When they arrive in London it’s raining so hard that Louis finds it almost impossible to breathe through the heavy, moist thunderstorm air. He buries deeper into his hoodie, shoulders hunched, and tries to avoid stepping into puddles. He's tired and worn and there's droplets of water finding their way down his collar and his neck despite the umbrella, making him itch to finally get out of his clothes.
They took a cab from Heathrow, but the driver had to let them out at the corner because their street was blocked; pulling his suitcase, trying to handle his umbrella, while Harry is walking ahead, quiet and dripping wet already, Louis is not happy. His shoes are making wet, squelchy sounds with every step he takes and he can feel water seeping in between his toes. Sweden was nice. This is not.
Harry takes the steps up to their building, dropping his bag before the door to rummage for his keys; Louis catches up with him a moment later, staring at the exposed line of his neck where his sweater is trying to slink off his shoulder and the curve of his chin and cheek.
"Got the keys, Harry?" He steps closer, moving the umbrella to protect Harry from the water dripping off the roof in wild torrents.
"Yeah," Harry says, "got them." He fumbles around in the pocket of his worn jeans and unlocks the front door a moment later, and Louis folds his umbrella and follows inside quickly. The sounds of his shoes are even worse in the silence of the front hall on the way to the lift and Louis wishes he had something to say just so the weird echo of his steps has something to get lost in.
When they get in the lift, squeezed together because of Louis’ suitcase and Harry's dufflebag, Harry suddenly says, "I hate your shoes."
"What? Why?" Louis blurts out, staring at him, and adds with the same breath, "And I hate your sweaters," just so he can shoot something back.
"Good thing you're wearing one, then," Harry retorts and there’s only half a smile playing along his mouth. The doors slide shut and Louis jabs his thumb into the button of their floor, lips set in a tight line. This is not new, but Louis is not quite sure what’s happened that made their gears stop fitting together. He can’t pinpoint an event or a date, but they've been wire dancing ever since they left for Sweden, maybe even before that; he doesn't like it, this feeling of uncertainty, scared of the plunge and where it’ll take him. Harry doesn't seem to mind the fall. It's there in the gleam of his eyes and the spark in his smile. It scares Louis a little because he can see his own hopes in it, his expectations and needs.
The doors ping open and Harry strides on ahead, unlocks their flat and leaves the door open for Louis; he toes off his ruined shoes before he's even in the hall, leaving wet footprints on the hardwood floors.
"It's freezing," he says to the clothes hanger in the hallway and then dumps his suitcase in the kitchen, leaving the umbrella on the counter. He needs tea and biscuits and a couch and a blanket and a hot bath and the telly, preferably, impossibly, all at once.
He drops his sweater on a barstool and starts rummaging futilely in the fridge for something edible that’s not been in there since they left for Sweden.
“Harry,” he calls out, head buried in between a chunk of blue cheese (Harry’s) and a half empty bottle of Riesling that’s probably too stale to drink by now. “Harry, do we have biscuits? Did we buy any? I have a craving for chocolate biscuits.”
There’s the sound of a door swinging shut and then the kitchen door creaks open; Louis shuts the fridge, pushing it closed with his hip, raising a questioning brow at Harry.
“Dunno,” Harry says. He’s changed into plaid pajama bottoms and a white sweatshirt, hair pulled back with a headband; he nudges Louis’ suitcase with his toe, shrugging. “You need to do your laundry, Lou.” He grabs Louis’ sweater off the stool and holds it out; Louis takes it automatically, lips pursed.
“Do yours first,” he says, “I’m meeting El later tonight. She’s in London.” He grabs the handle of the suitcase, tugging a little until it’s teetering on the edge, held up his index finger.
Something in Harry’s face changes; he reaches up and pulls his hair free, tousling it until the bangs fall over his eyes like a curtain. “Right,” he says. “Do yours tomorrow then.”
Louis pushes his suitcase a little, urging it on. “I’m going to make tea, would you like some?” He ducks his head, trying to see under Harry’s fringe and read his expression. It’s always so much easier to understand what Harry’s saying when Louis can see his eyes. “We could watch a movie before I leave?”
Harry shakes his head and shrugs again, pushing his hands into his pockets, exposing the elastic band of his briefs. “Nah, just. I’m going to bed, I think.”
“Right,” Louis says. He squeezes past Harry with his suitcase, back out into the hall. It’s only three. If he cancels with Eleanor now, she probably won’t be mad at him. They can meet tomorrow and he and Harry can curl up on the couch and drink stale wine and share a blanket and watch a movie until they fall asleep and Louis will wake in the middle of the night and feel guilty for wanting to press his nose into the curls over Harry’s ear.
He really needs to meet Eleanor tonight.
The next day when he gets home and manages to find his charger in his suitcase and has finished stuffing his laundry in the washing machine, he finds an email from Niall waiting in his inbox with pictures of an odd animal (possibly) that he found outside his house, a text from Zayn telling him to go on Twitter and a voice message from Liam.
He calls his voice mail and, grinning, listens to Liam tell him what to prepare for the U.S. trip next week, and then drift into ramblings about his scooter and his sister and how are you and Harry doing? He’ll be back in London in a week to get things ready for the tour. Louis listens to him say bye and hears Liam’s mother in the background, and feels his chest tighten a little.
Harry’s still sleeping when Louis enters his bedroom without knocking and flops onto the bed next to him, kicking off his shoes in the process.
“Harry,” he says and nudges his shoulder, rolling over until he can feel the arch of Harry’s back and the jut of his shoulder press into his stomach and chest, heat seeping out from under the covers. He leans down, bites Harry’s shoulder and earns an elbow in the ribs and a hand on his face for it as Harry shifts onto his other side and rolls them over, easily pushing Louis down to half straddle him.
“Don’t bloody bite me,” he says and sleepily blinks down at Louis. He’s heavy - heavier than even a month ago, or two, his voice rough and dark from sleep. “What’re you doing?”
“Waking you up, isn’t it obvious?” Louis smiles up at him, but swallows tightly. They haven’t been this close in a long time. There’s always so many cameras everywhere and Louis has been so, so careful to not overstep the boundaries.
“Lou,” Harry says and shifts his hand to cup Louis’ chin in it, squeezing his cheeks. “‘s not how you wake people. Could’ve brought some tea.” His thumb brushes Louis’ lip when he pulls away to sit up cross-legged and tug the blanket over his shoulders again. Louis shifts onto his side and looks up at him.
“Will do, next time,” he replies lazily. “Will you drive north with me, Harry? We could visit your mum, and then mine.” Harry snorts and shakes his head. There will be more cameras in America, with every city there’ll be exponentially more. The thought worms its way down Louis’ throat and into his guts weighing him down like a stone and he feels guilty because he knows he should be thankful but. “Please,” he adds and nudges his chin against Harry’s knee. “I wanna see my mum. I know you wanna see yours. It’s perfect. Road trip, Harry.”
“We’ll be on tour,” Harry says slowly, deliberately, “we’ll be on tour and like, we’ll be on the road all the time.”
“Yeah,” Louis says, “but this is just us.”
There’s a moment in which Louis thinks Harry’s going to tell him no, but then he nods and presses the pad of his forefinger against the tip of Louis’ nose. “Alright. You and me, road trip.”
Louis showers and then gets his laundry done and then packs a weekend bag; he’s done long before Harry, because his closet is far more organized than Harry’s which mostly consists of a basket for dirty laundry and one containing all the washed things. He waits in the kitchen with a sandwich and a cup of tea, feet hooked around the legs of his stool and elbows on the counter as he drinks.
He drops his forehead on the counter, eyes closed, breathing slowly, trying to calm the rush in his head. Then there are steps moving through the kitchen and then Harry sits down on the counter next to him, smelling like soap and earthy aftershave. Louis turns his head, cheek resting on the counter, and looks at Harry.
“Are we okay?” he says before he can stop himself.
Harry reaches out and pushes a few hesitant, careful fingers into the soft, short-cut hair at Louis’ temple, making him shiver. “I suppose we are. Aren’t we?” He shifts uncomfortably and then pulls away again, hands on top of his thighs, rubbing; Louis knows he wants to say something and can’t find the words to say it the way he wants to.
“You’re my best mate,” he says eventually and Louis feels his stomach plummet, god, like a rocket whose engine failed halfway to the moon. It’s pathetic and painful and Louis wishes he could get a hold of this feeling that burns so deep he can barely stand it.
“You too,” he answers lamely, hands curling over the seat of his stool. “Are you done? I suppose we could get drive-in food for the road and then stop somewhere for a proper dinner if we get hungry before we get there?”
“That sounds good. And yeah, we can leave in thirty minutes? Would that be alright with you, Lou?” Harry slips to the floor, pulling up his trousers as they try to slink off his hips. Louis suddenly finds it hard to decide whom he wants to punch more: himself or Harry.
They get McDonald’s because Simon said they shouldn’t have any and when they’re done eating, Louis makes his seat lean so far back, he’s almost lying down. He grins up at Harry and wiggles his bum into the soft leather, sighing happily.
“It’s not safe to drive like that,” Harry says but starts the engine anyway. Louis curls up onto his side and Harry turns the radio up and hits the gas. They don’t talk, Harry focused on the road, and somewhere between Watford and St. Albans Louis just falls asleep because the car is warm and comfortable and the music’s out now and there’s nothing but the roar of 420 hp vibrating through him.
He wakes again when Harry pulls the car over onto a gravel road, tires crunching over tiny pebbles and stones; it’s almost dark now, a little hazy, the air thick. He makes a little sound and panicky moves to undo his seatbelt, but Harry reaches over and undoes it for him, smoothing his hand up Louis’ arm.
“It’s okay. Stay,” he says and squeezes Louis’ shoulder, “I’ve really just got to stretch my legs.”
“Me too,” Louis grunts; his voice doesn’t sound like his own, all heavy and rough, and he clears his throat to get some feeling back into it. He fumbles the door open and climbs outside, unsteady on his feet, then leans against the hood, warm from the engine beneath him, and watches Harry do a few stretched jumps and a few jogged rounds around the car, hair flying in the foggy evening air. Louis stretches his arms over his head and cracks his back and finally Harry comes to a halt, falling against the car next to him, panting.
“No stamina at all, Styles,” he says with a smirk and pokes Harry’s cheek, right where there’d be dimples were he smiling. “No stamina at all. Figures, however.”
“Bugger off!” Harry laughs and rolls over, tackling Louis, hands going to his armpits, tickling, and for a moment nothing’s changed and Louis shrieks and flails a little, kicking his feet to get out from under Harry, laughing as the metal of the hood squeaks under his efforts to evade Harry’s mean, mean fingers.
“Belt, Harry,” he wheezes out, “belt, car, scratches, money, Harold!”
Harry stops, still grinning wildly, and drops his hands onto the car, body pressed to Louis’, legs tangled. He’s breathing hard, cheeks hot and red with running and laughing. Louis sneaks his hands around his hips and holds him there, staring up; there’s no cameras here, there’s nothing. There’s bushes and trees and probably some sheep and Louis doesn’t really give a bloody fuck anymore right now.
“You’re heavy,” he says, throat tight, and angles his body up a little. “Did you gain weight, Styles?” He grins and then bites his lip when he sees the look in Harry’s eyes; suddenly there’s no laughter in them anymore. They’re dark, pupils blown, and it could be the fading light, but it could be something else entirely. He shifts up again, keeping his gaze steady, hips pressing against Harry’s, and yeah. “Heavy and hard,” he says; he tries to go for teasing, tries so hard, but ends up sounding desperate anyway.
“Not funny,” Harry huffs out and pulls away suddenly, taking a step back and turning to adjust himself. “It’s the adrenaline,” he mumbles and walks around the car. “You’re driving.”
Louis exhales and drops his head back onto the hood, eyes closed for a moment. “A-okay.”
Harry falls asleep the moment Louis turns the car and heads back out onto the road; he punches the address into the GPS and turns the radio on, so quiet it's almost not audible, and Harry doesn’t wake until Louis pulls up the road to his house two hours later. Harry's mum is still up when they get there and she hugs Harry first, until he's fighting her off, laughing, and then hugging her again on his own, and then she hugs Louis. She squeezes him until he squeaks and then pats his cheek when he pulls away.
“I’m going to bed, boys,” she says, yawning. “I put out a blanket and two pillows for you, Lou.”
“Thank you, Anne. Lovely to be here,” Louis says, nods and smiles at her, then goes to grab his bag from the trunk. “D’you need your things, Harry?” he calls and gets a sleepy grunt from the door in return, which he takes as a cue to grab Harry’s bag as well. By the time he’s got the car locked and all the things back in the house, Harry’s mother has gone to bed and Harry is lying face down on the couch in the living room.
“Harry,” Louis says and frowns; he nudges his thigh with his toe, precariously trying to not fall over as he’s handling two heavy bags simultaneously. “Wake up and support me a little here.”
“Ugh,” Harry groans and pushes himself up, shirt sliding up his stomach before he rolls onto his feet. He grabs his bag from Louis and heads for the stairs and Louis follows; his room’s clean and tidy and there’s a thin IKEA mattress on the floor that Louis knows from experience will absolutely kill his back.
He drops his bags in the corner and squats down to find a pair of pajamas and a T-shirt. From the corner of his eye he can see Harry stripping - sweatshirt, Tee, shoes and jeans, all landing in a pile on the floor until Louis knows that Harry’s in nothing but his undies and that he’ll be able to see the fading tan lines on his arms when he looks up.
He swallows and grabs his things, twisting toward the door as he gets up so as to avoid looking at Harry. “Pajama time,” he says and slips out, heart beating so fast he’s about to burst a lung. He sneaks into the bathroom at the end of the hall, changes into his nightwear and then impulsively grabs somebody’s mouthwash off the sink and rinses quickly. When he gets back, Harry’s belly down on the bed, playing with his phone. Louis can’t help but stare at his arse - it’s right there, for fuck’s sake, on display beneath grey jersey - it takes an inhuman amount of willpower to not give into the urge to sink his teeth in until Harry squeaks. He drops his things in his bag and crawls onto the mattress on the floor, shifting, wiggling to get used to it.
Harry drops his phone on the bed with a sigh and turns to look at him. “You really are going to sleep down there?”
Louis shrugs and stretches his legs out; the blanket’s too short. If he pulls it up to his chin, his toes are peeking out. “Yes, I will,” he says. He shifts again, trying to get comfortable somehow, and grabs his phone to text Zayn (“tell me a book bookmaster malik”) and finally reply to Niall’s email (“it’s a fire slug”), insistently ignoring Harry’s stare until Harry speaks again.
“Lou.” Louis turns his head and looks up at Harry, brow tilted. Harry slumps down on the bed, his cheek squished a little as he props himself up on his elbow, lying on his side; he reaches one arm out to make a grabby hand at him. “C’mere,” he says. Louis bats at his hand, but somehow his fingers tangle with Harry’s, pinkies hooking, and Harry rubs his thumb over Louis’ wrist as if he’s looking for his heartbeat beneath his skin.
Louis knows if he climbs into Harry’s bed now, he’ll blow - literally - all caution to hell. Suddenly, he wishes for cameras and curious eyes again because then he’d have a reason to stay away now; he wonders for a moment, hand locked with Harry’s, whatever the fuck made him decide this was a good idea. He’s usually much more rational than this. He gently pulls away, turning onto his side, arm curled over his stomach. He’s so tense it feels like his shoulders are going to crack open any second, spilling out all his secrets.
“So, basically,” Harry says after a moment of silence, “basically, we’re not okay.”
“We are,” Louis insists and Harry says at the same time, “I’m sorry that I mucked things up.”
The funny thing is, though, that Louis is wanting to say the same. Instead he just shakes his head. “We’re fine. You said so yourself.”
Harry grunts in reply and then the bed creaks; Louis stares at the wall, throat tight.
He signs approximately one hundred pictures of himself between his first coffee of the day and the second out on the balcony. Gemma is not usually the type to bother him with these things, but her girl friends at uni are relentless and Louis feels oddly responsible.
When he comes downstairs, Harry’s finally awake, hair standing up in all kinds of possible and impossible directions, stuffing his face with toast while his mother chats away happily. Louis leans against the doorframe and watches them, Harry nodding here and there, hunched over a little as he eats, as though he’s not quite used to his newly acquired height, the sprawl of his limbs. Louis wants to pretend that he’s not watching Harry’s mouth and throat and the sharp jut of his elbow out from under his faded oversized T-shirt, but the way his face heats up betrays himself. His body is more honest.
“Hi,” he says and gives Harry a tiny wave, then pushes off the doorframe and sits at the counter next to him.
“Hey,” Harry mumbles out between mouthfuls, eyes flicking up towards his mom.
“Oh, alright, alright,” she says, smiling. “I get it.”
“That was rude,” Louis says when she’s shut the kitchen door leaving behind nothing but the drip of the faucet and tangible silence between them.
“I didn’t do anything.” Harry grabs his tea and takes a sip; he meets Louis’ eyes over the rim of his cup and Louis can’t help but smile, falling back into habits that come to him as naturally as breathing. Harry puts his cup down again and then reaches out and frames Louis’ face between the palms of his hands. He squeezes a little, forcing Louis’ mouth into an odd shape, and Louis’ laughs and shakes his head.
“Wath,” he presses out and then Harry’s hands slides to the back of his neck and pull him in, fingers scraping down the soft skin there. He nips at Louis’ bottom lip like it’s a thing that he’s always done and Louis inhales sharply, eyes going wide. It’s almost like an electric shock that runs down his jaw and his spine, shooting adrenaline through him. It’s only a moment before Louis stops fighting the urge to tilt his head and leans up into the kiss, hungrily pushing against Harry’s mouth.
Harry tastes like toast mostly and tea and toothpaste; Louis makes a little sound because he can’t help it and presses closer, sliding off his stool to kiss him properly, to open up for him and lick at his bottom lip. His hand finds Harry’s hip to hold onto, thumb pressing into his stomach and Harry’s hand slides to the small of Louis’ back, guiding until Louis is pressed flush against Harry, sucking on his mouth like it’s the last thing he’ll ever do.
He pulls away a moment later, face flushed, and Louis almost chases after him, not wanting it to end. “That was easy,” he says, eyes wide and wondering, and Louis makes a questioning sound.
“What do you mean,” he says blankly and nudges his nose against Harry’s because it’s right there and he can and he’s momentarily forgotten all good intentions. Or maybe he just has the best intentions.
“I don’t know,” Harry says smiling, “I basically thought you’d box my ears. Since you’ve been so odd lately. But I wanted to see what happened.”
“I rather think I should.” Louis swallows and disentangles himself, the moment lost in Harry’s demonstrative rationality. He ducks out from under Harry’s hand and gets himself a glass of water. Between sips, hardly looking back at Harry, he says, “We should be back in London on Monday at the latest to get things sorted out. I’ll call Liam today and tell him what we’re up to.” He finishes his drink and puts the glass in the dishwasher and since it’s already opened, he clears Harry’s dishes up as well.
“Right,” Harry says. He folds his hands in his lap, thumbs pressed together as though he’s playing wars with himself.
“It’s nice out,” Louis continues. “I’m going sunbathing.” He’s lost a little color in Sweden. Harry’s house has a nice deck, hidden from view and just perfect for afternoon laziness. Hopefully, Zayn will have told him what to read by now. Harry doesn’t say anything; Louis watches his face for a moment, the invitation to join him tickling the tip of his tongue; he manages to catch it in time and heads upstairs to get changed.
He falls asleep in the sun, his Kindle on his stomach open on the second page of a Philip K. Dick novel (Zayn’s recommendation, Louis does not question him in these matters); he wakes up when the sun starts to move around the house and his toes are starting to get cold, and also because his face feels a little burnt.
He stumbles back into the living room and then into the kitchen, blinking blearily against the sudden lack of light, trying to see.
Harry and Gemma are setting the table and Harry’s mum is in the kitchen cutting salad. “I fell asleep reading,” he says, apologetic. “Your chairs upstairs are fantastic. If I had a deck like yours I’d certainly like to acquire similar ones.” He yawns and grins and Gemma breaks into a little laugh, shaking her head at him. He flicks his head at Harry who seems very busy setting out forks and knifes in very straight and proper lines around the dinner plates and doesn’t seem to have time to look at Louis.
“Anything I can be of assistance with?” Louis asks, stepping around the counter. He starts washing vegetables without asking and Harry’s mother just tells him to keep doing that, so he does. When dinner’s ready, Harry makes a point of carrying all the pots and heavy dishes to the table, and then sits at the head where Louis knows his stepfather usually sits if he’s not out on business.
“Always the man of the house, eh?” Louis jokes and sits next to Gemma, folding his feet at his ankles, and gives her an amused look which she answers with an eyeroll. He patiently waits for Harry to give everyone a slice of roast and then helps himself to salad. Gemma starts chatting away about school then, about her first teaching experience, the kids and the teachers. Louis is glad he doesn’t have to come up with anything to fill the silence because his nap has left him thinking too much about things that have no room at a dinner table conversation. He can’t focus on someone other than himself, except for maybe Harry, and that’s also not something he’d like to do, currently.
When dinner’s over, Louis follows Harry up the stairs to plug in his phone. He flops down on the bed because Harry’s charger is already there and plugs it in, scrolling through his Tweets. Harry’s rummaging around in his dresser and then pulls out an old, worn hoodie and shrugs it on.
“Gemma’s really pretty, isn’t she,” he says and Louis shrugs and shifts a little when Harry sits on the bed next to his hip, the dip of the mattress making him skid closer to Harry.
“Guess so,” he says carefully. “I don’t really check out my mates’ sisters.” He goes back to looking at his Twitter feed, then feels Harry’s hand on the back of his neck, squeezing slightly.
“And your mates?” Harry says and Louis freezes.
He clears his throat, trying not to lean into Harry’s touch too much. “My mates are my mates. We’re besties. You said so yourself only a day ago.” He’s got choices here, maybe too many, and he settles on wanting to reason his way out of this no matter how much he wants to see if Harry tastes like the strawberry parfait they had for dessert.
It’s hard to find words, though, with Harry pushing his other hand up Louis’ T-shirt to gently squeeze at the tense muscles of his back and then further up until Louis’ back is naked, his T-shirt bunched under his armpits. He grunts and can’t help going pliant, dropping his face into the pillow under him. Harry’s pressing in fingers, massaging, and it wouldn't be a thing if it weren't for the fact that Louis’ dick decides to think it is.
“It’s difficult,” he mumbles into his pillow, breathing hard through his nose, “everything has become so difficult to understand, Harry.” Harry’s grown up; Harry’s hands are bigger than his now and Harry’s laugh is easy and free and he knows he’s gorgeous. Louis wants him so badly, all for himself, and he doesn’t know anymore how they’re supposed to fit together.
“Me too. For me too,” Harry says. His hands leave Louis’ back and tug his T-shirt back down. “I’m going to help my mum with dishes.” He leaves Louis on the bed, hard and breathing fast and flushed, the door barely shut.
Louis calls his mum later that night when he knows the twins are already sleeping and won’t get too excited about him on the phone. He tells her that they’re going to be there sometime tomorrow afternoon and that Harry’s mum says hello. She starts crying on the phone because she’s so happy to see him again and Louis curls up in his chair and presses his forehead against his knees, trying not to cry as well.
He watches a movie with Gemma later, discussing her current classes while Harry catches up with his mum; afterwards, he goes to bed and falls asleep before Harry’s come back, too. He wills himself into sleep and ignores the urge to wait for Harry.
Harry spends the next day in town with his sister and Louis reads his book for while and then packs his bag again and loads up the car before Harry’s back from his trip. He makes sandwiches for the road and by the time Harry and his sister are back, it feels like his body is vibrating with the need to get moving again.
Goodbyes are watery and Louis waits by the car, arms crossed, not wanting to invade. When Harry’s done and comes to the car, he’s wiping his face, but doesn’t try to conceal the fact that he’s cried. Louis bites his lip and tenses his shoulders to keep still and not move to hug him tightly.
“I’m driving,” Harry says and Louis shuts the trunk and nods, getting into the passenger seat. He fastens his seat belt and takes off his shoes, putting his naked feet on the dashboard. Harry gives him a look, half amused, half warning, but Louis wiggles his toes and lets that count as an argument.
When they turn the radio on, heading out onto the main road, it’s playing Gotta Be You and Louis laughs. Their eyes meet and it’s ridiculous, it’s ridiculous that this is their single and that they’re out here on the road just the two of them. Harry laughs back, shaking his head and changes the station, and Louis is so busy staring at him and forgetting how to breathe that he doesn’t notice that Harry keeps driving north, not at all towards Doncaster.
He doesn’t even see the shoreline until they’re done singing Rihanna together and he glances outside. “Where’re we going, Harry?”
“Fleetwood,” Harry says and kicks in a higher gear, speeding up. “But I kind of took a wrong turn, so it’ll take us a little longer, I suppose.”
Louis stares at him. “What?” he says stupidly. “Why the bloody- Harry, why are we going to Fleetwood?”
“Because I want to see the lighthouses,” Harry says. “And the Marina. You’ll like the Marina. I looked it up last night. We can hire a boat. They’ve got a couple of nice bed and breakfasts there too.”
Louis opens and then shuts his mouth again because he can’t really find anything comprehensive to say. Finally, he grits out, “You could have asked me. This should have been a mutual decision, Harry.” He purses his lips, feeling his face redden a little with anger that he can’t quite contain. He doesn’t like being pushed into something, and Harry’s been doing a lot of pushing these past two days already. “You can’t just decide things like that without consulting me.”
Harry shrugs, but his face falls a little, the soft smile on his lips turning into a stark, set line. “I just thought you might want to see the boats,” he says. “I just. I thought you wanted time for the two of us. Like you said.”
It’s like a needle to Louis’ emotional balloon - his anger just deflates into thin air and suddenly he feels drained and guilty because that is exactly what he said and it is exactly what he actually wants and what he’s been trying so hard to deny himself. “I promised my mum we’d be there by five.”
“Ring her then,” Harry says.
“But I want to spend time with my sisters too. If we have to go back Sunday night-”
“Fuck Sunday night,” Harry interrupts almost forcefully. “We’ll get to London when we get there. We can go Monday and it’ll still be fine.”
Louis rubs his blunt nails over his trousers, thinking. Harry’s profile is determined and stern and yeah, Louis wants to hire a boat and lie in the sun and share sandwiches with Harry while the wind blows salt water in their faces. He reaches for his phone and scrolls through his call list to let his mum know they’re going to be there Sunday morning instead.
As it turns out, you can’t hire a boat on your own in Fleetwood, Lancashire, without being the respectable owner of a boating license and neither Louis nor Harry are. They get a ride around the Marina on one of the tourist boats, but listening to Scottish music with a couple of old ladies and gents while an uenthusiastic guide reads landmarks and historical facts off a book is not Louis’ idea of what a boat trip is supposed to be like.
He huddles close to Harry, their thighs touching, and sets off into a running commentary about people’s hats - there are lots of them - and Harry keeps laughing too loudly, his hand on Louis’ knee as if it belongs there. For a moment, very shortly, Louis is scared and for another one he thinks about putting some distance between them because there are so many things he needs to consider, so many things to keep in mind, but then Harry leans over and whispers hotly into his ear about some lady’s terrible scarf and his breath tickles shivery down Louis’ spine like a promise, as though he’s not talking about hats and scarves at all.
They drive around town for a while after until Louis has settled on a hotel by the Marina. The lady at the reception gives them a look over her glasses and says, “You lads won’t do any drinking, will you? And no girls either.”
Harry snorts and then covers his mouth with a hand and Louis smiles amicably at the woman. “Of course not. We were here to look at the Marina. Great fans of boats, the two of us. We’re just passing through and will certainly not cause you any trouble.”
“Lovely,” she says with only very little sarcasm in her voice. Louis gives her another wide smile, pays the room and grabs the keys from the counter, then ushers Harry to the lift before she can actually recognize them.
“What room number do we have?” Harry asks and Louis checks the keys.
“Thirty-one,” he replies and then drops his bag and pushes Harry back against the lift walls, leaning up to press their lips together. Harry makes a surprised noise and Louis nuzzles closer, pulling at his bottom lip with his teeth and then jumps when the doors open on their floor.
“Lou,” Harry says, ears red under his curls and Louis ducks his head and picks up his bag to head out into the hallway to their room. It takes him two tries to get the key into the lock because his hands are shaking and another two to get it out again so he can close the door once Harry’s inside. He’s suddenly so nervous that he doesn’t know what to do with his hands anymore after he’s dropped his bag on the desk, so he stuffs them into the pockets of his trousers and watches Harry take off his trainers with great precision.
He waits until Harry is done shrugging off his jacket too and then stays perfectly still when Harry pads over in his socks with a look in his eyes that turns Louis’ knees into jelly. He swallows tightly and tries to breathe, which is really bloody hard with his heart beating so fast it's almost splitting his chest open.
“Harry,” he says and Harry’s hand finds his stomach, rubbing, fingers splayed out, and he leans down and kisses Louis squarely on the lips without hesitation. This is nothing like the kiss only a minute ago or even the kiss in Harry’s mum’s kitchen; it sends a rush of adrenaline down Louis’ spine, making the small hairs at the back of his neck stand up as he shivers into it, opening up and pressing closer, arms around Harry’s neck. This is the plunge he was so scared of; it’s like walking down a flight of stairs and missing one, like falling and catching yourself in a rush of endorphins.
He makes a little sound and pushes up harder, finding himself again; they battle for control for a few moments, clicking teeth and wet lips until Harry gives in and lets Louis take control, going pliant. His left hand finds Louis’ neck again, holding him there, and his right the small of Louis’ back, and Louis has to pull away because his head is spinning.
“Shit,” Harry says breathing hard against his lips and laughing and Louis cups his cheeks in his hands. “Are we really doing this, Louis? Are you sure?”
He’s never been more sure about anything in his life. He wants Harry naked and their sweaty skin pressed together and he wants to be inside Harry and have Harry inside him and learn all the sweet spots and sharp edges. “Yes,” he says, pecking a kiss against Harry’s lips, “yes, yes we are. I want to so much. You have no bloody clue how much I want this.”
“What about,” Harry starts and he’s always so sensible, so unexpectedly sensible when Louis isn’t and when all he needs is Harry to get in on the rush with him, so Louis cuts him off and says, “Monday, I’ll figure everything out on Monday.” He doesn’t really give Harry another shot at more sensibility because this is not the time for rationality anymore, Louis is so over rationality currently, and leans up and kisses him again.
It takes Harry a moment to catch on but when he does he makes this growling noise that does all kinds of things to Louis and takes over control, kissing him deep and so thorough Louis doesn’t even notice that they’re walking backwards until the back of his knees hit one of the beds.
“Oh,” Louis says and shrugs out of his braces and undoes Harry’s belt and fly. “I suppose this would be the natural progression?” He feels his breath hitch when Harry pushes into his hand, groaning a little, and Louis can feel him hard against the palm of his hand through his underwear.
“You too,” Harry says, clumsily undoing Louis’ trousers and making Louis jump when his fingers brush over his dick.
“Oh god,” he chokes out and lets Harry push him down onto the bed. “Oh god, Harry-” He hitches his leg up and Harry rubs over him again until Louis reaches down and stops him because he doesn’t want to come in his jeans, he doesn’t want to come before they’re even naked. They kiss again, fast and desperate and Louis wiggles out of his T-shirt and then pulls Harry’s over his head as well, digging his fingers into Harry’s back when they kiss some more.
Harry’s mouth slides down his jaw and finds his neck, sucking and biting over his pulse, tongue flicking out as if he wants to taste the fluttering rhythm of Louis’ erratic heart, and Louis arches up, moaning, feet skidding over the comforter; it’s been so long since the last time he’s had somebody take control like this that it’s become almost alien, strange, but then Harry bites his collarbone and smooths over the sore spot with his tongue and all Louis can think about is finally getting his trousers off.
He starts working down Harry’s jeans along with his briefs, finally, finally getting his hands on Harry’s naked cock, squeezing and tugging gently until Harry pulls away moaning and panting and grips his wrist to stop him. Louis smiles a breathless smile and bites his lip, waiting.
“I wanna do this properly,” Harry says; he sits back and takes off his trousers and socks and then leans down to kiss over Louis’ stomach; he hooks his thumbs into the belt loops of Louis’ khakis and pulls them off, and Louis reaches down and pulls him up by a handful of hair.
“Fuck,” Harry says and settles on top of him; his skin is hot, searing against Louis’ hands. Louis groans and pushes up against him, his erection pressing into Harry’s thigh. He tilts his head up, lips parted and Harry gets it and kisses him again, open mouthed and wet, so dirty all Louis can do is hold on and wonder how and when Harry learned to kiss like that.
“Harry, Harry,” Louis manages and rubs up, heat rushing through him. “How do you- tell me what you wanna do-” He could come and he knows Harry can too because Harry is eighteen and rutting against his stomach, but somehow Louis is not satisfied with frotting away like this.
Harry pulls back a little and bites his lip, fingers digging into Louis’ thigh and then slipping further down to grip his bum. Oh, Louis thinks. “I really want to be in you,” Harry says stumbling over the words like stones, suddenly sounding his age again. “If not that’s okay as well. I just, I really want that.”
Louis shifts against his hands, cock twitching at the thought. “Yes,” he says. “I would like that.” He swallows and shifts his leg up, teasing the back of Harry’s thigh with his foot.
“Oh god, honestly?” Harry leans down, hands on either side of Louis’ head, and kisses him again, sucking at his mouth. Louis hitches his other leg up as well and uses the momentum to roll them over, straddling Harry. He grinds down against him and Harry’s dick, sticky with precome and sweat, slides between his cheeks and he moans. He hasn’t wanted this in ages and now it’s all he can think about, now it takes all his willpower to not try and do something completely bonkers like take Harry dry.
“We need some equipment for that, though,” he pants out, sitting up and rolls his hips down again.
“I know.” Harry’s hands slide up his thighs and to his hips again, holding him. Louis tilts a brow, but feels like his cynicism is somewhat lost on Harry in the face of his pink and leaking erection. “I went to the store. When I was out with Gemma, when she was looking at make-up, I bought a couple of things. I promise she didn’t see.”
“Oh hell,” Louis whines, “please, can we not talk about your sister when we’re about to shag. Please.” He drops his head back and moves his hips down again, dick twitching, and then Harry pushes him off not too gently and half sprawls on top of him, to lean down to the floor and get to his bag.
“Hey,” Louis says and sprawls on the bed, then shifts a little and bites Harry’s thigh.
“Ah!” Harry jerks up, condoms and lube spilling from his hands onto the pillows when he turns to wrestle Louis down.
“You need to use your fingers,” Louis offers helpfully, feeling elated and a little insane.
Harry leans down and bites at his chin and mouth, then whispers against his skin. “I know. I’m not twelve, Lou. I know how things work.” He nudges at Louis’ chin with his nose and kisses down his throat, hand sliding up Louis’ thigh and around to hook under his knee and push his leg up. He scrapes his teeth over Louis’ hipbone and then drags the flat of his tongue up Louis’ dick.
Louis makes another embarrassing sound, hips coming off the bed, and fumbles for the lube next to his head and throws it at Harry who grabs it and sits up, looking at him. He squeezes some into his hand and Louis’ stomach twists, nervosity and excitement in a delicious mix.
“I wanna see your face when I do it, Lou.” Harry kisses Louis’ knee and crawls over him, then lies half on top of him, eyes fixed on Louis’ face.
“Yeah, yeah, okay,” Louis says and stuffs a pillow under the small of his back, shifting them both a little until he can rest one leg comfortably enough on Harry’s shoulder. “It’ll be easier like that.”
“You’ve-” Harry stops himself and looks away for a second, looks down both their bodies and Louis knows exactly what he’s thinking.
“Yes, I have.” He bites his lip and shifts up, then reaches for Harry’s wrist and pushes his hand down. “Can you please do something already.”
Harry grunts and nods and then finally slips his fingers between Louis’ cheeks, carefully teasing the soft skin behind his junk and rubbing over his hole until Louis’ is shifting up against them each time, almost ready to beg for more.
“C’mon,” he says and Harry pushes a finger past the ring of muscles; Louis tenses for a moment, choking on the feeling, and Harry stops, but Louis rolls his hips up and urges him on until Harry’s finger is moving in and out easily and Louis is clinging a little to his shoulder. He doesn’t need more encouragement after that, sliding another in just as Louis is about to ask for it. He wets his lips and Louis squeezes his eyes shut, riding up against his fingers when Harry starts to fuck into him faster.
“You’re amazing,” Harry breathes against his collarbone and Louis opens his mouth to say something but all he can manage is a hoarse moan when Harry curls his fingers up like that.
Harry does it again then and again, and Louis arches off the bed, digging his nails into Harry’s upper arm. “Oh god, please,” he whines, “Harry, like that- do three-” He’s only almost prepared for the stretch of three fingers but his body doesn’t really mind and he has to bite down on his tongue to not get too loud.
“You’re taking all of them,” Harry continues and pushes his cock into Louis’ hip and Louis lets out a little laugh that quickly morphs into a moan.
“I think-” He finds Harry’s pulse, licking, whispering against him. “I think you should fuck me now, Harry. I think I would- I would really-” He loses his train of thought when Harry pulls his fingers out and grabs a condom, hands shaking. He drops one packet, hands too slick apparently, and Louis bats at them and grabs one himself and opens it carefully; leans down and rolls the condom onto Harry’s cock and slicks him up, stroking him a couple of times until Harry is moving into his hand.
They shift again, awkwardly, too many limbs, too hurried, until Harry is finally settled between Louis’ legs and his dick is sliding up his crack. Louis wraps his legs around him and inhales, biting his lip and then Harry pushes in, eyes closed in concentration, breathing in short, almost pained bursts.
“Ohgod,” Louis breathes and slides his hands up Harry’s side; it’s always so unexpected how uncomfortable it is at first, even though he should know better, and it’s even more unexpected how quickly his body catches on and adjusts and how the feeling of Harry being all the way inside makes his dick twitch and makes him ache for more and more.
“Can I move?” Harry drops his head on Louis’ shoulder and Louis nods quickly and moves for him, rolling his hips up until Harry grinds down and they find a rhythm. Slow at first because Harry is holding back, but he speeds up soon, one hand going down to hold Louis steady by the hip, and Louis moans, lips slack, sweat gathering on his neck and chest, flushing hotly.
“Just like that, yes,” he babbles uselessly on and on, clinging to a semblance of control, “fuck me like that, Harry-” And Harry’s hand finds his mouth for a moment and is then replaced by a sloppy, open-mouthed kiss into which Harry moans loudly.
His thrusts become erratic and uncontrolled but harder and Louis feels his body come off the bed; Harry keeps brushing over that spot inside him, but it’s not enough, it pushes him to the edge, but not over, the feeling spreading like a slow burn through him, eating away at him and glowing through him like cinders. He reaches down and tugs at his cock, once, twice, twisting, and comes all over his chest and Harry’s stomach, mind going blank for a second there. He comes back warm and almost numb and shifts up to meet Harry’s hips.
“Oh, fuck,” Harry grunts out between his teeth and pushes in again and again until Louis feels him come, body tensing up over him. He collapses, but catches himself, and pulls out wincing; Louis watches him tie off the condom and flick it in the general direction of the bin. “Fuck,” he says again and a grin spreads over his face as he gingerly lies down at Louis’ side.
“You keep saying that,” Louis jokes and rolls onto his side to look at Harry. He reaches out and tangles his fingers in Harry’s hair and then somehow they’re kissing again, sweet and careful, tasting each other’s breaths. He pulls Harry closer, nipping at his lips, digging his fingers into the thick, sweaty curls at the base of his neck, and then slides his hands over Harry’s back, skin sticky. Harry makes a small happy sound against him and wraps his arms around him again, his hands drawing little circles over Louis’ back and chest and stomach.
It takes a moment or two for Louis to remember how to breathe, to remember that they’re two people and not one, with their sweat mingling, bodies warm and pliant in the afterglow.
“I like your skin,” Harry says when they pull apart and Louis shakes his head and laughs.
“Are you trying to take my place as the person who says ridiculous things?” he asks, propping himself up on an elbow.
“You could say something ridiculous as well,” Harry says, smiling at him wide-eyed.
“You’re a human contradiction, Styles.” Louis bites his lip to keep himself from smiling too hard. “Can we go shower?”
“Yes,” Harry agrees emphatically. “Can I touch you again then?”
Louis sits up and turns away because he can’t- he can’t keep that stupid, bloody shit eating grin off his face. “I will consider it.”
Harry’s arms wind around his waist and pull him down again; then Harry’s lips suddenly make the trip to the bathroom appear to be an odd concept altogether.
Louis’ mum has left three voice messages on his phone by the time he wakes up far too late the next day; he calls her and apologizes while Harry’s in the shower. There must be something in his voice because she doesn’t even try to tell him off for being late or being unreliable.
They leave their room a mess of wet towels and sandwich wrappers and Louis returns the key with a smile, telling the lady at the reception that he hopes all is in order with Harry giggling into his shoulder.
It’s not that long a drive to Doncaster, but they stop on the way for lunch, and Louis rolls down the window of the car and lets the wind tousle his hair, his hand on Harry’s knee, the uncontrollable urge to tell the world how happy he is vibrating through every fibre of his body.
That night at Louis’ house, curled up together in Louis’ childhood bed, their legs entwined, feet warming each other, Harry presses his face against Louis’ chest and wraps his arms around him like he never wants to let go again. Louis hugs him back and holds him because he knows why; Monday is tomorrow and on Monday they go back.
“I know,” he says, “there’s a multitude of things we need to figure out.” Mainly, a multitude of things he needs to figure out.
“Don’t say things like that and use those kinds of words,” Harry mumbles. “I’m serious, I am.”
Louis trails his hand over Harry’s shoulder, breathes against the top of his head, suddenly nervous. “So am I,” he says finally, and in that moment understands that he means it.