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If Liam drank, he might have been drunk when Louis suggested it, and then he would actually have had an excuse for treating it like a valid suggestion. But he’s sober, which makes it infinitely worse that he's heard "have a fling" so many times he’s actually considering it as a way of getting over an ex.

Louis, though, is definitely pissed—he brought the booze, and he's drunk most of it, and now he's trying to comfort Liam, who has apparently been a right mess for the last two weeks, a claim of which Liam is intensely skeptical.

"Just find someone new to get with!" Louis says for the fourth or fifth or twentieth time, nearly yelling into Liam's ear even though the music isn't all that loud. "It's a laugh!"

Liam glares at him. It's a patently horrible idea, and every romantic comedy ever made knows it.

Behind Louis, Niall and Zayn are having some sort of vicious slap fight punctuated by fits of giggling. Harry is nowhere to be fou—

Liam gets knocked forward into Louis by what turns out to be flying ball of inebriated Harry Styles, who may or may not want a piggyback ride. There's a smacking kiss to his check, but otherwise Harry ignores him completely in favor of Louis, asking if "our boy" is doing any better with his moping.

"Of course not," Louis says grandly. "He won't even kiss someone else!"

If Liam were going to kiss someone in an ill-advised attempt to get over—he who must not be named, yeah—it would probably be Harry, is the thing. Harry, who's awfully pretty and will kiss anyone who stands still long enough and not think anything of it, would be as good a choice as Liam can think of for a misguided one-off.

It's not going to happen, though.

Or rather, Liam tells himself that so frequently that he ends up spending a significant portion of the evening thinking about kissing Harry, and then wondering if Louis spiked his drink. They walk home together, Harry propped against Liam and asking repeatedly if he can stay at Liam's tonight. Liam caves on the grounds that Harry is pissed enough his mum won't be pleased, and Liam's parents are already asleep, so they stumble in, Harry still draped all over Liam, and flop onto the sofa. He’s more than a bit wired from the party, and he has exciting plans to make Harry drink a lot of water before he passes out, but they end up snuggled together, Harry giggling in his ear and Liam playing with his hair absently.

Harry is probably good at kissing, Liam thinks absently. He has a nice mouth, and he certainly does it a lot. Practice is good, right? And he’ll get with anyone; Liam’s seen him kissing Louis more more times than he has fingers, Zayn pretty often, Niall a couple of times, and a lot of strangers.

Liam frowns, his fingers stilling against Harry’s head. Why hasn’t Harry ever tried to kiss him? It’s not even that Liam wouldn’t have kissed him back—though he wouldn’t have—but Harry’s never made so much as a joking attempt to kiss him. It’s not—right now, Harry’s face is pressed into the space where Liam’s shoulder meets his neck and if it were anyone else, he’s pretty sure they’d have been licked by now, but Harry’s not done anything except let his breath tickle Liam’s skin. His skin is warm, and he makes a soft, happy noise when Liam starts playing with his hair again, and it’s suddenly even harder to stop thinking about what Louis said, that kissing someone might help him.

Er, not that he needs help. He’s perfectly happy. It’s just that he does miss having someone to kiss—cuddling is nice and all, and his friends are more than happy to snuggle with him, but proper kissing is fun and it’d be pleasant enough to have someone to do it with. And Harry’s snuggled so close it’s like he’s trying to climb into Liam’s lap, which is admittedly not outside the realm of possibility. Harry makes another tiny, slightly sleepy noise, pulls his face away from Liam’s neck, and frowns. “I think I’m sobering up. Why am I sobering up?”

Harry’s frown is the cutest thing Liam’s ever seen, and he wishes intensely that he’d had anything at all to drink so that he could pretend to justify that thought.

Liam kisses him.

There’s a moment where Harry is clearly taken aback, frozen under Liam’s lips, but he’s trapped there by the hand Liam’s still resting on his head—and then he’s kissing back, lips pressed harder against Liam’s, opening his mouth and licking into it. Distractedly, it occurs to Liam that he was right—Harry is extremely good at this—but then he’s caught up in the kissing, letting his fingernails trail lightly down Harry’s scalp and swallowing the small whimper of a reaction he gets for it.

Something happens that Liam doesn’t fully process because of Harry’s mouth on his jaw, but all of a sudden he has a lap full of Harry Styles, whose hands are pushing his shirt up. Liam pulls him up into another kiss, biting at his lower lip and resting his hands on Harry’s hips. Somewhat reluctantly, he pulls away from Harry’s lips—because honestly, maybe Louis was onto something with the suggestions of kissing, this is fantastic—but proves unable to stop himself pressing a messy line of kisses from Harry’s ear down his neck. The sound Harry makes at that is as sleepy as it is—no, Liam’s not going to let himself think the word “arousing” about a noise one of his best mates just made; that’s so far from normal it doesn’t bear thinking about.

Basically, Harry sounds sleepy, that’s the important part. And he needs to have water before he goes to sleep, that’s half the reason Liam is letting him stay over at all, to make sure he doesn’t doom himself to a terrible hangover.

“Harry,” he whispers. “I need to get up. Don’t fall asleep before I get you a glass of water.”

Pouting, Harry squirms off Liam’s lap and slumps over on the arm of the sofa. He’s almost certainly going to be asleep before he drinks any water, and Liam’s not sure it’s worth the trouble of waking him up. Besides, he should have known better than to get so spectacularly drunk. And Liam is tired too.

He drags himself to the kitchen and back, leaving a glass of water on the coffee table in front of Harry, and curling up at the other end of the sofa. He does make a half-hearted attempt to cover them both with a blanket, but it lands mostly on the empty space between their feet, and Liam’s asleep before he musters the energy to move it.

 

When he wakes up, it’s to something poking him in the leg repeatedly—something that turns out to be Harry. Liam has sprawled out a bit in sleep, his legs straightened so that his feet are almost in Harry’s face, and Harry is getting him back by tapping out rhythmic patterns against his knee.

“How are you awake?” Liam grumbles, squinting into the morning sunlight that’s filling the room.

Harry grins broadly but doesn’t answer. Frowning, Liam thinks of the previous night. “Why aren’t you heinously hungover?”

“If I told you, I’d have to kill you,” Harry answers, laughing. Liam rubs his eyes, because he needs a lot of energy to keep up with Harry at the best of times.

He pointedly doesn’t mention the kissing. Harry almost certainly remembers it, because Liam knows how pissed he has to be to forget things and he’d been sobering up anyway but, well, it just seems like Harry ought to be the one mentioning it. Because of him having been slightly drunk and all.

Harry carries on being terrifyingly perky, though, and doesn’t bring up the kissing at all, or look at Liam a bit strange or look at his mouth or anything else. It’s just—he also doesn’t touch Liam at all, not after the poking to wake him up, and it’s odd to the point of being disconcerting because Harry touches everyone, all the time, and with enthusiasm. They make some coffee—Harry makes coffee, Liam watches him vaguely and pretends he knows how to make any kind that isn’t instant—and after Liam’s mum wakes up, she makes eggs and toast. It’s a lovely morning except for how Liam didn’t get nearly enough sleep, and Harry hasn’t hit him once.

The fact that Liam is concerned about people not hitting him is the most depressing reflection of the state of his life basically ever.

After a couple hours of Liam pretending to do homework while Harry plays video games, he shoos him out because the pretending is all well and fun, but he does actually need to get his schoolwork done today, as Sundays are for voice lessons and practicing, always have been. Harry, predictably, pouts at him and complains that he works too hard and Liam tries not to let it bother him, the same way he’s been trying not to let it bother him for as long as he’s known Harry.

He has plenty of home this weekend, which is annoying but also a brilliant way to keep his mind off that thing where he kissed Harry kind of a lot and really not in a mates-goofing-off way. Liam’s invited to Zayn’s on Sunday evening, as always, and accidentally spends most of the time he’s there playing board games with Zayn’s family. When he goes to leave, Zayn tails him out the door awkwardly and follows him down the street past a couple of houses.

“You alright?” he asks after a moment.

Liam nods, a little jerkily, and mutters “Fine.”

Zayn is—well, he’s not Harry, but he’s not that stupid, either. “You left early on Friday night.”

“I needed to take Harry home, he was wasted.” After that, Zayn lets it drop and tells him to go home, but the conversation lingers in his mind as he walks home. There is, well, maybe he isn’t doing as well as he thought he was. The only person he’s seen since Saturday morning, other than his family, is Zayn and that’s not really usual for them at all.

It’s dark out by the time he gets back to his house, and he needs to get a head start on his reading for the week, or he would have kept walking to try and sort out what to do tomorrow.

 

In the end, Liam takes the easy way out and avoids talking to Harry as much as possible; it proves exceptionally easy because Harry is avoiding talking to him as well, or at least it seems that way. They sit as far apart as possible at lunch, and exchange only a few words about an assignment. Louis is very unsubtly watching them, and Liam can nearly see him working through what’s happened since Friday night when Harry was drunkenly jumping on Liam.

The thing is, it doesn’t take Liam long to start missing Harry, which he didn’t really anticipate in the slightest. They’ve always got on well enough, not as well as Liam and Zayn or Harry and Louis or Niall and every human on the planet, but Harry likes to be looked after and Liam likes to look after people. And on top of that, they all just function as a unit, Harry-and-Liam-and-Louis-and-Niall-and-Zayn, and they have for as long as Liam can remember, basically. Sometimes he spends too much time working and starts to miss them, but he’s never actively avoided one of them before, never been deliberately spending less time with his best mates, and absolutely never had them not drag him away from his schoolwork when they miss him.

No one has been texting him at all hours, begging him to come out even though they know he can’t (or rather, he doesn’t think he ought to). Liam can’t help wondering whether they know, whether Harry told Louis and Louis told Niall and Zayn, or maybe if Harry told Niall and Niall told the others, or maybe they all sat down at Starbucks together and Harry told the story of how Liam snogged him on the sofa and it was odd because he’d never thought of Liam like that before.

It’s a weird week—a lonely week, really—but Liam gets a lot of work done; by the end of it, he’s ahead in his reading for all his subjects, has started all three of the essays he has due in the next few weeks, and has learned two new songs on the piano. Yeah, it’s a bit strange that Niall hasn’t come by begging him to go out for burgers or Nando’s, but he’s always found that kind of annoying, and not having to put up with it isn’t the worst thing that could happen. Louis has spent a lot less time trying to get Liam to bunk off school, too, which means Liam spends a lot less time explaining why it’s important that he goes and works hard and pays attention.

Just—on balance, maybe it’s not so bad, not having to be around the guys all the time.

Harry corners him in the loo at Louis’s on Friday night; he’s gone out cause it’s Friday and he wants to see the lads, since they haven’t been harassing him all week. “Li,” he says, “it was just a bit of kissing between mates, yeah?”

Liam nods at him, jerky and too fast. Harry doesn’t seem to notice, smiling wide and open, eyes crinkled and dimples showing. He darts in and presses a quick kiss to the corner of Liam’s mouth then pulls back, looking at Liam so expectantly that Liam can’t help leaning forward to kiss him again, just as quick. “So we’re all good?” Harry says, and as soon as Liam has nodded a bit and squeaked out a yes, Harry is pressing him against the wall next to the towel rack and kissing him hard.

Closing his eyes, Liam forces himself not to think too hard, because this is just being casual and Harry is friendly with everyone this way. He wraps an arm around Harry’s waist instead, pulling him closer. It’s surprisingly easy to just fall into kissing Harry, biting softly and hearing him gasp, feeling the drag of Harry’s teeth down his neck and gasping when Harry sucks hard against his collarbone.

Last time—the first time, maybe, maybe this is going to become a regular thing—it was sleepy and relaxed but now Harry is forceful, pinning Liam to the wall and kissing him in a mess of teeth and tongues that Liam finds himself returning enthusiastically. Harry kisses like he does most things, with too much energy and dragging everyone around him along.

When they slip back out of the loo, they don’t even bother with a token effort at inconspicuousness because Liam has a love bite just above the neck of his t-shirt and Harry’s hair looks like it’s had someone pulling at it—because Liam was. Louis catches Liam’s eye and winks at him. “How was it?” he mouths, and Liam rolls his eyes but gives him a quick thumbs-up.

 

There is a possibility, however unlikely it seems to an outside observer, that not every single idea Louis Tomlinson has is terrible and doomed to spectacular failure. It’s a bit odd, making out with Harry, but it’s not nearly as appalling a plan as Liam had feared.

Also, and this bears mentioning repeatedly and in extreme detail, he gets to kiss Harry basically as much as he wants, and Harry is very good at kissing. At first, he can barely stop staring at Harry’s mouth all the time, which is conspicuous and unfortunate, but at least Harry seems to like it just as much. It’s the polar opposite of the previous week, when Liam was so productive, because he spends every moment he’s not sleeping or working kissing Harry.

It’s definitely the best way he’s found of not thinking about He Who Must Not Be Named—Louis made him pinkie promise he wouldn’t use the bastard’s name again and Liam is going to keep his promise, even though it’s ridiculous. He owes Louis that much, given the amount of time he’s got to spend with his tongue in Harry’s mouth. Or on Harry’s neck. Or with Harry’s tongue on his collarbone.

There’s more than one night that they waste sprawled across Harry’s bed, putting up a half-hearted pretense that they’re playing Mario Kart (or that Harry is playing Mario Kart and Liam is studying). It always devolves into making out quickly enough, when Harry goes for a celebratory kiss after winning and Liam ties to push him away, or Liam remembers that Harry’s lips taste better than the pen he’s been sucking on and pins him to the bed to kiss him thoroughly.

If it were possible to get used to the feeling of a squirming, happy lapful of Harry, Liam’s sure he would have by now. Harry’s mum and dad go out a lot, and Liam spends most of those nights sitting on their sofa with Harry straddling his hips, pushing his hands under Harry’s shirt and hauling him in as close as possible without breaking the kiss. They all blur together, hours spent kissing Harry, until they don’t anymore.

Liam bites at Harry’s lower lip—he’s done it what feels like a thousand times before—but instead of his just letting out a gasp or a whimper, Harry’s hips jerk forward. Liam’s been trying not to think about this part, because it’s weird to think about having sex with Harry, because it’s weird that he hasn’t had sex with Harry yet. It feels kind of fucking spectacular, though; it feels like Liam’s had a hard-on for the last ten minutes of kissing and this is the first relief he’s had.

Harry’s hard too, which isn’t really a surprise; Liam’s got hard just about every time they’ve made out and he’s sure Harry has too, but they’ve never done anything except avoid looking at each other’s crotches and hurry home to have a wank. This time, Harry doesn’t shy away, just grinds down onto Liam, who feels like his eyes are rolling back into his head. Since this—thing, whatever it is, since it started, he’s been spending about as much time wanking as he has kissing Harry. But now, Harry’s pulling one of his hands out of Liam’s hair and sliding it down his chest to fiddle with the button of his jeans. Liam groans quietly and pushes forward into it, and Harry’s eyes go extremely wide for a split second.

“Yeah?” he whispers, leaning forward to kiss Liam, whose answering “Yeah” is swallowed by Harry’s mouth.

It’s hard to stop, after that, because Liam knows how much better it is to kiss Harry and rub off against each other, or stick his hand into Harry’s pants and jerk him until he’s twitching and gasping. Liam doesn’t especially want to, either; this is even better than making out to keep his mind off anything else—he barely thinks about why this started it at all anymore.

 

A while—some indeterminate number of days that feels vaguely like a lot have passed—into the new arrangement where Liam gets to snog Harry as much as he wants, Liam is wandering around Niall’s house in search of Harry. There’s some sort of low-key party, no booze and a lot of video games, going on around him, but Liam’s mostly interested in wasting a few minutes reminding himself about the gasp-like noise Harry makes when you string kisses along his jaw. If Harry’s allowed to pull him into the corridor and kiss him breathless while his parents are in the next room, he’s allowed to drag him onto a sofa and do the same, regardless of who might see.

Harry’s dancing when Liam finally finds him; someone has found an ancient stereo and Harry’s twirling some poor girl around in an uncoordinated way that will probably kill them both. Just as Liam’s about to call out to him, Harry’s head drops toward her shoulder and the tilt of his head is so familiar that Liam can’t not see how he’s kissing her shoulder, her neck, maybe biting her collarbone the way he does to Liam.

He’s shaking a little as he bolts from the room and—that’s not supposed to happen. It doesn’t matter who else Harry kisses, because this is just a bit of snogging between mates. If Liam wanted to go and make out with Louis, that would be totally fine and he could go back to kissing Harry later.

That’s how flings work, right? Everyone gets laid and no one has to worry about their feelings getting hurt and it’s just a bit of fun.

It really, really doesn’t feel like just a bit of fun right now—if anything, this feels worse than the last breakup, because he wasn’t anticipating it at all. He slumps, forehead resting against the wall so that no one will see if he gets a bit teary, and taps out a text to Zayn: so tireddddd going home to crash :D.

Liam has been curled up on his bed for—he doesn’t know how long, he can’t see the clock with his face buried in the pillow when there’s a sharp noise from his window. He ignores it, making a gesture he hopes conveys fuck off I’m having a cry, but it doesn’t work, because a moment later Zayn yells, “Let me in, you arsehole!” and Liam contemplates just leaving him there until the neighbors complain. Life would be easier if he were an arse, sometimes.

Scowling at Zayn, he opens in the window and lets him in before faceplanting on his bed again. Zayn settles down next to him, pressing his face against Liam’s neck and wrapping an arm around his shoulders. “Did something happen with Harry?” he asks.

Liam shakes his head, though he doubts that Zayn felt that with the way he’s smashed his face into the pillow. “I’m shit at flings,” he says wetly, wishing that he didn’t actually sound like he’d been crying into his pillow. Zayn makes a strange noise that Liam can’t identify, and pulls him in a bit closer, kissing his forehead quickly.

“Everyone’s shit at flings, mate, haven’t you ever seen a film?” Liam sniggers a little through his tears.

“Harry was kissing some girl,” he mumbles, and Zayn kisses him again, on the cheek this time, before shifting so that Liam has his face buried in Zayn’s shoulder.

Liam falls asleep that way, curled up against Zayn, and when he wakes up, Zayn is still there, snoring lightly into his neck. They eat breakfast together, Zayn throwing bits of cereal at Liam when he’s not expecting it and Liam trying to force the requisite smiles in reply. It’s harder to keep up the pretense of happiness when Zayn goes home, because even though Liam knows that he should be working, the temptation to just flop back across his bed is so strong. He can’t get the picture of Harry with his face buried in the girl’s neck out of his head—he’s seen her before, thinks her name might be Jennifer, but it suddenly takes a lot of effort to remember how nice she is.

There is, well, there is a possibility he wasn’t particularly good at the casual part of a lot of casual snogging and wanking with Harry, which gives him and overwhelming urge to punch Louis and also himself. This is exactly what he thought would happen and convinced himself wouldn’t … and then it did.

 

By Sunday, he’s ignored five calls from Harry, and about three times as many texts (mostly from Harry, but several from Louis as well). He went to the library on Saturday, because he never does that and it meant that he had a completely valid excuse for not answering his mobile. He’s deep in the middle of sorting out the chords for a new song when there’s an enthusiastic beating against his bedroom door that startles him out of it.

“Who is it?” he shouts, because his sisters don’t knock and his parents are out.

“It’s Harry,” is the answer—he sounds a little nervous, maybe, or perhaps that’s just Liam’s own emotions.

“Go away!” he replies, which is kind of a long shot because Harry is what his friends call persistent and other people call “a pain in the arse.”

“I wasn’t kissing her!” Harry yells through the door, which is potentially the most mortifying thing that’s ever happened to Liam, including the time that Louis pulled his trousers off and his pants came down with them. Well, actually it’s less embarrassing than that, but only because it’s just his sisters around to hear.

Liam’s off his bed in a split second, opening the door and dragging Harry into the room, then slamming it shut behind them. Harry looks like he’s trying very hard not to laugh, which Liam appreciates in the part of his brain that doesn’t want to punch Harry, or cry.

“I really wasn’t kissing Jennifer,” Harry says, sitting down on the edge of Liam’s bed awkwardly. Liam stays standing, unsure what to do with his hands, or the rest of his body, really.

“It’s okay if you were,” he says, which is not so much an answer as an entirely different conversation, but it’s what came out of his mouth. And then the words process. “You weren’t?”

Harry shakes his head, and Liam feels like he needs to blink to make sure his eyes are clear. “But you were—and she—and we—”

This is going wonderfully. Harry wasn’t snogging Jennifer but that could mean that he hadn’t got there yet when Liam found them, or that he didn’t want to but he did want to be snogging Louis.

“I don’t want to kiss anyone but you,” Harry says, and then his eyes go wide. “Oh god, I, er, didn’t mean to just say that like that. I had a speech.” His cheeks are as red as Liam’s ever seen them and it—it’s charming, and not in his normal Harry-charm way. Liam kind of wants to kiss him.

There’s a silence, during which Liam is entirely too entranced by the way Harry bites his lip, and then he adds, “If it was really just some kissing between mates, that’s fine too. I won’t do anything weird.” He chews on his lip for a moment longer, and then continues. “I didn’t ever want it to be, but I was scared that was all you wanted.”

Liam can’t help the laugh that bubbles out of him. “Didn’t Zayn tell you? I had a good cry on him after I thought I saw you kissing Jennifer.” If Harry can blurt out emotions with no buildup, Liam can do it too. That’s how this works, yeah?

Harry meets his eyes for the first time since he let slip that Liam is the only person he wants to kiss—which, oh god, Liam doesn’t quite know what to do with that yet, his stomach feels like there are animals living in it—and looks hopeful.

“Do you—” Harry says, just as Liam starts with “Can I—”

They both giggle, though Liam knows his sounds a little hysterical. There’s no way he’s getting through this without a laughing breakdown or embarrassing himself so much he’ll just have to jump out the window from shame. He just steps forward, standing between Harry’s knees, and tilts Harry’s head up to kiss him.

Harry makes a noise that’s both familiar and completely new, a kind of relieved whimper that Liam swallows, unwilling to pull his lips off Harry’s. He’s sinking to his knees, which proves difficult without breaking the kiss, but it’s worth the struggle for the way he can thread his fingers into Harry’s hair and pull him even closer. His other arm is wound tight around Harry’s waist, fingers slipping under his shirt and tracing abstract patterns against his back.

When Harry pulls back just slightly, nipping once at his jaw and then trailing sloppy kisses toward his ear, it occurs to Liam that he did forget to mention—“You’re the only person I want to kiss, too.”

He can actually feel Harry’s smile against his neck, the way his lips have gone tight and the edges of his teeth against the sensitive skin. His dimples are probably out in full force, begging to be poked until he giggles. Liam forgoes that in favor of dragging him back onto the bed and sealing their lips together again.

 

The next time Harry goes to kiss Liam when he’s at Liam’s for dinner, it’s while his parents are in the room. The experience is completely mortifying but makes Liam’s heart do an extremely pleasant flopping thing, because that means this is definitely absolutely not just a bit of kissing. His parents know and so do Harry’s, and the two of them go to the cinema sometimes and don’t pay any attention to the film.

On top of all that, there’s the way Harry won’t stop touching Liam, even when it’s really kind of a lot of work to keep it up, at school or when all five of them are piled together watching television. Not that Liam wants the touching to stop. (In fact, he would be pretty put out if it did.)

In the end, maybe Louis didn’t have such a terrible idea after all.