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It shouldn’t be a surprise, the first time that Louis drops to his knees in front of Harry. It shouldn’t be, because it’s been something that Louis has needed for a long time. It shouldn’t be, because he’s been crawling out of his skin for weeks on end. It shouldn’t be, because Harry always makes him feel better. It shouldn’t be, because he’s needed this even when he didn’t know that he needed it.

Somehow, it still is.

 

Louis has been annoying all day, and he knows it. It’s just - it’s been such a long week, long and shitty, and he’s been on the verge of cracking nearly the entire time. He misses his mum and the girls and his friends from home, and Stan. God, he misses Stan.

Having the boys around helps, but it’s more of a distraction than anything. For the most part, being around the boys only riles him up even more, gets him convincing Zayn that it’s a good idea to steal the extra keycards out of Paul’s bag and go around messing with people’s stuff, gets him convincing Niall that it’s a fucking awesome idea to drive a golf cart around outside of the venue while some of their fans run after them, gets him hyping Liam up so much that he runs around for fifteen minutes with Niall slung over his shoulder.

And then there’s Harry.

Harry’s just as bad as the rest of them, and even worse when it comes innuendos and making things sexual, but he fucks around just as much as Louis does. Maybe even more, when he feels like it.

There’s something about him, though, something that has calmed Louis right from the beginning. It’s easier to be calm when Harry is, like it spreads through him and out to Louis.

Today’s a little worse than most days - Louis is going a little bit stir-crazy. Zayn’s long since lost all interest in doing anything that isn’t taking a nap, Niall’s off somewhere with Caroline getting another fitting - because he’s getting more and more muscles by the day, about which Louis still isn’t sure how he feels - and Liam’s having an earnest discussion with the sound crew.

That pretty much only leaves Harry, unless Louis’ going to bug one of the crew or Paul or something, and as much fun as that is, it’s never quite as much fun as messing around with one of his boys.

Harry’s nowhere to be seen, though, and in the ten minutes it takes Louis to find him he’s become itchy in his own skin, about ready to pop if he doesn’t just do something.

That’s why the first thing he does upon finding Harry is to launch himself at his back and send him flying face first into Lou, who happens to be holding what appears to be a container of blonde hair dye, which happens to go flying up into the air and ends up drenching Marco, who happens to be passing by at exactly the wrong moment.

Oops.

The good part about all of that is that, admist all of the shouting, Harry’s hands come up and support Louis underneath his thighs so he doesn’t go sliding towards the ground.

Once the yelling stops, Harry’s hands tighten around Louis’ thighs, and he says, both annoyed and impatient, “Can’t you wait to be acknowledged for once?”

Well. That’s just not very nice. Louis continues to ignore Marco, standing dumbfounded not even two feet away, and says, “Can’t you grow a bigger dick? I’ve heard all the girls complaining about how yours is too small.”

Harry’s back tenses up underneath him in a way that it never does unless he’s actually pissed. Louis pinches the back of his neck until Harry yelps and lets go of his legs, sliding down and landing on the ground with a thump.

“Jesus, you can be such a brat sometimes,” Harry says, shaking his head. He’s rubbing at the back of his neck like it actually still hurts, the little baby.

“You know what I think?” Louis asks thoughtfully, rubbing his jaw a little. Harry turns to look at him, already narrowing his eyes like he knows it’s going to be something unflattering.

“Don’t,” he says warningly, but Louis wouldn’t be Louis if he ever heeded a warning.

“I think that you can’t actually get any of your girls off when you’re fucking them and that’s why you can never get a second date. Haven’t you ever heard that you need to warm them up before you can just go shoving it in, Harold? Clearly no one ever taught you how to - ”

“That’s quite enough of that, I think,” Harry says loudly, slapping his hand over Louis’ mouth. He gets a good grip and starts hauling Louis backwards, nearly picking him up off of his feet altogether, despite Louis’ best attempts to shake him off.

Alright. If he can’t get Harry to let go of him he’ll just take another route, then. He goes completely limp in Harry’s grasp, letting his body slump towards the floor. “Christ, you’re fucking heavy,” Harry mutters, but he keeps hauling Louis backwards, until Marco’s shell-shocked face and Lou’s horrified one are completely out of view.

It doesn’t seem like he’s having any problem dragging Louis around, even though Louis is being as unhelpful as he can, and that’s just not fair, so he bites at Harry’s hand until Harry swears and drops him.

Louis curls himself up into a ball, as tight as he can, and hugs his knees to his chest. He doesn’t flinch when Harry drops to his knees beside him, hand immediately going to slip through his hair.

“You dropped me,” Louis says, voice small. He squeezes his eyes closed and tips his head down into his chest, trying to hide his face.

“I know, baby, I’m sorry,” Harry says, curling his fingers around Louis’ ear. He sounds genuinely apologetic, so Louis rolls over and presses his face into Harry’s leg, curling up around him the best he can in this position. Harry’s fingers press down a little harder, until it should hurt, but all Louis can feel is the warmth of Harry’s bare leg underneath his cheek.

Harry’s fingers start moving again. Louis’ head feels heavy, a little fuzzy, and sitting up is probably a bad idea but he tries it anyway, only to be stopped by the pressure of Harry’s hand, slipping down to grasp him by the base of his neck.

Louis lets his eyes close, curling a couple of fingers around Harry’s ankle, holding on lightly. Harry keeps petting him, fingers spreading out and slipping down underneath the neck of his t-shirt, stroking over his shoulder blades. It feels nice, heavy, like he can’t get up until Harry lets him.

It’s like he loses all sense of time. One minute he’s lying there, face smushed up against Harry’s skin and breathing him in, the next Paul’s yelling at them to gather their stuff and get ready to go.

Louis doesn’t know how they get to the car, but all of a sudden he’s in it, seat belt done up and everything, leaning into Harry’s side. There’s a minute of confusion when the car comes to a stop and Harry tries to get out but Louis won’t let him, clinging onto his hand like it’s a lifeline. He ends up half carrying Louis to the lift, waving off their security when Louis makes an unhappy noise about being touched by them.

“God, I didn’t know you could get like this,” Harry says, but he doesn’t sound angry. Louis leans into him a little harder, letting him take more of Louis’ weight. They’re alone in the lift, which is probably a bad idea because anything could happen, but it means that there’s no one around to side-eye it when Louis tucks his face into Harry’s chest and twists his fingers into Harry’s shirt.

“Like what?” Louis asks, arching into it when Harry’s hand smoothes down his back, stopping just above the curve of his arse.

For a minute, he thinks that Harry’s going to say quiet. He probably wouldn’t even care right now. He feels too - something. He feels too something to care.

“So sweet,” Harry says instead, which is more acceptable than quiet. “Sweet and little and - ” He cuts himself off before he can finish, and normally Louis would be on him until he choked out the words, breathless from laughter, but he just stays still and lets Harry pet him gently.

The lift dings. The doors open, and Harry starts backing Louis out into the hallway, hands tight on his hips so he doesn’t stumble and fall. “’m always little,” Louis says. “Like an imp.”

“My favourite little imp,” Harry agrees. They stumble down the hallway together, nearly knocking each other to the floor at least three times.

“I’m a little teapot,” Louis starts, “short and stout, here is my handle, here is my spout.” It sounds pretty bad, because he’s saying it more than he’s singing it, but it makes Harry laugh so it doesn’t matter.

“You’re so weird,” he says fondly. He props Louis up against the wall while he fumbles with the keycard, and then tucks them back together to guide them into the room.

It’s nice, being taken care of, so Louis lets Harry put him on the bed and tug his shoes off without kicking him in the face once.

“Do you want to watch a movie?” Harry asks, hands skimming up Louis’ calves to rest on his thighs. Louis means to answer, he really does, but all he can manage is a barely awake blink, eyes so heavy he can barely even keep them open.

He’s tired, all of a sudden. He wasn’t tired before, in the lift, or in the car, and he definitely wasn’t tired in the venue when they were fighting.

He falls asleep still thinking that it’s really weird.

 

When he wakes up in the morning, his head is much clearer. He lies still for a few minutes, purposefully not thinking about the deep, steady breathing tickling the back of his head.

Yesterday Harry held him down by the back of the neck and didn’t let him up until Louis’ breathing was just as steady as Harry’s is right now. Yesterday Louis let Harry hold him down until his head didn’t feel as crowded, until he felt little and safe and taken care of.

If Harry had have left during the night Louis probably would have pretended that it never happened, that nothing weird had gone on.

Instead, he listens as Harry’s breathing changes, picking up a little the way it always does when he starts waking up, and doesn’t move when one of Harry’s arms sneaks across his side, curving down into the mattress and pulling him straight back into Harry’s body.

“No wonder I woke up cold,” Harry grumbles, tucking his toes between Louis’ ankles. Or trying to, at least. It doesn’t really work as well as it used to now that he’s grown two inches.

He doesn’t feel cold, but Louis doesn’t say that. “Y’alright?” Harry asks, breath tickling the back of Louis’ neck.

Louis closes his eyes. “I dunno.”

Harry’s quiet for a minute. “This about last night?”

It’s definitely about last night. It’s definitely about the way Louis tried to get up all of once and Harry didn’t let him and the way that just made everything so much easier.

“It’s about last night,” Louis confirms, only a little bit shakily.

Harry nudges him, hand pressing into his belly gently. “You wanna talk about this face to face?”

“Definitely don’t wanna talk about this face to face,” Louis says. “Face to back of head is good.”

Harry huffs out a quiet laugh, fingers wiggling on Louis’ stomach. He’s still wearing his t-shirt, and he’s got his underwear on, but somewhere along the way Harry stripped him out of his jeans and his socks. Stripped himself out of his jeans and his socks, too, and probably his t-shirt, if his bare arm is anything to judge by.

He probably left his pants on, at least. “Face to back of head it is,” he agrees. “You wanna start?”

Louis chews on the inside of his cheek and considers this. Of course he wants to start, because he believes in getting the first and the last word, but he needs a second to figure out what he wants to say.

In the meantime, he wiggles his hand underneath Harry’s and lets him slip their fingers together the best that he can with both of their palms facing down.

“Would it be weird if I said that it made me feel better?” Louis asks eventually.

He feels Harry’s shrug against his back. “It’d be weirder if you tried to say that it didn’t. We’d both know that you’re lying.”

“You know that I mean it made me feel better because you made me stay there, right?” Louis clarifies.

“I do know that, yeah,” Harry agrees. “Are you gonna punch me if I said that it was really lovely?”

Louis laughs, letting his eyes open again. The picture on the wall is hanging crooked, so slightly that it’s almost imperceptible. “Maybe.”

“Well, it’s not like you don’t know how lovely you are,” Harry says cheerfully, because Harry has no boundaries.

Louis elbows him the best he can. It’s not very well, considering the position that they’re in, but it’ll have to do. There’s no way Louis is up to moving yet. “Do you think that it’s something that you could do again?” he asks, trying to keep his voice steady.

He’s pretty sure that Harry can pick out the uncertainty in it, but he doesn’t say anything. “I think we need to have a proper conversation about it before either of us agrees to do it again,” he says, but that’s not what Louis is asking.

“No, I mean would you be comfortable doing it again?” Louis asks impatiently.

Harry sighs and presses an entirely too wet kiss to the back of Louis’ head. “There’s not a whole lot that I wouldn’t do for you.”

God. Sometimes he’s so sappy it’s disgusting. Louis doesn’t even want to know what he says when he’s trying to pull girls. “I hate you,” he says, a little grumpily, because he feels like Harry should know.

Harry only sighs a little bit louder and rolls Louis under him, crushing him to the mattress. “Think I’m just gonna go back to sleep,” he says, shoving Louis’ shoulders down.

“Bloody hell, get off, you weigh a ton,” Louis grumbles, trying to get an elbow free or maybe even a foot, something he can use to whack Harry with until he says uncle.

It’s a failed endeavor. Harry’s really fucking heavy, and Louis isn’t that small but he’s kind of really fucking small, so he’s in the middle of ranting about how Harry needs to learn to respect people’s boundaries and not touch them when they don’t want to be touched when the door swings open.

“Paul says you guys need to stop making so much noise and also you have ten minutes to get out to the bus or he’s gonna throw Fifa out,” Niall announces, shoving half of a banana into his mouth.

They better not have missed breakfast. If they missed breakfast and no one saved any for Louis there’s going to be hell to pay, that’s all Louis is saying.

“Come save me, Neil,” Louis yelps, stretching a hand out the best that he can. He can make Niall’s face out from this angle, but only barely.

Niall shoves the other half of the banana into his mouth and doesn’t even bother chewing before he says, “What will you give me if I do?”

“You know that t-shirt that Harry will never let you wear because you spilled ketchup all over the last one that you borrowed?” Louis asks. Niall’s expression brightens. He tosses the peel into the bin before launching himself onto the bed, all flailing knees and elbows.

Between the two of them they manage to take Harry out.

 

Of course, that’s not the end of the conversation. On the bus that night, Louis spends an hour and a half looking up BDSM and nearly fucking cries when he can’t find what he’s looking for, eyes gritty and heart sinking by the second.

Honestly, he doesn’t know why it takes him so long to figure out that he should just click the damn D/s link.

Then he spends another three hours obsessively clicking every link that he can find, chewing on his thumbnail until it’s ragged and sore. The BDSM stuff is all fine and dandy, and he likes his sex to be just on the side of hurting a little, sometimes, but that’s not what that day was. That day was more about the headspace than anything, about letting Harry hold him and trusting Harry to make all of the decisions for a few minutes.

He thinks, at least. He’s still having a little bit of trouble figuring it out.

Once he’s closed his laptop he lies in his bunk, practically vibrating out of his own skin for half an hour before he finally admits defeat and rolls onto the floor. The boys thought it’d be funny to give him the one on the bottom ‘cause he’s the shortest. He protested loudly at first, but it turns out that it makes it easier to get up at night so Louis is the one laughing.

He pushes himself to his feet and scrambles up into Harry’s bunk without even looking to see if Harry’s awake or if there’s any room for him.

Obviously there’s room for him. There’s room for him in everyone’s bunks.

Harry’s not awake, but he shifts in his sleep to give Louis a tiny little sliver of space, just enough that his arse isn’t hanging out into the hallway. Louis props his chin up in his hand and waits about thirty seconds for Harry to wake up and then, when he doesn’t, pokes him in the cheek ten times, fast and sharp.

“What the fuck, Lou,” Harry croaks out, slapping his hand away. Louis hisses a little and gives him another ten pokes, harder ones. “Okay, okay, I’m up. What do you want?”

“I looked up some stuff,” Louis says, folding his hand around Harry’s ear so they won’t disturb the boys.

“Good for you,” Harry grunts, kicking his leg irritably until his sheets unwind enough that he can pull his knee up.

“Some stuff,” Louis enunciates. It’s hot in here, and he wants to take off his shirt so he can get underneath the covers but Harry’s still all wrapped up in them. He’s probably naked under there, but it’s not like he’s ever cared about that before, so Louis sets about untangling him before he strips his own shirt off and burrows himself into Harry’s side.

“I got that, thanks,” Harry sighs, but he doesn’t protest as Louis worms his way underneath his arm.

Louis puts his hand on Harry’s bare chest and squeezes his head onto Harry’s pillow, making room for himself. There used to be two pillows in here but then Liam got it into his head that he needed another one, so Harry had given him the extra one without even consulting with Louis. Of course, then Louis had to beat the both of them with it until its seams had ripped and the feathers had gone flying everywhere.

Now everyone only has one pillow and Paul won’t let them get any more. Maybe he would if Louis stopped stealing them from hotels and then using them to beat up everyone in the vicinity when they least suspect it, but they’ll never know.

“Can we talk about it?” Louis asks, because he can’t sleep, too wound up, and if he can’t sleep he doesn’t see any reason why Harry should be able to.

“We can talk about it the next time we have a room to ourselves,” Harry says firmly, cutting off Louis’ protests before they even start. “You really wanna talk about it where anyone could hear?”

Good point. Louis only pouts a little. “I don’t want to lose my nerve,” he admits. Harry sighs again and rubs his thumb over the corner of Louis’ mouth, coaxing it up into a smile.

“I won’t let you lose your nerve,” he promises, and that’s typical Harry, always making promises that he has no way of keeping, at least to Louis.

They never fail to make him feel better, though, so Louis bites at Harry’s thumb until he pulls it away, swearing, and then swats at Louis’ bum, hard enough to sting. “Go to sleep,” he orders, and Louis means to stay up for another three hours just to spite him, but then he puts his hand up underneath Louis’ shirt and rests it on the small of his back. It’s warm and heavy and nice and Louis falls asleep without intending to.

Dammit.

 

They don’t get a chance to have the conversation for another three days. By the time they finally get some time to themselves, Louis is about ready to vibrate out of his skin. He keeps wondering what he would have done if he hadn’t have woken up next to Harry, if he would be this anxious about it. If he’d be more anxious about it.

It’s hard to imagine being more anxious about it. He spends three days trying to be normal, but it clearly isn’t working. Every single member of the crew has asked him at least once if he’s okay, and that’s not even getting into how the boys have been treating him, like he’s going to fall apart if they’re not gentle with him.

Except for Harry, that is. Harry just treats him how he always treats him, and it hasn’t gone unnoticed. Louis is dreading the conversation that he’s bound to have with the boys.

First he’s got to get through this conversation, though.

“Where do you want to talk?” Harry asks. They’ve been standing in the middle of the room just staring at each other for at least two minutes. Louis is pretty sure that they both look like they’re about to jump out of their skins.

He definitely feels like he’s about to jump out of his skin.

There’s a lot of places they could have this discussion. On the bed, on the sofa, on the floor. The problem isn’t that there’s a lack of comfortable places to do it. The problem is that there’s too many comfortable places to do it and that Louis can’t decide whether it’d be easier to be able to see Harry’s face while they talk or not.

On one hand, if he’s able to see Harry’s face he’ll know what he’s thinking, but on the other hand if he’s able to see Harry’s face he’ll know what he’s thinking.

“The bed, then,” Harry decides, and it feels like there’s a weight that’s been lifted from Louis’ shoulders. They make their way over to the bed and settle down, sides lined up and pressing together. If he twisted, Louis could see Harry’s face from this position, but he doesn’t have to, and that thought is strangely relieving.

“So,” Harry starts, and then doesn’t add anything else.

“So,” Louis echoes, tapping his fingers against his knee. The bedspread is a pale cream colour. It must be a bitch to get stains out of.

“So when you asked me if I’d be able to do it again, what exactly did you mean?”

Jesus. This conversation is already the most embarrassing one Louis has ever had, and that’s including the sex talk with his mum.

And it’s only just started. “I was asking if you’d want to.”

“That’s not all you were asking,” Harry says firmly.

Louis ducks his face a little more, focusing on a thread that’s coming loose off the duvet cover. The urge to pull at it is irresistible. “I was asking if you’d do it. For me.”

“Okay,” Harry says. He covers Louis’ hand with his own, stilling it. “I think we both know that I would do it for you and that I’d want to do it for you, if it would help you.”

“But, like,” Louis says, voice small, “you get that it’s a big thing, right? I’m not just asking you to take care of me, I’m asking you to take care of me.”

There’s a better way to describe it, probably, but for all of Louis’ obsessive searching over the past few days he hasn’t come across it. A lot of the stuff out there is just porn, which, while visually appealing, is not what Louis was looking for.

“You’re asking me to take care of you after I’ve made you too out of it to take care of yourself,” Harry says, which is only part of it but it’s more than Louis could have described thirty seconds ago.

“Yeah,” Louis whispers. He pulls his knee up slowly, the one with both of their hands on it, until he can put his head down, trapping Harry’s hand beneath it.

Harry swallows. It’s loud in the silence of the room. “Is it sexual?”

Louis stays very still and keeps staring down. Harry must have been looking at the same sites that Louis was. “For you, I mean,” Harry says, like he gets what Louis is thinking. “Is it sexual for you.”

“I don’t think so,” Louis says. Harry’s fingers twitch against his cheek.

“Be sure, Louis,” he says. “I need you to be sure.”

“It’s like,” Louis starts. He takes a deep breath in and lets it out before he continues. “My head gets loud, sometimes, and crowded, and it feels like if I don’t do something about it I’m going to drown in my own thoughts. S’why I get so annoying sometimes, I’m so loud because I’m trying to compete with myself.”

He’s not sure if he’s making any sense, and he doesn’t want to look up at Harry’s face to figure it out, so he just keeps talking. “It helped, sometimes, to be a little bit crazy, but it’s like there’s all this pressure and I feel like I have to try to take care of everyone all at once.”

Something in Harry must snap, because he grabs Louis’ chin with two fingers and tilts his head up, not gently at all. It doesn’t hurt, but Louis jumps a little anyway. He wasn’t expecting it at all.

“God, sweetheart, you don’t always have to be taking care of everyone,” Harry says. He looks upset, like he thinks he’s caused this, and that’s not what Louis is trying to say at all.

Louis swallows and keeps his eyes trained on Harry’s. It’s hard, because it’s the last thing that he wants to do, but it feels like it might be important. “It feels like I do,” he says. He wants Harry to understand but he doesn’t want Harry to understand all at the same time.

“I feel like if I don’t it’s going to be even worse,” he continues. It’s important that Harry understands, even though Louis is balking at the thought of saying it out loud. “It feels like I have to be in control and I have to take care of everything because if I don’t it’ll all slip through my fingers.”

Harry’s always been a loud thinker, and this is no exception. “I wish you didn’t feel like that,” he murmurs, gripping Louis’ knee a little tighter. His grip on Louis’ jaw doesn’t change, exactly the right amount of pressure.

“Me too,” Louis says. “But I do, and I didn’t realize how much I need to feel like I’m being taken care of sometimes before that - day.”

Once the words are out, Louis’ chest feels about a thousand times looser. “You need to tell me exactly how you want to be taken care of,” Harry says. He lets Louis drop his eyes without saying anything, spreading his fingers farther like the warmth of them on Louis’ cheek will give him the courage to continue this discussion.

It doesn’t exactly do that, but it definitely doesn’t hinder it. “I want you to do what you did yesterday,” he says, a little frustrated, because he doesn’t know exactly what he wants. He just knows that he wants it to happen.

That he needs it to happen.

“I think you might need a little more than what I did yesterday, sometimes,” Harry says gently. His hand moves into Louis’ hair, scratching along his scalp gently, the way Louis likes it best.

“Something like what?” Louis asks. It sounds like Harry’s put some thought into this, and that’s something that Louis didn’t see coming.

“I wouldn’t want to do anything that you wouldn’t want me to do,” Harry says, a little hesitantly, and Louis can already tell that this might turn into an issue.

He really, really doesn’t want to explain it, because he’s been getting an inkling that it’s more in line with his sexual preferences than whatever this is going to be, but if he doesn’t say it now then he might not say it until it’s too late to properly explain it. “I might say no even when I don’t really mean it,” he confesses, barely more than a whisper.

Harry’s hand stills. “That really shouldn’t surprise me,” he says, and his fingers start moving again.

Louis exhales and slumps into Harry’s hold. He should have known that Harry wouldn’t care. It’s not like it’s that weird, right? Right. Lots of people like that. Louis isn’t the only one.

“But you’re gonna come up with a word, yeah? So I’ll know whether you actually mean it or not,” Harry says. Louis shrugs one shoulder and picks at a thread on Harry’s shirt. He very much wants this conversation to be over.

All he’s done today is fuck around on the bus, but he’s tired. He feels like he could sleep for about a week. “Let me rephrase that,” Harry says, when Louis still doesn’t answer. “You’re going to come up with a word.”

His tone leaves no room for argument. Louis kind of wants to argue anyway, just to see what Harry would do, but he doesn’t have the energy for that. “I’ll come up with a word,” Louis agrees.

“And I’m going to give you a list,” Harry adds, “of things that I think might be good for you, and you’re going to tell me whether you want them or not. And you can add things on that you think might help you. Okay?”

Louis sucks his lip into his mouth. “What if I need something before we do all of that?”

“You won’t be able to have it,” Harry says simply. “I’m not - I already did it once with no boundaries, and I’m not going to do it again.”

That’s not fair. Louis has to bite his tongue to keep from screaming about how not fair it is. Instead, he nods, just a little, and resolves to do all those things as quickly as humanly possible. He has a feeling that he’s going to need something sooner rather than later, now that he has an idea what it’ll do for him.

 

As quickly as possible turns out to be another excruciatingly long seven days. Louis came up with the word before they even left the bed that night, but Harry makes him wait to get the list, until his fingers start itching with the urge to rip it out of his journal.

He’s completely sure that Harry’s finished it. He has no idea why Harry’s making him wait for it, but he doesn’t really care. He wants the list, and he wants to read it and make his changes and then he wants to have something.

Waiting is really not Louis’ strong suit.

By the time that Harry finally hands the list over, Louis’ hands have gone past trembling to shaking. He nearly drops the piece of paper four times before he can manage to get it spread out on his knees, the words in the creases already fading from how many times it’s been folded.

There’s not enough on the list for it to have taken as long as it did, which Louis spares a second to feel annoyed about. Only a second, though, before he gets down to business.

It only takes ten minutes to go over the list, but by the time he’s done Louis’ nails are all bitten down, skin a little more torn on his thumb than it would normally be. It still doesn’t excuse the amount of time that it took for Harry to get it to him, but it’s a lot more acceptable, now. It’s thought out so well, tailored for Louis so exactly, Louis just.

He nearly knocks Niall trying to find Harry, and when he does he almost knocks the both of them over from how hard he launches himself into Harry’s arms. “You’re my favourite,” he breathes, locking his legs around Harry’s waist. “You’re my favourite, bloody hell, you’re my fucking favourite.”

It’s lucky that Harry’s not as clumsy as he used to be, otherwise he probably would have fallen over and smashed Louis’ skull open. “If you want it, you can have it tomorrow,” Harry breathes back, just as quietly.

Louis’ eyes water. He probably has dust in them or something. “So much better than Liam.”

 

By the time they finish the show and get back to the hotel the next day, Louis is more than ready to have his something. He hasn’t been stuck in his own head, not really, but it’s not like he’s going to tell Harry that when clearly he thinks that Louis is.

Mainly Louis just really wants to know what it’s like so he can prepare himself for the future.

Or something.

The second that the door locks behind them, Harry’s hands are catching Louis by the jaw. Louis trembles a little, so ready for whatever Harry’s going to do that he nearly can’t wait.

Hearing, “You never made any adjustments to the list,” is like a bucket of ice water over his head.

He blinks and looks up. “The list is fine. The list is perfect, can we get on with it?”

Harry’s watching him, not even bothered by the fact that their faces are less than two inches apart. He’s never really had any concept of personal space. “There’s eight things on it,” he says evenly. “Rate them.”

Louis knows that he must look bewildered, but that’s how he feels. “Rate them?”

“You have the list on you, yeah?” Harry asks. He doesn’t wait for an answer before continuing. “Rate them, one to eight. One’s the one you think will work best, eight’s the least.”

The list is currently sitting in Louis’ back pocket, paper already getting soft from how many times he’s folded and unfolded it to look at the words in Harry’s writing, the words that Harry wrote down so that Louis’ brain doesn’t feel like it’s going to explode out of his skull, the words that Harry wrote down that are going to help Louis believe that he’s good enough.

“Tell me your word first,” Harry adds abruptly, like he’s just thought of it.

Just like that, Louis is back to being ready to vibrate out of his skin, the same way he was ten days ago. “Cantaloupe.”

“Cantaloupe. You’re going to remember that and be able to say it if you feel like you need to stop?” Harry asks. Louis nods, strands of his hair getting stuck in Harry’s fingers. His scalp pinches a little, but the pain feels far away.

“I’ll remember it,” Louis says. He already feels a little different, a little calmer. He never really thought that it would work this fast. He didn’t want to hope that it would work this fast.

“Good,” Harry murmurs, and then they’re moving, until the back of Louis’ knees hit the bed. He sinks down onto it when Harry pushes gently, hands never leaving Louis’ head.

He sits there, blinking a little dazedly up at Harry, before it occurs to him that he needs the paper. He lifts his hips up, struggling to get it, and fails when Harry tips him all the way over.

“Got a nice bum, Tommo,” Harry says, slipping two fingers into Louis’ pocket to withdraw the piece of paper himself before he rights him. Louis blinks some more, mouth open a little bit. He seriously wasn’t expecting that.

“Kick your arse in the morning,” Louis grumbles. It takes him a minute to find the words, but he finds them and that has to count for something.

“You can try,” Harry says, sitting on the mattress beside Louis, close enough that their thighs are pressed up together. “You want me to read them to you or do you want to just do it and then show me?”

While Louis is thinking about it, Harry produces a pen. It seems like it comes out of thin air, and not just because Louis’ brain is a little fuzzy. He’s certain that Harry’s jeans didn’t have weird bulges in them that weren’t because of his cock, not even from his phone. There’s no way it could have been in his pocket.

“I’ll write it,” he says, grabbing the pen from Harry’s fingers. He nearly misses, but Harry grabs his wrist and presses it into his palm so that’s alright. He takes the paper as well, and makes sure that it’s smooth on his lap before he bends his head and considers his options.

The list might be written in order of Harry’s preferences, but Louis doesn’t think so. If it was he’d be inclined to number it 1-8 as is, because Harry’s already doing so much for him, but he’s pretty sure that Harry mixed it up for that exact reason.

His brain is pretty insistent on what he wants the number one spot to go to, but he ignores it the best that he can. He doesn’t think it would freak Harry out - Harry wouldn’t have written it down if it would - but there’s something that seems a little more intimate about it than anything else on the list.

Kneeling seems like a good place to start, and it’s not too much of an exaggeration, so Louis prints a 1 beside it shakily before perusing the rest of the list. He can’t have the real number one spot too far down the list, because Harry would definitely see through that, but he prints a careful 2 next to wrists held and then a 3 next to wrists tied.

By the time he finishes that, his breathing is a little erratic. Harry doesn’t seem inclined to say anything about it, though, so Louis ignores it and keeps focusing. He puts a 4 next to being held by the back of the neck and presses a 5 beside spanking so hard that the paper tears a little.

He has to ignore it and keep going, can’t draw more attention to it. The rest of the list is relatively easy, a 6 beside being still, a 7 next to lying quietly, 8 next to face down in my lap.

His mouth is dry when he finishes. He wishes that there was some water on the beside table, but there’s not and he’s not sure that his legs would hold him if he tried to stand up.

Harry takes the paper off of his lap gently and looks at it. There’s silence for so long that Louis must have done something wrong.

“You’re lying to me,” Harry murmurs. He shifts away, just enough that the cold seeps into Louis’ body.

Louis’ heart plummets. “’m not.”

Harry moves even further. Louis manages to look at him, somehow, at his disappointed face. “If you’re not then why is spanking number five?”

“I don’t - ” Louis says, and then the tears come, so abruptly that he barely even registers them at first.

“Fuck,” Harry says, gathering him up in his arms so fast that Louis gets a little dizzy. “Fuck, I’m so sorry, I didn’t - I should have realized that we shouldn’t have this conversation like this, baby, I’m sorry.”

Louis doesn’t know how much time passes before he feels normal again. It’s probably a while, judging by how numb his arms feel.

He sits there for a few minutes after he feels normal, wrapped up in the circle of Harry’s arms, not quite willing to move. He feels like there’s a discussion coming on that he really doesn’t want to have.

Harry knows him too well, though, because he shifts Louis out of his lap and onto the mattress. “You could have used the word,” he says gently. He continues before Louis can start feeling even worse. “I should have known where this was going, though, and I’m sorry.”

Okay, maybe not before Louis can start feeling even worse. He wipes at his cheeks a little roughly, trying to dry them. “S’okay. You’re still figuring it out, and it can’t be easy when you didn’t even want to do it in the first place.”

Harry’s quiet for so long that Louis thinks that he’s said something wrong. He shifts farther away before he starts talking, until Louis feels cold despite the fact that Harry must have wrapped him up in the duvet at some point, still slipping down off of one shoulder.

“If you think,” Harry says, voice tight, “even for one second that I don’t want to do this for you then maybe you don’t know me as well as you thought you did.”

Louis pulls the duvet up again. “I want you to do it because you want to do it, not because you want to do it for me.”

“What you’re saying doesn’t even make sense,” Harry says, a little testily. Louis tenses, just the tiniest bit, but clearly Harry notices. He sighs and gathers Louis back up into his arms, duvet and all, and kisses the top of Louis’ head, despite how greasy it must be. He really needs a shower.

“Okay,” Harry says, clearly starting again. “It’s like this. Would I have wanted to do something like this with someone if you didn’t need me to do it? I don’t know. Maybe not. Probably not. There’s a level of trust something like this requires that I don’t know if I’d be able to find with someone else.”

Louis stays quiet. “When I say that I want to do this for you, I think you’re hearing something else,” Harry continues. “I don’t know what, exactly, but what I mean is that I want to be the person who does it for you. I want to be the person you trust enough to let take care of you when you need it.”

That hurts even worse, for some reason. “I don’t want you to misunderstand,” Harry says, tightening his arms around Louis’ back. “I don’t get the same things from it that you do, but I’m not meant to, I think. You’re supposed to feel safe and taken care of and I’m supposed to enjoy taking care of you and making you feel safe and I don’t know if you’ve noticed this, but I already liked doing all of that before any of this.”

It’s the vaguest description of what this could be that Louis has ever heard.

It succeeds in making Louis feel better, though. “Okay,” he says, and lets Harry hold him.

“We’re gonna sleep tonight,” Harry says after a few minutes. “And in the morning you’re going to sit at the table and re-number the list properly and you’re going to promise me that if you ever feel like you need to use your word you’re going to use it. Do you think you can do that?”

Louis tucks his face into Harry’s chest even more and nods. “Alright,” Harry says. He leans back against the headboard, rearranging Louis’ legs into a more comfortable position.

It’s warm in the room, and wrapped up in the duvet like Louis is some people might consider it stifling, particularly because Harry practically bleeds heat, but Louis has always hated being cold. He’s half asleep by the time Harry nudges him, fingers ghosting over Louis’ ribs.

“Hey,” Harry says. All Louis can manage is a half conscious inquiring noise, but clearly it’s enough. “I love you, and you’re my favourite boy. Don’t ever forget that.”

It’s weird and co-dependent and a little mean to the other lads, but it makes Louis feel warm and tingly anyway. He means to say it back, tell Harry that he might be Louis’ favourite person in the entire world, but he falls asleep before he can get the words out.

 

In the morning, Louis sits at the table and re-numbers the list while Harry spends an inordinate amount of time in the shower.

His pulse is still thrumming through his body by the time he’s finished, but it doesn’t feel anything like yesterday felt, like he had to make the right choice or everything would just slip through his fingers.

He definitely can’t stay and watch Harry read over the list, so he leaves it on the table and goes to convince Liam that breaking into the pool is a good idea.

 

There’s only so long he can avoid Harry for, living in such close quarters all the time, but he does a pretty damn good job of it, if he does say so himself.

Pretty good only comes down to about twelve hours, but it’s twelve hours in which Harry is actively trying to get him alone, trying to catch Louis by the wrist like he thinks that it’s all he needs to convince Louis to find a secluded place with him.

The bitch of it is that he’s not wrong. Louis has done some more reading - and a little bit of porn watching, he’s not going to lie - and he’s pretty sure that while it might not be normal, exactly, it’s not that weird.

He’s still not exactly ready to think of it in the proper terms, but he knows them, at least, and he knows that reacting to his - reacting to Harry like this is a good thing, at least for what Louis needs from him.

The feeling that he had yesterday, or even the feeling that he had the day that Harry held him down by the back of his neck just before it happened, isn’t there. It’s a new feeling, now, excitement crawling through his veins instead of anxiety or panic or fear.

It feels like he’s making Harry chase him, and maybe he is, but it feels good, right. Like maybe this is part of what he needs, to make Harry work to get him where he wants to be. And maybe he should feel a little guilty for it, because for all that Harry says that he wants to do it there must be a reason that he’s never thought about doing it with anyone else, but he doesn’t.

Harry manages to corner him backstage only an hour and a half before they’re set to go onstage. There’s a part of him that thinks that this might not be such a good idea, not waiting until after to talk about it, but he’s made Harry wait all day and he definitely doesn’t seem like he’s willing to wait any more.

“Is this the real order?” Harry asks, putting one hand on Louis’ stomach like they need to be touching at all times.

Louis swallows and scrapes his teeth over his tongue before he answers, trying to get the taste of tea off of it. “Yeah.”

“And you’ll use your word if you need to?” Harry persists, spreading his fingers out. If he angled his wrist right he’d be able to touch Louis’ belly button and one of his nipples at the same time, and the thought of that gets his heart beating a little faster.

“Yeah,” Louis confirms, only a little shakily.

Their foreheads knock together a little painfully when Harry leans down, but Louis barely feels it. “You’re so good,” Harry says, and it sounds like the words have been ripped out of his chest before he was ready to say them. “Louis, you’re so good.”

 

To be honest, Louis doesn’t know how the rest of the hour goes by. He remembers getting dressed and making fun of Liam with Niall, but he doesn’t remember exactly what they were making fun of him for. He remembers being wrapped up in Harry’s arms for what felt like forever and not long enough all at the same time, but it still didn’t feel like it felt that time Harry held him down.

He’s not quite sure how to feel about knowing that it was different, that it wasn’t the same no matter how many similarities there might have been, but all of his worries about being a tiny bit out of it onstage are for nothing.

He fucking smashes it.

 

The knocking on the door doesn’t stop. Louis is well aware of who it is, because there’s only one person he knows who knocks in that pattern, but it’s half two in the morning.

He’s been ignoring it for three straight minutes, but it doesn’t seem like Harry’s going to give up. Louis rolls out of bed and lands on his knees rather awkwardly before he manages to push himself to his feet. He’s been asleep for less than an hour, and he’s nowhere near ready for whatever Harry wants.

“What,” he snaps, ripping the door open. Niall gets super cranky when he doesn’t get enough sleep but right now Louis isn’t far behind him. He could sleep for a week, probably.

“I need to know how far you want this to go,” Harry says, pushing his way into the room. He looks like he hasn’t slept at all, even though he went to bed almost four hours ago, claiming exhaustion. It’s weird, because Harry can normally fall asleep at the drop of a hat.

“Do we really have to have this conversation right now?” Louis asks, closing the door quietly and making sure that all the locks are turned.

Harry stops in the middle of the room and runs his hands through his hair. “No. Shit. Were you sleeping?”

“Little bit,” Louis says, making his way back over to the bed. He collapses onto it face first and stays like that until he needs some fresh air before rolling over.

“Sorry,” Harry says, but he keeps standing in the middle of the room, still fully dressed. No wonder he hadn’t fallen asleep yet. No one can sleep in jeans that tight. Louis would know.

He holds out an arm and beckons impatiently until Harry crosses the room to stand in front of him. It’s obviously not what Louis wants, and he huffs out a breath, leaning up just enough that he can grab a hold of Harry’s arm and pull him down onto the bed.

“If I promise that we can have a full, real conversation about it tomorrow without bursting into tears will you be able to sleep?”

Harry laughs. It only has about a tenth of the amusement that his normal laugh has, but Louis will take it. “Probably.”

“Good,” Louis says, and rolls onto his side. “Now stop being a dickhead and cuddle me.”

 

It’s lucky that this is their day off. Louis has the uncomfortable feeling that this might be a long conversation.

They stare at each other from across the table for so long it starts feeling like neither of them is going to be able to muster up the courage to start talking. Part of Louis wishes that they were sitting beside each other, not because he doesn’t want to be looking Harry in the face - or, at least, that’s not the biggest reason - but because he wants to be able to feel the heat of Harry’s skin against his.

When he woke up this morning he realized that being able to feel Harry’s skin kind of puts him in that place, though, at least when they’re talking about it. Which maybe is not so normal, but it is what it is.

“There’s a lot to it, for me,” Harry says, so abruptly that Louis jumps a little. “It’s. I was reading all of this stuff and there’s so much to it. I have to keep you safe, and it’s not that I don’t think that I can do it but I want to keep you safe how you want to be kept safe.”

“Limits,” Louis says. The word tastes right, hanging in the air between them. “We need limits.”

“Yes,” Harry says. He looks relieved, like he thought that maybe Louis wasn’t ready to have the word said out loud.

Yesterday, Louis might not have been ready. If he wants this to work, though - and he really fucking needs it to work - he needs to be able to use the proper terminology out loud. They both need to be able to use the proper terminology.

So there’s probably something that Louis needs to say. “I’m asking you to be my dom.”

“And I need to know what exactly you mean by that,” Harry says.

Louis has given this a lot of thought. It’d be impossible not to have. He’s still not sure that he’s going to be able to explain it properly, but he has to give it a shot. Besides, they’re both learning, it’s not just Louis.

“A lot of the stuff I’ve read says that if the relationship isn’t sexual then it’s a lifestyle choice,” he starts. “And I don’t - that feels kind of wrong to me, you know? I’m not asking you to chose what I eat or what I’m allowed to do or when I take a piss or anything like that.”

Across the table, Harry’s mouth quirks up into a tiny little grin. He’s always said that the word piss sounds funny coming out of Louis’ mouth, and Louis has never been able to understand it. Weird fucking kid.

“I just. I want you to get me out of my head when I’m too far into it.”

“How will I know when you’re too far into it, though?” Harry asks, putting his elbows on the table and leaning forward.

It’s not something Louis has ever worried about. “You always know when I’m too far into it. You do this thing where you hold me, like, with my arms pinned to my sides, until I feel better. So just don’t second guess yourself, I suppose.”

“That’s not really good enough,” Harry says. “What if I don’t notice?”

There hasn’t been a single occasion that he hasn’t noticed in the entire time they’ve known each other. Louis gets what he’s saying, though, even if he’s not sure that he can do it.

“I can try to ask,” he says. “I mean, clearly we both know how shitty I am at asking for things, but I’ll try.”

“And if I notice but you don’t ask?”

Jesus. He really wants every detail, doesn’t he. “I trust you,” Louis says. “I trust you more than anyone, and I promise I’ll use the safeword if you do something that I don’t want or that I’m uncomfortable with. I’ll try to ask but if I don’t and you notice I want you to do it anyway.”

“For how long?” Harry asks, raising his chin a little. “If you get into a relationship, are you going to want this with him?”

There’s next to no chance of that. Louis has all sorts of restrictions about who he can publicly date, and while he could change that he really doesn’t see himself being able to trust anyone the way he trusts Harry. It’s not going to be an issue.

That’s a little too weird to say out loud, though, so Louis shrugs and says, “Maybe.”

“And if I get into a relationship?”

It’s a little bit of a shock to the system. Harry hasn’t had a real relationship, like, ever. It’s unfair to assume that he doesn’t want one, or that he’ll never have one, but Louis was kind of assuming that.

“It’s up to you,” Louis says, shrugging, even though he kind of wants to scream that Louis has always been the most important to Harry and why should that change if he starts dating someone?

No one’s ever said that Louis’ head isn’t a little bit messed up. “We’ll see,” Harry decides. “I’ll tell you if I think that I want to stop.”

If Louis was a worse person he’d be making plans to sabotage any relationship that Harry might have. He kind of wants to do it anyway, but he’s trying to be good. He really shouldn’t be so selfish.

“So what are the limits?” Harry asks. Louis shifts on the seat. It’s a nice chair, cushiony and comfortable, but he’d probably be faring better if it wasn’t.

“I think maybe we should just stick to the list for now and figure out what works and what doesn’t.”

“Okay,” Harry says easily. Louis takes a second to be jealous, because so far none of this has come easy to him.

With the exception of being held in Harry’s lap with Harry’s hand on the back of his neck. That was easy.

There’s something else that Louis has to get off his chest, though. “A lot of the stuff I read is about punishments and rewards,” he says, rubbing at his wrist absently. He tries not to notice Harry watching him do it.

Turns out they’re on the same page about this too. “Anything on that list could be either,” Harry says. “Or it could be something else. Most of the time it’s going to be used to get you out of your head, right?”

Most of the time. Jesus. Louis has to swallow again. “Yeah. And it is the real order, but you said to order it in order of effectiveness, and I did that, but.”

“You rated it in order of effectiveness on your very worst day,” Harry finishes. “Do you want to tell me what the numbers mean in your head?”

Louis squeezes his eyes closed and hunches his shoulders in. “No, not really.”

“Mm, sweetheart, I know,” Harry says, a tiny bit apologetically. “Now tell me what the numbers mean in your head.”

It’s still not easy, but it’s easier now that Harry’s said that he has to do it. He starts at the end of the list. Hopefully it’ll be easier to work his way up from the bottom.

“Eight is like, I don’t know if it’s going to work that well,” he starts, keeping his eyes closed. The list is easier to visualize that way. “I’m not too good at keeping quiet under any other circumstances, I don’t know if doing this will affect that.”

“You’d be lying quietly, though,” Harry points out. “Once you’ve been lying somewhere without talking for a few minutes you always seem calmer.”

Louis struggles to explain it. “I feel tired,” he says. “I don’t feel calmer, I just feel more exhausted. And not being able to talk kind of freaks me out a little.”

“Okay,” Harry says. “Do you want to try it at all or do you want to just strike it off the list completely?”

Finally a question Louis doesn’t struggle through. “No, I want to try it. I want to know if it’ll be any different if I know I’m doing it because you told me to.”

“Being still, then,” Harry prompts. Clearly he knows how Louis is working through the list without being told, which is something. Louis is starting to think of himself as a person who needs this, but it’s becoming more and more apparent that Harry is just like this naturally, at least with Louis. He’s definitely not stumbling the way Louis is.

“I’m pretty sure it’ll work,” Louis says. He puts his head down on the table and talks to it instead, not because it’s easier for once. His head is starting to feel a little bit heavy, sleepy. Not fuzzy or drifting, just. Tired. “When I’m far enough in that I need something but not so far that I need a lot. You’ll probably have to make me, though. Not too good at just staying still by myself.”

He takes a peek at Harry’s face, just to be sure that he isn’t changing his mind. He doesn’t look to be, head still propped up on one of his hands, watching Louis carefully. “That’s not a problem.”

It’s not, because it’s always easier to be still around Harry. He has to keep going, on too much of a roll to wait for Harry to respond. “My wrists.” He has to stop, then, because the wrist thing is close to edging into sexual territory.

Not as close as the spanking, but. It’s close.

“Do you want to not be able to move your hands because it means that you have to be taken care of?” Harry asks. It’s not an out, because it is that, but it’s not entirely that. The wrists thing could be sexual very easily, but that mostly depends on how Harry does it.

Hopefully he’ll never have to bring it up. “Yes. And held is better than tied because it means I can feel you and that’s calming.”

It gets a little confusing for a minute, because wrists are number three and number six on the list, respectively. “Face down in my lap,” Harry says, reminding him. He must have memorized the list after Louis put his numbers down.

“It’s pretty much tied with being held by the back of the neck,” Louis says. He turns his head so he can see Harry’s face, finally ready for it. “It reminds me that no matter how loud my head gets you’ll always be able to make it quiet. They’re the ones that are going to get used most often, I think - well, with holding my wrists. It helps to remember that you’re solid and that you’re anchoring me.”

“I am anchoring you,” Harry says. He looks a little dazed, like he’s not quite sure what to do with all of the information, but he asked.

There’s still two more items on the list, but Louis can’t bring himself to talk about them until Harry makes him, stretching one hand across the table and tapping Louis’ cheekbone gently, just the once, before withdrawing. “And the last two?”

They both know what the last two are, but Louis can’t stop himself from flushing. They’re the ones that sound most sexual, even though kneeling isn’t really that sexual. Spanking, though, spanking definitely has the potential to be, and he can’t lie and say that if he had a sexual D/s relationship he wouldn’t want spanking to be part of it.

“Kneeling,” he starts, and then stops to swallow. “I don’t - it’s obvious, yeah?”

“It is obvious,” Harry agrees. His hair is falling into his eyes. It looks itchy. Louis wants to flick it away. “You’re going to tell me anyway.”

God. Louis squeezes his eyes closed again and goes back to hiding in his arm. “It’s about feeling like you can keep me safe.”

“Is that all?” Harry asks, amusement colouring his tone so bright Louis can practically see it.

“Feeling like you want to keep me safe,” Louis tacks on.

Harry hums softly. “And?”

What a bastard. Clearly he already knows what the answer is. “You really gonna make me say it?”

“I really am going to make you say it,” Harry confirms.

“It’s about feeling owned,” Louis says quickly, “and safe, and cared for,” and then makes sure that his head can’t be pried out of his arms.

“That’s good, baby,” Harry says, voice thick like he’s feeling too many things to keep them out. “You only have one more.”

Only one more but the one that’s the most confusing. “I don’t want to.”

“Would you want to if I said that you can pick one and have it after we’re finished talking?” Harry asks.

Louis’ entire body tingles. He’d wonder when the hell Harry got so perceptive but he’s pretty sure that he’s been like that since the beginning, always noticing what Louis needs. There’s a reason that Harry is the best fit for this.

“Whichever one I want?” Louis clarifies. Harry nods, scratching his thumbnail over his lip. It’s still not easy to say, but now that he has a reward to work towards it’s possible. “The spanking is probably going to be the thing that works the best. I think it might work a little too well, if I’m being honest.”

He should have been expecting Harry’s calm, quiet, “Why?” but he’s not.

“Because it means that you care enough about me to take the time to make sure that my head isn’t too crowded. Because it will remind me that I asked for it and that the only reason that you’re giving it to me is because I want it, because I deserve it. Because if it hurts a little bit it’s easier to remember that I’m supposed to be here.”

It’s just the tip of the iceberg, but it must be good enough. Harry stands up so fast that he knocks his chair over, and rounds the table while Louis is still busy blinking at the crash.

“C’mere,” he says, hauling Louis right up out of his chair like it took exactly no effort. “You did so well, so perfect,” he continues, nearly babbling, and there’s a split second in which it seems like he’s going to try to line up their mouths.

Louis doesn’t flinch. Later, he’s not sure why he doesn’t flinch, but he doesn’t.

Turns out he’s just going in for a really tight hug, though, one that lifts Louis completely off the ground.

“Which one do you want?” he asks, squeezing even tighter. For a second Louis genuinely can’t breathe, but it passes quickly.

He doesn’t even need to think about it. As soon as there’s enough space between their bodies he holds out his wrists. “You want them tied?” Harry asks. He probably already knows the answer, but Louis shakes his head anyway. “Okay. Just.”

They move over to the bed, Harry mostly dragging Louis along, and get settled, Harry leaning against the headboard and Louis between his legs, back to Harry’s chest. It feels like he fits there in a way that he’s never really felt before.

A minute passes while Harry fumbles with the telly remote, flipping through channels too fast for Louis to focus on any of them. It seems like Harry’s forgotten what he’s supposed to do, too busy looking at the television, until he finds a film that’s just started and leaves it on that.

Then he tosses the remote somewhere and circles Louis’ wrists with his fingers, holding on loose enough that Louis would be able to pull free if he wanted to but tight enough that he doesn’t feel the need to try.

It only takes a minute of Harry’s slow, even breathing against his back to pull Louis into the same rhythm. “Too tight?” Harry asks, the words rumbling through Louis’ entire body.

He manages to shake his head, twisting his wrists in Harry’s grip a little. “’s good. Nice.”

“Tell me if it starts feeling too tight,” Harry orders, but it doesn’t and they spend the entire length of the film like that, Louis all but wrapped up in Harry’s arms.

By the time it’s over Louis’ head is quieter than it’s been in a long time. He feels simultaneously light and heavy, head fuzzy and clear. He feels good, is what it boils down to, and he only blinks when Harry lets him go in order to get him under the covers.

Sleep comes easily that night.

 

 

The next couple of weeks practically fly by. They’re filled with laughter, and jokes, and performing, and making fools of themselves and other people.

Louis’ head doesn’t feel crowded at all.

 

 

If Louis had even an ounce of courage, he’d use it to ask Harry to help him. He doesn’t, though, so he’s suffering even though he doesn’t have to, the product of a really terrible week.

Harry likes to tell him that Louis’ voice sounds like dipping cold toes into a warm bath on a winter’s day - tingling and almost painfully warm - but Louis likes to pretend that he doesn’t hear him. It’s a little bit flustering, the way Harry says it, bluntly and out of nowhere, most of the time.

He doesn’t believe it, mainly. He has a hard time believing it when he sees all the criticism on the internet, despite Harry’s best efforts at keeping it from him.

It’s been especially bad, lately. Louis had a bad night which led to a bad performance which led to Louis thinking that it would be a good idea to google himself which led to Louis coming across all the negative reviews which led to Louis feeling sad.

Probably he’s making it out to be worse than it actually is, but he can’t help the way that he feels, and right now he feels like shit.

He’s been covering it with with a smile and jokes and a lot of running around, but he can tell that Harry’s about five seconds from pulling him into a corner and getting it out of him. And it’s not that Louis is scared of that happening, exactly, because even before they came to this agreement Harry was always the person Louis went to when he feels like this, but it feels weird right now.

It’s going to be the first time that they do it intentionally. Well, the second time. He supposes that the first counts, even though it happened right after they figured everything out and they didn’t really know what they were doing. It still left Louis feeling like he was floating, high on some kind of drug, already addicted.

The point is that Louis isn’t sure that he’s ready for this. The problem is that it’s got its own momentum by now, and Harry’s definitely noticed. He keeps trying to pull Louis into a corner so they can talk, and Louis keeps finding excuses not to. The excuses are getting more and more ridiculous, and he’s not sure how much longer Harry is going to let him get away with it.

Not long, judging by the way he’s coming for Louis right now with a determined glint in his eye and three hours to spare.

Louis bolts. He’s not really sure why, but he does, darting through corridors with the intention of getting to the bus before Harry can catch up. It’s not a well thought out plan, because Harry will absolutely not hesitate to climb right into Louis’ bunk after him and leave him with nowhere to escape to, pinning him between Harry’s body and the wall, but it’s what he does.

He doesn’t make it, anyway. Harry’s fingers close around his elbow and bring him to a slow stop even though Louis’ brain hasn’t agreed to that course of action.

“Hey,” Harry says, and it’s so frustrating that Louis feels the prick of hot tears against his eyelids. Leave it to Harry to chase Louis down only to say hey.

“Hey,” Louis mumbles back, elbow twitching. He can’t decide whether it would be worth it to pull it out of Harry’s grasp or not.

“You’ve been avoiding me,” Harry says, and it’s not even the slightest bit judgmental but it helps makes the decision anyway.

Louis pulls his elbow away and crosses his arms over his chest, trying to tuck his fingers in as close to his ribs as he can get. He should have brought gloves. It’s cold in here. “I haven’t.”

“You have,” Harry says, completely disregarding the fact that all of Louis’ body language is screaming leave me alone and tugs Louis back into his chest, wrapping his arms over Louis’ and swaying them gently.

It’s so fucking unfair how nice it feels. “I’ve just been busy,” Louis denies weakly.

“Oh yeah, I can see how tangling all of Zayn’s belts together is time consuming,” Harry says. “You do know that he’s going to kill you for that, right?”

Louis rocks onto his toes and then down onto his heels again. He’s not pleased about the way Harry’s grip doesn’t loosen even a little, no matter what the warmth spreading through his belly would have him believe.

All of a sudden, it’s too much.

“Let me go,” he says, trying to twist out of Harry’s grip. It’s quick and violent, straining against Harry’s hands, using what little leverage he has to squirm.

And it’s mostly useless. He gets an inch of space that Harry’s quick to take back, hugging Louis tighter so he has even less chance of getting free.

It’s obvious that Louis’ squirming is useless, but he doesn’t stop, trying to find Harry’s feet so he can stomp on them or something.

He keeps it up until he’s exhausted his last reserves of energy, going limp in Harry’s hands. “There’s a good boy,” Harry croons, and Louis means to take offense to it, he does, but then Harry presses a quick kiss to the top of his head and steers him the rest of the way to the bus, not letting go of him for a second.

“What are we doing?” Louis asks, once they’ve been enclosed in the relative safety of the bus. They’re the only ones around, which Harry must have known or else he wouldn’t have risked it. Always putting Louis first, that one.

“I’m going to make you feel better,” Harry says, pushing Louis past the bunks and into the lounge at the back.

“I feel fine,” Louis says. “Peachy, even.”

“That must be why you’re acting like you’re going to run away and live in the forest with only the wildlife to keep you company,” Harry says sagely.

Louis does his best not to trip over his own feet when Harry pushes him down onto the couch. “All I need are my chimpanzees.”

Harry hums vaguely and walks away, so abruptly that Louis is left blinking at his back. He waits, itching with the urge to get up and move, for a minute before Harry reappears, holding a scarf looped around his hand.

There’s no explanation for the way that Louis’ mouth goes dry.

“You’d miss us,” Harry says, taking a seat next to Louis, close enough that their thighs are pressed together.

For a second, Louis completely forgets what they’re talking about. “The boys, maybe. Wouldn’t miss your stupid face.”

“Even though I’m about to tie your wrists together and let you squirm around as much as you want to?” Harry asks easily, as if it’s something that he says every day.

Louis gets a flash of a weird alternate universe where Harry does say something like that every day, a place where he ties Louis up and makes him feel better, a place where there’s nothing that can come between them.

It’s gone as quickly as it came, because Harry’s leaning forward and taking both of Louis’ hands into his lap gently, eyebrows furrowing in concentration as he winds the scarf around Louis’ wrists.

Louis’ breathing gets choppy. His heart rate is increasing, picking up until he can feel it pounding in his throat. He watches with wide eyes until Harry’s finished, tying it off with a simple knot and easing a finger in between the material and Louis’ skin. “Too tight?”

A little numbly, Louis shakes his head. It’s not too tight. It’s not too loose, either, the perfect fit and if Louis was a little more cognizant he’d ask Harry where he learned to tie the knot, because Louis can’t even feel it.

“Talk to me,” Harry says quietly, leaving his finger tucked in between the scarf and Louis’ left wrist. “Tell me a story.”

Louis wets his lower lip and tries to think of something to say. “What do you want to hear?”

“Tell me about the time that you convinced Stan to put his mum’s favourite dry-clean only dress in the dryer,” Harry says.

It takes a minute to remember what Harry’s even talking about, and that’s only partly because Louis’ brain is starting to feel like it’s melting. The dry-clean only story is actually really boring. He’s only told it once that he can remember, and only because Harry was trying to figure out whether it’d be worth the risk to wash a suit jacket in cold rather than have it sent out. It’s not memorable, is the thing, which makes the fact that Harry remembers it send a warm glow through Louis’ chest.

Although he’s not quite sure how much of that is from Harry remembering the boring story and how much of it can be attributed to the fact that Harry tied up his wrists and put them in his lap and now Louis can’t get out of it without Harry’s help, even if he wanted to.

Which he really, really doesn’t.

He tells the story with long, fumbling sentences, pausing every time he feels Harry’s chest shift against his shoulder until Harry coaxes more words out of him. It’s hard to concentrate on the story when he’s so very aware of how it feels to have his wrists bound, helpless and at Harry’s mercy.

It’s terrifying and unbelievably amazing all at the same time. Harry could get up and walk away and Louis would have no choice but to follow him or stay there like that until one of the boys came to release him.

Eventually, the story is over. It feels like it took fifteen minutes to tell, tongue gone thick in his mouth, even though it was probably only two. He wants to be quiet and have Harry to take care of him, wants to curl up in Harry’s lap and get petted.

There’s a lot of things that he wants.

“That’s a good story, babe,” Harry says, curling another finger underneath the scarf. He tugs Louis’ hands up to his own chest with one hand before pulling Louis into his lap properly, leaving his hands caught between their chests.

“Good story,” Louis says, just to have something to say. His tongue still feels alien in his mouth.

Harry hums his agreement, tucking his fingers under Louis’ knee. “You’re doing such a good job right now, you know that?”

That makes Louis’ face flush. He tries hiding it, not looking Harry in the eyes, but Harry only huffs out a little laugh and strokes the thumb of his free hand along the edges of the scarf, drawing all of Louis’ attention back to it.

Not that it had ever been that far away.

“Best boy in the world,” Harry murmurs, like it doesn’t even matter whether Louis hears it or not, he’s that sure of it. “You wanna sleep a bit? I’ll take these off.” He tugs at the scarf meaningfully.

Louis does want to sleep. Nothing makes him feel safer than being held in Harry’s arms, which always sends a slightly uncomfortable fluttering through his stomach, but he doesn’t want to give up even a second of this.

“’m awake,” he mumbles, shifting on Harry’s lap.

“Gonna give you another five minutes and then we’re gonna take a nap, alright?” Harry says. It’s not a question, and Louis doesn’t take it as one, but five minutes is not enough.

“Ten.”

Harry’s chest is warm and familiar. Louis sinks even further into him, trying to get their bodies to meld together so that they’ll never have to be apart again. “Greedy boy,” Harry says, light and amused. “You know you’re only going to get five, though.”

That’s not fair. It’s not fair, because they still have at least two hours before they have to be doing anything, and Louis wants to argue, but he doesn’t for a couple of reasons.

One - arguing will only get him three minutes instead of five, he’s pretty sure. Two - he feels too comfortable and good to argue. Three - good boys don’t argue, and Harry said that he was a good boy.

So he doesn’t say anything and sits there in Harry’s lap with his head against Harry’s shoulders and twisting his wrists around uselessly, feeling the soft material of the scarf as it slides.

The five minutes are up before he knows it. Harry’s hand slips out from under his knee to start untying the knot. Louis doesn’t want it to be over, but he watches Harry’s hands go about freeing Louis’ wrists, fingers slow and careful, gentle.

The scarf slips down to the floor in a swish of deep blue material, slithering uselessly down the side of the couch. He watches Harry examine his wrists individually, fingers cradling Louis’ hand easily. Looking for bruises, probably, making sure that he hasn’t left a mark.

He must deem them alright, because he smiles, a quirky little half-smile and presses a kiss to the inside of both of Louis’ wrists before letting go. “Naptime, yeah?”

“Naptime,” Louis agrees, and lets Harry arrange them on the couch, dragging a blanket down that’s really too small to cover them both.

There’s a warm, happy glow in the center of Louis’ chest. He wants it to last forever.

 

Louis starts feeling it again after a phone call with his mum. It’s kind of random, because he’s talked to his mum countless times since then - three days ago he spoke to her five times before he went to sleep, and that’s not even that unusual for him.

The phone call itself wasn’t that unusual, a mix of hearing how things are at home and updating her on what’s going on during the tour. For some reason it makes his chest start hurting, though. Louis has been homesick before - pretty regularly, actually - but it’s never gotten into his head this quickly.

Maybe it’s been building for a while.

He sits on it for a day and a half, turning it over in his head and trying to decide whether it’s bad enough to talk to Harry about.

Before he can decide, he gets pulled aside and talked at for half an hour about how he needs to tone it down, and even though they never actually use the word flamboyant Louis hears it anyway.

It’s not even the conversation, really. He’s had that exact conversation so many times that he can just tune it out by now, but it’s a piece of shit piled on another ten pieces of shit and it’s just like.

It sucks.

After he’s sat through the ‘discussion’ and nodded at the appropriate times, it’s too late to ask Harry for anything, anyway. The sliver of time that they might have had is gone, slipped through his fingers just like everything else. Their schedule is so jam packed for the next seven days that there’s pretty much only time to eat and sleep.

Eat, sleep and get steadily more itchy in his own skin.

He fights it the only way he knows how - by making a nuisance of himself, so much so that he’s pretty sure that everyone either wants to throttle him or, at the very least, lock him in a room by himself. And it’s not that he hasn’t tried just being by himself, because he has, but that only gives him more time to think, and sometimes he just needs his brain to shut up.

The point is that he misses his window to ask Harry for help, and so he spends seven days getting steadily louder, more energetic, more mischievous, and more annoying. Once those seven days are up, he definitely can’t ask, not now that it’s gone past what Harry can give him. Harry probably couldn’t have even helped him this time, anyway. If Louis is too much for Louis to handle he must be too much for Harry to handle.

It only takes thinking it one time for it to be so true that he allows himself ten minutes to cry in the shower on the seventh day before telling himself that he needs to toughen up and learn to take care of himself. He’s a grown man. He can do this.

 

They do a couple of radio interviews before the show the next day, and Louis makes a point of keeping himself in check, pulling back whenever he starts to notice that he’s going off the rails a bit. It’s hard, but he keeps telling himself that he’ll be able to let it all out during the show, and it’ll be fine.

It’ll have to be fine.

He spends nearly eight hours avoiding looking Harry in the eyes, afraid of what he’s going to see there. He passes the time running around giving people wet willies, talks Paul into letting him hang out with the fans for a few minutes, swaps all of Liam’s stuff with Niall’s - not that he thinks it’ll matter, but he’s willing to find out - and tries not to let his knee bounce too quickly in anyone’s sight.

He’s standing in front a vending machine backstage, trying to convince the bottle of Coke that’s gotten stuck halfway between its rack and the bottom to come loose. He’s mostly failing and has just started seriously considering ramming into it with his shoulder until it falls when a hand lands on the back of his neck and squeezes.

He means to stiffen up, he really does, but he knows that hand, knows that pressure. He goes a little limp instead, muscles loosening just from that single touch.

Fuck.

“Thought you were going to come to me when things started getting bad,” Harry says evenly. Louis leans his forehead against the machine and stares down at the bottle, two inches closer to being his than it was before.

He settles for a half-hearted shrug, trying not to focus on the reflection of Harry’s shoulders in the glass. “I was handling it.”

“No you weren’t,” Harry says, just as gently. There’s a part of Louis that wants to bristle at the tone, because he doesn’t need to be coddled, thank you very much, but an even bigger part of him wants to let Harry push him down onto his knees and thank him for it.

So. There’s that.

“Yeah, well,” Louis says. His breath is starting to fog up the glass. Hopefully he won’t leave too much of a grease mark from his forehead. The make-up they use always makes him feel ten times greasier than he did at the beginning of the day.

“Right,” Harry says. His fingers twitch, trying to decide between pressing harder or letting go completely. Letting go wins out, and he must take a step back, because Louis’ back feels cold, now, but he keeps his head pressed into the machine. “After the show you’re going to shower and then come to my room in your pajamas, the really soft blue ones. You don’t need to bring any shoes.”

For some reason, Louis’ breath catches in his throat. He doesn’t say anything - can’t bring himself to say anything, not even while he listens to Harry’s slow, measured steps walking away, slow enough that he’s obviously giving Louis the chance to open his mouth.

He stays there, leaning against the glass, until his heart rate has gone back to normal. When he finally straightens back up, the bottle of Coke falls.

 

The show is - it’s fine. It’s pretty good, actually, and it gives Louis a chance to work out most, if not all, of his aggression, running around and singing until he’s nearly lost his breath. He’s not doing it the way that the vocal coaches have taught him, but it’s okay. The shortness of breath makes everything seem a little clearer, somehow.

He’ll be okay.

 

He waits until they get back to the hotel to shower. There were showers at the venue, but he’s never been particularly trusting of them. Who knows what kind of bacteria live in them. At least with a hotel they’re cleaned on a regular basis. For all he knows the showers at a venue might not have been cleaned in years.

Gross.

He spends a long time underneath the spray, soaking up the hot water until he’s both flushed and pruny, and then piles a towel on top of his head while he walks around the hotel room, digging his bare toes into the carpet. It’s one of the rare nights when they’ve all gotten a room to themselves - Paul said it was for good behaviour, but Louis doesn’t believe that. Yesterday they ganged up and stole all of his left shoes. There’s no way they’re getting a reward for good behaviour.

The room is already a bit of a tip, even though they’ve only been there for a few hours. He’d been looking for Liam’s Batman shirt before they left for the venue, pretty sure that he’d thrown it into his bag when they left the last hotel. He hadn’t found it, but Liam’s been crying about it nonstop, so he keeps looking for it now, tipping his entire bag out onto the floor.

He’s in the middle of sorting through his clothes, trying to determine which ones are clean enough to be worn again, when he hears the doorknob start twisting.

He freezes in the middle of the room, hunched over his bag. He’s pretty sure that it’s Harry, but this might be the one time that he would actually prefer it to be some dedicated fan who’s managed to get past security.

The door clicks closed so quietly that if Louis wasn’t waiting for it he might not have heard it. “Thought I told you to come to my room once you had your shower,” Harry says. It sounds like he’s stopped right in front of the door. Louis doesn’t know whether to appreciate that or not.

“Got busy,” Louis says shortly. He gets back to folding his clothes, putting them back into his bag more or less neatly.

It’s less, but no one needs to know that. “I’m sorry,” Harry says, a tad too sweetly. “I must have done something to give you the impression that I was asking.”

If Louis’ fingers falter on a shirt it’s between him and the shirt, alright? “Go to bed.”

He doesn’t even know that Harry’s crossed the room until his fingers tangle in Louis’ hair, pulling his head up and back, until he’s looking up at Harry from underneath his eyelashes and gasping.

“Who gives the orders in this relationship, sweetheart?” Harry asks, increasing the pressure until Louis’ eyes water, just the tiniest bit. “Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure that you asked me for this.”

“I asked,” Louis gasps, “I did, I asked.” The pressure loosens, breaking their eye contact, which Louis is immensely grateful for.

“You asked,” Harry murmurs, nudging his socked toes underneath Louis’ bare ankles. “You asked me for this, and I’m going to give it to you. Do you need to use your word?”

Louis shakes his head. Harry’s hand doesn’t move with him, pulling on his scalp a little, but it’s like the pain reminds him where he is. “Okay,” Harry says. “Okay. Do you need to put on something softer?”

The question is confusing. Louis doesn’t understand it at first, and Harry’s grip goes from tight and controlling to loose and comforting. “To be on your knees for ten minutes,” he clarifies.

Oh. That. For some reason Louis wasn’t expecting that, even though Harry had hinted at it earlier. He considers the question before shaking his head slowly, moving Harry’s hand with him this time. The pajamas that he has on will be fine, probably. They’re not his softest, but how hard can kneeling on the floor for ten minutes be?

Harry’s quiet for a minute. All Louis can hear is his breathing, soft and steady, even, despite the fact that he’s a good two feet above Louis’ head. He tries to mimic it and finds it easier than expected.

He’s drawn in a few clean, deep breaths by the time that Harry taps his shoulder and gets him to his feet. They make their way over to the bed, and Louis goes to sink down onto his knees at the foot of it, expecting Harry to sit.

“No, wait,” Harry says hurriedly, and Louis pauses mid-drop. He looks over, only to get a face full of pillow. “Oops, sorry, I thought you were going to catch that.”

Louis rubs at his face absently and glares in Harry’s general direction. He doesn’t say anything, pretty sure that his face is saying enough.

Clearly it must be, because Harry rounds the bed again and tips Louis’ head towards him with one hand, pressing his mouth against the spot the pillow had hit. It hadn’t actually hurt, but Louis leans into it anyway, letting his eyes close.

“Put the pillow underneath your knees and make sure that it’s comfortable,” Harry says, breath warm against Louis’ face.

Louis is moving before he even realizes it, dropping the pillow onto the ground, followed by his body, less than gracefully. Their bodies stop touching as he does it, and it feels strange, to be on his knees in front of Harry.

Harry squeezes past him, knees knocking into Louis’ arm as he makes space for himself on the bed, legs open. It looks inviting, which is a really fucking strange thought to have, and Harry must mean it to, because he puts his hand on the back of Louis’ neck and draws him closer, pushing gently, until Louis’ head is pillowed on Harry’s thigh.

It should probably feel a little weird, at least from the way his back is curved to fit into this position, but it doesn’t. It feels comfortable, natural. The pillow underneath his knees definitely helps, thick and plushy in a way that hotel pillows rarely are. They must have lucked out. Maybe Louis can convince Harry to steal the pillow for him.

Harry’s hand moves to drift through his hair, slow and gentle. That feels good, too, so he arches up into it, tucking his toes beneath his arse. “Look at you,” Harry murmurs. His hand doesn’t stop moving, fingernails scratching bluntly against Louis’ scalp.

He said look, and he must mean it, so Louis tips his head a little, until he can see the shadows playing across Harry’s face. His eyes are fixed on Louis’ face, looking right back at him.

“Bet you didn’t even know you could be this quiet,” Harry says, practically marveling.

“Can be quiet whenever I want,” Louis says. It takes a little bit of effort, but probably Harry didn’t notice. Even if he did, it’s not like it matters.

He still feels a little itchy, though, so he puts his fingers on Harry’s ankle, curling them a little. That feels a lot better, so he keeps them there, slipping his fingertips underneath the edge of Harry’s sock.

“Could never be this quiet for anyone else,” Harry says, and it’s probably a little too co-dependent, the way that Louis doesn’t correct him, but.

He’s right. “I like that,” Harry continues, when Louis doesn’t interrupt him. “Like that you’re only good at being quiet for me, because I want you to.”

There’s something that seems a little bit jarring about that statement, but the sound of Harry’s voice is soothing enough that it only takes a second before Louis completely loses the thought, eyes half closing as he listens to Harry murmuring nonsense above him.

It doesn’t do much to jerk him out of it when Harry says, “Alright, ten minutes are up,” and slips his hand back down to Louis’ shoulder.

He stays where he is, safe in the warm cocoon of Harry and having someone to look after him, barely even registering the words. “Louis,” Harry says firmly, grip tightening, “Are you listening to me?”

Louis looks back up, blinking heavily. “’m listening.”

“If you’re listening you’re going to get up, give me the pillow and get underneath the covers,” Harry says, just as firm. Louis licks his lips, tightening his grip on Harry’s ankle. He doesn’t want to do that. He wants to stay exactly where he is, where nothing can get to him.

Communicating that is difficult, though, especially right now. “It doesn’t feel like it’s enough, does it?” Harry asks, voice gentler, now.

Hesitantly, Louis shakes his head, not lifting it up off of Harry’s thigh. “You’re not going to stay there, though,” Harry says. “So stand up, give me the pillow and get underneath the covers.”

He still doesn’t want to do it, but there’s something sharper in Harry’s tone now, something that promises retribution if he doesn’t listen. So he does, pushing himself to his feet rather unsteadily, swaying for a minute before he hands Harry the pillow, opting to crawl across the bed rather than walk all the way around it. It takes some work to get himself underneath the covers, but he manages it, bundling up tightly.

There’s a shakiness in his chest that he normally associates with pre-show jitters. He feels a million times better than he did before, but it’s still not quite what he was expecting. It’s not exactly what he felt the last time, spacey and airy and light. Instead, he feels relaxed and nervous all at the same time, anxious like he’s waiting for something exciting to happen.

That feeling dissipates the second that Harry slides underneath the covers behind him and lines them up together, shoulders to toes. He grabs both of Louis’ wrists with one hand and holds them loosely, pinning them to Louis’ belly.

“It would have been too much for you to have been on your knees for any longer the first time,” Harry says, voice rumbling through Louis’ back. “This is - this is really huge, for both of us. I don’t want to move too fast and fuck everything up. It’s better to ease into it, you know?”

The explanation relaxes him further, sinking into the mattress much more easily. “Yes,” he says, finding his voice. He’s not sure if Harry’s looking for more than a simple agreement, but that’s what he’s got right now.

“Good,” Harry says. The only noise in the room is their breathing, for a minute. Then Harry taps Louis’ wrist, three times in quick succession. It’s pretty effective in getting his attention back.

“You’re my favourite boy,” Harry says, “and you did so well tonight.”

They struggle, for a minute, Harry trying to hold Louis in place, gripping his wrists just on the right side of too tight, until Louis manages to get himself enough space to turn over and get his arms up around Harry’s neck, squeezing him as close as he can manage.

Harry exhales, sounding sort of relieved, and hugs Louis back, settling one gigantic hand in the small of Louis’ back. And it’s like, Louis knew that he wasn’t wearing a shirt, obviously, but it feels like this is the first time that he’s really been aware of it since Harry walked into the room, heat bleeding into Louis’ spine.

He’s getting a little spoiled, being able to fall asleep in Harry’s arms.

 

 

“Hey,” Louis starts, prodding at Harry’s thigh with his bare toes. “What happens if something happens and you need to stop?”

Harry doesn’t look up from his phone, but his fingers stall. “What do you mean?”

Louis darts a quick look around, even though they’re alone and they have been for the last hour. “Like, if something happens for me I have a word. What if something happens for you?”

When his eyes return to Harry’s face, Harry’s got a contemplative expression. “What do you think about us just using the same word?”

Louis shrugs a shoulder. “I don’t see why we wouldn’t just use the same word.”

“Always such a little shit,” Harry says, sighing, but he can’t keep the fondness out of his voice. Louis bites back a pleased smile and curls up tighter into Harry’s side, until he can look down and see what Harry’s doing on his phone.

He’s playing Words With Friends rather badly, so Louis takes it on himself to help out, despite Harry’s lackluster attempts at smacking his hands away and the crink he gets in his neck from the awkward angle. He’ll just make Harry give him a neck rub later.

They’re still playing by the time the boys take it on themselves to wander in, all sleep soft and mussy, and start fighting about whether they should watch a film or play a video game. Watching a film wins out, but it’s one that Louis has seen a million times before and it’s so hard not to fall asleep.

He manages, but barely.

He spends more time paying attention to the cadence of Harry’s breathing than he does the movie, slowly slipping down until his head is pillowed on Harry’s lap. Harry’s arm moves a couple of times, almost like he’s going to put his hand on the back of Louis’ neck before he thinks the better of it.

Louis can’t stop his lips from edging up into a tiny smile. He still doesn’t fall asleep, but by the time the bus pulls up to the venue he feels safe and warm and happy.

 

Harry nudges him, a little too hard to be considered friendly. “Stay still.”

“It feels weird,” Louis complains.

“It doesn’t feel weird, it feels nice,” Harry says. Louis would roll his eyes, but it actually does feel nice.

Still, though. “Oh, so now you just get to tell me when things are supposed to feel nice for me?” Louis asks. It comes out a lot weaker than he intends.

“It’s a back rub, Lou, it is supposed to feel nice,” Harry says, and Louis can’t see his face from this angle but he knows that he rolls his eyes anyway.

Louis grumbles a little, but he stays more or less still while Harry rubs his back over his shirt, hands big and warm and rubbing all the right places.

At least, he stays still until Harry stops rubbing his back, taking his hands away altogether. Then he squirms a little more, irritated, because it actually had been really nice. “What are you doing?”

“Just gonna take off your shirt,” Harry says, nudging the tips of his fingers underneath the hem of Louis’ shirt. “Got some massage oil, yeah?”

“Oh, so we’re doing proper massages now?” Louis asks, but he lets Harry strip him out of his shirt and lie him face down on the bed, hugging a pillow underneath him even though the oil is probably going to spill all over it.

Harry’s hands come back quicker than he expected, slick with the oil and a little bit cold. “If there was any chance of you returning the favour and not just passing out we might be doing proper massages,” he says.

He starts working in earnest, firm, sure strokes along Louis’ back, digging in to all the places that Louis needs it the most, like he knows that Louis has been hurting without him even saying anything.

Maybe he does. Either way, it feels good, even when it hurts, so it doesn’t take long for Louis’ eyes to be sliding shut, even when Harry pinches him on the bum in an effort to keep him awake a little longer.

“’m awake,” Louis slurs, burying his face in the pillow. Harry pauses briefly, just for a second before his hands come back, re-oiled, and gets back to making Louis feel like he might melt into a puddle on the bed. A Louis shaped puddle. It’s probably going to be hard to clean up.

“You’re five seconds away from passing out,” Harry says, amused, and Louis decides to stay awake just to prove him wrong.

Of course, that’s easier said than done, especially when Harry’s hands get gentler, having worked all of the knots out of Louis’ back. He manages it, somehow, listening to Harry hum a tune that sounds really familiar, even though he can’t place it.

“Stayed awake out of spite, huh,” Harry says, clearly not expecting an answer. He gets up, leaving Louis alone and cold on the bed, and Louis’ knee-jerk reaction is to reach out for him and stop him.

He only manages a twitch in Harry’s general direction, and he can feel the onslaught of tears coming, which. It’s really fucking weird, that, because he didn’t even realize that he was that far under and now all he wants is for Harry to cuddle him until they both fall asleep.

The tears don’t make their way onto Louis’ cheeks by the time Harry comes back, which Louis would be grateful for if he has the presence of mind to be grateful for it. As it is, he just curls back into Harry’s side, trying to make his way into Harry’s lap without really doing any work. He fails, but Harry lies down and tucks them together anyway, so he doesn’t really fail.

Or something. He falls asleep anyway, still tacky with the oil.

 

 

The only thing worse than being homesick is being homesick at home. Louis moved into this house nearly eight months ago, now, but it still doesn’t feel like home. It feels clean and sterile, probably because he’s only spent about a week here since he got the keys.

Technically Harry’s not actually living here - he got a place of his own the same time that Louis did - but all the furniture they bought together is here and Harry’s bed is set up in one of the guest rooms. Louis still doesn’t quite understand how that happened.

Louis also doesn’t understand why Harry’s hiding out in Louis’ new house when he’s supposed to be in L.A. but he’ll take what he can get, slipping into the room and closing the door behind him.

Harry went to bed nearly two hours ago, claiming exhaustion, but he’s not sleeping. He’s propped up against the headboard, laptop balanced on his knees. He looks up when Louis comes in but doesn’t say anything, watching as Louis picks his way through the mess of boxes scattered all over the floor.

The entire house is like that, so it’s not even like he can complain, which sucks. There’s nothing better than complaining about things that don’t even matter just to see how much Harry is willing to put up with.

Usually it’s a lot.

“Can’t sleep?” Harry asks eventually, after Louis has climbed onto the bed and wiggled his way underneath the mound of blankets.

“It doesn’t feel like home,” Louis says, shrugging a shoulder. “’s weird, like. The bus feels more like home.”

“You don’t sleep well on the bus at first either,” Harry says. There’s nothing accusing about his tone, purely observational, but Louis isn’t sure that he likes it all the same.

“Usually I get over that in a couple of days, though,” he says. It’s not worth it to keep thinking about it when Harry knows either way. “It’s been a week, you’d think that I’d be used to it by now.”

It’s warm, underneath the covers. Louis feels about a million times better already. “Do you fall asleep easier when you’re in here?” Harry asks.

Leave it to him to voice the thing that Louis wasn’t saying and actually expect an answer. “Usually.”

“S’okay. I sleep better when I know you’re sleeping,” Harry says, which, what. “Like, on the bus I can hear you breathing and it’s easier to sleep.”

Jesus. “We are way too co-dependent,” Louis says, and the proper action after stating that would be to get out of Harry’s bed and go to his own.

He just lets Harry pull them even closer together. He’s wearing pants, which is only surprising if Louis assumes that he wasn’t waiting for him to come in. “We really are,” Harry agrees, but he sounds satisfied instead of - pretty much anything else.

“We need other friends,” Louis continues. His eyes are getting heavy, so he lets them close.

“No we don’t,” Harry says. He shoves his hand up underneath Louis’ shirt, spreading it out against his skin. “We need each other.”

Louis breathes out and pats Harry’s hand distractedly. Sleep is coming. “Okay, babe.”

“Actually I lied,” Harry decides. “I want to trade you in for a younger model. Think there’s any mark-up or am I going to get an even trade?”

Louis doesn’t even have the energy to elbow him. He’ll do it in the morning.

 

 

There’s a minute, after they get off the lift, that Louis thinks that he’s home free. It’s always a bit chaotic when they’re being herded onto their floor, all five of them plus their security spilling out into the hallway. Louis’ little and quick, and he slips between Liam and Zayn, making his way to the hotel room that’s been assigned to him fast, but not so fast that he draws attention to himself.

He opens the door without any problems and slips inside, and is just about to start congratulating himself on making a rather spectacular escape when fingers slip in the crack of the door and push it open just before it can click closed.

The sigh that he lets out is not even a little bit overdramatic. He resists the urge to stomp his feet and faceplants in the bed, spreading out his limbs so that he’s taking up all the space. It’s Harry, he knows, because Harry is the only person who would follow him after the way he’s been acting all day, but he doesn’t even want it to be Harry. He just wants to be left alone to sulk in peace.

“You’re a brat,” Harry says evenly. His voice is much closer than Louis was expecting, but he doesn’t jump. He keeps his face smashed against the mattress despite the lack of clean air.

Then he decides that he does have something to say, so he turns his head just enough to be understandable. “Go fuck yourself.”

“You want to be difficult about this?” Harry asks, but he’s not really asking. He crosses the room slowly enough that Louis has time to move, time to get off of the bed and stand face to face so they can really argue about this, but instead he just lies there.

It proves to be a bad decision when Harry grabs both of his wrists and moves him across the bed like Louis weighs nothing. It’s shocking, how Harry has gotten so strong so suddenly. It’s not like he was ever particularly weak - he fucking picked Louis up like he weighed nothing that time on the X-Factor, too - but this is something else entirely.

This is like he’s been getting stronger for this exact reason, so he can haul Louis around without even trying.

It takes a minute to get with it enough to remember that he doesn’t fucking want this right now, too surprised by being moved. Then he starts struggling, flailing to the best of his ability, kicking out at whatever part of Harry he can reach.

“Do you want me to stop?” Harry asks, voice warm and amused, even as he does something that ends up with Louis splayed out awkwardly across his lap, staring up at his face.

“Yes, I want you to fucking stop,” Louis spits out, trying to get one of his arms free. It’s not working, no matter how much he squirms.

“You’re gonna have to forgive me if I don’t believe you, sweetheart,” Harry drawls, and before Louis can even start taking offense to that, taps him on the hip sharply. “Turn over.”

The implication is clear enough that Louis’ mouth gets a little dry. It takes a minute to find his voice. “No.”

“You’re making it much worse for yourself,” Harry says gently, slipping his fingers underneath the waist of Louis’ jeans. “I don’t want to have to tell you again.”

Something about the words or the tone has Louis turning over, pressing his already hot face into the bedspread. It leaves him with his arse up, and Harry wastes no time laying a hand on it, fingers spreading to cover as much as he can.

It’s a little humiliating, being laid out in his best friend’s lap like this, but he only has a second to think about that before Harry’s talking again. “You want to put your head in your arms?”

That sounds like a good idea, so he does, folding his arms underneath his head so he doesn’t have to look, doesn’t have to see anything that’s coming.

He’s tense, waiting for the first slap. It doesn’t come, though, at least not right away. Harry’s hand keeps slipping over his bum, top to bottom and then back up again, warm and heavy.

“Do you know why I’m going to do this for you?” Harry asks. He’s quiet, but it’s still loud in the silence of the room. It feels like it’s all Louis can pay attention to.

It’s a question that demands a response, even though it’s soft and calm. Knowing that doesn’t make it any easier to get the words out of his mouth, though. “Because I’m bad.”

“You aren’t bad, baby,” Harry says, pinching at Louis’ arse a little, like he wants to make him pay attention. “You’re a little bit of a menace, sometimes, but you’re not bad. Got settled with barely any complaining, didn’t you?”

It doesn’t feel like that. It feels like he’s still waiting for the other shoe to drop, for Harry to get angry with him, to give up on him. He knows better than to try to convince Harry of that, though. “Not bad but not good.”

It’s a compromise. Louis’ good at compromises.

“You know the difference between bad and not good?” Harry murmurs. He doesn’t wait for Louis to respond this time. “Bad is disobeying on purpose, because you want to push the limits and see how far I’ll go. You’re going to be bad, at some point, but just because you’re being bad doesn’t mean that you are bad. Do you understand?”

Louis nods into his arms. He’s pretty sure that Harry is just splitting hairs, here, but that’s an observation for another time. “Not good is struggling to be good and needing my help to do it. Not good is how you act when you need something from me and you don’t know how to ask for it. You were being not good, not bad.”

It’s hard to wrap his head around, especially face down on a bed over Harry’s lap with his hand rubbing tiny little circles on Louis’ bum like he’s not even aware that he’s doing it. He nods again anyway.

“Okay,” Harry says, and Louis doesn’t know whether he believes that he understands or not but he doesn’t say anything else about it. “I’m going to do this for you because you’ve been acting like such a brat today, and because you’ve been trying to get my attention without asking for it for hours, and because I love you and I’m going to take care of you.”

Something about it makes Louis’ pulse pick up even more, but before he has a chance to wonder what exactly it was Harry’s hand lifts up, leaving Louis’ arse cold for a split second before it comes back down, sharp and stinging even over Louis’ jeans.

The pain has him gasping into his arms, even though it fades quickly and it’s clearly nowhere near as hard as Harry is capable of hitting. He moves a little, suddenly unsure of whether he wants to be doing this or not, only to be stilled by Harry’s hand coming down again, harder this time, more force behind it.

“You know the word if you want to use it,” Harry murmurs, and doesn’t waste any more time before giving Louis another four in a row, getting progressively harder each time.

By the end of the fourth spank Louis is breathing hard, eyes squeezed shut. He actually can’t stop himself from moving now, squirming around on Harry’s lap even though that’s doing him no good. Being still is too hard, even with Harry’s hand gripping the inside of his thigh.

After the fourth slap, Harry comes to a halt, fingers lingering over the curve of Louis’ arse. He’s proprietary with Louis’ body on the best of days, but this is a whole new level of possessiveness, rubbing over the seam of his jeans between his cheeks firmly, like he’s trying to get enough space to get his hands in between them.

It’s never going to work, but the thought of it is enough to have Louis breathing harder, wiggling with that much more force. He only stills when Harry gives him another three, landing them all in the same place.

“You’re doing so well,” Harry says. “You want me to take these off?” He taps his fingers against Louis’ arse, and for a minute Louis thinks that he’s asking if Louis wants to get his bum taken off.

Then he gets it and nods, only a little miserably, into his arms. He’s not sure that Harry sees it until his voice comes back, a little thicker than before. “Okay. Lift your hips.”

It takes a minute to remember how his hips work, and even then he can only lift them so far, like he’s tethered to Harry’s lap. It must be enough, though, because Harry’s fingers are quick to unzip them and ease them down. He only pulls them down enough to expose Louis’ pant-clad arse, leaving his thighs trapped. He can move even less than he could before, but he’s not sure that it matters.

It definitely doesn’t matter when Harry’s hand comes back, rubbing firmly over the places he’d hit. Louis’ skin feels warm even without the heat of Harry’s hand. He wants Harry to keep going but he doesn’t want to ask, not sure how.

“Do you even know how gorgeous you are?” Harry asks, talking to himself even though he’s talking to Louis. “You’d do anything that I asked you to right now, wouldn’t you.”

Louis wouldn’t. He probably wouldn’t, anyway, but before he can say that Harry spanks him again, firm as ever. “And I’m so lucky,” Harry continues, voice wavering a little, “that you trust me to do this, that you want me to do this. I know that you struggle with it, sometimes, but I can’t imagine how anyone could be a better sub than you are.”

Louis’ vision gets a little hazy. He’s more or less aware of Harry spanking him some more, rubbing his bum in between hits like he’s trying to soothe it, and it stings, of course it does, and it feels good, but he kind of spaces out until it’s over, listening to Harry murmur nonsense.

He doesn’t come out of it until Harry’s rubbing at his hip and coaxing him to turn over. He barely manages it, clutching onto Harry’s shirt while he does it, and lets Harry rearrange his limbs until they’re comfortable. He doesn’t even register the wetness on his cheeks until Harry rubs at them, drying them off.

There’s silence for a minute. Louis knows that his face must be red and blotchy - crying always does that to him - but Harry’s looking at him like he’s the best thing that he’s ever seen.

One of Harry’s hands land on Louis’ cheek, stroking along the bone. All Louis can do is blink tiredly up at him, so beyond ready for a nap that he’s thinking about just passing out right here, with his jeans pulled halfway down and his shirt so twisted that he’ll probably suffocate within five minutes.

Harry looks like he’s about to say something, then thinks the better of it and puts his other hand underneath Louis’ back and hauls him up into a sitting position, still slumped against Harry’s chest.

Then he puts his mouth right up against Louis’, kissing him gently, easily, like they’ve done this a million times before and he knows that this is what Louis needs right now.

It’s close-mouthed and doesn’t last long, but Louis is still left blinking stupidly as Harry pulls away and gets him underneath the covers, curling up behind him tightly. He doesn’t say anything else, and Louis means to question it, he really does, but he can’t find the words before he starts drifting off.

It’s probably not that important anyway.

 

When he wakes up, still wrapped up in the warmth of Harry’s arms, everything seems normal. The curtains are letting a little bit of the afternoon sun shine through, bathing the room in soft light, and their things are still strewn about on the floor in the same places that they left them.

Then Louis goes to roll onto his back, trying to eel his way out of Harry’s arms so he can get up to take a piss, and the second his arse hits the mattress he yelps, completely out loud and completely unintentionally.

Harry jerks awake with a hiss, clutching him tighter for a second. “What?”

Louis shoves at him until he lets go, arms falling limply down onto the bed. “My arse hurts, that’s what, you dickhead.” He struggles his way out of the bed, feet landing on the cold floor, and then walks to the bathroom, trying to hide the way he’s limping a little.

By the time he’s finished, he’s mostly able to ignore the way his bum feels, throbbing and hot, sore. It’s a reminder of the way that Harry held him down and spanked him until he cried and somehow felt better.

Harry’s sitting propped up against the headboard when he comes out, covers rucked down to his thighs. He looks like he’s barely moved at all, completely self-satisfied, and immediately holds his arms out like he thinks that Louis is going to want a hug.

Louis does want a hug, but he’s not that easy. “Did you order me tea?” he demands instead, wandering over to his bag to pick through it for clothes that he wants to wear.

It seems like a sweatpants day. God knows that anything tight on his arse is only going to make him feel it more.

“Of course I ordered you tea,” Harry says. The eye roll is very present in his tone, and Louis doesn’t like it. Who does Harry think he is, using his tone to convey his eye roll. Only Louis is allowed to do that.

“Well you should have ordered it before,” Louis says haughtily, pulling out a threadbare t-shirt. He’s just going to pull it on when Harry’s arms wrap around his chest, pulling him off balance. He squeaks a little, unable to stop himself. He didn’t even hear Harry get up.

“I ordered you pancakes too,” Harry murmurs, spreading his fingers out on Louis’ bare chest. Louis resists the urge to look down. “Doesn’t that count for anything?”

It counts for a lot, but. “What about bacon?”

“What kind of breakfast would it be without bacon?” Harry asks, guiding them back over to the bed. Louis sits when he pushes, but only because there’s going to be bacon.

It’s all about the bacon.

 

The ache in his arse fades over the course of the day, and it’s not that he forgets about it, exactly, but it becomes a pleasant sting instead of a bright, hot ache.

Until Zayn slaps his arse playfully, already on his way down the hall. Louis loses his grip on the water bottle he’s holding, and it spills all over his shoes and the floor.

“What the hell,” Liam says, already laughing, and Louis drags his shoes through the water as he launches himself at Liam’s face. It’s a good enough distraction that Liam forgets what he was laughing about in the first place, but Louis’ arse throbs for the rest of the day and he doesn’t miss the way Harry’s eyes follow him, regardless of what he’s doing.

He probably just wants to make sure that Louis is okay.

 

He manages to last another two weeks, after that. It’s not even particularly difficult - they’re a really good two weeks, and Louis is happy with the direction things are going, professionally speaking. It’s maybe not exactly what he pictured himself doing, being in a boyband, when he was younger, but he also spent a lot of picturing what he’d be like as a velociraptor, so.

It’s not like it was last time - he doesn’t let his head get so crowded that he starts to go a little crazy. Instead, he catches himself thinking about how much better off the boys would be if he had have never even tried out for the X-Factor, after a particularly grueling performance, and grabs Harry nearly the second that they get offstage.

Getting him alone doesn’t take much effort. Their crew is bustling around them, breaking down their equipment, and the boys are all heading off to do their respective coming down off an adrenaline high thing.

One of the first things that Louis does whenever they get to a new venue is to drag Liam away from whatever he’d been doing and scope the place out, usually in search of places they can wreak havoc without being spotted by fans. They did it again with this venue, so Louis knows exactly where he’s going as he drags Harry down one corridor, and then three more, turning corners confidently.

Harry will probably remember how to get back even if Louis doesn’t. He has a good sense of direction, that one. It’s why Louis keeps him around.

That and the fact that Louis is about to ask him to do something that he can’t ask anyone else for.

They turn one last corner and reach a little lounge, just the tiniest bit dusty from disuse. It seems like it hasn’t been used for a while, which is good for Louis’ purposes.

Harry sinks down onto one of the couches easily when Louis pushes at his shoulder, looking up with this little half smile on his face. “What’s going on?”

“You remember how I said that I was going to ask if things started getting bad?” Louis says, and then doesn’t finish the thought.

Something about Harry’s face changes instantly. Louis can’t quite put his finger on what it is, and it’s subtle, but it’s obvious enough that Louis relaxes, just the tiniest bit. “I remember that, yeah.”

He tugs at Louis’ wrists, gently enough that it doesn’t hurt but sharp enough to know that he proper means it. Part of Louis wants to resist, just to see what he would do, but mostly he wants to be in Harry’s lap, so he goes with it. It would probably look strange to anyone passing by, and it would definitely fuel the rumours about them, but there’s a reason that Louis picked this particular spot.

“I’m so proud of you,” Harry says, pulling him in until they’re flush together. “You’re so good, coming to me before it got any worse. I knew you could do it.”

The words are a little weird. Louis isn’t sure that he likes them, but there’s no denying the warmth in his chest. Maybe he just has to get used to it.

“I didn’t want to,” Louis says quietly. He could have kept it to himself, but he’s pretty sure that Harry would know, regardless.

“Yeah, sweetheart, and that’s why it’s so amazing that you did,” Harry says. “How bad is it?”

Louis takes a second to think about it. “It’s not so bad that I wouldn’t be able to last another few days,” he says.

“So if I told you to keep quiet and just lie here in my lap that would be enough?” Harry asks.

Louis sucks on his lower lip while he considers it. He’s not really sure that they’ve done this enough for him to be able to tell what he needs. He’s not really sure that they’ll ever have done this enough for him to be able to tell what he needs. “Maybe.”

“Well, it’s going to have to be,” Harry says, a little apologetically. “You know that I would give you whatever you need, but we probably only have like twenty minutes before someone comes looking for us.”

“Okay,” Louis says. He’ll deny to his dying day that it’s a little poutily. Harry likes it when he pouts, though, and he always falls for it, so Louis will keep using it until he catches on.

“You got a real purdy mouth,” Harry says, but it sounds more amused than hick-like. He’s probably already caught on, but. Louis does have a real purdy mouth and he intends to use it to his advantage.

Harry crushes him a little tighter the instant Louis opens his mouth to respond. “Said that you were going to keep quiet and lie in my lap,” Harry says, and he keeps insisting that he doesn’t have a dom voice, but he totally fucking does, and he’s using it right now, so the only thing Louis can do is go quiet and slump into Harry’s chest.

It doesn’t really feel any different than it normally would, sitting in Harry’s lap. Harry’s lap is a nice enough place to sit, and Louis finds his way there pretty often, but it doesn’t really do anything for the chaos inside of his head.

Until Harry puts a hand on the back of Louis’ neck, anchoring him there. Then it’s like all the energy just evaporates out of his bones, leaving him feeling limp and light, like he might float away at any second. Harry’s shirt is soft underneath his cheek, which only adds to the good floaty feeling.

“Yeah, baby, that’s it,” Harry murmurs, sweeping his fingers across Louis’ neck. The little hairs start standing up, goosebumps prickling across his skin, and he hates that feeling, normally, because usually it means that he’s cold and he fucking hates being cold, but this time it feels nice, safe. Like the goosebumps are there to remind him that Harry can make him feel things that no one else can.

“Love it when you get like this,” Harry sighs. Before Louis can even think to be offended, Harry’s hastening to add, “Not that you aren’t amazing the rest of the time, it’s just. I like being able to do this for you.”

It’s sweet. Louis has tried telling him that he doesn’t need to be so sweet when they do this - especially when Louis gets to the point where all he hears is the intonation and not the words - but he does it anyway, holding Louis in his arms and telling him how good he is.

Louis is only a little ashamed of how much he likes it, normally. Right now he’s not even the tiniest bit ashamed of how much he likes it, arching up into Harry’s hold, mostly squirming without any real thought of what he’s trying to do.

“Thought I told you to be still,” Harry says, but there’s absolutely no heat behind the words. Louis has read a ton of stuff that says the dom has to enforce the rules, but he’s not sure that’s right. Harry’s always willing to let them bend if he thinks that’s what Louis needs.

He doesn’t want to open his mouth and say that, though. He’s also read a lot of stuff about how a good dom will find ways to cause a sub to want to follow the rules, and the next thing that comes out of Harry’s mouth pretty much proves that Harry is on point with that.

“Don’t you want to be still for me, baby?” Harry asks. His voice is soft and syrupy, moving through Louis’ veins slowly. “Don’t you want to be a good boy for me?”

Louis nods a little, curling himself up tighter on Harry’s lap. He doesn’t know when Harry got so much bigger than him but it’s so fucking convenient for times like these, when he needs to hide his face.

Sometimes it’s all he wants, to be good and let Harry take care of him. It’s why they’re here, after all, sitting in this dusty corner where no one’s going to find them.

“I know you do, sweetheart, it’s why you’re going to be still for me,” Harry says, and it doesn’t really make sense. None of this really makes sense, but Louis shifts once more and then settles, letting Harry stroke slow, soothing circles over the back of his neck.

His face is a little flushed, warming the cotton of Harry’s shirt. It’s still sweaty, but Louis doesn’t care about that, not when he’s got Harry’s hands on him and vague, melodic buzzing in his ears. The tiny little corner that they’re tucked into is quiet and well hidden, and it feels safe here, like they could stay here forever and not be bothered.

It’s weirdly simple, this - Harry told him to do something that wasn’t really out of the ordinary, and Louis did it, and all of a sudden his head already feels a million times better.

It doesn’t make any sense. Thinking about it makes his brain hurt, though, so he lets his eyes close and keeps his face pressed into Harry’s shirt, breathing in the scent of stale sweat and old deodorant and faint cologne. It should be disgusting, and if it was anyone else it would be, but it’s Harry and Louis is used to it.

Plus he has no room to talk right now.

Once he stops thinking about it, it only takes a few minutes for that weird, tingly calm feeling to completely envelop him. Harry starts talking again at some point, fingers scratching lightly over the back of Louis’ neck and dipping down underneath his t-shirt.

It’s over too soon, the way it always is. Harry’s hand lifts from Louis’ neck, leaving it cold and exposed, before he tips Louis onto the couch, laying him out with his legs splayed over Harry’s lap. They’re still touching, but it’s not as intense touching. Louis’ head starts clearing pretty quickly.

He’s almost completely out of it by the time he starts wiggling his toes. They feel cramped in his shoes, so he kicks them off, struggling a little. It’s much better, them being free, so he wiggles them some more, making a mental note to get some new socks. All of his are starting to wear thin.

Maybe he’ll just steal some of Harry’s.

“You want to know something?” Harry asks contemplatively. He puts a hand on one of Louis’ ankles, like they’re not touching enough. Louis can get with that program.

Too bad they don’t have time. That twenty minutes or whatever it was really wasn’t enough. It was good, and his head feels about a million times better, but it still wasn’t enough. He could have had that for six hours and then it might have been enough. Maybe. Possibly.

“If I say no are you going to tell me anyway?” Louis rasps out. He could use about six gallons of water.

“When you’re under you’re probably the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen,” Harry says easily, like it’s nothing. Like it’s something that dudes just say to their male friends all the time.

“I hate you,” Louis says. He struggles, trying to get off of the couch. His nose itches in the process, but he ignores it, landing on the floor on his knees before pushing himself to his feet and taking off in the direction that they came from.

He’s not trying to be fast - he’s pretty sure that he’s not capable of being fast right now. His head still feels a little swimmy, and that must be why Harry catches up to him so easily, settling his hands on Louis’ hips and walking so close behind him that they nearly fall over three times before they find their rhythm.

Louis appreciates it. He’s mostly fine, now, but if he spun around a couple of times he’d definitely be disoriented again.

Of course, he’s not going to tell Harry that he appreciates it, so they walk, half bitching at each other, until they get to the last turn. Then Harry slows them to a halt, fingers threaded through Louis’ belt loops so he can’t go anywhere.

“Hey,” he says, mouth warm against Louis’ ear. Louis doesn’t want to answer, but Harry bites him, shockingly sharp.

“Ow, fuck, what?” Louis demands. He reaches up to rub at the sting, but Harry’s mouth is there again. He tenses, expecting another bite, but he only gets a soft, warm kiss, right over the spot.

Which actually soothes the sting, so. “You really are the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen,” Harry says. Louis wiggles, but it only gets worse. “You’re my favourite boy,” he says, quietly, like he thinks someone’s around to hear it. “Most beautiful, best boy in the world and I love you so much, alright?”

Jesus. Louis licks his lip and stares at the wall. “I love you, too,” he says, but that’s about as much feelings talk as he can handle for one day, so he stomps on Harry’s foot as hard as he can and takes off, as fast as he can this time, darting through the hallways and barely skidding around members of their crew.

Harry’s hot on his heels the entire way, a couple steps shy of being able to reach him. If Louis slows down enough that he does just before they hit the exit that’s no one’s business, alright?

 

 

“You want to make sure that you’re including everyone,” Kevin says with an encouraging smile, making little hand motions as if they don’t understand what the word everyone means. Louis doesn’t know how many times they’re going to hear this particular pep talk. They’ve done meet and greets countless times before, they really don’t need to hear it every time.

It doesn’t help that Louis is still feeling a little under the weather and more irritable because of the way his skin hurts every so often, like it’s reminding him that he’s sick. The bright, fluorescent lights are bothering his eyes, he hasn’t gotten enough sleep and the last time he talked to his mum was nearly three days ago.

He wants his bed. He wants his bed, but the only thing he’s going to get for the next couple of hours are excited fans and jumpy security guards and an ever increasing headache from all the noise.

He tunes the rest of Kevin’s lecture out and the fans are brought in, and he makes a real, genuine effort to engage them, because that’s the least of all the things they deserve, but it’s hard, and it only gets harder when a girl gets in between him and Harry for a picture.

Stepping out of the way is hard, but standing there with yet another person in between him and the only person who’s managed to make this day even remotely bearable is even harder, so he drifts away, doing his best to ignore Harry’s fingers fisting in the back of his hoodie, trying to keep him there.

Harry’s barely left his side all day, to the point where it should be smothering, but all Louis wants to do is tuck his head into Harry’s chest and let him stroke Louis’ back until nothing hurts anymore. It’s not going to happen, though, so he makes it through the rest of the meet and greet somehow, as much of a smile as he can muster on his face.

The second they’ve been given the okay to do their own thing, Louis is out the door, making for the loo. He splashes some cool water on his face once he gets there, willing the flush out of his cheeks. They don’t have time for him to be sick anymore. They didn’t have time for him to have been sick in the first place.

The door creaks open again behind him, and he’s not even a little bit surprised. He should be, maybe, because Harry was definitely being eyed by at least three of the girls, but Harry always insists that Louis is always his number one priority, no matter what.

“You alright?” Harry asks, letting the door creak closed behind him. Louis slumps down onto the counter, pressing his face against the cool porcelain, way past the point of even caring what kind of germs are on it.

He’s been working on telling Harry the truth, no matter how fragile it makes him feel, so he says, “Tired. Feel like I’ve been fighting this cold for weeks. And I wanted to punch that girl who got in between us.”

“No you didn’t,” Harry says immediately. His voice sounds much closer, which explains why Louis’ shoulders are suddenly being rubbed. “You wanted to sit down on the floor and cry, maybe, because you wanted to sleep, but you didn’t want to punch her.”

“I wanted to punch her at least a little,” Louis maintains, even though he really didn’t and it’s only going to take another minute of this awesome back rub for him to admit to it. It’s about keeping up appearances.

Harry digs his thumbs in a little harder, pressing into the knots of Louis’ muscles, and it hurts so fucking much for a brief second that his knees start to buckle before the pain is gone, abruptly and completely. Harry’s massages are the best, even though they make Louis cry sometimes.

“You wanted to throw a tantrum,” Harry says easily, like it’s the most obvious thing in the world. Louis hates the thought that it might be.

“Whatever,” Louis mutters grumpily, settling his head into his arms a bit more comfortably and closing his eyes. Hopefully Harry will rub his back until he falls asleep and then carry him out to the bus. He must feel sorry for him by this point, right?

There’s silence while Louis tries to figure out whether it’s actually worth it to fall asleep in the loo and make Harry carry him out. If he does he’ll probably wake up with a stiff neck and way too many blankets piled on top of him but if he doesn’t he’ll have to be awake for longer. It’s a hard decision.

It’s taken out of his hands when Harry stops rubbing his back and squeezes his shoulders once. “Let’s get to the bus, yeah?”

“I hate the bus,” Louis grumbles, but he straightens up when Harry gives him a tap on the bum.

“I know. You hate everything and everyone,” Harry says, but he doesn’t sound like he believes it even in the slightest, even though it’s true. People suck and things suck and Louis wants to sleep for at least ten hours. Fuck being sick. It’s totally not cool.

He only sways a little when he pushes himself off the countertop, blinking a little at it. Either he’s way more tired than he thought or Harry put him a little under without even meaning to, which says something about their relationship that Louis isn’t willing to examine.

“Hate you the most,” Louis says, pulling the creaky door open again and forcibly shoves the thought to the back of his head.

It’s easier than it should be.

 

“Ignore it,” Harry says, keeping one hand on Louis’ arm as Louis twists around to stare at the door.

“What if it’s Paul,” Louis says. The thought is mildly terrifying. This is the kind of thing that Paul would walk in on and assume that it’s something else and god knows that they don’t need another talk like that.

Although, come to think of it, Paul hasn’t given them one for a while. He still side-eyes them suspiciously sometimes, but he’s always done that. It’s tragically unfair, considering that he’s never done it to any of the other boys, but there’s moments where Louis can understand where he’s coming from.

This is one of them. If Paul walked in on this he’d definitely be giving them a talk, and Louis probably wouldn’t even be able to blame him. This definitely doesn’t look innocent.

“It’s not Paul,” Harry says, but he doesn’t sound sure of that. The door knob starts turning slowly, like they’re in a horror movie or something. “It’s not Paul?”

“You’ve got five minutes to get your stuff together and get down to the bus,” Paul says, before he’s even finished swinging the door open.

“Told you that it would be Paul,” Louis says. He manages to put enough distance between them that it doesn’t look suspicious by the time that Paul’s head comes into view, peering warily around the door.

Paul looks between the two of them, eyes narrowing. “If you’re not down in five minutes I’m giving the okay to leave without you,” he says, and Louis breathes a little easier. Looks like there won’t be an uncomfortable talk today.

He doesn’t wait for a response before he’s letting the door click closed behind him, leaving them alone in the room. He’s probably not serious about leaving them behind, but Louis isn’t sure that he wants to take that chance. It sucks, because his head has been seriously messed up lately, and it seems like every chance they get to do something about it someone walks in on them.

They just need like, an hour to themselves. That’s it. Just an hour.

That’s not going to happen anytime soon, by the looks of things. They were supposed to have another three hours before they hit the road, but apparently the schedule’s been moved up. It’s only a three hour drive, but they’re spending the night on the bus and their day tomorrow is already jam packed.

It just sucks.

“I’m sorry, baby,” Harry says, pressing his thumb into the corner of Louis’ mouth. He looks regretful, like he knows how much Louis needs this right now. “We’ll figure out something, yeah?”

Louis isn’t sure what he thinks they’re going to be able to figure out, being stuck on the bus with the boys, but there’s really no other option, so he just bites sharply at Harry’s thumb and then lets him carry both of their bags to the lift.

It’s whatever. It’s not like Louis is going to burst out in tears because there’s no time for Harry to put him on his knees.

 

They get to the bus without much of a hassle, and it’s not like Louis is tired or anything, but he still kind of wants to curl up in his bunk with his headphones on and just wallow in his own misery for at least an hour. Maybe he’ll even steal one of Harry’s shirts and see if that helps any.

He’s not congratulating himself on coming up with a good plan, because that would be weird, but he is in the middle of thinking that it might actually work when Liam lets loose the puppy dog eyes and begs him to play video games in the lounge with him and the rest of the boys.

Louis means to say no, because his plan is sounding better and better by the second, but Liam’s puppy dog eyes are pretty damn sad, and he finds himself in front of the telly ten minutes later with a cold bottle of beer in one hand and a controller in the other.

It’s Niall’s idea to play Call of Duty, and Louis has always hated that game - because he’s bad at it, not that he’ll ever admit that out loud - but Niall has sad puppy dog eyes that are even more effective that Liam’s.

It takes three minutes for Louis to get riled up so much that he ends up hurling the controller across the room. It’s completely unintentional, and it’s not like there’s any damage done - it just thuds uselessly into the carpet - but he bursts into tears anyway.

Liam’s on him in a second, trying to get Louis to uncurl enough to accept a hug, because that’s Liam’s default to anyone being unhappy. A hug isn’t what Louis wants, but it’s what he’ll have to take, so he lets Liam move him and dangles his arms over Liam’s shoulders.

If he doesn’t think about it he can convince himself that it’s Harry, at least the Harry from back when he was still unsure about what to do with Louis being a bundle of tears and frustration. Thinking about how Harry was back then only makes it more obvious that he’s not here now, though, and Louis can’t manage to make himself stop crying.

He’s just. It’s so frustrating, not being able to deal with his emotions like a normal person. He shouldn’t have to rely on his best mate to take care of him and coddle him and make sure that he’s feeding himself properly. He’s old enough and mature enough to take care of himself, and he should want to take care of himself.

And he does, mostly, but then he’ll talk to the girls on the phone and one of them will tell him all of things that he’s missed, and all of a sudden Louis is just hit with it. He’s missing birthdays and report cards and first dates and school dances and he’s not trying to say that he feels like he’s their parent, but he’s always felt a sense of responsibility for them that surpasses sibling responsibility.

Then he’ll hear himself sing and think that’s not really what I sound like, is it? and it just makes things even worse.

Maybe. Sometimes he doesn’t even make sense in his own head.

“Lou, Lou, what’s wrong, talk to me,” Liam’s saying, over and over, like he’s been saying it for a while. Louis hiccups and can’t quite formulate an answer, trying to blink the tears away at least enough that he’ll be able to see properly.

“Li, maybe try that thing that Harry does with him,” Niall says. He sounds a little scared, as if Louis is scaring him with his freak out, and Louis doesn’t want that at all. He wants to stop crying and he wants to sleep and he wants to reassure the boys and he wants Harry.

He wants Harry.

“I’ll try,” Liam says uncertainly. He taps Louis’ shoulder gently. “I’m gonna put you in my lap, alright?” He waits for an answer, but Louis isn’t capable of giving one. Isn’t sure what he’d say if he was capable of it.

The world swims as he’s tipped over, landing in Liam’s lap rather awkwardly. Liam curses, rearranging him, and puts a hand on the back of his neck.

Louis closes his eyes and waits, trying his best to ignore how flushed his cheeks feel from the crying.

And waits.

And waits.

Nothing happens. The tears are still leaking out of the corners of his eyes, and his chest still feels tight. He has no idea where Harry went or when he left, but he wants him back.

That’s pretty clearly not going to happen, though, so Louis’ other two options seem to be to keep crying or to stop.

Obviously stopping is a lot harder than it sounds, but Louis hates crying in front of anyone, much less anyone who’s as close to him as these boys are. It’s not that he cares about looking weak in front of them or whatever, it’s that he doesn’t want to add his stress to theirs. He just. He wants everyone to be okay, including him.

It takes what feels like forever, but eventually he manages to get himself under control enough that he’s mostly just sniffling and leaking snot all over Liam’s jeans. His throat aches and his eyes hurt, and he doesn’t feel any better at all, but at least he’s stopped crying.

Mostly.

He still feels like shit, but he doesn’t think that’s going to change any time soon. If anything, he feels even more like shit, having scared the boys with his meltdown.

The room is quiet for a minute. Louis can feel all the eyes on him, and he doesn’t like it. There’s nothing he can do about it, though, so he keeps his face pressed into Liam’s knee and tries to keep his sniffling under control.

“Do you want me to get Harry for you, babes?” Zayn asks quietly, breaking the silence. Louis nods miserably, not lifting his head. It’s fucked up, the way he’s stopped crying but still wants Harry desperately enough that he’ll just wait and feel sorry for himself until he gets here.

“Okay,” Zayn murmurs, more to himself than anything, and runs his hand over Louis’ head as he leaves the room.

Louis lets his eyes close and drifts off while they wait, Liam’s hand running through his hair every so often. He’s not going to lie and say that everything’s all better, but it feels less intense than it did five minutes ago, so there’s that, at least.

He’s nearly asleep by the time Harry gets there. He can tell the second that Harry walks into the room, just by the way Liam immediately stops touching Louis as much as possible, like he thinks he’s doing something wrong.

Louis never wants Liam to think that he’s doing something wrong, so he manages to push himself up and pats Liam’s face. “Thanks, Li,” he mumbles.

“What happened?” Harry asks, sharp and loud. Louis flinches a little, curling back into Liam’s side. Harry crosses the room so fast that Louis doesn’t even see it, hand settling on Louis’ jaw. “Alright, baby?”

“Yeah, just,” Louis says. He shrugs a shoulder, unsure how to explain it. Unsure how to explain it in front of the boys.

“God, I nearly had a heart attack when I saw you,” Harry says. He drops to his knees in front of Louis and gathers him up into his arms, pulling him off the sofa entirely. “Thought something was wrong.”

There is something wrong, but it’s nothing that can be fixed right now. Louis settles for shrugging again, tucking his face into Harry’s chest. Harry will probably get it, anyway. It’s not like he’s going to assume that Louis was lying face down in Liam’s lap because he just felt like it.

There’s really only one person he would ever feel like doing that with.

“You’re okay, though?” Harry asks, sweeping his hands down Louis’ back and settling on the dip of his spine.

“I can make it through the night, if that’s what you’re asking,” Louis mumbles. He lets his eyes drift closed and burrows his way underneath Harry’s shirt, slipping his arms up underneath the hem. Harry’s always so warm, no matter where they are.

“I’m gonna stay with you,” Harry says. He tucks his fingers into the back of Louis’ left knee, arranging them more comfortably. “You’ll tell me if you need something different before the morning, yeah?”

Louis nods. The sound of the telly comes filtering back in, turned down since his freak out but still on. It sounds like someone put a film on. Some Bruce Willis movie, seems like.

Someone’s hand ghosts through his hair briefly. It’s not Harry’s - all of his hands are accounted for, one underneath Louis’ thigh and the other still in the small of his back.

“You’re gonna take care of him, right?” Liam asks quietly. Louis isn’t sure if he thinks that he’s asleep or what, but he’s not going to do anything to dissuade that notion.

He’s long since past the point of being ashamed of what he needs - not that he ever really was in the first place, even though it did feel really weird for a long time - but it’s not a discussion that he wants to have with Liam, all the same. It’s hard enough talking about it with Harry, and it’s gotten loads easier since the first time they talked about it.

“Course I’m gonna take care of him, he’s my boy,” Harry says, and Louis’ chest warms.

He listens to the sounds of Bruce Willis blowing things up on the telly until he falls asleep. It doesn’t take long.

 

 

“You know how I said that there was going to be a time that you were going to be bad?” Harry asks. His arm is resting dangerously close to Louis’ mouth. Louis considers biting it.

He doesn’t, because he has some sense of self-preservation, but he wants to.

He really fucking wants to.

He also doesn’t answer, unsure whether Harry actually wants an answer or if he’s just talking so Louis doesn’t drift off. “You’re being bad right now,” Harry continues. His hand moves from Louis’ knee to the back of his head, pressing down firmly.

Louis still wants to bite it.

“You’re being so bad that I don’t think that this is going to cut it, sweetheart,” Harry says gently. Unexpectedly, Louis’ eyes prickle. Harry nudges his cheek. “Hey. You remember what I said? Just because you’re being bad doesn’t mean that you are bad.”

Louis nods a little miserably into Harry’s thigh. He was being a brat again, even more than normal. It’s just so hard to control sometimes, even if he knows that he’s doing it.

“Okay. So I want you to get up and put yourself face down over my lap.”

The thought of it doesn’t make anything better, but he isn’t sure that he wants to find out what Harry would do if he refused, so he starts moving slowly, grudgingly, until he’s settled in place.

Harry’s hand comes down warm and gentle on the back of his neck. “Don’t think that I didn’t notice that,” he says. It would be more intimidating if he didn’t sound so bloody amused, but Louis isn’t about to tell him that.

There’s no warning for the first smack. One minute Harry’s petting slow, soothing circles over his back and neck and the next his bum is smarting, sharp heat spreading through it. He makes a noise that’s somewhere between a gasp and a hiss and only tries to squirm away a little bit.

“You know you’re not going anywhere, baby,” Harry says, not even a hint of apology in his tone before he lays Louis out, giving him so many slaps in such quick succession that Louis has no chance of keeping track of them, too busy pressing his burning face into the sheets and clawing his fingers into Harry’s leg.

It hurts - of course it hurts. Harry’s not using all of his strength, but it feels like Louis’ arse might be on fire regardless.

And that’s before Harry yanks his pants down, leaving his bare arse exposed to the cold of the room. It makes his arse feel even hotter, somehow, and he barely has time to gasp out a pleading, confused, “What,” before Harry’s laying back into him, even harder.

It’s like the flood gates have been opened. Harry’s hand comes down on his bare skin, sharp and stinging, and Louis makes a noise, which seems like it spurs Harry on even more, barely leaving Louis a chance to drag in a breath, much less get used to it. He definitely can’t get used to the way Harry hits him in different places just long enough to start expecting the hurt to be spread out, only to change it up and start spanking him in the same place, on the meatiest part of his bum where he would have thought that it would hurt the least.

Of course, he would have thought it would hurt the least if he was only getting a couple of slaps there. Not the way Harry’s giving it to him, so many so quickly.

“That’s it, baby,” Harry says encouragingly. It’s the only reason that Louis realizes that he’s crying, gasping out great big sobs that sound entirely too loud in the silence of the room. “You’re okay. You see how good you can be?”

Louis squirms some more. Harry doesn’t stop him this time, gentling his slaps but keeping the same pace. It feels - it just feels. Louis doesn’t know how to describe the way that it hurts, the way that it’s working to make him feel better.

The way that it might be the best hurt he’s ever felt. He doesn’t understand any of it, but he’s so fucking grateful for it regardless.

“I wish you could see yourself right now,” Harry murmurs. He squeezes a handful of Louis’ arse, tight enough that Louis gasps. It feels different, the squeezing after being spanked like that, like Harry doesn’t plan on letting him forget how it feels. “Never seen a more beautiful bum, all pink just from my hand. Imagine what I could do if I had a paddle.”

Louis takes in a shuddering breath and comes, squeezing his eyes closed and biting his lip. He tries to be quiet about it, but he’s never really aware of how loud he is when he gets like this. He can’t stop rocking his hips down into Harry’s lap, anyway, riding the orgasm out. He can’t stop his noises from escaping, a little shivery and a lot shocked.

It must stun Harry into silence, because it takes him a long minute to say anything. “Did you just come?”

Please don’t let this be happening. Louis squeezes his eyes tighter. Logically, he knows that trying to hide himself won’t work, but his brain is insisting that he tries it anyway, pulling his arms down and scrunching his legs up, trying to make himself as small as possible.

“Baby,” Harry says. His hand starts moving again, like it had forgotten how to for a minute. “You’re so - ” he stops, sounding overwhelmed.

Louis’ throat clogs from the effort of holding his tears back. His face is already wet from crying earlier, the last thing he needs right now is to add to it. Harry’s seen enough of him crying.

It was weird, and he wishes that he hadn’t done it, but he has and now he just wants to ignore it, pretend like it never happened.

Clearly Harry’s not going to let that happen, though. He turns Louis over gently, stroking his thumbs across his cheeks. Louis winces as his arse settles on top of the sheets, red hot and still sore.

He can’t get the idea of what Harry would be able to do with a paddle out of his head.

“It’s okay,” Harry says softly. “Louis, you - it’s okay. I don’t care. It’s nice, actually, knowing that I made you feel so much better that you couldn’t help yourself.”

Louis’ face is burning, and he’s embarrassed, but the sub in him will always be pleased when his dom is complimenting him. He opens his eyes a little, taking in the day old stubble on Harry’s jaw, the slight upturn to his mouth, the crinkles around his eyes that he gets when he’s got a real smile on his face.

He doesn’t look like he’s lying.

“Yeah?” Louis asks softly, twisting his fingers in Harry’s shirt. The word just slips out of him, but he doesn’t regret it. Trying to shake the feeling that he did something wrong isn’t easy.

“Yeah, baby. Dunno if I’ve ever seen anything prettier in my life,” Harry says, smile turning into a smirk. “All you’d have to do to find you a man is let them see you come. Get ‘em hooked for life.”

Louis sighs a little and closes his eyes, letting his knees spread out as much as they want to. His come is cooling by the second, sticking to his skin and his pants, which are barely even covering him. His arse is still exposed, but it’s alright.

Actually, it does hurt. Now that he’s starting to come up it’s an actual real pain, stinging every time he shifts his weight, trying to find a better position.

“Sore?” Harry asks. Louis is startled into opening his eyes when Harry slips a hand underneath his bum, feeling the damage he’s caused. “Must be. Still hot.”

Jesus. Someone needs to teach this kid about personal boundaries.

Louis supposes that he probably isn’t the right person for the job, though, not after he’s just let Harry put his hands all over him and spank his arse until he came all over himself.

“A little,” he admits, closing his eyes again. Harry’s hands feel nice, stroking slowly along his skin. The burn is still there, but it’s much less noticeable now.

“Gonna put some cream on you,” Harry says. He leans down and kisses the corner of Louis’ mouth before pushing himself up off the bed. Louis drifts off while he rummages through a bag, presumably looking for the cream.

He startles a little when the bed dips underneath Harry’s weight, nearly asleep. He follows Harry’s directions blindly, rolling over onto his stomach when Harry nudges at him. He pillows his head in his arms and gets comfortable, more or less able to ignore the fact that his arse is completely exposed now. It’s not like it’s something that Harry’s never seen before.

Harry starts humming something as he rubs some of the cream onto his hands. It’s still cold when he starts massaging it into Louis’ bum. Louis hisses a little, trying to squirm away, but Harry only stills him with a single tap on his hip.

Louis stops and pouts into his arms. The cream is really cold, alright, and so what if it’s already warming up underneath Harry’s hands. That’s no excuse for it to have been cold in the first place.

“When I see your face,” Harry sings, rubbing the cream into Louis’ arse, and Louis falls asleep like that, with Harry singing Bruno Mars in his ear and rubbing his hands all over his bum.

He’s fallen asleep in worse places.

 

 

The game of monkey in the middle that they’re currently playing is riveting, mainly because Louis is standing on a table and tossing Liam’s phone to Zayn while Liam jumps uselessly for it, trying to snatch it out of the air. He’s failing every time and can’t seem to grasp the concept that he needs to gain another three feet before he’ll be able to get it, particularly because Zayn is standing on a couch across the room.

Louis also doesn’t understand why he doesn’t just tackle one of them and put an end to the game, but he’s not Liam. Sometimes the boy just doesn’t make sense.

“Bro, I really need to make a phone call,” Liam tries, but Louis knows exactly who Liam wants to call and he’s not having any of it.

“You just spoke to her an hour ago, bro, and you promised me that we would steal all of Marco’s headphones and tie them all together,” Louis says, tossing the phone back over to Zayn.

Zayn catches it and adds, “You did promise,” helpfully. That’s why Zayn’s the best.

“Why can’t Zayn do it with you?” Liam asks, making another half-hearted jump for the phone as it goes sailing over his head.

“Zayn’s already doing it with me,” Louis says impatiently, punching Liam’s passcode onto the screen and unlocking it. “I’m going to solve this.” He brings up the contact list and scrolls through to find Sophia’s name, ignoring Liam’s wide eyed look of panic. Louis is a pro, he’s got this in the bag.

He has to make a jump from the table onto a chair to avoid Liam’s sudden decision to try to tackle him, narrowly avoiding his flailing arms. He hits the call button and holds the phone as close to his ear as he can while trying to fend Liam off, shoving his feet into his face.

He’s still cackling by the time Sophia picks up, kicking his feet in Liam’s direction every couple of seconds just for the look on his face.

“Hullo, love,” she greets, warmth spilling out of her voice and through the phone.

Liam instantly freezes. He has bloody good hearing, that Liam. “Hiya, darling,” Louis says, all but wheezing it out.

There’s the slightest pause. “Louis?” she asks, a little suspiciously. Louis is hurt by the assumption that he’s up to something.

“Listen, Soph, Liam’s promised me that he’s going to help me do something incredibly important, so he’s not going to be able to speak with you for a bit, alright?” Louis asks, holding his arm out in front of him so Liam doesn’t take it upon himself to make another grab for the phone.

Not that he looks like he’s going to, frozen in place with his eyes still wide and mouth dropped open a bit. “Is that something that he promised to help you with knotting all of Marco’s headphones together and then using it to tie all of his clothes together?” Sophia asks.

“Dammit,” Louis says, pressing the end call button so fast that he nearly drops the phone. As soon as he’s done that it’s like the hold has been lifted - Liam comes for him again, faster and stronger, and Louis can’t avoid him this time.

They’re still rolling around on the floor, trying to get the upper hand on each other by the time Harry walks in, a bottle of water dangling from his fingers.

“Do I even want to know?” he wonders, carefully skirting the pile of limbs on the floor.

“Harry, Liam backed out on a promise,” Louis shouts, as loud as he can, just for the way that Liam flinches and lets his grip loosen enough for Louis to pin him back down to the floor and twist his nipple.

He can already tell that Harry’s going to be on his side, even though Harry’s behind him and he can’t see him. Harry knows how Louis feels about promises being broken.

“He called Sophia,” Liam cries, slapping at Louis’ hands. He’s not putting a lot of force into it, but it stings anyway, so Louis doubles his efforts, twisting both of Liam’s nipples at the same time. “Can’t you control your boy?”

“Course I can,” Harry says easily, and continues before Louis even has a chance to prove him wrong. “You want a spanking, Lou?”

Louis’ breath leaves him in a rush. It’s still new, the way Harry’s become so open about it. The boys didn’t take long to catch on, obviously, that there was something different about Louis and Harry’s relationship, but Louis hated the thought of being so open about it for a while. It still feels like it’s something weird, that he needs this so badly, but he’s not ashamed of it.

Embarrassed, maybe, but Harry’s always liked flustering him. He revels in it, actually, whenever he can make Louis blush because there’s not a lot that Louis does blush at. Listening to Harry admit that sometimes he lays Louis out across his lap and spanks his bum is one of them.

“Don’t need a spanking,” Louis says, willing his flush to fade. He’s flustered enough that he doesn’t manage to stop Liam from giving him a wet willy in time, jerking back so weirdly he ends up rolling onto the floor.

“He stole all of the walkie-talkies and programmed them so the only channel that they’re picking up is from the strip club next door,” Liam says triumphantly. Louis groans and covers his face with both hands.

“I’m going to kill you,” he mutters through his hands.

Liam cackles a little. “And he said that he’s going to kill me.”

“He did do all of that,” Harry says agreeably. There’s the sound of him pushing himself up off the couch and crossing the room before he drops down to his knees at Louis’ side, immediately claiming his belly as his personal hand rest.

“Hate you too,” Louis says, not waiting for Harry to give him an opportunity. Lord knows that he’ll never get a chance once the boy opens his mouth.

Why does Harry have to smile so loudly? Jesus. “So you don’t want a spanking?”

Louis squirms a little, unable to stop himself. “Why are you making me do this,” he complains quietly, not moving his arms. He doesn’t want to look around and see if anyone’s listening to this.

Harry laughs, petting his fingers slowly across Louis’ stomach. “You’re gonna have one,” he promises. “But not until later.”

He stands up, fingers leaving Louis’ body and taking their heat with them. Louis doesn’t move for another five minutes.

Liam laughs him out of the room.

 

There’s the entire show to get through before Louis can have his reward, and patience has never been his strong suit. He spends the rest of evening shaking his bum obnoxiously every time Harry’s so much as looking in his general direction, trying to get his attention so conspicuously it’ll probably end up all over the internet later.

He lets Harry manhandle him into the hotel room after the show, after they’d done their usual mad run for the bus, trying to beat the fans, letting his eyes slip closed and trusting that Harry won’t let him fall.

“Look at you, all sweet and pliant,” Harry murmurs, kicking the door closed behind him. They’ve been doing this long enough now that Louis knows that he means it in the best way possible, but that’s still no reason to take it lying down. He wiggles out of Harry’s arms and makes for the bathroom, trying to kick his shoes off at the same time.

As expected, Harry catches back up to him before he’s even gone three steps, arms sliding back around his waist and pulling him into Harry’s body. “Gonna be a good boy and do what I tell you?”

Jesus. He always has to go and make this harder than it has to be.

“What are you gonna do if I don’t?” Louis demands, squirming in Harry’s hold. He’s not going to pull away just yet, but the second that Harry says the wrong thing he’s going to hold it against him for as long as he feels like.

“Gonna make you,” Harry says, and it’s absolutely one hundred percent the right thing to say, but.

But Louis wants to be made to be good.

He squirms out of Harry’s hold again and takes off again, climbing over the bed this time to try to throw Harry off. And normally Louis is faster, even though he’s shorter, but he’s not putting his all into it so it barely takes any time for Harry to catch him again, pinning his arms to his sides despite his struggling.

“You want me to make you, huh,” Harry says, dragging him over to the bed. “I can do that.” He sits down abruptly, pulling Louis with him, and they don’t end up the way they need to be situated but it doesn’t seem to be mattering to Harry, still holding Louis tight around his stomach.

“I want you to leave me alone,” Louis says, struggling harder. It’s no use, though. Harry’s been hitting the gym even harder lately, bulking up to the point that his biceps are actually rivaling Liam’s, now.

He can keep Louis wherever he wants him without even breaking a sweat.

“You want me to leave you alone about as much as I want to be papped every time I go outside,” Harry says, laughing, and manages to pin both of Louis’ wrists down to the bed with one hand.

All the fight just goes out of him. He goes limp in Harry’s lap, looking up at him with as much of an innocent look as he can manage. It’s not really all that innocent, but Louis isn’t really all that innocent and it’s not like Harry would have fallen for it anyway. He knows Louis too well for that.

“You gonna be a good boy and turn over without struggling for me?” Harry asks, holding Louis’ wrists a little tighter, a little more firmly. It eases the quiet, insistent thoughts that he’s not good enough, just that simple touch.

It doesn’t make it any easier to say whether he’ll let Harry turn him over easily or not, though, so he just shrugs, trying to blow his hair out of his face ineffectively. Normally Harry would take that as what it is and go to flip him over, but Harry lives to keep Louis in suspense, especially when they do this, so all he does is brush Louis’ hair out of his eyes with his free hand.

Louis snaps at it, trying to bite him just because, and Harry inhales sharply, pulling his hand out of the way and flips him fast and easy, and then holds him down so Louis is practically breathing in the fibers of the bedspread.

“Should have known that you wouldn’t want to be a good boy,” Harry says, which is so very different than you’re not being a good boy that Louis can barely cope with it sometimes, how easily Harry can read him and give him what he needs.

“I’’m always a good boy,” Louis tells the bedspread haughtily, but it comes out muffled, seeing as it’s a bedspread that’s half in his mouth.

Linen. Doesn’t taste so good.

“You pick and choose whether you want to be a good boy or not,” Harry corrects him, tapping him on the bum twice. “Let’s get these off, yeah?”

Louis’ face burns, but he lifts his hips anyway and lets Harry strip him of his sweatpants, leaving him completely exposed because of course Louis thought that this would be a great day to go commando.

And it’s too much to ask for Harry not to comment on it, so of course he says, “Look at you, turning into a proper slut when you think I’m gonna slap your arse. This just for me or would you give it up to anyone who asked?”

What the fuck. What the fuck. That’s so not an appropriate question to be asking someone, not an appropriate question to be asking Louis, and probably at least a little bit offensive, but all Louis does is press his face into the bedspread harder and rock his hips down because he can’t stay still, heat spreading through him like wildfire, cock perking up.

Stupid cock thinking stupid things are hot. What the fuck. “’m not a slut,” he chokes out, willing his face to become one with the bedspread.

“Course you aren’t, baby,” Harry says, all but crooning. He pets his fingers over the curve of Louis’ bare arse, almost instinctively, like his hand knows just how to pet him right. “Just a slut for me, right? Spread your legs whenever you think I want you to.”

Louis’ body only has time to freeze up in - shock, or something, before Harry’s spanking him, fast and even and not particularly hard. It’s hard enough to hurt, hard enough to have Louis gasping into the sheets, already getting a little damp with his spit, but nowhere near as hard as Harry can give it.

It takes all of five spanks before Louis starts failing to hold back the tears, sniffling loudly and pressing his eyes against his arm, willing them not to start so early.

“That’s it, sweetheart,” Harry says encouragingly, landing the slaps harder, making Louis’ bum ache in the best way. “Let it out for me, wanna hear it.”

Sometimes, nothing in Louis’ life makes sense. He’s somehow managed to get this massive career, a shit ton of money and the best boys in the world and there are moments when he still doesn’t understand how it happened, four years later. He still doesn’t particularly understand why he needs the things that he needs, why he wants the things that he wants.

Sometimes, Harry is the only thing that makes sense.

“Gonna cry for me, aren’t you,” Harry says, landing a particularly hard smack that has Louis gasping into the sheets, eyelashes getting damp from how much effort he’s putting into trying to hold it in.

“I’m not,” Louis says, but he already is, hot tears dripping out of the corners of his eyes. He can’t stand what Harry’s able to do to him, sometimes, gets this reaction out of him with barely any effort.

“You are,” Harry says, slapping him again. “You are, and you’re gorgeous when you cry, you know that? Can’t take my eyes off of you.”

Nothing in Louis’ life is fair. His best mate shouldn’t be able to do this to him with a little bit of spanking and the sound of his voice. It’s not fair, but it’s been happening more and more lately, and he’s made his peace with it, so the thought makes the tears slow. They don’t come to a complete stop, because Harry’s still spanking him and it hurts, but.

“You can come whenever you want, baby,” Harry murmurs, laying two spanks on top of each other so perfectly that Louis almost doesn’t even feel the second one.

Almost.

The words make him suddenly aware of exactly how hard he is, and it’s not like he hadn’t realized it before, but it draws all of his attention now, to the press of his cock against the bed, in between Harry’s slightly spread thighs. If he comes he’s going to get it all over the place, make a mess on Harry’s last pair of mostly clean jeans.

The only other option is to not come, though, and the noise that he makes at the thought of that actually has Harry’s hand stilling. “Alright?”

He says it in the tone of voice that demands an answer, sharp and implacable, the one he uses when he doesn’t want to let Louis escape.

“Alright, alright,” Louis manages, rocking his hips down so that the head of his cock drags across the sheets.

“Just can’t wait to come, huh,” Harry says, tone dropping back into that place that makes it impossible to ignore, impossible not to focus on. It’s not a question, but Louis finds himself nodding into the sheets anyway, curling his fingers into his palms. His cock has been hard for what feels like hours, ready to come the second that Harry -

Oh. The second that Harry does that.

He squeezes his eyes closed and fucks his hips down erratically, come being pushed out of him as Harry uses one hand to pull his cheeks apart and the other to land three slaps more or less against his hole, bruising and punishing and rewarding all at the same time.

“Yeah, baby, that’s it, you’re so good,” Harry’s murmuring, over and over, the words washing over Louis almost like white noise, if not for the fact that they’re all he can pay attention to. He’s good. He’s good and he’s Harry’s and that’s all that matters right now, head gone completely fuzzy with how much he’s feeling.

He’s still crying, a little bit, by the time Harry turns him over, hands gentle against his skin. He can feel Harry’s cock underneath his back, thick and warm and needing attention.

“You back with me?” Harry asks, but his voice hasn’t quite gone back to normal, still deep and authoritative in the way that he only gets when they’re like this.

It feels like the most natural thing in the world to try to turn back over and ease Harry’s cock out of his jeans, to put his mouth on it and let Harry grip him by the back of the neck and use him until he gets off, so that’s what he goes to do, all clumsy, slippery elbows before Harry catches him and lies him back down, safe in the cradle of Harry’s thighs.

“What are you doing?” he asks, but he’s clearly not expecting a response. He rubs his thumb over the corner of Louis’ mouth and sighs, a little, not unhappily. “You’re being silly again,” he observes, even though Louis isn’t.

Something in Louis’ chest isn’t sitting right, too heavy and sharp. That must be showing on his face, because Harry shifts his legs and leans down, until their mouths fit together naturally, easily, even though the angle is a little weird, and kisses him gently until Louis’ head has stopped spinning.

The first clear, rational thought Louis has is this is not how friends act.

Friends don’t spank each other until one comes with tears in the back of his throat. Friends don’t think that the only reasonable thing to do after being spanked until they’ve come is to turn over and try to suck their friend’s cock. Friends don’t kiss each other until the world stops feeling so floaty and golden. Friends don’t do any of these things.

Maybe they’re not friends.

 

Later, once he’s fully come up, he tries to push the thought to the back of his mind. Of course they’re friends - they’ve made their living off of being friends. Harry’s just doing him a favour until he can find someone he wants to date who will do it instead.

He decides that they should probably cut back, anyway. It’s getting kind of ridiculous, how much they’re doing it.

 

Cutting back lasts all of three days before Louis turns around during a show and catches a glimpse of a girl who could be Lottie, they look so similar, and his chest starts aching, right then and there.

He gets through the rest of the show okay, but that’s exactly what it is - getting through it. He’s lost all sense of fun, of joy that he normally gets performing. It starts feeling like a chore, which is the worst feeling in the world. Performing is his favourite part of all of this, hands down.

He doesn’t want to ask Harry to help him. He doesn’t want to, and he’s going to try not to, but he’s not sure how long he can hold out for.

There has to be a way to get this to feel better.

 

 

“Get in the corner, on your knees,” Harry says tightly. He’s not looking at Louis, so all Louis can see is his profile, but it’s enough to know that he’s angry, mouth turned down.

He’s angry with Louis. Normally when he’s angry with Louis it’s because Louis has been a brat all day on purpose, and he’s only angry because Louis just won’t fucking stop. This time he’s angry because Louis has been more than a brat, been so fucking rude to everyone that he’s literally made two people cry.

Normally Louis would feel bad about that, because he’s a menace, sure, but he’s not mean. He likes pulling pranks and getting the boys into trouble, but he can be handled. Harry normally knows how to handle him.

Lately, though, Harry’s been distracted, eyes always glued to his phone. Louis’ been drowning in his own head for days. Weeks, even.

Louis must not be moving fast enough. Harry’s hand lands heavily on the back of his neck, practically pushing him into the wall before the pressure becomes too much and Louis drops ungracefully to his knees.

“Don’t move,” Harry says, and then his hand lifts away. He goes to sit on the bed, and Louis kneels in the corner, facing the wall, every muscle in his body trying to twitch all at once.

He settles for curling and uncurling his fingers. He can hear the tapping of Harry’s fingers on his phone. He probably wouldn’t even notice if Louis shifted three feet to the left.

Louis grits his teeth and stares at the wallpaper, a deep navy blue flecked with gold. It’s ugly as hell and probably cost a thousand pounds for one piece. Fucking hotels.

The burning that’s usually on the back of Louis’ neck when he’s in this position isn’t there. Harry’s not touching him. Harry’s not even watching him, Louis realizes.

Of course he’s not. He wouldn’t have put Louis in the corner if he wanted to watch him. He put Louis in the corner because he wants him to be little and quiet and just not have to deal with him anymore.

The burning in his eyes gets so bad he has to close them. He rubs his sweaty palms over the rough denim of his jeans just to have something to feel. It doesn’t really help. All it does it clear the sweat from his hands.

He doesn’t know how long he kneels there for. He tries counting, the way Harry told him to, but that only makes him think about Harry trying to explain it to him that first time and that only makes him feel worse. He loses count after twenty-three, anyway, and then he tries to steady his breathing.

None of it works.

If he opened his mouth right now, he knows what would come out. It would be the first time that he ever used it, and he can’t stop the thought that it would be the last. Harry doesn’t want a sub that safewords out. Harry doesn’t want a sub period.

If Louis opened his mouth he could set Harry free from this entire situation. They could go back to how it was three years ago, when they were happy and they could laugh together and Louis ran himself ragged all the time, trying to keep it together for his mum and the girls, for the boys, for the crew, for everyone.

He’s not that selfless.

Instead, he keeps his eyes closed and keeps breathing and just. Waits.

It’s not easy. Louis has never been good at waiting, always a little too eager, a little too impatient. What he does with Harry, that doesn’t feel like waiting, not when he’s on his knees between Harry’s legs with his head on Harry’s thigh and Harry’s hand on the back of his neck, anchoring him there.

That feels like floating.

The carpet feels rough underneath his knees, scratchy. Now that he’s noticed it he can’t stop noticing it, how much it sucks even though he’s still wearing his jeans.

He tries to stay still, tries not to wiggle, because if he’s not good Harry will be even more pissed, but it’s hard. He shifts just the tiniest bit, trying to find a spot that isn’t quite as itchy, and doesn’t even notice how loud he’s being until the heat of Harry’s legs starts bleeding through his t-shirt, into his back.

“Louis, what’s wrong,” Harry demands, and he sounds kind of panicky, scared.

For the first time, Louis notices that his cheeks are wet, that his breathing is choppy, heavy. Harry sinks down behind him, until they’re pressed together back to chest.

He still can’t bring himself to open his mouth, scared that the only thing that he’s going to be able to say is cantaloupe.

“Baby,” Harry murmurs, and then his hands are at Louis’ waist, fingers slipping up underneath his shirt. It takes a second for Louis to get it, raising his arms just enough that Harry can tug his shirt over his head. The heat at his back disappears momentarily, but it comes back stronger than ever, bare skin slipping against bare skin.

Harry took off his shirt. It doesn’t make any sense to Louis until they’re moving, Harry’s hands linked around Louis’ stomach to coax him into it, and he ends up in Harry’s lap.

It’s better. It’s a lot fucking better, actually, skin to skin, but there’s still unease skittering down Louis’ spine, through his stomach. He keeps shifting, not entirely meaning to, until Harry goes for the button on his jeans.

He has to lift his hips to let Harry peel them down, and then stay there for another minute while Harry deals with his own jeans, which strains his abs and thigh muscles, but it’s so worth it to sink back down into Harry’s lap with barely anything between them.

All of a sudden everything feels fuzzier. Louis lets his head tip back onto Harry’s shoulder, lets his eyes slip closed, lets Harry put his hands back on his belly, practically covering him.

It’s cold in the room, air conditioning turned nearly all the way up, but Louis can barely feel it.

It takes a few minutes to realize that Harry’s tense, even in his fingers, resting on Louis’ stomach. “Wha’,” is all Louis can manage to slur out, but Harry must get it anyway, fingers petting at Louis’ skin absently.

“Why didn’t you use your word?”

If he wasn’t nearly down, Louis would be tensing at the question. As it is, his leg twitches a little. “Didn’t need to.”

Harry’s laugh is dry and humourless. “You were nearly hyperventilating.”

“I wasn’t,” Louis says. He feels a little more alert now, a little more aware, but he’s not willing to sacrifice his position and climb out of Harry’s lap.

“You were freaking out,” Harry counters. He doesn’t let go when Louis makes an aborted move to get up, locking his fingers together tighter.

Louis gives up on his half-hearted effort and slumps back into Harry’s hold. “I might have been freaking out a little,” he mutters.

“Don’t I fucking know it,” Harry mutters right back. If Louis had any energy he’d elbow him right in the ribs, but he doesn’t, so he stays where he is.

It’s not like it’s a hardship, anyway, being held in Harry’s lap. It’s not the first time he’s realized that, which is maybe a problem that he should be dealing with.

“I,” Louis starts. He stops for a minute, trying to gather his thoughts. Harry waits patiently, rubbing tiny little circles into Louis’ stomach. “It felt like you were ignoring me for a while before you even put me on my knees, and then you left me.”

He can hear Harry swallowing, and for a minute he’s worried that Harry’s going to say that he was right there, that he was only on the bed. That he never even left the room.

Instead, Harry says, “I’m sorry, baby, I’m so sorry,” clutching Louis to his chest even tighter, like he never wants to let him go.

And then Louis realizes that the urge to tip his head back and let Harry kiss him isn’t new.

He swallows and covers one of Harry’s hands with his own. “I know. Maybe we don’t try the corner thing again, though, yeah?”

It’s selfish, not telling Harry that things have changed. It’s selfish and he knows it, but he’s not ready to give this up. He’s not ready for what they have to end.

 

 

“What would you say,” Louis says slowly, “if I said that this not being a sexual thing for me isn’t entirely true?”

He keeps his head down, staring at the ground in between his knees. Harry’s hand tightens in his hair, only minutely, but doing this has only made it even easier for Louis to notice all of Harry’s tiny little movements. He’s not in the place that makes it easy to just listen, not quite, but he’s not sure that he could have found the courage to say it if he wasn’t on his knees.

“I would say,” Harry says, just as slowly as Louis had, “that I’m not surprised.”

Louis breathes evenly and keeps staring at the ground. The itch is still under his skin, begging for something that he can’t give in to quite yet. “Beyond getting off as a result of being spanked,” he clarifies.

“I think maybe we shouldn’t be having this conversation with you on your knees,” Harry says. His hand is still heavy on Louis’ head, though, keeping him on his knees.

There’s a part of Louis that’s dying to look up, to see if Harry’s as affected by this as Louis thinks he is. It’s strange, being on his knees like this but not in that weird place that Harry always tries to make him call subspace. It’s not clearer, necessarily, but the rest of the room is filtering through his senses in a way that it never does when he’s in this position.

The sound of the telly, long since forgotten about, playing a B-list horror film in the background is distracting. The carpet is scratchy underneath his bare knees, probably just in this one specific spot. He can feel his jeans crumpled up in a heap beside him, denim rubbing against his leg every time he takes a breath.

It’s not that he wouldn’t notice all of these things, normally. He just wouldn’t notice all of these things at once.

He takes another breath and says, “I think that maybe the only way that I can have this conversation is on my knees.”

Harry’s silent for a minute, still except for the slow, gentle scratching against Louis’ scalp. “I could make you, if it’d be easier.”

Louis sucks his bottom lip into his mouth and stops resisting the urge to rub his face against Harry’s jean-clad thigh. “Dunno.”

“Don’t know if you want me to make you, or don’t know if me making you would be easier?” Harry asks. Louis shrugs a little, pushing his face into Harry’s leg harder. He’s almost in that place now, the place where thinking gets so much easier because he only has to think about what Harry’s telling him to do.

“Dunno,” he repeats, voice wavering a little. He can’t come up with the words to tell Harry what he needs. That’s always been the most frustrating part of this, not knowing how to ask for what he needs, or least not knowing how to ask for what he needs until he’s so far in that he doesn’t even really realize that he’s asking for it.

He doesn’t realize how much he’s moving until Harry’s hand tightens in his hair again, pressing down firmly. “Stop fidgeting.”

It’s harder than it normally is, coming to a stop. There’s tears prickling behind his eyelids, and he feels so out of his skin that he thinks he might be going crazy with it. It isn’t the type of going out of his skin that he normally feels when he’s like this, on his knees in front of Harry.

The problem is that Harry has always made him feel safe, like he’s not a freak for needing what he needs. There’s probably someone out there who can make him feel like that who’s not his best mate, but every time he thinks about it he gets a little panicky, scared. It took him nearly three months to even get up the courage to bring this up, and he couldn’t even muster up the courage to do it when he’s not on his knees. It’s just.

He doesn’t think that he’s a freak for wanting this, at least not most of the time, but it’s undeniably hard to explain. It’s never been this hard to talk about before - and they’ve had countless conversations about it - but maybe that’s because Louis is asking for something different, now.

“Do you know what you need?” Harry asks gently, and part of Louis hopes that he’s going to continue and just tell him.

It’s not the tone that he uses when they do this, though, not the tone that gets that part of Louis to relax without even questioning it. “No,” Louis chokes out, and he can’t stop the tears from coming anymore.

There’s a dull thud as Harry drops down onto the ground beside him, big hands coming up to frame Louis’ face immediately. “We’ll figure it out,” he says a little desperately, because Louis is crying and Harry has never been able to ignore Louis being sad.

“We’ll figure it out,” Harry repeats, and Louis tries to believe him.

 

 

There’s a part of Louis that’s all but screaming that he shouldn’t be doing this, that he doesn’t need to be doing this when there’s someone waiting for him at home who can do it better, easier, and that part is so commanding that he feels like he’s drowning with it.

They’ve agreed that he needs to try, though, because they’re too codependent as it is and this entire thing is only making them worse at not being together.

“On your knees,” Mark says. There’s no hint of uncertainty in his voice, no hesitance. He knows what he wants Louis to do.

Louis doesn’t want to do it.

He does it anyway, because part of trying means really, actually trying, but he can’t deny that the way he does it is sullen, ungrateful. “Tell me the word,” Mark says, voice a little softer.

Louis’ eyes prickle a little. This is what he’s wanted for so long and now he’s chickening out. It’s not fair. Some days it feels like he’s going to crawl out of his skin unless he gets it and now that he finally has the opportunity his brain is rebelling.

“Cantaloupe,” Louis says, curling his fingers into his palms.

Mark’s quiet for a minute. “Okay. Now tell me the word again if you think that maybe you don’t want to do this.”

This should be the point at which Louis firmly, decisively keeps his mouth shut. It’s not like he won’t be able to use the word later if he needs to, and he trusts Mark to stop immediately if he does. It took a lot of research, a lot of searching to find him, but he’s a great dom. He’s the best dom that they could find, experienced and authoritative, and Louis is lucky that he agreed to give it a shot, because if any of this ever came out it would be both of their careers on the line.

“Cantaloupe,” Louis repeats. Mark takes three steps back and sits down on the floor, cross-legged.

“Do you want to talk about it?” he prompts. Louis breathes for a minute, in and out, looking at his own fingernails pressing indents into his palms. He doesn’t want to talk about it, not really, but if he doesn’t talk about it to Mark the only other person he could talk about it to is Harry, and that’s not an option.

“It’s so much easier to go under if it’s him,” he says eventually. He sits back onto his heels and continues not looking at Mark’s face, unsure of what he might find there.

Mark’s quiet for a long minute. “I’m not trying to make you feel bad or anything, but you know that it’s normal for a sub not to go under with a dom they’ve never played with right away, right? It takes some people a long time to get there. Some people don’t get there, and there’s nothing wrong with that. A lot of it has to do with compatibility.”

Louis wets his lips. “And if I said that sometimes it’s hard not to get there when he touches me, regardless of how he’s touching me?”

The silence is longer this time, stretching on for what seems like eons. “Please don’t take this the wrong way,” Mark says. “But would you like to get a cup of coffee?”

 

Half an hour later, with his hands wrapped around the shittiest tasting tea he’s ever had, Louis quirks an eyebrow and waits not so patiently for Mark to start talking.

It’s a lot different, being out with him in the light of day, in a place where anyone could wander by, see them, and take a picture. Less dangerous, sure, but at the same time scarier. The circles that Mark runs in tend to be close knit, almost incestuous. They talk, is the point, and the talk would inevitably be about Louis Tomlinson of One Direction sitting in a coffeeshop with a well known dom.

But less dangerous because there’s no risk of anything happening here.

“When you say that it’s hard not to get there when he touches you, what do you mean?” Mark asks finally.

Louis hesitates for a second. It’s hard sometimes, knowing who to trust, especially about something like this, something that means so much.

There’s a certain point at which there’s no one else to turn to, though. “Like if we weren’t in the middle of a public place I would just drop without him even having to ask.”

The look on Mark’s face is slightly unbelieving, but in for a penny, in for a pound, right? There’s no point in pretending that Mark doesn’t know exactly who Louis is talking about, anyway. “Like I would blow him in the middle of a show with sixty thousand teenage girls screaming around us if he told me to without even second thinking it.”

“Okay,” Mark says, dipping his head a little. The sunlight streaming in from the window catches on his face, and for a minute Louis really wishes that he was capable of going through with it. Mark is a very attractive person. “Let me just preface this by saying that I’ve been a dom for nearly ten years and I have never had a sub react to me like that.”

The confusion must be showing in Louis’ face. “So viscerally,” Mark clarifies. “It’s in your entire body when you talk about it, like if he was here the thought would cross your mind to let him play with you however he wants.”

It’s like someone finally understands. “It would,” Louis agrees, and takes another sip of his tea to hide the way his mouth is trembling.

“The problem with that is that it doesn’t sound like he’s aware of it,” Mark says.

Louis allows himself two seconds to breathe, deep and even. “Not viscerally.”

“And when you think about letting someone else dom you, you feel?” Mark asks, letting the question trail off at the end.

It doesn’t take much thinking at all to know the answer. “Sick. Sad. Scared. Unfaithful.”

“Unfaithful is an interesting word to use when it was his idea that you try this,” Mark says gently. Louis takes another slow sip of his tea and lowers his gaze to the table.

“Unfaithful,” he repeats. “Out of the last five kisses I’ve had three of them were from him, did you know that? And the other two felt like I was doing something wrong.”

Across the table, Mark fidgets. “I can’t not ask after you’ve said that, and please feel free to tell me to fuck off, but are we talking about kisses on the mouth here? Are we talking about full on kisses with tongue?”

Louis has to laugh. It’s a good ice breaker, even if Mark didn’t mean it to be. “Just on the mouth. No tongue.”

Mark blinks once, and it’s not hard to figure out that he’s picturing it. Louis takes a second to feel flattered, because as uninterested as he is Mark is still quite attractive and a dom. Louis is practically hard wired to respond to Harry at this point, but there’s the tiniest little part of him that likes having any dom’s attention on him.

“Tell me again what exactly he does for you,” Mark says, enough of his dom voice in it that Louis shivers, just a little. Harry has a dom voice, too, not that he even seems to realize it.

It’s a hard question to answer. Eventually, what Louis comes up with is, “He makes me feel safe.”

“Safe to do what?” Mark prompts.

Louis drains the rest of his cold tea just to have something to do with his hands. It gives him a little bit of time to think, but it doesn’t bring him any closer to having an answer that makes sense outside of his brain.

“Safe to just be,” Louis answers finally.

It’s a shitty answer, but Mark’s face clears a little, like he understands. “Let me ask you this,” he says. “He said on the phone that the only time that he couldn’t get you there was when he wasn’t touching you.”

“That’s not a question,” Louis says, a little weakly.

“It’s not,” Mark agrees. “The question is why he couldn’t get you there that time.”

There’s something slightly judgmental in his tone. Louis has never taken very well to being criticized, and even less well to Harry being criticized, and he gets defensive easily, he knows.

That’s why, when he opens his mouth, “He knows what I need,” comes out, entirely too sharply.

Mark holds his hands up, placating. “I’m not suggesting that he doesn’t. I’m just asking how he knows what you need and why that time was different.”

Louis deflates. “He knows because he knows me.”

“And you tell him,” Mark says. He’s not asking, so the answer must have been written all over Louis’ face the entire time.

“And I tell him,” Louis says. “Sometimes. That time was different because we were already fighting.”

“He said that you were fighting because you wouldn’t let him touch you,” Mark says evenly.

Louis fidgets in his seat. “We were fighting because I wouldn’t let him touch me.”

“You wouldn’t let him touch you but you said that you always want to be on your knees for him.”

It’s not what Louis said, actually, but it’s close enough that it doesn’t matter. “Yeah, well, if he had have been paying attention maybe I would have let him touch me,” Louis mutters.

“Most of the time, if a D/s relationship isn’t sexual, it’s service oriented,” Mark says, like it’s going somewhere relevent. “The sub usually follows domestic orders, like doing the laundry or the dishes, or cleaning, that kind of thing. From what I understand you don’t do any of that on a regular basis.”

“We’re not most people,” Louis says. It feels like his voice is getting smaller by the minute.

“You’re not,” Mark agrees. “But has it ever occurred to you that yours isn’t service oriented because you want it to be sexual?”

Never mind his voice, it feels like Louis is getting smaller by the second. “That’s why I came to you.”

“You came to me for a intro session,” Mark corrects, “to see if we were compatible and if we would move beyond that. You don’t have to feel guilty about not going through with it. You’re not the first person who’s flaked out. Hell, you’re not even the first sub who’s flaked out.”

Guilt? Sure, Louis feels guilt. Guilt for asking Harry to do this in the first place. Guilt for letting things go so far that he needs more than what Harry’s willing to give him. Guilt for needing so much that Harry had to find him a dom who could try to give him what he needs.

He doesn’t feel guilty at the thought of having disappointed Mark.

“I don’t,” Louis starts, and then completely abandons that train of thought. He has a more important question on his mind, one that’s been niggling at the back of his head for a while now. “Am I even a sub?”

Mark sighs, but it doesn’t sound exasperated or impatient. It sounds kind of sad. “You’re really the only person who can answer that. I can give you a bit of a hand figuring it out, if you’d like.”

At Louis’ nod, he continues. “How long have you been doing this with Harry?”

The question throws him. He knows the answer, of course he does, but he doesn’t understand what Harry has to do with him being a sub. “A little less than two years.”

Hearing it out loud makes him baffle, a little. He hadn’t really started needing it until they were touring the Up All Night album, and obviously they weren’t doing it every day, but.

Louis has spent a substantial amount of time being dommed by his best friend.

“Right. And did you initiate it, or did he?”

“I did. Or, well. I mostly did, I guess? He did things without really realizing what he was doing, for a while, because he wanted to help me, and then things went a little too far one day and he ended up holding me for like, twenty minutes while I was all spacey and out of it. The next day I asked him if he thought that he’d be able to do it again.”

Mark’s watching him, expression mostly unreadable. “And how old was he when this started?”

Jesus. Way to lay on the guilt trip. “Seventeen. I was nineteen.” Louis fidgets a little. It sounds bad out loud, the fact that Louis was nineteen and needed this so badly for someone who couldn’t even legally purchase alcohol.

“Considering what the two of you have had to work with, you’ve done a remarkably good job at not fucking each other up,” Mark says. Louis barely has time to blink before he’s continuing, “I can’t even imagine being seventeen years old and having the entire world watching your every move, much less all of that and trying to be a good dom for someone. He’s got a lot of natural ability.”

The tightness in Louis’ chest eases, a little. “It wasn’t all smooth sailing. We had our fair share of hiccups, but we got past them okay.”

“Mm. I imagine that by ‘our fair share of hiccups’ you mean that you put him through his paces. You strike me as a little bit of a spitfire,” Mark says, quirking a tiny little grin.

Louis shrugs. “There’s times that I definitely could have made it easier on him.”

“But the only time that he really couldn’t get you there is when you were already fighting,” Mark says. “Normally in a situation like this one of my biggest concerns would be whether the sub trusts and respects the dom enough to let go, but I don’t think that’s your problem.”

Trust has never been their problem. Respect has never been their problem. “It’s not,” Louis says. He wishes absently for another cup of tea, something to steady his nerves. “But we’re still struggling.”

“Are you both struggling, though?” Mark asks pointedly. “Or is it just you?”

Two years worth of memories flit through Louis’ brain - playing Madison Square Garden and being so hyped up for a week afterwards that Harry had to pin him down to the bed and spank him for a solid twenty minutes and how that had only worked when he’d held Louis there for an hour afterwards, fingers ghosting in between his bum cheeks; moving into his own house and spending the first night lying in his bed cold and alone until he’d picked up the phone and called Harry just to listen to him breathe; recording his parts for all of the albums with Harry waiting outside, slumped against a wall and fucking around on his phone no matter how tired he was; spending pretty much an entire day driving from Doncaster to London and then back to Doncaster because he’d forgotten his phone with Harry complaining in the passenger seat until Louis had stopped in Nottingham to see the National Ice Centre, despite the fact that it was closed and they couldn’t get in anyway.

Two years worth of memories of Harry being the first person that Louis goes to whenever something is wrong, whenever he needs something, anything. Harry is the person Louis goes to get something fixed, regardless of how feasible that actually is, and for the first time he wonders how much of that is because he asked Harry to take care of him and how much of it is because it’s Harry.

“What I struggle with,” Louis says slowly, tightening his fingers around his empty cup, “is the idea that one day he won’t be the person that I go to for this anymore.”

“And does he struggle with the same thing?” Mark asks.

“I don’t know,” Louis says, and that’s the entire problem right there. “I don’t know.”

 

He still feels shaky and a unsure by the time he lets himself back into the flat. He’s expecting it to be dark and quiet, for Harry to be hiding at one of his friend’s houses. They agreed that they should spend time apart, to try to be less co-dependent, and that Harry shouldn’t be there when Louis got home.

The lights are all on, telly blaring loud enough that Louis can hear it from the hallway. He leans his head against the door after it’s closed behind him, toeing off his shoes slowly. He leaves them where they fall, like he always does, like Harry always yells at him for, and heads to the living room slowly, taking his time.

He’s not entirely sure why Harry’s here. He’s been let off the hook - he doesn’t have to do this for Louis right now. Him being here has Louis’ palms sweaty, his pulse picking up.

Harry’s slumped on the couch, feet bare, wearing a pair of trackies so old that Louis can see the shape of his cock underneath them. It’s nothing new. It’s a sight Louis sees nearly every day, but his breath still catches, just the tiniest bit.

Harry must be half asleep or something, because Louis makes it half way across the room before he moves. Then he’s up, shoving himself off the couch so fast Louis gets a little bit of whiplash, crossing the rest of the room in three steps and taking Louis’ face in between his hands.

“Did you,” he starts. “What did you do?”

They agreed that they would spend a couple of days apart, that they wouldn’t talk about Louis going out to meet a new dom until he’s had a couple of days to think it over, to figure out whether he wants to keep going. Harry’s not supposed to be asking these questions.

Harry’s not supposed to be here right now.

That doesn’t mean that Louis isn’t going to answer him. “We talked,” he says, putting his hands over Harry’s just so he have something to ground him.

“You talked,” Harry echoes. “What did you talk about?”

It’s so like him to be asking questions after they’ve agreed to radio silence. Louis huffs out a little laugh, because he has to, even though this conversation is getting less and less funny by the second.

“We talked about whether I’m a sub.”

Harry’s hands twitch. “You are a sub.” His voice comes out confident, assured. Louis doesn’t know how he’s so sure of this when Louis wasn’t.

He’s right, though, so Louis takes a breath and answers. “I am.”

It’s hard for Louis to sub for someone else, for anyone other than Harry. He doesn’t trust easily. He’s been taught not to trust easily, in the position that he’s in, and he thinks that’s okay.

“You are,” Harry says. He sounds upset. “Did you doubt that?” Did I make you doubt that goes unspoken. Louis hears it anyway.

He struggles for the explanation the same way that he always does before he finds his words. “I didn’t doubt it because of anything you did. I doubted it because what I want doesn’t fit into D/s neatly, and that was hard to understand for so long.”

Harry’s hands drop from Louis’ face, and he takes a step back. He looks even more upset now. “You’re a perfect sub.”

He’s really fucking not. He’s stubborn, and mouthy, and he wants to be convinced to do what Harry tells him to, and he wants someone to take care of him more than he wants to please.

All that being said, the urge he gets to let Harry fuck his mouth sometimes is a pretty strong need to please, he thinks.

He can’t keep doing this to himself, though, and he knows that he can’t keep doing this to himself. There’s no universe in which he wants to be the one to say it, but he’s only hurting himself, and maybe Harry by letting things go on like this.

“What are we doing here, Harry?”

Harry doesn’t miss a beat. “I’m trying to tell you that I don’t want other guys domming you and failing miserably, I think.”

Louis’ pulse skyrockets. “Because you’re my first dom?”

“Maybe,” Harry says, considering the question carefully. “Think it might have more to do with the fact that I visualized some guy fucking you and nearly threw up.”

Louis’ not quite sure what to make of that, and it must show in his face. “Because the thought of someone else touching you like that makes me sick to my stomach,” Harry adds, but it’s still not helping. “Because I want to be the only person who touches you like that.”

Oh.

“What I want,” Louis says carefully, “is to be in a monogamous relationship with a guy who will dom me sometimes but not all the time, only when I need it. Or want it, I guess.”

“What I want,” Harry says, mimicking Louis’ careful tone. Louis isn’t sure whether he’s doing it on purpose or not, and it gets underneath his skin, a little. “Is to be in a monogamous relationship with a guy who wants me to dom him and who trusts me to dom him.”

All they are doing is talking in circles, and it’s frustrating and annoying and irritating but Louis can’t bring himself to be the one who ends it.

Until he thinks about their relationship stagnating even more and being stuck in this awkward place indefinitely. “Do you want that boy to be me?” he asks finally. He almost doesn’t want to hear the answer, not sure that he’s ready for it.

“I can’t imagine that boy being anyone but you,” Harry says. “We’re weirdly co-dependent, you’re the only person I’ve ever dommed, and then there’s the little thing where I’m in love with you.”

The only thing that Louis can do is blink - slow at first, then faster, heavier. “You’re in love with me,” he repeats blankly.

Harry’s watching him process the information. Louis is aware of him watching, but in Louis’ defense, it’s a shitload of information to process. He’s racking his brain, trying to figure out what he should say, but there’s only one thing that he keeps circling back to. “How long have you been in love with me for?”

“I think I’ve been at least a little bit in love with you since you tried to convince me that there was pirate treasure buried on the X-Factor property,” Harry says, which. That was one of the first conversations they ever had, right after that weird as fuck meeting in the toilets where they couldn’t stop staring at each other.

None of that seems as important as addressing the most obvious flaw in Harry’s statement. “There is pirate treasure buried on the X-Factor property and I still don’t understand why you wouldn’t let me search for it.”

“Because pirates didn’t actually bury their treasure, Louis,” Harry says, rolling his eyes. They’ve had this exact same argument a million times, but it feels safe, familiar. Comfortable.

“You don’t know that. Were you a pirate in the 1600’s?” Louis demands. “No, you weren’t even alive in the 1600’s. Unless you’re immortal or a time traveler, and I don’t think you would have been able to keep it to yourself if you were either of those.”

“First of all,” Harry begins, hint of a smirk tugging at the corners of his lips, “I totally would be able to keep it to myself because if I ever told you you’d never stop going on about how unfair it was.”

Louis scoffs. Harry ignores it and continues, “And secondly, there’s a reason that no one finds any buried pirate treasure and that’s because it doesn’t exist.”

“It does too exist,” Louis mutters. He can read the uncertainty on Harry’s face clear as day, because he still hasn’t really addressed the part where Harry said that he loves him, but. It’s fucking hard, even though he knows where this is going.

Probably it’ll be easier if he just does it the same way he does everything else, headfirst and reckless, so that’s what he goes with, blurting out, “I love you,” and then staring at Harry with wide eyes.

“You love me,” Harry repeats, sounding just as blank as Louis had.

“Kind of a ridiculous amount,” Louis confirms.

“Is it weird that I was expecting that almost as much as I wasn’t?” Harry wonders. He makes an idle grab for Louis’ wrists when Louis goes to turn away, one that only succeeds because Louis is so fucking easy for him. He tugs Louis back into his body, fitting their hips together in a way that should really feel more shockingly intimate than it does.

Louis is used to it, so it mostly feels comfortable and familiar. “I dunno. Maybe.”

“I think I’m going to kiss you now,” Harry says contemplatively. “Like, properly kiss you. You good with that?”

Alright, maybe this position is not as comfortable and familiar as Louis was thinking. Harry can feel every tiny little movement he makes, and the words have him squirming.

Harry must be used to him squirming after all this time. He doesn’t do anything about it, aside from put a hand in the small of Louis’ back, but that only deters the squirming a little.

“I don’t want your nasty germs all over me,” Louis says, because he can’t just go along with whatever Harry wants whenever Harry wants it.

“You’re gonna have all of my nasty germs all over you,” Harry murmurs. “You’re gonna have all of my nasty germs in you.”

Louis’ breath catches. He’s thought about it - of course he’s fucking thought about it, because what is gay sex without come - but he never specifically thought about it happening with Harry.

Until now, and now he can’t get the thoughts to stop.

“If you want,” Harry adds, like he thinks that’s the problem. “If you don’t want to then we won’t. It won’t matter to me.”

Please. Louis knows him better than that. “You want to watch your come leaking out of me.”

When he looks up, Harry’s trying to force down his smile, dimples and all, chewing on his thumbnail. “Well, you can’t exactly blame me. Can you imagine how pretty that would be?”

Louis doesn’t understand the inside of his head, sometimes. He’s asking Louis if Louis thinks that it would be visually appealing to have come leaking out of him when it would be Louis who has the come leaking out of him and therefore unable to see it.

“Not really,” he says. “I’m pretty sure that you can imagine it well enough for the both of us, though.”

“Sometimes I wonder why I love you,” Harry says. Louis doesn’t get a chance to get his admittedly scathing comeback out before Harry’s kissing him, one hand spread out on the small of Louis’ back and the other curved around his jaw. It’s pretty much exactly where Louis likes to be touched most when he’s kissing someone.

Harry’s learning curve is insane. Louis should have clued in to that a while ago, though, when it took him all of five minutes to figure out what Louis needs when he’s being dommed.

The kiss is amazing and wet and wonderful and full of heat and only lasts for a couple of minutes before Harry’s pulling away, entirely too soon. Louis is left blinking slowly, fingers still tangled in Harry’s shirt.

“I really want to have sex with you,” Harry says. He’s never been particularly secretive, at least not with Louis, but that’s more blunt than he normally is.

Still. “We should do that. We should do that right now.”

“The problem is,” Harry starts, dragging his fingertips across Louis’ cheek gently. “The problem is that I really want to dom you and I don’t think that it’s really a good idea to be doing that before we have a chance to talk about how it’s going to be different.”

Louis has had a lot of time to think about it, but for some reason the thought that it’s going to be different when they have sex has never occurred to him. “It’s going to be different?”

“Different than how you normally have sex, definitely,” Harry says. He doesn’t even have to think about it, which probably means that he’s thought about it before. “Different than how I dommed you before, too.”

That’s so. Louis is torn. On one hand, he wants to know exactly how it’s going to be different than what they had before, but on the other hand, sex.

It’s a toss-up, really.

Or. Maybe it’s not. “What if you only dommed me a little?”

“What do you mean?” Harry asks. There’s an interested glint in his eyes, one that has Louis shivering a little already.

God. The sex is going to be so good. “I dunno, like. You could tell me what to do and shit.”

“Do you really think that any sex we have wouldn’t be like that already?” Harry asks, voice dropping. It’s totally his sex voice, which is so similar to his dom voice that for a minute Louis can’t tell them apart.

There’s a point to be made here, as much as Louis just wants to go belly-up, instead. “We could have sex where I was in charge. We could have sex where I top, even.”

“No,” Harry says, shaking his head. He starts pushing Louis backwards, knees bumping against each other’s as they go, they’re so close. “You want to be taken care of when you have sex. You want to be taken care of by me when you have sex.”

“I want,” Louis says, blinking. He can’t think of anything else to add that would make sense, so he changes direction. “You could ride me and still be taking care of me.”

“I know what you want,” Harry murmurs, reaching out to touch Louis’ mouth again, like he can’t stop himself. “You want me to fuck you, and you want me to dom you, and you want me to take care of you. It’s not that complicated.”

Louis swallows. “If it’s not that complicated then why can’t we just do it?”

“Because we have to have another talk, first,” Harry says. “The things I want to do to you, they’re not - I have to know that you want them too.”

“I want them,” Louis says immediately. He can’t think of anything that Harry would want that he wouldn’t want.

“You can’t know that,” Harry says, but he already looks like he’s on the cusp of giving in.

If Louis pushes it he’ll probably get what he wants. “I know that you want to fuck me until the only word that I remember is your name,” Louis says, hooking his fingers into the waist of Harry’s sweats. “I know that you want to finger me until I cry. I know that you want to hold me down while I suck your cock until I can barely breathe but I’ll keep doing it because I want to do it for you.”

He starts inching the sweats down, easing them past Harry’s hipbones. It seems like it’s actually going to work for a brief, glorious second, the beginning of Harry’s pubic hair peeking out.

Then Harry grabs Louis’ wrist firmly and pins it to own belly. Louis flattens his fingers out and adopts his most innocent look.

Okay, his third most innocent look. No reason to bust out the most innocent one when it’s pretty clearly not going to work.

“Do you want me to tie you up and not let you come?” Harry demands. A little shiver goes through Louis’ spine, but not the good kind of shiver.

“You don’t want to do that,” Louis says. He gains a little more certainty. “You want to see how many times you can make me come.”

Harry’s gaze turns smoky just like that. “We’re getting so off track,” he says, shaking his head.

“Talking about how you’re gonna make me come is getting off track?” Louis asks, raising an eyebrow.

“When you keep trying to goad me into domming you before we’ve even talked about it it is,” Harry says. “I’m not going to dom you tonight. I’m also not going to fuck you tonight, so you can get that out of your head.”

That is completely unacceptable. Louis has been waiting four years for this, even if it took him a while to realize that he needs it to be with Harry. So no. They are definitely fucking tonight.

“That isn’t to say that I’m not going to get you off tonight,” Harry murmurs, dropping back into his dom voice so fast Louis gets a little dizzy from how abruptly his knees try to buckle.

Most of him wants to close his eyes, tilt his chin up a little and let Harry do whatever he wants. There’s a small part of him that doesn’t want to give in so easily, though, and the desire to make Harry work for it will always win out over his desire to good.

What kind of dom would Harry be if he couldn’t make Louis want to do what he says, anyway. A pretty shit one, that’s what.

“How?” Louis asks. He lets his eyes close but doesn’t tip his head back, doesn’t bare his throat.

So at least there’s that. “Gonna make you sit on my lap, get us both off together,” Harry says. “Gonna get your hand around us both, stroke both our cocks until you can’t stop yourself from coming. You wanna do that?”

And just like that, Louis loses it for a little bit. He’s vaguely aware of Harry getting them naked, and getting the lube, and putting a finger in him, but he’s floating the entire time, overwhelmed by knowing that Harry loves him.

He comes back to himself eventually, when Harry stops moving his finger, tucked up in Louis’ arse.

“In me, in me, in me,” Louis begs, fingers scrabbling across the back of Harry’s shoulders, trying to pull him down, pull him closer.

“I am in you,” Harry murmurs, twisting his fingers until he’s got them rubbing up against Louis’ prostate so insistently that his legs try to spread even more, even though Harry’s got him all stretched out already.

They weren’t meant to be doing this, but it’s already spiraled so far out of control it might as well get a little further, right?

“Properly,” Louis says on an exhale, all the air trying to escape his lungs from how good it feels. How much he wants to come. How much he wants to come with Harry’s cock in his arse.

“I am in you properly,” Harry says, brushing his mouth across the corner of Louis’, open and wet. “Can’t you feel me?” He does something that has Louis’ back arching, trying to get more of it at the same time as he’s trying to get away from it, something that hurts a little but hurts so fucking good.

Louis is heading towards that spacey place so quickly that he might as well be flying towards it. “Barely,” he manages, clenching around Harry’s fingers like that will goad him into slicking up his cock or something.

“Yeah?” Harry asks, pulling his fingers out a little, enough that the insane pressure eases. Louis sinks a little further into the bed, not sure if he’s happy about it or not.

It’s hard to concentrate on the conversation when he’s full with two of Harry’s fingers. “Yeah.”

“You’re making noise like you can feel me,” Harry points out, pushing back in all the way so slowly Louis can feel every ridge of his fingers. “But you’re forgetting that you don’t get to choose how you get off. I choose how you get off, baby, and if I only want to give you two fingers you’re only going to get two fingers.”

The thing that Louis doesn’t understand the most is how Harry always knows exactly what will get to him, exactly what to say to get his cock leaking steadily, even before they decided to do any of this.

For a second, Louis thinks that Harry’s confidence has faltered. His fingers slow, almost to the point of not moving, for long enough that Louis starts the laborious task of pushing himself up onto his elbows.

He collapses back down again immediately, arms splayed out. He feels like a sacrifice, and he must look it, too. “What’re you gonna do with that.”

Harry’s fingers start moving again, stroking inside of him slowly and carefully. He presses a kiss to Louis’ hipbone, just shy of his cock, and answers, “Gonna fuck you with it.”

Louis’ voice is croaky when he says, “Thought I was only getting two fingers.”

“Mm,” Harry mumbles, distracted. His fingers slow again while he fiddles with something out of Louis’ line of sight. “Was only gonna give you two fingers but then I realized that I wanna watch you get fucked.”

The cool silicone of the vibrator nudges up against his rim before Harry’s even finished slipping his fingers out. It’s Louis’ favourite one, the one that’s getting to be a little worn down, and he can’t let himself think about what it means that Harry knew to pick this one out or else he’ll come.

“Gonna look so pretty, all stuffed full of cock,” Harry says dreamily, even as he’s pushing it in. Louis blinks, mouth open, fingers curled into his palms. “Doesn’t even have to be a real cock, just wanna see you all spread out and nowhere to go except further down.”

For a split second, it seems like Harry’s gone off to a place in his head where there’s only images of Louis naked and being fucked, and that’s not good, considering the type of relationship they have, but then the vibrator’s all the way in, thick and still off but so familiar.

Louis’ experiences with real cocks in his arse are few and far between.

Then Harry twists it a little, suddenly and surely. “Are you paying attention?” he asks, still a little bit dreamy but clearly so capable of taking care of Louis that it doesn’t even matter.

“Attention,” Louis repeats stupidly. His legs spasms, and he abruptly wants to be kissed so bad that everything else takes a back seat. “Kiss me.”

He’s barely gotten the words out before Harry’s crawling back up his body, letting go of the vibrator altogether in favour of pressing their mouths together, slipping one hand underneath the back of Louis’ head and keeping him still.

Well. Keeping his head still. There’s no controlling his hips, not with the way the toy is sitting just right inside of him, not with the way Harry’s pressing him down into the bed, hot, hard cock begging to be let out of its confines and play on Louis’ skin. Come on Louis’ skin.

“Be still for me, baby,” Harry says into Louis’ mouth, pushing a hand in between them and laying it on Louis’ upper thigh, and all of a sudden it’s so much easier to stay still and let Harry kiss him, let Harry tongue open his mouth gently, sweetly. The kiss is simple and warm, so completely not filthy, even though Harry just spent twenty minutes fingering Louis until he begged for something more.

Most of the reading Louis has done would say that this is no way to treat a sub, to give in to what they want. Most of the reading says that it would spoil them, teach them that they’re going to get what they want with a little bit of whining. Louis still doesn’t know that their relationship is going to fit neatly into the parameters of a D/s relationship, but he does know that Harry will always give him what he needs.

Harry doesn’t break the kiss as he reaches down between them and flicks the vibrator on, setting it to its medium speed without even asking Louis if that’s too much.

It’s different than how Louis normally fucks himself with this particular vibrator - he normally starts off slow and gentle and only turns it up when he can’t take it anymore, until he gets so desperate to come that he can’t stop himself from turning it up.

Harry really knows what he’s doing. Louis is already that desperate, trying to grind up into Harry’s stomach even though Harry’s weight is mostly pinning him down, vibrator humming away, not even hitting Louis’ prostate but it’s almost enough.

“Yeah, sweetheart, gonna show me how pretty you are when you come,” Harry says, and Louis would make some sort of snarky comment about Harry not even seeing him come when they’re so close, mouths still pressed together, but he’s too busy shuddering his way through his orgasm.

Harry kisses him through it, even though Louis isn’t capable of doing any more than letting him slip his tongue into Louis’ mouth, fingers trying to find a hold in Harry’s skin.

It takes him a few minutes to be able to blink his eyes open again, barely even conscious of the way his cock has gone soft and the vibrator still doing its thing inside of him. He’s entirely aware of the feeling of Harry’s cock pressing into his thigh, though, even through Harry’s pants.

“You want me to take it out?” Harry asks, tapping the base of the vibrator, buried in between his cheeks.

For a second Louis can’t decide. If they leave it in he could probably get off a second time, already a little squirmy again from how good it feels, but if they take it out he could probably convince Harry to let him suck his cock.

He could suck Harry’s cock with it still in, but that’s bound to make him even more spacey than he is right now, and he wants to be able to concentrate at least a little the first time he gets Harry’s cock in his mouth.

“Out, please,” he answers, because there’s really only one answer to that question if cocksucking is on the line.

Harry makes a noise into Louis’ mouth as he pulls it out, probably a result of the noise that Louis makes, a little whimpery and lost. Once it’s entirely out he feels empty, not entirely sated.

“Gonna suck your cock,” Louis announces, because it feels like something that needs to be announced, and tries to push Harry off of him.

He should have seen Harry’s immediate reaction of kissing him harder coming, but he doesn’t, so he just lies there and takes it for a minute, letting Harry hold him by the jaw and lick into Louis’ mouth intensely.

His wiggling gets too frantic after a minute, which was the intention, enough that Harry pulls back enough that there’s a couple inches of space between their faces, and says, “You really want to do that?”

Like he doesn’t know that Louis has spent a ridiculous amount of time visualizing exactly what it would be like, having Harry fucking his mouth. He rolls his eyes and shoves at Harry’s chest until Harry lets him up, nearly falling flat on his face in his attempt to get himself onto the floor.

Harry grabs him before he can tip over, though, and doesn’t let go while Louis gets himself settled, on his knees in between Harry’s spread thighs.

“Gonna have to take your pants off if you want to get your cock sucked,” Louis observes, watching Harry’s cock twitch, so close to being in his mouth that he can almost taste it.

Instead of being even remotely helpful, Harry’s fingers thread through Louis’ hair. “You know that I love you regardless of whether you do this, right?”

Louis can’t tell whether he just felt the need to say it or if he thinks that Louis is only doing this because he thinks he has to, but either way he knows. “I’m not gonna love you anymore if you don’t stop being weird and let me suck your cock.”

“You’re gonna love me for the rest of your life,” Harry grumbles, but he hefts his cock out of his pants anyway, thick and fully hard and mouth watering. He guides Louis’ head closer, until the tip bumps against Louis’ lower lip, smearing precome against it. Louis licks at it reflexively and is rewarded by a heartfelt moan and Harry pushing him down a little more, until Louis opens his mouth and gets an inch of cock.

It’s. They probably should have talked more about using a condom, or Louis should have actually stopped to get one, but they both had a full physical less than a month ago and Louis hasn’t had sex in that time, and he knows that Harry hasn’t had sex in that time. They’re both clean, is the thing, and Louis wants to be able to taste it when Harry comes.

And maybe they’re rushing into this headfirst, but Louis has been needing this for four years and now that he’s finally gotten a taste he’s not going to stop until he’s sucked Harry dry.

Harry’s not thinking about it, anyway, pushing Louis down slowly, filling his mouth with cock, until the only place left for it to go is into his throat.

And no one has ever told Louis that he’s bad at blowjobs, so he sinks down even further, until his nose is pressed into Harry’s pubes and all he can concentrate on is the feeling of Harry’s cock, thick and warm in his throat.

“You’re so good at that,” Harry murmurs, holding Louis there for a long, beautiful second before he draws him back up. “Part of me wants to be jealous that you’ve sucked enough cocks to be this good, but my cock is convincing my brain that I don’t really care.”

Louis isn’t sure how he feels about that. “It’s enough to know that mine is going to be the last cock you suck, though,” Harry continues thoughtfully, drawing Louis’ head back down again, filling him with so much cock that he can barely stand it.

There’s a lot that Louis could say to that, but it’s easier to let the fact that he’s finally got his mouth on Harry’s cock consume all of his senses.

He sucks a little harder, relishing in how Harry’s cock fills him up completely, makes him feel like he’s the most important thing in the world, the only person who can make Harry feel like this.

It doesn’t take long for his jaw to start aching, but it’s the best kind of ache, the kind that comes from sucking his dom’s cock and getting him off.

“Gonna make me come with your perfect mouth, baby,” Harry sighs, and that’s all the warning he gives before he’s guiding Louis’ back down all the way and holding him there as he starts to come in warm, thick pulses, filling up Louis’ mouth.

Louis keeps sucking after Harry’s finished coming, mouth on autopilot, until Harry pulls him all the way off, hands gentle on the back of Louis’ neck. He wastes no time pressing their mouths back together, even though Louis has still got traces of come on his tongue.

“You’re so good for me,” Harry says, getting a grip on Louis’ cock, and it says something about their relationship that Louis didn’t even realize that he was hard again until he felt Harry’s hand, pulling him off with short, quick strokes.

Louis comes with Harry’s mouth on his and pulled half into Harry’s lap, come squeezed out of him by Harry’s sure fingers until they’re both equally messy. He doesn’t know how long they stay there like that for, still trembling in Harry’s arms and being kissed like he’s the only thing Harry cares about.

By the time Harry manages to get them both properly onto the bed and underneath the covers, Louis’ skin is tacky with dried sweat and come and Harry’s not any better, hair mussed and cheeks still pink.

“If that’s what you consider only domming me a little I’m gonna be completely out of it when you dom me for real,” Louis says eventually, tucked up tight to Harry’s side.

Harry’s breathing is more or less even as he sweeps his hand down Louis’ back, resting just above the curve of his bum. “It might have gotten a little bit out of hand,” he allows. “I didn’t actually mean to put you under. It’s why I said we had to be careful.”

Louis taps his fingers on Harry’s chest, making sure that he has his complete attention. “My instinct is to do what you tell me and your instinct is to dom me. Your instincts are never going to let you hurt me, you know that, right?”

“Not intentionally,” Harry grumbles, and that’s a line of thinking that Louis has to cut off before it gets any further. He pushes himself up onto his elbow and leans over Harry, looking down at his face.

“That’s why we have a word, yeah?” he says, pulling on Harry’s necklace a little. “I trust you to stop if I use it. You just have to trust me to use it, alright?”

Neither of them mention the two times that Louis should have used it. It’s different, now, and Louis is sure that Harry can feel that.

Harry sighs a little and covers Louis’ hand completely, twining their fingers together. “I trust you,” he says, pulling Louis’ arm out from underneath him so that Louis goes crashing down into his chest. “Gonna eat you out and make you cry, next time.”

If Louis hadn’t already come twice he would probably be getting hard. “I hate you.”

“You love me,” Harry corrects easily, lining Louis up like he’s a rag doll, putting him in the perfect position for more kissing.

“I hate you so much,” Louis adds, but the rest of what he’s saying is lost to Harry’s kiss.

 

 

“So this is awkward,” Louis says, tapping his fingers against the arm of the chair he’s sitting in. It isn’t as awkward as it could be, because this is Louis’ favourite chair in his own house, and he’s in his most comfortable pair of trackies and a soft, worn t-shirt that he’s pretty sure belongs to Harry.

“Your face is awkward,” Harry says nonsensically. His fingers twitch at his side, like he wants to reach out and touch Louis, anywhere he can reach.

“I hate you,” Louis says, drawing his legs up onto the chair so he can rest his head on his knees.

“I would do so many things to you if you’d let me,” Harry says abruptly, folding his hands together.

Louis holds his breath for a few seconds, waiting to see if Harry’s going to add anything else. Then, when he doesn’t, “I’d probably let you.”

“Blindfolds,” Harry says immediately. “And rope, and holding you down. Not letting you come at first, making you come too much.”

It’s not a long list, but it takes a minute to process in his brain regardless. It’s not a lot, but it is, too.

The only thing he can think of to say is, “Yes.”

“Are you sure?” Harry presses. “Don’t say yes to things just because you think that I want you to. I only want them if you want them too.” His tone comes out a little bit sharp, nearing the way it sounds when he’s domming Louis, and it’s probably unintentional, but Louis shivers a little anyway.

It gets to him, okay. “I don’t know how you haven’t noticed this before, but being held down is kind of a thing for me.”

“And the blindfolds? The rope?”

There’s only so much he can say to convince Harry that he wants it as much as Harry does. “Rope’s pretty much on the list already, what with me wrists being bound and all. And blindfolds are the same, you know, where I’m pretty sure that I’ll like it as long as I can feel you. Or see you, I guess.”

“What do you want, though?” Harry asks. He’s flexing his toes in his socks over and over again, and for a second it’s all Louis can concentrate on.

Then he snaps back to the program. This is a serious discussion. If they don’t get through this discussion Harry will probably never fuck him, and there’s no way that Louis is going through the rest of his life without knowing what it’s like to have Harry Styles’ cock in his arse.

“I want what you already give me,” he says impatiently. He doesn’t even pause for breath before amending it. “I want you to manhandle me and I want you to fuck me and I want you to surprise me with things that you think I’m going to like.”

“That’s not really good enough,” Harry says, running his hand through his hair. “That doesn’t tell me what you want. That only tells me that you think you’re gonna like the things that I want.”

Louis racks his brain for something to say that will get Harry to understand. They’re not on two different pages, exactly, but maybe they’re not on the same paragraph quite yet.

“What it’s like for me,” he starts slowly. “What it’s like for me is that whenever we scene I know you’re going to do something that I’m going to like, and not knowing what it’s going to be is part of the excitement. It’s.”

He has to stop again, to think of what he wants to say and how to say it. “I know that if you want anything that you think I’m going to be even a little bit uncomfortable with you’re going to run it by me first, and the amount of trust I have in you is probably a little scary, but I can’t help it.”

Harry’s watching him carefully, rubbing his thumb over his knee repeatedly, the way he always does when he’s thinking about something. “There must be something that you want, though.”

Clearly he’s not letting it go.

“I like when you put me wherever you want me to go,” Louis says helplessly. “I like it when you tell me to do something and then make sure I do it. I like - I like being fucked. I like being fucked a lot.”

“Do you like being fucked when you’ve got your wrists tied up, though?” Harry asks, frustrated. “Do you like being fucked while you get your nipples played with? While wearing knickers? What, Louis?”

Everything clicks into place all at once, and Louis finally has the words. “Definitely like being fucked while my wrists are tied or while my nipples are played with. I want you to make it hurt a little. Not enough that I’m screaming in pain, but enough that it aches for a little while after. And not like, that the actual being fucked part hurts, necessarily, but that occasionally something does.”

Harry’s looking at him like he wants to eat him. Louis wants that very much. “I can do that,” he says a little blankly, like he’s trying not to think about it too hard.

Of course he can fucking do that. They wouldn’t mesh so well if Harry couldn’t do that. Harry can do that without even thinking about it.

“Do you think that I should meet with Mark?” Harry asks abruptly, changing the topic so fast that Louis has to blink, just a little.

“Why?” Louis asks, immediately suspicious.

“I want to be able to give you what you need safely and confidently.”

Louis scoffs. “If you think that you’re not already doing that you’re dumb.”

“I need to know that I’m not going to hurt you,” Harry says. He gets up and crosses the room just so that he can brush his fingers against Louis’ jaw lightly.

Basically what he’s saying is that he wants to be fully equipped to take care of Louis, which is nice, but. “So you want me to wait even more before you’re going to fuck me?”

“Is getting fucked all you can think about?” Harry asks, amused, as he pulls Louis off of his chair and onto the couch, into his lap properly. Louis lets him, because the other option is to struggle, but the desire to be cuddled wins out over the urge to struggle.

“It is after I’ve woken up with your cock pressing into me bum for the last four days straight,” Louis grumbles, tucking his face into Harry’s shoulder. “Course I’m gonna be thinking about it.”

He’s thinking about it now, about how Harry’s cock feels underneath his bum, not even hard but still so appealing that all Louis wants to do is sink down onto it so slowly that Harry gets impatient and flips them over so he can fuck Louis properly.

“Yeah, but it’s not like I haven’t sorted you out every time,” Harry murmurs, slipping his hand underneath Louis’ shirt to stroke his back. Louis tries to control his shiver and absolutely doesn’t think back to this morning to Harry spreading him out and adjusting him until Louis was exactly where Harry wanted him, pinned underneath him with his thighs around Harry’s hips, so close to fucking that they might as well have been.

It had been a slow grind that had driven Louis crazy within two minutes, clutching onto Harry’s shoulders and begging for things that he barely even realized that he was begging for.

Louis arches into Harry’s hand and says, “You think a little bit of grinding is good enough for me? Proper slut, I am.”

“Gonna have to do a little bit more than whimper and beg me to fuck you to be a proper slut, I think,” Harry says thoughtfully, inching his hand down lower. “Gonna have to put out.”

“Would have put out ten times over if you weren’t so bloody cautious,” Louis says, inhaling through a gasp as Harry grabs a confident handful of his bum.

He concentrates very hard on not moaning as Harry squeezes, fingers slipping into the crease. “But I am, and you like that I am even if you won’t admit it,” Harry says. “So I should talk to Mark, yeah? And then I can dom you properly.”

“Fine, whatever,” Louis says, absolutely not pouting as Harry kisses him again, quick and sweet.

Then he sits up and grabs his phone and wallet off the table. “Wait, you meant right now?” Louis demands, pushing himself into a more or less upright position.

“Better sooner rather than later,” Harry says cheerfully, wandering out of the room. Louis rolls himself off of the sofa and follows him, not bothering to keep the irritated pace of his walk quiet.

“You’re not even going to do anything about this?” he demands, gesturing down towards his crotch.

Harry turns around and kisses him again, catching his jaw to hold him in place and lingering this time. It’s soft and wet and warm and Louis is relaxing into it before he even realizes it.

“I’m not, but feel free to get yourself off,” Harry says, breaking the kiss abruptly. He shrugs his jacket on and slips around Louis’ frozen body, heading towards the door.

Louis waits until he’s slipped through before he throws a pillow at his retreating back. “I’m going to change all the locks before you come back,” he shouts.

“No you won’t,” Harry says, voice floating through the air just before the front door slams closed.

Louis spends fifteen minutes looking up locksmiths before he acknowledges that he really won’t and tosses his phone down onto the table to go have a wank.

 

To say Louis is impatient would be an understatement. He went out for drinks with the boys, so it’s not like he’s just been sitting around all day waiting for Harry to get home, but it feels like he has.

He’s been home for two hours now, which has given him enough time to shower - thoroughly - make three cups of tea, even though he’s only drank about half of one and watch an episode of Breaking Bad. He’s spent the rest of the time wandering aimlessly through the house, fingers trailing across all of the things that they’ve accumulated over the past four years.

Every item that he touches only serves to remind him of the fact that this is their home. This is the house that they picked out together. This is the house that they moved into after fans had found out where they lived before. This is the house that they spent three days painting, doing it themselves because Harry had been stubborn. This is the house that Louis goes home to when they get a break from the tour. This is the house that Harry comes home to when he’s finished being papped by every rag imaginable.

This is the house that Louis gets dommed in. This is the house that Louis is going to get fucked in. This might be the house that they grow old together in - Louis is quite fond of it, and he knows that Harry has a soft spot for the natural light.

This is their home. This is four years of having lived a life together, all in one place, and it doesn’t really make sense that it took them so long to get here but they’re finally here and they’re finally together.

Or. They would be together, if Harry would stop fucking around and come home already. The last time Louis heard from him he’d said that he was about to leave, which clearly wasn’t the case.

Or he was just taking seven and a half years to say his goodbyes, as usual. Louis doesn’t think so, though, because Harry must want to fuck him as much as Louis wants Harry to fuck him, and that leaves no time for dwaddling.

The front door bangs open on Louis’ fifteenth lap around the house. He pauses where he is, in the middle of the kitchen, and considers making Harry come to him. Harry did make him wait an entire extra week, after all.

Then he decides that he’ll just force Harry to make it up to him later. Harry went out to learn how to dom him without hurting him and Louis isn’t going to wait another second before he gets to find out exactly how that went. He makes his way over to the front hall, deliberately not rushing, and is greeted with the sight of Harry wind-blown and slightly damp.

Must be raining again.

“Hey,” Louis says, when it becomes apparent that Harry’s not going to say the first word. Harry still doesn’t say anything, methodically dropping his keys, wallet, phone and jacket onto the table. He toes off his shoes and leaves them where they land, which is so unlike him that Louis blinks at them a little.

He doesn’t really understand what’s going on until Harry says, “If you want to run, now’s the time,” face so intense that it’s already sending shivers down Louis’ spine.

He looks like he knows exactly what he wants.

Louis doesn’t waste any time trying to get an explanation out of him. He spins on his heel and takes off down the hall, socks skidding across the hardwood floor. The only reason that he’s even wearing them is because they belong to Harry and it’s cold outside, but he’s grateful for them now, sending him slipping across the floor much faster than he would have been able to go in his bare feet.

It’s not fast enough. Either Louis is losing his touch or Harry is just more determined, because he crashes into Louis’ back before Louis even makes it to the stairs, pinning him face first against the wall.

Like this, it’s so much more apparent exactly how much bigger Harry is than him, broad in ways that Louis will never be. He fans his fingers out against the wall and tries to push back, testing exactly how far Harry is willing to go to keep him there.

Pretty fucking far, seems like, because Louis is getting absolutely nowhere, sliding in the circle of Harry’s arms.

“You remember what I promised you?” Harry asks, warm and right into Louis’ ear, which is one hundred percent effective in getting Louis to go still.

Harry’s promised him a lot of things over the years - some small, some big, some completely infeasible. There’s really only one thing that he’s promised that Louis wants like he wants air, though, and he’s under no illusion that it’s not what Harry’s talking about.

“That you were gonna eat me out and make me cry,” Louis says, hushed.

“Mmhmm,” Harry murmurs, nosing up behind Louis’ ear like they’re not close enough already. “You still want that?”

Louis means to answer, but Harry chooses that exact moment to bite him, sharp and stinging through his entire body and straight to his cock. He whimpers instead, fingernails dragging across the paint. If they’re not careful they’re going to have to repaint the entire house.

“You still want that?” Harry repeats, pulling Louis’ hips back into his crotch, grinding them together so Louis can feel exactly how hard he is, even through a pair of jeans and a pair of sweats, threadbare as they are.

“Want it,” Louis says, trying to help Harry find a rhythm. He can’t concentrate on it enough, though, too busy relishing in the feeling of Harry’s cock against his arse and knowing that he’s going to have it in him soon.

“You have to be still, though,” Harry says, and that’s all the warning that Louis gets before his back gets cold and he hears the thud of Harry dropping to his knees behind him.

Louis is torn between being so turned on he can barely breathe and thinking that there’s no way that this can end any way but badly. “Can’t be still,” he says, shaking his head against the wall. “Can’t stand.”

“Yeah you can, baby,” Harry says, pulling Louis’ sweats down and leaving his arse bared, cock popping out fully hard. “Gonna help you, okay?”

“Can’t, can’t,” Louis gasps, already breathless. He flicks his hair out of his eyes and tries not to cream himself from the first touch of Harry’s hands on his bum.

He mostly succeeds, although he can’t stop the rush of precome that spills out of his cock when Harry’s hands start spreading his cheeks apart, so anxious for it that he can’t control his own body, his own reactions. It’s a little bit humiliating, particularly because Louis has had this done to him before, but it feels like he’s a virgin all over again.

He might actually come before Harry even does anything, he’s that turned on.

“You can,” Harry says, and he probably means it to sound comforting, but all Louis can think about is the fact that he can feel Harry breathing next to his arse, a hint of what’s to come, and that’s.

“No,” Louis says again, blinking back the wetness from his eyes, and he doesn’t know why he’s freaking out so much but he is and nothing makes sense.

Harry knows, though. Harry always knows. He presses a kiss to the top of Louis’ bum, letting go of one of his cheeks in favour of wrapping it around his thigh, tight enough that Louis can feel it but not so tight that it hurts.

“I’ve got you, baby,” Harry says, squeezing Louis’ thigh a little bit. “You trust me to take care of you, right?”

Louis breathes against the wall. He doesn’t even have to think about it. “Yes.”

“So trust that I’m not going to let you fall,” Harry says. He squeezes Louis’ thigh again, like there’s any risk that Louis has forgotten where his hands are.

The clench in Louis’ chest eases, as if it really is that simple. “Okay.”

“Okay,” Harry echoes, and Louis has no warning before the first swipe of Harry’s tongue over his hole.

And just like he expected, Louis’ knees buckle, getting him pressing half of his weight against the wall and leaving Harry to carry the other half.

Turns out that he was freaking out for nothing. Harry handles it as easily as he always does, like he’s not even straining in the slightest. The second lick comes quickly, barely even giving Louis a chance to get his breath back, and Louis has had this before, but never like this.

Never this intense, never this good. Never with anyone who knew that they had to hold Louis open or else he’d squirm right out of their hands. Never with anyone who knew that right from the first time, from before they’d even started.

He can’t stop himself from letting Harry support most of his weight, fingers scratching over the wall as Harry licks him again, warm and wet and so good at this he must have done it before.

Louis isn’t jealous, he’s not, but the unhappy, stroppy part of him that always comes out when he thinks about Harry being with people other him rises to the surface, and it’s hard to push back.

Until Harry licks into him, that is. Then the thought just flies out the window because he can’t concentrate on anything other than how it feels.

He’s pretty sure that nothing has ever felt as good as this, as good as Harry tonguing him like he knows exactly what will feel the best for Louis, even though they’ve never done this together before.

He falls into something like a trance pretty easily. There’s a strain in his calves from trying to keep himself balanced, and the wall feels strangely itchy against his arms, but none of that even remotely matters. All he can concentrate on is how good Harry’s tongue feels, warm and wet and trying to get inside of him. His cock is so hard he’s making a mess all over the place, and Harry probably isn’t going to be pleased by that but this was his idea in the first place.

Suddenly, Harry’s mouth is gone, leaving Louis cold and wet and so beyond ready to come.

“Don’t come,” Harry says, like he knows exactly what Louis was thinking.

Louis means to say something, he really does, but the only thing that comes out is a whimper.

Harry licks him again, pressing his tongue against Louis’ hole until it slips in.

There’s no stopping the way Louis spasms, leg jerking nearly uncontrollably in Harry’s hand. He spaces out for a minute, trying to push back onto Harry’s tongue, to get more of it, and doesn’t realize that he’s crying until Harry’s tongue disappears again, leaving him empty this time.

Harry’s hands are gentle as he turns Louis around, slipping over his hips. “Making you cry probably shouldn’t make my cock so hard,” he says, lifting Louis’ feet one at a time and untangling him from his sweats.

He helps Louis clamber into his lap, half naked and still painfully hard, a little shaky. He lines their mouths up and kisses him despite Louis’ complete lack of participation. The wall hits his back, but Louis barely even registers it, too focused on Harry and what Harry wants him to do, how Harry wants him to move.

Harry’s finger nudging up against his rim, still wet with Harry’s spit, doesn’t come as a surprise. Louis wiggles his hips, trying to press down onto it, doing his best to help Harry get it inside.

Except Harry doesn’t push it inside, rubbing circles over Louis’ skin. “You want me to fuck you?”

It’s a question, and Louis registers it as one, but it doesn’t occur to him to answer it until Harry bites him, sharp and stinging on his jaw. “Please, Harry.”

“Gonna fuck you right here, because you’ve been such a good boy,” Harry says. Louis’ entire body flushes, gets a little trembly. “Right against the wall, yeah?”

“Lube,” Louis manages, digging his fingers into Harry’s back, feeling the flex of his muscles even through his shirt. “Lube?”

Harry kisses him again instead of answering, using the grip he has on Louis’ bum to pull him into his body, spreading him apart at the same time. Louis keens, arching his back and trying to offer himself up like a sacrifice.

One of Harry’s hands disappears for a minute. They don’t stop kissing, mouths sliding wetly against each other’s, the hand remaining on Louis’ bum creeping closer to Louis’ hole like it’s got a mind of its own.

“Would never fuck you without lube,” Harry says, just before his hand comes back, brushing wet fingers over Louis’ hole. “Always gonna be prepared with you, Lou. Never gonna know when you’re gonna want it.”

He pushes the tip of his index finger in before Louis can ever start to think about responding. “Probably gonna want it whenever it’s least convenient for me,” Harry continues, sinking his finger all the way in, until Louis can feel every tiny little movement he makes.

“Cause I’m a slut?” Louis asks, half serious. He feels extremely slutty right now, spread out on one of Harry’s fingers, in Harry’s lap, begging to be fucked.

It’s definitely not a bad feeling.

What is bad is the way that his shirt keeps rubbing against his nipples, which are already a little sensitive from how turned on he is. The scratch of the fabric is making him squirm uncomfortably, different from his normal squirming, and the last thing in the world that he wants is for Harry to think that Louis doesn’t like what he’s doing.

He goes to strip himself out of his shirt, struggling a little to get it past his head and nearly hitting Harry in the face, but once it’s off it feels so much better, no more annoying fabric weighing him down, even if he does feel even sluttier, sitting in Harry’s lap naked while Harry’s still fully clothed.

“Because you know what you like, and what you like is dick in the arse,” Harry says, pushing a second finger in, less slowly this time.

“Want your dick in my arse,” Louis says, a little too stubbornly for someone’s who’s full of two fingers and about to get cock in the arse. It’s not quite begging.

Harry shushes him and kisses him again, spreading his fingers out. He finds Louis’ prostate, and Louis doesn’t know whether it was intentional or not but either way it feels amazing, makes his toes curl a little behind Harry’s back, feet already threatening to cramp. It’s maybe not a good position to get fucked in, but Harry’s always looking out for his best interests and Louis trusts him, so.

He’s gonna go with it.

Besides, it’s not like he’s got enough space in his brain to convince his legs to get up right now, especially not when Harry’s doing that with his fingers.

“You’re gonna get my dick in your arse,” Harry says, giving him a third finger, and it’s so much better, it is, because it’s that much more full, but it’s still not a cock, still not Harry’s cock, and that’s what Louis wants right now.

“Want it now,” Louis says, rocking down onto Harry’s fingers and then starts riding them in earnest, muscles burning pleasantly. He hasn’t done this in a while, but the movements come back to him naturally, easily.

Until Harry pulls his fingers out without warning. Louis trembles a little more, waiting for the first press of Harry’s cock impatiently, but it never comes.

What does come is a sharp, stinging slap to his arse, unexpected and unappreciated.

“You’ll get it when I give it to you,” Harry says.

Louis winds his arms around Harry’s neck and offers his mouth up. It’s not an apology, exactly, but Harry accepts it anyway, tilting their mouths together. He’s a little bit more bitey than he was before, probably trying to get the point across, but Louis likes bitey.

“Give it to me now, please,” Louis requests, mumbling the words into Harry’s mouth. “Been good, haven’t I?”

There’s a moment of flailing as Harry tries to get his jeans off without actually removing Louis from his lap. They really should have thought this through more, particularly because Louis does end up having to lift up, but they end up where they should be, which is naked with Louis on Harry’s lap, about to be fucked.

It’s a good place to be.

“You’ve been so good,” Harry says, hands shaking a little as he tries to get them situated right. Louis can relate. It feels like they’re about to do something huge, something that can’t be undone.

It feels important to say it, right now. He tugs Harry a little closer, trying to ignore the feeling of Harry’s shirt brushing against his skin, and then, when he can’t, pulling it over Harry’s head. Then, finally, he can say it. “I love you.”

Harry’s laugh is bright and happy. It diffuses the tension a little, but not necessarily in a bad way. Louis is going to get fucked regardless, he knows, and hearing Harry tell him all the ways that Louis is important to him is only going to make that better.

“I love you too,” he says, dotting Louis’ jawline with kisses that are more tongue than anything. “So much that I don’t even understand it, sometimes.”

Louis squirms a little, unable to hide his reaction, especially when he’s completely naked. “Don’t,” he says, trying to crane his neck away. There’s nowhere for him to go, though, and he only ends up pinning himself up against the wall even more.

“Don’t what?” Harry asks, kissing him again. “Don’t tell you how much I love you even though you started it? Don’t tell you how good you are for me, all the time? Don’t tell you any of that?”

“Don’t do any of that when your cock’s not in my arse,” Louis decides, letting Harry turn his head back so they can kiss properly.

Proper kisses are important, especially to Louis’ cock. Or. Well. That wasn’t exactly what he meant, but proper kisses to his cock are important.

“Okay,” Harry says, pulling one of his hands from Louis’ back. He doesn’t give any more warning before he’s pushing in, big and slow like he knows that Louis needs it like that, gripping Louis underneath his thighs to control how fast he’s getting it.

Maybe this was a bad idea, doing this here. There’s no way that Louis is going to be able to get it together enough to help, already gone a little weak and spacey before Harry’s even all the way in.

“I got you, baby,” Harry says, almost as if he’s reading Louis’ mind. “Don’t worry about it, I’ll take care of you. It’s my job, yeah?”

“Please,” is all Louis can think of to say, gripping at Harry’s back tighter. “Please please please please please - ” over and over again until Harry starts fucking him, bouncing Louis on his cock easily, like Louis doesn’t weigh more than a feather.

It’s almost more than Louis can take, right from the get go. Harry’s got a big cock, and he knows how to use it, nailing Louis’ prostate more often than not, sending shivers up his spine. He can feel the wall against his back, warm from his skin, but it’s not bothering him. Nothing’s bothering him right now, full of Harry’s cock.

“So sweet for me,” Harry murmurs, brushing their lips together. It’s not really a kiss but Louis chases it anyway, straining into it even though it gives him a little bit less cock. “Gonna be this sweet for me forever? Gonna let me fuck you whenever I want?”

Louis would let him do this five times a day for the rest of their lives. He can’t just say that, though, so he lets Harry kiss him and fuck him and move him as he pleases.

“Never seen anyone look as pretty as you do getting fucked,” Harry says. It’s not really an appropriate thing to say to someone the first time that you fuck them, but Louis flushes anyway, clenching down on Harry’s cock. They’re not exactly a typical couple, and that’s before all the D/s stuff, anyway.

“You paying attention?” Harry asks suddenly, slowing the pace of his thrusts. Louis nods, stretching his legs behind Harry’s back.

“Attention,” Louis repeats, ignoring the curve of Harry’s smile.

Harry moves back a couple inches, pulling Louis with him. “Good,” he says, and starts thrusting faster and harder, and Louis’ eyes nearly roll back in his head. He can only clutch onto Harry’s shoulders and get bounced along, overwhelmed by how good it feels. He can hear himself making noise, but he’s not sure exactly what he’s saying, and it doesn’t matter anyway. All that matters is the way his head feels, light and airy, and the way his cock feels, hard and hot, and the way Harry moving inside of him feels, thick and good.

Louis comes between one breath and the next, without a hand on him, shooting all over himself. He makes more noise, unable to stop himself, clenching down on Harry because he can’t not, and lets his eyes close.

He doesn’t know how long he’s like that for, getting bounced effortlessly by Harry with his eyes shut, lost in his orgasm, but by the time he tunes back in, Harry’s murmuring his name over and over, eyebrows furrowed in concentration, like he doesn’t want to come before Louis is capable of paying attention again.

And Louis still feels a little shaky and lost - not in a bad way, just in the way that Harry always manages to make him feel when they do this - but he brushes his fingers over Harry’s jaw, still slightly numb from how hard he’d come, and says Harry’s name back.

“There you are,” Harry says, gasping a little as he sinks all the way into Louis’ arse and stays there. “Alright?”

“Good,” Louis agrees, twisting his fingers until he’s got them tangled in Harry’s hair, sweat slick and a little greasy. It doesn’t matter. What does matter is the way he feels, slightly shocky and oversensitive, not sure whether the fact that Harry’s cock is still in his bum is a good thing or not.

“Good,” Harry says, biting at Louis’ mouth, mostly because Louis’ best attempts at kissing back are lackluster. “I’m gonna keep fucking you until I come, alright?”

Now would be the time to say that it’s starting to hurt, that it’s gone past the point of oversensitivity and is edging towards pain. If he says that, though, Harry’s going to pull out and he’s not going to come inside of Louis’ arse and Louis wants that so much. He wants to be full of Harry’s come and know that he’s Harry and that Harry’s his and that they belong together.

So he squeezes down on Harry’s cock again and is rewarded with a sharp snap of Harry’s hips, cock pounding against his prostate again, like he has no problems finding it whatsoever. That only makes it ache a little more, but it’s the kind of ache that Louis likes, sharp and pleasant, and it’s absolutely something that he can deal with.

“Gonna, just,” Harry mumbles, teeth sinking into his lower lip. He pulls Louis down as he thrusts up, getting that much further into him. Louis pets his hair, stroking over it gently.

Until Harry grabs one of his wrists and squeezes. If Louis hadn’t just had the best orgasms of his life he’d be getting hard again.

It has the effect of causing Louis to clench down even harder, which makes Harry bite him again, underneath his jaw, and start coming. He bites Louis all the way through it, teeth sharp against Louis’ skin, and it’s distracting, but not distracting enough that Louis misses out on how it feels, warm and wet.

He gets a little lost in it, in the pain of Harry biting him and the pleasure of Harry coming in him, and barely even registers Harry letting go of his wrist in order to lift him off of his cock. It should feel oversensitive and sore, but Louis barely feels it at all, focused on the warmth of Harry’s hands on his hips.

“Such a good boy,” Harry sighs, petting his fingers over Louis’ sides. He settles Louis into his lap properly, their skin hot and slick where they’re touching. He kisses Louis again, slowly and carefully, until Louis’ head starts to clear. There’s no telling how long it takes.

“You back?” Harry asks eventually, pressing another kiss to Louis’ bottom lip, close-mouthed and simple.

Louis links his fingers behind Harry’s neck, unwilling to let go of him yet. “Kind of,” he says.

“Okay,” Harry says, slipping his hands underneath Louis’ bum. “Gonna pick you up, alright?” He doesn’t give Louis a chance to answer before he’s hefting him up, somehow managing to get to his feet without even stumbling once.

Now that they’re up, Louis can feel how sore his muscles are from the position that they were in, and he can only imagine how Harry feels, but that thought slips out of his head quickly, once Harry starts up the stairs.

He’s slow and careful about it, hands sure on Louis’ body, but Louis clings to him a little tighter anyway. They reach Louis’ bedroom, somehow, and Louis blames the way his eyes prickle a little on the fact that he’s still coming out of the floaty place.

It’s just. Harry is going to Louis’ room instead of his own because he knows that Louis needs to be in the place that’s most familiar to him, and that. It’s just telling, is what it is. Telling.

Harry lays him down on the bed gently, not letting go of him even once and climbs in after him. Louis dozes off while Harry pulls the covers up over them, getting them tucked in tight. They’re both still sweaty and gross, and Louis is still covered in his own come, not to mention the come he has dripping out of his arse, and that should matter more but it really doesn’t.

“You’re gonna be my good boy forever, aren’t you,” Harry says, murmuring the words to the back of Louis’ neck. “Gonna be good and all mine, just for me.”

“Yours,” Louis agrees, tangling their fingers together. He squeezes down on Harry’s hand once he’s got it. “Love you.”

“Love you too,” Harry says, and Louis falls asleep like that, tangling in Harry’s arms with Harry’s come still dripping out of his arse, messy and completely Harry’s, heart and soul.

Falls asleep knowing that Harry’s his.