Liam's first clue should have been the leer that Louis sent him as he walked through the lounge, cell pressed to his ear. The murmured uh-huh's and really?'s fading as he'd continued through the bunks to the back lounge.
The second clue should have been the next day, walking into the catering area at the venue to find Louis, Harry, and Zayn with their heads together, whispering in urgent tones. They stop talking the second Liam comes within earshot, although Harry does wave at him. Liam ignores them, grabbing a couple pieces of fruit and heading back. He can’t help another look though, and it’s a little unsettling to find them still standing there, just staring at him. Shaking his head, Liam makes his way back to their changing room.
Niall clapping a hand on Liam's shoulder, looking down to where Liam's slouched on the sofa, and saying, "Sorry, mate," before walking away should have been Liam's final clue.
He's been with these guys for years now, he should really, really have known something was up.
It's More Than This and Zayn's singing. Not for the first time, he's directing his verse at Liam. Normally it's done with a ridiculous sweet face and Zayn fluttering his eyelashes like some cartoon. This time, however, Zayn's got a hand curved around Liam's neck, his fingers tight in their grip so that Liam's obviously not meant to go anywhere.
The thing is, Zayn's had his hand around Liam's neck loads of times before. It's one of Liam's favorite things actually, the way Zayn never really hesitates to touch them now. Early on, it meant that Zayn was finally comfortable with them and in turn, it eventually helped Liam be relaxed with the rest of them as well. There's no comfort in this touch though, more possessive than anything else, and Liam can't help giving Zayn a small frown. He tests the waters, pulling back a bit, and Zayn's fingers tighten immediately.
Then Zayn gives him that look--the one he reserves for the girls at the bar, the one where he dips his chin just a little and looks up through his eyelashes, the one he uses when he's trying to get laid--and brushes his thumb up under the hollow beneath Liam's ear.
It shouldn't be a big deal, right? Only that particular spot happens to be one of the few things that make Liam's knees go a little weak, make heat pool in his stomach. It's Dani's favorite; she loves to sit in his lap and kiss him, fingertips in his hair and both thumbs caressing the sensitive skin there.
Movement over Zayn's shoulder catches Liam’s attention and he manages to drag his gaze away. He finds Louis, cell in hand, snapping a picture. There's a grin on his face that makes all of Liam's alarms go off, but before he can say anything Louis' off across the stage, shoving his cell in his pocket.
There's another soft touch and Liam nearly misses his cue for the first time in ages.
Both Zayn and Louis act as if nothing out of the ordinary happened which frustrates the hell of Liam. But they're so busy over the next few days that Liam can't really confront them even if he wants to, so he chalks it up to one of Louis' weird pranks and pushes the incident out of his mind.
Liam's half-asleep in the back lounge, television throwing shadows on the wall, when Louis flops down next to him. He sprawls halfway across Liam in the process. Not that he minds, the room is a little too cool for comfort and Louis is a nice warmth along his side now. He hums a little when Louis' fingers scritch in the short hairs at the back of his neck. It's nice, soothing.
He's two seconds from slipping into sleep, Louis' fingers smoothing through the longer parts of his hair, when there's a light tug. It's not much of anything, mostly just a little nudge for Liam to stay awake. Liam protests, mumbling Louis' name. Louis just curls in closer, throwing his legs over Liam's and going back to scratching through the little hairs again.
It happens a second time, with Liam on the edge of sleep. This pull is a little sharper, held a little longer, before Louis drags his fingers back down. Liam opens his eyes, turning to face Louis. "What are you doing?" he asks quietly.
Louis doesn't say anything, just continues to run his nails over Liam's neck. He looks a bit like a devil, Liam thinks, the light from the telly making his eyes flash every so often. They sit in there, staring at each other for what feels like forever, before Louis grins brightly. He shoves off the sofa, off Liam, but not before pulling the same move as Zayn, a light pressure, the brush of his thumb across the soft skin just under his ear. It makes Liam shiver.
"Get some rest," is all Louis says before he dashes out of the room. Liam can hear him hollering for Harry a second later.
It happens again.
They're both slouched together on the sofa in the dressing room. He can hear Niall and Zayn in the corner, the happy ups and downs of Niall's enthusiasm mixing in a lovely pattern with Zayn's quieter tones. He wonders briefly where Harry's at, but Paul's half shout in the hallway tells him everything he needs to know a second later. It's kind of perfect.
He rolls his neck across the back of the sofa, cheek pressing into the scratch fabric, to look at Louis. He's sitting sideways, his knee slightly digging into Liam's thigh. He's resting his head in his hand, elbow propped up on the back of the sofa. When he smiles, Liam knows he's thinking the same thing.
The smile fades away, replaced by a considering look. Before Liam can say anything, Louis' hand is in his hair. Liam tenses, his quiet, "Louis-" cut off by the curl of fingers, by a sharp tug. It's not painful, but it's enough to make Liam's scalp tingle.
It's enough to make other parts of Liam's body pay attention.
He reaches up, wrapping a hand around Louis' wrist. "Don't."
Louis tilts his head, eyes sharp. His fingers tighten and this time it's just this side of painful, something that Liam's body definitely seems to like. "Why?" he asks.
Liam squeezes harder in return, getting a little angry. Angry at Louis, angry at himself. Louis' bones feel brittle under his hand.
The unmistakable sound of a photo being taken cuts off whatever Liam was going to say, not that he's really sure what it was going to be. They both glance over to find Harry standing there, looking a bit gleefully at the phone in his hands. "Smashed it, Lou," he says, giving Louis a bright grin. He shoves the cell back in his pocket and reaches out, tugging him up.
Liam does his best to ignore the way Louis waits until the last second to let go of his hair, to ignore the way his trousers feel a little too tight after that.
Avoiding your best mates when they're around 24/7 is really, really hard. And exhausting. Liam's tucked in his bunk, the low rumble of the road lulling him into a light doze. Someone is coming, and Liam can tell by the shuffle of feet dragging on the carpet that it's Harry. They spend too much time together, flits through Liam's mind, if he can tell who it is by the sound of their walking.
A moment later, Harry crawls into Liam's bunk. Liam's a little sleep-drunk, too far under to really move although he manages to mumble a token protest. They've too many limbs to be doing this, but Harry ignores him, curling into Liam's side. He throws an arm around Liam's waist and tucks a foot between Liam's. It's too hot, but Harry's breath evens out against his collarbone and Liam doesn't move. A few minutes later, he finally falls under himself.
To Louis' seeming delight, Harry sticks close to Liam over the next few days. Liam would be suspicious except for the fact that Harry doesn't do anything. He brings Liam tea and a zillion packets of sugar. They spend an afternoon hogging the gaming system and fending off Niall, Louis, and Zayn from joining in. He catches Liam humming a melody that's gotten stuck in his head and harmonizes after a second. Their improvisation actually sounds pretty good and they spend the next hour in the back lounge trying to get it recorded on Liam's laptop. When they finish, Liam hits 'save' and looks up to find Harry grinning at him. Liam can't help smiling back.
It's not that Harry and Liam don't get along, they do. It's just that they don't spend a lot of one on one time together. Harry has Louis and Liam has, well. Liam has ambition and the fans and making sure they do this right and occasionally a lovely nap to get away from it all.
From over Harry's shoulder, Liam can see Louis lounging against the door frame. Zayn's behind him, chin on Louis' shoulder. There's a wicked look on Louis' face, a smirk on Zayn's, and Liam really should know better by now.
Harry's knees dig in his hips, drawing Liam's attention. Although Harry's taller than Dani, it's eerily similar the way they both curve around Liam in this position, and he can't help the way his hands go to Harry's hips on instinct. Whether it's to keep him still or pull him closer, Liam's not sure. His fingers dig in when Harry slides a hand around his neck. Harry's hands are huge, his fingers long enough that Liam can feel their press into the back of his neck even as a thumb tilts his chin up.
Everything feels slow and easy, everything except Liam's heartbeat which is currently going a million miles an hour. He should protest, push Harry away, and give Louis another good talking to about personal boundaries. Harry's thumb slides down, feather soft on the underside of his chin and done his throat, before it brushes that stupid spot that makes Liam melt into the sofa. It stays there, moving back and forth, and Liam can't stop the heat pooling in his stomach.
Liam’s almost forgotten that Louis and Zayn are there, they’ve been so quiet up until this point. It’s not until he feels a shift in the cushions beneath him and he drags his eyes open with difficulty—he hadn’t realized they were closed—looking over to find Louis tucked into the corner of the sofa, that he remembers. As he watches, Zayn sits on the arm of the sofa and Louis leans back into him easily. Louis' got his cell out again.
"Dani put you up to this didn't she?" Liam knows it's true the second the words leave his mouth. His voice is rough and he can hear Harry hum, lips ghosting over his throat as Liam waits for an answer.
"She demanded photos in trade," Louis tells him. There's the tell-tale sound of a photo taken and then Louis fiddles with the cell. He brings it back up a second later, adding, ""But I think this time video will be better."
It's a stupid risk and Liam starts to protest, but his voice breaks when Harry sets his teeth in the skin under Liam's ear. His hips jerk automatically and Harry grinds down in response. Liam can't stop the way his fingers dig into Harry's hips at the sensation, but it is a small satisfaction to hear the way Harry's breath catches.
Harry's other hand is now cradling the back of his head and Liam knows what's coming next. He glances over toward the end of the sofa again. They're both still watching, Louis' hand steady with the cell phone. Fingers creep into the longer parts of his hair and Liam hears Louis murmur, "We'll let Zayn have a go next, yeah babe?" before Harry tugs sharply, pulling his head back.
Liam's eyes slide shut and really, he should know better by now.