Work Header

With love comes strange currencies

Work Text:

"Do you know what's weird?" Louis says, voice muffled as he tugs his t-shirt up over his head. "Do you know when your stomach goes all flippy, like with butterflies, and people say it feels like falling?" He waits patiently while Paul wipes at the scrape down the back of his ribs and the cut on his hip with an antiseptic wipe before pulling on a new shirt. The alcohol leaves a quick sting where the skin's been broken. "That's not what falling feels like at all," he continues, feeling stupidly like he needs to say something, even as the rest of the lads slip silently out of their stage clothes. Nobody's said anything to him directly, but Louis feels heat prickling at the back of his neck, aware he's being watched. He feels jittery and obvious, uncomfortable. "Falling feels more like," he pauses, chews on his lip. "It's just this spike of adrenaline, like panic, y'know? Dropping gives you butterflies, not falling."

"Yeah, but 'dropping in love' sounds crap," Zayn says, straightening up as he slips out of his leather jacket and into his shorts. He grabs Louis's trackies and tosses them to him. "Time to dress down, champ."

Paul's not as subtle. "No more," he grits out, pointing his index finger too close to Louis's nose. "No playing with footballs, no cartwheels, no dumping water on each other and sliding around like toddlers." His voice is lowered and rough, so Louis focuses and listens rather than making a joke. It's not like that, of course, not anymore. Paul's alpha voice doesn't hold any sway over Louis now that he's not a wide-eyed kid anymore, now that he's grown to understand that One Direction is his job, not his pack. He listens because Paul deserves his respect and because he did just bounce down a set of stairs on his arse in front of thousands of people.

"Do you think Obama's daughters saw?" Louis asks, because he can't very well apologize for making Paul (or anyone else) worry about him.

Paul drops a heavy hand to Louis's shoulder, squeezes firmly, fingers digging in close to his neck hard enough to make Louis flinch. There's a soft clatter somewhere nearby, and Paul mutters, "Get Harry out of here," without taking his eyes off of Louis's. Louis blinks and swallows but holds Paul's gaze, clenching his hands into fists. He's not going to think about Harry. He's not. He ignores the faint scuffle behind him, tries not to listen to Lou's voice as she speaks quietly to Harry. Louis just focuses on inhaling through his mouth so that he doesn't catch Harry's scent. His ears burn anyway; it's fucking humiliating how obvious Harry is, how everyone expects his reaction.

"I'm serious," Paul says to Louis. "You get yourself bollixed and it's more than just your bum that smarts." He nods in the direction of the stage entrance. "We cancel shows, we screw over a lot of people. You hear me?"

There are some twenty thousand people filtering out of the Verizon Center right now, but it's quiet in the green room. Louis's cheeks flush from the scolding. He really doesn't need a reminder of all that's riding on his shoulders. He nods. "I hear you."

Paul nods and pats him manfully on the shoulder, stepping to herd the other boys towards the exit.

Louis keeps quiet as he pulls his trackies up around his waist, wincing when the soft fabric brushes up against his bruised backside, and then again, seconds later, when he scents Harry, too close for comfort.

"All right?" Harry's voice is low and protective. He doesn't touch Louis but he might as well with the way he's nearly pressing up against him, nostrils flared. Louis cringes but hopes he's not too obvious about it.

"Tip top," he says, going for breezy. He doesn't look at Harry, hoping that, for once, Harry will just get the hint and back the fuck off.

"Ready, boys?" Niall calls out, and Louis nods his head, tries to shake off the tension that grips him when Harry gets like this, goes all alpha on him.

"Wait," Harry says, eyes still trained on Louis. He leans closer, nosing at the nape of Louis's neck, soft breath tickling the hairs there. Louis rolls his eyes and frowns, but holds still.

"For fuck's sake, I'm fine," he hisses.

Harry ignores him and shuffles closer, nosing up into Louis's hair so that the softness of his lips tickles at the skin of Louis's neck. He feels Harry's fingers trail along his arm, knowing he's not supposed to touch but barely able to hold back, and Louis slumps a little, miserable. He can't help it. Harry's mouth at his neck makes his spine go slack, the urge to submit twisting through his whole body. He grits his teeth to keep himself from arching back, digs his blunt fingernails into his palms to keep from reaching for Harry.

"Shit," Louis swears as soon as he feels the hot slickness between his thighs. He's gone wet, just like that, and he knows that Harry can scent it on him, knows the moment he does because Harry groans softly and sets his teeth gently into Louis's neck. Louis sighs, frustrated. "Must we? Now?"

"Harry, mate," Niall says, clapping a hand on Harry's shoulder. "C'mon." He doesn't flinch when Harry glares at him, all ridiculous possessive caveman alpha, like he's trying to steal Louis away from him. Niall's used to it by now. Louis should be as well, but there's something about Harry that makes Louis want to soothe him even as he wants to go belly-up. "You can do this later. We gotta go."

Niall tries to drag Harry out towards the cars, but he doesn't budge until Louis looks him in the eye and steps away.

Zayn pulls Louis into a hug when climbs into the van. Niall makes sure that Harry gets in a different car. Cal makes sure Louis's car arrives at the hotel first, and Liam shares a room with Louis, checking in before Harry arrives. It's a hotel night tonight, but if it were a bus night, they'd be on separate buses. Lou would have already lit scented candles for Harry, to help distract him from the smell of Louis. Managing this thing between them has become humiliatingly routine, a shared responsibility for everyone who spends time with Harry and Louis.

If Louis had known how bloody exhausting it would be to deal with Harry Styles on a daily basis he might have kept away from him entirely.

Probably not, though.

* * *

Sleep doesn't come easy that night. It never does when he's had a close call with Harry, his body keyed up, expectant, for hours. The hairs on the nape of his neck prickle seconds before he hears the muffled knock. Louis snuffles and buries his head in his pillow, pretending to sleep as Liam pads to the door.

It's quiet, Liam ducking into the hallway to negotiate, but Louis can smell what he can't hear. Harry's here. Harry's here for him. His body heats up with syrupy warmth, arsehole going soft and loose. He mouths at the pillow, teething it until the cotton is damp.


Liam. Padding quietly over to Louis's bed and talking low, soothing. He'll ask if Louis wants Harry to come in but it's pointless. Liam can't keep Harry away. He can't keep Louis from wanting.

It's not like they all haven't tried in the past, including Louis. He's tried being harsh, he's tried being cool. He's tried dating other people, same as Harry. It's really shit that the very connection that drew them together to begin with is making it so hard to be around each other now.

One day One Direction will be over and Louis won't be around Harry every waking moment. He'll be able to finally get some space, let their bond dissipate as it's bound to do, if they don't mess up again. He can move to Costa Rica and forget that Harry Styles popped his first knot inside him. Until then, he's going to have to deal with this.

"Time s'it?"

Louis forces his voice to sound rougher than it needs to, pretending to be woken from sleep, like it'll make Harry feel bad. He can't fool Harry though. It'll just make Liam feel bad, and that's not right. Liam, like a good little beta, strives for balance. Harry and Louis are a challenge for him.

"Twenty minutes," Louis says, sighing. Liam pats him on the shoulder, then takes his phone and Harry's room key, goes to ring Sophia. The door closes behind him and it's quiet, the silence tense, loaded.

Harry clears his throat, but doesn't say anything, doesn't come closer. "Come on, then," Louis grumbles. He kicks the sheets and duvet away, sits up in bed, but doesn't look directly at Harry. He tips his head down, chin to chest, and asks, "Shirt on or off?"

He smells Harry coming closer, his scent distinctive under normal circumstances, but when Harry's like this, he's all Louis can breathe. As he gets closer Louis feels a silky lick of heat roll through his body. He stretches into it, starved.

"Sorry," Harry says, because that's Harry's default response. Louis isn't even certain that he's aware how often he says it. Maybe it's a compulsion. He skips the silent 'but' that follows every apology, but Louis always hears it. Harry constantly needs things from Louis: permission, approval, forgiveness. Sorry, but I need... "Sorry, it's just—well, you know."

He's standing next to the bed now. Louis can feel him, like the air in between Harry's hands and Louis's skin is charged, vibrating.

"Yeah, I know," Louis says, trying for exasperated but it comes out breathless, his mouth filling with saliva. Harry hasn't even touched him yet and he's already helplessly aroused.

Harry inhales sharply, making Louis want to cringe, certain that Harry knows exactly how wet he is. It's not like he's even close to his next heat, it's just Harry, the endearing little fuckwit. Louis’s never minded being an omega before, reveled in it, in fact, the way he's been able to bend alphas and betas to his will rather easily. He used to think that omegas had it so much easier than alphas, with their bulging knots and extremely messy orgasms, but that was before he'd understood, in a visceral way, how comparatively easy all of that was to keep hidden. He can't keep anything from Harry now.

Harry cups the back of Louis's neck gently. "Down," is all he says, and Louis goes, pressing his belly to the mattress. He wants to touch himself so badly, all of the heat in his body collecting itself in his dick.

Harry slides Louis's t-shirt up so that it's tucked under his armpits, then bends over him on the bed, touching at Louis's skin so softly that Louis's body sings with tension. He holds steady, waits until he feels Harry's nose and mouth nudging at the dip of his spine. "Harry," he whispers, pained.

Harry shushes him with a soft kiss followed by a slow, curious lick right around the biggest scrape, low on his flank. "S'it hurt?"

Louis shakes his head into the pillow, bites at his lip to keep from begging. Harry nuzzles intently at the spot, tongue pressed broad and flat where Louis's skin is broken and hot, licking him gently. Once he's tongued all of the hurt bits he snuffles around, kissing and petting down Louis's side, over his hip, down towards the curve of his backside.

"Where else?" Harry says, voice low and rough in the dark room. His lips tickle Louis's ribs.

"This is so fucked up," Louis says, burying his face into the pillow even as he lifts his hips and parts his thighs. Sweating for it. It's fucked up that Harry needs to do this. It's fucked up how desperate, how hungry Louis goes for him.

Harry tongues up the knobs of his spine, kittenish licks that make Louis's hips jump, so natural to rut a little. "Where else?" Harry asks again when his nose pushes up into the bunch of Louis's t-shirt.

Louis's phone lights up with a text from Liam. All good?

20 more mins, Louis replies, then breathes out and says, "Fell on my bum," because they both know that he did. It feels like permission, though, and when Harry slides a big hand down to tug at his trackies, Louis lifts his hips to help, heart pounding in his chest.

Ever the gentleman, Harry leaves his pants on, just pulling the waistband down to expose the bruised skin there. Louis wiggles under his mouth until Harry fits both hands around Louis's arse and holds him still so that he can touch at Louis's bruises, soothe them with his tongue and lips.

It's a horrible idea, but Louis is sleepy and horny, and Harry's touch feels so good, and even if he's not in heat he's got the only alpha he's ever fucked hovering over him, taking care of him, and Harry's tongue is so close to where Louis really wants it, so he arches his back, spreads his legs. Begs with his body. He's so wet that even if Harry couldn't smell it he'd probably be able to see it, see how Louis's slick darkens the cotton of his pants where his thighs have fallen open.

"Fuck, Lou," Harry says, sounding strained.

"Yeah, let's," Louis says dazedly. "Fuck it all."

He can feel Harry's cheek pressed to the swell of his bum, feel where Harry's thumb presses down, pushing cotton into the crease of Louis's arse. He opens wider, drawing his knees in a bit so that he can lift his hips up, offering himself.

"You don't even know," Harry breathes, rubbing his hand against the slippery-damp fabric, "what you do to me."

Louis sucks the pillow into his mouth to keep himself from responding because he does know, or at least he remembers. He remembers getting Harry riled up fast, too fast to warn Louis until he's popped his knot, snagging it tightly inside of Louis and filling him up until he's too full to move. It only ever happened once, but the flash of that memory makes Louis's mouth water, makes his hole slicker and looser, hungry for it again. Louis clings to the fact that technically it had been an accident but given the choice, even now, it's hard for him to pretend he wouldn't want Harry to knot him anyway.

"You should tell me," Louis says, when he can. "Just to be fair." He shifts again and flushes, humiliated when another gush of slick seeps into his pants. "Because it's fairly obvious what you do to me."

"I love how wet you get," Harry says obediently, earnestly. He's always done just what Louis has asked, even though he fucking knows Louis is shit at asking for the things he really wants. Harry mouths the words into the bottom of Louis's spine as he slides his index and middle fingers down into Louis's pants, dipping in between Louis's cheeks, pressing at his hole. "The way you smell makes me crazy. Always has." Louis moans when Harry slips his fingertips inside, the worst tease. "You're so beautiful," Harry goes on, voice gone hoarse like it pains him to say so. "Hurts to look at you, most days."

His honesty guts Louis, makes his eyes flutter closed and his belly clench uncomfortably. He doesn't understand how Harry can just say things like that, his words like a weight because Louis can't—he can't respond in kind. The only kind of response he has is ill-advised. "You gonna do something about it?" Louis manages. "Some alpha you turned out to be."

He thrills when Harry bites him, teeth nipping at the sensitive skin high on his bum. It's the one thing Harry gets defensive about, worried he's not alpha enough. "Please, don't," Harry says, voice gone deep and low. It's a command, but it's too pleading, always so needy. Louis breathes out fast, legs spreading wider. "You know we can't. I can't." He huffs out a moany breath and Louis takes his mouth, shushes him. He's saying no, but his fingers are still rubbing relentlessly at Louis's arse, petting at his hole and dipping down behind his balls. "If we—if I—I won't be able to—"

"It's been two years," Louis says. He flushes at the whiny tone of his voice but he's shaking from how much he wants this and Harry is being sensible. "Don't tell me you've knotted all of those people you've fucked since then. Haven't you learnt to control yourself by now?"

Harry makes a hurt sound and then he's on Louis, pressing him down into the bed and biting hard at the back of his neck. "Please don't tease," he says, more turned on than angry. Louis can feel the stiff press of Harry's dick digging into his thigh and it makes him moan, so fucking hungry for it. He can always smell Harry's arousal, attuned to Harry as he is, but feeling it makes him want it so much more. His arse begins to arch up, press into the cradle of Harry's hips. Harry noses up into Louis's hair, nipping at his earlobe, the side of his throat. "You make me all," he moans, starting to get wild with it. "Fuck, Lou, I can't tell if you want it or not."

He cuts off abruptly, nostrils flaring, and then just like that, Harry's gone, standing beside the bed, tugging Louis's trackies up and his t-shirt down. Louis feels drugged, confused until he hears the keycard in the lock, Liam coming back. "Be careful, Lou," Harry says, eyes dark as he pats Louis on the bum. "Just try to be more careful, alright?"

"Fuck off," Louis bites out, his breathing all over the place, uncontrolled, gaspy.

His arsehole throbs, pathetically empty. He tries to rein it in while Liam sees Harry out. He's still quaking a little, so he puts his hand to his forehead and tries to pull himself together before Liam putters back, clearly aware of what's going on. Liam can't scent Louis the same way Harry can, but Louis's soaked through his pants and he's tense as fuck. It'd be impossible for Liam not to pick up on his desperation.

"Hey," Liam says gently, right on cue. Louis presses his hot face into the sheets, not looking up at him. "You know if you, like," he clears his throat quietly, clearly embarrassed. "Like, if you need—anything. You know I'd help, yeah?"

Louis wipes at his face, breathes in shakily before turning his face towards Liam. Liam smiles at him, face red and sheepish as he runs a hand through Louis's hair. "I mean, I know it wouldn't be the same," Liam says, flustered like he thinks Louis might actually take him up on it, like he might say, sure, mate, can you just stick it in me a few times so I can get some sleep? "But I'd—"

"You're the best, babe," Louis says, petting at Liam's arm and wishing it were even possible for him to want anyone else as much as he wants Harry. "But it's late, and we both need sleep."

Liam's face falls a little, half-relieved and half something else, but Louis doesn't dwell on it. "Night, Tommo," is all he says.

* * *

Louis spends the rest of the North American tour trying his hardest to keep them both out of trouble. They don't interact on stage. He mostly avoids Harry off stage, working it out so that they ride on separate buses. It's not as hard anymore, because their interests are different now. Harry has his crowd and Louis has his own. It's easier to pretend they aren't constantly aware of each other, especially after all of the practice they've had.

Sometimes, though, it just happens. Their hands touch when Louis pulls Harry away from the platform lowering dangerously close. Louis coughs during a show and Harry sets out a throat lozenge on the speaker. Harry pulls aside cosy jumpers for Louis when they have photoshoots. Louis makes sure there's a bottle of water in Harry's bunk when he goes out drinking. Sometimes Harry won't even look at him, but Louis can tell that soft flush that spreads over his cheeks is for him.

When they get to California, Harry's got Gemma with him, and Louis can't help but tense up around her, a sick-sure feeling in his gut that she knows too much, and that in her mind this whole mess is his fault. Gemma's only ever heard one side of the story, and Harry—he'd been so young and so heartbroken and too stupidly in love to even think about pulling out, had no idea what the consequences would be, or why Louis was freaking out.

Sure, Louis didn't stop things when he realized what was happening either, when he first felt the swell of Harry's teenaged knot fattening up inside him, but who could blame him? It felt so fucking good, his pretty, sweet little beta hunched over him, big-dicked and blissed out and blubbering praise, overwhelmed with his first fuck and all of the hero-worship adulation for Louis that he could never seem to keep bottled inside. By the time he'd realized, when Harry had stuttered out, "What's happening, what's happening," it had been too late, their bodies locked together while Harry clutched at him, crying out as he filled Louis up with pulse after pulse of come.

"Fuck, oh god, you're an alpha," Louis had breathed out, shocked and accusing, even as his body squeezed greedily at Harry's knot. Harry recoiled, tried to pull away but just ended up tugging at Louis's rim with his puffed up, tender knot, forcing Louis to come again, shaking and weak. In that moment he felt Harry differently than he ever had before, felt his panic, how worried he was that he'd done the wrong thing, that small feeling of possessive triumph buried underneath all of that fear. Louis had slumped down against him, shaking his head. "Fuck," he remembers groaning, panicked. "This is—shit, Harry. This is bad."

It probably wasn't exactly what Harry had wanted to hear.

"Sorry," Harry had said for the first time, and then didn't stop saying it for two years. Gradually their late-night chats had become increasingly strained, their laddy banter turned awkward and dark. After Harry knotted him it became harder to tell the difference between flirtation and intent, lines blurring everywhere. One minute he'd be playing absently with Harry's hair, twisting a curl between his fingers and then Harry's eyebrows would collapse together, pained, and Louis would feel it everywhere as the tension snapped between them. He had to stop sitting next to Harry in interviews, worried that Harry could feel the heat when their legs pressed together. Interviews were tough enough anyway, since Louis couldn't help going sullen when pretty presenters leaned closer to Harry.

Maybe Louis should have worked harder to act like nothing had changed, but Harry had looked to him for cues, and Louis didn't know what the next move should be, and he hated feeling so paralyzed, so incapable of taking care of his boy. So he quieted down around Harry, let their conversations fade into sorry and the silence that Louis now wears like armour.

The break between LA and Australia can't come soon enough.

* * *

Nearly four weeks pass before he sees Harry again. It's not like, it's not like they're mated, not properly, not where it would ache to be apart, but it's annoying knowing that Harry's off having uncomplicated fun with any number of his charming, gorgeous friends around the world. None of Harry's other friends know him like Louis does, but they also didn't break his heart and scar him sexually when he was seventeen.

He misses Harry and it makes him restless. Makes him jumpy and manic, makes him take on too much. He signs up to play in two charity football matches, and trains like an Olympian for two solid weeks. He flirts like an arsehole with two of the players but doesn't get anywhere beyond a pat on the head and one on the bum. It's not like he would've followed through, anyway.

Maybe the jitters make him a little reckless. Maybe they make him a little vulnerable. Either way it's barely halftime before Louis is on the ground, clutching his knee and sobbing angrily. He limps off to the sidelines, flipping off the jeers, and promptly throws up all of his Lucozade.

He goes home and hides in his bedroom, only answering calls from his family and the lads -
all except for Harry. He calls and he texts and he leaves messages, Louis's phone buzzing relentlessly with each one, but Louis ignores him. Harry's never been able to handle it when Louis is hurt and he's not there, but right now Louis doesn't think he can handle him.

He reads the texts as they come in, telling himself that he's only checking in case it's Zayn, but it's Harry every time.

it's me


please answer lou

are you ok??? i called but

really please i need to know

Biology is a bitch, but it's hard not to feel a little—loved isn't the right word, really, but. Cared for. Most of the time Harry makes Louis feel vulnerable, all of his feelings exposed like raw nerves. It's even worse when he makes Louis feel safe.

His next message makes Louis's skin flush hot from the tips of his fingers to the tops of his ears.

want me to come home?

Louis can't bring himself to say no, so he doesn't respond.

He distracts himself with an Iron Man marathon and Stan and too spicy takeaway curry. After a few hours of that, capped off with an hour or so of feeling sorry for himself, he hobbles to his bed, strips off his clothes, and stares at his phone.

There are a couple of messages from other people, which Louis listens to and deletes before he hears Harry's first voicemail.

"Lou, I just heard about the match. I'm really sorry, just. Let me know you're okay. Or, like, if you need anything. Okay? Yeah. Bye."

He listens to that one twice, pressing the phone tight to his ear. Harry's voice is sleep-rough, must have been early in California. He must have called as soon as he woke up and heard.

Louis covers his face with his palm when he feels himself start to smile. He fucking hates how Harry gets to him.

"Hey, Lou, it's me. Just trying you again. Texted you, too, um. I know you're." There's a long pause before he starts up again. "Actually I have no idea what you're doing right now, but I reckon you're busy or. Uh, I hope you're not really hurt. I just really need to hear your voice, mate. It'll only take a minute. Call me."

"Fuck, Lou, please call me. I just saw the video, and I can't, um, I don't know what to do. I'm so worried. I need you to be okay. I need you to tell me you're okay. I'm sorry. Please call."

Harry sounds so pitiful that Louis almost stops right then and calls him. He just—he needs to get through the rest of the voicemails first. He needs to be sure he won't cave as soon as he hears Harry's voice, that he won't beg him to get on the first flight.

There's a message from Zayn next, a brief, "Call Harry, mate. Dunno if you're avoiding him or whatever but I've just spoken to him and he's—you know. Just ring him. Send him a text or summat. Put him out of his misery."

Maybe it's fair but it gets Louis's hackles up. Louis can barely walk, knee kicked in by an enormous, knobhead professional footballer, and yet it's somehow his responsibility to make sure that Harry isn't feeling stressed out during his fro-yo outings with gorgeous celebrities? Fuck Zayn, and fuck Harry. He can full well wait.

Harry's next message is furious. He's angry in a way he rarely is, and only ever with Louis. He sounds like a different person, his normally slow voice rushed and urgent and mean. It gets Louis's dick hard too fast, makes him sweat even as he lies naked and still in his bed. It’s fucked up to get off on Harry’s anger but the omega in Louis is helpless to it. It’s one of the rare times when Harry seems properly alpha, and the heat swims through Louis in response, hardening his cock until it feels sore, the skin stretched tight.

"Is this some kind of game to you? I'm fucking going crazy worrying about you, and you just don't care at all. You're mine, but you'll talk to anyone but me. All I want is to be good to you, and see that you're okay, and you push me off like you don't need it. You do need it though, you selfish prick. You need me just like I need you. I can fucking smell it on you." And then a sharp breath and Harry seems to get himself under control and hangs up.

Louis holds his breath as he listens, then plays it back a second time, and then a third. His dick is hard, bobbing between his legs and he has to clench his hand around it, hold it as it dribbles in his palm. He's not going to wank while listening to Harry's voicemails. Louis has boundaries. Louis has self control.

The next message starts out with Harry sniffling into the phone, then sighing. Louis pauses the playback so that he can shift around, adjust the volume up and tuck the phone between his ear and the pillow. He wants to hear every detail but he needs his hands free. His dick is swollen and sensitive, wet at the tip already. He props his good knee up and presses play, curling his hand under his thigh.

"Why won't you answer? I'm sorry for—for before. I just—I need to hear you, Lou. I need to see you. I need." There's a short pause, another sniffing sound that makes Louis's breath catch in his chest. "I need to touch you. I want to touch you so much."

Louis groans as he presses two fingers into the crease of his arse, clenches hard around them, wet and deep until he has to pull back to take in some desperate, whiny breaths. The change in Harry is so abrupt, and fuck, he loves it when Harry is aggressive but god help him he loves this too, loves how much Harry needs him.

"I saw you, the, the video," Harry says hoarsely. "I saw you go down and I—I wanted to be there and. I don't know. I guess it's good that I wasn't. But Lou, you looked. Like, before that, you looked so brilliant. Your hair," he says, words stretching out like he's high. "I like it long, like I could pull on it, shit. And your body. You're so bloody fit, you're perfect, babe. You take my breath away and I know I ruined everything when we—before, but fuck, Lou, if I had the chance, if you let me, I'd do it again."

Louis's heart punches at his ribcage, stomach drawn up tight. He has to press his fingers in deeper, tries to tuck a third one in but it makes his knee twinge and he whines, frustrated.

"I'd do it a hundred times, stuff you with my knot, fill you up until you reek of me, never let you up for air, I'd—"

The message cuts off abruptly, and Louis chokes on Harry's name, humping down on one hand as his other fist wrings at his erection, working it too-hard and quick. His hips skip shakily against his hand until he gasps and shoots off all over his tense bicep, then his chest. All over himself.

Louis groans as his orgasm subsides, aftershocks making him seize up jerkily. His eyes are wet, body aching all over, and he still wants.

There's one more message from Harry.

"God, sorry. Sorry. I'm sorry I called you selfish. You're the one who got hurt and I can't stop whining about what I need, but. I just want you to know that if I were there I'd make you feel so good, I'd—I'd do everything. Everything you like. I wouldn't knot you if you didn't want me to. I could be good, Lou." Another pause, and then a shaky inhale. "Boys say I should stay here, wait to see you in Adelaide. But, I don't know." He laughs softly. "I'd swim home for you. I'd—god, I'm such a bloody idiot, aren't I?"

Then there's just a muffled curse and Harry hangs up.

Louis curls onto his side and closes his eyes, still shaky and miserable. When his phone buzzes again, he kicks it onto the floor, wincing when the pain in his knee flares up.

* * *

Harry flies on his own to Adelaide, and frankly, it's a relief. This way Louis is already with his boys when Harry joins them at the hotel, gorgeous and dressed like an idiot, big smiles for everyone except Louis, who he carefully doesn't make eye contact with.

"Aaaaaah!" Louis shrieks, pitching his voice high and pointing. "It's Harry Styles!" He's maybe not so great at being ignored. Harry huffs and darts a glance at him, cheeks pinking up. He's gone all hunched and shy all of a sudden, no doubt replaying all the things he'd said on Louis's voicemail in his head. He’s not alone. Louis fidgets when Harry looks up at him, worries that he’ll somehow know that he had wanked himself raw thinking of him.

"No need to take the piss," Harry mumbles, not meeting Louis's eyes. Louis can't help himself, he reaches out as if to touch him but then stops, arm awkwardly outstretched. It aches not to touch him.

Harry notices, and his jaw unclenches a little. He takes a step towards Louis, looking uncertain. Eventually he nudges his shoulder against Louis's. "How's, er, how's the knee?"

"Like new," Louis says, waving off Harry's concern like it's barely noticeable. Like he's not got butterflies in his stomach just from being in the same room as Harry now, insides tied up from wanting him so badly. He wants to reconcile the Harry that's awkwardly hunched in front of him with the one who'd said all of those things on his voicemail. Harry nods and chews at a fingernail, nervous. Louis wonders what Harry would do if he played the voicemails back to him, made him say it all out loud. He glances around quickly but the lads are mucking about like usual. If there's a new level of awkward to his fucked up tension with Harry, the others don't seem to notice.

"Pretty sure Styles took out a hit on Agbonla-whore," Zayn says, knocking Harry's stupid hat off and messing with his hair in the process.

Louis swallows thickly, hopes his face isn't half as red as Harry's. "There's no need for violence," he says breezily. "It was a charity match, after all. Think of the children."

"It's for the kids, god damnit!" Niall shouts, all American-gruff.

"I didn't," Harry says, a few beats too late. His timing has always been awful. Louis used to take the piss about it, grin and ruffle Harry's hair like Zayn did. He curls his fingers on nothing, irritated that he can't touch Harry without going to pieces.

"Love and light," Liam says, holding up two fingers in a v, poking fun at Harry's weirdo hipster posse.

"Love and light," the rest of them chime in, chanting like zombies.

"Fuck you guys," Harry grumbles, even as he smiles widely. "Missed you."

He looks right at Louis when he says it. Louis has to twist his head away to catch his breath.

* * *

They're Not Talking About It, but that's not unusual in itself. There are subtler ways in which Harry lets on that he's not forgotten Louis shutting him out: pointed absence of eye contact, jokes that get directed to the other lads, avoiding being alone in the same room together. Again, nothing really out of the ordinary, but these are behaviors more common for Louis than for Harry. He's throwing a little tantrum, playing the victim though he damn well knows Louis is just doing what's best for them. For him. It's easier if Harry keeps some distance anyway. Less messy.

So Louis lets him sulk, gives him as much space as he can manage. He can wait Harry out. It won't take too long.

They've barely been down under for two days when Louis wipes out while practicing kickflips with Zayn on his new skateboard. It's not a big deal; he doesn't get hurt at all other than a brief nosebleed when the board bangs him squarely on the face.

"For fuck's sake, Louis," Zayn says, sounding far more exasperated than the situation warrants.

"Oh sod off," Louis complains, flipping Zayn his middle finger after he wipes at his mouth. "Like you're so smooth."

"You're bleeding," Zayn says, grabbing his arm roughly and tugging him back towards the venue. "Harry's going to fucking flip."

Louis thinks about scoffing, thinks about pointing out that it's a bit shit to worry more about Harry when Louis is bleeding from his face, but his stomach drops at the mention of Harry's name. His arm's still tingling from where Harry had brushed past him on the way to catering. Harry's lingering scent makes Louis feel sickly-hot, makes his underwear damp. "Well give me a minute, then," he says instead. "Let me clean up before we go in there." He swipes his thumb under his nose and blanches when it comes away shiny wet and bloody. "Fuck. It's not sore. Think it'll bruise?"

Zayn shakes his head, still too serious for Louis's liking. "Nah, you'll just look like a cokehead. Would serve you right if you'd got two black eyes, though."

"You gonna tell me why you're being such a cunt?" Louis says, annoyed. "I was just messing around, same as you."

Zayn holds up a finger, shushing Louis as he dials his phone. "Yeah," he says into it, "Is Harry in there? Right, can you bring a damp towel outside? Around the side entrance. The one with the yellow doors." Louis throws up his hands. "Bloody nose," Zayn says, then smiles fondly. "No we don't need a tampon, you git."

"Bloody drama queens," Louis mutters, wiping his hand on his t-shirt.

"Don't—augh, Louis," Zayn groans, fumbling to end the call and swat at Louis's hands at the same time. "Wanker. You'll have to take that off." He strips out of his own vest and hands it to Louis, raising his eyebrows expectantly when Louis doesn't move to take it.

There's a low wolf-whistle behind them. Liam, grinning with a bulging towel in his hands. "Zayn Malik, have you been working out?"

Zayn snorts, and Louis takes advantage of his distraction to wipe discreetly at his nose. It's still bleeding. He wipes his hand on his shirt again, defiantly.

"Alright, Captain Tommo. What've you done this time?" Liam says, turning to him.

Louis crosses his arms over his chest. "It was an accident," he says, exasperated.

Liam and Zayn trade knowing looks.

"Oh, yes, very good," Louis says. "I suppose I hit myself in the face with a skateboard on purpose. I can't imagine for what purpose, but I'm sure you wise gentlemen will fill me in."

"We know it was an accident, babe," Zayn says, and Louis's hackles rise at the use of 'we'. He's only just fallen three minutes ago, so when did Liam and Zayn have time for a conference about it?

"We're just saying that you tend to be more prone to accidents when you're feeling—needy?" Liam looks at Zayn for confirmation. "Yes, let's go with needy." He narrows his eyes at Louis suspiciously. "Did something happen over the break?"

"Oh fuck off," Louis gripes, choosing to evade the question as he knocks the towel away. Harry goes into a full strop if Louis ignores his texts and Louis is the needy one? "Fuck the both of you. One bloody bruise—"

"Two if you count the slice on your chin in," Zayn frowns, looks to Liam. "Was that in Texas? Texas, I think. But that was before the football injury, so that's three."

"Four if we count falling on his back in Birmingham," Liam points out.

"Five if—"

"Accidents happen," Louis says, frowning when he thinks back on each of those injuries.

"Mate, we realise it's, like, a biology thing," Liam says. "It's not your fault." Louis's mouth falls open.

"Hey, hey," Zayn says, reaching for his arm. "That's not it. We're just saying—"

"You're saying," Louis says slowly, "that I'm a needy little bitch and an attention whore to boot." He feels himself going tense, shoulders tight and up, defensive.

Liam screws up his face. "That's not it," he says, like Louis truly doesn't understand. "We're just saying it's going a bit far, yeah? We don't want you to end up losing a limb or something."

"Fuck off, Liam," Louis says, shaking his head. "You and your assumptions about my biology can fuck right off."

"Mate, all we're saying is maybe you should just talk to him," Zayn says. "It's got to be easier than cracking your skull open."

"Which, for the record, I have not done," Louis argues. He knows where this is headed now, and it makes his gut clench unhappily in response.

Liam wraps an arm around his shoulders and sighs. "True, but we've only been here for two days."

"It's going to be a long month," Zayn agrees, hugging Louis from his other side. "Maybe we can get you one of those suits made from bubble-wrap?"

Louis is still brooding when Paul yells at them to get inside. He makes sure his nosebleed has stopped but he draws the line at changing his shirt. It's just Harry, the little dipshit, not Scotland Yard.

After all of that, Harry's not even in the green room when he gets there. If Louis is slow about changing out of his bloody clothes, nobody says a word.

Harry does turn up before curtain-up, laughing with Lou and Lux. He doesn't spare Louis a second glance, and Louis makes sure to raise his eyebrows haughtily at Liam, like, see?

It's not until they're lined up to head to their positions that Harry notices. Louis isn't bleeding anymore, really, it had barely been a scrape, but he must feel a little congested or something, just enough to force him to make one quiet little sniff. Harry's head whips around, his focus centering in on Louis, bullet-fast.


Louis doesn't look up, just feels the weight of Harry's stare on his cheek.

"He's fine," Zayn says, and leaves it at that. Louis tips his head back and sighs.

"What happened?" Harry asks in a low voice, and Louis can tell his nostrils are flared, even in his periphery.

Nobody answers. Harry starts to fidget. Louis doesn't look at him but he can feel the weight of Harry's focus and arousal rocks through him, obvious and sure. He shifts his weight, closes his eyes when he feels wet soaking into his pants.

Harry creeps closer, until Tracy, their stage manager, barks at him to get back in place. He does, but he keeps leaning forward to peer down the line at Louis.

"I smell blood," Harry says, sounding upset. "Why do I smell blood?"

"Maybe it's his time of the month," Niall jokes, and Louis bites back a nasty comment, tries to force his body to relax so as not to further rile up Harry, who is looking increasingly troubled. "Just a joke," Niall says, when Louis levels a glare at him.. "That I will never make again."

"Alright boys, in three, two, one," Tracy says calmly into their in-ears. "Places now. Have a great show."

They break away from each other, heading to their respective spots. All except for Harry, who trails after Louis instead of going to his place behind the on-stage screen. "Lou?" he says urgently. "You okay?"

"Harry, get to your place," Tracy's voice pipes in. "Hold on the screen changes until Harry is in place."

"I'm fine, christ, you're going to hold up the show," Louis hisses, swatting at him to head back to his mark. Harry doesn't step away. Instead he steps closer, curls his big hand around Louis's jaw and tilts his head closer, scenting him with intent. Louis stops breathing for a moment. There are some forty thousand people waiting for them, and here Louis is, swooning in Harry's arms. Someone says something else into their in-ears but he can’t hear it over the rush of his heart, clawing up his throat when Harry tips his chin up, sniffing agitated at Louis's jaw. "For fuck's sake, Styles," he says when he gathers his wits. "It was a nosebleed. It's done. Now back the fuck off." He punctuates his statement with a harsh shove, sending Harry stumbling back a few steps.

Harry frowns, puzzled and a little hurt. He takes a few slow steps backwards and then pauses, gives Louis a considering look. Louis does a masterful job of pretending to ignore him, even as his stomach twists with panic.

"Sorry," Harry says into his mic, stepping away slowly. He heads to his mark and the show, as it must, goes on.

* * *

Louis is grouchy for the next few days, annoyed with how many urges he has to do stupid things just to get Harry to look at him. Things do seem to settle down on the surface, but staying away from Harry makes Louis irritable, and being around Harry makes him feel like a dickhead. His stomach aches when he remembers Harry's expression that night, that hint of awareness that had sent Louis into a panic. The idea that Harry may have cottoned on to Louis's childish tactics makes him queasy. It would be just like Harry to figure Louis out before even Louis had done.

He resolves to be better, tries to be mature and mindful about his own behavior around Harry but at breakfast the next morning he physically can't bring himself to eat, stomach gone qualmish every time he even thinks about it.

"Not hungry?" Harry asks without looking at him, all nonchalance. Louis tries to think about if Harry would have reacted differently to him skipping a meal before. He can't remember.

"Woke up starving," Louis says, dismissive. He turns to Zayn and says, "Did you know you can get Frosties from room service?" He pats at his stomach and leans back, as if stuffed. This is genuinely one time when he could do with less of Harry's attention.

Zayn quirks an eyebrow in response but doesn't look up from his phone. It's Harry, of course, who says, "Is that right?" Louis's gut fists up when he realizes that it's probably not true, annoyed with himself that he wasn't clever enough to come up with something less obvious. He starts to break into a cold sweat, surely a disproportionate response to being revealed as a selfish, attention-seeking knobhead, but he definitely feels clammy, and that stresses him out because Harry will definitely be able to smell the fear on him.

But Harry doesn't say anything, just munches on his toast, looking over at Louis occasionally, mildly curious. When they crowd together with security before heading out into the rain, Harry ducks down, trying to nose at Louis's neck, but Louis steps away swiftly, putting Liam and Niall between them. His stomach twinges with discomfort when Harry narrows his eyes at him, feeling caught out.

* * *

In Perth, Louis gets dizzy stepping off the bus, has to grip the handrail to stop from falling altogether. Zayn steadies him from behind, peering at him curiously. "Oi, Don," Louis calls back towards the driver, "take it easy on those turns, mate." He puts all of his energy into sounding normal even though Harry's not even there, off on an adventure with the artsier Bus Two contingency. Still, Zayn narrows his eyes at him, wary. A sour taste fills Louis's mouth.

"I thought we talked about this," Zayn says quietly, ushering Louis towards the hotel with a hand wrapped tightly around Louis's arm.

Louis scowls, frustrated. "Dunno what you're on about," he starts to say but stops short, turns away from Zayn and proceeds to lose his lunch all over the ground.

As luck would have it, Louis falls actually, genuinely, extremely ill.

* * *

"He's going to be fine," Harry says. He's remarkably restrained considering that Louis's throat has completely closed up, he's got a dangerously high temperature, and he's thrown up so violently he's burst a blood vessel in his eye. Louis is on edge anyway, because on top of feeling completely shit he can't stop wondering when or if or how Harry's going to lose control.

"He looks like the monkey from Outbreak, mate," Niall says, looking dubious.

Louis flips Niall off, but he feels like he's dying, and the sodding duvet isn't doing anything to warm him up. Harry keeps looking over at him and then looking away, making Louis feel jittery, anxious. He's deceptively subdued, quiet but jaw clenched, his knuckles white.

Louis coughs wetly, and Harry uncurls his fists, stretching out his long fingers. "Tea?" he says quietly, like it's been forced out of him.

Louis nods, wincing when he swallows. He shakes his head, waves his hand at Harry and Harry nods curtly, crooks a half-smile. "Right, yeah, no sugar. We've met."

The fever has him out of sorts, and the joke irks him. Harry picks up on it of course, attuned as he is to Louis. He raises his hands, palms open, I come in peace. "Tea, then," is all he says, but he rocks back on his heels and looks at Louis, like he's waiting for permission.

Louis isn't capable of negotiating boundaries with Harry today, so he closes his eyes and rests his head on his knees. Harry's attention gives him a sick thrill on normal days, but when he's poorly it feels dangerous. The way Harry brings him his tea and makes sure Louis always has a full glass of water, some hot orange squash and his paracetamol at the assigned times feels like something he can't live without. It's not that the other boys don't do the same. It's that Harry's attention is uniquely addictive.

"Odd that they don't tell you that the vaccine for the flu only works fifty percent of the time," Liam points out, cheerily cutting through the tension. "I could have done without that big needle if I was going to have to wash my hands all the time anyway."

Niall laughs, and Louis's shoulders start to loosen. "I love that it's such a hardship for Liam to keep his hands clean."

"Your face is a hardship," Liam says. "Do you know how much personal space we share? Tommo's gonna bring the whole tour down."

"Guess you're going to have to stop fucking him, then," Zayn says, smirking. "But only for a few days."

"Shame," Liam says, sucking a breath in through his teeth. "Fever makes him all warm and toasty inside."

There's an awkward silence as each of them slowly realize that Harry had returned, tea in hand. The sex jokes die away abruptly, but all Harry does is roll his eyes a little and hand Louis his cuppa, settling back down on the sofa. The line of tension in his shoulders is obvious though, makes Louis wince.

"This is weird," Niall says, staring at Harry. "What's wrong with you? Last time Louis had the sniffles you slept on the floor next to his bunk for three days."

Harry looks down, jaw clenched. Louis blinks at Niall, wills him to stop talking.

"Time s'it, anyway?" Zayn says after a beat too long, peering down at his phone. "Hey, Lou, ready for some more Lemsip?"

"No," Louis rasps, trying like hell to sound firm. All that comes out is a dry-sounding hacking noise. "Gross," he tries. "Hurts." The others stare at him blankly, although he does notice the grateful look Harry gives Zayn. Fucking Harry. Fucking Zayn. Fucking Lemsip. He buries his face in his knees and groans.

A warmth radiates down his spine when Harry puts a hand on him, patting him tentatively. His touch feels soothing, a sure sign that Louis is genuinely ill. His body seems to bend towards Harry instinctively. He knows Harry is probably confused, unsure how close he's allowed to get, but Louis simply hasn't got the energy to shrug him off. It's annoying that he can't manage to stay awake for more than half an hour, but he's starting to drift, and a nap might give him an excuse to avoid more Lemsip. He yawns and then whimpers because yawning bloody hurts. Harry slides his arm tentatively down around Louis's waist, and Louis leans into it, reluctantly needy. Harry exhales, breath gone shaky, and nudges Louis to rest his head on Harry's lap so that he has room to stretch out on the sofa. Louis curls against him like a cat instead, hoping Harry will take the cue and stroke his hair without him having to ask.

It's not quite that easy, Harry holding himself too stiffly, his touches too carefully deliberate. But each time Louis lets him, he goes a little further, and eventually he's petting at Louis just right.

The boys natter on about nonsense and Louis starts to slip under. He's drifting in between sleep and consciousness, not really paying attention except when Harry says something, because he can feel the vibration of Harry's voice under his ear.

"I'm fine," Harry says at one point. "Just, this s'what he needs right now."

His limbs feel like they're floating, disconnected from his body. He imagines the fingers of his detached hand tangling with Harry's, wishes he had the strength to hold Harry as he falls asleep.

* * *

Bugger the flu, Louis has the actual goddamned plague. It's the third day and he's still feverish twenty-four seven, throwing up half of the time and asleep the rest. He insists on going to the venue although he can't even bring himself to stand during rehearsals. "We are not cancelling," he croaks, before sucking down a gulp of Lucozade and curling up on the floor.

"Did anyone just hear something?" Liam says, looking around, confused.

"No?" Zayn says, frowning. "Maybe a cricket?"

"I think it may have been a mouse," Liam says. "Someone should call Rentokil."

Louis wants to grumble about mice but his voice is literally shot, nothing comes out.

"Seriously, mice carry diseases," Niall says, face grave. "Could get us all sick. Get that shit out of here."

Louis curls into a ball and buries his face in his knees. He means to do it stroppily but he somehow falls asleep like that. When he opens his eyes next, Harry is sitting next to him, carefully not touching him. The run-through is done and there's a steaming cuppa at his feet.

"Oh god, I love you," Louis blurts out. It's the kind of thing he says all the time, to anyone who'll anticipate his tea moods, but it's a stupid fucking thing to say to Harry right now.

Harry just looks over at him, face carefully blank. "Oh, good, you're awake," he says, like he didn't even hear Louis, which wouldn't be surprising given he has no voice. "See if you can stomach a brew and then let's get you to bed."

Tiny tendrils of arousal simmer through Louis's weakened body, even though that's not how Harry meant it. He's too exhausted to stop Harry from tucking him into bed like a toddler. "Try to keep some food down," he says. "I think you're down about half a stone."

Louis pulls the duvet up over his waist, defensive of his now-concave belly and his skinny chest. "If I were even slightly hungry," he says, croaking like a frog, "it would not be for that." He nods disdainfully at the dry toast and hot Ribena that Harry's set out on the bedside table.

He'd thought Harry was going to settle him in and then leave, but Harry gives him a long look, must see something in Louis's face that makes him change his mind. He shrugs easily, lies back on the pillow next to Louis. "Hey, remember when we went to that curry-slash-burrito van next to the piercing place? Couldn't keep out of the toilet for days."

Louis chokes on a surprised laugh and then covers his mouth when it turns into a nasty cough. "I can't believe you just brought that up," he says into his palm. "It's like you want me to be sick again."

"I thought my guts were going to come out of my nose," Harry says, smiling wistfully like their shared bout of food poisoning is a fond memory. All Louis remembers is lying in bed together and groaning, leaning over the side occasionally to spit onto the floor, and having to pay their cleaner triple the usual rate to clean the toilets.

"Was that when you declared you were going to live in the shower?" Louis wonders, crinkling his nose. "Or was that after the Halloween party?"

"That shower was incredibly luxurious. I could have been happy there for the rest of my life."

They're both quiet after that, until Harry puts his face in his hands and laughs, ridiculous and awkward. Louis fights to swallow down his own laughter until he's overtaken by dry, hacking coughs, and Harry has to pat his back until he calms down.

It feels weird to laugh with Harry about the things they'd used to get up to together, their easy friendship feels so distant. Just, the way Harry's looking at him now, all cheeky smirk and silly face and just happy, it's—foreign. He hasn't looked that way at Louis in a long time.

He's feeling raw and wrung out from coughing, weak from dehydration and more than a little fuzzy from the fever, but the worst thing he feels is unworthy. He wants Harry to look at him like this all the time but he doesn't deserve it. All Louis has been doing is mucking him about.

"You shouldn't be so nice to me, Styles." He's thick-headed from his fever but this feels important, like something he needs to make sure Harry understands. "You shouldn't worry about me so much."

Harry blinks at Louis in that maddeningly slow way of his, and it makes Louis squirm.

"Not that I don't appreciate it," Louis says, flustered. "I do, but like, I'll be feeling better in a few days and then I—I won't make you worry so much. Promise."

A tiny line appears between Harry's brows and then he ducks his head, biting his lip to stop from smiling.

Fucking hell, Harry really needs to say something or Louis is going to just keep talking.

"All I'm saying is, that," he looks up at the ceiling, hoping to find the words hovering there somehow. "I don't want you to worry about me," he says firmly. It's a lie, but it's a decisively stated lie, and that's almost like the truth.

Harry nods then, slowly, says, "Ah," like it's all clear to him now. "Not really up to you, though, is it?"

Louis pauses, frowns. He hadn't considered that. "Wait. Is that? Like, is that part of the whole," he hasn't said the word alpha directly to Harry since that first time, and he's certainly not going to mention his knot, "your whole thing?"

Harry watches him struggle through the question with laughter in his eyes. "You want to talk about my thing?" he asks. "Thought you were feeling poorly."

"Stop," Louis whines. He's starting to feel queasy again, only it's less of a flu-related nausea and more of a Harry-related nausea. He's working on not being so selfish, but sod it all, there's a tiny part of him that hopes that Harry's need to take care of him isn't just some weird chemical reaction their bodies have to each other. Maybe more than a tiny part. He crosses his arms over his chest mulishly, irritated with himself. "You know what I mean."

"I know," Harry says quietly, guarded.

He suspects that Harry does know, but it doesn't feel like enough. He wants to do more, say more, figure out some way he can free Harry from this thing between them. But the fever is weighing him down, and he's still selfish and ill enough to want to keep Harry to himself, so he lets it go, mutters something about being sleepy and closes his eyes, shifting his knees under the covers so that he's not touching Harry at all.


When he wakes up some two hours later, Harry’s asleep beside him, rumpled-soft and young-looking. Louis blinks the sleep from his eyes and lets himself look, greedily drinking in the pale curve of Harry’s shoulder, the thick muscle of his folded arms, the flushed-red stain of his lips. His hair’s fallen across his face, dark and messy, and his back rises and sinks in a slow, steady cadence.

Louis holds perfectly still, barely breathes so that he doesn’t cough or do anything to disturb him. He watches Harry so intently that his eyes start to sting, but he can’t make himself look away.

Eventually Harry’s eyelashes flutter and he starts to blink awake. What Louis should do is snap his eyes shut, pretend to still be asleep, but he’s sluggish from the fever. His eyes remain stupidly locked on Harry.

Harry looks at him, face sleepy and blank. It's hushed in the room, no noise from the outside at all. He watches as Harry draws in a slow breath and licks his lips.

Louis's heart thuds in his chest when Harry shifts towards him, rubs his knuckle carefully under Louis's chin. He's not strong enough, not today, to keep himself from letting Harry pull him in and press their mouths together in a warm, wet kiss.

Normally Harry kisses like he's staking claim, hands cradling Louis’s face, thumbs catching in behind Louis's ears, but this kiss is different. It’s unhurried. Tender. Slow. Louis closes his eyes and gives in, weak and dazed and helpless to it.

They kiss for long minutes, lips and tongues catching and dragging together. Louis pulls away reluctantly to muffle a cough, touching his hand to Harry's cheek when Harry chases his warmth. "You'll get sick," he whispers sadly. He doesn't want Harry to feel poorly but he doesn't want to stop being kissed either. Harry just sighs and nuzzles at his face, bathing Louis’s feverish cheeks with soft, gentle licks. Louis's hands twitch but he keeps them at his sides, holding still while Harry mouths at him.

Harry doesn't do more than kiss him thoroughly, but it's enough to make Louis go hot inside, needy with it. The sheets feel too cold against his skin, but doesn't move to cover himself, careful not to do anything that might stop Harry from kissing him for hours. He cringes when a broken sound escapes him, a quiet little moan that he lets loose against Harry's tongue, because it makes Harry pause, pull back enough that he can rest his forehead against Louis's and breathe shakily.

Louis lifts his chin, nudging at Harry's nose, once, twice. His face crumples when Harry tips away, rolls onto his back instead of taking Louis's mouth again. He keeps his eyes on Louis's as he settles back against the pillow and folds his hands on his stomach, just above where his shorts are tented up, fat with his erection.

Louis's eyes dart down, catch there. Harry watches him, lying still. Waiting.

Louis licks his lips and rolls onto his side, propping himself up on one elbow. Harry’s mouth looks swollen from kissing. His own dick is hard already, just from the possessiveness of Harry's eyes on him, the way he's so intent. Louis doesn't touch himself. He's trying to be better.

He can't help but stare, though, transfixed as Harry sucks in pulses at his lower lip. His teeth cut into the flushed skin of his mouth and Louis goes hazy, picturing Harry biting him, holding him down and fucking him and just—marking him until he bruises. Marking him so everyone knows who he belongs to. So Harry knows and never doubts it, ever.

Harry moves his hand slowly, inching past the waistband of his shorts until he's cupping his hard dick beneath the fabric. His eyes don't leave Louis's for a second.

"God," Louis breathes. He can't even stop himself. "Show me."

Harry's eyes flutter shut for a beat, and then he's back, stripping his shorts and pants down his legs. His cock is hard and dark, lying flushed, heavy against his hip. He trails his fingers up and down the shaft lightly, like he's teasing himself. Louis swallows thickly, burning for him. When Harry firms up his grip, closing his fist just under the knob of his prick, his whole body seizes up, shuddering.

Louis inhales sharply, gaze drawn to the source of the scent. Shiny trails of precome dribble along Harry's skin, cuffing the circle of his fingers and dotting his lower belly. Louis can't stop himself from breathing out, oh, but Harry stays impressively silent as he starts to tug, slow and steady. The skin above his lip is beaded with sweat, the hair at his temples dark and damp. He looks fucking brilliant, like the best thing Louis has ever seen.

Harry looks at Louis like he feels the same way.

Soon enough Harry's hips are jolting, little punches that push his cock through his fist. The base of his cock goes darker, starts to fill, and Louis digs his fingernails into his own thighs, desperate to see. Harry's expression goes pained when he squeezes tightly at the tender bump of his knot as it starts to swell.

Louis can all but taste the shocks under Harry’s skin, the pulse of orgasm that makes Harry lock up, holding his breath just before he comes. He has a perfect view of the bright red flush of Harry's chest, can’t look away when Harry's huge, bulging cock flexes, starts to shoot.

Louis holds his breath along with Harry, waits until Harry's hand falls away, sticky-wet with come, to breathe. He can't speak, can't look away, not even when Harry's dopey smile starts to disappear and his eyes start to droop again. Not even when Harry fades back to sleep, naked and pungent next to Louis in the bed. And especially not when Harry's index finger curls around his own.

He's trying so hard to be good, is the thing. He's just failing at every turn.

* * *

Slowly, Louis starts to feel better, clearer. His voice comes back so that he can speak at least, even if his on-stage solos remain less than impressive. His fever lingers, not constant anymore, but coming and going in hot, confusing flashes. Harry isn't hovering over him so much, and that makes Louis feel—not good. For some reason Harry's constant presence over the past few days didn't so feel much like over-protective alpha behavior. It'd felt like—something else. Something better.

Something that Louis isn't going to have anymore.

He starts to feel that jittery feeling he gets right before he does something really stupid, only this time it's worse because it comes with the realization that he just desperately wants Harry to look at him and smile at him or even fucking yell at him, it doesn't matter. He just wants Harry, and while he's strong enough to make his own cuppa, the muscle he'd used to keep Harry out of his head has atrophied.

It must be a side effect of his flu but his body keeps suffering these unprovoked bouts of heat, ten or fifteen minute intervals where he sweats through his clothes, has to get a hand on himself to release it. He tries to blame it on the illness but the truth is that he's fucking weak. He'd resolved to be better, to try harder and he'd barely lasted one day before he'd gone belly-up for Harry in his bed, and now he can't stop thinking about how Harry had looked when he'd come, thick wads of it clinging to his swollen cockhead. It makes Louis's mouth wet all the time, makes his hole slippery and humiliatingly loose in a way that he can't ignore.

He's stuck somewhere in between feeling normal and feeling drowsy and he can't seem to get out of his own head, zoning out for chunks of time. He contemplates long lists of reasons why he and Harry work so hard to stay apart, why they decided to try and let it fade away with time. Most of the reasons are fairly shit, seeing as how that plan has, thus far, been an abject failure.

Harry had been so young, with no way of knowing what he'd gotten into when they mated. Fuck, Louis'd barely understood it himself, and that scared the shit out of him. Harry looked to him for answers when Louis wasn't even clear on what the question was.

He'd tried to find his footing again, but couldn't. He tried dating other people, but it was never the same. He's so fucking tired of trying. He wants it to not be so hard.

"Seems like you're feeling better," Zayn says, snapping him back to reality. They're in Melbourne, one of the days they claim the bus for themselves and smoke, binge on crisps and skip showers. They've got a game of FIFA going, but Louis's getting bollocked, keeps losing his concentration and giving up goals. "S'nice to hear your voice again, anyway."

"Why do you think Harry and I are so fucked up?" Louis blurts out in response.

Zayn looks over at him, raises one eyebrow, then pauses the game. Louis drops his controller and puts his head in his hands. He waits. Zayn's clever. Zayn'll know.

Zayn doesn't say anything.

Louis drops his hands, frustrated. "Just say it. I know you have opinions on this. Pretty sure you and Liam tried to stage an intervention a few weeks ago."

Zayn looks up for a moment, sucks on his teeth as he chooses his words. "It's just that you, like, do dumb shit," he says slowly, "instead of just being honest about what you want." He shrugs. "Dunno why. It's not like you."

Louis frowns but thinks it over. It's not as simple as Zayn's making it out to be. "What I want? What the fuck do you think this is? It's not like dropping a few quid on a Spiderman statue. We're talking mating. For life." He sucks in a breath, frustrated. "You really think Harry can handle that? He can barely settle on which colour's his favourite."

Zayn listens patiently, but offers nothing.

Louis sighs. He's sick of thinking about this but he needs Zayn to understand. "Harry, he—he wears four shirts at once. He can’t remember why he got most of his tattoos. He won’t move into his own house, for fuck's sake." He cuts himself off, exhausted from talking.

"Mm," Zayn agrees placidly. "Takes hours to decide what he wants for dinner."

Louis looks up, eyebrows raised. "Exactly!"

"More rings than fingers, wears 'em all anyway."

Louis groans, shoving his hands into his hair roughly and tugging. "Christ, he's the worst."

"Worst," Zayn agrees. "But he’s been totally fucking certain about you since day one."

Louis shuts up, words failing him. Zayn sits quietly next to him, letting it sink in. Louis waits for him to say something else, but he doesn't. The silence between them starts to feel heavy, oppressive. Maybe Louis is just imagining it but Zayn's looking at him like, all expectant. Fuck.

"Yeah," Louis says eventually. "I know."

Of course he knows, he'd be blind not to. Harry's fucking obvious at the best of times. It's just—it's a lot.

Another minute passes before Zayn leans forward and grabs the controller off of the table. "Should I switch to single-player?"

"Honestly, fuck you," Louis grumbles, nicking the controller and tossing it towards the front of the bus.

He tries not to dwell on how much tighter his chest feels. Some fucking help Zayn was, because now he can't stop thinking about it, turning the idea over and over in his mind. In Sydney, he slips into Harry’s room at the hotel, pocketing the spare key that Harry always presses into his hand when they check in to a new place. He can't keep all of this mess in his head anymore. He needs to talk to Harry.

Only Harry’s not there, the room empty and dark with his scent clinging to everything, choking Louis and making him feel dizzy. He needs to just—he needs something. Everything. Fuck, he’s so thick-headed right now, body starting to sweat again. He fumbles for his phone, tries to send Harry a text but his fingers feel too big, too clumsy to type.

Louis has a plan, or he did. He's sure of it. He'd come here meaning to wait for Harry, to talk to him and explain—something. Himself. But now he feels fever-dazed again and also vaguely horny from Harry's smell. He should go back to his room, probably, to ride this out, but all of the reasons why he shouldn’t be here are fading away quickly. Everything that's happened lately has conspired to smack him like a brick to the head. The only thing Louis can think about is how badly he wants Harry, wants his attention and his stupid jokes and his kisses. And fuck it all to hell, he wants Harry’s cock, his knot, his come filling him up. He’s wanted it, all of it, for years.

Harry’s scent in the room overwhelms him, makes him feel faint. He crawls onto the bed, rubs his face in the rumpled sheets, breathing in hungrily. He thinks blearily that he'll just lie down and wait for Harry to come back. Everything smells like Harry, Harry everywhere, and Louis can’t help himself, has to fuck his hips down, snagging his cock in the sheets.

His dick is so hard it feels hot and sore, flexing against Harry’s bed. He stuffs his head against one of the pillows and gives in, slips a hand around his cock and starts to jerk off, lungs full of Harry's smell. His arse feels so heartbreakingly empty, hole clenching wet around nothing. There's not much of a progression, not one he can follow anyway. He feels fevered, like he’s gone mad, jerking himself mindlessly in Harry’s hotel room, in Harry’s bed, where Harry could walk in and find him—

“Fuck,” he hisses. He needs Harry. He needs Harry to make sure he's alright, to know if it's time for his medicine, to bug him about drinking enough water. He needs Harry to fuck him, god. So much.

He comes with a sob, spurting into the sheets and then rutting into it, cock sliding through the creamy mess.

He squirms as his cock stiffens right up again, another one of his mini-heats. Where the fuck is Harry? Why isn't he here? He rolls over onto his back, tugging Harry's pillowcase into his mouth so that he can breathe through it as he parts his legs, rubs his arse on the bed. This time he holds his knees up, fucks himself on two fingers until he shoots again, weaker this time but still intense. His knees are shaking from coming again so soon.

He moans when the scent in the room changes, stops smelling only of Harry and starts smelling like them.


Harry finds him like that, curled up in his sheets, mouth greedily breathing in Harry's scent, feverish and sweaty and filthy. Louis knows he's there before he even blinks his eyes open, can sense Harry's surprise even as Harry's musky, heady scent makes his head swim, makes his cock twitch again. When he does manage to open his eyes he finds Harry stood by the bed, hands curled into fists, knuckles white, nostrils flared. He groans quietly, wants Harry all over him, but he's regained some semblance of control. He can wait.

"What," Harry says, sounding confused and pained at the same time. "What are you doing in here?"

Louis chews on his lip and stretches out, baring his neck to Harry in an embarrassingly unsubtle manner. Harry sucks in a breath, clearly stunned. "I think," Louis says, voice weak and cracking, "maybe the flu set off my heat early. I don't know."

Harry ducks down and inhales, scenting him, then shakes his head. "Louis," he says, frowning.

Louis looks away, flushing. "Sorry about your bedding," he says. "You know how I get."

Harry nods slowly, licks his lips, and kneels next to the bed, eyes drinking in every detail. Louis's nipples tighten up into sharp points, his skin prickling with awareness. He wants Harry to bend over him, to suck his nipples into his mouth. He wants Harry to kiss him on the mouth, for hours. But more than anything he wants to give Harry whatever Harry wants. Harry tugs the sheet lower, exposing Louis's chest and belly, finding it streaked with come. He swallows thickly. When he speaks, his voice is rough. "This for me?" he asks, rubs a knuckle lightly against Louis's sticky skin.

Louis whole body burns like fire from the inside. Everything is making his physical response even more intense. He nods, but the words stick in his throat.

"Louis," Harry groans, pressing his face to the bed so that his nose brushes up against Louis's hip. He breathes in deep, fists his hands in the sheets. "Why are you here?"

Louis's mouth goes dry. Harry deserves the truth. It's exhausting fighting it, and frankly, Louis isn't all that good at pretending he's not arse over teakettle for him. Just because Louis hasn't figured out all of the details doesn't mean he needs to hide from it.

"I told you. I thought it was an early heat," Louis says, shaking his head. "I mean I feel all," he gestures vaguely, "and I wanted to be here, if you can imagine that." His cheeks burn at the admission, even though shame is laughable at this point. "But if that's not it," he says, speaking slowly, "then I reckon I just—needed you." He laughs weakly. "Might've forgotten what that feels like."

Harry's staring at him, eyes wide and dark. Trusting. Louis sucks his bottom lip into his mouth and looks up at the ceiling, inhaling through his nose. In for a penny, he thinks. "Or rather, I just," he exhales shakily. "I reckon I just want you. Present tense and all."

Harry's brows raise for a split second, and then crumple into a frown. "You want me," he says slowly. "In the present tense."

"In all tenses, apparently," Louis says, defensive out of habit. But it's the truth, he'd been mad for Harry long before they'd fucked that first time, and he's just as mad for him now.

Harry narrows his eyes, sizing Louis up. "What specifically do you want with me, then?"

Louis turns his head slightly, enough that he can face Harry directly. He thinks about arguing, about not making it so easy for him, but that's a pointless punishment. "You gonna make me say it?" Louis asks anyway, mock-indignant. "Even when I'm poorly?"

Harry narrows his eyes, nostrils flared, scenting him. "You're fine, Lou."

Louis considers his options. It's fair for Harry to ask for honesty from him, but it's also too convenient for Harry to just keep doing his thing, keep forcing Louis to draw the lines. He's pretty sure they want the same things, but he wants to know for sure. "I suppose what I want, specifically is," he says slowly, "everything you want from me. That's what I want from you."

Harry sucks on his teeth, considering. He's so gorgeous, always was but he's such a far cry from the soft little cherub whose innocence Louis stole. He's aware of his own power now in a way that drives Louis out of his head, all long and lean and chiseled.

"And what is it you think that I want from you?" Harry asks.

Louis exhales and turns, rubbing his face in Harry's pillowcase, still damp from where he'd been sucking on it. He's on fire. Everything in him is burning for Harry. It's getting harder for him to talk without begging. "Harry," he whimpers, helpless. He's overwhelmed by the scent of his alpha, has been rolling in it for hours and now he's feeling drugged with the possibility that Harry might have him. Everything before this feels like a ridiculous waste of time.

"Tell me," Harry says firmly. Louis can hear the wet sound he makes when he licks his lips, and it lights him up, because this—this is what he wants. He wants Harry to own him.

Louis wipes at his face with one hand, pushing it up into his sweaty hair. "You want me to be yours," he manages weakly. He feels feverish everywhere. It does genuinely feel like one of his heats, only slightly more coherent.

"You are mine," Harry corrects, and Louis jolts at the words, feeling them in his gut. He nods quickly.

Harry has come into his own, but Louis isn't unaware of his own influence. He's not too proud to pull out all of the stops. "You want to fuck me," he says, over-enunciating even as he squirms into the bed, picturing it.

Harry inhales sharply and looks away for a moment, jaw clenching. "I have fucked you," he says gruffly when he turns back.

Louis grits his teeth to keep from begging Harry to do it again, right the fuck now. It'll come, he can smell it now, it's inevitable. He just needs to find the right button to push.

"You love me," he says, challenging. "You're in love with me."

Harry looks shaken for a moment. Louis counts it as a win, at least until Harry gets to his feet, and Louis worries that he took it too far. But then Harry leans over the mattress, slides one knee over Louis's prone body and drops down, caging Louis in on all fours. "And you," he says roughly, "are fucking in love with me."

Louis's eyes flutter closed. His chest is heaving, breaths loud in the quiet room but he holds completely still, waits for Harry. He's so close. He's right there.

"You're so full of shit, Lou. You don't know what you want," Harry says. His voice trembles but there's a fire in his eyes that Louis wants to see all the time. "But you're so in love with me you can't even see straight." He dips down and—ah there—bites Louis harshly low on his throat. He reaches up, tags Louis's wrists to the bed, holds him down. "You come to my room and fuck yourself in my bed," Harry bites out. Louis can't stop himself from darting a glance downwards and groaning when he sees the fat length of Harry's big dick pressing against his jeans. "I could smell your slick from the lift. I could smell you from downstairs. You need to be fucked so badly you came here to beg me for it."

He's not wrong, but Louis somehow expected it to feel worse to hear Harry say it. It's something he's been hiding for so long, ashamed, but now it just—doesn't feel that way anymore. "And that does it for you?" Louis taunts, pushing. "You want me to beg for it?"

Harry drops down hard on him, biting harshly at his neck again. It's as good as a confirmation.

Louis licks his lips and arches his back, carefully wriggles his wrists free from Harry's grasp. He knows he's only able to because Harry allows it, the awareness of that zinging through him, electric. He pushes Harry away just enough to roll over onto his belly, hunch his shoulders. He lets his head drop down so that the back of his neck is exposed. He presses his face into the pillow, then picks it up, neck straining so that Harry can hear clearly when he says, "You're my alpha."

At the end of the day, it is what it is. He's Harry's and Harry's his, and it's pointless to pretend it isn't true, or that they don't both want it to be that way.

Hearing it seems to cut the breath right out from Harry's lungs. He doesn't move. Louis waits, neck bared, heart in his teeth.

"Say it again."

Louis inhales shakily, keeping his head bowed. "You're my alpha."

Harry dips his head down and teethes at the nape of Louis's neck. Louis moans into it, rutting down into the soft bedding. "Come on," he breathes out, hands clenching into fists. He lifts his hips, arching up to seek Harry out. He needs to feel him.

Harry slides his palm up in between Louis’s thighs, undoubtedly feeling Louis get hotter and hotter as he gets closer. Louis needs him to stop fucking around. "Do it," he gasps. "I'm ready."

"God, Lou," Harry moans, licking intently at the bite marks he's left on Louis's skin. "We aren't kids anymore. You know what this means. If I do this—" He cuts himself off and ducks down, pressing his damp forehead to the dip in between Louis's shoulder blades. He mouths at the hot skin there, making Louis shiver and forcing a fresh wave of slick from between his legs.

"Do it or don't," Louis says, voice breaking. "Whatever you decide, nothing's gonna change. We won't stop wanting it."

"You want it," Harry says breathlessly. It's not a question, but Louis murmurs his agreement anyway. Harry drops down then, letting his weight press Louis into the mattress. He's so hard, dick like a steel rod in his trousers. Louis grunts and shifts under him, arching so that his bum rubs right up against Harry's cock. "I'm gonna fuck you,” Harry keeps saying over and over, all deep and almost angry, "I'm gonna fuck you. Fuck you 'til you pass out, then knot you awake."

Louis's face is on fire but he can’t stop saying it back, soft and private: yeah, I want you to, I want you to. Harry responds with with a rough shove of his hips, knocking Louis up the bed a little.

Louis whimpers, struggling to stay coherent when Harry's like this. Fuck, Harry's never actually been like this. This is a whole new world. His body betrays him, getting slicker and needier with each breath.

"God, you're so fucking wet, do you even know how you smell," Harry gasps. "I can't—I have to—" Abruptly he's gone, lifted off so that only his hands trail down from Louis's shoulders, down his flank, and latch onto his hips. Louis whines, he needs his alpha, where is Harry going jesus—

Suddenly Harry's big hands dig into his arsecheeks and pull him apart, opening him up wide and then fuck fuck fuck Harry ducks down, presses his face right in, tonguing at Louis's slippery hole with broad, hungry licks. He goes right to Louis's empty center, tasting every little bit of the slick there. He moans, digs the tip of his tongue in, working Louis's body for more.

Louis cries out, tries pulling away for a split-second but Harry smacks his arse hard and then claws at him, holds him in place and licks him out vigorously, mouth squelching noisily from all of the slick.

It's too much, his tongue is relentless, lapping at the skin behind Louis's balls and pulling mouthfuls of wetness up the crease of his arse then dipping back down again to push it all back into Louis's rapidly loosening hole. He noses down to the tender flesh between Louis’s sac and his hole and puckers his lips around it. Sucks gently. Louis seizes up again and again, sobbing with how fucking good it is.

He scrabbles a hand down to his prick, already dripping, but Harry grunts and spanks him again. "Don't," he says, pulling back for a moment and resting his wet face on the curve of Louis's bum. He's panting, breathless from eating Louis out, like he wants Louis's arse more than he wants air. Louis sobs, partly from frustration and partly because Harry's just fucking taking, and it's what he was born for, it's how they're meant to be. "Not until I've got my dick in you."

Louis groans and humps back against Harry's face. "Can you get on with it, then," he whines, then jerks and sobs when Harry slaps him a third time.

"Impatient," Harry admonishes, sinking his teeth into the meat of Louis's bumcheek for a sharp, slippery nip.

"It's been—oh god," he gasps when Harry sinks two long fingers in him at once, sliding in easily through all of Louis's slick. "Two. Fucking. Years."

Harry presses in deep, two rough jabs and then he holds steady. He bends over Louis again, tucks his face into the side of Louis's neck. "Since me," Harry asks, voice rough and low, "or since anyone?"

It catches Louis off guard that Harry even has to ask, although they certainly don't talk about what they do with other people to each other. He's never tied with anyone but Harry before.

"You're my fucking alpha, Harry," Louis says, voice cracking.

"God, has it only been me, then?" Harry asks, his body pulling away but the sound of his zip is loud and welcome. Louis humps down into the bed again, the sheets soaked from his arousal. "Am I the only one who's knotted you full?" More shifting around on the bed and then Louis gasps when he feels the swollen head of Harry's prick pressing into the crease of his arse. "Please, please tell me that, Louis. Please fucking say that."

Long fingers slide into Louis's hair and tug, pulling his head back. Louis can't hold his eyes open any longer. He can't breathe. Everything is heat and hunger and Harry.

"Gonna fuck you," Harry mumbles, words coming out garbled like his tongue is too big for his mouth. "Gonna fuck you so good if you tell me it's only ever been me."

"Gonna fuck me anyway," Louis pants, and Harry tugs harder on his hair, making him wince. Harry nudges forward, the fat knob of his prick threatening to pop inside of Louis's rim, but Harry holds back. "Jesus,” Louis gasps, “you're a jealous bastard."

"Do I have anything to be jealous of?" he snarls. Then, softer, "Tell me, Lou." He folds himself down over Louis so that he can press the words into Louis's straining neck. "Please, I need to hear it."

It's not so much that he doesn't know, Louis realizes. It's that he wants to hear Louis tell him. He sighs shakily, swallows what remains of his pride and says, "I've never even wanted anyone else. Not like this."

Harry makes a pained noise, muffling a whine into Louis's shoulder and then he nudges forward, rocking the crown of his dick into Louis's messy hole. "Oh god," Harry breathes out, finally sounding as overwhelmed as Louis feels. "You're mine." His hips punch forward jerkily, dicking into Louis in slow, aching increments.

"C'mon," Louis moans, lifting his hips to try to get Harry in deeper, faster. He's too swollen though, even with as wet as Louis is, Harry struggles to fuck him.

"Can't," Harry grits out. He grabs Louis's arse and spreads him wide, holding Louis open as he tries to force his cock in a little deeper. "Fuck, you feel so good. You're gonna make me pop before I even get inside."

Louis wails, "No, c'mon," and humps back onto Harry's dick, even as he sweats and bites his lip, trying to take it all. "Keep going."

He nearly screams when Harry pushes through, stretching his hole wide over the beginning swell of his knot. He's so much bigger than Louis remembers him being at seventeen, and his knot's still fattening up. It burns, but when Harry jerks back and thrusts into him again Louis comes, crying out as his hole tightens down on Harry and he shoots into the blankets.

"That's it," Harry says, kissing and licking around Louis's shoulders, fucking into Louis harder now, making him lose his breath. "God I love watching you come. Gonna fuck you on your back next, so I can watch, and then I'm gonna take care of you," he pants, thrusting more slowly now that his knot's filling Louis so completely. "I'm gonna—gotta fill you up and then I'm going to take care of you, okay?"

It hurts, a deep ache every time Harry fucks into him, but Louis keeps coming, breathing through it in big, gulping sobs. His hole screws up in waves, clutching greedily at Harry's cock.

"Okay, Lou?" Harry says, sounding urgent.

Louis nods and reaches up, threads his fingers through Harry's where they're spread on the bed, turning his face to kiss at the rose on the side of Harry's arm. Harry goes silent after that, nothing more than a few bitten-off grunts when he hunches forward, nudging his knot in deeper. Louis sucks in a sharp breath and comes again, cock dribbling weakly when he feels Harry's knot swell up and throb, followed by the first pulse of come spurting inside him.

Almost instantly he's hit with a wave of relief, his whole body going limp and pliant as Harry shoots inside him again and again. He curls his smaller hand around Harry's larger one, rubbing Harry's knuckles. There's so much come, every time Harry so much as shifts his weight Louis can feel another blurt of it filling him up.

Time is hazy, stretching for long minutes as they catch their breath, shivering through the aftershocks. The drying sweat on Louis's skin gives him a chill that wracks through him, reminds him that he doesn't want to make Harry sick. Harry turns his palm over, tangles their fingers together. He kisses Louis softly on the neck, shifts to the side and curls around Louis, his knot holding them fast together and keeping Louis full.

Just like the first time, the bond between them gets palpably stronger. He can scent everything that Harry's feeling: his exhaustion, his hopefulness, the uncertainty that underpins all the rest of it. The urge to respond, to reassure Harry dies down when he realizes that Harry must be able to smell him, too.

"Alright?" Harry's voice is wrecked, like coming drained him of his ability to even speak.

Louis holds his breath. He's not sure how to answer. "Suppose," he says, then stops. He thinks about the first time Harry had knotted him, how he'd needed reassurance and how Louis had told him it was bad. "I mean," he corrects quickly, reaching back to pat Harry tiredly on the side of his face. "Yeah, brilliant. That was a proper seeing to."

Louis can feel Harry's smile against his skin. "Louiiiiis," Harry whines into his neck.

"Harryyyy," Louis mimics, smiling despite himself.

Harry snuffles closer, jostling his still swollen knot inside of Louis. The pressure makes Louis gasp, makes his dick flex painfully as it tries to come again. "Fuck," Harry breathes, clutching at Louis's hip and stilling him. Louis can feel a stray throb in Harry's prick, a late-blooming gush of come spilling into him. "Sorry," Harry pants, petting Louis's hip.

Louis frowns. He's done with sorry. "Don't be," Louis says, turning his face to smirk at Harry. "Your stamina is impressive. Just keep in mind we've got a sold-out concert this evening, yeah?"

Harry slaps him lightly on the arse, just enough to remind Louis that the skin there is still tingling from the previous spankings. He'd been joking but there's a niggling worry somewhere on the fringe of his consciousness that they won't be able to resist each other at all anymore. That things like concerts and interviews and public appearances will always be fraught with tension, some fear that something may come between them.

It's more than he can worry about now, though. He's got his alpha inside him, mating him and holding him and all of the things that might go wrong in the future can just simmer in the background for a little while.

Harry strokes his sides gently, reverently, and kisses the soft skin behind Louis's ear. "This okay?" he asks, hitching Louis's leg up a little to make him more comfortable.

"Mm," Louis agrees, drowsy. "I'm knackered."

"Your stamina on the other hand," Harry murmurs, sounding sleepy himself, "is rather underwhelming."

Louis is barely able to grumble at that. It doesn't seem helpful to remind Harry that he'd gotten off several times on his own before this. "S'it much longer?"

Harry chuckles, nipping at his neck. "Dunno."

"But," Louis frowns. "How long does it usually last?"

Harry stills for a moment, then wraps his arms around Louis and holds him closer. It feels really nice, right up until Harry says, "Are you stupid?"

Louis opens one eye but can't even bring himself to turn his head again.

"I've only done it the once," Harry says then, voice sluggish and thick. "You were there, remember?"

Louis can't hold his eye open, too fuck-lazy and sated. "Oh," he murmurs, pleased. "Right." He pats placatingly at Harry's hand. "Gon' nap now."

Harry laughs quietly, shaking behind him. "Nighty-night."

Harry's scent is happy, sated, but there's a spike of insecurity that keeps tickling Louis's nose. He pulls Harry's arms tighter around himself, shifts his knees around so that he's bracketing one of Harry's and waits for Harry's worry to subside. It does, fairly soon, and Louis's whole body relaxes, going loose and pliant as he sinks back against Harry's chest, feels Harry's warm lips mouthing at his shoulder.

It's good. It's going to be good. Being together can't possibly be harder than being apart, anyway.