Actions

Work Header

A Match Made in Aisle Three (Everybody Cut Footloose)

Work Text:

“You’re staring.”

“I’m not staring, Niall; shut up.”

“You’re totally staring, Louis. Admit it.”

“I will do no such thing.” Louis shook his head, focusing his eyes on his friend next to him.

“Why not? Because then you’ll have to admit that you’re a little obsessed?”

“Not obsessed. Just… Appreciative.”

“Appreciative?” Niall scoffed. “That’s a new one.”

“Why can’t I appreciate how good he looks?” Louis wondered.

He set his gaze back to Harry, who was standing in an aisle about thirty feet away, looking through different kinds of headache medicine.

From where Louis stood, he saw that Harry had on a black T-shirt, and his long, brown hair was pulled back into a bun, and only assumed he was also wearing some tight jeans and a pair of boots.

“Maybe I’ll go over there,” Niall started, “and tell him about the brand that my friend Louis uses and then casually point over here and tell him that you’re my friend Louis.”

“You wouldn’t dare.”

“Maybe I will; maybe I won’t. Either way, you need to go talk to this kid. You’ve been lusting after him for months.”

“And what would I even talk to him about?” Louis wanted to know.

“Anything! Why don’t you just go up to him and offer some… assistance?” Niall suggested in an innocent tone. “If you know what I mean.”

Louis knew by now that Niall’s 'innocent tone' implied the dirtiest of thoughts.

He rolled his eyes. “Yeah, Niall I think everyone knows what you mean. And ew.”

“For once, I wasn’t being a total perv. Dude looks like he’s struggling over there to make a choice. You really could go up and give him a suggestion about which brand to get, from a professional standpoint.”

Which was true. Louis saw that Harry had an adorable frustrated look on his face as he compared the labels on a bottle of Tylenol and a bottle of Advil.

If Louis looked closely enough, he could almost see the tip of Harry’s tongue poking out of the side of his mouth in concentration.

“Or even a personal standpoint,” Niall continued. “I mean, you get headaches all the time after rehearsing, don’t you?”

“Rehearsals,” Louis remembered. “What time is it?”

He checked the time on his phone and realized it had been ten minutes since he’d started watching Harry inside the store.

He also realized he had to go.

“Shit, I’m officially late for rehearsals,” he muttered.

He started taking off his name tag so he could go clock out.

“Say hi to my girlfriend for me,” Niall grumbled.

“Niall…”

“What? You see her more than I do lately. Damn actors.”

“Not my fault Renner cast her as the female lead!”

“You’ve probably been kissing her more than I have been,” Niall said, continuing to pout.

“You act like that does something for me.”

Niall shrugged a shoulder. “I guess. All right, well, get out of here so you’re not late. Otherwise I’ll hear all about it from Melly.”

“Yeah, I really gotta go. See you, Ni.”

“I’ll say hi to Lover Boy for you once you’re gone.”

“Don’t you dare!”

“One of us has to.”

“And it’ll be me!” Louis exclaimed. “I will. I promise I will.”

---

Louis didn’t.

In fact, Louis didn’t in a spectacular way.

It was two days later when Louis saw Harry again.

Of course, it was when he was at work.

Louis oh-so-glamorously was a part-time employee at Bernie’s, the supermarket just two streets over from Macullen University, the college where Louis was a junior.

Students flooded Bernie’s during the school year, as it was the closest store to campus. And Harry was no exception.

Louis knew that Harry and his posse of friends were students at Mac, too, but he also knew Harry was in a fraternity, a group of gentlemen Louis usually avoided interacting with. 

Anyway, getting back to the present.

Louis was just minding his own business, coming back from the bathroom, and turning down the aisle with the peanut butter, jelly, salad dressing and all the other condiments.

It was a shortcut to get back to the register, where Niall was begrudgingly covering for him before he got to clock out.

And then he saw Harry.

Well, nearly collided with him was more like it.

As he reached the end of the aisle, Harry was turning down it, and they almost walked into each other.

“Hi,” they said at the same time.

Louis watched him carefully, the whole time, trying to say something about anything.

Say something. Anything. For God’s sake, Louis, fucking say something!

“Um, I-“

“Is the peanut butter on sale?” Harry interrupted. His voice had a bit of a manic tone to it, if Louis was being honest with himself.

“Uh,” Louis said, caught off guard. He glanced behind him at the shelves. “What?”

“The peanut butter? Is it on sale?”

“Well, no. Not really. I mean, um, the Bernie’s brand peanut butter is on sale. It’s two jars for five dollars. But the name brands, like Skippy and Jif, they’re not on sale. Because they’re, you know, name brands… and stuff.”

And stuff. Eloquent.

“Oh, OK.”

“Hey, H, did you get the-“

Harry’s friend, who Louis recognized as Zayn, came around the corner just then.

He was wheeling a cart that had a bunch of other items in it.

“-Peanut butter?” he finished.

His eyes flicked back and forth between Louis and Harry, a small smile threatening his lips.

“I- I gotta go,” Louis muttered.

He ducked his head slightly and rushed back to the register.

Hopefully, Harry wouldn’t come through his lane.

---

“So did you talk to him?” Zayn wondered once Louis was out of earshot.

“I asked him if the peanut butter was on sale.”

“Huh?”

“I asked if the fucking peanut butter was on sale,” Harry repeated.

“Why?”

“Because it’s all I could think of, that’s why.”

Zayn looked around him toward the shelf.

“But you could’ve figured that out yourself.”

“I know, Zayn.”

“Like, the signs clearly say that only the store brand is-“

“I know that, Zayn!” Harry exclaimed.

“So why would you ask him that?”

“I don’t know! Just, I saw his eyes and I blanked. They’re blue. Like, I didn’t realize how blue they were. And then I realized I was staring, and I just blurted out the first thing in my head.”

“And that was a question about the prices of peanut butter?”

“Yes, Zayn,” Harry muttered.

“Aww,” Zayn cooed after a moment. “Harry has a crush.”

“Shut up.”

“It’s adorable!”

“Shut up or you’re paying for all the groceries.”

That got him.

He mimed zipping his lips shut, locking them up and throwing away the key.

---

The next day, Louis got to campus just a few minutes before he needed to be in the theater to start getting ready for rehearsals.

His school had chosen Footloose as its annual spring musical, and after a lot of nudging from his friends, he finally auditioned for Ren, the male lead character.

Imagine his surprise when he actually got it. He’d been in the ensemble the past two years; this role came with a lot more responsibilities, rehearsals, fittings and memorizations.

Needless to say, the past semester had been hectic.

He’d needed help from Liam and Niall to run lines over and over again until he really felt the part was his own.

It helped that he’d convinced Liam to try out, too. His friend, who had also been in the ensemble the past two years, scored the role of Willard, Ren’s sidekick and partner in crime.

He ran into the building and immediately headed backstage.

There were only two weeks left until Opening Night, so they were officially in Dress Rehearsal mode.

“Hey, hey,” he greeted his fellow cast members as he walked in.

“Hey, Lou,” Liam called out as he finished buttoning up his plaid flannel shirt.

“Cutting it kind of close, huh?” Melissa asked from where she was getting her makeup done.

“As always. Niall sends his love, by the way.”

Melly smiled. “Depending on what time we get out of here tonight, we might go out for pizza or something.”

“That’ll be nice. He misses you. He won’t shut up about how I see you more than he does.”

“Not my fault!”

“I tell him the same thing.”

Louis walked off to get changed.

“By the way, is the cast party still at your house, Mel?” Louis wondered when he returned. He plopped himself down beside Melly to get his makeup done next.

“Sure is. You bringing anybody, Louis? Maybe a certain frat boy who you keep drooling over?”

“No, he won’t,” Liam cut in. “Because he won’t say two words to him.”

“Still?”

“Still.”

“Liam, you can’t say anything until Sophia acknowledges your presence,” Louis sassed.

“At least she knows who I am. We had a class together last semester and this semester, too.”

“Wow. Is my wedding invitation in the mail, or...?”

“Enough with the chitchat!” Dolores Renner, their director, commanded as she walked in. “I’d like to get this rehearsal started some time this month, please… Or else.”

The cast muttered their apology and sped up their ‘getting ready’ process.

---

Louis had never had a poker face. Anything he was feeling was very easily readable by the expressions he made. 

Hence, he hadn’t been able to keep his crush on Harry a secret for more than a day.

So now, whenever Harry was in the store, one of his friends made it a point to let him know right away.

“Louis, your boyfriend’s here!” Liam announced less than quietly as he hurried down the aisle where his best friend was stocking shelves.

“Please stop calling him that.” Louis shook his head. “He doesn’t even know my name.”

“Doesn’t mean you can’t tell him. Come on. He looks good today. He’s wearing those jeans with the holes in the knees I know you like.”

“I just saw him yesterday.” He didn’t mention the fact that it had been creepily from across the school library. “I’m good today.”

“Lou, come on,” Liam whined.

“Li, why do you care so much?”

And then he realized. “Sophia’s with him, isn’t she?”

“No.”

“Liam.”

“Maybe. Now come on.”

Louis sighed as he – willingly – allowed himself to be led away from his task for the day.

“Where are they?” he asked as they walked.

“They walked in and headed toward the fruit. So Harry’s probably picking out bananas as we speak.”

“We’re such creeps,” Louis muttered.

Of course, he was doing nothing to change that, as he peered around the corner and, sure enough, saw Harry and Sophia shopping for groceries.

Louis often wondered about their relationship: whether they were just friends, or cousins or dating or what.

It wasn’t like he could go and ask them. Like he’d already told Liam, Harry didn’t even know Louis’ name.

He was just the weird supermarket employee who liked to scope out Harry and his never-ending line of friends when they came into the store for whatever they needed.

Louis had first noticed the other boy in September when he started working at the store.

Now, more than six months later, Louis was no closer to learning anything about the boy besides the fact that he had adorably curly hair and seemed to have no other clothes in his closet besides black skinny jeans, T-shirts with Greek letters on them and scuffed-up boots.

Louis really only knew his name because his friends were loud talkers, and Louis had the tendency to eavesdrop.

“Wonder what they’re buying today,” Liam spoke, breaking into Louis’ thoughts.

“Don’t know.”

“Have you ever talked to him? Like, at all?”

“Just once,” Louis answered. “It was like a week ago, and he just wanted to know if the peanut butter was on sale.”

“Was it?”

“No.”

“It’s sad that you remember that.”

“I know. When was the last time you talked to Sophia?”

“Actually, I had to help her on Self-Checkout yesterday.”

“Lane 3?” Louis asked, even though he already knew the answer.

Everyone in the store knew about Self-Checkout Lane #3, aka the one that had the tendency to freeze up and blast loud alarms for no reason.

Louis suspected the machine was possessed. That, or it had a personality like Louis and just wanted to fuck with people to make the day pass by quicker.

“Lane 3,” Liam confirmed.

At that moment, Sophia looked over and seemed to stare right at them.

“Move!”

The two of them got back behind the shelf, hoping they hadn’t been spotted.

“Did she see us?” Louis asked.

“I really hope not.”

“That’s my cue to leave, then. We need to stop being weird, Li.”

“Not like it’s easy.”

Louis shrugged. “Maybe if we can find them around campus, it’ll be easier.”

---

It wasn’t.

Louis saw how not easier it was just a few days later.

Louis had just gotten out of a rough Acting 3 class and was walking around the back of the building toward the lot where he’d parked his car.

That's when he saw them: Harry, Zayn, Perrie and Sophia, emerging from one of the sorority houses.

And the four of them were headed his way.

Oh, fuck.

Louis wasn’t ready for that. They were going to pass right by each other, and Louis didn’t know if he should ignore Harry or say anything or if Harry would say anything or what would happen.

There were too many thoughts swirling around his head, and he didn’t know what to do with them all.

But that didn’t matter, because now, Harry was suddenly stumbling to his left, directly into Louis’ path.

If Louis had taken another step forward, they would’ve crashed into each other.

“Hey,” Harry blurted out, now that the two of them were face-to-face.

“Hey,” Louis replied cautiously.

Harry’s friends stood off to the side, clearly watching the exchange.

“You work at Bernie’s, don’t you?” Harry asked.

“Yeah, I do. That’s me.”

Jesus, get me out of here, Louis thought to himself.

“I thought so,” Harry said, like he was having some kind of huge revelation. “You looked really familiar, so I just thought I’d ask.”

“Oh. Well, ding, ding, ding! You got it right.”

You could not be any more embarrassing right now. Please stop.

“Right,” Harry smiled. “I’m- I’m Harry.”

“Yeah,” Louis responded, with a duh tone to his voice.

Harry’s smile got even wider. Louis was just glad Harry wasn’t laughing in his face at how idiotic he sounded.

“I mean,” Louis said, “Hi, Harry, I’m Louis.”

“Louis,” Harry repeated. “Nice to meet you.”

“Nice to-“

Harry’s friends started quietly laughing from where they stood.

Louis felt his face heat up.

Oh, God, am I totally obvious right now? Do I have heart eyes? Thank God Liam and Niall aren’t here to witness this.

He quickly glanced down to make sure his fly wasn’t undone or anything before speaking again.

“Nice to meet you, too,” Louis replied.

Harry, who had been glaring at his friends at that point, quickly looked back to Louis, offering another smile.

“Um, I gotta go,” Louis said.

“Oh. Yeah; yeah, sorry. I don’t want to keep you or anything.”

“No, it’s OK, I just… Gotta get to work, so.”

“Sure,” Harry complied. He stepped aside to let Louis pass. “I’ll see you.”

Louis nodded, and then walked away quickly.

He heard Harry’s friends laughing some more and he picked up his pace, reminding himself to never go that way after class again.

Hell, he’d rather walk to campus than drive and risk parking in that lot.

Once he reached his car, he looked back toward Harry and his friends, surprised to see Harry shaking his head at the others and walking away from them.

Louis wasn’t about to pretend that Harry was mad at them for laughing at him, although it was a nice thought.

He remembered what time it was and jumped in his car.

He was going to be late to work. Again.

---

“What the fuck, guys?” Harry hissed, turning on Zayn, Perrie and Sophia. “What was that? You guys suck!”

“I’m sorry, H,” Zayn apologized.

“You’re not sorry. Why did you push me? I almost knocked him over.”

“Well maybe it’ll knock some sense into you two, then,” Sophia jumped in. “We know you like him, and he’s clearly into you.”

“He is not. He couldn’t wait to get away from this conversation. It probably didn’t help that you guys were over here giggling like hyenas.”

“Yeah, that was probably bad timing,” Perrie admitted.

“You think?”

“We couldn’t help it!” Sophia exclaimed. “You just had this little puppy dog face on, and you looked so flustered. We’re not used to that, to be honest.”

“Well he probably thought you were laughing at him,” Harry whined. “Look, thanks guys for trying to help, but let me do this, OK?”

“Only if you promise to actually do something about it,” Zayn compromised. “I mean, you’ve liked the guy since he rang us up at Bernie’s last semester and only now do you two officially know each other’s names. That’s not the Harry Styles I know.”

“OK! I’ll do something about it. Just, without you guys. You officially cannot play matchmaker.”

“Hey, I would be a good matchmaker,” Sophia pouted.

“Doubtful.” Harry shook his head before walking away.

---

Louis walked into the break room, happy to find both Liam and Niall there.

“Good, I can talk to you both at once,” he said.

He then noticed Liam was standing up by the table where Niall was sitting, and he was in the middle of taking off his name tag.

“Are you headed out?”

Liam nodded. “Yeah, I have class.”

“Well hang on, sit back down. I have to tell you something.”

Louis pulled out a chair and dropped himself in it, staring up at his friend expectantly.

Liam looked between Louis and his watch, a state of distress clearly written across his face.

“It’ll just take a minute, Li, come on,” Louis urged.

Liam looked over at Niall for help, only to be met with a shrug and an eyebrow raise.

“Fine,” Liam sighed, sitting back down. “But if I’m late, and get in trouble with Professor Wilson, you’ll be the first to hear about it.”

“I’m sure I will, Liam. Anyway, this is important.”

“Socio-Economics is very important, Louis!”

“Not to me. Moving on.”

Louis started speaking, ignoring a poorly hidden eye roll from Liam.

“I ran into Harry today. Almost literally.”

“Where?” Niall wondered. “In the store?”

“No, on campus.”

“Where’d you see him?”

“By Greek Row,” Louis answered. “He was coming out of one of the sorority houses with his friends.”

“Did you guys talk or anything?” Liam questioned.

“Boy, did we.”

“What’d you say? What did he say?” Niall asked.

“Well, I was walking to get my car, and because I got to campus so early this morning, the lot where I always park wasn’t open yet, so I had to park in the one near the Arts building. And you know I hate parking there because the Greeks are always milling about there and throwing Frisbees and taking up space on the grass-“

“Louis, get to the point,” Liam interrupted. He took another glance at his watch.

“Right. So, I’m walking on the sidewalk and I see Harry walking out with Zayn, Sophia and Perrie. I’m freaking out because I don’t know if Harry is going to say anything, or if I should say anything. And then, Harry trips and is all of a sudden in front of me, and he’s asking if he knows me from somewhere.”

“What did you say?” Liam questioned.

“I said I worked at Bernie’s, so he’s maybe seen me here before. And I said my name was Louis, and he said his name was Harry, and he said it was nice to meet me.”

“And then…?” Niall grinned.

Louis’ face fell slightly. “Um… And then his friends kind of started laughing.”

“Why?”

Louis shrugged. “I don’t know. They probably saw how much of a nerd I am and thought the awkwardness of our conversation was just plain hilarious.”

Liam shook his head. “Louis, you’re not a nerd. You’re awesome. Hands down the best actor I’ve ever seen.”

“You have to say that.”

“Why would I have to say that?”

“Because we’re friends or whatever, and you have the unexplainable urge to make everybody happy and feel good about themselves.”

“Both of those statements are true,” Liam agreed, “but I didn’t say that just to make you feel better. I meant it. You brought the house down in the play last semesterand you’re going to kill it when we perform Footloose next weekend.”

Footloose…” Niall muttered to himself.

“Niall…”

“Niall, it’s just a musical,” Louis said.

“Doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten that you’ll have to kiss my girlfriend on stage in front of everyone.”

“Because it’s in the script! I don’t want to!”

“Why not?” Niall wanted to know, suddenly offended.

“Niall, shut up,” Liam huffed. “Can we get back to the point, please?”

“Oh, right; sorry,” Niall apologized. “Anyway, Louis, I’m sure they weren’t laughing at you. Maybe one of them had a stupid text on their phone and the others were laughing at that. You don’t know. But the important thing is that he talked to you. Voluntarily.”

Louis shook his head. “I guess. He was probably just being nice, though.” 

“Or, he’s seen you around the store before and thinks you’re cute, too.”

“Impossible.”

“Totally possible. Liam, back me up.”

“It’s feasible,” Liam said. “He does shop here a lot. Maybe he comes in so much because he wants to see you, too.”

“What if he likes you, too?” Niall exclaimed.

“You’re both crazy.” Louis resisted the urge to laugh. He stood up quickly. “I have to go clock in. Liam, go to class.”

“Don’t write us off, Lou!” Niall called out as Louis left the room.

He walked out to the computer and clocked in for the day. He would be working until 10 that night.

He checked to see where he was tonight, and saw his least favorite station next to his name: Self-Checkout.

The day just got a million times worse.

---

Louis hated monitoring Self-Checkout.

It was eye-roll inducing no matter how he looked at it.

There was either nobody in line to help, so he was bored, or some customer fucked everything up and couldn’t figure out how to properly scan a bar code.

Or, of course, something could go wrong with Lane #3.

A few hours into his shift, he’d just finished helping Mr. Turner, his former math professor, move his groceries from Lane #3 to Lane #4 after #3 decided that it was going to mysteriously shut off after Mr. Turner tapped the screen to pay for his stuff.

He apologized for the inconvenience a few times, and manually rebooted the machine.

He also took the liberty of bagging Mr. Turner’s groceries for him, just so the man wouldn’t be delayed any longer.

“Have a good night,” he wished the professor as he finally left, bags in hand.

Louis returned to his spot at the main computer, unsurprised to see that there wasn’t anybody else around.

Another hour passed, only bringing around a few customers that needed any kind of assistance.

Just as he glanced over at two college kids who easily managed to scan, bag and purchase their groceries, he saw a new customer walking in alone.

It was Harry.

Louis felt his eyes widen in surprise.

It was strange to see Harry in Bernie’s alone, as he was usually accompanied by someone.

But there he was, walking quickly toward the back of the store.

Louis’ thoughts were interrupted as a customer on Lane #1 asked him why the coupon for her green beans wasn’t scanning.

He checked it over before realizing, “Oh, I’m sorry; this one actually expired a few days ago.”

“Did it?” She looked at the date at the bottom and blushed slightly. “Well that’s embarrassing, isn’t it?”

“No, it’s fine,” Louis smiled. “Did you still want the green beans?”

“Yeah, I guess. I’ll check the coupon date next time.”

She finished her purchase without another problem and was on her way.

As Louis turned around, he made eye contact with Harry, who was just placing something down on the counter at Lane #3.

A second too late, Louis darted his eyes away and returned to his post.

There was a magazine rack blocking his view of what Harry was bagging, so he hoped he wouldn’t have any problems.

Harry took out his wallet and pulled a card from its sleeve.

Louis internally sighed with relief as he swiped it and started punching in a pin number.

OK, good. Just a few more seconds and he’ll be on his way. No big-

A loud beeping sound started going off.

“Customer needs assistance on Lane #3.”

He looked down at the computer in front of him and read the message again, unable to comprehend.

No. No. No.

Shit. Now he had to go help Harry with something.

Which meant he would actually have to talk to him.

He looked up to see Harry with a similar expression on his face. His hands were held up in front of his screen, like he was willing it to stop beeping and start working correctly.

His eyes moved quickly between the bag, the pin pad… and Louis.

When he realized that Louis was on his way over to help him, his eyes somehow got even bigger before falling down to the floor.

“Hi,” Louis greeted slowly. “Harry, right?”

“Yeah. Hey, Louis.”

“Did it freeze up on you?”

Obviously, Louis.

“Yeah,” Harry answered quietly. “Um, I swiped my card, and then it just, stopped working.”

“OK, um, let me just get by you?”

Harry nodded and took a step back.

Louis knelt down and took out his key, unlocking the front panel to the machine and switching it off. He waited a few seconds before turning it back on.

He quickly replaced the cover and stood up.

He moved to face Harry, whose eyes snapped back up to meet Louis’.

He gave him a shy smile.

Was Harry just… checking me out?

Louis killed that thought almost as immediately as he had thought it, knowing that couldn’t be it.

“Don’t feel bad,” Louis said. “You picked the machine that freaks out on customers more often than not. It’s not your fault.”

“Oh, OK,” Harry replied. “Glad it’s not just me, then.”

“No, not at all.”

“Um, so…”

“Oh! I’m sorry! You probably want to get out of here, right? I mean, people usually use Self-Checkout to get out of the store faster, not slower. Here, let me move your stuff over.”

“Oka- Wait, no, don’t do that!”

Too late.

Before Harry could finish his request, Louis opened the bag and looked in to find Harry’s sole purchase – a bottle of lube.

And it wasn’t the small bottle. It was the large one.

The one that like, couples used when they planned on having some really good nights to themselves. 

And Harry was buying it. Meaning, he was probably in a rush to get back to somebody.

“Um,” Louis mumbled. “Um, I-“

He looked at Harry, unsurprised to find the other boy looking anywhere but at him. In fact, Harry was biting his lower lip so hard it was turning the skin white and his face was flushed a deep red with embarrassment.

Louis suspected he looked about the same.

So Louis did what he does best: made it even more awkward.

“Big night tonight?”

WHAT?

Louis turned his head away as Harry stared at him.

He wanted to kick himself.

Why did you say that? Idiot!

“No,” Harry denied.

He sounded almost hurt by the question, like the mere assumption that Harry had a big night planned was insulting.

“Sorry, don’t listen to me. That was my shit attempt at being funny. Seriously. Ignore me. Um, you can just move it over to Lane #4. That one should work.”

Harry nodded and quickly grabbed the bottle out of the plastic bag it was in and rang up at the counter behind him.

Louis walked back to the main computer and cleared the notification on the screen.

In thirty seconds flat, Harry had bagged up the bottle and paid for it.

“Have a good night,” Louis said absentmindedly as Harry started to walk away. Then he realized the implication and quickly added, “I mean, if you want to. Not with me, but like, whoever.”

Shut the fuck up right now, Louis.

Harry watched Louis as he rambled, no doubt just as uncomfortable as he was.

“Thanks,” he spoke lowly.

He opened his mouth as if to say something else, but then thought better of it. He turned on his heel and left the store.

“Oh, my God,” Louis groaned, dropping his head into his hands.

“Yo, did Harry just buy lube?” Niall asked, rushing up to the counter.

“Don’t,” Louis warned. “But yes, he did. And I want to die.”

---

“Never let me talk to people again,” Harry griped as he burst into his room at the frat house.

He found Zayn sitting at his desk and Sophia and Perrie sitting cross-legged on the carpeted floor, looking at something on Sophia’s computer.

“What happened?” Sophia asked.

“I bought lube. That’s what happened.”

“Um…” Zayn started. “That’s not what you said was going to happen.”

“I know, Zayn. I bought lube. Who the fuck buys lube at the supermarket?”

“You know you have to explain this to us, right?” Perrie stated, trying to hide her grin.

Harry flopped down on his bed, lying starfish style. “I walked in, and he was at the Self-Checkout, so I was like, great, I’ll go buy something quick, like some tissues or something, and go through the lane and talk to him. Done.”

“So how did you wind up with a bottle of lube, looking like someone just killed Dusty?” Sophia questioned.

“Well, I was walking, and I was trying to figure out what I should say and then I saw his friend: the blonde one, Niall. And he was just, looking at me, like he was watching me or something. Granted, I was walking around, muttering to myself, so it probably looked suspicious. So, I ducked down the first aisle I could, and, of course!”

“It was the lube aisle?” Zayn finished.

“It was the fucking lube aisle!” Harry confirmed. “So, I’m like, it’ll look really weird if I came down this aisle like it was the one I was looking for, and don’t get anything. So, I just grabbed the first bottle I saw and walked up to the register. Niall was still watching me, by the way. So now, Niall knows I’m buying lube, and I figured I could still salvage this. I get to the counter and I try to quick check out, and that way, he won’t actually see what I’m buying and I can just talk to him and keep the bag behind my back. Whatever, it’s fine.”

“But…” Sophia prompted.

“The fucking thing froze on me and started beeping all loud and Louis had to come over and help me!”

His three friends started laughing, but at least had the decency to try to stifle their giggles.

“Why didn’t you just, I don’t know, put the lube on a random shelf and grab something else?” Perrie wondered.

“Because that’s what a normal person would’ve done!” Harry wailed in embarrassment. “Oh, my God. I bought fucking lube.”

“You did,” Perrie smiled. “So what happened next?”

“Well, he came over and it was just, fucking awkward. Like, an anxiety-inducing level of uncomfortable. He turned off the register, and I think he caught me checking him out. Not like it was my fault; he knelt down in front of me, what was I supposed to do? Just not look?”

“Probably,” Zayn suggested.

“And then,” Harry continued as if he hadn’t said anything, “he looked in my bag because he was going to move it over to another lane, and he saw it, and then he said, are you ready for this?”

The three of them nodded in anticipation.

“He asked if I had a big night tonight.”

They all laughed again, this time a little harder than before.

“He probably thinks I’m some sort of slut or something. Ugh, this is terrible.”

“I’m sorry, Harry,” Sophia consoled.

“You know the worst part of it all?”

“What?” Perrie asked.

Harry opened the plastic bag still clutched tightly in his hand. He opened it up and grabbed hold of the bottle inside.

“I don’t even use this brand!”

He dropped it to the ground near the girls, who shrieked and squirmed away from it.

“If that had exploded and gotten on me…” Sophia partially threatened.

“So what now, Harry?” Zayn wanted to know.

“I don’t know, Zayn,” Harry said, shaking his head at his roommate.

“He’s just so pretty,” he added on, to no one in particular. “Now he just thinks I’m some awkward, supermarket-lube-buying weirdo.”

“Harry, you’re more than just some awkward supermarket-lube-buying weirdo,” Perrie grinned.

“Thanks, Pez.”

“Listen, he’s probably forgotten all about it by now. I’m sure that’s not the weirdest thing that’s ever happened to him.”

“You really think so?”

“I know so,” Perrie assured. “Trust me. Next time he sees you, he won’t even remember this whole incident.”

---

Perrie was wrong.

She was so wrong.

Louis definitely didn’t forget about the “lube incident,” as Harry referred to it.

The next time the two of them saw each other was a few days later.

Harry was leaving his advisor’s office, in the Fine Arts building.

She had e-mailed all of her junior students to come in and talk about being a senior and preparing for graduation next year: what their plans were, what internships they were thinking about, etc.

He was walking down the stairs when he saw Louis about to walk in with a few other people.

They were all talking animatedly, a few of them waving their arms in the air in excitement.

Harry tried to listen in when they walked through the front door, hearing that they were speculating the choice for the Fall Play.

Louis let out a laugh at one of the suggestions, clapping a hand over his mouth to try to stifle it. Harry tried not to laugh along with him.

As Harry reached the landing, Louis glanced up at him. For a second, it looked like Louis was about to stop walking altogether, but the presence of his friends seemed to jolt him into continuing the pace he’d been going at.

Louis watched Harry for the briefest of moments as he followed his friends into the theater, the entrance of which was in the lobby to the building.

Well, he definitely remembered.

He pulled out his phone and opened a new text.

Harry: Well. It’s over.

Zayn: What is? Us? No, Haz, please don’t say that.

Zayn: I’ll try harder, I swear.

Harry: Stop.

Zayn: Harry, think of the children!

Harry: Shut UP!

Zayn: Haha. Sorry. But what’s over?

Harry: Me and Louis. Even though we never really started.

Zayn: Why? Where are you?

Harry: Fine Arts. He just saw me and looked at me like he knows what an idiot I am.

Zayn: Well that’s not hard. People who don’t even know you know how much of an idiot you are.

Harry: Thanks, Z. I feel so loved.

Zayn: Kidding! It’ll be fine. We just have to find another way to get you two to fall in love.

Harry: No, it’s over. We have to find a new supermarket and everything.

Zayn: Are you kidding?

Harry: I can never show my face around there again. Ever. I’m banning myself forever.

Zayn: Forever? Forever ever?

Harry: Not the time to quote Outkast to me, Z.

Zayn: Couldn’t resist. Look, you’re being dramatic.

Zayn: This will be a hilarious story for you guys to tell your grandkids one day.

Harry: When did you become a romantic?

Zayn: The same night you bought supermarket lube instead of just striking up a conversation with the guy you like. You know, like a normal person.   

Harry: Uggggghhhhhhh. What do I do now?

Zayn: Don’t worry. We’ll figure it out. We’ll get you two talking one way or another.

---

Sophia walked through the back door of the Fine Arts building later that day to meet with her advisor.

She and Harry had the same one, and he’d already given her the basics of what they would talk about in their meeting.

She was early, so she was taking her time up the steps.

At the bottom of the stairs, next to the entrance for the theater, she saw a bulletin board about the spring musical.

She’d glanced at it before, but had never really read it.

Since she had a minute, she looked at the pictures on it, seeing that all of the actors had a picture on the board next to the name of the character they would be playing.

Sophia recognized a few of the people, having had classes with them before.

Right as she turned away from the board, her breath caught in her throat.

“No way,” she whispered.

She took a step closer, and her thoughts were confirmed.

There, right in the middle of everyone, was-

“Louis.”

His face grinned back at her, his picture next to the name, ‘Ren McCormack.’

Sophia smiled to herself.

She had no idea Louis was in the musical.

Well, she knew what she would be doing on Thursday night. And she definitely knew where Harry would be, too.

As she walked away from the board to meet her advisor, she thought, “And Harry says I’m not a good matchmaker.”

---

“You guys ready for Thursday night?” Niall asked.

“I think we’re as ready as we can be,” Liam answered.

“Yeah, we only have two days til Opening Night,” Louis added. “There’s really nothing else we can improve at this point.”

The three of them were in Louis’ basement on Tuesday night.

He had invited his friends over because a) all three of them were off, and b) Louis and Liam didn’t have rehearsal.

They would have one last run through tomorrow, and then, that was it: Opening Night on Thursday. And everyone would finally see what they’ve been working on all semester.

Louis was nervous and excited at the same time, as he always was before the first night of a play or musical he was a part of.

It’s how he knew he was doing what he was supposed to do.

“When are your families coming?” Niall asked.

“Friday,” Louis and Liam answered in unison.

“They’re taking me out for dinner after the show,” Louis continued. “My mom can’t wait to see it and will hopefully tell me it didn’t suck.”

Niall shook his head. “It’s not gonna suck.”

“With all the work we’ve been putting in, it better not suck,” Liam stated. “Besides, you’re the lead. You have to have some faith in our performances.”

“No, you’re right; and I do,” Louis said. “Believe me, I do. It’s just the nerves talking.”

Louis’ friends seemed to accept that answer.

“And cast party on Saturday night,” Niall enthused. “I can’t wait.”

Louis knew that meant that Niall just couldn’t wait for the large amounts of beer that would be available.

“Niall, you realize you don’t have to wait until the cast party – for a show you’re not even in, by the way – to get drunk with us, right?” Louis smirked.

“Ha ha. You’re so funny.”

Louis just smiled back.

---

“Come in!”

Sophia and Perrie walked into Harry and Zayn’s room after knocking on the door.

They knew by now to knock before entering a room at the frat house.

God only knew what they would see.

“Boys, you’re free on Thursday night, right?” Perrie asked, sitting on Zayn’s bed.

“Yeah, why?” Zayn asked.

Harry nodded in agreement.

“Perfect!” Sophia exclaimed. “You guys can go with us to see the school musical.”

The boys exchanged a glance before looking back.

“No, we can’t.” Zayn shook his head.

“Please?” Sophia asked nicely. “It’s Footloose.

“Doesn’t make it any more appealing,” Harry stated.

“Never even heard of it,” Zayn said.

“I think you guys will like it, though,” Sophia pressed. “Come on. I have to go for extra credit for my Theater Appreciation class, and I’m not going by myself.”

“I didn’t know you took Theater Appreciation,” Harry spoke. “Isn’t that a freshman class?”

“Yeah, I procrastinated. Sue me. Whatever. You guys are going.”

“Besides, she already bought the tickets,” Perrie revealed.

“What if we were busy?” Zayn asked.

“You weren’t. You don’t do anything on Thursday nights, that’s why we bought the tickets for then. You’ll enjoy it. I promise.”

She said it with such a tone of finality that Zayn didn’t even bother fighting anymore.

“OK,” he mumbled. “Just let me know when to be ready.”

Harry shot his friend a look of betrayal before nodding. “Yeah. Can’t wait.”

---

Louis checked the time as he walked out of Bernie’s.

It was 4:00 exactly, and he had four hours left.

Tonight was the night. The big night. Opening night.

The first time he’d ever had a lead in a college production.

He may have been freaking out just a little bit.

His plan was to go home, eat, take a shower and head over to campus so he could start getting ready.

He regretted not calling out from work so he could take a nap after his morning classes, but it was too late for that now.

“Hey!” he yelled out, walking through the front door.

“Shhh!” his mother Jay hushed from the couch. “The twins just fell asleep.”

“Sorry,” he whispered. “I gotta get ready for tonight.”

“And I’m still banned from that, right?”

“Yes, Mom. You cannot come to opening night.”

Louis always told his family not to come to the first night of his shows. It was more of a superstition than anything else. Plus, he just felt more confident by the second night, enough to perform in front of those he loved most.

“Well good luck, then,” Jay wished. “Break a leg and all that.”

“Thank you. I know you’ll be front row center tomorrow, though.”

“Of course. Where else would I sit? Second row?”

Louis fake-gasped. “Oh, the horror!”

---

Harry settled into his seat, trying to get comfortable in the theater.

Sophia sat on his left, and Zayn and Perrie were on the right.

Perrie pointed at something in the program so only Zayn could see it, and suddenly, he had a big smile on his face.

“Nice,” he whispered to his girlfriend.

She smiled and nodded her head.

Harry thought nothing of it and looked around the auditorium.

It was mostly full, which surprised Harry for a Thursday night. He didn’t expect to see such a crowd.

“So which musical is this again?” he asked Sophia.

Footloose.

“No, I remember what it’s called, but what’s it about?”

“Oh, it’s about this kid who has to move in with his family in a small town. And when he gets there, he finds out that the town banned dancing, because there was a car accident that killed like, five teenagers who were on the way home from a school dance. And basically, the teenagers rebel at the law in however way they can. It’s supposed to be good, though. I heard a lot of good stuff about it.”

“From where? Your Theater class?”

“Yup.”

“The Theater class you haven’t mentioned all semester?” Harry inquired.

“Yeah, you really don’t pay attention to me, do you? Pity.”

Harry just nodded suspiciously, and waited for the show to start.

About ten minutes later, the lights finally went down, and Harry attempted to give his full attention.

The curtain pulled back to reveal a neon sign saying “Footloose,” and a small group of people on the stage standing together.

He listened as they began singing:

 

Been working so hard

I'm punching my card

Eight hours for what

Oh, tell me what I got

 

There was something familiar about the one boy wearing light blue jeans and a white T-shirt.

Harry tried to get a look at his face, but he turned too quickly.

He opened the program to look at the cast list to see if he recognized any names.

 

I've got this feeling

That times are holding me down

I'll hit the ceiling

Or else I'll tear up this town

 

Harry stiffened as he read ‘Louis Tomlinson – Ren McCormack.’

He looked up at the stage just as Louis took center stage holding hands with a girl. And then they all started dancing a synchronized routine.

 

Now I gotta cut loose, footloose

Kick off your Sunday shoes

Please, Louise, pull me off of my knees

Jack, get back, come on before we crack

Lose your blues, everybody cut footloose

 

He looked at Sophia, who was pressing her lips together, trying not to laugh.

“You don’t have Theater Appreciation!” he accused, even though he’d known the truth all along.

“Shhh,” she hushed. “Just watch the show, Harry.”

He didn’t need to be told twice.

He sat correctly in his seat, facing the stage, watching as Louis – or, Ren – told his friends that he was moving to a small town called Bomont.

The rest of the musical passed by quickly; far too quickly in Harry’s opinion, as he enjoyed listening to Louis’ voice.

At intermission, he interrogated his friends.

“You knew the whole time, didn’t you?” he asked Zayn and Perrie.

“I did,” Perrie admitted.

“I didn’t know until we got here,” Zayn said. “Your boy’s talented.”

“He’s not my boy,” Harry replied, although the small grin on his face said otherwise. “But I guess this was a good idea, Soph.”

“Thank you. Maybe we can try to go find him after the show tonight and you can tell him what a good job he did.”

“We?”

“Yeah, I’ll go with you. His friend’s cute. Maybe he’s single.”

“Liam?” Harry grinned.

Sophia shrugged. “I have a class with him. He’s pretty smart, too.”

“Go, Soph,” Perrie encouraged from her seat.

She just laughed in response.

Harry opened his program again to read Louis’ bio.

According to that, Louis was a junior, like Harry and his friends, and had been in every play or musical on campus since his freshman year.

It showed.

Louis had stolen every scene he had been in.

Every time he’d stepped on stage, Harry’s eyes had been absolutely connected to him, following his every move, absorbing his every line.

Harry may have been a bit biased, but he thought Louis was the best actor out there.

When the lights flickered, he closed the program and waited for the curtain to rise again for the second act, which passed just as quickly as the first.

Before he knew it, it was time for the finale.

Harry shifted in his seat, craning his neck to see as much of the stage as possible.

All of a sudden, Louis burst out of the side door and yelled, “Hey, what’s this I see? I thought this was a party!”

He paused while the crowd cheered.

“Let’s dance!”

Suddenly, the stage lit up and confetti fell from the ceiling. (X)

The rest of the cast came out from either side of the curtain and began dancing to the final song.

Louis ran up to join his friends and lined up with the other guys. The girls lined up on the other side of the stage.

Each group made their way to the opposite side, passing each other as they went.

Harry had enjoyed the show overall, but it was made much more enjoyable by Louis’ stellar performance.

Even now, in a crowd full of people, Harry only had eyes for him.

He watched as Louis danced with Liam, the two of them moving in sync with wide smiles on their faces.

Melissa, the actress who was playing Ariel, joined Louis and the two of them danced together, nearing the end of the show.

Louis spun Melissa and pulled her back to him, and Harry admired the look of focus on Louis’ face, how he was so concentrated on not losing the beat of the song, and making the spin look as flawless as possible.

A moment later, Louis was doing a sort of 1-2 Step move down the middle of the stage, with the girls lined up in a V behind him.

When he reached the end of the stage, Louis turned just as Melissa jumped into his arms, and the two of them each extended one arm in the air as the music ended.

The crowd went nuts, applauding and cheering for the cast.

The lights went down for a moment and came back on to reveal an empty stage.

The ensemble came out for their encore and took their bows for the still clapping audience.

Then, one by one, the main cast came out, waving to the crowd and blowing kisses to various family members and friends in the auditorium.

Finally, Louis emerged from backstage, and the audience rose to their feet, clearly having loved his performance.

From his seat, Harry saw the blush on Louis’ face, the crinkles at the corners of his eyes in happiness.

Louis took another bow and when he rose, he looked over toward Harry’s side of the room.

If Harry hadn’t been watching him so closely, he would’ve missed the slight double take Louis’ eyes did when they landed on Harry.

He let out a whistle in praise.

Louis continued staring and did so until he felt someone grabbing his hand.

He jumped, but relaxed when he realized it was the rest of the cast joining him at the front of the stage.

He took Melissa’s hand in one hand and Liam’s in the other.

They raised their clasped hands and did a final bow.

---

“Oh, my God,” Louis whispered to himself as he went backstage with his cast members.

He couldn’t believe what he just saw.

Harry was in the audience. Harry.

He was sitting there, watching him.

“You guys were great,” Niall called out as he walked back, too.

“Thank you,” Melissa smiled. She leaned in to peck her boyfriend’s lips.

Louis couldn’t even focus on the compliment. He was still slightly in shock.

He went back to the edge of the curtain and peeked out, seeing Harry and his friends still in their seats, waiting for more of the crowd to clear out.

“Lou, what are you doing?”

He turned around and found Liam approaching, unbuttoning the dress shirt he was wearing.

“He’s out there,” Louis answered in a near whisper.

“Who’s out there?”

“Harry.”

“Harry came?”

“Yeah, you didn’t notice?”

“Lou, not everybody notices-“

“Just look. OK?”

Liam sighed and approached the curtain, taking a quick glimpse out.

Almost immediately after opening it up, he was shutting it again.

“And Sophia was here, too?” he hissed.

Louis nodded slowly, totally forgetting to grasp the fact that the girl Liam liked was friends with Harry, and in attendance, as well.

“She saw me dancing?”

“Harry saw me dancing,” Louis added. “And singing; oh, my God.”

“Do you think she noticed when my voice cracked after we came back from intermission?”

“Your voice cracked when we came back from intermission?”

“Never mind, then.” Liam shook his head.

The two of them stood silently together, going over their options.

“Well, think of this as a positive,” Liam stated optimistically.

“What’s that?”

“It’s a conversation starter. We can ask what they thought of the show and talk about how glad we are that they enjoyed it and then-“

“What if they didn’t enjoy it?” Louis wondered pessimistically. “What if they hated it?”

“Did you hear that crowd out there? Did you see the reaction you got? They didn’t hate it.”

“They could’ve been clapping to be nice.”

Liam shook his head. “No one claps to be nice.” 

“They could.”

“Louis.”

“Liam.”

“Hey, guys, you all right?”

Louis and Liam turned to see Aiden walking by, pulling a hoodie over his T-shirt.

“Yeah, we’re good,” Louis confirmed.

“You sure? You look a little green.”

“Just the adrenaline hit me too fast I think,” Louis lied. “You know, closing the first show and all that.”

Aiden nodded.

“Yeah, I guess that makes sense. I’ll see you guys tomorrow night, OK?”

“Same time, same place,” Liam smiled.

Aiden grinned and headed out the exit door.

“Well, the next time I see Sophia,” Liam decided, “I’m going to talk to her about the show.”

“You are not.”

“I am, too. And you should do the same to Harry.”

“Fine. I will.”

“Fine.”

“Fine.”

“Hi, excuse me?”

Louis and Liam turned toward the female voice behind them, both of them surprised to find out it was none other than Sophia.

Which of course, meant she was accompanied by-

“Harry?” Louis asked.

“Hey, Louis,” Harry smiled.

“Um, what-?”

“I know we’re not really supposed to be back here,” Harry mumbled quickly, “but, uh…”

“We just wanted to say how well you guys did,” Sophia finished. “Sorry, I don’t think we’ve met before. I’m Sophia.”

“Louis,” he introduced. Louis assumed that Liam would be paralyzed in fear at the fact that Sophia was right in front of them and actually holding a conversation.

“And this is my friend, Liam.”

Sophia smiled at Liam. “Yeah, we have Politics together, right? Professor Morris?”

“Yeah, I’m in that class,” Liam confirmed. “It sucks.”

“It does,” she agreed. “God, I hate his voice. It puts me to sleep.”

“Having the class at 9 in the morning doesn’t help, either.”

“No, it really doesn’t,” she laughed.

Louis was proud of Liam. He didn’t expect him to be so confident talking to Sophia. But he supposed the lie he fed to Aiden had been partially correct: the two of them were still riding high on their adrenaline after taking the final bow.

He looked away from his friend, who clearly didn’t need any help at the moment. He glanced down at the floor before steeling his nerve and look up at Harry, only to find him already looking back.

“Hey,” he smiled.

“Hey,” Harry repeated. “Um, you really were, like, really good out there. I was impressed.”

“Thank you. That’s really nice of you to say.”

“Well, it’s the truth, so… Um, is it your major? Drama, I mean?”

“Yeah,” Louis confirmed. “It is. I want to make it to Broadway one day.”

“Well you’re on your way. Seriously, you were fantastic. And this is your first leading role, too?”

Louis raised an eyebrow at the statement.

“I- I read the program,” Harry said, answering the unasked question. “I didn’t even know you were in this until I saw you on stage.”

“You didn’t?”

“No; I didn’t have a clue. Sophia knew, though. She told me to come.”

Louis looked at Harry with a furrowed brow.

So, Sophia made Harry come tonight because I was in it?

“Oh.”

“Yeah,” Harry smiled shyly. “Um, so listen, about the whole-“

“- weren’t we, Harry?”

Harry paused, caught off guard at the mention of his name. “What?”

“I was just telling Liam that you and I were thinking about coming to tomorrow night’s show, too,” Sophia said. “Weren’t we?”

Harry glanced between Sophia and a bashful looking Liam, and Louis, whose face had clearly lit up.

“Uh, yeah; yeah, definitely,” he answered.

“Really?” Louis asked.

“Wouldn’t miss it.”

It would all be worth it if he got to see that level of happiness on Louis’ face again.

“Awesome!”

Before they could say anything else, an older woman wearing a crazy print dress and black leggings came over to them.

“Boys, it’s time to clear out for the night,” she said. “Tell your friends goodbye.”

“Sorry, D,” Louis and Liam apologized.

“Yeah, we have to get out of here anyway,” Sophia told them. “We’ll see you guys tomorrow?”

“Yeah,” Louis and Liam replied in unison.

Sophia and Harry waved goodbye and left the backstage area.

“Admit it,” Sophia insisted as they walked outside.

“Admit what?”

“That I’m a good matchmaker.”

“Is that what this was all about?” Harry wondered.

“Well, yes; but also about getting you to do something.

“In that case, yes, Sophia, you are the almighty matchmaker. Forgive me for ever doubting you.”

“Thank you. That’s all I needed to hear.”

---

Louis looked out at the audience the next night, pleased to see Harry and Sophia sitting in the same area they were before.

“Are they here?” Liam asked, walking up to him.

“Yup; same section, too.”

“I’m nervous.”

“Don’t be.” Louis shook his head. “They’ve already seen the show and know how good it is; how good we are. They wouldn’t be here if they didn’t think we could do it again.”

“I guess you’re right.”

“Of course I’m right. Now let’s go get ready.”

A half hour later, the show was beginning and Louis had never been so eager to hear his opening music.

The curtain rose, and Louis instantly found his eyes locked with Harry’s.

Louis smiled at him, and, to his relief, Harry quickly smiled back.

Then the music started, and Louis looked out to the audience before belting out his first note.

---

“You were amazing!” Harry enthused as he and Sophia walked backstage for the second night in a row.

“Thank you,” Louis blushed.

“That was even better than last night,” Sophia complimented.

“And I didn’t think that was possible,” Harry continued. “Last night was awesome, too.”

“You guys are way too sweet,” Louis grinned.

“Yeah, you’re like a regular little fan club,” Liam said.

“Well, Harry here has always been a bit of a groupie.” Sophia winked at the boys.

The response was immediate.

Liam stifled a laugh and Louis raised his eyebrows, unsure of what to say next, while Harry gave his friend the angriest, most hate-filled look Louis had ever seen.

“Hey, Liam,” Sophia started, ignoring the daggers in Harry’s eyes, “can you show me the dance routine you learned from Ren? I think that’s my favorite one.”

“Yeah,” Liam exclaimed, after a moment of slight hesitation. “Yeah, it’s really easy.”

He stepped back a few paces to give himself some room so he could show Sophia his moves.

She trained her eyes on him, a small smile on her face, turning her back on Louis and Harry, leaving the two of them alone.

“Listen,” Harry spoke, “Sophia didn’t mean what she said about the whole groupie thing. She was just trying to be funny, even though I tell her over and over again that she’s not.”

“No, it’s OK.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah,” Louis nodded. “Besides, I like groupies.”

“You- You like groupies?”

“Sure I do. Especially tall, cute, theater ones.”

Louis smiled at the blush that covered Harry’s cheeks.

“Um,” Harry started. He scratched at the back of his neck before he took a quick glance at Liam and Sophia, who were now practicing Liam’s choreography together. “We were going to- Well, Sophia and I, were gonna go get some food. Like, now. Would you guys like to go with us?”

This was it. The exact moment that Louis had been waiting months for: for Harry to notice him and to realize that he actually liked Louis as much as Louis liked him and to ask him out.

Louis felt his face brighten up and was literally milliseconds away from saying ‘Yes’ before he remembered.

“No,” Louis realized. “No, I can’t. I’m so sorry.”

“Oh,” Harry responded, his face slightly falling.

“Yeah, it’s just, um-“

“It’s fine; it’s fine. I mean, you probably have stuff to do, so…”

“My family’s here,” Louis explained. “And my mom wanted to take me out after this to tell me what she thought, and honestly I would ask her to postpone it, but this morning, she told me she would break my legs if I even thought about making other plans tonight, so…”

“Oh, wow. Yeah, you can’t ditch your mom, then.”

“No, I really can’t.”

“Well, it’s OK,” Harry offered. “I mean, we can just hang out some other time-“

“Tomorrow?” Louis blurted out. He didn’t know where the sudden boldness was coming from, but he would be damned if he didn’t take this chance when he could.

“Tomorrow?”

“Yeah. I have to work a couple hours in the morning, but maybe we could get lunch? Like, 1:00?”

“1:00 sounds good, yeah. Do you want to go to Carter’s?”

“I love Carter’s. We can definitely go there.”

“OK, cool.”

The two of them smiled at each other for a minute.

“Um, here, put your number in,” Harry said, realizing they should probably have each other’s.

Louis took Harry’s cell phone from his extended hand and typed in his number. He then sent a text to himself.

“OK, so I have your number now,” Louis stated, giving the phone back. “I’ll text you tomorrow, when I’m done work?”

“Sounds good.”

“Can’t wait.”

Louis resisted letting out a squeal in excitement.

Somewhat conveniently, Liam and Sophia chose that moment to come back into the conversation.

“Well, we’re gonna head out,” Sophia said. “But we’ll see you guys later?”

Liam nodded. “Thanks for coming, guys.”

“No problem,” Harry replied. “The show was great. Seriously.”

Louis and Liam thanked him for the compliment once again.

“I’ll see you tomorrow, Louis?” Harry confirmed.

“Definitely,” Louis grinned.

“OK. See you guys.”

“Bye.”

Sophia and Harry left, and Liam wasted no time in turning on his friend.

“You’ll see him tomorrow? Explain, please!”

“He asked me out,” Louis beamed. “Well, technically, he asked if the two of us wanted to go out with him and Soph tonight, but you know my mom would dismember me if I did that, so I suggested going out tomorrow for lunch after I get done work, and he said yes, and I gave him my number and I’m going to text him when I clock out and we’re meeting at Carter’s, and we have a date!”

Louis was positive he’d never spoken a sentence that long or that fast in his life, but it didn’t matter. Liam understood every word and was suddenly wrapping his arms around him and the two of them were jumping up and down in excitement.

“You’re going out with Harry,” Liam loudly whispered once they both had their feet on the ground.

“I know!”

“I knew this would happen for you!”

“Thanks, Li, for your endless optimism. But what about you? Did Soph say anything?”

“No,” Liam sighed. “I’m pretty sure she’s serving as wingwoman, to be honest. That’s the second night in a row she’s pulled me away so you and Harry could be alone.”

Or, she likes you, too, and wants to talk to just you.”

Or, you missed the part where I said Sophia was wingwoman, meaning Harry likes you, too, and that’s what you should be focusing on.”

“I should be thinking about that, huh?”

“Probably,” Liam acknowledged.

“You’re right,” Louis sighed. “I should. However, that will have to wait until tomorrow, because my mom is probably pissed at me right now for making her wait this long. I said she would chop my legs off if I did anything else tonight but go out for family dinner. I really wasn’t kidding.”

---

Louis knew that there was a saying about boiling water and not watching it, or something like that.

He couldn’t remember exactly how it went, but he knew that it currently applied to him.

He kept watching the clock at work, waiting for it to turn to 12:00 so he could clock out and go home to get ready for his date.

Yes. His date. With Harry.

He almost wished that Lane #3 would fuck up so he would have something to keep him entertained. But of course, the machine was perfectly well-behaved all four hours that Louis was there.

Traitor, Louis thought bitterly.

He kept talking to customers who had nothing big planned for the weekend, and Louis almost wished he could switch places with them so he could be less stressed out.

He was so nervous about the date, and he hated feeling like that.

He tried to keep reminding himself that the nerves were a good thing, and that they meant that this was something he really wanted.

It wasn’t helping, though.

“All right, I’m here,” Niall announced as he walked up to the register.

“Holy shit, you’re on time,” Louis commented as he finished bagging up the groceries for his customer.

“Actually, I’m early. It’s 11:56. Now get out of here.”

“Hang on.”

Louis instructed the customer to swipe her card, and waited patiently for her to input her pin number.

“I’m nervous, Niall,” he confessed.

“Don’t be. You two are meant for each other and are going to fall in love and all that.”

“Thanks for your romantic contribution.”

Louis printed out the woman’s receipt and handed it off to her. “Have a good day.”

“Seriously, Lou, log out and go home. You have to get ready.”

“I know, I know,” Louis sighed. But he did as he was told and switched places with his friend so Niall could take over.

“I don’t even know what to wear, though.”

“Wear black skinny jeans,” Niall said, as if it were obvious.

He typed in his employee number and started ringing up the next customer in line.

“Well, I got that far,” Louis rolled his eyes. “But I don’t know what to wear on top.”

“Wear that red shirt with the low neckline. You look good in that.”

“That’s true.”

Louis liked that shirt. It really showed off his collarbones.

“And black Vans. Roll up the legs of your jeans and do that fluffy thing with your hair.”

“What fluffy thing?” Louis asked.

“You know what I mean.”

And Louis did know what Niall meant. He knew exactly the style he was talking about.

“Since when did you get so good at dressing me?”

“Since I found out you were going out with your soul mate. How are you paying today?”

Niall directed that last question at his customer, who elected to swipe her card.

“I think I’m going to wear that exact outfit, Niall.”

“Good call,” Niall praised.

He ripped the receipt out of the printer a few seconds later. “Have a good day.”

“OK,” Louis said. “I’m off. Wish me luck.”

“You don’t need it. I want details later.”

“Can do. OK. Bye.”

“Bye.”

Louis went to the back of the store and clocked out at the computer. He quickly got his things together and went out to the parking lot.

He sent out a quick text to Harry.

Louis: Just leaving work now. I’ll see you soon! =)

Harry: Perfect. Can’t wait! xx

When he got home, he jumped in the shower and quickly dressed in the outfit Niall told him to wear.

He had to dig around for that red shirt, but he finally found it in the bottom of a drawer.

He styled his hair until he was mostly pleased with it. A few pieces weren’t sticking out at the right angles, but Louis gave up once he realized he needed to leave.

He managed to get in and out of his house without being interrogated by his mom or sisters about where he was going.

Lucky break.

He got back in his car and drove over to the restaurant where he was supposed to meet Harry.

Carter’s was a very casual place near campus that Louis actually visited pretty frequently. All of the bartenders, and a handful of the waiters, knew him by name.

He pulled into the parking lot and texted Harry that he had just pulled into a spot.

A few minutes later, he received a similar message.

Louis got out of the car and walked up to the entrance. He got there at the same time as Harry.

“After you,” Harry said, holding the door open.

“Thank you.”

Louis walked inside and up to the podium.

“Hi; two please?”

The hostess nodded and quickly looked over her seating chart.

“You guys can follow me this way.”

She led them off to the side and placed menus down at a booth near the window.

“Here you go; your waiter will be right with you.”

Louis and Harry thanked her as they sat down.

“Do you come here a lot?” Harry wondered.

“Define ‘a lot.’”

“That much, huh?”

“Yeah, definitely a couple times a month. You?”

“About the same, I would say.”

“Really?”

“Yeah,” Harry laughed. “You know, I just think it’s weird that we’re so similar, but we’ve never properly like, interacted before. You know what I mean?”

Louis nodded. “Yeah. Like, we’ve never run into each other here, and only seen each other like, a couple of times on campus?”

“Or at Bernie’s. And we’re in the same year, but we’ve never had a class together.”

“You’re right; we haven’t.”

“Yeah. Funny how fate works, isn’t it?”

At that moment, their waiter came up to the table.

“Hi, I’m Ben, and I’ll be your server today. Can I start you off with something to drink?”

They each ordered a water to start.

“Did you need a few minutes to look over the menu?”

They looked at each other before slowly shaking their heads.

Louis shrugged. “I know what I want.”

“Me, too,” Harry agreed.

“Perfect. What can I get you guys?” Ben asked.

“Can I have the American burger?” Louis requested. “Cooked medium well, with no onions.”

Ben nodded as he wrote that down. “Fries?”

“Yes, please.”

“OK. And for you?”

“Just the chicken alfredo, please,” Harry responded.

“Sounds good, gentlemen. I’ll put that in and your drinks will be right out.”

They thanked him as they handed over their menus.

Ben walked off, leaving them alone again.

“All right, before we do anything else, I just want to tell you something,” Harry stated.

Louis looked at Harry, a worried expression in his eyes.

“That night that you helped me on Self-Checkout, I wasn’t buying lube to use with someone else.”

“Harry…”

“No, just, let me explain?”

Louis nodded, and listened as Harry told the story.

When he finished, Louis was left momentarily speechless.

“So…” he started slowly, “you bought lube at Bernie’s because you wanted to talk to me?”

“Yes.”

“Lube.”

“Yeah.”

“But you could’ve just put the lube on a random shelf and gotten like, cereal or tissues or something.”

“I know, but Niall was watching me,” Harry reminded. “I didn’t want him to think I was one of those people who just changes his mind about a purchase and puts it down wherever.”

“So you actually brought the lube into the checkout lane?” Louis smiled.

“I did.”

“Just so you could talk to me?”

“Exactly.”

“And when you did, I asked you if you had a big night ahead of you?”

“Yes, you did.”

“You realize how ridiculous this all sounds, right?” Louis giggled.

“I absolutely do.”

The two of them grinned at each other before they started laughing.

“What am I going to do with you?” Louis eventually forced out, still smiling.

“Hopefully, you’ll tell me that I’m adorable and thought my attempts to communicate with you were endearing?”

“Maybe. But if it makes you feel better, I’ve sort of had a crush on you for a while.”

“No!”

“Yeah,” Louis confessed. “All year, actually.”

“Why didn’t you say anything before?”

“Well, why didn’t you?”

“Good point,” Harry acknowledged.

“So what happens now?”

“I think that what we do now is realize that we’re both idiots, and have a nice meal and get to know each other better.”

“I think I can do that.”

“Good.”

Harry extended his hand across the table, which Louis carefully took in his own.

“Hi, I’m Harry Styles. Nice to meet you.”

“I’m Louis Tomlinson,” Louis smiled. “Nice to meet you, too.”

---

Louis was convinced he’d never put on a better performance in his life.

Maybe it was because it was the last show of Footloose, and he wanted to give it his all.

Maybe it was because of how well his lunch date with Harry went earlier.

Maybe it was because he was looking forward to seeing Harry again tonight at the cast party, after he had smoothly invited him when they were leaving the restaurant.

Or maybe it was just because he and his cast had a lot of fucking energy.

Whatever the case, Louis felt like he was on fire, nailing each note he sang and landing each move in his dance routines.

At the end of the show, he held hands with Melissa and Liam again, taking their final bow in front of an audience where each member had risen to his or her feet.

It felt amazing.

Louis was still riding high as he moved backstage with his cast members, stopping to huddle up with them.

“I think I can honestly say that was the school’s best musical ever!” Melissa enthused, getting a cheer from everyone else. “We got standing ovations every night and all of us brought our A game each performance.”

“We worked so hard this semester,” Louis continued, “and it absolutely showed. People have been talking about us for a while, and I think we delivered.”

The group let out a loud cheer.

“We gave all that we had,” Aiden said, “and it was definitely the best we could’ve given. We set the bar for Footloose school productions, and people will aspire to be us!”

“This was my first real role in a musical, and I’m so glad that it could be with all of you supporting me,” Liam jumped in. “This is by far the best group I’ve ever been a part of, and I’m so proud of what we’ve done here.”

They all cheered one more time.

“All right, now that we’ve gotten all of the cheesiness out of the way, I think it’s time to go drink,” Melissa near-yelled.

They all applauded her suggestion and began to disperse.

“Party at my house! Let’s go!” she called out, before walking away herself.

“You want to ride over together?” Louis asked Liam as he made his way over.

Liam was about to answer, but then did a double take over to the side. “Um, ask him first.”

Louis furrowed his brow before turning around.

He quickly felt his mouth slightly drop open.

Harry was walking backstage, a bouquet of red roses in one hand.

He looked around briefly before his eyes landed on Louis.

Louis smiled before strolling over.

“Hey,” he greeted. “What are you-?”

“I know I said I would meet you at Melissa’s house,” Harry began, “but I wanted to give you these first.”

He handed over the flowers.

Louis took them in his hands and stared at them before saying, “Thank you. No one’s ever gotten me flowers before.”

“Well they should. I mean, you were brilliant up there. Like, seriously wonderful, each and every night. I don’t know… Sophia called me a nerd for coming again tonight, but-“

“You watched the show tonight?” Louis interrupted.

“Yeah. That’s super creepy, isn’t it?”

“No, it’s not creepy,” Louis smiled. “I just can’t believe you would want to sit through the same performance three times.”

Harry shrugged a shoulder. “It was worth it to see you in your element. You’re a totally different person on stage, just full of confidence and energy and I love being able to watch that.”

“Really?” Louis wondered, still slightly in disbelief.

“Really. You’re amazing, Louis.”

Louis didn’t say anything. Instead, he just smiled even wider before leaning up on his tiptoes and kissing Harry softly on the cheek.

“Thank you,” he whispered in his ear before taking a step back.

He was convinced that the blush on Harry’s face matched the one on his own.

“You’re welcome,” Harry quietly replied.

“Did you want to drive over together?” Louis asked. “Since you’re already here, I mean?”

Harry nodded. “Yeah, we can do that.”

“Perfect. Um, just let me get changed real quick, and we can go.”

“OK. I’ll wait here.”

Louis smiled one last time and then hurried off to the dressing area where he’d left his stuff from earlier.

And if he had to sit in a chair for a minute to try to get his heart to stop racing, well, no one had to know.

---

Harry pulled his car up to the address his phone had led them to, and parked on the crowded neighborhood street.

As he and Louis got out, they could already hear music playing.

“Let’s see who’s here,” Louis said.

He walked up to Melissa’s house, hearing Harry’s footsteps behind him.

He opened the door, knowing it would’ve been left unlocked, and stepped inside.

The lights were dimmed in the living room, and all around them were various cast- and crewmembers along with the guests that they had all brought with them.

Straight ahead, Harry saw a kitchen, where Louis’ friend Niall and Melissa, aka Ariel from the show, were standing.

Louis started walking forward, and Harry stayed close to him.

“Oi oi!” Louis greeted as they walked in the kitchen.

Niall and Melissa both turned to say ‘hi’ to Louis, only pausing momentarily when they spotted Harry with him.

“Hey, Lou,” Niall grinned, giving him a hug. “Who’s your friend?”

Louis rolled his eyes. As if both of them didn’t know Harry already.

“Guys, this is Harry; Harry, this is Niall and Melissa. Niall’s one of my best friends, and Melissa is his girlfriend, but you also may recognize her from the show.”

“Of course I do,” Harry replied. “You were awesome up there.”

“Thank you,” Melissa smiled. “That’s so nice of you to say.”

“What did you think of my performance?” Niall wondered.

Harry stalled. “Your performance?”

“Yeah, mine.”

Harry looked over at Louis for help, but was met with raised eyebrows and a questioning look.

“Uh, I thought you were great,” Harry lied, because for the life of him, he couldn’t remember who Niall played in the show. “Top notch acting.”

Niall only lasted for a second before he started laughing. “I’m just fucking with you, man. I wasn’t in the show.”

Melissa and Louis joined in with him.

“I like this one, Lou. We can keep him.”

Louis pressed his lips together and gave a quick smile up to Harry to see what he thought of that statement.

Turns out, Harry looked just as excited with the compliment as Louis was.

“So Harry, what are your intentions with our young Louis here?”

“Melly!” Louis scolded.

“What? I’m drunk, I can’t be held accountable for what I say,” Melly said slyly.

“You’re not drunk,” Louis rolled his eyes. “You’re not doing Britney Spears karaoke yet. Besides, you can't call me young. I’m older than both of you.”

“Whatever,” Melissa shrugged. “Harry? What’s your answer?”

“You don’t have to answer this,” Louis told him. 

“Answer it!” Niall demanded.

“I really like Louis and I hope he’ll let me get to know him better,” Harry blurted out.

The other three looked at him with surprised eyes, none of them really expecting him to answer.

“I’ve liked Louis all year,” Harry continued, “and I’m mad at myself for not speaking up sooner. He’s a crazy talented actor, and he’s funny, and he’s gorgeous as hell, and he doesn’t give himself enough credit for any of that. I really want to make something of this, but if for some reason, we don’t, I’m glad he has supportive friends like you in his corner.”

He finished his speech and dropped his gaze to the ground, not knowing if he went too far with what he said. For God’s sake, he’d gone on one date with the guy and hadn’t even kissed him yet, but he was already talking about a future for them.

“Well...” Melissa cleared her throat, “welcome to the crazy family, then.”

Harry looked up at Melissa, who, along with Niall, had a big smile on her face.

He then switched his gaze over to Louis, who had a similar expression.

Louis slipped his arms around Harry’s waist and hid his face in his chest.

Harry wrapped his arms around Louis and kissed him softly on top of his head.

Melissa turned and slapped Niall on his chest.

“Ow!” he protested. “What was that for?”

“Why can’t you be cute like that?” she exclaimed before walking off.

Niall shot Louis a dirty look before following her.

“He’s not in trouble, is he?” Harry asked worriedly.

Louis shook his head. “Nah, don’t worry. He’ll apologize and they’ll make up somewhere in the house, if you catch my drift.”

“Oh. OK.”

“Come on, let’s go mingle.”

Louis showed Harry off to his friends, all of them eager to meet ‘the guy that Louis’ liked forever.’

They danced for a while, and everybody showed off their ‘best’ moves.

Harry learned the hard way that no matter how bad his moves were, a theater major could always come up with one worse – and funnier – than his.

Nearly an hour after they arrived, Louis heard Harry shout out a greeting to someone just walking in.

He was confused. Who else would he know at a cast party?

He looked around Harry to see Liam walking in with… Sophia?

“Is this real?” Louis muttered in Harry’s ear before their friends got over to them.

“Apparently,” Harry shrugged.

He gave Sophia a hug in greeting, and Louis did the same to Liam.

“What the fuck?”

“I got her number yesterday when you were flirting with Harry, and we’ve been texting all day and I invited her to come with me tonight, and she said yes,” Liam quickly explained. “We just went to Carter’s to get food. That’s why we’re here so late.”

“You went to Carter’s? Same as me and Harry? How unoriginal of you.”

“Fuck off, it was her idea.”

“Proud of you, man,” Louis said. He said the next part a little louder. “Liam, why don’t you take Sophia to get a drink?”

Sophia nodded. “Definitely.”

The two of them headed toward the kitchen.

After that, the sense of cool, calm and collected the party had was out the window.

They soon started playing a round of Truth or Dare that resulted in Niall running naked down the street, Louis doing his best belly dance/exotic dancer routine to Fifth Harmony's 'Worth It’ and Melly admitting to everyone that she had once slipped someone a laxative so she would get a role in a performance.

She didn’t say which one, but everyone knew it was last year’s rendition of ‘Rent.’

She really wanted to be Maureen.

“If this rehearsal doesn’t get started this instant,” Aiden bellowed as he impersonated Dolores, their director, “I’ll make sure each and every one of you never sees the inside of a theater again. You’ll all be on the streets, singing ‘Let’s Hear It for the Boy’ for pocket change!”

He had the whole room in stitches, as they all knew how dramatic the woman could be.

Even Harry and Sophia, who had only met Dolores once, could envision her saying those exact words.

“You’ll go to bed dreaming of me,” he continued, “and wake up from your sleep yelling out, ‘everybody cut footloose!’”

“Do you remember,” Josh said once the laughter had died down, “the day Louis showed up early, and then she yelled at the rest of us for twenty minutes because she thought we were all late?”

“I’m sorry!” Louis apologized.

“Damn Louis had to ruin it for us all,” Melissa giggled.

“What about the day Mel had the stomach bug,” Liam called out, “and Renner insisted on standing in for the part instead of letting Ashley do it?”

“I was so pissed,” Ashley, Melissa’s understudy, growled. “That was the dumbest thing ever.”

“Try dancing with her.” Louis rolled his eyes. “And singing songs with her. I was so uncomfortable. I’d never been so secure in my sexuality than I had that day.”

The party raged on, even as people started going home.

Once Melissa actually started singing Britney Spears karaoke, Louis realized how late it was. He was leaning against Harry’s shoulder as the two of them sat on the couch. Harry was engaged in a conversation with Niall about football.

Louis didn’t care all that much. He’d always been more of a soccer fan.

“Louis can’t hang,” Niall teased, taking in his friend’s appearance.

Louis just flipped him off. “I had a long day, all right? Leave me alone.”

“We should head out,” Harry realized. “Come on, Sleeping Beauty.”

Louis pouted as Harry pulled him to his feet. “Glad you’re driving.”

They said goodbye to everyone who was still there before walking out to Harry’s car.  

Harry tapped the college address into his phone so he could avoid getting lost.

Louis got comfortable in his seat, but didn’t shut his eyes.

He’d had a lot of fun tonight, and that had definitely worn him out. But now that he was with Harry – alone – he had a little more energy than he had before.

They drove back onto campus. As they neared the Greek parking lot, the silence in the car became more and more charged.

Louis could feel his heart stuttering in his chest.

He knew it was almost time for him to go home, but he didn’t want the night to end. He wasn’t ready for that.

He didn’t know what he and Harry were and didn’t know what would be different, if anything, by morning.

It made him nervous.

All too soon, Harry was pulling into a parking spot and taking the key out of the ignition.

They quietly unbuckled their seat belts before looking over at each other.

“Thanks for coming tonight,” Louis said.

“Of course. Thank you for inviting me.”

“Did you have fun? I mean, I know you enjoyed the show, since you saw it three times. But did you have fun at the party?”

“I did,” Harry smiled. “I like your friends. They’re cool. And they seem to really love you.”

“What can I say? I’m just a lovable person. Plus, when you work on a musical, you get really close with your cast members, real fast.”

“I believe that.”

It’s quiet again, neither one of them seeming ready to say ‘good night.’

“Um, I guess I should head home,” Louis said slowly.

“Yeah. Where’s your car? I’ll walk you.”

“Oh, it’s just in the parking lot back there.”

Funnily enough, he had parked in the same lot as he had that first day he and Harry had run into each other on campus.

They would have to take the same sidewalk they’d taken when Harry fell into Louis’ path.

“OK.”

More silence followed.

“Um, I guess I should-“

“Can I kiss you?” Harry asked gently, cutting Louis off from what he was going to say.

Louis didn’t hesitate. He nodded quickly.

They met in the middle, their lips joining just over the center console.

It was just as perfect as he’d hoped it would be.

Louis loved how soft Harry’s lips were, how they molded smoothly to his own.

How it seemed like they were meant to go together.

He felt Harry part his lips, so he did the same, his tongue rolling into Harry’s mouth.

Harry trailed his hands down Louis’ sides and around his back, pulling him closer to him.

Louis wound an arm around the back of Harry’s neck. He loosely gripped onto Harry’s shoulder for balance before reaching across Harry’s seat.

After a moment of searching, he found the lever and pulled it.

He heard Harry’s breath hitch as his seat reclined all the way back, and, before he could overthink it, Louis quickly swung a leg over Harry’s lap and pulled his other close to Harry’s thighs so he could properly straddle him.

Later on, Louis would have to replay that move in his head to figure out how he managed to do that without breaking the kiss or making a complete idiot of himself.

But now was not that time, since Louis currently had a hot guy beneath him who was grabbing his ass.

Louis rolled his hips down, getting a small moan from Harry.

He repeated his action while he threaded his fingers into Harry’s hair.

Harry slipped his hands under Louis’ T-shirt and started gently rubbing his back.

Louis wouldn’t have minded if Harry wanted to get rougher with him, but he had to admit, he was left practically purring at the tender touch.

When he felt like he could barely breathe anymore, he pulled his lips from Harry’s and moved them to his jawline, making his way down and over.

He pushed Harry’s long hair out of the way so he could get to the spot just under his earlobe.

Pulling the delicate skin into his mouth, he started sucking a light mark there.

Harry gasped at the feeling, and dug a few of his nails into Louis’ back.

In retaliation, Louis pulled on the strands of hair still in his hand, and also rolled his hips again.

“Stop, stop,” Harry groaned. “I’m gonna come in my pants if you don’t stop right now.”

Louis halted. He moved back slightly and rested his forehead against Harry’s.

The two of them caught their breath before Louis apologized.

“Don’t be sorry,” Harry whispered breathlessly. “You have nothing to be sorry for.”

“Inside?” Louis suggested. “I mean, unless you still want me to go?”

“I didn’t want you to go before.”

Louis smiled. “Good.”

He ducked in for one more kiss before reaching over and opening the car door.

Less than gracefully, he got out of the car and waited for Harry to get himself together before he stepped out, as well.

Harry locked the car behind him and took Louis’ hand in his own, walking toward the frat house.

Louis was surprised the residence was so quiet for a Saturday night.

He figured most of the guys were somewhere else partying tonight.

The few that they passed in the hallway gave Harry and Louis a knowing look, especially since Harry was leading, and his problem hadn’t yet gone away.

They went up to the third floor, and Harry unlocked a door that had graffiti art all over it.

He would have to ask about that later.

Harry opened it slowly, flicking on the light and taking a peek inside.

After a moment, he must’ve deemed it acceptable to enter, because then he pulled Louis in behind him.

And then he froze.

Louis followed his stiff stare to his bed to see the fateful bottle of lube that Harry had bought from Bernie’s innocently placed on his bed with a Post-It on it.

Smiling, Louis walked over to the lube and read the note out loud.

“Ready and waiting for you. Good luck, tonight! Love, Zayn.”

At the bottom was a smiley face drawn with his tongue sticking out, but Louis wasn’t sure how to verbalize that.

He looked at Harry to gauge his reaction, unsurprised to see that Harry was, once again, looking anywhere but at Louis holding a bottle of lube in his hand.

He dropped the bottle back to the bed and walked over to Harry, winding his arms around his waist.

“We might not need that tonight, but maybe another night?”

“Really?” Harry asked, a hint of surprise in his voice. “My annoying roommate didn’t just totally kill the mood?”

“Only if you want him to.”

Louis leaned up and firmly kissed Harry again.

“I don’t want him to.” Harry shook his head when they parted.

“Good.”

Louis stepped back and pulled his shirt off, tossing it to the floor. He also rid himself of his pants and shoes.

“Were you going to do something about it now?”

Louis didn’t know where this sudden burst of confidence came from, but based on the hungry look in Harry’s eyes, he didn’t think it was a bad thing.

Harry pulled his shirt over his head and dropped it with Louis’.

He walked over to Louis and pulled him close, once again, letting their lips meet.

Louis snaked his hands up behind Harry’s head, and let his fingers play with the hairs at the back of his neck.

Harry guided them back toward the bed.

Louis sat down and twisted so that his head was on Harry’s pillow.

Harry willingly followed, slotting himself between Louis’ open legs.

Not wanting to waste any more time, Harry started moving his lips down Louis’ neck and torso, placing kisses and sucking gently on the heated skin below him.

Louis let out a pleased sigh and wound the fingers of one hand into Harry’s hair again – not pulling or yanking, just holding on for what was about to come.

Harry tucked his index fingers under the waistband of Louis’ briefs and slowly pulled them down, freeing Louis’ cock.

Harry pressed his thumb to Louis’ rim and lightly massaged it; while he did that, he took Louis’ dick in his other hand and stroked it until it was fully hard.

Once it was, he gave the tip of it a few kitten licks.

Louis arched his back up slightly and Harry looked up, pleased to see his eyes shut and his lower lip pulled in between his teeth.

He nuzzled his nose into the skin on Louis’ inner thighs, sucking one more mark there and finally getting the moan from Louis that he’d been after.

Harry took the head of Louis’ dick into his mouth, suckling gently at the head.

Louis whimpered at the sensation, spreading his legs more to give Harry as much room as he wanted.

Harry began to sink down, taking Louis’ cock into his mouth little by little. Once he couldn’t take any more, he bobbed his head up and down, letting his lips drag against the sensitive skin as he moved up.

“Harry,” Louis whispered.

He just hummed in acknowledgement, sending vibrations down Louis’ cock.

He threw his thumb up to Louis’ mouth; Louis quickly sucked it in, getting it slick with spit.

Once Harry was satisfied with that, he returned it to Louis’ hole and lightly pushed in.

Louis whimpered loudly and accidentally thrusted his hips up.

“Sorry!”

Harry gagged slightly, but it only drove him on.

He quickened his pace, swirling his tongue around Louis’ cock while his thumb continued moving in small circles.

Louis shot a hand out to the sheet, gripping onto it tightly, while the hand in Harry’s hair tightened its hold.

Harry pushed himself down until he could feel Louis almost at the back of his throat.

“Harry, I’m gonna-“ Louis tried to warn. He let out another moan instead of finishing.

Harry hummed again and backed up a little, but did nothing to slow down.

What he wasn’t covering with his mouth, he did with his hand. He matched up the speeds of both and continued circling his thumb.

“Harry, I-“

And then Louis started coming.

Harry stilled his head and swallowed, glancing up at Louis’ face to see his lips forming a perfect letter O as he squirted down Harry’s throat.

When Harry was sure he was done, he pulled off.

“Jesus Christ, Harry,” Louis breathed out.

Harry crawled up Louis’ body, burying his face in his neck. He also may have not so smoothly nudged his harder-than-ever crotch into Louis’ leg.

Louis wasn’t totally oblivious, though.

He lifted his head up off the pillow and quickly undid Harry’s jeans, pulling them and Harry’s briefs down to his thighs.

Before he moved any further, though, he pushed Harry onto his back and got on top of him.

He grasped Harry’s cock in one hand and started lightly jerking it off.

His other hand found the bottle of lube and popped the cap on it.

Harry flicked his gaze over to the familiar sound and he huffed.

“Are you really using that right now?”

“Are you really opposed?” Louis smirked.

He poured some lube over Harry and into his own hand, getting Harry's dick slicked up.

Then he started gliding his grip up and down, and before long, Harry was getting even more worked up than he had been.

Harry let out a moan as he bucked his hips up, sliding his cock in between the tight ring that Louis was now making with his thumb and fingers.

“Come on, baby, let go,” Louis whispered. He ducked his head and sucked one of Harry’s nipples into his mouth, letting his tongue lap over it and puffing up the skin.

Harry kept thrusting his cock in and out, allowing his body to take over.

Louis switched to the other nipple, giving it the same treatment as the other. He let Harry continue his erratic movements and lowered his other hand to fondle Harry’s balls, as well.

“Too much, too much, too much,” Harry whimpered.

Louis didn’t think so. At least, it didn’t seem that way as he kissed Harry roughly, forcing his mouth open with his tongue.

Harry’s hands had been fisting the sheets up until that point, but just before he let go entirely, they flew up to grab onto Louis’ waist.

He groaned as he came, his come getting all over Louis’ hand and onto his own chest.

His hips kept moving on their own as he came down from his intense orgasm.

The two of them lay there together for far too long, but neither of them really wanted to move.

“That was…” Harry started.

“Yeah, it was,” Louis agreed, despite not having anything to agree with.

Harry sat up slowly, kicking his jeans and briefs all the way off, since they hadn’t managed to do that before.

He pulled a towel from his dresser and wiped off his chest before giving it to Louis to clean his hand.

“So what are you doing tomorrow?” Harry asked as he crawled back into bed.

Louis shrugged before throwing the towel to the floor.

“Well, I really should do some homework and get some studying done, but…”

“Don’t. Sleep in with me.”

“I don’t know. I mean, I really need to get my homework done.”

Harry leaned up and kissed Louis square on the mouth. “Sleep in with me. Please?”

Louis smiled. “OK.”

---

The next day, Louis and Harry spent the day holed up together in Harry’s room. They also watched Footloose on DVD, which just happened to be on Harry’s desk.

---

On Monday, when Louis went to work and found out he would be monitoring Self-Checkout, he found that he didn’t want to complain.

Not even a little bit.

And later, when Lane #3 spazzed on a customer, he couldn’t help but smile.

Maybe a whole lot.