01 - Motel 6
The mirror in the bathroom is cracked.
Seven years of bad luck, Harry thinks like always as he stands hunched over the sink in the tiny bathroom, cold water clinging to his eyelashes. It’s been shattered by God knows who’s fist or head or bottle, but the small fragments have somehow stayed together in their frame, providing distorted reflections in harsh fluorescent light. It’s almost like a funhouse- the peeling paint on the walls and the rusty hinges on the door and Harry’s own face staring back like a kaleidoscope, but the dull thrum of Wednesday night- low music, voices, smoke- pours in from under the cracks and Niall is pounding on the door and this stopped being fun a while ago.
“Harry, c’mon, you’re on in thirty seconds and I have to piss.”
Harry rolls his eyes. In the broken mirror, it looks like he’s got six of them. “Calm down, Ni,” he says, but he swings the door open and flattens himself against the frame so that Niall can push in and unzip.
“Sorry, bro,” Niall apologises, letting out a small sigh of relief. “I’ve been holding it since fucking Happy Hour, though.”
“Nick’s an asshole,” Harry says dispassionately. Niall’s here from open to close six days a week, and for the past few nights Nick’s only let him have one fifteen-minute break. At this point, though, Nick’s increasingly shady business practices, hardly limited to mistreatment of employees, are just as familiar as the penis doodled in black marker on the perpetually empty towel dispenser, mounted on the wall above the sink.
Niall grunts in agreement, tucks his dick back in his jeans. “You gonna stop sleeping with him anytime soon?” he asks casually, stepping over to the sink and running his hands under the water, hissing a little at the chill.
Rent is due in six days, and then it’ll be due thirty days after that, and another thirty days after that; Nick’s got a bar for Niall to work behind, a stool for Harry to sing on, a nice enough smile, and no strings attached. “Probably not,” Harry shrugs.
“Your call.” Just like clockwork, Niall shakes the water off of his hands and drops the subject. Tonight, it’s, ‘I like your earring’, followed by a smack to Harry’s bum on his way out of the bathroom. Harry dimples, easy like always, and follows Niall out of the back hallway and into the barroom, shaking his head left to right quickly so that the cross dangling from his ear swings back and forth.
“It’s a clip on,” he tells Niall.
Word about Harry’s “husky” voice and “sinful” lyrics has got around to the point where Harry pulls his own weight- he isn’t just a pretty face that Nick’s taken pity on, anymore, but a locally known performer who can draw in a decent crowd on weekdays and an impressive one on weekends. Niall’s helped him stick together a few videos- shitty demos playing in the background of illegally infringed footage from the 50s and 60s- and they’ve got a couple thousand hits on YouTube. Harry’s even got a gig performing at the Art Box up in NYC, every other Saturday, and a few receptive venues scattered around Brooklyn. But it’s a Wednesday, and the cold air is starting to creep in, so the basement is nearly empty tonight, a few bodies hunched over the bartop, somebody smoking an e-cig in a far corner booth. Harry hopes the power doesn’t cut out. The lighting is low enough as it is- just a small light bulb hung in the stairways so that they don’t get sued again, and a Blue Moon neon sign mounted on the wall behind Harry’s head.
Ambiance, Nick calls it.
Fucking ridiculous, Niall rolls his eyes.
“What, did you borrow it from Gems?” Niall teases, bending down to adjust the amp beside the small stool that Harry’s been sat on for the past few months.
“No, from your mom.”
“Bro,” Niall sighs, as Harry bends down to pick up his guitar. On his Garageband demos, and on most weekends, Ed and Josh and Niall himself are there to back Harry up, but tonight it’ll just be Harry, his guitar.
“One day, Niall- one day, you’ll realise that I’m a comedic genius,” Harry warns, slinging his strap around his shoulders and furrowing his brows as he plucks at the E string, trying to make sure it’s in tune. “You gonna wish me luck?”
“Don’t fuck it up!” Niall says, cheerful. He smacks a kiss onto Harry’s cheek before flitting back to the bar. Harry takes a swig from the water bottle that Niall’s placed next to his stool, tightens his headband, and settles down onto his seat.
“Hello,” he greets the empty barroom. “I’m Harry Styles, and I’m going to play a few songs for you tonight.”
It’s late, after Harry’s set; Harry hears him before he sees him.
“Need some help, love?”
Harry, bent down to lift up a heavy milk crate of cables and uncoordinated even when there’s not an unfamiliar voice whispering in his ear, nearly drops the box on his own feet.
“Fuck,” he swears, stumbling backwards only to knock into somebody directly behind him. There’s a snort of laughter in Harry’s ear, and a strong arm comes to wrap around Harry’s chest to steady him
“Careful,” the voice teases, and Harry quickly untangles himself from the stranger.
“Well maybe if you hadn’t come up on me like that, I-” Harry cuts himself off of his own tirade when he whirls around and gets a proper look at the man behind him.
Lean, with high cheekbones and sharp eyes and skin that looks golden even in the near-black, he wears a fitted, charcoal sweater over a crisp white button up, that glows pale blue under the light of the neon sign, and shiny leather shoes. There’s a certain softness about him, though, in the way that his hair is pushed off his forehead half-heartedly, or in how his sleeves are rolled up to hint at a smattering of tattoos, or in how he doesn’t appear to be wearing socks.
He looks beautiful, he looks expensive, and he looks like he’s trying not to laugh.
Harry hastily rearranges himself, balancing the heavy crate on his hips and raising his eyebrows flirtatiously. “Something funny?” he asks, coy.
“No, I’m sorry, I just-” the man breaks off and shakes his head, smiling to himself. “I was trying to be all suave and shit, but it turns out that you’re. Well.” He waves his hand in Harry’s direction- long, thin fingers, Harry notices, and no ring.
“About as graceful as a baby deer?” Harry guesses, grinning.
“I was going to say young, but that works, too,” he smiles back.
Harry realises that this must be the man he’d seen slip in halfway through his set out of the corner of his eye- quick, like he was running in just to escape the cold winds characteristic of New Jersey in late September, but also quiet, like he had some sort of deep-rooted respect for shit acts in dark bars.
“You came in late, didn’t you?” Harry asks.
“I did,” he smiles, a bit self-deprecatingly. “I was just in the city for work, but my meeting ran over and I missed my flight back home. Thought I’d see if there were any flights leaving from Newark, but there’s nothing to be found.”
“Oh, that’s rough. Where’s home? England?”
“I live in LA, actually.”
Harry should’ve guessed, with how tan he is. “You must be freezing,” he says sympathetically. “Bad luck.”
“‘M not used to the cold,” the man agrees, “but it might not be bad luck after all.”
Harry smirks, “Maybe not."
“I’m Louis,” the man says, sticking a hand out.
“Hello, Louis,” Harry grasps it tightly, and for longer than necessary, “‘M Harry.”
“Harry,” Louis repeats, grinning. “Well, Harry, I’ve just heard you sing.”
“Yeah?” Harry asks. “What’d you think?"
“I think,” Louis says, “that you’re gonna be a star.”
Eyelashes, an English accent, and compliments. Harry takes a step closer.
“Really, truly,” Louis nods.
“Well I think,” Harry says, playing a game he knows like the back of his hand, “that you should buy me a drink.”
Louis smiles amusedly, “Really.”
“How old are you, Harry?”
“Twenty-one,” Harry says, too quickly.
“Mhm,” Louis raises his eyebrows. “How old are you actually?”
“Fuck off,” Harry pouts. Then: “Nineteen. How old are you?”
“Almost,” Louis laughs. “But you might want to try twenty-seven, next.”
“I was so close,” Harry sighs dramatically.
“You were,” Louis’ eyes seem to glint in the low light, almost predatory. “Alright. Here’s the deal. I’ll buy you a pepsi-cola if we can talk business for, say, ten minutes.”
“Business?” Harry’s heart sinks. “This isn’t- I don’t- I’m- I’m not a hustler.”
“Fuck, no, never thought you were,” Louis says quickly. “Sorry, I should’ve opened with ‘I’m a record producer and I’m interested in working with you.’”
Harry’s been living in New Jersey and working his arse off in the city for nearly two years, playing the shittiest open mics and giving out demos to the seediest people, trying to make it big, and he stopped sleeping with people who claimed to hold the key to fame two months in. It didn’t take him long to realise that going down on somebody in exchange for the opportunity to send in a demo leads to absolutely nothing when the ‘exec’ or ‘representative’ is hardly more than an intern at a label operating out of a basement in Brooklyn.
“Seems like a lot of guys are record producers, these days,” Harry says lightly.
“‘ve got a card,” Louis says, sounding vaguely impressed that Harry’s challenged him. He digs into his pocket and withdraws a shiny metal business card holder. If Harry’s being honest with himself, he’d probably go home with Louis if Louis still lived with his mother in a shitty flat in Queens, but he peers down at the card anyways.
His heart stops.
Louis Tomlinson, it reads in bold, black type on thick, ivory cardstock. Freelance producer. An email. A phone number.
“Louis Tomlinson?” Harry asks. “Don’t you work with Za-”
“I work with a lot of people,” Louis smiles, cutting across Harry easily. To the best of Harry’s knowledge, this is the understatement of the century. Louis Tomlinson works with everybody. “Have we got a deal?"
Harry is very, very torn. He’s wearing a mesh jumper with holes on the sleeves, jeans with holes on the knees, and boots with holes in the toes, but Louis Tomlinson still wants to talk business. Harry should call Niall over from the bar, shake Louis’ hand a thousand times, shove his arms full of demos. But Harry’s wearing a mesh jumper with holes on the sleeves, jeans with holes on the knees, and boots with holes in the toes, and Louis Tomlinson is looking at him almost as if he’d like to follow Harry into the toilets and crowd him up against a wall and fuck him senseless, broken mirror, ratty clothes, and all.
Harry knows that he should stay professional.
“If I talk business with you for ten minutes,” Harry says, “Will you let me have a sip of whatever it is you’re drinking?”
(Harry knows that he won’t, though.)
“Malt,” Louis tells him. “And, yeah. Maybe. We’ll- we'll see.”
Harry beams, flashing his dimples. “I’m just going to drop this crate in the back, and then I’ll join you.”
“I’ll be waiting,” Louis smiles.
An hour and a half later, Harry is lost in his own bedroom.
“L-louis,” Harry whines into Louis’ mouth. “Please.”
Louis, who’s had him pinned down to the bed with his hips for half an hour, jerking them both off tantalisingly slowly with one hand and slowly fucking Harry’s mouth with his tongue, bites Harry’s bottom lip in response. He tastes like malt liquor, and Harry’s absolutely intoxicated.
“Please?” he asks, voice light and teasing, hot breath fanning out on Harry’s face. “Please, what?”
Harry’s cock is heavy and hot in Louis’ hand and he’s been so close, so many times- with Louis’ hard cock rubbing, bare and slicked with pre-come, against his own and Louis whispering filthy words into his skin and the cool air from the open window blowing across his heated skin- but Louis, somehow, seems to know every time that Harry’s on the edge, and he’ll tighten his grip at the base of Harry’s cock and kiss him even harder.
“Please,” Harry whispers brokenly. “Fuck me.”
Louis doesn’t say anything, just leans down to mouth at one of Harry’s nipples, and Harry moans desperately and shoves helplessly at Louis’ shoulders, trying to get his attention.
“Fuck me,” he pleads again, louder in case Louis didn’t hear him the first time. “I want it, I want you, please, Louis, Jesus-”
“Patience, baby,” Louis warns, grinding into Harry. “How do you want me?”
Harry doesn’t care, Christ, he just needed Louis inside him twenty minutes ago.
“However you want, just- just take it,” Harry manages.
Finally, finally, Louis lets go of Harry’s dick, but relief is only momentary because within seconds, gentle hands are fluttering against his arse. Harry moans and spreads his legs wider. “Can you get on your hands and knees for me then, babe?"
Harry’s sure there’s nothing sexy about how quickly he scrambles into position, but he hears Louis suck in a breath as he sticks his arse up in the air, arching his back as much as he can.
“So pretty,” Louis says reverently. “Have you got any lube?”
Harry whines impatiently and flings an arm out to open the top drawer of his bedside table, throwing Louis a condom and a half-empty bottle of lube. Louis laughs, presses a kiss to the base of Harry’s spine. Harry hears the snick of the bottle opening, and a long, slender finger at his hole.
“Please,” Harry says again.
“Greedy,” Louis admonishes, but he slides a finger in up to the knuckle, and Harry hisses with relief at the burn of it, snapping his hips back to try to get Louis in deeper. It feels good, as Louis starts to build up a bit of a rhythm, but Harry wants more, wants to be stretched wide by Louis’ perfect, thick cock.
“Want you so bad,” Louis tells him, flattening his chest against Harry’s back so that he can whisper filthily in Harry’s ear, sliding his finger in and out of Harry at a torturously slow pace. “Can’t wait ‘till I’m inside you, ‘m gonna fuck you so hard, ‘m gonna fuck you right into the mattress.”
Harry keens. “Yeah, please, fuck me good.”
Louis tucks a second finger in next to his first, Long and lovely and wickedly skillful, Louis’ fingers stretch Harry’s hole and curl lazily, searching for Harry’s prostate, and Harry can hear the slick sounds that they make sliding in and out of him as Louis builds up a rhythm.
“Gonna make you feel good,” Louis whispers, and he crooks his fingers perfectly.
“Louis!” Harry shouts, stars erupting behind his eyes. It’s too light, though, he needs more pressure, he needs-
“Shh, baby, I’ve got you,” Louis promises, and he presses up again, rubbing over Harry’s spot in slow circles. Harry twists automatically, trying to meet Louis halfway but also trying to get low enough so that his cock brushes on the sheets, low enough to get a semblance of relief, but Louis’ other hand squeezes Harry’s hip hard enough to leave a bruise, stilling him. Harry moans.
“Are you ready, love?” Louis asks lightly.
“Yes,” Harry hisses. He whines a little involuntarily when Louis pulls his fingers out, but he hears the sound of a condom wrapper tearing and Louis’ little gasp as he presumably rolls it on, and he buries his face into the pillow in anticipation.
“Beautiful,” Louis says, and he lines himself up and starts pushing in.
Louis goes slowly, but he’s thick and it burns anyways. Inch by inch, he sinks down, and Harry fists his hands helplessly in the sheets as he feels everything, feels Louis rubbing up against him, feels him inside, feels Louis’ breath fanning across his back and feels Louis’ hand on his hip, firmly holding him up, feels himself open up to take in as much as Louis wants to give.
“So tight,” Louis grunts, once he’s bottomed out, “So good for me.”
Harry feels so wonderfully full, clenches around Louis even tighter to keep him there, and Louis responds with a quiet curse and a single, short thrust, pulling back ever so slightly but driving right back in. The head of his cock nudges up right against Harry’s spot, creating a constant sort of pressure, and Harry can’t help but grind back against it, loving the feeling of Louis inside him, stretching his hole. Spurred on by the soft noises he’s punching out of him, Harry starts moving his hips more precisely, little figure-eights and small rolls of his hips that seem to pull Louis even deeper inside of him.
“That’s it, baby,” Louis groans, gripping Harry’s hips tightly with both hands. “Yeah. Fuck yourself on my cock.”
Harry bites down on his own lip so hard he thinks he tastes blood.
“It’s alright,” Louis says, softer. “Want you to.”
Harry braces himself on the pillow, sucks in a breath, pulls his hips forward, and slams them back.
Louis’ hands are tight on his hips and Louis’ breath is hot above his ear and Louis’ dick is inside him, but Louis himself stays impressively still, letting Harry work himself hard and fast on his cock. Louis doesn’t angle his hips at all, leaving it up to Harry to twist and turn in order to hit his own prostate. Harry takes on the challenge with feverish intensity, sets a brutal rhythm for them that sends his headboard knocking against the wall as he rocks back onto Louis’ cock over and over.
“Jesus,” Louis breathes.
It feels so good, Louis’ cock driving in and out of him, leaving him so full and then so empty over and over, but he’s got to work for it. His thighs are trembling with exertion and his arms are starting to ache from holding himself up and his cock is untouched, and it’s almost painful how hard he is. Skin slapping against skin adds to the crescendo of harsh breathing, of grainy music streaming out of Harry’s laptop, of cars on the highway outside. But Harry’s oblivious to it all, can’t hear anything but Louis’ groans and whispered encouragements as Harry clenches even tighter around him and slams himself back onto Louis’ cock even faster.
“Fucking hell, Harry, feels so good, you’re amazing,” Louis chants, right in his ear but sounding almost far away. “Think you can make yourself come, just from my cock?”
There’s blood roaring in Harry’s ears and he’s got the angle just so, so that Louis’ cock is hammering against his prostate with every frantic roll of his hips. Harry knows, distantly, that he must be leaking precome, that his orgasm is imminent, but Louis’ hands are still holding him up firmly so that not even the tip of Harry’s cock brushes against the rough sheets.
“I don’t know, I can’t- I need-” Harry chokes out, squeezing his eyes shut and crying out when, the next time he pulls forward and pushes back, Louis thrusts forward ever so slightly, meeting him halfway with a smack that seems to ring throughout the room.
“Know you can, darling,” Louis’ panting harshly, but his voice is still gentle, despite how he’s started to help Harry along, pulling him back and pushing him forward and driving in deep as Harry starts to feel himself sag, starts to feel himself go under. “Come on. Come for me.”
Louis leans down farther, so that his chest is pressing against Harry’s whole back, so that he’s completely covering Harry, and then he snaps his hips forward just as Harry weakly slams back. Harry lets out a sob as his whole body rocks forward.
“Come, baby,” Louis says again, right in his ear. “Come for daddy.”
Harry screams as he comes, world going white as his orgasm crashes over him.
It’s searing, at first, but the intensity of it fades into a constant sort of pleasure. He’s distantly aware that Louis’ flipped him over and is pounding into him in earnest now, chasing his own orgasm, but it’s all that Harry can do wrap his legs loosely around Louis’ waist and whisper, “Daddy.”
Louis shouts when he comes, too.
They might lie there for a long time, Harry’s not quite sure. He’s floating in some sort of ocean, lost in the ebb and flow of some sort of tide. He comes to slowly, finds himself back in his bed- with sheets rough against his sticky skin, red and yellow lights from cars on the highway chasing across his white ceiling, and Louis, no longer inside of him but still a comforting weight on top of him, combing fingers through Harry’s hair and pressing gentle kisses along his collarbone.
“So good,” Louis is whispering into Harry’s skin. “So pretty, Harry, did so well. Do you want to come back, now?”
Harry lifts a hand weakly to tug on Louis’ hair, trying to convey that he’s fine, he’s on his way, and Louis laughs a little breathlessly.
“There you are,” he says, oddly fond. He lifts his head to properly look at Harry, and Harry’s gaze swims a bit before his eyes focus in, taking in the sheen of sweat across Louis’ face, the sweet smile gracing his lips. Harry beams back up at him.
“Hi,” he breathes.
“Are you alright?” Louis asks softly. “Was that- was that too much?”
“No, I’ve- before- just not- you-” Harry struggles with his words. He’s called other guys daddy, let them tie him up and fuck him hard as they like, and he’s gotten off on it, too, but he’s never felt this- like he’s floating, and the only thing tying him to earth is Louis’ forehead pressed against his. “It was perfect,” Harry says.
Louis hums happily, drops his head on Harry’s chest. “‘M glad. For me, too.”
Harry’s eye flutter shut, and he wraps his arms around Louis and inches towards sleep.
“Hey,” he hears Louis say. “Baby, the sheets are all sticky, we should-”
“Sleep now,” Harry mumbles into Louis’ hair. “We can- deal with it- tomorrow.”
Louis rolls off of him, and, for a second, Harry thinks he’s gone, and his stomach starts to drop, but Louis’ right back, tugging a warm blanket over their bodies and gently pulling Harry so that he’s lying on Louis’ chest.
“Alright, love,” Louis whispers. “Tomorrow.”
Harry wakes up freezing.
Louis’d thrown the tiny window open last night, but they must’ve drifted off before remembering to close it. Now, the pretty silk scraps Harry’s draped over his window frame as a cheap alternative to blinds flutter as the chilly, late September air blows in. Harry turns his head left to see that Louis’ ended up with all of the blankets, and turns his head right to see that the digital alarm clock next to his bed reads 11:02. Harry’s shift working the breakfast bar at the Holiday Inn Expresswas supposed start at 5:45; and there’s no point in even going in now, he’s off at 12. Harry groans loudly, then hauls himself out of bed to shut the window.
He’s sore all over, but it’s a good kind of sore. He feels a flush spread over his body when he looks over at Louis, sprawled out on the pillows, still fast asleep, but it’s a good kind of flush. He wonders what time Louis’ flight back home is, debates waking him, but Louis’ even more beautiful in white light, and so Harry tiptoes around his room, careful to avoid squeaky floorboards. He slips on last night’s fallen jeans and a thick plaid shirt that’s sitting, folded, on the floor, grabs his cigarettes and his journal from the top of his small, sturdy wardrobe, and exits his room quietly.
Niall, who probably didn’t get home until three or four last night, is passed out on the couch, snoring loudly. He’s still in the tank top he wore to work and a pair of offensively green boxers with white shamrocks all over them, and his jeans are lying on the floor next to him, as is the blanket that he must’ve kicked off in the middle of the night. The couch folds out into a bed, and Niall’d called dibs on the couch, when they’d first moved down from Lake Placid into this tiny mobile home in Newark, claiming that he wanted to be as close as possible to the refrigerator and the television (but probably keeping Harry’s bad back in mind), but they only get three channels and more nights than not, Niall is too tired to pull out the futon. Harry sighs and gently spreads the blanket out over Niall’s shoulders before crossing into the cramped kitchenette to make them breakfast.
Harry scrambles an extra egg and finishes off the bacon in case Louis wants some, too. He heaps all of the food onto a large, chipped plate and sticks it in the oven so that it stays warm, adds water to the coffee maker that Niall’s mum sent them last Christmas, and sneaks out onto the porch for his morning smoke.
The trailer park that he and Niall live in is right off of the turnpike,and Harry sits for hours, sometimes, on the fold out steps of the small mobile home, smoking and watching cars on the highway zoom by and scribbling lazily in his leather-bound journal- lyrics and thoughts and grocery lists alike. Today, he lights his first cigarette and stares down at the blank page, tapping his pencil absentmindedly against his thigh. He’s the king of nostalgic, melancholy songs, songs about being stuck in small towns and meeting married men and women in dirty motels and drinking too much and caring too little, but today, when he looks around the park and sees Sue sitting in her plastic folding chair, already nursing a beer, and when he checks his phone to find two new texts from Nick, Harry doesn’t feel bad at all. As he scratches out a few lines- ours was the greatest love story ever told - Harry thinks of long eyelashes and soft hands and a high, clear laugh.
Harry lights another fag, closes his eyes and hears Louis whisper 'so good for me’ in his broken, musical accent, and writes voice made of gold.
Four cigarettes in, Louis joins him.
Harry turns to see Louis standing above him in the doorframe, squinting a bit into the bright, cold sun. The blanket off of Harry’s bed draped around his shoulders, and he’s clutching a steaming mug.
“Hey,” Harry says warmly, scooting over to the right so that Louis can sit down next to him on the stoop. “Did you sleep well?”
“Very,” Louis smiles. “Thanks ever so, for the sex and the bed.”
“And the coffee,” Harry reminds him, nodding towards Louis’ mug.
“And the coffee,” Louis confirms. “It’s lovely. You’re lovely.”
Harry ducks his head and takes a drag to hide his blush. “Thanks.”
“Filthy habit, you know,” Louis says lightly.
Harry’s been smoking since he was fourteen. He’s got an addictive personality, sue him. “‘ve been told.”
Louis hums and drops the subject, busying himself with surveying their surroundings. “Quite the set up you’ve got out here, innit?”
Harry shrugs. “‘M sure it’s not the LA paradise that you’re used to, but it’s close enough to the city.”
“No, I like it,” Louis tells him. “It’s very...you.”
Harry fights a smile. “You callin’ me trailer trash, Tomlinson?”
“Oh, come off it,” Louis nudges Harry’s shoulder with his own. “I just meant that it goes with the whole,” he waves his hand over in Harry’s general direction. “Gritty degenerate thing you’ve got going.”
“Keep the compliments coming,” Harry teases.
“I mean it in a good way, I swear.” Louis sighs, hanging his head dejectedly. “I’m hopeless, I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay. You’ve always got a nice dick to fall back on,” Harry says sweetly. Louis chuckles tiredly, and knocks his shoulder against Harry’s.
“Those lyrics?” he asks lightly, jerking his head towards the book open on Harry’s lap. Harry nods.
“Of sorts,” he says.
“I used to write songs,” Louis tells him.
“Why the past tense?”
Louis shrugs. “Out in LA, there are people who get paid to do that.”
Harry snubs out his cigarette on the stairs. “That’s not you?”
“Nah, mate. I get paid to lean back in one of those wonderfully spinny chairs and to put my feet up on the desks and to yell at other people to do my job.”
“Sounds like a pretty sweet deal,” Harry laughs.
“It is,” Louis nods. “Until your assistant calls you screaming because you were too busy fucking around with a pretty boy to call to tell her you missed your flight home.”
Harry shakes his head, but he can’t help the smile that spreads across his face. “You sure are something, Louis Tomlinson,” he says. “Did your fancy assistant book you a first-class flight home?”
“She did,” Louis nods. “But it’s not until seven. I’m sure you’ve got places to be, though, so I’ll get back into the city, hang around at my mate’s flat for a bit.”
Harry smirks. “What if I told you that I’ve decided not to bother with my shitty day job today?”
Louis raises an eyebrow. “You really are a defector.”
“Lucky you,” Harry grins.
“Lucky me,” Louis agrees. “You got an idea of how to pass the time, James Dean?”
Harry’s got lots of ideas of how to pass the time. They could go back to bed, fuck so loud that Joanne next door throws a rock at Harry’s window to shut them up. They could mess about on Niall’s guitars, writing songs about fate and destiny and love and other things they don’t know anything about. They could spend all day on this stoop, watching cars race by and talking in circles. They could sit and not talk around in circles- talk about what next steps are, talk about how Harry’s email is in Louis’ phone and how Louis wants Harry to send him demos, demos to show around in the city to people who could actually do something, talk about whether or not Louis still wants that, now that he’s already seen what Harry looks like when he comes.
“D’you want to come to Coney Island with me?” Harry asks instead.
02 - Paris
“I’m so sorry,” Louis apologises for the tenth time.
“If you don’t stop apologising,” Harry says mildly, “I am going to throw my chips at you.”
“Right,” Louis says. “Sorry.”
Quick as he can, Harry grabs a handful of chips from the red basket in front of him and chucks them in Louis’ direction; Louis, laughing, throws his hands up to shield his face, and the chips ricochet off of him and land on the floor. Louis makes a big show of inspecting his navy blazer and crisp white shirt for grease stains while Harry giggles and attempts to shoot an apologetic glance at their annoyed waitress.
“You minx,” Louis sighs. “Can’t take you anywhere, can I?”
“Well,” Harry says mischievously. “You certainly couldn’t take me to Eleven Madison Park.”
Louis groans, lets his head fall to the turquoise plastic table top. “You’re the worst. I made those reservations a month and a half ago, it’s not my fault that they’re apparently completely incompetent-”
“Hey, hey,” Harry laughs, scooting closer to Louis in their corner booth so that their thighs are pressed together and kissing his shoulder. “I don’t need a fancy restaurant, you know me. This is one of my favourite places, anyways.”
Louis’d picked Harry up in a company car just after eight. Even though he’d just come off of a seven hour flight, he’d been dressed to the nines, clean-shaven and bright eyed when Harry’d climbed into the car wearing the outfit that Louis had sent over in express mail two days previously. Harry set up a ‘no presents’ rule the first time that Louis flew out from LA expressly to see him and brought him a signed Lakers jersey, a few YSL headscarves, and tickets to see The 1975 the next week at MSG - your presence is enough of a present- but Harry agreed to lift the ban for his birthday, and so Louis had been planning on making up for lost time. However, when they’d arrived at the restaurant, reservations for Tomlinson, 2, had been missing. Louis’d been less than impressed with Harry’s suggestion of just skipping dinner and going home to fuck like rabbits, and so they’d compromised.
Now, Louis raises his eyebrows and looks around the diner Harry’d suggested- candy red stools lining a long counter, a framed and signed photo of Elvis by the door, a jukebox in the corner. “But it’s your birthday.”
He and Louis have only been sleeping together for a little over four months, so Harry refrains from saying it doesn’t matter, so long as I’m with you in favour of winking and squeezing Louis’ thigh under the table. “Relax,” he whispers into Louis’ ear. “You already gave me a present.”
Louis smirks a little, slipping a finger under Harry’s waistband to finger the lace panties Harry’s wearing in preparation for later tonight.
“This place does look like it’s right out of Grease,” he admits. Harry hums happily and pats Louis on the shoulder, turning back to his food.
“You should know best, Zuko,” Harry teases him. Last week, they’d smoked their way through half of Harry’s weed and marathoned Keeping Up With The Kardashians, and after, still high and floaty and lovely, Louis’d showed Harry an online clip of his performance as Danny. Harry’s heard Louis singing in the shower once or twice, probably when Louis thought Harry was too deeply asleep to hear him, but it was still slightly shocking to see Louis look so in his element on stage.
(“Why didn’t you keep performing?” Harry asked him later, as they got ready for bed.
“I like being in control,” Louis said, smirking. “Don’t want to have to answer to anybody.”
Harry rolled his eyes, but after Louis’d left for JFK Airport the next morning, Harry’d re-opened the video and watched it six times.)
“Does that make you my Sandy?” Louis asks, with a wink.
Harry shrugs, “Might be, stud.”
Louis smiles, and then sighs, seeming to finally resign himself to eating at the diner. “So. How’s your week been?”
Louis’d last seen him on Monday, and it’s Saturday now. Harry scrunches up his eyebrows and tries to think of what Louis’ missed. “Niall nearly burned down the living room with his new hookah. I got a new amp for Nick’s, it sounds really nice. My sister came down from Rochester and brought me muffins.”
“Yeah,” Harry smiles widely, because Louis remembered.
“Baking runs in the family, then?”
Harry scoffs, “Oh, no, she bought them. She wishes she could cook for shit, but I’ve always been the king of the kitchen.”
Louis nods seriously. “I still can’t get over that creme brulee you made me last week, babe,” he says, and Harry blushes.
“It’s a simple recipe,” he tells Louis, and Louis laughs.
“Could’ve used you around in my starving artist years,” Louis says wistfully. “All I knew how to make was ramen.”
“Your starving artist years?” Harry asks, leaning forward interestedly.
Louis arches an eyebrow. “You think I was born into this Armani, Harry?”
Harry wiggles his eyebrows right back. “Fuck yeah, I do.”
“Well, you’re wrong,” Louis announces. “I’ll have you know that my first flat in Los Angeles was, quite literally, a walk-in-wardrobe.”
Louis laughs. “Yeah, like, the owners of the house emptied it out and stuck a single bed on the floor and gave us bathroom and kitchen privileges from two am to five am. We rented it out for, like, 800 a month.”
“Seriously?” Harry asks incredulously. “You lived in a closet?”
Louis shrugs. “Yeah. I don’t from much money, and I’ve got masses of siblings, so there wasn’t any other option. You and Ni are lucky you’re able to swing someplace so close to the city, Z and I didn’t even dare to look near New York.”
“What’s was like?” Harry asks. “Trying to make it in LA?”
Louis’ eyes light up, “You finally gonna let me fly you out there to make you a star?”
“No,” Harry says, yet again. Nearly every time Louis comes out, it’s a similar dance- Haz, I’ve got this friend in LA who works for Atlantic Records. Harry appreciates Louis trying to help, he really does, but it doesn’t feel right, getting favours from somebody he blows on a fairly regular basis. I don’t want to sell out with that corporate bullshit, Harry tells him. I don’t want you to stop sleeping with me after you’ve got me signed somewhere, Harry means.“I told you, I don’t- if you must, you can ask around at some start-up labels in New York. I’m just asking in terms of like, your life. You know so much about me, and I-” Harry breaks off, because he doesn’t want to back Louis into any sort of corner. “I’d love to know more about you.”
The past four months have been like something out of a dream- Louis says that half of his clients are in LA and half are in New York, but Harry knows that Louis doesn’t really have to fly out every week for meetings in the city, and that he comes out more often than not just to see Harry. Louis leaves his tea bags in the sink and his pants on the floor, he’s got a mouth to rival Niall’s when he streams ‘footie’ on his laptop far too early on Saturday mornings, and he eats cereal straight out of the box, but he’s quickly and seamlessly become an integral part of Harry’s life- he and Niall have private jokes, all of the bartenders at Nick’s know his order, and, even when he’s not in NJ, Harry still keeps to the right side of the bed. They text incessantly, and Harry knows Louis’ Starbucks order by heart and he knows that Louis’ downstairs neighbours have really loud sex that keeps Louis up and he knows when Louis’ ready to kill the record execs he’s meeting with, but Harry wants to know the important things, like if Louis’ scared of snakes or who the first boy to break his heart was or what his mother’s name is.
“It was...hard,” Louis says carefully. “When we came over, I think we each expected it to be fun. I mean, neither of us thought we would make it big right away, of course, we’re not stupid, but we kind of envisioned partying with other broke friends and doing open mics. I dunno, like in all the movies, the road to success seems like a good time. But we worked waiting tables and catering and driving taxis for two years before we got a place big enough to even think about writing and recording. I mean, I was happy to work for it, but it certainly wasn’t what I thought it would be.”
“It must’ve been incredible to actually get discovered.”
“It was,” Louis smiles. He looks a little far away. “They picked Zayn up, first, and brought me on as staff- I didn’t go independent until a few years ago. But I remember thinking- I don’t know. I just felt like we deserved it, yeah? Like, it felt so much better knowing that we’d had to work for it.”
“The wait was worth it,” Harry says. “But yeah, I totally feel the whole work for it thing. We came down from, like, really rural, upstate New York and we actually thought that we could afford to live in the city.”
“Aww, that’s adorable,” Louis coos.
“It was a rude awakening,” Harry sighs. “But, like, it’s been good to figure it out for ourselves, you know? I feel like if I make it big-”
“When you make it big-”
Harry rolls his eyes. “If I make it big, I’ll be glad that I paid my dues in Jersey and BK, first.”
Louis hums in agreement. “Did you come straight from school, then?”
“Sure did,” Harry says. “I got in to Fordham, up in the Bronx, but Niall and I decided that we’d rather do what we loved to do. How about you? Did you go to university?”
“For two years, then I dropped out and came over here. I don’t regret going, though, ‘s where I met Z.”
“I still cannot believe that your best friend is-”
“Oh, my God, get over it,” Louis laughs. “He’s so normal, you wouldn’t believe. I once drew a penis on his cheek in black marker and it didn’t come off for a week. He sings when he’s on the toilet. He can’t do his own laundry.”
“Neither can you,” Harry reminds him.
Louis sticks his tongue out; Harry laughs loudly.
“It’s alright,” Harry tells him gently. “I’ll be your washing machine.”
Louis laughs. “Thanks, baby. Although I like to think I’m not totally hopeless. I could live off the land, if I had to.”
Two weeks ago, Louis tried to make some of Niall’s Kraft Easymac in the microwave that Harry stole from the Econo Lodge he worked at last year. The kitchen still smells like burnt plastic. “I like that you think that."
“Fine,” Louis says. “Want to make a bet, birthday boy?”
Harry nods eagerly. “If I win, you have to take me to Paris.”
“You don’t even know what the bet is, Harold.”
“Yeah, but I wanna go.”
“You’re ridiculous,” Louis sighs. “Alright, in order to prove to you that I haven’t lost my starving artist touch, I’m going to get us,” he pauses dramatically, “free food.”
“You were prepared to take me to the most expensive restaurant in New York, and now you’re trying to prove your worth by getting me free food from this crappy diner?”
“I thought this was one of your favourite places.”
“Fine,” Harry sighs. “She won’t give it to you, anyways, even if you say it’s your birthday- your suit is too nice, and she heard us come in moaning about Eleven Madison. You’re on."
“I know she won’t give it to me,” Louis nods over at their waitress, who’s sat at the end of the long counter, reading People magazine but occasionally lifting her head to stare at them suspiciously. “That’s why I’m asking her.”
Louis points towards the waitress two tables over, who’s just started her shift. Her hair is up in a high ponytail and held up with a colourful scrunchie, and she’s smiling brightly as she pours a pair of morbidly obese tourists more coffee.
“Dimple as much as you can,” Louis whispers to Harry. Harry furrows his eyebrows in confusion, but then Louis kicks him on the shin as he flags the waitress down, and Harry beams.
“Hello,” she says brightly when she gets to their table. “Coffee?” She smiles and lifts up the pot she’s carrying.
“No thanks, love,” Louis says, smiling his biggest smile.
Harry tightens his hand on Louis’ thigh underneath the table when she blinks rapidly and sways a bit, probably taking in the suit and the hair and the fucking accent. “Oh,” she says. “Alright.”
“Actually, I was wondering if you might be willing to help us out with something,” Louis says conspiringly.
“That’s what I’m here for,” she says.
“See-” Louis pauses to read her nametag. “See, Veronica, we just got married.”
The result is absolutely stellar. Harry kicks Louis under the table in shock, and Louis masks his cry of pain as a shout of delight, and people from three tables over are looking at them and Veronica’s mouth drops.
“Oh, my God,” she gasps. “Congratulations! That’s so amazing, you two are so h- cute together, oh wow, how exciting!”
“Thank you!” Louis says. “Thank you so much! We’re obviously thrilled. There’s just- there’s a little problem.”
“Oh yes,” Louis sighs sadly. “Ronnie, we just love each other so much, we didn’t want to deal with the whole party affair- we wanted to get married right away, right quick, you know? And Harry’s parents don’t really approve and mine are all the way back in England, obviously- so we eloped.”
Veronica sighs like its the most beautiful thing she’s ever heard, and Harry stifles a laugh against Louis’ shoulder.
“Only-” Louis says, and Harry imagines that he’s giving her the same wide-eyed pout that he gave Harry the night he’d convinced him to make them both pancakes at three in the morning. “Only we forgot cake.”
Veronica nearly jumps up and down in excitement. “We have cake! We do, we have this five- layered chocolate cake that’s to die for-”
“But we spent our last penny on plane tickets back to England to get my dear old granny’s blessings. We can afford this hamburger, but that’s basically it.”
It’s ridiculous, it’s so ridiculous- Harry doesn’t even know if Louis is sleeping with other guys or if Louis even has any grandparents left or if Louis even loves him at all- but Louis’ got Veronica wrapped around his little finger, just like he got Harry from the moment he leaned close to him in the corner booth of Nick’s bar and whispered that Harry was the prettiest boy he’d ever seen, just like he got Niall when he brought him a giant case of Red Vines and the latest FIFA a month or two after meeting Harry, just like he gets everybody he meets.
(Harry’s pretty sure Louis would say the same about him though, so maybe they’re just wrapped around each other, and everyone else is white noise.)
“Let me see what I can do,” Veronica says, looking vaguely misty-eyed.
“Thank you, Ronnie,” Louis says sincerely.
“Thanks so much,” Harry chimes, when Louis pinches him.
Veronica gives them one last look before she half-jogs into the kitchen.
“No fucking fair,” Harry mumbles. “You’re British, and she’s a girl. It’s sheer, dumb luck”
“I’m resourceful,” Louis smirks. “And, I won.”
“Not yet, you haven’t,” Harry tells him. “I could always storm out and get a fake divorce. Make you seem a lot less cute.”
“She’d give me cake in pity then,” Louis shrugs. “Face it, Styles, I’m gonna win, and tonight, you’re gonna come three times in your pretty panties.”
Harry’s face goes red and his voice comes out a little higher, but he stands his ground. “I like that you think that.”
Five minutes later, the entire restaurant is cheering as Louis and Harry shove cake into each other’s faces.
Harry’s never been happier to lose.
03 - Lucky Ones
When he opens the door for Louis one Wednesday night in late April, Harry’s wearing an American flag bandanna tied in his hair and nothing else, and Zayn Malik says ‘holy shit’.
“Holy shit,” Zayn Malik says again, because Harry’s frozen in shock, and one hundred percent incapable of closing the door or telling him that he’s got the wrong house or moving to cover up his own bits.
“I’m so sorry,” comes a voice from Zayn Malik’s left, and Harry blinks, dazed, to discover that there’s a tall, sturdy man with an expensive watch and expressive eyebrows standing on the small porch, too. Harry hadn’t noticed him, at first, but he thinks that’s rather understandable, when Zayn Malik is standing there and wearing a crisp snapback and a gold chain and generally existing. “You must not’ve been expecting us.”
“Yeah,” Harry manages to croak out. “Sorry, what-”
“Way to leave me to talk Tricia down by myself, Malik,” comes an annoyed yet familiar voice from behind the house. Harry manages to tear his gaze away from Zayn Malik to see Louis jogging towards them, wearing glasses and a grey knit jumper and looking irritated. “You can’t just tell her that we’re in a trailer park in New Jersey and then hop out of the car, mothers don’t work that way.” Once he reaches them, Louis knocks Zayn Malik’s snapback off his head, and strides into the house. “Hi, baby,” he says to Harry sweetly, leaning up to kiss him. When he realises that Harry’s too shocked to meet him halfway, he pulls back, confused. “H?”
“Lou,” Harry says purposefully, because he doesn’t think he can form two-syllabled words right now, not with Zayn Malik standing at his door. Harry hopes that in the six or so months that Louis’ been flying out to see him, sometimes just stopping by for a day, in between fancy LA meetings, sometimes staying in Harry’s bed for a week because he’s recording with someone based in New York, they’ve developed a strong enough telepathic bond that Louis can understand the full scope of what he means by ‘Lou’- hi, I’ve missed you, why is Zayn Malik on my stoop I’m naked right now what do I do.
“Oh,” Louis says because, thank God, they have. “Right. Harry, I’ve brought Zayn and Liam.”
“You said you told him we were coming, Lou,” says the man whom Harry assumes to be Liam.
“I did,” Louis says defensively.
“You did not,” Harry speaks up.
“I texted you saying ‘we’re on our way over’. We, as in plural.”
“I thought you were just using, like, the royal we,” Harry hisses back, sure his face is bright scarlet.
“Oh,” Louis says.
“Yeah,” Harry says.
“Lou,” Zayn Malik says. He seems to have recovered his voice, and he also seems to have the sort of relationship with Louis that he’s able to gain some sort of multilayered meaning from the single syllable, because Louis suddenly springs into action.
“Well, that’s my bad, then,” Louis announces, clapping his hands. “It’s been a very long day, I apologise for any awkwardness that this may have brought up. Why don’t you guys come in and settle down on the sofa or something? Harry and I are going to go and find him some clothes.”
“Probably a good idea,” Liam concedes, striding inside confidently, Zayn Malik following close behind and shutting the door as he goes.
“There’s beer in the refrigerator,” Harry says weakly.
“Thanks,” Zayn Malik smiles a little at him, and Harry loses his power of speech again.
“Let’s go to your bedroom, yeah?” Louis nudges Harry’s shoulder with his own, and Harry wordlessly leads the way. The last thing he sees as he closes his bedroom door is Zayn Malik sitting down on the sofa that Harry and Niall literally pulled out of a dumpster a year and a half ago.
“So,” Louis’ voice comes, from behind Harry. Harry turns around to find Louis perched on the edge of Harry’s unmade bed, sat on his hands, looking too innocent to be sincere. Louis opens his mouth to say something else, but Harry holds up a hand.
“Don’t,” he warns. Louis’ mouth falls shut, and he just sits there, eyes trained on Harry as he paces the room. “Zayn Malik is in my living room right now, Louis. Zayn Malik. Zayn Malik, as in the actual Zayn Malik, as in four-time Grammy award winning Zayn Malik, as in married to Perrie Edwards Zayn Malik, as in made me realise that I am attracted to men Zayn Malik, as in your best mate who I’ve specifically told you I am not prepared to meet Zayn Malik, is drinking beer on my couch right now.”
“Five-time Grammy award winner,” Louis says, but when Harry shoots him a look, he wisely tones down his usual snark. “Yes,” he nods instead. “He is.”
“I am naked, Louis. I answered the door naked. For Zayn Malik.”
“I think he appreciated the view,” Louis grumbles.
Harry closes his eyes and takes a deep, calming breath. When he opens them, he finds Louis looking at him with genuine concern.
“Oh, Christ, it’s fine,” Harry sighs, letting his hands fall off his hips and his gaze soften. “I just- I know that you have all these glamorous friends, and stuff, and I love that you want me to know that part of your life, but I’m not, like, used to- I just need some heads up, is all.”
“I know, baby,” Louis says earnestly, folding his knees up onto the bed so he’s sitting crosslegged on Harry’s unmade bed. “I know. And I’m really sorry. You know Zayn’s, like, been my best mate my whole life, I really did want for you two to meet properly and preferably clothed. There just wasn’t, you know, enough time- it was all very last minute, we couldn’t be sure until maybe an hour ago-”
“Couldn’t be sure of what?” Harry asks warily.
It’s probably exactly what Louis wanted him to ask, because a small smirk starts to play on Louis’ lips, and he pats the space on the bed next to him. Harry hasn’t seen him in person in over a week because Louis’ been caught up in post-production and on the one day that he could’ve flown out, Harry’d had a double shift plus an eleven o’clock show, and, as wonderful as Louis is over Skype, always ready to greet Harry with a story about how I accidentally spilled hot tea on Lady Gaga’s McQueen shoes- Haz, it’s so lucky that I’m charming, she would’ve had my head or an irrelevant factoid like did you know that there’s such a thing as Extreme Midget Wrestling or something equally lovely along the lines of take your fucking clothes off, Jesus- nothing compares to seeing him in person, warm and solid and here.
Harry eyes him warily, sighs, and goes, sitting down beside Louis and letting Louis reach for his hands. Harry can’t help it, he smiles down at the way his calloused fingers dwarf Louis’ long, slender ones, and laces them together.
“You haven’t asked me,” Louis begins, “why Zayn and Liam are here in the first place.” Louis looks like he’s had a long day, and there are bags under his eyes and Harry doubts that his scruff is intentional, and he’s smiling that sweet, soft smile that Harry likes to think is just for him, and Harry can feel the fight draining from his body.
“Why are Zayn and Liam here in the first place, then?” he asks, and Louis smiles wider and leans over to kiss his nose.
“You have to promise not to say anything until I’m done, okay?”
“Yeah,” Harry nods. “Alright.”
“Okay, so I told you I’d be working on a collab with Zayn and Ellie this week, yeah?”
Harry groans, “A million times, yes, stop making me jealous.”
Louis laughs. “Sorry. But, okay. As the producer, I’m in charge of booking the studio for however long I think it’s going to take to lay the tracks down.”
“I may have booked it for an extra six hours, this time.”
Harry blinks over at Louis. “Why?” he asks cautiously, because Louis is most definitely up to something.
“To accommodate Ellie. Like, what if her flight in was late, you know?” Louis says casually, but he’s smirking and Harry stares at him, confused, for another few seconds, replaying the conversation in his head, and then a conversation they’ve had on constant repeat for the past few months- Harry, love, just come in and lay down a proper demo track, it’s the least I can do- and then it hits him.
Louis didn’t book the studio for extra time for Ellie Goulding at all.
“Louis,” Harry gasps. “Oh my God-”
“No, shh, you promised not to say anything,” Louis cuts across him, gentle but firm, and sounding like he’s got a lot more to say. “Harry, Liam is the A&R Director at Interscope Records. Its his job to find new acts and sign them to the label, and then to set them up with the works- the best producers, the best marketing team, the best venues, the best songs. Liam is it Harry. And he’s brilliant, too, he’s the only one who gave Zayn and I the time of day when we were peddling our sorry arses all around LA with a shoddy demo, and now look where we are.”
“Interscope? Fucking hell, Louis, I told you to stick to small, local labels.” Harry is having a hard time breathing. “Oh, my God, Louis, he’s seen my dick.” Louis laughs again, and Harry is too busy freaking out to glare at him.
“Lots of people have seen your dick, Harry,” Louis says reasonably. “Anyways, you don’t have to be nervous, thats what I’m trying to say. It doesn’t matter that Interscope’s a big label- you’ve already impressed him.”
“What do you mean?”
“I played him some of your garageband stuff, and he loved it.”
“Don’t look so upset, H, he thought your stuff was really, really great! Like, actually, it was his idea to book extra time. It’s Interscope, so you can’t really send in self-recorded stuff, but he’s honestly so excited to get you a proper demo.”
“His idea- how long have you been planning this, Louis?”
Louis is getting frustrated, now, as he usually does when they have discussions about him helping Harry’s career along, but this time its different because he already has. “Just a few days, calm down, Jesus. Haz, you’re bloody talented, and its my professional opinion that you deserve to go far, and I just don’t understand why this is such an issue for you.”
“Because, Louis,” Harry says, slightly frantic. “I don’t want special treatment just because we’re fucking!”
It’s out there, in the open. Louis looks like he’s been slapped in the face.
“Is that what you think this is, Harry?” he spits out. “A reward for having a nice little arse? Do you really think I’m the type of guy to just hand out opportunities to guys who’ll spread their legs for me? That’s slimy, Christ, I would never, and you know that.”
“This isn’t about you, Lou, don’t pull that card, I’m just thinking about my own career, here-”
“No, you’re not! If you were thinking about your own career, you’d realise that this is the opportunity of a fucking lifetime, and you’d let me help you!”
There’s silence that follows, filled only with slightly laboured breathing and the distant sounds of How I Met Your Mother on the telly in the living room- Zayn and Liam must’ve put it on to drown out the near-shouting. Harry’s mind is reeling. With all that Louis’ told him about the business since September, and an entire lifetime spent wanting to see his name in lights, Harry knows how huge this is, how grateful he should be. But he doesn’t think he could live with it, if Liam or Niall or his mum or anybody else thought that he got here just because he slept with Louis Tomlinson.
“If I hadn’t-” Harry cuts off, takes a deep breath. “That first night, if I hadn’t invited you home, would you still have called? Still have helped me?”
“Yes,” Louis says sincerely, squeezing Harry’s hand. “Listen to me. I lo- I care about you very much, and of course I want to see you succeed in every way, because I want you to be happy. But that’s not why I’m doing this, alright? I’m doing this because you deserve to succeed.”
Harry lets his eyes roam over Louis’ face, tracing every contour. Louis has a fading cut high on his cheekbone from when he used Harry’s plastic razor last week, after forgetting his seven hundred dollar razor in one of the hotel rooms that the labels he works with still pay to put him up in, despite the fact that they only stay there when Harry’s too lazy to cook in the mornings and demands five-star room service.
“Ow!” Louis had shouted, and Harry’d come tearing into the bathroom to find Louis scowling down at the disposable razor in his hand. “This is absolutely plebeian,” he’d said. “I expect better treatment next time.”
Harry’d thrown his head back and laughed, kissing Louis’ cheek even though it was still covered in shaving cream. “At least you didn’t try to shave your balls.”
“I just need you to, like, know,” Harry says now. “These past few months, haven’t been- I wasn’t trying to- I like you, not your job or your money or connections.”
Louis’ smiles, shakes his head. “Of course I know that, you fuck. I-” he clears his throat, lowers his voice like he’s telling a secret, “I like you for you, too.”
“You mean,” Harry says. “You lo- care about me.”
Louis groans and hangs his head, and Harry laughs at him.
“Don’t worry,” he says, leaning in to rest his forehead against Louis’. “I lo- care about you, too.”
“Really?” Louis asks. Loud and inappropriate and so big, most of the time, Louis’ different, this close up, just as inexperienced with being in love as Harry is, and Harry wants to box up this moment and keep it forever.
“Really,” Harry says, his own voice coming out strangely breathless. “Yeah, Lou, I-”
A very loud, high-pitched squeak fills the air, and then Harry’s door is flying open.
“Harry!” Niall shouts, home from work and looking as if he’s seen a ghost. “What the fuck is Zayn Malik doing on our couch?”
“Well-” Louis starts.
“He’s going to help us record a demo,” Harry says, heart in his throat because the words don’t sound real.
“Yeah?” Louis smiles even wider, and Harry feels like he could float away any second, and so he takes Louis’ face in his hands and kisses him, hard and quick, to ground himself.
“Yeah,” he breathes. “Yeah, yes, oh my God, let’s do this, fuck.” He jumps off the bed and looks around wildly, his eyes falling on Niall, who’s still stood in the doorway looking absolutely shocked. “Niall,” Harry says, “Niall, I need you to take five to get used to this and then I need you to call Josh and Ed and tell them to meet us right the fuck now."
“Where?” Niall manages to ask. He still looks ashen, but he’s automatically on board as always.
“Where?” Harry turns to Louis frantically.
“Breathe, babe,” Louis instructs fondly. “Alright, Niall, why don’t I introduce you to Zayn and Liam out in the living room, and then they can fill you in on the specifics while I call the boys? We need to leave pretty quickly, we’re on a time limit.”
“Alright, Louis,” Niall nods. “Sounds good, thanks.”
“What should I do?” Harry wants to know.
“You, darling,” Louis says. “Should probably put on some pants.”
Two in the morning finds them lying on the floor of the booth, a fifteen minute break in their recording marathon, eating greasy Dominoes pizza and drinking Red Bull.
“You really shouldn’t be eating dairy before singing,” Liam tells him. If anybody else he’d known for a little over three hours said something like that to him, Harry would probably feel patronised, but when he and Louis had finally emerged from his bedroom to inform everybody that Mission Demo was a go, Liam had been marvelling over Niall’s self-refurbished guitar collection, even though half of them are still missing strings, and he’d been eating Special K from a mug because all of the bowls were dirty, and he’d apologised to Harry for their ‘awkward first encounter’, so Harry just sticks his tongue out and takes a big bite.
Liam laughs, dabbing at the grease on his own slice with a napkin. “And to think, Louis told us you were charming.”
“Aww, Louis,” Niall coos, reaching over to poke Louis’ cheek. “You told your grown-up friends about Harry?”
“You have no idea,” Zayn murmurs darkly. He grabs Louis’ glasses off the floor next to them and shoves them onto his face, raising the pitch of his voice and generally doing a frighteningly good impersonation of Louis. “Z, did you know that Harry used to have a cat named Dusty? How cute is that? Z, Harry has four whole nipples, can you believe it? Z, if Harry were here, what kind of smoothie do you think he’d like? Z, look at this cute emoji that Harry- ow, Louis!”
After an impressively long run, Louis has finally managed to effectively shut Zayn up by stuffing an entire piece of piping hot pizza into Zayn’s face.
“Jesus, Louis, I’m embarrassed for you,” Niall cackles, and Louis’ face is a bit red, but Harry is sure he’s never blushed this hard in his life.
“You’re disgusting,” he manages to tell Louis fondly.
“Let’s talk about something else,” Louis groans. “Reality TV. The dentist’s. Politics. The demo?”
Harry thinks the demo’s alright, thinks he’s been a good job of it, especially for someone who’d never even set foot in a real recording studio until a few hours ago, but the highlight of his experience so far hasn’t even been the recording, it’s been Louis . Louis’ just been devastatingly, gorgeously professional, in his element the second they stepped into the booth. He talked a lot, when they first got there- Louis always talks a lot- throwing out phrases like ‘nostalgic sound’ and ‘breathy vocal quality’, but Harry’d watched him move, watched him switch out mics with practised ease and adjust levels like a proper sound technician. Louis just knows so much about his craft, became the best in the business for a reason.
He gave the band have twenty minutes to just adjust and run through it, listened closely and scribbled down notes on a yellow legal pad. At first, Harry’d been far more interested in how Louis’ hair was falling into his eyes and how his tongue was poking out of the corner of his mouth in concentration, but once Louis started giving notes, Harry’d been floored.
“This key doesn’t work with the song- Harry, you’re singing in your vocal fry, it needs to be higher. And lets go lighter on the guitars in the beginning, I want to hear it with just drums and vocals and- keyboard, yeah. Niall, try switching to an electric. Lyric change, too- second verse, first line - should be ‘got a bad desire’ instead of ‘wild desire’.”
“Won’t the chorus be too high?” Harry’d asked.
“No,” Louis said, “Not if you switch straight to upper register instead of pushing your belt.”
“We don’t have a keyboardist, though,” Ed reminded Louis.
Louis waved his hand dismissively. “Not a problem, I can play.”
“Won’t the electric overpower the vocals?” Niall wanted to know.
“We’ll mute it- it’ll still carry a heavier sound.”
Louis had been patient, innovative, and alert; Harry had tried semi-successfully not to get hard.
Now, though, they’ve laid down a solid instrumental, and so Josh and Ed have headed out, leaving Harry and Niall to finish up the vocals and lead guitar and Louis, Zayn, and Liam to oversee the sound mixing and levels. They make a surprisingly good team, even if Zayn keeps referring to himself as DJ Malik and shattering all of Harry’s treasured illusions of his mysterious bad-boy persona, and even if Liam has made Niall and Harry put their clothes back on, despite Louis’ insistence that all of the acts these days record naked, Payne-o.
“The demo, alright,” Zayn says, setting his plate down and turning towards Harry with a glint in his eye. “‘Lucky Ones’, huh? It’s a really beautiful song. Sounds like you’re singing from experience. You wouldn’t happen to’ve written it for someone special, would you?”
“I’m actually going to kill you, one day,” Louis sighs, staring wistfully into his Red Bull. “I’ll tie you up in heavy chains and dump your body in the Channel, nobody’ll ever find you.”
Zayn scoffs. “Like you’re strong enough to lift me.”
“I’ll get Harry to help me.”
“Ha,” Niall scoffs. “Harry will assist in Zayn Malik’s murder the day that I fuck Barbara Palvin.”
Harry laughs and shakes his head, “Sorry, babe, Niall’s right. I’ve invested too many hours watching his YouTube videos and risked my neck too many times illegally downloading his singles to off him now.”
“Aww, bless,” Zayn says, and he reaches over to give Harry a high-five that only leaves him slightly starstruck. “I really do like your stuff, you know. Nobody else on the radio’s doing anything like it. And it sounds really good.”
“He’s buttering you up,” Liam warns Harry and Niall around a mouthful of pizza. “He’s going to try to convince you to add riffs throughout every instrumental break.”
“Harry won’t cave,” Louis says confidently, “He’s very set on giving his musicians the space that they need to improvise.”
“Really, H?” Niall asks. “‘Cause I could do something really interesting between the first hook and the-”
“Niall,” Harry whines. “For the last time, stop trying to fit the Star Wars theme into every single one of my songs.”
“I’m not a quitter,” Niall says, shoving three quarters of a large slice of pizza into his mouth in one go.
“Never give up on your dreams,” Liam advises.
“Good man,” Niall says unintelligibly.
A timer goes off on Louis’ phone, signalling the end of their designated break.
Liam claps his hands, springs up. “Alright, men,” he says. “Time to get back to work.”
“I don’t wanna,” Harry moans, starfished out on his stomach and content to not move for another hundred years.
“Lee-yum,” Niall echoes.
“Pick your balls up off the floor, guys,” Liam says. “Look sharp. We’ve got work to do.”
04 - TV In Black & White
It’s half past four in the morning, and Harry can’t find the utensils.
"Fuck," he swears, as the last drawer he opened makes a crashing sound as it slides shut. He clutches the pint of ice cream he’d found in the freezer tighter in one hand and opens the next of countless drawers with the other. It contains a half-packed glass bowl, three comic books, a gold bottle opener, an expired condom, and a British passport. Considering that the previous two drawers he tried were empty, Harry figures that some might consider this to be an improvement, but he can’t help letting out a long-suffering sigh as he stares down, dejected, at the Ben & Jerry’s. He’s been an official resident of Los Angeles for exactly fourteen hours, and so far he’s stubbed his toe on a box twice, broken Louis’ AC, received a total of six texts from his mum, Gemma, and Niall asking him if he’s really sure about this, slept for thirty minutes, and gotten lost in his own kitchen. Harry is a big believer in signs and, so far, they are not pointing in the right direction.
“Fuck,” he says again, leaning against the clean, granite counter in defeat. What the hell was he thinking, picking up everything to move to Los Angeles with a man he’s known sporadically for a little over a year? Harry, this is insane his mother had said, point blank, when he’d called to tell her. It’s my life, mom, he’d told her angrily. She’d gone quiet, then. You’ve made that very clear, Harry, she’d reminded him after a while. But you’re still my baby, and it’s still my job to make sure you don’t- pardon me- fuck up. He’d hung up on her, before she could add “again”.
It’s Louis, hovering by the doorway and squinting a bit in the dim light. Behind him, Harry can see the dining table, not too long so as to appear intimidating but not too small as to suggest that Louis is anything other than loaded. After a long day unpacking, lifting the boxes up themselves because Harry’d insisted that do it properly, they’d eaten takeaway from Louis’ favourite Chinese place in the light of the rose scented candles that Harry’d brought with him from New York. It was too hot- Harry, especially, isn’t used to the warm weather, because yesterday in New Jersey Harry’d been shivering in his wool coat, bracing his shoulders against the frigid November chill- and so they were all sweaty from the “unnecessary labour, Harry, seriously , we could’ve hired someone”, but they’d sat for what felt like hours, cold beer in hand and Louis talking a mile a minute about all the places he’s going to take Harry and the people he’s going to introduce him too and the life that they’re going to build. After dinner, Louis’d fucked him twice, hard and good, once right over the glass top, the other on his- their- crisp white sheets with an impossibly expensive thread count. As Louis drifted off to sleep next to him with a mumbled ‘so glad you’re here, H’, Harry hadn’t given two shits about what anybody else had said, because, yes, he’s sure about this.
(Then, after Harry had gone up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night and automatically reached for the familiar shoelace to turn on the single yellow lightbulb, it hit him that he was 3000 miles away from his old shitty bathroom and his favourite cafe and his best friend in the entire world, and he wasn’t.)
“Hey,” Harry says, whispers even though they’re the only two in the penthouse.
Louis moves closer carefully, because apparently he can still read Harry like a book, even in the dark. “You alright?” he asks lightly.
“Yeah, I’m just-” Harry struggles for words. He’s just in a place he’s never been before with a guy he’s been seeing sporadically for a few months, he’s just already homesick, he’s just completely screwed if this falls through, he’s just terrified, he’s just a lot of things. “I’m just looking for your spoons.”
“Oh,” Louis says. “They’re- here, love, just move a little to your left, and-” Harry moves, and Louis opens a cabinet above where Harry’s head was just moments ago, pulling out a spoon from what looks like a small mountain of utensils. Harry can’t help laughing, a little weakly.
“A cabinet, Lou? Who puts their utensils in a cabinet?”
“Where else would you put them?” Louis seems a little confused.
Harry shakes his head. “Typically they’re kept in drawers.”
“Well, you’ll have to help me reorganise, then,” Louis says decisively. “I’ve clearly been going about the kitchen wrong.”
“You don’t say.”
They laugh a little, but its still uncertain.
“Great choice, by the way,” Louis says after a beat, gesturing down at the Chocolate Therapy. “My favourite.”
“Oh, fuck, sorry- can I, like, have some? I should have asked, I’m-”
“Harry, don’t be silly, you live here now. You don’t need to ask. About anything. Really.”
Harry looks down at the ice cream; Louis looks over at Harry. “Hazza-”
“What?” Harry cuts across, small and a bit defensive. If he’s made a mistake in coming here, than Louis has certainly made a bigger one in inviting him to do so. He’s so young and inexperienced and gangly, hiding behind songs with lyrics and tonality fit for a sex symbol. He won’t blame Louis for sending him packing once he realises it, but he’s prepared to fight a battle, not only because he can’t even afford a ticket back to New York, but also because losing Louis right now would probably off him completely. He braces himself for probing questions, but they don’t come.
“D’you want to see something really cool?” Louis asks him instead. Harry looks up to see Louis smiling at him, soft and sweet and like he understands even though Harry’s not said a word.
“Yeah, sure,” Harry says, bemused. He doesn’t know where this is going, but he’s already followed Louis across the country, and he’d probably follow Louis straight down to hell.
“Brilliant,” Louis beams. “You’re going to want to bust out your neon trainers, then.”
Harry trails after Louis into the bedroom. “Where’re we going?” he asks.
Louis shrugs, throws Harry a pair of running shorts and a soft t-shirt. “It’s a surprise,” he says vaguely.
“Can I bring the ice cream?”
Louis fixes him with a look. “Have you met me?”
Five minutes later, they pile into Louis’ humblest car, a black Range Rover that Harry could get used to driving around in. It’s nearly five. The sun hasn’t risen yet, but the sky is lightening to a thin, pale purple, like the smoke from a cigarette smoked past midnight, and Harry takes deep, calming breaths as Louis drives, silent and steady and stronger that Harry will ever be. Harry rests his head against the cool window and watches Los Angeles at dawn speed by, streetlamps blending in with the sky and a few people are starting to move down the wide boulevards, an ambitious jogger staring straight ahead, a street vendor setting up his stand, a homeless woman pushing a shopping trolley full of worn blankets, two girls with too-high hair stumbling home in too-high heels. Then, Louis takes a left and then another left and two rights and suddenly they’re out of the city, headed down a motorway, hills that look dark green in the fog springing up around them. Harry lets his eyes drop, but what feels like a second later, a warm hand is shaking him awake.
“We’re here?” he yawns.
“We’re here,” Louis confirms, and Harry follows him out of the car, slinging the backpack that, per Louis’ instructions, contains Chocolate Therapy, a spoon, Harry’s camera, an old bedsheet, and a large Nalgene bottle over his shoulder. They’re at the basin of a large hill, parked in what looks to be a homemade lot fit for a maximum of three cars. Harry’s feet kick up dust along the path as he hurries to catch up to Louis, who’s headed for a footpath half-overrun by a variety of plants.
“Are we hiking, then?” Harry asks, “At five in the morning?”
Louis rolls his eyes, “You grew up in the mountains, Harold, come on.”
“I moved to the city for a reason, Lou,” Harry says. Louis grabs his hand impatiently and drags him forwards.
“You’ll like it,” Louis says confidently. “I promise.”
You’ll like it, I promise. It was only a month ago that Louis had murmured those exact words to him, when they’d been half-asleep on Harry’s sofa, too tired to make it all the way to the bedroom after another long day in the studio, working on the EP. Louis’ alarm had been set to go off in just two hours, because he’d had a big meeting for a different client back in LA at noon.
“It seems so ridiculous that you have to fly back for, like, two hours, when you’ll be back here by the next morning,” Harry’d whispered into his hair, angling for him to blow off the meeting entirely and take a day off at Coney Island.
“I know,” Louis’d groaned into Harry’s chest. “Just come to LA, already.”
“What?” Harry’d asked, disbelieving, suddenly wide awake. Louis, though, had just yawned into Harry’s sweater.
“Don’t sound so surprised, love, ‘ve been thinking about it a lot,” he’d murmured. “It’s where the business is, Haz, we could finish up the EP in the best studios, you could actually meet the people who are going to make you rich. Plus, like, LA is warm. And sunny. None of this April showers shit.”
Harry’d nuzzled his head against Louis’. “Don’t be silly Lou,” he’d laughed softly. “My life’s here. What about my job? Family? Niall? Besides, we can barely pay our rent as is. How are we supposed to swing a place in LA?”
“Jus’ come ‘n live with me, babe.”
Louis’s head had been right over Harry’s heart, so Harry’s sure that Louis had been able to hear it skip a beat.
“Got so much space, I don’t know what to do with it. ‘N they’ve got a ton of those juice bars you like, and you can do yoga with all the celebrities down on the sand, and you’ll like Santa Monica, its sort of like Coney Island. Plus, like, I wouldn’t mind seeing your face every morning,” Louis’d cut across his own ramblings, then, and reached up a sleep-clumsy hand to tug on one of Harry’s curls. “Come to LA,” he’d repeated, right before he’d succumbed to sleep. “You’ll like it. I promise.”
Now, as they climb up the steep, rocky path, moving slowly because it suddenly feels like they’ve got all the time in the world, Harry gets his first good look at Los Angeles, a city nestled in between green hills and valleys, and he’s grateful that Louis’d told him to pack his camera, because he does like it. It’s just light enough to make out the shapes of everything, and it’s so gorgeous, really, a somehow serene view of a city that’s always seemed anything but. Neither of them are really morning people, and so the hour-long hike upwards is spent in a comfortable, sleepy silence, like the breakfasts that they used to share in New York, bagels at the small diner by JFK Airport when Harry would see Louis off on seven am flights.
Harry’s feeling calmer and more himself by the time that the sky looks a bit pink and they reach the edge of a tall fence, but that feeling is instantly shattered when Louis runs a hand over the metal and casually asks him what he thinks about the LAPD.
“Sorry?” Harry asks, not sure if he’s heard Louis right.
“This is technically illegal,” Louis says. “Technically.”
Harry wakes up, really wakes up, to observe their surrounding through the sight LA morning fog. They seem to be pretty near the peak of the small mountain, and the path beneath their feet is clearly the road less traveled, overgrown with weeds and grass. The fence stretches far in both directions, and there are official looking security cameras and a red and white sign declaring the area to be RESTRICTED ENTRY, and under that, the words ‘mountain fire district’ and under that a warning that violators and trespassers are liable to steep fines and arrests.
“Look, Haz,” Louis points. Harry squints a bit, and he can make out the corner of a tall, familiar, metal ‘H’.
Louis has brought him to see the Hollywood Sign.
“Louis, oh my God.”
“Its really early, so if you keep your head down and duck through here-” Louis lifts up the metal with an air of familiarity- “The cameras probably won’t catch you. They do have, like, helicopters, but one just passed over five minutes ago, so I reckon we’ve got a solid ten minutes before they try to send us to prison.”
Harry’s absolutely speechless, because this has to be the most incredible and romantic and sweeping thing that anybody’s ever done for him ever and Los Angeles is so overwhelming but so is Louis.
Apparently Harry’s silent for too long, though, because Louis starts rambling, like he did when he tried to tell Harry that they should ‘possibly maybe consider not having sex with other people, like, I mean only if you want to, and no pressure, or anything’. “If you don’t want to, that’s totally fine, its just like, when Zayn and I first came to LA and everything was crazy and we couldn’t get a single label to even listen to his demos we’d come up here and just sit and it put it in really good perspective and I just thought-”
The only thing Harry can do in this situation is to kiss Louis silly. He may have the entire country between him and everything that he’s used to, but he’d cross oceans to be with the man standing right next to him.
“If the LAPD arrest us, I’m going to blame you, just so you know.” Louis tells Harry, a little breathless, when they break apart.
“Alright. I am more in shape and substantially younger, I’d last longer in prison anyways.”
“You’re impossible,” Louis groans, but he smacks Harry’s bum when he crawls through the gap in the fence.
There are yellow flowers growing on the hill side and the ground is rocky and they grip each other’s hands as they make their way right down to the H, which is so big that Harry has to crane his neck up to the top to see it. Louis spreads out the blanket and Harry sits down next to him and they only ended up bringing one spoon, but Louis generously lets Harry get first dibs.
“The city looks really small from here, innit?” Louis asks, nudging his shoulder. Harry squints into the sunrise to discover that it is, indeed, true- the city is dwarfed by the rolling hills that surround it, and Harry- Harry’s on top of one of those hills, he’s looking down on LA, and he knows, now, why Louis’ brought him up here.
“I know LA can be a lot, that it is a lot, but I- I don’t want you to ever feel like it’s too much, okay? Just. Let me know, if it’s too much. I love you, madly, and I want to help.”
“You’re already helping,” Harry squeezes Louis’ hand in thanks, thanks for taking him in and taking him here; Louis kisses his temple to say you’re welcome, and they watch the sun turn the valley gold.
“So what do you think, Styles?” Louis asks, once they’re standing, at last, at a legal distance away from the sign. Harry’s first morning in Los Angeles has been watching the sun rise over the valley, the sky turning all of the most dazzling colours, and it’s been chocolate ice cream kisses, and it’s been Louis and he yelling, laughing, scrambling to dive back under the fence the second they hear a helicopter in the distance, and it’s only six twenty.
“It’s like- a fucking dream,” Harry declares, snapping one last picture. Louis slips an arm around his waist and Harry smiles. “Really, Lou. I think… I think I like it.”
“You’d better,” Louis laughs, pulling him back towards the dirt footpath. “I don’t break my promises.”
05 - Children Of The Bad Revolution
The second Zayn pushes play and Beyoncé comes on, the tour bus is a madhouse.
“DJ Malik in the house!” Zayn yells throwing a fist up in victory as the entire party, sprawled out across the main cabin in various states of disarray, cheers.
Harry’s only been opening for Zayn on the Americana Tour for three weeks- started in the second week of August- but he absolutely adores being on tour, loves watching the stadiums slowly start to fill up, loves the hectic buzz backstage and the shrieks that can be heard from a mile away when Zayn steps onstage and the lighters raised in the air and how, when he or Zayn ask the crowd how they’re feeling tonight, they all call back at the same time, an elated jumble of greetings meant just for them. Harry loves the experience of travelling across America, too. He feels at home on the cramped tour bus that Perrie’s decorated with comfy couches and dreamcatchers and scraps of pretty patterned cloth, and he’s become fast friends with the crew of people who make up the Americana Tour- especially Zayn’s hairdresser, Lou, and her husband Tom, whom Harry is already secretly plotting on stealing from Zayn when- if- he gets his own tour. The crowds love Harry, is the thing- the media’s given his EP and first single mixed reviews, but Harry doesn’t give a fuck what some tough music critics think, so long as he keeps winning over crowd after crowd in every new city they go to.
(He’s gaining quite an impressive fan base, and Louis and Liam say that it’ll only be a matter of weeks before the label calls him to give him the go-ahead on a studio album, but Harry’s trying to keep expectations low.)
“This is my song !” Harry cries drunkenly from the couch, voice hoarse from the hour-long set he’d played earlier and the four cigarettes he and Zayn had chainsmoked while waiting for the crew to finish packing everything away. “Hey, Liam, Le- yum, what’ve you been?”
“Drinkin’!” Liam slurs back, impressively steady on his feet as he mixes drinks at the makeshift bar. “I been drinkin’!”
“Turn it down, Malik!” Paul yells up from the front of the bus, because Zayn is twenty-seven and he still needs a handler on the road. “It’s late!”
“It’s Beyoncé,” Perrie argues, lying on the floor with her head in Zayn’s lap.
“Damn straight,” Niall nods, reaching over to give her a high five but missing and accidentally falling onto his face.
“You said you could hold your liquor,” Barbara raises her eyebrows, taking a cool sip of her beer. She’s just teasing, but she and Niall only met a month ago, and it’s her first weekend on tour with them. She doesn’t seem to realise what a serious accusation she’s just made, and she looks surprised when Niall gasps and jumps straight to his feet, only stumbling a little.
“Can too,” he boasts. “C’mere, dance with me, I’ll show you.”
“He can’t dance sober, though,” Harry feels it’s necessary to say, in Niall’s defence. “So please don’t hold this against him. He likes you very much a lot.”
“I’ll keep that in mind,” she laughs, as Niall pulls her off the floor and closer to him. Harry hums happily to himself and watches them grind slowly in the dimly lit bus.
“You started the Beyoncé without me?” Louis’ voice comes from above him, mock indignant.
The only downside to being on tour is that Louis isn’t , not usually. Harry’s a product of his past- detached and nihilistic to a fault, on stage, but too quick to latch on to people who get past his initial barriers. Harry and Louis had a solid six months in LA before Zayn’s tour started up in earnest and Harry jumped on board, and Harry fell- falls - more and more in love with Louis every single day- he’s never felt this way before, not even with Caroline, never felt so dizzy with it that the only logical course of action is to spin faster and faster. Louis flies in to meet them when he can, but this is only the second time that Harry’s seen him in a month, and Harry misses Louis when Louis gets up in the middle of the night to have a wee- to be miles and miles apart for weeks and weeks on end is nearly painful. Harry knows that he’s been incredibly lucky- Niall’s here, experiencing this all with him as his lead guitarist, just like they’ve been planning since grade three , Zayn is quickly becoming one of his best mates, and even Liam’s loosened up a bit- but without Louis, it sort of feels like there’s a part of him missing.
“Harry,” Niall had sighed when Harry tried to explain why he absolutely had to FaceTime with Louis three times a day, “The tour’s only two months long, you’ll be back before you know it.”
Harry’d raised his eyebrows. “Says the man who invited his girlfriend of three weeks to tag along with us to Dallas.”
“She’s not just my girlfriend,” Niall’d said matter-of-factly. “She’s Barbara Palvin.”
(It’s different, for Niall, though. He can parade around with Barbara on his arm. Harry and Louis have to be more careful, even when they are together- it’s not like Harry’s lying about his sexuality by saying that he’s bi, but there has been what Liam calls an ‘image’ created for Harry, one that sings a lot less about daddies and swaps ‘he’ for ‘you’, and one that does not overly advertise the fact that Harry’s dating his producer . It’s not about the fact that Louis’ a guy , Liam has told Harry sincerely, over and over, it’s that he’s technically sort of your boss. Harry knows that Liam is just trying to make it easier on Harry, trying to make sure that the media doesn’t drag him through the mud. Harry still hates it, a little.)
“Lou!” Harry beams up at Louis now. “You’re back! It’s been ages.”
“Doesn’t take that long to piss, love,” Louis grins, before falling down on the couch next to Harry. “What’ve we been up to since I’ve been gone?”
Harry nuzzles into Louis’ neck. “Nothing much. Just Paul trying to get us to turn down.”
Louis gasps dramatically, wraps an arm around Harry, “God forbid.”
Harry hums in agreement, then reaches blindly for the bottle of cherry schnapps he’s been working on all night. When he finally grasps it and brings it up to his lips, he realises that it’s empty.
“Aww, babe,” Louis laughs at Harry’s pout. “Are you out of your girly liqueur?”
Harry whacks Louis’ arm half-heartedly. “There’s another bottle in the mini fridge, don’t be silly.”
Harry tries to climb over Louis and towards the mini fridge that Niall’s set up in the back, but he’s sluggish from the alcohol and high from the show, and he slips, ending up half-straddling Louis instead.
“Well, well, well,” Louis teases. “Someone certainly gets filthy when that liquor gets into him.”
Harry laughs, and moves to get up from Louis’ lap, but Louis’ hands come up to grip his hips, and Harry looks down, surprised. “Do you want another malt?”
Louis bites his lip, shakes his head, and grinds his own hips up subtly, rubbing his clothed dick against Harry’s.
Harry checks over his shoulder to assess the situation. Niall and Barbara are lazily making out in a corner suspiciously close to the bunks, Perrie is dozing off, and Zayn and Liam seem to be focusing very intently on something on Liam’s phone, probably a video of cats. Turning back to Louis, Harry raises his eyebrows and smirks.
“Do you want me to,” he pauses. “‘Grain on that wood?’”
Louis groans, “Did you have to say it like that?”
Instead of responding, Harry tightens his legs around either side of Louis’ hips and grinds down.
“Haz,” Louis chokes out, reaching out to grab him. Harry catches Louis’ hands in one of his own and shakes his head.
“No touching,” he says, half-joking, but Louis swallows and nods, withdrawing his hands and spreading his arms out along the back of the couch.
‘Grindin’ off in that club’ Beyonce sings, and Harry sets about to giving Louis a proper lap dance.
He’s got little control of his long limbs, but a good sense of rhythm and a fair bit of experience riding dick, so he keeps his arms on either side of Louis’ head and leans forward, so that his arse is just above Louis’ crotch. He moves just his hips at first, grinding down on the downbeat, smiling, pleased, when Louis’ hips move to meet his automatically. He bears down and starts moving in slow circles, right over Louis’ growing semi, back and forth, getting quiet little gasps from Louis as a reward. Once he’s gotten Louis worked up a bit, Harry sits up straight again, rolling his hips up and down perfectly so that he’s rubbing up against Louis right in time with the music.
“Fuck, baby,” Louis groans, throwing his head back as Harry slides a hand under Louis’ shirt, cool hands drifting over his heated skin.
“Daddy, I want you,” Harry whispers in Louis’ ear, pressing down especially hard.
“Fuck,” Louis swears again, this time too loud.
“Shh,” Harry hushes, but it’s too late, and Niall’s already making choked sounds behind them. Harry flushes and hides his face in Louis’ neck, and Louis laughs.
“This is the party bus, innit?” he asks innocently, and somebody- Zayn, Harry guesses, throws a pillow at him.
“Bathroom in five,” Louis whispers in Harry’s ear, reaching down to squeeze his arse once.
Harry grins, knowing that Louis will be able to feel it against his neck, and rolls off of him, exaggeratedly grabbing the pillow and plopping it over his obvious hard-on.
“What’s next, DJ Malik?” he asks. “Partition?”
There are catcalls when Harry gets up exactly five minutes later to go into the tiny toilet and when Louis doesn’t even count to sixty before he follows, and there’s laughter and music pouring in from under the cracks in the door when Harry gets on his knees, and when Harry and Louis emerge twenty minutes later, murmuring ‘love yous ’ and ‘ missed yous’, Barbara and Niall are spooning on the couch and Liam’s nodding off on Zayn’s shoulder and Louis sits down against the wall next to Zayn and pulls Harry down against him.
“So proud of you,” Louis tells Harry quietly. “This tour is- it’s amazing, H, you’re doing so well.”
“So proud of us,” Harry says, thinking about the life they’ve created together.
He falls asleep happier than he’s ever been in his life.
Harry wakes up, at one point, the bus moving steadily onward into early morning underneath him. He’s on the floor, curled up under Louis’ favourite denim jacket with his head in Louis’ lap, and his eyes feel heavy and everything is light violet and there are long, gentle fingers carding through his curls.
“-actually quite fearless, he just doesn’t realise it,” a soft voice from above him is saying.
Somewhere to Harry’s right, Zayn hums quietly. “I think so, too. He says he gets stage fright, but I’d never know it, and neither would the fans.”
Louis makes a pleased little noise that matches the flip Harry’s heart gives at such praise from Zayn Malik. “They love him, don’t they.”
“Worship him, innit? He’s their fuckin’ idol, more like.”
“He’s my idol,” Louis says fondly, and Harry instinctively nestles his head a little more into Louis’ thigh to hide the blush he’s sure is spreading across his entire body.
“That’s disgusting, mate,” Zayn sighs. “You’re probably not even high anymore.”
“I’m drunk, though,” Louis says dreamily. “Drunk in love.”
Zayn laughs then, a rare and gorgeous sound that saturates the air. Louis hushes him.
“You’ll wake everybody else, Z, shh.”
“Sorry, mate,” Zayn says quietly. “I’m just really happy for you, you know?”
“Thanks, babe,” Louis whispers back. “I’m happy for me, too.”
06 - Queen of Disaster
They pull up to Coachella in a classic white Mercedes, top down.
“I’m dreaming,” Harry murmurs, more to himself than Louis, as he holds up his phone to snap a shot of the green and white road sign announcing their arrival. Louis laughs and pinches Harry’s thigh, hard, where his hand has been resting for most of the drive up; Harry gives a little start and swats Louis’ hand in retaliation.
“Awake now, babe?” Louis grins over at him.
Things have been busy, lately, what with the long awaited go-ahead on the studio album in February and the tireless road of promo, radio spots and bigger venues and writing song after song and his slowly growing bank balance and his slowly growing fanbase, and as busy as it’s been for Harry, as much as it’s swept him away, Louis’ been there, too, a constant ball of energy as he shapes the sounds and careers of countless artists, but always somehow finding the time to kiss Harry for good luck before every show. It’s been a whirlwind, and Harry is so, so grateful for everything, yet also so, so ready for a break. Louis can shrug off as many all-nighters as he wants, but Harry knows that he’s glad, too- he’s getting more and more visibly relaxed as they head up the coast, blasting the radio and laughing about absolutely nothing, and he’s fucking glowing in the soft, April Los Angeles sun, and Harry’s going to perform at Coachella with Niall , and Liam’s sick with the flu so the label won’t be there to tell him off if he kisses Louis four times a minute, and nope , Harry thinks as he selects Walden for a filter and captions his picture ‘city limits xx’, still dreaming.
The hotel they’re booked at is gorgeous, of course, the private terracotta terraces and white sheets and a sparkling turquoise pool standing at a sharp contrast to the dingy Super 8s that Harry’s making a small fortune off of singing about. Louis collapses on the bed the second they key in, flinging the Ralph Lauren luggage he’d valiantly offered to carry up every which way and humming contentedly into the pillow. Harry sighs exaggeratedly and moves to pick them up and pack them away, but a firm hand catches his wrist and suddenly Louis is yanking him down and with a shout of laughter Harry falls, long limbs flying everywhere, head hitting the pillow and legs tangling with Louis’.
“Smooth, darling,” Louis laughs brightly as Harry clumsily rearranges himself so he’s facing Louis on the soft white pillow.
“‘S my middle name,” Harry smiles, soft, and leans over to bump his nose against Louis’. Louis hums and smiles and drapes an arm over Harry’s waist and closes his eyes and -
“Hey!” Harry protests, kicking Louis lightly in the shin. Louis cracks one eye open, unamused.
“Did you just kick me?”
“We’re at Coachella , and you are falling asleep,” Harry shoots back, equally incredulous.
“It was a long drive, Harold,” Louis knocks his knee against Harry’s in retaliation and settles deeper into the pillow. “Let me be.”
Harry is thirty-two hours and seven minutes away from the biggest performance of his entire life and three miles outside of the best music festival in the world, and he’s got plans.
“Zayn gave me some Molly, d’you wanna get high and then go make out in the pool?” he tries.
“We could head in early, go watch people set up tents and meet up with Niall and such.”
“It’s only noon, Haz, let’s just nap a bit.”
“But I haven’t properly thanked you yet,” he says, low and secret even though they’re the only ones in the room. “Daddy.”
Louis doesn’t open his eyes, but Harry feels him stiffen on the bed, hears his small intake of breath. “Thanked me for what?” Louis murmurs, voice half-muffled by the pillow but undeniably smug.
For Coachella and for the record and the vintage cars and always remembering to water the plants even though I’m the one who bought them in the first place and an appreciation for British soccer teams and band-aids for my knees and a breathtaking view to wake up to every morning and countless chances and my dreams and my faith and my home, Harry thinks, but all of that would take a little while to say, probably, and he’s useless with words unless they’re put to music.
“For everything,” he whispers.
Louis slowly opens his eyes, locks them with Harry’s. There’s a small, soft smile playing at his lips. He lifts his head a little, buts his forehead against Harry’s own, and leans in to brush his lips across Harry’s, light, teasing.
Last night, Louis’d fucked his tongue mercilessly into Harry’s mouth and bit at his lip and scratched his blunt nails down Harry’s chest as Harry rode him into the mattress with his hands tied behind his back, but now, Louis just presses their lips together, tracing the seam of Harry’s lips with his tongue and but pulling back again and again. Harry fights the urge to pull Louis forward on top of him, rut up against him until he properly snogs him with teeth and tongue and the promise of more. He just lies there, instead, and lets Louis take whatever he wants, until he’s lost in a world of white sheets and feather-light touches and the clean scent of expensive cologne.
“Love you so much,” Louis murmurs to him between kisses. “My wonderful, wonderful boy.”
Harry preens, can’t help the way he twists to rub his cock against Louis’ thigh, but Louis tuts softly and presses Harry flat back onto the mattress with firm hands. “Can you be good for me, H?” Louis asks, dangerously sweet. He’s hovering over him a bit, one thigh between Harry’s legs and a hand tangled in Harry’s hair, but he’s careful not to bear down, careful not to give Harry what he really wants. “Good for daddy?”
Harry nods quickly, eyes wide. “So good for you, daddy,” he promises. “Want to make you feel good.”
Louis beams down at him, and Harry is nearly breathless with it. “Know you do, baby.”
When Louis kisses him now, there’s a little more intent in it. He licks expertly into Harry’s mouth, tugs a bit on his hair, cups Harry’s jaw with one hand and slides a hand under Harry’s t-shirt with the other. Harry sucks extra hard on Louis’ tongue and focuses on not arching up when the pads of Louis’ fingers brush over his nipples. Louis rewards him with a quick tweak, and Harry whines softly into Louis’ mouth. Louis pulls away, laughs.
“Why don’t we get this shirt off, hmm?”
Harry nods again, stretching his arms above his head so that Louis can slide his shirt off. He watches with hooded eyes as Louis raises himself up a little to pull off his own shirt and unbutton his trousers, then waits, patiently, as Louis scans him up and down appreciatively.
“You’ve got such a pretty mouth, love,” he praises, lifting a hand to stroke across Harry’s cheek and letting his thumb catch on Harry’s lower lip, swollen from kissing. “‘M gonna fuck your face now, OK?”
Harry shivers a little involuntarily, squirms against the sheets as he feels himself get harder and harder in his jeans. Louis twists one of his nipples, hard and fast. “Daddy asked you a question, baby.”
“Yeah,” Harry manages, belatedly. “Yes, daddy, please, need your cock.”
“Good boy,” Louis scratches Harry’s head, once, and then hops off the bed. Harry stares at the ceiling and counts the seconds until Louis returns, naked and smirking. He crawls up Harry’s body, strong thighs coming up to straddle Harry’s chest, his cock hard and thick and curving towards his stomach.
“I don’t want you to touch yourself, baby,” Louis warns, pushing Harry’s curls away from his face. Harry tears his eyes away from Louis’ dick long enough to reply, already halfway under.
“I won't, daddy, I promise, please, I’ll stay still, I’ll suck you good.”
Louis cards his hands through Harry’s hair and tugs his head back, humming contentedly as he shuffles up further to line his cock up with Harry’s mouth. He pushes in, just an inch, and Harry’s eyes flutter shut as he moans around the head of Louis’ dick, swirling his tongue around it messily but not daring to move to take Louis further, to take more than Louis’ giving him. Louis rewards his restraint by starting to thrust shallowly into Harry’s mouth, stretching it wide. It makes a wet noise, Louis’ dick sliding in and out, and Louis is thick and so there’s already a bit of spit dribbling down Harry’s chin, and Harry’s completely hard in his tight jeans, almost painfully so, and Louis is making these noises, little grunts and moans and whispers of ‘fuck, babe, that’s so good’, but Harry’s determined to be good for Louis and so he just twists the sheets in his hands and concentrates on tracing a path along the underside of Louis’ dick with his tongue.
“Yeah, baby, that’s it, look at you, taking daddy’s cock so well,” Louis groans.
Harry opens his eyes, peers up at him through his lashes. Louis’ staring down at him, hair falling into his eyes and biting his lip and breathing. Harry hollows out his cheeks and sucks harder; Louis lets out a breathless little laugh.
“You want more, baby, don’t you? Greedy boy.” Incapable of speaking, Harry hums in agreement around Louis’ dick because yes, he wants more; Louis lets out a low moan. “Yeah, baby, I’ve got you,” he whispers, and the force of his next thrust nearly knocks Harry’s head against the headboard as his prick hits the back of Harry’s throat. Harry gags, spots dancing across his vision and knuckles turning white from gripping the sheets so hard.
“Yeah, choking on it, fuck, that’s good, you’re so good,” Louis says, and he twists a fistful of Harry’s sweaty curls in his hands and starts to fuck Harry’s face in earnest.
Harry loves it, loves having his mouth stuffed full of Louis’ cock and loves Louis’ hands pulling at his hair and loves just lying there while Louis takes everything that he wants. There are tears leaking out of his eyes because of the force of Louis’ dick hitting the back of his throat repeatedly but Harry works through it, breathes through his nose and makes senseless noises that are completely obscured by Louis’ prick. Louis’ working himself to orgasm, Harry knows, can tell because his hips start to snap forward more and more desperately and he stops panting out fully formed words in favour of breathy moans, just like he does when he’s close to coming deep inside of Harry’s arse, and Harry’s groaning, long and deep, at the thought of Louis coming deep inside of his arse, and the vibrations must do something for Louis, because all of the sudden he’s yanking Harry off of his prick by his hair, and coming all over Harry’s face with a cry of “fuck, baby!”
Harry feels warm liquid covering his face, and he opens his eyes to find Louis still raised up on his knees above him, panting hard and looking a little stunned. “Fuck,” he swears again when Harry looks up at him, pleading.
“Daddy,” Harry begs, bucking his hips up wildly for emphasis.
“Right,” Louis nods, and he shakes himself out of it and springs back into action, dropping a kiss to Harry’s sternum before reaching down to palm Harry through his tight jeans. Harry actually yelps and arches up into the touch he’s been denied for so long, desperate for any sort of friction. Louis squeezes along the shape of Harry’s cock, encouraging him, and bends down to suck a bright red mark onto Harry’s neck. “That’s it, H,” Louis praises, “Let daddy take care of you.”
Harry gasps as Louis rubs along the clothed head of his dick, faster and faster. It’s not enough, it’s not enough , and Harry is so close to coming anyway that it’s embarrassing. “Daddy, fuck, daddy I’m so close, can I- can I-”
“You’ve been such a good boy, baby, ‘course, go ahead, ‘m so proud of you-”
And Harry’s coming, screwing his eyes shut and crying out and coming, right in his pants, like he’s sixteen years old.
“Fuck,” Louis swears again, collapsing on the bed next to Harry when he’s done. Harry's a little far away, a little floaty, a little lost in the white, but Louis' hand tangles in his, sweaty, and starts pulling him back to the ground.
"Did so good, baby, looked so pretty taking my cock," Louis mumbles into his hair, still breathless. "Look so pretty now, with my come all over your face."
Harry preens, reveling in Louis’ praise and rubbing his spent cock on Louis’ thigh. “Can I ride you?” he asks. “Love you so much, want to-”
“Tonight,” Louis laughs. “For now, let’s get you cleaned up, yeah?”
Harry can only nod, stupidly pleased with himself, and he lets Louis help him off the bed and out of his ruined jeans. “And to think you wanted to sleep, old man,” Harry mumbles happily as Louis starts running a bath.
“Fuck off,” Louis says, but he invites Harry into the warm water anyways.
Harry’s sex high starts to wear off as Louis’ fingers are massaging expensive-scented shampoo into his head, but there’s still a buzz in his bones, the ache he always gets before a performance, but multiplied tenfold. There’s so much he can’t wait for- the white tents and the people sprawled out on the grass and the music, so much of it and so many people who love it just as much as Harry does- and when they climb out of the bath to dry off and get dressed, Harry’s mind is racing with all the things he plans to do and the people he plans to meet.
“What should I wear, Lou?” he calls into the bathroom, where Louis’ taking his sweet time brushing up and shaving and wrestling with his hair.
“Go naked!” comes Louis’ entirely unhelpful response. Harry pouts and rummages through his bag, until his hand hits the small orange pill bottle where he stores his 'party favours'.
“Hey, Lou?” he asks absentmindedly.
“Yeah, babe?” Louis’ voice is muffled around around his toothbrush.
“D’you think they’ll check my ass for drugs at security?”
Louis makes a sound like he’s choking, and Harry turns, alarmed, to find him gaping in the doorway, toothpaste dripping out of the corner of his mouth. “Sorry?” he manages.
“Nick went in 2012 and they made one of the guys in his group bend and cough,” Harry explains, a little confused.
“Harry,” Louis says, sounding a bit awed.
“What?” Harry can feel his face heating up, like it always does when Louis looks at him like this, looks at him like Harry’s still every bit the quietly desperate nineteen year old that he’d won over so easily at a dive bar in Newark three years ago. Louis shakes his head fondly and bends over the glass sink to spit.
“You’re performing ,” he reminds Harry gently, turning back to him. “You get VIP passes the whole weekend. They’re going to be throwing drugs at your feet.”
“Right,” Harry says slowly, because sometimes he forgets that he isn’t a quietly desperate nineteen year old any longer, too. Louis must see it, must see the little sag in his shoulders, because he sets down his toothbrush and crosses over to snake an arm around Harry’s waist. Their damp sides press together as Harry stares down at the little bottle, and Louis stares at Harry.
“Haz, baby,” Louis says slowly. “How many illegal substances is Niall planning on shoving up his anal cavity because you’ve forgotten that you’re famous again?”
Harry bites down on the smile he can’t help. “Oops.”
“Hey, Harry Styles!” a voice yells.
Harry turns so quickly that the flower crown Perrie’d made for him nearly falls off his head. Last night, when he’d come over to help Louis pack, Zayn’d told Harry that the reason he loves Coachella is because he gets left alone more here than anywhere else, only gets stopped for autographs three or four times a day- we’re all on equal footing, we’re all here for the music. For Harry, though, whosefull album has only just been released and who has become accustomed to and comfortable with being referred to as ‘Zayn’s Opener’, three or four autographs a day are pretty substantial. They’ve only been here for an hour or two- it’s just getting dark- and Harry’s already done two. He’s not used to it yet, though- people knowing his face and his music and his name.
He turns to find a group of girls, probably around his age, all clutching beers and all wearing long skirts and floppy hats and gold bangles. One of them, a leggy brunette who Harry recognises from telly and around town, is smirking at him slightly dangerously.
“That’s me,” he says, smiling widely. He’s not used to it, yet, but he loves it.
“Can I get your autograph?” she asks, stepping forward and holding out a Sharpie.
“Of course,” he says genially. “Where would you like for me to sign?”
“My tits, please,” she says, and then she pulls up her shirt.
Niall lets out a loud whoop, Perrie cackles, and Harry’s face burns.
“Your- I mean- okay,” Harry manages. “Who should I make it out to?”
“Kendall,” she says. “Who else?”
Harry’s not oblivious when it comes to boobs, has seen quite a few of them in his day, but he’s certainly never signed a girl’s rack before. It seems like something for rockstars- it seems sexy. Harry supposes that his entire career is built on sexy, though, built on some sort of sultry image that he’s somehow made for himself, so he clears his throat, uncaps the pen and signs right across her chest- nice rack, kendall - harry styles.
“Have a nice weekend, babe,” he tells her, a little lost. Niall’s wheezing, he’s laughing so hard, but Kendall seems to be sufficiently charmed, turning back to her friends and whooping without bothering to put her shirt back on.
Niall is still entertaining Perrie with imitations of Harry’s shocked expression when they get back to Louis and Zayn, who are sprawled in the grass by the Outdoor Theatre. Beach House has just started their set. Although all of the performers are welcome to watch shows from backstage, they’d all been adamant about having a real festival experience, and so their blanket is surrounded by twenty others, full of normal concert-goers. Zayn is on his back, high out of his mind, gazing up at the sky and pointing out non-existent clouds to absolutely nobody, while Louis seems to be engaged in an intelligent conversation about Greek mythology with a girl on one of the neighbouring blankets.
“All I want to know,” Louis is saying, “is how Zeus fucked all those women while in eagle form. What are the mechanics of that?”
“I dunno, I’ve never thought about it,” the girl says slowly, tilting her head to the side and squinting a bit, like she’s trying to figure it out. “I’m pretty sure that eagles have penises, but, like, why wouldn’t those women then lay eggs?”
“Harry signed a girl’s tits!” Niall cries loudly, interrupting the activity around them. Zayn, Louis, and a few other people in the area cheer, but Harry drops down onto the blanket defeatedly.
“He’s not going to stop teasing me about this for days,” Harry groans into Louis’ shoulder. “Can you please shut him up?”
“I told you I was dating Harry Styles!” is all Louis says, proudly addressing the girl in front of them.
“Louis,” Harry whines.
“Jesus Christ, I so didn’t believe you!” the girl says. “Does he really make you breakfast every morning?”
“Why would I lie?” Louis asks. He finally turns to Harry, nudges his nose against the side of his temple, reaches a hand around to fix Harry's flower crown, and wraps an arm around him. “Sorry that Niall’s being a dick,” he says. “But he’s had a bit of a rough day.”
“Not my fault,” Harry says firmly.
Louis leans down to kiss the pout off of Harry’s face. “It sort of is, though,” he whispers, and Harry digs his fingers into his ribs and tickles him soundly.
“You guys are really good together,” the girl says kindly. Now that Harry’s got Louis’ attention back, he feels comfortable enough to really get a good look at her- she’s apparently a fan, after all. He likes her shoes.
“Thanks,” Harry says. “I like your shoes. What’s your name?”
“Eleanor,” she smiles, sticking her hand out. “I’m such a huge fan.”
“It’s good to meet you, Eleanor,” he grins back. “Are you having fun?”
“Loads,” she nods. “I’ve just got tickets for tonight and tomorrow, but I’ve already seen Skinny Lister, the Neighbourhood, and Local Natives.”
“Sick,” Harry breathes. “We just got here at six, I caught the beginning of Local Natives, but then we had to go and rescue my guitarist from imprisonment.”
Niall, who’d predictably tried to enter through the general entry instead of the artist’s entrance, ended up locked in a portable toilet, digging a baggie full of pot out of his arse- or so he says. When they’d finally found him by the Sahara Stage, it was nearly seven o’clock, and he’d already smoked three consecutive spliffs with some people he’d met in the campsites.
“Who’re you going to see later?” she asks.
Harry turns to Louis. “Do you have the timetable?”
“So demanding,” Louis sighs, but he reaches into his pocket and pulls out a rumpled piece of paper. Harry grabs it and unfolds it, leaning over Louis’ body so that he can share with Eleanor.
“I wanna see Purity Ring and FOALS,” he tells her. “But Louis has worked with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, so we’ll go over to the main stage, first.”
“Are you staying for Tegan and Sara?” she asks.
“Is the Pope Catholic?” he jokes, and she laughs.
“You’re different in person,” she tells Harry.
He furrows his eyebrows, “Really?”
“In a good way,” she says quickly. “I just didn’t think you’d be...sweet.”
“How did you think I’d be?” he asks curiously.
Eleanor tilts her head to the side, considering. “Kind of...bad? But in a good way! Like, I don’t know, more unstable or something. Dangerous? Ignore me, I’m sorry, I’m way too high.”
“Don’t apologise, love, I said the exact same thing when I met him,” Louis chimes in.
“It’s just, when I listen to your stuff, I kind of feel like James Dean is going to whisk me off on the back of his motorcycle and take me to the wrong side of the tracks.”
Louis laughs, but Harry drums his fingers against Louis’ thigh thoughtfully.
“It’s just,” Harry searches for the word. “My image.”
Liam’s always talking about Harry’s image, and Harry’s persona . When Harry first started out performing in earnest, he had been the kind of reckless, unattached person who slept with a host of slightly dangerous men and women, but now, he likes to think he’s more stable, likes to think that four years of finding ways to support himself and two in a stable, monogamous relationship have left him a little wiser, more mature. But sex sells , as Simon Cowell, CEO, is fond of saying, and Harry doesn’t mind rolling his hips around and sucking on a cigarette while he sings. Harry’d asked, at first, if he should have a stage name, but it was Gemma who vehemently opposed the idea (I dare you all to come up with a better name than Harry Styles , honestly ). Harry worries, sometimes, that people might not be able to separate Harry Styles, who sings about having sex in trailer parks and Harry Styles, who does love classic cars and smoking cigarettes but also loves baking blueberry scones for his loving boyfriend in the comfort of his luxurious, Santa Monica penthouse. He worries that people might get the wrong idea, worries that they might start thinking about him like some sex-starved lunatic, worries that everybody will be like Kendall, earlier- but he’s largely unimpressed with popular opinion in general; it’s the personal interactions with his fans, like the one he’s having now, that really matter to him.
“Well,” Eleanor says. “I like your image. And I like you.”
Harry’s surprised by how much this means to him, and he tries to tell her so, but the words sort of stick in his throat. Louis rubs circles along Harry’s back in time with Beach House and smiles at Eleanor.
“Do you have tickets for tomorrow?” Louis asks her.
“Yeah,” Eleanor nods. “I’m here through Sunday.”
“Harry’s on at three at the Mojave Stage,” Louis says. “I can get you really close to the stage, you should come.”
Harry nods in agreement, and thanks whatever god put Louis on earth- Louis, who always knows what to say and what to do, Louis, who has serious conversations with strangers about bestiality, Louis, whom Harry loves lots and lots.
Harry’s set starts at three.
Performing in bars and dark arenas, Harry’s always seen his audience as a dark mass, a solid, unified thing swaying in time to his music, comprised of, if anything individual, flickering lighters. Harry’s always loved the anonymity of it- found it poetic, even, that his music was listened to after midnight. Today, though, it’s bright as ever, and when Harry starts his sound check (a mere five minutes due to the sheer number of acts moving on and off of the stage) he can see the tent filling up. Seeing the faces of the audience, Harry learns, is both a blessing and a curse. One one hand, Harry adores his fans, and knowing that the people who pour in during the short sound check and push their way up to the front of the stage are here for him is immensely gratifying. On the other, Harry can see how many of them there are- a crowd that starts to stretch beyond the shade of the large, rectangular tent- and it would be much easier on his nerves, Harry thinks, if he could forget that these are all people and just think of them as an autonomous glob.
“Niall,” he says quietly, while they rock back on their heels right to the side of the stage, waiting for the go ahead to start their set. Niall, clad in the ‘Harry Styles Band’ typical performance outfit of slicked back hair and denim jackets, pulls a monitor out of his ear.
“There are a lot of people.”
“We’ve done bigger shows,” Niall says reasonably. “With a worse band.”
It’s true. While they were on tour with Zayn they’d been faced with what felt like a different drummer, bassist, and keyboard every night, and they’d performed for tens of thousands. Now, they’ve got a solid band they’ve been working with for a month or two and Harry knows that even if everybody at Coachella turned up to watch a comparatively unknown act, it still wouldn’t cap the crowds they’d faced at Gillette Stadium, but it’s hardly a time to put things in perspective.
Harry’s grimace doesn’t go away, and Niall slings an arm around his shoulder. “Hey,” Niall says. “Yeah, there are a bunch of people here. But they’re the only ones that matter.”
Harry follows Niall’s finger to see that Niall is pointing over at a mess of sheets and quilts spread out at the very front, where their little group has assembled, Paul watching over them all suspiciously from behind dark sunglasses, sat on his own Dora the Explorer blanket a few feet away.
Gemma arrived this morning, much to Harry’s delight- they were only able to squeeze in a brief hug and a beer before Harry and Niall had been whisked away by Lou and her sister, Sam, but Gemma’s going to stay in LA with Harry and Louis for the whole week, so they’ll have ages to catch up. She’s sat next to Perrie and Lou herself, now, and Harry thinks that it’s highly unlikely that Gemma will leave LA with the same colour hair that she came here with. Zayn is sprawled out on his stomach with his head in Louis’ lap, engaged in deep conversation with Tom, Lou’s husband. Eleanor’s joined them, and she and Barbara seem to be getting along just fine.
Louis, though- Louis is sitting crosslegged, nodding along to whatever B’s saying, but even though he’s wearing those goddamned aviators again, Harry is willing to bet a thousand million dollars that Louis is looking over at him every five seconds, mostly because he notices Harry looking over at them within three seconds, and, his entire face splits into Harry’s favourite kind of smile- the kind of smile that makes Louis crinkle up around the eyes.
I love you, Harry thinks.
“Styles, you’re a go,” a man in a black shirt and a headset nods.
Niall and Harry turn to each other.
“Don’t fuck it up,” they say at the same time, and then they’re laughing and hugging and bounding up the stairs two at a time to the sound of a roaring crowd.
“Hello, Coachella!” Harry yells, but it’s lost in the noise. “Hello, hello, hello!”
Harry takes a drag of his cigarette as he hears the swell of his first song start, feels it vibrating beneath his feet and ricocheting through his bones.
He looks for Louis again.
I love you, Louis mouths.
“I’m Harry Styles,” Harry announces. “And I’m going to be playing a few songs for you tonight.”
All in all, Coachella turns out to be even better than Harry thought it would be.
“This is even better than I thought it would be!” he yells out to nobody in particular, Sunday night, as Zayn wraps the first weekend up, but it’s Alexa Chung- Alexa Chung- who answers.
“Yeah, love?” she calls back. “Having fun?”
They’re in a mass of sweaty bodies, now, jumping and grinding and moving along to Zayn’s set. They’re packed in tight- Zayn’s on the main stage, and with a prime slot- and Harry’s shirt got soaked through by somebody’s beer a while ago and Louis seems to have persuaded Lou to clip his hair out of his face with a variety of her own sparkly clips, and Perrie is trying to climb onto Niall’s shoulders but they keep falling down and there are glowsticks and topless girls and Zayn is on fire, and Harry feels so lucky he could burst.
“I love everybody!” he cries, and he grabs Alexa and twirls her around to demonstrate his point. “I love you!”
“I love you, too!” Alexa says. Harry grins at her, and then scans the crowd for the person he loves the most.
“Louis? Lou, where-”
“Right here,” Louis laughs from where he’s pressed against Harry’s left, dancing with Pixie. “What do you-”
Harry cuts him off by pulling Louis flush to him and crashing their mouths together. Harry runs a hand under Louis’ thin tank top- smooth, warm, skin- and he gropes at Louis’ arse and he kisses Louis deep, with people pressing into them from all sides and the sky a dark purple.
There have been many, many incredible parts to Coachella- like listening to all of the music to making new friends and performing in front of people who can sing along to his songs and meeting his fans and being surrounded by his favourite people in the universe- but maybe the best part has been getting to kiss Louis wherever and whenever he wants.
“Jesus,” Louis pants, when Harry lets him go.
“I love you so much!” Harry tells him, yells even though Louis’ inches away from his face, because it’s very loud but he loves Louis the loudest. “So much I think I could die, sometimes!”
Louis beams up at him. “Like you could explode?” he shouts.
Harry laughs gleefully. “Like I could explode!”
“I could explode, too!” Louis says, and then he kisses Harry like they’re going to spontaneously combust any minute.
07 - Velvet Crowbar
It’s nearly six in the morning when they reach Lake Placid, and Harry’s still in a state of shock.
The show’d wrapped up at 1:30, and Harry hadn’t had to say a word for Louis to thread their fingers together tightly and politely turn down all offers of afterparties. Even so, it’d taken a good hour to untangle themselves from Niall, who’d quite literally wrapped himself around Harry and refused to let go.
“You’re so good, Harry, it was one performance, everybody knows that this isn’t how it normally goes, don’t let it throw ya-”
“I’m so, so sorry, oh my god- Niall, I’m- I can’t- I’m so sorry, fuck.” Harry’d managed to say over and over through the paralysing shock, the shattering realisation of how badly he’d just fucked it all up- fucked it up for himself, for Niall, for Louis . “God- I’m sorry, I-”
“We’re just going to drive up tonight,” Harry’d heard Louis tell Niall softly, under his fragmented apologies.
“You sure you don’t want to come back to the hotel?”
“No, we’ll just see you upstate,” Harry’d felt gentle hands prying him away from Niall’s grasp, and Louis’ arm wrapped tightly around his waist. “Trust me- I’ve got him.”
The drive to Harry’s childhood home is deadly quiet, a retreat instead of the victory lap it was intended to be: Harry curled up in the passenger seat of the Rover with Louis’ suit jacket draped over him like a blanket and Louis with one hand gripping the wheel and the other resting on Harry’s knee. Harry tries to sleep- closes his eyes and counts his blessings- but nothing’s working and his mind keeps replaying it all, the way he’d frozen seconds before the camera turned on, the way he’d stumbled through the first verse and swayed on the spot like he’d fall over during the chorus, the way Barbara had kissed his cheek when he’d come offstage, shaking, like he was made of glass, and so Harry just stares out at the dark highway and tries not to throw up.
Zayn calls at around four, maybe, and Louis talks quiet, as if he doesn’t want Harry to hear.
“How is he?” Zayn asks, voice muffled against Louis’ cheek.
“He’ll be okay,” Louis tells him, soft and firm.
“He’d going to have to deal with this, Lou.”
“I know,” Louis sighs.
“It’s not going to be pretty.”
“He’ll be okay,” Louis says again.
Harry’s not sure.
The driveway of Harry’s childhood home is dark when they pull in, but a sliver of light shines through the living room blinds- indication that his mum’s waited up for them to arrive.
They’d popped champagne when Harry’d got the call- how would you feel about being the musical guest on Saturday Night Live next January, Mr Styles? It was such a huge step, an opportunity to move from small stages to proper arenas and from college radio stations to the main airwaves, and Louis had said he was so, so, proud of Harry and how far he'd come , and that maybe he could go far in terms of other things, too. Harry'd closed his eyes and let himself be kissed and showered in bubbles and agreed that after the show, he'd bring Louis up to Lake Placid to meet his mother.
Louis looks a bit guilty now, like its his fault that they'll be meeting under these circumstances, like its his fault they'll have to face Anne while the gossip rags are already blogging about ‘the worst performance in SNL history’,but when they drag themselves up the path and to Harry’s old front porch, it’s all Harry can do to hold grip Louis’ hand tightlyand pray for the ground to swallow him up whole.
“It’ll be fine, baby, I promise,” Louis whispers into the side of his neck. “I’m still betting on you, you know.”
Harry doesn’t say anything, just knocks, softly, on the door.
When Harry comes to, there's a brief moment in which he forgets everything that happened yesterday, a brief moment where he's just tangled up in a pile of warm blankets that smell like cinnamon and buried under a boy who smells like home. But the harsh January sun is shining in through a crack in the slated blinds, and Louis' phone is ringing somewhere right under his ear, the distinct notes of the Jaws theme song only muffled slightly by the pillows- its the day after, and Liam's calling, and Harry remembers.
“Lou,” Harry mumbles. His eyelids feel heavy and swollen, and his voice is wrecked. He fights off the urge to sleep for twenty years and attempts to shift Louis over without waking him, digging around in the quilts and under pillows for the shrill mobile.
“Mugmph,” Louis grumbles back. He's still in the clothes that he was wearing last night, and he's got one arm draped heavily across Harry's chest and his feet wedged between Harry's legs and his face buried in the pillow. Harry feels a million times worse when he thinks about how tired Louis must be, after driving the entire six hours by himself because Harry'd been absolutely useless.
“Lou, babe,” Harry says again, finding the phone clutched tightly in Louis' right hand, which is buried under the pillow. “Let go, I got it.”
Louis huffs something that sounds a bit like 'fuck off' as Harry carefully wraps his fingers around Louis' and pries the phone out of his fingers.
“Shh,” Harry hushes, before carefully disentangling his legs from Louis' and shifting them so he's sat on the edge of the bed, bare feet resting against his worm carpet. He looks down at the ringing phone, still flashing a picture of Louis, Liam, and Zayn sporting facial hair and pulling funny faces. Harry's hand hovers over the red ignore button, but he's the one who made his bed, and now he's got to lie in it.
“Hey, Li,” Harry answers, picking up and padding across his room and into the tiny adjoining bathroom.
“Harry?” Liam asks. His voice is much too loud, and Harry rushes to turn down the volume.
“Yeah,” Harry says. “Hi.”
“Hi,” Liam sounds back. He sounds careful, reserved. “How’re you feeling?”
“Pretty shit,” Harry answers, blunt. “How bad is it?”
There’s a beat. “Harry-”
“How bad is it, Li?” Harry repeats. The cheap linoleum floor is cold on his bare feet, and Liam still doesn’t say anything, just like Harry’d suspected. Harry’s tired of it, tired of Liam asking for Louis’ help cleaning up Harry’s messes, tired of being handled with gloves. “Liam, I’m your fucking client , you need to cut the bullshit and talk to me , I don’t know why the fuck you keep calling Louis for help with dealing with my own shit, but I’m getting really tired of everybody treating me like I’m made of fucking glass.”
“Alright, Harry,” Liam sighs, sounding exhausted and apologetic. “You’re right, okay, I’m- I’m sorry.”
Harry sighs, flipping down the toilet seat and sitting down, folding his legs up and banging his knee on the sink in the process. It throbs, but Harry’s grateful for it, tries to focus on the sharp ache there instead of the situation at hand. “It’s fine,” he says shortly. “I appreciate you all trying to look out for me. But I’m- I’m a big boy, Liam, I can handle it, and even if I couldn’t, it’s not fair to ask Louis to.”
“No, no, I get it,” Liam says quickly. “I’m sorry. Noted.”
“Alright.” Liam pauses, taking a deep breath. “It’s- it’s not great.”
“Not great,” Harry laughs, dully. “Liam.”
“It’s truly not as bad as it could be,” Liam says honestly. “You’re not- Interscope’s not voiding your contract, and they’re not cancelling the tour.”
“Fuck,” Harry takes a deep breath, willing away the relieved tears pricking at his eyelids. “That’s incredible.”
“They are pushing it back, though,” Liam says.
Harry thinks his heart might stop. “What?”
“They’re not cancelling it, Harry, okay? Keep that in mind. We’re all still very committed to getting you out on the road.”
“You need more time, Harry. You’re really green. Go on some talk shows, do a few interviews, and laugh SNL off- charm them, play shy or timid or whatever you have to do. Get papped with your fans a bit more. Play venues that you feel comfortable in, do some collaborations, put out another video. I’m- we’re- totally in your corner, here, Harry. You just need a little more experience.”
“And the people who’ve pre-ordered tickets?”
“Full compensation, Harry, don’t worry.”
“Alright, okay, good.”
“We’ll see you back in LA on Wednesday to talk specifics, we’ve got people working on scheduling and whatnot as we speak. Just, you know, take a break. Delete Twitter, maybe, and definitely don’t Google yourself. Hike. Bake. Knit? I don’t really know what people do in the mountains, like, maybe you want to chop down trees for firewood or go duck hunting-”
“Oh my God, Liam,” Harry laughs weakly.
“Could be therapeutic,” Liam says, sounding like he might be smiling.
Harry knows that things could be a lot worse. His heart is sinking down to his toes, but he still feels grateful for everything that his team is doing for him. “Alright, Li. I’ll live the simple life for a bit. Shit, thank you so much, I’m-” he closes his eyes tightly and wills his voice not to break. “I’m sorry.”
“I know you are, H, but it’s really okay. Happens to everybody, at some point. Please don’t beat yourself up over it.”
“I’ll try,” Harry says.
“Good. I’ll call if there’s any updates, okay?”
“Yeah, Li, thanks,” Harry says. “And, next time- next time, could you, like, call me, maybe?"
“‘Course, H,” Liam says, warm and a bit apologetic. “Sorry, again.”
“It’s alright,” Harry assures him. “Bye, Liam.”
Harry looks at himself in the mirror for a long time, after he and Liam hang up. It’s very cinematic, he thinks, the way that he drinks his own face, scanning it for any sort of familiarity. His skin seems to be permanently tanned from the LA sun, and he’s got bags under his eyes because he doesn’t actually get to sleep that much- not at night, at least- and he’s got a few hickeys fading on the base of his throat and the crewneck that Louis must have found in his old drawers and pulled on him last night is too tight, pulling across his chest and his shoulders.
Harry looks at himself in the mirror, and then he strips down and turns the water as hot as it will go and tries to wash it all off.
Louis’ still sleeping when Harry tiptoes out of the shower. He’s curled around the pillow that Harry’d been using, clutching it tightly, and he looks so small, hair free from gel and falling into his face and quiet snores escaping his lips. Harry changes into a pair of sweatpants that stop a bit above his ankles, a jumper that still smells like the weed they used to smoke in Niall’s basement, and thick wool socks, and then he crosses the room as quietly as he can to pull the covers up right under Louis’ chin.
Louis is the sun, Harry thinks when he kisses Louis’ forehead, and the sun gets cold during the winter.
When Harry gets downstairs, it’s to find his mum chopping vegetables in the kitchen. Springsteen’s playing from the black radio by the sink and she’s got an old apron tied around her waist, and when she hears Harry come in, she drops everything to turn and give him the kindest smile in the whole world. Harry hadn’t cried last night backstage and he hadn’t cried when Louis drove them up and he hadn’t cried talking to Liam, but it’s all he can do now to whisper mum, and she’s there right away, rushing to his side and pulling him in for a hug that lasts a small lifetime.
“Shh, sweetie,” she murmurs into his hair as he slumps against her and buries his head into the warm space between her neck and her shoulders. “It’ll be okay, I promise.”
When Harry was sixteen, he slept with his history teacher.
Ms Flack taught him lots of things- how to pronounce Nuremberg (nur-em-burg ), the best way to drink whiskey (straight from the bottle), that he likes it to hurt a bit (a lot). It became an addiction almost instantaneously- sex, booze, and secrecy- and, like many of Harry’s current addictions- cigarettes, performing, Louis- it wasn’t easy to hide.
Anne found them one Tuesday afternoon in the garage; threatened to call the cops. Caroline quit her job on Wednesday and changed her phone number on Thursday. Harry went to boarding school on Monday.
Harry’d returned from prep school angry- angry at the administrators at Kent, for trying to tell him who he could and could not be, angry at Caroline, for not fighting for him, and angry at his mother, the most, for pulling the rug out from under him. Harry moved into Niall’s basement during summers and, once he graduated, he used the money his nan left him to run away to New York City and he called his mother, every week, to tell her the things he knew she didn’t want to hear- no, I’m not going back to school next semester, I want to focus on my music or I’ve met someone, he’s twenty-seven or I think I’m going to move to Los Angeles.
Anne never did call the police and Caroline’s now married and working at a primary school in Buffalo and Harry has parts of the serenity prayer tattooed on his body, but he carries around the anger at his mother everywhere he goes, wears it like a cloak. He blamed her, thought she made him that way, made him so fucked up- but it’s twisted logic that he can’t follow now, as she strokes his hair like she did when he was six and they buried his goldfish in the backyard.
“Hey,” Anne is saying, gentle as anything. “Hey, hey, hey. It’s alright. You’re alright.”
Harry lets himself be carefully manoeuvred over to the sofa. She wraps him in a knitted blanket and presses a steaming hot mug of coffee into his hands and by the time that she’s got him a box of tissues, his crying’s mostly subsided. She folds herself onto the couch beside him and watches him carefully.
“Do you know how proud I am of you?” she starts. Harry flushes crimson and he rolls his eyes, and he stares down into his coffee so that he doesn’t start crying again.
“Harry Edward,” Anne says firmly. “I’m so proud of you that I hardly know what to do with myself, sometimes.”
Harry laughs weakly. “You’re so embarrassing, Christ.”
She whacks his arm, “It’s true, though. Always have been.”
“Not- not always,” Harry can’t help choking out.
She sighs, pulls the sleeves of her sweater over her hands. “Harry-”
“It’s okay,” Harry says to his coffee, his ‘things I can ’ tattoo burning a hole through his jumper on his right arm. “Like, I- I had a problem, drinking and stuff, and they helped me, a lot- I get why you- you sent me away. It’s my fault, I let it get out of control, honest, I know that.”
“Oh, Haz,” she whispers, her own voice sounding suspiciously think. “I- that’s very mature of you to say, darling, but we both know that it wasn’t your fault, not all of it. I just- I wanted you to be happy and safe. That’s all I’ve ever wanted.”
“You didn’t want me to move to Los Angeles, though,” Harry says, because while he’s in the business of taking responsibility and cleaning up his own messes he might as well try to work something out with his own mother. “I thought- I figured that you didn’t trust me.”
“It’s other people that I don’t trust, Harry,” she tells him earnestly. “But- hey, look at me,” she hooks a finger under his chin and brings him up to meet her eyes, smiling at him soft and loving. “You’re so, so brave, Harry. In a way that I never was. You- you take risks and chances and you aren’t afraid to love with everything that you are, and I admire that about you, so much. If you’d taken my advice and stayed in New York, you wouldn’t have all of the things you have now- and I know that it doesn’t feel like it, right now, but you have so much , you have an incredible start to a career and Gemma says that your home is beautiful , and you have Niall, and you have Louis. It’s going to be okay, honey. I’m so amazed. I’m so proud. This is just a bump in the road, H, you’re doing so well.”
“That’s what I keep telling him.”
It’s Louis, stood in the doorway in old plaid pyjama pants and an old Kent crewneck that he must’ve found in one of Harry’s drawers, looking so fond that Harry’s nearly embarrassed for him. Louis looks down at his feet pointedly- winter in upstate New York and still no socks, the idiot- and gives Harry and Anne a few moments to wipe at their eyes.
“Morning,” Harry sniffles, really smiling for the first time in what feels like a lifetime.
“It’s three in the afternoon,” Louis informs him, but he crosses over to give Harry his good morning kiss anyways.
“Afternoon, Mrs. Twist,” he says kindly. Anne’s eyes still look a bit shiny as she smiles up at him.
“Anne, Louis, really,” she says. “Can I get you something to drink or eat? ‘M afraid Robin’s not back from the store with the groceries yet, but we have coffee and toast.”
“Oh, no- don’t get up on my account-”
“No, I’ve left the brownies in the oven for too long, anyways, I need to pull them out.”
“Oh, alright, then,” Louis smiles graciously. “Would you happen to have any tea?”
“Ah, yes, forgot that’s how you English like it,” she laughs. “Black alright?”
“Perfect, thank you.”
She moves to get up, but Harry catches her arm before she can do so.
“Thank you,” he murmurs, stupidly teary still. “I love you.”
They’ve still got a lot of things to sort out, Harry knows, but he’s ready to start.
She beams down at him, bending down to kiss the top of his head. “I love you, too,” she tells him like a promise. “So, so much.”
“What about that time after the senior night basketball game? When I walked you back to your car?”
“My freshman year, we ran into each other at Shelly Martin’s banger and you said you liked my snapback.”
“Oh my god, Niall, no.”
“Your junior prom, H and I took pictures of you and that dick, fuck, what was his name, he was so gross-”
“Liam O’Niell, with the sweaty palms? Nope, not even then.”
“Niall,” Louis puts in helpfully, “I think that we’ve established that there was no point in time when the lovely Gemma wanted to, as you put it, ‘get it on’.”
“Thank you, Louis,” Gemma says primly, but she winks over at Niall, who pretends to faint, falling into Harry’s lap with an exaggerated sigh.
Gemma came in from Rochester just an hour or so after Harry and Louis woke up and nestled herself between them on the sofa to watch the Giants game, and Niall’d arrived a little past seven, parents in tow, and they’d had Anne’s famous lasagna for dinner just like old times, and Harry’d passed around photos and stories of LA while Anne and Maura had violently interrogated Niall about Barbara. Anne and Robin went up to bed just an hour after their admittedly late dinner, and Maura and Bobby stuck around just long enough to demand that Harry and Louis stop by for lunch tomorrow. Now, Harry, Louis, Niall, and Gemma are all circled around the fire in the den, sat on the red carpet and clutching mugs of Irish hot cocoa. The Twist’s home is, by no means, a log cabin, but its got cosy wood panelling and a nice fireplace and thick rigs for cold winters and Harry knows that Zayn bought his mum a lovely new house the first chance he got, but Harry wouldn’t ever dream of offering, not in a million years, not when he knows she’d never leave.
“The White Eskimo era was your sexiest time, honestly,” Gemma tells Niall slyly, and Niall and Harry and Niall omit twin groans.
“White Eskimo?” Louis asks curiously.
“Don’t you dare,” Harry warns, but Gemma just flicks his ear.
“The Springsteen cover band that Harry and Niall formed when they were like fourteen.”
“No,” Louis gasps. “Oh my god.”
“Fuck you, Gems, we won Battle of the Bands,” Harry pouts.
“Damn straight,” Niall nods.
“There were two other acts,” Gemma reminds them sweetly, and Louis laughs, delighted.
“Are there pictures?”
Gemma’s eyes glint dangerously. She’s probably one of Harry’s favourite people in the entire world, but right now, he could slit her throat . “There are videos.”
Everybody laughs at Harry’s horrified expression.
“Oh shut up,” he snaps at Niall. “I could easily show B, you know.”
Niall shuts up instantly, and Harry smiles, smug.
“B?” Gemma wags her eyebrows. “Who’s B? Should I be worried?”
Niall goes red in the face, Louis pats him on the back, Gemma leans forward for the gossip delightedly, and Harry lets himself be swept up in the comfort of home.
Two days later, there’s a snowstorm.
Harry’s truly a city creature, would rather be squatting in Alphabet City than secluded back in Lake Placid, but there’s something absolutely breathtaking about the snow upstate, snow so white and thick and uninterrupted that it seems to erase everything in sight. They watch it fall from the window for a while, wrapped in thick blankets, Louis with a novel in his lap and Harry doodling mindlessly in his journal, but at around two, Niall calls to ask if they’d like to go sledding.
“Aren’t you a bit old for that?” Louis laughs when Harry’s face lights up.
“If I’m old, then what does that make you, Gramps?”
They drive out to the hill halfway between their houses. Niall brings Theo, Harry brings Gemma, and Louis brings a lifelong disdain for snow, and they all pretend that they’re ten again. Louis and Theo make snow angels whilst Harry and Niall race down the hill, Gemma jumping onto Harry’s sled and tackling him over at the last minute so that Niall slides into first place. They orchestrate a snowball fight that quickly escalates into a full-out battle when Gemma and Louis forgo making actual snowballs and just start dumping armfuls on snow onto everybody’s heads. Louis lets Harry take him on a ride, even, settling in between Harry’s legs and whooping loudly on the way down. When they get to the base of the hill, Harry rolls him over and kisses him breathless. Their cold noses bump together and they smile into each other’s mouths and Harry feels entirely and completely whole again.
Over the past few days, Harry’s lived in an alternate reality where it’s almost like he never left- he and Louis visited Babs at the bakery and she’d given them both their weight in free pastries, Gemma needled Robin over dinner about fixing up the truck in the garage by the start of the summer holidays, and they’d all smoked in Niall’s basement, even, Louis bursting out into uncontrollable giggles when Harry sprayed them up and down with a bottle of sixteen-year-old Niall’s old Axe cologne to try to hide the scent.
“I don’t want to go back to real life,” he tells Louis quietly as they watch Niall sled down the hill on a metal saucer, Theo secure between his legs and shrieking in laughter.
Louis wraps his arm around Harry’s waist and nuzzles into his neck. “This is real life, H,” he mumbles. “Don’t you forget that.”
08 - You Can Be The Boss
When Ben finally calls cut and the gold-washed set bursts into applause, Harry can literally feel Louis’ eyes burning holes into his from across the room.
“Harry, Zayn, that was great,” Ben says enthusiastically, waving them over to the monitors excitedly.
“Obviously,” Zayn grins, throwing an arm around Harry’s shoulders and pulling him over. It’s been a full, ten hour shoot, and Harry and Zayn are both dead on their feet, but they’re both eager to see the shots from- as Niall had kindly described Harry’s ‘National Anthem’ music video concept to Anne when she’d come up last weekend- their ‘Gay-ass, All-American yacht party.’ “Let’s have a look, then.”
“Your chemistry is incredible,” Ben praises, moving to the side a little so that Harry and Zayn can crowd around the monitor.
When Harry’d pitched the idea to Liam- what if I have a guy in my next video?- he fully expected to get a resounding ‘no’, but everybody had loved it. It’s been a slow three months since Harry’s fuck up on SNL, and nothing, Liam says wisely, can help a career along as much as controversy. It’s artfully done, of course- Zayn as a gangsta sort of JFK and Harry as a coy sort of Jackie O, partying on yachts and grinding in smoky rooms and singing about how money is the anthem of success- but Harry also likes to think that it makes a sort of statement- about gay politicians and gender identity and generally sending a nice ‘fuck you’ to the mainstream media.
The video is gorgeous, of course, Ben’s never produced anything but. But even as Harry watches the small screen out of the corner of his eye, registers the nice gold lighting and the cinematic stage kiss, looks at a month’s worth of hard work, he’s really focused on Louis, who’s still staring him down.
Bathroom, Louis mouths. Harry fidgets.
“I-I’ll be right back,” Harry says, cutting across whatever Ben’s been saying about the authenticity of the costuming and what it contributes to the overall story arch. Louis’ already turned away from him, engrossed in conversation with Liam, but Harry doesn’t miss the way he’s clenching his fists tightly behind his back. “Bathroom.”
Ben smiles, cuts himself off from his own ramblings. “’Course, mate. I’ll get Janie to bring up some beers while you’re gone, we can sit with some of the shots after.”
“Awesome,” Harry manages a weak thumbs up, takes a deep breath, and heads to the toilets.
It’s a fancy room, of course, at a fancy studio. There’s a wide marble countertop with gold flecks and a porcelain sink set in the middle and a huge, heavy mirror and real washcloths, plush and embroidered with the studio’s logo. Harry fixes his quiff in the mirror, shaking it out and pushing it back up even higher, and then sits down on the leather ottoman to wait, leg bouncing in anticipation, eyes wide as he stares at himself in the mirror, still in his costume- 1960’s Martha’s Vineyard, white trousers and a pale yellow polo shirt, unbuttoned enough that Harry’s birds peek out. It doesn’t take Louis long to follow him back, maybe two minutes, but it feels like Harry’s nerves have been short-circuiting for a lifetime.
“Hi,” Harry says, automatically shooting up off the seat. Louis doesn’t answer, just stares at him for a long while. He’d come straight from a meeting in Santa Monica, Harry knows, worked all day with a new act that’s had him pulling at his own hair for weeks. He’s overdue for a cut and shave and he’s wearing the pale blue, short sleeved button up that Harry’d bought him for his thirtieth birthday and his tattoos are full on display, and he’s forgotten to take his glasses off and his blue, blue eyes are nearly flashing as they roam Harry up and down, and Harry’s heart is beating extremely fast, and Harry’s already halfway to hard.
“Shirt off, over the counter,” Louis says at last. Harry instantly scrambles, tearing off his polo and launching himself over to the counter, and bending over, resting his cheek against the marble. His eyes flutter shut, a little, when Louis reaches down to undo the button on his trousers, sliding them and his pants down and leaving him naked in the cool room. “Lift your head up more, want you to see this.” Harry does what Louis says in a heartbeat, propping his head up onto his hand so that he can lock eyes with Louis in the mirror. He’s not sure if he’s ever seen Louis like this, like he wants to absolutely destroy Harry and maybe not put him back together. Harry fights the urge to look away.
“Here’s what’s going to happen,” Louis says, voice dangerously soft and echoing in the marble room. “I’m going to hit you so hard that you see stars, and then I’m going to eat you out until you scream, and then I’m going to send you back out to Ben and Zayn covered in your own come. Got it?”
Harry’s brain is still stuck on ‘hit you so hard that you see stars’.
“Yes,” he hisses, and Louis’ hand comes down, quick and sharp and hard on his arse. Harry yelps in surprise.
“Yes what,” Louis asks him through clenched teeth.
Harry meets Louis’ eyes in the mirror. “Yes, daddy.”
“That’s right,” Louis says, and, this time, Harry watches his hand rise and fall in the mirror, feels the sting as it lands on his opposite cheek, hears it reverberate around the room. Harry cries out as he lurches forward with the force of it, struggling to keep his head up.
“Looked like such a slut, grinding against Zayn like that,” Louis growls, punctuating his sentence with two new smacks, one right on top of his last and the other on the left, again. “’s that what you are, Harry? A slut?”
“Only for you, daddy, I swear-” Harry pants, face growing hot as he feels himself getting impossibly harder- sees it, in the mirror, sees the head of his cock starting to leak as the pain blossoms, a sharp sting followed by a delicious burn that has him pushing back, begging for more. He whimpers when Louis obliges, two slaps coming in quick succession right where his arse meets his thighs.
“Didn’t look like it, did it?” Louis hisses, “Looked like you wanted him to fuck you right in front of Ben-” another hit, fast and sharp - “of the crew-” and another, “- of me.”
“Fuck, daddy,” Harry shouts. He tries to snap his hips forward, mindlessly searching for friction for his aching cock, but Louis grabs him hard enough to bruise and delivers one, two, three hits right in the same spot.
Harry can’t help shouting and screwing his eyes shut when Louis’ last smack lands right across his crack, leaving his entire arse burning, but one of Louis’ hands comes up to twist in his hair, hard, to pull his head back up roughly, and Harry’s eyes snap back open to find himself in the mirror, panting and wild eyed, his untouched cock an angry red and leaking precome, and Louis behind him, all sharp glances and a perfectly pressed shirt and those fucking glasses. Harry whines.
“So loud, baby,” Louis says, running a finger lightly down Harry’s crack as Harry arches his back even more. “They probably know exactly what’s happening right now, don’t they. Know you’ve been a bad boy. Know you’re getting punished.”
“‘m sorry, ‘m sorry, ‘m sorry,” Harry chants, fighting to keep his eyes open. Louis leans forward, leans in close so that his hard, clothed cock is nestled right between Harry’s burning cheeks, and his hand is ghosting over Harry’s untouched dick.
“What do you think,” Louis whispers in his ear, low and filthy, “Zayn would think of you now? Look, baby.”
Harry’s naked and flushed and his vision is swimming but he sees it, in the mirror, sees how desperate he looks, sees how wrecked Louis’ made him. “Daddy.”
“Right here, baby,” Louis says, and he tugs on Harry’s ear lightly with his teeth before he drops to his knees and disappears from Harry’s sight completely. Harry searches the mirror frantically for a few seconds- where did you go- but suddenly Louis’ cool, long fingers are tracing over Harry’s burning arse and pulling him apart.
“Gonna make you feel good, now,” Louis says lowly, breath hot as it ghosts over Harry’s taint. “Like nobody else can.”
“Just you, daddy, just you, just- fuck-” Harry lets out a strangled cry as Louis licks.
“That’s right,” Louis says. “Just me,” and he starts to eat Harry out in earnest.
Louis starts sloppy, fingers digging into Harry’s throbbing cheeks as he holds them firmly apart and licks big, broad stripes over Harry’s hole, tongue catching on the rim as he swirls it, getting Harry wet with saliva. Once he’s satisfied, though, he flattens his tongue a bit, licks in deep. It’s all Harry can do to press his face against the countertop and grip the edge of the sink for dear life.
“Please, please, daddy, more,” Harry begs. Louis doesn’t have much of a rhythm going, sometimes slipping in, sometimes just leaving constant pressure against Harry’s hole, and he pulls away, laughing a bit, when Harry tries to push back against his face, desperate.
“Shh, baby, I’ve got you,” Louis murmurs, pressing a kiss to Harry’s left arse cheek, cool lips to searing red skin. Even though it’s light, Harry still moans, can’t help it as the pain shoots right to his throbbing cock. “Stay still for me.”
This time, it’s one of Louis’ long, thin fingers that enters him. Harry groans and arches back into the touch as Louis laps around the edges of his hole, crooking his finger in search of Harry’s prostate. It doesn’t take him long to find, and a string of expletives fall from Harry’s lips when Louis presses his finger against Harry’s spot and leaves it there.
It’s too much, Louis’ tongue twisting in and out of him relentlessly while Louis’ finger applies constant pressure to Harry’s spot and Louis’ handprints are still burning on Harry’s arse and Louis, Louis, Louis- daddy, daddy, daddy-
“Shit, daddy, I’m sorry, I need to- please, let me- its all for you, I swear, fuck, yours, yours, yours, daddy please-”
“Mine, yeah,” Louis whispers reverently, and then he’s bringing one hand up to circle loosely around Harry’s dick and Harry’s hips are snapping forward and back, forward and back, thrusting into Louis’ fist and grinding onto his face, and Harry comes, painting his own chest white as Louis works him through it.
“Fuck,” is all Harry can say, collapsing onto the floor and throwing an arm over his eyes to block out the spinning room. His heart is racing in his chest, and he feels like he’s run a marathon.
“Fuck,” he hears Louis echo from somewhere nearby. Harry reaches out blindly for Louis, flailing his other arm out until it lands on Louis’ shoulder. Harry hums contentedly and tries to pull him closer, but Louis laughs and pulls away a bit, lying down on the floor next to Harry instead of on top of him.
“Lou,” Harry whines.
“You’re all messy, babe,” Louis reminds him. Harry pouts, peeks out from under his arm to find Louis staring back at him, gaze steady and deep.
“Hi,” Harry says timidly. He loves it when Louis gets rough with him, but it’s always a little odd, coming down from it.
“Hi,” Louis’ face is slightly shiny with spit and his eyes crinkle up in a smile and he nudges his nose against Harry’s shoulder and it’s so worth it, Harry thinks.
“Long day?” Harry guesses.
Louis groans, “You wouldn’t believe.” He lifts a hand up to push Harry’s sweaty hair off his forehead gently. “Thanks for that, love, needed it. You made it better. You always make it better.”
Harry smiles happily, curling closer to Louis on the bathroom floor. “Anytime.” His eyes open and widen a bit in realisation after a few seconds. “Wait, Lou, did you-”
Louis checks his Rolex, and then looks down a little regretfully down at his dick, still straining a bit in the confines of his jeans. “You’ve got to get back,” he says sadly. “I’ll get off later.”
“Did you bring the Merc?” Harry asks.
“Yeah, ‘course. Why?”
“If you drive us home,” Harry says, already itching to get back into his clothes so that he can look through the shots quickly and go home with Louis, where he belongs, “I’ll give you road head.”
09 - Young and Beautiful
“I think that we should do violins,” Harry says. “And maybe some brass. Fuck it, definitely brass. We’ve got to go all out.”
Louis laughs tiredly, plucking out a few notes on the piano. “Babe, I’ll travel back in time to get you a proper, 1920’s jazz band, as soon as you actually write the bloody song.”
Harry smiles around the end of his biro. “I was more thinking that we could use the guy who we’re already paying to do sax for the album.”
“For you?” Louis scoffs. “For Baz? Nah, only the very best.”
Harry has toured with Zayn Malik, performed at Coachella, gotten papped up and down Santa Monica Boulevard, been hailed by TIME Magazine and People alike, and purchased and had sex in three classic cars, but when Liam called him to tell him that Luhrmann wanted him to write an original song for Gatsby, Harry completely forgot that there are entire blogs dedicated to his fashion choices.
“This is a wonderful opportunity, Harry,” Liam had said seriously. “It really shows that people are responding to the work you’ve been doing these past few months.”
“Thanks, Li,” Harry’d said graciously, trying very hard to breathe. “D’you think that I could meet Leonardo DiCaprio, though?”
Harry’s journal is covered in scribbles, jumbled fragments of lyrics connected by thick arrows and entire lines crossed out furiously, but he thinks he’s near to solidifying the first verse, and maybe the bridge. He’s relying on Louis, though, for the music, and he doesn’t want to think about the chorus without hearing what Louis’ been working on. Over the years, it’s one of the things that Harry’s come to appreciate the most about Louis- Louis is really his partner, in everything that he does. Of course, when Harry asked Louis how he felt about co-writing, Louis looked at him as if he’d grown two heads, but Harry’s thrilled that he gets to spend time with Louis like this, working hard on something that they both love.
“D’you have anything new?” he asks. Louis nods, and Harry sets down his notebook and crosses over to Louis, who’s been sat at the baby grand in their living room for six hours. He wraps his arms around Louis’ shoulders and peers down at the tiny black notes that Louis’ scribbled on delicate lines of staff paper.
Louis looks tired, in glasses and a hoodie that Harry thinks originally belonged to Niall in college. Harry knows how badly Louis wants this to be perfect- it’ll be the first song that Louis’ written in years that won’t end up on some shitty pop radio station- and he’s watched Louis puzzle over the chord progressions all day. Louis’ stupidly devoted to everything that he does, throwing himself left and right with blinding intensity. Harry will love him with equal fervour until he’s one hundred and seven years old.
“Looking good,” Harry murmurs. Louis rubs a hand along Harry’s arm and rests his head back on Harry’s chest.
“How would you know, Harold?” he teases. “You don’t even read music.”
“Wasn’t talking about the music, Lewis.”
Louis laughs, tilts his head up for a kiss. “Flattery will get you everywhere,” he promises. “But I want to focus on this first, okay?”
“No sleep until it’s done, ay, ay, captain!” Harry salutes, and he drops down onto the bench next to Louis and just stares at Louis’ pretty hands resting on the keyboard until Louis nudges him gently.
“Earth to Harry,” he says.
“Right,” Harry nods. “What’ve you got for me?”
“What do you think you could do with this?” Louis asks, and he starts to play. It’s a slightly haunting mix of minors and majors and flats and sharps, and it sounds like church bells, and it feels like longing.
“Can you do- a little faster, like, a bit more-”
“Jazz?” Louis finishes, and he changes the rhythm- 1, 2341, 234. Harry beams.
“That’s it,” he says. “That’s the hook.” Harry practically runs across the room to grab his journal, rifling through a little frantically. There are pages and pages covered in scribbles and doodles and throwaway lines, but Harry’s been writing this way for years- he waits for whatever pops out at him.
The words electric soul, surrounded by a smattering of Celtic style crosses.
Three rounds of hangman with Niall and a loose receipt from In N’ Out.
And a single question, written in pencil between driving directions to the new place that Lou and Tom bought in Pasadena and some pink scribbles, courtesy of Lux- will you still love me when I’m no longer young and beautiful?
He shoves the notebook right under Louis’ nose.
“Louis,” he says meaningfully.
“Will you still love me- you know I will, Harry, that’s sort of a dumb question.”
“You’re dumb,” Harry sighs impatiently. “Play the fucking hook again.”
Louis raises his eyebrows, but he starts playing.
Harry starts singing.
Baz calls Harry personally four days later, when they send in the track.
He loves it; especially the piano.
10 - Every Man Gets His Wish
Harry’s head snaps up to find Louis standing the doorway of his dressing room. Lou whacks his shoulder.
“Stay still,” she groans.
“Sorry,” Harry says apologetically, before beaming and waving Louis in, careful to keep his head straight. “Hey.”
Harry’s the last one still getting fixed up, everybody else is waiting in the green room, hair already dealt with and nerves on fire. There’s a monitor in all of the dressing rooms at MSG, but Harry’s been dutifully not checking the one above his head, although he’s caught glimpses of the packed arena in the mirror from the monitor behind him, thousands of people screaming and waving signs and stomping their feet as the opening act winds down.
Earlier, during sound check, Harry and Niall had swung their legs off the edge of the black stage and stared out at eighteen thousand empty seats.
“Started from the bottom,” Niall’d said sagely, taking a swig from his water bottle.
“Now my whole team here,” Harry had nodded, serious.
“I’m glad I’m doing this with you, bro.”
“Can’t think of anybody I’d rather have, Ni,” Harry nudged his shoulder against Niall’s. “I love you a lot."
“Love you more.”
Singing to the empty arena had seemed achingly familiar, almost like they were back at Nick’s bar. But there are people not fifty yards away selling shirts with Harry’s face on them and Gemma texted him from the toilets saying that she’d had to wait twenty minutes to get inside and they’ve sold out Madison Square Garden, so.
“You almost ready?” Louis asks now, hovering near Lou’s shoulder so as not to disturb her work. “Everybody’s waiting.”
“Almost,” he grins. “Louise?”
“Final touch, darling,” she says, and she ties Harry’s trademark bandana around his head with a flourish. She kisses the top of his head and grabs her makeup bag off the table next to him. “I’ll see you out there. I know you’ll kill it.” With a smile and a wave, she’s gone.
Louis is behind him in a flash, wrapping his arms around Harry’s shoulder and nuzzling his neck. He’s wearing Harry’s old Budweiser shirt and black jeans and no socks, here as Harry’s partner, not his producer, and Harry loves him so much he feels dizzy.
“So,” Harry grins, turning his chair around so that Louis’ standing between his legs.
“So,” Louis smirks back. “How’s my ‘sweeter Alex Turner’, my ‘more stable Mick Jagger’?”
Harry rolls his eyes but doesn’t bother trying to fight the blush that spreads across his cheeks. Louis’ pinned the New York Times’ raving review of Harry’s debut album to their refrigerator, and he’s terribly fond of quoting it whenever he feels particularly proud of Harry which, since the Paradise Tour got the go-ahead two months ago, is basically always
“I’m good,” Harry says, honestly.
Harry considers. Stage fright has been a hurdle that he’s had to overcome, but the general high of being minutes away from opening his first world tour is currently trumping any lingering fears he might have.
“Not really, actually,” he says.
“I, uh, brought something for you,” Louis says.
Harry grins, “My birthday was last week, Lou.”
Louis shakes his head. “Nah, it’s not a present. It’s already yours.”
“Is it your dick?” Harry asks.
“No, Harold,” Louis sighs. “Just-” he reaches a hand into his back pocket, and withdraws a key-chain sized squashed plushie of Stewie from Family Guy.
Harry throws his head back and laughs. “Oh my God, Lou. I haven’t seen this in years.”
“I think it got lost when you moved out to LA,” Louis smiles. “But I thought, you know. For old times sake.
“I still think you paid that guy to let you win,” Harry says, pulling one arm tighter around Louis and looking down at the small toy. Louis had won it for him at the ring toss at Coney Island the day after they first met.
“Didn’t hear you complaining,” Louis shrugged. It’s true. Harry’d kissed Louis like he’d just won him a million dollars, and kept the toy on his bedside table for nearly a year. “I know it’ll be a rough few months, with you on tour, so I thought you could...keep it with you? For when you miss me. Like you used to.”
“How dreadfully sentimental of you,” Harry says, a little bit thickly.
“Five minutes, Harry,” Liam calls, sticking his head in the open door. “We’re all waiting for your big speech.”
“What big speech?” Harry asks, clearing his throat and feigning innocence.
“Oh, you know, where you ramble on about how much each and every one of us means to you, and how you couldn’t have done it without us, and you just love us all so much, but you keep making all of the heart eyes at Louis because you love him most-”
“He loves me most, what are you talking about?” Zayn yells from somewhere nearby.
“Fuck you all,” Louis calls back, laughing. “Give me thirty seconds, Payne-o.”
Liam looks at them suspiciously. “You don’t have time to-”
“Oh my god, we know, fuck off,” Harry groans impatiently, and Liam shakes his head and jogs off down the hall, towards the green room.
Harry looks up at Louis, eyes sparkling. “You know, we do have five-”
But Louis cuts him off with his tongue in seconds, kissing Harry hard and deep, tangling his hands is Lou’s masterpiece and sucking Harry’s bottom lip between his teeth and licking into Harry’s mouth expertly and leaving him absolutely breathless.
“What was that for?” Harry blinks up at Louis, dazed, once he pulls away.
“I’d say it was for luck,” Louis tells him. “But you don’t need it.”
“‘course I don’t,” Harry says. “Not when I’ve got you.”
*Bonus Track: 11 - JFK
“Stop it,” Louis groans.
“Stop what?” Harry asks innocently.
“That.” Louis points at Harry’s hot dog threateningly.
“This?” Harry smirks, and he sinks down over it, closes his eyes, and moans theatrically.
“We are in public.” Louis sounds scandalised, but he’s watching Harry with a hooded gaze.
Harry hollows out his cheeks; Louis huffs.
“I’ve just met you,” Louis says, “and I can already tell that you’re an absolute menace.”
Harry shakes is head in protest. He’s still wearing the clip-on earring from last night, and it brushes against his shoulder.
“I’m sexy,” Harry says, still chewing on his hot dog.
“You’ve got mustard on your cheek,” Louis tells him.
Harry swallows, smiles, “Part of my charm.”
“A menace,” Louis repeats, but he reaches over and to wipe his thumb across Harry’s cheek anyways.
“Hey,” Harry whines, and Louis laughs, kisses the spot where he’s just touched.
“Hey,” Louis says softly. “Thanks for inviting me out today.”
They’re sat on a bench on the boardwalk, the ferris wheel behind them and the sea in front. It’s four o’clock on a Thursday in late September, and so Coney Island is by no means the crowded, lit-up wonderland that Harry loves so dearly, but there’s been something terribly lovely about this whole day- driving around with the windows down in Harry’s shitty car, pulling silly faces in the funhouse mirrors, eating Nathan’s Hot Dogs by the beach. Harry’s known Louis for less than twenty four hours, but he feels hopelessly entranced with him- with the way that he talks and the way that he smiles and the way that he moves and the way that his hands feel when they rest on the small of Harry’s back and the way that he fixes his hot dogs- heaps of relish and ketchup and mustard- and the way that he laughs carelessly when he gets stains on his nice jumper.
“Thank you,” Harry says, bumping his shoulder against Louis’. “For coming.”
“Can I-” Louis cuts himself off, shakes his head. “Can I see you again?”
Yes, of course, you can see me every day if you want.
Harry raises his eyebrows. “Thought I was a menace?”
“I like ‘em feisty,” Louis winks.
“Tell you what,” Harry laughs. “If you win me a prize at the ring toss, you can call me up next time you’re in the area.”
“Those things are rigged!” Louis protests.
Harry shrugs. “Maybe you’ll get lucky.”
Louis’ arm is draped along the back of the bench, and he reaches up to squeeze Harry’s shoulder.
Lightly, just once.
“Maybe I already have.”