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Harry is possibly more out of place than a fish out of water. He steps out of his Range Rover to the uneven pavement of the student parking lot wearing a dark blue blazer with a white collared shirt underneath, and it feels like there’s a giant red arrow pointing to his chest shouting I don’t belong here. He thought he’d fit in since he opted out of the red tie, but he was 500% wrong. He even wore jeans and his scuffed black boots to appear more casual, but public school is even worse than he feared.

There’s someone in sweatpants parked next to him. Sweatpants at school. It’s a shock to his system. Nothing could have prepared him for this.

The kid in the sweatpants stares at him through his window without even trying to hide it. Harry figures what the fuck and stares back boldly.

He’s an absolute nobody here. Maybe he should have contemplated a new persona before reaching campus, but he’s been a bit preoccupied.

He considers identity options, matching his abysmal mood perfectly.

He could become a mute. Then, he’d never have to speak to anyone ever again.

He could be that kid in the back of class who listens to music and carves shapes into the desk with an X-acto knife. That doesn’t sound too horrible, with the added plus of never speaking to anyone ever again, as well.

He could be a complete enigma, wearing a black sweatshirt everyday and only washing his hair once a week. Surely, nobody would talk to him, then.

Things to consider.

The school is shitty. That much is obvious from his short walk to the front gates. It’s falling apart at the cracks and painted an ugly forest green underneath the peeling sign reading Welcome to North High, Home of the Penguins. And just—penguins. His school mascot is a penguin. Harry is now a penguin.

The walk to the front office is even more excruciating than the walk to the front gate. Every eye is on him, and not in the way he normally likes it. They’re looking at him like he’s an abnormality, like he doesn’t belong, and Harry wants nothing more than to run back to his Range Rover and drive back to the school he does belong at—but there’s a zero percent chance of returning, seeing as how he was expelled.

He frowns. The worst thing about his expulsion (other than the fact that nobody took the fall with Harry, not even his own boyfriend—well, ex boyfriend) is that he wasn’t expelled for something badass or legendary, like fighting for his sister’s honor or getting Mr. Winston to have sex with him or hacking the entire school database.

No, he was expelled for attempting to turn their swimming pool into green jello. Very unsuccessfully.

You see, the ratio of jello mix to liquid necessary for the correct jello consistency is much closer to equal than any of them had anticipated. Nick, Rita, Alexa, and Pixie left him at the school pool in the middle of the night to continue stirring as they hurried to the store to grab all of the jello mix they could possibly lay their hands on, but while they were gone he was found by a security guard and accused of breaking and entering.

He didn’t rat his friends out, and they didn’t admit to having anything to do with the prank. And then Harry was expelled and Nick broke up with him because he couldn’t handle long distance, even though Harry explained to him he wasn’t moving anywhere but to a different school. Three times.

So, in the span of one short weekend, his life changed more dramatically than Miley Cyrus during the Hemsworth break up.

He kicks at a stray rock in displeasure, smiling when it crumbles against the door to the front office. Not even a rock deserves to be happy when he feels like absolute shit.

Inside, it’s plain and grey. He grabs his schedule from the tired-looking, but nice woman at the front desk with a fake smile, but he groans as he sees he has chemistry first period. Nobody should be forced to use their brain so early in the morning.

Maybe he’s actually dead and his expulsion was the first layer of hell.

Perhaps public school is the second layer.

He’s afraid to reach the third.

He checks his phone with a sigh (no new texts) and sees that he still has ten minutes until his first class officially begins. Glancing around quickly, he scopes out a spot in the grass quad close to where everyone is gathered, and decides to claim the area under the huge tree as his. He carefully places his bag to the floor, checking suspiciously for mud, and then sinks to the ground with his back to the stump.

He feels sorry for himself and scowls as he tries to grasp the strange vibe of the school. Most students are huddled close together outside as they talk (since apparently the school doesn’t care about their students getting drenched when it rains) but there’s a bit of a commotion to his left. Somebody’s standing on the lone picnic table shouting to the masses about the death of human agency, and everybody in the vicinity is actually listening.

The boy’s voice is high and clear, but Harry would rather listen to an hour-long recording of nails against a chalkboard than listen to one word he has to say. He sounds like a social justice nerd using words he doesn’t understand to try to sound more intelligent than he really is, but it’s practically impossible to tune him out.

“How are we supposed to escape from the chains of the ruling class if we’re too afraid to speak up or too dumb to realize the inequality we’re being subjected to? Peaceful progress is a myth! St. George already gets more funding than we ever will! Why is nobody else as infuriated as me? A revolution is the only way to—“

“Louis! Get down from there,” an older woman yells to him, thankfully shutting him up. The boy, Louis, shakes his head in defiance. He opens his mouth to continue, but the woman raises her eyebrows at him warningly, so he throws his arms out, tipping back over the edge of the picnic bench without looking back.

God, he’s really stupid. Harry almost springs up to save him and clear his conscious, but it appears he’s some sort of royalty because a muscular boy with sandy hair and a fucking model catch him without blinking twice.

A blonde boy laughs freely from where he’s eating an apple sitting cross-legged on top of the table, and Harry realizes with a sudden jolt that he’s just gotten the first glimpse of the school’s hierarchy.

Harry snorts. If Louis is the alpha male, he’s worried who he’ll encounter when he meets the sheep.

Louis lets his saviors set him on the ground like he’s the fucking King of the world, and takes his school bag from beside the blonde’s feet. He shrugs his shoulders when the woman frowns at him in the way teachers do when they’re trying not to smile, and it’s obvious he has the entire school wrapped around his little finger.

Harry despises him already. He hopes next time nobody catches him.

But then Louis turns from his adoring crowd with a scrunched nose and a wave over his shoulder and an ostentatious call of “this isn’t over” and he’s walking away—he’s walking Harry’s way.

And he doesn’t know where he fits into at this dumb public school that has chain link fences and where the boys dress like they’ve never been anywhere more formal than the Olive Garden, but he knows that how this particular boy feels about him will somehow dictate the next year and a half of his life.

He ducks his head to avoid dealing with his new reality. He’s not ready for anything taxing after the weekend he’s had, much less a confrontation with someone so bigheaded.

But it seems the universe disagrees. Black Vans come to a halt in front of him, and he finds himself looking up at Louis, who’s looking down at him, the sun casting a bright halo around his messy fringe. Harry comes to realize that he’s actually somewhat attractive up close and he looks vaguely familiar to him.

“And what are you doing here, Private School?” Louis asks. He has an eyebrow raised like he expects Harry to look away or blush at being called out on his first day, but Harry refuses to bow down and submit. Letting himself be pushed around was what got him expelled, and he decides right then and there that he’s making some changes. Taking charge of his life. Giving zero fucks. Who the fuck does this guy think he is, really?

“I go here, now, Your Highness,” he answers lowly, and the look that crosses Louis’ features is of sweet shock and displeasure.

Ah. Harry didn’t actually plan on ruining all chances of having an enjoyable high school experience, but it’s only the second poorest decision he’s made this week. Worse could happen.

Louis gives him unmistakable elevator eyes, starting from his ringlets to his white shirt down to his scuffed boots, and he thinks he might catch Louis’ Adam’s apple bob as he looks away, but he’s probably just imagining it.

“Clever. Nice boots, then, peasant,” he counters, walking away with a cocky self-assurance and (maybe purposeful) delicious, swaying hips.

He’s never enjoyed the sight of someone walking away from him more.

Harry forces himself to look away and block out any and all intruding thoughts of how much he’d like to place his hands all over Louis’ body as he grinds against him. Harry really doesn’t want to be attracted to someone whose personality kind of makes him want to puke, but he’s always been weak when it comes to confidence and power.

No matter how hard he tries to concentrate on the patchy, yellowing blades of grass by his feet, he can’t seem to get his fucking body out of his head. And it’s weird, because he’s always been more attracted to taller guys and he’s never been so attracted to an arse, but something about Louis sends his thoughts through a flurry.

But then he remembers how annoying Louis probably is.

But then, after he peels a blade of grass string by string, he realizes he probably judged him too harshly.

Maybe Louis is actually a lovely person. This morning he snapped his toothbrush in half because he blamed it for getting toothpaste on his shoes, so he’s probably projecting his nasty mood onto an undeserving boy with thighs Harry imagines would feel heavenly constricting around his neck.

He doesn’t think much of his strange, sudden influx of thoughts over a boy he hardly knows. He supposes it’s better than constantly obsessing over what he could have done differently to get Nick to stay with him, anyway, as he has been.


His chemistry teacher forces him to introduce himself to the class, which is some elementary school bullshit. He tells the class he was expelled for a reason he isn’t allowed to talk about in public and that’s why he’s here. Mrs. Sweeney looks shocked and cuts him off, telling him to pick whichever seat he’d like.

He knows he’s giving off the wrong impression of himself. He’s never been a bad student and teachers have never had anything too horrible to say about him, but as he scans the room to find somewhere to sit, he sees that every pair of eyes is downcast like they’re afraid to make eye contact.

Like they’re intimidated.

It gives him a sick twist of excitement. Good. Maybe they should be.

Nobody dares to look at him, except the blonde boy he recognizes from sitting on top of the table before school. He’s looking at him from his seat in the back with an inquiring expression, and subtly gestures to the unoccupied chair next to him. And, well, there’s no other option, really. He sits next to him.

“Hey, I’m Niall,” the boy whispers once he’s settled with his notebook out, and Harry nods, sizing him up before giving him his name.

“Why were you expelled from St. George?” Niall asks curiously, and Harry is suddenly desperate to make a friend.

Which he realizes is really, really weird. He was planning on becoming a mute to avoid the whole school only minutes ago, but he remembers with a swift kick to his gut that the only person he knows he has left is his mum, and he feels ridiculously lonely.

And since the break up, he supposes he has been experiencing random mood swings, ranging from bouts of fury to hopeless pangs of sadness to random stretches of crying for things he’d normally never bat an eyelash at. He’s not normally a ball of irritation and criticism, but he hasn’t felt like himself for days. He was with Nick for more than a year. A whole year, and it was reduced to nothing because of one dumb decision. Nothing makes sense.

The night before, his mum hugged him and whispered to him that he finally understands how it feels for women to PMS.

Harry has never appreciated his dick more, because he wouldn’t wish this feeling on anyone. He doesn’t know how he feels or what he wants, and he just feels kind of lost.

He contemplates lying to Niall, making up some extravagant story that will secure his position as the top badass of North High, but nothing of substance comes to mind.

“I tried to turn our pool into jello. It was entirely blown out of proportion.”

Niall snorts like he doesn’t believe him. “No, really. What did you do?”

“If I was lying, don’t you think I’d make up a better story?” Harry asks him. “We snuck in, my boyfriend Nick and his friends left, and I was the one who got caught. I’m not, like, hardcore or anything.”

Niall’s still staring, but now he has a new edge to his look. “Nick who?”

“Nick Grimshaw,” Harry growls. He knows this school kind of hates Nick because of their school rivalry (and the fact that he’s led St. George to victory of the Games three years running) but he doubts any of them hate Nick nearly as much as he does currently. “And after I got expelled he dumped me without even apologizing for getting me expelled. It was his idea in the first—”

“Mr. Styles, I don’t know how they do it at private schools, but here I don’t allow my students to talk while I’m lecturing,” Mrs. Sweeney cuts in sharply.

So Harry shuts up, sullenly mulling over whether there’s actually a difference between love and hate since they both feel remarkably similar to him. If Nick were to somehow burst through the door, Harry’s not sure whether his first words to him would be “fuck you” or “fuck me,” and he’s not sure either would match exactly what he’s feeling inside.

Surely their relationship was worth more than a three minute and twenty-seven second break up phone call. Maybe this is all a dream.

But he checks his phone under the table, and the normal texts (a running commentary detailing Nick’s day) are absent.

It still hasn’t sunk in. It doesn’t feel real.

Niall doesn’t say anything else until they’re packing up their school bags, but he invites him to join him and his friends at lunch. He says he has someone he wants to introduce him to. Harry agrees with a halfway real smile, the thought crossing his mind that Niall seems to be on friendly terms with Louis, and walks to English alone.

Unsurprisingly, he gets lost.


Harry is surprised to see that their lunchroom has only one option for food. There’s a lady in a hairnet serving a goopy, brown meat concoction that has Harry’s stomach heaving at the smell, and he’s glad he thought to bring options, just in case. At St. George, they had a Starbucks and Jamba Juice and Panda Express in their food court, and the contrast is striking. Harry sighs regretfully.

He’s searching from table to table for Niall’s telltale blonde hair, but before he finds him, someone throws a blindfold over his eyes and he’s pulled through a side exit.

It’s not exactly how Harry pictured his death, but his life flashes before his eyes, nonetheless. But then Niall whispers into his ear that he doesn’t need to worry and that he’s only doing this for security purposes, and he relaxes a little. He stops fighting and lets Niall drag him down the hallway, up some stairs, and into a room that smells a bit musky.

He’s shoved on top of a table, and then his blindfold is removed. He blinks the spots out of his eyes, and the first image that comes into focus is Louis leaning against the wall with one leg popped and his bottom lip between two fingers, the two boys who caught him from his picnic plunge standing dutifully to his side.

Harry panics. This is exactly how people are killed in movies—in a room lit by a single light bulb and zero windows.

“Please don’t shoot me,” he says. He’s not quite sure how things work here, but he feels like something huge and scary is about to happen. Louis laughs and pushes off the wall easily, surveying Harry closely. Up close, Harry can see that his eyes are sharp and ridiculously blue, like he knows things and won’t hesitate to analyze his every move in order to tear him down.

“Niall told me you dated Nick Grimshaw,” he addresses him. Harry squirms under his steady gaze.

“What’s this all about? Is this some homophobic thing? Because—“

Harry feels the air freeze.

“What the fuck.” Louis deadpans, like Harry is the stupidest person to grace the earth. “No, this isn’t some homophobic thing.” He turns to Niall, frowning. “I thought you said he was smart.”

Harry frowns. Louis said he was clever, earlier—jokingly, but—

Maybe he doesn’t remember him. Maybe that’s a good thing.

New beginnings and all.

“I want to know how much you know about the Games,” Louis redirects his attention to Harry.

“I—“ Harry begins, but he hardly knows more than the average St. George or North High student. Nick’s been on St. George’s team since he began there, but he always told Harry the Games were top secret until he joined them.

“I actually don’t know much,” he admits, the heavy, crushing reality of how disposable he was to his boyfriend—to his ex boyfriend— setting in. “Honestly, though, the Games aren’t that big of a deal over there. It’s more just a fun way to pass the time.”

Louis nods at his words, walking to stand in front of him. “Over here, we live for them.”

And Harry knows that. Everyone at St. George takes at least some pride in their three-year winning streak, but they like to make fun of North high students for getting so into it, like they have nothing better to do with their time.

Louis moves closer to him, so that he’s practically standing between his spread legs, like he’s never heard of personal space.

“Tell me, Harry. What did Nick do to you?” Louis’ voice has turned soft and low, intoxicating and imperceptibly manipulative, and Harry’s throat constricts a bit as he smells hints of cheap cologne. All thoughts of lying are thrown out the window without being granted permission.

“He got me expelled. Then he broke my heart,” Harry mumbles, his voice breaking with how fresh and raw the wound is.

Louis’ face remains impassive, and he keeps his voice gentle. His tanned skin is paler under the light bulb, and combined with the low tone of his voice, he seems almost dangerous. “What a fucking prick. How would you react if I told you there was a way to destroy him? To get the ultimate form of revenge?”

And Harry would quite like to get back at Nick, but it sounds like he’s about to get involved in a full-blown murder scheme. He’s prepared to call the police as soon as he discovers an escape route from the room. “I’m—I’m not into violence, or anything. You have the wrong guy,” he stutters, his knuckles whitening in fear on top of the table.

Louis’ mouth opens in confusion as his blue eyes widen before shutting in disbelief.

“Oh my God. We’re not planning to kill him or anything. I wanted to know whether you were interested in joining our team—for the Games. Jaymi graduated last year, so he passed down his role as captain to me. Hence, recruitment responsibility.”

And then he realizes that’s how he recognized Louis earlier. Nick was always complaining about the “pint sized public school pixie” that made his life hell during the Games. He’s never really given him any more than a passing thought, but now he definitely remembers seeing Louis around during the Challenges he attended to cheer Nick on.

Harry lets out a sigh of relief. The offer is tempting, but it stings because Harry was supposed to be joining St. George’s team this year, competing against the very people he’s in the room with.

It’s actually kind of funny that he hasn’t even gone to North for more than four hours, and he’s been offered one of the most coveted positions in the school. He doesn’t deserve it, honestly.

“I don’t think I’m qualified to join. How do you even know I’d really be on your side?”

Niall gasps in betrayal from beside him. Louis crosses his arms over his chest like he’s studying Harry closely, but he doesn’t rescind his offer. He speaks deliberately, considering. “I think you’re going to end up hating St. George almost as much as me. And I think you already hate Nick just as much as I do. We could definitely use you, Styles.”

Harry doesn’t even remember telling him his first name, much less his last name. And there’s so much to consider—what if somehow St. George rescinds his expulsion?

What if Nick calls him, begging for him to take him back? Why would he want to join a team headed by someone he wanted to stuff a gag ball into a few hours prior (and mostly not for the sexy reasons)?

He didn’t even know any of their names a few hours ago. He still doesn’t know two of their names. Saying yes would probably be stupid.

But Harry doesn’t know how to say no. He doesn’t know if he actually, completely wants to say no. Louis’ convincing, and his tone makes him feel like the most important person in the room, which, thanks to his broken self esteem and crushed heart, has made him feel better than he has for the past few days. It’s like Louis is telling him he needs him to join the team, but if he said no it would really be Harry’s loss, and not his.

And that’s probably true. Team positions are highly coveted, so saying no would probably be more stupid than saying yes.

Fuck it. It’s not like St. George was loyal to him. And Nick can’t really pretend he doesn’t exist if they’re on opposing teams, competing against each other.

Maybe he’s not thinking rationally—no, he knows he’s not thinking rationally—and maybe he isn’t doing it for all the right reasons, but he wants to say yes.

Harry once read a saying—never regret anything, because at one time it was exactly what you wanted. He files the quote away for later as he makes his decision.

“Okay,” he says carefully, smiling at Louis’ questioning eyebrow raise. “I don’t really know what to—“

“No worries, Harry. We’ll come over after school and explain everything there,” Louis assures him.

And that’s—okay. That’s fine. His mum will be happy he’s making new friends and maybe she’ll even make them snacks.

Niall blindfolds him again, with warning this time. “Sorry, Harry. It’s tradition.”

As he’s led away, he hears Louis whispering about how they need to win even more this year. Harry hopes he made a good decision and hasn’t actually just taken part in some weird gang initiation.

It wouldn’t surprise him. He still doesn’t fully comprehend public school.


After the bell rings (and wow, an actual bell— St. George didn’t have a bell) Harry trudges back to the parking lot. He catches a short girl staring at his Range Rover, and he’s about to ask her if she needs something when she turns to him and asks whether he’d take her for a ride.

Seductively. Hip popped to the side. Biting her lip.

It’s probably the most forward anyone has ever been with him, and he isn’t sure how to respond. His mouth hangs open, and he’s stuttering when he feels an arm around his shoulder.

Niall tells her, “this ones into guys, sorry,” and Harry’s not sure whether he approves of Niall outing him to a stranger when he hasn’t gotten a grasp over how gay-friendly the school is yet. He imagines they’re less accepting than at St. George.

But then Louis and his two bodyguards join them, and Louis seems to sense exactly what Harry’s worried about. “Nobody’s going to give you shit for that.” He speaks like he’s positive of it, and Harry has no choice but to believe him. He’s using his self-assured voice, again— the one that makes it hard for Harry to stand still because confidence turns him on faster than a light switch.

He blames his teenage hormones and current emotional instability.

The four boys pile into Louis’ little Toyota that Harry thinks is supposed to be black, but looks more like a dull grey. They follow Harry home in it, and he tries to remember to always use his blinker and not be a scumbag and race through yellow lights.

He gets nervous at a red, because he looks in his rearview mirror and he can see Louis lecturing the group with an expressive face and gesturing hands. And Harry has never been one to feel like he has to try to impress people, but he really wants them all to like him. They’re the closest he’s come to making friends so far, and since he’s been kicked out of his friend group by being dumped, he feels like an abandoned puppy trying to win over a new family.

He grins as he presses on the gas at green, imagining Niall as the toddler begging his dad to let them keep him.

But then he frowns, because Louis seems like the hard to please dad.


His mum greets them at the door with fresh cookies and strawberry smoothies, and Harry’s close to being embarrassed and thinking they’re going to think he’s a child— but Louis’ eyes light up and his face softens and he kisses her cheek and introduces himself before Harry can even get a word out. The model, Zayn, introduces himself next with a polite kiss to her cheek, then Niall (who’s a bit too flirty in Harry’s opinion), and then Liam.

They’re all so courteous—he can’t tell whether his mum is impressed or confused, but he’s glad his potential new friends don’t seem like jerks. It’s unfamiliar.

Harry leads them up the stairs to his room and tries not to think about how weird it is that Zayn and Liam still haven’t technically introduced themselves to him, like they’re waiting to pass judgment on him or something, while they had no issues meeting his mum.

“So, um, this is it,” Harry says awkwardly when he lets them all in. Louis hardly blinks an eye before he’s closing the door behind him and locking it. He shuts the curtains without asking for approval, and Harry’s about to protest and ask what the fuck is going on when Louis tells them all to sit on the bed.

Harry obeys quickly, feeling like the outcast in his own room.

Niall sits cross-legged next to him, and Liam and Zayn take the other side. Louis pulls out a piece of paper from his pocket, and hands it to Harry. “Sign this.”

He turns it over in confusion.

“It doesn’t say anything,” Harry argues. There’s not even a line or an x to tell him where his name belongs.

“That’s because I can’t tell you anything until you agree to join our team,” Louis reminds him.

Harry frowns but signs. He figures a blank piece of paper with a signature wouldn’t hold up in court, anyway. He definitely doesn’t feel like he’s signing his life away, until—

“Well, now that that’s over with, I’m going to be completely honest with you, Harry.”

His face falls, because Louis’ mouth is curving up at the corners like someone who knows he’s about to ruin someone’s day.

“I knew I didn’t like you when I first saw you—“

Louis!” Liam gasps, and Harry feels himself shrink into the mattress. He wasn’t too fond of Louis at first sight, either, but he’s kept his mind open since he asked him to join their team. He’s even grown a little bit fond of him, too. Maybe.

The rejection feels like a hammer pounding on the already shattered ruins of Harry’s heart.

“I hated your pretentious blazer and the way you sat at that tree alone like you were above it all. I thought you were St. George scum, and when you called me Your Highness I decided I’d destroy you within two weeks.”

Maybe Harry would be better off trying to get back in with the jello-traitors, after all.

“So when Niall told me he wanted to introduce me to the new rich kid and that he thought you’d make a good addition to the team, I laughed in his face. I told him I’d never let a St. George alumnus on my team. You’re going to need to fucking prove yourself, Styles, because I’m going out on a limb for this.”

Harry is confused, and isn’t sure how to answer. He can feel his eyes prickling with tears, and he wants to punch himself in the face for it because Louis doesn’t deserve the satisfaction of making him cry.

It isn’t even just because of Louis being a dick, though. It’s because of fucking Nick—still. He normally wouldn’t care that someone he’d met a few hours prior hated him, but— right now he doesn’t feel normal. He’s not in a good place to be torn to shreds. He’s already been ripped in half.

He blinks back the tears, not wanting Louis to think he’s any more powerful than he already obviously thinks he is.

“But Niall said you were expelled because of Nick the prick, and then I realized we could be unbeatable. You know him better than I’d ever want to, which means we can get inside his head. I’ve been trying to beat him for three years, and every fucking year he’s beat me. We have the same goal, so you can be our secret weapon.”

And now Harry feels a bit like an object—a bit used. But he’s already agreed to join the team, so he can’t turn back. Louis probably has a hit man on speed dial, anyway.

“So,” he begins slowly, trying to figure out how to word it. “So, you don’t like me, but you wanted me to join the team because you want to know how Nick thinks?”

Louis nods his head, like that isn’t horribly wrong or cruel in any way.

“I hate private school snobs no matter what. It’s nothing personal.”

Nobody can say Louis is a biased or thoughtless leader, then. He’s manipulative and strategic, and it’s almost a turn on in some weird, horribly fucked up way.

Harry should get his head checked out, because it seems what gets him hot is when boys give absolutely zero shits about him.

He’s a mess of unrequited feelings and an inferiority complex. He should be locked away.

“Do you realize he literally broke up with me two days ago?” Harry asks, his stomach twisting at the memory.

Louis nods coldly as Niall wraps his arm around Harry’s shoulder. “Louis’ only goal is winning, so he’s kind of a bitch when he’s trying to kick St. George arse. We’re friends, though, Harry. Give him some time to warm up to you.”

“I don’t want him to hate me, though,” Harry says. He was just expelled because of fake friends, and it feels like a mistake to knowingly join a group that has a member who outwardly hates him. And who isn’t shy about it.

Louis blinks. “I guess we’re business partners. I’ll do a Locke and give you a clean slate, for now. But if you fuck up—” He raises his eyebrows significantly to make his point.

Harry nods and tries hard to look like he’s listening intently. He illogically craves Louis’ approval and liking, even though he seems like a callous, cold-hearted, control-freak.

“Right, then,” Louis continues. “Since we have that cleared up, the Games have been a tradition since fucking forever, blah blah blah. Five students from North High and St. George compete against each other in seven challenges; we don’t win anything but the bragging rights and the promise of free booze, but the glory is fucking worth it. Now that you’re on our team, the only way you can be dismissed from competing in future years is if you die or move more than fifty miles away. Or if you become a monk.”

“Why would I—“ Harry begins to ask, but Niall squeezes his shoulder in warning.

“I don’t know, Harold,” Harry cringes at the familiar nickname, his shoulders sagging.Anyway, here are the rules and challenges, for your eyes and brain only.

Louis pulls a crinkled paper from his back pocket and hands it to him.

The Challenges and Rules by Week:

  1.      First team to shoot all known opposing players with a paintball gun wins. New players don’t count in this challenge, as you aren’t required to notify the other team replacement players yet (but if you shoot an unknown player, Kudos.) Worth 1 point.
  2.      Break into the rival school. Steal a trophy from their trophy case and write with spray paint inside their gym. Worth 2 points.
  3.      Either eat a trash bag full of bagels (every single bagel must go—teammates only) or get an ironic tattoo. Worth 3 points.
  4.      Get someone to seduce an opposite team member. Tongue or it doesn’t count. (1 bonus point if a member of the team does the seducing.) Don’t be an asshole. You only get points if it’s consensual. Unparalleled shame and disqualification follow if someone kisses without consent. Worth 4 points.
  5.      Steal a personal object from an opposing team member’s house or bag, but don’t be an asshole. You break something, you buy it. Worth 5 points.
  6.      An actual relay race. Stay fit friends. Tripping is allowed, and each member must be revealed and play. Worth 6 points.
  7.      You know how this goes. Worth 7 points.

“These are the Games?” Harry asks. They seem anti-climactic. He’s always built them up as some legendary battle between schools that results in a death every few years, but it seems he’s terribly mistaken.

“Well, the teams get drunk and switch them every four years, except for seven, but, yeah. We also added a rule that each team has to document their challenge on Instagram to get points. Pics or it didn’t happen, and all,” Louis clarifies.

It doesn’t seem all too difficult. Harry’s always heard public school is much less challenging than private school, anyway, so he’s glad he’ll have something to do other than sit and mope.

“We have one week to complete each challenge on time, and then we have another week to get half credit. After that, the challenge is void,” Louis explains.

“I don’t know why the blindfold and signing my soul to the devil was necessary. I knew most of this, already.”

“Dramatics, Harry. The Games are built on tradition,” Louis declares with a glare. “Anyway, I guess that’s it. First challenge begins next Monday, but you don’t have to worry about that one since they don’t know we’ve recruited you. It’s probably best if we’re not seen together until then, just in case someone gets suspicious.”

He moves as if he’s getting ready to leave, but Harry isn’t ready for that. He needs friends. He needs distraction. People become friends by doing things together. He needs to—

“Do you want to stay? I just got the new FIFA, and my mum will probably cook for all of us,” Harry tries. Louis pauses on his way to the door, spinning on his heel. He studies Harry for a moment. “I’m liking you a little more already, Styles.”

That little comment sends a happy thrill and blush through Harry’s cheeks.

And the game goes well. Louis can’t stay for a meal because he has to watch his sisters, but he smiles and thanks Harry for letting them come over and asks for his number, so it feels like a win.

Until he gets the text.

stop dressing like you go to private school harry for fucks sake youre one of us now

It’s both inclusive and backhanded. Harry thinks he might possibly be half in love, but then he remembers that he loves (or, loved?) Nick, and he just feels sad. He throws himself into winning over the group as a distraction.

Zayn is reserved, but Harry catches him smiling when he sees the picture of him and Lux taped to his mirror, so he doesn’t think he hates him completely.

Liam is easier to please. He tells Harry he likes his turtle collection, and that feels like a friendship offering.

Niall and Harry beat Liam and Zayn in FIFA after they inhale his mum’s fajitas, and he declares them bros for life when Harry scores the winning goal. It’s simple and passing, but it’s more heartfelt than anything he’s been told for a long time.

He cries a little less than he did the night before when he finally goes to sleep.

~ Challenge 1~


Harry’s not sure what to expect come Monday. Louis includes him in a group message in the morning (be ready motherfuckers) but it feels the same as each morning the week before.

Until he walks into school. Beneath the peeling welcome sign, a homemade, colorful banner reading Let The Games Begin hangs. The school is buzzing, and there are whispers everywhere, speculating on what the day will bring and whether they’ll be able to see someone get shot this year and who the new team member is.

Harry freezes up when he hears that, and he suddenly feels like he has a target taped to his back, more obvious than Joan Rivers’ botox. He’ll work on his poker face.

St. George never cared this much. Nick would get a few pats on the back and the occasional good luck the week of, but it’s not like a lever was pulled and the whole mood of the school was turned full blast overnight.

He inconspicuously sits under his tree as he waits for class to begin. He finished his chemistry homework the night before, but he pulls it out to go over his answers until the bell rings.

But then he hears clapping, and shouting, and he looks up from his notebook and Louis, Zayn, Liam, and Niall have a mob—a literal mob—surrounding them by the front gates. They’re dressed head to toe in black, and it’s actually ridiculous how many people are surrounding them—admiring them. Harry watches as a freshman asks Louis to take a picture with her, and he doesn’t even seem surprised by it. It’s like they’re famous here or something. Like it’s the norm.

Harry digs the toe of his boot into the dirt. He feels lame, and kind of left out because he’s one of them, now, too. Sort of. Hopefully. He will be soon. But he’s stuck alone under a tree.

Louis peers over the heads of his fans like he’s scoping someone out, and Harry thinks (hopes) he’s looking for him. He waves obviously, and he can see Louis’ gaze pass over him. He doesn’t smile and the look is brief, but he nods the tiniest bit, and Harry feels secretly pleased.

He’s not sure why his little nod of acknowledgment calms him and makes it okay that he’s away from the action, alone. Maybe it’s because Louis knows he’s a part of the Games, and he’s the only one he really cares to (no, no, no— the only one he feels like he needs to) impress at this point.


Niall is jumpy throughout chemistry, and he whispers to Harry that they’re literally never safe until someone wins the challenge. Apparently, last year, Niall was hit in the bathroom with his dick in his hand as he peed. The Games are ruthless, and Harry quickly feels relief at not being included in this one.

Lunch is boring, and Harry feels like a loser again because he sits by himself at a table squished in the corner. But he can watch the table he should be sitting at with an unobstructed view, so he stares. He can see that Louis is only half paying attention to the conversation, busy looking around, as though Nick’s going to burst into the lunch room and shoot them any minute.

His phone buzzes, and Harry pulls it from his pocket instantly.

go out and see if you can find them

Louis seems to be more paranoid than necessary. Of course it’s probably important to be alert, but Harry knows Nick, and he’s not the type of person to break into another school when he could be eating orange chicken instead. His laziness is unrivaled, and he prizes his eating time.

Louis disagrees.

I have a feeling ! just go check

Harry ignores his text and smirks as he watches Louis’ eyebrows furrow from across the room. He doesn’t seem to like to be kept waiting, and it’s fun to see him get worked up.


Louis’ politeness is what prompts him to get out of his seat and make his way to the hallway.

He’s more than surprised when a hand covers his mouth and he’s pushed against the wall.

It’s the second time in one week. This never happened at St. George. One week in public school, and he’s already halfway through his transformation into a dangerous criminal.

“Oh, fuck, it’s just Harry,” Nick laughs to Rita, and Harry can feel his heartbeat triple and ice in his lungs as Nick lowers his hand from his face. It’s the first time he’s seen Nick since the night of the Jello Incident, and the first time he’s heard his voice since the Breakup. He hasn’t even texted. Holy shit.

“Is this place really as bad as they say?” Nick asks.

Harry’s lip quivers, because is that really the first thing he has to say to him? It’s not an apology or an actual question. He doesn’t even look sad. There are no sallow bags beneath his eyes, and he looks like he had at least seven hours of sleep the night before.

Harry’s been crying himself to sleep every other night (not that he’d tell anyone that but his mum) while Nick is laughing at his good fortune of running into each other.

“It’s—it’s not that bad,” Harry tells him gently. He hasn’t really forged a deep connection with the place yet, but he still feels oddly protective of it.

Maybe just because Nick is the one asking, and he’s the reason he was sent here.

“How have you—“ Harry begins to ask as he reaches to touch him, but Nick shrugs away and cuts him off.

“Listen, I don’t have time to talk. Have you seen Louis Tomlinson?”

It’s then that Harry registers that he’s holding a paintball gun in his hand, and that Alexa, Rita, and Pixie have one as well.

And also that Nick is even more of a douche than he remembers. It’s been one week, and he’d rather talk about Louis than the events that turned Harry’s entire life upside down.

He grips his phone tighter, any questions of his loyalty answered. “I think I heard they’re eating across campus, like, hiding out,” he lies, thinking quickly.

Nick frowns, as though he isn’t sure whether to believe him. “What’s the room number, then?”

Harry considers the best route with an optimal shooting range. “I’m still new, so I’m not sure of the number. I know it’s by the fountain, though.” It’s more of a birdbath, but whatever.

“Well, lead the way,” Nick tells him, like Harry wouldn’t even think of disobeying him.

Alexa complains about the smell of the hallway as Harry pulls out his phone to send a group message.

sos sos leading team to the bird bath they have teir guns theyre wearing black

He gets a response less than twenty seconds later.

perfect harry perfect stay top their left were coming in from the right

Now his heart is pounding for two reasons. He casually walks to Nick’s left side and bumps their knuckles together.

“Hey, Nick, how are you doing, since…?” he trails off, trying again. It’s a painful question, but he still hasn’t spoken to Nick since he broke up with him over the phone, and he’s not sure when he’ll get another chance to talk face to face. He needs—something. It’s maddening that Nick is pretending there’s nothing wrong, while Harry feels like he’s halfway dead on the inside.

He feels his phone buzz with a new text message, but ignores it.

“I’m fine, Harold.” He uses the nickname casually, like the memories of laughing it into Harry’s mouth aren’t fresh and sore, and that hurts Harry more than he imagines a paintball to the dick would.

“What have you learned about Louis Tomlinson?” he asks, glancing around curiously as Harry trips over his own feet. It was okay when Louis used him for knowledge, because he didn’t even know him at the time, but with Nick it feels even more brutal and heartless, like he’s stabbing Harry through the heart slowly with children’s scissors.

He feels his eyes water up a little, but then he sees figures in black from the corner of his right eye ducking down behind a ledge, and he stops, refocusing. The group walks a few more steps until they realize Harry’s not with them anymore, and they turn to him in question.

“What is it? Is it here?” Pixie asks, and Harry can’t come up with an excuse because Louis yells fire and he’s caught in the middle of an actual paintball ambush. A yellow and red ball of paint whiz past his shoulder, and Alexa screams in pain as her black shirt splatters red like she was actually shot. Beside her, Pixie curses at the yellow on her thigh, and Rita and Nick turn to the commotion with their guns raised.

Nick grabs at Harry’s hand, and it’s a beautiful moment. Harry thinks he’s about to apologize and proclaim his love for him in the middle of gunfire like they’re in a cheesy romance movie, but he actually pulls him in front of him as a human shield to protect himself from any new paintballs.

And Harry can’t believe this is his actual life. He read somewhere that people show their true colors in stressful situations, and Harry decides that Nick’s color is an ugly, muddy grey.

Rita grunts as she’s hit a moment later by another yellow ball, because she’s an infinitely better person than Nick and doesn’t make use of someone as a human shield.

And then the gunfire stops. Nick breathes hotly into Harry’s ear from behind him, and then turns his gun to Harry’s temple. “Shoot me and I’ll shoot him!” he calls.

Maybe Nick isn’t aware how dangerous a paintball to the temple would be.

It’s official. Harry is going to die from a paintball injury inflicted by his boyfriend (his ex boyfriend) and he feels more used and disposable than a plastic bag.

Harry closes his eyes in fear, but nobody shoots. They’ve attracted a crowd, and he feels the hush and held breaths of everyone surrounding them. He trembles in Nick’s arms, afraid to move as the tense seconds trickle by.

“You’re a fucking coward, Grimshaw.” Harry opens one eye, and sees Louis standing on the ledge across from them with his paintball gun nowhere to be found. He spreads his arms wide, like he’s challenging Nick to shoot him, instead.

“I fucking dare you.”

There’s no fear in Louis’ eyes. He looks fierce and untamed, as vicious as a prodded lion. He looks terrifying. Harry would probably cry within two seconds if Louis ever looked at him like that.

He’s two seconds from crying, anyway.

Nick goes still against him, pulling the gun from Harry’s temple and pointing it to Louis’ standing form. Harry breathes out a sigh of relief, a wave of gratitude flowing through him.

After a quick, nonverbally communicative stare down, Nick pulls the trigger and shoots. The bang echoes throughout the muted courtyard as red explodes against Louis’ shoulder.

He doesn’t even flinch. His eyes narrow, but his face remains impassive, and that’s when Harry realizes Louis would probably laugh in a murderer’s face if he pointed a gun to his head. He’s reckless, and probably a danger to society.

Nobody moves for a few more moments, and then Harry feels himself being roughly dragged backwards, until it’s only him and Nick behind a yellowing building. Nick lets him go with a grumble once they’re out of sight, and his teammates join them moments later.

“I wasn’t going to shoot you, Harry, don’t look so scared. Tomlinson just likes to pretend he’s bloody moral and I knew that’s the only way I could get away.”

He kisses Harry’s hair condescendingly as they all leave without another word to him or even a backwards glance, scheming ways to get to the other three.

There’s no sorry, Harry, probably should have told you that before. There’s no great to see you, let me take you to lunch as an apology.

Nick left behind nothing but bile rising in his throat and possibly a new, irrational phobia of flying balls of paint.

And this is the worst Harry has felt since being expelled. Possibly before that, too. None of them even care that he’s gone. He means nothing to them. He’s as easily forgotten and used as a wad of toilet paper, when only a week ago they were the first people he’d go to when he wanted company.

He leans against the wall and crumples to the floor as it sinks in that his boyfriend (ex boyfriend) actually held him hostage at gunpoint to win a stupid game.

He hides his face in his knees as he curls up into a ball.

Niall peeks around the corner only moments later. “Louis sent me to come check on you. You okay?”

Harry almost smiles as he realizes maybe Niall actually cares a little bit about him, but he shakes his head sadly. Niall drops down next to him on the floor.

“Your ex is a huge dick,” he says. “Liam was about to shoot, but Louis told us to stop.”

Harry feels important for a moment, before he realizes he isn’t significant because someone tried to save him from getting shot. It’s just common courtesy.

“Louis wants you to have the privilege of shooting him yourself.”


At this point, as far as Harry is concerned, the only positive aspect of dating Nick Grimshaw for so long is that he knows exactly where he’ll be on a Monday at five o’clock. After school, Louis takes the other three in his car and he follows Harry home so they can assemble and plan.

His mum makes them peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and the whole team greets her with a kiss to the cheek and a thank you. She blushes and looks almost flustered at the gratitude, and Harry remembers how none of his old friends ever paid attention to her when they were over, even when she’d make them snacks or ask about their day. He feels like a jerk of a son, and he’s grateful he made friends with people who are less scummy.

Yeah, that word works.

She pulls him into the other room to ask if he’s alright once Louis begins to rant about the difficulty of removing paint from clothing.

“You okay, sweetie? You’ve been awfully quiet.”

Harry tucks his face into her shoulder, silently asking for a hug. He’s too embarrassed by what happened to talk about it, but she rubs his back and kisses his hair. When he pulls away to rejoin the group, he doesn’t completely feel like crying anymore.

Louis pauses from his story when he returns, giving Harry a bright smile and patting the area next to him from where he’s perched on the granite countertop, an invitation to join him.

They chat and plan and eat while Harry tries not to smile because of Louis’ comforting arm draped around his shoulder, and even though Harry still feels like shit, he smiles because it feels like a routine in the making.


At 4:45 they pile into Louis’ car. Harry rides shotgun because he’s the one executing the plan, and he feels a certain smugness that he’s the one allowed up front with Louis when he’s only been a part of the group for a week. Like sitting up front with Louis is a privilege he’s somehow earned.

He feels less smug when Louis hands him a real, actual ski mask and tells him to put it on.

“Nobody can know you’re on our team,” Louis reminds him as the engine roars to life. He drives quickly to the Starbucks near St. George, and they park a bit down the street. It’s perfect for getting Nick on his walk from Starbucks to his job at the used bookstore.

The ski mask turns itchier as the car idles, but Louis grabs his wrist when he tries to take it off.

“There are St. George students everywhere. Do you really think they won’t find it suspicious that you’re in a car with us, holding a paintball gun?”

He releases. “Get your head in the game, Harry.”

So they wait. They wait, and five o’ clock comes and goes but there’s still no sign of Nick.

“Are you sure this is the Starbucks?” Liam asks from the back. Harry bites his tongue, because of course this is the right Starbucks. He and Nick used to meet here every day after school, and Harry is about to tell Louis to just drive away when Zayn spots him.

“I see him! He’s walking with a guy with, like, light brown hair…”

Harry turns in his seat, paintball gun at the ready. Nick’s walking towards them, and he’s smiling.

He’s smiling at the boy next to him, and it isn’t his ha ha leave me alone smile. It’s his let’s make out when we’re alone smile, and Harry instantly feels his face heat up even more under the ski mask. It’s been a fucking week.

He ducks low as they pass, and silently sets the gun up once their backs are to him.

“You’ve got this,” Louis whispers to him.

Zayn raises his phone to get the picture, and Harry thinks of how the nozzle felt to his temple as he aims and shoots.

The paint is as red and messy as he feels.

He gets brave and shoots the boy next to Nick for good measure. Fuck him, too.

Louis races away as he cackles, and Harry pulls his mask off in frustration.

“Did you get the picture, Zayn?” Louis asks once they’re idling at a stoplight, and Zayn laughs.

“Harry got them both right in the arse.”


They go to McDonalds drive thru to celebrate. Louis tells him he’ll buy him whatever he wants because he’s had a rough day, but Harry has absolutely no appetite.

Louis frowns at that and buys Harry fries and an Oreo McFlurry, anyway. Niall whines that Louis didn’t offer to buy him anything, so Louis tells him he didn’t do anything worth buying food for.

They eat in the McDonalds parking lot. It feels counterproductive, but Niall tells him it’s a tradition they’ve honored ever since Louis first got his license.

“He called us up bragging, saying I’m a real man, now, and then after we ordered we had nowhere to go, but Louis refused to leave the driver seat.”

Liam recounts the story of how they hardly ended the Games with five points the previous year, and Zayn laughs as he remembers how only a week after Louis had his license, they forgot they had a ride and the four of them walked a mile to get ice cream in excruciating heat.

They’ve all known each other for so long that they tell stories in a four-part symphony. Harry laughs until his stomach hurts, thoroughly distracted and happier than he’s been since Pluto was classified as a planet, probably.

“I’m dropping everyone off now,” Louis says suddenly, when they’re only halfway through their food. “I just remembered I have to watch my sisters tonight.”

Niall’s first to be dropped off, then Zayn, and then Liam, and then it’s just Harry and Louis in the car. The borderline awkward silence brings to light the fact that they’ve never been alone together for more than thirty seconds.

Harry has no idea what to say, especially since he doesn’t really know where they stand with each other, so he settles and watches Louis, uninterrupted.

He seems almost calmer when it’s just the two of them. His eyes are warmer, and less calculating, like he isn’t waiting for the opportunity to one up someone.

“I bet Nick was the kind of boyfriend that would always come first and leave you to finish yourself off,” Louis comments just as the road curves to the right.

Harry can feel a blush in his cheeks, but he reminds himself to stay cool. He’s cool. He can be cool. “Sounds pretty accurate.”

Louis laughs and taps his fingers on the steering wheel. “Why did you date that private school trash?”

“Hey,” Harry protests, low and quiet. He was “private school trash” less than two weeks ago.

“I’m serious,” Louis continues. “What did you see in him? Was he that self-centered when you were dating?”

Harry has tried unsuccessfully to avoid all thoughts of Nick for the past week, but at Louis’ question he lets them all tumble back in. One moment in particular comes to mind.

“Um. On our one-year anniversary, I gave him a bracelet that I got engraved. It said I’d rather die tomorrow than live a hundred years without knowing you. It was blue and silver, and I was so excited to give it to him.”

He smiles as he remembers showing it to his mum as soon as he picked it up from the store. They’re almost to Harry’s house, but he doesn’t hurry through the story.

“When I gave it to him he said—and I quote—‘You know I don’t wear jewelry.’ He put it on, anyway, but, like, it felt all wrong at that point.”

Louis pulls up to the side of the street by Harry’s house, parks, and turns all of his attention to him.

“He got me Swedish Fish, because he said he knew it was my favorite candy. And it’s just, like, he said it so confidently and like I’d be, I don’t know, impressed with him, but my favorite candy is Twix.”

He smiles bitterly at the memory.

“Anyway, I don’t know whether this really answers your question, but he only wore the bracelet for a week. When I saw that it was gone, I asked him what happened to it, and he told me it broke. And then, the next time I came over, I saw it on his dresser, just, like, casually thrown over a pair of socks. I offered to get it fixed for him, but he told me he’d get to it eventually.”

Harry laughs as he realizes the truth.

“Three weeks later I was expelled. It’s never getting fixed.”

The double meaning isn’t lost on him. Louis doesn’t laugh, and the silence stretches on as he considers his words.

“Grimshaw didn’t deserve a boyfriend who treated him like that.”

It’s hidden like a silent vowel, but Harry picks up the air of Grimshaw didn’t deserve you.

Louis squints his eyes, like he’s analyzing again.

“You don’t act like most of the pretentious private school students I’ve met. I almost think you have a soul.”

It’s quiet in the car as Harry lets the words mull over. He remembers Louis’ words in his room—I hate all private school snobs no matter what. It’s nothing personal.

It almost sounds like—

“Does that mean you like me, then?”

Louis’ lips quirk up at the sides, but he changes the subject. “I can’t believe you quoted Pocahontas on an anniversary present.”

Harry takes it as a yes.

~ Challenge 2 ~


The second challenge begins the next Monday. Louis, Liam, and Niall come over after school, just like they had the week before. His mum makes them all peanut butter celery sticks, and Niall asks whether he can move in as he makes obnoxious heart eyes at her.

“I don’t see why not. We have an extra guest room if any of you ever need somewhere to stay,” she says with a smile, and Harry almost chokes on his celery. She’s never liked any of his friends enough to offer for them to stay without Harry begging for a few days beforehand first.

Louis says celery makes him feel like a rabbit, but he eats a few sticks, anyway, before he escapes into the bathroom to call Zayn.

It all feels very covert. Louis says Zayn is in charge of this challenge because he’s won it for them three years in a row since his girlfriend Perrie is a genius.

She goes to a gifted school two towns over and could probably singlehandedly destroy the world if she felt like trying. Zayn can only usually see her on weekends, so seeing her on a Monday is an unusual luxury.


“It’s against the rules to get help from someone else, but I don’t plan on getting caught,” Louis explains. They’ve shut themselves in Harry’s room, playing FIFA on a team against Niall and Liam, and they’re crushing them.

“Why are you supposed to be so secretive about everything?” Harry asks.

Louis sets his controller down to stare at Harry in horror. “Are you not being secretive about this?”

“I am!” Harry promises. He hasn’t even told his mum about the Games—she just thinks he’s made really quick, close friends. She almost cried when she hugged him and told him she was glad he seemed to be making some changes for the better, and, as a result, Harry feels like a filthy liar.

“It just seems kind of… I don’t know. Pointless, since everyone knows most of the challenges, anyway.”

Louis picks his controller back up. “We can lose a point if someone from St. George finds out we’ve cheated, and telling other people or getting help from them counts as cheating. We’re taking no chances— except for tonight. We need to win.”

As the sun sets, they dress in black and put on their own version of eye black using an old eyeliner pencil Harry’s mum gave him.

Louis teases him for having eyeliner lying around.


It’s strange being back at St. George, since he isn’t a student, anymore. The school looks exactly the same, a brick, three-story building surrounded by freshly trimmed hedges, but everything feels different. It’s eerie, like a life left behind, and brings up feelings Harry doesn’t want to feel.

The last time he was here, he broke in in the middle of the night as well. But he was with people from a life that feels a million miles away. Nick still hasn’t texted him or apologized or begged for Harry to take him back, and he realizes with a deep sigh that he thinks he’s finally reached the acceptance stage.

And it’s not that he’s okay with what happened, but he’s making a conscious effort to push past it and enjoy the new and slightly improved people in his life.

“Feeling okay, Harry?” Louis asks with a hand to his shoulder after they hop the fence. Zayn is sitting on the front steps with a blonde in tight black clothes that Harry doesn’t recognize, and when they cross over he stands, pulling her with him.

“Don’t know how I feel. It’s kind of weird being back here,” Harry tells him honestly.

“Well, don’t let it get to you. That’s Perrie,” Louis points to the girl by Zayn’s side, and she waves with a smile. Harry’s eyes almost pop out of his sockets.

“And you’re Harry, right?” Harry nods, forgetting how to speak, surprised by how pretty she is.

“Good to finally meet you,” she laughs. “Zayn’s told me all about you.”

She’s extroverted, too, not at all the type of girl Harry envisioned when Louis told him she was a genius. Harry’s mind is a victim of stereotypes.

“Didn’t know you were into females, Styles,” Louis comments quietly beside him, eyes sharp.

“I’m—I’m not,” he stutters.

“Me neither,” Louis states, like it’s not an earth shattering statement.

(Heteronormativity is a strong force, and it can even affect gay men.)

“Alright, everyone, once we get inside, I only have about a minute to disable the alarm. So you need to back the fuck up and give me my space until then if you want this to work. Okay?”

Perrie’s tone is demanding, and Harry vows to never cross or displease her.

“God, she’s wonderful,” Louis whispers to him as she pulls a confusing set of keys from her pocket and tries them out. “Zayn gets off on her bossing everyone around.”

“I think you get off on bossing everyone around, too,” Harry laughs.

Louis blinks at him like he’s said something stupid. “Quite the opposite, actually.”

Harry doesn’t have any time to process that before the alarm is beeping and Perrie rushes inside. The five of them slowly file in behind her, careful to keep their distance.

Perrie’s shoulders are tense as she punches in numbers in a rapid sequence, but then the beeping stops, cloaking the hall in ringing silence. She sighs out in relief, and Zayn moves to hug her from behind in thanks. Harry averts his eyes, because love is still too sore of a subject.

“Let’s split up, then,” Louis calls, his voice echoing. “Zayn and Perrie, take Niall to the trophies. I’m taking Harry and Liam to the gym.”

They make it to the gym in minutes, but Harry’s heart is pounding in his chest. It feels like there’s a clock ticking in his ears, and their time is running out.

Louis picks the lock easily with a brown bobby pin pulled from his backpack.

“What are we writing?” Liam asks once they make it inside, his eyes raking the high ceiling. Louis pulls out a can of red spray paint and throws his backpack to the ground.

“I’m writing an important reminder,” Louis tells him. “And I’m getting on your shoulders to do it.”

“On my shoulders?” he repeats dumbly. Louis nods, tapping Liam’s thigh twice and telling him to lunge to the side.

“Harry, get behind me. And if I fall you better fucking catch me.”

The way Louis steps on Liam’s thigh and throws his leg over his shoulder is surprisingly practiced and graceful, almost like he does it everyday. He steadies himself with a tight grip on Liam’s hair, and then orders him to walk closer to the wall.

Harry doesn’t know exactly how to help, so he stays close behind as best as he can. Louis seems confident, but Harry’s filled with images of Louis falling backwards and splitting his head open because of his negligence.

So he gets reckless and lets his hands wander to grip Louis’ slim hips in order to steady him, but Louis calmly tells him he’ll spray him in his eyes if he ever tries it again, without even taking a pause from writing his message or looking back.

Harry keeps his hands to himself after that.

Louis commands Liam around easily, kicking him in the ribs to get him to move to the right as he progresses. It hits Harry hard, right then, how much of a born leader Louis is, how fearless he seems.

He could probably lead the group to a certain death, and nobody would even question him.

They’d look to Louis in assurance that they were doing it right.

He has that kind of effect on people.

It’s a little bit scary, but it also makes Harry want to get on his knees and do anything Louis asks of him.

“Harry, help me down,” Louis orders him, and Harry is given the opportunity to do exactly that.

He holds Louis tight around the waist as he brings him back to the floor, squeezing as Liam leans back to make the transition smoother. He might keep his arms around Louis for longer than he’s supposed to, but he’s just making sure he’s safe, really.

Louis still gives him a stern glare.

March 21st – be there

The red is dripping down at the bottom of the letters, but it makes the message look even better.

“What’s happening on March 21st?” Harry asks.

“Tell ya when it happens,” Louis redirects, but then they hear a yell from deep within the school, and Harry can hardly blink before he realizes he needs to run.

He hurries out of the gym and down the hall in pursuit of Louis and Liam. Liam, the fastest, runs into a sprinting Niall yelling, “Move!” and shoving him the opposite way.

Zayn and Perrie appear around the corner only seconds later, Perrie dragging Zayn behind her because he’s actually slowing her down, and then Harry sees the same security guard chasing them that caught him last time.

He sprints, hot on Niall’s heels, breath fast as Louis yells, level headed and asking through the panic whether they got the trophy or not.

Apparently, Louis’ focus is unwavering, even while being chased out the building. But Harry knows the answer before it’s spoken.

The thing about private schools is that they take award shit seriously. Even Perrie couldn’t get into the trophy case.

They don’t win the challenge.

~ Challenge 3 ~


The third challenge feels the dumbest to Harry. He doesn’t know how someone could expect five people to eat a whole trash bag full of bagels (how did someone even come up with that?) but apparently Niall has been looking forward to this challenge since they completed it last year.

“I haven’t had a bagel in two months to prepare for this,” he gushes to the team Monday morning before school. They’re at the bakery, apologizing to Barbara for buying all of her bagels with a trash bag half full.

She’s agreed to give them half-off because Harry had a brief stint of working there. He offered to pay full price, but she insisted.

He pays, shrugging off Louis and Liam’s half-hearted attempts to help out, and then they’re out in the street, the grey morning dull and uninspiring.

Louis holds the trash bag like he’s a dwarf off to work. There’s only one more bakery to stop at, and Niall goes in Harry’s car because the bagels take up two seats.

The next bakery doesn’t allow them to bring the bag in with them for health reasons, even though they show the teenager behind the counter that there’s nothing but bagels inside.

“Sorry. Not my rules.”

After a biting, one-sided argument, they move the bag to the sidewalk. They place it so they can keep an eye on it, like it’s their child, prone to running off.

They’re halfway through ordering every single bagel they have to offer when Zayn tugs on Harry’s sleeve. “Hey, do you recognize that guy?”

Harry turns to the window, peering through. The boy casually strolling looks familiar—Harry’s definitely seen him somewhere, and for some reason his presence brings a bitter taste to his mouth.

He scratches at his neck, trying to remember as he thinks back to his class schedule at St. George.

He remembers just as the boy makes a run for it and steals their entire bag of bagels. “He’s with Nick!”

Louis thinks quickly and shoves Liam out the door with hostile eyes, yelling to him to catch him. Harry’s frozen with his mouth half open.

Who could steal so many bagels without feeling as guilty as a parent lying to their children about Santa Clause?

“Liam’s getting our bagels back. He’s on the Olympic reserves,” Louis tells him confidently. The teenager behind the counter squints at them in confusion and asks whether they’re still buying the bagels.

Louis smiles deceivingly sweetly at her and tells her they will when Liam gets back.

But Liam comes back empty-handed. He doubles over with his hands on his knees as he pants out, “Went into—a car. Nick was—he was driving. Lost the bagels.”

Harry peeks at Louis out of his peripheral. He’s composed, but Harry can sense the stirring fury.

“Fine. We’re skipping school today, then. Anyone know any tattoo artists?”


It just so happens that Harry knows a tattoo artist. He’s a family friend, so Harry tells Louis he can probably get him the tattoo for a nice discount.

“What does an ironic tattoo even mean, though?” Harry asks. He’s riding shotgun in Louis’ car, since the bagels are no longer a passenger. Louis told him to sit up front to give him directions to the shop, so Harry feels important.

“Well, Harry. Irony is when the pretend meaning and actual meaning—“

“I know what irony is, but how can you get an ironic tattoo?”

“I’ll show you how.”

They arrive at the tattoo shop minutes later. Harry walks in first, and he can hardly take in the smell of stale cigarette smoke before Tom’s walking around the front desk and coming to greet him.

Louis tells Tom exactly what he wants—a chest piece reading It Is What It Is.

He draws it up quickly in a swirly, dramatic font that Louis picks because he thinks his sisters will like it. Once he approves the sketch, Louis whips off his shirt and throws it straight at Harry’s head.

It smells like boy, and Louis looks very nice shirtless. Harry’s mouth dries out.

Tom gets to work quickly, making sure the placement is correct and shaving the area before the tattoo gun buzzes to life. Louis nods at him that he’s ready, and Tom begins.

At the first pierce of the needle, Louis makes the cutest scrunched up face, like he wants to complain but he refrains. Harry’s about to offer to hold his hand, but then he realizes Louis would probably kick to him to China for even suggesting such a thing.

“That’s gonna look sick, mate,” Zayn says, stepping closer to get a good look. “You realize you’re gonna have that for the rest of your life, though, right?”

Louis rolls his eyes through a hiss. “Of course I know that, Zayn. It’s a tattoo.

Liam butts in. “Maybe we should have just gotten more bagels. You shouldn’t just change your body for three points—“

“It’s not like I threw a dart at tattoo ideas and landed on this. I’ve wanted this tattoo since I was twelve; it’s just never felt like the right time.”

“The best time to get a tattoo is when your bagels get stolen,” Niall adds helpfully.

Tom pauses and tells Louis to stop talking so much.

It’s a big piece, and takes a few hours. Harry admires Louis’ body with his lip between his teeth while Zayn and Niall bicker over the pros and cons of tattoos, so it goes by quickly.

But Zayn was right—it does look sick. It’s red and smeared when it’s finished, but Zayn takes a picture for Instagram before Tom tapes it up, captioning it Challenge 3 bitches.

Louis pays and Harry promises Tom he’ll come around to see Lux soon, and then they decide to go to Harry’s since it’s kind of their spot—like the basement in That 70s Show.

Harry rides shotgun again, even though there’s no reason for him to sit in the front, anymore. He doesn’t question it.

“How is it ironic, though?” Harry asks Louis as soon as they’re on the open road.

Louis smiles painfully before answering. “Because it is what it is is the dumbest phrase in the world. Passivity isn’t a personality trait. It’s a socially constructed fear that prevents us from taking action. The phrase just embodies society’s collective ideology that we aren’t capable of changing things.”

“What the fuck does that mean?” Liam asks from the backseat.

Louis sighs and grabs his sunglasses from the holder attached to the roof. “It means we weren’t born pussies.”


Halfway through their second round of FIFA, Louis gets a call from an unknown number.

“Hello?” he asks, moving his phone to one shoulder as he tries to continue playing.

Harry can hear a deep voice loud on the other line, but then Louis drops his controller.

“First of all, how the fuck did you get my number, Grimshaw?”

Harry drops his controller, then, too.

“It is too an ironic tattoo!” Louis squeaks as he switches it to speakerphone so the whole group can hear. Harry mutes the abandoned game and pretends his heart isn’t racing at hearing Nick’s voice again. It’s a sick, guilty pleasure.

“How the fuck is that ironic? That’s probably the least ironic tattoo I’ve ever seen! It is what it is? How the fuck is that ironic? That isn’t even worth one point!”

“Well, that’s where you’re wrong, your greasiness,” Louis cautions softly. He’s smiling like he’s next during Uno and he only has a Wild Draw 4 card left.

Louis’ speech loses Harry three sentences in. He looks to Niall in confusion, but he seems unfazed, scrolling through his phone casually as Louis throws around words like social progress and collective action and demand before he goes into a spiel on the history of labor and civil rights movements.

Nick is silent on his end of the line, and Niall looks up to roll his eyes at Harry. “Louis can go on about this stuff all day if you let him. That’s why we normally don’t.”

Louis continues his rant, getting louder as Nick tries to interject his own opinion. “The only way anything will ever change is if we fight for it, but nobody is willing to because they don’t think their voice matters, so this tattoo is fucking ironic and nothing you say will change that! You’re wrong, and we’re taking the fucking points!”

His voice is certain and firm, like there’s no room for any arguments, and it sends a shiver through Harry.

Louis’ finger hovers over the end button, but curiosity seems to get the better of him. He waits with his eyebrows raised and his eyes pointed up to the ceiling, but Nick stays silent. Until—

“Whatever, Tomlinson.”

And then he hangs up. Louis smiles in a self-satisfied way for half a second, but brushes it off like it was nothing as he picks up his controller. “Where were we, then?”

~ Challenge 4 ~


Niall is the weakest link. Louis tells Harry over the phone on Sunday night that Niall loses the challenge for them every year, without fail. Louis hasn’t ever called him, so he isn’t sure what to expect when the call comes in.

“Zayn’s pretty serious with Perrie, and Liam’s just started dating this girl named Sophia, so Niall’s the only one left to worry about. Last year, Nick paid this girl named Zoe to proposition him. We lost before first period started. I think it was a new record.”

“What about the year before?” Harry asks as he lies back on his bed, running hands over his chest absently. Louis sounds chatty and pleasant, and he’s almost positive they’re friends of some sort, now.

His mum isn’t home, and Louis caught him just as he was preparing for a solo session with his hand. Harry is a fan of multitasking, so he doesn’t let it deter him.

“Year before that he paid someone named Amy. She didn’t get him until Tuesday, but, either way, I’m not letting him out of my sight this year.”

Harry pinches his nipple just because he can. He gasps, but he doesn’t think Louis hears because his sister barges into the room and asks him to put something in the microwave for her. Harry pulls down the waistband of his shorts and wraps a hand around himself as he waits for Louis to return.

“Sorry, where were we?” Louis asks, somewhat out of breath, like he ran back to his room so they could talk alone.

“Why don’t you have to worry about someone seducing me or you?” Harry asks casually, his fist speeding up at the sound of Louis’ voice.

He hopes Louis doesn’t realize. Fuck, it’s probably creepy to do this while Louis is unsuspecting on the other end.

But he doesn’t seem to notice or care, because Harry can hear Louis’ smirk through the phone. “You’re still pining, and Nick knows I wouldn’t be into it. You should know by now that I only take what I want.”

Louis has to go soon after, groaning because he has to take his sister to a dance class. Harry lets him go easily, talking as little as possible since he doesn’t trust his voice when he’s two minutes from orgasm.

And when he comes, he comes hard. It’s easily the best orgasm he’s had since the break up, and since he was thinking of Louis the whole time, it feels like a step forward.


“Harry, I’m assigning you to Niall duty while I try to get your douchebag ex boyfriend to kiss me.”

That’s not exactly the best way to end a busy day of classes, but Harry accepts it gladly and takes Niall home in his car. His stomach hardly even turns as he pictures Louis and Nick kissing—though, at this point, he’s not sure who it’s twisting over.

He’s still a little bit heartbroken over Nick, but Louis’ sharp and smart, and Harry would definitely partake in illegal activities to get his hands on his arse.

He and Niall take a break from their never-ending FIFA marathon when Niall sees his guitar stuffed in the corner.

“Can you play?” Harry asks. Niall shrugs humbly as he plays a few chords, but he’s better than Harry will ever be.

They’re halfway through belting out “I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz when Harry gets the call.

“Is Niall still over?” Louis asks. Harry gives the affirmative as Niall strums absentmindedly.

“I’m coming over,” Louis says firmly. “Tell Niall I’m letting him have the car, but he has to go straight to Liam’s. I need to talk to you—alone.”

His tone is alarming. Harry tries to remember whether he’s fucked up in the last 24 hours, but nothing comes to mind.

When Louis arrives, Niall takes his car keys with a whoop, shrugging off Louis’ threats of violence if he loses the challenge for them. Harry leads Louis to his room wordlessly, and locks the door behind him.

“What’s going on?” he asks nervously.

Louis flops down on Harry’s bed dramatically, leaving only a corner for Harry to sit. “I don’t want to ruin your day, but I feel like I’m obligated to tell you something.”

“What—what happened?” Harry asks, terror flooding through him.

“I went to the Starbucks.”

He doesn’t continue. “…And?”

“And Nick already had someone’s tongue down his throat.”

Harry holds onto his last shred of hope. “Did you— did you pay—“

“No, I didn’t. It was that fucking bagel burglar. His name is Billy. I think he’s their fifth team member, and… maybe something else to Nick. I’m sorry, Harry.”

Harry sniffles, but tries not to let the hurt show on his face. He doesn’t want Louis to think he’s weak, or still attached to Nick when they’re all supposed to incontestably hate him.

“I don’t know why you thought—thought it would ruin my day. I don’t care what he does with his time, anymore.”

Something must show on his face, because Louis sits up and scoots closer, so they’re sitting side by side, their thighs touching.

“It’s okay to still have feelings for him, Harry. A year is a long time, and it’s obvious you loved him a lot.”

Harry bites his lip against the sting of it. “I did. Not so sure about him, though.”

Louis doesn’t ask him for details, but he needs to tell someone. “I don’t think he ever told me just because. He only said it when he was trying to pressure me into doing something for him. I don’t think he ever meant it.”

Harry can see Louis’ vein jump and hands clench by his side. It’s been dawning on him that his entire relationship was just a one-sided pitiful attempt at achieving a movie romance, and Nick kissing someone else is just another fucking confirmation.

It’s all crashing down on him at once. He tries unsuccessfully not to cry, and Louis pretends he doesn’t see. Harry’s grateful, because he feels stupid for crying over a boy who never cared about him in the first place.

“You’re much better looking, and Billy probably has the personality of a dead fish. His loss,” Louis tells him, like it’s a conspiracy.

Harry lets out a watery laugh. “That doesn’t change that he broke up with me and doesn’t give a fuck, while I’m still stuck here holding onto something that was never even real.”

And then the waterworks begin, the pent up anger and sadness flooding out of him in the form of fat, salty tears.

Louis lets him cry on his shoulder. He wraps an arm around Harry’s waist and rubs along his side in a comforting, slow rhythm, and he even lets Harry wrap both arms around his shoulders until he’s half sitting in his lap.

And it just confirms that he’s not the cold, unsolvable, Machiavellian leader Harry’s always thought him to be. He’s soft, and caring, and lets strange boys cry on his shoulder about their heartless ex boyfriends.

He cries harder when he realizes it’s the first time he’s truly come to think of Nick as an ex.

Louis shushes him and kisses behind his ear when he turns hysterical at that. Harry gets snot on Louis’ shoulder, but he doesn’t even blink twice, gently pulling Harry’s face away so he can look at him and stroke his hair back, out of his eyes.

“I stopped by the store and got something for you,” Louis mentions just as Harry’s calming down. He nudges Harry out of his lap with a soft smile and crouches down to retrieve his bag.

When he resurfaces, he dumps an entire backpack full of King sized Twix onto the bed, and Harry feels like crying for a different reason. He’s speechless.

In one month, Louis has paid more attention to him than Nick ever did. It’s unfamiliar—someone caring enough to remember the little things.

“Can you stay with me?” Harry asks hopefully.

Louis nods.


Louis stays the night. He calls Niall and tells him to pick Zayn and Liam up in the morning, and not to trust any pretty girls that might be waiting on his doorstep.

They eat all of the Twix while they watch Schindler’s List.

“I don’t see why we have to watch something so depressing,” Harry complains once they see the body of the little girl in the red coat.

But he actually has no complaints. They’re cuddled under the blanket together, Louis’ arm wrapped tight around Harry’s shoulders and Harry’s cold toes pressed to Louis’ shin.

Harry will never be sad about a break up again if he can cuddle up to Louis with his favorite candy, afterwards.

“This movie isn’t supposed to be depressing. He’s going to try to save everyone.”

Harry moves his face closer to Louis’ neck. “That doesn’t change the fact that six million Jews alone die.”

Louis shrugs his head off his shoulder as he leans forward to grab another Twix. Harry pretends he isn’t as sad about it as he really is.

“I know. But he still saves over a thousand. He doesn’t just stand around and watch.”

Harry nods as Louis sits back. He creeps forward and hesitantly leans his head on Louis’ shoulder again.

Louis lets him. “One day, I’ll do something important, like him.”


Harry cries halfway through the movie. It’s inevitable. He’s a train wreck of emotions, and there’s probably nothing more heartbreaking than the Holocaust in the history of everything.

His mum knocks on the door at around midnight. Louis pauses the movie, and Harry wipes his eyes hastily before saying she can come in.

Her eyes widen a bit when she sees Louis’ arm holding him close, but she shakes the shock quickly. “I’m not trying to be a nag or anything, but it’s still a school night…”

“There’s only twenty minutes left,” Harry protests. She seems to be having an internal battle, so Harry presses on. “I promise we’ll go to sleep after.”

“You’ll show him the guest room, where he’ll definitely be sleeping tonight?” she asks. It sounds like a question and an order.

Harry nods, only pouting a little, and she comes in to press a quick kiss to both of their foreheads before she leaves.

“Your mum’s really cool,” Louis tells him once the door’s shut.

“Had to have gotten it somewhere.”

Harry doesn’t restart the movie. He doesn’t want Louis to leave his side, and he tells him that.

They decide to go to sleep instead, because then they’re technically not lying very much.

He gives Louis sweatpants and a t-shirt to wear to sleep, but when he gets back from changing in the bathroom, Louis’ shirtless, his torso toned and perfect.

Louis seems to notice the staring, because he shrugs and says, “I like it better this way,” knocking Harry on the shoulder as he passes to lock himself in the bathroom, making use of Harry’s spare toothbrush.

Harry panics and hyperventilates over the healed chest piece for a full thirty seconds before he throws his own shirt off and climbs under the covers. When in Rome…

Louis joins him only minutes later. With the lights switched off and the house quiet, the space between them feels differently charged. More private, in a way.

“What’s the important thing you’re planning on doing one day?” Harry asks into the darkness softly, his fingers searching, coming to rest on Louis’ arm. He scoots closer.

“Not sure yet. But I’m doing something important in March.”

Harry hums, moving even closer, until their knees knock and their bare chests are almost touching.

“What’s that, then?”

He can feel Louis' breath against his cheek. “I’m getting us a football field.”

“Isn’t—I thought St. George was supposed to be getting the football field?”

“Maybe,” Louis answers. Harry’s eyes have adjusted, and he can see the dark outline of Louis’ perfect bone structure. He looks flawless, like an unearthly being Harry has no right sleeping next to. He moves closer, anyway.

“How’re you doing that?”

Louis opens his eyes, crossing them as he takes in how close Harry is. He flips him over, so Harry’s on his side facing away from him. Harry grimaces in rejection before he feels Louis press up behind him, close enough that he can feel Louis’ chest rise and fall as he breathes, but he hopes Louis can’t feel how fast his heart rate has suddenly shot up.

“Made a bet with Nick. That’s why we need to win,” Louis whispers into his hair as he wraps a tentative arm around his waist.

~ Challenge 5 ~


Nobody wins Challenge 4 by the next Monday. Niall somehow manages to resist a beautiful girl named Barbara that knocks on his door at midnight, and Louis buys him half of the McDonalds menu in congratulations because he’s so proud.

Louis and Harry devise a clever plan to knock both challenges out at once, because, as Louis says, “half points is better than no points.”

Louis rides home with Harry after school, leaving his car keys to Zayn so he, Liam, and Niall can stake out Nick’s house. Louis reminds them to call him exactly when Nick gets home, so they have an ample amount of time to do the deed.

Harry keeps glancing to the side as he drives, unaccustomed to Louis in the passenger seat, instead of the driver. It feels wrong, like when he first had his driving permit and he’d drive his mum to the store. Something about the power shift.

“Are you sure you’re okay with this?” Louis asks seriously once they’re parked in the driveway. Harry nods, praying that he actually is.

He’s not sure. He’d probably do anything for Louis if he asked nicely enough. Maybe he should have thought it through alone before he agreed to it.


As soon as they’re through the door, his mum greets them with fresh pineapple.

“Anne, you’re spoiling me!” Apparently Louis and his mum are on a first name basis, now. Harry feels like a first-born child dethroned when child number two comes into the picture.

Louis pops chunks of pineapple into his mouth as he leans against the island, asking how her day at work was and whether the customer from the week before came back to return the shoes.

It’s casual, like it’s an everyday occurrence, and Harry can smell her approval from the arch connecting the kitchen and the entryway. He’s taken back to when his mum stopped him on his way to school that morning.

“I really like Louis,” she said to him. “He’s the type of boy worth a broken heart.”

And Harry knows it. His crush is five times as bad since he woke up wrapped in Louis’ arms with his lips pressed to his shoulder. When he’s with him, he feels silly for even caring about a stupid boy like Nick Grimshaw in the first place.

They make their way to Harry’s room after eating, and Louis tries to pick out a new outfit for Harry to wear.

“You need to look fuckable, Harry. How are you supposed to seduce him if you look like a cross between a farmer and a gym teacher?”

Harry tries not to feel too hurt, but he’s still experimenting with his style. He’s had to wear a uniform practically his whole life, so the freedom is confusing—he’s not sure what to do with so much power.

Louis rolls his eyes. “I’m kidding, Harry. You’re a perfect 10, but we have a specific objective, here.”

He pulls every shirt from Harry’s closet and dresser, but nothing is up to par.

“I’m taking you shopping one day. Just wear this.”

And then Louis pulls his own shirt over his head, and Harry pinches himself because maybe he’s actually dreaming. Louis throws it at him, and he’s surprised he catches it.

Louis grabs a plain white t-shirt from the many on the floor as Harry changes. He roams his eyes over Harry’s body once the shirt is on, his mouth slightly open and his eyes wide.

“Fuck. You look more than fuckable. You look take me home to your mother-able.”

Harry takes it as a compliment. It feels like his shoulders are stretching the material, but if it gets Louis to look at him like that, he’s okay with the tightness.

The white t-shirt is a little too big on Louis. It hangs to the side, showcasing a collarbone, and the top of his tattoo is visible. Harry laces his fingers together behind his back uneasily, because he’s finding it hard to keep his hands to himself.

“Okay,” Louis says, stepping closer to Harry. His eyes look a shade darker than he remembers only minutes ago. “Do you want to practice your technique? For science?”

Harry’s heart stops. “What do you—what do you mean?”

“We only have this one chance to get it right. What if you’re out of practice and suck so bad Nick kicks you out before I can even get inside? You need to practice your seduction technique, and I’m willing to sacrifice and be your scapegoat.”

And Louis is so persuasive and sure in his argument that Harry doesn’t even know how he didn’t see it first. And plus—it’s Louis. He’s asking Harry to practice kissing technique with him. Nothing in the entire world could make him say no.

“Do I just—?” Harry asks, reaching to Louis’ waist and leaning in.

He backs away from Harry with a grin. “No. We’re doing this properly. I’m Nick. This is my house. You need to knock on the door first.” He pushes Harry out of his own room, the door slamming behind him, and Harry has to collect himself for a moment in the hallway before he raises a shaking fist and pounds on the painted wood.

Louis waits a few moments before opening, leaning against the entryway with one arm raised above his head, and he’s trying to kill Harry, probably.

Maybe that was his plan all along. Just when Harry was sure he was on his good side. He shouldn’t have let his guard down.

He’s going for it, anyway. A kiss from Louis might be worth it.

“What are you doing here, Harold?” Louis asks from under his eyelashes, like a fucking seductive minx.

Harry plays along. “I’ve just—I miss you.” And maybe this was actually a good idea. He hadn’t thought of what to say before the tongue action.

“Well, who wouldn’t?” Louis asks in a convincing, snooty voice.

Harry steps inside slowly, closing the door behind him. “I want you back.” His voice is more of a growl at this point, and he can feel his heartbeat all the way down to his toes. There’s tension in the air, and Harry can’t believe he’ll be allowed to kiss Louis soon.

Louis crosses his arms, scanning Harry from head to toe. “What if I said I didn’t want you back?”

And Harry isn’t sure this is how the conversation will actually go, but he aims for believable. “Then, I’d probably say I think I can convince you otherwise.”

Louis nearly looks impressed. He licks his bottom lip, stepping into Harry’s space until he steps back and his spine hits the doorknob. He gasps in pain and steps to the side, and Louis briefly breaks character.

“Oops. I’m sorry,” he laughs, following Harry to the right before he wipes his face clean of emotion again, stepping forward until he’s closer than he’s ever been. Trailing his fingertip down Harry’s arm, he says, “I’m not easily convinced, Harry. You’ll have to try really hard—“ he punctuates his words by thrusting forward, lining their bodies up from their knees to their ribs.

And, fuck. Now Harry’s hard.

Louis,” he whispers, grabbing at Louis’ waist, but he steps away. “What the fuck, Harry? Have you been having wet dreams about that public school clown? My name is Nick.

Oh. So they’re still playing, then.

Harry doesn’t want to play, anymore.

He grabs Louis’ hand, pulling him back in until his lips are level with Harry’s chin.

And just—he’ll have to lean down to kiss him. That’s new. That’s—that’s something.

“I don’t know how that happened,” Harry whispers, placing both hands on Louis’ waist. He squeezes, biting his lip at the warmth below his fingertips. “I hardly remember anyone else’s name when I’m with you.”

Louis moves his hands to Harry’s biceps, his breath hitching as he rubs his thumbs in a slow circle. “Well… good. So, about this convincing…” Louis trails off, looking up innocently. And they’re so close that Harry can see the tiny specks of pale, baby blue in his eyes.

So he just goes for it. He leans down, lips partly open, but Louis stops him with two insistent fingers.

“Harry, I’m scandalized! Did you ask my permission?” Louis questions.

Yes, consent. That’s important. No points without consent. Dishonor on your whole family and your cow without consent.

“Lo—I mean, Nick. Can I kiss you?”

Louis studies him carefully before he nods the tiniest bit and slowly moves his fingers back to Harry’s arms.

He leans forward hesitantly this time, shaking as he realizes that Louis isn’t stopping him. He’s about to kiss Louis.

Oh God. He isn’t prepared.

How was he even supposed to prepare? This is as unexpected as a meteor crashing into his skull. Kissing Louis doesn’t just happen.

But Louis nods at him in encouragement when their lips finally brush, so he grows some balls and adds actual pressure. His every nerve is on fire, because he’s actually kissing Louis, and he isn’t shouting at him or pulling away in disgust or pinching him.

He’s kissing back. And it’s soft and simple, like the kisses Harry remembers having when he was a shy thirteen year old. He feels butterflies in his stomach and runs one of his hands up Louis’ back, up his own shirt. Louis moves one hand down Harry’s arm until he grasps his elbow, and moves the other to Harry’s hair. It’s gentle. It’s the complete opposite of Louis’ normal, larger-than-life, overstated actions.

This is the private Louis. It’s Louis without the walls, the Louis who snuggled deeper into the blankets when Harry tried to get him to wake up for school after staying the night, the Louis who listens when they talk and who isn’t afraid to whisper to Harry in the dark about how he’s still undecided on where he wants to go to school after graduation.

Harry pulls away, then, a quiet smack sounding before there’s a still silence. Louis looks down, taking his bottom lip between his teeth and avoiding Harry’s gaze as his mouth pulls up in the corners. The hand on Harry’s elbow slides up to his shoulder, and Louis leans in closer instinctively as he scratches at the hair at the nape of Harry’s neck. He looks ripped open, almost exposed for half a second before he takes a breath and whips his head up, back in control of the situation.

“You call that convincing?” he asks, a slight blush the only indicator that the kiss was real.

Harry leans forward again, more than eager, opening his mouth and licking along Louis’ lip to get him to open up for him. He grabs tighter at Louis’ waist when he doesn’t get the hint, nipping at his lip to drill it in harder, but then he realizes Louis isn’t kissing back at all.

He breaks the kiss, his heartbeat erratic.

“I don’t really get off to being licked like I’m an envelope, Harry.”

Ah, now his ego is on the line. He moves one hand down and slips it in Louis’ jeans pocket, pulling him in closer. He ruts against Louis’ thigh as he sucks his top lip into his mouth, sinking down a bit so they’re more equal in height.

Louis’ the one who breaks the kiss this time, throwing his head back. “I don’t really get off on being humped like a dog, either, Harry. Who do you think I am?”

Harry groans in frustration. He’d really just like Louis to kiss him back, now, please.

It’s not a game anymore. He’s not sure whether it ever really was.

“Louis—“ he begins, but Louis cuts him off quickly.

“You mean, Nick,” he corrects him, and Harry decides to end it. He remembers Louis’ words a few weeks before—quite the opposite, actually—and, well. Louis always gets what he wants in the end.

Harry grabs the back of Louis’ hair, tightening his fingers as he moves his other hand to Louis’ waist and turns them, flipping their positions so Louis’ trapped with his back to the door.

It’s a pleasant turn of events. Louis looks like he was taken off guard, his lips parted slightly as he looks up at Harry with wide eyes. Harry doesn’t let go of Louis’ hair and shoves a thigh between Louis’ legs.

Harry’s hard. He’s really, really hard, and there’s no way Louis can’t feel him against his thigh. He grabs at Louis’ hip, pulling him even closer, gaining the sweetest friction he’s felt, possibly ever. He grinds against him twice, slowly, staring down into Louis’ darkened eyes in reassurance. He looks okay with it; he looks more than okay with it, so he lets go of Louis’ hip, moving it to his chin.

He touches his thumb there, his voice just as rough as his finger. “Open up, Louis.

He doesn’t expect Louis to go pliant at that, to wind his arms around Harry’s neck until he’s arched against him and their chests are touching and he’s practically hanging off of him. Louis opens his mouth halfway, his tongue pressed up against his teeth as he holds still with his eyes half lidded, and Harry wishes he had a camera to document the moment.

He’s sure only a few people have ever seen Louis like this, without his overconfidence and shrewd gaze separating them.

He looks striking like this, and Harry would be a fool to ignore his open mouth. He leans down, his lips parted as he seals their mouths together and meets Louis’ tongue halfway. He lets it go soft, keeping it gentle as Louis breathes out a sigh through his nose.

It tickles Harry’s top lip, and he moves his hand from Louis’ chin to his cheekbone. He changes the angle of the kiss, his nose brushing against Louis’ as his neck loosens up, and then it’s hard to function because Louis makes a high sound that Harry swallows when he closes his lips around Louis’ tongue.

Louis breaks away, breathing heavily through his mouth with his eyes closed. Harry stares down at him restlessly, but then Louis buries his face in Harry’s neck, and then he can feel a knee against his waist, which doesn’t make sense until—

Oh. Oh, yes it does. Harry frees his fingers from Louis’ hair, stretching the sore joints out before he spreads his fingers wide and squeezes Louis’ arse, pulling up.

Louis whines into his neck as he wraps his legs around Harry’s waist. He squeezes with his thighs, pressing even closer and Harry can feel exactly how affected Louis is.

Louis tightens his arms around his neck until Harry has a mouth full of Louis’ shoulder. Which is fine with him, since Louis lets out the highest, most beautiful moan Harry has probably ever heard when he turns to walk them to his bed.

He can’t believe he gets to actually touch Louis, to hear him moan and have his breath tickle his ear while he digs his crossed heels into Harry’s back and uses it as leverage to grind himself against his stomach while he walks, like he can’t wait any longer.

Harry lays him down in the center of the bed, climbing on top of him and leaning his entire body weight on top of him. He snogs Louis confidently, biting his lip hard, turning it a pretty, deep pink before kissing it softly to soothe it.

He moves to Louis’ neck next, leaving wet kisses that glisten on his tan skin as he grinds his dick against Louis’ through their jeans. He blows on the wet skin after, and he can feel Louis’ leg twitch from where it’s wrapped around his hip.

Louis slips his hand under Harry’s shirt, folding the fabric up until it rests at Harry’s ribs and he pauses the assault of Louis’ neck to sit up and throw it off.

He brings his hand to Louis’ stomach once his shirt is off, creeping lower and lower as he gazes into Louis’ glassy eyes, checking in. Louis nods and arches his back, sighing out as Harry presses the heel of his hand to his dick.

Louis’ just begun to chant off, off, off when the unthinkable happens.

The glow of a phone screen shines through Louis’ black jeans, and Harry can feel the vibration from where his hand is still pressed to Louis’ erection.

And the tension is cut.

Louis seems to sag into the bed, pulling his phone from his pocket with a groan. He composes himself before he swipes to answer, taking a deep, unsteady breath and sitting up. Harry doesn’t want to move his hand, but he figures Louis will probably yell at him if he doesn’t.

Louis looks unhappy before he switches abruptly into business mode. “What?”

Harry palms himself through his jeans as Louis listens.

“We’ll be there in ten,” Louis says, and then he hangs up.

Louis sucks his lip into his mouth, like he isn’t sure what to say. Which is new. Harry has never seen Louis without a comment to make.

“I think you’ll do just fine,” Louis finally says, grabbing his bag from the floor.

Harry’s jaw drops. “Are you kidding me?” He points to his crotch to make his point more clear.

Louis doesn’t give in, pulling his keys from the front pocket. “We don’t know how long we have until he leaves again, Harry. Besides, if you’re all hot and bothered, it’ll make things more believable.”

And that’s how Harry finds himself pouting in Louis’ passenger seat with a raging boner, on his way to seduce his ex boyfriend.

Louis seems less affected, smiling animatedly as he chats to Harry offhandedly about how sweet it will feel to win two challenges at once, even leaning to the side to grab at Harry’s dick jokingly during a red light.

“That wasn’t very nice,” he sulks. Louis’ still clearly at least half hard, but it seems he can pretend to be above bodily functions when there are points on the line.

Harry would be upset, but then he remembers that he knows what Louis sounds like when he moans.

They don’t mention it on the way there, and it doesn’t feel like anything’s changed. Maybe it hasn’t. Harry isn’t sure. He knows he would definitely be up for more scientific kissing in the future, though.

Harry directs Louis to Nick’s neighborhood. His house is even bigger than Harry’s, and he doesn’t miss the way Louis’ eyes widen as he tries to take it all in.

Louis parks down the street, so his car isn’t visible through any windows.

“Well, here we are,” Louis points out obviously. He doesn’t move to get out of the car, and neither does Harry.

What he’s about to do feels almost immoral now. “I guess I’ll come down to open the door when I get Nick into his room, then?”

Louis nods, purpose in his eyes.

So they’re really doing this. Okay.

Harry makes the short trek to the house and rings the doorbell, tugging on the ends of Louis’ borrowed shirt nervously as he waits.

And fuck. Nick is going to know it isn’t his. He might make fun of him or laugh in his face as he shuts the door. This was a dumb, careless plan—

But then Nick opens the door, poised to bite into a polished apple. He lowers it as he takes in Harry’s appearance, his red, kissed lips and tight shirt, and the undoubtedly visible bulge beneath his jeans.

“Well, well, well. Nice to see you again, Harold,” Nick drawls out.

And Harry wishes his voice didn’t have the ability to send a sudden shock of nostalgia and longing through him, but it does.

“Hi—hi, Nick.” Harry straightens up, biting his lip in what he imagines could be featured in the beginning of a badly filmed porno.

“What could you possibly be thinking, showing up at my door like this when you know I’ll have the house to myself?” He smirks like he already knows exactly what Harry’s here for. It makes Harry feel disgusting and desperate, even though he knows he has ulterior motives.

“Miss you. Miss you a lot,” Harry half lies. Nick steps to the side, letting Harry through the entryway before locking it purposefully, like he’s on red alert—which Harry supposes he is.

But now it feels like Harry’s just passed through the gates to climb into the car of a rollercoaster.

He can’t turn back, in too deep. He has to do this. He wants Louis to be proud of him.

Nick doesn’t even let him say anything else before he’s tugging him up the stairs by the hand, pulling him into his bedroom.

Nick leans in to kiss him before they’re even past the doorway. Harry ducks away from it with a pounding heart, trying to remember what he planned to say to him.

“I—I forgot my phone in my car,” Harry blurts out, elbows locked as he pushes Nick away from him. He rushes to the hall as quickly as he can, hands meticulously placed in front of his pocket to block the view of his phone, sprinting down the stairs as Nick yells at him to hurry.

He unlocks the front door quickly, and Louis is waiting on the welcome mat.

“That was quick,” he whispers as he steps inside, taking a gauging look around, eyes trailing over the high ceilings and glossy furniture.

“What are you planning on taking?” Harry asks, crossing his arms over his stomach.

Louis pulls his phone out, switching it into camera mode. “I’ll figure it out when I get into the room.”

“The—the room?” Harry asks, eyes wide. He’s not all too sure he’s okay with trying to seduce Nick anymore, much less with an audience. Especially if the audience is someone whose taste is still lingering on his lips.

“I need a picture, remember? Pics or it didn’t happen,” Louis explains, but when he turns to Harry his eyes soften. “Unless you’ve… changed your mind?”

Harry stalls, grabbing at his lower lip. “I don’t know.”

“That’s fine, love,” Louis reassures him with an almost relieved smile, moving his phone back to his pocket. He taps his foot to the floor as he considers a new plan.

“I have an idea,” Harry offers, growing nervous as Louis turns his attention to him. “What if I go in first, and make him look away from the door, and you can sneak in behind me to take something. The once you get it, I’ll make an excuse and run out.”

Louis nods easily, his tone only a bit sarcastic. “That sounds great. Absolutely zero room for complications.” He reopens the front door, unmistakably slamming it, then whispering at Harry to go on.

Harry stomps up the stairs, taking a deep breath before he opens the half-closed door.

“What took you so long, Harold?” Nick asks, reclining back on his elbows as he takes a bite out of the apple he’s made good progress on.

“It—fell,” Harry lies, taking a seat near Nick’s feet. He feels awkward suddenly, like he doesn’t belong in Nick’s room, anymore, when it used to feel like a second home.

Nick moves to sit up and get closer, but Harry pushes his chest down in a panic. He’s not going to kiss him. He’s not. He’s—

“Can I suck your dick,” Harry blurts, face growing red as he hears a hardly audible gasp from outside the door.

He blames his outburst on muscle memory. Nick grins at him like he’s given him the exact present he wanted for Christmas.

“I’m not surprised, Harold. You were always so eager.”

“But I just—I want you to look at me. For the whole time,” Harry tells him, moving his hands to Nick’s knees. Nick nods in agreement, which is uncharacteristic of him. Normally he’d tell Harry eye contact is overrated, or that he’d rather just close his eyes and enjoy it. Harry doesn’t question it, because from his peripheral he can see Louis tip toeing through the door.

“Talk—talk to me,” Harry gasps out, moving his hands higher up Nick’s thighs.

He rolls his eyes, but agrees. “I’ve been seeing this guy lately, but he’s nowhere near half as good at blowing me as you are.”

Harry feels almost flattered, in a weirdly objectified way. This is Nick’s version of praising him.

Nick takes a bite of the apple before he grimaces, still staring into Harry’s eyes. “He’s kind of a dweeb to be honest. Don’t know why I keep him around. Mediocre oral skills and only a fraction of your personality.”

Harry nods, his thumbs dangerously close to where he can see Nick slowly starting to fill in his jeans. He disguises his glance to where he can see Louis idling by Nick’s dresser by scratching his chin on his shoulder.

“Don’t know why I broke up with you, Harold. You were good to me.”

Harry snaps his attention back to Nick, his fingers tightening. “You wish we weren’t broken up?” he asks, incredulously and more hopefully than he’d like to admit. His heart is suddenly pounding so quickly it might spontaneously combust before he can hear the answer.

“Don’t think I’ll ever find someone with a mouth like yours,” Nick tells him as he grabs hold of Harry’s motionless hand, sliding it just a bit to the left as Harry’s heart sinks to the Earth’s inner core, as it always does when he lets his hopes get too high when it comes to Nick and love.

“Okay! That’s enough, Harry, come on,” Louis calls from the doorway before he breaks out into a sprint and disappears.

Nick yells out and almost falls off the bed with how violently he jumps. Harry stands quickly, stumbling as he trips over his feet to reach Louis. He thunders down the stairs, ignoring Nick’s call of you dirty, brilliant bastards with a breathless giggle.

Louis holds the door open, ushering Harry through before he slams it shut behind them. They run to Louis’ car, breathless with the high of successfully—

“Did you get something?” Harry asks as the engine roars to life. Louis nods, ramming his hand into his pocket as he pulls away from the curb.

He passes a bracelet to Harry as he purposefully keeps his eyes straight ahead, on the road.

It’s the bracelet. Harry traces his fingers over the engravement, remembering exactly how it felt to give it to Nick, the excitement and anticipation and then the grave reality of his reaction. But surprisingly, it only hurts a little bit.

Harry doesn’t say much as they drive to McDonalds. He takes his phone out and tries to take the necessary Instagram photo, but Louis grabs his wrist, lowering his arm.

“I want us to be in the picture, too.”

Louis orders them both celebration McFlurries in the drive thru before he parks crookedly.

“Could I have the bracelet?” Louis asks him calmly. There’s something stirring behind Louis’ eyes, so Harry sets his McFlurry in the cup holder as he waits.

Louis runs his fingers over the engravement just as Harry did only minutes ago, his face pensive. “This is a really pretty color,” he comments, turning to smile at Harry. “What do you want us to do with it?”

Harry shrugs, pretending he isn’t nervous as Louis almost unnoticeably leans his shoulders toward him. “I don’t care. It doesn’t mean anything, anymore.”

Louis nods, clasping the bracelet around his wrist. “Alright. I’ll just hold onto it, then. Until you decide.”

Harry makes a sound of agreement as he leans in closer. Louis brings his hand with the bracelet attached to Harry’s face, rubbing along his cheekbone with his thumb.

“I want you to get your phone out, Harry.” Louis says it with convincing authority, and Harry hardly breaks eye contact as he pulls it out, switching it to the camera.

“Mmm. You’re sharp. Already a step ahead of me.”

Harry smiles, glancing to check that it’s fully loaded.

“What’s next?” Harry asks innocently, his breath wavering as Louis’ nose tickles his.

Louis doesn’t answer, choosing instead to kiss Harry with soft lips and gentle fingers. He tastes like Oreo, his mouth cold and chocolaty and sweet as ice cream—so sweet that Harry almost drops his phone and forgets to take a picture. He brings his free hand to Louis’ waist, dipping his fingers under the hem and rubbing at his bare skin as the flash goes off.

Louis pulls away, then, licking at his bottom lip as he asks for the phone. Harry hands it over without complaint, ducking down to kiss at Louis’ neck as he hastily types out a caption.

“This okay?” he asks, shrugging Harry away by his shoulder once he’s satisfied.

Mine now ;) everyone come to challenge 6 next Wednesday 3rd period itll be worth skipping class

“What’s so special about a relay race?” Harry asks.

Louis smirks. “It’s the beginning of the revolution.”

~ Challenge 6 ~


The week that follows the bracelet theft is busier than Harry is used to. Louis requires (sentences) the group to 5 AM runs, led by Liam, who actually has the willpower to wake up at 5 every morning, normally. Perhaps he’s half robot.

For some unknown reason, his mum trusts Louis with a key to their house, so he pounces on Harry to wake him up at 4:30 each morning leading up to the relay. Louis is much too energetic for someone who can’t have had more than three hours of sleep, if the bags under his eyes are anything to go by. But when Harry asks about them, Louis shrugs him off and tells him he’s been having trouble sleeping.

Harry feels as tired as he normally does during finals week, and vaguely irritated. Louis is so preoccupied with his top-secret “revolution” that he hardly has time to give Harry more than a quick kiss in the morning after he rudely wakes him up, which is doing nothing for his residual case of blue balls. Harry’s been forced (volunteered to) give Niall, Liam, and Zayn rides home from school, because Louis claims he’s too busy to bus their lazy arses for the week.

It’s annoying, because Harry thought maybe something would have changed after they exposed their sudden, kissing-inclusive relationship on Instagram (earning 148 likes and 32 suck-up comments, thank you very, very much) but Louis refuses to talk about anything other than how excited he is for Wednesday.


On the Tuesday before the relay, Louis doesn’t even show up to their morning run. He texts them all that he has something he needs to finish. Harry contemplates sleeping in and ignoring the text, pretending Louis’ presence is the only factor that can render him awake in the morning, but he can imagine the sadness in Liam’s puppy dog eyes and he begrudgingly gives in.

He shows up to the park only a few minutes past 5, but Liam is the only one he finds at the bench, looking as awake and chipper as someone who slept their full eight hours.

“Surprised you came, Harry,” Liam jokes, hopping down from the picnic table. “It’ll probably just be us.”

Harry shuts his eyes in defeat. “Zayn and Niall aren’t coming?”

Liam laughs at him like he’s dumb. “Louis isn’t here, so they’d have to get their own rides. I’m surprised Zayn even made it to two, to be honest. With Niall it’s just as likely he will as he won’t. I guess we’ll just see.”

They stretch quickly and then begin their route, jogging side by side. Harry hasn’t lost his ability to speak coherently yet, so he asks why Louis drives them all everywhere.

Liam seems to consider his answer before he shrugs and smiles. “I guess because Louis insists. Makes it easier on our parents since none of us have cars, and we’re a pretty close group, anyway. Louis has four younger sisters—he’s used to taking care of people.”

Harry almost asks why Louis is the only one who has a car, but he bites his tongue as he realizes it would make him seem like a spoiled, rich kid.

The two run alone in the darkness, with Liam shouting a few encouragements as Harry tries valiantly not to die. He collapses halfway through, cursing the world for existing. Nothing is okay at 5 in the morning, and everything that sucks is amplified to twice as sucky.

Liam pulls him to a sitting position with gentle eyes. “Louis won’t be so intense after the protest.”

Maybe it’s too early and Harry’s brain isn’t functioning properly. But he can’t remember Louis even once mentioning a protest. “Sorry, what?”

Liam looks at him like he’s joking. “He’s planning a protest in front of Grim Radio? They’re the company rumored to be donating a new stadium to St. George?”

It’s new information to Harry, but that’s okay. It’s too early to think.


By the time Harry makes it to school for his first class, he’s only slightly more awake. It’s hard to miss the chalk that coats every single sidewalk panel, though: Tomorrow at 11, an hour before the race begins.

Harry understands why Louis didn’t make it to their run. He isn’t surprised to find that Louis isn’t in class, either, and that he has another text asking him to take the boys home.


He’s not sure what to expect on Wednesday. Louis calls off their run, instead asking for them all to come straight to the abandoned field by the lake, where the relay is held every year.

Harry agrees, picking the other three up in his Range Rover. They’re buzzing with energy, but Harry feels halfway dead on the inside. It’s a sad thought, and Harry isn’t proud that he thinks it, but days without Louis’ attention are like days without a purpose. It’s unhealthy, because he used to think the same thing about Nick, and now that Louis has taken a mostly indifferent approach to his life and their undecided relationship, he’s not sure whether Louis is really any better at all.

Zayn rides shotgun and mumbles to him how to get to the field, but once they’re in the vicinity he realizes it would be impossible to miss. Louis’ constructed a stage—a real, actual stage—in the middle of the dirt. Harry parks in the grass far from the area, so the walk is at least three minutes until they can see it close up.

And Harry doesn’t know what to think. Louis sits on the edge of the stage with his legs dangling over the side, his eyes sunken further than a zombie’s and his hair a mess.

There’s a huge space in front of the stage that Harry can only guess is reserved for a bonfire, if the circle of rocks and fuel woods and leaves are anything to go by. Behind Louis, there’s a plain wooden school desk with a megaphone set on top of it.

“What’s—“ Harry asks, before he lays eyes on the giant (but thankfully empty) handmade, wooden coffin by Louis’ feet.

Niall and Liam stand with their jaws wide open next to Harry, and Zayn looks like an exasperated parent.

“What the fuck is this, Louis?” Zayn asks, hopping up onto the stage so he sits beside him.

Louis leans his head on Zayn’s shoulder and sags all of his weight into him. “It’s the result of a week of insanity and the most labor I’ll ever do voluntarily.”

Zayn rubs at his shoulder consolingly. “It looks interesting, but what’s it for?”

Louis sighs and closes his eyes. “I need your guys’ help.”


The cars begin to arrive at exactly 11. They take Harry’s lead and park near his Range Rover, making a confused journey from the small congregation of cars to the stage, where Louis, Liam, Zayn, and Harry stand waiting.

Louis told them to act tough and keep their faces blank, but he breaks his own rules when Liam gasps.

“Holy shit, guys!” he whisper-yells. He shoves his phone into Louis’ hands. “Sophia just told me there’s, like, three people left on campus. She says it’s like a ghost town, and that teachers are just going room to room counting heads and yelling Tomlinson like the bad guys in Scooby Doo.”

Louis’ face lights up, but he pretends not to be excited, speaking snappily. “That’s nice, but my question is why your girlfriend isn’t here to support us, Liam. I don’t know whether I can approve of your relationship, anymore.”

Liam fish mouths at that, until Louis pats his head and tells him he did well.

The crowd grows. And grows. And grows. There are people to the left and right of the stage, in front of the bonfire and so close Louis tells Liam to get people to move back.

By 11:15, the crowd is restless. People yell out to get on with it, and Louis calls them into a huddle at center stage.

He rubs at Harry’s neck and wraps his arm around Zayn’s shoulder, bringing all of their faces close together. “Let’s kill it.”

They hustle down the short stairs, forcing Niall to lie in the coffin from where he was sitting up playing the bongos behind the stage. Harry takes the back left corner, next to Liam, as they lift the coffin to their shoulders and begin their slow march up the stairs.

There’s silence. Harry keeps his eyes straight ahead, but he knows everyone is standing with the same emotion he’d feel if he were in the crowd—confusion.

They set Niall down in the right corner of the stage, and then Harry retreats to the other corner with Liam and Zayn while Louis walks to the center. He picks up the megaphone, grinning as he switches it on and climbs up on the desk, one foot on the seat and one propped up on the wood.

He oozes confidence, raw power in his posture and his face almost predatory.

“Do any of you realize how shitty our school is?” Louis asks, his voice ringing out over the heads of their classmates. “We’re the only public high school in town, but we don’t even have our own football field.”

Louis lowers the megaphone for a moment as he trails his eyes over the crowd. “Has anyone been paying attention to the news?”

There’s a low murmur through the crowd, but nobody answers.

“I thought so. Did you know St. George might be getting a new football field?”

Louis pauses dramatically. Harry thinks he’s probably had this speech written and rehearsed since he was five years old with how sure he looks.

“As a donation from Grim Radio? Anyone have any guesses as to whose father runs that shit?”

And that’s when Louis’ hatred for Nick makes sense. Harry gasps, causing Liam to turn to him and frown, asking if he’s okay.

“Nick Grimshaw’s father—that’s who,” Louis answers. “There are obviously a million reasons why it’s wrong that he’s donating to his son’s private school when they have everything and we have shit.”

His voice seems to grow stronger with each word. “They’re not doing this for charity. It’s not like their field is unsafe, or crumbling to the ground. It’s not like Grim was going to plow over their field to make an office there and they’re building it as compensation.”

Suddenly Niall opens his coffin, springing up to a sitting position. A few people in the crowd scream, but Louis smiles as Niall begins to pound on his bongos, slow like a death march. Zayn walks offstage to stand by the bonfire.

“Niall here represents the death of equality. He’s been dead and gone for years, but this was the last straw. If Grim Radio really cared about the children and the future of the country,” Louis makes quotation marks with his fingers, “as he says he does, he’d donate to the public high school. He’d donate to us.”

Louis hops off the desk as Zayn ignites a flame with his lighter. “We would never have the money to build our own stadium. Never. St. George could renovate their football field if they wanted to, because they have enough money to make improvements to the things they already have. The difference between them and us if that when we have money, we need to use it to make sure our school doesn’t fall to fucking pieces.”

Harry gulps, walking with Liam to the desk and lifting it off the stage. Louis watches with his shoulders set, almost shaking in anticipation.

“Grim is supporting a vicious cycle. We don’t have a—“ Louis breaks off suddenly, his eyes widening. Harry follows his gaze, and they land on a police car.

“Throw it,” Louis says to him and Liam, not into the megaphone. So they throw the desk straight into the bonfire, the flames rising as the students close by scream and back away.

Which is their bad for not listening to Liam, really.

“I have a plan! I know you don’t want to be oppressed by the system, and you don’t have to be! You just need someone to point you in the right direction, and the right place to be is in front of Grim Studios, on March 21st! The day after the football match against St. George! Let’s fucking protest!

Louis bites his lip as two policemen slam the doors behind themselves and make their way to the stage, yelling about truancy and trespassing on private property. “If we win the games Nick Grimshaw said he’d get me a meeting with his dad. He’s a prick so I wouldn’t put it past him to lie, but it’s worth a fucking try!”

Louis grins as the policemen hurry to their stage. “The media won’t want to miss a visible student protest, and the more of us there are, the scarier it is for Grim! They won’t want the bad publicity when we call them out for their shit!”

“Tomlinson!” the taller policeman yells, rounding on the stairs. Louis speeds up his speech, until it’s almost impossible to make out his words.

“Make signs, and make them as rude as you can! Stop listening to Grim Radio until then! Write them strongly worded letters, and—“ he cuts off as the policemen take both sides of the stage, climbing the stairs so there’s no easy escape.

Louis pushes the megaphone and a set of keys into Harry’s hand, kissing him on the mouth extravagantly, almost too quickly for Harry to kiss back. The crowd goes wild at that, screaming in encouragement with their fists to the air, and he can hardly hear Louis’ quiet “thank you” over the roar.

And then Louis jumps. He jumps just to the left of the bonfire, pushing through the crowd roughly before they open up a path for him. He stops in the middle of the group, gesturing for them to all close in on him, and everyone listens.

It’s a sight to see. It’s better than protest footage Harry’s seen on television. He contemplates pulling his phone out, but he doesn’t want to miss a thing.

The policemen jump after him, yelling at Louis and telling him he’s resisting arrest. But Louis doesn’t care. He continues to preach to the group, in his own little, secluded bubble as the policemen push through the crowd.

Louis smiles dryly as they get closer. “Let this serve as a reminder that the police always side with the rich. They do anything they can to silence the powerless.”

Louis is taken away in handcuffs, kicking and screaming about how the student population could do anything if only they all grew some balls and joined him. He reminds them that everyone would be stuck working seven days a week for ten hours if nobody stood up for what was right, before the door is slammed and his voice is cut off.

It’s chaos as the police car drives away. There’s so much energy exploding from around him that he’s afraid someone might do something reckless like jump into the bonfire in an uncontrollable act of passion. All because of Louis.

Harry has never been so attracted to someone. He wants him so bad it hurts. Watching him in his element, getting practically their entire school to ditch third period and riling them up for a protest, was powerful.

Holy fuck. Louis is about that life. He’s not all talk and no action; he’s drastic action before explanation. He’s a Level 5 tornado. He’s an earthquake prepared to strike and ruthlessly destroy every building in his path. He knows his shit, and he knows how to make people care.

Holy fucking shit. It doesn’t even matter that they forfeit the Challenge since one of their team members is on his way to jail. If there’s one thing for sure, it’s that Louis made an impression. Harry doubts there will even be one student from their school sitting at home on March 21st.

~ Challenge 7 ~


Louis isn’t in class on Thursday. Harry knows he isn’t still imprisoned because Zayn’s mum called Louis’ and she said he was only held for a few hours, but it’s scary not knowing exactly what happened.

And he just kind of misses him.

It turns out he’s been in in-school suspension. So he comes to school, but he’s forced to sit in the office all day doing busy work and unable to talk to anyone else. So he’s literally only separated from Harry by a wall, but he can’t come into contact with him. It feels like a metaphor of some sort.

He quickly realizes Louis’ mum took away his phone and won’t let him go anywhere but to and from school, so he has no way to come into contact with him. He contemplates bringing a textbook over and pretending he’s in class with Louis, but he realizes he actually has no idea where he lives.

So he accepts his fate, and tries to be patient.

But the next week Louis still isn’t in class. It continues that way Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and even Thursday, and by then Harry has almost lost all hope of ever seeing Louis’ perfect face again—that he’s a casualty in the bigger war of inequality.

Harry doesn’t even think Louis would actually mind going out that way. He’d consider it a worthy death.


A hand nudging his shoulder late on Thursday night wakes him.

“Mum?” Harry asks dumbly, rolling over to take in the blurry outline of a body as his eyes blink into focus.

“Oh shit. Louis? What are you—come here—“ he demands, pulling Louis in close by the back of his neck. Louis collapses on top of him, his knee colliding with his thigh painfully, but Harry doesn’t even care. He kisses Louis deep, hoping his mouth hasn’t gone too stale, bringing him in so their chests collide.

Louis kisses back for a few moments, before he plants his hands by Harry’s head and arches his back, lifting his upper body away from him. “Come with me.”

“It’s late and we have school tomorrow. Sleep here,” Harry argues, but Louis stands and pulls his hand insistently, and he really has no other choice.

“Wear comfortable shoes with a grip,” Louis whispers to him after he pulls off his shorts in favor of jeans.

From there, it’s quiet. It’s sneaking out of the house on their tiptoes and the low purr of the engine and Louis wordlessly taking Harry’s hand and rubbing his thumb over his wrist while he drives. The silence is loud, Louis’ normally talkative demeanor an obvious absence.

It’s quiet on the dark road. It leads them to a pitch-black parking lot that has an entrance to a trail sheathed in trees. Louis pulls a branch aside and gestures for Harry to lead the way. His eyes haven’t fully adjusted—everything is tinged a grey green and he can’t see anything more than an arm’s length away from him. But Louis keeps a hand to his waist and points him in the right direction, and he feels safe.

He’s finally 100% positive Louis isn’t trying to kill him.

They walk through the trees until they reach a clearing, with a huge culvert with a thin stream of smelly water passing through the middle. They plaster themselves close to the walls of the culvert, shoulders brushing the layers of colorful graffiti with only the sound of their feet, the rushing water, and their soft breathing echoing throughout the tunnel.

Once they pass through, they make it to a rocky path. There are trees surrounding them, with branches in carrying degrees of thickness fallen across the stream of pungent water like a bridge.

Louis walks in front of Harry, pointing out which area is safest to step as they climb higher up the rocks. It’s difficult, because it’s dark and Harry has never been a huge rock climber, but Louis smiles at him when he complains about his fear of falling.

“One of the reasons I brought you to hide the bandana. You’ll need to keep up with us tomorrow night. Final challenge and all—it’s a big one.”

Louis crosses through the rocks in the way he goes through life. He jumps daringly, making leaps that Harry would never even dare to try. He feels a bit like a wimp.

It’s easier to see once they pass through the trees. It’s just the two of them, with the painted rocks and the slow stream of water and the opposite ledge, all bathed under the crescent moon and the residual shine of lampposts along the nearby freeway.

Harry still fears for Louis’ life when he makes a jump over a space between two rocks. They’re hardly high enough to die if they were to fall, but there’s no doubt it would be a nasty plunge.

“How do you even know this is the side we’re supposed to hide it? Where’s the cut off?” Harry asks once he catches up to Louis, lounging against a rock and waiting for him.

“We’re winning, so they get the harder side,” Louis explains, pulling Harry by the hand as he trudges forward.

Harry grins and prays his hands don’t get sweaty. “So, after the game we’ll drive here. We’ll come in through the easier side, and the first team to find their hidden bandana wins?”

Louis shakes his head. “No, the first team to find the bandana and make it to the bonfire wins.”

They finally reach a huge, overlooking rock that reminds Harry of Pride Rock from the Lion King. From it, they can see all around.

The water leads into an almost-waterfall, cascading over smaller rocks and leading into an area enveloped by more trees. The rocks across the way are beautiful, colors of every shade painted over them, a few words visible through the dimness (Harry can make out a theme of freedom and love: quite typical.)

Louis is still holding his hand, and Harry isn’t even sure he’s aware of it because he’s looking over the horizon, his face calm and thoughtful. But then Louis bites his lip and Harry can feel his fingers tremor between his, and Louis lets go.

“Let’s sit and just watch,” Louis suggests, sinking to the floor with his legs straight out and his hands behind him. Harry follows without question.

It’s silent for a few moments, with only the occasional sound of a bird or the infrequent car passing along the freeway to interrupt the quiet. Louis sighs eventually, turning to Harry and sitting up straighter.

“It’s weird to think that I used to dislike you so much.”

Harry turns to look at him, but Louis pauses before he elaborates. “One of the best things to happen to me this year was meeting you.”

Harry laughs. “Same here. Not that you had much competition.”

“I know I’ve been kind of… far away… these past two weeks,” Louis whispers to him, as soft as the pale moonlight illuminating his features. “I had a bit of an angsty, internal battle, probably brought on by living off of two hours of sleep and getting thrown in jail, but—it’s over now. You can’t scare me, anymore, Styles. Being scared was terribly boring.”

Harry bites his lip against his smile. He’s never thought anyone had the power to scare Louis Tomlinson.

“I like you a lot, Harry. And I don’t know whether you’re still kind of into Nick or whatever, or whether you’re ready for anything at all, really. I just know that when I think about you and Nick together I want to punch the wall with how irrationally upset I am.”

Harry slides his pinky so the sides of their hands are touching. “I—“ he begins, but it’s difficult to form into words. He knows he only wants Louis and that he isn’t into Nick, anymore. He’s proven time and time again how little he cares, but Harry can’t help the fact that his heart still skips a beat whenever his name is mentioned, or that he looks over his shoulder to check whenever a tall boy with a quiff passes him, just to make sure.

It’s just biological, really. He’ll need a little time before his body realizes he doesn’t need him, anymore.

“I can’t promise that I don’t care about him at all, anymore, but I can promise I have no intention of acting on anything.”

Louis nods thoughtfully, sliding his pinky so their fingers are on top of each other. “I can work with that.”

Harry pulls his hand away, a fake, disapproving look crossing his features. “That doesn’t mean I’m into you, Louis!”

He looks horrified for one glorious moment, before understanding washes over him. “You dick. My heart literally just stopped.”

Harry leans in, setting his hand atop Louis’ once again. He feels so happy and mushy that the only words that come to mind are, “I’ll give you mouth to mouth…”


After a sufficiently sweet and magical snog, Louis pulls Harry to his feet. He keeps hold of Harry’s hand as they venture further down, carefully as loose soil begins to litter across the tops of the rocks.

Louis pulls the red bandana from his back pocket as he pokes around at the rocks on the floor.

“Hey, Harry, did you know that if this were the seventies, having a red bandana in my pocket would mean I want to get fisted?” Louis asks casually, like fisting is something they talk about.

“I—“ Harry begins, but Louis cuts him off just as he bends down and tucks the bandana between two partially mossed-over rocks. “This is the perfect hiding spot. Clearly visible, yet low enough to the ground and far enough off to the side that Nick will never see it since his nose is so high up in the air.”

Harry brings his eyes back from Louis’ arse to his face once he returns to standing. “Want me to show you the bonfire area?”

It’s evident they’re close to it when they begin to step over crushed beer cans and shards of glass from broken bottles, alongside the average twigs and pebbles. The rocks clear out until the ground is level, and then the trees turn sparse and Harry sees it.

And it’s just a bonfire area with stumps surrounding it.

It’s quite underwhelming. He’s always felt slightly put off for never being invited to the annual bonfire, but it seems he hasn’t missed much.

“This is it?” he asks, prodding a can with his toe. “I always thought it would be… I don’t know. Cooler?”

Louis shoves him to the side gently. “It’s not too bad when you’re hammered.”

He pulls his phone from his pocket, checking the time. “Should we sneak to the other side to see whether we can find our bandana early?”

“That sounds like cheating, Lewis.

Louis acquiesces and pulls Harry back towards the path they came from.

They travel along the other side of the stream, which proves to be much more difficult. The spaces between the rocks turn greater, and the jumps are almost too scary to attempt. Louis rewards him for making the leaps, and Harry is beginning to contemplate whether he’s blinded by Louis’ presence since he’s willing to risk his life just for a kiss, when he receives an abrupt arm across his stomach.

“Oh my God, Harry. Does that say what I think it says?” Louis asks, pointing down to the rock they’re standing on.

“I had—I had sex here. No, I think that’s definitely what you thought it said,” Harry laughs.

Louis laughs, too, pulling a Sharpie from his back pocket as he sinks to his knees. He rests his weight on his left arm as he writes me too.

“Well, then, I guess I’m sucking your dick,” Louis tells him nonchalantly, sitting up on his knees and shuffling closer to where Harry is suddenly rooted on the spot.

“Fuck,” Louis complains as he wastes no time and cups Harry through his jeans. “This will have to be fast. Rock hurts.”

Harry still isn’t sure how to respond verbally, but his dick has a mind of its own. He shivers as Louis unzips his jeans and pulls them down to mid thigh, embarrassingly hard embarrassingly quickly from just one touch and the anticipation.

Louis moves his hands under Harry’s shirt, trailing them to his ribs and twisting to grab the inside of his shirt between his fingers before he licks a stripe along his covered cock.

He stares up at Harry as he breathes against his length. “Can you help me out? Don’t want you to get all dirty.”

Harry complies easily, his knees almost buckling once he feels Louis’ tongue against his bare skin. Louis gets right to it, wrapping his lips around the head and swirling his tongue twice before sinking down as far as he can go, until Harry hits the back of his throat.

He untangles his fingers, moving them down Harry’s back until he’s grabbing his hips and pulling him closer, the hem of his shirt falling to rest at the top of Louis’ head. Louis’ throat spasms, relaxing before Louis pushes even further, and Harry doesn’t think it’s even possible that he can breathe.

Harry tries to pull him away by the hair, but Louis pushes harder, the tip of his nose brushing against Harry’s skin. “Slow down,” Harry grunts out, his fingers loosening as Louis pulls away. “You have to slow down or this is going to be humiliating.”

He glares up at Harry before licking him from base to tip, his tongue soft and relaxed. “No more talking,” Louis demands bossily before he wraps his lips tight around the head of Harry’s dick and hollows his cheeks.

The way he’s using suction makes it obvious that he wants to make him lose control as soon as possible, and he isn’t hiding it. It’s such a glaring difference to the way Louis acted the first time they kissed, when he handed almost all of the control over to Harry and focused solely on his own pleasure. Harry isn’t sure how to respond because it’s so unfamiliar, but he supposes he’ll have to get used to that with Louis. Nothing is predictable with him.

Louis groans and pulls off suddenly, wrapping his arms tight around Harry’s waist. He licks up his v-line, his hot breath raising goose bumps along his skin before he’s dipping his tongue into Harry’s belly button.

“Come on,” Louis whispers against his abs before he nibbles at the skin there.

“I’m already close,” Harry whispers honestly. He hasn’t had anything on his dick but his own hand in months, and with each seconds that passes by, it’s getting harder to refrain from spilling into Louis’ mouth pathetically early.

But then Louis opens his mouth and takes Harry’s length in again, slower and more purposefully. He keeps his cock in place with his tongue as he turns his head to change the angle, so he’s closer to hitting the hinge of Louis’ jaw, rather than the back of his throat.

Louis traces the bulging vein on the underside of his cock with his tongue, running it from top to bottom as he takes more in.

And then he feels teeth. It’s so faint and soft that Harry can’t be sure he’s not entirely imagining it, but then he stares down at Louis, and—no, his cock is definitely hitting the soft inside of Louis’ cheek, because every time Louis brings his face forward he can see it bulging out at the angle.

Teeth. Teeth.

Harry has always preferred a blowjob to stay far from canine involvement, but at the faint drag of Louis’ molars he spills into Louis’ mouth without warning, gasping with the force of it.

Louis sucks him through it (just the tip, with thankfully no teeth) until he can’t stand it anymore. Harry pulls Louis to his feet, kissing him as soon as he’s close enough and sticking a thigh between Louis’ legs.

Louis pulls away, shaking his head. “I’m not whipping my dick out here. Think of the germs,” he jokes, but he runs forward anyway.

And he doesn’t let Harry touch him until they’re back at his house. The whole drive there, he’s stuck with an untouched boner that threatens to poke through his jeans at any moment. Harry takes pity on him and tries to help, but he pushes Harry away at every attempt.

But when Louis’ on his tip toes, rubbing shampoo into Harry’s scalp with the tips of his fingers as they shower, Harry sinks to his knees and pushes Louis up against the wall.

And the sounds Louis makes are even sweeter than when they first kissed. He turns boneless, grasping desperately at the walls but there’s nothing to hold onto. He settles with one hand buried in Harry’s hair and one clutching his shoulder.

Harry almost gets reckless and tries to use the same teeth trick on Louis as he used on him, but he chickens out at last minute. Instead, he kneads at the skin at the very bottom of Louis spine, sinking his wet thumb lower and lower until he’s pressing against Louis’ hole.

It only takes one quick push of his fingertip before Louis’ coming down his throat with a stifled whimper.


The next day at school, there’s hope mixed with an anxious excitement and nervousness flowing through the hallways; Harry can only compare it to the vibe at St. George the day before college acceptance letters are mailed out.

At lunch, a teacher with a bad toupee walks up to their table demanding to speak to Louis.

“Sorry, but I’m in the middle of eating,” Louis points out, gesturing to his sandwich with his and Harry’s linked hands.

“Tomlinson, I don’t know what you think you’re doing tricking over half the school into ditching third period, but it was extremely irresponsible,” he reprimands him.

Louis rolls his eyes. “Got your attention, though, didn’t it? You won’t be complaining when I get the school a new football stadium.”

“That’s beside the—“

“Whatever. I’ll buy you a new set of chalk as repayment for ruining your third period,” Louis grumbles.

The teacher doesn’t look pleased. He glares at Louis before he turns and tells Niall to chew with his mouth closed, finally walking away.

“Chalk is terribly outdated, anyway. People in the 21st century use dry-erase markers,” Louis complains loudly, hardly smiling as Harry kisses his knuckles in sympathy.


It’s difficult to go home after final period. There are crowds—actual crowds—of students lining the gate, chanting good luck and touching and shoving and shaking, and Louis keeps a hand firm on Harry’s waist from behind him to guide him away.

“Is it like this every year?” Harry asks, panting as he pulls his car keys from his backpack.

Louis nods, and then flings his keys at Liam’s head. “You’re driving. I’m going in Harry’s.”

Liam smirks but doesn’t comment.

One of Louis’ most distinctly Louis traits is that he can take any situation, and flip it to give him the upper hand. With Harry it’s no exception. Louis throws his feet to the dashboard and switches the radio station without asking, and Harry knows it’s his car but he feels like Louis owns it.

“You nervous for tonight, Curly?” Louis asks. And he isn’t really, but now he feels like he’s taking things too lightly.

“Should I be?” Harry asks back.

Louis considers, absently rolling his window down and back up like a child. “I might have been told I get too intense during the final challenge. Anything I say from this point on can’t be held against me.”


They all get ready at Harry’s, as per usual. Liam made them all jerseys with their last names on the back, so they’re like a real, proper team. They pretend to play FIFA while they wait for the football game to start, but even Zayn seems nervous about the coming challenge. They don’t accomplish much.

They use Harry’s mum’s eyeliner pencil to do eye black again, and she catches them all just as they’re trying to leave for the game.

“You all look adorable,” she gushes, blocking them from exiting. She gestures for Niall to spin around so she can see the back of the jersey, beaming as she reads over the Horan printed there.

“That takes me back quite a few years,” she sighs, pulling her phone from her pocket. “I’m taking a picture.”

“Mum!” Harry complains, mortified. Louis presses a finger to his lips, silencing him, before he agrees and turns, pointing with his thumbs to the Tomlinson across the back of his jersey.

The rest of the boys follow suit, and the picture is actually fantastic. They peer over her shoulder to get a good look at it.

“When you say it takes you back, what exactly do you mean?” Louis asks her.

She smiles coyly, tucking her phone back into her pocket. “Harry isn’t the only one in this family who can play games.”

She winks and retreats to the kitchen. “Good luck tonight, boys. Drive safely and don’t slip on any rocks.”

…Did his mum just say she was on her school’s team?

“Holy shit,” Niall whispers. “Your mum’s a milf and a legend!”

Harry is spared from responding because Louis punches him in the arm.


Harry imagines their arrival at the football would rival the opening song of a world tour. They get into the game for free, and the top row of bleachers is saved exclusively for them, posters pinned to the ledge wishing them good luck with balloons attached.

People Harry has never seen before in his life come to talk to him like they’ve been friends for years. He takes pictures with girls wearing glittery bows and receives high fives from boys he could never picture speaking to him otherwise.

The cheerleaders chant their names during quarter, and the crowd honestly pays more attention to them than the football game as the seconds tick by to half time.

With a minute left on the clock, Louis nods for everyone to stand. They make their way down the bleachers, the roar of encouragement growing and growing to the point where Harry’s ears are ringing, and he doubts it’ll fade any time soon.

They hover by the gates as the timer runs out, and Nick’s squad quickly joins them.

“Didn’t think you had it in you, Harold,” Nick comments to him, leaning casually against the chain link fence, shoulder to shoulder with Billy the Bagel Burglar.

Harry gulps, smiling as Louis tightens his grip around his wrist. “I’d rather be on their team than yours any day, Grimshaw.”

Louis beams at that. Harry isn’t sure whether it’s because he sort of said he chose him over Nick, or because last name status is the ultimate form of impersonal shade. Either way, he’s proud of his comeback.

Suddenly, the buzzer goes off and it’s a struggle to get through the gate. Harry gets a mouthful of Alexa’s hair and someone he isn’t able to identify throws an elbow to his rib, but then they’re free. Niall shoves at Nick’s shoulders good naturedly as they set off in separate directions, and then they’re in Harry’s car, the windows rolled down as Harry drives at least 15 over the speed limit and rolls through every stop.

Harry hardly remembers to lock his door once they pull up to the unfamiliar parking lot. The entrance to this side of the rocks is much easier to find, and they pass through the dirt and trees quickly. Liam leads and Niall laughs and pretends to be helping by shining the flashlight as Zayn looks up to the leaves. Louis keeps his eyes level while Harry keeps a tight hold of the back of his shirt and watches the ground, just as they planned.

There’s nothing but dirt, rocks, and the occasional used condom by their feet, and Harry thinks he must be missing something because they’ve been searching for at least twenty minutes, and each stretch of rock and dirt looks just as bare as the last.

“Let’s cross the stream down there and check the other side,” Louis says once they pass the forest-like area and reach the rocks that only climb higher and higher.

While crossing on the fallen log, Harry notices a flash of red out of the corner of his eye.

“Niall! Throw some light over there,” Harry demands, pointing to a spot only slightly downstream. He heaves at the thought of reaching into the smelly, brown water.

But it turns out the red is actually just the remnants of a red Solo cup.

“Good eye, though,” Louis whispers to him with a private smile, and they continue their search.

It’s only a few minutes before Zayn yells out, “Up there, Niall!”

Up there, indeed. The bandana is wrapped around a high branch in the trees, rippling softly and tauntingly in the breeze.

“How the fuck did they get up there?” Louis asks disbelievingly, his head thrown back dramatically as he stares up at it. “Even Nick isn’t that tall.”

Niall volunteers to climb the tree, but Louis strikes his request down immediately. “That branch wouldn’t hold someone even half your size.”

“Louis, there’s no chance any of us will be able to reach that,” Zayn admits to him quietly.

Louis ponders for a moment. “What if I get on Harry’s shoulders?”

They decide it’s worth a try. Harry lunges to the right as Liam had when they broke into St. George, and Louis steps there before he swings his leg over his shoulder. Liam keeps close behind them as Louis reaches to the sky with one hand and the other buried in Harry’s curls, but he’s just out of reach. Even when Louis tightens his legs painfully around Harry’s body to try to get some leverage to give him a bit of extra height, he can’t reach.

Louis sags in defeat, falling back into Liam’s arms without looking back.

Once he’s safe on the ground, he runs a hand through his hair. “We can’t just lose when we’re so close! There has to be—“

Louis’ eyes widen. “Fuck. Okay, here’s what’s happening.”

He takes a quick glance at the other four, squinting at Niall once he reaches him.

“Niall. I want you in front of me. Liam, here to my left and Zayn, to my right. I want you behind me,” he directs Harry as he moves to stand right below the bandana.

“Of course you want Harry behind you,” Niall snickers, ducking as Louis aims a slap to the back of his head.

“No talking! This is serious business,” Louis yells, moving his hands to Liam and Zayn’s shoulder. “You’re lifting me. I’m putting my feet in your hands and on three just lift it to your chest and try to keep it even.”

“Wait, shouldn’t we practice first, or—“ Liam begins, but Louis cuts him off.

“No time! I’ve watched enough of my sisters’ cheer practices to know what we’re doing. Harry, you help push me up, and if I fall you better fucking catch me! Niall, just. I don’t know. Stay there. I’ll throw the bandana to you.”

Louis lifts himself on their shoulders, bringing his feet to Liam and Zayn’s hesitant hands. Harry can hardly even take in the bulging muscle and drool over it before Louis’ yelling at him to stay focused as Liam and Zayn bring his feet higher.

Louis’ center of gravity is all off. It looks like the higher Liam and Zayn bring his feet, the closer he is to falling backwards. Harry jumps in, pushing Louis’ body forward rather than back, keeping one hand tight on his right ankle and his other on his thigh while Louis stands.

He’s wobbly, one foot higher than the other and his knees unlocked. He reaches up instinctively, his hands wrapping around the previously inaccessible branch to ground him while Niall woops and yells that they make excellent cheerleaders. Louis flips him off with one hand while he loosens the bandana, freeing it along with a good amount of tree bark that somehow finds its way into Liam’s eye.

Louis throws the bandana to Niall as promised. “Didn’t really think about how to come down,” he admits.

“I’ve got you,” Harry tells him, stepping closer to the group as Zayn and Liam unevenly bring their hands lower. Louis loses his balance, tipping back with a squeak Harry is sure he’d deny if anyone were ever to ask him.

His lower backs rams straight into Harry’s chest, knocking the wind out of him as Louis pulls his arm back and elbows him in the nose.

“Fuck, sorry!” Louis apologizes once Harry guides him to the ground. He keeps his arms wrapped around Louis’ middle, burying his stinging nose into Louis’ hair as his eyes water up against his will. But Louis has other plans.

“Sorry, babe, but we need to move,” Louis urges him, covering Harry’s hands with his as he walks them forward.

It’s awkward, but he still can’t open his eyes due to the sting. He matches his footsteps with Louis’ until they get to the rock cliffs and he’s forced to separate from him.

They jump from rock to rock like they’re in a marathon (Harry reminds himself that they sort of are) and they only slow down after Niall narrowly avoids a painful death, and they can see the dim flame from the bonfire through a parting in the trees.

“I can see it!” Harry yells, even though it’s obvious from the gasps and Niall’s laugh that he’s not the only one.

They sprint to the finish, kicking rocks and dirt through the night air.

The shout that assaults Harry’s ears as they pass through the trees tells him all he needs to know.


Victory is sweet. The fire is bright and glowing and there’s beer passed all around from students from both schools. Birds fly from the area because of how loud it gets, and Harry finds himself lifted above everyone’s heads like he’s crowd surfing, but the only thing they’ve done is win.

They won.

Nick bursts through the opposite trees less than ten minutes later, the bandana clutched in his hand and the rest of the team hot on his heels.

He drops his chin as Niall yells out that they’re too late.

Louis grins, pecking Harry on the cheek as he passes him his beer. “Hold this for me?”

Harry leans against a tree and peels the wrapper around the bottle, watching Louis as he pulls Nick to the side. Niall tries to distract him, joining him with an arm around a girl from his Spanish class’ shoulder while he tells her about the stunt they pulled to grab the bandana.

She hangs on to Niall’s every word, but Harry can’t focus. He’s stuck on Nick and Louis, and he averts his eyes when Billy comes up behind Nick and laces their fingers together.

Breathe in, breathe out. He smiles because it doesn’t feel like there’s a needle piercing through his heart. Nick’s moved on, but so has he.

He glances up again just as Louis actually shakes Nick’s hand.

His jaw drops open. He watches Louis turn, his eyes searching the clearing with his eyebrows scrunched up just the tiniest bit.

It’s cute. Harry smiles and waves him over.

“Just remember I was the one who got you two together,” Niall laughs.


Louis drunk is perhaps the most spectacular occurrence Harry has ever experienced. He’s just as loud and clever as usual, but there’s the added bonus that he’s cuddly and soft, clinging to Harry all night and pulling him against trees to make out with him in front of everyone.

Maybe it’s also because Nick is there and Louis is determined to show that he’s better than him, but Harry doesn’t mind.

Louis tastes bitter like beer. His fingertips are as cold as the bottles he’s been drinking, and when it’s 3 AM a sober Liam pulls Harry’s keys from his pocket and tells them all he’s driving them home.

“But then you’ll have my car, Liam!” Harry complains. Only Niall is in tow, alone but pining after his Spanish friend.

“I’ll pick you up tomorrow for the protest,” Liam tells him, and that’s that.

That’s trust. He trusts Liam with his car. They’re almost like a family or something. Harry might cry because of the sentiment.

Everyone boos once Louis announces that they’re leaving and to “go to the fucking protest tomorrow or I’ll fucking kill you.”

Once they drag Zayn and Perrie away from the fire, Louis demands a piggyback ride, so Harry carries him all the way from the bonfire to the parking lot. His back screams in protest, but Louis kisses behind his ear the whole way and it makes the pain worth it.

The car ride feels like it only lasts minutes, but Harry finds himself pulling Louis out behind him to the curb.

“Thanks, Liam!” Harry yells, his voice ringing through the deserted street. It’s quiet, but Louis holds onto his hand like it’s belonged to him for years, and he tugs Harry into his own house like they’re coming home.

They argue over what to eat in a hushed whisper. Louis demands something sweet, but Harry really wants something salty. They compromise and play rock paper scissors to make the decision.

Louis wins, so they retreat to Harry’s room with popsicles, giggling.

Louis’ stains his mouth a deep blue, so he looks like a happy Smurf. Harry’s is red, and when they finish their popsicles and cuddle together under the blankets, Harry kisses him deeply, hoping to turn both of their tongues purple. He wants the lines between them to blur so they can’t tell who’s who anymore, and when Louis wraps his thighs around Harry’s waist and pulls him on top, he thinks maybe it will happen.

Louis rubs up against him feverishly, but when Harry pulls away to catch his breath, he can see that Louis’ eyes are hooded and hardly open. He looks like he’s three seconds from falling asleep, and though Harry doesn’t doubt Louis will be upset with him for stopping things, he thinks it would be worse to keep things going when he’s unsure how conscious Louis really is.

He groans once Harry rolls over, pulling Louis on top of him so he’s forced to do all the work.

“What’d you do that for,” he grumbles, weakly grinding against Harry.

Harry shrugs, rubbing his hand up and down Louis’ back soothingly as he watches him fight to stay awake.

“I don’t want you to stop,” Louis complains, lowering his forehead to Harry’s chin.

“What do you want me to do?” Harry asks, his voice soft.

Louis stills completely against him. Harry thinks it’s partially the alcohol talking, but Louis’ unexpected answer makes the hair on the back of his neck stand straight.

“Want you to eat me out while you hold both my hands behind my back, to be honest,” he answers, his breath hot against Harry’s neck. “Haven’t let anyone since the first time— felt so good I cried.”

Harry gulps as a bead of sweat trickles from his forehead. “That sounds like the opposite of a problem.”

Louis hums into his skin, his eyelashes tickling Harry’s throat as his sentences slow. “Don’t like crying in front of people. Don’t want anyone seeing me like that. Might judge me. Private.”

Harry can feel as Louis relaxes all of his weight on top of him, surrendering.

“Want you to do it for me,” is the last thing he says before he’s asleep.


Harry wakes up in the morning (afternoon) with Louis wrapped around him and the sunlight streaming directly into his line of vision. He groans, gently pulling Louis off of him to brush his teeth and pee.

When he comes back to the room, Louis’ still sleeping soundly with his arms wrapped tightly around a pillow instead of Harry. He frowns, pulling the covers from Louis’ body to try to wake him up but he refuses, turning to his stomach.

And when he’s presented such a nice view, he remembers their conversation the night before.

He knows Louis probably deserves hundreds of hours of sleep, especially considering how few he must have gotten in the past two weeks, but his request from earlier is burned into the neurons of his brain and he doesn’t think it’ll go away any time soon.

So he climbs on top of Louis, straddling his thighs as he leans forward and begins to knead at the muscles at the top of Louis’ back, massaging him.

Louis groans in approval.

“You need to wake up,” Harry mumbles, leaning forward to press a kiss to the base of Louis’ neck. “Protest is today.”

Louis tenses at that, turning his head to the side to check the time on Harry’s alarm clock. “Not for a few more hours.”

Harry hums in agreement, adding pressure as he rubs his thumbs in semi circles by his spine.

Louis goes limp, moaning as Harry rubs the knots from his back and shoulders. He closes his eyes and brings his arms below his head to rest his cheek on top of them, and that’s when Harry knows he’s sufficiently relaxed.

He moves his lips across Louis’ back slowly, kissing the knobs of his spine as he trails his fingers down his sides.

He doesn’t think Louis knows what’s coming, because his face is still as peaceful and relaxed as it’s been since he began the massage. He decides to give him a hint, licking a stripe from the top of his spine to the waistband of his shorts as he moves his knees between Louis’ spread legs.

He sucks a bruise into the base of Louis’ spine, spreading Louis’ legs further apart with his knees, and then Harry feels the click. Louis stills before he lets out a sigh.

“Fuck, yes,” Louis pleads, moving his hands from beneath his head to the sides of it, gripping the sheets between his fingers.

Harry sits up and pulls Louis’ shorts off without pause, taking the hint. While he runs his palms up Louis’ thighs, he smiles at the crisscross indentation along Louis’ right hip from where his shorts cut off his circulation in his sleep.

He can feel that he’s shaking in anticipation, trembling the closer Harry’s hands get to where he really wants him.

He pulls Louis’ thighs further apart, kissing along the subtle tan line just above the curve of Louis’ arse. He licks lower, pressing a wet kiss to the center of Louis’ left cheek as he reaches his arms up. He bites gently when he finds what he’s looking for, loosening Louis’ fingers from where he’s gripping the sheets and pulling them behind his back.

He holds both of Louis’ hands in his left and kisses closer to Louis’ center. He squirms below him, pushing his hips into the bed, and Harry isn’t sure whether it’s because he’s trying to get some relief on his cock or because he doesn’t want Harry there.

“Do you want me to?” Harry whispers, pressing his nose to Louis’ skin.

Louis stills for a moment, before he breaks and nods enthusiastically, shaking practically the whole bed with it.

He wishes he could see Louis’ face, but he has more important things to worry about.

Harry lays flat on his stomach and pulls him open with his thumb, breathing deep before he licks a quick stripe over Louis’ fluttering hole.

It’s new. He’s never done this before—never even thought of doing this before—but now that he’s doing it and he can hear how it’s affecting Louis, he wonders why it’s never been at the top of his list.

Louis makes the quietest whimper at just the first lick, his wrists threatening to break from Harry’s hold. Harry squeezes tighter and nips at Louis’ hole in response, and it’s like Louis sinks further into the mattress.

“More,” he insists, grinding back against Harry’s face. So he flattens his tongue, licking slow, alternating between light pressure and licking so hard he can feel a strain in his neck.

Louis grows louder with each lick, his moans drawing out, his breathing hot and heavy the longer Harry leaves him hanging between attention from his tongue.

He trails his fingers up, taking one of Louis’ hands in each of his and holding them tight as he dips the tip of his tongue inside. Louis’ hole squeezes around him, like it’s preventing him from entry. He pushes harder, digging his fingernails into the backs of Louis’ hands as he gets even louder.

Harry really hopes his mum isn’t home.

He retracts his tongue, rewetting it to make the slide easier while Louis bites into his pillow. He leans in again, pointing his tongue as Louis makes a new sound—it’s high, and sounds like he’s trying not to let it escape past his vocal cords. It sounds like he’s actually crying. Harry didn’t think it was possible, even though Louis told him it happened the first time.

He redoubles his efforts, encouraged by Louis’ response.

He’s flying blind, with no idea of what to do or how to do it, his only guidance Louis’ sounds. He goes deep before pulling back and teasing him with shallow licks and wet kisses.

Louis’ gone quiet, but he’s still shaking. Harry sits up to check on him, to make sure he’s still alive since silence is so unheard of when it comes to Louis.

The breath is punched out of him when he sees Louis’ face—red, glistening with tear tracks, his eyebrows pulled together and his eyes squeezed shut with his mouth half open.

He looks like he’s been hit by a truck or something. So when Louis opens his eyes and his irises are practically invisible, Harry’s afraid.

“Please,” Louis whispers, his voice broken, and then Harry feels guilty for making him wait. He looks so helpless with his arms still held behind his back, his legs spread and open, his body on complete display.

He’s stuck again by how lucky he is to be seeing Louis like this.

He remembers Louis’ drunken slurs from the night before, how he hasn’t felt comfortable with anyone to allow them to do this for them. And then he remembers Liam’s words—how Louis is used to taking care of people, and Harry wants to be the person to take care of him.

So he licks slow, a silent reminder of exactly why he’s there.

It’s not long before Harry hums, vibrating his tongue as he’s licking as deep as he can, and Louis thrusts forward with a cry. Harry aims his tongue to draw the orgasm out, but pulls out slowly when he feels the change in Louis’ body from drawn tight to completely still.

He runs his hands along Louis’ back, accidently spreading the beads of sweat that accumulated at the curve before he crawls up above him, kissing along his hairline where his face is still turned to the side.

Louis doesn’t seem to want to move. He closes his eyes and pulls Harry closer by reaching behind him, and Harry hopes he doesn’t feel his hard on against his back.

But he does. And Louis pushes back against him, like it’s an invitation.

Harry’s feels like he’s already three thrusts from coming in his shorts, but with Louis inviting him to rub off against him, he thinks it will be closer to one.

He grips Louis’ waist with one hand and plants the other by his ribs, his muscle bulging as he pulls Louis halfway off the bed to bring him closer.

One, two, three, four grinds and he buries his face in Louis’ hair, groaning into his ear as he comes. He collapses on top of him, unmoving until Louis grumbles at him in complaint and tells him he can’t breathe.

Harry moves to his side to free Louis’ lungs, pulling him against his chest and spooning him, ignoring his messy shorts. Louis tangles their legs together as he turns his head for a slow kiss Harry would never deny him, even through their morning breath.


The next thing he knows, Louis’ ringtone is loud in his ears and he’s spooning air.

“Fuck!” Louis shouts, throwing a pillow at Harry’s face in all his naked glory.

Harry frowns, cringing. “What was that for?”

“Liam’s been outside for twenty minutes. I’m late for my own protest,” Louis shouts out frantically, rushing to his overnight bag and pulling out his clothes, changing in a frenzy.

“Harry, get the fuck up! We’ll leave without you,” Louis tells him, back in his authoritative mode.

Ah. He’s back. Sweet, needy Louis is nice, but bossy Louis is the one he’s halfway fallen in love with.

Harry changes quickly, multitasking with his toothbrush in his mouth as he pulls on his socks.

Less than ten minutes later, he and Louis are rushing out the door, hopping into Harry’s Range Rover, Zayn driving and Niall in the passenger seat.

“Took you long enough!” Niall huffs at them, turning to look at them as Zayn backs out of the driveway.

“Sorry. We fell asleep,” Harry tells him.

Liam waggles his eyebrows from beside him. “Fell asleep or were busy doing other things?”

He looks down at the look Louis shoots him.

Zayn drives quickly, reaching the front of Grim Studios in seven minutes flat. And the crowd in front of the steps is massive, impressive, reaching across the sidewalk. There are police standing unsure by the street corners, showing the protesters how far they need to stand from the curb for their own safety, and Harry thinks he might see a tear in Louis’ eye.

There are people with colorful signs, cars honking as they pass by, and it doesn’t even look like there are only North High students since there are blazers and collared shirts scattered throughout the crowd.

When Zayn pulls up to the stoplight just to the right of the studio, Louis opens the car door and tumbles out, ignoring Zayn’s yells and Harry’s confused gasp in favor of reaching the mob.

Harry cranes his neck as Zayn drives to find parking, smiling at the roar as Louis joins them, pointing to a sign held by a short girl and yelling something Harry can’t make out over the noise.

Parking is impossible. They join Louis twenty minutes later, and by then the crowd has grown even more and they’re chanting about equality, and it feels like something straight out of a movie. Louis stands at the top of the steps, right in front of the entrance doors, pointing his finger like an orchestra conductor and leading the chants.

And the chanting doesn’t stop.

Ten minutes in, Harry and Zayn nick a sign reading Death of Equality, and Niall’s taking a selfie with it to post to his Instagram. Liam has joined Louis at the top of the stairs, and there are news vans everywhere, and the police are still monitoring the protest but there’s no violence so they can’t do anything about it.

There are cameras and microphones being shoved into Louis’ face, but he’s taking it all in stride, answering questions Harry doesn’t even know the answer to with a smile he can’t seem to get rid of.

Harry meets Louis’ eyes over the crowd, raising his thumb in a question that Louis answers with his own thumb. But then he turns his attention back to the newscaster with a shake to his head, asking her to repeat the question as flashing cameras blind him.

And then Nick arrives, alone, pushing his way through the crowd and he spots Harry. He staggers to him, ducking sideways to pass through a group not too happy with him, until they’re face to face.

Nick looks him up and down, licking his lip in a way Harry doesn’t recognize.

“I guess you’re with Tomlinson, then. Proper dating, or whatever?”

Harry nods, even though they actually aren’t.

Nick scratches behind his neck, uncomfortable. “Right, then. I don’t know what you see in him, especially since you once had high standards,” Nick coughs, pointing to himself. “But I guess I owe you an apology, anyway. Sorry I held you hostage to win a game. And that I kind of got you expelled and then broke up with you for that very reason.”

He pauses, crossing his arms over his chest with a raise of his eyebrows. “Wow. He was right. I am kind of a dick.”

Harry isn’t sure how to respond. He’s wanted this apology for two months.

Nick studies him for a moment before he rolls his eyes. “If things don’t work out with the pixie, you know where I live.”

Harry only laughs; it’s finally clear that Nick doesn’t have the same effect on him as before. Once upon a time, Harry would have been a crying wreck, accepting Nick’s half-assed proposal without thinking twice, but he’s older now—more mature.

He knows what he wants and deserves. He’s moved on to something (someone) better.

Nick walks away, navigating the crowd easily before he reaches the steps and tugs on Louis’ shoulder. He pulls him in close, whispering into his ear, and Louis nods, smiling to his interviewer apologetically.

Nick pulls him along by the elbow, punching in a code to open the door, and then they’re inside the Studio.

A hush falls over the crowd at the loss of their leader. Everyone looks around, their signs lowering as they deliberate over whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing that they lost Louis.

But then there’s a yell of triumph, and even though they have no idea whether they’ll get what they want, they seem to take it as a victory. It’s progress. There’s hugging and cheering and laughter, and nobody leaves for at least ten minutes.

But the crowd slowly begins to dissipate, group by group until there’s nobody left but one news van and the four of them, waiting for Louis to return.

The newswoman slumps against a pillar, scrolling through her phone, looking bored as her cameraman sits on the bottom stair.

“What are you four still doing here?” she asks once she finishes scrolling.

Zayn and Niall are stuck in a riveting thumb war, and Liam’s stuck on a knock off version of flappy bird. “Waiting for my boyfriend,” Harry tells her, his eyes widening as he realizes what he’s just said.

“You’re dating Louis Tomlinson?” she asks, eyebrows raised.

Harry gulps, unsure whether she’s trying to dig up some dirt about him to use in the story.

She understands, throwing her hands up. “No issues with that. Just, he’s going to be somebody someday. I can tell. Don’t let him get away.”

Harry lights up at that, agreeing easily.

Louis doesn’t return for another hour, his eyes tired but an irreversible grin upon his face.

“What happened?” Zayn, the first to reach him, asks. Louis shrugs self-deprecatingly, moving his hands to his pockets.

“Says he’ll take our complaints into account. Don’t know how much faith to put into it, because they always ask for an opinion to act like they care, but then they’ll turn around and do exactly what they were going to do beforehand. After tonight, it’s not like they can just ignore this, though.”

He answers a few questions for the woman who waited before he sags against Harry’s side, burying his face in his neck and wrapping his arms around his waist. “Let’s go home.”


They all watch the news in Harry’s living room, showered with snacks by his mum.

She sits at the arm of the couch, but Harry offers her his seat, opting to plant himself heavily in Louis’ lap without asking.

“Ooph. I don’t appreciate this, Harold,” Louis begins, but then there’s the unmistakable jingle of their local news station and he shuts up.

Harry doesn’t even watch the screen as the story begins. He focuses on Louis’ face, the way his eyes narrow and the tiny nod he makes as his interview is played, the way he bites his lip when he gives an answer he thinks he could have explained more eloquently and the way his fingers tighten against his waist when the interview is over.

“No word yet from Grim Studios whether they’re planning on going forward with their rumored monetary donation for St. George’s new football field, but it’s obvious if they do, they’ll have some concerns to answer to.”

They switch to a story about a cat that can open doors for her blind owner, and Harry supposes it isn’t the most riveting night for news stories. His mum switches the television off, clapping her hands together.

“Good job, boys,” she beams. “Louis, you answered those questions so well! I couldn’t have asked for a better boyfriend for Harry if I tried.”

Harry freezes up, and he hopes the shock on his face doesn’t make it look like he’s totally against that idea, because he totally isn’t. But—

“Uh. Boyfriend?” he asks dumbly, like somehow she has information he doesn’t.

“Boyfriend,” Louis confirms, smiling up at Harry from where he’s still on top of him. “Um. If that’s what you want,” he adds, clearly mistaking the shock on Harry’s face.

“No—definitely. Definitely boyfriend,” Harry repeats.

Louis kisses him on the shoulder, and it feels decided. His mum stands, suggesting that they make ice cream sundaes to celebrate, and Harry has probably never heard a more perfect proposition in his entire life.

They all follow her to the kitchen, buzzing with excitement over what school will be like on Monday, and whether Louis will be given an A in his government class just because.

Harry thinks back to his first day at North High, and remembers how upset he was to have to start over. In just two months, his world was torn and rebuilt from the bottom up, but as he takes in the scene—his mum spraying Niall on the cheek with whipped cream, Zayn and Liam fighting over the ice cream scooper like it somehow matters who gets the first scoop, and Louis gripping his hand like it’s the two of them against the world, Harry wouldn’t change it for the world.

When Liam insists Harry let him drive Niall and Zayn back home, Harry lets him. He knows he’ll be seeing him again tomorrow. He’s not letting anyone get away from him this time.


Three months later, the construction for Penguin’s Stadium begins.