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His Royal Highness Prince Louis of England, heir to the throne, has a philosophy on how to treat your coworkers, much to his coworkers’ dismay. According to him, if you aren’t making your peers consider other career options at least once a week, then you aren’t being sufficiently problematic and you ought to try a little bit harder at keeping everyone on their toes.

It’s not that he particularly enjoys making men go grey at an early age, it’s just that when you’re the head of one of the most influential nations in the world, things get a little stiff. People get stuck in their ways, get caught up in convention, and get, well, boring. So when you’re the head of one of the most influential nations in the world and you’re twenty-two and mischievous, it’s almost categorically your job to keep things interesting.

That’s precisely why Louis has given his entire security team the slip tonight -honestly, who needs ten bodyguards? That’s just excessive- and has come to this private club all by himself. It’s not that he can’t get a drink in privacy at home, because certainly there are enough liquor bottles and private corners in an entire palace to get the job done, it’s simply that he hasn’t broken any basic rules of monarchical decorum in over twenty-four hours and that simply won’t do. A complacent staff is a boring staff, and Louis Tomlinson does not do boring.

But he’s not an idiot, certainly; he hasn’t taken this game of cat and mouse to a strip joint or a dive bar or someplace else that the crown might be disgraced were he seen there. This is a classy establishment, with a black-tie dress code and tab figures far too high for all but the very richest to even afford. Looking around as he nurses his second whiskey, he can even recognize all but a few faces as parliament members, ambassadors, and some of London’s most successful businessmen. He may not remember their names -that’s really the job of Liam, his personal assistant- but at least later on when he’s getting an earful from Liam he won’t have to get one from Niall, his personal PR consultant, as well.

Not that anyone here recognizes him. Throw on a pair of the thick-framed glasses he only wears when he’s alone in his room and his contacts are being irritating, and it’s like he’s had reconstructive surgery. Not even the bartender who he’d looked in the eye to order his drink had bothered genuflecting appropriately, much to Louis’ delight. Although, he thinks as he tries not to suck the liquor off the ice cubes in the bottom of the glass, it probably has more to do with the fact that no one expects to see their future king out and about without any security or staff whatsoever casually leaning up against the bar and trying to build a teepee out of toothpicks.

It makes him free, to be so well hidden even in plain sight, makes him feel bold. It means that when he glances down after a dropped toothpick and sees a fantastic pair of legs walk up to the bar beside him, he feels powerful enough to follow the line of those perfectly tailored trousers up over a perky little bum, narrow waist and broad shoulders, right up to a head of long, curly dark hair and bright green eyes that are staring straight back at him. “Cosmopolitan,” the handsome stranger says calmly.

He doesn’t take his eyes off of Louis, and after a moment the prince raises an eyebrow. “Are you telling me or the barkeep?”

“Well you took about fifteen minutes to drag your eyes up my body like a man who’s thinking about buying me a drink, so I figured you might be interested in knowing what it is I drink.” A little smirk tugs at the corner of his mouth, but he’s a little too dimply and cherubic to look properly cocky. “The answer is a cosmopolitan.”

Louis grins without reservation. “Fair enough. Excuse me, keep,” he called to the man behind the bar, then gestured at his empty glass. “Another for me, and a cosmo for him, please.”

The man turns around to busy himself making the two drinks, and Stranger smiles coyly at him. “Thanks, Your Highness,” he says quietly, barely loud enough for Louis to hear.

“Damn, how’d you know?” Louis teases as he gives up on his toothpick teepee to give the man his full attention. “I thought my disguise was working.”

“The Clark Kent glasses work from a distance, but up close your tattoos give it away.” He gestures to the cuff of Louis’ sleeve, where the barest hint of ink is peeking out. “Normally I’m quite a big fan of your ink, it’s sick, but if you’re trying to go incognito with tats, you’re… blown.”

The emphasis on that last word has to be either the result of Louis’ imagination or of his second whiskey kicking in, but he accepts the third when it’s placed before him regardless and ignores the little tingle between his thighs. Act like a prince, will you? “And here I thought that keeping them above the wrist and below the collar would be sufficient. Looks like mum was right again.”

“I disagree completely,” the other man replies. “You’ve got a pretty neck, you’d look wicked with ink up one side. Like maybe if you got one that went up to your jaw and came down into a chest piece…” He reaches out to touch the side of Louis’ throat, trailing one finger down until it’s slipping under the edge of Louis’ suit jacket and running over the collarbone concealed beneath his shirt. Mercifully he drops his hand when the journey is complete, so Louis can exhale.

“Well there’s an opportunity missed,” Louis jokes, a little breathlessly. “I’ve already got a chest piece so the real estate isn’t available. Should have come to me two weeks ago, could have given at least half of parliament heart attacks.”

That too-innocent face -seriously, is this kid even legal?- lights up in a wide grin. “Did you really? I hadn’t heard that. The last I heard about was the bird.”

“Had four more since then,” Louis confesses with a swallow of his drink. “I’m powerless to stop. And apparently I’m leader of a nation of cowards because no one is brave enough to tell me no.”

“Maybe it’s not bravery,” the man answers with a bite of his lip. “Maybe they just prefer to give you everything you want.”

Louis’ chest and his and his pants get a little too tight for comfort, so he just takes another gulp of Jack and coke so he won’t have to speak and probably make an ass of the entire royal family.

“So what’s the chest piece?” his companion presses on, undisturbed.

“‘It is what it is.’”

“Oh, come on, don’t be a tease,” comes the teasing reply. “You can’t just tell me you’ve got new ink on your body and not give me any more detail than that. Please, Your Highness?”

“Hush up with that, you’re the only one who’s made me,” Louis whispers conspiratorially, then grins. “I just told you, though. It’s words, says ‘it is what it is.’ Right across here.” He outlines with his fingers the curve it makes on his chest. “I hope I’m not expected to tell you about all of my unseen tattoos,” he continues recklessly. “We’d be here all night.”

“Maybe,” the boy says quietly, “you’d like to just show me instead.”

There is absolutely not enough alcohol in Louis’ glass when he raises it to his lips to drain it. “I spend most of my day talking politics so forgive me if my social skills are a little rusty, but- are you propositioning me?”

He half expects to be met with an indignant denial and to have to ruin his fun night out by turning his phone back on and calling Niall for immediate damage control, but instead the man beside him just shrugs. “Depends. If you’ve got a thousand, I’m yours for an hour.”

The shock has to be showing on Louis’ face, no matter how much he wishes it not to. “You’re kidding me,” he mumbles, fighting the urge to sink his head into his hands. “So you’re- so this whole time I’ve been chatting up a-”

“Call girl,” he’s interrupted with a cheeky grin. “Seems the best fit, really. But you can call me Harry if you want.”

“This is insane, though,” Louis attempts to reason. “If you’re a- erm, call girl, then why would you be propositioning me? You do realize that I’m like, an authority figure? That man is the police commissioner,” he says, gesturing to a man off to one side of the room reading his newspaper. “Those four blokes wrote a sex trade bill that came across my desk just this morning.”

“I know. I’m personally acquainted with all five. Well,” Harry says thoughtfully, cocking his head, “maybe not the bald one. The bald ones all look the same.” Louis tries to reply but winds up choking on air in his shock, and Harry helpfully pushes his half-finished cosmo over to help him clear his throat. “It’s not a big deal, really,” he continues unabashedly. “There’s a reason why there aren’t cameras in clubs like these. It’s all about privacy. These men come here because they can count on discretion and get what they need.”

There’s a hand on Louis’ thigh now, much too high to be friendly, and those three whiskeys might as well have been tap water because Louis feels sober as can be from the way his heart is pounding. “You can’t be serious. You’re actually saying-”

“I’m saying that there’s a hotel around the corner, and that you can’t tell me that you don’t want me.” He leans forward to whisper this last part in Louis’ ear and keeps moving his hand higher and higher until he’s cupping the curve of Louis’ half-hard cock in his trousers and giving a gentle squeeze. “So what do you say?”

It’s literally the easiest decision in the world, because there is no way, shape or form that it’s appropriate for the prince of fucking England to get a hotel room and sleep with a prostitute. It doesn’t matter how classy the bar is, or how pretty the boy, because if anyone were to find out, the entire royal family would be in disgrace and Louis’ life would effectively be over.

But Harry’s hand is warm and his lips are stained pink and Louis can’t be arsed to care about ‘what if’ as he raises one hand. “Check, please.”

…………………

It’s probably a good thing that Zayn, his go-to man and perpetually mysterious fixer, hasn’t let Louis leave the house in years without a false identity. At first he’d thought it was over the top, but it certainly comes in handy as he’s flashing a fake ID at the hotel clerk and paying for a room with a credit card under that name. It is probably also a good thing that Zayn encourages him to keep large amounts of cash hidden in his car, since he isn’t really sure how prostitutes work but he’s fairly certain they don’t accept personal checks.

Of course, Zayn gave him these recommendations so that if there was ever some sort of crisis and he had to flee the palace he would have resources and protection, but helping him get some also seems like a worthy cause.

Harry, who’s been sitting in an armchair in the lobby while Louis secures the room key, jumps when he feels Louis’ hand on his shoulder. “Got that all sorted?” he asks to cover that up his flinch, standing quickly and leading the way to the elevator too quickly not to be a regular. Louis is reminded that Harry is not just some cherubic boy he met in a bar, no matter how innocent he seems.

As if he could forget, when the second they’re inside the door he’s kicking off his shoes and shrugging out of his suit jacket. “Your hour starts now,” he says calmly. “If you want to fuck me, or want me to fuck you, we use a condom. No exceptions. Like I said, it’s a thousand for an hour. Price doubles if you want to rough me up.”

He’s so bloody casual about it, putting a monetary value on intentionally hurting him and offering it up to Louis. It makes Louis’ stomach turn. “Won’t be necessary,” he says quickly with a shake of his head. “Not interested.”

Harry smiles, at this point just down to briefs, and digs in the pocket of his discarded jacket. “Didn’t think you were the type, but I’ve been surprised before.” He pulls out a condom and what looks to be a packet of lube, and Louis reels for the fifteenth time in as many minutes at how he could have ever thought Harry was just a guy at the bar when all the while he was carrying around a stockpile of supplies that far belies the innocence he exudes.

More nervous than he’d care to admit, Louis licks his lips. “Am I allowed to kiss you?”

Harry hesitates for a second, then nods. “Yeah, you can kiss me.”

So Louis does, mostly because he might be a world leader and all but he’s totally out of his element here and the only thing he can think to do is press his mouth to Harry’s. He’s got soft, full lips that feel nice against Louis’, but they’re clumsy, a little fumbling. Finally he can find some nervousness in the seemingly unflappable boy, a little tingle of unsurety in the tenderness of Louis’ lips on his. It makes a little of Louis’ own nerves melt away, and after a moment he even reaches out to take Harry by the waist and pull him a little closer.

This must be some sort of cue, because Harry brings his hands up to the top of Louis’ shirt and starts unfastening the buttons one by one. “So what’s your thing, hmm?” he breaks away to ask, pushing at the lapels of Louis’ jacket until it slides down his arms, then working on his shirt much the same way. “What are you into? What do I have to do to get you to relax?”

“I am relaxed,” Louis protests as he mouths at Harry’s neck. In truth he’s far from it, his heart starting to pound rather quickly, but it’s less the kind of tension that needs to be fixed and more the kind that needs to get Harry on a soft surface and Louis on top of him.

Apparently Harry knows it, too. “You can’t lie to me when I can feel your hands shaking,” he murmurs, starting to work at LOuis’ belt and the fasten of his trousers. “What do you need? Want me to blow you? Get on my knees for you and get you all hard?”

“I’m already there,” Louis says honestly, which Harry discovers for himself two seconds later when Louis is left standing in his boxers and Harry’s palming his cock through them. He’s fully hard, body twitching at Harry’s warm touch. “What about you?”

His fingers grazing over the waistband of Harry’s briefs ask permission, and when no resistance comes Louis slips his hand beneath the fabric and takes a hold of Harry’s cock. He’s barely hard at all. “You don’t have to worry about me, I’ll be fine,” Harry tries to assure him, but Louis is already stroking. With his free hand he holds onto Harry’s waist, keeping him pressed close, and brings their lips together once more. Harry shudders a tiny bit, whether at the feel of attention being lavished on his length or the way Louis is exploring his mouth with his tongue, and Louis can feel him getting harder as the minutes drag on.

“Wanna blow you,” Louis whispers when Harry is almost fully hard. “Can I?”

“I- well, it’s your hour,” Harry fumbles to reply, pushing his briefs off of his hips so that he’s fully naked before Louis. “Where do you want me, on the bed?”

Louis follows him readily enough, letting Harry collapse onto the bed with his thighs spread and crawling between them, but he isn’t satisfied. “I know it’s my hour, that’s not what I asked,” he corrects mildly. “Do you want me to blow you?”

Harry switches tactics at once, fluttering his eyelashes and biting his lips and breathily replying, “Please, touch me. Want you so bad, please…” He attempts to hold the ‘needy submissive’ guise for an entire ten seconds before the unimpressed quirk of Louis’ eyebrow encourages him to drop the act. “What?” he asks defensively. “Some guys are into that, thought that was what you were looking for.”

“I’m sort of just aiming for consent,” Louis mumbles with a flush.

“You’re so bashful, it’s adorable,” teases Harry, then rolls his eyes. “You have my permission to suck me off if that’s what you want to do. I’m completely okay with that- satisfied?”

For once his sass fails him and Louis can’t think of a single cheeky reply to make, so instead he just ducks his head and puts his mouth to better use.

It’s hard to tell just how much of Harry’s response is a performance by a professional and how much is genuine, but as Louis sets to work making him feel good he’d like to think that it’s mostly just Harry enjoying him. His body certainly enjoys Louis at least, soon fully hard in Louis’ mouth and thighs twitching when he gets creative and starts to swirl his tongue around the tip. Every now and again the hand he has working Harry’s base will brush across the soft skin of his balls below and that must be a sweet spot because a second later Louis always seems to get another taste of precum on the back of his tongue.

“Will you hand me that lube, please?” he pulls off to say, and maybe he really is doing a good job because it appears to take Harry a few seconds to realize he’s being addressed and oblige. “Can I open you up?”

Now that he understands what Louis wants when he asks questions, Harry is quick to nod his head. “Yeah, sure. Yes.” He bends his knees, spreads his legs a little further to give Louis access. “You want me like this?”

Louis answers by leaning down and giving Harry’s entrance one teasing lick. The way that it makes the boy’s breath so instantly stutter sort of makes Louis want to stop everything and just rim him until he sees stars, but his desire to have Harry’s cock back in his mouth wins out in the end. Instead he tears open the lube and squeezes some onto the fingers of one hand, then closes his mouth around Harry at the same time he presses the first finger inside.

He doesn’t get much of a reaction, but then there isn’t overmuch resistance from Harry’s body. He adds another finger and bobs down farther on Harry’s length, and there’s something. Harry releases a breath like he’s been holding it, wriggles his hips down a little more onto Louis’ fingers. Louis gives it a moment to make sure Harry’s truly comfortable before tentatively adding a third.

When he starts to crook his fingers to brush against Harry’s prostate the man beneath him starts to stutter in his breathing, irregular little jumps of his tummy as he rolls his hips ever so slightly. Louis uses his free hand to pin them down. If he wants more of Harry, deeper, they have to be still, and right now Louis’ mind is focused almost exclusively on how he wants to have Harry all the way in the back of his throat.

The instant he’s done it, when he’s swallowing around the head of Harry’s cock and humming in delight, Harry moans from deep in his chest and works a hand into Louis’ hair. At first he pushes down as if to keep Louis there but after a second he’s tugging up, nudging Louis to pull off and then replacing Louis’ mouth with his own hand wrapped tightly around the base of his cock. “Sorry, I- I was about to come. Sorry.”

“Can I keep going, finish you off?” Louis asks a little breathlessly, swiping his mouth with the back of his hand in case there’s anything on his face. He takes advantage of the pause that follows to admire the body sprawled out before him, all smooth skin and lean muscles. He makes a mental note to inquire about the extra nipples when Harry doesn’t look like he’s already overwhelmed.

“This is seriously how you want to spend your hour, getting me off?” Harry just dubiously asks.

“Well I was going to fuck you after,” Louis blushes. “I swear I can get you off again. Pinky promise.”

In a brief moment of childlike insanity he actually reaches his free hand up and offers his pinky finger to the boy, like they’re eight years old and whispering secrets to each other on the playground and promising not to tell. He almost pulls his hand back as soon as he offers it up, but Harry only hesitates for one breathless moment before reaching to link his pinky with Louis’. “Okay.”

Louis has to separate their hands so that he can guide Harry back into his mouth, towards the back of his throat, but almost as soon as Harry is as deep as he can go Louis is thrusting his fingers over Harry’s prostate and Harry’s thighs are shaking to either side of him. “So close,” he pants. “‘m gonna-”

The young prince swallows once to set him off and then continues swallowing as Harry comes, a soft cry bursting from his mouth. He pulls back a little, partly so he won’t choke but mostly so he can taste Harry. Somehow he tastes sweet, like he lives off of a diet of nothing but fruit, and Louis collects some in his mouth to enjoy the flavor a little longer before swallowing it down.

He pulls off to find Harry all trembly and relaxed and smiles widely. “Alright, then?”

“Are you talking about me or the blowjob? Yes either way,” Harry says dazedly. “Splendid on all counts. Best five hundred pounds I’ve ever made.”

Louis glances at the clock on the telly and sees that it has, in fact, been half an hour since the clock started ticking. “Guess I’d better get started on that second one I promised, eh?” he grins. “We did pinky shake on it, and I’m a man of my word.”

“Lack of follow through is a poor business model,” Harry says wisely, fingers of one hand teasing at his softened cock in an attempt to get it back to attention.

“Technically they just keep me around for my last name, not really my business skills, but I think I do alright.” The joke lands and Harry smiles, so Louis smirks a little to himself as he reaches across Harry to the nightstand and grabs the condom laying there. He finds himself working his cock in time with Harry, leaning over him to press their mouths together once more as they both work at their lengths.

Finally Harry pulls back from the kiss. “Are you going to sit there and wank to the sight of me touching myself all night or are you going to actually fuck me?”

“Are you ready for me to?” Louis snorts, even as he sits back and opens the packet to start working it onto himself.

“Please,” Harry says quietly, and for the first time of the night it sounds like he might just be talking to Louis as a person rather than a client.

“Tell me if I need to stop,” Louis says, though somehow he doubts Harry would. He lines up at Harry’s entrance and shuffles their bodies closer together, then grabs ahold of the boy’s hips and pushes inside.

Harry’s relaxed as Louis buries himself inside of him, never tensing up, and Louis leans forward to drape across and kiss him as he starts to pump his hips in and out of Harry. The only sign he’s even a little flustered is the way the hand not wrapped around his cock flutters uncertainly before finding a place to rest on Louis’ side, feeling the muscles move beneath his skin. He starts to stroke himself in time with Louis’ thrusts, little mewls interrupting their kiss every time Louis hits him just right and makes him try to grind his hips down into Louis’.

The pace starts to pick up as Louis finds his perfect angle, and soon kisses become open-mouthed panting as Harry just closes his eyes and bites his lip at the feel of Louis getting his spot right every time. “Just like that,” he whispers, so quiet it might not even be meant for Louis’ ears, but he obeys anyways, digging in harder with muscles straining to hold his position right there.

The entire time Harry never stops stroking himself, and as Louis looks down he sees that there’s a puddle of precum on his stomach where his cock is swollen and looking like he might be close again. “You gonna come again soon?” he murmurs into Harry’s ear, then moves to kiss at the curve of his jaw. “You can. Whenever you want.”

“You first,” Harry replies at once.

“Soon, don’t worry,” Louis grins, because his gut is starting to feel hot and tight in a very familiar way. “Not yet, though. Not ‘til I’ve fucked another one out of you.”

It feels a little filthy to say, but not half as filthy as the way he reaches a hand down beneath Harry’s thighs to palm at his balls, giving them a gentle tug on the perfect offbeat of when he’s thrusting over Harry’s prostate. Harry responds instantly, hand on his cock getting quicker, less rhythmic as his heels dig into the mattress and he tries to push further down into Louis’ touch. “Please, fuck,” he moans, breath hot on Louis’ neck.

Louis kisses at Harry’s collarbone and doesn’t even think about relenting. “Come on, Harry,” he whispers. “Come for me.”

Harry’s second orgasm looks like it might be stronger than the first, if the way his whole body bucks up into it is any indication. He grips Louis to him as he works his fist over his cock until the last few patches of cum had decorated his stomach. “Now you,” he pants as soon as he’s done. “Now you come, yeah?”

It isn’t a second too soon, because Louis’ hands already shake with the effort of holding off his orgasm when he pulls out and fumbles to get the condom off. As soon as it’s discarded on the mattress he leans back and starts fisting his cock hard and fast until he lets out a groan and starts coming, white strings making a mess of his own hand and stomach. “Oh fuck, that’s good,” he breathes with the release, free hand tugging at his hair as he rides out the pleasure.

For a minute neither speaks, the pair just panting and looking at each other a little dumbly. Finally Harry licks his lips. “You came on yourself.”

“Er- yeah. Hate coming in condoms.”

“Could have come on me,” Harry says thoughtfully, struggling to sit up and swiping his thumb through some of the mess on Louis’ stomach, then lifting it to his mouth and sucking it clean. “I like the way you taste.”

That would probably get Louis hard again just hearing it if he weren’t literally thirty seconds post-orgasm. “Seemed rude to,” he mumbles instead. “You didn’t ask, kind of rude to assume you wanted that. Barely know you and all.”

A smile starts on Harry’s face and spreads until he’s grinning at Louis unabashedly. “You realize that the entire point of prostitutes is to use them for what you want, right?” He laughs out loud at the grimace Louis makes, but not unkindly. “It’s so obvious this is your first time paying for it. I’m surprised though. Haven’t heard about any royal boyfriends but you obviously know what you’re doing.”

“Thanks, babe, much appreciated,” Louis snorts. He climbs out from between Harry’s legs and off the bed, grabbing the condom as he goes to toss it in the trash. “You’d be surprised how many aspiring politicians want to fool around but don’t want their coworkers to know,” he continues from the bathroom, emerging minutes later with a damp cloth that he hands to Harry. “No one wants to cross their future king by running their mouth anyways.”

“Is that a threat?” Harry asks casually as he cleans himself off.

“Are you- no, that’s not a threat,” grimaces Louis. “Jesus. I make my choices. I guess I hope that people respect me enough not to talk. I’m not threatening anyone, though. Would never. I’m your prince, not your god.”

He lays down on the side of the bed not occupied by Harry and watches Harry stretch out on the soft comforter. “That’s a good policy,” Harry offers thoughtfully. “Plus it helps that they don’t want it getting out, either. That’s how my whole trade works.”

“Yeah?”

“Mmhmm. The commissioner can’t call out the parliament member without incriminating himself, too. No one’s going to risk destroying their career or their family to get mud on someone else.” He yawns a little and rubs at his eyes. “As long as they don’t share notes, I’m happy. Might lose repeat customers that way.”

The suggestion jolts Louis a little, that some people might see Harry more than once. He wonders how many repeat customers he has. Wonders if he has any regulars who get addicted to the dimples and the curls. “Why’s that?”

“They might find out I don’t treat them all the same. I only kiss the cute ones, you know.” Harry never opens his eyes, just smirks at the ceiling like he knows Louis is blushing. He does open his eyes when Louis leans over and kisses his shoulder, though. “You’ve got five minutes left on the clock, so if you want to do anything else to me, do it now. At 61 minutes I charge for the next hour.”

“No, I’m done,” Louis grins. “You gonna stay and take a nap? Normally I charge, but you look exhausted so I’ll allow it.”

“Absolutely not, I don’t nap while I’m working,” Harry answers at once, though his eyes have definitely drifted shut again. “Don’t make money by sleeping.”

That makes Louis frown, though some little part of his brain tells him it isn’t his business. “You’re dead on your feet,” he protests, and the more he looks the more obvious that becomes. Not only is his body completely relaxed on the bed like he’s two breaths away from sleep already, but there are dark circles under his eyes that he’s tried to cover with concealer. He’s thin, too, beneath the muscle, ribs poking out when he breathes in and hipbones and collarbones permanently on display. “How much for the night?” Louis blurts out before he can think better of it.

Harry’s eyes fly wide open. “What?”

“How much for the night? Like, how much would I have to pay you to stay with me all night?” Louis asks again, nervously fixing his fringe.

“I- I don’t know,” Harry stutters. “I’ve never had anyone ask me. Don’t you have to, like, run the country or something?”

“I wasn’t intending to go back to the palace until I’m dragged back there forcibly,” Louis grins. “Paid for the hotel all night, might as well use it. Besides, they’re going to kill me when I get in. I’m all about prolonging my life.”

The jokes don’t seem to put Harry much at ease, because he’s still worrying his lip and trying to think of an answer. “I guess- five? Five thousand pounds? Cause like, a discount for buying time in bulk, I guess,” he says hesitantly, like he expects to be shot down.

Louis doesn’t shoot him down. “I’ll pay you ten,” he says firmly. “I’ll pay you by the hour, ten thousand pounds, to get nine hours of sleep in this hotel room. No more sex, just so that I won’t have you it on my conscience if you faint as you’re walking through the lobby.”

“You cannot have ten thousand pounds in cash on you,” Harry scoffs at once. “Come on, I’m not stupid.”

“Think I have fifteen, actually,” Louis muses, trying to remember exactly the sum that Zayn insisted he always have at his disposal. “It’s in my jacket pocket, you can check if you like.”

Harry does, clamoring from the bed and stumbling over to the pile of clothes and fishing the envelope of cash out of Louis’ pocket and peeking inside. A few stunned seconds later he pulls out two bound stacks of cash and looks between them and Louis in disbelief. “You carry twenty thousand pounds with you?”

“That’s your tax money at work,” is Louis’ weak reply.

“I don’t pay taxes,” Harry mumbles, “and you’re insane! What’s to stop me from waiting until you’re asleep, taking all of this, and walking out of the hotel?”

He has a valid point, but he also has a cherubic face that Louis can’t distrust for the life of him. “If you don’t want to hold up your end of the bargain, so be it, I guess,” he says disinterestedly, wiggling around until he’s under the covers and all nicely tucked in. “Like I said, I make my choices and I put faith in other people that they’ll do right by me. And right now I’m choosing to go to sleep in this nice hotel room and trusting that you won’t screw me over.”

His eyes drift shut and there’s a brief moment of silence before finally he hears soft footsteps on carpet and the lights switch off. “Trusting people blindly is a stupid way to live, Your Highness” Harry mumbles as he climbs into bed.

“Louis, please,” he mumbles as he starts to drift off. “Just Louis.”

…………………

Harry doesn’t bother setting an alarm before going to sleep. He figures that if he wakes up and it isn’t 9am yet, he can go back to sleep. And if he sleeps too late he’s sure that the prince will tell him to wake up and bugger off already now that he’s done his good deed for the year giving a hooker a good night’s sleep.

He half expects to be woken at least once during the night and prompted to perform some sort of sexual act, since he has technically been paid to be at the prince’s disposal for ten whole hours. To think that it might involve just one blowjob and one quick fuck was absurd to say the least. Especially considering that his time with the young regent had been- dare he say it- actually good. There was just no way that he, Harry, the world’s favorite punching bag, was going to get paid ten thousand pounds to be well fucked once and let alone in a bed as soft as clouds for nine hours straight.

But when Harry does start to stir, when his body has had its fill of rest and started prodding him to seek food instead of blissful unconsciousness, he realizes that he hasn’t been touched since he lay down what feels like a lifetime ago. He’s still lying safely on his tummy, blankets cocooned around him, face buried in a pillow that smelled like fabric softener and mint. The realization that the man had meant no more sex sinks in and Harry blinks his eyes open in surprise.

The bed beside him is empty and Harry’s stomach plummets in an instant, shattering the peace of the morning. “Oh fuck,” he gasps, dread seeping into his bones. He’s been skipped out on, he never took the money, he’s going to have to go home empty-handed and hours and hours late for curfew-

He probably should have expected more from the man who’d been soft and foolish enough to actually pay a perfect stranger to sleep, because of course the money is laying right on the desk. It’s one of the ten-grand stacks, sure enough, just like he was promised. There’s no note, but Harry doesn’t let the little flicker of disappointment in his stomach grow into anything bigger. Money’s money, after all.

At this point he knows he’s going to be screwed when he gets home anyways- it’s nine thirty and he has a strict curfew of seven- so he allows himself the luxury of turning the telly on while he slowly washes his face and combs his hair and otherwise makes himself presentable again. No bruises or bite marks, he sees in the mirror, which is always nice. Covering them is a pain in the neck, and he doesn’t have money to waste on shit tons of concealer, anyways.

He gets dressed slowly, too slowly to be excusable, pretending like he’s a normal twenty year-old with a normal job that lets him get ready for work in the morning watching some medical drama in a comfortable home as he straightens his tie. The show ends, though, eventually, and Harry doesn’t let himself sigh about having to turn off the telly and tuck his money into his jacket and leave the room. He just returns the room key left on the nightstand to the desk clerk on his way through the lobby and steps out into the midmorning sun, not something he’s usually awake to see.

Some people might find a walk in downtown London on a busy Thursday morning to be boring, but not Harry. He never gets to see London so alive. There are so many people, all dressed so nicely, all bustling around in the broad daylight like they’ve got nothing to hide. He’s sure they have, of course, but probably most of these people would never dream of paying someone for sex, even if he was on the classy side.

The expensive suit he dons to go pull gets more and more out of place the closer he gets to home. Skyscrapers turn to warehouses turn to crumbling shacks of houses, and Harry’s heart gets heavier and heavier. A block from home he ducks into an abandoned phone booth, glass too coated with grime for anyone to see in, and pulls the money from his pocket. With trembling fingers he tears the little band from around the stack and counts out ten hundred-pound notes from the hundred and tucks them into his pocket. Nine thousand is still three times more than he usually comes home with. No one has to know he actually made ten. He can keep this aside for a rainy day, an emergency fund, and no one has to be the wiser. That’s the mantra he repeats to himself as he replaces the rest of the money and exits the phone booth, hurrying home before anyone decides to jump him and take his earnings for their own.

It’s hard to say whether he’s relieved or disappointed when he makes it home intact, pushing open the door and wrinkling his nose at the familiar vinegar-like smell of heroin and the undertones of vomit and smoke that never quite leave here. There are several people laying around on couches and draped over chairs, all in some sort of drug-induced haze or just plain passed out. One girl pries her eyes open and smirks at Harry as he passes. “You’re in trouble, H.”

“Fuck off, I know I am,” Harry sighs, but she’s already asleep again. He makes his way further into the house, until he reaches the master bedroom adorned with a cheerful “STAY THE FUCK OUT” sign nailed to the door.

“Who the fuck is there?” a man barks when Harry knocks, then there’s a shuffle of heavy footsteps and the door opens to reveal a tall man with a gaunt face and a beard he hasn’t tended to in far too long. “Oh, so you finally decided to show up, did you?” he sneers. “What are you, three hours late? Four?”

“I’m sorry, Kieffer,” Harry says blankly. “I was working late.”

“You better have made a shit ton if you’re going to come home fucking late.”

“Nine grand,” answers Harry, and that gets Kieffer’s attention. He pulls the larger stack of bills from his breast pocket and hands it over expressionlessly. “You can count it, it’s all there. All- all nine.”

Kieffer does, of course, because he always does. “Finally, you’re useful. Must have taken a lot of cock in your arse last night to earn all this, eh, prettyboy?”

Harry’s face is carefully neutral, though his stomach turns at the words. “Yeah. Super tired. Can I go?”

He starts to turn away but a hand shoots out and grabs his elbow, too hard. “You’re a shit liar, you know? Empty your pockets.”

The blood drains from Harry’s face and he feels himself freeze in a terrifyingly transparent way. “I gave you all nine, Kieff, I swear I did. Can I just go? I’m exhausted-”

It isn’t enough to convince the man that he’s innocent, apparently, because Harry’s spun around and hands are digging into his pockets until they find what they’re searching for- the tiny stack of folded bills Harry had pulled aside. Kieffer shoves him, hard, until his head bounces off the wall on the far side of the hallway and starbursts of pain erupt behind his eyes. “Don’t test me, you stupid whore,” Kieffer barks, then promptly slams the door in Harry’s face.

Tonight should have been pay night, when he got his hundred pounds for the week to live off of, but Harry was nowhere near brave enough to go back in there. Maybe he’d be lucky and turn four or five tricks tomorrow night, make enough that Kieffer will be in a better mood and pay him then. He’s still got fourteen pounds left anyways. If he can sleep the day away he won’t be able to feel hungry, and fourteen pounds is enough to get him dinner before he goes to work at eight.

He makes his way to bed, a dirty mattress in the corner of one of the back bedrooms that’s also inhabited by four other people and their mattresses. The suit he sheds carefully, folding it neatly and placing it on the cleanest patch of floor he can find because dry cleaning comes out of pocket if it gets messed up and he’d really like to eat tomorrow if he can. Once he’s down to just his tee shirt and a pair of joggers he keeps stuffed inside his pillowcase, he settles down onto the rough, torn fabric and closes his eyes, willing himself to fall asleep.

Barely ten minutes go by before footsteps shuffle over to where he’s sleeping. “Move over, Harry, make room for me,” a woman says. “I’m floating. I don’t want to stand up.”

Harry doesn’t need to open his eyes to know who’s there as he scoots closer to the wall to comply, but he does anyway. He takes in the sagging skin and dilated pupils of the middle-aged woman before him and smiles sadly. “Hey mum. Y’alright?”

“I’m floating, Harry, I’m floating,” she sighs happily, head coming to rest on his pillow. “Why are you awake, baby?”

“I slept all night, mum, I’m not tired. Need to sleep though. Got to work later.”

“Do you want some smack?” she offers. “That’ll make you sleepy, baby, that’ll help.”

“You know I don’t do smack,” Harry says patiently. “I don’t want any. You know that I don’t.”

“Of course you don’t, baby boy, how could I forget?” His mother’s eyes are distant, brain far too addled to remember much more than her own name, let alone anything about Harry. “You’re such a good boy. Always have been. Were you at the firm? Did you see Gemma at the firm?”

The heart in Harry’s chest clenches suddenly and he has to force himself to breathe through the pain. It’s been a year now that his mother’s been too fucked up by the drugs to understand where they were or what was happening, but that was almost a mercy. Now she was fuzzy enough that Harry could pretend that the reason why he wore suits and brought home stacks of money to Kieffer was because he worked as a lawyer in the city with his older sister, Gemma. In reality he hadn’t seen Gemma in six years, but his mother Jane was never sober enough to know.

“Yeah, mum, we had lunch together,” he lies, because it’s easier for her to think that everything’s okay than to remember the truth. “She says hi. Gonna stop by next week.”

“She’s a good girl,” his mother whispers back. “You’re both so good. You’re so good to me, Harry, you always take care of me when I’m floating. You always take care of me.”

“Of course I do,” Harry chokes out, scrubbing a stray tear away before she can see it. “I’ve got you, mum, you know that.”

“So good to me. And so pretty. Did you know that? You’re so handsome, such a pretty boy. My baby boy.”

Harry closes his eyes against the words he most wants to avoid- pretty boy -and wills with all his might that she’ll pass out soon. It’s hardest at times like these, when she’s so blissfully unaware of everything, because then the burden of knowing is on Harry’s shoulders alone. He’s the only one that knows that he’s a high school dropout who sells his body every night to pay a dealer who starves him out, all because his mother is in love with him and even more in love with the drugs. He’s the only one who knows that how much his mother is smacked around depends on how much sex he has with strangers and how much her boyfriend is pleased by it. He’s the only one who understands that every hit Harry earns for her is taking her farther and farther away, because she’s already too far gone to understand the price.

Mercifully she’s gone soon, the overlarge heroin doses she’s so fond of sapping her energy until she’s unconscious beside Harry. He covers her up with his blanket so the cold won’t seep into her brittle bones and shuts his own eyes, praying for sleep to find him next. You can’t be cold if you’re asleep. You can’t be hungry if you’re asleep. It’s just better this way, in the end.

…………………

Louis has slept in a lot of really nice beds during his lifetime, what with being the Prince of England and all, but nice beds get infinitely better when you’re not alone in them. In those hazy minutes before he’s fully awake he can feel the warmth radiating from the other side of the bed even if there’s what feels like miles of space between them- which, by the way, simply won’t do. He frowns a little and starts to roll over so he can pull the warmth to him, wrap it up in his arms and drift back into sleep-

He stops himself just in time as reality catches up to Louis’ sleep-addled brain and reminds him that the warmth across the mattress from him is not an unnamed side to be cuddled into, but Harry, the ‘call girl’ he’d taken to bed last night and paid ten thousand pounds to sleep untouched for nine hours. In other words, the warmth across the mattress is distinctly untouchable.

The flood of recollection startles Louis awake, until the fog of sleep has left him and he’s fully aware of all the glamorous details of the room. The smell of sweat and sex. The taste of liquor on his tongue. The ache in his thighs from muscles not exercised in far too long.

He has to whiz, too, and as he rises from the bed to relieve himself he tries not to jostle the bed, lest the slumbering boy faceplanted in the sheets wake up before he ought. He looks so peaceful, Louis muses to himself as he returns. Maybe a little contained, like he’s practiced at taking up no space at all. Maybe a little stiff. But his face is totally innocent, without the flush of sex or the lines of worry or the faux confidence of a seductress to mar it.

Unwilling to risk disturbing the sleeping beauty, Louis makes his way over to where his clothes were discarded just inside the door, digging through the pocket of his trousers until he pulls out his phone. It’s been off all night so that he couldn't be traced- that would make everyone's job just too easy. Now that he turns it on, though, it takes a full minute for the barrage of notifications flooding in to stop long enough for him to take a survey of the damage he’s done with last night's disappearance. There are 37 missed calls and 18 text messages, most from Liam, all to the tune of come home right now or so help me God. The last two text messages, however, were from Zayn, barely 15 minutes before.

(Zayn, 6:34 a.m.) Langham Hotel, West End

(Zayn, 635 a.m) On my way

A smile creeps across Louis’ face. God knows how he’s done it, but of course it’s Zayn who eventually found him. That's why he’s been Louis’ right hand man for the past two years; There’s nothing that Zayn can’t do, including finding a rogue prince when he’s gone off the grid and off the map.

That could pose a problem, however, because that means he’ll be there any minute and the last thing Louis needs right now is to have staff members crashing into his hotel room while poor Harry is still sleeping away. He quickly pulls on his clothes and smooths his hair in the mirror the best he can. The envelope of money that Harry left on the desk looms up at him sadly- he’d rather been hoping that Harry would be awake when he left, so that he could hand him the money, look him in the eye, and prove to him that there are trustworthy people out there in the world.

Instead, he just takes one of the two stacks from inside the envelope and places it neatly in the center of the desk. There's a little pad of paper, too, and for one wild second Louis considers leaving a note, maybe his number, before his brain catches up to him and sternly reminds him that this was not a date. It was a business transaction, and Harry is a businessman, and he doesn't need Louis’ sappy ideas about chivalry.

When he slips from the room a moment later, Louis meets Zayn coming out of the elevator and lets him have a boyish grin. “You're better than I thought, then,” he says lightly. “Hotel’s one thing. Room number is another.”

Zayn rolls his eyes. “Please, Lou, I'm the one who set you up with a fake identity. All I had to do was flash my credentials at the front desk and give them your name and they were ready to draw me a map.”

“You don't have any credentials.”

"And you're not the only one with a fake ID," Zayn grins. “Now would you hurry up? Liam is about to burn down the palace.”

This isn't exactly surprising news, but it isn't heartening, either. “He didn't send out an official search party, did he?” Louis asks with some concern as they get in the elevator and ride it downstairs.

“No, since you decided to be a tease and leave a note telling us that you were going out and would ‘be back soon.’ He was pissed, but at least this time he knew that you were just being a little shit instead of kidnapped or something.”

It's the kind of thing that only Zayn could get away with saying to the prince, because at this point they’re closer than brothers and Louis has quite literally trusted this man with his life a dozen times over. Instead of being offended, he takes it like a compliment. “He might not have gotten so worked up if you’d been able to find me faster. What’s it been, eight hours? New low, Z.”

Zayn actually pouts, though if confronted he’d probably call it a scowl. “I had to call in a major favor to get your phone hacked when it was off. I was saving that favor. I hope you had a good lay. Yes, I know,” he says with an exaggerated eye roll when Louis nearly wipes out tripping over his own feet. “I told you, the front desk was very cooperative.”

“Fuck, don’t tell mum,” Louis says miserably, thinking of Liam’s stern brown eyes. “He’ll kill me.”

“Oh that ship’s sailed, mate,” snorts Zayn. “He was on the phone with me right up until I got in the elevator. You’re dead meat.”

Louis sighs deeply. It was fun while it lasted.

Before he's allowed to get back in his car, Louis waits as Zayn reaches into the backseat of his own. He pulls out a fresh shirt and tie and a small container of concealer, which he hands to Louis with a pointed glance. “You look like shit,” he says bluntly. “Change in your car. And lose the glasses before you go through the gate- your disguise loses its effectiveness if you let people see it when they know it's you.”

“Yes, Your Majesty,” Louis answers, rather meekly for somebody with words so cheeky. Zayn looks at him like he understands perfectly, which he probably does.

The trip back to the palace is a short one, and he only gets a few odd glances when he goes through the guard shack alone in his car. The trouble doesn't start until he’s snuck his way back into his own bedroom and five minutes later there’s a series of quick knocks on the door and Liam barges in with fury in his eyes.

“Do you have any idea,” he says sharply, “what Zayn and I went through last night trying to find you without letting anybody else in the palace know that you were gone?”

“You have to be getting good at that by now,” Louis says lightly, because if he takes the conversation too seriously Liam might actually trick him into feeling bad, and that simply won't do.

"Not only was it irresponsible because you disappeared and made us worried sick, but you have responsibilities you can’t just skip out on, Louis,” continues Liam, unperturbed. “You’re supposed to be king someday, but you’re more interested in having fun than actually attending to your duties!”

“Now that’s not fair,” Louis protests, a little anger simmering in his gut at the implication. “You know that’s not fair. I’ve been in this palace since the day I was born and I do right by my country. I do my duty. I’m allowed to do things that make me happy, too, when they don’t hurt anyone.”

“They hurt you. What do you think is going to happen to your reputation and credibility if word gets out about a drunken one night stand?”

“I wasn’t drunk! And it wasn’t- it wasn’t a one night stand, Liam, please,” Louis says with distaste. “That sounds so sordid.”

“Are you going to see him again?” Liam prompts, unrelenting.

Louis shuffles his feet and refuses to look Liam in the eye. “I- I don’t know.”

There’s a long pause, and then Liam gives one of his trademark weary sighs. “I don’t want to fight with you. You know what you’re doing, and you’re a big boy. You know consequences. Just- be careful, okay? You’re already on rocky ground with the people, and I just don’t want you getting hurt.”

‘Rocky ground’ refers to the fact that Louis is by far the most controversial monarch to ever stand in line for the throne. His father has been ruling rather quietly since Louis’ mother passed away five years earlier, which is probably just as well since Louis makes up for it with his sassy banter and his punk aesthetic and his very public sexuality. Most people are still in support of him because royal blood carries a lot of weight and he’s the only child so he’s all they’ve got, and besides, it’s 2014 and most people are at least passably progressive. There are, however, a lot of people in his country that are an inch away from declaring him unfit to be king.

It makes Louis sigh just a beat after Liam brings it up, because he knows the man is right. A sex scandal is the last thing this family needs out of him, let alone one that involves money. “I know. You’re absolutely right. That was shitty of me,” he frowns at the carpet.

“Like I said, just be careful, okay? Talk to Niall if you have a thing with someone, let him help you do it properly,” Liam offers gently. “I’m not saying you shouldn’t have fun, just that you shouldn’t run yourself into the ground in the process.”

“I’ll try harder, mum,” Louis says cheekily as he looks back up, just so he can see Liam’s face break into a grin as it always does at the sound of the affectionate nickname. It suits him well, because while Liam is certainly a serious and authoritative figure in Louis’ life, he’s also one of the kindest and most loving people Louis’ ever known and one of the few who genuinely have his best interests at heart.

“And for fuck’s sake, stop sneaking out,” Liam says as he backs towards the door, which is really as good as I love you.

There’s a tiny little part of him that wants to call Liam back and tell him the whole truth, to confess that it wasn’t technically a one night stand because technically it was a business transaction, that his mystery man is a prostitute that quite frankly Louis isn’t sure that he’ll ever see again. At the very least he should have Niall sent up here and tell him, so that he won’t be blindsided if something happens. But…

But there’s a larger part of him that feels like some things get to be his and his alone, no matter how public his life must necessarily be, and if he wants to keep the details of this one particular evening to himself, no one can really fault him for that.

Except that as the day drags on, it becomes more and more obvious that Harry can not be confined to just one evening. Something keeps nagging at Louis as he goes about his business, attending meetings and shaking hands like he always does. It isn't just the fact that sleeping with Harry was singlehandedly the riskiest and stupidest decision he’s ever made; the more he thinks about it, the more Louis realizes that he wants to make that decision all over again.

Liam is going to murder him.

…………………

This plan at least is far less likely to end with him getting chewed out, Louis muses as he leaves the palace at the  ungodly hour of half four in the morning. With any luck, Louis will be able to find his mystery man, scratch his itch to be looking into those too-innocent eyes again, and sneak back home before Liam even thinks to make sure he's still there. He knows for a fact that he doesn't have anything on his schedule until two in the afternoon, which means Liam won't expect him out of bed before half one. It's pretty much a flawless plan.

It starts feeling silly, though , when he's sitting in the lobby of the Langham Hotel in sweatpants, a beanie, and a soft cotton sweater. Paired with his glasses, the idea was that the outfit would distract people enough that they failed to notice even in broad daylight that the man lurking in their lobby was in fact a member of the royal family. He had failed to account for the fact that while suits do look more like him, sweatpants in a five star hotel attract a lot of attention. He's getting all kinds of dirty looks from this the staff, who are clearly having their doubts about whether a tattooed miscreant like Louis belongs in their fine establishment, but luckily Louis has 22 years of practice looking aloof and he keeps his nose just high enough in the air that no one comes to investigate.

They probably ought to though, considering that Louis is just unabashedly being a creep. It’s not that he wanted to stalk Harry, but other than the club where they met this is the only place that he could think to look. The plan that he had hatched late last night, which he affectionately dubbed Operation Where’s Waldo, was that he would get up early and wait in the lobby of a hotel but Harry appeared to be familiar with and hope that by some stroke of luck, they would cross paths.

After an hour has passed, Louis is starting to consider that perhaps his brilliant plan was not as brilliant as he had originally imagined. Plenty of people are coming into the lobby to check out, mostly businessmen ready to start their day, but there’s no sign of any curly-haired young lads with mysterious smiles.

He's just about to give in and go back home to crawl into his nice warm bed for the remainder of the morning when he hear a familiar deep voice from across the room. His eyes seek the source at one, and sure enough it's Harry, excusing himself for having just bumped into a woman strolling by in four-inch heels with her nose buried in her Blackberry. He appears to be wandering aimlessly through the lobby, eyes casting idly around, until they fall on the little restaurant connected to the lobby that's just started serving breakfast.

Louis holds his position. It's starting to occur to him but he doesn't really have a plan of action. He’d pretty much stopped planning once he got to the ‘seeing Harry again’ part. Now that he's laid eyes on him, though, he isn't sure what he's meant to do, if anything. He looks like he might be considering getting some breakfast, and Louis is certainly not one to stand in the way of skinny kids being fed.

Five minutes go by. Harry is still lingering near the entrance to the restaurant, but so far has made no move to go inside. Louis would almost think that he was waiting for somebody, if it weren't for the fact Harry doesn't appear to be waiting at all. The look on his face is one of a mildly desperate hope, and that as much as anything is what prompts Louis to rise from his seat and sidle up next to the man. “Good morning,” he says softly, and Harry jumps at once. When he sees who spoke, however, he relaxes slightly and Louis smiles. “Didn't mean to startle you, kid. Alright?”

Harry seems to think about being honest for a moment, then thinks better of it and instead quips, “Budge off, will you? I won't be able to make a pull if you're hovering around me and killing my vibe of mystery.”

Louis’ eyebrows shoot all the way up, unable to contain his surprise. “Do you often make pulls at 6 in the morning?” he asked, realizing a beat too late that it might be rude. “Sorry, that came off wrong. I just meant I'm surprised you're still working, is all.”

It’s fumbling and awkward and barely better than his original phrasing, but at least Harry seems charmed. “I'm not usually,” he answers, “but today is an exception. I was hoping to work out a barter with someone.”

“A barter?”

“Thought maybe I could offer to blow one of the kitchen staff in exchange for some breakfast,” is Harry's casual reply. “Been a rough night.”

Luckily he isn't looking directly at Louis when he says it, so the prince has a moment to gather his composure and act equal equally casual when he asks, “Oh? Everything alright?”

Harry looks at him with a resigned of grin. “Literally. Rough night.” He pushes aside the curls behind one ear and shows off a purpling bruise. “My 3 o’clock was a double price customer.”

Price doubles if you want to rough me up. Harry's offer from the night they spent together echoes in Louis’ mind and he grimaces. “I'll buy you breakfast,” he offers at once. “I'm starving anyways. And I could use about six cups of tea.”

But Harry is shaking his head before Louis has even finished the offer. “No way,” he says firmly. “This is starting to get weird. First you pay me a ridiculous amount of money to sleep with you, and not in the way that I'm used to. Then you stalk me around the city and try to buy me breakfast?”

“I did not stalk you around the city,” Louis splutters in protest. “It's not weird. Don't say it like that.”

“If you say so,” Harry replies. “But it does look pretty sketchy that you're hanging out dressed like that in a building wear a suit without a tie is considered casual. So you can't pretend like you're here for anything official.

He's quick, Louis has to give him that. “Okay,” he says after a pause. “So maybe I was hoping that I would run into you. Doesn't mean I shouldn't be allowed to buy you breakfast, though. You were going to let somebody else, if I hadn't come along.”

“No, I was going to a barter my services in exchange for some food,” Harry corrects primly. “That's very different than having a creepy benefactor.”

Louis pauses and weighs the situation in his mind. Harry is obviously too clever to be tricked by fancy words or circular logic. This early morning standoff is definitely not what Louis had envisioned when he set out so early in the morning. Regardless, he weighs his options, grits his teeth, and lies.

“Alright, lets barter, then. I'll buy you breakfast, and then you can blow me. That's what you were pulling for, right?”

There's no mistaking the surprise in Harry's eyes. “Seriously? You're going to let me barter with you for breakfast?”

“Well I want to buy you breakfast,” Louis says simply, “so I guess I have to be willing to meet you where you’re at.” He definitely does not mention that he’s going to meet Harry where he’s at only for as long as it takes to get some food in him and then steadfastly refuse to be repaid. It’s low. It’s dirty. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

A brief moment passes between them where both try to peer into the intentions of the other, neither quite successful, until finally Harry shakes his head and relents. “I don't understand you,” he grumbles. “But breakfast sounds really nice.”

Louis' grin is victorious. “Let's go in, then, shall we?”

“Not sure that's going to be allowed,” Harry says with no small measure of amusement. “There's a dress code in places like this, you know that, right?” He looks pointedly at Louis’ outfit. “You might have to aim a little lower.”

He does have a point, so Louis sighs in defeat. “Where to, then? I'm driving.”

They start making their way to the valet station, and Harry shrugs as they go. “I don't really know what's around here to eat.”

Louis, who's been perusing the West End since he was a child, starts rattling off all of his favorite restaurants. He only makes it about halfway through the list 30 or so before Harry cuts him off with a shake of his head. “You're not taking me anywhere nice,” he says firmly. “That wasn't what I agreed to.”

“Technically,” Louis begins, then pauses until he's taken the keys from the valet and they’re safely inside where no one can hear him. “Technically, the deal was that I got to take you to breakfast. You didn't specify how nice of a place it could be.”

Harry ponders that for a moment. “Are you trying to take advantage of me?”

The question nearly makes Louis drive over the curb in surprise. “What? Of course I'm not trying to- hey, don't do that,” he scowls when he sees Harry snickering. “I'm already awkward enough as it is, I don't need you playing games with me and making me think I've offended you accidentally.”

“I certainly hope you're better at talking your way out of tough situations when you're dealing with politics,” Harry teases. “Otherwise, I might have to save up for a ticket to America and try my luck there.”

Louis rolls his eyes. “Haha, very funny,” he says dryly. “What are you trying your luck as, a stand-up comedian?”

“I do have an excellent repertoire of puns. Pull in here.”

Louis moves to obey before he even has time to register what Harry is directing him to, but as he makes the turn he recognizes the familiar golden arches and sighs. “Seriously? The place you want me to take you for breakfast is McDonald's?”

“They have really good hash browns,” Harry defends. “And a drive thru. So we don't have to leave the warm car.”

“Are you cold? Louis asks with a frown as he gets in line at the drive thru. When he glances over, he can see that Harry's nails are turning a little blue, probably due to the fact that the material of his suit is not an overly thick one, and he has no coat to speak of. A brisk autumn morning is a little bit more then he's dressed to handle. Louis immediately cranks up the heat. “You should have said something.”

“Didn't want to be a bother,” Harry mumbles, and leaves it at that.

Louis lets him be quiet until they reach the ordering station and he turns to ask Harry what his order is. He doubles the quantity as he relays it to the screen, adds his own order, and pulls forward when instructed, ignoring studiously the way that Harry shoots a glare at him. Really, Liam's are much worse, and Harry’s approaching skeleton status too rapidly for Louis to let him have a skimpy breakfast. “Did you have a good sleep?” he says conversationally, more to prevent Harry from giving him grief than anything else.

“Even later than we agreed, actually,” Harry answers after second. “Thought you would be there to wake me up when you’d had your ten thousand’s worth.”

“Yeah, sorry about that,” Louis says sheepishly. “My mum was going insane looking for me. Had to go back to the palace before the world fell apart without me or something.” A glance over to the passenger seat reveals Harry looking at him like he's got seven heads, and it takes a moment to realize why. “Not my actual mum, obviously,” he hurries to explain. “My personal assistant, Liam. He fusses a lot, and yells at me when I misbehave, so it fits.”

Harry smiles a little at the idea. “Did you get grounded, for sneaking out late and spending ten thousand on sex and sleep?”

“And like a mum, there are some things Liam is just better off not knowing. Far less painful that way, you know?”

The smile slides off Harry's face as suddenly at it had appeared. “Yeah.”

Louis backpedals immediately. “I don't mean that in a bad way or anything,” he hurries to correct himself. “I don't think there's anything wrong with what you do. I mean obviously it's illegal or whatever, but like, what you do with your life is your choice, and I'm not going to judge you for it.”

“Huh? Oh, no, I know,” Harry replies. “It's fine, really. If everyone were okay with my profession, I probably wouldn't be able to charge as much as I do and chalk it up to a discretionary fee.”

"Is that what you're getting paid ten grand a night for? Discretion?" Louis laughs, just relieved he hasn't run the boy off just yet.

"I don't make ten a night, you're just strange that way," Harry replies seriously.

They’ve reached the window and bags of food are being passed into the car, so Louis hands them to Harry to hold and steers them over to a parking space. Once they’re parked, he waits in silence for Harry to hand him his food, and takes a minute to collect his thoughts as the sound of crinkling paper fills the car. “Can I ask you a question that might be kind of rude? About your work?”

Harry pauses mid-bite for just a fraction of a second, then continues and chews his food very slowly before answering. “Why? Considering a new career?”

“I figure they’ll probably dethrone me at some point so best be prepared,” Louis jokes lamely. “But really, I’m- curious, I guess. I mean my entire knowledge about the profession comes from having watched Pretty Woman at least fifteen times, so I’m not really an expert.”

“Sure, ask away,” Harry shrugs. “You can pick my brain about whatever you want until I finish breakfast. Might have my mouth full after that, though.”

Louis flushes and hopes Harry doesn’t notice. “You said you don’t usually make ten a night, right?” he barrels forward, before the boy can change his mind. “How much do you usually make?”

“Three’s average, I guess. Four or five if I’m lucky.” Harry sips his orange juice and goes for another bite of McMuffin tongue-first. “They don’t usually want more than an hour, but sometimes they’ll do two. But I guess like three pulls a night is average. A thousand apiece, and maybe one or two will want to rough me up or stay longer.”

“How much did you make tonight?”

“Five thousand. Four pulls, one rough.”

“You had to barter for breakfast, though?”

A hashbrown gets dismantled by Harry’s long fingers as he mulls that over, apparently struggling to decide how to answer. “I don’t- I don’t get to keep the money,” he says at last. “There’s a guy, Kieffer, the money goes to him. My curfew is seven every morning, so after I work all night I hand over whatever I made, and he gives me an allowance every week.”

“Is he, um. Is he your pimp?” Louis asks awkwardly, looking out the windshield instead of at his companion. “I don’t know if that’s like an acceptable word, sorry.”

“I don’t know. I mean, I guess? No one ever calls him that. We just call him the boss.”

“‘We?’ Who’s the ‘we?’”

“There’s about a dozen of us that report to Kieffer. Some come and go. Mostly they stay in the group until they overdose out, and then some stupid kid comes in and takes their place.” Harry shakes his head sadly. “They never listen, when you tell them to get out before they get in too deep.”

Louis chews his food very carefully, then sets it aside to sip at his tea. “So there’s drugs involved?”

“Well Kieffer’s a dealer, that’s his main thing,” Harry explains calmly. “Most of the others pull so that they can pay him for drugs. They give him all the money they make turning tricks and he gives them whatever drug they take, and an allowance to live off of. That’s their whole life, is just turning tricks all night to get high all day. That’s the only reason why they do it.”

The silence is heavy enough for Louis to choke on, but somehow he finds the strength to ask, “And why- why do you do it?”

Harry freezes, fingers digging into his sandwich as seconds tick by without answer. Louis tries to think of ways to take it back. Harry appears to think about how to breathe. “I guess it’s the same for me,” he says at last. “I’m just not the one the drugs are for.”

“I don’t- what does that mean?”

“My mum,” Harry says quietly. “She’s Kieffer’s girlfriend, I guess. Strung out on heroin. Part of what I make for him feeds her habit, keeps her from withdrawing and winding up dead. The rest of it keeps him happy so he won’t beat the shit out of her.”

The heart in Louis’ chest pounds away in triple time. “Harry, I- I’m so sorry. Fuck.”

“It is what it is,” Harry says, with a tiny smile and a flicker of his eyes towards the collar of Louis’ hoodie where he knows those same words are hiding underneath. “Someone has to take care of her. She’s too fucked up from the drugs to leave him, or want help. She’s dead without me, and I just- I just can’t.”

“So you just go in her place?”

“No other choice. At least I’m sober enough to understand I’m getting screwed out of my life,” he says wryly. “The others are too fucking high to get it.”

“That doesn’t make any sense, though,” Louis says with furrowed brow, brain still reeling from what can’t be truth, it’s so enormous. “If they can make thousands of dollars turning tricks, why don’t they keep the money and buy using that? They can’t possibly use thousands of dollars worth a day.”

“Oh most of them don’t make anywhere near my kind of money. They’re a bunch of strung-out addicts, they couldn’t pull wealthy clientele.” Harry winces at his own words. “That sounds rude, but. They work streets and stuff. I used to, too, but I saved up my money and bought nicer clothes and started working nicer areas because I wanted it for myself.”

“Do you get a higher allowance now that you work richer clients?”

Harry shakes his head in between sips of coffee. “Nope. Flat fee. A hundred pounds a week.”

Louis almost spills his tea all over himself in shock. “Are you- are you serious? You make like twenty thousand pounds a week and he gives you a hundred to live off of? Harry, that’s- jesus, fuck, no wonder you’re skin and bones.”

“Fuck off,” Harry says sharply, curling in on himself a little. “I try, okay? I eat as much as I can. But sometimes I have to dry clean my suit, or if I botch a pull I have to pay for my drink. Supplies cost money, weekly STD tests cost money. I do the best I can.”

“Hey, hey, I’m sorry,” Louis hurries to soothe, palms spread towards Harry as he twists around in his seat. “That wasn’t an attack on you, okay? It was on this Kevin guy.”

“Kieffer.”

“Kieffer. Whatever. Dickface, for all I care.” There’s something hot and angry rising up in Louis that makes him have to grind his teeth with every ounce of his practiced politican’s restraint just to stop from getting nasty. “He’s starving you out, and everybody else, because the whole lot is high on drugs that he provides. Meanwhile he makes ridiculous profit off of you because you’re basically paying for insurance that your mother won’t get the shit beat out of her by him?”

“It is what it is,” Harry sighs, leaning his head back against the headrest and closing his eyes.

“And you thought I was mad at you,” Louis huffs in disbelief, trying to relax back into the seat himself.

“When you make money off of your body, how you look is important,” shrugs Harry. “If men start disliking the fact that I’m skinny, I’m in trouble.”

“That’s not it at all,” Louis’ saying before he’s even finished. “You’re gorgeous. You’re skinny, and you look exhausted again already, but you’re gorgeous. So like. Don’t worry about that, I guess is what I’m saying.”

The words feel so strange and heavy on his tongue, like the meaning behind them makes them harder to say. He’s essentially telling Harry not to worry, that men will still want to fuck him for money so that he can pay to keep his mother alive. Harry, who came to breakfast this morning with the sweat of four men on his skin. The logical part of Louis’ brain tells him not to worry about it, that Harry is a big boy who makes his own decisions and it isn’t Louis’ place to editorialize. But there’s also a part of him saying that no one that sweet should ever have to be that sad, and it’s sort of making him want to scoop Harry up and keep him safe from all of the very bad people out there.

“Can I kiss you?” he blurts out.

Harry opens his eyes and rolls his head to the side to look at Louis. “I can’t kiss you and suck your cock at the same time,” he says quite obviously. “I can do a lot of things you’ve probably never felt before, but even I can’t kiss you and blow you at the same time.”

“Well I changed my mind,” Louis says. “I don’t want a blowjob, so. You can accept the free breakfast and choose not to kiss me, or you can accept the free breakfast and choose to kiss me. Solid options.”

“You’re really ridiculous, I hope you know that.” Harry leans across the console and presses his mouth to Louis’, soft kisses that warm the both of them down to their toes. Minutes drag on and Louis keeps waiting for Harry to pull away, to decide that the ridiculous perceived debt of a meager McDonalds breakfast has been repaid and he doesn’t have to kiss any longer. He never does.

It’s Louis who pulls back in the end, eyes flicking to the clock on the dashboard. 6:27 a.m. “You’re not going to be late, are you?” he asks, forcing his voice to be level. “I don’t know how far away you live.”

“I should go soon, yeah. It’s like a twenty minute walk from the hotel.” Harry’s eyes are sad, refusing to look at Louis anymore.

“Where do you live?” Louis offers, refastening his seatbelt. “I’ll drop you so you don’t have to w-”

“No!” Harry interrupts, frantic in his rush to stop Louis. “No, I’ll walk. It’s fine.”

Louis furrows his brow. “Are you sure? You’re not putting me out or anything. I’m just going to go home and go back to bed, so.”

“You just want to know where I live so you can stalk me some more, don’t you?” It’s a flat attempt at a joke, and the way Harry hangs his head as soon as it’s crossed his lips says he knows it. He heaves a sigh and tries again. “I don’t want you to see, okay?” It’s embarrassing. I don’t want you to see what kind of a shithole I live in.”

It hurts Louis’ heart. “I won’t think less of you, you know. It isn’t your fault.”

“I know. I’m going to walk, still.”

“Okay,” Louis whispers, because he knows a battle destined to be lost when he sees one. “Alright. Be careful.”

Harry gives him a look that clearly doesn’t understand how in the hell he’s supposed to be careful in a world like this, but it only lasts for a second before he nods. “I will. Thanks for breakfast, Lou,” he adds sweetly, and leans in one more time to place a soft peck on Louis’ startled mouth before he’s opening the door and disappearing into the brisk autumn.

It’s twenty minutes before Louis’ collected enough to put the car in gear and drive home. As he falls into silk sheets and down he wonders what kind of bed Harry’s falling into. Silk feels a little less lovely after that.

…………………

Louis is absolutely unashamed about the fact that he starts to become a regular at the club where he and Harry met. He starts taking Zayn with him, which appeases Liam and most of his security staff, and it works for Louis because Zayn mostly just drinks quietly and plays on his phone and minds his own business. He doesn’t even butt in whenever Louis inevitably strikes up conversation with a certain green-eyed stranger.

They don’t have sex again, no matter how much Harry bites his lip and bats his eyelashes and insinuates. Louis wants to talk to Harry, has an uncontrollable need to check up on him, almost, but he draws the line at ever letting Harry enchant him away again. Harry doesn’t seem to mind all that much. He still comes up to chat with Louis whenever he sees him, even long after he recognizes that he’s going to get exactly nowhere on a professional front. Louis always smiles and asks how he’s doing, which seems to be enough.

The banter gets more and more spirited, until Harry stops being a mythological creature and Louis stops being an alien and they start just being Harry and Louis. It’s hard to pinpoint what exactly it means, because princes and prostitutes who hang out in shady places don’t seem like normal friends, but when days drag into weeks it starts to feel suspiciously like that might be the case.

 

The next time Louis finds himself in the lobby of an expensive hotel, it’s a few weeks later and under much less enjoyable circumstances. He’s surrounded by his usual exorbitant detail of ten bodyguards, hardly able to see where he’s going since apparently everybody who works palace security is required to be an actual giant.  He pretty much just keeps putting one foot in front of the other and trusts that the giants in front of him aren’t going to lead him into a pit of lava or anything else terrible.

“I think I'm going to die,” Louis announces, mostly because referring to death usually gets the attention of your security team. They’re too well-trained, however. No one even glances up to hear him say, “I'm absolutely starving. Can we move this meat train in the general direction of some brunch, please?”

“Louis?” a voice calls from beyond his human fence.

The prince almost gets run over by the men bringing up the rear when he stops dead in his tracks. “Hold up a second,” he says a beat too late. He taps one of the men on the chest and attempts to stick his head through between two of the guards. “Budge over a bit, will you?”

The two reluctantly part and Louis’ permitted to peer out into the rest of the world, which happens to include the smiling visage of Harry. “Hi,” he says with a delighted dimpled smile.

“Harry, fancy seeing you here,” Louis grins. “Come rescue me. I'm being kidnapped by my own employees. They're refusing to feed me.”

The boy takes a few steps closer to the group, presumably so he won't have to shout his half of the banter across the echoing expanse of lobby, but immediately the circle of guards tightens up again. “Sir, I'm going to need you to take a step back,” one announces firmly.

“Oh, stop,” Louis cuts in with a roll of his eyes. “Obviously I know him, or else I wouldn't be talking to him. Let him through.”

“Your Highness, we can't verify whether he's a safety risk-”

“Well I can, and he's not. Let him through.” Now it's no longer a request, but an order from a monarch that can't be ignored even by people with his best interest at heart. It only takes the space of about 5 seconds for a small hole to form in the ranks and for Harry to pass through.

He looks nervous now. “Should I even be talking to you?” he asks with apprehension. “Like, you’re not- I mean, you're obviously you. So people might see you talking to me.”

“Harry, I dunno if you've noticed, but we’re literally surrounded by a metric ton of human flesh right now. No one can see anything. Wouldn't care if they did, though,” he says, just for the record.

“You should.” There's no laughter in Harry's gaze.

“Yes, well, there are lots of things that I ought to do that I categorically refuse to,” is Louis’ smooth reply. “Just ask Liam, who probably will be ringing me within the next thirty seconds. He has a sixth sense for knowing when I'm misbehaving.”

“The car is waiting for us, Your Highness,” a giant says.

“And it will continue to wait. Harry, isn't it a little late for you to be out?” Louis continues hesitantly. “Like, isn't it like half ten?”

Harry shakes his head. “I already went home earlier. I had to come back, though, I forgot my tie.” He waves the scrap of fabric clutched in his fingers.

“Right. So you're not busy right now?”

“Uh, no, I guess not. Why?”

“Well I'm actually free the rest of the day, all I had was that 9 o’clock meeting. So. I guess I was thinking, that if you wanted to, like, you could come hang out with me. If you want to.”

A startled laugh bubbles its way up from Harry's chest. “Seriously? You're inviting me to casually hang out with you Buckingham Palace?”

“Why do you always make everything sound so weird?” Louis fires back with a blush. “I rather just think of it as my house, but yeah, I guess I'm inviting you to come hang out at Buckingham Palace."

There’s hesitation all over Harry’s face, and Louis doesn’t have to ask why. This is different than anything they’ve encountered in their strange, growing relationship. Sex, once. Bartered breakfast and honest discourse, once. Barside banter and easy flirtation, more times than Louis can count. But this was different. It wasn’t Harry and Louis, it was Harry and Prince Louis, two people from very different worlds, and Harry didn’t appear to be sure whether he was ready to try to mesh those worlds.

“You don’t have to,” Louis says quietly. “No pressure. Nothing weird. Just thought I’d offer. I like having you around. You laugh at my jokes.”

Harry cracks a smile in true form. “You’re so stupid sometimes it’s funny.”

"Is that a yes? Because if you're undecided, you should know that as the crown prince I do get special early release versions of pretty much every video game.”

The grin that splits Harry's face just keeps on growing. “Well I guess I can't rightly say no, Your Highness.”

Louis lets him get away with one cheeky bow before he rolls his eyes and claps his hands once. “Alright, let's get a move on, boys.”

“Is this going to end up like a Beyonce song?” Harry whispers as they climb into the back of one of the limousines in the royal motorcade. “Because I might be okay with that.”

“Somehow, I'm not surprised even a little bit. Unfortunately the partition is already up,” Louis teases. “Otherwise I would absolutely make you sing.”

“You can't make me do anything,” Harry says smugly. “I'm like six inches taller than you.”

“My crown adds at least 8 inches of height.”

“Please tell me that’s literal and you didn’t just make some deep fucking metaphor about power.”

They banter back and forth like this the entire way to the palace, until they're pulling up into one of the driveway and parking in front of the side door. “Hurry up, now, we have to sneak in,” Louis whispers conspiratorially.

“Oh god,” Harry whispers back, all full of drama, “don’t tell me you’re not actually the prince. Did we just sneak into the palace? Are we going to be shot?”

“I’m afraid a fate much worse awaits us if we’re caught. If certain parties were to catch sight of us, they might- they might give us responsibilities.”

Harry laughs, far too loudly for any sort of covert mission, real or imagined, and the sound makes Louis grin smugly. “Come on, then, let’s get away from security before the high concentration of testosterone alerts mum that I’m home. Do you want a tour?”

“Never been on a tour of the palace,” Harry says thoughtfully. “I got sick on field trip day. Stomach flu.”

“That’s just cruel,” Louis sympathizes, though he’s never attended a day of school in his life. Mostly he’s just excited to have an excuse to say, “That settles it, then. You’re coming with me.”

It’s sort of an inspiring thing, leading Harry around the palace and watching him take everything in with a wide-eyed sort of wonder. Not even just the truly wonderful things, either- he’s looking at the carpet with the same fascination as the artwork, apparently just happy as could be that he’s in the palace getting a tour from the prince. He’s positively ridiculous. Louis’ rather charmed.

He doesn't even comment on the fact that Louis is an extraordinarily terrible tour guide. The palace is so large that even Louis struggles to remember where certain things are, and there has been more than one occasion in the last fifteen minutes in which he's opened a door thinking that it's a back passageway toward something or other and found that it is in fact a broom cupboard. He’d like to think that he passes it off well, however, gesturing flamboyantly like this is what he intended to show Harry all along.

It's in this manner that they wind up in the kitchen, which was not intentional because normally Louis is not permitted in the kitchen. The rule has been in place since he was a teenager and kitchen staff would frequently come in bright and early and find things a mess where Louis had gotten up and fixed himself something to eat and then gotten so distracted that he neglected to clean up after himself. Now he has a minibar stocked in his rooms at all times, less for his convenience than for that of his employees.

Harry doesn't appear to mind, however. He's opening up cabinets to peer inside, apparently enchanted by the volume of cooking supplies it takes to feed a palace. Even the large bowl of fruit on one of the little islands is interesting to him. “Do you have your own orchard?” he teases. “These look like they were picked yesterday.”

“God knows. Probably. Dunno. I don't really ask much about the fruit. Do you want some?” Louis asks, eyes fluttering down to the ever so slight concavity of Harry's cheeks, made all that more obvious in the shitty fluorescent light.

“No, I'm fine,” Harry answers predictably. “I don't need anything.”

It's almost certainly a lie, but Louis is a quick study and he's already smart enough to know that he isn't going to win this one. “Suit yourself,” he says lightly, grabbing two of the bright oranges off of the top of the bowl. One he sticks into his pocket of his jacket, despite the ridiculous bulge it makes, and the other one he starts to peel as they wander out of the kitchen and down the hallway.

It's a rather ingenious plan, really, because Harry is so distracted by the novelty and the opulence that he doesn't even notice that for every slice of orange Louis eats, there are at least two that he offers to Harry. The boys simply takes each offered piece of fruit, sucking on it distractedly while his neck cranes backwards to look at something Louis has learned to find unremarkable. Sometimes he's so intrigued by something they’re passing that he never looks down to see that more is being offered to him, and Louis has to physically bring it to his lips and feed it to him so that he won't have to stand there holding it himself.

Louis hand-feeds the last slice to Harry like he's the one that's the prince instead of Louis. He has to realize what he’s going by now, because this time he sucks Louis’ fingers into his mouth as well, tongue swirling around his fingertips and cleaning them of the sweet juices. "Citrusy," he remarks with a smile that's all too innocent and not nearly innocent enough to convince Louis of anything but his absolute devilishness.

“I think I want to change my clothes,” Louis says conversationally, mostly so that he has an excuse to no longer be standing there with his fingers hovering an inch from Harry's lips, where they almost certainly do not belong. “Do you mind? You'll get to see part of the palace that isn't usually on the tour.”

"Does this mean you're inviting me to your bedroom?" Harry teases.

“You've got a one track mind.” Louis rolls his eyes. “You’re lucky I rather like that about you.”

They make their way to Louis’ personal room, and this at least is part of the palace that he's unfailingly familiar with. The first space in his quarters is a sitting area, with several couches, a large TV with gaming consoles, and a foosball table that they probably expected him to have removed when he reached adulthood. Over off to one side is the door to the bedroom, complete with a king-sized bed and a chaise.

The truly remarkable part of his quarters, however, is the enormous walk in closet that was honestly as big as some starter homes. Harry stood in the center of this last space with his mouth hanging wide open. “You have a couch in your closet,” he says calmly, just in case Louis had not noticed.

Louis opens his mouth to defend that it's actually quite useful for having a place to sit when working on skinny jeans or taking off your shoes, but of course Harry isn't looking for an argument. He just stands there in such awe that Louis can't help but chuckle. “You want to see the bathroom?”

As soon as Harry’s directed back into the bedroom and then in through another door to the bathroom suite- which includes a Jacuzzi, much to the delight he calls out from inside- Louis takes advantage of this brief privacy and shrugs his suit in favour of a pair of jeans and a plain black vest. "Much better,” he announces as he strolls back into the bedroom. “Did you want to borrow something, Harry? Can’t be comfortable wearing a suit and dress shoes around all day.”

“I do it all day every day.” Harry emerges from the bathroom and looks Louis up and down. “So do you, for that matter. I’m used to it.”

“Doesn’t make it comfortable. Want some sweatpants? A tee shirt?”

It appears to be too much effort for Harry to tear his eyes away from the tattoos lacing Louis’ exposed skin, so he lets them linger there as he shakes his head. “Wouldn't fit me anyway. You're tiny.”

Personally Louis thinks that Harry would probably fit his clothes just fine, seeing as Harry isn't really that much taller than him and thinner by far when Louis’ unprecedented bum and curvy thighs are taken into consideration, but he doesn't say much. “I like my comfy clothes a little big anyways,” he says firmly. “Wait here.”

He goes back into the closet and comes out thirty seconds later with a pair of his softest grey sweatpants and some band shirt he's had since forever that's been worn and washed so many times it might fall apart with how worn it is, but it'll feel damn nice against his skin until the day that it does. The little stack of clothes may not look like much, but Louis considers these to be prime real estate in the luxury lounging clothes market, and he would consider offering nothing less to a guest.

“Louis, I don’t need your clothes,” Harry protests. “I’m fine with what I’m wearing. Seriously. You don’t have to keep giving me shit.”

“Lending,” Louis tries. “I won’t try to make you take anything you don’t want. But you can borrow some clothes for an afternoon, yeah? You’ll feel more comfortable. And so will I, because now I feel super underdressed.”

Harry must recognize the futility of the argument, because he only half rolls his eyes before taking the clothes offered to him and setting them on the edge of Louis’ bed so that he can start shredding out of his clothes. Reflexively, Louis covers his eyes and laughs. “You can go into the bathroom if you want. I'll wait.”

“You've already seen me naked,” Harry comments with a snort. “What does it matter?”

A flush starts forming on the back of Louis’ neck at the memory, and suddenly he finds himself glad the top that he chose to wear hangs down nearly to mid thigh, as it makes for excellent camouflage. He still answers firmly, though. “Just because I've seen you naked once doesn't give me a free pass to stare anytime I like.”

“And what if I give you permission? Is that enough?”

Warm hands come up to circle around Louis’ wrists and pull gently until his eyes are forcibly uncovered. Louis looks straight ahead into Harry's eyes, refusing to look down, but he can see in his peripheral that Harry isn't wearing a stitch of clothing. The flush on Louis’ skin spreads. “You should put some clothes on,” he remarks, and he can't pretend like the shake in his voice isn't noticeable.

Harry isn't intimidated. “Why should I?”

“Well,” Louis fumbles, “you haven't seen all of the palace yet. Some of the staff might be a little shocked if I start letting house guests walk around naked.”

“And if I'm done with the tour?”

Louis refuses to show weakness. “Well I'm going to go, with or without you.”

“I could just stay here, get cozy in your bed.” Harry's fingers run across the duvet lightly, and somehow Louis can feel it on his skin, like it's him that's being touched by Harry instead of some piece of fabric with no nerve endings. An image comes unbidden to Louis’ mind- Harry spread out right here in his own home, between his own sheets, ready and begging for Louis.

His arguments get less and less brilliant as all of the blood rushes from Louis' head and travels much further south. “I- I suppose you could,” he stutters. “But you'll miss the- er, garage.” Working on minimum brainpower, it's the only part of the building that he can think of that he hasn't already shown Harry, and he latches onto the idea with desperation. “There's all kinds of cars and stuff. You’ll be missing out.”

Honestly, he wasn't expecting that to get a genuine reaction out of Harry, but as soon as the word garage is said, the boy perks up. “Cars?”

“Yeah, loads of them,” Louis answers with relief. He's got about sixty seconds left of willpower in him so if he doesn't get clothes back on Harry fast, this afternoon is going to go in an unplanned direction. “There's all of the staff vehicles, like the limos and the security vehicles and things like that. Plus I like collecting pretty cars that I have no idea how to drive.”

By the time he's finishing the sentence, Harry is reaching for the comfy clothes that Louis laid out for him. “I love cars,” he says excitedly. “I had a subscription to a luxury car magazine when I was a kid, and I used to love flicking through the pages and memorizing the stats.”

Louis grins widely. “I never would have pegged you for a car guy, somehow. I've been driving you around in an Audi this whole time and you never said a word.”

“Oh, please,” Harry snorts. “Like I haven't been inside fifteen Audis already. I hope your collection of pretty things isn't that limited.”

It was already absolutely Louis’ intention to take Harry to see the garage if his love for cars was really that profound, but now that a challenge has been issued, Louis couldn't refuse him if he tried. “Well come along then,” he says haughtily, “and we'll see just how limited my collection is.”

The garage, an underground structure, is actually more like a parking lot then anything else. The vast majority vehicles aren't Louis’ specifically, but there's one row that houses all of his particular favorites and that's where he leads Harry. “So I have my R8 Spyder, obviously, you've seen that before-”

Harry is paying him exactly zero attention, instead making a  beeline for the red beauty at the end of the row. “Louis,” he says breathlessly, “tell me that this isn't a Lamborghini Murcielago. No, wait, don't bother. I would know this car with my eyes closed my hands tied behind my back.”

“Beautiful, isn't she?” Louis says fondly. “I just love to sit back and look at her.”

“Look at her? I don't want to look at her, I want to run my hands all over her,” Harry breathes with a sort of reverence. “This is fantastic. I'm so- I can't believe you have a Murcielago!” He turns back to look at Louis with a sparkle in his eye. “It's kind of hot.”

It's such a sudden, unexpected comment that Louis might think he was only teasing, if it weren't for the fact that one quick glance downwards reveals a small but noticeable bulge in the front of his sweatpants. “Shit,” he breathes. “You aren't kidding.”

“I guess I like pretty things, too,” Harry laughs quietly, then reaches out to take Louis by the back of the neck and pull him in for a kiss Louis wouldn't have been quick enough to deny him even if there was any part of him that wanted to.

Harry's lips taste like the tangy sweetness of the oranges Louis fed him earlier, and his lips are soft and inviting as they move against Louis'. Only about three startled seconds pass before Louis starts kissing him back, his hands on Harry's waist to hold them close. For a long minute, the slide of their lips on one another is slow and easy, intimate somehow in how they’re unhurried in the way that they seek that tingling pleasure. But then Louis finds himself pulling Harry closer, and their hips are rubbing together, and as a flash of heat zips up Louis’ spine there certainly isn't anything about the kiss that’s slow or gentle anymore.

Louis walks them forward until the hood of the car is hitting the back of Harry's knees and with a wobbly sort of tumble he's seated on the car. He cranes his head back to continue kissing Louis, fingers digging into skin in an effort to keep him close, and Louis places one knee on the hood beside Harry so he's half-kneeling in his lap. Finally Harry lets go of Louis to lean back on his hands. His body makes one long line stretched out on the hood that Louis can run his hands down, from sharp jawline to collarbone, down across hardening nipples, over the expanse of smooth cotton to tease at the strip of skin peeking out between top and bottom.

“You're so soft and cuddly when you're not wearing a suit,” Louis says delightedly as Harry nuzzles up into him. “This is a new side to you.”

“Louis, there's nothing soft about me right now.”

It sounds enough like an invitation that Louis trails his hand a little further down until he can feel the hardness of Harry's cock in the palm of his hand. Harry moves up into the touch at once, rolling his hips so that he gets friction where he needs it even if Louis hasn't quite decided what he thinks of all this just yet. He isn't sure what he wants, what he needs, he's just sure that he loves the feel of Harry's mouth on his and the way the curve of Harry's length covered in soft fabric fits so snugly into the palm of his hand.

But after a minute Harry pulls back from the kiss and when Louis opens his eyes he sees that there is a look of almost pained hesitation on Harry's face. “What's the matter?” he asks at once. “Is everything okay?”

“I don't know how to ask for sex that doesn't involve money,” Harry blurts out.

Louis is just about to laugh, but the look of genuine distress on Harry's face stops him in mid breath. “Just like you would ask for anything else,” he instead says gently. “A good formula is to start with ‘please’ and finish with whatever it is that you want.”

Harry's pupils are so blown wide that they're drawing Louis in like magnets. “Please, touch me.”

It's a good thing that the garage is empty, because Louis doesn't even think to stop and look around before granting Harry's wish, dipping his hand beneath the waistband of the sweatpants to wrap around Harry's cock. Harry hums at the contact and cants his hips up ever so slightly so that he starts moving in Louis' hand, like the half a second that's passed since Louis took hold of him is already too long.

But then Louis does start to work his fist over Harry’s cock, and as much as he likes the idea of making Harry fall apart over a series of hours so he’s tired and wrecked and putty in Louis’ hands, right in this moment he just wants to give Harry whatever he wants. He’s been brave, after all, learning how to ask for things that it isn’t in his nature to ask for. Doesn’t that deserve a treat?

So he pumps his hand quick up and down Harry’s length, his grip tight, taking advantage of the precum starting to leak from Harry’s tip so he can get more slide between his skin and Harry’s. After a few minutes Louis has to take a break from kissing Harry because no matter how gentle the kisses, the pace of his hand leaves Harry panting and breathless. Louis nuzzles into that soft neck, teasing at Harry’s skin with his teeth, and watches over Harry’s shoulder as his fingers twitch and curl on the hood of the car.

When Harry starts really wiggling, feet scrabbling for purchase on the garage floor so he can buck up into Louis’ touch, that’s when Louis figures he’s close. “Are you gonna come?” he whispers into Harry’s ear, feeling the boy nod vigorously in response.

“Soon. P-please don’t stop,” Harry begs, face pink and eyes closed. “I’m so close. Please- Lou, fuck, please-”

Louis would have assured Harry that of course he won’t stop, but before he gets the chance to Harry’s hand shoots out and grips Louis’ like an insurance policy that he’ll keep getting touched and he’s coming, warm white slick that coats both of their hands and makes a mess of the inside of the sweatpants. “Lou, fuck- thank you,” Harry groans, capturing Louis’ mouth in a kiss and then promptly laying back on the hood of the car like sitting up is just far too much effort.

The smug grin of pride is still all over Louis’ face when a voice echoes through the garage. “Louis, is that you? Finally, I’ve been looking all over the- oh, Jesus Christ!”

It’s Liam, of course, because Louis’ been home for a full hour and he’s never been able to avoid the man for much longer than that. Louis glances up and sees him standing at the end of the row with his hand slapped over his eyes and a blush slowly forming. He appears to have just caught sight of the fact that Louis is not alone, and that he most definitely has his hands down the pants of his companion.

“Hey Liam,” Louis says casually, a grin of a more mischievous nature stretching across his face. He winks at Harry calmly as if to say, don't worry- friend, not foe. “I was wondering how long it would take you to find me.”

"Did you plan for me to walk in on you like this? Jesus, Lou, there are security cameras in here, you know that, right?"

"I'm well aware, yes, just like I’m aware that it’s going to take you about thirty seconds to call up Zayn and have him go get the security footage deleted for the last fifteen minutes. You've got more power than God, Liam, don't stress. And be nice, you're making a terrible first impression.”

Liam frowns at that. “I'm not going to open my eyes,” he says stubbornly. “Hello, though, whoever you are.”

“I'm, um, Harry,” the boy replies. “And that might be a good idea.”

Louis pulls his hands from Harry's sweatpants at last, looking at the mess that covers them both and glancing around for something to clean them up with. Before he has a chance to find anything, Harry reaches out and takes his hand, quickly lapping up the cum from Louis’ skin and his own. Not a perfect job, but Louis opposes that since he was just allowed to get a handsome man off, he won't be too picky.

The door opens once more and Niall comes into the room as Louis takes Harry by the hand and starts leading him towards the door. “Liam?” the Irishman inquires, frowning. “Why’ve you got your eyes covered? Oh, hello, Louis. Who's this?”

“A friend,” Louis smiles.

“Harry,” Harry adds.

“And potentially a nightmare for you,” Liam sighs as he finally peeks through a crack in his fingers and sees that the coast is clear. “I’d better call Zayn.”

....................

It becomes a bit of a habit in a castle, to find Harry and Louis tucked away somewhere doing things that they probably ought not to. Sometimes it's blowjobs in a pantry. Other times, it's dropping wads of paper on passing tourists when they walk beneath balconies. Unfailingly, it's with sparkling eyes and unabashed smiles that Liam, along with damage control experts Zayn and Niall, grow to expect.

"Why does it always come back to sex with us?" Louis asks one night as Harry's nestled between Louis and his bed. “Even when we say no touching, there's always touching.”

“I'm a prostitute,” Harry says simply, because after several months of them seeing each other at least once a week, Louis has learned to stop blushing at the word. “Sex is what I do. It's probably my fault.”

“No, I don't think that's it,” Louis shakes his head. “You've got to be bored of sex. If it was just that, you'd stop asking for it.”

“Maybe I like sex with you.”

Louis smiles. “Closer. If it were just that, you'd stop asking for anything else.”

“Maybe I like the way I feel when I'm around you, and I like having sex with you, and I like when you shut up and stop asking really dumb questions.”

Harry giggles as Louis leans in to nibble on his neck. “That makes sense,” Louis approves with a smile. “We'll go with that.”

It's a constant struggle, trying to get Harry to accept any kind of kindness. He almost categorically refuses food- unless Louis is eating too, in which case he allows Louis to share. They’ve reached an impasse when Harry refuses to accept money unless he's earned it with sex and Louis refuses to have sex unless it involves no money at all. Finally Louis’ forced to make up a new position on palace staff, ‘vehicle maintenance operator,’ and offers the job to Harry so that he can pay him for a few hours a week of work waxing the cars and buffing tires until they shine. Harry probably realizes that the salary he’s paid for that kind of menial labor is ridiculous and that the company phone he's provided isn't strictly necessary, but he's rather powerless to refuse the opportunity to take care of all of the beautiful cars.

He still refuses to let Louis see where he lives. It's a solemn reminder that while Harry now has enough money to feed himself enough to make his bones disappear a little more beneath his skin, and while he now wears a smile for most of his day, there is still a separate world that Harry can't manage to leave. There are some things that money can't fix, that Louis can't fix, and they're the same things that Harry can't leave.

They don't talk about his mum a lot. Louis tries to, once, an early morning whispered conversation where Louis tries against all odds to make Harry see that sometimes, doing what's best for you isn't selfishness, it's just self preservation. Harry storms out after that. It’s a week and a half before he comes back, and Louis mostly keeps his pleading to wistful sighs and the strangely fond sort of thoughts that he thinks when it's the middle of the day and Harry is dozing in his bed with curls all askew and a sleepy, dopey smile on his face.

He tries not to let it get to him, knowing where Harry’s going every night. It isn’t his place to judge, he knows that. He knows that Harry doesn’t think there’s any other option, and that he’s made peace with his lot even if Louis hasn’t. It’s hard, but Louis just takes care of him how he’s allowed to and lets go of all the rest. Harry’s a grown man who can make his own choices, and as long as he stays safe, Louis can make himself respect that.

One night Harry has been gone for barely an hour when Louis' movie night with Zayn is interrupted by a timid knock on the door to his quarters. “Who is it?” Louis calls, unconcerned.

“It's Harry.”

“Oh? Come in, babe,” Louis says at once, twisting around in his seat and watching as Harry approaches. “Did you forget something? I thought you were going to work?”

Harry flicks his eyes over to Zayn, who for all his seeming omniscience has not actually discovered yet what it is that Harry does that requires him to work all night and sleep all day. “I'm not really feeling very well,” he mumbles, “can't work. Is it is it okay if I stay with you tonight? I just- can I just stay with you?”

Louis doesn't even have to hesitate before nodding and scooting over to make space for Harry on the couch next to him. “Of course. Cuddle in, then. What's the matter? Head? Stomach? Let me call the doctor for you, we have one on staff at all times-”

Harry shakes his head firmly. “No way. I didn't come here to take advantage of your staff. I just wanted to see you, is all.”

“It's not an inconvenience,” Louis answers with a frown. “It’s not like it would cost me anything. He's paid to be on call as my personal doctor all the time, so he's here and ready whether we use him or not.”

It doesn't seem to have any effect on Harry, who simply continues to shake his head. “No doctors.”

Soon his insistence pays off and Louis gives up the fight, pleased at least that Harry has chosen to take the night off work to care for himself. He reaches over to play with Harry's curls while they watch the movie, and once the credits start rolling and Zayn excuses himself to go to bed, Louis shuffles Harry through to the bedroom and into bed, even going so far as to tuck the blankets in around him like a burrito. If he won't let Louis’ staff take care of him, Louis will just have to do it himself.

It was hard for Louis at first, to let Harry sleep alone on his side of the bed without cuddling him close all night. Nearly impossible, in fact, because no matter how close they were becoming in this strange relationship of theirs, that was the one thing Harry couldn't bring himself to do. Something about being held while he slept crossed some line and he wound up pushing Louis away without exception. “It's not you, I just don't like it,” Harry says softly, and that's enough to convince Louis to put in the tremendous effort to give Harry exactly as much space as he needs, in every sense of the word.

It's usually only in the mornings- or whenever it is that they wake, considering that days and nights are now irreversibly skewed- that Louis forgets a little and sometimes reaches out to touch. When he's hovering somewhere between sleep and wakefulness, the wise little part of him that filters his actions and reminds him of do's and don'ts gets broken, and all he can think about is what he wants, and before he knows it he’s stretching out an arm or leg towards Harry.

The relative grogginess in Louis’ mind says it must be around five in the morning, and at the moment, the part of him trying to pull Harry close is an arm that grabs for his waist. As soon as he connects, Harry moans, loud and deep. Louis feels a little more awake already. “Jesus, Haz, you dreaming or something?” he mumbles. “Hope you're dreaming of me, if you're moaning like that.” But then the moan is followed by a quiet sob, and as the tone changes Louis instantly finds himself the rest of the way awake. “Harry?”

The younger boy shoves Louis’ arm off and holds both hands to his side, face screwed up in agony. “Fuck,” he gasps, face drawn. “Fuck. Hurts.”

“What hurts? Harry, what's going on?” Louis asks in rising concern. “Are you hurt? What's the matter?”

Their eyes meet in the dim light, and Harry's face is full of hesitation. But Louis is determined, and after a brief standoff, Harry lifts his t-shirt.

His right side is purpling around the middle, a deep, nasty bruise forming on the pale skin. Louis gasps, turning away for a moment to flick on the bedside lamp, like looking at the horrific sight when the room is brighter will make it any better. “What the fuck happened?” he breathes, hand hovering over the injury but not coming anywhere close to touching it.

“It's nothing,” Harry insists, even though he has to grit his teeth through the pain. “Just a little bruise. I've got tylenol at home.”

“Bullshit,” Louis fires back. “I'm calling the doctor.”

“Louis-”

“No, I'm sorry, you don't get any further input on this one,” Louis interrupts. “I respect you, I do, but I'm not an idiot and that looks a lot more serious than what you want me to think. If a doctor comes in here and says that you're right, that all you need is a little tylenol, then that's fine. But you need to see a doctor.”

Harry looks up at him, visibly shocked, probably wondering where the sweet, unimposing man he's come to know has run off to and who the authoritative future monarch kneeling over him is. Maybe he recognizes that they're one in the same, or maybe the pain in his side is greater even than he's letting on because he nods. “Okay. Alright.”

More relieved than he cares to show, Louis climbs out of bed in search of his phone and calls the palace medical line to request the on call doctor to come to his room immediately. He calls Niall as well, for good measure, because no matter how groggy and displeased he is to be woken at this hour, he's the one in charge of keeping mouths shut when doctors get called to princes’ bedrooms and find strangers there.

They arrive at about the same time, Niall in shorts and sneakers that don't match and the doctor, a cheery man in his 30s named Nick, with a large medical bag in tow. The latter bows from the waist. “Your Highness, how may I be of assistance?”

“Not me that needs you.” Louis nods his head towards the bed where Harry is still waiting. “Can you take a look at his side? Looks pretty serious.”

“Of course,” the man says, then makes his way to Harry's side of the bed and offers him a hand to shake. “Hello sir, I'm Dr. Grimshaw. What seems to be the problem?”

“I have a bruise on my side,” Harry supplies, rather unhelpfully.

“Yes, I did notice that. Thought maybe you were just a fan of some sports team or something. Little purple body paint so show support? No?” He's probably just trying to lighten the tension in the room, but it does appear to be working. Half of Harry's mouth lifts up into a weak smile, and he shakes his head. “Right then. As long as its a bruise and not some poor stylistic choice, I can help. May I?”

Harry nods his permission and the doctor reaches out to gently probe the injured area with his fingertips. The closer the touch gets to the center of the bruise, the more agonized Harry's expression becomes, until finally he lets out a cry of pain. “That's not helping,” he protests through gritted teeth.

“Necessary evil, I'm afraid. I would have to do an xray to confirm, but I think you have a cracked rib,” Grimshaw says calmly. “How long ago did you sustain this injury?”

“Maybe eight hours ago,” Louis answers on Harry's behalf when he appears to be preoccupied trying to breathe through the pain.

“Most likely some sort of injury to the ribs then,” the doctor confirms. “I wouldn't expect the bruise to be configured quite like this if it was just a soft tissue injury. But again, I need to get him to a hospital and x-ray to confirm.”

“Can you do so discreetly?” Niall cuts in, blinking the sleep out of his eyes now that actual issues of relations with the public have come up. “I don't want any ambulances showing up to the palace at five in the morning.”

“No ambulances, no hospitals,” Harry forces out. “I'm fine, I swear.”

Louis gives him his very best scathing look. “It's your rib that's broken, not your head. Use it. If you are seriously hurt, you need to get serious medical attention.”

“There's nothing that they can do for a cracked rib anyways,” Harry protests, looking to the doctor at his side. “Right? Nothing that can't be done outside of a hospital, at least.”

“To a certain extent, that's true,” the doctor nods. “Whether it's a bruise or an injury to the bone, there's not much that we can do because of the location. The body will have to heal on its own. But it's my recommendation that you at least seek medical attention now so that we can determine whether it's cracked or broken. A broken rib could cause puncturing of your internal organs, and that isn't something to be messed around with.”

“And what can you do for him after that?” Louis asks. “What's he have to do to get better?”

“I can give you a prescription for painkillers, to take the edge off the pain, but mostly he just needs to take it easy for about six weeks. That's how long it typically takes to heal this kind of injury. No sports, nothing too intense, just relaxing . You don't want to risk a puncture, or injuring yourself worse,” he concludes, turning back to look at Harry.

The patient begins immediately to protest that taking it easy for six weeks is an absolute impossibility, but Louis cuts him off to talk to Niall. “What can we do?” he asks. “I want to go with him.”

Niall nods slowly. “I've got contacts at the hospital, yeah. I can get us in and out without having to go through the main areas. I'm sure Zayn could make the records disappear without ever having to get out of bed. I’ll make some calls.” He turns to the doctor. “Can I have a word with you outside, Dr. Grimshaw? In relation to certain matters of- well, confidentiality.”

“Right, of course, mum’s the word. I'll write you that script,” the doctor tells Harry, “and I wish you the best of luck in your recovery. Don't hesitate to call if you need anything else or have any questions.” With that, he follows Niall out of the bedroom to have the gag order discussion that Niall affectionately refers to as ‘the talk.’

Harry has a sour expression on his face, and Louis knows exactly why. “You can't take a shortcut on this one, Harry,” he says preemptively. “It’s not like you have a head cold and you can power through. If you don't rest, you could puncture something. You could get seriously hurt, like life-threatening hurt.”

“Well I'm already pretty fucked, because if I'm not bringing home money, Kieffer is going to flip shit. I can't do that to mum. Fuck, I can't do that to myself. He’ll break my whole face next time.”

“Was it him that did this? Was it Kieffer?” Louis pounces on the tidbit of information. He can't decide whether the idea is better or worse than his original thought, which has been that it was a client. What else was he to think, when Harry disappears to let men take control of him and comes home broken?

“High on PCP,” Harry says quietly. “Pushed me into the kitchen table. I must have done something to make him mad, but I don't know what-”

“I don't care if you killed his mum,” Louis practically growls. “Shouldn't put his hands on you.”

“Yeah, well, better me than mum.” Harry cradles his face in his hands. “What am I going to do, Lou? Even if I give him my paycheck from here so that she can keep using, Kieffer is going to be pissed. Six weeks, that's like 120,000 pounds that he won't be making, all because I'm hurt.”

“Yeah, because he hurt you. He can’t honestly hold it against you that you're laid off because he's a fucking maniac.”

“You can't expect logic out of a fucking maniac, though.”

Louis moves to sit in the side of the bed next to Harry, stilling the boy with his hands when he tries to scoot over to make more room. "Just be still for a minute and listen to me, okay? You're going to be fine. Nothing is going to happen to you or your mum. I'll take care of it, okay?"

"What are you going to do?" Harry freezes. “You can't bust him, Louis, you can't. She loves him, she won't let him go down without her."

“I was talking about money, actually, but maybe that's what's best. This is out of hand, Harry. You're running yourself into the ground to protect someone when she barely knows who you are most days.” Louis’ pleading with his eyes, however ineffective it seems to be. “I know that you want to protect her, and I know you want to be able to handle everything on your own with no problems, but you can't give up everything for her when she doesn't care about you.”

“Of course she cares about me!”

“But not as much as she cares about Kieffer. Not as much as she cares about getting her fix. She would sell you out in a minute, and you know it. Tell me she wouldn't, Harry.”

Harry can't tell him that. He can't say much of anything. “She's my mother,” he whispers.

“Just because she's your mother doesn't mean she's your responsibility. You're allowed to take care of yourself, too.” Louis reaches out and takes Harry's hand, clutches it in his own. “Harry, please, I'm asking you as a friend. Someone who cares about you. Let me get you out of there. I'll make sure he goes away for the rest of his life, and the system will get your mum help, I promise. You have to do this for yourself -”

“I don't have to do anything,” Harry says fiercely, struggling to sit up even though it makes him whimper with the pain. “I don't need to sit here and listen to you editorialize my life just because you don't agree with my choices. I'm going to go home, and tomorrow night I'm going to go to work, because family is fucking important to me, and I'm not going to give up- fuck!”

He stumbles trying to get out of the bed, but luckily Louis is there to catch him, to grab him by the arms and hold him and plead with him more. “Okay, okay. I'm sorry. I shouldn't- it’s not my place to be making your decisions for you. I just want you to be okay, that's all.”

Harry's eyes are starting to get blurry from the ache in his side, but he still looks at Louis steadily. “I'm not okay unless she's okay.”

“I know,” Louis soothes. “I know, and we'll figure something out. Okay? Just let me take you to the hospital, and we’ll get this sorted out, and you can stay here while you're healing. You don't have to see Kieffer at all.”

“What about the money, though? If I just disappear for six weeks, he's going to go ballistic. There's no telling what he'll do to her.”

A pause. Louis bites his lip. “Okay, fine. You can go there during the day, sleep, be with your mum. Rest. You can come to me at night, and he’ll think that you're still working. He'll never have to know.”

“What, and you're going to give me 3,000 a night to give to him?” Harry rolls his eyes. “I'm not going to let you do that. Unless you fuck me for three hours a night.”

“Is that what its going to take? For you to let me help you? You're not even well enough to have sex, Harry. The doctor literally just told you that you had to rest.”

“I'm not a fucking charity case.”

Louis takes a long second to look up at the ceiling in search of an answer as to why the boy he cares about so deeply is so bloody ridiculous. “Alright, fine, whatever. If you want, when you’re better I'll fuck you as much as you want, and you can pretend like its repayment if that makes you happy.”

"Somehow I feel like even though you're agreeing to my terms, you still won," Harry mumbles with a wrinkle of his nose.

Louis kisses the wrinkle. "Don't give a shit how we get there. As long as you're letting me take care of you, I'm winning."

.....................

Zayn does wind up getting out of bed, bringing with him a stack of several thousand pounds at Louis’ request. “What's this for?” he asks. “I don't think an x-ray costs this much.”

“It's not for the doctors,” Louis replies. “We have to make a stop first.”

This is just vague enough to make Zayn raise his eyebrows in suspicion, he doesn't say anything out loud. He makes the decision to accompany Louis and Harry to the hospital, along with Niall to grease the gears of the system. Zayn comes because you never know when you might need someone like him. He drives and Niall rides shotgun, Louis in the backseat with Harry held quite close to him, trying to minimize the jostling he gets every time they go over a bump.

The car is dead silent when they pull up in front of the house- shack, really, Louis finds himself thinking. It's hard to believe that anyone lives here, much less someone who can enchant the likes of princes and business moguls. But this is in fact the house in front of which the car stops, and when Harry gets out of the car with the cash tucked in his pocket and starts limping up a driveway, this is the one. Louis swallows hard.

“You know you're going to have to tell us the truth eventually, right?” Niall asks, very quietly. “I know you want to think that we're all clueless, but we're not.”

Louis never thought that, which is why he shakes his head a little, eyes sad. “Just don't know how to say it, I guess.”

“If Harry's in trouble,” Zayn says delicately, “we want to help. Liam too. We know he's important to you, and that makes him important to us. But we can't do shit for either of you unless you're honest about what's going on.”

“Why does he dress in suits, but live in a place like this? Why does he work at night and sleep all day? And how come he's borrowing thousands of dollars from you and delivering them unknown figures in the wee hours of the morning?” Niall turns around and looks Louis straight in the eye. “Bro, you know I'm a professional at dealing with skeletons. You know that you can trust us.”

Louis heaves sigh, but nods. “Shoulda told you before anyways. Harry's- he's caught up in some shit, okay? He works for this guy, Kieffer, as sort of like, an escort. He doesn't have a choice though.”

The two men in the front seat trade glances that are carefully neutral, though Louis knows both of them well enough to see the concern they’re barely concealing. “Shit,” Niall says eloquently. “That's worse than I thought.”

“Louis, if you need this guy taken care of-” Zayn begins.

“It's delicate,” Louis says with a shake of his head. “Trust me, I'm trying. His mum is involved, it's dangerous. But I'm trying.”

Zayn nods immediately. “Alright, I trust you. As long as you know that whatever you need, we've got your back. Me and Niall and Liam. Between the four of us, we can work this out.”

Louis has perhaps never been so fond of this little staff-turned-family. “I know. Thank you,” he says around the lump in his throat.

“I want a raise though,” Niall says with a fake pout, probably because he's very aware of the fact that there's nothing Louse hates more than crying in front of people and he could use a good laugh right now. “My client is dating a sex worker. I need to get paid at least twice what I'm getting paid now.”

Niall gets them back into their X ray room about fifteen seconds after they pull up at the hospital, and while he finagles his way around the system Zayn parks the car and makes a phone call to Liam. Louis focuses on distracting Harry from the pain in his side as they wait for the doctor to interpret the results. That doesn't take long either, thanks to Niall, and mercifully the news comes back that the rib is only cracked. Grimshaw’s prescription is put through, and they walk out in the early morning hours with everything they need to help Harry get better.

Both Louis and Harry are exhausted by the time they get home, and they fall back into bed with relief and sleep until late in the afternoon. According to Liam, Louis missed three meetings, but for once he doesn't seem flustered. Instead, he wraps Louis in a tight hug and promises, “I've got your back.”

It becomes Zayn’s official job to drive Harry to drop off his money every morning, no matter how much he grumbles at the early hour. Sometimes Harry stays the day at Kieffer’s with his mother, other times he comes back to Louis. Mostly it depends on how busy Louis’ day is. If he’s going to be gone most of the time, Harry says he'd rather be back making sure the status quo is being maintained. But on those days where Louis actually has time to himself, he often wakes to the jostle of the mattress as Harry climbs back in on his side of the bed.

They manage to make it an entire two weeks before Louis’ woken one day not by rustling sheets, but the sensation of his boxers sliding down around his hips. Almost instantly there's hot breath on the base of his cock as Harry begins to mouth that it. “Ngh- Hazza?” Louis mumbles, already half-hard. Two weeks has gotten to be a long time to go without Harry’s touch, and it’s first thing in the morning. Definitely an unfair ambush. “Hey. You’re not supposed to- nothing strenuous, remember?”

“But you’re hard,” Harry pouts, peppering little kisses all around Louis’ balls. “Not fair to stop now.”

“My hand works just fine, I think I’ll survive,” Louis yawns. “Go back to sleep.”

“I’m being good, though, I’m resting. See? Laying down and everything.”

Louis can be bothered neither to open his eyes and verify that, nor to resist Harry’s lips any longer. “If you snap a rib blowing me it’s not my fault, right?” he asks sleepily, then buries his fingers in the hair on one side of Harry’s head.

It doesn’t take long for the sleepiness to fade, however, when Harry takes him into his mouth in earnest. At first his pace is slow, easing Louis to full hardness with his shallow, luxurious drags. Louis brings his other hand up to rub gently at Harry's arm and shoulders, limbs heavy and clumsy with sleep but palm spread in a way that hopefully is as grateful and flattered as Louis is trying to communicate feeling.

One bob has the tip of Louis’ cock bumping into the roof of Harry’s mouth and he shifts a little, bending one knee and spreading his thighs further as arousal starts to spark more seriously in his gut. His eyes open at last and Harry is looking right up at him like a delighted minx, slowly sliding the tip of Louis’ cock from his lips with a little slurp before giving it a kitten lick right up the slit. He may or may not be going at it like it’s his favorite flavor of lollipop, and it may or may not be one of the filthiest, hottest things Louis’ ever seen.

“That got your attention,” Harry giggles as he sinks his mouth back onto Louis’ cock, jaw dropping open more so he can take Louis a little deeper. His mouth is relaxed for now, not really sucking at all, just running the tip along the roof of his mouth to get used to the feel of it. Then his eyes drift shut and he closes his mouth around Louis’ length and creates that much-wanted suction. Louis’ legs shift on the mattress as he starts having to suppress the urge to move his hips, and a hum that borders on a sigh buzzes in his chest when Harry starts working his mouth up and down once more.

Harry shifts around a little to work one hand between Louis’ thighs, and now Louis gasps in earnest when he feels Harry teasing his thumb across Louis’ hole. There’s no intention behind it, he can tell, because even when Louis shifts his hips down into the sensation he never presses inside. He just teases the sensitive ring of muscles with the pad of his fingertip, until about half of Louis’ exhales get interrupted by a stuttered breath or a mewl or some not quite discernible word.

That’s the point at which Harry starts bobbing down a little farther, and Louis’ fingers tighten on Harry’s arm as he starts feeling muscles flutter around his tip as Harry works to take him ever deeper. He can’t stop watching, can hardly bring himself to blink lest he miss a single second, and every so often Harry will open his eyes once more to look up at Louis with an expression that’s a little more serious, a little more purposeful than before.

Louis takes a deep, steadying breath and clears his throat. “H, you gonna- oh, fuck, yep,” he answers himself as Harry swallows him down and holds. The muscles wrapping tight around Louis’ cock flutter but Harry keeps his nose pressed into Louis’ stomach for an outrageously long time. With every passing second Louis feels like the temperature of his skin kicks up another degree.

Mercifully Harry has to pull off eventually to gasp for air, which means Louis can breathe, too. He doesn’t take too long, however. After a few breaths he’s back to deepthroating Louis, and with each go Louis can feel himself getting pushed closer and closer to orgasm. He makes himself let go of Harry’s hair so he won’t be tempted to hold him down, moves his hands to his knees which have bent on either side of Harry and hold himself open against the growing urge to squeeze Harry’s head between his thighs.

He’s getting so much stimulation already but Louis’ body screams more, wants hard and fast and rough pressure on all of his sensitive places and a tense ache in every muscle. “Harry,” he croaks, tongue darting out to wet his lips. “Harry- nngh, need- fuck, I-”

Fortunately for Louis, Harry seems to already know what it is that he can’t find the concentration to verbalize, and he backs off of the deep, slow drags to suck tightly on Louis’ tip, a hand coming up to pump the rest of his cock quickly. A flash of heat runs through Louis at this new, harder pace, and he hisses in approval and closes his eyes at last so he can focus on the feeling of hurtling towards orgasm.

“Gonna come in a minute,” he warns, and Harry must take that as an invitation to try harder because he moves his other hand down to tug gently on Louis’ balls. Louis crows in pleasure, eyes flying open, and skips about fifty seconds ahead of schedule as he cups his hands on either of Harry’s cheeks and comes in his mouth to the sight of Harry’s ever-so-satisfied smirk.

Harry takes every drop, working Louis’ length and sucking him clean until Louis is soft and nudging him off. Instead he crawls up Louis’ body and kisses him on the lips. “Good morning, by the way,” he says coyly.

“Shut up and lie back,” Louis demands breathlessly. “You’re next.”

“Already came, silly. Like three minutes ago.” Harry laughs and lowers himself gingerly into the space at Louis’ side, and Louis can indeed feel that he’s not only naked from the waist down, but he’s as soft as Louis. “What did you think I was doing with my other hand, playing solitaire?”

“Hadn’t even realized you’d gotten your kit off,” Louis pouts. “I could have helped, you know.”

“Rain check,” Harry hums. “You should work on your observation skills, though. Half-naked men having a wank in your bed ought to be pretty noticeable.”

“I wasn’t really paying attention to anything other than the interaction between your face and my dick,” grumbles Louis, carefully cuddling Harry in closer. Now that the adrenaline rush is fading, his eyes are getting droopy again and he’s reminded that it’s barely 8am. He smiles at the thought that he has an almost entirely free day ahead of him, spent in the very best way- with Harry asleep comfortably in his bed while he lounges about playing with his laptop or watching telly or just admiring the peaceful rise and fall of Harry’s chest. The one thing on his schedule isn’t until the evening, but even this far-off call of duty makes Louis frown at the prospect of leaving this very bed. “What are you doing tonight?”

“Probably sucking your cock some more, now that I know I can get away with it.” Harry’s nuzzled into Louis’ shoulder, fading fast and too drowsy to be anything but honest. “Why?”

“Fancy going to a state dinner?”

Harry lifts his head to look at Louis in confusion. “Like- isn’t that like a really nice one for like, official people?”

“So they tell me," Louis teases. “To be honest though one prick in a suit looks the same as every other prick in a suit. Could probably sneak you in without anyone noticing.”

“That sounds... uncomfortable,” Harry says. “You realize that I've probably slept with like fifty percent of the people in that level of government, right?”

It's the first time either of them has really said it out loud, even though it's been hovering in the back of Louis’ mind for quite some time now. “Well, I don't know that I've realized the percentage was quite that high but yeah, I know that there are going to be people there who know who you are.”

“What I am.”

“No, who you are.” Louis’ firm. “Your occupation is not all there is to you.”

“To them it is,” Harry protests. “They're just going to look at me and see some whore that they fucked one time. Do you really want people knowing that the person you brought to a state dinner is a prostitute?”

“Well luckily I don't really give a rat’s ass what anybody thinks. I know that there's more to you than that, that you're funny and sweet, and I rather like your company. Anybody who wants to challenge me for that can do s , and then can go suck a dick.”

Harry looks charmed by the sentiment despite himself. “But seriously, that doesn't bother you?”

“Not at all. Anybody who knows what you do knows so because they partook. So what moral high ground do they have to judge me from? It’s like what you said about how the men in those clubs never call each other out. They can’t criticize each other without admitting to their own faults, and they’re not going to do that.”

“I just don't- I guess I just don't understand why you want to take me out to a state dinner in the first place,” Harry says quietly after a moment has passed. “Even if you think it’s safe, that it doesn't matter what I do, why is it even something that you want?”

“Because, Harry, you're one of the loveliest people that I've ever known. I don’t want to just spend time with you when we’re tucked away from the public. I'm proud that you're a part of my life in some way,” Louis finishes very softly.

“I don't know what that means,” Harry tells him. “But I think I feel the same way.”

They fall asleep not long after that, but by the time late afternoon rolls around, Harry is stirring from his slumber and joining Louis on the couch. “I didn't just dream that scene about you inviting me to dinner, right?”

“No, that was real,” Louis answers with a smile.

“I think, maybe, if the offer still stands- I'd like to go.”

Louis grins from ear to ear. “That's perfect.”

When his personal stylist Caroline comes to sort through his closet and pick out a tuxedo for Louis to wear she's surprised to be informed that she needs to find a tuxedo for Harry too, but she only sighs a little at the inconvenience of having to locate his particular size of clothes in the space of several hours. “You're a miracle worker,” Louis tells her, planting a kiss on her cheek. She rolls her eyes and scurries off to make a phone call.

Somehow everything falls together, and by seven, both men are dressed and being led through the palace by Liam. “You've talked to Niall, haven't you?” Liam asks. “If you’re going to be making a public appearance with Harry, Niall needs to know about it.”

“So find me Niall, then,” Louis replies without concern. Personally he had just been planning on talking to Niall after, because as they say, it's easier to ask forgiveness than to ask permission. But Liam seems like he's not going to let them enter the dining room until he's had a chat with his PR guy, and after all, you can't have a royal banquet without the prince.

Niall jogs up barely three minutes later, all out of breath. “I still need that raise,” he mutters vaguely, then straightens up and rubs his hands together. “So, what's the story? What are we telling people?”

Harry and Louis look at each other then back at the man standing before them. “Don't really have a story,” Louis answers after a moment. “I thought that was your job?”

“I mean I can make up any story you like, but you'll have to give me something to work with,” Niall says lightly. "Give me a label at least. Is this your friend? Your boyfriend?”

Harry may not have any experience with this world, but Louis at least should have expected that question. He shouldn't be looking at Niall with wide eyed startlement, mouth opening and closing like a particularly dull fish. “I don't- we hadn't really- I don't know,” he mumbles. “Um, Harry? Any input?”

“Don't look at me,” Harry fires back, shaking his head. “I'm not going to be the one to determine the fate of your political future. That's on you.”

Now both men are looking at Louis, waiting for his decision, and his mind races for the answer. If he says friends, and people figure out there’s something more, he's going to look like a disingenuous arsehole. If he says that they’re boyfriends, however... Just the thought of it sends a thrill up his spine, the idea of introducing Harry to someone that’s more to him than the usual kind of significance of friendship.

It sparks an idea in him. “He's my significant other,” Louis firmly announces, tilting his chin up and placing a hand in the small of Harry's back. “He's a person in my life who’s significant to me. I don't have to put a label on it to please anyone else. If they ask, he's my significant other.”

“That's good,” Niall says approvingly. “Technically an answer, so nobody can accuse you of being evasive, but it's just vague enough to send a message that people can fuck off because it's your life and your business. Good choice.”

“That is, as long as Harry's okay with that,” Louis makes it a point to ask.

Harry smiles over at him and nods. “You can call me anything you like.”

That makes Louis’ stomach flutter in a way that he isn't ready to understand, so he just turns to Niall and claps his hands loudly. “Brilliant! Now, are we free to go?”

The buzz that starts up upon Louis and Harry's entrance into the dining hall is immediate and downright amusing. They’re announced, of course, the doorman calling out loudly that His Royal Highness Prince Louis and Harry Styles have arrived. The room bows and curtsies without hesitation, but then there's an almost universal pause as people take note of the fact that their prince is standing hand in hand with another man and smiling widely. Then the cocktail conversation starts back up, but quieter, behind palms now, as a government full of gossips processes this most recent and riveting development.

It's even easy to see which are the ones that know Harry. They aren’t gossiping. They’re staring at the pair with wide eyes and pale faces, ignoring the words of their colleagues as they scramble to make sense of what they're seeing. Harry's hand trembles. Louis’ hand squeezes tight.  

Every time someone comes up to greet them, Harry is simply introduced as Louis’ significant other, just like they'd planned. No one goes any deeper, much to Louis’ relief. Government might not be made up of the most honest people, but at least they know a thing or two about tact.

No matter how nervous he obviously is, Harry is brilliant. He's trying to his very core, answering every polite inquiry with smiles and the best responses he can think of. After one such interaction where someone asks about his job and he says that he works in the palace garage, he has a moment of panic and asks Louis if that was the right thing to say. “Do you want people to know but I'm just a guy who works in your garage?” he asks nervously. “Should I have said something different? Something, like, more important?”

“Tell them you work scrubbing toilets for all I care,” Louis says easily. “I'm not ashamed of you.” He's not just referring to the fact that Harry works in the garage, and they both know it. Harry kisses him on the cheek in a very quiet thanks.

About halfway through the night, however,” Louis’ careful eyes notice a new paleness to Harry's face. You alright, babe?” he murmurs into Harry's ear. “You feeling okay?”

“I think my pain meds are starting to wear off,” Harry replies, his voice tight. “It hurts. I'm not used to standing and walking around for this long.”

Louis immediately spins around until his eyes fall on Liam, and he waves the man over. “Will you take Harry back to my room?” he says softly. “He needs to rest. And make sure he takes more of his painkillers, yeah?”

It's a testament to exactly how uncomfortable Harry's pain makes him that he doesn't even try to fight it. He does try to mumble an apology, but Louis shakes his head to cut it off . “I should have asked you earlier if you were still doing alright. You've done amazingly well already. I'll be there soon, okay?" Harry nods in relief. “Can I can I kiss you?”

Harry doesn't answer except to smile, and to lean in and capture Louis’ mouth with his own for a kiss that lingers for just the perfect amount of seconds. “Give them something to talk about,” he whispers as he pulls away. “I'll see you later.”

Louis can't get the smirk off his face for an hour.

It fades quickly, however, when he's pulled aside into conversation with a cross older man from parliament named Lipton. “Quite a charming young man that lad. He’s your significant other, did I hear you say?”

He's all too knowing, Louis can tell right then. It makes his answer perhaps a little fiercer than it would be for someone else. “Yes, he most certainly is.”

“That's a little risky, don't you think?”

“I have no idea what you're talking about,” Louis replies, hoping to see the man trip all over himself when forced to actually say it out loud.

But this squirrel of a man is not anywhere near so bold. “I know what he is,” he simply says under his breath. “I've had him. So have many of the men in this room. And yet you think he’s fit to bring in front of the most respected people in this nation? You ought to have higher sense of decorum, if you are to be king someday.”

The blood runs hot and Louis’ veins, and he grits his teeth to keep at least some of the venom from leaking out into his words. They still scathe. “First of all, if you’re speaking of you and your peers who all ‘had him,’ I think that calling yourself the most respected people in this nation is a little pretentious, so you can fuck off on that point. And second of all, if there's one thing I know about this world, it's that someday I'll be king and you will never be more than what you are. So if you want to throw around threats, throw them at someone else.”

There's a flicker of fear in the man's eyes, but he doesn't back down. “I could expose you,” he says quietly. “So could anyone in this room. We could ruin you.”

“You could try,” Louis allows. “You could do your very best to out-manipulate someone with the resources of an entire nation at his fingertips. You could ruin your own life in the process- lose your job, and your reputation, and your family. You might even be able to do some damage. Just don't bank on it, because you and I both know that in this kind of game, he with the biggest red button wins. And I hold the keys to the armory.”

Lipton blanches and turns on his heel, hurrying away from Louis for what will hopefully be the last time. Louis tugs on his lapels and holds his head high, daring anyone else to make the same attempt. Bring it on, he thinks. I'm ready.

.................

The next three weeks are perhaps some of the most interesting of Louis’ life, which is saying a lot for a man who’s traveled around the world and done any number of interesting things. Within the palace things are much the same; Harry spends his nights here and some of his days, lounging around and letting Louis stuff him full of food and trading the gentlest of hand jobs and blow jobs, provided that he promises to be very still and not hurt his injured rib. The bruises change from purple to yellow, and every morning Harry drives across town with a few thousand dollars from Louis’ personal bank account and pays off the man who still haunts him like a ghost.

What makes it interesting, though, is the way that news of a royal boyfriend gets out predictably fast and suddenly that’s all anyone wants to ask Louis about. They don’t have a picture yet, of course- the only public appearance was a private state dinner where absolutely no photography was allowed- but they have a name. Harry Styles.

And they have a fervor for information that Louis can’t help but admire. It’s on the front page of every magazine and newspaper, the headline story for every late night gossip show. He’s the first gay prince and this is the first official significant other, and the world just had to know.

Louis supposes that he probably ought to have expected things to break eventually. The situation was far from idyllic, so to expect this idyllic sort of cease-fire to persist was far more foolish than Louis had ever been. Maybe he just puts it out of his mind to hold onto good things while they last. He definitely isn’t expecting for Harry to come bursting into his room one evening with a wildness in his eyes like the one Louis sees before him now.

He doesn’t even have time to get out a greeting before Harry is meshing their lips together, crawling to straddle Louis’ lap without delay. “Fuck me,” he murmurs between kisses. “Please, Louis? Fuck me.”

It takes a good ten seconds for the shock to fade and Louis’ brain to catch up to Harry’s words. “Sorry, what? Harry, I thought we agreed, no sex until six weeks-”

“I’m at five and a half, close enough.”

“It isn’t safe,” admonishes Louis. “You could get hurt worse, when you’re this close to being healed. Do you want me to blow you? I can-”

“I want you to fuck me though,” Harry says urgently, sounding close to tears. “Please? I promise I’ll tell you if it starts hurting or anything, I just- I just want this, okay?”

Louis isn’t an idiot. He knows that this isn’t just about lust, that there’s something on Harry’s mind that he doesn’t quite want to admit to and that in some way, he thinks will be helped if he can just convince Louis to take him to bed. But he also knows that part of being a grownup means making your own decisions about what you need, and he more than trusts Harry enough to put faith in his ability to decide for himself that he wants Louis right here in this moment.

“You have to swear you’ll tell me the second it hurts,” Louis qualifies sternly, but he’s already pushing Harry off his lap and standing from the couch, shedding his clothes on the way to the bed. “I’m not opposed to the idea of fucking you until you can’t walk, but I’d prefer it not be because you’ve got a punctured lung.”

Harry’s naked even faster than he is, and crawls up on the mattress with the bottle of lube and a condom from the nightstand clutched in his hand. “I promise. Just don’t tease me, okay? Don’t make me wait. I want you now.”

“I’ll channel my sixteen year-old self just for you, Hazza,” teases Louis as he leans down to kiss him.

It isn’t ten seconds later that Harry starts to work his cock, tugging himself to hardness with ease, but he doesn’t pressure Louis to do the same. He knows Louis’ process by now, even if it’s been five and a half weeks. He knows that Louis likes to get hard from the idea of things, slowly, an aching kind of arousal that takes over him by degrees rather than a quick and dirty rise to readiness from a few well-stimulated nerve endings. Harry just lays on his back and teases his own cock while Louis snogs himself into arousal.

When Louis’ heart is pounding and his cock is hanging heavy between his thighs from the feel of Harry spread out beneath him so wanting and yet so patient, he reaches out blindly to fumble for Harry’s hand and take the bottle of lube from him. “You ready, love?” Louis murmurs into Harry’s mouth, coating three of his fingers and reaching down to press the middle digit to Harry’s entrance.

“Been ready,” Harry answers with an exhale of relief, and Louis pushes his finger inwards.

The clutch of Harry’s body around it is tight, tight enough that the younger boy actually squirms a little, though he immediately stills and nods for another. Louis doesn’t give it to him just yet, despite his promise not to tease. “It’s been a while,” he says by way of explanation. “Not gonna hurt you so you can get my cock in you three minutes faster. Be at least a little patient, yeah?”

Apparently Harry doesn’t understand the different between patient and polite, because he waits all of ten more seconds before pulling out a doe-eyed gaze and blinking up at Louis. “Please, Louis, another? Please?”

Louis rolls his eyes but gives in, pressing his second finger in. He has to work to scissor them open in order to properly stretch Harry, and his cock gives an excited twitch. This time when Harry starts whining for another finger Louis caves almost immediately and adds the last finger with excitement. Only now does he start trying to curve his fingers to get at Harry’s prostate, and every time Harry moans and tugs his hand across his cock a little faster, it’s hard to tell who’s getting off on it more, giver or receiver.

This time it’s Louis who crumbles and asks for more. “You think you’re ready for my cock?” he asks between hot kisses to Harry’s neck. “I’ve missed fucking you, Haz.”

Harry shivers and nods quickly. “‘m ready, promise. I know you’ll give me what I need.”

It takes a while for Louis to get the condom on thanks to the way his hands fumble from anticipation, but eventually he’s lining himself up with Harry’s entrance. “Should I take you nice and slow, do you think?” he teases. “That’s what you want, right?”

“You could do that,” Harry admits, a spark in his eye. “I’d be very cross with you though. When your boyfriend asks to be fucked it’s really most polite just to deliver.”

The word tumbles from his lips without a flicker of hesitation, and Louis greedily swallows it whole. “Well I guess that settles that, then,” murmurs Louis, and starts fucking into Harry. “Got to treat my boyfriend right.”

He’s a heavenly sort of tight, having gone untouched for a month and a half, and Louis groans when his controlled thrusts get progressively deeper. “Jesus Christ,” Harry moans at the same time. “I’m fine,” he says preemptively, not having to even open his eyes to know Louis is looking at his in concern. “You just feel really good. Fuck. Harder, Lou.”

Louis complies the best he can, but theres only so much he can do to pound into Harry without getting too worked up himself. Before long he bottoms out and the slap of his skin on Harry’s sends little waves of pleasure through him. It doesn’t help that Harry is swearing like a sailor and mixing prayers with Louis’ name as he progressively begs for more. It’s been a month and a half for Louis too, and the way he’s quickly coming up on his orgasm announces that fact.

“Hazza, babe, I’ve got to let up or I’m gonna come,” he says weakly, taking a deep breath to subdue the flutter in his stomach. “Sorry, I just- let me just take a break and blow you for a minute, I’ll be fine-”

“No, no, want you to come,” Harry insists at once, crossing his ankles behind Louis to keep him in place. “Fuck me as hard as you want. Come inside me. Please?”

“I- are you sure?” asks Louis, biting back another flutter of arousal.

“If you ask me that one more time I swear to god-”

Louis cuts him off with a particularly hard thrust, letting go of the control he has over his motions and finally dicking into Harry as hard and fast as he can. Harry feels the change in an instant and moans in delight, back arching and hips attempting to wiggle up to meet Louis thrust for thrust. Mostly though he focuses on pumping his cock with quick, firm strokes that are in time with Louis’ movements, until he’s getting pushed and pulled in every which direction just right.

“‘m gonna come too, ‘m close too,” Harry gasps. “Need you to come inside me. Please, Louis? Need you to- I need-”

He looks like he’s holding himself right on the edge, teasing himself for a few seconds and then stilling his hand on his cock. It must take incredible willpower not to just put himself over, and Louis is humbled to know that it’s all for him. “I’ve got you, babe, gonna come for you,” he murmurs, ducks his head onto Harry’s shoulder, buries himself deep inside Harry, and comes on command.

Harry keens in delight when he feels it, works his hand frantically over his cock and is coming no more than ten seconds after Louis, happily painting his chest in white as Louis continues fucking him right through it. "Fuck, thank you," he sighs, dropping his head back on the pillows and working his cock lazily for a few moments more.

Only once Harry's hand has stilled and Louis is completely sure that he's done does he allow himself to stop fucking into Harry and pull out, taking the time to drop a kiss to one of the clean spots on Harry's stomach before stumbling out of bed to take care of the condom. "How's your side feel?" he calls from the bathroom. "Alright?"

"A lot better than my bum is going to feel tomorrow."

There's a smirk on Louis' face when he emerges from the bathroom and comes back to join Harry in bed. He has a cloth that's damp with warm water and he swipes it gingerly over Harry's skin to clean up his stomach and his thighs. "I'll take that as a victory. I don't think you can puncture any internal organs from a sore bum." He takes the cloth to the closet to toss in the laundry and comes back to flop eagerly onto the bed next to Harry. “Do you feel better now?”

“I feel great, Lou, thank you,” Harry murmurs as he cuddles in, bad side up with a sheet tugged across the middle. “You always make me feel really good.”

“Well I’m glad about that, but that isn’t what I meant.” Louis plays with Harry’s curls gently, tickling his fingertips with their soft ends. “Whatever made you come flying in here desperate to get fucked. Whatever was wrong. Do you feel better now?”

“Why does something have to be wrong? Nothing was wrong.” Louis is pointedly silent until Harry sighs. “Freaking Kieffer, of course.”

“He touch you?” Louis says sharply.

“No, no, I’m fine. I mean I’m- he was just a dick, that’s all.” A quiet minute passes. Harry collects his thoughts. Louis doesn’t push. “He finally sobered up enough to see some of the media. Figured out they were talking about me.”

“Yeah?”

“Also figured out that I haven't been working for a month and a half,” Harry mumbles miserably. “Didn't take that too well. I showed him the bruises, told him I was hurt too bad to work, but he was still pissed.”

Louis scowls. “He's still getting his fucking money, what the hell does he care?”

“I guess he was just mad on principle,” Harry shrugs. “And mean about it. Said I couldn't get fucked if I wanted to, looking like this.”

It's obvious now, when Louis can think about it in plain terms like that, why Harry came home to beg to be fucked. “You just wanted to know that I would.”

“Kind of, yeah.”

“Harry, he's just categorically wrong. First of all, the fact that you're hurt doesn't make you any less beautiful. Trust me, the yellow-brown of your bruise really brings out the color of your eyes."

“Not helping,” Harry mutters.

"Okay, but seriously. There's a reason why I haven't been able to stop touching you since literally the first time I met you. I don't give a shit whether your skin is purple or green or electric blue.” Louis kisses the top of Harry's head. “He's just being a jerk.”

“Well that's kind of the problem, isn't it?” Harry continues quietly after a moment. “I'm just pretty. That's all I've got. They call me that all the time, Kieffer and mum. Mum doesn't even mean it in a mean way but I hate it, I hate it. They call me 'pretty boy' like it's all I am. I make money because I'm pretty, people like me because I'm pretty, people keep me because I'm pretty. But what happens when I'm not pretty anymore? And what do I have?”

“Shit, that's not what I meant,” Louis says with a wince. “I mean I was saying that you're still gorgeous, but I'm not saying that's the only reason why I like you. That's like, four percent of why I like you.”

Harry is quiet for a very long time. “Kieffer said that I'd better hope I don't get old quick. Says I'm a street rat, and I'm just your pretty little fucktoy sugarbaby, and the second I stop looking good, I'm going to be back on the street.”

“Please let me put him in jail,” Louis begs for the thousandth time. “Let me lock him up for saying that shit to you.”

“I'm not sure that's a punishable offense.”

“We’ll put different stuff on the papers, but I want him to suffer for that shit.”

“You can't,” Harry says tiredly. “You know that. Just because you disagree with him doesn't change the circumstances."

Louis knows that, of course he knows that, but his whole body feels hot with anger and he wants to do something about it. “It’s not just a matter of disagreeing with him,” he says when he can do so calmly. “It's a lie. What he's telling you is just a lie, okay? He doesn't know what my motivations are or why I want you in my life. I do. And I'm telling you it's not because you're pretty, and it's not because I just want to have sex with you.”

“If you say so,” Harry says. “I'm too tired to fight. Can we just go to sleep?”

Louis hasn't won this battle yet, but he can't really deny Harry anything. “Yeah, of course. Go to sleep babe,” he murmurs, kissing Harry’s forehead a few more times.

He expects Harry to roll over to his side of the bed before falling asleep, but tonight Harry stays, his head on Louis’ chest and his heart on his sleeve. Louis feels something incredibly fond rise up in him.

By the time Harry’s been snoring for ten minutes, Louis’ mind has been made up for fifteen. Something has to give, and he’s going to make sure it isn’t Harry if it’s the last thing he does.

…………………

“I’ll be back soon, before the movie’s even done,” Louis assures Harry as he deposits him on the couch next to Liam and a sleeping Niall. “Stay here with these lads. Relax. I’ll bring you back lunch.”

Harry pouts still, turning to Liam. “Why do you send him off so much?”

“It’s not me that does it, it’s the government,” Liam defends with a grin. “I’m just the one who remembers for him.”

“And where’s he going today?”

Liam visibly blanches. “Japan. Ambassador. The Japanese Ambassador. They’re having lunch,” he lies terribly.

It’s such a piss-poor performance that Louis rolls his eyes and makes note that next time, he should have Zayn or Niall deliver the cover story. Let the professional storyteller and the unreadable mystery man do the lying. “Home soon,” he repeats, giving Harry a kiss, and heads off.

The truth is that Liam has no idea where Louis is going, nor do the others. He refuses to tell any of them anything beyond the fact that he has a quick errand to run, and that Zayn will have to take him. They’re all satisfied enough that Liam and Niall agree to keep Harry company while Zayn waits by his own personal car smoking a cigarette. “Where we going?” he asks as Louis approaches.

“Harry’s place.”

When they pull up in front of the hovel, Zayn throws it into park and looks over at Louis. “You’re not going to do anything stupid, are you?”

“Stupid is relative.”

“Stupid involves anything that’s going to get anyone hurt,” Zayn clarifies. “Because I know you, and I know that look on your face. That’s a dangerous look, don’t tell me it’s not.”

“I don’t want anyone to get hurt,” Louis says firmly. “That’s not why I’m here. I’m making peace, okay? I’m here to keep everybody safe.”

Zayn is unconvinced. “You don’t bring your muscle guy with you for peace.”

“No, I bring him with me so someone’s waiting in the car,” Louis explains with a tired sort of grin. “I don’t want my Audi getting jacked in the ghetto, you twat.”

He takes advantage of Zayn’s amused snort to make his exit, climbing from the car and walking up the drive. There have been a couple of times where his impossibly twisted sleep schedule renders him conscious for Harry’s morning trips so he’s been here multiple times before, but this is the first time he’s ever actually approached the building. It’s the first time he’s ever walked up the steps and through the ever-open door.

The inside is just as decrepit and disgusting as the outside, but the smell is far worse. He can’t identify the odor that starts choking up his lungs even when he tries to breathe through his mouth. There are people around, he realizes as dirty skin starts standing out from the dirty backdrop, and suddenly Louis’ hoodie and jeans even feel overdressed. This is squalor. There’s just no other word for it.

“You looking to buy?” asks a voice from one of the couches, and Louis startles. He hadn’t even realized that body was alive, much less conscious and playing doorman. “Kieffer’s asleep, come back tonight.”

“Uh, no, I- I’m looking for Styles,” he stammers, realizing belatedly he doesn’t even know the right name to give. He holds his breath and hopes that’s right.

Glazed eyes open a slit. “The slut or the whore?”

“I- the slut, I guess,” Louis mumbles with a wince.

“Kitchen.”

Two fingers are flicked lazily in the general direction of a doorway, and Louis picks his way through the carpet of empty needles and trash and into the kitchen. There’s only one person in there, a woman sitting on the floor with her back leaned up against the cabinets and her hand in a cereal box. “Hey, are you- um, are Harry’s mum?”

Dull eyes look up at him, and Louis can already tell she’s miles away. “Harry’s my good boy,” she says by way of answer.

“Yeah. Um, I’m a friend of his. Louis. Can I talk to you?”

“I’m afraid I don’t have much here for snacks for you boys, but I can have Gemma pick something up on her way home…”

“Ma’am, Harry’s not here with me. It’s just me. I came to talk to you,” Louis says slowly and deliberately, heart sinking in dismay. This is even more hopeless than he’d thought. She was barely here, head half in another time and place with a loose grip on reality. He might as well be having a heart to heart with the cereal box.

But maybe she’s a little more present than he thought, because she looks at him somberly. “He’s okay, isn’t he?”

“He’s worried about you,” Louis says honestly. “Says you need some help.”

“Help?” she echoes, confused. “I don’t need any help. I’m just- I’m just getting some breakfast and then I’m going to clean up.”

“He says Kieffer and you have problems,” Louis pushes, then lowers himself to the floor next to her and leans his head back against the cabinets. “He says Kieffer hurts you.”

“Harry always worries too much about that. It’s not Kieffer’s fault,” the woman slurs in defense. “He just gets angry sometimes, he can’t help it. He doesn’t mean it.”

“He’s high most of the time,” Louis says gently, “and so are you.”

Now she rolls her head to the side to look at Louis dead-on. “So what if I am? So what if we get high? You don’t get to tell us what to do.”

“No, but I can ask you to use your head. You don’t look like you’re stupid enough to actually be oblivious to the way it’s hurting Harry,” he implores. “It kills him that you’re doing this to yourself.”

It seems to strike a familiar chord, and she wrinkles up her face like she’s trying to remember something far-off. “He always begs me to stop. He thinks I don’t notice when he cries.”

Louis’ heart stutters in his chest at the thought of Harry somewhere in this crumbling, ruinous heroin den with tears running down his face. He has to take a few deep breaths of the unclean air before he can continue. “So why don’t you stop?”

“Can’t.”

“Not true.”

“Don’t want to,” she tries, then nods to herself. “Makes me feel good. I like the way it feels when I’m up. Don’t like it when I’m down. Don’t wanna stop.”

“Even when it hurts Harry?”

Tears prick in her eyes. “Harry’s my good boy. He doesn’t understand, though, he’s never- he’s never been down-”

“Harry's sober and smart,” Louis says firmly. “Don’t you think he knows a little bit better than you? He just wants you to be okay, he tells me that all the time. Every day. He’s worried about you because you’re strung out and you’ve got a boyfriend that beats you. Can’t you make the effort to stop? For him?”

“Can’t stop,” she whispers, head lolling from side to side in a slow denial. “I can’t stop for my pretty boy.”

“Can you stop for yourself, then?” Louis tries desperately, frustration flushing his face. “The longer this goes on the worse you’re going to feel, I guarantee it. Your lows are going to be your new highs. Wouldn’t it be better to get out now? To feel like you’re on an up all the time, because you’re clean?”

It’s a stretch and Louis knows it, but apparently the sad woman before him doesn’t. Desire sparks in her eyes. “I just want to be happy. How- I just want to be happy.”

“I know,” Louis quietly answers, heart leaping. “If I could help you- if I could get you clean, would you try? If not for Harry, for yourself? Would you try that?”

There’s an agonizing pause where the two just look at one another, and finally the woman nods. “Just wanna be happy.”

“I can help,” Louis says with relief, standing to his feet. “Come with me right now, and we’ll make you feel better. Do you have- do you have like, things? That you want to take with you?”

She shakes her head. “Just me and Harry. He’s all I have.”

“He says that about you, too,” Louis tells her as she stumbles alongside him towards the door.

If anyone in the house thinks it strange to see one of their own stumbling out the door with no explanation, they don’t mention it. Zayn only raises a single delicate eyebrow when Louis deposits her in the back seat and climbs back in on the passenger side. “Ms. Styles, I’m guessing?”

“Jane,” she replies absently, looking out the window. “This is Leroy. He wants to make me happy.”

Zayn obviously wants to say something to that, but Louis finishes punching something into the GPS and it starts giving him commands. “Drive, please,” Louis says softly and settles back into his seat. Clean air and relief start to loosen his chest, and Louis can’t wait to be home, with Harry, where he belongs.

…………………

He’s nervous later that night, however, when Harry’s woken from his slumber and is staring at Louis with sleepy, happy eyes. They’re tucked away in Louis’ bed, laying on their sides to face one another and noses just inches apart, and to Louis it’s so lovely a sight that he almost doesn’t want to say anything, lest he make that gorgeous smile fall. He takes Harry’s hand and kisses his fingertips to strengthen his nerves, then clears his throat quietly. “Can I do something for you?”

Harry’s mouth twitches up into a little smile. “Only if you let me do the same for you. You know how weird it makes me feel when you don’t get off.”

“No, not- I wasn’t talking about sex,” Louis laughs nervously. “I was talking about something different, actually. I want to help you with something.”

A little furrow of confusion appears on Harry’s brow. “What do you mean? Help me with what?”

“Well,” Louis begins haltingly, running his fingers over Harry’s hand some more. “Don’t be mad, first of all. Because I did it for you.”

Harry swallows apprehensively. “I’ll take that into consideration.”

“I know we’ve had like fifteen thousand conversations about how I don’t want you to have to live at Kieffer’s house anymore,” Louis continues in a murmur. “And I know that you said you could never leave because as long as your mum’s there, you have to protect her. And I know you said that’s why I could never use my influence to go after Kieffer.”

“Tell me you didn’t,” Harry whispers in horror.

“I didn’t, I didn’t,” Louis says quickly, giving Harry’s hand another kiss. “I promise you I didn’t. I know that’s not what you want, and I respect that. I don’t understand it, exactly, but I respect it.”

“Then what did you do? You’re making me anxious, Louis, out with it,” Harry begs.

Louis blurts the truth out all at once. “I went to Kieffer’s and talked to your mum and convinced her to go into rehab.”

Harry sits bolt upright, jerking his hand away, eyes suddenly wild. “I can’t believe you went to Kieffer’s and lied to me about it, Japanese ambassador my arse- wait, what did you say?” he finishes dumbly when his brain catches up. “You convinced her to what?”

“We just had a chat, and I talked to her about how much better her life would be if she were clean,” Louis explains rather nervously, propped up on one elbow. “How she wouldn’t need drugs to get high because she wouldn’t be having lows. And it took a bit, but she agreed eventually. She just wants to be okay. Zayn and I drove her right to the clinic and checked her in. My dime. Best in London.”

“But that’s impossible,” Harry says, eyes still alarmingly wide. “I’ve been begging her to get clean for years, Louis. Years. Why- why now?”

It breaks Louis’ heart to know that the answer is probably that someone just had to present it to her in a way that let her be selfish. Harry could never understand that, with his big heart and his undying need to sacrifice himself for the greater good. It’s why Louis could never convince him to leave his mother. The two Styles tragedies were as different as could be; one never thought of themself, and the other never stopped. His mother would never be convinced to get help for Harry or for anyone else, but she might just do it for herself.

Louis can’t tell him that, though, because he’s known Harry for months and months that feel like forever and he’s more than smart enough to know what will break his heart. “Maybe it just wasn’t the right time until now,” he offers lamely.

Harry slowly lays back down on his side and looks at Louis steadily. After a minute, Louis tries to relax himself as well, easing back until they’re right where they started, inches apart and looking right into each other’s eyes. Harry speaks first. “What do you want from me, Louis?”

“A kiss would be nice, because I’m still not certain whether you’re pissed at me or not,” Louis answers nervously.

“Not pissed. But that’s not what I meant, either.”

Of course Louis knows that. “I want you out of there,” he tries again. “I want you safe. I don’t want you to have to do anything you don’t want to do, ever again. I don’t want you or your mum to be in a place like that.”

Still Harry shakes his head. “I know all of that. Louis, what do you want, from me?”

It’s the same dumb question but Louis feels the shift in Harry’s meaning, feels the conversation get abruptly so heavy that he thinks he might be crushed under the weight of it if he doesn’t get the truth out now. “I want you to move in with me. I want to call you my boyfriend instead of my significant other. I want to keep you here with me and buy you nice things and sleep with your head on my chest. I want it to be you and I, forever.”

“I was starting to think you’d never fess up to that,” Harry says breathlessly.

“I was starting to think you’d never ask.”

Harry finally caves and gives Louis that kiss he wanted, and by the time they come up for air the world seems so much lighter that Louis thinks to himself that surely, everything has changed.

…………………

Everything has changed.

Harry’s mum is going through one of the best and most intensive rehab programs in the U.K., and calls Harry every chance she gets. Things get clearer. She learns he isn’t a lawyer and weeps. He learns she remembers how to love him more than a needle, and dances. It’s an uphill battle and they fight it together.

Now that Harry and Jane are both out of harm’s way, Louis brings down the full force of the law on Kieffer and the rest of his operation with a particular fiendish delight. Everything comes to light and Kieffer, as the leader, winds up with charges so extensive that he’s guaranteed to spend at least the rest of his natural life in jail. He gets a visit from a dark-haired man with a Bradford accent on his first day in prison. The camera footage for that day mysteriously is ruined by a software glitch in the prison’s security system so no one knows precisely what was said, but his cellmates would tell you Kieffer returns to his bunk looking a little angry and a lot scared, and he stops ranting about the priceless blackmail he’ll use to topple the nation. He’s suddenly more concerned with making sure his back is never to anyone.

Louis donates some of his dozens of suits to make room in the closet for Harry’s growing collection of skinny jeans and flannel shirts and ridiculously oversized hats. He only rolls his eyes a little at the eccentric sense of fashion, because as it turns out, those sparkly boots with the little heels make Harry’s bum look very, very cute.

He takes Harry out for his debut as the official, actual boyfriend of the prince a few weeks later, to a little cafe on a busy street that has excellent quiche and outdoor seating. Harry blushes a little at the constant stream of attention they get from passersby, but Louis eats it up. His personal philosophy is that the more people who get to be witness to the fact that he’s nauseatingly, hopelessly lost for this boy, the better. He makes sure there are cameras snapping every time he leans in to kiss Harry softly.

Things aren’t perfect. Homophobic backlash increases now that the idea of a gay prince isn’t just an idea anymore, but a reality walking down the street hand in hand with another man. Dirty glances in official meetings get more and more prevalent as some of the particularly scummy members of the government stew over the fact that they know things they can never reveal. Louis gets a reputation for saying ‘fuck you’ a lot, which makes Niall’s life miserable.

But things don’t have to be perfect, because even in their strange little way, that makes Louis and Harry happy. They find themselves taking a lot of late-night drives in the fancy cars Harry insists Louis learn to handle, even after they fall back into the normal rhythm of sleeping at night and staying awake during the day. Sleep be damned, there’s just nothing like laying out on the hood of a Bugatti and looking up at the stars that you can only see when you’re miles and miles and miles from London.

Harry reaches over and tangles his hand with Louis’. “Never thought life would turn out like this,” he murmurs. “Didn’t think it was possible. Real life isn’t like Pretty Woman. Never thought that would be my story.”

“Of course it isn’t your story,” Louis says lightly. “You’re a man. Trust me, I’m very gay. I probably wouldn’t sleep with you if you weren’t a man.”

It makes Harry giggle. “Okay. But you have to admit you’re at least a little bit the Richard Gere to my Julia Roberts. The parallels are kind of ridiculous.”

“Alright, I’ll give.” Louis turns his head to the side to look at Harry and finds that the younger man is already looking over at him, too. “You’re not my pretty woman, but you can be my pretty boy.”

He doesn’t expect his lame joke to bring tears to Harry’s eyes, but at least they’re accompanied with a smile as Harry blinks back up at the stars and brings their clasped hands to his mouth to kiss at Louis’ knuckle. “I’m okay with that,” he says quietly. “Just for you.”