"This is so dumb," Zayn moaned.
"Shut up, Zayn," Louis said, and stepped up onto an amp, and the room fell silent to look at him. "I tell all of you gathered here today, that this is what humanity was made for. The entire human history, it all comes to fruition in this moment. We had a question, we read something weird online and wanted to know the answer, and today we will find the truth. Together, as brothers and sisters in arms I ask you: are you ready?" He waited a beat for the resounding cheer and then screamed, "3, 2, 1 GO!"
The crowd of people, made up of various members of band and crew, yelled war cries as they poured the envelope of Pop Rocks down their throats, chasing it down with a can of Coke.
"Now I'm going to need perfect honesty because this is for science," Liam said earnestly to one of the lighting guys, who was both laughing and moaning. "On a scale of one to death, how do you feel?" He held a pen poised over a notebook.
In answer, the man burped, long and painful sounding, and Louis laughed so hard he collapsed on the ground. Someone curled their hand around his bicep and hauled him up. "It'd be ironic if instead of everyone dying of stomach explosion, you died of your own glee," Harry said, and steadied him.
"Never fear, Curly," Louis said, bumping his hip into Harry's. "It's not that easy to get rid of me."
Harry bumped him back. "Yeah, it takes like three restraining orders and a guard dog, doesn't it?"
"Seven guard dogs for you," Louis promised. "And I'd still try to charm them to sleep like snakes so I could get past."
Harry laughed his strange, barking laugh, curls falling into his face. Louis just had to hug him, had to haul him in nice and close until he had both his arms around Harry's shoulders and Harry's arm was warm around his waist.
"No one's combusted yet," Harry said, breath tickling his neck.
"The night is young," Louis said. "And Liam has more questions that need answers."
"Who is that?" Harry said suddenly pulling away, pointing to where Paul was escorting someone in.
"Beats me," Louis said, and went over, Harry hot at his heels. "Paul!" Louis said, and jumped on his back. "Have you brought me fresh meat?"
"Back off, Tomlinson," Paul said, trying fruitlessly to dislodge him. "This is your new opener."
Intrigued, Louis dropped off and stuck out his hand. "It's a pleasure to meet you then! I'm Louis."
"And he's exactly as horrible as he seems," Paul added. "This is Ben Hudson."
"Pleasure's mine," Ben said. He was taller than Louis, probably the same height as Harry, with warm brown eyes and close-cropped hair.
"I'm Harry," Harry chimed, elbowing Louis out of the way to shake hands. "Sorry about," and he waved vaguely behind them, "you know, all this."
"No worries," Ben said, smiling at Harry.
"You boys want to take him around and introduce him to everyone?" Paul said.
Louis was about to agree instantly, but Liam called his name urgently, waving the notepad at him.
"I got it," Harry said eagerly, shooing him away. "You have science to document."
Louis went, a bit reluctantly. Suddenly, he was irritated, and he didn't know why.
"I will give you a thousand pounds if you do this," Louis said, begging.
"Will that buy me life when he kills me?" Tom, one of the stage crew guys, said. "Then no."
"Come on," Louis whined. "When are we going to have this opportunity again?"
"What opportunity?" Niall said, jogging up.
"I just found out that Tom here has been given Paul's key card to his hotel room so that he can bring stuff up, since we're going to be at that interview til late," Louis explained.
"Oh man," Niall said, awed. "What are you going to do to him?"
"Nothing," Tom said. "I'm not giving you the key."
"Don't we technically employ you?" Louis said, scraping at the bottom of the barrel. Tom stopped, and looked at him. "Ugh," Louis said. "Be that way. See who's not getting a Christmas card from me this year."
"Count yourself lucky, mate," Niall said confidingly. "They're usually scarring."
Louis whacked him hard. "Harry," he called randomly into the air, and waited. Niall looked at him quizzically. "What're you looking at?" Louis said. "Harry!"
"Harry's watching the openers," Niall said. "Do you really just yell his name and assume he's near?"
"...Yes," Louis said. He jogged back to the dressing rooms to get ready, and then went looking for Harry in the private boxes.
"Hey," Harry said, and he was lying back in one of the chairs, all sleepy-eyed and boneless, the way Louis loved him best.
"Hi yourself," Louis said, and flopped in a chair next to him. Ben was up on stage, the guitar in his hands and a single mic stand the only props onstage with him. Louis listened for a moment. He had a nice voice, you had to give him that but--"It's kind of obvious, don't you think?" Louis said. "The whole 'I'm a golden retriever with more feelings than I can stand, take me home to your mum' thing?"
"Don’t be mean. I think it's nice," Harry said, and kicked his feet up on the chair in front of him, eyes glued to the stage. Louis rolled his eyes. Harry was such a sucker for tossers, honestly.
On bus nights, they usually ended up sprawled together in the front, watching whatever someone put on the telly. Louis was on one end of the couch, getting invested in River Song all over again, except that Harry was slumped against him, texting furiously.
"Oi," he said finally. "Get off if you're going to keep elbowing me."
"Sorry, sorry," Harry said, apologetically patting Louis's thigh, but instead of putting his phone away, he sat up and scooted so that their shoulders were only barely brushing.
"Met a girl?" Louis asked, curious.
"No," Harry said, looking a little sheepish. "Just Ben."
"Ben, on the bus right behind us Ben?" Louis said, his voice more shrill than he meant. "Sorry, I mean, you'll see him next stop, is all. Seems a bit silly."
Liam gave him a strange look. "Yesterday you texted me from your bunk when I was in the bunk across from you," he pointed out.
Louis ignored that. "I didn't know you were that friendly with him," he said to Harry.
"Harry's friendly with anyone pretty," Niall leered. Harry threw a pillow at him, and Niall tried throwing it back but hit Louis instead. Louis dropped the topic, because he really did love a good pillow fight, and they were tracking how many times they could make their bus driver tell them to fuck off in one day. So far the high score was 17.
He didn’t like it though, so he started watching the situation more closely. Harry was really getting on with Ben, which was nice, he supposed. They all lived in each other's pockets so much that Louis kept up with people he didn’t even like, just for the pleasure of talking to someone who didn't know everything about every second of his day. He could see the appeal of a new friend, but there was something Louis didn't like about the whole thing. Harry was too trusting sometimes, too willing to believe the best about people. He could be taken advantage of quite easily if no one was watching.
"Look at this, boys!" Niall exclaimed as they entered their dressing room in the next city.
"Oh nice, games!"
"Finally, a venue prepared for rock stars," Zayn said, with no trace of irony in his voice, flopping down on the couch in front of the TV.
"Play me in Uno," Niall demanded, tugging on the strap to Louis's bag.
"Beat you is more like it," Louis challenged and started shuffling.
Harry came in, stopping in the doorway. "All right," he said, eyes lighting up at the pile of board games.
"Want to be horrifically defeated along with Niall?" Louis called, waving the deck around.
"You wish," Harry said, and when he walked forward, Louis saw Ben trailing in after him.
"Hello there, Ben," Louis said casually. "Come to get a spanking too?"
Ben shrugged. "Sounds good," he said, unthreatened, and sat down.
"Hey Lou," Harry said, as he took his turn. "You know how we wanted to get a boat?"
"Yeah," Louis said. "I still do."
"Ben lives on a boat."
"Do you really?" Niall said, intrigued.
Ben shrugged, embarrassed. "It's not fancy or anything, just a little houseboat on the water in Seattle."
"It looks awesome," Harry disagreed. "He's got cool little lights all over the place, and a little boat to get places with and cool chairs on the dock to sit in."
"Been there, have you?" Louis said, slapping a card down with a bit more vigor than strictly necessary.
"No," Harry said. "Pictures, obviously."
"Oh, obviously," Louis said. He smiled tightly at Ben. "Draw two."
Ben looked at his deck, and then pulled a card out and carefully added it to the pile.
"Reverse," he said pleasantly. "You draw two."
"Is that legal?" Louis said. "Can he do that?"
Niall studied the instructions. "Doesn't say either way."
"I've never played like that," Louis said indignantly. "That seems like cheating."
"Welcome to America," Ben said, grinning and Harry howled like it was the funniest thing to ever be said.
"Fine," Louis said, and it was on.
"This is dire," Harry said. "I have to draw again."
"Seriously?" Ben said, laughing at him. "Put down the red two."
"Oh yeah," Harry said, blinking. He put the card down, and then shoved Ben's shoulder. "Also, stop looking at my hand."
"Stop showing me," Ben said, poking him in the ribs, exactly where Harry was most ticklish.
Louis gritted his teeth. "Niall, go." He had a perfect setup in the wings to get Ben back, get him to pick up as many cards as possible. There was no way he was losing to this idiot.
"Someone's cranky," Niall said, but obligingly put a card down.
Ben stopped horsing around to play a card when one of the stage crew stuck his head in. "Ben, it's almost time. They need you backstage."
"Oh right," Ben said, throwing his hand down. "See you guys later."
"I'll come with," Harry said cheerily. "I was going to watch anyways." They banged the door on their way out, not noticing Louis screaming into a pillow in frustration.
"Mate," Niall said. "You have got to get less serious about Uno."
It continued to be an intolerable situation.
There was only a handful of people who could be counted on to suffer Louis consistently without complaint, and the list was basically his band, Stan and his mom.
It had begun to feel like that number had shrunk, due to the continued absence of a certain best friend. He actually didn’t even know where Harry was at the moment. It was intensely distressing. “I am in so much distress,” he said out loud, from the floor of one of their hotel rooms.
“Me too,” Niall said, around a giant bite of a burrito. “Or else, I’m gonna be in about five minutes.”
“Don’t compare your Taco Bell addiction to my despair,” Louis ordered, and kicked him as hard as he could.
“I want to go out,” Zayn said, loud enough for Paul to hear. “There’s nothing to do here.”
“Where?” Louis said, sitting up, interestedly. Paul sighed and picked up his phone.
“Does it matter?” Zayn said.
It didn’t, actually. Paul made them take one of the new guards, James, who was stubbornly keeping to the “melt into the background” strategy they had managed to break the rest of them of. They ended up hitting a mall two towns over, where they had less chance of being recognized.
“So what’s up your arse, lately?” Zayn asked, browsing jackets.
“What else,” Louis said moodily. “Crap sleep, crap food, tired of being on tour. You feel it too.”
“Yeah, I do. It just seems like it’s been more than that.”
“Maybe,” Louis said, moving through the racks. “What do you think of that new opener guy?”
“Ben?” Zayn said, raising his eyebrows. “Seems nice. Bought me coffee last week.”
“You’re such a rock star, Zayn,” Louis said and instigated a short but intense tickle fight. After they called truce, Louis picked right back up again. “He just seems shady to me. Like he’s plotting. I’ve heard people from Seattle are like that.”
“Come on,” Zayn said, rolling his eyes.
“I’m serious,” Louis said insistently. “It’s a vibe I get. Like he’s got all this menace right under a layer of sugar sweetness.”
“And this has nothing to do with the fact that Harry’s been all over him.”
“You’ve noticed that too?” Louis said, dropping the shirt he was holding. “Do you think he’s being slowly seduced by a con man in ugly khakis?”
Zayn laughed and tried to noogie him. “You’re an idiot, Tommo.”
“Don’t say I didn’t warn you,” Louis said, dodging him. “I’m going to be screaming ‘I told you so’ at everyone.”
“Yeah yeah,” Zayn said,and threw a shirt at him.
A salesperson coughed disapprovingly behind them.
“I’m sorry,” Louis said to her. “I can’t take him anywhere.”
“Hey,” said a young voice from a few racks over. “Aren’t you--?”
“One autograph and then we’re on the move,” James, whispered into his ear. Louis jumped what felt like ten feet.
“See,” he said, pointing at James. “That’s why I hate when you try to blend into the background because I do actually forget and then I look stupid.”
“You need no one’s help with that,” Zayn said, taking a picture with a fan.
“Critics, all of ‘em,” Louis said to the salesperson, who was still hovering unhappily.
So it had come to this. He accosted Harry as they were gathering just offstage, waiting to go on. “We have tomorrow off,” he said.
“We do,” Harry confirmed, amused.
“So, you want to do something? Just me and you?” He poked Harry in the shoulder, enough to make him stumble to catch his feet.
A slow smile spread across Harry’s face. “Yeah,” he said. “That’d be good.”
Louis beamed. “Better than good,” he assured him. “It’ll be a story for the ages.”
“You want to go where?” Paul said, rubbing his face.
“Bungee jumping,” Louis said sunnily. “And we request James to come with us.”
“Who’s James?” Harry asked.
“New security. Zayn and I have launched a campaign to make him our best friend.”
“You make him quit, and I’ll make you regret it,” Paul threatened but waved them on.
In the car, Harry leaned on him, shoulder digging into his side. “You and Zayn are torturing security without me?”
“Hard to avoid when you’re not around much, Haz,” Louis said, neutrally.
“I’m around,” Harry said indignantly. “I’m always around for security pranks! Not that we do that a lot, James,” he said, directing it up front. James ignored them.
“I’ll call you next time,” Louis said, not wanting to fight about it. “I’ll hold up everything for your arrival. No one will dare breathe unless you’re there to witness it.”
“Thank you,” Harry said sincerely, and they both cracked up.
The bungee jumping was terrifying. The people at the top of the bridge hooked them in together and then made them wait while they tested various things.
“Now that I’m facing my imminent death, I realize I should have made Niall prove his claim that he can eat an entire turkey,” Louis said regretfully.
Harry laughed into his neck. “We should have actually made that movie where Lux is Babyzilla.”
“We should have followed through on that elaborate plan we had to make fans believe Zayn’s a vampire.”
“We should have partied with Bieber.”
“We should have convinced Stan to hit on Bieber.”
Harry was cackling now, staggering in the harness, and then it was time, and they were jumping and Louis thought that actually, if this was it, he’d probably be fine with that.
It wasn’t the end, obviously. Harry fell over as soon as they unhooked them, and Louis danced in a circle around his prone body. “That was awesome!” he crowed. “So awesome!”
“I’m dying,” Harry moaned, but he was grinning big, and when Louis pulled him up, he grabbed Louis’s arm and pulled it around his waist.
They bought themselves and James huge hot dogs from one of the stands nearby and sat on the grass eating.
“So I guess I haven’t actually been around much,” Harry said, like he’d been thinking about it since the car.
“Barely noticed,” Louis said, chewing obnoxiously with his mouth open.
Harry made a face at him. “I didn’t mean to, I just really like hanging out with Ben, I guess.”
“Yeah,” Louis said. “He seems nice enough. Bit boring, if you ask me.”
Harry shifted uncomfortably. “No,” he said. “I really like him. I mean, I like him.”
Louis choked on his hot dog, and James gave him a few thumps on the back that Louis thought he relished a bit too much.
Harry drew his knees up to his chest. “He’s just really cool. I haven’t really been into anyone like this since I met--” and he stopped, and flushed red.
Caroline, Louis guessed. He felt frozen, as if after all his nonsense chatter about Ben seducing Harry, he hadn’t actually thought it was romantic. Hearing it confirmed by Harry seemed to have locked him up mentally, like a computer trying to run a program too fast for it.
“I know I haven’t actually said I was, uh, bisexual or whatever,” Harry said, after the silence went on too long. “I should have told you outright, but it wasn’t really an issue before now.” His voice trailed off, unsure and Louis realized he needed to react.
He tackled Harry, rolling them both over in the grass, hugging him tight. “It’s fine,” he said. “You know it’s fine. You didn’t have to tell us anything.” Harry hugged him back, exhaling a relieved sigh. Louis had done this before, and he was glad for that, glad to know what to do when someone comes out and he just held on to Harry as tight as he could, savoring the way he and Harry fit, like they should never be doing anything else besides laying in the grass, just like this.
“I haven’t said anything to him yet,” Harry said, and oh right, there was the other part of the confession.
“Are you going to?” Louis said, letting them both up.
“I guess,” Harry said, scratching his head. “I keep thinking it’ll just happen, but it hasn’t.” He grinned to himself. “I crashed his set last night.”
“Did you really?”
“Yeah, it was pretty awesome. I’ve been learning one of his songs, so I might sing it with him tomorrow, I think.”
“Did you ask the rest of the band?” Louis said, and he sounded wrong; all stilted and awkward.
Harry looked at him strangely. “Why would I ask you guys? It’s not like I’m doing one of our songs.”
“It’s our tour though,” Louis said. “All of us, and that might affect it. Which, you know, I don’t know if you’ve considered whether a relationship with one of our openers might affect the tour too.”
Harry was beginning to look offended. “Loads of people bring their partners on tour. I don’t see the problem.”
“I’m not saying there is a problem, I’m just saying you should think about it is all. He kind of works with us. It’s like, coworkers or whatever. Makes the rest of the office weird.”
“All right,” Harry said, subdued, picking at the grass.
Louis couldn’t handle the stab of guilt he felt for raining on Harry’s parade, so he changed the subject. “Where did my hot dog go?”
James looked up from where he was devouring it. “Talking about feelings makes me hungry.”
“Awfully unprofessional, James,” Harry said.
“I’m so disappointed,” Louis sniffed.
Harry told the boys that night, and they immediately group hugged, then noogied Harry until he screamed, then group hugged again. No one had any problem with Ben probably being able to sue Harry for sexual harassment, and Harry was all cheered up again. Louis hated it.
He walked into his room later, and Harry and Ben were doing a twitcam on his bed. “Hi honey,” Harry called. “You’re home.”
“Why is this in going on in my room?” Louis said.
“Zayn and Olly are in mine, and I didn’t think you’d mind, since you give me your key anyways. Say hi to the fans.”
“Hi fans,” Louis said obediently, and backed right out. In his own bed, he wanted to scream.
He settled in Niall’s room, while Niall surfed the internet. “You okay?” Niall asked, as Louis threw himself across the end of the bed.
“Just want to go home,” Louis said morosely. “I hate America.”
“You do not,” Niall said, laughing.
“I do,” Louis argued. “I hate everything about it. I hate New York, I hate LA, I hate Seattle.”
“Seattle, huh?” Niall said, like he figured something out.
“Worthless city,” Louis said. “Everything pales before even the memory of London.”
“Let me ask you something. How come you didn’t have a problem with Caroline Flack?” Niall said.
“Caroline,” Louis said, “was from London.”
Niall touched his arm. “If this is a homophobia whatever sort of thing, you gotta get over it.” His voice was firm, and Louis sort of loved him for it.
“No,” Louis said. “I just. I think I’m maybe sort of gay for Harry myself?” It was the first time he said out loud, and it sounded strange and serious. He bit his lip and looked to Niall for a reaction.
“Mate,” Niall said, laughing, reaching out to pat him. “You have some terrible timing.”
“Don’t I know it,” Louis said, and slipped into silence, Niall stroking the back of his arm. Paging through twitter on his phone, he saw a tweet that said “I don’t care what none of you say. Barry Huddles is NOTHING compared to the truth and rightness of Larry Stylinson.” Maliciously, he clicked favorite, and kept going.
Zayn and Liam joined them in Niall’s room by the end of the night, Zayn bearing bottles from the minibar.
The four of them ended up on the bed, Liam with his back against Louis’s chest, Niall up against the headboard with his laptop and Zayn at their feet, clicking around on the television remote.
“Harry should be here,” Niall said sleepily.
“Don’t get Louis started,” Zayn groaned.
“I am just saying,” Louis said, “that we need to remember this moment for our Behind The Music special.”
“We’re not going to break up over this,” Liam said firmly. “Stop, before you freak out Niall.”
“It’ll freak him out more when Harry and Ben become Seattle’s Brangelina,” Louis said ominously. “In fact, he’ll probably be so freaked out he’ll start doing heroin.”
“Straight to heroin?” Niall asked, shutting his laptop. “No starting with coke or alcoholism first?”
“Nope,” Louis said sadly. “You’re just so devastated you go straight to heroin. Liam tries to help you, but he’s also dealing with Zayn’s Mad Cow Disease.”
“Wait, why?” Zayn said, shutting off the TV. He crawls up the bed, fitting himself between Louis and the wall. “I don’t even eat much beef.”
“Everything changed when Harry and Ben eloped,” Liam intones in a movie announcer voice. “Niall’s on drugs and Zayn eats nothing but bad burgers.” They’re all laughing in the dark, shoulders banging into each other.
“What about you?” Niall said, still giggling.
“I become a hobo,” Louis said, pensively. “I can’t bear to return our once happy home, so I wander the globe, friendless and penniless, singing for my supper in train stations.”
“It’d be nicer if you came home,” Liam said. “You could help me nurse the sick.”
“Shan’t,” Louis said. “I can only wander far from home with my legless dog, Skip.”
“Completely legless?” Zayn said, horrified.
“Somebody should have listened to me about Ben,” Louis said. “Maybe Skip would still have his legs.”
In the morning, he was awakened by Paul’s incessant knocking, which he ignored until he heard Harry in the hallway, talking in low tones. There was the sound of a swipe of a card, and then the door opened, letting both of them in.
“I don’t know why we bother paying for five rooms, when none of you sleep there anyways,” Paul said, shaking his head.
“Technically I’m sleeping in my own room,” Niall said groggily, from the vicinity of Liam’s armpit.
Paul shook his head. “We leave in an hour,” he warned, and left them to it.
Louis yawned and started kicking until the octopus monster they had formed untangled itself and let him up.
“Nice slumber party,” Harry said. He looked tired, and Louis hadn’t missed that Paul said no one had slept in their own room. He couldn’t deal with it this early, and avoided looking over again.
“Didn’t mean to,” Liam said, shuffling towards the door. “Louis was telling us about our breakup again.”
“Oh,” Harry said. “Who ended up a crackwhore?”
“No one,” Niall said, scratching his chest. “I was on heroin though, Zayn had mad cow, and I think Liam had spots?”
“Leprosy,” Liam confirmed. “Someone please wake up Zayn. I’m going to take a shower.”
Louis pinched Zayn under his exposed arm, and with long practice, avoided the strike towards his bollocks.
“Did we have an alpaca farm this time?” Harry said hopefully. “Or did we--”
“You moved to the States,” Louis said, and headed for the door. “Big house, ten kids.” He didn’t look back at Harry’s face.
The rest of the day passed pleasantly enough. They were kept moving, from interview to photoshoot, to signing, to venue. Harry, still tired-looking and weirdly quiet, stuck with him all day, and Louis wanted to be unmoved, but he couldn’t stop leaning into it whenever Harry slid into a seat next to him, or stood too close.
They had just gotten back to the venue, and Louis was about to pull him aside and ask what the problem was, but Ben appeared in the doorway before he got a chance.
Without a word, Harry stood up and followed him out. He didn’t come back until moments before the show started.
When they got back to the hotel that night, Louis circled Harry’s wrist with his hand and tugged him along to his room. Harry followed unprotestingly. Louis shut the door and locked it, and Harry flopped backwards onto the bed.
“What’s going on with you?” Louis said, hands on his hips.
Harry didn’t answer, just lifted his feet and toed off his shoes.
Louis rolled his eyes and climbed on the bed next to him. “Harry,” he said.
“You could at least let me sulk in peace,” Harry said.
“Never,” Louis said, and prodded him in the stomach.
Harry turned on his side to face him. “Ben’s not into me like that,” he said finally.
“What?” Louis said incredulously. “Is he insane?”
“Don’t,” Harry groaned, but Louis wasn’t listening.
“Is he braindead? Is he a secret celibate monk? Harry, maybe he’s an alien.” Harry covered his face, but his shoulders were shaking in silent laughter. “Well,” Louis said. “I hope he knows he’s lost my good opinion.”
“You already hated him,” Harry said.
“Loathed him,” Louis said instantly. “He’s a villain. He should grow a mustache so he can twirl it and cackle. I never trusted him to begin with. ”
“Louis,” Harry said. “It’s okay. I’ll live.”
They sat in silence for a few minutes, just watching each other. “It’s probably a good thing when you think about it,” Harry said finally. “If I get rejected every couple months, at least I’ll never go around thinking I’m some irresistible god of sorts. Keep my head in proportion about my own attractiveness and all.”
“Nonsense,” Louis said and kissed him.
Harry pulled away instantly, and scrambled back and away. “What the hell was that for?” he said, a bit wildly. Louis shrugged and opened his mouth, but Harry yelled, “Is this a joke? Are you having me on?”
“No,” Louis said instantly. “Harry, I wouldn’t--”
“Is it a pity thing then?” Harry interrupted. “Is this a cheer-up scheme?”
“If it was, it wouldn’t be working,” Louis said and then made a grab for Harry as he tried to get off the bed. “Harry, come on, stop.” He caught Harry’s arm and dragged him back down. “I swear I wasn’t having you on. I just--I wanted to.”
Harry stared. “You wanted to.”
“Yeah,” Louis said, defensively. “If you don’t want to, that’s fine, but I wasn’t joking.”
“I threw myself at you for two years,” Harry said, almost angrily. “Why now?”
Louis blinked, bewildered. “You did what?”
“Repeatedly,” Harry insisted, clenching his hands into fists on his knees. “I could never tell whether you knew and were sending me a hint or whether you really didn’t know.”
“I didn’t know,” Louis said, still stunned.
“So why now?” Harry said.
Louis shifted uncomfortably on the bed. “I didn’t like the feeling of losing you.”
Harry rolled his eyes and moved to get up again. “You don’t have to pretend just to get me to hang out with you.”
“Will you just--” Louis said, and pushed him flat on his back, kissing him again, this time with real intent. He poured everything into it, the frustrated rage of the last few weeks, the fear and insecurity, and overwhelmingly, how much he was so very not joking.
This time when he pulled back to look, Harry was pink and breathing heavier, with his lips swollen and his hair in disarray. It was a good look on him.
“Get it now? You’re not leaving us for Seattle,” Louis said, his chest tight.
“No?” Harry said. His hands dipped under the hem of Louis’s shirt, moving slowly, like Louis could still bolt.
“No,” Louis said fiercely. “No more dopey boys with guitars, no more houseboats with fairy lights, no more card game cheaters. You hear me?”
Harry laughed out loud, tracing Louis’s ribs. “You’re mental, you know that? Only you.”
“I’m only looking out for you,” he protested. “Someone’s got to encourage you to develop proper English interests.”
“I’ll have to think of some,” Harry said, and yanked on Louis’s shirt until Louis lifted his arms high enough to get it off.
“I’ll help you brainstorm,” Louis promised, and unbuttoned Harry’s shirt and Harry helpfully wriggled until it came off. Their chests slid against each other as Louis went for Harry’s neck, pushing the curls away to suck a bruise under his chin.
Harry arched up, distracted from his mission at Louis’s belt. It was this part of sex that Louis loved so much, thinking you knew someone and then getting into bed with them, getting a glimpse of everything there still was to learn. He rode Harry’s bucking hips, scraping his teeth over the mark he made. Harry keened, throwing his head back onto the pillow, giving Louis more access that Louis took shameless advantage of. He bit a matching mark on the other side, and then slid down, tracing his tongue down Harry’s collarbone and chest, grinning as he licked at Harry’s extra nipples.
“You think you’re so funny,” Harry said, getting up on his elbows.
“You think so too,” Louis said, and yanked his trousers open. He got a hand around Harry, hot and hard in his palm and Harry shut his mouth against whatever he was going to say. He couldn’t handle the way Harry looked, wrecked and sweaty, had to get his own trousers open and wank them together. Harry collapsed flat his back, fucking up into Louis’s hand, each thrust sliding his cock against Louis in a way that makes him hiss. It wasn’t going to take long, not with the two years of foreplay urging them on, faster and faster until Harry was groaning and coming, splattering over Louis’s hand and cock, and the feel of it spurred him into his own orgasm.
He was sweaty everywhere, and his heart felt like it was beating overtime, and they were both disgusting but he didn’t care. He rolled off Harry’s hips only to crowd his side, biting at Harry’s shoulder.
Harry was grinning, a cat-in-the-cream satisfied smile, as he ran his hands through Louis’s hair. “What are you so smug about?” Louis said, still a little out of breath.
“You like me,” Harry said, grinning impossibly bigger.
“What tipped you off, the nudity?” Louis said.
“You do,” Harry sang, and Louis denied it vehemently between kissing all the freckles he could reach.
They emerged eventually to raucous applause from their bandmates, and actual tears of happiness from Niall. Louis kept his hand in Harry’s back pocket as they walked and thought absolutely nothing could be better in life.
Later, when they were messing about with Zayn’s hair products while Niall sat on him, Ben came running up to the door.
“Harry,” he said out of breath. “You have got to see what’s going on downstairs.”
All eyes flicked to Louis to see how he was going to react. Louis grabbed Harry by the shirt front and snogged him, pulling him close with one hand fisted in his curls and one hand low on the small of his back. He drew back and kissed him on the nose. “Have fun,” he said, shooting a triumphant look at Ben, who was openly laughing.
“What?” Harry said, eyes unfocused and glassy. Louis gently spun him towards the door and shoved him to get him moving. Harry started walking, but just outside the door, turned to glare at Louis. “Mean,” he said, pointing at Louis. “You’ll pay for that.”
“Hurry back!” Louis said, waving happily. “Naked punishments, he means,” he clarified for the rest of the boys. “Loud, sweaty and definitely naked,” and then he was diving for cover as objects from all sides of the room came flying at him.