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I Had Rather Hear My Dog Bark At A Crow

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"Someone's being a complainy pop star," Matt Fincham says, in between Ellie Goulding's Burn and the new song from The Saturdays.

Nick doesn't bother trying to hide that he's looking at Louis' Twitter page on his work computer. It's important, keeping on top of current affairs, and it isn't just the fact that Nick is still angry and resentful at Louis for fucking with his head that keeps him coming back to refresh the page.

"Boo hoo," Nick says, not really caring that he's live to the nation, guilt sitting heavy in his stomach for fucking with Louis right on back. "You can't come out of your hotel because of all the photographers, what a hard life you must have." He'd finally sent Louis a text last night that just said, so we should probably talk. But Louis hadn't bothered replying, so Nick's not all that bothered about making nice to him on the radio any more. His phone's on silent on the desk and it doesn't immediately light up with an apologetic text message from the other side of the world saying, yes, let's talk, closely followed up by, let's have sex again when I get back but not secret this time, then, how do you feel about being my boyfriend? So Nick's not about to retract his previous statement.

Apart from all of that, he really has had it up to here with complainy pop stars who whine about how good they have it, and who walk out of Nick's life but don't ever really leave, and have fucked him up for months. He's tired of people who don't want to talk about the fact that they were in a fucking relationship whether they called it that or not.

Of course, it escalates from there, and Louis snipes at him on Twitter with a tweet that just says @grimmers < @chrisdjmoyles, and the whole internet goes into some kind of hysteria induced meltdown.

Nick hates all of it. His life was better when he got to pin Louis to the bed at semi-regular intervals, and it's worse now he doesn't get to do that anymore. Everything else can go fuck itself. He does the rest of the show, and sits through the meetings he has to sit through. Then he goes home and does useful things like whining at his dog about how crap his love life is, and washes the sheets because it's about time he was less revolting, and it's been months since they smelled like Louis anyway.

Christ, this is not the way Nick ever saw his life going.


The first time Louis Tomlinson kisses him, Nick is three sheets to the wind, wearing a pirate hat, and so fucking tired of Louis being a complete and utter knobhead that he's spent the last ten minutes snapping at him.

The kiss takes him rather by surprise, all things considered.


Louis Tomlinson is right up there at the top of Nick's mental list of pop stars that piss him off. Sometimes he thinks that he needs a separate list in which Louis takes each of the top three medal-winning places, because Louis can be such a total and utter prick at times that he deserves to be recognised three times over as a complete cuntbucket.

Louis has, over the years, made such stalwart attempts at boat rocking as a) spending entire evenings referring to Nick as Mick, b) telling everyone around them—on multiple occasions—that his favourite DJ is Moylesy, c) drunkenly called Nick a dirty old perv for fancying Harry—which is wrong on a multitude of levels—and d) spent the great majority of any time spent in Nick's vicinity being a pain in the fucking arse to such a degree that Nick has had to physically restrain himself from pushing Louis out of a window. Any window.

Frankly, Nick has no fucking clue why Harry or any of the others put up with him at all, apart from the fact that Harry maintains that Louis' level of fuckwittery only reaches record levels of annoyingness when he's within a five mile radius of Nick, which is yet another thing that puts Nick's back up. Nick is a nice person. He likes puppies, and having a laugh. He hasn't ever, by any stretch of the imagination, ever kicked any relative of Louis', or made fun of his cat, or personally insulted his nan. He may—possibly—have intimated on potentially more than one occasion that Louis isn't allowed as many solos as the others for a reason, but the point remains that he only ever started doing that after Louis declared Nick fair game for constantly sniping at.

Anyway, the point stands, because Louis Tomlinson started this, and Nick doesn't back down from shitweasels like Louis having a go at him every time they get a chance, and—get this—Nick's been doing this longer, and he will snipe back harder.

It's entirely possible that Nick's friends have had to hear Nick's elongated drunken monologue on the subject of Louis Tomlinson more than once, because firstly, Nick is single-minded when it comes to objects of frustration, and secondly, he doesn't actually fucking understand why Louis hates him in the first place, and it might not seem like it, but Nick actually quite likes it when things make sense.

This is partly why he gave up watching Lost.


"Louis Tomlinson's a cuntbucket," he says, dropping his phone down into Aimee's hand and sinking down onto the sofa. Aimee promptly shifts so that her feet are in Nick's lap.

"What's he done now? And what happened to you promising Harry not to call him names?"

Nick rolls his eyes. "Never happened. Anyway, I wouldn't call him anything if he wasn't such a prick to me all the time. Look what he's just sent me."

For someone who hates Nick as much as Louis says he hates Nick, he's spent quite a considerable amount of time drawing willies onto the poster of Nick he's taken a picture of and texted to him.

"Huh," Aimee says. "I think he's really captured the essence of you."

Nick snorts, and pokes Aimee in the ankle. "Shut up. I'm more than just dick. Actually, that's not a bad thing to be. I should tell him he's summed me up perfectly. I have more cock than the average man."

"If you say so." She pats his leg. "Is he going to be at Caroline's costume party on Friday?"

Nick makes an argh sound, like a pirate. He tips his head back against the sofa. "Probably. Who's stupid idea was fancy dress, anyway? I hate fancy dress."

"You do not," Aimee says, contentedly. Thurston's watching them from the coffee table, head cocked to one side. Nick really wants a dog of his own. "You love dressing up. It's like being the centre of attention, and everyone knows how you love that."

"Shut it, love." He doesn't deny it, but he does take his phone back. He types in, nothing better to do with your time, darling? and presses send.

Can't help it. I see your face and I have to stop to draw knobs all over it. It's a compulsion.

You should get that seen to, mate. He thumbs his phone locked and drops it down on the arm of the sofa. His phone doesn't vibrate again, and Nick steals the remote back off Aimee to find something better to watch than BBC fucking 4.


Caroline's party spills out of her kitchen and down into the living room and over into the dining room and into the hall. Nick finds himself sitting on the stairs with Harry, tapping his glass against Harry's and watching the ice cubes do a little happy ice cube dance around his rum and ginger beer. They're as happy as he is, although Nick's happiness probably has a lot to do with the multiple jugs of dark and stormy cocktails he's downed in the last few hours. It feels like an appropriate choice of drink for a pirate.

Nick had had a parrot at some point, sitting on his shoulder, but it has probably been lost to the party gods, never to be seen again. It's certainly disappeared from his shoulder, in any case. At least he's still got the hat and the eye patch. "Your costume's good," he says to Harry, which is probably not the first time he's said that this evening.

Harry laughs, and pulls his horse's head back up and over his head. He neighs, and then forgets he's wearing the head and tries to take a gulp of his cocktail. It ends up splashing down his horse costume.

Nick snorts. "You idiot."

Harry pulls back his hood and grins. "Whoops."

Music pounds through the house, whoever's taken over DJing doing a fairly successful slide from The Lumineers Ho Hey to What Makes You Beautiful. There's a general whoop from across the party, and Harry hides his face in his hands even as Louis stumbles out of the living room into the hall, one arm in the air.

Louis grins at Harry, but his expression hardens when he sees Nick. He turns around abruptly, wrapping an arm around Niall's shoulders.

"His costume's crap," Nick says, because it's either crap or totally fucking inspired, and Nick doesn't like to say nice things about Louis Tomlinson, because Louis doesn't ever say anything nice about Nick, and Nick's fucking nice, damn it. He pokes Harry in the leg. "You should tell him that."

Louis has come to the party dressed as fucking God. He's wearing an overcoat, and it has a little name badge on one side that just says "God" in purple felt tip. He keeps handing out little slips of paper that say things like A PLAGUE OF LOCUSTS. He's meting out justice, apparently, which might explain why Nick currently has three pieces of paper in his pocket, all of which say a variant of some kind of pestilence-filled imminent death. One of them says, CRUSHED BY A RAIN OF FROGS, which would at least be an interesting way to go. On the back, Louis has clearly scrawled as an afterthought, and you'd get BOILS too. Which is nice.

"Tell him yourself," Harry says, poking him back. "I don't know why you two don't like each other, you know. I like you both."

"Alas, Harold, you will have to speak to him. The ways of the Tomlinson mind are lost to me. And all other reasonable souls. I'm a very likeable person."

"You wind him up something rotten," Harry points out, which Nick doesn't deny is the absolute truth, because watching Louis get purple in the face and have to clench his fists to keep from hitting him is a joy in and of itself at times. "You know how to push all of his buttons."

"The fact we have not punched each other by now is a fucking miracle, I know." Nick makes a face. "Sorry, love. I don't set out to make him go all purple, but he does my head in."

"You do his too."

The sad thing is, it hadn't always been like this. The first couple of times they'd met, they'd had a bit of a laugh together. Nick had actually thought they might end up friends, but then Louis had turned out to be an utter fuckweasel whose prime aim in life seemed to be driving Nick mad, and Nick had had to stop himself throwing the contents of the nearest fruit bowl at Louis' head.

"It's not my fault," Nick maintains, downing the rest of his drink. "He started it."

"I love you both," Harry says, "and you're both driving me mad. " He finishes his drink too, tapping his empty glass against Nick's. "Come on, let's get another one."

"You go," Nick says. "I'm just going to go for a whizz. Follow you in a minute." He takes the stairs two at a time up to the bathroom, which is potentially a bad idea bearing in mind how much he's drunk. He tries to spell his name as he wees, but the little flourish he adds to the k means he gets it on the seat. He wipes it up with some toilet roll, and then heads back downstairs to the party, still singing What Makes You Beautiful even though whoever's in charge of the music has moved them on to Disclosure and Aluna George.

Louis' in the kitchen with Harry. Nick rolls his eyes as Louis rolls his. This must have been what it was like in the wild west, at high noon. He's not sure Aluna George is the best soundtrack.

"Louis Tomlinson," he says, coming over to Harry's side to grab his drink.

"Nick Grimshaw," Louis says, raising his glass and his eyebrow in perfect synchronisation. "Still haemorrhaging listeners?"

"Oh," Nick says, wrinkling his nose. "Still not allowed as many solos as the rest of the lads, huh? Shame."

"For fuck's sake," Harry says. "Do you think the two of you could try being less awful to each other for five seconds?"

"I'll stop if he stops," Louis says, tilting his chin up at Nick, like a challenge.

"I didn't start this." Nick's absolutely clear on that. He quite likes being nice to people, in general. Louis Tomlinson is like an extra special pain in the bloody arse sent to make his life even more of a trial than it usually is.

"Brilliant. I don't suppose either of you want to be the one that finishes it, either?" Harry makes a face. "I'm going to go and talk to Olly. Can you two at least try and figure out a way you can stop putting me in the middle? You're both my friends. My best friends."

Nick does, in fact, feel guilty about that. He watches Harry leave the kitchen, and leans back against the counter top. "So," he says. "Shall we declare a ceasefire for a bit?" It's a bit too chilly for jorts, but he couldn't be an authentic pirate in a full length trouser, so jorts in February it is. He crosses his feet at the ankle. Louis' got bare ankles too. Doesn't he ever feel the cold? He's always in a rolled up jean. "You didn't come out for Harry's birthday last week."

Louis looks him up and down. "No," he says. "Can you really not find any friends your own age? Does hanging around with Harry make you feel less middle-aged?"

"For fuck's sake," Nick rolls his eyes again. "Do you ever stop?" He pours more cocktail into his glass. It looks different to the booze he's already drinking, but what the fuck ever. Louis is driving him to drink. "I'm going out for a cig."

He taps his pocket to see if he's got a fag in there. Caroline's bound to have one sneakily hidden somewhere in the kitchen if not, but it's okay. There's a crumpled packet of ten Benson and Hedges in his shirt pocket, and a super fucking cheap pound shop multipack lighter in the pocket of his jorts. It'll do. God, Louis makes him so annoyed. He steps out the kitchen door into Caroline's garden, and the biting February cold. He ends up walking all the way down to the back fence, and the raggedy old excuse for a shed that was here when Caroline moved in, and he kicks it once for good measure.

On the plus side, it doesn't fall down, which Nick takes as a win. There's always that worry with Caroline's shed. It's kept up by sheer will alone, most of the time. Every time it gets really windy they all look out of Caroline's kitchen window and take bets on whether it'll last the night. It always does. Half the time Nick's convinced the shed will outlast all of them, defying the laws of gravity to remain standing right up until the apocalypse comes.

He lets out a breath round his unlit cigarette, fumbling with the lighter in the darkness. He doesn't get it lit until the fourth try, which is four tries too long for Nick's liking. Nick hates waiting for anything. It just gives him longer to get annoyed at Louis, anyway. More annoyed. Louis is too smart for his own good. He's like a tiny ball of yappy annoyingness. Louis Tomlinson is the Jack Russell of humans.

Fucking hell, it's freezing. He's going to die of cold out here.

"No, but seriously," Louis says, coming up behind him. "Why do you hang around with Harry?"

"Oh my god," Nick says, trying not to choke on his cigarette. "I only came out here to get away from you. What part of me storming off did you think was an invitation for you to follow me?"

"That was you storming off?" Louis' shivering, arms wrapped around himself. He's in his fucking God overcoat and he's cold. Nick's pirate leans more towards being a fair weather kind of pirate, which is quite bad planning considering Caroline's party is in the first week of February, and not in, like, August. "He's only nineteen. Why do you like him so much?"

Nick is really, really bored of this. He's bored of it from the newspapers, and he's bored of it from the gossip sites, and he's really, really fucking bored of it from Louis fucking Tomlinson. "You are such a fucking knobhead," he says, taking a long drag on his ciggie. "We're friends. That's it. You're worse than the fucking Mirror."

"It's weird," Louis goes on. There is a whole party going on inside. A whole party full of people, half of whom Louis knows, and the other half of whom would probably kill to know Louis. Nick's the only person here that Louis actively hates, and yet he's the one Louis won't leave the fuck alone. Fucking hell.

"I'm a DJ, he's a pop star. What's weird about that? You know how ace Harry is, right?" God, why is he trying to justify this? Both he and Harry are fine with how good friends they are, and the fact that they constantly, constantly have to justify their friendship to everyone is the worst kind of pain in the arse.

"He's really ace," Louis agrees. "You don't fancy him, do you?"

Nick lets out a nice, long, calming breath. He doesn't kick Louis in the shin, or lob an apple at his head, or push him over into the damp grass. He just thinks some nice, Zen thoughts about mindfulness and the damp chill in the air, and doesn't visualise punching Louis in the face at all. He takes a nice long drag of his cigarette instead.


Nick closes his eyes, just for a moment. "No," he says finally, and this might be the nine millionth time he's answered this question from interfering busybodies who can't leave him the fuck alone. "I don't fancy him, and he doesn't fancy me. You can stop worrying about his virtue now. He's safe with me."

"But—" Louis says, and he sounds weird, kind of strangled and confused. Nick genuinely does not understand Louis Tomlinson at all.

"Seriously, what the fuck do you want from me?" Nick asks. He drops his cigarette down into the grass, mostly done with it and bored of holding it now. "You're everywhere I go."

"God," Louis says, and his voice catches, which is—

—which is weird, and—

Louis closes the two steps between them, and covers Nick's mouth with his own, cutting off Nick's strangled what the fuck with a kiss.

"Jesus Christ," Nick says, as Louis pulls back. He grabs onto Louis' wrist. "What the—"

"Shut up, just shut the fuck up," Louis says, and he sounds desperate. "Why won't you ever shut the fuck up?"

Nick's heart pounds. "Louis—"

Louis kisses him again, shutting him up and pushing him back until Nick's backed up against the shed. Nick drops his glass, and he can feel the remains of his cocktail splash over his shoe and up to his ankle. The glass breaks, but Louis doesn't stop kissing him, his tongue in Nick's mouth. Nick hates him, he hates him, Louis drives him round the fucking twist and there is no social situation that isn't improved by Louis not being there, but he finds himself kissing Louis back, pushing Louis backwards until they're tripping over nothing and landing full length in the damp, cold, February grass, Nick kneeling over him and time standing still.

"Fuck," Nick says, freezing cold and wet through and fucking confused.

Louis' hands fist in Nick's shirt, and they're both breathing rough and loud, the noise of the party muted down here in the corner of the garden. Nick's knees are fucking killing him, having taken the full impact of his fall, and nothing about the last two minutes has made any sense at all.

Nick presses the palm of his hand to Louis' stomach, and Louis flinches. He twists his gaze away from him, pushing Nick away, but Nick stays where he is.

The seconds stretch away from them both, endless and bewildering. The only light is from the lamp outside the kitchen door, but it doesn't stretch as far as the shed, and there are only shadows in the darkness, and their combined breathing, loud in the night.

Louis is hard, his erection pressing up against Nick's arse.

Nick's heart pounds, even as he jolts forward and presses his mouth to Louis' again. He cups Louis' cheek in his cold, muddy palm and kisses him, and Louis surges up to meet him, kissing him back, lips bitten and breath harsh.

There is literally no possible world in which this isn't the worst decision either of them have ever made, but Louis tugs on Nick's shirt, pulling him even closer, and Nick kisses him over and over again, fierce and hard. The cold seeps up from beneath them, and they're both shivering, Nick's teeth chattering even as Louis kisses him. Nick has no fucking idea what the hell is going on. Like, literally less than zero.

He pulls away, sitting back on his heels. He's going to die of cold out here; he's sure he's made his knees bleed stumbling down onto the grass.

"Get the fuck off me," Louis says, in a small voice. He pushes, hard, hand to the centre of Nick's chest. "Get off me."

"You kissed me," Nick says, but he's stumbling to his feet anyway, backing away. His hands are shaking. The rest of him is shivering, though, so where one stops and the other begins is no one's business but his own. He leans against the shed, begging it to hold his weight. "God, what the fuck was that?"

"It was nothing," Louis said, wiping his mouth. "It was—" his voice catches. "Christ. It was fucking nothing, okay?" He's already walking away, going back towards the house like the two of them didn't just snog the fucking faces off each other in Caroline Flack's garden in the middle of the fucking night. "Just fuck off, Grimmy, all right? Just fuck off."

Well, Nick thinks, tipping his head back to thunk against the shed wall. He hadn't seen that one coming.


It's just Nick's luck that the first person he sees when he turns up at the pub for lunch on Sunday is Louis Fucking Tomlinson. He's not surprised that Louis is there, it's Lou and Sam Teasdale's pre-tour Sunday lunch extravaganza and everyone's invited, but it's just his luck that Louis is in his face from the very first second he walks through the fucking door.

Louis fixes his gaze on Nick for the briefest of brief moments, before it shifts past him and onto someone else, like Nick's not even there.

Rude, Nick thinks. The least that Louis could do after snogging the face off of him on Friday is acknowledge Nick exists, for fuck's sake. It's not like Nick could forget, because he'd skinned both knees falling over—like a little kid—and he's currently sporting Hello Kitty plasters on both knees. He'd had to sneak through that party with mud everywhere and his brain doing the equivalent of a backwards upside down Tom Daley ten metre dive type thing, which was probably complicated enough at the best of times without trying to do it on top of a million and one rum cocktails. He'd slipped out without even saying goodbye to Caroline, because Caroline is fucking brilliant, but she's also clever enough to see "secret garden assignation" in two muddy knees and Nick's hair all messed up, and she'd never shut up about it given half a chance. Luckily she's not here today, otherwise he'd have to explain why he slipped out early, and without saying goodbye.

The pub doesn't really seem to know what's hit it, which is a fairly good summing up of events, if Nick's honest. They've got the entire upstairs function room and bar just for them, and maybe the bar staff were expecting a granny's eightieth birthday party or something, but what they've got is all five members of One Direction, many associated friends and workmates and band techs and radio DJs and old friends of Tom's from The Paddingtons. If the bar staff are any kind of clever, they will be able to foresee the carnage that lies in their future with some ease. Nick dumps his stuff down onto one of the seats round the table that takes the whole length of the room, and plots his route to the bar.

He picks the one that takes him by Sam (great big belly hug and rubbing his nose into her hair), two of One Direction's security team that he's not sure he ever knew the names of, Lou's friend Mizzy who once threw up into a pint glass at one of Nick's parties (tentative one-armed hug and a kiss on the cheek), Niall, who's on his way to the gents (giant, massive hug, bit breathless afterwards) and Harry, who holds his phone out to show Nick a picture of a hedgehog wearing a party hat and sitting in the middle of a huge arm chair like he owns the place.

"Brilliant," Nick agrees, leaning in to press a kiss to the top of Harry's head. Harry's sitting on one of the stools at the bar, and he grins up at Nick like he's just found the secret to serenity, and it's hedgehog-shaped.

"Do you know," Harry tells him, tapping his fingers against the Black Sheep bar towel, "that it is illegal to own a hedgehog as a pet in the state of New York?"

"I did not," Nick says. "What happens if you find a hedgehog in your garden with a broken leg, and you bring it in and put it in a box with a blanket and some milk in a bowl? Are the police going to come round and arrest you?"

"Might do," Harry says. "Not supposed to give them milk, though. Water, according to this." He waves his phone in Nick's direction.

"Are you drunk?"

"A bit," Harry grins. "Where'd you disappear to on Friday night?"

Nick definitely does not glance back over his shoulder towards where Louis is holding court at the other end of the bar. "Ah," he says. "Had a deep and meaningful relationship with the inside of my toilet bowl on Friday night. Dark and fucking stormy indeed."

"Didn't think you were as drunk as all that."

"Well—and here's some advice for you, you young soul, and mind you take this to heart now that you're about to jet off on your world tour—"

"To the far reaches of Nottingham and Birmingham," Harry interjects.

Nick flicks him in the shoulder. "Don't interrupt, Harold. I'm giving you free life advice. If you've drunk the best part of a bottle of Captain Morgan's, don't fucking give in to that little voice in your head that says, you know what would make this evening better? A kebab. Because—and I'm telling you this for free—it doesn't mix. No good can come of a late night kebab." It is, of course, a lie. Nick had spent the rest of his Friday night at home in his living room picking mud out of the cuts on his knees and feeling bewildered. The bewilderment hadn't lessened with time, even though he was mostly convinced all the mud had gone.

Louis Tomlinson had kissed him. And he'd kissed back. Christ.

"Gotcha," Harry says. He elbows Nick in the side. "You going to miss me when I'm gone?"

"Dunno," Nick tells him. "Expect I might think of you once or twice. Maybe when you're sleeping on a bus and it's raining and someone's puked on your favourite hoodie, you might think about me."

"With your alarm going off in the middle of the night."

Nick laughs at that. "Fair enough. You want a drink?" He rests his elbow on the bar, Visa card in his hand. The barman's busy down at the end of the bar pouring shots for Louis and Niall and whoever else Louis' caught in his thrall. Louis isn't trying to drive any of them mad by constantly sniping. Even now, when Louis' attention is elsewhere, Nick can feel frustration settling in his stomach, because Louis doesn't like him—Louis really doesn't like him—and Nick still has no fucking idea why.

Also, he always has his ankles out on show, and it's fucking February. Dickhead.

"Jack Daniels and Coke, please." Harry slides his empty glass over until it's bumping up against Nick's fingers, cool condensation sliding down the edge of the glass and over Nick's knuckles. He must see where Nick's looking, because he taps his fingers on the inside of Nick's wrist, and says, "Did you and Louis declare a ceasefire on Friday, or what? Because Lou and Sam have done place settings for us all and he's down at the end by us."

"I'll just swap the cards around," Nick tries for off-hand, but isn't sure if he manages it or not.

Harry frowns, just as the barman arrives to take their order. Nick orders a couple of JD and Cokes—well, Diet Coke for him—and relents.

"Fine," he says. "I'll be nice to him if he's nice to me, all right?"

Harry raises an eyebrow.

"Okay, whatever, I'll be nice to him first. Better?"

"Better," Harry says. "And mind you try and hide from Liam when he comes round. He's got it into his head we should all try a local delicacy everywhere we go on tour, and he's starting here, today."

The pub is a fairly standard, middle of the road gastro-pub, probably chosen because of its huge function room and lack of other clientele wanting to take it over all day on a Sunday. Nick can't imagine that it's particularly famed for any kind of local delicacy. "What?"

"Ah," Harry says, knocking his foot into Nick's shin. "The scampi fry. He bought five packets. They smell like death. Run, don't walk, when you see him coming."

"Amazing. What do you think he's going to serve you in Nottingham?"

"Who knows," Harry says. "I'm pretty sure he's going to start handing round pork scratchings at some point. Seriously, though. You and Louis."

For a moment, Nick freezes, sure that Harry means, Nick and Louis k-i-s-s-i-n-g, and not Nick and Louis, endless enemies for no discernable reason that Nick knows of, but if there's a fruit bowl around Louis had better duck because Nick's a dab hand at aiming an apple. But it's clear that he doesn't, because his eyes are hopeful, and not bewildered or baffled, which is mostly Nick's expression whenever he thinks about Louis fucking Tomlinson, and the odd as fuck kiss that Nick still doesn't quite understand. "What about us?" he tries for light-hearted. He is a radio personality for a reason, and he's quite good at pretending with his voice, even if the rest of him doesn't quite follow.

"Could you at least try and be nice to each other? Just for today?"

Nick sighs. "Fine. I'll be nice to Louis. I won't call him an attention-seeking poser, and—"

"Nice, Grimshaw."

Seriously, Louis Tomlinson has got to stop sneaking up behind Nick when Nick doesn't expect it. He really has. Nick turns around and leans on the bar, and tries to affect an expression of lazy I don't care about you, or your surprise drunken kisses, alongside a relaxed sort of leaning thing. "Hello, Louis Tomlinson."

Louis looks distinctly unimpressed, which is mostly par for the course when it comes to the way Louis looks at Nick, but his cheeks are just the tiniest bit pink, which Nick suspects is all the recognition of Friday night he's going to get. "I'm an attention-seeking poser?" Louis raises his eyebrows. "Do you recognise yourself in that at all? Like, you know, pot, kettle, black, mirror, you—"

"Hush there," Nick says, keeping his movements deliberately lazy even though inside he'd really quite like to kick Louis repeatedly in the shins. Possibly in the knees, to get him back for Friday night. "Don't get yourself all worked up, love, you'll do yourself an injury. Can't risk that, can we? Who'll sing all your solos?"

Harry kicks him in the ankles. Hard. "Nicholas."

"All right, all right. I'm sorry. Louis, I won't call you an attention-seeking poser any more. Promise."

A muscle pulses in Louis' cheek. "Still losing listeners, Nick?"

Nick is losing listeners, and he knows as well as the next person that there's a very good chance he's being set up to fail on the Breakfast Show, but he quite likes it if people don't bring that the fuck up. "Darling," he says, lazily keying in his pin on the card machine the barman passes over to him. "Haven't you already used that one?"

"Louis," Harry says, in a voice laced with slow warning. "Nick. This is the last time you two have to see each other for I don't know how long—" the fact that both Nick and Louis fold their arms and look in opposite directions at this is something that Nick isn't commenting on, "—so do you think that for the next two hours you could actually try and make me remember why I'm friends with you both? Because right now I can't remember why I like either of you. And I'm in a place of hedgehog-related serenity."

The fact that Louis looks puzzled at that, whilst Nick knows the inner workings of Harry's Zen mind, is not something for Nick to be pleased about, but there is a significant part of him right this second that wants to stick his tongue out and say, yeah, I get that and you don't. It's okay, Nick's never going to admit to that. "Fine," he says. "Sorry, Hazza. Louis, let's just, you know, not talk to each other for a bit. All right?"

Their sniping has never really ended up in mean before, but it feels like it's been edging its way there recently. He doesn't actually like that all that much; he'd quite like to store all of his acerbic wit up and use it on people who deserve it, like The Wanted, or that knobhead from Blue who says stupid crap about elephants. Lee Ryan.

"Fine," Louis says finally, and when he glances over at Nick his cheeks are pink, and Nick is suddenly reminded of Louis' erection pressed up against Nick's arse on Friday night. He flushes at that, and looks away, grabbing his glass and giving it a bit of a shake so that the ice cubes bump into each other and do their little clinking ice cube dance thing.

When he looks up again, Lou's coming over, Lux in her arms, and both Louis and Harry light up like it's Christmas. How Louis can be the awful, horrible, no-good Louis that Nick sees, and at the same time be this Louis, who is already making terribly silly faces at Lux and pretending that she's bopped him on the nose with her tiny toddler fist, is something that Nick honestly doesn't understand.

He knows he's staring, but if he could figure out the inside of Louis Tomlinson's head just by looking, his whole world would be a vastly less confusing place.

"Hiya, Nick," Lou says, and leans in to kiss him on the cheek. He kisses the corner of her mouth, and then makes a silly face at Lux, who looks a little quizzically at him, and then holds her hand up for a high five. Nick is good with tiny babies, and he is good with children, who appreciate him. He is less good with toddlers, and anyway, he's standing next to Louis, who apparently is a god in human form when it comes to children. He hates him for it, just a little bit. He's also bewildered by it, but bewilderment appears to be a fairly standard emotion when it comes to Louis Tomlinson, so he tries to let it pass.

"Give her here," Harry says, beckoning Lux into his arms. Lou gives her up without a fuss, and Lux settles happily on Harry's hip, Louis leaning in to delight her with yet more very stupid faces. Nick swallows down the urge to tell him to be careful in case his face sticks like that, but Harry is right. This is two hours of Nick's life, and then Louis is fucking off on tour for the next millennia with Harry and the others, and Nick can draw a line under Friday night's odd kissing experience and move the fuck on.

Except Louis looks up at him from under dark eyelashes, and his cheeks are pink, and all Nick can remember is what it felt like to kiss him in Caroline's garden on Friday night, and quite frankly, that's something he'd rather forget. His knees would certainly like to forget. He's running out of Hello Kitty plasters, for a start.

"Lou," he says, resting his forehead on her shoulder. "Lou, my pretty. Is it time to eat yet?"

Lou laughs, and pats him on the head. "In a minute. Liam's around somewhere with the remains of those scampi fries if you're peckish."

Nick wrinkles his nose up in distaste. "I'll have another drink instead," he says, because surely the calorific content of a Jack Daniels is better for him than a stench-ridden bog-snack like a scampi fry.

Lou rolls her eyes at him. "Still not a food group, love."

"I'll have a wine," Nick says, resting his elbows on the bar and deliberately not looking at Louis, who is either making faces in Nick's general direction or doing a very good impression of someone who is. "It's a grape, I'm counting it as one of my five-a-day."

Harry snorts at that, then bumps his foot into Nick's. "Get me one too, will you?"

"Make it a bottle," Lou says, "and charge it to the table, may as well get started."

Nick doesn't look at Louis, not once. "Right on, Teasdale. Let's get this party started," he says, and leans over the bar to catch the barman's attention.


Alcohol really is quite the crutch for modern living. It's really quite the crutch for any kind of living, actually, and if Nick is halfway through a beautifully crafted monologue on the glory of the grape, it's only because he's probably managed to down a bottle of wine by himself, and Harry keeps on laughing at him across the table.

"Shut it, Styles," he says, kicking him under the table. "I'm being beautiful about wine, because wine is beautiful and wine is my friend."

"I'm filming this," Harry says, holding his phone up.

"Make sure you get my good side." He turns one cheek towards Harry, and tilts his chin up. "How's this?"

"It'll do," Harry says. "My mum says hi, by the way. She's just texted."

"Hi, Harry's mum." Nick really is quite gloriously drunk. It's delicious. What's also delicious is this roast dinner; in a fit of enthusiasm they'd ordered five extra side orders of roast potatoes for the table, all overcome by the mountain of Yorkshire puddings and roast beef and gravy and roasties already promised by the menu. At his end of the table, Harry's mostly laughing at them, Nick's on his seventh, and Louis is eyeing up the two remaining ones with something nearing rabid desperation.

Louis isn't taking any roast potatoes, potentially because he thinks that Nick has spread his Nick-germs all over them and if Louis eats one, he will start wearing his hair in a magnificently fashioned quiff and suddenly grow a foot and a half until he's actually human sized.

"You're tiny," Nick says, pointing his fork at Louis.

"Nicholas," Harry says, dropping his forehead to the tablecloth. There's a large splodge of gravy there; Nick suspects Harry's just landed his face in it. He always did have beautiful aim.

"I'm not being mean," Nick says, still waving his fork in Louis' direction. "That wasn't mean, was it?"

Louis is little and has tiny hands and Nick shouldn't be noticing that kind of thing about him, because Louis is like a Tasmanian devil in human form, and nobody wants to kiss a Tasmanian devil. He's very tempted to start singing the Taz-mania theme song, and he has to force himself not to start singing, down in Taz-mania, come to Taz-mania. The only thing that stops him is the knowledge that he was watching that when Louis and Harry were teeny tiny playschool babies. Well, Harry. Nick suspects Louis sprung from the womb fully formed and ready to strike.

Wine's great.

"Depends," Louis says, slowly. Sometimes Nick will say something to Louis, and Louis' eyes will get all sharp like he's gearing himself up for attack. Nick really doesn't understand why Louis only looks like that at him, and at shit interviewers who ask them terrible questions, when he really isn't anything like those awful interviewers who want to know the ins and outs of their private lives. Nick just wants to stop constantly sniping with Louis, since it stopped being fun about a million years ago. "Is it mean if I tell you you're tall?"

"No," Nick says.

"What about if I said your hair was rubbish? Is that mean?"

"Not the hair," Nick says. Harry is still resting his face on the tablecloth, but at least he's shifted so it's just his cheek in the gravy splodge now. He's watching them both with a look of fond exasperation on his face, except the fond part is sort of lacking a bit. "Leave the hair alone." He pats his hair in an affectionate, I still love you baby, kind of a way.

Louis has a little squeaky voice, and tiny hands, and Nick doesn't like him one little bit.

He does, however, like this wine.

"You stop making fun of my height, I'll stop telling you your hair's shit," Louis tells him, sounding fairly equable. He pours himself another glass of wine. They should probably get more wine. If they have one more course left of this meal, then Nick is going to need another bottle of wine to stop him pelting Louis with the remaining roast potatoes. Louis steals one of the potatoes, and take a bite. "And if you don't stop, I'll just start telling you how your constant need for attention makes you sound like a baby."

Nick takes a very long, very deep breath. "You are the most annoying person I've ever met," he says, because his acerbic wit and beautifully smart tongue are taking a break from working whilst he gets horribly drunk. "It is a giant surprise anyone likes you at all." He fumbles in his pocket for a cigarette. "You can finish the roasties. I'm going out for a fag before they bring out the sticky toffee pudding."

"Nick," Harry says, one cheek still pressed to the tablecloth.

"Leave it, Harry. I'll be back in in a bit."

He doesn't trip over on his way out of the function room, a feat of human achievement likely never equalled before this moment.

Nick takes the stairs downstairs really quite carefully, and heads off down the windy little corridor to where he's sure he saw a fire exit on the way in. He leans against the wall inside whilst he rolls himself a cigarette. Yes, he's back to pretending he's a student again and smoking rollies when he's drunk, but in his defence he'd spent all of yesterday having some kind of minor mental breakdown over snogging Louis Tomlinson, and on cleaning out his kitchen cupboards, he'd found half a packet of rolling tobacco and some liquorice Rizlas that were potentially a million years old. Smoking them had seemed like a better option than going down to the shops and buying a Cornetto and some Marlboro lights.

There really is nothing better than stale cigarettes and the taste of potential throat cancer of a Sunday afternoon.

By the time he's finished rolling his cigarette—poor, by the way, a good solid two-point-five out of ten—his opinion on Louis Tomlinson is fully formed: he is literally the most annoying person on the planet, and Nick has had it up to here with him.

He pushes open the fire door, propping it open with a casually lifted fire extinguisher from the bottom of the stairs, and steps outside into the freezing February afternoon.

On the plus side, it isn't raining, but on the downside, it looks like it might snow. Great. Nick's in his Converse, and only seventeen per cent of them are waterproof, and none of that is the soles.

He's just about to light his cig up when Louis comes out the fire door after him.

"Don't let it shut—" Nick warns, hand out, but it's too late. The door closes after them, locking. "Well, that's useful. Well done, short arse."

Louis shrugs, like he's not that bothered, and Nick's really, really had it with him. It's not like they're trapped in a locked room or anything—the fire exit clearly only leads out round the back of the pub, and they're next to the bins and opposite a really battered old Saab that doesn't look like it's been moved any time recently. Nick supposes if they just walk round the side they'll come out round the front of the pub, or if the worst comes to the worst they can bang on the kitchen windows, but the point stands: Louis is a knobhead.

"What did you do that for?" Nick asks again, since Louis still hasn't said anything. He's just standing there in his stupid rolled up jeans and his stupid Toms and his stupid stripy jumper like that whole look wasn't just dreamed up by One Direction's marketing team. His hair's all soft and kind of swoopy, and he's wearing the kind of fierce expression that Nick's learned to associate with Louis about to say something even more knobheady than usual, so Nick's trying to gear himself up to pretend not to care when Louis folds his arms.

"God," Louis says, chin jutting out. "Why are you—you're such a fucking arse, Grim." Barely anyone else calls him Grim. "You're always such a fucking arse."

"Says you," Nick says. "You're always winding me up. You're such a dickhead."

Louis doesn't say anything to that. A muscle pulses in his cheek, and Nick has no fucking idea what to do with him, he really doesn't. He hasn't got a clue.

"What the fuck do you want from me?" Nick asks, since he's an interviewer, and occasionally that means asking the difficult questions. "You're always in my face. It does my head in."

"God," Louis says again. He's looks about a second and a half away from stamping his foot. "Nick, fuck—"

Then Louis pushes Nick back against the wall and presses his mouth to Nick's.

It's not actually the answer Nick was anticipating and it takes a few seconds for his brain to catch up. "What the fuck?" he manages, because Louis' hands are cupping his face; then Louis' mouth covers his again, and Nick is sure he's supposed to be doing something right now that isn't kissing him the fuck back.

He drops his stupid fucking stale roll up on the ground, and shoves his phone into his back pocket before wrapping his hands around Louis' wrists. "Louis, fuck."

Louis shakes his head, not pulling away. "No," he says, pressing his mouth to Nick's again. "Shut up, shut up."

Nick can't think of a single thing to say, even if he did want to stop kissing Louis long enough to say anything. He tightens his grip on Louis' wrists, pushing them back until Louis trips backwards into a recycling bin with an oomph. Louis doesn't stop kissing him, and Nick doesn't stop kissing him back, even as he's shoving Louis back against the wall, letting go of him long enough to slide one hand into Louis' hair.

Louis stares at him, wild-eyed. His mouth is red and just-kissed; Nick did that. Louis takes a long, ragged intake of breath. He shoves his knee in between Nick's legs, angling it just right so that Nick's dick is brushing Louis' thigh. "Sometimes I fucking hate you. You're always there."

Nick bites down on Louis' bottom lip just to shut him up, and pushes him further back against the wall. "And you never bloody shut up," he says, using his hand to tilt Louis' head back so that he can mouth at Louis' jaw. "You're always in my face."

"God," Louis gasps out, as Nick licks a stripe down Louis' throat. "I hate you. Fuck, kiss me. Kiss me."

And Nick does, one hand to Louis' jaw, pinning Louis' shoulder to the wall with the other. Louis' hard against his thigh and Nick's hard too and he's never wanted to cover someone's body with his own the way he wants to do it to Louis here in this moment. He's probably having to stand on his tip toes just to kiss Nick, and something about that goes straight to Nick's dick, and then some. He kisses him again, just because he can, and then his phone's vibrating in his back pocket, and Nick's brought back to earth with a bump.

He steps back, one hand still to Louis' shoulder. He doesn't bother checking his phone to see who's trying to get in contact with him. "Christ," he says, after a moment. "Fucking hell."

Louis is bright-eyed. He doesn't step away from the wall, staying exactly where Nick had left him. Nick doesn't look down at the outline of Louis' dick in his jeans, or even up at Louis' face. He stares at a point just to the left of Louis' head instead, and clears his throat. "What are we doing?"

"God knows," Louis says, his voice rough. He tries to straighten up his jumper, adjusting himself in his jeans. Nick can't even look at that.

"Where did you say you were going?" Nick nods upstairs. He feels significantly more sober than he had done five minutes ago.

"Toilet," Louis says, after a moment. "Told Harry I was desperate."

Nick nods, looking the other way. "You go back first, then. Go on. I'll be up in a minute."

Louis waits a long time before moving, but Nick doesn't look back at him. He stares at the Saab instead, with its eighties paint job and rust all down one side. His next door neighbours had had a car like that when he was growing up; he'd watched Mr Hardcastle buff it up every Saturday morning with a range of equipment that had matched the insides of their local Halfords. He had about eight different sponges; it was bloody ridiculous. He'd always looked out the window at Mr Hardcastle every Saturday, and wondered why he never seemed to want to stay inside and watch Going Live or later, Live and Kicking.

When Louis' disappeared round the side of the pub, Nick takes advantage of the quiet to lean back against the wall and bury his face in his hands.

There are some benefits to Nick being a total fucking idiot with faintly horrendous adult life skills most of the time, but sometimes, he's just a knobhead who makes really, really awful life choices.

He's still hard, is the problem.

He's hard for Louis Tomlinson, and when the fuck did that happen, and how the hell does he make it stop?

He doesn't go back inside until after he's finished smoking the roll-up he'd picked up off the ground. If he's going to die of some kind of germy, ground-ridden disease he probably deserves it after snogging Louis Tomlinson for the second time. It's horrid but at least when he goes back up he'll smell like smoke and not like Louis.

He doesn't look over at Louis once when he gets back inside. He works the room instead, perching on Tom's lap and teasing Sam about the last time he'd seen her, drunk and sitting on the floor at Lou's. He waves at Zayn and claps Niall on the back and spends five minutes gossiping with Lou about everyone they've ever met and known. All the near misses and the might have beens. When they come round with the desserts, he nips down the table to lean over Harry's shoulder and grab his bowl from the other side of the table, blaming a really interesting conversation about Kim Kardashian for not wanting to come back down to their end. Harry doesn't mind, anyway; he's playing clapping games with Lux and hanging out with Prentice and some guy Nick doesn't know. He doesn't look at Louis, who's making silly faces at Lux and pretending Nick's not there.

If it wasn't for the fact that Louis' hair is fucked up and Nick knows he's the one that did that, he'd almost believe their little interlude outside had never happened.

Nick eats his sticky toffee pudding and custard perched on the corner of Sam's seat, elbow bumping hers. He's jittery and his knee keeps jiggling up and down; Sam stops it with a hand to his thigh.

"Too much caffeine," he lies. "Tell me all about your love life, Samantha. Let me live vicariously through the life and loves of Samantha Teasdale, come on. Shock me, baby."

She laughs, and leans into his side. "Nick, come on. Surely yours is more exciting than me. All those pop stars coming into the studio. Surely you've snogged one of them?"

"I'm a lonely celibate," Nick says, affecting a terribly sad face. "I just go home and watch Nigella on the cooking channels. Tell me who you got off with last, come on. I live vicariously through you."

She rolls her eyes, and launches into a story Nick doesn't listen to. At the other end of the table, Louis' watching him whilst Lux helps herself to his custard, with Harry's nimble help.

Nick swallows, and looks away. This isn't going to be a problem; it isn't.


The last person Nick expects to see on his doorstep is Louis Tomlinson.

So far Nick's night has consisted of the following: texting Collette, watching Eastenders whilst half-heartedly bickering with his mum on the phone about plans for Uncle Bill's birthday, and eating his way through a large, heart-shaped box of chocolates he'd got from Hotel Chocolat after work earlier, because it was the day after Valentine's Day and it was fifty per cent off. He's supposed to be hanging out with Annie, but she'd cancelled at the last minute because she either a) had food poisoning or b) morning sickness was a terrible lie and should be called twenty-four-hour sickness. He'd listened for a bit as she whined on over text about how uncomfortable her bathroom floor was, then he'd got bored and resorted to sending her messages filled with little prawn emoticons and sad faces for a while until she begged him to stop. He sends her the little poo one, just for fun.

He's rubbish on his own, honestly.

The doorbell goes just as he's trying to decide whether to suck it up and go the fuck out and find someone to party with because it's Friday, or to say fuck it, and get the Friends DVDs out.

He isn't expecting anyone, which is why he's wearing his favourite Britney Spears t-shirt and the jeans with his arse hanging out, so he attempts to pull a hoodie on as he pads down the hall to the door.

When he opens it, Louis' standing there, wearing skinny jeans and Vans and a denim jacket with a sheepskin lining. "Hi," he says, hands stuffed in the pockets of his jacket. He's got a beanie pulled down low over his hair, and a burgundy scarf knotted round his neck.

"Hi," Nick says, since he wasn't actually aware that Louis knew his address, or how to find him, or that they were the kind of perpetual enemies that made house calls. He keeps one hand on the Yale lock, just in case he has to repel boarders.

Louis swallows, bouncing on the balls of his feet. "Are you on your own?"

"I'm having a bangin' Friday night," Nick says, after a long moment where nothing happens and Louis Tomlinson is still the kind of fuckhead who's standing on his doorstep on a Friday night. Nick hasn't even been drinking.

"But are you with anyone?"

"No," Nick says, because he can't think of a way to lie, or any particular reason to. "All by myself."

"Good," Louis says, and barges past him into the hall. For a short arse, Louis can fill an astonishingly large amount of space. Nick really has to ask him how he does that, at a time when he's not baffled by his very existence, or at least by his presence. At least he knows that the universe is never going to give him an answer for why is Louis Tomlinson? no matter how many times he asks.

Nick closes the door, because there isn't much else to do when there's an uninvited guest in his hall who isn't showing any particular desire to leave again. "What are you doing here?" he asks finally, when thirty seconds of staring at Louis' face hasn't resulted in any cosmic answers. Louis is a bit unshaven though, which is new. The universe is a dickhead.

"I've got no fucking idea," Louis tells him, clenching his hands into fists and then stretching them out again, fingers wide. Nick hopes Louis doesn't intend to punch him. None of the kissing last weekend was his fault, and anyway, Nick is hopeless in a fight. He can do a bit of slapping and that's about it. It's no defence against any kind of fist. Louis rolls up onto the balls of his feet, and then down onto his heels again, an aborted step forward.

Nick's heart starts to pound.

"Don't make me say it," Louis begs, and Nick shakes his head, already stepping forward, already reaching for him, tugging him near. Louis fists his hand in Nick's hair, pulling him in, until Nick can feel Louis' hot breath against his mouth, and they're not kissing, they're not, but—"Please don't make me say it."

Nick pushes Louis back against the wall and kisses him, fierce and hard.

Louis gives in to it, mouth opening beneath Nick's, and Nick grabs Louis' wrists and slides his knee in between Louis' legs, bracketing him against the wall, keeping him there. He has to lean down to kiss him, and he has no idea how that's got him so hard so fast, but it has. He holds Louis' wrists up against the wall, and presses closer, and rolls his dick against Louis' hip. He kisses him again, open-mouthed and already breathless, Louis groaning against Nick's mouth as Nick holds him still.

Louis Tomlinson is just about the most annoying person in the entire history of the world, and he's like a tiny ferrety bouncing ball of frustration and endless irritation for Nick, and Nick just wants to shut him the fuck up, just for a bit, god. Louis bites down on Nick's bottom lip, and that fucking hurts. Nick's hips roll up, and he lets go of one of Louis' wrists so that he can tilt Louis' chin up, fingertips splayed across his jaw.

"Why are you so fucking annoying?" he asks, dragging his tongue over Louis' cheek, just to feel him squirm.

Louis tips his head back even more, half-exposing the long line of his throat under his scarf. Nick unknots the scarf, dropping it down onto the floor, and presses his mouth to Louis' throat, the faded remnants of his aftershave a chemical tang on his tongue.

"Dunno," Louis says, hand fisting in Nick's shirt. His head thunks back against the wall as Nick bites down in the curve of Louis' neck. "Same reason you're a fucking idiot."

Nick's not a fucking idiot. He's just—he's not. Or if he is, the only person who gets to say that about him is Nick himself. He shifts their position, bumping into the hall table with his thigh as they stumble away from the front door. Nick can't think about where they're heading, he just can't.

Louis trips into the table, and a pile of post and a picture of Nick's mum and dad go flying.

"Leave it," Nick says. He doesn't care.

Louis slides his hands into Nick's hair, tugging him down for another kiss. They stumble into the coat rack, and then into the living room door, kicking over the shoe rack.

"Don't even," Nick says, as Louis tries to pull away. He pushes Louis back against the wall, hands to his biceps. "I don't care."

"Thought you were house-proud," Louis snipes, but Nick just shakes his head, and crowds Louis even further back against the wall. He covers Louis' mouth with his own, just to shut him up, kissing him again, and again. He feels like he's drunk, but on what he has no idea. It can't be on Louis, because Louis is a fuckweasel with cuntbucket tendencies, and Nick hates him. He hates him as Louis kisses him, hard, and he hates him as Louis nips at Nick's bottom lip with his teeth. He hates that he's going to have fucking beard burn from Louis fucking Tomlinson, and he hates that they're almost at his bedroom door, and he hates that Louis being a total knobhead just makes Nick want to do this again, and harder.

Louis pinches him, and Nick makes a grab for his wrists, holding him still. Louis is hard against Nick's thigh, rocking down against him, whining into Nick's mouth, and Nick's never done anything like this before. Nick kisses him again, open-mouthed, walking him backwards across the bedroom and pushing him back onto the bed.

Louis goes easily, sprawled back over Nick's duvet. He's breathing hard, his cheeks flushed, his mouth red and bitten. He looks like he's been thoroughly debauched, and Nick's half bewildered that he's managed to do this to him. He's still in his fucking coat.

"Don't just stand there," Louis says, meanly. He shrugs out of his coat, dropping it over the side of the bed.

"Oi, manners," Nick says. He takes off his hoodie.

"Stop looking at me," Louis tells him. He bites his lip. "Come on. Fuck, Nick, just let's get this over with, all right?"

"You make it sound so perfect," Nick says, but he knows the feeling. Whatever the fuck is going on here between the two of them, the sooner it's over and done with, the better. He crawls over Louis, and Louis looks half-terrified, half-mean, but he grabs onto Nick's hips, trying to pull him closer, so he's clearly okay with where they're heading.

"Stop fucking teasing," Louis begs, fingers pulling at Nick's Britney t-shirt. "Come on, please." He pinches Nick again, just below his ribs. It really fucking hurts.

"Oi," Nick says, again. He makes a grab for Louis' wrists, lifting them above Louis' head. Louis has little hands, at least in comparison to Nick, and it's easy to wrap one hand round both of Louis' wrists and pin him to the bed.

Louis whines, his hips rocking up, wriggling. Nick reaches between them to cup Louis' dick in his other hand. He squeezes. Louis' so hard, and he's making these tiny, desperate, little sounds in his throat, rocking up into Nick's hand. "God, will you just stay fucking still, or do I have to make you?"

The strange, half-strangled cut-off whine in Louis' throat is the only indication that Nick gets that Louis has come in his jeans, other than the way his hips jerk up, jagged and desperate, and the way the fight abruptly goes out of Louis' face, his cheeks turning an immediate, humiliated red.

Nick—well. He can't. He lets go of Louis' wrists, and Louis covers his face with his hands, trying to roll onto his side.

"Get off me," Louis begs from behind his hands, and Nick's hand is still on Louis' dick, and on the wet patch on his jeans from where he'd just fucking come.

"Christ, did you—" He removes his hand from Louis' dick.

"Shut up," Louis says. "Stop it, shut up, shut up."

Nick is so hard he might just curl up and die with wanting it. "God," he says, because it's a bit like there are fireworks going off in his brain, and everything's whizzing about and making whooshing noises inside his head.

"I hate you," Louis says, trying to push him away. "I hate you so much."

Nick doesn't know what he's doing, and he has no idea what he's feeling, but he can't help himself from leaning in and catching Louis' hands in his. "You liked that."

"It was just fucking friction, okay? It was nothing, god, shut up." He's burning red, and trying to kick Nick at the same time as curl up in a ball of humiliation. Louis is like a wriggling, embarrassed wrecking ball, and Nick is going to have bruises in the morning.

He's not sure he cares about the bruises. He just doesn't know why he does care about the rest.

"No," Nick says, his confusion showing, because he just made Louis Tomlinson come, and Louis Tomlinson is his actual nemesis. He made Louis come by accident, and the worst part is not knowing which part of what they'd just done actually did it for him. "Which bit did you like?" Nick's general need to poke at bruises is going to get him in trouble one of these days, but he can't help himself.

"Shut up," Louis says again.

"Was it this?" Nick asks, sliding his hands down over Louis' arms, circling his wrists with his fingertips.

Louis' breath catches, and Nick lifts Louis' arms above his head again, and gently pins him to the duvet.

"No," Louis says, but it sounds like a lie.

"How about this?" Nick rubs his dick over the wet patch on the front of Louis' jeans, rolling his hips down to meet Louis'.

Louis lets out a ragged breath. "Why are you so fucking awful?"

Nick leans in, almost close enough to kiss, and says, "What if I made you stay still?" and Louis' hips buck up, his embarrassment burning over his skin, coming off him in waves.

"God," Louis gasps out, trying to rock his hips up to meet Nick's, but Nick shifts back, out of Louis' way, and judging by the look on Louis' face, Nick's about a hair's breadth away from getting punched. He tightens his grip on Louis' wrists.

"What if I held you down?" Nick asks. His mind's going a mile a minute.

"What if I hated you forever," Louis suggests.

That's probably going to happen anyway, all things considered. Nick anticipated that being the natural outcome of any fucked up, what the hell just happened, encounter between him and Louis, regardless of circumstance.

"You going to tell everyone I came in my jeans?" Louis asks, after a minute of Nick kneeling over him and nothing else happening. Louis' humiliation feels complete, and Nick doesn't get off on that. He's not actually an awful person, whatever Louis thinks of him. He doesn't quite know why he's still so turned on, but it isn't because he wants to be mean.

"No," he says. "Why would I?"

"Because you're a twat?"

"Only a bit of one," Nick says. He's still really hard and he can't get over Louis' orgasm, and the way his breath had just caught, coming just like that, quiet and breathless.

"I'd tell everyone if you came in your pants."

Nick doesn't think Louis would, but then before tonight he would have said he thought Louis was shameless, and he's shown nothing but abject humiliation for the past three or four minutes, so he's already mentally rewriting bits of Louis Tomlinson in his head as it is.

"Good thing I'm not you, then, isn't it?"

Louis wriggles. Nick's still holding his wrists to the duvet. "You going to let me go?" He doesn't exactly look like he wants Nick to. He looks fierce and embarrassed and turned on, cheeks flushed.

Nick rolls all of his courage up into one ball, and leans in near enough to Louis' mouth that he's close enough to kiss. "What would you say if I held you still and made you suck me off? Would you like that?"

Louis' breath catches. "Fuck."

"You done it like this before?" He means rough. He means pushing each other around and Nick holding Louis down, and the biting and the pinching. He hasn't done it like this before.

"No," Louis says, after a moment. He won't meet Nick's eyes. Nick wouldn't either, if he was Louis, but it doesn't make him any easier to read.

"You want to suck me off?" Nick asks again, and he wouldn't have asked the question if he didn't think the answer was going to be yes, but it's still like stepping off the edge of a cliff and hoping the ground comes sooner rather than later. He can feel Louis' trembling pulse under his thumb; Louis' as terrified as Nick is, only his comes with a side order of embarrassment.

Louis swallows, and Nick watches his throat work. Louis still won't look at him. He nods, a ragged tilt of his chin, up, down.

"Say it," Nick says, and he has no idea what he's playing at. It's going to end in disaster anyway, so he might as well just try and feel his way through this minefield of him and Louis having sex without stopping to strategize. He always was terrible at strategy. He always came last in Monopoly at home.

"I want to suck you off," Louis says, in a low voice. His voice shakes. Nick had only meant him to say, yes.

"Christ," Nick manages, and then he's reaching down to try and undo his jeans and push them down one-handed, keeping a hold of Louis' wrists. It doesn't work, and he has to let go of Louis to scramble back off the bed and out of his jeans, pulling his t-shirt over his head, dropping Britney down onto the floor. It seems weird, getting naked in front of Louis when Louis is still fully-clothed, but then there's a damp patch on the front of Louis' jeans that suggests there's more than just Nick's weird feelings in the room. "Take your jeans off," he says, because he just can't fuck Louis' mouth whilst Louis' still dressed.

Louis looks mutinous for a second, as if Nick could forget for a moment that they are enemies. "It's all right, I still hate you. Stripping off doesn't make you any less of a fucking arse, Tomlinson."

"I'm leaving my pants on," Louis says, rocking his hips up off the bed so that he can shimmy off his jeans. "And I still hate you too."

"Glad we've got that sorted," Nick tugs off his socks and pushes down his underwear, until he's standing naked at the foot of his bed and watching Louis take off his t-shirt. He's not stupid. He knows as well as the next person that Louis is more than just objectively hot; he's got the millions of fans to prove it, and Nick's the only one of them getting to put his knob in Louis' mouth tonight.

Admittedly, that kind of realisation is more than enough to have Nick want to run for the door, but considering it's his bedroom, he hasn't actually got anywhere else to go. Luckily the fight or flight panic is equally obvious on Louis' face, so Nick isn't alone in being totally fucking confused about what the fuck they're playing at. Louis' embarrassed flush has spread down his neck to his chest; there's a very visible damp patch on the front of Louis' underwear. When he sees Nick looking, the flush deepens, and he tries to cover himself up with his hands. "Don't," he says. "Don't be a fucking arse about this. I know you're dying to be a twat."

"Takes one to know one, love." He climbs onto the bed, and wraps his hand around one of Louis' wrists, nudging his hands away from covering Louis' cock. "You really did come, didn't you?"

"You know I did," Louis says, sullenly. He won't look at Nick, and embarrassment stains his cheeks. "Don't go on about it."

Nick doesn't tell him he wants to see Louis' cock, and doesn't ask him to take his pants off; it's too weird. There's an intimacy in nakedness that he and Louis don't have, and the tension in the room veers between Nick wanting to snog the face off of him, and Nick wanting to rail against the fact that Louis is a giant fucking knobhead with a chip on his shoulder the size of Cheltenham. In actual fact, sod Cheltenham. He's got a chip on his shoulder the size of Doncaster. He's an annoying, attention-seeking dickhead who drives Nick insane on a frankly far too regular basis.

Nick wants to kiss him, and he doesn't know why.

"You still up for sucking me off?"

"Said so, didn't I?"

"Don't sound so excited about it," Nick says, settling himself so that he's kneeling up over Louis' chest, Louis propped up on his pillows. "You done this before?"

Louis won't meet his gaze. "Yes," he says, and Nick can't pick apart whether that's a lie or not. "Stop dicking around, Grim."

Nick rolls his eyes. This would be the least sexy build up to a blow job ever, apart from the fact that his heart feels like it's going to pound right out of his chest. "Hands," he says, and then he has to clear his throat. "Give me your hands."

Louis holds his wrists up, and Nick wraps one hand around them, holding them up above Louis' head. He wants to ask if Louis' ready, but Louis isn't made of glass, and he's already said yes. He's looking mutinous, and like he'd rather be anywhere else on the planet than here, with him, but that's okay because Nick feels the same way.

He feels the same way right up until Louis' mouth falls open, cheeks stained red, lips already bitten and spit slick. Nick leans in and rubs the crown of his dick over Louis' bottom lip. The first, tentative touch of Louis' tongue to the slick tip makes Nick shiver, and press inside; his knob is in Louis Tomlinson's mouth, and Louis is sucking him off.

Nick presses Louis' wrists against the headboard, pinning him there with one hand. Louis whines around Nick's dick, and normally Nick worries about giving too much or fucking too hard, but Louis' looking up at him with wide, bright eyes. He's doing most of the work already, and Nick can't help but take control, showing Louis how much he wants him to take in, and when.

Louis' loud, even when he's got a dick in his mouth. His blow job is sloppy and spit-slick and wet; he whines and chokes and whimpers around Nick's dick and begs for more, bringing himself up off the pillows to take more in. He battles against Nick's hand holding his wrists, trying to pull away, but when Nick loosens his grip, the fine line between okay and not-okay blurring a little in Louis' struggling against his hold, Louis shakes his head, and stills his hands. No, he says, around Nick's dick, and Nick tightens his hold in relief, desperate to hold on to something. He fucks Louis' mouth, unable to look away from the outline of his dick in Louis' hollowed cheek. Louis' eyes are wet but every time Nick tries to pull back, Louis communicates his don't do that in the most explicit way possible.

The lack of limits is terrifying, and thrilling, both in equal measure.

He comes with a sharp, bitten off cry, nails digging in to Louis' wrist, the pulse beat a skittering reminder that Nick can't get away from. He comes in Louis' mouth, his dick fat and catching against Louis' teeth as Nick's hips rock up, the staccato rhythm of his orgasm too much for Louis to anticipate. And Louis swallows, Nick letting go of his wrists and touching his fingertips to Louis' throat, feeling it working even as his orgasm bottoms out and Nick sinks back down onto his heels.

Come slides out of Louis' mouth, and he wipes it away on the back of his hand.

"You're still a twat," Louis says, a minute later. His voice is wrecked. "And you're squashing me, get off."

Nick obliges, but only because he's too shell-shocked to come up with a proper rejoinder. His dick is all wet from Louis' mouth, and he wipes himself off awkwardly with the corner of his duvet. He really needs to wash the sheets.

"No smart comeback?" Louis persists. This is why he's such a fuckhead; he can't leave well alone.

Nick finds himself staring at Louis' dick. "You're hard again," he says.

"No, I'm not," Louis lies. His erection is tenting out his underwear, the damp patch stretched across the head of his dick, almost the whole crown outlined in the stretch of the cotton. He tries to roll away. "Stop looking at my dick."

"Can I touch it?" Nick asks. "I could, I don't know. Wank you off or something."

Louis stills, and rolls back onto his back. "Why would you do that?"

Nick shrugs. "I don't know? Because I'm not a total cuntbucket, unlike some people in this room. If we're just having sex the once it's probably, you know, reasonable for me to actually make you come, or something. If you want."

Louis looks strangely hesitant, and oddly vulnerable. "You really don't have to."

"I know." He's not going to say, I want to, but he likes to think he's quite fair, and one assisted orgasm should lead to another. And he wants to, but as that's a part of his brain that he is not only ignoring, but also pretending never existed in the first place, he contents himself with propping himself up on an elbow and making a face at Louis.

"You'd better make it good."

Nick rolls his eyes. "You're such a charmer, Louis. I can't imagine why anyone likes you at all."

"Same," Louis snaps. He folds his arms over his chest. He's still flushed pink. "No one's forcing you to wank me off."

"Oh, shut up." Nick shifts a little closer, and touches his fingertips to the damp patch on the front of Louis' pants.

Louis flinches. "Don't make a big deal about it," he says, but he sounds a little breathless, and his fingers twitch.

"You're a mess," Nick says, without really thinking about it. His pants are all damp and sticky. He keeps touching him through his underwear, feeling along the length of Louis' dick with his fingertips.

"You're a fucking arsehole," Louis tries to roll away, but Nick didn't mean it like that. It's kind of—it's hot. He actually sort of likes that Louis' made a mess of himself, and that's just another thing to add to the long list of things about tonight that don't make a grain of sense in his head.

"Don't you ever get tired of the sound of your own voice?" Nick asks, snapping the elastic waistband against the curve of Louis' belly. "Don't you ever just think, what if I just shut the fuck up for five fucking seconds, would the world be a better place?"

"I think that about you every single day," Louis hisses in a breath as Nick slides his hand inside Louis' underwear, and cups his dick in his palm. Nick's always loved this: the first touch of an unfamiliar dick against his hand. He loves the heat, and the length, and the musky smell of someone's attraction to him, loves that discovery of whether they're circumcised or not, whether they're slick with pre-come or virtually dry. He just really fucking likes cock, all right, and he loves it when they're veiny and when they're a little skewwhiff and when they peek out of the curve of his fist. The fact that he's loving this about Louis' cock is a little out of left field, but whatever, he can just drink his way through a bottle of vodka over the weekend and forget this ever happened, which is probably going to be the best way for the universe to move forward after tonight.

"How about I just shut you up, all right?" Nick can't be bothered with Louis whining his way through this; it's a reciprocal hand job, a sharing out of orgasms in a fair and equal manner, and if it's more than that in Nick's head then it's really nothing a shit load of vodka and some dedication can't shift.

Louis' hips rock up at that, his dick sliding through Nick's fist, Louis' intake of breath ragged and loud.

Oh, Nick thinks. Louis Tomlinson is a seething mass of complications, under that dickhead exterior. He wonders if he's ever been able to ask for what he wants before. Right now Nick would vote not, because Louis has come apart once already tonight, and judging by how hard he is in Nick's fist, a second time isn't far off.

Nick leans in and presses his mouth to Louis', catching Louis' hitched breath against his tongue. The only way to shut Louis up is to physically shut Louis up, and Nick's pleased with this life lesson. He'd be even more pleased with himself if he'd thought about the repercussions of kissing Louis, but unfortunately Nick sometimes really is a total dickhead. Louis kisses him back, fierce and hard, his hands fisting in Nick's hair, keeping him close. He's breathless already, his kisses a mess as Nick wanks him off. There's something about the sense of urgency that's tight in the room around them that makes Nick move his hand faster, kiss back harder, his other hand caught between the two of them, stroking at Louis' hip.

Louis isn't quiet even as he kisses, groaning into Nick's mouth, whining as Nick catches his dick with his thumbnail. He can't keep still, either, a constant, frustrating wriggler, and Nick's overwhelmed with the need to just force him to stay still.

"Harder," Louis begs, in between kisses. "Do it harder."

Nick doesn't normally take direction all that well, but he tightens his grip on Louis' dick, doing as he says, and Louis gasps out a desperate whine, his hips bucking up. He pulls at Nick's hair, and Nick is very attached to his hair—literally and metaphorically—and Louis is a nightmare, a celebrated shitweasel of epic proportions, and Nick hates him.

He hates him so much that he's desperate to make him come, to take him apart across his sheets, to see what he's like undone under Nick's hand. He wants it so much his heart's pounding with it, with this need to pull Louis to pieces.

He shifts position, kneeling over Louis and pulling his pants down to mid-thigh so that Louis' dick springs free. Louis' breathing harshly, skin flushed, and he looks furious and desperate, even as he tugs Nick closer to kiss him again. Louis rocks his hips up into Nick's fist, and Nick tugs harder, knowing from Louis' kisses that he's getting close.

"Going to mess you the fuck up," Nick tells him, dragging his mouth over Louis' jaw. Louis tips his head back on the pillows, breathless. "Gonna make such a mess of you."

Louis cries out at that, bringing his knee up, feet catching in the duvet.

"Come on," Nick urges. "Come the fuck on."

Even though Nick knows that Louis must be right on the edge, it still takes him another minute to come. It feels like it's being torn out of him, like Louis' wrecking himself right in front of him, shaking his way through his orgasm as he comes in long stripes across his stomach. His chest heaves, and Nick carries on touching him until Louis' shivering and breathless, and he begs Nick to stop.

Nick sinks down onto the bed next to him, and stares up at the ceiling. "Well," he says, after a while, when Louis' breathing sounds less ragged.

"You're still a twat," Louis says, not moving.

"And you're still the worst person in the fucking world." Nick sighs. This isn't awkward, or anything. He isn't sure you're really supposed to share a bed with your arch-nemesis, even if you have just had sex. He isn't entirely sure that having sex with your arch-nemesis is really a great idea, either, all things considered. It isn't like he's James Bond; the closest he's come to climbing out of a window and shimmying up some scaffolding and commandeering a nearby wire as his own personal aerial runway is that time he'd locked himself out of Caroline's and had to climb back in the kitchen window. It hadn't been pretty. He'd lacked finesse. He'd ended up bruised.

Not all that different to now, if he's being honest.

"Do you want a brew?" Nick asks, after another minute of awkward nakedness.

"Suppose," Louis says, which isn't the enthusiasm Nick normally likes when faced with an offer of a cup of tea. "Bet you don't have Yorkshire."

"Nope, we're strictly pyramid bags round here." He reaches for his pyjama bottoms, and pulls them on. They have Snoopy on, but it isn't like Louis isn't aware that Nick is made up of many beautiful inconsistencies. "I'll put the kettle on, shall I? If you're not too snooty for my tea."

"It'll do," Louis says. He pulls up his underwear, and Nick can't help but wonder how revolting that feels, bearing in mind he's made such a mess of them. He sees Nick looking, and goes red.

"You can borrow a pair, if you want."

Louis shakes his head, still not looking at him, and goes to put his jeans on.

Nick rolls his eyes and pads off down to the kitchen to put the kettle on for a brew.


He's getting the milk out of the fridge when the flush goes in the bathroom, and Louis turns up in the kitchen doorway. Nick nudges the tea across the counter at him, and goes to sit down at the table in the corner. He's pulled a t-shirt out of the clean washing pile, and—irony of ironies—it's the striped pirate t-shirt he'd worn the first time they'd kissed.

Louis goes a bit pink at the sight of it.

"So, then," Nick says, once they've sat in silence at the kitchen table for half a cup of tea. "Does this mean we're friends now?"

Louis looks down at the table top. "I don't want to be friends with you."

"Goody," Nick says. "I don't want to be friends with you either." The desire to snap at him, to go back to bickering, and sniping, and being mean is too easy. He doesn't want to go back to that, though. He hadn't enjoyed it as it was happening, and now they've had sex, surely it has to mean it's taken some of the edge off. That's how these things worked, right?

The thing is: Louis Tomlinson is still the most annoying person on the planet, and even seeing him naked hasn't changed that.

"Nothing's changed," Louis says, gulping down his tea. "This was just—" he shakes his head. "I have no fucking idea what this was but it's done now, right? It's over and done with."

"Fine," Nick says, and doesn't offer Louis a chocolate. He was going to get the remains of the Hotel Chocolat box from the living room and see if he wanted one, but now he's keeping them all for himself.

"I should go," Louis says. He doesn't make any move to stand up, but neither does he make any attempt to look Nick in the face. "You're not going to tell anyone I came in my jeans, are you?" His face is red.

Nick shakes his head. "Not that much of a twat."

Louis doesn't look convinced of that, and this is what drives Nick mad, because he isn't that much of a twat. He's a nice person, for fuck's sake. "What about this?" Louis asks, in kind of a small voice. "Are you going to tell anyone about this?"

About having sex with Louis Tomlinson? No. "No," he says.

"What about Harry? Are you going to tell him?"

"It's just this once, right?" Nick waggles his finger in a, we just had sex kind of a movement. "We're not doing it again."

"God, no."

"Well, then." Nick can't believe he's actually having to discuss having sex with Louis Tomlinson. It's like all of his nightmares have come to life. He can't stop thinking about Louis shaking apart under his hand. "It's just a weird one night stand; we don't have to tell anyone."

Louis nods, a little too quickly for Nick's liking. "Fine, all right." He downs the rest of his tea. "I'll be off, then."

Nick fights the odd, slightly ridiculous urge to push Louis back against the wall and kiss him senseless. "Fine," he agrees, without standing up. "Door's on the Yale, you can let yourself out."

Louis hovers awkwardly by the table for a moment. "Fine," he says again. "See you at the Brits, then."

"Not if I see you first," Nick says, staring down at his mug, and when he looks up again, Louis' walking out into the hall, and the door goes a moment after.


He doesn't quite know what to expect, the day after sleeping with Louis Tomlinson, but he wakes up, and the sun's making a sort of miserable attempt at being there and forecasting the end of winter at some point in the future, and everything's still sort of exactly the same as it had been, pre-ill-advised-sexual-exploits. It's not that he would have been happy to have woken up to the apocalypse happening outside of his window, but some kind of recognition from the universe that everything was fucked up and upside down would have helped.

He sends Louis a text whilst he's waiting for the toast to pop up, that just says, the world hasn't ended. Yippee?

Louis' reply comes a bit later on, when Nick's checking Twitter and drinking tea and texting Aimee. Did you really expect it to?

Nah, Nick texts. But it would have been fitting, right?

You're so fucking weird

Nick doesn't answer that one. He turns the telly on instead, and drinks his tea.


The next time he sees Louis, it's at a bar after the Brits, and Nick's already shit-faced. He's snogged James Corden on live telly, and frankly anything else after that just comes a close second anyway, so when he sees Louis standing by himself, checking his phone after coming back from the toilets, Nick sidles up to him and pretends to concentrate on the cocktail menu on a nearby table instead of looking at Louis. It feels vaguely exciting, like he's a spy or something. He has to stop himself from saying, the eagle flies at midnight and waiting for Louis' equally coded response. What he does say, is, "You left your scarf at mine on Friday."

Louis doesn't look up from his phone. He doesn't seem to be typing anything, but he's obviously concentrating very hard at looking busy. This is like, actual subterfuge. It's quite thrilling, in its own slightly drunken way. Sort of.

"Keep it," Louis says, without looking up from his phone. Nick can see him out of the corner of his eye, attempting to look casual.

"It's a nice scarf," Nick says.

"Wear it, then. I don't care."

"You don't want it back?"

"Said so, didn't I?" Louis shrugs, sticking his phone into his pocket. He doesn't look at Nick, and he walks away without even throwing him a glance.

Nick can't help but feel frustrated, and he's not even sure why. He's having to fight the urge to yell after him, we had sex, in case you've forgotten, and not just because Louis manages to put his back up merely by existing in the same vague vicinity as him. Nobody else on the planet drives him as mad as Louis does, and Nick is almost one hundred per cent sure he'd be equally mad with Louis if he had acknowledged the fact that they'd defied the rules of the universe and accidentally had sex. But the point remains: Louis had initiated each of the three separate times they'd kissed, and he'd shown up at Nick's door, and he'd been the one that came in his jeans without even being properly touched. The fact that he's the one walking away like it meant nothing is enough to make Nick want to stamp his foot in frustration, and not just because he's the kind of self-involved narcissist that likes other people to recognise how fucking great he is.

It isn't that he expected things to change, or even that he's mad that they haven't; it's just that Louis had sex with him, and now he's acting like it never happened, and okay, Nick's going to admit it—it's a blow to Nick's ego that Louis is acting like sex with Nick hasn't changed his life.

Louis Tomlinson is a knobby knobhead with knobs on, and Nick's fucking great at sex, thank you very much. Only an idiot wouldn't have realised that by now.

It's possible that Nick is more drunk than he'd previously let himself believe.

He spots Harry over by the bar, and weaves his way over, just as the barman delivers Harry two drinks. Harry passes one to Nick, almost like he knew Nick was on his way over. Harry appreciates Nick. Nick likes it when people appreciate him.

"You all right?" Harry asks.

Nick knocks half of his drink back in one go. "Yeah, I'm having a good time. Did I snog James Corden earlier?"

"You did," Harry says, grinning. He bumps elbows with Nick. "You want to cause some chaos?"

Nick definitely does not look over to where Louis is holding court with the rest of Harry's band. "I do," he says. "Let's paint this fucking town red."

Harry laughs, holding his little finger out for Nick to hook his around. "You're on," he says. "Do you think we can hit every party if we try hard enough?"

"Oh, yeah," Nick says. "If we're dedicated."


They're dedicated. It's not the greatest series of life choices Nick has ever made.


Nick doesn't hear from Louis again until two days later, when Nick's face first on his sofa contemplating his life choices and living on a diet of Waitrose cheesecake and diet Coke. He's going to have to turn this around next week. Maybe he'll live on a diet of spinach and kale smoothies and get his chakras in order. That'll be nice. His head will probably appreciate him, at least.

His phone buzzes, and he picks it out from down the end of the sofa. He's had to sit through a meeting highlighting acceptable states in which to turn up to work already today, and it wasn't quite a bollocking, but it was a bit of a dressing down, and Nick can't help but feel thoroughly chastened. His hangover is still sort of there, too, although he suspects that's more exhaustion than anything else.

Louis has sent him a text message that just says, I know you're a wanker but did you have to drag harry into it too?

Nick lets out a breath, and buries his face in a cushion. Harrys an adult, he texts back, and locks his phone. Then he thinks better of it, and opens up another text message. Anyway what business is it of yours?

He doesn't exactly regret being a founding member of the straight through crew yesterday, but he's got to admit that turning up to work after partying all night wasn't exactly his finest move. He didn't think he was drunk on air, but he'd certainly been very drunk in the hours prior to the Breakfast Show, and that hadn't made that much difference to the Daily Mail, or any of the other tabloids who'd reported on him being hammered on air. Luckily—or perhaps unluckily—he doesn't actually remember all that much about the show yesterday.

Why did you let him go on air with you. hes been getting shit all day.

Nick is a bit tired of Louis Tomlinson being mad with him. He's a bit tired of Louis Tomlinson, if he's honest, and he definitely doesn't need him having a go at him when everyone else is doing just fine at that by themselves. Stop being an arse, he texts.

Turning up drunk wasn't very professional of you. Wanker.

The problem with that is that it's kind of the truth, and there's nothing that Nick hates worse than an ugly truth. You're just jealous you didn't come out with me and harry.

I'm not fucking jealous of you and harry. fuck off.

Nick stares down at his phone for a long time, after that. In the end, he types, you could have come with us you know.

He doesn't get a reply.


He doesn't hear from Louis again until after their tour's started. Nick goes to see them play the O2 the first day of their tour, and rocks the fuck out in the audience. He wakes up the morning after to a picture on his phone from Louis. It's the picture a fan took of Nick with a rock me Harry sign. Louis—with the help of his generic tablet, Nick's sure—has drawn a cock on Nick's forehead and scrawled wanker next to a giant arrow pointing at Nick.

Nice, Nick texts back. Thanks, love.

When he goes to the shops to get some milk and a diet Coke, he knots Louis' scarf round his neck, and vaguely makes a big deal of being famous and fabulous in the vain hope that Heat is hanging around and taking pictures. What he hopes to achieve he has no idea—other than the fact that obviously he looks better in Louis' scarf than Louis does—but his quest to be photographed is fruitless, and he comes back to the flat bearing twelve cans of diet Coke, an apple, some cheese, and a pint of milk, and forgets to take the scarf off.

In the end, he takes a selfie whilst wearing the scarf, and sends it to Louis with a message that just says, looks better on me darling.


The thing is, Louis' scarf is actually really nice, and it is a bit chilly, so when he does get snapped wearing it, it's two weeks later and One Direction are in Ireland. Nick's picture is in Heat, and he's clutching a takeaway coffee, his car keys and—classiest of all—a Poundland carrier bag. Luckily the carrier bag isn't see through, so no one can see that inside the bag is a One Direction Easter egg, complete with a novelty shopping bag with their faces on.

Nice scarf, Louis texts at the weekend. Do you have a style of your own, or do you just nick other people's?

Nick doesn't throw his phone across the room, which he's counting as a win. Were you born this annoying, or did you have to take a gcse in it?

Natural fucking talent. Some of us are just born with it. Then, straight off the back of that, another text message. You going to keep that scarf forever, or do I get to have it back one day?

You said I could keep it.

I've changed my mind.

Nick does throw his phone across the room at that, but he's at home, and it's a gentle lob rather than a shot-put across the living room. It lands with a gentle phutt on his sofa. He goes to retrieve it from between the sofa cushions.

Fine, dickhead. When do you want it back.

Louis doesn't text back for a while, but just when Nick's elbow deep in washing up, his phone buzzes with a message. He doesn't normally have any patience at all, but he forces himself to stay where he is until he's finished washing up his pasta pan and his mug from his cup of coffee earlier. Then he dries his hands on the tea towel, and checks his messages.

Come and meet me next Friday, the message says. Get a hotel room.

Nick's heart starts to pound. Where you going to be?

Louis' reply comes straight away. Show in Manchester on Saturday. Friday night off.

"What the fucking fuck," Nick says, staring down at his phone. He texts, Is this a booty call Tomlinson?

Dunno, Louis texts back. I just want my scarf back.

Tell me where to be n when, Nick types, and then he puts his phone down on the kitchen table and goes to throw himself on his bed and bury his face in the pillows for a bit, until the universe stops malevolently scheming to ruin Nick's life.


The universe is a fucking dickhead, is the thing.


Much as Nick expects the world to end before Friday night, things continue as they usually do. He does the show every morning, and tries not to slag off Louis too much to anyone who'll listen. He wears Louis' scarf a bit more—getting his wear out of it whilst he still can, but if anyone asks, it is still cold out—and he stops living off Pret sandwiches and cheesecake in favour of actually being a bit healthier. He rounds it off with late night chips on Thursday after a concert at Hammersmith Apollo, but he's sure everyone on the Piccadilly line loved the smell of vinegar.

He and Louis don't talk. There's nothing to say, for a start. Nick books a double room at the Travelodge in Altrincham, because it's dead cheap, and because no one in their right mind is going to expect to see Louis Tomlinson in Altrincham the night before doing a show at the Manchester Arena. Louis sends him one email in response to Nick forwarding the booking email, just to say that he'll text when he's in the car park, and that Nick should come down to let him in so he doesn't have to go to the hotel reception, and that's it.

To be honest, if Nick doesn't really think about it then he can pretend it isn't happening, and that this isn't, frankly, the worst idea anyone has ever had. If he lets himself think about it for more than two seconds he actually wants to crawl into a hole in the ground and rock backwards and forwards, because literally nothing has changed. Louis Tomlinson is still a pain in the fucking arse, and he really does get less solos than the rest, and he's a short arse, and loud, and he vies with Nick in the competition to be the centre of attention in any room they're both in. He's annoying, and Nick will fight to the death for his right to be the focus of attention, and it's entirely possible that he can see his desperate need for people to pay attention to him mirrored in Louis, and okay, it's possible that that grates.

But the thing is: Louis Tomlinson is a really good kisser, and Nick has no idea how Louis manages to get him hard so quick. Nick can't stop fucking thinking about Louis coming in his jeans, or about his dick in Louis' mouth, or wanking Louis off so that he broke apart in front of him. He wants to do it again, wants to see him wrecked, wants to push him around and feel Louis whine against his mouth, and if he hates himself for wanting it so badly, then at least no one knows.

At least it's a secret.


The hotel room isn't the worst that Nick's ever seen, but it does take basic to a whole other level. There isn't a spare pillow for either of them, just two very thin ones on the bed with thick, starched pillowcases. The TV isn't even a flatscreen, and it feels like 2004 in here as he turns it on and tries to make sense of the instructions on the laminated card on the desk. He makes himself a cup of tea using the tiny travel kettle, and grimaces a bit at the plastic milk he's expected to drink with it.

He lines his little suitcase up by the window, and sits down on the bed with his cup of tea and the TV remote, and tries not to think about how weird a situation he's in. Because it's weird. This morning he was doing his show, just like normal, and lying about seeing friends this weekend and going to parties, and at lunchtime he went back to his flat and packed a little suitcase, and got in the car to drive north. He'd stopped at M&S on the motorway on the way up, and eaten a prawn sandwich, a packet of salt and vinegar crisps, and had a cup of coffee. Then he'd wandered around the services, bought six Krispy Kreme doughnuts, two-for-four-pounds tubs of millionaire shortbread and chocolate crispy cakes from M&S, a bag of apples, and two bottles of Diet Coke because they were on offer.

And now he's here, waiting in a hotel room for a pop star who may or may not arrive, for reasons that may or may not include getting naked, and he actually feels really quite stupid. Is this a wild goose chase? Is it a joke? Because Louis is a fuckweasley cuntbucket, and there really is no guarantee that he's even going to show up, or even if he does, that Nick hasn't come here expecting something that isn't going to happen.

He checks his phone for the tenth time in two minutes, but there aren't any new messages. Don't people realise he's a national treasure? Surely they want to entertain him at all hours of the day and night, and especially when he's hiding out in a very crap hotel room waiting for a hook up with a pop star who hates him, and who Nick hates right back. He sends Collette and Annie and Aimee and Pixie and Matt Fincham and Ian and the rest of his list of favourite contacts on his phone a text message that includes a prawn emoticon, six sad faces, a panda, a snake, a fox, a shell, and a muscly bicep. He rounds it off with a castle, a ghost with its tongue out, and an aubergine, and then presses send.

He gets a message back from Louis ten seconds later that has an octopus, a Christmas tree, a poo with a smiley face, and a rocket blasting off.

Nick isn't entirely sure how Louis ended up on his favourites, but he's not sure of a lot of things right now, and out of all of those things, this is potentially the least worrying.

Where are you? He sends back. There's nowt on the telly.

Not far away, Louis texts back. Ten minutes.

Nick is quite close to throwing up, if he's honest. He goes into the tiny bathroom and splashes water on his face in the tiniest sink he's ever seen in his whole entire life. He paces back and forth a bit, just for fun, and then he gets Louis' scarf out of his suitcase and wraps it round his neck, just because he might be waiting in a hotel room for Louis to arrive, but he's not moved beyond wanting to drive him as mad as possible as much as he conceivably can.

By the time the text message arrives to say that Louis' in the car park, Nick's hovering by the door with his keycard in his hand. He takes the lift down to the ground floor, and then holds open the locked door for Louis, who he presumes is in the blacked out Range Rover parked in the parent and child spot just by the doors. He watches Louis hop out of the back seat, in baggy tracksuit bottoms and a big coat, sunglasses and a knitted beanie pulled down low. There's approximately two centimetres of his face on show. Nick has to steal those sunglasses, they're fucking incredible. It's like Audrey fucking Hepburn and Victoria Beckham got together to make bug-eyed sunglasses, and then Louis said, make them bigger, and then bought them. He's got a plain black sports bag with him; he doesn't stop to say anything to Nick, ducking through the open door and marching off down the corridor towards the lift without even looking back to see if Nick's following.

"Sometimes we say hello when we meet people," Nick says, as neutrally as he can manage, as Louis stabs the call button for the lift at least five times.

"Hello," Louis says, without looking at him.

For someone who is as much of a total dickhead as Louis is, Nick's driven an awful long way out of his way—and splashed out money on a hotel room, even if the hotel and the room are pretty crap—and he's fairly sure he at least rates an unprompted hello. "Your sunglasses are awful," he says, finally.

"Thanks," Louis says, as the lift doors open and he walks in. "Not as awful as your face."

"Shut up," Nick says, stuffing his hands in his pocket for something to do after pressing the button for their floor. He's quelling the urge to poke Louis in the side. "My face is a national treasure."

"Do you ever get tired of your overinflated ego?" Louis asks, as the doors ping open on their floor and Nick leads the way out into the corridor towards their room.

"I don't know," Nick says. "Do you ever get tired of yours?"

Louis kicks him in the shin as they go round the corner; Nick doesn't fall over and neither does he yell his frustration into the endless hotel corridors. He does, however, stop in front of their door and fail to tell Louis it's theirs, so Louis marches on down the corridor without looking back.

He comes back ten seconds later, as Nick's still fumbling with the shit keycard and trying to get in.

"Give it here, dickhead," Louis says, reaching for it. He kicks Nick in the ankle again; Nick presumes that's for letting him walk off. "I've got the knack."

"I was doing it," Nick says, irritated. Fighting with Louis sometimes reminds him of fighting with his sister and his brother and his niece, endless squabbles about nothing in particular that drive him to distraction. "Give it back."

"I've done it," Louis says, shoving the door open.

Nick sighs the loudest, most irritated sigh he can manage, and follows him inside. He lets the door shut behind him, and leans back against the wall, one knee up. "So," he says. "You going to say hello now?"

"I said hello before," Louis says. He dumps his bag on the floor, then strips out of his sunglasses, hat, scarf and coat, dropping them on the floor where he's standing. "You're still a fucking arse, you know that, right?"

"Apparently," Nick says, still irritated.

"It's like—" Louis says. "It's like you're every single thing that's annoying in the world, and you do my fucking head in."

"This is fun, by the way. I'm having fun. Totally worth driving four and a half hours for."

Louis unzips his hoodie, peeling it off to reveal a t-shirt underneath, baggy and with a v-neck. He toes off his Vans. "I can't stop fucking thinking about you," Louis says, after a minute. He clenches his fists. "You're driving me insane."

Nick stays very, very still. Louis is trembling in front of him, fists still clenched.

"Say something," Louis says, after a minute. "Fucking say something. Anything."

Nick likes nature documentaries. He fucking loves David Attenborough, and he's seen statures like Louis' before. Louis' fucking terrified. He's poised to run, but Nick's in front of the door. "When do you have to leave?" he asks, finally.

"In the morning."

"Okay," Nick says, and he takes a step forward, and then another, until he's standing right in front of Louis, and Louis tilts his chin up, fierce until the bitter end. A muscle pounds in his jaw. Nick reaches out to touch him, to cup Louis' cheek in his hand, and Louis quivers beneath his fingertips. He's mutinous at being found out; in this moment he looks like he hates Nick, but Nick knows that feeling because he feels it too. He leans in and kisses him, touching his mouth to Louis', and the two of them have never done gentle, or anything even close to gentle, but for this moment it is.

But then Louis' reaching for him, hands sliding up to cup Nick's face, to pull him in; for a moment he breaks away, his breathing already ragged, and he meets Nick's eyes and then looks down to his mouth again. "This is so fucking stupid," he says, but the last part is lost in his kiss, mouth pressed to Nick's, one hand fisted in Nick's shirt.

"Tell me about it," Nick says, in between kisses. He pushes Louis backwards, and they stumble over Louis' coat and jumper on the floor, tripping into the wall with a thump. Louis whines against Nick's mouth, tugging him closer with a hand in Nick's hair. Nick wants to fight him, wants to tell him how annoying he is, but he kisses him again instead, bracketing Louis against the wall as Louis tugs him even closer.

"This isn't your fucking scarf," Louis says, fumbling with the knot of Nick's scarf.

"You said I could have it," Nick tells him, and if he sounds obstinate then that's because he's all of a sudden not interested in fighting over it; it's his now and he's keeping it. He ducks in to press his mouth to Louis' throat. There are probably better ways to shut him up, but this is the one he's going with.

"Don't leave any marks," Louis tucks his fingertips into Nick's scarf, trying to loosen it even as Nick's kissing his throat. "I'm on stage tomorrow."

Nick's fingers twitch. "What about where they can't be seen?"

Louis' hips rock up, and Nick's not entirely sure that was voluntary. "Whatever, okay." He sounds breathless, and Nick's assuming he's supposed to take that as a yes, particularly as Louis' fingers tighten around Nick's bicep, the scarf forgotten.

"All right," Nick says, and he tugs Louis back, pulling him towards the bed and then climbing over him onto the sheets. "Comfy bed we've got."

"It doesn't need to be comfy," Louis says, scrambling back towards the headboard and pulling his t-shirt over his head as he does so. Nick unthreads his belt, dumps the scarf, unzips his hoodie and gets rid of his shirt. He crawls over Louis and then stills. His necklaces hang down; the cross bumps into Louis' chin. Louis looks half-desperate, half-furious, and that's probably reflected on Nick's face too. What the fuck they think they're doing, he has no idea.

"It's just this one more time, right?" he asks, sitting back a little so he can kiss Louis right in the centre of his chest. He shifts, sucking a bruise onto Louis' pale skin, just below his nipple, and Louis' breath catches, his hips rolling up. "We're not doing it again. Just getting it out of our systems."

"Yeah," Louis agrees. He wraps his arms around Nick's back as Nick sucks a mark below Louis' collarbone, and Louis hisses in a breath. "Then we can just draw a line under it and move on with our lives."

"Fuck, yeah," Nick says. His life without Louis in it is about a hundred times less confusing. He shifts a little, out of Louis' hold, so that he can nip at the soft curve of Louis' belly, and undo the top button of Louis' jeans with one hand. "You going to hold still if I suck you off, or do I have to make you?"


Nick undoes another button, and then another. Louis' hard against his flies. His hips roll up under Nick's hand, and Nick stills him by pressing his palm down over Louis' hip. "Do I have to make you?" he asks again, and he's never done anything like this before. He's never been with anyone who makes him want to; yes, he's had the odd experience that involved rolling all over the bed and sheets going everywhere and getting to fuck someone hard, but he's never wanted to hold someone down and take them apart in the way he wants to do it to Louis. He's never had anyone want it of him, though, and if he's had more than the odd wank imagining pinning people to beds in the past, it's never been something that he's wanted to search out in real life. Not that he's sure what Louis wants of him, and more than that, he's not sure Louis knows either.

"Don't make me fucking beg," Louis says. His hand has found its way into Nick's hair.

"Just tell me, then." Nick nips Louis' hip with his teeth.

"I can't."

Nick can feel Louis trembling beneath his fingertips; whether he's furious or desperate or both or somewhere in between, Nick can only guess. "You can," Nick says.

Louis pinches him then, on the shoulder, where it hurts the most. "Stop fucking with me."

"I'm not." Nick cups Louis' dick through the open flies of his jeans. He strokes his thumb over the tiny damp patch where he's leaked through the cotton.

"Why do you keep doing this to me?" Louis' voice catches as Nick continues to touch him. "God, I hate you."

"Hate you right back," Nick says, and to show him how much, he bites down on Louis' hip, and Louis shudders beneath him, hand tight in Nick's hair.

"God. Fuck. Please, make me. Nick, make me."

Nick's heart feels like it's going to pound out of his chest. "Make you what?" He knows he's fucking with Louis now, but he can feel how hard Louis is, and he knows how hard he is too. Louis is trying so hard to keep it inside, to keep everything locked up; it's obvious in the way his muscles are clenched and he's taut and tense the whole length of his body.

"Fuck. I hate you. Make me stay still, please. Suck my dick."

Nick lets out a ragged breath against Louis' hip. "Christ, Louis."

"Shut up," Louis begs. "Please. Don't."

Nick pulls Louis' jeans and his underwear down to his knees. He doesn't have enough hands for what he wants to do. "Hands above your head," he says, and half of him doesn't expect Louis to do what he asks, but Louis does it without question, although the half-mutinous, half-desperate expression on his face suggests that there's a battle going on inside of him. Nick presses his palms down onto Louis' hips, pinning him to the bed. "All right?"

Louis is so fucking hard. He's embarrassed too, his cheeks flushed pink. He nods, but won't meet Nick's eyes.

Nick doesn't much like how that feels, if he's honest. There's squabbling and bickering and fighting and genuinely disliking Louis for being a right royal pain in the fucking arse, but he doesn't want to see the shame that's written all over Louis' face right now. Not unless Louis wants to be made to feel like that, but Nick can't tell which it is just by looking. He wants to say, don't be embarrassed, or it's okay to ask for this, or what you want is okay, but he doesn't actually know if any of that is true, plus they're not close enough for him to say any of it and for it to be the right thing to say.

He settles for, "Don't be embarrassed."

"Why not?" Louis asks, still not looking at him. "Isn't that what you want? To fuck me over? All this fucking ammunition for why I'm fucked up. You're probably squirreling it all away, knowing you. Going to use it against me. You probably fucking love how embarrassed I am. It's fucking humiliating."

Fuck, no. "That's fucked up," Nick says. Louis' hands are still over his head, resting against the headboard. "I wouldn't—"

"It's fine," Louis says. "It gets me off, whatever. I'll just deny it if you tell anyone. Nobody will ever believe we shagged anyway."

Nick moves his hands away from Louis' hips. He's still hard. "I get off on it too," he says, after a while. Louis still won't fucking look at him.

"I don't want to talk about it," Louis says. "I don't care, okay? Just this one fucking night and then I'm getting picked up in the morning and we can pretend it never, ever happened. I can go back to real life and go back to thinking you're fucking awful, and—"

"Anyone else ever held you down because you wanted them to?"

"No, shut up." Louis shakes his head. "God, why won't you stop talking? Why won't you just suck my dick?"

Nick was stupid to think that he and Louis could ever have an actual conversation. He rolls his eyes. "Just this one night, all right?" He lets out a breath. "You don't have to be embarrassed, I'll keep it a fucking secret, and tomorrow we can go back to real life. Fine?"

"Fine," Louis agrees. He's still pink. Nick really likes the way his flush spreads over his skin, but he doesn't like the side order of angry shame that comes along with it. "Can we get back to it now?"

Nick pins Louis to the bed by his hips, and ducks his head to take Louis' dick in his mouth. Louis keens, low and breathless already, as Nick hollows out his cheeks and presses his tongue to the underside of Louis' dick. He sucks him off slowly, knowing that Louis is desperate for him to speed up, trembling and ragged beneath Nick's hands and mouth.

Because: Nick fucking loves blowing guys. He has done since he was nineteen years old and a vaguely chubby student in Liverpool, and he'd pulled a fit lad from his course in the student union one Thursday night, who'd taught Nick how to suck dick in his room in halls. Nick can't even remember his name now, but he remembers the blow jobs.

He always remembers the blow jobs.

He likes the way Louis tastes on his tongue, and he fucking loves the way Louis sounds, and more than anything, he loves how he can feel Louis trying to keep still beneath his hands. He presses his fingertips into Louis' skin, and Louis whimpers, trying to buck up into Nick's mouth and stopping himself.

Nick speeds up a little, knowing that Louis must be getting close. His jaw's aching, just a little, and he never was all that good at breathing around cocks for any particular length of time.

Louis doesn't tell him that he's close, and he doesn't warn Nick that he's about to come, and afterwards, when Nick's trying to swallow it down and not choke, he very much suspects that it was on purpose. Thing is, he loves swallowing almost as much as he loves sucking dick, so when he sits back on his heels, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, he can return Louis' tired smirk with one of his own.

Louis stretches his arms out, before dropping his hands down into his lap.

"All right?" Nick asks.

"All right," Louis says. Nick yawns a bit, just for fun, and then shoves his own jeans and pants down and off so that he can wrap his hand around his dick. He watches as Louis loses his jeans by kicking them off his feet and off the side of the bed, and then Louis beckons him a bit closer.

"What?" Nick asks, potentially cautious, as should always be the way where Louis Tomlinson is involved.

Louis flushes. "Don't laugh," he says quickly. He rests his hand on Nick's knee. "I mean, seriously. Don't fucking laugh. You should come on me. That's what you should do." He looks desperately fierce, and something about it makes Nick feel sad inside, in a way that he never would have expected round Louis.

"Where?" Nick asks, crawling a little closer. He cups Louis' slowly softening dick. "Here?"

Louis shakes his head, already going pink again.

"Here?" Nick asks, stroking his hand over Louis' stomach.

"No," Louis says, a little quieter this time, and Nick slides his hand slowly up Louis' chest.

"Tell me when to stop," he says, one hand still wrapped around his own dick.

Louis swallows. He chews on his lip as Nick's hand grazes over his nipple, and up to his shoulders, and suddenly, Nick knows where they're going to end up. Desperately slowly, he cups Louis' hot cheek in his palm.


Louis nods, still worrying at his lip. He tries to look away, but Nick won't let him, tilting his chin up.

"On your face?" Nick asks, just so he's certain. "You want me to come on your face?"

"Don't make a big deal of it," Louis snaps, trying to pull away. "You don't have to."

Nick can't be doing with fighting with Louis anymore. It's boring and he's tired of it. He shuts him up with a kiss, leaning down over him and covering his mouth with his own. "Stop talking for two seconds," he says, in between kisses. "I'll do it, all right?"

"And you won't make fun of me afterwards?"

It's sad, is what it is. It makes Nick's chest ache. "Course not," he says. He kisses him again. He wonders if Louis likes the taste of himself in Nick's kiss or not; it's certainly not stopping Louis from kissing Nick desperately. "Anyone ever do this to you before?"

Louis goes bright red, and Nick is suddenly reminded that they haven't actually had the conversation in which Louis tells him how experienced he is with blokes. He is, to all intents and purposes, and not just for the magazines, but within the wider circle of their mutual acquaintances, straight. Or determinedly ambivalent about actively labelling himself something else, at least. Not that Nick intends there to be another time for the two of them after tonight, but if there ever is, the two of them really have to talk about what the fuck's going on inside Louis' head. And what's inside Nick's too, if he's honest.

But Nick isn't interested in Louis Tomlinson's coming out story tonight. He doesn't care about him, outside of the boundaries of this room. The two of them dislike each other, and that's how it goes. He doesn't even need to know for the purpose of the next five minutes; it won't affect how he does this.

"I retract that question," he says, one hand to Louis' shoulder. "I don't give a shit about the answer."

"Good, because I don't give a shit about you, either."

That wasn't quite what Nick was saying, but it's never worth arguing with Louis. Not unless he's in the mood for a snipe-off, but he's not right now. He rolls his eyes instead, and kisses him so that he'll shut the fuck up.

He's still wanking himself off as they kiss, half-lazy, half with intent.

"Are you going to do it?" Louis asks, pushing at Nick's shoulder with his hand. He's still pink.

Nick just nods, and goes in for another kiss, but Louis shakes his head.

"Just want to watch you, all right?"

"Fine," Nick says, and they fumble around a bit so that Louis' propped up uncomfortably against the headboard on the unsatisfactory pillows, and Nick's leaning past him, one hand to the wall, wanking himself off on a level with Louis' face. He hadn't thought he was that close, but it turns out that now he's here, and the endgame is right there in front of him, and looks like Louis looks right now, he's near to the edge already. Louis' hair is all sticking up, lips bitten red, kissed red, his cheeks flushed pink, his eyes dark.

"Come on," Louis insists, one hand to the back of Nick's thigh, like he's trying to draw him ever closer.

"I can't come on fucking command," Nick rolls his eyes.

"Well, getting a move on would be nice."

"I can see why you've got such a charming reputation, Tomlinson." He hisses in a breath as he catches the underside of his dick with his nail. His hips rock up into his fist. Sometimes he likes it when it hurts a bit.

Louis just waggles his eyebrows at that, other hand going to the back of Nick's thigh, and Nick doesn't admit that it's a relief, a familiar expression from Louis that isn't just locked into what they're doing here, and now. They're not friends, him and Louis, but Nick knows how Louis is with the people he is friends with. It's partly what drives him mad, knowing that Louis is just objectionable to him.

He makes a face back, for the sake of equality and everything.

Louis strokes his hands up over Nick's thighs until they come to rest on his arse, and that's delightfully unfamiliar and really quite charming, all things considered. It gets better when Louis slides a finger over Nick's arsehole, fierce expression back on his face.

"Fuck," Nick says, for want of something better to say as he rocks his hips up and tries to press back against Louis' finger, all at the same time. It's a feat of anatomical prowess he's not quite equal to. He's closer than he was a moment ago, anyway, his orgasm nearing.

"Knew there'd be something you liked," Louis says. Smug tit.

"You only had to ask." Nick shifts, cupping his balls with his other hand, squeezing. Louis slides the tip of his finger inside of him, and Nick's hips buck up, and—this is actually a surprise—he starts to come just from that, from Louis' smug expression and his finger inside of him. His come stripes across Louis' cheeks, and his lips, and his jaw. Louis' eyes flutter shut as Nick continues to come, and in this moment, Louis is endlessly pretty, and gloriously filthy. Once he's done, Nick slides his thumbs through the mess on Louis' cheeks, and covers Louis' mouth with his own. He kisses his own come from Louis' lips, and it's terribly, desperately dirty and Louis kisses him back with a breathless fierceness that echoes his own.

It's only afterwards that it's awkward, when Nick rolls off him, and sinks down next to him on the sheets, propped up on his elbow. Louis won't look at him then, gaze sliding past him when Nick pokes him in the side.

"Was that what you wanted?" Nick asks.

Louis blushes a dark, fiery red, and pushes himself up and off the bed. "I need to wash my face," he says, stepping over his clothes on the way to the bathroom.

Nick rolls his eyes, and pokes Louis in the thigh with his feet. "Stay like that," he says. "I like it."

"Bet you like to see me look a mess," Louis agrees, and there's something in his voice—a note that just sounds tired and a bit depressed—that Nick hates.

Nick hops off the bed and corners Louis by the bathroom door. "Hey." He hooks an arm around Louis' waist, and bites down at the curve of his shoulder. "Don't go running off. It's hot, you looking like that."

Louis sags back against him, just for a moment. "Don't," he says. "Don't do this."

"Do what?" Nick nips at Louis' shoulder again with his teeth.

"Be nice to me," Louis sounds almost desperate. "I can't do this if you're nice to me."

"If I just call you an arsehole at the same time, how's that?"

Louis bumps his elbow back into Nick's side. "Dickhead."

He still hasn't relaxed. He's rigid and shy. Nick suspects this is a side of Louis that barely anyone ever gets to see. He's not sure if he can cope with holding all of Louis' secrets. "You're a pain in the arse, Louis."

"Right back at you, Nicholas. If we're using full names and everything."

Nick doesn't say anything to that.

Louis pokes at Nick's hand with his own. "Let me go," he says. "I want to wash my face. If I have a fuck-ugly come rash on my face tomorrow, do you know how many thousands of people are going to see it?"

"Can you get a rash from come?" Nick lets him go, and stands in the doorway to the bathroom whilst Louis runs the cold tap and splashes his face clean.

Louis dries his face on the towel, and then leans in close to the mirror, turning one way and then the other. "Dunno," he says. "Quite like not to find out in the arena tomorrow night."

"That's what you've got a well-expensive make up team for, I thought."

"Probably not a brilliant idea if we're keeping tonight a secret," Louis says.

"True." Nick moves out of the way to let Louis out of the bathroom. "You hungry?"

"You brought food?"

"I stopped at M&S and got chocolate, basically. I don't know if it's, like, a meal or anything. Should have thought it out a bit better, I suppose. Forgot we'd be trapped in here. There are apples. In case we die of malnutrition or whatever."

Louis flinches at trapped. "You can go out," he says, but he doesn't sound sure.

"Nah," Nick says, as easily as he can manage. "I don't want to be photographed in Manchester just as much as you don't. If the fucking Mirror sees me here it'll be me and Harry all over the shop, and I'm bored of that."

"Bored of Harry?" Louis sounds sharp.

"Wind your neck in, love," Nick says, without rising to the bait. "You try getting bored of Harry, it's impossible. It would be quite nice if I could be friends with someone without it automatically being about me wanting to shag them, though. I love my dick as much as the next person, but it doesn't do all of my thinking for me."

"Suppose." Louis sits down on the bed again, stealing both pillows to lean up against the headboard. "Where's this food, then?"

"Who says you're getting any?" Nick asks, grabbing the Marks and Sparks bag from the floor by his case. He turns the telly on on the way past, and lobs the remote in Louis' direction. "Just in case you don't actually want to talk to me, or owt, you've got a reason not to, now."

Louis makes a big deal of changing the channel, not that he's got much of an option. The Travelodge seems to be stuck in a pre-freeview world, and most of the channels it's pretending it has are missing, presumed dead. They end up on BBC2 with a Lorraine Pascale repeat.

Nick unpacks his bag, and lays out the tubs of millionaire shortbread, chocolate crispy cakes, apples, diet Coke, and Krispy Kreme doughnuts.

Louis watches him with an eyebrow raised. "Are you a secret feeder, or what?"

"Yeah, I'm going to make you eat all of this whilst I'm fucking you," Nick says, trying for deadpan.

There's a second too long a beat before Louis laughs. "Nice."

"Anyway," Nick ploughs on, not a professional radio presenter for nothing. Awkward gaps are his bread and butter. "There's, like, two of each of the doughnuts. One of them's caramel something or other, one of them's chocolate, another one's chocolate custard. I think. Go on, dig in."

"If we're eating, we don't have to talk, right?"

Nick sighs. "Nope," he says. "We can just sit here in silence and watch the telly. If you want."

"I want," Louis says, steadfastly attempting to break the seal on the millionaire's shortbread.

It's a while later, after Lorraine's done a Sunday lunch that owes much of its methodology to her dad, apparently, and a repeat of an old Nigella has started, that Louis steals a doughnut and looks down at his lap. "You know what you said, about fucking me?"

Nick made a kind of affirming noise round his chocolate custard doughnut.

Louis obviously thinks it's a good enough kind of noise for him to plough on without waiting for Nick to swallow his bite. "I think you should do that. To me."

"Fuck you?" Nick coughs, thumping himself in the chest with his fist. He doesn't want to choke on a chocolate custard doughnut, that would be embarrassing.

"Don't sound so enthusiastic, it was only an idea."

Nick rolls his eyes. The choking hazard appears to have passed, thankfully. "Whatever. I'm on board with fucking you, Tomlinson. If that's what you want."

"Said so, didn't I?" Louis pulls a ring doughnut into two, and stuffs half of it in his mouth in one go. "Have you got stuff?"

"If you means condom and lube, then yes. It's in the case."

"Came prepared, did you?"

"Oh my god," Nick says. "You literally make me want to scream into this stupid fucking pillow. Why are you such a fucking pain in the arse?"

"Because you are actually the most annoying person on the planet," Louis says, finishing his doughnut and gathering all of the food together so that he can dump it on the floor by the bed. "Is the stuff in here?" He opens Nick's suitcase, and Nick's pretty protective of his belongings, all things considered. Especially as Louis' approach to finding the condoms is to pull everything out of the case and dump it on the floor round the case. Even the fact that Louis has a really nice arse—that he talks out of ninety-six per cent of the time—and that him bending over by the window gives Nick a spectacularly good view of it, doesn't make up for the fact he's upending Nick's belongings all over the floor.

"Oi," Nick says, a trifle lamely. "Manners."

"My mother never taught me any," Louis lies. Even Nick knows how close Louis and his mum are. Louis holds up a t-shirt. "Do you seriously wear this?" It's Nick's Britney t-shirt, brought to wear on the way back to London tomorrow under Nick's new checked shirt. Louis' already seen it, that first time they had sex, so why he's making a big deal of it now, Nick has no idea.

"I do," Nick says, doing his best to sound bored. "If you want to borrow it you're going to have to swap it for something you've brought with you. There's only so much Britney to go round."

"No thanks," Louis says, affecting a frown. Whatever. Britney's brilliant. And mad, but that's part of why Nick loves her. He likes people who wear their eccentricities on the outside. Louis' all locked up inside, and Nick can't help but wonder if everything everyone else sees is a giant mask. Surely it can't be; surely Nick can't be the only one seeing inside of him. Maybe at some point in the future there will be a less fucked up version of Louis Tomlinson, one who can ask for what he wants and not be a giant, screwed up liar who keeps secrets like this one.

Louis drops Nick's shirt on the floor, and goes back to searching through Nick's case.

"I could find them myself," Nick says. "I do know where they are, after all. Before you end up tipping everything on the floor—"

Louis turns Nick's suitcase over and dumps everything on the carpet. "You were saying?"

"Jesus Christ," Nick kicks him in the leg. Barefooted, it hurts.

Louis turns back round to face him, clambering to his feet. "Found them," he says. He's holding a pack of Durex and a tube of KY Jelly.

Nick takes a deep breath, and then another. "Well done, champ. Neatly done, there."

"If you'd put them in a better place, Nicholas." The sanctimonious face Louis' wearing makes Nick want to kick something. Hard.

"You're not going to put any of it back in the case, then?" Nick's working quite hard on not snapping, but the expression on Louis' face stops him. He's goading Nick, wanting him to retaliate; desperation's written all over his face. Desperation, and fear, and Nick wants to punch something, because this is ridiculous. He takes a couple of deep, yoga-inspired breaths, grateful for those hippy dippy yoga courses he'd paid for and never finished. Sticking his bum in the air and hoping for inner peace was all a bit too much like hard work. He stays very still. "How do you want me to react, Louis?"

Louis flinches. "I want you to fuck me."

"Yes," Nick says, because that part at least is obvious. "But either you're trying to make me angry on purpose, or there's something else going on, because even you aren't this deliberately annoying."

"I am," Louis says. He sounds sharp. Louis is always sharp edges with him. "Shall we go back to talking about how many listeners you're losing? I liked that."

Nick stands up, cups his hand to Louis' elbow, and pushes him up against the wall by the window. The curtains are drawn, at least. He slides his knee in between Louis' legs, and Louis lets out a ragged breath and rubs his dick against Nick's thigh. "You like that?" he asks, but he knows the answer is yes. He waits for Louis to nod, cheeks already flushed. "You want me push you around a bit? That it?"

Louis doesn't say anything to that. His eyes are dark and his hair's sticking up and Nick's already sucked him off once, but it feels like a constant battle to even take two steps forward, and half the time it feels like they're taking giant leaps backwards instead. Nick pushes his thigh further between Louis' legs; Louis is hard already, and rolling his hips down against Nick's leg. His fingers grip bruises into Nick's wrists.

"Louis," Nick says. "Come on, give me something to go on. Jesus."

"Yeah," Louis says, and he still won't meet Nick's eyes. "I want that."

"God," Nick says. "Fuck, Louis." He scratches his fingernails up Louis' sides, not hard enough to leave any lasting marks. Louis trembles beneath him, head tipping back and hitting the wall. He wants to leave marks, but he doesn't know where's okay. He kisses him instead, kind of furious with him for being so infuriatingly annoying and hot and here. Louis' mouth is hard against his, and he's holding on to Nick so tightly there are going to be bruises tomorrow on his arms, and Nick's going to have to remember to cover up or face the endless delighted gossip of his friends.

They kiss, and Louis tries to shove at him, push him away, all at the same time as pulling him nearer. If this is what the inside of Louis' head is like, Nick's glad he only gets to see this much of it. It's confusing enough as they stumble through the mess of Nick's belongings' on the floor, kicking the Krispy Kreme box out of the way as they trip back towards the bed. Something cracks beneath Nick's foot and Louis trips over one of the tubs of chocolate from M&S; they fall backwards onto the bed, Nick landing first, and Louis stumbling on top of him. He's half on and off the bed, but Louis pins him down, one hand to his hair, another to his shoulder, and he's kissing Nick like a desperate, crazy thing, and Nick's responding in kind, unable to help himself. He rolls them over, pressing Louis into the sheets with his hands. Louis' eyes go heavy lidded and his breath goes sharp and loud, just for a moment, just for the length of time it takes Nick to wrap his hand around one of Louis' wrists and pin it to the mattress above his head.

Louis rocks his hips up against Nick's, trying to pull Nick nearer, but Nick refuses to go. "You ever been fucked before?"

"None of your business," Louis says, surging up to press his mouth to Nick's again. Nick can't help it; he kisses back with an urgency he's half-ashamed of. "I don't care how rough you are," he goes on, hand tightening in Nick's hair, pulling on it, messing up his quiff, "I just want you to fucking fuck me."

Jesus Christ. He rolls them over again, so that he's on the bottom, and Louis' on top of him. The sheets have gone everywhere, and he can barely scramble for the KY without losing his grip on Louis' hips.

"Up, up," Nick says, flipping the cap on the lube and urging Louis up onto his hands and knees. The angle's all wrong but if he shifts them around he can reach between Louis' legs and finger him open this time.

The way Louis' cheekbones flush a dark, dusky pink at the first touch of Nick's finger is desperately, infinitely charming, and Nick immediately shuts that thought down, because—no. No fucking way. Not acceptable. He rubs a lube-slick finger over Louis' hole until Louis' gasping for more, holding himself up over Nick and trying not to meet his eyes. He stumbles a bit as Nick slides his first finger inside of him, dropping down onto his elbows and making the angle even more difficult. He kisses Nick's jaw, breathless as Nick fingers him, not bothering with super slow and going for efficient instead.

Nick can do efficient. He can finger Louis open with a certain degree of skill and sophistication; he might not have completed his actual degree, but there are some things in this world he is first fucking class at, and one of those is fingering. He doesn't bother with gentle, because Louis is already telling him to hurry the fuck up, and to do it harder. Louis is holding himself up over Nick and desperation is already scrawled across his face; Nick speeds up, enough that sliding in a second finger, and then a third, just makes Louis cry out his need against Nick's skin.

"I'm ready," Louis begs him, mouthing a bruise into Nick's shoulder. "Please, I'm so ready. You've got to fuck me, you have to—"

"Almost there, pet," Nick tells him, one hand to Louis' side. He strokes a pattern into his skin, an it's okay, I've got you kind of a pattern. He hopes Louis can't read it. "You're doing so well."

"I don't need your platitudes," Louis nips at Nick's lips with his teeth. "Don't fucking patronise me. I don't care. I just want—" I want you, Nick thinks, and wishes he hadn't. "Fuck me, please."

"On your back or on your hands and knees?" Nick asks, into Louis' kiss. He has to ask again, the first time lost against Louis' mouth.

"I don't care," Louis shakes his head. "Fuck—hands and knees."

"Fine," Nick says, and by the time they've got themselves organised and Louis has his legs spread and Nick's staring down at the pink flush to Louis' skin, and his arse all on display, he has a split second realisation of, fuck, I'm about to fuck Louis fucking Tomlinson, and it almost all goes to shit.

It doesn't, and he slides the condom on, lubing himself up, all to a soundtrack of Louis complaining that he isn't going fast enough, and reminders that he can't wait all fucking year.

"Stop being so fucking mouthy, god." Nick smacks Louis' hip with the flat of his hand, and for a moment there's just silence, Louis' hips bucking up.

"God," Louis' voice cracks and that's—that's too much. Christ. Christ. "Just fuck me. Please."

Nick lines his dick up and pushes in. Louis is so tight around him, and for a moment he worries that he hasn't prepped him enough, because Louis groans out, loud and ragged, and he drops down onto his elbows.


"Don't fucking stop, please, god."

And that's enough, because Nick's pushing in further, until he's right the way there and Louis' begging him—begging him—to move, just fucking move, and it's twisting inside of him, this fucking need to take him apart. He wants to take him apart and put him back together fixed, into something coherent and whole. He doesn't even recognise this feeling inside of him, the way it's coiling across his skin and down to the tips of his fingers, burning into Louis' hips as Nick fucks up into him. Surely Louis must be able to feel it? Nick can't keep it inside. He fucks him, rough as he can be, fingertips pressing bruises into Louis' skin, some kind of memento from tonight that Louis has to take with him, and he can't leave behind. Nick fucks down into him, over and over, his orgasm shifting into something closer and more desperate, Louis pushing back against him, so, so tight around Nick's dick.

"You're so tight," Nick tells him, pinching at Louis' waist, just to hear his breath hiss in and feel him tighten around him. "So, so tight."

"More, please. Harder." Louis just presses his cheek to the sheets, breath coming harsh and fast as Nick carries on fucking him. It's desperate, seeing him spread for him like this, to see how much he wants it, to feel him tremble, his need like a ragged flame driven over his skin like sweat on a burning hot day.

Nick doesn't know how long it is until his orgasm spikes, rolling over him in waves as he starts to come. It's only afterwards, when his thighs are complaining, and he's pulling out and sinking down onto the sheets, tying the condom off and dropping it into the bin, that he realises Louis hasn't come. He's still so hard, and he's shaking with it, shivering as Nick tugs him closer, tucking his knee in between Louis' legs and wrapping his hand around Louis' dick.

"Yeah?" he says, still a bit breathless himself, but Louis shuts him up with a kiss, one hand tangling in Nick's hair.

"Please," he begs, and Nick cups Louis' balls with his other hand, squeezing a little as he fists Louis' dick. It's dry and probably hurts but Louis is so, so hard. He kisses his need into Nick's skin, and Nick fists him harder, knowing that he has to be close.

"Come on," Nick says, against Louis' mouth. "Come on, love. You're so close."

Louis gasps out a breath, a bitten off cry, twisting on the sheets as he starts to come, pulses of white striping Nick's hand, and his stomach, and his thighs.

He rolls away afterwards, onto his side, away from Nick. The TV's still going in the corner, Nigella sneaking downstairs in her sexy dressing gown to eat bread and butter pudding made from stale croissants straight from the fridge. Nick sometimes pretends to be Nigella when he's wandering round the flat at night, opening his fridge whilst wearing only a silk dressing gown that had once belonged to Aimee—and probably still does, although she's never getting that fucker back whilst Nick is still living and breathing—and talking sexily to the half-eaten tin of mandarin segments in juice that was the only thing in his fridge, and technically belonged to Harry. He'd only been caught once, having a sneaky Nigella talk to the inside of his fridge in the middle of the night, but Harry had been drunk and more amused than anything else, so Nick carries on his habit just out of a general appreciation for Nigella's life work.

"That looks nice," Nick says, after a minute of Nigella eating her posh bread and butter pudding straight from the bowl, and doing a little sexy wink at the camera as she takes it off to bed with her and the titles roll.

"It looks like puke," Louis says, punching the pillows to get them more comfortable. He grabs the duvet from where it's mostly fallen off the bed, and pulls it over him. He's flushed and pink and a bit of a mess, and he's refusing to look at Nick.

"I suppose," Nick says, in an attempt to carry on a conversation Louis clearly has no desire to continue with. "Do you want the first shower?"

"You have it," Louis says, pulling the duvet up to his shoulders as the continuity announcers advertise a Horizon documentary that Nick won't ever watch. "I don't care."

"Fair enough," Nick says, equably. He feels stretched out and tense; it's the opposite to how he usually feels after sex, but then he doesn't usually have sex with Louis, so everything's kind of on its end and upside down anyway. "Do us a cup of coffee whilst I'm in there, will you? I'm all shagged out."

"Do it yourself," Louis says, from half under the duvet. Only his nose is poking out. "Do I look like your servant?"

"Fine," Nick says, irritated. He goes for the kettle, and takes it into the bathroom to fill it from the tiny, tiny sink, bringing it back in and jamming the cable back in before grabbing his toiletries from the floor by his suitcase. "I've even put it on to boil for you. If you can see your way to pouring one out for me as well as for yourself, brilliant. I'm going for a wash."

He doesn't stomp into the bathroom and slam the door behind him, but he does make a general approximation at both, stopping just short of actual teenage stomping and not giving actual teenage door slamming much of a try. He picks the biggest towels on the shelf, though, instead of one big towel and one little one, and feels an almost-malicious sense of joy as he gets under the shower and thinks about how he's just going to use one of those towels on his hair, and wind it up in a giant turban just for the sake of his quiff. Because Louis Tomlinson might be a fucked up little shitweasel, but that doesn't mean he isn't still the most annoying person in the known universe, and it doesn't mean that the desire to throw fruit at his head approximately ninety-two per cent of the time has lessened to any great degree just because they've fucked.

He spends too long under the spray, until there's no trace of what they've just done anywhere on his body, except for in the way his thighs tremble a little as he bends down to pick up his little bottles of shampoo and conditioner and shower gel from where they've fallen off the rack and hit the floor. He washes his hair twice, because there is no such thing as over conditioning, and then he climbs out of the shower into the beautifully steamy bathroom, and wraps himself up in the two biggest towels. He cleans his teeth for good measure—not because he expects to be kissed again, because he rather suspects that part of the evening is over and done with—but because oral hygiene is important, and everyone should remember that.

Then he wanders back out into the bedroom, to where Louis's sitting up in bed with his knees up to his chest, fiddling with his phone.

"Took you long enough," Louis says, without looking up. There is a cup of tea on each bedside table, and Nick feels curiously sad about the fact that there's one for him. He doesn't understand Louis Tomlinson, and suspects that even if he studies him for a thousand years, there will still be unsolved conundrums about why he does and says and thinks the things that he does.

"Yeah, well. I like a good shower." He dries his hair a bit with his massive towel, and drops it on the floor by the bed, before going over to the contents of his suitcase to find a pair of pants and his moisturiser. He comes back up with an apple, a piece of millionaires shortbread, and a rather nice selection of gentlemen's post-shower toiletries, which he lines up on his bedside table like something to be deliciously proud of.

"You're a knobhead," Louis says, watching him.

"Takes one to know one, sweetheart," Nick says, without looking up. "Are you going to get in the shower, or just watch me make myself beautiful?"

Louis makes a low, growly kind of a noise in the back of his throat. In another world, that would be quite sexy, but in this one it's just Louis being annoying. He genuinely does stomp into the bathroom, toilet bag in hand, but two seconds later he stomps back out, holding two hand towels, one in each hand. "Did you seriously use both the big towels? What are you, like, nine?"

Nick preens a little. His towel is tucked under his arms rather than round his waist. "I'm sorry," he says, and he's aware he doesn't sound even the slightest bit sorry at all.

"You are biggest fucking dickhead to ever walk the planet," Louis says, making a good attempt at slamming the bathroom door behind him as he goes back in. Of course, the doors are on those slow close things—precisely to avoid slamming, presumably—and the door closes very slowly behind him, much to Nick's amusement.

It's a wicked, wicked thing that he does, fucking with Louis Tomlinson, but someone's got to do it.

Of course, it all goes to shit when Louis comes back out of the bathroom, still wet from the shower, with a tiny towel hooked round his waist. There are marks on his chest and hips that Nick put there, and quite frankly, that's sort of magnificent.

"Stop staring at me, dickhead," Louis says.

Nick finishes his cup of tea and dumps his cup down on the bedside table again. "Wasn't," he lies.

Louis' expression suggests he knows the truth, judging by that smugness. Nick doesn't like it when Louis looks smug. It just smacks of forewarning and eventual pain and misery, usually for Nick.

Louis takes a while drying himself off and deliberately standing in front of the TV every time Nick tries to change the channel. Graham Norton's on, and he's trying to turn the volume up but every time he tries, Louis positions himself in the way. He picks up his—Nick's—scarf and folds it up, draping it over the back of the chair next to his bag.

Nick doesn't let his frustration show on his face. "Nice," he says finally. "Charming."

"I try," Louis says, hopping on to the bed in just his pants and promptly stealing both of the pillows from behind Nick's head.

Nick's head thunks back against the headboard. "You little git," he says, trying to steal the pillows back. "What happened to sharing?"

"I only share with nice people," Louis tells him, "and you're terrible."

"I am a nice person." Nick is really tired of being told that he isn't. "I'm genuinely nice. I like people, I'm nice to them." He smacks Louis with one of the stolen pillows. "I have no idea why you think I'm such a twat."

"Because you're a twat to me," Louis says, hitting him back. "Anyway, I've got secret twat-o-vision, I can see behind the mask. I can tell when people are knobheads on the inside." He taps his nose with one finger. "I can see the real you."

"Oh my god," Nick says. He drives his fingers into Louis' sides, making him squirm away. "Like, how do they fucking put up with you? You're a total dickhead."

"Only when you're around, sweetheart." Louis makes a face at him, saccharine-sweet, but then he hits Nick in the face with the pillow. Christ, that pillow case must be made of wood. It stings. That's way too much starch.

Nick flips Louis down on to the sheets, pinning him to the bed. Louis clutches his pillow to him. His eyes are bright. Nick isn't having any of this. He's so fucking tired of fighting; it's exhausting. He grabs his pillow and makes a big deal of hitting Louis repeatedly with it. Louis hits back, because Nick can't imagine him ever giving up on a fight, no matter how petty or tiny or ridiculous.

Anyway, Nick's never really had a pillow fight before. He wonders if they'll have to pay for them if they split them? He can't imagine that they're actually full of feathers, like in the films. He's allergic to feathers, for a start, and he hasn't needed his asthma puff-puff this evening, so he's fairly sure they're one hundred per cent polyester. Classy.

Nick isn't sure how he ends up on his back with Louis kneeling over him, but it happens, nonetheless. He drops his pillow down onto his chest, breathless, and stares up at him. Louis' damp hair is falling into his eyes, and he's suddenly ridiculously handsome, like for all this time the millions of One Direction Louis fans have been correct about who's their first choice in the band.

Louis drops his pillow down on top of Nick's, and presses the palms of his hands to Nick's chest through the pillows. "So," he says, softly.

"So," Nick echoes. The moment feels strangely fragile; a tiny faded thread holding the two of them together, silver-light and desperately thin.

Louis drops his gaze to Nick's mouth, and then back up to his eyes again. He licks his lips.

Nick very, very slowly reaches up to cup Louis' cheek in his palm.

Louis leans into his touch, a barely-there moment in time that Nick feels right the way down to his toes. When Louis leans in to kiss him, Nick shivers, unable to help himself. He reaches up to pull him in closer, until Louis' sprawled on top of him, the pillows thrown to one side. Nick's taken his contacts out, and hasn't put his glasses on, so Louis' a little blurry at the edges, warm and solid in his arms. Louis kisses him slowly, hands to Nick's damp hair, and there's no urgency to it, nothing desperate underpinning his mouth on Nick's, and this is new.

It's new, and dangerous, and Nick deals with it the only way he knows how: by kissing him back.

They kiss for ages, until Nick's mouth starts to feel chapped, and his eyelids are drooping. Sex and a hot shower and endless kissing has made him sleepy. He fumbles for the remote, and turns the telly off without stopping kissing; his hands stroke up and down Louis' sides even as they shift on the bed so that they're under the covers, the duvet pulled up over them so that Louis can sprawl out on top of him and mouth at his jaw. He reaches behind him for the light switch, and the room fades into darkness, even as Louis rolls off him and onto the sheets next to him.

Nick can't ask, what the fuck was that? because there's more than a good chance the universe will cave in on itself if asked to explain how or why he's just spent fucking forever getting off with Louis without actually getting off. It's the heavy petting he was never allowed to do in the swimming pool growing up, it's the pulling he wished he was doing when he was failing to study for his GCSEs. It's Louis fucking Tomlinson, and it was gentle where they've always been rough, and sweet where they've always leaned towards mean.

It's confusing and bewildering and Nick has seriously less than zero idea of what the fuck it all means.

"So, um—"

"I'm going to sleep," Louis says, cutting him off.

Nick's hand hovers in the air between them; he was going for Louis' hip, to pull him a little closer so that they could do what? Spoon? Jesus. Nick's losing it. He's fucking losing it. "Fine," he says, a little sharper than he means to be. "Night, then."

There's no response from Louis, and in the end, Nick rolls onto his side, away from Louis, and tries to go to sleep.


In the morning, when he wakes up, Louis is gone, and so is his stuff, and so is the burgundy scarf from the back of the chair.

Nick sinks back down onto his pillow, and covers his eyes with his hands. "Fuck, fuck, fuck."

He doesn't see the note on the pillow next to him until he's climbing out of bed, feeling like an idiot for even being here, feeling stupid, and a little bit used, and like he's done quite a bit of the using too. It's confusing, and kind of awful, and underpinning it all is the knowledge that everything they'd done last night was desperately, wonderfully hot. Nick really doesn't have a fucking clue whether he's coming or going.

The note is written on an advert torn from a magazine, sharpie scrawled across the white background of a girl in red eating yogurt. It just says, thanks, dickhead, followed by two x's, x x, that Louis' turned into a smiley face.

Nick stares down at it for the longest time, before folding it into four and going to put it in the inside pocket of his suitcase for safekeeping.

Inside his suitcase is the burgundy scarf, folded neatly in the centre of his case.

"God," Nick says, sinking down by the suitcase to rest on his heels and put his head in his hands. "You fucking dickhead. You fucking, fucking dickhead."

Thing is, he isn't sure whether he's talking about Louis, or himself.


Nick waits almost a week before getting in touch with Louis. He's thought about it, on and off, ever since getting back from Manchester last weekend. He can't stop thinking about it, if he's honest. He can't stop thinking about Louis begging him to pin him down, to fuck him hard, to come on his face. He keeps going over and over Louis goading him to the point of frustration, trying to get him to the point where Nick will push him around.

It's the Friday before Easter, and Louis is in Birmingham with the boys. Harry's already sent him a picture of an Easter egg shaped like a rabbit, with Harry gnawing on the ear through the foil. Nick sent him a text message back that just said, oi save that til next week styles, else the easter bunny will get you.

Nick tries not to think about lying to Harry all that much, because it sort of makes his insides want to splinter into pieces around him. Harry is the kind of person that you have to be straight up and honest around; he's the kind of guy that makes you want to be a better person, just to measure up. Nick lies to a lot of people about how he is, and what he wants, and how happy he is, but Harry isn't one of those people. He doesn't lie to Harry, except for about this, because how can he explain how fucked up Louis is, and how fucked up what he and Louis are doing is, and how even though they've said that they won't do it again, it feels like they both want to? He can't explain any of that without giving Louis away, and Nick is fairly sure that even though Harry and Louis are desperately close, Louis keeps this side of himself locked up pretty tight. So he sends Harry a picture of his Crunchie Easter egg on his shelf and another one of his best frowny face whilst standing next to it, and then he goes back to staring at the empty message window he's got open on his phone, with Louis' name in the to field.

If you want me to push you around, he texts, you can just ask me for it, you know. You don't have to wind me up first. You can just ask.

Louis' reply comes as Nick's contemplating having the world's longest shower. It just says, shut up.

"For fuck's sake," Nick says, which sums up how he's feeling quite well. He lobs his phone in the direction of the bed, and then goes to drown himself in the shower.

He doesn't get another message until after midnight, when Nick's on the sofa in his living room with Aimee snoring against his shoulder, and Ian passed out on the floor with his head on a sofa cushion he's dragged off the settee. It says, Can I ask you for that, though?

Nick wants to put his face in his hands and yell into the abyss. Louis Tomlinson is never vulnerable. He never lets himself be. Nick's seen the documentary; he's seen Harry cry over Harry's shit on Twitter, and he's seen Niall and Harry and Liam cry on X Factor, and he's seen Louis Tomlinson talk about his parents' divorce without shedding a single tear. It's not like Louis doesn't have emotions; Louis can be snappy and a dick on Twitter sometimes, and Nick's watched enough of their interviews to know that if any of them aren't going to suffer fools gladly then it's going to be Louis who snaps first, but Louis' never vulnerable.

Yeah, Nick texts back. You can ask me for that. You can ask me to push you around.

Louis doesn't reply, and Nick doesn't really think he ever expected him to; he sneaks out from under Aimee's arm and pads down the hall to his bedroom, where he huddles under the duvet with his phone on the pillow next to him, and tries not to worry about what he's just let himself in for.

He's going to get hurt, is the thing. He can see it coming, inevitable, like a car hurtling towards him with no fucking brakes. Louis doesn't text back and there's no point in waiting for him to; in the end he puts his phone on silent and tries to go the fuck to sleep.


There's a missed call from Louis on his phone in the morning. Nick stares down at it for a good two minutes; Louis has never, ever called him.

The timestamp says 3.17am.

Nick waits until he's dispatched Aimee and Ian into the wilds, bleary-eyed and hungover and stumbling towards the nearest greasy caff for a massive hungover Sunday morning Full English before he even thinks about calling him back. He has no idea what he'd say if Louis actually picked up, though, so he sits at his dining table in his biggest hoodie and looks out at his back garden and tries to work up the courage to call him back.

In the end he texts him instead: you rang?


call log says differently, Tomlinson. Got something to say?


It's a good thing that Louis isn't actually here, because Nick really would lob the contents of the fruit bowl at his head, apple after apple after apple. Fine next time you want to call me up for no reason at all in the middle of the night please feel free to go ahead.

Knew you were a knobhead.

If you want me to push you around you just need to fucking ask. Nick leaves his phone on the table whilst he gives up and stomps around his flat. How Louis manages to drive him this mad when he's not even here is, like, spectacularly high achieving. He furiously does the washing up and angrily washes out the empties from last night to put out with the recycling. He takes his frustration out on plumping up his cushions and tidying the living room from last night, and he's half way through emailing the lady from the Dog's Trust back about the work they're doing with the little Jack Russell Nick wants to adopt when his phone goes with a message.

I was drunk last night.

Nick rolls his eyes, and doesn't throw his phone across the room. Thought you might have been, he texts. Any chance you've remembered what you wanted to say to me?

Nothing. For fuck's sake. He's half way through composing a text that's going to say something along the lines of, this isn't how you treat someone you want to fuck again, when a call comes through, and Louis' name flashes up on the screen.

Nick takes a very long, very deep breath, and answers his phone.

"What are you getting out of this?" Louis asks, without saying hello. He sounds a bit hollow and echoey; Nick can't help but wonder if Louis is at the arena already, hiding out somewhere making this call.

"I literally have no idea," Nick says. "You drive me mad."

Louis doesn't say anything to that.

Nick taps his fingers against his knee, pressing his fingertips in. "You can ask me, you know," he says finally.

"I haven't got anything to ask."

"You're proper mouthy for someone with nothing to say."

Louis draws in a ragged breath. "What would it mean, though?"

"If I pushed you around?" Nick shrugs, forgetting that Louis can't see him. He's too used to facetiming his friends, but he doesn't want to see Louis' face. He wants this to be as inhuman as possible. "Dunno. No idea what you want. We could talk about it, though. Like, what you wanted."

Louis swallows. "I hate this," he says, but he doesn't sound like he does.

"It's not complicated, pet." Nick is rubbing at the threadbare patch on his jeans just below his knee; the threads are starting to come loose. "You keep trying to make me mad at you so I'll push you around, and I'm not playing that game anymore. You any idea how risky that is?"

"I know," Louis says, snappily. "I'm not a kid."

"Never said you were. I just said—" he sighs, and pinches the bridge of his nose. "I don't want to fight with you."

"First time for everything."

"Do you want me to hold you down on the bed?" The next time we have sex goes unspoken, but Nick hears it anyway.

There's a long, ragged pause. "Yes," Louis says, almost too quietly to hear.

"Okay. What about if I push you up against the wall, stop you from getting away? Do you like that?"

"Dunno." There's another pause. "I don't want you to stop me from getting away. It's not—I just want it to be rough. I want you to hurt me."

"What kind of hurt, love?" Nick isn't sure he can do this. A bit of pushing around is one thing, actual physical hurting is another. Nick's not sure he can go as far as that.

"I can't do this," Louis says. "Like, for real. You have any idea where I am? I'm in the fucking NEC. They're filming shit backstage for the film and I'm out here talking about how I want you to leave fucking bruises all over me, and you are all I can fucking think about, and it's too much. You're too much."

Nick drags his hand through his hair. "What kind of bruises?"

"Didn't you hear what I said?"

"I heard." Nick's tired of hearing. He's tired of this getting more and more fucked up. Maybe they should just—not do this again. That had been the plan, hadn't it? Right up until that moment where Louis had kissed him, post-shower, and things had sort of shifted a bit in his head, lining up a bit different, getting them to this point, here.

"Can I come to yours?"

Which, well, what. "When?"

"I can't do this over the phone." Louis sounds tired, and Nick gets that. He's felt exhausted, trying to work this stuff out over the last week, and Louis is more fucked up than he is. "I'm coming back to London tomorrow."

"You want to come over?" Nick's already standing up, going into the kitchen to see what's in the fridge. "I could do us a pizza. Salad, too, if you want. Posh one. I'll go to Waitrose."

"I have no idea how to be in a room with you and not want to throttle you," Louis says, after a moment that stretches out and out.

"Other people manage it," Nick says, as lightly as he can manage. "You don't have to come round if you don't want to."

"Am I staying over?"

Nick's heart feels like it's going to beat right out of his chest. "I don't know. Whatever you want. There's a sofa bed, if you'd rather."

Louis doesn't say anything to that. The quiet drags on. "Do you want me to bring anything?"

"Pudding, probably." Nick has less than zero idea what he's doing with his life in this moment. Less than zero. It's fucking minus figures. "I'll be in from about five. I've got meetings all day. Doing a new programme for BBC3."

"Nobody watches BBC3," Louis says.

"Well, now they won't watch me on there, either, because I'm going to be on it. And if you get any more charming I'm going to have to ask you to stop, for the sake of my ego."

"Your ego needs me on it, otherwise you wouldn't be able to fit through doors, your head's so big."

"Well, as one attention-seeker to another, you coming over tomorrow, then?" Nick only wants to kick him a little bit. Bearing in mind there's a good chance they're going to have sex tomorrow, he's counting that as a win.

"Fine," Louis says, sounding exasperated. Honestly, Nick and Louis are a winning combination. Winning. Nick has no idea why they haven't thought of this before. "I'll text you when I'm on the way. Can I park at yours?"

"Resident parking permits only," Nick says. "I've got a visitor pass, though. I'll give it to you when you get here."

"God." Louis lets out a breath. "There's nothing subtle about me coming in and out of your place, is there? I'll get a car, fuck that."

"Fine, whatever." There are bigger things to fight about than how Louis gets to his front door. "You all right?"

"Fine," Louis says. "Why wouldn't I be?"

"No reason," Nick says, and he knows that the moment he gets protective over fucked-up Louis Tomlinson is the moment he sets himself up for a fucking lorry-load of complications he'd be better off without, but he can't fucking help it. "I'll see you tomorrow."

"Not if I see you first," Louis says. He's hung up before Nick's thought of anything reasonable to say in response, and Nick's left sitting in his flat, staring down at his phone, and wondering what the fucking fuck he's got himself into.


Nick has no idea what Louis eats or doesn't eat, so he buys what he wants instead, which is probably a good way to go on with whatever fucked up relationship they're not embarking on. He gets a chestnut mushroom, bacon and mascarpone pizza, and because they're on offer, he dumps a spinach and ricotta one in the trolley after it, before bunging a Spanish tapas pack of meat in on top in case a vegetarian pizza isn't laddy enough. He tops it off with a bag of inferno rocket salad, because it sounds like disco inferno, and if it all gets a bit awkward later on at least he can break into a karaoke disco classic to break the silence. The bakewell tarts are a last minute addition to the basket, and only because Nick wants an excuse to call Louis a tart and get away with it.

He's home for half past five, and he finds a parking space that's only half a million miles away from his front door, and then he half-jogs down the pavement on the off-chance that Louis' actually on time and waiting for him. He almost drops the last minute French stick on the floor—in fact he does drop it on the floor, but it's still in its extra long paper bag so it's probably still sanitary—but Louis isn't tapping his foot on Nick's doorstep waiting for him.

In fact, he's not on Nick's doorstep two hours later, either, which is about the time Nick starts to get hungry enough to give up on Louis ever arriving. He would text, but he's not actually desperate, and anyway, he'd rather not have Louis know that Nick was planning his evening around him.

In the end, Nick gives up waiting and sticks the kettle on for another cup of tea, and switches the oven on for one of the pizzas. Waste not, want not, as his dad always used to say, usually just before his mum hit him with the tea towel for spouting inane clichés as an excuse to eat the leftovers from their plates at dinnertime.

He's on his second slice of pizza when the doorbell finally rings, and he takes it with him to answer the door, because pizza is important enough not to be left for man nor beast nor doorbell.

Louis looks awkward, tired, and quite a lot like sunglasses in the evening in March might not have been the most practical outerwear for negotiating the steps down to Nick's front door.

"Was it sunnier in Birmingham?" Nick asks, stepping back to let Louis walk on in.

Louis just looks confused, or at least he might do, if the bug-eyed sunglasses weren't eating his entire face.

"The sunglasses," Nick says, and he says it slowly, in case Louis' brain has atrophied or something and he needs things in very small words. "At night. In March."

Louis has teamed them with a faded black ski hat that says Guinness on the front, an over-sized black puffa jacket, and a very battered Vans rucksack that looks like the only thing holding it together is sheer good will.

"Who are you trying to be?" Nick asks, waving his pizza slice in Louis' general direction. "Cos you look like Phil Mitchell. I think it's the hat. And the puffa jacket."

"Take that back," Louis says, pulling off the hat. He puts his sunglasses in his coat pocket, and unzips his coat. "If I was going to be a Mitchell brother, I'd be Grant."

"Surely you're too young to remember Grant Mitchell." Nick turns the key in his door, the second lock he barely ever remembers to fasten. "Wasn't that like, when you were in primary school?"

"He came back," Louis says. "When Dirty Den got knocked off. My mum watches it."

"Right," Nick says, since he doesn't really care about Eastenders at the best of times, and definitely not now, when Louis is slowly becoming Louis again, and dumping the ridiculous Mitchell Brothers outerwear. His jumper is black and white striped, and slouchy; it hangs off one shoulder where the neckline's got all stretched out. He's wearing a red t-shirt underneath, familiar black skinny jeans rolled down at the ankle for probably the first time ever. He dumps all of his stuff on the floor in the hall, and sticks his hands in his pockets.

"So," Louis says. "You started without me."

"Didn't think you were coming," Nick admits, before his brain catches up with his mouth and screeches no way too late. "It's only just out of the oven, though."

"There's trifle in my bag," Louis says, and he drops to his knees to unzip his rucksack, coming out with a Sainsbury's strawberry trifle and a can of squirty cream. "Sorry, it's probably not posh enough."

"I'm not posh really," Nick says, taking the trifle and the extra cream. He balances them in one hand, pizza slice in the other, and leads the way into the kitchen.

This isn't awkward at all, by any standards.

"You shop at Waitrose," Louis says, trailing after him into the kitchen. He drops into the seat closest to the door, and steals a slice of pizza. "This is all Waitrose, isn't it? See. Posh."

"You should hear my dad on the subject," Nick says, sliding the second pizza into the oven and grabbing the French stick to cut it into slices. He opens the bag of salad, and mixes a tub of baby plum tomatoes with it in his salad bowl, and nudges it in Louis' general direction. "Take that, and grab plates and cutlery from over there."

"You were eating with your fingers."

"I didn't have guests," Nick says, primly. He puts the trifle in the fridge, and very carefully does not think about how, if he's preparing their tea, he's not having a fucking awkward conversation with Louis about their secret sex life. "Nice of you to text and tell me you were going to be late, by the way."

"Shut up," Louis says. He rests his elbows on the kitchen table, and steals another tomato. "I wasn't going to come at all."

"And for the fact you've changed your mind, I am forever grateful," Nick says, coming to sit down opposite him and taking another slice of pizza, and some salad. There's balsamic vinegar already on the table, and he drizzles it over his salad with an awkward sort of practiced unease.

"Got any salad cream?"

"In the fridge."

Louis comes back to the table with ketchup and salad cream. He dumps a large splurt of one on one side of his plate, and the other directly opposite it. He then dips his pizza in the ketchup, and his lettuce in the salad cream, and puts them both in his mouth at the same time.

"That's revolting," Nick says, half in wonder. "That's literally revolting."

"Harry thinks it's charming," Louis says.

"Harry is just as revolting as you are," Nick says, round a bite of his pizza. He doesn't know what else to say to him. He has no idea how to hold a conversation with Louis that isn't making fun of him for being a dickhead. Surely there's something that other people have in common with him that means they can conduct a civilised conversation where he doesn't look at them like something that crawled out of a canal. "So, um. How's the tour?"

Louis looks an interesting combination of amused and vaguely surprised. He raises an eyebrow. "This is what we're talking about?"

"We're having dinner," Nick says, sweeping his hand over his plate in demonstration. "Do you want to talk about how we've seen each other naked, or can we attempt a conversation about something with more clothes involved for the duration?"

Louis makes a face at that. "Fine," he says. "Tour's fine. Birmingham's Birmingham. Everyone sounds like Liam, and Liam was in his fucking element."

"Were his family there last night?"

Louis nods from round his slice of pizza. "Everyone he's ever even been vaguely blood related to, I think. And some people from school."

Judging by what Nick knows of Liam, he suspects that family vastly outnumbered the people from school. "Did your family come to the Sheffield one?"

"Know our tour dates, do you?"

Nick doesn't blush, he really doesn't. It's more like a gentle flush, and anyway, he was leaning over the pizza. Luckily the timer on the oven chooses that moment to go off, so he can direct his attention to getting the second pizza out of the oven instead of meeting Louis' smug, amused gaze.

He comes back to the table with the pizza and the packet of Spanish tapas meats, and shoves them in Louis' general direction. "Here, extra meat."

"Just what I like," Louis says, and then he blushes bright red. Nick pretends not to see, and tries to tell himself it's because sometimes Louis makes it too easy. "So. Lost any more listeners this week?"

"We're not doing this," Nick rolls his eyes. "Seriously, we've had this fight, and I'm not having it again. If you want me to push you around, you don't have to fucking goad me into it, all right?"

"I wasn't—"

"You were." Nick takes another slice of pizza.

"Fine, I'll just go." Louis makes to stand up, but Nick stops him with a hand to his elbow. "I'll go."

"No," Nick says. "Don't run away. It's all right."

Louis clenches his fists. "I don't know what to ask you for," he says finally, still not sitting down. "I have literally no idea what to say to you. I don't even know why I'm here. I feel like an idiot. If I turn around you're going to be fucking pissing yourself laughing at me."

"Sit down," Nick says. He pats Louis' chair, and nudges him back into it with his hand to Louis' elbow. The level to which he's equipped to deal with Louis being this fucked up is fairly low. "You should try yoga, mate. Might stop these violent outbursts."

"Fuck off." Louis steals a tomato from the salad bowl, but then he just dumps it on his plate and puts his face in his hands instead. "Are you laughing at me?"

There's a tight feeling in Nick's chest which he knows leans far closer to sadness than amusement. "No," he says, softly.

"You laugh at me all the time. I've heard you on the radio, you know."

"Not all the time," Nick hedges his bets. "Just some of the time. And I'm laughing with you, half the time."

"What about the other half, then?"

Nick lifts a shoulder, an attempt at a shrug. "You're hardly kind to me all the time, either."

"That's 'cos you're a knob."

Nick rolls his eyes. "Is this how you charm your way into all the boys' hearts?"

Louis puts his hands back down on the table. His eyes are bright. "No," he says. "There's just you."

"What, like, just me at the moment, or—"

"Just you, full stop," Louis says. "Boys-wise, I mean."

There are a lot of thoughts in Nick's head right now, and approximately eighty-four per cent of them make no sense whatsoever. "I thought you and Harry—" he says, vaguely nonsensically, since he and Harry hadn't ever talked about X Factor era Harry-and-Louis, but Nick had sort of thought it went without saying that they'd messed around. Nick had, in actual fact, made some kind of vague assumption that that might be why Louis hated him. He drops his slice of pizza down onto his plate. "Oh god, was that your first time? Last week? When I fucked you?"

"I kissed Harry once, and then he blew me. That's it. That and one other night where we were drunk and we pulled once, in someone's bedroom at a party. That what you wanted to know?"

"Not really," Nick says. When he'd fucked Louis, he'd worried about not prepping enough. Had it hurt? Louis deserved a better first fucking time than that, god. He feels crap. "What about girls? They ever, you know, get rough with you?"

Louis folds his pizza slice up into a roll. He drops it back onto his plate and it unrolls slowly, popping vaguely back into something pizza shaped. "One girl scratched me a lot."

"You liked that?"

Louis shrugs. "It felt like a start."

"What happened with her?"

"We fought all the time and we broke up. Not a big deal."

It might be, Nick thinks. "Did you fight all the time because you wanted her to get rough with you?"

Louis doesn't say anything for the longest, longest time. "Maybe."

"Well then," Nick says, and feels approximately as awkward as it's possible to feel when he's stealing slices of spicy Spanish chorizo and talking about being naked with Louis fucking Tomlinson. "It's a start. Do you want me to do that to you? Scratch you?"

"Not where anyone can see."

"Okay," Nick says. "Do you want a brew?"

"I'll make it," Louis says, and he avoids Nick's eyes as he stumbles off his chair and in the direction of the kettle. Louis fills the room normally, his personality five times as big as he is. He seems—muted. Smaller, as he fills the kettle and opens the cupboards until he finds the mugs, and opens even more cupboards until he finds the teabags. Nick doesn't tell him where anything is because Louis clearly doesn't want to ask, and anyway, Nick's got other things to think about.

Louis brings two cups of tea back to the table in the end, and they eat more of the pizza without really talking.

"If you tell anyone about this I'll just say you're lying," Louis says, finally.

"I know," Nick says. "You said. Still not going to tell anyone."

"You've got a big mouth, though."

Nick has. It's not a secret. He's an insatiable talker. He loves it. He loves people, loves talking to them, finding out their stuff, chatting about nothing. He likes finding out what people have on their toast and whether they like their peanut butter smooth or crunchy. He's still offended that he's got a reputation for not being able to keep a secret, though. That's unfounded. He's not actually a massive gossip, whatever assumptions people might make about him.

He pushes his plate away, and stands up. "Do you want to watch telly?" he asks.

"I could suck your dick," Louis says, not looking up. "If you wanted. Instead of the telly."

Nick sits back down again. "Louis," he says, all quiet-like.

"You could fuck my face. Hold me there. Make me take it."

"God." Nick's hard just thinking about it. It's terrible, wanting this. Wanting Louis like this. Wanting Louis at all. He's a cuntbuckety fuckweasel. He also looks scared, and the Louis Tomlinson Nick knows does not do outward displays of fear. It's almost enough to make Nick fearful for him. "We should talk about limits, then."


"What's the line between what you want and what you don't want," Nick says, as patiently as he can manage. His experience of this is almost as limited as Louis' clearly is, but the inside of Louis' head is at least six times more fucked up than Nick's is, and on a good day Nick is a walking mass of contradictions and poorly constructed thought processes. Half the time it's a bloody miracle he gets through the day with his friendships and job and flat still intact; it's usual that at least one of those things hangs in the balance and promises to fuck up given the tiniest fluctuation in Nick's life.

"I don't know," Louis says. "I don't know that answer."

Nick's heart trembles a little in his chest. "How about a safe word, then. And like—you can do something to make me stop, and I'll stop. If you're uncomfortable."

Louis looks up at that. His hair's all sticking up in the front; it's either a deliberate attempt at a quiff or there's some kind of quantum physics going on in Nick's flat that he's not really aware of, and particles and atoms and other tiny things that Nick knows precisely fuck all about are realigning themselves without permission in the general sphere of Nick's house guests. "Christ."

Nick shrugs, and tries to smile. "Seems like a plan to me."

Louis glances round the table. "Pizza? No, Spanish. Chorizo. Tapas. I have no idea."

"Spanish is good. I'll stop if you say that. Or I could say it."

"I thought I was the one on my knees for you? Why would you need to say it?"

"You never know," Nick says. He doesn't know the way to say, you're breaking in front of me, and I don't know what to do. "And you could pinch me. In the leg, or something. You do that and I'll stop."

"Oh." Louis colours a bit. "I think I want you to, like, tie my hands behind my back or something."

The mental image of Louis Tomlinson naked and on his knees with his hands tied behind his back is suddenly all that Nick can think about, but more overwhelmingly, he can see Louis panicking and not being able to stop it. "Love, how on earth are you going to tell me if I'm going too far if you've got a mouthful of my cock and your hands tied behind your back?"

"It won't be too much," Louis says, stubbornly.

"No," Nick says. "But it's too much for me. We'll just—you can just hold them behind your back this time. We can, like, I don't know, look into what other people do if they're tied up afterwards, if you want." He looks down at his lap, at his hard-on, and then back over to Louis. "You know I was never a scout, right? I couldn't tie a knot if you paid me. I can barely do my own shoelaces up."

Louis is flushed and quiet and fiddling with a piece of lettuce. "Do we have to talk anymore, or can we just get on with me sucking you off?"

"You make it sound so appealing," Nick says, but he pushes his plate away from him, standing up.

"Fine," Louis says. "Please can I suck your cock, Nick. I really want to."

"God," Nick says, because Louis made that sound like he was pleading, and Nick hasn't given much thought about begging being anything particularly sexual before they started whatever it is they're doing, but his dick's pressed right up against his flies. He adjusts himself a little awkwardly.

"Please," Louis continues, and there's a gleam to his eyes that Nick doesn't quite recognise, but it's balanced out by the way his fingers tremble against his leg as he stands up. "Please, I want to suck your dick."

Nick leads the way into the living room—because the bedroom feels too intimate, all of a sudden—and makes sure the curtains are closed before he undoes the top button of his jeans, pushing them down to his knees, and pulls his pants down.

Louis drops to his knees in front of him, and leans in to wrap his hand around the base of Nick's dick without even a by-your-leave. It steals quite a lot of Nick's brain capacity, Louis on his knees in his living room for him, and by the time he's remembered that he can actually form words, Louis' leaned in and taken Nick's dick in his mouth. He removes his hand, then, and his tongue presses against Nick's slit.

"Christ," Nick manages, which seems like quite the verbal achievement, especially when he considers that Louis' hands are now behind his back, fingers linked together. He remembers what Louis had asked for, now, and he slides his fingertips into Louis' hair, and feels Louis whimper around his dick as Nick urges him to take more in, rolling his hips up and fucking up into Louis' mouth. He whimpers again at that, mouth stretched wide around Nick's erection. Nick tilts Louis' head back a bit, fingers catching in Louis' hair as he rolls his hips up, and Louis meets his eyes then. He strokes his other hand over Louis' cheek. "You want more?"

Louis whines at that, and begs his yes in a nod, pressing forward to take more of Nick's dick until he's almost choking, spit sliding out of the corner of his mouth and down his chin. Nick pulls at Louis' hair, then, forcing him to stay still until Louis' eyes are watering, and even then Louis' trying to press closer, his nose in Nick's pubes. Nick lets him go then, pushing him back a little so that he can fuck into Louis' mouth, and it's hot and spit-slick, and Nick wants to press his dick to the back of Louis' throat and have him take him all the way in. He wants to know what it feels like to be that deep inside of him. He wants to know what Louis sounds like when he takes it, if it makes Nick's chest hurt the way it does right now to look down and see him desperately trying to take more. He pulls Louis' hair instead, and Louis whimpers, hollowing his cheeks around Nick's dick as Nick fucks slow and hard into his mouth.

Louis' hands are still behind his back, clasped together, and Nick wants to see him with a tie around his wrists, something to keep him there, something to make him stay still. Louis' dick is pressed up against his flies, erection obvious, and that just makes Nick want this more. Need pulses across his skin, trembling over his fingertips and catching in Louis' hair; his shirt is sticking to his back, skin hot and sweaty as Louis' teeth catch the underside of Nick's erection in an awkwardly desperate twist of Nick's hip as his orgasm starts to curl over his skin, and gather in his belly. He groans at that, fingers tightening in Louis' hair, and that just makes Louis suck harder, and faster, loud and desperate in the quiet of the room.

Nick doesn't know if he's being rough enough, or if it's all too much. It feels like it's too much for him; he's losing it. His rhythm is ragged and desperate, his breath coming hoarse and rough. Louis' eyes are wet and he's relentless on Nick's dick, breathing through his nose as Nick pulls him in closer, hands in his hair, fucking him up.

He's fucking him up, and it's perfect and awful and terrible and so, so hot, and when he starts to come he realises he never warned Louis he was near. Louis coughs and swallows and presses closer, coming up off his knees to try and take it all, and Nick—

Nick can't. He's come so hard he can't breathe. He tips his head back against the wall and keeps a hand in Louis' hair even as Louis sits back on his heels and lets Nick's dick slip from his mouth.

Nick closes his eyes and keeps stroking Louis' hair even as he's trying to get his breathing under control.

When he looks down a few moments later, Louis' unzipping his flies and pulling his cock out. He's leaning against Nick's leg, sitting on the floor with his feet curled up underneath him. He wanks himself off without looking up, without asking if Nick wants to help, without meeting Nick's eyes.

It's shameful and dirty and hot, and Nick slides his hand down over Louis' cheek to his chin, tilting his head up to meet Nick's gaze head on.

He's flushed red and his face is hot; his mouth is fucked red and spit-slick and his rhythm doesn't let up on his dick, not even a little bit. Nick strokes his thumb over Louis' mouth, and Louis' breath catches in his throat. He closes his eyes, lashes dark, and he fists his cock hard and without ceremony, coming up off the floor a little, gasping out how close he is. When he comes, it's with a ragged hitch of breath, a tiny breathless, oh, his hips rocking up. He comes into his hand, quiet and desperate.

Nick goes to get him a tissue, pulling up his jeans as he stumbles over to the coffee table to come back with a box of Kleenex Balsam. "Here you go, love," he says, but Louis' already pulling his jeans up as he wipes himself down with the tissue.

It smells like sex and heat in Nick's living room, and he's awkward and flushed and it feels a little bit like he's had an out of body experience and has been put back wrong. He feels backwards and off-kilter in his own body, like he's got elbows where he should have hands. He doesn't know what to do with himself, and he definitely doesn't know what to do with the boy sitting on his living room floor.

He sits down on the edge of the sofa closest to where Louis' sitting.

"You all right?" Nick asks, after thirty seconds where he looks down at his knees and Louis scrunches up his tissue and drops it on the floor.

"Yeah," Louis says, and he sounds rough and hoarse, like he's got a forty-a-day habit. Nick did that, he realises. He made him sound like that. With his dick.

"Was that—" Nick tails off. He waggles his hands a bit, in the closest approximation to was that secretly kinky enough for you that he can manage on no previous experience.

Louis shifts a little closer, and he's wearing the kind of fierce, mulish expression that Nick is slowly coming to associate with Louis doing something he's fairly sure he shouldn't want to do. "Yeah," he says, which doesn't say much, if Nick's honest. He's still on Nick's fucking floor, for a start.

His voice still sounds wrecked.

Louis shuffles a bit nearer. It's like tempting a really terrified puppy out from behind the sofa. Nick sits quite still and doesn't say very much, and tries not to look like a terrifying overlord, or the kind of person who enjoys being rough with Louis and doesn't know quite what to do with that information. He's not sure how successful he's managing to be, but it has to be somewhere on the positive side of things because Louis isn't running off and hiding, his furious expression aside.

When Louis ends up sitting at Nick's feet with one knee up to his chin, and resting his cheek against Nick's knee, Nick seriously does not know what to do with himself. He doesn't know what to do with his limbs, or with this odd feeling in his chest that makes him feel a little bit like his lungs are contracting inwards. His hand hovers in mid-air, and his heart starts to pound, because Louis Tomlinson is curled up at his feet, and literally the only thing that Nick can think of to do with this information is to slide his hand into Louis' hair, and pet him.

Louis presses even closer at that, one hand around Nick's calf, and Nick's breath feels like it's all trapped in his throat. The TV remote is next to him on the settee, so he switches the TV on, just for something to do. There's an old episode of Lewis on, and he doesn't bother changing the channel or turning the volume up. He just lets it play on, even though they've missed the beginning, and the murder, and Nick can't concentrate on anything other than the boy curled up by his feet.

"You can pull," Louis says, after a while of Nick carding his fingers through Louis' hair, and trying to figure out where he knows the girl from the murder of the week from. She looks familiar. Maybe she was in Hollyoaks. "I like it when you pull."

So Nick does; he starts to pull gently on Louis' hair, fingers tangling in his half-arsed attempt at a quiff, stroking and pulling in equal measure. Louis stays with his cheek pressed to Nick's knee, and his hand to his calf, and sometimes when Nick's fingers pull just that little bit too hard, Louis' hand tightens on his leg.

Nick doesn't have a fucking clue what the fuck's going on, or what the hell they're doing, but he can't ask Louis. Louis probably doesn't have a clue either, and anyway, it feels like they're always balancing on a very tentative precipice; one wrong word and they're both over. Sometimes—like now—it feels like it could be a very long way down.

They stay like that most of the way through Lewis, until one of the advert breaks, when Louis presses a little closer still and says, "Did you ever see that episode of Midsomer Murders where Martine McCutcheon was murdered by a giant circle of cheese falling on her? Death by cheese." His voice sounds slow and heavy and still kind of wrecked; it has this weird kind of effect on Nick in that it sort of makes his fingers tingle and his head feel oddly confused.

"That never happened," Nick says, although he wouldn't actually know. Murder mysteries require his concentration for hours at a time. He hasn't got that; his attention always wanders. He doesn't normally watch them.

"Did too," Louis says, without moving. He traces a pattern into Nick's jeans with his fingertip. Nick's still slowly carding his fingers through Louis' hair.

"Must have missed that one," Nick says. He waits a beat before talking again. "Are you going to stay tonight?"

Louis shakes his head slowly. "Nah," he says. "Going to Mum's in the morning. Couple of days up there." His voice sounds a little thick. "I should probably go, actually."

"You'll miss the end," Nick says, even though he doesn't have a clue what's going on on the telly, because he's barely paid it any attention at all. He just keeps thinking about Louis instead.

"All right," Louis says, barely moving. "After this, then."

There's a fairly good chance that Nick's in this way too deep already.

Louis calls for a car to come and pick him up once Lewis and Hathaway discover who the murderer is. He shuffles away from Nick's leg and sits with his back up against the sofa as he organises his pick up. Nick shifts position and nips for a wee and doesn't spend an extra twenty seconds in the bathroom staring into the mirror trying to figure out exactly what the fuck he's got himself in to.

When he comes back out, Louis' gathering his stuff together, and putting his shoes back on, and avoiding Nick's eye. The last part is the bit he's spending most of his time on; Nick ends up standing in his hall with one knee up against the wall, watching Louis busily unpack his rucksack and re-pack it again for precisely no good reason that Nick can see at all.

There's a GAP carrier bag with toiletries and underwear in, though. He sees Louis stuff it into his rucksack again like it never existed.

In the end, even Louis can't repack his rucksack for a third time, so he stands up and leans against the wall at the other side of Nick's hall.

"All done?" Nick asks.

"It wouldn't fit in," Louis says. He folds his arms.

"Sure, yeah," Nick says. He taps his fingers against his thighs. "How long's the car going to be?"

"Not long. Couple of minutes, probably. They said between five and ten."

Nick nods. He can't stop looking at Louis' mouth; it's not quite so obvious that he was sucking Nick off the length of a Lewis episode ago, but Nick can still tell. There's a flush to his skin, too.

"Stop staring at me."

"Sorry," Nick says, but he doesn't mean it, and he doesn't stop. He wants to press his thumbs to Louis' cheeks, tilt his chin up, take a proper close look. He wants to—

He wants to kiss him.

He glances up at Louis, and away from his mouth; Louis' eyes are bright. Louis bites his lip at the attention, and runs his hand through his hair. It looks fucked up anyway, because Nick's been playing with his hair for the last god knows how long. Now it just looks even messier, and Nick's stepping away from the wall even before he knows what he's doing, crossing the hall to push Louis back against the wall and tilt his chin up.

Louis looks oddly, desperately defiant. His gaze drops to Nick's mouth, and back up to his eyes again; his mouth falls open, just a bit.

"God," Nick breathes, rolling his hips down to meet Louis'. He braces himself with one hand to the wall behind Louis' head, and Louis lets out a breath before tucking two fingers into one of Nick's belt loops, drawing him in.

"Don't even," Louis starts, but he doesn't let himself finish. He tilts up to meet Nick's mouth in a kiss, already breathless even as Nick covers Louis' mouth with his own. He cups the back of Louis' head, pulling him closer, and Louis pushes back, pressing himself to Nick's chest, panting into Nick's kiss.

They end up bumping into the hall table again, stuff going everywhere as Nick pushes Louis back into it, papers and picture frames and Nick's key bowl hitting the ground with a crash.

"Don't care," Nick says, in between kisses, heat and need twisting across his skin. God, this is what he's been wanting, this is what he didn't know he could ask for, this is what he needs. He lets Louis push him back against the other wall, against the coat rack, Nick knocking a Barbour off the hook as he kisses him again. He's breathless already, even as he turns them around, and gets Louis up against the wall, hands to his side, pinning him there.

Louis tips his head back and lets Nick mouth at his throat, before pulling him up for another kiss. "The car—" he says.

"They'll ring you," Nick says, and it takes all he has not to bite down on Louis' jaw, or his throat, or the curve of his neck. Nowhere you can see the marks. "We've got a minute."

"Yeah," Louis agrees, and then he fists his hands in Nick's shirt, and pulls him in for another kiss, rough and desperate and hot. They stay like that, breathing ragged kisses against each other's mouths, until Louis' phone starts to ring. The car's outside.

"Be there in a minute," Louis says, before he hangs up and steps out of the way of Nick's arms. "Christ." He runs his hands through his hair.

Nick doesn't ask, how long are you away for or when do you come back or can I see you again. He steps back, and shoves his hands in his pockets, and tries to ignore the heavy beat of his heart in his chest. He watches as Louis puts on his coat and his hat; at least this time he doesn't bother with the sunglasses.

"Right then," Louis says, putting his rucksack on both shoulders. "So, um."

Nick leans in for a kiss, the kind he gives everyone when they leave the house. It's accidental, and thoughtless, and he only realises when Louis turns his head just enough to the side that Nick catches the corner of his mouth instead of his cheek, that it might have been a stupid idea.

Louis stays perfectly still; Nick's an inch away. He should step back, or go to open the front door, or—perhaps—go and hide under the table in the kitchen until this has all gone away, but he doesn't do any of those things. He stays stock-still instead, until Louis turns to the side, away from him, and then darts back in to press his mouth to Nick's.

"I'll see you," Louis says, awkwardly, and then he's going for the door, and darting up the steps outside to the road, and Nick's left closing the door after him.

"Yeah," Nick says, belatedly, a little dazed. "Okay."


Louis texts him a picture during the Breakfast Show two days later, on Wednesday morning. It's Nick, from some teen magazine that Nick can only assume—and possibly hope—belongs to one of Louis' sisters. He isn't sure entirely how many sisters Louis has, but he has it fixed at somewhere around a dozen. He'd always tried not to expend that much energy on Louis Tomlinson.

He's doing a fine job of that, all things considered.

It's a picture of Nick, torn from a magazine that has a lot of baby pink in the background, and a list of articles on the right hand of the shot including oh god! I've got a spot and I'm going out with a fit lad tonight!—which, actually, wouldn't be out of place in some of the magazines Nick reads, either—and in the middle is a pap picture of Nick outside a Costa, looking a bit like he'd got dressed in the dark. Louis has drawn a nice, big penis in the centre of Nick's forehead, and sent an accompanying text that just says, an improvement, yes?

Luckily they're playing Ellie Goulding on the radio so Nick is quite happy to yell after Matt Fincham and Fiona, who have been mocking him all morning for going for a smoked salmon bagel for breakfast instead of a sausage bap. "Minions! Someone get me a picture of Louis Tomlinson. It's imperative I draw a willy on his face immediately."

Fifi, who Nick normally quite likes, just rolls her eyes at him. "What's the magic word?"

"Willy," Nick says immediately. "Louis Tomlinson. Lots of willies."

"What era Louis Tomlinson?" LMC asks, tapping away at her keyboard. New favourite, honestly. Nick's going to give her a pay rise. If only he had the power. He'd be good with power. He'd use it wisely. For good things. Like putting willies on Louis Tomlinson's face.

"One in which there is plenty of room for me to draw a beautiful penis," Nick says. "Does anyone want to get me another coffee?"

"Oh dear," Fifi says. "I'm sorry, have your legs fallen off?"

"They're wasted," Nick tells her, affecting his saddest face. "Useless. I am totally unable to order a skinny latte with sugar free caramel syrup and bring it back to my desk."

"Shame," Fifi says. "You'll get thirsty after a while."

"How about this one?" LMC asks, angling her screen towards the camera. It's an early picture, back when Louis was all smooth-haired and swoopy-fringed. He's wearing beige chinos and a blue and white striped jumper, and has his hands in his pockets. It's quite frankly the worst outfit in the entire history of the world, although if pushed, Nick will probably admit that's an exaggeration based on annoyance at his stupid stomach doing a tiny little unprompted skip at the sight of Louis' face.

"Perfect, LMC, new favourite, beautiful on the inside, LMC. Print it out and then I can make art happen." Nick beams at her, ignoring the part of him that's suggesting this is quite a bad idea, and the fact that his smile hurts a bit.

Matt Fincham sticks his head back around the studio door. "If either of you draw a penis on Louis Tomlinson in the studio then I'm never speaking to either of you again. We're turning the webcam on at eight, and you know full well that one of you idiots will leave it on the side, right in view."

That's never happened. Well, once. Maybe twice. And not with penises. Nick rolls his eyes, turns his attention back to his job, and does a near-perfect link about how he's being maligned by the people he works with, and how he's being mocked for his love of smoked salmon. He speaks to a trainee plumber called Shireen, who loves Olly Murs, and then he bungs on some Rudimental, and hot foots it into the office to draw a willy on Louis Tomlinson's face.

"What are you going to do with it now?" Fiona asks, hooking her chin over Nick's shoulder.

"Email him a picture of my artwork immediately," Nick tells her, injecting a level of glee into his voice that necessitates him rubbing his hands together like he's some kind of pantomime villain. He snaps a picture on his phone and emails it to Louis, heading back into the studio just in time to hit the link with perfect timing, dropping his phone down on the desk in front of him.

Louis emails him back after a bit. Not all that great at drawing are you, mate.

That's my finest artwork, Tomlinson. Shut it. You enjoying being at home? How's the fam?

Louis doesn't reply, and Nick pretends not to be disappointed. After a while, he shoves his phone into the pocket of his jeans, and gets in a spirited argument on air about Harold Bishop with Ian and Finchy.


The following morning, there's another missed call from Louis from three in the morning.

Drunk calling me again, Tomlinson? He's typing it even as he's turning on the shower, and waiting for it to heat up enough for him to hop out of his pyjamas and under the spray. He presses send, switching to his shower playlist and turning the volume right up.

There's a message on his phone when he gets out of the shower: Gout tfunk with sattttn. Ereally frunk. Geel ishgk. Sigk. Sikc.

Jesus, it's five thirty in the fucking morning. Nick calls him without even thinking about it, wrapping his towel around his waist even as he's cradling the phone between his shoulder and his ear.

Louis doesn't say anything when he picks up. Nick can just hear him breathing.

"Morning," Nick says.

"'s'not morning," Louis slurs. "Still night."

"I'm getting ready for work, love. It's morning."


Nick lets it go. "You all right? What did you get up to last night?"

"Out with Stan," Louis tells him. He's speaking slower than normal, like he's picking out his words carefully. They still bump up against each other, like they all want to pour out of his mouth at once. "Went out."

"You have a good time?"

"'pose," Louis says, carefully. "Rather be sucking your dick."

Nick spends a moment squeezing his eyes tight shut and taking a deep breath. "Louis."

"'like kissing you."

"Where's Stan now? You at home?"

"Stan's living room. Feel sick."

God. "Go and have a bit of a vom, then. Bet you'd feel better after that. Get some water."

"Can I come and see you?"

"You're in Doncaster, pet. Bit of a trek to see me."

"Coming back tonight. S'posed to be. Bit drunk."

Nick takes a deep breath. "Why don't you come over when you feel a bit better, then?"

"Want you to fuck me again."

"Christ." Nick pinches the bridge of his nose. "Ask me when you're not pissed, all right?"

"Hold me down," Louis goes on, like Nick hasn't spoken. He's slurring again. "Fuck me."

"I've got to go to work," Nick says, because he can't think about this. He just—he can't. Even just thinking about getting to lay Louis out on the bed and do things to him is making his chest feel a bit hollow, and he can't start his day like this. He can't start his day worrying about Louis being three sheets to the wind half way up the country. "You're still drunk, love. Just—let's have this conversation again when you're not drunk. If you want."

"Want you to hit me," Louis says. He sounds sad, and a bit like he's about to cry. "Think you should spank me."

Nick lets out a long, slow breath. "Louis," he says, softly. "Louis. Have you had any water?"

"No. Don't like water."

"Well, how about you try liking it now, all right? Come on, get up. Into the kitchen, get yourself some water."

"Fell over," Louis says, over the sound of a bit of crashing and banging. "Ow."

"Still got all your arms and legs?" Nick asks, trying to get himself dressed and get all of his stuff together and maintain a conversation with a pissed pop star who makes Nick hard at the same time as making him really fucking sad. "Count 'em for me."

"One, two—" Louis sneezes. "Three, four. Five."

"That's one too many. You've nicked someone's arm. That'll have pissed them right off."

"'s'a leg," Louis tells him. "Extra leg. Can I come to yours. When I get back."

Nick swallows. "If you want to," he says. He's got plans, but they're only tentative, hanging out with friends he's already seen six times this week plans. He can postpone those, if he has to. Collette will forgive him, eventually, and Nick's fast learning that he finds it very, very difficult to say no to Louis Tomlinson. "You got your water yet?"

"Yep," Louis says, over the sound of a tap running.

"Okay," Nick says. "Drink it all and then go and get some sleep, all right?"

"Wanna kiss you," Louis tells him, softly. "Fucking hate kissing you."

Well, that's a bit like being punched in the chest. "Thanks." He doesn't quite manage to hide his hurt, but he's not sure that Louis' listening, so perhaps it's all right.

"Hate it so much," Louis goes on, his voice heavy and slurred. "Hate it. Think about it all the time. Want it all the time."

Louis isn't going to remember any of this when he wakes up. He probably doesn't even remember what he's just said. Nick closes his eyes, and thunks his head back against the wall. "Same," he says finally, like it matters. "Same."

There's silence then, punctuated by Louis breathing loudly down the phone at him.

"I've got to go," Nick says, in the end. He hasn't got the kind of job where he can roll up fifteen minutes late and have it be okay. "You get some sleep, okay?"

"All right," Louis says, after a long moment. He sounds as if he's half way to asleep already, and when he hangs up, Nick spends quite a bit of time just staring down at his phone, until a WhatsApp message arrives from Matt Fincham that's just eleven prawn emoticons in a row. That's meant to mean something, he's sure. He just can't remember what. He stumbles over his feet then, pulling himself together and grabbing the rest of his clothes from his drawers, tugging his t-shirt on even as he's texting Finchy a reply of six tiny snowmen. He puts his game face on, grabs his car keys from the bowl in the hall, and goes the fuck to work.

If he thinks about Louis, drunk and alone and hating what he wants, then he's going to fucking fall apart from how much it's threatening to break them both into pieces, he really is.


Louis doesn't text or call, but Nick never really expected him to. Wished he would, maybe, but he doesn't expect it. So: he gets on with his life. He makes it up to Collette with the promise of a free lunch. He gets through one radio show, and one day, and then the Good Friday show, and he sits through planning meetings for the show, and one for Sweat The Small Stuff. He goes for lunch with Harry and talks incessantly about crap until Harry gets a phone call from his publicist about a meeting he's supposed to be at right the fuck now, and then Harry has to take his sandwich with him and run for a cab, throwing apologies over his shoulder and promising to make it up to him.

It's only after Harry's gone, and Nick's picking at the remains of his turkey sandwich, that he lets himself think about Louis. It's been two days since he heard from him, and he gets it. He totally gets it. He still thinks Louis is a stupid fucking dickhead with fuckweasel tendencies, and it's not like the urge to pelt him with fruit has lessened at all what with the sharing of orgasms and the seemingly shared secret love of slightly kinky sex. He doesn't want a relationship, and he definitely doesn't want one with Louis fucking Tomlinson, but all of that aside, he worries about him bottling all of this up, and hiding it from his friends. He worries about him drinking at five in the morning by himself.

He worries about the fact that he's worrying.

In the end he sends him a text that just says, are you all right? Beaten off the hangover yet?

Then he goes shopping, and comes back with three new checked shirts, a fucking ridiculous studded belt, a leather satchel he's been eyeing up for ages, and a copy of Heat magazine stuffed inside a WH Smith carrier bag and then inside his satchel. When he gets home, the new National Geographic's arrived, so he makes himself some coffee, and takes it into the living room so he can start in on reading it through.

He doesn't think about Louis, or what Louis' up to, or if Louis' okay. And he doesn't leap on his phone the moment it buzzes with a text, and he doesn't feel guilty about the disappointment he feels when he sees that it's Harry's name on the screen.

Sorry about earlier, Harry's written. You sure you're all right? You were being a bit weird.

Absolutely fine, Nick lies. Finchy's right and I should have less coffee. Don't ever tell him I said he was right.

Ha ha. Might be going to a party tonight. Want to come?

Why the fuck not. He texts back his yes, and wanders in the direction of the shower.


Harry's party turns out to be a lighting guy from X Factor who went out on tour with them for part of last year. He's a nice enough guy, and his flat is pretty great, so Nick makes himself comfortable in the kitchen, talking to a girl who may or may not have been a 2009 X Factor contestant—her face looks oddly familiar—and ends up making up cocktails with her, and Harry, and a guy named Dave who neither of them know but who has a rocking WrestleMania tattoo on his chest.

It's only when Nick stumbles off to find the loo that he checks his phone to find a text from Louis, asking if he's in.

At a party, Nick texts back, careful with his slightly drunken spelling for once. Where are you.

Back in London, Louis texts, Nick's phone buzzing its way off the side of the sink and onto the bathmat as Nick washes his hands. It doesn't break into pieces, which Nick takes as a good sign.

It buzzes again with a second text. Do you want to come over?

Oh god, Nick thinks. He sits on the edge of the bath with his phone in his hand and taps his fingers against the shower screen. This isn't a good idea. This could be the worst idea Nick's ever had, getting mixed up with Louis, but there's something about him that makes Nick throw caution to the wind, and that's more terrifying than the fact that there's a good chance that he and Louis are a thing. A secret thing, but a thing nonetheless.

I've got no idea where you live

Is that a no?

Nick rolls his eyes, and ignores whoever's outside the bathroom trying the door handle. "It's occupied," he calls, after whoever's trying the handle doesn't get that locked means fuck the fuck off and go somewhere else.

It's a how do you get to yours question. Stop getting arsey. Is there an 'e' in arsey? He doesn't know. He deletes it and tries it without, then goes back to add the e again. He still doesn't know.

A minute later, Louis texts him his address, and Nick spends a nice, high quality thirty seconds with his face in his hands and his life crumbling around him in a series of ever more ridiculous life choices. Then he wanders downstairs—smiling beatifically at the two girls outside the toilet who haven't learnt the correct and appropriate ways in which to appreciate queuing—and makes his excuses to Harry and the others. Harry's found about ten people to hang around with, anyway, all crew from the X Factor apparently, and Nick feels less bad about ditching him. Harry doesn't seem to mind, anyway. They're like this, the two of them, sliding in and out of each other's lives. Sometimes Harry lives on his sofa, sometimes they bump into each other for a few hours at a time before going their separate ways, like two ends of a piece of elastic, stretching out and coming back to each other. He's one of Nick's best friends in the world. Nick kisses the top of his head, fucking with his quiff, and Harry just looks up at him, amused.

"Get away with you," he says, but he doesn't bother batting Nick away. He must be used to it with his band, but he always lets people fuck with his hair. Nick ruffles his quiff again, then he goes to find his coat from the giant pile in the dining room, goes outside and heads in the direction of the minicab office by the station.

There are probably worse life choices than going to see Louis Tomlinson whilst a bit pissed and a lot confused, but he's not entirely sure what they are.


Louis' address turns out to be a high-up apartment in what Nick thinks still counts as the Isle of Dogs. Nick isn't entirely sure that there is an unfashionable end of the Isle of Dogs, but right up until he gets out of the cab, he suspects that Limehouse Basin might be slightly less fashionable than right in the heart of Canary Wharf. However, not only do they pass yachts on the way to Louis' building, Louis has a private entry lift. It's potentially the most exciting thing that Nick's experienced today, even though Louis buzzes him inside without even saying hello through the entry phone.

"I could have been anyone," Nick says, as he wanders out of the lift and into Louis' flat, wiping his feet on the mat, deliberately casual. Louis' leaning against the wall in his hall, in low-slung burgundy tracksuit bottoms and a faded navy t-shirt. "You didn't even ask me to say who I was."

"There's a camera," Louis says, waving his hand in the general direction of the lift. "Shut the door if you're staying, will you? Fucking freezing in here."

"Well, if you will only wear a t-shirt," Nick says. He's the unfortunate by-product of terribly northern parents; you didn't get to complain about the cold if you weren't layered up to the nines. "Nice place you've got here." He peers over Louis' shoulder into a living room that has floor to ceiling windows, and beyond that, what looks to be a large balcony. It's proper posh. "Didn't you make fun of me for being posh and shopping at Waitrose? You can see fucking Canary Wharf from your balcony. You've got your own lift."

"It's a roof terrace," Louis says. He has his hands in the pockets of his tracksuit bottoms. "Not a balcony. Just the bedrooms have balconies. Well, the windows open onto something. Not sure if counts. The kitchen has one too."

"Sorry," Nick says, ignoring how ridiculous this flat is and trying not to pay too much attention to how soft Louis' hair looks without any product in it. It's almost fluffy. He has to curl his fingers into a fist so he doesn't reach out and touch him. He peers over Louis' shoulder instead. "My mistake. Can I—" he nods in direction of the living room.

Louis nods. "Go wherever."

This isn't awkward at all. He wanders into the living room, and over to the windows, looking out onto the roof terrace. Canary Wharf is all lit up, London a blaze of lights in front of him. He can see down the Thames to Tower Bridge and beyond to the west, and below them the marina with its rows of boats and yachts.

"View's all right, innit?" He looks back over his shoulder to where Louis' standing by his sofa, arms folded. God, the place is a mess. There's stuff everywhere, clothes and magazines and empty mugs and the contents of his tour suitcase spread across the floor. Nick doesn't want to specify which tour, because it's entirely possible this shit's been here for months.

"Yeah," Louis says. He looks about as awkward as Nick feels, and Nick's stomach aches. "So—"

"This place must have set you back a bit."

"It's an investment property, apparently," Louis shrugs, glancing at Nick, then quickly back down to his lap. "I dunno. I might not stay here. It's full of like, city wankers. Do I look like the kind of person to want to own a yacht someday? Everyone else round here, like, wants to shit all over everyone and get as much money as possible."

"Suppose. Nice flat, though." He sticks his hands in his pockets. "You all right?" He doesn't feel all right. He's tense and uncomfortable and every time he looks at Louis he gets this sort of hollow feeling in his chest that he can't quite get a handle on. He'd quite like to blame the cocktails from earlier, but it gets worse every time he looks at Louis, so he rather suspects it's a reaction to how he looks in those low-slung tracksuit bottoms.

"Dunno," Louis says. "Why did you come over?"

"You asked me to," Nick says. He can feel himself going red. He feels like an idiot. "God, what are we doing?"

Louis sits down on the arm of his sofa. "I have no fucking idea," he says, tiredly. "I just—"

"Do you want to just have sex tonight, and not fucking talk?" Nick suggests, cutting him off. "Because, like—I could get behind that. And I'm not working in the morning. Yay, Saturday."

Louis tips his head back and laughs. Nick's not sure if any of this is funny, but then it doesn't sound that much like Louis' enjoying it either. "Fuck," he says. "Fine, whatever."

"Come here, then," Nick says, unzipping his leather jacket and dropping it on the chair nearest to him. He toes off his ankle boots and loses them too.

"Christ," Louis crosses the room in three steps, coming to an abrupt halt in front of Nick. He clenches his fists. "I hate that you do this to me."

"Yeah," Nick says, and he means it. He really, really means it. He's already reaching for Louis, curling his fingers into Louis' shirt, pulling him in. His heart's pounding. "Me too."

Louis runs his hands up over Nick's bicep, and into his hair, drawing him down. He tilts his chin up, just a little, just enough. Nick can feel the rush of his breath against his skin, and it makes him shiver in anticipation. He can't help but close the distance between them, and kiss him. Louis surges up to meet him, fingers tightening in Nick's hair, already breathless, and Nick gives into it, unable to help himself. He slides his hand into the small of Louis' back, pulling him in even closer.

He backs them into the window almost by accident, but Louis' breath catches at the impact, his kiss faltering. It's Louis that urges them round so that Louis' the one with his back up against the window.

Nick can't get enough of how Louis' kissing him, holding him close, breathless against Nick's mouth. He slides his hands down to Louis' arse, groaning into their kiss as he palms his bum.

"We'll be seen," Nick points out, in between kisses. The lights are on and the curtains aren't drawn; the two of them are pressed up against the glass and it's not beyond the bounds of possibilities that someone in the vicinity knows which one Louis' flat is.

He can't pretend he doesn't feel the way Louis' hips buck up at the idea of being seen.

"Louis," he says again, since they're still kissing up against the window.

Louis pulls away. "I'll turn the lights off," he says, and there's a bit of a gleam in his eye. Nick is coming to recognise that gleam. "No one will see in if it's dark."

Nick isn't entirely sure that that's true, but whatever. He runs his fingers through his quiff, and takes advantage of Louis crossing the room to undo his belt and drop it next to his coat and boots.

Louis switches all the lights off except for one down the hall, the other side of the front door. He crosses the room in darkness, the only light coming in from outside, London lit up in the glare of a million lights. The light's softer by the time it hits Louis' flat, though, casting shadows across the floor as Louis picks his way through his belongings to get back to Nick's side.

Louis wraps his hand around Nick's wrist and leads him away from the window and towards the wall of the living room. "Can you hold my weight?" he asks, and Nick doesn't know what he's been asked to do. He's not exactly Superman. He can't be bothered, most of the time. He doesn't have the moral compass for it, anyway. And he's lazy and likes a lie in when he can get away with it.

"For how long?" Nick asks, still confused, and when Louis wraps his arms around Nick's neck and hops up so that his legs are wrapped around Nick's waist, it still takes him a very long moment to get it, even as his hands automatically go to Louis' arse.

"Hold me up," Louis tells him, and Nick obediently backs him into the wall and holds him there, Louis' legs still wrapped around Nick's waist. It makes Nick's muscles strain and calls his fitness into question, but Louis kisses him urgently, furiously, breathless against Nick's mouth, and that makes Nick's stomach twist as he kisses him back. "Always wanted this," Louis tells him, in between kisses. His hands are in Nick's hair, fucking it up, tilting his head back so he can duck in and kiss him.

Nick rolls his hips up, pinning him to the wall. He's not sure how long he can maintain this position for; his muscles are already trembling but it's worth it for the insistent, desperate way that Louis' kissing him, hard against Nick's stomach, legs wrapped around his waist. He kisses him back, breathless already, and it's only when his muscles are screaming that he has to give in, and let Louis down, wrapping his hand around his wrist and tugging him towards one of the sofas.

He has to sweep god knows how much crap off the sofa and onto the floor, magazines and hoodies and papers and TV remotes and crisp packets. "You're a total slob," he says, urging Louis down onto the settee.

"Fuck off," Louis tells him, sprawling out on his back and pulling Nick down on top of him. "Like you're perfect."

"I'm not growing new life forms in the mugs in my living room," Nick points out, even as he's rolling his hips down into Louis', holding himself up with a hand to the side of Louis' head. Louis is flushed and breathless, lips kissed red, wrecked in the soft shadow-light. Nick's pulse races, and he can only really attribute part of that to the impromptu weight lifting gym session he's just had. He slides his other hand up Louis' shirt, rucking it up high enough that he can stroke his thumb over Louis' nipple. Louis gasps out a breath and Nick pinches it, just to see how Louis will react.

Well, is the answer. Nick ducks his head and takes it in his teeth, tugging on it just a little, just to hear Louis' hissed, bitten-off breath and to feel Louis' hands tighten in his hair. He does it to his other nipple, shirt pushed right up to his neck, and he urges Louis to pull it over his head even as he's pressing his mouth to Louis' sternum, leaving kisses down his chest until he can bite at Louis' stomach, before sucking a bruise into his hip.

"Christ," Louis gasps. It makes Nick's heart pound, knowing he can do this to him. He shifts back, mouthing at his nipple again before kissing his shoulder, then his neck. Louis tips his head back, exposing the line of his throat. He tastes like soap and aftershave, and the realisation that this is fresh—that Louis showered and shaved for him—makes him even harder.

He kisses Louis again then, fingertips splayed across his jaw, holding him still as he kisses him, slow and certain, Louis whining into Nick's mouth, trying to rock his hips up, Nick pinning him still.

"I hate you," Louis tells him, but it sounds like a question, and Nick answers him with another kiss, even as Louis' clutching at him, pushing at his shirt, tangling his hands in Nick's hair and pulling him in.

Nick makes him stay still, and kisses him. "Tell me Spanish if you want me to stop," he says, cupping Louis' cheek in his hand.

Louis drops his gaze at that, nodding jerkily, once then twice. His eyelashes are shadows against his cheek. He stays quiet, even as Nick waits a beat too long for a response.

Nick kisses him again.

They stay on the sofa until Louis' babbling and desperate, begging Nick to fuck him, to let him come, to just fucking touch him. Nick's almost at the edge himself, Louis' wrists pinned to the sofa cushion above his head, Nick's hand wrapped around both wrists together. He's positioned himself so that even when Louis rocks his hips up, there's no purchase there, nothing to touch, nothing to give him any satisfaction at all. He begs and he pleads and it just makes Nick harder, makes him want even more than he's got.

He pulls away, sitting back on his heels. He takes off his shirt, dropping it on the floor by the settee, and gets to his feet. He holds his hand out then, beckoning Louis up.

Louis sits up on his elbows. His chest is heaving.

Nick swallows. "Take your clothes off," he says, already unbuttoning his jeans. He drops them where he's standing, pants following, taking off his socks.

Louis pushes down his tracksuit bottoms, and his pants, and then he's naked in his living room, London spread out behind him, endless windows and endless lights and just him standing there in the shadows.

Nick's voice is hoarse when he speaks again. "Come here," he says, holding his hand out. "Fuck, where's the bedroom?"

"Other end of the hall," Louis says, already heading for the door, and Nick's gratified that he sounds wrecked and rough too.

Nick swallows, and he stops Louis in the doorway, hands to Louis' hips. "Louis—stop." He doesn't know how to offer what he's thinking of. "Up?" he says, finally, and holds his hands out. "I'll carry you."

Louis pauses; the flat is in desperate, total silence apart from their breathing. Then he launches himself at Nick like a monkey, hopping up so that his legs are round Nick's waist and his arms are round Nick's shoulders. He's kissing him even before Nick's got a handle on holding him up, and Nick stumbles back into the door frame as he tries to right himself.

It's different with Louis being naked; Nick runs his hand over Louis' back even as he's walking them towards the bedroom, other hand to Louis' arse. He walks them into the wall by accident, with an oomph, but Louis just kisses him harder at the impact, and Nick rocks his hips up and holds him there, breathless even as Louis kisses him again. Nick kicks a sports bag out of the way, and walks them into the bedroom. He more or less dumps Louis down onto the bed, his muscles complaining even as he shoves a pile of clothes off the bed and onto the floor. The whole bedroom is covered in clothes and cups of tea, and the duvet's all piled up in one corner of the bed.

"You're really messy," he says, crawling onto the bed, so that he's kneeling over Louis. There are floor to ceiling windows in here, too, leading out onto a tiny balcony.

"You're not here to comment on how untidy I am," Louis tells him, sliding his hands up Nick's thighs, trying to pull him in. Nick doesn't relent, and stays exactly where he is. The view is tremendous, all the way down the Thames towards Tower Bridge.

"Nice view," Nick says.

"We've discussed that," Louis says, still trying to pull him in. "Come on, please. I need this."

"Need what?" Nick asks. He hasn't got condoms and lube with him, so he hopes that Louis does.

"Just—I don't know. Fuck me, or whatever. I don't care. Please." He's so fucking needy, tugging at Nick like he's desperate. There's that feeling again, the hollow feeling in Nick's chest that he can't put a name to: sadness or desperation or need or a mix of all three.

He leans in and presses his mouth to Louis', instead. The feeling in his chest shifts a bit, a relentless pulse-beat sliding across his skin. "What if I rim you?" he asks. "Anyone ever done that to you before?"

Louis shakes his head. Nick can't tell what colour he is because they haven't switched the lights on, but his cheeks feel warm beneath Nick's fingers.

"You want to?" Nick asks. "No wanking off. Not until I tell you you can."

Louis rocks his hips up. His dick is hard and slick across the tip. "Isn't that—" he starts. "It feels dirty."

"You've just showered, right?"

Louis turns away at that, face to the side. "So what?"

"So," Nick says. "You want me to, or not?"

Louis nods his yes into the pillowcase, and then when Nick doesn't move, he says, yes out loud.

"Up, then," Nick says. "On your hands and knees." He doesn't rim people all that often; it's startlingly intimate, all things considered, and Nick doesn't do intimacy. He has no idea why he offered, other than he likes it when he can take Louis apart, and because it's starting to seem a lot like Louis likes the shame side of things. Fuck, they've got so much they really should be saying to each other, but Nick can barely verbalise his side of things inside of his head, let alone actually put them together into some kind of sentences that aren't going to make Louis run for the hills. This thing that they're doing feels like the worst kind of fragile, and the closest thing to volatile he's ever done. And anyway, if the inside of his head is a mess, then Louis' is going to be even worse, and he doesn't rely on putting words together into something coherent for his career. Well, not as much as Nick does, anyway.

Louis gets on his hands and knees, and then hides his face in his hands as he spreads his legs, and Nick runs his hands over Louis' arse, parting his cheeks, stroking a fingertip down until he gets to Louis' hole. Louis shivers beneath his touch, his legs already trembling. Nick can't tell if Louis' scared or if he's just really, really into it, but he stops anyway, finger stilling. "How are you going to tell me to stop?" he asks.


"If you want me to stop, what are you going to say?"

"Oh." Louis hides his face in his pillows again. When he talks, it's muffled. "Spanish. I'll say Spanish."

"And you don't want to say it now?"

"No," Louis says, after a moment. His voice catches. "Please. I want this. Nick, fuck."

Nick closes his eyes and swallows. He leans in after a moment, and presses his tongue to Louis' hole, fingertips stroking over his arse. He stays just where he is for the longest few seconds, not moving, just feeling Louis tremble around him, and then he shifts a little, lapping at Louis' hole with his tongue, hand stroking down over Louis' thigh. He licks at him gently, slowly, and then he adds a finger, slipping just the tip inside of him and licking around it. Louis whimpers, pressing back against Nick's finger, and he already sounds broken. Nick carries on, until Louis' shaking around him, begging him to let him come, to touch him, to let him touch himself.

"Please," Louis begs. "Please. Nick, please."

Nick stops rimming him then, sliding in a second finger alongside the first, down to the knuckle now, careful because the only lube he's been using is his own spit. He sneaks his other hand between Louis' legs and cups his dick.

Louis cries out at that, pleading with Nick to make him come. God. He wanks him off slowly, knowing he must be close to babble like this, to press back against Nick's fingers and beg him for more.

Nick ducks his head and licks around his fingers, knowing how near Louis is from the way he's clenching around him, from the way that there's sweat gleaming in the small of his back, from the way he's panting into the sheets as Nick takes him to pieces.

When he finally starts to come, it's with a desperate, broken-off whine as he pulses over Nick's fingers, come going everywhere. There's going to be a wet patch. Nick doesn't care; he wanks him until Louis begs him to stop, and then he slides his fingers out of Louis' arse and sits down on the sheets next to him.

Louis curls up onto his side, facing Nick, and pants breathlessly into his pillow.

"Hey," Nick says, and he sounds a little croaky. He reaches over to stroke at Louis' hip.

"Fuck," Louis says, and he covers his face with his hands. "Did you really lick my arse?"

"Yep," Nick says. "And quite nice it was too."

"Sounds revolting."

It should be, Nick agrees, but he quite likes it. He sits with his knees up but apart, hands clasped together. He's rock hard and leaking, but he's content to sit here a minute. He likes this feeling, every now and again. Riding the crest of a wave, just before he gets to come down the other side. "Did you like it?"

Louis nods. "Yeah," he says. "Liked how dirty it was."

Nick can agree with that, he really can. "You want to make me come, or should I just have a wank?"

Louis buries his face in his pillow again. His voice is all muffled. "Why are you such a pain in the arse?"

"Good practice, I suppose," Nick says, and he's trying not to sound like he's leaning towards wanting the first option. "You don't have to. I'm perfectly capable of just having a wank."

Louis lets out a breath, and sits up on his elbow. "You could fuck me," he says.

"You've only just come."

"I know. I want it."

"You'll be really sensitive."

"I might be new to this, dickhead, but even I know that, all right?"

Nick puts his hands up. "All right, all right. I was just saying. No need to bite my head off." He's already thinking about lubing himself up and sliding inside of Louis like this, all pliant and post-orgasm. It's kind of delicious.

"Yeah, well. You're not like some fucking gay gospel, all right. I can find shit out myself, you know."

Nick rolls his eyes. "Fine, all right. No more advice from me, I get it. If you want to be fucked, I'll fuck you, how about that?"

Louis drops back onto the pillows. "You take everything I say the wrong way."

"And you choose to misunderstand everything that I say, so we're even."

Louis shifts position then. He reaches for Nick with one hand, cupping his shoulder. He darts in and presses a kiss to the general vicinity of Nick's mouth. "Now we're even," he says.

Which, no. Nick reaches for him, pulling him near with one hand to the small of Louis' back. "Come here," he says. "You missed. Do it again."

"Bossy," Louis says, but he shuffles closer, until he's tucking his feet around Nick's and curling up against Nick's front. His dick is mostly soft now, but it bumps up against Nick's ragingly hard erection like a gentle reminder of what Nick's missing out on. "Can't believe you licked my arse."

"Can't believe you're not kissing me right now," Nick prods at Louis' sides. "Come on."

"Your tongue's licked my arse."

"Do you want me to go and steal your toothbrush, or something?"

Louis shrugs at that, and tilts his chin up. "How bad can it be?"

"Wow," Nick starts to say, but Louis cuts him off with a kiss, curling his hand into Nick's hair. He tilts his chin up, pulling Nick nearer until they're pressed together from shoulder to toe, Nick's erection pressed against Louis' hip. He kisses him slow and hard, tongue sneaking its way inside Nick's mouth.

Nick slides a hand into Louis' hair, pulling at it just a little, just enough for Louis' kiss to falter, and for him to groan against Nick's mouth.

"Hey," Louis says, poking Nick in the side. "Stop distracting me."

"Sorry," Nick says, unapologetically. "Do you want me to stop?"

Louis pouts, sticking his bottom lip out. If he means for it to be charmingly endearing with a side order in annoying, then it's worked. "No, but then I want you to fuck me, so. Whichever makes that happen quicker."

Nick hums a little calming tune to himself, and then he tickles Louis' stomach, on the off chance he's ticklish.

Turns out he is. He's really ticklish, snorting with laughter two seconds after Nick's graduated to tickling his sides, pushing Nick away at the same time as tugging him closer and wriggling beneath him as Nick rolls him over, sitting down on his legs to keep him still.

"Stop it, stop it," Louis begs, desperately trying to push Nick's arms away.

Nick stills, catching Louis' wrists in his hands. "You want me to actually stop, or just, you know, normal stop?"

"That makes no sense whatsoever," Louis says, but his chest is heaving, and he's battling his way free of Nick's hands. "But, like, for the record, you don't have to check I'm all right every two seconds. If I want you to actually stop, I'll say Spanish, okay? I know you think I'm a total fucking idiot, but I'm not actually completely thick, you know. I can remember a fucking safe word and how to use it."

Nick lets out a breath. "I don't think you're completely fucking thick."

It's dark in the bedroom, but Nick can sort of make out the disbelieving expression on Louis' face. It's partly to be expected; Nick does think Louis' an idiot. He just doesn't think he's thick. There's a difference.

"It's all right," Louis says. "I know you don't like me."

That makes Nick's chest hurt and his heart pound. "That's not true," he says, before he's really thought about what it is he's saying. "It's not true."

"I've heard you on the radio," Louis says. "I know what you say about me. It's okay. You can't like everybody."

"You think I could keep coming back to have sex with you if I really didn't like you at all?" Nick feels a bit sick. He knows that he hates Louis half the time, and that Louis is an idiot, and that Louis annoys him with the power of a thousand suns, and that Louis is the kind of cuntbucket who drives Nick mad. He just knows that he can feel all of that and still want to kiss him, and go to bed with him, and want to make him come in the kinds of ways Louis actually secretly wants and needs. The two things can exist simultaneously in his head, which makes it extra complicated to try and verbalise how it is he actually feels, but he'll give it a go if he can get a handle on his thoughts.

"Dunno," Louis says. "Suppose."

"That is pretty stupid, you're right," Nick says. "I suppose you think I just go round licking anyone's arse who's around."

"Dogs do it."

"Well, then," Nick says. "I'm the same as a dog, obviously."

"I didn't say that." Louis pokes him in the thigh.

Nick literally has no idea how to put all of the feelings he has in his head together and make them into a series of coherent sentences. "I left a party to come here tonight," he says finally. "I drove all the way to Manchester to see you on your night off. I made you dinner."

"You bunged a pizza in the oven."

"I don't bung a pizza in the oven for anyone." He strokes his thumb over Louis' tummy. "I'm not saying we're going to be best fucking friends or anything, you know? But like—I think about kissing you a lot, all right? I enjoy having sex with you. Okay?"

Louis swallows. He bumps his finger into Nick's. "I like having sex with you, too. And the kissing thing, too. I think about that a lot."

"So then," Nick says. "Will you give over saying I don't like you? Because that's, like, not true. I think we've established that it's not true with all of the, you know, the orgasms and stuff."

Louis wriggles a bit underneath him. "You say all that stuff about me, though."

"You say all that stuff about me," Nick says. "I am actually a nice person, even though you don't seem to think it."

"I don't not think it," Louis says, after a moment. He taps his knuckles against the back of Nick's hand. "Do you think if we agree to not, you know, hate each other, we can just have sex without any of the stress?"

"We can try," Nick says, even though he's fairly sure that it doesn't matter whether they pretend that they don't hate each other or not, since they're both really fucked up about what they want, and that's surely the more pressing issue.

"Just—" Louis starts. "Will you fuck me? I really want you to fuck me."

Nick wants that just as much as Louis does. He curls his fingertips around Louis' hips. "You got any stuff?"

"Stuff?" Louis waggles his eyebrows. "That's what we're calling it now?"

"Fine, condoms. Have you got condoms and lube? If we're being precise."

"We are," Louis says, rolling over and opening the top drawer of his bedside table. He comes back out with an unopened box of condoms and a tube of KY Jelly, also unopened.

Nick doesn't comment on how new they are, nor does he ask for them to switch the light on. He fucks his own fist for a moment, making sure he's as hard as he wants to be, and then tears open a condom with his teeth, careful not to rip it. He rolls it on, and then lubes himself up, and it's only then that he climbs off Louis' legs. "How do you want it?" he asks. "Hands and knees, or on your back?"

"Fuck knows," Louis says. He sounds a little breathy. He's hard again, one hand around his dick. "Which do you want? On my hands and knees was good, but is being on my back going to be better?"

It's dark in here anyway, so Nick wouldn't be able to see Louis' face even if he was on his back. That makes his decision for him, so he climbs off the bed and pads over to the door to find the light switch, bathing the room in fierce, fluorescent light.

"There's a dimmer switch," Louis says, still sprawled across the sheets, dick in hand. He points vaguely at the panel by the door. "Next one along."

Nick gets the dimmer, turning the lights down low, before crawling back onto the bed and in between Louis' legs. He moves Louis into the right position, legs either side of Nick, hips up a bit so that Nick can slide his lube-slick fingers straight inside of him, crooking his fingers so that Louis gasps. "Like this," Nick says. "I want you like this."

"Yeah," Louis says, rolling his hips a bit for a better purchase. "Please, fuck me."

"I'm getting there," Nick tells him. Louis' already open from where Nick had licked him before, and now that he's slicked his fingers up, it's easy to slide a third one in beside his first two, and curl them, just a little, just enough to have Louis groan around him, pushing down onto Nick's fingers. "God, you feel good," he says. "You're so hot."

"I know," Louis says, and he grins at that, skin flushed. He reaches behind him to take a hold of the headboard, each hand around one of the vertical poles. Like this, he's beautiful, his chest already heaving as Nick fingers him slick and open. He chews on his lip even as he's pressing down on Nick's fingers, hair falling softly across his forehead. Nick wants to smooth it away for him, and kiss him quiet. He's making all of these tiny, breathy groaning noises every time Nick crooks his fingers, and when he strokes his fingertip over Louis' prostate, Louis cries out, rocking his hips up.

"Down, boy," Nick says, rolling his eyes. He presses Louis' hip to the bed with the palm of one hand.

Louis keeps a hold of the headboard even though Nick hasn't asked him, staring down at Nick like he fucking wants praise for staying still. God.

He crawls up the bed instead, and covers Louis' mouth with his own, sliding his tongue inside and keeping the kiss at a slow, lazy pace that Louis' already had enough of. Louis keeps trying to speed it up, but Nick won't let it. He slides his fingers in and out of him at the same speed as he kisses him, smoothing Louis' hair away from his face with his other hand.

When he pulls away, Louis is flushed pink and sweating, breathless and panting, little hitches of breath with every twist of Nick's fingers.

"Tell me you want me inside of you," Nick says, refusing to remove his fingers. "Tell me that's what you want."

Louis burns red. "Nick."

Nick doesn't say anything, still curling his fingers inside of him.

"God," Louis squeezes his eyes shut. "Fuck, Nick. Please, I want you inside of me. I want you to fuck me. Please, please—"

Nick lines his dick up against Louis' arse, removing his fingers. He wipes them on the sheets even as he's pushing inside of him, Louis resisting him at first. He relaxes, letting Nick inside of him, and Nick slides the rest of the way in on one long exhale of breath. Louis clenches around him, and he's so, so tight, and it's so hot, and part of him really wishes he could feel this for real, without the condom, skin to skin. Would it feel different? He's never barebacked, never even wanted to, so why it's now that it suddenly arrives in his head, Nick has no idea.

"Just move, please," Louis begs, and Nick does exactly that, fucking in and out of him with a desperately relentless need. He shifts Louis' position so that his knees are up over Nick's shoulders, fucking into him as hard as he can, the position just right for him to hit Louis' prostate.

Louis pleads with him to fuck him harder, back arching off the sheets. His dick is hard and fat against his stomach, bouncing a little as Nick fucks up into him. He doesn't make a move to touch himself, sweat gleaming across his skin, and Nick doesn't know why Louis keeping his hands above his head like that is so fucking hot it hurts, but it makes Nick's orgasm feel even closer than it already is. Heat coils in his stomach, tiny little fizzes of electricity zipping across his skin as he feels himself bollock deep inside of Louis, so, so tight and so hot.

"Going to suck you off after this," Nick tells him, breathlessly rocking his hips up. "Make you stay like this, tell you not to move."

"Yes," Louis gasps, and he can't keep still, not anymore. He keeps moving, shifting on the sheets, trying to roll up to meet Nick's rhythm. Nick can't keep to a rhythm if someone pays him, though. He's always thought he should be more musical, since he's got literally thousands of CDs and mp3s.

"If I fucked you without a condom, I could lick my come back out of you afterwards," Nick says, without even stopping to think about whether that's a reasonable thing to say out loud or not. It turns out that it isn't, because it makes Louis cry out, rocking up to meet him, and Nick's rhythm stumbles as his orgasm threatens to arrive right there and right then.

"I want that," Louis tells him, scrabbling for purchase, letting go of one of the poles and reaching for Nick, grabbing his hand. They've never fucking held hands, not for a moment, and the fact that this is their first time is bananas. Louis squeezes his hand. "Want that, want that so much."

"How fucking filthy would that be?" Nick says, sweat running down and into the hollow of his back. "Think I could make you come like that?"

"Yeah," Louis' voice catches. "Yeah, make me come like that."

Nick's muscles are aching and he's so close to coming he's seeing fucking white. He imagines coming in Louis and then afterwards, crouching down between his legs and licking him out; it's shockingly, desperately intimate and it tips him over the edge, his orgasm hitting him like a ton of bricks. He comes, hips rocking up, pulsing over and over into the condom, and he wants to cry that he can't do it now, that he can't lick Louis out tonight.

Afterwards, he pulls out carefully, tying off the condom and stumbling on shaky legs into the bathroom to flush it. The en-suite is just as messy as the rest of the flat, toiletries on every surface, towels on the floor and clothes everywhere, but Nick just steps over it all and heads back for the bed, flopping down next to Louis.

Louis' still holding onto the headboard. The veins in his arms are all pronounced, his muscles tense. He's holding himself so still he's almost trembling with it.

Christ, Nick thinks. He runs his hands up the underside of Louis' arm, just to see him shiver.

"Thought you were going to suck me off?" Louis says. His voice shakes.

"Shit," Nick says, because Louis' waiting for him, laid out and staying still and this is too much power for Nick to have. It's too much, because Louis keeps giving himself to him in new and more confusing ways, and Nick doesn't know what to do with all of these pieces of Louis he's collecting up. He doesn't know how to put them all back together right, or how to keep them safe. He tilts Louis' chin up with the crook of his finger, and tries not to think about how fierce Louis looks right now, or how scared, or how fucking desperate. He kisses him instead, soft and slow, tilting Louis' chin up until his breathing hitches, and Nick shifts position so that he can wrap his hand around the base of Louis' dick, and press a kiss to the tip.

Louis gasps out a breath, his hips bucking, and Nick takes him in then, sucking the head of Louis' dick into his mouth. He doesn't bother with any preamble, or working him up slow and gentle. He fists the base of his cock at the same time as blowing him, sliding his mouth down the length of Louis' dick and then back up again, knowing that Louis must be close.

Louis is shaking beneath him, not even talking any more, just panting desperately, hips bucking up as Nick goes down on him. Nick's mouth is so full, and the taste of Louis is everywhere, in his nose, on his tongue, the back of his throat. It's overwhelming, how slick he is, how much he's leaking, how loud he is, even though he's not making that much sense. Nick breathes through his nose and takes as much of him in as he can, his fist relentless around the base of his dick. Louis must be so close now, because he's begging and pleading, hips rocking up even as Nick takes him in again, right until Louis' dick hits the back of his throat and he starts to come, just like that.

Nick coughs and he chokes on it but he still doesn't pull off. His eyes water and he squeezes them shut, but Louis keeps on coming and Nick keeps on swallowing it down. It's only afterwards, when he flops onto his back and tries to breathe, that he realises how choked he was, because it feels like he's run a marathon. He's panting, one arm over his eyes, and his jaw aches with how much he took and how fast.

"Nick—" Louis says, after a minute, and he sounds wrecked. He sounds broken.

Nick opens an eye, and moves his arm away, twisting a bit on the sheets. Louis is where he left him. He looks tense and shaky and like he doesn't know what the fuck he's supposed to do.

"Christ," Nick says again. He didn't think he'd ever be able to move again but he's quick enough now, curling around Louis like if he wraps him up tight enough then he won't fucking break apart in front of him, and he won't shatter into pieces like Nick's the only thing holding him together and Nick's just let him go.

Louis' breath comes in broken, almost-sobs, and he presses himself to Nick's side even as Nick pulls him into a tight hug.

"Hey, hey," Nick says softly, kissing the top of his head. "Shush, now. Come on, it's all right. You're all right. You're all right."

"I'm all right," Louis tells him, but he doesn't sound all right. "It's okay, you don't have to—"

Nick kisses the top of his head again, then his forehead, and his temple. "Shut up, you daft prick," he says, as fondly as he can manage when his heart feels like it's about to beat out of his chest. "I've come here for a hug, all right, and stop being a knobhead and hug me back."

"You're the knobhead," Louis says, but his fingers loosen a bit on Nick's shoulder, and he doesn't sound quite so close to bursting into tears as he did five seconds ago, so Nick's calling it a win.

"Do you always sound like you're about to cry after a good blow job?" Nick asks, settling them both back against the pillows. Louis curls up with his head on Nick's shoulder and his arm around his waist.

"Who said it was that good, wanker?" Louis pokes him in the side. Even sitting like this, with Louis' head resting on his shoulder, Louis is much shorter than Nick. Nick feels like his legs go on forever in comparison to Louis'. Louis has his feet wrapped around Nick's calves.

"Oi," Nick says, eventually. He keeps stroking his fingertips over Louis' hip. It feels like he's trembling a little bit less than he was a minute ago, at least. "Want to tell me what that was all about?"

"No," Louis says.

Nick rolls his eyes. "Come on. Edge me into a category. Blow jobs? Me? The fact we've put on a show for any low-flying aircraft doing an Isle of Dogs fly-by?"

"This doesn't count as the Isle of Dogs," Louis tells him. "Liam lives on the Isle of Dogs. I live in Limehouse Basin."

"Well then, that makes all the difference."

"It does to estate agents. No, I mean—" he stops. "Do you ever, like, want so much that it feels like your head is turning inside out?"

No, Nick thinks. But I want you. "Go on."

"I don't know. That's just—I want all of these things. I need all of this stuff and I've never—before now, I've never. And sometimes I think that you could break me, if you wanted to. You could tell everyone all of this stuff that I want from you. And it's fucking terrifying. You're fucking terrifying."

There's a good chance that Louis is even more fucked up than Nick is, and secretly, Nick has worn the exclusive crown of fucked-up-ness for years. He presses a kiss to Louis' forehead. "You're such a prick," he says, softly. "I hate the way you think I'd do that to you."

Louis pulls away enough that he can meet Nick's eyes. "Wouldn't you, though?" he asks.

Nick shakes his head. "No," he says, and it hurts that Louis believes he would.

Louis leans over and pushes Nick's quiff away from his face. "How do you get it to stay up like that?"

"Magic," Nick says. "And tiny kittens backcomb my hair whilst I sleep."

"Ah," Louis nods. "How can I trust you?"

"I don't know," Nick says. "Harry trusts me. Can't you trust that Harry trusts me?"

Louis colours a bit at that. "And you trust Harry."

"Yeah, well. The thing with Harry is that he's a good fucking person. The rest of us can't actually hope to live up to him. It's like trying to compete with a unicorn."

"Forever in his shadow," Louis agrees. He keeps stroking his thumb over Nick's knee. It makes Nick shiver. "Sorry," he says. "For freaking out. Don't know where my head was."

Nick covers Louis' hand with his own. "I know you don't trust me when I tell you this, but it's not a lie. I'm not going to tell anyone. You can stop worrying."

Louis looks at him for what feels like a very long minute. "You dickhead," he says, but it sounds fond. "You stupid fucking dickhead."

Nick feels a lot like a stupid fucking dickhead right now, but it's not enough to make him leave. "Yeah, well," he says, and he tries not to smile, but he can't not. "Takes one to know one, doesn't it?"

Louis curls closer, and reaches up to cup Nick's cheek in his hand. "Come here and kiss me," he says, and his voice only shakes a little bit, which is progress.

Nick slides his hand into Louis' hair. "Who does your hair if all the kittens are busy doing mine?"

"Nocturnal frogs," Louis says. "Not a natural hairdresser, admittedly, the frog. Especially not in the dark." He makes a face like a frog, and goes cross-eyed.

This conversation appears to have gone around the houses and come back round the wrong way. "I'm not going to tell anyone," Nick says, just in case Louis didn't hear it the first time. It can't hurt to say it again, anyway, even if he did.

All of the puff seems to go out of Louis in one solid deflate. "God," he says softly. "What the fuck are we doing?"

"No fucking idea," Nick says, still stroking Louis' hair. It really is terribly soft when it hasn't got any styling gunk in it.

"Okay," Louis says, and he draws Nick in and kisses him quiet, and Nick doesn't protest, not once, not even a little bit, not even at all.


In the morning, Nick wakes up to the sun streaming in through the windows, and Louis asleep in bed next to him, hogging the duvet. Nick stretches out a little, trying not to disturb Louis awake. Normally he's dead comfortable sharing a bed with somebody, but he'd spent a good twenty minutes after Louis dropped off staring up at the ceiling, completely aware that he was next to Louis, and unable to move for fear of waking him up. After that weird little blip, he'd slept the rest of the night like a log. It's the best night's sleep he's had in forever, in fact; he's woken up feeling refreshed. Maybe it's just the weird call of the One Direction boys, because whenever Harry stays over it's the exact same fucking thing; Nick sleeps like a log and forgets he's even sharing a bed with someone. Harry is the weirdest fucking sleeper in the world, though, because he doesn't ever fucking move when he's asleep, and he falls asleep in the oddest positions Nick's ever seen. Nick's had to check that he's not dead precisely every single time he's found Harry passed out where he's been standing or sitting, just in case. Nobody wants a dead boy band member in their flat.

Anyway, Harry hasn't been dead yet, which is nice. And Nick isn't exactly sure he's ever really seen Louis asleep before, so he does the deliciously creepy thing of just watching him. The little angry furrow in his brow isn't there when he sleeps, nor is that examining look Louis seems to wear a lot whenever Nick's around, that makes Nick feel like he's constantly doing something wrong. Louis either looks considering whenever he looks at Nick, like he's weighing him up, and waiting for him to do something that's going to drive Louis berserk, or furious, like Nick's succeeded in driving him up the wall. They're never quite relaxed with each other, is the thing, so it's a change to see Louis like this. It's more like the photographs he sees of Louis with his band, although Nick knows what he's not sure that everyone else does: that what Louis lets everyone else see is his Louis-in-a-band act. It's close to how he is as a person, admittedly, but Louis keeps bits of himself locked up and secret. The others aren't so good at that. They just let it all out.

Louis opens an eye. "Are you always this insanely creepy first thing in the morning?"

"Yep," Nick says, and he can't help but wonder how long Louis' been awake for. Nick's been staring at him for a few minutes now, and he'd quite like it if Louis wasn't aware of at least some of that time. He doesn't go red, because that's not quite the kind of thing he does all that often. He kicks Louis in the ankle instead. As he's bare-footed, it hurts quite a bit.

"Ow," Louis says. "What are you doing, you weirdo? Do you always go round staring at people and then kicking them?"

"It's a thing," Nick agrees, pulling the duvet up and over his shoulders. "Do you know you are a terrible blanket stealer?"

"Am not," Louis lies. "I woke up in the middle of the night and you had them all."

"That's an awful and terrible lie," Nick says, although there's a possibility it's an awful and terrible truth. He's not all that great at sharing. "So. You sleep all right?"

"Apart from that bit in the middle where I froze to death."

"Never happened," Nick says, and he shuffles a bit closer to Louis, although for what particular reason he wouldn't quite like to say at this point.

Louis rolls his eyes. "What would you have said if you'd woken up to find me just frozen to death next to you in the bed?"

"Hmm," Nick pretends to consider, and shuffles a bit closer whilst wearing his very best thinking face. "I'd have done a Kate Winslet and just shoved you off the side of the bed. Then I'd have just lain here, with all this space to myself, and made snow angels with your sheets."

Louis strikes a pose, which Nick's always thought was quite difficult whilst cocooned in a giant duvet. "At least I'm Leonardo DiCaprio in your strange, warped little brain."

Nick isn't sure that Louis looks much like Leo in his early morning pose striking, but whatever. He'll take it. "My brain isn't strange and warped," he says, shuffling just that little bit closer. He touches a kiss to Louis' sleep-warmed shoulder. "Hi."

Louis' gaze, for a moment, is completely unreadable. "Hi," he says, a little stupidly. He slides his hand into Nick's hair, tilting his head back. "Thought kittens backcombed your hair whilst you were sleeping?"

"Couldn't bring them all the way from Primrose Hill," Nick says. "Them pockets in my jacket aren't big enough for a litter of kittens."

"You need a bigger coat, then," Louis says, still playing with Nick's hair. It feels nice, so Nick doesn't bat him away and tell him to fuck the fuck off for messing with his hair. "With, like, extra kitten pockets."

"And extra space for their hair care tools," Nick adds, carefully bumping his knee into Louis'. "Little kitten combs and shit."

"You're so fucking weird," Louis says. "Like, I had no idea you were this fucking weird."

Nick isn't entirely sure that that's one hundred per cent a compliment. "Thanks?" he says. "I try my best."

Louis rolls his eyes. "Are you just going to stay there all morning, or what?"

"Stop being so bossy," Nick says, without moving. "Anyway, what are my options?"

"You like it when I'm bossy." Louis nudges him with his foot. "Dunno. Wanking me off?"

"Sounds like a treat," Nick deadpans, but he reaches out and strokes Louis' hip anyway. "How do you fancy a bit of mutual handjobbing to start the day?"

Louis snorts, but he rolls over and straddles Nick anyway. "Sounds like a plan," he says, dropping to his elbows, one either side of Nick's face. He leans in and touches his tongue to Nick's mouth. "How do you feel about morning breath?"

Like it's faintly revolting, Nick thinks. "Dunno," he says. "Depends if orgasms are involved."

Louis rolls his hips down against Nick's. Louis' half-hard already, and Nick thinks he probably had been too, in an abstract kind of an early morning sort of way. He's certainly aware of it now. "I think they will be," Louis says, and licks his way into Nick's mouth.

"Huh," Nick says, in between kisses. Louis' breath is a bit stale, but he's sleepy-warm and kind of slow about kissing him, which Nick sort of likes as a wake up call. He slides his hands down Louis' sides, and then strokes his knuckle against Louis' stomach.

"Don't," Louis says, still rutting down against Nick's dick. "I'm fucking desperate for the loo."

"Well, go then, you idiot."

"In a minute," Louis says, a little breathlessly. "Afterwards."

"Fuck," Nick says, as Louis rubs his dick against Nick's. He tightens his grip on Louis' bicep. He makes no move to speed up, rocking his hips up against Louis', his dick slick at the tip with pre-come already. "You got lube?"

"Over there somewhere," Louis says, nodding towards the bedside table. His breath is coming in warm little pants against Nick's cheek.

Nick flops an arm out on the pillow, and wiggles his fingers. Nothing flies towards his hand with just the power of his mind behind it. "Nah," he says. "I haven't turned magic overnight."

"Bummer," Louis says. "We're just going to have to wank off dry."

"Nrgh," Nick says, because sometimes he likes it really wet and slippery, and this morning feels like one of those times. "You get it, you're on top."

"You're the one that wants it," Louis says. His dick drags across Nick's hip. "You ever come just like this?"

"Not really," Nick says, giving it up and rolling over to reach the lube on the bedside table. He rolls back, and positions Louis on top of him again. He strokes his fingers over Louis' stomach, just to hear him whimper. How desperate for the loo is he? Nick would just fucking go, and not bother wanking off first, but then Nick's never been into desperation. Not until he started to see it written all over Louis' face at regular occurrences, but then Louis is managing to tilt Nick's world on its axis, seemingly without much effort at all, every single flipping time they're together.

"We should do it sometime," Louis says.

It's the very first time he's ever mentioned a future. Nick tries desperately hard not to react at all but he stills nonetheless, unable to help himself. Louis won't meet his eyes.

"All right," Nick says, carefully. "So long as it's not now, because I'm not good at waiting in the morning."

"And I'm desperate for a piss," Louis says. His skin's flushed pink, all the way down his chest. "So, like, not now."

"Right, then." Nick uncaps the lube. "You want?"

Louis nods, still rocking down against Nick's dick. He holds his hand out, and then when Nick's squeezed some into his palm, he reaches down between them both and—rather than taking his own dick in hand, like Nick had sort of expected—he wraps his hand around both of them, holding their dicks together and sliding lube all over.

The fact that Louis' hand isn't big enough to properly encircle both their dicks is doing strange and unusual, topsy-turvy-type things in Nick's chest. His breath feels all caught up in his throat.

"Yeah?" Louis says, squeezing his hand a little uncertainly.

"Uh-huh," Nick manages, nodding. "Yeah, that's um—that's good. You should keep doing that."

Louis wanks them off a little messily, and with little technique. Nick seriously could not give a fuck, because he just keeps looking down between them to see Louis' hand wrapped around both their dicks, and it's so slippery and wet that Nick can't help but fuck up into Louis' hand, the length of his dick sliding alongside Louis'. He just—they look so good together, their dicks, the two of them. Nick's is slightly longer and Louis' slightly fatter, and together they just seem to fit.

Louis ducks down to press his mouth to Nick's. Nick cups Louis' face in his hands and holds him there, kissing him over and over as Louis rocks his hips down and their dicks slide in his hand. He kisses Louis' desperation away, breathless against Louis' mouth as Louis awkwardly thumbs the head of his dick.

Nick slides his hand into Louis' hair, pulling at the short hairs in the nape of his neck, and Louis groans into Nick's mouth, exhaling into their kiss. Everything's a bit stale and a bit sleepy, still, pillow marks on Louis' cheek, the duvet falling down around them as Louis rocks his hips down against Nick's.

It's over far quicker than Nick would normally give himself credit for, but he can't get over how Louis' hand is too small to encircle them both properly, and he can't get over how it feels to rub one off against Louis' dick, lube-slick and half awake. When he comes, he keeps his mouth pressed to Louis', panting softly into his kiss, Louis equally desperate, pressed flush to Nick and breathless. He comes in soft spurts over Louis' stomach, Louis following a moment later, all over Nick's dick and balls and thighs.

Looking down and seeing Louis' come on his balls is not something he would necessarily have called ridiculously hot before this moment, but he's changing his mind now, seeing the mess Louis' left.

"God," he says, a little weakly. He flops back onto the pillows, and strokes his finger through the come on his belly and his balls.

"Fuck," Louis says succinctly, and then he's jumping off the bed and running for the en-suite, not even bothering to close the door before he's pissing into the toilet, head tipped back.

Nick's not even entirely sure Louis actually made it to the loo before he starting weeing. "Someone was desperate," Nick says, one hand behind his head. He can't help but stare at the curve of Louis' arse as he pisses, head still tipped back. That must be some relief.

"Told you," Louis tells him, breathless. He must have been really fucking desperate, because it takes him ages to finish. When he's done, he waggles his dick over the bowl, doesn't bother with loo roll, and shoves his hands under the tap for a cursory rinse. He drops back onto the bed a moment later, hands behind his head.

"Why didn't you go before, if you were so desperate? I would have waited."

Louis shrugs. Nick thinks he looks a bit embarrassed, which is odd. "No reason," he says. "Just wanted to get off, that's all. Coming trumps pissing."

Nick raises an eyebrow, because there's more to this, even if Louis isn't giving anything else away. Louis is deliberately looking just to the side of Nick's head, as if there's something more interesting two inches to the left of him. There isn't. "How's it feel, being that desperate?" he asks, after a minute. The blush Louis' wearing shifts a deeper, darker shade of pink.

Oh gosh, Nick thinks. Really?

"Fine," Louis says quickly. "It feels fine."

"Right," Nick says, storing that away for future use. Right now, he's a mess of come and sex and sweat and lube. "Do you have a spare towel, or is it just a free for all with what I can find on the floor if I want a shower?"

"I'm not that bad," Louis says, and Nick definitely does not look around the room, and definitely does not look at the piles of clothes and toiletries and crap on every surface and tumbling out of the drawers by the door. "I've been away, okay," Louis tells him, something defiant in his expression. "The last thing I want to do when I come home is fucking clean up. I'm here, like, three hours. I'm not back here properly until fucking November."

"I'm sorry," Nick says. "Do you want me to feel sorry for you because you're in the most famous band in the world, and you're living this fucking amazing life?"

Louis drives his fingertips into Nick's side. "Shut up, dickhead. 'Course not."

"Get a fucking cleaner," Nick says, wriggling away from Louis' insistent poking, "if you can't be bothered to do it yourself."

"Does it really bother you that much?" Louis looks around the room. He doesn't seem to see the same mess of stuff that Nick sees. Nick's sort of ridiculously house proud, but then he does have to come home to it every night and not just once every six months for a layover. But then, there's barely anything in this flat that screams Louis. It's all a bit like a blank canvas, with Louis shoved in on top.

"Nah," Nick lies. "It's fine. Whatever."

Louis looks a bit embarrassed. "I know it's a bit of a mess."

It's more than a bit of a mess, it's a fucking disaster zone of a flat. There are probably new life forms growing in some of the mugs Nick can spot hidden in various crannies round the room. Nick would be less bothered about the fact that Louis doesn't actually seem to own a wardrobe if it wasn't for the biggest collection of grotty cups of half-finished tea Nick's ever seen. He should get a scientist in, just to have a look around and make some new discoveries and win the Nobel prize or whatever scientists actually win. Scientist awards. He hopes they're as ridiculous as the Teen Awards are, all primary colours and jazzed up shapes, and Science! picked out in a nice, spiky font. "It's fine," Nick lies. "But I could do with a towel. If you have one."

Louis nods, and then disappears into the hall and into one of the other rooms, coming back with a striped Tommy Hilfiger towel a moment later.

"Nice towel," Nick says.

"Came free with some perfume at Duty Free," Louis says, chucking it at Nick.

"Excellent," Nick says, clambering awkwardly to his feet and stretching out. It feels weird to be naked in front of a floor to ceiling window. Part of his brain is channelling his mum right now; he does wonder if Louis' ever considered putting up a nice set of white nets. Gosh, he hopes there's someone out there with a long-range camera, getting an eyeful of Nick's cock. "Any trick to your shower?"

"Switch it on, water comes out," Louis says, upending a drawer to come out with a pair of black underwear. He tosses them in Nick's general direction. "Spare pants."

"Thanks," Nick says, a little nonsensically. "Right, then."

"Right," Louis says, and he goes into the bathroom and comes out with a towel he's picked up off the floor, and some strawberry Body Shop shower gel. "I'm going to use one of the other bathrooms. Make yourself some tea when you're done, if you're out first."

"Right," Nick says again, and for want of something better to do, he walks into Louis' bathroom and closes the fucking door. "Christ," he says softly, as he switches the shower on. "Fucking hell."

Nick takes the longest shower known to man, and then steals all of Louis' moisturiser and hair gunk and tries to make his quiff into something anime shaped, like the picture on Louis' hair gel. In the end, he looks like a hedgehog with gel in his hair, so he rinses it all out and then goes out into the kitchen with wet hair and one of Louis' stolen t-shirts on over his jeans.

Louis is sitting at the kitchen counter, on the kind of swivelly high chair that Nick's only seen at the most pretentious, godawful bars that he sometimes frequents, drinking tea.

"Not to be rude, or anything," Nick says, sitting down a little perilously on the stool next to Louis, "but did you pick any of the furniture in here for yourself, or what?"

Louis raises an eyebrow, and takes a sip of his tea. "Not to be rude," he mimics. "Jesus. Is this you trying to be nice?"

"Yes," Nick says, stealing Louis' tea and taking a gulp. "I'm just saying, none of it feels like you, that's all. It's not that it's not nice. But black and chrome, really?"

"I could be into black and chrome," Louis says, stealing his tea back. "Oi, get your own. Kettle's over there. Just because you're some big old poser with delusions of fucking grandeur, or whatever. I've seen your flat. You've got antique maps framed. You couldn't read a map now if you had to, let alone an antique one."

"I like those maps," Nick says, a little obstinately. Louis is all damp-haired and fresh-faced from the shower. His t-shirt is damp at the collar, like he got dressed a little too quickly. "Anyway, I wasn't being rude. I like your flat. It's like getting your cock out for every city boy with a telescope."

"I'm sure they're all equipped with telescopes," Louis says, kicking him in the ankle. "Why don't you ever just shut up and look pretty, huh? Why have you got to speak and ruin everything?"

Nick pouts, to cover up the frantic beating of his heart. "Don't you think I look pretty all of the time?"

"Shut it, dickhead," Louis says, but he's gone a little bit pink. He slides off his awful black and chrome bar chair and heads for the kettle. "The furniture came with the flat," he says, as he fills the kettle from the tap. He doesn't look over his shoulder at him. "How did you know?"

Nick drops his chin to his hands, and steals more of Louis' tea whilst he's not looking. "'Cos I've got eyes," he says. "And, like—okay, correct me if I'm wrong, or anything, but, like, if you could pick, wouldn't you have some stupidly ginormous sofa that tried to eat you every time you sat on it, and could fit all of your band on it if it had to? Or all of your eleventy-billion sisters?" Louis makes a face at him. "Okay, your twenty-seven sisters? And seriously, I know because we almost had sex on it last night, but your sofa doesn't try to eat people. Your sofa is like a fucking rock."

"It came with the flat," Louis says. "It all came with the flat. They asked me if I wanted the furniture, and I couldn't be bothered to shop, because what the fuck am I going to do in fucking DFS, right? So I just said whatever, and took it all."

"There's a sale on in DFS," Nick says.

"There's always a sale on in DFS. Nothing's ever full price in DFS." Louis pours water on a teabag, and leans back against the counter. "I hate this flat," he says, after a minute. Fuck, everything about Louis makes Nick feel sad inside. He just doesn't know what to do with all of these fucking feelings. "I just—there's nowhere to play fucking football, you know?"

Nick is crap at football. He hasn't wanted to go outside and play football in his whole entire life. Every time he tries to be a bit laddy, he gets five minutes in and realises he'd rather be inside reading Heat or checking Twitter. "So," he says. "You're rich, aren't you? Just sell this place and go and buy a house with a garden, or whatever."

Louis picks the teabag out with his fingers—Nick tries not to notice that too much—and brings it over, pushing it across the counter towards him. He goes to the fridge and gets out the milk. "Do you fancy toast?"

"What have you got to go on it?"

Louis opens the fridge again. "Lime marmalade," he says.

Nick doesn't wrinkle his nose. "All right," he says. "Haven't had that since I was about ten."

"Saw it in the shop and fancied it," Louis says. "My nan always used to have it."

Louis bungs four slices of bread in his super-duper fancy toaster and comes back over to the counter next to Nick. "Feels like a failure if I just sell this place," he says, watching Nick pour milk into his tea. "I could probably, I don't know, like it more if I just tried or something."

"It's got nice views," Nick concedes. "And that shower's dead good."

"Well then," Louis says. "If the shower's good."

Nick pokes at the handle of his mug with his fingertips. A bit of milk runs down the outside, and hits the counter with a gentle sort of splish. "I didn't mean anything by it, you know. Like, I wasn't trying to be mean."

Louis nods, but doesn't look up. Nick resists the urge to lean over and mess up Louis' still-damp hair. He pokes Louis in the wrist with his fingertip instead.

"Fuck off," Louis says, moving his wrist.

Nick pokes him again.

"Stop being annoying," Louis says, moving, but not so far away that Nick can't reach him. Nick circles his fingers around Louis' wrist instead of poking him this time, and Louis doesn't say anything to that. He doesn't look up, either, and Nick can feel the insistent beat of Louis' heart in the relentless pulse beat under his fingertips. "You're so annoying," Louis says, but it's softer this time, and Nick doesn't let go.

He stays holding on, and they don't say anything else until the toast pops up out of the toaster, and Louis lets go then, turning his back on Nick to spread their toast with marmalade.

Nick looks down at his hands, and ignores the little warning bell inside of his head that's trying to tell him he's in too deep. Because he already knows, is the thing. He already knows.

"What are you up to for the rest of today?" Louis asks, once they're most of the way through their toast and Nick's pretending to scroll through Twitter.

"Meeting Gillian for breakfast," Nick says, tapping through to Taylor Swift's Twitter, just for fun.

Louis looks pointedly at Nick's toast.

"Shut it, you," Nick says, sticking his phone in his pocket. "Don't tell me, you've got terribly exciting world famous boy band type things to do."

"Nah," Louis says. "Got today off. Going over to Liam's in a bit. Fifa tournament, you know."

"Ah," Nick nods, and does his best to look sage. "The terribly busy life of an international pop star."

"Last proper day off in ages," Louis says. "Off to Liverpool tomorrow."

"On Easter Sunday? Nice." Like he doesn't know their tour schedule.

"I'm not complaining," Louis says. He tears the last of his toast into pieces, and starts to eat them, piece by tiny piece.

"I know," Nick says, because Louis is prickly at the best of times, and Nick can never tell what's going to set him off. "I should go, though. Gillian will be breaking up with me if I'm much later."

"All right," Louis says, and doesn't really look at him. He tears his crust into two, instead.

Nick doesn't know how to ask, when am I going to see you again? so he downs the remains of his tea and starts to gather up his plate and his knife and his cup.

"What are you doing?" Louis looks confused.

"Tidying up after myself," Nick says. "Alien concept, I know. See, look. Here I am, and here's my dirty cup and plate, and here I am picking it up and taking it over to the sink. Or dishwasher. There's bound to be a dishwasher here, somewhere." He dumps his stuff down on the one spare inch of kitchen counter, in between a baking tray, a Chinese takeaway container, and six dirty cereal bowls. He tries one of the cupboard doors, but it just reveals a washing machine. Another one is a tumble dryer and the third one he tries isn't a dishwasher but isn't anything that Nick can actually recognise, either. "You going to give me a clue at any point, or are you just going to watch me systematically go through your kitchen?"

"More fun watching you, isn't it?" Louis says. He bumps his toes into Nick's leg. "Try over that side."

Nick opens a cupboard door. "Did you know you had a Kenwood in here?"

"A what now?"

"Right," Nick says. He stops looking for the dishwasher, and just shoves the cup and plate a bit further onto the counter so it's not in danger of tipping off the edge and onto the floor. "I'm giving up and declaring this place a disaster zone. Sorry, and everything."

"It's not that bad," Louis says. "Anyway, who cares if it's a mess? It's fine."

Nick rolls his eyes, and heads for the living room to find his jacket and the rest of his stuff. He'd just dumped it somewhere last night in his quest to shag Louis as quickly as possible. He finds his jacket by the window, and he's just zipping it up when he turns round to see Louis leaning in the doorway out to the hall, hands in the pockets of his tracksuit bottoms. They hang low on his hips, and even lower as Louis fists his hands in his pockets.

It makes Nick's breath catch in his throat.

Louis makes a face that Nick isn't exactly sure how to parse, but falls somewhere before rueful and anticipatory. It's probably reflected on Nick's face too, but with a side order of confused. Confused seems to be the general order of things at the moment; he's not sure what to do with that.

Nick finishes doing up his jacket, and transferring his almost-dead phone into his coat pocket from his jeans, and putting on his shoes, and only then, when he's all done, does he cross the living room to stand in front of Louis in the doorway. He stops short of touching him, although he's close enough to tilt forward and press his mouth to Louis'. He doesn't; he rocks up on his toes and then back down again.

Louis bites his lip. He bumps his knee into Nick's.

"Hi," Nick says, nonsensically.

Louis smiles at that. His eyes get all crinkly round the edges when he smiles and he means it; Nick wants to touch his finger to the fan of laughter lines, and kiss him over and over.

"So, then," Nick says, because he knows he's falling for him and it's a really shit life choice. He's having to force himself not to stroke his hand through Louis' hair.

Louis laughs at that, and curls his hand round Nick's neck, and draws him in. He kisses him soft and slow, and he tastes like lime marmalade and sleepy mornings and everything in between. Nick walks him back against the wall and tilts his chin up with one hand, sliding his knee in between Louis' legs. Gillian will be waiting for him, probably texting him even as he's kissing Louis now. He can't bring himself to care. He'll apologise later, once Louis' finished kissing him back, once Nick's stopped sliding his hand into Louis' hair and kissing his way into Louis' mouth. He'll buy her the most ginormous breakfast and splash out on endless coffees. She'll forgive him.

He reaches for Louis' hand, then, meaning to hold it above Louis' head, pin him to the wall, just the way he knows Louis likes. He ends up lacing his fingers through Louis' instead, and Louis' palm is hot against his. Nick's heart pounds, and when Louis reaches for his other hand, lacing his fingers in between Nick's, Nick presses him back against the wall and kisses him again. He holds Louis' hands over his head, knuckles pressed to the wall, and Louis rocks his hips up against Nick's, his dick a familiar hardness against Nick's hip.

"Love this," Nick says, without thinking it through. He colours even as he's saying it, even as he's realising what he's just said. Louis nods, tilting his chin up for another kiss.

"Me too," Louis breathes, touching his mouth to Nick's, and Nick's defences are coming crashing down and he knows he's going to get hurt. He knows.

"I've got to go," Nick says, but he doesn't let him go. He kisses Louis' cheek instead, his jaw; he mouths at Louis' throat.

"No marks," Louis reminds him, head tilted back against the wall.

Shit. "God," Nick says. He presses the quickest of kisses to Louis' mouth, before stepping back, dropping Louis' hands, standing just outside of Louis' reach. He swallows. His mouth's dry. "When am I going to see you again?" He tries for casual but he's got nothing. There's just the frantic beating of his heart and Louis standing there in front of him, tracky bottoms hanging low on his hips, his t-shirt rucked up. His hair's still damp and his lips look kissed red. Nick wants to stay, and peel his clothes off, and suck him off so slowly that Louis' begging him for more. So slowly that Louis' desperate. So, so desperate.

"Tonight?" Louis says, almost but not quite meeting Nick's eyes. "I could come over."

"Aren't you going to Liverpool?"

"There's a car coming for me in the morning. It could just pick me up from yours instead." He's still staring at a point just to the left of Nick's head. Nick wonders if he's got a second head or something, and that's what's stolen Louis' focus. He feels the same, though, like this tentative grasp they've got on what they're doing is so fragile that they just can't look it in the eyes in case it fractures right there in front of them.

"All right," Nick says. He's supposed to be seeing Aimee for dinner tonight, but he can cancel. Postpone. Whatever he and Louis are doing, it's not going to last forever, and this thing between them is fragile enough for Nick to want to say yes to him coming over. Aimee loves him, and he adores her, and she'll understand if he flakes out on her just this once. "What time?"

"Dunno. I'll text you when I get to Liam's, find out what the plans are."

Nick nods, toeing at the rug with his shoe. He stares at the black and white picture of a dilapidated boardwalk and sand dunes behind Louis' head. "Nice picture."

Louis doesn't look at it. "Came with the flat," he says.

Nick manages a smile. "Should have guessed," he says. "I'll see you tonight, okay?"

Louis nods, and then he darts forward, fingertips curling around Nick's upper arms. He presses a kiss to Nick's mouth, missing a bit and catching the corner and Nick's cheek.

Nick knows he's going pink. He swallows. "All right," he says, and he sounds a bit hoarse. "See you, then."

It's not that he runs away, but he does leave without looking back.


Louis' text later that afternoon says, eating indian takeaway here then I'll come to yours for ten-ish right

Fine, Nick texts back, ignoring the fact that he could have gone out with Aimee after all. He changes the sheets for no reason whatsoever, and buys some dog stuff on the internet because his dog trainer has promised him that his Jack Russell is almost ready to come home with him, and because which dog doesn't need a little doggy jacket that matches his dog bed. Seriously, it's a good thing he doesn't have children, because his bank balance is taking enough of a battering just preparing the place for Puppy Power Forever to come home with him.

He does some washing, and cleans his kitchen, and watches half of a documentary about Lindsay Lohan's fall from grace on some Sky channel he swears wasn't there before today. He looks away for one second and there are a hundred new terrible channels on his Sky planner, all of them always showing variants on the same awful Lindsay Lohan documentary.

When the doorbell finally rings, he goes to answer it, and he's barely got the door open before Louis' pushing inside, kicking the door shut behind him and pressing Nick up against the wall.

He's kissing Nick even before Nick's got his hello out.

They knock that fucking hall table over on the way down the hall towards the bedroom.

"Leave it," Nick says, already trying to get Louis out of his jacket, littering the hall with their clothes as they strip off there and then.

Louis laughs at that, and Nick drags him into the bedroom and pins him to the bed.


In the morning, Nick barely notices Louis getting out of bed. The noise of the shower makes him roll over and grunt a bit, but it's only when Louis crawls over him, damp hair dripping onto Nick's face, that Nick bothers to wake up at all.

"Oi," Nick says, cracking open an eye.

"I've got to go," Louis says, pressing a damp kiss to the corner of Nick's mouth.

"Don't," Nick says. "Stay here and ride me."

Louis groans at that. "Next time," he says. "Sometime this week. Round the shows." They're back at the O2 from tomorrow. Then next week the tour will be gone from London and they won't be fucking coming back. Nick isn't thinking about that.

"Ride me now," Nick tells him, hands to Louis' wrists.

"I've got to go," Louis says, kissing him again. "There's a car outside." He kisses him. "I'll see you."

"Tease," Nick complains, but he's still half asleep. He's lucky he doesn't beg him to stay. "Be good on stage."

Louis laughs at that, and Nick's already mostly asleep again when he hears the front door go a minute or so later.


When he wakes up, it's the middle of the morning, and when he stumbles into the kitchen to blearily put the coffee machine on, there's a Lindt chocolate rabbit in the middle of his kitchen counter with a little scrap of paper propped up against it.

Happy easter, the note says. L xx

"Fucker," Nick says, and his chest hurts.


Thanks for the easter egg, he texts later. Dunno whether to feel bad about the fact I've just eaten a rabbit's face.

Better than eating its arse instead

A good point. He stares at the chocolate rabbit's bottom for a minute, before snapping a picture with his phone and emailing it to Louis. Mmmm tasty, he types.

He doesn't get a reply until late that night; it's almost one. Thought you liked licking arses.

Nick buries his face in his hands, just for a moment, and contemplates wailing into the abyss. He settles for just doing a little shout instead. He doesn't email back, just yours love. He settles for can't beat a chocolate bunny. Good show?

He doesn't get a reply to that, and he ends up falling asleep with his phone in his hand. He wakes up with it poking up from between the pillows, an endless reminder that Nick's desperate and in this way over his head.


One Direction do a matinee show on Tuesday; Nick goes over to Louis' flat after the Breakfast Show and before Louis has to leave for North Greenwich. He goes down on his knees for him, blowing him in the hallway with Louis' hands in his hair, a scant half hour together where they kiss and exchange blow jobs.

Afterwards, Nick drives back to his place, phone set to hands free, and he spends the whole journey talking to Harry about nothing, every run-on sentence hiding the very thing he wants to say, but can't: I'm falling for your best friend, and I have no fucking idea what I'm doing.

In the end, Harry says, "You've got to cut down on the caffeine, mate," and Nick pretends to agree.

"Promise," he says, climbing out of his car outside his flat. "Now, don't you have a concert to go and give? What are you doing talking to me?"

Harry laughs at that, and Nick thinks, I fucking hate secrets.


It's Thursday before he gets another text. Four day weeks are supposed to be fucking awesome, but this one isn't. Nick feels sluggish and like his body clock is all fucked up. It's that time of year; the clocks have changed and the seasons are on the move and Nick's had too many late nights trying not to fall too hard and too quickly for a fucked up pop star.

You free tonight

Dunno, Nick texts back. What are you offering?

What you suggested on Sunday. Could ride you.

Nick is supposed to be going out to see Pixie with the aim of throwing bits of rolled up serviettes at Henry's head whilst he goes on and on about work. Nick fires off a text to them both to lie that he's held up at work, and then he goes into his bedroom and wanks off into his hand, coming after a terribly paltry forty-five seconds. It's not his fault that the idea of Louis sitting on Nick's cock is so desperately hot, but it is.

He's late to meet Pixie and Henry, but then he's been legitimately later for much worse reasons a million times, so it's not like they expect better from him. He checks his phone every two minutes, soliciting a, got some gossip for us? from Pixie, and a raised eyebrow from Henry. For once in his life, though, Nick stays quiet. "Nah," he says. "Just waiting for something from Finchy. We're trying to get Britney on the show. Can you imagine, me and Britters? The platonic love of my life."

They both roll their eyes at that, at least, and Nick tries to do better after that, he really does.


Louis texts him before the show that night. Still okay for me to come over?

Yep. Nick goes for a shower, and shaves, and cleans his kitchen. He can't settle to anything. He tries TV but nothing sticks, and he tries backreading Twitter but he doesn't care. He searches Tumblr for pictures of his face, but it throws up a lot of posts about him and Harry, and it isn't that he doesn't think Harry is just about the best person on the planet, but he's going to shag Harry's best friend tonight, if things go to plan, and the fact that they're keeping it from Harry keeps playing on his mind. He's not one for secrets, anyway. He's never been able to keep them for a start. He doesn't know whether he should be proud that the first secret he's ever been able to properly keep in the whole of his adult life is the one that he really shouldn't be keeping, or terribly ashamed. Right now it's a confusing mix of both.

He can't keep it from Harry that much longer. It's not really in him, and anyway, Nick hasn't kept quiet about his love life since before he was old enough to have one. It feels a bit like he's being slowly inflated with all of this stuff he just wants to blurt out and tell someone; there are feelings piling up inside of him that he doesn't know what to do with. He's a robot, in general, or at least he pretends to be. He doesn't know what to do with how he's feeling right now.

He texts Louis, aren't you done yet? But it's only half past nine, so he doesn't expect him until later. He's going to be fucking knackered for the show in the morning, but he can cover that up. They expect him to be a bit off the wall, anyway. Being knackered because he's been balls deep in Louis Tomlinson is slightly different, but hopefully it'll be vaguely similar in off the wall effect, at least.

When he gets a message back later, it just says, coming now. Had to run out the venue straight to the cars. Didn't even get a chance to fucking piss.

Nick's breath catches in his throat. Yeah? You desperate? His phone is hot in his hand. The reply doesn't come for a few minutes, and Nick spends the intervening time alternately palming his cock through his jeans and changing channels on the telly. He's on the music channels—the ones that actually play music, as opposed to endless reality shows that are okay but aren't as interesting as actual music—and he keeps flicking up and down through them to find a song he wants to listen to all the way through.


Nick's hard. He doesn't even really know why, just that the very idea of Louis being that desperate, somewhere between the O2 and here, maybe wriggling round in the back of the car getting him here, maybe counting down the minutes until he gets here and he can go to the loo, is stupendously hot.

You far away?

Feels like it. Just past Euston.

Nick palms his cock through his jeans. Hold on, he types, one handed.


It just gets him harder and he doesn't know why. He ends up pacing the hall, neatening up the unopened letters from British Gas and Sky and the pictures on the hall table, although knowing him and Louis, they'll all end up on the floor within about two minutes, anyway. When he hears a car pull up outside, he turns the key in the lock and opens the latch; he leaves the door to.

He hears Louis jog down the steps to his front door, pulling open the door even as Louis is reaching for the doorbell. Louis looks flushed and sweaty and desperate; he's dragging a sports bag with him and he drops it on the floor even as Nick's pushing the door shut behind him.

"Hi," Louis says. He's hopping from foot to foot.

"Hi," Nick says, and he should be stepping out of the way so that Louis can push past him to go to the toilet, but he stays where he is, standing right in the middle of the hall.

Louis surges up against him, hands cupping Nick's face, kissing him. Nick ends up grabbing at his elbows just to keep his balance, mouth opening under the insistent pressure of Louis' kiss.

"Aren't you desperate for the loo?" Nick asks, in between kisses.

"Uh-huh," Louis nods, gaze meeting Nick's and then dropping down to his mouth before shifting up again. "In a minute."

There's an insistent brightness to Louis' eyes that Nick can't place. "Okay," he says, hands still on Louis' elbows, holding him in place. Louis smells like sweat and heat. He's bouncing on the balls of his feet, his pulse beating a tremulous race beneath his skin. It's probably the adrenaline; forty-five minutes ago Louis was still on stage, all of those thousands of fans screaming their names.

"I'll wait," Louis says again.

Nick can't help but glance down; Louis' dick is hard. "How long have you been like that?" he asks, thumbs stroking the insides of Louis' arms, nodding down towards Louis' erection.

"Dunno." Louis is breathless already; to Nick he feels like a balloon that's trying to float away, except frantic. Like a balloon in a gale. Nick tries to keep him tethered to the ground. "Ages. All the way here."

"Since you were on stage?"

"Nope. Since the car."

"Since you were desperate?"

"Since you told me to hold on," Louis says, eyes so, so bright.

Nick kisses him again at that, pressing fingertips into Louis' bicep. Louis pants against his mouth, more than breathless. They haven't even done anything. It's like Louis is vibrating somewhere off the scale. Louis kisses him hard and frenetic. "Go to the fucking loo," Nick tells him, because he wants to have sex, and he's so fucking hard, and he doesn't want to wait any longer.

Louis shakes his head. "No," he says, and he's the one shifting their positions this time, backing into the wall and pulling Nick in, insistent. He's the one leaving fingerprint bruises on Nick's skin, and it's like a drug, Louis being like this. Nick presses him against the wall without even thinking what he's doing, one hand to Louis' hip, thumb to Louis' tummy, and it's only at Louis' ragged, desperate intake of breath that Nick realises what he's doing.

"Sorry," Nick says, taking his hand away.

Louis grabs his hand. "Don't stop," he says. "It feels so good."

God. God. Nick can't breathe. He starts to walk them towards the bathroom. He catches his thigh on the corner of the hall table, and it's all he can do to not kick it to pieces right there and then. He strokes his fingertips over Louis' stomach as they go, catching Louis' breathless gasps against his mouth. Louis is so desperate, and so needy, and the fact that he's letting Nick near him like this is making Nick's stomach twist up. He rubs his dick against Louis' hip, but as they get to the bathroom, Louis tries to drag him into the bedroom instead.

"I can hold on," he says, cheeks flushed. "Come on, come on. Just fuck me or something, come on."

"Christ," Nick says, but he can't say no to that. Fuck, he's forgotten to put the duvet cover on. He'd changed the sheets, and put the bottom one back on, but the duvet's bare in the middle of the bed, all piled up like a duvet mountain. He'd been so distracted he hadn't even realised he'd forgotten. "Sorry, I got half-way through—"

"I don't care," Louis says, cupping Nick's face in his hands and pulling him into the bedroom. "I don't care." He stumbles back onto the bed, landing on his back on top of the duvet mountain. Nick crawls over him, one hand going down to cup Louis' dick through his jeans.

Louis rocks up into his fist, sitting up on his elbows, head thrown back. He's flushed red, sweat beading across his forehead.

"How desperate are you?" Nick asks, unable to help himself. Some of Louis' relentless intensity has transferred itself to Nick; he wants to roll his hips down against Louis' and not let him go.

"So fucking desperate," Louis says. "God, I really need to go."

With Louis spread out like this, flushed and begging and desperate and his, Nick doesn't know what to do with himself. "What if I made you stay here?" he asks. He leans over him. "What if I took your wrists like this—" He takes Louis' wrists in one of his hands, and pins them up above his head. Louis' writhing on the sheets, breathless and panting. Fuck, Nick has no idea what he's doing, or why it's suddenly so hot. "What if I held you like this, and touched you here." He ghosts his fingers over Louis' stomach, down over his bladder.

"God," Louis sobs out, hips rocking up. "Yes. Yes. Fuck, let me go."

Nick's fingers still. "Properly Spanish let you go, or keep going?"

Louis looks at him then, eyes wet. He isn't quite as hard as he was a minute ago; he must be really desperate to wee. He knows what Nick's asking him. "Nick—"

"Tell me," Nick says. He doesn't move. "Come on."

"I'm so desperate. I'm gonna—"

Nick stays still. He waits.

"Don't stop," Louis begs, voice catching. He's crying, now. He rolls his hips up, only half-hard underneath Nick's hand. "Hold me here. Don't fucking stop, please. Please."

Nick strokes his fingers up over Louis' stomach, lower still, cupping his dick and then trailing back up, trembling over Louis' bladder. Louis chokes out a sob.

"It's okay," Nick says, and he shifts enough that he can lean down and press his mouth to Louis'. Louis shakes beneath him, wrists still trapped in Nick's hand. "It's okay, love."

"I can't," Louis sobs. He turns his face to the side.

"You can," Nick says, and he kisses him again, Louis kissing him back, ragged and desperate and sobbing.

When Louis starts to wet himself, he cries for real, even as Nick cups his dick and stays holding on as Louis' jeans get wet beneath him, and it should be horrible and awful, but Nick's harder than he's ever been, ever. He kisses Louis again, even though Louis' red-faced and tear-stained and so, so desperate.

"God," Louis manages afterwards, his voice hoarse. He tries to roll away from him, trying to wrestle away from Nick's hand.

Nick stills, but Louis shakes his head. "Please," he begs, and Nick unbuttons Louis' jeans with one hand, not taking his eyes off Louis. The duvet's soaked with Louis' piss and Louis is hard again under Nick's hand, even as Nick's trying to push down Louis' jeans and his underwear. He undoes his own jeans next, struggling to get them down one-handed. He has to let go of Louis' wrists in the end, getting Louis' jeans down to mid-thigh and his own down too. He reaches for Louis' wrists again even as he's pressing down on top of him, rolling his dick down against Louis'. It's so wet and dirty and he wraps his hand around their dicks, kissing Louis' cheek and forehead and temples even as Louis rocks up against him, wet through.

It barely takes either of them any time at all to come, and they're soaked and dirty and come-stained and breathless.

When Nick crawls off him, Louis curls up in a ball on his side, arms around his knees.

There's a very good chance, Nick thinks, dazedly, that he's just broken them.

He goes into the bathroom, and turns the shower on. He doesn't know what he's doing or what they've just done, only that Louis' broken and he doesn't know how to fix him. He goes back into the bedroom and sits down on the end of the bed, stroking Louis hair away from his face.

"Shower's running," he says, after a minute.

"God," Louis says. He wipes his nose with the back of his hand. "I just—"

Nick knows the feeling. He doesn't look at the soaked duvet or their wet clothes, or Louis' dick, there in the open V of his wet flies. "Come on, love," he says. "Let's just go and have a shower, all right?"

"Fuck," Louis says. He looks up at Nick, and he looks desolate, and broken. "Is this—I just—I don't know what to say. I'm so ashamed."

Nick shakes his head. His breath feels caught up in his throat, like there's a lump he can't speak round. "Don't," he says. His jeans are sticking to him. "It's all right."

"I wet myself," Louis says, and he sounds a bit like he's talking a long way away. "Fuck." His voice catches.

"I wanted you to," Nick says, because Louis seems to have forgotten that. He tucks his fingers into the curve of Louis' elbow. He doesn't know how to fix this. The room feels thick with tension, all of the hairs standing up on the back of his neck. He's all hot and too cold and there's terror coiled in his belly at just how hot he found everything that just happened.

"How can you, like—" Louis trails off, and he looks down at his dick, and his wet jeans. He puts his face in his hands again.

"Don't," Nick says again. "Come on, the shower's on." There's too much going on in his head. He curls his hand around Louis' wrist and pulls him in the direction of the bathroom. Louis follows pliantly, but he won't look at Nick, eyes down. Nick has to help him off with his t-shirt and his watch and his wet jeans and sodden underwear.

He leaves their clothes in a wet pile on his bathroom floor and nudges Louis into the shower and under the spray. He follows him in, to Louis' surprise if the way his chin tilts up is any indication. They've just shared something so filthy and intimate that Nick thinks they should be closer for it, but if anything, they feel further apart than ever.

"I'm sorry," Louis says, after they've both stood under the spray for thirty seconds and not moved. "I'm so, so sorry. Like, that was—it was so wrong, okay? I'll pay for the duvet, and—and whatever else, all right? And then, like, after this, I'll just go." He looks over Nick's shoulder instead of at him. "I'm going to need to borrow something to wear, though. If that's all right. I'll make sure you get it back."

Nick feels sad right down to his toes. It's hard to breathe. "You don't have to go," he says, and he reaches out to touch Louis' cheek.

Louis flinches. "I do," he says. They're standing just outside of the spray.

"You don't," Nick says. He doesn't know how to fix this. He never knew how to fix any of it, because he's terrible at relationships. He's relationship-phobic. He loves seeing his friends and living in his flat and working his dream job. He's terrible at flirting and awful at dating and rotten at boyfriends. He's selfish and works unsociable hours and he's a great big gossip whose longest relationship has been with Gillian, who doesn't count. He has literally no idea how to date someone, and this thing he has going on with Louis isn't dating, and it isn't even close. Nick hasn't stopped wanting to throw the contents of the fruit bowl at Louis' head; it's just that he wants to suck his dick at the same time. It's just that he sees him now and his stomach does a little flip right upside down, and his breath gets all caught up in his throat. He doesn't know how to fix any of this, and he really doesn't know how to fix this. "You want me to suck your dick?" he asks, because sometimes he has a one-track mind and sometimes blow jobs fix things.

"You can't want to," Louis says, in disbelief. He's stepped under the spray; water runs down into his hair and down his face.

Nick does want to. He wants to fix this, but he also wants to suck Louis' dick. It's just a nice kind of a dick, that's all. "I do want to. Want me to do it now?"

"I pissed in your bed," Louis says. He looks so desperately humiliated, and this time it isn't hot. He just looks ashamed and humiliated and small. "I wet myself."

"I know," Nick says, and he leans over and turns off the shower. He's only half-wet and he hasn't bothered with washing. "And then I got off on it." He's embarrassed too; it's piss. He got off on Louis weeing.

Louis won't look at him. "How can you want to suck my dick after that?"

Nick tries for rueful. He's not sure how successful he is. "It's a nice dick," he says. He touches his fingertips to Louis' side; he's wet from the shower and he hopes the water has washed most of the piss away. He's not sure he's ready to graduate from getting off on Louis' desperation and wetting to something more hardcore. He's not sure he is more hardcore.

Louis tilts his hips a bit, a moment's movement towards Nick. It's all that Nick needs to lean in and press his mouth to Louis'. "I got off on it too," he says, hands to Louis' hips, since he's honest like that. He can be honest with Louis, if he has to be. Truths keep sneaking out, one tiny moment at a time. "You want me to suck your dick?"

Louis doesn't move for the longest moment. His breath comes in little puffs against Nick's cheek; he's flushed red, and he's wet from the shower, and his hair is plastered to his forehead. "Yeah," he says, softly.

Nick opens the door to the shower cubicle and tugs Louis out into the bathroom proper. He kneels down on the bathmat and pushes Louis back against the towel rail. When he takes Louis' dick in his mouth, Louis' only half hard; he curls his fingers in Nick's hair and pulls him closer, though. Nick sucks on the head of Louis' dick, tongue pressed to the underside, feeling him harden in his mouth. Louis strokes his fingertips over Nick's cheek, and Nick groans around him, pre-come slick against his tongue as Louis gets harder.

He's good at blow jobs, and he pulls out all the stops for this one. He concentrates on the tip as he cups Louis' balls, sliding his hand between Louis' legs to finger his hole. Louis bucks up against his mouth, and Nick takes more of him in, his other hand wrapped around the base of Louis' dick. Louis is a fat, thick weight against his tongue, and Nick goes down on him as fiercely as he can, trying to say everything he can't verbalise in real life with his blow job. He pulls off a bit, enough to press his tongue to Louis' slit. Louis gasps at that, fingers tightening in Nick's hair, and Nick thinks, yes. He can do blow jobs. He can fix things with his mouth, if he's allowed. If Louis will let him.

He feels Louis' orgasm starts to build in the way his hips jerk up, hand tight in his hair, fingertips tracing the outline of his dick in Nick's mouth. Nick is insistent and fierce, taking no prisoners. He circles Louis' hole with his fingertip, pressing inside so that Louis bucks up into his mouth, crying out as Nick takes more of him.

Louis tells him he's going to come with a startled, bitten-off god; it's all that Nick needs to press closer, and take more of him in. Louis' dick bumps against the back of Nick's mouth and that's it, he starts to come in thick, desperate pulses.

Nick swallows as much as he can, but he slides off when it gets too much, the last stripe catching Nick's mouth and cheek and chin.

Louis has his head tipped back against the wall, panting. His hand is on Nick's shoulder, and Nick leans in and presses his forehead to Louis' hip.

Afterwards, Louis sinks down onto the floor next to him, and slides his hand into Nick's hair, hiding his face in Nick's shoulder. "Fuck," he says, hoarsely.

"All right?" Nick asks. He pats Louis' shoulder in a vaguely ineffectual manner. He's hard and trying not to think about it all that much.

"Think so," Louis says, and they stay like that, sitting with their knees pressed together on the bathroom floor, until Nick gets pins and needles and drags him back under the shower for an actual wash.


Louis stands in the doorway to Nick's bedroom afterwards, staring at the wet duvet.

Nick touches his fingers to Louis' hip and presses past him, bundling the duvet up and trying not to go red at the smell of piss. "It's fine," he says. "I'll just get it dry cleaned, don't look so worried."

Louis won't meet his eyes. He dries himself with the towel round his waist instead, stepping out of the way so that Nick can take the duvet into the kitchen and bung it in front of the washing machine. There's no way his king size, fifteen tog duvet is going to fit into the washing machine, but what else he's supposed to do with it, he has no idea. Dry clean it? Bung it in a bin liner and leave it out for the bin men? He kicks it into the corner, anyway, and goes back to the bedroom via the airing cupboard, coming back with fresh sheets and his summer duvet in a vacuum bag. Louis has already stripped the bed, and he's clutching the sheet in a ball, and looking ashamed.

"Where do you want this?"

"Stick it in front of the washing machine," Nick says. "I'll put a load on in the morning after work. Too late now, innit?" He's already halfway to putting the sheet on the bed when Louis comes back, and Louis helps in grim silence, the tension already racketing back up. The blow job hadn't done enough of a job, obviously. Rubbish. At least they've got the embarrassing spectacle of Nick trying to get a duvet cover on without ending up inside the duvet or inside out or upside down to come; Louis can't look awkward after that. It's like a fucking pantomime, Nick changing sheets. He's co-ordinated; he's got style. Why he can't get a duvet cover on without causing total and utter pandemonium, he has no idea.

The room feels hot and stifling, even when they've finished making the bed, and Nick's only made a total pig's ear of getting the duvet cover on for about nine hundred years. He goes to get them both a glass of water, switching the big light off as he leaves the bedroom, and when he gets, back, Louis' curled up on his side on Nick's side of the bed, facing the wall.

Nick puts a glass of water down on Louis' side, but Louis has his eyes closed and won't look at him, and Nick is left awkwardly going back round to the side he leaves primarily for guests, and crawling under the covers. He knows Louis isn't asleep, and isn't even close. Everything in his body screams tension, his shoulders hunched, his breathing uneven.

Nick lies on his back once he's switched the lamp off, staring up at the ceiling. He's proud of his flat, and he really likes how he's got it all set out, and he loves his furniture and his décor and all of his pictures. Above the bed, right above the centre of the mattress, is a glow in the dark squid. It's about three inches long, and behind it is a little glow in the dark turtle, and behind that is a glow in the dark shark. He likes to think that they're swimming together, like little friends. Like Finding Nemo. He likes that they're a secret, only ever seen by the people he shares a bed with.

He doesn't know what to do. He knows they've made a mess of tonight, that there are things they should have talked about, or should be talking about. This is kinky shit, and tonight is just further proof that not talking about it just fucks things up even more between them, when things are fucked up in the first place, just by virtue of the fact they're sleeping together. He knows that he needs to be saying, what the fuck are we doing? He knows he should be asking about what gets them off and how they can do that without it ending up like this, with Louis tense and ashamed and probably terrified. He rolls onto his side and stares at Louis' back.

"Will you fuck me?" Louis asks, after a minute. He's so quiet that Nick barely hears him. "I know you're awake."

"Do you want me to, though?" Nick curls his fingers in his sheet.

Louis shifts a little, but doesn't roll over to face him. The lines of his back are tense and taut. Nick reaches out to trail his fingertips down Louis' spine; he stays rigid beneath him, except when Nick gets close to the hollow of his back, and the curve of his arse, when he twitches and lets out a ragged breath, his shoulders deflating. "Please," he says. "Will you just fuck me?"

Nick moves a little closer, until his knees are bumping into the back of Louis' thighs. "I will," he says. "So long as you're all right."

"I'm fine," Louis says, which is obviously a lie, and Nick knows it is obviously a lie, but every single thing they're doing right now is built on a lie that they hate each other, so one more on top of all of that can't hurt all that much. It just can't.

"Seriously," Nick says. He curls his hand around Louis' elbow, brushing his thumb over the bone. "I'm sorry about earlier. That we did that without talking about it first. I made a right mess of that."

Louis rolls onto his back at that, twisting round to frown at him. His hip brushes Nick's dick. "What?"

"We should have talked about that first, probably."

"We shouldn't have done it," Louis says. Nick's bedroom is pretty dark, but he can still see Louis' awkward frown.

"Didn't you find it hot?" Nick hooks his ankle around Louis', drawing him in a little. "Cos, like, I came really hard. I didn't know I'd like that, but I did."

"It was wee," Louis says, in a small voice. His fingertips brush Nick's, and he shifts a little closer. His skin is flushed warm against Nick's.

"I know," Nick says. Every tiny movement he makes is fraught. "But, like—if you ever wanted to do that again, then, um, I'd say yes, okay? Like, for future reference. But—we need to talk about it first. No more, like, jumping into stuff that makes you feel uncomfortable. Or me. I don't like that."

Louis presses back against him, just a little. He tilts his head to one side; his breath comes in warm little puffs against Nick's cheek. "I've never done that before," he says. "I mean, I like being desperate. I've always liked being desperate."

"I like you being desperate," Nick says, and very, very carefully he slides an arm around Louis' waist, anchoring him in.

Louis nods at that, but doesn't say anything for a while. "Do we have to do this now?" he asks finally, and his voice catches. "I'm embarrassed enough. Can we just—can you fuck me? Will you just fuck me?"

"Yeah," Nick says, and he pulls Louis in so that his back is pressed to Nick's front, and Nick can bury his face in the curve of Louis' neck. He's mostly hard just from being in the general proximity of Louis' dick, and he positions them so that his dick slides down between the cheeks of Louis' arse.

Louis lets out a ragged breath, and presses back against him, even as Nick' sneaking his hand down to wrap around Louis' dick. His dick fattens up in Nick's hand, even as Nick's slowly wanking him off, rocking his own dick against Louis' arse.

"How do you want it?" Nick asks, trying not to bite down on Louis' shoulder.

"I don't care," Louis says. "I just want you inside me."

"Christ." Nick's dick is leaking pre-come, catching slick against the curve of Louis' arse. He wants so, so much to slide on in like this, without a condom. He wants to know what it feels like to be skin to skin, to have Louis clench down on him without the extra layer of latex in between. To be inside of him for real.

He isn't that guy, though. He wants to be, even though he's never wanted it before, but it's not—it's not right. They're not even going out together, even though they kind of are. But kind of isn't enough for him to be able to lose the condom, even if he wasn't convinced that it would send Louis into the stratosphere, and probably not in a good way. He reaches over Louis to the drawer in his bedside table, coming back with a box of Durex and some lube.

He fingers Louis open without much finesse. He's gentle with it, to a certain degree, but Louis doesn't want his pity. That much is obvious from the set of his shoulders and the way he's pressing back against Nick's fingers. They stay on their sides, Louis facing away from him, and Nick anchors him in place with a hand to his shoulder.

Louis' breath catches when he slides in a second finger alongside the first, and again when he's open enough for a third. He tips his head back and Nick kisses him underneath his ear, and down to his jaw. Louis reaches behind him and curls a hand into Nick's hair.

"How'd you want it?" Nick asks again, mouth to Louis' skin. Louis' fingers tighten in his hair, and he ghosts his mouth over Nick's cheek. "Do you want to ride me?"

"God," Louis says, pulling away. "Fuck, all right."

Nick wants the light on for this, and as Louis' shifting position on the bed, Nick leans over and switches on the lamp. Louis' dick stands erect and proud even as Louis positions himself over Nick's legs. He looks half-shy, half fierce.

Nick goes for the condom, but Louis takes it off him, tearing off the corner with two fingers. He doesn't say anything, but Nick lets him take over, shifting the pillows a bit so that he's propped up, and he can watch Louis slide the condom down over Nick's dick. Nick can't help but buck up a bit at Louis touching him like this; he's not sure they've had a time when Louis' attention had solely been focused on touching him. They should rectify that.

Except they're not actually going out, so maybe they won't. That's another thing Nick really has to talk to him about, although he's not exactly looking forward to it. Louis is a prickly hedgehog when it comes to Nick, even at the best of times. When it comes to Nick broaching the possibility of this maybe not being quite so cloak and dagger, he's fairly sure that Louis will react with the sensitivity of a herd of rampaging wildebeest, and Nick will regret opening his mouth. He doesn't want to risk the fragile equilibrium of the two of them here in this moment, either. There's a delicate balance in the offing.

Louis squeezes out some lube into his palm, and wraps his fist around Nick's dick. Nick rolls his hips up, wanting more, and asking for it the only way he knows how. He swallows down a whine as Louis sits on his legs and makes a face at him over the top of his dick.

Nick makes one back, just because.

And with that, the atmosphere seems a little less tense. It seeps away like water down a plughole, Louis sitting there and staring at him, and Nick staring back. Louis' shoulders drop.

Nick smiles at him. "Weren't you in the middle of something?" he says, for want of something better to say.

Louis presses his fingertips into Nick's thigh. "Don't think so," he says.

"I think you were." He tries to rock up and get some friction on his dick, but Louis won't touch him. Nick growls a bit, low in his throat, and reaches for his dick.

"Nope," Louis says, slapping his hand away. "Give over. It's your turn to wait for a change."

Nick growls again, but this time it's not in frustration. "Fine, whatever. Go at your own speed, I don't mind."

"Good," Louis says, and they're both working hard to plaster over the cracks, he knows. There are better ways to do this, he's sure, but this one seems to be working for them in this moment. "I know it's, like, pretty much impossible for you, but if you could just shut your mouth for, like, a minute."

"Oi," Nick says, since he can be quiet, and Louis' been nothing but quiet, but it seems like a silent agreement has been passed to not refer to that for the duration, so Nick goes with it. They can talk at a point that isn't the middle of the flipping night.

"Shush, big mouth," Louis says, and he shifts up onto his knees, reaching behind him with the lube. Nick watches, breathless, as Louis fingers himself, hips rolling up, eyes on Nick.

"My mouth is not big," Nick complains, since this is the kind of thing he wouldn't let slide under normal circumstances. If they pretend long enough that this is normal, then maybe it will just become so.

"You can fit my cock in it, and I'm huge, so."

Louis isn't huge. He's quite happily normal sized, and is quite deliciously, perfectly sized for Nick's needs, but he's not going to say that. "Yeah, yeah," he says instead. He slides his hands up over Louis' thighs, at the short hairs rough beneath his fingertips. He presses his thumbs into Louis' muscles, digging in as Louis shifts up a little, rocking up into his touch as he fingers himself. "You ready, yet?"

"Greedy," Louis says, with a smile. He chews on his lip a little as he rolls his hips up. His face is flushed, his forehead gleaming already. Nick wants to stroke his hair away from his face.

God, he wants to wipe Louis' brow. What the fuck kind of old film is this, and why is he even in it? He's living in Gone With the fucking Wind. "Come on," he says instead, pressing his fingertips into Louis' thighs. "I want to fuck you."

The line of Louis' throat as he tips his head back is quite something else. Nick is getting used to the way his chest sometimes seems too small for his heart when he looks at Louis; this is one of these moments. He's breathless at the sight of him, throat bared, chest heaving already. He reaches out and presses his hand to the centre of Louis' chest, just to feel his heartbeat beneath his palm.

Louis meets his eye then, flushed. "Nick," he says, and his voice catches. He sounds broken and ripped apart, and this is what they're hiding; this is what they're covering up and pretending isn't there, and the vast cavern of feelings Nick has about what they're doing and what Louis means to him feels desperately exposed. Is it written all over his face, the way he's fucking obsessed with him? His stomach feels like it's in free-fall all the fucking time. His heart beats faster and he can't stop thinking about him, all the time.

It's probably blindingly obvious he thinks that he might be falling in love with him.

Or how he thinks he might already have fallen.

"Come on, sweetheart," Nick says, forcing himself to speak. His heart pounds. He's never been in love before, and out of all the people in the world he would have chosen to be his first, he wouldn't have picked Louis fucking Tomlinson. "Come on, let me fuck you. Want to see you ride me."

"Yeah." Louis shifts then, going up on his knees so that he can position himself over Nick's dick.

Nick wraps his fist around the bottom of his dick, holding himself still; when he feels the slick tip press against Louis' arse, and Louis has to move to line himself up, he wants to wail into the fucking abyss about how much he wants him.

When Louis starts to take him inside, when there's the first resistance of Louis' arse around Nick's dick, Nick has to tip his head back on the pillows and force himself not to rock up in desperation, in awful, terrible need.

"Fucking hell," Louis says, grabbing Nick's hand. He squeezes, holding on as he sinks down. "God, this feels—you've got to do this."

Nick has done this; he's just never done it with Louis. "Okay," he says quickly. "Yeah. God. Yeah." He's forcing himself to stay still through sheer fucking will; his toes are curling with it.

"Move," Louis begs. "Please—" his voice cracks. "Fuck me, god."

Nick snaps his hips up, unable to help himself. He grounds himself with a hand to Louis' hip, and Louis' pushing down to meet him, and it's so tight and so hot that Nick's almost lost in it, need rippling over his skin and skittering outwards until he's just nothing but want and Louis and heat. He fucks up into him, Louis' hand sweaty and hot in his, his other hand to Nick's stomach. They're both breathless and panting already, and Nick can't think of anything to say that hasn't been said already, every synapse in his brain firing in one fucking direction—the corner of his brain that keeps repeating over and over on a loop, I think I'm in love with you.

Time slides away from him, and he has no idea how long it is before he's focusing back in on Louis wanking himself off at the same time as riding him, Nick's hips pressing up and into him, Nick's orgasm starting to curl across his skin like dry tinder catching fire.

"Gonna come," Louis tells him, skin gleaming sweat-slick. He's slack-jawed and breathless, skin flushed dark pink, the tip of his dick wet and red, his fist tight around his erection as he wanks himself off. It's hypnotic, and Nick never, ever wants it to stop. "Fuck, Nick—" his voice breaks. "Nick."

"Come on, love," Nick manages. "Come on me."

Louis cries out at that, broken and desperate, and he starts to come in ragged stripes across Nick's stomach, muscles shaking.

Nick fucks up into him, so close to the edge himself, and utterly unable to do anything but hold himself together in the only way he knows how. Louis doesn't let go of his hand even though he's just come. When Nick's orgasm hits him, he snaps his hips up one last time, head tipped back on the pillows.

Afterwards, Louis pulls off him, and rather than sinking down onto the sheets next to him, he gets rid of Nick's condom for him, tying it off and disappearing in the direction of the bathroom.

He comes back with a damp flannel, and he cleans Nick up with a gentle kind of touch that Nick's never had from him before. Louis cleans himself up afterwards, until they're both damp and clean and Nick still can't get his head back under control. He has to be up in a few hours; it's going to be one hell of a straight through crew show, and he'll have to hide it as best he can. He keeps going over and over it in his head; he's in love. He's in love.

Louis lies next to him on the sheets, with one hand under his cheek on the pillow. "You know who you remind me of?" he says finally, when Nick's looked at him for a good minute or so without being able to think of a single thing to say.

"Oh, go on," Nick says. "I can't wait for this one."

Louis bumps his toes into Nick's calf. "I'm not always a dickhead, you know," he says, and Nick knows that. He really, really knows that. It doesn't make the dickhead parts of Louis any more palatable, but he's not sure that's the point.

"Tell me, then," Nick says. He pulls the duvet up and over them, rolling back onto his side so that they're lying next to each other on the pillows, a few inches between them. The lamp's still on.

"I should make you guess," Louis says.

"I hate guessing games," Nick complains. He makes an executive decision and slides his hand over Louis' hip, and into the hollow of his back.

Louis doesn't exactly capitulate and shift closer, but he does tuck his feet around Nick's, which Nick's counting as the same thing. Sort of. "Well, I'm not telling you now."

Nick grins, and ducks in to rub his nose over Louis' cheek. "How about now?"

"Fuck off," Louis says. "God, you're so annoying." He makes it sound affectionate, and fond. It's maybe the nicest Louis' ever sounded. Nick wants to keep it like this forever, but he knows at some point they have to stop trying to forget what happened earlier. He just doesn't want to ruin this fragile equanimity.

"You're more annoying," Nick tells him, in all seriousness. He moves closer, until his dick is all pressed up against Louis'. There's something about the intimacy of not being hard that makes his heart beat faster.

"Haven't you got to get up in about ten minutes?"

"I've got a few hours," Nick says. He won't be so equable about that when his alarm goes off. "You can stay here if you want, whilst I do the show. I'll come back and do us some breakfast."

Louis shrugs a shoulder. "Suppose," he says, but Nick can see beyond his studied indifference. He can read Louis better, now.

"Great," Nick says, and he reaches past Louis to get the light. In the darkness they're quiet together, still and near.

Louis darts in and presses his mouth to Nick's, nervous. His tongue flicks out. "Night, then," he says, and Nick nods, heart pounding, and tries to go the fuck to sleep.


His alarm is like an awful no-good, blaring pain in his head when it goes off at five-fifteen in the morning.

"For fuck's sake," Louis says, from next to him, hiding his face under the pillow. "Make it go the fuck away."

So much for nice, gentle, semi-romantic waking up next to each other. Rita's Facemelt isn't that romantic a song at the best of times, but it's less so when it's blasting out in the middle of the bloody night.

"Fuck," Nick manages, reaching for his phone and knocking it off the bedside table and onto the floor. Every morning is made better by having to blurrily fumble under the bed for a blaring alarm. When he finally finds it and shuts the alarm off, he sinks back into the pillows and stares up at the ceiling. "Morning," he says, finally.

"It's the middle of the night and I hate you," Louis says, from under the pillow. "Go away. Go away now."

Nick rolls his eyes. "Someone's a ray of sunshine in the mornings, aren't you?"

Louis kicks him in the shin. "Hate you," he says.

"Right back at you, darling," Nick says. He kisses Louis' arm, somewhere close to his shoulder, the only patch of skin that's visible from under the duvet. "You want a cup of tea?"

"No," Louis says. "Go to work so I can go back to sleep like a normal person."

"Fine," Nick says, climbing awkwardly out of bed and standing naked in his bedroom like a bit of a freak. He makes the bed around Louis, until he realises it's a bit like making sure he's all tucked in, and quickly stops that. It's still pitch black outside, so he fumbles round his bedroom trying to get his clothes together in the dark so Louis can go back to sleep. It's only mostly a failure.

Two minutes later, and Louis makes an aggressive, desperate kind of a growling noise, sits up, and switches the lamp on. "You are awful," he says. "You are literally the most terrible person in the world. How the fuck can you be this loud and uncoordinated, and how can it take you this long to get your shit together?"

"Would you rather I just switched the big light on and just made the kind of racket I normally make?" Nick tries to sound as mild as possible, but he's just saying, if there was a fruit bowl around right now he'd be lobbing it in Louis' general direction. There's only one reason he's clumsy and knackered this morning, and it's entirely down to Louis fucking Tomlinson, who is sitting up in Nick's bed with his hair sticking up on end and pillow marks on his cheek. It's not fair, him waking up and looking like that. Nick looks like he's gone five rounds with a sleep-monster who's gifted him with bags under his eyes the size of Aimee's Louis Vuitton handbag. He peers gloomily into his mirror and pokes at his cheek. "This is your fault," he says, nodding in Louis' direction. "I look about forty-five."

Louis throws his pillow at him. "You're a huge fucking drama queen. Make me a cup of tea and go away."

Nick throws it back, and gathers up his pants and socks and jeans and a t-shirt. He doesn't stomp off in the general direction of the bathroom, but it's a close-run thing.

"You're on the radio, no one will notice if you look like a troll," Louis calls after him, which isn't the way to get a cup of tea any faster, that's for sure. Nick puts the shower on and turns his shower playlist up high.


When he's finally dressed and he's made himself a piece of toast and some coffee, he takes Louis a cup of tea. The lamp's still on, although Louis is curled up under the duvet again. Nick puts the mug down on the bedside table, and leans in to kiss Louis' temple. "Do you fancy bacon sandwiches, later?"

Louis opens an eye. "Suppose. Give us a bite of your toast," he says, fingertips appearing out from under the duvet.

Nick makes a big deal about sighing very loudly indeed, but obediently hands over his toast for Louis to steal half of. "That's more than a bite."

"I'm a growing boy," Louis says, snuggling back down under the blankets.

"You're not even going to drink that tea, are you? I slaved over that, and you're just going to go the fuck back to sleep the moment I turn around."

"Something like that, yes," Louis agrees.

Nick rolls his eyes again, making to leave, but Louis snakes his hand around Nick's wrist instead. He tugs him closer, drawing him down. Nick doesn't know what he expects, but being kissed on the corner of his mouth isn't exactly how he imagined this going. Louis tastes crumb-y, like he hasn't even swallowed his fucking toast.

"Now go away," Louis says, batting him away. "You've woken me up in the middle of the night."

"Right," Nick says, for want of something better to say. "Have a good, well, sleep."

"Will do," Louis says, eyes already closed, and Nick leans in and switches the lamp off, before heading for the door.


Where do you keep your washing powder?

Nick's just cued up Rizzle Kicks, and he's taken the opportunity to pop out of the studio to steal some coffee and a bit of Fifi's scrambled egg bagel.

Cupboard by the back door. You don't need to do the washing tho.

LMC is printing off pictures of Jessie J on the office printer. Fiona is on YouTube, making notes on a Pukka Pad in a black sparkly gel pen that has Liam Payne on the side. That pen is Nick's, he knew someone had nicked it. Everything's going on as normal around him, Matt Fincham trying to shove a clipboard and some papers at him, but all Nick can think about is Louis, wetting himself all over Nick's bed. The desperation, the shame; how hard Nick had been, and how easy it had been to make Louis come. It's so disgracefully filthy that Nick almost doesn't know what to do with himself, and he definitely doesn't know how to stop thinking about it now that he's started.

Why don't you keep it under the sink like a normal person.

Because the washing machine's closer to the back door and because I want to.

He's not entirely sure, even now, why Louis drives him so completely mad, but he does. He adjusts himself subtly under the table, because he might want to yell at Louis a lot for daring to question where he keeps his washing powder, but it doesn't quite trump the memory of grinding down against a piss-wet Louis the night before.

He's an adult with a fucking magnificent job, and he has to stop thinking about Louis Tomlinson. He really has to. This is getting embarrassing.

Fifteen minutes later and he's just finished a link about Matt Fincham and his ridiculous love for Clannad, when his phone goes off again, this time with a picture message. Louis' drawn little devil horns on the baby on the front of Nick's Fairy Non-Bio, and a little speech bubble that just says, who the fuck buys Fairy?! What are you, a nan or something?

Nick sends a message that primly informs Louis that Nick has very sensitive skin, thank you very much.

"Is that Harry?" Matt Fincham asks. "Tell him to stop bothering you when you're at work."

Nick definitely, definitely doesn't go red. He might blush a little bit, but that's completely acceptable. "'s'not Harry," he says, before he thinks about whether that's a good idea or not.

Matt and LMC and Ian and Fiona share a look, which Nick pretends not to see. He tidies his papers instead, just for fun.

"So," LMC says, sidling up to him. "It's not Harry, huh?"

Nick taps his pen against the table. "Me and Harry aren't shagging," he says. He's been saying this since about 2011. No one ever fucking believes him. Him and Harry are pretty fucking close, but they're not that kind of close.

"Uh-huh," LMC says.

"Go and do your job, Laura-May," Nick says. "Leave me alone."

She goes, which Nick appreciates, but she's wearing a smirk, which Nick doesn't. They're all smirking, which Nick is making a mental note of. He has extensive mental records of this kind of thing. Terribly organised, like. He never forgets.


Nick lets himself in to the flat at just after half past ten. He's never made it home this quick before, and he knows that part of the reason he's managed it is because his entire team were wearing matching fucking smirks that spell endless, desperate teasing for Nick. He's skipped out on a production meeting that he'd begged to rearrange for next week, and promised to check his emails later and actually get back to Matt on at least some of the more urgent ones. He's not going to, but at least Matt's aware of that as much as he is.

"Hi," he calls, dropping his keys in the bowl on the hall table.

"Your washing machine's crap," Louis says, from the general direction of the kitchen.

Nick toes off his shoes and leaves his coat on the hook in the hall. He wanders into the kitchen clutching a packet of smoked bacon and a loaf of fresh bread in a carrier bag. He dumps them on the counter by the stove, along with his phone. "It wasn't crap before, what have you gone and done to it?"

"Wasn't me," Louis says. He's sitting at Nick's table, in one of Nick's t-shirts and one of his checked shirts, presumably in a pair of Nick's pants too. His hair is all soft and falling in his eyes and he's drinking from Nick's favourite Beyonce mug.

"What did you do to it?" Nick asks, coming over and stealing Beyonce to gulp back some tea. It's hotter than he anticipated and only through great strength of character does he swallow it down without some kind of embarrassing regurgitation thing happening. It burns his throat all the way down.

Louis smirks at him. Seriously, people have got to stop fucking smirking at him. "I only just made that," he says.

Yes, Nick thinks. I get that now. He flicks Louis in the arm instead, just for fun. Louis flicks him back.

"Why don't you have normal fucking settings on your washing machine? Why did I have to pick a number? When's it from, the fucking dark ages?"

"Oi," Nick says mildly, going over to the cupboard where the washing machine's hidden. "The list of cycles is just here." He points at the front of the washing machine. "How hard is it to just pick a number and programme it in?"

"How hard is it to get a washing machine where you don't have to decode something just to make it work?"

"Was it too complicated for you?" Nick asks, making a sad face at him. "Did I need to leave instructions in writing that wasn't joined up?"

"Fuck off," Louis says. "I did it in the end. Your washing machine's stupid, that's all."

Nick gives up poking at his washing machine, which is still sploshing around in an early-in-the-cycle kind of a way. He goes over to the coffee machine, and busies himself getting rid of the old grounds instead. "You didn't need to do the washing, I told you."

"I did," Louis says, and he sounds tense, again. "I need my clothes."

Nick doesn't turn around at that. He stares down at his hands instead, as the coffee machine starts to burble gently to itself. His fingers are really long. He feels like a giant next to Louis sometimes, particularly when he's comparing their hands. Louis has such little hands. Nick has fingers that just keep going on and on, like a witch or something. Janey always said he should be a witch for Halloween, but whilst on the one hand, Nick likes dressing up, he's not all that keen on looking ugly.

"I got us bacon," he says in the end, when the coffee's started to drip into the jug. "You fancy a bacon sandwich?"

"Obviously," Louis says. "Did you get smoked or unsmoked?"

"Smoked," Nick says, since smoked is his favourite, and he's the one doing the shopping.

"Oh," Louis says. "Well, okay."

"Glad you approve," Nick says, dryly.

Louis leans over and pokes Nick in the side, making him squirm away. "Do us another cup of tea."

"Do I look like your personal slave?"

"Always wanted a slave boy," Louis says, lazily. "Come answer my every whim."

Nick goes over and kisses the top of his head instead, standing behind Louis and sliding his hands down over Louis' chest. Bacon sandwiches and a chat, that's his plan. His plan is actually fairly structured in his head; he is going to tell Louis how he feels about him, although he's going to withhold the I love you declaration until he's actually had time to process the fact the world has shifted on its axis without him noticing, and he's going to tell him how much he loves having sex with him, and how much he loves the kinds of sex they have—with special reference to getting to do what they'd done last night again—and to close, he's going to ask Louis if Louis might fancy going out with him, like, on a more official basis.

Because the thing is: Nick knows that Louis wanted to keep this secret in the beginning, and it wasn't like Nick had been all that desperate to shout it from the rooftops that he'd been kissing his actual nemesis Louis Tomlinson on repeated occasions back then either. But that was, like, two months ago. Things have changed between them. They've stayed over at each other's flats; they've slept next to each other, and had morning-breath sex, and had weird drunken middle of the night conversations about how much they wanted to kiss each other. It isn't just sex anymore, and Nick's sure that Louis feels the same way too. It's there in the way he looks at Nick, the affectionate, exasperated tone when he talks to him, the way he kisses. The scarf all folded up in Nick's suitcase, the Lindt chocolate bunny. It's there.

Anyway, Nick's planned what he wants to say, and all in all, it's more planning and forward thinking than he's done in a year or more, so he's feeling quite bewildered about the whole experience. It's more forward planning than he'd done for his mortgage application, and that had been a terrifying feat of adulthood Nick had been fairly sure at the time wasn't going to be equalled any time soon.

He hadn't planned on wanting a boyfriend. This boyfriend. Louis.

He ducks down so that he can rest his chin on Louis' shoulder, and Louis shifts, stroking Nick's hair away from his face.

"Your hair's stupid," Louis says. He sounds a bit fond.

"Not as stupid as yours," Nick says. He smiles. He suspects it looks as dopily fond as he thinks Louis just sounded. "Look," he says. "We should talk about last night."

Louis stops looking any kind of fond. His face closes up between one breath and the next. "Which part?"

Nick's heart is starting to pound. "I don't know. All of it? Any bit of it? Whichever you want, probably."

"I don't want to talk about any of it," Louis says, tightly.

Nick lets out a breath. "I just think, if we want to do it again, we—" he trails off, because he doesn't know how to talk about what they've been doing. Nick's twenty-eight years old and it turns out he doesn't have a vocabulary of his own to talk about relationships, let alone one to discuss the intricacies of his and Louis' sex life. He's going in this from the wrong end and he doesn't know how to make it all right. "We have to talk about it if we want to do it again."

It takes Louis a long time to nod his all right. "S'pose."

"I'll do us some bacon," Nick says, and he stands up, switching the grill on. He's taken the easy way out already, he knows that. They need to have this conversation; they need to have more than one conversation, multiple, in fact, only he doesn't really know how to start any of them. One false start and he's backing up, hiding by the cooker, unsure of how to try again and get a different result. He's got to try again, he knows that, but it's revoltingly easy to persuade himself out of anything.

In the end, Louis comes and stands by him and puts slices of bread onto plates, buttering them messily and getting the ketchup and the brown sauce out of the fridge as Nick checks on the bacon. Nick doesn't usually bother with buttering his bacon sandwich bread, but whatever, in for a penny. He's not really thinking about the bacon, anyway.

They sit down at the table by Nick's French windows and Nick bumps his foot into Louis' under the table. "You all right?"

"Nope," Louis says, once he's finished chewing his mouthful. "You?"

"Nope," Nick agrees. It makes him want to laugh. "Look, I just—I don't know, okay. I have no fucking clue what I'm doing."

Louis does laugh at that. He leans back in his chair, feet stretched out under the table. "Like I do either."

That isn't news to Nick. "It doesn't mean I don't want to be doing what we're doing," he says, finally. Even this much of a truth feels like he's peeling a bit of himself away and offering it to Louis on a plate. That's a pretty revolting thought, he's not going to lie. Disgusting, in fact. It's half putting him off his bacon sandwich. Not totally, obviously. He takes another bite. "I just think we should, you know, talk about it a bit."

"All right," Louis says, after a while.

"So," Nick prompts. "You're the one that keeps coming round here." It isn't the, so, we've been doing this a lot recently he was perhaps aiming for.

"You came to mine too," Louis shoots back. His brow's gone all furrowed. Nick didn't mean to make him look like that. Nick never means to make him look like that, but most of the time he doesn't seem to get much of a choice in anticipating how Louis responds to things. Admittedly this time around he's making a giant pig's ear of saying what he wants to say: namely, that he'd quite like to keep having sex with Louis, on a potentially slightly more formal level, and for their sex life to remain as, well, kinky as it's started out.

"Not what I meant." What exactly did he mean? "I just—I think you're into it too, that's what I meant. You come over here. To do this."

Louis flushes. "All right," he says.

Nick wipes his crust round his plate, catching the bacon grease and the remains of the ketchup. He doesn't really want to eat it, but he does anyway, because Louis' looking uneasy and trapped as it is, and that can only get worse the more Nick picks away at everything they haven't been talking about for weeks.

For a guy who makes his living talking, Nick really can't think of the right thing to say right now.

"I liked last night. When you, um—"

"All right, you don't need to go on about it." Louis' gone bright red. Before they'd started this, Nick would have been fairly convinced that Louis didn't have the capacity for embarrassment, but maybe that's just true for everything that isn't sex, or tied in to what gets him off.

"I sort of do, though," Nick says. His heart's pounding. "It was good last night, right? You liked it too."

Louis doesn't say anything to that, but he does shrug his shoulders.

"Hey," Nick says, gently.

"Why do you have Fairy, anyway? Isn't that just for babies?"

"It's not just for babies," Nick says. "It's good for sensitive skin. I'm a very sensitive person. And stop trying to change the subject. You get off on the desperation thing, right?"

"You know I do," Louis prods his bacon rind around the plate. "What's it matter, anyway?"

"I don't know. Just, if we want to do it again—"

"We don't," Louis says immediately.

"Don't we?" Nick is doing his best not to look embarrassed, which is hard when he's trying to admit that he got off on Louis wetting himself, but he's doing his best. "Cos I kind of do."

Louis looks up at that, eyes suddenly bright. "What?"

"I'd do it again," Nick says. "If you said yes."

"Christ," Louis says. "Right, fine, whatever, yeah."

"All right," Nick says, since that's probably as much as he's going to get from Louis on that particular subject. Harry's always said that Louis is the easiest person to talk to in the world, but Nick's never seen that side of him, not ever. They just snipe at each other all the time and call it conversation. It's not that huge of a problem except for when Nick actually wants to fucking talk about something. "And like, the other thing is that we seem to be doing this quite a lot, recently."

"We don't have to," Louis says immediately. "We can stop."

"No," Nick says. "I don't want to."

Louis looks genuinely terrified by that, which isn't quite the reaction Nick was going for. He'd been concerned about what he'd do if Louis' reaction was bewildered, but Louis' pressing white marks into his wrist with his fingertips and is definitely leaning towards looking frightened stiff.

Maybe this really isn't the time to have this conversation. Nick's carefully laid plans have gone out of the window; this is why he never plans anything. It's easier just to fucking wing it and hope for the best. He doesn't know what to say, anyway, so he sits there awkwardly whilst Louis looks like he'd rather be anywhere else in the whole fucking world.

Nick's phone rings, startling them both. Nick licks his fingers free of ketchup as he stands up to grab his phone from the kitchen counter. His screen is a picture of Harry whenever he calls, a close up of Harry sticking his tongue out at Nick. He glances at Louis, then back at his phone. It's not in his nature to not bother answering his calls, but something about Louis' posture reminds Nick of an animal ready to bolt, so he drops his phone back down onto the counter.

"Aren't you going to get that?" Louis asks, as the phone continues to blare out MC Hammer's Can't Touch This, which is this week's Harry-specific ringtone.

Nick shakes his head. "Nah," he says. "I'll ring him back later."

"Nice ringtone," Louis says.

"Accurate, at least," Nick says. He taps his fingers against the countertop as the phone startles into silence. "I didn't mean we had to stop," Nick says finally, which isn't quite the same as, I want us to be together.

"Okay," Louis says, which isn't an answer either way. He genuinely does look as if he's about to bolt.

"I mean," Nick says, trying to get his words into some kind of order. "I don't want us to stop."

"Right," Louis says, as Nick's phone starts to ring again, MC Hammer's dulcet tones loud and tinny in the awkward silence in Nick's kitchen. "You should get that."

"You sure?" Nick's hand hovers over the phone.

"It's fine," Louis says, and it doesn't sound entirely like it is fine, but Nick wants an end to this conversation and this seems like an easy way out. He always has liked an easy exit strategy.

He cradles his phone between his ear and his shoulder as he runs his fingers under the tap. They're still sticky from his bacon sandwich. "Wotcha, Harry," he says, as cheerfully as he can manage, which isn't all that cheerful in the general scheme of things.

"Nicholas," Harry says. He sounds like he's smiling. Nick likes how Harry does that. It doesn't take away the tension that's making his chest hurt, but it helps. "Are you still at work?"

"Nope, I'm at home," Nick says, drying his hands on his jeans. He leans over the kitchen sink, trying to straighten up the plants on his windowsill.

"It's early, isn't it? For you to be home?"

Nick doesn't tell him that he had someone to rush home for. He doesn't glance over at Louis at all, even though he wants to. He wants to tell Harry that he's got Louis here, that maybe they're trying to figure their stuff out, that they're sleeping together and—in Nick's dreams, perhaps—putting together the beginnings of a relationship, and that right now they're eating breakfast and drinking coffee. It's what he wanted to tell Louis, but the words wouldn't come. Nick wants to tell Harry it all instead, because it's not like Nick to keep this stuff secret, even when it isn't a big deal at all, and somehow Louis feels like a massive deal. Nick hasn't forgotten his middle-of-the-night I love you epiphany, even though he's choosing not to say it out loud. "Nothing to hang about at work for today," he says. He turns around, leaning up against the sink. Louis' watching him and frowning. He mouths, Harry? at Nick, and Nick nods. For some reason he'd assumed that Louis had known who was calling him.

"Oh. I was going to come and meet you out of work. I've got that t-shirt of yours to give back." Harry's talking in his ear.

Nick has less than zero idea which t-shirt Harry's talking about. "Too late," he says. "I'm at home."

"Cool," Harry says. "Can I come round? Got nothing to do before I have to go to the O2."

"Oh, the O2," Nick says. "I forgot you were a super-duper pop star, Harry Styles. Good of you to remind me."

"Dick," Harry says, and laughs. "So then," he prompts.

"Um," Nick says, which he hopes is code enough for, I'm a bit busy. He glances at Louis. "I might have someone round. Later, you know."

Louis looks at him. Nick turns around and straightens up his plants on the windowsill again.

"Cool," Harry says. "So, can I come over, then?"

"Fine, whatever," Nick says finally, because Harry is one of his closest friends in the world and the idea of him fucking off round the world on tour for a million years is actually making Nick quite desperately miserable. He rather thinks Harry is quite looking forward to tour, even if he has subscribed to Nick's please don't go off and get a new madcap DJ friend to replace me when you're gone monologues with appropriate sad-facing. But also because he's Louis' best friend in the world, and Louis looks terrified, and out of his depth, and like he needs someone who isn't Nick to hug. Nick needs something to distract him, and he rather suspects Louis does too, and Harry is perfectly distraction-shaped. There's an idea taking shape in his head that Nick can't help but think is a good one; namely that if Harry comes over, then he and Louis can stop fucking things up for a bit and just go back to how things were. Anyway, because Nick needs a fucking hug too. "Come over and grace me with your presence, Harold. I can't think of anything I'd rather do with my day then have you annoy me for hours and hours."

Harry laughs again. "See you in about an hour, then? Was going to drag you to the shops, but I'll just go on the way to yours."

"Sure, see you in an hour." Nick hangs up with the minimal amount of good byes possible for someone who can't stop talking, and someone else who tells the most meandering stories in the history of forever. He puts his phone down on the counter next to him, and brushes some crumbs into the palm of his hand from where Louis had made the sandwiches a bit ago. He lets out a breath. All he has to do now is figure out how to fix the awkward atmosphere between him and Louis.

"What the fuck," Louis says, from right behind him. "Did you just say he could come over?"

Nick frowns, trying not to startle at Louis' close proximity. He dumps the crumbs into the sink. "Yep?" He's just trying to find the best way of saying, I thought you might need someone who wasn't me, when Louis snaps and shoves his plate onto the counter.

"God," Louis says. "And what, you were just going to give me five minutes to get my shit together and get the fuck out?"

"What? No, course not—"

"Fuck," Louis says. "My jeans are still in the wash." He is, in fact, just wearing one of Nick's shirts and a pair of pants. It'd be hot if Nick wasn't trying to claw some semblance of a hold on the conversation Louis appears to be having entirely with himself.

"Hey, hold your horses, Lou—" Nick has literally never said hold your horses in his whole entire life. He grabs Louis' wrist. "Should I have asked you first? I just thought—"

Louis wrenches out of Nick's hold. "Asked me first?" he says. "Are you joking? God, what if he'd got here and seen me?"

Nick blinks. "You are allowed to be here, actually. There isn't actually a rule against it. I didn't think you'd actually mind seeing him, you know, seeing as he is your best friend."

Louis rolls his eyes. He looks furious, and scared. "I'm borrowing your trousers," he says, already half way down the hall to the bedroom. It's like Nick's lost him, and he didn't even know he should have been holding on. "You've got to have something I can wear. And fuck, where's my phone. I'll call a car. When's Harry coming round?"

"An hour," Nick says, a little bewildered at how angry Louis is. Clearly Nick was wrong about where Louis was on the wanting to tell people scale. He doesn't like the way that feels. "What's the huge rush? Come on. You can stay. We can just pretend we're hanging out. He doesn't have to—"

"Don't be a fucking idiot all your life," Louis snaps, already gathering his stuff together. "Harry can't see me here."

Well, that hurts. It's sort of expected, given the last five minutes, but it still hurts. "Why not?" he finds himself asking. Christ, he's got this wrong.

"Are you totally fucking demented?" Louis asks, going through Nick's drawers. Louis' way too short for any of Nick's trousers, but Nick doesn't bother trying to find anything suitable, because Louis is confusing and frightening him in equal measure, and Nick fucking hates being wrong, but he hates being scared even more.

"I'm sorry I said he could come over without checking if it was all right," Nick says, trying to sound anything but terrified, when inside he's a mass of what the fucking fuck and please don't look like that and please don't run away. "But you don't have to rush off. You could just—" he doesn't know how to say, stay. "—be here." With me.

"Or not," Louis says, dumping a pile of Nick's jeans on the floor and rooting through Nick's exercise clothes. Nick has a nice range, not that he wears them all that often. His passion for exercise comes in fits and starts. Mostly very tiny fits and very tiny starts, coupled with very long periods of exercise apathy. "God, why are you being such a fucking dickhead? If you didn't want me here, why didn't you just tell me to get out?" He's trying on a pair of Nick's tracky bottoms.

"Hang on," Nick says, reaching for his arm. Louis shrugs him off. "Rewind. What the fuck?"

Louis trips over his feet and stumbles into the bed, pulling the tracksuit bottoms up. They're too long, but not to the extent that Nick's jeans might be. Louis has an arse where Nick has an absence of one, anyway. "Don't be a knobhead."

"I'm not being one," Nick says, still trying to get Louis to look at him. Louis keeps pushing him away. "I still don't get why you're so fucking mad at me. Harry's your friend as well as mine. So what if he comes over? We could just, I don't know, pretend we were friends or something. There are, like, a million reasons for you to be here. I could think of loads right now. We could just fucking make something up."

"I can't be here," Louis says, wildly. "Why did you think for one second that I could be here when Harry was? That it would be all right if someone else was here with you and me? Someone else knowing that I was here, with you? It's not fucking all right, Nick."

"Oh," Nick says, since on the one hand, he really had known that Louis didn't want anyone else to know about them, but he'd let himself believe that maybe that was changing, that Louis was changing, that they were changing. Maybe he's the stupidest fucking arse ever to walk the planet, because he hadn't exactly been aware that not wanting anyone to know about them extended as far as not even telling anyone they were friends. He'd thought that maybe Louis was just embarrassed about what he liked in bed. He hadn't realised it was him Louis was ashamed of.

Nick's got it all wrong, because it turns out they're not friends at all, and Nick's got completely the wrong end of the stick, and he's gone and fallen for someone who genuinely doesn't like him at all.

Oh god.

"And now you're going to fucking tell him we've had sex, because you can't keep your fucking mouth shut," Louis goes on, pulling his tracksuit bottoms even further up and trying to stuff his things into his bag. He'd clearly done a Louis Tomlinson whilst Nick was at work, and spread his belongings over the flat like a whirlwind. Special skill, that. "You'll end up telling him about—you'll tell him about what we did, about what I did—about how dirty it was. I'm fucking ashamed, Nick, and you're going to fucking tell my best friend, you'd do that to me."

"Hey," Nick says, since, no. He grabs Louis' arm again as Louis tries to leave. I'm fucking ashamed. "God, Louis. No. I swear to god I'll keep it secret. Louis."

"He'll know," Louis says. His voice catches. "I can't fucking trust you."

Oh. So that's what that feels like. Nick's indiscreet, that's not a secret, but he can fucking keep things to himself if he has to. "You can," he says, in a smaller voice than he intended. "You can trust me."

"You'll tell him about us," Louis goes on, trying to shake Nick's hand away. "You can't keep your mouth shut. You'll tell him—"

"I won't," Nick cuts him off. "I fucking won't, but even if I did tell him we were having sex, what the fuck is the problem with that? It's not wrong, what we've been doing. You don't need to be fucking ashamed of it." This is what he wanted to say earlier. This is what he's been wanting to say all along. He doesn't want the two of them to necessarily be a secret anymore. Maybe there's still a chance.

"I don't need to be fucking ashamed? What's the problem with that? Are you an actual idiot?"

"I don't understand," Nick says. "We've been having sex. Fucking great sex, and hey, guess what? I like having sex with you. I like having really dirty sex with you. Why can't I tell my best friend that I'm having sex with someone I really like?"

"Because you're not having sex with someone you really like," Louis snaps, voice rising. "Because you've been having sex with me."

Nick wants to shout. He really, really wants to shout. "It's the same thing." He gives in to it and just yells at him. "You're the same thing. I'm having sex with you and I really fucking like you, all right? It's the same fucking thing."

"You don't," Louis shakes his head. He looks furious, like Nick's said something to make him so angry he wants to hit something.

All Nick's doing is telling him the fucking truth.

"Don't tell me what I feel," Nick knows he sounds like a teenager. "Don't try and tell me who I like, god. I like you and I love having sex with you, and so fucking what if I want to tell my best friend I'm happy, for fuck's sake."

Louis looks as if Nick's just slapped him. "What," he says.

"What if I just told him I wanted you, Louis." Nick's begging him. He's begging. "What if I just said that to him, that I wanted you. He'd be happy for us. It's Harry. He'd be really fucking happy for us."

"Slight problem," Louis says, and he pushes Nick away, hands to his chest. Nick trips over his feet and ends up sprawled on his back on the bed. "You might want me but I don't fucking want you. That's what you're not getting. I don't want you."

Nick's chest feels like it's shrinking, like it's closing in on him and he can't breathe. So this is what this feels like, he thinks. This is what being in love is like.

Louis slams the bedroom door after him when he goes. Nick slides down off the side of the bed, sinking down onto the floor and drawing his knees up to his chest. Louis is still in the flat; he can hear him moving round, banging round in the kitchen, the bathroom door going. Nick doesn't bother standing up. He feels exhausted and out of breath; it's hardly surprising considering how little sleep he's had, but he can't find the energy to stand up and go and fight Louis for permission to like him.

After a while, Louis knocks on the bedroom door. "I cleaned up in the kitchen," he says. He sounds shaky and uncertain, like he's sorry for being such an emotional fuck-up. Nick's definitely given up that particular crown to Louis.

"Good," Nick says, without getting up. What's the point in getting up? He rests his cheek against his knee instead. "Brilliant. Do you want me to wave a flag, or something?"

"Don't be such a dick," Louis says, from the other side of the door. It sounds as if he's sitting down, sliding down the wall.

"Why are you still here?" Nick asks finally. His chest feels tight. Nick can't decide if it's the beginning of an asthma attack or just what it feels like to be in love.

"Dunno," Louis says. "I don't—" he trails off.

"You should go. Harry will be here in a bit." Knowing Harry, later rather than sooner.

"Are you going to tell him?"

Which part? Nick shakes his head, even though Louis can't see him through the door. "No," he says. "Your dirty secret's safe with me. I won't tell him about us."

He's never been anyone's shameful secret before. He'd got it all so wrong, about everything, and he hates being wrong. Fuck, he'd been so close to laying it all on the line and telling Louis he was falling for him. And all this time—god. He feels sick.


"Go, all right? Just go."

Louis has to come into the bedroom to get his bag. He stands at the foot of Nick's bed, awkward and unsure. Nick looks up at him from where he's sitting on the floor, and plasters on his sharpest, meanest expression.

"You still here, darling?" Nick's voice doesn't shake.


"Too late, sweetheart," Nick says. "Enjoy the rest of the tour. Revel in those solos."

He waits until he hears the front door slam before he hides his face in his hands and tries to remember how to breathe.


When Harry turns up later, Nick's curled up on the sofa with his asthma inhaler. It's not an asthma attack, but apparently being dumped has many of the same characteristics, and at least this way he doesn't have to explain the shortness of breath and his abject misery to Harry.

Harry makes him a cup of coffee and makes him budge up on the settee so he can slide in next to him and put his legs on top of Nick's.

"You all right?" Harry asks, after Nick's curled his hand around Harry's ankle and tried not to give anything away.

"Feel like death," Nick says, which isn't a lie. He waves his reliever inhaler at Harry, which is. "Got meetings this afternoon. Supposed to be driving to the Riverside Studios."

"Get a cab," Harry says. "Seriously. Don't drive." At least Harry knows what it's like to be in the middle of an asthma attack, or an impending one. His sympathy is misplaced, but Nick will feel guilty about that later.

"Suppose," Nick says. He rests his head on Harry's shoulder for a minute. "You ever have those days where you just want to rewind the whole thing and make it all go the fuck away?"

"Yep," Harry wraps an arm around Nick's shoulders. "Was going to ask if you wanted to come see us tonight, but it's probably a shit idea now."

"Sorry." There's no way Nick could go and see Louis jump around on stage like nothing was wrong. He taps his fingers against Harry's leg. "Going to miss you when you're gone, you know."

Harry laughs at that. "Yeah," he says. "I'll send you stuff, though."

"If you don't send me some piece of crap from every city you drive through, you're dead to me."

"All right," Harry says. "It's a deal."

Nick sits back up, and stretches. His misery sits on his skin like a black cloud. "Just, I don't know, find me one thing, all right? Prove you haven't forgotten me, or anything."

"Like I could," Harry says, and Nick just lets himself pretend he's sick, and that he isn't anyone's dirty little secret, just for a bit. Just for a while.


When he goes into the bathroom, he finds the duvet half in and out of the bath, soaking in a bath of Fairy.

That fucking boy. That fucking, fucking boy.


The next morning, LMC and Fiona take one look at his face and drop the who's got you smiling running joke. Showbot takes longer to drop it, but Matt ends up rewriting the link halfway through it, which makes the show reviewer say that the show's stilted today, but whatever. Nick doesn't care. He gets through the show and pretends everything's okay, and then he does what he has to do and gets the fuck out.


Louis doesn't text. He leaves the country, and he doesn't text.

There isn't really anything else to say, after all.


Nick finally gets to bring his new dog home at the end of the month, and he and Puppy Power Forever spend some glorious time together taking selfies and getting to know one another. Puppy follows him everywhere and completely ignores her dog bed in favour of curling up in Nick's lap at virtually every opportunity. Nick's Instagram becomes a bit of a shrine to his dog, which is good because the rest of his life is a total fucking mess he's covering up by constantly, desperately pretending that he's okay.

It doesn't go away, is the thing. The way he feels about Louis stays right there in his chest, a little, constant, painful reminder of all the things he's done wrong recently.

He watches videos of One Direction on stage, watches Louis wrap his arm around Liam's shoulder or race across the stage. He sees the pictures on Tumblr of Louis looking relaxed and bright and happy as his band cross Europe, country after country after country.

"That's Dickhead," Nick tells Puppy, pointing at his laptop screen. "His name's Louis and he—" he doesn't say broke my heart out loud. "He's a gitface, all right? And he can't fucking sing."

Puppy whines and shifts position in his lap, which Nick counts as approval for thoroughly disliking Louis Tomlinson, and all who sail in him.

It's weird, how little has changed since Louis slipped out of his life, but the truth remains: Louis Tomlinson is a cuntbucket and Nick's accidentally in love with him, and Nick has never felt so stupid for being so wrong about something. About someone.

It's just—it's shit, all right? It's shit. Nick feels like shit, and he's so tired of pretending he's all right all the fucking time, and he's tired of missing Louis and his little snipes and the way he chews his lip, or the way that he smiles, or the way that he looks when he's about to come. He's tired of the way his chest feels tight half the time, and the way he's broken his no crying streak with one little semi-hysterical breakdown one Wednesday afternoon after Puppy destroys a shoe and some CDs and a cereal box. He's tired of seeing Louis fucking Tomlinson's face on Tumblr, and his stupid hair, and his stupid smile, and his stupid small hands.

He's tired of wanking off to the memory of Louis' hands on him, begging him for more, of him wet and desperate and pleading, of him pliant beneath Nick's fingers.

He's tired of Louis being fucked up and fucking Nick up and being so fucking gorgeous that it makes Nick's chest ache. He hates that he's the only one who knows these particular Louis secrets, that there's a part of Louis that he's given to Nick and no one else. Nick hates that he's still so fucking sure that he wasn't wrong about Louis being fond of him and wanting more. He hates that he listens to their stupid fucking album and that he likes Louis' bits best, and he hates that even now, when Louis' off living the dream, and Louis has fucking left him, he can still make Nick want him this much.

"He's awful, okay?" Nick tells Puppy, burying his nose in her short fur. "He's just—he's awful."

Puppy yips accordingly, and twists round so that she can lick Nick's nose.

"Yes," Nick says. "He is a terrible human being. Well done, Puppy."

He's talking to his dog, is the thing. He's talking to his fucking dog because there isn't anyone else in the world he can tell, and it hurts. He hurts. It hurts.


Nick finishes filming Sweat the Small Stuff late on Friday night a couple of weeks after that. He has a drink in the green room with Kimberley Walsh, and has a long and ridiculous conversation with Marvin and Aston whilst Rochelle gets roped into a conversation about being pregnant with one of the girls from the make-up team. It's all right, all things considered, and Nick doesn't think about Louis for a good fifteen minutes, which is potentially leaning close to a personal best, when his phone buzzes with a text.

Puppy power forever is a stupid name for a dog.

For the actual love of fuck. He hasn't seen hide nor hair of Louis for over a month, and the whole month has been totally fucking awful.

Louis Tomlinson is a stupid name for a human

Fuck off and die

Leave me alone

He settles for, Good thing you don't have to hang out with her then. Her and her stupid name.

"Boyfriend?" Kimberley asks, seeing his face.

"Ex," Nick says, and he has Puppy with him so he lets her wriggle up out of his lap and lick his jaw. Puppy is literally the greatest thing in the universe. "He's a fucking dickhead." Just saying it out loud is a relief. He hasn't been able to talk to anyone about any of this. He can't tell Harry, and he keeps letting Harry's calls go to voicemail, and he can't tell his friends, and he can't tell the people he works with, and he can't tell his family. There's just his dog, and isn't that the saddest thing in the whole fucking world.

"How come they all turn out to be knobheads?" Kimberley wrinkles her nose. "Before Justin, it was just one long line of guys who turned out to be total knobheads."

"This one was a knobhead before we got together," Nick tells her, and the relief, fuck, the relief. He wants to laugh out loud from just being able to say it out loud.

Kimberley grins. "I had one of those. The sex was fantastic."

"Kimberley Walsh," Nick says, in mock horror. "Surely not."

She laughs. "Sorry about yours, love. How long ago was it?"

"Few weeks," he says. "Last month, actually."

"But he's still being an idiot?" She looks sympathetic.

"First time, really," Nick says. "He's ignored me since we broke up." He squares his shoulders. He shouldn't call it a break up; it gives their not-relationship a formality it didn't have as it was happening. No more of this. Just letting a bit of it out was a relief, but anything more is a risk. "Anyway, I don't want to talk about him. Not worth it." He lets her tell him all about the book she's writing instead. He leaves Puppy with her when he nips to the loo, and if his phone buzzes with a message then he pretends he doesn't feel the vibration against his leg.

He manages not to check his phone until he's in the car on the way home, Puppy curled up in his lap in the back of the cab.

We're back in the uk after next week.

He stares down at his screen for a bit. Are you fucking kidding me?

No we're really back. Before America.

Louis Tomlinson is still the most annoying person on the planet. But now he's the most annoying person on the planet who a) dumped Nick Grimshaw and b) doesn't seem to realise it and c) doesn't think that Nick fucking knows they've got a week off before they go round the other side of the world and d) doesn't think that Nick is totally fucking aware they've been in the UK this fucking week already to announce their stupid fucking stadium tour for next year.

He settles for, not sure why you're telling me.

I'm drunk.

Nick laughs at that, startling Puppy awake. I don't care, he sends back. His phone stays quiet after that, and Nick can't decide whether that's a good or a bad thing, but he's leaning towards really fucking great. The less said about Louis Tomlinson, the better. But the thing is—he can't do this again.

They're driving past Regent's Park when he types out, I can't. You don't trust me, and that means I can't.

There are a million other reasons why him and Louis are a terrible idea, and all of them start and end with the fact that Louis doesn't want him as anything other than a shameful fucking secret. He presses send as the cab's turning into his road, and then he's tucking a snoozing Puppy up inside his jacket and grabbing his stuff, and paying the cabbie, and then all he needs to do is go inside and go the fuck to sleep.

He's just about to drop off when his phone buzzes. It's from Louis, and it just says, I'm sorry xx

It's not enough, is the thing, and it doesn't make the bruises around Nick's heart hurt any the less.

It takes him a long time to fall asleep after that.


People keep asking him on Twitter if he's going to stop posting pictures of his dog any time soon, but the answer to that is always going to be no. Puppy is the best thing that's happened to him, and she's definitely the reason he hasn't gone off the deep end and become an actual, card-carrying hermit of the highest order. Wanting to stay in and not talk to anyone really is a bad sign for him, because Nick has never wanted to hide away in his whole fucking life. He loves people, and he's crap when he's by himself, and he genuinely doesn't know how to amuse himself when he can't talk to his friends. How do people keep themselves busy if they haven't got their friends around to chat to? Is this what it's like to be one of those people who doesn't like going out?

Because the thing is: Nick has one thing he wants to talk about more than anything else, and that's Louis, and the fact that he can't is overwhelming, and fucking isolating. He wants to go on about how the sex was great, and how Louis makes him want to throw things and fuck, mostly at the same time. He wants to talk about how he's had his heart broken and how he hates him but he loves him all at the same time, but he can't. He actually can't, because his friends are as indiscreet as he is, given the right opportunity, and he knows if someone told him that they'd had a thing with Louis Tomlinson, he'd end up telling someone else, just because it's too good a secret to keep to himself. Except Louis isn't out, and Nick is Louis' dirty secret, and because Louis is so convinced that Nick can't keep it to himself that Nick is determined—determined—not to prove him right.

And if that means he's blowing off his friends and pretending to be busy and hanging out with his dog a lot, then so be it. He'll get things back on track. It's just taking him a few weeks, that's all.


He'll get over it, he will. He will.


When the doorbell goes at quarter to eleven on Saturday night a couple of weeks later, Nick's half the way down a bottle of wine and two thirds of the way through his X Men DVD. Neither of them are making him particularly happy, although the wine's helping. He trips over his bag on the way to see who it is, and slams his hands into the door to stop him going arse over tit in his hall. So much for peering through the spyhole and pretending he's not in. At least Puppy hasn't woken up from her seventeenth snooze of the evening and come bounding down the hall, yipping.

He answers the door instead, because now that he's made the kind of entrance a rampaging wildebeest would be proud of, there's no point pretending he's not hovering behind the door like a vaguely drunken DJ with designs on becoming a functioning alcoholic.

It's Louis Tomlinson.

"Well," Nick says.

"Can I come in?" Louis asks, arms wrapped around himself. He's wearing a too-small denim jacket with the collar up and his hands shoved in pockets that are practically up by his armpits. It's raining but he's not wearing a hat, or anything particularly sensible. He's in damp Toms and rolled up jeans.

"I don't really think so," Nick says, which is something he's quite proud of, all things considered. His heart's beating loud in his ears, although partly that's the wine and the mostly falling over.

"Please," Louis says, shoulders hunched up. "I just—I want to talk to you."

Nick lets out a breath, and steps back, away from the door. "Fine." It's not that he's going to listen, it's just that having conversations with top pop pin-ups on doorsteps is never actually going to end all that well for anyone, and that includes him. Things are crap enough without getting papped having a row with Louis on his front step.

He doesn't wait to see if Louis' following him inside or not. He goes into the kitchen instead, and gets himself a glass of water. He doesn't get Louis one.

Louis stands in the doorway to Nick's kitchen as Nick leans against the sink, and he's damp and handsome and fierce.

"I don't really want to hear what you've got to say," Nick says, finally. He finishes his glass of water and gets himself another one, to wash the wine away. He's not drunk, as such. It's taken him the best part of the night to get through that half a bottle, but he's not exactly eating regular meals at the moment. He's fairly sure there hasn't been a dinner interlude any time recently.

"I'm sorry," Louis says, without really meeting his eyes. He curls his hands into fists and tucks them under his armpits, arms crossed over his chest. "I wanted to say I'm sorry."

"Oh," Nick says. "What for?"

Louis looks at him then, eyes bright. "For not trusting you," he says, finally. "Well, for saying that I didn't. I do, you know. I wouldn't have done any of that stuff with you if I didn't trust you."

"Okay," Nick says, since he doesn't believe it. Well; he believes bits of it, just not all of it. Of all the things Nick doesn't believe in this world, Louis telling him he was terrified of Nick revealing what—and who—he liked in bed isn't one of them. "I didn't tell anyone, by the way. That you liked it when I made you come."

Louis flushes at that. "Don't," he says, looking away.

"Kept it all secret, just like you wanted." And what's it cost him, keeping that secret? It feels like he's had a headache for over a month, his chest all tight like a band around his ribs. Or is that just being in love? Nick has nothing to compare it to. "Told you I wouldn't tell."

"I know," Louis says, softly. "I knew you wouldn't."

Nick shakes his head. "You didn't," he says, because even he didn't know whether or not he could do it. He clears his throat. "So, how have you been? How's the tour? You enjoying the break?"

"You don't want to know that," Louis says, and he's right; Nick doesn't. But then, he doesn't want any of this. He doesn't want Louis in his kitchen making his heart beat faster and the hairs stand up on the back of his neck. He doesn't want to be by himself on a Saturday night because he can't trust himself not to get drunk with his friends and let on that he's had his stupid fucking heart broken by a boy he should never have fucking trusted. He doesn't want to want to kiss him, but even though it's been over a month since they last saw each other, and Nick's been a total bloody misery guts since then, it's like time has concertinaed together, and May's all squished up and breathless, no space for air between now and the last time they were together in April.

Nick thinks: I don't want you here, and he wishes it were true. He just wants it, one last time. One more time.

He doesn't know which one of them is moving first, but Louis' there, right in the middle of his kitchen, and Nick's there too, hands in Louis' hair as Louis reaches up and cups his face, and then their mouths are pressed together in a breathless attempt at a kiss.

Nick digs his fingertips into Louis' arms, pulling him nearer, sucking in a ragged breath as Louis pushes him backwards, and he hits the kitchen counters with an ouch. Louis rolls his hips up, grinding against Nick, already hard.

"I'm sorry," Louis tells him, hissing in a breath as Nick tightens his hold on his bicep. "I'm sorry."

And the thing is, Nick fucking knows. He knows. It just—it doesn't fix things. He kisses him again, hand to Louis' jaw, fingers splayed as he tilts his chin up. "I know," he says, crook of his finger pressed to Louis' chin. He pushes Louis' beanie off with his other hand, and doesn't bother looking to see where it falls.

Louis looks fiercely, grimly determined, and he steps back, out of Nick's arms. He shrugs off his coat, dropping it where he stands, and then he takes his shirt off, pulling it over his head, so he's standing there shirtless and trembling in Nick's kitchen. He starts to undo his flies, but Nick shakes his head, stepping closer.

He takes over, undoing the zip with his finger and thumb. He slides his hands down the back of Louis' jeans, inside his pants so that he's cupping Louis' arse. He squeezes, just a little, urging Louis closer.

Louis wraps his arms around Nick's neck then, and presses his mouth to Nick's jaw. He sucks in a ragged breath as Nick urges his jeans and underwear down to mid-thigh, and Nick can't help but react to that, to Louis breathless and trembling in his arms. He strokes one hand up and down Louis' back, over the bumps of his spine. He feels almost shy about going further, about sneaking his fingers down to stroke his arsehole.

"Kiss me," Louis begs, tangling his fingers in Nick's hair, fucking up his quiff. He's trying to pull him closer, ever nearer, and Nick doesn't want to say no, and part of him knows he couldn't if he tried. He's like a moth to a flame, only he knows he's going to get burnt, and how much that's going to hurt.

Nick presses his mouth to Louis' and ignores all those little voices in his head that are telling him he's going to get hurt. He knows. He really fucking knows. He kisses him and strokes his arse and tries to push his jeans down all at the same time; in the end, Louis pulls away and kicks off his jeans so that he's naked. His chest heaves.

"Nick," he says, and his voice catches. "Nick."

"I missed you," Nick says, because he can't not. Because there's a lump in his throat and his heart fucking hurts, and because Louis makes his stomach do fucking back flips.

"I know," Louis tells him. He stretches his hands out, fingers wide, then clenches them into fists again. His dick is flushed red and hard. Nick's own dick presses up against his flies. Louis has the capacity to tear him into pieces, and he doesn't even know it. He doesn't say, I missed you too.

Nick's heart feels heavy. "What do you want?"

"Fuck me," Louis says, softly. "Please."

It isn't the answer to the question Nick had actually been asking, but he'll take it for now. "All right," he says, equally quietly.

Louis holds his hand out, and Nick laces his fingers with Louis'. His palm is hot and sweaty.

He leads Nick down the hall towards the bedroom, and Nick tries to ignore the voices in his head that are telling him he's making a stupid mistake.

He knows. He knows.

At least his dog's still asleep.

They switch the lamps on in the bedroom, and Nick pulls down the duvet even as Louis' opening the drawer in the bedside table to get the lube and a condom out. Nick turns away then, because the familiarity makes his chest ache. He takes his t-shirt off and folds it up over the back of the chair, and then does the same with his jeans and his underwear. He takes his socks off last, even though that's the first cardinal rule of sex broken, leaving the socks on, and when he turns back around, Louis' sitting in the middle of the bed, naked.

Louis holds a hand out. Nick manages half a smile and climbs onto the bed, crawling over him. His necklaces dangle down and bump Louis in the chin; he takes the ones off that come easily, and drops them on the bedside table. The flat is curiously quiet and oddly tense; he rolls his hips down a little and his dick bumps into Louis'.

"Yeah." Louis bites his lip.

"Yeah?" Nick rocks down again, dick just nudging Louis'.

Louis sits up on his elbows. "Missed you," he says. It's the closest Louis' ever come to a declaration. He slides his hands up Nick's bicep.

Nick leans in and kisses him then, as slowly as he can manage. He cups Louis' face in one hand, tilting his chin up, and kisses him, gentle. They've never been gentle.

Louis whimpers, and Nick slides a hand down between them to take both their dicks in his hand. Need burns dark and hard in the pit of his belly, but he doesn't give in to it, forcing the leisurely pace. Louis rolls his hips up, equally slow, and maybe Louis knows it's the last time just as much as Nick knows it, because neither of them are rushing it. Nick rocks down against him, so fucking slowly, and he catches Louis' drawn-out groan against his tongue.

He doesn't make a move for the lube, but then, neither does Louis. Instead Nick revels in the friction, in the heat that makes his breath twist in his throat as they rock down into each other, Louis grinding down against Nick's thigh as Nick presses in closer, dick pressed to Louis' hip. He kisses him again instead, and he tries to put everything he can't say out loud into it, every, I'm in love with you and I know you don't want this like I want this and I wish you wanted me back. It makes his heart feel too big for his chest, painful and out of control and desperate. He wants this so, so much. He wants it more than almost anything he's ever wanted in his whole life, and that just makes the whole thing worse, because Nick doesn't want like this. The only things he's ever wanted in his whole life are to talk to people for a living and go to the Brits and do the fucking Breakfast Show. He's never wanted to be crazy in love. This is too much, and it hurts too much, and he just—he can't.

He kisses him again, feeling red-faced and flushed from holding himself up, and Louis surges up to meet him, hands in his hair, holding him near. Their teeth clack and what had been slow and heavy two minutes ago has turned into something harder, and faster.

"Fuck me," Louis breathes, in between one kiss and the next, fingers tightening in Nick's hair. His quiff is going to be so, so fucked. "God, please. Fuck me."

The lube goes everywhere, sliding down onto the sheets and over Nick's hand and catching on Louis' thighs. Nick doesn't care. He fingers him open with breathless desperation, sliding two fingers in up to the knuckle before Louis' even had a chance to breathe around one.

"Yes," Louis manages, pushing down against Nick's fingers. "Fuck, yes."

Nick slides the tip of his thumb in alongside two fingers; he catches Louis' groan in his kiss, and bites at his lip, desperate to leave some kind of mark even if it isn't obvious.

"Jesus fucking Christ," Louis says, succinct as ever. He rolls his hips. "God, how many have you got in me?"

"Two and my thumb," Nick says. It's so fucking tight and slick around his fingers, lube everywhere. He can't stop thinking about what it would feel like to go in bareback, to feel Louis clench down around him without latex in between. He wants that so much, and he's never wanted anything even vaguely similar, from anyone. It's driving him half-crazy, just with the thought of it.

"Do another one." Louis hisses in a breath. "Please."

Nick's hesitant, but he tucks in the tip of a third finger. Just feeling the way that Louis moves around him goes straight to his cock. He wants to come. He wants to wank himself off just from the thought alone. "Let me fuck you," he says, and he sounds choked up. He never meant to sound like this. He never meant Louis to break him the way that he has. He never meant for any of this.

Louis jut nods, scrambling about on the pillows next to him for the condom.

It takes Nick twice as long as it should to get the condom on. He's all fingers and thumbs, dropping the packet more than once, careful not to tear the condom as he rips the corner. Then he's lining himself up against Louis' arse, and Louis is already trying to press down, even though Nick's not inside him yet. Nick pushes in, hissing in a breath as he watches his dick disappear inside Louis' arse, Louis clutching at Nick's wrists like a life belt.

"Harder," Louis begs, even as Nick's fucking into him. He can't help but do as Louis asks, pushing into him with a desperate kind of abandon that can only come from knowing that this is it, that there's no more after tonight, that this is the last time. He spreads his hand over Louis' dick, pressing the heel of his hand down, flat against Louis' stomach so that he's pinning his dick down even as he fucks into him.

Louis tips his head back onto the pillows, rocking down against him, reaching his hand down to cover Nick's. It's such an odd thing to do, and Nick knows it, but he keeps his hand there even though it's difficult to keep his rhythm going. He just wants to feel him, have his dick there beneath his fingertips. When Nick tries to pull away, Louis refuses to let him, pinning his hand where it is, on Louis' dick. He's not wanking him off or anything, but Louis doesn't seem to mind. A bead of pre-come slides down onto his stomach.

It's such an odd kind of sex they have, hard and soft all at the same time, twisted upside down and the wrong way round. There's no way to keep the rhythm going, not like this, and he rocks up into him with a haphazard kind of staccato twist to his hips that he couldn't replicate if he tried. He'd thought it might be different, sex after the whole love epiphany, but it sort of—isn't. It's different because they're different, because they've had over a month apart and Nick's been miserable and grumpy and alone. It's not different because sometimes Nick's chest feels too small for his heart when he looks at Louis. That part's still the same.

Louis circles Nick's wrist with his hand, his thumb to Nick's pulse point. "Gonna come," he tells him, which is insane, because Louis isn't even wanking himself off or anything, there's just Nick's hand flat to the underside of his dick, and Nick inside of him, fucking up into him like this isn't the last time.

But he comes anyway, stripes of white across his stomach, up over his chest. He squeezes his eyes shut, head tipped back, breath coming in ragged pants as he strokes his hand through the mess of come across his chest.

"Christ," Nick manages, letting go of Louis' dick to smear come across Louis' skin. His orgasm burns bright across his skin like a Catherine wheel, sparks twisting at the corners of his vision. He's balls deep in Louis when he starts to come, Louis tight and clenching around him. He cries out Louis' name as he fucks his hips up one last time, sweat sliding down into the small of his back. His muscles protest and the condom's a slick mess around his dick as he starts to pull out.

Louis laces Nick's hand with his own, filthy and a mess of come. His eyes are bright even as he lifts their joined hands to his mouth and kisses the back of Nick's hand.

There's a sob caught in Nick's chest. He can't speak. He's still inside of him. "I can't do this," he says, over the lump in his throat. "I can't do this again."

Louis doesn't let go of Nick's hand, but he does hold him tighter. "What?"

Nick shakes his head. He tries to pull out, but Louis won't let him, grabbing at Nick's thigh with his other hand. "I can't," he says. "I tried. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry." He doesn't know what he's apologising for. This isn't him. "I haven't been in the closet since I was six." He wants to cry. His chest feels tight and painful, like the beginnings of an asthma attack.

"I'm not asking you to be in the fucking closet," Louis says, in a small voice. He still won't fucking let go of him. "I wouldn't fucking ask you to do that."

"I really, really like you," Nick says, and he doesn't cry, he never cries, but he wants to cry now. He pushes Louis away, sliding out of him and trying to tie off the condom with shaking hands. He climbs off the bed and chucks it in the bin by the door. He's a mess. He stands at the end of the bed and Louis hasn't moved. His eyes are wet. "But I can't be your dirty little secret."

"You don't," Louis says. "You don't like me."

Nick nods. "I do," he says, softly. I like you more than I've ever liked anyone.

"You're ending this because I won't be your boyfriend?" Louis asks, suddenly sharp as anything. He's fracturing right in front of Nick, a mass of tiny sharp edges and little cuts. "Because that shit's not fucking fair."

"No," Nick says, and he wishes he'd never done this. He wishes he'd never let Louis the fuck into his flat. "Because I've been fucking miserable for a month because you broke up with me, and I can't tell my friends that it hurts, because I can't tell them it's you."

"You can't tell them," Louis says immediately.

"I know," Nick says.

"I didn't break up with you," Louis says. "We weren't going out. You can't break up with someone you're not going out with."

Nick doesn't cry. "Still," he says, which doesn't explain anything.

"You can't tell your friends about me," Louis says again. He looks like a cornered fox. He's drawn his knees up. "Shit, fuck. You were just fucking me and now you're telling me to get out."

"I'm not telling you that," Nick says. "I'm just telling you—" he clenches his fists. "It hurt too much, you leaving before."

"Wow," Louis says. He wraps his hands around his knees. "Are you always such a dickhead when you're in the middle of fucking someone?"

"No," Nick says. "It's just you."

Louis presses the heels of his hands to his eyes. "Fuck," he says. It comes out muffled.

Nick sits down on the edge of the bed. He curls his hand around Louis' ankle, but Louis kicks him away. Nick can't tell if he's crying or not; he's still hiding behind his hands. "I'm sorry."

"I hate you," Louis says. It sounds like he's upset. Nick feels like the very worst kind of human being. Hurt twists inside of him. This isn't his fault. He reaches for Louis' ankle again, and Louis doesn't push him away this time.

"This month's been shit," Nick tells him. "You've no fucking idea how shit. And I can't tell anyone. I'm all alone, and I fucking hate being by myself."

"I never said you had to be by yourself," Louis says, coming out from behind his hands. His eyes are pink. He looks fierce and defensive, and so, so hurt.

"I have to pretend I'm all right all the time," Nick says. He hates this. He really hates this. "You know how hard it is to pretend to your friends you're all right? Because they always know. They know, and they ask the crap questions you don't want to answer, and I hate lying to them. You know how shit it is to lie to people. And I'm rubbish at it. That just makes it worse."

"I didn't mean to."

Nick nods. "I know," he says. He's not sure he does know, but whatever. There's nothing about this that isn't fucked up. He's getting choked up again. Fuck, he doesn't cry. "I like you so much."

"You hate me," Louis says.

Nick tries to laugh at that, but he can't. "I spend half my time wanting to throw apples at your head and the other half of the time wanting to have sex with you. Most of the time it's both at the same time."

"Apples," Louis says. "You're fucked up."

"I know."

Louis looks down at his knees. "I like you too, you know."

"I know."

"I can't, though."

Nick leans in and presses his mouth to Louis' knee. "Stay with me tonight," he says, softly.

Louis swallows, and looks the other way. "Nick—"

"Just tonight."

Louis waits the longest time before replying. "All right," he says, and Nick closes his eyes and nods.


Nick potters round the flat for a bit, having awkwardly pulled his pants back on because he's got this weird thing where he doesn't like to be naked in front of his dog. Puppy follows him round whilst he gets him and Louis glasses of water and then he and Puppy have an argument about where Puppy's going to sleep tonight. Puppy can be fiercer than Louis, sometimes, and she knows her own mind. She's not supposed to sleep in Nick's room, and she does normally start out in her doggy bed in the living room, but she also tends to end up curled up with Nick at some point during the night. She's not reacting well to Nick trying to close the bedroom door.

Louis is sitting up in bed with the duvet pulled up to his waist. "I think your dog's winning," he says, after a while, and Nick shoots a glance at him over his shoulder.

"Do you want to meet her?" Nick asks. He doesn't add, so you can mock her stupid name to her face.

Louis looks oddly shy, hands clasped in front of him. "Okay," he says, and Nick steps back into the bedroom, letting Puppy bound past him and onto the bed.

"That's Louis," Nick says. "Be nice."

Nick has spent the last month telling Puppy all the terrible things he can think of about Louis, but it's like Puppy hasn't listened to a single word. She clambers up all over Louis and into his lap and is already licking Louis' jaw as Louis makes very stupid faces in her general direction.

The kind of curiously odd fondness that seeps across Nick's skin is going to make all of this even harder to give up. There's a tightness to his chest that he can't make go away, and when Louis meets his gaze over Puppy's head, just for a second it's reflected there, and Nick's breath gets caught in his throat.

The next second it's gone, though, almost like it wasn't there at all, and Nick's half-convinced he imagined it.

"Hi, Puppy," Louis says. He makes a big deal of shaking her paw. Puppy is eating all of this up like Louis is the best person on the planet. Puppy is supposed to like Nick best. Nick should probably address this jealousy thing he's got about how Puppy shares out her affections, but right now it's like two of the things he loves most in the world are together in his bedroom, and it's all about to go wrong, so Nick feels terrible enough as it is.

"Still think she's got a stupid name?" Nick asks lightly.

"Yep," Louis says, but he's making faces at her and she's lapping it up, lolling about in his lap and making friends for life. Stupid, brilliant dog. "It's the stupidest name in the world," he goes on, in an odd kind of stupid puppy voice. "But it suits you."

Nick nods, and then he leans over to scoop Puppy up and into his arms. She scratches him, but that's only to be expected when he's all topless and everything. "Come on, Puppy dog," he says. "Puppy Power Forever. Time to go to sleep in your bed."

She whines at that, because she might have forgotten everything Nick's told her about how Louis' breaking his heart, but she hasn't forgotten what it means to be told to sleep in the living room.

"And no sneaking into my bedroom in the middle of the night, Puppy," he tells her, kissing the top of her head as he deposits her in the doggy bed in the living room. "No, don't give me that face." She starts to trot after him as he turns back to the bedroom, but he has to turn around and be fierce. "On your bed, Puppy. On your bed."

She's pissed off at him. Yeah, Nick would be too, it's okay.

When he gets back to the bedroom, Louis is lying down again, duvet up to his shoulders. Nick turns the lights off, and then stands by the edge of the bed and doesn't know whether to take his pants off again or not.

Fuck it. He takes them off anyway, and then climbs into bed. He scoots up behind Louis and wraps an arm around his waist. Louis stays tense and quivering in his arms, and Nick holds his breath for the count of five, unsure how to fix this, before Louis lets out a breath and relaxes, shoulders slumping. He presses back against Nick and covers Nick's hand with his own.

Nick lets out a breath. He doesn't think sleep is particularly likely; he's tense and upset and Louis is right here, and in the morning he'll be gone. He closes his eyes and hides his face in the crook of Louis' neck, nose squashed up against Louis' skin.

"Sorry," Louis says softly, after a while.

"'S'okay," Nick lies, sleepily.

His chest aches.


Nick wakes up to Louis shifting position, rolling over to wrap his arms around Nick's neck, chest to chest. Louis breath is warm and quick against Nick's cheek. He's tense and awake.

Nick has no idea what time it is, or how long they've been asleep.

"Nick," Louis says, urgently. His dick is half hard against Nick's hip, and Nick tries to swallow, but he can't.

"God," he says, but he's sliding his hands into the small of Louis' back, dragging him closer.

"Can I—" Louis trails off, but his mouth is just there, breath warm against Nick's mouth.

"Uh-huh," Nick says, not sure what he's agreeing to, but he can feel his dick beginning to respond, fattening up a little as he shifts his hips forward, the tip of his dick bumping up against Louis' thigh.

Louis kisses him, closing the distance between them and pressing dry lips to Nick's. He hooks his ankle over Nick's, canting his hips up, and he's hard now, dick plump and slick at the tip, and Nick wants to reach down and run his thumb over the slit, remember what it feels like to be the one that makes Louis hard.

He slides his hand down and circles his fingers around Louis' dick, trying to memorise the weight of it, the tiny, frantic rolls of Louis' hips as strokes his thumb across the tip.

"Move over," Louis says, urging Nick onto his back with the palm of his hand. Nick goes without fanfare, rolling over with a little oomph. Louis kneels over him, wrapping his hand around Nick's dick, fisting him dry for a moment before ducking down to kiss him again, breathless already, urgency stealing the breath from Nick's body as he kisses him over and over.

There's a desperate kind of last time last time last time to everything they do, to every kiss, every harsh intake of breath as they wank each other off. They don't use lube and the friction makes everything tighter and rougher and just this side of painful. Neither of them stop to ask for it, and maybe the burn is punishment for wanting this so much, for Nick wanting Louis more than anyone he's ever wanted in his whole entire life. He keeps kissing him, trying to pull him even closer even though the angle is awful and there's nowhere to move and everything is uncomfortable and awkward and tense.

"I just—" Nick starts, but he doesn't know what to say.

"Shut up," Louis says, desperate and breathless. "God, just shut up."

Nick uses his other hand to pull Louis in for another kiss, trying to say everything he can't say out loud like this instead, endless monologues about wanting him so much tightened down to one rough kiss after another. Louis answers him in kind, panting against his mouth as Nick wanks him to his orgasm.

When Louis comes, he makes an odd kind of bitten-off cry against Nick's mouth, and Nick tries to remember every single second of this, the heat of Louis' come striping his stomach and his dick, but he can't capture every moment because his own orgasm is twisting in his stomach, his vision catching at the edges. He comes with Louis' name on his lips and sadness seeping across his chest, and afterwards he pulls Louis in and keeps on kissing him, over and over and over.

They don't clean up after themselves, lying there in the mess, kissing until they're both mostly asleep.


When Nick wakes up again, his bed is empty and Louis' gone.