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so grab your passport and my hand

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http://archiveofourown.org/works/3532781/edit#

 

 

“Harry, Harry!” multiple voices call as the flashes of many cameras nearly blind him.

“Harry, can we have a quick word?”

“Harry, over here!”

“Harry, can we see a smile?”

“Harry, is it true that you’re dating Rita Ora?”

Harry, Harry, Harry, Harry…

He turns towards the journalist closest to him, maintaining a polite smile even when he gets a microphone shoved into his face courtesy of the interviewer’s eagerness.

“Are you excited for the show?” is what she starts out with, and Harry resists the urge to roll his eyes.

“Very,” he answers with his trademark slow drawl. “I’m a big fan, so I’m excited to see what they’ve come up with this year.”

“Are you wearing Burberry right now?” Another dumb question in Harry’s book; he’s at their fashion show, has been invited to sit front row, is walking through a wall of paparazzi and interviewers to get there - of fucking course he’s wearing Burberry.

“As a matter of fact, I am,” he grins easily, sticking his hands into the pockets of his coat and pulling it forwards slightly, showing it off. “This lovely coat is Burberry, and the boots are as well.”

“Well, you look positively dashing, I must say,” the interviewer croons, “Better than some of the models eve. Any chance we’ll be seeing you on the runway sometime soon?”

Harry lets out a low chuckle and shakes his head. “Nah, I don’t think so. My sister once compared me to Bambi on ice, so I think that’d be an all-around bad idea.”

The interviewer lets out a slightly shrill giggle, like he’s just the most hilarious person on earth. Points for effort, Harry supposes. “You know, you’re the second celeb to say ‘no’ to the prospect of a modelling career today, even though you’re both smoking. I think I will break a lot of hearts when I air these interviews.”

“Yeah?” Harry smiles distractedly, eyes glancing towards the entrance to the building where the show will be held, mentally trying to figure out how many interviews he needs to do before he can get inside. “Well, sorry to disappoint.” He offers her a sheepish grin, and she mock sighs in reply, before glancing subtly over Harry’s shoulder. He doesn’t even have to look to know that Paul must be signalling she only has time for one more question before Harry will move on.

“Last question,” she says, and, bingo, Harry thinks. “Your new album is dropping in four weeks and the first single is out in two days. Can you give us a little inside scoop?”

“Well,” Harry starts, “It’s my second album and I think it’s probably a bit more mature than the first one. The first single is this, you know, kind of upbeat… uh, happy song about wanting to be with someone else.” He grins slightly at his own pun, even if no one but himself and Paul will get it for a while, and waves goodbye to the interviewer with a goofy grin. By some stroke of luck, Paul deems that they don’t have time for any more interviews, and instead ushers Harry inside the building. It’s really not that he doesn’t like this aspect of his job; it’s not that he’s not grateful for what he has or willing to give back, it’s just that he’s so, so tired today. Just so very, very tired, which very much sucks because he loves Burberry, and right now there’s an actual risk that he might fall asleep in his seat once they dim the lights.

Well, at least he got out of having to bring a date here.

He’s shown to his seat immediately upon entering the building. Nearly all the ones surrounding his have already been occupied, but the one on his right is still empty. Someone’s clearly already been here though; the gift bag found on every chair is placed on the floor next to it, and there’s a half-filled bottle of water on top of the chair.

He nods politely at a few of the other celebrities surrounding him, people he only knows of or has met briefly in passing, and therefore doesn’t feel obligated to strike up a conversation with any of them. He glances at his watch to find that there’s actually only five minutes until the show is set to start. He’s surprised, but then again he’s been absolutely jetlagged all day, having arrived back from recording in LA only yesterday evening. It’s no wonder he’s having trouble keeping track of time. Thank God for Paul really; he’d probably be wandering around aimlessly in Timbuktu without him, to be honest.

Harry pulls his phone out of his pocket to turn it off, not wanting to be that twat whose phone starts ringing in the middle of the show (and considering that he arrived home yesterday and has been all too exhausted to call his mum, he might just have been if he hadn’t remembered to turn it off). Once he’s satisfied he won’t be causing headlines by interrupting the show and thereby guaranteeing himself a position as a persona non grata at London Fashion Week for the rest of eternity, he places his phone on the empty chair next to him, so that he can adjust his floral headscarf.

He doesn’t notice the figure approaching until someone clears their throat, demanding his attention.

“Hi,” a voice says, and Harry only just manages to register that he’s heard that voice before when he looks all the way up and gets an eyeful of Louis Tomlinson. Louis Tomlinson, shit. “Is that your phone, mate?” Louis makes a small toss of his head towards Harry’s discarded phone on the chair, which Harry is now realising must be Louis’ chair, holy shit.

“Oops,” Harry gets out, feeling uncharacteristically nervous. He grabs the phone quickly, offering what he hopes might be an apologetic smile but is probably closer to a grimace. “Sorry, yeah, I—”

He never gets to finish his sentence, as the light suddenly dims and music starts. Louis hastily sits down in the chair, knee accidentally brushing against Harry’s, and—fuck. He’s not cut out for this.

It’s just… it’s just that Louis Tomlinson is really fucking fit, okay? He’s really fucking fit, and a brilliant football player, and he does charity. So much charity. Charity for little kids, always with this massive smile on his face, and—well, Harry might be a little bit in love with him. Platonically in love, mind. Like, the kind of acceptably in love you can be with someone you don’t actually know and have never met, and all. Totally non-creepy. Right.

It all started when Louis began playing for Manchester United and therefore entered Harry’s line of sight, and it just went downhill from there… in a manner of speaking, anyway. He’d been enthralled by the way Louis played, and the fact that he was ridiculously good looking was only a nice bonus. It wasn’t until he’d discovered what a great person Louis seemed to be, though, that Harry was completely gone. Not that he really was, though. Gone for Louis, that is. He just has a healthy appreciation for his footie skills and… stuff. Yeah.

Christ, alright, it’s just… being in the closet and having the media image as a proper Don Juan doesn’t exactly give him many opportunities to engage with people he might actually like, so maybe he does spend a fair amount of time looking at shirtless pictures of Louis from some tropical beach, but more than anything else he just likes how Louis seems as a person. He’s perhaps just a little bit star struck now sitting next to him. More than anything he’d just kind of like to have a chat with Louis, thinks that just maybe they might end up getting on splendidly, kind of really wants to maybe be friends with him.

Louis is straight, has a lovely girlfriend if the front page of that tabloid he saw in Tesco’s this morning is anything to go by, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be Harry’s friend. It’s not like Harry’s that much of a lothario that he can’t be friends with attractive people. His best friend is Zayn Malik, for God’s sake.

He’s kind of surprised to see Louis here, actually, because he thought he’d be locked up in his home in Manchester after the game they’d lost yesterday, which had ended their participation in Champions League. Harry had watched it from Ed’s couch, managed to return home from the airport just as it started, and even though Louis had scored a goal, it hadn’t been enough to beat the other team. Harry was still bummed about it, honestly, he can hardly imagine how Louis must feel. Can’t believe that he’d choose to go to something like this, having to interact with God knows how many journalists, and paparazzi, and disappointed fans.

A sudden flash of light reminds Harry where he is, and that he’s missed the first few models while being caught up in his own mind. He forces Louis Tomlinson out of his head, and focuses on the models making their way down the catwalk.

It’s an impressive show, and by the time it’s over he’s got at least three printed shirts he needs to get his personal assistant to contact Burberry about, and a few pairs of boots. The light is turned on again, and the room is suddenly filled with exciting chatter as people discuss what they just witnessed. Getting up himself, Harry turns slightly towards where Louis is supposed to be, determined to at least properly introduce himself after that abysmal first impression he left, but all he sees is Louis’ retreating back. The other man is already on his way out of the building, a phone pressed against his ear.

Alright, then.

Well, it’s not like Harry’s desperate enough to run after him, and it’s definitely not like he doesn’t have enough on his plate for today as it is, top priority being calling his mum before he’s disowned. So, well, it’s whatever.

He vows that if he ever runs into Louis again he’ll at least get a proper conversation out of him.

 

-

 

“So, like, I love you and all, Lou, I really do, but I don’t really think dating you is going to happen,” are the words Lottie opens with the second she accepts his call. It seems like they’re ignoring the whole Champions League thing in favour of the tabloid thing, and though he’ll pretend to be annoyed he’s really ever so grateful. She’s a good one, his sister. He’d spoken to his mum earlier today and he could hear the pity laced into every word she spoke, and he was tethering on the edge of hanging up on her for the entire thirty minutes they talked. He loves his mum, he really, really does, but he would also quite prefer to forget the whole ordeal.

He groans in response, shaking his head even though she can’t see it. “Can we please never ever talk about this again, Lotts? Please. I feel scarred enough for life as it is.”

“I don’t know,” Lottie replies, a teasing note to her voice, and she sounds like she’s only seconds away from bursting into giggles. “I mean, I think it says something that you apparently have as much chemistry with your little sister when walking down the street as you’ve had with any of the other women linked to you. I’m not quite sure I understand how you’ve got everyone convinced that you’re straight, Lou.”

“Ha, ha, ha,” he replies dryly, plopping down on his sofa, sinking into the cushions. It’s a really comfortable sofa, perhaps his best piece of furniture in his entire London flat, which is a tiny bit ridiculous since he spends most of his time in his house in Manchester due to training and everything. He really should just get on moving the sofa to Manchester, he is growing increasingly attached to it after all, to the degree where he is probably going to get separation anxiety once he gets back to Manchester... or something. It’s a proper comfortable sofa, is all. “You’re a right comedian, aren’t you?”

“Well, it’s never a career path I’ve given much thought, but I might just give it a shot now that you mention it,” Lottiereplies. “Why did you call anyway, big brother? What do you want?”

“Who says I want anything? Maybe I just missed your voice,” he teases, leaning his head back against the backrest of the sofa.

“Nice try, Lou. We both know you’re either calling because you want something or because you want to complain about something, so which is it?”

She knows him much too well, really.

“Niall is forcing me to go to the Burberry after party,” he finally admits with a sigh, twisting until he’s lying down on the sofa.

“Woe is you,” comes Lottie’s dry reply. “What a dreadful existence you lead, how will you ever survive?”

“Shut up, Lotts. I just don’t feel like spending my night with a bunch of stick thin models, and Niall is going to be hanging out with Babs all night, so I’m to be either third wheel or on my own. And I don’t know what to wear. And I don’t want to go. I could eat cornflakes and watch Breaking Bad, and instead I have to sip apple martinis and make polite conversation with people who have three sticks of celery a day and call that proper nutrition.” He’s pulling off an impressive mixture of pouting and whining and perhaps with someone who hasn’t known him all their life it would have made more of an impact. As it is, Lottie just snorts.

“It’s not like you’re going to be the only non-model there, Lou. There’ll be plenty of other sports people, and singers, and actors, and stuff. If nothing else you can order a beer and spend some time ogling the male models before grabbing a taxi home.” When he doesn’t immediately reply, too busy perfecting the pout she can’t even see him make, Lottie sighs deeply and then continues, “You can always grab a really greasy burger on the way home and make up for all the talk about celery. And imagine all the rabbit jokes you can test out. Come on, it’s not that bad.”

“No,” he finally relents with yet another sigh. “No, I know. It’s just that this sofa is really, really comfortable, you know?”

That earns him a chuckle on the other end. “Oh, trust me, I know. I could hardly get myself to leave it last time I was there. It’s an evil sofa, made to suck you in and never let you go again, intent on transforming all of us into lazy, fat, sofa bums and then it’ll take over the world.”

“Sounds like a realistic theory, that,”  Louis says dryly, finally moving to get off the couch, stretching his back once he’s standing while still holding the phone to his ear. “I better go, should probably get ready and all that, you know?”

“Right.” He can actually hear the grin in her voice. “Duty calls. Talk to you soon, Lou. See you soon, right?”

“’Course you will.” He smiles into his phone. “I’m going back to Manchester in a few days, Coach only gave us until Thursday off. I can probably swing by Friday after training ends. I’ll bring Bruce, even.”

“Alright then, see you, Lou.”

“Bye, Lottie. Say hi to the others from me, yeah?”

By the time he’s hung up the phone he’s got his lap full of cockapoo. Bruce must finally have woken up from the nap he’d been taking in Louis’ bed when he got home from the fashion show, awake and eager for attention now that Louis really ought to focus on getting ready for the night. They really gotta work on this timing thing.

He scratches the dog behind its ear, petting him for a few minutes before gently gathering him in his arms and placing him on the floor. Bruce looks at him with those characteristic puppy eyes, even though he’s about a year too old to be considered a puppy, and Louis likes to think he’s immune to them, but truth is, he’s really, really, very much not. He’s running out of time though, so no matter how badly he wants to crawl into bed with Bruce for a proper cuddle and some Netflix, it’s not going to be tonight. Maybe if he’s lucky, he can sneak out early and go home to spend his night with Bruce.

God, how embarrassing. He’s a twenty-four year old professional footballer who’d rather spend his night in bed with his dog than go out and party with celebrities. Pathetic, really.

Actually… he’s a twenty-four year old single football player with a cockapoo; that’s really already plenty pathetic right there, isn’t it?

He makes his way to the bedroom, Bruce trailing behind him, and goes straight for the suitcase on the floor by the practically empty cupboard.

He spends a large amount of his time here during summer, but while footie’s in season he mostly lives in his house in Manchester. He’d only been meant to spend yesterday and today in London, just long enough for the team to play Wembley and have a day off where they could all recuperate before going back to their busy training schedule. Getting knocked out put a proper dampener on their moods though, and the manager had let them all off until training Friday morning. That gave him an additional day in London, and he was just happy that he’d brought Bruce with him because that allowed him to stay here instead of going back to Manchester. It was bad enough seeing the disappointment in the faces of the people who aren’t necessarily fans of Manchester United, but who rooted for them solely based on the fact that they were an English team in Champions League. He needs a while before feeling ready to face the people of Manchester, though.

He’d really wanted to skip the fashion show too, but Niall had reminded him that he’d RSVP’ed ages ago, and that it was poor taste to back out on the day. It hadn’t been too bad luckily; the journalist he’d spoken to focused more on him than on football, which he would normally have been quite annoyed with, but was very welcome under current circumstances. The show had been pretty good too, the clothes either really neat or pretty wacky, and he’d been seated next to Harry Styles, which was just… whoa. Yeah.

He hurries into the shower, giving his hair a quick wash before slipping out again, knowing perfectly well that he in no way has time to linger under the spray much as he might want to. Once he’s towelled off, he wraps the towel around his waist. He blow-dries his hair and sculpts it into a sort of swooping quiff. He should really consider cutting his hair since it’s gotten so terribly long lately. But then, on the other hand, he quite likes it like this, the way it sways gently at the nape of his neck and the way it’s almost always necessary for him to keep it back with a headband when they play… he might just attempt a ponytail one of these days. Beckham is nothing if not an idol in every way.

He grabs a pair of black skinny jeans and a jumper from his suitcase, figuring that if he’s going to do this, he’ll at least be dressed comfortably. He’s already worn a blazer once today, and it was quite enough. Even though he was distracted through most of the fashion show, trying to sort out the whole Lottie-is-my-little-sister-not-my-girlfriend dilemma with his agent and best friend, Niall, it hadn’t been particularly comfortable. He’ll take a jumper or a jean jacket over a blazer any day, really. Spending most of his time in training clothes has probably made him a bit of a wuss when it comes to dressing fancy.

When he finally deems himself presentable, he glances down at his phone and sees that he’s already twenty minutes later than he promised Niall. He grabs his wallet and a jean jacket to put over his jumper, which in no way will be adequate considering the fact that it’s February. There’s going to be a shit load of paps waiting to snap photos of them as they arrive though, so looking good is a bit of a priority.

He checks to make sure that Bruce’s water bowl is still filled before bending down to pet the dog goodbye. He’ll be home in a few hours, so there’s really no reason for the sad eyes aimed at him, but there’s no telling Bruce that. Not that the dog would actually understand anything Louis said, but still.

He makes his way out of his flat, locking the door behind him as he goes to hail a taxi. He’s going to need a couple of drinks to get through this night so driving probably isn’t the best of ideas, and he’s definitely not going to be another Bendtner-like scandal. He’s already got a car on standby to pick him up later, not too keen on the idea of standing at the curb out in front of the club while trying to hail a taxi with half of London’s paparazzi breathing down his neck.

He spends the car ride playing a mindless game he’s pretty sure Fizzy downloaded to his phone, not bothering to look out of the window as the London scenery passes him by. He barely notices when the taxi pulls up to the curb, and the engine cuts off, the driver turning his attention to Louis.

“We’re here, mate,” he says with a thick Irish accent, offering Louis a smile.

“Brilliant, thanks,” Louis mumbles in reply as he pulls his wallet from his pocket, checking the display by the driver to see how much he owes him, and handing him the money.

“Have a nice evening,” the driver calls as Louis exits the car, and he only just manages to call out a “You too!” before the taxi is turning back out into traffic, and he’s assaulted by an army of flashes and voices calling his name.

When he was younger and had dreamt about being a professional football player, he hadn’t expected it to be like this. A combination of being young and fit, playing for both Manchester United and the English national team, not to mention the campaign he did for Adidas, and the multiple charities he participates in has elevated his celebrity status somewhat above what it is for most Premiere League players. It’s both a blessing and a curse really, lovely to be appreciated by so many people, the recognition, the praise, but also tiring with all the pap attention, everyone waiting for him to make just one wrong move.

He makes his way through the horde of paparazzi silently, ignoring the questions they’re calling after him, most revolving around the exit from Champions League. Louis honestly doesn’t understand how they could ever hope to get an answer out of him. Then again, they probably don’t; a reaction would be enough and he certainly wants to throw their stupid cameras on the ground. He lets out a deep sigh of relief once he’s inside the club in one piece, and he quickly takes in the scene before allowing himself a few moments of quiet, or as quiet as a packed club with loud music can be anyway. There’s a fair amount of people here, some whom he recognises either from having met them at gatherings like this before, or from the front pages of magazines. He can’t spot Niall or Barbara, so he shoots him a quick message, and makes a beeline for the bar.

He’s not supposed to drink. He’s really, really not supposed to drink, what with the team being in the middle of the season and all. But, well, extreme circumstances call for extreme measures, and they did just get eliminated from the Champions League yesterday. Seems like a drink might be very much in order for Louis.

He settles down at the bar, places his phone on the counter in front of him, and signals the barman, who moves towards him quickly. He’s a fit one, tall and dark haired, eyes brown and inviting, arms toned but not to the point of ridiculousness. He smirks at Louis, and Louis finds himself smirking back as he orders his drink. There is a voice in the back of his mind telling him to be careful, that they’re in a room filled with massive gossips and that the bartender could easily sell a story about how Louis had flirted with him, but he tries to ignore it.

Feeling suddenly exhausted and paranoid he downs his drink quickly, the alcohol burning down his throat, and the only thing he accomplishes by doing that is a slight feeling of nausea. It seems like it’s one of those days where everything is just a bit shit.

“Fancy seeing you here, my very favourite ball kicker,” a voice interrupts Louis’ musings, as a body slides into the chair next to his. He turns slightly sideways to get a proper view of his new company, and is met by a sight only familiar to him because he had somehow ended up on his morning radio show about a year ago. He’s run into Nick Grimshaw a few times since then, and they’ve developed a lovely sort of love-hate relationship that seems to work wonderfully for both of them. Louis is all for some banter, and it’s not often that he meets someone who isn’t afraid of throwing a cutting remark back at him and who doesn’t end up hurt and offended when he says something sassy or sarcastic. Louis can appreciate a man with some self-irony and quick wit.

“Shouldn’t you be licking your wounds after yesterday’s defeat? Hiding at home with a tub of ice cream?” Nick continues, smiling at the fit bartender as he slides a drink in front of him. “’Ta, love,” he says and winks at the bartender in such an overtly flirtatious way that Louis can’t help but roll his eyes.

“Ha, ha, ha,” he finally answers, voice dry, “You baffle me with your wit. But, to answer your question, no, I’m quite content to be here and pretend yesterday never happened, thank you very much.”

“Drinking away your sorrows?” Nick questions with a raised brow and a nod towards Louis’ empty glass, having finally stopped making heart eyes at the bartender.

“It’s just water,” he lies, shrugging his shoulder. “Shouldn’t you be out there partying with the rich and famous?”

“Harry ditched me a couple of minutes ago, so now I’ve gone to join my less rich and less famous almost-friend.”

“Harry Styles?” Louis questions, thinking back to his brief encounter with the singer earlier in the day. “Not sure how I feel about being labelled less famous and rich than him, but I’ll let it slide for now. You know I met him earlier?”

“Yeah.” Nick laughs, for some reason finding this quite hilarious. “He mentioned. He’s a bit of a fan of yours actually, think you left him rather star-struck. He didn’t speak to me for a week after the first time I’d interviewed you, actually, though he claims that was because he was busy writing for his new album. Between you and me, I think it’s just because he was jealous.”

“Sounds to me like you’re the one who’s a bit jealous, mate. Has it put a dampener on your bromance?”

“Have you been reading Sugarscape, Tomlinson? Sadly, I have to inform you that there is no truth to the rumours of something more than friendship between Harry and I.” Nick lets out a long suffering sigh like it hurts him terribly to admit it, and, really, Louis can only imagine how frustrating it must be as a gay male to be best friends with straighter-than-straight Harry Styles. “It pains me deeply, it really does, but Gryles is no more than the ‘bro’ in the ‘mance’.”

“What does that even mean?” Louis muses, “Isn’t a bromance per definition just a friendship, or—“

“There’s also you and me though, did you know? There are people who ship the two of us together.” Nick interrupts him, laughing out loud because apparently it causes his great amusement to be able to stun Louis into silence. And he is, stunned into silence, that is, because… what?

“What? Ship? Us? I haven’t a clue what you’re talking about, mate.”

“There are girls on like Tumblr and Twitter and shit who think we’re in a relationship, is what I’m talking about. I’m part of two quite high profile ships, Gryles and Tomlinshaw, like that’s our names combined, see. Quite clever, these girls. I really think I’ve done my mum proud. I’m not sure what these people get out of shipping me with straight boys, but then again it’s probably more about wanting you guys to be gay, you know? Apparently young girls like that. I mean, I didn’t know footballers had young girl fans, but I suppose that’s because your face is on like every magazine cover and bus-side, so what can you do? It’s like brainwashing them to like you because you’re pretty. My listener count sky rockets every time I mention one of you on air, it’s glorious really. You’re very good for business.”

“I—“ Louis starts, slightly overwhelmed. “I… I can’t believe people think we’re in a relationship. Are they mental?”

“Oh, stop it, Tommo, don’t have to sound so revolted. I’d take good care of you, rub your feet, feed you grapes, do your laundry—“

“Use me shamelessly to get more people up at the crack of dawn to listen to your stupid radio show,” Louis interrupts, voice dry, but the jab is meant good-naturedly. He’s grateful, really, that Nick seems to understand his need of a distraction, albeit also a bit disturbed that people think he’s actually with Nick. Even if the speculations are closer to home than Nick thinks, he’s quite certain that a relationship between the two of them would be an absolute catastrophe.

“My radio show is not stupid, thank you very much,” Nick comments snootily, choosing that part of the sentence to get hung up on, much to Louis’ amusement.

“If you say so,” Louis replies, using a tone that very much implies that he isn’t convinced. God, why doesn’t he spend more time with Nick? Sure, he’s an annoying twat, but so is Louis and he so rarely gets to release his bantering self without fearing repercussions in the papers, much less with someone who can actually hold his own against Louis, and this is brilliant.

“I do,” Nick shoots back, like he’s just desperate to get the last word in. Louis just hums in recognition, just enough to let Nick know that he heard him but doesn’t deem his words worthy of a reply.

They fall into comfortable silence, Nick sipping his drink and Louis playing with his coaster, tracing the wet ring his beer had left behind with his thumb.

“I think you’d like him, you know,” Nick says after a few moments, tone having shifted into something more genuine. “Harry, I mean. Like, I think the two of you would really hit it off. Also he’d totally cream his pants if he got to have a proper conversation with you.”

“Doesn’t really sound like the Harry Styles I’ve heard about,” Louis says, voice sceptical.

“Oh, shit, mate, don’t let yourself be fooled by his image. He’s like an overgrown toddler with a balance problem and a footie obsession.” Nick drains the last of his drink, slamming the glass onto the counter with slightly more force than necessary, alerting the bartender to his empty glass and summoning him to their side like a moth to flame. It’s almost like a superpower. In a world of superpowers, Louis absolutely would not be surprised if Nick’s was getting the attention of fit barmen. It would be quite fitting, really. He just hopes that his would be something cool like telekinesis or super speed or strength or something.

Nick strikes up a conversation with the barman this time, proving that his attention is flimsy at best, but Louis doesn’t really mind too much. He pockets his phone, having still not heard from Niall, and moves towards the toilets. He’ll just get a bit of a breather and maybe call Niall to hear where he’s at, and then maybe he can get out of here in the none too distant future. Hopefully.

He pushes the door to the men’s room open, relieved to find it mostly empty, only one other occupant currently washing his hands. As soon as Louis closes the door, it also cuts off a fair amount of the noise, the squeaky clean bathroom - so unlike the dingy ones in the clubs Louis usually frequents - proving itself to be soundproofed, and Louis is ever so grateful.

He turns his attention to the other man in the toilet, catching his eyes in the mirror, and is slightly shocked to be met with the eyes of one Harry Styles. The universe must be having a right laugh after Louis’ conversation with Nick only a few minutes ago.

Harry is wearing a floral shirt that Louis suspects he actually saw on the Burberry catwalk earlier, sinfully tight black jeans, and black Chelsea boots. His trademark curls are held back with a lilac headscarf, and he looks shocked to see Louis suddenly, like he almost doesn’t know what to do with himself. Harry wipes his hands dry on his trousers and slowly turns to face Louis, and it strikes Louis how odd this would look for someone on the outside looking in. Neither of them have said anything yet, and Louis doesn’t even know why he can’t just open his mouth and just say something, but he does know that he probably couldn’t tear his eyes from Harry’s even if he tried.

He’s really just very, very, very pretty, is the thing.

And, like, objectively Louis has known this all along. He quite enjoys Harry’s music and even once attended one of Harry’s concerts before he got so big he started playing arenas. Not to mention the fact that he’s seen Harry’s face on a fair few tabloid covers, parading around his newest conquest, or doing the walk of shame completely unabashed (not that Louis really blames him. If he was the kind of lad who actually wanted to shag Taylor Swift, and managed to do it, he wouldn’t be hiding behind dumpsters when leaving her hotel room the next day either).

“Did you know some people think that you and Grimmy are in a proper relationship?” is what he finally chooses to open with, and, really, why doesn’t the earth just open up and swallow him whole? Please.

Harry lets out a sort of startled laugh, like he can’t quite believe what Louis said, eyes widened comically. But Louis will take it over Harry just running out of the toilet, hollering about what a looney Louis is, which surely would be the most understandable reaction.

“What?” he asks, seeming genuinely unsure of what else to say.

“I just talked to Nick, and apparently there are people out there who think I’m in a relationship with him.” Louis wrinkles his nose slightly, still absolutely flabbergasted that anyone could think itmight be true. “And others think that he’s with you. No one’s gonna think he’s with that barman out there, though, which I assume by the end of tonight is probably going to be infinitely more true than either of those other possibilities.”

“How do you know he’s not with me?” Harry asks with a small, odd smile, his words sounding oddly wry. If it wasn’t for the fact that Harry Styles is arguably the most straight bloke on the planet-- in the entire fucking solar system probably, with a string of A-list girlfriends and hook-ups so long it would make most mothers blush --Louis might have spent a little more time contemplating Harry’s words and tone. It’s nice to know that isn’t one of those bloke’s so scared of anything to queer to even joke about it.

“Well, I sure hope he isn’t with you, with the way he’s flirting with that bartender right now and all.” Louis grins, leaning his body against the wall, and casually crossing his arms over his chest.

“Maybe we have an open relationship, you know… I mean, sharing is caring, innit?” Harry’s smile broadens and reveals deep dimples in his cheeks, giving Louis an odd feeling of wanting to poke his finger in, see if maybe it would make Harry laugh. He’d quite like to make Harry laugh.

“Absolutely,” Louis agrees with a grave nod. “A very generous relationship though, if even a fraction of what the tabloid are saying about you is true. Funny how I never saw Nick as the sharing type, always figured he was the kid in school who’d rather step on his last gummy bear than give it to someone else if he was too full to eat it himself.”

Harry lets out a bark of laughter, and then quickly raises his hand to cover his mouth, like he wasn’t expecting that particular sound to leave him. They’re quiet for a few moments afterwards, just taking each other in, and then Harry’s lips quirk up into a wry smile.

“You shouldn’t believe everything you read in the tabloids, you know,” he says cryptically, offering Louis a little shrug, an unidentifiable look crossing his face. Louis suposes, considering his own experience with them today -- his own sister, honestly -- Harry’s probably right.

Ever the class clown, and a fucking master at diffusing difficult situations with humour, Louis gives a gasp in fake shock, and exclaims, “Are you telling me that Justin Bieber didn’t hook up with a prostitute in Brazil last week?”

“Well, to be fair, I wouldn’t be too surprised if that was true.” Harry chuckles. “Hey, would you maybe wanna get a drink?” he asks nonchalantly, looking at Louis with those wide, irresistible green eyes. “I mean, since Nick seems to have abandoned both of us in favour of a barman?”

Grinning, Louis corrects him, it being an important distinction after all, “A fit barman,” and then he makes a flowing gesture towards the door. “Lead the way, kind sir.” He’s really more than willing to spend a bit of time with Harry, he seems cool and nice, down to earth and so, so easy to talk to. It doesn’t exactly hurt that he’s fitter than fit too. “So, did you and Nick come together?” Louis asks as they make their way out of the loo. “Or Rita Ora? I think I saw her around here somewhere earlier.”

“Uh.” Harry hesitates for a moment. “Alone, yeah. Just met up with Nick. And the Rita thing… she’s just a mate, really, the papers make up loads of bullshit about me every day, so… How about you? Am I stealing you away from a date? That blonde girl? I think I saw the two of you on the cover of Heat magazine this morning.”

Vehemently Louis shakes his head. “No, no, no. Shit, no. God. Yeah, she’s my sister, actually.”

“Oh, tough luck, mate.” Harry smiles sympathetically. “I got linked to my sister once too, called her my ‘mystery woman’.  They did my mum once too. Was a bit torn between being disgusted and morbidly amused.”

“Yeah,” Louis agrees, as they finally manage to grab the barman’sattention, and Harry orders them both a beer. “So, came all alone, actually. Yeah. Was supposed to meet up with my agent Niall and his girlfriend but I haven’t been able to find them. Think they might have gone home already.”

Before Harry has the opportunity to reply, the barman returns with their beers, placing the glasses on the counter in front of them. Harry pushes Louis’ glass towards him, and then freezes in the middle of the action, looking up at Louis with wide eyes.

“You’re not supposed to drink, are you?” He looks so appalled by his own actions, ordering a beer for Louis, that Louis can’t help but laugh at him which only gives him the cutest pout in return. Who even is Harry Styles? “Heeeeyyyyy,” Harry whines, “Don’t laugh at me, I have a very vested interest in your footballing career.”

“Is that so?” Louis grins, taking a sip of his beer partly because he’s thirsty and partly to tease Harry.

“Man U’s my team, Louis,” Harry says, “I’d quite like to avoid something like… you know, Tuesday, happening again. If something happens with the game on Monday, I don’t want it to be my fault because I got you drunk.” He looks so painfully earnest that Louis can feel his face becoming hopelessly fond, and he can’t help but reach out and curl his fingers around Harry’s wrist, squeezing gently once before letting go and offering Harry a smile.

“Don’t worry, a beer’s not going to do anything about my performance on Monday. And let’s never, ever, ever talk about yesterday. I just wanna forget it to be honest. I’m not supposed to drink during the season, but, you know, special circumstances.”

Harry seems to visibly relax under Louis’ words, taking a sip of his own beer and offering Louis a smile. “Yeah, definitely, it made me want to drink myself into oblivion anyway, can’t imagine how you guys must have felt. Ace goal you scored though, mate.”

“Thanks.” Louis shrugs, fiddling with the coaster his beer had been placed on, the condensation from the bottle standing unprotected on the bar’s wooden surface surely leaving behind rings as they speak.

“How come you’re still here, though?” Harry questions after a moment of silence. “In London, I mean. I’d have thought you’d be back training by now? And I wasn’t aware this was your kind of scene? Didn’t expect to see you at the Burberry show either, thought--” he trails off and blushes slightly, as though he realises how much of a stalker he sounds like. Louis is just endeared

“Van Gaal gave us a few days off to recuperate. I’ll do my best not to lose on Monday, yeah?” Louis says, smiling at Harry.

“On behalf of every Man U fan out there, we appreciate it very much a lot.” Harry smiles, tipping his glass in Louis’ direction in a mock salute.

Louis grins, and decides to answer Harry’s other question. “And not exactly my scene, no. Not Burberry either, though it was kind of cool to be important enough to be seated next to Harry Styles. Anyway, I wasn’t really hooked on coming here to be honest. Kind of wanted to stay in with Bruce and a burger, but Niall was quite insistent that I come.”

“Bruce?” Harry questions, a curious tilt to his head.

“Ah, yeah.” Louis shrugs sheepishly. “My dog. He wasn’t too keen on me leaving him at home again.”

“He’s here in London? Or in Manchester?” Harry’s eyes are wide, seeming eager to know more about the dog.

“He’s  with me here, yeah.”

“God,” Harry sighs, a wistful look on his face, “I love dogs. Cats too. Animals, you know? What kind is he? I bet he’s adorable. Bruce is an excellent name.”

Louis pulls out his phone from his pocket and thumbs through his photos until he lands on a particularly cute one of Bruce. He hands it to Harry with a small smile, like he’s showing off his baby. He kind of is. “He’s a cockapoo,” he says with a smile, “He’s brilliant, really. Do you have any? Small kitten hiding out at home?”

“Nah.” Harry shakes his head, handing Louis back his phone with a big smile. “My house is being renovated right now, so I’ve been couch surfing and staying at hotels the past two months.”

“Two months?” Louis asks in shock. He absolutely can’t imagine not having a homebase for when he stays somewhere for longer periods of time. Hence the London flat and all. “Shit, mate, why not rent a flat temporarily or something?”

“Dunno.” Harry shrugs. “Ed offered to let me stay a few weeks at first, and then I stayed two weeks with my friend Ben  and his wife, and then a week with Nick, and a couple of days in a hotel, and it just sort of continued like that. I like the company, though it does get a bit old sleeping on sofas and generic guestrooms.”

“Where are you staying now?” Louis’ not quite sure why he’s asking, he’ll blame it on curiosity or something if anyone asks, but he finds himself oddly invested in Harry’s sleeping habits. It’s so very easy to forget that this is their first ever conversation, that they haven’t even known each other for twenty-four hours. He kind of hopes this won’t be the last time they see each other, can so easily imagine becoming proper friends with Harry, wants to become proper friends with him. He hasn’t met anyone where the conversation flowed so easily since he met up with Niall the first time years ago.

“Well, I just came back from recording in LA yesterday, and spent the night at Ed’s, but he’s leaving for tour tomorrow and his brother is going to stay at his place while he’s gone, so I don’t want to intrude. Gonna check into a hotel tonight or tomorrow, I think. I’m gonna be travelling a lot over the next few months, and, like, tour’s soon, so, like, it won’t be that bad, I don’t think.”

“You know,” Louis starts, but then trails off, because, like, is it very creepy to offer up your flat to someone you’ve just met? Probably. No, no, it definitely is. Like very, very totally definitely creepy. But Louis has always been a little reckless, a lot spontaneous, and he likes Harry. So creepy? Yes. He does so anyway. “I’ve got a perfectly lovely flat that’s just empty since I’m in Manchester most of the time, so, like, you’re welcome to stay there for a bit if you’d like?”

“Whoa, Louis,” Harry protests, “I can’t accept that, you don’t even know me.”

“Sure you can, come on, you’ll have your own kitchen and, like, proper privacy and shit. And I’ll have someone to vacuum the floors so it’s not coated in a heavy layer of dust the next time I come. As far as I’m concerned that’s pretty much a win-win. Just buy me a burger on the way home and I’m happy.”

“You sure?” Harry asks, voice hesitant. “I mean, I don’t wanna—“

“Seriously, Harold, I wouldn’t have offered if I wasn’t sure,” Louis answers, offering him what he hopes is a reassuring smile.

“My name’s not Harold, just Harry,” Harry mumbles with a sweet smile, before draining the last of his beer. “Wanna get outta here and get that burger now then? I’m kind of starving and since the opportunity has presented itself, I really wanna meet Bruce.”

“A man after my own heart,” Louis says, and then nearly faints because fuck, shit, bad choice of words. He powers through, reminding himself that it doesn’t sound odd to anyone but himself because no one knows. Harry doesn’t know. It’s alright. He puts down the beer, it’s still got a third left, but if he’s gonna grab a burger and chips now he should probably lay off on the alcohol. He’s not exactly being the model footballer, but he supposes he can run a few extra miles when he gets back to Manchester.

“Let’s go then.” Harry grins, hopping off the barstool he’s seated on. “I know this great hole-in-the-wall joint near here, best burgers in London, I swear. We can grab some take away from there and get a taxi or summat?”

“Sounds good, I’ve got a driver on hold though, so I’ll just ring him when we’ve got our food,” Louis agrees, planting his feet on the floor and squeezing Harry’s shoulder as he walks past him towards the exit. He pulls out his mobile and sees he’s got an unread text, finding that it’s from Niall upon opening it.

‘something came up heading home with babs right now. Have fun lou see you tomorrow !!’

Louis can’t help but snort because, yeah, something came up, alright.

“What is it?” Harry questions from behind him, nudging his shoulder as they make their way towards the exit.

“Niall ditched me to go home and shag his Victoria’s Secret model girlfriend. I mean,” he amends, with a shrug and a grin, “Can’t say that I blame him, but he’s the one who insisted on me coming here in the first place.”

“A Victoria’s Secret model?” Harry questions with an eyebrow raised, and Louis can’t help but wonder if maybe Harry’s wondering if it’s someone he’s shagged as well. It definitely wouldn’t be surprising if Harry had hooked up with his fair share of the Victoria’s Secret line-up.

“Barbara Palvin,” Louis nods, “They’ve been together for a year or so by now, I think.”

“Yeah.” Harry smiles, face lightening up in recognition. “I’ve met her at a few parties, she’s brilliant. She’s told me about her boyfriend. Apparently he can chug a pint of Guinness like no other.”

A startled laugh erupts from Louis, and he nods with a grin. “That’s Niall alright.”

“He sounds like an excellent lad, it must be nice to be friends with your agent as well,” Harry muses as they arrive at the exit door. They both pause in front of it, aware of what’s waiting for them on the other side.

“Yeah, it’s fantastic. Niall’s my best mate, the whole agent thing is really just a side thing. Not sure I could do the fame thing without him.”

Smiling gently Harry nods. “Yeah, I get you. Dunno what I’d do without people like Zayn and Ed in my life to be honest. It’s gold to have people who know who you really are, and who don’t, like, believe everything printed about you, and who can call you out when you’re being a shit, or just sense when you’re feeling awful but don’t want to burden anyone, you know?”

“Yeah,” Louis sighs, “Niall’s godsend, really. Liam too for that matter, and my family.”

“Liam Payne?” Harry questions, as he places his hand on the handle, looking down at Louis and waiting for his go-ahead to open the door.

“Yeah,” Louis says nodding, answering both Harry’s question and his silent inquiry about the door. “He’s a good mate, probably the best one I have on the team. It’s nice to have someone who’s going through sort of the same thing to talk to.”

Harry opens the door and they’re immediately met by a the blinding lights of several flashes going off, all ready to capture the money shot of whichever drunk celebrity will stumble out of the door. The paps are going to practically shit their pants when they see that they’re getting Harry and Louis at once, together no less.  

Stepping through the door and ignoring the commotion it causes, Louis turns towards Harry as they walk, waiting for him to speak.

“That’s how I feel about Ed,” Harry says, expertly ignoring their surroundings, as they make their way to the sidewalk, turning left and continuing to walk normally despite the lone pap who’s chosen to follow them. “It’s a pretty shitty business, but he’s so level headed it’s amazing, really.”

“He seems to be,” Louis says, smiling as they continue to walk. They come upon only a few people as they walk, probably due to the lateness and all. “I mean, I’ve never met him or anything. I quite like his music, though, so I’ve watched a couple of interviews and went to a concert with my sister when he was doing his last tour. If his actual self is anything like the one he offers the public then he seems like a swell guy, really.”

“He definitely is.” Harry nods, “Like, I don’t think I know anyone in this business who’s as much themselves in public and private as Ed.”

“Not even yourself?” Louis questions teasingly, bumping his shoulder against Harry’s.

The other lad is silent for a moment, and then with an odd kind of hesitation he shrugs slightly, the smallest twitch of his shoulders. “Definitely not me.”

It’s a mystery for later, Louis decides, but he can’t help but wonder what exactly Harry means. He can definitely relate; it seems like every time he’s with someone who’s not his mum, Lottie, Niall or Barbara, he’s acting a part in some way or another. Always acting. Not even Liam or Louis’ remaining sisters know about Louis’ sexuality.

It’s exhausting, hiding such a big part of himself, and at the same time it’s the way it’s always been, so, sad as it is, he’s used to it. He doubts that’s anything like what Harry’s referring to though, but he also knows that they’ve only known each other for like an hour; clearly not long enough to inquire into whatever it is Harry meant.

“So,” Harry says, breaking the silence that’s settled over them. “You say you’re a fan of Ed, but the real question is, what do you think of my music?” He’s teasing, clearly, grin wide and dimples deep, probably not even expecting Louis to know his music beyond maybe having heard a song on the radio. Boy, is he in for a surprise.

“I went to your gig in Manchester when you played The Apollo a few years ago, actually,” he says with a smile, quite enjoying the look of shock that overtakes Harry’s face. “Haven’t had the opportunity to go to any of your concerts since you started playing arenas, but I’ve got all your stuff on my phone, and I like it a lot.” When Harry continues to stare at him dumbly, clearly not over the shock, Louis laughs. “Oh, come on mate, can’t be that much of a shock. You’ve already admitted to being a supporter of at least my team, so it really just puts us on equal footing, I think.”

Harry shakes his head, seeming to physically shake himself out of his stupor. “Shit,” he breathes, and then breaks into a grin, “Oh, my God. I can’t believe Louis Tomlinson enjoys my music, listens to my music. I can’t believe you were at that concert, that was like one of the first I ever did after I’d stopped playing at shitty pubs. I was proper nervous before. Can’t believe you were there.”

“I was.” Louis smiles, shrugging his shoulders slightly. “Yeah. I imagine much has changed with your shows since then, though.”

“God, yeah,” Harry confirms, “Yeah. Wow, shit, Louis, you’ll have to come to a proper show when I kick off my new tour. I’ll be in Manchester at the end of March, I’ll get you some VIP tickets if you’d like?”

“Of course, yeah, I’d love to.” He smiles, feeling himself getting actually excited at the prospect. “As long as I don’t have a game or anything, then I’m definitely up for it.”

Harry grins at him brilliantly, eyes sparkling like he’s been kidnapped straight out of a Disney movie. He’s unreal, really, too much for words to describe.

“I’m glad,” he says softly, and then nudges Louis’ shoulder. “I’m not just a Manchester United supporter though.” He shrugs sheepishly, “I’m a massive fan of yours. The way you play football is absolutely unreal. I’ve been following your career ever since you joined the team.”

He seems almost shy at his admission, but Louis is just hopelessly endeared and also quite flattered. “So basically what we’re saying,” Louis clarifies teasingly, “Is that we’re each other’s biggest fans?”

“That seems correct, yeah.” Harry grins back, chuckling slightly at the absurdity of it all. “I’m glad you didn’t start crying when you met me, though. That always puts a bit of a dampener on the mood.”

“God, yeah.” Louis chuckles, slightly mortified, at least that’s not an occupational hazard as a footie player, having people cry all over you. “I can only imagine. I’ll try to keep the waterworks between Bruce and me.”

“Appreciate it,” Harry says drily, but he can only hold the mask for a moment before he cracks and grins at Louis. “Oh,” he says suddenly, stopping and reaching out for Louis’ arm, curling his massive hand around Louis’ bicep to stop him in his stride. “We’re here.” He nods towards the building on their left, and Louis turns slightly, taking the worn exterior and the empty shop, before mentally shrugging and following Harry inside. He trusts his judgement.

Harry greets the girl behind the till as they enter, and Louis turns his attention towards the board handing above the counter announcing what they serve. He quickly settles on a double cheese and bacon burger with chips, and turns his attention back to Harry and the girl.

“Ready to order?” Harry grins, nodding slightly towards the girl, apparently having already given his own order. Louis rattles off his choices, and tries not to feel oddly pleased when Harry hums what seems to approval of Louis’ selection.

They sit down at a small, rickety table while they wait for the girl to prepare their food, the surface slightly sticky under Louis’ palm. He shoots a quick text to his driver to meet him at their destination, attaching a screenshot of their location from the map on his phone, and puts it on the counter.

“You know,” Louis says, catching Harry’s attention again, the other man having been momentarily caught up in his own phone. “Any time you want tickets for a game, just let me know, yeah? I’ve got access to some pretty ace ones that even your level of stardom probably couldn’t get its hands on.”

“Really?” Harry questions unnecessarily, lighting up like a fucking Christmas tree. “Fuck, that’d be ace. I’ll definitely take you up on that.”

Louis smiles in reply, ignoring the pap currently outside the window photographing them. He’d followed them from the club, seeming now to take a great interest in documenting their riveting exploits inside the burger joint. “Wonder what kind of story he expects to spin from those pictures,” he muses out loud, “What do you think we’ll wake up to tomorrow? Maybe we’ll be long lost childhood friends?”

“Secret lovers?” Harry supplies with an odd grin.

Louis ignores the slight discomfort in the pit of his belly. “Mortal enemies settling our differences in a burger eating contest.”

“Cousins.”

“Long lost twins.”

“About to launch a joint album.”

“About to announce me as the opening act for your next tour.”

Harry snorts, “I think I’m gonna have to demand for you to sing to me for that to become a thing, Lou.” He grins, wagging his eyebrows.

“You’re the one who suggested we’d become a duo,” Louis reminds him with a raised brow.

“Yeah, well, that would allow me to do all the singing if you turn out to be dreadful, and you could just focus on looking pretty and playing the tambourine.”

“I do play the piano a bit, you know,” Louis tells him, “At least let me do that rather than wield the tambourine.”

“Really?” Harry asks excitedly, “You’ll have to play for me sometime, definitely. I’m not very good at playing the piano myself, a bit better at guitar, but not exactly a whizz at that either. I think my main strengths lie with singing and songwriting to be honest, though I’d love to master an instrument properly.”

Louis shrugs. “Well, I don’t play much anymore, so I’m not sure how much I remember, but I did make a few youtube piano covers back when I was younger and wasn’t sure if I was gonna be a professional football player or an international pop star.” He says it in a way that makes it clear that he’s joking, despite the embarrassing amount of truth there is to his admission.

“You mean to tell me,” Harry questions with a grin, “That there are videos of you on Youtube that I could find?”

“God no,” Louis laughs, “Had the clever foresight to delete those once I saw that my life was heading the footie way, didn’t much fancy some hooligan stumbling across recordings of me singing The Fray songs, to be honest.”

“The Fray? Christ, Louis, please tell me you still have those recordings for me to listen to?”

“I do,” Louis admits, “But over my dead body are you ever listening to them.”

“Come ooooon,” Harry whines, grinning widely. “Pretty please?”

“Nope,” Louis maintains, steadfast, popping the ‘p’ and leaning back in the chair. “Sorry, pop star, just not gonna happen.”

“I’ll get it out of you eventually, mark my words,” Harry insists, but the threat in his words is significantly diminished by the fact that he looks like an overgrown toddler, much, Louis realises, like Nick had described Harry to Louis in the bar.

Louis is just about to placate him with some half-arsed answer, when the girl behind the counter calls to let them know their food is ready. Just as they get up to get it, Louis’ phone buzzes with an incoming text. He unlocks his phone to see a message from his driver telling him that he’s waiting out front for them when they’re ready. Perfect timing.

“Car’s ready,” he informs Harry as the other man has grabs the food. Together they wave goodbye to the girl behind the counter and make their way out of the shop. The pap’s still there when they set foot on the pavement, but they ignore him and his incessant clicking in favour of climbing into the waiting car. The minute the car pulls away from the curb and they’ve buckled their seatbelts, Harry turns to Louis with a hesitant look.

“Is it far? The flat, I mean,” he asks, and it hits Louis that Harry literally knows nothing about where they’re going. This might actually turn out to be the strangest turn a night has ever taken for Louis; never had he ever in his wildest dreams imagined that he might offer up his flat to someone he’d known for not even a day, even less had he imagined said person might be Harry Styles. Half of him kind of expects to wake up and find all of this an exceptional absurd dream any minute.

“About 20 minutes away,” he says, smiling gently in reply, leaning back in his seat and wiggling slightly to find a comfortable position to spend the next while in.

Harry hums in recognition before digging through the bag with food, pulling up a package of chips and a small tub of mayo and handing it to Louis. “Here,” he says, looking up briefly with a small smile tugging the corners of his lips upwards. “I hope your driver doesn’t mind us eating the chips in the car, it’s just that cold chips are all soggy and gross, and they’re definitely not going to last 20 minutes, so I figured—“

“Haz,” Louis interrupts laughing, only belatedly realising the impromptu nickname he seems to have given Harry. Oh. He continues on, pretending like nothing out of the ordinary’s happened. “It’s fine. I pay him enough that if could probably have food fight in here without him saying anything about it, so don’t worry.” He grabs the chips from Harry and plops one in his mouth, nearly outright moaning when the crispy, greasy surface makes contact with his tongue. It should be bloody criminal how good it is.

“Good, right?” Harry questions unnecessarily, grinning like the cat that caught the canary, while his own package of fries is clutched in his oversize hand.

“Are you shitting me?” Louis questions, mouth full of chips and mayo, “I haven’t had a proper chip in months. This is literally heaven in the form of a well-oiled potato.”

“Shit,” Harry laughs, stuffing a chip into his own – frankly obscene – mouth with a small shrug. “Dunno how you athletes do it, I gotta admit. Like, I try to eat healthy and work out, but, like, just the thought of being actually forbidden to eat some junk or drink a few beers, I mean…”

“I think,” Louis contemplates while chewing on yet another fry, “I think, you know, we’ve all tried it when we were in like the youth programme and stuff, like binge drinking and then playing a game a couple of days later, and we’ve all seen what huge impact it can have on your physique and your game, so… I mean, when you play leagues like I do now, when it’s your entire career, your future that rides on it, it’s just not worth the risk.”

“You’re doing it now though,” Harry points out, though not unkindly, just stating a fact.

“Yeah,” Louis agrees shrugging, “I mean, I’m clearly not a model player nor the best at following the rules, but I do generally tend to stick to the whole healthy eating, zero alcohol policy during the season. This week is a bit of an exception.”

“Well,” Harry shrugs with a smile, holding up a chip towards Louis like a miniature sword. “I definitely won’t tell anyone.”

Louis finds himself smiling back automatically, and grabbing a chip of his own, he touches Harry’s gently. “Thanks, mate,” he grins, before stuffing the chip into his mouth, moaning exaggeratedly and obscenely as he chews and swallows, which only sets Harry off, his laughter ringing loud and clear through the otherwise silent vehicle.

The car ride passes quickly from then on out, the both of them devouring their fries hungrily, before falling back into comfortable conversation while the busy streets of London turn more quiet as they pass into more residential areas. Eventually they come to a stop, and Louis can’t help but take notice of how Harry’s eyes are glued to the window, probably trying to take in their surroundings even before they’ve made it onto the street.

“We’re here?” Harry questions, turning to look at Louis curiously.

“We’re here,” Louis confirms, unbuckling his seatbelt and getting out of the car. He moves towards the entrance of the building, Harry following behind without a sound. The silence continues as they enter, take the lift to the eighth floor where Louis’ flat is, and all the way until they step foot inside it. Louis has never before met someone where silence felt so comfortable so shortly after they met each other. He doesn’t feel like there’s a trace of awkwardness between them. It’s simultaneously liberating and mindboggling.

The second the door squeaks open a pitter-patter of excited paws hitting the floor can be heard, and the next thing they know there’s a happy Bruce at their feet, tongue hanging out of his mouth and tail wagging madly.

“Hey, buddy,” Louis coos, bending down to scratch Bruce behind his ears. “This is my new friend Harry, can you say ‘hi’ to Harry?”

Bruce doesn’t react beyond continuing the mad pace he’s wagging his tail with until Harry crouches down next to Louis and coos his own ‘hiiii’ at the dog. The second he registers Harry it’s like love at first sight (though maybe that does have something to do with the bag of burgers in Harry’s hand), if that was actually a thing and dogs actually could fall in love, that is. Bruce hurries the short way to Harry, jumping up and resting his forelegs on Harry’s bended knees, tail wagging and mouth open wide. Harry laughs freely, holding the bag away from Bruce, and petting and scratching Bruce’s fur much to the dog’s amusement. Bruce has always been the kind of dog who’s curious beyond what’s healthy or practical, lover of all things new and foreign.

“He’s adorable!” Harry exclaims, smile blinding and eyes shining with utter joy as he turns his head sideways slightly to look at Louis.

“Most of the time,” Louis agrees with a grin, before getting up and shutting the door behind them, turning on the lights as he goes. A few moments later he can hear Harry following, and then the sound of Bruce’s paws once again on the floor as he follows Harry. “Would you like a cuppa?” he questions with a raised voice, as he’s already filling the kettle with water.

“Yes, please,” Harry says, as he walks into the kitchen, looking around and obviously taking it all in. “You have a lovely flat.” He smiles, leaning against the counter opposite Louis.

He snorts in response, shaking his head as he busies himself with making their tea. “You don’t have to lie,” he says, shrugging, “I spend so little time here it’s basically just taken straight out of the pages of an IKEA catalogue.”

“No, really,” Harry insists, and Louis swears he can actually hear the smile in his voice. “I like it here.”

“Yeah, well. My sofa’s heavenly if nothing else.” He takes two mugs from the cupboard and places them next to the hob.

“Well, I will have to put that to a test,” Harry replies, and Louis sees him exit the kitchen when he looks over his shoulder.

He smiles privately, grabbing the tea from its jar and calling out a customary, “Yorkshire okay?” before dumping a bag into each mug without waiting for Harry’s reply. Honestly, he’d have served him Yorkshire tea even if he’d said no -- it’s a case of principle, after all.

“Yeah, that’s fine, mate,” Harry calls back. “Just a splash of milk, please.”

Louis hums in response as the sound of the kettle informs him that the water has boiled. He pulls a carton of milk from the fridge before pouring water into the mugs and then adding milk to Harry’s. He prefers his own tea plain, but each to their own.

He contemplates grabbing a packet of ginger nut biscuits from the cupboard but then remembers the greasy burgers waiting for them, so he just grabs a mug in each hand, making his way into the living room.

He finds Harry sunken into the sofa, a blissful look on his face, eyes closed. “You’re so right,” Harry says. “This sofa is divine. Can I conduct interviews and perform concerts and everything from it from now on, please?”

“No way,” Louis grins, placing the tea on the table in front of the sofa next to the paper bag containing their food. “I’m gonna bring this to Manchester soon, I haven’t a clue how I’m surviving without it, to be honest.”

Harry opens his eyes and leans forward just enough to grab his tea, before leaning back into the cushions, the mug cradled in his massive hands. He sips his tea with a small smile which widens as soon as he’s swallowed his first mouthful of tea.

“You make good tea,” he says, taking another sip and simultaneously sending a wave of pride through Louis.

“It’s my specialty,” he grins, taking a seat next to Harry on the sofa, pulling his knees to his chest and taking a sip of his own tea. “Don’t let me cook, though, I’ll probably end up poisoning you.”

“Duly noted,” Harry grins, leaning forward to place his tea on the table and grab the paper bag. He pulls out a burger and hands it to Louis who accepts it gratefully, the divine smell of something so forbidden and delicious overpowering Louis’ senses. Harry takes his own and leans back into the sofa, unwrapping the burger as he speaks again. “I’m a pretty decent cook, actually, but I can’t really get the hang of making proper tea, which is, like, ridiculous, you know? ‘Cause, like, how hard can it be? But it always turns out too strong or not strong enough, and it’s a bit annoying, really.”

“Well, stick with me for a bit, pup, and you’ll learn a thing or two about the grand art of tea making.” Louis grins, biting into his own burger, nearly moaning out loud at the taste spreading through his mouth.

“I’ll look forward to it,” Harry says, voice sincere and smile small, intimate. Honestly, Louis thinks he wouldn’t mind too much, if he were to spend the rest of his life teaching Harry how to make a proper brew. There are worse fates out there, after all.

 

-

 

Harry wakes up with a small kink in his back and no idea where he is. It takes him several disoriented moments sitting up in a sofa, and an overly excited cockapoo to remind him that he is in fact on Louis Tomlinson’s sofa.

Louis Tomlinson’s sofa.

Wow. Yeah, alright, not exactly where Harry thought he’d find himself now 24 hours ago.

Louis doesn’t seem to be up yet, but Bruce seems to be yearning for human attention, and Harry’s really only too happy to give it to him. He’s gets down on the floor, limbs a bit stiff, and starts playing with Bruce. It’s a little chilly now that he’s not under the blankets anymore, his pants not offering much in terms of body heat preservation. Bruce is warm and soft though, and when he jumps up against Harry’s bare chest, forepaws rested just above Harry’s nipples, Harry doesn’t even mind the way the dog’s sharp little nails dig in. He’s perhaps just a little gone for the fur-covered mischief maker in front of him.

Eventually he pulls out his phone, checking the time to see that it’s ten in the morning, and decides that the least he can do is make Louis breakfast. He pulls on yesterday’s clothes, ignoring the beer-stain by the collar, and vowing to pick up his stuff from Ed’s place later today. He makes his way into the kitchen, Bruce following behind like a four-legged shadow, and he opens Louis’ fridge to see what he has to make do of.

Nothing, it turns out.

Louis, apparently, wasn’t kidding when he said he couldn’t cook, because the fridge is empty save a six pack of beer, two cans of Coca Cola, a lemon, and a half-eaten sandwich from Tesco’s. Harry quickly figures that unless they’re going to have a breakfast consisting of a quarter of a God knows how old sandwich and a glass of coke with lemon, he probably needs to go shopping for some food.

He goes to the toilet first, though, to hav a quick e wee and brush his teeth primitively, using a finger and some of Louis’ toothpaste, and then he’s off.

It takes him a couple of minutes to locate a leash for Bruce, and by the time he’s done so, the little dog has worked himself into a frenzy over the prospect of his morning walk. Harry puts on his own coat and boots, checking to make sure he’s got his wallet, before hooking the leash in Bruce’s collar and opening the door. At the last minute, he remembers to grab Louis’ keys from where he’d thrown them the night before, wincing at the thought of having  to wake Louis up because he couldn’t get back inside the building.

The first thing he does upon stepping out of Louis’ building is to Google the nearest Tesco’s on his phone. It’s about a ten minute walk away, so he makes his way down the fairly empty streets, Bruce walking in front of him, sniffing the road and stopping every now and then to pee, tail wagging exaggeratedly as they move.

If Harry’s life wasn’t so bloody unpredictable because of touring, travelling for promo, writing and what not, he’d really like to have a dog as well. Doing something as simple as walking Bruce is disgustingly domestic and the very epitome of what he eventually wants in life. He’s a twenty-two year old world-famous singer, and what he dreams about at night is the exact opposite of what the tabloids make his life and priorities out to be. He’s not interested in a string of women entering and leaving his bedroom, nor partying until the break of dawn. No, what he really wants is a husband and children, a dog and a nice house with a white picket fence, football practice and a sensible car.

He wants what he can’t have, not for a long time at any rate, because he does want his career as well, he does want to sing in sold out arenas, write songs that change people’s lives, meet fans, and make people happy. He wants all of it, but it’s been made abundantly clear to him that he’s not going to get both a career and a relationship with someone of the gender he’s actually attracted to. It is what it is. He’ll just have to live out all his dreams now, soak in as much of it as he can, and then hope that he’ll still have time for all the rest later.

It’s a shitty way of doing it, it’s unfair and it’s terrible, but what can you do? With the way they marketed him at his breakthrough, the way they’ve been marketing him for the past three years, coming out as gay while still in the middle of his music career would be absolute suicide. According to countless of experts, there’s no way he’d be able to bounce back and keep selling music after that, and who the fuck is he to question that? His only hope is that maybe with time the climate will change, people’s attitudes will change, humanity will change. Maybe someday he can be free to do what he loves while openly, freely loving who he loves. Maybe.

He ties Bruce up outside the shop, ignoring the sliver of a bad conscience he’s getting at leaving him alone out there. He’ll be quick though, just needs to grab the basics to whip up a proper fry-up, and maybe something to cook for dinner in case Louis chooses to drive to Manchester late.

Shit. He’s already thinking in terms of dinner, and spending the whole day together, and just… shit. For all he knows it could have been the alcohol talking last night, and the sober Louis having no interest in hanging out with Harry, much less letting him stay in his flat. It’s such a typical Harry-thing to do, meeting someone new and becoming fascinated by them, latching on to them and spending ridiculous amounts of time with them, focussing solely on them, and then eventually it’ll pass, someone new will come along or the interest will wane, and then it all starts over with someone new. Then, of course, there are the people who’ve stuck, like Ed and Nick and Johnny, his childhood friend, and he kind of thinks that maybe Louis could be one of those as well, if he wants to stay friends with Harry that is.

It’ll be different though. He’s never had a friend who he’s been so blindly attracted to, both personality and looks-wise, but surely that’s just a matter of exposure. Nothing can come of Harry’s unrequited lust, so surely the more time they spend together, the more immune he will get to Louis’ looks, and to his way of being. It’s just a matter of the rest of him catching up with what his brain already knows; that Louis is off limits.

He decides to buy food for pasta, because if nothing else he can whip it up for Louis to take with him as a thank you for his hospitality, or something, and anyway he’d feel silly returning to the empty fridge with only a package of eggs and some bacon. So he shops properly, gets mushrooms and tomatoes for breakfast and other greens and vegetables for their potential dinner. When he's finally satisfied with his overflowing basket, he goes to the till to pay. It doesn’t take too long; the girl behind the counter doesn’t make too much of a fuss, only asks him to sign a slip of paper because her best friend’s apparently a fan, and he doesn’t mind doing so at all.

Soon enough he’s outside again, irrationally relieved to find Bruce still tied up to the building, eagerly awaiting his return. He allows himself a quick moment to snap a photo of Bruce and attach it to a tweet – he’s far too cute not to be documented and shared with every one of Harry’s millions of followers on Twitter, honestly. Then, he picks up his bag in one hand and Bruce’s leash in the other, and makes his way back to Louis’ flat.

 

-

 

Louis wakes up to the smell of bacon and for a few seconds he lies there with closed eyes, positive that he must be back home in Doncaster, his mum cooking a Sunday fry-up for all of them. Then, he hears a dog bark. His eyes shoot open, and he takes in the sight of his London bedroom. It takes a second or two more until he remembers last night, remembers that unless Harry’s let someone else inside Louis’ flat, it’s currently Harry Styles standing out there frying bacon by the smell of it. Never mind the fact that Louis is a thousand percent sure that there was no such thing as bacon anywhere in his flat, in fact he’s pretty sure that there’s no food to be found at all apart from a packet of ginger nut biscuits somewhere in the back of one of the cupboards, and possibly a tin of baked beans.

He reaches over to grab his phone off the bedside table, meaning just to check the time, but the first thing that catches his attention is the notification of a new text. It’s from Lottie it turns out, and he frowns slightly in confusion when he reads it.

‘Why is Harry Styles tweeting about a dog that looks surprisingly much like Bruce?? Something you haven’t told me Lou?’

Louis thumbs open his Twitter app without replying to her text, and types in ‘Harry Styles’ in the search function, finding his profile easily. He doesn’t follow him, which is honestly a bit strange taking his love of Harry’s music into consideration, but he quickly rectifies that mistake by pushing the follow button. The next thing he does is scroll down to see Harry’s latest tweets, and there at the top is, exactly as Lottie had said, a picture of Bruce.

 

 

 

 

He can’t help but smile. Over Bruce and over Harry because honestly he can’t figure out who’s the cutest, and he vows to answer Lottie later, much more interested in the smell of bacon and the possibility of Harry Styles having invaded his kitchen.

As predicted, he finds both Harry and Bruce in the kitchen, the dog sitting next to Harry’s legs by the cooker, patiently waiting and hoping for a bit of food to fall to the floor. It’s Bruce who alerts Harry to Louis’ entrance by deeming Louis more important than possible pieces of bacon, and scrambling over to greet him. Louis crouches down to give Bruce’s belly a good rub, cooing softly at the dog in greeting. He then looks up to meet Harry’s eyes with a small smile.

“Morning,” he says with a smile, and then nods towards the stove while continuing to scratch Bruce’s belly. “Didn’t know I had any food in the house.”

“You didn’t.” Harry shrugs, moving something around on one of the two pans on the hob with a spatula. “Bruce and I went shopping. Hope you don’t mind,” he adds then, almost like a second thought, like he suddenly realises that maybe Louis won’t view the fact that Harry took his dog out and went food shopping favourably.

“You’re cooking me breakfast, mate.” Louis laughs, straightening up and moving closer to Harry to peer into the pans. “You walked my dog - seriously you’re like an absolute angel.”

Harry preens under the praise, grin widening until it looks like it’s threatening to take over his entire face.  He ducks his head bashfully and starts transferring the food onto plates. It all smells divine, and Louis’ stomach nearly growls. “Do you wanna make tea, maybe? There’s boiled water in the kettle,” Harry adds as an afterthought, as he picks up the plates to carry them to the dinner table.

Louis nods. “Absolutely, prepare for the best cuppa of your life.” He grins, as he takes out two mugs from the cupboard, smile only growing as he hears Harry laugh from the next room.

He’s quick about fixing the tea, carrying the two mugs to the table, Harry’s with just the perfect amount of milk added to it. He finds Harry already sat at the table, scrolling through his phone with a concentrated look on his face.

“Seriously, Harry,” Louis says as he sits down opposite the other lad. “This looks amazing. You weren’t kidding about being able to cook, eh?”

Harry shakes his head, grinning, while he puts down his phone and picks up his fork. They both tuck into their food, which, not surprisingly, is mouth-wateringly delicious.  

“So,” Louis says after having swallowed a heavenly mouthful of eggs and bacon. “How do you feel about moving to Manchester?”

Frowning slightly, Harry lets out a shocked laugh. “What?

“Well,” Louis says with a small shrug, “I’m not sure how you expect me to go on starting my days without this fry up now that I’ve tried it.”

Harry’s face morphs back into a grin, and his dimples are really every bit as lovely here in the morning light. “I don’t think your nutritionist is going to be too thrilled about a morning diet consisting only of full fry ups.”

“Probably not,” Louis agrees with a shrug and a sip of tea. “But then again, I don’t think he’ll agree with any of the dietary decisions I’ve made since meeting you, so…”

“I’m a bad influence, aren’t I?” Harry asks somberly, but he’s unable to hold the mask, a giggle slipping through, and then a full blown smile because, apparently, Harry’s incapable of acting.

“The worst.” Louis nods, voice dry, munching on some more bacon. “If we lose on Monday I’m blaming you, you know?” All he receives in return for his comment is a well-aimed mushroom hitting him right between his eyes. Louis only just manages to resist chucking a tomato after Harry and thereby starting a full-blown food-fight. Rather he plops the mushroom into his own mouth, smiling big as chews and swallows and then throws out a ‘thank you’, much to Harry’s amusement.

They eat the rest of their meal in comfortable silence, until both their plates are clean and their mugs empty. Louis leans back in his chair with a satisfied groan. “Seriously, mate, that was amazing. Probably better than my mum’s, though don’t tell her I said that.”

Harry laughs out loud, shaking his head slightly, and answering sincerely. “Thanks, Lou.”

“Just the truth.” He shrugs with a smile. “Anyway, we should figure this flat stuff out if you’re still interested?”

“Oh, yeah.” Harry straightens up in the chair slightly. “Yeah, definitely. If you’re sure you don’t mind, of course.”

“Don’t mind at all,” Louis promises. “It’ll be kind of nice actually, knowing that the flat isn’t just cold and empty here, you know? Just don’t throw too many wild parties, eh? Or, I don’t know, do and document every stupid, silly thing all your famous friends do and send me the videos.”

“Alright.” Harry smiles. “I can get behind that. I don’t foresee any wild parties, but if there’s one here I’ll document everything. Promise.”

“Brilliant, mate,” Louis says, nodding “And other than that, just, like, make yourself at home, yeah? I don’t think I’ll be in London again until the season ends, so the place’s all yours, really.”

“That’s really kind of you,” Harry says, sounding earnest, face so, so sincere. “Even the best of hotels never quite feel like home, you know? I spend so much time in hotel rooms when I tour, it’s really nice to stay somewhere that is familiar when I’m in England.”

Louis nods, understanding perfectly well as he has never really been much of a fan of hotels when travelling for games.

“Uh,” Harry starts, suddenly looking uncomfortable. “How would you prefer to do payments? I don’t know, do you rent this place or do you own it? Do you want me to pay rent directly to you or—“

“God, no, Harry,” Louis interrupts once he realises what Harry’s asking. “You’re not gonna pay to stay here. Just, like, I don’t know, cook me dinner tonight, get me a ticket to your show or something, be my personal slave for life, you know?”

Harry hesitates like he isn’t quite sure if he’s alright with that arrangement. “Are you sure?”

“Positive.”

“Anytime I can help you with anything, you let me know then, right?”

“Absolutely.”

“Good.” Harry nods as though he’s satisfied, and that settles it. His smile widens, and Louis finds himself grinning right back.   

From there on the day passes quickly as Louis finds time with Harry always does. They play FIFA for a few hours, Harry proving to be a pretty decent opponent and nearly beating Louis several times. In the late afternoon Harry leaves for an hour to pick up his stuff from Ed’s apartment, and Louis spends the alone time packing up the stuff he’d brought to London, stripping the sheets off the bed and throwing them in the washer before putting on new ones. He makes sure that there are fresh towels in the bathroom for Harry to use, and that the apartment otherwise looks ready for habitation. When he’s done he sits on the sofa with Bruce in his lap, and remembers that he has yet to reply to Lottie’s text. He explains the events of the past twenty-four hours as briefly as he can, before throwing the phone aside just as Harry returns.

He has two duffel bags slung over his shoulder and he’s pulling a big wheeled suitcase behind him. He smiles sheepishly at Louis as though embarrassed by how much stuff he’s invading Louis’ flat with, but Louis merely smiles at him and points him towards the bedroom, telling him to make himself at home.

After that Harry fixes them dinner, a delicious chicken-pasta dish that Louis will probably continue to crave for months to come. Harry’s made plenty it turns out, so with the leftovers packed, Louis piles all his bags and Bruce into his car, ready for the drive to Manchester.

“So,” Louis says, when all he has left to do is get into the car himself. “It was really nice meeting you, mate. Take care of my flat, yeah?”

“Promise,” Harry vows, ducking his head slightly with a smile. “Don’t be a stranger, yeah? Text me, call me, something, please?”

“Aww,” Louis coos, warmth spreading through his chest. “Are you gonna miss me?”

“I’m gonna miss Bruce,” Harry corrects with a grin. “I need updates on him daily.”

“Well, alright then, who am I to stand between you and Bruce?” Louis grins and shrugs, taking a quick look at the time on his phone before sighing. “I better go. I’ll see you around, yeah?”

“Definitely.” Harry says, nodding. “I wasn’t kidding about my Manchester show, you know? If you want to come, I’ll get you tickets.”

“I’d love that.” Louis says sincerely. “And anytime you wanna come watch a game, let me know.”

Harry nods, and then it’s like neither of them know what to say, or how to act. Do they hug? They’ve only known each other for a day, but it feels like they’ve known each other for ages, and, well…

“Goodbye, then, Haz,” Louis says with a smile, and sinks into it when Harry steps forward and pulls him into a quick hug.

“Bye, Lou,” Harry mumbles into his hair before stepping back with a smile. “Drive safe, yeah?”

“Promise.”

 

-

 

They win the game on Monday, thank God, and Louis doesn’t think he plays too shabby for a guy who basically broke every single rule of how a footballer should eat, drink, and live not even a week before. It shakes off some of the disappointment of having been kicked out of the Champion’s League, and it leaves him and the rest of his team even more determined to take the Premiere League title this year. They can do it; it’s all about showing that they’re better than what they’d presented last Tuesday.

He doesn’t check his phone after the game, doesn’t even turn it on, just goes through the mandatory press, spewing some shit about playing their best and overcoming the mental challenge Tuesday’s loss had presented and then he’s off. Once he makes it home he takes Bruce for a long walk, tired and keyed up all at once, exhausted all the way into his bones but still jittery with leftover adrenaline from his match. Finally he makes himself a sandwich, devouring it quickly before shedding his clothes and crawling into bed. Bruce settles on the end of the bed by Louis’ feet, even though he technically isn’t supposed to. It’s nice.

He turns on his phone then, finding, as expected, texts from Lottie and his mum, even one from Niall, and, surprisingly, a tweet notification that Harry Styles has tweeted him. Huh. They’ve texted a few times since Louis drove back to Manchester, just nonsensical stuff about their days, Harry having an affinity for texting random emojis at  random times, and on Sunday Louis had woken up to a SnapChat from Harry containing a video of Nick Grimshaw drinking tequila out of some model’s belly button. He’d answered with a snap of Bruce chasing birds in the garden, and he’s not quite sure he wants to explore what that says about their individual lives.

He clicks on the notification of Harry’s tweet, embarrassingly eager to see what the other boy has written. Their late-night burger run had garnered a bit of media attention; a few stories coming from the pap’s pictures, most about the budding friendship between singer Harry Styles and footballer Louis Tomlinson, not something to get upset about, Niall had assured him. In fact it’s a good thing, apparently, Louis’ name having been googled more in the past couple of days than usual which, according to Niall, is doing a great job of increasing his brand value.

When it finally loads, the tweet in itself is nothing earth shattering.

 

 

 

It’s pretty standard, really, but Louis can’t help but smile. There’s a small part of him that kind of wishes Harry would have texted him, but on the other hand it’s kind of cool that Harry’s singling him out, sort of like he’s confirming his friendship with Louis publicly. Or maybe Louis is reading too much into a simple tweet, most likely Harry didn’t give it two seconds of thought before tweeting.

Louis isn’t going to give it two seconds of thought before tweeting his reply then either.

 

 

 

He throws his phone of the bedside table then, not bothering to plug it into the charger even though it’ll probably die overnight. They don’t have practice until the afternoon tomorrow, so it’s not like he can really oversleep anyway.

He’s just about fallen asleep when his phone suddenly buzzes. Curiosity gets to him quickly, so he reaches blindly for the phone, fumbling a bit in the dark before his hand makes contact with it, and he pulls it towards him, the light from the screen nearly blinding for his eyes. It’s a text message, and he slides to unlock the phone, rather confused as to who might write to him at this time of night. It’s Harry as it turns out.

Very good. Especially now that you’ve won the game. Wicked skills, mate. That goal was ace. You feeling good too, yeah? .xx’

He finds himself confused for a few moments, until his brain catches up, and he realises that it’s a response to the tweet he sent back to Harry. Quickly he writes his own message back, typing out as fast as his still uncoordinated thumbs can, ‘Feeling very good. Needed that win. And that goal. Seems your fry up didn’t do any harm after all ;) xx’.

He nestles further into his pillows, waiting for Harry to reply. He hasn’t been this excited about texting someone since he was a teenager, since before his whole football career really took off. It’s weird, it feels all foreign, especially because he knows that he has to be careful. It’s just… well, Harry’s just so lovely, and the two of them click so well, and he’d really quite like to keep Harry in his life, and falling for him seems rather counterproductive if that’s the end goal. He can do it, though. He’s never had a problem being friends with cute, attractive, straight boys -- why should it be different with Harry? It’s not. It won’t be.

It takes no time before Harry replies, almost like he’s lying in bed waiting for Louis to text too, though it’s ridiculous, ‘cause surely someone like Harry must be out at a pub, or hanging out with friends or something. It’s only a little past midnight, and whether it’s a Tuesday or a Saturday, it doesn’t really matter for the rich and famous, does it? Well, technically a case could be made that Louis had to know himself, seeing as he’s both rich and famous, but he’s come to realise over the past couple of years that he’s the boring kind of celebrity whose line of work really does mean all work and very little fun. Not that work isn’t fun, or that someone like Harry doesn’t work hard, it’s just… well, sometimes a little more freedom to go out and have a good time would be nice. Though he definitely isn’t complaining. Whatever complaints he has with his life have more to do with the shittiness of society as a whole than it does with football in particular, so…

He distracts himself by checking if Harry’s texted.

‘One could probably argue that it actually did something good, I’d say. Keep that in mind for your next important game, I owe you a lifetime of cooking after all ;)’

Grinning into the dark, Louis types a quick message back. ‘I’ll hold you to it. Goodnight, H. Bedtime for me, practice tomorrow. xx’. He waits just long enough for Harry’s reply to go through, before he places his phone back on the bedside table and goes to sleep.

‘Sweet dreams, Lou. .xx’

 

-

 

They don’t talk for the next few days.

Louis’ life falls into its routine of practices and games, walks with Bruce, calls to his mum, hanging out with Niall and his team mates, and, even an interview with GQ magazine. He spends Valentine’s Day on his sofa rewatching Breaking Bad and eating things banned from his ordinary diet. Lottie’s taken an interest in keeping him updated on all things Harry Styles in the tabloids, and that’s how he knows that Harry’s been spotted in LA having dinner with Miley Cyrus, and that’s just… well, good for him. He’d said that the whole Rita Ora thing was just the paper blowing stuff up, that she was just a mate, said that it happened all the time, but on the other hand this was Valentine’s, so that’s gotta mean something more, right?

It’s strange, because the Harry Styles Louis had spent all those hours with a week and a half ago is so very different from his media image, and Louis gets that more than anyone, because the Louis Tomlinson the media portrays is so very far from who he really is too. He’s never really tried it from this angle though, having to get to know someone who’s such a public figure, someone whose entire life is splashed across the front pages of every tabloid in the country – in the world, having to sift through all the shit just trying to figure out what’s true and what’s not. It’s kind of exhausting, really.

He gets home from training late in the afternoon two days after Valentines, a bag of groceries in one hand, and his phone in the other. Fizzy’s supposed to call later, so he keeps it with him as he moves into the kitchen, putting all the groceries where they’re supposed to go. He’s always hungry after training, but knows from experience that it’s better to get something light at first, and then cook a proper dinner later. He gets a bowl out of the cupboard, fills it with yoghurt and slices a banana and an apple over it, before brewing a cup of tea and moving into the living room. Bruce is lying on the sofa, apparently tired since he hadn’t deemed Louis important enough to go greet when he entered the house, so Louis scratches him a bit behind the ears before tucking into the yoghurt.

Once he’s eaten he takes out his phone, and scrolls through his Twitter app aimlessly, until he stumbles across a tweet of Harry’s from earlier in the day.

 

 

 

Shaking his head slightly, with a small smile on his face, there’s no way he’s gonna let that tweet go unanswered, even though Harry didn’t actually mention him in it.

 

 

 

He quickly opens up his and Harry’s text conversation on his phone and types in a message. ‘I’m gonna come get it soon, you know?’

It doesn’t take more than a few moments before his phone buzzes with a reply from Harry.

‘Just give me until April and it’s all yours.’

‘Well,’ he types in reply, ‘that depends, pal. Can you magic my fish and veggies into something edible?’ It’s mostly meant as a joke; he’s perfectly aware of the fact that Harry’s three hours away in London, and even if he was right next door to Louis, there wouldn’t actually be any reason for him to help. Except for the fact that they’re friends. And he’s currently using Louis’ magic sofa.

Louis phone rings, startling him to the degree where he nearly drops it. He’s only a little surprised when he sees Harry’s name on the display.

“So,” Harry’s voice can be heard as soon as Louis has accepted the call, “Let’s get cooking.”

“What?” Louis asks with an odd mixture of a laugh and an exclamation. He’s really rather confused.

He hears Harry’s clear laughter on the other end, and if it weren’t for the slight static that can be heard over the line, he might as well be standing next to him.

“I’ll walk you through it, Lou. We’re gonna cook you a dinner worthy of the rich and famous.”

“You seem very optimistic about my skills for someone who can’t see what I’m doing at all, Harold,” Louis muses, as he makes his way towards the kitchen with a smile on his face.

“Let’s Skype then,” Harry replies happily. “That way I get to see your pretty face too. Win-win, innit? Also I can make sure, like, that you don’t burn down your house and all.”

Laughing, Louis changes his route and walks towards his bedroom where his laptop currently is. He should probably be mildly insulted but he’s honestly just really, really not. “Fair enough. I’ll text you my Skype information then. See you in a bit, Haz.”

“See you, Lou,” comes the soft reply just before the call is disconnected.

He carries the laptop to the kitchen, turning it on and texting his information to Harry while he waits for it to be ready. Soon enough the familiar sound of an incoming call can be heard, and with only a moment’s hesitation he clicks the accept button and waits for it to connect.

Next thing he knows he’s staring into a pixelated version of Harry’s green eyes.

“Hiiii,” the other man grins, waving his hand like a fool. “You look all cute and dishevelled.”

“Well,” Louis says drily, shrugging and running a hand through his hair self-consciously. Harry’s so careless with his words and compliments, and it never fails to fluster Louis. “It’s not exactly a beauty competition playing professional football.”

“And yet all the girls think you look so fit.” Harry winks. “And some of the boys.”

“People with taste, is what you’re trying to say,” Louis replies with a smirk.

“Absolutely,” Harry agrees, grinning, and he leans back slightly, wobbling whatever’s filming him in the process. Louis can recognise the cushions behind him, he’s on the sofa, of course he is. “Anyway, hotshot, show me what we’ve got to work with.”

Raising an eyebrow, Louis pulls out the produce, showing it to Harry exaggeratedly one by one. First it’s with the zucchini, then the mushrooms, when it comes to the carrots, he wiggles his eyebrows suggestively, making Harry laugh. He acts like he’s some presenter on TV shop, making up silly facts about each vegetable, and naming the fish Gert.

“Isn’t it unethical to name something you’re about to eat?” Harry asks through a fit of giggles after one of Louis’ extra outrageous facts about courgettes, after which he’d moved on to introduce Gert.

“You’re right, Harold,” he replies somberly. “Sorry, Gert.”

“Yes,” Harry nods in mock-seriousness. “Sorry, Gert. Anyway, Lou, I need you to slice up the different vegetables, I’m thinking we’ll stir-fry them, how does that sound? And then we can either bake the fish in the oven or steam it, I don’t know what you’d prefer?”

Taking a few moments, Louis considers his options, before deciding on, “In the oven, I think, yeah?”

Harry nods, the connection lagging slightly for a moment which results in him looking like some alien hybrid. Louis shouldn’t find it endearing but he does. “Excellent choice, my darling student. Now turn on the oven so it can get hot. And slice those vegetables, we haven’t got all day.”

“I don’t know how I feel about you bossing me around,” Louis muses as he gets started on following Harry’s orders. “I mean, I feel like in our friendship I ought to be the one to do the bossing.”

“How about this,” Harry says, grinning. “I’ll boss you around in the kitchen, and you can boss me everywhere else. Sounds fair?”

“More than fair. Hell, mate, if I get a decent meal out of this, I might actually owe you more than just my sofa until April.”

“You could always, like, give it to me indefinitely.” Harry grins with a faux-innocent voice.

“Hell no. That’s not gonna happen. I might have been saying this for like a year or so, but I am gonna move that sofa to Manchester soon.”

“You’d be crazy not to. Seriously, Lou, where did you even—look at what you’re doing when you’re cutting, otherwise you’ll end up losing a finger,” Harry interrupts suddenly, just as Louis starts getting extra careless with the knife. A few moments later and he might have cut himself. Or maybe something slightly less dramatic, but still, there’d probably be blood involved. “Where did you even get it? Seems like the kind of thing you should invest in several of, you know? I know I’d like one.” Harry says.

“The previous owner of the flat left it. I mean, you gotta be batshit crazy to leave behind that kind of treasure, but it’s not like I’m complaining. Can’t exactly go out and purchase a backup either, though.”

“We ought to, like, deconstruct it and figure out its secrets. We could become millionaire sofa moguls. Rule the world with our supreme furniture empire, yeah?”

“I have a feeling you’ve already got the term millionaire attached to your name, Haz. I don’t think it’s worth risking ruining the sofa for good for if we can’t learn its secret, you know?”

“Yeah,” Harry sighs, “Guess you’re right.  Could be neat to add ‘sofa maker mogul’ to one’s CV, though.”

“Sure could.” Louis grins, as he slices the last mushroom. “There, all done, I think. What now?”

“Now you gotta find a wok if you have it, or a large pan if not. And some oil, salt and pepper, and maybe some soy sauce if you’re allowed to have that. Garlic too if that’s your kind of thing.”

From thereon out it’s all surprisingly easy, Harry talking him through it all step for step until Louis has a full plate of steaming hot, healthy food. It’s possibly the most delicious thing he’s ever made.

“You’re a miracle worker, mate, truly. If this tastes even half as good as it looks I’ll be in heaven.” Louis smiles down at his screen softly. “Really, thank you so much.”

“You’re welcome, Lou,” Harry replies just as softly. “Any time, yeah? I better go now, so you can get to eat and sleep and, you know, whatever else you footballers do the night before a game.”

“Hey,” Louis say, a thought suddenly striking him. “Hey, do you have plans tomorrow?”

“Uh, got a studio-session in the morning, but that’s about it. Why?” Harry asks with a puzzled look on his face.

“Well, I was thinking that if you’d like, I could get you tickets for the game tomorrow? I mean,” Louisbacktracks, unsure if he’s crossing several lines of their friendship, if maybe asking Harry to drive three hours to see him play football with only one day’s notice is a bit too much. It wouldn’t be to see Louis though, it’d be to see the team, and, like, Harry’s a fan. So… “Only if you have the time, and, you know, actually want to, just thought I’d offer.”

“Lou,” Harry says, lips stretching into a wide smile, “I’d love to. You sure?”

“Positive.” Louis grins. “If you don’t wanna drive back after the game, you’re free to stay with me for the night too. Got plenty of room.”

“Yeah, I mean,” Harry hesitates, biting his lips slightly, “Like, do you have time to hang out a bit the day after? ‘Cause, well, I’d like that, so if you have the time…”

“Definitely, yeah, Haz. I think I’ve got some physio around noon, but you could always come with unless you need to be back in London. I’d love to spend some time with you though, yeah.”

“So, I’ll see you tomorrow?” Harry smiles, like the mere idea just brightened his entire day.

“Absolutely.” Louis nods. “I’ll text you the details later.”

“Perfect. See you, Lou.”

“Bye.” Louis hangs up with a smile on his face.

 

-

 

Harry finds himself sitting in Old Trafford at eight o’clock only about twenty-four hours after he’d made the arrangement with Louis. He’s always been so quick to imprint on people, but there’s still this nagging feeling that Louis is special -- that he’s more. He’s not going to fall in love with him though, not like Gemma had predicted when he’d filled her in on everything last time she’d been over for tea, because he’s an adult and he knows that falling in love with straight boys is absolutely the dumbest thing he could possibly do. He’s just not going to. Simple as that. He’s perfectly capable of being friends with fit, sweet, wonderful men, without wanting more.

Man U is playing Arsenal in a game that’s had Harry on the edge of his seat since kick-off, and it’s been a treat getting to follow Louis this close up. He’s truly magical with a ball at his feet; the things he can do Harry wouldn’t even be able to manage if his life depended on it, not even in his wildest dreams. He’s gotta ask Louis at some point to maybe just teach him a few tricks. Louis seems like the kind of man to find great amusement in trying to teach hopeless Harry just a little bit of football, seems like the kind of person who loves anything that has to do with his sport. He would love to teach kids one day, would have Sunday matches with friends if he weren’t a professional player. Playing with Harry is probably just yet another new way for him to have to do with footie. Maybe he can even get Louis to sing a little song for him too; he definitely wouldn’t complain about that. He’s been so bloody curious about it since Louis mentioned it that first night they met.

The game’s a draw so far, a goal to each team, and Arsenal is playing brilliantly as well. They’re well into the second half, and the mood of the stadium is rapidly growing in intensity as the game draws near its end. Harry takes a large gulp of his beer, taking a look around the people sitting near him. It’s a bit strange, really, he’s not used to going to and being at this kind of public outing by himself, but it’s not too shabby. At least there’s no one here to call him out on it if his eyes linger just a little too long on Louis’ bum.

He’s met a fair few fans since he got here, taken pictures with enough to know that his presence definitely won’t go unnoticed, and he wonders what that’ll make people think, what kind of rumours it’ll spur. Already the press seems fascinated by his and Louis’ friendship, their interaction on twitter and the paps pictures from the night of the fashion show after-party having started all the talk about their budding relationship. Harry doesn’t mind one bit, and if Louis does he hasn’t said anything, so…

There even seems to be a small amount of people shipping the two of them already, because the amount of tweets Harry gets with the term ‘Larry’ or ‘Larry Stylinson’ in them is growing by the day. He hardly thinks this little outing will help, especially not if Louis is spotted at Harry’s show in March. Definitely, definitely not if it becomes public knowledge that Harry is staying in Louis’ flat. Not that that there would ever be a reason for that kind of information to become public, but still.

It’s a bit silly, the whole shipping thing, both with him and Louis, and with him and Nick, and with Nick and Louis, because he knows none of it is true. And, like, it’s one thing if people are just thinking they’re cute together, but it’s a bit strange when people genuinely think he’s in a relationship with his mates. It’s strange when fans believe the tabloids and the stunts as well, mostly because he doesn’t understand how it doesn’t shine out of him like a beacon how positively gay he just is, and yet all he has to do is breathe in their vicinity of a girl for all of the world to think they’re shagging. He doesn’t get it; he’s a terrible actor, faking attraction is not his strong suit.

When Manchester United scores the last goal of the game in injury time with an assist by Louis, Harry leaps up from his chair along with the rest of the stadium, and it’s glorious. It’s pure adrenaline and happiness, and he’s actually quite happy that Louis isn’t next to him, because he kind of thinks he might have kissed him then. So.

He’s barely had time to properly appreciate the victory, watching as the players pile on top of each other on the grass, Louis lost somewhere in the tangle of limbs, before he’s being prodded on his shoulder. Mentally preparing himself for yet another fan, he comes face to face with a blond, jovial looking man at about Harry’s own age.

“Hi there, mate,” the lad says, Irish accent clear. “I’m Niall, Louis sent me here to get ya. You can meet him outside the changing rooms. It doesn’t usually take him that long to shower, and I bet it’s gonna take you a while to make your way through all the people, eh?”

Slightly overwhelmed Harry stays quiet for a few moments trying to digest everything he’s just been told, trying to make sense of who, and what, and why, and where.

“Wait,” he says suddenly, when realisation hits him. “Niall, right? You’re Louis’ agent. You were supposed to meet up with him at that after party I met him at.”

“Right you are.” Niall grins, like Harry’s just a little bit slow on the uptake. Maybe he is. “Me and Babs had some pressing matters to attend to suddenly, and Tommo was taking ages to arrive, so...” he shrugs like ‘what can you do’ and widens his grin. “Worked out though, didn’t it? Met you and all. I don’t think he’s complaining.”

Harry shrugs like Niall’s words aren’t affecting him at all, when in reality it’s like an orchestra has started playing inside his chest. “I’m not complaining either.” He grins, going for nonchalant, and, well, probably failing. “Heard a lot about you actually,” he says, changing the subject. “From both Louis and Barbara.”

“Oh, yeah, that’s right,” Niall says, as he gestures for Harry to start walking, “I forgot you know B. I feel like I should make a disclaimer that everything Louis has said is probably a crock of shit.”

“He’s only said nice things actually,” Harry laughs. “Barbara too. They’ve painted you as a great person.”

Niall stuffs his hands in his pockets and shrugs his shoulders, though he seems unable to keep the gigantic smile off his face. Harry’s getting good vibes from the man already, and it warms his heart to know that it’s people like Niall who are closest to Louis. It seems like Louis has a knack for choosing his friends, unlike Harry who’s had some questionable acquaintances over the years.

“Well, in that case,” Niall says. “Every word they’ve said is true.”

Harry laughs genuinely as he walks next to the Irish lad, paying little attention to where they’re going. The inner fanboy in him can’t help but be a little bit overwhelmed by the fact that he’s walking in the parts of Old Trafford normally unavailable to the public, though. It’s perhaps just a little bit cool.

He likes Niall a lot already, and he’s only actually known him for the entirety of about five minutes. He’s the kind of easy-going, genuinely nice guy that would probably get along with just about anyone. Harry kind of already hopes that his friendship with Louis will mean that he gets to spend more time with Niall. It’s clear already that he’s one of those people you just can’t help but be happy to be around. Harry’s fascinated by him already, but in an entirely different way than with Louis. Things with Niall already seem so easy, conversation flowing and it’s just so comfortable. It’s so, so comfortable with Louis too, but it’s also like everything is extra loaded, because by the end of the day Harry knows that deep, deep down, in some perfect world where things worked out as he wanted them to, they would be more than just friends.

He’s not stupid though, he knows that it’s an unrealistic dream, and that’s also why he tries not to humour the fantasy.

Harry’s sexuality isn’t exactly a secret to his friends and family, not even to a substantial part of his fanbase, but it is to the greater public. He doesn’t hide it from the people close to him though, but still he hasn’t told Louis, hasn’t even as much as hinted at it really, though it’s obvious from those few times they’ve discussed it that Louis believes him to be straight. And it’s not that he doesn’t trust Louis, it’s not that he doesn’t think that Louis would be okay with it, it’s just… well, Louis is a football player, and he’s done nothing to make Harry think that he’d share the viewpoint with most of the football world, and Harry’s perfectly aware of how shitty it is of him, but there is a part of him that’s scared that it’s going to change things between them, that it’s going to change the way Louis views him. He doesn’t want Louis to question every touch and every glance Harry sends his way, especially not when Harry himself can’t even sort out how he feels about Louis.

He can’t tell him, because he’s not sure he can look Louis in the eyes and tell him that it’s all just platonic, and he’s especially not sure if he could do that without it being a lie. Truth is, he’d probably be lying and it’s awful. He doesn’t want to have feelings for Louis, wants it all to remain platonic and easy, is so fucking sick of falling for straight guys, for people he can’t have. He wants Louis in his life, whether it be as friends or as more of a minor detail in the grander scheme of things, and he absolutely hates that he fears that something as huge as his sexuality might ruin that.

Perhaps it’s only going to make it all worse, waiting to tell him, but he’s just not ready. He’s just not. So he can only hope that when the time comes where he can’t keep it a secret from the other man anymore, Louis won’t be too pissed about being kept in the dark for so long.

He’s stopped a fair few times while he and Niall walk towards the changing rooms chatting idly, people asking for photographs and autographs, which he gives happily albeit somewhat impatiently. Finally he finds himself outside of the changing room, trying to remain cool while famous footballers keep walking past him. There are also at least a couple of girlfriends and wives  lined up next to him waiting for their significant others. Niall continues the conversation, and Harry is only mildly distracted, keeping a constant eye on the door for when it will open and Louis, rather than one of the other players as it’s been the last three times, will step out.

When it actually happens, Harry is utterly unprepared.

Louis is in soft trackies and an oversized jumper, his hair still wet as it lays flat on top of his head. He looks exhausted and gorgeous, his smile widening as he spots Harry and Niall waiting for him.

“Harry,” he says, grinning brightly, and warmth spreadsg through Harry’s chest. He goes in for a hug before Harry has time to greet him back, so Harry just opens his arms, accepting Louis’ body as he presses in close to him. He winds his arms around Louis’ smaller frame, holding tight for a few seconds more than is probably deemed acceptable, nose pressed into Louis’ wet hair. It smells strongly of apples, the shampoo that Louis must have used, and Harry could probably spend full days just wrapped up in that scent.

“So glad you could come, mate,” Louis continues as he pulls back, smile present as ever on his face.

“Me too,” Harry replies slowly, stuffing his hands into the impossibly tight pockets of his jeans. “Sick game, Lou. You played brilliantly. That last assist was beautiful.”

Louis lets out a genuine laugh, loud and clear. “Thank you. I should get you to come to my games every time, H, you’re great for my ego.”

Harry shrugs with a grin. “I aim to please.”

“Well—“ Louis starts, when Niall interrupts with a cough besides him.

“What?” he says dryly, leaning one shoulder against the wall as he watches them interact. “I’m not even worthy of a simple ‘hello’ anymore?”

Shaking his head with yet another laugh, Louis flicks Niall’s snapback so that it moves down to cover his eyes, and grins only wider when Niall lets out an indignant squeal.  

“Some friend you are,” Niall growls in mock-hurt, before turning slightly to address Harry, his body straightening and arm falling to his side. “You better watch out, Harry. When you least expect it, he’s going to ditch you for some hotshot pop star with humongous hair and puppy dog eyes, mark my words.”

“I’ll keep that in mind,” Harry gets out through his grin, pleased by how easily he continues to fit into Louis’ world, and deeply amused by the playfulness in Niall and Louis’ relationship, the ease with which they interact. It’s so, so clear that they are so much more than just employer and employee. First and foremost they’re friends.

“I was thinking about taking Harry out onto the pitch, if he’d like.” Louis tells Niall, his smile softening into something soft and private, the manic energy of his previous grin gone. “You wanna join?”

Niall shakes his head with a smile. “Another time, yeah, mate? B is going to Milano tomorrow for a shoot, so I wanna spend the rest of my evening with her.”

“Of course.” Louis nods, reaching out to shove Niall gently in the shoulder. “What are you still doing here then, you moron?”

Shaking his head exasperatedly, Niall pulls Louis into a tight hug. “Beats me,” he says, as he pulls back, turning slightly and pulling Harry into an equally tight embrace. “I’m outta here, lads. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.”

“Doesn’t really leave out much, does it?” Louis snorts, though the smile is still present on his face.

Niall shakes his hair, laughing, as he turns to Harry. “Nice to meet you, mate,” he says, taking a step backwards without looking to see where he’s going. Had Harry done that, chances are he probably would have ended up flat on his arse somehow. He’s got this uncanny ability to trip over air; it’s truly impressive. “Hope I’ll see you around soon.” Niall says with a smile.

“Yeah, me too.” Harry smiles, giving a small wave. “Say ‘Hi’ to Barbara for me.”

“Will do.” Niall nods, and with a small, ridiculous bow, he’s spinning around and practically bouncing around the corner and out of sight.

For a few seconds Louis and Harry stand next to each other in comfortable silence, before Louis’ words from earlier register to him.

“The pitch?” he questions in awe. “Like, this pitch?”

Louis shrugs and offers a sheepish nod. “If you’d like, yeah.”

“If I’d like? Are you shitting me, I’d love to. Do you think… could we maybe just, like, kick a ball around a bit? Unless you’re too tired, of course—“ he backtracks, suddenly remembering the professional game of footie he’d just spent an hour and a half watching Louis play. “Shit, what am I thinking, of course you don’t wanna play ball now, I—“

“Shut up, Harry,” Louis interrupts him, voice sounding oddly fond, especially in comparison with what he’s said. “We can definitely kick a ball around.”

And so they do.

The pitch is largely empty when they get there, only a few people walking around on the stands, cleaning up the messes people have left behind. Louis greets a few people on their way there, and leaves Harry on the pitch alone for a few minutes while he goes to fetch a ball. It’s incredible, really, a bit of a boyhood dream to actually stand there on Old Trafford’s pitch, and it isn’t hard to imagine how it must be like when the stadium is filled to the brim with people cheering you on.

They start by just kicking the ball back and forth, and Harry is absolutely determined not to suck. He’s going to show Louis that he’s not completely hopeless if it’s the last thing he ever does. Surprisingly he’s doing an okay job. He’s always thought that he had a really good grasp on the technical aspect of footie, an understanding of the game and the tactical stuff, and so he can’t help but keep up a running commentary on today’s game as they’re kicking the ball back and forth between them. Louis seems greatly amused, alternating between donning this humongous smile, and nodding seriously at points Harry makes, offering his own insight every now and then.

Things are going so well up until the point where they actually start playing. It’s like as soon as Harry has to combine kicking the ball with running and aiming and avoiding Louis it all goes a bit shit. Shit as in he ends up sprawled out on the pitch in the least flattering way possible, having ended up on his bum when he went to kick the ball. In his defence, he’d been distracted by a rather fine angle of Louis’ bum, soit’s not exactly like he’s going to use that excuse out loud.

Louis can hardly stop laughing for long enough to ask Harry if he’s alright, but he holds out his hand to help Harry up, which he accepts gratefully.

“Is this the time where I admit that I’m really rather dreadful at football?” Harry asks sheepishly, brushing his hands over his grass-stained jeans once he’s back on his feet.

“Well.” Louis grins, nudging Harry’s shoulder with his own. “Your balance and coordination could probably use some work, but I’m rather impressed by your tactical and technical knowledge.”

“Yeah.” Harry sighs, following it up with a small grin. “With my knowledge and understanding of the game, I feel like I should be a lot better at football. But, I’m not so…”

“Aaw, babes,” Louis coos, slinging his arm around Harry’s waist. “We can’t be good at everything, Mr. International Pop Star.”

Grinning, Harry moves his arm around Louis’ shoulder, squeezing it briefly once. “I don’t know about that, Mr. Youtube.”

“That doesn’t count,” Louis protests through a laugh, as he bends down to pick up the ball, dislodging himself from their half embrace. “For all you know I could be a dreadful singer. Besides, I can’t cook at all, I’m awful at French, and I’ve been told my feet are extraordinarily smelly, so.”

Grinning softly, Harry wipes away a fake tear exaggeratedly. “Are you trying to make me feel better, Lou?”

“No,” Louis protests petulantly, managing to sound scarily accurately like a disgruntled toddler. “Don’t know why you’d get that idea.”

They take Harry’s car, leaving Louis’ in the car park of the stadium, since Harry’ll just drive Louis to his physio appointment tomorrow. The playful banter continues all the way the way back to Louis’ house, and it only takes about fifteen minutes before Louis directs him to turn into a driveway. They stop at the gate, and Louis tells Harry the combination to punch into the keypad, so that they can make their way up to the house. Harry comes to a stop not far from the entrance to the two-story red brick house that must be Louis’ permanent residence. It’s spacious, though not so large that it’d feel too vast and lonely for one person. It’s a family home, though - the kind you’d expect to raise kids in - and Harry can’t help but wonder if that was the intention Louis had with it when he purchased it. At any rate, the space has to come in handy with a family as large as Louis’.

The front garden is modest, just a patch of grass with trees (apple, if Harry had to guess), and the gravel driveway encasing it. He’d be willing to bet pretty much anything that there’s a humongous garden hidden behind the house, surely big enough for Louis to have his own football pitch.

Harry’s only a little bit jealous. It’s not that he couldn’t afford this kind of housing himself, because of course he could, but he is the kind of person who’d get lonely living here all by himself. Maybe Louis really is too and maybe that’s why he has Bruce after all.

He definitely wouldn’t mind living here with someone else, though. Definitely not.

He whistles slightly as Louis fumbles with his keys, unlocking the front door. “Wow, nice place, mate.”

“Thanks.” Louis smiles softly, as he pushes the door open and is immediately met by an excited cockapoo. Bruce must have heard them arrive and waited on the other side of the door for them to open it. It must be fantastic to get this kind of greeting every time you enter your own home, Harry thinks, and if not for the fact that he spends half the year being on the road, he’d probably have gotten himself a dog or a cat ages ago. As it is, however, he technically hasn’t even got his own home at the moment, and Paul has made it very clear that under no circumstances will Harry ever be allowed to bring an animal with him on tour. Personally he can’t see what harm a little kitten would do on the tour bus, but maybe that’s why he’s technically not in charge of such stuff. Still, it’s a bummer.

Harry bends down next to Louis, waiting for Bruce to move on and greet him. Louis is watching them with this odd fond look on his face when Harry looks up from petting Bruce and meets his eyes. He smiles at Louis, hand scratching Bruce behind the ear, and the smile he receives in return is nearly blinding.

“I have missed you, buddy,” Harry coos, making Bruce bark excitedly, which only prompts Louis to laugh next to Harry.

“Seems like he’s missed you too. I’m feeling quite replacedsuddenly, should I just go away and leave you two to it?”

“Nooo,” Harry whines and bumps his shoulder against Louis’. “Don’t tell him,” he lowers his voice to a whisper before continuing, pressing his lips against the shell of Louis’ ear, “But you’re my favourite.”

He doesn’t think he imagines the soft shudder that goes through Louis’ body at the whisper.

Louis turns his head slightly, and suddenly they’re so close, so close that Harry nearly goes cross-eyed when he tries to maintain eye contact. So close that he could easily lean over and press their lips together. He doesn’t though, of course he doesn’t, because that would be either a sure fire way of ending their friendship or of making sure that Louis would never look at him with anything but pity ever again.

“Likewise,” Louis whispers, as though uttering the word in a normal tone would shatter the tranquillity they’re surrounded by.

Bruce doesn’t seem to have the same reservations as Louis, because he lets out a loud bark, startling both of them, apparently feeling like he’s been ignored long enough.

Harry chuckles nervously as he gives Bruce a last scratch behind his ear before standing up.

“Do you want me to fix you something to eat?” he questions, as Louis gets to his feet next to him.

“Yeah.” Louis nods, sticking his hands into the pockets of his trackies. “Would you mind?”

“Not at all,” Harry assures him, as Louis takes Harry’s duffelbag from his hand.

“I’ll just put this in your room then.” He tips his head slightly towards what Harry assumes is the kitchen. “Kitchen’s in there,” Louis confirms, “Feel free to dig through whatever you want. Make yourself at home, yeah?”

“Absolutely.” Harry grins, already making his way towards the kitchen, Bruce following behind him.

He falls a little bit more in love with Louis’ house when he actually enters the kitchen and finds it stocked with state-of-the-art appliances, most of which Harry reckons Louis has never even used.

He digs through a couple of cabinets and Louis’ fridge, coming up with some chicken breasts and some different vegetables and brown rice, which he sets about fixing into a very late dinner. It’s all so blissfully domestic when Louis comes into the kitchen and turns on the radio, wordlessly getting out a second knife and cutting-board and waiting for Harry’s instruction on how to cut the vegetables. It doesn’t take long before they have two steaming plates in front of them, and they carry them into the living room, bypassing the huge dinner table and going straight for the sofa. Louis flicks on the TV and goes through the channels until he settles on an old episode of How I Met Your Mother, before turning to Harry with a raised eyebrow.

“This okay?” he inquires, though he’s already putting away the remote, and leaning back into the cushions as though he just expects that Harry doesn’t mind.

“I love How I Met Your Mother.” Harry smiles, before shovelling forkful of rice and greens into his mouth. He’s more hungry than he’d thought, stomach suddenly on the brink of actually rumbling. One might think he’d been the one to just play a professional football match.

“Me too.” Louis grins back, before tucking into his own dinner. “This is delicious, Haz!” he somehow manages to get out through a mouthful of chicken and rice, and in order to avoid spraying his own food everywhere, he smiles with his mouth closed, and makes a thumbs up with the hand holding his fork.

They eat and watch the TV in silence, both of them feeling content just to do so, no need to fill it with constant chatter.

“You know,” Harry muses as he’s finished the last piece of chicken on his plate and Barney’s got what – if his memory serves – is the third slap. “I’ve been to a party with Neil Patrick Harris and his partner once. He’s really great. Well,” he amends, setting his plate on the coffee table in front of them. “You know, they both are, really.”

“That’s wicked.” Louis grins, putting his plate down too. “I love seeing them in magazines. Their kids are adorable. Have you seen the pics of them in their Halloween costumes throughout the years?”

“God, yeah.” Harry smiles, tugging his knees against his chest and snuggling up against the side of the sofa. He’s suddenly feeling a unmistakable sense of relief; it’s as if Louis’ positive reaction to the idea of a homosexual couple, and one with kids no less, has removed a burden from Harry’s shoulders. At least this hopefully means that whenever Harry gets the guts to come clean to Louis, he won’t turn out to be a massive homophobe. Which, well, of course he won’t.

They watch two more episodes while chatting idly about this and that before Louis announces that if he’s ever going to make it to his bed he has to get up now. Harry’s feeling rather fatigued, too, so he bids Louis goodnight after the other man has shown him to the guest bedroom. After having brushed his teeth and changed out of his clothes, Harry falls onto the bed, snuggling up amongst crisp cool sheets which smell comfortably of something characteristically Louis.

He falls asleep the second he’s snuggled properly into the covers.

 

-

 

The next day passes in a blur of LouisLouisLouis until it’s time for Harry to drive back to London. He finds himself wishing that he could just stay for eternity, really. Fuck venues and concerts; fuck albums and fans; fuck song writing and fame. He really, honestly thinks that he could be content living with Louis just outside of Manchester for the rest of his life. Well, he’d probably get a bit bored eventually, especially with Louis running off to play football all the time, so a combination would probably be preferable, but still.

Soon Harry’s twenty-four hours with Louis are over and he’s sitting in Louis’ flat in London once again. The ugly, brown sofa is there, the flat starting to smell like himself and like home, but less and less like Louis. He tries very, very hard to tell himself that he shouldn’t be upset about it.

It’s embarrassing, really. He’s twenty-two years old and he’s acting like a schoolgirl with a crush, pining after someone he can’t have. It’s ridiculous, absolutely ridiculous. Maybe it’s just because Louis is the first person he’s been so wholly and absolutely captivated by. Harry’s always been fascinated by people; he has always loved getting to know new people, hearing their life story, and figuring out what made them who they are, but he’d also always moved on pretty soon after. He’d always flittered from one to the next, absorbing what he could until something new and interesting came along, and that was that. It’s not exactly that he dropped the friends he met, or lost interest in them per se, it’s more that he just had a very large social circle, and who his attention was on shifted all the time. He’d never found anyone, friend or more, who could keep him interested for indefinite amounts of time, not until Louis.

Louis whom he clicked so effortlessly with, whom he entered a friendship with such instant familiarity that it feels as though every day they’ve known each other ought to count as a year. Louis who is a conundrum like no other, who is simultaneously an open book, available for Harry to leaf through as it pleases him, but still a mystery like no other. Harry feels like he knows Louis, and yet at the same time there’s something about him that suggests that he’s constantly holding back, that there’s something he’s not telling Harry. Harry really ought not to judge, considering the fact that he’s hiding arguably one of the biggest parts of himself from Louis. Regardless though, it feels as though he could know every single miniscule detail about Louis and still never, ever grow bored of him.

He is one of those people whom Harry to just kind of sit and admire what’s like. And Harry could do so all day. All of his life, probably, too, if given the chance.

So maybe it presented a bit as juvenile infatuation currently, maybe this was the teenage crush Harry’d sort of been robbed off due to showbiz and what not. He’s pretty sure it’ll wear off eventually.

Pretty sure.

 

-

 

Over the next month, Harry sees Louis four times and talks to him just about every day. Before he knows it, he’s packed up all the stuff he’s managed to accumulate at Louis’ flat, putting some stuff in a storage room and the rest in two huge suitcases.

He plays three sold out shows in London, officially kick-starting the world wide tour for his second album, before getting aboard the tour bus and heading for the next venue.

 

-

 

It’s in the end of March when Harry has two concerts in Manchester, and Louis has been looking  forward to it an embarrassing amount of time. Harry’s attended two of his games since that first one - one in Manchester, and the other when they were playing Chelsea in London - but Louis has yet to see Harry on his home turf. He’s got tickets for both of the shows, the last ones in England before Harry flies to Ireland to play three shows and then onwards to Sweden. After that it’s the rest of Europe, then a small break, America, yet another short break, and then Australia at last. All in all what it means is that Harry will be jet-setting for the better part of seven months.

Seven months.

Louis is happy for him, he really is. The amount of success Harry has is almost hard to comprehend, but the impressive spread of his tour paints a pretty good picture of it. He’s happy for Harry, he really, really is, but he’s maybe also a bit more upset about the Harry-shaped hole that will be left in his life than he really has a right to be.

It’s ridiculous too, because it’s not like he has any claim on Harry or any right to claim his company. He can miss him, of course, and he will miss him, just like he’s sure all of Harry other friends and family will. There’s not technically anything that makes him more special than the rest of them.

He feels special though, and honestly that’s probably just down to Harry’s ability to make anyone feel like they’re the centre of his universe, but still. Harry’s going to miss him more than he should miss someone he’s only known for a few months. It’s a bit ridiculous and a lot stupid how close he feels to him.

There’s hardly a day where they don’t interact in some way though, and the stupid crush that he has so persistently tried to eradicate, has only grown bigger and stronger, until it feels like it has taken over every pore of his being, coats every cell in his body. He thought getting to know Harry, becoming his friend, would make it stop; he had thought that it would put a stop to the silly infatuation, but really it’s only turned it into something so much more real. Into proper feelings, and it sucks.

He’s not exactly accustomed to not getting what he wants, not since he joined Manchester United and became successful footballer. It’s probably karma to be fair, here to get him and show him that he can’t have everything he points to. Money doesn’t buy happiness, isn’t that what they say? Fame certainly doesn’t buy it either.

It makes it sound much worse than it is though, because Louis is happy with his life, is so, so very happy. That doesn’t mean he couldn’t be happier though, should a certain Harry Styles decide to play for the other team, maybe even take an interest in Louis specifically. It’s those kinds of delusional dreams he needs to get rid of though, because they’re serving no purpose in terms of getting him over Harry after all, which is Louis’ ultimate goal.

“Lou,” Harry’s voice interrupts his thoughts from somewhere behind him. He’d been sitting on an uncomfortable sofa in a dressing room for some ten minutes, waiting for Harry to get back from soundcheck. It had been Harry’s tour manager Paul who’d led him here when Louis had arrived, and told him that Harry would be along as soon as possible. Somehow Louis had lost track of the time, completely caught up in his thoughts.

“Harry,” he breathes, getting up from the couch, voice sounding embarrassingly airy. They fall into a tight embrace, sinking into each other like they’ve been separated for years and the other just returned from war. Reality is a lot less dire, and yet their reaction is no less intense. Louis clutches Harry close and breathes in his smell, because somehow everything is better when Harry is close, body solid and warm, comforting. “Jesus, mate,” Louis half whispers, half says. “I’ve missed you.”

“Me too,” Harry agrees, lips somehow pressed against Louis’ neck. The position cannot be comfortable for him due to their height differences. “God, me too.”

Louis kind of wants to stay in Harry’s embrace for the rest of his life. And sure, yeah, they’re both tactile people, even more so when together, but still, he doubts that’s normal. Very, very much doubts so.

Finally they separate and sit down on the sofa, Harry telling him a funny story from soundcheck involving his drummer, Josh, and a banana peel. Louis is partly paying attention, partly distracted by the way Harry’s curls peek out under his purple patterned headscarf and the way his biceps are unfairly displayed in his white tank top. It’s not that he isn’t listening to Harry, it’s not that he isn’t participating in the conversation, it’s just that he’s a little bit distracted. Clearly Harry wasn’t  thinking about Louis’ general survival and well-being when he dressed this morning.

There’s a sudden change in Harry’s demeanour then, and that more than the culmination of the banana peel story, pulls Louis’ attention completely back to the present.

“Louis,” he says quietly, the use of Louis’ full name rather than the ‘Lou’ Harry’s found himself so fond of recently alarming enough in itself, even without the accompanying tone of someone about to deliver bad news. Harry seems to have shrunken slightly, his arms around his stomach. “There’s something, well,” he coughs awkwardly, “Uh, well. There’s something I think you should probably know. About me, I mean. Something about me you should know. Yeah, uh, well, shit. Uh… I really should have let you know from the beginning, I don’t know why I hid it, I mean, it isn’t something I should have to hide, but I do… have to, I mean. But. Shit. Lou, I—“

“What--” Louis interrupts him, reaching out and taking one of his hands in his, squeezing it tight. “What the fuck are you trying to say, love?” Shaking his head slightly, so confused and also a little bit endeared, he squeezes Harry’s hand again, running his thumb soothingly over the knuckles. “Take a deep breath, yeah, sweetheart?”

“I’m gay,” Harry blurts out, and then immediately tears his hand from Louis’ grip and covers his mouth as though he’s as shocked as Louis is over the words that just spilled from his lips.

It takes Louis several moments to register what Harry just said, several moments for it to sink in, and it’s not until Harry visibly shrinks even further, as though he’s hoping to be able to melt into the sofa, blend into the fabric until he’s no longer visible, that Louis gathers his bearing enough to understand what just happened.

Harry is gay.

Harry is gay, is into men, could possibly be into Louis. Fuck.

Hope soars through his chest, burns bright in his heart, and for a second he feels warm all over until he realises that he still hasn’t outwardly reacted to Harry’s confession, that for all Harry knows, Louis could be disgusted with him right now. God, no, nothing could be further from the truth.

He pulls Harry into an embrace with little finesse, clutching him close, thumbs digging into his back, and it only takes a few stretching moments before Harry responds, sags into Louis’ arms and clutches him tightly back.

“Shit, Haz,” he murmurs into Harry’s headscarf, a few stray curls tickling his nostrils but he ignores them. “Shit, shit, shit, Haz. You can’t just drop something like that on me.”

“Sorry,” Harry murmurs, his voice muffled by Louis’ shoulder, which feels suspiciously damp. “Shit, I’m sorry I’m such a mess. I haven’t had an emotional coming out like this since I came out to my mum when I was sixteen. Shit, dunno why this was so hard for me, why I couldn’t tell you earlier. I guess I was scared it was going to change things for you, I don’t know—“

”What?” Louis asks, stunned, pulling back enough to look Harry in the eyes. He’s not quite sure what he’s feeling, offended or hurt, or maybe some mixture in between. “You thought I wouldn’t be okay with it? I—what—Haz. Fuck. I can’t believe you thought I’d… what? Treat you differently? Stop being your friend? Sell you out to the first tabloid?”

“No,” Harry protests, seeming mortified by Louis’ words, “Lou, no, not at all—“

I’m gay too, Harry,” Louis interrupts him, confessing before he even has time to contemplate what he’s doing. “I’m gay.” He repeats, softer this time, because saying it out loud somehow feels as though he’s removing a stone from his heart.

The silence that follows is deafening and seems to stretch on and on for ages.

“You’re gay?” Harry finally questions, voice quiet, seeming more shocked than Louis really thinks the situation warrants. It’s not like Louis has slept with any of girls since getting to know Harry, it’s not like he’s slept with any girls ever. And it’s not exactly like he’s been going above and beyond to hide the more flamboyant parts of his personality either when they were alone.

On the other hand Harry’s admission is a total shock to him too, so he guesses it makes sense that his is to Harry as well. In retrospect it seems so obvious that Harry’s into men; his constant denials of the rumours surrounding him and girls, how uncomfortable he looked whenever Louis brought it up in any way, not to mention his wonderfully camp personality. Louis had always just thought that Harry was really comfortable with who he was. It’s embarrassing, really, is what it is, the way he’s been deceived by the media, led to believe that Harry was a womaniser, especially since he knows perfectly well how much untrue shit the media prints on a daily basis.

“Yeah,” he settles on saying eventually, almost shocked that the earlier admission had slipped out so easily. On the other hand, he isn’t at all. It’s always been easy to talk to Harry. Still, he can count the number of people he’s confessed his sexuality to on one hand, so it feels like it should feel like a much bigger deal than it does.

“Oh,” Harry says, voice slow like he’s still trying to digest the news, “I… I didn’t know.”

Louis shrugs. “No one really knows.”

“No one?”

“My mum and Lottie, Niall, Barbara, my mate Stan--that’s about it, really.”

“Oh.” It seems like it’s all Harry can say, like the shock has settled in his bones and rendered him speechless.

“Yeah,” Louis echoes. “Oh.”

“I…” Harry trails off. “I don’t—God, this definitely wasn’t how I expected this conversation to go.” He chuckles nervously, like he isn’t quite sure of how to act now that they’ve got it all out in the open. Louis can sympathise.

“What did you expect to happen?” he questions with a raised brow, “Did you really think I’d yell at you? Cut all ties—“

“What? Lou, no!” Harry protests, but Louis is on a roll, speaks before Harry has a chance to utter much more.

“Seriously, Haz,” he says exasperatedly. “Have I given you any reason to believe I wouldn’t be okay with it? Did you think I was some homophobic pig?”

“No, no, I didn’t,” Harry protests, reaching out to take Louis’ hand between his larger ones . “I didn’t. You’re literally the kindest most compassionate man I know, and if these two months getting to know you are any indication, you’re also acceptable, and loving, and wonderful. It’s just… do you remember when we met in that toilet? Like… we were talking about ships, remember? And when you talked about people shipping you and Nick you made this face like the possibility was just disgusting to you, and—like, I guess I’ve been trying to unite that version of you with the one I’ve gotten to know over the past few months, and like the majority of me was like, you know, ‘there’s nothing to worry about’, but then the other part of me just remembered that face, and—“

“Harry,” Louis interrupts, slightly stunned and with an inappropriate amount of want to break into chuckles over how ridiculous it all is. “God, Haz.” He moves to pull Harry into a tighter hug, the younger man melting into it easily. “God, no, baby. It was just like… you know me and Nick, the two of us in a relationship would be a disaster. It would be the most dysfunctional, volatile relationship imaginable. That’s what I was reacting to, not the fact that he’s a man.”

Harry giggles into his shoulder, not loosening his grip on Louis in the slightest. “You really would be a catastrophe together.”

“Tell me about it.” Louis presses his smile into Harry’s neck, feeling light all of a sudden, like there’s no longer any barriers between them, like for the first time he has all of Harry, every little part of him in his arms. “I’m sorry I made you feel like you couldn’t be honest with me.”

“Not your fault,” Harry whispers, “Just a stupid misunderstanding.” He pulls back slightly then, but only enough to create enough distance between them to be able to lean his head on Louis’ shoulder. “But why didn’t you tell me?”

“I don’t tell anyone,” Louis says, “If it got out… it would destroy my career, Harry. It’d be professional suicide for someone of my calibre to come out. So… I guess it’s always just seemed safer the less people who knew the truth.”

“I won’t say anything,” Harry promises, clasping Louis’ hand and squeezing tight, like he’s trying to assure Louis of how sincere he is.

Louis doesn’t doubt him at all.

 

-

 

Something shifts in not time after their confessions. Something so small that it’s almost undetectable, but in the end everything is undeniably different. It’s like every little touch burns hotter, every glance is more significant, every word more powerful. Louis can’t explain it, can’t for the life of him explain it, but it feels as though everything has simultaneously changed and remained the same.

It’s scary and exhilarating all at once.

And it’s not like… two gay men can be friends without fucking. Himself and Grimmy case in point. Harry and Grimmy case in point. It’s entirely possible – probable even. But the thing is… now that everything is in the clear, well, two gay men can be just friends, but he’s not sure he and Harry can be.

The thing is, now that he knows that Harry isn’t straight, it’s as if every non-platonic feeling he’s been trying to repress over the past couple of months are bubbling to the surface, and he can’t help but wonder if maybe Harry’s feeling the same. It really, really feels like it’s mutual, they just haven’t discussed it yet.

Harry’s leaving in only an hour or so, though, taking an aeroplane to Dublin right after his concert because he’s got a radio interview in the morning. He’s leaving, and he’s going to be away for seven months. It’s not exactly what one would consider a solid foundation for a new relationship. And any relationship between the two of them, even if Harry was staying put in London, would be so incredibly complicated. They’re both high profile, and any romantic relationship they were to pursue would have to be thoroughly hidden.

It would be worth it with Harry, he’s pretty sure. So, so worth it. But this is still no time to start a relationship, right before Harry leaves for months on end. Standing here watching Harry on stage, his presence filling the entire arena, Louis feels quite content waiting, trusting in fate to bring them together if that’s what’s destined. He’s a big believer in fate, after all.

It’s mesmerising seeing Harry perform, his very being so, so captivating, and his voice moving something deep within Louis. He very much identifies with the screaming girls in the arena.

It’s like his heart skips a beat every time Harry looks his way, and though he knows it’s probably not on purpose and just a coincidence, because even though Louis isn’t technically standing amongst the fans, surely Harry can’t find him in the sea of people here. Still, every time he sings a particularly poignant lyric in Louis’ direction, Louis’ heart soars, and his stomach swoons.

He’s never felt the words ‘you’re all I want, so much it’s hurting’ so strongly before, not even when his contract with Manchester United was being negotiated home and he was literally teetering on the brink of achieving his childhood dream. Harry  is truly something special.

When Harry finishes his set, Louis moves backstage again, embarrassingly desperate to get as many minutes with Harry as possible before he leaves. Louis finds Harry sweating and grinning in his changing room, a couple of people swarming around him, making sure his in-ears and microphone gets put away properly, and that he knows what’s to happen now. They’ve got a tight schedule, Louis knows, especially since the concert ran late, and there’s barely more than ten minutes before Harry has to be in the car.

As though they know he and Harry will want privacy, Harry’s staff scatters as Louis makes his way into the room, Paul calling out a ‘Be in the car in ten minutes’ to Harry before closing the door behind him.

“You did great, love.” He says, smiling as he steps closer to Harry. “Even better than last night, and I hadn’t thought that would be possible.”

“Thank you, Lou,” Harry replies sincerely, as though Louis’ praise is the best he can get. “I’m glad you were here.”

“Me too.” He takes yet another step closer to Harry until they’re only a foot or two apart. The air seems charged with something undefinable. The air is cracking around them as though it’s letting them know that this is one of those nights to remember, like it’s saying ‘hey, this, right now, this is where your life changes’.

“So,” he shrugs nonchalantly, “Seven months, eh?”

“I’ll have breaks every now and then,” Harry points out, taking the smallest step closer to Louis.

“Still,” he maintains. “Seven months.”

“I’m gonna miss you,” Harry says quietly after a moment’s silence, the magnitude of the situation slowly sinking in. It’s like everything is too big for this moment, like nothing can be contained and everything is just preparing for explosion. Like it’s going to blow up like a supernova and change the very composition of Earth or at the very least change everything about Louis’ life.

“I’ll miss you too,” he promises, “So much.”He stares into Harry’s eyes for what feels like hours, though he’s pretty sure it’s only ten seconds at most, trying to read the other lad, trying to figure out if they’re on the same page. Harry doesn’t say anything back, doesn’t even look like he actually could if he wanted to. He tightens his grip on Louis, looking emotional, almost like he’s on the verge of tears. He looks how Louis feels; a little bit desperate, a lot overwhelmed. Emotional.

Finally, Louis leans forward, pressing his lips against Harry’s with only a light pressure, the kiss chaste and innocent. But still his lips tingle and it’s almost like he can feel it all the way down into his toes. His heart is beating a million beats a minute, one hand resting gently on Harry’s cheek, only his fingertips making contact with Harry’s skin.

He pulls back before Harry even really has time to respond, looking up at him nervously, because as much as he feels like they’ve been dancing around this very moment probably since the day they met, he could still have misread Harry’s signals. He doesn’t think he has, but nonetheless the doubt linger in the back of his mind.

“Goodbye, Harry,” he says into the stunned silence from Harry, once he’s found his voice. He makes to take a step back but is stopped by Harry’s hand around his wrist, looping all the way around it with laughable ease.

“Goodbye, Lou,” he murmurs, eyes flicking between Louis’ lips and eyes for just a moment before bending down slightly and kissing Louis.

“I should really go,” Harry says quietly when he pulls back, only seconds after having connected their lips. The hand that had previously held Louis’ wrist now tangled with Louis’ hand.

“Yeah,” Louis nods, before pulling Harry into a tight hug. “Take care, okay? Don’t let any of those Americans lure you into settling down over there.”

“Promise,” Harry murmurs into Louis’ neck, kissing the spot where his neck meets his collarbone before pulling back. With a squeeze of Louis’ hand and a small wave he’s gone.

 

-

 

 

Louis is teetering at that place between being awake and asleep a day later, when he gets a text from Harry.

‘I miss you already. xx’

They should really talk about this thing they seem to have nonverbally entered into. They really, really should.

They don’t.

 

-

 

March turns to April and April to May.

Harry spends his brief break between the European and American legs of his tour writing songs and sipping strawberry daiquiris under the Californian sun, getting visits from his mum, stepdad and Gemma. Even Zayn flies down in between shoots, taking Perrie with him on a surprise vacation.

Harry doesn’t see Louis even once.

He talks to him nearly every day though, either through texts or skype or tweets. Once he even woke up to an email from Louis containing a sound file consisting of him singing Look After You by The Fray. His voice at eighteen had been phenomenal, rough but with so, so much talent and potential. Harry can only imagine how Louis must sound like now, and he spends a few embarrassing days penning duets he daydreams about recording with Louis. Clearly it will never happen, but a boy can dream, right? Maybe he could convince Louis at some point to record one of them with him just for fun. It would probably take all the persuasion Harry could ever muster, but it would also probably be so very, very worth it.

Before he knows it, it’s noon and he’s eating a leftover slice of pizza while streaming Manchester United’s last game of the season. They’ve technically already won the Premier League and are four points ahead of Liverpool who’s in second place, but Harry’s been watching every game since he left England and he’s not about to stop now. Besides, he loves footie, and just because they’ve won the season doesn’t mean they’ve won the game yet, and Harry really, really wants Louis and his team to do well, so...

There’s only five minutes left of the game and then injury time, Louis having scored the game’s only goal so far. Harry never knew ace footie skills were a turn on for him, but they definitely are. He sees the way Louis’ thighs flex as he kicks the ball, looking smooth and strong even through the lagging, shitty version that’s the only one he could find online, and all he can think about is how it would feel to have those same thighs wrapped around his head or his hips.

Things between them since their kiss have been… well, not exactly weird, just different. They’re flirting now, there’s no denying that, and it feels like they’re constantly texting. Harry’s friends here tease him at least twice a day over how glued to his phone he is, but he can’t help it, the phone’s his most direct line to Louis after all. They tease him about the look on his face he gets whenever he’s reading or replying to a text from Louis. He can’t help it, though, can’t control his automatic facial expressions anymore than he can control the flutter of his heart.

Luckily, Harry thinks him and Louis are on the same page too, the ‘hey, we really, really like each other, but it’s all pretty bad timing and circumstances right now, but there’s definitely something here’-page. It’s not the best of pages, but it’s a lot better than the one where they’d each thought the other was straight.

They haven’t actually talked about it all yet, but he doesn’t really feel like it’s necessary either. He likes Louis, likes him so, so much. Probably, more than likes him, though that part is a bit scary. He can see a future with Louis. Everything he’s wanted all these years, he can imagine having with Louis, as cheesy as it sounds. And, well, if he has to wait some time before that can become reality, well, that’s really more than worth it, he thinks.

So much more than worth it.

Luckily, the game ends with a victory shout from Harry and a 1-0 score to Manchester United. He’s feeling pretty darn good, though he wishes he had Louis next to him so he could congratulate him in person. He guesses twitter will have to do. He types up a quick tweet before attaching a photo Niall had snapped of him and Louis backstage after Harry’s first Manchester show. He’d had Niall send it to him, and it may or may not have made it as the home screen of his phone.

 

 

 

-

 

He’s tanning by the, passing time before he’s got a dinner date with a friend. His afternoon has been spent just lounging outside, scribbling a lyric or two in his notebook whenever inspiration strikes him. He tweeted the message and texted Louis too, but he’s heard nothing in return. Harry knows Louis must be out partying, the ban on alcohol being lifted for a short while during their break, and they deserve to celebrate.

So, needless to say, he’s not expecting it when his phone rings.

When he sees Louis’ name on his phone display, it feels like a swarm of butterflies have suddenly taken up permanent residence in his belly. He swipes to the right to accept the call, bringing it up against his ear.

“You’re up late,” he opens with, scratching at his bare hip with his free hand.

“Wanted to talk to you before I went to sleep,” he hears Louis say on the other end, voice slightly gruff and words slower than usual, as though he’s just on the brink of falling asleep. It’s probably been a long day for him, Harry thinks. “Saw your tweet. Thank you. You watched the game?”

“Of course, yeah.” Harry nods, even though Louis won’t be able to see. “Not quite the same as seeing it live, but better than nothing.”

“Would have been neat if you could have been here,” Louis agrees, “Though I suppose being under the LA sun surrounded by beautiful people isn’t too shabby either.”

“I wish you were here with me,” Harry sighs into the phone, a dull ache throbbing in his chest already. He misses Louis, misses him just so, so much.

“Well,” Louis says in the same wistful tone, “If wishes were horses then pigs could fly, dear Harold.”

Harry’s quiet for a moment, digesting what Louis just said, before bursting into laughter. “I don’t think that’s how it goes, Lou. Isn’t it ‘if wishes were horses then beggars could fly?’”

“Oh,” Louis utters, sounding like someone just explained the theory behind quantum physics in a simple way that made sense to him. “That… that really makes so much more sense. I always wondered about that saying, because it’s so strange, right? I mean… yeah, wow.”

“Glad to be of service.” Harry laughs quietly into the phone, free hand reaching down just above the waistband of his short trunks, scratching at the coarse hair going from his navel to his groin.

“God,” Louis sighs, words slightly muddled, as he changes the subject, “I’m so hot, there’s a proper heatwave happening here in England.”

“Well,” Harry grins, voice teasing, “Maybe you should take off some of your clothes. What are you wearing?”

“Really, Harold, are you serious?”

“Come on,” Harry laughs again, “Why not?”

“Fine then,” Louis says, smirk suddenly audible in his voice, and Harry hasn’t got a clue what he’s getting himself into, because if Louis is playing him back right now, Harry’s fucked. Not like the bad kind of fucked, but not the really good kind either. Just a kind of satisfying, kind of frustrating in-between.

“I’m wearing nothing.” Louis says.

Harry nearly swallows  his tongue at Louis’ words. “Nothing?” he manages to get out after a small delay.

“Absolutely nothing.”

“Oh,” Harry breathes out, hand desperate to move further down to cup the semi he’s now sporting. It doesn’t seem quite right to do so, not until he’s sure they’re both on the same page though. Honestly he’d only meant it as a bit of a joke, surely hadn’t expected them to start having phone sex, but it does seem like that’s where it’s headed.

“It’s hot here,” Louis says nonchalantly, like talking about how naked he is to Harry is a regular, everyday occurrence. “I don’t sleep very well when I’m too hot.”

“You’re in bed?” Harry questions quietly, the hand not holding his phone now twisted in the towel he’s resting on.

“Uh-huh,” Louis hums in confirmation. “How about you, babe? What are you doing?”

“Tanning,” Harry breathes out, “By the pool.”

“Do you tan naked?” Louis asks then, voice coy, and just, shit, if he isn’t just the biggest fucking tease. Surely he must know what he’s doing to Harry.

“No,” Harry admits, hand trailing the waistband of his trunks.

“I do,” Louis says easily, proper tease that he’s being.

Louis,” Harry half whines, half moans.

“What?” Louis asks innocently, “Are you imagining me next to you? Tanning naked by the pool with you? Would you be naked if I were there with you, Harry?”

“Louis,” Harry gasps out again, “Fuck, Lou, please.”

“Are you touching yourself, Haz?” Louis asks, voice soft. “You can, you know.”

And it’s really all the permission Harry needs before he shucks down his trunks to mid-thigh and gets his hand on his now fully hard cock. “God, Lou,” he moans uninhibited as he thumbs over the slit, collecting the precome spilling out and smearing it down his shaft as he moves his hand.

“Feels good?” Louis grunts, and something in his voice tells Harry that he’s probably got his hand on his own dick. Just imagining it makes Harry moan out again, his hand working a rhythm as he pumps his own cock. “God, I wish I could see you right now.”

“What—What would you do?” Harry gasps, hand squeezing around the base of his cock in hope to regain some sort of coherent brain function. It’s not very effective. “What would you do if you were here?”

“I’d…” Louis hesitates, a small whimper sounding from his end, “I’d kiss you first. Proper kiss you, like, not just like when we said goodbye. I’d run my tongue over your bottom lip until you opened your mouth for me, and I’d kiss you until we had to stop to breathe, and I’d trail my lips over your jaw and down your neck, I’d suck a mark into your neck— would you like that?” he asks abruptly upon hearing Harry’s moan.

“Yes,” Harry admits, hand now massaging his balls as he listens to Louis’ velvet voice. “Yes, very much, please.”

“Like being marked up, do you? What a naughty one you are, Harry. Do you like your nipples played with too?” Louis pauses just long enough for Harry to hiss out a ‘yes’ before continuing, “I’d play with all four of them then,--you’ve got four, right, love?”

“How do you know?” Harry gasps, having abandoned his cock to play with his nipples. This is the closest he’s gotten to having sex with someone in months. He’s maybe just a little bit sensitive.

“There are a lot of pictures of you shirtless out there, baby,” Louis replies simply, and the very thought of Louis having googled pictures of him shirtless makes another round of precome leak from Harry’s heavy dick. “Is your cock feeling neglected by now, though? Should I trail further down, leave exploring your body completely to a time where you aren’t so desperate for me—“

“Always gonna be desperate for you,” Harry interrupts, brain-to-mouth filter gone, everything passing through his lips painfully honest.

“I’d take your dick in my mouth,” Louis continues, ignoring Harry’s interruption, “Just the head at first, getting a sense of how you taste… I bet you taste sweet, don’t you? What with all those bananas you’re deep-throating on stage. I bet you taste fantastic. It wouldn’t take much would it, Haz? You close? If I just bobbed my head a few times, if I took in your cock as far as I could, would that be enough? Would you come then, Harry?”

“Fuck,” Harry whines, hand working up and down his member, “Yes, God, ‘m so close, Lou, so close, ah—“

“Then come.” Louis interrupts, and it’s like… it’s almost an order.

Harry comes.

He’s not sure what he babbles in the moments that his cock pulses come up his torso, only faintly registers that Louis must have come too based on the long drawn-out moan Harry can hear. Silence follows then, only interrupted by both of their heavy breathing.

“Shit,” he finally says when his breathing has returned to normal and his heart has slowed down. One hand is still clutching the phone in the same position as he’s had it in since he accepted Louis’ call, the other is resting on his stomach covered in come.

“Shit,” Louis echoes before bursting into the sweetest sounding giggles. “Fuck, I can’t believe we just did that.”

“And you’ve never even kissed me proper, Tomlinson,” Harry mock-pouts, “I feel cheap.”

“Sorry, love,” Louis yawns, “You’re golden. I’d cuddle you right up and kiss you goodnight if I were with you right now, I promise.”

“Hmm,” Harry hums, “That’d be nice. You must be tired, love.”

“Exhausted,” Louis admits, and Harry can only imagine how his eyelids must be dropping now.

“You should get some sleep, mate,” Harry says then, mentally cringing at his own use of the term. How awkward after they’ve just had phone sex.

“Yeah,” Louis breathes, voice already sounding further away. “Goodnight, Harry. Talk to you soon, yeah?”

“Definitely,” he confirms, “Sweet dreams, Lou.”

 

-

 

He doesn’t hear from Louis the next day. Or the next.

Then it’s time for his first show of the American leg of the tour, and he packs up his stuff before getting on a private plane to Miami.

Louis’ probably just busy, so no use fretting over the lack of contact. Right.

 

-

 

He forgets all his troubles momentarily when he’s on stage again, revelling in how at home it feels, how much he’s missed the screams and the loud music behind him, how much he’s missed performing.

He’s sweaty and exhilarated after the encore, buzzing with adrenaline and thinking of maybe giving Louis a call. He needs to man up and be the one to do the calling, especially now that he’s got a bit more courage pumped into his veins, courtesy of twelve thousand people screaming his name. Louis might have been the one to say they’d talk soon, but it’s ridiculous of him to assume that would also mean that Louis would be the one calling. That the other lad has left all of Harry’s texts unanswered is another thing entirely, but he’ll yell at Louis a bit for that when he hopefully picks up, and that’ll be that. Yes.

It turns out, though, that it probably won’t even be necessary to pick up his phone, because when he enters his dressing room, one Louis Tomlinson is sitting in his sofa.

He stands up when Harry enters, a look of trepidation on his face. Harry stops mid stride, half way into the room, staring at Louis wordlessly for several moments as if to make sure he’s not just a figment of his imagination. He could, like, have a brain tumour or something, and be imagining Louis there like Izzie had with Denny in the season of Grey’s Anatomy he’s just finished watching. Like, probably not, but still.

Upon seeing Louis’ tentative smile, Harry breaks out of his stupor, stepping further into the room and closing the door firmly behind him.

“Louis,” he breathes, “What are you doing here?”

“Wanted to see you in person.” Louis says. Harry can’t help but gather Louis into his arms, squeezing tighter when Louis mumbles into his shoulder. “ Missed you.”

“Missed you so fucking much,” Harry grunts, not willing to let go of Louis quite yet. They stay like that, clutching each other, for another moment, before Harry finally pulls back. Not by much, granted, but just enough that he can swat playfully at Louis’ shoulder. “You should have said you were coming. I was beginning to think you were avoiding me.”

“Be a bit shit surprise if you knew I was on my way,” Louis points out dryly, pulling back from Harry’s embrace just enough to be able to look him in the eyes.

Harry moves one hand from Louis’ back to cup his cheek, looking Louis in the eye briefly to check it’s alright before pressing their lips together.

This time Louis’ tongue does move to trace along Harry’s bottom lip, and Harry does open up his mouth to him. Kissing Louis is several shades better than he’d ever dreamt it could be, just the perfect amount of lips and teeth and tongue, their lips slotting together like they were made for each other, carved from the same stone, two pieces of a life-changing puzzle.

Harry pulls back when breathing becomes a necessity, but only just far enough to separate their lips. He rests his forehead against Louis’ and keeps his eyes closed for a moment, focussing on their synchronised breathing. He’s got one hand cupping Louis’ neck, the other resting on his hip, and his heart is singing a melody of its own.

“Where are you staying?” he whispers, afraid of speaking too loudly and shattering the moment they’re having.

Louis tugs him into yet another kiss, mumbling words into Harry’s mouth that he’s almost too distracted to make sense of. “Haven’t booked a room.”

“Good,” Harry says against Louis’ lips, unable to focus on anything else properly for long enough to speak properly now that he’s actually had a taste of Louis’ mouth. He pulls back regretfully, to speak and to breathe, wanting also to make sure he’s clear in his next statement, that there’s no room for misinterpretation. “With me then.”

Louis tugs him into another kiss, his one-worded reply nearly getting lost amongst the sounds of their merging lips.

Please.”

 

-

 

When Harry climbs into the car thirty minutes later, Louis is already waiting for him. It took a bit of scheming and a lot of bargaining to get Paul to agree to letting Louis tag along for the next few weeks. But finally everything is in order and he’s ecstatic because he’s going to have Louis here with him for two whole weeks. It’s like Christmas and his birthday and everything good all rolled up into one. It helps, Paul had said, that he and Louis are already good friends in the eyes of the public and media. As long as they keep it matey and platonic in public, it shouldn’t be any problem.

 

-

 

“Oh fuck, Lou.”  Harry gasps as he pulls down Louis’ pants, leaving the other man completely naked on the bed underneath him. “Oh, fuck. Of course you have the nicest fucking dick I’ve ever seen in my life.”

Louis bursts into a laugh, the small shakes taking over his entire body, making his abs flex. He imagines Harry would probably be a bit more appreciative of said fact if he wasn’t currently in the process of trying to look as much like a disgruntled toddler as possible.

“Heeeeyyyy,” Harry protests with a pout, and Louis can do nothing but giggle a bit more over how sweet he looks.

Big mistake.

Next thing he knows, his cock is in Harry’s mouth, the head of it nudging gently against the back of his throat. The laughter dies in his throat in favour of a half moan and half shocked gasp. He’ has not lost himself to pleasure so completely, though, that he’s lost sense of taking care of Harry. He reaches down, and thumbs away some of the tears gathered in the corner of Harry’s eye, as Harry swallows around Louis’ cock.

It feels incredible.

Harry pulls off with an audible ‘pop’ then. “Will you fuck me?” he questions, voice wrecked already, and Louis should feel guilty considering Harry has another concert tomorrow, but all he can think is ‘Harry sounds like that because of me’, and, well, bloody hell.

He pulls Harry up by his hair, kissing him deeply, dirtily, before mumbling into his mouth, “Yes!

It’s their thing, it seems, talking into each other’s mouths, hardly able to separate their lips for long enough periods of time to hold a proper conversation.

“Strip,” he orders as he climbs off the bed, his own dick hanging heavy between his legs. He’s yet to actually see Harry’s, since it’s covered by his pants, but he’s felt it, and if it looks even half as nice as it feels, Louis knows he’s hit cock-jackpot with Harry. It is highly unfair that Louis is naked as the day he was born, while Harry’s still wearing both pants and a ripped-open plaid. It’s only fair that Harry should level the playing field while Louis goes rummaging for lube in his suitcase.

By the time he’s found it and turns his attention back on Harry, the other man is lying on his back, naked, fist lazily pulling off his cock. It looks smooth and pink, pretty, long and thick all at once.

Louis’ mouth waters.

He climbs back onto bed. Leaning over Harry, he bends down to kiss him deeply while he slaps Harry’s hand away from his cock only to replace it with his own.

It feels warm and heavy, solid in his fist. It’s soft almost, skin smooth, not too vein-y. It’s nice, it’s really fucking nice as far as cocks go, and in Louis’ world, cocks can be pretty damn nice. He pumps his hand a few times, just enough to work Harry up even further, thumbing over the slit and collecting the precome there. Pulling back from Harry, he separates their lips with an audible smack, before bringing his thumb to his mouth and sucking Harry’s come off.

Harry’s eyes go wide as he watches Louis’ actions, pupils wide and cock twitching in Louis’ fist.

“Yum,” he grins, releasing Harry’s cock and running both hands up Harry’s sternum, before kissing him chastely once more. “I was right,” he whispers into Harry’s ear, “You do taste sweet.”

“Fuck,” Harry moans, hand moving as though he’s trying to grab his dick, but Louis stops the motion and pins both his hands over his head. It’s slightly ridiculous, because Harry’s definitely got him beat in size, and though Louis is pretty damn strong and has the biceps to prove it, Harry could probably twist out of his hold with only some difficulty. There’s something insanely hot, though, about knowing that Harry could throw off Louis, but he isn’t, he’s letting Louis manhandle him however Louis pleases, and it’s fucking fantastic.

“No touching, love,” Louis chides gently, kissing him one last time before moving off him completely and releasing his wrists. “On your side,” he says then, as he busies himself with coating his fingers with plenty of lube.

Harry scampers to do so quickly, lying with his back to Louis, looking at him over his shoulder, seeming content to just let Louis take control.

Louis lies down sideways too, scooting closer to Harry and pressing a kiss to his bare shoulder as he presses the tip of his finger against Harry’s hole. He doesn’t spend much time teasing him before pressing the first digit in, both of them desperate for it, and he kind of figures these last few months have been foreplay enough. If Harry’s moan is any indication, he agrees.

He works up a rhythm with one finger, spending a bit of time searching for Harry’s prostate, before finding it and making sure that he rubs against it with every movement. He moves up to two fingers, and then three, sucking a mark into the place between Harry’s neck and shoulder while doing so. It’s hopefully low enough to be able to be hidden by a combination of a shirt and Harry’s hair.

“’m ready,” Harry mumbles through a moan shortly after, pushing his hips against Louis’ hand as though despite his request for the opposite, he can’t quite bear the thought of Louis’ fingers leaving him.

Louis pulls his fingers out regardless, kissing the purple mark on Harry’s neck.

“How do you want it?” Louis murmurs as he rips open a condom wrapper, slowly pulling the rubber over his own pulsing dick before coating it thoroughly with lube.

“I don’t care,” Harry gasps, “Like this? Sideways? Doesn’t fucking matter, Lou, I just want you in me.”

If anything, Louis aims to please, so he takes a hold of the top one of Harry’s two legs, manhandling it until it’s bent upwards towards his chest, baring his hole better for Louis to access. He grabs his own cock then, holding it steady as he slowly pushes into Harry.

Granted he hasn’t had sex with anyone else in a very long time, but he’s pretty sure that even if he’d been spending every day since he hit puberty fucking other boys, it would still be an experience out of this world to enter Harry.

He’s hot and tight, and so, so perfect, and when Louis finally bottoms out, he swears he nearly sees stars.

He moves his hips experimentally, allowing Harry to adjust and get used to having Louis inside of him, before starting to thrust in earnest.

The angle’s awkward, and all he can manage is small forceful thrusts, but he hits Harry’s prostate each time and that seems to be enough. Harry’s arse is tight around Louis, the little friction he gets is delicious, and that’s definitely enough for Louis.

“Kiss,” Harry demands through a gasp, turning his head towards Louis. Louis leans down and seals their lips together, which does absolutely nothing good for the angle, but he keeps up his thrusts while they pant into each other’s mouths.

“God,” Harry chokes out, “Louis, fuck. Nearly there, yes, please. Harder—can you—harder.”

Louis pulls back, his cock slipping out of Harry accidentally while he’s pushing at Harry’s shoulder, getting him to lie flat on his stomach, his hard cock caught between his body and the mattress. Louis straddles the back of Harry’s thighs before leading himself into Harry once more, one steady stroke until he’s buried inside Harry’s arse once more.

He settles into a brutal rhythm then, and Harry raises his hips slightly to meet Louis at every thrust, pushing his arse back against Louis and simultaneously creating friction for his cock against the sheets.

It’s not long before Louis feels the familiar pull of an orgasm, and if he’s able to read Harry’s body correctly, if the way he’s squeezing tighter and tighter around Louis is any indication, he’s close too.

“Can you come?” He gasps, teeth scraping along the back of Harry’s neck as their hands tangle and push into the sheet.

“Yes,” Harry nods frantically, head buried in the pillows. “God, yes. Please.”

“Come on then,” Louis urges, rubbing against Harry’s prostate. “Come on.”

And so he does, the way his body spasms around Louis’ cock is enough to make Louis spill into the condom with a shout.

It’s his best orgasm in ages, possibly—probably ever, to be honest, and it takes several moments for him to become coherent enough to pull out of Harry, keeping a hold of the condom before pulling it off and tying it up. He throws it off the side of the bed, not too bothered about whether there’s a rubbish bin in the vicinity or not.

He focuses on Harry instead, removing himself from Harry’s thighs to allow the other man to roll over. He does so slowly, seeming almost stunned, stomach and the sheets beneath him covered in come. Louis leans in to kiss him softly before pulling back, ignoring the grabby hands Harry makes in favour of walking into the bathroom, wetting a flannel to bring back to bed, gently cleaning the come off Harry’s stomach and his softening, sensitive dick.

“Wow,” Harry breathes, as Louis tosses the flannel to the side and contemplates what to do about the big wet patch Harry’s come has left on the sheets.

“Yeah,” Louis agrees with a laugh, thinking ‘fuck the sheets’ as he curls up against Harry, facing him as they lie on the bed, naked but still so comfortable. “Wow is pretty descriptive, pal. Bravo, good job.”

Harry swats his shoulder playfully, before pressing closer to Louis and sealing their lips together once more. “I’m so glad you’re going to be here for the next couple of weeks.” He smiles into the kiss, and Louis’ heartstrings tuck slightly, because fuck, so is he.

Rather than answering with more than a kiss, Louis pulls Harry closer to him, figuring that if they sleep curled up around each other, they can worry about the come stain tomorrow. He drags the sheet over both of them and kisses Harry along his jaw with small pecks while carding a hand through his curls.

“We should maybe talk about this before we do something stupid, yeah?” Louis says, just when it seems like Harry’s about to doze off, as though Louis needs the courage of the night to breach this subject.

“Probably,” Harry agrees, sleep probably long forgotten as he lifts himself up, supporting his weight with his elbow to be able to look at Louis while they talk. “Yeah. We should probably have done that a while ago, to be honest.”

Louis chuckles. “Yeah, guess you’re right. Better late than never though, yeah? Let’s just make sure we’re on the same page.”

Harry shrugs with a soft smile, taking a deep breath before speaking. “I’m falling in love with you,” he admits, keeping his voice as neutral as if he’s just telling Louis how the weather will look tomorrow. “Never planned on it. And, to be honest, it’s pretty damn inconvenient, but I am.”

“Yeah?” Louis questions, thumbing over Harry’s knuckles. Something within him soars, and the other part of him is just so relaxed, so zen, because, really, didn’t he already know? Was there really any doubt that they were both equally, stupidly gone for the other?

“Me too. Falling for you too, I mean.” Louis says then, though he suspects Harry already knows. 

“Good,” Harry says with a grin, shifting closer to Louis. “Is that all or do you think there’s more we need to sort out?”

“I’m not coming out, not any time soon,” Louis tells him then, voice suddenly steely. “I can’t.”

“Me neither,” Harry agrees, “Like, it’s not something I’m proud of, and I wish it could be different, but, yeah, I can’t either. It’d destroy my career. It would destroy both of our careers.”

Louis lifts his head slightly, enough to seal their lips together, and he kisses the frown off Harry’s face. “So you’ll be my secret boyfriend then?” He smiles when he draws back slightly, still so close that they both nearly goes cross-eyed when attempting to look each other in the eyes.

Harry grins, pressing yet another kiss against Louis’ lips, though it’s almost more like clicking teeth from how much they're both smiling, and then simply replies, "Yes." 

Harry goes boneless against him then, lips pressed to Louis’ collarbone and eventually, with his head on Louis’ chest and Louis’ arms around him, Harry drifts off to sleep.

Louis presses his lips against Harry’s curls, breathing in his smell, letting it cloud over his entire consciousness.

“I’m definitely, definitely falling in love with you,” he whispers, clutching Harry’s body before falling asleep.

 

-

 

When they say goodbye to each other in a private airport just outside of New York two weeks later, it’s with identical ‘I love you’s and more kisses than they can count.

It’s only just the beginning.