3 million, so that’s—cor, I’m just terrible at Maths. I guess I’ll just have to go back home and cry into all my money for being so completely without talent or marketable skills.”

“I think I have a wad of 100 pound notes in my coat,” Harry says. “If you need to dry your eyes before we get there.”

“That’s so sweet of you, dear,” Louis replies, demonstratively leaning in and pressing a lingering kiss against Harry’s jaw. “How about we do that now? Gosh, I’m so sorry, seems we have to dash.”

“Hey, now,” the guy says, clearly angry, “I haven’t got enough frames yet.”

“That’s a shame, because we’re leaving,” Louis says happily, taking Harry’s hand and pulling him with him off the set and towards the studio exit. They bundle up their clothes and bags in their arms as they pass the fitting area, and then take off at a run—half-naked and reckless—down an empty corridor.

Louis feels like he’s flying.

Harry stops them once they’ve made it down a few stories—running down the stairs instead of waiting for the lift—and pulls Louis into a smaller corridor and through an unlocked door on the right that seems to lead to some kind of unused storage space. He shuts the door behind them, chucks his bundle of clothes in the nearest corner, and slides his arms around Louis’s waist. And then they’re kissing, breathless and laughing, pulled together like magnets, their bodies sliding right back against each other as soon as they try to break apart.

In all fairness, Louis can’t say that they’re trying very hard. Not that he minds. At all, actually.

He sinks his hands into Harry’s curls, tilts his face up and leans back in for another kiss.

“So how does it feel to be the new power couple?”

They’re at a premier for a new film tonight—just the two of them, since the other lads are still out of the country, wisely hiding away from most of the media frenzy—and Harry has Louis’s hand in his, warm and steady, same as Louis’s smile.

“You hear that, Haz,” Louis tells him, “we’re the new Wills-and-Kate. Less crowns and tiaras, though.”

God, Harry is so stupidly in love with him.

“We try to keep those at home,” he deadpans, figuring humour is the way to go, keeping things light and easy.

“Same with the dresses,” Louis says, nodding seriously. “And the heels.”

“I have a terrible sense of balance,” Harry says. “Would end up falling flat on my face, and that’d be really embarrassing.”

“It would. So it’s sensible shoes only for red carpet events. House rule.”

“Yours have a little bit of a heel on them, though.”

“Well, yes,” Louis says, lifting his foot and showing off the underside of his low boot, “not all of us were born tall and gorgeous. Some of us vertically challenged individuals need a little help, or what do you say, love?”

The reporter—who is rather short, Harry supposes, at least in this kind of setting where practically everyone looks like they have a modelling career going on the side—laughs delightedly and lifts the hem of her dress, showing off a strappy sandal with a heel that’s at least three inches.

They move on to the next reporter, then pose for a group of photographers. Right before they go inside the theatre, Louis pulls him off to the side, leaning in for a long, slow kiss as they wait for their turn in the main photo spot.

It’s a perfect story moment, Harry thinks—a great opportunity for the mags to get HD-quality candids in good lighting for their articles about Harry and Louis’s fairytale romance. He wonders if Louis thought of it himself or if it was on the long list of instructions they got sent with the last management email.

“Think they got a good shot?” Louis whispers in his ear, and Harry can tell from his voice that Louis is smiling.

He raises a hand to cup Louis’s chin, hides the next kiss from view with his hand. It’s a silly thing to do probably, but it feels important, right then, keeping at least a small part of what they have away from prying eyes.

Louis moves his own hands up to Harry’s face in response, stroking along the jawline and sighing happily into the kiss, and Harry lets himself forget the flashes and people calling their names, losing himself in the fantasy.


The whirlwind of public appearances continues over the next couple of weeks. There’s photoshoots with arms around each other, where the same people who used to frown and ask Harry to change places with Niall or Liam are suddenly falling all over themselves to get a shot of Louis’s head on Harry’s shoulder, or of Harry’s hand in Louis’s back pocket, asking them to smile, to touch, to show the whole world how close they are to one another.

Harry is smiling, God, is he ever. Looking like a right loon most of the time, probably.

It’s just all so frighteningly easy. The way Louis meets his eyes, the way he moves into Harry’s every touch, and the way he gets sharp and sassy at anyone who even looks like they have something to say about them that isn’t wholly complimentary.

Or that is too complimentary. Harry’s always known that Louis’s the jealous type, but the way he acts whenever someone sidles up close to Harry now, well—

It’s heady. And dangerous, because it makes stupid hope flare in Harry’s chest every single time, makes him reckless with his looks and his touches.

And Louis keeps looking back. Keeps matching every touch with one of his own, willing to try anything. They spend nearly every free moment they have together in bed these days, learning the little quirks and secrets of each other’s bodies.

This the happiest Harry’s ever been, and the most miserable.

He still can’t bring himself to stop.

Liam and Sophia come back from France on the same day as Zayn and Perrie return from Thailand, so of course Niall—who is an absolute sap about airport reunions—picks the same date to fly in from Ireland as well.

Louis takes Harry to go pick them up (with security; neither of them is quite stupid enough to suggest going out in public on their own at the moment), the two of them loaded with teddy bears, cheap flowers and sparkly signs.

Harry’s sign simply says, Welcome Back! :), in bright, purple glitter.

Louis’s sign says, Marry Me?, and has a smaller sign with #TeamPolygamy taped to the bottom of it. He’s counting on, at minimum, one of the lads finding it funny. Harry seems to, at least, so it’s already a win in Louis’s book.

Niall is first to arrive, and quickly takes possession of one of the teddy bears and a mangled bundle of roses. They have lunch while waiting for Zayn’s flight to come in, and then a round of drinks as they all wait for Liam. They finally get everyone sorted, bags stowed away and security clearing their way out of the terminal. Niall, Zayn and Liam are all smiles, and it’s so good to have them back; Louis is practically skipping.

“Is everyone coming back to ours, then?” Harry asks as they walk, Zayn and Niall on either side of him with their arms around Harry’s shoulders. “I got actual food in the fridge, we could make you all dinner.”

“I could eat,” Niall says happily.

“Me too,” Perrie says. “Food on the flight was, well, I guess ‘absolute shite’ would be a bit harsh, but yeah.”

“It was rather shite,” Zayn agrees. “Yeah, sure, we’ll make a stop at yours.”


“What do you think, babe?” Liam asks, pulling Sophia a little closer. She looks tired, Louis notes, a lot more so than the rest of them.

When she looks up at Liam, though, her smile is bright enough. “Sure, why not?”

“We’re in,” Liam says. “You’d better be making a lot of food, though, Haz. Lou must be going through a tonne at the mo. You’re looking good there, mate. Finally took my advice and got yourself a PT?”

“Whazzat?” Louis replies, then follows Liam’s pointed gaze to his chest and stomach. Seems he has built up a little in the past weeks. His abs are certainly a lot firmer beneath his fingers than he’s used to.

He looks up at Harry and sees him looking at the floor, carefully biting down on his lower lip to hold in a smile. Oh. Right. That’s why.

“Guess I’ve been getting quite a workout lately,” he says, grinning. “Trainer’s a slave driver, though. I barely get any sleep.”

“Motivation is the key to success,” Harry adds solemnly, then mimics cracking a whip. “No pain, no gain.”

“Yeah, I actually don’t want to know about the pain part, if you don’t mind,” Zayn says. He’s looking from Harry to Louis with a smirk on his face, like he’s not even the least bit surprised at this turn of events. “Glad you guys are enjoying yourselves, though.”

“From the way Louis is walking, I’d say they definitely do,” Niall chips in, and then everybody’s laughing. And hugging and congratulating them, which is a bit weird. Perrie even gives them both high fives.

Louis frowns. And then suddenly realises what’s going on.


“Listen, I’m glad you’re all so pervertedly invested in our sex lives,” he says with a grin, “but don’t get ahead of yourselves, yeah? Hazza and I are still just friends.”

Now, there are definite looks of surprise going around. Louis rolls his eyes.

“Look, lads. And ladies,” he adds smoothly when Sophia raises an eyebrow at him. “There’s nothing fishy going on. We just both like to have a shag now and then, and for obvious reasons, we can’t get it anywhere else at the moment, so. Sorry for giving you the wrong impression.”

As one, their friends turn to look at Harry, who looks a bit tense at all the attention suddenly directed at him. He meets Louis’s eyes and looks uncertain for a moment. Then he rolls his eyes as well.

“Sorry, guys,” Harry says. “Don’t tell the tabloids though. Apparently, we’re the new ideal.”

“True love,” Louis confirms, snickering as he remembers the latest issue of Cosmo that Lottie sent him a picture of. “Star-crossed, even. Regular Romeo and Juliet.”

“With a better ending, hopefully,” Harry says. “I don’t fancy stabbing myself at this point in my career.”

Fine, we won’t ask,” Zayn says. “Now, what’s that about getting us some food? I’m starving.”


It’s late, possibly very late; Louis lost track of time somewhere after dinner.

He’s lying on the bed in one of the guest rooms, stuffed with homemade Chicken Vindaloo and woozy from the beer they had with it. It’s been a while since he last had a drink, he realises; he’s been too busy spending time in bed with Harry lately to go out on the piss.

The door opens, and Liams steps inside, walking over to the dresser and taking a set of extra sheets out of the top drawer before turning and noticing Louis on the bed.

“All right, mate?”

“Smashing,” Louis replies. “Just needed to lie down for a bit. Too much beer, too little sleep lately.”

“Yeah, I know what you mean,” Liam says with a sigh, putting down the bundle of sheets and lying down next to him. “Feels like I haven’t slept in ages.”

“Sophia keeping you up now that she has you all to herself for a while?” Louis asks with a smirk.

Instead of the eye-roll, or possibly blush, he’d expected, however, Liam sighs. “Not exactly.”

He pulls up both arms, crossing them over his face, and draws in a series of sharp, uneven breaths. “Jesus, Lou, I’m so fucked.”

“Hey, what’s wrong?” Louis asks, rolling to his side and propping himself up on his elbow. “Liam, look at me.”

Liam keeps his arms over his face, just lies there next to Louis and does his best to breathe. After the first couple of minutes, Louis starts getting seriously worried. Should he leave and try to find someone else to help, or stay with Liam until whatever is going on has passed a little?

He chooses the latter, edging closer to Liam’s body and putting an arm around his chest, trying to keep him grounded. “Liam, talk to me.”

Liam takes another couple of shaky breaths, then uncrosses his arms, staring up at the ceiling.

“Sophia’s pregnant,” he says finally. “We just found out last week.”

Louis first reaction is shock, then something absolutely giddy surges up inside him. “Liam, that’s fantastic!”

Liam doesn’t reply.

“I can’t believe you’re gonna be a dad,” Louis goes on. “We’re all gonna be uncles! I have to tell Harry, he’s going to shit himself over this. I—”

“Louis,” Liam interrupts him, reaching out and grabbing Louis’s wrist as though he’s worried Louis is going to run right off with the news, “I’m not gonna be a dad.”

“What? Of course you are! It's a baby, Liam! A Baby Liam.

“It’s not,” Liam says. “Or it won’t be, I don’t know.”

Louis stops short, realising what Liam is actually saying.

“But—” he tries. “Liam, no.”

“Sophia's not ready, and I'm not either,” Liam says hoarsely. “I’m never home. It's hard enough keeping a relationship together. And I don’t want to be the kind of dad who’s gone for weeks and months at a time. If I have a kid, I wanna be there for them. I want to see them every day, kiss them and hold them and feed them every day. Not pop by for a few days every once in a while and have my heart broken by how much I’ve missed while being gone. If we did this, I’d have to quit the band.”

Louis doesn’t know what to say.

“And we’re both so fucking young,” Liam continues. “Sophia’s still at uni; I’m not even 22 yet. It’s just—the timing's absolute shite.”

Louis clears his throat, which suddenly feels much too tight. The tightness only gets worse; Louis tries again.

“I’m sorry,” he says. “I get that this must be bloody awful for you. But I can’t say I’m with on the reasoning, because—well, it’s a baby, right? A baby means you make it work, no matter how hard it is. If Haz and I were having one, I’d be over the moon.”

“If you and Haz were having one?”

“Figure of speech.”

“Right,” Liam says curtly. “Well, it’s not you and Haz, yeah? It’s Sophia and I, and we’re going through an absolutely shite time right now, so I’d really love it if you could just bloody hug me or something.”

“Of course, yeah.”

He pulls Liam into a hug, wraps himself tightly around him. Liam hugs him back just as hard, and then starts shaking. Louis does his best to wrap his legs around Liam’s as well—give more comfort through more contact or something—while closing his own eyes against the burning feeling he can sense behind his eyelids. He’s not going to break down over this, needs to be strong for Liam—it’s not like it’s Louis’s baby, or even a baby yet. It’s just—

“You could bring them with you,” he says, pulling away a little, trying to think. The spinning in his head makes it slightly difficult. “They could come on tour with us. We’d all help out. It could work.”

"I can't bring Sophia and a baby on tour,” Liam replies, starting to sound angry now. “Babies need familiarity, steady routines, not constantly moving around and changing time zones every couple of days."

“Lou and Tom do it with Lux.”

“Lux is bigger, and Lou and Tom's not us.”

“Yours would get bigger too, though,” Louis argues. “We could time our schedule to get a few months off. The new album drops in three weeks, and we’ll be done with the world tour in six months. We could take time off. Stay home to write for a while. I mean, if you just think—”

“I’ve done nothing but think about it for days now!” Liam almost shouts, rubbing his face furiously with both hands as he moves off the bed, away from Louis. “What do you think we've been talking about since we found out, the bloody weather?”

“Liam, wait.”

“I should have talked to Zayn,” Liam says. “I don’t know why I thought you’d understand. You’ve always been mad about kids, same as Harry.”

“I do understand,” Louis argues. “I just don’t agree, that’s all. I think a kid’s something worth fighting for. If you want something enough, you can make—”

“Well I don’t want it,” Liam says. “I don’t even know if I’ll want kids later on. But I sure as hell know that I don’t want one now. And neither does Sophia. So just keep your mouth shut, all right?”

Louis bites down on his lower lip and turns his head away, mind reeling. There has to be a solution; he can’t believe that Liam would just—give up like that. Maybe the rest of them could help out somehow. Not just on tour but at home too. Maybe even most of the time—that would actually be really cool. Liam’s right, Louis has been mad about kids for as long as he can remember. Wants a whole house full of them if he can. And he has lots of space now, so—and Harry would be so good with a kid, coolest dad ever. He and Louis both. And Louis might be a bit pissed right now, but that doesn’t mean he can’t know it when he thinks of something that has the potential to be really bloody wonderful.

“I’ll take it,” he blurts, not thinking past Liam’s I don’t want it that keeps echoing in his ears. “I’ll take it. I’ll want it. You’re right, it isn’t mine, and it’s not my decision, but what if it could be? What if we could—I mean, Harry loves kids. And I do too. And we’d take such good care of—”

“Fuck you, Louis,” Liam says cooly. “You don’t get to pretend you’re all mature and responsible when you can’t even be honest to yourself. You can’t even admit that you’re head over heels in-fucking-love with Harry in front of your closest friends—or that the reason why you just so happen to absolutely loathe every other person who so much as flirts with him is that you’re bloody jealous—but you want me to ask Sophia to go through with nine months of pregnancy—with all the pain and sickness and possible complications that might damage her for life—just so, what? So that the two of you can play house? Honestly, mate, fuck you.”

Liam slams the door behind him when he leaves. The bundle of sheets he’d come to retrieve—probably decided to stay over; Louis doubts he will now—are still lying at the foot of the bed.

He walks back to his own room, takes a long shower before crawling into bed. He’s still awake when Harry joins him—Harry, who gives the best hugs and always knows how to make Louis laugh. Who makes them tea in bed, and loves kids, and can get Louis off four times in one day. Who keeps trying to teach Louis how to cook, even though he’s utterly hopeless at it.

You can’t even admit that you’re head over heels in-fucking-love with Harry in front of your closest friends.

He’s not in love with Harry, is he? Liam must have got it all wrong.

He must have.

Jesus, what if Louis is a total wanker who’s cocked everything up? After promising that he’d be able to keep things cool, as well. That he wouldn’t fall in love, wouldn’t put that sort of pressure on their relationship.

On their marriage. Their fake marriage.

Louis can barely breathe.

“You all right?” Harry asks quietly, one hand coming up to touch Louis’s face.

Louis closes his eyes and hides himself in the touch, doesn’t want Harry to guess what’s going on right now, how Louis might have made a right mess out of everything.

“If we had the possibility to have a kid right now, you’d want it, right?” he says. It just comes out without Louis meaning for it to, but once he’s started talking, he can’t seem to stop. “Like, I obviously can’t get pregnant or anything, but if we, say, woke up and there was a basket on our doorstep or something, we’d keep it, right? Even if it bollocksed everything up with touring and things. We’d find a way, right?”

“‘Course we would,” Harry says, sounding worried now. “Lou, what brought this on? Is something up with your family? Is Lottie—”

“No no,” Louis says, shaking his head and pushing everything back, manages a small smile, “Lottie’s fine. It was just something—film probably, something stupid like that. I just had a really strange dream, that’s all.”

Lying to Harry feels horrid, but Liam’s secret is very much not for Louis to tell, and he feels awful enough about how he reacted in front of Liam already. Telling him he and Harry would happily take his baby, like it was a kitten, or a sofa or something. What the bleeding hell was he even thinking?

A piss-poor friend’s what he is. Louis rolls closer to Harry, wrapping his arms around him and burying his face in Harry’s neck.

Harry cards a hand through Louis’s hair, scratching at his scalp a little, just the way Louis likes, and, fuck, Louis’s emotions are all up in the air right now—a gigantic bloody mess of confusion and want and stupid fear.

“You’d make a really good dad, you know,” he murmurs, because he just can’t seem to shut himself up. “I’d have your babies if I could.”

“Louis…” Harry says, and there’s something new and trembling in his voice, almost like a question.

Oh, fuck. Louis is just doing a bang up job with everything tonight, isn’t he?

He can’t tell Harry about the mess of confused feelings inside him right now, not before he figures out how bad things are and has some kind of idea of how to handle the problem. If he tells Harry now, Harry might insist they back off a little, taking time to think or something similarly rational.

Louis can’t take that risk. Not tonight. Not when having Harry in his arms feels like the only solid thing in a world that’s spinning off its axis.

“Wow, that came out wrong,” he says, forcing himself to laugh. Light. Keep it light. “I just meant you’d be a good dad. You know, for when after this is all over and you meet someone you’ll want to start a family with.”

“Right,” Harry says, still sounding uncertain.

Louis moves closer and leans in to kiss him, makes it teasing, makes it sex. Sex is good. Easy. Louis could definitely use some easy sex right now. Clear his mind.

“Want you on your front,” he whispers into Harry’s ear. “Want to grab your wrists and keep them above your head, fuck you into the mattress until you come all over the sheets. Would you like that, do you think?”

There’s a short moment when Harry seems to hesitate, but then he’s rolling over and shoving his pillow away, moving his hands up to wrap around the wooden slats in the headboard.

Louis will take that as a yes.

Harry takes a long, shaky breath as Louis pulls out of him, manages to move to the side and roll over while Louis goes into the bath to bin the condom.

His hands are shaking, and his lower lip is swollen from biting down on it hard enough that he could almost taste blood a few times towards the end, keeping all the words that couldn’t cross his lips trapped inside.

It’s just a matter of time before he lets something slip, before he starts talking back when Louis takes him apart piece by piece by telling him every thought that goes through his stupid head.

Like I love you.

Or I never want to be apart from you.

Or Harry’s personal favourite: I wish I’d married you on the day we met.

He can’t do this anymore.

“I need to go,” he says, sitting up so that his back is facing Louis when he comes back from the bath. His legs feel like they’re made of water when he stands up, but he grits his teeth and makes it work somehow. Pants. He needs pants. And jeans. A shirt, preferably.

“What? Haz—”

Louis comes around the bed and puts a hand on his waist playfully, tries pulling him back towards the bed.


“No,” Harry says, pulling away from Louis’s touch and putting a bit of space between them. “I can’t right now, all right? I’ll take one of the cars, go to—”

Right. Where can he go? Zayn and Niall are still in the house, and Liam left with Sophia because they were both feeling a bit sick. Harry has plenty of friends who are normally happy to let him sleep on their sofa for a night or two, but it’s the middle of the week, and some of them have kids. So that really only leaves a couple of options.

“I’ll just go to Nick’s,” he decides, walking over to the dresser to look for some socks.

“The fuck you are,” Louis says heatedly, shocking himself as much as Harry, from the look on his face. “You can’t dash off to Nick’s in the middle of the night,” he continues, in a much more normal tone of voice. “We still have paps camping outside the gate.”

“So? They’ll get a few shots of me going to see a friend. I don’t care right now.”

“A friend, right.” Louis scoffs. “No one is ever just a friend at half two in the morning. Especially not a semi-famous gay bloke who you’ve been linked to in the rags before.”

“Louis,” Harry says quietly, “I don’t care. I’ll see you tomorrow, all right?”

“But why? Did I do something? Or is this about what I said earlier, because I didn’t mean it like that, I just—”

Something in Harry breaks, and before he knows it, he’s by the door, with one hand on the handle, practically shouting.

“I know you didn’t mean it! You never do, you just keep saying these things, and I—” His voice cracks, and he takes a slow breath to collect himself. “I keep trying to keep this light, keep it bloody casual for you, and you keep doing this. You keep telling me you love me, and that I’m the only one for you, and that you want my babies, and I can’t listen to it anymore. I’m sorry.”

“You know how I get,” Louis tries, reaching out and and taking Harry’s hand in his. “I just—it’s the sex talking, I—”

“Yeah, I know. I know you don’t bloody well mean it, but it sounds like you do. Really sounds like it. And I can’t handle any more of it right now. So good night.”

“Harry, wait.”

“I said good night,” Harry says. “Let me go, Lou. Now.”

He pulls his hand away from Louis and opens the door. Louis doesn’t stop him this time, just stands there, looking shell-shocked, as Harry walks away.

He takes the stairs two at a time and prays that the car keys are in the drawer where they’re supposed to be, because he needs to get away right now, and waiting for a taxi would weaken his resolve, give him time to have second thoughts and probably go right back up to their bedroom and lose himself in Louis’s arms all over again.

The keys are in their drawer. Harry breathes a sigh of relief and takes the first set he can get his hands on, then walks out of the house, not looking back.

Chapter Text

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.”

“Right. Thanks.”

“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.

“So, Harry?”

“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 the door at half six and scrambles to get the last things in place. And then goes and hides in the sitting room, because grand declarations aside, there’s just so much courage he can manage at any given moment, and watching Harry when he finds the gift Louis left on his plate is definitely outside of that range.

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.


Chapter Text


Louis is speedwalking down the hospital corridor ahead of him, calling back to Harry to keep up. Harry rolls his eyes but lengthens his stride a bit, tries to keep a gentle, rolling rhythm going so as not to wake the little monster sleeping happily against his chest, strapped into her baby bjorn.

He can’t believe it’s been almost seven months since they were here last, running down the corridor together, excited and terrified they were going to be too late, even though Jenny’d called them the minute her contractions started and told them not to fret, that there was probably still at least half a day to go before they’d even be close to holding their baby.

They’d gone to the hospital anyway—hours before Jenny got there, even—and walked up and down the corridors while getting more and more strung out on caffeine from the ridiculous amounts of tea and coffee Louis kept getting them.

(You’d think they’d be old hands at this baby-having thing by now, but no; every time’s just as nerve-wrecking as the first one, and Harry wouldn’t want it any other way, really.)

Lydia had been born a little after three in the morning, eighteen hours after they’d got the call. Harry and Louis had been awake for another twelve hours after that, unable to keep their eyes off her as she slept on Jenny’s chest, both girls exhausted from bringing Lyds into the world.

Harry reaches the waiting area and is shown into a private room by one of the nurses. Niall is already there, bouncing excitedly in time with Louis, and Zayn’s probably on his way.

It’s a thing they do, waiting together when someone in their group is having a new baby. Louis and Harry had been first, second and third (which had surprised absolutely no one), then Niall, helping one of his best friends and her girlfriend have a set of beautiful twins, then Louis and Harry again with Lyds, and now they’re here for Liam.

“Any news?” Harry asks excitedly, as soon as he’s closed the door behind him.

Niall grins and walks over to give him a side hug, careful not to squish Lyds, or worse, wake her up. “Liam was out about an hour ago. They’re at 6 cm. Still some ways to go.”

“Well, sometimes it’s quick,” Harry says. “Kelly was at 5 cm when she came in. And then fifteen minutes later, she’d passed nine.”

“That was bloody scary, though,” Louis says. “I can go the rest of my life without ever having another crying woman in my arms begging me to kill her, thank you very much.”

“Well, she didn’t have time to get any pain relief,” Harry argues. “And Amy was big. You’d probably have given up long before she did.”

“Oh, I have no doubt,” Louis says. “Women are made of sterner stuff than us poor weak men, that’s for sure.”

“Either of you want anything from the cafeteria?” Niall asks. “I’m feeling a bit peckish. Been here since three.”

“See if there are any crisps,” Harry replies. “Oh, and a cuppa’d be nice. With some cold water in it, just in case.”

Niall leaves, and Harry lowers himself carefully into a chair, arching his back to try and trick his sleeping daughter into thinking that he’s still standing up. Lydia frowns and turns her head. Harry holds his breath. In the chair next to him, Louis is doing the same.

“There, there, sweetheart,” Louis murmurs, reaching over and stroking the pad of his thumb back and forth between Lydia’s eyebrows. “Sleep on, there’s a good girl.”

“I still want to know how that works,” Harry tells him, watching as Lydia’s frown smooths itself out and her breathing grows deeper again. “Magic baby spot, honestly.”

“Or magic hands,” Louis replies with a cheeky wink. “Something I’ve been told on more than one occasion.”

Harry rolls his eyes fondly and tilts his head, smiling into the kiss when Louis closes the distance between them. After six years of marriage and four kids keeping them more than busy, kissing Louis is still like taking the first sip of cold water on a warm summer’s day, and Harry can’t keep himself from deepening it a little, loving the familiar way they slot together just right.

“I should phone Lottie and check on the other kids,” Louis says reluctantly, after he pulls back. “See that everything’s all right.”

“Tell her that the fruit cup thingies are in the top right cabinet now,” Harry says. “I’ve had to move them twice since the last time she and Will took the kids. Amy keeps climbing up on the counter when she thinks nobody’s looking.”

“Are we completely sure she’s not actually half-monkey?”

“I think the shared DNA between humans and chimps are actually something like 98%, so technically, she’s almost all monkey,” Harry replies. “Might also be why Kira and Patrick are both obsessed with bananas.”

“Or those two just take after their dad,” Louis says with a smirk. “You’ll note that the ones with the blessed Tomlinson genes have completely normal relationships with fruit.”

“Well, I caught Ames trying to drink water out of the toilet yesterday,” Harry replies, “So we know she got your creative streak at least.”

“Oh God, really?”

And she’d filled up cups from the play kitchen so the twins could have some as well,” Harry adds blithely.

Louis groans and drops his face in his hands. Harry is still snickering when Niall comes back, laden with paper cups and snacks, Zayn following closely behind him.

“You know, I don’t remember ordering one of those,” Louis tells Niall, and then gets to his feet to wrap Zayn up in a hug. “Good to see you, man. Been a long time.”

“Sorry about that,” Zayn replies. “Been a bit busy with the new gallery and everything.”

“Right. When’s opening night?”

“Next Saturday. You should come if you can. I know you’re madly in love with family life, but it wouldn’t hurt for you to actually get out of the house once in a while.”

“Hey, we do get out of the house,” Harry protests. “I took Amy and Kira to the library yesterday.”

“Somewhere not with the kids, then. Also, you have some kind of goo in your hair.”

Harry reaches up and feels the side of his head. It might be a bit crusty in places, probably remnants of the fingerpaint adventures this morning. Maybe Zayn has a point. Then again, Harry has had far worse things in his hair since they started having kids, so he isn’t too bothered about it.

“Well you look immaculate as always,” Louis says. “Seems rather unfair to ask us mere mortals to keep up.”

“Glad you think so,” Zayn replies. “I feel a bit shit, to be honest. Been going back and forth between London and New York like a bloody yo-yo lately. Jetlag’s killing me.”

“New York, eh?” Louis says with a small smirk. “Now, what could possibly be the reason for that?”

“Shut up,” Zayn replies, but he’s starting to smile a little as well. “It’s nothing official yet. But yeah. It’s looking good. I think we’re gonna give it another shot.”

“Are you moving to New York then?” Niall asks. “Or is Pezza coming back to London?”

“Still being negotiated,” Zayn replies. “Now, enough about me. How’s Liam holding up?”

“So, how does it feel to be a dad?” Louis asks, sitting down in the chair next to Liam. Harry’s gone back home with Lydia, and Niall and Zayn left a little while ago to hunt down some food.

Liam takes a sip of water and utterly fails to keep the smile spreading on his face even remotely in check.

Louis smiles back. He knows that feeling; God, does he ever.

“I’m really happy for you, you know,” he says, giving Liam’s shoulder a little nudge with his own.

“I nearly fainted in there, after it was done,” Liam says, still smiling like a loon. “They had to push me down into a chair and tell me to put my head between my legs.”

“Totally normal,” Louis assures him. “Happened to Hazza twice. He forgets to breathe when babies are involved.”

“Completely mental, isn’t it? I mean, you know how it’s supposed to go, but you don’t really know, you know?”


“I should get back,” Liam says. “Thank the others for me, will you? I wanna go cuddle my son.”

“Do that,” Louis replies, and then pulls Liam into a tight hug. “So bloody happy for you, man. All three of you.”

“All three of us,” Liam repeats stupidly. “Jesus fuck, I’m a dad.”

“You are,” Louis confirms. “You’re gonna love it.”

“I think I will,” Liam says. “Ever since we decided to give it a try, it’s just felt—so bloody right, somehow. Like it was a choice that just fit. You know, like when you go on stage for the first show on tour, and you’re nearly pissing yourself with nerves, but at the same time, you’re so ready to do it. And then you take that first note, and everything’s just—right then and there. Like a moment you’ve found that claims you perfectly.”

“Your fans are going to be heartbroken by you going on baby-related hiatus,” Louis says with a grin. “I, personally, think it’s a brilliant choice, just for the record.”

“I’ll be back in some form,” Liam replies. “I’m thinking of maybe shifting over to producing, though. Be closer to home. Solo stuff’s been great, and I still love performing, but—yeah.”

“I’m probably the last person you need to explain yourself to,” Louis says. “I get it, Liam. I really do. Now, go kiss your wife. Hug your baby. Go.”

“Thanks, Lou. See you in a couple of days?”

“We’ll visit as soon as you’re back home and settled,” Louis promises. “Now, go.”

Liam practically jogs out of the waiting room, and Louis can’t help but snicker as he pulls his mobile out of his pocket and opens up a new message.

On my way back. Liam’s a total sap. xx

Harry’s reply comes through a while later, just as Louis is starting the car.

Sap’s good. Also good: all 4 kids asleep and none of them in our bed \o/! xx

Louis’s finger hits the call button almost before he’s finished reading. He fumbles a little to get his earpiece in and then puts the car in drive and starts looking for the exit.

Harry picks up on the second ring. “Thought that’d get your attention.”

“Worst kind of tease, you are,” Louis says, turning his car around another corner.

“Mhm,” Harry agrees happily. “I’m also naked. And wet. Up to three fingers and thinking about adding a fourth. You think I should?”

Louis very narrowly avoids hitting the little ticket booth at the parking garage exit.

“I think,” he says, willing his voice to sound more or less normal, “that you are a menace. An evil menace. I have no idea why I even like you right now.”

“You love me,” Harry replies lazily, his breath hitching a little on the last word, and, God, Louis should really not think about what that little sound means when he’s speeding out of a parking garage and trying to overtake a lorry.

“I do,” he says instead, feeling the little happy tug in his heart that always comes with thinking about Harry. “Love you like mad. Completely off my tit about you.”

“Same here,” Harry says. “Now, come home.”

Home, right now, is about twenty-five minutes away, but it’s the middle of the night, and the roads are almost empty. Louis thinks about Harry’s hands—opening Harry up, getting him more and more desperate—and presses his right foot against the gas.

He can probably make it in fifteen.