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Just a Fine and Fancy Ramble

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Louis is a saint. Practically a God among men. He is, in his own very modest opinion, the kind of son every mother ought to dream of having.

He has already survived what was possibly the worst week of midterms he has ever experienced. A week that had finished with him sobbing over a sink in the men's washroom of the Science Complex while Zayn and Niall attempted to reassure him that anyone could have have accidentally mistaken an Oligochaete for a Hirudinomorph. It did not do much to calm him down seeing as he hadn't slept in three days, hadn't left the library in just as long, and now he had incorrectly identified two very different worms on his invertebrate biology midterm. Whoever thought he would be mentally equipped to handle university anyway?

So, despite the fact that Louis should clearly be spending his Saturday sleeping, eating, and trying to piece together what's left of his sanity, he is instead at the zoo with his two youngest sisters. The blame for this, he concludes, rests squarely on the shoulders of Lottie and Fizzy. They're young and their lives are not stressful, surely they should be the ones saddled with babysitting duty when his mother decides to go have a life. Especially considering the fact that he doesn't even live in the same city as them anymore. Unfortunately, Lottie has snagged herself an acne riddled, beanpole of a boyfriend that takes up all her time, and frankly no one really trusts Fizzy with the twins since the hair cutting incident of last year.

“You're lucky you have me,” he informs Daisy and Phoebe seriously as they drag him over to an aquarium full of brightly coloured fish. “If it wasn't for me, you two would be up for adoption by now. I drove two hours today to go collect you from home and bring you here. Who wants to go to the zoo on a Saturday anyway?”

“You love animals,” Daisy stares at him in confusion. “Why are you in university for biology if you don't even like the zoo? And I thought you told mom you really missed us and wanted to take us to the zoo as a surprise?”

“Details,” he responds with a vague wave of his hand. “You're smarter then you look, aren't you?”

She smirks at him, and for an eight year old he thinks Daisy is a worrying mixture of evil mastermind and adorable gremlin. “I look plenty smart as well,” she informs him.

“Yes you do,” he agrees easily. “You two about done though? We've been here all day, and I've still got to get you lot home before Mom gets anxious.”

“No,” Phoebe whines immediately. “We still haven't seen the penguins. You promised Lou. You promised we'd get to see the penguins.”

Daisy immediately joins in on the pleas, and before long he is faced with two well-practised pouts. The twins' skills at guilt tripping and puppy dog eyes are truly remarkable. He's not sure anyone has ever said no to them their entire lives.

“Fine,” he says with a sigh. “But ten minutes max, and this is the last exhibit we're doing.”

Louis is actually quite excited for the penguin exhibit, despite his exhaustion and general longing to be tucked up in bed watching the latest season of Orange is the New Black. Penguins are a species of bird that is not typically covered in any of his ornithology based lectures, and now that he thinks about it, he has a serious lack of knowledge on the subject.

He quickly discovers that the London Zoo has an intense Penguin Pool. It's absolutely massive, with amazing underwater views of the penguins swimming, and a chick incubation unit further off to the side. These are all things that Louis would normally spend a great deal of time examining. He is momentarily sidetracked, however, by the sight of a boy in a wetsuit having a staring contest with a penguin.

The boy is inside the enclosed penguin area, so Louis assumes he's an employee, but since when have any of the workers at the zoo been that attractive? Louis would have gotten an annual membership long ago if he'd had any idea. His dark brown curls are sodden and sticking to the nape of his neck (Louis has a pleasing mental image of an annoyed penguin splashing him with water when he doesn't immediately do his or her bidding), and he's tall, and so fit, and his wetsuit is really doing wonders for his bum. All in all, Louis gives him a solid ten out of ten.

Louis continues to watch as the boy waggles his eyebrows dramatically at the penguin. Clearly, he's very invested in winning the staring contest, which means Louis still has time to come up with a plan of attack. He turns to his sisters. “Girls, look cute. You know how to snag a boy right?”

“Mommy says we're not old enough to date,” Phoebe informs him solemnly.

“Snag a boy for me,” he clarifies. “I need a reason to talk to the boy with the penguins. Maybe you could fall in the water and he'll have to save you?”

The girls look thoroughly unimpressed with this plan. “Excuse me,” Daisy calls out loudly. “What's your penguin's name?” The boy turns to look at them. Louis gives Daisy a discrete nod of approval. He's willing to admit that this is a better plan than his was.

The boy trots over to the edge of the enclosure while the penguin he'd been staring at waddles around and celebrates it's victory. “That's Herbert,” he tells Daisy with a huge smile. “And I'm Harry. It's very nice to meet you.”

“Hi Harry,” Daisy responds sweetly. “It's very nice to meet you too. This is my sister Phoebe and my big brother Louis. He's the best brother ever. He took us to the zoo today so Mommy could have a day off.”

Daisy is so fucking suave that Louis can barely even handle it. “Hey,” he grins at Harry. “I see you lost the contest with Herbert. He's being quite smug about it isn't he?”

Harry looks absolutely delighted that Louis had noticed. “I know! He always wins! I don't know how he does it. And he's such a sore winner about it too. Do you like penguins?” He finishes hopefully.

Louis nods. “I like all birds. I have a part time job at a bird rehabilitation centre actually. Although we don't ever deal with penguins obviously.”

“That's so cool,” Harry is absolutely beaming by this point. “What an amazing job! Are you at uni for animal studies then?”

“West London,” Louis responds happily. “Biological Science with a specialization in ornithology and herpetology. What about you?”

“Middlesex,” Harry answers sheepishly. “Marine biology and oceanography.”

“Middlesex,” Louis makes an over-dramatic face of disgust. “Filthy hipsters, the lot of you.”

“Heeeey,” Harry whines. “That's not true. West London is just overly mainstream.”

“Overly mainstream?” Louis gasps in mock surprise. “Wait, are you saying me and my mate's weekly viewing of X factor and unhealthy obsession with Miley Cyrus is not hipster approved?”

Harry giggles. Louis resists the urge to poke his dimple with his finger. And then stick his tongue in his mouth. He's the master of self control today. “I actually watch X factor too,” Harry admits. “And listen to Miley Cyrus. Can they kick me out of school for not being a good enough hipster?”

“Well it's Middlesex,” Louis says seriously. “So probably.”

(Louis actually has no idea if Middlesex is really hipster or not, but it is his duty as a West London student to immediately and without rational thought insult every other school in London. Just because Harry is cute does not mean Louis will spare his school. Uni rivalries is serious business)

“Louis,” Daisy complains loudly, the pay attention to us left mostly unsaid. Louis is going to have to revoke her wing-man status.

“Wait,” Harry says eagerly. “I have something really cool to show you girls. Don't go anywhere okay?”

He disappears briefly and then returns with a large bucket. Every single penguin seems to perk up and stand at attention before rapidly hopping and waddling it's way towards the water. With a grin in Louis's direction, Harry starts tossing fish into the water and the twins watch in awestruck delight as the penguins dive for their meal.

As children press their noses against the glass and parents make impressed comments, Louis could swear he sees Harry shoot him a cheeky wink. With a long suffering sigh, Louis concludes that fit blokes and cool animals are an unfairly powerful combination that, for the sake of boys and girls everywhere, should probably be made illegal.

 

*

 

“Well I'd actually already fed them that afternoon,” Harry recounts sadly as Ed and Liam chortle at his misfortune. “So I could only throw in a few fish and then not all the penguins got to eat. I had a bit of a mutiny on my hands afterwards to be honest. But I don't think he noticed.”

“You risked the ire of an army of penguins to try to impress some bloke?” Ed asks in amusement.

“It was for his little sisters too,” Harry weakly protests. “They loved it.”

“Well did you at least get his number?” Liam asks practically.

“No,” Harry says mournfully. “That's why you need to help me. I invited him to come to our children's Q&A session today so I need to dress for success. Red or Blue?” He brandishes his two favourite headscarves in front of Liam and Ed's faces.

“You think your headscarf is going to determine whether you get his number or not,” Liam says slowly.

“Dress for success Liam,” Harry repeats. “What if he sees me without a wetsuit and realizes I'm not attractive anymore? I can't control my uniform but I can control my headscarf.” Sometimes Liam can really be very slow on the uptake.

“Go with your purple one with the dicks all over it,” Ed tells him. “It'll show him your priorities.”

“That's an evening scarf,” Harry glares at them reproachfully for their complete lack of helpful advice. “And it's only for special occasions. These are my day scarves. Red or Blue?”

“Blue,” Ed finally grumbles.

“Thank you,” Harry says, pleased, as he fastens the scarf around his head.

“You'll knock him dead Haz,” Liam says with a fond smile. “We do know that he likes boys though, right?”

“Yes,” Harry responds emphatically. “I mean like, we don't know, I suppose, but I can sense these things.”

Ed and Liam both groan simultaneously. Harry quickly grabs his work bag and darts out the door before either of them can give him a lecture about his less than admirable track record with “sensing” people's sexuality. Louis is different. Harry can just tell that they share a mutual love of dicks. Although perhaps Ed was right and he should have worn his purple penis head scarf, just for clarity's sake.

By the time he's at work and all set up for the weekly children's information session, he's managed to work himself up into a state of extreme anxiety. His hair has started to wilt, he's fairly certain he has massive sweat stains under his arms, and he's a hundred percent positive that completely heterosexual Louis will not be coming today because he's out with some girlfriend.

He becomes so certain of this fact that he actually jumps in surprise when Louis enters the aquarium with his sisters, who look significantly less thrilled to be there than they had the day before, in tow. “Hi Louis,” he waves and then immediately draws his arm back down to his side, haven forgotten about his obvious pit stains. No worries. Harry's calm. Completely casual. Cool as cucumber, that's him.

“Hi Harry, it's nice to see you again mate.” Louis smiles at him. Gay. Definitely gay. Harry has a sense for these things after all. How dare Liam and Ed make him doubt himself?

“Are you excited to learn more about penguins?” He kneels down to talk to Louis's sisters.

They both give him halfhearted shrugs, which will simply not do. “We're going to learn all about Humboldt and Rockhopper penguins,” he tells them enthusiastically. “Those are the two types we have here. And if you're a good student I might just let you touch Herbert at the end.”

“Touch a penguin?” Phoebe's eyes widen. Success. He has captured her interest. Next up, her brother's.

“Do I get to touch Herbert as well?” Louis asks him with a smirk. “I'll try to be a good student for you.”

Harry blinks rapidly, his brain going slightly fuzzy. “Uh yeah, you can touch it – him. Herbert, I mean.”

“Good,” Louis laughs and Harry really hopes he's not blushing. “I like your scarf by the way.”

He resists the urge to fist pump the air in triumph. Harry had made the correct choice. He'll have to call and thank Ed later, and remind Liam that dress for success is a real thing and not an excuse to make fun of him.

Harry reluctantly distances himself from Louis, as he is actually expected to run the information session for the twenty or so children who have showed up with their parents. Teaching kids about penguins is usually his favourite thing in the world, so he makes an effort to stop trying to catch a glimpse of Louis's bum and start teaching the youth of tomorrow.

Leaping to the front of the room, he loudly commands, “Raise your hand if you chew your food!”

The majority of the room raises their hand (with the exception of two seven year old boys who stick their tongues out at him). Harry nods at the room. “That's good. Chewing is important! But do you want to know what Humboldt penguins don't do? They don't chew their food!”

Queue an outspread of giggles.“Instead of chewing, they swallow their fish head first!” Several little girls distort their faces in disgust. Harry grins. He loves his job.

He manages to finish the full session without getting too distracted by Louis's face, which he counts as a success. Afterwards, he hangs up front by the penguins, refusing to make eye contact with anyone as he waits hopefully for Louis to come up to Harry himself. He'd told them they could touch Herbert, so he doesn't see how Louis or his sisters could possibly leave without talking to Harry. He's offered them pretty much the coolest thing ever after all.

His plan works, because using penguins to pull cute boys through their impressionable little sisters is definitely where it's at. Daisy comes and stands directly beside him, shooting him a sorrowful look. “You promised we could touch Herbert if we were good students.”

“That's right,” he nods. “I did. I should probably quiz you to make sure you listened first though, right?”

“I guess,” Daisy mutters.

“Perfect,” he grins. “Daisy, how do penguins walk?”

“They waddle,” she pipes up, excited to know the answer. “One of the types waddles, and the other one hops!”

“Excellent,” he gives her a high five. “Phoebe, how do penguins take care of their feathers?”

“With penguin hair gel,” she tells him, completely serious. “It's a type of oil they get from their tail.”

“You are a pro,” he responds, equally serious. “Very impressive, both of you.”

“Do we get to touch Herbert now?”

“I don't know,” Harry muses slowly. “I don't think I've asked all of you a question. What about Louis?”

Louis grins at him and Harry is momentarily blinded. “Bring it on penguin boy.”

“Right,” Harry clears his throat. “How old do the penguins have to be before they can start reproducing?” Why. Why did he have to choose a question about penguin sex. He's literally the least smooth person in the world.

“Two years old,” Louis smirks at him, but doesn't seem to have caught on to his inner panic attack, which is a relief.

“Good. That's uh...good. We can play with Herbert now.”

He lets the girls pet Herbert first, and he stays perfectly still for them like the good little penguin he is. When it's Louis's turn to pet him Harry can't help but make the face that always causes Herbert to flap his flippers, drenching Louis's face in water.

Louis slowly turns to face Harry. “You did this,” he says in a menacing voice while clearly holding back laughter.

“No,” Harry protests, helpless to stop the smile from spreading across his face. “How would I have done that? It was Herbert. He's being a bad penguin. Bad Herbert!”

Louis's fringe is wet and he looks adorable and Harry's head is a hopeless mess of get his number and find out if he likes dick . “Can I buy you a drink?” Is what he blurts out instead. “I mean, can I buy all three of you a drink? The Sea World gift shop does a really great chocolate milkshake.”

Daisy and Phoebe cheer, and Harry reminds himself that he's still got plenty of time. Get his number, find out if he likes dick. Two simple steps. Harry's totally got this.

 

*

 

Louis does not go to the zoo on Monday, because he's not a creep and he's definitely not stalking the fit guy at the penguin exhibit. Also it's possible Harry had mentioned that he doesn't work Mondays. That's a slight possibility.

It's for the best, seeing as Mondays are by far his busiest day. He's got three lectures in the morning followed by an afternoon of dissecting slugs and worms in his invert lab. Then he has to go do an evening shift at his job, because rent is due next week and he's only got enough saved up to pay half of it so far.

Basically, he is very stressed and by Tuesday he's pretty sure he deserves another zoo day. He's earned it. His sisters are unfortunately back in Doncaster and his mother seems to think it's important that they attend year 3 so he's forced to turn to the next best thing. Zayn and Niall.

“Why are we going to the zoo again?” Zayn asks in a bored tone as they walk up to the front entrance to buy their tickets. “I have a project due tomorrow. I really need to be working on it.”

“You're in arts Zayn,” Louis makes a face. “Don't pretend your classes actually require any effort. You don't get up until three in the afternoon most days. By that point in the day I've already had four hours of class, three hours of labs, and at least one nervous breakdown.”

“Not our fault you were stupid enough to go into sciences,” Niall says cheerfully. “My music classes are going great by the way. Thanks for asking.”

“I hate you both,” Louis grumbles. “I hate all arts students. Why am I even friends with you?”

“Because you loooove us,” Niall plants a slobbery kiss on Louis's cheek. “Just admit it Louis, we're your favourite people in the world.”

“I'll admit nothing,” Louis claims. “Tickets on you today, right Zayn?”

Zayn glares at him. “This is why I'm here, isn't it? You just needed someone to pay for your ticket.”

“You're here to expand your horizons,” Louis informs him. “This is actually educational, unlike that drivel you call your classes. Also, I thought it would be nice for you to take Niall out for a night at one of London's most prestigious landmarks.”

Zayn and Niall both go red and exchange worried glances as Louis walks on ahead with a small smirk. They seem to think he still doesn't know they're seeing each other (as if that is even possible, he's not blind), and he's fairly certain they're both spending a disproportionate amount of their admittedly very empty, non stressful lives trying to figure out how to tell him.

Louis supposes he could just put them both out of their misery and admit he already knows, but that would be so much less entertaining than dropping hints and watching them squirm. “I thought a nice date at the zoo would be fun for you two,” he continues, watching their eyes go wide. “In a completely platonic dude-bro-pal kind of way of course.”

“Of course,” Zayn echoes weakly.

Needless to say, Zayn buys all their tickets, and Louis lives to be able to afford groceries another day. Unfortunately, he is incapable of immediately herding them towards the penguin pool, as Zayn claims that the gorillas inspire him artistically, and Niall seems to believe that a baby elephant is his musical muse. He would think they were fucking with him, if it wasn't for the fact that Niall can't make it three seconds into a joke without laughing and giving it all away.

“I wish I understood how your brains work,” he tells them honestly, as they start commiserating over the fact that they hadn't brought a guitar or sketchpad with them. “Then again, I'm kind of glad I don't. Your brains are probably very scary places.”

They ignore him, and Louis pouts. At some point in the last few weeks he's become the third wheel to his two best friends, and he's not impressed by his demotion. “Can you guys stop eye fucking and come to the penguin pool with me?”

Niall blushes to the very tips of his ears and Zayn starts spluttering nonsensically. Success. “Come on. You'll love Herbert. He's bound to inspire one of you to like...paint or write music or whatever it is you do with your lives.”

Zayn shakes his head, no doubt considering a million and one retorts he would like to use, but eventually seems to think better of it and obediently follows Louis towards Sea World.

They're met with the unexpected but perfectly lovely sight of Harry pulling himself out of the water, hair plastered to his head like a drowned cat. He's not in his wetsuit, which leads Louis to believe that the swim had been an unpleasant surprise. “Hi Harry,” Louis waves. “Just cooling off?”

Harry's head shoots up and his eyes widen with a mixture of horror and delight. “Louis!” He whisper-shouts. “You're here...right now.”

“Harry?” Zayn stares at Louis with raised eyebrows while Niall doubles over with laughter. “Of course. I should have known.”

“You're snorting like a pig Niall,” Louis says sulkily. “No boy will ever date you if you sound like that.” Zayn and Niall both go silent. Thank god he's still got that over them, or this friendship would get seriously out of control.

“Hey,” Harry squelches his way over, a small puddle of water forming at his feet. “Ummm...so how much of that did you see?”

“Did we see you fall into the water you mean?” Louis laughs. “We missed that actually.”

“I didn't fall,” Harry protests. “Daphne pushed me!” He glances sheepishly over at Niall and Zayn. “And umm...hi. I'm Harry.”

“Hi Harry!” Niall says in an exceptionally loud voice that he accompanies with a very obvious wink in Louis's direction. “How do you know our Louis again?”

“Zayn, go buy Niall a smoothie,” Louis interjects seamlessly before Harry has a chance to answer. “He'll love it.”

Zayn smirks at Louis. “Nah, I think I'm good right here.”

“Smoothie?” Niall perks up. “Where?”

Louis grins to himself as Zayn and Niall leave with the promise to be back with smoothies soon. He is the master of distractions. Also, Zayn is whipped and Louis really wishes he could just make fun of him for it already.

“So who's Daphne?” Louis asks.

“Herbert's penguin girlfriend.” Harry says gloomily. “I think he's replacing me. He spends all his time with her now.”

“Herbert's girlfriend pushed you into the pool?” Louis says in amusement. “What a bitch! Herbert can do better.”

“I think she was just jealous,” Harry explains earnestly. “I was trying to hog Herbert's attention.”

“I'm sure Herbert has enough love to go around,” Louis responds solemnly. “Daphne shouldn't expect to get to just keep him all for herself.”

Harry giggles. “So...ummm...were those you friends? Or uh, boyfriends?”

Louis raises an eyebrow in amusement. He's fairly certain Harry is fishing for information on his sexuality, Louis recognizes a straight test when he sees one, even an absolutely terrible one like that.

“Not boyfriends,” Harry hastens to clarify. “I meant boyfriend. Singular. Like if one of them was your boyfriend. Unless they both are. I totally respect all lifestyles and if polygamy is what you're into-”

“Not my boyfriends,” Louis chortles. “Or boyfriend, singular. They're just my friends. I mean the two of them are for sure fucking, but I've definitely not been invited to join and I'm not supposed to know about them yet anyways.”

“Watch out one of them doesn't get possessive and push you into a pool,” Harry tells him wisely. “I've heard it happens.”

They spend a glorious twenty minutes discussing the types of dates Herbert could take Daphne on to make up for his lack of attentiveness, finally settling on a movie date to see Finding Nemo. The eventual return of Niall and Zayn is mostly unwelcome, because cute boys and long talks of penguin romance is what Louis lives for, but his spirits improve vastly when he sees their swollen lips, mussed up hair, and noticeable lack of smoothies.

“Couldn't find the gift shop,” Niall pants. “Sorry.”

How can Louis possibly not comment on this? He has a short but violent debate with himself about long terms rewards verses short term benefits before Harry breaks him out of his reverie with the most masterfully placed comment Louis has ever witnessed.

“Your lips look quite swollen,” Harry tells them in concern. “I think you might be having an allergic reaction. Have you ever had symptoms develop due to penguin exposure before?”

Zayn takes on a deer in the headlights expression, Niall looks like he would really like to laugh but is pretty sure he's not supposed to, and Louis, for his part, is fairly certain he's found his soul mate.

 

*

 

It's time for Harry to make his move. He's tried to wait it out, he really has, but it's been three days and Louis has not returned to the zoo. Three entire days. It is officially time for Harry to take fate into his own hands.

In general, Harry is not a supporter of stalking, but Louis had mentioned where he works at least five times in their last conversation, which is essentially an invitation to go there.

“This is the worst plan you have ever came up with,” Liam informs him bluntly. “As your roommate and best friend, it is my responsibility to stop you from doing this.”

“Sacrifices have to be made,” Harry says stubbornly as he coaxes Juniper out of her little hut and onto his arm. “I can't very well show up at a bird rehabilitation clinic without a bird in need.”

“Juniper is not a bird in need,” Liam whines, giving up on the stern words, and instead grabbing Juniper to clutch her close to his chest. “She is a loved and cared for member of this household. Back me up here Ed.”

Ed shrugs. “I think it could be quite funny. Just so long as he brings Junie back of course.”

Liam gasps like he's been personally betrayed. “Have you at least confirmed that he likes boys Harry?”

“Yes,” Harry scoffs. “For sure. I mean, he hasn't specifically told me, but his two best friends are gay, and we all know that gays flock together in packs. There's power in numbers.”

Liam rolls his eyes. “You do realize me and Ed are straight right? So either this theory is wrong, or you just have terrible flocking skills.”

“You just haven't met the right boy yet Liam,” Harry reassures him kindly. “You don't have to settle for a life of boring heterosexuality. There are options.

“Do you even hear yourself?” Liam groans.

It takes quite a few promises to wrangle Juniper out of Liam's vice-like grip, but once he does Harry is a man on a mission. He does get a few strange looks for being on the tube with a bird, people are so judgemental these days, but all in all he feels confident that his plan will work.

Harry marches through the front door of the clinic expecting to be greeted by a receptionist or someone who can direct him to Louis, and is disappointed by the absence of anyone to help him. Because this is a wildlife clinic, not a pet store or a zoo. Right. “Excuse me?” He calls out hesitantly.

“I'll be right with you,” a female voice answers.

He pouts, because he'd been hoping that Louis would miraculously emerge at the sound of Harry's voice.

“How can I help you?” The girl slips out from behind a shelf and smiles at him.

“I found a bird,” he says dumbly. “And my friend Louis works here. So I thought I would bring the bird in so he can tell me what I should do with it.”

“I think he's just hosing off some cages out back right now,” she tells him while shooting Juniper a weird look. Harry instinctively clutches her closer to him. “I can go get him for you.”

“That would be great, thank you,” Harry answers happily. Juniper makes a pitiful cawing sound in his arms and he quickly shushes her.

He sits cross-legged on the floor and plays with Juniper, who he thinks is feeling a little peckish from the journey, while the girl disappears out back to find Louis. Their riveting game of peak-a-boo is finally interrupted by the much awaited appearance of Louis, looking ten times as gorgeous as Harry had remembered him. Harry's positive he has never seen someone pull off bird shit in their hair quite so well.

“Harry?” Louis exclaims in surprise. “What are you doing here mate?”

Harry presents Juniper to him in outstretched hands like a peace offering. “I found a bird.”

Louis stares at it. “That's a Lovebird.”

The fact that Louis can identify Juniper's species is just an unfairly attractive character trait. “Yeah, that was my guess too. When I found her, uh, wandering the street looking all dazed and lost.”

“We don't see many of those in here,” Louis says, looking vaguely confused. “That's like a family pet. Usually we get injured pigeons and shit.”

“Some pet owners can be so irresponsible,” Harry says with a sigh. If Juniper could do proper facial expressions, he's pretty sure she would be glaring reproachfully at him. It's probably time to get off this topic. “Herbert's been missing you.”

Louis laughs. “Tell him hello for me, and that I'm sorry I haven't been by, but I had a big biochemistry test this week. And I kind of can't afford the zoo entry fee any more either,” he adds sheepishly. “Running a bit low on funds.”

“Biochem?” Harry makes a face. “I hated that class. They shouldn't even make us take it. It's totally not relevant to our degrees.”

“I think the administration just get their kicks watching us struggle,” Louis grumbles.

Harry nods agreeably, getting that terrible feeling where you really want to say something to keep the conversation going because you like talking to that person so much, but you're coming up absolutely blank on what to say in the heat of the moment. “Yup. Biochem wasn't fun.”

Louis nods too, and now it is awkward, and Harry feels sad.

“Well,” Louis claps his hands together. “I can take that bird off your hands then. I expect she won't be much of a trouble. We'll give her a check up and make sure no one has reported her missing and then we'll probably try to sell her back to a pet store.”

Harry pales. Liam will actually murder him in his sleep if he gets Juniper sold to a pet store. “I thought you could just keep Juniper here for a bit. Then I could keep visiting her. We've formed quite the bond during the last hour or so.”

“Juniper?” Louis asks in amusement. “You named the bird you found wandering the streets? And as much as I would love to have you visiting, we're not really equipped to give docile, pet birds long term homes. We mostly work on rehabilitating injured birds until they can be released back into the wild.”

“Well,” Harry's brain works frantically for a way out of this. “You don't have to sell her to a pet store. I'll-I'll buy her off you. How much?” He tries not to think about how he's willing to buy back a bird he already owns.

“Harry?” Louis says slowly.

“Yes,” he responds nervously.

“Is this your pet bird?”

He should probably deny this, so that Louis doesn't write him off as completely insane. “Well, kind of. I guess.”

“You guess?” Lucky for Harry, Louis looks more amused than anything else. “You brought your pet bird into a rehabilitation centre?”

“Well it sounds bad when you say it like that,” Harry attempts to rationalize. “I prefer to think of it as I brought Juniper in for a free check up with a very qualified ornithology expert.”

“Ah, so this was a budgetary decision?” Louis questions with a smirk.

“Of course,” Harry says breezily. “What else would it be?”

“Well,” Louis muses, pulling his cellphone out of his trousers' pocket. “How about I give you my number, and next time Juniper needs a check up you just text me instead?”

Harry nods solemnly, while his insides do a conga dance. “I think that could work.”

 

*

 

Their week of stalking each others' work places is followed by an equally riveting week of non stop texting. Louis forgoes what little sleep time he has in order to stay up late into the night talking with Harry.

“He ends every message with at least two x's,” Louis informs Niall over breakfast one morning. “Does that mean he wants to kiss me?”

“Pretty sure it means he's one of those people who end all their texts with x's,” Niall tells him casually. “But he probably wants to kiss you too. What with the constant texts and that whole bird stalking incident.”

“That's true,” Louis says triumphantly. “You don't sacrifice your pet bird for someone you don't want to make out with. You're a genius Niall!”

Niall nods and pats him on the back. “I know. Many have told me.”

“Alright oh wise one,” Louis snorts. “How about you use your genius and tell me how I can manage to see him again without paying the zoo entrance fee?”

“Simple,” Niall shrugs. “I'm playing a gig at the pub tonight. You and Zayn are already coming. Invite Harry to come and bring along some mates. That way you're not asking him out on some stressful date, but you get to chill with him all night in a casual setting.”

Louis stares at him for a long moment. “Your massive string of a casual girlfriends and confusingly adept way of getting women to talk to you is suddenly all making sense.”

Niall smirks. “I do all right.”

Louis resists the urge to point out that apparently he does all right with more than just girls now. Instead he pulls out his phone and busies himself with sending Harry an invitation text just as Zayn stumbles out of his bedroom and immediately steals Louis's tea.

“Oy,” he says half heartedly. “That's mine.”

Zayn shoots him a look. “I bought the tea bags, kettle and milk. What in this is yours?”

“Louis is inviting Harry and his mates to come see my gig tonight,” Niall crows happily. “S'gonna be a full house.”

Zayn smiles at Niall fondly. “Well that's good. Everyone loves to see you perform.” Louis raises his eyebrows in amusement and Zayn clears his throat awkwardly. “But watch out Lou, you don't want to get stuck in the friendzone or some shit.”

“The friendzone is a mythical place invented by self-entitled boys with a power complex,” Niall informs them both. “It doesn't exist.”

Louis laughs. “This is how you get girls isn't it? You say things like that.”

“You mean I'm respectful?” Niall asks loftily.

Zayn is frowning now, looking upset, while Niall continues to dig into his breakfast obliviously. Louis escapes the situation by logging onto twitter, immediately appalled with himself for not having thought to find Harry's twitter yet.

He quickly locates it, and begins scrolling through Harry's tweets only to conclude that almost none of them make any sense.

 

Harry Styles (@Harry_Styles)

Orange orange orange.

 

Harry Styles (@Harry_Styles)

The people look like flowers at last.

 

Harry Styles (@Harry_Styles)

Screll.

 

Harry Styles (@Harry_Styles)

“Is this your pet bird?”

 

Louis grins at Harry's tweet from last week, feeling irrationally successful at having made it into one of Harry's tweets. “He tweeted about me!” Louis exclaims to Niall and Zayn, fully expecting an enthusiastic response.

Niall says something mostly unintelligible, his mouth still full of bacon. Zayn is ignoring them, apparently sulking as he hunches over his sketch pad. A new tweet shows up on Harry's profile and Louis quickly scrolls up to read it.

 

Harry Styles (@Harry_Styles)

Pub night.

 

Sure enough, just as he reads the tweet, a message pops up from Harry on his phone agreeing to go and see Niall perform. “Success!” He exclaims. “He's coming!”

“Of course he's coming,” Niall says. “My plans always work.”

Louis leaves a pleased Niall at the breakfast table in order to go to his morning and afternoon lectures and then spends a disproportionate amount of his evening doing his hair and planning the perfect pub night/seduce Harry Styles outfit. Normally he would ask Zayn for fashion advice, but apparently Zayn's “muse” had hit that day, because he's immersed in a painting.

“You still coming to Niall's gig or are you busy being broody?” Louis asks as he examines his masterfully erected quiff in the mirror.

“Of course I'm coming,” Zayn says. “I would never miss Niall performing.”

“Good,” Louis responds. “Because Niall is going to be busy so I need you to wingman me.”

Zayn rolls his eyes. “So Niall would actually be your first choice then? You're just stuck with me because he's playing?”

“Don't be ridiculous,” Louis scoffs. “Daisy and Phoebe would be my first choice. They've already proven themselves to be very useful.”

Zayn shoots Louis a disgruntled look but eventually puts away his painting and leaves to slick up his hair and pull on his leather jacket, unfairly going from brooding slob to runway model in under two minutes.

“You're face is unfair,” Louis complains. “This is why you're my last choice for wingman. No one will even look at me with you around.”

Zayn smirks, looking thoroughly cheered up as he runs a casual hand through his hair. “I can't help it. When you've got it you've got it.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Louis grumbles. “Let's head out. Niall is probably already there and no doubt super pumped and surrounded by a crowd of admirers.”

The student pub is only a few blocks away from their flat, so despite Zayn's complaints about the fragile state of his boots they walk it. When they get there, as predicted, Niall is already three pints in and sitting at the centre of a huge group of people.

Louis pouts. “How come he has so many more friends than us? Tell me honestly Zayn, are we lame?”

“Louis!” Harry is waving at him excitedly from where he has just entered the pub with two mates in tow. “Hi!”

“Hey Harry!” Louis takes it back, he's definitely not lame, he's got this ridiculously attractive curly headed boy here to see him.

“I'm really excited to see Niall play,” Harry beams at Louis. “I love watching student musicians perform.”

“Hey, don't get all hipster on us Styles,” Louis grins. “He's not one your Middlesex student musicians playing some indie bullshit. He's more likely to rock out to some Justin Bieber tunes than anything else.”

“That's still cool,” Harry says, undeterred. “Ed plays at student pubs too. It's always a fun scene.” He gestures towards his friends hastily, as if remembering he had yet to introduce them. “Speaking of, these are my mates Ed and Liam.”

Liam is quite built, and Louis frowns as Zayn blatantly checks him out. Zayn and Niall are not aloud to actually be having a fight.. He doesn't know if he can cope with the stress that would put on their friend group.

“Let me buy you lot some pints,” Louis says loudly, slapping Zayn on the back.

“You don't have to do that Lou,” Harry immediately begins, looking both delighted and earnest. “I don't want you to spend all your money-”

“Oh don't worry,” Zayn rolls his eyes. “When he says he's going to buy you pints what he actually means is that he's going to get me to convince the bartender to give us a free round.”

Louis shrugs, unrepentant. “Got to use that face for something.”

In the end it's Niall who buys them all a round before disappearing again in a whirl of yelling people. Harry sips at his drink whilst angling himself into Louis's side. Louis happily puts an arm around Harry's shoulder. This night is going great.

“That Niall Horan then?” Ed asks curiously.

“Yeah,” Louis nods. “You know him?”

Ed shrugs. “Sort of. We kind of both had a thing with the same girl once. Not his fault or anything, just one of those awkward situations. No hard feelings now, I'm well over it.”

“Small world,” Louis muses. “I think I remember her actually. Niall was well over his head with that one-”

“Enough,” Zayn snaps.

“What-?” Louis begins.

“I get it. Niall is straight, anyone who thinks he would ever be something else is an idiot. Can we stop talking about this now?”

Louis blinks rapidly, unsure how to address a problem in a situation he's not supposed to know anything about. He's saved from that dilemma by Niall walking up on stage, guitar in hand. Niall's set list for the night consists of a fascinating mixture of Demi Lovato, Coldplay, and McFly.

Zayn, in a move that is vastly out of character for him, proposes they drink to Niall's in between song banter. The drinking game starts out simply enough with them taking a shot every time Niall informs the crowd that Demi Lovato is his celebrity crush (3 times). It then progresses to a shot for every time Niall professes his adoration of Mcfly (4 times). Finally, when Niall has likely let the power of the stage go to his head, they drink for his lengthy descriptions about how if given the chance he would probably do Chris Martin (2 times, but the visuals are glorious).

By the end of the night Louis is not entirely sure which way is up and which way is down. He vaguely notices Niall and Ed drunkenly hugging each other and then performing a dramatic duet of Say Something. He thinks he may have lost Zayn, which is a shame, but the truly important thing is that Harry has not left his side all night. In fact, sometime after Niall and Ed's third duet, Harry starts happily nuzzling his nose into Louis's neck while Louis has a wonderful time braiding Harry's curls.

And if at some point in the night Louis and Harry end up on the stage singing It's Raining Men while making lewd gestures at each other and most of the audience....well...at least there's no photographic evidence.

 

*

 

Harry is extremely confused when he wakes up and takes in his surroundings. Not only is he in his own bed, but he is alone. He'd been positive that he was going to end up going home with Louis. He'd already been planning out how he could make waking up with a hangover attractive.

He trots out to the kitchen pouting moodily, head pounding from the drinks he had consumed the night before and trying sadly to remember at what point he had lost Louis.

“Put some pants on Haz,” Liam says without heat from across the room. He's sitting on the couch watching tv and eating some cereal, looking refreshed and put together. Harry glares at him, offended by Liam's audacity to be both not hungover and to suggest that Harry clothes himself.

Liam rolls his eyes as he notices Harry's stormy expression. “Put some pants on and I'll give you a cuddle. You should be thanking me for getting you home in one piece.”

Harry ignores the pants idea and curls up half on top of Liam anyway. “So you got rid of Louis then?”

“You don't want a drunken fumble that neither of you remember the next day,” Liam tells him sternly. “You actually like this bloke. You deserve to be taken out on a proper date.”

Harry nods along. Liam is so smart. They should definitely go on a date before Harry gets Louis's dick in his mouth. That is for sure going to be a prerequisite.

“Here,” Liam nudges his face with a mug of tea. “Drink this and try to look less like you're going to die. You're making me pity you.”

Harry sips at the tea, because he is nothing but not obedient.

“I thought you said that Louis's mates were together?” Liam enquires, distracting Harry from his mantra of don't throw up, don't throw up.

“We're not supposed to know yet,” he informs Liam sleepily while burying his head into Liam's shoulder to escape all the bright lights. “But Lou says they are.|

“Well not exclusively I guess,” Liam says with a shrug. “One of them made a move on me. Went for the quick snog.”

“What?” Harry is abruptly wide awake and very alert. “LIAM.”

“It wasn't my fault,” Liam says indignantly. “I said no. Told him I was flattered and all but I wasn't in to dick.”

“LIAM.” Harry can really just not get over this. “Was it Niall or Zayn?”

“Zayn I think. The ridiculously attractive one with the photo-shopped facial structure.”

“I thought you were straight,” Harry pouts. “How did you manage to snog Zayn after knowing him for five seconds when I've not managed to snog Louis and it's been weeks .”

“I'm straight not blind,” Liam says snootily. “I can appreciate a nice face without wanting to squat over it, thank you very much.”

Harry has quite a few more questions for Liam, but he puts them aside for the moment because he now has a stellar reason for visiting Louis. He needs to update him on the latest drama in his best friends' lives. Also Harry can bring him tea for his hangover and play with his hair until he feels better like the perfect soon-to-be-boyfriend.

It's not like Louis's flat is particularly close to Harry's, but Harry texts Louis for his address and to inform him that it is a life or death situation and he will be over shortly.

Harry stops by his favourite coffee shop on the way there to pick up some tea for Louis, and then promptly worries that it's too “hipster” and he should have gone to Starbucks. Finally, after three different coffee shops and four anxious phone calls to Liam, Harry finds himself at Louis's door.

Louis opens the door with his eyes still closed, and it is the most endearing thing Harry has ever seen. Slowly, Louis peaks one eye open and stares at the two cups in Harry's hands. “Tea?” He croaks hopefully.

Harry quickly places one of the cups in Louis's outstretched hand. “I thought it might help with your hangover.”

“You are an angel on this earth Harry Styles,” Louis sighs happily as he takes a sip of his tea.

Harry preens from the compliment, and searches for a way to keep them coming. “I can make you breakfast too if you want. I think omelets are supposed to be good for hangovers.”

“How are you even real?” Louis groans as he lies back dramatically on his sofa. “Am I hallucinating you?”

“Maybe,” Harry says as he makes his way to Louis's fridge and takes out a carton of eggs. “I've been told I cook like a dream.”

All in all it is one of the best mornings Harry has ever had. Cooking does get a little stressful, as Louis continuously tries to distract him from the task at hand by throwing things at him. He glares at Louis and threatens him with bodily harm in response, because the first meal he cooks Louis is not allowed to be anything but perfect.

Luckily he does manage to finish breakfast without burning anything, and rewards himself on the accomplishment by cuddling up next to Louis and watching two episodes of Orange is the New Black while they both steadfastly ignore the fact that they are currently skipping their morning lectures.

“If I had to date a girl I think I would go with Nicky,” Louis says serenely as he sets his empty plate to the side and appraises the characters on the television screen. “She is perfection.”

“I'd go with Poussey,” Harry says after some serious contemplation. “She seems lovely.”

“You're lovely,” Louis mumbles in response, smiling sleepily and leaning his head against Harry's shoulder. Harry doesn't even try to restrain his answering beam as he tentatively reaches forward and pets Louis's hair. Louis thinks he's lovely and everything is right in the world.

He is abruptly dragged from his happy place by the sounds of Zayn sprinting to the bathroom and throwing up loudly into the toilet.

Louis makes a face and regrettably lifts his head from it's rightful place on Harry's arm. “That's weird, Zayn never gets that drunk. Did you even see where he got to last night?”

“He tried to stick his tongue in Liam's mouth,” Harry provides helpfully. “I think that's where he got to.”

“What?” Louis stares at him blankly. “Zayn and Liam?? You've known this all morning and neglected to tell me immediately?”

“Well Liam is very insistent on being straight,” Harry says sadly. “So I think Zayn's attempt to play tonsil tennis failed.”

“Please never call it tonsil tennis again,” Louis smacks the top of his head lightly. “You strange child. But shit, I really hope Zayn sorts his stuff out. It's literally impossible to have drama with Niall. He's way too chill for that. I have no idea how Zayn has managed it.”

“They should go on a date,” Harry recommends wisely. “A proper date. Then there won't be any mixed messaged about intentions any more.”

“Very smart Harry Styles,” Louis smiles at him. Harry considers tilting his head down so his curls will be in easy playing range for Louis. That might seem a little too eager though. He settles for petting Louis's hair a few more times. It's very soft.

“Speaking of dates,” Louis is looking at him nervously, and Harry is suddenly very alert. He's been waiting for this moment his entire life (or two weeks). “Do you maybe want to go out with me tomorrow night? Just so we don't have any mixed messages about intentions.” Louis grins hopefully at him, his face pale and eyes shifty, as if it is actually a possibility that Harry could say no.

“Yeah that sounds nice,” Harry blushes and fights back the urge to do a happy dance and send celebratory texts to Liam and Ed. “For like dinner?”

Louis scoffs. “I'm much more creative than just dinner. I'm going to blow you away Styles. It'll be the best date you've ever been on.”

“Tell me what we're going to do,” Harry whines. “I need to know what to wear.”

“Nope,” Louis smirks. “It's a surprise.”

This is vastly unfair, because how is Harry supposed to know what to wear if he doesn't know where they are going? He's about to complain some more when Zayn stumbles out of the bathroom, takes one look at Harry before going green and running straight back to the toilet.

“I think he might remember what he did,” Louis whispers.

“I think so too,” Harry whispers back.

 

*

 

When it comes to dating, Louis does not do things halfway. It's important that he seals the deal today, so to speak, and provides Harry with a date that is so incredible that he will be eager to repeat it in the future.

He had already decided on where he wanted to take Harry days ago. Louis can not imagine a single person who would not appreciate an afternoon at a butterfly sanctuary. Actually, he can imagine several people, but he is ninety-five percent certain that Harry is not one of them.

After carefully manipulating Zayn into filling up the gas tank on their slowly dying vehicle he sets off to pick Harry up. He, Zayn and Niall rarely use the car at all, mainly because they can't afford gas or insurance, but meeting Harry on the tube didn't seem nearly as romantic as actually picking him up with a vehicle. Even if this particular vehicle is one wrong speed bump away from quitting on him and retiring to a junk yard.

Louis doesn't even have a chance to get out of the car and go fetch Harry at his door like a proper gentleman before Harry is emerging from his flat complex. He waves excitedly at Louis and awkwardly trips over the curb as he rushes over to the passenger side of the car.

“You were supposed to at least let me open the car door for you,” Louis complains as Harry slides into his seat. “You're making me feel like a bad date.”

“Sorry, I was excited,” Harry says sheepishly. He looks ridiculously fit, wearing an unfairly low cut shirt that shows of his tattooed chest, and trousers that might even be tighter than the ones Louis had wrangled himself into an hour earlier.

“You look really nice,” Louis tells him in what has to be the understatement of the century. It's important he keeps his cool and doesn't accidentally salivate all over Harry's biceps. That would probably end badly.

“You too,” Harry says shyly. “Do I get to know where we're going yet?”

“No,” Louis grins. “You'll figure it out when we get there.”

“No fair,” Harry's tone is whiny, but he can't seem to wipe the huge smile off his face. “What if you're taking me somewhere to dump my body? No one will ever know where you took me.”

Louis rolls his eyes. “Oh yes, you caught me. That's exactly what I'm going to do.”

They chat easily for the entirety of the drive. Talking with Harry is as simple as breathing, and infinitely more fun. Harry slowly trails off and his eyes widen as Louis finally slows the car to a stop and he realizes where they are.

“How did you know?” Harry asks breathlessly. “Did Liam tell you?”

“What?” Louis asks blankly. “Do you like butterflies?”

Louis's heart just about drops out of his chest when Harry lifts his shirt up without warning. He's so caught off guard by the exposure of even more of Harry's perfect body that it takes him a moment to even realize what Harry is trying to show him. Tattooed across his stomach is a giant butterfly.

“You have got to be kidding me,” Louis is almost doubled over with laughter. “You do not actually have a giant tattoo of a butterfly on your body.”

Harry beams at him. “Do you like it?”

“Yes,” Louis grumbles, because he thinks he likes everything about Harry.

They make their way into Butterfly World, Harry already practically skipping with glee beside him. Louis is impressed with his own ingenuity. He had already thought his date idea was pretty good, now he is happily acknowledging that he is probably a genius with an instinct for romance.

Everything goes perfectly. They are given a brochure with a list of the one hundred or so different butterfly species that are flying their way around their indoor tropical home. He and Harry then wander over the little wooden bridge and around the tiny waterfall, trying to identify as many species as they possibly can. It's boiling hot, and Harry's skin is glistening in a way that should probably not be attractive but definitely is.

They take a seat on the little bench beside the waterfall and Harry leans back and points up at the ceiling. “I think I found a Blue Morpho.”

“There's the Forest Giant Owl,” Louis smiles, pointing to the right of Harry's head. “He's pretty cool looking.”

It's the best date Louis has ever been on. They spend half of their time there playing a game where they list a random species and see who can find it first and the other half naming butterflies things like Matilda and Reynold and making plans for the imaginary butterfly sanctuary they will open when they're older. Behaving like a childish idiot with a boy he likes is pretty much everything Louis could ask for.

Louis is already planning how to ask Harry out on another date and whether Harry will maybe want to grab dinner now before Louis drops him off back home, which is why it catches him off guard when he finds himself being forcefully shoved into the handicapped washroom.

He's not about to complain though, especially when Harry cups the back of his head with one large hand and pulls Louis into a searing kiss. Harry is clearly already worked up. He rubs his hands up and down Louis's sides and over his face as if he can't even come to a decision on where he wants to touch more. Louis tries to slow it down, smoothing a hand through Harry's sweaty curls and slowing his tongue's movement before nibbling gently at Harry's lower lip.

Harry moans into it and detaches them for a moment to pant breathlessly into Louis's neck, pressing their chests so tightly against each other that there is no space between them. “Wanna blow you,” he mumbles, before sucking harshly on the side of Louis's neck.

Louis can barely breathe, feeling hot and smothered by the tropical temperature that the sanctuary is kept at to keep the butterflies happy. “Here?” He rasps. “You want to blow me in the handicapped bathroom of a butterfly sanctuary primarily used for family outings and primary school field trips?”

“Want to,” Harry says obstinately. “We went on the best date and now I want to suck you.”

Louis swears loudly. Harry can't just say things like that. “Okay,” he says weakly, feeling slightly faint from how turned on he is. “Have at it then.”

Harry drops to his knees so fast that Louis is somewhat concerned he might have injured himself. He doesn't waste any time once there either, hastily unzipping Louis's fly and pealing his skin tight jeans and pants down his thighs all at once.

Harry seems to calm down slightly once he's got Louis's cock out, taking his time sucking marks down the crease of Louis's thighs while Louis leans heavily on the wall. “You're teasing,” he pants breathlessly.

He gets a tiny smirk in response, before Harry is focused once more, licking a long stripe up the side of his cock that makes Louis's hips twitch forward involuntary. Louis groans loudly, barely considering the fact that there might be people outside, as Harry continues upward, giving the tip of his cock little kitten licks and swirling his tongue around the head before lapping up the precome he finds there.

Finally, Harry seems to decide he's done with teasing, as he grips tightly around the base of Louis's cock and swallows him down until his lips are touching the top of his fist. Louis moans loudly, hands darting forward with the intention of grabbing on to Harry's curls before he regains his self control and yanks them back to his side. Lips stretched wide around his cock, Harry peaks up at Louis from under long eyelashes with a cruelly innocent expression on his face.

Slowly, Harry begins to bob up and down. Louis actually has to close his eyes for a moment against the image of his wet cock repeatedly entering and leaving Harry's warm mouth. He gently twines his hands through Harry's curls, just to rest them there lightly, not to push or tug. Harry seems to take it as a personal challenge though, as he removes the hand he had around the base of Louis's cock and is suddenly swallowing further down, moving his head forward until his nose connects with Louis's lower stomach.

“Holy fuck,” Louis gasps out. He can feel the tip of his cock nudging the back of Harry's throat. Harry continues to move up and down, gasping and spluttering consistently now, slobbering messily around Louis's cock and blinking back the tears that are building up in the corner of his eyes. “Holy fucking shit,” Louis groans again.

Harry pulls off for a moment, breathing harshly. He seems to take a second to pull himself together, moving his head down to run his tongue up the seam of Louis's sack and nose at the base of his cock as he catches his breath. Louis takes deep gulps of air as well, running his hands through Harry's sweaty curls and gently rubbing his thumb over Harry's swollen lower lip.

Harry moves up again, drawing just the tip of Louis's cock back between his lips and sucking harshly. Louis feels his cock twitch violently, and he knows the game is up. “Gonna come,” he gasps out. Harry nods, letting Louis's cock slip out from between his lips as he he starts to move his hand up and down the slick skin instead.

“Alright,” Harry mumbles, voice hoarse and scratchy as he tilts his face upwards, “On my face please.”

“Polite,” Louis gasps, hips jolting forwards, once, twice before he is spurting over Harry's cheeks and mouth. Harry's mouth instinctively opens so that he can catch some on his tongue and all Louis can do is squeeze his eyes shut and ride it out. When he opens his eyes again to see that Harry's lips are still red, swollen, and coated with Louis's come he could swear that it's a visual that will stay with him for the rest of his life.

Harry stays frozen on his knees for several long seconds after, body tense and fists clenched. Louis looks down and realizes that Harry must be painfully hard in his skin tight jeans. His brain feels slow and sluggish, but he manages to quickly open Harry's fly and slip his hands into Harry's pants to tightly grasp his cock. Louis gives one long, hard tug before Harry crumples to the ground, coming all over his jeans and Louis's arm with a loud wail.

“Sorry,” Harry mumbles, voice fucked out and cheeks red with embarrassment. “Too fast. You're hot.”

“That's okay,” Louis says dumbly. He gets up to grab some paper towel, gently wiping off the come drying on Harry's face. He's afraid that the wet splotches on Harry's jeans might just be a lost cause.

“We should,” he begins hesitantly. “Umm there might be a line.”

“Yeah,” Harry says hoarsely. “Yeah.”

“Okay.” Gently, Louis pulls Harry to his feet, tucking his arm around him and drawing him tightly against his side. They are both panting and sweaty. Strenuous sexual activities in tropical temperatures is likely not the best idea they've ever had. Then again, from the way his knees are still shaking, Louis thinks it might actually be the very best idea.

Thankfully, there is no one waiting outside when they nervously slip out of the washroom. They hastily stumble out to their car, giggling into each others' shoulders the whole way. Louis drives them to buy milkshakes, and they sit in the parking lot of a gas station, holding the cold cups to their sweaty foreheads and smiling shyly at each other.

It's the best date Louis has ever been on.

 

*

 

Harry spends his Friday afternoon baking penguin cookies. Obviously, he already owns a penguin cookie cutter (what kind of person doesn't after all). He also keep his kitchen well stocked with icing and various food dyes. Which means he finishes the afternoon with a container full of black and white penguins that have little orange beaks and purple bow ties.

Liam slowly makes his way into the kitchen just as Harry is finishing up and stares at the cookies for several long seconds. “What are you doing?”

“Making cookies for Louis,” Harry informs him. Liam had been in test hibernation for the last week and a half, and had therefore completely missed the Louis date blow job debacle. Studying to be an engineer means that Liam is usually hopelessly out of the loop and buried under a mountain of textbooks while he intermittently complains abut how Harry has it so easy as a science student (which is unfair because Harry thought that they were only allowed to look down on arts students).

“He's coming over tonight,” Harry kindly fills Liam in. “We're going to have sex.”

Liam blinks rapidly. “You've scheduled this in?”

Harry sighs. He had rather hoped that Ed would have kept Liam updated. “Well I blew him after our first date because you told me I could and-”

“What?” Liam splutters. “I didn't tell you that!”

“Yes you did,” Harry pouts. “You said I needed to go on a date with him before I suck him-”

“Definitely not my wording,” Liam mutters under his breath.

“Anyway,” Harry continues heedlessly, “We've been on a bunch of dates since then so we're basically in a committed relationship-”

“You do realize that you have to actually mutually decide to be in a committed relationship, you can't just declare that you're in one-”

“Liam it's rude to interrupt,” Harry says sternly “He's coming over tonight for dinner and a movie and it's for sure going to happen.”

It is going to happen. Harry can sense it. Their last few dates had been lovely. They had taken the tube to go see a movie for the first one (and then spent the whole ride making out and accidentally missed their stop hence missing most of the movie). They had gone on a few of what Louis likes to call “trendy hipster coffee lunch dates” in between classes where they trade notes and complain about memorizing the digestive cycle of an annelid all while sipping overpriced lattes. He and Louis had even gone for a lovely bike ride through the park on one particularly nice day (that lasted approximately ten minutes because physical activity is difficult and they both had long labs the next day). The problem with all these dates, however, was the noticeable lack of a bed.

Harry is not opposed to outdoor or public washroom sex, but he's come to the conclusion that their first time together should probably be on a bed. His knees and back had hurt for days after the butterfly sanctuary bathroom encounter, and his sensitive old man joints really have to be taken into consideration here.

Harry is somewhat nervous as Liam claps him on the back and leaves so he can have the flat to himself. He gives himself a mental peptalk as he paces the kitchen. He has condoms, lube, and penguin shaped cookies. What more could Louis possibly want from him?

Louis shows up at Harry's doorstep at exactly seven, looking exhausted and messy. “Six hour shifts are the worst,” he complains, plopping himself down on Harry's sofa immediately. “I think I still smell like bird shit.”

This is a fact Harry is willing to overlook. He also often smells like bird shit. The penguins, and Herbert in particular, can be a bit inconsistent with their excretory habits sometimes. “You smell lovely,” he tell Louis seriously. “Like flowers.”

“That is blatantly untrue,” Louis snorts. “But thank you for lying for me.”

The night goes perfectly. They eat the fajitas Harry made and Louis curls up against his side while they watch a romcom on Netflix. Harry is pleased. He thinks he might be getting proper good at this wooing thing. He gets a bit more nervous as the night progresses, because it's very important that he pretends to be cool so that Louis will want to sleep with him and date him and marry him and have three children and move to the country with him. Basically, he's kind of got a lot riding on this night.

When the movie finishes and Louis seems in danger of dozing off Harry quickly grabs the cookies and makes his way back to the couch. He had a bit of a plan for how this part would go. They would make a few penguin related puns, giggle and eat cookies, make out for a bit, and then slowly and seamlessly make their way to the bedroom. It was going to discrete and romantic and wonderful. Instead, when Louis's face breaks into a grin at the sight of the cookies, Harry momentarily loses his mind and blurts out, “I made penguin cookies, do you want to fuck?”

Louis stares at him blankly. Harry gulps. That was not supposed to come out of his mouth. Apparently he needs to spend some serious time working on his brain to mouth thought control.

“Yeah alright,” Louis says finally. “Works for me.”

They stare at each other for another long moment before breaking out into giggles. “You're ridiculous,” Louis mumbles as he pulls Harry next to him on the couch, smiling as he runs as thumb over Harry's dimple.

They take their time kissing, slowly exploring each others' mouths. Harry feels warm and content, this is what he had wanted. He wanted to fuck, but he also wanted slow and soft and nice. He wants everything with Louis.

Harry can feel a flush spreading from his face down to his chest the longer they remain pressed together. He squirms anxiously into the kiss, cock painful where it's pressed against the inseam of his zipper.

“Off,” Louis mumbles, tugging at the collar of Harry's shirt. “Naked time now.”

Harry giggles and quickly scrambles backwards, tugging off his shirt and briefly falling over and smacking his head against the coffee table as he gets hopelessly tangled while trying to peal his trousers off.

“Ridiculous,” Louis smiles at him fondly as he helps him back onto the couch and carefully eases his trousers down his legs.

Harry can only whimper as Louis's wrist accidentally grazes his cock. “Louis,” he whines.

“Okay,” Louis is staring at him in awe, like he's the best thing he's ever seen. “Turn around then, maybe? If you want?”

Harry immediately turns around, sprawling his upper body and arms over the sofa's arm and arching his back so that his arse is perfectly poised in front of Louis's face.

“Shit,” Louis swears, and Harry hides his smile in the fabric of the sofa, feeling slutty and anxious and important all at once.

“Lube is under the couch,” Harry manages to provide helpfully. He had been very careful about making sure lube was left in easily accessible places all around the flat.

He waits for the sound of a lube bottle opening, but instead he feels Louis's hot breath on the back of his thighs before his arse cheeks are being pulled apart and Louis is licking broadly over his hole. Harry seizes up, unable to do anything but tremble and stammer out little half sounds.

Louis continues to sweep his tongue back and forth over Harry's hole, teasing by dipping it in a fraction of a centimeter before darting it back out again. Harry reaches back to try to spread his arse cheeks open wider for Louis with his fingers, and wails pathetically when Louis slaps them away.

He almost collapses when Louis finally goes for it, screwing his tongue deep inside Harry. He twists and turns his tongue, and his facial scruff burns the sensitive skin around Harry's hole, but it's a good burn. Everything is good.

Harry frantically twists his own hand underneath him, too overwhelmed to wait as he tugs desperately at his cock.

“Stop it,” Louis raises his head for a moment. “Not yet.”

Harry can only wail in response, twisting his hands into the cushion beneath him and holding on tightly. He thinks it might last forever. Everything is wet, and good, and he actually has to muffle his scream by biting into the arm of the sofa when Louis slips a lube slick finger in alongside his tongue.

Louis smooths a hand up and down the small of his back soothingly, but nothing can calm Harry down. He twists around frantically when he feels a familiar feeling building in the pit of his stomach, but Louis only grips Harry's hips firmly with one hand and continues to lick into him with added vigour, one finger nudging insistently at his prostate the whole time.

Fuck fuck fuck, Harry buries his face into the sofa's arm and comes in several long waves that rack through his body, making him tremble and gasp with the intensity of it. He thinks that squealing noise he hears might be him, but he's too out of it to even feel embarrassed.

His jaw hurts when he finally pulls himself together, and he belatedly realizes that he's had his mouth clamped around the fabric of the sofa arm the entire time he'd been coming. He coughs, mouth dry and yucky, and twists his head around to peak back at Louis. Bad idea, because Louis is looking at him with an expression that makes his cock twitch and his face heat up even more than it already is.

“Ummm,” he says eloquently. “I came on the sofa.”

“Yes,” Louis seems breathless but amused. “You did.”

“I'm not supposed to,” Harry says dumbly. “Li and Ed and I have a deal not to come on our furniture.”

“Better move to a bed now then,” Louis smirks, and Harry immediately forgets all about how he's going to have to try to hide this from Liam.

He stumbles towards his bedroom, tugging Louis, who is giggling into his shoulder, alongside him. “You're cute,” Harry tells him seriously as he stares at Louis's face.

Louis blushes, and Harry beams even harder. “

He crawls onto his bed on his hand and knees, hoping to keep it so his arse is easily accessible to Louis's tongue and fingers and hopefully dick to enter. He hears Louis splutter behind him, and counts his crawling technique as a success.

Louis opens him up slowly, one finger, followed by two, followed by three. Harry squirms happily against his soft sheets, contorting his body backwards every few seconds for kisses. He wants all of Louis's kisses.

Louis continues to thrust three fingers roughly against his prostate with one hand, and fits the other hand under Harry's torso to work Harry back to full hardness. Harry twitches his hips around uncertainly, drawn and tense, unable to decide whether he wants to rut backwards into Louis's fingers or forward into Louis's hand. He's come twice in one sitting before, but this already feels so much more intense and overwhelming than any other experience he's ever had.

“Condoms?” Louis asks, mouthing at the base of Harry's back before kissing a line up his spine.

“Under the bed,” Harry mumbles in response, still unable to help the whine he lets out when he feels Louis withdraw his fingers.

There's rustling behind him for a few moments, and then he feels the head of Louis's cock nudging against his stretched hole. “Louis,” he whimpers into his pillow. “Go.”

Louis eases into him, and it hurts a bit, the pain shooting up his spine, but it's the good type of hurt. Always the good type of hurt. He doesn't want Louis to wait for him to adjust, so he slams his hips backwards, fucking himself frantically on Louis's cock. He can't breathe for a moment, because it's all just too good too fast, and Louis has to clutch onto his hips to slow his movements down, gentling them.

It's slow for a few moments, just drawn-out grinding against Harry's prostate that makes him slobber over his pillow and clench the sheets in his fists. “Faster,” he manages to mumble. “I'm good.”

Louis's thrusts get fast then, thighs slapping against Harry's arse deliciously. Harry's hole feels reamed and sore, but he finds he still never wants it to stop. Eventually, his arms and legs give out, and all he can do is rut with no momentum against the bed while Louis is completely splayed over him, pounding into him at an unrelenting pace.

His second orgasm is ripped out of him unexpectedly, and he cries into his pillow as his thighs tremble and his cock remains sandwiched against the bed, limp and wet and oversensitive. All he can do is breathe harshly as Louis's thrusts continue, and when Louis finally comes, Harry can not stop shaking, everything still feeling on the edge of being too good.

He thinks Louis gets up for a second to throw out the condom, but then he is being turned over, his head pillowed against Louis's chest while Louis murmurs compliments into his hair. Harry smiles, completely content to stay like that indefinitely.

They do get up after some time has passed, but only to splash off their sweaty faces and change into sweatpants. Then they snuggle back up into bed, munching on penguin cookies (the perfect post sex snack, Harry decides proudly) and watching a nature documentary on sting rays.

Harry is so happy that he chooses to not think about what Liam will say when he comes home to see a large come stain on their sofa. That particular problem can be left for another day.

 

*

 

The next morning is great. Harry complains loudly about being sore and then promptly offers to ride Louis. Louis can only roll his eyes and suggest they exchange blow jobs in the shower instead. He considers it to be a good compromise.

Louis feels pretty successful about this whole week if he's being honest. It took him less than a month to land someone who is ridiculously attractive, sweet, smart, and works at the zoo with penguins . This is by far the best thing he's ever done with his life.

Despite it being a Saturday, they make their way on campus after breakfast to see a guest lecturer who's doing a speech on her revolutionary new research based around the eyestripe surgeonfish. Louis has been counting down to it for weeks, and is incredibly eager to get her to sign his vertebrate biology textbook. Which according to Zayn is stupid, but makes perfect sense to him and Harry.

They pop by his flat quickly beforehand to grab his textbook, and are met with the sight of Niall and Zayn glaring at each from across the kitchen as they silently make their own breakfasts without interacting. “Well this seems friendly,” Louis grumbles. “Have you guys seriously not sorted this out yet?”

“I don't know what you're talking about,” Zayn glares into his cereal bowl. “Everything is fine.”

“Everything's not fine,” Niall's glare is already melting from his face. Louis doesn't think he even knows how to be properly mad at someone. Now he just looks bewildered and upset. “I don't understand what's going on. You tried to kiss Harry's friend right in front of me and now you won't even talk to me. What did I do?”

Zayn has always looked out for Niall, and Louis knows that seeing him upset will already be enough to make him drop the tough act. “What does it matter?” Zayn says, hurt. “You're straight anyway.”

Niall stares at him in confusion. “No I'm not.”

“What?” Zayn frowns. “Yes you are.”

“Well obviously I'm not,” Niall says in annoyance. “Seeing as I've been fucking you.”

Zayn blinks rapidly. “But you never said...you've always dated girls.”

Niall shrugs. “I didn't think it mattered. I always liked girls, and now I like you. Should I have had a coming out party?”

Zayn stares at him for a moment before leaping forward, pulling a flailing Niall into a long, slow kiss that lasts for several minutes. Louis and Harry stand awkwardly by the door tapping their feet.

“Are we allowed to know about it now?” Harry whispers to Louis.

“You knew?” Zayn finally draws back from Niall, who looks like he is in another world entirely, and glares at Louis.

“I'm not blind you know,” Louis says. “Frankly I'm offended that you thought I hadn't figured it out.”

“Yeah, it was pretty obvious that he knew,” Niall says, still looking slightly dazed from the kiss.

“You knew that he knew?” Zayn demands, although he says it fondly now that he is staring at Niall again.

“This relationship has been fraught with miscommunication,” Louis exclaims dramatically. “Honestly you guys could really learn a lot from me and Harry. Next time you need relationship advice come to us.”

Harry nods wisely. “It's true. We are very good at communication. I can even give you an example.” Harry turns to look at Louis with a fake casual expression on his face. “So we're like officially a couple right? Because I don't make penguin cookies for just anyone.”

“Obviously,” Louis answers with a grin that threatens to split his face in half. “I don't pay the overpriced zoo entry fee for just anyone either.”

They continue to smile at each other (ignoring Zayn whining about how he had been the one to pay the last entry fee).

“I kind of want to have a coming out party now,” Niall muses from behind them. “Could be a right good time.”

Louis swats Niall over the head while Zayn nods supportively.

“Can I invite Liam?” Harry asks seriously.

Zayn goes red, Niall frowns, and Louis pats Harry proudly on the head. His boyfriend is perfect.