It always happens while he's supposed to be concentrating; in interviews, while he's on the phone, on stage. He gets used to it, finds himself waiting for Louis to lean in close, teeth bared. Waits to feel that sharp sting, the pressure and heat of his mouth. He's not sure why he's still letting it happen, why he relaxes ever so slightly when Louis moves in, why he can't stop his breath escaping in a sigh as Louis' mouth touches his skin, addicted to the shiver that runs through his body when Louis' teeth sink in.
He doesn't want to think about it, so he always lets himself react a moment too late, hands coming up to push Louis away feebly, never as hard as he should, never discouraging. Louis never seems to notice that his reaction is off, too busy loving the victory of biting Liam, of seeing the shock written plain across his face.
They're in a serious interview for once, the questions far more in depth than they've gotten used to, and Liam's trying to concentrate, wanting to give answers to match the questions, to show how they really feel about their band, that they aren't just manufactured crap. He’s getting to the point of a rather long-winded answer when Louis leans in close, chest solid against his arm, tilts his head down and bites Liam's shoulder, not even that hard, just sharp and quick, already pulling back, but the damage is done. Liam stutters to a stop and it's like an epiphany because his mind goes crystal clear and he's turning to Louis and leaning in faster than he thought he could move, hand coming up to tilt Louis' head to the side, opening his mouth and setting his teeth in Louis' skin, sucking ever so slightly without permission from his brain. He pulls back and settles into his seat again, facing the interviewer. He becomes aware of the silence and looks around to see the rest of the band staring at him, looking vaguely impressed and surprised. He catches Louis staring at him with wide eyes so he grins and shrugs, turning back to the interviewer and manages to pick up where he left off, even as she stares back at him, mouth open slightly.
The interview devolves from there and when he looks over a few minutes later, Louis is regarding him thoughtfully, fingers touching his neck where Liam bit him.
The minute they leave the room Harry is jumping on his back and whooping. "I didn't think you had it in you, Liam! Man, that was awesome."
Liam catches Harry's legs and hitches him a bit higher as Harry whoops again and digs his knees into Liam's sides, one arm wrapped around his chest, the other thrown out in front of them as he urges Liam onward.
They're backstage getting ready to go on later that night and Louis purposefully bumps into him as they head out, turning slightly so he can grin evilly back at Liam, and Liam knows he's let himself in for much worse than he's experienced yet. Louis obviously has true revenge on his mind, and Liam is the target.
He takes a deep breath and squares his shoulders, and knows he's ready for it, knows now that he can give back almost anything he gets. The only problem is that he's not sure when Louis will back down, if Louis will back down. Louis' always been a wild card, the crazy one, the one who will do absolutely anything and fuck the consequences. Liam's just not sure if he's ready to go that far.
But there's only one way to find out. Liam takes another deep breath and then Zayn claps him on the shoulder and grins at him, slinging his arm around Liam's shoulders and tugging him onto the stage.
The lights are bright and hot and Liam's flushed warm by the end of the first song, having stuck close to Zayn and danced stupidly with him for at least half the song. He only realises he's trying to avoid Louis when he accidently catches his eye and Louis quirks his eyebrows, a smirk tugging at the corner of his mouth. Liam bites his lip, then smirks back, running his tongue across his lip for good measure. It visibly throws Louis and his smirk disappears. Liam grins and turns back to Zayn so he can sing the first verse at him.
He follows Louis across the stage to the couch during the next song and catches him just as he turns to sit, shoving him down onto it. He drops into Louis’ lap, back pressed against the arm of the couch, legs crossing over Louis’. He slings his arm around Louis’ neck to steady himself and lets the screams of the crowd hype him up. Louis’ arm curves around his waist automatically, steadying and pulling him closer and Liam brings his mic up to his mouth to sing the next part of the song to Louis, almost crooning it at him. Louis responds perfectly, gazing up at Liam like he’s the most perfect thing he’s ever seen and Liam uses that, pretends he really is. He finishes singing and leans in, biting Louis quick and hard on the curve of his jaw, enough to leave a small mark, and then he jumps up and skips across the stage to where Niall is shaking his hips to the music. He dances with Niall until it’s time for them to go off for a costume change.
Louis corners him backstage, and hooks his finger in the gap between the buttons on Liam's shirt, pulling him close, making Liam's breath hitch almost inaudibly. Louis, of course, hears it and huffs a laugh, unbuttoning Liam's shirt maddeningly slow and slipping it off his shoulders.
Liam slips his fingers under Louis' shirt and teases his fingers over Louis' sides until Louis flushes slightly, then he pulls it up and off. Liam hesitates, before hooking his fingers in the front of Louis' trousers and meeting his gaze.
"You'd better get these off quick. I've always wanted to get in your pants." Liam almost can't believe the words coming out of his own mouth and it looks like Louis can't either, but he recovers quickly and works the fastening on Louis’ trousers open.
"Well, I'm not giving you my pants, but let's see how well you fit into these first," Louis replies, that infuriating smirk playing on his lips as he pushes his trousers down to his ankles and climbs out of them. Liam’s breath catches and he hopes it’s not completely obvious how Louis affects him.
Suddenly the tension is broken when Harry whistles. "Are we interrupting something here, lads? Do you two need a bit of alone time?"
Liam's face flushes immediately as he looks up at his friends, who have already traded clothes with each other and are fully dressed and ready to go back on stage.
He gives Harry the finger and shucks off his trousers, handing them to Louis and quickly pulling Louis' on, ruffling his hair as he tugs on the striped shirt. Louis' a bit slower, finger fumbling the buttons on Liam's shirt ever so slightly, so Liam steps in and finishes up, standing just a fraction too close.
Louis swallows and lets him, but when he smiles again Liam knows it's far from over and that all he's doing is digging himself even deeper. He can't stop it though; he's gone too far to back down now.
They head back on stage to even louder screams, signalling that the audience have noticed they're wearing each others’ clothes and love it.
He tugs at Louis' shirt, trying to adjust it to sit better - it's a little tighter than he's used to and he can't quite get comfortable. Louis is close by and Liam notices him watching and slides his hand down his chest, emphasising the way it hugs his muscles. Louis crosses the floor between then and slides in close behind him, resting his hand on Liam's hip as he presses his mouth to Liam's throat, biting down gently.
Liam freezes unconsciously and Louis chuckles, then his fingers tighten on Liam's hip and he rocks his hips forward, pressing his hard cock against Liam's arse. He pulls away just as quickly, off across the stage to where Harry is singing passionately, head thrown back.
Liam feels like he's been punched, like he can't pull in any air, dazed and so, so confused. He doesn’t know where this game is going anymore, where Louis thinks it’s going and where it’s going to end.
It feels like everything has changed and he doesn't know which way is up anymore. The worst part is that he doesn't know if this is yet another escalation, or if Louis is really calling him out, really understands what's happening here, what Liam barely understands himself.
He almost misses his cue, but Zayn saves him, bumping their hips together and quirking an eyebrow and Liam remembers where he is and what he's doing. Thankfully his voice comes out normal, even though he was expecting a croak or worse, and he puts everything he can into it, pushing Louis out of his mind.
He can't bring himself to do anything else on stage that night, too shaken by Louis' words, by the lingering feeling of his hips pressed to Liam's. He calls first shower when they come off and escapes with a relieved sigh, hoping he can pull himself together while he's alone.
The water is pure heaven, sluicing away the sweat and tension, leaving his mind clearer than it had been all day. He's still unsure about Louis, but decides against giving in, surprised by his own need to push this, however far it needs to go. Whether it's pushing Louis away, or pulling him closer, it's just a chance he has to take. He can't deny to himself any longer that he liked the way Louis touched him and that he wanted more, and he couldn't ignore it either. He just wasn't willing to keep wondering if Louis felt the same way, had to know whatever the outcome.
Louis is waiting outside the door when he finally emerges, and despite his resolve, he's glad he'd taken his clothes in with him, glad to be fully dressed when confronted with Louis, all mussed up and sweaty.
He avoids Louis’ eyes and scrubs his hand across his face as he walks by, rejoining the rest of the band in their dressing room and flopping down next to Niall. He expects them to say something, especially Harry, but Harry's talking to Zayn and barely glances over at him and Liam lets out a breath he didn't know he was holding.
They all smell atrocious now that he's clean and dry and he wrinkles his nose at them. Niall grabs his head and forces Liam's face into his armpit until Liam cries uncle and pulls back to punch him on the arm. They wrestle and yell at each other until Louis comes out and Niall beats Harry to the bathroom, turning to poke his tongue out, slamming the door shut when Harry reaches for him.
Liam takes Harry's seat next to Zayn, not wanting to give Louis the chance just yet to retaliate and settles into Zayn's side, braving the scent of sweaty teen for safety. Zayn gives him a knowing look and Liam ignores him, taking Zayn's hand and playing with his fingers. He knows he's just putting off the inevitable but he likes this too, being close to Zayn and touching him, less fraught than with Louis.
They finally finish showering and head out to the bus, and Liam knew it was coming but still can't help but tense up when Louis drapes himself over Liam as they walk out, fingers automatically seeking out Liam's nipple and tweaking it to get a reaction. Liam doesn't disappoint, squeaking in surprise and jumping, reaching up to catch Louis' hand. He doesn't know if he's imagining the satisfied look that passes over Louis' face as Liam tangles their fingers together and decides to take everything as it is and stop worrying so much.
They brave the screaming girls, and tumble onto the bus giggling and breathless, glad to finally be alone, just the five of them. Harry immediately suggests drinks and Niall eagerly agrees, heading straight for the fridge.
Louis pulls Liam onto the couch with him, and they take the drinks Niall offers. Liam forces himself to relax and takes a long drink of beer, needing the cool relief it brings to deal with Louis. Louis’ arm is curled around his shoulder so his chest overlaps Louis’, and Louis’ fingers are toying with the sleeve of Liam’s shirt. It means Louis’ head is far too close to Liam’s, his hot breath on Liam’s throat every time he turns to talk to Harry on Liam’s other side. It confuses Liam more every time he thinks about it and the beer goes straight to his head until he's giggling into Louis' throat and touching him right back.
Louis says something about how he's a lightweight and Liam whines a protest, and when that's not enough he bites Louis' neck, harder than he intends to, judging by Louis' wounded yelp and then Louis is twisting his nipple until he releases Louis' neck, even though he hadn't realised he was still biting down. The taste of Louis' skin mixed with beer turns Liam's brain inside out and he doesn't even think as he leans down on instinct and captures Louis' mouth with his own.
He barely registers the bus go silent as he kisses Louis, focused entirely on the way Louis hasn't moved, hasn't responded in any way and Liam's so confused, so mixed up he doesn't know what to do. He's about to pull away when Louis finally reacts, his hand coming up to tangle in Liam's hair, his mouth opening under Liam's. He groans in relief, pushing in closer, sliding his tongue over Louis' lip to deepen the kiss and Louis lets him, meets him halfway.
They break apart after Liam doesn't know how long and he looks around at his bandmates, unable to meet Louis' eyes just yet. His whole body feels aflame, skin flushed and overheated and his mind is still a jumbled mess. The other boys are just staring, Harry's mouth open and eyes wide.
"...Wow," Harry says after a moment. Liam swallows and tries to take a deep breath, feeling about ready to explode. He looks tentatively at Louis, who is just staring at him, mouth red and kiss-swollen and then, embarrassingly, Liam starts to laugh.
He can't stop himself, the tension exploding from him in deep heaving laughs and Harry joins in, Niall and Zayn just moments after. He can't look at Louis at all, can't do anything but laugh until the nervous energy runs out and he's left almost hiccupping as he tries to breathe and calm himself down.
When he finally looks at Louis, the look on his face steals any last remaining mirth and Liam shuts up immediately. Louis looks angry, cheeks red and eyes narrowed and he spits "Fuck you," at Liam and pushes him off, standing up and stomping off to the bunks.
Liam sits there stunned for a moment, unsure of what just happened until it dawns on him what that must have looked like to Louis. The retaliation and build up of the night, the flirting and touching all culminating in a heated kiss before Liam laughed his head off.
"That's not what I meant," he says helplessly. Harry, Zayn and Niall look back at him, in various stages of realisation and sympathy. "I didn't..." He starts to stand and Harry reaches for him, catching his wrist.
"I'd leave it for a bit, mate, I don't think he's going to listen right now."
"But I-" Liam starts and Harry shakes his head. Liam blows out his breath and sits back heavily, shaken by how quickly everything had gone to shit. Harry pulls him in close and wraps his arms around him and Liam goes gratefully, needing the comfort and grounding.
"It's okay, you'll work it out. You must know what it looked like to him," Harry murmurs, resting his cheek on Liam's head.
Liam nods jerkily. He snuggles in closer to Harry and closes his eyes, wishing he could go back to the interview and just not start this whole shitstorm, just let Louis get away with biting him as usual, have things back to normal. He isn't sure if Louis is going to listen to him at all, forgive him for ruining everything.
Harry pulls him back in close when he lies down and he melts into it, glad he can still have this.
"I meant it, what I said before," Harry whispers. "You guys will work it out. I knew something was going on. More than usual, I mean."
"I just couldn’t bear it if he hated me." His voice sounds small to his own ears.
“Aww, Li.” Harry slides his hand over Liam’s and links their fingers together.
“I know, I’m pathetic,” Liam sighs.
“Maybe a little overdramatic.”
“Uh, pot, kettle.”
Harry tugs on his hair with his free hand and Liam yelps quietly. Harry’s touch turns gentle, petting Liam’s head and soon he’s drifting back off to sleep.
He gets up slowly and makes his way to the kitchen, and as he gets close he hears Louis' voice and almost turns around, then Harry's joins in and he forces himself to continue. Louis looks up as he enters and it's like he shuts down, his face going blank before he turns back to Harry like Liam doesn't exist. Liam clenches his fists and keeps going, flicking the kettle on and preparing a cup of tea, trying to figure out what to say. When he turns back to Harry and Louis, Harry smiles encouragingly and gets up, pushing Louis back down when he tries to stand.
Liam's grateful that Harry's letting them work it out alone but wishes he would stay at the same time, desperately wanting the support.
Louis' face is mutinous as Liam sits down and when he tries to get up again, Liam grabs his arm.
"God, Louis- I'm so sorry, I'm so so sorry. I didn't mean to kiss you - I mean I did, I didn't mean to, I just I was so confused," Liam babbles, any plans for coherency flying out the window.
Louis' face twists in confusion and Liam rushes on. "I just couldn't stop myself even though I knew it was all such a bad idea and I thought it was all just a game but then you were so close and I just-" Liam can tell this isn't going well and doesn't know how to be any clearer.
"Don't - don't you fucking dare." He’s never heard Louis sound so mad before.
"Louis, please. I didn't mean to laugh, I swear. I wanted to kiss you and then I just got overwhelmed and I didn't know how you were going to react because it's always been a game and I thought the whole day was just a game but I couldn't help myself-" Louis claps his hand over Liam's mouth and Liam keeps talking for a moment, muffled. Louis gives him a look and he stops, flushing.
"Let me get this straight. You kissed me even though you thought we were playing some sort of game, and then you laughed at me when I responded?" Louis still looks sceptical.
"No, god.” Liam grimaces, and clutches at his tea. “I kissed you because I've been wanting to and after everything that happened yesterday I thought maybe you wanted to kiss me as well. I swear I didn't mean to laugh. I thought you were going to punch me or something."
Louis frowns and then rolls his eyes. "You are such an idiot." He grabs Liam by the back of the neck and hauls him in, pressing their mouths together. Liam melts into it automatically, opening his mouth to Louis' tongue. Louis kisses him thoroughly for a minute and then pulls back and rests their foreheads together.
"I'm sorry," Liam says uselessly.
"Shut up," Louis replies fondly.
"Is it all clear in here yet?" Harry peers tentatively around the doorway.
"Yup, we've cleared up that Liam is denser than a rock," Louis says. Liam makes a noise in protest and Louis tilts his head and bites his jaw, and Liam shudders, lets himself feel it right down to his toes. Louis hums happily and does it again. "I knew I was onto something."
"I hate you." Liam grabs his jaw and holds him still for another kiss. When they pull back they both turn to Harry, who is watching them raptly. Louis reaches out and pinches his nipple and Harry slaps his hand, pulling him into a slap fight that ends with Louis sitting on Harry and farting on him.
"I can’t believe I actually want to have sex with you." Liam says with feeling. Louis perks up and starts grinning, pushing Harry’s face into the seat before jumping off and settling down next to Liam. Liam shoves his hand in Louis’ face to fend him off, but Louis just bites his fingers until he pulls his hand away and leans in to breathe hot and damp against his ear.
“But you do, don’t you,” he murmurs, grabbing Liam’s hand and sliding it down to his crotch. Liam wishes it didn’t turn him on as much as it did, and turns his head, nudging Louis’ over so he can mouth at his neck, scraping his teeth against the warm skin. Louis exhales shakily and Liam squeezes his dick through his trousers before remembering they still have an audience.
“Harry, I love you, but you need to leave right now.”
“Aw, but you’re just getting to the good part!” Harry whines, but gets up nonetheless and drags his feet as he walks out.
Liam huffs out a laugh and turns back to Louis. “Now, where were we?”