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it hurts, but it's worth it

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They've had shoots in swimsuits before, and Liam's not concerned until the coordinator takes one look at Liam's simple tank suit and shakes her head. That's when Liam thinks she might be in a little trouble.

Karen, a completely lovely women from what Liam has seen, takes a hold of Liam's arm and pulls her back into wardrobe. She doesn't say much, just browses quickly through one rack and then another. There's a "hmm" and a couple of "no"s mixed in as she searches. Liam's got her mouth open to say that what she's wearing is perfectly fine when Karen makes a grunt of satisfaction and takes a hanger down. The suit is bright, bright blue and to Liam's eye, seems to be missing quite a bit of fabric.

"I don't think --"

That's all Liam manages to get out before Karen says, "It's a one-piece, go change," in a tone that brooks no argument. With reluctance, Liam takes the hanger and heads toward the changing room.

As she changes, Liam can hear the rest of the band, Lou's voice above all and Harry's slow drawl, nearby. The sound of a half-shout from Zayn and Niall's following laughter makes her smile. It only lasts a second though, as nerves make her fingers fumble the new suit.

It's stupid to be nervous, she knows. They've all seen her in a swimsuit. For heaven's sake, they hit the pool at nearly every hotel where they stay. It's just that she'd peeked out earlier, catching sight of them. Niall, Zayn and Harry in white board shorts - there's a red, white and blue theme for the shoot - and they'd all looked smashing. They're ridiculously fit and she's lucky, she knows, but that's not really the issue.

No, no the real issue is Lou. Of course it's Lou, who is tiny and perfect and looks absolutely spectacular in the red and white polka-dot bikini they'd chosen for her. Liam loves Lou, no question. After she'd gotten used to Lou's vibrant personality and constant need to be hanging off one of her bandmates, mostly Harry but, puzzlingly enough, Liam herself, they'd bonded. Which makes sense, Liam supposes, since they're the only two girls in the band.

It's just that Liam always feels like the gentle giant next to her. Liam's tall for a girl, the tallest one in the band for a good bit, and she's got definition from running and boxing. And it's not like Liam has a problem with her body, she's worked for it and worked hard to keep it maintained. It's just that--

Lou looks like a girl in her suit. Liam feels like she's going to look like a girl playacting a girl in a swim suit when she gets out there. But Karen had said it's a one piece so that gives Liam a bit of hope. Maybe it won't be as bad as she's thinking.

There's seems to be a lot of material missing for a one piece, so it takes a second for Liam to figure it out. Once it's on, however, Liam's fairly certain that there's been a mistake. It's entirely possible that Lou's two-piece has more material than whatever Liam is currently wearing. She turns toward the mirror and immediately wraps both arms around her middle.

It's not immodest, not really. It covers all the places it's supposed to cover - Liam drops her arms eventually - but there's just so much skin on display. One shoulder is completely bare and the entire stomach area is completely cut out. She's not a prude, can't be living on top of four other people, but her swimsuits have always been built for swimming.

This one...isn't.

Over her right hip there's a silver ring that connects the front and the back. It's cool under her finger when she traces it. The high cut of the suit makes Liam's legs look even longer; that she kind of likes.

 

Niall shouts at her from right outside the changing room door, startling Liam. The anxiety immediately floods back and she wraps an arm around her stomach again. Frantically she looks around for something, anything, to cover up with. They're going to tease her so hard, she knows. Liam's not the girly one, she's one of the boys. Even though Liam knows they do it out of love, they can be a bit merciless at times.

"Liam, come on! Let's get this done with!"

With a quiet groan, Liam hollers back, "Hold your shorts, I'll be right out!"

Niall grumbles on the other side of the door, but takes Liam at her word and walks off. Liam continues her search and amazingly enough, manages to find a cover-up underneath a pile of discarded clothing. "Thank god," she breathes, slipping it on as quickly as possible. When she looks up, it's right into the mirror. Her cheeks are flushed and her eyes look a bit wild. It gives her pause.

She's being ridiculous.

It's a photo shoot, like any other photo shoot they do. The photographer will want the same thing that every other photographer wants, even though they say differently. The boys will get bored and Lou will be crazy. Same thing, different day.

Liam can't help rolling her eyes at herself. Sticking her tongue out at her reflection, she turns and heads out to the others.

 

Zayn and Niall are wrestling on the set, with Louis and Harry talking close by. Liam does a double-take at Harry and stifles a laugh into her palm. Somewhere, Harry has found a shiny gold speedo. It's not surprising, really. It's the closest thing to being naked, and naked is Harry's favorite way to be.

They make a gorgeous couple, Liam thinks for the millionth time, watching Lou's face light up as Harry laughs as something she's said. Both are insistent that nothing is going on, but Liam thinks it's only a matter of time. The whole thing makes Liam's stomach twist a bit, but she figures that they way they dance around each other just makes her miss Dan. She remembers the early days with him, until fame and touring and distance broke everything apart.

Harry's, "Liam, finally!" snaps her out of her thoughts.

Louis turns as she walks up, a wide smile spreading over her face. "Liam Jane Payne-" Liam grimaces, "-about time!" She notices the cover up a second later and frowns. Waving a hand, she adds, "What's this? Let's see!" She looks about two seconds from reaching out and taking it off Liam herself. It makes Liam's hands tighten around the sash.

"You have to promise not to laugh, okay?" she mumbles. It earns her an eye-roll and Liam can feel herself relax again. Lou waves her hand again, reaching out to tug at one end of the sash. "Come on, come on!"

Liam keeps her chin down, her fingers fumbling a bit when she undoes the belt.

The first thing she hears is Niall's, "Holy shit, Liam's got tits!" It's followed shortly by the sound of flesh hitting flesh and a disgruntled, "Ow fuck, Zayn." She ignores them, finally looking up.

Lou's mouth is wide open, her eyebrows disappeared under her fringe. "Liam--" She takes a step forward.

The only thing that saves Lou from falling right into Liam when she trips is Harry's arm, thrown around her waist. Liam reaches out, a steadying hand on Lou's arm, and glances up at Harry. There's obvious appreciation in his eyes even though all he says is, "Looking good, Li." When she smiles in thanks, Harry gives her one back. He wags his eyebrows a second later and it makes her laugh.

It's cut off a second later when Lou's hand lands on her stomach, fingers cool enough that it makes Liam suck in a quick breath. She looks down and then up at Lou, but before she can say anything, a body slams into them, an arm around both their necks. Everyone flounders sideways and Niall, of course it's Niall, shouts, "Enough lazing about, you arses, let's get this done. I'm hungry!"

"You're always hungry, you obnoxious twat," Zayn remarks. He's got a hand around Liam's waist and he pulls her away, helping her regain balance. "But he has a point."

Lou's attention is on Niall now; she's clambered on his back and is hollering at him to move. Whatever she was going to say is lost, and Liam tells herself she's not disappointed. Fingers wrap around her wrist and she looks over to find Zayn staring at her. She gives him a smile, poking him in the side until he finally gives her one back.

A shoot like every other shoot, yeah.

 

Liam can feel Lou's fingertips on her stomach again. They're warm this time, but it still makes Liam's breath catch. She catches Harry's gaze. He rolls his eyes and curls an arm around Lou's middle. Without warning, he lifts her up and away. She shrieks a little and Liam can hear the shutter clicks of the photographer's camera.

"Quit touching Liam, you're freaking her out," he scolds.

"I can't help it, I think she has better abs than you, Haz." That makes Liam blush a little. The photographer tells her to move closer to Zayn.

"It's true," Zayn murmurs, throwing an arm around her shoulder when she does. "You're putting us all to shame, Li."

"Whatever," she responds, wrapping her own arm around his neck and pulling him forward like she's going to noogie him. He squawks about his hair, pushing away, and Liam just laughs. He rallies a second later, jumping on her back. Without a thought, Liam curls her arms around his legs. Zayn's laughter echoes in her ears and it feels good, like it always does, when they're in sync with each other. Her thoughts are interrupted by Lou's shout of, "Hey, not fair! I want piggy back rides!"

Zayn yells back, "You've already had one from Niall! And you have Harry, Lou, you can't have Liam as well!"

"But I want them both," Lou pouts. "I should be able to have both, Zayn."

Liam can't help but glance over at that, her gaze shifting from Lou and then almost immediately to Harry. There's a look on his face that she can't determine, but it dissipates the moment Lou turns and demands a piggy back ride. Instead, Harry flops to the ground in a boneless sprawl. Lou glares at him, then steps on his stomach before flouncing off to stalk Niall.

Niall, of course, can't tell Lou no to save his life - to be honest, none of them really can no matter how they pretend - and two seconds later, she's on Niall's back, a pool noodle from the set aimed right for Liam and Zayn. It devolves into an all out brawl until Liam and Lou look at each other and holler, "HARRY!"

 

The shoot goes on for what feels like ages, even for Liam, who has the most patience for this stuff. But the lot of them are growing bored and a bit restless. They all let out sighs of relief when the photographer finally calls for a break. Niall and Zayn disappear almost immediately. The last glimpse Liam has of them, Niall's headed toward catering and Zayn's pulling his fags from that magical hiding spot he always seems to have.

With a fond smile, Liam flops herself in one of the prop deck chairs. A second later she's got a lapful of Lou, and without thinking, Liam reaches out to steady her. Lou's skin is warm under her fingers and Liam can feel her face getting hot. She tries to shake herself out of it; Lou's sat in her lap a million times before. Only, Liam's not used to the soft slide of skin under her fingertips, the way Lou feels against the bare skin of her legs.

It takes her a moment to realize that Lou's got her hand on Liam's stomach again. "What's the fascination with my stomach?" Liam blurts. "You've seen it before."

"I dunno," Lou shrugs. "Maybe because you always keep it covered? You never try and act like a -" She breaks off and Liam finishes for her.

"Like a girl?" It's true. Liam's never been the ultra-feminine sort. It still stings a little though, to hear Lou say it.

Lou shrugs again. She lays her hand flat across Liam's stomach, an action that makes Liam suck in a sharp breath. Lou just stares at her hand, quiet. Her skin several shades darker and it's a pretty contrast, Liam thinks. Heat curls in her stomach.

"You should though," Lou murmurs.

Liam's head's a little cloudy right now. Lou's palm feels likes it's burning through her skin. "Should what?"

"Should dress up more often. You look--you look good, Li. Really good," she adds. "I think you've been holding out on us."

The words are teasing but the tone and the look on Lou's face isn't, and Liam's not quite sure what's going on. It seems like she can feel every bit of Lou right now, all the way down to her fingertips where they're still resting on Liam's stomach. Liam can't control the way her own fingers tighten around Lou's hips. It makes Lou's breath catch and Liam watches her lashes flutter, the way her mouth falls open just a bit.

Liam swallows. "Lou-?"

A movement in the corner of her eye makes Liam look over. Harry's standing there, watching the two of them. That strange look from earlier is back and Liam still isn't able to figure it out. She wants to call it jealousy, but that's not it, not exactly. It's something skirting that, she's sure, but what exactly she can't decipher.

Lou notices that Liam's attention is elsewhere and finally glances over. A broad smile spreads across her face. She raises both her arms, making 'gimme' hands, but doesn't move from her perch on Liam's lap.

"Hazza!"

Dimples appear and Harry makes his way over. He'd been made to change out of that silly thong earlier, but Liam can't help watching the play of muscles in Harry's torso and arms. He's changed so much in the last year. She remembers the soft, strange boy she'd met two years ago. He's so much that kid inside, but so different at the same time. Liam's about to get up, try anyway, and maybe give the two of them some space when Harry flops on top of Lou. Liam groans at the added weight. Lou just laughs and Liam groans louder.

"Ach, you two. I'm not your personal piece of furniture, get off! You're heavy!"

"Lies!" Lou cries and Harry reaches down to tickle the bottom of Liam's feet. She yells for real this time, kicking uncontrollably and the deck chair overbalances. The three of them spill to the ground in a flailing pile of limbs. Lou and Harry's laughter ring out even as Liam protests that someone might get hurt. Two sets of hands find her ticklish spots and she's too busy fighting them off to think about the odd air from before.

 

Liam finds the shots of the three of them, rolling around and laughing, a week or so later during a late night. After a moment's pause, she saves one of the photos, giving it some inane, boring name. She shuts down her computer after that and goes to bed. It takes a long time before she falls asleep.

 

>>

 

It's a courtesy ask, whether Liam wants to go to the club that night. Normally she shakes her head and smiles, and spends her night reading or hanging out with Paul, calling Andy, or Skyping with her mom.

The "yeah, sure" had slipped out before she could stop it.

Liam has no idea what possessed her to accept the offer, but all the whooping and hollering at her answer makes her grin. It's not until a half hour later that it really hits her. She knows they're headed to a nightclub, one that usually means a small tight dress for Lou and Zayn's highest quiff. Even Niall wears an ironed shirt. Harry wears what Harry always wears. The paparazzi will love him no matter what anyway; they always do.

It's not the first time she's gone out with them either, so she's not sure why she's freaking out a bit right now. Somehow or another, she finds herself in front of their stylist's door. Caroline opens the door to find Liam practically wringing her hands

"Liam? Everything okay?" She puts a hand on Liam's elbow, ushering her into the room.

"We're going out tonight," is all Liam says.

"--And?" Caroline prompts.

"I have nothing to wear," Liam blurts. Caroline looks a little nonplussed, which is not surprising since Liam has a million things to wear. Liam shakes her head. "Sorry, sorry. I just." She bites her lip. "I mean, I. Um. I have nothing to wear that's--" She waves her hand, indicating the jogging pants and Burberry t-shirt she's currently sporting.

Caroline's face lights up the second she understands. A slow smile makes its way across her face and Liam suddenly thinks she may have made a terrible, terrible mistake.

 

"Stop fidgeting," Paul reprimands.

"It's awfully short," Liam protests half-heartedly, giving a final tug before pulling her hands away from the bottom edge of the dress.

"And you look amazing, Li." Paul gives her a small smile. "So just own it, got it?"

Paul's their rock and whatever power he has works, and Liam can feel her stomach settle. She smiles back. The lift hits the main floor and Paul puts a hand on her back, ushering her out.

When she steps off the lift, Liam can hear Lou's, "She totally punked, didn't she?" and then Zayn's, "Come on, Lou, give her a second."

"Bah! She's not coming -- oh."

They're all looking at her, not saying anything, and the nerves jangle in her stomach again. Before she can apologize for being late, Lou turns abruptly and says, "Okay, she's here. Let's go."

Liam frowns; it sounds like Lou is mad at her. She looks to Harry, but he's already moving after Lou. Niall rolls his eyes and trots after them, leaving her there with Zayn. With a sigh, he slides an arm around her shoulders and murmurs, "Ignore her, okay? She's been tetchy all day." Liam nods reluctantly.

"You look fab, Li," Zayn adds a moment later, pulling her in for a second. "Gonna break hearts tonight, I'll wager."

That makes her laugh. "Right, right." She pokes him in the ribs and he jerks away, protesting. "I thought that's what we've got you for, isn't it?"

He slides a hand down her arm, taking her hand and twirling her around as they enter the front lobby. "No one is going to be looking at me, babe." She laughs again, rolling her eyes when he adds, "Not with those legs."

She's about to tell him he's ridiculous when Lou cuts in. "Are we ready yet?"

Liam glances over, but Lou has already turned around, heading out to the car. She won't look at Liam when they slide into the car, only mutters, "I hope you wore your good knickers, Liam. Best remember to keep your knees together." It makes Liam blush and she tugs at the bottom of her skirt again.

She can hear Harry murmur Lou's name in a quiet reprimand, but Lou doesn't respond. Liam spends the rest of the ride to the club staring out the window. Zayn's arm is warm around her shoulders, but holds little comfort. When they hit the club, Lou's out of the car like a shot, barely giving the paps a glance. Harry gives a wave or two, but keeps close to Lou.

There's a few disgruntled comments, but they catch sight of Liam and hell kind of breaks loose. She smiles, laughing as one of the photographers shouts out their mobile number and begs for a date. Zayn and Niall surround her, hands on her waist as they smile for the cameras. It's taking long than usual and Liam would swear that Zayn is actually moving slow on purpose. A notion that's verified when Niall leans back and says, "I'd like a pint in this century, Malik."

"Just letting the boys get a good look at Li's legs, Nialler. It's a rare sight for them." Liam can feel her face flushing again. Under his breath, he adds, "And Lou could stand to get some come-uppance for acting like a jealous twat."

"What?" Liam asks, unsure if she heard correctly. Zayn pulls them into the loud, pounding noise of the club right then, leaving her question unanswered.

 

Liam can't find anyone.

That's not entirely true. She knows that Zayn and Niall are in a corner of the bar, challenging some locals to a stupid drinking contest. They've a day off tomorrow and Liam's glad; the two of them are going to need it to recuperate.

Someone jostles Liam and she stumbles a bit, grimacing. They aren't the only ones who might need the day off. Liam drinks so rarely that the little she's been talked into - partly because Niall can be damn persuasive when he wants to be and also because Liam's a bit upset about Lou's behavior - has hit her a harder than she expected.

Using alcohol to solve problems isn't something she normally condones, but she feels a bit justified at the moment. Lou is so damn confusing sometimes. It makes Liam want answers and she's got a some liquid courage backing her up right now. Probably not the best idea, but she can't be arsed to care at the moment.

The only problem is, she can't find Lou anywhere.

Liam catches a flash of turquoise out of the corner of her eye and turns. It's Lou, pressed obscenely into a male body. A male body that is most definitely not Harry. Liam frowns.

A thread of anger curls in Liam's stomach and she starts pushing through the crowd. The guy catches sight of her, giving an appreciative once-over that makes Liam even more angry. Her mouth is open to call Lou's name when Harry slides right in front of her, cutting off her view.

"Liam."

She can see his mouth form her name, feel the arm he slides around her waist and the spread of his hand on the small of her back. He guides her back the way she came, mouth near her ear. "Leave it," he says, cutting off any protest she was about to make.

There's a small smile on his face when he pulls back that makes her frown harder. It must amuse Harry, his smile widening, dimples appearing. He flicks her forehead, where the line of her brows are pulled together. She glares and he throws his head back and laughs.

It's a real laugh, Liam can tell, and some of the tension in her dissipates.

"Dance with me!" Harry hollers.

Liam shakes her head. Harry's a terrible dancer. Well, he's not, not really, but he loves to be as ridiculous as possible on the dance floor. He tugs her forward, hand still on her back, and basically gives her no choice. She's still shaking her head in protest, but her feet are moving.

"I promise to behave," he tells her. Liam rolls her eyes. Harry gives her a hurt look, but breaks into laughter again. Liam can't help smiling back.

Amazingly enough, Harry keeps his word. He's never far from her though, mostly because the crowd won't let them be, but there's always a hand on her waist or her back. Harry acts like it's nothing, so Liam does the same.

Only every so often, Liam will catch his eye and there will be a look that makes Liam's breath catch, makes strange, swirly things happen in her stomach. She starts to pull back, say she needs some water, air, anything, when the club DJ shouts over the PA, "Time for a slow one!"

Before Liam can protest, Harry's grip on her tightens, pulling her even closer. His other hand brushes down her arm, fingers wrapping around hers.

"Harry--"

"Just a dance, Li. Come on," Harry whispers against her ear again. It makes her shiver and there's no way Harry doesn't notice.

She wants to say, It doesn't feel like just a dance, but Harry tucks their hands against his shoulder and tangles their legs together. Liam can feel him along every inch of her body.

"Come on, babe," Harry murmurs. "Relax." The fingers on her back press harder and Liam lets out a breath. She does what he says, melts into him until they're pressed together from head to toe. Liam quits thinking, lets Harry lead. The music and the feeling settling into her bones.

It's not until Liam feels the brush of lips against her temple, feels them graze across her cheek and dip lower, not until she feels the breath of her name against her lips, that Liam realizes the song is over and she and Harry are standing still in the crowd. Startled, Liam's eyes fly open - she doesn't remember closing them - to find Harry staring at her. Glancing down, she finds her hands clenched in the material of Harry's shirt.

The noise of the club filters back in.

Harry's hands feel huge on her body, his fingers digging in, like they want to pull her even closer. She drops her gaze to his mouth, so close to her own. She bites her lip without thinking and Harry's fingers tighten again, nearly painful. The muscle in his jaw jump and an overwhelming feeling of power rushes through her, knowing it's her that's making Harry look like that.

Lou appears over Harry's shoulder, stopping when she sees the two of them. A flurry of emotions play across her face so fast that Liam can't keep up. Harry glances over his shoulder just as Lou turns around and disappears back into the crowd.

She can feel Harry shift, start after Lou and then hesitate. He glances at Liam, a question on his face. Liam takes a step back. "Go," she says.

It earns her a quick kiss on the cheek, a hurried, "We need to talk," and then he's gone too. Liam wonders if it's wishful thinking that Harry's hands seem reluctant to let go.

For the first time in years, not since Simon first said, "That's all, I'm sorry," has Liam wanted to just sit down and cry until she's dry. Instead, she avoids everyone and grabs a taxi back to the hotel. Paul's going to yell at her, she knows, but right now Liam doesn't really care.

 

>>

 

Despite the fact that she'd barely slept, Liam is up early. She ignores the texts from Zayn and Niall, deletes Harry's three without looking at them and answers Paul's DON'T PULL THAT SHIT AGAIN with sorryyy:((. After that she throws herself on the in-suite couch, stares at the wall, and tries not to think about things.

Things like the way Lou treated her last night. Or the fact that Lou is the only one who didn't text her to see if she was okay. She definitely doesn't think the fact that Harry nearly kissed her or how much she wanted him to.

All the not-thinking is going to drive her crazy.

The sound of a text message coming through startles Liam. It's just out of reach on the table in front of her. Not in the mood, she ignores it only to hear another notification ping come through a minute later. With a groan, she pulls herself off the couch and turns the telly. She's crap at keeping still, even when moping apparently. If the sound of the program drowns out the noise from the mobile, all the better.

She's found a workout show and has worked up a decent sweat when there's a pounding on the door. After a few minutes, it's obvious that whoever's at the door isn't getting the message. "Go away!" she yells. There's an answering shout, but she can't tell what's been said or who's on the other side. Frowning, she turns the volume on her program up and pushes harder. Sweat is dripping in her eyes.

When the hand grabs at her elbow, Liam reacts without thinking and comes around swinging. She manages to pull back some at the last second, her knuckles only glancing across Zayn's cheek.

"Fucking hell!" he shouts, stumbling back. Off-balance, his leg hits the coffee table and he goes down. Liam grabs at him when he starts to fall but she's off kilter too, and they end up in a pile on the floor.

"Fucking hell," Zayn repeats. Somehow he'd managed to land on her, so the words are mumbled into her neck. It's a bit uncomfortable, the way he's squishing her. Liam points this out and gets a glare in return. "You just punched me, I think I'm a little entitled right now."

Liam concedes the point with a quiet, "Sorry."

"What is going on with everyone today?" Zayn grouses, rolling to the side. "Also, you're gross and sweaty." He doesn't move any further away despite the comment, and Liam is glad.

"Wait. What do you mean, what's with everyone?" Liam glances over.

Zayn shrugs. "Your disappearing act. Harry and Lou haven't been more than three millimeters apart all day, whispering like five-year-olds and ignoring everyone."

Liam doesn't think about the way her pulse jumps at the mention of Harry and Lou. "That's nothing new though, yeah?"

Zayn looks at the ceiling. "Well, the part where I have to watch them snog is entirely new."

"Oh." Liam looks up, too. The ceiling is really fascinating today it seems. She has to swallow once before saying, "It was only a matter of time really. We all knew that." For some reason, it's getting hard to breathe. "Right?"

Zayn hums an agreement. Liam's thinking of getting up, taking a shower and crying for no reason. She almost convinces herself that she's ready to move when Zayn adds, "I was fairly sure she had a giant crush on you though." Liam chokes.

"What?"

Zayn ignores her. "And I know Harry's been trying to get into your knickers for ages."

"What?!"

"Maybe I'm crazy though," Zayn says, still not paying attention to Liam's current lack of breathing ability. He rolls up instead, getting to his feet and reaching a hand down. Liam, still stunned, takes it without a word.

"I have to go grab some ice for my face. Also explain to Paul that I got punched in the face by a girl." He grimaces at the last part. Liam would reprimand him, and apologize again, except she's still trying to wrap her head around what Zayn's just told her. Zayn moves toward the door and calls out over his shoulder, "Turn your mobile back on, arse. Don't do that again." A moment later, he's gone.

Liam collapses on the sofa and doesn't move for a long time.

 

She loses track of time, sitting there wrapped up in the whirlwind of thoughts and feelings, that she's nearly late for bus call. Her hair is still damp from the quick shower when she makes her way to the lobby, luggage trailing behind her. Harry is the first one she sees and her stomach twists up at the sight of Lou tucked in under his arm. Fortunately, his back is turned and she quickly glances around.

Niall spots her first, a grin lighting up his face. She latches onto him fiercely, unapologetically, and sticks by his side as Paul organizes them and the chaos of loading. They make their way to the van and she makes Zayn curl up in the back seat with her. Harry keeps trying to catch her eye, but Liam ignores him. She touches the spot on his cheek; it's barely discolored, just a little red.

"Couldn't have given me a proper shiner even," Zayn grimaces at her. Liam's about to apologize again when Lou finally pipes up.

"You hit Zayn?"

Liam glances up. There's no way she can miss the way Lou and Harry's fingers are curled around each other, even when they're tucked between their legs.

"Oh," Liam says. "You're talking to me today?" It's catty and Liam immediately feels horrible for saying it. She murmurs, "Sorry," a second later.

Lou shrugs one shoulder, giving Liam a wry smile. "Not like it's not warranted," she responds just as quietly. Everyone else in the van seems to be holding their breath. Zayn curls his hand around hers though and Liam relaxes. She can do this. It's Lou and Harry, her best mates. It's her band, the most important thing in the world beyond her family. They're her second family and she can ignore whatever it is that's making her stomach swirl and ache, if it's to keep them together.

She smiles at Lou and gets one back instantly. Liam doesn't think about how bright and blue Lou's eyes are, or the way her eyes squinch up when she really smiles, like now. Instead, she launches into a ridiculous re-telling of what happened earlier with Zayn. It's not exactly the truth, but Zayn never corrects her. He just holds her hand until they arrive at the airport.

 

After a while, Liam even starts to believe she's okay.

And to be honest, Lou and Harry being an actual couple isn't all the different. Their public personas don't shift, and in private, it's still tackle hugs, tickle fights and ridiculous eyebrow conversations. Now there's just more chance for any of these events to end in the two of them kissing. That's the part that Liam always has turn away from, to find some reason to be somewhere else.

She's happy for them, she is. It's just.

Every time she sees them like that - sees Harry hand curled around Lou's cheek - she thinks about the way those hands had pressed her close. When she sees Lou's fingers curled into the collar of one of Harry's stupid shirts, she remembers the way they felt against the bare skin of her stomach. All her intentions to make this work, to not let it affect her, are going right out the window. Instead, it's making her a wreck.

The only redeeming thing about it is the fact that she seems to be doing a decent job not showing it. Zayn's the only one who seems to notice.

"You need a good shag," he tells her one afternoon. Liam's right in the middle of texting her mother and barely manages to grab her phone before it falls to the floor.

"What?"

Zayn's been a rock the last few weeks. Nialls' been helping, late night horror movies and crisps that he manages to eat most of anyway. But it's Zayn that's fallen asleep in her room after they've talked for hours. Up until now he hasn't pushed the topic of Lou and Harry.

"If you're going to avoid the Harry and Lou situation," Zayn continues. "The least you can do is quit driving all of us crazy and get a bit in the sack."

So maybe she hasn't been doing that good a job of hiding it.

"I can't just. I can't do that." she sputters.

"Sure you can." Zayn blows out a stream of smoke and Liam grimaces. She's past the stage of pointing out what a terrible habit smoking is, both for his general health and for his voice, but she still hates it. Zayn notices the look and blows smoke right in her face on the next exhale. Glaring, she waves it away.

"Sure you can," he repeats. "Grab something from Caroline and we'll hit the club tonight. You and me, I'll wing man you."

Liam rolls her eyes. "I do not think that word means what you think it does, babe." The whole idea is ridiculous. "I'm fairly sure everyone would assume I'm with you, so you'd be shite as a wing man."

"Whatever, we're doing it." He glances at his mobile. "Meet me back here in two, no, three hours. I'll clear it with Paul."

He must see the reluctance on her face because his own softens. "You don't have to do anything, Li, okay? But I think you need to get out of your head a bit." He wraps his fingers around her wrist, sliding them down to tangle with hers. He gives them a squeeze, looking up at her through his lashes. A small smile and, "Come on, yeah?"

"Fiiiine," she finally gives in, rolling her eyes. Zayn grins and gives her a little push. "Three hours, no more."

She waves him away, heading in the opposite direction. Glancing back over her shoulder, she sticks her tongue out at him. He just grins wider and she turns back around, laughing. She nearly runs straight into Harry. He's got a small frown on his face.

"Hey, Hazza, " she smiles. Sidestepping around him, she gives him some finger guns. "Catch you later, on a mission."

Her attitude seems to make Harry frown harder. It's nice to see that she admits to herself, to see the puzzlement that crosses his face. He opens his mouth , but she turns around and heads off before he can say anything. As she turns the corner she hears Zayn call out to Harry, and then she's too far away to hear anything else.

 


Liam's putting the finishing touches on her makeup when there's a knock at the door. Glancing at the clock, she rolls her eyes. Trust Zayn, the laziest of them all, to be impatient when it comes to a night out.

She's slipping on a shoe, her head down, when she opens the door. "Geez, Zayn, I've got ten more min--oh. Lou."

Lou's eyes are wide, her mouth open as if to say something. She doesn't, however, and they end up staring at each other for a minute. Finally, Liam slides on her other shoe and says inanely, "I thought you were Zayn."

That must snap Lou out of it and she says, "Obviously. Are you going out?" She glances down Liam's outfit and stares at her legs for a second before adding, "Of course you are, I mean. Dressed like that." She can't seem to stop looking at Liam's legs. Which, to be honest, this skirt is even shorter than the one Liam wore last time they went out. Liam tugs it down self-consciously.

"Why?" Liam asks. "Is there something wrong with it? It looks okay, right? Caroline said--"

"No," Lou interrupts. "It looks, um. You look fabulous."

Liam can feel her face warming. "Good. Thank you. Zayn said to dress for clubbing--"

"Zayn?" Lou finally looks up, frowning. "You're going out with Zayn?" She looks a little hurt and Liam feels bad, but it's not like she can invite Lou with them. Not when Lou is part of the reason Zayn had insisted on this night out to begin with.

"Yeah," Liam murmurs. "He wanted to take me out."

Lou frowns and Liam does not think about how cute it looks on her. Instead, she glances at the slim gold watch around her wrist. She's going to be late. "I've got to go." She turns to grab her purse and Liam doesn't miss the startled gasp as Lou gets a view of the back of Liam's outfit.

Or the lack thereof.

The dress Caroline had loaned Liam has a halter style top, high in the front and nearly backless. Liam can't even wear a bra. A fact that had made her balk at first, nervous, but the longer she'd had it on, the more exciting it became.

She felt feminine in it, sexy.

When Liam turns around again, purse in hand, Lou is just standing there, mouth open. It makes Liam stand up straighter, pull shoulders back. The material feels great against her skin.

She grabs her room card and moves past Lou in the doorway. Dropping a quick kiss on her cheek, Liam murmurs, "Don't wait up, love." She deliberately brushes her breasts against Lou's arm and can't help the surge of satisfaction at Lou's startled breath.

When she turns the corner for the lifts, she glances down the hallway. Lou hasn't moved, still standing there staring after Liam.

 

All Zayn does is whistle when he sees her, murmurs, "You don't do things by halves, do you babe?" and escorts her to the car.

Liam's not quite sure how he and Paul have done it, but they end up in a club. No fuss, no paps. It's nice.

 

She's a little tipsy, not drunk, but feeling good. The guy she's dancing with - Joe? John? James - has his lips on her neck, his hands warm as they move up and down her back. His lips trail over her jaw and Liam takes the initiative, moving to kiss him. He's good. It feels good.

Zayn was right, she just needs to get out of her own head. She always makes things more complicated than they need to be and this is completely the opposite. It's quick, straightforward.

"Come back to mine?" she asks quietly when they break for air. He kisses her again, harder, and Liam takes that for a yes.

They make out in the cab and Liam giggles at her own impropriety. Her head and her body are buzzing and it's possible that she's more tipsy than she had thought. A hand slides up her thigh, distracting, and she hums into James' kiss. She can feel him grin against her lips.

Liam still has wherewithal to tell the cabbie to hit the underground garage, thank goodness, and she over tips him in thanks. Before she can say such, James pulls her away. He presses her against the wall of the lift, and Liam likes the way he touches her, like she's the sexiest thing in the world. They get distracted in the hallway to her room and James trails his fingers over her side. It tickles and she can't help the peal of laughter that escapes. She slaps her hand over her mouth and they giggle together.

His mouth is back on hers a second later and she moans when he pushes her back into the wall, body covering hers.

"Liam?!"

She tears her mouth away, looking toward the exclamation. Harry's eyes are wide, shocked.

"Hazza," she murmurs, eyes slipping closed as James licks the spot under her ear. They snap open a second later as James is pulled away from here.

"What the actual fuck, Liam?"

James is looking between the two of them. He takes a step back, raising his hands. "Sorry, mate," he says to Harry. "Didn't know she was taken--"

'I"m not!" Liam protests, pushing off the wall. She stumbles a bit and Harry's got a hand on her arm. Shaking it off, she says again, "I'm not taken."

Another step back and James shrugs. "Sorry, babe." There's still enough heat in his eyes when he apologizes that Liam thinks that she might be able to convince him to stay. His gaze moves over her shoulder and she knows it's a lost cause. "Would have been a fun time for sure-" There's a noise behind her, almost a growl. "But this looks complicated."

A shrug and he turns back toward the lifts. Liam goes to follow, but Harry's hand on her arm stops her. She tries to shake it off again, but his grip is like iron this time. By the time she gets loose, James is gone.

"Dammit, Harry." Liam glares at him and stomps over to her door. So close.

Digging around in her purse, she finds the room key. Harry's a close presence as she finally gets the door open. She's about to tell him to piss off, but he beats her to the punch, crowding her into the room and demanding, "What the fuck was that?" There's a current of anger in his voice, but mostly he just sounds bewildered.

Like Liam having a snog in a hotel hallway is just so far out of the realm of possibility that it confuses him.

It makes Liam even more angry.

She's always prided herself on keeping cool, not letting anger control her, but the heat coursing through her feels good; it makes her thoughts sharper. This was supposed to be a night to let loose, for Liam to have something she rarely lets herself take, and it's been ruined. By Harry of all people, part of the very problem itself. Liam wants to break something.

Bending over, she slides off one shoe.

"That," she says, throwing it at Harry. It hits him in the chest and falls to the floor. She takes off the other one. "Was me trying to have a shag." She tosses the second shoe, but he's ready this time and catches it. For some reason, that just makes her even more mad.

She unzips the skirt. "However," pulls it off and flings it at Harry. "That's all gone to shit now, hasn't it?"

Eyebrows lost under his fringe, Harry opens his mouth to respond but Liam's on a roll. "You," she snarls, pulling the halter top over her head and stomping over to stand in front of him. Material clenched in her fist, she thumps him in the chest. It's hard enough that he stumbles back a step. "Are the biggest cock-block known to man right now, Harry Styles."

He's looking everywhere but at Liam, his face flushed.

"Look at me!" she insists.

Harry refuses, staring up at the ceiling, jaw clenched. Liam pokes him again. She's just so angry.

"Li, please," he whispers. His voice is strained and she watches his gaze flicker downward for a split second before turning his face toward the wall. "Please."

It hits her then. She's standing there in front of Harry, chest heaving like she's just sprinted fifty yards, in nothing but her knickers. Unable to stop herself, Liam glances down.

Harry's hard.

He's tenting his sleep pants and Liam can't make herself look away. It's not until Harry whispers her name again that she manages to drag her gaze back up. Harry looks dazed, pupils dilated enough that there's hardly any green left. She can see his pulse jack-rabbiting in the base of his throat and without thinking, she reaches up to touch it.

With a ragged groan, Harry frames Liam's face with his hands, slanting his mouth over hers. The force of it pushes her back and she clutches at his shoulders for support. Her top slips out of her fingers, falling to the floor. Liam ignores it, sliding her arms around Harry's neck.

He kisses her like he can't get enough, like he needs her to breathe, and Liam can't believe she ever thought James was a good at this.

Hands move from her face, curving over her shoulder and brush down the line of her back. It makes Liam shiver; it feels like he's touching her everywhere. They keep going, sliding over the curve of her ass, and Harry shifts, body dipping a little as he tugs her up. She wraps her legs around him, reveling in the warmth of all the skin pressed against hers.

They fall onto Liam's bed and Harry pulls back. She follows him with a quiet noise of protest, but Harry mouths at her neck, nipping lightly. That's enough to make her tilt her head back and let him have complete access. Fingertips brush over her breast and she whimpers. Teeth follow, a light scrape over a sensitive nipple and she can't help the noise that escapes.

Harry keeps moving down.

It's an onslaught of sensations. A nip of teeth at a spot just under her belly button. One across the skin stretched over her hip. The tips of Harry's fingers barely slip under the edge of her knickers and Liam has to bite her lip hard to keep from begging please.

He must know though, because seconds later there are eager hands dragging them off. The air is cool against her and Liam wants to feel embarrassed that she's already so wet, but then there's a warm mouth on her and Liam can't think at all. His tongue curls around her clit and Liam's hips come off the bed.

"Fuck," she whimpers, threading her fingers through his hair. He sucks, hard, and slides two fingers inside her. She's never been this close, this fast. "Fuckfuckfuck."

Harry glances up at that, eyes glazed and looking as wrecked as Liam feels. Thumb replacing his mouth, he rubs hard, tiny circles against her and watches. He licks his lips and Liam realizes that he's tasting her. The orgasm rolls over her, so intense that she can't help the cry that escapes. Harry keeps moving his fingers inside of her and she digs fingers into his shoulders, pulling him up.

He kisses her hard and she can taste herself on him, feel him against her hip. She scrambles for condom, fingers fumbling a little as she rolls it down his length. He's hot and heavy in her hands and Liam can't help wrapping her fingers around him. Burying his face against her throat, Harry moans, hips jerking in response.

She curls a hand around his neck, fingers tangling in the curls there. Lifting his head, his lips find hers again. The kiss turns sloppy when she guides him insider her.

"So wet," he murmurs, pulling back and sliding back in before she can say anything. He goes up on his elbows, alternating hard thrusts with slow ones. It's a tease, meant to drive Liam insane.

"Fuck me," she whines against his mouth. She lifts her hips into one of his thrusts, tightening herself around him. He curses and slams in hard the next time. Liam wraps her legs around his waist and he doesn't slow down after that.

Liam can feel the edge of another orgasm, knows Harry's not going to last much longer. Reaching between them, she gets her fingers on her clit. The sight makes Harry's rhythm falter and she hears her name, broken and ragged, before her vision whites out. Harry follows her over the edge.

Her body is buzzing warmly, and she feels lazy and loose. It's a struggle to make her eyes open, so Liam doesn't fight it. Harry rolls off to the side and she reaches out at the loss. "Hazza," she murmurs. He's back a moment later, the bed shifting as he rolls into her. She skims a hand over his shoulder. "Nice," Liam hums, half-asleep.

She's exhausted, but it does feel nice, the slide of Harry's skin against her own. She misses this, sleeping with someone. There's a kiss on her forehead and Liam smiles without opening her eyes. A few seconds later, she's asleep, Harry a line of warmth against her.

 

Liam bolts upright. "Oh god."

The space in bed next to her is empty and for a second disappointment wars with relief. She staggers into the shower, blushing at the way her body aches. "Oh god," she mutters again. She slept with Harry. She totally had sex with Harry. Earth-shattering, bone-deep, amazing sex with Harry, her brain supplies.

Somehow she doesn't think this is exactly what Zayn had in mind.

 

Paul texts to say that they've got breakfast and she's debating whether she wants to go or not when another text comes through telling her to hurry up or Niall is going to eat all the waffles. There's a muffled shout from next door and Liam sighs.

She can do this.

Of course, that doesn't mean Liam doesn't press her ear against the connecting door for a minute trying to determine who's already there. Resting her head against the door, Liam takes a deep breath. She'll just get in and get out, grab a bagel or something and come back to her room. And then drown in her own stupidity.

To her relief, there's only Niall and Paul in the room when she finally opens the door. The relief only lasts a moment before Niall whistles and grins. "Somebody had a great time last night, yeah?"

Liam can feel her face turning bright red. "Why? What makes you say that?"

"Well," Niall winks. "You were a bit loud, babe."

"Oh my god." Liam buries her face in her hands. Niall laughs, but puts a hand on her shoulder. "Oh god," she repeats.

"What's wrong with Liam?" Liam's head shoots straight up to meet Harry's gaze. He's sleep-rumpled, hair going everywhere, dressed in jogging pants and a hoodie. The zipper is down far enough that Liam can tell he's not wearing a shirt underneath. He looks ridiculous and Liam can't think about anything except how warm his skin was against hers. She makes herself look away.

"Liam pulled a bloke last night," Niall supplies. "From what I heard anyway." He grins. "She's quite loud it turns out."

Liam presses her fingers into her eyes and wishes the floor would open up and swallow her. It doesn't get any better when Harry murmurs, "Oh yeah? A screamer, our Liam?"

There's something in his voice that makes her drop her hands. Harry's staring straight at her, the corner of his mouth tilted up. He pops a grape in his mouth, licking his fingers. Niall's chattering away, but it's all white noise to Liam. Heat is curling inside her, Harry staring at her like he knows exactly what's going on inside her. Liam can't breathe.

And then Zayn walks in the room. She and Harry both turn to look, watching as Lou trails in after him, talking a mile a minute. She stops to grin at Harry and then looks to Liam. Her smile widens and Liam's stomach twists so hard it hurts.

She stumbles backwards, knocking into a chair. Harry glances back at her, expression on his face shifting as he sees the look on her face.

"Li-" he starts, reaching out a hand. She shakes her head.

"Excuse me," she manages to get out. She can feel all of them staring at her. It's okay though, she's nearly back to her room. "I'm not all that hungry. I'll--I'll grab something later."

The last thing she sees before she pushes the connecting door shut is Lou, Harry's hand curled around the back of her neck, his head dipped low and mouth near her ear. Lou's blue eyes are looking straight at her.

She tucks herself into a corner in the bathroom, knees pulled in close and the heels of her hands pressed into her eyes in a vain hope to stop the tears before they start. It's a fruitless endeavor and by the time she hears Zayn's tentative, "Liam?" and the soft touch of his hand on her shoulder, she dissolves into sobs. He pulls her in tight, running a hand over her back and murmuring, "It's going to be okay, babe. I promise."

It's a hollow promise at best, Liam knows.

 

She refuses to tell Zayn what happened. He blames himself a bit, having convinced her to go out in the first place, but every time she goes to tell him the truth it feels like she's going to be sick. Instead, Liam gives him a story about how she wasn't really emotionally prepared for a one-night stand. Zayn's not entirely convinced, she can tell, but eventually he quits asking and she goes on with her life.

Every so often Liam feels Harry's gaze on her, but he never says anything about that night. Lou doesn't treat either of them any differently, so Liam's certain Harry never told her.

It's a realization that makes Liam angry. Angry that Harry would be the kind of guy that would keep something so important from a girlfriend. The fact that he's kept it from Lou makes it even worse. Guilt over her own involvement eats at Liam. So much that she has trouble being in the same room with Lou and Harry. Even with all the anger and guilt whirling around her head, she can't help remembering how Harry felt inside her. The way his fingers curled, his tongue on her --

Liam shakes her head. It's not getting any better.

Thankfully tour is busy. The routine of interviews and performances and appearances pushes her until she's exhausted. She stays out longer, signing and talking to fans, until Paul has to physically pick her up and drag her away. It makes great publicity. It also means that Liam can fall into her hotel bed most nights and pass right out.

Zayn keeps a close eye on her and recruits Niall again. It's really, really hard to be down when Niall's around and by the last week of tour, Liam almost feels normal again.

 

It's the last night of tour and Liam is ensconced in the corner of the venue's crappy green room couch, scrolling through twitter, when Lou hops over the back of the couch. She pops her chin on Liam's shoulder. Liam can't help a startled jerk and Lou makes a disgruntled noise. She snuggles in closer and murmurs, "Everything okay? You've been a bit...off lately."

Understatement of the year, Liam thinks. She wants to laugh, but she's afraid it might not sound very sane or that she'd be able to stop. Lou's body is a warm line against her side and it makes Liam shiver. An arm sneaks across her hips and Liam realizes she's not fine at all, not by a long shot. In fact, sitting here with Lou's breath ghosting over her neck, Liam knows she's close to a breaking point.

"I'm here, you know," Lou says quietly. Her fingers find a strip of skin at Liam's hip between her shirt and shorts. Her voice is as soft as her touch when she adds, "If you wanted to talk about it."

The sympathy in Lou's voice is too much and Liam finally glances over, helpless. Bright blue eyes sweep over Liam's face. "Oh, Li," Lou whispers. "You're a right wreck, aren't you, babes?" She brushes the back of her other hand over Liam's cheek, and Liam can't help leaning into the touch a little. Her eyes drift shut, like maybe if she doesn't look everything, all the guilt and anger and sadness inside her, will just go away.

When Lou's lips brush hers, the touch is light as feather but Liam feels it in every fiber of her being.

 

>>

 

Liam is half asleep when her mobile rings. Without looking, she answers with a mumbled, "'lo?"

"When are you coming home?"

Lou's voice has Liam sitting straight up in bed. She's not really prepared to talk to Lou, not after--Liam shakes her head, it was barely even a kiss. But still, it's part of the reason Liam had headed straight for Wolverhampton instead of to her flat in London when the tour was over. Lou says her name, voice soft over the line.

"Sorry-" Her voice is rough and she clears it before adding, "I was asleep." There's no apology on the other end. In fact, there's nothing on the other end, just silence and soft breathing. "Lou?"

"I'm bored." Liam frowns; Lou's voice sounds funny.

"Everything okay?"

"I'm bored," is the answer Liam gets. It's not what she asked, but she knows if Lou doesn't want to talk about something, there's no forcing her. "You should come home and entertain me."

"I'm not your dancing monkey, Lou." Liam bites her lip, adding, "Besides Harry should keep you busy, yeah?" She's proud of the way her voice doesn't catch on his name.

"He's in Mullingar," Lou says shortly. "With Niall."

"Oh." Liam's not sure what to say to that. "Is Zayn not about then?"

"Perrie."

They sit there in silence. Liam's head is a whirlwind of speculation and feelings and she's really, really not ready to deal with any of it right now. Her stomach is twisting up again.

"You should come back, Li." Lou's voice interrupts. It's soft, barely audible over the line, and a little unsteady. "You should come home."

Liam swallows hard. "I-I can't."

"Liam, please.." She knows that sound, knows how thick Lou's voice gets before she cries. Her own throat is tight now, and it's so hard to suddenly just breathe.

"Lou, I can't. Not-not yet, okay?"

"When?"

Liam takes a deep breath, holds it. "Soon."

"Yeah? You promise?"

"Yes."

"And we'll talk about--We'll talk??"

Liam's fingers tighten on her phone. It hurts a little from how hard she's pressing it against her ear.

"Liam?"

She chokes out a, "We'll. Yes, um, we'll talk. When I get back."

It's apparently enough to appease Lou. There's a quiet sigh on the other end of the line and the Lou's voice is back, stronger, when she says, "I'm sorry I woke you up." Liam shakes her head and then realizes that Lou can't see her. Before she can say anything though, Lou adds, "Sweet dreams, Li." She hangs up before Liam can respond.

Her last words are more a curse than a nicety; it's hours before Liam finally manages to fall back asleep.

 

Liam lasts two days.

She spends those days studiously not thinking about Lou's call. Not thinking about the sound in her voice when she'd told Liam that Harry was in Mullingar. And not thinking about that single please in a tone that was dangerously close to begging.

Lou doesn't beg. She pokes and prods and charms her way into getting what she wants, but she never begs.

But Liam isn't thinking about that.

She lasts two days and it's a hug from her mother in the kitchen cleaning up after dinner, arms tight around her. It's a soft whisper of you can't run away forever in her ear, then an added you're a strong girl, Liam, all the way through. It's tears quickly wiped away and an exchange of smiles that are entirely too similar to each other. It's heading to bed and being unable to sleep and slipping out of the house in the middle of the night with her bag and a short note left on the kitchen table.

The sun is just peeking over the city when Liam opens the door to her flat, painting her living room in shades of grey and pink and yellow. The silence is a bit overwhelming and Liam pauses for a moment, holds her breath.

Now that she's here, home, it's like her body gives. Exhaustion rolls over Liam so suddenly that she nearly staggers with it. Slipping out of her shoes, she leaves them there in the middle of the carpet. Her bag hits the sofa and Liam heads straight for her bedroom.

Only to stumble to a stop at the sight of Lou curled up under her blankets.

It's a shock, but Liam's just so very tired. A part of her knows it's a terrible idea as she slides in next to Lou, but another part just wants to be next to a warm body. They've so much to discuss when they're both awake later, and Liam's scared to death that she might possibly lose one --or two--of her best friends. She wants a last cuddle at least.

Liam presses in close, sliding an arm around Lou. It earns her a cute snuffling noise and a quiet murmur. Fingers slide through hers and Liam holds her breath again, but Lou doesn't wake up, just shifts closer in her sleep. Letting out her breath, Liam lets herself relax. At least for a moment, she's okay. Moments later, she's asleep.

 

There's a strange pressure across her hips. Liam's fuzzy with sleep and drags her eyes open to find Lou sitting on her. Blinking to try and clear her head, she's only more confused when Lou bends down and kisses her. It's straight on the mouth, no pretenses, just quick, firm pressure. Sitting back up, Lou says quietly, "Welcome home."

Liam can only lay there and stare. The shirt Lou slept in is one of hers, Liam notes. It's too big, sliding off one shoulder. It's thin too and Liam does her best not to stare. Lou bends down to kiss her again and Liam is still so dazed that she lets her. It's softer this time, and Liam gasps at the feel of Lou's tongue, slick at the seam of her lips. Lou hums against her mouth, pulling back a bit. It feels like Liam's world is spinning.

It comes to a crashing halt when Lou murmurs, "I should get a turn, yeah? Seeing as Harry already had a go." She moves in for another kiss and Liam manages to turn her head. Lips slide across her cheek; teeth dig into her earlobe a second later and then Liam's scrambling out of bed, leaving Lou in a tangle of limbs and blankets

She makes it to the living room, but doesn't know exactly what to do with herself. The swirl of emotions rolling around in her are overwhelming. Her hands are shaking and she clenches them into fists to make it stop.

"It's only fair, isn't it?" Behind her, Lou's voice is sharp, and Liam wonders if this is what Lou really called her home for, to rip and shred and tear Liam apart. Lord knows, Lou can do it. She's the sharpest tongue in the world when she wants. "You let Harry fuck you-" Liam flinches at the way fuck rolls off Lou's tongue. "I should get a turn, fair play and all."

Liam whirls around to find Lou standing in the door, her arms crossed, lips pressed together in a tight line. Liam's shirt is still falling off her shoulders and, Liam realizes with a start, she's wearing what has to be a pair of Harry's boxers. It makes Liam's chest ache.

"I am not some kind of toy to be passed around, Louise Tomlinson. I made a mistake, a stupid mistake." Liam's pissed when her voice cracks. She bites her lips to stop her voice from shaking. "You're hurt, and I know that I'm a big part, a huge part of the blame for that. But using me to get back at Harry--" Her eyes are starting to burn and Liam hates being this weak. "It's not--It's just not fair, Lou. It's not fair at all considering how I feel about you both--"

Liam snaps her mouth shut.

The silence is palpable and Liam wants to say something, wants to take back the fact that she may have just laid all her feelings out on the table, but she can't even bring herself to look up from her feet. The polish is chipping on her toenails, she notes absently. The laughter in her head at her own ridiculousness may be slightly hysterical. Another pair of feet appear in her view.

"Hey." Lou's voice is soft. Liam still can't make herself look up. It's not until finger brush against her mouth that Liam realizes that she's set her teeth in her lip hard enough to hurt. "Hey, hey, hey, stop it."

Startled, Liam finally lifts her chin.

There's nothing cold on Lou's face now. In fact, she's got a light blush across her cheeks and she shifts back and forth on her feet a couple of times as they stare at each other.

"Lou-?"

"So it's not just Harry then?" Lou interrupts, glancing to the side. Her voice is quiet, almost hesitant, and Liam frowns. "I mean, I could understand if that's it. It's Hazza, right?" She shoots Liam a lightning quick grin. "I'd seen you looking at me too, I thought? But then you were acting all weird and Harry was acting strange too. Not horribly, but he'd always tell me to let it go when I brought it up? To leave you be and such."

She's rambling and fidgety, brushing hair behind her ear as she talks, then tugging it back in place. Finger sweeping her fringe to the side. They're shaking a little, Liam can see, and she flashes back to the call two days ago. How her voice had sounded down the line. Something inside her chest goes loose.

"-and then Harry told me what had happened and I was hurt, yeah, but I was just so stupidly jealous that he got to touch you. I think I said some pretty terrible things-," She glances up then, eyebrows pulling together at whatever she's seeing on Liam's face. "What?"

Liam kisses her.

It's too much, too quick, and she nearly misses, barely catching the corner of Lou's mouth. When she pulls back, Lou's eyes are wide and blue, startled. It only takes a second though, before that familiar grin appears. She flings her arms around Liam's neck and the stumble back. The back of Liam's knees hit the sofa and the both go down. Lou scrambles up, her knees on either side of Liam's thighs and her mouth on Liam's.

Laughing, Liam pulls back. She feels weightless right now. "Lou, we should wait--"

"No, no, no." There's a nip at Liam's bottom lip, a press of soft lips that Liam follows when they pull back. "No waiting, snogging time." Lou kisses like she does everything else, bold and enthusiastically. Liam's hard-pressed not to give in, so she lets herself have this, at least for a bit.

She's lost track of time, her lips raw when she finally does break for air. "I didn't know you liked girls too," Liam murmurs. It's not what she wants to say, but it is something that's been circulating around in her head.

"I like you," Lou responds. She's got her nose tucked in under Liam's ear and she seems to be mapping Liam's neck with her tongue. It's incredibly distracting. Liam hums. "Right, but--"

That gets her a sigh and Lou sits up. She's flushed, lips red and swollen and Liam has to try very, very hard not to kiss her again. Lou does it for her, leaning forward to brush her mouth over Liam's. They get distracted for a bit when Liam follows her mouth and pulls her back in. With a hum, Lou finally sits back again. "It's true though. I like you. It took me a while to figure that bit out, to be honest. I couldn't understand why I turned into a raging bitch every time you showed some leg. And obviously Harry couldn't keep his hands off you. "

Liam flushes. Lou runs the tip of a finger over the top of one cheekbone, grinning. It softens a moment later. "I wasn't really thinking when I kissed you that night on the sofa, not really. You just looked so sad."

Lou settles back in Liam's lap, hands dropping to twist together. "Only I realized I didn't want to stop and it was like getting hit with giant clue bus." She looks at Liam then, adding, "And then you disappeared and Harry was acting--well, he was acting very un-Harry-like. So I thought I should come clean, tell him what happened and that I was very confused about what I was feeling."

Liam knows what's coming next, can't help but feel shameful. She blurts out, "I'm sorry." She grabs Lou's hands in her own, dipping her head to look right at Lou. "I'm so sorry, Lou. I know it doesn't excuse what happened and that it's a shit thing to do and I'm so sorr--"

"Shut up, Li," Lou murmurs. She wraps her arms around Liam's neck, her mouth brushing Liam's ear. "I was angry, yes, and hurt that both of you kept that from me but god. You should have seen the way Harry looked while he was talking about it, about how it turns out you're loud and a bit foul-mouthed during sex." Lou's voice is breathy, heavier now, making things pool hot, low in her belly. "He got hard just telling me about it. You absolutely wrecked him."

Lou moves back again and Liam can't help the sound of protest that slips out. It makes Lou grin, mischievous. She dances her fingers across Liam's shoulders, then down her arms to tangle their fingers together again. "I want a chance to make you say dirty things, is all."

The look in Lou's eyes makes Liam swallow hard. It's entirely possible she's bitten of more than she can handle.

 

"I still think I should have a go," Lou says three days later, the words buzzing against Liam's mouth. They're back on the sofa, Harry and Lou's this time, with Lou seated firmly on Liam's lap again. It seems to be her favorite way to kiss and Liam's not going to complain. "Before Haz gets home. You know, make things even."

Liam's hands feel huge on Lou's hips, but she likes the way Lou's breath catches every time she tightens her fingers, when she puts Lou where she wants her. "We've talked about this."

And they have.

Liam wants to wait until Harry gets back, wants to talk about things before any of this goes any further. A fact that Lou had protested, pouted, and done everything in her power to get Liam to change her mind about. Liam is stubborn about this though, she wants to start things off right.

So the last three days were filled with snogging sessions that Liam kept having to put a stop to, movies on the couch, curled around each other and nights spent wrapped up together. Liam wants to do this right.

Unfortunately, she's getting a little frustrated herself.

"We should practice," Lou tells her, breaking into Liam's thoughts. Her hands are creeping under Liam's t-shirt. She keeps them low, brushing over the bottom of Liam's rib cage, so Liam doesn't stop her. If her own hands tighten on Lou's hips, no one calls her on it.

"What?"

"Practice makes perfect, Li," Lou tells her. "Since we've never been with other girls, there's a lot we'll need to learn. And I know how much you hate not being good at something." There's a sharp grin. "Which means a lot of practice. We should get started on that right now."

It is something that Liam's been thinking about, if she's honest with herself. And Lou does have a point. Liam bites her lip. "I just figured we would start with things that we know feel good and go from there?"

Lou looks absolutely delighted with that answer. Before Liam can blink, she's pulling her hands out from under Liam's tee and dragging her own shirt off. Her bra is bright purple and looks absolutely brilliant against the warm honey of her skin. Liam swallows. "This isn't really--"

Lou ignores her, wrapping her fingers around Liam's wrists and dragging them up until she's got Liam's hands cupping her breasts. "We should definitely start here."

"You don't play fair," Liam whines. The material is smooth under her fingertips, and thin. She brushes a thumb over one hardened peak, watching as Lou arches into the touch, a small whimper cut off by teeth digging into her own bottom lip. Liam does it again, harder, and Lou isn't able to stop the gasp this time. it's a bit heady, having this kind of power, Liam thinks. She should really put a stop to this.

Instead, she curls upward, and wraps one arm around Lou's hips. Liam drags her tongue along the top edge of the bra, the material darkening. Lou moans, hands scrabbling at Liam's shoulders.

"Liam--"

The edges of her teeth over one hardened peak cuts off Lou's words. She cries out instead, and Liam does it again, making Lou jerk against her. She wonders if Lou could come from just this, if Harry has made that happen. Liam thinks about her and Harry, teasing Lou together, getting her off and making her scream. The thought makes Liam so hot that she has to take a second, try to remember how to breathe.

"I thought you were going to wait for me."

Liam jerks her head up to find Harry standing in the entryway. He's leaning against the wall, watching.

"You were taking too long," Lou says. Her voice is rough and Liam can see the way Harry's body reacts to the sound. She glances back at Lou, questioning. Lou shrugs, slides a hand up Liam's neck and gets a good grip in her hair. "I was tired of waiting," she offers before leaning down to kiss Liam.

It's not a pretty kiss, not like the ones before. This one is teeth and tongues, heat and impatience all rolled together. The sofa shifts and Liam tears her mouth away to breathe; Lou lets her know she's not happy by digging her teeth into the spot just below Liam's ear.

Harry's eyes are dark, so similar to that night, and so close. They sweep over her face and she watches them drop to where Lou is intent on marking her. Liam manages to gasp out, "I take you guys talked then?"

It makes Harry laugh, the sound rich and vibrant in the air of the flat. He hums an affirmative, reaching out to brush her hair behind her ear. He runs a fingertip along the outer shell of her ear and murmurs, "Weren't your ears burning, Li? They should have been."

He drags his fingers down her neck and she can feel them slide around Lou's, pulling her away from Liam. He cuts off her protest with a kiss.

It's strange to see it this close, to have Lou's weight in her lap and Harry's warmth along her side. She must make a noise or something because Lou and Harry break apart, green and blue eyes fixing on her. They both reach for her at the same time.

 

"Oh," Lou gasps. "We are definitely doing that again. I think you’re a natural by the way." Liam laughs weakly from where her head is resting on Lou's hip. She licks her lips and can taste Lou on them. Lou pats the top of Liam's head like she can barely lift an arm to do more. "I think you might be better at that than Harry even."

A disgruntled, "Hey!" mingles with Liam's quiet, "I don't think so."

This seems to delight Lou and this time she curls her fingers around Liam's neck, laughing. The sated laziness that was there moments ago is already disappearing and Liam can practically feel Lou's body recharge. She tugs and Liam drags herself up until the two of them are laying face to face. Lou doesn't even hesitate before going in for a kiss, she swallows Liam's protest and finally pulls back, saying, "Mmm, I taste good on you."

Liam can feel herself blushing and Lou laughs again. "That? That's going to make you blush? You just had your mouth on my--" Liam kisses her before she can finish the sentence. Lou doesn't seem to mind though, humming into the kiss.

She's so soft, soft everywhere, Liam thinks. Soft in all the ways that Harry wasn't. Isn't.

As if he knows that she's thinking about him, Harry fits himself beside them. He brushes a hand over the slope of Liam's shoulder and down the line of her back , finally resting his hand low in the small of her back. It makes her shiver. Lou bites at her jaw and presses up against her.

Liam's so very glad that she doesn't have to choose; she's not sure she even could.

"You're thinking too hard," Harry murmurs, nipping at her earlobe. Liam can feel the hard line of his cock against her hip, the little presses that she knows he's probably not aware he's doing. Pulling back, he grins at her. "I can help with that."

Liam giggles, then laughs outright when Lou shoves her hand in Harry's face. "G'way, Styles. She's mine."

He growls, snapping his teeth until he's caught a couple of her fingers. Liam can feel the teasing air palpably shift to something more intense. Underneath her, Lou shivers. Liam watches the way Harry's mouth moves around Lou's fingers and can feel her own breath speed up, her body tighten.

With a hand on Lou's wrist, Harry pulls back. His voice is rough and low when he says, "She's ours." His hand tightens and Lou exhales, nodding.

Harry looks at Liam and says even more quietly, "And we're yours, yeah?" There's a flicker of uncertainty that flashes across his face and before Liam can think, she's kissing him.

"Yes," she answers, the words pressed against his mouth. "Yes."

Lou huffs and Liam can feel Harry grin against her lips. "Someone's feeling left out." He pulls away, eyes laughing again, "Which is ridiculous as she's the only one who's got off tonight." He still got a hold of Lou's wrist and he kisses the tips of her fingers. "So impatient."

"And you're so slow," Lou responds. "It's still my turn, Haz." She tugs at Harry's grip, but he doesn't let go. Liam slides over a bit, watching the two of them. They're gorgeous together, the lines of their bodies, the way that Harry curls around Lou even as she argues with him. She reaches out, fingertips brushing over their hands. They both look to her immediately.

When she pulls them toward her, Harry's words echo in her head.

Ours.

Yours.

And she knows it's true.