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Harry is in the middle of trying to coax the neighbour’s cat on to their window ledge when Louis comes barrelling into him, as much as one ghost can barrel into another. Harry flinches, sending a burst of cold energy out and scaring the cat away. Over a week’s worth of cooing and making a fool of himself, trying to calm the cat’s naturally sceptical nerves, have gone down the drain because Louis doesn’t understand tact.

“Don’t pout, love,” Louis says, gesturing for Harry to come inside with him. They float through the wall, and Harry stretches his arms above his head. He still gets phantom - get it - back pains from his time alive, when all he had to sleep on was the cold, stone floor of a bakery. “Hey,” Louis says, waving his hands in front of Harry’s face. “Someone’s viewing the flat.”

That catches Harry’s attention, the pout slipping from his lips. “Who? Just one person or a couple? Are they young or old?” he questions, his mind reeling. It’s been a while since someone has come to view the flat, and while time with Louis is never boring, Harry misses having someone to terrorise with him.

“Let’s go see,” Louis says, racing through the flat towards the front door. Harry follows, travelling across the open floor. Their last tenant moved out just under a month ago, which means there’s barely anything in the flat, only dust settling on the hardwood floor.

A young man walks through the front door and into the living area, lead by a familiar blonde woman Harry always forgets the name of. She’s the same woman that always shows people this flat, and every time she comes around she seems more fed-up. Right now, she’s chatting with the man, explaining what’s included in the rent and what’s provided with the flat.

“He seems like a pretty standard guy,” Louis comments, watching the man walk around the open floor from where he’s leaning against the window. Harry doesn’t know why Louis does that, the sunlight streams through his translucent body which makes him hard to see, but Louis has always loved the dramatics of being a ghost. It helps that they’re heading towards Halloween anyway, slowing becoming more corporeal as the months tick on. Now, in mid-August, they can just about communicate with the most sensitive beings in the physical world — like cats. Harry wishes he were still outside with the neighbour’s cat.

“Do you think she’ll tell him?” Harry asks. Legally, the landlord doesn’t have to disclose past complaints about ghosts, but sometimes the potential buyer has heard rumours. Harry and Louis are quite infamous in this block, something Louis loves to gloat about. “I don’t think he’s the type to ask.”

“The best ones never are,” Louis says, walking closer to the man and inspecting him closely. He doesn’t even blink, doesn’t recognise Louis’ presence on any level, even a subconscious one. “I hope he moves in. I can already tell, he’s gonna be a lot of fun.”

“Your ghosty intuition?” Harry grins, moving closer to Louis and nudging his hand. They’ve been strong enough to touch each other for a while, but it always sends a happy thrill through Harry. He loves the months leading up to Halloween, if only because he can feel more human.

“When has it failed us before, Harold?” Louis counters, levelling Harry with his best unimpressed stare. It doesn’t work, never has with Harry. He holds it for a few seconds before Harry’s pulling a funny face and Louis breaks off into a fond smile, giggling. “Come on, be serious, we need to assess the target.”

“Target,” Harry echoes, but he does look back to the man. He’s chatting pleasantly, smiling and leaning in a bit, cocking his head. He’s flirting, Harry realises. Flirting badly, but he’s definitely flirting.

Louis seems to notice the same time Harry does, bursting out into sharp laughter. The rush of energy fills the room with a fierce warmth. Harry’s eyes flutter as Louis’ energy mixes with his own. It also seems to reach the physical plane of existence, as the man pauses and changes the topic of conversation.

“I heard rumours about this place,” he starts, scratching his neck awkwardly. The landlord’s face sours imperceptibly; she smiles widely to try and cover it, but Harry sees right through it. He wonders if the man does too. “A mate of mine used to live a few floors down and he said something about ghosts?”

“Ghosts don’t exist, Mr. Payne,” the woman assures him.

Louis snorts, and Harry yells “Bullshit!”

“Liam,” the man — Liam, corrects. He still looks pleasant enough, doesn’t seem worried about the possible presence of ghosts, but Harry wonders if that will change. He and Louis aren’t harmful, they’re not out for blood or revenge. They just want some laughs in the endless dullness that is the afterlife. “So no ghosts?”

“No,” the woman affirms. “There might be some creaky pipes, and a draught if you leave the window open, but no ghosts. And for what you get from this flat for what you’re paying, a ghost or two is worth it, don’t you think?”

Liam deliberates for a long moment, looking around and fiddling with the sleeve of his plaid shirt. “Alright, I’ll take it.”

Louis wraps his arms around Harry, careful not to fall through him, and whispers in his ear, “This is going to be the best one yet.”

***

Liam Payne moves into their flat on the first day of September and the flat-warming party he hosts is quite the pitiful affair. There are three guys sitting on Liam’s settee, eating take-away pizza out of the box, resting on cardboard boxes full of stuff Liam has yet to unpack. They keep ribbing Liam about a girl in his workplace, apparently, but Harry’s more concerned with the smell of the pizza.

“I wish I still had tastebuds,” Harry groans, mournfully watching Liam eat another slice. He never got anything like pizza while he was alive, but Louis’ forced him to try it a few Halloweens ago and God, Harry wants.

“Halloween’s not too far away, love,” Louis reminds him wistfully, staring at the pizza on the table then shaking his head. He gestures for Harry to follow him, and they sneak out of the living room and into the kitchen where most of the boxes have been dumped. They’ve got a pretty good grip on interacting with the physical world without being seen right now, so it doesn’t take long for Harry to figure out what they’ll be doing.

“We reorganising his stuff?” Harry asks, watching Louis tear open the biggest box and start unpacking things.

“Nah, just unpacking everything,” Louis says. “Reorganising is too much effort.”

“Right, and that’s what we are now?” Harry shakes his head, tutting loudly until Louis looks up at him. “Lazy ghosts. Ghosts that don’t even bother to put some effort in. Ghosts that go for the easy jokes.”

“It’s easy to criticise when I’m the mastermind behind most of our pranks,” Louis challenges, putting down the mug he was holding and resting his hands on Harry’s thighs. He’s almost close enough to kiss, so Harry leans forward just enough for their noses to touch, but doesn’t actually kiss Louis yet.

“That’s what I let you think,” Harry says, even though it’s not really true. Louis does tend to think up most of the ways they can terrorise their tenants, but Harry contributes his fair share. His pranks are funnier anyway, Louis can suck it. “You’re nothing without me, Lou.”

“Right, right.” Louis rolls his eyes, his lips quirking. “That’s what I let you think.”

Harry opens his mouth to respond, or maybe kiss Louis, he’s not decided yet, when Liam walks into the kitchen and drops his beer bottle.

“What the fuck?” he hisses, staring at the opened cardboard boxes and spilled contents with a look of utter horror. “Oi, lads!” Liam shouts, turning around and directing his voice to the men in the living room. “Which one of you did this?”

The men spill into the kitchen, all frowning and saying they didn’t do it. They bicker for a bit, and Harry and Louis slip out of the kitchen, their work done for the night at least. From there, they tuck themselves away in a corner of Liam’s bedroom and spend the night bickering over pranks to pull on Liam, but Louis decides kissing Harry senseless would be a better use of their time.

***

“Oh look, Lou, there’s flowers!” Harry approaches the fancy vase on the dining table and sniffs the biggest rose, imagining the scent. He never got a chance to smell roses, not while he was alive or on any Halloweens since becoming a ghost. He’s always pictured them as sweet, like Shakespeare wrote, and kind of like vanilla. Louis’ assured him that they don’t smell like anything particularly special, but Harry thinks he’s full of bullshit.

“God, roses are so cliché,” Louis groans, following Harry in from outside, the neighbour’s cat trailing behind him. Louis always was better with animals, and Harry smiles fondly. “D’you think we should let the cat piss on them?”

“Probably not,” Harry says, looking back to the roses. There’s a red ribbon wrapped around the neck of the vase, a tag sticking out with ‘Sophia’ scrawled elegantly on the back. “Liam most likely bought them to give to the girl he’s always rambling on about, so we really shouldn’t.”

The cat jumps up on to the dining table and starts sniffing at the flowers. It turns and cocks its leg, its tail trembling, almost like Louis willed it into action.

“If we turn our backs, it’s not technically our fault,” Louis says, taking Harry’s hand and facing them away from the cat.

Harry giggles, squeezing Louis’ hand and listening for the trickle of cat piss to hit the vase. It comes the same time as the front door slams open, scaring the cat so only a little bit of pee gets on the flowers. Harry pouts.

“That could be better, though,” Louis whispers to him, watching the cat scurry away from Liam’s heavy footsteps. He walks like a fucking giant. “Liam might not notice until it’s too late, and Sophia’s sniffing cat piss scented roses.”

“We don’t want to upset her though,” Harry reminds him. Sophia’s done nothing wrong.

Liam starts speaking then, cutting off their conversation as Harry realises he’s on the phone. “Nah, mate, it’s not gonna be like that. Yeah, it’ll be strictly bro-bonding.”

Louis fake-gags, causing Harry to giggle so loudly he claps his hands over his mouth. Bro-bonding. Of course Liam’s the type to use phrases like that.

“Yeah, yeah, I’ll see you there, bro,” Liam finishes, hanging up the phone. He walks over to the flowers, less than a metre from where Harry and Louis are standing, but he can’t see them just yet. He does shiver though, pulling his sleeves further down his arm. “Looking good,” he murmurs idly, brushing the edge of a petal. Nothing is amiss to him clearly, and Harry wants to smack his forehead, Liam really does make it too easy.

Later that night, Harry’s reading one of Liam’s comic books in the living room when Louis jolts up from Harry’s lap with a hiss.

“Can you hear that?” he asks, snapping his head in the direction of Liam’s bedroom. He looks like a startled meerkat, the kind Harry used to watch in the animal documentaries their last tenant liked. “That, Harold, is the unmistakable sound of moaning.”

Harry covers his mouth with his hand. “Is he wanking?”

“I’m gonna investigate,” Louis says, pecking Harry’s cheek and darting over the back of the settee, into Liam’s room. He’s in there for less than a minute before he’s running back out and throwing himself onto Harry’s lap.

“Did you catch an eyeful?” Harry asks, smoothing his hand up and down Louis’ spine.

“Worse,” Louis says, shuddering. “He’s watching lesbian porn, Harry. The awful stuff that’s made for straight guys.”

“Oh, Liam,” Harry groans. “We had such high hopes.”

“We should cut the Wi-Fi,” Louis declares, leaping off Harry’s lap in search of the modem. “Where is it, love?”

“I don’t know,” Harry says, heaving himself off the settee to help Louis look. “I was born in 1874, Lou. You’re the one that had internet in your lifetime.”

“Yeah but it wasn’t widespread, and I died almost as soon as it was invented,” Louis reminds him, moving stuff around the room as he searches. “Christ, why doesn’t Liam keep all his tech stuff in the same place? Oh, found it!”

Louis pulls out all the plugs, “Just to be sure” he mutters, and Harry hears a frustrated groan come from the bedroom.

“We should do it every time,” Harry says. “Instill a pavlovian response to fetishising lesbian porn.”

Louis nods, considering. “We’re like, activists.”

“Exactly.” Harry beams

Liam stops watching lesbian porn after the fifth time the internet cuts out.

***

Life as a ghost isn’t as boring as Harry thought it’d be, especially not since Louis started haunting the same area he did all those decades ago. Right now, Louis’ managed to hack into Liam’s laptop (“his password is his name, what the fuck?”) they’re signing him up to every dating site they can find.

“Oh, oh, single farmer dating!” Harry shouts, pointing at the link muddymatches.com on the screen. “Say he has a passion for milking.”

“Good catch, babe,” Louis says, clicking onto the website and filling in the profile information. Louis’ much better with technology than Harry is, and not just because he was alive when it actually existed. Harry likes cameras, wishes Liam actually owned one Harry could use, but the rest of technology bores him. He’ll stick with Liam’s comic books while Louis watches football on the telly.

“D’you think we should do something nice for Liam?” Harry asks once they’ve confirmed the account and Louis’ trawling through Google for another. “Like, he’s not a bad guy and we do a lot of shit. Yesterday, you wrote Liam Payne is gay in shaving cream on the mirror and I think he was close to tears.”

“A classic,” Louis cackles. It was funny, Harry can admit, but he still feels bad that all they’ve done so far is make Liam’s life vaguely inconvenient without a little relief for him. Liam’s also been getting suspicious about ghosts, so it’s probably a good thing Harry and Louis will be visible to him any day now. They’ll be able to clear a few things up.

“We should clean his kitchen,” Harry says, resting his head on Louis’ shoulder. “He never cleans it properly. It’d be a nice thing to do.”

“You just want to torment him without feeling guilty,” Louis says, and he’s not wrong, but that doesn’t take away from the act being good. “Are you gonna pout if I say no?”

Harry nods, sticking his lower lip out and looking up at Louis. They maintain eye contact for a long moment, waiting to see who breaks first, until Louis rolls his eyes and sets the laptop aside.

“You’re such a baby,” Louis sighs, patting Harry’s thigh. “Get a move on, then.”

The kitchen takes a while to properly clean, and Harry lets Louis rearrange Liam’s cupboards so it’s both a helpful job and a ghoulish prank. Harry’s just finished mopping the floor, singing along to the radio with Louis who’s sitting next to the sink, when Liam walks in.

Liam just gawks at Harry and Louis, his mouth opening and closing as he tries, and fails, to form words. So they’re visible now, Harry concludes. He’d hoped for their first meeting to go better but Louis’ good when he’s put on the spot, much better than Harry is. Harry turns to Louis and mouths “Say something!”.

“Hello, Liam,” Louis says, hopping off the countertop and standing next to Harry.

“Who are you?” Liam squeaks, then coughs and lowers his voice. “What are you doing in my flat?”

“We live here,” Louis says, and Harry watches the frown form on Liam’s face.

“Are you mad?” Liam splutters, taking a step back like they’re going to attack him. If Harry and Louis were malicious ghosts, they would have actually hurt him by now, honestly. “You don’t live here. This is my flat.”

“Ah, but we’ve been here longer than you have,” Harry says, trying to ease Liam’s fear with a wide smile. Louis elbows side, so Harry tones it down a bit. The ‘frog face’ as Louis kindly dubbed it, isn’t easing anyone. “We’re actually ghosts. We haunt the flat.”

“You’re fucking with me,” Liam scoffs, still eyeing them warily. “You’re mad.”

“Remember the shaving cream?” Louis asks, slouching like he’s bored with the conversation. It does get a bit tedious revealing themselves every year and facing the same scepticism. “And the freak internet cut outs and things going missing but you were sure you remembered where you put them and everything else that doesn’t make sense? Ghosts, mate, you’re being haunted.”

Liam frowns again, and then he faints. He actually faints.

Harry stares at Liam’s collapsed body on the floor, jaw dropped and eyes wide. Louis cackles sharply, clutching his stomach and bending over with the force of his laughter.

“He fainted,” Louis wheezes, the warmth in his voice breaking Harry out of his shock. “He’s my favourite, babe, we need to keep him.”

“He’s not a pet!” Harry says. “We need to check if he’s okay.”

“I’m sure he’s fine,” Louis dismisses, still snickering, but he crouches next to Liam and pokes him a couple of times. There’s no response, so Louis tilts Liam’s head and feels underneath it. “No blood or any bumps I can feel, and he’s already on his back. Let’s just stick something under his feet and go into the bedroom, I’ve got an idea.”

Harry sticks a saucepan underneath Liam’s feet to keep them elevated, and follows Louis into Liam’s bedroom. Louis’ rubbing his hands together, pacing in front of Liam’s bed. He’s literally thrumming with energy, radiant in the sunlight.

“What’s your idea?” Harry asks, taking Louis’ hands and swaying them back and forth gently.

“You know how a tenant last year tried to exorcise us?” Louis asks, pulling Harry closer so he can wrap his arms around Harry’s waist.

“Yeah,” Harry says, nodding. It wasn’t a fun experience, but she moved out pretty soon after it failed.

“Well, just in case it ever happened again, I knocked up a fake exorcism speech,” Louis tells him, smirking.

Harry thinks back to last autumn, in the final few days of the tenant’s stay. “Is that why you were yelling at me last year for not knowing Latin?”

“Honestly, what kind of ghost doesn’t know Latin?”

Harry pouts. “You don’t know Latin!”

“True, but I’m not an ancient ghost,” Louis says.

“I’m from 1874, Lou,” Harry protests. “That’s not ancient!”

“Whatever,” Louis dismisses, kissing the corner of Harry’s mouth to appease him. It works. “Point is, I translated some things into Latin on some paper and hid it behind the loose floorboard in the living room.”

“You’ve got way too much time on your hands,” Harry laughs. The ingenuity and commitment to plaguing their tenants is one of the many reasons why he loves Louis, though.

“I’m a fucking ghost, what else am I meant to do?” Louis pauses, and Liam’s groan echoes from the kitchen, and heavy footsteps sound a minute later. “Play along.”

Harry has a few seconds to gather his wits before Louis’ stepping away from him, settling his face into a harsh expression. “You shouldn’t have told him we’re ghosts,” he hisses, a stage-whisper so Liam can definitely hear it. “Now he’ll want to exorcise us!”

Harry panics, no idea what to say until Louis mouths “the paper” at him. “Oh, don’t worry!” Harry cringes internally, his acting hasn’t improved over the last century. “He won’t find the ritual!”

“Oh, because under the loose floorboard in the living room is such a fantastic hiding place, Harold,” Louis retorts.

“Hey!” Harry huffs, flicking his gaze towards the doorway to check if Liam’s hovering. He is, but Harry must not be subtle about his investigation because Louis kicks his shin. “You hid it!”

“No, I definitely remember you hiding it,” Louis says, turning and throwing his hands up in frustration. “Oh, Liam! Good to see you’re okay. We wouldn’t want you to be hurt, would we, H?”

“No,” Harry says sincerely. “We’re pretty friendly ghosts, Liam. We were actually cleaning your kitchen when you came home. How are you feeling?”

“Alright,” Liam says slowly, watching them carefully. “Can you just stay here for a second?”

“Sure,” Louis chirps, waiting for Liam to leave the room before flinging himself at Harry with a smile lighting up his face. His eyes crinkle beautifully, and Harry can’t believe he got so lucky. “I can’t believe it’s working.”

“Shh,” Harry whispers, kissing Louis’ temple. “He’ll be back in a moment.”

They stay huddled together until Liam returns, barely two minutes later. He does a double take when he sees them in an intimate position, but holds out a piece of paper in front of him, clearing his throat.

Harry barely stops himself from bursting out into laughter. The paper looks like it’s been stained with tea bags to make it seem older, the edges frayed from the year in the floor.

Puella, volo tecum. Volo vos pernoctare,” Liam reads out slowly, stumbling over the words. The Latin doesn’t sound natural as he speaks, but Harry tries to look scared anyway, or at least like he understands it. “Mulier cum amo ego postulo. Puella, cupio omnia quae vis ut faciam tibi.” Louis drops to the floor, wrapping his arms around his knees and hiding his face. His shoulders are shaking and Harry can tell it’s with laughter, but Liam can’t, spurred on by the response. “Mulier cum amo ego postulo. Infantem puella, impleatur sermo tuus quem diligit remissionis. O arcanum puella.”

Liam finishes, clutching the paper to his chest as he watches Louis curled up on the floor and Harry standing awkwardly next to him, wondering if it’s too late to copy what Louis did.

“Aren’t you meant to be like…” Liam trails off, staring at the paper. “Sent back to Hell or something?”

Louis loses it then, giggling so infectiously that Harry can’t help but laugh as well.

“What’s going on?” Liam presses.

“You might wanna check what you just read out,” Louis says between giggles.

Liam pulls out his phone and holds it next to the paper, presumably translating the Latin back to English. He frowns, mouthing the words along as he goes. “What the hell is this? Oh mystery girl, are these the lyrics to Mysterious Girl?”

“Yeah,” Louis confirms, setting him and Harry off into another round of laughter. If Harry could be breathless, he’s sure he would be right now.

Liam slumps against the wall. “What kind of ghosts are you?”

“The harmless kind,” Harry says, still grinning. “Just looking for a few laughs.”

“And you haunt this flat?” Liam asks. “Did you die here?”

“Liam, you can’t just ask people how they died,” Louis scolds. Which. Louis always tells people about how he died. Now that he’s a ghost and kind of immortal, it’s his favourite story to tell.

“Oh, sorry,” Liam says, unsure.

“I caught hypothermia in 1894,” Harry tells him. “Didn’t make it through the winter. Louis choked on a sausage in 1990.”

Louis looks up at Harry and pulls a face. “No, Harold, you’re not telling it right.”

“Well you did!” Harry says. “I saw it with my own eyes.”

“You’re meant to make it more dramatic, make a few dick jokes.” Louis rolls his eyes, sitting on his legs. “Useless, babe.”

“So you’re like… together?” Liam asks, seemingly more at ease but there’s still a hint of tightness around his mouth.

“Yep,” Louis says with a bright smile. “Twenty-five years and counting this Halloween. Wouldn’t change a thing.”

“Aw, Lou,” Harry coos, dropping to his knees so he can kiss Louis deeply.

“Right,” Liam says after a long moment of Harry licking into Louis’ mouth. He’s not sure how that looks since they’re both ghosts, though pretty solid this close to Halloween, but it feels pretty damn good. “I’m just gonna… go for a bit.”

Liam’s gone in the next instant, and Harry breaks the kiss, licking his lower lip. “D’you think he’ll be back?”

“I do, yeah,” Louis says, eyes crinkling. “We’ve got ourselves a good one this time.”

***

Liam tries his hand at baking mid-October.

Harry creeps into the kitchen, leaving Louis to switch all of the laces in Liam’s shoes around. He’ll be there to watch Liam groan in frustration and shout at Louis, but the prank itself isn’t really a two-ghost job. Plus, there’s some weird growling coming from the kitchen and Harry wants to investigate.

The weird growling is in fact coming from Liam, who’s staring at some messily lined up ingredients for baking. There’s a weighing scale next to them, and a large bowl just behind it. He doesn’t seem to have started baking yet, but already, the kitchen is a mess with flour spilled of the countertop and chocolate chips in a loose pile next to the bowl. Harry’s quite impressed, actually.

“What’re you up to?” Harry asks, whispering directly into Liam’s ear so he flinches and whirls around, brandishing a spoon like a weapon.

“Stop doing that!” Liam huffs, stepping away from Harry and glaring. After the failed exorcism, Liam’s become a lot more open to living in a haunted flat, but Harry still likes to give him a shock every now and then.

“I’m just existing, Liam,” Harry replies, shrugging and moving to survey the ingredients in closer detail. Sugar, flour, butter, eggs, chocolate chips. He’s probably making something sweet, which Harry did a lot of when he was alive. That and bread. Harry’s fucking aces at making bread.

“Exist further away from me, thanks,” Liam says, lowering the spoon. “And I’m baking biscuits for Sophia. She’s coming to dinner tonight, and I want to impress her.”

“Thought you would have gone for something more manly,” Harry says, hopping on to the counter to sit. Well, hover technically. “Like chopping wood, or a barbeque. That’s what manly men cook, don’t they? Meat?”

“Sophia told me her favourite foods when I invited her over,” Liam says, on the defensive already from some gentle ribbing. He literally makes it so easy for them. “And I know she likes men who can cook.”

“Right, right,” Harry says, nodding. “You know that from all those hours you spent creeping on her Facebook profile and Twitter and—”

“Thanks, Harry.” Liam turns his attention back to the ingredients, staring skeptically at the packet of sugar. He frowns, putting the bowl on to the weighing scale and pouring the sugar in. When he reads the number on the screen, his frown deepens. Harry takes some sympathy on him.

“What’s the problem?” he asks, peering into the bowl.

“Not enough sugar,” Liam replies, chucking the packet into the bin, over the recycling bin. Harry rolls his eyes and moves it into the proper bin, flicking excess sugar at Liam. “Sophia’s coming over soon and I haven’t even started on the actual dinner, yet, so I don’t have time to go to the shop and buy more. The recipe says 160 grammes, do you think 95 will be enough?”

Harry opens his mouth to say “you may as well do away with the butter too, and flour if exact measurements don’t count” but inspirations strikes. “You know, if you add some salt, maybe 15 grammes, I think that would make up the difference.”

“Switch sugar for salt?” Liam asks, narrowing his brows at Harry. “That doesn’t make sense, mate.”

“No, see, it does!” Harry leaps off the counter and moves closer. “The sugar helps with the consistency, right? And salt is more or less the same as sugar in that sense, and there’s something in the salt - I don’t know what exactly - that brings out the sweetness of the sugar. It works!”

“How do you know that?” Liam asks, still frowning, but he’s getting there, Harry’s sure. “I’ve never heard anyone say that before.”

“I used to be a baker,” Harry shrugs. “When I was alive, that is. We ran out of sugar a lot and had to substitute it for whatever we could find. It works, trust me.”

Liam deliberates for a long moment, staring at the clock as it ticks nearer and nearer to Sophia’s arrival. “Fine, but if it goes wrong I’m gonna get a professional to exorcise you.”

“Real exorcists don’t exist, Liam,” Harry laughs, patting him on the back. Liam shudders, and Harry’s grin gets even wider. “But you can try.”

Liam makes the biscuits like Harry instructs, eyeing him suspiciously all the while. Harry’s never been a good liar, but thinking about how hard Louis will laugh when he finds out what Harry’s done is keeping him from slipping up already. There’s not enough time for Liam to try the biscuits properly before he has to start cooking the main course, pasta, apparently, and go get dressed.

“Can you two fuck off while Sophia’s here?” Liam asks at five to seven, staring at Harry and Louis who are cuddling on the settee. Louis scowls when Liam comes to stand in front of them, fiddling with the knot of a brightly patterned tie.

“That’s a fucking ugly tie, Li,” Louis tells him just when Liam’s finished straightening it.

Liam rolls his eyes and stares critically at himself in the reflection of the TV. He flicks his gaze back and forth between the TV and his tie, before bursting out into a groan and running his hands over his gelled hair.

Taking pity on Liam, Harry kisses Louis cheek and goes to help Liam out. He stands in front of him, distorting Liam’s view of his own reflection, and jabs a finger at Liam’s tie.

“That needs to go,” Harry says firmly. “And lose some buttons, this is a date not an interview.”

“Won’t that come across as a bit…” Liam trails off, loosening the tie and fingering his top button. “Easy?”

“Oh fuck off, it’s fashion.” Harry sighs, Liam would really be helpless without him and Louis. “No one’s ever looked down on a man for unbuttoning his shirt. Now come on, my ghost-senses are telling me Sophia’s almost here.”

“Shit.” Liam rips his tie off and unbuttons his shirt until Harry gives him a wide grin and thumbs up. “Please, please, fuck off? I don’t want Soph to think I’m mad and living in a haunted flat.”

“You are living in a haunted flat though,” Louis points out. “But we’ll keep the moaning to a minimum, as long as you do too.”

Liam levels Louis with a withering glare, that’s only somewhat effective as Louis starts cackling and leads Harry out of the living room, into Liam’s bedroom. They eavesdrop most of the evening, because the afterlife is long and Liam’s attempts at flirting make Louis laugh like nothing else, but it works on Sophia, apparently, because the time dessert rolls around, Harry can hear the affection in her voice.

“I haven’t had a chance to taste these yet,” Liam’s saying, “but they’re an old uh… family recipe, from the eighteen-hundreds, so they’re tried and tested!”

Harry barely holds in a squeak of delight, ushering Louis through the wall of the bedroom so they’re nearer the kitchen, stealing glances at Sophia and Liam from around a wall. Sophia picks up a biscuit and takes a bite, wincing as she chews. Louis snorts, burying his face in Harry’s shoulder.

“It’s very…” Sophia swallows and puts the biscuit back on her plate. “Are they meant to be this salty?”

Liam presses his fingers to his temples, and Harry can’t hold back his laughter. He scrambles back into the bedroom with Louis as Liam tries to explain the sugar-situation. They collapse on to the bed in hysterics, clinging to each other’s sides. At one point, Harry’s giggles ease up but all it takes is one shared look with Louis and they’re off again, laughing so loud Harry’s amazed Liam hasn’t come and told them to knock it off.

“Brilliant, babe,” Louis wheezes when he can manage words, stroking wispy hair out of Harry’s face. His touch is firm this close to Halloween, and Harry leans into it, desperate for it to last. At least, even at their weakest on the last day of April, Harry can still look at Louis and see his smile.

“He’s never gonna trust a word I say again,” Harry says.

“True,” Louis agrees, shuffling closer so his forehead is resting against Harry’s. “But it’s worth it.”

***

“Lou, what d’you wanna do for Halloween?” Harry asks, rolling on the living room floor until he’s bumping into Louis and pressing his lips to Louis’ elbow.

“Our usual,” Louis answers without batting a pretty eyelash. He’s tapping away on Liam’s laptop again, doing something Harry’s sure he’ll understand later. “Food, the midday nap, coming as many times as physically possible in twenty-four hours. What else is there to do on Halloween?”

“Yeah, but what kind of food do you wanna eat?” Harry presses. They get one day of regular human functions before they’re back to their ghost selves. They can’t waste any time on squabbling over food choices. “And don’t you want to go anywhere? We can actually leave the flat for a whole day, Lou, we should take advantage of that!”

“We have this conversation every year,” Louis says, opening a new tab and typing something into the top. Harry doesn’t pay much attention to that when Louis’ shirt is riding up, exposing the base of his spine. Harry wants to bite him. “And every year I tell you, it’s not something we can plan, babe. I might want pizza, I might want a curry, maybe a kebab. You’ve gotta see how you feel on the day so we’ll figure it out then. And why would we go out when we can stay at home, together, all day.”

“We are not getting kebabs on the only day of the year we can eat,” Harry moans, rolling on to his back and starfishing. “That’s such a waste. And we can be together outside.”

“You can’t say it’s a waste when you’ve never even had one,” Louis says, setting Liam’s laptop aside and throwing himself onto Harry’s sprawled form. “Trying something new is never a waste, isn’t that what you always say?”

“Don’t use my words against me,” Harry groans, letting it go for now but resolving to try again later. Harry knows how to pick and choose his battles. He brings his hands up to cradle Louis’ hair, petting him absent-mindedly. “What were you even doing on Liam’s laptop?”

“Changing his sex-playlist so it’s full of Disney songs,” Louis answers, wriggling so he’s settled properly on Harry, their hips aligned. “Though to be honest, I should have just left it as it was, it was embarrassing enough. Who puts Pitbull on their sex playlist?”

“I don’t know who Pitbull is, babe,” Harry reminds him. He stretches his back, displacing Louis as his belly curves upwards.

***

They do figure it out on the day, meaning the second the clock strikes midnight and it’s officially the 31st of October, Louis slams Harry against the nearest wall and kisses him fiercely. The thud of pain that ricochets through Harry’s body is another reminder that for the next 24 hours, they’re essentially human again.

“Waited all year to do this,” Louis says between bruising kisses, curling his fingers into Harry’s sides. He fits his body against Harry’s perfectly, pressing him into the wall like they don’t have forever together. Harry supposes they don’t, not in a physical sense. The limited time means the first orgasm, and well, being honest the second as well, come rushed and fuelled by lust. After that, they slow it down, make love as Harry likes to say, even if it means Louis elbows him for being sappy. Harry knows Louis refers to it like that in his head too.

“Kiss me against a wall?” Harry teases, his voice dry. Louis nips at his lower lip, rolling it between his teeth until it’s swollen and pink. Blood rushes south as Louis kisses him again, and Harry almost gets a headrush from how good it feels. Everything is hot and it’s so easy to get lost in kissing Louis. It’s great every other day of the year, one of Harry’s favourite pastimes is just sitting on Louis’ lap and snogging, but like this, it’s so much more. More heat, more feeling, more everything.

“Do this,” Louis whispers, and Harry forgot he even said anything. One of Louis’ hands slips between them and palms Harry through his jeans and right, Harry can take them off now. Louis traces the outline of his cock where it strains against the fabric before Harry can, though, grinning when he finds the head and starts rubbing small circles against it.

“Lou, Lou,” Harry gasps, his head falling back against the wall and Louis attaches his lips to Harry’s neck, sucking wetly. The marks will be gone tomorrow, but today, Harry will wear them with the smuggest smile on his face. “You know I can’t—”

“Last long?” Louis finishes, biting and licking his way down the column of Harry’s neck until he reaches his chest, peeking out from the open neck of his shirt. Unbuttoning Harry’s jeans, he slips his hand underneath Harry’s pants and wraps his fist around Harry’s cock, jerking him off with quick movement of his hand. “I know, love. I want you to come soon, yeah? Want you to remember how good it feels. How good I make you feel.”

“As if I could forget,” Harry groans, and he’s coming, seven minutes past midnight. It’s bright colours, electric sparks and feeling like he’s soaring while being grounded by Louis’ warmth. It leaves him breathless and desperate for more.

“I love you,” Louis murmurs, coaxing Harry into another kiss, sloppier, but sweeter.

“I love you too,” Harry replies, taking Louis’ come-covered hand from his jeans and turning them so he’s caging Louis against the living room wall now. “Forever.”

Harry drops to his knees, resting his forehead against Louis’ belly and breathing in slowly. Louis strokes Harry’s cheek with his palm and Harry turns his head to kiss the centre of Louis’ palm. Above him, Louis makes a small noise, and Harry has to take another deep breath, he’s still so turned on.

Wasting no time then, Harry unbuttons Louis’ jeans and pulls them down enough to take Louis’ cock out, fully hard and curved prettily. He says as much, stroking his shaft with the barest hint of pressure just because he likes the way the teasing frustrates Louis.

Haz,” Louis moans when Harry licks the head of his cock, tasting the salty precome for the first time in a year. Harry winks up at Louis and wraps his lips around the tip, sucking lightly but not taking Louis down too fast otherwise he’ll trigger his gag reflex. He swirls his tongue around Louis’ cockhead and hollows his cheeks as he takes another inch, does everything he can to make it hot and wet and perfect for Louis.

It doesn’t take long for Louis’ hands to find their way to Harry’s hair, fisting his long curls and pulling when Harry whines around him. He cradles Louis’ balls with one hand, strokes the base of Louis’ cock with the other as he starts to bob his head, dragging his lips and tongue over Louis’ dick. He’s missed doing this, missed how loud Louis keens when Harry swipes his tongue just right, or how Louis can’t tugging on Harry’s hair while he sucks him off. There’s a sense of satisfaction that comes with feeling Louis fall apart under Harry’s ministrations.

Harry gets a second’s warning of Louis groaning to let him know that he’s about to come, before Louis’ spilling into his mouth. Harry tries to catch it all, but the surprise and the fact that this is his first time blowing Louis in a year means that he ends up pulling off, spluttering, and catching the rest of Louis’ come on his cheek. It’s then that he realises Louis never wiped his hand before tangling it in Harry’s hair.

Before Harry can voice his complaint, there’s an awkward cough a couple of metres away from them. Harry whips his head around to see Liam standing in the entryway from the living room to his bedroom with his hands covering his eyes.

“I thought you two couldn’t like… do that,” Liam says uncertainly, peeking between his fingers and wincing when he sees that Louis’ still got his cock out and Harry hasn’t cleaned the drying come up.

“We can on Halloween, mate,” Louis clarifies, smug. “Boundary between the physical and spiritual realm is at its strongest and all that.”

“You might want to put in some ear plugs,” Harry adds, wiping his cheek. “We’ve only got one day to get everything out of our system for the next year.”

“Right…” Liam turns sharply, stalking back into his bedroom, muttering, “Fucking ghosts” under his breath.

“We should definitely fuck in his bed later,” Louis muses, stepping out of his jeans. “After we get back from our hot date to that fancy restaurant you’ve been eyeing up.”

Harry stands up sharply and pauses, his brows furrowing. “What?”

“I know how much you wanted to go outside on an actual date, you know, leave the flat and all that,” Louis says, pulling Harry closer and looking up at him from underneath his frustratingly pretty eyelashes. Harry’s breath catches in his throat. “I booked us a table online under Liam’s name at some fancy restaurant and maybe we can go for a walk in the evening too, when it’s dark. It’s not like we can die twice, so it’s safe.”

“I love you,” Harry says in a rush, kissing Louis fervently. “I love you so fucking much.”

“Love you too, H,” Louis says back, and Harry’s the happiest ghost not-quite alive, he swears. “Happy Halloween.”