The persimmons smelled like come. Louis didn't know who had been put in charge of the decorations for the 2014 BFAs, but whoever it was was probably sacked. Not that he couldn’t appreciate the thought process. The little clusters of fruit were a nice idea -- visually. They were cute, suggested holiday festivity without being too showy or obvious, and the color was en vogue. But the smell was just… Louis wrinkled his nose.
“Overpowering,” Caroline whispered.
Louis nodded curtly. “For a work environment, yes.”
She chuckled. Caroline Watson was the head of VIP Relations for Burberry in London, and had worked closely with Louis back when he'd joined the label as a tailoring consultant at the tender age of 20. Nearly a decade on, Louis was just settling into the Creative Director position and Caroline was still his closest friend.
They turned to watch Emma Watson work the red carpet in a pristine wide-leg jumpsuit and oversized Dior blazer.
"Gorgeous," Caroline commented. "As usual."
Louis nodded his agreement. "That blazer is adorable on her. I'd love to put her tip to toe in menswear."
Emma smiled, posing in front of the BFA logo for the flash of the cameras, and discreetly moved her hand up to cover her nose as she was led away.
Louis and Caroline giggled to each other. "This is going to go down in history," she whispered. "The Year The British Fashion Awards Smelled Overwhelmingly Like Semen."
Just then, a pretty young face popped up over the crowd -- it belonged to Lydia Taylor, one of Caroline’s interns, and she looked upset. Louis frowned as she shouldered her way toward them through the mix of industry people and photogs; her fists were clenched, her eyes wide and almost panicked. She was one of the lucky, stressed-out entry-level employees who had been assigned to work the event while her bosses relaxed. Louis wondered what had gone wrong.
“He’s here,” she hissed into Caroline’s ear. She glanced up nervously at Louis as she said it, almost cringing.
“Who’s here?” Caroline asked.
Louis pursed his lips and turned to gaze out over the red carpet, trying not to be too obvious. Harry was Britain’s biggest pop act of the moment, and at his stylist’s request, Louis had custom-designed a suit for him to wear to the awards. It had been a fun little project, trying to inject a bit of Harry’s signature rockstar swagger into the classic, quintessentially British Burberry brand. He was really rather proud of the result, and pleasant anticipation started building in the pit of his stomach at the thought of finally seeing it on Harry's body.
He glanced back at Lydia, who was wringing her hands in distress. “He’s in Lanvin.”
Louis’s mouth dropped open, the anticipation he'd felt immediately curdling. Lanvin. How could he… Lanvin? So Harry had just decided to waltz into the British Fashion Awards wearing a French label? The fucking nerve...
Caroline immediately snapped into business mode, face serious. “Are you one hundred percent certain the suit arrived at his stylist’s this morning?”
“Yes!” squeaked Lydia. “I handed it to her myself.” The poor girl looked like she might cry.
“And they confirmed with you that he’d agreed to wear it tonight?”
She bit her lip and rolled her eyes upward as tears welled in them. “I mean… I think what she said was… I-I thought it was implied…”
Caroline sighed, drawing a tissue out of her purse and handing it to Lydia so she could pat her eyes dry without smudging too much of her makeup. “That’s okay, darling. These popstars have odd whims; it’s not your fault. I’m sure it was a last-minute decision.”
A last-minute rejection, she carefully didn’t say, but that’s what Louis heard. Harry’s stylist had assured Louis that Harry wanted to honor the British fashion industry by debuting a bespoke three-piece suit at the awards. She’d even plied him with a pricey fruit basket. Louis fumed quietly, straightening his cuffs as he tried to control the expression on his face. He had worked nights on that design -- long nights in his office that could have been spent relaxing at home in front of the telly, or fuck, going on dates. But apparently the final product had offended Harry Styles to such an extreme that he’d defected to the French.
“Oh, Lord help us,” Caroline breathed. “There he is.”
Louis couldn’t stifle the tiny gasp of horror and disbelief that escaped him when he saw. Harry was coming down the red carpet, pausing in front of the togs in an absolute eyesore plucked from Lanvin Fall-Winter 2014. The suit itself was… interesting, not Louis’s design style at all. But the tailoring…
“You’d have killed me for letting someone out in public with lumpy seams hanging off their shoulders like that,” Louis muttered.
“No one would have ever found your body,” Caroline said, grimly.
The suit jacket was too big, tailored for someone with slightly broader shoulders and longer arms than Harry Styles. The lapels were hanging forward a touch, sagging off his body. Louis groaned internally, fingers itching to rip out the seams and resew the entire thing. The trousers were even worse. The legs were comically long; they’d clearly been hemmed for someone else -- someone taller. The break had migrated nearly up to Harry’s knee, all messy wrinkles. And he was just standing there, totally oblivious, beaming like an idiot at the cameras. The whole thing made Louis's blood simmer, threatening to boil over. Ridiculous, he thought, spitting the word out through his eyes as he glared. Utter waste of that nice little body.
“At least his boots are on point,” Caroline said with a shrug.
“They’re Saint fucking Laurent,” Louis grumbled, eyebrows jumping as he clenched and popped his fist open, like he couldn't control his hands, God. The audacity was truly galling. “Who does he think he is?”
Caroline patted his shoulder consolingly. “They’re all full of themselves, babe," she said, before drawing Lydia away for a private conference.
Christopher is going to fucking flip.
Christopher Bailey, Burberry’s brand-new CEO and Chief Creative Officer, was Louis’s boss and mentor. Louis bit his lip to keep from sneering at Harry as he posed, running through all the problems this situation had created for him at work. He knew Christopher was about to give up his double role at the label to step fully into the business side of things and had been grooming him to take over as Chief Creative Officer, but it was far from a foregone conclusion and Louis had needed this suit to be seen. This was so fucked… And on top of it all, the smell of wank was about to make him gag.
Louis gave Harry another once-over as he stepped away from the logo wall and was immediately joined by a large bodyguard. The legs, he groaned again, are truly tragic. They were the second thing Louis had noticed about Harry when he'd started doing research on his style preferences -- in perfect proportion to the rest of his body, almost as long as a model's but with a slightly feminine plumpness to the thighs that Louis had to admit he found incredibly appealing, even endearing. (The first thing he'd noticed was that his cock barely fit into the skintight jeans he seemed to wear on a daily basis -- Louis had calmly and clinically strategized a cut that would show off the shapeliness of Harry's legs without making the effect of his bulge quite so... well, obscene.) There were other lovely parts of Harry too, like his lean arm muscles and his beautiful, loose chestnut curls. But those thighs. Louis had wanted to squeeze them right away, he remembered, and he pushed the thought down.
Harry's young, he reasoned, trying to breathe calmly and at least pantomime equilibrium. He's what, twenty-two? I'm sure I was a self-centered headache at that age too.
Louis was still angry, though. He watched Harry mingle with other celebs just outside the entrance of the Coliseum, frowning harder every time Harry smiled or laughed at someone. At least I had professional fucking courtesy. It was the British Fashion Awards. The biggest night of the year in his industry. He was the Creative Director of goddamn Burberry, and Harry Styles, recent graduate of puberty, popstar, was making him feel like an underappreciated waiter.
Louis tossed his head, brushing his fingers along the side of his quiff. Fuck that. Seriously, fuck that.
Louis turned, and blinked rapidly as a man with a large camera on his shoulder moved toward him, trailing a cord. A woman in a sparkly sheath was waving a mic at him.
"Can we get an interview, Mr. Tomlinson?" she asked.
Louis shrugged. He wasn't exactly a household name, but if they wanted him, they could have him. "'Course, babe."
The woman flashed him a smile that was tight but genuine, flipped her hair over her shoulder and turned to the camera. “And we’re here with Burberry designer Louis Tomlinson on the red carpet of the British Fashion Awards! Mr. Tomlinson, can you tell us who you think smashed it tonight?”
“Well, straight away I’m going to say Emma Watson…”
Louis briefly complimented Emma, Suki Waterhouse and Tamsin Egerton on their ensembles, smiling at the interviewer while turning occasionally to glance into the camera.
“And just between us, who would you put down for worst dressed of the night?”
Louis’s eyebrows went up, and he blew his cheeks out before laughing. “You want to get me in trouble, don’t you?”
The woman just smiled her winning, camera-ready smile and winked at him. She was very good at acting like they were old friends, when she hadn’t even introduced herself. Louis wondered if he was supposed to recognize her. “Come on, Louis,” she wheedled, “give us the goss!”
He put up his hands, voice higher and Doncaster accent getting thicker as he said, “All right, all right… Em, well. Can’t say I’m a fan of Beetlejuice over there.” He nodded his head to indicate Harry, who happened to be behind him, just in the camera’s line of sight.
The interviewer gasped theatrically. “Harry Styles? But he’s so cute.”
“Cute he may be,” Louis shrugged. “But look, the fit’s terrible. It’s garish. And it’s a bit of a slap in the face to British fashion, to be quite honest.”
“Who’s he wearing…” The interviewer fumbled for a second. She looked surprised for some reason, and Louis ignored the little twist of guilt in his gut.
“Lanvin,” Louis said, dryly.
“Lanvin,” she repeated. “Right. Well, Mr. Tomlinson, thanks for your candor. And enjoy the show!”
“My pleasure,” he smiled.
She smiled back at him, and he gave an awkward wave to the camera before stepping aside. He quickly turned toward the doors of the Coliseum, where a steady stream of attendees was now entering, ready to find their seats. Was I too harsh? Louis wondered. He shrugged, face set in a pinched frown. Fuck it; he has the whole world at his fucking feet. Ready to lick those Saint Laurent boots. He doesn’t need me to boost his ego.
In fact… He took out his phone as he stood, waiting to get in, and sent out a quick tweet for the benefit of his work colleagues.
Bam. Shade masterstroke.
The crowd got thicker around the doors. Louis locked his phone and slipped it into his pocket.
He had just made it inside, fresh waves of jizz-stench washing over him from the excessive use of decorative persimmons in an enclosed space, when someone threw out an elbow and got him right under the ribs. “Oof,” he grunted, breath punched out of him as he was pushed sideways into a warm male body.
“Steady on,” the man said. Louis felt a hand on his bicep. He blinked, actually recognizing the terrible fit along the shoulder of the suit before he recognized the face. And the… voice. Right.
Singers. They have voices. Generally good ones.
Harry Styles was staring down at Louis, wide green eyes roving over his face. “Hi,” he said.
Louis’s brain was shrieking, all his internal alarms blaring, reminding him that this was a person he’d just been recorded insulting. Sudden, stupid guilt rose up like bile at the back of his throat. Shut up, shut up, he thought, bristling. He put his hand up to gently remove Harry’s from his arm. He could stand straight on his own, thank you. The queasy feeling in his gut intensified as he touched Harry’s tanned skin. It was soft and lightly scented, like a woman’s. Louis thought for a second that he was going to die.
“It smells like come in here,” he blurted out.
Harry let out a short bark of laughter and clapped a hand over his mouth. His green eyes sparkled for a moment; Louis could just see the hint of a dimple.
“And your cuffs are too long.”
He glanced up in time to see Harry’s brows knit, incredulous smile twitching at his lips like who is this weirdo. “I don’t smell anything,” he said, genuinely confused. He shrugged, shaking his head as his bodyguard led him away with a hand on the small of his back.
Louis just stood in the middle of the foyer and let people move around him, suddenly stiflingly hot under his primly buttoned collar. His brain felt like a harddrive that had just been wiped. His heart beat painfully in his chest -- Is this what social anxiety feels like? -- and his hands were trembling imperceptibly. He let out a belated, slightly hysterical laugh before clamping his mouth shut again, frowning. What the fuck… He’d just… He shook his head. No.
He found his seat next to Caroline as the lights were beginning to dim. She clucked when she saw his stormy face, made fun of him by pulling an exaggerated pout until they both began to smile. Louis was twitchy, adrenaline coursing through him and his shoulders shaking when the show began, barely contained laughter itching under his breastbone. Fucking Harry Styles.
Louis paid very little serious attention until it was Harry’s turn to present an award.
There was an oddness about him, he decided, as he watched him whisper something in Emma Watson’s ear. A droll sort of charm he hadn’t expected at all.
Quirky, he thought. That’s the word.
Not that it excused him from wearing Lanvin to the British Fashion Awards. Jesus Christ. Louis shook his head again, trying to clear the confusion, turn the issue back into black and white.
“Only Harry Styles,” Caroline sighed, reading his mind.
He’s the worst, Louis decided, firmly. He’s the absolute worst.
Louis threw an arm over his face. Fucking phone.
Weak sunlight streamed through the curtains. Louis's head was still swimming, his throat raw and his tongue thick, stale and sugary from that last warm rum drink. He'd gotten politely tipsy at an afterparty, and then absolutely arseholed at a private after-afterparty with Caroline and Niall Horan. (Niall was a tennis star, and Louis's favorite celebrity client -- always popping down to London to drink with him after big events.)
Niall. Nialler. Nail file.
He'd been laughing at Louis for some reason, but now Louis couldn't remember why.
Bzzzt. Bzzzt. Bzzzt.
"Fookin' 'ell," Louis murmured, rubbing his tired eyes and steeling himself to look at his phone. He slapped his own cheek, lightly, trying to wake up. His head was pounding.
Didn’t puke, though, he thought, with a vague sense of triumph. No-puke drinking streak still intact.
Weakly, he reached over and groaned when he saw the time. He'd only been asleep for forty-five minutes. His phone was continuing to buzz with all sorts of notifications... texts, tweets, emails, the Google alert he'd set up for his name. And a snapchat from HappyHappyIrishman93.
He looked at his texts first. There were ones from Zayn,
Always put your foot in it, don't you?
Caroline (still not completely sober, or asleep),
Yiu are sooooo fucjed when u wake up!!!!
and his mother.
Why are teenagers yelling at me on Twitter? I get enough of that at home, you know.
There was a follow-up:
I have it on very good authority from @MrsHarryStylezzz that I've "raised a monster." Ok?? And?
Louis groaned. He dropped his phone onto his stomach and drew a sheet up over his head. He couldn't process anything; he just wanted to hide.
This time it tickled.
Don't worry, I've told them no one with the nickname Boobear could really be a monster. Got 1,500 new followers! <3 <3 <3
Louis made a strangled noise in the back of his throat. He tapped into a Google alert, deciding to bite the bullet and find out what sort of press he was dealing with.
"Oh, for fuck's sake."
He skimmed the article, which included a video snippet of his red carpet interview. It recapped his comments, making them seem more mean-spirited than they had been, he thought. Lots of dwelling on the "slap in the face to British fashion" thing. They'd even dug up his tweet and embedded it at the bottom, along with... Louis rubbed his eyes again, squinting.
It startled a laugh out of him, and he shook his head, supremely annoyed at himself. Especially once he remembered how starstuck he'd acted when he'd bumped into Harry the night before. Embarrassing. He could tell that incident was destined to become one of those awful disaster memories -- the ones from your past that suddenly sneak up on you years later and make your blood run cold.
Harry, ever the polite young rocker, made a punny reply, though a source close to the star tells us he's "fuming."
Louis snorted. "So I tell the truth and I'm the bad guy. Lovely." His head was absolutely thundering now, pain bursting behind his eyelids as he squinched them shut. Where was the fucking paracetamol, anyway? All the way in the medicine cabinet in the bathroom? He definitely couldn’t make it that far.
One of the other notifications caught his eye -- an email from his boss, Christopher. Subject line: "recent press items."
I certainly wouldn’t have counseled you to speak out like you did, but this “feud” might be good press. Consult with Liam in Public Relations on how to proceed.
There was a string of numbers at the bottom of the email, and Louis programmed them into his phone along with Liam Payne’s company address. He’d text him in a bit. Maybe. Ugh.
He needed a distraction first. Something safe. Then sleep, pain meds -- he didn’t even want to contemplate looking at his Twitter in the state he was in now, though he could see he’d gained a hefty number of new followers overnight. He tapped on Niall’s snapchat, holding his finger down on the screen impatiently through the first one because he’d sent three in a row.
Louis tossed his phone away, onto the empty side of his mattress, and buried his head in his hands. “Alcohol is the enemy,” he muttered, rolling onto his stomach and willing himself not to feel sick. “Don’t forget. Never forget.”
“So what we want to do,” said Liam Payne, Associate Director of Public Relations, clasping his hands in his lap and smiling pleasantly at Louis, “is stoke the flames. Just a bit.”
Louis worked his jaw as he shifted his weight in Liam’s stylish, stiff-backed office chair. He just wanted to be done with the whole thing. No more press. No more Harry Styles. It was odd how in the moment he’d had such a strong opinion and had been so desperate to make sure everyone in the world knew what it was, but now that it was out there, getting written about and discussed online, he felt vulnerable. Like he wanted to put a big paper bag over his head every time he left his flat to come to work.
He sighed. “Do we have to? That stupid Bieber knock-off is already ruining my life. His fans are so… loud… at me.”
“Love the world-weariness,” said Liam, squinting at him and drawing a box in the air with his finger. “You’re older, you’re wiser, but still cool. Only don’t call him a Bieber knock-off; we don’t want to seem like we’re picking on him.”
Louis rolled his eyes.
“And none of that. Don’t act like this is beneath you; you’re a distinguished voice in British fashion. You’re defending British fashion! Yes,” he murmured to himself, scratching something down on a notepad, “defending, I quite like that.” He capped his pen. “Good.”
“So what now?” Louis asked. “We release a statement or something?”
Liam shook his head. “We need it to look like the press has come to you for further comment. I’ve set up an interview with the Mail. You’ll be polite, with a touch of that acerbic thing you’ve got going on, and you’ll be very firm. You won’t retract your statement. You won’t apologize for your opinion. You were defending British fashion.” Liam clapped as if Louis had just made an inspiring speech.
“You want to foster nationalistic sentiment, don’t you!” Louis said, pointing a finger at Liam accusingly. “This isn’t to save face because I made a mistake. You’re…” he made a circle motion, zeroing in on Liam’s smug face, “spinning this situation around. For profit!”
“You’re quite a slippery character, aren’t you?” Louis asked.
Liam just raised an eyebrow and handed over a small piece of paper. “Interview’s later today. That’s the address. They’ll send me the questions beforehand and the time they want to meet. I’ll forward all of that to you with my notes. You’ll have at least an hour to prepare, I should think.”
Louis blinked rapidly as he took the paper, glancing down to read the name and address of some café in Camden. “Fine,” he said.
Liam grinned. “And maybe other British celebrities will reconsider wearing foreign labels to the next few big events.”
Louis just shook his head as he walked through the door, hanging a left out of Liam’s office. He wanted to get back to designing garments as quickly as possible. This Byzantine PR power struggle bullshit was going to leave him with a permanent headache, he could already tell. Though… he tapped his fingers lightly on his upper thigh and groaned as he stepped into the elevator. That might be down to how much he’d been thinking about Harry Styles lately.
Harry Styles. The name was beginning to send a zip of electricity up his spine every time he heard it.
Louis breathed deeply and shook it off. It was only pre-interview jitters. Definitely had nothing to do with the memory of Harry’s hand on his bicep, gripping hard, just under his shoulder. Louis felt a sudden burst of longing, and bit his lip. That low voice. The plump thighs that he just wanted to…
Nope. This is not about that. This is not about that.
But Louis whipped out his phone and texted Niall a pointed reminder of all the blackmail material he had on him, just in case.
The interview started out well. Louis and the journalist from the Daily Mail, a lovely-looking woman named Fehintola, sat down together in the corner of an upscale café and had a very amiable chat. She asked him whether Harry’s polite Twitter response had made him reconsider his statements, and Louis, in quite a reasonable voice, responded that it had not. Liam had managed to arrange several general questions about Burberry, including the Prorsum Pre-Fall 2015 Collection, which Louis’d had a large hand in designing and adored talking about. He also managed to get in a good plug for Burberry Bespoke (which Liam had underlined and bolded in his notes with the word MENTION!!!! next to it). All in all, he was feeling quite proud of himself -- he was an ambassador for the brand, bringing fashion to the masses. Christopher was going to be pleased.
Then Fehintola returned to the topic of Harry Styles, sipping her latte and smiling at him brightly across their little table. “So tell me,” she said, “if you were personally going to dress Harry Styles for an event, what would you put him in? I hope you don’t mind my asking; I know it wasn’t on the list of questions. I’m just quite curious.” Her brown eyes sparkled.
Someone had told her about the suit, and she wanted to make the whole thing -- Harry outright rejecting Burberry for Lanvin -- into a scandal. Louis’s face hardened imperceptibly. Part of him wanted to tell her, but a bigger part of him was annoyed she’d brought it up with no warning. And an even bigger part of him knew that it would look very, very bad for the label if all the details were aired in the press. It would make his initial comments seem even more petty. And Burberry would suddenly be the brand deemed “not good enough” by the biggest British celebrity of 2014.
“Well, I don’t know,” he said, putting a hand up to his face to rub at his light growth of stubble. “That’s interesting, you bringing that up. Interesting question.”
Fehintola laughed good-naturedly, knowing her bait had been recognized for what it was. “Humor me,” she said.
“Burberry trench, of course,” Louis said. “Classic. He’d be getting all the ladies in that, let me tell you.”
Fehintola raised her eyebrows, her coffee mug halfway to her lips. She took a long sip.
“Not that he needs it, I’m sure,” Louis went on. “Bloke’s got, like, loads of American girlfriends, hasn’t he? I've read your articles before.”
Fehintola lowered her mug and touched a napkin carefully to the corner of her lips, devious look in her eye. "Must not have read the most recent ones, though."
"Yeah? Is it back to British women, then?" Louis chuckled. He popped the last crumbly bit of his cranberry scone into his mouth as Fehintola smirked.
"Not exactly," she said. She slung her purse over her shoulder, smoothly picking up the tab as she slid out of her chair. "I'll let you Google it." She winked, the heels of her calfskin Ralph Lauren booties tapping softly on the mosaic floor as she walked up to the till. Louis stared after her.
He shifted in his seat, gazing into the dregs of his tea and biting the inside of his lip. He lasted a whole thirty seconds before he whipped out his phone and typed a search into Google. And… woah.
Louis blinked. He’d just assumed. Everyone knew Harry Styles was into women. I mean… right? I’m not just making that up? Louis frowned, head down as he shouldered his way out of the café, poring over the article. Harry had made the comment in an interview with Ode, apparently, just a couple of weeks ago. He’d been asked about traits he looks for “in a lady,” and sat hemming and hawing until the interviewer had prompted him… “Female, right? That’s a good start.” To which Harry had replied, “Not that important.”
Louis would have thought it was a joke, maybe, if the video clip hadn’t shown Harry with a slightly nervous expression on his face beforehand, a shy, serious smile breaking across his features as he said the three little words that had caused an entire Daily Mail article to be written. Louis recognized that look. He remembered a time in his life when it had felt like he was coming out to someone every other day. A hot zip of arousal shot through his belly. The pictures of Harry in tight jeans burst back into his head in perfect HQ clarity: Harry out shopping, biting his knuckle behind Ray-Bans, gathering his hair into a bun, flannel shirt sagging open to reveal his toned, tattooed chest.
Oh my god, it’s true, Louis thought, heart twisting in disappointment when he lost cell service going down into the tube. I would cherish that man’s thighs.
“Of course he hates me,” he muttered with a shrug. Not that it really mattered. Not that important! Louis almost laughed. Harry Styles was an international superstar, and although Louis had bedded more than one model in his day (Two. Two models.), he knew even he had his level.
Didn’t stop him from snuggling up to his laptop when he got home and thoroughly researching the question of Harry Styles’s sexuality. Fans were divided, apparently. The more actual video footage he watched of Harry, though -- interviews, and especially performances -- the more Louis got the feeling that he’d had the wool deliberately pulled over his eyes by some shadowy PR team. He imagined Liam Payne with a goatee, petting a white cat and laughing an evil laugh. “Girlfriends! Give him more girlfriends! All the girlfriends!”
Louis snorted. Poor kid. I’m glad I’m not famous.
He waited up until his interview was posted -- Fehintola had cooperated nicely; over half the article was essentially a Burberry ad. Figuring he’d done his duty and that this was the last he’d have to think about it, Louis rolled over and fell asleep.
“Oh, for f--”
Louis almost dropped the pan of sizzling hot prawns he was carrying over to the table when he saw what was on the TV.
“Careful with my prawns, bro,” Zayn said mildly, lounging on Louis’s couch with his socked feet tucked under him, nursing a beer.
"What is that?" Louis cried, voice high and full of despair.
Zayn shrugged. Louis tried again.
"What is that?"
"The BBC Music Awards?" Zayn blinked up at him, brow furrowed.
"No," Louis said, with a tiny grunt of frustration. "What are those..." he started gesturing with the prawns, "things, because they look..." He strode over to the telly, jabbing the pan at the lower half of the screen like he was fencing with it. "Like fucking snowpants, Zayn; that's what they look like."
Zayn burst out laughing, standing to take the poor garlic butter prawns away from his friend before more of them landed on the carpet. "Why are you so obsessed with Styles's trousers, man?"
"I'm not obsessed," Louis squeaked, "I'm offended, okay?"
He continued to sputter as Zayn moved between the kitchen and the table, calmly setting out the fettucini and the Greek salad along with plates, forks, and napkins. "I just! It's almost!" Louis felt like his brain was exploding, like his ears were going to blow off at any moment. "It's almost as though he's doing it on purpose. To spite me."
"You?" Zayn asked doubtfully.
Zayn rolled his eyes.
"Like, does Lanvin not care what he looks like in their clothes? I don’t understand." Louis fiddled with his fringe, eyes sharp as flint as he continued to stare at the image of Harry on the screen. "The fit is absolutely horrific. I literally can't believe it. Worse than last time!"
"Don't see what that has to do with you."
"Nothing," Louis grumped, finally forcing himself to flip off the telly and sit down to eat. "It has absolutely nothing to do with me, obviously. I'm just truly sad for fashion." He frowned, picking at the nice food he'd spent forty-five minutes cooking. "And for Lanvin, honestly. Yikes."
"You're such a dramatist, Lou; I really don't think they look that bad. Sure you're not picking on him because he didn't wear your suit, or whatever?"
Louis scoffed. Zayn was a perpetually underemployed poet, always mooching dinners and beers and always with a cerebral, philosophical explanation for everything. Not sensible, Zayn. Not a sensible man at all. Louis rolled his eyes and slipped his phone out of his pocket. As far as he was concerned, this was a declaration of war, and it would not go uncommented upon.
He sighed, lapsing into silence as he ate his prawns. They were a touch squeaky, still. Undercooked. Dammit.
Zayn didn't seem to mind the fact that Louis was preoccupied, just took it in stride and refilled his wine glass for him whenever it was empty. Zayn was a good friend.
"You're a good friend," Louis said, absently, fingering the edges of his phone under the table, half-hoping it would buzz.
"I know," said Zayn, "and I'm pretty, too."
Louis snorted just as he felt his phone vibrate. He whipped it out and thumbed through the lockscreen, fingers shaking slightly as he saw that he had a Twitter notification.
Louis was just starting to huff in annoyance when another tweet was posted, right on the heels of the first.
His left eyebrow went up, mouth suddenly dry. Zayn was looking at him oddly from across the table, but didn't say anything. The moment stretched on. Louis could almost feel Zayn’s curiosity warring with his instinct to never involve himself in drama.
"What does a wink face mean?" Louis asked, finally.
Zayn shrugged, outwardly casual. "Depends on the context."
Louis narrowed his eyes at him suspiciously, but turned his phone around and showed him.
Zayn nodded. "Flirting."
He popped the last prawn into his mouth as Louis gasped theatrically, squirming around in his seat, full of indignation. “No it’s not; it’s not flirting.”
“Okay.” Zayn patted his mouth with a napkin and stood to clear the table while Louis stared down at his phone screen. It was not flirting.
Louis thought for a moment before dashing off another tweet to Harry.
“Wait, the award thingy is still happening, right?” he called into the kitchen, over the sound of Zayn starting the washing up. “It’s live?”
He didn’t wait for an answer, just stood up and scrambled for the remote, frowning at himself for caring about things too much and thereby getting himself into these situations where it seemed like a heart attack was always just around the corner. Like, ridiculous. Unbelievable.
It was a wide shot when the telly blinked on again, lights flashing out over the stage. Someone was performing… oh, Coldplay. Louis scanned the faces in the crowd as the camera panned over the audience, searching for Harry. Surely it wasn’t Harry himself tweeting, but some Liam Payne equivalent on Harry’s team. Louis just needed to confirm this, and then he could go sit on the counter and flick bubbles at Zayn and start to try to train his brain to ignore his terrible, confrontational instincts.
His phone buzzed just as Coldplay were finishing up.
“Please no winky face,” Louis muttered.
He waited thirty seconds, and then replied,
An almost immediate response, as Chris Evans and Fearne Cotton came out and started to talk about the British Artist of the Year category.
Tom Jones joined them with a gold envelope, practically skipping onto the stage. There were a couple of brief crowd shots, but no Harry yet.
God, Tom Jones was taking forever. Louis tapped the back of his phone impatiently as he paced the room, his fingers prickling with the desire to fuss over something. A pencil to sketch a design, a needle and thread. Finally, just as Sir Tom was opening the envelope to announce the winner,
Louis’s head jerked up just in time to see Harry, on a slight time-delay, lock his phone and smoothly slip it into his pocket as he headed up to collect the biggest award of the night. The audience was standing, Harry bright and beaming. Louis’s mouth hung open. Quickly, he typed out a response.
The audience continued to stand and applaud as Harry accepted the award, mumbling out an appropriately quirky thank you speech that took a while to get going but ended up quite sweet. Louis let out a little hmph, trying to remain unaffected.
Harry raised the statuette above his head, smiling at his fans in the audience and waving as he tried to walk offstage -- going the wrong way at first and having to circle around and jog after Tom Jones into the other wing.
Louis groaned at himself, rolling his eyes. What am I doing? He realized he’d made five trips across the room, practically wearing a track into the prawn-stained carpet. He plonked his phone down on the now empty table and resolved to go into the kitchen and help Zayn clean for once.
He sat down on the couch instead, and stared tensely across the room.
“Ha!” He leapt up as the final performance of the night kicked off, pounced on his phone and tapped back into the Twitter app.
Louis didn’t even notice that he was smiling as he typed out,
Chris and Fearne bade everyone a good night, and Louis wandered into the kitchen, cradling his phone in his hands. “Zayn,” he said, holding the screen up over the sink so that Zayn could see as he dried the last of the dishes, “I blame you.”
“Me?” Zayn quirked an eyebrow, slinging the damp dishrag over his shoulder as he turned to put Louis’s newly clean sauté pan back in its proper place.
“You said it was flirting. You planted the suggestion in my head. Then all of this happened.”
Zayn sighed the sigh of a good-natured, yet perpetually set-upon person. “You seem like a reasonable adult, Louis,” he said. “But you get so weird when you have a crush. It’s like you revert back to primary school.”
Zayn raised both of his eyebrows pointedly in Louis’s direction as he hung the dishrag on the sink faucet to dry. “Act like a seven-year-old?”
Louis fixed him with his best glare. “Have a crush. I do not have a crush. Your premise is essentially flawed.”
“But you admit you flirted.”
“It was accidental.”
“Okay,” Zayn shrugged. He pulled Louis into a quick hug. “Thanks for dinner.”
Louis clung to him as Zayn tried to inch over to grab his worn leather jacket off the back of a chair. They ended up tottering through the kitchen together, Zayn sighing and rolling his eyes, Louis wrapped around his middle. Slowly, they shuffled down the hall to the front door of the flat.
“Unhand me, please, so I can go home,” Zayn said. His tone was dry but not unamused.
“I feel weird,” Louis answered, voice muffled from where his face was buried in Zayn’s chest.
“I know.” Zayn patted the back of his head softly.
“It’s your fault, Zayn.”
Louis felt him heave another sigh. “I know.”
Zayn finally squirmed away, and Louis let him go with a swat on the butt and an “I love you.”
“Love you too, man.”
Louis frowned as he shut the door and turned to face his empty apartment. He was still holding his phone -- it hadn’t buzzed once. Obviously now that Harry wasn’t bored and trying to distract himself from a long awards show, he’d stopped replying. Louis sighed. “Right.” He was basically the human equivalent of Candy Crush Saga.
He spent a long night at his drafting table, fingers twitching over half-baked designs, his dormant phone always in the corner of his vision. It hadn’t buzzed once by the time he went to bed at 3 a.m., all twisted up in knots. Hyperaware in the silence, blinking up at his ceiling and trying not to imagine Harry being chauffeured to the sorts of glamorous industry parties Louis never got invited to. He wished he wasn’t alone. Wished someone would text him. He desperately needed someone to bounce off.
But silence reigned.
Louis woke up the next morning, Saturday, bleary-eyed and wanting a croissant and a tea. He eased himself out of bed and checked his phone -- two texts from Niall demanding his presence at some party or other. Fine.
Also, it was actually 1 p.m. Louis threw on a pair of threadbare skinny jeans and wrapped his upper half in a slouchy forest green jumper and tartan scarf. He spent most of his afternoon in the small coffeehouse down the block from his flat, surrounded by uni students with laptops and battered, blue copies of the Norton Anthology of English Literature. He had his sketchbook and his uncooperative phone.
At one point he gave in and searched Harry’s name in Google News, wondering if it would tell him what parties he had been to the night before, and if he’d brought a date. Ridiculous. Anyway, there were only more inane articles about their “continuing feud.” Louis locked his phone and sternly told himself off for using unnecessary data.
At around four, he mentally scraped himself together and wandered back to his building. Took a hot shower, cooked himself some pasta and waited around until it was time to go to Niall’s party. As he was standing in front of his open closet, considering his clothing options, he sent him a text.
What’s the address, you dweeb?
Niall answered right away with the name and address of a semi-private club in Soho. Here, double dweeb. You better show up.
Might, Louis replied, as he pulled a grey double-breasted blazer out of his closet and surveyed it critically.
I promise you’ll have a good time ;-) ;-) <3 <3 :-*
Louis took a crosseyed selfie and sent it back, then locked his phone to concentrate on his outfit. He paired the blazer with a burgundy turtleneck and a new pair of jet black women’s skinnies that were fabulous on him. He debated about a scarf and decided against, pushing his sleeves up his forearms to show off his wrists. Some vintage Florsheim wingtips and a pair of argyle socks completed the ensemble, and it only looked a little college professor-y.
He did his quiff -- it turned out sort of half-hearted, flopping back on itself, but he figured he'd get Zayn to fix it at the party -- and hopped into a cab. Fifteen minutes later, Niall was greeting him at the door of the club and dragging him back to the VIP section.
“Guess what!” Niall grinned, already tipsy, teeth flashing in the dim light as he shouted over the music. “I invited Harry Styles!”
Louis stopped, tugging Niall back by the elbow. He glared at him darkly. “You complete bastard. You didn’t.”
“I fully did. And you.” Niall poked his chest, swaying slightly. “Are. Welcome.”
"Idiot." Louis cocked a hip, shifting his weight as he self-consciously fiddled with his pushed-back sleeves. Some of his hair fell down over his eyes. "Now it's going to look like I wanted to meet him," he groaned, standing on his tip-toes and trying to fix it in the slightly distorted mirror above the bar.
"No it's not," Niall said. "Opposite, if anything. He was pretty excited that I knew you."
Louis rolled his eyes, cursing himself for not taking five more minutes in the bathroom before he left. He completely disregarded Niall's statement about Harry's excitement level -- the man was so obsessed with making new friends, he was probably projecting.
"How do you know him, anyway?" asked Louis, giving his hair up for lost as he started moving again, snaking through clubgoers after Niall.
Niall shrugged. "Friend of a friend."
"I'm getting you something unsolicited and unwelcome for Christmas."
Niall laughed, shaking his head at Louis as he ushered them through security and into the roped-off section at the back of the club. It had a cool, exclusive vibe. People were mingling around a private bar, and there was also a staircase that led up to a secluded balcony overlooking the dance floor. Louis felt the heavy bass thud through him as he scanned the room for Zayn.
He saw the trousers first.
He saw the cock through the trousers first, the -- Jesus... Louis blinked.
They were Lanvin. Black and white pinstripe, from the Fall-Winter 2014 runway collection. Harry Styles was bulging out the front of them.
Louis tried to force himself to blink. No, you should look away, he thought, desperate and wiping his suddenly sweaty palms on his thighs as he turned the other direction. But it was too late, he saw out of the corner of his eye. Harry Styles was coming over.
Now there was nothing in front of him -- he'd turned into a blank wall. Flustered, he kept going, and had made a tight circle by the time Harry reached him.
"Hi," said Harry.
"Um, hi..." Louis began, frowning, and why was he unable suddenly to look at anything above waist-level? His eyes were glued to the crotch of Harry's newest ill-fitting pants, but Louis couldn't... They just...
"Lose something?" Harry asked.
"Uh..." Louis squinted at the floor, frowning and trying to act casual. "Yeah, actually, my friend lost her earring."
"Oh." Harry looked genuinely concerned and immediately set his drink down on the table. "Here, let me help you look." He stooped, and was about to get down on all fours before Louis gave a small cry and hauled him up by the armpit.
"Ow, what--?" Harry pouted, full eyebrows drawn together in confusion. He rubbed his shoulder protectively.
"Do you know how much those trousers you're wearing cost?" Louis's heart raced as he imagined haute couture knees being crushed into the sticky, no doubt bleach-cleaned floor.
Harry brightened, standing up straight and doing a little twirl for Louis's benefit. "Oh. Not really. Do you like them this time?"
"I..." Louis held his hand up to his chin, taking the opportunity to indulge in a long look. They were baggy, just like the others. Even Beetlejuicier than the first pinstripe had been. But. He made a small, resigned noise in the back of his throat. "They --" he coughed, and his eyes flickered up to meet Harry's before looking away. "They, uh... work."
Harry clapped his hands together in delight. "Oh!" he cried, suddenly, holding one of them out toward Louis. "I haven't formally introduced myself. I'm Harry Styles."
"Yep," Louis said, shaking Harry's hand for the least socially acceptable amount of time possible before drawing his own away to fiddle with the hem of his blazer. "Louis Tomlinson. From Burberry. And Twitter."
Harry leaned in, and whispered, “I could take them off, if you want.”
Louis’s eyes went wide. He had not expected… “Uh,” he said, taking a quick step back and bumping into the wall. “Well… what?”
“So I can help you look for your friend’s earring,” Harry explained.
“My friend?” Louis stared up at him quizzically, having already forgotten his own lie. He was getting lost in the flickering green and amber of Harry’s eyes.
Luckily, Zayn walked by at that exact moment. “Oh, my friend!” Louis grabbed him and pulled him into his side, accidentally stepping on his foot. “Look,” Louis continued, getting Zayn by the earlobe and tugging, “he must have found his earring. Good. So you don’t have to…” He laughed nervously and turned to Zayn. “Babe, could you re-do my quiff for me, please?”
Zayn’s eyebrows were halfway to his hairline, but he simply nodded. Louis felt Harry watching them closely as he relaxed under Zayn’s touch, letting the nice, familiar sensation of his friend’s hands in his hair calm him down. Harry blinked at them, lips a thin line as he drifted over to the bar to refill his drink.
“What was going on there?” Zayn whispered, putting the finishing touches on Louis’s new quiff before quickly licking his thumb to give Louis a wet willy. Louis shoved him away, rolling his shoulder up to his ear and grimacing.
“You’re such a prat,” he said. “God. Nothing was going on.”
“You were talking to Styles.” A stranger might say that Zayn’s face was impassive as he glanced over at Harry, who was still watching them from across the room. Louis could see the smirk.
“Barely,” Louis said. “I had to make up an excuse because I kept staring at his fucking package.”
Louis pinched Zayn in the ribs, felt him flinch away and swat at his hand before they were sinking into each other’s sides again. “Actually,” Zayn said, “it is quite… prominent.”
“It’s absurd,” Louis hissed, running a hand down his face and blinking. Harry had fallen into a conversation with Niall now. He was leaning on the bar, fingers idly tracing the rim of his cocktail glass, and his crotch was angled straight at Louis. Tormenting him.
Niall said something that caused Harry to break out into a dazzling smile, and Louis finally tore his eyes away. He turned to Zayn and pouted. “It’s not good for me to want what I can’t have,” he said. “I don’t deal with it well.”
Zayn just smiled and glanced up. Louis felt a tap on his shoulder.
He turned around to find Harry smirking down at him, running a hand through his long, loose hair. Silver rings gleamed in the semi-dark. Louis fought the urge to look back at Zayn, who he could see fucking off quietly to another corner of the club. He was on his own.
“Hi again, Louis Tomlinson from Burberry and Twitter and the Daily Mail,” Harry said.
“Hello,” Louis answered, shifting his weight and trying not to notice how Harry was standing over him in an attractively sinuous way. If he leaned forward just a little, Louis would be backed up against the wall.
“You’re not dating Zayn Malik,” Harry said, an undercurrent of amusement in his deep voice. “Niall told me.”
“Oh,” said Louis. “No, I’m not."
Harry grinned. He took a bold step forward, caging Louis in as he leaned down and whispered. “I’d really like to give you a blowjob in the toilet.”
Their thighs were just touching. Louis could feel Harry’s warmth through the expensive fabric of his trousers, his fingers coming to rest lightly on Louis’s stomach, under his blazer.
“You’d give me head?” Louis asked, a flustered laugh escaping him as he felt himself begin to heat up. “Just like that?”
Harry smiled wider, and dropped his chin to press a lingering kiss into Louis’s neck. Louis’s skin was bursting into static, his heart pounding. He felt like he couldn’t breathe. “Are you even legal?” he asked.
“You know I am,” Harry chuckled, lips moving lightly up his jawline until he was again whispering into Louis’s ear. “Haven’t you ever wanted a younger man?”
Louis drew in a deep, shuddery breath. The places where they were touching -- the tips of Harry’s fingers pressing into his sides, Harry’s knee at his thigh -- God, it was so close to… Louis could feel himself start to stiffen up in his trousers.
“Did you know we have shippers?” Harry asked. He lifted his head to meet Louis’s eyes.
“No,” said Louis, laughing almost coquettishly as he licked his lips. He threw his weight to one side, subtly reaching down to readjust himself. “What might those be?”
“Fans of mine on the internet who read our tweets last night and want us to have hate sex,” Harry grinned. “I personally think we should indulge them.”
Louis looked up at Harry through his eyelashes. “Do you think everything your fans do is clever?”
Harry threw his head back and barked out a laugh, flattening his palms around Louis’s waist and smoothing his thumbs over his shirt, rucking it up slightly where it was tucked in. “Excuse me, of course everything my fans do is clever.”
Louis raised his eyebrows once and sucked on his tongue for a second, showing off the cut of his cheekbones as Harry gazed at him hungrily. "Well, who am I to argue then?"
Harry shrugged. "Just some non-fan."
Louis laughed, leaning against the wall and rolling his hips out slightly until he felt the brush of Harry's inner thigh on his clothed cock. "Just some idiot."
Harry bit his bottom lip, making it flush slightly. Every little thing about him was driving Louis crazy. The way he splayed his large hands, the deep side-part in his hair, even the trace amount of acne revealed by his unbuttoned shirt. Louis reached out tentatively and placed his hand on Harry’s bare chest, touching his warm, soft skin and feeling him breathe.
“Go to the loo,” he said. “I’ll be there in a couple of minutes.”
Harry’s eyes lit up and he nodded, pressing one more kiss to the corner of Louis’s mouth before slipping away. Louis watched him go, making a beeline for the toilets, not even bothering to be subtle about it -- he remembered when he’d been that excited by the promise of a quick, awkward blow job. Zayn was watching too, lighting up a cigarette, his arm around somebody Louis didn’t know. His eyes followed Harry and then flicked back to Louis, half moons of mirth. Louis flipped him the V as he strode past, at least pretending to stop and try to get service at the bar before heading to the little hallway where the loos were.
They were unisex, single-stall. Louis knocked on the first door and waited with his hip cocked.
"Uh... who is it?" Harry's low voice barely carried over the music.
"Me, you knob," Louis smiled. "Now let me in."
The door opened with a click and Louis felt Harry intertwine their fingers before pulling Louis in. That was... sweet, Louis supposed. The feel of their hands together was nice.
"Can I kiss you?" Harry asked immediately, and Louis's eyebrows went up. Is he really this naïve about hookups in nightclub toilets? Louis wondered if his surprise at the question made Harry seem young, or himself seem jaded.
He shrugged and said, "Sure."
Harry crowded him against the door, cradling Louis's face in both his hands and swiping a ringed thumb across his lips before moving in. Louis was taken aback. Harry was kissing him so earnestly, his soft lips dragging over Louis’s and his breath coming in little pants. It was a heady feeling. Like, even though they both knew that this was a one-time thing, Harry was determined to take care of him. Louis opened his mouth to Harry’s tongue and felt his whole body thrill as their kiss deepened. He was almost aching with pleasure where Harry was touching him, chaste touches on his cheek and at his waist that radiated something wonderful and bone-deep -- Louis wondered when he’d last paid full attention to a sexual touch that didn’t involve a dick. Fuck, he thought, he’s not naïve at all... He’s amazing at this. Louis shrugged his shoulders, sliding out of his blazer and allowing Harry better access to his body.
Something hot burst from Louis’s belly up into his heart when he heard Harry groan at the sight of his torso, lifting his turtleneck and ruining his quiff as he pulled it all the way off.
“God,” he breathed, mouthing hotly behind Louis’s ear, making him writhe with it, “you shouldn’t be a designer. You should be a model.”
Louis let out a breathy laugh, shaking his head as he stared up at the fancy moulded ceiling of the loo -- That’s another advantage to hooking up with famous people, he thought; posh toilets. “You don’t have to flatter me,” he said. “I’m already here.”
“‘M not saying it to flatter you,” Harry answered, moving down Louis’s neck to his collarbones. Louis tried to concentrate on his breathing, threading his hands through Harry’s long, messy ringlets. He was completely, painfully hard. Harry was just dropping to his knees when Louis hauled him back up.
“Wha-- again?” Harry blinked, eyes glazed and almost glassy. Louis smiled impishly as he switched their positions and pressed Harry up to the door, undoing the remaining couple of buttons on his shirt and peeling it off. “I thought I was going to blow you,” Harry said, with an endearingly wistful look on his face.
“Age before beauty, darling,” Louis laughed. “But it was very polite of you to offer.”
He sank to his knees without further warning, trailing a hand down Harry’s chest and making him buck forward. Louis felt the hard line of Harry’s cock on his chin, his breath hitching as he placed both of his hands on Harry’s hips and pinned him back against the door. Then he paused a moment, trailing a finger along the stitchwork at Harry’s waistband.
“You know, these really do look kind of good.”
Harry snorted, grinding up into Louis’s cupped hand. “High praise.”
“They certainly show off the equipment.”
He heard Harry laugh and mutter “equipment” under his breath as Louis traced the outline of his length. Harry Styles, he thought, still with mild surprise, is completely and effortlessly charming.
Louis wasted no more time unzipping Harry and pulling the Lanvin pinstripe trousers down to his knees. He drew in a sharp breath when he uncovered Harry's thighs -- they were soft, pale and just as gorgeous as he'd imagined. He dug his fingers in and squeezed, ignoring the pink tip of Harry's cock where it poked out of his magenta briefs in favor of sucking a mark onto Harry's left inner thigh.
"Jesus, Tomlinson," Harry gasped. Louis felt his legs shiver around his face. "Fuck -- do more... just be more..."
Louis pulled off, about to ask if it was too much when he saw that Harry's head was thrown back, neck flushed with pleasure.
"... rough," he finished. "I like the -- I like the beard burn."
Louis grinned and buried his head in Harry's thighs again, glad he hadn't shaved that morning. He felt Harry's big hands threading through his hair, splayed in that particular way, softly massaging. When Harry was good and roughed-up, nice and pink and sensitive, Louis pulled off to admire his work.
"So that's why you like me in tighter pants," Harry said, chest rising and falling under a fresh sheen of sweat. "You have a thing for my thighs."
Louis just shrugged and grinned up at him. "Mystery solved."
"I'd let you fuck them sometime," Harry said, voice low and gravelly.
Louis gasped. “Harry,” he scolded, digging a thumb into the sore spot he’d created earlier. Harry only moaned, arching his back and humping air. Louis finally pulled Harry’s pants down and wrapped a warm palm around his cock. “You can come down my throat,” he said, “and you can thrust a little, but only a little. Got it?”
Harry nodded eagerly. He was staring down at Louis with something like awe. Louis stared right back, deliberately fluttering his eyelashes as he kissed the tip of Harry’s cock and licked around the underside of his head. He pulled his hand up from the base, once, twice -- then opened his mouth and sank down, going at it in earnest.
Harry couldn’t keep still. He squirmed, shivering, grinding his arse back against the door as Louis sucked him. The kid was even particularly good when he was the one receiving, God, so responsive. Louis breathed in sharply, reveling in the slightly musky odor. His jaw was already aching, Harry was so big, but Louis concentrated on the urgent need in his own pants, his cock thick and leaking and in search of friction. Louis palmed at himself with his left hand as he continued to go down on Harry.
“Oh, shit, Louis,” Harry breathed. He began to thrust shallowly into Louis’s mouth. Small, polite thrusts, even though Louis could tell he was vibrating for more.
Good boy, he thought. He put extra effort into relaxing his jaw, jacking off what didn’t fit into his mouth.
“‘M gonna --” Harry gasped, and Louis felt him shudder as hot spurts of come began to hit the back of his throat. Harry moaned, muscles tensing. He came with his whole body, arching off the door and quivering in Louis’s mouth. “Christ,” he breathed. His eyes opened. “You.”
He hauled Louis up, still shivering, and made quick, fumbling work of Louis’s zipper. Louis dug his nails into Harry’s biceps and groaned as Harry got his big hand around his cock.
“Come on my belly,” Harry said, and Louis stood on his tip toes to thrust up on Harry’s warm skin.
His hand was amazing, and a very short time later Louis was wrapping his arms around Harry’s neck and shuddering through his own orgasm. He painted Harry’s torso, spurting almost up to his inked collarbones.
“You’re very good at that,” he whispered, before dropping back onto his heels. The fleeting pain in his arches was washed out by a flood of post-coital warmth, his knees weak and fuzzy. “Shit.”
They both took a moment to breathe, Louis thumbing Harry’s nipples, dipping his fingers in the mess he’d just made.
“Louis,” Harry said, quietly, squeezing his waist.
“Yeah?” he asked.
“It smells like come in here.”
Anyone standing within five feet of the loos could hear a duet of high-pitched laughter and low, rumbling chuckles, interrupted by the light smacking sound of skin on skin.
Harry took a deep breath, exhaling as slowly as he could while his makeup artist, Denise, brushed fine powder all over his face. He was famously addicted to his phone, but moving his head this way and that to peek at it during primp time always got him scolded and, on more than one occasion, his wrist actually slapped, so he’d agreed to swear it off in favor of mostly stationary pre-red carpet relaxation exercises. They weren’t going so well this time around.
“Breathe less noticeably out of your nostrils, please,” Denise muttered, holding her brush in the air centimeters from his cheek as she waited for him to comply.
“Why are you so twitchy tonight, anyway?” she asked, smiling down at where Harry’s fingers were drumming quickfire rhythms on his thighs. He was about to walk the red carpet for a Spanish awards show, Los 40 Principales, and then perform his newest single. No matter how slow and steady his inhalations, Harry couldn’t quite calm down.
He shrugged and made a nonchalant noise of confusion, almost like he’d said “I don’t know," but hadn’t bothered to open his mouth.
Denise laughed openly at that, peering down at him again, this time with a knowing look on her face. Harry blushed.
“You can go ahead and check your phone,” she said, turning to rummage through her makeup kit. “I want to use a different bronzer.”
Harry leaned to the side and quickly snatched his phone off the counter in front of the mirror, his pulse kicking up before he glanced at the screen.
Let there be a text from Louis.
Harry looked. His heart sank.
It’s all right. It’s not like he hasn’t texted you before... he thought, trying to console himself as he scrolled through their previous day’s conversation (a brief interlude about Dutch tulip mania in the 1600s because Harry had been in Amsterdam). The insecure part of his inner monologue picked up right where his previous thought left off. He’s never initiated it, though.
Harry had to fight the urge to rub the heels of his palms into his eyes as he mulled over the situation with Louis. That kind of mindless destruction of Denise’s hard work would get him more than a slap on the wrist -- probably a whack upside the head.
Maybe that’s what I need, he thought, wincing at how strongly he’d come on to Louis the Saturday before. But just like every other time he’d thought back to it since that night, his cringing embarrassment was quickly replaced by a flood of heat that filled up his whole body, leaving him squirming in his seat as memories replayed in his mind.
God. Louis. The way he’d let Harry touch his beautiful face. The way he’d rubbed that beautiful face all over Harry’s thighs. Just as importantly, if not more, the way they’d fallen into laughter together afterward, so easily.
It was everything Harry had been fantasizing about since he’d bumped into Louis at the BFAs and then read Louis’s mean tweet after the ceremony. It felt electric with Louis, and it filled Harry with a strange sort of aching anticipation, because he truly felt like their potential to be great together might be endless.
Harry was infatuated with Louis. Already in too deep. And he simply wasn’t willing to settle for a one-off, no matter how cagey Louis had been after they'd slunk back out to the party. Harry had managed to secure his phone number, despite Louis’s outward reluctance, and they had been texting rather frequently in the week since (Louis couldn’t seem to resist a chance at banter, and Harry was quickly becoming adept at baiting him), but the designer still continued to act as though this were all a lark to Harry. Seemed stubbornly steadfast in pretending that’s all it could ever be.
Is it my age? Harry wondered now, pocketing his phone as Denise began to apply the bronzer she’d been talking about. Harry cursed the fact that he’d had to spend the past week on the continent for promo, because as flirtatious as their texting had been, he knew he’d have had a better chance of changing Louis’s mind and courting him properly if he’d been in London.
Harry wanted to woo Louis, as soon as he could. He wanted to cook Louis meals and listen while he talked and then take him to bed, again and again. Harry was only twenty-two, but he didn’t want to settle for quickies in club bathrooms anymore. Not that he was ready to swear off quickies in club bathrooms, but he wanted more. He was definitely ready for a long-term relationship. Definitely ready for a long-term relationship with someone like Louis, specifically.
“All set,” Denise said, stepping back and surveying her work. Harry stood up and turned in a circle, letting her tug at the fit of his suit and give him a few supportive claps on the shoulders. "You look wonderful, love.”
Harry’s publicist, Patrick, had come hurrying back into the room in the meantime, eager to remind Harry to correct his apparently awkward natural body language for the thousandth time.
“Don’t hunch,” Patrick said, pointing a stern finger right at Harry but smiling as he did it.
“Yeah, yeah,” Harry replied, rolling his shoulders in his suit jacket to try to relieve some of the tension that had settled into his upper back.
“Remember what we talked about?”
Harry bobbed his head and inhaled deeply through his nose, holding the oxygen in his lungs for several beats. Patrick chuckled and gave Harry’s upper shoulder a squeeze.
Over the past half-month or so, Harry and his team had begun the slow process of facilitating his eventual coming out as a gay man. So far there had been one ambiguous comment in an interview during a promo day press junket, and Patrick had made sure it had made all the gossip rags and entertainment blogs. Questions about that particular comment were still off-limits to reporters, but Patrick was now encouraging Harry to be “his natural self” on the red carpet, much more than he ever had before. Harry felt his natural self was fairly obviously gay.
“All right?” Patrick asked, his eyes full of concern.
Harry nodded again, swallowing hard. A plainly-stated disclosure of his sexuality would be made at the end of January, if everything went according to plan. Every time Harry thought about it being all the way out in the open at last, it filled him with a dizzying sort of kinetic joy. He usually broke out into a little bit of a flop sweat, albeit due much more to anticipation than anxiety. Harry had been waiting almost his entire career to do this, and now that things were finally in motion, it sometimes felt surreal. Like he was outside of himself, watching it happening to someone else.
“Yeah,” he said out loud, “I’m good.”
Harry stared out the window of the limo on the way to the venue, Louis’s laugh running through his mind on a loop. There were still no new texts.
Is it the closet? he wondered. He refused to entertain the idea that Louis just didn’t like him. Not after last Saturday night. I wouldn’t want a secret relationship either, if I were out. I’ll have to tell him the plan…
The thought of confiding in Louis Tomlinson made Harry feel rosy inside as they reached the red carpet. He climbed out of the car, straightening his suit jacket on his shoulders, and then shot off a quick series of texts before switching his phone to silent and pocketing it.
In Spain today. :)
Keep an eye out, will you? Need your expert opinion: am I disrespecting my legs again? xx
Harry was in a double-breasted Louis Vuitton suit. The trousers were a slimmer fit than the Lanvin that Louis Tomlinson had been so critical of, and Harry was hoping he wouldn’t be too disappointed in what he saw. It gave Harry a thrill, thinking about Louis looking at pictures of him, and he pushed aside the worries he had about Louis’s hesitation and used his excitement about their budding relationship to bring his A-game as he ran the gauntlet of microphones and reporters leading into the arena.
He was just his natural self.
By the time Harry had taken his seat inside, he was absoluting dying to check his phone for a response from Louis. He’d been free from the scrutiny of the red carpet for at least five minutes, having popped into the loo for a wee, but he hadn’t been able to bring himself to look just yet. He was too anxious about seeing that there were no new messages.
You are prolonging the inevitable, you moron, he thought, as he and and his bodyguard settled in. Just bite the bullet.
Harry tugged the phone from his pocket with only a mildly trembling hand, taking one last deep breath and steeling himself before he finally peeked.
His cheeks flushed heavily at what he saw, his heart leaping. He took a shuddering gasp of relief, almost embarrassed by how elated he was to see that Louis had indeed responded. More than once. There were a whole slew of texts from him, most of them in same vaguely antagonistic, teasing tone that Harry had truly come to love over the past week or so. Louis was adorable.
And where exactly am I supposed to be looking in order to make this judgment, hmmm?
Is there some kind of Spanish Red Carpets cable channel I’m not aware of?
I am an old man, Harry Styles, why are you trusting me to navigate the internet this way?
I am about to wade into your twitter tag.
Oh, I see some fans that want us to be on a ship together, like you said!
Harry giggled, his heart fluttering as he scrolled down. As loathe as Louis was to initiate contact, his replies never seemed to indicate any sort of indifference toward Harry at all, and Harry ate it up.
Aha! I’ve just seen you.
You’re only marginally disrespecting your legs.
Harry bit his lip, grinning wide as he tapped out his reply. He was happy they’d gotten through the press scrum early and had a bit of wait before the ceremony began.
am happy to hear it!
Harry felt almost delightfully wicked, a dart of adrenaline running out to his fingertips as he sent two more replies:
Because I do cherish them, you know.
My thighs, in particular.
His heart beat a rat-a-tat-tat rhythm against his ribs as he waited to see if Louis would respond, and a wave of sheer glee crashed over him when he saw the telltale dots that signaled Louis was already typing.
I will murder Niall.
Harry threw his head back and let out a loud cackle, feeling lit up with delight. If anyone was shipping them, and shipping them hard, it was Niall Horan. Toward the end of the previous weekend's party, Louis had left to use the toilet for non-sexual activities and Niall had eagerly let it slip that he had been using some hilariously specific language about Harry’s legs when he’d been drunk after the BFAs.
Harry’s heart skipped a beat as he contemplated his next text. He felt electricity crackle down his spine as he thought, yet again, about how Louis’s face had been buried between his thighs, his scruff rasping over Harry’s delicate skin. He pressed a thumb into his upper quadricep, remembering how the beard burn had smarted for days in the best possible way.
I'd let you, you know.
His pulse beat furiously in his red-hot cheeks as he hit send.
If you wanted to.
I want you to.
Harry shifted in his seat. He hadn’t even sent anything overtly explicit, but even so he was uncomfortably aroused for being in public. Just the thought of Louis touching him again, of getting to touch Louis in return. God. Louis’s eyes and face and body. Harry had never seen someone so beautiful up close in all his life.
It felt interminable, the wait for Louis’s response, even though it couldn’t have been more than thirty seconds in the end. Harry’s hand was slick with sweat around his phone when it finally came through.
When do you get back to London?
Three days later, Harry was standing in the doorway to Louis’s flat with a grocery bag in each hand, and Louis was ruining his carefully thought-out plan.
When Louis had agreed to see him again, Harry had immediately decided that it was an official date, whether Louis had been thinking of it that way or not. He’d quickly informed Louis that he was going to come over and cook dinner for him and he wasn’t taking no for an answer. Harry wanted to do this right. He wanted to take things slow. He was planning on getting to know Louis better, and planning on letting Louis get to know that he was interested in much more than sex.
Harry was not planning on jumping Louis’s bones immediately, not this time.
Except Louis had gotten caught up in some sketches and lost track of time, and now he was standing sheepishly in his entryway looking more erotic in a hoodie and joggers than any other human being had ever before, in history. Harry had expected it to hit him hard, being in Louis’s physical presence again, but he couldn’t possibly have anticipated this.
“I, uh --” Louis said, waving Harry into the flat and leading him toward the kitchen. "I’m sorry I’m such a mess.”
Harry just shuffled along behind him, looking blankly at the elegant prints and photos Louis had hanging on the wall to keep from staring at his arse.
Louis began tidying up some countertops as soon as they reached the small kitchen, shoving a bunch of bills in a drawer and putting a used cereal bowl in the sink. “I got -- just, I had some ideas for a suit. Like, dark fabric, at first you don’t realize it’s textured... lace, maybe. I don’t know.” He waved a hand around, started to ramble a bit. If Harry hadn’t been so hopelessly devastated by his outfit, it might have occurred to him that Louis was a tad nervous about seeing him again, too. “If I don’t write things down, don’t get a start on them, I tend to like, lose very specific thoughts forever…” he laughed, and fluttered his hand again, mimicking the motion of one of his ideas flittering away from his brain. "They just disappear entirely.”
Harry stood slack-jawed and blinking, and Louis seemed to realize for the first time that Harry hadn’t spoken since he’d come inside, and that he was staring at Louis, quite blatantly, despite his best efforts.
“You must -- You must know how that is. What with writing music…” Louis said softly, tugging at an ear self-consciously, his voice trailing off at the end. He leaned back against a counter and quirked an eyebrow, as if he were prompting Harry to respond.
Harry flushed under Louis’s gaze, his grocery bags bumping against his legs as he swayed on the spot. There was just something about seeing Louis out of a proper outfit that felt incredibly intimate to him. He’d only seen Louis twice in person, but he’d also done a little light Google stalking, so he’d seen picture after picture of him at event after event. Louis was always impeccable. Always sharp. Like this, he was so soft, and Harry found it almost brutally attractive in an all-consuming way.
The fabric of the sweats was forgiving beneath the perfect planes and angles of Louis’s handsome face, and even though the joggers were loose, they somehow fell exactly right on Louis’s body, emphasizing the subtle curviness of his figure. The fit highlighted his hips in particular, making their power tantalizingly apparent every time Louis shifted his weight, and making Harry feel so dazed with want he couldn’t speak.
Why is this happening to me?
“Do you want to set those down?” Louis asked slowly, gesturing to the bags in Harry’s hands. He gave Harry a shrewd look when Harry placed them on the counter without making a sound, a touch of concern coloring his expression. “Are you all right, Harold? You haven’t said a word since you got here.”
Harry swallowed hard, his skin heating up with so much embarrassment he felt like he was glowing with it. He’d probably already been in over his head when he’d come on to Louis at that party, but he’d refused to feel it at the time. He was so attracted to Louis that he’d just gone for it, flying by the seat of his pants, heady and beyond happy from their interactions. Even today, he’d marched over to Louis’s almost fresh off the plane, sure that he would be able to charm him with his winning personality. Now, though, all of his reckless confidence had deserted him. He was in a bit of a thrall to Louis, utterly overwhelmed by his reaction to him, and he wasn’t sure what to do.
“I -- I,” he croaked, fidgeting and still unable to tear his eyes away from Louis’s body. His mouth had gone so dry. He wanted to put his hands on Louis so much.
Louis nodded in encouragement, his pretty eyelashes batting almost imperceptibly.
“I could fuck you where you stand,” Harry blurted, clapping his hands over his mouth in abject mortification as soon as the words came hurtling out of his mouth.
Before Harry could think too hard about how this was it, he was going to die of humiliation next to the island in Louis Tomlinson’s kitchen, Louis was letting out an absolute howl of a laugh, his hands buried in the pockets of those aggravating joggers, head thrown back in utter delight.
Harry shifted in place, his face ablaze.
Louis leveled him with a look and began to close the distance between them, causing Harry’s already racing pulse to come faster and faster and his nerves to fire erratically, sending sparks out to his fingertips.
“I didn’t mean to say... I mean --” Harry stammered. Louis edged further into his personal space, backing him right up against a wall, and Harry had to shift to the left slightly to avoid bumping his head against a picture frame. He let out a single, ridiculously high-pitched giggle at the awkwardness of having to do so, and then felt momentarily terrified that Louis was going to start thinking he was deranged.
“You always come on strong, huh, Styles?” Louis said, peering up at Harry. His own cheeks were tinged pink, but he definitely wasn’t embarrassed. In fact, he seemed to be deriving great pleasure from Harry’s squirming discomfort. It only made Harry feel more aroused, already half hard in his jeans. “A little smoother with the delivery and execution last time, though, I must say.”
Harry was still in his unbuttoned peacoat, and he took a heaving breath when Louis began to use its lapels to adjust it on his shoulders, occasionally smoothing a hand down the maroon cashmere scarf that hung around Harry’s neck and tugging him even closer with it.
“Just so you know,” Louis said, going up on his tip toes so his mouth was at Harry’s ear, “I think I’d prefer to do the fucking, if you don’t mind. At least this time around.”
Harry let out a strangled noise. His hands, which had been hanging at his sides, rose of their own accord and closed over Louis’s hips, pulling their bodies flush together. The contact had Harry’s eyes fluttering shut and his breath rushing out heavily through his nose.
Louis looped his arms around Harry’s neck. Just as he was about to press his lips against the column of Harry’s throat, he pulled back and gave him a probing look.
“What?” Harry squeaked out, surprised he could even manage that.
“Are you really okay?”
“What? Yes. Why?” Harry stuttered, his embarrassment flaring up. “Yeah -- yes, I’m fine.”
Louis cocked his head to the side, his eyes narrowed in disbelief.
“You seem pretty worked up.”
Harry snorted at the complete ridiculousness of the situation, pressing Louis against his erection with a firm hand on the small of his back. “I am worked up.”
“Okay,” Louis said, drawing out the word. “Well, why are you so particularly worked up?”
Harry rolled his eyes and let out a choked-off laugh, nudging Louis with his knee. “You,” he said, in something of a forceful whine, as though the answer were obvious.
Louis gave him another look, and Harry shook his head and sighed. Louis’s insistence on finding out what had gotten him so hot and bothered probably should have made him feel even more humiliated, but somehow it was taking a little bit of the edge off, instead. Even though Harry was still a disastrous embarrassment, it was okay, because Louis was concerned about him, and Harry felt himself relax incrementally despite the heat in his cheeks.
“Okay, fiiiiiiine,” Harry said, scooping Louis up into an even closer embrace, so he didn’t have to look him in the eye when he told him. He let it out in a rushed mumble. “It’s -- it’syouinthosesweats.”
“It’s you!” Harry said, enunciating this time and flushing all over. He pulled back and knocked his head against the wall, still avoiding eye contact. “In those clothes. The joggers… You look -- you look good in those -- I think you look good in those clothes. The sweats.”
“Really?” Louis chirped, clearly very pleased. He looked down at his own body and then back up at Harry. “That does it for you?”
Harry was only peeking down out at him out of the corner of his eye, struggling to suppress a twisting smile. His face was still burning. He just shrugged, all false nonchalance.
Louis burst out laughing and pulled Harry into a short, searing kiss, swallowing up his noise of surprise. Then he spun Harry around and started pushing him down the hall, toward what Harry could only assume was his bedroom.
“Does any of that stuff need to be refrigerated?” Louis asked, referring to the food Harry’d brought over. As if Harry could concentrate on anything else besides Louis’s forehead nudging between his shoulder blades and his hands sliding up the front of his shirt as they stumbled down the hall.
“It’ll be...” Harry paused in the doorway to the bedroom, relishing the feel of Louis’s small frame against his back. There was some buffalo mozzarella that should maybe go in the fridge, but there was no way Harry was going all the way back to the kitchen now. “It’ll be fine.”
Louis made a pleased sound and went up on his tip toes to press an open-mouthed kiss to the back of Harry’s neck, giggling at the groan it elicited. Then he shoved Harry into the room and toward the bed with demanding little hands, toppling him over onto it, peacoat and all.
“So you like lounge clothes, hmm?” he asked, perching himself on Harry’s lap and looking down at him with a teasing, imperious expression. “Trackies, hoodies, and the like?”
Harry bit his lip and shrugged, drinking in the sight of Louis above him as his hands settled back on his hips. “Really it’s you,” he whispered, feeling bashful but happy. He tugged on one of Louis’s sweatshirt sleeves. “It’s you in these clothes.”
“Me specifically, huh?” Louis said, still teasing. He rocked back and forth a little on Harry’s thighs.
“Well,” Harry murmured, brushing a thumb across a sliver of exposed skin at Louis’s waist, “some people just look better in clothes.”
“Oh is that so? Like you, you mean?”
Harry squawked in protest, pushing himself up onto his elbows in amused outrage. “What do you mean, me?” he demanded, motioning violently between their bodies. “This entire situation is happening right now because you said I looked bad in some clothing! More than once!”
“No, no, no." Louis was shaking his head as he shoved at Harry’s shoulders. “I said your clothes didn’t fit --" He paused for a second. “Okay, maybe I implied that you looked bad..." Harry barked out a triumphant laugh and Louis talked right over it. “But! But, that wasn’t your fault. Any other person would have looked much worse in those suits! When you wear something that’s properly tailored?” Louis made an adorable huffing sound of disbelief, shaking his head some more. “Are you kidding me, Styles? You’re a stylist’s dream to dress.”
Harry’s insides were aglow from Louis’s words, and his stomach swooped when Louis stared at him for several long beats, letting the sentiment settle in.
“What would you put me in, then?” Harry asked softly, taking one of Louis’s hands and holding it tight. He was a little embarrassed to ask outright, but he was so interested in knowing that he felt a bit crazed by it.
Louis hesitated for a few seconds at the question, an odd vulnerability flickering across his face. It looked like he couldn’t quite decide what to say.
“You want me to tell you how I’d dress you?” he asked finally, his voice low. “Right now? Head to toe?”
Harry nodded, his heart flip-flopping in his chest as he stared into Louis’s eyes.
“For a red carpet?”
Harry nodded again. “Yes, please.”
Louis took a deep breath, shuffled down to the end of the bed and stood up, gently prising Harry’s shoes and socks off his dangling feet. Then he regarded Harry for a moment, his eyes moving over the lines of his body, lingering on his hips and thighs and chest. The attention made Harry feel warm all over, bathed in a syrupy, pulsing heat. His heart was thudding in his ears.
“I have to admit, you do pretty well with outerwear on your own,” Louis said. He knelt on the bed next to Harry, running a hand down Harry’s scarf and unlooping it from around his neck before tossing it to the floor. Then he took his time sliding Harry’s peacoat off his shoulders, smiling when Harry shivered at the feel of Louis’s fingertips grazing his upper arms through the fabric of his shirt. “I’d put you in something similar to this, long -- knee length. Black and narrow.”
Harry lifted his body so Louis could fully free his arms from the sleeves of the coat, spreading it out underneath him.
“Then, if it were up to me,” Louis continued, thoughtfully, “I’d go classic. Get you in a nice three-piece suit.” He placed his hands on Harry’s waist at its smallest point and squeezed once before he set to work unbuttoning his flimsy shirt. He kissed down Harry’s sternum as the fabric was moved aside, his lips slick and soft and warm. It felt so good that it was exhilarating and almost terrible at the same time, and Harry's heart shot up into his throat, his breath stuttering.
“You’d look so good in a properly tailored waistcoat, Harry,” Louis murmured between kisses, squeezing Harry’s waist again. It sounded like just picturing Harry in this imagined outfit was nearly too much for him, and the idea of that made Harry twitch with desire, overwhelmed. “You’ve no idea.”
Louis paused for a second to thumb over Harry’s nipples and mouth at his neck, and Harry shuddered at the sensation, letting out a gasping moan before he relaxed into it. He felt like he might just melt right into the bed.
“The trousers would be slim fit, of course," Louis whispered against Harry’s skin, his hands moving down to undo the buckle of Harry’s belt and then his flies. “Legs so long… for days and days.”
He went up onto his knees again and shuffled around on the bed so he could tug the jeans down Harry’s legs. Louis’s eyes went darker at how Harry was already tenting his briefs, but he only bit his lip at the sight, skimming his hands up and down the outsides of Harry’s thighs and breathing deeply.
“It would be grey,” Louis croaked out, after a minute, his voice breaking with arousal as he squeezed Harry’s lower hips. Gently. Everything was so slow and gentle, Louis’s caresses and his gaze, and it was driving Harry half mad with longing. His cock was so hard it was almost leaking. He could feel his pulse everywhere, in every bit of his hot, exposed skin, and his blood was surging through his veins, leaving him awash in adrenaline. Aching from it. This was the most erotic experience of his life to date, and Louis had barely touched him.
“The suit would be a nice charcoal grey, over a white shirt, to contrast with your eyes,” Louis went on, straddling Harry and looking right at him. His lips twitched up in another teasing smile. “And I know you are a bit of a fop, Styles, a bit of a dandy. So don’t worry, there would be room for more expression with the shoes and the pocket square and the tie.” He placed his thumb and forefinger on the notches of Harry’s clavicle and stroked down either side of his breastbone, over and over again, mimicking the width of an imaginary tie. There was a faraway glint in his eye as he did so, like he was picturing everything he described in perfect detail. His tone was almost reverent. Harry was awestruck. "Maybe a textured purple for the tie," he said. "Dark, dark purple, so the color’d only be visible when you moved in the light. And a lavender paisley pocket square with a white border. Nice and lively. Vibrant…”
Harry could hear the “like you” at the end of the trailing statement, even though Louis hadn’t said it. Vibrant like you. And maybe by that point he shouldn’t have been surprised, but it caught him off guard how moved he was by it. By everything. By Louis and his words and his attention. Harry had been pinned in place by Louis’s stare, but something inside finally gave way, and he couldn’t stop himself from surging up and pulling Louis into a deep, frantic kiss. He rolled them over so that he was pressing Louis, still fully clothed, into the mattress.
“Fuck me,” Harry said when they broke apart, wanting so desperately, wildly, to get closer and closer. “Please, please fuck me.”
Louis inhaled a ragged breath and licked his lips. He nodded.
Some time later, Harry was splayed out on top of Louis’s dark blue duvet, boneless from two orgasms (the second when Louis was deep inside of him, seconds from coming himself) while Louis sang the wrong words to “Cherish” by the Association directly to his thighs.
“Cherish is the word I use to describe my feelings for youuuuuu…”
Harry’s stomach was seizing up with laughter to the point that it hurt, and Louis was so breathless with it that he was barely getting any sound out.
“That’s -- that’s,” Harry gasped, his heart twisting as Louis glanced up at him with a look of sheer, goofy happiness. He’d been peppering kisses all over Harry’s thighs as he sang. Harry couldn’t believe this was his life. "Those aren’t the right words.”
“Oh wow!” Louis said, clutching his chest like he was gravely insulted, completely ignoring the way Harry was swatting at him to get him to stop. “Wow, what a stickler! Not the right words, huh? We can’t all be music history experts... How can I live up to your standards? Something original perhaps?”
As appealing as it sounded, it felt much more important to kiss him at that moment, so Harry made a little sound of protest and yanked Louis back up into his arms.
“I’m coming out, you know,” Harry gasped, several minutes later.
Louis blinked at him.
“In -- in January…” he said, fervently wishing he hadn’t just overstepped.
“That’s great, Harry,” Louis whispered, his voice sincere as he tucked his head beneath Harry’s chin. “Really great.”
Harry cleared his throat, threading his fingers through Louis’s. “Can I -- can I see you again, then?” he asked, twisting his eyes shut, his toes curling up in hope and embarrassment. Louis could probably feel how hard his heart was pounding.
“Yes,” Louis said, smiling against Harry’s neck, “but only if you still make me dinner tonight.”
Harry wanted to push a little. Wanted to keep pressing until Louis agreed they were dating exclusively. Until there was no ambiguity at all and no reason for Harry to feeling any niggling insecurity in his heart. But he was also afraid of what might happen if he did so, afraid he would get an answer he didn’t want. As nice as this had been (so nice that Harry couldn’t help but hope that this wasn’t how Louis always experienced sex, with so much scorching intensity and so much laughing -- just the thought of that made him almost weak with jealousy) and as infatuated as Harry was, he also knew they’d only known each other for just over two weeks, and part of that time had been solely internet-based flirtation. There was no real reason to rush. So Harry sighed, and pulled Louis even closer against him. "Of course I’ll make you dinner. Let’s take a shower first, though, please," was what he said.
It wasn’t until after the dress rehearsal for Saturday Night Live the following weekend that Harry found the suit. He’d been in his dressing room after they’d finished up, pawing through his clothing rack and looking for the elf costume he had to wear for his bit in Amy Adams’s opening monologue, when his eyes caught on a garment bag he didn’t recognize.
“The Brits?” he murmured in confusion, reading the white plastic tag it was hanging from.
Harry had been in New York City since Thursday for SNL preparation and an appearance on Jimmy Fallon, and his stylist, Joanie, had brought along quite a few outfits because Harry could be alternatively picky and fickle about what he agreed wear. (“How am I supposed to anticipate your whims, young man?” she liked to tease, when he was being particularly difficult.) The Brits weren’t until February, though, so this one must have been included by mistake. Harry almost flicked on to the next hanger, when he noticed a hastily written “Burb LWT” on the tag under the name of event.
Harry’s heart stuttered and his hand stilled. LWT. Louis William Tomlinson. He’d managed to coax Louis into revealing little bits of personal information over the dinner he’d eventually cooked for him that night. Hometown, family structure, birthday. Middle name.
“Joanie…” Harry called out weakly, pulling at the zipper on the garment bag. "Is Burberry -- ? Is Louis Tomlinson dressing me for…”
Harry’s voice trailed off when he saw what was inside. Three-piece suit, charcoal gray, slim fit... His mind was racing as he stroked a finger over the silk pocket square. Lavender paisley, with hints of amber and spring green in the details of the swirling pattern. A white border. It was all so beautiful.
Why didn’t he tell me?
“Joanie?” he called out again, his voice a little hoarse.
Joanie stuck her head into the dressing room; she’d been chatting with Denise out in the hall. “What is it, love?”
“Is -- Is Louis Tomlinson dressing me for the Brits?” Harry asked, nodding toward the open garment bag.
She nodded, coming fully into the room with a cup of tea in hand. “Well, Burberry is, anyway,” she murmured, moving closer to get a better look. “I had no idea we’d gotten it so early, though. David must have packed it by accident.”
Harry nodded, blinking at the suit. He wasn’t sure how to calm the anxiety that had taken hold of him or what exactly was causing it. It just seemed so strange that Louis wouldn’t have shared this with him. Did Louis think it would look like he was taking advantage of Harry? Or that Harry would think that he was? How could Harry, when he’d had no idea Louis was designing for him? Did Louis not trust him? Was he embarrassed to be involved with Harry at all?
Maybe he just wants to keep business as business; it’s not that weird. Stop freaking out.
It was with all types of conflicting thoughts piling up in his head that Harry began to investigate further, opening the bag all the way so he could see the entire suit, subconsciously looking for some kind of personal note tucked into a pocket or hiding under a lapel.
His heart lifted when he found one. There was a small piece of paper carefully pinned to the silk of the pocket square, previously hidden by the breast of the jacket. Harry’s excitement gave way to confusion as he began to read.
30 November, 2014
Mr. Harry Styles,
Thank you very much for choosing Burberry for this pivotal night in British fashion.
Accessories are included, save shoes, which we will leave to your discretion. We don't anticipate there being too many adjustments needed to the fit, but several seams have been left loose for precise tailoring.
The British Fashion Awards are an incredibly important event for Burberry, so thank you again for this wonderful opportunity. We hope this can be the start of a positive new working relationship.
Burberry Group PLC
Harry stood for several moments after he’d finished reading, his eyes moving over the text as he tried to process the words.
British Fashion Awards?
She cut him off by snatching the note right out of Harry’s hand.
“The BFAs?” she whispered, turning the piece of paper over as though there might be another clue to its origin and purpose on the reverse side. “There must have been --"
“A miscommunication…” Harry finished quietly, everything finally slotting into place.
He must have felt so slighted, Harry thought, his stomach twisting and his cheeks heating up with remorse even though he hadn’t known. No wonder. No wonder.
“Christ,” Joanie muttered, still staring at the note.
“This will fit me?” Harry asked, demanding her direct attention with his tone.
Joanie turned to examine the garment after seeing the look in his eye, her brow creasing again. She nodded slowly. “Definitely should. Why? Do you want to wear it tonight? Not that tiger shirt, then?”
Harry shook his head, running his fingers over the lapel of the jacket. The suit was put together with such consummate care, lovely down to the last detail. Louis Tomlinson took so much pride in his work, and the realization made affection and admiration for him well up inside of Harry so fiercely that his hand was trembling. Harry’s heart lifted up inside him. He felt emotional and expansive and inspired. Like anything in the world was possible.
What am I waiting for? he thought, as his hand moved to the dark purple tie and he felt the subtle texture of its fabric.
“No. No tiger shirt tonight,” he whispered to Joanie. “And I -- I need to talk to Patrick, and the band...”
Zayn Malik was being entirely unappreciative of Louis and his prawns, this time around. He barely batted an eye when Louis set the pan down on the coffee table in front of him, just rubbed his brow and took out his phone. It might have had something to do with Louis forcing him to come over at 4:00 a.m. to watch his sort-of, kind-of, maybe boyfriend on Saturday Night Live, but that was Zayn’s duty as a longtime friend and frequent moocher.
“You’re ignoring my prawns,” Louis pointed out, sitting down beside him on the couch.
Zayn’s only response was a deep sigh. He continued to scroll through whatever social media app he had open on his phone.
Maybe that was for the best, anyway. Prawns weren’t really a middle of the night food, were they? Not the first snack one tended to think of, Louis had to admit. The last thing Louis wanted was to be called out on the state of his nerves.
Stress cooking prawns, a new low, Louis thought, watching his own knee bounce up and down. He huffed. It really wasn’t his fault that Harry Styles had turned out to be so monstrously and impossibly endearing. Louis couldn’t help wanting the best for him in all of his endeavors. SNL was very high profile, very high risk. So it was only natural that Louis was completely flipping out.
He might also have been more anxious than usual because sometime after Harry had left his flat earlier that week Louis had realized that he’d already started fantasizing about their wedding. In a fashion-based way, of course.
Not too matchy-matchy, he thought, picturing his and Harry’s hypothetical marriage suits for the hundredth time as he picked up and subsequently rejected a prawn. Subtle complements. Classy, but colorful… I am an idiot.
Louis had really not anticipated becoming this attached. Not when he’d bumped into Harry at the BFAs, not when Harry had propositioned him with a blow job. Maybe he should have known, though. Maybe he’d been kidding himself all along that he wasn’t half in love with Harry. There had always been something about him, even when Louis had only been poring over pictures and measuring fabric to fit the wonderful body he’d never seen in person. Harry Styles had fascinated him from the start. Louis had probably been doomed before they’d ever even met.
I should have told him. I should have asked… Louis frowned, biting at his nails and trying to ignore the fact that the start of the show was getting closer and closer. He’d still been a little in denial about what he wanted when he and Harry had last been together, in the sense that he was pretending he could handle it that their relationship wasn’t clearly defined. Harry was young, and while he seemed rather eager, Louis didn’t want to rush him into anything. But then Harry’d left for New York, and Louis had desperately wanted to tell everyone around him that his boyfriend was going to be on Saturday Night Live. And he couldn’t. Because Harry wasn’t his boyfriend. Yet, Louis thought. He will be my boyfriend. I will ask and he will say yes.
Louis felt fairly confident that it was true, that Harry Styles would be his boyfriend if he asked, but it still made his heart beat faster when he thought about talking it out. Just the idea of Harry smiling at him, openly happy and secure, made him go uncomfortably warm inside.
Christ, I am such a sap. I hope this goes well for him.
“Dude.” Zayn broke Louis out of his reverie by reaching out to still his jackrabbiting knee.
“Don’t tell me to relax,” Louis said, when he saw the look on Zayn’s face. “It won’t work, so don’t do it.”
Zayn rolled his eyes and heaved another long-suffering sigh. “You are annoying; I wasn’t going to say that.”
Louis resumed the knee bouncing. Zayn stopped him again.
“Are you going to survive watching this?”
“Shut up,” Louis said, biting another nail. He paused. “Thank you for coming.”
“You’re welcome,” Zayn said, fluffing out his sweatshirt as he resituated himself on the couch. “I wasn’t going to tell you, but Harry just tweeted y--”
Before Zayn could finish his thought, Louis launched himself across the couch to where his phone was lying on the armrest as it charged.
“What did he say? What was the tweet?” Louis demanded, cursing the wifi for suddenly acting like it was 1995 inside his flat.
Zayn gave him another unimpressed look. “As I was saying, I wasn’t sure if you could handle it, given,” he gestured to loosely to Louis, “how you are right now. But he’s so fucking cryptic all the time. I have no idea what he means, and it’s pissing me off.”
Louis’s hands were trembling as he opened the app, and a shock of adrenaline went through him when he saw the tweets.
Before he could fully process, a text from Harry came through on his phone, then another.
I don’t know if you’ll be watching tonight.
It’s okay if not, but can’t help but hope you are.
It seemed then that Harry was having trouble deciding what to say next, because the three little dots appeared and disappeared two or three times before he finally sent a message.
I really like you, Louis.
Louis’s heart was hammering and a bittersweet ache bloomed in his chest, gooseflesh breaking out across the skin of his arms as he thought about how Harry’s face might have looked when he’d sent the texts. Maybe biting his bottom lip, that cute little furrow showing up between his brows, cheeks dusted pink. Most definitely his eyes had been intent and bright, all lit up with cautious hope.
It was so lovely that Louis had to work very hard not to collapse against Zayn and let out a gigantic whine. He wished he and Harry were together at that very moment so much it physically hurt.
Fuck. I am half in love with him already.
He was so caught up in his thoughts that it took him a few seconds to realize that Zayn was talking to him. Shoving at his shoulder, too.
“Well!” he asked. “What the fuck does he mean?”
Louis licked his lips and swallowed hard. “I think,” he said, clearing his throat. “I don’t know, but I think maybe he found the -- the suit.”
“The suit? What? The one for the BFAs?”
If Louis hadn’t been so beyond nervous for the show and Harry’s performance, he’d probably have gotten more enjoyment out of Zayn being so riled up by the situation.
“Um. Yes,” Louis said shortly, instead. Talking about it out loud made him feel even queasier than he already was. He glanced down at his watch, too rattled to text Harry back. "Have a fucking prawn, please. The show is starting.”
After only a minute of the opening sketch, the wait for Harry to appear had already become unbearable for Louis. His nerves were completely shot. It felt sort of like he was watching a horror movie, sinister music and a camera angle that had grown uncomfortably tight. Harry could pop out at any moment!
“Do you think he’ll wear it, then?” Zayn asked, leaning forward so he could indeed have a prawn.
Louis felt irrationally irked by the question. How could Zayn expect Louis to be thinking or talking at all at a time like this?
“I don’t know! Maybe!” he shouted, glaring at his best friend. Both of Louis’s knees were jumping at this point.
“Okay, wow!” Zayn said, a laugh punching out of him. “Maybe breathe a little bit.”
“Don’t tell me to relax.”
Several beats passed and Zayn didn’t say anything, but Louis could feel his eyes on the side of his face.
“What?” he bit out, annoyed that the unfunny, Harry-free opening sketch was taking so long. He turned to look at Zayn and then snorted grumpily when he saw his soft, amused expression.
“You really like him, huh?” Zayn asked.
Louis huffed again. “Yes,” he snapped.
Zayn didn’t say anything else, but Louis could feel happiness radiating off him as he moved to sit forward on the couch, and he’d never admit it, but it was comforting somehow. He felt himself relax just a little bit.
It was also strangely comforting to actually see Harry for the first time. He came out during the opening monologue, playing the part of an adorably inept Christmas elf with impressive levels of commitment. He also looked pretty fantastic in his green elf tights, and Louis was glad Zayn seemed to have decided to leave him alone for the time being because he was sure he was making goo-goo eyes at the telly. He couldn’t help it.
It felt like no time at all before nearly half the show was over, and they were coming back from another commercial break to Amy Adams standing on stage by herself, introducing Harry Styles as the week’s musical guest. Louis grabbed Zayn’s hand and held on tight.
The lights came up. Harry was behind a microphone stand, gently bobbing his head and patting his thigh in time with the intro music. He was wearing Louis’s suit.
Louis’s grip tightened further on Zayn’s hand and he gasped, seized by emotion.
Harry was in his suit, and it was absolutely breathtaking. The whole look was superb, polished and sharp and fully realized, and the clothes fit Harry like the perfectly-proportioned dream he was. But the best part of all, the part that was making a lump form in Louis’s throat and his heart stutter, was how clearly elated Harry was to be wearing it. Confident and comfortable, Harry knew he looked good. He was radiant, and Louis was completely mesmerized by him as he began to sing.
As Harry launched into the chorus of his song, Louis felt such a strong surge of affection he had to squeeze his eyes shut and bite his lip, repeatedly reminding himself that they’d barely known each other three weeks.
The truth was, Louis wanted to design things for Harry to wear for as long as he possibly could. It wasn’t just wedding outfit fantasies Louis had been entertaining over the past week, though those were probably the most ridiculous -- it was clothing and outfits for any and every occasion. Anywhere he was, walking to the shops or lying awake in bed at night, Louis found himself making mental sketches for Harry Styles. Tight jeans and floaty, almost tunic-like tops for trips to the market. Monogrammed pinstriped pajamas (like the Lanvin, only better). Shirts with floral motifs for a garden party. The exact white coveralls that Harry should wear, should he ever happen to be painting the inside of a flat. Even the suit Louis had been frantically sketching when Harry had come over to cook dinner for him had been specifically conceptualized with Harry in mind.
“I’ll make you another, sweetheart,” Louis murmured, letting the deep, resonant tone of Harry’s singing voice wash over him. “Let me make you another.”
Zayn must have heard him, squeezing Louis’s hand tight as they went to commercial break. Louis had never felt luckier to have him as a friend.
The rest of the show went by quickly, a blur of hackneyed sketches with very few laughs. Louis couldn’t help but feel cheated that Harry only appeared in one of them. He was muttering to Zayn about it just as they announced Harry’s second and final performance of the night.
This time when the lights came up, the band didn’t immediately start to play. Harry stood primly behind his microphone stand instead, smiling awkwardly out at the audience and teetering side to side a bit. He took a deep breath, then another. Louis bit his lip, his pulse picking up again. Harry was nervous, and it looked like he was struggling to gather his courage.
“What’s he doing?” Zayn asked, scootching forward on his couch cushion. “What’s going on?”
Louis shook his head rapidly, electricity shoot through his veins. It felt like his heart was skipping every other beat. “Don’t know. Don’t know. Don’t know.”
Harry coughed into his fist, and then set his trembling hand on his microphone, leaning forward to speak directly into it. “I just want to say a quick Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone before I begin.” He let out a half-laugh and shook his head, smiling at the applause that followed, raising his hands to indicate he wasn’t quite done. “In particular I, um, wanted to say Happy Holidays to anyone out there who ever had to do any coming out, or might, uh, might do so in the future. A very Happy Christmas to all of you! I’m -- I’m actually going to do some of my coming out right now, as it turns out.” Harry laughed again, shrugging and grinning at the few hoots and cheers that came from the live studio audience. His cheeks were pink and his eyes were so bright. Louis thought he’d never looked more beautiful. “I’m Harry Styles. I’m gay. And this song is called Ready to Run.”
Louis didn’t register the first full minute of the song. He knew Harry was singing and the audience was going berserk, but it was all drowned out by the torrent of blood rushing past his ears. Everything seemed distant and far away. He was probably in partial shock.
“Holy fucking shit!” Zayn was looking back and forth between Louis and the TV with wild eyes, like he couldn’t believe what had just happened, floored enough that he was clutching at his hair. “Holy shit, Louis! You sure know how to pick ‘em.”
Louis nodded silently, reaching for his phone. He understood that Harry had come out for himself, and that alone was wonderful, but Louis thought his heart might burst with admiration and joy when he thought about what a staggering, positive impact such a bold statement would have on the world. He was so proud of Harry, so happy just to know him, that he was close to tears.
Harry fucking Styles. Who would have thought. As taken as Louis might have been with Harry Styles before he even met him, he never could have predicted the true scope of his loveliness.
In the back of his mind he knew that Harry’s phone would be completely inundated with calls and texts, but he also knew he needed to respond as soon as he could, because Harry would probably be looking for his reaction in particular. That made Louis feel so honored he was literally dizzy.
He fired off a string of messages with shaking fingers.
I was watching. Of course I was.
I’m so proud of you.
And I like you so much too, Harry.
Please call whenever you can.
I promise I’ll pick up.
Then Louis let Zayn draw him into a fierce hug, both of them bursting into ecstatic laughter, still half in disbelief. They ate all the prawns.
This time when Harry came over, Louis was fully prepared. In fact, he’d been perched on the edge of his couch waiting for the buzzer to sound a full five minutes before Harry was scheduled to turn up, jumping at every little noise.
When Harry finally arrived, any nervousness Louis might have felt about seeing him again for the first time since SNL melted away completely as soon as he opened the door. All he felt was joy bubbling up inside him and making his fingers tingle.
Harry barked out a laugh immediately, grinning broadly and looking utterly gorgeous. “You wear that for me?” he asked, placing a hand on his heart and looking Louis up and down.
Louis smirked and shrugged, shoving his hands into the pockets of his carefully chosen joggers and grinning right back.
“Fuck,” Harry said, shaking his head. He gathered Louis up in his arms and kissed him, hot and urgent, until they were both gasping for breath. “I missed you so much.”
Louis nuzzled into Harry’s neck, shivering at the cold air that was still clinging to it from outside. He was heady from all the kissing and just from seeing Harry again. “Me too,” he said. “So much.”
“Happy birthday,” Harry whispered, sweeping Louis’s hair off his forehead with chilly fingers. Louis moved into the touch anyway.
Louis grunted in mild displeasure. “Not for two days.”
“Can you let a man enjoy the last of his twenties, please?” Louis said, pulling back to glare up into Harry’s delighted face.
“Yes,” Harry answered softly, speaking directly into Louis’s ear in a way Louis knew was calculated to drive him crazy. “Yes, I can. That’s why I thought maybe you could fuck my thighs. Like we talked about. If you want... Early birthday present.”
Now it was Louis’s turn to curse under his breath, his whole body going twice as hot as it already was. He shucked Harry’s coat off his shoulders and let it fall to the floor behind them. Then he looked down the narrow sliver of space between their bodies, at Harry’s perfect, plump thighs in his skin-tight denim.
“Fuck,” he said again.
“How about it, hmm?” Harry rasped, snaking an arm around Louis’s back and pressing him right up against those thighs on purpose. “I never stop thinking about that first time. You on your knees. Your -- your beard…”
Louis just managed to suppress a shudder at the words, squirming and shivering even more when Harry began to kiss down the delicate skin behind his ear, mouthing wetly and flicking his tongue.
“Might as well cherish what’s left of my youth, I guess,” he said, keeping his tone as dry as possible given how incredibly turned on he was.
Harry barked out another laugh and then hefted Louis into his arms, carrying him off to the bedroom at a wobbling sprint.
Later, they were curled together under the duvet, Louis draped over Harry’s back and his chin hooked over his shoulder as they talked. Or, at the moment, sang. Louis was serenading Harry with a Tomlinson original song to make him laugh.
“Little spoon. Little spoon. You’re my big little spoon,” he trilled, alternatively nosing into Harry’s hair and kissing his jawline.
“You are such a weirdo,” Harry giggled happily, preening at the attention and basically making Louis’s whole year. “I’m so glad.”
“I’m so glad you wore that awful Lanvin,” Louis whispered, snuggling closer. His heart clenched. They’d spent hours on the phone after Harry had come out, talking through everything that had happened and agreeing they should be together for real. It still boggled Louis’s mind slightly, that what was initially a professional slight had led him to this incredible boy.
“I’m still sorry,” Harry murmured, squeezing Louis’s hand where their fingers were laced together on Harry’s hip. It turned out the mix-up was down to Joanie switching PAs at exactly the wrong moment. “But happy about it too.”
They lay together in pleasant silence for several minutes while Louis stroked his hand up and down Harry’s side.
“You’ll still dress me for the Brits though, right?” Harry asked at last, craning his neck slightly so he could get a look at Louis’s face.
“Of course,” Louis said, pressing a kiss into Harry’s cheek. “I’ll keep dressing you as long as you’ll have me.”
Harry snuffled happily and then turned in Louis’s arms so he could beam at him and kiss him on the lips. “It’s going to be a long, long time. Just so you know.”