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nobody shines the way you do

Chapter Text

 

2 Years Ago

The trip from Brooklyn to Manhattan was a short, half hour subway ride. During that time Louis contemplated what the perfect housewarming gift was. He never had to worry about stuff like this when he was younger, but then again, he never attended housewarming parties back then--or ever, really. That was real grown up stuff and it was jarring that he’d probably be attending more of these as time went on. So figuring out what to get for parties like this would be helpful.

He tried googling and Buzzfeed suggested kitchen supplies, art decor, or food. He wondered if he had time to stop by a Pottery Barn or Home Goods somewhere. What kind of art decor or kitchen supplies would Niall and Barbara need? Louis should have started shopping weeks ago when he’d gotten the invitation after they moved into their new Midtown apartment. But he’d only moved back into the city three weeks ago himself and hadn’t even unpacked yet. He should have probably done that sooner, but he’d been busy trying to get a job and even that was a failure.

In the end when the train stopped at Rockefeller Center, Louis got off and wandered until he was close to their apartment, running out of options since he was getting late. He looked around their block and eventually entered a liquor store, buying a bottle of wine before heading over. Niall would appreciate wine. If there was anything Louis’d learned about Niall in their seven years of being friends, it was that he loved any kind of alcohol.

On the way there he window shopped in hopes a better gift might pop up, but then ended up stopping in front of a small, second-hand clothing boutique where a mannequin was wearing a dark green parka. A nostalgic smile formed on his lips as he remembered his old one that he wore while trekking around all of Italy. He’d lost it somewhere on the journey to Switzerland. He’d been so upset then, but now he was smiling at the all memories he had made while wearing it. He bit his lip, contemplating going in and buying the jacket, but decided against it after making a mental note to come back another day.  

Louis made his way over to Niall and Barbara’s apartment and widened his eyes when he entered the lobby, which was made entirely of marble and complete with a doorman. It was definitely an upgrade from their previous apartment in Astoria, Queens. That place was a tiny studio and always smelled like Chinese Food because of the restaurant directly below their floor.

Louis took the elevator up to the sixth floor and rang their doorbell once he found the right one. Niall opened the door, already half tipsy and flushed. “Louis!” he cried, grinning as he pulled him inside. Louis laughed, falling into the hug and patting Niall’s back.

“Hey Ni. Thanks for inviting me over,” he replied, pulling back.

“Of course, man. Great to see you again. We have so much to catch up on. Haven’t seen you in fucking ages.”

“It’s been a while, hasn’t it?”

“A while? Fuck you, man. You leave for Europe for, what? Six months and you say it’s been a while?” Niall laughed. “Come on. Let me go take you inside and introduce you to everyone. After that we’re taking drinks and having a long chat.”

“Anything you want, Ni,” Louis grinned, handing Niall the bottle of wine. He had missed Niall so much. He was probably one of his oldest friends, and the two of them never lost touch or drifted like most of his others friends did. Distance or time just never seemed to be an issue, even if they did end up going in different directions after high school.

When he walked further inside, he inspected the place and his eyebrows shot up when he saw how nicely decorated it was. He knew most of this was Barbara’s doing since Niall’d been whipped by her since he was a freshman in college. He would live anywhere with her just as long as she was there and happy. It was sweet and made Louis want to gag.

“Niall, who came?” He heard a female voice call out from one of the rooms.

“It’s Louis,” Niall called back. He grinned at Louis, putting a hand on his back and leading him towards the living room where several people were sitting and talking over drinks and what looked like quiche and mini hot dogs on platters.

“Louis!” Barbara giggled, running over to give him a hug. “I missed you. Shit. How are you?”

“I’m good, B,” he grinned. “Really good to see you. You look lovely as ever.”

“Thanks,” she blushed. “What took you so long? Everyone’s been here for a while.”

“I couldn’t figure out what to get you guys, so I got you wine,” he explained. “I hope that’s good enough?”

“You didn’t have to get us anything,” Barbara frowned.

“I wanted to,” Louis insisted. “I gave it to Niall.” The two of them turned to see Niall holding the bottle up to show Barbara.

“Well, thank you,” Barbara said, pulling at his hand so he’d look back at her. “Do you want anything to drink? Everything’s in the kitchen and we have appetizers out here.”

“I noticed,” Louis said. “I’ll, uh, show myself around. Don’t worry.”

“Okay,” she nodded. “Let me introduce you to everyone.” She went around the room and introduced him to some of her family members and her old sorority sisters. Louis politely said hello and then smiled at them. Barbara then tugged him to turn him towards the balcony doors, through which a guy walked in. When Louis looked, he tried not to let his jaw hang too low.

“And this is Zayn,” Barbara introduced him. “He’s a friend of Niall’s and is actually new to the city.”

“Hey,” Zayn grinned, smelling of cigarettes. “Nice to meet you.”

Louis smiled and hoped his hair wasn’t too mussed from the wind outside. “I’m Louis.” Before he could say anything more, Niall pulled on his arm. Louis turned to glare at him, but Niall rolled his eyes.

“You can flirt with him later,” he mumbled lowly. “Come on. Come to the kitchen. Let me make you a drink and we can catch up.” Louis reluctantly looked at Zayn one more time before following Niall.

“What can I make you?” Niall asked, standing over his kitchen counter where the cups and bottles were all lined up.

Louis raised his eyebrows, contemplating before shrugging and leaning against the opposite counter. “Surprise me, Horan. I know whatever you’ll make will keep me tipsy all night.”

Niall cackled like it was the funniest thing he’d heard. He picked out a cup and got to work, mixing in several different things at once. “So, tell me. How was Europe? I got a few postcards from you, but you’ve never had good penmanship. I didn’t understand jack shit of what you wrote.”

He laughed, playing with his fringe. “It was good. I really liked it. It’s really different than America. Feels weird being back. I have to get used to things around here again, you know?”

“Well, I’d think so,” Niall replied. “You stopped by the UK, right?”

“Yeah, I also stopped by Ireland.”

Niall grinned, turning around and handing him a cup. Louis swirled the contents of the cup around, knowing he should go slow because Niall’s idea of a drink was a lot stronger than his. He took a tentative sip and smiled, approvingly. He did know how to make a great drink. “Granny hasn’t stopped gushing about you. She sends her love every time she calls even though it’s been weeks.”

“Your family was the loveliest I’d encountered on my trip,” Louis said to him with a sincere smile.

“Yeah, they loved you, too. I saw the pictures you posted on Facebook last week. Took you a while to get to those, didn’t it?”

“Wasn’t really concerned about that at first. The wifi back there sucked because the hotel always charged and I couldn’t blow my spare money on that, so I did as much as I could. And hostels never had any wifi at all, so that was that. When I got back, I was just concerned with finding a flat and only got internet at home last week.”

“Oh, right. You’re in Williamsburg right now, right?”

Louis nodded. “Mom helped me find the place. It’s decent. And she called before I came over here. Sends her love as well.”

“I’ll Facebook message her later.” Louis rolled his eyes because Niall was, like, his mom’s favorite. He had a feeling she liked him more than Louis. Niall sipped his own drink and looked at Louis with a playful smirk. “So.”

“What?” Louis asked, amused.

“I saw a lot of different boys in your pictures.”

Louis laughed, scrunching up his nose from embarrassment and turning away before looking back. “You would notice that.”

“Got anything to tell me, Lou?” Niall asked, looking at him pointedly.

“Just that you’re a nosy fuck.”

“I know you were busy backpacking across Europe, but I didn’t know you were that busy.”

Before Louis could respond with a classy fuck you, someone else walked into the kitchen, interrupting them while holding up an empty platter.

“Niall,” the guy said, voice deep and croaky. “You’re out of quiche and B sent me here to ask you for more.”

“Ah, fuck,” Niall muttered before taking the platter from the guy. “Thanks Harry. I’ll do it right now. It’ll take a few minutes to warm up, though.”

“Okay,” he responded, standing there awkwardly. Louis, who had been looking down at his cup, looked back up to observe him. He had an attractive voice and so Louis was intrigued. When Louis got a good look at his face, he was a bit more interested. He was cute. Like, really cute.

The guy looked like a mix between a boy and a man. His face was cherubic and innocent, but his strong jawline and broad structure seemed to tell otherwise. It was confusing and a bit breathtaking at the same time. The most ridiculous thing were his lips. Louis had never seen plump, pink lips like those. They were shaped like a bow or a heart or some shit. His hair was a mess of brown curls, all pulled back with a dark blue headband that matched his knit sweater. When Louis shamelessly allowed his eyes to travel down his torso, he noticed how tight his black jeans were.

How did he get in those? Where did he tuck it in? Maybe if they all got crazy drunk, he could ask. But from the looks of it, this party was very low-key and very grown-up, not some high school or college rager. Perhaps he shouldn’t.

“Um,” the guy mumbled awkwardly. Louis’ eyes shot up and he realized how obvious he’d been, just staring at this stranger who Barbara didn’t introduce him to. (Why the fuck did she not? And where was that Zayn? Why were there so many hot guys at this party? He was not complaining, that’s for sure. He was just wondering why he wasn’t prepared for this.)

And now this one totally caught Louis checking him out. How embarrassing.

Niall turned around from the oven to look at what Harry was mumbling about and he widened his eyes when he noticed the two of them standing there stiffly. “Shit, did you two not get introduced?”

Louis shook his head and sipped his drink again, looking over the rim of his cup.

“Oh, well, Louis, this is Harry. He’s a friend of Barbara’s. Harry, this is my best friend from school, Louis.”

“Hi,” Harry smiled. He had dimples.

Who the fuck has dimples these days? It was so rare to find. And so fucking unbelievably hot.

“Hey,” Louis smiled back. “Nice to, uh, meet you.”

“Same,” Harry said.

“Louis just got back from a six month backpacking trip to Europe and UK,” Niall told Harry. “He was just telling me about it.”

“Europe?” Harry’s eyes widened.

Louis nodded with a smile and a small laugh. Mostly because Harry looked like a frog when he had that expression on his face.

“That’s amazing. How was it? What did you see?”

“Um,” Louis thought, figuring out to answer that loaded question all at once. “A lot of local stuff in whatever city I was in. I strayed from the usual tourist spots, but I did stop by the Eiffel Tower and Big Ben. Mostly because my mom said she’d be upset if I didn’t go there and send her a picture.”

Harry laughed, obviously amused by the story. “That’s great. Have you got pictures? I’d love to see.”

“Yeah,” Louis nodded. He started to pull his phone, but then the oven timer dinged and the two of them looked at Niall. He was bent over, pulling out the new baked quiches and placing them on the platter on the counter. Harry looked conflicted between wanting to talk to Louis and doing what Barbara asked him to. Once Niall handed him the platter back, Harry looked back at Louis.

“I’m going to be right back. I really want to see those pictures. Just going to go give these to Barbara.”

Louis nodded in response and Harry walked out, all long limbed and sexy.

“He’s hot,” Louis said as soon as he was out of earshot.

Niall laughed, throwing his head back. “I guess those Europeans didn’t quench the thirst. You need more dick.”

“Honestly, Niall,” Louis rolled his eyes. “Why have you never introduced us? Is he straight or...?”

“He’s gay,” Niall replied. “And before you do a victory dance and make your way over there to get him to sleep with you, I think you should know that he has a boyfriend.”

Louis knew it was too good to be true. Harry seemed like the type of guy where even if he was straight or gay, someone would always be in love with him. He was just that pretty.

“Well,” Louis said. “That just put a damper on absolutely everything.”

“Yeah,” Niall chuckled. “His boyfriend’s so fucking weird, too.”

Louis looked up with furrowed eyebrows, intrigued by that comment. Niall was usually very easy to please. If he found someone weird, then there must be something super wrong with them. “Weird how?”

“Super possessive and weird type. Like, he doesn’t hit him or anything, but Barbara told him that he’s constantly fighting with Harry about everything. He breaks up with the kid and then pulls him right back in. It’s like some game to him.”

Louis frowned, finger running over the rim of his cup. “And Harry takes it?”

Niall nodded. “No idea why. I never asked, but he talks to Barbara about it a lot. He’s always tensed up whenever his boyfriend comes around, too. Can’t be free with all of us or anything. Always has to watch what he says and shit because his boyfriend’s so uptight. He’s not here tonight, though.”

“What does he look like?” Louis asked curiously.

“He’s good looking,” Niall shrugged. “But he dresses like a dweeb. He wears a lot of dress pants and button ups. He also has a fucking comb over like some douche bag.”

Louis snorted, putting his empty cup down. “Nice.”

Niall laughed along with him and then stopped when Harry walked back in. “What did I miss?” he asked, smiling.

“Nothing, man,” Niall replied, making a subtle face at Louis. “I’ll leave you two alone to talk about Europe or whatever and go head out to see the others. Dinner will be out in a few.”

“Thanks, Niall,” Louis replied. Niall winked at him like an asshole before walking out of the kitchen and towards the living room. Harry turned to look at him and gestured over to the kitchen table.

“So, pictures,” he said.

“Oh, right,” Louis said. He walked over to the table with Harry and sat down, taking his phone out and opening Facebook. He went through his own page and found the album before handing it to Harry. Harry looked through the album with a bright smile, asking questions about places and even laughing at the pictures he took with Niall’s family in Ireland. When done, he looked back up at Louis with a curious expression.

“Did you go alone?” he asked.

Louis nodded. “It was sort of a last minute decision and nobody else really wanted to drop everything and go.”

“I would go,” Harry said. “Sounds like an adventure.”

“Where were you when I needed a companion?” Louis teased him.

Harry laughed, thumbing through Louis’ phone and doing something. Louis was curious to see, but didn’t ask. “What made you want to go so suddenly?” he asked then.

“I don’t know,” Louis said honestly. “It was a bit of a weird night. I was in my last term in Hunter College and I just got so tired and bored of everything. You could call it the biggest existential crisis any twenty year old could go through. And I don’t know, I just took all my savings, bought a ticket and dropped out without telling my mom. Only called to let her know at the airport.”

Harry’s eyes widened at that piece of information. “You did that?”

Louis nodded. “I know it sounds bad and probably stupid, but I had to do it. I was just so miserable here.”

“It’s not stupid,” Harry shook his head. “Maybe it could have waited till after graduation since you were almost done, but definitely not stupid.”

“Yeah, that’s what my mom said. She eventually got over it when she came to know how unhappy I was at school.”

“So, you never got your diploma?” Harry asked.

Louis shook his head. “No. Dropped out early on in my last semester. It’s quite hard trying to find a job without a degree. At least one where I’m not waiting tables or serving coffee.”

“I feel you,” Harry replied. “I’m a sophomore and I had to move out of dorms and get my own apartment with a friend. It’s expensive out in the city even with all the student loans and part time jobs.”

“I agree. Where do you go?”

“NYU. Studying Business. I’ve got a place with my friend Liam in Soho. He’s actually here somewhere. But yeah, it’s close to school and my boyfriend, Peter, doesn’t live too far. But it’s super expensive.”

Oh. The boyfriend. Louis almost forgot. He smiled, nonchalantly. “Oh, nice. You like it, though, right?”

Harry nodded with a smile. “I’m from Port Washington up in Nassau County, so the city is kind of like freedom. Very exciting all the time.”

“Oh, you’re from Nassau,” Louis said thoughtfully. “My grandparents live in Massapequa.”

“That’s nearby,” Harry said. “I know all of Long Island by heart. It’s sort of sad and primitive compared to the city life. Where did you grow up?”

“In Queens,” Louis replied. “Niall and I were neighbours in Astoria.”

“Right,” Harry nodded. “He mentioned he grew up there. So, what now? You’re back from your big trip. What are you doing now?”

Louis clicked his tongue against the roof of his mouth and shrugged. “I just got back to the city three weeks ago. I’d been living with my mom until last week because I found a decent place in Williamsburg.”

“That’s good,” Harry smiled, encouragingly. “It’s a nice place.”

“Yeah, can’t complain.”

Just then, Niall and Barbara walked in, giving them both quick smiles before turning back to each other and talking about dinner preparations. Louis turned back to Harry, who looked sheepish. He slid over Louis’ phone back to him. “We should probably head back out there. I also sent myself a friend request from your phone.”

He grinned and Louis eyed him with a smirk. “Smooth,” he said, making Harry laugh.

The two of them made their way back to the living room and Harry introduced Louis to his roommate and friend Liam. Liam was a year older than Harry and the two of them had known each other since they were in diapers, apparently. He went to Baruch College for sports management and was going to graduate in another year. They ended up including Zayn into their conversation and Louis found out that he also was in the same boat as Liam, graduating in a year and studying art in Parsons New School of Art in Union Square, where he lived.

The four of them, joined by Niall, ended up hitting it off great. They talked all night through dinner and then after with drinks. It didn’t become real until the five of them sang and rapped the entire Fresh Prince of Bel-Air theme song without any preparation or warning. When they finished, they all looked at each other in amazement and burst out laughing. Louis went home that night feeling better than he had since his plane landed at JFK three weeks ago. Before he went to bed, he hit accept on Harry’s friend request and went to sleep with a smile on his face.

Present Day

Shit, shit, shit.

Louis was running so late.

He was running around his flat with only one of his shoes on while searching underneath his couches for the other. This was one of the rare and only occasions he wished that he was better at keeping his flat clean, but it came and went when he would remember how lazy and unorganized he had always been.

Harry was going to kill him. Louis somehow managed to always be late for their lunch dates and it wasn’t his fault. It really wasn’t. He just always got caught up in something, whether it be losing one shoe or trying to get rid of whoever he’d slept with the night before. It was just expected now that he’d evidently be late as always.

“Zayn,” he called out. “Zayn, have you seen my other blue Vans?”

Zayn popped out from the bathroom, clad in a pair of plaid pajama bottoms, his toothbrush hanging from his mouth. Louis tilted his head to the side wondering if Zayn got another tattoo because something looked different. Maybe it was his hair. Zayn always managed to look like he’d gotten a new haircut or something just by trying out a new hairstyle, all of which looked amazing on him.

“I saw it there last night when I was watching TV,” he replied, pointing to the the space underneath their small TV set.

Louis bent down and pulled his other shoe out, pulling it on as he tried to simultaneously run out the door. “Thanks, Z,” he called out. “See you later.”

Becoming roommates with Zayn was probably one of the best decisions he’d ever made. A few months after they’d all met and started becoming friends, Zayn’s lease for his apartment went up and he needed a place to stay, but out of the city. That was when he moved in with Louis in Brooklyn and helped him with the rent.

Louis ran down the usual subway steps and thanked God that the train had arrived as soon as he made it onto the platform. Twenty minutes later, he got off at Broadway and Lafayette, running up the stairs and on to the street. When he walked up in front of Spice Soho, he saw Harry smirking at him from the restaurant window.

Louis rolled his eyes but smiled as he walked in and sat down in front of Harry. “Sorry,” he said genuinely. “Didn’t mean to be that late.” He looked up and their eyes locked for a second and Harry was still smirking, which quickly turned into a pout when he saw Louis sit down.

“Give me a hug, you dick.”

“Sorry,” Louis said, getting up and meeting Harry halfway in a bone crushing hug. Louis felt himself breathe out a sigh of relief and felt completely at ease from Harry’s familiar smell, which felt like home. He felt Harry kiss the top of his head and pulled away from the hug.  

“That’s better,” Harry said, sitting back down. “But honestly, Lou. Why were you late again? You promised me last time that you’d be better at this.”

“I couldn’t find my other shoe,” he replied, kicking his toes up and wiggling it in front of Harry. “Otherwise I would have been here long before you.”

Harry laughed. “We’ve been best friends for two years and you’ve still got me waiting like a loser every time we plan to go out. Remember that first time?”

Louis nodded, a smile on his lips. It was a few days after he’d met Harry at Niall and Barbara’s party and the two of them kept in touch via Facebook message. It was Harry who suggested they met up and they decided on lunch. Louis was late that day, too, thanks to the train delay and traffic.

He was snapped out of his thoughts when the waitress approached them. She took their orders and then left them with ice cold waters.

When Louis locked eyes with him again, Harry winked. Louis rolled his eyes, feeling stupid and flushed. Harry was so stupid and cute, thinking he was so slick. “What’s up?” he asked in means of distracting Harry. He really didn’t want Harry to make seductive faces at him. It was distracting and he was starting to think Harry did it on purpose just to watch him squirm.

“Nothing,” Harry shrugged, with an overly enthusiastic voice. “Everything’s jolly and very good.”

Louis rolled his eyes, because of course. “Are you and Peter fighting again?”

Harry raised his eyebrows at Louis and when Louis wouldn’t let up, he slumped back in his seat. “How’d you know?”

“Because I know you and I know how you get when things get bad. What did he do now?”

Harry shrugged. “We had a fight.”

“Did you break up again?” Louis asked in an almost mocking manner.

“Like I’d ever break up with him,” Harry mumbled. “I wouldn’t do that.”

Louis tried not to let Harry’s words feel like a dull ache in his stomach; he tried to shake it off and instead rolled his eyes. Things hadn’t changed since they met in regards to Harry’s relationship. As their friendship progressed, he’d learned more about Peter. The two of them had met in middle school and started dating a few years later in high school after Harry came out. They had history and a lot of memories together, which Harry seemed to be holding on to despite their current issues that had been going on for a while. He just never wanted to see the bad in Peter, even though he could easily get out of this toxic relationship.

Peter wasn’t physically abusive, but he managed to always make Harry feel smaller than he was. He spoke in judgemental tones and he said things that really hurt him, always undermining the younger boy and everything he did, making him insecure. For example, he had an issue with the way Harry dressed. He didn't like Harry's head scarves or the way he kept he a few of his shirts halfway unbuttoned. Harry always overlooked it as Peter having a bad day at work since he had to do long hours and over time, but it was inexcusable to Louis. He thought he was some big shot just because he was a part of some stupid firm in the city. Emotional abuse was just as bad and he was waiting for the day Harry would realize that and finally leave Peter.  

“Well sorry, Harry. I just can’t understand why you always let him do this,” he ended up saying. “I’m so frustrated hearing about this happen all the time.”

Harry searched his face and his eyes softened up a bit as he signed. “I know. And you always say this, but I just can’t seem to do it. I’m sorry.”

“No,” Louis shook his head because that’s bullshit. Harry was always apologizing. Harry, who was nothing but good to everyone and anyone around him, should not always be apologizing. “You shouldn’t be apologizing for his misdoings. Please, don’t do that.”

“I don’t know,” Harry shrugged. “Maybe he’s right. Maybe I am asking for too much at times. I should be apologizing.”

“Is that what he said?” Louis asked, anger flaring up inside of him. “For fucks sake. He’s such a dick.”

Harry placed hisp palms on the table and leaned a bit closer so that Louis would quiet down. “It was my fault this time, okay? I started it.”

“Harry,” Louis said angrily. “It’s always your fault. In his eyes, it is. And you want him to be happy, so you see everything the way he sees it. And you just believe it’s your fault, just like every other time. He wears the bigger pants in this relationship. How is that fair?”

“Can we stop talking about this? I don’t want it to ruin our day, please.”

And that got to Louis. He realized that his remarks were coming across extremely rude, cutting and aggressive. He just couldn’t help it. He was protective over Harry and it just bothered him that in the two years he’d known him, Harry’s relationship just kept getting worse and worse. But he didn’t want to upset Harry furthermore than he already was. He wanted to comfort him and make him understand how wrong this all was.

“Look,” Louis said softly, putting his hand over Harry’s. “All I’m saying is that I don’t understand him at all. I’m your best fucking friend and he can’t even stand me. You need to sneak around to see me. How does that make sense?”

That made Louis remember the first time he and Peter met. It was probably the most awkward encounter Louis ever had with a person. Peter was hostile towards him from the moment they laid eyes on each other, not even shaking his hand when Louis offered. The meeting took place a few months after he and Harry started talking and they all decided to meet for dinner since it was standard. Peter was curt and extremely rude to Louis, making his dislike apparent towards him. The entire time he just made passive aggressive comments towards him and kept undermining everything he said about himself. Even though Louis was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt that he was somewhat of a decent person, after that meeting, he was resolute to behave the same way towards Peter.

Just as Harry was about to respond to Louis, their food came and the waiter placed their plates in front of them. “Enjoy,” she said before leaving them alone again. Louis looked up to see Harry staring at him, his eyes bugging out like a frog. It was so fucking endearing.

“I really am sorry,” Harry said softly.

Louis wanted to grab Harry’s face and kiss him till they couldn’t breathe. He really did because Harry was so sweet. Too sweet, really. “It’s fine, H,” Louis said with a smile. “Let’s just drop it like you asked.”

“I love you,” Harry smiled.

Louis tried not to blush, instead rolled his eyes because that was so like Harry. He was a natural flirt and so fucking affectionate towards everyone, especially Louis. Like he wasn’t already driving him crazy just by existing. “I love you, too. Now eat and stop flirting with me.” Harry laughed and picked up his fork before digging into his food.

“Work going okay?” Harry asked.

“Yeah, I suppose. Still boring as fuck. Remind me why I thought it’d be fun to work as a receptionist for a tattoo artist? I do nothing but answer phones all day.”

“You were desperate for money and wanted free tattoos.”

“True, but I got all the tattoos I wanted and if I have to be intimidated by another big biker guy, I’m going to lose my mind.” Harry laughed, slurping his drunken noodles. “What about you? How’s work?”

“Good,” Harry nodded, albeit bitterly. “Still a temp.”

Last year, Harry had gotten a temp job at a paper company called Dundas & Co. of all places. He said the people there were very nice, but it was boring and he wasn’t getting promoted nor paid. It also didn’t help that a colleague of his, this little old lady, kept pinching his ass whenever he wasn’t looking.

“Don’t worry, maybe they’re waiting for you to graduate to promote you,” Louis said optimistically.

“And that’s not for another ten months,” Harry groaned.

Louis stroked his arm softly. “Sorry, babes.”

“It’s alright,” Harry said before eyeing him curiously. “So, I know we only just discussed this a few days ago, but I’m bringing it up again.”

“Oh, boy.”

“When will you start dating? And I mean real dating. Not what you usually do. Like, the meaningless sex with random guys.”

“You know, one of these days I’m just going to stop coming out with you so you’ll stop asking me this,” Louis replied.

“Hear me out, Lou. Like...you’re really fucking hot. There’s no way that guys don’t wanna be with you in more ways than just a one night stand. I know you get plenty of offers all the time. You just turn them down. So, that’s starting to make me think that you’re holding off for someone specific. You tell me who this someone is and I’ll hook you up with them.”

Louis actually wanted to laugh at his life. Harry Styles has got to be the thickest yet most endearing boy he had ever met.

“I really can’t believe we’re talking about this again.”

“I’m serious, Lou,” Harry frowned, crossing his arms and flexing them. Fuck, they looked bigger than the last time Louis saw him. What the fuck? It was all Liam’s fault. Since he’d graduated, he’d taken up a job as a personal trainer over at Soul Cycle and he made Harry work out religiously. “Why are you avoiding the question and not answering?”

Louis blinked and looked up at Harry instead of his beautiful, bulging biceps. “I have nothing to say.”

Louis!”

Harry,” Louis laughed. “Listen, I’ll date when I want to. Right now, I genuinely don’t want to. Stop worrying about me. I don’t need anyone right now. I’m getting by just fine with my one night stands or whatever. Plus, you know how I feel about all that stuff.”

“I know, but do you like someone specific?” Harry asked.

Was he not going to let it go? For Christ’s sake. “If you were meant to know, you’d know.”

“What?”

“You wouldn’t understand.”

“Why not?”

“You’re just as blind as him.”

“So, you do like someone!” Harry accused, like he’d finally gotten the truth out of him.

Louis leveled him with a look. “How do you know I’m not talking shit just to make you shut up?”

Harry sat there pondering over what Louis said, eventually giving up and changing the topic to the new James Franco and Seth Rogen film. Once done with lunch, they paid the bill and hugged each other goodbye outside the restaurant.

“So, I’ll see you tonight?” Harry asked.

“Yes, you will,” Louis smiled. It was Niall’s birthday and there was a massive celebration waiting to happen.

“Can’t wait,” Harry said, smiling at him before walking the other way towards his apartment. Louis only looked at him for a few more seconds than usual before turning the other way towards the subway.

Louis should have known two years ago when he’d met Harry that he wasn’t going to be just some face at a party. He’d become so much more. It was almost ridiculous how the two of them kept in touch, talking every day and meeting up for drinks or a bite to eat. It wasn’t always just the two of them. Niall, Liam and Zayn and the two of them were a fucking squad. The coolest one there could be.

While it was always tense between Peter and Louis, Harry continued to hang out with him, and Louis had no idea how to make sense of it. Mostly because he’d sort of grown a little crush on Harry; it didn’t occur to him until a year ago. He always thought Harry was good looking, but he was a good fucking person, too, and Louis would be stupid to not like him even if it was just a little, itty-bitty crush. It was probably his smile that did it. Louis didn’t think he could ever get over Harry’s smile and quite frankly, he didn’t want to. Harry, of course, didn’t know.

Louis wasn’t planning on telling him either because he was sure Harry didn’t feel the same way. Even though he did flirt with Louis a lot, he was with someone else, after all. Louis played along and flirted with him, too, but it was definitely dangerous waters he was treading.

Louis arrived with Zayn later that night to Marquee, the nightclub, where Niall’s birthday party was being held. It was going to be a closed off section on the top floor with a bunch of his closest friends. When they made their way over to the their area, Niall bounded over to them, already drunk and happily flushed.

“Whazzaap?” he yelled, throwing his arms around the two amused boys. Zayn and Louis snickered, hugging the birthday boy back.

“Happy birthday, Niall,” they chorused as they pulled back.

“Thanks, guys,” he grinned. “I’m glad you could come.”

“Of course we would. Are you having fun?” Zayn asked, placing a birthday hat they picked up on the way on top of Niall’s head.

“I’m having a blast. The absolute best party ever,” Niall gushed.

Barbara popped over to them then and cuddled up against Niall. “You said that last year when I had that rodeo themed birthday party for you, babe. You can only pick one as the best party ever.”

“That was amazing, too. I can’t pick,” Niall said to her, kissing her on the lips sweetly. “I love you so much. You do the best things for me.”

Barbara blushed, cupping his cheek and kissing him again. Louis and Zayn stood there awkwardly even though they were used to Niall and Barbara acting like a married couple, despite still being boyfriend and girlfriend. It wasn’t horrible because Louis loved them together. Sometimes they gave him a small flicker of hope of some sort, which he didn’t usually like to touch upon unless it was in the quiet moments when he’d just observed them. They just made being in love look so easy, but he wasn’t sure if that was the case.

Liam walked over then, bypassing the couple making out in front of them and hugged Louis and Zayn. “Hey guys,” he grinned. “When did you get here?”

“Just now,” Zayn replied. “You?”

“Got here a while ago with Harry, actually. This place is fucking amazing. It’s my first time here.”

“Yeah, it’s great, man,” Zayn agreed, looking at the floor below where hundreds of people were drinking, dancing and chatting amongst themselves covered in purple and red lights while the DJ played some sped-up version of a Weeknd song.

Louis looked over Liam’s shoulder to see if he could spot a head of chocolate curls, but it was to no avail because Liam was taller and also very broad. Louis looked at Liam instead, and casually asked, “Where’s Harry?”

“I lost him when I got here,” Liam replied, nonchalantly. “You guys want to get a drink? I haven’t had one yet.”

Zayn nodded and the three of them walked over to the bar on the top floor. They passed their orders to bartender and Louis tried to keep up with the conversation between Zayn and Liam, but occasionally his eyes eyes kept darting around, still searching.

“Looking for someone?” someone asked behind him, voice deep and breath hot.

Louis smirked, turning around to see Harry, grinning down at him. “No, not really,” he shrugged, playing it cool.

“You so were looking for me,” Harry teased, his eyes giving Louis a once over. “You look so good tonight.”

And this was typical Harry, always complimenting Louis and being so fucking flirty and charming, but Louis always fell for it. Louis rolled his eyes, blushing and Harry poked his side, laughing.

“I love making you blush,” he said softly, into his ear.

“Shut up,” Louis whined, pushing him away. “Did you get a drink yet?”

Harry nodded. “I got here a bit ago and I, uh, didn’t have a chance to tell you, but Peter’s here tonight.”

Louis frowned, tilting his head to the side. He tried not to let that bit of information ruin the prospect of this entire night, but the more he denied himself, the more he knew it was going to. It was never a good time when Peter was around, not just because he was a fucker, but also because Harry became a completely different person with him. It was upsetting not just for Louis, but for the other boys and Barbara, too.

“So, you made up,” Louis said, rather than asked.

Harry nodded with a small smile. “A little while before we got here, actually.”

“Great,” Louis said, trying to muster up a genuine smile. “I knew you would because you always do. You guys just love each other too much to stay apart.”

“He’s, uh, over there actually,” Harry said, turning to point out the booth where Peter was sitting in with a few other guys. He had on a stupid black button down and his hair was once again in a combover. Did he actually think he looked good like that?

“Aren’t you going to go sit with him?” Louis asked, realizing after he said it just how bitter he sounded. He was pathetic.

Harry didn’t catch on much. He just shrugged. “Yeah. I just wanted to pop by and say hello. But you’re here, so we’ll talk in a bit?”

“Yeah, totally,” Louis replied, nodding his head. He knew the sarcasm must have been dripping off his tongue and he probably looked angry, but Harry didn’t say anything or notice because he smiled and turned around, walking back to his booth.

Louis looked back at his friends and noticed that their drinks had arrived. He grabbed his, gulping it down bitterly.

“Whoa,” Liam commented, watching him. “What’s up?”

“Just tired,” Louis lied.

“Where did Harry run off to?” Zayn asked, looking at Louis like he knew exactly what was going on. Zayn was way too perceptive for his own good because he saw right through Louis, like he was made of glass.

“He brought his boyfriend here,” Louis replied.

“Oh, right,” Liam scoffed. “Peter and him were very handsy on the way over. I think they had a fight earlier or something and had just made up.”

“When are they not fighting and making up?” Louis asked, putting his finished drink down. “You start to wonder when the relationship stuff happens because it seems to just be a bunch of the same shit over and over.”

Liam eyed Louis suspiciously and Louis started to panic until Zayn put his hand on Louis’ back. “Want to go and join Niall?” he asked. “He’s dancing to Rihanna all alone.”

“Sounds like a good idea,” Louis agreed, following the other two over to Niall.

After that, Louis’ mood started to get a bit better. The drink he had was really good and the music playing was extremely catchy. He danced with three of his best friends, laughing with tears in his eyes when Niall started to twerk, and felt himself forgetting about Harry and Peter for a bit. Mostly because he didn’t see them step out of their booth, making out and talking to whoever bothered to sit with them.

When they all got tired, they sat down in their own booth and drank more fruity drinks while discussing what in each of their opinion is Niall’s most embarrassing moment. It was hard to choose from because Niall did a lot of really stupid shit.

“What about the time,” Zayn said, laughing before he could even get to the story. “When Niall had to pee so bad when we went to that club in Jersey Shore, he decided to not walk all the way to the bathroom and instead did it behind the empty bar. He was so drunk and all he kept saying was please don’t tell Barbs, even though she was standing right next to us.”

“Okay,” Niall said shrilly, looking at Zayn with a horrified expression for bringing up that story.  “Enough embarrassing stories. Can we have cake yet?”

“Yeah, sure,” Barbara smiled. “I’ll go get it out.” Barbara went over to the bar where she’d kept the cake and called everyone over to tell them it was time to cut it. Louis made his way out of the booth and walked over to where everyone was standing, watching as Barbara chided Niall for trying to poke his finger through the frosting. It was all so domestic.

For the second time that night, Louis was startled when Harry decided to come over and pop up behind him. This time he wrapped his arms around Louis’ waist, resting his head on his shoulder

“Haven’t seen you in awhile,” he said.

Louis couldn’t help but roll his eyes and get annoyed. “You were too busy making out with your boyfriend,” he shrugged in response.

“Um, okay,” Harry mumbled with a frown. “That’s nice.”

“Am I wrong?”

Harry squeezed his hips and turned Louis around to face him. “Louis.”

“Harry,” Louis warned. “Don’t hold me too close. He could be watching us.” He knew it was mostly the alcohol talking, but he didn’t care. Harry acted like he didn’t even know his friends tonight and that never boded well with Louis. Maybe he was jealous and completely out of line, but this always happened.

Everyone started to sing "Happy Birthday" to Niall and Louis turned in Harry’s arms to watch him cut the cake. Harry, however, didn’t waver his eyes from Louis’ face. He looked torn and guilty, as usual.

“I’m sorry,” he said, leaning closer. “I just lost track of time and you know how it is. Besides, he left just now. He has work tomorrow. Anyway, you’re the one who told me to go to him. You acted like it was fine.”

He was guilty there, but Louis wished Harry wouldn’t point it out. “Yeah, it’s fine,” he said curtly.

“I know you’re still mad at me.”

“I’m not,” Louis insisted. It got a bit distracting after that because Harry was tightening his hold on Louis and Louis wanted him to hold him even tighter. He also wanted some cake. In the end, he got a slice and when he turned around to go back to his seat, Harry swiped his finger on the frosting and wiped it on Louis’ nose.

Louis gasped, glaring at him and Harry cackled, letting him go and running towards the back of the club. But Louis’ always been faster and he put his plate down before running after Harry. “You little shit,” he yelled. “Why’d you do that for?”

Harry laughed hysterically, pointing to his nose as he leaned back against the railing by the fire exit door. “You’re fucking dead,” Louis told him, approaching him slowly because Harry looked way too much at ease, smirking down at him. “Like, I will not hesitate to fucking strangle you.”

“Can you even reach my neck?” Harry asked, smugly.

Louis scoffed, punching him lightly on the arm. “Don’t be a dick,” Louis glared. When he went for another punch, Harry grabbed his wrists and stopped him, bringing him closer. Louis instantly shut up and every muscle in his body fell pliant. Harry continued to look at ease as he brought Louis close to his face and leaned down as if he was going to kiss him. And this couldn’t be happening. Louis could literally hear his heartbeat in this loud club, which was insane, and Harry couldn’t be kissing him.

He didn’t.

His tongue came out and swiped over Louis’ nose, licking up the frosting. “Yum,” Harry smiled. Louis felt his cheeks heat up and he parted his lips in surprise. Harry wrapped one of his arms around Louis’ waist. “Aw, you’re blushing again.”

“Get off of me,” Louis said, trying to push him off even though he was smiling. Harry eventually did loosen his grip and Louis backed away, still facing him. “Do that again and I’ll tell everyone about your weird obsession with Gilmore Girls.”

“I told you that in confidence,” Harry sputtered, cocky facade and smug smirk wiped off completely.

Louis winked, turning around and walking back to the others. Harry followed him, of course. He always did.

Several hours later when the party wound down, Harry and Louis drunkenly exited the club together, giggling on the streets and falling over. Harry held him up and they slumped against one of the walls of the club, looking at each other. He looked beautiful under all the bright city lights. It stunned Louis how pretty he was.

“Come over to my place,” Harry said. “It’s closer.”

“Alright,” Louis agreed, taking the hand he was extending towards him. They managed to find a cab and Harry told the driver his address before snuggling up with Louis in the back seat. Louis played with his hair and felt him relax under his hands. “Did you have fun tonight?”

“Yeah,” Harry slurred, sleepily. “Always have fun with you.”

Louis smiled secretly, happy that Harry didn’t mention having fun with Peter, but with him instead. When they got to Harry’s apartment, they stumbled up the elevator and through his doors. Liam was yet to be home, but they figured he was okay because he was seen leaving with Zayn.

Harry immediately ran to the bathroom, muttering about how he had had to pee and poop for hours. Louis shrugged, walking into Harry’s room, taking out a t-shirt and boxers before changing into them. He looked around Harry’s bedroom, noticing the pile of textbooks on his desk and the ironed dress shirts hanging in the closer. He was super picky about how neat everything had to be and Louis found it hot. When Harry walked out, Louis took his turn in the bathroom and walked back to find Harry splayed out on the bed like a starfish.

“So, should I take the couch or, like, Liam’s bed or something?” Louis asked, standing against the door frame.

Harry grinned at him and Louis knew the answer to that. He always asked just because Harry’s boyfriend would kill him if he knew Harry sometimes had sleepovers with another guy and they spooned. He would probably break up with him a few times over that, even though nothing happened beyond that. Louis was expected to ask, or he thought he was. Harry never let him, though.

“Shut up and come here,” Harry said, extending his hand out.

Louis smiled, walking over and settling down beside Harry, who moved to make room for him. Once he was under the covers, Harry wrapped an arm around him. “You’re so stupid,” Harry said, words still slurring. “I just want you to stay here with me.”

“Okay,” Louis replied softly.

“I’m so sleepy,” he mumbled in his ear. He pressed a kiss to Louis’ cheek and closed his eyes, drifting off to sleep. Louis smiled softly, happy with the way the night turned out.

Louis woke up the next morning thanks to Harry’s stupid hand hitting him right on the nose. “What the fuck,” he muttered, rolling over and rubbing his eyes. He looked over at Harry, finding the younger boy yawning and stretching his arms.

“Morning sunshine,” Harry said with a smile. His face was puffy and bleary. So Goddamn cute. How did he look so cute when Louis knew he was hungover just like him? Louis probably looked homeless. “Did you sleep well?”

“I did until you woke me up by hitting me on the nose,” Louis replied. Harry hummed, laying back down and snuggling up against him again, closing his eyes and mindlessly rubbing Louis’ nose as though he was mending it. Louis still wanted to be difficult so he said, “You should get another bed for me so when I sleep over I can sleep in peace.”

“Nah,” Harry shrugged off, smiling with his eyes still closed. He took his hand away and wrapped it around Louis’ waist to pull him closer. Louis laughed and tried to move his hand away because it was tickling him. “You’re sleeping right here with me.”

And Louis wanted to revel in that. Harry saying cute, adorable things to him, but he also knew the harsh reality of them and couldn’t help but vocalize it. “Until you get married to Peter. The three of us in one bed might be a bit awkward.”

Harry stilled and groaned, rolling over. Louis looked at him and noticed him rubbing his eyes again. “You just reminded me, I have to go see him.” He turned to the bedside table and picked up his phone, unlocking it for his new messages and notifications.  

“Oh,” Louis replied. “Alright. I guess I’ll see you later, then?”

Harry nodded. “You’ll be alright, right?”

Louis laughed. “Yeah. Don’t worry. I’ll just see if I can bully Liam into making me food before I leave because I know for a fact Zayn and I have nothing at home.”

“Sounds good.”

Louis decided to stop being lazy and rolling around on a comfortable bed with Harry in favor of food. He got up and picked up his clothes from the night before, feeling a bit dizzy from the sudden movement. There seemed to be some sort of stain on his shirt and he wrinkled his nose at the thought of wearing it again. It had to be done so Louis pulled off Harry’s shirt and started wearing his own. It was when he was pulling on his pants that Harry started to laugh.

“What?” Louis asked, looking up at him.

“Do you want my shirt?” he asked. “You’ve got some yellow shit all over yours.”

Louis sighed, looking up at him desperately. “Please.”

Harry laughed again, getting out of bed himself to go to the bathroom. “Wear it. I’ll put yours in the wash with mine.”

“You’re an angel,” Louis called out to him as he closed the door behind him.

“I know,” Harry yelled back. Louis smiled, pulling on his jeans and then checking to see if he’d gotten everything from Harry’s room before walking out. He found Liam in the kitchen, drinking coffee and reading the paper.

He looked up when Louis entered and smiled warmly. “Hey Lou. Didn’t know you stayed last night.”

“I did,” he replied, sitting down across from him and pouring himself some coffee. “When did you get back?”

“Probably after four,” Liam replied. “Zayn and I walked out and went to Central Park for a bit, just to get some fresh air and sober up. It worked for the most part, but I still feel a bit queasy.”

“Nice idea. Wish I’d thought of that,” Louis replied. “Zayn get home okay? I should probably text him.”

“Yeah, he texted me last night when he reached your place. Want anything for breakfast?” Liam asked.

Louis smiled sheepishly and nodded. “Yes, please. That would be amazing. I thought I’d have to beg.”

“You’re lucky I’m feeling generous right now. Is Harry going to be joining us?”

“Nah,” Louis shook his head. “He’s meeting Peter.” Liam didn’t respond, going about and taking supplies out from the fridge before getting to work. Harry walked out a few moments later, his hair wet and curly. He nodded over at Liam as a greeting and then looked at Louis. The two of them were so attuned with each other that they could easily communicate with each other through their eyes. When Louis looked back at Harry, he gave him a concerned once over.

“You’ll be okay?” he asked tentatively.  

Louis wished he wasn’t so fond of this stupid, adorable boy in front of him, but he was and he wanted to be pull him into a blanket cocoon and pet his hair for days. That was probably not normal thoughts to be having about one’s best friend so Louis settled for kissing his cheek and smiling at him.

“Go. You’ll be late. And don’t worry about me. Liam’s making me food and I didn’t even have to beg.”

Harry grinned. “Sounds good. I’ll text you later.” He walked out to the front door, waving at the two of them and heading out.

Liam was still making eggs for breakfast when he spoke up. “I don’t understand what Harry sees in him,” he said at last. “He’s okay looking and all, but such a dick.”

“Trust me, Li,” Louis chuckled. “I know. Can you imagine how many nights we had to take care of Harry because Peter broke up with him and he was crying his eyes out? He would only pull himself together after they got back together.”

“Harry’s still a bit naive. He falls for Peter’s stupid promises and his love declarations, but can’t see that he’s just using him. You know that if the tables turned, Peter would be devastated. Harry would never be that mean to him, though.”

Liam walked over, bringing over two plates of scrambled eggs and toast, placing one in front of Louis.

Louis thanked him, grabbing a fork and digging in. “He tells me Peter used to be different and they’re just going through a rough patch,” Louis said, laughing. “But this rough patch has been going on for two years now. I mean, if that’s what he wants to believe, then I guess it’s for him to realize and fix. Nothing we can really do.”

Liam nodded before drinking some of his coffee. “You’re right. It is his life and his decisions, but I hope he realizes sooner than later that his boyfriend is a piece of shit and he could do so much better. Until then, not much we can do.”

Ever since Niall got his job at Atlantic Records, he always got VIP for every concert their artists had in the city. Along with great seats and celebrity style treatment, he also got his friends hooked up with tickets as well. Louis wasn’t an avid concert goer to begin with, but if it was free and more money for beer, he wasn’t going to say no. Niall rounded everyone up on group chat and told them all that Ed Sheeran was in town for a gig at MSG, no less, and if they wanted to go.

Louis said yes, of course. He was a huge fan of Ed’s and Niall knew him from the few times he popped by the office, so he’d heard that he was a good guy as well. It was highly likely that as an after party, their group and Ed might go to Niall and Barbara’s for pizza and beer, so Louis wasn’t about to pass that up. The only person who didn’t go was Harry. He declined Niall’s offer to hang out with Peter. It surprised Louis because Harry was a really big Ed Sheeran fan. In fact, he was the one who introduced Louis to his music.

Nevertheless, Louis went with his other friends and had a great night, drinking beer and swaying to Ed’s music. After the show, they all took a cab to Niall and Barbara’s with the man of the night, himself. When they arrived, Niall set up a game of beer pong while they all ordered pizza and tried to figure out teams. Luckily since there was an even number for them, they settled on Liam, Zayn and Ed on one team while Niall, Barbara and Louis were on the other team.

It fared well for the most part except for that one time Louis hit Niall on the face with the ball so hard that it bruised. Halfway through the game, the doorbell rang and Barbara skipped over to get it. Louis was so into the game, that he didn’t look over to see who it was until someone grabbed him around the waist and picked him up off the ground.

He let out a groan, but then burst out laughing because only one person could manage to do that. “Put me down, H,” Louis cried, swinging his legs back and forth, almost nailing Niall on the face again.

“Alright, alright,” Harry agreed, putting Louis back down on the ground. Louis turned to look at him and felt his resolve crumbling. He was supposed to be mad at him for not coming to the concert. During the show, he was so upset that Harry couldn’t be there to share it with him. It was not like Peter never got to see Harry because they were always hanging out so why couldn’t Harry just come? But Harry just looked too cute to be mad at. He had on this snapback worn backwards so that his curls were away from his eyes and Louis wanted to hold him and not let go for the next few hours.

When he smiled at Louis, Louis decided to let it slide this one time and hugged Harry as tight as he possibly could. Harry hugged him back, lifting him half off the ground again before setting him down.

“We’re playing beer pong,” Louis told him, with a hand wave gesturing to the table. “And that’s Ed Sheeran.”

Ed waved over at Harry and Harry waved back. “It’s nice to meet you. Heard the show was great. So upset I couldn’t make it.”

“It’s alright, mate. Next time,” Ed replied. “A few thousand other people went, so it wasn’t that bad.”

Louis laughed at that, almost giggling since he was a bit tipsy. “Do you wanna join?” he asked Harry.

“Sure,” Harry nodded. He walked over to the table and stretched as though he was going for a physical sport and not just a drinking game, making his shirt inch up. Louis’ eyes traveled down to his lower abdomen, which trailed down to his v line. He gulped and looked away before walking over to the couch and plopping down next to Zayn, who was on his phone.  

After Harry’s turn he walked over and sat down next to Louis. “Hey” he said, smiling.

“Hi,” Louis smiled.

“I just wanted to tell you, I totally saw you checking me out earlier.”

Louis frowned with a scoff. “No, I wasn’t.”

“Yes, you were. I saw you,” Harry laughed.

“Whatever, Harry.”

“Yeah, whatever, Louis,” Harry mimicked him.

“You’re honestly such a pain in the ass, how do I tolerate you?”

“Says the guy who was eyeing me like a piece of meat.”

“You feeding your ego by making up lies is very amusing. I applaud your imagination.”

Harry cackled beside Louis. “‘M not lying!”

“Will you both shut the fuck up and stop flirting for five minutes?” Zayn asked, not looking up from his phone.

Louis rolled his eyes and got up, pulling Harry up with him. “Let’s go. We got pizza a little while ago and I’m hungry again.” Harry followed him and stood by as Louis helped himself to another slice.

“You had a good night?”

“Yeah, I suppose,” Louis shrugged, taking a bite.

Harry pursed his lips and looked a bit amused as he sat down at the table, pulling Louis down to his lap. “What do you mean you suppose? You love Ed Sheeran.”

“I do,” Louis agreed. “But you love him so much more.”

“You’re upset I didn’t go,” Harry conceded.

“What do you know, folks?” Louis remarked sarcastically. “We’ve got ourselves a genius.”

“Shut up,” Harry muttered, laughing. “I’m sorry I couldn’t go. Next time, though, I’m so there.”

“Sure you won’t have a date to hold you back?”

“I’ll cancel the date.”

“Highly unlikely,” Louis rolled his eyes.

“Is that the kind of trust you have in me?”

“I don’t trust you at all.”

Louis,” Harry affronted.

Louis laughed, taking another bite of his pizza. Harry gestured to him to get a bite and Louis held it up to his mouth to help him get a bite. “Good pizza,” Harry chewed.

“Isn’t it? Ed ordered it,” Louis said. Harry nodded, going in for another bite and Louis hated how comfortable this felt. It shouldn’t be this easy and good, but it always was for them. Louis had never met another person who was as compatible with him as Harry was. They worked well with each other, knowing what made the other happy or sad and knowing exactly what to say.

And Louis probably never had a crush like this on someone. He wanted to make Harry breakfast every morning even though all he knew how to make was toast. He wanted to get his shower ready, just the way Harry liked it- with warm water. He wanted to watch lame movies with him that were so bad they were funny. He also really wanted to fuck the life out of him. It was thoughts like these that scared the shit out of Louis. He was in way deeper than he’d like to admit.

Ed decided to stay another day for some promo, but invited them all out to a Irish pub in Chelsea called the The Half King later on. Niall accepted on all their behalf and that was how they all found themselves there the following night, surrounded by several drunken Irishmen dancing and singing along to some folk music playing. It was rather interesting to watch Ed and Niall bond over their--Irishness. Louis sulked for the most part because Harry wasn’t there again, but then Ed dragged him towards the bar before he could start whining to Barbara.

“Can we get three shots of the red-headed slut?” Ed asked the bartender. Niall and Louis burst out laughing, practically falling over as Ed smirked at them.

“You’re our red-headed slut, Ed,” Niall said, taking Ed’s head in a headlock before messing his hair up. Louis laughed at the two of them before he hopped on the stool to sit down. The bartender came back with their drinks and the three of them raised their glasses.

“To good times with the red headed slut next to us,” Niall said pointing at Ed. The three of them grinned and downed the shots. “That was really good. I want another.”

“If you want more, you’ve got some right next to you,” Louis quipped, laughing at Ed who popped his middle finger up at him. Louis grinned before turning to the bartender and ordering himself a beer. He quickly got them their drinks and left to go help some other customers. Niall and Ed grabbed their drinks and sat on the stools on either side of him. Louis sighed contently as he looked around the pub. It was small, but the vibe was great, people happy and chilled out, dancing to whatever Irish music was playing off on the speakers.

“Oh, before I forget, I’ve got a friend coming over to meet us,” Ed told them.

“A friend?” Louis asked. “Who?”

“Greg James,” he replied. “I met him today for a radio promo. He’s a RJ at Hot 97. Really cool lad. Has the sickest taste in music.”

“That’s really cool,” Niall replied. “Can’t wait to meet him.”

Louis took another sip of his drink and sighed again, but this time more sadly, causing the other two to turn to him. “I wish Harry was here. He’s always with his boyfriend.”

“He’s right over there,” Niall said, looking over his shoulder. Ed and Louis turned around and sure enough, Harry was at the booth with the others. He must have just gotten there and he wasn’t alone. Peter was by his side and holding his hand. It made Louis want to go over there and just separate them. He hated seeing them together because it made him ten times more jealous than he usually was at just the thought.

“When did he get here?” Louis asked. “And why is Peter here?”

“Now play nice, Louis,” Niall said smirking. It was no secret to the others that he despised Peter and they didn’t get along. Louis rolled his eyes at Niall and turned to face the bar again.  

“I’d like another please,” he said, passing his empty glass towards the bartender. He nodded, taking the empty glass and started to pour him a new one.

“They’re coming over,” Niall said. He was watching them like a hawk and Louis smacked him to turn him back around. Niall started laughing with Ed, who was about to spit up his drink. Ed didn’t even know the whole story, but Louis figured he was too drunk to care or ask.

“Hey guys,” Louis heard Harry say from behind. The three of them slowly turned around to face them. Peter smiled politely, but grimaced when he noticed Louis. “What’s up?”

“We’re just drinking and taking shots, man,” Niall answered before turning to Peter. “How are you, Peter? Never got to thank you for coming to my birthday. Was so drunk then.”

“I’m great,” Peter replied. “And that’s fine. It was a great party. You doing alright?”

“I’m good,” he responded with a big smile.

Harry smiled happily at the exchange and it made Louis’ skin itch that Peter was so blatantly rude to him, but Harry didn’t even care. Instead, he put his hand on the small of Peter’s back to introduce him to Ed.

“I’m Ed,” Ed said, shaking Peter’s hand.

Peter smiled. “Harry’s a big fan, so I’m familiar. Nice to meet you.”

“Why didn’t you two come to the show?” Ed asked. “Didn’t see you guys around there.”

Peter and Harry looked at each other awkwardly and chuckled nervously. “We were a bit busy,” Peter replied, holding Harry’s hand. The implication behind what he said was enough to make everything Louis drank feel like it was going to come out. He turned away and tried not to pout like a child, although it was what ended up happening. He heard them make more small talk before Harry and Peter excused themselves.

Niall put a hand on Louis’ back, rubbing it in a comforting way until Louis looked at him. He’d never really talked to Niall about how he felt about Harry, but he knew very well that Louis despised Peter and he always put him in a bad mood.

“How about I buy you a drink?” Niall asked, instead.

Louis tried smiling and nodded. “Alright, Horan. Spoil me.”

Niall grinned excitedly. “That’s my boy.”

The three of them had a one more drink before settling back to their booth. They found Liam chatting up some brunette while Zayn and Barbara were discussing some hair ritual that promised no split ends. The only ones not there were Peter and Harry. Quite frankly, Louis did not mind one bit. It was good. He didn’t want to see them anyway. A while later, Ed waved at some tall, lanky looking guy.

“Greg,” he greeted, standing up and giving him a hug. Louis looked up and eyed Greg. He was pretty cute in a goofy sort of way. He had soft, light brown hair styled up and a really nice smile.

Zayn shot Louis a look and smirked. “Try not to drool, Lou.”

“Shut up, Malik,” Louis hissed. “I was only observing.”

“Why don’t you talk to him?” Zayn encouraged with a smile.

Louis shrugged. “He seems older, doesn’t he?”

“Like that’s ever stopped you. What’s up? Not feeling it tonight?”

“I’m feeling fine, Zayn. I don’t know. I’ll see.”

It might have been just seeing Peter and Harry together that was turning his mood off, but he didn’t feel like making much of an effort with anything. No matter how hot Greg was. Ed was going around the table, introducing everyone individually and Greg was greeting them with enthusiasm and big smiles. When he got to Louis, Ed grinned.

“Louis, this is my friend Greg,” he said. “Greg, this is Louis.”

“Hi,” Louis smiled shyly, his eyelashes fluttering. Even when he wasn’t trying to flirt, it just happened and he couldn’t help himself.

“Hey,” Greg smiled. “Nice to meet you. Nice to meet all you guys, actually. Happy to be here. Sorry that I’m a bit late.”

“That’s no problem. Plenty of time to catch up, so sit,” Ed gestured to the booth. “I have to make a quick call to my manager and I’ll be right back.”

Greg nodded, sitting down in the spot Ed was and turned to everyone, but then zeroed in on Louis. Louis didn’t want to assume, but he seemed interested. He tried not to stare back and make it weird, so he looked over his shoulders and saw Peter and Harry, standing by the bar and kissing. He tried not to gag. PDA was disgusting as it was; theirs was on a different level. He rolled his eyes, turning away to see Greg look over at him again.

“So, your drink looks just about done, can I buy you another?” Greg asked. Louis turned to look at him and then down at his glass, realizing he was right. He nodded with a small smile and followed him to the bar where they both sat down on two empty stools, far from Harry and Peter. “What would you like to drink?”

“Surprise me,” Louis replied, smiling.  

Greg smiled at him and turned to the bar tender. “I’ll take a negroni please and for him, a lemon drop martini.”

Louis scoffed and Greg turned to look at him. “That’s the brightest and fruitiest drink here. What do you take me for?”

He laughed brightly. “Nothing, I swear. It’s delicious, though. I promise.”

“I’ll take your word for it,” Louis laughed.

“So, what do you do?” he asked.

“Nothing at the moment. Just a lousy receptionist at a tattoo shop. People aren’t kidding when they say a degree helps because it’s brutal out there.”

Greg laughed softly at that. “So, you didn’t graduate college or didn’t go at all?”

Louis shook his head. “I studied Economics for three and a half years and just hated it. Decided to drop out and see the world. Or at least, a small fraction of it.”

“That’s great. Where did you go?” he asked, looking fascinated.

“Europe and the UK,” Louis replied just as the bartender placed their drinks in front of them. Louis picked up his drink and sipped it warily. He hummed in approval when the lemony zest hit his taste buds. “This is really good.”

“Told you,” Greg grinned. “So, tell me more about you. I’m interested.”

Louis giggled. “I mean, I traveled and came back. I’m kind of just floating these days from one job to another. Not much to say. What about you, though? You’re a RJ, right?”

He nodded, sipping his drink. “It’s really great. I love it. I did it in college and now I get to do it as a career.”

“I think it’s really nice. Like, the fact that you get to do something that you’re so passionate about. I don’t even know what I’m passionate about yet. Isn’t that so weird?”

“No,” Greg shook his head. “That’s totally fine. It can take some people years to figure out what they wanna do.”

“That’s what Harry always says,” Louis said excitedly, happy that he was talking about Harry. He always seemed to connect him with some part of any conversation he had with anyone. It was so weird.

“Harry?” Greg asked, frowning.

“My best friend. He’s over there with his stupid boyfriend. Anyway,” Louis crossed his ankles and dangled his feet. “The radio thing sounds really fun. Can I come visit you sometime at work to see?”

“Yeah,” Greg nodded, blushing a little. “I kind of actually wanted to ask if you’d want to hang out sometime. Get something to eat?”

Louis looked at him in surprise, not expecting Greg to say that. Despite his usual rendezvous with strangers here and there, he occasionally did get the one guy who asked him on a date. Louis automatically said no. He didn’t do dates. However, Greg seemed genuinely nice. Louis felt conflicted as he turned to look over at Harry. He was smiling and talking about something with Peter and it just looked so intimate that Louis felt like he was almost intruding.

He gulped when he felt that familiar ache he got whenever he wanted to be in place of Peter. When he wanted to be the one holding Harry and making him laugh. Louis never wanted to be with anyone like he wanted to be with Harry. It amazed him how he was capable of feeling things like this because it was unusual for him. He didn’t do feelings at all. It made him wonder how the human body did this. How did biology explain the physical pain you felt in your chest when all you ever wanted was to be with someone, but watch them be with someone else?

Louis didn’t want to do that anymore, though. He didn’t want to ache for Harry anymore. Not when Harry had someone already. He turned back to Greg and slowly nodded.

“Yeah, sure. It’s a date.”

Louis was lying on his couch, his favorite soft blanket draped over him, watching some Jersey Shore reruns. Zayn was with him for a little while, but headed to bed a few minutes ago, leaving the older boy alone. He was just drifting off to sleep himself while Ron and Sam got into their fifth fight of the episode, when a sudden rapping on the door woke him up.

Grumbling and rubbing his eye, Louis walked over to the door, looking through the peephole before opening it. Harry stood on the other side, leaning against the wall on the side of the door. Louis tipped his head to the side and raised his eyebrows. Harry had ignored him all night at the bar. He didn’t even get a hello except for the generic group greeting. Who did Harry think he was just showing up at Louis’ doorstep?

“What are you doing here so late?” Louis asked, yawning.

Harry shrugged while walking inside and Louis followed him after closing the door. He watched as Harry plopped down on the couch, getting cozy under the blankets and frowned. What the hell was he doing? It was almost five in the morning.

“Harry,” Louis said, walking over. “Seriously.”

“Someone’s crabby,” Harry commented, still not answering him.

“For good reason,” he replied. “I just spent all night watching you ignore me while you hung out with your boyfriend.”

Harry groaned, tipping his head back. “I don’t understand you,” he said. “You’re mad if I don’t come out because I’m with Peter and then you get mad when I do come out.”

“You act like you barely know me,” Louis said, his voice rising. “Like I mean nothing to you.”

“Do you blame me?” Harry asked. “You two hate each other. Do you know how awkward it is? What am I supposed to do?” When Louis didn’t respond, Harry sighed. “Listen, I’m sorry I did that. I know I shouldn’t, but I genuinely don’t know how to act with you two being in the same room. But I’m trying to make you both happy. I’m really fucking trying to make it work. I’ll come out with you guys more and I won’t bring him with me, okay? I’ll divide my time.”

And fuck that, because now Louis felt guilty. He sat down beside Harry, his eyes trained on the screen, watching two of the roommates hook up with each other. “You don’t have to do that,” he said to Harry. “I wish it wasn’t like this. I’m really sorry.”

“It’s okay,” Harry replied softly. “Can you cuddle with me now and put a smile on that face?” Louis tried hard to fight the smile, but his face broke out into a grin. He curled up under the covers, practically sitting on top of Harry’s lap. Harry kissed his cheek and Louis practically preened, having been deprived of this adorable boy’s attention for so long.

“Glad you’re here,” Louis said to him.

“Yeah?” Harry asked, grinning. Louis nodded with a shy smile. “I, uh, heard something.”

“What?” Louis asked.

“You have a new boyfriend.”

Louis frowned at him and Harry laughed. “Liam told me that some guy asked you out at the bar. Why didn’t you tell me?”

“You were ignoring me,” Louis said pointedly. “Besides, not much to tell. It’s Ed’s friend. He’s an RJ and we’re just going to hang out.”

“This is kind of huge, Lou,” Harry said with earnest eyes as he held Louis tighter. “You don’t really do dates, but you’re going out with this guy with no promise of sex. That’s a fucking big deal.”

“How do you know sex wasn’t promised? Honestly speaking, I really don’t want to make a big deal out of this.”

Harry’s face softened and he rubbed Louis’ back soothingly. “Louis, do you want to do this? If you don’t, it’s fine.”

“No,” Louis shook his head. “I want to hang out with him. He’s a very nice boy. I just feel weird, you know?” Harry nodded, still rubbing soothing circles on his back. “I haven’t done this since I was in high school.”

The last time Louis had a proper relationship was when he was sixteen and it was the only one that counted because the ones before that were girls and they never did anything except for chaste kisses goodbye. Sam was his first real everything, but they only lasted a few months and Louis broke up with him via text. He wasn’t proud, but he was well past it now.

“Is this about the guy you like, but won’t tell me about?”

Louis stared at him, feeling the weight of the night crashing into him. He was just so tired of never being able to just tell Harry when all he wanted was to scream it on rooftops. When Louis didn’t respond, Harry kissed his nose. “You can tell me. You can tell me anything, Lou. I promise.”

“I can’t,” Louis’ voice broke. “I can’t tell you this one thing.”

“Why not? I thought we shared everything with each other.”

“It doesn’t matter if I like him or not, he’s with someone else.”

It was as if time stood still for a few minutes and Harry was looking at Louis, neither of them saying a word. Louis suddenly felt his throat closing up because what if Harry knew? Did Louis just out himself? His heart and mind were in a constant battled with each other wanting Harry to know and being scared if he does.

“I don’t want you to be hurt,” Harry said after a while. “No one knows more than me how fucked up you’ve been because of your parents’ split and the whole ordeal with your mom. I know you have trust issues and you can’t commit because it scares the living shit out of you. It’s not a good thing, Lou. I want you to be happy and I want to give you everything, but I never want you to take the risk and get hurt, either”

Louis nodded, taking Harry’s hand into his. He remembered the night clearly when he’d gotten drunk with Harry almost two years ago and spilled his heart out. He told him about how his biological dad fucked off and left him and his mom all alone when he was barely a week old. He told him about his horrible step father who married his mom and was with her for years, making this big, happy family, only to get up one day and leave all of them including his little sisters. He told him how he was so tired and scared of seeing such heartbreak in his own home, that he couldn’t bear to go through all that, too.

It was really why he’d broken up with his ex-boyfriend. He was scared that he’d do the same to Louis and Louis didn’t let him close enough to even try. Louis did it to him before it was too late. It was a real cowardly way of living, but at least his heart wasn’t breaking.

“It’s kind of surprising,” Louis said to Harry, snapping out of his thoughts.

“What is?”

“You’re always saying how you want me to go out on a proper date and let boys treat me well, but when it happens, you’re all protective.”

Harry laughed, throwing his head back. “I know, I know. I’m sorry. I care about you a lot. He needs my approval, you know. Even though, I want you to date and all, I don’t want you being with some dick head.”

“Of course,” Louis said with an amused smile. “He’s alright. I think you’d like him.”

“If you say so. I didn’t get a chance to meet him, tonight. But maybe I will now that you’re hanging out.”

“Maybe. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. He could hate me for all we know.”

“How could anyone in their right mind hate you? You’re fucking gorgeous from head to toe. And you look like you’d be amazing in bed.”

Louis groaned, hiding his face in Harry’s neck. “Shut up. You’re the weirdest. Honestly, who says that?”

“I do,” Harry argued, laughing at him.

“Whatever,” Louis rolled his eyes and trying not to smile. “Let’s watch TV.”

Harry hummed in approval, holding him tighter, the two of them transfixed on the reality drama on the TV.

Zayn and Louis decided to meet up with Niall for his lunch hour in the city since there was nothing at home to eat. The three of them settled on Chipotle after much begging on Niall’s end and sat down on the wooden chairs with their burritos and burrito bowls in front of them. Niall took one of each explaining to them that he hadn’t gotten a chance to have dinner the night before.

“Barbara not giving you food, Niall?” Zayn asked, smiling around his burrito.

“Of course she does,” Niall waved off. “She was just super busy and I was too tired to cook. But Barbs cooks the best dishes. I lick the plate clean sometimes because she’s that good.”

“That’s hot,” Louis said sarcastically, making a face at the mental image. “Anyways, what’s up? How was work?”

“Work’s work. Bruno Mars stopped by the office today,” Niall replied.

“That’s...interesting,” Louis said, feeling rather jealous that while he was sitting at home in his dirty clothes that he was too lazy to wash, Niall got to meet Bruno Mars on an hourly salary. Shit. He turned to Zayn. “What about you?”

“Same old,” Zayn replied. He worked as a curator at Ward Nasse Gallery in Soho. He got to help with a lot of behind the scenes aspects of the place as well and he loved it. He was given a lot of free time to work on his own art, too, which he appreciated so much. “Any call backs from the places you applied to?”

“Nope,” Louis shook his head, picking at the burrito bowl in front of him.

Niall looked up at him then and furrowed his brows. “Don’t you have a date with that guy tonight?”

“Greg?” Louis asked. “Yeah. That’s tonight. I was so close to cancelling last night. I just don’t feel like going.”

“Why not?” Zayn asked. “He’s a good guy.”

“Yeah, but I don’t know. Being a good guy doesn’t make me want to go on a date with him.”

“Louis,” Niall sighed, putting his food down. “You have to go.”

Louis frowned at him and put his food down as well. “And why do I have to go? Why are you saying it like that?”

“Don’t you think it’s time that you...let go of some people and moved on? Like, things aren’t changing, Lou and it’s only getting worse for you.”

Louis stared at Niall, dumbfounded for a second until it hit him. Niall knew how he felt about Harry. And if he was so openly saying that in front of Zayn, it meant Zayn knew as well. He never told any of his friends in fear that one of them would slip up one day in front of Harry, leading to an inevitable downfall, but here they were. Giving him clues about their knowledge of his secret feelings. How the fuck did they know without him telling them?

Niall gave him a knowing smirk. “Oh, come on,” he said. “I’ve known you since you were prepubescent. You really don’t think I’d know if you had a crush on Harry or not?”

“Niall,” Louis cried, looking at Zayn and feeling rather attacked. “What the fuck? How long have you known?”

“Since that night, like, a year ago when you got really drunk at Liam’s birthday and kept staring at Harry while he was talking as though he was the greatest gift on Earth.”

Louis turned to Zayn then, not even wanting to think about that night. It was intense. Harry had worn this lavender jumper with this floral headband and Louis wanted to climb him like a Goddamn tree. “And what about you, Zayn?” Louis asked.

Zayn shrugged, looking as calm as ever. “For a while, too. No specific moment. Just figured, really.”

“Fine,” Louis said, realizing there was no way out of this. “So you all know. Does that mean Liam does, too?”

“Oh, yeah,” Niall nodded. “He’s known for ages just like us.”

“That’s fantastic,” Louis fake smiled. “Next you’re going to tell me Harry knows, too?”

“Harry doesn’t know,” Niall shook his head as he took a giant bite out of his burrito. “He’s a fucking moron, but you are blatantly obvious at times that even I’m surprised he hasn’t clued in yet.”

“And he won’t,” Louis cut in.

“Plus, it’s not a big deal if we know,” Niall continued. “We won’t tell him. You can trust us.”

“How can I trust you when you hid the fact that you knew from me for all this time?” Louis asked.

“You can,” Zayn assured Louis. “Honestly, we don’t sit around and discuss this...often.”

“Oh my God,” Louis groaned, putting his face in his hands and moaning. “Fucking hell. So, you’re all saying I should go on this date just to forget about Harry?”

“Precisely, yeah,” Niall nodded. “He’s with somebody and you can’t keep doing this. It’s only hurting you.”

“I’m aware,” Louis told him. “I’m fine, though. Like, I said yes to this date for that exact reason, I’m just feeling a bit apprehensive about it.”

“That’s fine,” Niall conceded. “As long as you don’t back out. This will be good for you.”

Louis nodded, really hoping Niall was right.

Louis had completely forgotten what people did on dates. He was meeting Greg at this restaurant in Midtown that he promised was delicious and daring because Louis told him he liked a bit of everything. After the initial bouts of unease had dripped away, Louis found that he was excited, but just confused as to how to act.

After his talk with Niall and Zayn, he felt he owed not just to them, but to himself as well to go out and have fun instead of pining over someone who was already taken. It wasn’t something that was going to go away overnight. He still wanted Harry, but it didn’t seem likely that he and Peter would ever end, really. Things were going really good for them--at least for now.

He started to think about Greg on the way to the restaurant to hype himself up. How he had a cute little smile where he did this adorable thing with his nose. He also really liked how tall he was. It was a plus point and his hair was really nice, too. All these thoughts were making Louis feel better and better as he got closer to the meeting point. Hopefully things just happened naturally and he didn’t have to keep worrying about what he should be doing.

Louis found Greg standing at the corner of the sidewalk and walked over to him. “Hey,” he smiled, tapping him on the arm gently.

Greg turned to look at him and grinned. “Hey,” he said. “So good to see you again.”

“You too,” Louis agreed. “How are you?”

“I’m good, thanks,” Greg smiled. “And you? You look amazing, by the way.”

“Thank you,” Louis said. “I’m alright. A bit hungry, to be honest.”

“Well, that’s perfect because we’re actually going here,” he said pointing to the restaurant behind him. Louis turned to see it was a Indian Bistro named Desi Shack, bustling with people going in and out with bags of food or content smiles.

“Great,” Louis grinned, following him inside. “Haven’t had Indian in a while.”

“This place is great,” Greg commended. “They have amazing dishes and they’re all extremely tasty and not too heavy on the spice. Just the perfect amount.”

The two of them waited on the rather long line and ordered their food at the counter before carrying it over to a high stool seating by the window. Louis dug in right away and moaned obscenely as the spices and taste melted in his mouth.

“This is so fucking good,” he said. “Why have I never come here before?”

Greg laughed, tearing off a piece of his naan. “Well, now you know about it. You can come as often as you like.”

“True,” Louis agreed.

“So, I’ve got to say this because it’s been on my mind since I’ve met you. Your name. Louis.”

Louis laughed nervously. “What about it?”

“I love it,” Greg exclaimed. “Much more fun to say than Lewis.”

“It’s even more fun to scream,” Louis quipped without much thought. He widened his eyes and looked at Greg, bewildered, who looked the same. “Oh my God. Please ignore the fact that I said that. My sense of humor is really weird sometimes.”

Greg laughed, throwing his head back. “It’s fine. I’m sure you’re right.”

Louis let out another defeated laugh because he was honestly so crude at times, it amazed him. The rest of the conversation flowed much better after. Their conversation drifted to music, such as the evolution of Fall Out Boy’s music and whether or not Iggy Azalea was a good rapper. It quickly turned into a conversation about pets and Greg told him all about the time his cat, Pugsy, vomited all over his apartment after sneaking into some peanut butter and how he couldn’t get the smell out for a month no matter what he used.  

After eating, the two of them trashed their empty plates and headed out, walking aimlessly. “That was really delicious,” Louis said. “Thanks for taking me.”

“No problem, I’m glad you liked it,” he said. “I’m really glad you said yes to this date, by the way. I was almost sure you were going to say no.”

Louis gave a short laugh. “I’m not really into dating. Usually it’s much more casual than all this, but I figured why not?”

“I understand. When I broke up with my ex, I couldn’t even look at another guy for the longest time. But eventually you realize that moving on is the best thing to do.”

Louis would understand very well, considering that was what he was trying to accomplish with Harry. He didn’t press further with his own details, though, only asked about him. “How long ago was this?” he asked Greg.

Greg thought for a minute. “I think about a year since we broke up. You’re actually the first person since then. I didn’t want to say this because then it sounds super cheesy, but it’s true.”

Louis smiled and looked down at his feet. He was glad he wasn’t the only one nervous, going into something new after so long. It made him feel a lot better about this date; more than he already was because Greg was really cool. He could see the two of them becoming friends, if not anything more. They shared several similar interests, like their love of Showtime shows and hatred of onions. That was always rare to find for Louis.

He nudged Louis as they approached a few bars. “Want to get a drink and play some pool?”

Louis nodded, thinking why not.

The two of them walked into the bar, grabbing drinks before heading over to an empty pool table. Louis took a sip of his drink, putting it down on the edge of the table. “I’ll be honest, Greg. I’ve never played before.”

"You’re serious?” Greg asked, laughing. “Well, shit. Alright. I'll go easy on you, but, not too easy because I like to win.”

Louis smirked at him as they started the game. They both got very much into it, but Louis’ score compared to Greg’s was horrible. He had more balls up on the table than Greg did. The thought made him giggle as he finished up his drink.

"That's not fair," he said after he missed another shot. "You should let me win."

"And why's that?" Greg asked me placing both his palms on the table. Louis smiled at him, sweetly.

"Because I'm cute."

Greg laughed and put his stick down by the wall. Louis walked around his side and over to Greg’s. He sat up on the game pool table, facing him so that they were eye to eye. Greg smiled at him mischievously and walked closer until he was between Louis’ legs.

"You really are cute," he said, placing both of his hands on either side of him.

"I'm just cute?" Louis asked him, with a raise of his eyebrow.

"You're gorgeous," Greg replied with a smile.

It was enough for Louis. He had fun all night and after a drink or two, he felt good. Really good. Good enough to clutch on to Greg’s chest, scrunching up his t-shirt and pulling him closer. Louis pressed his lips to Greg’s, kissing him like he knew how. It was soft as first. There was no aggression but then Louis slipped his hands around Greg’s neck to hold him tighter and it spurred him on to deepen the kiss.

Louis was breathing heavily once they pulled away. "You want to take this over to somewhere easier and more private?" he asked Greg. He nodded in response and took Louis’ hand before pulling him out of the bar and towards his apartment.

The night ended great. After having sex, Greg and Louis sat up with ice cream and talked for hours about each other’s lives. Louis learned about how Greg was originally from Pennsylvania and had graduated from Penn State before moving out to the city. The coolest thing Louis learned about him was probably that he got pizza with Jay Z and Beyonce once. Louis was very jealous about that.

Eventually, Greg drifted off to sleep and Louis checked his phone real quick to see if he had any messages. He jolted up in bed when he saw he had fourteen missed calls from Harry. He noticed Greg shift a bit and quietly got out of bed to call Harry back outside in the living room. Harry answered at the third ring, his voice deep and gravelly.

“Hello?”

“Are you okay? What happened? Who died?” Louis quietly yelled into the phone.

Harry laughed on the other end. “What? No one died.”

Louis narrowed his eyes, then. "Then why did you call me fourteen times?"

"Oh," he said. "I just wanted to talk."

Louis was going to kill him. He really was. "You knew I wouldn't answer. I was on a date.”

"I knew that. I--guess, I just missed you. I mean, it felt a bit weird; you not being there to answer my calls so I kept calling back. We very rarely ever miss each other’s calls, Lou."

That much was true. They were so codependent at times, it was sort of unhealthy. “Well,” Louis drawled out. “What would you do if I wasn’t here?” It was a rather morbid thing to say, but he really liked hearing about Harry missing him. He was such a sicko for egging him on.

"Don't say that," Harry chastised. "I don't know what I'd do without you, Lou."

His sudden expressiveness in needing Louis and wanting him kind of took him by shock. And it hurt too because it wasn't the way Louis wanted him to need or want him. Harry liked Louis as a friend. That was it; it was always too much, but never enough.

"What are you doing?" he asked instead, just to get out of replying to that.

"I was watching TV. What about you? How was your date?”

Louis bit his lip. "I can't tell you everything, but it was nice. We had dinner. We chatted a bit. And then we played pool for a bit. After that--we hung out."

"I'm getting the gist," Harry said quietly. "I'm glad you had fun. When are you going out with him again?"

"I don't know. It’s only been the first date, Harry."

"Well, I hope you do. I want you to find a nice boy, Lou, and from what you’re saying it seems that he’s nice.”

That really irritated Louis for reasons he didn’t want to admit. He felt so fucking stupid, sitting there in the apartment of the guy he just let dine and fuck him, only to be on the phone with the guy he wanted more than anything in the entire fucking world. It was humiliating to have the very same guy he wanted, tell him that he wants to see Louis go out with other guys because Louis wanted the opposite reaction. He wanted Harry to pine for him and tell him not to go off with Greg or whoever. And it also irritated Louis to hear that Harry thought he needed a nice boy. Louis didn’t need anyone. He was fine how he was.

"So you're saying I'm not happy as you are because I don’t have a guy?" Louis narrowed his eyes again as he scoffed.

"I didn't say that. I meant that I want you to find love and see that it's not some big joke,” he responded. “Don’t misunderstand me. We’ve been through this before.”

"Harry, just shut up right now," Louis replied. "I'm going to go. I'm tired."

"Louis, why are you getting angry?" Harry asked him. "I didn't say anything bad. I'm just trying to say that I'm happy for you. I’m sorry."

"I'm not mad,” Louis gritted out. “I'll call you tomorrow. Bye."

He hung up and slammed my phone on the couch beside him, willing himself to calm down. He’d been having a great night until this phone call. For the first time in more than a fucking year, he was letting  another man into his life that wasn’t his best fucking friend. But no, Harry didn’t feel like he was losing Louis. What would he lose? Everything would remain the same for him because his feelings never extended beyond that. His feelings were never there to change. He’d always seen Louis as just a friend and nothing more.

It made him feel pathetic because even his own friends saw how much he was sitting around just pining over some guy who would never feel the same even if he was a stupid flirt for no good reason. If he was going to move on, he’d have to stop being so dependent on Harry, even as a friend. What he needed was space.

Louis never called Harry back the next day. Harry called the day after and Louis cut the conversation short and hung up. Instead, he focused on Greg. The two of them hung out almost every day for the next week, getting to know each other and making it official after two weeks of dates.

After a few visits to the radio station, Greg managed to somehow get Louis a small slot in another radio station that his company was affiliated with. He’d liked Louis’ personality over the radio whenever he’d let Louis talk and he also enjoyed the mixes he helped Greg make before every show to play on the radio. So, he went ahead and spoke to a few guys and gave in a good word, which eventually led to a job offer. Louis accepted without a second thought and after a few short days, he was working and actually enjoying it.

The other boys took him out for celebratory drinks, but after much insisting on his end, they didn’t invite Harry. He’d avoided every call Harry sent his way until the younger boy simply stopped trying except for the few stray texts he’d send. They mostly just said something like i miss you or can i call you? i miss hearing your voice. Louis felt like shit, but for the first time in a long time, his life didn’t revolve around Harry. It was unfamiliar and strange, but also rather refreshing, even if at night it did feel like his heart was caving in from how much he missed him.

...

Louis walked out of Greg’s bedroom to the living room, spreading his arms. “I’m ready. How do I look?”

Greg looked up from his seat on the couch and smiled slowly. “Amazing. Literally, the best Peter Pan costume I have ever seen.”

Louis laughed softly, twirling around to give him a good look. When he turned back to Greg, he saw him stand up and quickly grab his hat off his head. He held it far above his head and smiled. “Try and get it,” he said, teasingly as he backed away from Louis.

“Greg, stop it,” Louis said, walking towards him. “Don’t use my height against me, you dick. Give it back.” Louis laughed before lunging forward towards him to grab the hat, but he only moved further back. Louis shot him a glare and tried again, this time losing his balance.

“Careful now,” Greg said, catching him by his waist.

Louis scowled and pushed him off. “I want my hat,” he said, crossing his arms.

“Give me a kiss then.”

Louis smiled at him before leaning in and pressing his lips against Greg’s. It had taken a while to get used to this whole domestic relationship thing that they had going on. The sex was good, commendable for the most part, but Louis was trying to get used to everything else besides it. It was more work than it looked like. While they got on as friends, it was still hard for Louis to think of him as a boyfriend. Someone that he was getting serious with.

He pulled back quickly and smirked at him, reaching his hand out. “You got your kiss, Greg, now give me back my hat. I’m going to be late for my party which you aren’t going to because you suck.”

“I’ve had plans with my friends for months now,” he said to Louis before giving him back his green, pointed hat. Louis adjusted it on top of his head in front of a mirror, making sure his fringe looked good before turning to Greg.

“But it’s at Niall and Barbara’s. They throw the best parties,” Louis said. Greg was back on the couch, browsing on his phone distractedly. “Whatever, I’m going to go now. You dropping me off or what?”

“Yeah,” Greg said, still texting. Louis grabbed his coat and slipped on his shoes. By the time he was done, Greg was at the door and off his phone. He gave Louis a small smile before slipping out the door and Louis could feel that something was off. He’d felt it for a few days, but never bothered asking because he didn’t know what to say. He didn’t know if it was his lack of concern over the issue or if he hated confrontation, but a part of him didn't want to deal with it unless Greg brought it up.

It was a quiet car ride for the most part until they reached Niall and Barbara’s apartment. Greg parked the car and looked at Louis with a small smile. Louis awkwardly smiled back, about to get off when Greg stopped him by grabbing his hand. Louis stilled and turned to look at him. “Is everything alright?”

“Am I doing something wrong?” he asked Louis.

“No,” Louis replied with a frown, sitting back down on the passenger seat. “Why are you asking that?”

“Because Louis--because I keep trying and I keep on trying harder and harder but you never seem to be into it. You freeze up and you look scared. It’s like we’re stuck in one place and I don’t know if it’s something I’m doing, but at times I feel like I really make you feel uncomfortable.”

Louis shrugged, starting to feel something crawl up his throat. He shrugged again, not really sure how to respond.

Greg looked frustrated and confused, looking down at his lap. “Why do I feel like I’m not doing any good and that this will never work?”

Louis sighed and looked outside watching people walk by, completely unaware of the conversation being held in that car. He knew something was off, but Greg didn’t have to put this on him the moment he was stepping out to see his friends. Maybe even Harry after weeks, as if that wasn’t stress enough. He didn’t want to have this conversation right now. He didn't know what to say to Greg without snapping at him because what else did he want? Louis was his boyfriend and now he supposedly wasn’t doing a good enough job at it.

“Can we talk about this later?” Louis asked him, instead.

“Yeah,” Greg said, looking at him again. “Sorry I brought this up out of nowhere.” He gave Louis a soft kiss on his cheek, apologetically, but it still looked like he was upset. “Have fun.”

“Thanks,” Louis said, rolling his eyes as he stepped out of the car. He didn’t bother turning to say goodbye and instead walked right inside the lobby, taking the elevator up.  

The first person he saw was Liam, who was dressed up as the Joker from Batman. He pulled Louis into a hug as soon as he stepped inside, rubbing his back. “Hey, bro,” Liam said, grinning. “You alright? Why the long face?”

“Nothing,” Louis responded, smiling at him. “I’m just ready to fucking party. You look great, by the way.”

“Thanks,” he said, looking down at his costume, proudly. “I like yours, too. Suits you!”

“Thank you,” Louis replied. “I’m going to go and say hi to everyone else. Maybe grab a beer.”

“Sure, man. I’ll see you around,” Liam said, letting Louis through. The place was buzzing with people, everyone holding drinks and mingling. Louis smiled as he looked at everyone’s costumes.

“Lou!”

Louis turned around to see Niall standing there in a Kiss member costume. He was holding a blow up guitar on one hand and eating chicken fingers with the other. Louis laughed as he walked over and gave him a hug.

“You look great, Ni.”

“You like?” Niall asked. “Barbara helped me. She’s matching you, actually. She’s dressed as Tinkerbell.” Niall pointed her out and Louis looked over to see that he was right. Barbara looked over then and waved excitedly at Louis, pointing to both their costumes. Louis shot her a thumbs up, before turning back to Niall and letting her return to her friends.

“Perfect. Figured I would bump into at least one Tinkerbell tonight,” Louis said.

Niall laughed, finishing up his chicken. “Did you come with Zayn?”

“No,” Louis shook his head. “I stayed at Greg’s last night and he dropped me off.”

“Oo,” Niall cooed. “The boyfriend that you’ve been ditching us all for. I see.”

“Niall, shut up,” Louis rolled his eyes because he didn’t want to even discuss Greg being his boyfriend right now. “I saw you two days ago. Is Zayn not here yet?”

“I haven’t seen him,” Niall answered, noticing the topic change. He waved to someone over Louis’ shoulder before looking back at him a bit more somber. “So, Greg didn’t come with you?”

Louis shook his head, clicking his tongue. “He’s being weird as fuck. I’ll tell you about it later, though, when the party’s over.”

“Sure. Noticed you looked a bit down. And have you, um, talked to Harry?”

Louis shook his head, looking down at the floor. The others were aware of the whole situation, but were trying not to meddle. They did try. Liam and Zayn tried devising a plan to trap the two of them in a room, but Louis saw right through it. “Not really. Is he coming?”

Niall nodded his head. “He’s somewhere around here. Wait till you see his costume. Your boxers will drop.” Louis frowned at Niall and he laughed. “I’m serious. You’ll be drooling.”

“Why would my boxers drop?” Louis asked him. Obviously this meant that Harry was wearing a really sexy costume. Louis was curious and wanted Niall to just give him a heads up so he could prepared. Niall looked over his shoulder and grinned, instead.

“Turn around and look for yourself,” he said with a quiet laugh.

Louis closed his eyes real quick before turning around slowly to look at Harry.

Fuck.

Niall was more than right.  

His boxers mentally did drop.

Harry was standing there, talking to some guest, in a pair of black dress pants which hung low on his waist so his v-line was dangerously and obscenely visible. He was shirtless with a simple bow tie wrapped around his neck and he looked delicious. Good to eat, really. This was so fucking unfair. Why did God have to make Harry Styles and make them meet when Louis was so unbelievably, undeniably attracted to him, but couldn’t have him? How the fuck was that fair? Why was this done?

“What is he?” Louis asked, his voice barely working, and hands itching to run down Harry’s torso and feel his abs.

“He’s a stripper from, like, Magic Mike,” Niall cackled. “You look like you’re going to eat him alive. Like he’s a piece of meat. This is so fucking funny.”

Louis smacked Niall on the arm, scowling. Did Niall not know how dangerously close he was to having a raging boner at his party? It was frustrating and Louis hadn’t been this turned on since ever. Niall only laughed harder as Louis hit him, so much so, that it caught the attention of Harry. He looked over at the two and Louis could see him from the corner of his eye, making his way over to them.

He cleared his throat when he stood between the two and Niall let out a loud, annoying exhale. “Well this is awkward.”

Louis shot him a glare and braved a look at Harry, who was fixated on him. He looked unreadable and that was worse than him looking angry or upset. What was he thinking? What was going through his mind right now? Louis hadn’t seen or talked to him in weeks and seeing him in flesh, standing before him, only made Louis’ heart feel hollower. He was literally fighting the urge to take Harry into his arms and apologize a million times for who knew what reason. Seeing Harry made him completely forget why he ever even wanted to do this in the first place. “I’m going to go check on the...something,” Niall said not so subtly before leaving the two of them alone.

Louis widened his eyes in panic, not sure of what to do next. How fucking dare Niall just leave them alone? What was Louis supposed to do?

Before he could make some lame comment to lighten the mood, Harry said, “Do you want to talk? Inside?”

Louis stared at him, wide eyed for a moment before nodding and following him inside. He was nervous as they made their way inside. Harry was mad. Louis could tell from how tense his back was and how clenched his fists were. He knew that he was ready to unleash the kraken or something. When they walked inside of Barbara and Niall’s bedroom, Harry closed the door and turned to look at Louis with a frown on his face and something so close to breaking down.

“What is wrong with you?” Harry asked, anger practically radiating off of him.

“I don’t know,” Louis replied, feeling himself breaking down, too. “Nothing.”

“Really? Nothing at all?”

Louis looked at him with pleading eyes, crossing his arms and shrugging. “I’m sorry,” he said, not sure what else to say.

“Sorry for what? Because you know what, Louis? You have a lot of things to be sorry about.”

I know. I know I’ve been a dick for ignoring you, Harry. But it’s not like I did it for no reason.”

“What was your reason?” Harry asked, throwing his hands up and walking closer to him. “Why are you doing this?”

“I can’t say,” Louis shrugged again, helplessly, his eyes feeling watery.

“Why not?” Harry asked. “Since when did we start keeping things from each other? We’re supposed to be best friends! Do you not want to be friends with me anymore? What did I do that was so terrible that you can’t even look me in the face and give me a straight answer? What made you want to push me out of your life?”

Louis only shook his head, wishing he could just hug Harry until he believed that he did nothing terrible. It was because he was everything Louis wanted and Louis felt lost without him. He wasn’t himself anymore, not without Harry, and coming to terms with that was fucking scary. Harry looked so confused and angry, but mostly upset. His eyes zeroed in on Louis’ neck and Louis self consciously rubbed his hand over it.

“What’s that on your neck?” he asked.

“Nothing.”

“Greg did that?” Harry asked coming closer and putting his palm on Louis’ neck. He pressed his thumb against the sensitive skin and Louis pushed his hand away.

“Don’t,” he whined.

“Why?” Harry asked, mockingly. “Oh, right, we’re not friends anymore. Guess I can’t touch you anymore, either. Figured as much.”

“Harry, please. You have to understand that this wasn’t easy on me, either. I needed space. Not just from you, but everyone else, too.”

“That’s bullshit,” Harry shook his head. “You’ve been seeing everyone else. I know you have been because Liam can’t hide things for shit and you saw him plenty. It’s just me that you’re avoiding and I don’t know if it’s because you’ve got a boyfriend, who obviously loves marking you up like you’re his property or something, or if I did something.”

Louis glared at him because he was crossing a line. “What Greg does is not any of your business, first of all. Second of all, I just need you to understand that I had to do this. While it was necessary, I need you to know that I’m sorry and that it wasn’t fucking easy. I’m sorry for ignoring you and not calling you back. I thought about you all the time and it sucked and I don’t know what to do anymore.”

Harry’s eyes softened at that and he just looked so small, despite his height advantage over Louis. He looked helpless. “Can I just hug you?” Harry asked, voice breaking. “Please. I just--.”

Louis didn’t let him continue, instead, pulling him close and wrapping his arms around the younger boy. Harry hugged him tightly and breathed a sigh of relief.

“I fucking miss you,” he said. “I miss you all the fucking time. Every second of every hour of every day. I feel crazy, sometimes. It was so bad because I’d find myself sometimes taking the train to yours or picking up the phone to call and tell you about something I’d seen or even just to see you and hear your voice. And then I’d realize I couldn’t because you weren’t there anymore and it fucking sucks every single time. I felt like the wind was being knocked out of me.”

Harry,” Louis said, pulling away to look at his face. Harry looked about ready to cry and Louis kissed him on both cheeks. “I’m right here. I’m not going anymore. I’m here, right now.”

“Please stop doing this,” Harry said. “Please don’t avoid me anymore. I’m sorry if I did something. I promise I won’t do it anymore.”

“You didn’t do anything wrong, Harry,” Louis breathed, hugging him again. “You need to know that. I’m not going anywhere. I promise.”

When they eventually pulled away, Harry rubbed at his eyes, looking at Louis. “Am I ever going to know why this happened?” Louis fish mouthed, only to look down at the ground at his feet. He really didn’t know how to explain it to Harry without outing himself. Harry sighed, wrapping an arm around him to lead him outside. “It’s fine. As long as you’re back, it’s fine. Just stay with me, okay?”

Louis smiled at him, putting his arm around him, too. They both walked out of the bedroom and back to the party, feeling lighter than they had when they first came in.

A week later, Louis was at Greg’s flat again. They were about to have sex, but for some reason, Greg stopped midway and said he couldn’t. Louis sat on the bed, completely dumbfounded, watching Greg get up and leave in his boxers. He’d never been turned away for sex. He huffed and got out of the bed as well, pulling on his jeans, glaring at the door. This was some new form of insulting someone and it was really offensive. Greg literally just walked out. What the fuck?

Once he got his clothes back on, he walked back out and found Greg sitting on his couch. Louis hovered by the door, unsure of what to do. He bit his lip and ran a hand through his hair, uncomfortably. “Should I just leave then?” he asked.

“Oh, for fucks sake,” Greg groaned, looking at Louis like he was the one who was just rejected during sex. “What? We can’t do anything but have sex? You can’t even sit down?”

“Shit, Greg,” Louis scowled, not really in the mood to sit down and have a nice chat with him after what just happened. “You’re the one that just fucking got up in the middle of it. What the fuck was that?”

“We need to talk, Louis,” Greg said, somberly, his anger fading more into exhaustion.

“Okay,” Louis replied, leaning against the wall next to where Greg was stood, not trusting him enough to sit down. He knew it was going to be bad whatever it was. He just needed Greg to get on with it so he could leave with some bit of dignity.

“You’re not going to sit?” Greg asked, noticing him.

Louis shook his head curtly. “Not really, no. Can you just say what you have to say?”

Greg looked frustrated, turning away from him. “I’ve been thinking a lot and I don’t think we should see each other anymore.”

“So, you’re breaking up with me?” Louis asked, rather simply with a scoff. He couldn’t say he was surprised, but he was hurt. He didn’t even know for what, but it stung with the way everything was playing out. After everything, this was how it was going to end.

“Am I, though?” Greg asked him.

“What the fuck does that mean?” Louis practically yelled. What sort of mind game or reverse psychology was he trying to pull?

“It means are we really together in any other sense other than the fact that we fuck? Think back to our relationship and tell me how many times you’ve opened up about yourself and told me anything. Or tried to initiate a hangout that didn’t end up in our clothes coming off. And even then, half the time, I think it’s me more into the sex than you are because you just look so bored. Do you know how that feels?”

“I can’t believe you’re fucking saying this to me. You just stopped me in the middle of sex and walked out,” Louis cried. “I told you that this is how I am. None of this should be a surprise to you because I told you I’m trying and it’s a process.”

“How long are you going to keep saying that and try to string me along? You’re not even happy with me. You can’t deny that. Everything I do feels like it’s never good enough. I don’t do well with mixed signals, so that’s why I’m suggesting this.”

“Fine,” Louis easily agreed with a glare because he was done with this conversation five minutes ago. “If that’s what you want then I won’t try to defy you. Sorry that I wasn’t all that you wanted. Goodbye.”

He scoffed, pulling on his Vans and walking out the door, slamming it behind him. Greg didn’t come after him at all and he was happy about that.

hey. can you come over?

what’s up??? i’m a little busy atm. got a doc appt

greg broke up with me

shit. i’m coming right now. give me a few minutes

...

Louis felt horrible. Something ugly curled up in his stomach, filling it with dread and self loathe. The things Greg said were ringing in his ears, echoing through his mind. He knew Greg was right by some standards. Louis just couldn’t do it. He couldn’t be a boyfriend to Greg and he wondered if this was how it was always going to be. If he was always going to either be stuck with one night stands, or if he was going to keep going through guys, giving them only a little bit of him before they realized they couldn’t do it anymore.

Greg was a good guy. He treated Louis right, tried to shower him with affection, which Louis always pushed away because it made him uncomfortable or caught off guard. It just never felt right. His mind was always elsewhere, moreover on Harry, who he was trying to not think about. It only had the opposite effect, which was so stupid . Now, he was lying on his apartment floor, staring up at the ceiling wondering why he wasn’t like everyone else. Why he couldn’t allow himself to simply move the fuck on and give himself to someone else. He didn’t know if he could keep going like this.

It wasn’t just the fact that he had trust and commitment issues, no. He knew deep down it had a lot to do with Harry, too, and Louis’ feelings for him. For the first time, Louis allowed himself to admit that this was not just any crush. He was falling for Harry deeply and it was absolutely terrifying. He had no idea how to even wrap his mind around that, given that it took him this long to just admit it. It was such a loaded and heavy thought that he didn’t know if he could properly accept it.

When the doorbell rang, Louis slowly got up and walked over, opening it. Harry had him in his arms right away, holding him tightly and rubbing soothing circles in his back. “Babe,” Harry mumbled into his neck. “You alright?”

Louis shrugged as they pulled away. “I guess,” he said.

“Come on,” Harry said, taking his hand and pulling him to Louis’ bedroom. They sat down on the bed and Harry pulled out a bag of M&M's from his bag, handing it to Louis. Louis almost cried because Harry always brought these over when Louis was having a bad day because he liked to eat them. “Got these for you.”

“You’re the best,” Louis whined, giving him a hug and kissing the side of his head. “Thank you. Didn’t you say you had a doctor’s appointment?”

“Yeah,” Harry shrugged. “I went to get a check up, but then got your text so I left. It’s not a big deal. I’ll call and reschedule.”

“You dropped everything to see me,” Louis mumbled, opening up his bag of Skittles, feeling like he was going to drown from how much he felt for this boy.

“Forget that,” Harry shrugged off like it was nothing when it was something. “What happened with Greg?”

Louis wished Harry wouldn’t ask that because he didn’t want to talk about it, even though that was what Harry came for. It’s just that Louis didn’t want to talk about anything but Harry. He was interested in nothing but Harry. When would Harry get that? That was literally what happened with Greg.

“He just broke up with me,” Louis replied eventually, popping in a green Skittle in his mouth. “Said that I wasn’t into the relationship as much as him. I wasn’t putting enough effort, but I tried. It’s just--you know how it is.”

Harry nodded understandingly. “Of course, Lou. You needed to go slow.”

“Yeah, I did. And he was complaining that all I wanted to do was have sex and never just hang out or hold hands and do couple type of things, which I just never felt comfortable doing.”

“He’s a fucker,” Harry said angrily. “He’s a mother fucker. How dare he try to pressure you into doing something that you’re not comfortable doing? I can’t believe you went out with him.”

Louis almost laughed, but contained himself. “He wasn’t all that bad. He got me a job and that’s massive. And it’s not his fault that he doesn’t know how I am; I never opened up and told him. It was a bit unfair.”

Harry shook his head angrily, clearly disagreeing with everything Louis said. “I didn’t like him from the start. Something seemed off.”

Louis frowned at him, not really sure about that, but ignored it because he would rather stop talking about Greg and just hang out with Harry. Since they made up, they’d been insufferable, spending every second they could with each other. The more Louis agreed with Harry, the faster they were done with this conversation.

“Well, whatever,” Harry continued. “It’s all his fault, so don’t blame yourself. You didn’t do anything wrong. You’re too good for him anyway.”

“Then who is good enough for me?” Louis asked.

“Someone who understands you and knows how to treat you. You’re too special for most people to handle,” Harry said, stealing some Skittles and popping them into his mouth.

“I think you’re the only one who thinks that,” Louis laughed, looking up at him with what he would assume was complete fondness. “You want to sleep over tonight? We could cook something together.”

“Do you want that?” Harry asked. “Would that make you happy?” Louis nodded meekly and Harry smiled. “Then I’m staying. Going to make your favorite for dinner and completely spoil you.”

“Who needs a boyfriend when I’ve got the best friend ever?”

Harry smiled at him happily, pulling him into a hug.

...

When Louis woke up the next morning, he found the space beside him empty. He wondered where Harry went since Louis spent the night plastered to his back like a koala. Louis slowly got up and yawned before running his hand through his oily hair. He slowly climbed out of bed and walked into the living room, his eyes raising in surprise.

Harry was lying down on the couch and watching TV. He turned and looked at him, grinning cheekily. “Morning, sunshine. Had a nice sleep?”

“Yeah,” Louis responded. “When did you wake up?”

“An hour ago. Come join me.” He scooted over on the sofa and Louis crawled in and fit beside him. They were watching 21 Jump Street and Louis could feel Harry chuckle every now and then. He wondered if Peter had any idea where his boyfriend was all night. Whether he knew where he was at that moment. It brought some sick pleasure to Louis to be this close to Harry. “Does Peter know you’re here?” Louis asked, trying keep his voice as neutral as possible.

It took a while before Harry answered. “No.”

Louis sighed, feeling agitated because it wasn’t all that fun if Peter didn’t know. “When is he going to let you come over here or hang out with me without making an issue? I’m just your best friend. Will he ever come to terms with that?”

“You know,” Harry said slowly, not taking his eyes off the movie. “He’s probably threatened by you. Besides, why does it matter? You hate him, too.”

“You know I have reasons to hate him though, Harry. He isn’t nice to you at all.”

“I know how he is and I know how to deal with it,” he said, eyes still glued to the screen. “I love him, Lou. Nobody said this was all going to be easy. You have to accept the good and the bad with the person you’re with.”

His words stung Louis for some reason. How could he not feel it when all Louis did was think about it? How could he not feel what Louis felt all the time? He knew that nothing was ever perfect, but when the two of them were lying on his ratty old couch and Harry fit his body so easily, Louis was allowed to say that they were pretty damn close. And if Harry couldn’t see that and was settling for less, then the world is the cruelest place ever.

They let the topic drop, but after a while Harry’s phone started to buzz on the coffee table. Louis could clearly see Peter’s picture and name pop up a few times, while Harry tried to ignore it. Eventually, he got irritated himself and handed it over to Harry. Harry slowly took it and typed something back to him before clearing his throat.

“You have to go?” Louis asked, knowing it was inevitable.

Harry sighed sadly. “I’m really sorry. You know I want to stay.”

“It’s fine,” Louis said. “Just go. I’ll be fine.”

Harry shuffled around, grabbing his coat and things before waving to Louis on the couch and letting himself out. Louis groaned loudly when he was alone and put a pillow over his face to let out a not so quiet scream. This sucked. Everything sucked. Peter sucked.

He always wondered if Peter really did dislike him as much as he let on because it was all so cliche when Louis really thought about it. Harry told him that Peter didn’t like how quickly they got close and how touchy they were. It bothered him and Harry never really listened to him when he told him to stop hanging out with Louis and chose to sneak around, instead. A part of Louis thought that Peter probably suspected Louis had feelings for Harry, too. That was why he wanted him far away from his boyfriend.

Harry always tried remaining neutral to the situation. Despite all of his friends not getting along with his boyfriend, he tried to find the good. Peter was apparently not always such a dick. Louis found that hard to believe, but gave Harry the benefit of the doubt.

While Louis dramatically groaned and moaned, thinking about Harry and wondering where the fuck Zayn was, he heard his phone ringing from his  bedroom. Louis groaned again, but much quieter, getting up and walking over. Harry’s picture and name flashed on the screen and he pursed his lips moodily before pressing answer.

"Hello," Louis said, trying to sound cool.

"Hey,” Harry said, a little out of breath because he was probably speed walking. “Listen, I'm sorry about walking out like that today. I wanna make it up to you. You want to meet for dinner tonight? Maybe drinks, too? I’ll treat you."

"Ha-ha,” Louis laughed, sarcastically. “You want to get drunk after you see Peter. Wonder why."

"Louis," he said sternly.

"Harry."

"Louis."

"Okay, I'm sorry. But yeah, sure. I'll see you tonight."

“That’s a good boy,” Harry cooed. “I’ll see you tonight, babe. Bye!”

“Bye.”

Louis felt evil and wanted to look extra hot tonight just because he wanted Harry to trip over himself when he got a look. It was no secret between the two that Harry found Louis attractive with all the flirting he did, but Louis reveled in it a lot more than he should. It satisfied him in some sick way and he thrived off of it on most nights when he was reminded of how unavailable Harry really was, by dressing in his best clothes and making Harry drool.

He pulled on his tightest jeans that made his ass look good and grabbable, as well as this thin maroon shirt paired with his dark jean jacket. He perfected his fringe and stood in front of his mirror for a long time, pouting and making Zayn like faces to see if he’d look any hotter by doing so. It didn’t work, but it did make Zayn (who walked in an hour ago saying he ended up crashing at some friend’s place) laugh at him.

Harry and Louis met up at Applebee’s in Times Square of all cliche places. Louis didn’t mind, though because they used to come here all the time. He figured they could go for a walk after dinner as well. He found Harry standing outside the restaurant, watching as Harry’s eyes raked over Louis. Louis smirked as he approached him, noticing his pupils were blown wide.

“You okay?” Louis asked with a tip of his head.

“I’m fine,” Harry gulped. “Uh--let’s uh…let’s go er--let’s go in.”

Louis shrugged casually, leading the way inside. They greeted the hostess at the front, who grabbed two menus, and seated them in a small booth next to the bar so that they could get drinks. They both sat down and gave in their orders for drinks before looking at each other.

Harry smiled. “Hi,” he said sweetly. “You alright?”

Louis nodded with a small smile. “Just peachy.”

“Are you still mad that I left this morning?”

“I wasn’t mad to begin with,” Louis lied, keeping his expression neutral. “Honestly, like. I get it. It’s fine. I wasn’t going to say no to this apology dinner, though.”

Harry chuckled, looking down at the menu, flipping mindlessly through the pages. “So,” he said. “This is fun. It’s like we’re on a date.”

Louis laughed, thinking if only. Harry looked at him and he straightened up, staring at him all dreamy and loved up. "Is that face supposed to charm me?" Louis asked him.

Harry laughed, running a hand through his long hair before pushing it to the side. “Are you saying I’m not charming?”

“I’m saying you look like a cupcake.”

“That’s a pastry,” Harry said, sound offended.

Just as Louis was about to respond, the waiter came back and gave them their drinks. The two of them gave in their orders then and sat back again. "We haven't been here in a while," Harry commented, running his palms down on the edge of the table. “Remember that time you and I came here and that bald guy walked in?”

“You mean the one who was wearing nothing but leather pants and a lime green vest?” Harry nodded his head and Louis burst out laughing. “Yes, I remember. He totally had a crush on you!”

“He did not!” Harry yelled back. “He had a crush on you. He kept asking you to dance with him to Elton John music even though this isn’t that type of facility.”

“But he bought you like five shots and asked you to show him where the restroom was!” Louis argued with a laugh, feeling nostalgic as he remembered that night so clearly. “He wanted to take you back there and give you a blowie, for sure.”

“You’re gross.” Harry wrinkled his nose and sipped his drink.

“Oh, you’re such a baby, Harry. Can’t take a sexual joke.”

“Not when it has something to do with old guys in lime green vests wanting to blow me.”

Louis burst out laughing again, but noticed the smile on Harry’s face slowly disappearing. “What’s wrong?” he asked him.

“Nothing,” Harry shrugged. “Just missed you, is all. We weren’t talking for so long, I thought we could never make memories like that again. Like, you know, just you and me. I was scared.”

Louis couldn’t have felt more guilty than he did then. “I’m really sorry, Harry,” he said, sincerely. “I know that I keep saying that, but I really am. It wasn’t like that, you know. I wasn’t trying to cut you out from my life completely. I just had a lot on my mind. I guess I over thought things, you know? If it helps, I really missed you, too.”

Harry smiled, looking a bit more satisfied. “So will you ever tell me why you did it?”

Louis gulped, feeling his throat get dry. “That’s not important. What’s important is that I just want to have a good time with you right now and forget that time. Can we please do that?”

Harry smiled albeit it wasn’t reaching his eyes. “Alright, agreed. How’s work going?”

“It’s really fun,” Louis said, grinning because he loved talking about it. “I love making mixes and talking to people on air. It’s so fun. Zayn sometimes comes by.”

Harry laughed. “Really?”

Louis nodded his head. “He likes to help me make the mixes, but mostly he’ll add in a lot of Drake and Chris Brown, which no one complains about, but it’s so like Zayn.”

“I want to call in and request a song one day,” Harry said, grinning and leaning back on his seat. “Maybe I could help you make mixes, too.”

“Sure,” Louis shrugged. “My mixes could use some weird songs no one has ever heard of.”

Harry tried to look offended, but he knew Louis was only teasing. Their appetizers arrived then; boneless wings and a platter of mozzarella sticks.

As they ate, Louis said, “You know, now that I’m thinking about it, Greg and I work in the same building. What if I bump into him?”

Harry widened his eyes at the thought. “Shit. You’re going to have be so stealthy when you go in. Do your times coincide?”

“Not really,” Louis replied, shrugging.

“Then you’re good. Also, can I ask you something?”

“Sure, what?”

“What were you and Greg like in a relationship? I never got to observe you with him. I want to know what you’re like when you’re with a guy long term, instead of just the usual.”

“Why?” Louis laughed, sipping his drink.

“I don’t know,” Harry shrugged, biting into his wing. “It’s different and I wanna know how.”

Louis thought for a while, a bit taken aback by the question. "We were very physical, but we did have moments where we just talked and got to know each other. I’m upset I lost him as a friend more than anything. The sex was alright, but I think a part of me was just scared that I had someone who was interested in me for more than the physical aspect, you know? He wanted something more.”

"Why were you so scared?” Harry asked, his brows furrowed as he concentrated on Louis. “So what if he wanted something more?"

"I didn’t know if I was ready or if he was the one I should want that with."

“Oh, I see,” Harry said. “Well, it’s fine. You’re better off without someone who doesn’t get it.”

Louis nodded, wishing that what Harry said was enough to keep his worrisome thoughts at bay. It didn’t mean he wasn’t wondering during the entire dinner why he felt better with Harry than he ever did with Greg.

Louis and Harry left Applebees once they finished their dinner and headed out to walk a bit in Times Square. Harry bought them two packets of nuts from a nuts4nuts vendor and they strolled, talking about how cliche they were being for walking around Times Square as tourists pushed past them to take pictures and take in all the lights.

They sat down on the red steps for a while, taking stupid selfies and laughing over them before heading back to Louis’ flat. It wasn’t agreed upon. Harry just never got off at his stop at the Subway and they huddled together, giggling as they walked the two short blocks from the train station to Louis’ apartment.

“I’m so tired,” Louis yawned as they stepped through the apartment door and inside. Zayn was once again out since his bedroom door was open with the light off.

Harry didn’t say anything for a moment and Louis was just about to turn around and ask when Harry’s fingers dug into his sides, tickling him. Louis let out a loud, high pitched shriek as he tried to push him off.

“Stop,” Louis cried, laughing as he let out a loud snort, which made Harry start laughing even harder. He collapsed over Louis’ body, the two of them moving back and tumbling on to the couch. Once he calmed down, Harry started tickling him again, leaving Louis gasping for air. “Harry, please stop.”

“Nope,” he responded, tickling Louis’ belly between their bodies. “I haven’t tickled you in a while. It’s so fun hearing you scream.”

Louis almost got hard at Harry saying that; wondered if he knew how sexual that sounded. It was weirdly exciting to Louis given the position they were in, too. Louis was stretched out on the couch with his legs dangling off of it while Harry was leaning on top of him, his hands skittering around Louis’ body.

Louis giggled and screeched unattractively, tears springing to his eyes. "Harry, you really need to stop or else I'm going to punch you."

"Nah, I’m good."

"You asked for it," Louis said as he flipped the two of them over and held Harry down. Harry winced at the movement, curling into his side.

"Ow,” he said, moving his hand over his groin.

Louis frowned at him. He definitely did not hit Harry’s dick. "Oh, stop being such a baby."

"No, it hurts,” he whimpered, covering his face with his hands. Louis softened up and straddled his hips, trying to remove his hands from his face to look at him.

“Are you crying?” Louis asked, prying Harry’s hands off his face. Harry wouldn’t budge and Louis felt really guilty. He didn’t mean to hurt him so bad. “I’m sorry; I didn’t mean to hurt you there.”

Harry peeked through his fingers at Louis, smirking like the little bastard he was. “I was just kidding. I didn’t get hurt.”

Louis scowled and shoved Harry before getting up and walking over to his room.

“Hey! It was a joke! I’m sorry.”

“You scared me,” Louis said. “I thought I hurt you and I felt so bad.”

Harry ran over to his room with a big, goofy grin on his face, wrapping his arms around Louis and  hugging him tightly.

“I’m sorry,” he cooed. “Lou, I’m sorry. I was only kidding.” He jetted out his lower lip and Louis smiled, wrapping his arms around Harry’s neck.

“I can’t say no to you when you say it like that, dork,” Louis smiled. Harry chuckled softly, leaving a kiss on his head.

"I love you, Lou. I love you a lot. I'm glad you're my best friend," he heard him say.

"Yeah," Louis said quietly. "Best friends."

Liam somehow coerced Zayn and Louis to take these free passes for his gym to get them to try and become members. He was a trainer after all, the reason for Louis’ demise because he was the one making Harry hotter than he needed to be. Harry’s arms were getting so big and his abs were so hard, it almost made Louis hard at the thought.

He personally wasn’t really into the gym and neither was Zayn, but they agreed since it was free and nobody ever passed up something that was free. When they arrived, all dressed up and ready to go, Liam had them do a few stretches and then took them to help them lift some weights. Zayn was faring a lot better than Louis, who just wanted to go home and sit on his couch with a bag of chips.

“Did I tell you guys that I’ve been seeing someone?” Liam asked casually, as though Louis wasn’t dying to catch his breath from this amount of strenuous exercise.

“Oh, yeah?” Zayn asked. “Who is it?”

“Sophia. She’s a student at FIT, in her last year. So gorgeous, man. She’s actually a member here, it’s how I met her.”

“Nice, Liam,” Louis said. “Why haven’t you introduced us to her?”

“We’ve only done coffee after her gym time,” Liam explained. “I’m thinking of asking her to dinner soon and then things could be a bit more serious.”

“Good luck,” Zayn told him. “I’ve been actually seeing someone, too.”

“What?” Louis cried, abandoning his dumbbell. “I live with you. How have I not been aware of this?”

Zayn shrugged. “You’ve been busy. Like, Harry comes over every day and you two are up each others asses the entire time, but yeah. It’s where I’ve been going these past few days.”

“This is why you’ve been MIA at the flat?” Louis asked.

Zayn nodded.

Well, shit.

All his friends were coupling off. It was a lot to take in with Niall being in a committed relationship when Louis used to know him when people still called him Braceface Horan, but now Liam and Zayn, too? It only heightened his anxiety about being that one friend in the group who never found anyone because they were always too afraid to commit or open up.

Niall and Harry came by to visit Louis at work one day, making him feel so proud as he showed them around his workplace since he was used to seeing theirs. They helped him make mixes and talked on the radio, boosting up the listener’s rate. Niall talked to everyone about how much he loved Ireland and told them stories of when he was there, while Harry took callers and told them terrible knock knock jokes. Louis loved it so much.

It was all fun until Harry sat back on one of the couches in the room when they were playing a string of songs. Louis noticed his eyes weren’t as lit up as usual and looked over at him with concern. “Why the long face, H?” he asked.

“He’s been having a bad day,” Niall explained for Harry. “Brought him here to take his mind off of things, actually.”

“What happened?” Louis asked them, eyes flitting between the two.

“Peter and I’ve broken up again,” Harry replied, laughing humorlessly. “Isn’t that just great? It’s so...like him. I just. Ha.” Harry looked distraught and Louis could only look at him sadly. This happened again and again. He didn’t know what he’d do if this went on for a few more years.

“I’m really sorry,” Louis said at last.

“No, no,” Harry shook his head with a frown. “It’s fine. Whatever. Can I um--can I use your bathroom for a second?”

“Sure,” Louis nodded, directing Harry towards the bathroom out in the hall. Harry left, leaving Niall and Louis alone. Louis looked at Niall who had the same concerned expression on his face. “I feel so bad for him, Ni. Just can’t take him getting hurt so much.”

“You don’t have to,” Niall said resolutely.

“Um, what?” Louis asked, confused.

“Do you really not see this for what it is?”

“And what is it?” Louis asked, quirking an eyebrow as if he was supposed to know what Niall was talking about.

“An opportunity. Don’t let Harry be sad. Don’t let him go running back to Peter again. Show him how great you are for him, Lou. Take the time that they’re apart to woo Harry away.”

“Niall,” Louis laughed, like he was out of his mind. That was crazy. Peter and Harry always got back together. It would be a shock if they didn’t even after all these problems.

“I’m serious, Louis. You have feelings for him and Harry would do anything for you. You need to at least try,” Niall persisted. “You can’t have anything unless you fight for it so you have to fight for Harry.”

Louis gulped, turning away, but not letting what Niall said stray too far from his mind. He wasn’t wrong. Maybe this was his opportunity to finally end Harry getting hurt. Maybe he could show Harry that he could be with someone who wouldn’t constantly play with his head. Louis could convince him and he had to do it fast. For once, that little string of hope that always came with Harry for Louis, seemed to be burning brighter than usual.

When Liam suggested everyone go to the pub for dinner and drinks to meet his new girlfriend, Sophia, they all agreed. They were all excited, mostly because this was the first time in a while that Liam was serious about someone and he seemed to really like her. Mostly Louis was excited because this was the perfect, most casual surrounding to put his moves on Harry. He never got a chance to after talking to Niall because Harry got busy with tests and school and Louis had work. Then, whenever they did meet, Louis either couldn’t strike up the courage to tell him or the opportunity never came about. But now, they were all going out and he could totally do this. He was a little nervous, but knew it would go away once he saw Harry’s face.

As Louis and Zayn walked over from their Subway stop, Louis nudged Zayn with his shoulder. “When are we going to meet this girl you’re seeing then?” he asked him.

Zayn chuckled. “Soon. I haven’t really made things official with her yet. I don’t even know if she wants to make things official, so I’m treading at this slowly. ”

“How come?” Louis asked.

“She’s not the serious relationship type,” Zayn replied. “She reminds me of you in that sense.”

“Should have just dated me, then, Malik. I’d have settled down if it was with you.”

“You’re funny,” Zayn said, nudging him back with a laugh. “So, what’s up with you and Harry? He’s been staying over an awful lot. You two make spooning look sexual. Anything I should know?”

“Shut up,” Louis laughed. “We do not. And nothing is up...yet. Peter and him broke up so I think I might tell him tonight?”

“Seriously?” Zayn asked, his eyes wide with excitement and happiness. “Like, really? Don’t fuck with me.”

“I’m not!” Louis laughed. “I need to or else I’ll go mad knowing that I’d gone all my life without trying at least once.”

“This is the best fucking thing I’ve heard in a long time,” Zayn said pulling Louis close to press a kiss on his head. “Honestly. It’s about fucking time.”

Louis laughed giddily. “That’s what Niall said when I told him I’d do it. He was the one who told me to and then I figured why not? You know?”

“Completely,” Zayn agreed. “Good luck, man.”

“Thanks,” Louis smiled, knowing he was going to need it.

They both approached the pub and saw that everyone was already there, drinking and talking. Liam had a pretty brunette on his arm and Louis raised his eyebrows as they made their way over.

“Is this the pretty lady you’ve fooled into being with you, Li?” Louis asked. Liam shot him a frown and everyone laughed. “I’m Louis, nice to meet you.”

“Nice to meet you, too. I’m Sophia,” she said with a smile. While Liam introduced Zayn, Louis greeted Niall, Barbara and Harry, all of whom were at the bar.

“How long have you guys been here?” Louis asked, trying to speak through Harry’s tight hold. He had Louis plastered to his chest and was nuzzled his nose on his hair, not willing to let go.

Barbara, who was sitting on the stool with Niall beside her, answered, “A few minutes ago. We found Liam and Sophia kissing outside. We were teasing them this entire time. It’s too cute.”

“So sweet,” Niall added. “He’s really into her.”

“I’m happy for him. Did you hear Zayn’s got someone, too? He’s been staying at her house and everything,” Louis told them.

“We didn’t know,” Niall frowned. He looked extremely offended as he looked at the rest of them. “What the hell? I’m going to go have a word with him.”

They laughed as they watched him go. Harry still hadn’t let go of Louis, but something started to vibrate against Louis’ upper thigh and he wriggled, squirming in Harry’s arms. “I really hope that’s your phone.”

“Shut up,” Harry laughed, reluctantly letting go as he fished out his phone from his pocket. “Excuse me.” He pressed answer on his phone and walked away, talking to whoever called. Louis turned back to Barbara and smiled.

“And then there were two.”

Barbara giggled, twirling her small straw in her glass. “How are you? Everything okay since the break up?”

Louis shrugged, nodding. “It’s fine. I’m not really thinking about it, as bad as that sounds.”

“It doesn’t sound bad. I think you knew that your heart wasn’t really into it in the first place.”

“Yeah, I kind of knew. I don’t know why I even tried. Lost a friend out of it because Greg was great.”

“I’m sure,” Barbara nodded. “You know, you can be honest with me about your feelings. I know you didn’t like Greg like that, but you can talk to me about your other feelings.”

Louis stared at her for a long moment. “Niall told you, didn’t he?”

Barbara made a squealing noise. “So, maybe he did, but you’re not that subtle, Louis.”

“Fuck this,” Louis groaned, hopping up on an empty stool. “Here I thought I was being inconspicuous and I was the most obvious bastard because everyone but Harry knows.”

“Relax,” Barbara waved off. “It’s not like we’re going to tell him. That would be disastrous.”

Louis shrugged. “Did Niall also tell you that I’m thinking about telling him tonight?”

“Shut up,” Barbara cried. “Are you really?” Louis nodded with a giddy smile and she squealed in her seat. “Ugh, it was about time. This is perfect. It will end perfect because it’s you two. Sometimes I think he feels the same way because he’s always so touchy and flirty with you. Haven’t you ever gotten that feeling?”

“I mean, at times yeah,” Louis said honestly. “It’s just that he’d always have Peter so I wouldn’t let myself get carried away, you know?”

“Yeah, but still, you never know. He could have been with Peter this entire time and not known that you liked him just like you think he might not like you back. And you’re both going around in these similar circles when you both feel the same way, but just can’t say it to each other.”

“That’s highly unlikely, but I applaud your imagination of romcom theories.”

Just then Harry walked up. “What romcom theories?” he asked. “What were you two talking about?”

“Just girl talk,” Louis panicked and said. Barbara cocked her head to the side and gave him an amused smile.

“Girl talk?” Liam asked, coming over with Sophia, Niall and Zayn.

“Like about periods and bras and stuff?” Niall asked, smiling stupidly.

Louis wrinkled his nose and Barbara laughed out loud. “No, idiot. We were just talking about guys,” she said.

Immediately Niall, Zayn and Liam turned to Louis, smirking like they knew something that they shouldn’t. Harry thought they were smirking at him and he shot them a look. “What are you all smiling at me for? What’s up?”

“We aren’t smiling at you,” Liam said. He turned to Louis and grinned. Honestly, if this were his friends ways of keeping his secrets, he wanted new ones, who were much more stealthier because they were all complete jokes. They were going to ruin this entire thing by ratting Louis out.

“Wait, hold on,” Harry said, turning to Louis. “They know about your crush?”

“What?” Niall asked. “Harry knows about your crush, too? Does that mean he knows? Did you tell him?”

Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God. Barbara and Zayn looked at Louis with wide eyes and Louis covered his face, groaning.

“Everyone stop talking. Harry doesn’t know--so drop it,” he mumbled. “Please.”

Wait,” Harry yelled, putting his palms up with an exasperated expression. Louis peeked up to look at him and saw he was frowning while the rest of the boys were grinning like idiots. They were so dumb, Jesus Christ. “How come they get to know about who your crush is, but I don’t? I’m your best friend!”

“Hey, man, Louis’ my best friend,” Niall said, putting his hand on Harry’s shoulder. “I’ve known him longer. Fight me.”

“I live with him,” Zayn quipped. “I’m pretty high up there, too.”

“I make him go to the gym,” Liam tacked. “Who the fuck can make Louis go to the gym? No one.”

“Oh ok, just leave Harry out of the loop,” Harry said bitterly, looking at everyone with hurt all over his face. “That’s cool. Not like I have feelings.”

“Why are we talking about this?” Louis cried, desperately, looking at everyone with panic in his eyes.

“This is fucking hilarious. So he doesn’t know, but we just said all that?” Niall laughed like an asshole with Zayn, who was turning red on face from laughing so hard. Barbara sat there completely helpless and Liam was still trying to catch up with what was going on. Sophia was just standing there, probably wondering what kind of group she just entered into.

“I’m so disappointed,” Harry mumbled beside Louis. He was leaning back against his the bar, slumped down with his arms across his chest. “I can’t believe you. This is betrayal. I feel betrayed.” He looked so serious and angry, but was being so dramatic, it was almost funny.

“Stop being such a baby,” Louis said. “It’s not a big deal.”

“They’re all laughing at me,” he yelled pointing to Zayn and Niall. Louis shot them a look and glared angrily, but they continued to laugh. Louis pouted and leaned against Harry with a pout to match his.

“I’m your best friend,” Harry muttered.

Just as Louis was about to answer, Harry’s phone started to ring again and he looked down at with a sigh. “I have to take this, but we’re not done, you and I.”

Louis thanked God that Harry’s phone rang to end this discussion for now and then got up off his stools to beat up his friends for being so fucking obvious and rude.

The night had improved a lot better since the unfortunate conversation about Louis’ crush. Everyone was hanging out at their booth, ordering dinner and taking it with drinks. Louis kept close to Harry all night and they were flirting so hard, acting like a couple already, that Louis was planning on dropping the bomb on the way home. He was jittery with the thought of saying the words to Harry and couldn’t sit still for even a second.

That was until Peter arrived and Louis’ mood turned south. He didn’t even know Peter was invited, since Harry didn’t mention, but his phone had been going off every few minutes. Louis didn’t have to take more than one guess as to why he was here.

He watched sullenly as Harry introduced Peter to Sophia before leading him over to the bar. Barbara, who was next to Louis, whispered, “What is he doing here?”

“I have no idea,” Louis said, trying not to feel like his heart was literally dropping. He was so excited for tonight. He wanted to do it and he was going to, but now he couldn’t. He felt frustrated and so fucking disheartened.

Louis excused himself to the restroom and sighed loudly when he walked in, unzipping his pants in front of a urinal. Just then the door opened and Louis turned to see Peter walk in and take the urinal two down from his. Louis’ piss almost stopped, but he quickly managed and zipped up, walking over to the sinks to wash his hands.

“So, you’re not going to say anything to me?” Peter asked. “Not even hello?”

“Didn’t know you wanted to have a chat,” Louis said to him. Peter scoffed as he zipped his pants up and walked to the sinks as well.

“It’s just polite, is all,” he replied. “But then again, you don’t know anything about manners or class.”

“You’re the last person I want to hear anything about having class from, Dobbs,” Louis spat, cooly. “You have the social skills of a lizard.”

“That’s very original and offensive,” Peter rolled his eyes, looking at Louis from the mirror. “I am plenty friendly with my boyfriend’s friends. Just don’t deem you that important.”

“Funny,” Louis commented with a scoff because didn’t he just break up with the guy a few days ago? “Can’t seem to keep up when you keep ending things and then trying to get back with him. Do you have the relationship skills of a fourteen year old? Because it’s extremely immature and annoying.”

Peter laughed. “You can say whatever you want, but at the end of the day, Harry’s mine. and I know that you hate that, but you can’t do a damned thing, can you? Have a nice night.” Peter smiled at him before slipping past Louis through the doors. Louis waited about thirty seconds before letting out an angry scream. He stomped his feet down a few times and slammed the door back open before walking out, trying to school his expression neutral. He was so fucking done with Peter and his stupid, demeaning attitude.

How did Harry stand him? Why did Harry let this leech be in his life?

When Louis walked back to the bar, he found Niall there, ordering drinks. He turned to see Louis and concern etched his face. “Is everything alright? What’s wrong?”

“I bumped into Peter in the restrooms,” Louis replied. “What is his problem? I can’t fucking stand him and his stupid snide remarks. What does Harry even see in him? The fucking nerve of him to even speak to me.”

“What did he say?” Niall asked, putting all the drinks he was holding down, ready to punch Peter if necessary.

“Never mind that,” Louis groaned. “Order me the strongest fucking drink here and keep them coming.”

And Niall never refused Louis an opportunity to get drunk as fuck. Louis sat down on a stool and winced as he gulped down the first glass of whatever it was. And that was how the night progressed. Louis continued to drink like it was all he could do as he watched Harry and Peter happily talk and mingle with the rest of them. And Louis drank so much alcohol to forget where he was in comparison to Peter, but he didn’t forget where he wanted to be, which was to be in the same exact spot next to Harry. Just like Peter said. Harry was Peter's and Louis couldn’t do anything about it.

He realized he needed to be drunker. When the bartender wasn’t looking, Louis bent over the bar and pulled a bottle of Jack from behind the counter and uncapped it, taking a not so classy sip. Niall and Barbara looked over at him and Louis watched as Niall got scolded about something. Whatever they were fighting over, Louis didn’t care. He felt like a masochist and let his eyes trail over to Harry and how low Peter’s hands were resting over his waist.

“Lou, are you okay?” Barbara, asked walking over and reaching her hand out to put it over Louis’.

Louis laughed humorlessly. “I’m feeling like shit right now. I can’t believe it. I’m so stupid to like someone who’s with someone else. It would happen to me, right? I’d be stupid enough to do something like that. And then I thought that I could actually try and change his mind tonight, but I was too fucking late. Always too late.”

He didn’t realize he started to cry until Barbara reached out to wipe his cheek. “Oh, Lou,” she said, her eyes filled with what Louis assumed was pity. Niall had walked over then, putting an arm around Louis to hold him. Louis curled into him, trying so hard not to cry in a crowded pub, but it was fruitless.

“Harry loves you,” Niall said to him quietly. “I know it’s not in the way you want him to, but he does love you in some form. I’m really sorry if that’s not enough, Lou.”

“Me too,” Louis said, putting the bottle of Jack on the counter. He felt his chest caving in. His thoughts and feelings were meshing together and it was all too much at once. He felt like crap. How long was he going to sit there and just wait, staring at the one person who was capable of turning him into the one thing he swore he never would when he clearly didn’t want him back? Why was he torturing himself?

“I need to go,” he mumbled, standing up, staggering on his feet. Niall grabbed him before he could fall and held him up.

“Let me take you home,” Niall said. “You’re not going to be able to make it.”

“I will,” Louis assured him. “Please, Niall. I’m begging you, please let me go. I don’t want anyone to see me.”

Louis looked desperate and wild, his eyes close to tears and Niall finally let him go, looking unconvinced and upset. Louis quickly walked out of there, past his group of friends and into the cold, night air of the city. By the time he was half a block down, tears started streaming down his cheeks, as he tried to control himself and make it to home before having a nervous breakdown on the street.

But then someone grabbed his shoulder, turning him around and Louis sucked in a breath at the sudden movement. It was Harry, looking confused and panicked as he took in Louis’ face. “Louis,” he cried, cradling his face in his hands. “What’s wrong? Why’d you leave?” He wiped Louis’ cheeks and pulled him off to the corner of the sidewalk. “Why are you crying? What’s wrong?”

“It’s nothing,” Louis shook his hand away. “I have to go, Harry. I had too much to drink.”

“Louis, I’m not letting you leave like this. What’s wrong? Did someone say something to you?” Louis shook his head, even though he knew he could have told him about Peter, but that would require explaining why what he said bothered him. "Then what’s the matter? Why are you upset like this?”

"Nothing," Louis said, looking up at Harry’s concerned, green eyes. Louis knew Harry cared about him and he cared so much, always understood him so well. It was amazing to Louis that someone could care that much. He never thought he’d connect with someone on this level and he wanted that forever, even though something about tonight made it feel impermanent. The thought of that only made Louis cry harder, trying to push away Harry’s hand so he could leave because he couldn’t let Harry see. “I need to go, Harry. Please.”

“No,” Harry insisted, holding on to him tighter, looking like he was ready to cry himself. “I’m not letting you go.”

And that was the problem, wasn’t it? Louis couldn’t fucking let him go, either. He just had seven shots of whatever Niall ordered him, just trying to forget Harry’s name because he had to, but he only managed to forget everything else, but Harry. Sober or drunk, Harry was the only thing on Louis’ mind. He couldn’t forget him if he tried.

Louis couldn't handle the fact that Harry wasn’t his. He couldn't handle all these feelings considering he never felt them before for anyone. He couldn't handle not being able to get a grasp on reality and shake it off. He’d waited so long with these feelings for Harry and to just not be able to finally tell him, killed Louis. He felt so much for him sometimes, he felt like he was going to burst at the seams. He couldn't take anything anymore. He lowered his head and started sobbing, feeling Harry’s arms wrap around his shoulder to pull him into his chest.  

"What's wrong?" Harry asked him again, quietly.

"If I could Harry, I'd tell you everything--but it's--I can't tell you.”

"Why? You can tell me anything, Lou. I promise."

"No--this, I can't tell you. I can't tell you, Harry. I'm sorry,” Louis choked out. He wanted to. He wanted to so badly.

"Louis," he whispered, placing a kiss to his head. "I wish I could help. Please, Lou--.”

"Harry!"

The two boys jumped up, startled and caught off guard. Peter was charging over to them, glaring daggers at Louis, face turning red. Harry froze, his body paralyzed, while his face turned pale.  

"Peter, I just--," said Harry, his throat dry. “Louis ran out.”

"That means you kiss him?” Peter asked. “Cuddling out here on the street and leaving me inside?”

"That’s not what this is about,” Harry tried to explain.

"What are you doing, Harry? I saw the way you were hugging him and kissing him. What the fuck is this?"

"He's my friend," he insisted. “We’re just friends, Peter.”

"You want me to believe that you two are just friends?” Peter asked him. “It sure did not seem that way. We’ve only been apart for a few days, Harry. You jumped right back in, then? You didn’t even wait. And with him of all people? I knew there was something going on between you. You thought you had me fooled by saying you were just friends. Bullshit. You’re obviously more than that."

“Peter, stop,” Harry begged, desperately. “You know it’s not like that. So why are you making this an issue? You know how I feel about you.”

“Oh, please,” Peter snapped with an eye roll. “We’ve been together for years and you’ve fucked it up now. You’ve fucked up an even longer friendship all for this moron.”

“Don’t talk about him like that,” Harry said to him, glaring. “I didn’t break up with you, you broke up with me. So don’t tell me that I ruined this.”

Louis looked up at Harry in surprise, his eyes widening at the fact that he was standing up for him and talking back to Peter. This didn’t really ever happen.

“I was trying to work things out with you tonight,” Peter said. “That’s why I came here. For you and you run off with this trash.”

“He’s not trash, Peter,” Harry snarled. “Stop talking down to him. This isn’t about him at all. It’s between me and you.”

“How would you feel if I told you I was seeing someone behind your back?” Peter asked instead. “Like that guy that works in my office who you don’t like because you think he’s into me.”

Harry clenched his jaw, looking angry and frustrated. “That’s beside the point.”

“Is it? Did you know he kissed me?” Peter asked in an almost mocking manner.

Louis couldn’t hold it back any longer. He couldn’t watch Peter stand there and tear down Harry like he was nothing. He deserved more than that after everything he did for him. “Peter, you’re such a terrible, horrible person ,” Louis said. “Did you know that? Like, you’re actually bringing that up to throw it in his face in some jealous fit. You’re so mean . Why would you do that?”

Peter rolled his eyes at his remark. “I don’t remember addressing you at all.”

“Well, then don’t talk about me like I’m not here,” Louis snapped.

“You’re the root of our issues right now. Do you realize that?”

“No, the reason you’re fighting right now is because you’ve got your head so far up your ass you can’t see anything but yourself. Harry’s trying to explain and you won’t even listen to him.”

“So you’re telling me that there’s nothing going on between you two?” Peter asked. “Don’t try to deny it because I’m not a fucking idiot. Just tell me the truth.”

“You’re so paranoid,” Louis said. “Harry’s the best boyfriend and you fucked it up because he’s not yours anymore.”

That stupid smirk finally disappeared off Peter’s face as Louis’ words sunk in. He looked over at Harry. “That’s all the confirmation I needed,” he said. Peter turned and walked away, leaving behind a complete storm that he’d created himself, but now Louis had to deal with.

Louis slowly turned to see that their friends were all outside, having witnessed this shit show, and Harry was completely paralyzed on the spot. Louis put his hand on Harry’s arm cautiously. “Harry,” he said, softly.

“Why--,” Harry started to say, but then stopped. “Fuck.”

He looked at Louis one last time before storming the opposite way that Peter had and Louis could only watch him in complete and utter panic. What had he done?