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Always Come Back To You

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“I’ll do it,” Harry offers brightly. No one even blinks. “I’ll do it?”

Louis sighs irritably. “Shut up,” he orders, tossing a pillow in the general direction of Harry’s face. This is a terrible time for jokes, especially Harry’s lame, old people ones.

Not that it was an old people joke. Just that most of the time Harry’s jokes consist of knock-knocks or terrible puns. The type of jokes old people like, Louis’ pretty sure. His nan always finds them hilarious when Harry tells her one.

Harry bats the pillow out of the air without even blinking. “Be reasonable, Lou,” he says in his most reasonable voice.

Louis is perfectly reasonable, thank you very much, and he’s also frustrated and upset and tired and he really wants to punch something. Maybe he should have held on to that pillow a little longer.

“You’re not gonna fucking do it,” he snaps. “That’s the last thing I need.”

“Actually, the last thing you need is to show up by yourself,” Harry points out, not even missing a beat. Liam coughs, choosing the most inopportune moment as usual, then winces a little when Louis glares at him.

He can’t put both Liam and Harry in their places at the same time, so he focuses all of his attention on the more annoying problem. “Don’t make me come over there and choke you to death,” he warns Harry.

“You’re not going to choke me to death,” Harry says confidently, which obviously means that Louis has to prove him wrong, and they spend the next ten minutes rolling around on the floor, both of them trying to get the upper hand while crumbs and dirt gets all over their clothes.

So. Conversation effectively derailed.

 

Later, after everyone else has gone to sleep, Harry corners Louis, trapping him up against a wall, and says, “But seriously.”

Louis sighs, breath already sitting heavy in his lungs. “No.”

“Who else is going to do it?” Harry asks, rolling his eyes. It’s the tone he uses when he’s legitimately trying to convince Louis of something, practical and patient, as if any of that has ever worked for him before. He braces himself against the wall, hands up by Louis’ shoulders, boxing him in. The only way for Louis to get out would be to physically shove Harry out of the way.

He’s thinking about it.

“I don’t know, I’ll hire someone,” Louis says, curling his bare toes into the carpet, soft and plush underneath his feet. He knew this was going to be a good purchase, no matter how many times Harry tried to insist that it was way too much money to spend on a rug.

“Someone like an escort?” Harry asks, rolling his eyes again. Louis bites back the urge to tell him that they’re going to get stuck that way. He’s not a mum. “Come on, Lou, be reasonable. There’s no one better for this than me and you know it.”

Harry has always been way too persistent for his own good. Sometimes it’s one of his better qualities. Now is not one of those times.

“Anyone would be better than you.”

“You’re the one who told them your boyfriend is someone you’ve known for a long time now,” Harry says, as if Louis has magically forgotten that little fact.

Imagine it, though. Louis showing up to one of the biggest LGBTQ+ events of the year with Harry Styles on his arm. That’s not a recipe for disaster at all.

“That doesn’t mean it has to be you,” Louis says calmly, despite the overwhelming urge to yell he has crawling up the back of his throat. He can match Harry’s calm with calm. That’s a thing he’s completely capable of doing.

“You need someone who knows you really well,” Harry says, trapping both of Louis’ hands in one of his before Louis even registers that he’s moving. “Someone who knows the way you take your tea, the way you like your toast. The way you’re half-blind in the mornings and stumble into at least three things, no matter how long they’ve been there for. Someone who’s not going to sell you out to the highest bidder. Someone who cares about you.”

For fuck’s sake. There’s plenty of people who care about him that much. “If that’s all it’ll take Liam could do it, then,” Louis says, aware that his voice is getting a little out of control.

“Someone you actually have chemistry with,” Harry says pointedly.

What the fuck. This is ridiculous. “Liam and I have plenty of chemistry, Harold,” Louis shouts, ripping his hands out of Harry’s grip and smacking his shoulders a few times. It makes him feel a little better. “Some people even think that me and Liam are more likely to be in relationship than you and I are.”

Harry raises his eyebrows, grabbing Louis’ wrists again and pinning them to his chest, heart thumping steadily underneath Louis’ palms. “So why didn’t you ask him, then?” Harry asks. “I’m sure he’d be willing to drop Soph for a few days and pretend to be your boyfriend so you can raise money for charity. It is for the kids, after all.”

Fucking Harry. Louis digs his fingernails into his chest, affronted by Harry’s lack of reaction. “Fuck off.”

“I’m serious, Lou,” Harry says. He’s tall enough from this angle that Louis can see up his nostrils, and he needs to trim his nose hairs. Louis will tell him when it’s going to hurt him the most. Maybe when he’s about to step on stage. That seems like an appropriate time. “It’s been three years, no one even cares whether we’re together or not anymore, alright? This isn’t going to hurt my career, you need someone who knows you like I do anyway, and I always want to help you.”

He lets go of Louis’ hands and knocks their foreheads together gently, destroying their eye contact. It’s an out and Louis knows it, recognizes it.

“There are always going to be people who care whether we’re together or not,” Louis says, digging his fingernails into Harry’s shoulders distractedly, trying idly to leave a mark.

“You know what I’m saying,” Harry says, not letting Louis distract him from the point, which is so rare Louis has to give it its due consideration.

It’s not that Harry is wrong. It’s been three years since One Direction split, and since then the fame has gotten a lot less intense. All five of them still have great careers - Liam is Louis’ partner in every sense except romantically, Harry still steps out onto a stage a few months out of the year, Niall’s doing a lot of song writing, and Zayn’s focused on his art. It’s smaller in a lot of ways for all of them, but that’s not a bad thing.

About a year after the band broke up, it stopped making the tabloids when Harry and Louis were spotted together in public. Now they can have lunch together wherever and whenever they want with only a moderate amount of fuss, at least in real life. Louis has long since learned his lesson about venturing too far into the internet. It’s a scary place, that internet, and he’s not just talking about some of the creepier porn.

If Harry’s in London he still spends most nights in one of Louis’ guest bedrooms, despite the fact that the renovations on his own house were finished ages ago. He brings all of his stuff with him, doesn’t even bother to go home, and spends days upon weeks upon months bothering Louis to the point Louis starts contemplating charging him rent.

Louis officially came out six months ago, to a barrage of invasive media and worldwide scrutiny. For some reason everyone thought it’d be easier if he said he had a boyfriend, so that’s what he did. Harry stalked tumblr gleefully for a week straight, looking for any and every mention of the two of them together. He’d even gone as far as to set up a google alert for it, but by all accounts he’d been pretty disappointed. Not because there wasn’t any, because obviously there was, but by the volume of it. There’s still a substantial amount, but it’s nothing compared to what it was nine years ago.

The fact that Harry dedicates every song on his set list to Louis when he’s in the crowd probably doesn’t help. Or maybe it does, Louis doesn’t know. He does it to Liam and Niall and Zayn when they’re in the crowd too, and when there’s more than one of them there he just dedicates it to ‘my boys.’

The points is that Harry’s probably right about there not being a better person for this job than him, and there’s probably never going to be a better time than now.

“Fine,” Louis grumbles, pinching one of Harry’s nipples just because he can.

Harry just watches him. “Fine?”

“Fine,” Louis repeats, pinching him again. “Jesus, Harold, I said fine, that’s all you’re going to get. I’m not going to spell it out for you, wanker.”

“Fine!” Harry crows, picking him up off of his feet entirely. Louis inhales sharply and pounds his fists against Harry’s shoulders. “Fine, he said!”

“Let me down!” Louis screeches, hitting Harry over and over as Harry careens them around the room and into the kitchen, swinging Louis around like he weighs nothing.

Fucking ridiculous.

 

 

“This is a terrible idea,” Louis says, knee bouncing uncontrollably. The car is moving slowly, already in the thick of the crowd, and it’s too late to back out. Much too late.

The crowd is big. Not the biggest he’s ever seen, but probably the biggest he’s seen in nearly three years, and that’s something that makes his pulse start pounding through his veins. This might be the worst idea Harry’s ever had, and one time he thought it would be a good idea to drop a football off of the roof of a hotel into the swimming pool at three in the morning.

Harry pins his knee down, leaving his hand over it. “It’s too late to back out now,” he says, echoing Louis’ thoughts. His other hand goes up to his shirt, fiddling with one of the buttons. If he’s thinking about undoing it Louis is going to smack him - he’s already got the first four undone, and that’s more than enough nudity to start off the week. He never listens when Louis tells him to do them up.

“I could just murder you and pretend that it was an accident,” Louis mutters, doing his best to remain still. All they have to do is get out of the car, pose for some pictures, and check into the hotel. The real work doesn’t even start for another two hours. Once they check in there’s more photos and an interview to do, but the real couple-y interaction between him and Harry doesn’t start for another eighteen hours.

Louis is having a hard time thinking of it as a reprieve right now.

“But I brought you tea!” Harry protests, still fiddling with the button. Louis smacks his hand away, irritated.

“This is a terrible idea,” he repeats.

Harry tugs one of his three thousand rings off of his finger, taking Louis’ hand in his own and clasping it tight. “Louis William Tomlinson,” he says solemnly, “you’re my favourite person in the entire world. You’re the light of my life. I love you with my entire heart, and nothing would make me happier than pretending to be your significant other for the next week.”

He slides the ring onto Louis’ finger, beaming, clearly proud of himself.

Louis sighs. “I hate you so much.”

“You love me,” Harry croons, cupping Louis’ face between his hands and rocking them the best he can with their seatbelts still holding them in place. “And you’re gonna owe me so many favours once this is over. I can’t wait.”

The car pulls up to the curb and idles there, in front of all the reporters and photographers and assembled crowd. Louis takes a deep breath, squeezes Harry’s wrist, and opens the door.

The flash of lights is immediately blinding. They stop a few times for pictures, posing side by side, and Harry takes every opportunity he gets to rest his hand on the small of Louis’ back, just above his bum. It’s distracting enough that the entire process is easier.

Still. Louis is going to kill him. He definitely has it coming.

 

It’s not until they’ve checked into the hotel and are in the lift, heading up to their room, that Louis realizes he’s still wearing Harry’s stupid gigantic ring on his left hand after he goes to push it up.

Harry had put it on his ring finger. Of course Harry had put it on his ring finger.

Harry’s watching him look at the room. “Oops?” he tries, sending Louis a beaming smile.

Louis goes for the kneecaps.

 

By the time the elevator has come to a stop at their floor, they’re a sweaty, disheveled mess, but they’re back to standing in opposite corners. Harry has to hide a limp as they walk down the hall to their room, but it serves him right. Maybe Louis had hit him a little harder than he’d intended to, but he’ll never admit it.

 

The first thing Louis has to do is an interview. He’s done plenty of interviews over the past three years, but none like this. None sitting up on a stage by himself with the spotlights on, at a week long, heavily mediatized, celebrity endorsed fundraising and awareness event for the LGBTQ+ community.

His palms are damp, slippery with sweat. He’s supposed to walk on stage in about two minutes and Harry’s been trying to calm him down for the past five, and Louis is still freaking out.

This isn’t his first official interview since coming out, but it’s pretty damn close. This interview is supposed to be more general than any of those interviews, and he can only hope that will actually be the case.

“You’re going to be great,” Harry tells him, straightening the collar on Louis’ shirt with big, warm hands. “It’s just an interview. You’ve done millions of ‘em before. You’ve got nothing to worry about.”

“Not with thousands of eyes on me because I’ve just come out,” Louis says, even though it isn’t quite true. He wipes his palms on his trousers unthinkingly.

Great. Now he’s probably going to have a huge sweat stain. This is just what he needs.

Harry’s hands settle on his shoulders. “Lou,” he says firmly. “You’re amazing. You’re the bravest person I know, and all those people watching you are going to see the same thing I do, which is a kind, beautiful, awesome person, and all of those kids you’re doing this for are going to be so inspired by you, alright?”

Louis exhales mostly evenly. “Alright.”

“Alright. Now go out there and smile your pretty little arse off,” Harry orders, spinning Louis around and giving said arse a stinging smack.

Louis gives him the finger as he heads out onto the stage.

 

His nerves are still eating away at him by the time he takes a seat a minute later, smoothing his blazer down quickly, automatically. The applause dies down slowly, and then the interview starts. The chair he’s sitting in is rickety and distracting, but he’s not eighteen anymore. He can handle a rickety chair.

Harry’s laughter echoes in his head.

There’s a few minutes of pleasantries and introductory stuff before the interviewer starts getting to the good stuff, softball questions a thing of the past.

“There’s a lot of people who never thought you’d be sitting up here on this stage with me right now,” she says, clearly alluding to the years Louis has spent in the closet.

It’s a question he addressed in every single interview he’s done since he came out, and it’s probably going to be a question he gets asked for the foreseeable future. He’s more okay with that thought than he was a year ago.

It’s not an easy question to answer, though. Louis’ PR people have told him countless times over the past six months to tell the truth but not the entire truth, to be slightly vague. It’s a tactic Louis can get behind, partially because it’s already so much to deal with just being at an event this big and being newly out, and partially because the event should really be focused on raising awareness and money instead of Louis’ personal life.

“Sometimes it felt the same way for me,” Louis says, maybe a little too honestly. “It took years for me to get to this point, but now that I am I couldn’t be happier.”

“There’s also some people who never thought you’d be sitting up here with Harry Styles at your metaphorical side,” she continues, watching Louis’ face for a reaction.

Louis has years of PR training behind him, so he doesn’t give her the one she might be looking for. Instead, he gives her a soft, small smile. “A year ago those people would have been right, so I can’t really blame them.”

“And on the flip side, there’s also people who won’t believe that you haven’t been together all along,” the interviewer says wryly, the hint of a smile on her face.

It’s so fucking true. Louis laughs genuinely. “I guess they just saw it before we did, you know?”

“Sure,” she says, a hint unconvinced, and continues, “So why did you decide to join the campaign?”

Louis licks his lips and considers his answer very carefully. “I spent a lot of time doubting myself and the decisions I made,” he starts, “wondering if I could have done something differently, if what I was doing was right. I don’t want anyone else to feel like that, so doing this makes a lot of sense to me. Raising awareness is such an important thing.”

“You and Harry could have been the biggest news to come out of this entire event,” she points out. “You could have appeared as a couple for this interview and had the entire world talking about you, but you chose to bring him along as your plus one instead, taking all of the heat on yourself. Why is that?”

“Harry and I had very different experiences when we were in the band,” Louis says, folding his hands together and resting them in his lap. “I was very heavily closeted and in a long-term PR relationship. I spent almost seven years watching my every move, trying not to make a mistake. For the most part, Harry didn’t have those experiences. I’m not going to speak for him, but I felt like this was something I needed to do, given my unique situation.”

No one boos. In fact, he even gets a decent smattering of applause.

Louis breathes and smiles. The interviewer smiles back and says, “I do have to say, though, your relationship is looking pretty serious. Louis Tomlinson, are you engaged?”

Louis doesn’t let his smile slip. He fucking knew that this would come back to bite him in the arse. “No, Harry just likes to see me wearing his jewelery.”

The crowd cheers again. It’s slightly more lavascious this time. Louis might be blushing. Hopefully the make-up is hiding it.

The rest of the interview goes pretty smoothly, mostly stuff about his current business undertakings and the like. After it’s finished, Harry catches him around the waist and spins him in the air, crowing, “I told you,” over and over again.

Someone probably catches it with a camera. Louis doesn’t even care.

 

 

When they checked in, they had only done a cursory look of the suite, put their bags down, freshened up a little, and gone back out to do the interview. After the interview there was a few more photos to pose for, but all told it hadn’t taken very long.

Louis still feels exhausted by the time they get back to their room. He had felt exhausted before they’d even checked in, and it’s worse now, tiredness creeping up over his every pore. It’s a good kind of tired now, though, relieved and happy things had gone well.

That exhaustion is his excuse for why he hadn’t noticed the state of the room the first time. He has no idea what Harry’s excuse is. He stops three feet into the room, and Harry crashes right into his back, settling his chin on Louis’ shoulder. “What’s wrong?”

Louis gestures vaguely to the room. “I fucking hate sleeping with you,” he grouses. “You always smother me half to death.”

“Hey,” Harry says, offended. “You always complain when I don’t cuddle you because you’re cold. I can never win with you.”

Damn right he can never win. Louis is the master of winning. “I’m sleeping on the right side of the bed this time,” he announces, dragging Harry forward.

He can feel Harry’s pout against the side of his head even as they’re moving. “But the right side is my side!”

“Shut up,” Louis orders, flinging his arm in the general direction of the phone. “Order me something yummy. I’m gonna make drinks.”

Harry doesn’t let go. “Actually make drinks or pour a glass of vodka and pretend it’s drinkable?” he asks skeptically. “I need to know what food to pair with it, you see. If you’re just going to shove a glass of vodka in my hand I might as well just feed you a bunch of candy and call it a day.”

Louis elbows him off entirely and makes his way over to the mini-bar, cracking it open. “Hey, they have wine,” he calls over his shoulder, unnecessarily loud.

“Red or white?” Harry calls back from the bathroom.

Ask him to do one simple thing and instead he goes into the bathroom to fuck around with the toiletries. Honestly. Sometimes they might as well be married for the amount of shit Louis has to put up with from him.

“Both,” Louis answers, examining the labels. The wine is a brand he’s never heard of before. It’s got fancy, flowery lettering on the label and phrases like hints of oak and traces of winter berries. It looks like something a hipster would like. Harry will probably love it.

Louis pushes himself back to his feet, taking both bottles with him as he wanders over to the phone. He’s thinking steak. Steak and mashed potatoes and green beans. And maybe some salad to appease Harry’s stupid hipster soul.

He relays most of that information to the person on the other end of the phone while struggling to get his shoes off, toeing at his socks. It takes longer than necessary, or maybe it’s just that Louis is tired and hungry.

He also wants cake, but he forgot to order that. Oh well.

Harry’s mostly naked by the time he comes out of the bathroom, tight black boxer briefs clinging to his thighs and hair wet.

“Oi, put some clothes on, dickhead,” Louis shouts, throwing a cushion at him. Harry dodges it, laughing, and drapes his entire stupidly gigantic body all over Louis’ like he has any right to.

Louis sighs, letting his arms flop down to his sides. “I ordered you two peanuts and a rotting leaf,” he says.

Harry squeezes him tight, nuzzling the side of his head. “You know me so well,” he says, pulling a single strand of hair out of Louis’ head. “Oh, I thought that was a loose one. Sorry.”

“Wanker,” Louis mutters, leaning into Harry’s embrace and tucking his face into his shoulder. “Thank you for doing this for me.”

“You’re the best friend that I ever had,” Harry warbles, mashing his mouth right up against Louis’ ear, “I’ve been with you such a long time, you’re my sunshine and I want you to know that my feelings are true - I really love you.”

Louis really needs new friends.

 

It takes twenty minutes for the food to arrive. In that time, Louis has tried to smother Harry with all of the pillows on the bed and they’ve polished off nearly an entire bottle of wine between them.

The bedding is strewn all over the floor. Louis is sitting in the middle of it, picking at his toenails, by the time the knock on the door comes. He’s planning on amassing the pile of nails he’s got in front of him and putting them in something that belongs to Harry. Maybe one of his socks. His resulting freak-out is guaranteed to be hilarious.

Harry hasn’t bothered to put actual clothes on, despite Louis yelling at him every couple of minutes, and he ambles over to the door like that, accepts the food, and swings the door closed again with his bare foot.

Well. At least he’s really selling this whole relationship thing.

The food is average for hotel room service. Louis has eaten enough of it over the years that the novelty has long since worn off.

They eat, and afterwards Louis takes a shower that lasts approximately ten thousand years, letting the hot water pelt into his bones. He doesn’t bother getting dressed properly once he’s finished, pulling his pants up over his hips, skin still slightly damp. His hair is wet and curling slightly at the ends. It’s going to make the pillow wet but he doesn’t have the energy to care.

He bounces onto the bed beside Harry as hard as he possibly can, sending the phone clattering from Harry’s hand. Score.

Harry sighs and doesn’t make any effort to retrieve it. “I hate you.”

“No you don’t,” Louis says, letting his hair drip all over Harry’s arm. “You love me a lot. You probably love me more than everyone else in the world put together.”

Harry sighs even more dramatically. “I’m going to file for divorce,” he says. “And I’m gonna take all of your assets.”

Louis sniffs and rolls onto his side, facing away from Harry, and clicks off the lamp, bathing the room in soft darkness. “You just want my life-sized Spiderman cut-out.”

Harry’s back presses up against his, warm and broad, bare skin touching bare skin. “How’d you know?” he asks, sounding like he’s going to fall asleep any second. Louis doesn’t answer, closing his eyes, ready to let sleep overtake him.

Except he can’t.

“Harry,” he says, kicking backwards blindly, making contact with the back of Harry’s knee.

“Jesus, what?” Harry complains, heat of his back leaving Louis’ entirely, like he’s scrunching away.

That won’t do. “I’m cold.”

“I don’t care,” Harry says stubbornly. “You kicked me.”

Please. Louis kicks him all the time and he’s never manages to hold out on doing what Louis wants him to. “I’m cold,” he repeats, shivering theatrically. “I’m probably going to freeze to death during the night and you’re going to wake up next to a corpse. Then the police are going to think you murdered me, and then you’re going to go to prison for the rest of your life. And you wouldn’t do well in prison, you know.”

“I’d do better than you,” Harry mutters, but he’s already rolling back over and curling himself around Louis’ back, slipping one arm over his chest and pulling him in tight. It’s about a thousand times warmer than it was before.

Louis pats Harry’s hand absently, already drifting off into sleep. “You keep telling yourself that.”

 

Harry’s still curled up around Louis’ back when he wakes up, and it’s only a little strange. Harry isn’t an early riser, at least not by normal standards, but he’s usually up before Louis is.

He usually has breakfast ready, too.

“Harry,” Louis mumbles, squeezing Harry’s hand where it’s lying on his chest. Harry makes some sort of noise, which must mean he’s listening, so Louis continues, “I want pancakes. And bacon. And tea.”

“Pancakes,” Harry mumbles back, unmoving. His breath is hot against the back of Louis’ neck.

Louis waits, eyes mostly closed, breathing slowly. Then, when it becomes apparent that Harry’s not going to get up and Louis’ stomach starts grumbling too loudly, he rolls himself out of the bed, landing awkwardly on his knees, and stumbles over to the phone, relaying his order to the room service people.

Then he stumbles back across the room and squirms back underneath the blankets, pulling Harry’s arm back over his chest, and goes back to sleep for a few minutes.

Harry grumbles some more when the knock comes, but he rolls out of bed to answer it, bleary eyed and still tired. Louis gathers the blankets up and makes himself a nice little cocoon, eyes already falling shut again.

“Lou,” Harry murmurs, brushing Louis’ hair off his forehead. “Lou, the food is here. I poured you a cup of tea.”

“’m coming,” Louis mumbles. Harry strokes his hair for another minute before the touch is gone, and then he rolls out of bed.

They’ll have a nice warm breakfast and go downstairs for a day full of pretending to be a couple. Should be easy enough.

 

 

The entire event is being filmed. Most of it is games or speeches or talks. There’s a bunch of challenges and sports, for individuals or couples or teams. Louis signed them up for a bunch of pair events a few weeks ago, mainly to sell their relationship, but he thinks it’ll be fun.

Plus it’ll make a good bit of telly once it’s all edited together. Louis is actually looking forward to seeing the finished version.

The first event is a three-legged race. It’s outdoors and there’s tons of spectators and cameras going off, which isn’t surprising. It’s a new event but it’s already gained so much attention around the world, and Louis couldn’t be prouder to be participating in it.

He’s still got major trepidations about participating in this particular portion of the fundraiser. In theory, it shouldn’t be a problem. Louis is fairly athletic and Harry isn’t exactly unathletic himself, but.

“This is going to end so badly,” Louis says darkly, holding onto Harry’s shoulder while a volunteer ties their legs together. “At least one broken bone. Probably two.”

“Stop being negative, baby,” Harry says chidingly, arm wrapped around Louis’ back, hand resting on his hip. Louis can’t help the face he makes, thinking baby? in his head. He should have known Harry would take full advantage of this to come up with ridiculous petnames.

“You’re going to trip me and we’re both going to die,” Louis predicts, sending the volunteer a winning smile once she stands back up. She just rolls her eyes and walks away without a word.

“I’m going to trip you on purpose and then land on you if you don’t quit it,” Harry says sweetly, dragging Louis over to the start line.

Louis grumbles to himself, mocking Harry’s tone. Harry pinches his hip until Louis stops.

“But seriously,” Louis says, after a minute of silence, “If you kill me I’m going to be so mad.”

Harry sighs. “I’m going to break up with you in front of all of these people.”

Please. This entire thing was Harry’s idea, and the past nine years have proven, over and over, that Harry’s first instinct will always be to try to keep Louis safe. “You love me too much for that,” Louis says certainly. “Now stop being such a drama queen and put your game face on. We’re gonna win this shit.”

As if on cue, the starting gun goes off and they’re on the run, legs working together naturally, easily. Their progress is actually pretty impressive - they’re not in the lead, but they’re definitely at the front of the pack, making good time. The finish line is in sight.

Louis would be happy with forth or fifth place, which is looking pretty likely.

Of course, that’s when they go down. Harry must trip over something, fumbles, and takes Louis down with him, crashing onto the ground much harder than Louis would have liked.

Not that he would have liked to go down at all. Standing would have been preferable to this.

“I fucking told you we were gonna die!” Louis shouts, uncaring of how many cameras are probably picking this up. He beats his fists against Harry’s chest, trying to pound the laughter out of him.

“Baby,” Harry says, still laughing, grabbing a handful of Louis’ arse. Louis shrieks loudly and hits him harder. “Baby, I’m sorry, are you okay?”

Again with the baby thing. Louis is going to give him a piece of his mind the second they’re alone. He can’t even get up with their legs still tied together - the only thing he can do is watch as literally every other pair passes them and makes it to the finish line.

“You broke me heart,” he informs Harry, giving up and splaying himself across Harry’s chest more comfortably. “The one thing I wanted in this world was to win this race, and now you’ve destroyed that beautiful dream.”

Harry’s hands are still on his arse. When the day ends and they go back to their hotel room Louis is going to dump an entire bucket of ice over Harry while he’s sleeping. He definitely has it coming.

“There was a rock,” Harry tries, as if Louis doesn’t know that he just tripped over himself like he always does.

Louis tells him as much, and they lie there on the muddy grass bickering about it until a shadow falls over them. It’s the volunteer from earlier. “You guys do realize that the race is long since over, right?” she asks, unimpressed.

Harry offers her a beaming smile. She softens a little - visibly softens. That’s so completely unfair it’s ridiculous. Louis has a much better smile than Harry does and she didn’t soften for him. “Would you mind untying us, please?” Harry asks politely, still not letting go of Louis’ bum.

She sighs but crouches down and unties them. Harry offers her a polite thank you very much, at which she rolls her eyes before walking away. People are filtering out slowly, spectators almost all gone. It’s pretty much just Harry and Louis still lying here on the muddy ground because Harry tripped and made them lose.

Louis shoves a handful of the mud in Harry’s face. They’re there for another twenty minutes.

 

They barely make it in time for the next activity. It’s one that they did way back in the day as a band, albeit neither of them participated in it. Louis doesn’t expect it to go any better this time than it had then.

“You’re smaller, you should be the one wearing the shirts,” Harry argues. “We could fit so many more shirts on you than we could on me.”

Louis shoves both of his palms flat against Harry’s shoulders. “I wear a medium, Harold!”

Harry rolls his eyes. “You wear a medium because you don’t want to admit that you could fit into a small with room to spare,” he shoots back. “What happened to that competitive spirit, Tommo?”

Louis scowls. The worst thing about pretending to be in a relationship with someone who knows him so well is that Harry knows him so well. “Fine, but for the next event you’re doing the worst part and you’re not even going to complain once, understand?”

“Deal,” Harry says immediately. They shake on it and get into position.

The challenge starts before Louis is really ready for it, but they go to work anyway, moving together as they try to shove as many shirts onto Louis’ body as possible in thirty seconds.

“Start with the smalls!” Louis yells, trying to keep his arms still where he’s holding them up in the air.

“I fucking know, Lou, I’m not stupid!” Harry yells back, yanking the first shirt down over Louis’ head. Louis struggles into it, and then the second one, and then the third one, until he feels so big he can barely move, much less look around to see how they’re doing.

“Are we winning?” Louis demands, still half shouting. His head pops through the hole of yet another shirt. “Harry, are we winning?”

“Stop moving!” Harry orders instead of answering, yanking another shirt down. Louis spins around, trying to get a look at their competition, and gets the next shirt put on him backwards.

Fucking Harry. He can’t be trusted to do anything.

“Harry!” Louis yells, trying to get a proper answer out of him, but it only makes Harry yell Louis’ own name back at him, and then they’re just yelling each other’s names repeatedly, trying to be louder than each other.

Louis isn’t going to tell him right now, but he’s definitely winning. Out of the two of them, Louis has always been the loudest. It’s not even a competition, really.

The buzzer goes off before Louis gets an answer, signaling the end of the game. He feels bloated and heavy, weighed down with fabric. There’s sweat dripping down his face, the back of his neck, soaking into the cloth.

Harry only looks the tiniest bit flushed, the bastard. Louis is definitely going to make him do the worst part of the next challenge. Maybe he’ll get lucky and it’ll involve sticking his hands in something gross and sticky.

“And the winner is,” the emcee announces, imitating a drumroll, “The Tomlinson team by three shirts! Give it up for the Tomlinson team!”

Louis cheers, waving his arms around the best he can. Harry’s too busy laughing at him to really be of any help.

 

Louis signed them up for four activities for the first day. Event number three is a push-up competition, and it’s not really a team competition so much as it’s a solo competition but.

“I don’t understand how this is a game,” Harry grunts, the back of his neck slick with sweat. Louis digs his bare toes into the grass and maintains his balance with a hand planted in between Harry’s shoulderblades.

“It’s a great game,” Louis says. “It’s my favourite game so far, in fact.”

Harry dips down again, arm muscles working as he pushes himself back up. He’s nearly knocked out the rest of the competition, and Louis hasn’t even had to do anything. This really is his favourite challenge so far.

It’s a good thing that none of the competition is a bodybuilder or something like that, though. Harry gets pouty when he loses.

It’s a pretty impressive display of strength even if he ends up losing. Louis wasn’t keeping track of how many push-ups he’s done, so he has no idea what the number is, but it’s been at least three minutes. And no one else has someone sitting on their back, so.

Technically speaking, Louis doesn’t have to be sitting on Harry’s back, adding weight while he does the push ups, but Louis has never been a stickler for the rules. The only reason Louis’ doing it is because he got bored and bet Harry that he couldn’t win the challenge with Louis sitting on his back.

Harry takes a bet very seriously. Louis has conditioned him right.

It’s starting to look like Louis is going to lose that ten quid, but it’s ten quid worth losing. This is actually quite fun.

Two minutes later, Harry does win. Louis makes him do another twenty push-ups in celebration before he’ll get off of Harry’s back.

 

They take a break for lunch after the push-up competition. There’s an option for an indoor lunch or an outdoor one, and considering that they’re already outside Louis claims them a picnic table and lays himself out on top of it, sunning himself while Harry goes to gather them some nourishment.

He really will make someone a good husband one day.

Louis dozes for a while, basking in the sunlight. He doesn’t know how much time passes before Harry comes back, but he definitely knows when Harry’s back.

“Fuck,” he spits, rolling away from the cold touch of a bottle on his stomach. “I fucking hate you, have I ever told you that?”

“I brought you a hot dog,” Harry says cheerfully, sitting down and putting a paper plate full of food on Louis’ belly, making sure that it’s steady before he lets it go. “I was gonna get you an ice lolly too so you could have plenty of orally satisfying foods but they didn’t have any. You want me to try to find you a cucumber instead?”

“You mean you’re not gonna let me have your cock?” Louis asks, feigning surprise. He grabs a handful of crisps off of the plate without looking and pops a few into his mouth, crunching loudly.

Harry takes a carrot off of the plate, nibbling at it. “Only if you ask nicely,” he says, moving the plate over a little.

Louis can’t have this conversation with him right now without laughing, so he changes the subject. “It’s going well so far.”

“Yeah, people are buying it,” Harry agrees, lifting up the plate. Louis frowns, eyes still closed, but he doesn’t have to wonder for long. His shirt is rucked up and before he knows it Harry’s sticking a carrot stick in his naval.

How did Louis end up getting stuck with this gigantic toddler stuck in a grown man’s body. How.

 

The event after lunch is a bit of footie with some of the younger kids. It’s a lot of fun, being outside and playing his favourite sport with a bunch of kids who are already so supportive of LGBTQ+ rights, and if Harry makes an absolute fool of himself getting the kids to laugh well. There’s a reason he’s one of Louis’ favourite people on the planet, after all.

By the time it’s over, he’s just as exhausted as he was yesterday, but definitely in a less anxious way. He makes Harry give him a piggyback to the lift, and then into their room, dropping him onto the bed.

“Sometimes I forget how much I love you,” Louis tells the ceiling, kicking his shoes off and contemplating how he’s going to get out of his jeans without actually doing the work to get them off.

Harry joins him on the bed with two bottles of water. “I love you too, baby,” he simpers, pressing one of the bottles into Louis’ hand.

That reminds him. Louis shoves himself up and slaps Harry’s thigh. “Why the fuck do you keep calling me baby?” he complains.

“I’m just getting used to it,” Harry says, reaching for the remote and flicking the telly on. “We’re totally the type of couple who uses pet names, don’t you think? People will be expecting us to have pet names for each other.”

“No one’s going to be expecting that,” Louis says dismissively, twisting his water open and draining half of it in one long swallow.

Harry laughs, tossing an arm around Louis’ shoulders and pulling him in against his side. “Yeah they are, baby. People are going to take one look at the lyrics of any of the songs either of us have ever written and expect us to be completely sappy with each other.”

Louis is still trying to figure out how to reasonably dispute that when Harry adds, “Besides, I’ve heard you call pretty much every guy you’ve ever dated some sort of pet name over the years, so you can’t even say that you don’t do it.”

Dammit. Another one of the downfalls of being in a fake relationship with someone who knows him so well.

“I’m going to come up with the most ridiculous names I possibly can,” Louis warns him, plucking the remote right out of Harry’s hand and changing the channel.

“Alright, studmuffin,” Harry says, amused. Louis narrows his eyes and starts compiling a list right then and there. Harry isn’t easy to embarrass but Louis is practically a pro at it by now.

 

Somehow they fall asleep fully clothed in the middle of a Futurama re-run. Louis wakes up at half past two in the morning, squints at the clock for two minutes until he’s awake enough to read it, and then wiggles out of his clothes and underneath the covers, kicking at Harry’s knee until he does the same.

Harry curls into Louis’ back immediately, slinging an arm over his waist and nosing into the back of his neck. Louis hums, pleased, and falls back asleep.

 

Three hours later he wakes up, goes down the hall and fills their ice bucket, and dumps it over Harry’s still sleeping form. Harry’s shriek is loud enough that the people in the next room call the concierge to get someone to check on them.

 

 

Day one was a lot of fun. There were plenty of relay games and team events, which Louis always excels at, and no one was looking too closely at their relationship.

Day two is a little bit different. It’s still game-filled, but it’s more intense and they’re being filmed much closer, more emphasis on their relationship.

Well. That might be putting it mildly, actually.

“I have a very bad feeling about this,” Louis says, resisting the urge to straighten his shirt yet again.

Harry straightens it for him automatically. “You have a bad feeling about everything.”

“They’re gonna catch on,” Louis says, fidgeting.

Harry smoothes his fingers across Louis’ cheek gently. “The only way they’re gonna catch on is if we tell them that we’re not actually dating. We managed to convince people we were dating for years without even trying, we can definitely do this. We’re gonna be, like, the most adorable couple in the world.

“You don’t know anything about me,” Louis says, huddling a little closer, trying to get Harry to hug him without actually asking Harry to hug him.

“I know literally everything about you and I’m going to prove it,” Harry announces, wrapping one arm around Louis’ back and squeezing. It’s mostly mollifying.

“I’m going to get every question about you wrong on purpose,” Louis tells his chest.

Harry wraps the other arm around him and squeezes again. “You’re gonna get every question right because you’re way too competitive,” he says certainly.

Well. He’s not wrong.

It’s probably still a bad idea.

 

There’s three other couples participating in the game. Louis’ palms are itchy with sweat, but he still eyes them determinedly. There’s no way they know as much about each other as Louis and Harry do. There’s no way.

They’re the last pair to answer the first question, but even if Louis had been listening it wouldn’t have mattered. All the questions seem to be different for each couple.

It’s a little intimidating, anyway. They’ve been interviewed by Ellen a couple of times before, but this is different. It’s a game, but it’s a game with stakes, at least for Louis.

Plus there’s the fact that it’s Ellen, so. Already intimidating.

Luckily, their first question is an easy one. “Louis, how does Harry like his eggs?” Ellen asks, her attention, the attention of the crowd and all the cameras focused on them.

Louis doesn’t even have to think about his answer. He waits semi-patiently while Harry writes, and then answers, “Scrambled.”

The crowd cheers when Harry holds up a sign that says scrambled in neat writing. Louis breathes out a quiet sigh of relief and listens while the other couples are asked about each other’s favourite type of cheese, favourite curse word, and favourite genre of music respectively.

Their next question is, “What colour is the majority of Harry’s underwear?”

Another easy one. Louis says, “Black,” once Harry’s finished writing, and gives Harry a high five when his answer matches. He doesn’t have the attention span to listen to the other couples answer their questions, resisting the urge to fidget in his seat and draw attention to himself.

It’s Louis’ turn to write down his answers now, and that’s a little intimidating, but he is pretty determined to win. Apparently the winners get a huge stuffed animal. Louis is already planning on gifting it to Liam and making him put it on display in his living room.

“What’s Louis’ favourite dessert?” Ellen reads. “Scintillating questions so far, aren’t they?”

“Louis likes a good chocolate cake,” Harry says thoughtfully, arm thrown around the back of Louis’ seat. It’s probably making for a nice shot.

Louis’ answer is chocolate cake, so that’s another point for them, and he manages to contain his bouncing until their next question, which is, “Who controls the remote?”

Anyone who’s ever spent any amount of time believing they’re a couple already knows the answer to that question. Louis hides a reluctant smile as he writes down his answer, scrawling carelessly. Ellen might not be able to read it but Harry will.

“Harry?” Ellen asks.

“We kind of share that, really,” Harry says, not even bothering to tamp down his smile. Louis elbows him and holds up his answer, rolling his eyes. We share.

The crowd cheers again. Louis is busy smiling, which is why he doesn’t see it coming.

Harry kisses him.

Harry kisses him, and it’s only on the corner of the mouth, nothing more than a brief peck to celebrate the fact that they got the right answer, and it’s nothing the other couple haven’t been doing right from the start, but Louis still freezes, just for a second.

They had talked about this, is the thing. They both knew that there would have to be some kissing at some point, otherwise they wouldn’t really be able to sell their fake relationship, but Louis wasn’t expecting it to happen so fast.

Kind of wasn’t expecting it to happen at all, if he’s being honest.

The worst part about it is that it feels completely natural, too. It’s far from the first time Harry’s kissed him. Hell, it’s not even the first time Harry’s kissed him on the mouth, but it’s never been in front of a camera before, and it’s never been while they were pretending to be in a relationship.

It’s weird. It’s so weird.

He misses the next set of questions entirely thinking about it, only tuning back in when it’s their turn. “What’s the one thing your partner won’t leave the grocery store without?”

The answer to this one is very obvious. If Harry gets it wrong Louis might be forced to murder him on camera. Then he’ll have no alibi and go to prison for sure, and while Harry is wrong about which one of them would fare better in prison there’s no denying that Louis wouldn’t fare well at all.

“Tea,” Louis says, once Harry is finished writing, and waits expectantly until Harry reveals his answer.

Tea, the paper reads.

They knock their fists together, and now that Louis isn’t getting distracted by Harry kissing him it’s clear they’re in the lead, ahead of all the other couples by one point.

The other couples get asked who’s the most romantic of the two of you, what thing does your partner have too much of, and who does your partner talk to on the phone the most.

The next question for them is, “What would your partner be arrested for?” It’s a loaded question if Louis has ever heard one - they’re practically asking for him to get arrested now.

Harry’s biting his lip, concentrating at he writes. Louis is busy wracking his brain, trying to come up with the answer Harry is likely to give, and the time between the question and the answer passes too quickly.

Still, though. Louis is pretty confident about this one.

“Breaking and entering,” Louis says. Harry flashes his paper, the large B&E, and this time Louis is the one who initiates the kiss.

What. He likes winning, alright.

One of the girls in the crowd is staring at them, mouth slightly open, when they part. Louis shifts a little. The kiss hadn’t been that intimate, had it?

Nah. She must just be star-struck or summat. Louis is having a hard time not being star-struck himself.

“Who’s the better cook?”

Well, that’s practically a slap in the face. Louis frowns to himself as he writes his answer, adding a few exclamation points and underlining it unnecessarily.

Harry’s very warm against his side, leaning into him just a little. “For the record, the real answer to this question is me, but Lou’s gonna say that he is. Even though he’s not and the last time he tried to bake chicken he almost gave himself salmonella.”

“Louis, your answer?” Ellen prompts.

“Me,” Louis says, holding his sign up. “And also for the record, I have never given myself or anyone else food poisoning, so suck it, Styles, I absolutely am the best cook.”

“Right, so that time you spent two days vomming all over the place, it was totally not your fault, right?” Harry asks, raising an eyebrow.

Louis hits him with the pad of paper he’s been using to write down his answers. The director ends up calling cut because once Louis’ started he doesn’t stop until Harry’s crying uncle.

Actually, that’s a lie. He only stops being the pad of paper breaks right in half and they have to bring him a new one.

 

Once the filming has resumed and it’s their turn again, Ellen asks, “What article of clothing represents your relationship?”

“What kind of question is that, even?” Louis wonders out loud, tapping his marker against the paper idly. Harry laughs, squeezing his knee, and doesn’t even try to look while Louis is writing his answer.

He goes with the most obvious one. Harry will get it.

“The article of clothing that best represents our relationship,” Harry starts, clearing his throat, “is a plain black t-shirt.”

Louis stares at him. It’s all he can do. “What?” he asks eventually. “Why the hell would our relationship be like a plain black t-shirt?”

Harry shrugs, spreading his hands out a little. “You know, because a plain black shirt is like a staple of your wardrobe, right? Everyone needs a plain black t-shirt. Sometimes you take it for granted a little, but it’s always there for you when you need it, and it forgives you even when you spill pasta sauce all over it.”

Jesus. “You’re so full of shit,” Louis says, rolling his eyes. “I said a pair of gloves. Because they fit together, which makes way more sense than your answer does.”

“Mine makes sense!” Harry protests.

Louis pinches him. “You’re gonna make us lose,” he complains. They bicker about it quietly enough no one stops them, all the way until they get their next question.

“Oh, this is a fun one,” Ellen says, scanning the next card. “Alright, Harry, what traffic sign would you say describes Louis on a bad day?”

Harry’s already snickering to himself as he writes. Louis has a feeling that they’re going to have to take another break very soon. In the meantime, he amuses himself by pinching the inside of Harry’s arm, trying to get a look at what he’s writing.

“Cheating,” Ellen sings out. Louis settles back into his own seat, plastering an innocent expression on his face. “Ready, Harry?”

Harry nods. Louis clears his throat and says, “If he knows what’s good for him he’ll have said the stop sign.”

Harry hasn’t said the stop sign, Louis can already tell that much. He holds up his paper without saying anything, laughing to himself. “No entry?” Louis reads blankly. Harry’s drawn the symbol there, circle a little shaky and uneven. “What does that even - oh god. This is supposed to be a family friendly show, Harold!”

No entry. Jesus. As if Louis doesn’t already have enough people assuming things about him just from the fact that he used to be in a boyband. No entry. Honestly.

“Baby,” Harry chokes out, still laughing. He leans back into Louis’ space, putting both arms around him and nuzzling at the side of his head, mouth dragging wetly across Louis’ hair. “Baby, I’m sorry.”

He’s not sorry. He’s not even remotely sorry. Louis huffs and folds his arms across his chest. Harry nuzzles him some more before tipping his head up with one hand and kissing him again, gently and fully on the mouth this time.

It lasts much longer than it should, this kiss. It’s not even dirty, closed-mouthed and sweet, but there’s three cameras trained on them and no one stopping them. It’s markedly different from all the other times Louis has kissed someone with cameras trained on them, and he can’t put his finger on why.

“Okay, go back to your own seat,” Louis orders eventually, pulling away. He swipes his thumb across his bottom lip absently. Harry goes, watching him, and it’s distracting enough that Louis misses the other couples answering their questions yet again.

Great. Now he has no idea whether they’re still in the lead or not. Fucking Harry.

“What does your partner think is their best asset?” Ellen asks, wiggling her eyebrows, for their next question.

“Oh god,” Louis says, unable to stop himself. Harry’s smirking to himself as he writes, not even bothering to hold it back.

“Louis?” Ellen asks. “I feel like I already know what’s coming, here.”

Is he blushing? He feels like he might be blushing. Hopefully the make-up is doing its job and covering it up. “I would say my sparkling personality, but I know he’s gonna say my arse. Am I allowed to say arse in this?”

“Well, you’ve already said it,” Ellen points out. “Harry?”

Harry’s still smirking as he answers. “Bum!” he exclaims. “His tushy. C’mon, baby, stand up and show ‘em what I’m talking about.”

“I want to break up,” Louis says emotionlessly. “Also I hate you.”

Harry’s practically all over him with the hug he doles out. Louis elbows him until he goes back to his own seat, but only half-heartedly. This is actually turning out to be a lot of fun.

“What is the thing the two of you argued about last?” Ellen asks.

Louis hums to himself, contemplating. The last thing they actually argued about was whether Fluffy is a good name for a dog or not, but that probably won’t make good telly. Instead, he writes what to eat for dinner because they had - before they got on the plane Harry had insisted on making a full roast dinner, and Louis had said it was a bad idea.

He’d been right. Harry had been slightly green around the edges the entire flight. Louis is still waiting for the right moment to shove it in Harry’s face.

“What names are appropriate for a dog,” Harry answers.

He’s not wrong, but Louis still draws a sad face on his arm with his marker for getting it wrong.

“What embarrassing thing does Harry do that everyone knows he does but Harry doesn’t think they do?” Ellen asks. “That one was a mouthful.”

“Oh, that’s a good one,” Louis says, bending his head to write his answer. “I like that one.”

“I don’t,” Harry says. Louis pats his knee absently and scrawls out his answer.

“Okay, Harry, give us your answer,” Ellen requests.

Harry wrinkles his nose and shrugs a little. “I don’t know, that I talk to myself sometimes?”

“I can see how that would be embarrassing,” Ellen says, laugh lines showing as she smiles.

Louis sighs dramatically, drawing the attention back to himself. “Everyone talks to themselves sometimes, Harold, you’re not special because you literally do the same thing everyone else does,” he scolds. “The answer to this question could only have been the way you lick things when you don’t know what they are.”

“That’s not that strange either,” Ellen interjects.

“Oh, no, it really is,” Louis disagrees. “I’m not just talking about a container that isn’t labeled so he doesn’t know whether it’s sugar or salt. Last week he found a flower growing in the garden he didn’t recognize and instead of going to look it up he ate it. The entire flower. He’s lucky it didn’t turn out to be poisonous.”

Harry’s laughing into one of his hands, eyes crinkling at the corners and mouth turned up, dimples on display. Louis settles back into his seat, pleased with himself.

“Do people really know that he does that, though?” Ellen asks, raising her eyebrows.

Louis shrugs one shoulder, the material of his shirt slipping down a little. “They do now!”

The audience laughs. Louis settles back into his seat, still pleased with himself, and listens while the other couples are asked about childhood secrets, in-laws, and best personality quirks.

“What is your partner’s most annoying habit?” Ellen asks them next.

“Are these questions designed to break us up?” Louis wonders as Harry writes. The crowd titters. Louis relaxes even more. He’s always at his best when he’s making people laugh.

“Is your relationship that fragile?” Ellen asks, raising her eyebrows.

Louis doesn’t even hesitate before answering. “Yes. I already put up with a lot, you know. This would be the final straw. The one that breaks the camel’s back, if you will.”

“Heeeey,” Harry pouts.

“I guess I’m going to have to say the messiness, even though he’s just as bad for it and he never wants to admit it,” Louis says, refusing to acknowledge Harry’s pout.

“I’m a very clean person,” Harry denies. “But I said the way you always leave the laundry in the wash for three days before you remember it’s there and move it over to the dryer without washing it again so it smells all musty.”

That’s an incredibly long-winded answer, but Louis does do that. Laundry is the worst chore, alright, he can’t be blamed for putting it in to wash and then forgetting to switch it over. Besides, Harry usually does it even when Louis forgets. If he really hated it he would stop doing that and teach Louis his lesson.

“I lead a very busy life, Harold,” Louis says haughtily, wiggling his toes in his shoes. They’re starting to pinch. He knew he shouldn’t have listened to Harry and worn his Vans instead. Fucking dress shoes.

“Yeah, yeah,” Harry says, rolling his eyes. Ellen shushes them, and they fall quiet and wait patiently for their next question.

“On a scale of one to ten, what does your partner think is his impact on other people if ten is James Bond himself,” Ellen reads. “This should be interesting.”

Louis practically bounces with impatience as he waits for Harry to write his answer. This is the best, most appropriate question ever. “Ten,” he says finally, once Harry’s finished. “Look at him, he obviously thinks he’s a ten.”

“So you’re saying you don’t think he’s a ten?” Ellen deadpans.

“I mean, on a good day he’s a seven,” Louis explains. “His go-to pick-up line is, ‘hey, baby, can I buy you a drink?’”

“It is not,” Ellen says, laughing.

Harry drapes an arm carelessly across Louis’ lap. “Worked on you, didn’t it?” he asks. “You’re a sure thing every time I buy you a drink.”

He’s definitely selling it. Louis is a little bit impressed. Still, though, he’s always been capable of one-upping Harry, and if the past two days have proven anything it’s that he’s a good liar. “We have a joint bank account, Harry,” Louis says, making sure he sounds unimpressed. “Every time you buy me a drink you’re just buying me a drink with me own money.”

“Half of it’s mine,” Harry argues, not even missing a beat, despite the fact that Louis has just told the entire world that they have joint accounts.

So. That might have been a bit of a fuck up on his part. It’s way too early in their supposed relationship for that.

Louis pinches him again. “Shut up,” he orders.

“Yes, dear,” Harry answers, monotone. It doesn’t sound that different from his normal speaking voice.

“Okay, Louis, what would Harry say has been the best day of your relationship?” Ellen asks.

Christ. This might be the hardest question of the entire game so far. It’s not even that he’s trying to think of an answer that will make their relationship seem more believable, either. They’ve had more than their fair share of amazing moments, even just between the two of them, and picking just one is very difficult.

Plus it’s what Harry would say is the best day, and Harry’s idea of a good day involves getting up at 5am to hit up the farmer’s market before doing an hour of yoga and then hitting the gym before a day full of hipster activities.

Well. Not really, but Louis likes to tell himself that’s how Harry spends his days when he’s not with Louis. It’s strangely comforting.

“A few weeks ago we went out to dinner at Rosso’s, you remember that?” Harry asks, nudging Louis with his elbow. “It was just the two of us and there was nothing even special about the day, but we had so much fun together, and you were so loud you nearly got us kicked out, and I remember thinking how much I loved you. It was just - a really good day.”

Louis stares at Harry, slightly stunned, pad of paper in his lap all but forgotten. It doesn’t even seem that romantic, at least not overtly so, but.

Look. They tell each other they love each other all the time, and they mean it, Louis has no doubt of that, but not like this. There’s an underlying current of something running through that statement that Louis can’t decipher.

“What?” Harry asks, sliding his hand higher. For some reason, Louis’ heart flutters in his chest.

Louis can’t think of an answer that won’t betray how inexplicably stunned he is, so instead he drags Harry’s head down by the hair and kisses him.

Really, really kisses him. Harry kisses back immediately, free hand sliding into Louis’ hair and holding him still for it. The first swipe of tongue is unexpected and entirely too sensual, licking at Louis’ bottom lip as if Harry actually expects him to open up for it, to let it turn dirty in front of all of these cameras.

“Alright then!” Ellen says loudly, startling them apart. Louis wipes at his mouth self-consciously, scooting over to the edge of his seat, the farthest away from Harry he can get right now. “Louis, what was your answer?”

“I said the day we got put together in a band at the X-Factor,” Louis says, holding up his sign. “It might not count because we weren’t together yet, but it was the beginning of our relationship even though it wasn’t the beginning of our relationship as a couple.”

Harry reaches out and squeezes the inside of his thigh again, smiling. He doesn’t say anything, but he doesn’t need to. Louis can read him like a book.

“Which of these does Harry have the most of?” Ellen reads. “Sense of humour, sense of time, sense of adventure, or common sense?”

Well, at least it’s an easy one. It takes Louis approximately three seconds to scrawl his answer down. “It’s definitely my sense of humour,” Harry says. “We wouldn’t get along so well if we didn’t find the same thing funny, would we, baby?”

“Well, it’s definitely not your common sense,” Louis says, flashing the paper. “Or lack thereof.”

“I have plenty of common sense,” Harry says, pouting. Their answers match, though, so that’s another point for them. This is actually going pretty well.

“Alright!” Ellen says, clapping her hands together. “What classic rock song best describes your love life? (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction, Slow Ride, More Than A Feeling, Rock You Like A Hurricane, Screaming In The Night, or We’re Not Gonna Take It?”

Louis nearly chokes on his laughter. Harry pounds him on the back none too helpfully.

“I thought this was supposed to be a family friendly show,” Harry laments. “Then you go asking us about our love life. What has the world come to.”

“The world wants to know,” Ellen says, shrugging. Louis is pretty sure that she had a fairly strong hand in choosing the questions.

“This might be the most embarrassing question I’ve ever answered, and I once answered a question about whether I’m circumcised or not,” Louis says. “I’m going to go with - More Than A Feeling? Yeah, More Than A Feeling.”

Harry tucks a piece of hair behind his ear. “I can’t believe you’re embarrassed by the way we make love, baby,” he says, being an arsehole as usual. “Also, I can’t believe you got this question wrong. It’s obviously Screaming In The Night.”

Louis chokes on his spit this time, a quick, entirely too vivid image of Harry naked and having flashing through his mind. It’s an image he’s spent the past nine years trying not to have, with varying degrees of success - Harry likes to tell his sordid sex stories to anyone who’ll stand still long enough to listen.

Everyone can always tell when they’re embellished. Which they usually are.

“I hate you a lot,” Louis tells him for what feels like the thousandth time. Harry kisses his cheek in response.

It actually helps cool his flush a little.

“What movie title from the year 2000 gives the best description of your relationship?” Ellen asks. “The Big Tease, Final Destination, Screwed, Mission: Impossible, Scary Movie, or Unbreakable.”

If they were an actual couple this would probably be ten times more fun. Not that it isn’t, but Harry’s already said about a thousand things Louis is going to hold over his head for the rest of eternity, or at least until he does a decent job making up for them.

Louis can already tell he’s about to say another.

“You have no idea how badly I want to say Screwed,” Harry says, flashing a dimpled grin, “but Lou would probably kill me in my sleep if I did, so I’m going to say Unbreakable.”

“You’re so lucky you didn’t actually say Screwed,” Louis says, holding up his answer. Unbreakable.

Unbreakable wins them the game. Louis goes in for an automatic fistbump, but Harry picks him up right out of his seat, swings him around, and lays a kiss on him so explicit they’re probably going to need to cut it out of the final version.

“You’re the worst,” Louis tells him, a little dazed, touching his mouth. Who would have guessed that Harry Styles is such a good kisser.

“You love me,” Harry says easily, still swinging him around slowly.

“You two are disgustingly adorable,” Ellen says. “We’re gonna take a little bit of a break and then do a bonus round, so we’ll see you in fifteen minutes.”

Harry sets him down on the ground gently. Louis doesn’t waste any time heading for the craft services table, popping a mini doughnut in his mouth and kicking off his shoes at the same time. He intends to take advantage of every second of this break.

Something icy cold presses against the back of his neck. Louis yelps and nearly tips forward into the food. Big, warm hands catch him at the last second and haul him back upright.

“You really want to get divorced, don’t you,” Louis grumbles. He snatches the bottle of water out of Harry’s hand and twists it open, draining half of it in one long gulp. Harry nudges his shoes out of the way and picks up a cookie.

Mmm. Cookies. Louis is going to make Harry hide at least five of them in a napkin to take them back up to the room with them. He might get hungry in the lift.

“Only if I get half of your assets,” he says cheerfully. “Oh, hey, Liam called when you were in the shower earlier. He wants you to call him back.”

“You just finished telling the entirety of the United States that my best asset is my arse,” Louis grumbles, taking a bite of the cookie when Harry offers it to him. “Do you know what he wanted?”

Cookie crumbs go flying. Oh well.

“Probably just to make sure you’re not getting into too much trouble without him,” Harry says, squeezing a big handful of Louis’ bum. “Also, your arse is your best quality. I keep telling you that you should get it insured.”

Louis sighs and shoves another doughnut in his mouth. He has a feeling that he’s going to need a whole shitload of sugar to get through the rest of this day. “I’m gonna go marry Liam. He’d be a way better husband than you.”

“Excuse you, I would make an excellent husband,” Harry says, affronted. “I’m practically your husband already.”

One of the PAs calls them back to the set before Louis can counter. He points a finger at Harry and says, “This isn’t over,” before stalking back to his seat.

Harry wolf-whistles as he’s walking away. Louis doesn’t even try resisting the urge to flip him off.

 

There’s a few minutes of fussing once they’re both settled again. People check their make-up and clothes and mics, making sure no wires are visible and things like that. Louis sits mostly still for it, elbowing Harry every so often, just because he can.

“Ready, boys?” Ellen asks. They chorus their agreement and the filming re-starts.

“Harry, how would you complete this sentence?” Ellen begins. “My partner is a natural born blank.”

Harry taps the marker against the inside of Louis’ thigh. Louis watches him with one eyebrow raised. “Oh!” Harry exclaims, scribbling something down.

“Louis?” Ellen asks.

“Killer?” Louis says, making a face. “I have no idea, that was the only thing I could think of.”

“No, Lou, you’re a natural born babe,” Harry says. It’s a little condescending. “Seriously, show them your bum.”

Louis sighs. “And you wonder why I want to get divorced.”

“I’m never signing those papers,” Harry declared dramatically. “Not unless you’re willing to part with your arse. Then maybe.”

Louis sighs even harder. “You make absolutely no sense.”

“Next question?” Ellen interrupts, before they can get too far into the argument. “Next question, I think. Louis, Harry may be the world’s best blank, but he’s also the world’s worst blank.”

“This is just an excuse for him to make fun of me!” Harry protests, but he’s already writing.

Louis consider the question. “He may be the world’s best songwriter, but he’s also the world’s worst dancer.”

Harry smooches him on the cheek, quick and fleeting. Louis resists the urge to swipe at it. “You know, I thought that was going to be much worse. So thanks, baby. The obvious answers here were that I’m the world’s best lover and the world’s worst bad conversationalist.”

Why does Louis even put up with him anymore, is the question. They’re not in a band together, he really has no obligation to deal with this shit anymore. “You’re very full of yourself, you know.”

“Aw, baby, you’ve been way more full of me,” Harry says, dimpling for the cameras.

Louis does his level best to strangle him. That’s pretty much the end of the game.

 

The first thing Louis does after he finishes attempting to murder Harry with his bare hands is to head to the loo to examine his own face. Harry trails after him.

“I think you bit me a little with that last kiss,” Louis says, prodding at his bottom lip gingerly and trying to get a good look at it in the mirror.

“Shit, really?” Harry asks, trying to pull Louis away from the mirror. “Lemme see.” He spins Louis around and examines his lip carefully, thumb sweeping over the hurt gently.

“That hurts,” Louis protests, the words mangle by Harry’s finger, threatening to slip into his mouth.

“Sorry, sorry,” Harry murmurs, and then before Louis can even blink he’s kissing it better, soft and quick.

This time Louis does blink. “What?” he asks out loud, but Harry’s already wandering away.

Seriously, though - what?

 

He takes a piss and washes his hands, but his heart is still racing in his chest. He feels weird and slightly shaky, needs to hear a familiar voice.

He calls Liam back with fingers that are a tad trembly, waiting impatiently for Liam to decide to answer the phone.

“Lou!” Liam answers, half-yelling. “How’s the thing going?”

“Good,” Louis answers. “It’s going good, yeah.”

Liam doesn’t even need to pause. “What’s wrong?” he demands. “Did somebody say something to you? Did you tell Harry? What’s going on?”

“Nothing’s wrong,” Louis says. “I just wanted to talk to you, s’all. I miss you.”

This time there is a pause. “But you’re with Harry?”

Sometimes Liam isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed. “So? What does that have to do with anything?”

“Nothing,” Liam says hastily, clearly hearing the antagonism in Louis’ voice. “Just - you don’t normally call me to tell me you miss me when you’re with Harry, is all.”

There’s something vaguely offensive about that statement, but Louis can’t quite put his finger on what. “Whatever. Did the Nike contract come through?”

“Louis,” Liam says. “What’s going on.”

“Liam,” Louis mimics. “Nothing’s going on. You called me first, I’ll have you know.”

“Right,” Liam agrees. “But then you called me back and now you sound weird. So what’s going on?”

Again with the people knowing him too well thing. Louis needs to befriend some people who are only going to be casual acquaintances so they won’t call him out on his shit like the rest of his friends do. “I don’t know,” Louis says, learning his forehead against the cool tile of the wall. “I just. I’m starting to feel weird about this.”

“Have you talked to Harry about it?” is Liam’s immediate response. As if that’s not the entire problem.

Louis huffs out a forced laugh and draws a circle in the fog his breath has created on the wall. “No. I can’t tell him I’m having second thought two days into the thing he’s agreed to do for me, Liam, what the fuck.”

“Uh, yes you can,” Liam says. “In case you’ve forgotten, this is Harry we’re talking about here, your platonic soulmate. Pretty sure you could tell him anything, mate, and he’d just blink and accept it.”

God, why is Liam so useless. Louis hangs up on him instead of answering and calls Niall instead.

“Louis!” Niall crows once he’s picked up. “Alright, mate?”

“Do you think I should break up with Harry?” Louis demands.

Niall, bless his heart, doesn’t even need a second to catch up. “Not for at least another month,” he says. “You can’t give the people what they want for a couple of days and then yank it away from them like that. Just wouldn’t be fair.”

Sometimes Niall is entirely too logical for his own good. “It’d make a good bit of telly, though,” Louis says wistfully. They talk for a few more minutes, catching up on the past two days, before Louis heads out to face whatever’s waiting for him.

Turns out Harry is, leaning up against the wall as he texts someone. Louis still feels a little weird when the first thing Harry does is nuzzle him a little, but they’re just selling their fake relationship.

Right?

 

 

The only event left for the day is karaoke. They eat a quick dinner and then head over to the venue, jammed to the gills with people. Louis has to veto approximately a thousand of Harry’s song choices before deciding on one himself. It’s not a competition and they don’t have to sing together, but it really has been too long since they have.

He orders them a couple of pints and refuses to tell Harry what song they’re singing until it’s their turn, tapping his foot along with other people’s song choices. Then, when it is their turn, he accepts the mics and heads up onto the small stage, confident that Harry’s following him.

Their music starts and Harry’s face goes from bland to beaming so fast Louis almost misses it. “Louis,” Harry says, wrapping both arms around Louis’ waist and squeezing him, lifting him up onto his toes.

Louis snorts. “And you wanted to sing Barbie Girl,” he mutters.

Under Pressure isn’t the easiest song, vocally speaking, but they have the added benefit of years of experience singing together, so they pretty much nail it. They get a standing ovation once the song is over.

They leave the stage and the emcee comes back up to call up the next singer, saying, “Well, that was a little bit unfair, wasn’t it? The rest of us weren’t in a boyband.”

Louis cheers. Harry drags them back to their table with one arm.

They have a few more drinks while they watch more people perform, some good, some bad, and some downright atrocious. Louis signs himself up for a solo song, and then puts Harry down for Barbie Girl after all. Why not, right? It’s all in the name of fun.

He has a few more drinks in the time it takes for his turn to come around again, which must be the reason that he’s currently on stage crooning Shania Twain’s Any Man Of Mine into the mic, complete with dance moves. Harry cat calls him the entire time.

Louis is pretty pleased with himself by the time he’s finished. He bounces down off of the stage and practically falls his way into Harry’s lap, wiggling back around to face the stage. He nearly knocks his drink off of the table reaching for it.

“You’re a drunk mess,” Harry sighs, reaching out to steady the glass before letting Louis take it. He can’t hide the fondness in his voice, though, so Louis knocks back the rest of his drink before slumping back into Harry’s chest, warm and cozy.

“I’m your drunk mess,” Louis says, abandoning his empty glass and reaching for Harry’s half full one.

“That you are,” Harry answers, squeezing Louis around the stomach. A volunteer climbs on stage and does a rousing, drunk rendition of What Makes You Beautiful. Louis laughs into his palms, entirely too amused, and is still laughing by the time she’s finished.

Harry’s name is called next. Louis makes to slide off of his lap, but Harry waves a hand, passing on it. “I would have moved,” Louis says, slumping back again. Harry is so warm underneath him, holding Louis in place so he won’t fall off. That’s so nice of him. Louis pats his hands, linked together on his belly.

“I know,” Harry says, removing the glass from Louis’ hand and taking another sip. “People have had plenty of chances to hear me sing. Let’s just let someone else have a go, yeah?”

Oh. That makes sense. Louis taps his fingers against the back of Harry’s hand to the beat, mouthing some of the words. It’s loud and crowded and a little bit sweaty and barely anyone is even looking at them.

It’s nice.

“Thank you,” Louis says softly, fiddling with the ring on Harry’s middle finger. For everything, he means, not just the past two days. For being there every time Louis has needed him, even when it meant dropping what he was doing to fly halfway around the world.

Harry just presses a kiss to the side of his head.

 

A couple hours later, Harry mostly carries Louis up to their room, the perfect gentleman to Louis’ sloppy drunk mess. Louis tells him as much, patting the side of his face helpfully.

“I’m a saint,” Harry agrees sagely. “S’why my mum named me Harry, after all. Harry the Saint.”

Louis thinks that over, still patting at Harry’s face. “Is there even a Harry the Saint?” he wonders. “And wouldn’t it be Saint Harry, anyway?”

“Damn, thought you were too drunk to pick up on that,” Harry mutters. They come to a stop in front of a room that looks vaguely familiar. Louis squints at it blearily.

“I’m never too drunk to pick up on your shortcomings, Harold,” Louis says, reaching out and touching the wood of the door with one hand, tracing over the numbers engraved there. 401. “S’this our room?”

“Yeah, baby,” Harry answers. “If I let go of you for a sec are you gonna fall over?”

Please. Louis has never fallen over from being drunk in his entire life. Never. “I am perfectly capable of standing on my own two feet, Harold.”

“Okay,” Harry agrees. Louis wobbles a little when he lets go, but he stays standing.

Ha. So there. Suck it, gravity.

“Harry,” Louis says, wrapping his arms around Harry’s chest from the back, holding on to him. Not at all because he might fall over if he doesn’t. No. That would be entirely wrong to say. “Did you have a good time tonight?”

“I had a lovely time, Louis, thank you for asking,” Harry says, patting one of Louis’ hands. He gets the door unlocked and guides Louis inside, not letting go of him. “Did you have a good time tonight?”

“Yeah,” Louis says, following Harry blindly. “It was fun. Reminded me of when we used to get up on a stage and sing together for real.”

Harry pauses so briefly Louis almost doesn’t catch it, the pause. “We could still do that, if you want,” he says carefully.

Louis wipes his nose on Harry’s back. It’s dripping a little. Maybe he’s coming down with a cold. “I know. As much as I love you, it wouldn’t be the same, though. And I’m happy, anyway. I love doing what I’m doing.”

Harry unpauses and keeps walking them towards the bed. “I want you to be happy,” he says, unwrapping Louis’ arms from around his chest and helping him onto the bed. “You know that, right? I really want you to be happy.”

Aww. “I know, Haz,” Louis says, patting his hand. “I want you to be happy too.”

“Okay,” Harry says, straightening up. “Take off your trousers, yeah? The last thing I need is to wake up in the middle of the night to your grumbling because you can’t get them off without getting up.”

“I don’t grumble,” Louis grumbles. Harry ignores him and disappears into the bathroom, running water. Louis makes a face to himself and flops down onto the bed, spreading his arms out and attempting to kick his shoes off without looking.

It doesn’t work. He gives up and rolls onto his side, pulling his knees up to his chest, and waits for Harry to come back and help him.

It seems like he takes forever. Louis dozes a bit, trying to squirm his way underneath the blankets without actually doing any work, and resigns himself to shivering when he fails.

“Thought I told you to take your trousers off,” Harry says suddenly. Louis curls his arms around a pillow and presses his face into it.

“Couldn’t,” he says, muffled. “Need help.”

“You’re a useless drunk,” Harry says, but his hands are gentle as he turns Louis onto his back and pulls his shoes off before working on getting his jeans undone and down his legs.

“I’m the most important person in the world,” Louis tells his pillow, hugging it tighter. Harry pats his hips and turns him back onto his side before climbing in behind him, settling in close.

“Yeah,” Harry agrees. He’s not cuddling right and that’s just unacceptable. Louis wiggles back so they’re in full body contact and pulls Harry’s arm around his chest, lacing their fingers together.

It’s much better.

 

Waking up is soft and slow, almost sweet. There’s dim light shining through the curtains, and it’s almost unbearably warm underneath the mount of blankets.

Almost.

It’s pretty much perfect. Louis wouldn’t mind waking up like this every day.

“You need to wash your hair,” Louis mumbles, tapping at Harry’s thumb. “You smell like sweat and dried leaves.”

“I smell great,” Harry mumbles into the back of his neck. “You smell like stale alcohol and regret.”

Louis probably does smell like stale alcohol and regret. He’s got the beginnings of a headache pounding at the edges of his temples and they have to be up in two hours to do some more events so he could really use that sleep.

“Harry,” Louis whispers, tugging at one of Harry’s rings, “Harry, can you carry me to the shower? My legs hurt. And me head.”

“Shhh,” Harry says, arm still heavy across Louis’ chest, unmoving. “Fifteen more minutes of sleep and then I’ll take you.”

“Okay,” Louis says, and fall back asleep.

 

True to his word, Harry does sleep for another fifteen minutes before he rolls out of bed to run Louis a bath and then carries him into the bathroom. Louis has an almost overwhelming urge to kiss him.

He doesn’t, obviously, but he can’t stop thinking about it the entire time he’s sitting in the bathtub, trying to soak the ache out of his legs.

 

 

Day three is somewhat more relaxed. It starts with a talk to a bunch of kids that Louis isn’t even a part of, but he and Harry sit in the back together and watch anyway as Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka give an incredible speech and answer some questions afterwards.

Louis’ chest pangs a little, watching it. He’s twenty-seven years old and he can count the number of serious relationships he’s ever had on less than two fingers. He’s always wanted that - a good, stable relationship with someone he genuinely loves, a family, kids, a marriage. Right now he’s having a hard time convincing himself that he’s only twenty-seven and that he still has plenty of time.

Harry notices. Of course Harry notices. He nudges at Louis’ side, leaning in. “What’s wrong?”

“I want that,” Louis says, picking at the hem of his shirt, trying to find a loose thread. He doesn’t elaborate.

Harry squeezes his knee reassuringly. “You’ll get it,” he promises.

 

They wander for a bit, just looking in on some of the activities and talking to people, and all in all it’s a pretty relaxing morning. The nerves Louis had been experiencing at the beginning of the event have mostly faded, and it doesn’t even feel weird that he’s spent the last two hours holding Harry’s hand and kissing him whenever it seems appropriate, mouth slightly tender from how often it’s seemed appropriate..

Mostly doesn’t feel weird, that is.

Of course, that has to change.

 

“We’re being out-relationshipped,” Harry hisses, holding both of Louis’ wrists so he can’t turn away.

At this point in their relationship, Louis is used to non-sequiturs. Most of their conversations involve at least five of them because they’re really not good at staying on track, but this might set a new record. He literally has no idea what Harry is talking about.

“What?”

“All the other couples are way more couple-y than we are,” Harry says, keeping his voice low as if he thinks someone’s going to overhear them.

Louis can’t stop his eyebrows from climbing, just a little bit. “It’s not a competition,” he points out - reasonably so, he thinks.

“Isn’t it, though?” Harry asks, raising his eyebrows right back.

“What exactly are you proposing?” Louis asks, cutting right to the chase. This could go on all day if he lets it.

“We need to up our ante,” Harry says immediately. “No one’s going to believe that we’re actually a couple if we just keep pecking each other on the cheek.”

Louis’ insides squirm. It’s not an entirely unpleasant feeling. Still, though. People have been believing it so far. It’s also not a competition, like Louis has already said, and they’re not actually a couple, and the things they’re already doing are more than enough. Those should be enough reasons to deter Harry from this line of thought.

Louis knows better than to think that’s actually going to be the case. Harry’s very persistent. Incredibly persistent. Almost annoyingly persistent. It’s nice when Louis wants to be coddled out of a bad mood but really fucking irritating at other times.

“So what do you want to do?” Louis repeats. “I’m not getting naked with you in front of a billion cameras, Harry.”

“Just more kissing,” Harry says. It’s not what they agreed to when this started. Then again, they never agreed to open-mouthed kissing either and they’ve been doing that. “Don’t freak out and punch me in the dick if I kiss you, that’s all.”

“But your dick is so punchable,” Louis laments.

“So we’re agreed, then,” Harry says.

Louis makes a tiny little screwed up face. “It’s a bad idea.”

Harry just rolls his eyes.

 

“This is some aggressive hand holding,” Louis observes.

“We’re in it to win it, honeybunch,” Harry says sagely, lacing their fingers together tightly.

That doesn’t even make sense. Anyone who’s ever thought that Harry is the logical one out of the two of them is just plain wrong.

Louis doesn’t pull his hand away, though. They’re just walking through the hallways, on their way to lunch, so there’s really no need for the hand holding. The only people around are some of the volunteers, and they’re way too busy running around to be scrutinizing Louis and Harry’s every move.

“Alright, snookums,” Louis says, amused, and lets himself be lead into the dining hall. Lunch is being served buffet style, which is a nice change. He hasn’t been to a buffet in what feels like literal years.

He leaves Harry to gather a couple plates of food for them while he searches for a table, finding one near the window. It’s cloudy out but that only makes it feel more intimate, ambient lighting setting the mood.

Weird, that. It’s only lunch.

Harry finds him within a couple of minutes, two plates piled high with food balanced in his hands as he weaves between tables. “You want water or soda, baby?” he asks once he reaches Louis, setting the plates down.

Louis’ eyes are going to be stuck in the back of his head from rolling them if this keeps up. “Surprise me, pumpkin,” he responds. Harry heads back over to the buffet tables while Louis examines the food and waits for Harry to come back before he starts eating. It’s the only time in recent memory he’s given Harry this consideration and he’s feeling pretty proud of himself for it.

Someone sits down at the table, but it’s not Harry. Louis looks up, face composed, and offers the person a vaguely bemused smile.

“You guys are disgusting,” she says without preamble.

Louis blinks, nearly flinches. He’s gotten plenty of hatred spewed at him over the past six months, but he never expected to find it here. “Disgustingly adorable,” she adds.

Oh. Louis relaxes. “Thank you,” he says, resisting the urge to shift uncomfortably. She still hasn’t introduced herself, just sitting there staring at him. “I’m Louis,” he offers. The girl stares at him for a few more seconds but doesn’t answer, and then just gets up and leaves. Louis blinks some more. “Okay,” he says to himself, frowning a little.

That was weird. That was weird, right? He has the uncomfortable feeling that she’s still watching him, even though he can’t see her anymore.

“Got you a Sprite,” Harry says. Louis jumps a little, twisting back around to face the table. “Alright?”

“There was this girl,” Louis says.

Harry raises one eyebrow and sits down in the chair next to Louis. “What a shocker.”

“She said we make a cute couple,” Louis explains. Harry slings his left arm around Louis’ shoulders and takes a bite of salad with his right.

“We do,” Harry mumbles, half chewed lettuce nearly spilling out of his mouth.

Disgusting. “I think she’s still watching us,” Louis hisses, leaning into Harry’s side and picking up his own fork.

Harry makes a weird noise in the back of his throat and swallows his lettuce. “Let’s give her a show, then,” he says, and catches the corner of Louis’ mouth in a kiss.

Louis’ mouth is already a little bit open. Harry takes advantage of it and licks at him with just the tip of his tongue, slow and sweet, one hand coming up to turn Louis’ face towards him, deepening the kiss, and -

Louis whimpers, just a little. He can’t stop it from escaping his throat, completely unintentional. It’s just. Harry kisses exactly how Louis likes it, and that’s a thing Louis never would have guessed before.

“Okay,” Harry murmurs, pulling away with one final stinging nip to Louis’ bottom lip. He goes back to eating his salad as if nothing’s happened, arm still looped around Louis’ shoulders, and nudges at Louis’ side until he picks up his fork again.

It was nothing. It was just a kiss. Louis’ kissed plenty of people before. It was nothing.

 

After they finish lunch, Harry goes back to their room to have a quick shower while Louis heads off to do a little bit of filming for a commercial. It’s more posing than anything, which is lucky, because he still can’t think straight.

Nine years and Louis has only spent the bare minimum amount of time thinking about kissing Harry like that, and only because so many people spent so long convinced that they were together. It’s hard not to think about it when so many people are convinced that it’s happening, and if Louis spent a couple of nights sweating underneath a blanket, thinking about it, that’s no one’s business but his own.

Whatever. It’s nothing. Louis will just shake it off. Another two days and this will all be over, anyway, and they can just let their fake relationship taper off naturally.

 

Harry’s hair is still damp and curling a bit by the time he reappears, walking right up into Louis’ back and resting his chin on Louis’ shoulder.

“I had a sudden craving for candy floss in the lift,” he says randomly, looping his arms around Louis’ belly and pulling them flush together.

Nine years and Louis has never really noticed how much bigger Harry is than him. He’s definitely noticing it now, trapped in the circle of Harry’s arms with no option of pulling away. He swallows hard and offers the crew a helpless little shrug and covers Harry’s hands with his own, trying to get enough space that he can remember how to breathe.

It’s weird. Logically, Louis knows that Harry started getting bigger than him pretty soon after they met. Harry’s never really acted like it, though - he slumps a lot, never really stands up straight, and lets Louis stand in front of him all the time.

But he is. Bigger. Not, like, twice Louis’ size or anything, but both broader and taller. Strong enough he’d be able to hold Louis up without difficulty.

Louis swallows again. Harry has held him up before, carried him around as if Louis doesn’t weigh anything, but never like Louis can’t make himself stop thinking about right now.

“We’re still filming, you know,” Louis manages, leaning forward just a bit. Hopefully Harry won’t notice.

“You trying to say you don’t want me to be in the commercial, baby?” Harry asks, pouting, mouth practically right up against Louis’ ear.

How long has it been since Louis has had sex? It must be like six or seven months at this point. That’s probably the explanation for the weird squirming in his belly. His body is just reacting to the heat of Harry’s pressed up against his back, that’s all.

“No. I hate you,” Louis tells him, resisting the urge to shiver as Harry’s mouth drags across his ear, towards his mouth.

“That’s sad, because I really love you,” Harry says. Before Louis can even digest that statement he’s touching Louis’ mouth with his own, quick and gentle before wandering away altogether, leaving Louis nearly trembling in his wake.

Shake it off. Just shake it off.

 

Harry kisses him one more time before the filming is even over, deep and intense, tongue practically owning Louis’ mouth, leaving him with trembly knees and shaky hands.

He must be doing it on purpose. Harry doesn’t do things half way, which explains why he’s kissed Louis four times in the past two hours, even when there’s almost no one around to witness it.

Louis doesn’t do things half way either. He narrows his eyes at Harry’s back and decides, right then and there, that there’s no way he’s going to let this overgrown man-child out do him when Louis is the one with more experience in this particular area.

Harry doesn’t win competitions between the two of them, and Louis isn’t about to start letting him now.

 

Louis starts small. There’s still events and activities going on, but Louis filled this day with mingling - talking to the volunteers and participants, socializing and hanging out. He takes Harry’s hand as they walk through conference rooms, lacing their fingers together, only somehow it turns into Harry’s hand in the front, leading him along gently.

For a minute, Louis isn’t quite sure what to make of it. It feels natural - Harry’s hand is bigger than his, so of course it’s going to be in the front, right? Right. He can’t let Harry go around thinking he’s in charge, though. He has to come up with something else.

The first opportunity he gets, he leans into Harry’s side and nuzzles at his neck, dragging his mouth over Harry’s skin wetly. Harry shudders, gripping Louis’ hand so tightly Louis can almost feel a bruise forming. He’s probably only imagining that the room goes quiet.

Harry’s mouth dips towards Louis’ head, gaining access to his ear. “You tryna get us kicked outta here, baby?” he asks none too quietly.

It’s Louis’ turn to shudder. He does his best to keep it under wraps, can’t tell if he’s successful or not. “You saying you can’t control yourself?” Louis returns, worming his fingers into one of the pockets of Harry’s jeans, resisting the urge to put a few inches of space between them. He’s not going to lose.

“Not when you’re looking at me like that,” Harry says, leaning down more and brushing his mouth over Louis’ ear.

Something clatters behind them. Neither of them move. “I’m not even looking at you,” Louis denies weakly.

“Yeah you are,” Harry says, pressing his knuckles against the small of Louis’ back. It’s not even that intimate of an area but Louis still feels it in his core, heat spreading through his belly and down to his groin.

If they keep doing this he’s going to get hard. It’s a thought he’s never had in relation to Harry before.

Louis extracts himself. He has no other choice, blood already starting to sing through his veins. It still feels like he’s lost something, especially with the way Harry’s eyes burn on his back as he makes his escape.

Not that he’s escaping. Not at all.

 

He has to take a few minutes to regroup. He spends that time chatting with some of the volunteers, striking up an uneasy truce with the one who was so unimpressed by him and Harry the other day. It takes some serious sucking up but Louis manages to win her over by being his usual critical self.

About the way Harry’s shirt looks on him. She doesn’t agree that it look stupid, but Louis can see the mirth in her eyes anyway. He feels very accomplished.

 

 

Kissing is the next logical step in Louis’ half-witted plan to win a bet they haven’t officially made. They’ve done plenty of kissing over the past three days, and by now Louis knows how Harry likes to snog.

Knows all too well.

Is about to use that knowledge to his advantage.

His pulse is beating just a little too fast in his ears. Louis has to ignore it as he finds Harry again, socializing with a group of people, and sidles up to his side, inserting himself in Harry’s space like he’s done a thousand times before.

There’s a reason it feels different. Louis can’t concentrate on what that reason might be right now, not when he has a point to prove.

The point being that he’s the best at pretending to be in a relationship. Obviously.

He takes Harry’s hand again, twining their fingers and knocking their hips together. Harry doesn’t even pause, in the middle of telling a story, only switches the hand he’s using to gesture.

This might not be the right tactic. Louis waits until Harry’s finished telling his story before extracting him from the group, leading him away. Harry trails him obediently, still holding Louis’ hand, palm a little bit sweaty against Louis’, and doesn’t question him until they stop in a more or less secluded corner.

“What’re we doing?” Harry asks, amusement colouring his tone. He goes easily when Louis pushes him down into a chair, one hand coming up to rake through his hair. One of his hands comes up to steady Louis automatically as he sinks down onto Harry’s lap, perplexed expression taking over his face.

“We’re proving how couple-y we are,” Louis says, trying to avoid looking Harry in the eye. Maybe he should have thought this through better before he started it.

It’s too late now, though. There’s no going back.

“Oh, that’s what we’re doing,” Harry says. It’s vaguely mocking and Louis doesn’t appreciate that.

Saying anything would only give Harry an added edge, so Louis tips forwards just a bit and kisses him instead.

It takes Harry all of two seconds to start kissing back, both hands sliding up Louis’ back to bury themselves in his hair, cradling his skull as he takes charge of the kiss, making it deep and slow and sensual, sliding their tongues together softly, tenderly.

Louis’ fingers flutter, tangling in Harry’s shirt, trying to bring them closer together. Harry nudges at him, tipping his head up more, sucking at Louis’ bottom lip. It’s so hot in here, almost sweaty. They should really turn up the air con.

“Fuck,” Harry mutters, dragging Louis’ mouth away. Louis blinks at him, dazed. “Think we sold it, baby.”

Sold it?

It would probably be good if Louis’ head wasn’t so fuzzy, if he could think straight. He leans forward again, gets his mouth on Harry’s somehow, and kisses him again, letting his eye slip shut. One of Harry’s hands slides down from his hair to cover his arse, pressing them close together. Harry’s cock is hard underneath him, pressing up against Louis’ bum, so fucking distracting.

Time passes, but Louis isn’t aware of it. Only aware of how it feels, Harry’s hands all over him, Harry’s tongue in his mouth, of his own cock pressing against the zip of his jeans, uncomfortably hard.

Nine fucking years and this is the first time Louis has thought about snogging his best friend like this.

“Christ,” Harry says, pulling away for real this time. His hands are gentle as he strokes over Louis’ sides. “You alright?”

Louis nods dumbly, hands still fisted in Harry’s shirt. “Alright,” he says.

“Okay,” Harry says, reaching up and dragging his thumb across the curve of Louis’ jaw. “I’m gonna need a minute before I can get up.”

Louis laughs. It’s slightly hysterical laughter, but he laughs.

 

There’s a formal gathering that night that almost resembles a wedding reception. Louis busies himself with phoning his mum so he doesn’t have to face Harry for a while, hiding out in an abandoned corner and controlling every nuance of his voice. If his mum notices anything’s off she doesn’t say anything.

Once he’s finished he slips into their room to take a quick shower and change, fussing over the buttons on his shirt before heading down to the ballroom. It’s decked out with ribbons and streamers, classily decorated. There’s tables situated for people to eat, already half-full. It doesn’t take much to find Harry, sitting at a table in the middle of the room, light glinting off of his rings as he talks to the woman sitting next to him.

Even from halfway across the room, Louis can appreciate the fit of his jacket on his shoulders, the broadness of his back, the careless fall of his hair.

This is all starting to feel a little bit too real.

It’s too late to back out now. It’s way too late to back out now. The only thing Louis can do is make his way over to the table, weaving in between people and chairs, and take a seat next to Harry.

On the chair that he’s saved for Louis. They really are in too deep.

Harry glances over when Louis sits down and interrupts himself to say, “Hey, baby. You look really nice.”

Louis fights the entirely irrational urge to laugh. “Thanks, darling. You’re looking pretty decent yourself.”

“You’re too sweet,” Harry tells him, squeezing Louis’ hand. “You want something to eat?”

“I want something to drink,” Louis says, maybe too honest. Harry only laughs and squeezes his hand again before getting up and wandering in the general direction of the food, getting waylaid approximately every two seconds to talk to someone he doesn’t even know.

Louis can’t stop watching him. He forgets that there’s someone else sitting at the table with him until she clears her throat and says, “Ah, the honeymoon phase. I remember it well.”

Almost shocked, Louis swings back around to face her, barely remembering to plaster a happy expression on his face as he does. “Pardon me?” he asks politely. He can be polite when the situation calls for it no matter what Harry says.

And Liam, and Niall, and Zayn, and Stan, and Luke, and about a billion of his other friends. He can totally be polite.

“You two are still so infatuated with each other. It’s lovely to see,” she explains, holding out her hand for Louis to shake. “I’m Miriam.”

“Louis,” Louis says, shaking her hand. Miriam is a slightly older lady, decked out to the nines in an evening gown, pearls, a fancy hair-do and a hint of red lipstick. She looks very nice. Louis tells her as much.

“Thank you,” Miriam says with an airy laugh, giving off the appearance of being someone with wealth. Not that Louis is really the best judge of who’s rich or not - technically speaking he’s probably considered rich himself, but his wardrobe isn’t necessarily a reflection of that.

Harry, though. Harry’s practically got a team of posh designers living in his closet.

Harry comes back before they have a chance to say anything else, three drinks balanced in his hands. He sets them down on the table before sitting back down, slinging an arm over Louis’ shoulder and saying, “Did Miriam get around to telling you about her late husband?”

“No,” Louis says, leaning forward and ensuring that his body language is interested before taking a sip of his drink.

It’s strawberry champagne. Louis loves strawberry champagne.

Miriam tells a few grand stories about her late husband, who was apparently a soldier in the war - which war, Louis can’t quite figure out - who, by all accounts, was quite heroic and charming. She tells the stories with the air of someone who’s told them many times before and possibly embellished them a bit, but they’re quite funny. By the time she’s finished regaling them with tales of their lives together, Louis’ side is practically in stitches from laughing.

“Enough about me,” she declares, sipping at her own champagne. “What about the two of you? How did you meet? Any plans for marriage?”

Harry fumbles for Louis’ free hand on the table and gives it a squeeze. “We entered a talent competition as solo acts and ended up getting put in a band together,” he starts.

“Oh? What band?” Miriam asks.

“One Direction,” Louis puts in. Miriam’s expression remains blank. “I take it you haven’t heard of us, then.”

“Don’t take offense, dear, I’m old,” Miriam says brightly.

“No, you’re just experienced,” Harry interjects. Louis rolls his eyes. Always sucking up, this one. “Anyway, we spent six years in the band before we broke up, and the entire time neither of us even considered that we might be good together. It’s crazy what you don’t see when it’s right in front of your face.”

“And marriage?” Miriam prompts.

In his head, Louis falters. He hopes it doesn’t show on his face.

“I’ve always wanted to get married,” Harry says, just as easily as he’s said everything else. It’s not a surprise. It shouldn’t be a surprise, at least. Harry has always said that he wants to get married and start a family, right from the very beginning.

It’s just very different hearing him talk about it in relation to Louis. Louis’ insides might be squirming. He can’t tell.

“Same,” Louis says belatedly, because it’s true and everyone knows it’s true. He snaps himself out of it and adds, “Maybe we’ll tie the knot one day, eh, babe?” nudging at Harry’s elbow.

“Be sure to send me an invitation,” Miriam is interjecting before Harry can say anything one way or another, smiling at them. They chorus their agreement and Louis goes to get them another round of drinks, but he can’t stop thinking about it.

Marriage. Him and Harry. That’s weird, right?

 

Dinner is a lovely roast chicken with asparagus and a nice rice, not the fanciest thing Louis has ever eaten but very good. He has another glass of champagne with it, and then one more with dessert - a rich, heady chocolate cheesecake - and is maybe a little tipsy by the time the meal is finished.

In his defense, Harry’s been matching him drink for drink as if it’s a competition. Harry’s not as loopy as Louis is, but that makes sense considering that it’s always taken Harry more alcohol to get drunk than it does Louis. Probably it’s because Harry’s bigger than him.

“Let’s dance,” Louis says abruptly, levering himself up out of his chair. It feels like it takes forever for Harry to finish his drink and stand up. Louis ignores Miriam’s full, genuine smile as he drags Harry out onto the dance floor by the hand.

He wiggles himself into Harry’s space and loops his arms around Harry’s neck, drawing them close together. Harry’s hands slide around his waist to rest on his back, swaying slowly to the song.

“Sometimes I think you’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me,” Louis confesses, hiding his face in Harry’s shoulder. Maybe he’s drunker than he thought.

Harry’s hands tighten on his back. “Ditto,” he says roughly, and before Louis knows what’s happening they’re kissing again, in the middle of the crowded dance floor with everyone watching.

It goes on a lot longer than it should. By the time they break apart Louis’ mouth feels numb and swollen, thoroughly well kissed, putty in Harry’s arms. It’s hard to convince himself to pull away entirely and even harder when Harry goes to kiss him again.

This is seriously getting out of hand.

 

Half a glass of champagne and another three dances later, Louis is ready to call for a break. He pats Harry’s stomach and slips away to sneak a cigarette, huddling up in a corner of the garden. It affords him five minutes of respite, five minutes to breathe, five minutes for his thoughts to start echoing in his head, uncomfortably close to sexual desire.

For his best friend.

Five minutes isn’t nearly enough to even begin figuring out this crisis. As much as he wants to chain smoke the rest of the pack he should probably make another appearance, so he stubs out his cigarette and pushes himself up off of the grass, heading back inside.

Harry catches sight of him immediately, abandoning the group of people he’s talking to in favour of heading in Louis’ general direction.

Louis has the irrational urge to run. It’s harder than it should be to squash.

“I missed you,” Harry says earnestly, catching one of Louis’ hands and pressing a kiss to the back of it.

It’s only because there’s people watching. That must be the reason Harry’s doing it.

“I missed you, too, snookums,” Louis replies, rolling his eyes, and lets Harry lead him back out onto the dance floor.

 

He spends the rest of the night breathlessly anticipating the end of the event. There’s more snogging - heavy, way too explicit snogging - and hand-holding, and flirting. Jesus, when was the last time Louis even flirted with someone? It feels like eons ago, now.

Anticipating might be the wrong word to use, though. He doesn’t know exactly what he’s feeling, but there’s nerves crawling through his entire body, shivers running through his spine, a pit coiled in his belly.

Because the night being over means that they’re going to go up to their room, take off their clothes, and go to sleep.

It doesn’t sound that hard put like that.

Except Louis can’t stop thinking about eight hours spent with Harry pressed up against his back, stripped down to his pants, breathing against Louis’ neck. Arousal drips through his veins like morphine.

Eventually, he can’t stall anymore. Most of the attendees have filtered out by now, staff and volunteers working to clean up dishes and garbage, and if they stay any longer Louis will start feeling bad.

It takes a few minutes to find Harry, napping on a couch with streamers lying over him like a blanket. Louis shakes his shoulder gently, a little bit sweaty underneath his jacket. “’m awake,” Harry mumbles, eyes still closed.

“You look it,” Louis says, tugging at the lapel of Harry’s jacket. “C’mon, babe, let’s go back up to our room. You can sleep there.”

“Sleep,” Harry mumbles, letting Louis take his hands and pull him up from the couch. He folds himself clumsily over Louis’ back and lets him guide them all the way up to their room, through the lobby, into the lift and down the hallways. He faceplants directly onto the bed once they get there, not even bothering to kick off his shoes.

Louis rolls his eyes and goes into the bathroom to brush his teeth. When he emerges, Harry’s managed to get his shoes off and is stripped down to his pants, splayed out on his back on top of the covers.

“Come to bed, baby,” Harry says, voice husky, reaching out with both arms.

For a second, Louis thinks he’s a fool, like he normally does when Harry is being annoying. That thought passes much too quickly for his liking, six glasses of champagne telling him it’s a good idea to crawl into Harry’s arms, nose up against his collarbone. Harry’s arms wrap around his back immediately, plucking at his shirt.

“Why are you wearing this?” he complains, bunching it up in both hands. “You’re gonna chafe me all fucking night if you keep this on, baby, take it off.”

“It’s cotton, cotton doesn’t chafe,” Louis says, but he lets Harry strip the shirt over his head anyway, settles back down into his chest quickly. Wants to leech his warmth.

“It fucking does,” Harry mutters, sliding his hands down Louis’ bare back, big and warm and sexy, towards his bum, resting just over the curve. They’re lying chest to chest, Louis practically between Harry’s legs, and it might be the most intimate thing they’ve ever done together.

Including that one time Liam dared them to press their mouths together for two minutes straight and not move.

“You’re crazy,” Louis says, sliding his toes along Harry’s ankle, trying to warm them up. Harry really needs to get with the program and pull the covers up.

“I’m the most sane person you’ve ever met and I make you look saner just by standing next to you,” Harry counters, inching two fingers underneath the hem of Louis’ boxers, pads of them dry and rough from his guitar.

Louis swallows, keeps his eyes pressed closed. “Whatever you’ve gotta tell yourself to get through the night.” Wishes Harry’s fingers would slip lower, slip between -

No. That thought is too weird to be having about his best mate.

Louis rolls off of Harry and to the edge of the bed, kicking at the blankets until they’re more or less covering his legs, and bunches up the pillow underneath his head. Sleep. He can do that. He’s been sleeping his entire life. Sleeping isn’t hard.

Five seconds later, the heat of Harry’s body meets his back. “Lou? Is something wrong?” he asks hesitantly, gently. He sounds like he did the very first time Louis had a break-up, like Louis is something fragile that he needs to take great care not to break.

“It’s a lot,” Louis whispers, letting Harry tangle their fingers together, pressing his knees into the back of Louis’. “You’re officially my first out gay relationship.”

Harry presses a kiss to the back of Louis’ neck, molten and hot. “For what it’s worth, you’re officially my first relationship period,” he offers, using his free hand to draw the covers up over their shoulders, trapping them in the cozy warmth.

Louis huffs out a laugh, letting his eyes slip closed. “It’s exactly the same, yeah.”

“It’s not the same,” Harry says, voice still and quiet. “I know that. I’m still glad it’s with you.”

If Louis’ eyes are watering no one’s going to be able to prove it.

“Me too,” Louis says, feeling sleep creep up over him. Knows it’s true as he says it.

 

Louis only wakes up when the alarm goes off. Harry’s awake behind him, Louis can tell just by his breathing.

Actually, Louis can tell only tell by Harry’s breathing because they’re not touching anymore. At all.

Louis is cold.

“You’re so far,” Louis complains, still half groggy. He reaches backwards with one arm, trying to connect with Harry’s body.

“I know,” Harry says. He sounds weird. Louis frowns, eyes still closed, and rolls over, propping himself up on an elbow, hovering over Harry.

“What’s wrong with you?” he demands, poking Harry’s chest.

Harry catches his finger and pulls it away. “Nothing’s wrong. I just woke up.”

“So?”

“I just woke up,” Harry repeats.

Oh. Louis can’t stop his eyes from traveling down Harry’s body, towards his crotch. To where he’s undeniably hard, tenting out his briefs obviously.

“You could have just said that you have a stiffy,” Louis says, and somehow his finger goes from Harry’s chest to poke at the bulge in his pants.

Well. Clearly Louis has to spend some time working on his impulse control.

Harry slaps his hand away, groaning. “Why do you always have to be so strange,” he complains.

“Hey,” Louis says, affronted. Only he gets to refer to himself as strange, and only in his own head. He pokes at the bulge again, harder this time. “I’m not strange.”

Harry groans, catching his hand this time and holding it well away from his junk. “You’re the strangest fucking person I know,” he mutters.

That’s just not acceptable. Louis pushes himself up onto his knees, straddling Harry’s chest, and starts poking at his face repeatedly. “Take it back,” he orders, jabbing Harry underneath the eye. Harry spits out a curse and grabs both of Louis’ wrists, rolling them over so he’s on top now.

He’s still hard.

Louis wiggles. He can’t help it. Normally when he has a hot guy on top of him he moves, squirms, makes them pin him down if they want him to stay still. Demands their attention and gets it.

Can’t stop himself from demanding Harry’s attention now, wiggling and squirming with all his might, feeling Harry’s cock brush up against him, still hard.

“Stop it,” Harry orders, shoving Louis’ arms up over his head and holding them there.

Louis arches up into him. It’s like he can’t stop now that he’s started, moving incessantly, rocking up against Harry, watching Harry’s face change into something tense and frustrated. “Lou, baby, please,” he pleads.

There’s no telling what he’s pleading for - for Louis to stop, for Louis to continue. Before Louis can figure it out Harry’s expression is changing again, into something unreadable.

Then they’re kissing. The blankets are still tangled around their feet and they’re kissing. Louis’ hands are still being held over his head and they’re kissing.

They’re really kissing, too, properly kissing, tongues sliding against each other’s, hot and wet and intense. Harry’s warm on top of him, heavy, hips nestled right up against Louis’, lying in between his thighs. Louis wraps his legs around Harry’s waist, holding him close, unable to stop feeling his cock, about ready to burst through the seam of his boxers.

Louis’ is about the same. He moves with Harry, pushing up against against him as they kiss, blood almost burning in his veins. His hair is sticking to his head, slick with sweat. It’s hot in here, skin slippery. Harry bites at his mouth, demanding his attention, and Louis can’t help but give it to him, whimpering low in his throat, flexing his fingers above his head.

He’s about to come. Jesus Christ, he’s about to come. As if he can sense it, Harry slows down, still holding Louis’ hands above his head and rocking their hips together, but he gentles the kiss, turns it sweet instead, and keeps kissing him until Louis’ hard-on has ebbed. Mostly.

It takes a while. Louis is a little dazed by the time Harry finally pulls away, making a last minute grab for his fingers, trying to keep him close.

“Shower,” Harry says, clearing his throat. “We. I should shower.” He nods to himself and presses one more kiss against Louis’ mouth before fleeing, leaving Louis lying on the bed by himself, blinking up at the ceiling.

What the hell was that. What the hell was that.

Practice. That’s all it was. Practice.

Louis nods decisively to himself. He stays in bed until he’s managed to will the rest of his hard-on away.

 

 

A stack of photos drops unceremoniously onto the table by Louis’ elbow. Louis looks up, frowning a little bit. “What’s this?”

“Photos,” Nancy the PA says emotionlessly, already moving on.

Louis gathers them up and starts flipping through them. They’re all shots taken of him and Harry over the past few days, doing challenges and events, and they all look like typical couple photos, even the ones they’re not posing in. They did a pretty decent acting job, if Louis says so himself.

Then his eyes catch on one particular photo and he can’t manage to look away.

It’s one from the dance yesterday. They clearly hadn’t known they were being photographed, and they’re dancing, pressed up tight together. They’re both laughing, Louis with his head tipped back and Harry hunkered down a little, his entire face pressed into Louis’ throat. It looks almost unbearably intimate.

It looks like they’re in love.

Louis doesn’t even remember that particular moment, but on glossy photo paper it looks like something he would remember. It looks like something he shouldn’t be able to forget.

He’s not quite sure what to make of that.

 

He takes a break from the signing and wanders into the hallway, trying to clear his head, and of course that’s when Harry finds him.

Harry pins him up against the wall and kisses him, frantic and hard, hands slipping into Louis’ hair and tipping his head back for it. Louis gasps and pushes onto his toes, trying to meet him even though it doesn’t make sense, nothing about it makes sense -

He manages to pull back about two inches.

“There’s a camera,” Harry says quickly, trying to line them back up again and get Louis’ mouth underneath his. He settles for sucking on Louis’ jaw when Louis twists to avoid it, teeth sharp and bruising.

He’s lying. Louis can always tell when he’s lying, and he’s lying now. There’s no camera. There’s no reason to be snogging up against a wall where no one can see them and where no one would even care if they did see them.

Instead of calling him out on it Louis lets Harry catch his mouth again, opening up for the press of his tongue, so fucking easy for him it’s ridiculous. They can’t keep doing this, not after this week is finished, but Louis kisses him back anyway, eyes slipping closed and letting Harry rock him into the wall gently, hips touching in a way that makes it impossible not to be able to tell he’s hard.

He’s hard and he’s rocking his hips against Louis’, clearly able to tell that Louis is as well. There’s lights flashing all around them but they’re lights from the hallway flickering, not from cameras, and even if they were they wouldn’t be getting any decent shots, not with the way Harry’s pressing him into the wall.

He’s big and broad and he’s pretty much blocking Louis from any prying eyes, and he’s what Louis wants.

He’s what Louis fucking wants. Louis is mostly sure of that.

 

That slightly unsure feeling nags at him while he finishes signing the rest of the posters, heavy in the back of his mind, until finally he has to do what he should have done in the first place and calls Zayn.

It was rough going for a while, his relationship with Zayn, but that’s over and they’ve moved past it now. Their friendship is probably stronger for it, even.

Zayn doesn’t pick up until the very last second, until it’s about to ring through to voicemail. “’Lo?”

Louis takes a breath and says, “Do you think I’m in love with Harry?”

Zayn’s reply takes a minute to come. “Why are you asking me this?” he asks suspiciously instead of actually answering. “Did something happen?”

“Zayn,” Louis pleas, rubbing a hand over his face. “Can you just - ”

“Yes,” Zayn says. “I think you’ve been more or less in love with him for nine years.”

Jesus. It’s why he broke and called Zayn in the first place - he’s the only one of them capable of being brutally honest when Louis asks them to - but hearing it is still.

Nine fucking years. Unbelievable.

“Shit,” Louis says, letting his arm drop to the side and staring blankly at the wall.

Zayn hums, probably around a cigarette. Louis doesn’t smoke anymore, not really, not now that Zayn’s not around every day making the smell linger in the air, almost impossible to resist, but he could almost kill for a pack right now.

Harry might have one, tucked away into the corner of his bag for when he gets stressed, hidden out of sight as if Louis doesn’t know that he has one. Finding it would mean risking running into him, though, and he’s not sure he’s ready for that.

“So what happened?” Zayn presses. Louis sighs and slumps down the wall, folding himself up tight.

“This might have been a bad idea,” he allows.

“Well, you did know that before you got into this,” Zayn points out, as if Louis wants his logic right now.

No, what Louis wants right now is to be coddled a little, for someone to stroke his hair and tell him everything’s going to be okay.

It’s really hard to ignore the fact that ninety-nine percent of the time the person who does that is Harry.

“Really, though, nine years?” Louis asks, voice small.

Zayn sighs a little. “Right from the very beginning,” he confirms. “Thought I was gonna walk in on the two of you fucking at least a thousand times during the X-Factor. And then it only got worse the more time passed.”

“What does that even mean?” Louis demands.

“Lou, he’s been taking care of you since the second he laid eyes on you,” Zayn says impatiently. “That time you got strep and were doped up on meds Liam was trying to get you to eat some soup and you wouldn’t stop crying until Harry came back from the shop. You two are almost disgustingly co-dependent and you’ve always been that way.”

“I don’t remember that,” Louis says, half-challenging, half-disbelieving.

Zayn’s eye roll is almost audible. “You don’t remember that because you have a thousand other memories of times almost exactly like that one,” he says. “This isn’t a new thing, you’ve just finally caught on.”

“So how come no one ever said anything?” Louis asks, picking at a hangnail on his thumb.

“You can’t be serious,” Zayn says. “Your mum introduces him as her son-in-law to her friends. Thousands of people have literally called you out on it. Paul used to make sure that he got a room with a king-sized bed in it because you slept together more often than you slept apart when we toured. Like, he comes home to you even now, Lou, this shouldn’t be a surprise.”

Louis tears the nail off with his teeth, mulling it over. Most of those things can be explained away by saying that they’re just really intensely co-dependent best friends, but that doesn’t feel right.

Harry does come home to him, is the thing. He has a house in London that he mainly uses for storage, and he always comes home to Louis after he’s finished touring, bringing his bags and accumulated stuff with him, leaving reminders of him all over Louis’ house even when he’s gone.

The nagging, obvious question here is does he love me back, and Louis wants to ask it - he really, really wants to ask it - but that wouldn’t be fair. He’s absolutely, completely sure that Zayn knows the answer, and that it’d be the right one, but that wouldn’t be fair.

“Okay,” Louis says, wiping a slightly sweaty palm on his knee. “I’m just gonna go and tell him, then.”

“Good luck,” Zayn says, unenthused. “Hey, I love you, alright?”

Louis hangs up on him instead of answering. He had it coming with the lie about Louis crying until Harry returned from the shops when he had strep. Obviously that never actually happened.

 

Things in Louis’ life never happen the way he plans. Before he can find Harry he’s waylaid by another camera crew, who plead for just one more soundbite before he goes home, and Louis can’t say no, not when the event is this important to him.

“So, Louis, tell us what you thought about your experience here,” one of the camera guys prompts.

Louis does his best not to fidget and folds his hands together, smiling. “It was really awesome. I’m so glad that I was able to participate in it.”

“And Harry?”

“Harry had a lot of fun, too,” Louis says. Part of him wonders where this is going.

“Tell us a little bit about your relationship with Harry,” the guy says, wearing an encouraging smile.

Louis shrugs a little. “What is there to say? It’s not often someone’s lucky enough to fall in love with their best friend.”

The words are out before he realizes how true they are. He says a few more things on autopilot, reeling a little, and takes off for the elevator the second he gets the chance.

He just. Needs to tell Harry before it bursts out of him.

 

By the time Louis makes it up to their room, Harry’s bag is already sitting on the bed, neatly packed. Louis’ is sitting beside it, packed just as neatly. Harry must have packed them both while Louis was on the phone with Zayn.

Louis pulls roughly half of Harry’s stuff out of his bag in his search for the package of cigarettes he knows is stashed in there somewhere, finding it tucked away in a pocket towards the bottom.

He smokes two cigarettes out on the balcony right after each other, feet propped up on the railing and shorts riding up on his thighs. In theory he should be getting dressed so they can catch their flight back to London on time.

He’s still a celebrity, though, and he can definitely afford this room for one more night if he ends up needing it, so he’s not too worried. What is he worried about is what Harry is going to say when Louis tells him, hence the chain smoking.

It’s a bad habit he picked up from Zayn a while ago and hasn’t quite managed to kick yet.

The sound of the glass door sliding open is a relief and terrifying all at once. Louis doesn’t look over his shoulder.

“Ready to go?” Harry asks, leaning over Louis’ back and plucking the cigarette out from between his fingers and taking a quick drag before returning it.

Louis leans back against Harry’s shoulder, still looking out at the spread of the city in front of them. It feels a bit fitting that he’s going to do this in New York instead of at home, so both of them are able to run away if they need to.

Louis hopes they don’t need to.

“I want to tell you something,” he says, tapping the ash off the end of the cigarette and taking another long drag off of it, trying to hide the way his fingers are shaking, just a little.

Harry makes a noise in the back of his throat. “Is this something going to make us miss our flight?”

Louis considers. “Probably,” he decides. If it goes the way he thinks it’s gonna go. The way he hopes it goes.

“Alright,” Harry says easily, pushing on Louis’ shoulder until he can fit himself in behind him on the chair, stealing the cigarette back once he’s settled. “Also, next time you dig through my stuff, can you put it back afterwards?”

“No,” Louis says, tapping his fingers against Harry’s knees, thinking about turning around so they can have this conversation face to face. Decides this is fine. Easier. “I love you.”

“I love you too,” Harry says, still easy. He takes another drag off of the cigarette.

Louis worms a finger into the hole at the knee of Harry’s jeans, trying to widen it. “No, like, I’m in love with you?”

Harry covers Louis’ hand with his own, stilling it. Their tattoos line up, almost reflecting off each other. He doesn’t say anything for a long, excruciating minute, and then he’s turning Louis around carefully, hands big and strong on Louis’ body.

“Okay, now say that to my face,” he says, biting back a smile.

Louis punches him and scowls. “You’re a dick.”

“But I’m your dick,” Harry says, smile blossoming. “And you love me.”

Louis struggles, trying to push his way out of the chair. “No, I don’t, I take it back!” he shouts, trying to pierce Harry’s eardrums with his volume. Harry doesn’t even flinch.

“You can’t take it back,” Harry says, struggling to hold onto him. “It’s out there, now. There’s no going back.”

Louis stops struggling and slumps forward, burying his face in Harry’s chest. Harry wraps both arms around his back and hugs him. “I’m in love with you too, you know,” he tells Louis quietly. “So, so in love with you.”

Louis’ eyes aren’t wet at all. Saying they’re wet would be a total lie.

“Fuck,” Louis manages eventually, laughing a little brokenly. He keeps his face buried against Harry’s chest and inhales the scent of his cologne, warm and woodsy. It doesn’t really suit him. “You know this means we’re going to have sex, right? This is so weird.”

Harry shrugs one shoulder. “It’ll be good, I think,” he says thoughtfully, rubbing slow circles on Louis’ back. “Kissing you is incredible, so I can’t imagine the sex being weird.”

He better not be saying he’s thought about it before. Louis pulls back and squints at him suspiciously. “Tell me you haven’t spent the last nine years pining over me while I’ve been an oblivious arsehole.”

“No,” Harry says. “I honestly, truly didn’t know before this week. I guess pretending we were in a relationship convinced my brain that we really were together, and my brain liked it.”

“You’re stupid,” Louis says matter-of-factly. “That might be the least romantic thing anyone’s ever said to me.”

Harry raises his eyebrows. “What about that time that one guy told you that your skin was very soft and that he wanted to compare it to the rug he had at home?”

Louis scoffs. “That guy was way more romantic than you, Harold, I don’t even see how this is a fair comparison. In fact, I think I’m gonna try to find that guy. He’s better suited for me than you are.”

He makes to stand up, using Harry’s forearms for leverage, only to get yanked back against Harry’s chest. “Nah,” Harry says, groping at Louis’ bum. “We’re like, so compatible that I’m going to ruin you for all future relationships.”

Louis slaps at Harry’s hands, trying to escape from his grasp. He succeeds and bolts back inside, twisting to avoid Harry grabbing for him, and tumbles himself onto the bed.

Harry’s only a split second behind him, pinning him down with his weight, hands immediately going into Louis’ hair and holding him still for a kiss. He’s so big, capable of holding Louis down without even trying, with a cock large enough Louis might actually cry from it.

God. His mouth waters a little at the thought of it. He’s seen Harry’s cock enough times to know exactly how big it is. Harry’s practically a fucking nudist. Louis’ caught an eyeful more times than he’d care to admit, and he’s in tune with his sexual preferences enough to know that he likes that in a bloke. A big cock.

“You’re getting distracted again,” Harry says, swiping his tongue across Louis’ bottom lip quickly before pulling away entirely, leaving a couple of inches between their faces.

“I’m not,” Louis denies, trying to reel him back in to snog some more, ache sitting low in his belly from how much he wants this.

It’s crazy to think that five days ago he didn’t even know he wanted this, and now he’s so eager for it he might actually beg.

“Yeah you are,” Harry says, smoothing his thumb over the curve of Louis’ jaw, over the mark he made the other day, fading but still there. His eyes are dark like he’s thinking about deepening it.

Louis wouldn’t say no.

“Thinkin’ about your cock,” he tells Harry, ignoring the way his voice warbles. Never thought he’d be saying those four words to his best mate, at least not without joking around.

“About what you might want to do with it?” Harry shoots back, not even yielding an inch.

It might say something about how he is when he has sex. Louis has to swallow again at the thought. “Little bit.”

“Mmm,” Harry hums, drapping his teeth across Louis’ throat gently, gently. The threat of a bit is real, present. There’s so much saliva filling Louis’ mouth he might drown from it. “Like what?”

It’s not even remotely shocking he’s like this during sex. Or. Almost sex. Foreplay. Whatever. It’s not shocking. He’s always given just as good as Louis’ ever been able to dish it out, always been demanding in a way people never really seemed to understand because he’s so polite about it, but he’ll keep asking until Louis gives him an answer. Won’t give up.

This isn’t anywhere near Louis’ first time in bed with another man, even though it’s his first time in bed with his best mate, so he just clears his throat a little and says, “Could suck you a bit, if you want.”

“Really?” Harry asks, teeth still pressed up against Louis’ skin, threatening to bear down. “That’s what you were thinking about? Getting my cock into your mouth?”

Christ. His voice is deep and husky, making its way into the depths of Louis’ soul. “Yeah. Bet you’d like it, the chance to fuck my mouth a little.”

“Bet you’d like it more if I fucked your arse instead,” Harry says, simple and sure.

It’s. They’ve been friends for nine years now, and they haven’t exactly avoided telling each other sex stories, but Louis has avoided going into explicit detail.

He’s not surprised that Harry seems to know anyway.

“I’d hate that,” Louis says, mouth going a little dry as Harry rocks against him gently, cock full and hard against Louis’ even through four layers.

“Okay,” Harry says, licking a stripe over the skin of Louis’ throat before pushing himself up and unbuttoning the zip of his jeans. “What do you wanna do instead, then? You could fuck me, I could blow you, I could jerk us off. The possibilities are almost endless.”

He’s totally calling Louis out on his lie. Of all the people in the world, Louis had to do and fall in love with the one who knows him better than everyone else on the face of the planet.

It’s not a bad thing.

“Decided I don’t want to have sex with you after all,” Louis says haughtily, trying to shove his socks down with his toes.

Harry rolls off of him altogether and splays his arms out above his head, jeans half undone, heat of his body still seeping into Louis’ skin. “Alright,” he says, pouting. “Give me a minute and I’ll go wank in the loo.”

He probably would, too, if that’s what Louis wanted. Louis rolls over and climbs on top of him, knees pressing down in the bedding, struggling with the drawstring of his shorts. “We both know you’re not going to go get yourself off in the loo,” he says, wiggling his hips so the shorts slide down.

“I’m not?” Harry asks, raising his eyebrows and settling his hands over Louis’ hips, big and warm.

Louis raises his eyebrows, unimpressed. “Not unless you’re gonna pass on the opportunity to get your hands on my arse. You gonna pass on that opportunity?”

Harry grabs said arse with both hands, quick and sly, and squeezes firmly. “Not a chance in hell,” he says. Louis presses his hands against Harry’s chest for support and leans down to kiss him, wet and deep. Harry’s cock is still hard underneath his bum, thick. It’s probably going to feel so fucking good inside of him.

The kiss makes him weak fast, slumping down farther as Harry takes it upon himself to slide his hands up underneath Louis’ shirt, stroking over his bare skin gently, sending shivers down his spine.

“Seriously, though,” Harry says, breaking the kiss. Louis blinks slowly, curling the tips of his fingers into Harry’s pecs. “There’s so many things I want to do with you.”

Louis drags his tongue across his bottom lip, watching the way Harry’s eyes track the movement. “Like what?”

Specifically, he means. What does Harry want to do to him specifically. He needs to know, needs to hear it.

“Everything,” Harry says roughly. “God, wanna get inside of you so badly, baby, you don’t even know. Wanna get my mouth on you, wanna make you feel good. Want to get my fingers inside of you, make you come.”

Louis’ mouth is so wet, cock practically dripping in his pants. “Is that all? Expected more from you, Harold.”

“You want more?” Harry asks, not even bothering to take his hands out from underneath Louis’ shirt before flipping them, landing with his full weight on top of Louis. Louis squeaks, hitting at Harry’s shoulders with both fists for approximately three seconds before Harry’s mouth is searing against his, hot and wet and biting.

It’s like this morning, waking up and getting Harry on top of him, all over him. Holding him down, kissing him alive and numb all at once.

How much of that feeling is Harry knowing Louis and how much of it is just how Harry has sex, Louis doesn’t know. He’s looking forward to finding out.

“Fuck,” Louis says, gasping as Harry’s mouth slides over his jaw to nip at his throat.

“Thought about this,” Harry says, hushed like it’s a secret.

Louis’ hands are moving by themselves, tangling in Harry’s hair and holding him there as he licks at Louis’ skin, wet and dragging, just a hint of teeth. “For the past two days?”

“No,” Harry says, pushing himself up on his elbows. “Well, yeah. But a few other times, too. Woke up a couple of times thinking about your bum and the way you always shake it in my face, tried not to get hard.”

Probably Louis should have realized he does that before right now. There’s heat pooling in his belly, spreading through the rest of his body. He has to swallow before he can ask, “Did it work?”

Harry’s eyes are dark as he rakes his fingers across the inside of Louis’ thighs, spreading them farther apart almost achingly slowly, causing Louis’ hips to jut up, the shape of his cock in his pants impossible for either of them to ignore. “You askin’ me if the sight of you has ever made me hard?” Harry asks softly. “If you’re just too gorgeous and my cock can’t take it?”

There’s no answer to that which doesn’t make Louis sound like he’s needier than he’s comfortable being, even with Harry. Instead he wiggles a hand between their bodies and cups his hand over Harry’s cock, squeezing firmly. “Yer cock is nice,” he slurs, trying to catch Harry’s mouth again.

“You know all that time we spent not really talking about the fact that you have sex with guys?” Harry asks, still holding himself up over Louis’ body like the strain isn’t even beginning to affect him.

The only thing Louis is capable of doing is nodding. Harry continues, “It would have been really helpful if we had have talked about whether you like to top or bottom or if you like to switch.”

All the saliva in Louis’ mouth dries up. “You mean you don’t already knows?”

Of course Harry knows. He has to know - there’s no way they’ve gone nine years without Harry knowing. Louis might not have ever explicitly told him, but Harry knows. Has to know.

“Not gonna do anything unless you tell me what you want,” Harry insists stubbornly.

Most of Louis wonders whether Harry just wants to hear him say cock. If that’s the case Louis is definitely going to give it to him. “Want you to lick me,” he starts, tremble in his voice.

Harry doesn’t wait for him to finish, interrupting impatiently, “Where?”

“My cock,” Louis says, willing down his flush. “Nipples, belly. Throat. Everywhere.”

“Your bum?” Harry asks, sweeping his fingers over the insides of Louis’ thighs again, the touch fleeting and barely there.

It still makes him sweat, makes him squirm. His voice is barely there as he rasps out, “Yes.”

It’s a thought he’s never had about Harry before this week - never even entertained the possibility. He likes rimming as much as the next person, but he’s got this feeling itching in his gut that Harry’s going to be crazy good at it.

Harry’s always been intense when he concentrates, is the thing. Louis can only imagine how intense he is when he’s eating someone out.

The knowledge that he’s about to find out has his cock pressing against the fly of his jeans, demanding to be let out. It won’t be the first time they’ve seen each other naked, not by a long shot, but it’ll be the first time they’ve seen each other naked with intent.

“Get naked,” Harry orders, voice the deepest Louis’ ever heard it. He practically jumps off of the bed to start stripping himself out of his own clothes while Louis wiggles around on the bed, getting his clothes off with the minimum amount of effort.

It only takes a few seconds before they’re both completely naked and staring at each other. Louis’ cock is standing hard and proud, a little bit wet at the tip just from having Harry’s eyes on him. Harry’s cock is pretty much the same, except Louis can’t stop looking at it, at the sheer fucking size of it.

It’s not big enough it’ll be impossible, not by any means, and he’s not the biggest Louis has ever seen, not even outside of porn, but he’s big. Definitely larger than average.

“I was promised licking,” Louis says, after a minute of reciprocal staring has passed.

“You’re gonna get it,” Harry promises. “Just.”

“Just?” Louis prompts.

“Just,” Harry continues, then pauses for a second. “You know how sometimes you don’t have time to wank for a while and then when you do it’s like, so much better because you hadn’t come for a while?”

“Yeah?” Louis asks blankly, cock not flagging even a little.

“Right,” Harry says. Louis blinks. Still doesn’t get it.

“Fuck,” he says once he does, blinking some more. “You want - ?”

“If you think you can,” Harry says, reaching out to press two knuckles to the side of Louis’ cock. “If you can’t or if you don’t want to it doesn’t matter. I just. Fuck. You’re already so pretty, I can only imagine how pretty you are when you’re trying not to come because I’m making you feel so good.”

It’s a lot. This entire thing is already a lot, realizing he’s been in love with his best friend for who the fuck knows how long, but Harry just putting that out there, it’s.

It’s a lot.

“No?” Harry asks, watching his expression carefully.

Louis swallows. “Yes.”

“Yes it’s a no or yes you want to try?” Harry clarifies. Louis rolls his eyes and slaps Harry’s hip.

“Yes I want to try, dickweed,” he says. “I know you’ll take care of me.”

Harry ducks his head to press a kiss just over Louis’ belly button. “I’ll always take care of you,” he says quietly.

Louis knows. He runs his fingers through Harry’s hair, cradles his scalp and pulls him up to seal their mouths together, urging Harry into hovering over him, in between Louis’ legs. It feels a lot different this time, completely naked, muscles slick with sweat, rubbing together. His cock digs into Harry’s belly, getting him a little wet. He can feel Harry’s cock sliding against his bum, tantalizingly close to Louis’ hole.

“Turn over,” Harry demands, sliding his hands down Louis’ sides to grip his hips, flip him over.

Louis catches himself before his face hits the mattress, draws his knees underneath him, practically presenting his arse for Harry’s enjoyment.

Harry better be enjoying it.

“You make me crazy,” Louis mumbles to the pillow, doing his best to stay still while Harry runs his hands over his body, getting to know every inch of him better than he’s ever known him before.

“Feeling’s mutual,” Harry husks, dragging his thumb over the split of Louis’ cheeks, not dipping between.

There’s sweat soaking into the sheets underneath Louis’ body, making them damp and almost uncomfortable. Before Louis can get distracted by that Harry’s spreading his cheeks apart, two fingers dipping between and stroking over his skin, over his hole.

“God,” Louis chokes out, pushing back against it, up onto his knees. He has no idea how he’d even ended up fully on his stomach.

Harry moves with him, still gripping Louis’ arse cheeks, and it’s so hot Louis is almost burning with it, with the knowledge that Harry’s looking at him, at the place he’s going to put his mouth, his fingers, his cock.

“Can’t believe we’re actually doing this,” Louis says, half joking. Every single thought flies out of his brain with the first swipe of Harry’s tongue over his skin, over his rim, getting him wet.

It’s not the first time Louis has had this done to him. It is the first time he’s gone out of his mind like this from the very first swipe.

“Christ, your mouth,” Louis says, pushing back against Harry’s face almost unconsciously, so eager for it he might cry.

Harry gives it to him. Harry gives it to him in spades, holding him still and licking at him leisurely, slow and heavy and wet, big swipes over his hole, over all of his skin, making him messy, loosening him up so slowly.

“Harry,” Louis pants into the pillow, feeling his knees slowly buckle underneath him, slipping down to the mattress. Harry follows him, gripping his arsecheeks just as tightly and spreading him out even more, tongue coming back hungrier than ever.

Like this, Louis’ cock rubs against the sheets, full and fat, dripping at the head, making everything a mess. They’re definitely going to have to change the sheets once they’re finished.

Harry. Harry’s going to have to change the sheets once they’re finished. Although they are in a hotel so maybe they can just call for maid service.

Louis’ brain is going stupid from how good he feels.

“Is it good?” Harry asks, pulling his face away an inch. His breath ruffles against Louis’ spit slick skin, has him squirming against the sheets, cock dragging all over them.

“Yes,” Louis breathes, twitching back, trying to get Harry’s tongue back against his hole.

He gets it. Harry licks at him again, tongue flat against Louis’ hole, and then.

Then his tongue slips past Louis’ rim, inside of his hole. Louis keens high in the back of his throat, calves sliding against the sheets, knocking against Harry’s legs. It feels so good, has Louis’ breath coming fast and faster until -

Harry’s mouth leaves him, cold and abrupt, and suddenly Louis is blinking at the ceiling, eyelashes a little damp with sweat and cock standing straight up, flushed and full, ready to come.

“You were gonna come,” Harry murmurs, coming up and hovering over Louis, mouth full and reddened, a little slick. “Know what you sound like when you’re gonna come. All that time spent on a tour bus together while you tried to stifle your noises. Never really worked.”

Louis stares up at him, hair sticking to his head, damp and uncomfortable, and can’t resist reaching up to touch the redness of Harry’s mouth, thumbing over it. “You listened?”

Harry nuzzles into his hand, pressing kisses into his palm. “Not intentionally. You’re just - loud.”

God. Louis has to bite his lip to keep from smiling, letting his hand slip around the back of Harry’s neck and pulling him down for a kiss, taste of himself in Harry’s mouth.

The kiss breaks when Harry pulls back, palming at Louis’ cock. “You wanna come, baby?” he asks, mouth still tantalizingly close to Louis’.

Louis swallows. Has to think about it. He wants to come - really, really wants to come - but he also wants to come when Harry’s cock is inside of him, is the thing. And he knows that the chances of him being able to do both aren’t very high.

He’s not eighteen anymore, after all.

“Yeah,” Louis says, reaching down for his own handful of Harry’s cock, giving it a firm squeeze before starting to stroke it, slow and tight, just the way Louis likes it himself.

The way Harry’s expression shutters tells him that’s how Harry likes it as well.

“Want to come on your cock, though,” Louis continues, still stroking easily.

Harry groans low in the back of his throat and surges up to kiss Louis before he can say anything else, desperate and deep, hands buried in Louis’ hair. It’s frantic and quick, tongue pressing into Louis’ mouth, body hot and hard on top of him.

“Okay,” Harry says, indistinct, pressing another kiss against Louis’ mouth. “Okay.” He heaves himself up off of the bed and trips over himself getting to his bag. Louis can’t help but laugh, covering his mouth with the same hand he’d been using to jerk Harry off.

Harry just points a finger at him without even turning around, bare arse pale in the light. Louis can definitely appreciate the view. “Stop that.”

“I’m not doing anything,” Louis says, propping himself up on his elbows, watching as Harry comes back over to the lube, two small packets in one entirely too big hand.

“You’re always laughing at me,” Harry complains, flopping back down on top of Louis without bothering to hold anything back.

Louis lets out a loud, dramatic ooof but wraps his arms around Harry’s back nonetheless, pressing kisses against the underside of his jaw. “You love it.”

“I love you,” Harry returns. It sounds like he’s still marveling at it.

Louis can relate.

“I love you too, babe,” Louis simpers, making his way up to Harry’s mouth so they can kiss again, shorter this time.

“You’re gonna love me even more in a minute,” Harry says, pushing himself back up, only to slide down Louis’ body, level with his groin.

“I’ve been fingered before, Harry,” Louis says scathingly, trying to ignore just how hard he is.

It isn’t easy.

Harry presses a gentle kiss to Louis’ belly, just underneath his naval. “Not like this,” he promises, nuzzling at Louis’ stomach as he slicks his fingers up.

“Why are you such an arsehole,” Louis sighs, but he can’t keep the fondness out of his voice, knows Harry hears it.

“You love it,” Harry says, nuzzling Louis’ belly some more before he ducks down to lick teasingly at the head of Louis’ cock.

Louis can’t help himself - his fingers fly into Harry’s hair, hold him there. Harry obligingly sucks the full head of Louis’ cock into his mouth, tongue twisting patterns and shapes, and it feels so good Louis can barely suck in a full lungful of air.

He completely loses that ability with the first finger Harry slides into his arse, confident and sure, not too quick but not too slow either. His lungs burn with the lack of oxygen, cock being sucked at and arse being fingered, and he doesn’t know he’s gonna say it until it’s already out there.

“Harry, please,” he’s asking, begging, one foot rubbing restlessly against Harry’s ribs and the other in the sheets, “please.”

“What, baby?” Harry asks, pulling his mouth off of Louis’ cock entirely, leaving it cold and bobbing in the air. Louis pushes up, seeking the warmth of Harry’s mouth, and doesn’t get it. “You want to come?”

“Yes,” Louis tells him, silk of Harry’s hair slipping through his fingers as Harry leans up, finger still in Louis’ hole, making his cock drip with want.

“Alright,” Harry says easily. Bright eyes and deep, languid voice and Louis is going to have this all to himself for eternity. The thought makes him shiver, tighten up on Harry’s finger.

It has the added effect of making Harry’s cock jerk against his thigh. He continues, “You can come if you want. But don’t you wanna come when I’m inside of you, splitting you open, filling you up?”

That isn’t fair. Louis mumbles as much, throwing an arm over his eyes and gritting his teeth as he strains to pull back from the edge, sinking his teeth into the thin skin of his own wrist.

“Good,” Harry murmurs, ducking back down. His hair brushes against Louis’ cock as he presses yet another kiss to Louis’ belly, stroking his tongue over the skin this time.

“You’re obsessed,” Louis says, almost slurring it. He lets his arm drop off of his face, over his head, and just feels.

Everything. The awesome press of Harry’s finger in his bum, not touching his prostate but close, the tickle of Harry’s hair against his skin, the feel of the sheets underneath him, damp with sweat. The heaviness of his cock between his legs, full and ready to come.

But he won’t. Because Harry said it’ll be better if he comes on his cock.

Harry’s wrong about a lot of things, but Louis has a feeling he’ll be right about this.

“Can you blame me?” Harry asks, lifting his head but palming a possessive hand over Louis’ belly instead, heavy and warm, and rubs.

Louis flushes. Of all the things they’ve done so far, this is the thing that makes him flush.

“You’re ridiculous,” he says, squirming as Harry presses his mouth against Louis’ shaft, closed and dry.

“Ridiculously in love with you,” he responds, and sinks a second finger into Louis’ arse while Louis is still laughing.

His laughter cuts off abruptly, so much more full even though it’s only one more finger. Harry slides his tongue over Louis’ cock, not bothering to suck it back into his mouth as he spreads his fingers out, making room for himself inside Louis’ body, making room for himself in a place he’s never been before.

“Good?” Harry asks, rubbing both fingers against Louis’ prostate, firm and unrelenting.

“So good,” Louis sighs, wiggling one thigh up over Harry’s shoulder and trying to angle his cock towards Harry’s mouth for easier access. “Gimme another.”

“Why? You like it fast and hard?” Harry asks, still scissoring those two fingers agonizingly slowly.

Louis lets his heel thump against Harry’s back. “I’d like to come sometime this century.”

Harry drags his tongue up the length of Louis’ cock, tonguing at the head for a few brief glorious seconds. “Okay,” he says eventually, wiggling a third finger inside Louis’ hole, still taking his time but moving much faster than he was before, stretching Louis out, opening him up.

In the meantime, Louis rubs his thigh against Harry’s cock, the one that’s not over his shoulder, and tries to get enough friction going that Harry will actually decide to hurry up.

They’ve known each other for nine years. It seems almost unbelievable sometimes, especially when Louis forgets that Harry can’t be rushed into doing anything.

Harry doesn’t hurry up. Harry only rubs his cheek against Louis’ cock, nowhere near enough to edge him closer towards coming but more than enough to feel really good, and says, “You want me to suck you again?” almost threateningly.

What kind of life has he been leading that he thinks a blowjob is a good threat, Louis wants to know. “Well, I mean, I wouldn’t say no.”

Most of the time, Harry’s pretty obliging. He obliges now, sucking Louis’ cock back into his mouth, going down all the way this time, tight and wet and amazing. Louis’ eyes nearly roll back in his head from how good it is.

And that’s before Harry starts scissoring his fingers again. Then the only thing Louis can do - the only thing Louis is capable of doing - is arch his back and claw the sheets so he won’t claw at Harry’s back, gasping and moaning and twitching, overwhelmed by sensation, good and bright and hot.

He doesn’t realize he’s clamping his thighs around the back of Harry’s neck until Harry pulls off again, both hands big on the insides of Louis’ legs, prying them apart, making space for himself again.

“You’re gonna suffocate me, baby,” Harry says, slow and amused.

Louis blinks his eyes open - hadn’t even realized that they were closed - and ignores the dampness sticking to his eyelashes, demands, “Fuck me. Harry. Fuck me right now or else I’m going to leave and find someone who will, I’m fucking serious.”

“You want it?” Harry asks softly, one hand reaching down to fumble at his crotch in a way that suggests he’s actually putting on a condom and slicking himself up, knuckles brushing at Louis’ skin intermittently.

He’s full of shit and he’s so fucking slow at literally everything, but he’s also Louis’ and that thought might make his chest glow a little. “Yeah, I want it,” Louis says just as softly, flicking his hair out of his eyes. “I want you.”

“Feeling’s mutual,” Harry says, lips quirking up into a smile. Louis hits him.

Or, at least, he goes to hit him. Except Harry chooses that exact moment to finally do what Louis has been telling him to do for ages and starts pushing his cock into Louis’ hole, sinking in slowly, thickly, hands gripping Louis’ arse and holding him open, still.

It feels full. Right away, it feels full. The big, blunt head of Harry’s cock sinking into him, rest of it following at a pace Louis might actually scream from, easy and inevitable, until it’s all the way inside of him, nearly sending tremors through Louis’ spine.

“Does it hurt?” Harry asks, stopping once he’s all the way in, moving one hand to thumb at the skin underneath Louis’ eye, drawing his attention back to Harry’s face. His eyebrows are furrowed as if he’s worried about something.

About Louis.

“No,” Louis answers, not even sure whether he’s telling the truth for a second. “No. It feels good. You’re not that big, anyway. I have a dildo bigger than you.”

Harry’s teeth flash with his smile, dimples chiseled into his face. He starts moving, just tiny little thrusts. “Really?” he asks, bracing his elbows on either side of Louis’ head and picking up his pace, leaving it up to Louis to do all the work holding onto Harry’s hips with his legs, make sure they don’t break apart.

Always making Louis do all the work, this one.

“Yeah,” Louis huffs out, arching up to meet Harry’s thrusts. “It’s neon pink. I keep it in my night table for times when it’s cold and lonely.”

“Will you let me watch you use it?” Harry asks, not faking even an iota of his interest.

Louis does his best to crush him with his thighs. His thighs are pretty strong, so normally it wouldn’t be a challenge for him, but he’s also filled up with a whole lot of cock and that’s pretty distracting. “Fucking pay attention,” he complains. To the fucking, he means. Not to the idea of Louis’ neon pink dildo.

The neon pink dildo that doesn’t actually exist. Louis likes his sex toys to be a little bit less eye-searing than that.

Although it would make them easier to find. One time he dropped a vibe under the bed and spent ten minutes trying to find it.

“Pay attention?” Harry asks, skimming his mouth over Louis’ throat. “Like this, you mean?” He bite down, sucks, bruises, puts one hand on the outside of Louis’ thigh and holds him tight as he moves faster, cock thrusting against Louis’ prostate.

Louis’ toes curl behind Harry’s back. “Oh, fuck, yes, like that,” he gasps, wedging a hand in between them and getting it around his cock, pulling himself off. It’s uncoordinated and messy but it does the job, orgasm pulling at his belly, almost there. “Like that, like that, don’t stop - ”

Harry cuts him off with his mouth, kiss almost desperate, scorching and overwhelming, and that almost turns into a now. Louis comes like that, with Harry’s tongue in his mouth and Harry’s cock in his arse and his own fingers curled around his own prick, smearing sweat and come all over both of them.

It’s an intense, throbbing orgasm, one that leaves Louis limp and boneless, easily malleable underneath Harry’s body as Harry fucks him harder, still kissing him. It doesn’t take long for Harry to come, thrusting in deep one last time and staying there while he rides it out, eyes squeezed shut and mouth more or less lax over Louis’.

Louis lets his own eyes close, arm slipping back down to the mattress, and just lies there until Harry gathers himself together enough to pull out, fumbling around some before he lies back down, head on Louis’ belly this time.

“You amaze me,” he whispers, mouthing at Louis’ naval idly. Louis lets him, pets his hair. “I’m so fucking in love with you.”

He’s practically asking for it. Louis schools his face into a serious expression and says, “Feeling’s mutual.”

Even he can admit that he deserves it when Harry shoves him off of the bed.