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~*~*~

Nick is half asleep and half watching the fourth episode of Daredevil on Netflix when someone bangs on his door. He frowns, letting Pig jump off of his lap and run to the door. She’s barking and wagging her tail at the same time, both ready to guard her owner and excited for a possible playmate, Nick’s not sure where he went wrong with her training. He’s also not expecting anyone and strangers have to use the intercom to get in the building, so he suspects it’s either one of his neighbors or a fan has managed to get to his door, and he’s having a lazy Friday night after a long and exhausting work week so neither of those options sound good. The banging doesn’t stop though, so Nick gets up and goes to the door, locking Pig in the kitchen first. 

He opens the door and freezes because the last person he expects to see is Louis Tomlinson. Especially Louis dressed in a gray t-shirt that has too many holes in it and a hoodie that needs a wash, looking like a mess. He’s also drunk, Nick realizes as a breeze of alcohol hits his nose. Nick is so shocked that Louis knows where he lives that for a moment he forgets to move or breathe, hand stuck on a door knob. 

“Is Harry here?” Louis slurs, leaning against the doorframe as to keep the balance and not fall over, and looking over Nick’s shoulder in the apartment. His voice sounds panicky and scared. 

“No,” Nick replies dryly and starts to close the door, but Louis pushes against it. Nick’s sighs. He’s really not in a mood for Louis to pick another fight over Harry spending too much time with Nick, especially if Louis is drunk. Nick’s plans for the night involve cuddling with Pig, Netflix and leftover pizza, but then Louis looks up and Nick realizes he’s been crying. His face is all red and splotchy, eyes red rimmed, puffy and wet. And while a bit of a banter is their thing, Nick’s not really holding a grudge against Louis. It’s actually the opposite, but that thought is hidden in a box labeled “off limit boyfriends of my friends that have shit personalities anyway” far, far away in Nick’s brains and he’s not thinking about it. 

“Can I stay here? He won’t search for me at yours,” Louis looks pleading, and wow, it really is a night of firsts, Nick’s not sure he didn’t fall asleep and this is all a dream. Louis’ wet eyes and mournful face doesn’t make any sense, nor does anything he’s saying. 

“Who? Harry?” Nick asks. 

“Yeah,” Louis confirms and sort of walks, sort of falls past Nick into the hall, apparently assuming that Nick not saying “no” means “yes”. Since Louis is not actually falling face down on hallway carpet, Nick assumes he’s either not as drunk as he looks or is sobering up. He opens his mouth to say something and closes it while Louis clumsily gets rid of his shoes, because he’s a bit speechless here. Louis wants to stay at his place and what, hide from Harry? 

“We broke up,” Louis says, his voice small and teary, since apparently Nick said the last part out loud. 

They broke up. Harry and Louis broke up. Nick is five seconds from fleeing from his own flat because he absolutely refuses to deal with another Harry and Louis break up, and while he’s sort of used to petting Harry’s back and making him ridiculous amounts of camomile tea and honey while the boy cries on Nick’s shoulder, he might actually not survive the apocalypse in a form of sobbing Louis. 

Louis though just quietly asks if Nick has a couch where he can stay, he might be blushing but it’s hard to say since his face is already red and wet. He’s wrapping arms around himself, palms gripping upper arms like anchors and looking anywhere but at Nick’s face. Nick nods and shows Louis the way to his living room. He turns off the TV and moves his laptop and phone off from the couch to his bedroom, gets Louis extra blankets and a pillow from the closet. It’s silent and awkward with Louis hovering next to the couch, sniffling a bit from time to time, but Nick has no idea what to say, Louis is not his friend and not someone Nick would comfort ever, and Louis guards himself in public so well that Nick has never seen him actually upset or crying. He doesn’t know what anyone does when Louis is crying. 

By the time Louis is undressed and under the blankets Nick is sure he has made a bad decision, but he turns off the lights and closes the living room door behind him with a silent click. He lets Pig out of the kitchen, pets her and apologizes for taking so long, then drinks a glass of cold water, washes his face and brushes his teeth in the bathroom, focusing on his nightly ritual, trying not to think that drunk Louis Tomlinson is currently sleeping on his couch and that Nick’s own heart is still running a beat too fast. 

"Do you think we should call Harry, Pig?" he asks once he's in the bedroom, trying to fall asleep, and Pig has curled up on her own bed next to his. She looks at Nick, reacting to her name being called but then closes her eyes again and Nick sighs. He decides he will wait until morning and ask Louis what's actually going on, assuming Louis, being Louis, won't sneak out and pretend nothing ever happened. He guesses Harry broke things off with Louis again, and this is what, the fourth time it has occurred? 

It's horrible, Nick thinks, it's like watching a fairytale turn into dust. Harry and Louis have been together ever since Nick knows them, even before that, over five years now, and they are that couple that everyone awwwws about, and that couple that makes Nick feel like he's going to die alone, because he can't imagine being that close to anyone and wanting to spend all of the time together and always holding hands and being adorable, it's like they never get tired of each other. Well, at least up until One Direction decided to go on a long hiatus and stopped touring. Ever since then it feels like Nick is watching a car crash in slow motion, watching how they are slowly ruining each other, and from what Harry has tried to explain it's not that they don't love each other, it's that they don't know how to just be together when they are not touring and not hiding and not constantly living on the edge. They were used to cherishing those minutes they got together, they were living for hidden kisses in venue bathrooms and hiding from everyone in hotel rooms, making five different flights from country to country, giddy and excited, just so they can end up together on a small island with no paps or fans to hide from, and now, when the tour is over, they can just settle down together. They have a house where to live, unknown to public eye, all the time in the world and no traveling planned, there are no press or public events to attend (or at least, not as a band together), they don't need to constantly worry about saying something or doing something that will ruin their secret. And apparently what is normal for any other couple is not normal for them, is not enough or maybe it’s too much. 

And yet they still love each other, so Harry had tried to break up with Louis three times just to always end up back together, just to try to make it work again, and it's like a vicious circle they can't get out of. Nick thinks this will end in a disaster, he's pretty sure one of those breakups will actually not end well, but he wants to be a good and supportive friend to Harry so he doesn't say that, just lets Harry talk and cry and talk and cry and then run back to Louis and beg him to take Harry back. 

Nick also doesn't want to say anything because he's had a tiny crush on Louis forever, before he even knew Harry and Louis were a thing, and he thinks him encouraging Harry to end the relationship before it ends Harry would be selfish and unfair, so he bites his tongue and keeps his advice to himself. He's pathetic at relationship anyway, can never hold a boyfriend longer for six months, so who is he to give tips on relationships? And besides that he thinks Louis is loud and childish (and maybe has a decent sense of humor and looks to die for) and Harry deserves better, so Nick's and Harry's view on the matters will never match anyway. 

Nick sighs, turns off the bedside lamp and turns to the other side, yawning and trying to find a comfier spot. Maybe he will wake up tomorrow and none of this will matter. Maybe Louis will be back in Harry’s arms again and Nick will just have a quiet Saturday morning with the hawaiian pizza he didn’t finish. Maybe he will call Aimee or Cara or Colette and they can have a brunch somewhere nice. He falls asleep trying to figure out which of his clothes are clean and what he can wear to a brunch to look decent in case paps find them. 

He wakes up a few minutes after three in the morning, his bladder insisting it's time to go. He moans grumpily but gets up, stumbles to the bathroom almost falling over Pig's tennis ball, cursing silently, and pees. Once he's washed his hands, he sneaks to the living room to check on Louis, just to make sure he hasn't died in sleep or something. Harry would never forgive him. 

Louis is asleep, a pile of blankets and quiet snores, and to Nick’s horror Pig is sleeping right next to him, the traitor. Nick has no idea how she got there, but Louis' hand is keeping her pressed close to him, only her nose and ears visible out of the blankets. Nick tip toes closer and in the light of a hallway he can see that Louis looks messy, tear streaked face and red cheeks still. Nick sighs. Louis is cuddling Pig and that's so unfair because Nick should be quite upset about the whole Louis situation but instead he feels sorry  and like he wants to maybe hug Louis and that’s just terrifying. 

He leaves a glass of water and painkillers for Louis on a table next to the couch, something he should have done before Louis fell asleep, but it’s not like Nick was thinking clearly. He goes back to bed wondering how his life got to a point where his dog is cuddling Louis Tomlinson on his living room couch. 

 

~*~*~ 

Nick finds Louis in the inside garden that comes with his flat, he is sitting on the stairs, smoking and playing fetch with Pig, who is excitedly running after a tennis ball, barking and wagging her tail when Louis takes too much time to throw it again. There's a cup of tea next to Louis and an ashtray with two cigarette buds already finished. Louis himself looks grim, soft, cuddly almost, dressed in his yesterday’s jeans and Nick’s Old Navy hoodie that he must have found somewhere in the flat. He also looks very hangover and tired, rubbing his eyes and yawning. Nick sits down on the stairs as well, keeping a distance between them.

Louis doesn’t acknowledge Nick, not even a good morning, and Nick huffs.

“So,” he starts, “are you going to tell me what happened?”

“We broke up,” Louis says, voice hoarse, and doesn’t elaborate on any details.

Nick's not sure if he’s supposed to comfort Louis or pretend everything's fine, but he does know the usual pattern of their breakups is Harry breaking up with Louis and then two days later they are together again, so he just says: “I am sure it will work out, Harry will change his mind.”

“I broke things off, not Harry,” Louis says, and while he sounds calm, his palms are shaking around the tennis ball as he throws it again.

“Oh.” Nick did not expect that.

“And if he asks me to come back, I will,” Louis explains, and puts out his cigarette with more force than necessary. “And then we will break up again a month or two later. And… and I can’t do that… it’s killing us both. So.”

Nick is silent. He stares at Louis because wow, just wow. He’s both shocked and a bit amazed about Louis’ decision, he has always thought Louis is too childish and selfish, and this choice of his makes Louis sound anything but that. He’s also pretty sure Louis is on a verge of crying again, lips trembling, so Nick doesn’t ask any questions, afraid to say something wrong.

“Can… can I stay here for a day?”  Louis asks and he’s finally looking at Nick, biting his lip, cheekbones flushing pink. “He has to be at Jeff and Glenne’s wedding tomorrow, he has a flight tonight. I just need some time.”

“I’m… yeah, sure,” Nick stutters because Louis sounds desperate and Nick’s still confused.

“Thanks,”  Louis murmurs and pets the Pig, taking the tennis ball out of her mouth, turning away from Nick.

Nick goes inside to make breakfast.

 

~*~*~

Harry calls when they are watching TV. Well, Nick is. Louis is cuddling with Pig and making sad faces and staring in the distance, sighing heavily from time to time. Nick feels like his neck will snap from all the tension. So far Louis has been unusually quiet, focusing all his attention on Pig, he has refused to eat breakfast, has just borrowed a toothbrush and taken a shower. They haven't had a single argument about anything and Louis had agreed to watch whatever Nick wants. It’s bizarre.

As soon as Louis notices Harry's name flashing on Nick's phone he goes wide eyed and panicky.

“Oh god, Nick, don’t tell him I’m here, please, please, I beg you, please,” he’s grabbing onto Nick’s wrist, voice shaky and thin. Nick is so lost, because this is another side of Louis he has never seen, that he just nods and picks up the phone. Louis looks like he’s about to faint from worry and Nick swallows thickly.

“Yes?”

Harry is sniffling. Nick hates his life. “We broke up, Grimmy.”

I know. “I’m really sorry, popstar.”

“He left, Grim, he left and nobody has seen him since yesterday,” Harry blurts, tears in his voice. “I tried all his friends and at first I thought they are hiding him or something, but they aren’t and I’m worried, and I called his mum and now she’s worried too, and-” Harry stops to take a gulp of air, “-and Alberto said he has left his phone and laptop so we can’t track him, and what if something bad happened?”

Harry is full sobbing now and Nick wants to kill Louis.

“Haz, Harry,” he says, throwing an angry look at Louis who looks torn between hiding under blankets and wanting to run to where Harry is, “calm down and breathe. It’s Louis, I am sure he is fine, he just needs some time. You know he always shows up somewhere in Fiji or France or Jamaica when he wants a break, it’s what he does, right?”

Harry sniffles and says something to someone else. There’s a pause and then he’s back on the phone.

“Alberto says his passport and wallet is not here, maybe you're right.”

“Of course I am right,” Nick assures, “I am sure he’s on a plane somewhere and will let you know he’s okay as soon as he lands.”

Nick makes a stern face at Louis, hoping that Louis is getting the message. He talks with Harry some more and convinces him to go to LA and not miss out the wedding, take some time off as well. Harry sighs and sniffles some more but agrees to go. He promises he will visit Nick when he comes back.

“I just don't know when,” he  breathes shakily. “I don’t think we can fix it. I think it was final.”

Nick wants to ask if Harry wants to fix it but Louis is listening and Nick’s not sure what answer Louis wants to hear. Thankfully Harry has to go and get ready for his flight so they hang up, and Harry promises to keep Nick updated.

Nick pockets his phone and looks at Louis, jaw clenched. He’s back to thinking that Louis is childish and selfish, running away from problems and making everyone worried. They established that Louis is hiding from Harry, but Nick assumed Harry knows that, or at least Louis’ fucking bodyguard knows that.

“What the fucking hell, Tomlinson,” Nick demands, “did you ran away? Are you hiding?”

Louis has the decency to look ashamed, shoulders slumped and head bowed, picking on a thread from a blanket around his shoulders.

“I don’t want them to track me down,”  he explains, voice small, “Alberto can totally do that if I use my phone, it has a tracking chip in it, or my e-mail, ‘cause it shows the location or IP address or something.”

Jesus fucking Christ. Nick can’t believe this.

“Is there a reason why you are hiding from your own bodyguard as well?” he asks, clenching fists and trying not to raise his voice. It’s Louis life after all, he can do whatever he wants as long as Nick doesn’t have to comfort one of his closest friends that thinks Louis is dead or something.

“I need time off. I… all of them want to give me advice and help, but… I just need to think for myself, I need to stick to this,” Louis murmurs, hiding his face against Pig’s fur. “I just need to be away.”

Nick exhales slowly and gets up. He’s done with this conversation and he wants his dog back, so he tells Louis he is going to walk Pig and buy something for dinner. Louis nods and curls under blankets, letting Pig go. Nick almost feels bad, but Pig really needs a walk or else she will start attacking Nick’s shoes and he is not ready to part from another pair of YSL boots.

He takes a long walk with Pig, longer than usual, letting her run around the park and chase pigeons, then walks to Waitrose, buys pizza and wine, Louis’ favorite cigarettes (or at least the ones he was smoking earlier), then finds a tiny store that sells old and used phones, buys a cheap one and O2 prepaid card. He comes home and hands Louis the phone and the card.

“Call your mum. Tell someone you are alive so Harry doesn't get a heart attack.”

Nick goes to his room before Louis can say anything. Pig stays with Louis, jumping on the couch and licking Louis’ face, and Nick feels an irrational anger about how his own dog prefers Louis over himself. He is exhausted and falls asleep on top of the blankets, clutching a pillow to his chest, trying not to listen how Louis apologizes to his mum.

 

 

~*~*~

Nick wakes up to sounds of Louis crying, and his first instinct is to hide his face in a pillow and scream, his head is dizzy and he’s drowsy from the nap, and he doesn’t want to deal with Louis. It’s his own fault for leaving the bedroom door open though. He waits, listens to muffled sobs, hoping they will stop but Louis keeps crying and it’s actually heartbreaking to listen. He’s talking with Pig, calling her princess, because he absolutely refused to call her Pig. When Nick told Louis her name earlier that day, Louis declared that “this brilliant puppy deserves a better name”, and Nick didn’t argue for once.

“Sorry, Princess, I’ll get your white fur all covered in snot and your dad will be angry,” Louis is mumbling, voice shaky, and Nick gives in and gets up.

He doesn’t turn on the light, just walks to the living room in the dark. There’s a streetlight that always radiates some of its yellow light in the living room, so Nick doesn’t have to fumble in a complete darkness. Louis gets quiet as soon as Nick’s in his eyesight, he looks half terrified, half apologetic as he whispers a mumbled “sorry” and looks anywhere but at Nick.

Nick can see tears still rolling over his cheeks as Louis blinks his eyes and grips Pig closer.

“Move over,” Nick says, voice still rough from napping. Louis’ eyes get wide and he looks at Nick, frozen in the place. Nick sighs.

“Pig, come on, get off from the couch, you have your own bed,” he commands and Pig gets up, but instead of obeying Nick’s orders she just jumps to the end of the couch where Louis’ legs are, and puts her head over Louis’ feet. Nick rolls his eyes at her, but lays down in her place, next to Louis who is still motionless and petrified. There’s not much space so Nick moves closer to Louis, pulls him in, wrapping hands around him.

He doesn’t say anything, and he doesn’t need to. Louis breathes in slowly and there are tears rolling again, making Nick’s shirt all wet, and when Louis starts actually sobbing, Nick whispers a quiet “shhh, love, come on, it will be okay” and lets Louis cry it out. And fuck, he thinks, fuck love and fuck relationship, this is so wrong and so horrible, and Nick feels like crying himself, because it sounds like Louis’ heart is breaking with every shaky inhale and wheepy sound he makes, and it’s so unfair. Nobody deserves a pain that horrible.

Louis keeps shaking and sniffling but slowly, minute by minute he calms down until he falls asleep, face still pressed against Nick’s chest. Nick stays up for a long time.

In the morning he wakes up first, slowly untangles himself from Louis and takes Pig for a walk. He comes back to Louis sitting on the garden stairs with tea and a cigarette again. Nick sort of expected him to flee. Louis though looks up with a sad smile, says “thank you” and sips on his tea.

Nick is so very lost.

Pig sits next to Louis and puts her head in his lap, Louis leans down and kisses her head and asks her if she had a nice walk. Nick stares for a while, then goes back inside to fix up breakfast and coffee. They spend Sunday watching food network and not talking.

 

 

~*~*~ 

Monday at work is odd. Nick’s exhausted and cranky, not rested at all and the first thing Fifi says when he comes in is: “Have you heard, Grim? Louis Tomlinson is missing!”

Nick snorts. “What do you mean missing?”

“Well,” Fifi explains, waving a copy of Daily Mirror in front of Nick’s face, “rumour has it nobody knows where is, even his team. They are denying it, of course, but there’s a source saying his own bodyguard can’t find him. Do you think he finally lost it?”

Nick remembers Louis crying last night and feels weirdly protective. Louis has the right to spend some time alone and British public should not stick their nose everywhere. Whoever tipped Mirror off is a prick.

Please,” Nick rolls his eyes, trying to brush it off. “They are on a break and he’s a rich popstar. He always goes to some exotic country, I can bet he’s just gonna pop up somewhere soon all tanned and rich, taking photos with fans.”

“Guess so,” Fifi nods and lets it go, telling Nick all about Sam Smith’s new single and how they have to reschedule an interview with Rita Ora, since she’s gotten sick and lost her voice. Nick exhales deeply, shaking his head, as he takes of his jacket. Great, he’s officially hiding a missing popstar.

 

 

~*~*~

He comes home to Louis napping with Pig on a couch again. Nick’s wondering if all of this is actually a secret plot that Louis made to steal his amazing dog. Pig doesn’t even blink an eye at Nick, and he’s used to her greeting him excitedly whenever he comes home. It’s unfair. But at least his dog apparently has a heart of gold.

Louis wakes up when Nick has heated up a frozen pizza. They eat in the living room, Louis is mostly playing with his slice, secretly feeding some of it to Pig. As if Nick couldn’t hear her chewing and swallowing. He pretends he doesn’t.

“So, do you know Mirror already has a great piece about you going rogue?” Nick asks, remembering the chat with Fifi from earlier that morning.

Louis snorts. “I’ve been gone for two days, what the fuck?”

“Maybe you need to make more phone calls then,” Nick replies, pushing his empty plate away.

Louis just rolls his eyes.

“You know, you can use my computer if you want?” Nick says, because he knows the phone he got Louis is like a century old and probably doesn’t even have e-mail option in it. And knowing Louis, he’s too proud to ask Nick.

“Actually…” Louis asks, and he sounds unsure, “I was wondering… can you get me a new laptop? And maybe electric piano too? For songwriting.”

Nick needs a minute to realize Louis is not joking, but he gets his own laptop and lets Louis order both a macbook and electric piano, and Louis doesn’t even go all diva on him, just orders the first one he finds, and lets Nick fill in the order details. Nick pays for everything because Louis doesn’t want his credit card to be tracked. Nick’s pretty sure it’s not possible since Louis is not actually missing and his security team can’t really get that kind of information, but he just nods and pays.

“I will pay you back, okay? For everything? Food and staying here too,” Louis ensures, waving his hands in the air, worried, as if Nick’s thinking Louis is trying to use him for money or something. “Um… and I can like... leave too. If you want,” he adds quietly, after a pause.

They haven’t really talked about Louis staying, Nick knows the original plan was to wait until Harry is in another continent but it’s been three days now, and Louis is still here. And he’s ordering expensive stuff, so apparently he has a plan to stay. But after the last nights waterworks Nick doesn’t feel like throwing Louis out. He can use some company, whatever. At least Pig is happy?

“Chill, Tomlinson, it’s fine,” he says and presses the “confirm” button.

That night Pig stays with Louis again and Nick stays up for a long time to hear if Louis will cry again. He doesn’t.

 

 

~*~*~

Nick wakes up groggy the next morning but he doesn’t wallow in his misery, just gets up and gets ready for work. There are three empty cups of tea in the sink so apparently Louis hasn’t slept well. Nick moves the cups to dishwasher and makes himself a mug of coffee. He lets Pig out in the garden to pee and tells her she’s a good girl when she’s quiet and doesn’t bark to wake up Louis. She licks Nick’s fingers and runs back to the couch where Louis is sleeping. Nick leaves Louis a note about how there’s nothing in the fridge but he can order in if he wants, he leaves some money as well. It’s scarily domestic and Nick feels a sad pang that it’s the closest he has to a relationship in two years.

He comes home to Louis crying silently while watching Love Actually and drinking Nick’s red wine from a tea mug. The bottle is almost empty and Louis is a sobbing mess, trying to hide his tears from Nick, wiping his face with a hoodie sleeve. Nick doesn’t say anything about it being another one of his hoodies, he just turns off the TV and sits next down to Louis.

“Come on, love, that was a bad idea,” he says when Louis protests about Nick turning the movie off, because Nick knows that it’s Harry’s favorite movie and he and Louis watch it maybe ten times per year.

Louis just sighs, cuddles next to Nick and sniffs. Nick is so, so, so lost, because Louis puts his arms around Nick’s waist and there’s snot on Nick’s favorite sweater and Pig joins them, jumping on the other side of Louis, and sure, Louis is drunk, but it’s still so unexpected and weird, and Nick just for once wants to know what is he supposed to do with this.

“Do you think it’s mental, what I’m doing?” Louis whispers against Nick’s shoulder after a while.

“No,” Nick whispers back. Louis staying at Nick’s is pretty crazy, but he’s sure Louis is not asking about that. Somewhere deep inside Nick thinks that Louis is being very brave.

“It feels like,” Louis says, sighing loudly, “like we were fireworks, the biggest and brightest ones, and now all that’s left is black smoke. And... I love him so much. And I know he loves me. But it’s like… it’s like we love each other too much, you know?”

Nick doesn’t know. He still murmurs some agreement because Louis is looking up at him, expecting an answer.

They sit for a while and only when Louis snores quietly Nick realizes he fell asleep on Nick’s shoulder. He’s warm and soft against Nick’s side and Nick dozes off too. He wakes up later when it’s dark, and his stomach is making protesting noises. He slowly untucks himself from Louis and tiptoes to the kitchen, makes a toast with avocado and tomatoes. He eats slowly, then he changes water in Pig’s bowl and leaves her some food, takes a shower and goes to his own bed. He doesn’t bother leaving food for Louis, assuming he’s out from all the wine until morning.

But he’s almost asleep when there’s a sudden rustling noise and Louis sits down on his bed.

“Nick, can I sleep here?” he asks in a small voice. “I don’t want to sleep alone.”

Nick bites his tongue to argue that Louis has Pig, instead he says “okay” and moves so Louis has enough space. Nick’s used to sharing bed when his friends stay over, it’s not a big deal. It’s not.

Louis slips in and pulls blankets up so only his hair is out. It only takes him a minute to move closer to Nick, and he is warm, pressed close to Nick’s back, breathing shakily on Nick’s neck. Nick’s own breath feels caught up in his throat as Louis slides and arm around his waist. Somehow he falls asleep after all.

 

 

~*~*~

Nick meets up with Aimee after work the next day. He tries to chat about work and ask her what’s new, but it takes her ten minutes to squint her eyes and say: “You’re weird. Is something going on?”

Nick really, really needs someone to talk to.

“If I tell you something, can you promise not to tell anyone?” he asks, playing with a straw of his iced caramel macchiato. She frowns but agrees. And just like Nick expected, she’s not impressed when he finally explains her the whole situation.

“Grim, I know you think he’s all cute and hot,” she puts her palm on his wrist, “but he’s Harry’s boyfriend, or ex boyfriend, whatever, and he’s off limits, you know?”

Nick gapes.

“What the fuck, Aims? He cried on me yesterday and told me he still loves Harry, do you really think I will jump him or summat?” he’s actually offended that Aimee thinks so low of him. He might enjoy a one night stand here and there, but he’s not actually thinking with his dick twenty four seven.

“You told me he slept in your bed,” Aimee protests.

“Just sleeping! And he is lonely!”

“And so are you, I know, but-”

“I am not lonely!” Nick cuts Aimee off. What the actual fuck. This is not what he expected to hear, he just wanted some friendly support, someone to pat his shoulder and feel a bit sorry for him.

“Really?”  Aimee asks, quirking her eyebrows.

“Yes, really,” Nick replies firmly, closing the subject. “And can we not talk about this? I might think he is the prettiest member of One Direction, but he’s still childish and rude, and he hates me, and is very much in love with another member of One Direction. I just need… some tips, what to do. He keeps crying. And he’s stealing Pig from me.” Nick pouts.

Aimee rolls her eyes. “Well, babes, he needs time, a lot of it, and someone to talk to probably. You can’t just magically fix him up.”

Nick sighs. “Can you at least bake some cookies for him? The chocolate ones?”

“I’ll do my best,” Aimee laughs, but it’s not reaching her eyes.

Nick changes the subject and asks her about the party she went to on the weekend.

 

 

~*~*~

When Nick comes home Louis has cleaned up the living room a little bit, washed the dishes and done the laundry as well. He and Pig are playing in the garden.

“Good girl, Princess! Catch!” he’s shouting as she jumps excitedly and runs after a frisbee. Nick’s garden is tiny so Louis throws the frisbee lightly, and Pig almost falls over, having to slow down rapidly.

Louis laughs, and it’s the first time Nick’s heard that sound since last Friday. He clears his throat, letting Louis know he’s home, standing in the doorway between the living room and garden. By now he has accepted that Pig is a lost cause when it comes to welcoming him home. Surprisingly though she runs over to Nick, frisbee in her mouth, panting and wagging her tail.

Louis looks at her and then smiles at Nick, and Nick feels like it goes straight through his stomach. He smiles back shakily and bends down to greet Pig and avoid making an eye contact with Louis. He is wearing a blue t-shirt Nick forgot he has and his hair is all soft, his face is clean from any traces of tears, he must have taken a shower not so long ago. Nick doesn’t know what to make of it - him noticing all these details about Louis, so he leaves Louis and Pig to play and puts together a pizza for them. At least it’s not a frozen one, he thinks sadly, already knowing that this much pizza in one week will mean extra run or maybe even a gym session or ten.

Once they are done with eating and Louis tells that both computer and piano arrived, they watch TV together. Nick goes for Netflix afraid that there’s gonna be a commercial or gossip feature with Harry’s face somewhere that will traumatize Louis. Pig is resting between them, and Louis is stroking her head. Nick wonders why Louis doesn’t own a dog himself, apparently he’s really good with them. Harry’s always been more of a cat person, maybe that’s why.

“You don’t have to like… stay with me,” Louis says suddenly, between episodes of Sherlock. “I know you like parties and stuff.”

Nick snorts.

“Says the boy who spent most of last year in clubs with his lads and gorgeous blonds,” Nick points out. “Don’t worry, popstar, I am an old man, I need sleep in weekdays. I met some friends after work, it’s all good.”

“Good,” Louis nods and they don't talk about it anymore. Nick doesn’t add that he actually likes staying in with Louis. It’s still weird and confusing, but it’s also nice and peaceful, Louis doesn’t expect much socialization from Nick and Nick can wear old sweatpants without worry because Louis does the same. And they eat a lot of pizza and nobody says anything about calories, gluten or blood type diets.

When it gets late Nick goes to bed alone, leaving Louis with Netflix and sleepy pup. He wakes up the next morning with Louis curled up next to him on top of the blankets and Pig sleeping on their legs.

 

 

~*~*~

On the weekend Nick goes out. He doesn’t really want to if he’s honest, but he knows his friends will notice him staying home all the time, and he doesn’t want them to worry on top of everything else. And he also maybe wants to prove a point that he’s not staying at home because he thinks he has to. Because of Louis. Caroline is throwing one of her famous industry parties on Saturday and Nick gets smashed with Aimee, Gelz and Rita. He’s sobering up a bit when Liam Payne and his gorgeous girlfriend join them. Nick politely asks how are they, and apparently Liam is a bit tipsy too, because he spills all the details about how Louis is gone and they all are bummed out.

“But it’s all okay,” Liam says, patting Nick’s shoulder, like he actually expects Nick to be worried. “He texts Johanna, his mum, a lot. He’s just like… hiding.”

Nick nods, trying not to laugh, because this is so funny, everyone thinks Louis is missing and nobody would ever think he is with Nick. Louis is a genius. He has to tell Louis this. Maybe Louis will laugh too. That would be nice.

“Me and Nialler have a bet,” Liam continues, grinning, “how soon Tommo and Harry will get back together. I give them less than a month.”

Nick laughs hollowly. That got from funny to unamusing in seconds, he thinks, looking for the nearest waiter. He needs a shot or a row of them.

 

 

~*~*~

Louis is drunk too when Nick stumbles in the living room sometime after three in the morning. He’s messing with his electric piano, playing something sad and old and Nick thinks it might be Coldplay or The Fray or summat. It’s hard to tell because Louis keeps hitting the wrong notes. Nick sways a bit and almost falls over Pig, who barks excitedly at him, pushing her nose against his knees.

Louis looks up at that and smiles, teeth showing.

“Hiiiii, Nick,” he slurs, voice high-pitched. “Had a good night?” He gets up and almost goes down with piano, stumbling over its power cord. “Whoops, soz, almost fell over.”

Nick waves his hand as to say it doesn’t matter. “It was nice,” he mumbles tiredly. “Liam was all sad puppy. Someone danced on a table. A proper party.”

He turns to go to the kitchen, then stops. “I need water and sleep, you should get some too.”

Louis nods and follows him, trying to avoid hitting any furniture. They get water together, standing at the kitchen sink. Louis is pressed so close to Nick's side it feels like burning. Nick gulps down his water and tries to get himself together.

Louis moves away first, he walks to Nick’s bedroom, stripping on his way, throwing off his (Nick’s) shirt in the hallway and sweatpants at the end of Nick’s bed. He leaves only boxers on and gets under a blanket while Nick tries to get out of his skinnies. It takes him a good two minutes of silent cursing, but he finally does it. He leaves the t-shirt on and gets under the blankets, turning off the bedside lamp.

They sleep next to each other, not cuddling, just their upper arms touching slightly. It feels warm and sweaty, almost sticky and Nick feels a bit dizzy, and he wants to blame the alcohol, but it’s a different kind of buzz, starting somewhere in his tummy, a bit like butterflies, only they seem more like moths, running blindly against a window.

Louis’ fingers touch his and he shivers, drawing in a loud breath, and then suddenly Louis is leaning over him and their eyes meet, and Louis leans down and presses his mouth against Nick’s and, oh god, they are kissing. Nick’s heart is beating so fast, he feels like it’s burning his chest, and, fuck, fuck, fuck, it’s too hot and Louis is pressing warm hands against Nick’s sides, sliding them under Nick’s shirt and Nick’s dizzy and burning and he gasps for air when Louis stops to take a breath. Nick doesn’t think, just moves his hands, palms still clammy, and takes off his shirt, throws it away while Louis watches him eyes bright and face flushed.

He leans in again, moves so he’s on top of Nick, straddling his hips, and kisses Nick, fierce and hot, mouth open, biting Nick’s lip. Nick moans overwhelmed and still too hot, so hot. He finally remembers to move when Louis bites on his jaw, drags his mouth to Nick’s neck. Nick’s hands find Louis' hips and he tugs Louis closer. Louis groans, breath hot against Nick’s collarbone and grinds down, rolling his dick against Nick’s. Both of them moan.

Nick realizes they still have their underwear on, and he tries to say something, but Louis moves again, and Nick’s words turn into a loud groan. It’s so hot and it’s been so long since Nick’s been with anyone, and he knows he won’t last but it doesn’t matter, because Louis keeps rolling his hips down, making tiny noises and Nick is so desperate and hard, wants this so much. They kiss or try to, breathing hard against each other lips and Nick’s fingers are gripping Louis so tight there will be marks, but he’s afraid to let go, he doesn’t want this to stop, he’s wanted this for ages, ever since that first radio interview the boys had with Nick. He doesn’t want Louis to stop. Ever. He’s trembling, pushing up against Louis and he comes with a breathless moan. He gulps down the air, but doesn’t waste time, kissing Louis’ throat and pushing Louis down against himself until Louis is a whimpering mess, coming with a loud cry.

Afterwards Nick gets up, stumbling to a bathroom to get a washcloth. He doesn’t remember cleaning up himself or Louis, but they fall asleep, Nick’s hand over Louis’ waist, pressing him down, keeping him from running away.

 

 

~*~*~

Nick wakes up alone. His head is heavy with pain and his mouth feels too dry, he stumbles to the bathroom, finds and swallows some Advil and drinks a glass of water. He looks like a proper mess in the mirror above the sink, eyes puffy and face gray, hair going in all directions, there are red marks on his jaw and collarbones and Nick grabs the first shirt he can find, covering some of the last night’s evidence.

He’s not surprised Louis is gone, he expected that, but with a frown he realizes Pig is missing too. What the hell? Did Louis stole his dog? He calls her name just in case, but there’s no response, no nails scraping against floorboards. Nick walks to the hallway, and, sure, her leash is gone too. He swears, because that’s just fucking ridiculous, who the fuck steals a dog from someone they had sex with?

Nick turns to go and get his phone, call Aimee and ask her what to do, when there’s a noise, someone using a key to open Nick’s apartment doors, and a moment later Pig runs in, and Louis follows her.

“She tried to wake you up,” Louis explains, unbuckling Pig’s leash, “I took her for a walk, got us some breakfast.”

He hands Nick a tray with cardboard coffee cups from nearest coffee shop and a bag of croissants, looking all sheepish and blushing. Nick takes it carefully, not letting their hands touch, and moves to the garden. He needs some air.

They eat in the garden, sitting in dark green plastic chairs that Collette has decorated with bright yellow and neon pink floral pattern pillows. Pig lays down next to Louis’ chair and Nick would be upset that Louis has messed up Pig’s loyalty but the coffee tastes too good and croissants are fresh and warm and make him feel less like throwing up.

“I’m really sorry about last night,” Louis says, and it’s so out of nowhere that Nick almost chokes on a piece of his delicious french pastry. “We were drunk and that was really horrible of me, taking advantage of you. I… um, I can leave, if you want?”

He looks small, feet tucked under him, Nick’s too big hoodie on, biting his lip and looking down. Nick knows the smart thing would be for Louis to leave, it has gotten out of hands.

But of course he’s not smart, so he just says: “We both were drunk, we made a mistake.” 

Louis winces, so Nick quickly adds: “It’s okay, you can stay.”

“Are you sure?”

“I'm sure,” Nick says, “also Pig might want to bite me if I make you leave.”

Louis smiles shyly, cheeks flushing pink and leans down to pet Pig. She waggles her tail happily and licks his fingers. Nick’s life. Seriously.

 

 

~*~*~ 

It’s a bit weird but actually somewhat okay for the next few days. Louis goes back to sleeping on the couch and they watch TV in the evenings and Louis writes music and Nick makes sure to meet with his friends after work and it’s almost as the sex thing never happened, like they are back to just coexisting in Nick’s flat. Except on Thursday Nick comes home and they eat veggie burgers that Nick has picked up on his way home, and he sort of expects Louis to mock him and his burgers because Louis hates when people are “fake”, and he always talks about how there’s nothing wrong with going to McDonald or eating a simple cheese toasty, how kale, spirulina and gluten free pizza dough is for pretentious hipsters and people who are trying to be too cool. But Louis just bites down the burger and smiles at Nick.

“These are so nice! Pass me the ketchup for fries?”

And Nick feels so out of place in his own life because he doesn’t know what to do with this version of Louis, he knows Louis that loves a banter and Louis that doesn’t pay Nick any attention, and he’s sort of used to the sad, heartbroken Louis but this Louis who is sitting at his dining table and eating veggie burger is so weird.

“You’re so weird,” he says, handing Louis the ketchup bottle.

Louis rolls his eyes and pours the ketchup all over his fries.

“No, really,” Nick adds, “I can’t figure you out.”

“What?” Louis looks up, grinning, “you thought I don’t like ketchup with my fries?”

“No,” Nick says, biting a piece of his own burger. Louis was right, it really is nice. “But I am sure Louis Tomlinson I know thinks veggie burgers are a disgrace.”

Louis laughs.

“Well, it’s tasty. Also, my mum taught me some manners. I’m at your house, eating your food, would be a bit rude to pick on the food you get me.”

“Oh, now he’s talking manners!”

Louis shows him a tongue and goes to pick a movie while Nick grabs their plates. They watch Avengers and Nick laughs when he realizes Louis knows every line. He almost wants to get his phone and record Louis using his best Tony Stark voice, but he’s too captivated watching how Louis claims that they are 'Earth's Mightiest Heroes' type of thing.

That night Louis sneaks into his bed without a word. They don’t cuddle, but Nick doesn’t get a minute of sleep, jerking and twitching every time Louis moves in his sleep.

 

 

~*~*~

On Friday Nick meets with Aimee again, she has the jar of cookies for Nick and she’s frowning when Nick tells her Louis will be happy about them.

“It’s been two weeks, Grim, is he still at yours?”

Nick pretends to be upset. He thinks him lying to his friends about it is a good sign Louis should not be staying at his place, but he’s been half asleep the whole day and he’s not in a mood for Aimee's lecture.

“He’s eating all my food and making a mess and he keeps teaching Pig stupid things, and I don’t know what to do, he's a pest, seriously,” he sighs heavily.

“Why don’t you ask him to leave?” Aimee offers. “It’s not like you have to take care of him.”

“Because he’s crying half the time, and you know how I am with crying people,” Nick explains. He doesn’t say it’s because Aimee was right and he’s been so fucking lonely and it’s nice to have someone to spend his evenings with. “Plus Harry would be really cross with me if I just threw him out.”

“Really? Harry?” Aimee snorts. “Harry would be upset you’re hiding his boyfriend!”

Ex. Ex-boyfriend, Nick thinks, but doesn’t say that. Aimee looks very unimpressed already.

“I am not hiding him,” Nick argues, because he really isn’t. “He’s hiding himself! I promised him I will not tell Harry. I don’t know what to do! If I tell Harry and he comes to my place Louis will hate me forever, and we already fight too much for Harry’s liking. It’s like I have to choose between two bad things.”

Aimee sighs. “If you say so, Nick. But I think he should leave. He’s totally using you. You’re not even friends.”

Nick winces. Well.

 

 

~*~*~

“I think I need new clothes,” Louis says before Nick has taken his jacket off.

“Hello to you too,” Nick murmurs, “Is this how having a kid feels? They constantly ask you to buy them new stuff?”

Louis rolls his eyes. “I need to get to my house and get clothes and maybe some other stuff. Alberto is with Liam and Sophia in France, I saw photos of them. I can totally sneak into my house.”

Nick doesn’t point out how wrong it sounds, he just grabs the car keys and gets going.

They drive to Louis’ place, Louis telling Nick the way. Since it’s a hidden house there are no paps to worry about, so they park in front of the house. Louis gets through secured gate and Nick comes with him. He’s curious, since he has never actually been to their house, the real house at least, and it’s very weird. The house is beautiful, not as extravagant as Nick expected, it’s actually quite simple, and from what Nick can see without actually snooping around, it has all the modern technologies, a beautiful sound system and enormous TV in the living room, but it’s not just leather couches and expensive rugs, it looks like someone’s home, decorated with pillows and paintings, candles and personal items, gifts from fans or friends, Nick guesses, looking at the shelves.

There are photos of Louis and Harry and their bandmates on the walls, and there’s stuff Nick recognizes as Harry’s, his guitar that he writes songs on, and some of his hats, a pile of his leather journals in one of the shelves.

Louis looks stone faced and determined as he walks through the room and climbs upstairs. They go to what Nick thinks is their bedroom, at least there’s a massive bed and the room is very lived in, with bits and pieces of their lives everywhere. Nick sort of hurts all over.

There’s Harry’s jewelry stand with rings and necklaces, and his headscarf collection and poetry books on the nightstand, and scented candles he loves, and there’s Louis’ stuff too, photos of him and his siblings, headbands he used to wear, cufflinks and tie bars, mixed with Harry’s jewelry, books he loves and a framed photo with someone’s autograph Nick doesn’t recognize but it says “to Louis”. There’s a pile of papers, covered in notes and lyrics. Nick takes everything in while Louis opens a walk in closet and gets a travel bag.  It’s a closet mostly full with Harry’s clothes, soft sweaters and expensive coats and his crazy boot collection, the opposite side is full with Louis’ printed t-shirts and hoodies and retro sports jackets, and there’s too many Vans shoes for Nick to count. Louis packs some of the stuff, he gets underwear too and goes to the bathroom to pick up toiletries and there’s his phone and computer still on his side of the bed, but he leaves those, just picks up an external hard drive.

He’s very silent and Nick doesn’t know what to say either. At least Louis is not crying, so Nick doesn’t mind a bit of heavy silence. Louis walks out of the room quickly, not looking back, and Nick follows him. He’s empty handed but takes Louis’ bag from him and puts it in the car while Louis locks the doors and gate.  They stop on a street nearby and Louis takes out some cash from ATM and gives it to Nick “for the piano and laptop”. Nick doesn’t want to take it, but he does it anyway, because he sort of suspects Louis will explode if he argues.

They get home and Louis throws his bag in the corner of Nick’s living room. He tells Nick he will take Pig for a walk, and he dresses up, hiding his face under a hoodie and sunglasses and Nick lets him go. It’s Friday, so there’s a hope most of paps will be watching clubs and party places instead of hanging around in Primrose Hill. These days they only come to Nick’s place when called, he’s not as exciting for the yellow press as he used to be.

He cooks them chili and makes Louis tea with milk and no sugar, exactly like Louis prefers, and waits. He feels jittery and uneasy, he can’t stop thinking about the house and how domestic it was, how Louis lived there with Harry, and how all of that is gone.

His phone beeps, startling him. It’s a text from Harry that says “Alberto says Louis was at home today, used his security code. He still hasn’t called me and he doesn’t answer my e-mails. :( I just want to talk with him. I miss him.

Nick blinks, lets his phone fall out from his hands and throws up in the kitchen sink.

He doesn’t… he can’t think about his best friend on the other side of the world, worried and upset, while he’s here, practically playing house with Louis. He pours the tea he made for Louis down the sink and eats the chili alone. He can only stomach a few spoonfuls, he still feels like he’s about to vom, but his stomach doesn’t hurt so much with some food in it.

Louis gets back later and eats the chili while Nick pretends to be busy with work, his laptop open on the dining table. Louis doesn’t bother him, just thanks for the meal and goes to hide under the blankets with Pig on the couch. Nick goes to his own bed a bit later, bitterly thinking that he doesn’t even have a dog to cuddle with anymore.

Louis comes in a few minutes later after Nick’s turned off the light.

“Nick,” he whispers, and his voice sounds full of tears.

Nick sort of wants to pretend he’s asleep, he’s exhausted and terrified that he’s doing the wrong thing, trying to figure out if he should call Harry or ask Louis to leave or maybe call his mum and cry. But he can’t do another night with Louis crying on his couch.

“Yes?”

“Can I stay here?” Louis asks unsure.

Nick nods. “Sure.”

Louis runs a hand through his hair, biting his lip, as if he’s changed his mind already, then slowly walks over and gets under the blankets. He’s breathing shallowly, swallowing loudly, hands clenching the blanket, and Nick can see how he’s trying not to cry or make Nick more uncomfortable.

“Do you want to talk about it?” Nick asks, because he won’t be able to fall asleep anyway, not with Louis on a verge of crying.

“No,” Louis whispers. Nick hesitates for a moment, but then turns around and pulls Louis in. It reminds him of that night on the couch, except this time Louis calms down instead of breaking down.

“Why am I so messed up?” Louis asks quietly, once he’s stopped shaking. “I fuck up everything.”

Nick strokes his back slowly, trying to calm him down. He’s never been good at comforting people and crying freaks him out, but after this, he thinks, he will be an expert.

“You’re not messed up,” he murmurs soothingly, “things didn’t work out between you, but it’s not because you or Harry fucked up, it’s just… life, you wanting different things from it, that happens.”

“It’s still my fault, I gave up too quickly. I love him, and he loves me, and I just gave up on that,” Louis says and he sounds full of regret. Nick doesn’t know what to say.

“Do you… do you want to give it another go?”

“I don’t know,” Louis sighs. He puts his head on Nick’s chest and throws an arm around Nick’s waist. Nick doesn’t know how, but he falls asleep.

 

 

~*~*~

Nick wakes up the next morning with Louis still next to him. He wants to get up, but Louis doesn’t let him go.

“It’s Saturday, right?” he asks sleepy against Nick’s chest. “No work?”

“Yeah,” Nick nods and yawns.

“Sleep then,” Louis murmurs. Nick stays.

Later, when they finally get up Nick makes them both tea and Louis makes them cereal with milk. He sneaks his hand around Nick from behind to get spoons from the counter and Nick freezes. He can hear his breath hitch and he panics, thinks fuck fuck fuck and oh god. But then Louis is turning him around and he’s looking straight into Nick’s eyes, and Nick takes a breath to apologize for freaking out, say something, anything but Louis steps on his toes and kisses him.

It’s warm and minty like Nick’s toothpaste, and Louis is wrapping his hands around Nick’s neck and pulling him closer, and Nick’s arms find Louis’ waist. They are shaking a bit so he grabs fistsfuls of Louis’ shirt and holds on tight, leaning back against the counter. He can’t breathe and his heart is pounding, but when they break up to catch some air, Louis just gives Nick a tiny smile, gets the spoons and goes to sit down at the table.

Nick’s heart is sort of trying to escape his chest but he moves automatically, sits down, takes a spoon, eats. They have to talk about this, he knows. This is not some drunk rebound sex or drunk i-had-a-crush-on-you-since-forever sex, this is different, but Nick doesn’t know what to say or ask. Louis is in love with Harry and Louis just kissed him.

And thank fucking god Nick’s mum chooses that moment to call. He picks up and they chat about Nick’s life while Nick mindlessly eats his breakfast long after Louis is done with his. He lets his mum talk and tell stories of her neighbors and worry if Nick’s eating and sleeping good enough as he watches Louis smoking outside and playing with Pig. When he’s done with the call he puts away their bowls and walks outside. It looks like it’s going to rain soon, wind is picking up.

“Hey, Louis,” Nick starts, and hopes that words will find their way.

“It’s cold,” Louis says and frowns at the sky, “I’m cold.”

He’s in a shirt still, so he comes over to where Nick stands, and cuddles close to him, puts both of his hands in a pocket of Nick’s hoodie. Nick freezes, trying to make sense of whatever Louis is doing, then slowly puts his hand around Louis, pulling him under his chin.

“Thanks,” Louis says. And it doesn’t sound like Louis is talking just about borrowing Nick’s hoodie. Nick doesn’t say anything. They wait until Pig’s bored with chasing leaves and go back inside.

Nick puts on a movie. He half watches it and half replies to all kinds of emails that have been piling up in his inbox. Louis half watches it, half writes down something that Nick thinks might be song lyrics. His feet are tucked under Nick’s tights, it’s so domestic and nice that Nick wants to cry.

That night Louis is the one who gets sleepy first, he showers and changes and goes to Nick’s bed. Nick stays up watching re-runs of Kardashians. When he finally goes to bed, Louis is already asleep. He wakes up when Nick climbs in, pulls Nick in, kisses his cheek, murmurs something and falls back asleep. Nick can’t breathe.

 

 

~*~*~

He wakes up with Louis kissing his shoulder.

“Wha-”

“Shhhh,” Louis whispers and kisses slowly up to where Nick’s neck is. Nick swallows a groan, but moans when Louis gently bites his jaw. Louis kisses him on mouth then and it’s all morning breath and should make Nick disgusted, but it’s also warm and hot and Louis’ hands are stroking Nick’s sides and Nick is not sure he’s actually awake, because this feels like a dream.

Louis straddles him, starts grinding down, slow, but also a bit desperate. It’s just like that drunk night except this time Nick’s not smashed and the room is bright with sunlight so he can see Louis flushing, smiling, biting his lip as he tries to keep quiet. It doesn’t take much for them to come and Louis keeps kissing him, and making these noises, that Nick doesn’t want to ever forget. Louis gets up slowly and pulls Nick with him, and they shower together and Louis keeps kissing Nick so Nick presses him against the shower wall and makes him come again.

When they actually get clean, they drink tea and eat tofu scramble on the living room couch. Louis is pliant and soft, wrapped up in a blanket as he sips his tea.

“Do you have plans for today?” he asks Nick when they are mostly done with food.

“No, not really,” Nick replies. It’s Sunday, he usually has a brunch with someone or is waking up at his friends’ places after a party.

“Let’s go for a picnic then, take Princess out, go somewhere,” Louis suggests.

Picnic?” Nick asks.

“Yes, I know you know what they are,” Louis mocks. “I’ve seen your Instagram.”

“Sure…” Nick replies, unsure. He’s not sure how Louis plans to have a picnic in Primrose Hill without anyone noticing him, but Louis looks excited, so Nick goes to Waitrose, gets them packed fruit snacks, crisps and pre-made salad and a picnic basket with dishes and forks and cups already in it, and they drive up to Northampton. Apparently Louis knows a place.

It’s a park that is under construction so no visitors are allowed. Nick frowns.

“It’s owned by friend of a friend, we can go there,” Louis ensures, taking off Pig’s leash. She’s excited to finally get out of the car and run around. Louis chases her while Nick sets up the blanket and food.

They eat and play with Pig and play football that Nick is terrible at, but Louis patiently tries to train him and explain how to kick the ball so it actually goes where planned, and Nick thinks Louis looks better than he did weeks ago. They are all flushed and sweaty when they sit down on the blanket and Louis kisses Nick out of the blue and they kiss for a while, laying down while Pig munches on her bowl of food.

“What are we doing?” Nick asks, closing his eyes to avoid the bright sunlight. He doesn’t think how all of this reminds him of a date.

“Cuddling?” Louis asks.

“No I mean…the kissing and stuff.”

Louis traces a pattern on Nick’s shirt. “I like kissing you. And you like me.”

Oh. Nick sits up so quickly he gets dizzy.

“Are you… Louis are you doing this because you think I like you? Is this your way of saying thanks?” Nick thinks he might throw up.

“No,” Louis says, confused, taking Nick’s hand and squeezing his fingers, “god, no, Nick, I like you too.”

Nothing makes sense to Nick. He lays down again, head still spinning.

“But you love Harry,” he says, and it’s not even a question. Nick knows it.

Louis stills, then leans over Nick. “Can we not talk about him? Can we just kiss?”

Nick gives in.

They get back late, traffic busy. Pig is so exhausted she falls asleep on the hallway carpet and Nick has to carry her to the bed while Louis makes a fond face, petting her. They shower and eat sandwiches and Louis makes them tea. He sucks Nick off in the kitchen, while Nick’s leaning against the counter, hands still wet from dish washing.

Later when they are about to fall asleep, Nick can feel Louis breathing getting shallow and he knows that those are tears against his shirt. He doesn’t ask.

 

 

~*~*~ 

It goes on for the next two weeks. Nick still makes plans with friends after work, but when he comes home, they order food and watch TV. Most nights Louis ends up in Nick’s lap and they kiss and have lazy handjobs or blowjobs. It’s always Louis starting it, Nick doesn’t know if he’s allowed to touch first, he doesn’t know where the boundaries are, so he lets Louis set the pace. He does know that Louis eats more and sleeps better, he smiles more and sometimes even laughs about Nick’s jokes and he cries less at nights. Nick also sort of knows he’s making the biggest mistake of his life, but for now he’s just holding onto a tiny hope that all of this will somehow magically end well.

His friends want to come over. Nick has avoided that for a month now and he’s pretty sure if he says no again Colette will just kick his door out and show up anyway. So he agrees and makes plans with them for a Friday night.

When he tells Louis about it, it goes just as well as he expected.

“They can’t see me here!” Louis says, eyes wide. And well, Nick saw that coming, but Louis doesn’t have to look like Nick invited over a row of paps or something. It’s just his friends.

“I know, Louis, but they are my friends,” he says. “They want to come over. They miss hanging out with me.”

“So what?” Louis asks, pacing the living room. Nick half expects him to just run out of the door any minute now. “What will they think when they see me? They can’t see me!”

Nick sighs. Of course it’s stupid of him to think Louis would want to meet his friends since all of them except Aimee think he’s moved to Jamaica or traveled to Moon or something (well, at least those of them who know who Louis from One Direction is), and Nick himself doesn’t want to explain what’s going on, but Louis could have looked less panicked and upset.

“Calm down,” Nick says. “It’s just one evening. You can do something else while they are over, drive somewhere or visit a friend. I just want to meet mine.”

Louis deflates and sits down on the couch.

“Right… yeah, you’re right. Sorry,” he smiles sheepishly. “Can I borrow your car then? I know a few places where I can go unnoticed.”

“What mine is yours,” Nick says, to lighten the mood.

Louis nods.

 

 

~*~*~

Colette is visibly unimpressed when there’s nothing weird about Nick’s flat. All of Louis’ stuff is packed up and hidden in Nick’s closet, the piano is under Nick’s bed. There’s not a trace of Louis. Nick gets them snacks and drinks while Gillian picks a movie.

“So, Grimmy, you’ve been awfully quiet about your love life,” she says few drinks in. She’s looking over her glass a gleam in her eyes, expecting a gossip or a juicy story.

“Nothing to tell,” Nick says a bit of a sadness in his voice. He doesn’t want to lie to them, they are his closest friends and they don’t have secrets. But he can’t tell Louis’ secret to them. He doesn’t even know if Gillian knows about Harry and Louis.

“Really?” Collette frowns, taking a sip of her wine.

“Really,” Nick confirms, and he can feel Aimee’s eyes on him.

“We should set you up with someone, then,” Aimee says cheerfully and Nick looks up. Her lips are tight and she looks like she’s reading Nick’s mind. He shudders inwardly and does his best to fake a smile.

“Sure!” he nods. “Do you have anyone in mind?”

Aimee squints, but then relaxes when Nick doesn’t turn away and just keeps smiling.

“No,” she admits, “but there’s a party next Friday, Caroline plans to invite half the London probably, you should come and meet new people.”

Nick agrees.

The rest of the night is okay, they make too many Instagram photos and fall asleep in Nick’s bed, and they leave the next morning, kissing Nick’s cheeks and telling him to not make them wait so long for the next time. Nick waves them all goodbye, thanks Aimee for the apple pie and it’s only when they are long gone that Nick realizes he can’t even contact Louis to tell him he can come back because he doesn’t know Louis’ phone number, neither the old one or the new one, that Louis is only using to keep in touch with his mum.

Louis comes back late afternoon and presses Nick against the hallway wall as soon as he locks the door behind him. Nick wants to say “I missed you,” but he bites his tongue and lets Louis pull them to bedroom.

 

 

~*~*~

Another week flies by, Nick goes to Caroline’s party and doesn’t flirt with anyone, Aimee’s hawk eyes are on him half of the time, but he just can’t be bothered. She doesn’t say anything though, so Nick assumes it’s all good. He does have a nice chat with Daisy who is finally back in London to do a fashion show though. Nick’s really proud of her and she has all the gossip from States to talk about.

He and Louis stay in for the following weekend, watching movies, cuddling and  kissing. On Sunday Louis plays Nick some of his new songs, he doesn’t sing along or show lyrics, but the melodies sound nice and catchy. Nick’s favorite is an upbeat tune that sounds like a perfect summer song. He would gladly play that one on the radio.

Later when Louis gets too buzzed from sitting around, jittery with energy, they take a walk. It’s a bit risky, Nick doesn’t want someone to recognize them, but it has rained earlier, so streets are mostly empty still. It’s a nice walk, Louis spends most of the time playing with Pig and arguing with Nick about who is the best avenger. They grab some ice cream together as well, Nick finds out Louis loves cookie dough one the most and will absolutely want extra caramel sauce on top anytime.

It’s such a nice weekend that Nick should have known something will go bad.

 

 

~*~*~

Fiona looks at him like she’s seen a ghost, and that’s the only sign Nick gets. She wordlessly gives Nick a copy of Daily Mail and ignores Nick’s cheerful “Good morning, babe!”

Nick’s heart speeds up like a racing car when he sees the front cover, the big and bold letters saying “LOUIS TOMLINSON FOUND WITH NICK GRIMSHAW”, and there are three grainy photos of him and Louis, taking the walk yesterday. Louis is holding Pig’s leash in one hand and ice cream in the other, grinning at Nick about something, Nick’s face is too blurry to see the expression, but they look friendly and enjoying their time.

The article itself, once Nick’s shaky hands find it, goes into details about rumors of Louis taking a break, about rumors of Nick and Louis not getting along (they’ve even added screenshots of their old Twitter spat) and tweets from a girl who apparently took the photos. She explains in her tweets how she didn’t know who Nick is and remembered Louis’ face from some magazine, she had tweeted the photos with a caption “is that @Louis_Tomlinson ?”

The journalist has added some information about photo being taken in Primrose Hill and Louis walking Nick’s dog, there’s an old Instagram photo with Nick and Pig as well. Daily Mail speculates about the “new unexpected friendship” and mentions Nick’s close friendship with Harry as well. It’s just an article in a gossip mag but Nick feels like his life has just ended.

“Oh my god,” he finally whispers eyes still glued to the photos.

“Are you okay, Grimmy?” Fiona asks voice full with worry.

Nick shakes his head. He is not okay. This is not okay. He gets up and searches for his phone. He still doesn’t know Louis’ number but he has to call Harry. If he’s lucky Harry is still sleeping and hasn’t seen this. Nick’s breath is doing that funny thing where it feels like his lungs are not working, but he focuses on the phone. He dials Harry and walks out of the studio to the bathroom, knowing that this early it’s usually empty and quiet. The phone rings and rings, and Nick thinks that Harry must be sleeping, and he prays it’s true.

“How could you do that?” Harry picks up, when Nick’s about to cancel the call. He sounds angry.

“Haz, I’m sor-” he starts, but Harry doesn’t let him speak.

“How could you not tell me you know where he is?” Harry shouts. “You knew I was worried sick, Grim, you’re my friend, why didn’t you tell me?”

Nick doesn’t have an answer.

“And since when are you two friends?” Harry asks, and his voice sounds so upset and angry, and Nick’s never heard him like that, he didn’t think Harry ever gets angry at anyone, always rambling about love and peace and being nice to everyone. “Did you knew the whole time where he is? Did he… fuck, Grim, did he… was he staying at your place?”

Jesus. Nick feels like there’s a lump in his throat and he can’t get his words out. This is not how it was supposed to happen.

“Haz…”

“Oh my god,” Harry whispers, and his voice changes from angry to sad. “I can’t believe this. Did you know when I was calling you that day, was he already at yours when I told you he is missing?”

Nick’s crying himself now, big fat tears rolling over his cheeks. He fucked up, he really, really fucked up. He never meant to hurt Harry.

“Yes,” he admits, because there’s no point in lying anymore. He’s done enough of that.

Harry whimpers. “Why, why were you not telling me?”

“I don’t know,” Nick says, and he doesn’t know what to do to make Harry understand he didn’t do it on purpose. “He was crying and he begged me not to, I didn’t know what to do!”

“What else did you not tell me? Has he moved into your place? Are you two a couple now?” and Harry’s just joking sarcastically, but Nick’s breath catches at that and then there’s a scary silence.

Nick walks backwardly on instinct and leans against the bathroom doors, head thunking. He feels like fainting.

“I…” Harry starts and then there’s silence and beeps of a finished call.

Nick wants to call him back, he wants to explain and tell Harry that they’re not, Louis loves Harry, and him are Nick are not together, but he knows Harry won’t pick up. He’s panicking, taking breaths too shallow and it feels like ages until he gets back to studio and finds his inhaler deep in a drawer, hidden under piles of papers.

Fiona is trying to help him, asking if he needs an ambulance, while he regains his breath, eyes full with tears.

“I can’t,” he tells her, voice strangled, “Fifi, I can’t do the show today. I need to go home.”

She opens her mouth to say something, protest probably, then nods. “I’ll take care of it. Can you drive, or do you need a taxi?”

“I’ll drive,” Nick says, because maybe it’s not a good idea, but right now a car crash sounds almost pleasant. Or he could just drive and not look back, leave the country, go to Europe, never come back.

Fiona nods again. Nick pockets his phone and the inhaler, and takes the copy of Daily Mail with him. He practically runs out of the door, just in case someone from the upper departments stops him and tries to convince him to come back. Or threatens to fire Nick. He doesn’t have time for that.

 

 

~*~*~

“Louis! Wake up!” Nick’s practically shouting, shaking Louis to wake him up. He’s asleep, hidden under Nick’s blankets with Pig next to him, and she looks offended about such a loud waking up. Louis has gotten her on his side completely, Nick almost expects her to bite him and protect Louis’ dreams or summat.

Louis sits up slowly, rubbing his eyes and staring up at Nick.

“Wha… Aren’t you supposed to be at work? What time is it?”

Nick doesn’t say anything, just hands Louis the paper. He can see the moment Louis realizes what’s going on, he doesn’t even open it to read the details, photos on cover are enough. He stares at them eyes wide, frozen in place.

“Give me your phone,” he finally says, looking up from the paper, eyes still full with shock.

“What?” Nick asks weakly.

“Your phone, Nick,” Louis repeats, holding his hand out. “I need to call him and I’m out of credit.”

Nick swallows. He rather suspects Harry won’t pick up his phone. “We talked, he hung up on me, don’t think he will answer.”

Louis looks like Nick just kicked him or worse, kicked Pig. He gets out of the bed slowly, picking up a hoodie from the floor. He puts it on and zips it up. He’s already wearing sweatpants and socks, he likes to be warm and cozy when sleeping, Nick knows that now. He waits for Louis to say something, anything.

Finally Louis asks calmly: “What did you tell him?”

“Not much,” Nick admits. “He sort of guessed most of it.”

Louis moves his balance from leg to leg, swaying in place, crosses his arms and clenches his hands into fists. He looks like he’s getting ready for a fight, while Nick feels like he already lost all of his battles.

“Define most,” Louis says. Nick just looks at him and Louis whimpers. “Fuck, Nick, what did you tell him?”

Nick does apparently has some strength left to feel angry, because Louis makes it sound like it’s all Nick’s fault.

“Nothing, I told nothing,” he spats out sharply, “he asked if we’re together and hung up because I didn’t know what to say. You do the math.”

Louis explodes.

“We’re not a fucking couple, what the hell, Nick, we’re nothing and you should have told that,” he shouts, face red with anger, eyes cold and staring at Nick, like he’s lost his mind.

Oh.

Nick sits down on the bed, feeling too weak to stand. Louis keeps yelling, throwing every insult at Nick, but all Nick can hear is “we’re nothing, we’re nothing, we’re nothing”. Of course they are nothing. Nick was just dumb because he thought that maybe… he hoped that he’s not alone in this. But he is. He’s such an idiot, and he can’t breathe again, and he’s done it again, tried to make something in his life work just to fuck everything up.

It hits him like a ton of bricks that he’s in love with Louis. Louis who is still shouting at him about Nick ruining everything good in Louis’ life.

“Give me your phone,” Louis is demanding again, eyes fierce and lips tight. Nick hands him the phone, hands shaking. He’s in love with Louis. And Louis hates him. He feels sick.

Louis storms out of the room and Pig jumps of the bed, following him. Nick wants to scream. He just wants to lay down on his bed, cuddle with Pig and feel sorry for himself, but even his dog doesn’t want him. He sits there, hands shaking and breathes.

Don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry.

 

 

~*~*~

The doorbell doesn’t stop ringing. Nick gets up when it’s obvious Louis won’t open the door. His limbs are heavy and his chest aches, he has no idea how long Louis has been outside, but he can hear Pig barking in the garden from time to time. He gets to the door slowly, whoever is on the other side is not giving up anytime soon anyway by the sounds of it.

It’s Louis bodyguard Alberto who barges past Nick like he is invisible, and a guy with ginger hair that Nick’s seen in photos with Louis at numerous clubs. The guy at least doesn’t ignore Nick, waves a hello first.

“You should call your PR,” he says. “Paps are here.”

Nick doesn’t care. He’s life is fucked up anyway, nothing that PR can fix. He doesn’t say anything and the guy moves past him and follows Alberto.

“No shouting,” he says loudly, either to Louis or Alberto, walking in the living room. “Paps could hear that.”

Nick locks the door behind him, and follows. He stops on the doorway to living room, unsure if he’s supposed to be a part of whatever is going to happen or should he just disappear.

Louis and Alberto are fighting, and at any other day Nick would find this hilarious, because Louis is tiny compared to Alberto, and it’s like one of those YouTube videos where a tiny kitten attacks a big dog, but there’s nothing funny about this mess now. Alberto is disappointed and apparently Louis has broken fifty different security rules and contracts, and from what Nick hears it’s less about Louis being in danger and more about Alberto feeling like Louis broke his trust.

The ginger guy, Nick still doesn’t know his name, keeps trying to make them lower their voices, but it’s a lost cause.

“I am going to LA,” Louis states, daring Alberto to disagree. “You can either come with me, or we can end the contract, I don’t care. I have a flight in four hours.”

So Louis is going to LA, where Harry is. Nick feels ill. He wants all of them gone.

“Pig,” he says over Alberto’s protests.

Pig looks at him, she’s been nervously running around Louis’ legs and trying to figure out if she needs to attack Alberto the whole time. She’s not used to people shouting and arguing. She doesn’t move though.

“Pig, come here!” Nick shouts angrily, loud enough that it gets everyone’s attention. Nick doesn’t care that his voice is breaking and he sounds like crying. Louis has ruined his fucking life, he just wants his dog back.

There’s a silence and Nick can feel Louis staring. Pig looks ashamed as she lowers her head and runs towards Nick. He picks her up and marches off to the bedroom without a word, closing and locking the door once he’s inside.

Pig’s whining in his arms, pressing her wet nose against his neck. Nick feels bad for shouting at her. It’s not her fault the humans are stupid.

“Sorry, Pig Dog,” he murmurs, sitting down on the bed, with her still in his lap. “I just had a really awful day.”

He almost cries from relief when she licks his cheek and lets him cuddle her. She, at least, still loves him. He buries his nose in her soft fur when there’s a noise of outer doors being opened and closed and then a complete silence.

 

 

~*~*~

The rest of the day is just as terrible. Everyone, starting from his manager, HJPR people, his bosses at radio and ending with Aimee, his mum and Gemma Styles wants to shout at him. He lets them, accepting it as a well deserved punishment. At the end of the day he’s so exhausted, he falls asleep with clothes still on.

Next morning he gets through the radio show just because Fiona and Tina still love him and they screen all the calls and Twitter and make sure nothing bad gets through. He still has to deal with paps, but it’s not as bad as it has been in the past. Someone has already tweeted photos of Louis in LAX, so main attention is on him on the other side of the ocean. And in a few days it’s like nothing ever happened, nobody cares about the photos anymore, because there’s something bigger and better, more juicy, than a walk with a dog. Nobody calls Nick out on it or asks about Louis, and he’s working hard to make up for missing the show on Monday.

Pig makes everything extra harder, she’s spending most of her time sleeping in the hallway, waiting, even though nobody is coming. Nick tries to play with her in the garden and she catches her tennis ball a few times but gives up quickly and goes back to guarding outer doors. Nick lets her be.

He packs up all the clothes and other stuff Louis left behind and pushes electric piano under the bed, changes the sheets and pillowcases, hides Louis’ favorite cereal and tea in cupboards he never uses and empties the ashtray. He wants to move on, forget Louis and get his life back together. He’s gotten very good at breakups, he knows, could write a book about it. Sure it hurts something awful, but Nick’s a big boy, he will get through it.

On the weekend Aimee comes over and she has lemon cookies with her. She’s really nice to Nick, all her anger gone, she doesn’t even ask questions, just lets Nick sleep with his head in her lap and pets his hair. They watch Netflix and Aimee tells Nick about what she bought at Portobello Market. It still hurts but at least Nick’s not alone.

 

 

~*~*~

It’s three weeks later, Nick comes in the studio half asleep and irritated, he’s upset with himself for not being able to sleep most nights, for still feeling like crying whenever he hears One Direction songs and for Pig still being sad and quiet, and refusing to eat and take walks half of the time. He still haven’t told anyone about what actually happened, Aimee thinks Nick’s sad because he and Harry fell out, and rest of his friends think he’s just busy and overworked. This morning he feels like punching someone and that’s saying something, because at any other day Nick would avoid a physical fight like the plague.

“Have you seen it?” Fiona asks, laughing with Tina about something in her phone.

“Seen what?”

Nick could use a laugh as well.

“Louis Tomlinson has a new tattoo,” Fifi says, because she doesn’t know Nick never wants to hear that word again. “And Collette is saying it looks like your dog.”

Nick freezes, scarf half unwrapped. He gets out his phone and, sure, there’s a ton of messages in their WhatsApp chat. Nick doesn’t bother to read it most days, all of them gossip too much, him included. He scrolls up where Colette has sent a screenshot of Tumblr. It’s a closeup of Louis’ arm apparently, originally from some tattoo artists’ Instagram. It’s a tattoo of mostly white bull terrier with one black ear and a handwritten text that says “Princess” underneath it. Nick stares until his eyes get blurry.

“Wow,” he says, trying to make a smile. “One walk with my dog and Louis Tomlinson is in love.”

Tina laughs while Fifi frowns, but they still have too much work to do before the show stars, so she doesn’t ask any more questions, and tells him more about her plans for the Showbot feature.

 

 

~*~*~

Harry calls him four times before Nick finally has a courage to pick up. He doesn’t know what to expect, maybe Harry’s upset Louis has a tattoo of Nick’s dog. That must be a hard one to explain, he thinks.

“Hi?” he says, curling up on the couch. It’s almost eleven and Nick should be sleeping already, but he’s a lost cause these days anyway, so might as well, he thinks. It’s a Friday night anyway, so at least he doesn’t have work the next day.

“Hi, Grim,” Harry says, and he doesn’t sound mad at all. “I’m… I’m really sorry for what I said. Or well, more like, for attacking you. I was unfair.”

Nick blinks.

“I talked with Lou, and I know it’s like… not your fault. I was upset about us breaking up and I just took it out on you,” he continues and Nick just gapes, too stunned for words. “And I know he asked you not tell me anything, so you did the right thing and… I’m really sorry.”

“Haz,” Nick says, and he’s blinking away tears. “Don’t, please. I was a real prick, and I should have told you, and then the rest of it… it was really awful of me, you have all the right to be like… mad angry with me. But I really didn’t want to hurt you, and I’m so sorry, I-”

“Stop,” Harry says, and he sounds just as teary as Nick. “Can we like, just go back to being friends? I really miss you, and I don’t want to not talk to you.”

“Sure, sure, of course,” Nick agrees, and if he sounds eager, who cares. He could use something good in his life for once. “Um… how are you?”

Harry laughs. “Better? I mean… we talked about it and like cried a lot and I broke a few dishes and Louis almost broke his hand while trying to punch a wall, but it was nice, a real closure, you know?”

Nick doesn’t understand.

“A closure?” he asks, voice small. “You’re not together?”

“What?” Harry asks confused. “No, ‘course we not. Did you forget we broke up like months ago?”

“But…” Nick protests, because nothing's making sense. “Louis is in love with you.”

“No, he’s not,” Harry says, and he sounds so casual about it, that it feels wrong. “I’m pretty sure he’s really gone for you. Or for your dog.”

Harry laughs and Nick just feels like all of this is some mean joke. He knows it’s not, because it’s Harry and he’s never mean to anyone, but it still feels like a punch in the guts. Harry stops laughing abruptly.

“Grimmy?” he asks, voice full with worry. “Nick? Have you talked with him at all? Didn’t you know?”

“No?” Nick asks unsurely. He doesn’t even need to close his eyes to hear Louis shouting “we’re nothing” at him, it's permanently written in his brain.

“Oh my god,” Harry sighs. “I am going to kick his sorry ass for this so badly. He promised me he will talk to you like weeks ago! I’m so going to call his mum.”

Nick chokes on a half laughter, half sob.

 

 

~*~*~

Nick wakes up because Pig is barking in the hallway. It takes him a moment to realize the doorbell is also going off. His phone shows 2:45AM and he’s not sure what’s happening. Would be Nick’s luck that there’s a fire in the building or something, he thinks, pulling a t-shirt over his head.

Pig’s wagging her tail and barking, and Nick has to actually push her out of the way to unlock the door. He is just as surprised as the last time, to see Louis on his doorstep. While he stares, frozen in a place, Pig’s going crazy with excitement, barking and trying to jump up, and Louis crouches down to meet her, letting her lick his nose and petting her.

“Hey, Princess,” he says, hugging her close, “I missed you too.”

Nick’s heart is beating too loud and too desperate. He wants to believe Harry was right so bad, but for all he knows Louis just missed his dog or wants to get his clothes back, so he doesn’t let himself hope.

“So, Harry is right?” he says when Louis keeps stroking Pig’s back. “You’re gone for my dog?”

Louis looks up and it’s the first time Nick looks at him properly. He looks good, a bit tired maybe, but all tanned golden skin and bright eyes, and Nick has missed him so much he’s chest is aching. Louis gets up then, and steps inside.

“No,” he answers sheepishly, looking down at where Pig’s still trying to lick his fingers and get his attention back. “Sort of been using her to get to her owner, but don’t tell her that.”

Nick laughs, and it feels so good, like a bubble of happiness bursting in his chest and he wants to cry. But then Louis is in his arms, burying his face in Nick’s neck, gripping Nick’s shirt and Nick’s actually trying to swallow real tears. He holds Louis as tight as he can, trying to breathe and convince himself it’s all real, Louis is really here.

“I’m so sorry,” Louis murmurs against Nick’s neck, voice muffled, “I lied to you. I love you. I love you, I love you so much.”

Nick can’t breathe.

“I love you too,” he gets out with a ragged breath, hugging Louis tighter. He’s never going to let Louis go now, he knows. It might upset Pig, but she already has a honorary tattoo, she can share Louis with Nick.

They both are still shaking and Pig's still jumping up and down, and it feels bizarre when Nick leans down and kisses Louis. They both are smiling too hard, both have their faces wet from tears and both are breathing too rapidly for it to work, but it’s still the best kiss Nick has ever had.

“I can’t believe this is real,” Nick whispers pressing his forehead against Louis’. “You owe me, Tomlinson, like a lot.

Louis laughs quietly. “I will make it up for you, I promise,” he says, and he sounds like he means it, gripping Nick's shirt tighter.

Nick finally lets go of Louis when he realizes the outer door is still halfway open. He locks it up while Louis gets out his phone.

“Have to text Harry, before he calls my mum,” he explains grinning.

Nick shakes his head. He can’t believe this actually worked out. Him, Louis and Harry. He makes a note to call Harry the next day, apologize properly and tell him that he’s the bestest friend Nick could ever ask for. Maybe Nick can pull some strings and get Harry some nice tickets or something, or like, buy him a planet. He deserves one.

“Come to bed?” Nick asks when Louis pockets his phone. Louis takes his hand and follows him.

They undress and get under blankets and Nick wraps his arms around Louis, pulling him closer. Pig, of course, jumps on the bed as well and gets comfortable at the end, where Louis feet are. Louis coos at her while Nick snorts. He will see how happy Louis is about that when they’re trying to have sex.

“By the way, I wrote you a song,” Louis murmurs half asleep a moment later, casually, just like Nick gets songs written to him every day. “Well, finished the happy one you liked. I’ll sing it to you tomorrow.”

“Okay, love,” Nick whispers, sleepily. It really is okay.