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First Flight

Louis wakes up to the alarm clock buzzing incessantly on the nightstand. It’s 6:15. He never used to be a morning person, but irregular sleeping schedules, early mornings and late nights, are things he has long since become accustomed to.

He reaches over, slapping the clock quiet before rolling over on his back and using a minute to stretch his muscles. It takes him a moment to collect his surroundings, sluggishly trying to remember which city he is in. He could probably be anywhere; Sydney, Miami, New York City, Tokyo, Moscow… no place he hasn’t already encountered in one way or another.

It’s a while before his mind clears of the sleepy fogginess, finally recalling landing at Charles de Gaulle Airport the previous night. Paris. He has some strange memories from this city, but it was years ago now.

He rolls out of bed, making a beeline for the bathroom. It’s relatively small, but shines cleanly and seems newly renovated — the usual standard at airport hotels. He quickly lets the shower rain away the smells of booze, smoke, and boy off him, taking the fatigue clinging at his limbs with it. He gently scrubs his scalp with unscented shampoo from one of the miniature bottles provided by the hotel, before rinsing his body off with soap.

He gets out after only a few minutes, the quick motions stuck in his bones, body moving per automatism. It’s a habit nowadays, in and out.

He steps out into the small-spaced hotel room, white towel with the logo on tied around his waist. He brings out his navy blue suitcase, and opens it on the bed. His things are neatly packed, but the bag looks rather empty as his work attire is already hanging from the mirror in a plastic bag, just like he left it last night before leaving to spend a few hours out in the city, taking advantage of the French clubs until late, and stumbling back into bed at 2AM. His suitcase only holds his toiletries, electronic devices, passport, and similar items. He doesn’t need more than a few changes of clothes, as the upcoming route isn’t a particularly long one.

He finds his vanity bag, and in the bathroom he fetches his shaving cream, the razor, and additionally his toothbrush. He shaves, careful as he regards at himself through the mirror. He’s mindful around the edges, over his thin upper lip, the chin, and his strong, albeit marginally rounded, jawline. Once he’s done he blow-dries his hair with the drier attached to the wall, before combing it into a small quiff-ish do, the short fringe falling slightly to the side. He dotes some concealer under his eyes, smoothly erasing the traces of the less than glamorous night.

He dresses quickly, legs fitting into the dark blue slacks and arms into the white dress shirt. The vest goes on top, lighter blue tie around his neck, and lastly the jacket, matching his trousers perfectly. He adjusts the tie in front of the mirror, squaring his shoulders, pursing his lips. It will do.

He packs his things, neatly putting everything back into the small suitcase, zips up and soon leaves the hotel room to take the lift down to the small lobby. Louis checks out of the hotel at the front desk, paying with the black card provided by his company, then trudges directly out into the brightly lit airport.

That’s one thing that has always struck him as odd about airports. No matter what time it is, midnight or noon, everything is always crystal clear. Trapped in here you wouldn’t know day from night.

Louis sometimes feels like his life is a bit like an airport. He does spend a rather large quantity of time in them, but the point is: he doesn’t always know in and out, what’s up and what’s down. He supposes it comes with the life of being a flight attendant. You’re married to your work, you live in planes and unknown cities, never truly at home, never really having time to get to know the place you’re in. You’re locked inside the airport from what’s going on outside in the real world.

He picks up his iPad — his lifeline — from his carry-on suitcase, instantly checking his calendar as he purposefully navigates through the large, bustling airport. There are people everywhere; businessmen with small luggage consisting of briefcases and tiny cabin bags, families in typical tourist attire, and young adults with large backtracking rucksacks on their backs on the way to check-in. The clock is barely seven, but the airports never sleep.

Louis scans the iPad.

Sunday, March 22nd. Flight to Seattle 8:14. 7:00 New guy.

That’s right. After a colleague of Louis’ stepped down from her position within their cabin group at Panorama Airlines, her replacement has finally arrived. Louis is supposed to be meeting the newest addition to the Panorama team, that’s already consisting of precisely one-hundred-and-thirty flight attendants, who rotate within their flying range — commercial or elite, then either Europe, International, or Asia, etc. They work within their specific group of employees, but changes occur, although, it’s not often.

Louis is part of the elite international service, meaning working the busiest routes. His life seems to be holding much of the same tempo as a rollercoaster: fast, spinning, and never stopping. Hundreds of flights, hundreds of cities and countries, hundreds of faces and new places every day — it’s sheer luck he hasn’t gotten sick yet.

There’s a man waiting by the large water fountain below the escalators, near the main entrance of the airport. His left hand is clutched around the handle of his suitcase, the other fiddling with the buttons of the shirt beneath his vest and navy jacket. His attire resembles Louis’ perfectly, the trademark pin of a flying bird fastened to his chest. The man’s hair is long, bouncy curls brushing his shoulders as his chin is pressed to his chest, his long, slender fingers fumbling.

Louis struts up to him, one hand dragging his wheeled suitcase behind him, the other gripping the iPad securely. It’s seven on the dot. Louis never fails to be punctual.

“Welcome,” he gives the device he is holding a glance, “Harry.” The man looks up, meeting Louis with wide eyes. Louis gives him a brief, polite smile and reaches out to shake his hand, keeping his eyes on the iPad in his other. The lad’s grip is firm and his hand is large, but there is a certain gentleness to the shake. “I’m Louis Tomlinson, and I’ll walk you through everything previous to and for the duration of your first flight with us.”

“Hello.”

His low, baritone voice makes Louis look up properly. He’s confronted with a heart-shaped face that’s framed by a strong jawline, garnished with a wide mouth with pink lips, and green, almost emerald eyes. For just a second a mental image from years ago flashes to his mind, but that can’t be right. No, definitely isn’t.

Louis grabs his bag once more, whipping around and starting toward the security check allocated just around the corner before his new team member has managed to say more. The other man hastily catches up, sliding up next to him.

“You’re gonna have to button that up, darling,” Louis says, facing strictly ahead as they both maneuver efficiently through the crowds of people.

“Oh, I was going to —”

Louis stops, making the younger man stumble slightly. He gazes at him, voice even as he’s faced with his expectant, clear eyes. Louis’ voice is not stern and neither is it unkind.

“Here at Panorama there is no ‘was gonna’, Mr. Styles. It’s ‘done ten minutes ago’. Understood?”

Harry blinks at him for just a short moment, mouth still open from when Louis interrupted him. He chooses to close it — wise, because Louis doesn’t have time to paint him a list of what is proper and what is not at Panorama. Harry nods slowly, eyes narrowing only a fraction. He understands. He looks somewhat odd as his eyes traipse over Louis, but he recovers after only a small second, pulling his face into a smooth expression.

They continue toward security check, sliding past the long line of travelers waiting for their turn to pass the metal detectors and have their cabin bags monitored. Currently, the cabin crew and pilots go through the same motions as passengers, but TSA (Transportation Security Administration) are working on changing the system. Until then, cutting lines to go through the checkpoints will have to do.

“So, you’ve been with Panorama long?” Harry asks good-naturedly as they cut past two men in suits. One of them grumbles, surely fed up with waiting for his turn. Neither of the flight attendants soon on duty pays any mind.

“Three years,” Louis nods, lifting his suitcase and placing it on the metal desk.

“Ah,” Harry Styles nods, sliding his bag up next to Louis’. He unzips and fetches a modern mobile phone and a computer from the bag, which he places in a separate box on the belt. Louis follows the same procedure, his liquids, iPad, phone, and a light computer going in a box, his suitcase by its side on the rolling belt.

Harry strolls up to the scanners, the woman on duty nodding him through. Louis watches his tall legs, pert arse, and broad shoulders as he walks, his long body lean, yet muscular. His chocolate curls brush the top of his shoulder blades delicately.

If Louis didn’t know better, he’d find him attractive. It’s one thing hooking up with the pilots — something the flight attendants are usually gagging for — but relationships, whatever the kind, within your cabin crew is another. Louis is not keen on risking multiple potentially awkward hours on deck. Pilots and ‘friends’ in random cities are far better choices.

Too experienced to forget a metallic object on him, the metal detectors don’t beep when Harry walks through, smiling happily at the blonde, young woman in a white and black uniform. She nods back, acknowledging his position as an aircraft employee. Despite not personally knowing the staff at random airports, acknowledging one another is common courtesy.

She waves Louis forward and he strides through with ease, greeting her charmingly. “Bonjour, mademoiselle.”

The corners of her mouth tilt upward, probably noting his non-native accent. “Bonjour, monsieur.” She does not say more, perhaps suspecting his French skills are lacking quite deeply.

He gives her another smile before sidling up with Harry, both of them restoring their belongings in their bags. Once finished, they take off to the left, heading toward the eastern part of the airport.

Harry’s long strides of his lean legs are far from struggling with Louis’ quick pace. He must be used to the usual hustle and bustle, something their shared profession seems to obtain in limitless measures. In a way, it’s organized and structured, but as an air host at Panorama Airlines, the organized schedule is tight and requires an excessive amount of planning in order for everything to run smoothly. Inconveniences such as delayed flights or canceled trips are not fun. It’s not undoable by any means, they’re used to it, but it’s simply an inconvenience.

“Where’d you train?” Louis asks conversationally as they walk.

“The Aviation Academy,” Harry answers lightly.

“Leeds,” Louis nods.

Harry looks down at him from his right, voice soft and pleasant. “Yourself?”

“ITS, Bristol.”

“Ooh, fancy,” Harry chuckles. Louis turns his face a fraction to find him smirking cheekily. “Did you get a personal aircraft to practice in?”

Louis’ lip twitches, a small twinkle in his eye. “Rumors,” he grins.

“What?” He mocks a gasp. “No personal teachers? No planes to play around in on breaks? You couldn’t take the aircraft out for a spin on the ramps?” His chuckle is hitching, and his smile makes his eyes form into crescents.

Louis can’t help but break into a small chuckle.

“Sorry to burst your bubble, but no. We were just as unprivileged as any other school. Don’t know where the whole idea of ITS being that fancy came from.”

“Ah, that’s sad.” Harry shakes his head slowly, lips pulled into his mouth. “Is it true that one of the teachers there gives the pretty students letters of recommendation?”

“Is that another rumor? Did you really think that was true?” Louis releases a loud cackle, head falling back.

“What? You went there and you’ve already worked at Panorama for three years, probably the best airline there is at the moment. You can’t be more than… what? Twenty-five? Makes sense, doesn’t it?” His eyes are twinkling brightly. Louis can’t deny it. The new crewmember is attractive.

“You’re perceptive. I am twenty-five,” Louis grins at him. Briefly, he mentally notes that this boy also just implied he’s pretty.

“That, I am,” Harry smirks back. “Rough night?”

Louis squints. “What is that supposed to mean?”

“I meant that it looks like you went out the previous night. Went dancing? Had some shots?” He wiggles his brow, knowing smile wide.

Louis stops, brows furrowed in offense. “Oi! Are you saying that I look —”

Harry shakes his head, brown curls bouncing softly around his face. “I’m not saying that. But like you said, I am perceptive.” He leans forward, his large hand reaching out. His thumb lightly pats the skin under Louis’ left eye. “See, your eyes are still a little shiny…”

Louis leans his head back in two dubious motions, just an inch back, then to the side. “Who do you think you are?”

“Harry. Twenty-three years old, son to a lovely mum called Anne, future owner of a cat and at least five kids. I’m a teenage baker, which I’m very proud of, by the way. Also a previous employee at Great Britain International Service —”

“Wait.” Louis holds up a hand. “You’re from GBIS? That was not in your profile description!”

He lifts his iPad, instantly moving to check. Panorama employed someone from their biggest competitor? What a grand acquisition. But why would someone at an airline admittedly almost as good as Panorama trade companies this randomly? GBIS are doing well at the moment — there are no cutbacks or changes (from what Louis has heard). This spot only opened up recently, and it wasn’t a public affair. Louis thought Panorama would employ internally.

Harry grabs his arm, keeping him from perusing his notes any further.

“Does it matter? GBIS is behind me now. I’m all set for the future.” His hand motions toward the ceiling dramatically, before touching Louis’ cheek once more.

Louis scoffs. “This isn’t a sci-fi movie. Who do you know?”

“Huh?”

“Who at Panorama do you know? Who got you this gig?”

Harry pouts, which makes Louis’ insides grumble, because who is this person? Who pouts?

“I don’t think I’m allowed to tell, hon. Confidential.”

“Oh, please. Just tell me.”

“Sorry, Lou. Can’t.” He shakes his head, pout still on his lips. “It’s personal business, words saved for personal conversations.”

“You’ve known me for five minutes. Do you really think we’re on a nickname basis?”

Harry’s head tilts to the side. “So, I can cradle your cheek, but not give you nicknames?”

“What? Oh, get off!” Louis slaps his hand away. This is not how he expected his morning going. Jesus. He crosses his arms. “I would walk away and leave you to fend for yourself, but just for the sake of pointing out the faults in your reasoning; you were just stroking my cheek, which is rather personal, I would say, but you can’t reveal your precious info?”

Harry watches him for a moment, grip light on his suitcase handle. “You seem to like knowing best.”

“I do, and that’s more often than not also the case,” Louis says. He’s calm, but there’s authority in his voice. “You’re new, Harry. I suggest you act like it.”

“I’m not your understudy, Mr. Tomlinson,” Harry says, finally seeming a little put off, arching a brow. “I’m your new colleague. Perhaps you should treat me with a little more respect.”

“I’ve shown you nothing but respect, Harry. You’re the one being unprofessional.”

“Joking around and being unprofessional isn’t the same when we’re not on duty yet. But... I guess if you want me to call you ‘sir’ in private then I suppose I could if you’d like.” He blinks innocently.

Louis is very aware of what he is implying.

“Don’t call me ‘sir’,” he says darkly, shaking his head a small fraction. He keeps the younger man in an even gaze. “Harry, even though you’re no rookie, you know nothing about Panorama. You’re new, and I’m simply supposed to teach you what goes.”

“Alright,” Harry hums, “but if you would like me to act your understudy rather than your colleague for now… I guess I could study you. From beneath.”

Louis’ mouth opens in incredulousness — this boy is a fucking nuisance. Harry’s smirk widens, eyes blinking slowly as he glances down at Louis’ face, finger touching his chin. Louis’ hand grabs Harry’s forearm in a firm grip, pulling it down and keeping it there. If it hurts, the other man shows no trace of pain.

“Listen, newbie.” His voice is low, but firm. “I’m here to show you the ropes, nothing else. I don’t care what the hell my colleagues get up to on their leisure time, but personally, I don’t fuck my cabin crew. Understood?”

It takes him a moment to answer, but when he does, the impish grin is back on his face.

“Obviously. Maybe if you did, you wouldn’t be so uptight?” He gives a small laugh, before backing away with his suitcase in tow. “Terminal D, was it?” he winks.

Louis presses his lips together. Terminal D. Shit.

He wants to laugh, but he cannot do that. Harry obviously thinks he’s cute. Louis refuses to boost his ego, which is already large enough it seems.

He groans internally. Stupid, young, attractive newbies.

“Are you coming, or what?” Harry calls over his shoulder.

“You’re going the wrong way,” Louis calls back, tiny smile on his lips despite himself. He notices the time on one of the flight information displays. “Fuck, we’re late. Let’s go!”

He turns around, starting down the hallway in the right direction. He can hear Harry hurrying to reach him, the roll of his bag against the marble floor a familiar sound. Louis is used to people trying to catch up with him — in many ways — but when he woke up this morning he didn’t expect that he would be the one ending up breathless and winded. He isn’t too fond of this.

He does not look up when Harry reaches his side, their paces matched in quick strides. They reach an escalator soon and take it down, the right gate only a short walk away. They make their way down the long corridor, gates numbered by black and white signs. Glass walls on their right reveal the large ramps and parked aircrafts from different airlines, the morning sun already rising on the clear blue sky. A perfect day for flying.

Louis comes to a stop just before they reach the gate, where they will be meeting the rest of the crew. He turns and faces Harry, who stares back, looking simultaneously confused and amused. Louis has no clue when it comes to the reason for the latter.

Louis’ voice is slow and careful. “Right, Styles. Forget just about everything you thought you knew about flight service, because Panorama is nothing like anything you’ve ever been a part of.”

At first Harry does not answer. He squints slightly, a puzzled expression settling on his face. There’s a tiny crevice in his forehead, his full, Cupid’s bow lips parted. He studies Louis for a moment, before he is finally leaning in, whispering in all seriousness, “Do they pay you to say that?”

Louis’ eyes widen, and he breaks into a surprised laugh. “No,” he says, voice almost carrying a tilt of wonder. “It’s just the truth.”

“You’re serious?” Harry says incredulously.

“Why would I not be?”

“It just sounded so…” He shrugs, clearly holding back a smile.

“What?” Louis inquires somewhat sharply, frowning.

The other man leans forward, only slightly this time, brows rising and deep dimples appearing in his cheeks. “Silly,” he says very lowly, hitchy laughter escaping him immediately afterward.

Louis blinks at him. “It was not silly,” he says indignantly, but Harry’s boyish laugh is contagious, making the corner of Louis’ mouth involuntarily pull.

“You said it like you were in on this conspiracy…” His mouth is taking up at least a third of his face, dimples forming craters by its sides. He’s slapping his thigh, back bent a few inches while he giggles in glee. Louis would find him adorable, if it weren’t for the bewilderment that’s furrowing his brow.

“First of all, Harry,” he says, crossing his arms. “Panorama is nothing like you’ve ever seen. Second, GBIS is shit compared to us. And what I said was not funny, I was serious.”

Harry straightens up, head lolling to the side. “It was hilarious,” he grins.

Louis shakes his head, rolling his eyes. He regards Harry where he is standing in front of him, all long legs in navy trouser, shoulders slightly hunched, dark curls around his Snow White-resembling face. It’s all there: rosy cheeks, red lips, and fair skin. Cute, undeniably, but regardless, annoying.

Louis wonders if whoever gave Harry the job at Panorama told him exactly what the job entails. Though, it does seem realistic not to let him know before he is actually in this mess. If any other airline — or other departments at Panorama for that matter — knew, the view of the future wouldn’t be as pretty.

Harry smiles innocently at him. He is almost perfect for the job.

Louis’ head hurts. Perhaps the kid was right. He did have a couple of drinks too many last night. He needs some Advil.

Louis turns around and walks, hearing Harry following him. Waiting by one of the large glass doors, is the rest of the cabin crew. There’s a small, young woman standing closest. Her hair is black and falls in tiny corkscrew curls in her ponytail. Her skin resembles coffee with a splash of milk, and her eyebrows are just as dark as her hair, lips full and teeth white.

“Can you wait a minute?” Louis leaves Harry standing three feet away, before he walks up to the notably Indian woman.

“You’re late,” she, Jenny, says, frowning. “When has that ever happened before? You’re supposed to be a notorious control freak?”

“Newbie duty,” he sighs, latching his arms around her tiny frame. She hugs him back warmly, long, manicured nails tugging at the hair at the nape of his neck. She smells sweet, but with an edge.

“Oh, yeah, the new kid,” she says once they pull apart. “What do we think of him?”

“Cute. Annoying as fuck. Going to kill me,” Louis mutters.

She looks to her left. “Because he’s fit as hell?”

Louis leers at her. “No, because of the annoying part.”

Jenny snickers, head falling back as she laughs in that throaty manner only she can perfect. Louis rolls his eyes, despite the tiny tug at his lip at the sound. He turns around, about to tell Harry to come forward so he can officially introduce him to the tiny group, but he finds the spot he left him in entirely empty. Louis spins around, brows knitted in confusion.

“Styles?”

“Oh, Lou! Here!”

Louis finds him chitchatting with Niall, the fourth and last member of the cabin crew.

“Lou?” Jenny mutters, just as Louis’ mouth opens in incredulousness for the second time this morning.

Harry steps around the blond man wearing the same attire as Louis and him, smile broad and at ease. “I met Niall! He’s awesome,” he grins, eyes bright, walking up to Louis and Jenny. “And you must be…?”

Jenny’s tongue pokes the inside of her cheek, creating a bulge as she shakes the hand Harry offers. There’s an amused, albeit slightly hesitant, look in her eyes as she takes the boy in. Louis understands the feeling. Harry Styles seems to be quite the enigma.

“Jenny Archer,” she answers slowly, handshake firm, but not too hard. Louis watches as Harry grins, and he wonders if Harry is completely oblivious to people’s tentativeness around him at first meeting, or if he completely ignores it. It’s not often people are so open and unreserved as Harry so fast. He’s kind of bright — it’s unusual.

“A pleasure, Jenny Archer,” Harry says charmingly.

Louis expects her to snort, because she tends to be immune to any sort of flattery or pretty, fluttering of eyelashes. But then she smiles.

“Archie!” Louis hisses before she can say a word. She turns to look at him with an arched, questioning brow. Louis doesn’t know what to say, but grips her wrist and pulls her to his side. He mutters something intelligible to her, making her frown.

“Huh?”

“Hey, shuttle’s here!” Niall, the blond boy Harry befriended within two seconds, is pointing at the large door that an employee of the airport appears to be holding up, waiting for the crew to jump onto the airfield shuttle to be transported to their assigned aircraft.

Louis grips his suitcase handle along with everyone else, and together they all shuffle toward the door, greeting the woman in black attire pleasantly.

Harry looks behind him as he walks, catching Louis’ eye. “Do I have to sit next to you on the shuttle, sir?” He blinks innocently, something he seems to be rather the expert at.

Louis bites down on his cheeks, keeping himself from smiling at the stupid up-keeping of the little joke.

“You asked him to call you ‘sir’?” Niall asks in his Irish-lilting accent, cackling loudly.

“I did not ask him to call me that,” Louis huffs as he drags his bag onto the shuttle. “He just thinks he’s funny and cute. Which he is not.”

There’s another cabin crew on the airfield shuttle, none of the members anyone Louis recognizes. He gives them a nod, before turning back to his group. They stand in a small circle, holding onto the bars as the small bus starts to move.

Harry looks at Louis, mocking disappointment. “I thought we had an understanding.”

“We do not have an understanding, Harold. You are not studying me from beneath, and you are not calling me ‘sir’. You just listen to what I say when I say it.”

“How much time did you actually spend together?” Jenny asks, sounding partly confused and partly disturbed.

“I was so right. You do love being in control…” Harry smirks. His hand comes up again, as if to tap Louis’ cheek like he did earlier. He truly has no sense of personal space. Louis grips his forearm before he can, pushing it down. It only makes him smile harder, dimples deep in his cute cheeks.

The shuttle soon stops, and Louis ignores what the new boy said, taking his suitcase and leading his group off the vehicle and onto the asphalt. The staircase is already pulled up as usual by the grand aircraft, the logo of the bird and the name ‘Panorama’ painted along the sides.

Louis allows himself to walk first, but Harry is quick to be right behind him. He smirks, and Louis rolls his eyes. They carry their bags onto the aircraft, Louis entering first just as the two pilots come strolling from down the aisle, on their way into the cockpit.

“Tommo,” one of the pilots says, nodding and giving him a tiny smirk as he walks past. He looks as handsome as always in his white button-up, the three stars on his shoulder showcasing his position as first officer. His hair is brown and relatively short, his beard buzzed and tracing his rounded jaw, eyes brown and eyebrows thick.

Louis smirks back, biting his lip cheekily. “Captain Payne.”

Pilot-in-command for you, Tommo.”

“Whatever you say, Captain.”

The two pilots amble into the cockpit, Payne giving him a last nod.

Louis grins and leads the way to the small room by the cockpit, hidden away from the passenger area. The tiny room contains four small beds, all meant for longer flights when rest is needed. There’s a luggage compartment, which Louis ungracefully stuffs his suitcase into.

“Do you know the pilot?” Harry asks as he lifts his own bag and places it on top of Louis’.

“No, not all,” he says dismissively. Niall and Jenny laugh far too loudly at that.

Harry squints. “Did you…?”

“Whatever do you mean, Styles?”

“You know what I mean.”

“It may, or may not have happened. Once,” he says slowly. He quirks a brow at the boy.

Harry doesn’t say anything, so Louis turns to make sure his bag is tucked away safely. When he spins around and meets Harry’s eyes again, the amusement is sparkling in there once more.

“So, I guess you do do —”

“No.” Louis shakes his head, patting his shoulder before walking out from the sealed off section and into the passenger area.

The plane’s interior is fancy and modern. The floor is beige carpet, and not the ugly kind — the kind that if it had a smell, it would stink of hundred dollar bills. Half the walls are in walnut wood, the slight shine from the lamps making a row above the small windows adorning the sides of the plane giving the wood a slight gloss. The leather passenger chairs are in rows of two, along with two four-piece cubicles in the back. The seats are broad and resemble large, beige armchairs rather than airplane passenger seats. Louis remembers how stunned by all of this he was when he got bumped from budget flights to Panorama’s elite department. It’s been almost three years now, but it seems like a lifetime ago.

Harry comes to stand by Louis’ side, resting his elbow one of the leather chairs. Louis turns to face him.

“What do you think?” he asks. “Impressed?”

“It’s… pretty, eh.” Harry shrugs, making a face. Is he suggesting it’s mediocre?

Louis looks at him doubtfully.

“What are you saying? That GBIS are better?” Ew. “You know what, Harry, if you say that, then —” Harry bites his bottom lip, doing a poor job of retaining his smile. He starts giggling. Louis stops, face dropping into an exasperate sigh. “What?”

“It’s just really funny how offended you are on behalf of your airline,” he giggles. “I was joking.”

“You are so annoying,” Louis says darkly, and leaves him by the passenger seats.

Jesus. Is everything he says hilarious to this boy? And he is here to stay, permanently. Louis prays this isn’t how the rest of his employment at Panorama is going to be spent.

He heads back to the kitchen-resembling area, checking each cabinet to make sure everything is in order. The food and beverages are supposed to be stocked by airport staff during off time, when the aircrafts are cleaned, tanks are refilled, and engines and propels are checked on. Everything looks fine, and he proceeds to make sure the alcohol is where it should be.

“Everything okay, barkeep?” Jenny asks.

As the purser (In-flight Service Manager, leader of the cabin crew) Louis is the only flight attendant with a key to the liquor cabinet. They have a running joke, Niall and Jenny often referring to Louis as the bartender.

Louis nods, closing the cabinet. “Yes, m’lady.” He stands. “Time’s it?”

“Seven-thirty-four. Boarding should be in about ten minutes.” They lean against the single counter. Jenny purses her lips, glancing at where Niall and Harry are engrossed in conversation. Niall is probably the easiest person to befriend, but Louis is inclined to think Harry doesn’t have much trouble in that department. “He’s not too bad, is he?”

“Nah,” Louis shrugs, eyes lingering on the boy. “Just a bit annoying.”

Jenny quirks a brow. “You find him charming.”

“No…” He’s one of those terribly cute boys who know it. Which means he’s annoying, but Louis can’t quite resist it entirely. It’s impossible to be perfectly immune.

She gives him a knowing look, but drops it. “Has he been briefed? Of everything?”

“I’m more of a watch and learn-teacher,” Louis hums. “He’ll get it.”

He wonders if Harry will find it disgusting and slightly derogatory. If he will last. There are people who have left, who all naturally have signed NDA’s. Not a word gets out. It’s not as bad as it seems at first, though. Not really.

“Hey,” Niall calls from the passenger area. “Boarding!”

“Alright,” Louis murmurs, mostly to himself. He and Jenny walk out, Jenny heading down the aisle to the rear of the aircraft. The two remaining team members are standing in the middle, still chatting. “Harry,” Louis says, jerking his thumb toward himself. “You’re with me.”

Harry nods, coming up to him by the front entrance, near the staff area and the cockpit. He seems to square his shoulders, and his back gives a loud crack. Louis represses a wince. He notices his unbuttoned shirt.

“I told you to fix your attire.”

Harry’s eyes slide to his own chest, it obviously having slipped his mind completely. Louis’ fingers quickly reach his buttons, Harry’s too slow and clumsy as he tries in a hurry. Louis efficiently buttons the shirt, righting his vest on top. The boy stays put in front of him, pliantly letting him doll him up properly. Louis ignores the few inches of height-difference, putting his lips near Harry’s Adam’s apple.

“I was going to —”

“It’s okay,” Louis interrupts. “S’fine. Don’t forget next time.” Harry looks down at him, slightly surprised. Louis might be a bit curt and terse when it comes to his job, but he is not a surly teacher. He gives Harry’s chest a quick pat, before promptly positioning himself by the entrance. “Come on.”

Harry joins him, clasping his hands behind his back, both of them prim and polite where they stand. The first passengers trickle up the staircase just in time, the first one an older businessman in his early sixties who simply nods in greetings.

“Welcome aboard, sir,” Louis nods, practiced smile gentle and polite. Harry follows his lead easily, showing no sense of discomfort. This isn’t a particularly hard part of the job — a bit mundane and boring, but not a hardship. The most difficult part about it might be on a day you’re suffering from a hangover, and internally want to scream rather than greet gentlemen and ladies in a pleasant voice. Other that, it’s simply tedious.

“Have a wonderful flight, miss.”

“Good morning, ma’am.”

“Welcome, sir. Have a safe flight.”

Most of the passengers are older than thirty, one another twenty-year-old here and there. Louis goes through the motions, impeccably polite. At one point, Harry nudges his elbow with his own, as approximately half the passengers have boarded. Louis doesn’t waver. Harry nudges again.

“Good morning, sir,” Harry grins. Nudge.

Louis refuses to roll his eyes. He jams his elbow into Harry’s. From the corner of his eye, he sees him sink his teeth into his bottom lip. Louis smirks. “Morning, miss. Have a safe flight,” he smiles.

Eventually the line of passenger ends, each person somewhere near their assigned seat.

“First hour and you’ve already physically harmed me,” Harry moans to Louis. He rubs his elbow. “Kiss it better?”

“Stop trying to be cute. You’re not cute,” Louis says back, smile just as fake as the one he directed the passengers they just greeted. Harry mocks a smile back at him, eyes squinted. “Now go help Niall and Archie.” He gestures toward where the two of them are helping to put bags in luggage compartments, answering questions, and pointing at brochures.

“You haven’t told me anything, how am I supposed to answer questions —”

Louis presses his lips together. “They’re not going to ask you how much fuel the engines expend per hour, they just want to know what’s for lunch.”

“But I don’t know what’s for lunch —”

Louis sighs. Dammit. “Just follow me then. Don’t look like you don’t know anything.”

He walks, Harry close behind him. He reaches an older lady in the first couple of seats, neatly swooping in and taking the bag she’s holding above her head for her. He gently places it in the compartment above her seat, and she thanks him profusely.

“Do you know when lunch will be served, dear?” she inquires.

“You can order any beverage or food at any time, as soon as we’re steadily in the air, ma’am. Proper lunch will be at twelve, Paris time.”

She pats his arm kindly in gratitude, and Louis gives Harry an arched brow. The younger man seems to resist poking his tongue out.

They continue in the same manner for the next couple of minutes. Harry, obviously determined to prove he isn’t a rookie — which is pretty funny, because Louis doesn’t believe he is one — disappears from his side to get the job done by himself. Louis bites down a grin as he hears him explain what time they will arrive in Seattle, and when it’s time for the midday meal.

Along with Niall and Archie, Harry comes back to the front where Louis is when everybody seems to be seated. The first officer — Liam Payne — has reported they’ll need a few more minutes before heading out on the ramps.

Louis brings Harry over to give him a brief tour of the backstage compartments. He shows him where everything is stationed, how to open the mobile fridges and freezers, where the liquor cabinet is situated, and where they keep medical supplies.

“You’ve been briefed of the security procedures if anything happens, yeah?”

Harry nods. “Yes.”

“Great. Oh, and just so you know, dear. There’s a pamphlet over here that holds the menu for ten hour flights.”

“You’re hilarious,” Harry deadpans.

“Thanks!”

Archie ambles into the kitchen area. “Time for the safety demonstration. Let’s go, newbie.”

Harry’s face contorts. Louis almost bursts out laughing. “Are you telling me we have to do that? You don’t play ‘em on the displays?” He turns to Louis, as if he will deny this promptly.

Louis bites his cheek. “Yes? A physical demonstration is much easier to follow. Here at Panorama, we put our passengers’ safety first. Did you not at GBIS?”

Harry looks disgruntled and very much displeased. “Why do I have to do it?”

Louis grins. “Because you’re new, and because I’m the boss.”

“You’re not my boss.”

Louis rolls his eyes. “Well, I’m the purser. So, get the fuck out there. We’ll play the audio.” He opens a cabinet and pulls out a spare lifejacket and an oxygen mask. He pushes them into Harry’s hands, nodding toward the aisle.

Harry’s eyes alight on the supplies in his arms, painful expression coming across his face. Louis almost feels bad. Almost. Harry reluctantly turns away and toward the passengers. Archie meets Louis’ eyes, lip tucked into her mouth to keep from laughing. He crosses his arms, one hand coming up to cover his own mouth.

Just as Harry is about to force himself to do the unthinkable deed, Niall walks into the small room, stopping in front of Harry. His eyes flicker from the oxygen mask in his arms to Louis and Archie, and then back to Styles. A look of almost pity fills his eyes.

“Mate,” he moans, although there is amusement hiding in his blue eyes. “They are fucking with you.”

It’s silent for about two seconds, then Harry excruciatingly slowly turns around. Louis struggles to keep down his laugh, finger curled over his lips. Harry stares at them impassively for so long, Louis’ shoulders start shaking.

“You’re such dicks.”

Jenny breaks first, but Louis doesn’t take long to follow. He laughs, cackle loud and boisterous.

“You were about to cry!” Jenny’s maddening, dark laugh makes it even better. Harry looks sullen, but Louis can tell the banter and humor of it isn’t lost on him.

“I’ll get you back,” he says seriously.

“Looking forward to it,” Archie smirks.

Niall interjects. “I think Payne turned on the seatbelt sign a moment ago. We should get to work. Who’s checking on the passengers?”

“Newbie and I will do it.” Louis ducks out, and Harry follows him without delay. “Head to the rear and work your way up.”

Harry does as told, and Louis starts working down the aisle. He glances at every passenger, smiling ever so politely, making sure everybody has buckled up.

“Excuse me, miss,” he says. “May I see your belt?”

The woman apologizes, removing her jumper from her lap. He nods and thanks her, moving on. He sees Harry making his way up, grin big and dimples prominent while he chats with passengers. They’re both nearing the meeting point in the middle of the aisle, when Louis has to inquire to see another seatbelt. It’s a man, perhaps in his early thirties. His hair is dark, a hint of a beard along his jaw and top lip, eyes dark brown. He looks vaguely familiar — most likely a frequent Panorama flyer.

“Excuse me, sir,” Louis says sweetly. “May I ask you to put on your belt? The sign is on. We will be taking off soon.”

The man looks up, flashing a wide smile. “Oh, I’m sorry. I wasn’t sure how to do it.” He gives him a bashful smile. Louis almost snorts. “Would you be so kind?”

The man’s friend scoffs. Louis wishes he could do the same. He isn’t stupid. But regardless, he gives him the prettiest of smiles, leaning over and taking each part of the belt. He can feel the man’s chest against his shoulder as he clicks the belt together, tightening as needed. As he stands, he sees Harry halt in his movements for second from the corner of his eye.

“Thank you,” the man says smugly. Louis smiles at him, remaining in a close proximity despite his small wish to leave. “Do you happen to know what’s for lunch then?” His American accent is thick.

Louis crosses his legs where he stands, leaning in closely against the seat. “Well, you’ve got a menu right here in the pocket of the seat in front of you, with a few options. So, whatever you like, sir.”

“What would you choose, then? If it were up to you?” he says, smirking and leaner closer.

“What I like is neither here nor there. It’s all up to you. However, I do think the lasagna is mouthwatering,” he blinks prettily.

Harry is only four seats away.

The man grins. “What’s your plans for Seattle then? Going on any ferry boats?”

“Perhaps… although, I don’t know if I’ll have the time. I’m just there for one night...” Louis sighs attractively, but he can feel Harry’s eyes burning into his back.

The man makes a little pout. “If you’re only there for one night you shouldn’t have to pay for a hotel… You know, I have an apartment not too far from S.E.A?”

Panorama pays for their employees’ hotels and transportations. They even get eighty-five percent off on all flights.

He feels the man’s hand gripping around his thigh, only inches from his arse. He chuckles lightly. “Well, sir, I have somewhere to go in Seattle, actually. Perhaps next time,” he winks.

He leaves the gentleman, and when he reaches the staff area, he feels a hand on him, Harry having followed him back. Louis turns, finding him staring at him with hard eyes. Here we go.

“That was not subtle,” he says, an affronted frown on his forehead.

“I don’t get paid to be subtle.” Harry stares at him, eyes widening almost comically. Louis snorts. “I’m not a prostitute. Relax. They pay fucking loads of money, and they expect us to be accommodating.”

Harry seems displeased, shock still evident in his features. “Am I expected to…” He does not like it, that’s for sure.

Louis tries to be gentle in his words. “Look, it’s not for everybody, but I happen to fucking like my paycheck. It’s just flirting. I thought you were into that, anyway?” He arches a challenging brow. It might help him get over it.

“Is this why Panorama’s elite is so superior on market?” he gasps. “Because you… do this.”

“It helps,” Louis nods seriously. “But we’re also good at what we do. We are a well-functioning, fab-ass machine. We know what we’re doing.”

“We always wondered what the fuck this department at Panorama was doing… Shit. Fucking hell!”

“Quiet.” Louis gives him a silencing look. “You’re not at GBIS anymore. You’re part of this.” His voice softens. “But… if you do feel too uncomfortable, all you’ve got to do is pass it over to me, Niall, or Jenny. Whatever suits the passenger. You’re not forced to do this, but we are all in on it.”

Harry looks resigned, yet displeased still. He lets his eyes meet Louis’ for a long moment, until he tilts his head to the side, contemplating, it seems. “It’s just flirting?”

“Just flirting.” Perhaps a gentle touch here and there. A kiss on the cheek, a squeeze of an arm… Louis may have sat in someone’s lap once. It’s not a usual occurrence. It just happened to be a recurring client.

“Promise?”

“Yes.”

“Well,” Harry says, seeming to brace himself. “I guess I can see what they see in you.” His voice is still a bit tight, but the playfulness in his eye is back.

“Ha.”

Harry bites his lip. “Can I try?”

Louis snorts. “Well, don’t throw yourself at them. The safety demonstration is on. We’ll be lifting soon.” He nods down the aisle. “But after, go for the woman in row eight. She’s been checking you out since boarding, and I bet she tips well.”

Before they can share another sentence, the aircraft slowly starts moving. Niall and Jenny walk past them to the rear of the plane, where they will be sitting during take off. Liam Payne’s voice soon fills the speakers.

“Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, this is the captain speaking. We have a lovely flight ahead of us, which will take roughly ten hours. We’ll be landing in Seattle approximately at 10AM, PDT. The weather is excellent today. We’ve got eighteen degrees Celsius, little wind and few clouds. For any further questions, please turn to our wonderful crew. Louis, Jenny, Niall, and… Harry, will take great care of you for the duration of the flight. Panorama wishes you a wonderful trip.”

There’s a short pause, and then the co-pilot reiterates the same sentences in French, her light voice brittle but happy. It’s not usual to have a female pilot, but Panorama proudly excels in many departments.

The aircraft soon navigates out on the ramps. The safety video turns off, and Louis grabs a chocolate bar from one of the cabinets, dotting down what he took on a sheet. His stomach is growling as he sits down on the seat meant for take off, strapping himself in. Harry sits down by his side, buckling up. The aircraft slowly makes it onto the right ramp, and Louis reaches behind him to grab the telephone speaker.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we’ll taking off shortly. Please keep your seatbelt on until the sign is unlit. Thank you.” He tucks the phone back, and takes another bite of the bar, humming contentedly.

“You really have one of those voices,” Harry says.

“What do you mean?”

“Like, the perfect flight attendant voice,” he nods. He explains slowly. “You have the perfect flow — not too fast, not too slow. Your voice is light, a little husky, but sweet. Kind of honey-ish. Though, it can get a little squeaky when you get all indignant…”

Louis squints at him. “If you tried to compliment me, you definitely ruined it.” He swallows down the last of the candy bar, chucking the wrapper at a close-by bin. It goes in.

Harry grins. “If it wasn’t a compliment, would the rest still maintain the same value?”

Louis actually smiles. “Maybe.”

The aircraft starts moving forward, picking up speed in a rapid pace. Louis loves this part of flying. The take off is much better than the landing. Panorama has excellent pilots, which makes the landings so gradual you barely feel it until you’re touching down. The take off is always exhilarating; the light bounce when the aircraft takes air and leaves ground, the swoop in your stomach when you lift, the feeling of no longer being horizontal… He’ll admit it: he’s a sucker for roller coasters.

“Are you going to come in your pants?”

Louis looks up, affronted. “What?”

Harry chuckles. “You look quite cute when you close your eyes, smiling like that.”

He rolls his eyes, snorting. “I just like flying.”

“Have you ever flown a plane yourself?” He seems genuinely curious now.

“No. It would be cool, though. Maybe I could take some courses when I get time.” It’s actually on his bucket list, which sadly doesn’t have many crossed-over entries. He’s been a flight attendant for almost four and a half years, since he was twenty years old. A lot of precious time has flown by. He closes his eyes again.

“You should,” Harry says, and he sounds surprisingly sincere.

The plane soon reaches designated height, returning to an almost entirely horizontal position. Louis and Harry unbuckle, standing up.

“So, Harry Styles. Ready for you first proper flight with Panorama?” Louis grins, because he knows Harry finds the way he portrays Panorama amusing.

Harry smirks. “As ready as I can be, sir.”

The next hours of the flight pass by smoothly. Passengers start ordering beverages as soon as the seatbelt sign turns off, and they’re off working without interruption. Most passengers want a snack, something breakfast-equivalent, but people aren’t shy about ordering alcoholic beverages despite the early hour.

Harry gets to try out his flirting skills as well. He pinches Louis’ waist when he walks past him down the aisle, giving him a nod. Watch me. Louis does. He watches Harry giggle, smile coyly, and charm the pants off the female prey. Louis almost shakes his head. He knew Harry was going to be good, but he didn’t think it would work this well. He isn’t too surprised; Harry has definitely got the looks after all.

Louis purses his lips, leaning in the entrance of the staff area. He truly does… He actually shakes his head this time. Yikes. Harry is fucking charming, and in the sneakiest way.

“Is your hangover better, sir?” Harry asks about six hours into the flight, ducking into the small lounging room where Louis and Niall just headed in. They cleaned everything away from lunch just thirty minutes ago, and the demands of the customers seem to have subdued. The passengers seem content for now, but there’s a light that switches on in case someone presses their service button.

Louis throws a candy bar at him.

“What, I’m just using appropriate language!” Harry slumps down on the bed Louis is occupying. Jenny comes into the room subsequently, moving Niall’s feet to sit by his side. Harry cracks his back again, making Louis physically cringe.

“Stop that. If anything, that’s what going to make me vomit.”

“Can’t. I have a bad back.”

“Poor baby,” Louis hums.

Harry flashes him a wide grin. Louis internally groans. Daddy, Harry mouths. Louis kicks his thigh.

“Hung over?” Niall asks.

“Yep. Louis had a brilliant night out, but he won’t give me the details,” Harry says, grinning in his direction.

Jenny arches a brow. “Oh, really? Did the boys drop you off in the right place, or did you wake up in the gutter?”

Louis’ eyes narrow. “And how is Keti?” he asks spitefully.

Jenny stops smirking in an instant, eyes turning dark.

“Who is Keti?”

Louis presses his lips together. “So curious, young one,” he says, meeting Harry’s eyes, but further ignores him. He makes grabby hands at the sandwich Niall is munching on, who passes it over, letting Louis take a few bites before giving it back.

“How long have you guys worked together?” Harry asks, not seeming to be fond of not perpetually asking questions.

Louis’ brows knit, needing a moment to think. “Archie and I were in the original group they made, along with Leigh-Anne, who you replaced, and that lad, Trip.”

“Why’d she quit?”

“Pregnant. She moved in with her boyfriend in Manchester. They’re starting a family,” Louis explains. It’s probably the way he wants to go too, when he has found someone and they’re ready to build a life for themselves. Kids. Louis loves kids.

“I wish I was pregnant,” Jenny mutters.

“Yeah, me too.”

Three pairs of eyes turn to Louis. “You know what I mean.”

“We’re too young for this,” Niall wails. “Is it something about being a flight attendant that makes you want to live in a large house with a spouse, a couple of dogs, and at least three kids?”

“Kudos to Leigh-Anne for making it to the finish line. The only original who has done that,” Jenny praises.

Out of the four originals, there are Louis and Jenny left. At the start of this group, it was the two of them, along with Leigh-Anne and a man called Trip. Trip lasted for about seven months, and then Niall replaced him when he decided to open a bar in Liverpool instead. It wasn’t too big of a loss. Niall fits in better, anyhow.

“Didn’t know you were in that deeply, though, Tommo,” Jenny remarks.

“Not much you can do from here, is there?” he shrugs.

Harry is quieter than he has been the whole journey. Louis wonders if it’s the fatigue finally catching up to him, or if it’s something one of them said. He supposes Harry might not have much to supply to the conversation, though. They’re all a bit older, apart from Niall, but Niall has always been quite peculiar. Harry seems pretty into the non-commitment thing, if his flirting with Louis is anything to go by.

The light on the door flickers on. “I’ll get it,” Niall offers.

The rest of the flight goes swimmingly. It’s the same old, really, except Harry is there to make remarks on the most surprising things, share quirky observations, and continuingly call Louis ‘sir’. When it’s eventually time for landing, they both sit down in the same seats as before, after making sure the passengers are alright.

“Who are ‘the boys’?” Harry asks when they begin to lower toward the ground. For once he doesn’t sound cheeky, only genuinely curious.

“I have a cousin in Paris. I usually go out with him and his pals when I’m there over night,” Louis explains.

Harry looks hesitant. “Are you in Paris often?”

Louis watches him for just a second. “Why?” he wonders.

Harry opens his mouth, closes it, then opens it once more. His eyes are intent on Louis’. “I used to work from Paris. When I was doing budget flights.”

“Me too,” Louis says in surprise. “Not many airlines are stationed from there. Who did you work for?

“Canally.”

Louis blinks. “Me too.”

Harry eyes him, almost calculatingly. “How did you start working for Panorama? That’s quite the jump,” he notes.

“My uncle handles some of the economical business parts for the airline, so he knows some people that were working recruitment at the time,” Louis admits. “I worked in Panorama’s commercial department for about five months and then they had an opening here. They were making new teams, due to the increase of customer demand.”

“That’s —”

Louis arches a brow. “Easy? Cheating?”

“No?” Harry frowns. “I was going to say lucky.”

“Ah.” Louis purses his lips. He glances at him. “So, how did you get here?”

“Uh-uh.” Harry shakes his head, head falling back as he laughs. “That’s still a secret. You’ll never know, Lou.”

Dammit.

“Stop calling me that,” he mutters, but when Harry grins he can’t help but smile back.

 

Seattle 1.0

While the rest of Louis’ cabin crew head over to the airport hotel, Louis ambles toward the nearest exit. He yawns into his hand, dragging his suitcase behind him as he reaches one of the cars waiting outside the building. He flashes a smile at a man leaning by his vehicle, who in return nods and opens the trunk to stash Louis’ suitcase.

He climbs into the backseat, murmuring the address he keeps in his phone. He has three of those — one in Seattle, one in New York City, and one in Italy.

It’s about ten o’clock, when it should be six-ish in Europe. Normally he would try to stay up to acclimate to the time zone, but when the flights are tightly knit he tries to get as much rest in as possible. He almost dozes off, but the car finally stops, making his eyes flicker open.

The small house looks as familiar as usual. The tiny yard is green, the façade is brown and windowpanes white. Louis gives the driver his credit card, the one supplied by the airline. They will be charged for his transportation. The driver fetches his bag for him, and Louis thanks him kindly before he strolls up the small stone path to the porch. The door is wooden, and painted white. Louis knocks twice.

The boy that opens the door breaks into a large grin.

“Louis,” he breathes. His arms hook around his neck, crushing him in a warm hug. Louis smiles, letting himself be held for a long minute. “I’ve missed you.”

“Hi,” he hums, and squeezes his waist. Alec continues to cling to him. “I smell like aircraft, honey.”

“Sorry.” Alec lets him go. His blue eyes are warm, dark hair unruly.

“D’you just wake up?”

“Yeah.” He scratches at his hair. “Went out with Meg and the boys last night. Meg almost kissed me.” His smile is so big, Louis almost coos.

It must be eight months since they encountered each other the first time. It was at a bar, Louis staying in Seattle only for the night. Alec was watching his best friend flirt with another boy, drowning his sorrows in alcohol. He liked Louis’ accent, and Louis liked his adorable smile. It happened.

“You’re cute.” Louis drags his suitcase into the tiny house. Everything is familiar; the unwashed dishes in the kitchen, the books and DVDs on the coffee table, the unmade bed in the small bedroom.

Alec follows him in there, and sprawls out on the bed. Louis sighs, kicking off his shoes and placing the suitcase by the wooden drawers under the large mirror on the opposite wall. He sheds his clothes, and soon finds himself crawling in between Alec’s legs.

“I love it when you fuck me,” the boy smiles happily, traces of sleep all over him.

“Shut up and let me do it then,” Louis murmurs, grinning into his warm, soft neck.

. . .

Louis wakes up at 8:32 the next day. He slips into the bathroom, taking advantage of the spacious shower. There is no need for shaving, only a thin hint of a beard along his jaw and above his lip. He brushes his teeth, doting some cologne under his jaw that he steals from Alec’s cabinet. He doesn’t have any use for the concealer today. He slept rather brilliantly last night.

He trudges back into the bedroom as the sun is starting to poke in through the blinds. Alec sits up on the bed, brushing dark hair out of his eyes. He’s young, only twenty-one.

“Why can’t you just give up your job? You know, so we can have sex for the rest of my life?” he says in a sleep-tinged voice, stretching his arms above his head while Louis dresses.

“If I weren’t a flight attendant, I’d be in London.”

“Or, you could be here?”

“I hate Seattle.”

“But I’d be here.”

“As if that changes anything,” Louis snorts. Alec makes a face at him. Louis chuckles and grabs his navy jacket, his suitcase already placed by the door. “I’m leaving now. Until I see you…”

Alec stands and gives him a single kiss.

“Until I see you.”

The boy waves, Louis reciprocating with a gentle smile, before leaving the boy in bed and strolling outside into the warm spring air. It’s actually quite pretty out, for Seattle at least. The car Louis called for is waiting by the curb, ready to bring Louis back to the airport.

He probably won’t see Alec for a few months, and that’s fine, because they both know what this is. Louis is fairly sure Alec sees him as someone hot and older, British, and perhaps a bit mysterious and sexy. Louis also knows he is unrequitedly in love with his best friend, and would drop Louis without a second thought if she changed her mind. It’s all good in the hood.

He leaves his secret friend — because that’s what they are, friends — and the car takes him back to S.E.A. Archie texted they’re meeting at gate twenty-two. Louis makes his way over, going through security and grabbing a sandwich and a small coffee at a Starbucks on the way. He sips through the straw, barely managing to handle both items in one hand as he pulls his suitcase behind him.

The airport looks like any other does: glass windows and walls everywhere, revealing the large aircrafts out on the ramps. There are cafés, frozen-yoghurt shops, and tax-free stores. When he was younger he would bring back all sorts of stuffed animals from tax-free back to his younger sisters, but these days he’s home far too infrequently. He briefly considers buying one when they get back to Paris, but figures not. They’re probably too old for plush toys anyway.

“Well, haven’t you had a nice twenty-four hours,” Archie grins as he reaches his cabin crew at the gate. They’re all sitting on a round, padded bench, legs sprawled, but looking dapper in their work attire. Harry looks up when Jenny speaks, smirk instantly forming on his lips.

Louis wonders if he will be annoyed, or amused by him today. It’s a two and a half-hour flight to Los Angeles, though, not long, and they will have several hours off before it’s back to Seattle.

He rolls his eyes at Archie, shuffling in between her and Harry on the seat. He’s about to drop the things in his hand, but Harry swoops in just as Louis releases his suitcase handle and snatches the sandwich from him. His tongue pokes out in the most obscene way before he takes a bite.

“Mmm,” he hums, chewing loudly. “This is good stuff.”

“Harry.” Louis grabs his arm, squeezing it once, gently. “I have neither the time nor the patience to bother with you. Please don’t be annoying.” He jerks the sandwich from his hand.

“Am I supposed to be insulted?” The younger man frowns, looking at Niall, who shrugs non-committedly. When no one speaks, Harry shrugs, too, and watches Louis sip from his coffee. “So, you looked like you’re in a good mood. While the rest of us were holed up in our hotel rooms after some excellent ferry-boating, where were you?”

“You’ll never know,” Louis says.

Harry blinks, clear green eyes innocent, curls bouncy around his sweet cheeks. “Please, sir?”

“I’ll tell you my secrets once you tell me yours,” he smirks. Harry raises a brow. “Why did you switch to Panorama?”

Harry shakes his head, grinning. “I guess I’ll never know then.”

 

Los Angeles

They strolled the short path out to the aircraft. Liam Payne wasn’t the designated pilot for this trip, rather two American pilots, working nationally for Panorama. Louis is not too familiar with either of them, but they greet them benevolently. For some reason the American pilots never seem too fond of the British crews, although, perhaps it’s solely prejudices from both sides. Louis doesn’t know the reason, but he thinks it’s always been this way.

He has checked the cabinets and the liquor, the safety demonstration film has been played, and they’ve scouted the passengers’ seatbelts and electronic devices. They’re all currently waiting for the aircraft to hit full speed for take off. Everything has been running smoothly and according to plan.

Sometimes Louis wonders why he is still here. Well, he knows, but… There’s nothing left to accomplish. He’s the purser for a top crew, within the elite department of Panorama. After Trip left, Louis was assigned the position, and he’s been on top of the food chain ever since. He supposes he stays because this is his job, and where his friends are — this is what he does.

However, everybody knows that working as a flight attendant has an expiration date. As long as you don’t already have a significant other, you’re eventually going to quit and settle down, because you will one day want a family. But what are you going to do when you quit, and haven’t already met someone? Most of your friends at home are from sixth form, or Uni, or perhaps you don’t even keep in touch with them. You’ve got nothing to come back to, and your life hasn’t been at ‘home’ for years.

It’s a hard decision to make. Are you going to leave this place, where you will never get the opportunity to take the next step in life, or leave with no clue of what do, or how to find your person? Louis supposes it’s easy to push away the problems, ignoring it and just staying up here, doing what you always do.

It’s a scary thought. The thought of getting stuck up in the clouds.

Louis is twenty-five. He would say he couldn’t believe he is worrying about this, but… he is that guy. He is that lad in the group of friends that finds the love of his life young, marries young, and has kids young. He has always been that person, he has aspired to be that person. Except that… he has done none of those things.

“What are you thinking about?”

“Wouldn’t you like to know?” Louis opens his eyes. Harry is looking curiously at him from where he is sitting by his side, buckled in.

“Now you’re just making me think it’s something naughty.” His voice is low and husky, like the darkest of nut chocolate. Funny analogy, that.

Louis chuckles. He’s not sure why. “What do you think I’m thinking about then?”

Harry grins confidently. “Filthy thoughts? Me. It’s got to be.”

The aircraft starts gaining speed at last. Louis reaches out and squeezes Harry’s thigh, just as they leave ground. His grips tightens. He closes his eyes again, shamelessly enjoying the feeling in his gut as they their backs shift downward.

“You totally get off on this.”

Louis snorts, but pats Harry’s thigh without much affection. He knows Harry is only joking, because he was genuine when they spoke about Louis’ piloting aspirations.

The aircraft slowly turns horizontal, only a few minutes until moving back to normal. Louis dreads it each time, sometimes wishing they could just continue, up, up, up.

“You’re still touching me.”

Oh.

“You don’t like it?”

Harry snuggles back into his seat. “Oh, I like it very much.” He closes his eyes, his own hand landing on top of Louis’.

“Oh, Jesus Christ,” Louis scoffs, pulling his hand away.

Harry cackles.

“Are you lot gonna start working, or not?” Niall’s voice inquires with the character of sarcasm, making them both avert their eyes from one another.

Louis unbuckles, standing. “I thought I’d take a rest on this one. I’ll take next flight back to Seattle. Promise.”

Niall snorts. “You wish. I need your liquor, barkeep.”

“Well, you can’t have it.”

“I guess we’ll lose forty loyal customers then…”

Louis rolls his eyes. “Fine. Scoot then. I’ll be in the kitchen in a minute.”

Niall salutes him, trudging off. Louis yawns, but he is in a good mood today. He turns to Harry, meeting his eyes intently. He starts leaning down, but keeps their eyes locked. He bites his lip attractively.

Harry follows his movements quietly, expression wary.

“What are you doing?” he asks when Louis’ hands are hovering inches above his crotch. Louis grins sweetly, before pursing his lips into a pout. Harry’s eyes slide down.

“You don’t want me to?”

Harry looks puzzled, squinting. “You wouldn’t.”

“I would. I thought that was what you wanted?”

Their eyes are locked, studying each other for a long minute. Harry nods. Louis unbuckles Harry’s belt. Harry rolls his eyes. Louis laughs, walking away toward the liquor cabinet, whistling quietly.

He should have expected it, Harry following him in quick steps.

“What if your hands had slipped?” he smirks down at him, while he is crouching by the miniscule bottles of alcohol.

“They don’t slip.”

“But what if they did?”

“Harry, I don’t know what kind of people you sleep with, but let me tell you, if you ever had my hands on you, you’d know they don’t slip.” He stands, arching a brow. Harry is towering a bit over him, eyes somewhat squinted. They trail to Louis’ face, for a second landing on Louis’ lips.

Louis feels something jump in his stomach.

Okay. For some reason, he is at least forty percent sure Harry genuinely wants to get close with him.

He clears his throat, Harry’s eyes snapping up to his eyes. “Harry,” he says. “I have no intention of joining the Mile High Club.”

Harry stares at him. “What makes you think I would genuinely want to have sex with you?” There’s no disgust or note of repugnance in his voice at all, simply inquiring.

A small memory pops into Louis’ mind. He can’t help but smirk, albeit gently. “Don’t think I don’t know that the teacher thing you asked me was a line.”

He quirks a brow, waiting for his confirmation. It takes a moment, but then Harry breaks into a naughty grin. For some reason they stay like that, smirking at each other.

Scrap what Louis said before. Harry genuinely wants to fuck him. Louis is almost sixty percent certain.

Harry licks his lip, brows shooting up and down in a swift motion, dirty look in his eye. “I saw you with that woman while we checked the belts. Can you flirt with me like that, sir?”

“You couldn’t handle it, baby.” Louis winks.

. . .

They go out to dinner, a very early one. Niall made a quick Google trip, finding them a sports pub not too far from the hotel they chose to kip at. Apparently Harry knows American football, and he comments perpetually throughout the entire match that’s playing on the TV, even though the rest of them barely know how to correctly make a ‘touchdown’.

“How do you even know this game?” Louis asks incredulously, after Harry has moaned for the fifteenth time.

Harry shrugs. “Found it on the telly one night. It’s good.”

“It’s boring. They never play. There’s a pause every two seconds!”

“Well, they have to follow the rules don’t they?!”

It grows into an agitated discussion. Louis realizes halfway into the game that his burger is beginning to cool, the intense argument about American football versus real, proper football having occupied both his hands and mouth. He grabs a handful of chips that were artfully strewn around the large burger, shoving them ungracefully into his mouth. He’s ridiculously hungry, yet Harry manages to distract him with his God-awful opinions.

“Get away from me. At least we don’t wear fifty pounds of armor.”

“Well, we don’t cry each time we’re poked in the arm.”

“You’re generalizing. And since when do you even play yourself?”

“What, and you play footie?”

“I used to.”

“This is beside the point, though,” Harry says sourly. He gestures toward the screen. “This is a good sport, that apparently you are to narrow-minded to appreciate.”

Louis rolls his eyes. He locks Harry in a firm gaze, voice serious as he pats his arm softly. “Honey. It sucks.”

Harry is silent for a second, until he visibly gives up. His shoulders slump, his torso resembling a deflating balloon. Louis almost smiles. “You’re impossible.” He takes two chips from Louis’ plate, stuffing his mouth.

Louis grins, but returns to his food, finally able to concentrate on eating. Archie and Niall order them a round of beers, and then another. Harry’s football comments get louder. Louis giggles each time he groans, because he looks too bloody ridiculous.

They’ve all changed out of their work attire and into regular clothes. Archie is dressed in a black skirt and pantyhose, along with a white t-shirt and sneakers. One would think she’d be tired of pantyhose after spending most of her last couple of years in them, but Archie is nothing if not committed. Niall is in simple blue jeans and a t-shirt, meanwhile Louis is in black jeans and a grey scoop neck.

Harry, on the other hand, is speckled. He is in skintight black jeans, brown suede boots, and a flowered, silky, champagne-sleeved bomber jacket. His curls are bouncy at his shoulders, one strand tucked behind his ear. A picture of the typical football fan he is not, but he is certainly gorgeous.

Louis’ eyes lingered for longer than he intended when they met up before leaving the hotel, Harry noticing with a smug grin. “You look pretty, too, Lou,” he said, blowing him a little kiss.

Louis finishes his third beer, and ambles toward the bathroom. He takes a piss, washing his hands at the sink, before he brushes his brown fringe from his eyes. The stubble on his jaw is still vague enough to get away with it during work, but he’ll probably have to shave the day after tomorrow. Truthfully, he would like to grow it out, at least a bit, some day.

“Mirror, mirror on the wall. Who’s the fairest of them all?”

Louis tears his eyes from his own reflection. Harry is leaning against the wall by the door, smiling. His eyes are somewhat glassy, lips pink and cheeks warm. Alcohol surprisingly makes him prettier.

“You’re funny,” Louis says.

“I am,” he grins proudly. “Do you have an answer?”

“You’re the one who asked.”

“Which is why you should answer the question.”

Louis purses his lips, strolling up to him where he is leaning against the wall. “What do you want me to say?”

“I don’t know, sir. Who do you think?” He grins cheekily. Me, he mouths.

Louis pokes his hip with his own, arms wrapped over his torso. He looks up. “You wish I’d say you…” He tilts his head to the side. “You wish loads of things about me.”

“How are you so sure I’m not just fucking with you?”

“Because you’re not.” Louis arches a brow. “Or are you?”

Harry squints, green eyes shaping into slits under the dim lights from the yellow lamps by the mirror. “You’ll never know.”

Louis smiles, laughing quietly. He pokes Harry’s chin once with his index finger, shaking his head. “You’re pretty, Harry. But that’s it.”

“Okay,” he nods. “I’m good with that. For now.”

Louis shakes his head.

. . .

The next day, they’re free until the afternoon. They left the pub the previous night not until eight, having spent several hours drinking and talking. Harry fits in surprisingly well. Louis told Archie and Niall about the Snow White incident in the bathroom, only mentioning how Harry thinks he’s a fairytale princess. They teased him endlessly about it, but Louis knows they’d stop if Harry showed any hint of discomfort, but he never does. He is fun, can take banter, and is good at it. Louis appreciates that.

He spends the morning of the following day sleeping soundly, not getting up until noon. He finds two texts from Jenny about breakfast in the dining hall downstairs on his phone, but he is too tired to go down. He takes a long shower, after a long moment of contemplation shaving his stubble off, and folds his things back into his suitcase. His mouth tastes of stale beer, and he brushes his teeth twice, popping a piece of gum into his mouth.

They all share a car back to LAX, going through passport checks and security while mumbling amongst themselves. Niall looks tired, says he stayed up Skyping with a friend for far too long the previous night, meanwhile Louis has no excuse for being sleepy. They eventually make it onto the aircraft, going through each thing on the mental checklist.

“Welcome aboard, miss.”

“Have a safe flight, ma’am.”

It’s all a routine.

“You shaved,” Harry notes when they’re sitting in the back room.

“Are you disappointed?” Louis asks.

“Maybe… I think you’d look good with a bit of proper stubble.” He sounds cheeky, but sincere. He runs a hand through his dark curls, dimples popping out when Louis meets his eyes for some reason.

“When I’m on break I’ll grow it out. Send you a picture…”

“Nudes?”

Louis snorts. “You wish.”

“Nudes?” Niall asks. Louis almost forgot about his presence, Harry’s eyes also slipping toward the blond boy in the same manner. Jenny walks into the small room, arching a brow at the question. She sits down by Louis’ side, Harry and Niall on the bed on the opposite side of the room.

“Whose nudes?” she asks.

“Louis’. Harry wants Louis’ nudes.” Niall coughs, muttering, “Not that I’m too surprised.”

“Why, Harry, would you want his nudes? I haven’t seen him naked, but I don’t reckon I’d be too impressed.” Niall and Louis simultaneously snort.

Harry clears his throat, almost as if he’s offended. “Because Louis is bae, that’s why.”

“Bae?” Niall scoffs.

Harry nods. “Yep,” he says, popping the P. “He is sweet, like an apricot. He is cute like his bum, but I’m sensing he is quite feisty when you get in the sheets with him...”

“Oh, so you didn’t get him in your bed last night?” Jenny arches a brow, making Niall cackle loudly. Louis grins when Harry rolls his eyes with a sour look.

That Harry wants to bone Louis like a flight attendant wants to bone a pilot is well on the way to developing into a running joke. It’s a little funny how it’s getting back to him, as he is very well responsible for it.

Louis makes a show of using a sexy, breathy, moaning voice where he is sitting on the edge of the bed. “He called me twice, just begging me to come over. I could hear him whimper my name… Uh-Louis-uh!” He jerks his hips exaggeratedly, having Niall in stitches, Jenny snickering darkly.

“Ha-ha,” Harry responds sardonically. “I don’t even have your number.”

Jenny wipes an imaginary tear off her cheek. Harry gives her a mock smile.

“It’s okay, though, Louis. He doesn’t actually want to sleep with you. He only went after you because he knew he’d never get with me. Even though he is cute, he’s just not my type,” she says.

“I’m sorry to burst your bubble, Jenny, but I’ve been on a strict boys-only diet since I was twelve,” Harry grins wickedly. Louis pretends not to notice the small glance he gives him.

“Oh, darn it,” Jenny snorts. “Such a loss.”

“Didn’t you just say I was cute?”

Louis chuckles. “Harry, sweetie. Do you remember Keti? She is Jenny’s ex-girlfriend,” he enlightens.

Harry’s mouth turns into an O.

“So, love. I’ve been on an anti-boy diet for a couple of years. You’re definitely not my type.”

The room is quiet for a few moments, Harry looking slightly taken aback, but not in a negative manner. He probably hadn’t suspected.

Niall sighs dramatically from where he is sprawling by Harry’s side. “Ah, so many diets when we could just eat all of it. I don’t like diets.”

“But you’re not attracted to men, Ni?” Jenny says, brows knitted.

“Doesn’t mean I have to be on a diet. I just eat what I eat.”

Louis squints, meeting Jenny’s eyes with a grin. The double meaning is too amusing.

“I’m not on a diet,” Louis smirks. “I know exactly what I’m doing.”

“Oh, really?” Harry looks up, suddenly talking again. He grins.

And he is back. God.

“You fucking wish, young one.”

Harry groans sexually. “I — uh-uh — wish so bad. Aah.” He moves where he is sitting, rubbing his arse against the bed, obviously mocking Louis’ earlier charade.

Niall and Jenny laugh, both of them expectantly turning to Louis, waiting for his retaliation. Louis suddenly wants to burn Harry out, end him.

“Fine, if you want it so bad, get over here then.” Louis nods at him, deadpanned. Niall and Jenny giggle, Harry snorting. Louis remains stoic. “I’m serious. Get over here, stud.”

Niall’s cackles fade, hands loosening on his stomach. “He’s asking for it…”

Harry’s eyes flicker, but his figurative knees don’t buckle. “You’re not serious.”

“Oh, yes I am. I thought you wanted it, baby? Are you scared?” he challenges. Harry’s eyes flick to Niall and Jenny, but they’re just as out of the know as him. Louis pouts his lips only a bit, smoldering in a way that he knows makes him look handsome. “Harry?”

“You’re not…” he trails off. Louis scoots forward on the bed to the very edge, waving the younger boy toward himself. “What?” Harry asks, confused.

“Come on,” Louis urges, voice still serious. “Come over, or I’ll get over there myself.”

Harry is quiet, unsure if Louis is actually sincere or not. Louis glances at Archie and Niall, and it looks like he’s got them equally as fooled. Louis is getting impatient, though.

“Harry.”

“Louis.”

They stare at each other for a long moment.

“Okay,” Harry says then. “Thrill me.”

Louis does not know why, but as Niall and Jenny are chuckling at Harry’s words, he finds himself abruptly standing and taking the two strides over to Harry’s bed. He sees the shock in his eyes as he cups his face and leans down, pressing their lips together. He didn’t plan to actually, really do it, but here he is. His lips are on Harry’s, eyes closed. His lips are plump and surprisingly soft, Harry’s cheeks silky under his hands.

Something comes over Louis all of a sudden, punching him in the chest — an eerie familiarity. It hits him like a sucker punch.

Déjà vu.

Paris. Strike. Screaming. Chaos. Cheering. Green eyes. Plump, hot lips on his own.

Louis breaks the kiss, taking a step backward, slightly shocked by himself, but mostly by the memory flooding into his head in pieces.

He releases Harry and takes a weak step back, slowly sitting down. He didn’t expect that. The look on everyone’s faces tells him none of them expected that.

“That’ll shut him up,” Jenny says faintly, clearly shocked.

Niall starts giggling. “Look… at him! He’s almost dizzy!”

Louis turns to Harry, seeing him for the first time, brows knitted and confusion churning in his chest. When he looks at Harry, he looks positively gone. A small shot of satisfaction shoots through him for a quick moment, watching the way Harry blinks, clearly dazzled. His lips are pink and a little shiny, eyes glassy and in the clearest color of green Louis has ever seen on him. He meets Louis’ eyes all of a sudden, and then he blushes. A deep, pink color floods his cheeks hotly.

Surprise comes over Louis, confusion still denting his brow. Oh, dear.

Harry promptly looks away, scratching at his hair, hiding his face behind his arm. Jenny starts laughing darkly as she stands up.

“Where are you going?” Niall asks.

“I’m getting some ice for those burns on Harry’s cheeks.”

They laugh for what seems like a century. Louis doesn’t join in. He doesn’t feel all there, removed. His head is playing tricks on him. That day in Paris is years ago now. He hasn’t thought about it in a long time, how the fuck did that just white out his brain?

No. Harry is not that boy. It’d be too much of a coincidence. Harry is not that boy.

Louis leans back on the bed, arms crossing. Jenny comes back with the ice, and Harry rolls his eyes, embarrassed, and Niall laughs. She mushes the melting ice to his cheeks, making them glisten with water, eventually having him giggle adorably despite himself.

Louis supposes later that the kiss did serve its purpose, but maybe a little too well. Harry doesn’t meet Louis’ eyes properly for the remainder of the flight.

 

Seattle 2.0

They get off the plane at ten-thirty, the sun on its way down as they get out. They walk the short way to the building, Harry keeping his distance and letting Jenny and Niall stroll between them. It feels a little strange, but Louis doesn’t comment.

“Want to get some dinner?” Jenny asks.

“I’m knackered, Archie,” he sighs. “Just gonna head in, I think.”

“I’ll just get some room service,” Niall says. “Sorry, babe.”

“Harry? Dinner?”

Louis sees him look up, blinking vividly as if he’d been deep in thoughts. “Oh. Yeah. Sure. I’m starving.”

Louis and Niall head to the airport hotel, the same building next to the airport as the others slept in last time. They check in, hiking up to their own rooms. Louis sends a text to the group chat, sharing his room number in case anybody (Archie) wants to come by before breakfast tomorrow. The flight is an early one, taking them back to Paris.

He knows he could be back at Alec’s, but when it’s an early flight it’s too time consuming going back and forth. To be completely honest, he is not in the mood either. Strangely. After the kiss and the moment of déjà vu, he’s had this odd feeling in his gut. It’s distracting.

He changes out of his suit, hanging the clothes on the chair by the small desk. He picks up his computer from his suitcase, the first time in almost five days he’s using it. He manages to distract himself from the befuddling thoughts, scrolling through Facebook and watching a couple of episodes of Homeland, before eventually falling asleep.

Someone knocks on the door to Louis’ hotel room at 00:14.

He groans and crawls out from beneath the covers, cursing whoever has got the courage to disrupt his sleep. Jenny is too smart to wake him up, and anyone else is a fool.

Leaning in the doorway, adorning a fresh smirk and a cinematic arch of one of his brows, is Harry. Louis should not be surprised.

“What in the bloody world are you doing here?” he asks, fatigue coloring his voice dark.

Harry blinks at him slowly a few times, eyes lingering, looking up from beneath his lashes. He is in a dark blue t-shirt, arms bulging where he has crossed them over his chest, shoulder against the wall. His hair is flopped over as usual, curls in ringlets around his heart-shaped face. When he finally speaks, his voice is soft, but clear.

“I’m sleepless… in Seattle.”

“Oh my god,” Louis whispers to himself. He turns around and stalks back to his bed, face-planting into his pillow again.

“What? It was a good one!” Harry complains, shoulders slumping as he follows him inside.

Louis curls his arms around the pillow, squeezing tightly. He wants to sleep. He wants to sleep so bad.

He hears Harry strolling toward the bed, feeling the dip when he sits on the edge of the other side. “Your room is nicer than mine. I should complain.”

Louis doesn’t answer.

“The sheets are softer, the light is better… Did you know constant bad lightning could affect your eyesight? I don’t want to have glasses. Not that it’s ugly to have glasses. You’d probably look gorgeous… Hey, you’ve got chocolate on your nightstand!”

“Seriously, Harry. Why are you here?” Louis asks, sighing heavily and turning around. The duvet twists awkwardly around his lower body, but he leaves it, leaning back on his elbows.

He meets Harry’s eyes, look dark and tired. Harry looks like he is about to say something that would annoy Louis, but his shoulders slump almost in resignation then, and he quietly looks down at his hands where he sits on the edge of the bed.

“Will you make fun of me?” he murmurs.

“No?” Louis says, brows knitting together in confusion. “Why?”

He shrugs. “I guess… I guess I kind of get lonely while I’m working. I mean, at first it was fine because I had my… erm, pals around. But as of late… I just. You know how it is, yeah?” He looks up, swallowing with almost a hint of desperation in his eyes.

Louis does know how it is. You don’t always have somewhere else than a hotel room to go to when you’re in a place far from home. Sometimes there’s just a lonely room and you. Harry has not known the crew for very long. It must be especially hard for him.

“Yeah,” Louis nods, biting his lip. He looks down at his own chest, the silence spreading in the room.

“Do you sometimes feel like you’re living a separate life from everybody else?” Harry asks after a while. “Like, we’re stuck up in the air looking down at the rest, and you feel like the connection to them is cut off? Like…”

“… like there’s Plexiglas between us?” Louis murmurs, tentatively finishing his sentence.

Harry looks up, meeting his eyes. “Yes,” he agrees softly.

It feels like this is a moment. One that should be remembered. For some reason.

Louis’ face softens considerably, chest feeling a bit warm as he looks at the younger boy. “You know, you act a lot more immature than you really are.”

Harry smiles down at his own hands, looking up with a close-lipped grin. His voice is tired and calm. “Nah. I just really like bothering you.”

Louis snorts, surprising himself by chuckling gently. Harry’s hair falls in ringlets around his sweet face as he grins down at his own lap, a hitching laugh leaving him.

It’s not until now that Louis recalls the kiss on the plane again. He wonders what happened to make Harry blush like that, or if maybe, Harry isn’t as confident or as sure of himself as he seems. He wonders what made him come here now.

“Why’re you here?” he asks kindly. “Why not Niall? Or Archie?”

Harry shrugs, lips pushed together almost like a pout, but not quite. He keeps his eyes cast down as he speaks lowly. “I don’t know. I guess, I think you’re nice. When we’re not bantering. Like, when we talk.”

There are only a handful of times this last week where they’ve had proper conversations, but somehow Louis understands. “Yeah. You’re nice too, babe.”

They’re quiet again, Louis biting his lip as he shifts on his elbows. Harry looks tired.

“Why did you switch to Panorama?” he asks, mostly because he knows Harry won’t spill. Not yet.

Harry gives him a large smile. “Nuh-uh. You tried, sir.”

Louis snorts, and the light in Harry’s eyes is back. “I’ll get there, baby.”

They watch each other, both somewhat befuddled with this newfound friendship. They can talk, like real friends. Louis likes it a lot.

“Listen,” he says kindly. “I really need a good sleep, but you can watch TV here, or something. If you’d like.”

The smile Harry gives him is gorgeous. This is when Louis officially quits being modest about his impeccable beauty. He is so obviously adorable, and so fucking charming. And Louis kissed that boy. Christ.

“Thanks.” Dimples.

Louis nods somewhat stiffly, turning over and burrowing into the pillow. The bed dips beside him, and the TV is turned on exceptionally lowly in the background. Louis falls asleep, and when he eventually wakes up in the morning every trace of Harry is gone, apart from a sticky-note on the pillow by his side.

Thanks for the lovely stay, sir.
-Baby ;)

Home base

The flight back to Paris is absolutely tedious. Louis and Jenny stay in the back room for most of the first half of the flight, letting Harry and Niall take care of the first shift. It’s an eleven-hour flight during daytime — extremely tiring hours as most of the passengers don’t sleep for long, assistance perpetually required. Louis sleeps for two hours after take off. There’s a woman on the flight that takes a liking to Niall, and Louis is quite happy not having to endure it.

Harry switches with Jenny about the time he wakes up, and they spend half an hour playing cards with a deck Louis has kept in his suitcase for at least two years. It doesn’t feel like it’s barely been a week since they’ve known each other. Time doesn’t properly exist in this world.

They land in Paris far too late, or early, really. It seems like the sun will be rising soon when they finally get off the aircraft, dragging themselves to the airport hotel at Charles de Gaulle.

“You okay?” Louis mumbles, drained of energy as he’s about to part from Harry outside their hotel rooms. They’re catching a flight home to England in only five hours.

Harry’s face softens. His eyes are droopy, squinting a little. “I’m good, Louis,” he says warmly. “Thanks, though,” he yawns.

Louis nods. It’s only a few hours until they’re back home for a couple of days. “Good,” he murmurs, then trudges down the hall toward his room.

Louis, Harry, and Archie catch the same commercial flight back to Heathrow. Niall is going back to Ireland, where his family lives. They’re off duty, flying as passengers for once. It always feels weird, but certainly relieving not having to do the work. The plane isn’t as nice as the first class aircrafts that the elite department flies, but it’s alright. After spending probably too long playfully criticizing the flight attendants with Harry, and pointing out situations where they themselves would have gone for the controversial ‘flirt’, they go back to sleep. It’s fun for a while, but fatigue is catching up with them. Louis falls asleep next to Harry, headphones plugged into his ears.

It’s almost noon when they land, Louis, disoriented, raising his head from Harry’s shoulder. The three of them stumble off the plane and through the jet bridge, heading directly for arrivals as they don’t have any luggage to pick up. They go through the mandatory checkpoints, before finally being free.

Jenny kisses their cheeks affectionately, before running off to where her friend is waiting with a car at another exit. Louis picks up his phone, checking messages as they walk.

Are you coming??
Seriously you need to share your schedule :/
You didn’t answer the invite I sent you, come on bro

Right. He groans. Shit.

“What?” Harry asks.

“My sister is having a party. I have to go if I’m home, or she’ll tear me apart, limb by limb.”

Harry chuckles. “I take it you’d rather sleep.”

Louis nods, sighing. “My family is a lot. I love them dearly, but there are too many of us. My sister’s boyfriend is a dick, too.”

“Sucks,” he says sympathetically. “However, I am heading to my mum’s to eat a truckload of homemade meals.” He smiles happily, Louis shaking his head at his content expression.

They reach the exit, walking through the doors and are instantly met with strong sunlight. They both wince, but head toward the taxis waiting by the curb. Harry takes the one in front of Louis’, the drivers stuffing their bags in the trunks of their respective cars.

“See you soon,” Harry exclaims cheerily, waving before climbing into his car.

Louis gives him a fatigued smile back, before entering his own vehicle. The driver inquires of the address. “Doncaster,” he says apologetically. “It’s a long drive, I’m sorry.”

The man hums, but doesn’t seem to mind. He starts the car, slowly swerving away from the curb. Louis can see Harry’s car leaving in the same direction in front of him. He closes his eyes, falling asleep before they’ve even left the area.

When he wakes up, there’s only about half an hour left until they arrive at the destination. His hair is ruffled from rubbing it against the leather where he is half lying in the back seat, eyes puffy from the irregular sleeping schedule he has kept this week.

The car stops outside Louis’ mum’s house at half past three. There are cars parked at the curb and two in the driveway, the party already been in full swing for a couple of hours now. He hands the driver his black card, and the man helps him take his suitcase from the trunk. Louis thanks him profusely before turning to face the house, steeling himself.

Christ. He can do this. He pinches his arm, squeezing his eyes shut for a limited moment. When he opens them, he sees a face poking out behind the curtains in the kitchen window. Daisy — one of the younger sisters.

He heads down the stone path, opening the door just as his sister comes into the hall. “Louis!” she wails, practically launching herself at him. He grins, hugging her tightly as she locks her arms around his waist. She and Phoebe are thirteen, but they still feel like babies when he gets to hug them like this.

Phoebe and his third sister Fizzy walk into the hallway just then, and they squeal delightedly. They join the hug instantly, squeezing Louis warmly. Guests seem to notice the spectacle, poking their heads into the hall. Louis’ mum comes out from the kitchen, Louis meeting her eyes from where he’s covered in sisters. Her smile almost breaks her face, eyes crinkling just like his do when he properly grins.

It wasn’t that long ago they saw each other last, but it always feels like years when he comes home to this house. He hasn’t lived here in almost six years.

She comes over, hugging him once the girls have let go. “Missed you, my baby.”

“Missed you, too, Mum.”

“You’re still in your work clothes… Where have you been?”

“Just came from L.A. Did a quick stop in Paris this morning.”

She smiles sympathetically, as if hearing about it is exhausting enough. “Oh, sweetie. Let’s get you something to eat, huh?”

Louis nods gratefully, letting her pull him into the kitchen, leaving his suitcase by the door. He nods at some guests he recalls meeting at one point or another on the way, a few people giving him recognizing looks and waves. He isn’t home much, and he probably should feel slightly more enthusiastic about seeing old mates, but he just isn’t. He could blame it on fatigue, but truthfully he simply doesn’t feel connected to them anymore. He tries not to think about the future, when he will inevitably have to come back here.

The kitchen counters and the table are filled with an impressive buffet. Louis moans loudly, not wasting a second to grab a plate, digging in. He overloads his large plate meanwhile his mother talks, cooing over him.

“You look older, honey,” she sighs. “I don’t understand how the time flies by so fast.”

“I saw you three weeks ago, Mum,” he says sweetly, kissing her cheek and trudging into the living room where most of the guests are mingling. There’s Dan, his mum’s husband, along with Louis’ grandpa and grandma. Then Phoebe and Daisy are sitting on the couch with a few people he doesn’t recognize, while he sees his eldest sister Lottie standing with a glass of sparkling water, chatting with her douchebag boyfriend and Fizzy.

He takes a deep breath, and walks over. Lottie looks up when he clears his throat, hand on his hip and the other balancing his plate of food. “Louis!” she exhales, leaning over and hugging him. Louis doesn’t like how grown up she seems. Even the hug is adult-like, all gentle patting of the back up and down, not holding too tight.

“Hey, sis. How are you?”

“Better now that you’re here to celebrate, too.”

Louis isn’t sure what it is they’re celebrating, but he nods as if he does. “Glad to see you, babe.”

Lottie pokes his shoulder playfully. “You’re still in you little outfit. You look handsome, but also like utter shit.”

Louis snorts. “Thanks, appreciate it.”

Her eyes widen, gesturing to the young man by her side. “Oh, Lou. You remember Ian, yeah?”

Louis was hoping they could neglect his presence completely, but apparently not. He half-heartedly tries to retain the grimace his face naturally shapes into, and turns to confront the man, extending his hand. “Hi, how’re you doing,” he says non-committedly.

The blond man with the partially slicked back do gives him a close-lipped smile, squeezing his hand unnecessarily tightly. “Louis. How does it feel to still poison the air we breathe?”

“Refreshing,” Louis deadpans. They squint at each other for a moment, until Lottie breaks the silence.

“Alright, get it out of the way so we can leave this nonsense behind us.”

Their mutual dislike of each other is fairly well known within Louis’ inner and extended family. Ian disapproves of Louis’ carbon dioxide discharging profession, and Louis disapproves of his disapproval of things in general. Louis is fairly sure his job isn’t the only lifestyle of his that Ian is opposed to. Be that as it may, he does not utter a word of it, as he knows his family and specifically his mother would be extremely disheartened if that statement were to be true.

Louis says nothing as always, simply grabs Fizzy’s hand and leads her away to an armchair to talk. Louis stuffs himself with food, his sister sneaking pieces from his plate while she talks. Apparently she isn’t too fond of Ian either, but they’re probably the only two in the whole family.

People come by, chatting him up happily. They always ask if he’s traveled anywhere exciting lately, if there have been any celebrities on his flights. It happens sometimes, but it’s not as if Louis is allowed to tell if there would be. When he started out as a flight attendant, he used to think it was fun to tell his relatives and friends of where he’d been, thinking he was living a cooler lifestyle than them. Not so much anymore.

He finds his mum after two hours, feeling like a bored teenager when he asks her quietly if it’s okay that he sneaks upstairs to sleep. She kisses his cheeks and sends him up instantly, carrying his suitcase for him.

He steals Fizzy’s room, peeling off his suit and slipping into a t-shirt and an old pair of sweats he finds in a box in her wardrobe. This room used to be his, once upon a time. He cuddles up under the duvet, back cracking, a pleasant feeling for once. Before he can close his eyes and fall asleep, his mobile buzzes twice on the nightstand. He groans, arm a hefty weight as he blindly reaches for it.

He squints at it.

Did you make it home? Survive the party? ;)

Louis frowns, thumb hovering over the screen for a minute.

Is this Harry? he writes tentatively. The answer comes instantly.

Yep! :D

Louis rolls his eyes.

How do you even have my number young one

Archie gave it to me. We had a heart to heart during dinner in seattle

Louis has no idea why she would do such a thing, but evidently she did it. He wonders why she thought it would be a good idea. His phone buzzes with another text.

What are you doing? :) x

X’s? Smiling emojis?

I’m trying to sleep

Now?? You can’t do that you’ll fuck up your sleeping schedule. We’ll be in Europe for most of the next two weeks STAY AWAKE SIR

Louis snorts at the spirited writing, but a shot of relief sifts through him. He knew the upcoming schedule would be sent today, but he hasn’t checked his emails yet. Europe. That’s nice.

I can’t. I need my sleep H

You need a distraction. Turn on the TV, a good film is on Sky Movies im watching right now :)

Louis groans, eyes finding the remote resting on the nightstand. The old TV was moved into Fizzy’s room about a year ago, now standing on the desk in the corner of the room. Louis is actually contemplating it. With a sigh, he reaches for the remote, flipping to the right channel.

The scene that is playing out is of a familiar girl in a cute dress, her hair brown and curly, helping a young man her age carry a pair of large melons. Louis almost laughs to himself. Dirty Dancing. He does not know why he is the least bit surprised.

Dirty dancing???? Really haha

Johnny and Baby <333 are you watching? There gonna dance in two seconds

I am watching

Just then the young man pushes the wooden doors open, letting the loud music out. Inside there are couples dancing naughtily, gyrating and pressing their crotches close, feeling each other up.

Not surprised you like this film, Louis writes.

Can you dance with me like that stud? :D xx

You wish baby

They end up texting throughout the entire movie. Harry naturally loves the scene where Baby learns to dance, Johnny trying to catch her each time she jumps. Louis remembers watching this movie the first time with his sisters, all of them cooing similarly to Harry. If Louis is completely honest, it’s rather adorable.

By the ending, Louis is curled around his pillow, blinking sleepily toward the TV screen while Baby and Johnny dance to ‘The Time of My Life’.

And I haaaad the time of my lifeeeeeeee

Are you singing along Harry

Are you kissing your hand, Harry writes back.

Louis snorts, looking up to the screen where Johnny and Baby are kissing.

I’m not an unkissed teenager, I have kissed people before

It takes several minutes before the answer comes.

I know

Well. Yeah. Louis kissed Harry. It’s a strange memory to look back on. The kiss itself was sweet, but the memory has been overshadowed by the overwhelming déjà vu that hit him. He tries not to think about it, but now that Harry’s brought it up… He didn’t think he would do that, considering how he blushed afterward.

Was the kiss better or worse than this one in the movie

Well it was pretty cinematic… proper caught me of guard

Good or bad?

Louis would never ask such a thing face-to-face with Harry. It’d come out sarcastic, because the flirting has sort of become their thing, banter. Right now, over text, it doesn’t feel like banter. Harry answers after about a minute.

Did you enjoy kissing me then?

Ignoring the question then.

Why so curious ?

I want to get into your head. You’re very interesting

How interesting?

Idk...

Did YOU enjoy kissing me then?

You’ll never know

Louis shakes head to himself. That’s starting to become their catchphrase. It’s probably for the best that they stop now, though. This doesn’t feel entirely platonic.

Alright.... ttyl baby ;)

. . .

Louis spends the next couple of days with his family. Annoyingly, Lottie’s boyfriend is staying in the house for the time being as well, the two of them home from London for a bit. Louis ignores his presence completely, trying to get as much time in with his sisters and Mum as possible.

Harry continues to text him the following days. He sends random anecdotes about what he is doing during the day, often accompanied by emojis and X’s. He sounds cute solely in the way he writes, but the added emoticons make him seem further enthusiastic. They don’t mention the kiss again.

Louis takes the train back to Heathrow. His mum, Dan, and the twins leave him at the station, hugging him goodbye. He doesn’t know when he will have an extended break again, which makes his mother slightly more sentimental about his departure.

The train ride takes an hour or so less than the drive up did, and he arrives at the airport at seven. There are plenty of travelers arriving at this hour, and he has to press through multiple groups of people to make it through the airport on time. He goes through passport check and security, reading off his iPad where he wrote down his new schedule for the coming weeks.

He finds himself strangely excited to see Harry as he strolls toward the right gate. He is unsure of the nature of their relationship, and normally that would probably make someone at least a bit hesitant, but it only makes Louis eager. He’s curious to find out where they stand.

He walks quickly, and eventually finds himself at the right gate. Surprisingly, he is the first of the team to arrive. He settles down in one of the waiting chairs, slouching and crossing his ankles. He closes his eyes for a minute, breathing slowly.

“Hiya.”

The baritone voice is close, low, just by Louis’ ear. He starts, jerking away in surprise. He finds Harry by his side, grinning wildly, curls falling in ringlets. Louis shakes his head, but there is a small smile on his lips.

“Hello. Enjoying scaring me to death, Styles?”

Harry giggles. “All I did was greet you.”

“Sneaking up on me,” Louis mutters. He slouches again, head falling back against the wall behind him. Harry crosses his legs, lacing his hands in his lap. Louis regards him from the corner of his eye. “You look… nice.” He looks different, less… He’s calmer? Happier?

“Why, thank you,” he smirks.

Louis guesses the two days at home did him good. He looks good.

“Did you eat a lot of home cooked meals?”

“Yep,” Harry smiles contentedly.

“Sleep well?”

“Yep. You?”

“Mm-hmm.”

They’re silent, and Louis thinks Harry is thinking about the same thing as him. He clears his throat awkwardly, biting his lip as he braces himself. His voice sounds strange to his own ears when he speaks.

“Should we talk about us talking about the… kiss?” He barely dares looking at Harry, but he thinks his cheeks look warmer.

“We don’t need to,” Harry says weakly.

Louis nods, but… He doesn’t even remember if Harry kissed him back that time.

“Was it… okay? That I did that?” he wonders quietly.

Harry nods slowly. “…Yeah.”

“Did you… like, kiss me back?”

Harry snorts, chuckling lowly by Louis’ side. Louis doesn’t dare looking at him properly. “You don’t remember?”

Well, no. It was a fast kiss, and the stupid Paris memory whitened out his mind with the déjà vu moment. He can’t say that, though.

“What’s your point of view?”

Harry turns to him, and Louis forces himself to twist his torso to face him back. Harry’s forehead is wrinkled, but his lips are quirked into a small smile. “You kissed me, that is all we need to remember.”

“You’ve been all over me, though,” Louis mutters.

“And yet, you’re the one who went for it. Gave in to the heat. Let your knees buckle…”

“I regret having this conversation, Harry.” Louis presses the side of his index finger to his temple, letting the rest of his hand keep his face out of Harry’s view.

Harry chuckles, but it’s a nice chuckle. “Alright.”

There are sounds of shoes moving against the floor, making them both look up. Niall and Archie are walking toward them, suitcases rolling against the floor.

“Hi! Did you miss me?” Archie grins, kissing their cheeks. Niall proceeds to do the same, making them laugh. The two of them settle down in chairs on the opposite side of Louis and Harry, Niall instantly launching into a story about a pub brawl he witnessed the previous night. His stories are always vivid and seem slightly exaggerated, but Louis and the rest are hooked.

Somewhere in the middle of the story, when they’re all laughing loudly, Harry leans into his side. Louis can feel him smiling against his ear.

“I kissed you back.”

 

Europe

The next few weeks seem to pass by in a dangerous speed. One moment they’re in Rome, sipping coffees and eating gelato, and the next they’re in Barcelona, swimming in the ocean for the first time in months. Then all of a sudden they’re in Norway for about three hours, until the next flight is heading to Scotland.

During these weeks, Harry seems to make a habit of staying late in Louis’ room. They don’t always talk, but Harry reads, watches TV, and fucks around on his computer. Most mornings after falling asleep with Harry sitting by his side in bed, he wakes up alone, Harry leaving each night before he completely clocks out. Some particular days, though, Louis wakes to a head of curls poking out from the sheets by his side.

The more time they spend together, the more Louis understands how Harry functions as a person. He despises being alone, can’t quite cope with it. Not having anyone to talk to, as in really talk to, makes him stiff and fidgety, quiet. He needs someone to vent to, and to let out his inner thoughts. Sharing a short conversation about something important can lift his mood for days. He needs a go-to person, because phone calls to his friends and family aren’t enough. They can’t sit with him, squeeze his shoulder, tug on his curls, or even give him a hug. He needs a supportive, physical presence. Louis realizes that he has become this person for Harry.

The nature of their friendship is at the core mostly the same. They banter, make fun of each other, and yes, flirt, but that’s okay. They’re not taking it any further than that. That’s also okay. They are good friends, and they are there for each other. Jenny used to be Louis’ best friend on the job, and of course she very much still keeps that status, but… despite how little they share of their past, he and Harry are close. It’s got nothing to do with how much they know about each other — it’s a connection.

As much as Louis misses having Leigh-Anne on the flying team, he can’t bring himself to wish she were back. He doesn’t. He likes having Harry with them, and not solely for personal reasons. He’s a good flight attendant. He is professional, he knows how to communicate, is good at interacting with passengers, perfectly calm when they get worried when there’s turbulence during flights, and he is so easy to work with. Sometimes they don’t even have to talk, Harry just knowing what Louis is about to say. It’s strange, but also weirdly thrilling. Louis has never had a connection like this with anyone.

Louis is still out of the know when it comes to the reasons for Harry’s split from GBIS, but he doesn’t pry. They haven’t known each other that long after all. Maybe it isn’t something deeply intriguing after all. Perhaps he knew about the job opportunity and Panorama simply pays better. Probably. Harry is just being mysterious for shits and giggles.

It’s been exactly a month since Harry joined the team on a day they’re in Milan. Louis isn’t sure if Harry remembers, but he gets a table at a nice restaurant, telling the group to meet him in the lobby of their hotel at seven-thirty, and to look nice.

He is the first one down, dressed in a black blazer, a white scoop neck underneath, along with black jeans and dress shoes. They’re the same as he wears to work, but without the navy suit you couldn’t tell.

Jenny comes down second, dressed in a wine colored, long-sleeved dress. It’s tight fitting, ends at the middle of her thighs, legs in black, thin pantyhose. Her dark curls are wild and long, falling over her shoulder on one side.

“You look gorgeous!” Louis greets her, calling as she walks out of the lift, making her way toward him. He stands, hugging her around the waist. “Are you looking to pull, or what?” he laughs.

“The Italian girls are pretty, what can I say?” she grins.

Harry comes down next, and Louis’ smile brightens instantly. Harry is gorgeous, and somehow, somehow, sexy too. He is in dark trousers, black boots, and wearing a creamy, silky shirt, halfway buttoned and revealing a clean, polished chest. His curls are freely bouncing as he walks, smile widening as he sees Louis and Archie in the lobby.

He comes over, hugging Archie and whistling in appreciation. He complements her dearly, kissing her cheeks for good measure. He turns to face Louis, tilting his head to the side.

Louis rolls his eyes. “Don’t I get a compliment?”

Harry giggles, and surprises Louis by leaning in to hug him around his neck for a quick moment. “You look so good,” he grins cheekily, murmuring the words, his face close to Louis’. “I’ll lick your collarbones if you want.”

Louis snorts as Harry breaks the hug, letting his arms fall to his sides. “You’re ridiculous.”

“You love it.”

Niall arrives to the lobby, only five minutes late. He’s in blue jeans and white sneakers, a white button down on his chest, hair in his usual quiff. They leave, strolling down the street, following Louis’ directions. He found the little restaurant on a solitary afternoon stroll the day before, and instantly fell in love with the place.

“Voila!” he says happily, gesturing toward the entrance with spirited motions. The three members of his crew coo in pleased surprise, entering and cooing more once they feel the cozy and completely soothing ambience.

Louis proudly leads them to the dinner host, asking for their table. She is dark haired with big brown eyes, and Louis pretends he doesn’t notice the way Jenny is ogling her. She leads them to their table in the corner of the restaurant, and Louis makes a show of pulling out Harry’s chair like a proper gentleman. Harry looks at him funnily, but grins and lets himself be treated as nicely as Louis wishes.

When they’re finally sitting with their dinner plates and glasses of wine in front of them, Louis raises his glass. “Let’s have a toast to the reason we are here tonight.”

“Why are we here again?” Archie frowns, looking around the table in confusion.

“Because,” Louis stands, glass in his hand, and stops behind Harry’s chair, hand on his shoulder, “it is exactly a month ago since little wee Harry here joined our wonderful crew at Panorama.”

Niall and Jenny break out into heartfelt awww’s, and Louis is fairly sure Harry’s cheeks are heating up. He squeezes his shoulder, thumb tapping the back of his neck.

“Harry,” he says, making him look up at him, angle slightly difficult as he is standing directly behind him, having him stare up with his big, green eyes. “We are so glad you’ve joined us, and we’ve had the best time with you so far. Happy anniversary, young one.”

He leans down and kisses his head of curls, another round of awww’s spreading around the table. Niall and Archie start patting and congratulating Harry on his first month with them, while Louis sits back down in his chair, grinning at Harry’s pink cheeks and bright smile. He looks happy. Good.

“Thank you,” he murmurs, eyes warm as he looks at them, lastly turning to Louis. “Thank you,” he whispers again, leaning over closely to his side. “You’re amazing.”

Louis averts his eyes after a small nod, cheeks warming, which surprises even himself. He is fairly sure it’s not enough to be noticeable, but he feels somewhat self-conscious nonetheless. Harry is still smiling brightly at him, eyes warm and soft, meanwhile Niall starts reiterating a story about one of the flights where Harry was particularly brilliant.

They dig into their food, clinking their wine glasses and sipping unceremoniously. The food is incredible, and the wine excellent. The crew is in a bright mood, laughing and talking loudly, but enough to disturb other guests. Louis lets his eyes wander to Harry more than he should, but he simply can’t look away from his gleeful dimples, happiness obvious in his eyes.

Archie’s phone makes a loud noise while a waiter serves them another bottle of wine. She is already sipping from her glass, eyes widening comically when she processes what the notification is. Her hand waves wildly, almost spluttering wine as she lowers her glass. She may have been drinking a little too much and little too fast. That goes for all of them.

“It’s our schedule!” she exclaims, excitedly tapping her phone.

“Ahh, I hope it’s like… Cape Town, or something,” Niall moans. “Or, like, Brazil.”

“I’ve never been to Brazil,” Harry hums. His chair is closer to Louis’ than it was before. “Have you?” he asks, focusing on Louis solely.

“Once,” he nods. “Didn’t get to do anything, though. I want to go again, and see Christ the Redeemer.”

“We could go together,” Harry says, eyes widening. “Pose like Rose and Jack in front of it?”

Louis grins, completely endeared by Harry’s tipsy enthusiasm. “Hmm, but who would be Rose and who would be Jack, though?”

Harry looks at him as if he is stupid, offended even. “I would be Rose. Obviously.”

Louis’ chest is swimming with fondness. “Obviously.”

Jenny suddenly squeals loudly. “Oh my god! Dubai! We’re going to Dubai!”

Niall breaks into a war cry, and the rest follow. They are being far too loud as Louis laughs, Harry cheering delightedly.

“After this we’ve got Portugal and Stockholm, but after! Then we’ve got Hong Kong! And South Korea… then Qatar before we’re in Germany. Then home for six days of break! Fuck this is fine!”

Those are good destinations. Summer, warm weather, some pool time… Ah, that’s good. Louis wants to moan out loud. Harry does. He leans back and moans, smile large on his stupid face. He grins as Louis shakes his head at him, impossibly unable to even roll his eyes.

The dinner continues with more wine and celebrations for their upcoming route. Dubai is the obvious favorite among the cities they will be visiting, all of them already yearning to be there. Louis has never visited the city before, but Archie and Harry apparently have. It seems they will get at least two days in the city before they’re shipped off elsewhere. He is pretty certain Jenny is too inebriated to recount the whole schedule, but it looks like a good next few weeks.

They arrive back at the hotel at eleven, having spent several hours at the restaurant. They’ve had a little bit much to drink, and decided they better quit while they’re ahead, as they have a flight the next morning.

Harry is staying on Louis’ floor, so while Niall and Archie get off on the floor beneath, the two of them remain in the lift. They’re both quiet, but the drunken grins on their faces don’t disappear. The doors open on their floor, and they step out and start strolling down the hall toward their rooms. Harry’s comes up first, both stopping outside his door.

Louis leans back on his heels, looking up at the other boy. He is smiling, dimples deep in his cheeks, and eyes in crescents as he grins. “Did you have a nice time?” Louis asks, attempting to talk properly. It comes out good.

“The best,” he murmurs, smiling down at his toes. He is too pretty. The prettiest boy of them all.

Louis waves his hand in the direction of his own room. “I guess I should… go. We’ve got a flight tomorrow, so…”

Harry nods, silence feeling strangely intense for a short moment. When Harry doesn’t speak, Louis takes a step down the hall. He doesn’t get far, because then Harry is grabbing his arm, pulling him toward himself. Louis finds himself with his nose in Harry’s hair, Harry burrowing into his body. His nose is pressed to Louis’ pulse point, and Louis can feel him inhale almost unnoticeably

“You’re so nice,” Harry whispers, breath warm. Louis represses a shiver. Harry stays put, snuggling impossibly closer. He smells sweet, cologne somewhat musky. “Thank you,” he continues. “You make me feel so at home. Thank you so much.”

“No problem,” Louis whispers back. He feels awkward saying it, but his hands are still hugged around his little waist. Harry’s head rests against Louis’ shoulder, and suddenly Louis finds himself rocking them, slowly side to side.

“You smell nice,” Harry whispers.

“You too.”

They stay close, swaying. Harry in his arms feels right. Comfortable. Good.

They pull apart eventually, Harry biting his lip as Louis takes a few steps back. He looks hard-set, yet nervous and soft as he leans in and presses his lips to Louis’ cheekbone.

As he walks down the corridor toward his room, Louis’ fingers brush the spot, something hot flooding over him, shooting through his stomach. Stupid, young, attractive newbies.

. . .

Lisbon is warm this time of year. It’s late April, so it’s not scorching, but it’s warm at the very least. Yet, Louis is in his room, trying to get some sleep. It’s early, only eight o’clock. He woke up just a few minutes ago, finding the spot beside him in bed empty. Harry must have left. Louis woke up a few hours earlier in the middle of the bed, and Harry was still sound asleep. He must have left only a while ago.

Louis blinks hazily, stretching his limbs, every bone in his body screaming in protest. Niall dragged him to the gym the day before, Harry coming along. While Niall was doing weights and Louis was on the indoor walking machine, Harry was giving them a proper show on the treadmill. He was only in sweats, acting properly camp as he twirled and twisted his hips. He looked adorable, laughing and running simultaneously. He was also sweaty, and incredibly toned.

There’s a fast knock on his door. Louis groans and rolls over, walking over to open it and then makes a beeline for his bed again before checking who is there. As it turns out, it’s Archie. She slumps down by his side, already dressed in her work attire.

“Hey,” she says, snuggling up behind him, spooning him. He can feel her shoe on his calf.

“Hi,” he murmurs back.

“I’ve missed you.”

“Me too.”

“It’s Harry’s fault,” Archie says quietly, but she doesn’t sound mad. “He’s made himself your baby.”

“My baby?” Louis scoffs into the pillow.

“Yes? He goes to you for everything, like he is expecting you to blow on his bruised elbow. I guess it’s kind of cute… He wants to be with you all the time. Like, he wants your attention… be your friend.” Louis stays quiet, swallowing. She hesitates. “You like it?”

Louis’ stomach feels funny.

“You do like it?” She sounds surprised, but also really not. “Huh.”

“What are you ‘huh’-ing about?” he mutters, trying to elbow her. She ignores his attempts, her arm soft around his waist, holding him close.

“He likes you…”

Louis squeezes his eyes shut. It’s… not that he doesn’t know. It’s that he doesn’t think about it. Doesn’t want to. Thing is, he isn’t sure if Harry is likes him as in ‘fuck me’, or if he actually does. Or. He’s pretty sure he does.

“Can we not?”

“Sure.”

He grips her hand over his chest, snuggling back against her. She smells nice.

“You’re still my bestie, Arch.”

“Me too, Tommo.”

 

Dubai

Dubai is fucking incredible. After two days break on home turf in England, they head straight for the UAE. As soon as they land, the overwhelming heat hit them at once, the air thick and warm.

“I’ve forgotten what proper warmth feels like,” Louis moans, inhaling deeply. He’s got a large suitcase with him this time, similar to the ones the rest of the team are dragging behind them.

“Fuck, I’m glad to be here!” Niall exclaims, pumping a fist in the air. “Let’s hit the hotel and go swimming right away! I need a tan!”

Louis laughs, cackling far too loudly at Niall’s enthusiasm. He’s excited, too, of course, but Niall’s never ceasing eagerness has never stopped amusing him. He finds Harry grinning at him when he quiets down, expression almost pulled into a smirk. Louis squints at him. Harry squints back. For some reason they keep staring at each other as they walk, up until the moment Harry stumbles, making Louis laugh harder. The boy blushes, but sticks his tongue out in his direction. Louis pinches his waist, making him jump away skittishly. He gives Louis a sly smile, while Louis dares him to come closer with an arch of his brow. He doesn’t.

For the two days they’re in Dubai, everything is heavenly. A dream.

Dubai is a quirky city, completely something else to what Louis has ever experienced. The skyscrapers along with the harbors, the ocean and the motorways are all breathtaking. Louis wants to revisit properly as soon as he can.

On the day of the arrival, they go to their hotel to get out of their suits and change into appropriate wear, before they hit the beach. The hotel has amazing service and wonderful pools along with a bar, but it’s been ages since any of them have been to a beach. They pay for sunbeds and lay down near the ocean, Louis and Harry racing into the water. (Louis wins. Always.)

Harry gets a burn on the first day. It’s not bad, but he claims he needs Louis to massage aloe vera on his chest when they’re up in Louis’ hotel room later that night.

“Why am I not surprised?” Louis says. “Why does it feel so typical that you should get a burn on the first day?”

Harry huffs. “We can’t all turn into gold as soon as the sun pokes out.” His eyes are lingering on Louis’ skin, which makes him shamelessly pleased.

“You should have put a shirt on when I told you.”

He pouts. “I didn’t want to be pale.”

“You’re not pale… you’re milky,” Louis smiles, handing him the bottle of soothing cream. “And now kind of shrimpy.”

Harry whines loudly, slumping back on the bed. He’s shirtless, because apparently wearing shirts hurt. Louis chuckles, partly on Harry’s expense, but he doesn’t truly think he minds.

“Do me?”

Louis snorts. “You wish.”

Harry grins, but shakes his head. “I meant as in help me get the aloe vera on.”

“You just want me to touch you,” Louis says dubiously.

“Yeah.” He shrugs, completely audacious.

Louis shakes his head. “Do it yourself.”

The next morning, Harry is still in his bed when he wakes up.

The following day passes in a similar manner. They eat a large breakfast at the hotel, before they make camp at the beach, swimming and tanning until they get hungry late in the afternoon. They go back to the hotel, where they eat a late lunch and go back to the pool. The day after that, they sleep extra long. The sun is wearing them out, and the swimming (and running for Harry and Jenny’s part, as they decided to go on a jog along the beach in scorching heat, the morons) has taken a toll on them. It’s late when Louis wakes up, a post-it stuck on his face.


In the shower.
Stop snoring for god’s sake.
-Baby ;)

Louis looks around the room, listening. The sound of water hitting tile is indeed audible, and he simultaneously wonders why Harry is taking a shower in his room, and why he thought a note would be necessary.

Harry comes out only a few minutes later, body soaked and hair dripping down his back and onto the floor. Louis watches a pearl slide down his side, disappearing into the white hotel towel tied around his waist. He should avert his eyes, but he doesn’t.

Harry looks up and smiles when he sees that Louis is up.

“Hey, sleepy,” he murmurs. “You’re awake.”

Louis rolls over, burying his face in the pillow. “I don’t snore.”

“Huh?”

“I don’t snore.”

“Can’t hear a word you’re saying.”

“I don’t snore!”

He hears muffled steps against the floor, coming closer to the bed. He feels the press of lips to his hair.

“I can’t hear a word you’re saying, because your mouth is stuffed with pillow, but your back looks very sexy.”

Louis waves a hand at him halfheartedly.

They go down to eat, finding Niall and Archie at a table, plates loaded with fruit and pancakes, and some things Louis isn’t certain what they are. Harry tries explaining what they’re made of, but he waves him away, which seems to genuinely hurt him. Louis doesn’t make the same mistake again. To make it up, he asks him to explain how he became a baker when he was young. Niall and Archie evidently wish he hadn’t, while Louis is too preoccupied smiling at Harry while he tells his (un)riveting story.

They go out to the pools after breakfast. Louis and Archie take on Niall and Harry for some water wrestling, Louis’ team obviously winning. After that they tan, order in drinks to sip on like movie stars. Louis and Archie pose for Instagram pictures, while Harry refuses to be in any sort of selfie. Louis isn’t sure if it’s an insecurity or a principle. In the end, Louis gets one picture to post. He presses their faces together and captures Harry’s gorgeous eyes perfectly in the sun.

“What are you staring at, sir?” Harry smirks.

“Nothing, baby.”

Niall and Archie want to take a trip into the city on their last night, but Louis and Harry end up spending the rest of the day together by the pool. It’s burning hot long into the afternoon, the sun relentless and never giving in, unlike back in England. They sip on fruity drinks, the next more extravagant than the previous. Harry gets more giggly the more he consumes, while Louis needs neither alcohol nor an affected mind to find it more endearing than he should. Nevertheless, he’s tipsy, and Harry is getting funnier and sexier by the minute.

He sprawls on the sunbed, arms above his head, laughing toward the still blue sky. Louis watches his tummy shake with each hitch of his precious laughter, finding himself snickering along. Harry rolls onto his side after a moment, leaning his head on his elbow. His eyes slide over Louis’ face until they reach his chin, then down his throat, along his chest... Down.

Louis is ninety-nine percent sure Harry genuinely wants to fuck him.

He scoots closer. His own hand moves without permission, embarking on foreign land — Harry’s skin. His fingers hesitantly, curiously, trail across his skin. He sees Harry’s eyes alighting on where their bodies connect, laughter dying out. Louis’ eyes remain trained on where his two fingers feather-lightly brush along the softest of skin. Up, up, the middle of his ribcage, between his pecs, right, right, down, nipple. Soft, puffy. Nipple.

Louis looks up, Harry’s eyes instantly meeting his. His mouth is ajar, eyes wide and expectant. Louis keeps their gazes interlocked, but even if he’d try to break it, he wouldn’t be able to. Large, green orbs hold him entirely captured. He is not certain how they got here, but he is thumbing Harry’s hardening nipple, watching him breathe harder.

“You’re touching me,” Harry exhales.

“I am,” he whispers back. His eyes trail to the touch, fascination overcoming him. He scoots ever so slightly closer, leaning in. Harry smells like coconut, his breath like sweet, fruity alcohol. Their sunbeds are close, both of them lying on the edges, only about seven inches separating their torsos.

Louis’ palm flattens out across Harry’s chest, pressing over his heart. He can feel it beat strongly, a little fast. He looks up again, meeting his eyes once more. “Nervous?” he murmurs, sincere.

Harry exhales shakily, swallowing. “Can I touch you?” he whispers, words not louder than a breath.

Louis nods, his palm sliding down Harry’s stomach and settling on his waist. Harry’s left hand reaches out, tentatively letting the tips of two index fingers press into the skin beneath Louis’ right collarbone. They sweep across his chest, to his left shoulder that’s pressed against the sunbed, back to the center of his chest. Louis swallows, watching the way Harry’s eyes are locked on the touch.

“I’m touching you,” he says.

“You are,” Louis confirms, chuckling lowly. Harry looks up, mouth suddenly shaping into a large grin, deep dimples appearing in his gorgeous face. He bursts into a drunken laugh, leaning in and giggling into Louis’ neck. Louis laughs, too, feeling Harry’s cheek pressed to his own. They stay like that, giggling and filled with zeal.

“We should head in,” Louis advises after a moment. “Your skin is going to burn even worse.”

“You’re taking care of me,” Harry teases.

“Someone’s got to,” he retorts, arching a brow. Harry’s expression changes into something unperceivable, but it disappears after only a second.

They leave the towels by the beds, stumbling inside through the lobby. As they press the button, waiting for the elevator, Louis turns to face Harry who comes to stand in front of him, facing the lift.

“You have soft skin,” he says dopily, large hands landing on Louis’ naked shoulders. He giggles, alcohol sweet on his breath as he leans in, face only inches away. He arches into him, naked stomach pressing into Louis’ own. He is slightly taller than him, but not by much. His lips are an inch above Louis’.

“D’you like it?” Louis asks, lifting a playful brow.

Harry’s cheeks are pink, but he keeps close, hands stroking Louis’ shoulders, sliding up to cup his neck. Louis feels drunk, and Harry’s lips are plump, and he remembers what it’s like kissing him.

The doors to the lift open, a bell-like sound ringing with it. Harry giggles, grinning so hard the dimples might become a permanent fixture on his handsome face. Louis smiles back, stumbling slightly as he backs into the lift. Harry follows, staying close, never leaving more than a few inches between their torsos. Behind them the doors close, Harry reaching back and pressing number seven on the buttons. He faces Louis, who leans back against the wall.

Harry plants his forearm against it, slightly above his head, hovering over him. Louis meets his eyes, blinking slowly. He must be truly drunk because he starts thinking in motions.

Hard kiss. They part. Kiss. Part. Kiss. Part. Long kiss. Suuuuper long kiss. Tongue.

Louis pushes at Harry’s chest until the other man’s back hits the elevator doors. He keeps his hands on his hips, Harry’s hands cradling Louis’ head as he lets himself be kissed hotly, hungrily. Harry moans softly, breathing through his nose as Louis tugs at his hips, pressing their lower bodies close.

It feels good. He wants this. He wants to feel Harry against his own body, have his plump lips on his own, have him to himself for a bit. It doesn’t feel strange. When he pushes his thigh in between Harry’s, the boy groaning into his mouth, it doesn’t feel monumental. It fits right now. It’s just something they’re doing.

The lift doors make a sound, having them stumble out into the hallway when they slide away. Harry huffs a laugh, and Louis grins into his mouth. He has a firm grip around Harry’s waist, the taller boy somewhat leaning back in his arms.

Harry inches his chin forward, lips a whisper from Louis’. “Thrill me.” His eyes form into crescents. They laugh quietly to each other. Louis kisses him.

The quick stumble into Louis’ hotel room seems to happen in a matter of seconds, and then all of a sudden they’re together on the bed, chasing kisses and touches. Harry straddles Louis’ hips, lips sucking kisses from his mouth, parting with slick sounds that make Louis’ body shake with electricity shooting up his spine. His hands slide down Harry’s back when the boy burrows into his neck, breathing hotly. His pert, hot, squirming body is against Louis’, while his curls brush his lips, smelling like pool and summer.

He pushes Harry’s bathing trunks down, his cock springing free and pressing against Louis’ torso. Harry exhales loudly, fingers tightening on Louis’ skin, nails digging into his flesh. Louis fuzzily can see only curls and neck, can feel only skin, and smell only Harry. He grips his body firmly and rolls them over on the bed, grinding his hips down into Harry’s and pressing his own erection to his. It’s heavenly. He didn’t know how much he’s been dying for this moment to happen until now.

Louis leans back, gripping Harry’s trunks and pulling them all the way off his long, long legs. Harry breathes rapidly, chest heaving unevenly. It makes Louis fumble with his own pants, shoving them down his knees, kicking them off.

“Lube,” Harry whines. Louis’ eyes alight on the suitcase by the side of the bed, and he bends down, digging for the bottle in his vanity bag. He grabs a condom, tossing the objects on the bed next to Harry. Their eyes meet for a second, their chests heaving. They’re doing this.

Harry pulls on his arm, having him fall into him. He brings him close, crushing their torsos together, hands digging into Louis’ hair. Louis leans over the other boy, fingers fumbling over his body, palms flatly touching his sides, his thighs, his pelvis. His hand reaches for the lube, quickly smearing more than enough on his fingers, struggling somewhat due to Harry tugging at his body.

He is touching Louis everywhere — squeezing, feeling, stroking, holding. He whines when Louis’ cold fingers touch him between his legs, lifting his own hips from Harry’s and pushing just slightly at his thigh to stroke a lubricated thumb over his puckered, hairless hole. Louis faintly wonders if he likes keeping himself neatly plucked and trimmed, as he doesn’t have much hair beneath his armpits either. Maybe it’s just a Harry thing.

He slowly presses his index finger inside the other boy, hearing him gasp softly. Louis presses a kiss to his jaw, starting to move his finger in and out. Harry’s hands grip Louis’ hair once more, clenching tightly when Louis eventually adds a second finger. He looks unlawfully pretty, mouth open in silent gasps, lungs labored and working unevenly against Louis’.

He is warm and tight, probably hasn’t had sex for a while, but he is wonderfully responsive, obviously loving every touch of Louis’ hands. Louis is unbelievable hard, impatiently longing to bury himself inside Harry’s fit little body. Every sound the other boy makes, has him squirming, yearning filling every piece of him.

He works him open, Harry moaning breathlessly into his neck. He is pressing three fingers to Harry’s warm walls when he claims he is ready, reaching for the condom. He pushes it at Louis’ shoulder, silently begging him to take it. Louis waits only a moment, meeting Harry’s glassy eyes. Slowly, he drags his finger over the small bud inside him, Harry’s mouth falling open, his back involuntarily arching. He gasps, inhaling loudly, nails digging painfully into Louis’ skin.

“Please,” he whimpers, condom wrapper chafing against Louis’ skin where Harry is pushing it to him. Louis finally takes it, pulling apart from Harry’s writhing body to have room to put it own. His cock is heavy and standing, slightly less lengthy than Harry’s, but thicker. Harry looks at it like it’s water in a desert.

“I wanna,” he whines, taking the unwrapped condom from Louis’s fingers. He takes Louis’ cock in his hand, jerking him slowly up and down twice. The pressure is just right, squeezing at the base and gentler at the tip. Harry rubs his thumb over the slit, precome smearing the head, and Louis’ hand clenches in the sheets by his waist. Harry treads the condom on, giving him a few more rubs. Louis takes the bottle of lube, pouring some into his hand to coat his dick, and then a little more that he presses into Harry’s hole, making sure he is properly wet.

Harry whimpers, pulling him closer by his arms. He pulls his legs up, bending them slightly and gripping Louis’ hair between his fingers. He wants him impossibly close, making Louis feel just as needy. He lines himself up, one hand at the base, the other holding Harry’s waist securely. He feels him burrow into his neck.

“Don’t be gentle,” he murmurs into his skin. In this moment, Louis wouldn’t deny him much of anything.

Louis pushes inside in one movement, filling him up to the limit. Harry whimpers, thighs tightening around Louis’ hips. His breath sounds like sobs, but he only holds Louis tightly to himself, not showing any sign of letting go.

Louis slowly moves out, right arm resting by Harry’s shoulder, the other still holding his hip in place. He pushes inside once more, this time not staying long until he starts to move in and out, faster. Louis fucks him thoroughly, every second heavenly. For every moment that passes, Louis loves it more. He loves the feeling of Harry’s body under his, the way his hands tighten on his back each time he thrusts inside, and the way his breath escapes him each time he bottoms out. They fit so well, they do this so well.

He can feel Harry’s hard cock brush against his stomach as he moves, and his tight warmth around his cock when he fucks him. Harry isn’t too loud, mostly whimpers and moans occasionally when Louis drives into him deeply. The sounds he releases has thrilling shots shoot through Louis’ stomach, and he can’t get over how responsive and pliantly soft Harry is, clinging at him tightly. He doesn’t want him to stop.

Eventually they come to a close, heat pooling in their stomachs, balls drawing closer and muscles tensing.

“Closer,” Harry whispers into his neck. Louis stills, their chests heaving against one another, breaths labored, breathing into each other’s skin. Louis complies and presses closer, hands cupping Harry’s cheeks. He meets his eyes, finding his pupils blown, the whites glassy, wide. He slowly draws his hips back and then pushes inside, hard and deep. Harry looks positively gone.

He fucks into him again in the same manner, just as close, just as hard. Harry’s hands clasp helplessly at his shoulders as he moans brokenly, legs jerking with his deep thrusts. Harry feels better than anyone. There’s no one who’s ever made Louis feel this way, doing this.

Harry comes first with two jerks of Louis’ hand, white warm come smearing his stomach, all the way up to his pecs. Louis buries himself in him one more time, and follows over the edge. He groans, mouth an inch from Harry’s, their lips wet, raw, pink.

Harry hugs him close, arms wound around his neck. “Stay,” he murmurs, telling Louis not to pull out. Louis presses his forehead to the pillow by Harry’s side, breathing hotly. They let their breaths calm, but it’s impossible for Louis’ heart to stop beating harshly. He feels good. This feels good.

He forces himself to pull away, removing himself from Harry before it turns uncomfortable. Harry’s come is sticky against his chest, but he doesn’t care. He sits back, pulling off the condom and disposing of it in the nearest bin. Harry is lying naked on his back in the middle of the bed, eyes closed, body spent. He opens his eyes when Louis lies down by his side, pulling at the covers.

“Let’s sleep,” he murmurs.

Harry’s eyes are green, lingering on Louis’ face. “It’s not even nine,” he whispers throatily.

Louis drapes the covers over both of them, pulling Harry close. “Let’s sleep.”

“Okay.”

. . .

The airport was in a state of chaos. Louis had taken the liberty of calling loads of situations chaotic through his twenty-one years, but he had never experienced it like this — actual, legitimate chaos.

Strike. Paris. 2011.

The last four days had been the same. Airline employees, flight attendants, and pilots had gone on strike four days previous, but today drastic measures had been taken. They were all standing in a crowd at Charles de Gaulle airport, surrounding the fountain and filling every inch of the large entrance. They were screaming, yelling, chanting, and protesting. Their last five months had been shit. Everything was shit. Utter fucking shit. Where were the hours of rest? Where was the compensation for the hours and hours of overwork? The pension schemes? Where were their rights?

No airline had ever seen such a wild strike orchestrated by employees. The airport was almost out of complete function. Customers were sent home, asked to try another day when a flight perhaps would be going through, but were left with no promises.

Louis, only twenty-one years old at the time, was on fire. He was shouting, standing on the edge of the large fountain, a sea of angered employees beneath him. The turned off escalators were flooded with people, the second floor above just as overpopulated. Louis was yelling, employees were yelling. Louis was not quite sure where at, but they were angry and demanding. This was not a London underground strike — lasting for a day and then the next it was back to work — no, this was bigger, better. They would get their raises. Their demands would be met.

“Fuck your slavery!” Louis yelled from his position on the edge of the fountain, his words happening to catch a rare moment of silence around him, having a plethora of eyes turn to him. He was already making a spectacle, but now people repeated his words, yells turning into another level of furious.

They were tired. So fucking tired.

After several more hours, people were beginning to feel weary. Louis hadn’t eaten since six that morning, and his stomach was growling angrily. These days had been draining. The worry, the hope, the frustration — all of it. It was spinning in his head. He was tired. But he was more tired of working like he had these last months.

A half hour later, something finally happened. Security was making room up on the second floor, putting up restricting tapes and making sure protesters were kept at a safe distance. Confused chatter erupted between the employees, everybody loudly wondering what was going on. Were they finally going to hear from the heads of the company?

They would have to speak up eventually. Canally Airways didn’t have the ability at this time to shove this under the rug. They would have to do something if they didn’t want to risk their staff leaving. Louis’ uncle worked for another airline company. He perhaps had a way out, if this didn’t go their way. Truthfully, he might have gone anyway, if he could, but not until this was over.

Eventually a man, followed by a group of suit-clad, minion looking men, came into view up on the second floor. A few security guards were standing in a circle around the executives of the airway company, not managing to look half as intimidating as they attempted.

“Hello, dear employees of Canally Airways,” the man said through the loudhailer. Whistles and boos echoed through the room, but soon settled when the man started speaking again. Louis was sure it was one of the dickheads responsible for their misery. “We have discussed your demands for many hours now. It’s truly heartbreaking…” He babbled on for several minutes, minions behind him looking unsettlingly somber. Finally, he came to a close. “We have come to a decision…”

The room was silent, eerily so. Louis’ eyes flickered, throat feeling dry, and suddenly met the green eyes of someone he didn’t know, questions in their eyes. It was a young man, standing beneath him on the floor. He looked worried, just like the rest of them. Nobody dared speaking a word, hearts pounding like fists against their ribcages.

The man finished. “And we have decided to meet you halfway.”

Oh.

Oh, fuck.

The hall erupted in victorious, disbelieving yells. The suits left, but nobody paid any mind. More information would come. People were cheering, laughing, crying. Louis could barely dare to believe it. They did it. They won.

He yelled, practically falling down from the fountain, not knowing what to do with himself. He jumped up and down, fists in the air, laughing as someone he couldn’t see pounded him on the back. Someone else hugged him, nobody shy. It was absolutely incredible what a brotherhood he felt to the people surrounding him, people he had never seen in his life before. But they did this. They did it.

They boy with the green eyes was suddenly there, right in front of him. He was grinning, dimples popping in his cheeks as he laughed, the pure look of happiness and relief so evident in his eyes. Looking at him, Louis’ body felt light. He felt ecstatic.

Without thinking, he stepped toward him, hands cupping his cherubic cheeks. He pressed his lips to his, kiss hot and fierce. It was simply something that felt so right, appropriate even. He didn’t know why, but as they smiled, filled with happiness, there was nothing else to do. With eyes closed, Louis felt the other boy kiss him back. Soft, soft lips, tongue playful and wet, tasting sweet. He could feel this somewhat younger boy smile against him, Louis’ thumbs brushing his deep dimples.

It was so right. Louis was happy for this boy, like he was happy for everyone else. He was happy for all of the people surrounding them.

The kiss was long, and happy. Louis’ arms slipped down to the boy’s waist, squeezing him tightly and spinning them around, making him laugh against his mouth. Louis chuckled, and kissed him again.

Louis eventually let him go. The boy smiled like nobody else had ever smiled at him.

But.

There was a loud shout to Louis’ right, both their head twisting that way. Someone shoved him in the shoulder by accident, making him stumble away. It took him several moments to find his balance, and when he was stood upright and looked back, the green-eyed boy he kissed was gone.

. . .

In hindsight it feels rather movie-esque how Louis wakes up that morning in Dubai, opening his eyes and remembering clearly. It’s him. Of course it is. Harry is that boy. How can that be, but simultaneously, how can it not be so? It makes sense.

It was three and a half years ago, and during the course of these years, he admits, he hasn’t spent much time thinking about that day. Not until Harry stumbled back into his life — Harry who looked at him strangely as they talked that first day on the way to meet the crew, Harry who inquired about Paris, and Harry who worked for Canally Airways. Harry, who Louis kissed and déjà vu flooded to his mind like a lightning flashing sharply through his head.

They were together last night. Louis can still feel Harry’s smell around him, in the sheets, on his own skin. His lips are still plump and chapped from the hot kisses, his back feels sore from Harry tearing at him, and there’s a small bruise on his collarbone. He probes at it. It aches.

Harry is gone, just like he always is in the morning when Louis wakes up. Only last night they were closer than they’ve ever been before. He doesn’t know how it happened. Maybe it just did. Maybe it was bound to.

He leaves the bed and heads into the bathroom. The tile floor is dry, no sign of Harry spending any time in here this morning. Louis turns the shower on, letting the lukewarm water wash away old sweat, come, and Harry’s smell from his body. He pokes at the splatters of crust on his hip, a strange fascination swelling inside him. Harry’s come.

They’re leaving Dubai today, moving onto Hong Kong and South Korea. They’ll be back in Europe at the blink of an eye. Everything seems to flash by far too quickly, yet these days in Dubai have seemed to be monumental.

He washes himself clean of the soap and shampoo, drying himself off with a towel in the bathroom before going through is usual morning routine. The work attire covers all evidence from the previous night, apart from his kiss bitten lips.

He’ll see Harry in a few minutes down in the lobby. There’s a throb in his chest, but he keeps the thoughts at bay. Don’t worry, he thinks, even though his heart is beating in hefty pounds. He wonders how Harry will act. He wonders where they stand.

He packs his suitcase before taking the lift down to the lobby, leaving his bag next to Jenny’s, which he finds placed by the reception. He finds her in the dining hall, sitting lonesome at a table for four, engrossed in a book as she blindly puts a spoon of yoghurt to her mouth. Louis heads for the buffet, grabbing a tray. He picks up a plate that he loads with scrambled eggs, bacon and American pancakes. He almost moans as he sees the hash browns and sausages, grabbing another plate to fit it all onto his tray.

“Good morning.”

Louis almost drops the cup of coffee he just fetched. “Morning,” he retorts, swallowing as he looks up to his right. Harry looks proper in his suit, not a hair out of place. His eyes are on the fruit in front of him, though, not meeting Louis’ eyes.

“Sleep well?”

Louis frowns. “Yes… You?”

“Very good.” Harry looks up for the first time, smiling one of his normal, casual smiles. Then he leaves and heads toward the table Jenny is occupying. Louis stares after him, dumbfounded.

Okay.

He slowly trails to the table, tentatively sitting down next to Jenny, opposite from Harry. Jenny is completely absorbed by her book, not making conversation. Louis is unsure of what to say. He does want to talk to Harry about what happened, as it meant something important him — he admits that — but Harry seems completely unconcerned. Should Louis be worried?

They eat in silence. Niall comes down while Harry is fetching another cup of coffee, sitting for a moment before grabbing himself something to eat.

“You look weird.”

“Hm?” Louis reluctantly looks up.

“You look weird.”

“No, I don’t.”

Niall shrugs. “Whatever you say. You look weird.” He stands and leaves.

The rest of the morning continues in the same awkward manner. Harry is normal, chatty, although he isn’t hanging over Louis as he would on any other day. Louis tries to seem unbothered, but he can’t help the uneasy swirl in his stomach.

The car ride to the airport is quick. Harry is talking vividly with Niall about coming back here for a proper vacation. Louis tries not to watch him, but it’s impossible. His skin has lost the reddish shine, and has now begun to edge slightly more toward brown. His hair looks soft, extra curly as if it’s doing it solely to poke at Louis’ heart. While he talks, Harry’s lips move slowly, red cushions entirely luscious.

Luscious lips. Who describes someone like that?

Louis probes at the bruise hiding under his shirt.

“You okay?” Jenny wonders.

“M’fine. Just tired,” he smiles, trying to look honest. She looks skeptical, but doesn’t comment. She knows he doesn’t like it.

They don’t spend much time in the airport. They get driven out to the aircraft subsequently to arriving. Louis occupies himself with checking the cabinets and liquor, trying not to dwell on the situation at hand.

“Who’s in the front with me then?” Louis asks when the four of them are gathered in the secluded area at the front. For the first time, Harry’s eyes properly meet his. Harry is almost always at the front entrance with him.

“Uh, me?” he says.

Louis nods, looking away. “Alright,” he says, voice soft. “Let’s go.”

Boarding is only a couple of minutes away, and Niall and Jenny head to the rear. Louis bites his lip, resisting the urge to roll his eyes at himself. Pathetic.

Harry sidles up with him by the front entrance, arm brushing Louis’ slightly. As they wait, he moves his arm back and forth, each time brushing Louis’ ever so slightly. They’re not talking. It’s weird. Their relationship turning awkward is the last thing Louis wanted.

“Good morning, miss.”

“Have a nice flight with us, sir.”

“Hello. Welcome aboard, ma’am.”

Harry bumps his elbow, harder this time. It’s intentional, pointed. Louis can’t do anything else but bump him back. It still feels strange. Louis tries to keep an even expression, but he’s always been an open book.

“Morning, ma’am. Have a safe trip.”

When all of the passengers have boarded the plane, Harry instantly goes to help them at their seats. Louis doesn’t know if he is being unnecessarily worried or not. Does Harry always start working so fast? Does he usually talk with Louis for a bit first, or? His head is too fuzzy to know.

Louis’ stomach feels queasy as he makes his way down the aisle. “Do you need some assistance, miss?”

 

Hong Kong

The rest of the flight was the same. Harry talked to Louis, but there was a noticeable difference. He didn’t flirt, he didn’t make cheeky remarks, and he didn’t stray off topic and onto something filthy. Of course, after their weeks of friendship, he doesn’t always speak of such things, but yet there was an evident loss of something in the conversations. Jenny and Niall didn’t remark on it, but Louis wonders if they did notice it, too.

They land in Hong Kong late, heading directly to the airport hotel, a building next to the actual airport. Louis wonders what Harry will do. Will he come to Louis’ room? Will they keep what happened a one-time thing? Will he talk to him? Louis isn’t sure what he wants. (Yes, he is.)

Harry leaves the lift on the same floor as Niall without so much as a look in Louis’ direction. It stings, a little (a lot). Louis continues two floors with Archie, and they part upstairs and head to their own rooms, Louis quickly ridding himself of the suit. He’s tired, flying west for some reason always seeming particularly rough. Waking up in the mornings always seem like toughest of tasks due to the heavy jet lag.

He ignores the turmoil of worry in his gut that hasn’t yet subsided, thoughts wandering in directions he wants to keep far away from. What if it won’t be the same? What if Harry stops coming to him? They have fun on the job, but Louis’ favorite parts of being friends with Harry is the hotel room moments. He didn’t even look at him. Louis sighs into his pillow. They don’t even do anything during hotel-moments. They just talk. Just sit there on the bed and just are.

He hasn’t even managed to fall asleep when it’s one o’clock, current time zone. If it’s Niall, drunk on mini bottles and requesting they go out, Louis will murder.

He opens the door, but he can barely get a clear picture of the person at the threshold before he is being pushed inside. He recognizes the touch of Harry’s hands, this time pressing at his chest. The door slides shut in the background, but all Louis is able to focus on is Harry’s lips, inches from his own.

“What are you doing?” he asks dumbly.

“What do you think?”

Louis’ heart beats like a drum, chest feeling seconds from exploding when Harry pushes their lips together, kissing him hungrily as he walks them to the edge of the bed. And it feels good. Louis is flooded with relief, relief, and so much relief. His heart pounds almost painfully hard, banging against his chest as he gets to feel Harry’s wet lips on his own.

Harry sits Louis down, surprisingly gracefully climbing into his lap and straddling him. Louis, who is wide awake now, fumbles with his hands, unsure where to hold and where to touch. He genuinely thought… He doesn’t know what he thought, but he didn’t want to lose what they have. His hands slip under Harry’s t-shirt to his waist, squeezing his soft sides. He is so gorgeous.

Harry presses himself impossibly close to Louis’ body, back arching, lips warm and hungry. He smells like shampoo and tastes like toothpaste.

“I didn’t think… I thought… You were so…” Louis tries to get out between kisses, hands tightening on Harry’s sides. The relief is overwhelming, but the only thing he can currently think about is Harry writhing in lap, cupping his face as he licks into his mouth. This is all Louis wants to feel.

Harry pushes him down, his back hitting the mattress with a small bounce. He leans over him, torsos aligning perfectly.

“Didn’t think you wanted them to know,” Harry murmurs, voice soft and sweet. He looks up, for the first time worried, clearly wondering if he made the wrong decision. Louis’ heart feels twice as big. “Was just trying to seem like nothing happened. I’m sorry, Lou.”

“You made me believe it. That’s just a little too good, don’t you think?” he huffs, but can’t refrain from smiling.

Harry’s eyes turn instantly warm, lips forming into a grin. His hands gently card through Louis’ hair, fingers sliding through the soft, brown strands. He hovers over him, not letting more than an inch separate their faces. Louis can feel his warmth all over, and he can see the affection in his eyes. “I like you,” he whispers, making Louis’ stomach drop. “So much.”

Louis inhales shakily, swallowing hard. “Do you?” he whispers back. The moment is reverent. So, so important.

He nods, slowly, slowly. “I really, really like you.” He places the lightest of kisses onto Louis’ unmoving lips. “Genuinely.” Another, barely a touch. “You feel the same, don’t you? Deep down?”

Louis feels himself nod. “Yes,” he whispers. “So much.”

Harry’s answering smile is the prettiest Louis has ever seen. His own eyes crinkle as he laughs quietly, Harry burying his nose in his neck. He presses a kiss there, but doesn’t keep kissing, simply stays there for a while as Louis hugs him around his waist. Their legs are tangled as they’ve scooted up on the bed, Harry’s thigh pressing to Louis’. It’s warm and comfortable, and Louis doesn’t want to let him go.

“You’re almost naked,” Harry murmurs, matter-of-factly.

“I am,” Louis agrees. He’s only in boxers, while Harry is in jeans and a t-shirt, no socks or shoes on his feet. He’s so fucking perfect.

“Can I stay here?” Harry whispers to his skin. “Just sleep.”

Louis’ eyes soften. “Of course,” he says quietly.

They shuffle silently on the bed, Harry shoving his jeans off and slipping under the covers. His hands reach for Louis under the duvet, and Louis curls around him, wrapping his arm around his waist. Harry tangles their feet, hand engulfing Louis’ wrist across his chest.

“Thanks for letting me stay, sir,” he mumbles into the pillow. His curls are brushing Louis’ nose.

“No problem, baby.”

 

Asia to Europe

The next two weeks are probably the best of Louis’ life.

When he wakes the morning after in Hong Kong, Harry is still in his arms, back pressed closely to his chest, fingers tangled. From then on, Harry stays every night in Louis’ room, and Louis wakes up every morning with him still there by his side.

They talk, but they talk better. Louis wants to know everything there is to know about Harry, and he asks him about everything. He learns more about his family, where he grew up, basic things like how he loves the color blue. Harry tells him everything, and in return asks everything back. They have sex, too, and Louis has slept with a fairly large quantity of people, but it has never been this intimate, this… romantic. Louis isn’t sure what is wrong with him, but everything about Harry makes him want to puke rainbows.

They are working on a flight that is departing from Bangkok and is headed for New Delhi. They only a have a few Asian locations left, before they’re going back to Europe, and eventually heading home for a long break. This route has been longer than usual, and rather draining despite having received up to two days break in between flights.

Harry is standing by Louis’ side as they greet passengers, bumping his arm, leaning into his side a little too much. Louis is keeping his hands tied firmly behind his back, keeping himself from touching Harry, something he finds it nearly impossible to refrain from.

When there is a pause in the flow of passengers, all of a sudden Louis can feel Harry’s lips brush the shell of his ear, sending shivers down across his skin.

He whispers, “I can still feel you from last night.”

“Oh my god,” Louis gasps, shoving him away from him as hard as he can. His cheeks are burning when he looks up at Harry, who his grinning so hard his dimples seem deeper than ever. “You have no shame!” he hisses, but his chest is blooming with affection.

Harry giggles, ignoring Louis’ mortified expression and stands beside him again as passengers trickle onto the plane once more. He bumps Louis’ elbow. Louis bumps back.

In the staff room, when Niall and Jenny are preoccupied serving passengers, Louis pushes Harry down on one of the beds, hands sliding down his chest to his belt. Harry breathes hotly, looking down with wide eyes at where Louis is fiddling with his belt in a rapid speed.

“You’re… shit,” he exhales. He squeezes his eyes shut, head heavily falling back against the mattress. Louis is on his knees on the floor, standing between Harry’s thighs as he grips the hem of his boxers and trousers, yanking them down. Louis licks a wet stripe across his hand, and Harry is already well on the way to fully hard when Louis grips his cock, starting to wank him off.

“Fuck,” Harry breathes. “I thought… I thought you said you didn’t want to join… the Mile High Club?”

“Things change, baby,” Louis says, before he licks his lips and sucks him off.

They don’t tell anyone about what they’re doing. Louis has no idea if they realize something is up or not. He is too wrapped up in Harry, and Harry is wrapped up in him.

India is so fucking amazing. The culture, the people… everything. Hilariously, everywhere they go for the day they’re there people start speaking Hindi with Archie, who doesn’t understand a word as she has barely spent a week in India before this. She is from London, born and raised, even though her parents are both originally from India.

Louis and Harry go out together in the evening. Harry is miserable because he wants to go see Taj Mahal, but they simply don’t have the time. In the morning they’re flying back to Europe, stopping in Qatar for a few hours in between.

“We need to come back here,” Harry says, just like he says about every city they visit on the job.

“Sure,” Louis says softly, looking up at him as they stroll. Harry’s hair is in a bun, his skin damp from the warmth. He’s caught a proper tan now — not as impressive as Louis’, mind you, but nevertheless a tan — and he looks happy and rested. This lifestyle is often draining and exhausting, but Louis doesn’t think he has ever quite felt this bubbly, bustling with life, until now.

Harry grins down at him, and without so much as a word slips his hand into his. His palm is large, fingers sliding in between Louis’ with ease. They fit. Louis’ skin prickles with goosebumps despite the heat, cheeks warming. However, Harry is casually swaying their hands, eyes trained on everything they are passing, obsessed with taking as much of India in as possible while they’re here. Louis’ hand tightens around Harry’s. He doesn’t want to let go.

The bliss continues.

Louis starts noticing the way Harry becomes more and more sure of himself when they’re in the sheets of the hotel beds, not afraid of asking for exactly what he wants, and telling Louis how he wants it. He wasn’t afraid of speaking his mind before, but it’s evident how comfortable they get with each other.

Louis fucks Harry slowly in Qatar, his thighs wrapped around his hips. His fingers are tightly knit in Louis’ hair, holding him not an inch away. Louis can feel his warm breath against his lips, and it hitches just a bit each time he thrusts into him. Their movements are languid, but firm and tight.

“Kiss me,” Harry moans, pulling Louis in before he can answer. It’s barely a kiss, simply lips pressed together as Louis moves into him once more. It doesn’t take long until they’re both shaking apart.

Their hotel room — because even though it’s technically Louis’, it’s theirs — has a large bathtub, which Harry pointed out with much enthusiasm, so Louis leaves bed and trudges into the bathroom, turning the water on. There’s a bottle of bubble soap standing on the edge, and Louis is pretty certain Harry would really love that, so he pours it in.

He trudges back to bed, finding Harry spread over the sheets, limbs shaped like a human-sized star.

“Come,” Louis says, pulling at his hand. Harry moves easily, following Louis into the bathroom. He beams when he sees the half-full tub, bubbles growing in the water. Louis fetches his phone and turns on a slow playlist, before they turn off the tap and slip into the water.

They sit in opposite ends, legs pressed close, Harrys’ toes poking Louis’ thighs. Harry dumps a load of bubbles onto Louis’ head, rubbing it in until his hair is standing in every direction. He looks so pretty when he smiles, giggling gleefully at his creation. The green in his eyes is so prominent, reminding Louis once again of that day in Paris, during the strike. He looks so much older than back then; head bigger, cheeks less cherubic, but lips still plump and pink. His hair is longer, but still as curly. His eyes have remained exactly the same.

“It’s you,” Louis says in the middle of bubbles and M83. “It’s you, isn’t it?”

Harry looks back at him, not understanding. Louis’ hand rubs his ankle, thumb stroking over the second part of Harry’s ankle tattoos, ‘Never Gonna Dance Again’. He rubs over the D.

“D’you remember?” he continues softly. “The strike in Paris? The kiss?”

Louis sees when the understanding comes over him. His shoulders slump, and his hands reach for Louis’ arms. Leaning, Louis meets him halfway. There is wonder in Harry’s voice as he speaks.

“I thought it was you, but…” He shakes his head, almost to himself. “I wasn’t sure. Of course it was you.” He pulls him in, pressing their lips together. His lungs are labored all of a sudden, just like Louis’, who can’t stop smiling against his mouth. He kisses him with all the happiness in the world, fingers clenching his forearms.

“Do you believe in fate?” Louis asks, heart pounding so fucking hard.

Harry stares back, something strange flickering in his eyes. “I… I don’t think I used to? Maybe I do now?”

Louis nods, and breathlessly lifts his hands from the water and bubbles to Harry’s cheeks, and kisses him fiercely.

It’s absolutely crazy how much you can like someone you’ve known for such a short span of time. Harry makes Louis feel like the embodiment of happiness. Watching him, he can only smile. As he talks, all he wants is to listen forever. When he laughs, Louis wants to melt. He likes him so much.

There is moment where he is by himself in his hotel room, Harry having gone to Niall’s for a bit. Louis has just spoken with his mother on the phone, and he finds himself staring at his contact book — his three hookup numbers, to be precise. Without a second thought, he deletes them. He hasn’t spent either of the men a thought in months. The only one he believes he owes an explanation is Alec.

Hey. This is a weird message, but I don’t think we can see each other anymore. I met someone ☺ Good luck with Meg and everything else .xx

The answer doesn’t take long.

Congrats Louis, I will miss you loads ☹ If you’re ever in Seattle, I’m a friend ☺<3

Louis smiles, and then proceeds to delete his number.

. . .

They arrive in Paris at noon, local time. Despite having Harry by his side, Louis is starting to miss home. It’s particularly bothersome when he knows England is just a tunnel away, but he can’t go, because he has two flights to go before he is officially on break.

They just came off a seven-hour flight, and all Louis wants is to take a shower and sleep, before they need to work a two-hour journey to Berlin. However, while Jenny and Niall head toward the hotel, Harry pulls Louis with him toward the big entrance of the airport. The fountain looks the same, the floor just as squeaky clean as always.

Harry takes Louis’ arms and positions him in front of the fountain, just a few feet from. He shoves their large suitcases away, and takes his hands.

“It’s almost four years since we first met,” Harry says, making Louis’ lips pull upward. He can’t help it. He’s a fucking sap. Fucking weak for romance. “So, I was thinking we should redo our kiss. Even though, as I remember it, it was fucking perfect. A proper movie kiss.”

“It was,” Louis agrees, and laughs. Before long, Harry cups his cheeks and kisses him.

. . .

Louis gets a call along with an email a few hours later from Panorama Airlines. He listens, and then reads the email twice, groaning to himself. Harry is in the bathroom, taking a much-needed shower that Louis is already done with. He waits until Harry has gotten out and dressed, before he calls their other crewmates, telling them they need to have a team meeting ASAP.

“Is this about you and Harry?” Niall asks as soon as he is let into Louis’ room, a few minutes after Jenny has arrived. “I’m fucking insulted if you lads think I don’t know. We both know. You ain’t fucking subtle.”

The room is silent for about two seconds, Harry’s eyes flicking to Louis’ in loss of words to use. Louis swallows, and then proceeds to ignore what Niall said altogether.

“So,” he says, getting down to business. He sits down next to Harry on the bed, grabbing his iPad from the nightstand. He can feel him reading over his shoulder as he speaks, chin brushing against his t-shirt. “I’ve found out that flight attendants on the same route us got hit with stomach issues this morning, and a few are unable to work. I’m told somebody from our team has to join their group for the one flight to Berlin. As I am the purser, I can’t do it, so it will have to be one of you guys.”

He gives them an apologetic smile as he sees them wince. Niall groans and slumps back on the bed, while Jenny rolls her eyes in annoyance. All of them hate switching teams.

“Who will do it?” Louis asks gently. “It’s only a little more than two hours, and you will be back with the team directly afterward when we fly back to Gatwick.” Nobody says anything. “The person who does it will get a popsicle?”

Niall and Jenny groan louder.

“Come on… Please? Pretty please? Someone has to do it. Otherwise we’ll have to draw lots, come on guys. You’re adults.”

Louis feels Harry sigh over his shoulder. “I guess I’ll do it. I am the newbie after all.” He makes a little grimace. “It’s just one flight, right?”

“Yes,” Louis answers.

“Promise?”

“I promise.”

“You guys are so fucking clingy, I swear,” Niall groans. “I’m leaving. Same time, yeah?”

“Yes,” Louis nods. “We meet up at eight. Harry, you will meet the other crew at nine-thirty tonight. I’ll forward the email to you.”

Niall leaves the room, Jenny not far behind him, eyes lingering on where the two of them are sitting. “We will talk,” she says, eyeing both of them. They wave lazily as she closes the door behind her.

Harry leans forward, chest against Louis’ shoulder, tilting his head to the side to look at Louis’ face. He pouts. “I’ll miss you.”

Louis smiles and says, “Me too,” smacking a kiss on his lips.

 

Germany

The flight to Berlin is fucking bullshit. If it begins at a five out of ten, it ends at a minus six-hundred-and-thirty-fucking-two.

It’s a joke. First of all, not even half the aircraft is filled with passengers. Not even half. Louis isn’t that uptight about the environment, but even he thinks this flight is monumentally unnecessary. These people can catch a train. If Ian, Mr. Preppy Boyfriend of Lottie, would know, he’d pass out. Louis should text him.

His mood gets slightly better when he finds out Liam Payne is on deck. They chat for a few minutes outside the cockpit, before Louis forces himself to greet passengers. Maybe he is exaggerating his misery, but… he admits: he is missing having Harry by his side a little bit.

Jenny crams into the seat that usually belongs to Harry right before take off.

“Speak.”

“Huh?”

“About Harry. Go. Quick.”

“You’re supposed to be in the back with Niall.”

“Lou,” she says sternly.

“Fine. We slept together in Dubai. Been together since.”

She arches a brow. “Exclusively?”

“No? I don’t know?”

“But you like him?”

“Very much.”

“Good, because he likes you, too.” She stands, but Louis waves dramatically at her.

“How do you know?!”

“I just know,” she hisses, and then she is hurrying to the rear of the aircraft, where she is supposed to sit with Niall.

She just knows. How very helpful.

“Good evening, ladies and gents,” he hears Liam’s lazy voice through the speakers. “Welcome aboard. There’s pretty nice weather tonight, a little windy, but it’s chill. Turn to the crew if you’ve got any questions. The brunet lad is fit. Now let’s fucking fly.”

Louis snorts, rolling his eyes. It’s amazing what the captains can get away with when there aren’t many passengers on board. Louis will get him back, and that’s also the reason the flight drops from a five to minus two hundred.

Sometime during the flight, Louis goes back to the cockpit, knocking on the door. He isn’t supposed to disturb the pilots if there isn’t a problem, but he knows Liam. The man that opens the door is a blond lad Louis has never encountered before. His hair reaches halfway down his neck, and it’s combed back behind his ears.

“Hey,” Louis says, and before he can continue, Liam has recognized his voice.

“Louis! Come on in,” he greets happily.

Louis smiles and the co-captain steps out of the way. Louis can’t even begin to put his plan into use before everything goes to shit.

“Hey, I’m Andy,” the blond man says, extending a hand. Louis shakes it with a polite smile.

“Louis. Nice to meet you.” He leans back against the wall, eyes trailing to the large windows and the breathtaking view of a sunset colored sky. He watches for a moment, shamelessly wishing Harry could see this.

“Andy here is new on the pilot team,” Liam says conversationally, as if it’s normal for the flight attendants just come hang out. “He’s a GBIS boy, can you believe? Born and raised, but has finally come to his senses,” he snickers.

Louis arches a brow. “GBIS, huh? One of my crewmates transferred from there this year as well. What’s going on over there?”

Andy chuckles. “Nah, it’s cool over there. Panorama just pay better.” Louis snorts, and Andy continues with a grin. “Anyways, who’s the guy? Maybe I know ‘em?”

“Harry Styles,” Louis says, and then instantly regrets doing so, because Andy’s eyes widen.

“Harry Styles? Really?!” He seems genuinely amused, making Louis automatically frown. “So, he switched after all, huh. Can’t really say I’m surprised.”

“What do you mean?” Louis asks stiffly. He feels a little cold, heart starting to pound as if he already knows that this is not going to be good.

“Before I left,” Andy starts, leaning in where he is sitting in his chair, “he had just broken up with his long-term boyfriend. They were in the same crew, can you imagine? It was a pretty fucked tension after they called it quits after almost two years, if you know what I’m saying?”

As soon as he starts speaking, everything that isn’t those words turn into mush. Those three sentences echo through Louis’ mind, blood flooding to his head, making him feel sickly hot. It’s just warm. His skin is prickling, but the suit feels uncomfortably tight. He pulls at his collar, quickly excusing himself from the cockpit with muttered words.

He hurries to the kitchen area, struggling in his haste to open the mobile refrigerator before he can grab a bottle of water. He chugs, chugs, chugs. He empties the whole bottle, and then grabs another. He drinks until it’s empty too, but his head still burns. He goes back to the private room, sitting down on one of the beds.

All he can think is: no, no, no.

He can’t even think it. He doesn’t want to. He doesn’t want to fucking think of those words one more time in his life.

He doesn’t come out of the room for the rest of the flight. He’s already unlocked the liquor cabinet, so Niall and Jenny don’t need him. He doesn’t want to think, he doesn’t want to be here. He wants to go home.

It’s not until they’re twenty minutes from landing when someone comes to get him. The door to the private room opens, and Jenny pokes her head in. She looks pale and stiff, and Louis can tell something is wrong without a second look.

“What’s going on?” he asks.

“Pilot Payne needs to see you. It’s serious,” she says, eyes flickering nervously. “Like, really serious. Hurry.”

Louis stands, swiftly hurrying through the door and to the cockpit. He knocks harshly, Andy opening not a fraction of a second later. He closes the door behind Louis, tension obvious in his shoulders.

“What’s going on?” Louis asks, voice hard.

Liam is serious, but calm. “There has been an accident at Berlin Tegel. An aircraft’s wheel didn’t extend during landing. There was a hard crash, but there seems to be no injuries.”

Louis heart starts pounding fast. “Is it a Panorama plane?”

“Not that I know if. I don’t think so, but it could be.”

“Jesus Christ,” Louis whispers, scratching at his hair. “What does it mean for us? Can we land?”

“Yes,” he nods. “We’re not affected, but several ramps have been shut off.”

Louis sees the time on a digital clock among the controls. Harry’s plane must still be in the air. They must have taken off less than half an hour ago. He’s okay. Shit. Good. He’s okay. He’s okay. He’s okay. He’s okay.

“Alright,” Louis exhales, wiping a hand over his face, blowing out his cheeks. “I’ll inform my crew. We proceed as normal, yeah?”

“Yes,” Liam nods.

Louis leaves the cockpit. He forces away any lingering thoughts about Harry, ungracefully shoving them into a box he doesn’t plan to open until they are safely on the ground (and if he mentally kicks the box a few times, that’s okay).

He quietly informs Jenny and Niall about what is going on. Jenny looks worried, but as it doesn’t alter their aircraft’s safety she is able to pull it together. It’s Louis’ job to make sure she does.

Eventually they do land, on the other side of the airport from where the accident occurred. It’s dark outside now, the lights from houses and the airport the only thing visible from the air. It’s pretty, but Louis’ doesn’t appreciate it much tonight.

The passengers, unbeknownst to the accident, leave the aircraft through a jet bridge, thanking Louis and Niall who’re at the front of the plane. As soon as they’re able to, Louis and his crew leave as well, bidding Liam and Andy goodbye.

“Food? Anyone?” Niall asks.

“I feel sick,” Jenny says. “I want to go to the hotel.” She looks to Louis. “Lou, inform us if they tell you anything?” she pleads.

“I will,” he promises.

“Dinner? Louis?”

He looks up, meeting Niall’s baby blue eyes. “Sorry. I… I need to go wait for Harry.” He goes before any of them can say anything.

He finds out where Harry’s plane is meant to land through a woman at an information desk after checking the flight number in the email he received earlier today from his boss. There’s an hour or so left until he is supposed to be here, but Louis heads to the right gate instantly.

His head is spinning. It’s too much at a time. He feels warm, and exhausted. He misses home, he misses Harry, but he’s also hurt and confused. He’s so fucking confused. And angry. It’s not something he graciously admits, but he is pretty fucking livid.

Can you blame him? Harry left his airline because he broke up with his boyfriend. He’s been flirting with Louis since day one. How long had it been since he broke up with his boyfriend of two motherf— years until he came to Panorama?

What does that make Louis? What does that make what he thought they were? He feels too warm again, exhaustion making tears prickle in his eyes. It all comes down to one thing. How does Harry actually feel about him? Was he a game? A flirt? Something fun? A rebound?

That’s the worst thought. That while Louis was kissing him, Harry was thinking about somebody else.

He finds the gate, and settles down in one of the waiting chairs where he knows the passengers and staff of the aircraft will come out of the jet bridge. He hangs his head in his hands, and waits. And waits, and waits, and waits.

Fifteen minutes after they’re supposed to have landed it’s reported that the flight is half an hour late. Louis waits more.

Eventually the plane lands, and the passengers — this seeming like a full flight — finally stream out of the jet bridge. Louis looks up, hands at the sides of his head, resting is elbows on his knees. His heart pounds hard as he waits, eyes unblinkingly staring at the opening of the jetway where Harry will appear only minutes after the passengers.

As soon as he sees him, relief and anger simultaneously wash over him like an ice cold wave. He’s okay. He can see him in the flesh, and he looks perfectly fine. And then. He wants to kick him a bit. A lot. Yet, he can’t bring himself to stand when Harry’s eyes find him.

“Hey!” Harry hurries over, waving off the rest of his momentary flight attendant crew, sounding slightly breathless as he reaches him. “Fuck, you’re here! Thank god!” He leans down and wraps his arms around Louis’ neck, squeezing him tightly, but Louis can’t hug him back. “I thought… Fuck, I thought you guys… We had to circle a half hour before we could land.”

Louis remains silent, arms at his sides.

“What’s wrong?” Harry asks, leaning back to meet his eyes, but Louis refuses to do so. He feels hot.

“Is it true?” he asks. “That you left GBIS because you broke up with your boyfriend?” His voice is hard.

Harry stiffens completely, and Louis shoves him away. He buries his face in his hands, head hanging, and before he can stop it he feels his eyes turn watery, properly this time. Harry’s arms slide off him, but Louis can feel that he is still close.

“How do you know?” he whispers, but Louis can’t read his voice.

“Some fucking prick who used to work for GBIS told me,” he moans into his hands, subsequent hiccup exposing his tears. He doesn’t care. His throat turns thicker, lump in there turning harder. Swallowing hurts. He feels Harry’s large hand tentatively rub his thigh.

“Yes,” he murmurs. “It’s true.”

Unsurprisingly, the confirmation doesn’t make him feel better. The tears spill over, running down his cheeks, too many, and leaving his cheeks wet.

“Is that what I am to you?” he asks, sniffling. He looks up at him for the first time, with red, wet eyes. Harry is crouching right in front of him, looking back at him miserably. “A rebound?”

Harry’s eyes turn sadder, brows knitted, the corners of his mouth pulling down. “No,” he whispers. “No, no. Of course not, Lou. No.”

Louis hides his face in his hands once more. He can’t look at him, because deep down those words don’t make him feel much better. The rest of it is too wearying.

“How —”

Harry squeezes his thigh, silencing him. Louis swallows, but listens. Harry’s voice is rough, but gentle.

“We broke up three months before I started at Panorama. We had been together for a year and four months… and afterward he was a dick. I didn’t want to continue working with him anymore, and I could have simply switched teams, but I know someone working recruitment here, just like you did when you started. She’s a friend of my Mum’s, and she told me you had an opening. I wanted to go.”

Louis inhales shakily. “Us?”

“And with you… I recognized you, you know? But I couldn’t quite place you? And you looked so fucking hot that day, and I just realized that I could. You were pretty and funny, and rather unlike anyone else I’ve ever met. It was fun. I’ve never taken advantage of being single like that before, but… I suck at being single. I hate being single, and I got to know you better. I realized that I really liked you, before we even did anything. You were amazing, and when we were together in Dubai it was like… I’ve never felt as happy as I did then? You make me feel happy.”

Louis breathes slowly, taking this in. Okay. “Okay,” he whispers. “I believe you.”

“Okay?” Harry repeats, squeezing his thigh. He completely respects why Louis is sad, and he understands. It feels so good that he is listening, explaining. He didn’t expect him not to, but it feels so fucking good to be taken seriously. They can communicate so well, Louis can’t deny that.

“Why did you break up?” he asks quietly.

“We didn’t want the same things.”

“And what did you want?” Louis asks, face expressionless.

Harry glances down at the floor for a second. When he looks up, his eyes are serious. “A family? A future? I’m young, I know, but I also know what I want.”

Louis swallows. There’s a tear sliding off his chin and falls down to his knee, and he wipes at the spot. He sniffles, jerking his head to get his hair from his eyes. Harry is watching him sadly, his hand still on his thigh where he is crouching. Louis looks away.

“Tell me how you feel, Lou,” he whispers. He is leaning in — Louis can feel his hair brushing against his own. “Please, Lou.” He sounds heartbroken. “Please. Don’t be gentle. Tell me.”

Louis finally looks up, eyes wet, but unapologetically so. “I don’t want to be your rebound. I want it to be real.”

“It is real,” Harry whispers, and it’s a promise.

Louis leans back in the chair, away from Harry. He crosses his arms over his chest, blowing out his cheeks. Without warning, he kicks at Harry’s shin. “Fuck you for making me feel like shit.”

Harry winces, but doesn’t move. His legs must be hurting from sitting like that, and Louis’ kick wasn’t without force. “I am so, so sorry.”

“This is something you should have told me, Harry,” Louis sighs, shoulders slumping. His hands fall to his own thighs, his one fingertip nudging Harry’s hand where it rests.

He bites his lip, but he is sincere when he answers. “I know. I should have.” His two hands move to sit on one of Louis’ thighs each, stroking up and down warmly. “I’ve been having the best time with you, Lou. The best. I want to keep being with you.”

“Me too,” Louis says, and lets his hands slide down his thighs to meet Harry’s. Their fingers tangle, Harry’s larger hands squeezing Louis’ tightly. “Proper. Real.”

Harry smiles, and he pulls at Louis’ hands. Louis decides to let himself be pulled up to his feet, fingers still laced with Harry’s as he stands in front of him, shoes touching his. Louis looks up at him, and presses a light kiss to his chin.

“Be mine, please?” he mumbles.

“Yes, please,” Harry whispers back. He releases Louis’ fingers and wraps his arms around his shoulders, hugging him warmly.

“Still mad at you,” he huffs into his shoulder.

Harry presses a kiss to Louis’ forehead. “That’s okay.”

Louis sighs, lacing his arms around his waist. “We’ll be okay, baby.”

 

Two Years Later

“Lou!” Harry yells from inside the house. “Where’s the cutlery box?”

“Check the one that says ‘Kitchen 2’!” he calls back from the pavement, looking up at the house.

There are boxes everywhere. The moving truck took off the moment their largest furniture had been placed in the right rooms, leaving them to fend for themselves. Niall offered helping out as he’s currently on break, but they told him no. They said they wanted to do this themselves, but Louis is beginning to regret that decision (not really). Now, there are boxes behind the fence, on the steps that lead up to the porch and in front of the front door that is wide open, on the sidewalk, and probably more than Louis can count filling up their new kitchen. He doesn’t know how they will get even one room finished by tonight. Harry’s goal was two.

Not a moment later, Harry ambles out on the porch. He’s in blue jeans, fitting his long, beautiful legs perfectly. His hair is loose and curly, moving in the slight wind where he leans against the white bannister that’s fencing the porch. There’s a small plant in a pot by his arm that he planted the moment they arrived. “Happy moving day, baby!” he cheered happily.

“You look sexy like that,” Louis grins, holding a cardboard box marked ‘Sheets & Towels’ in his arms.

“How so, sir?” Harry smirks down at him.

“Because you fit here. I can already see you chasing toddlers.”

Harry’s answering smile is so big Louis’ stomach bubbles with butterflies. He is still so, so in love with him. He can’t imagine a day he won’t be.

It took two months more before Louis gently told Harry he was in love with him. Truthfully, he probably could have said it the day he found out about Harry’s past, because he realizes in hindsight that he wouldn’t have been affected so deeply if he wasn’t. But, they took it slowly, and it was perfect. Everything doesn’t have to happen so quickly.

They had been together for a year when Harry mentioned the idea of having a family. Louis knew that this would be coming eventually. Harry told him this the day of the so-called fight, and he wouldn’t have indulged this relationship if he didn’t have the same things in mind when Harry clearly stated that this is what he wanted.

They were home on break, having six days to themselves in Louis’ tiny London flat. Harry mentioned it as they were drinking tea and watching a criminal series on Netflix, voice soft as he asked, “When do you think you’ll want to start having a family?” It wasn’t a question loaded with expectations, solely a speculative inquiry about the future. They talked for hours. Louis told Harry that in order for them to have kids, he wanted to have a stable job that didn’t involve flying across the globe every week. Harry wanted to have a house in a good neighborhood.

They began looking for other job opportunities only a couple of months later. Harry’s friend owns a large bakery only a couple miles from their new house, thus why they decided to buy it when they eventually found it through an estate agent. Harry’s new job would pay well, and Louis found a job through Panorama based in the outskirts of London, which entailed educating flight attendants. It will take him forty minutes by train to get to work each morning, but it’s not hardship. Harry’s job started a week ago, and everything has gone well.

They turned in their notice to Panorama a month and a half ago, and worked throughout July. Niall and Archie were upset when they told them about their plans to go, but they understood. Archie is currently dating a girl in London, but it’s casual, while Niall is still out of luck after a few breakups these last years.

Harry never had a flat, as he stayed with his mum in Cheshire whenever he was on break. He figured paying for an apartment wasn’t worth it when he wasn’t home three fourths of the month. Louis needs to be out of his London flat by tomorrow, but he returned his keys to the landlord this morning before they left. As of this morning, they are completely set on a new path. New jobs, new house – a completely new life.

Here they are, a little more than two years after officially becoming a couple, moving into a pretty row house area in a small town outside of London. The house isn’t too big, but not cramped. It’s little and yellow, with white windowpanes and a cute fence. There’s a small back yard with grass and bushes, and room enough to put a playhouse in if their future kids would like. The kitchen is airy and large enough for a big kitchen table. There are three bedrooms, the biggest currently occupied by a king size bed they bought together last week. Parents should have a proper bed, they figured.

Speaking of parents, the two other rooms are naturally meant for their children. Future children, this is. Louis picked the adoption papers up this morning. He hasn’t told Harry they got through the first stage yet, as he is planning on doing it tonight, before he asks him to marry him. The ring is in a velvet box the color of the darkest blue Louis has ever seen, and the adoption papers are sitting in his black satchel in the house.

“I love you,” he says, smiling up at his boyfriend.

“I love you,” Harry says back, eyes bright with happiness. “Please, come up here so I can kiss you?”

Louis strolls through the little wicket, carrying the box as he walks up the steps, coming into a stop in front of Harry. He sets the box down on the wooden porch, straightening up to face the love of his life.

“Hi,” Harry murmurs, lacing his arms around Louis’ shoulders.

“Hi,” Louis whispers back, hugging him tightly around his waist, pressing him close. Their lips fit together perfectly, kiss soft and sweet. Louis can already see their future bloom in front of him, a bunch of kids running around the yard, the two of them watching, drinking tea as they stand here on the porch. He squeezes Harry closer and spins him around, making him giggle where they stand on their wooden porch that belongs to their yellow little house in their perfect little neighborhood.

It’s gonna be good here.