Harry Styles stood in the lunch line, watching footage on the screen of his video camera.
He’d spent about an hour yesterday filming his school’s soccer team practice.
The team was currently undefeated, with a 4-0 record, so Harry knew that he would have to film them playing an actual game soon.
He didn’t particularly want to, as he didn’t really care about the sport, but since he was the editor for the visual portion of the school yearbook, he kind of had to.
He moved up in line and typed in his code.
The woman at the register added up what he had on his tray: pizza, mashed potatoes, a bowl of applesauce and a bottle of water.
She hit some buttons on the screen, deducting the total from his available balance, and gave him a smile to let him know he was done.
Harry balanced the tray on his left forearm and held on to the edge with his hand before walking away.
He shook a loose, brown curl out of his face before looking up to take note of his surroundings.
He stepped away from the register and through the archway leading from the walled-off kitchen area and into the main room of the cafeteria.
Harry now stood in the middle of the large room, with about two dozen black and gray tables on either side of him.
The walls were painted with the school’s colors, black and gold, with several emergency exits lining the back walls. Off to the right were the two sets of double doors that led to the rest of the school.
Once Harry could see that there was nobody in his way, he turned his attention back to his video as he walked.
Not the best idea he’d ever had.
See, he didn’t count on somebody moving their chair out at the last minute.
And he definitely didn’t plan on crashing into them and spilling his lunch all over them.
A hush fell over the entire room as Harry got a full view of what had happened.
Louis Tomlinson, aka the most popular guy at Woodlands Academy, stared at him in shock, fire burning behind his bright blue eyes.
Harry gaped at him, afraid to speak.
“What the fuck!” Louis yelled, making Harry jump and take a step back.
Eleanor Calder, Louis’ girlfriend, smirked at Harry in anticipation from her seat next to Louis.
Harry finally found his voice. “I’m sorry! I’m so sorry! I didn’t mean to, I just- I, I wasn’t-”
“What? Watching where you were going? Keeping your fucking eyes open?”
Louis quickly stood up, applesauce down his back, mashed potatoes in his caramel-colored hair and pizza falling off his white T-shirt.
Harry’s bottle of water had fallen in Louis’ lap when he dropped his tray, and made a loud ‘thunk’ noise as it hit the floor.
Harry had a feeling he would hear that ‘thunk’ noise again when Louis bashed his face in.
“Staring at your camera again? Fucking nerd. What’s on there that’s so interesting?”
Louis shot his hand out to snatch the camera away. Harry tried to move, but he wasn’t fast enough.
Harry heard one of their teachers making her way over to them.
“Well, if there’s nothing interesting on here,” Louis sneered, “then you don’t need it in one piece, do you?”
With his hand wrapped around the camera, Louis reeled his arm back like he was going to throw it across the room.
“Please, don’t!” Harry pleaded.
Louis froze where he was, as the school’s Fine Arts teacher, Ms. Diyanni, came rushing up to them.
“Louis, give him the camera back,” she instructed.
Louis tightened his grip on the camera before relenting.
He tossed it lightly in the air, letting it fall to the ground.
Harry dropped to the floor to catch it, grabbing it before it smashed into the tile.
“That’s enough, Louis,” Ms. Diyanni said angrily. “Go to the bathroom and clean yourself up.”
Louis smirked. “Gladly.”
He turned around and walked out, the eyes of everyone in the room still on him.
“Harry, are you OK?”
“Yeah, I’m fine,” he told his teacher.
“Why don’t you get back in line and get another lunch?”
“I’m, uh, not very hungry anymore. I think I’ll just go sit down.”
Ms. Diyanni smiled kindly at him, and let him get by her.
“Loser,” he heard muttered as he walked away.
He looked over his shoulder, and saw that it was, of course, Niall Horan who had said that.
Niall was Louis’ best friend and co-captain on the soccer team. Why wouldn’t he hate Harry just on principle?
Niall’s cold blue eyes gave Harry a once-over before turning back to the others at the table, who were all watching Harry with a pitying gaze.
Harry went to the back of the room as conversations started back up again, and by the time he sat down at his table, the one that he shared with his best friends Zayn Malik and Liam Payne, the noise was back to normal.
“Hey,” Liam said quietly.
“Hey,” Harry replied.
“You all right?” Zayn asked, concern clearly written on his face.
“I’ll be all right.”
He blinked his grassy green eyes a few times to hold back his tears of embarrassment.
“You’re allowed to be pissed, you know,” Liam encouraged. “Tomlinson was an ass, as usual.”
“He almost threw my camera.”
“We saw that,” Zayn jumped in. “And listen, you know Ms. D would never let him do that. She loves you too much.”
“But he could’ve. He could’ve smashed it, and I wouldn’t have a camera and how am I supposed to be Visual Editor or go to film school without a camera?”
“Harry, relax,” Zayn soothed, sensing his friend’s impending freak-out. “Yeah, he’s a fucking prick, so yeah, he could’ve smashed it. But he didn’t. You still have it, and you’re going to be OK. We just… can’t let you go anywhere by yourself anymore. Ever.”
Harry smiled. “You really can’t, huh?”
“Probably not,” Liam shook his head. “But it’s OK. I’ll edit your soccer footage today after school if you want.”
“I fucking hate soccer,” Harry grumbled.
“We know you do.”
At that moment, Louis came back into the cafeteria, his hair wet from washing the potatoes out of it. The back of his shirt was wet, as well – probably from wiping applesauce off it – but he wore the pizza stains on the front of his shirt like armor.
He shot Harry a dirty look before sitting back down with his friends.
Of course he could walk a straight line while doing something else and not trip. Harry was the only one who couldn’t.
Harry rolled his eyes before saying, “I hate that guy.”
“I’m home!” Harry yelled out as he walked in his front door.
It was after six o’clock. He, Zayn, Liam and the rest of the Visual staff had had to stay late to get a handle on their sports footage, as well as establish game plans for next month.
“Kitchen!” Gemma called back.
He dropped his book bag on the black, leather sofa and walked into the room to find his mom and sister already at the table, getting ready for dinner.
“I wanted to wait for you, but Mom wouldn’t let me,” Gemma said as she spooned green beans onto her plate.
“I think you have that backwards, Gem.” Anne laughed at her daughter. “More like, you were the one who was impatient.”
Gemma just shrugged and patted the seat next to her. “Come on, bro. It’s time to eat.”
“Good. I’m starving anyway.”
The three of them finished filling their plates and began to eat.
The conversation flowed easily. Anne, like every other day, asked both of her kids how school was going.
Gemma discussed her new classes for a while: how she loved them, but couldn’t wait to graduate in May.
Harry told his family about his day, as well, but completely left out everything that happened in the cafeteria.
Only when they were done did Anne say anything besides a follow-up question to something that the kids had said.
“So…” she started slowly.
Harry immediately knew that wasn’t a good sign.
“Listen, you kids are old enough that I’m just going to tell you.”
“Mom, what’s wrong?” Gemma wondered. “You’re freaking me out.”
“I sort of- Um… I lost my job today.”
Harry just stared at his mother with wide eyes, mentally begging for her to answer Gemma’s question.
“My company is doing a whole lot of downsizing, and unfortunately, my department got hit hard. More than half of my co-workers are getting laid off. We have two weeks with pay left, and then that’s it.”
“Mom, I’m so sorry,” Gemma said softly.
“Me, too, Mom. I know how much you loved your job.”
“It’s OK; really. I came to terms with it, I think. It’s just, um, I had to look into your scholarships.”
Every year, Anne’s company awarded a scholarship of $5,000 a year for four years to a deserving child of an employee.
Gemma had won it four years ago when she was a senior, and Harry naturally wanted to apply, too.
The scholarship would cover more than half of Harry’s film school tuition, so he would only need to take out small loans every summer that he could hopefully pay off quickly with money he earned from a job during the school year and after graduation.
He’d been waiting all year for the day that the application process would start.
He had a plan.
Now it didn’t matter. Harry understood what was coming.
“Gemma, you’re OK, because you’re grandfathered in,” Anne explained. “You’ll still keep yours.”
His sister nodded before looking seriously at him.
“Don’t say it,” Harry said as he started shaking his head.
“I’m sorry, Harry.”
He groaned before dropping his head against his chair and covering his face with his hands.
He could feel Gemma’s eyes on him, watching him carefully for any sudden movements.
“Harry, I’m so sorry!”
“Mom, it’s not your fault!” he cried, pulling his hands down quickly. “Stop saying you’re sorry.”
“I know, but I am!”
“What do I do now? I need that money, Mom!”
“Harry, calm down!” Gemma jumped in. “You can just take out more student loans than you were planning on. It’ll suck, but-“
“Exactly! It’ll suck. I mean, it’s not like I’ll get my full-time dream job right out of college, so I’ll be stuck paying off loans until I die. That wasn’t the plan.”
“Harry.” Anne cut him off. “Stop. We’ll find the money. You’re going to school one way or another, I promise.”
“Can I be excused?” Harry asked quietly.
Anne took a deep breath before nodding her head.
Harry stood up from the table and hurried up to his room.
He needed to be by himself for a while.
“Harry, can I talk to you?”
He stopped in front of Ms. Diyanni’s desk as the rest of his class left the room for the next period.
“Are you all right?” his teacher asked. “You seemed pretty out of it today.”
“Harry… Is this about what happened yesterday in the cafeteria?”
“What? No. No, not at all.”
“So what’s wrong? I know you use Photoshop all the time, so my lesson on it today probably wasn’t that interesting…”
“It’s not that at all, Ms. D. I swear. Just- Um…”
His teacher sat quietly, letting him get the right words together.
“My mom lost her job. So, money’s gonna be tight for a while, and I don’t know how I’m going to afford school.”
“Harry, I’m so sorry.”
“It’s OK. My mom said I’m going no matter what and that we just have to find the money somewhere. She knows how important film school is to me, but I don’t want to see her kill herself trying to get me there.”
Ms. Diyanni didn’t say anything, letting Harry figure out the rest of his thoughts.
“Sorry, just…” Harry sighed and shook his head. “Don’t worry about it. It’s OK. I should get to class.”
“Harry, wait.” Ms. Diyanni stopped him. “Did you forget about that film festival?”
He stilled, because he honestly had forgotten all about it.
Before the last school year ended, Ms. D had told Harry about a festival for local amateur filmmakers.
She had encouraged him to apply for it and submit a film for, if nothing else, the experience and exposure.
When she had first told him about it, he didn’t think he’d be able to do it. But now, he really wanted to, because it had a cash prize.
If Harry remembered correctly, it was $10,000 for first place. If he won, that would take care of his tuition for a while, and he could save up more money during that time.
“When’s the deadline?” Harry asked.
Ms. Diyanni grimaced. “October 20.”
“Octo- That’s a month away!”
“Well, more like, five weeks? I know, it’s extremely last minute and it’s going to be a lot of work, but you can do this, Harry. And think of the money if you win!”
“That’s a big ‘if,’ Ms. D.”
“But it’s worth a shot, isn’t it? You know you can use the computer lab here to edit your work. You already have the camera; you just have to find the inspiration.”
“Is there a theme?” Harry wondered.
“Your polar opposite, and how they’re actually exactly like you.”
“That doesn’t even make sense.”
“I told you it wouldn’t be easy, but I’m sure if you think about it, you can figure it out. Look at your classmates, your neighbors, your mom’s friends. Anybody.”
Harry nodded. “OK. Thirty-five days starting now.”
Harry walked home later that afternoon.
He’d spent all day thinking about who the hell he could get to be the subject of his movie.
There were plenty of people who were a lot like him: Gemma, Liam, Zayn. Even his mom, for God’s sake.
But it was the ‘polar opposite’ part of the task that was giving him problems.
Anyone that was his polar opposite wasn’t somebody he generally associated with. Polar opposites didn’t really – or literally – scream ‘compatibility.’
He looked to the side, where the soccer team was still practicing on the pitch.
He could see Louis pointing wildly to someone who was running near him as Louis got the ball and took it to the goal.
Louis scored, and he and his teammates started cheering.
Asshole, Harry thought to himself.
Louis just looked so carefree while he was running. He had a big smile on his face as Niall and someone else lifted him up in the air.
He doesn’t have to worry about college tuition.
Everyone in school already knew Louis had a full soccer scholarship to some big college a few hours away.
It wasn’t like Louis wouldn’t have been able to go to college without the scholarship, though. His family was loaded, even after his dad passed away a couple years ago.
They lived in probably the biggest house in the neighborhood, and Louis constantly threw parties there.
He was friends with everybody, or at the very least, everybody acted like they liked him so they would get invited over to Louis’ latest bash.
Louis even got a brand new BMW for his 17th birthday, despite not getting his license until more than a month later because he failed his test twice.
And it wouldn’t be so bad if Louis were actually a nice person. But he was just so full of himself, and, dare he say it, dumb.
Harry and Louis had gone to school together for their entire school careers. Harry remembered that Louis had seemed pretty smart in elementary school, but that had ended the summer before seventh grade, when his dad died, leaving Louis as the oldest of five children in a single-parent household.
Maybe the stress of helping his mom care for his sisters took a toll on Louis, and, in turn, his grades?
Harry wasn’t sure. He and Louis had never really been friends, so it wasn’t like he could exactly ask. But that’s what he always assumed.
With a shake of his head, Harry started walking home again.
He made it about five steps before he stopped once again.
He looked back at the soccer team, seeing that they had started up a new game.
He and Louis were polar opposites.
Louis was rich, and Harry was, well, not poor, but definitely not rich. Louis was popular, and Harry was admittedly not so much.
Louis had a car and Harry walked everywhere or took the bus. Harry was still saving money for a car, even though he passed his test on his 17th birthday back in February. Louis would probably peak in high school, and Harry likely wouldn’t. Harry was smart and Louis, well, wasn’t. Louis was straight with a girlfriend, and Harry was definitely gay and completely single.
They weren’t alike, which fulfilled half of his task. But what about the other half?
Well, Louis had a family, and friends. And… Well, Harry wasn’t sure what else, to be totally honest.
But at the moment, Louis was his best bet at a subject for his film.
He just had to figure out how the fuck to get him to agree to it.
He only had 35 days to go.
Two days later at lunch, Harry made his move. Operation ‘Get Louis in the Movie’ was officially underway.
He watched as Louis got up from his table and left the cafeteria, presumably to go to the bathroom.
Harry jumped up, startling Zayn and Liam with his sudden movement, and followed him out.
He got to the bathroom just as Louis was zipping up his fly.
Louis glanced in the mirror as he washed his hands and scoffed upon seeing Harry there.
“What the fuck do you want?”
“I have a proposition for you.”
Louis’ eyebrows knitted together. “Um, I’m not gay. So, no thanks.”
“No.” Harry shook his head. “Jesus Christ; no, not that.”
“Then I don’t think there’s anything else to say, nerd.”
“I’m making a movie for a film competition, and I want you to be in it,” Harry blurted out.
Louis turned around from the sink slowly, fixing Harry with a piercing stare. “Excuse me?”
“I’m making a movie for a film competition, and I want you to be in it,” he repeated more slowly. “I think you would be a great leading actor in it.”
Harry was surprised that Louis was so suspicious about the whole thing. He’d thought Louis, as self-absorbed as he was, would jump at the chance to be in front of a camera.
“Because it’s you. I mean, who wouldn’t want to know all about the amazing Louis Tomlinson? It would be a great movie.”
“You don’t have some weird crush or, like, secret obsession with me, do you?”
Harry bit his tongue so he didn’t say “Ew, I have standards.” He didn’t think that would go over well.
Of course, that was assuming Louis understood what that meant.
“No, I don’t,” he said instead.
“So, how does this benefit me at all? I let you film me and then you get some new wanking material or something? No thanks.”
“I just said-” he cut himself off. He pressed his lips together and sighed. As much as it pained him to do so, he launched into the ego-inflating speech he’d practiced the night before. “I mean, you’d get to be the star of your own movie. People will get to learn all about your life and see how awesome you are. They can see how popular you are. They’ll probably be so jealous when they see you playing soccer and hanging with your friends and your girlfriend. Plus, Homecoming is coming up, and you know you would definitely win Homecoming King with your own movie.”
That got him.
Louis’ eyes snapped up to Harry’s face.
“You think so?”
“I know so.”
“And what would you be filming? I’m not taking my shirt off for you.”
Harry clenched his jaw. He was so close to getting this; he didn’t want to ruin it now by saying something stupid, like telling Louis to go fuck himself to the next planet or something.
“Basically, I would just be filming you with your friends, the soccer team, maybe your family-”
“No family.” Louis fiercely interrupted.
“OK.” Harry held his hands up. “No family. That’s fine.”
It’s not fucking fine, but I’ll figure it out.
“When do we start?” Louis asked.
“Monday? We can take the weekend and figure out what to do first. We’ll still have four full weeks to film.”
“Fine. You can come to soccer practice on Monday, I guess.”
“It starts at 2:45. Don’t be late.”
“I won’t be.”
“Good. I’ll see you then, Harry.”
Louis pushed off the sink and shoved his way past Harry, only hitting Harry’s shoulder a little bit.
“Prick,” he muttered.
But, on the plus side, at least Louis had remembered his name.
It was a start.
“Are you sure this is a good idea, H?” Liam asked.
He, Harry and Zayn were all in Harry’s basement on Friday night.
The three of them had been hanging out at one of their houses every Friday night since seventh grade when, one day, they missed the late bus from school and had to walk home.
It had been a tradition since then, and they were considerate enough to put their meeting location on rotation so as not to annoy any of their parents with their constant presence.
Harry and Zayn were currently playing a game of chess while Liam sat on the couch looking over college interview prep questions.
“Not in the slightest,” Harry admitted. “But it’s my best shot at winning that festival and winning the prize money that comes with it.”
“But still,” Zayn shook his head as he figured out his next move, “it’s Louis Tomlinson. Like, three days ago, he was making you cry in the cafeteria because you dumped your lunch on his head.”
“OK, accidentally dumped your lunch all over him. And then he almost threw your camera. But now he suddenly wants to be in front of it?”
“I know it’s possibly the dumbest thing I could do, but I need this. Plus, it would look great on my application that I entered and won a contest.”
Zayn moved his rook. Harry had hoped he would make that move, which meant that Harry was now only two moves away from calling a checkmate.
“I’m not proud of what I said to Louis to get him to do it,” Harry confessed. “I mean, I boosted his ego even higher than where it needs to be. God, you should’ve seen him leaving the bathroom. He was so fucking smug it made me want to punch him.”
“As long as you don’t become, like, friends with him or something.” Liam grimaced.
“Would that be a bad thing?” Harry asked.
“Yes!” Zayn sat up straighter and gave Harry a baffled stare. “Louis’ the fucking devil incarnate. I don’t think he has a decent bone in his body.”
“He better; otherwise, the whole assignment will come falling apart anyway. I have to find ways that he’s exactly like me, too.”
“That really is the dumbest assignment.” Liam shook his head. “I mean, finding similarities with Louis Tomlinson? You probably couldn’t even do a Venn diagram to figure that out. It would wind up just being two separate circles.”
“I’m sure we have something in common,” Harry stated, sitting back in his chair. He wasn’t sure who he was trying to convince more: himself or his friends.
“Who knows? Maybe he’ll turn out to be an OK guy,” Zayn suggested.
“Or he’ll turn out to be a psychopath like the Joker.” Liam shrugged. "And laugh maniacally as he makes you feel insecure to the point that it drives you insane.”
Harry and Zayn stared at their friend.
Zayn shook his head. “Not everything is a Batman reference, Liam.”
“Yes it is.”
“Look, I’m doing this one way or another,” Harry declared. “Against my better judgment and no matter what you two say. So you might as well just wish me ‘good luck.’”
“Good luck,” Liam said.
“Good luck,” Zayn repeated.
Zayn moved his knight and suddenly Harry saw that there was no way for him to win.
“What the hell?” Harry exclaimed.
Zayn just smiled.
The first full week of filming was OK, if ‘OK’ referred to Louis acting like a total diva for the cameras and showing off at any chance he could.
Harry arrived at Louis’ practice on Monday immediately after the last bell rang, wanting to make sure he didn’t miss anything.
Louis had clearly told his teammates about what was happening, as a few of them walked out onto the field and ignored him completely.
Usually, they would at least give him a death stare or something.
Practice went similarly to the last practice Harry had recorded.
Harry watched as they got into groups of five and passed the ball to each other.
Several times, Louis looked to make sure Harry was watching before doing a few ‘specialty passes.’
He balanced the ball on the top of his foot before tossing it up in the air and kicking it to Niall.
Several times, Louis took a running start toward the ball, but instead of swinging his leg at it, stopped at the side of the ball before sending his kicking foot behind him and hitting the ball from the back.
Harry rolled his eyes. The footage he was getting would look good in the film, but he wished Louis would just knock it off.
After a fast water break, the team moved onto shooting drills.
They lined up at the net and practiced trying to get it past the goalie.
For a few rounds, everything was normal.
But then, Louis looked right at Harry and raised his eyebrows in a ‘watch this’ gesture.
Harry kept the camera trained on him as Louis ran up to the ball, swung his leg back and kicked. Only, it didn’t go into the net, but instead hit the top of the soccer net, dead center, and bounced off.
It was cool, sure, but definitely not what they were practicing, and probably not a smart move considering how rapidly the coach’s face was reddening.
A little while later, the coach gave the team another break to rehydrate, so Harry went to talk to them.
“So, what’s it like being on the soccer team?” Harry asked.
“You mean, being the soccer captain?” Louis corrected.
Niall cleared his throat roughly a few steps away, and Harry wanted to remind Louis that he was actually a co-captain.
Louis didn’t give Niall a second thought, though.
“It’s pretty tough,” Louis answered. “I have to be on point at every practice and every game, every single second of play. It’s hard work having people watch you for leadership.”
“I agree with that,” Niall added in. “It’s tough having to make split-second decisions.”
“Irish, this is my movie.”
“Oh, if Niall wants to add in anything about soccer or about you, that’s OK,” Harry said.
Niall started to grin, but immediately stopped when Louis said, “No, it’s my movie. Thanks, though.”
Niall gave Louis an eye roll and went to talk to some other players.
“Anyway…” Louis continued. “It’s like being popular. Everybody knows me, and because of that, everyone has high expectations of me.”
“I don’t really think-”
“People have me on such a high pedestal, Harry. I’m glad I’m not acropho- Um…” he looked around to see if anybody had heard what he’d just said. No one had. “I mean, I’m glad I’m not scared of heights, otherwise I’d be really scared of being that high up. It’s hard.”
“What a shame,” Harry deadpanned.
“I know. But it’s OK. I take that motivation to look good for others and use it so I can give back to the less fortunate.”
“You do charity work?”
“Of course. Have you seen some of the guys on this team? Without me, they wouldn’t be good enough to play on a little kicks team.”
“You mean the teams for, like, six-year-olds?”
Before Harry could ask another question, the coach was blowing the whistle, signaling to the boys that it was time to get back to work.
“Get my good side,” Louis ordered as he ran toward midfield.
“Having fun yet?” the coached smirked once the team was in position.
Harry couldn’t say that he was.
The next day wasn’t much better.
He actually sat at Louis’ lunch table so he could talk to Louis’ friends and film some of their reactions.
As he sat down, he saw Liam and Zayn staring at him from across the room.
He looked over to them and met their ‘What the fuck’ expressions with a helpless shrug.
He needed to get this done.
“So you’re saying that popular kids should only hang out with other popular kids?” Harry reiterated a few minutes after talking to Louis.
He didn’t know why he was so surprised to hear that Louis felt this way.
“Well, duh,” Louis scoffed. “I mean, you wouldn’t let dogs hang out with, like, cats, would you?”
“Um, I guess not?”
“Exactly. It’s for the best, really.”
“And why’s that?” Harry wanted to know.
“Well, it makes sure nobody’s feelings get hurt.”
“What does that mean?”
“Well, let’s look at you and me,” Louis answered, as if he was taking pity on Harry and spoon-feeding him an explanation. “We’re doing this movie together, right?”
“Well, this right here-” he pointed between the two of them, “- is only for the movie. If we didn’t have this movie to shoot, people could look at us and think that we were, like, hanging out. That could make them think that we were friends or something. That could make you start to think that we’re friends. You’d get your hopes all up, and when you realize that we’re not really friends, you’d be devastated.”
“That would be embarrassing,” Louis’ friend, Stan Lucas, added.
“I might actually feel bad for you on that one,” Niall said.
Louis cleared his throat. “Seriously, how hard is it to understand that it’s my movie?”
“OK, so,” Harry interrupted, “basically, you’re saying that everybody should stay where they are on the popularity scale and be happy about it?”
“That’s exactly right. Stay in your lane. I knew you were smart.”
Harry hummed in acknowledgement.
Harry heard a whiny, high-pitched voice behind him.
He turned around, unpleasantly unsurprised to see Eleanor standing there with one hand on her hip.
“Don’t talk to me. I wasn’t talking to you so don’t talk to me,” she rushed out in a single breath.
Harry stared at her with mild fascination and a whole lot of annoyance.
“Louis, there’s a nerd at our table,” she whined.
Harry rolled his eyes. It hadn’t even been a full week of filming, and he was already over the word ‘nerd.’
Harry had never given the word a second thought until he started properly interacting with Louis and his friends. But now that he was around them more, it was getting on his nerves. He just didn’t think the word suited him. He wasn’t a nerd. Sure, he liked movies and film and the yearbook, but that didn’t make him a loser.
Admittedly, he didn’t have that many close friends, just Zayn and Liam, but he knew a decent amount of the student body through classes, yearbook and other clubs. He usually had someone to talk to wherever he went.
But he wasn’t on Louis’ social level. He didn’t get invited to parties every weekend or have a cheering section at the soccer games like Louis did. He wasn’t the loud, outspoken senior who always distracted the teachers during class to try to get out of being assigned homework.
But Harry liked it that way. He enjoyed having the attention off him so he could focus on his filming and capturing the perfect shot. His position on the social hierarchy – in the middle, somewhere between Louis’ posse and the loners and burnouts – was comfortable for him.
If only the people he was sitting with realized that.
“Yeah, I told you about this last night. Remember? It’s for my movie, so be nice, please.”
Eleanor kept the scowl on her face, but sat down on the other side of Louis anyway.
“It won’t interfere with our plans after school today, will it?” she questioned.
“Of course not. We’re still going to the mall.”
“Good; because I know the perfect charm for my Pandora bracelet I want you to buy me.”
She jingled the gold charm bracelet she wore around her skinny wrist with a grin.
“Can’t wait,” Louis smiled.
Harry could see how fake that was from a mile away.
“Good,” Eleanor beamed. She leaned over and kissed him on the cheek, and Louis gave her a soft smile.
Harry tore his eyes away from the disgusting scene in front of him and looked at Louis’ friends, all of whom looked like they would rather be anywhere else at the moment.
Harry could sympathize.
On Friday night, Harry, Zayn and Liam went to Liam’s house.
Zayn arrived carrying two pizzas and brought them down to the basement.
“I need you to stop eating that shit,” Zayn grumbled to Harry, who was taking a bite of his pizza with pineapples on top.
The three of them were flicking channels on the television and sitting on the beat-up, tan sofa that the Paynes had had for more years than Harry had known Liam.
Each of the boys had a paper plate in his lap and his feet propped up on the metal coffee table in front of them.
“At least I don’t get ham on it,” Harry shrugged. “You should be happy about that part and less nag-y about me eating pineapple.”
“But it’s so strange,” Liam said. He took a bite of his own pepperoni pizza before continuing. “You might as well get anchovies on it.”
Zayn grimaced. “Now that’s disgusting.”
“Maybe I’ll get some squid on it,” Harry joked as they passed a rerun of SpongeBob Squarepants.
“Was that an accidental reference or were you going for a SpongeBob connection?”
“Purely coincidental; I swear.”
“Irregardless…” Liam started.
Zayn and Harry exchanged a look at their friend’s total butchering of the word.
“How are things with Louis going?”
“As good as to be expected, I suppose,” Harry answered.
“What does that mean?” Zayn asked.
“It means that he’s a total diva and wants to make sure everything is about him.”
“So, nothing we didn’t already know.”
“Have you found anything for that ‘exactly like you’ part of the task?”
Harry scoffed. “Yeah, right. I’m starting to think I’m not going to find that, either.”
“Well, what’s he like to his friends?” Liam asked.
“He treats them like shit, pretty much.”
“Yeah, so there goes that aspect. He won’t talk about his family, so I have no idea how things are in that area.”
“Well how about school?” Zayn tried. “Is he-?”
Zayn didn’t even finish his question before Harry cut him off with a scathing look.
“The first day we filmed, he asked me if the red light meant that the camera was off.”
“Ooh…” Zayn and Liam both winced.
“Well, you’ll find something,” Liam said with encouragement, his enthusiastic puppy dog traits taking over.
“I hope so. Otherwise, I’m totally screwed. I’ve already lost a week with him.”
Zayn and Liam nodded, but didn’t say anything else.
They weren’t going to be the ones to tell Harry that for once, he’d probably had a bad idea.
The second full week was completely frustrating.
Louis was supposed to meet up with Harry on Monday after soccer practice so Harry could ask him questions about everything: his family, school, general interests, future plans, etc.
But Louis never showed.
The next day, when Harry asked what had happened, Louis just shrugged and said they could try it again later that afternoon.
Only for Harry to find out that Louis had a game Tuesday afternoon, and, afterward, went out with his friends, who made it perfectly clear that Harry couldn’t come.
On Wednesday, Louis just ignored Harry’s text asking if he was free that day, and after Harry pestered him all day Thursday, Louis finally agreed for Friday after school.
So it was right after the last bell rang that Harry was supposed to meet Louis again for Louis to answer his questions.
Harry went to his locker and got the few books he would need.
Once he was done, he walked down the hallway and out to the steps at the side of the school.
He sat down on the low wall overlooking the student parking lot and watched as everyone hurried away from school for the weekend.
He texted Louis where he was.
It was 2:20, and he resolved that if Louis wasn’t there by 2:30, then he was leaving.
When 2:30 came around, he pushed it back to 2:40, and then that would be it.
At 2:40, he saw movement out of the corner of his eye, but when he looked, he saw it was just the school janitor coming out to empty some trash cans.
So he waited a few more minutes, but by 2:45, he was done.
Louis wasn’t there. He wasn’t coming.
Why did Louis keep flaking out on the question part of this? It wasn’t anything big. He wasn’t trying to expose Louis’ deepest, darkest secrets. He just wanted to ask him about his interests. That was it.
He got up and started walking home.
He got a few blocks down the street before he saw it: Louis’ blue BMW.
It was in the Wawa parking lot.
He marched over there, irritated as all hell.
When he got to the store, he saw Louis coming out with a plastic bag in each hand.
“You’re fired!” Harry yelled at him.
It took Louis by surprise, as the other boy slightly jumped, but stopped where he was.
“I said, ‘you’re fired,’” Harry repeated from where he stood in front of Louis’ car. “Do you need me to say it slower?”
“No, you don’t need to fucking say it slower; I’m not a moron. You can’t fire me! I’m the star of your pathetic, little movie.”
“It’s not pathetic! And you’re replaceable, Louis. The whole fucking world doesn’t revolve around you!”
“Doesn’t it? I mean, wasn’t that your reasoning for asking me to be in this, anyway?”
“Why did you say ‘yes’ if you weren’t going to take it seriously?” Harry wanted to know. “You’ve acted like a total fuckwit for most of the filming sessions we’ve had, and you’ve blown me off all week. You don’t care about it anyway, so why bother?”
“I do take it seriously!”
“No, you don’t, Louis! You clearly don’t give a rat’s ass about anybody else but yourself, so we’re done here.”
“Get in the car,” Louis ordered.
“Get in the fucking car. You think I don’t care about anyone but myself? I do. I actually had a good reason for blowing you off, thank you very much. Now get in the fucking car.”
“Why? You had all week to text me or tell me in school that you couldn’t make it and couldn’t answer my questions. I would have understood. Instead, you just left me hanging. Why should I go anywhere with you?”
“Because you need footage. Just admit it.”
“I already told you: you’re replaceable,” Harry fibbed.
The truth was, Louis wasn’t replaceable at all. Harry only had three weeks left to get this assignment done. He was too far in now to find a new person.
“I’ll believe it when I see it. Let’s go.”
Louis walked past him and opened the driver’s side door.
Louis took a deep breath and threw his bags in the backseat.
After pinching the bridge of his nose for a moment, he finally looked up at Harry and asked, “What do you mean, ‘no’?”
“I mean, I’m not going anywhere with you until you apologize. You were a total dick, and you know it.”
“Were, too. Now apologize.”
“I don’t apologize,” Louis said with a scoff.
“Then we’re done here.”
Louis got in the driver’s seat. He put the key in the ignition and stared at Harry.
Harry stared back, hoping his expression was more stern and menacing than he felt on the inside. He was starting to panic because if Louis actually left the parking lot, then he was done for.
Goodbye, film school.
Louis raised his eyebrows and revved the engine.
Harry crossed his arms in front of his chest and held the gaze.
Louis shook his head. He turned his body to look through his rear windshield and started to back out of the spot.
Harry sighed as he watched Louis start to leave.
But before he could even start to feel sorry for himself, Louis was pulling back into the space and stepping out of his car.
Louis walked up to the hood of the car and leaned both of his hands against it. He clenched and unclenched his jaw a few times before speaking.
“I’m sorry,” he spoke through gritted teeth.
Harry knew he was pushing his luck, but at this point, he was so mad at Louis that he honestly didn’t care.
“For blowing you off for filming.”
Harry nodded. “Will you ever do it again?”
Louis jutted the lower half of his jaw out before answering, “No.”
They stared at each other for a moment before Harry smiled.
“Now was that so hard?”
Harry walked to the passenger door and got in the car.
Louis gawked at Harry as he did so, his eyes wide and mouth wide open.
He clenched his fists together and let out a long, low groan of frustration before sitting back in the driver’s seat.
“Where are we going?” Harry asked happily.
“Shut up,” Louis shot back.
He backed out of the spot and started driving.
“Listen, you wanted to know about my family so damn bad, well, here goes…”
He looked over at Harry, that hateful look that Harry had gotten so used to still in his eyes.
“And I guess you might as well film this, too.”
Harry went into his book bag and pulled out his camera, moving slowly like he didn’t want to spook Louis back into his shell.
“So.” Louis started talking.
He pulled onto the highway and before long, had engaged cruise control.
“I have four younger sisters, and we all live with my mom,” he said loudly enough for the camera to pick up his volume over the sounds around them.
“Lottie’s fifteen, Fizzy’s thirteen and the twins, Daisy and Phoebe, are eleven. My mom is now the sole owner of Tomlinson Corporations, which my dad owned before he passed away. She works a lot, but she gets to make her own hours when she’s there, in cases like today. Right now, we’re on our way to Addison Horse Company, which is a farm and competition ground about twenty miles away from here. My sister Daisy loves horses, and she was devas- um, I mean, really upset that she didn’t place in a competition about a month ago. Well, the third place finisher had to drop out because her family wound up moving, so now Daisy gets to compete. We only found out earlier this week, and she’s been practicing with her horse Rowan every day. So those times I blew you off-”
Harry looked up from the screen to look at Louis, since he was talking to him.
“- I was going to Daisy’s practices. She’s so excited, and I just wanted to be there for her.”
“Wow…” Harry commented. It took him by surprise that Louis was passing up a time to be the center of attention in order to let his sister take on the role.
“What about the rest of your family?” Harry asked.
“They’re there already,” Louis replied. “I ran home to get changed, because the grounds are muddy – sorry about your sneakers, by the way; they’re gonna be gross by the time we leave.”
“And I didn’t want to get my shoes all dirty, so I put on my Hunters.”
There was the Louis that Harry knew and loved.
Well, not loved, but expected.
“Anyway, I had to stop at Wawa to get waters and snacks for the girls and that’s where I ran into you.”
“Not what I expected, that’s for sure.”
“Well, don’t make assumptions about me.”
Harry nodded, but didn’t have any other response.
“So is Daisy good?”
“Of course,” Louis scoffed. “You should see her room. She has medals all pinned on her wall. She’s so good with that horse. She’s had it since she was old enough to ride. Honestly, it was something she always did with my dad. He loved horses, too.”
Louis ended abruptly then, glancing at the camera before turning on the radio and turning up the volume on the radio.
Harry guessed that was over.
He turned off his camera to save the battery.
About fifteen minutes later, they were pulling into a grassy field.
Harry was surprised that Louis actually trusted his precious car to be all right in a spot without designated parking lines.
They got out and Louis grabbed the plastic bags out of the backseat. Harry followed him down a trail toward the noise of cheers and horses neighing. A moment later, he was turning his camera back on and filming.
In front of him was a large equestrian competition field. Surrounding the pitch were lawn chairs set up by the families of the girls practicing.
“There you are!”
Harry looked over to see Louis hugging a woman with brown hair that Harry assumed was his mom.
“You almost missed her; I swear, you’re always late.”
“Sorry, mom,” Louis apologized. “I got food, though.”
She noticed Harry then, with his camera pointed directly at her.
“Sorry, who are you?”
Harry lowered his camera, but before he could say anything, Louis answered, “This is my friend Harry. He… loves horses, too. Harry, this is my mom, Jay.”
“Harry?” Jay pondered. “Didn’t you and Louis go to school together when you were babies?”
“Mom,” Louis grumbled.
“I’m just asking!”
“Um, yeah, Mrs. Tomlinson, we went to school together when we were younger,” Harry replied, trying not to laugh at Louis’ reaction.
“Thought so. Well, have a seat. Come on.”
Louis dug in the bags, pulling out a water bottle for his mom and each of his three other sisters who were sitting there, as well. He also had small bags of chips for each of the girls, and a Kit Kat for the youngest one.
“Thanks, Lou,” she beamed, hurriedly unwrapping the chocolate.
“You’re welcome, Pheebs.”
Louis sat on top of the wooden table behind their fold out chairs, and Harry sat next to him.
“I didn’t grab any more water,” Louis told him. “We can share this one if you want.”
“Um, yeah.” Harry nodded. “Thanks.”
“So, Lottie is this blonde one right here.”
Lottie waved a hand in the air before returning to the text on her phone.
Harry had seen Lottie around school plenty of times before; but, due to their two-year age difference, they’d never had a class together or been formally introduced.
“The brunette is Fizzy.”
Fizzy didn’t even respond to the introduction.
“And the tiny one is Phoebe.”
“I’m not tiny!” She swiveled completely around in her chair to frown at her older brother.
“Sorry, not tiny.” Louis laughed. “The youngest, then.”
“By four minutes.” She rolled her eyes before turning back around.
Louis shrugged a shoulder and craned his neck, presumably to find his other sister and her horse.
“And that’s Daisy over there.” He pointed her out to Harry once he found her.
Harry looked, and saw a young girl identical to the eleven-year-old sitting in front of him, only, the one across the field had on riding pants and boots, with a black blazer and black helmet.
She easily mounted the horse, getting comfortable on the saddle and walking it over to the edge of the field.
“Yeah, Daisy!” Louis cheered.
Harry aimed his camera at Louis, whose focus was solely on his little sister.
The field had an obstacle course on it. There were bars for the horses to jump over and tall white poles set up for the horses to practice speed drills running through.
Harry soon realized that while the entire Tomlinson clan was loudly yelling for Daisy, Louis was the epitome of a cheerful spectator.
As soon as Daisy got to the start of the field, he was on his feet, ready to clap when she was done.
Harry kept his camera on him and filmed him as he jumped up and down for his sister.
Louis winced when the horse knocked down one of the poles she was supposed to clear, but cheered the loudest when they ran through again and made it without a problem.
They spent about another hour there, but Harry was never bored.
If he wasn’t watching Daisy practice, he was talking to Louis about school, or to Jay about college.
There was also a conversation with Lottie about hair products in there somewhere.
At the end of the practice, the coach reminded all of the parents about what time to be at the actual competition on Sunday and where it would be.
Jay and Louis nodded at the information.
“Harry, will you be coming back for dinner?” Jay asked as they walked back to their cars.
“Um…” he looked at Louis, unsure of what to answer.
“You can if you want,” Louis nonchalantly replied as he fumbled with his car keys.
“We’re having ice cream sundaes afterward,” Fizzy encouraged. “Lou calls them – what was it? – ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ sundaes?”
Louis nodded. “That’s it.”
“They’re pretty good,” Lottie added.
“You have to come,” Daisy whined. “I didn’t actually get to meet you, so now I have to.”
“OK.” Harry laughed. “Um, yeah, I can come over.”
“Perfect.” Jay smiled. “I’ll order extra pizza. What do you like on it?”
“I’m not picky. Whatever you normally get is fine.”
“So… Pepperoni? Sausage? Mushrooms?”
“Um, well, I like pineapple?”
All of them groaned, but Fizzy got an enthusiastic look on her face.
“I knew it!” she shrieked. “I knew I wasn’t weird for liking that.”
“Look what you started,” Louis scolded.
“Thank you, Harry! It’s official. I like Harry more than I like Louis.”
Fizzy shrugged. “Just saying. Come on, let’s go.”
Jay and the girls climbed into her Range Rover, while Harry got back in the car with Louis.
“Pineapple pizza,” Louis muttered under his breath. “The nerve.”
Harry just smiled and reviewed his footage from the day.
“Tell it again.”
“Please, don’t tell it again,” Louis countered.
“Harry, come on,” Lottie grinned. “You know you want to tell it again.”
Harry looked between Louis and the smiling faces of his family.
“So, I had just paid for my lunch…” Harry started.
Louis groaned and spooned some more of his ice cream into his mouth while his sisters all started giggling.
“I was walking to go sit with my friends. I looked up and didn’t see anybody in front of me, so I watched some film I had on my camera while I walked. All of a sudden-“ he waved his arms like a madman at that point, getting huge laughs from the twins – “your genius brother over here, moves his chair back, so that it’s in my path. I’m not watching, so naturally, I crashed right into him. My lunch got all over him: his face, his hair, down his shirt. It was disgusting.”
“I’m still not over that, by the way,” Louis said grumpily.
“I know you’re not,” Harry shot back.
“You probably won’t be for a while, Lou,” Fizzy told her brother.
“We could’ve avoided it all if you had just watched where I was going.”
“Watched where- Do you mean watched where I was going?” Harry asked.
“No, I said it right the first time. You should watch where I am. At all times.”
“Oh, Louis!” Jay scolded. “Please!”
“Thought we were past that?” Harry whispered, referring to his self-centered behavior once again.
Louis rolled his eyes and shrugged a shoulder. “Habit.”
“My humble son,” Jay smiled. “All right, children of mine. I’ll be in the office if you need me. Harry, it was lovely having you.”
“Thanks for letting me come over.”
“You’re welcome back any time, sweetie. Don’t let Louis annoy you away.”
“Oi!” Louis protested.
“You know what I mean. Louis, would you mind cleaning up the kitchen before you drive Harry home?”
“I’ll help,” Harry offered.
“I know you will.”
“Louis, how do you have friends?” Lottie wondered as she stood up.
“Beats me, honestly.”
Jay rolled her eyes again at her son before leaving the room, all four girls walking out behind her, dispersing to different parts of the house.
“All right, let’s get this over with,” Louis decided.
The two of them got up and started carrying bowls and spoons over to the sink.
While Harry rinsed them and loaded them in the dishwasher, Louis looked through the extra pizza.
“Do you want to take any of this home?” Louis asked.
“Nah, it’s OK.”
“You sure? There’s like, half a pineapple pizza left.”
“Fizzy can have it, then. Who knows when she’ll be able to order it next?”
“True,” Louis nodded.
He got tin foil out of the cabinet and started wrapping it up.
Harry heard a loud vibrating coming from the kitchen table.
He looked over his shoulder and said, “Is that your phone ringing?”
“Oh, shit. Yeah.”
Louis went over and checked the screen. “It’s El. You mind if I…?”
“No, go ahead.”
Louis answered the call and walked out of the room, leaving Harry alone.
Harry finished with the dishes and dried his hands off on a dishtowel.
He heard Louis talking on the phone in the living room, so he walked through the archway to his left, finding himself in a long hallway.
He could hear the clacking of a keyboard. He assumed that was Jay working in her office.
On the walls were a ton of pictures.
Some of them were of Louis when he was younger; others featured him with his sisters or with other various family members.
He got to the middle of the hallway when a picture caught his eye.
It was of a younger man wearing a suit and crown and a sash that read ‘Homecoming King.’ He was standing with a skinny blonde in a blue dress who also had on a crown but donned a ‘Homecoming Queen’ sash.
Harry had never seen that picture before.
The girl didn’t look like Louis’ mom, so Harry figured the boy must be his dad.
“You’re nosy, aren’t you?”
Harry jumped a little at Louis’ voice. Louis was standing in the archway from the kitchen. He must’ve ended his conversation and come to find him.
“Sorry,” Harry apologized.
“You don’t have to be. It’s a big house; there’s a lot to look at.”
Louis stood next to him, looking at the same picture Harry had just been examining.
“Who is this?” Harry asked for confirmation.
“I feel like you already know the answer to that.”
Harry nodded. So his suspicions had been correct. “So your dad was Homecoming King at Woodlands, too?”
“Is that why you want to be, too?”
His gaze fell to the floor, and Harry waited for him to speak next. He could sense there was something else coming.
“It’s just… My dad and I didn’t have a whole lot in common. He was all about hard work and picking a career at birth and working until the day you die. Don’t get me wrong; I never had one of those Hollywood movie childhoods where I couldn’t be a kid because my dad was a total slave driver. My dad loved me; he loved all of us and was so involved in everything we did. We just didn’t see eye to eye on a whole lot. He was all big business, and I just wanted to fucking play soccer.”
Harry remembered that Louis’ dad had passed away after sixth grade, meaning that Louis’ dad was putting the pressure on when they were only about eleven.
“I know I’m not cut out for a business career like him. I don’t have the brains or the skill. And like, I couldn’t even keep a role in a film where I literally just had to be myself. You couldn’t stand me for two full weeks before you fired me. God only knows if I’ll ever find someone who can tolerate me enough to get married and have a family. I mean, you already said it earlier: I’m a total fuckwit.”
“Lou, you’re not-”
“Stop,” he said in a near whisper. “This isn’t supposed to make you feel bad or anything, just…”
He sighed. “Anyway, I feel more connected to my dad when I can do the same things as him. And right now, that includes being Homecoming King.”
Harry could feel Louis’ walls going back up. Thirty seconds ago, he’d been able to witness the real side of Louis: the vulnerable side that still missed his father and wanted to be like him in every way possible.
Now, he was just left with the parts of Louis he originally hated: the mean, tough, ‘scoffs in the face of emotion’ Louis.
It was boring, and a bit unoriginal, in Harry’s opinion.
He’d seen the funny, caring, considerate, honest Louis, and Harry didn’t want to wait until he could see it again.
“Well, well, well, look who decided to remember we existed?” Zayn sarcastically asked Liam on Saturday.
“Very funny, guys,” Harry said as he sat down at their table.
Harry had texted both of them earlier that morning and asked if they wanted to meet up for pizza at Angelo’s.
Both of them had agreed, and they wanted to know what was up.
“I’m sorry I ditched you last night.”
“Didn’t even text us to let us know what was happening,” Liam added.
“Yeah, that was a dick move, too,” Harry agreed.
“Where were you?” Zayn wondered. “You said you would meet at my house by 8, and then you just didn’t show up.”
“I was with Louis.”
Zayn and Liam stared at him momentarily before looking at each other.
“Hold on,” Liam put a hand up, “you blew us off to hang out with Louis, who spent all this week blowing you off? Even though the three of us hang out every Friday, and, barring family emergencies or requirements, have done that every Friday since middle school?”
“Was it just with him? Was it like a date?” Zayn interrogated.
“No, it wasn’t a date! We were with his family most of the day.”
“You know who hangs out with families of people they’re not dating?” Liam asked. “Friends.”
“We’re not friends,” Harry denied.
“Sounds like you could be getting there, though. Like, you hung out with him all day yesterday. We don’t even spend entire days together.”
“You said you weren’t gonna be friends with him, H,” Zayn said.
“Because we’re not! Like, we don’t do any of the friend stuff I do with you guys. Yesterday, I filmed a lot. I got a background of his family life, which is something I was missing. It makes the movie way more complete. It was a good thing.”
“Oooh, family information? Like what? Anything scandalous?”
“Not really,” Harry answered. “It was a bit anti-climactic, actually. Like, he’s got four younger sisters and he loves them to death, and he and his mom are really close. Don’t tell anyone, but Louis is actually a huge softie.”
“That is anti-climactic,” Liam said with a frown. “I was expecting to hear about some epic arguments over whose trust fund is biggest, or something like that.”
“Yeah… the Tomlinsons are a close-knit family. Who would’ve seen it coming?”
The third full week went very well. Louis was suddenly very cooperative with the schedule Harry had set out for them to follow.
On Monday, Louis even had Harry sit at his table without needing to film anything.
“You would really help me?” Niall asked Harry in surprise.
“Of course I would.” Harry nodded. “Algebra 2 is no problem.”
“Easy for you to say. You’re a geek. You probably get off on solving for x and shit.”
“Man, I thought geometry was hard last year,” Niall continued like Harry hadn’t said a word. “I got a tutor for it, but she was really hot, so no surprise, I barely passed.”
“Niall…” Stan shook his head.
“What? It wasn’t my fault I couldn’t concentrate; she had a nice rack.”
Louis shook his head as he laughed at his friend. The other guys joined in and Harry smiled, but was still moderately confused at how these guys had made it this far in school.
“Listen, let me know when you want to start,” Niall said, “but my teacher mentioned something about ‘pollen omials’ and long division, and that sounds terrifying, so I’d appreciate if it was like, now.”
“Do you mean ‘polynomials’?”
“Yeah, those, too.”
“OK… Um, yeah, it’s fine. Give me like, two weeks until the movie’s over, though?”
“You got it, nerd.”
“One condition, though,” Harry bravely countered. “You can’t call me nerd anymore. Or geek or loser or anything like that.”
Louis watched the conversation in slight admiration. He didn’t think Harry had it in him to stand up to Niall like that.
He supposed he had himself to blame for that, though.
Harry yelling at and firing Louis on Friday probably boosted his confidence a shit-ton.
Niall shrugged. “Deal.” He reached his hand across the table and they shook on it.
Harry grinned and turned to see Louis smiling fondly at them.
Just past Louis, however, Eleanor had an ultimate bitchface on, and she had it focused on Harry.
“Wow, only two weeks left until the end of your little movie, Harry?” she asked. “Bummer.”
“Oh, but did you hear?” Louis inquired. “Apparently they’re going to air all of the completed films at the municipal building the weekend that the contest ends.”
“Who told you that?” Harry wondered.
“Ms. D saw me in the hallway earlier and she mentioned it. So I’ll get to see my masterpiece on the big screen.”
“Your masterpiece, huh?”
“Yes. My beautiful face is a work of art. Isn’t that what a masterpiece is?”
“Yeah, Louis,” Harry sighed. “You’re right.”
Louis grinned. “See?”
Eleanor scoffed loudly. “Whatever.”
Louis turned and raised an eyebrow at her, but she ignored him, choosing to take out her phone instead.
“Oh, Harry,” Louis remembered, “Daisy wanted me to tell you that she won the competition yesterday.”
“She did? I knew she could win!”
“She was so excited. I swear, watching her with that horse is so cool. They can like, read each other’s minds and shit. I guess because they’ve been together for so long?”
“I could see that at practice. They like, shared one brain.”
“Wait,” Eleanor interrupted. “You’ve been to one of Daisy’s practices?”
“Um…” Harry hesitated. “Yes?”
Eleanor stared at Harry before angrily looking at Louis.
She scoffed again before getting up and walking away from the table.
“Let me guess?” Harry said. “Eleanor’s never been to a practice?”
Louis slowly shook his head ‘no,’ while staring at the table and avoiding any eye contact.
“Ooh, someone’s in trouble,” Niall muttered.
Then he made a yelp like he’d just been kicked under the table.
“Dining with the peasants today?” Liam asked the next day in the cafeteria.
“Ha, ha,” Harry fake-laughed.
He sat down at the table, only to see his two best friends still staring him down.
“You sat at Louis’ table. For fun.” Zayn said. “That doesn’t just happen. We’ve never sat anywhere but at this table.”
“Why did you sit there?”
“Well… OK, I honestly don’t know about that one. I think it was because he wanted to tell me about his sister’s race.”
“What race?” Liam wondered.
“Oh, well his sister Daisy rides horses,” Harry immediately explained. “She’s really good, too. She showed me her medals and awards when I was over there on Friday. Anyway, Louis was blowing me off last week because he was going to support her at her practice for the competition, which she had on Sunday. And he told me yesterday that Daisy won, which was awesome because she was so upset when she didn’t place last time, so it really meant a lot to her… What?”
Harry stopped talking once he noticed how Zayn and Liam were staring at him.
“You sound like a proud father,” Liam said.
“I do not.”
“Yeah, you do.”
“Maybe not a father,” Zayn thought.
“More like a proud brother-in-law.”
Harry rolled his eyes. “No, I don’t.”
“You like Louis.”
“I definitely do not.”
“So why are you bonding with his family?” Liam wanted to know.
“Because I’m trying to get this filming done! I’m trying to find out information about him, and I can’t do that if I completely ignore his family when I’m in their house.”
Zayn looked unsure. “Look, if you have some kind of crush on Louis-“
“I don’t have a crush on him, Zayn!” Harry insisted. “I don’t. Just, we don’t hate each other as much as we did a few weeks ago, and for the sake of this movie getting finished, I’ll allow that to happen. I’m submitting the video on the 20th, and after that, everything will probably go back to normal.”
It sounded good, and judging by the semi-satisfied looks on Liam and Zayn’s faces, Harry figured he was in the clear for now.
He just didn’t mention the fact that he kind of hoped things didn’t go back to normal.
On Thursday, Harry stayed after school, editing his footage together.
He was pleased to see it coming along so nicely, since he had to submit it in less than two weeks.
A flash of light caught his attention, and he looked down to see a new message from Louis.
He slid it open, curious of what Louis was texting him.
Louis: Where are you?
Harry: Computer lab. 2nd floor.
He didn’t get a response right away, so Harry shrugged it off.
He replayed the footage he had of Louis from Daisy’s practice and had just decided where he wanted to cut it when he heard the door open.
He glanced up to see Louis strolling in.
“What’s up?” Harry asked.
“Nothing. Just saying ‘hey.’”
“Here we go,” Harry laughed.
“What are you doing this weekend? Specifically, tomorrow night?”
“Hanging with my friends, probably.”
“Ouch. What? I’m not your friend, Harry?”
Harry shrugged. “Thought I had to stay in my lane.”
Louis opened his mouth like he wanted to say something, but he couldn’t. He himself had said that just two short weeks ago.
“Right…” he said quietly. “Um, well listen. Eleanor’s having a party on Friday night, and I think you should come. You can even bring your friends, since I’m not included in that group.”
“With your friends?”
“I guess?” Louis replied. “I mean, you don’t have to come; it was just an idea.”
“I won’t really know anybody.”
“You’ll know me! And Niall and Stan. And your friends who you bring. And you know El.”
Harry internally scoffed, but was pretty sure Louis could read his response to that last one on his face.
“She doesn’t hate you, you know.”
“I’m pretty sure she does,” Harry disagreed.
“No, she doesn’t. Just, she doesn’t like when she’s not the center of attention.”
“Hey, I’m not that bad, am I?”
“You used to be. You’ve gotten better, though.”
“Thank you. Now seriously, will you come?”
“I guess. But, what do I wear?”
A big smile broke across Louis’ face.
Harry already knew that wasn’t a good sign.
Shopping with Louis was like being caught in a tornado.
All you could do was duck your head, take cover and hope for the best.
“So you enjoy clothes shopping?” Harry asked, his camera aimed at Louis. About an hour after admitting to Louis that he was clueless about how to dress for a party, he’d been dragged away from the computer lab and driven to the mall so Louis could find him an appropriate outfit.
They’d been there for about fifteen minutes, but Harry was already not looking forward to how this trip would end up.
He didn’t know what ‘appropriate’ meant in Louis’ book.
“Of course; shopping helps the economy,” Louis answered. “These jeans should fit you, right?”
“Yeah, if I was a fourteen-year-old girl.”
The jeans Louis was holding up looked like they would take a series of technical machines poking and prodding at Harry’s legs to squeeze them on.
They were skinny jeans; no mistaking that.
“Try them on anyway. Now, you said you had sneakers?”
“Yeah, I have some white Converse in my closet that I haven’t worn in a while.”
“Good. Now, I want to find you a shirt.”
He started to walk away, but stopped when he heard Harry shriek.
“What’s wrong?” he hurried over.
“Louis, these jeans are seventy dollars!” Harry hissed.
“What do you mean, ‘so?’ That’s way too much for jeans.”
“Shut up, Harry. It’s not like you’ll be paying for it.”
“You really thought I would drag you out to go shopping for a party that I invited you to and make you pay for clothes that you wouldn’t have gone out and bought yourself? I’ll pay for whatever we get today; relax.”
“Louis, I can’t let you do that.”
“Because- It’s not right.”
“I- I don’t know. Just-“
“Harry, shut up and say ‘thank you.’”
“You’re welcome,” Louis grinned. “Now, how do you feel about The Rolling Stones? Because I see a T-shirt over there with your name on it.”
Ten minutes later, Louis was struggling to get Harry out of the dressing room.
“I’m not coming out,” Harry refused.
“I look like a tool.”
“I’m sure you don’t look like a tool.”
“Yeah, I do,” Harry insisted.
“I’m kind of offended that you think I would let you look like a tool. Now get out here.”
“Harry!” Louis stomped his foot. “Harold, get out here right now!”
“That’s not even my real name.”
“I can hear you pouting in there. Just, please come out here so I can see how you look. If you really don’t like it, I won’t buy it.”
Louis was met with silence.
Louis stepped back as he heard the latch to the changing room door come undone.
“You look great!” he complimented as Harry stepped out.
“Of course you do. I knew you would. And those jeans look great on you. Guess you have the lower body of a fourteen-year-old girl.”
“But you look good; don’t worry. I love it.”
“You have to say that; you picked it out.”
“You’d be surprised. I’ve gone shopping with the girls more than enough times that sometimes, things really do look better on the rack.”
He looked back in the mirror at his reflection, examining his appearance.
“You like it, don’t you?” Louis grinned.
“I knew it! Get it; come on.”
“I’m gonna pay you back for it.”
“No, you won’t.”
“Louis, this outfit is a hundred bucks. I’m paying you back.”
“I won’t take it,” Louis shook his head.
“Just get changed and meet me at the register before you change your mind.”
Without another word, Louis left the dressing area and Harry sighed to himself.
He supposed there were worse things he could do than accept a free outfit from his non-friend.
“Why are we even going to this?” Zayn complained for the millionth time that night.
“Because we were invited,” Harry replied.
“No, you were invited, and we’re just being dragged along.”
“Because I can’t go to a party by myself! I need you guys here.”
“This isn’t some kind of joke, right?” Liam wondered as he locked his car.
The three of them started walking toward Eleanor’s house from where he parked a couple of houses down.
“Like, we’re not going to walk in and get drenched with pig’s blood or something?”
“No, it’s not Carrie,” Harry insisted. “I promise you, Louis’ not like that. He really just wants us-”
“- you -”
“- there are the party. Now let’s go have fun.”
They walked in the front door and the first thing that Harry noticed was how loud it was.
They were standing in a large living room, and there was a staircase to the left that led upstairs.
There was music playing from somewhere, and there were just people everywhere.
Sometimes, Harry forgot they went to such a big high school.
They started walking through the crowd, soon finding themselves in the kitchen. There was a dining room to the right of them, and an open door leading out to the backyard.
“Where’s Louis?” Liam asked.
The kitchen was a bit quieter, but still loud enough that Liam had to raise his voice.
“Not sure,” Harry responded. “I texted him we were here before we got out of the car.”
He checked his phone to see if Louis had responded, but he hadn’t.
“There he is,” Zayn said.
He nodded his head toward the patio door, where Louis was standing outside. He was talking with Niall and had his arm around Eleanor’s waist.
Harry sighed, and walked through the door.
He’d seriously been hoping he could just avoid Eleanor the whole night, considering her house was pretty big.
No such luck.
“Harry!” Louis greeted as they got closer. “Welcome!”
“Hey, Louis. You know Zayn and Liam, right?”
As he spoke, he wanted to turn around and go home. Eleanor was staring at him with daggers in her eyes so sharp that he’d probably go home with razor burn on his face.
“Yeah, boys, how’s it going?”
“It’s going all right,” Zayn said.
“You have a really nice house,” Liam complimented Eleanor.
“I know,” she huffed. “Louis, I’ll be back.”
She walked away, finding some other girls to hang out with.
“Well…” Louis cleared his throat. “As you can see, this is the backyard. There’s plenty of room to roam about. We have kegs just over there. Feel free to sit around and chill, or go inside and dance. Or stay out here and dance. It’s your choice. In the kitchen, you’ll find other choices of alcohol. Feel free to indulge. Any questions?”
The three of them shook their heads no.
“Perfect. Niall, would you mind getting them set up? I’m gonna go check on…”
“Yeah, go for it; I got ‘em.”
Louis nodded and went off to find Eleanor.
Niall quickly rolled his eyes and shook his head before putting a smile back on his face.
“All right, boys; follow me.”
He took them over to the kegs and pulled some cups off the stack nearby.
“Here you go.”
He handed each of them a cup and waited.
Harry, Zayn and Liam looked at their cups and looked at the keg, not knowing what they were supposed to do.
“You’ve tapped a keg before, right?” Niall asked them.
Although, he supposed he knew the answer.
When none of them said anything, Niall just chuckled.
“Oh, boy. This should be a fun night.”
“What’s the matter with you?” Louis complained as Eleanor pulled him into her bedroom.
“What’s the matter?” she screeched. “What’s the matter? How about the fact that you invited total losers to my party? What will people think?”
“Why do you care? They’re not doing anything! They’re not causing a scene or getting out of control; they’re just hanging out. And honestly, nobody has a problem with it but you.”
“That’s what you think! People have been giving them looks since they walked in. Why did you bring them here? Do you want to embarrass me? Do you have a pathetic crush on your little film geek or what?”
“Of course I don’t have a crush on Harry. I’m with you, aren’t I?”
“Are you? Because you’ve been with him more these past few weeks than you’ve been with me.”
“I ask you to hang out, and you’re always busy!” Louis countered. “It’s not my fault I have soccer and homework to do.”
“Since when do you care about homework?”
“I- I don’t! I just… You know, want to stay on the soccer team, so I can’t fail.”
“Well you’re failing at this relationship! Get it together, Louis!”
Louis apologized. “I’m sorry, I really am. I promise we’ll spend more time together. What are you doing this weekend? We can go to the mall and I’ll get you a new charm for your bracelet.”
Eleanor contemplated the offer before agreeing. “Fine.”
She turned on her heel and left the room, leaving Louis alone.
Of course, in typical Louis fashion, he just got annoyed.
Who was she to tell him who he could hang out with?
He stormed out of the room and marched right outside, looking for Harry.
He found him sitting with Liam and Zayn. The three of them were relaxing under the big oak tree.
He went over to them and sat down next to Harry.
“Having a good time, boys?” he asked.
“Yeah, it’s good,” Harry nodded.
Liam and Zayn agreed and took sips of their beer.
“How’s your drink?”
“It’s OK,” Harry answered.
He took a drink of it, trying to hide his grimace as he swallowed.
“You hate it, don’t you?”
“You don’t mind if I steal Harry for a minute, do you?” Louis asked Zayn and Liam.
“No, it’s fine,” Zayn replied.
“I guess,” Liam added.
“Great. Come on.”
Louis stood up and waited for Harry to do the same.
Harry glanced at his friends, who just shrugged.
Harry rose to his feet and followed Louis back inside the house.
“What are we doing?” he asked Louis who was raiding the fridge.
“Do you like orange juice?” Louis asked instead of answering.
“What about strawberry?”
“Yeah, that’s fine.”
“Prepare to be amazed, then.”
Louis pulled two bottles out of the fridge: one was pineapple juice and the other was orange.
He also grabbed a clear, glass bottle out of the freezer.
He started by putting a few ice cubes into a red cup he grabbed off the counter.
Then he started pouring something from the clear bottle into the cup.
“OK, OK, I think that’s good!” Harry protested when Louis didn’t show any signs of stopping. “Are you trying to get me drunk or something?”
“Of course not. Why? Are you a lightweight?”
“I didn’t even know how to get beer out of the keg thing. What do you think?”
Louis grinned, but didn’t add any more vodka to the cup.
He put the cap back on and poured pineapple and orange juice into the cup.
“Try this,” Louis said after he quickly stirred it with a spoon.
Harry took a long sip.
“Now that’s good. What is this?”
“I don’t know,” Louis shrugged.
“What do you mean, you don’t know?”
“I mean, I don’t know what it’s called. But it’s strawberry vodka, pineapple juice and orange juice.”
“Well, I like it. You might have to keep these coming.”
“You got it,” Louis promised.
Harry woke up the morning after the party in his own bed.
He stared at the ceiling, wishing the room would stop spinning.
And then he realized he had a splitting headache.
“Ow,” he whispered, grabbing his head in his hands.
He drank last night. No, he drank a lot last night, and now he was dealing with the consequences.
He didn’t really remember much from the party, to be honest. He remembered pumping the keg and getting beer and walking around with Zayn and Liam while people stared at him.
He hung out with Louis for a little while, in between Louis’ time with Niall and some of the other popular people.
Oh, and Louis made him a fruity drink that he liked a whole lot. That was about it.
His phone buzzed, and Harry realized that’s what must’ve woken him up.
He blindly reached over to his bedside table and grabbed it, seeing a text from Louis.
Morning, sunshine! I didn’t get Liam’s number last night, but let him know to text me and I’ll bring him to El’s so he can get his car.
“Oh, fuck,” Harry muttered.
Now he remembered what happened:
“Harry, will you get home all right?” Louis asked worriedly.
“Sure!” Harry slurred excitedly. “Of course I will. Liam drove me.”
“All right, let’s go find him, because I think you’re done, man.”
Harry started walking through the party, feeling Louis’ hands on his shoulders, guiding him through the crowd.
They finally found Liam and Zayn outside, by the keg.
They were helping someone pump beer into their cup, although it appeared that all three of them were laughing hysterically, wasted out of their minds.
“Uh oh,” Harry giggled.
“Oh, boy,” Louis muttered.
“Guess I’ll walk home, then.”
“You’re not gonna walk, Harry. You can just stay here.”
Harry laughed loudly. “That’s funny.”
“Louis… Lou… Lou bear…”
“I can’t stay here. In your girlfriend’s house. She hates me. And I don’t fit in with your friends.”
“Sure you do,” Louis insisted.
“No, I don’t, babe. And I’m not upset by it.”
“Then I’ll drive you. Come on. Let’s get Liam and Zayn and we’ll go.”
“Are you gonna get in trouble?” Harry whispered.
“No. Why would I get in trouble?”
“I don’t know. Because we would look like friends.”
Louis sighed. “No. I won’t get in trouble. Now let’s go.”
Harry heard a snore coming from the floor of his room.
He looked down and saw Liam and Zayn passed out there, flopped down face first on Harry’s comforter, snoring away.
Harry took a deep breath and shut his eyes again.
Louis drove them home last night because he’d been worried about them getting there safely.
It was just one more thing Harry loved about Louis.
There were a lot of things Harry loved about Louis: his sense of humor, his love for his family, his ability to make Harry smile, his attempts to make Harry feel comfortable at the party.
The list kind of went on and on.
Last time Harry had thought to himself that he loved Louis was the day they’d gone to Daisy’s practice.
He’d quickly corrected himself then. But now, he only wanted to change ‘loved’ to ‘liked.’
Harry liked Louis Tomlinson.
Like, liked him. He enjoyed spending time with Louis and getting to know who he really was, and figuring out the little things that made Louis smile.
He loved that he was able to make this movie so that others could find out who Louis really was, too.
He liked Louis.
And he wasn’t sure how to feel about that information.
It was the fourth full week when everything got flipped upside down.
For Harry, however, it may not have been the worst thing.
It all started on Monday, when he saw Louis coming into school.
He felt his jaw drop as Louis walked up to him.
Louis was wearing glasses.
Like, actual black-framed glasses that made him look incredible.
“Where are your contacts?” Harry asked.
“I accidentally dropped one of them down the drain this morning, and I have no extras. I have to go to the doctor’s to get more, but I probably can’t go until like, Wednesday."
“Oh. Well, they look good on you.”
“You really think so? You’re not just saying that, are you?”
“Of course not. You look good.”
“Well thank you,” Louis beamed.
Louis looked like he was about to say something else, but then the bell rang.
“Time for homeroom,” Harry said.
“Yeah. I’ll uh, see you later?”
Harry nodded and closed his locker.
When he turned back around, Louis was already halfway down the hallway.
The next day, though, Louis’ mood was much more subdued.
Harry watched him across the lunchroom, as he sat at his table with his shoulders hunched and his glasses still on.
What he noticed, though, was that Eleanor was no longer sitting with him and crowding his space.
She was now across the cafeteria, sitting with a bunch of cheerleaders and other popular girls, looking happy as could be.
“So what happened with your boy?” Zayn asked as he and Liam sat down.
“What do you mean?”
“Eleanor broke up with him,” Liam said. “Didn’t you know?”
“Last night, apparently. I thought you might have heard.”
“No, I hadn’t. I wonder what happened.”
Zayn and Liam shrugged, and started eating.
Harry looked over at Louis again, waiting until Louis finally looked up.
The two of them made eye contact, and Harry nodded his head toward the cafeteria door.
Louis nodded and motioned for Harry to go first.
Harry stood up, telling his friends he was going to the bathroom.
He left the room and waited a minute until Louis came in.
“What’s up?” Louis asked.
He leaned against the wall, crossing his feet at the ankles.
He also stared down toward the floor, not looking at Harry.
“You and Eleanor broke up?”
“Yeah,” Louis shrugged. “So?”
“Just wondering if you were OK, I guess.”
“Yeah, I’m good.”
“Are you like, I don’t know… Are you mad at me or something?”
“Because you’re not looking at me. Did I do something to make you mad?”
“No, Harry; we’re good.”
“Then can you stop looking at the ground and at the door like you want to leave and look at me?”
Louis peeled his gaze from the door and over to Harry’s face.
“I’m looking at you. Good?”
No, it was far from good, actually, but Harry didn’t want to push his luck. Something was wrong with Louis, but he wasn’t sure how to ask.
“Yeah. Yeah, I guess.”
“Cool. Um, I’m gonna go back, then? Let me know if we need to film anything else, OK?”
“You got it.”
Louis quickly smiled at him before exiting the bathroom, leaving Harry feeling unsure.
Something had shifted between them, and Harry didn’t know if it was good or bad.
Louis walked down the hallway after school on Thursday and saw Zayn and Liam at one of their lockers.
“OK, so we should get there at like, 5:30 to get tickets?” Zayn suggested, reading from a piece of paper.
“It starts at 6?” Liam asked.
“5:30 works. I’ll pick you up at like, 5:10; we’ll swing over to Harry’s and then get there.”
Liam shut his locker and the two of them walked away.
Zayn stuffed the paper into his slightly opened book bag, and as they walked by, Louis snatched it out.
“Alien and Aliens double feature,” it read. “Starting at 6 p.m. Friday night at American Avenue Cinemas, with 15 minute intermission.”
Then it listed a bunch of different ticket prices.
It would be tight, but Louis thought he could make it if he showered and dressed right after soccer practice and headed straight over to the theater.
Usually, it ended before 5 on Fridays, so he hoped coach wouldn’t mess this up for him.
“In no way is Alien better than Aliens,” Liam argued.
He, Zayn and Harry were standing outside of the movie theater box office, standing in line to buy tickets.
“Of course it is,” Zayn responded. “Alien was the introduction, the start of it all. It’s where we meet the characters. It was better shot and better directed. Ridley Scott used more shadows and creepy feelings, a lot like John Carpenter did with Halloween. That was the decade for weird music and dark lighting, as opposed to using blood and guts like we do today, which is what James Cameron did with Aliens.”
“Yeah, but Ripley was a badass. She kicked ass in Aliens and defended the people she was working with. Like, that’s what made the movie. She faced her fears: those aliens. She hated those things and wanted revenge and to get rid of them once and for all.”
“But she didn’t. That’s why we have two more sequels.”
“You know not to get me started on Alien 3,” Liam said. “You know I hate that movie. Seriously, how does there just happen to be a prison for horrible murderers and rapists in the middle of space?”
“How about the fact that Ripley was like, the first heroine in major movies?” Harry interjected. “She was one of the first women to save the day and even rescue the big, tough men. That’s another reason why Aliens is better. Sorry, Zayn. Yeah, she saved the day in the first movie, but like you said, Liam, she was a badass and got to show just how much she was in the second one.”
“OK, but you just said that she saved the day in Alien,” Zayn continued. “Like, that alone should make her a badass, even without the extra action. And for the record, she wasn’t the first major heroine of that time period. Laurie Strode from the original Halloween was. That came out in 1978, and Alien wasn’t out until ’79.”
“Yeah, but Laurie Strode wasn’t a fighter,” Liam disagreed. “She was a runner, and other people just got killed trying to help her. She didn’t really fight back until… what? H2O?”
“All right, I’ll give you that.”
“OK, well let’s not forget the little girl,” Harry kept on. “Newt? Like, that was Ripley’s chance to be a mom again. Let’s not even talk about how unfair it was that they were lost in space for more than half a century. Like, she woke up and all of a sudden, the majority of her family is dead. Then they find this little girl and she protects Newt with all of her might.”
“Yeah, that’s nice and all,” Zayn replied, “but come on. None of that would’ve happened if it weren’t for the original. Nothing beats an original.”
Harry rolled his eyes and was about to jump back in, until he felt someone tap on his shoulder.
“I’m not too late for tickets, right?” Louis asked, standing there nervously.
“Hey,” Harry greeted slowly, turning his back to his friends. “What are you doing here?”
“I’m here for the movie. Or, movies. Um, Alien and Aliens, right?”
“Yeah. I didn’t know you liked sci-fi movies.”
“Of course! Science? And fiction? All in the same movie? What’s not to love?”
“Right… Um, well I’m glad you’re here.”
“So am I,” Louis smiled.
They stood in line together, behind Liam and Zayn, who either hadn’t noticed Louis’ sudden appearance, or were just not commenting on it yet.
When it was their turn to buy tickets, Louis jumped up and asked for two.
“You didn’t have to pay for me,” Harry said as they walked inside and up to the concession stand.
“I know. But I thought it might be nice since I just showed up uninvited.”
“I would’ve asked you,” Harry rushed. “I just, didn’t think you’d be interested?”
“Well, I didn’t tell you, so I guess it’s not your fault. It’s cool. I’m here now.”
“Do you want to share popcorn?”
Harry got up to the register and ordered a number #2 combo.
Louis looked up to see that was a large popcorn and two large drinks.
Harry paid for the snacks and after getting the popcorn, they went over to the drink fountain.
“You mix your Icee flavors?” Harry asked, watching Louis pour both white cherry and blue raspberry into his cup.
“Of course; that’s the only way to go.”
“I agree. I do the same thing.”
“You two almost ready?” Liam asked from where he and Zayn were getting butter for their popcorn.
Harry nodded, and the two of them grabbed straws before going to find their seats.
After the movie, the four of them went to the café down the street.
While Louis waited in line for his order, the others found a table. As soon as they were seated, Zayn and Liam turned on Harry.
“Why is Louis here?” Zayn asked.
“I don’t know,” Harry shook his head. “He just showed up. He didn’t even tell me he was stopping by.”
“Did you tell him about it?”
“No, I never mentioned it. It’s not really his thing; well, I didn’t think it was his thing.”
“It’s weird,” Liam said. “Do you think it’s weird?”
“It’s weird,” Zayn agreed.
“Well, he seemed to like the movies, though,” Harry defended. “I don’t know, maybe he’s a secret sci-fi nerd.”
“Could be. And that’s why he didn’t bring any of his friends to this: he doesn’t want them to know and make fun of him.”
“Or he likes you,” Liam shrugged.
“Nah, that can’t be it,” Harry responded.
“Or it’s exactly it. He showed up, alone, to a movie showing where he somehow knew you’d be. On a Friday night, when he could be at a party with his cronies. Eleanor’s not having another party tonight?”
“I don’t know. He didn’t mention it.”
“What would you do if Louis did like you?” Zayn asked hesitantly.
Harry didn’t know how to answer that question. Fortunately, he was saved from having to, as Louis came back to the table.
“So what are we talking about?” he wondered.
“Not you,” Liam blurted out.
Zayn and Harry stared at him with shocked eyes.
They sat in an awkward silence before Harry said, “the movie. Just, what we thought about it.”
“What do you think about the fact that Ripley was in stasis for so long?” Zayn questioned. “I personally think it was just convenient, so that they could make a sequel.”
“It was necessary,” Harry shook his head. “Like I said before: the 57 years ensured Ripley wouldn’t see her family alive, and if she did, they likely wouldn’t remember her. Plus, the whole Newt situation.”
“Definitely necessary,” Liam agreed, “but there’s also no continuation if she did age. She wouldn’t have been able to come back, ready to fight.”
“Well that’s just because of the time dilation,” Louis shrugged, taking a sip of his tea.
The three of them stopped and looked at Louis.
“What?” Liam asked.
“Einstein theorized in the twin paradox that the passage of time is linked to the speed of the observer. That means that traveling to and from different points in eternal space virtually suspends aging. That, in combination with the suspended animation provided to the characters while in the stasis process just protected them from aging as well as any deterioration to their bodies, meaning Ripley would’ve been able to fight as well as she had before going into the stasis modules. Duh.”
Harry, Liam and Zayn gawked at Louis, unable to believe those words had come out of his mouth.
“Um, right…” Zayn finally muttered. “I mean, right. That’s exactly it.”
Louis beamed and took another sip of his tea.
“So, can I ask you one more question?” Harry wondered as he and Louis walked up to his front door.
The two of them had left Zayn and Liam after the café. Louis offered to drive Harry home, while Liam drove Zayn.
“Sure,” Louis shrugged.
“Where did the sudden, secret science knowledge come from?”
“Exactly. It’s a secret. Let’s keep it that way.”
“Yeah, God forbid anybody thinks you actually have a brain in that pretty, little head of yours.”
“You think I’m pretty?”
“Nah. More like handsomely rugged. Super manly.”
“You’re welcome,” Harry laughed. “Well, thanks for driving me home.”
“Any time. Um, we should do this more. Like, hanging out?”
“Do the rules of popularity allow that?”
Harry was only partially joking with his question, but Louis took it pretty seriously.
“Yeah,” Louis nodded. “Yeah, they do. You know I was only being an idiot when I said that shit, right?”
“Of course I do. I know who you really are. You should let more people see that. And same goes for your secret smarts. Let people know your actual interests. I promise, nobody would shun you.”
Louis nodded again. “Thanks.”
Harry smiled softly. “You’re welcome.”
Louis glanced down at his hands, where his fingers were playing together in front of his stomach.
“Um…” he started.
And then he launched himself at Harry, pulling him into a tight hug.
Harry was caught off guard, for sure, but gradually wrapped his arms around Louis, holding him close.
Louis rested his head on Harry’s shoulder and Harry didn’t dare move. He wasn’t sure what was going on, but he didn’t want to be the reason for its end.
Harry was convinced they stood there for hours, but looking back on it, realized it was only about a minute.
Louis started shifting back, and Harry reluctantly released his hold on him.
And then Louis surprised him again, by leaning up and kissing Harry quickly on the cheek.
“Thanks,” Louis said without meeting Harry’s eyes. “Good night.”
Then he turned and hurriedly went back to his car.
Harry watched after him long after Louis pulled away from the curb.
Harry spent all day Saturday analyzing and reanalyzing and overanalyzing what the hell happened last night.
He wasn’t sure what to make of Louis showing up at the movie marathon, or going with him, Zayn and Liam to the café, or taking him home or hugging him before kissing him on the cheek.
It was all a lot to process, and he didn’t want to tell his friends because he didn’t know what they would say.
He knew Zayn and Liam weren’t totally sold on Louis being around yet.
So he went to his next best bet: Gemma.
He knocked on her open bedroom door.
She was digging through the bottom of her closet, probably trying to find a lost shoe.
“Hey, H, I’m super late, can you-?”
She stopped what she was doing when she saw Harry’s face.
“Uh oh, what’s wrong?”
“Nothing,” he lied. “I mean, you’re leaving, so it’s cool.”
“Get in here,” she ordered.
Harry sighed, but walked into her room, shutting the door behind him.
“Wow, you’re shutting the door; this must be serious.”
He flopped down on her bed and mumbled, “I like a boy.”
Gemma gasped. “A boy! Who is it?”
“You can’t tell anybody.”
“It’s Louis, isn’t it?”
“How did you know that?” he asked. His shot his head up from the mattress to look at her. “Who told you?”
“Nobody had to tell me. I saw it coming the day you told me and mom at dinner that you were entering the film contest and using Louis as your subject.”
“How did you see it coming?”
“Well, he’s good-looking, and despite the other traits I know about him, figured there had to be more than meets the eye. He has that whole, Pretty Little Liars vibe going on.”
“You know, ‘Got a secret, can you keep it?’” she recited, referring to the theme song for the show. “It’s like, he’s hiding something, and I hoped it would be something good. Plus, he’s the first boy you’ve ever mentioned by name besides Zayn and Liam. Plus, your eyes get all shiny when you talk about him. It’s adorable.”
“It’s not adorable,” Harry grumbled.
“It is, actually. Now, what’s the problem?”
“The problem is, he’s super popular and I’m not. We’re like, not allowed to date or anything.”
“Oh, high school.” Gemma rolled her eyes. “I forgot about all that stupid drama with who’s popular and who’s not. Who’s a film geek or an athlete or the valedictorian or the loner. It doesn’t matter, H. I swear, it doesn’t. The only people who care about that are the people who can’t see past high school. Once you get to college, and eventually, the real world, no one cares if you were popular in high school or if you liked to make movies.”
“He kissed me,” Harry shyly admitted.
“On the cheek, though.”
“And you think he doesn’t like you? Come on, Harry, you’re supposed to be smart.”
“I am smart!”
“So talk to him. Invite him over tomorrow or something. You know Mom has plans with Chloe’s mom, and I’ll be in New York for the day. Do something.”
“What if he says no?”
“He won’t say no. He already made a move on you. God, that’s so cute. He’ll be here if you ask, I promise.”
“I don’t want to make it weird,” Harry sighed.
“Look at this way: the movie’s done, isn’t it?”
“So, it’s not like it will make filming complicated. If he says no, then things go back to normal, like how they were before filming started.”
“But I like how things are now.”
“No, you don’t. You want to be more than friends; I see it on your face. And that can only happen if you try.”
Harry put his head on Gemma’s pillow.
“Little brother, I love you, and would gladly do this for you, but you have to do it yourself,” Gemma comforted, sitting next to him on the bed.
“Trust me on this. Big sister’s intuition and all that. I’ve been there, and if a guy kisses you on the cheek, and doesn’t try to push you for more, he’s usually just as nervous as you are.”
“OK. Keep me posted. I really have to go.”
Harry nodded. “I’ll see you later.”
Gemma smiled and kissed him on the top of his head. “Bye.”
She found her missing shoe and pulled it on before grabbing her bag off the dresser and rushing out of the room.
Harry sighed and groaned into the pillow.
Dating was hard, and he wasn’t even actually doing it yet.
The next day, Harry took Gemma’s advice and texted Louis.
Harry: What are you doing today?
Louis: Nothing really. You want to do more filming?
Harry: No, um, actually just wondering if you wanted to come hang out?
Harry: At my house.
“Really, Harry?” he scolded himself with a roll of his eyes.
He couldn’t have sounded more like a loser if he tried.
He waited for Louis to text him back.
By the third minute, he was convinced Louis had screenshotted the text and was spreading it around to the whole school as a joke.
By the fifth minute, he had decided on changing his name, moving to California and trying to make it on the streets of Venice Beach.
And then his phone went off again.
Louis: Sure! I’m at the mall with the twins right now. I just have to drop them off, and then I can be over.
Harry: OK. I’m here, so just let me know when you’re on your way.
Louis: OK. =)
Harry nearly dropped his phone. Louis was actually coming over.
Like, seriously on his way.
He looked around his room and thanked the heavens and the stars above that he actually kept his room clean.
He went downstairs and checked the kitchen, making sure they had snacks and drinks available.
Luckily, they did.
“Are you hungry?” his mom asked from where she was reading a magazine at the table.
“No, just looking.”
She went back to reading, and Harry seriously hoped that she would be gone by the time Louis got there.
He jumped in the shower and got dressed, checking his phone to make sure Louis hadn’t left yet.
He put on a pair of jeans and the Rolling Stones T-shirt Louis had bought him for the party.
About an hour later, Louis texted him saying that he was about to leave his house, so Harry checked his appearance one more time.
He was annoyed to hear that his mom was still home.
Then he heard a knock at the door.
“I got it!” he yelled.
He ran to the front door and took a deep breath before opening it.
Louis stood there, a shy smile on his face. “Hey.”
“Hey,” Harry smiled back. “Um, come on in.”
He stood back so Louis could walk past him.
“We can just go upstairs,” Harry said. “My mom’s-”
“Oh, I didn’t know you were having a friend over,” Anne exclaimed, walking out of the kitchen.
“Louis, this is my mom, Anne,” Harry introduced. “Mom, this is Louis.”
“Oh, are you the Louis in his movie?”
“Yeah, that’s me.”
“Oh, it’s so nice to finally meet you. Harry talks about you all the time.”
“About the movie,” Harry spluttered. “Just, about the movie. Seriously.”
Louis pressed his lips together, failing to hide his smile.
“We’ll be in my room, mom.”
Harry grabbed Louis’ arm and pulled him to the stairs.
“Uh-huh. No funny business!”
“I’m going over to the Burchams’ in a few minutes!”
“See you later! Love you!”
Harry let go of Louis when they reached the landing, and showed him to his room.
“So this is where the magic happens, huh?” Louis asked as he walked in.
Louis walked over to Harry’s desk, where his camera was.
He picked it up and aimed it at Harry.
“How does it feel to be on this side of the camera?” he joked.
“Fine, since you don’t even have it turned on.”
Louis chuckled. “That’s because I don’t know how to work this thing.”
He examined all of the buttons on the side of it.
“Put that down before you break it,” Harry suggested, taking his camera from Louis’ hands.
Harry wanted to laugh at how quick Louis’ attention span seemed to be.
“Let’s watch this.”
Louis pulled Harry’s copy of Alien 3 off Harry’s DVD shelf.
“It’s only right; we saw the first two on Friday.”
“Sure. Are you hungry or anything? We can order pizza.”
“Half pepperoni, half pineapple?”
Louis fake-gagged. “You better pray your pineapple doesn’t contaminate my precious pepperoni.”
“Do you hear yourself when you talk?”
“Not usually,” Louis shrugged. He lay down on his stomach on Harry’s bed. “Come on, get a move on.”
“Bossy,” Harry muttered.
He pulled out his phone and placed the order for their pizza.
After hanging up, he set up the DVD.
“Oh, here,” Louis said. He reached into his back pocket and pulled out his wallet. He handed over a $10 bill for the pizza.
Harry dropped the money on his desk and pulled money from his own wallet.
Then he was left with where he should sit.
As much as he wanted to lay on the bed with Louis, he didn’t know if that would be OK. He could sit on his desk chair, or even on the floor, as the carpet was pretty comfortable.
“If you want me to move, I can,” Louis offered.
He’d probably noticed how plagued Harry had been by his decision.
“No, you’re fine.”
“Well come over here, then. I want to start the movie.”
Harry silently took a deep breath, but got on the bed at Louis’ request.
It was only a twin-sized bed, so they were practically on top of each other, but neither one of the boys was complaining.
They watched the movie, only pausing it once to answer the door when the pizza arrived.
After it ended, they had a quick discussion about how the movie was nowhere as good as the first two.
“You know what?” Louis asked suddenly. “I don’t really know that much about you.”
“Like, your favorite color, or your favorite sports team, or if you’ve ever had any pets?”
“Orange; Green Bay Packers; and a cat named Dusty.”
“Wow. I feel so much more informed.”
“Don’t you?” Harry wondered. “My turn, then. Um, what’s your favorite video game and favorite superhero and favorite sneaker?”
“Favorite sneaker?” Louis laughed.
“Yeah, I didn’t know what else to ask!”
“OK, fine. Um, FIFA, all of them; Spider-Man, no doubt; and my black Vans.”
“Enlightening,” Harry complimented. “You know, I once got a Spider-Man car for Christmas.”
“I did. And then Gemma smashed it because it made too much noise.”
“That’s just rude.”
“I know. I could probably get so much money for it now. They don’t make ‘em like that any more.”
They went back and forth, eventually revealing that Harry used to sleepwalk when he was younger, and also that Louis once cut off a chunk of Fizzy’s hair and blamed it on Daisy.
“You were not!” Harry refused to believe.
“I was, too. I came in second, after Sophia Smith spelled ‘onomatopoeia’ correctly and I didn’t.”
“There’s no way we were in the same spelling bee in third grade.”
“I can prove it. I still have the trophy in my room.”
“I didn’t even place that year. I won in fourth grade, though.”
“I’m surprised we don’t remember that,” Louis said. “Weird.”
“Well, it was a long time ago. A lot’s changed since then.”
“I guess so.”
“Your turn,” Harry told him.
He felt the mood in the room shift. It had been light-hearted, but now it felt tense, like Louis had a question he was afraid to ask.
“My turn,” Louis repeated softly.
“Go for it.”
“Are you gay?” he blurted out.
Harry raised an eyebrow at the personal question.
Usually, he would scoff at something like that, but since it came from Louis, Harry wasn’t that put off by it.
Honestly, the look of genuine curiosity in Louis’ eyes intrigued him the most. Harry had always thought his sexuality was his worst kept secret.
“Yeah,” Harry nodded slowly. “Yeah, I am.”
“How did you know?”
“Isn’t it my turn to ask you something?” Harry attempted to joke.
“Please, Harry. Please answer the question.”
Harry watched Louis’ face, taking in the nervous expression, practically able to feel his heartbeat racing from the anxiety of even asking.
“OK. Um… Well, figuring it out was easy enough. Just, whenever Gemma would talk about a new boyfriend or a guy she liked, I would think about wanting a boyfriend or figuring out what I liked in guys. It just made sense. And when Zayn or Liam talked about liking something in a girl, it just didn’t give me the same rush. I didn’t get the same butterflies as I did thinking about a cute boy. I just had to figure out how to tell people.”
“Does everyone know?”
Harry shook his head. “Not really. I mean, anyone who really wanted to know could figure it out easily enough, I guess. But, Zayn and Liam know. Telling them was hard because it’s bad enough I’m a film geek, but I didn’t know if they would still want to hang out with a gay film geek.”
“And what did they say?” Louis asked.
“They said it was OK. They didn’t have any problems with it, thank God.”
“And your family?”
“Well, Gemma was thrilled,” Harry rolled his eyes. He was smiling softly, though, so Louis knew he didn’t really mind. “She was excited she would have someone else to talk about boys with. And my mom was cool with it, too. She just kept saying, ‘whatever makes you happy.’”
“Yeah. My coming out experience was definitely more pleasant than most.”
Louis just nodded.
“My turn,” Harry said.
Louis’ eyes glanced down toward the ground and back up again. “OK.”
“Why do you want to know?”
Louis watched Harry carefully, clearly not knowing what to say.
“You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to,” Harry said. “But I’ll be willing to listen if and when you do.”
“No, I want to tell you, I just… I’m not sure. Like, if it’s true.”
“Do you think you might be gay?”
Louis’ lower lip wobbled a millimeter of an inch, but Harry still noticed it. Louis’ eyes started to redden, and his nostrils slightly flared, like he was holding back tears.
“I’m not supposed to be,” Louis said in response.
“I’m not supposed to be gay. That’s not who the Homecoming King is. That’s not who my dad would’ve-”
He cut himself off, as a single tear fell down his face. “I’m supposed to be a super star athlete and a spoiled brat and totally irresponsible. I’m supposed to have friends who only like me for what I can do for them, but that’s not true. I’m definitely not supposed to be gay. I’m supposed to be straight, with a beautiful girlfriend and we’re supposed to win Homecoming King and Queen together. And I’m not. I mean, my girlfriend broke up with me on Monday, and I couldn’t even find it in me to be upset. I just thought about how it meant I was free.”
“Because it’s not the real you, Louis,” Harry cut in. “That’s why you weren’t upset about it. The real you, that’s supposed to be this or that, is all an act. That’s not you. The real you is caring and compassionate and funny and clever. You light up a room just by walking in it and you have such supportive friends who look out for you. You’re hardworking and dedicated, and you have such a big heart that you don’t let people see. Except me. That’s what I like about you.”
Louis stilled and examined Harry’s face for any obvious lies.
When he found none, he asked, “You like me?”
“Of course,” Harry scoffed. “Doesn’t everybody?”
“So you like the popular me.”
Louis shifted back in his seat, and Harry knew his walls were about to go back up.
“No, I don’t. I like the ‘you’ that would rather skip a day of being filmed so he can go support his sister at a horse-riding practice. I like the ‘you’ that misses his dad so much that he just wants to be like him in any way possible. I like the ‘you’ that liked me bonding with your best friend, and the ‘you’ that invited me to a party to get me out of my comfort zone and took me shopping so I’d feel less out of place. I like the ‘you’ that makes me feel most comfortable being me, and that’s the Louis sitting right in front of me.”
Louis rushed forward and pulled Harry into a tight hug.
Harry hugged him back, feeling the other boy slightly shaking.
“Can I show you something?” he whispered in Harry’s ear.
Harry nodded, not knowing what exactly he should expect.
Louis sat up. He unlocked his cell phone and started scrolling through his texts.
“Here,” he said, handing over the phone. “Read these.”
Harry took the cell, seeing a conversation between Louis and Eleanor.
Eleanor: What’s up with you? You’re acting like a nerd all of a sudden and even dressing like one. I mean, glasses? Really?
Louis: What are you talking about? I’m still me! I told you, I need to get new contacts. Not a big deal.
Eleanor: Please. Look Louis, it’s been fun, but I think it’s time for us to like, break up. I don’t think it’s that shocking, really. I mean, let’s be real. We’re not happy together. I’ve been unhappy for weeks, and you don’t really seem to care. I don’t even remember the last time you kissed me because you wanted to. You look at Harry like you never looked at me, anyway. I think it’s best we just split.
Louis: What about Homecoming?
Eleanor: Maybe Harry can take you.
Harry saw that Louis didn’t respond, to which Eleanor texted again.
Eleanor: Since you’re not answering, I assume you agree. Sorry I can’t be your Homecoming date any more. But let’s not make things awkward. I’ll sit somewhere else at lunch, too.
The first text had been sent late Monday night, and the second was early Tuesday morning, just before school.
Also the day Harry first felt things shifting.
Most importantly, one thing about Eleanor’s text stood out: she didn’t seem to hold a grudge against Louis for it. He wasn’t getting an “I hate you and don’t ever talk to me again, you freak” vibe from the texts. If anything, there was an “I wish you all the best in figuring things out” sense to them.
“Harry?” Louis prompted.
He looked up from the phone, into Louis’ ocean-colored eyes and thought, You look at Harry like you never looked at me.
He searched Louis’ eyes and, under all of the nerves on the surface, he found compassion and fondness and more than he’d expected, attraction.
“Can you- Can you say something?”
He didn’t realize he was leaning in until he felt Louis’ chapped lips against his own.
However, Louis didn’t move. He sat there, stiff as a board, while Harry kissed him. He pulled back after a moment, looking in his eyes again for a clue, and what he thought was confirmed: Louis was nervous.
Louis’ eyes kept flicking between Harry’s eyes, his lips and his own lap.
“I’m sorry,” Harry apologized. “I thought that-“
“No, I wanted you to. It’s just, um…”
“Where do I put my hands?” Louis asked quickly.
Harry smiled. “Your hands?”
“Yeah. Like, when I kissed El, I knew what I was supposed to do. But, is it the same for you? Do you like my hands on your waist? Around your neck? Behind your back? I don’t know what I’m doing here.”
“I’ll be honest; I’m not picky. You just put your hands where you feel comfortable having them. Kissing is kissing, even when the person you’re kissing is different than the last. It’s about what feels right.”
Harry placed a hand on Louis’ waist, giving it a gentle squeeze.
He slowly leaned back in and Louis wrapped his arms around Harry’s neck, pulling him close.
Harry took his time joining their lips again, waiting until after Louis had licked them.
Louis closed his eyes in anticipation, and then Harry kissed him.
This kiss was much better.
Harry could feel Louis kissing him back this time, and it was incredible.
Their mouths moved completely in sync, pressed together like they had been destined to do so.
What started out as a few pecks soon turned into long, smooth smooches, the sounds of their lips smacking together becoming the only thing they heard.
Harry moved his other hand up to cup Louis’ face, and his head turned more into the contact.
Louis started leaning back, pulling Harry with him, until they were totally vertical. He spread his legs apart so that Harry could fall between them.
Their kisses became shorter, quicker and more desperate, like they were struggling to breathe, but couldn’t keep their lips away.
Until Harry kissed Louis again and slipped his tongue into Louis’ mouth.
Louis let out a quiet moan. He rolled his tongue against Harry’s, tasting the inside of Harry’s mouth for the first time.
He could taste the pineapples from Harry’s pizza earlier in the day, a time that seemed like ancient history now.
Harry slid his hand down Louis’ side and under his shirt to his flat abs.
Louis whimpered as Harry used his index finger to make small circles on his stomach.
He started squirming under Harry’s touch and dropped his head to the mattress with a gasp for air.
Harry took a breath before going for Louis’ delicious looking neck. He placed kisses at the base of Louis’ throat and made his way up.
Louis adjusted one arm so that it wasn’t around Harry’s neck anymore, and instead, the hand was in Harry’s hair, holding on tight.
Harry groaned and moved to the side of Louis’ neck. He pulled some of the skin there into his mouth and started sucking.
“Shit, that feels so good,” Louis cried out. His hold on Harry’s hair got even tighter.
Harry rolled his hips down so that their crotches rubbed up against each other, getting another whimper from Louis.
“Hmm?” he mumbled, his lips still on Louis’ neck, forming another mark.
“Please do something, I c- I can’t… Oh, my God. Please.”
“What do you want me to do, Louis? I’ll do it.”
Harry didn’t give Louis a chance to actually answer, as he now had their lips attached again.
He didn’t wait to slip his tongue into Louis’ mouth again, and Louis reciprocated easily enough.
Harry kissed him greedily, keeping Louis on edge and writhing underneath him.
“Fuck me!” Louis practically shouted, tearing his lips from Harry’s. Good thing they were alone in the house. “Please. Fuck me, please. Please.”
Harry stared into Louis’ eyes. If he was assuming right, Louis had never had sex with a guy before, and wouldn’t know what to expect.
It was huge, that Louis was asking him to be his first.
“Are you- Really? Are you sure?”
Louis nodded slowly. “I want it. Please? Will you?”
“Louis, I haven’t… Um, I haven’t before, either. With anybody.”
“At all,” Harry shook his head.
Half of Louis’ mouth pulled up into a gentle smile. “So we can be each other’s firsts, then?”
“Only if you really want to be.”
Harry returned the smile and kissed Louis once more before sitting back on his shins and peeling off his T-shirt.
Louis sat up and took his own off, as well. He reached over and undid the fly on Harry’s jeans and pulled them down to his thighs, along with his briefs.
“Do you want me to…?” Louis asked, looking up at Harry with innocent eyes.
“If you want. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to, you know.”
“I want to. You might have to help me, though.”
Harry nodded. “Um, there’s like, a vein on the bottom of it. You can flatten your tongue and lick that a few times. And then, I guess the tip? Like, lick it and suck on it.”
“I know about that stuff,” Louis rolled his eyes.
“Well you said you’d need help! I don’t know what you know and what you don’t.”
“Just tell me what to do!”
“I just did!” Harry exclaimed.
“Harry, at this point, I’m going to punch you before I suck you.”
“Fine. Just, lick your lips and keep your teeth covered. And use your tongue a lot. Wrap your hand around whatever you can’t take in your mouth. Basically, whatever you like done to your own is usually good.”
The last sentence seemed to help Louis the most.
He started as Harry had told him. He wet his lips and then licked up the underside of Harry’s cock, making sure to hit that vein.
Harry let out a sigh at the contact. He’d been feeling hot already, and now that Louis had his mouth on him, he was getting even hotter.
He looked down and watched Louis work.
Louis was licking up and down Harry’s dick, not paying any attention to the tip like Harry said.
Harry stuck a hand out and put it on the back of Louis’ head, letting him go.
When Louis kissed the tip of his cock, Harry let his eyes shut.
Louis wrapped his hand around the base of Harry’s cock and sucked on the tip. That’s when Harry let his fingers grip onto Louis’ hair.
Louis started taking Harry into his mouth and put his other hand onto Harry’s waist to keep himself steady and prevent himself from falling forward too quickly.
He was sitting up in front of Harry, but his head was ducked a bit.
It wasn’t the most comfortable position for giving head, as it was putting a strain on his neck, but Louis figured it would have to work for now.
He bobbed his head up and down, feeling Harry’s fingers tighten on him.
“Lou…” Harry whispered.
He looked up to see Harry watching him again.
He picked up his pace, wanting to impress Harry and wanting to make his boy feel good.
He got a little too eager, though. He tried to take too much into his mouth and gagged.
He pulled off to catch his breath.
He tried to lean back in, but Harry wouldn’t let him.
“Lou, stop,” Harry said.
“What’s wrong?” he asked, a tear leaking from his watery eyes.
Harry leaned down and kissed Louis right on the mouth.
“I just didn’t want to come in your mouth; that’s all.”
He kissed Louis softly again before getting off the bed.
He pulled his jeans and briefs all the way off. He went into his bedside table and took out a condom and a still unopened bottle of lube.
He could still remember the day Gemma bought them for him a few days after he came out to her.
He’d never been more thankful to have a sister who didn’t really care about making her little brother uncomfortable with a gift.
“Are you sure?” he asked one more time.
In response, Louis undid his jeans and pulled them and his underwear off.
He tossed them off the bed before looking back at Harry expectantly.
Harry smiled again and then crawled back onto the bed.
Louis lay down, resting his head on the pillow.
Harry dropped the condom next to him and started to open the lube.
He fumbled with the plastic wrap covering the lid. He just couldn’t rip it off.
“Let me,” Louis offered, sitting up.
He looked at the plastic before finding the small, perforated part of it on the side of the lid.
He easily ripped it off before handing it back to Harry.
At some point, their emotions had switched. Now Harry was the nervous one, while Louis was left strangely calm and confident.
Louis trusted Harry. A lot. He knew Harry would do all that he could to make Louis feel at ease.
Louis leaned back again.
Harry poured lube over his fingers, rubbing them together so that it was spread evenly.
“Wait,” he suddenly remembered. He grabbed the pillow that Louis wasn’t currently laying on and told Louis to budge up.
Louis did, and Harry slid the pillow under Louis’ hips.
“I think we’re supposed to do that?”
Louis shrugged. “I believe you.”
He placed one finger at Louis’ hole and started massaging it.
He started pushing one in, moving it back and forth inside of Louis.
Louis wasn’t sure what to think. He was sure it was a tight squeeze for Harry, but for him, it didn’t really feel like anything. It was a little uncomfortable, to be honest.
But he’d read that it got better after a while.
“Is this OK?” Harry asked quietly.
“It feels weird. Maybe after you add another finger it feels better?”
Harry nodded, and kept moving his finger.
He pulled out one finger and pushed back in with two.
Louis winced at the sudden stretch.
“Relax,” Harry urged.
Louis tried. He took a deep breath, just wanting the sharp pain he was feeling to go away.
And then it did.
And Louis felt his back arching off the mattress and a loud moan coming from his own throat.
“What was that?” Louis asked breathlessly.
“Yes!” Louis moaned again, feeling his toes curling up.
“I think that’s your prostate,” Harry guessed. “I think that’s supposed to happen.”
“I’m definitely relaxed now.”
He could almost hear Harry’s smirk.
Before he knew it, Harry had added a third finger, moving them in and out of and all around Louis, getting him prepped.
“I think I’m ready,” Louis said.
He wiggled his hips back and forth a few times, hoping Harry would get the hint.
He slowly pulled his fingers out.
Louis never realized he could feel this empty, just from the loss of Harry’s fingers.
He watched as Harry ripped open the condom packet, pinching the tip and rolling it down around himself.
He picked up the lube bottle and poured some more on his cock before dropping it back to the bed.
Louis nodded, spreading his legs as far as they would go.
Harry moved in and lined up his cock with Louis’ hole.
He guided the tip inside and pressed inside a little.
He heard a sharp intake of breath from Louis and immediately stopped.
“Are you OK?”
“I think so; it just, feels weird. Keep going, though, it’s OK.”
“If you need to stop, we can. Just tell me.”
“I will,” Louis smiled.
Harry pushed in a little bit more, moving slowly.
“Stop!” Louis cried out.
Harry did. “Breathe, Louis. Breathe.”
“I am; I promise. It’s just a lot to take. You’re fucking huge, if you didn’t already know that.”
“Thanks,” Harry grinned.
Harry waited for Louis to relax some more.
“OK, go ahead.”
Harry moved into a hovering position over Louis before continuing to press in.
Louis stared into his eyes as Harry moved, the eye contact seeming to calm him.
Harry soon bottomed out, but didn’t move any more yet.
He dropped to his forearms and rested his forehead against Louis’ for just a minute before sweetly kissing Louis’ lips again.
Louis cupped Harry’s face with his hands before moving them up and around his neck.
“You can move now,” Louis said.
Harry rolled his hips slightly. He pulled back a little more and then pushed back in.
Louis let out a quiet moan. “That’s good.”
Harry thrusted in and out a few more times, making sure Louis was properly stretched around his cock. He didn’t want to go too fast and actually hurt Louis.
“Go a little faster, please?” Louis soon requested.
Harry did as asked, and worked up to a quicker pace.
He could hear the squeaking of the mattress beneath them as he moved, and Louis’ moans got louder and longer.
“Shit, Harry,” Louis whined.
He wrapped his legs around Harry’s waist, giving Harry an even deeper angle.
Harry thrusted in and out, and soon felt a tightening behind his abs.
He ducked his head to Louis’ chest and nibbled on his collarbones.
Louis sighed at the contact, and then gasped when Harry changed his angle and found his prostate again.
“Right there, babe,” Louis begged. “God, right there.”
Harry pushed himself up so he was leaning on his hands and started driving in.
He bit his lower lip, listening to the loud, pleasurable sounds Louis was making.
The noises that Louis made were getting him as close to his orgasm as the tight pressure on his cock.
He could fuck Louis all day if it meant getting to hear those sounds every time.
“Harry, kiss me.”
Harry immediately fell back to his forearms and crashed his lips into Louis’.
Louis took Harry’s face in his hands and held on tightly while their mouths moved against each other’s.
“Close,” Harry mumbled against Louis’ lips before kissing him again.
He moved one hand to Harry’s back and dug his fingernails in, feeling his own orgasm about to overtake him.
Harry moved one hand down Louis’ side and cupped his ass in it, giving it a firm squeeze.
Louis’ whimpers punctuated each thrust Harry gave him and after just a few more, he was coming.
He gasped in relief as he did, feeling himself shooting white streaks up his own torso.
He held onto Harry as he kept moving, eager to find his own release.
Louis shut his eyes, feeling Harry shudder inside of him as he came.
Harry moaned as he thrusted in and out of Louis a few more times, his pace evening out.
He dropped his head to Louis’ chest when he was done, and the two of them listened as the sounds of their stuttered breathing filled the room.
“Oh, my God,” Louis whispered a few minutes later.
“Was that OK?”
“That was really OK,” Harry assured.
He moved his head up and kissed Louis again. “I promise.”
“So what now?” Louis asked.
“Well, we can shower, if you want. No one should be home for at least another hour or two.”
“Yeah, let’s do that.”
Harry gently pulled out of Louis, and tied off the condom so nothing would spill out.
He put it in his trashcan and buried it under a bunch of tissues and other trash already in there.
The last thing he needed was for Gemma or his mom to come into his room and accidentally see that sitting on top.
They walked into the bathroom and Harry got the water running.
“Hey, so…” Louis started nervously, “this doesn’t, like, change anything between us, right? Like, we’re still friends?”
Harry’s heart plummeted. He just hoped it didn’t show on his face.
“Yeah, of course.”
Louis smiled and kissed him on the cheek.
He turned and got in the shower.
“Just friends,” Harry sighed.
The fifth week passed by easily enough.
Since filming was officially finished, Louis and Harry didn’t really see each other any more.
Harry reminded Louis that all of the films would be aired at the municipal building on Saturday night.
Louis: What time does it all start?
Harry: 7. Don’t be late.
Louis: I won’t be!
They didn’t have any more contact after that.
Harry was reminded of Louis’ “stay in your lane” comment every time he heard Louis laughing with his friends across the cafeteria or scoring another goal at a soccer game.
He supposed he should just be grateful that Louis stuck him with “just friends” instead of nothing at all.
On the night of the film viewing, Louis was running late. He’d gotten stuck having to take Lottie over to a friend’s house and of course, his sister was taking her time getting ready.
Harry texted him saying his movie was up next just as a film from one of Gemma’s former high school classmates started playing.
Louis: Well, stall them! I’ll be there soon!
Harry: I can’t stall! Just hurry up!
After the film ended, the host of the evening got back on stage.
“Next up, is Woodlands Academy senior, Harry Styles. His film is called, The Popularity Project, and he says that it will change how we perceive the people we think we have already figured out.”
Harry took one last look around the room. He still didn’t see Louis, but he saw everyone else. Niall gave him a thumbs-up from a few rows back, and Gemma and Anne smiled at him from across the aisle. Zayn and Liam sat on either side of him, and they both gave Harry a pat on the knee in encouragement.
Harry settled into his seat, and watched as his own face came on the screen.
He started speaking. “What is popularity? Well, according to Louis Tomlinson, one of the most popular guys at Woodlands Academy, it’s a lot of things.”
It cut to the scene on the soccer field that first day.
“Everybody knows me, and because of that, everyone has high expectations of me. People have me on such a high pedestal, Harry. I’m glad I’m not scared of heights; otherwise I’d be really scared of being that high up. It’s hard.”
“What a shame,” Harry deadpanned on camera while the audience chuckled.
“I know. But it’s OK. I take that motivation to look good for others and use it so I can give back to the less fortunate.”
“You do charity work?”
“Of course. Have you seen some of the guys on this team? Without me, they wouldn’t be good enough to play on a little kicks team.”
“You mean the teams for like, six-year-olds?”
Harry saw some of the soccer players shifting in their seats. None of them wanted to be whom Louis was talking about.
“So what’s it like being on the soccer team?” Harry then asked.
“You mean, being the soccer captain?” Louis corrected.
Niall cleared his throat roughly a few steps away, and Harry remembered how offended Niall had been that day.
On-screen Louis just kept speaking.
“It’s pretty tough,” Louis answered. “I have to be on point at every practice and every game, every single second of play. It’s hard work having people watch you for leadership.”
“I agree with that,” Niall added in. “It’s tough having to make split-second decisions.”
“Irish, this is my movie.”
The audience laughed again, this time, laughing at Niall, who sunk a little lower in his seat.
It had only been a few weeks, but Harry had already forgotten how much of an idiot Louis was.
It then cut to the footage of Louis making that trick shot when he was supposed to be attempting to score.
Harry hadn’t realized he’d caught the coach’s red-with-anger face in the background.
Then his voiceover started again.
“Louis has a very firm belief in popularity and how to maintain it.”
“So you’re saying that popular kids should only hang out with other popular kids?” Harry questioned on camera.
“Well, duh,” Louis scoffed. “I mean, you wouldn’t let dogs hang out with like, cats, would you?”
The people around Harry laughed, and the girls in front of him were shaking their heads.
“Um, I guess not?”
“Exactly. It’s for the best, really.”
“And why’s that?”
“Well, it makes sure nobody’s feelings get hurt.”
“What does that mean?”
“Well, let’s look at you and me. We’re doing this movie together, right?”
“Well, this right here-,“ he pointed between the two of them, “- is only for the movie. If we didn’t have this movie to shoot, people could look at us and think that we were like, hanging out. That could make them think that we were friends or something. That could make you start to think that we’re friends. You’d get your hopes all up, and when you realize that we’re not really friends, you’d be devastated.”
“That would be embarrassing,” Stan added.
“I might actually feel bad for you on that one,” Niall said.
Louis cleared his throat. “Seriously, how hard is it to understand that it’s my movie?”
That got a big laugh from the audience.
“OK, so,” Harry interrupted, “basically, you’re saying that everybody should stay where they are on the popularity scale and be happy about it?”
“That’s exactly right. Stay in your lane. I knew you were smart.”
The third scene was of Louis talking about his car, something Harry had filmed after school one day that very first week.
“So you got this from your parents?” Harry asked while circling the car.
“Yeah! Isn’t it beautiful?”
“It is. How does it drive?”
Louis looked at him confusedly.
“It’s a blue BMW,” he answered instead. “But it’s blue to match my eyes. See?”
He put his fingers on the top and bottom of his eyelid, and stretched them apart so Harry could get a better view of his eyes.
Everyone laughed, watching how ridiculous Louis was, trying to get his eye close to the camera.
“Louis is also determined to achieve his goals,” Harry said in his voiceover.
The fourth scene was on Monday of the second week, when Harry had managed to actually catch Louis at his locker in between classes.
“So what are your plans for after school?” Harry asked.
“Soccer practice. I have it every day for at least two hours.”
“No, I mean, like, what’s your biggest hope and dream for yourself?”
“Winning Homecoming King,” Louis nodded.
“OK… And how about after?”
“Who cares about what happens after? I need to win Homecoming King. If I don’t win, I might as well just drop out, because nothing else is as important as that.”
The crowd burst into loud laughter then, and Harry looked around, wishing they would stop.
This was only the beginning of the movie.
“Could one person really be this shallow?” Harry asked while video of Louis checking himself out in the mirror played.
“Did you get my good side?” Louis wondered, staring directly into the camera. “The fluorescent lights really mess up how I look. I’m not that pale.”
“I chose Louis,” Harry continued in his voiceover, “because I wanted a challenge and to uncover the truth of popularity. I wanted to see why it was so important to have. Well, I filmed Louis for four weeks. And in those four weeks, I discovered the real Louis Tomlinson, the one that nobody knows.”
“Everyone knows the real Louis!” someone catcalled from the back. “And he’s an asshole!”
People all around Harry laughed and clapped at the remark. Harry turned to see who it was, but instead, he just saw Louis’ retreating form rushing out of the room.
Without thinking about it, he jumped up and followed Louis, letting the film continue playing.
“Louis, stop!” he yelled as he ran after him.
“Fuck off, Harry!”
“No! What’s the matter?”
Harry caught up to Louis outside of the building and grabbed his arm, turning him around. He was surprised to see that Louis’ eyes were rimmed red, and he was clearly holding back tears.
“What’s the matter?” Louis repeated. “What’s the matter? How about the fact that you just made me look like a complete joke in front of the entire town? How about that?”
“Louis, just come back and watch the rest-”
“Why?” Louis shouted. “Why? So I can let people laugh at me some more? Call me more names?
“Louis, I tried to show the real you, and I did!”
“And you think I wanted that? People don’t like the real me!”
“Yes, they do!”
“Some guy just called me an asshole in front of a couple hundred people, and you think people like me?”
“I spent so many years building myself up, Harry. It’s been six years since my dad passed away, and ever since then, I’ve done nothing but try to be the person he would have wanted me to be. I changed everything about myself. Everything!”
Harry stared in silence as Louis yelled.
“I did all of this because I wanted to win Homecoming King, and be like my dad, but I wouldn’t have been able to do it if I didn’t become popular. So I did. I begged my mom for contacts when the school nurse said my vision wasn’t as good as it should be. I started practicing more in soccer so that I could make the team that year and just kept up with it. I started acting like a total asshat to everybody who wasn’t as popular as I was, including you, and I said it once; I’ll say it again. It should’ve stayed that way!”
“Louis, how can you honestly say that?”
“Look at us, Harry!” Louis exclaimed, wiping tears off his face. “Look at this! None of this would have happened if I didn’t let you in. I hung out with you at my house. You met my family and ate lunch with my friends. We didn’t stay in our lanes, and I got the short end of this stick. I mean, for God’s sake, you were…”
He stepped closer to Harry and dropped his voice. “You were my first. The first that mattered, anyway and I just- I thought you cared about me.”
“Louis, I do care about you!”
“No, you don’t! You don’t care about me; you just wanted to film a stupid movie. You said you wanted to show the real me, and you didn’t at all. You put in all these clips of me acting like a completely self-absorbed, obnoxious prick when you know that’s not who I really am. That’s just who I am for them. You filmed me with my family and my friends and talking about my dad. Why did you bother with all of that if you weren’t going to show it? If you were going to just let the entire world think that there really is nothing of substance to me and who I am?”
“Louis, please come watch the rest of the movie,” Harry begged.
“Fuck you! I trusted you, and if this is what trusting people gets me… Well, that’s why I don’t do it. Just, leave me the fuck alone. Please.”
He turned and walked toward the parking lot.
Harry just stood and watched him.
Louis wasn’t in school Monday. Or Tuesday.
Harry texted him every day since they saw the film; every day he got no response.
It wasn’t until Wednesday that something happened.
He was in the computer lab after school, working on some of his homework for Ms. Diyanni.
He heard the door open and he looked up, surprised to see Niall walking in.
“I’m surprised you even know where this room is,” Harry joked.
Niall sat in the chair at the desk next to him.
“I need a copy of your movie.”
Harry stilled. “Why?”
“To show Louis. I told him there was more to the movie that he seems to have missed, but he doesn’t believe me. So I want to show it to him.”
“He hates me, doesn’t he?”
Niall shrugged a shoulder. “For now. But he’ll come around once he sees the whole thing. He’s always been so fucking stubborn. Doesn’t let people in, and all that other bullshit.”
“Yeah, I got that.”
Niall stared at him. “Well, what are you waiting for? Make me a copy.”
“Oh. Um, I don’t have a blank CD.”
“So e-mail it to me. And to him. Do I have to think of everything?”
Harry put his flash drive into the computer and opened the folder that had his film saved to it.
He opened up a blank message and sent it off to both of their school emails.
“There,” Harry said. “Done.”
“Good job, nerd,” Niall told him, standing up. “Now, after I go fix your mess, don’t blow it. OK?”
After a moment’s hesitation, Niall said, “You could be good for him, you know.”
“Thanks,” Harry said quietly.
Niall nodded and left, leaving Harry alone with his fingers crossed.
“Niall, I don’t want to watch the movie,” Louis whined as Niall dragged him over to Louis’ computer the next day after soccer practice.
“Watch it; just trust me, OK?”
Louis sighed as Niall opened his email and downloaded a file.
“OK,” Niall mumbled as he tried to find the part of the film that Louis hadn’t seen. “Here. Now watch.”
Louis got comfortable in his seat.
“But as I got to know the real Louis Tomlinson,” Harry said on screen, “I realized how wrong I, and everybody else, was about him. Louis is caring, and intelligent, and funny and sensitive. He’s a lot of things that he doesn’t show the rest of the world, but was willing to show me.”
It cut to the day that Louis had invited Harry to Eleanor’s party. Louis had kept Harry company in the computer lab, working on editing the movie, before dragging him away to the mall.
Louis was at the computer next to him. He had his headphones plugged into his phone and was bobbing his head along to something playing on it.
The camera zoomed back a little to show Louis also drumming his fingers on the desk, keeping the beat with the song.
He did a double take, finally noticing the camera on him. Then he grinned and burst into air guitar, making guitar noises to go along with his ‘skills.’
After the song ended, Louis on the screen went back to what he was doing on the computer.
“OK, stop filming me now,” he laughed at Harry. “I’m not doing anything else. I’m done.”
“You sure?” Harry asked.
“Positive,” he grinned, a clearly fond look in his eyes.
Louis smiled and leaned forward at the desk as he watched himself on camera.
He was also struck with the realization of how obvious his crush on Harry was. Good God, it could be seen from the Nostromo.
The next scene was from the day they went to Daisy’s practice.
“Right now, we’re on our way to Addison Horse Company, which is a farm and competition ground about twenty miles away from here. My sister Daisy loves horses, and she was really upset that she didn’t place in a competition about a month ago. Well, the third place finisher had to drop out because her family wound up moving, so now Daisy gets to compete. We only found out earlier this week, and she’s been practicing with her horse Rowan every day.”
It then cut to show Louis cheering his sister on and giving her a huge hug when she came running over to him.
“Louis loves his family,” Harry continued, “and that especially includes his father, who sadly passed away six years ago, when Louis was just eleven.”
It showed Louis, standing next to a picture of his father.
They had to re-film this part, since Harry didn’t have his camera on the first time they talked about Louis’ dad.
“Is that your dad?” Harry asked.
“Yup. He was the Homecoming King at Woodlands Academy all the way back in 1985. My parents met in school, actually. My dad was a year ahead of my mom.”
“Do you miss your dad?”
“Duh,” Louis scoffed. “All the time. He was the best dad I could’ve asked for. You know, he was so busy, but he always made time for us kids. He used to practice soccer with me every chance he got, and encouraged me to try my hardest. He was always there to make us laugh and he somehow got me to eat vegetables when I was going through my ‘picky-eater’ phase.”
He licked his lips and pressed them together as tears started lining his eyes.
“He was-“ he cut himself off, holding back a sob. “He was amazing, and we lost him so soon. I don’t know… I try to be like him whenever I can, and winning Homecoming King would just be something else we could share. It would be like he’s still here, encouraging me to be my best.”
He took a deep, shaky breath. Then he looked at the camera and gave a brief smile before turning away to wipe at his face.
“The real Louis Tomlinson isn’t the person that everyone thinks he is,” Harry said on camera. “The ‘real’ Louis Tomlinson is my polar opposite. He’s popular, self-absorbed and athletic; he doesn’t care about school and drives an expensive car. But the real Louis Tomlinson is exactly like me. He cares about his family and can talk about sci-fi movies like nobody else. He wants to have an incredible high school experience that he can happily look back on. Louis is smart, has supportive friends who love him and sometimes, needs days where he can just chill. So, big surprise: the most popular guy in school isn’t a totally, self-centered idiot. But I think that was something that needed to be shown to the world, because a lot of people want to just believe what they see, instead of getting to know the actual person. I’m glad I did, because I now have someone else I can consider a friend, and that’s what’s important.”
The film ended there, and Louis sighed.
He was very wrong, and now he had to figure out how to best admit it.
“So, are you like, dating Harry or what?” Niall asked after Louis didn’t say anything for a minute.
“I want to be…” he admitted, figuring out his crush was as obvious as he thought it had been.
“Well, Homecoming’s on Saturday. What are you gonna do?”
That was a good question.
Harry didn’t know why he bothered coming to the dance.
Well, no, he knew that he came to Homecoming because Niall threatened to kill him if he even thought about not showing up.
He didn’t think he would actually do it, of course, but better safe than sorry.
Plus, he was filming for the yearbook.
He’d gotten plenty of footage already of people dancing, and had done a few interviews with people who had been nominated for Homecoming King and Queen.
Except for Louis, of course. Harry was sure he was avoiding him.
He saw Louis around the dance several times, and Louis was talking to everyone he knew, who was basically everybody.
But Louis wasn’t the only one being watched.
Harry felt people staring at him no matter where he went: on the dance floor with Zayn and Liam, getting punch from the buffet table and even walking out to go to the bathroom.
He didn’t like it all that much, but at least it wasn’t all bad.
A few people had come up to him and complimented him on his movie and hoped that he would win.
He already knew the results of the competition. The organizers had called him this morning.
Apparently, everybody had agreed that breaking through high school stereotypes was an important message for everybody to learn, and wasn’t limited to certain audiences like some of the other entries.
After he hung up the phone and screamed for a minute, he, Gemma and their mom celebrated in the kitchen.
Coincidentally, they were already celebrating his mom’s new job.
It was just a day of ‘Congratulations’ for everybody.
But now, here he was, hoping that the subject of his award winning film would even acknowledge his presence.
So far, he hadn’t.
“You know, maybe he’ll say ‘hi’ if you say it first,” Zayn suggested.
“Doubt it. He hates me, remember?”
“He doesn’t hate you,” Liam shook his head. “He’s just mad.”
“He should be.”
The two of them had come around since viewing the movie. They’d both been able to admit that they shouldn’t have judged Louis for who they thought he was.
Not like it mattered, though.
“No, he should’ve watched the whole movie,” Zayn said. “It would’ve cleared up a lot of things.”
“Not like I can change it now. I sent it to him and Niall. He either watched it or he didn’t.”
“We will be announcing the winners of this year’s Homecoming King and Queen very shortly,” Ms. Diyanni spoke into the microphone. “So no one go anywhere!”
“Can we talk?”
Harry turned to see Louis behind him.
“Yeah,” Harry said. “Yeah, of course.”
Louis nodded to Liam and Zayn before leading Harry to the back of the room.
“I’m sorry,” Louis apologized. “I’m so sorry for what I said to you.”
“It’s OK. I deserved it.”
“No, you didn’t. You were so sweet through everything: all of the shit I put you through because I had to act the popular role.”
“So you admit that you were just acting a role?” Harry asked.
“Well yeah, I mean… Look, Harry, I’m not supposed to be gay.”
“What does that have to do with anything?”
“Just, listen, please?”
“I’m supposed to be a super athlete who wins every soccer game and is the star of the soccer team. I’m supposed to have friends who worship the ground I walk on. I’m supposed to have a 2.0 GPA and not give a shit about school. I’m supposed to be a totally spoiled brat at home who only cares about himself. I’m supposed to be popular.”
“You are popular.”
“And I don’t want to be; at least, not for all the wrong reasons. Because I’m not any of those things. I’m gay, and I had sex with a boy. I love my family and would literally do anything for them. I have a 3.99 GPA and I’m probably graduating fourth in the class.”
“You’re the reason I’m not in the top five?” Harry asked.
“Sorry. I’m good at soccer, sure, but I might not even play once I get the fuck out of this town and go to college.”
“But you’re going to school on a soccer scholarship… You can’t just quit.”
“Yeah, I can,” Louis replied. “Can I tell you a secret?”
Harry nodded again.
“I’m going to school on a merit scholarship, not a soccer one. I just told everyone that it was a soccer scholarship because… well, it’s not cool to be smart.”
“You’re going based on your grades?”
Louis nodded. “Yeah. I mean, they offered me a soccer scholarship, too, but it wasn’t a full ride. The merit one offered more, plus it gave me the option of being able to walk away from soccer if I wanted to. I might play it freshman year; I haven’t fully decided it yet.”
“Yeah. I told you before; it’s not easy being popular. One slip up and I’d be finished.”
Louis didn’t say anything else and just waited for Harry to respond.
“This isn’t what I expected… Just- Can I ask you something now?”
“Why do you care so much?” Harry wondered. “I mean, these past couple of weeks hanging out with you and making a story about your life proved how awesome you are. You’re not a bad person, Louis. You’re just, sort of living two different lives: the popular you, who’s a bit of an asshole, and the real you, who likes school and learning and doing the right thing. You know you could probably still be popular if you acted the way you wanted to act.”
Louis was shaking his head before Harry even finished that sentence. “No, I couldn’t; and you know it. You really think I’d still be most popular guy in school if I showed up everyday in my glasses and raised my hand in class and was nice to everyone?”
“No, Harry. That’s not how it works. At least…” he took a deep breath, “that’s not how it worked. Your movie, it- It showed the real real me. And I like that real me a lot, and I want to show it.”
“Really.” Louis smiled. “Besides… I’ll either win Homecoming King tonight or I won’t. And that’s what I needed popularity for, so if it takes a hit after this, then so be it.”
“Wow. That’s really mature of you.”
“Modest, too,” Harry grinned.
“I really like you, you know.”
“I really like you, too.”
In the distant background, they heard Ms. Diyanni speak into the microphone, “And this year’s Homecoming King is…”
Louis leaned up and caught Harry’s lips with his own.
Harry happily kissed him back, wrapping his hands around his waist.
They got so caught up in the kiss that Louis almost didn’t hear Ms. Diyanni calling his name.
He was the new Homecoming King.