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Maybe You're Saving Me

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Chapter 1

As soon as his fingertips graze the wall he’s lifting himself out of the water to take several deep breaths. Harry was the clear front runner as soon as coach’s whistle blew. Harry with his long limbs tearing through the thick wall of water before him, tightening his muscles, making himself a bullet as he dives in and just keeps going.

Harry’s mind is completely blank as the cool water flows over him and his surroundings blur past through his goggles. He sees the lane line below him, a think black plane that stretches on for what seems like miles. His coach and other team members make brief appearances in his peripheral each time he turns his head to take in new air. He hears nothing; he doesn’t have to hear the voices muffled by the rush of water surging past his ears to know that he’s ahead.

Five out of seven lanes are currently occupied by the team. He can’t see that far, but he knows Damien is in the far right hand lane right next to Aiden, probably neck and neck, but nowhere near close to catching Harry. Liam (bless him) is one lane over and although he had a weak start this race, he started creeping up towards the last few meters, maybe just two body lengths behind. Harry can just make out the steady rotation of his arms pushing him along.

Liam tries, really he does, but it takes a lot of practice and drills for him to improve his time even by a few seconds. He came to Harry two summers ago, feet awkwardly shuffling around and his head dipped so low that his chin might as well had been touching the ground. He mumbled out a few sentences, literally tripping his words up over his own tongue, then slowly Harry began to hear an actual request forming.

“Could you maybe help me? I mean, I know you’re probably really busy, and I know you like swimming alone, trust me I get it… but I- maybe I just need an extra push? Maybe you could…I uh, I don’t know.”

It was weird to say the least. Liam was being so fucking formal about it. Liam’s been his best friend since he was a eleven or twelve, it’s been so long that he doesn’t even know anymore, and you would think he had never even laid eyes on Harry with how fucking nervous he looked. Harry’s lips twitched into a small smile at the thought, and Liam’s entire expression twisted into hurt.

“I just don’t know Haz. I’m sorry. I’m bothering you, this was stupid.” Harry rolled his eyes and let the smile he was trying to push back expose all of his teeth as he pulled Liam in around the shoulders.

Harry called him an idiot, kissed on the forehead and laughed at him for days after that. Their “summer training” as Liam called it went well. Well, it went well enough for Harry to accept that Liam just wasn’t all that fast and that he had a lot of work to do if he wanted to stay on their college team, but besides all that, Liam did improve and he became a lot more confident. Looking at him now swimming just a few body lengths after Harry makes pride bloom in his chest, because Liam has come a long fucking way since college, but he still can’t touch Harry.

The race ends and just as everyone with half a brain predicted, Harry easily came in first.

He’s still trying to regulate his breathing as he climbs out of the pool, body dripping, swim cap getting ripped off by Michael and Liam’s congratulatory hands. He grins into their touches, then he feels a pair of cold eyes piercing him on his right.

Daniel is a dick. Everyone knows it, hell even their coach James knows it. Harry often entertains the thought of Daniel smashing his head into the pool floor and having to quit swimming for a few months.  He eats his troubles away (pancakes, pasta, and ice cream sundaes) and gains so much weight that he can only float. It’s a glorious daydream, but Liam says it’s kind of sadistic, so Harry keeps those thoughts to himself now.

Coach could easily make up an excuse to get rid of him. Oh Daniel I know you work hard, but your time just isn’t where it should be or Dan, I know you’re very motivated, but we have to cut a few members and I think this could be a growing season for you, better luck next year. But no. That won’t happen. It can’t happen for the sheer fact that they need him. As much of an asshole as Daniel is, he’s useful. He’s one of the fastest on the team, his form is incredible, and he’s there at university on scholarship, just like Harry.

The congratulations from the team for his win have stopped and Harry walks over to sit and catch his breath. Daniel grabs his forearm before he even takes three steps, his contempt hardly disguised.

“Congratulations Styles. If only we all could be so goddamned perfect.” Harry snatches his arm back but it doesn’t move. Daniel’s grip is tight on his wet skin.

“Get the fuck off!” He snatches his arm and pushes at Daniel’s chest to break his grip, “You could have had that race if you weren’t so concentrated on being a jealous twat.” Daniel’s face drops as he takes a step forward. He goes to push Harry, punch him, choke him? He’s not too sure at this point, but Liam’s hand suddenly comes out of nowhere and he’s standing in between them.

He’s smiling now like the psychotic person he is, still glaring at Harry past Liam’s frame, “I should’ve known your fuck buddy would come to the rescue.” It comes out soft because coach is now looking over at them curiously. Daniel’s smile drips poison as he brushes past both of their shoulders and into the lockers.

Harry lets the tension out of his body with a sigh, “Liam Actual Life Saver Payne, thank you.”

Liam smiles and claps Harry on the back. “You know, he might actually be a serial killer, I don’t even know. And it’s true, he really was neck and neck with you, but of course,” Liam smiles widely, “No one can touch you, not even him.”

Liam grabs his bag from against the wall to head towards the lockers. “Don’t sleep here Haz! You do have an actual home” he jokes and walks through the double doors.

Harry could turn and follow his friend, but he hasn’t done that in almost two years. You don’t get to be number one and stay number one without constantly working. He can be better. He will be better. He’s been doing double duty practices so long that it’s now like second nature.

Everyone files out of the pool, no one really lingers because they’re starving by the time practice is over and plus, they actually have lives outside of swimming. Harry is hungry too, and he would love to go out and drink with his friends, but Harry also wants to be on the national swim team.

Coach James brought it up to him a few years ago after a scouting agent had contacted him after one of Harry’s swim meets.  Uni scouts were always looking at him, but this was on a completely different level. Harry was a new person of interest for the national team, but he wasn’t old enough, almost seventeen at the time. Ever since then, he decided that he would work hard enough to make the team by the time he was of age.

He’s eighteen now, nineteen in a few of months, and his next qualifying meet is coming up even sooner. He wants it, more than he will admit to anyone, even to Liam and his mom. They think he’s just hard on himself, but Harry knows what the national team means. He’d be the best of the best, he’d be number one, he’d be ranked with some of the biggest names in the sport, and most importantly, he could be given the chance to compete in the next Olympic Games.

He takes a few gulps of water from the fountain across the room, stretches his muscles out all along his back and shoulders, and lines his feet up at the edge of the platform. “Don’t stay too long, Styles. The cleaning staff is locking up in a half hour.”

Harry smirks and nods his head toward his coach. They both know Harry will be there for two more hours at least. They also both know that the staff felt so bad trying to kick him out all the time that they got permission for him to have a key to the facility, as well as twenty four hour access.

He turns his attention back to the lane ahead and snaps his goggles and cap back on. One deep breath and he springs himself into the water. It rushes to swallow him up, but he takes off too quickly for the pressure to drag him down. His long strokes carry him to the end of the lane, and his tired muscles forget to protest as he kicks off the wall to swim back. Only ninety nine more to go.

__________________________

For some reason God saw fit to torture Harry, that’s the only excuse he has for why his phone is currently going off with a bright five a.m. blinding his eyes as he switches his phone to snooze. His Monday classes don’t start till seven thirty, but he wants to get in a forty five minute session before he goes.

It feels like he fell asleep an hour ago, probably because he did. He has always had trouble sleeping, and lately it’s just been getting worse, because you see, when normal people burn nearly three thousand calories a day, they should be practically unconscious by the time their head hits their pillow at night. Some of the boys on his team go straight home to nap straight after practice. Harry just swims some more.

His friends all know his sleeping pattern isn’t normal, but they don’t know how bad it’s gotten. Perks of living alone he guesses. There have been plenty of times that he hangs out with them and wishes they could swap bodies for a night. There are times when he is at Aiden’s or Liam’s, and he enviously watches on as they slowly power down. They look so comfortable and tired. Their eyes look almost happy to be close to shutting and finally letting the sleep win, it must be nice. These are the things he thinks about late at night while he stares at his ceiling. He should be fucking exhausted, but his body just won’t cooperate.

He turns his phone off of snooze before the alarm even sounds again and stands to crack his back. His muscles are tight, just like every morning, so he stretches himself out all along his spine. He wipes the sleep out of his eyes and stumbles across the mess of clothes and books that has become his floor. A pair of jeans catch his eye in the dark room, as well as a jumper and grey shirt he sees crumpled near his wardrobe. He grabs his two bags, one for the pool, one for class afterwards, and heads into the kitchen.

One very large bowl of cereal, an apple, two pieces of toast, a protein bar, and cup of tea happily slide into his stomach. Every morning is the same, unless he’s feeling highly productive and wants to actually cook; not today though.

He eats quickly and is out the door in minutes. He walks the six blocks to the university gym and unlocks the door to the swimming facility. He has to turn the lights on. No one else is in the building and won’t be for at least another hour. He walks to the locker room strips his probably dirty clothes, and gets his bottoms on. He sends his quick “I’m at the pool, I’ve drowned if you’ve not heard from me in an hour” text to Liam (Liam’s orders for any time he swims at the facility alone), and is off with his goggles and swim cap in hand.

*

Class is the same as usual. Harry’s pretty sure nothing too exciting can happen when you’re doing an extensive analysis of Paradise Lost. It’s an epic poem and similarly, an epic bore.

He has a break between his second and third classes and has lunch with Liam and Nick. Nick teases him about this guy he supposedly heard of who swam so much as a young man that he turned thirty and now he’s bald as a countertop from all the chlorine. Liam laughs softly to himself and Harry just hums contemplatively, “That’s pretty bold for someone quickly approaching thirty himself” Harry raises a daring eyebrow and takes a bite of his sandwich.

 “You take that back Harold! I am only twenty six!” Nick starts subconsciously feeling around his face for wrinkles. Harry continues to eat his lunch with a smirk. Serves him right, Harry’s hair is fine.

 

Chapter 2

Practice goes as usual for the next few days. He shows up, goes to weigh in, heads to the pool for drills, and works on his endurance. They end practice with a few short races against members of the team just to keep everyone on their toes.

It’s two hours later when everyone shuffles out to go live their lives.

On Thursday he hears Damien and Jamie trying to lure Liam into going out. Liam’s not much for drinking so they’ve really turned on the charm, “Please, we haven’t gotten you properly smashed in weeks,” Jamie begs, “Come on, just a couple of drinks! You don’t even have to drink right away, you can just watch us for a bit.”

“You can be wingman!” Damien adds like it’s the best plan in the world.

 Liam looks like he’s about to bolt. His big brown eyes are begging Harry to say something, or at least invite himself so he doesn’t have to be alone with them all night. Harry is just about to save him, when Jamie’s attention is averted and he calls Christian over. “Tell Liam to stop being such a fucking girl and go out with us!” Christian laughs a little at that. He turns to Liam and his entire face turns pink up to his ears. Jamie and Damien don’t notice, they’re too loud to notice anything really, but Harry can see Liam melting into a warm puddle at the hand Christian lays on his shoulder, trying to talk him into going out.

Harry can appreciate where Liam is coming from. Even though he never has time to focus on his own love life aside from the few guys he’s been lucky to pick up, he can see that Christian is fucking gorgeous. He’s close to Liam, so close that their skin keeps touching as they talk, and Liam probably isn’t breathing. He has had a crush on Christian since he joined the team and he’s too nervous to actually do anything about it, instead he chooses to be a bumbling mess each time Christian so much as looks at him.

Two minutes. That’s how long it takes for his dripping wet body, warm brown eyes, and gentle smile to convince Liam that he needs a night of alcohol and fun. He hears the triumphant cheers of Damien and Jamie and then a loud, “Styles, you coming with?”

He politely declines and Liam looks a bit put out, but hey, Christian’s strong arms and jawline will be there for him to cry into, so.

Everyone leaves eventually, and Harry breathes a sigh of relief. He gets his goggles and cap back on and dives back into the pool. Maybe he’ll go out next time.

*

Harry is tired as the strong smell of chlorine fills his lungs. He’s ditching his second class today simply because he was about to fall asleep in the middle of his lecture hall, and where else would he be if not further tormenting his body at the pool. He walks through the double doors and is kind of caught off guard by another person swimming at the far end of the pool. His mind quickly runs through the boys on the team and each of their schedules, hoping it’s not fucking Daniel. He knows most of them should be either working or in class, including Daniel, but of course he could be ditching life’s responsibilities to swim, just like Harry currently is.

The boy at the end of his lane pops his head up as he turns to swim back and Harry realizes he is not on the team. He can probably see Harry watching him, but he doesn’t stop swimming. Harry’s not really up for sharing his personal swim time, but he puts his goggles on and checks the time on the big clock opposite him anyway.

He picks the lane right next to the boy, but thinks better of it and goes to the lane one spot over. Harry dives in without preamble. He’s not paying attention to the boy left of him, whatever his name is, as he counts out his laps in his head. He’s eleven laps in when he stops to catch his breath. He looks over and the boy is no longer in the water, but sitting on the edge of the pool staring right at him. Okay, Harry thinks. Why is he staring right at him.

It’s weird because the boy is smiling at him now and Harry doesn’t actually know what to do with that, so he gives the boy a tight smile. “You alright?” he asks and the boy’s smile widens.

“I know who you are, you know,” he says it playfully like this is some kind of game, “You’re Harry Styles, right?” He reaches out a small hand, “I’m Louis, nice to meet you.”

Harry keeps glancing back and forth between the water and the hand that is now dangling out beside him when he decides he should probably shake it and stop acting like a crazy person who only slept for two hours last night. “Uh, nice to meet you too?”

“You don’t have to question it,” Louis laughs, “it is nice to meet me.”

Harry feels lost. What the hell is this guy talking about? Why is he still looking at him like that? He wants to ask but all that comes out is “Yea alright.”

Louis is laughing again and it’s kind of a nice sound Harry thinks. “I can see your mind working from here,” he says, “You’re always in the paper and everyone talks about how great a swimmer you are. Pride of the university,” he says with a grin, “Or so I’ve heard.”

Harry nods because that story makes since, right? “So are you done swimming?” Harry asks because he doesn’t know what else to ask at this point.

 “Yea,” Louis replies with a sigh, “I had to get my sorry arse out of the water because you were literally crushing my ego,” he raises an eyebrow, “Didn’t know I was gonna be swimming next to actual Michael Phelps.”

Harry laughs at that, and it surprises him. Louis looks quite pleased. “Thanks, I think?”

Harry is still smiling when Louis sighs again and pushes himself up to stand. “Well Harry Styles! I have to get going.” He stops when he sees Harry’s alarmed face and rolls his eyes; Harry doesn’t quite want him to go now that he’s chatted with him.

“I’m not leaving because you’re a swimming god,” he laughs and Harry confirms that yes, it is a nice sound, “I have class in an hour, so.”

Harry’s face softens a bit even though he still doesn’t want him to leave just yet. He watches Louis walk toward the double doors, water still dripping from his too long trunks, “Maybe I’ll see you around?” he calls out.

“Yea, maybe.” Louis says back as he pushes through the doors with a smile.

That was...an interesting experience, Harry decides. He’s still grinning to himself when he pushes off the wall to finish his laps.

___________________

A week later, Harry is submerged in the water for the second time that day with the rest of his team. They’ve been here for hours and it’s just about time to wrap it up, but not before the end race.

 Lately their end of practice runs are just for fun, mostly to keep the team from getting restless during a lull in the season, but they have a meet against another university in a month, so the stakes are getting a bit higher. It makes no difference to Harry though, he knows he’s going to win as soon as he kicks of the wall. Losing is not an option.

When the whistle blows and Harry leaps out of the pool it is to the same cheers that he always gets from coach and the team, and of course Daniel is seething as he pushes himself out of the water. He hasn’t actually spoken to Harry in days. No move the fuck out of my way or you and your faggot boyfriend should just quit the team and move in together. Daniel hasn’t even shoved him lately. It’s unsettling to say the least.

They practiced pretty early today and the pool doesn’t close for a few hours, so Harry drinks some water and prepares to get right back in the pool. The rest of the boys clear out rather quickly, and when Harry looks around he sees Daniel leaned back against the stands along the wall. Ignore him and maybe he’ll be less of a dick, Harry thinks, probably not though.

Harry pushes all his wet curls back into his cap and Daniel is still just sitting there, watching him like some animal waiting to pounce. Harry reaches down to adjust his trunks, “See something you like Dan?” Well, so much for ignoring him.

He doesn’t say anything back, but he does get off of the bleachers and walk till his toes are right up against Harry’s. The tanned skin of his face looks harsh under the lights, and his dark wet hair is sticking up in random places where he has been running his hands through it. The room is completely silent, and Daniel’s eyes are so dark that it makes the hairs on the back of Harry’s neck stand up.

“You know, if we keep meeting up after practice like this people will start to talk.” He says it with as much venom as he can muster, smiling around the words, not really knowing what kind of reaction he would get.

Daniel forces out a humorless laugh and inches up even closer than Harry thought was possible. He silently wishes someone would come through the door. It’s not that he’s scared, it’s just that Daniel’s fucking insane and he’d probably try to drown Harry when he least expects it. He’s bracing himself for the blow that’s surely about to come when Daniel speaks so softly that Harry has to strain even closer just to hear him.

“You’re always so fucking full of yourself. Everyone knows you want the national team spot, it’s why you practice like your useless life fucking depends on it.” Harry tries to keep his face blank but the corners of his eyebrows are slowly creeping together. “You want it so fucking bad and I want to be one to take it from you. I’m just as good as you, Styles. I almost beat you at every team race. The only difference is I don’t have to try so fucking hard.” Harry’s stomach twists at that. He’s telling the truth. Daniel is actually good, and he doesn’t put in half the effort of the other members of the team, yet he’s always right behind Harry, chasing him like a monster in a bad dream.

“You want the scouts to see you, to fucking notice you, but you could fuck up that day. They could choose me, and then you can be stuck here swimming in circles with your twat of a boyfriend and the rest of the idiots on the team.”

He wants to punch him in the goddamned face. He has to talk himself out of it several times during the seconds that tick by. He’s right is the thing. Daniel is right and it makes him want to bash his face in, but he can’t.

“You’re fucking mental if you think I’d let you have that spot,” Harry’s voice is a low growl, “the only way you could beat me is if I fuck up, and we both know that’s not happening, so back up, and get the fuck out so I finish practice.” He turns on his heel and lines up at the lane platform. The sickening smile Daniel is sporting is pissing him off, and he wants nothing more than to beat the shit out of him, but he doesn’t need to be on probation. Daniel’s not worth it.

He dives in and lets the water pull him under as he slices through the blue ahead of him. He doesn’t know how long Daniel just stands there watching his every stroke, but he also doesn’t care. Fuck Daniel and everything he said.

*

“He is such a twat.” Nick echoes Harry’s sentiments as they share a bottle of wine, well they’re passing the bottle between them and Harry takes baby sips, so really Nick is drinking a bottle of wine. It’s only two in the afternoon.

“Imagine! Hating a bright shining star such as yourself. It’s mental really. I mean look at you you’re just so damned fit!” Harry laughs at him. He loves when Nick takes ‘a late lunch’ or rather a ‘I’m going to lunch to get smashed so don’t expect me back at the station anytime soon’.

“Maybe he just needs to get laid,” Harry suggests and Nick flails his arms around, sloshing white wine all down his sleeve. “YES Harold! That’s it, he just needs to be properly fucked! We could tell our brilliant idea to a couple of his friends and then they could…ah wait. He doesn’t have any friends!” Nick is laughing at himself and Harry tries not laugh, but he can’t help it. Daniel probably is a nice person deep (very fucking deep) down. Maybe he didn’t have enough love as a child or something, who the hell knows.

Harry loves Nick like this and he really needed this little get together. As much as he hates to admit it, Daniel really did get under his skin a few days ago.

He says goodbye to Nick and opts out of going to class to swim instead. Nick puts up a little fuss as Harry stands to leave; he’s used to Harry bolting for the pool at every opportunity by now.

“Yes, Yes. Swim Star Styles we all know. Go ahead and go be a fish, or a whale, or whatever it is you leave to go and pretend to be all the time.” Harry drops a kiss on the top of his head and shoots Matt a text to come pick Nick up.  

“Hey, maybe you should take your own advice,” Nick wiggles his eyebrows, “You know, get properly fucked?? I’m sure it’s been ages.”

 Harry laughs and smacks Nick’s shoulder, “Nick, fuck off.”

*

He makes it to the pool in fifteen minutes, and when he walks through the double doors his heart suddenly drops and then lightly floats back up. He thought it was Daniel sitting on the bleachers again, but now he sees that it’s just that guy from a few weeks ago.

He smiles as soon as Louis makes eye contact with him and he’s so fucking glad it’s not Daniel sitting there instead.

“Long time, no see.” Louis waves to him and cocks an eyebrow up as Harry sits down.

His trunks are different from the last time Harry saw him, they’re shorter and tighter than the ones he had before. His hair, he notices is a dark brown sheet sticking to his forehead and ears with water from the pool. Little slivers of tan skin peek through the breaks. Harry wonders what color it would be if it were dry because his eyes are so blue that plain dark hair just wouldn’t do him justice; and how had he not noticed this boy’s eyes before?

Louis bends over his knees to grip his left ankle and slowly begins to rotate it, “So, come to put the immortals back in their place? Show the commoners who’s really king of the sea?” Harry catches a laugh that tries to escape, so it only sounds like a light chuckle.

“Ha Ha,” he deadpans, “I’m not actually Percy Jackson, you know that right? I’m no water God, that I can promise you.”

“Yea, I know you’re not, and neither was Percy Jackson.” Louis stops rotating his ankle one way and slowly begins to rotate it counterclockwise, “Percy was a demi-god” he states it proudly like it’s a great fact that everyone ought to know. Louis meets his gaze now, his smile crinkles the skin right next to his eyes.

Harry really wants to explore the rest of Louis’ face as he’s smiling, but he knows that’s a creepy thought as soon as he has it, so he forces himself to focus on other things. “Did you hurt your ankle swimming,” Harry questions, “I could look at it if you want, I mean, if that’s ok.” Jesus, why is Harry still talking? Why is he even offering? He doesn’t even really know this boy. “I mean I can look, but I’m not like a doctor, so.” There should be an Olympic Games for rambling. Harry would win the fucking gold medal.

Louis grins, but doesn’t laugh at him. Either he’s used to people looking like fools in front of him, or he’s just too polite to do so. Instead he stops rotating his ankle and sits back up. “I hurt my ankle a few weeks ago, that’s why I’ve been at the pool so much, it’s part of my ‘recovery’. But thanks for the offer, Non- Dr. Styles.”

His eyes crinkle up again and Harry wants to trace the lines before they disappear. Creepy is what that is, Harry thinks.  He should get going, he has practice to get to, but Louis’ smile is so sweet that he kind of just wants to blow it all off and talk to him some more.

“How did you get hurt?”

“I play Uni football. Two games ago I landed all wrong when this guy knocked into me as I was running up the pitch. I’m not really sure how it happened honestly but, it wasn’t broken, so cheers.” Louis stops talking and all Harry wants is to know more.

“I didn’t know you played for Manchester, that’s brilliant.” That’s all it takes for Louis to start up about his teammates and his three best friends he’s known since he was a kid. He learns that Louis is from Doncaster and came to Manchester only after he convinced his friends Stan, Niall, and Zayn to come with him. He misses being away from his mom and his four (Five maybe? Harry can’t remember exactly) little sisters. He listens to Louis talk for the better part of a half hour, and he nods and laughs at the right spots each time Louis gets excited about a story he wants to tell.

Harry learns so much about him that he can practically picture him up North running around wreaking havoc on the small town.

After hardly enough time has passed, Louis eyes the clock on the wall and sighs. “I kind of need to get going…but um, it was nice talking to you.” He digs around in his bag and stuffs all his belongings in as he stands.

Harry is kind of panicking. He doesn’t want Louis to go again. It’s been weeks since he saw him last, and he’s already counting down the days till he gets to talk to him again. He could say something, he should say something, “Hey, are you busy later tonight?” 

Well, that’s something.

Louis kind of looks confused for a moment and then a small grin unleashes itself on his lips, “You mean I haven’t talked your ear off enough already? I do tend to do that.”

Harry grins back, “No I like it, I like you I mean. I mean, not like- I like hearing what you talk about. It’s interesting.” An idiot. Harry is an actual idiot. Luckily, Louis doesn’t seem to mind, if his smile is anything to go by.

 “Um, yea ok, no I’m not doing anything later.”

Harry gestures for Louis’ phone and types his number in. He calls himself and then hangs up so he has Louis’ number too. ‘I’ll text you my address around six, or I could come get you if you want, or we don’t have to hang out at mine. We could go to yours, or go somewhere completely different, there is this pub my friend Liam likes two blocks down from,” Louis interrupts him.

“Harry… Harry! Yours is fine.” He laughs a bit at the fallen look Harry is wearing, “text me at six, yea? I’ll come over then.”

Harry nods and Louis gives him a small upturn of his lips before turning to walk away. Harry makes his eyes stay glued to the muscles of Louis back instead of drifting down a bit further to where he actually wants to look.

He needs to calm down. He barely knows Louis. And, what the fuck was that pointless rambling? Thank God Louis stopped him. You would think Harry just asked the guy to marry him rather than hangout at his dumpy flat for a while. Which reminds him, why the hell did he invite Louis to his flat of all places? His entire floor is made of towels, jeans, and boxers.

___________

So, he has most definitely done this to himself. He can’t even blame anyone else for the fact that he is standing knee deep in the contents of his closet, and Louis is coming over in less than an hour.

 He has two options, well, three really. He could actually clean his flat, which is definitely the least appealing of his choices. Second, he could stuff all his shit into the closet and hope that Louis won’t open it. Sounds like a plan. Or, he could text Louis and cancel so he can lie in bed, stare at the ceiling, wonder what kinds of wonderful things Louis might be out doing with his friends, while not sleeping.

He takes one more look at the floor and begins shoveling coats and sweatpants into the closet. Choice two it is then.

His room looks acceptable five minutes later; he can see the floor and everything. He wanders out to his living room and actually cleans the trash and all of Nick’s take away boxes from the floor and table. Nick eats like a garbage disposal. His bathroom isn’t gross, so he just sprays some cleaner and wipes it down quickly. Now the kitchen is a whole other story.

Once again, he has three choices. He could actually wash the dishes and clean up a bit. He laughs out loud at that one. Option two, he could shove as much junk into the dish washer as he can and clean what doesn’t fit, or option three, he could simply ban Louis from entering the kitchen altogether and hope for the best. That one probably won’t work. Probably.

*

Harry hears three knocks on his front door around quarter to seven. He stumbles out of the kitchen into the living room and lands in a twisted position next to his armchair, just shy of getting to the door. He’s just hoisting himself up when the door swings open and Louis lets himself in.

Louis eyebrows shoot up when he steps inside and sees the lump of boy trying to get off the floor, and Harry’s face is on fire. His mouth tries to make up an excuse as to why he can’t navigate his own body through his own home, but nothing is coming out. How? How is this Harry’s life?

Louis is biting his lips red trying not to laugh. He looks good from this angle in his dark jeans and white shirt. He’s now resorted to hiding his amusement in the fabric of his light denim jacket.

“If anyone should be tripping and falling over it should probably be the boy with the wonky ankle.” Louis does laugh now, but he’s also gripping Harry’s bicep and pulling him to his feet.

Harry hasn’t stood beside Louis before now, and he thought they were roughly the same size, but Louis is almost a whole head shorter than him, it makes him smile like he’s ten years old.

Eyeing him, Louis shakes his head, “What are you smiling at like that?”

“Nothing. You look different in actual clothes is all, and your hair looks nice when it’s dry.” Harry shrugs.

Louis looks hesitant, “Um, thank you?” his eyes narrow at Harry and he huffs out a laugh, “You’re sort of strange, but in a not-so-strange-kind-of-good kind of way.” Harry just smiles. It’s not the first time he’s been called strange.

*

Harry uses his freshly cleaned kitchen to make fajitas while Louis sits in the middle of his floor with Harry’s laptop, scrolling through his music. “You listen to some weird shit, mate.” Louis has been playing this game where he plays a song and gives it ten seconds to win him over. So far he’s vetoed over a third of all of Harry’s music, but he likes a few songs and lets them play all the way through.

“Play something you like, then,” Harry teases, “I’m sure it’s very loud and full of energy.”

Louis smirks, “You have no idea” and somehow Harry knows he’s not just talking about the music.

Louis fiddles around for a bit and a predictably upbeat song starts playing. Louis lays back and starts singing along and strumming air guitar. Harry’s never heard this song and the singer’s voice isn’t familiar either. “Who is this?” Harry asks, adding black pepper to the vegetable mix in the pan.

“Why?” Louis sits up, “Not tortured enough for you?”

“Heeeey. My music’s not tortured, it’s heartfelt!” Harry turns around and meets his eyes.

“It’s Smallpools.” Louis says, and Harry thinks that’s kind of coincidental, because he thinks Louis’ eyes often look just like two small pools.

“Well, shocker,” Harry smiles, “I like them.” Harry means Louis’ eyes, but Louis doesn’t need to know that.

*

“You could open a fajita shop, honestly.”

They are both lying miserably in the middle of Harry’s living room, star fished on their backs holding Xbox controllers even though the game is paused. “It could be called Pepper Styles, and you can make all these different fajitas based on different styles of food. Like ‘the southwestern’, or something really hipster like ‘the organic’, and then for twats who want to prove they’re tough you can make ‘the Asian fire pit’ and burn everyone’s mouth.” Harry rolls onto his side laughing at the thought. “You know if the whole world domination swimming thing doesn’t work out” Louis winks at him.

Harry’s voice is soft, “I’ll keep that in mind.”

It’s around eleven and Louis looks like he’s about to drop off right on Harry’s couch. Harry wouldn’t mind.

“I need to be getting back,” Louis yawns, “We’ve got practice first thing in the morning.”

Harry nods his agreement, “Yea me too.” He’s nowhere near sleepy. His body is tired, yes, but he feels like he could be up for hours.

Louis grabs his two beer bottles and takes them to the kitchen along with the empty bag of chocolates he ate entirely on his own. He shrugs into his jacket at the door.

“Thanks for coming over, I had fun,” Harry says leaning against his open door. Louis looks so soft and sleepy, and his eyelashes are hovering right above the circle of blue, making the color a shade darker.

“Me too, thanks for inviting me,” he smiles walking out.

Harry is just closing the door when it swings back a bit and Louis steps through it again.

 “Sorry!” he shouts, and Harry figures he forgot something in his flat, so he steps aside. “No, no,” Louis laughs then begins, “I’m an idiot, I meant to invite you to a thing tomorrow, well, it’s not really a thing, but it’s my mate’s birthday, Stan’s birthday I mean, and we’re going out and getting him smashed tomorrow after evening practice. You should come.”

Harry is delighted at the thought, but he wanted to get in an evening swim session, maybe he can do it at night, he does have keys to the facility and all. “Yea that sounds great. You’re sure your friends won’t mind me tagging along?” Harry asks but the words are cut off when Louis hugs him quickly.

“They’ll love you and if they say anything, I’ll punch them and make them pay my tab at the bar.” Louis slowly backs away smiling, “Goodnight” he says and walks down the hall towards the stairs. Harry is still grinning, standing in his doorway and once again he thinks that was…quite interesting.

__________

It’s fucking cold sitting on Liam’s leather sofa, but Harry is too lazy to actually do anything about it. His hair is still soaked from practice, and Liam has all his blankets in the wash, so Harry is huddled up next him, trying to absorb his body heat. It’s not working.

“Why don’t you go shower and dry your hair,” Liam says gently, nudging Harry’s arm. “You’d be warmer, and you can borrow some clothes if you need.”

Harry sighs and snuggles his cheek down into Liam’s shoulder, “Nah. I’m ok, I’m gonna shower later. I’m uh, going out so, I’ll just get dressed in a couple of hours.”

Liam hums and nods a bit, eyes on the tv in front of him. “Nick talk you into babysitting him?” he asks.

“No, I’m meeting a friend. I met this guy a while ago. He invited me out with his mates.”

There’s nothing weird about that sentence until Liam looks at him like something is weird about that sentence.

He mutes the tv with clumsy fingers. “You met a guy and you’re going out?” his eyes are excitedly searching for details on Harry’s face, “You met a guy?! Explain!”

 See, this is why he tells Liam nothing. “I didn’t meet a guy Li, well I did, but he’s just a friend. I ran into him at the pool a few weeks ago.”

“Annnd? So, now you’re what, just hanging out with his friends?” Liam looks skeptical, probably because it sounds a bit skeptical.

“Well he came over last night and we hung out a bit. He’s cool, you’d like him.”

“You were with him last night?! Harry!” Liam’s smile is taking over his entire face, “What the hell, who else knows? Does Nick know?”

“There’s nothing to know! He doesn’t even like me like that, we’re just friends I swear.” Harry’s eyes dance around the floor refusing to meet Liam’s.

“But you like him like that” it’s not really a question, but Harry shrugs all the same.

“Alright, alright. Conversation over.”

He sighs and tugs Harry back into his side and unmutes the tv. Harry thinks he’s won this battle, but then Liam clears his throat, “Just curious, have you planned what you’re going to wear?”

Harry rolls his eyes, “Hasn’t even crossed my mind.” Harry mutters. It’s a complete lie, but Liam probably already knows that. Harry sneaks a peek at Liam’s smirk. Yep, he definitely already knows.

 

Chapter 3

So this is Harry’s life right now. Digging through all the clothes he owns (which just so happen to be dirty), trying to find at least one pair of matching shoes and a jacket that isn’t meant for a blizzard. He should’ve just thrown all his clothes in the wash last night but no, he had to shove everything in the closet, and now he has to toss his jeans, and V-neck into the dryer to get the wrinkles out.

Louis texted him to meet him outside the practice field at seven-thirty so he kills time by ruffling his curls around, there’s really not much he can do in that department. Then he digs around his apartment for his wallet. He steps over his gym bag and a couple of swim caps, feeling a tug of guilt for not being at the pool. It’s ok, he’ll swim after.

He pulls into the lot and looks around for any sign of people exiting the field. He sees a few guys walking to their cars, but they aren’t Louis. Harry’s patience lets him wait about three minutes before he texts Louis to let him know he’s there.

Harry’s phone vibrates with a reply, Hey! Come in through the front gate. Follow the signs to the locker room.

He walks through the gate onto the pitch and goes in the direction where he sees a couple of guys walking out from. He gets closer and sees a black arrow pointing left for the lockers. That wasn’t hard.

He turns the corner and the sound of yelling and laughter fills the small space of the corridor. “You have to! Do it or suffer on pain of paying your own bill tonight!” Harry hears from someone who sounds suspiciously like Louis on the other side of the door. Typical, he thinks.

Before he can open the door, it’s swinging out toward him and a man wearing absolutely nothing but socks runs past him and down the corridor. Laughter erupts and he steps inside the locker room. Louis is on the floor clutching his chest, laughing beneath a guy with blonde hair, who’s laughing even harder. There are three guys sitting on a bench bent over laughing so hard that their eyes are closed, but they suddenly snap open when Louis spots Harry standing in the door and shouts out his welcome. “HARRY! Come in, come in! Oh my god, did you see that!? That was the birthday boy by the way, performing his first task of the night.”

“Running naked down the corridor?” Harry asks admiring Louis’ crinkled smile.

“Please Harold, that’s child’s play. We made him run round the field and the car lot. Twice.” Harry’s stomach makes a little jump at the name. Usually only Nick calls him Harold when he’s being annoying or he’s drunk, but he suddenly likes it coming from Louis.

He’s being shoved in front of different people as Louis introduces him. The blonde, Niall he learns, hugs him instantly and ruffles his hair, “I saw one of your meets once, you’re really good, mate! What are you doing hanging out with Lou?”  Louis sighs from somewhere beside him, “Alright Niall, have you quite finished? Leave the man alone!” Louis orders him.

Zayn is a lot gentler than Niall, and offers Harry a small smile, “It’s nice to meet you, Lou’s told us a lot of good things.”

“Um, ok,” Harry shakes his hand, “That’s…good? Right?” he asks, unsure. 

“Yes Harry. It’s very good.” Niall whispers loudly as he walks by. Louis smacks him in the head.

“I’m sorry for these two,” Louis apologizes, “There not used to meeting new people.” This time it’s Louis who gets smacked by Zayn.

*

So Louis and his teammates are kind of hyper. Really it’s just Stan, Louis, and Niall who are the energetic ones. Zayn and Ryan are pretty chilled out from smoking, but Harry’s sure they are probably really quiet even when they’re not high.

Everyone’s really drunk already and they’ve only been at the bar an hour and a half. Well, everyone’s drunk except Harry, that is. He’s not really for drinking these days. Alcohol makes you slow, and a few drunken nights just aren’t worth it. He has a beer in his hand though, and sips it slowly as he watches Stan try to convince Zayn to dance on the bar.

Louis has been pink faced and smiling at him all night, and Harry kind of wants to touch him. He doesn’t of course. He’s not that mad.

Louis’ hand keeps brushing his, and he keeps draping his arm around Harry’s shoulders as he talks with his hands. Harry thinks drunk Louis is kind of great. He confirms it when Louis suddenly exclaims that the party is moving to the club next door, and he grabs Stan and pushes him and the rest of the boys out the door.

Louis immediately orders up another round of birthday shots, and Harry excuses himself to the loo. He doesn’t actually go in, he just needs a breather for minute, so he checks his phone. He has a text from Liam, Hope you have a nice time Xx. There’s nothing more to read into. It’s just Liam wishing him a good night. Harry wants to be annoyed that Liam is taking this as a date of some kind, but he also loves him for knowing that Harry kind of wants this to be a date of some kind. It’s not though.

He goes back and finds Louis talking closely with a brunette girl. She’s leaned into him and he buys her a light blue drink that she accepts gratefully.

Harry’s not jealous at all. That’s crazy. What did he expect Louis to do all night in a club? Sit and talk to Harry while beautiful girls walk by? Definitely not. He stops on the opposite end of the bar and orders himself another drink to sip when Zayn places a hand on his shoulder. “You alright, mate?” he takes a drink of his beer.

“Oh yea, I’m good.” Harry lies easily. Zayn smiles at him and cuts his eyes over at Louis, now standing with Niall and singing along to the music.

“You should go talk to him,” Zayn says knowingly, “He’s wasn’t into her.” he says still smiling at Harry’s confused face. “You should go talk to him.” He tilts his head over at Louis and laughs because Harry still looks bewildered.

Harry takes his beer and walks over to Louis to go and talk to him, even though he has no clue what about. Harry’s right behind him when Louis turns around and lunges out to hug him.

“Percy Jackson! Where have you been? We missed you!” Louis is so drunk and it’s pretty hilarious. “Is that the same beer you’ve had all night?!” he looks appalled. “We’re doing shots. Look at you, you’re completely sober right now, what the hell?”

Harry goes to protest, but he already has a shot in his hand when Louis clinks their glasses together, and before he knows it, cool vodka is flowing down his throat in one sweet fluid swallow. Harry hasn’t done a shot in two years; his throat is on fire.

Louis looks delighted at the twisted expression on Harry’s face. “You need to live a little Styles. You can’t just swim your whole bloody life! Sometimes you just need a shot of vodka.” Harry wants to say something in his own defense, but Louis lines up two more shots next to his empty glass. He wants to say no, but he also kind of just wants to be drunk with this beautiful boy, so when Louis starts counting down from three, Harry double fists his shots and takes them down with a smile. He can swim tomorrow.

The dance floor is packed, and Harry hasn’t danced drunk in years, but he doesn’t mind letting Louis drag him along with the music. Louis’ moving all around him, touching his chest, smoothing down his back and around his shoulders. Harry’s not sure where the other boys are, but he hopes they’re not watching him flop around the dance floor with Louis grinding into him.

Harry feels good, and even though Louis is just drunk and messing around, he loves the feel of Louis’ sweaty skin sliding against his.

The song changes and Harry opens his eyes. He can see the girl Louis was chatting with earlier watching Louis from a couple feet away with her group of friends. She’s pretty and obviously wants to dance.

He taps Louis on the shoulder and his smile is blinding in the dark room when he turns to face Harry. He slinks his arms around Harry’s shoulders to press them closer.

“I think I’m hogging you all to myself. I think she misses you, you should go dance with her. I’ll go find Zayn.” Harry shouts over the music and points in the girl’s direction.

Louis’ face falls and his arms fall of Harry’s shoulders as well. Harry gives a weak smile and turns to walk away, but Louis stops him dead. “What are you doing??” he looks annoyed, almost upset. “I don’t want to dance with her. I want to dance with you!”

Harry is shaking his head, “What?” Harry asks because Louis is clearly smashed. He sees Louis sigh, but Harry can’t hear it. “I want to dance with you, Harry. Fuck all these other people! I invited you here to be with you, not ditch you for some girl.”

Harry is slightly confused right now, why is Louis being so nice? Sure he’s drunk, but why is he turning down a dance with this beautiful girl right now to dance with Harry? “I thought we were friends? I-I don’t know. It looked like you liked her?”

Louis shakes his head again and crowds into Harry’s space. He’s on his tiptoes and still has to tug Harry down by the jaw to press their lips together. It’s salty from sweat and vodka but Harry doesn’t care. Louis’ lips feel so soft, yet he tugs Harry down roughly to lightly bite down on his bottom lip. He curls a fist at the back of Harry’s neck. He pulls away then pecks Harry lightly on the corner of his lips. Louis lingers in front of him for a moment, then slowly moves away to meet Harry’s eyes, “Does that feel like I want to dance with her?”

Harry is at a loss. He can’t form words right now. What did Louis just ask him? People are probably staring. He doesn’t care. He reaches out and pulls Louis in, letting their lips slide slowly. Harry’s kind of drunk at this point and his lips are tingly numb from the shots, but he can feel a moan leave Louis as he grips his fingers at Louis’ waist to pull him closer. He breaks their connection and scrubs a thumb across Louis’ stubble, “No, it feels like you want to be kissing me.”

*

They walk over to the bar and Stan starts a round of applause that Niall quickly joins in. Zayn is trying not to laugh but the alcohol wins. “Everyone saw that, you know.” he’s still laughing as Niall and Stan begin a poor reenactment of their dancing.

“A love story for the ages, that was!” Stan claps Louis on the back.

“Fuck off, all of you.” Louis says, but then he laughs so it’s more of an endearment really.

Louis is beside Harry the rest of the night and he keeps feeling Louis’ fingers curl into his own when he thinks no one is paying attention to them. It’s a good night.

*

Liam and Christian walk into the locker room to find Harry sitting on the floor with a book in his lap, surrounded by papers, and laughing like a mad person at his phone.  He looks a bit startled when he notices them walk in, but his smiles stays on. “Practice about to start then?” Harry asks, closing his book he obviously wasn’t paying attention to in the first place.

It’s an odd sight to be fair. Harry is always ready to go swim. He’s the first one in the water and the last to get out. Right now he’s dressed in a jumper and jeans looking like he got plucked right out of the library.

“So…you’re doing a bit of studying before practice? And, apparently watching stand-up comedy on your phone?” Liam laughs as he and Christian walk to their respective lockers.

“Oh yea. I have an exam tomorrow, and uh, that was just a uh, text.”

Liam’s ears perk up at that. He quickly whips his neck around to see Harry, “A text huh? From the guy?”

 Harry smiles, “You mean from Louis, and yes he’s the guy. You got me Liam. You’ve found me out! Turns out, I did like him- Do like him, and he likes me back so…there’s that. You win. Shut up.”

Harry’s still smiling. Liam looks like he could burst as he runs over in nothing but his speedo and squeezes Harry into a crushing hug.

“I knew it! So last night went well then, and you really like him?”

Harry doesn’t get to reply, because at that moment Daniel walks in, leaning up against the wall, interrupting everything good in life.

 “So, you left your fake boyfriend for an actual boyfriend? Figures, you look the type to sleep around.” Daniel pushes himself off the wall towards his locker, which is thankfully over by Christian.

 If Harry wasn’t still slightly hung over and simultaneously over the moon, he would tackle Daniel to the ground. He chooses to ignore him, but Liam speaks up for him, “Why are you always so focused on who Harry’s sleeping with? It’s borderline obsessive, and for the record, he’s my best mate, so shut the fuck up.” Good on Liam for taking up for him, but really Harry wishes he wouldn’t, because it just makes Daniel worse.

He scoffs in the corner, “You might actually be good at your sport, Payne, if you weren’t so far up Harry’s asshole all the time, or his.” He gestures to Christian who stands up at the mention of his name.

He crowds into Daniel’s space and speaks so lowly that Harry and Liam can’t even hear, and it’s dead silent in the room. Seconds pass, then suddenly Daniel is pushing Christian away from him and storming out of the room.

Harry is impressed. That’s got to be a record.

“Thanks for, whatever it is you said, mate.” Harry doesn’t even know what he’s thanking him for, but it seems like the right thing to do.

 “Don’t, mention it,” Christian shakes his head, “That guy is so fucking annoying and he’s homophobic as hell. We literally hang out in water in our underwear all day long and he’s terrified someone’s gonna shove a dick in him. It’s ridiculous.” Liam’s eyes are big a saucers and Harry’s laugh can probably be heard outside the building. Christian’s alright he decides. “And, congratulations by the way.”

Harry’s eyebrows squench up, “With the guy, I mean. Good for you.” He smiles at Harry and walks out. Liam looks completely tortured and Harry can’t even blame him, because Christian is pretty awesome.

____________

Harry’s fidgets all through his exam. He’s got less than ten questions left and then he gets to go have lunch with Louis. He hasn’t seen him in two days and his skin is literally crawling.

He starts to slink out of his desk before he’s even answered the last question, and happily leaves the exam on his professor’s desk. Freedom. 

He’s exhausted, he spent all day yesterday either in the water or hovering over his phone, so when night came he had no choice but to spend it hovering over his course books. He could really use a nap, but it’s day time and he refuses to sleep during the day. He doesn’t particularly sleep during the night either, but that’s beside the point.

He walks into the coffee shop and Louis is sat at a corner table wearing his football kit with a hoodie over it. He’s turning through pages in a text book with his eyebrows crinkled up.

Harry startles him when he sits down in front of him, and he immediately closes the book and his expression turns soft. “Hey there, Delilah.”

Harry has to clamp a palm over his mouth to stifle his laugh in the small shop. “Why am I the Delilah in this scenario?” Harry fakes annoyance but he’s so happy to see Louis that he doesn’t even care.

“Because Harold,” he says loudly, “it’s what you do to me.” Harry laughs again. He’s been doing that a lot these last few days.

He’s staring at Louis’ lips pulled into a cheeky grin and gets caught with his eyes locked there. Louis clears his throat and raises an eyebrow, “Harold, not in front of the children.” He glances at a table of first year girls talking with each other and paying Harry and Louis zero attention.

“Fine.” Harry relents and picks a piece off of Louis’ bagel. “When’s your practice?” Harry asks between chews.

“Charming,” Louis pushes his plate closer to him, “in about an hour…Why? You think we have time for you to suck me off good and proper in the toilets?” He bites his bottom lip smiling wickedly.

Louis has to stand and pat Harry on the back a couple times, and now the girls from the other table and everyone else for that matter are staring. “Jesus Lou!” he whisper screams. Louis’ eyes crinkle up and Harry can’t even be mad because it’s such a beautiful sight.

“It was just a joke, love.” He drops a kiss to the top of Harry’s head. Sure Harry thinks, joke about casually giving him a heart attack in a coffee shop. Brilliant.

_________________

“I feel like I haven’t been getting as many late night swim texts from you lately.” Liam looks suspiciously at him from across the couch.

“Uh, I’ve been busy. I’m going more during the day.” Liam smirks around his tea.

“I guess if I had a guy texting me nonstop I’d be pretty busy too.” Harry rubs little circles into Liam’s ankle resting near Harry’s hip.

“Have you talked to Christian, then?” He knows it’s a touchy subject, but Liam looks sort of miserable right now.

“Yea no. I think he’s straight. He has a girlfriend now, so I guess he is. He’s really nice though. Good to talk to.” Harry’s heart falls for him. He smooths a hand down Liam’s leg like calming balm, “I’m sorry Li.”

“Yea. Me too.”

*

He goes for a morning swim on Saturday and he’s not even sure if he finished his 1500 meters because he’s so distracted. He’s sleepy, but the tired can’t win because Harry’s mind is full of blue eyes and tan skin. Surprisingly, when he pushes himself out of the water he’s not upset that he just basically wasted a session, because he’s going to Louis’ football game.

He shows up early upon Louis’ request, and isn’t stopped when he heads for the locker room. Louis is waiting for him outside the door. He’s standing in his uniform and socks looking tiny and unsure, a small smile on his lips.

Harry immediately swoops down and catches him in a kiss like he has been wanting to for days. He tenderly traces Louis’ jaw as their lips move and Louis gasps when Harry tugs on a few strands of hair at the back of his head. He’s breathless and leaning against the wall when Harry pulls away.

“I guess I needed that” he smiles, “For luck. Wonky ankle, remember?”

Harry runs his fingers along Louis' arm, “You don’t need luck, you’ll be amazing. And your ankle doesn’t even bother you anymore, you’ll do great.” Louis nods like he wants to believe him.

Niall pokes his head out of the door to the locker room and his eyes land on Harry and Louis leaned against the wall. “Hey Harry! Glad you could come... Tomlinson, kiss him bye and get your arse in here, we got songs to sing.” Niall eyes Louis sternly and snaps the door shut.

“Songs?” Harry  laughs.

“Yea it’s like a ritual. Niall’s Irish, I don’t even know.” Louis says it smiling, but it’s not a real smile.

“You’ll do fine.” Harry kisses him again until it’s a crinkly smile, then lets Louis go with his teammates.

The game goes well and Manchester wins 3-1. After the game Louis is ecstatic and forces everyone out for a pub night. Harry texts Liam and Nick to invite them along. Nick declines apparently he’s far too sickly to be celebrating with Phelps and Beckham. He’s probably not even sick, just drunk. Liam is excited to finally be meeting Louis and getting out of his flat.

Liam shows up a few minutes later and they pick some pub that Niall likes. Harry introduces him to everyone and Louis looks a bit nervous, but he doesn’t show it. He tells Liam about the meet he saw a few months ago where he nearly beat his opponent and how he thought the guy had taken off earlier than he was supposed to. Liam looks impressed with Louis and Harry just wants to kiss him.

Coincidentally, Niall’s favorite pub turns out to also be Damien’s favorite pub. Some of the guys from the team are there with him, and they all exchange hello’s. He introduces Louis as his friend even though he’s not really sure what they are. People start ordering drinks and everyone is getting on just fine until Harry catches Daniel sitting on the far end of the booth next to Jamie.

Who the hell did Daniel pay to get invited out with the team? Harry really wants to know. He doesn’t say anything to Daniel, he doesn’t even acknowledge him, and thankfully, Daniel looks resolved to stay seated.

Their football group breaks off and finds a booth of their own and Louis presses up next to Harry, who presses up next to Liam on the end.

“Your friend, Louis huh?” He’s smiling and the blue in his eyes is sparkling with mischief. Harry smiles back.

 “Well, yea. I think you’re my friend. I think you’re quite lovely actually.” Louis hasn’t broken eye contact with him and it’s glorious.

He lowers his voice so the boys crowding them can’t hear, “You want to suck off all your friends, Harry?” Louis fingers dance up the inseam of Harry’s jeans and he has to adjust himself in the seat. He knows Louis is just teasing, but he can’t touch Louis like he wants to in here, so he kisses him instead. It’s light and just a few slides of their lips, but it’s the first time they’ve kissed in front of everyone, and Harry’s pulse is thundering.

A chorus of Awwwws and one very distinct vomiting sound from Stan breaks them apart. Louis holds Harry’s hand under the table.

Later, they’re at the bar drinking, even Harry is actually consuming alcohol, when Louis disappears to the toilet for a few minutes. He’s sipping his drink and chatting with Liam and Zayn when he feels a rough hand on his shoulder. He knows who it is before he even turns around.

“Is there something you need, Daniel?” He’s drunk and leaning a bit on a stool next to Harry.

“I saw you and the gay guy over there,” he takes a long gulp of his rum and coke, “I saw you parading him around for everyone to meet but… you didn’t introduce him to me. I’m hurt.” Liam stands from his stool but Zayn grips his forearm to keep him from moving. Harry follows Liam’s gaze and sees Louis walking up. He doesn’t want Daniel to ruin this, he wants him to fuck off. 

“Alright Dan, you’ve said what you wanted, so go drink over there. Leave us alone.” That doesn’t work, and it’s too late because now Louis is back.

He takes one look at everyone’s tense expressions and turns to Daniel, sizing him up with his eyes. “Is everything alright here?”

So, Louis’ new here. He doesn’t know how it all works. Daniel can see that, and takes his opportunity to pounce. “I need for your faggot boyfriend to shut the fuck up and stop being such a pussy. Oh? You didn’t know he was a twat? He’s a cocky arsehole and for no good fucking reason. Consider this a friendly mention.” Daniel smiles, dripping venom all over the room, and Louis crowds up to him in an instant. Shit.

“I know who you are,” Louis scoffs, “You’re that prick that’s always second behind Harry. I’ve seen some of your meets before, you know, and I always leave wondering the same thing, why doesn’t that Daniel guy just train a bit harder to beat Harry? He’s only a few inches away from besting him, but now I realize what the issue is.”

Daniel lowers his drink to really look at Louis. “You want Harry to win. You fucking like it. I think you might like him as a matter of fact.” Daniel looks like he’s going to hit Louis any minute so Zayn lets Liam’s arm go. Louis steps even closer to him, almost touching Daniel’s chest, “You like him beating you because it gives you a chance to catch a glimpse of his faggot arse from a few meters behind. You’re not fooling anyone, Daniel. You want him. You’re a miserable fucking twat because he’s better than you, and you can’t have him.”

“Shut the fuck up!” Daniel moves to jump him, but Liam is already there pulling him away and back to the other members of the team.  Daniel struggles a bit, but Jamie and Aiden get him sat down and take the drink from his hands.

Louis leans against the bar, wiggling his hips a bit to the new song playing overhead and takes a sip of Harry’s drink like none of that just happened. He grins up at Harry through his lashes, and he’s almost speechless.

“You’ve seen some of my meets before?” Harry asks. Louis nods and slides a bit closer towards him.

“You think he can really beat me?” Louis shakes his head no this time, but still moves closer.

“You just told Daniel to fuck off for me and publicly outed him all at the same time?” Louis’ smile is wider now and he’s right in Harry’s line of vision, his lips hovering right above Harry’s.

“I did,” Louis’ voice is low and he’s so close Harry can feel him breathing, “So now what do you want to do about it?”

Harry surges forward and he doesn’t even scold himself for groping Louis in front of everyone in the pub. Harry licks into his mouth and moans when Louis’ cool fingers slide under his shirt and into the waistband of his pants. Louis is practically sitting in his lap when Zayn kindly clears his throat.

“Guys…Guys. Lou.”

He gasps when Louis’ hand makes it all the way into Harry’s pants and Harry lets out moan that isn’t muffled by Louis’ mouth.

“Guys! HEY! You’re still at the pub, Jesus!” They break away breathless and Liam’s face is so red that he refuses to meet their eyes. Zayn’s mouth is hanging open, “Take him back to yours Louis, Christ, we don’t need to see that.”

Louis nods once, still breathing hard, “Ok. Right. Back to mine?” Harry is off of the stool before he can even nod in agreement.

They take a cab to Louis’ because apparently it’s closer, but Harry wouldn’t know because his mouth and hands are otherwise occupied. Louis is straddling him in the back seat, and Harry’s hands are working overtime trying to grip Louis arse and his strong thighs all at once. Louis sucks at the skin beneath his collarbone until it hurts and Harry is short of breath.

They pull up to what Harry assumes is Louis’ flat and pays for the cab before Louis can protest. He doesn’t have time to play the gentlemen game with him right now.

Louis tugs Harry up some stairs and shoves him against the wall when the door is finally closed behind them. Louis is smaller than him, but it feel like he’s ten feet tall when he presses his body all along Harry’s front. Harry works to get Louis’ clothes off, but he’s not getting too far with it because Louis has his hand down his pants gripping around him and lightly running his fingers down his length. He moans when Louis squeezes him and he has to shut his eyes to regain control.

Louis is stripping off his pants with his other hand and Harry takes the break to get the rest of his clothes off as well. Louis is fucking gorgeous and his cock is so full and flushed that Harry drops right his knees in front of him. He wraps his hands around the fullness of Louis’ bum and pulls the cheeks apart just to feel the give of the tight muscles. Louis gasps into the air and sucks in a deep breath when Harry mouths at his tip and runs a light finger up and down his shaft. He sucks at the tip a bit rougher until feels moisture dripping onto his tongue and running down the back of his throat.

He sucks Louis down in one smooth motion then lets his cock slide back out to the tip, relishing the way it drags between his lips. He goes back down and relaxes his throat to take him all the way and Louis grips Harry’s hair in his small fingers. Harry swats his hands away because he wants to control the way Louis’ knees buckle. He creates more suction in his mouth and starts up a steady rhythm around him. Louis isn’t leaning on anything and he has no clue what to do with his hands, so he fists his own hair and lets the steady moans drop from his lips as Harry’s movements rock him back and forth.

Louis is trying not to thrust into him and Harry knows he must be close, so he opens his throat even wider by pressing his tongue down to lie at the bottom of his mouth. He snaps Louis forward into his mouth by his bum and buries him so deep that Harry’s nose touches the coarse hairs of Louis skin.

He swallows steadily around him, the gulping sounds loud in the otherwise quiet room. His fingers gently knead at his balls and Louis can’t even warn him before he’s coming down Harry’s throat.

Harry drags his tongue along the underside of his cock when he lets it slowly slip out and soften, leaving a trail of wetness down Harry’s jawline.

Louis looks weak at the knees, so Harry tugs him down to the floor with him and leans him back against the carpet. He’s biting up and down Louis’ torso, stroking himself quickly between his legs. Harry’s lying half on top of him, and each jerky movement jostles Louis and pushes his bare skin deeper into the fibers of the carpet. Harry roughly bites into Louis’ skin near his hipbone and doubles his strokes around himself. The pleasant heat starts at the pit of his stomach and travels closer to Harry’s cock. He hears Louis murmur an oh my god right when Harry bites down into his flesh again and suddenly comes over Louis’ thigh.

He rolls onto his back and tries to ignore the fact that Louis is pressed up next to him, naked, with Harry’s come dribbling down the skin between his legs.

Louis cranes his neck over to Harry and rakes his eyes over the light sweat on his chest and a streak of wetness across his chin. He pushes up to see the sweat on his own body and the moisture running between his thighs and plops back down to the floor, spent.

“Oh my god.” Louis breathes mostly to himself.

 Harry takes it as a compliment.

*

“Is he always such a dick or was that a rare occasion?” They’re lying on their sides facing one another. Beneath the sheets, Harry’s knee is barely brushing Louis’ and he just want to be near him. He tangles their fingers together between them.

“He’s almost always a dick. Always. I don’t know, he’s always been an arse and sometimes he takes it too far.” he frowns walking his fingers up and down Louis’ palm.

Louis gives him this incredulous look like he can’t believe Harry puts up with Daniel being a twat every fucking day. Harry can hardly believe it himself.

“Well sorry, but he can’t talk to you that way. And none of those things he says about you are true, you know that yea? I haven’t known you for that long, Harry, but you’re pretty amazing from what I can see. So fuck him.”

It’s probably the best thing Harry’s ever heard someone say to his face.

“You’re pretty amazing. You do know that?” Harry runs a thumb across Louis’ lip.

“Course I do, Harold. Why else would I allow you to take me to bed and then make me a full English breakfast in the morning?” he raises his eyebrows, testing the waters of negotiation.

Harry would love to stay and cook every piece of food in Louis’ flat for him, but he can’t sleep over tonight. “I want to cook you five breakfasts, breakfast in bed even, but I can’t stay tonight, Lou. I have to swim early and I don’t have my stuff with me.” 

He wants to gouge his own eyes out at the hurt he thinks he sees in Louis eyes, but then Louis exhales sharply and sits up staring at him.

“Harry Percy Styles! Are you trying to skip out on me??”

Harry’s mouth is open but he’s not saying much of anything. Louis flicks him across his exposed nipple; that gets Harry’s attention.

“OW! Noooo! I‘m not- I’m- I need to swim in the morning, otherwise I’d stay with you. I swear I want to wake up with you, but I swim so early. You don’t want me to wake you, do you?”

Louis gives him a calculating stare that seems to last six years, “You want to stay with me all night?” Harry nods warily, hands pressed against his chest to protect his skin. “And you want to wake up with me in the morning?”

“Yes I- of course.” Harry’s not really sure where this is going because Louis’ mood changes like the wind. He could be kissing Harry one second, and going for another nipple twist the next.

Louis’ still looking at him suspiciously when he bends down and gently kisses his lips, “Well, that’s settled then.” He crawls over Harry onto the floor and pads over to his dresser with a bag he grabbed from under his bed.

“Um, S-Sorry?” Harry fumbles, “What? Wait, what’s settled? And where are you going?” Now Harry is sitting up, confused as hell.

“Harold you must keep up,” Louis sighs, “I, am packing an overnight bag. You are lying in bed confused; it’s kind of cute though, and we are taking a cab to your flat because we’re both drunk and you want to wake up with me in the morning as well as your bloody gym bag apparently, so get up and call a cab.”

If this were any normal human being Harry would tell them that this plan makes no fucking sense at all, but what comes out instead is, “Oh. Ok.”

When they’re in the cab Louis curls up into the door with his eyes drifting as they follow the street lamps passing by. Harry plays with his fingers resting in his lap.

“There better be bacon, Styles” he yawns out of nowhere, “or I’m out.” Harry gently squeezes his hand.

Up in Harry’s room Louis sleeps half on top of Harry’s chest breathing in slow and deep. Harry silently wishes he could sleep too, but his mind won’t slow down enough. Harry wraps his arms around him and closes his eyes anyway, just so he can pretend to fall asleep wrapped up in Louis’ arms.

_______

 

There are little crumbs of toast that keep falling back onto Louis’ plate as he talks, but he doesn’t seem to notice. Harry hopes that he doesn’t, because it’s adorable.

“Do you know you toss and turn in bed? Like, all night long?” He looks at Harry expectantly, but Harry really doesn’t have a good excuse.

He lived with Liam a year ago and he would always question Harry about how many hours of sleep he got versus how much time he spent in the water. It’s never been a balanced amount of sleep and exertion, and lately he feels like he barely closes his eyes at night before an alarm is forcing him out of his dreamless sleep.

“Yea, I do know. I’m kind of shit at sleeping. Sorry.”

Louis doesn’t need all the details right now.

“Well at first I thought it was me,” he gives a quick raise of an eyebrow, “thought maybe I didn’t tire you out enough. But then I realized, nope, it’s not me it’s you, because when you did finally sleep you started half talking half grumbling in my ear. It’s definitely you.”

No one has been around to observe Harry’s creepy sleeping habits lately. His friends haven’t stayed with him in what feels like ages, and when he goes to theirs he stays in a guest room or on a hard sofa. Even when he picks up someone at a bar they don’t stay long enough to fall asleep, because Harry makes excuses for them to leave. “Yea, I’ve been told I do that. I’m sorry, did you not sleep very well?”

 Now that he notices, Louis does look a bit tired.

“You made me sleep like shit,” Louis’ expression is somber while he holds the buttering knife to the rest of his toast, “But I caught up on beauty rest when you left to swim, so it evens out.” Now his lips are pulled in a small smile and he continues, “We’re going to have to do something about the you not resting thing. If I’m meant to keep you around, that is.”

“And what if I don’t want to keep you? You can’t even fry bacon, Niall told me so.” The choking sound Louis makes around his tea makes Harry double over in laughter.

Apparently Louis almost caused a flat to go down in flames because he tried to put water in a frying pan full of hot bacon grease. Oddly, Harry wasn’t even surprised when Niall slurred him the tale at the bar.

“Niall Horan is a dirty liar! That was one time, maybe two.”

Harry laughs then slides out of his seat to where Louis is sitting. His kisses him softly, without any real urgency, tasting him and the tea he just swallowed, “Prove it then. In the morning.” Harry suddenly pecks him playfully hard, making Louis’ head jerk back.

 “Wait, as in tomorrow morning??”

“Aren’t you staying?” Harry smirks knowingly at him as he straightens back up.

“I’ll have to think about it,” Louis fails to hide his grin and proudly tilts his chin away from Harry’s gaze, “Well, I guess I could stay. Since you asked so rudely and all.”

Harry kisses him again. “Great.”

*

The next morning Harry finds out that Louis is a fucking liar. He couldn’t fry bacon if his life depended on it. And now Harry needs to buy a new frying pan.

 

Chapter 4

They have a meet in two days so practices have been running a little long, not that Harry minds of course. Everyone on the team is getting swept up in the competitive atmosphere. People other than Harry have been staying later and taking more time than usual to practice their drills. They haven’t been having any team races for the past week or so to try and conserve team energy for the meet, but now they need to decide their order on the roster. Coach pairs up the most compatible team members for time qualifying which means Damien and Christian will be opponents, same as Liam and Michael, Aiden and Jamie, and of fucking course, Harry and Daniel.

Harry adjusts his bottoms and goggles as he takes his position on the platform. Daniel hasn’t even looked at him since practice started, and Harry hides a grin in his fist at the reason why.

For all his size and angry gusto, he thinks Daniel might actually be scared of tiny Louis Tomlinson. It’s comical really because Louis would never hurt anybody, well, maybe just their feelings. He’s so sweet to everyone he meets and he just wants people to feel included all the time.

Louis, with his soft lashes and how he curls up around whomever he’s sitting next to. He’s so fit and Harry loves that he has been lounging around in his flat for days wearing Harry’s clothes because he refuses to get clothes from his own flat. I’m reducing my carbon footprint by conservation and all that, Louis had argued. Harry had kissed him slowly, swiftly removing his favorite shirt and sweats from Louis’ body.

A high pitched whistle pierces the air and Harry is broken out his Louis themed reverie. He shakes himself, hopping up and down to get the blood flowing to the other parts of his body instead of directly between his legs. He leans over into position at the edge of the platform. The second whistle sounds and he’s suddenly in the air then tearing through the water.

He hates that Daniel is beside him. Harry can’t see because he is about two body lengths ahead, but it still makes his blood boil to know that he’s there. Harry focuses on his form and the fact that the water really does remind him of Louis’ eyes in order to block Daniel out.

Harry isn’t too powerful as he cuts through the still water before him, twisting to turn his body around each time he reaches the end of the lane, but he is keeping a steady pace. Harry has been doing this since he was six and if there’s one thing he’s good at, it’s this.  He shouldn’t let it define him as a person, but he does. He doesn’t know who he would be if he weren’t Harry Styles the Swimmer. That’s why he panics when he catches the swing of an arm that does not belong to him in the corner of his eye.

He picks up the pace a bit and powers on a few strokes ahead of Daniel and tries to completely clear his mind of Louis and all other thoughts.

Harry’s been pushing for the last couple of laps, but somehow Daniel is right on him. Harry focuses on making his body one long straight line, a loose spear slicing through the water. Each time he turns to breathe he sees Daniel inching a bit closer to him. He can feel the pressure in the water change when Daniel is nearly right next to him and his heart sinks. What the fuck is this? How the hell is Daniel this close to him and they still have three laps to go.

Harry’s body couldn’t get any more narrow, even if he quit breathing all together and just floated there. He’s taller than Daniel but not by much, so when Harry sees the top of Daniel’s swim cap gliding along in his line of vision he starts powering through the water like a mad man. He will not lose to him.

It’s the last lap and the muscles of his thighs ache. Harry’s shoulders are burning from how fast his strokes are coming now, and he just needs an extra push. He closes his eyes, not wanting to see if Daniel is picking up speed from reserved energy he’s holding back, because Harry is giving his all and he just can’t take it if Daniel beats him.

He finally touches the wall, a wave of water crashing above him, and for the first time in nearly three years, he’s not excited to get out of the water.

He doesn’t know what coach will tell him because that race was fucking close. He might have just lost to the most hated man on the team, and Harry’s hands are shaking.

He looks at Liam on the bleachers and his expression is all wide eyed and worried like Liam’s face is all the time, but this time it makes Harry’s stomach twist. Coach stops writing in his book when he and Daniel step closer to him, and he pockets his two stopwatches.

“That was really really close! ‘Made me work hard just to stop the watches on time’, kind of close!” Harry wants to vomit. Coach is actually excited about this. How the hell can he be excited?

Daniel has this smug expectant look on his waxy features like he’s just waiting to be told that he gets some spectacular prize for finally proving that Harry is talentless. Harry might actually vomit.

 “Alright, we have Daniel at 12.56.42, and we have Harry just a bit ahead with 12.56.37! THAT is what we call a race!” He’s clapping and encouraging the rest of the team to come over and congratulate them on such tight competition, but Harry just wants to throw himself back in the water and maybe not come up for air.

______

Harry can feel each message pop into his phone as it vibrates beneath his pillow. Last he checked, he had two texts from his mom, a call from Nick, four texts from Liam and he literally lost count tallying up Louis’ notifications.

It’s been almost eighteen hours since he got sick in the bathroom of the lockers after everyone cleared out and went home. It’s been nineteen hours since he hurt his pinky finger from slamming his door shut when he got home. It’s been two hours since he got back from his latest swim session, and he’s not sure how long it’s been since he has slept.

Louis was gone when he got home from practice. He texted him that he had a study group for an exam that might run into early morning. Harry insisted that Louis at least go home for more clothes and a decent night of sleep.

Harry has no exams. There is no study group, but Louis didn’t really argue with him.

He got to the pool this morning at four and left around seven, dripping wet and hoping not to run into anybody on the way home. He’s skipping out on Friday classes to basically spend the day in the water, even though coach advises against it. He says it wears the body down trying to squeeze so much training out of so little time, but Harry can’t afford to rest up today. The meet is tomorrow, and just like every other race he’s ever been in, Harry’s name is at the top of the roster, except this time the name directly below his was only five milliseconds from becoming the new number one.

The thought makes Harry’s stomach unsettled like he’s balancing too high above ground. For as long as Harry has known Daniel he’s talked shit about Harry being a cocky and talentless arsehole. He’s been bragging about how he could beat Harry if he really needed to since the day Daniel lost his first race against him. It never really concerned Harry because it was all just bullshit and everyone knew it; It’s a lot different though when Daniel can actually back it up.

His phone vibrates again and he’s half tempted to look, but knows he needs to rest up so he can head back to the pool in a few minutes, plus, he doesn’t really want to talk right now. He closes his eyes and wishes for sleep when his phone suddenly goes off seven times in rapid succession. Curiosity wins and he has to fucking look.

Louis 9:23am: If you’re actually dead can I have your fancy waterproof phone case?

Liam 9:23am: You. Have. To. Answer. Me. Eventually. I’m coming over there! Answer your phone!

Louis 9:23am: Look at me, I’m the Harry Styles, champion swimmer of all time, not answering his messages, being a right twat

Liam 9:24am: I’m calling Nick we’re coming over there

Louis 9:24am: Twat twat twat twat twat twat…

Louis 9:24am: I hope you’re not mad at me or I didn’t overstay my welcome at your flat  =/ sorry

Louis 9:25am: Twat

Harry sighs into his pillow and grins at Louis’ texts. He fucking ignores Liam because they both know he’s not going to just show up at his flat because he nearly lost a race. He does feel bad about not answering Louis for this long though.

I’m not mad at you, please don’t think that. I had kind of a shit practice. You’re still coming to the meet tomorrow, right?? Xx

He replies and tucks his phone back under his pillow, but it vibrates not even a half minute later.

Louis 9:28am: Oh, so you are alive! Sorry practice was bad =/ you could’ve invited me over to make you feel better ;) ;) ;)

Louis 9:29am: Of course, I wouldn’t miss it Xx

Harry replies back to him

I wish I had invited you over, I miss you. My flat feels all empty now =(

Louis 9:31am: Well what are we waiting for? Do I have to do everything?? Invite me over! I can be there and naked in fifteen minutes.

Harry actually turns into his pillow and groans at that. He probably would feel a lot better if Louis came over to cuddle him and handle the situation tightening his pants, but he can’t right now.

Don’t do this to me!! I have to swim in a bit =(((((( that’s not fair.

Louis 9:34am: Fine. Go be a professional athlete then, see if I care =)

Louis 9:34am: I really am sorry about your practice going bad, wish you would smile…

Thx Lou. And I always smile when I talk to you Xx.

*

Turns out ignoring Liam was a poor choice because true to his word, he showed up banging on Harry’s door at half past ten with Nick in tow, obnoxiously slurping on a mocha.

Everything Nick and Liam say makes a lot of sense as to why Harry almost lost, well Liam makes sense, Nick is an idiot.

The moment he heard the maybe you need a new speedo because you’ve been having so much sex that your cock grew theory he put Nick on lunch duty in the kitchen. His talents are better severed there anyway.

Liam suggested that he was probably distracted and panicked a bit toward the end when he could see Daniel catching up to him. This logic actually makes sense.

Harry was thinking about the firm grip he could get on Louis’ bum right around the time the whistle blew…alright, point for Liam. And he did get worried when Daniel started to catch up to him so he dropped form for a few strokes and kind of freaked out…

Maybe it was just a fluke, but it’s still scary to think that maybe it wasn’t.

Harry added that he’d been slacking in the health department with all the pub food and alcohol he’s been drinking lately, then Liam annoyed the shit out of Harry by arguing the point that he basically never sleeps. Even Nick came back to state his opinion on the matter, “You could always go see somebody about not sleeping well. Since regular life, swimming all day, classes, and having wild sex with your new boyfriend every night aren’t doing it for you.”

Harry throws a coach pillow at his head, but Nick could maybe be right. Maybe.

_________

Louis meets him at the entrance to the locker room and Harry is hit with a weird sense of déjà vu. Last time he was in this position it was Louis who needed all the reassurances. This time it’s Harry’s face being cradled by Louis’ gentle fingers as he kisses him slowly, standing half in the room and half in the hall. He has to pull back from Louis’ calming hold when Zayn suddenly pops up in his peripheral vision, scaring the absolute shit out of him.

Zayn laughs at Harry’s short jolt, forcing Louis to turn around and face him.

“Unless you’re swimming in this meet I suggest you get your arse back to your seat, they’re starting soon.”

Louis rolls his eyes at him and kisses Harry again, sweetly, “You’re going to do fine Haz. You will win and then we’ll celebrate, and everything will be good.” He pecks his soft lips once more and walks away with Zayn teasing him, prodding him in the side with his fingers. Harry really wants to believe him.

*

Harry has two races to swim today and he’s not really all that worried. Each time he lines up and dives into the cool pool he feels confidence in his bones and he can feel Louis’ support pouring from him. It’s a bit different than having his sister or mom watch him compete. Having Louis there is a bit more intense and a lot more nerve wracking than he expected. Most of it is probably due to the fact that Louis had his tongue down is throat not even half an hour ago.

He wins his first race by half a minute and walks over to the bleachers with the rest of his team until his second race.

Louis’ eyes follow each step he takes towards his seat, and his face heats up a bit knowing that everyone can see him getting flustered, despite the cool water he just got out of.

He sits on the bottom bench and Louis is smirking four benches above him. He sees him turn and whisper to Zayn for a few seconds and then dig around in Zayn’s jacket pocket. Odd, Harry thinks, and turns around to watch Liam’s race.

A minute later he hears muffled laughter from above him and turns to see Zayn coughing and clearing his throat into his sleeve. Louis’ mischievous eyes find Harry and he throws something small at him, which lands near his feet. Louis gestures for Harry to pick it up and then innocently looks back at the race.

Really fucking odd, Harry thinks.

He bends down and grabs a piece of folded ripped paper. He unfolds it, wiping it smooth and a bark of laughter escapes him.

Cold water is no match for your mighty cock! It just winked at me I swear. -Louis

He coughs to draw the attention away from his pink face and the crowd slowly turns their attention back to the water. He looks up at Louis who is failing to stop his smile.

Louis mouths ‘huge, I swear’ at him, gesturing with his arms spread out on either side of him. Harry mouths back ‘Oh my god you’re crazy’. He really likes Louis a lot.

His attention is stolen when a wet Liam plops down beside him. He turns to wave at Louis and Zayn. Harry catches Zayn mouthing something that looks like ‘congratulations’, but Harry could be wrong.

*

The team goes out to celebrate their wins later that night and even Daniel is in high spirits. He avoids Louis and Harry like the plague to chat with Damien and Jamie. Good.

Harry and Louis are snuggled in a booth by themselves when Aiden comes by to congratulate Harry again. Aiden lost one of his two races, but he doesn’t seem too upset about it.

“You were amazing Harry, really! It was like practice never even happened and Daniel didn’t exist.”

Harry gives a tense smile, “Yea I tried not to think about it.” He would like to not think about now too.

“Well, congratulations again, and it’s nice to see your boyfriend supporting you in the stands,” he lightly squeezes Louis’ arm and smiles, “you should come to our other meets too, Louis.”

Louis doesn’t look panicked. It doesn’t feel like the world is dropping out of orbit and Harry’s heart isn’t rabbiting out of his chest. Maybe it’s not that big of a deal. People can make mistakes, and Harry could see why Aiden would think he and Louis were together like that.

“Yea sure I will, thanks! That is if he keeps inviting me.” Louis beams at Aiden. 

Aiden walks over to Damien and Jamie.

Harry keeps glancing at Louis nervously. He goes to remove his arm from around Louis’ shoulders, but Louis promptly grabs his hand and pulls it back down around him, “So,” Louis begins, “Harry Styles, part-time mermaid, swimming extraordinaire, and now my boyfriend,” He leans up and kisses at Harry’s jaw, “I quite like it.”

“Really?” Harry says surprised. “You’re not like… weirded out?” Harry looks apprehensively at him.

Louis grabs Harry’s other hand, disentangling it from his beer, kissing between Harry’s knuckles as he talks, “Mmmmm, most people probably are weirded out by dating a half-dolphin half-man,” Harry laughs and yanks his hand from Louis’ mouth, “but I’m not.” Harry links their hands back together.

This night is spectacular Harry thinks. He just won his two races, he doesn’t have Daniel breathing down his back for once, he feels really buzzed from all the alcohol, and he’s holding one of the strangest most beautiful boys he’s ever met, whom he now gets to call his boyfriend thanks to his wonderfully oblivious teammate.

He kisses Louis and licks into his mouth making him yelp and pull away, “I am definitely not a half-dolphin,” he kisses Louis gently this time, “although, I wouldn’t mind being your boyfriend.”

Louis rests his head on Harry’s shoulder. Harry feels so calm he thinks he could almost fall asleep when Louis jostles him and points excitedly at the booth across from them at the opposite end of the pub.

“Do you see what I see? Do you?!”

Harry looks and sure enough he sees Aiden, Damien, and Christian sitting with Liam and Zayn smushed together at the end of the booth. It’s such a hesitant interaction, but Harry can see Liam swirling his index finger in small patterns against the inside of Zayn’s palm beneath the table, out of view from everyone around them.

Louis is hopping excitedly in his seat, “HARRY! That’s your best friend and my best friend and they’re-…”

Harry interrupts his fun before he has planned their wedding tuxedos, “Let’s not say anything or get too excited just yet. Let’s just, uh, let them be for now.”

Louis huffs but complies, tucking himself back into Harry’s side, “Fine I’ll calm down, but I don’t know how long I can hold out.”

______

“So what’s up with you and tiny lover boy? Liam says you’re being awfully cryptic and odd about it. Smells fishy to me. In fact, it looks like that’s who you’re texting right now… since you haven’t so much as looked at us for ten minutes.” Nick is sipping his redbull and vodka and eyeing Harry from across the table.

Harry slowly looks up from his phone, “W-What?” Liam and Nick are staring at him now.

“Mmmhmm,” Nick sighs, “Liam, it’s worse than I thought.”

Harry shakes his head, “What are you on about right now?? Louis? What did Liam say?”

Nick laughs at him and Harry feels his face heating up. He should’ve paid more attention to what Nick was saying and now he will never let him hear the end of it. And why was Liam telling Nick anything anyway? Gossips, the both of them.

“You’re killing us with the dopey smile you get when texting him. Harold, honestly your boyfriend can’t be that good in bed! I’ve seen him around before, he’s a tiny little thing.” Nick curls his fingers to almost touch as if Louis’ whole body could fit there.

Harry grins at him thoughtfully and thinks why the hell not.

“He is you know.”

“He’s what? Good in bed? Hmmph.”

Harry’s face drops and Nick nearly chokes on his drink, Liam patting his back furiously, then he gasps, “He actually has a tiny dick, then? Did I guess right?!”

 Ok that’s enough out of Nick.

“NO! Nick, he’s my boyfriend! Jesus!” Harry sets his phone down, “Who the hell jumps to those conclusions first? Mental people that’s who! And it’s two o’clock in the afternoon why are you even drinking?!”

“Oh.” Nick shrugs  clearing his throat then goes back to his glass.

“Oh? That’s all you have to say? I’ve been single almost two years and you say oh.” Harry stares at him but Nick shrugs again.

“Yea, congratulations I reckon.”

Liam is laughing to himself when Harry rounds on him. “And why are you laughing exactly? Lou and I saw you two last night.”

“Oh, so it’s Lou now?” Nick teases, “Sexy.” Harry tells him to shut up with a kick under the table.

Liam looks down into his lap, “I- I don’t know what you’re talking about.” He mumbles softly.

Now Nick is interested, leaning in nearly touching Liam’s face, “What’s he mean? What do you mean, Harry? What am I missing here!?” Nick puts his drink down.

“I mean,” Harry begins and Liam looks desperate to get out but hey, eye for an eye, “Lou and I saw Liam and Zayn cuddled up holding hands when they thought no one was looking at the pub last night.”

Nick makes a squealing sound at the back of his throat, “This is why I love taking late lunch with the two of you, so much storyline! So much drama!” he picks up his drink, “Do tell more, Harold.”

“There’s nothing to tell…” he looks at Liam flushed red up to his ears, “Except they looked really cute together.”

Liam smiles at him now, and Harry has never seen him look so grateful.

________

He can see Louis off to the side, lounging across the bleachers on his stomach, nose buried in his books, legs kicking back and forth through the air as he hums along to the music from his phone. Harry stops swimming for a moment, and Louis doesn’t notice when Harry dips under the two lane dividers to get closer to his side of the pool where it’s more shallow.

Louis looks so good in the semi darkness, moon half illuminating his fringe and his features from the tall windows that hang overhead. He’s wearing Harry’s gray sweats again, and a maroon shirt that sits high in the dip of his back exposing a wedge of skin. Harry suddenly wants nothing to do with training and everything to do with the boy lying before him.

He dips down to fill his mouth with water and comes back up to angle himself towards Louis. He squirts it out between his lips, hitting Louis square in the face. Louis splutters and wipes at his eyes, but when he looks toward the source, all he can see is calm water slowly rippling in the pale light.

Harry can hold his breath for quite a long time, but Louis is taking forever to come retaliate. After a few seconds Harry gives up and bobs back to the surface. There is just one problem; there’s no Louis.

His books are still scattered around the bench, but the soft music has stopped completely, and he’s no longer there.

He turns to find Louis on the adjacent side on the pool, smiling, letting one hand lazily swirl the water as he lounges across the edge of the pool. He flicks some drops into Harry’s face with his index finger when he comes closer.

“Now, I let you study while you watched at football practice,” he takes Harry’s goggles and swim cap off letting them fall into the water, “something tells me you don’t want to return the favor.” Harry follows the trail of Louis’ tongue as he licks his lips, and he gets temporarily distracted. He’s in very little clothing right now, a speedo to be exact, and watching Louis drape himself in front of Harry is doing nothing to help his position.

“I got bored,” Harry touches Louis’ arm and trails his fingers after the droplets that race down his skin back into the pool, “You weren’t talking to me.” Harry sticks out his bottom lip.

“Harold,” he smiles at him, “how can I talk to you when I’m supposed to be reading about calming chords and melodies and you are underwater?” He reaches out and traces Harry’s collar bone, running his fingers down to Harry’s chest  and torso beneath the water.

It’s true. That’s the agreement they have on most days. Harry studies during Louis’ practice if he doesn’t have practice himself that is, and Louis studies while Harry trains in the empty facility, even though that almost always ends in both of them sweaty and panting since no one is around to bother them.

“Well come talk to me now.” Harry grins cheekily and tugs at Louis’ hand a bit.

Louis puts up a small fight, claiming he has one chapter to finish before he’s stripping down and sitting on the edge, legs dangling in the water.

Harry swims up closer gripping the side of pool and pushes himself up to kiss Louis quickly before his arms give out and he falls right back in. He grips Louis’ calves and guides him down into the coolness with him. Louis’ breath catches at the temperature change, so Harry smooths the cool liquid over his shoulders and chest to help him adjust, kissing him lightly. Louis cranes his neck when he feels warmer for Harry to nip lightly at the golden skin.

“I love studying here with you, even if I never actually learn anything.” Louis laughs lowly to himself, “I sure hope you get tons of sponsors when you’re a professional to help support me when I fail out of uni and stop playing footie.”

Harry grins into the skin at Louis’ shoulder and lets one of his hands smooth down over the indents of Louis’ stomach. “Whatever. You read those same chapters two nights ago, I saw you. So stop complaining and kiss me.”

Louis wraps a hand around the back of Harry’s neck to anchor himself and lets the other hand trail across the elastic of Harry’s bottoms. Their kisses quickly turn more heated when Louis dips his fingers under the rubbery fabric and strokes down the length of him, making Harry exhale into Louis’ mouth.

Harry walks them to the wall of the pool, and steadies them with Louis’ back flat against it. Louis wraps his strong legs around Harry’s waist feeling almost weightless in the water.

Harry bites down into Louis lip when he kisses him roughly, dragging out a little moan. Harry can feel Louis’ hard cock prodding him in his stomach, so he grips it and swipes across the tip with his thumb. Louis’ mouth falls open and he leans his head back against the side of the pool exposing a long trail of golden skin that Harry licks. He feels Louis’ adam’s apple bob beneath his tongue each time he takes a sharp breath.

Harry’s fingers keeps teasing him up and down his length until Louis is shifting around his waist, trying to find friction in the smoothness of the water, impatient sounds falling from his lips. Harry smiles at the groans torn between torture and pleasure as he thumbs over Louis’ head and then removes his hand again. Louis frowns and puts up with that for about thirty seconds, then he’s shoving his whole hand in Harry’s speedo, taking his dick out and pumping him hard, making Harry grip hard at Louis’ waist.

“It’s not nice- to tease people, it makes them- oh god -impatient,” Louis is talking right into Harry’s ear but it’s broken and winded. Harry isn’t teasing him anymore; he’s slid his bottoms off, which are now laying somewhere at the bottom of the pool.

He’s stroking Louis in earnest with Louis matching his pace, the water thrashing around their movements, splashing out between their chests. Harry leans his head into the nook of Louis’ neck and shoulder, breathing hard, feeling the hotness gather at the bottom of his stomach. He can feel Louis thrusting up into his hand now, his body weightless and easily slipping against him. He bites down into the soft flesh whispering come on over and over into his skin, moving his hand as quickly as possible.

Louis bucks his hips once more and Harry watches his features squeeze together before they soften out again, leaving Louis breathless. He’s calm for a few seconds, but keeps his hand moving on Harry’s cock. He starts to pump it again, quickly, nipping at Harry’s jaw hanging slack as he breathes. He’s so close that he comes within seconds.

Harry sits his forehead in the crook of Louis’ neck while he comes down, Louis pulling lightly at ends of Harry’s hair, making him practically purr against him.

Louis catches his lips and they kiss lazily with Louis still wrapped around his waist.

“You can study now… if you want.” Harry smirks and nips at Louis’ earlobe.

“Yea, like I can concentrate now I know you’re actually naked in the water.” That probably is distracting Harry thinks. He’d be distracted if Louis was running around the football pitch naked, so he can empathize.

He runs a thumb across Louis’ lips and hoists him back to the edge of the pool. Louis’ eyes are sunlit water as he grins at Harry and turns to grab Harry’s towel.

He still can’t get over the blue of Louis’ eyes and he’s been staring at them for nearly two months now.

“I love your eyes, you know.” Harry runs his hands up Louis’ thighs, looking right into the blue.

Louis giggles, “Thanks, but you still have to support me when I fail at football and school.” Harry flicks water on Louis’ freshly dried chest.

 

Harry watches Louis sleep on his side of Harry’s bed. He looks completely gone from the conscious world, he’s probably dreaming right now, of what, Harry can only guess. Harry doesn’t dream much, but he imagines Louis’ dreams are filled with happy music and happy people smiling at him, people just handing him all the drinks and sweets that he asks for, wiggle his hips to every song that he hears. He huffs out a small laugh to himself thinking about it.

“You’re still awake?” Louis mumbles into the pillow.

“Sorry,” be bends down to press a kiss to Louis’ temple, “I’ll go in the living room for a bit.”

Louis grabs at his arms, eyes still closed, a slight frown on his face, “No, I want you here, you need to sleep too, Haz. You got like two hours last night, you need to rest.”

He curls in next to Harry’s side and waits for Harry to shift comfortably down into mattress. They don’t usually sleep like this; cuddling into each other. It doesn’t really work well when one of them is usually always awake or tossing and turning.

“Ok, let’s get some sleep, then. Goodnight.” Harry kisses his forehead and closes his eyes in case Louis decides to check on him. He matches Louis breathing and tries not to squirm around. It’s only a little past three-thirty am, and who knows, Harry faking sleep might lead to actual unconsciousness. 

_________

Louis’ game starts in twenty minutes and Harry has been arguing with himself about going for the last hour. He needs to get to the pool, sooner rather than later, and he would make up the excuse that he has practice with the team, but of course, Liam is attending the game to see Zayn. He could just tell Louis that he needs to train a bit, but Louis knows he trained less than six hours ago.

He thought about telling a completely different lie, but lying to him feels wrong. Especially lying about something dumb like this.

His phone vibrates in his pocket and Liam texts him I’m at the gate where are you?

He sighs running a hand down his face. This is ridiculous. He can’t just lie to people because he has a meet coming up that might change his life. He could, but he won’t lie to Louis.

 

Louis looks good running up and down the green pitch. He’s fast, his muscular legs carrying him gracefully around the other players he’s trying to avoid. He looks determined, but he also looks happy, and that’s what Harry thinks is important.

Louis didn’t need any reassurance this time about his ankle. It’s all healed up and he feels great, looks even better. They’re in the second half and Manchester is losing. Liam looks like he might jump right out of his skin each time it looks like Zayn is going for the net.

He hasn’t really hung out with Liam in a few days, but the purple mark on the underside of his jaw tells Harry why that is. Good for Liam.

Harry checks his phone, silently stressing over the time and how much he needs to be in the water. Suddenly there’s a fuss down on the pitch while Harry wasn’t paying attention. Liam grips Harry’s thigh hard, making Harry slap his hand away, “What the hell Liam that actually hurt!”

“Sorry,” he doesn’t looks sorry, he looks worried, “but look.” He points down and Harry sees people gathered around a player on the ground. He scans the players twice and when he realizes who is missing his blood runs cold. He’s on his feet to get a better look but a player, Niall, is blocking his view.

Seconds pass and the crowd starts cheering when Louis stands back up, waving and smiling. He’s not limping or anything and he looks ok, but Harry thinks he catches him wince when he starts back down the pitch.

They lose 2-1.

*

Louis’ team goes out for drinks even though they didn’t win. Harry takes one look at Liam and Zayn talking close and holding hands to know that he should be going out to support Louis, but he can’t tonight.

He watches Louis walk out of the locker room, stepping on his left foot gingerly. He smiles as soon as he sees Harry and kisses him lightly with a sigh. “Sorry you had to sit through that.” Louis murmurs into his neck when he hugs him.

Harry shakes his head, “No I wanted to come, whether you win or lose. How’s your ankle?” He whispers that last part because Louis hasn’t said anything about it hurting him, but he’s stepping on it like it’s painful.

“It’s just sore right now, I’ll be fine in a couple of days,” he swipes his thumb over Harry’s cheekbone, “Half the team is already there so we should get going soo---”

Harry stops Louis as he’s turning away, “I can’t go tonight. I need to go train, I’m sorry,” Harry avoids Louis’ gaze, choosing to look at the floor instead, “I’ll come next time.”

Louis nods slowly, “Yea, no it’s fine. It’s fine, I just thought you already went to the pool today…” He drops Harry’s hand, “Oh well, I guess I’ll see you later then?” Louis gives him a tight line as a smile and walks down the corridor towards Zayn and Liam.

Harry should follow him. He should go kiss him, tell him he’s being an idiot, and tell him of course he’ll go sit and drink with his team, but he doesn’t. Louis looked a bit hurt that Harry would send him on his own after he’s just lost a game and was almost injured, but Harry has scouts coming to see him in a week and he just can’t risk it.

He waits till the three of them are out the door and probably long gone before he heads out of the building towards his car. He cranks it and drives straight to the facility, trying to block Louis from his mind.

______

He sends Liam his obligatory at the pool don’t panic till after two hours text to Liam and walks out to the water. It’s past eleven, so Liam is probably asleep anyway.

This is Harry’s third session today, not to mention the four he did yesterday, and now he’s starting to feel it in the muscles of his back and shoulders. He rolls his shoulders a few times and cracks his neck to the side to relive the tension there, but still feels so tired. One more day of training like this he tells himself, adjusting his goggles on his face.

He hasn’t spoken to Louis in about three days, because he keeps ignoring all of Louis’ calls and texts. He thinks about the last text Louis sent him, ‘I’m still coming to your meet even if you won’t answer me. Maybe we can talk then.’

Harry feels like a complete arsehole. He wants to text him back, but Louis is a distraction and he’s always on Harry about how much he sleeps versus how much he swims, which sounds a lot like Liam and why Harry moved out to his own flat.

People just don’t understand the way he likes to train himself and they’re always trying to help him. Harry doesn’t need anyone’s help to win.

He dives in feeling like shit but pushes on. His body hurts, but drills are more important and plus, he’ll have one more day like today and then a whole day of rest before his meet, maybe he’ll call Louis then.

He finishes about an hour and a half later and pushes himself out of the water. He feels kind of light headed as he walks to the locker room, so he has a seat until it passes.

He texts Liam that he’s alive and not at the bottom of the pool, while he dries himself off and gets dressed. He leans his head onto the locker and takes a few deep breaths. One more day like today, he thinks, then, I’ll be ready.

*

The next day Harry walks through the doors of the facility at quarter past five in the morning. He ate breakfast about an hour ago, so he can’t figure out why he still feels light headed. He took some pain killers for his muscles and tried to rest for a few hours, but he didn’t sleep much. He slept just a few minutes at a time, so he got up and decided to start swimming early.

He doesn’t send Liam a text because Liam as well as the rest of the team will be here for practice in about an hour. He slips his swim cap on and walks out of the locker room.

He gets about four laps in when he suddenly feels weak.

He stops dead in the middle of the pool, treading water, trying to catch his breath. He doesn’t feel right, and now that he’s straight up he notices his head feels lighter than before. He swims over to the edge and pushes himself out of the pool. He takes his goggles and cap off, hoping to help his head feel better.

Lying there on his side, his stomach feels uneasy, but he rolls onto his hands and knees trying push himself to his feet.

He takes a few steps towards the locker room when his vision starts to tilt vertically. He’s dizzy, but he thinks he sees someone opening the doors ahead of him. He hits the ground before he can be sure.

_______

When Harry opens his eyes he immediately shuts them again. No.

Surely he is not in a hospital right now. That doesn’t make any sense. The last thing he remembers is getting out of the pool about to go home. He wasn’t feeling well but, Jesus, that’s not reason enough to be in the fucking hospital. He opens his eyes again and he’s panicking. What the fuck.

He isn’t hooked up to anything except an IV, why he would need fluids he has no idea, but that doesn’t stop him from taking the needle out of his arm and standing straight up. He’s dizzy at first but it passes when he gets to the door. He’s about to open it to find out what the hell is going on when it swings open and Louis steps inside. He looks tired holding a cup of tea and his phone, but he really looks more shocked to see Harry up.

“Harry why are you out of bed? And-And why did you rip out your IV? What the hell?” He reaches out to take Harry’s arm but Harry instantly snatches it away.

“Why the hell am I in here?” he demands, “There’s nothing wrong with me, why am I here? And how long have I been here? I have a meet in two days I don’t have time for this.” Harry is breathing hard and he looks like he might lose it at any second.

Louis softens his tone. He can’t calm Harry down if he’s yelling at him to get back to bed.

“Harry, please sit down I’ll tell you everything, but please, just get back to bed. I’ll get your mum in a minute, just please sit down.” Louis’ eyes are pleading him and Harry still doesn’t understand, but he listens.

Apparently he lost consciousness at the facility. He had just gotten out of the pool when a custodian came in and saw him hit the ground. The rest of the team were there by the time the ambulance came and Liam rode with him. Liam called his mum and Louis to the hospital before he even knew what was wrong.

“So… why am I here then? Why did I faint like that?” Harry is kind of scared to know the answer.

“The doctor says you’re dehydrated, but that you’re also experiencing fatigue and exhaustion. It’s mostly from how hard you push yourself training… and a lot because you hardly ever sleep.” He says the last part softly; he knows it’s a touchy subject with him.

“How long have I been here?”  He ignores him because they are not getting into his sleeping issues right now.

Louis sighs, “Don’t freak out on me, ok?” Harry nods slowly not really wanting to hear, “You’ve been here asleep for about sixteen hours.”

Harry isn’t breathing correctly. Sixteen hours. Sixteen hours.

He stands up, dizzy, and Louis buries his face in his hands, “Harry,” the sound is muffled but Harry stops moving to look at him, “You can’t leave. You hit your head when you fell so the doctor wants to keep an eye on you for a bit to make sure you don’t have a concussion…and you promised me you wouldn’t freak out.”

Harry swipes a hand over his head and his fingers brush some gauze taped to his left temple. What the fuck.

“Of course I’m freaking out, Louis! I apparently fainted like a girl, I have a head wound, I’ve been asleep for nearly a whole day, and scouts are coming to see me tomorrow! How do you expect me to react?”

Louis grabs his hand and forcefully pulls him back down to the bed.

“Stop doing that! You’re not supposed be all worked up right now, you’re supposed to be resting!”

He’s yelling at Harry again so he takes a deep breath, “And your coach already called and told them you won’t be there, they’re going to come see you another time when you’re better.”

This cannot be happening. He has worked for two years to make it this far and now what? He gets to lie in bed for two days and miss his opportunity.

Louis leans in and hugs him when he sees Harry start to tear up, but he won’t let the tears fall. He won’t cry over this because it’s ridiculous. He’s getting the fuck out of here before tomorrow, he’s fine.

Louis leaves him after a few minutes to let the nurses and Anne know that he’s awake. Anne comes in a few minutes later to fuss over him asking why he didn’t tell anyone he wasn’t sleeping, why he hasn’t called in days, and why she’s never met Louis till now. He tries to be patient with her, but all he really wants is to leave.

The doctor comes in an hour later when Liam, Zayn, Louis, and his mom are piled in his room watching tv. The nurse put his IV back in so Harry is sitting still in his bed, holding Anne’s hand.

“We need to go over some things so I need to speak with Harry.” The doctor looks kind, in his mid-forties. He looks around at everyone and they start shuffling to leave the room.

“Um, can my mum and boyfriend stay?” he asks softly. Anne looks hopefully at the doctor, Louis looks a bit frozen.

Louis starts shaking his head, “No Haz, I’ll go with the others-”

The doctor interrupts him, “No, no, you can stay if you want, have a seat.” The doctor smiles at the three of them.

Louis smiles unsure and sits back down. Anne rejoins her hand with Harry’s.

The doctor asks Harry about his sleeping patterns first. Apparently Liam had to go blabbing about how he hardly sleeps at night. It’s kind of crazy to say out loud that for the past few years he sleeps two to three hours each night, if that, and that he hardly ever feels rested.

Louis and Anne contribute to his sleeping history as well. Anne telling the doctor that Harry never slept well as a child, apparently he used to sleep walk, and Louis, with a bright red face tells how even when Harry is asleep he never actually rests, often talking and mumbling into his pillow. Great, Harry thinks, just tell the doctor all of his creepy sleeping behaviors.

Their conversation lasts about thirty minutes ending with Harry trying to get into a good sleeping routine and writing down his progress in a sleep journal. A fucking sleep journal. Harry is on strict rest orders for the next five days, ordered to drink lots of fluids, and he can’t leave yet due to his head, but the doctor says he can leave first thing in the morning. Great.

*

Anne signs him out of the hospital the next morning at eight and he’s so glad to be getting out of there. He put up such a fuss when they told him he was going to Cheshire for his five days of rest, that he’s now going to be looked after by Louis. It’s stupid to go to Cheshire anyway, it’s not like Harry is actually sick.

He’s in a bad mood when he gets to his flat, Louis right on his heels. He has a race today, and he isn’t even allowed to go watch his teammates because it would be ‘too much excitement’. Ridiculous. If only Daniel could see him now, he thinks.

Louis ‘cooks’ a box of macaroni and cheese and lets Harry pretty much stay to himself all day. It’s not till nighttime that Louis comes into the living room with a folder and a notebook, interrupting Harry from his pessimistic thoughts.

“I know you don’t want to, but we have to talk about a sleep schedule.” Louis looks as though he’s walking on eggshells when he sits beside Harry on the sofa.

“You’re right. I don’t want to, so we’re not going to.”

“Harry, you have to. How else are you going to be able to rest at night?” Louis looks upset but Harry doesn’t care. This isn’t about Louis.

“I’m fine Louis, I wish everyone would stop worrying so much, I just overdid it with the swimming! Everyone acts like I need an intervention for drugs or something, I am fine!”

The sound of Louis slamming the notebook and folder down on the table startles Harry. Louis looks absolutely furious but his eyes are wet like he’s about to cry.

“You have no idea how worried we all were about you. You haven’t even thought about how it must have felt to get the call that you had to be picked up by an ambulance at the pool, which wasn’t even open at the time. You were there alone and we thought you had drowned or something!”

Louis is shaking and the tears are now falling, “We were all scared that something happened to you and now you’re pissed off at the world because you missed your meet today. Well, sorry but I can’t fix that for you! I love you so much… that’s why I want to help you do this. I want to help you be healthier but I can’t do that if you’re going to act like this!”

His voice loses authority as he finishes, but Harry is still a bit shocked at the outburst. Louis wipes at his eyes and avoids Harry gaze. He’s calming down again, and Harry wants to at least reach out and touch him, ground him back to earth.

He’s not sure what exactly to say, but apologizing seems like the way to go.

“I’m sorry Lou, you’re right, I-I didn’t think about it like that and I’m sorry.”

Louis still looks locked away beneath his hurt.

“We can talk about a sleeping schedule, here please,” he hands the folder to him, “We can do it now.”

Louis wipes his eyes one last time then curls his arms around Harry. He buries his face into Harry’s neck breathing in his scent.

“I’m sorry I yelled at you.” He sniffs a bit then pulls back uncertain, “Can I- can I kiss you? I mean I know you hadn’t talked to me for days and all but…”

Harry kind of hates himself right now. Louis isn’t even sure if Harry wants him to kiss him or not because he ignored him for days on end. He really fucked this up.

“I’m sorry for that too, ok? I was stressed and I didn’t handle it right. I won’t do that again.”

Louis nods his understanding and Harry whispers, “I always want you to kiss me.”

*

It’s eleven o’clock when Louis announces that Harry should start his new routine. First is fixing his bed so that when he finally gets in it, he won’t have to arrange anything, he can just get in and rest.

When his bed and room are tidy, he goes to take a shower using lavender soap. Apparently it’s calming.

He begs Louis to come shower with him, but he won’t chance getting Harry all riled up before he tries to sleep.

After his shower he rubs himself down in lavender lotion with melatonin. Again, it’s supposed to be calming. Louis fixes him a cup of tea and brings it to him on the couch. Harry sips slowly, hair still wet, skin feeling warm and smooth from the lotion.

“You smell like a flower shop,” Louis laughs, curling into his side, “Usually you smell like cinnamon like your other soap, and you almost always smell like chlorine... I like it.”

Harry rolls his eyes at him, “I guess you would like it now that I don’t smell of chlorine.”

Louis scrunches his face, “No, I mean I like the cinnamon and chlorine, it’s very you, but I like the lavender too. It’s nice.”

Harry kisses him slowly. He bites Louis’ lip trying to make it heated, but Louis pulls away, “You can’t do that right before bed, Haz. You won’t be calm and then you won’t sleep.”  Louis pushes his fringe back from his forehead.

“I think I’d be pretty calm afterwards.” Harry smirks and kisses him again.

He licks into Louis’ mouth and he moans down Harry’s throat.

He pulls away reluctantly with his eyes still closed, “Harry we’re not doing this tonight. It’s the first night of your routine, you need to concentrate.”

“Fine, but I don’t think I can concentrate on sleeping when you won’t even look at me because you want to rip off my clothes.”

Louis’ face glows red, “Shut up and finish your tea” he says, eyes still shut.

 

He’s finally in his room at eleven- forty five and he does actually feel tired. Louis changes into sweats and pulls Harry down into the sheets with him. He curls in on his side of the bed and Harry finds a comfortable position on his side.

They’re quiet for a whole hour, both of them hoping Harry will fall asleep, but he doesn’t. He feels like he could sleep though, if his brain would just cooperate. He needs a distraction.

He slides over towards Louis and curls up under his chin, “Will you play with my hair or rub my back, or something?”

Louis smiles into his curls, “Sure, love.”

He stretches one arm to the side to twirl his fingers in Harry’s hair, then wraps his other arm around Harry’s curved body to rub circles into his back. It feels amazing, and Harry is so calm he thinks he could be practically dead. He keeps his eyes closed and hopes for sleep.

______

He wakes up around five o’clock. Louis is still asleep like the rest of the world, so he slips out of his hold, tiptoeing to the bathroom.

He feels alright. He’s not sure when he finally fell asleep but he obviously did at some point. That’s good, he supposes.

He steps into his room unsure of what to do now that he’s up. The rest of team will be at practice by seven, so usually he would eat and head over to the pool, but he’s not allowed to swim for the next few days.

Grabbing Louis’ phone and earphones he sneaks out to his living room and stretches out on the sofa. He goes through Louis’ playlists. There are lots of randomly named ones like major chord songs, diminished minor seven choruses, and mellow melodies. Louis is studying music therapy in psychology, so it makes sense to have such weird names for his playlists. He picks one titled with just a smiley face. It looks promising.

He settles into his couch and listens for a few minutes. It’s pretty chill music for what Louis usually listens to, but he likes it. He listens to a few songs by The Fray and John Mayer. He actually knows a few of them. Later, a song by Amos Lee comes on that he knows, so he hums along quietly to Skipping Stone.

Louis finds him asleep two hours later. The music has long stopped by now and Harry feels pretty good. Louis kisses his slack lips, “How’d you sleep?”

Harry stretches popping the tension along his spine, “Alright, I guess. Don’t we have to like, write it down in the journal?” Louis grabs it from the table and a pen.

“Ok so you got in bed around twelve, you finally fell asleep, thank goodness, around two -thirty. What time did you wake up?” Harry watches as Louis fills in the slots on the paper.

“Around five I think…then I came in here and I fell asleep for I guess about an hour and half, I’m not really sure.”

Louis raises his eyebrows, “Well, that’s good! So, you slept almost four or five hours, you did mumble a bit, but you hardly moved all night,” he’s beaming at Harry, “That’s some progress, right?”

Louis looks so excited about the prospect of Harry sleeping better and he kind of wants him to always smile that big. Harry kisses him, “Yea, it is.”

 

Later while Harry is cooking omelets in a large pot, Louis sits in the middle of his kitchen floor. He’s making Harry sleep playlists and explaining why each song is calming, rather it be the tempo, lyrics, or tone. Harry doesn’t understand half of it, but he likes to hear Louis talk.

“Hey, why do you have an entire playlist of Eminem?” He really wants to know. He saw the playlist last night when he was scrolling titled Eminem with a mad frowny face beside it.

“He’s my celebrity crush.”

Harry turns his head to laugh away from the food, “Lou. He is not.”

Louis smiles into the screen of his phone, “Nah, he’s not. It’s Daniel Craig.” Harry runs his fingers under the tap and flicks water at Louis on the floor.

“Well I guess we won’t be watching any James Bond films together, then.” He peeks at Louis over his shoulder smirking.

Louis gets up and wraps his arms around Harry’s naked waist, nuzzling his cheek into his back, “I had a project on patients who have anger issues, so I chose Eminem. And you’re cute when you’re all jealous of a man who’s twice your age.” He kisses Harry’s skin at the dip of his spine.

“Ha. Ha. I am not jealous. And wait, you chose Eminem for angry people to calm down? Isn’t he well, violent and the opposite of calm?”

“See that’s what everyone initially thinks,” he begins, “His music’s loud and the beat and tempo are usually really intense, not to mention his lyrics and imagery and how violent they seem at first. But if you listen to a whole song or album, you see that he’s usually mad about his life or his family and the fact that he can’t control everything around him or change the past. In the beginning he’s swearing and livid and you can almost hear the anger in his voice, but as it plays to the end it’s not that intense anymore. It feels really resolved like he’s saying ‘yea I was mad and upset about this situation but now that I’ve said what’s bothering me, it’s done’. It’s like he’s worked through all of his anger in less than five minutes in a studio. I would love to help somebody do that, to help someone get control like that.”

Harry has never in his whole life heard someone talk that way about anything school related. He places the omelets on two plates and turns around in Louis’ arms, “I hope you got high marks on that project because it sounds fucking genius.” Harry gently tugs on his lips until Louis is making surprised sounds into his mouth.

“I like that you love what you study, and I love that you’re good at it. You’re good at so many things.”

Louis looks a little dazed, “I can’t cook and I can’t fry bacon. Definite flaws in character.”

“I can cook for the both of us, and my kitchen ware will stay intact.” Harry kisses his forehead.

 

Chapter 5

Night two goes about the same as the night before. He makes sure his room is tidy so he can just slide into bed. When he gets in the shower this time Louis agrees to go with him. It took a whole day of roughly kissing Louis and letting his fingers slowly drift to sensitive places on Louis’ body to get him past being responsible and just saying fuck it.

Louis is on his knees in front of him and Harry is pretty sure he couldn’t feel any better. Louis’ mouth is amazing, actually, Louis is pretty fucking amazing.  He keeps his hands in Louis’ hair just caressing the wet strands as Louis sucks him down. With each moan that falls out of Harry’s mouth, Louis responds by taking him deeper, moaning around his mouthful. He feels like the pit of his stomach is on fire and it’s too much for Harry. He spills down Louis’ throat with Louis still sucking until Harry is completely soft.

Louis stands and kisses him under the spray, all mouth and tongue, and Harry can feel the slickness of himself in Louis’ mouth. He goes to return the favor but Louis stops him, says Harry can get him back later. Instead he lathers up Harry’s body in the lavender soap under the warmth of the shower head. Harry feels like he’s floating.

Harry doesn’t bother with trying to keep his distance from Louis in the bed tonight. He waits for Louis to get comfortable then slides into his arms so he can play with his hair and rub his back. He’s asleep in an hour.

He wakes up around four, but he doesn’t want to get up and leave the cocoon of warmth that Louis supplies. He reaches over and grabs Louis’ phone off the charger. He puts in the earphones and lets his new playlist titled Rock-a-bye-Percy lull him back to sleep.

 

Louis has class the next morning and practice after that, so Nick stops by during his late lunch. He strolls right into the flat, and Harry hardly looks away from his books as Nick fixes himself a drink in the kitchen, complaining that Harry is out of the good vodka, eating Harry’s Nutella straight out of the jar.

Nick sits across from him in the armchair spooning Nutella and sipping his drink, “I’m glad you’re alright, I would have come to see you in the hospital, but Liam said you were fine and just exhausted. Really posh and celebrity-like diagnosis if you ask me. I believe Lindsay Lohan once went to rehab for exhaustion. Small world really.

“Hello Nick, I’m so glad you stopped by.” Harry deadpans pretending to still read his book.

“So… Liam said somebody was staying with you, where is he?” Nick raises an eyebrow, glancing around the room like the mysterious he is going to pop out from behind a wall. “I still haven’t officially met him. Glad my feeling aren’t easily hurt.”

“His name, which you already know, is Louis, and he’s at practice.” Harry finally caves and pushes the book away, looking right at Nick to give him his full attention.

“Ooooh practice. Sounds all athletic and intense.” Harry misses his head when he chucks a pillow at him. “Watch the lunch!” Nick points at his Nutella and vodka.

“I’m only kidding, here we’ll watch telly till lunch is over and you can tell me about your complete freak out when you missed your meet.” Nick flicks the tv on and folds his legs under himself, smiling, “Ok, Harold, talk to me.” 

 

Louis walks in an hour later and Harry immediately regrets it.

“Hey Haz, how’s it- Oh. Hello! You must be Nick? Nice to meet you, I’m Louis.”

Nick gives him a suspicious look over as he puts his backpack and footie gear down. “So you are the boyfriend I gather?”

Louis looks up at his tone, “As far as I know,” Louis narrows his eyes at Nick and pushes his fringe to the side, “Why? Is that a problem for someone here?”

“Feisty and rugged, innit? Oh, Harold I like him,” he turns back to Louis, “I quite like you.” He reaches out his hand enthusiastically smiling from ear to ear. Louis takes his hand skeptically, but shakes it anyway.

“I like you too… thanks?”

Harry buries his face in a palm. Nick is such an idiot.

*

“I’m sorry Nick’s an idiot.” He blurts out in bed curled up next to Louis.

Louis is gently twisting through his hair and it feels heavenly, but Nick has been on his mind since he left earlier crushing Harry in a hug, kissing both Louis and Harry soundly on the cheek.

Louis giggles, “He is a bit mental I won’t lie, but he cares about you so that’s all that matters. I like him.”

“We thought maybe he’d grown out of it, but nope. Still as mental as the day I met him.”

Louis kisses Harry’s temple, “Why are you worried about him? You should be halfway asleep by now.” Louis shifts onto his side and wraps a leg around Harry’s hips to pull him in. “You should get comfy.”

Harry tries but he’s suddenly distracted by the proximity of Louis’ hips pressed into him. He trails a hand down Louis’ chest and slips a finger under the band of his pants. Louis pulls his hips forward on instinct, trying to get closer. He dips his hand in and grips Louis cock firmly, stroking it slowly.

Louis gasps into Harry’s curls then reaches down and stops his hand from moving around him, “Let’s not right now, Haz. Let’s just try to sleep alright? Louis kisses his temple again and shifts his hips back from Harry.

This is the second time Louis has refused him. Louis would never tell Harry to take his hands off of him or just flat out say no. Something is wrong.

 “Are you still mad at me? For the whole sleep journal thing?” His voice is barely a whisper, but Louis catches it.

He looks surprised by the question, “No Haz, why would I be mad at you for anything? It’s not like that.”

“Then what’s it like? You haven’t let me so much as touch you in days. Why?”

Harry can see Louis’ pulse jump beneath the skin of his neck. He’s nervous and Harry is scared to know why. “Louis, what’s wrong?”

He sighs like he’s been defeated, “I –I said something the other day when we fought. Something I didn’t really mean to tell you quite yet. You kind of just ignored it or you didn’t hear me, but I didn’t want to freak you out more so I let it go.” His eyes are fearful looking into Harry’s, so he kisses the back of Louis’ knuckles, prompting him to go on.

“I kind of told you that I love you, and I’m not mad that you didn’t acknowledge it, but I just feel wrong doing these things with you when I want more and you’re not ready to give it to me because you don’t feel the same.”

Harry’s heart is now the one speeding up. He had definitely heard Louis and chose to ignore it because he was scared and pissed off in that moment, but now Louis thinks he doesn’t love him, and that really hurts him to think about.

“I did hear you Louis, and I wanted to say it back but- but I didn’t know how...” Louis nods like he understands.

“It’s fine Harry, really you don’t have to apologize for not feeling that way. I just wanted to respect that, and I didn’t want to take advantage or anything just because I had said it.”

Louis has this all wrong. Harry does feel that way, he’s just a fucking idiot.

“Harry let’s just go to bed and we can talk about it another time, yea?” He wraps himself back around Harry, ending the conversation. Harry curls back into him but his stomach feels twisted. He hardly sleeps at all.

_____

Liam comes over for Saturday breakfast the next morning after practice. He catches Harry and Louis up on everything going on with the team and also with Zayn. He looks so happy and Harry can’t help but smile with him when he tells the story of Zayn teaching him football.

Louis kissed him this morning when he woke up and it didn’t feel too out of place, but all morning he’s been feeling distant. Even now as they sit less than a foot away he doesn’t tangle their fingers together. He doesn’t lightly squeeze his leg under the table, he doesn’t even let his eyes light up when he laughs at Liam’s story.

Louis leaves to go see his Niall and Stan after breakfast, and even Liam notices that something isn’t right.

“Is everything ok? Something feels sort of…off with the two of you.”

“Everything’s fine except for the fact that I’m an idiot. He told me he loved me a few days ago and do you know what I said? Nothing. That’s what’s wrong with us.”

Liam looks miserable just to be asking him the next obvious question, “Well do you?”

Harry gives him a half smile, “I do. That’s the part that makes me an idiot.”

“Yea it does.” Liam agrees.

*

Harry cooks pasta for them as Louis sits at the table working on a paper. It’s so quiet without his constant talking.

“Are you alright, Louis?” Louis nods, pushing his glasses further up his face.

He gives Harry a fake smile, “I’m fine.”

Later after Harry showers alone, he drinks his tea on the sofa, watching Louis flip through the channels aimlessly.

He needs to say something, anything. He sits his tea down half-finished and takes the controller from his hand. He moves closer to Louis folding his legs beneath him.

“I know you’re not fine. I know because I’m not fine either.”

Louis sighs and tries to move away from him. “No,” Harry holds his hand hoping he won’t snatch it away, “I’m not alright because you believe a lie. You believe that I don’t love you, that I’m not in love with you.”

Louis’ expression is pinched like he’s trying not to cry.

“Harry please, let’s not do this, you don’t have to do this now.”

“I do because I love you, Louis. I Love you so much and I was scared to tell you. I heard you perfectly that night and I ignored it like a fucking idiot. I should have told you then like I’m telling you now, but I was stupid. I want things to go back to the way they were. I hate seeing you so sad because you think your own boyfriend doesn’t love you back, because I do.”

Louis has tears in his eyes but he’s got a grin on his face, “So you proper love me?”

Harry nods frantically, “Yes, I have for a long time; I just didn’t know how to say it. You do believe me, don’t you?”

Louis gets up and straddles Harry’s lap. He’s silent for a moment before he speaks, “I believe you, Harry, I do. Thank you for telling me.”

Relief isn’t enough to describe the way he feels right now. It feels like he was drowning and Louis just pulled him out of the waves to take in new air. It feels good.

They press their lips together with gentle sliding motions, until Harry remembers the rest of what he needs to say, “And I want more with you, just like you said last night. I want to give you whatever you need, you just have to give me a chance.”

Louis leans their foreheads together sitting silently for  moment.

“You’re sure about this? I don’t want us to do anything too fast and then it all turn to shit. If you say it, I want you to mean it, Harry.”

He grips the back of Louis' neck to bring him in, “I mean it.” He doesn’t break their gaze.

“Ok then. I know it’s late and it’s not really part of your sleeping routine,” he smiles to himself, “but I want you to have all of me…is that?…is that too much?”

Harry shakes his head trying to answer, finding it more and more difficult to focus on a reply now that Louis is trailing his fingers down his bare chest. He latches onto Harry’s neck, nipping softly down to his collarbone. Harry grips his hands around Louis’ bum squeezing to pull him closer in his lap.

Louis takes it slow, licking his tongue in swirls across Harry’s chest, swiping it over his nipples and sucking lightly. Harry needs to be touching him, so he removes Louis’ shirt. He leans Louis back from him, kissing a trail down Louis’ chest to the light hairs blanketing his stomach. He bites into soft skin and makes Louis choke on air.

Harry’s cock is hard in his boxers trapped beneath Louis’ weight, and he breathes a sigh of relief when Louis grinds down into his lap, making electricity shoot from his limbs down to his fingertips and toes.

He recaptures Louis mouth, licking his way into the warmth while he taps Louis’ bum for him to lift off and removes his boxers. Louis breaks them apart and slips out of them, standing completely naked, cock hard and pink, muscles quivering in his lower stomach as Harry runs a finger under him. Harry resists the urge to swallow him down, kissing his lips instead and walking Louis backward into his bedroom.

The backs of Louis’ knees hit the bed, forcing Louis to lie down with Harry straddling his body above him. He scoots them up to the pillows and rocks his hips into him. Harry swallows Louis’ moan and rocks his hips again, scraping the fabric of his bottoms against Louis’ soft flesh. He attaches his lips behind Louis’ ear, mumbling how beautiful he is, making Louis grip hard into his hair. He looks close just from this so Harry slows his hips until he’s still against him.

He kisses Louis long and expressive before he goes to his bedside drawer and pulls out a condom and lube.  He kicks his boxers off and the moment he’s back on the bed Louis’ lips find him, his fingers curling into the nape of his neck and his waist.

Harry pulls back hesitantly, but he needs to check, “Are you sure?” he asks, barely a whisper. Louis can only nod his head keeping his eyes closed, working on taking deep breaths.

Harry Kisses him lightly and pours some lube onto his fingertips and traces the crease down to Louis’ opening. He shivers at the touch and Harry swears he can feel it through his skin.

 He works a finger in smoothly, pretending to write the alphabet to open Louis up. He gets to letter R and adds another finger to stretch him.

Louis is fisting the sheets, lip caught between his teeth, legs spreading farther and farther apart to let Harry in. He adds a third finger and would usually stop there, but Louis is tight and can’t risk hurting him so he adds a fourth.

Harry is fighting to keep his other hand off of himself, watching Louis’ abs jump and contract each time he curls all his fingers inside of him. He wants to make Louis come just like this, but that’s not what Louis asked for.

He eases his fingers out and kisses up Louis’ torso starting at his opening and moving up and around his around his balls and cock laying full against him. He licks over a hipbone and his stomach, all the way up to Louis’ mouth. He kisses him with as much heat as he can pour from himself, then pulls away to roll the condom on.

Louis sits up to watch him and meets Harry’s eyes. Louis looks laid bare, staring at him, missing Harry’s touch and warmth. He gets the condom on and kisses Louis until he’s gripping at Harry’s back trying grind into him. Harry pulls back to spread lube over himself in thick lines, working it around his length. He slides in as close as he can to Louis and pushes Louis’ bent legs back toward the mattress until they’re touching it.

Harry hears a broken Please, Haz  when he lines himself up. He kisses Louis’ stomach and tells him he loves him before he pushes in, taking Louis’ breath away completely. It’s silent as Harry watches his face twist up and slowly soften. He sees Louis’ muscles in his stomach work to stop trembling as he breathes deep. Harry knows his size is a lot to adjust to from his fingers, so he waits until he’s sure Louis can take it. He pulls his hips back then surges forward inside, making Louis’ breath catch again.

Harry leans his body down so there’s not much space between their chests. He kisses along Louis’ jaw telling him to breathe over and over again. He pulls back and pushes right back into him, and this time his breaths are more even, so Harry takes it as a sign to go ahead.

Harry never knew he could treasure the sounds that someone makes, but Louis’ moans are washing over him in floods. He has to hang his head into Louis’ shoulder and concentrate to not come just from listening to him. Each time Harry’s cock pushes into him, Louis tries to pull Harry down even closer to his body. He scrambles at his slick skin trying to hold onto him but Harry can’t get any closer than he already is.

His every thought is Louis, his every sense is taken up by him, and he’s not sure how much longer this can last. Harry starts to thrust with long steady curves of his hips, making Louis’ mouth fall open, gasping in short breaths near Harry’s curls. Suddenly he snaps into him roughly, and the cry Louis lets out nearly makes Harry come undone. He tries for the angle again and Louis’ cry pierces his ear. Louis is shaking his head back and forth like it’s too much for him, even though he’s shaking with how good it feels.

Louis’ about to come, Harry can feel how much tighter he’s clenching around him each time he cries out. He pushes in rougher with longer and deeper strokes, slipping in and out easily. He grabs Louis’ cock between their bodies and pumps him in a sloppy rhythm until Louis’ voice is one single unending moan. Harry feels the heat building and his hips start to stutter and lose their rhythm. “Come. On. Lou. Please. Come. Please!” Harry enunciates each word with a hard thrust inside of him, and that’s when Louis’ eyes roll back and he spills silently over himself and Harry, sucking in a huge breath and collapsing backwards. Harry comes not even two seconds later and he immediately crashes down onto Louis, still inside him.

He’s lying in come and sweat, but Harry wouldn’t dare move. Louis still hasn’t said anything. His eyes are still closed when Harry chances a look at him. He has one hand still gripped in his fringe, and the other running through Harry’s hair.

Eventually Harry realizes that he has to move. He pulls out of him and touches Louis’ opening, feeling the hole so much wider than when they started. It makes him shiver pleasantly. He kisses Louis’ slack lips and rolls off the bed.

He comes back to Louis lying starfished in the middle of the bed, chest still heaving, but a lot more clamly. Harry wipes him clean and hastily tosses the towel to the floor. He makes Louis scoot over then curls into his side. Louis lazily wraps his arms around him.

“Do you always have sex like that, like, that intense? Because I think you’re gonna kill me, Harry. I literally couldn’t breathe half the time, it was fucking amazing.”

Harry grins into Louis’ chest, “I just wanted to give you what you wanted, and I wanted you to enjoy it.” He laughs softly feeling his head about to explode from the flattery.

“Oh my god, Haz. That was- I should’ve told you I loved you ages ago, fuck.” Harry kisses Louis to shut him up.

“I’m glad you enjoyed yourself, now, I believe it’s past my bedtime.” He reaches for the sheet to pull up over them and snuggles into Louis’ skin.

“Yea it’s probably late, good idea.”

It’s quiet for a minute and Harry thinks Louis has actually fallen asleep.

“I cannot wait to tell Stan. He’s going to die of jealously.”

Harry makes a squawk at the back of his throat, “Lou! You cannot tell Stan, why would you do that?”

“Because Harold, he needs to know. Jesus, the world needs to know so everyone can all be jealous. You haven’t slept with anyone else like that…have you?”

Harry smiles, “Nope. Just you.”

“Even better.”

“Alright,” Harry tickles Louis’ side, “Enough out of you! Goodnight, love you.”

Louis sighs contentedly, “Love you too, I guess.” Harry tickles him again.

_______

It’s the fifth and last day of Harry having to take it easy. Louis is sitting against the couch with all of Harry’s sleep information sprawled out around him. He’s talking incessantly about something, but Harry isn’t listening to him as he lounges across the sofa above him. He’s more interested in watching the muscles under Louis’ shirt whenever he lunges forward to grab at a piece of paper. 

Harry is just about to suck a bruise into the tan skin at the nape of Louis’ neck when he suddenly whips around with accusing eyes, “You’re not even listening to me!”

He’s caught and he doesn’t even try to pretend like he isn’t two seconds from lying Louis out on the carpet till he’s begging.

“I was listening…you said something about uh, me sleeping?” He gives his most charming smile to win Louis over, tracing the shell of his ear with his index finger, but Louis won’t be easily distracted.

“I said,” he swats Harry’s hand away, “that at this rate, you could be sleeping a normal six hours within a few weeks. You were lying up there plotting to make it difficult for me to finish your sleep journal.”

Harry sighs and lets him write down all of his night behaviors. He’s bored within a couple of minutes and begins reading over Louis’ shoulder. He looks at one of the dates where he apparently slept five hours straight and didn’t mumble or move at all.

He clears his throat, biting his lips to tame his grin, “Um Lou, what happened this night?” he points at the calendar with as much innocence as he can muster, “I slept a really long time. Guess I was worn out by something.”

He watches Louis’ jaw muscles struggle to keep his face even when he realizes the night that Harry is referring to.

“Hmmm, I think that was the night that you baked lasagna… maybe. I hear baking is pretty tiring.”

Harry’s grin is wicked, “Mmm nope, don’t think so.”

“Maybe it was the night after you watched Fast and the Furious? The excitement could’ve worn you out.”

“Nope.”

Louis is tapping his chin like he just can’t remember, and alright, Harry is so done playing this game. He gets down on the floor, suddenly so close that he can feel Louis’ chest jump when his breath hitches.

“That is the night that I had you spread out naked on my bed, shaking and moaning so loud that my neighbors probably heard you whining when you came, if I’m not mistaken.”

Louis’ pupils are blown at the memory, cheeks warmed and barely breathing, “I do not moan.”

He dips his thumb into Louis’ mouth, lightly running over his bottom lip, “We can test your theory right now. Just tell me and we’ll see how loud you can get.” He licks the edge of Louis’ jawline working his way up to his lips. “I wouldn’t mind getting you dirty before you go to class.”

A soft whine falls out of Louis’ open mouth, and Harry knows he has won. Louis straddles his hips and the papers fall to the ground, getting scattered about when he kisses Harry roughly, pushing their hips together. They can fix the journal later.

____________

 

It’s the familiar pressure pushing down on his chest, the coolness of the water wrapping itself around him that makes him smile as he bobs back up to breathe. The calm water is disturbed by Harry’s form diving in, creating bubbles that float up to the surface to break. He floats on his back, soaking up the rays of light pouring through the tall windows.

Last week was the longest Harry has ever been out of the water. He was going crazy by the last few days being stuck in his flat, but Louis’ presence helped to take his mind off the fact that something was missing. He enjoyed his time locked away lazily studying, being with Louis, having his friends come by and check on him, but he needed the water, he needs this. Swimming is who he is and without it, he feels kind of lost.

He pushes off the wall and that first lap feels like he just won a marathon. He’s in the water for an hour, just getting used to working his muscles out again, and then he gets out and heads to the lockers. He doesn’t want to overdo it.

He has less than two weeks to get back into competition mode. He can swim with the team during practice and stay thirty extra minutes if he wants to, anything over half an hour is too much. He’s going to swim on the days they don’t have practice for two hour sessions to work on his form and technique, but he has to be out of the pool before ten so he can get home and rest. These are the conditions that his coach, the doctor, Liam, Louis, and himself agreed upon to get him ready to race in front of the national team scouts.

He takes his phone out of his locker and sends two messages. One to Louis, I’m on my way back =) It felt amazing! I missed it so much. See you in a bit Xx, and the other to Liam, I didn’t drown ;)

He’s walking out the door when his phone vibrates twice

Liam 11:53am Cheers! Welcome back!

Louis 11:53am Oh my god, you’re an actual fish. Hurry I’m starving :/ I love you! Xx

______

A loud drunken chorus of happy birthday echoes through the pub. He has Liam hanging all over his left side with Louis and suspiciously Stan, crushed up together on his right. Everyone there is well on their way to hangovers the next morning, everyone except for Harry. He’s back on his no alcohol rule, at least until after his meet tomorrow. Depending on how well it goes, he might have to drink himself into an alcoholic oblivion. He sits surrounded by all of his friends, but they don’t comment on it because they know how important tomorrow is to him.

Nick arranged this whole surprise for him out of nowhere. He literally expected Liam and Louis to be the only ones who remembered his birthday at all, but when he walked into the pub with them he was practically tackled by his teammates as well as half of Louis’.

When they leave around nine o’clock, no one teases him about being boring and old because they know he has to wind down to rest in a few hours. He has to be fresh for tomorrow.

Louis and Nick help carry his gifts to Louis’ car while he waves goodbye to everyone inside.

He gives Nick the most sincere hug he can manage without laughing, then quietly thanks him for not making him do shots off of a stripper all night long.

 

Louis finally gives in back in his flat, his eyes lighting up as he admits to getting Harry a gift. He shoves a box wrapped in red sparkly paper into his lap and bounces lightly on the sofa while Harry opens it at a painfully slow rate.

Harry laughs, gathering Louis’ lips with his own, “You got me a new pan! How on earth did you know I needed one?” he asks sarcastically.

Louis pushes his fringe back, “Well, word on the street is that yours was destroyed a few months ago, but that’s not all the surprise.”

“There’s more?” he asks with a child-like grin playing at his lips.

Louis walks into the kitchen and comes back with another box of similar shape and size, except this one is wrapped in blue. He sits it in Harry’s lap, already smiling before he’s even opened it.

“You got me another pan? Louis, how many do you think I need? You can only eat one omelet at a time.”

“The surprise, Harold, is that I’m using your first pan to cook a champion’s breakfast for you before your meet tomorrow. The second pan is for when I mess up your champion’s breakfast the first time and have to start over.”

Harry is trying so hard not to laugh.

“Stop looking like that!” Louis whines, “Niall has been teaching me to make breakfast for about a month now! You’ll be impressed, watch and see.” Louis folds his arms petulantly with his chin raised high.

Harry loses the laugh battle and ends up bent over cackling into his second new pan. When he finally recovers he finds Louis biting his lips, fighting to stay fake offended.

“I love you,” he says still giggling into Louis’ mouth, “Thank you for my two pans and my champion’s breakfast tomorrow, which I’m sure will amazing.”

____________

As soon as he wakes up and he feels his stomach knot up in nerves. He wants to go back to sleep then wake up and try again, but he knows the nervousness isn’t going anywhere. Louis kisses his temple and rubs calming circles into his back. He hasn’t said that he’s feeling uneasy, but Louis must know.

An hour later he walks into his kitchen half expecting it to be in flames. He enters and finds Louis reading instructions for something off his laptop, glasses sliding down his nose. It smells good Harry notices, but that could mean lots of things.

“Can I come in yet?” He smiles from the door.

“NO! Get out for ten more minutes and then come back. Go pack your bag or something. Watch tv.”

So this is Harry’s life now, he thinks; standing in his room staring at his already packed bag, while his boyfriend destroys his kitchen with nothing but a laptop and a spatula.

He digs around in his room for the third time, making sure everything he needs to take with him is in his bag. By his second trek to his closet he hears Louis yelling for him in the kitchen.

He walks in and he is pleasantly surprised that his flat and kitchen are still standing. He stops dead after three steps, eyeing Louis’ now naked body, half hidden by the table. He rakes his eyes over his skin, watching Louis smirk, “You could check out the food too, you know.”

Harry almost forgot there was even food to eat. The plate at his seat is piled with scrambled eggs which look yellow and fluffy. The strips of bacon look light, crispy, and brown, just like they should, and the toast is browed nice and even with jam already slathered on top. Next to his cup of tea and glass of orange juice is a bowl of grapes and banana slices with a fork resting beside it, and the best thing is that nothing looks burned.

“I have never been so distracted, hungry, and nervous, in my whole life. Louis, this looks amazing! I can’t believe you did all this yourself!”

Louis is still smirking, “Well, go ahead we don’t have all morning.” He gestures for Harry to sit.

Harry’s eyes keep darting from his plate to Louis’ skin and Louis clears his throat politely a few times after catching him staring and not eating. He finally breaks down and has to say something when he’s half hard just thinking about the rest of Louis’ body that he can’t see.

“How is this a Champion’s Breakfast when you’re naked, I’m not, and I want to touch you, but I have to eat?” He looks frustrated and Louis chuckles under his breath.

“I thought you would never ask! Oh my god.” He walks over to Harry’s side of the table and kisses him, warm tongue slithering into Harry’s mouth.

“It’s called a Champion’s Breakfast because champions get my mouth on their cock after they finish their eggs, which have been cooked to perfection, if I do say so myself.”

Louis pulls him up to slide his sweats down to his feet then seats him back down on the chair. He doesn’t waste any time before he sinks down around him, his tongue chasing around the thickness stretching his lips. Harry moans out loud and grips the table in front of him while Louis works his way up and back down.

When he finally comes he collapses into his folded arms on the tabletop and has to breathe for a few minutes before he can even think about pulling his sweats back up. Louis wipes his mouth with the back of his hand, giggling like he’s just heard the most fabulous joke.

“Breakfast was delicious.” He smiles and walks out of the kitchen to go wank in the shower. 

*

Louis meets him at the entrance of the locker room, kissing him softly and framing Harry’s face with his hands. He whispers in his ear that he’s brilliant and has nothing to be nervous about. Harry believes him. Harry tells him he loves him as he walks back to his seat, guiding Zayn away from Liam and tugging him along when he walks past.

He has two races today and his name is still at the top of the roster. He’s more than prepared for this, but he’s still worried because something can always go wrong. People fuck up sometimes, he just hopes he won’t do it right now.

He walks out with the rest of the team and instantly spots two men and a woman sitting on the top row of bleachers, quietly scribbling into red folders. They aren’t chatting while they wait for the meet to start like the rest of the crowd so he assumes these are the people he’s meant to impress.

His coach confirms it when he points towards them and claps him on the shoulder telling him he’ll do a great job and it all comes down to today. He wants to vomit his Champion’s Breakfast all over the floor.

He watches Daniel, Christian, and Liam’s races before it’s his turn to get up and into place. Daniel and Christian both lose, but Liam wins and looks so proud of himself that Harry can’t help but push his nerves aside to smile and congratulate him.

He tells himself not to look up at the scouts eyeing him and talking conspiratorially with one another as he walks to the podium adjusting his cap and goggles, but he peaks behind him and sees them blatantly staring him up and down. He entertains the thought of running back into the locker room and falling off the face of the earth, but then he finds Louis in the crowd. He focuses on him and how wide he’s smiling, all in support of his race. He can do this, and even if he can’t, Louis will still be there for him.

Harry crouches down into position at the sound of the first whistle and takes a cleansing breath. The second whistle sounds and he’s tearing through the water in front of him. No attention is given to the opponent in the opposite lane; he doesn’t even try to look at anything in his peripheral vision. The strokes he takes are long and easy, carrying him leagues ahead of the other swimmer. He feels no drag from another body swimming closely to him, so he knows he’s ahead. When he touches the wall for the last time and he knows that he’s won.

Louis is on his feet cheering the moment he’s out of the water and his time is announced. Harry wants to smile with him, but the three people leaned into each other are making him feel anxious.

He’s tapping his foot in a fast rhythm waiting for Aiden and Damien’s races to be over. Michael is just beginning his race when he feels something hit his shoulder and fall to the ground. He bends over to find a small piece of paper folded into a tiny rectangle. His stomach flutters before he even reads it.

Stop fidgeting it’s almost over! Love you! – Louis

He turns to lock eyes with him and feels the urge to hold him close. He mouths I love you, watching Louis face break into a grin. You’re half dolphin, you’ve got this, Louis mouths backmaking Harry laugh.

*

It’s his second race of the day but he feels a lot like he did during his first. The guy he’s racing against this time beat Daniel at a meet last year, so he’s a bit worried. Daniel nearly beat him a couple of months ago. Who is to say this guy beside him hasn’t improved in a year.

He blocks all of that out and focuses on the lane ahead, crouching on the podium. When the second whistle blows he’s gliding though the blue, concentrating on pacing himself. He needs to conserve so he can push in the end, so he lets his opponent catch up till he’s about a body length behind. They’re on the last few laps of the race when Harry picks up his speed, powering ahead. Once again he feels no pressure or drag from someone swimming beside him, so when he touches the wall he knows he is the winner.

*

The crowd starts to fizzle out after the last race of the day. Coach tells Harry to go get dressed in the locker room while he chats with the scouts, who are all still writing and whispering in their corner.

Before Harry leaves to change, he spots Louis hanging around near the exit, fidgeting with his fringe anxiously. Harry runs over to him, startling him when he kisses him quickly then pulls back, “Will you wait for me?”

“Yea, of course. I’ll be outside with Liam and Zayn,” he smiles easily tugging on a strand of Harry’s damp hair, “You were so amazing. They’d be stupid to not want you.”

Their lips meet in an innocent kiss then Harry is running towards the lockers.

 

Coach steps in after what feels like eighty years with three strangers following close behind. Harry stands to firmly shake their hands, which is surprising considering his hands are trembling. They introduce themselves and congratulate him on his two races as well as his other achievements in the past year. Harry can’t decide if they’re more or less frightening up close or up in the stands.

He numbly listens for a few minutes while they take turns explaining the qualifications for joining the national team and the process for being selected. He nods in all the right places but doesn’t say a word. It’s when his coach slaps him on the shoulder beaming widely that he realizes something has happened and people are talking to him.

“So, would you like to do that Mr. Styles? Do you want to try out for the National Team? We would love to consider you.”

Do you want to try out for the National Team? They’re telling him he meets the qualifications. They are asking him to come try out and prove that he meets the standards. Holy shit.

He shoots up off the bench startling everyone in the room, then he realizes he can’t excitedly jump around in here in front of these people, so he shakes each of their hands again instead. “I would love to, thank you so so much.” He says it with as much maturity as he can because he is really struggling to keep it together at the moment. 

As soon as his feet hit the pavement he’s running straight towards Louis’ car. Zayn and Liam are leaned up against it chatting with him, but he couldn’t care less. Louis is mid-sentence when the air is knocked out of him and he suddenly has an armful of Harry.

“They said yes. They want me to come try out. I’m going in a couple of weeks!”

Louis’ smile is growing as he stares back at him, “They said yes?!”

“They fucking said yes!”

Harry closes the gap between them, sinking into Louis’ warmth. He almost forgets he’s in a car lot, then he hears Zayn and Liam laughing beside him. He breaks away from Louis and rounds on them, crushing them both in a tight hug. He gets showered with congratulations by the three of them and his heart feels like it could burst.

 

2 Weeks Later

The tryout is a closed event with the exception of family members, significant others, and coaches. Harry walks into the huge facility and focuses to keep his mouth from hanging open. It’s three times the size of the pool at the university and he can’t help but bounce a little on the balls of his feet.

His guests get led to their seats and Harry turns to head to the locker room.  He jumps when he feels a small hand curl into his and squeeze lightly.

He turns to see Louis jogging to catch up with everyone else.

There’s now a piece of folded paper sitting in the palm of his hand with a smiley face drawn on the top. He smiles all the way to the locker room.

It’s not that he’s nervous, he’s just a bit anxious to get started and be told that he is the newest member of the team. He’s fighting butterflies in his stomach as he’s waiting to be collected, so he takes out Louis note. He’s smiling before he opens it and when he does, a bark of laughter escapes him.

Remember, your arse looks great in that Speedo; remember that I love you Xx – Louis

His face flushes red when he catches sight of him sitting between his coach and his sister. He’s walking up to the podium and fails to hide his smirk when he tries to casually turn around so Louis can see his bum. He catches Louis’ enthusiastic thumbs up and hears Gemma scoff.

“Did you catch that twirl he just tried to pull off?” Louis asks giggling into his palm.

Gemma rolls her eyes, “Who knows with him, he probably thinks he’s bloody Michael Phelps now. Typical.”

Harry dives into the national team water to the sound of Louis’ happy laughter, and he couldn’t be happier than when he resurfaces as the newest member of the best team in the country.

 

The End.