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when things go wrong i sing along

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when things go wrong i sing along.
it is the nature of the business.
but you're not here to make my sad songs more sincere.

How come everyone I've loved likes you better Louis sends, before he can think better of it. He waits a beat, listening to the voices bubbling up in the room around him, the clatter of serving spoons against the chafing dishes and the gasp as Liam misses something on the Xbox, and then sends, What’s so special and great about you

“Hey,” Harry says, pulling out a chair and flipping it around, sitting down on it back-to-front. “Seen my phone?”

“Nah,” says Louis. He slides his own phone into his pocket and crosses his legs to hide the fact that Harry’s phone is in his lap, open to his contacts. Open to a very specific contact. It’s Harry’s fault for having the same damn passcode for the past five years. If Louis were Harry, he’d at least change the passcode after he moved out from their shared flat, reduce the possibility of mischief.

Actually, Louis did change his passcode when Harry moved out from their shared flat. 0102 didn’t seem like a good choice anymore. Upon reflection, he may as well change his current passcode away from 1607, for similar reasons. Pick something nice and neutral. 2412, maybe, but then it would match Harry’s, so that’s probably not the best idea. Maybe Lottie’s birthday, then, or perhaps his mum’s.

“Are you sure?” Harry asks, frowning. There’s a crash behind them, and Harry twists in his seat, attention already going elsewhere.

Typical. “Have you checked with Niall?”

“Niall hasn’t seen it,” says Harry. He crosses his arms over the chair back.

“When’s the last time you saw it?” Louis asks. It’s burning against his thigh, but only metaphorically. “Two weeks ago? Maybe Zayn took it when he fucked off.”

He regrets the words as soon as he says them. An unreadable expression – one that he maybe once would’ve been able to place – shutters across Harry’s face, and Louis’s own heart drops in his chest. It’s definitely too soon to be joking about that, even if joking is the only way that he can talk about it at all without throwing Harry’s phone or any one of Mark’s weights straight through the cement-block wall of this room in the bowels of the stadium.

“Could’ve just said no,” Harry says, standing up and pushing the chair away. It teeters on its back legs, and then falls against the table as Harry strides off. He doesn’t even turn around to right the chair, even, which is how Louis knows just how pissed Harry is. Everything is so complicated and knotted between them, and even though they’ve come a long way toward finding peace with each other again, now here’s another layer of hurt and confusion pushing their friendship back months again. This one is Zayn-shaped, and Louis doesn’t have the faintest clue about how to navigate it.

He sighs and gets up, holding Harry’s phone against his leg, slides it between some half-empty water bottles and a bag of crisps on an adjacent table, and slips out to his personal green room.

When he checks his own phone five minutes later, a poorly-rolled joint lit and in hand, Taylor fucking Swift has texted him back: Who is this? How did you get my number?


The show in Cape Town doesn’t suck, except for how Louis still can’t work past the lump in his chest. Everyone fucking leaves in the end, is the thing. Some sooner than others. Harry didn’t leave the band, but he did leave Louis, and then he got mad at Louis for trying to move on, and then he started dating Taylor fucking Swift without giving Louis any kind of forewarning. So by the transitive property, that’s like Harry leaving Louis for Taylor. Probably. It’s been ages since Louis learnt the transitive property in school, but he's fairly certain that's what happened.

Louis doesn’t delude himself into thinking that Harry left him without a second thought, or without any emotional repercussions. He knows Harry was just as messed up about the decision to leave Louis as Louis was by Harry leaving. But he also can’t deny that Harry was even more messed up about his decision to leave Taylor.

At least Louis knows by now that Harry has this thing for trying to erase any kind of romantic connection and go back to being just friends and failing miserably at it well before ending relationships is warranted. He’s even come a long, long way toward being okay with where he and Harry stand now – or at least, he had, before Zayn, before Eleanor. And while it doesn’t stop the re-surfacing sting at all, Harry having this trend of leaving, it’s more reassuring than someone who also happens to love Taylor fucking Swift with all her heart just dumping you right out of nowhere, like Eleanor did.

Or, well, it wasn’t nowhere. It was a long time coming, and it was even kind of mutual, but Eleanor did initiate before Louis was fully ready to throw in the towel. But she’s always been smarter than him. Less prone to clinging to something comfortable yet dead.

Zayn didn’t have a history of leaving, and he’d promised Louis he wouldn’t go right up until the day he left the band and left Louis. Maybe they weren’t in a relationship, like Louis was with Harry and with Eleanor, but it hurts just the fucking same.

At least Zayn doesn’t have a weird fucking inexplicable thing for Taylor fucking Swift. Probably. Hopefully.

If it were three weeks ago, Louis would text Zayn to make sure that he doesn’t have a thing for Taylor fucking Swift. He’d text Zayn if it were less than a week ago, even.

As it is, he just takes out his phone and texts Taylor back. Louis Tomlinson, he sends. I don’t think you’re better than me.

A little bubble appears, like Taylor’s going to text him back, and then it vanishes.

His phone rings a minute later.

“I literally do not have to listen to you talk to me that way,” Taylor fucking Swift says, in lieu of hello. “You don’t like me and you’ve made no secret of that over the past few years. I don’t care. It’s fine in interviews. I don’t like you either. But that’s absolutely no reason to be a dick to me to my face. But I’m giving you a break because I know you’re hurting." She pauses, briefly. "Though I didn’t think Zayn was a fan of me, either.”

“Hi, Taylor,” Louis says. “Glad my feelings for you are mutual, but I was talking about Harry and Eleanor, not... not Zayn.” He hopes to fucking god not Zayn.

“Wait,” says Taylor. “Your ex-girlfriend...”

“About shit herself when you came to karaoke after Madison Square Garden and got a fucking Taylor fucking Swift birthday cake the next year.”

“I’m flattered,” Taylor says, and Harry’s watched enough Taylor interviews with no headphones in through the years that Louis can tell she’s trying not to laugh. Big of her.

“Anyway,” he says. “I don’t get it.”

“I’m really, really sorry to hear about your struggle, Louis,” says Taylor. “But it’s genuinely out of my control.”

Louis contemplates asking why Harry still clearly misses her and not him, but he doesn’t want to get too maudlin. “Whatever,” he says. “Thanks anyway, Taylor.”

“I really am sorry to hear about Zayn,” she says, after an awkward pause where Louis is debating hanging up. “I can’t imagine how much you guys are struggling with that.”

“Harry hasn’t told you?” Louis blurts. His palm is getting sweaty, so he shifts his phone to his other hand.

“We don’t actually talk every day, Louis,” she says. “Or even every week. I sent him an e-mail; he didn’t reply. Not that I blame him. Selena says Niall’s real messed up, though.”

Niall hasn’t told Louis that he’s talking to Selena again. No one tells Louis anything anymore, they just do things first and mention it later. Like, after they’ve already gone.

Sternly, Louis reminds himself not to compare Zayn leaving all of them to Niall possibly trying to fuck Selena again.

“Right,” he says, finally. “Thanks, I guess.”

“Sure,” she says, and then the call clicks off.

Louis contemplates lobbing his phone against the wall. Instead, he shoves off his chair and goes to hunt Liam down. He could really go for some well-intentioned mischief tonight.


He’s driving home from his first day of writing with Liam for the new album when Style, of all fucking songs, comes on the radio. Nice to know that there was a time that Harry could have changed his mind about leaving Taylor and just gone out with her again, he guesses.

Nice to know that Louis and Taylor have one regrettable thing in common, he guesses.

“The annoying thing about Taylor fucking Swift,” Louis tells his rearview mirror, turning onto his street, “Is that her songs are actually really catchy.” He never liked her country stuff, and he finds her voice really annoying, but her new album is full of fucking earworms. He wanted to hate it on principle – and he does hate Shake It Off, given how many times Niall’s got it stuck in Louis’s head just by singing it and dancing around half-naked before a show – but Blank Space is the kind of song Louis would love to have written. For that matter, so is All Too Well, which he’s maybe listened to once or twice since Harry made them all watch her Grammy performance on youtube.

It’s been almost two weeks since the phone call, and Louis hasn’t given in to thinking about how much everyone in his life seems to choose her over him again, not at even the darkest of his moments, so he hasn’t talked to her, or pulled a Harry and looked at her Twitter or Instagram since. But he pulls into his driveway and pulls out his phone without even bothering to unhook his seatbelt.

Briefly, Louis debates calling Liam or, better yet, Niall, to get over the urge to text Taylor again. But while they’d both probably get where he’s coming from, he’s never actually mentioned ever talking to Taylor at all – or owned up to being the one who took Harry’s phone – and that’s far more backstory than he feels like providing right now.

He should probably talk to one of them soon, though. Liam would get Louis’s urge to keep picking at that scab of texting Taylor more, probably, but Niall’s the only one besides Harry who’s ever really had a long conversation with her. Harry is obviously out of the running for, like, thirty different reasons. They've been talking more since Zayn left – more regularly than they have done in absolute ages; it's like Harry's afraid Louis will leave too, instead of just get left behind like usual, if he doesn't text ten times a day – but Harry and Louis have history, and Harry and Taylor have history, and Harry's fucking halfway across the world, anyway.

Finally, Louis just taps out I can do sex and love and dedication and even kinda longing but how the fuck do you write loss like that and hits send.

Taylor answers a few minutes later in a series of texts. Who are you writing about this time?
Never mind actually I don’t care.
Are you hurt? Angry? Sad?

Louis stares at his phone for a moment. At least she’s honest, he guesses. All of the above?

Channel that. That’s how.

“Well,” Louis says, even though his rearview mirror is a proven poor conversationalist. “That’s helpful.” Easier said than done, he sends.

If writing a song about loss is easy then you’re not doing it right, she says. She follows it up a few seconds later with a winky emoji.

The really uncharitable side of Louis wants to say that this is the first useful or intelligent thing she’s ever said, but the rest of him knows that’s definitely wrong. Just because she hasn’t ever said anything useful to him before doesn’t mean she hasn’t ever said smart things. Case in point: Blank Space and All Too Well. I guess,

Feel your emotions, Tomlinson, she says. And then write them down.


Louis wakes up three days later to a text from Taylor fucking Swift, of all people. Not that he should be that surprised, given circumstances, but then again, he's initiated all of their conversations up till now. How’s that advice of mine working out for you?

I try to forgive you but I struggle and I don’t know how, he sends her back, and then: Don’t you fucking steal that line for your own shit. I’m proud of that line.

She sends him one of those laughing-crying emojis that Niall sometimes overuses in the group chat, and, in a follow-up text, says It’s a line to be proud of. Zayn, Eleanor, or Harry?

Don’t you make a point to never admit to who any of your songs are about ?, he says. Besides Style I guess

I’d act flattered that you know this much about me if I wasn’t sure Harry or Niall or Eleanor told you, she says.

Niall probably had mentioned it, once, but it’s Fiz who Louis remembers hearing about it from Actually it was my sister.

Do your sisters also like me better than you?

Louis calls her. “Fuck you,” he says, when she picks up.

Taylor is laughing into the phone. “No – Karlie, don’t,” she says. It sounds like she’s closed a door or something, because there’s a thud and then sudden quiet on the other end of the line. She clears her throat and says, “I meant it as a joke, Tomlinson.”

“Not a very funny joke, was it?”

“Obviously your sisters will love you more than they love me,” Taylor says. Louis can practically hear her eyeroll over the phone. “Just like I’m sure Eleanor loved you better than me.”

“And Harry?” Louis asks, despite himself.

There’s a long, heavy moment of silence. “I wonder if either of us will ever know or want to know the answer to that,” Taylor says, finally.

Louis wonders, suddenly, if Taylor ever got insecure about his and Harry’s past when she and Harry were dating. If she wondered if Harry would leave her and go back to Louis, before she figured out that Harry always leaves but never goes away and never, ever comes back the same way you want him to. It’s not just the two of them he’s done that to, but Louis figures Nick Grimshaw probably dealt with it better since they haven’t seemed to change at all since Harry left him.

“I wonder if he’ll ever figure out what he’s looking for,” Louis says, sullenly, because he and Harry are friends again but it’s never felt quite the same, and while he gets that it won’t ever feel the same as it did when they were near-inextricably tangled together physically and emotionally, sometimes he just doesn’t want to accept it. Anyway, he figures if there’s anyone in the world he can be sullen about Harry to now that Zayn is gone and not answering a single fucking message, Taylor fucking Swift is probably as good a candidate as any, and better than most.

“Maybe when he finds it,” she says, and sighs a little. “Do you have more to that song than that one line?”

“Yeah, a couple bits,” he says. “It’s more wistful than like, lost apart from that, though. We don’t really want heavy songs about loss on our next album.”

“Doesn’t hurt to write them anyway,” she says, delicately. “Like, you could write a song like that just for you.”

“Dunno if I know how to do that,” says Louis. He’s realised in the past few weeks that he’s never truly understood Zayn like he thought he did. He can’t understand leaving One Direction, because he can’t understand how to exist apart from it anymore – or even wanting to. He can write a million songs for the band, or for other artists. He doesn’t know if he could ever get to a place where he’d write songs just for himself, though. Maybe if Liam was writing with him, but then it'd be weird if he went in knowing they wouldn't be singing together.

"A poem, then."

"Harry's the poet," Louis says, drumming his fingertips on the steering wheel of his car. Harry's got all those notebooks that are for writing first and songs second. Louis can churn out a fucking good tune that people will love to sing along with, but he's never been good at actual poems unless they've got a chorus and a catchy beat.

"Now you're just throwing yourself a pity party," says Taylor, dismissively.

"Says the queen of the breakup song."

"Hey, at least I turn my pity parties into music," she says. "You're not being productive with yours."

Louis sighs and finally unbuckles his seatbelt. It's sunny out, for once, and he doesn't quite want to go inside yet, but he certainly doesn't want to keep sitting in his car. He pushes through his garage and goes out back as he asks, "So we're back at our impasse, which is I don't fucking know how to write sad songs."

"You're a millionaire songwriter with a lot of quality credits to your name, Tomlinson," Taylor says. "I think you do, actually. You just don't want to try."

"Ever think about leaving the business and becoming a shrink?" Louis snipes. "A quack therapist?"

Taylor, to Louis's surprise, laughs at that. "If you ask my friends, I already am one," she says. "I prescribe writing emotional songs and eating a lot of cookies to everyone. Very effective."

"Cheers," Louis says. He pauses. "Guess I could try again."

"You do that," Taylor says. She pauses, too, and Louis is just about to end the call when she says, "Keep me updated?"

"Sure," says Louis, and hangs up before he can second-guess himself.

He spends about an hour trying to piece a bunch of emotional depressive drivel together into a semi-decent song before giving up and texting the lads about hitting the clubs.


The nights out become a trend of sorts. Louis spends his days writing with Liam and then going home and trying to get his sense of losing touch with everything important to him into words on his own, and then he ends up drunk at any number of London's hottest establishments with girls hanging off him left and right.

Calvin and Oli bring some back in their car one night and Louis sits in the back seat, scrolling through Eleanor's instagram. She's looking really good lately, but then again, she always does.

Miss u, he texts her. Ur looking well, hows the setup for the website coming ?

To his surprise, she texts him back within a few minutes. Lou I've seen the pictures on Twitter, I know you're drunk. Drink some water and go to bed.
Miss you too, of course.
I'm not going to get back with you just because you're remembering details of what's going on with me.

Louis grunts and shoves his face against the car window. The lights of London are bright and wet, streaking across his field of vision and blurring through the misty raindrops as the driver takes them closer and closer to home.

"Alright, lad?" Oli shouts across the car. There's a blonde whose mouth looks surgically attached to his collarbone.

"Fantastic," Louis says. He takes his phone out again. I know but I want u to know I love u. But I get it. But I love you.

I'll always love you a little but it's better this way.
Just give it time, Louis. I think we can be friends once we've got a little distance.
I'm going back to bed. Try to get some sleep.

Louis closes his messages and goes back to instagram. She's so, so beautiful and so, so smart and so, so far away from him. Physically and emotionally. He wonders if he and Harry would be in a better place – a good place that doesn’t get rattled by people leaving the band – if they'd had the luxury of having time and space apart from each other after Harry left. He wonders if Zayn is trying to let time and space grow between them before he finally fucking texts back.

He opens his conversation with Taylor. How many exes are you still friends with? he types, but he closes the app without sending it.

Cal and Oli and their girls are debating hitting up another club or going to bed. Louis is still riding his buzz, but he feels impossibly tired now. "Do what you want," he says, closing his eyes and leaning his head against the back of his seat. "I just want my own bed right now."


"Payno, are you friends with any of your exes?"

Liam gives Louis a stern Look. "Me and Dani are on good terms but we haven't spoken in ages," he says. "And I'm still dating Soph. So."

"Right, wrong bandmate to ask," Louis says. He sighs, tapping his pencil against his knee. They aren't having a very productive day of writing, but then again, they've churned out a couple over the past two weeks. "Should ask Niall how he stays on good terms with all his hookups."

"Niall's literally incapable of not being friends with everyone, though," says Liam. "And there's not that deep emotional baggage that comes from dating someone for years and years if you see them a few weeks at most here and there." He pauses. "Could ask Harry."

"Could put my entire face through a meat grinder, too," says Louis. The pencil snaps on a particularly vicious tap, so he drops both pieces to the floor. There. It's like he never even had a pencil. They haven't written actual words down since Midnight Memories, anyway. It was superfluous. An aesthetic pencil. He starts drumming his fingers against his knee instead.

"Tommo, I thought you were over all that," Liam says, carefully. "You and Harry have been good again lately, yeah? For over a year now."

"Dunno," says Louis. "El breaking it off and Zayn leaving within a month of each other kinda brought all that back up. We're good, I guess, but I have all these questions again."

"Ooooh, that's dangerous," says Liam. He reaches forward and grabs Louis's hand. "Chill out, bro. Don't hurt yourself."

Louis laughs. "I'll just let everyone else do that for me, shall I?"

"Now I know you're not usually this depressing," says Liam, tugging Louis in by the hand and giving him a good, solid cuddle. "What is it?"

Louis sighs. "Texted El last night," he says. "She's doing well. Looking good."

"Oh, Lou," Liam says. He pats Louis on the back and ruffles his hair.

"I've also, uh." Louis rolls his eyes and shrugs, dislodging Liam's arm. "Been talking to someone else?"

"A girl from a club?"

"You could say that," Louis says, laughing a little, humourlessly. "In that her music plays in some."

"Are you going to make me guess, mate?" Liam asks. "Because I can, but there's an awful lot of girls who play in clubs that you could be talking to."

"It's Taylor." At Liam's blank look, Louis clarifies, "Taylor fucking Swift."

"That is literally the last possible name I would have expected you to say," Liam says. "Are you certain it's, erm. A good idea?" He pauses. "Is this about Harry?"

"No," says Louis, and then: "A little." He huffs out a sigh. "I don't even like her, Payno. I just got fed up one day and texted her to ask what's so great about her that everyone likes her better than me. We've been talking since then. About, like, music and Harry and shit."

"Well," says Liam. "I don't know how to respond to this, if I’m honest, Tommo. But I do have to say I like you so much better than I like her." He winks at this, and Louis can’t help but grin back.

"That's why you and me are mates for life, boyo."

"I give you this whole heartfelt declaration and I'm still not lad status, eh?" Liam says. "That's it. If Taylor calls me lad first I'll swap my allegiance to her."

"Fuck you too," Louis says, laughing delightedly. He reaches down to scoop his pencil halves off the floor and chucks them at Liam, one right after the other.


Louis pulls up his conversation with Taylor again in bed a few nights later. The unsent message is still waiting in the little box - How many exes are you still friends with?

He sighs and hits send.

Two and a half, I guess, she replies, less than an hour later. Harry and I are on good terms. I'm friends with Joe's girlfriend, so we hang out again now. Me and Karlie are still best friends even though we didn't work out as girlfriends

Didn't know you liked girls, Louis says.

I'm only telling you because I know about you and Harry, she says.

That's fair, Louis supposes. Tit for tat. He's fairly certain he's being blackmailed a little to keep Taylor's personal business personal, but it's not like he's going to write any of her breakup songs for her. He apparently can't even write any about his own breakups these days. Do you avoid imessage to avoid putting things on the cloud, he asks, instead of calling her on her machinations – every single one of their exchanges has been in green, not blue.

There's no reply for a while. He's about to drift away into sleep when his phone pings again. Yes, she's said.

That's a level of paranoia I can respect in a woman.

This time, Taylor's reply comes quickly. Swiftly, even, the sleep-deprived part of Louis's brain that finds puns an appropriate sort of humour suggests. I can't tell if you're trying to be funny or if you're trying to be a jerk.

Me neither, he says. Probably both !

Fair enough, Taylor allows. There's another lull, and then she sends, I know you know how to be friends with exes. Harry told me.

Harry's different. El doesn't want to be friends right now.

Most don't, Taylor says. I didn't want to be friends with Joe for years and maybe we aren’t really friends again now, but we can hang out no problem. Give her time. Maybe you will and maybe you won't.

You're the least reassuring person I know, Louis says.

Taylor sends back an angel emoji and an emoji with its tongue sticking out. Touché, Louis thinks, and replies with a smiling devil.

He knows he's too tired to get up and get any real equipment, or even a notebook, so he exits out of their conversation and opens his voice recorder app. "It's impossible to know if you and me can still be friends," he mumbles, hoping that he'll still be able to understand what he's getting at now when he wakes up. "Everything comes to an end, something something, I love you but I know it's over but I'll miss you. Go with that."

He barely has time to thumb the recording off before he rolls over to fall asleep.


LA is hot, especially after several weeks in London. It’s the usual whirlwind of recording and writing and meeting with executives and recording interviews, and Louis can’t shake his perpetual exhaustion.

Maybe all the clubbing he’s doing isn’t helping, but underneath the exhaustion is this bubbling sense of restlessness. He and Liam write all these upbeat songs with Julian and the others about growing up and moving on, but none of them are incredibly emotionally deep.

I give up, he texts Taylor the night after he and Liam fucking wreck Niall’s cars. It’s fodder for happy songs, songs about camaraderie and beating the odds and getting through tough times, but inside his emotions are still a tangle of loss and resentment. Like, Harry was around at the start of fucking over the cars, but then he bailed to go see Nick.

He’s left Nick, too, like he left Taylor and Louis, but Nick seems to be perfectly happy with Harry’s immediate attempts to act like nothing has really changed, ever, and Louis can’t help but resent Nick for being the same breed as Harry in that respect. Nick has explicitly told Louis that he’s happy with their situation, back when Louis tried to express his condolences, and Taylor had the entire fucking album of 1989 to work through her emotions. Louis had a concert the next day and a body that left the flat but never stopped being in the bunk beside him for a year, except for when Eleanor came on tour for a bit. He had Harry’s perpetual disgruntlement that Louis wasn’t immediately ready to pretend they weren’t ever anything and two ill-advised hookups the month after they split, because neither of them has ever been very good at impulse control, and two years of trying to be friends before they finally hit any kind of joint rhythm again.

And then Zayn had to go and fuck the entire dynamic up again.

Never figured you for a quitter, Taylor sends back.

Louis takes great pleasure in jabbing his phone off after that.

The joke is ultimately on him, though, because he wakes up hours before his alarm and leaves the house he, Liam, and Niall have rented and drives to Harry’s before the sun is even fully up.

He’s been to Harry’s LA house before, and while he can never remember the address, he knows the route like it’s been burnt into the folds of his brain. He parks right in front of the house and sits for a few minutes. “This is a bad idea,” he tells himself, and gets out of the car.

The door is locked, but the passcode is Anne’s full birthday and the front door key is hidden behind a loose brick in the entryway, so Louis lets himself in and goes to raid Harry’s refrigerator. Harry wakes up at the ass-crack of dawn these days, so Louis doubts he’ll be alone for long.

Harry mostly has juice lining the shelves of his fridge – really gross, thick juices that Louis bets he paid about a zillion dollars for – but Louis finds a container full of Thai leftovers behind a particularly noxiously green juice, so he helps himself, grabbing a fork and eating it over the sink.

That’s how Harry finds him, pushing through the front door. It’s not even 7:30 am, and he’s sweated through his t-shirt, his wet hair pushed back with a terrycloth band.

“What the fuck,” Harry says, two steps into the kitchen. “What are you doing here?”

“Good morning, Hazza,” Louis says, shoving another forkful of noodles into his mouth. “Did you know human beings aren’t meant to live off liquids alone?”

Harry just gives him a Look, pushing past to grab the bottle of green sludge. He chugs half of it down in one go, then wipes his mouth off with the back of his hand. “I like my liquids,” he says.

“I can see that,” Louis says. The container is now empty of cold Thai, so he drops it in the sink and turns around, leaning against the worktop to face Harry dead-on. “I’ve been trying to write a song.”

“That’s good, as we’ve got an album coming out this fall,” Harry says, deadpan.

“Cheers, Harry, I know our schedule,” says Louis. He grabs the bottle of juice from Harry and takes a tiny sip. It’s just as gross as he expected. It tastes like dirt and lemon. “This is disgusting, by the way.”

Harry swipes it back. “Didn’t get it for you,” he says. “What song are you trying to write?”

Louis shrugs. “Something really real,” he says. “I guess.”

Harry nods like it makes perfect sense. “I’ve written a few,” he says. “I’ll play them next time all of us have a meeting.”

“That’s good, as we’ve got an album coming out this fall,” Louis says. An idea is forming in the back of his mind, one that justifies his entire being here. “Let’s write a song together.”

Harry starts, shocked. “I – really?”

“Wouldn’t suggest it if I didn’t mean it,” says Louis. “Think we’ve got some material to work with, the two of us.”

“Okay,” Harry says, beginning to smile. “Yeah. Let’s do it.”


“Why do I like, keep doing things to spite you?”

“You’re going to have to be more specific,” Taylor says.

It’s the end of a long, long day of writing with Harry and then going to a zillion more meetings about putting the album together. He’s ready for a nap. They all are. Maybe he’ll sleep on the plane to Vegas tomorrow. He’s too tired to even text, but he still hit dial on Taylor’s number like he’s on fucking autopilot.

“I dunno,” he says, sighing a little. “You say these things about how I’m giving up or whatever and then I go off and try to prove you wrong.”

“You’re the one who calls yourself a quitter,” Taylor says. “But I’m honoured to be the creative thorn in your side, I guess. Will you give me a writing credit on whatever songs you write to spite me?”

Louis laughs, despite himself. “You’re not my muse, Swift,” he says. “Just a pain in me arse.”

“I think I prefer it that way,” she says, delicately, and Louis laughs again. “What did you write today?”

“Me and Harry started putting a thing together,” he says. “It’s still not a breakup song.”

“Breakup song aren’t for everybody,” Taylor says, carefully. “Harry’s good at them. I’m great at them. There’s no shame in writing a lot of sappy sex songs.”

Louis doesn’t want to think about all the songs Harry’s written about being second choice when he’s the one who leaves before anyone could ever let him be second choice to them. “I just want to know I can,” he says.

“Why, though?” Taylor asks. Louis is silent for maybe too long, because she eventually adds, “I’m not saying you shouldn’t, but I am saying that maybe even you don’t know why you care about this so much.”

"Um," he says. "I know I can write. I know the kind of stuff I can write well. I know I can sell what I write. But I don't want to be satisfied with sticking to what I do best – I want to challenge myself." He forces himself off his bed and stumbles to the bathroom so he can clean his teeth. As he walks, he adds, "Kind of like how I've been singing more and more each album and I take on bigger notes each time around, too."

"Good," says Taylor. She sounds genuinely pleased. "I find that kind of personal ambition is the best way to come up with some truly great and surprising content."

"Thanks for the vote of confidence," Louis says. He runs water over his toothbrush and squeezes some toothpaste onto it. He tries to avoid his reflection in the mirror, though; he knows he's haggard. He knows he looks just precisely as exhausted as he feels.

"No, I mean it," she says. "That's why I went full pop with 1989, and look at how that's done."

"Still top of the charts months later," Louis says. He doesn't bother trying not to sound jealous; that's quite a feat and he'd love to accomplish it too, someday.

Taylor, in turn, doesn't bother trying not to sound smug. "Exactly," she says. "And it's because I didn't want to limit myself to what I do best. Also because everyone kept telling me not to try, that helped too."

"Taylor," Louis says, carefully. "I don't mean to be alarm you, but – it's possible we have a couple things in common."

"Disgusting, isn't it?" she says, cheerfully. "I shudder at the very thought of it for at least five minutes a day."

"Fuck you too," Louis says, talking around his toothbrush. God help him, he's feeling tolerant of Taylor fucking Swift. Fond, even.

This has to stop.

"As enlivening as this chat has been," Taylor says, dryly, and then: "If you wanted to workshop some of your attempts at writing sad breakup songs... It'd be okay if you sent some thoughts my way."

"Big of you," Louis says. He spits his toothpaste into the sink.

"It's just a thought," Taylor says, huffily. "You don't have to do it."

"No, I mean," says Louis. "I will, actually. Thank you."

"You can still send it to me to spite me," she says. "If that helps."

Louis doesn't know if he ever realised before that Taylor is funny. It pains him a little, to recognize that she is. He clears his throat. "Don't worry," he says. "I'll do that, too."


It's inevitable everything comes to an end, Louis sends Taylor. He's pulled open the voice memo from a while ago and tried to work it into something decent. It's impossible to know if we can still be friends

Promising, she says. I think you’re getting the hang of this

Maybe, he sends back. But it's turning into a sex song, too

Taylor sends him the laughing-crying emoji, so Louis replies with the fist, the hands clapping, the smiling pile of poo, and a skull.

He tucks his phone back into his pocket and screws his eyes shut tight. Lou is coming at him with the powder puff and she is vicious with that thing.


The Billboard Music Awards go alright, but it's fucking weird without Zayn. They win an award, which is actually really reassuring – even down a member, they can still achieve things they'd only dreamt of, back at the beginning.

Louis loves all of his bandmates, he does, with everything in him, but it's fucking weird not being able to lean over and whisper catty remarks to Zayn halfway through. Sure, he could whisper them to the others – they'd all appreciate it, more or less – but it's different in a way he wouldn't have predicted, back in March. It’s always the little unexpected things that trip him up most.

It's especially weird that he can't tell Zayn how bizarre it is that he actually feels like texting Taylor about her new music video at the beginning of the show. It's a sick video, is the thing, very sleek and sexy. It's weird knowing that she's in the same room after they've been talking on the phone off and on for over a month. Everything is just really fucking strange.

By the time the awards are over and done with, Louis is ready to go out on the town. To celebrate or to drown his thoughts, he's not certain.

"Let's fucking –" He bounces on the balls of his feet, one hand on his hip. "Let's fucking paint the town red."

"I'm in," Niall says, immediately, and Louis grins at him.

"Think I'm going to head back to LA actually," Harry says. "Got some stuff to catch up on."

"What the fuck," says Louis. "What could be more important than celebrating a weird fucking night?"

"With that kind of invitation," Harry says, dryly, and claps Liam and Louis on the back and gives Niall a hug. "Later, lads."

"Payno?" Niall asks, turning to Liam.

Liam has a hesitant look on his face, but he eventually shakes his head. "Think I'll head back with Styles," he says. "Have fun, boys."

"Lame," says Louis, but he pulls Liam in for a hug anyway.

When they've gone, Louis turns to Niall. "That club we went to for your birthday last year?"

Niall starts to nod, then purses his lips. "I actually got an invite to an afterparty," he says. "If you don't mind the hostess."

"Who's that?"

Niall grins. "Well," he says. "I wouldn't've suggested it if Harry stayed, and I doubt you'll want to, either, but – Taylor Swift?"

Abruptly, Louis realises that he hasn't actually told Niall that he and Taylor have been talking. "Think I could be convinced," he says.

"Wait," says Niall. "Really?"

"Who am I to deny one of me best mates the opportunity to try to get with Selena Gomez again?" Louis asks, slinging an arm over Niall's shoulders.

"But you hate Taylor Swift," Niall protests.

"Are you trying to get me to bow out and go clubbing by myself?" Louis asks. "Anyway, old Swifty's grown on me lately."

Niall turns to look at Louis incredulously, then places a hand directly on Louis's forehead. "You don't feel feverish," he says. "But we can still get Alberto to take you to hospital instead of the afterparty to make sure you haven't knocked your head somehow."

Louis laughs. "Me and Taylor have had words recently," he says. "She's a lot more tolerable now."

"Right," says Niall, still looking at Louis suspiciously. "Well, if you change your mind after we get there, just say the word."

"Am I really that bad?" Louis asks, frowning.

"You once threw every single one of your old nasty socks at me one after the other because I was playing Shake It Off," Niall points out. "But people can have changes of heart, I guess."

Louis rolls his eyes, even though Niall's not wrong. "Whatever, Horan. Let's just go."


The party is fucking wild. Ed is there, and Hozier, and about a zillion other people. Taylor greets Niall with a hug when they walk in, because of course she does.

Then she turns to Louis and narrows her eyes. "Tomlinson," she says, suspiciously. "Surprised to see you here, in person and all."

"Taylor fucking Swift," Louis replies. "Figures everyone would want to come to your party."

"You're here," Taylor points out. She flips her hair over her shoulder. "Shall we take a poll about who people would rather spend time with? You or me?"

"It's your party, obviously there will be a bias," says Louis. Distantly, he registers that Niall is still stood right there, glancing between them like he's at one of them lame tennis matches he loves so well. "Should've asked everyone at the show, instead."

Taylor laughs at that. "Don't go getting any fodder for any of your sex songs in the middle of the room," she says, and hugs him.

"I'll try to focus on the sappy stuff if you promise to write a breakup song about me leaving this party at the end of the night," Louis says.

More people pile through the door then, so Louis grabs Niall's wrist. "Alcohol," he says, loudly, so Niall leads the way to the bar in the back.

"What on earth kind of words have you and Taylor Swift had?" Niall asks, as Louis gestures for the barman to add more whisky to his coke.

"Oh, we've had it all out," says Louis. He knocks back his drink in one and gestures for another, one that he can sip on.

"I can see that," says Niall. He's got the most peculiar look on his face. It lasts for a long, lingering moment, and then he shrugs and his expression switches to something more cheerful. He waves at someone over Louis's shoulder. "Think Hozier's a whisky man or a beer man?"

"That's easy enough to find out," says Louis. New drink in hand, he follows Niall across the room.


Three drinks and two different pairs of costume glasses later, the party has started dwindling somewhat. All but Taylor's closer friends – and Louis and Niall, Louis supposes – have headed out to other parties, or other nightclubs, or bed, or some bizarre combination of all three.

He's festooned in some of the fluffy red background of Taylor's photobooth – yes, photobooth – and sat on a really uncomfortable couch while Niall chats up Selena, nursing his drink, when Taylor thumps down next to him. "Hey," she says.

"Hey," says Louis, tilting his glass at her. "Nice party."

"It was, wasn't it?" Taylor says. She looks very self-satisfied.

"You don't let yourself get shy about your accomplishments, do you?" Louis asks, curiously.

Taylor laughs, surprised. "I guess not," she says. "Why should I?"

"That's fair," says Louis. He takes a sip. His drink is just on the cusp of that gross lukewarm stage between nice and cold and comfortingly warm, so he drains the cup and puts it aside.

"How's the breakup sex song coming?" she asks. She's clearly not as drunk as he is, but she's close, holding herself carefully straight in that way that people who are trying to look sober and almost succeeding do.

"More about sex than breakups at this point, if I’m honest," says Louis. He's had enough to drink that it doesn't bother him like it usually does. "I don't have your skills and expertise at writing about my breakups all the time."

Taylor frowns. "Do all my breakup songs really bother you all that much?" She tucks her hair behind her ear and twists to face Louis more directly. "Like, please don't get me wrong; I don't care if they do. I'm going to write about my experiences – breakups and otherwise – whether or not I have Louis Tomlinson's stamp of approval. I just want to know."

Louis is so close to saying yes, there's no need to air all that out so much and drag it on for years when he stops to think about it: about the way that his stomach twinged every time Harry spoke up in favour of the songs that were clearly about him.

The way that his stomach was twinging with jealousy.

"Reckon the songs themselves are okay," says Louis, finally. "You're good at them. They suit you."

"I don't know if that's a compliment," says Taylor.

Louis doesn't, either. "You've got a way with words and you use it how you use it," he says. "Nothing wrong with that, ultimately."

"Damning with faint praise," Taylor says, but her lips are curving into that self-satisfied smile again.

"I haven't got more fodder for a sex song in the middle of your floor," Louis tells her. "Have you started thinking of the breakup song you'll write when I leave tonight?"

Taylor laughs outright. "I'll think of something," she promises. "I'll keep you posted."

"See that you do," he says. He stretches a little, popping his back, and settles back, stretching his arms out along the back of the couch.

Taylor glances at him, lips parted slightly, and suddenly Louis can kind of see it, why people go for Taylor fucking Swift. Her lips are terribly red, and her eyes are bright with alcohol and excitement.

"I liked your music video," Louis tells her, more quietly, and her mouth falls farther open.


"Dead sexy," Louis says, nodding. "Think Niall and Harry were sweating a little."

"Were you?" she asks, archly.

"I thought it was very clever," Louis says, carefully ignoring her question. "I'd watch that movie. If it was full length. Band-aids don't fix bullet holes. Classic."

"Well, thanks," Taylor says. She shifts a little, jostling the pillow, and Louis's arm slips down from the back of the couch to around her waist. It doesn't feel bad; Louis's natural state is physically tangled up with people to varying degrees, so he leaves it there.

Taylor, in turn, actually cuddles into his side a little. She folds her legs up on the couch and tucks herself in closer. "I could cut your entire arm off," she says, but she's smiling, and her eyes are drifting shut a little, so Louis leaves it lie.

They're still like that, closer to asleep than awake and curled up on the gross-hard couch, when Niall finds them.

"Um," he says. "Tommo, ready to go?" His gaze is darting between Louis and Taylor again, lingering on the place where Taylor's hand is half-resting on Louis's knee, the way that Louis has a hand tucked in right at Taylor's waist.

"Yeah," Louis says. "Gimme a minute." He starts to extricate herself from Taylor, and she stirs, waking up more fully.

"Oh," she says, glancing down at Louis's lap and then up again at his face. "Well. Heading out?"

"Yeah, me and Niall have a flight back first thing," Louis says. Taylor is warm, and as pulls away, his side starts feeling instantly cold. Resisting the urge to curl back into her, he just leans in and presses a goodbye kiss to her cheek. "See you when I see you?"

"Yeah," says Taylor. She extricates herself from Louis the rest of the way and gets up to give Niall a hug. "Thanks for coming, guys. Congrats on the award."

Louis hauls himself off the couch. "You too," he says, and hugs Taylor. She kisses him on his cheek as well, almost at the corner of his mouth, and waves both him and Niall out the door.

"You know you'll need to tell Haz if you and Taylor have something going on," Niall says, incredibly seriously, as they head out the door.

"It's not like that," Louis protests. It's not. He's not even convinced he likes Taylor fucking Swift most of the time. She's funny, yeah. She has a lot in common with him. She's cosy to cuddle with, since he's used to people who are taller and skinnier than him anyway. She's a clever lyricist, and she has no compunctions about calling him out. But apart from all that, he's still not, like, suddenly her greatest fan or anything.

"Do you want it to be, though?" asks Niall, and Louis doesn't say anything. He's not 100% sure.


You left the party
And a lot of trash on the floor
Don't come around here no more

Louis squints at the text and laughs. Is this the breakup song ?

Part of it, Taylor says. It's very emotional. Did you know you shed red fur all over the entire couch?

That’s your fault for using that shite for your photobooth, Louis says. He's just opening up his emoji keyboard to find the perfect followup when Harry clears his throat.

"Sorry, what?" Louis says, putting his phone to the side.

"I said, have you come up with a way to strengthen the chorus?" Harry asks. He's twiddling his pencil in between his hands, his little leatherbound notebook in his lap. "The rendezvous line is really good, and the one about midnight driving, but what comes after that is a little clunky still."

"Wait," says Louis. He takes the notebook from Harry and looks down at it. "If you like midnight driving with the windows down. That sounds familiar, are you sure we didn't take that from something?"

"No," Harry says, but he looks cagey, so Louis wracks his brain.

"Harry Edward Styles," he says. "Is this from that one Taylor fucking Swift song?"

"Pretty sure Taylor's middle name is Alison, not fucking," says Harry, trying to grab the notebook back. "Anyway, since when do you know the intimate details of Taylor's songs? You've always refused to listen to most of them."

"It is," Louis crows, completely ignoring Harry's intimation. "You're totally thinking about Taylor fucking Swift during this song."

Harry presses his lips together for a long moment. "Not just Taylor," he says, finally, and Louis supposes he can give Harry that – so far, the song is doing a pretty great job at describing everything Harry tends to favour in relationships. He's certainly not good at making promises. He's certainly good at seeking out fun.

"Fair," Louis says, and they're awkwardly quiet for a long moment, where he picks his phone back up. Taylor hasn't replied yet, so Louis texts her again. Think me and Harry are writing a breakup song about you ???
Well . A breakup song about me too I guess.
But not you and me.
It might be more of an ode to doomed relationships

"Who on earth do you keep texting so much?" Harry asks. "Is everything okay with your family?"

"Yeah, fine," says Louis. He locks his phone again. "If we're going to make this song about Taylor fucking Swift you might as well be more blatant about it. Maybe in the bridge. Doesn't she have that one song about paps? About the lights flashing? Maybe, hmm." He hums a few bars, and then half-says, half-sings, "If you like cameras flashing every time we go out, and if you're looking for someone to write your breakup songs about... Maybe that?" He's fairly certain Taylor would find that line funny. From Louis, at least.

"We can't put that in one of our love songs," Harry says, voice scaling up with offense.

"You have a very interesting definition of love," says Louis. He doesn't even mean it cuttingly – he's been trying really hard not to let all his old resentment about Harry bubble up again, and working on this song together has gone miles towards helping with that – but Harry frowns deeply at that.

"Louis –" he say, voice trailing off.

"Harry," says Louis. "I didn't – mean it that way. It came out wrong."

"Are you sure?"

"I think so," says Louis. He's quiet for a long moment, and then he reaches over to pat Harry's knee. "Maybe we should take a little break?"

"Are you upset with me?" Harry asks. His lower lip is starting to jut out. The unkind part of Louis wants to say that fewer people would get upset with Harry if he let relationships run their course instead of ending them too soon, but he likes to think he's giving into his unkind side less often lately.

"No," says Louis, as reassuringly as he can. He pauses, then adds, "I just need to go for a wee, maybe get some water. Give you some time to remember that I am a lyrical genius and very wise and that the lyrics I just came up with are perfect for the bridge."

"Okay, okay," says Harry. He's not fully smiling again, but he's getting there, so Louis claps him on his back and goes to refresh himself.

When he gets back, Harry is frowning at a notification on the locked screen of Louis's phone. "Who on earth do you have in your contacts as Taylor fucking Swift princess emoji poop emoji?"

"Um, what," says Louis. He forces himself not to grab his phone from Harry.

"Whoever it is texted you 'Truly amazing' and then 'Typical, Tomlinson' and then a bunch of emojis," says Harry. "Did Liam change his number again? Is that who this is?"

"Not exactly," says Louis.

"Is it Zayn?" asks Harry. He's starting to sound upset again. "Is Zayn talking to you?"

Zayn isn't talking to Louis. From what Louis can tell, Zayn isn't talking to anyone except fucking Naughty Boy and Perrie. Louis can't be mad at Perrie, he likes her too much, but he can be mad at fucking Naughty Boy. "Why would I put Zayn in my phone as Taylor fucking Swift?"

"Because you were really mad at him? And you wanted to insult him?"

That does sound like something Louis would do, actually. "It's not Zayn," he tells Harry. "I'd tell you if he contacted me, Haz, I wouldn't keep that from you. Or anyone."

"Okay," says Harry. He takes a deep breath, deflates a little. "Okay, then. Who is Taylor fucking Swift?"

"Taylor fucking Swift," says Louis.

"Yes, I know that's what you have them in your contacts as, but who is it?" Harry says, starting to sound frustrated.

Louis levels a look at him. "Why are you doubting the obvious?"

Harry frowns, looks down at Louis's phone and then back up at Louis. "Because that's impossible," he says. "Taylor wouldn't be texting you."

"What's wrong with me?" Louis asks, affronted.

"Nothing!" Harry says. "But you've never made a secret of hating her and she prefers talking to people who like her."

"I did go to her party last week," Louis points out. "While you were being lame and flying back to LA with fucking Xander."

"I’m not dating Xander, you know," says Harry. "He's only ever just been a friend."

"Not actually jealous of Xander, Harry," Louis says. "Not actually jealous of anyone you date anymore." Not since Taylor and Nick, at least. Not since he figured out the trend. Now he mostly feels sorry for the people Harry dates, for the way Harry will suck them in with his charisma and charm and then bail before it gets serious enough for Harry to be hurt if they leave first.

Harry sighs and deflates, slightly. "Okay," he says. "I'm willing to accept the lines you suggested for the song if you explain to me exactly what's going on here."

"Taylor's giving me tips in writing breakup songs," Louis says, shrugging. "Since she's so good at them and all."

Harry freezes, then looks away from Louis and then looks directly back at him. "I'm such an awful friend," he says. "I haven't asked you how you're doing with Eleanor at all."

"You realise this isn't actually about you, right?" Louis asks, but he lets Harry reach out and tug him into a hug.

The hug feels like home, because it'll always fucking feel like home, even though now it's more like going back to his mum's after touring for a year than a home he lives in all the time.

"But seriously," Harry says. His voice is muffled – his face is buried in the crook of Louis's neck. "You're talking to my ex girlfriend?"

"You've got a long list of ex-lovers," Louis says. "We talk amongst ourselves about how you're insane."

"Fuck you," Harry says, but he's laughing now, and Louis feels lighter, somehow, than he has in a while. "Please tell me there's not going to be any overlap between me and Taylor's lists of ex-lovers."

"Fine," says Louis. "If I fuck her I'll marry her right after. No exes there."

"That is not what I meant," says Harry, as he slowly disentangles from the hug. "Do you really want to – you know?"

"Haven't thought about it," says Louis. "Wouldn't do that to you, anyway."

Harry sighs a little. "I mean," he says. "I do want you both to be happy. But it would be really weird for me if you got together? But I get that I don't get a say in this anymore, so I'd deal. But I'd want a heads up, I guess. Some time to get used to it."

Louis interprets that as Harry being rabidly and inappropriately jealous of both of them. "Well, thanks for your vote of support, I guess," he says. "But I think me and Taylor are far more likely to engage in textual intercourse, like, songwriting, than in sexual intercourse. But I'll keep you posted."

Harry takes a deep breath. "Okay," he says. "I can handle that."

Louis wiggles his eyebrows at Harry. "Good," he says. "Because I might never be the hand you put your heart in, Harry, or the arms that hold you any time you want, but that don't mean we can't live here in the moment."

"Okay, but I know I can't be the one you love from time to time anymore," Harry says. "But I guess if you like having secret little rendezvous..."

"Then we can finish this fucking song," Louis says, and he grins at Harry, who grins back.

It's okay. They're okay. They'll be okay. Louis takes his phone back from Harry and sneakily records a bit of Harry trying to sing through the chorus again, working out some of the kinks.

He sends the file individually to Liam, Niall, and Taylor.


Louis takes a deep drag on his cigarette and blows the smoke out slowly. You in New York or on a tour date ?

Taylor's answer comes a few minutes later. Home for the week for meetings, my next show is in Detroit

I'm on your island Louis texts her. I've worked more on the song. He does want her opinion on the song, but he's also had a great idea that he wants to pitch by her.

Are you angling for an invite, Tomlinson? Taylor sends, and she follows it up with her address. Come by in an hour, then.

Louis isn't a wine person but he feels like Taylor probably is, so he picks up a bottle of wine and six-pack of beer and takes it with him when he goes over.

Her flat is amazing, cosy and done up in warm colours and bright, soft lights. And as much as Louis isn't particularly a cat person, hers have very strong personalities that make him understand what exactly drove her to adopt them. They are very Taylor-like in the way that they imperiously lick their paws and strut around the place.

Taylor leads Louis past the cats, through the living room to the kitchen, which is warm and bright and smells sweet and delicious. "I'm making cookies," she says. "For my entire tour crew."

"You would," Louis says, and there's a time in the not-so-distant past when he knows there'd be a sullen edge to his words, but right now it seems fully appropriate that Taylor bake enough cookies for her entire fucking crew during her down time.

He can see what Harry saw in Taylor, is all. What everyone sees in her.

"I have enough mishaps that you can have a couple, I guess," she says. "If you wanted."

"Thanks ever so," Louis says. "Biscuit rejects. That's all I’m good for. I see how it is."

Taylor just laughs at him, which Louis thinks is pretty good evidence for how far they've come. "So what's that you have with you?" she asks.

"Wine and beer," Louis says, hoisting it onto the countertop of her island and sitting down on the nearest stool. "All the better to write breakup songs with."

Taylor purses her lips. "That's one way to write a breakup song," she agrees, and goes to her cabinet, which Louis can tell is stocked with all the best in appropriate glassware. "Lemme see what you've got."

"A lot of stuff about breakup sex," says Louis. "My transition from sex songs to breakup songs is slow and steady. But actually I was thinking, why don't we try to write a separate song together?"

"I don't generally write when I'm touring anymore," Taylor says, bringing the glasses over to the countertop and rummaging for a corkscrew. "But that's what you guys do all the time, isn't it?"

"It is," says Louis. "Anyway, it doesn't have to go on anyone's album. I just thought it might be interesting. Pool our strengths."

"Breakups and intense devotion," says Taylor. "You realise whatever we come up with together will sound like Harry wrote it."

Louis's jaw drops at that, and he stares at Taylor for a full minute while she starts opening the wine, a tiny, self-satisfied smirk hovering around her lips. "God damn it," he says, finally.

"What's that?" Taylor asks. She's not even bothering to try to hide how pleased she is, the minx.

"On the one hand," says Louis, "I should be well pissed at you for that, because I'm the only one allowed to make fun of Harry like that. But on the other hand –"

"I'm allowed for similar but different reasons," Taylor says. Her smirk starts to grow into a full-on grin. "I think I've surprised you, Tomlinson."

"This is horrible," Louis moans. "I won't ever be able to say I full on hate you anymore. I'm too proud of your awful comment."

Taylor laughs, pouring some wine into her glass and pushing the beer and a bottle opener over to Louis. "I'm not all that bad, Louis."

"No," Louis says, miserably. "You're worse. Why didn't anyone tell me?"

"There may be a reason that most people who like you also like me," Taylor says. "I know it's tough for you to admit, but..."

"Enough," Louis says. He uncaps his beer and takes a long pull from it. "I don't have to deal with this abuse."

In the time it takes them to get back on track, Taylor pulls a sheet of cookies out of the oven and puts another one in. She slides a couple of fresh-baked ones onto a plate and puts it in the middle of the island. They're delicious, is the thing, and Louis tells her around a mouthful of crumbs, tongue burnt on the molten chocolate chunks.

"Thanks," she says, pouring a second glass of wine. She hasn't lost that self-satisfied smile. "I have a few talents."

"I'll say," Louis says, and he clears his throat with another pull of beer. He drums his fingers on the countertop and then says, slyly, "So about that Harry tribute song we're writing..."

"I'll take it as a compliment that you're stealing my excellent joke," Taylor says. She comes around the side and pulls out a stool next to Louis's. "How do you want to do this?"

"I dunno," says Louis. "There's this line that's been stuck in my head from something, we could start with that?"

Taylor nods and takes out her phone. She opens the voice memo app and then pauses, finger hovering over the 'record' button. "I usually just record all my sessions," she says. "In case something good comes up and I want to go back to it. I don't connect this to the cloud, so it won't get hacked out to public."

"That's fine," says Louis. He clears his throat and pulls up his own notes app. Taylor hits record, and Louis hums, then half-sings, "So many nights I thought it over, wondering if I really liked her, but there was something missing when she smiled."

"Are we going for – forlorn? Dogged? Hopeful?" Taylor asks, reaching for Louis's phone. He passes it over; there's nothing else in that note but the words he already sang.

"We're going for whatever we come up with," Louis says, shrugging and cracking open a second beer. "Something like... I dunno." He starts snapping the fingers of his right hand, slapping his left against the countertop for a beat. "It's alright to have someone just for the night, we're all lost but we can find our way, we'll be alright, we won't ever feel alone if we can become each other's home."

"Interesting emotional variation," Taylor says, and Louis is about to frown and tell her that confusion is really the only constant, when he realises that she actually means it. "Still sounds like it's about sex, though."

Louis laughs. "That's where you come in," he says. "Dampen the sexy bits."

"Are you saying that I'm like, the anti-sex?" Taylor asks, raising her eyebrow. She swirls her wine in her glass, and takes another sip. "That's rude."

"Yeah, like, you know how Niall thinks about broken amps to get his boners down and Harry used to think about people frowning at him and scolding him until he realised that didn't work?"

"No, and you know far too much about what gets your bandmates going – or not – but go on," Taylor says. She looks impossibly amused. Louis wonders when she stopped taking him seriously.

"Anyway, I think of you," Louis says, grinning so that she knows he doesn't actually mean it. "Inconvenient stiffy? Think of Taylor fucking Swift."

"Thanks," Taylor says, dryly. "Glad to be of service."

"I guess I could add a line like, It's alright to have someone just for the night, listening to Taylor Swift and exploring our emotions to feel less alone instead of fucking each other and feeling like home," Louis says.

Taylor full-on swats at him. "You're such a dick," she says, laughing. "I should kick you out."

"I'd take the wine and cookies with me," Louis says. He hasn't drunk nearly enough to be drunk, but he's feeling light, happiness fizzing in his veins like beer. "Every single cookie."

"What would you do with them?" Taylor asks, still laughing.

"Give them to Niall and say they're courtesy of Selena," Louis says. He drains the rest of his bottle of beer in a few large gulps and scoots his chair closer to Taylor. "Oooh, maybe we can put in some stuff about his failed attempts to get with her again."

"Dunno that they're going to keep failing," Taylor says, glancing sideways at Louis. "But you didn't get that from me. She's having fun keeping him on his toes."

Louis scoffs. No one should play games with Niall. "You realise I'll still tell him."

"I can't be held accountable for you ruining their fun, I guess."

Louis frowns. "Why didn't anyone tell me that you were so clever?" he asks. "I've half a mind to lecture everyone."

"I have some texts on my phone that suggest people did try to tell you, and you didn't want to hear it," Taylor says.

The way that she always has a rejoinder for whatever Louis says – it does something to him. He likes it a lot. It's rare to find someone that's so precisely at his speed. Like, his band has grown to live at a Tomlinson conversational pace, but they weren't all there right from the beginning. It took time, and exposure, and here Taylor is, firing back immediately and giving as good as she gets. "Enough," he says, holding up his hands. "Back to the song."

"Right," she says. "Niall and Selena, then." She clears her throat, hums back the tune Louis had been kind-of going for, then half-sings, "You're so hot, I can't take it, want to wake up and see your face and remember how good it was, being with you last night."

"Swifty's got sex lyrics!" Louis crows. "I thought you were supposed to help me limit those."

"When in Rome," Taylor says, lips curling back into a smile. She glances around her kitchen, at the timer on the cookies. "Want to go into my mini-studio after this batch comes out? I do genuinely think there's something here."

"Yeah," Louis says, after a beat. "I'd like that."


Here's the thing: Louis is drunk, somehow.

Well, it's not like it's a surprise, actually. He'd finished off the six-pack of beer he brought, and Taylor'd finished off the wine, and then she mentioned something about a cocktail Ina Garten made a few weeks ago that tasted like summertime in a cup, and that she still had the ingredients for it. So he'd helped her mix liqueur and liquor and lemon and berries in a giant shaker and pour it into wine glasses half-full of champagne.

It was good, even though he's generally a beer or straight-up whisky or gin and tonic or vodka lemonade type of guy, and he's had a normal number of cups of it. Well, probably. He's lost count.

Taylor's matched him cup for cup, though, and they've moved from hashing out lyrics to her shoe closet, where she's trying on increasingly higher heels and laughing about how much taller she is than him.

"Could wear heels, too," he pouts, and Taylor laughs harder.

"You would never," she says. "Harry would. Harry did. Harry does. Not you."

"I could, though," Louis insists. "Here, lemme try yours."

"I doubt they'll fit," Taylor says, but she hands him a pair of strappy high-heeled sandals, and Louis tries to shove them on his feet. They mostly fit, and he wobbles around the closet a couple of times before collapsing onto a handy chair.

"See," he says. "I could so wear heels."

Taylor squeezes into the seat next to him. "Of course you can, Louis," she says, placatingly.

"Don't be condescending," Louis says, elbowing her.

"I'm not!" Taylor says. "You definitely were almost successful at wearing those heels! I'm impressed! You proved me wrong!"

"Definitely condescending," Louis says. He slips his arm around her waist so that they fit together on the seat better, and Taylor turns into his side a little.

"Are you going to kiss me?" she asks, after they've sat for a long, fraught moment. "Like, you don't have to, I just want to know so I can be prepared."

"You and Harry both," Louis mutters.

"What's that?"

"Harry told me to give him a heads up if I ever decide to kiss you so that he has time to be secretly and unfairly jealous and Harry-ish about it," Louis clarifies.

Taylor rolls her eyes. "He would say that."

"Well, it was implied at least."

"No," Taylor says. "I am legitimately completely unsurprised that he'd at least hint at that."

"That's what I like about you, Swift," Louis says. "You get things."

"Awwww," says Taylor. "You like me? Just a few weeks ago you hated me!"

"Yeah, well, as Harry wrote," Louis says, "My Stockholm syndrome is in your room."

"You know," Taylor says, after rolling her eyes at him even more extravagantly, "I've half a mind to kiss you and just not tell Harry at all. Not like – not to get back at him, but like. He doesn't get to own either of us."

Louis has a sneaking suspicion like that sentence was meant to have an 'anymore' tacked on at the end of it. "Could do," he just says. "Wouldn't mind."

"You realise this will be the most surreal moment in either of our tell-all autobiographies in twenty years," Taylor says, and she twists in the chair and cups one hand around the back of Louis's head. "Fame, fortune, all that's old hat. But kissing Louis Tomlinson."

Louis feels a smile growing on his face, almost against his will. "Kissing Taylor fucking Swift," he says. "Fucking bizarre."

"Only if we actually do it," Taylor says, but her eyes have dropped to Louis's lips, so Louis knows it's definitely going to happen.

He leans in and presses his lips, closemouthed, against Taylor's.

He doesn’t even feel guilty that he so recently promised Harry he'd give him a heads up if this unfathomable and unlikely event happened.

Taylor lets out a soft puff of breath through her nose, and she tilts her head, letting her lips part gently. It's clear she's kissed Harry, because Louis used to kiss Harry this same way, soft at first and then licking against the seam of Taylor's lips, not seeking to push his tongue further, but letting the slide of the tip of his tongue against her lips buzz electrifyingly through him. And she responds in kind, pressing closer and sucking his lower lip into her mouth, nibbling gently at it.

It's sexy as fuck. Making out with Taylor fucking Swift in her fucking shoe closet is sexy as fuck. Louis wonders, abstractly, if some kind of hallucinogenic drug went into the cocktails Taylor made.

Then he decides to stop worrying about it and go with what feels good – his hand on her knee, his fingertips tangled into her ponytail so that the elastic is coming out and her hair is starting to fall loose around her face. Her, dragging her mouth away from his lips and pressing plush kisses to his jawline and down to the sensitive spot just below his ear, where she worries the skin there between her teeth, just hard enough to drag a gasp from him.

Then her hand finds its way up his leg to his crotch, and she pulls back, laughing. "I’m really sorry," she says. "I know you were trying really hard to keep me categorised as someone who was an instant boner killer."

"Yeah," Louis says, glancing down to where her fingers have bumped into his half-hard cock. "I'm clearly really upset about this."

Taylor pulls back more fully. "Will you be, though?" she asks. "I mean, in the morning. If we... well."

Louis ponders the question seriously. "Don't think so," he says. "Don't see why I would."


"Harry's a grown man," Louis says. "Harry's our mutual ex-boyfriend. Do the same rules about sleeping with your boy's ex apply when your boy is also your ex, too?"

"I think it's more about, like, respect," Taylor says, frowning. Her hand is still in Louis's lap, and she's stroking her thumb gently against the in-seam of his jeans. It's distracting, is what it is.

"Does it bother you?"

"A little," she admits. She glances down, and then back up at Louis. "Not enough, though."

"Would you be able to live with yourself?" Louis asks. "Sleeping with Louis Tomlinson."

Taylor laughs at that. "You're not that bad," she says. "I'm not actually that bothered by you anymore. Stop giving yourself so much credit."

"I'll show you bothered," Louis growls – mostly for comedic effect – and he leans in and kisses Taylor again, licking deeper into her mouth, reaching around her waist and tugging until she's settled easily, more or less straddling his lap. He thinks maybe they shouldn't go all the way – it's generally a good idea to not go all the way for the first time with someone when you've both been drinking – but it's been ages since he's been with anyone in any capacity, and he doesn't think a little heavy petting would hurt anyone.


You left a hickey.

Louis grins at his phone. He's about to board his plane back to London, but he has a few more minutes before he has to switch to airplane mode. Pity, he sends, along with the laughing-crying emoji. Thought I'd left at least a couple.

I have to go on stage tonight!!!

Is this going to be a problem? he asks. I've heard concealer can work wonders.

Taylor sends him a emoji with the tongue sticking out and an angry face emoji.

I'm about to take off now, Louis sends her, fifteen minutes later. But I had fun the other night.

Me too, Taylor says. She follows that with a picture of her making airplane arms, dressed in one of her tour outfits. She's dead sexy in it, is the thing.

Louis may be a little bit in trouble.

See you soon? he texts her, cursing the way his stomach twists a little in anticipation of her response.

It comes seconds before he's meant to switch off cellular. When our schedules allow, she's said. It's accompanied by a winky face and some music notes.

He finishes writing an entire fucking song about breakup sex on the plane ride home.


Hey. Swift.

It's almost three am, Tomlinson, what's up.

Oops. He'd been so excited about the song – and jetlagged – that he even woke up before his alarm went off. Sorry, he texts. Time difference.

Yeah, I figured, she sends.

Finished a breakup song, he says.

She sends back a string of exclamation points. I'm so proud of you Louis!!!, she says, a few minutes later. How does it go?

Well, it's more an emo song about breakup sex, he says. But there's definitely a breakup in there.

His phone rings four minutes later.

"I'm getting the sense that emotional sex songs are the truest you," Taylor says, instead of hello. "Am I right about that?"

"Hello to you, too," says Louis, laughing. "I guess, though. However much I want to expand my repertoire, or whatever."

"Well, staying true to yourself is the main thing," says Taylor. "That's why my, er, breakup songs are so good. That's why your songs about dedication and relationships and sex are so catchy."

"I mean, I guess," says Louis. "But you know I wanted to, like, test myself."

"I know," says Taylor. "But you did convey a breakup in song, did you not?"

"When you put it that way," Louis says, rolling his eyes.

"I do put it that way," Taylor says. She's quiet for a moment, and Louis doesn't speak up immediately, so she adds, "Look, it's late and I have a lot of meetings tomorrow, so I really only called for one reason."

"Phone sex?"

Taylor laughs. "No, idiot," she says, fondly. "Sing me the song. I want to hear it."

"I haven't even played it for the lads yet," Louis protests – albeit weakly.

"You did want my expertise in this area," Taylor points out. "Are you going to refuse it now?"

"Guess not," Louis says. "Don't make fun, not all the parts are meant for my voice."

"The thing about being in a band is that you can do that with the songs you write," Taylor says. "I've also had things about my voice said."

"Whatever, you always sound great," Louis says. He's not even embarrassed to say it.

"You sound great on your parts, too," Taylor says. "I know that. Now sing."

"Bossy," Louis says, but he clears his throat and starts singing: "It's inevitable everything good comes to an end, it's impossible to know if after this we can still be friends, yeah."

Taylor is quiet the entire time, and when Louis finishes up, she clears her throat. "That's really good, Louis," she says. "I mean, it's definitely meant for a boyband and not a girl singer, but it's got you all over it. I like it a lot."

"Thanks, I think," Louis says. He's fairly certain Taylor can hear his smile in his voice.

"I have to sleep," Taylor says. "But I do really want to emphasize that it's really, really good. It's a really strong song."

"I'll play you a demo if we end up recording it," Louis promises.

"You will end up recording it." Taylor sounds totally assured of that fact. "I look forward to hearing it."

"Thanks," Louis says, and he's quiet for a long beat before he adds, "Night, then. Sleep well."

"Talk soon," Taylor responds.

Louis waits in bed until Liam texts him that the car is out front, at which point he shoves on some sweats and heads out the door.

"Morning," he says, slamming into the car.

"You look shockingly awake, Tommo," Liam says, looking Louis up and down.

"Yeah, well, got something to show you boys before rehearsals start," Louis says, grinning.

"A new song?"

"Yeah," says Louis. "Think it's a good one. I've had some good feedback already."

Liam narrows his eyes. "Louis Tomlinson," he says. "Who have you been playing songs for before me? Are you breaking up with me? Is our relationship over?"

"Don't worry, Payno," says Louis. "You're still my number one."

"It's Taylor, isn't it," Liam says, suspiciously. "I know you went to New York."

"I didn't go to New York City to see Taylor fucking Swift," Louis says, rolling his eyes. He can't stop himself from smiling, though. "That was just a coincidence."

"Jesus," Liam says. "Does Harry know?"

"He knows a little," Louis says, shrugging. "There's not really much to tell."

"Fine," Liam says, after a beat. "If you're sure."

"I'm sure that I've written a fucking banger of a breakup sex song," Louis says. "That's what I’m sure of."

"I can't wait to hear it, then," says Liam. He sounds stern still, but he's got a glint in his eye – the glint he always gets when he or Louis or he and Louis have written something new.

"Look, Liam," says Louis, sighing a little. "I'm not going to do anything to jeopardize what me and Harry have now. He and I have talked about Taylor, and me and Taylor have talked about Harry, and it's all good. Don't worry."

"I trust you," says Liam. "I do. Just be careful, yeah?"

"You know me," Louis says. "They call me Louis 'careful' Tomlinson."

"Yes, I have heard that about you," Liam says, rolling his eyes, so Louis chucks a handy kit-kat wrapper at his head.


The rest of the band fucking loves Love You Goodbye, too.


Busy? Taylor texts, a little over a week later.

They're setting up for the first Cardiff show, but Louis doesn't have anything he in particular needs to be doing for the next few hours. No, why ?

She calls him immediately. "So remember that song we were kinda working on that time we got drunk and hooked up?"

"I remember all components of that evening," says Louis. He pushes up from the table he's sitting out and grabs his pack of cigarettes, heads out toward the back of the stadium. "The writing and the drinking and the hooking up."

"Smooth answer, Tomlinson," Taylor says. "That wasn't actually a test."

"Never said it was," Louis says, cheerfully. "I just like remembering it. What's up, Taylor?"

"You – Right. Okay." Taylor pauses for a moment, then continues on. "I had some thoughts about the song. How do you feel about getting back together and working on it officially together?" She pauses again, laughs a little. It feels weird, really, almost self-conscious. "Troll our fans, so to speak."

"Um, absolutely," says Louis. He reaches the door to the outside and props it open with a handy rubbish bin, leaning against the exterior wall to light a cigarette. "You realise I brought it to you because I thought you could help make it better, right?"

"Didn't realise you had that much faith in my songwriting abilities," Taylor admits.

"It was never your abilities I didn't have faith in," Louis says. "I was always more concerned about you applying your brilliant abilities to content I didn't like. And now I want you to apply them to content I do like."

"Such a glowing compliment," Taylor says, but she sounds more assured of herself. "You guys start the tour up again soon, right? I'm in Europe from the sixteenth, but I don't have a show till the nineteenth."

"We have shows on both of those days," says Louis, taking a long drag. "But nothing in between. Was planning on being in London then."

"Okay," says Taylor. "The seventeenth, then? Do you have studio stuff at your place?"

"Yeah, me and Liam write at mine sometimes," says Louis. He registers that there's someone coming through the door behind him, but he doesn't look around, just waves a hand at whoever it is behind him instead. "I've got a pretty sweet setup."

"Okay," Taylor repeats. "This is exciting, Louis! I have so many ideas and I can't wait to hear yours."

Louis laughs through an exhalation of smoke. "Gonna give me any hints, Swift, or do I have to wait nearly two weeks to find out?"

"I reworked some of the wording you had," says Taylor. "And I've had some thoughts about instrumentation. But this is a collaboration and it's based on your idea; I want to run through everything with you. I can send you the guitar file I came up with for now?"

Taylor fucking Swift, Louis is beginning to realise, is a fucking force of nature. "You're a fucking force of nature, Taylor," he says.

"Thank you," says Taylor. She sounds well pleased with herself. "So. The seventeenth. Your place. Maybe this time we can try to tolerate each other without getting drunk."

"Think I've found a way to tolerate you," says Louis. "With or without being drunk."

Taylor laughs. "If the whole musician thing doesn't work out, I'll put that on my résumé," she says. "'Louis Tomlinson of One Direction found a way to tolerate me in 2015.'"

"You can even cite me as a reference," says Louis. "If you need to."

"I hope I don't have to go that far," says Taylor, and there's a long, pleasant pause. "Talk soon?"

"You have my number," says Louis.

"And you have mine," Taylor says. "Okay. Guess I better go, I'm playing Pittsburgh tomorrow."

"Think you'll have adequate time to prepare?" Louis asks. "We're playing Cardiff in just a few hours."

"Oh, fuck you," Taylor says, but she's laughing again, which makes this tiny nugget of pride well up in Louis's chest.

"Maybe on the seventeenth," he says, carefully, and she doesn't correct him.

When he ends the call, he finally turns around.

Harry is lounging against the doorjamb. "So," he says. "You and Taylor."

Louis doesn’t bother saying that it isn't what it looks like, because it probably is. "Are writing a song together, yes."

"Sounds like you like her."

"Well, so many people I love and trust seem to do," Louis says, looking Harry directly in the eye and refusing to drop eye contact. "Guess I’m finally seeing what they do."

Harry nods. "Remember when I said I'd like a heads up if you two become a thing?"

"I remember," says Louis. He pauses, then goes for broke. "I kissed her. A week ago."

Harry makes an abortive move forward, almost like he's going to reach out, almost like he's going to try to kiss Louis to see if he still tastes like Taylor. He restrains himself, though, and hugs his arms across his stomach. "You didn't say anything."

"Wanted to sort through me thoughts first," says Louis. "I'm sorry I didn't tell you."

"It's okay," says Harry, mulishly. "I don't own either of you. I don't get a say in what either of you do."

It's true, is the thing. Harry's left both of them and he's made it clear that they're perfectly capable of going off and doing whoever with whatever. But they're all friends, now, probably. Louis and Harry have certainly come a long way in three and a half years. "We both still feel weird about the whole you-thing, though," he tells Harry, carefully. "Neither of us wanted to hurt you by doing that." He rolls his eyes, mostly at himself. "I didn't mean to like her."

He's surprised when Harry starts laughing helplessly at that. "Oh, I know," he says. "If someone told you at any point up until very recently you'd ever like Taylor Swift I'm pretty sure you would have put a hit out on them."

"You're not wrong," Louis says. He allows himself to smile, too. "She creeps up on you, a little."

"She does, that," Harry agrees. He sighs and pushes his hands into his pockets. "This is weird for me."

"It's weird for everyone, you're not that special," Louis says, but he betrays his words by throwing his half-smoked cigarette on the ground and pulling Harry in for a tight hug. He holds Harry until Harry relaxes against him, head drooping over Louis's neck, arms lax at Louis's sides. "Love you, Haz."

"Love you too, Lou," says Harry. He pulls back with an impish smile. "So you're writing together when we're on a quick break in London?"

"That's right."

"Could come over and make you two dinner," says Harry. "See where the night takes us."

"Don't push your luck," Louis says, slapping Harry on the arm and then hugging him around his shoulders. "Harry, I might sleep with her."

"See, there's a method to my madness," Harry says, sliding an arm around Louis's waist and dragging him inside. "I break things off with people and then they find each other. It's like I'm a matchmaker!"

"A really fucked up matchmaker," says Louis. He stops just inside the door and waits for Harry to come to a stop too. "Are you sure you're going to be okay with this?"

"I can be," Harry promises. "I will be."

"I won't do anything if you're not."

Harry sighs, running his free hand through his hair. "Best friend and ex-boyfriend Louis Tomlinson, please sleep with my ex-girlfriend if you both really like each other, because even though I'd kind of like it if people I've dated didn't get with each other, I don't want to stop potential happiness or people connecting. Especially in this industry."

"I'm taking your words at face value, you know," Louis says, finally.

"Good," says Harry, and he hugs Louis once more before he ambles off.


Taylor comes in with a box full of her cookies – "For you and your band, sorry I didn't make enough for your crew as well" – and a bag full of snacks.

"My kind of girl," Louis says, and he takes the bag and carries it through to his basement studio.

"So this song," Taylor says, once they're all set up with bags of crisps and bottled smoothies strewn around them on the couch in his studio. "I think we've been coming at it the wrong way."

"How's that?" Louis asks. He's focused on the conversation, but he's also focused on the way that she's wearing comfy clothes today – an oversize shirt and shorts – and the neckline of her shirt is slipping down over her shoulder just enough that he can see her bra strap.

"I mean," Taylor says, "We've got the caricature of you, me, and Harry writing all down, but I think there's something really special underneath it. Something about, oh, dissatisfaction with your current life, or relationship, or state of being, or whatever, you know? But finding someone else who feels that way and how, together, you can settle each other."

Louis looks at Taylor shrewdly. "I thought you were preaching friends and careers over relationships for the past few years," he says. He doesn't think he's off base.

"I've been preaching learning to live happily by yourself and focusing on friends and my career until something that excites me as much as it comes along," Taylor nods. "But I don't think it's as easy to disentangle all the little pieces here, do you?"

"Taylor fucking Swift, are we friends?" Louis asks, shifting in his chair so that his legs are drawn up underneath him.

"God help me, I think we are," Taylor says, grinning at him. "At least that's better than saying you're my career."

"I would be a damn good career," says Louis. He can't stop looking at her, the way she has a tiny smear of lipstick on her front tooth, the way her hair is up in a ponytail and the way her bra strap is dark purple. "Are you – um. I didn't think you were dissatisfied with your life."

"I wasn't," says Taylor. "I mean, I wasn't really. Not as much as you were, at least." She shrugs. "Sometimes you realise that you're a lot more happy and settled even though you weren't really dissatisfied before."

"You settle me, too," Louis says, seriously. "You know that, right?"

"I've gotten that impression, yeah," Taylor says. She's smiling so, so wide at Louis, and he can't help but smile back.

"If I kiss you," Louis says, "Will you write a breakup song about when we come up for air?"

"Obviously," Taylor says, rolling her eyes, so Louis swoops forward and kisses her. Her mouth is slick with her lipstick, and he can feel it rub off on his lips as he deepens the kiss, slowly and surely, until she sighs and tugs until he slides over onto her lap.

"I could totally be taller than you," he tells her, punctuating his words with a flurry of little kisses at the corner of her mouth. "If I wore your heels again."

"Keep telling yourself that, Tomlinson," she says, sliding her hand under his shirt, onto the small of his back.

After that, they stop talking for a while. Taylor is wicked and clever in the way she kisses, sucking Louis's lower lip into her mouth, teasing it with her teeth, scratching at his back and his scalp with the tips of her nails. She's as good with her mouth at kissing as she is at coming up with the perfect phrasing in songs, and Louis isn't surprised but he is pleased.

"Um," he says, after they've been full-on making out for ages. There's a string of spit connecting their mouths even as he talks, and he's definitely cupping one of her breasts in one hand, rubbing little circles over the nipple with his thumb. "Harry says he'll eventually be okay with it if we, you know, fuck."

"That's good to know," Taylor says. Her lipstick is all over her face. It's absolutely lovely – hot and hilarious at the same time. She's grinning wickedly underneath it all. "For if we ever eventually fuck."

"Touché," says Louis, laughing. He pauses, then: "I could eat you out, though. If you wanted."

Taylor laughs. "So polite," she says, and then: "I'd like that."

So he leans forward until she tips back against the couch and he's lying flat on top of her. He squirms down her body and nudges her shirt up with his nose, pressing wet, biting kisses into the flesh of her stomach right under her belly button. Rising up on his knees somewhat, he undoes the belt buckle and button and zip on her shorts, and works them and her very practical and cute underwear down her hips.

"This is my favourite thing to do," he tells her, and runs a thumb down her folds, separating them and getting a good look at the way that moisture is starting to collect in the dusky pink there. She smells amazing, heady and musky, and he drags his thumb back up to her clit and rubs it a few times, until she gasps and shifts her hips up.

"Convenient," she tells him, lips curving up into his favourite little grin of hers. "It's mine, too."

"Good," Louis says, grinning back, and then he dives in for his first taste.

Taylor tastes even better than she smells, and she makes the best mewling little noises as he licks up and swirls his tongue around her clit, alternating between wide licks and flicking it firmly with the tip of his tongue. He drags his thumb down, parting her folds again, and pushes it carefully into her entrance so he can feel her, warm and wet and close around him. He drags some of her damp out and licks it up, pushing his tongue in along with his thumb, savouring her taste.

"God," he mumbles, humming against her clit, and she gasps, pushing her hips up so that she's pressed harder against his face. He's so, so hard already, and that just makes him feel even harder, and he rolls his hips so that his dick slides and pushes against the couch cushion.

The pressure feels great, but there's more pressing concerns. Namely: she's wet and gasping in front of him, and he can't get enough. He grips her side with one hand, fingers digging into the meat of her hips and her bum, and pulls up until she lets her legs fall wider apart and he can push even closer, close enough that his nose is buried in the little tidy triangle of soft, damp curls and his tongue is flat and hard against her clit and he can barely breathe. He moves his other hand, pulling his thumb out from inside her and replacing it with two fingers, twisting and thrusting them into her, but gently, just to add some friction as he grazes her clit with the gentlest of teeth.

And then she's crying out and there's a flood of moisture around his fingers. Reluctantly, he pulls back and licks her, his tongue soft and loose now, a few more times, lapping up as much of the gush of wet from her come as he can before she pushes his face away.

"You do really like that," she says, a few long moments later, tugging at his damp chin until he crawls back up her body and kisses her, deep and thorough.

"It really is my favourite thing to do," he agrees. Her mouth is warm and sweet after the heat and musk of her cunt, and he's obsessed with the juxtaposition of the two. He's also hard as a rail in his joggers, but that seems secondary to losing himself in her mouth. He reaches down to adjust himself, hissing at the feeling of his damp hand against the side of his cock.

Taylor smirks. "Guess I could return the favour, a little," she says, and she reaches down between them and knocks Louis's hand away.

The fist she makes around his cock is looser than he likes, almost slapdash, but she drags her hand through her own slick first and then jerks him, fast and sloppy and damp, and it feels so bloody good and he's so bloody close already that he doesn't even mind. He bites into the flesh of her collarbone, licking over the mark when she hisses and then biting again as she strokes him, fast and loose and sure, until he spills over her hand with a grunt.

"That was fun," he says, finally, watching as she pulls her hand free from his joggers and wipes his spunk off on the front of them. "You dickhead."

"You still like me," Taylor says, confident, grinning at him, and god help him, he does. She clears her throat after a moment and sits up, dislodging Louis as she does so. He has to scramble to sit up straight instead of tumbling over her lap, but he comes out all right in the end. "I really did come here to work on that song."

"I really did invite you over to work on the song and hook up," Louis tells her, grinning impishly.

She smiles back, so he counts that as a win. "Guess I could go over my lyric suggestions," she says. She stands up and stretches, cracking her back, and then hikes her shorts back up and does up the button. "Can I borrow your guitar?"

"Go for it," Louis says, gesturing, so she gets it off the wall and comes back to the couch.

"Okay," she says. "I was thinking about the lyrics you laid out and started playing with them, and. Well. This is what I was thinking for the hook." And she starts strumming and humming, then breaks into song. "I was stumbling, looking in the dark with an empty heart. But you say you feel the same, could we ever be enough? Baby we could be enough." She keeps singing through the chorus that he remembers laying out the last time they were working on the song together, about finding your way together and becoming less alone.

"Hang on," Louis says, and when she stops playing and looks at him, he shakes his head. "No, keep playing, I've had a thought. Or, wait, start over from the top of the chorus" And he picks up from the lyrics she added, changes the words around a bit. "And it's alright, calling out for someone to hold tonight. When you're lost, I'll find the way, I'll be your light." He grins at her, still singing: "You'll never feel like you're alone. I'll make this feel like home."

"Louis," Taylor says, putting her hand over the guitar strings to stop the reverberating sound. "That's great. I think we're really getting at something here."

"Me, too," Louis says. He gets up and wakes up his computer, grabs the microphone hookup and hits record. "Want to try to work it through from the top?"

"I do," she says. When he sits back down on the couch, she slings her long, long legs over his lap. He rests a hand just below the knee of her left leg and slips the other one around her shoulders, careful to avoid the guitar as she starts picking through chords from the beginning.

It's cosy, this. Louis isn't the greatest at writing songs with just about anyone, which is why he tends to go off with Liam and Julian and them if he's working with anyone else at all, but he and Taylor are vibing in a way that's rare for him, trading lines and stopping and going back to rework old ones so that they all fit together in a more cohesive way.

At the risk of sounding completely fucking trite, writing this song with Taylor does feel kind of like he's come to a home he didn't even know he had.

She ends up staying the entire night. Louis'd had plans to go out with some of the lads later, but he texts them that he's having an early night in. They stay up till three am, and by the time they tumble into bed, kissing all the way, they have a complete, perfect song done and dusted.


It doesn't go on the album, ultimately, but they do release it as part of an EP. Poetically, the EP also includes the single that Louis and Harry wrote mostly-about Taylor, too.

Louis saved screenshots of the conversation he and Taylor had about that: You know that song we wrote about us that you said we could have because it's more boybandy than Taylor fucking Swifty, he had said.

Obviously, she said. Are you boys using it?

It's going on the Taylor fucking Swift EP

Taylor'd then send a laughing-crying emoji, followed by one with wide eyes and a tiny, surprised mouth. Wait are you serious

Well it's going on an EP with the song me and Harry wrote that I told you about

Amazing, she'd sent, and then, Btw are you ever going to call me by my full name without adding 'fucking' in there?

I prefer adding fucking to you whenever I can, he'd sent, and she'd followed that up with a video of herself rolling her eyes at him.

Louis really, really likes Taylor fucking Swift. Eleanor had laughed and laughed when he called her to give her a courtesy heads up about the EP. Louis guesses he'd deserved that.

The kicker, though, comes when Taylor flies in during their Newcastle shows during a break in her own tour, a few days after they drop the song.

They haven't had that much overlap in their tour schedules, after the short break between wrapping up the Europe legs of their tours and going back to America. He visited Taylor the night before her first Santa Clara show, and before her first St Paul show, and she stopped by between two shows on their Canada leg, but for the most part, she hasn't hung out with his band since they started doing whatever it is their doing. Which, they haven't even talked about what, precisely, their relationship is beyond the fact that they like each other and like having sex with each other and like writing together, so that's also kind of weird, but Louis appreciates the lack of pressure to define what's going on.

So to be honest, it's kind of a weird visit from the start.

But Taylor is there, hanging out with all of them backstage, engaged in serious conversation with Niall about Selena with her hand tucked into Louis's back pocket while he talks through some album release surprise plans with Liam and Harry. They're not acknowledging the fact that at least three of the people stood there have slept with each other at different points, and while Harry keeps glancing at the way Louis leans into Taylor, he doesn't seem displeased by it, so that's progress.

And then Louis's phone buzzes in his pocket. Expecting a message from one of his sisters about finding their seats, he takes it out – and nearly drops it to the floor.

wtf bro, the message says. It's followed up with:
Didn't think me leaving the band would drive you to write a song with Taylor fucking Swift
What happened?

Zayn's changed his number, because the message doesn't come in under any of the contact information Louis has for him.

Louis guesses that it's mostly surprising that Zayn still has his number.

"All right, Tommo?" Liam asks, suddenly, frowning with concern.

"Um, yeah," Louis says. He clears his throat. "Lads, has anyone here spoken with Zayn recently?"

"No," Harry says, frowning, and Niall shakes his head emphatically, but Liam nods.

"I called him for the first time last week when I was feeling bad about being sick," he says. "To see if I was still angry with him. Which I guess I'm not, as much. But we only chatted for five minutes." He pauses. "Was that text from Zayn?"

Taylor twists to look over Louis's shoulder at the message as Louis nods. "He's a bit shocked by Home, it seems," he says. Taylor squeezes him reassuringly, but because her hand is still in his back pocket, it mostly feels like she's groping his bum.

He doesn't actually mind that, though.

"Figures," Harry says, rolling his eyes, as Louis tries to think of a response.

Finally, he types out You did leave and sends it. Then he types, If I'd know all I needed to do to hear from you that you're still alive or whatever was fuck Taylor Swift I would have gone public with it SO much earlier and shows it to Taylor.

She wrinkles her nose, but she nods, so he hits send on that, too.

wtf bro

"Does he know you're not bros anymore?" Taylor asks, interestedly, when he shows the rest of them the message.

"Dunno," he says, and then he tries a smile. "At least he doesn’t like you better than me, I guess."

"At least he still seems like he kind of likes you," Taylor says, carefully, and Louis nods. He takes a deep breath and lets it go. He's still so mad and confused about Zayn, but there are other things that have become more important to him, lately. Enough that he's managed to ignore the ragged edges inside of him, at least a little bit. He's not ready to think about what it means that Zayn has texted him, or that he seems at least a little interested in Louis's life – if confusion can be seen as interest – or that Zayn talking to just him and Liam so far may make things complicated again in the band, for a little while. Especially since all of them are still so upset about it all. Especially since Harry and Niall in particular are still so hurt.

He takes another deep breath, and lets Taylor pull him into a comforting kiss.


It isn't until much later that night, when he and Taylor are curled around each other, sweaty and naked and sticking together a little bit, that Taylor bites his nipple in a friendly way and smiles up at him. "I know today was complicated," she says. "In more ways than one."

"You can say that again," Louis says. He's boneless now, and his concerns feel a little farther away, but he still sighs and closes his eyes.

"I know today was complicated in more ways than one," she repeats, grinning wicked and wide. "But I couldn't help but notice that you called me just Taylor Swift, no fucking about it, for the first time"

Louis had noticed that, too. "Is that so," he says, carding a hand through her sweaty hair.

"It is so," she says. "Does this mean that you like and respect me?"

"Taylor," Louis says, laughing. He tugs her up for a kiss. "You already know the answer to that."

"I know," Taylor says. "You did write an entire song with me." She pauses, running a hand over and over the skin of his chest, tucking her head into the crook of his neck. "Does you calling me plain old Taylor Swift mean you're gonna write a sex song about five minutes ago?"

"Maybe," Louis says. "But only if you write a breakup song about how you feel when you have to go back to your tour."

Taylor is still laughing when Louis pulls her in for another kiss.