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if it hurts to breathe, open the window

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Your unshackled boy,

unrestrained to touch,

so immune to love.



Harry wakes up to the rhythmic lull of rain pounding against the building, navy-coloured curtains drawn back, the gloomy light slipping through the windows and framing the person standing above him. He’s wearing tight briefs that dig into his thighs, a loose gray shirt, and in one hand he’s got a mug of tea, the other holding a bottle of Advil.

Probably an angel, Harry thinks, and rolls onto his back, yawning. The bloke steps away from the bed, a little like he’s surprised Harry’s even alive. Harry sort of understands the feeling, because he can feel the beginnings of a truly spectacular hangover dawning over him, and wonders exactly how much he drank last night. Then he wonders when the bloke will hand over the goods.

“Morning,” he says, and clears his throat to repeat it because it came out more or less as an intangible rumble. “Good morning.” He pushes himself up onto his elbows, one hand dragging the comforter up along with himself, because he’s pretty sure he’s fully nude and it’s a little chilly.

“Hiya,” the bloke says, and extends his hands out. “How do you feel?”

“Like shit,” he says and takes the mug first, sniffing it. He draws the tea bag out for a second and observes it before letting it drop back in. “Feroosh…?”

“Toughest tea I know, all the way from the deserts,” the guy says, and places the bottle of pills on the nightstand dutifully sitting by Harry’s side of the bed. It nudges a pile of cards, and Harry squints at them. “It helped me, anyway, so I thought you could use it, too.”

“Thank you,” Harry says, and the guy gives him a half-smile, knotting one hand into the side of his shirt before he makes his way out of the room. Harry watches him go, mostly eyeing his arse, before he places the mug down on the nightstand and picks up one of the cards.

They’re business cards, he realizes, for a tattoo parlour. His name’s Louis Tomlinson, and Harry can kind of recall him whispering Louis in his ear last night at the club, when he’d asked for his name. He didn't have to give him his name in return, though, and that used to feel good at the beginning, but now he wishes he could.

He has two Advils and downs half of the tea along with them, uses the bathroom he finds at the end of the hallway, changes back into his sticky and slightly gross clothes, slips one of the business cards into his pocket and heads to the living room. He can hear the fan over the stove working loudly, along with the reporter on the sports network recounting the scores for the last game, and when he peeks into the kitchen, there’s a pan full of oil crackling loudly on the burner, and Louis’ tossing bacon into it.


“Uh,” he says, “you should probably be a little more careful, mate.” Louis turns around to look at him, one eyebrow arched rather elegantly, like he deals with imbeciles often, just as Harry’s phone rings in his pocket. His hand drops down to it and he gives Louis a little apologetic smile before heading back to the living room, sitting down on the edge of the single hard gray couch.

“Hello?” he whispers into the phone, though Louis’ just opened the tap, letting the water splash into the sink freely, and is singing, so he thinks Louis isn't really interested in his conversation.

“Where the fuck are you, pumpkin?” Caroline asks cheerfully, and he has to hold his phone away to suppress a shiver. She’s lovely, really, but she can be scary as all fuck.

“Still alive,” he says, “and about to be fed. Here by will, too, not kidnapped.”

“That’s great, I need you sent back to me well-fed and happy,” she replies coolly, and that’s not. Good. Not good at all. He can hear Nick laughing his fucking head off in the background and rolls his eyes. “Now tell me where I should send the car.”

“Uh,” he says, and holds the phone away from himself. “Louis! What’s your address?”

Louis yells it back at him, and he relays it into the phone. “Come get me in a half hour?” he asks.

“No,” she says, “right now.” And she hangs up on him. It was expected, though, and he sighs, shutting his phone.

“Well,” Louis calls from the kitchen, “are you sticking around for breakfast?”

He sighs and wonders how he could say it in a better way then no, because I’m a twenty year old man that has a curfew I surpassed and now my team’s angry at me. He clears his throat instead and jiggles his knee as Louis appears in the entryway, holding the spatula and looking every inch of Harry’s wet dreams. He’s shifting from foot to foot, smoothing a hand over his long fringe, like he can’t possibly stand still, and that reminds Harry of why he sought him out in the club last night. Hyperactive people are his favourite, because they rival his reluctant old soul.

“I can’t, sorry,” he sighs, and Louis doesn't look all too surprised. “I’ve got to get back. I wish I could’ve, though.” Mostly because he’s really in mood to go for another round like last night, his eyes glued to where Louis’ shirt had ridden up, showing off two horizontal bruises on his hips.

Louis waves the hand holding the spatula in dismissal. “Oh, it’s alright. It was lovely meeting you, though, Harry.”

“It was lovely meeting you, too,” Harry smiles, and at least it’s not a lie, even though he can’t really remember much from last night. He pushes himself up from the couch and heads over to Louis, giving him a peck on the cheek. When he pulls back, Louis looks a little baffled, but he’s grinning back at him.

Harry knows, though, as he leaves the building and heads to the carpark, he’s pretty much fucked.


He doesn't think about it for a week after he finally starts forgetting it ever actually happened.

He’d come back to an earful from Caroline, and then a consecutive earful from Meredith, as Ben and Nick just tried not to laugh at him. Then he had two shows back to back, and a phone interview with Finchy for Radio 1, and he’s utterly spent, dropping onto the bed in his hotel room like a puppet whose strings have been cut.

He’s staying in London for a few more days though, with nothing to do except hide from paps and chill with the group, and he thinks about heading to the pool or maybe calling Gemma and seeing what’s up as he changes out of his clothes when he finds the card again. He pulls it out and stares at it, tapping his finger against its edge before sighing and grabbing his phone.

He waits for three rings before someone picks up. “Hanger tattoos and piercings, Zayn speaking, what can I do for you.” He sounds so bored as he says it, like he’s been drained of everything and doesn't give a shit anymore. Harry admires it.

“I’d like to schedule an appointment for today if possible,” he says.

He doesn't reply at first, but there’s noises like he’s typing on a keyboard, so he waits. “How is eight?”

“Eight is great,” he replies, and smiles at his own cleverness. The guy on the other end sighs.


His smile falters a little. Fuck. “Er, Harry.”

“Full name,” he says.

“Harry Styles.”

He doesn't respond for a while, before there’s a thudding noise. “Is this a joke?”

“No, I swear it’s not,” he says, and the card is almost crumpled in his grip now. There’s no reply for a while again, and he pulls his phone back to see if he’s hung up, but then his voice rings out again.

“Alright. You’re set up for eight… Harry.”

He beams at the ceiling. “Thank you.”

“Yeah,” he says, and hangs up. Normally, he’d be a little off-put, but for some reason, he feels quite good right now. He closes his phone too, and places it on the nightstand, before he rolls off the bed and continues to pull off the rest of the clothes before he heads to the ensuite bathroom.


The look on Louis’ face is wonderful, really. Harry’s discussing the tattoo he wants with Zayn, who is just as pretty as his voice suggested he’d be, shiny dark hair and covered in ink, when Louis steps to the front, dragging latex gloves off his wrists.

“Z, have you got any more cotton--” he says, and stops, meeting Harry’s eyes. “Harry?”

“That is me,” Harry says, and grins. Louis looks wonderful himself, in a muscle shirt reading The Stone Roses and showing off all his own ink. His jeans are tighter than Harry’s, and there are dark circles under his eyes and his hair is tatty and wild, and there’s a sex bruise on the bend of his elbow Harry didn't give to him.

“That is you,” he echoes lightly, stepping up to the counter. “What are you getting…?”

“Fucking ferns,” Zayn mutters under his breath. Louis raises an eyebrow.

“Ferns?” he asks, and Harry nods, pressing his hands to the front of his hips.

“Yep,” he says, “right here. What do you think?”

Louis blinks. “Uh. I don't know. Go for it, I guess.”

Harry watches as Zayn leans into him, bumping their shoulders together. It’s slightly distracting that they both nearly have the same width of slim shoulders, and they’re both a ridiculously small and pretty sight for sore eyes. “You’re inking him.”

His eyebrows nearly disappear under his shaggy fringe. “I am?”

“Yeah,” he says, and grins at the wall, maliciously. Harry’s slightly frightened by him. “Harry, if you’d follow Lou to the back now, please.”

Harry gives him a little smile before following after Louis, who leads him to a curtained-off area in the back. He barely steps inside the space before Louis’ shutting the curtains and spinning around to look at him accusingly. “What are you doing here?”

“I’m here to get a new tattoo,” Harry says, and grins at him. Louis glares back.

“Alright,” he says, and pulls a stool up by the leather chair sat in the middle of the space, motioning towards it. “Sit down.”

Harry sits down, adjusting himself to feel more comfortable as Louis heads over to the tray in the corner. He watches him fix the arrangement of the tools around for a moment, piling the cotton balls up by each other and the rolls of gauze before he takes the tattoo gun and adjusts it.

“Ferns,” he says under his breath, “that’s pretty dumb, I’m not going to lie.”

“I have a butterfly on my stomach,” Harry says. Louis turns back to him, looking only slightly horrified.

“What?” he asks, and then demands “let me see it, Christ.”

Harry thinks about not showing it to him before relenting, curling his fingers around the hem of his shirt before tugging it up. He folds it underneath his pecs and Louis stands above him, eyes glued to the tattoo.

“It’s actually a moth,” Harry says after a moment.

“Doesn't make it any less ugly,” Louis says, and drags on a new pair of latex gloves.

Harry closes his eyes when Louis gets started, wiping down his right hip first before penning it. He always twitches at the first touch of the needle against his skin, curls his hands into fists by his side as he tries to get used to it, but he usually doesn't feel it too badly after the first few minutes. It’s actually one his favourite things to do, getting tattoos, because it calms him down for some reason.

It feels a lot better than it ever has before, though, because even through the latex, Louis’ hands are cool against his warm hip, pulling his skin taut, humming as he works. He sets up a nice rhythm, too, drawing for a while before dabbing over the prickles of blood and ink with a rag, thumbing over it before going back to the needle.

“It actually looks pretty sick,” he says before he starts on his other hip. Harry hums, doesn't open his eyes to check, because for some reason he trusts that. He’s also sure Louis can fully see how he’s stiffening up under the flies of his jeans, and he doesn't want to make eye contact with him because of that, even though he’s sure Louis’ used to it.

It takes a while, even longer than the birds he has inked over his collar bones had taken, and he doesn't really pay attention to it but it still feels like it goes quickly. Louis cleans up the blood and smudges slowly before bandaging him up, flicking his temple when he’s finished. “Hey, it’s done.”

Harry blinks his eyes open slowly, reaching down to thumb over the gauze, before nodding. “Thanks.”

“No problem,” Louis says, and stands up, pulling the gloves off before tossing them into the rubbish bin. He waits for Harry to pull his shirt down again and holds the curtain open for him, following him to the front counter, where Zayn’s waiting, in his jacket, bags piled on the counter. Harry wants to crack a joke about infidelity here but doesn't when he remembers that that’s not really the funniest thing to most people, and he doesn't know how they’d react, if they’d laugh it off or go horribly awkward.

He smiles at Zayn instead and waits for him to ring it up, watching Louis pull on his own jacket behind the counter. “Done for the day?” he asks, trying for nonchalant and probably coming off as anything but.

“Yeah, pretty much,” Louis says without looking at him. “It is, like, ten, innit.”

The clock hanging on the wall above Louis’ head confirms that it is indeed ten. He waits for Zayn to hand him the receipt and waits for him to peck Louis’ cheek before leaving, watching him head out the door. When he looks back to Louis, he’s staring at him with that familiar arched eyebrow.

“What can I do for you now?” he asks, and Harry shoves his hands into his pockets, rocking back on his heels.

“D’you wanna come get a drink with me?” he asks, and it’s a little hard to tell how Louis’ feeling, because he just looks the same, blinking at Harry slowly.

“Not really,” he says, and zips up his jacket. Harry’s never felt rejection, and he doesn't really fancy it, apparently.

“Uh,” he says, “why? If you don't mind me asking.”

Louis shrugs. “I don't think it’s a good idea.”

He disappears behind the black curtain again as Harry stares down at the counter, trying to collect his thoughts, appearing with his backpack, closing the lights. “Why do you think that?”

“Well, I’m not in mood for being sent death threats from preteens, first of all. I also don't want anyone to see me and put it on the cover of a tabloid, calling me your new mystery man or whatever. I think that’s pretty sufficient, huh?”

It is, but when he tries to pass Harry to leave, Harry loosely cups a hand around his shoulder to stop him. “No one has to see us. I could, like, put my head down. Or we could have a drink at my hotel--”

“A drink in your hotel room,” Louis repeats, “if I didn't know better I’d think you had double intentions.” He shrugs his shoulder out of Harry’s grip. “Wait, I actually don't know better, so.”

“I’m not like that,” Harry tells him, and then “just a drink, or, like, supper. Are you hungry?”

He’s rambling now, but it’s his nervous habit, to cover everything up. Louis’ still looking at him carefully, considering, and Harry’s shoulders go slack when he sighs. “One drink.”

“One drink, I promise,” he says, grinning, and Louis shoos him out. He waits by the doors as Louis closes the rest of the lights and locks the doors after himself, stepping out into the darkness with a white smile.

“Alright, rock star,” he says, and extends his hand for Harry to take. “Show me what you got.”


It’s funny, that Louis was so adamant on only one drink. He goes far overboard without any prompting from Harry. Harry actually just sits beside him and watches him down shot after shot, talking nonsense in between every drink, and calling the bartender down.

“Wanna dance?” he asks now, gluing himself to Harry’s front, poking his chest. He’s nearly falling off his chair, and Harry slides a hand underneath his arm to keep him held up. “C’mon,” he slurs, and pokes Harry’s dimple.

“I don't think we should,” Harry replies, and heaves him back up onto his stool. Louis doesn't look satisfied with that answer though, and he pushes Harry away and slides down onto his feet, drunkenly stumbling into the crowd, identical to the first time they met, except that time Harry was glued to his back, and this time he’s--not.

He’s not going to follow, though, because even if Louis’ drunk he’s not going to go against his promise.  He turns back to the bar and mourns over his bottle of Stella, ignoring the advances of drunk club-goers trying to pull him out on the floor.

Louis comes back a while later, hooking his chin over Harry’s shoulder and poking his side. “C’mon, it’s no fun without you.”

Harry shakes his head, and Louis huffs, wandering away again. He’s a teeny person against the other guys, softer looking even with his scruff and sharp edges, and it affects Harry in ways that makes him feel almost uncomfortable.

He keeps watching this time, though, as Louis fumbles around, stopping in front of a few guys and girls, almost looking them over before he goes to the next. He finally stops in front of some big burly dudes.

It’s a petty lie. They’re both actually very handsome, and it makes Harry twitch a little.

“Harry!” Louis yells at him, and even though it’s barely heard over the music and yelling, Harry snaps out of it, meeting his eyes in horror. He’s caught the attention of a whole bunch of people around him, who all look over at who he was yelling at. It’s how he’s suddenly bombarded as Louis goes off with those two guys, hands over his mouth, eyes wide.

When Harry finally shoves through everybody he finds them dancing near the middle of the floor, Louis squished in the middle of them, not exactly looking excited. When he sees Harry approaching, though, he redoubles his efforts so painfully obvious, and Harry rolls his eyes, grabbing his wrist and pulling him into his chest.

“Oh,” Louis mumbles, “so now y’wanna dance. Jerk.”

Louis doesn't leave him, though, just turns around in the circles of his arms and tips his head back, smiling. He looks more excited now, and as the music progresses, he gets properly into it, skin shining with sweat, hair toussling down, lashes long against his cheeks, flushed pink from alcohol. He feels so, so good pressed against Harry, who’s stopped trying to keep up with him and instead is just watching, feeling the smallest bit possessive, taking how he shines under the lights and looks too small a person to hold in how fucking big he actually, really is.

After a while Louis slowly turns around to meet his face again, and he’s smiling but more mischievous, sliding a hand over Harry’s shoulder, cupping the back of his neck and pulling him down to kiss him hard. It’s a wet, slick kiss, tasting mostly of Harry’s beer and Louis’ vodka, and when Louis pulls back, Harry’s lightheaded, allowing him to drag him off the floor and outside into the cool night air, waving down a taxi.

It happens so quickly and Harry barely knows any of it’s happening, so caught up in watching Louis that Louis has to drag him into the taxi when he arrives. As he tells the driver hi address, Harry notices his hand still on his own, and then lets his eyes trail up to his slim wrist. Without thinking, he wraps his hand around it, drawing Louis’ attention back to him.

“What’re you doing?” he asks, settling into the seat, and Harry lifts his hand. His fingers are so long that there’s still space between them and Louis’ wrist, and he tightens his fingers around it until the space is gone.

“It’s so little,” he breathes, and Louis raises an eyebrow.

“Well,” he says, “yeah, I guess.”

“I could break it.”

He falters after saying that, because he didn't mean for that to come out, not at all, but Louis doesn't really react badly. Instead he just says, “you wouldn't, though would you?”

Harry looks at him, expecting to see him looking back a little scared, but instead he looks--challenging, almost, one corner of his mouth drawn up in a smirk. He still hasn't pulled his hand back, and Harry slowly, experimentally tightens his hand around it.

Louis still doesn't react, so he does it again, and again, until Louis’ skin is crumpling where it meets the circle of Harry’s fingers. He thinks he really, really could, just snap it in half, but instead he loosens his fingers again and brings it up to his mouth, kissing it softly. “‘Course I wouldn't. I would never hurt you, dove.”

Louis makes a funny, choked noise at that, and launches himself at Harry, yanking his wrist from his grip and falling into his lap. He shoves his hands into Harry’s hair, kissing him hard, and he kisses with bite, sharp little teeth digging into Harry’s bottom lip before he licks into his mouth.

The cab lurches to a stop, though, before Louis can do anything brash that wholly looks like it’s in his reach, like maybe shoving Harry’s pants down right there, and the cabbie coughs quietly. Louis at least has the decency to flush a little and climb off Harry’s lap, slide out of the taxi and leave Harry to pay before he can follow after him into that same apartment from those couple weeks ago.

Louis ambushes him in the lift again, gripping his shirt from the collar and tugging him down. He’s surprisingly careful in avoiding the tattoos, which Harry silently thanks him for by running a hand over his back and resting it over his hip, thumb sliding into the belt loop on his jeans and tugging him in closer.

That’s cut short, too, when the lift jolts to a stop and the door slides open. Louis clings to Harry like a limpet, though, whining into his shoulder, and it makes getting to his apartment quite hard. He makes it nonetheless, nudging Louis towards the door so he can unlock it, and once he does he’s jumping onto Harry again.

“Bedroom, bedroom, bedroom,” he chants, his hands working at the hem of Harry’s shirt. Harry drags them both down the hall and by then his shirt is long gone and Louis’ sucking at his neck like a vampire, sharp teeth leaving what will be an embarrassing bruise for tomorrow.

When he can focus on Louis, he’s rocking his hips up against his, mumbling “fuck me, fuck me,” and he groans a little, leading them over to the bed and pushing Louis down on it. Louis hisses delightedly when he opens his flies, arching his bum from the bed so Harry can tug his jeans down over it and off his legs, tossing them to the floor.

“I,” Harry murmurs into his sharp hipbone, “would quite like to lick you out, if you don’t mind.” He gives it a pause before he asks the second question, the unsexy part. “And if you’ve washed up too, I suppose.”

Louis’ response is a sharp gasp and a hitch in his hips, tipping his head back and moaning at the ceiling. Now, Harry really doesn't go ahead with something without consent, but the way Louis’ thighs tighten around his head seem to be a pretty good indicator of what Louis wants.

He runs his hands over the backs of Louis’ thighs and spreads his legs, hooking them with the backs of his knees over his shoulder before he presses his face into the warmth there, spurred on by Louis’ whimper.

Harry spreads his cheeks with his thumbs, closing his eyes as he laps over his rim once. Louis sighs, indulgently, his fingers sliding into Harry’s curls and using the leverage to tug his mouth in closer. Harry goes easily, circling the tip of his tongue over Louis’ hole in a teasing circle before he presses it inside the tight center.

“Oh, fuck,” Louis mutters, one knee tightening around Harry’s shoulder and Harry nudges his tongue in, leaving his hole wet and spit-slick. He sucks in a breath before he presses back in, Louis working his hips against his tongue in lazy circles until his hole has gone shiny and raw pink and loose.

Harry kneads his fingers into the fleshiest parts of Louis’ thigh, sucking a bruise into the softness of where his thigh hits his hip, reveling in the mewl and twitch Louis gives in response.

“Come on,” he frowns, “hurry up.”

It’s even better than the first time, and the third time is better than the second time, and the sixtieth time is mind-blowing, but that could be because it’s their three-month anniversary and Harry insisted on celebrating it, even as Louis fondly rolled his eyes and told him about how much of an idiot he is.


Harry wakes up to the rhythmic lull of rain pounding against the building, navy-coloured curtains drawn back, the gloomy light slipping through the windows and framing the person standing above him. He’s wearing tight briefs that dig into his thighs, a loose gray shirt, and in one hand he’s got a mug of coffee, because he’s finally learned that Harry prefers coffee to tea in the morning, the other holding a bottle of Advil.

Definitely not an angel, he thinks, and smiles.