Actions

Work Header

Just Smile

Work Text:

What happens is the school decides to hold an American-style prom the year after Louis leaves for university. And Louis, as he does sometimes, takes this as a direct slap in the face.

"I could have dragged Liam along," he moans to Harry over the phone. "We would have worn nice suits and our mums would have cried. Why does the universe hate me?"

Privately Harry suspects Liam is thanking the universe for saving him from that; he's always been a bit dubious about Louis's tendency toward public displays of affection, as much as he likes romantic gestures. "Well, you can come as his date," Harry says. "You'll be the creepy old man dating a student. We'll all stare at you suspiciously and the teachers will have to make sure you don't corrupt anyone."

"Fuck off," says Louis cheerfully. "Who are you going with?"

"I dunno," says Harry. "One of the girls in maths, maybe. Or I could go by myself with the lads and just get really trashed. Me and Zayn and Niall could make a night of mocking you and Liam. Maybe we can steal Liam away from you. That'd be fun."

"The really American thing to do is to get a hotel room and skip the prom," says Louis. "I wonder if Liam'd be down for--"

"No," says Harry. "You're kidding, right?"

"I bet I can talk him into it. He misses me. I mean. He does miss me, doesn't he?"

Harry rolls his eyes. "All he does is pine, I promise. Well. Pine and play football."

"He's captain," says Louis. "It's very sexy."

"Ugh, stop it, I'll be sick," says Harry, because that's what he always says. If he doesn't, Louis begins describing Liam's bum.

Louis shouts, "My boyfriend is the sexiest!" so Harry hangs up on him. It's basically impossible to offend Louis.

A minute later Louis texts, Does it have a theme?!?

I don't know, Harry replies. I'm not on the planning committee.

Liam is Louis texts. He says Moonlight Serenade. :)

Dumb, Harry texts.

A minute later his phone beeps again. Liam says he won't come to a seedy hotel with me all night. :((((((

Thank god for Liam, Harry replies.

--

Zayn already has a date. "Of course he does," Niall says, stealing a chip off Harry. "He's Zayn."

"But we've only had two days to get a date. I wanted to do a lad's night out," Harry complains. "So we could get drunk on the way over and then get even drunker while a terrible DJ plays awful music."

"Your band could play," says Niall. "Why haven't you got any more food?"

"Because you ate it all," says Harry, and gives Niall his most threatening look. Niall laughs at him.

They're sat on Harry's sofa and Niall, as always, has made himself entirely at home. Harry's mum is never surprised to see him there. It's a bit like Niall has moved in, especially since Louis is off at university nearly forty-five minutes drive away. It's too far for Louis to come back and lie on the couch every day, although he's there every other weekend for sure, and half the time Harry's mum does his laundry for him. (The other half of the time Louis's mum does it.) It's nice with Niall, though, because Niall doesn't spend so much time worrying that his boyfriend is going to meet someone new now that he's at university. Actually, Niall spends zero time worrying about anything.

Harry feels just a bit upset. It sucks a little that Zayn's going to be off with Perrie snogging in a corner (unless they just get a hotel room; Zayn would totally do that if Perrie's up for it). Last year was better; it was the five boys hanging out all the time and no one was dating anyone. Harry likes having a gang.

"Are you actually sad about this?" Niall asks incredulously.

"It'd be more fun with you lot than having to find a girl and ask her," Harry says.

Niall nearly doubles over with laughter. "That is the gayest thing I've ever heard, and I was there when Louis tried to talk Liam into adopting teacup puppies with him."

Harry pouts a little. Niall has no patience for pouting and laughs, and then he climbs onto Harry using his elbows and knees rather more than he needs to. "Cheer up, you mopey bastard!" Niall orders. He starts messing about with Harry's hair and Harry tries to shove him off. Niall clings, though, and they end up on the floor rolling around trying to shove each other's faces away.

Harry's mum comes in. "Oh," she says. "Boys, when you're done there I need someone to go and put the bicycles away in the garage, and take all the toys out of the pool. They'll get dirty." She steps over them on her way to get her car keys and take Gemma out shopping.

"Help me clean the pool," says Harry, kicking at Niall.

"Why should I do that?" Niall asks belligerently.

"Because you were staring at my mum's arse when she walked by."

Niall laughs. "Yeah, I guess I was. Okay, get up, then." He shoves Harry off and stands up. "We can still go to the prom, though. I mean, we can still get drunk and hire a car and go hang out. It'll be more fun if it's you and me. We can make fun of Zayn and Perrie and Liam and Louis. They're gonna be so obnoxious."

"They really will," Harry says, perking up a little bit as he dusts himself off. "We could get, like, those matching flower things."

"Corsages," says Niall. "Dunno where we'd get them, though. But we could take pictures and wear suits. As long as we get to have fun and stand around and drink while they have to actually give a shit about impressing each other."

The idea of spending a whole night drunk with Niall, making fun of all their sappy, disgusting friends, cheers Harry up almost immeasurably. "Yeah," he says. "Okay, let's do that."

"Ask me," says Niall, crossing his arms and grinning.

Harry flips his hair out of his eyes. "Ask you what? Stop staring at my mum's arse?"

"Can't do that, mate," says Niall, grinning. "No, ask me to go to the dance with you."

"What? Why should I ask you? You ask me," says Harry, putting his hands on his hips.

Niall has a laugh a bit like a goat with hiccups. "It's your idea! That means you have to ask me. D'you know how many American prom movies I've watched? If I don't get asked, and a fucking corsage, I'm not going with you."

Harry tries glaring at Niall but that just makes him laugh again. "Okay," says Harry. "Okay, fine. Niall, will you come to the prom with me?"

"Ask me properly."

Harry shoves Niall, who grins and shoves him back. This is when they really need Liam to be around; he's good about stepping between people before the shoving can become a real play-fight, even if it means Liam gets trampled a bit.

Harry shoves Niall again and Niall falls back onto the couch, laughing. "Niall Horan!" says Harry loudly. "Light of my life, fire of my loins—"

"Hang on, there," says Niall, trying not to dissolve into giggles.

"Will you do me the enormous honor of coming to the stupid fucking prom with me so we can get drunk and make fun of all our mates? Please, Niall? Please?"

"Yeah, alright," says Niall.

Harry kicks him in the shin. "Now get your lazy arse up and help me put the bikes away."

Niall pretends to sigh, but he gets up again to follow Harry outside. "So, are we gonna get matching tuxes?"

"No," says Harry. "I asked; you have to wear a dress."

"Fuck you," says Niall, and bursts into laughter again.

--

Liam has got dragged into being part of the prom committee because of course he has. "I'm not entirely sure what happened," he says at lunch. "I don't remember volunteering, but I'm definitely in charge of food and drink—"

Niall groans loudly. "You'll make us have things with vitamins! I'm not going."

"You are," says Harry evenly. "I asked you and you said yes."

Liam gives them both a startled look.

"Wasn't gonna be the only fellow there without a date," says Niall, eating off Liam's plate while he's distracted. "Harry's fit."

"Oh," says Liam. "Well, okay. That makes sense, I suppose." He doesn't look like he understands it at all but that's the nice thing about Liam; when he doesn't understand what's going on he just assumes he's missing something and everyone else is probably right.

"Louis's excited, isn't he?" Harry says.

Liam sighs a little. "Yes," he says. "Oh god, yes. We're getting matching ties and waistcoats, apparently?"

"Are we doing that?" Niall asks.

Harry shrugs. "Not gonna let Louis show us up, are we?"

"Nah," says Niall. "Can we hire a limo?"

"You don't need to," says Liam. "I'm driving and I'll be sober."

"But you're supposed to hire a limo," Niall says.

Harry steals a bit of food off Liam's plate while he's looking at Niall. Liam's plate is always full of vegetables; it's terrible. They really will have to make certain he's not in charge of food for the school dance. Everyone will starve to death.

"Where would you hire a limo?" Liam asks. "And how would you afford it?"

Niall shrugs. "That's Harry's problem. He asked me."

Harry throws one of Liam's vegetables at Niall, who laughs. "You're such a pain in the arse," says Harry. "You'd better plan on putting out. I've seen prom movies, too."

Niall laughs so hard he nearly falls off his chair. Liam still looks a bit confused about the whole thing. Harry would explain the joke but it's so much funnier to be cheeky and watch him blush. "Don't worry," says Harry. "I'm sure Louis won't mind if you don't put out."

"That's – Harry," says Liam, turning pink. "I mean we already – but not at the dance. Oh my god. But you and Niall aren't – I mean, you don't really want to go with Niall, do you?"

"Lads' night out," says Harry. "What's more fun than that?"

Liam still looks a bit lost. "Going with someone you actually like," he says. "The prom is supposed to be… It's a romantic evening out, really."

"Unless you haven't got someone to be romantic with," says Harry. "In which case, why not go with your friends and get drunk and have fun?"

"I suppose," says Liam, with a little shrug. "Louis's really very excited."

Harry snickers. "Good luck with that. I'd rather go with Niall. No pressure."

"Hey," says Niall, pretending to be offended. "If I don't have a good time I'm breaking up with you."

Harry shoves him, and Liam sighs and moves all their drinks out of range before they can all get knocked off the table.

--

Louis calls up Harry sighs a lot. Harry has an essay he ought to be writing but he clicks on to chat with Niall instead. It'll distract him from whatever Louis's on about.

9:21 Louis is just sighing again

9:22 hahaha is he ? that's brilliant .

"I just," says Louis eventually. "Why couldn't we have had a prom last year?"

"I don't know," says Harry. "Bad timing? Planets not aligned properly?"

"You're mocking my pain," says Louis.

"Yeah," Harry agrees.

9:25 does he seriously worry about liam ? that's the most ridiculous thing I ever heard that can't be true

9:26 I don't know. What are you doing?

9: 26 watching telly . nothing good on tho .

"I can hear you typing to Niall," Louis complains.

"Well, then say something interesting," Harry says. "And it can't be about Liam."

"He hasn't called me in two days!"

Harry rolls his eyes. "He's busy."

"He's forgotten all about me."

Harry bangs his head against the desk a couple of times. "He's really, really busy with sport and homework and the prom. Why are you so completely insane about this?"

9:30 a;sldfjkadsl;kjsdj;d

9:31 what ?

9:31 Sorry. That was me banging my head on the keyboard.

9:32 hahahahaha brilliant hahaha

"I'm not insane," Louis says. "He's far away, I haven't seen him in forevvvvvvver, he's planning a big romantic dance—"

"For you, you idiot," says Harry. "He's taking you to the dance. And you see him all the time."

"I liked it when I was around all the time, every day."

"And Liam probably likes not having to sneak you out of his bedroom in the morning before his sisters can tell his parents you're there."

Louis starts sighing again.

9:36 Oh my god, unbelievable.

9:37 is he still compliaining ?

9:37 I can't wait for Liam to be done with school so there won't be any more drama

"You're going with Niall? Are you going to pick him up at his house? Will his dad give you a lecture about using protection and bringing him home at a reasonable hour?"

Being teased is a million times better than listening to Louis freak himself out over nothing. "Yeah, probably," says Harry. "It's a laugh."

9:40 tell him your busy . come over here instead ? Im bored .

9: 41 You've got an essay due! Harry stares at the blinking cursor for a second and then promptly adds, Yeah, I'll be over in ten.

"Speaking of which," says Harry, "I'm gonna head over to Niall's."

"Remember, save yourself for prom night so it'll be special," says Louis.

Harry laughs. "Just call your stupid boyfriend and stop sighing at me, please?"

"He didn't pick up," says Louis, with the poutiest tone Harry has ever, ever heard.

"He's probably asleep, then, or out with the prom planning committee. Just call him again. It's Liam, Louis."

"I just think I need to do something special so he doesn't forget all about me," says Louis.

"Get a tattoo," says Harry. There's about a fifty-percent chance that Louis really will, depending on whether he hangs out with Zayn any time soon. "Hire a sky writer to write Louis-loves-Liam. Propose to him. Just stop sighing at me. He loves you, I promise."

"Bah. Go and tell your boyfriend I said hello," says Louis.

"You're a twat," says Harry cheerfully, and hangs up on him.

--

Niall's parents don't care if he's got Harry in his room all night. Not that Harry's mum fusses much about him having Niall there at all hours, either, but Niall's parents literally don't care what he's doing. His dad is down at the pub and his mum is out with friends and Harry has occasionally wondered if Niall's parents are entirely figments of his imagination. His brother is real, though, and he punches Harry on the arm in a friendly kind of way when Harry walks in.

"Sandwiches," says Niall, grabbing a bunch of food out of the fridge. "You get bread." Harry rifles through the cupboard for where Niall's dad keeps the bread and carries it upstairs along with napkins.

"Are we doing something?" Harry asks. He doesn't much care, he's just wondering.

"Nah," says Niall. He moves his guitar off the bed and arranges the food so he can make himself a huge sandwich instead. He offers Harry a bite, but Harry shrugs him off. He'll make himself one that's only got two kinds of meat, rather than five. It's not Niall's fault his dad is a butcher, and he's always hungry. "So, I might play some songs at the prom? Liam thinks it'd be fun to have students doing the music."

"Liam has to stop volunteering to be in charge of things. You should, though."

"Why doesn't your band play?" Niall asks.

"Because we'd have to rehearse," says Harry. "Too lazy. The prom is still going to have a really awful DJ, right?"

Niall grins. "Don't tell DJ Malik you think he's awful."

Harry stares at him for a minute. "Seriously?"

"That's what Liam says. And he could talk Zayn into anything."

Harry throws his head back and laughs. "Oh god, I can't wait. I'm so glad Liam's in charge of everything."

"Except the drinks, that's a pity," says Niall. "I should be in charge of those. All the kinds of pints you can imagine."

"That's why you're not in charge," says Harry. He puts all the plates on the floor so he can scooch up and lie on Niall's pillows. "Put a film or something on."

"There's nothing to watch," says Niall. "Shove over."

"You shove over," says Harry, elbowing him.

"It's my bed," Niall complains, shoving him back. Harry really gives Niall a push and Niall shouts, "You'll make me drop my sandwich!" Harry leans over and takes a bite of Niall's sandwich, which is as good as a declaration of war. He stares at Niall with his most challenging, crazy stare and Niall stares back, clenching his free hand into a fist. For a second Harry thinks Niall might – No, for a second Harry thinks Niall is going to hit him, that's what he's worried about. It's weird, though, and when Niall really does lunge for Harry, Harry isn't fast enough getting out of the way and ends up knocked off the bed.

"Arsehole," Harry grumbles.

Niall grins, and it's the same sunshiny grin he's always had. "The thing I hate most about you, Styles, is that you steal food," he says. "You've got your own sandwich! And you haven't got a metabolism like me. You can go ten minutes without wasting away."

Harry huffs and climbs back onto the bed. "What's your favorite thing about me, then?"

"What?" Niall stuffs the sandwich in his mouth so his hands are free to mess with the television and put a film on. He's settled on Transformers, which is a shit film, but Harry has watched it with him one million times.

"If you're my date to the prom you'd better have a favorite thing about me, to balance out what you hate, apparently," says Harry. He sounds a bit more petulant than he'd like, but his bum hurts where he fell on the floor.

Niall considers and chews. "Well," he says. "I suppose I like that you're cheeky. Not as funny as Louis, obviously, but we do have a laugh."

"I'm as funny as Louis."

"You aren't," says Niall definitely. Harry crosses his arms and huffs again. "But I mean, Louis always gets caught doing his stupid ideas, doesn't he? And you're a bit more sly. We get away with loads of stuff 'cause you look so sweet."

"I'm a darling," Harry agrees.

Niall laughs and laughs. Harry would scowl at him, but it is basically ridiculous. "Shut up; I like this part," says Niall eventually.

"We've seen it a billion times," Harry says, reaching for his own sandwich. Niall settles so he's half on the pillows and half on Harry, holding his sandwich the way Zayn holds a cigarette. "Are you planning to write your essay tonight?"

Niall snorts, which is a pretty solid answer.

"Yeah," says Harry, yawning. "Me, neither."

--

Harry wakes up in Niall's bed and it's not like it's the first time this has happened. He checks Niall's clock. It's almost four. The DVD is playing the end screen over and over, but Harry can't get up and stop it because he's got Niall on top of him. They've both still got their trainers on and they're sort of curled around each other in a way that doesn't entirely fit on Niall's bed, but no one's going to fall off, either.

Harry's not going to try and go home in the middle of the night. He just shoves Niall over a little and Niall grumbles in his sleep. Harry settles better on the pillow and Niall settles better on Harry. And then Harry falls asleep again.

--

Harry's phone beeps in the morning. Harry needs to pee and also call his mum and tell her where he is and he tries to wiggle out from underneath Niall, but Niall yawns and burrows into the blankets.

Niall is the absolute worst to wake up in the morning. Everyone thinks it would be Zayn, given how often he nods off during class, but actually it's Niall who has to be dragged out of bed kicking and screaming. "Hey," Harry says, shoving at him. "Hey, it's time to get up. Get up."

"Shut up," says Niall, rolling over on him.

It's the tiiiiiniest bit awkward because Harry always, always wakes up with an erection and Niall is sort of sideways on top of it, and Harry maybe sucks in a sharp breath and tells himself that this is Niall and you stop that I am serious. "Mate," says Harry, gritting his teeth. "D'you mind?" He shoves his hips up a little to give Niall the message.

"You want a hand?" Niall mumbles into his shoulder. Harry goes absolutely still with shock and Niall looks up, grins, and starts to laugh sleepily.

"Your face," says Niall.

"Fuck off," says Harry, relaxing into a laugh. "If you're not gonna put your money where your mouth is, get off me."

Niall rolls over and Harry climbs out of bed. He needs to pee and now he wants to jerk off, and it's an awkward combination. "Don't you wank in my bathroom!" Niall shouts after him, and then laughs again.

"I've already done that, mate, like four times," Harry shouts back, and closes the door to the bathroom quick before Niall can come in and punch him.

--

"You're wearing Niall's shirt," says Zayn, narrowing his eyes.

Harry shrugs unconcernedly. "Didn't want to wear the same clothes as yesterday, so."

Niall is too busy eating the bag of crisps he's snuck into the lesson to have an opinion, but Zayn doesn't look mollified. "Because you slept over at Niall's?"

"It got late," says Harry. "We were watching a film."

Zayn considers that for a minute while they all pretend they are working on school work so the teacher won't keep staring at them. Not that Niall stops eating, but all the teachers have given up on stopping him doing that anyway.

"Do you know who else used to fall asleep together and have to come to school in each other's clothes?" Zayn says finally. "Liam and Louis. Because they were fucking."

Harry laughs. "You know me and Niall better than that," he says, and then leans forward so he can kick Niall. "Zayn thinks we're fucking."

Niall wrinkles up his nose. "I could do better."

"Fuck you," says Harry, still laughing. "You offered to jerk me off!"

"To get you out of my bed," explains Niall patiently.

Zayn's face has gone blank and skeptical. "Oh," he says. "Yeah, that doesn't sound a bit like Liam and Louis at all. Sorry. My mistake."

"Can't a couple of lads go to the prom together, and sleep in the same bed, and offer to jerk each other off, without you taking it to a dirty place?" Niall asks.

The teacher sighs loudly. "Gentlemen," he says. Harry gives him an apologetic grin. Zayn and Niall just ignore him.

"You two are weird," says Zayn.

--

Liam knows somewhere they can buy cheap suits because of course Liam does. Harry's just passed his driving test so he drives everyone there and then they try on jackets that are hilariously too big and too small and too shiny.

"I say we wear all silver," says Harry. "Really stand out."

"I say we wear jeans, then," says Niall.

Liam is taking trying things on really seriously. He puts on a waistcoat and frowns at himself in the mirror. "Does this look okay?"

"You look like a Ken doll," says Harry. Liam shrugs a little. "What if we get the same jacket, right, but I wear a bowtie and you wear a regular tie?" Harry says to Niall.

"I don't care, so fine," says Niall. "Are you getting me flowers?"

Harry rolls his eyes. "I don't know. Do you want flowers? Am I wooing you?"

"You're doing a shit job so far if you are," says Niall.

Liam is still pulling worried faces at himself in the mirror. "What?" says Harry, turning to him.

"Nothing," says Liam, and then crumbles almost immediately when Harry stares at him. "I just… Louis's been weird lately and I want to look alright." Liam says this with a little crumple to his mouth that would be heartbreaking if Harry still allowed himself to be swayed by Liam's sad faces. Luckily he's been immune to them since year nine when they started making Louis get all weird and crazy.

"You and Louis are both acting strange," says Harry. "Is the phone sex not enough or something? What's wrong with both of you?"

Liam goes pink when Harry says phone sex, which means they are definitely doing that. "I've been busy lately, and I haven't seen him as much as usual, and... I just… I miss him."

Niall makes throwing up noises. "I thought we were past this when he went away and you two had to stop touching all the fucking time."

"I'm allowed to miss my boyfriend," says Liam defensively.

"Just call him," says Harry. "He keeps calling me about you to sigh."

Liam makes a disgruntled noise. "I tried talking to him. He's being weird."

"It's Louis, mate," says Niall. "Of course he's weird."

"Are you really going to wear that?" Liam asks, clearly trying to change the subject.

Harry has a hot pink sparkly bow-tie on along with a baby-powder blue waistcoat over his t-shirt. "Yes," he says. "This looks perfect."

Niall starts giggling and Liam rolls his eyes at both of them. "It's a good thing you weren't really looking for a date," Liam says.

"Hey!" Niall objects. "I'm a real date." He makes a kissy face at Harry.

It occurs to Harry that he and Niall are joking a lot lately about dating each other. And kissing. And touching each other's dicks. He's okay with that, though, because it's Niall, and everything is always funny and fun and easy with Niall. Harry leans over and kisses Niall's cheek and Niall pulls a hilariously disgruntled and startled face that makes Liam laugh, too.

"You are supposed to kiss your prom date," Liam teases.

"I think we'll leave that to you and Louis," says Niall, clapping Liam on the shoulder. Harry throws himself on Niall's back, arms around Niall's neck and feet dragging along the floor so Niall has to carry him when he moves.

"Yeah," says Liam. "You two clearly have your own thing going on, anyway."

--

"I want pictures of you and Niall," says Harry's mum.

He's pretty sure she's taking the piss, but she might not be, because she's digging around in the cupboard for her camera when she says it. Not just her mobile; the real proper camera Harry's step-dad got her for Christmas. "Mum," he says. "It's Niall. You've got pictures of Niall at every birthday party I've ever had."

"And now you're going to a dance with him and it's a big occasion," she says. "Both of you dressed up like handsome little gentlemen." She gets a bit choked up as she says this and Harry realizes with horror that this is not just her joking around. She actually wants pictures of him and Niall in suits that she can email to all the relatives.

No one has ever found anything as funny as Gemma finds this conversation. "You can pose on the stairs holding hands," she says, weeping with laughter. "He can kiss your cheek and you can look surprised. We can put it in a wedding photo album."

"I hope you choke," says Harry.

"I think it's sweet!" Harry's mum says.

"It's adorrrrable," says Gemma, but she can't stifle her own laughter. "I'm going to go and call Ruth. She needs to hear about this."

"Ruth's going to be doing the same thing to Liam," Harry objects.

"Yes!" Gemma shouts from the kitchen. "Exactly my point!"

Harry makes an angry little grrr noise at her, and his mum starts petting his hair and pushing it out of his face. "Promise me you'll make Niall come over before you both go, so we can take pictures."

"Mum, it's Niall," Harry says again. "You have one million pictures of us. You could take pictures of me and Liam and Louis and Zayn and Niall, I suppose. All the boys together, but in suits. You know."

"But you're going with Niall!"

"Yeah, but just… It's not a thing," says Harry. "I'd tell you if it were a thing, I promise. The moment I have any kind of thing you will be the first person I tell."

She rolls her eyes. "Really? Before you tell Louis?"

"Oh. Well, no, but that's Louis, he doesn't count."

Harry's mum sighs. "Louis doesn't count, Niall's not a thing. Are Zayn and Liam real, at least?"

"You are so weird," says Harry. "I'm going up to my room. Yes!" he adds, before she can start talking again. "Yes, I will make Niall come over for embarrassing pictures, I promise. Some day when we get married you can even show them at the wedding and weep." Harry's half a second finished with that sentence before he winces. "Wait, not when we get married, like, to each other. When we get married to other people. Oh my god, never mind."

He stomps upstairs. "Tell Niall I want loads of grandkids!" his mum shouts after him, and Harry glares over his shoulder at her and hates everyone.

--

Louis comes home the day before the prom and he acts weird. "Aren't you missing lectures?" Harry asks.

"You don't know anything about university," says Louis. "I'll be fine."

Harry is dubious about that, but not as dubious as he is about how weird Louis is behaving. "Why aren't you over at Liam's?" he says. "Not that I don't love you and want to see you, but…"

"No," says Louis. "I can't go and see Liam. I won't be able to keep secrets."

This is alarming. "You're keeping secrets from Liam?" Harry stares at Louis with absolute horror. "Are you cheating on him? Or breaking up with him? Is that what all this crazy behavior's been? Because if you are, I love you, but I'll fucking kill you."

Louis rolls his eyes and sticks his tongue out at Harry. "It's not that," he says. "How could you even think it's that?"

Harry crosses his arms. "You've been weird," he says.

"Imagine me, dumping Liam," says Louis, snorting.

"Well if it's not that, what other secrets are you keeping?" Harry asks. "Are you keeping secrets from me? You've never done that."

"This is an important secret," says Louis. "And I'm only keeping it until the prom, so don't worry. You'll know everything tomorrow night."

Harry has a cold feeling in his stomach. Secrets are never a good idea, he thinks, and there's something slightly manic about the way Louis's smiling at him that makes him worry. Sometimes Louis makes terrible decisions.

Harry doesn't push because it's so nice having Louis home. But he does think about maybe warning Liam. Louis has never kept secrets from either of them and it's unnerving.

He loves having Louis home. They stay up late and drink too much even though tomorrow night they plan to drink again. "I can't get shit faced like this with Liam," Louis says. Then he burps and rolls off Harry's bed.

"I can do this with Niall," Harry says. "We do this kind of a lot."

"You've replaced me," Louis moans from the floor.

"Never," says Harry. "It's a different thing, me and Niall. It's all... It's not like you and me. Don't worry."

Louis groans loudly. "Why did I leave school? I should have failed my A-levels. I could have."

"You nearly did, except Liam kept pulling tragic faces and making you write essays."

"I should have failed," Louis repeats into the carpet.

Harry would pat him on the shoulder but he's too far away and Harry is too drunk. "Next year we'll see you more." Harry isn't sure they can all attend the same university but they can be in the same general area at least.

"I can't wait," Louis mumbles. Harry is going to point out that Louis is home with all of them right now but the next noise Louis makes is a snore. Harry will be reassuring tomorrow.

--

The next day is mostly chaos. Louis almost burns his shirt with the iron and loses his mind briefly. Niall comes over in the afternoon and Harry's mum, as she threatened, takes pictures. She doesn't wait for Niall and Harry to change, although once they do, with their matching waistcoats and complimentary ties, she goes a little crazy.

Harry and Louis and Niall and Liam when he comes over, all pose on the steps. Then she takes a few shots of just Liam and Louis. (Louis is still acting weird but mostly he's trying to make out with Liam and get Liam's jacket back off so Harry decides not to worry. That's pretty typical for him. Liam seems a little relieved, too, and doesn't pull away as much as he normally would with Harry's mum in the room.)

Then she says, "Okay, Harry and Niall!" Harry laughs but she's serious, and they end up standing on the stairs with their arms round each other. It's awkward for a moment, and then Niall pokes Harry in the nose and Harry laughs too hard and pokes him back. "That was a nice moment, for a moment," Harry's mum complains. Most of the pictures she ends up with involve Niall trying to climb onto Harry's back, or Harry trying to get Niall to hold him up. It's really stupid. It's really fun.

"Can I get one, please, where you don't both look like mental patients?" Harry's mum sighs.

Harry stops trying to strangle Niall with his own tie. "Yeah, fine," he says. Liam and Louis are sitting on the couch together whispering about something. Harry smiles at Niall and Niall takes his hand and smiles back. The camera goes off a few times and Harry laughs because… Because it's just really easy being with Niall, he guesses. Something like that, anyway.

--

The prom is loud and dark and ridiculous. It's decorated in streamers and sparkly lights and Zayn is already standing behind a turntable with giant sunglasses on, despite how dark the gym is. There are balloons all over the floor, too, and Niall immediately picks one up and rubs it on Harry's head so it sticks. "My hair!" Harry complains, shaking it forward and then flipping it out of his eyes.

"Don't worry; you're still pretty," Niall says, rolling his eyes.

Zayn waves to them but it's crowded so they don't try to crowd over too much. Harry and Niall and Louis have already had a couple of drinks, and he's planning to have a few more. Alcohol is not technically allowed but everyone except Harry is eighteen, and Harry's never got in trouble he couldn't charm his way out of. Niall has a flask and he offers Harry a drink. Liam shakes his head at all of them.

"Come and dance with me," Louis orders, dragging Liam out into the middle of the crowd.

"Shall we?" Niall asks, mock-seriously. Then he begins to macarena, even though the music is some hip-hop remix Zayn thinks is awesome. Harry throws his head back and laughs and starts a little dance of his own, shaking his hips and waving his arms around.

They dance for a while and then they drink some more and then they sit on one of the tables and make fun of Louis for dancing and Zayn for not dancing.

"There's an official picture backdrop," says Liam eventually. "We have to go over there. I set it up."

"Of course you did," Louis says, clinging to his hand. Liam shakes his head and goes pink but pushes everyone over to where PROM has been written on the wall with giant cut out glittery letters.

Zayn kisses Perrie and they all take pictures until it starts to get a little x-rated. "Now mind you don't get pregnant," says Louis with a leer. Perrie flips him off.

"The prom's for sex, isn't it?" Harry asks, laughing.

"Kiss your date, then, Harry," says Liam. Louis has turned him into kind of an arsehole. Louis laughs his special delighted "Liam is being an arsehole" laugh.

Harry grins at Niall. He grabs Niall's hand and waggles his eyebrows. "I'm an amazing date, right?" Harry asks, and leans over to give Niall a loud, messy kiss on the cheek.

Niall laughs. "Ehh," he says.

Zayn manages to pull his mouth away from Perrie's long enough to scoff, "That's not a proper kiss."

"Well, no," says Harry, in a no-duh tone.

"Doesn't count," says Louis. "Come on. Properly."

"Don't be a twat," Harry says. He squeezes Niall's hand to let him know that no matter how much of an arse Louis is, Harry won't be bullied.

And then Niall says, "Nah, it's alright. You lads got your phones ready? It's only gonna happen once." He grins at everyone.

Harry was not actually expecting that. "Really?" he says.

"Why the fuck not?" Niall says. "You're my date, aren't you?"

"Yeah," says Harry, laughing a little. "You know I'm pretty good at this, right?"

"Ohhh," says Niall, pretending to swoon. "Impress me, stud."

They're both laughing when Harry reaches out and grabs Niall's lapel. He pulls Niall in and kisses him, this time on the mouth. It's a joke, and it should be just a quick peck no matter what Harry said a minute ago, but then Niall opens his mouth, which is unexpected, and Harry's tongue bumps into his, which is more unexpected. Niall stops laughing and pushes up on his toes, and he's got both hands holding Harry's jacket. He pulls Harry closer and Harry's hand slips around to Niall's waist and then –

Well. It's a proper kiss, just like Zayn wanted.

Niall doesn't melt into kissing Harry the way girls usually do; he's competitive about it. When Harry pushes into Niall's mouth Niall pushes right back. Harry had been joking about showing off his technique but now he really wants to. He puts one hand in Niall's hair and tugs, lining their mouths up better, sucking on Niall's lip, using his teeth the way girls usually enjoy. Harry feels hot all over. He wants to rip Niall's jacket off and get his hands on skin, or back Niall up into a wall and grind against him until they both come in their fancy trousers.

"Uh," says Zayn. "I was joking?"

It takes a minute for Harry to register anything but Niall's mouth against his own and the breathless, desperate way Niall's breathing against him. And then it occurs to him that oh yeah this was all supposed to be just a laugh.

Harry draws back a step. He's still got his hands all over Niall, though. He tries to smile but what he suspects he's doing is just gaping. Niall's certainly staring at him. His eyes look wider and bluer than usual, and his cheeks are pink. He hasn't let go of Harry's jacket.

"Well!" says Liam brightly. "That was interesting." Zayn elbows him in the side and Liam gives him a wounded look.

"Er, is everyone alright?" Louis asks. "Niall? Harry?"

Harry's brain feels like it's full of static. "Fine," says Harry, but it comes out strangled. His voice sounds squeaky and ridiculous.

"Fine," Niall echoes.

"Okay, good," says Louis. "Because that wasn't supposed to be the big announcement tonight."

The sinking, freezing feeling in Harry's stomach comes back. "What stupid thing are you planning—" he starts. Zayn looks a bit concerned as well.

"It's the most romantic prom ever," says Louis.

"It's our only prom ever," says Zayn.

Louis goes down on one knee and the terrible feeling in Harry's stomach solidifies into a brick of ice. He would say something, but all the words got knocked out of his brain when Niall kissed him for real like that.

"What," says Liam, but it's not a question, so much as a sort of horrified exclamation.

"Marry me," says Louis, and pulls a ring out of his jacket.

Probably music is still playing in the room somewhere. Probably people are moving and dancing and talking and laughing, but Harry would swear that all the noise and light have been sucked out of the room.

"Liam Payne, will you—" Louis starts.

"What?" Liam says, like all the breath has been knocked out of him. "What? Louis, get up."

"I'm serious," Louis says, pulling a serious face. "I'm absolutely serious about this."

Liam looks like he's going to pass out. He just stares at Louis, and Louis is giving him a heartbreakingly hopeful look.

This is the point where Harry should throw himself bodily on top of Louis, shouting, "Nooooooo! I was just joking!" in slow motion. Niall tightens his hand on Harry's jacket, like maybe he's afraid Harry really will.

"No," says Liam.

Harry breathes for the first time in several minutes.

Liam looks horrified, and a little like he might cry. "I can't, Louis, that's not—"

Louis's face goes blank. He lets go of Liam's hand and stands up. "I thought you missed me," he says, but it's cold.

"I do!" says Liam. "You can't seriously think this is—"

Louis's turned on his heel and stomped off already.

Everyone stares at everyone. Actually they all stare at Harry, like he should know what to do just because he's Louis's best friend. "I was joking!" Harry says, voice squeaking.

"Joking about what?" Niall asks.

Harry remembers belatedly that they don't know he told Louis to propose. "Er," he says. "I mean. He was having a bit of a panic over Liam, and I told him to make a gesture, but—"

"Fuck, I have to go and find him," says Liam, and bolts after Louis.

"No, Liam!" Zayn shouts. "You'll make it worse!" And then he goes running after Liam.

Perrie giggles nervously. "Well," she says. "This has been an exciting night."

And then Harry realizes he's still holding on to Niall. "We, uh," he says. "We should talk at some point." He's not sure if Niall was just kidding when he kissed Harry, but Harry… Harry's stomach flips over thinking about it. Niall is still the exact same Niall, but all those jokes about sleeping together and jerking each other off are a lot less funny now. He'd like to kiss Niall again and see if it makes that same swirling, desperate feeling in Harry's stomach.

"Right now, though…" says Niall. "I mean, I'm supposed to play guitar a bit, and Zayn's gone, so I should stick around, but…"

"Yeah," says Harry gratefully. Thank god Niall is still Niall. "Fucking clusterfuck. But I'll call you, okay?"

Niall shrugs, his "I don't give a fuck" shrug. The thing is, Harry doesn't entirely believe him this time.

"I'll call," Harry repeats, and then he lets go of Niall and runs out after everyone else.

--

It seems like a pretty safe bet for Harry to head straight for Louis's house. If that's not where Louis ran off to then it's where he'll go when he gets tired of feeling sorry for himself somewhere.

Louis's mum just says, "Hello, Harry. He's upstairs and I'm not supposed to tell anyone that or answer the phone." She says this with a big eye-roll, because Jay is wonderful.

"Liam's not here?" Harry asks.

"No," says Jay. "There was some shouting outside, though, and I think… Is it possible someone might have been crying? I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings, but…"

"Entirely possible," says Harry grimly.

Louis's mum pulls a face. "Do I need to worry? Shall I go and buy some ice cream? Is this a thing?" She looks worried, suddenly. "Oh my god, he and Liam haven't had a fight, have they? They never fight."

"Louis did something rather spectacularly stupid," says Harry. "I think Liam's cross. Or else crying. I'm never sure. I'll just go upstairs and—"

"I mean…" says Jay. "I know I don't have to worry that anyone's pregnant, but… Nothing awful's happened, has it?"

She'll find out sooner or later. Niall will let it slip, or Liam will say it in that well-meaning way of his. "Louis proposed," says Harry. Jay drops the bowl she was holding. It hits the floor with a nice loud clang and salad spills everywhere. "Liam said no," Harry assures her quickly.

"Thank god for Liam." She looks horrified and pulls it back quickly, with an apologetic, "I love Liam, of course I do, it's very sweet, but you're all so young--"

"I'm just gonna go and shout at him a bit," says Harry. He gives her a little smile-shrug and runs upstairs.

Louis's door is closed but Harry hasn't worried about that in years. He lets himself in and sighs at how Louis is flopped on his bed with his face buried in a pillow. "You ran off like a twat," Harry says, closing the door behind him. "You scared everyone half to death."

Louis mumbles something indistinct in to the bed.

Harry squints at him. "Did you just say 'I might as well kill myself'? Because I'll fucking kill you if you did."

"What's the point?" Louis moans.

"What's the point of what?" Harry asks.

"Of life. Of anything."

Harry is really sympathetic normally. He loves Louis so much it's honestly distracting sometimes. Hell, he loves Louis so much that despite having had a really confusing kiss with Niall he's stood in Louis's bedroom while Louis moans about nothing. So maybe he doesn't feel as sympathetic as he might be.

"Oh my god," says Harry. He grabs Louis by the ankle and yanks until he's dragged Louis pretty much off the bed. Louis flails his arms around and drags a pile of blankets onto the floor with him. "What the hell is wrong with you? Liam was never going to marry you now; he hasn't finished school yet, even! You can't possibly think he doesn't miss you! All he does is whine about you. Have you got a brain injury?"

"It's not the same as it was when we were both here," says Louis mournfully. "I just… I just miss him. And he likes stupid romantic gestures, so I thought maybe—" He sighs loudly. "It was sort of stupid, I suppose."

"It was ridiculously stupid," says Harry.

Louis throws a pillow at him. "I'm not much good at romantic gestures!"

"Yeah, next time you freak out just tell me and I'll show you how to buy flowers or maybe buy him a car. I was joking about the proposal, you lunatic." Harry sits down on the pile of blankets tangled around Louis so he's mostly on top of Louis and can put his arms around Louis's neck. That way Harry can hug or strangle him as necessary.

"I do spontaneous things. That's why he likes me," says Louis.

"I hope you have a really spontaneous apology planned out next."

"I could propose again. That would be sort of funny—Oww. Harry, I can't breathe."

"If you can't breathe you can't say stupid things," says Harry cheerfully. Louis flails a bit. Harry will stop hug-strangling him once he's really positive Louis's not going to propose again "because it'll be a laugh." It might be a few minutes.

--

Louis texts his mum that she should bring ice cream upstairs and she actually does, complete with very curious looks at Harry. Harry tries to tell her just with his eyebrows that things are fine, although Louis is still moaning and rolling around on the floor. He's mostly doing it for show, though.

"I should call Liam," says Louis.

"No," says Harry. "You really shouldn't. Not tonight."

"He's probably crying," says Louis. He sounds a bit hopeful about it. He shoves a spoonful of ice cream into his mouth.

Harry pulls out his mobile and texts Liam Louis is sorry he's an idiot. Liam replies a minute later with a string of letters that are probably meant to be words, but Harry hasn't got the energy to work them out. Zayn's name is there somewhere; Harry hopes that means Zayn's getting Liam some tea and a hug. Harry replies He'll phone tomorrow to say sorry x X.

"Are you texting Niall?" Louis asks. Harry glares at him for a second. "What? I saw you two kiss. That was a serious smooch. If it turns out you've got a boyfriend and you never told me while I was away I'm going to throw myself out of a window—"

"Stop it, shut up," says Harry. "It's just Niall. It was like… I mean, it's just… Niall."

"Well, if that's what you got up to with just Niall while I was gone then I should have been told about it."

Harry laughs and shoves Louis with his elbow. "We're still talking about you being a moron."

"Do you feel stupid because you're in love?" Louis teases.

Harry huffs a little. "I had a really good kiss tonight and I had to leave him chatting to Perrie to chase your stupid arse down, so you owe me."

"I'll kiss you if you like," says Louis, holding his arms out.

"Aren't you in enough trouble with Liam as it is?" Harry laughs. Louis throws himself at Harry and slobbers all over Harry's neck, while Harry giggles and shoves at him.

Eventually Louis says, "You do like him, though, you know. You're always with him and you're always talking about him."

"You're away," says Harry, feeling a tiny bit guilty. "I have to spend time with someone, and Liam actually does things, and Zayn's got Perrie."

Louis pokes Harry sharply in the side. "It's alright," he says. "I'm not jealous. It's not the same as it is with us. For example, I have only ever kissed you as a joke, and you and Niall missed 'joking' by a mile--"

"Shut up," Harry says. Louis gives him a skeptical look. "I mean…" Harry tries. "I just never thought about Niall… Well, I haven't thought about it much."

"But you were thinking about it?"

Harry's long pause is probably very incriminating. "Not exactly," he says finally. "Maybe? It didn't seem like it mattered."

"It definitely matters," says Louis. "Tomorrow I'll go and apologize for being a bit over the top to Liam –"

"A bit," Harry snorts.

"—and you'll tell Niall you want to kiss him all the time. You want to have his babies and raise sheep on a farm together and—"

"You are so weird," Harry says. He puts a pillow over Louis's face to try and shut him up, or maybe suffocate him.

"You love him!" Louis shouts through the pillow, and then shoves Harry and the pillow away.

"He's alright," Harry allows. Louis laughs at him, and yeah. Maybe that's the right response, really.

--

 

In fact, Harry can't just go and talk to Niall in the morning because when he stops by Niall's house, Niall's mum says he's at the zoo. "He said he wanted to spend some time by himself," explains Niall's mum, which is just weird enough to really be something Niall said. Of course by the time he gets to the zoo he'll be best mates with everyone who works there, because that's just how Niall is.

Harry sulks a little and texts Niall You went without me! :( :(

Niall doesn't text back for a while, which is worrying. Harry walks back and forth on the pavement outside Niall's house and tries not to read anything in to it. Niall is probably talking to someone. Niall is probably distracted. Niall definitely doesn't hate him for running off to find Louis last night.

When Niall does text back it's just to say at the zoo haha ! What an exciting night that was!

Harry texts back a petulant why aren't you heeeeere with me. Come back.

Niall's reply, hahahahaha, is not quite what Harry was looking for.

It is, however, perfectly typical Niall.

Harry feels a bit like he's staring at one of those paintings that looks like static until you cross your eyes just right and then you can see a boat. He's got an image of Niall in his head as the friend he plays football with, and chases around, and annoys Liam with. But then he's got another Niall, one whose arms have got a bit more defined and who kisses like a champion. And no matter how much mental squinting Harry does, he can't quite make the two Nialls come into focus as just one person.

When are you coming back? :(

prtty soon just got some things t figure out hahaha

Harry sighs and sends another sad face and then stomps off to find someone else to distract him.

--

Reliably, Louis is over at Liam's house, making a tremendous scene. "I couldn't find a boombox to hold outside his window," Louis explains, "so I've been holding my iPhone, only he couldn't hear that, so I was singing along and—"

"I have been trying to get him to come into the house," Liam complains. "My sisters think you've gone mad. Just come in!"

"I'm making a gesture!" Louis says.

Harry puts both hands on Louis's back and shoves him toward Liam's house. "We've already decided you're really awful at those."

"Please stop making grand gestures," Liam says, looking alarmed. "Please?"

They sit on the step because Liam's sisters are inside looking much too interested in what's going on. "They heard about the proposal thing," says Liam. "There have been a lot of jokes this morning."

"I can't believe you didn't say yes," says Louis. Liam rolls his eyes and then punches Louis in the arm. "I didn't say 'will you marry me right now!' It could be in ten years, you didn't let me finish."

Liam attempts to glare at Louis, although he's not great at it. "I could still be angry with you," he points out.

Louis, though, wraps his arm around Liam's and puts his head on Liam's shoulder. "You aren't, though, right?"

"Not as such," Liam sighs. "And I didn't forget about you, and I didn't meet anyone else, so can you please stop panicking about it?"

"Okay," says Louis, and then barely audibly, "but you will eventually."

"No," says Liam firmly. Louis starts to argue and Liam just puts his hand over Louis's mouth and sighs. Louis promptly starts trying to bite Liam's fingers.

"Hullo, lads!" says Niall, bouncing down the pavement apparently out of nowhere.

"You left me alone with them!" Harry says, crossing his arms and sticking his lower lip out.

Niall laughs. "You ran off with them last night, as I recall."

"Well, they're idiots," says Harry.

Niall smiles at him, squinting into the sun. It's just his normal Niall smile, and Harry kind of wants to throw things at him, except he also kind of wants to kiss Niall and see how that feels. Maybe last night was a fluke, but Harry feels like probably it wasn't, and he needs to double-check. "Had myself a good think today," Niall says. "Can we talk for a minute?"

Louis starts to yell "Oooooohhhh," until Liam elbows him in the stomach.

"Yeah," says Harry. He can't tell what Niall's thinking, but then he never really could. Anyway Niall looks happy and not bothered by whatever he's been thinking about. If Niall ever looked worried, then Harry would worry.

"Well don't just sit there, you twat," says Niall, laughing at him. "Get up!"

"Shut up," Harry says, getting to his feet and pretending to kick Niall. Niall jumps back and does a stupid little can't-catch-me shimmy with his hips and a ridiculous look on his face.

"Aww," says Liam quietly. Harry pretends not to hear.

"Well?" says Harry, following Niall down the pavement. Niall looks over his shoulder and grins at Harry, and Harry wants to shove him over, but he's not entirely sure if he wants to rub grass in Niall's hair or kiss him once he's got him on the ground. "What were you thinking about? Was it last night? Was it awkward? I didn't mean for it to be awkward. Why did you go off without me? I told you I'd call!"

"Shut up," says Niall, reaching back to catch Harry's hand. That's alright. Niall squeezes his fingers around Harry's but he doesn't actually look at Harry. "It was supposed to be a laugh, is all, and then… It wasn't very funny." Niall laughs anyway. "We're both really fucking stupid, aren't we?"

"Yeah," says Harry. "I mean, if you mean stupid the way I mean it."

Niall stops walking. He's stood in the sun with his hair looking a bit like it's on fire and a silly squinty grin on his face. For a second Harry can see both Nialls; the one Harry wants to kiss and the one he watches stupid movies with. They look a lot alike.

"I guess I mean stupid like… Why weren't we doing this before?" Niall says, and yanks on Harry's hand. Harry stumbles forward and Niall kisses him, dragging Harry in with a hand around the back of his neck. Harry grabs Niall's t-shirt at his waist to pull him closer and Niall starts to laugh, but Harry swallows it, along with the way Niall groans when Harry rocks their hips together.

"Just never thought about it," says Harry breathlessly. Niall pulls him down and kisses him again. Harry doesn't mind or anything. It's going to give them something new to do while they're watching films or lying around wrestling on the floor. That's an intriguing idea, actually. Harry digs his fingers into Niall's back a little and Niall squirms. Fascinating.

"Think about it, yeah?" Niall says. His cheeks have gone bright red. He's so pale he's going to have marks everywhere Harry touches him, and that makes it a little hard for Harry to breathe.

"Are we voting or something?" Harry asks. "I vote yes."

"Of course you do," says Niall. He laughs his crazy infectious laugh, and Harry grins at him. "It's just us. It's easy."

Harry leans in to kiss him again and stops, with his mouth just brushing Niall's. When he breathes out Niall breathes in. "Easy but… I think I really like you," says Harry, half an apology. "If that's alright too?"

"Oh, of course you do," says Niall, so Harry leans forward and kisses him and Niall laughs.

He's right. It is easy.