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Harry is barely out of his last exam when something blond and shouting plows into his side and tackles him to the ground. It's not the first time it's happened, so his bag is thankfully zipped and his things don't spill out everywhere, but it still knocks the wind out of him and he lies on his back in the grass, gasping fish-like for air.

"Harry!" Niall says, unnecessarily loud. He's straddling Harry's legs and grinning down at him hugely. Harry blinks at him.

"Hi Niall."

"Sorry Haz." Harry turns his head to see Liam and Zayn walking toward them, hands linked casually between them. Niall gets off him and helps him up, and Harry stands up and dusts grass off his clothes. Liam's smiling ruefully. "He took off before we could stop him."

"To be fair, you should've seen it coming," Zayn offers with a smirk. Harry offers him two fingers right back but he's grinning and he slings a companionable arm across Niall's shoulders.

"We're done!" Niall yells, wrapping Harry up in a tight hug. "First year of uni done, lads! Let's celebrate!"

"I've been in a library for three days. All I'm doing is sleeping."

"Sleep when you're dead," Niall says.

"That might be soon," says Harry.

Niall looks at him blankly.

Harry tilts his head at him. "If I don't get some sleep."

Niall sticks his tongue out at him and Harry catches it between his index finger and thumb and pinches until Niall makes a choking noise and bats him away. Liam is too polite to point and laugh, but Zayn isn't, and he does just that as Niall pets at his tongue like that'll make it stop hurting and glares balefully at Harry.

"We should celebrate," Liam says, trying and failing to hide a smile. "Go out tonight or something? You can have a nap, first."

"I'm in," Harry agrees. "S'long as I get to sleep first. Where should we go?"

"Li and I've been wanting to check out this place called Ruby's Welcome. 'S a club."

"Never heard of it."

"I have," Niall says. "Supposed to be good. Hear the drinks are rubbish, though. Dancing's supposed to be fun. And the girls."

"That's why Liam and I wanna go," Zayn adds, rolling his eyes. "The girls."

"It's true." Liam nods seriously and squeezes Zayn's hand, lifts it to his mouth and kisses it like Zayn's a princess. Harry makes gagging noises and Niall laughs and Zayn makes like he's going to pull away with a disgusted sound in his throat but he's got a small, soft smile on his face and he's blushing. Liam and Zayn have been together for years. They're absolutely foul with how sweet they are together. Harry can't imagine either of them with anyone but each other, let alone girls.

"All right, you two are sickening. I'm going home. Niall?"

"Yup?"

Harry waves an imperious hand toward the car park. They'd splurged on paying to park for their last day of term. "Take me home."

All it does is make Niall jump onto his back and refuse to get down, so Harry ends up carrying him to his car, Zayn and Liam on either side, Harry's school bag clutched in Liam's hand.

 

 

The girl he's with is gorgeous, curvy and blonde and she smells nice and has something shiny and sparkly in her hair. She's nearly as tall as he is with a pair of truly fantastic legs. He's got his arms around her, teasing his fingers over the skin of her back where her dress bares a big tear-drop of skin just above the waist. She's got one of her hands on his chest and the other arm around his neck and they're kissing lazily, swaying together under the pound of dim light and throbbing bass and God-awful music. Harry's sweaty from dancing, his hair damp at the nape of his neck and her fingers are smooth out the curls.

"You're really very good at this," she says, breathing heavy. She has pretty brown eyes and she tastes like the bubble gum she was chewing earlier. Her name is Ella and she was quiet and shy at first but she's bold with her body and unapologetic with her mouth and Harry likes that. Over her head he can see Niall with Ella's friend, and Liam and Zayn are dancing together, all wound together like usual, Zayn's lips moving around words Harry can't read and Liam's head tilted back as he laughs.

"Only as good as you make me, love," Harry tells her, and she laughs, smacks a hand against his chest lightly.

"That was a horrible line."

He grins, kisses her again. She's lovely and fun and it's the perfect first night of the summer holiday. He licks his way into her mouth and she makes a quiet sound in her throat and squeezes the back of his neck, leans in closer so her breasts are squished into his chest.

"Ella!" her friend says all of the sudden, shouting to be heard over the music. Harry reluctantly breaks the kiss to let her turn around, but she stays pressed close to him, her arse right against his groin as she leans down to hear more easily. Niall is there too, still attached to Ella's friend, wearing a pleased, mellow grin. His face is sheened in sweat and his hair is a mess like the girl's been running her hand through it. Harry offers him a wan smile and Niall winks theatrically.

"He's here again!" Ella's friend—Brittany or Bethany or something—shouts, and points at someone over Harry's shoulder. Harry turns around when Ella does and follows Brittany-or-Bethany's finger to a boy by the bar, and every single checkbox in Harry's mental list of everything good in a body is marked on sight.

He's not really a boy, probably at least Harry's age, but he's at least a head shorter and small, like Harry could wrap around him and hide him from everyone else's view. He's wearing tight, bright blue trousers and a white t-shirt with braces that've fallen down off his shoulders. He has a mess of dark, wind-blown looking hair and bright, piercing blue eyes and a crooked, sun-bright smile. As they watch he turns to face away, yelling to someone over the crowd, and Harry zeroes in on his perfect, perfect arse and feels his blood throb in his veins.

Ella must see the look on his face, because Harry's ever been an open book, and he can feel the smirk in her voice when she whispers in his ear. "He's prettier than every girl in here, isn't he?" He opens his mouth to answer but doesn't know what to say, can't answer honestly when she's on his arm, but she just laughs and pats his cheek. "It's all right. I already know he is. This is your first time here, yeah? He's a bit famous. His name's Louis."

Louis, Harry thinks. "Louis," he says aloud.

"Mm-hm," she sing-songs. Harry's just about to turn back to her when the boy—Louis—when he turns around. It's a coincidence, the crowd having parted a bit around Harry as someone pushed through to get to the bar, and Louis's blue eyes settle on Harry and Harry doesn't look away. He's not self-conscious, and Louis is beautiful to look at, especially when he smiles like that, one elegant eyebrow quirking. When the crowd closes in again Harry looks back to Ella. Liam and Zayn have wandered off, and Niall is laughing with Brittany-or-Bethany a few feet away.

"What's he famous for?" Harry asks her curiously, pulling her back in, their hips swaying together again.

"The company he keeps," she says vaguely. "Or, rather, the company that keeps him."

"Pardon?"

Ella laughs, a sweet, tinkling sound. "Well, the rumor is that he has a bit of a thing for wealthy older men."

Huh. Harry looks back through the crowd toward the bar, but Louis isn't there anymore and he shrugs, turns back to Ella and smiles at her, leans in and kisses her again.

The club is crowded and the beat heady and sexy. The DJ is very good and Harry's pleasantly buzzed and has a beautiful girl on his arm, against his chest, grinding back into him with her hair brushing his neck and the underside of his chin, her curvy hips in his hands.

He catches sight of Louis a few more times, see him jumping around with his friends, and dancing up on the bar with one of the bartenders a little later. His voice is everywhere, loud and forceful and everyone seems to know him. Harry pays only hazy attention until later, when a guy at least in his early thirties leads Louis past he and Ella on the dance floor. Louis's all lit up in strobe lights, his smile a flash of white teeth and his eyes on Harry. The guy pulls Louis in close, whispers something in his ear that makes Louis laugh and Harry wets his lips, closes his eyes, wonders what it would feel like to be the other guy. When he looks again Louis's dancing, lost in the music and for a second their eyes meet again.

Harry feels himself flush, tightens his arms around Ella and opens his mouth when she kisses him. She smells amazing, whatever perfume she's wearing and clean sweat and her shampoo. He cups the side of her neck and nudges his nose against her cheek, his mouth at her ear. "You want to go back to mine?" he asks her.

She pulls back and grins at him. "Thought you'd never ask. Just let me tell Brit and pop into the ladies room, hm?"

"Sure. I'm gonna go out back, have a fag. Meet you at the entrance?"

She nods, kisses his cheek and slips through the mass of dancing bodies and out of sight. Harry heads the other way. Zayn and Liam aren't far off the dance floor, in a little alcove by the side wall. Zayn has a drink, but Liam's hands are free and Harry gets a running start before launching himself onto Liam's unsuspecting back.

"What the—Harry!" And only Liam can sound so disapproving and fond at the same time. He gets his arms under Harry's legs to make sure he doesn't fall off. Harry smacks a loud kiss to the side of Liam's head before he lets his feet drop back to the floor. Liam cuts a look at Zayn. "You saw him coming."

Zayn shrugs lethargically. "Wouldn't have stopped him if you'd known."

"S'true," Harry says. "I'm leaving with Ella. You two let Niall know as well?"

"Sure," Liam says warmly, while Zayn smirks and calls Harry a slut, ruffling his hair.

"You're parked the other way, mate."

"Going out back," Harry tells them. "Fancy a fag?"

Liam doesn't smoke, and Zayn shakes his head, so Harry shrugs, hugs them both and makes his way out the back door.

The sudden lack of noise is startling, makes his ears ring. He shoves his fingers back through his hair, ignores it when it all falls right back into place. He digs his cigarettes out of his pocket and lights one up as he walks further away from the door. His eyes are on the sky, though it's not like he can see stars or anything, but the clouds are hanging over the moon and it's kind of pretty.

"Hey," a voice says next to him and he jumps, turning swiftly and coming face to face with Louis. He's even smaller up close in comparison to Harry, slight shoulders and a narrow waist. His hair is a wreck, and he's smiling wide and so sweet. "Scare you?"

A laugh is surprised out of Harry, and he takes a quick drag on his fag, lets the smoke curl out of his mouth before he answers. "Maybe a bit."

"I'm Louis," Louis says, unprompted. He rolls up onto the balls of his feet and reaches for Harry. Harry's not sure what he's doing, tries not to move when Louis's hand digs into the pocket of his trousers, hand warm through denim, and pulls Harry's cigarettes out. "Bum a smoke?"

"Sure."

"Cheers." Louis's already got one in his mouth, the butt pushing prettily against his bottom lip. He leans in closer than necessary for Harry to light it, his breath hot on Harry's neck. Harry wants to put his hands on Louis's hips, wants to slide his hand down his back and grip Louis's bum and squeeze. "So who're you then?"

"Ah, " Harry replies, somewhat caught off guard by the question. He'd forgot for a moment that he's talking to someone he doesn't actually know. "Harry.".

"Ah, Harry," Louis repeats, amused smile pulling at his lips. He's beautiful. "Had enough of the party?"

"No," Harry says. He can never have enough of the party, really. He thrives off that sort of scene, all those people and all those bodies, the endorphins and the sweat and the sex. "What about you?"

Louis tilts his head, exhales into the wind. He's cold, goose bumps on his skin and little shivers running through him, an arm wrapped around his middle. Harry's feeling overly warm himself, so he shrugs out of his jumper and drapes it over Louis's shoulders. He's immediately glad he thought to, because the smile Louis gives him makes his knees weak.

"Such a gentleman," Louis teases, but he shifts his fag from hand to hand so he can pull it over his head and get his arms in the sleeves. It's huge on him, the sleeves too long and the neckline nearly falling off his shoulder and Harry has no idea why he finds it so attractive but he does.

"I try to be," Harry says honestly. He doesn't really feel like smoking anymore, drops his fag to the ground and toes it out. Louis raises an eyebrow but doesn't comment. "You never answered my question."

"Right," Louis says, smiling again. "I think I'm about sick of the party. Drinks are shit."

"We could go back to mine." Harry has no idea what makes him say it, but he's glad for once that his mouth moves without permission from his brain. Louis looks a little shocked at the invitation and Harry likes to him taken by surprise like that. "I'm very good at mixing drinks. Good drinks, even."

"Yeah?" Louis asks.

"Yeah," Harry shrugs and thumbs at his nose like he tough, no big deal, looks at Louis through his eyelashes. The wind is blowing and Louis's hair isn't moving an inch. "'ve got a degree in it. Bartending. Drink mixing."

Louis laughs around his fag, coughs lightly. "I bet it's a doctorate," he says. "I bet you're a doctor of bartending and drink mixing. Dr. Harry…"

"Styles."

"Dr. Harry Styles. Ph.D."

"M.D.," Harry correct.

"Oh right, of course," Louis says knowledgably. "Because fine alcohol is a medical necessity."

"Ten CCs of vodka, stat."

And Louis is grinning, dropping his unfinished fag on the ground too. He swaggers a little bit closer, until there's nearly no space between them.

"How old are you, Harry Styles?"

"Nineteen," Harry answers, thinking about what Ella told him inside, but Louis doesn't look disappointed.

"Nineteen and already a doctor. Impressive."

"I'm very advanced. How old are you?"

"Twenty-one."

"You don't look it."

Louis snorts. "I know." He pushes his fingers back through his hair and looks up at Harry through his eyelashes. He's lovely, all of him, wrapped in Harry's jumper. "I'm going to kiss you now."

Harry wets his lips nervously, nods. "Okay."

And Louis does, puts both hands on Harry's cheeks and slants their mouths together. It's slow and sweet and exploratory, like Louis is testing him, and Harry is nothing if not good at tests. He grips Louis by the hips and pulls him in until they're a long line pressed together belly to knees. He licks across the seam of Louis's mouth, presses his tongue in when Louis parts his lips and Louis inhales sharply, threads his fingers into Harry's hair and tilts his head so the angle is better. He tastes like alcohol and sugar and heat and even though Louis is pressing him back into the wall, is sliding his thigh between Harry's knees and sucking on Harry's tongue like he can't get enough of it, there's something naturally submissive about him. Harry guides him through touch, his big hand on Louis's slender back, his fingers tugging at Louis's hair until Louis tilts his head back and Harry laps one last time at the roof of Louis's mouth, retracts his tongue but just so he can sink his teeth into Louis's bottom lip until Louis moans for him.

When Louis pulls his head back, it's not by much, and he's looking up at Harry with a heavy-lidded, pleased gaze. He trails his fingers over the shells of Harry's ears and Harry's mouth feels bruised and raw. He palms over Louis's stomach, back around to his hip. He's breathing heavy.

"You're leaving with someone else tonight."

Ella. Of course, Harry'd forgotten. He looks back around at the door. She's probably waiting on him, wondering if he ditched her and he feels guilty. "Right."

"I'd offer to join in, but I only swing one way, mate."

Harry swallows. All he really wants to do is go in, tell Ella that something's come up, pack Louis into his car and take him home. But he's not that kind of guy, no matter how much he wishes right now that he was.

"Right," he repeats. "I should..."

Louis is smiling as he steps back. His hair is even more of a mess than before. He plucks Harry's phone out of his pocket and flicks it on, taps at the screen for a minute and then hands it back. "Go on, Dr. Styles," he says, already turning like he's going to walk away. "Enjoy your night."

"My jumper," Harry says stupidly. Louis looks back at him.

"I'll keep this for now. Keep an eye on it. Feels nice on me."

"Looks nice on you," Harry agrees. Louis smiles like Harry just gave him a few million pounds and Harry wants to fuck him right up against the wall.

"Ring me tomorrow. I believe you owe me drinks."

Harry can't keep the grin off his face. He clutches his mobile close to his chest like a security blanket. "Tomorrow, then."

"Tomorrow," Louis agrees. "G'night, Harry."

"Night, Louis."

He watches Louis walk around the building until he turns the corner out of sight. Safely alone, Harry lifts his fingers to his tingling lips.

Back inside, Ella is waiting for him at the entrance, looking gorgeous and smiling quite prettily at him, and he's already flushed with heat and want. She holds out her hand and he takes it, smiling, and leads her to his car.

 

 

When Harry wakes up the next morning, Ella is gone and there's a sticky note stuck to his forehead that says Thx for a great night. – Ella. Harry grins, tosses the note into the trash can under his nightstand and stretches hugely, yawning. His head is still pleasantly buzzy with sleep and he's sore and sated. Ella was good, a lot of fun and enthusiasm and Harry feels relaxed and comfortably zen with the world.

He tugs on a pair of boxers and a t-shirt, grabs his mobile off the bedside table and pads into the living room, utterly unsurprised to find Niall, Liam and Zayn sitting around his dining table eating breakfast.

"Did you wait until she was gone, at least?" Harry asks them. It smells wonderful, and he drops into the chair between Niall and Zayn to pile his own plate high with eggs and sausages. It's one of Niall's latent talents, cooking, and Harry's almost all right with him using Harry's food if it means he gets breakfast cooked for him.

"Of course," Niall answers, mock-offended. "What d'you think we are, perverts?"

"Yes," Harry says. Niall lobs a piece of bacon at him and Harry catches it, adds it to the growing stack on his plate. Zayn's plate is already nearly empty, and Liam's is, so he sits sipping at his coffee and reading the paper, because he's really an old man. Niall, of course, is on his second helping. Harry steals the butter from him and slathers his own plate in it. He's starving.

Naturally, Zayn waits until Harry's mouth is full to bursting before he says, overly-casual, "Stepped outside to find you last night, tell you your date was about to leave without you. Saw you'd found another."

Harry gawps at him, feels his ears redden. He tries to chew as fast as he can before the others can start in, but his mouth is too full. It's a losing battle.

"What?" Niall asks, looking oddly proud. "Double dipping? Harry!"

"S'not like that!" Harry tries to say, but it comes out 'Saw hoh ah" and they ignore him.

"Who was it?" Niall presses on. "The first girl...the one he was dancing with when we got there? Or that big bloke?"

"No, was a smaller guy. I couldn't see his face since it was sucking on Harry's."

Liam makes a face and Niall whips his head around to look at Harry. Niall is possibly the nosiest person in the world. Harry swallows so much food at once that it actually hurts. "Face-sucking?" Niall says. "Really?"

"You're a class act," Harry tells Zayn, pretending he's not choking a little. He takes a few gulps of Zayn's water.

"S'what it looked like from where I was standing," Zayn says, shrugging. "Like he was trying to crawl inside your mouth."

"Who?" Niall demands, laughing. Harry sends a desperate look at Liam, who simply smiles benignly and takes another sip of coffee. Traitor.

"Just a bloke," Harry answers finally. "That guy Ella's friend pointed out."

"The pretty one?" Niall asks. "Looked a bit like River Phoenix?"

"Yeah, him. He's called Louis."

"Hm," says Niall, and it sounds so uncharacteristically judgmental that Harry frowns at him.

"What?"

"Brittany told me some stuff about him is all. But it's probably just people talking, yeah?"

"What'd she tell you?" Zayn asks.

"Zayn," Liam says disapprovingly, but Zayn just levels a look at him and Liam sighs helplessly.

"Just that he's always hanging around these older men that kind of, like, parade him around. Like an escort or something."

"An escort?" Harry repeats, and even Zayn snorts derisively. Liam sighs loudly again and starts to clean up their plates. Harry would normally help, but just thinking about Louis is making him want to call him up and have him come round right now. He wants to hear what else Brittany told Niall.

"It's just a shoddy part of town and he's there a lot with older men. It's just people talking."

"So she thinks he's a prostitute?"

"That was the implication, yeah," Niall says, and shrugs again.

Harry frowns thoughtfully. Louis certainly hadn't come across that way to him at all.

"I wouldn't look too much into it mate," Liam says from the kitchen, where he's loading their sticky plates into the dishwasher. He looks at them over the counter sagely. "When I was sixteen I worked at a country club and there were these old men who were a bit…well, flirty, I suppose."

"Really?" Harry asks, mildly surprised. Liam's such a good boy, Harry can't quite imagine it.

"S'true," Zayn says, frowning.

"Yeah, it was harmless, y'know. They were just…But anyway, I was the youngest and gay and the other staff gave me a hard time about it, started rumors that I was getting tips with my mouth and that sort of thing."

"Jesus, Li," Harry murmurs, feeling horrified.

"People just like to talk, is my point," Liam says, rolling his eyes and smiling sweetly at Harry's concern. "Nothing happened to me, Haz. It was just a summer job and I got to go home to Zayn every day. I'm just telling you not to believe everything you hear. And you either," he points at Niall sternly.

"I didn't believe her!" says Niall.

"Well, whatever the case," Harry says, decision already made, "I'm going to call him. I liked him and I want to see him. He didn't tell me what he cost when we were snogging, so until he does I'm going to assume he's not a hooker, all right?"

Niall claps him on the back. "Right on, Hazza."

"You should bring him by the pub," Zayn offers. He's leaning back in his chair, looking very sleepy. "I'm working all week, an' Li's playing tonight and the day after tomorrow. We need to meet your new beau."

"He's not my new—"

"We have to make sure if he's good enough for you," Liam adds, as though Harry hadn't spoken.

"You are a bit of a slut. It wouldn't be bad idea to run them through a filter before you sleep with them," says Niall.

"I hate you all," says Harry, and he gets up to go and take a shower while the three of them laugh, thinking that he might just change the locks on his door.

 

 

'Hi, you've reached Louis Tomlinson. Leave a message and I might call back.'

"Hey Louis," Harry starts after the beep, inexplicably nervous. "It's Harry...ah, Harry Styles, from the club last night. You told me to ring you. Ring me back at this number when you can. Erm, if you want, I mean. Yeah. See you."

He hangs up quickly before he can ramble anymore and stares hopelessly at his mobile, wondering if he always sounds like such an idiot. It's not something he wants to dwell on though, so he cuts that train of thought off quickly and makes his way into his kitchen, chugging water from the bottle in his hand. He shot up like a weed between the age of sixteen and eighteen and he only in the last year started to fill out, and he tries to work out a few times a week. He's just been to the gym for a couple hours and he's sweaty and hot and painfully hungry. He chomps his way through a protein bar and is digging around in the freezer for something sweet when his mobile rings where he left it on the dining table.

Grinning, he crosses the distance in two graceless leaps, ignores the irritable pounding on the floor from his downstairs neighbor, and feels his chest go tight and pleased at the sight of Louis's name on the screen.

"Hullo?"

"Ah, Harry Styles," Louis answers, and Harry grins wide, rubbing at the back of his neck.

"Louis," he says. "You got my message."

"Well, yes, obviously."

Harry rolls his eyes at himself. "Obviously."

"To what do I owe this pleasure? Not spending the day with your girl?"

"She's not my girl," Harry says. "And mostly my day's been spent thinking about you."

"Charmer."

"Not to mention I owe you drinks."

"That you do."

"And you've still got my jumper."

"It's very nice. Quite warm. I'm wearing it now. I think I'd rather keep it."

Harry's smiling, so wide that his face hurts a bit. "Are you busy tonight?"

"That depends," Louis's voice is casual, teasing. Harry wonders what he's doing, where he is, if maybe he's curled up on a sofa or in a chair nearly swimming in Harry's jumper. "Why do you ask?"

"I'd like to take you out."

Louis's quiet for a several seconds. "Out? Like on a date?"

"Exactly like that. On a proper date. And then, if things go well, possibly back to mine for those drinks I owe you."

"I'm going to call you Dr. Styles all the way through the shag."

"Kinky."

Louis laughs, and it's a beautiful sound. Harry wishes he could see him. "All right. You can take me on a proper date."

"Excellent! Where should I pick you up?" Harry fistpumps into the air, but he'll keep that to himself.

"Such a gentleman."

"Not really," Harry says. "After all, I do plan on feeding you drink and then taking you to bed."

"But you're buying me dinner first," says Louis. "That makes all the difference."

"A man with low standards. I like it."

Harry can hear Louis shifting around, the sound of fabric moving on fabric, and when he speaks Harry can tell that he's smiling.. "I'll text you my address. Pick me up at seven."

"On the dot," Harry promises.

"Mm-hm."

Louis hangs up without another word and Harry lowers his mobile from his ear, grinning giddily.

 

 

Louis's flat is very nice, small but cozy. He answers the door wearing tight red trousers and a t-shirt, a matching red beanie on his head. He smiles as soon as he sees Harry and Harry can't even help himself, lifts a hand to cup Louis's face and dips his head to kiss him. Louis makes a soft, surprised sound but opens his mouth easily for Harry's tongue and curls his fingers into the front of Harry's shirt.

"Hi," Harry breathes when the kiss breaks, head spinning. Louis blinks at him, quirks his lips into a small smile and hooks his fingers into the gaps between two of the buttons of Harry's shirt to rub at the t-shirt he has on underneath.

"I thought the kiss came at the end of the date."

Harry strokes his thumb over the ridiculous cut of Louis's cheekbone and reluctantly steps back. "I'm spontaneous. It's very attractive."

"It's the curls, really," Louis tells him, sighing as though it's a hardship. "The seductive power of the curls."

Harry shakes them like he's in a shampoo commercial, bites his lip on a grin when Louis laughs. It's even better with the visual.

"You look beautiful—"

"I always look beautiful. I've already agreed to let you take me to your bed. The flattery is quite unnecessary."

"S'not flattery," Harry says, still smiling. He leans in to press a chaste, sweet kiss to Louis's lips again. "S'truth. You ready to go?"

Louis looks like he wants to say something, his eyes narrowed thoughtfully, but then must think better of it because he simply shakes his head and takes Harry's hand when Harry offers it. Harry threads their fingers together, folds Louis's smaller hand into his own and tugs him out the door.

"Caveman," says Louis.

"Me Harry," Harry agrees.

Louis locks the door to his flat one-handed and shoves his keys into his pocket, where Harry can almost make out the bulge of his phone and wallet. Harry squeezes his hand and they start down the hallway toward the stairs and the entrance, their hands linked between them.

In the car, Louis touches everything, the dash and the console between the seats, both cup holders. He opens the compartment in the passenger door and digs around a bit in the glove box.

"Awfully nosy, aren't you?" Harry asks him.

"Mm. Did you know you've got a fiver in here?"

"Yeah, it's for luck."

Louis looks at him, curling the note around his fingers idly. Harry can feel his gaze on the side of his face. "For luck?"

"My mum. When I first got the car she put it in there. Said her mum put a fiver in her car when she learned to drive and she never once got in a crash. When she got a new car she forgot to move it over, and got run off the road into a tree because of ice the same day."

"So you're superstitious, then."

Harry grins, shakes his head. "I believe in the power of the human mind, is all."

Louis hums thoughtfully, and after a few seconds puts the fiver back into the glove box and closes the door with a quiet click. "You're very strange."

"Intriguingly weird," Harry corrects. Traffic is slow, but not horrible, and Harry doesn't mind the slow ride. It gives him a chance to study Louis, who's busy looking through the receipts strewn across the floorboards. His hair is falling into his face and the seatbelt has locked up to keep him from bending forward any further. The strap across his chest and stomach, digging in just a little, is oddly appealing. He's twirling one of the drawstrings attached to the hood of striped t-shirt around one finger, his legs splayed wide so he can reach the floor between them.

"You buy a lot of books," says Louis. "Are these for school?"

"Yeah. I just finished my first year of uni. That's why my mates and I were out last night celebrating."

"N'aww," Louis says and Harry shoves at his shoulder, smiling despite himself when Louis laughs. "So you're off for the summer?"

"From school, yes. I start work next week."

"A car and a job? Be still my heart."

"A part-time job," Harry says. "And nothing glamorous. Honestly. I'll be cleaning bedpans and taking care of trouble patients at the hospital."

"That sounds…awful, honestly, mate, sorry. You're a medical student then?"

"Yeah," Harry admits sheepishly. "I'm not sure what I want to specialize in, but probably neurosurgery."

Louis's smiling at him when he looks over, blue eyes crinkled at the corners. "Then you really will be Dr. Styles."

"Not for a long time. But someday, hopefully. What about you? Do you work?"

"Of course I work."

"Well, where?"

Louis grins at him mysteriously, flicks a few strands of hair out of his eyes. "Maybe I'll tell you, if tonight goes well."

"Oh?"

Louis huffs a quiet laugh. "Whatever you're thinking, I promise it's less exciting."

The restaurant isn't far from Louis's flat, and he pulls into the first parking spot he finds and turns the car off. Louis is hunched over again, looking out the windshield to see where they are. Harry hopes he's never been here before. "Welcome to Alfredo's."

"What is this place?" Louis asks.

"Italian," Harry replies.

"Thanks," Louis says dryly. Harry wiggles his eyebrows at him, leans in to kiss him and Louis laughs into his mouth, cups his cheek and kisses him back. "Spontaneous."

"See? It is very attractive."

He doesn't wait for Louis to respond, just unbuckles his seatbelt and gets out of the car and walks around to open Louis's door for him after Louis sends him a pleading look through the window, tugging at the door handle uselessly. He looks up at Harry with a frown. "You child safety locked me into your car."

"I know, I'm sorry," Harry says, offering him a hand to help him out. Louis takes it, gracefully unfolds himself. Harry doesn't want to stop touching him, likes the way he feels up close, likes how soft his skin is. "My mate Liam…his sister and nieces were in town a few weekends back and we took them to get ice cream. The littlest one's started opening doors whenever she can."

"That's precious. What nice boys you must be."

"Wholesome, virtuous lads. We are."

"Right. I have a feeling you left your virtue behind you a long time ago."

"Oi! Not that long ago," Harry laughs, knocking his shoulder into Louis's as they walk toward the restaurant entrance, fingers linked. "I was sixteen."

"That's still quite young."

"How old were you, then?"

Louis just smirks and keeps his mouth closed, and Harry wants to crowd him against the wall and lick the answers out of him. "You have to tell me some things about yourself."

"I'm a Capricorn," Louis says.

Harry sighs like he hears Liam sometimes do with Zayn, and the thought makes something warm unravel nervous and intense in his chest. He herds Louis into the restaurant and the hostess smiles at them. "Two?"

"Hi," Harry says, smiling his most charming smile at her. "Reservation is for Styles?"

She looks at her appointment book and Louis elbows Harry in the stomach lightly, muttering, "Overachiever" under his breath. Harry just winks at him, which makes Louis actually laugh in a rather unflattering manner.

"I hear you don't put out without dinner first," Harry says once they're seated. "I had to make sure you'd get fed."

"I am both classy and proper, you curly-haired slag."

"Straight for the solar plexus!" Harry groans, petting a hand over his hair lovingly.

"Glad to see your priorities are straight."

"Well, I am a bit of a manwhore," Harry says, shrugging. Niall teases him for it a lot, but Harry's young and adventurous and it's not as though he's stupid about it. Sex is nothing Harry's ever felt ashamed about. "My curls are lovely though."

Louis bats his eyelashes at him, leans across the table to push his hand through Harry's hair. There are other people staring at them, but Harry doesn't care. Louis hooks his forefingers into one tightly-spun curl near Harry's forehead and pulls gently, lets it bounce back.

"They really are," he agrees, and Harry smiles at him dopily.

They share an appetizer of something deep fried and delicious, and Harry orders lasagna and Louis chicken parmesan and they eat and talk and Harry hopes that the hearts in his eyes aren't too visible.. Louis is funny and bright and loud and shameless, ungodly attractive and very sweet. Harry tells him a little about uni and his plans when asked, and he manages to dig out a few more details about Louis. He has four half-sisters that he doesn't see very much and they're all much younger. He likes to watch comedy and romance films. He loves music and wishes he could play the guitar better than he currently can. It's little things, but Harry likes knowing them about him.

Harry pays for their meal and Louis pays the tip despite Harry's protests, and on the way out it's Louis that slots his hand into Harry's and intertwines their fingers.

"I like your hole in the wall Italian restaurant," he tells Harry once they're outside. It's drizzling a little bit. Louis's high cheekbones are immediately a little damp with it. "And I like that you keep a fiver from your mum in your glove box for luck."

Harry doesn't know what to say, but he's smiling. He squeezes Louis's hand and opens the door for him again when they get to the car. When he gets in on the other side, Louis's leaned the seat back a bit and has an arm slung on the headrest above his head, his fingertips brushing his cheekbone. He parts his legs, just enough to make Harry notice, and hums contently.

"What're you doing?" Harry asks.

Louis looks at him through heavy-lidded, lust-darkened blue eyes. "Resting. I've got a feeling it's going to be a very exhausting night."

 

 

"This is nice."

Harry grins, shutting the door behind him and twisting the lock into place. Louis's already poking around the living room with a curious expression on his pretty face. Harry wants to strip him down and fuck him 'til he cries from how good it is. He drops his keys and wallet onto the small table just inside the door and steps into the kitchen to pour some wine. Louis follows, leaning in the doorway. His eyes are heavy-lidded and his mouth is pink and lovely. His hand is small when it curls around the glass Harry hands him.

"My parents are paying for most of it," he admits. "All dependent on how well I do in school. I've been threatened with having to live in student housing if I don't do well."

"That would be tragic," Louis sighs. Harry watches hi Adam's apple rise and fall as he takes a drink of wine, and rather classlessly drinks his own down in one go. Louis quirks an eyebrow and Harry sets his glass down, takes Louis's from him, and tugs him in by his belt loops, which makes Louis complain noisily.

"Hauling me around all the time, Styles."

"Hadn't we already decided that I'm a caveman? I like that you're smaller than me."

Louis blinks, and then laughs, startled. "What?"

Harry takes both of Louis's little hands, folds them into his own and brings them both up to graze his lips over the knuckles. "I like that you're smaller," he repeats, and kisses Louis chastely before he can interrupt. "You fit just right against me. Can do this." And he picks Louis up, grins at the little cry of surprise that Louis makes and gets his arms under Louis's bum to hold him, Louis's knees gripping tightly at his waist, feet knocking against the side of Harry's knees. His lips are parted and his cheeks red.

"All right," he says weakly. "All right, I suppose there is something a bit hot about it."

Harry wets his lips, grins, walks Louis backward to set him down on the counter next to the wine glasses. Louis immediately wraps his legs around Harry's waist and Harry cups his neck in both hands, thumbs at the hinges of Louis's jaw. Louis curls his hands into Harry's shirt and tilts his head back and Harry's heart hurts at the sight of it, of how intrinsically submissive Louis is, his body reacting beautifully to Harry's every touch. Harry trails his fingers up the side of Louis's face, thumbs at his full bottom lip and brushes across the sweep of Louis's long eyelashes.

"You look like you're going to eat me," Louis drawls, and Harry kisses him, bites at his lip and sucks Louis's tongue into his mouth, drags his fingers back through Louis's hair, down his back and to his spectacular round arse.

"Want to do so many things to you," he whispers, lips at Louis's ear, heart pounding and Louis's knuckles digging into his sides.

Louis tightens his legs. "We've got time."

And then they're kissing again, Louis's mouth open and sweet with wine when Harry licks his way inside. He steps out of his own shoes, kicks them away across the kitchen floor and gropes around behind his back to get at Louis's Toms and tug them off too. They hit the hardwood with a loud clunk. Louis slides the tip of his tongue up the vein on the underside of Harry's and Harry groans picks Louis up again.

"Fuck," Louis breathes, breaking the kiss and clutching at Harry's shoulders and Harry wants to tell him that he won't drop him but Louis's teeth sink into the side of his neck and he moans brokenly instead. "So fucking hot, Harry."

"See? I like that you're smaller than me, you like to be manhandled, it all works out."

"Our kinks align."

"Mm, like the stars."

"Jesus." Louis is laughing at him, but Harry catches his mouth and shuts him up quite effectively, so it's all right. Louis is squirmy and demanding, his hands on Harry's back and his tongue in Harry's mouth and his heels digging into Harry's arse. He clenches his fingers in Harry's hair, breaks the kiss to catch his breath and breathes hot and open-mouthed against Harry's cheek.

Harry nuzzles at Louis's neck, pushes him back against the wall next to the kitchen light switch. Louis drops his legs and Harry reluctantly lets him down, breath catching in his throat when Louis smirks up at him and sinks to his knees, sitting back on his heels. He hooks two fingers into one of Harry's belt loops and palms the hard line of Harry's cock through his trousers with the other. Harry's so hard already and Louis's hand is burning hot through the fabric. He tips his hips into it and Louis's digs the heel of his hand into the base, slides his palm down and squeezes.

"Nn," Harry offers helpfully, carding his fingers through Louis's hair.

"You're big," Louis says, voice smooth and hot and the smirk on his face one of the filthiest things Harry's ever seen in his life. "You're really, really big."

"I am reasonably well-endowed, yes, can you—?"

He cuts off with a loud curse as Louis leans forward and latches on his with his mouth, his kiss-bruised, swollen mouth open and painfully scorching through the layers of Harry's trousers and pants. When the flat of his tongue laps a long line over denim Harry pulls on Louis's hair harshly and feels his eyes roll back at the sound Louis makes, this desperate, guttural moan like nothing has ever felt better.

"Like to be manhandled and a bit of a masochist, too, are we?"

"I want you to fuck my mouth," Louis replies. "Can we do that?"

Harry drops to his knees and pulls his hair again, forces Louis's head back and crushes their mouths together. He gets his hand between Louis's legs and rubs him roughly through his trousers, feels him thick and hot against his palm and Louis's whole body shudders with it. Harry wants to see his face screwed up in ecstasy, wants to hear Louis cry out for him in a voice rough from choking on Harry's cock.

"We can do that," Harry mumbles into his mouth and shoves one of his hands down the back of Louis's trousers, squeezes his firm, round bum. "Take your clothes off."

But even as he orders it, Harry's tugging at Louis's shirt before Louis gets a chance to. Louis stretches his arms up and Harry peels it off him, overwhelmingly endeared and aroused by the way Louis's hair comes out all tousled. He stands up and hauls Louis up too, shoves at his trousers as soon as Louis gets them undone and grips Louis's hand to steady him as he steps out of them. His briefs are wet with precome and obscenely tented and they stretch so nicely over the curve of Louis's arse but he only has a second to appreciate it as Louis shimmies out of those too.

Harry doesn't let himself look yet, gets an arm around Louis's waist and hauls him in to kiss him again. It's wet and sloppy and violent, Louis's teeth tugging at his lip, his hands clawed in Harry's hair. Harry palms his bare ass, dips his fingers into the cleft. Louis is even smaller like this, completely bare in Harry's kitchen, against Harry's clothes. Louis's stepping on his feet and Harry can feel his toes curl in, can feel Louis grunt softly against his mouth when Harry's finger prods dry at the rim of his hole, just feeling, just pressure.

They make their way slowly through the living room, stumbling together. Louis laughing when they knock into the bookshelf against the wall right by the bedroom doorway. Harry grins against his neck, a dark bruise already forming over Louis's pulse point.

"Want you so bad," Harry growls, walking Louis backwards through the threshold. It's dark, too dark to see and Harry wants to see everything. He picks Louis up again and carries him the last few feet to the bed, more gentle as he eases him down onto his back and climbs up over him. Louis's undoing Harry trousers and sucking a mark onto Harry's collarbone while Harry stretches past him to turn on the bedside lamp. He cradles the back of Louis's head in his hand, fingers his soft hair as his eyes adjust.

"Tell me what you like, Dr. Styles," Louis says against his chest, smearing his lips back up, over Harry's throat where he nips at his Adam's apple and then to his chin. "Tell me what to do."

Harry's braced with his arm by Louis's head on the mattress and Louis's hand is in his trousers, under his boxer-briefs and on his cock. Harry's so turned on he feels like he might burst into flame at any minute. He looks down at Louis's pink-flushed face and feels a thick pearl of pre-come blurt over Louis's fingers. Louis tilts his head back to see him better, tongue swiping across his lips.

"You're awfully mouthy."

"I have a beautiful voice."

Harry laughs, kisses Louis's once before he sits up to get his trousers and pants off. Louis is watching him hungrily, blue eyes hazy with want and breath coming in little pants, his gaze locked on Harry's cock as it's freed, bouncing up to slap wetly against Harry's belly. Harry wiggles around to get his legs free. When he turns back around Louis is propped up against the pillows and his dick is pink and thick and hard, pooling precome on his stomach

"I like the idea you had earlier," Harry finally answers, crawling forward to straddle Louis's chest. He hisses when Louis grips his hips and nuzzles at his cock, his cheekbone getting wet. He strokes Louis's hair, digs his fingers into the hinge of his jaw until Louis's mouth opens. "About fucking your mouth."

Louis groans hotly, laps at the head of Harry's cock. "You're so big, fucking huge."

"The curls aren't my only selling point, love," Harry offers weakly. Louis grins up at him so sweetly, eyes big and wide and Harry's pretty sure it's done on purpose but he's just so fucking pretty, Louis is.

"Pull my hair," Louis commands, his lips right at the head of Harry's dick, small hand wrapping around the base. "Pull my hair and let me taste you."

He asked so nicely. Harry bites his lip and rolls his hips a bit, nudges his cock against Louis's lips and watches them part for it. Louis opens right up, tongue lapping at the underside. Harry tries to go slow, teeth digging harder into his lip as he shoves in further, inch by inch, but Louis is having none of it. His mouth is relaxed and tight and wet and he's so good at this, the way his tongue digs into the slit when he pulls up, the mouths his way back down, and he takes Harry in deeper than anyone ever has before, until his throat is fluttering around the head of Harry's cock and Harry can feel him swallow, feel the exhale from his nose in the curls at the base.

"Oh God, Lou, look at you." He's just aware enough to be mildly shocked at how deep and rough his voice is. Louis's eyes are barely open and his mouth is stretched so wide. Harry grips his hair and pull lightly and Louis moans, the vibration shuddering up Harry's spine, his balls throbbing, heavy and full and nearly touching Louis's chin. Louis pulls back again, almost all the way off, sinks back down and up again and Harry can't bear it anymore. He grips Louis's hair tight, pulls hard and fucks his hips forward, forces his cock into Louis's throat, feels Louis swallow and his throat go tight and he leans in to get his free hand around Louis's neck, his grip loose, just want to feel.

Everything is blurry and intense and Harry's slowly losing his mind, driving into Louis's throat again and again, pulling at Louis's hair long enough that his own scalp stings in sympathy but all Louis does is moan like a slut for it, pulling against the hold, cheeks hollowing as he sucks Harry. Harry's head is spinning, his chest aching and orgasm curling low and demanding in his belly. His thighs are aching with the strain and forces Louis's head further back, leans over him to brace his arm on the wall above the headboard. Louis's cups his balls, squeezes and that's it. Harry pulls back just far enough to keep Louis from choking and comes with a shout, hips jerking and shuddering, pleasure overwhelming and so painfully hot and he can feel Louis swallowing against his hand.

He collapses backwards after, breathing hard and barely able to see past the daze of how good it feels. Louis climbs over top him, looking decidedly smug, and Harry pulls him down by the chin to kiss him and tastes himself in Louis's mouth.

"I'm so glad I met you," Harry says. Louis hums and straddles his lap and Harry pulls his knees up so Louis can lean back against him. He has a scar on his chest, right over his sternum, long and sweeping up to one of his nipples. It looks old and Harry wonders where he got. He traces his fingers out it, then drops his hand down to Louis's lap and the thick throb of his cock. Louis makes a soft little ungh noise, rubs his arse back against Harry's cock and fucks into Harry's hand.

"Say something. Let me hear you."

"Harry," Louis says, and his voice sounds like it's been fucked, sounds raw and hoarse. Harry surges up, wraps both arms tight around Louis and kisses him stupid. He gets his hand around Louis's cock and wanks him roughly, twisting at the tip, squeezing at the base. Louis is babbling into his mouth, things like good and need and just like that. Harry kisses his way down Louis's neck, tweaks his nipple with his free hand. Louis buries his face in Harry's hair and ruts against him, rubbing into Harry's hand and against Harry's abs and when Harry lets go of his dick to reach two fingers back and rub them over his taint Louis seizes up and spills hot and wet between them, cock jerking. Harry watches, his forehead against Louis's shoulder. He watches Louis's come spill out of his hand and groans into the feel of Louis's blunt fingernails digging into his back.

He's nineteen, can feel arousal seeping in through his pores, his cock already fattening up again, Louis's arse riding over it as he humps through the waves of his orgasm. Harry strokes his hands down Louis's sweaty back, kisses his shoulder as he comes down. There's another scar on his inner thigh and it looks glossy under sweat and come. Harry thumbs over it, feels Louis shiver. He smiles against Louis's collarbone and only pulls back once Louis lifts his head.

He's beautiful, expression serene and eyes still glazed. He fingers the curls at the back of Harry's neck and arches his back in a long, luxurious stretch. Harry wants to fuck him.

"On your belly," he tells Louis, palming over Louis's stomach. He lowers his knees so Louis can slide off and Louis is so warm and pliant and God, Harry doesn't know why he's so turned on by how much littler Louis is but it's something breathtaking and hot, the way his hand can cover the entire expanse of Louis's back, the way Louis's shoulders fit into the frame of his own. Harry grips his arms, grinning when he tosses Louis gracelessly onto his stomach and Louis laughs breathily.

He digs around in his bedside table for a condom and lube, and it's not until he comes back that he notices the marks on Louis's back and he feels something like dread threaten. Louis's utterly boneless, head pillowed on his folded arms, blinking sleepily, his legs spread just a bit and his pelvis moving in tiny circles against the mattress, and Harry would tease him for it but his voice is stuck.

They're small and circular but nearly black, five of them all together, three between his shoulder blades, one right next to his spine further down and one on his side near his hip. There are others, too, scar tissue like paint strokes across his back, some jagged and oddly shaped, some just bright white lines on his tan skin, spread out over his entire back like confetti and this doesn't seem quite so much like Louis might've been a clumsy kid anymore.

He wants to ask what they're from, but he's only known Louis for a day, and it's really none of his business. They're old scars.

"Harry?" Louis asks, lifting his head too look at Harry over his shoulder. Harry grins at him, leans over to kiss him.

"Just admiring the view," he rasps, and sits back to do just that, because Louis's arse truly is something to appreciate. Possibly should be on display in the Louvre, the single most fantastic bum Harry has ever seen (and he's seen quite a lot). Suddenly all he wants is to get inside him. He cups each cheek in one hand, squeezes just to feel the give and Louis moans and parts his thighs a bit more. Harry grabs the lube and slicks up his fingers and Louis tucks his knees underneath him, presenting himself. Harry's mouth is unbearably dry.

"Can't wait to feel you in me," Louis murmurs, half-blissed out and hard again. He tries to get a hand between his legs but Harry stops him, pins his wrists down on the pillow above his head. He's breathing hard and so fucking hot, cock aching. Louis squirms against him, humping against thin air. "So fucking big, Hazza, c'mon, c'mon."

Harry sinks one finger inside him without preamble, grins at Louis's little cry, winces at how tight he is. He molds himself to Louis's back and Louis turns his head, opens his pretty swollen mouth and Harry presses his tongue inside. Louis still tastes like his come and it makes something possessive and hungry rise up in Harry's chest. He hooks his finger, rubs the tip over Louis's prostate and Louis cries out, breaks the kiss and rocks back into Harry's hand. Harry presses against his rim with a second finger. Louis mewls and Harry pushes two fingers of his other hand into Louis's mouth, making soft, encouraging noises into Louis ear.

Louis's clenching around his fingers, riding them, moaning helplessly around Harry's fingers and driving his tongue up between them. Harry pulls them out and leaves a wet trail down Louis's chest and to one of his nipples, which he pinches and tugs until Louis is pressing into that, too. He pushes another finger inside, spreads them all out wide until Louis's gasping for breath and then corkscrews them in, scraping his knuckles over Louis's prostate again and again until Louis is breathing in dry sobs and his hair is damp with sweat at the temples and fringe.

"Fuck me, Harry, Jesus you great bleeding tease just—" His voice dissolves when Harry adds a fourth finger and he turns his head and sinks his teeth into the meat of Harry's arm.

Harry withdraws his fingers and his hands are shaking with anticipation as he rolls the condom on. Louis's looking over his shoulder again and he looks desperate and kind of wrecked and Harry wants to fuck him up some more, wants to rip him wide open so he's bare for Harry to see. Louis's lying down with his arse in the air, his face red and the flush crawling all the way down his chest and back, his hole wet with lube and his cock hard between his legs and he's so fucking gorgeous.

When he lines up, Louis goes tense and Harry plants a hand between his shoulder blades and uses his other to guide himself in. There's nothing but resistance at first as he pushes the head inside and the sight of Louis's hole stretching around him wider and wider has him panting, grunting, teeth sunk into his lip. Once the head is all the way in though he just opens, pulling Harry's cock right in and it's so unbearably tight that it kind of hurts. He stops halfway, gasping, and folds down over Louis's back again. Louis's trembling, hands clenched in the sheets. Harry slots their fingers together, pins Louis's hand down.

"Jesus," is all he can say. "Jesus, Lou, so fucking—"

"Yes," Louis groans tightly, voice all locked up and choked. "God, fuck, God."

"Poetic," Harry grins, and shoves in another inch, his eyes rolling back in his head as Louis clenches so tight around him. Louis turns his head and they get caught up in a sloppy, wet kiss. Once he's all the way in, balls pressed up tight to Louis's ass, he stills, panting. Louis nips at his chin and then lets his head drop, braced up on his elbows. Harry mouths at the dip of his neck and bites at the sweaty hair at the nape of his neck, pulls out a bit only to drive hard back in.

"Okay?" he asks.

"Fuck, yes, yes," Louis gasps. "Just. Keep going."

Harry grinds his way back in, pulls out and does it again, Louis's ass clutching at him, pulling him in, squeezing him. He covers Louis's entire body like this. "Gonna make you come just like this," he growls into Louis's ear, but his hand is gentle on Louis's hip, thumb rubbing over smooth scar tissue at the base of his spine. "Gonna make you come on my cock just like this."

"Harry," is all Louis says, a long, drawn-out moan of a sound that makes Harry thrust into him harder, so hard that Louis cries out, clenches his hands in the sheets. Harry fucks him deep and Louis's pushing back into every drive, filthy, hot noises ripped out of his throat, past his bitten lips. Harry licks the sweat from his neck, mouths at the hair just behind Louis's ear. The clutch of Louis's body almost hurts it's so good and he's not going to last much longer.

Louis is chanting his name like a fucking prayer and Harry pulls almost all the way out and changes the angle when he thrust back in and Louis cries out so loud it's startling and hot and Harry smirks. He keeps going like that, nailing Louis's prostate each time until Louis gulping for air and swearing into his hands, and then he works a hand between them, presses his fingers against Louis's stretched hole and Louis chokes and comes, sobbing with it, tightening like a vice around Harry's dick until Harry can't even move anymore. He can smell Louis's come and feel it when he reaches down to jack him through it, licking Louis's oversensitised cries out of his mouth as he pumps him. He lasts another thirty seconds of just grinding into Louis as deep as he can before his orgasm catches him up in waves and throws him over the edge.

The world is kind of spinning by the time he opens his eyes, and Louis is trembling under him. He kisses Louis's back and pulls out carefully, smiles at the soft whine of protest. He gets rid of the condom and guides Louis to roll back over. Louis's shaky and smiley, breathing hard, hair a wreck. Harry kisses his mouth and his chest and his tummy, then grips his arse and buries his face between Louis's legs, takes Louis into his mouth and buries three fingers back inside him until Louis writhing and begging and coming again, spilling down Harry's throat.

He has tears of exertion on his face, rolling back into his hair when Harry crawls back over him. Harry thumbs them away and kisses Louis sweetly, pulls Louis up into his arms and rolls onto his back, settling Louis over him. He tucks Louis's head into his neck and draws hapless shapes across his back, sleepy and sated and terribly pleased with himself.

After a while, Louis lifts his head and looks down at Harry, a tired smile on his face.

"I think you'll be a very successful doctor," he says. His voice still sounds raw from Harry's cock in his throat. Harry feels the scars on his back, grins up at him.

"Stay here tonight."

Louis makes a little smacking sound with his tongue against the roof of his mouth and drops back down onto Harry's chest, smoothing his palms up and down Harry's sides. "Couldn't leave if I tried, mate. Gonna be walking funny for days. Your cock is obscene."

"I like the way you say 'cock'."

"You would."

Harry hugs Louis in closer and buries his face in Louis's messy hair, breathes him in, doesn't let him go.

 

 

He's unceremoniously woken up by a loud crash and strangled yelp coming from somewhere in the vicinity of the ensuite. He bolts upright in bed, wide-eyed and confused. The digital clock says that it's only six-thirty and there's a notably empty spot next to him.

"Louis?" he calls, worried, untangling himself from the blankets as quickly as possible.

"Yeah, shit, sorry," Louis calls back from the bathroom. Harry lets out a relieved breath and tugs the comforter off the bed, wrapping it around his shoulders to stave off the cold. He's rubbing the sleep out of his eyes when he gets to the bathroom door. Louis is wearing a pair of Harry's boxers that hang indecently low on his hips and the shirt Harry was wearing last night. It hangs off of his shoulder and all but swallows him, the sleeves nearly down to his fingertips. He's soaked with water from the tap. The small shelf that Harry uses to keep clean towels in is upturned on the floor and the air conditioning is coming out of the vent in the floor full blast. His fringe plastered to his face and his skin goose pimpled, his teeth chattering a little. Harry feels everything in him go soft and fond and he opens his arms.

"I'm wet," Louis says.

"C'mere, you're freezing," says Harry, and he pulls Louis in anyway, catching him when he stumbles over a rolled towel and wrapping the comforter around both of them. Louis immediately wraps around him and Harry hears a squeak come out of his mouth before he can stop it. "Christ, you're cold!"

"Shut up! God, you're so warm, lovely Harry. I'm sorry I broke your tap."

Harry grins, feeling sleepy and content. He presses his mouth to Louis's temple and cheek and then neck, wraps him up tighter in the comforter. "You didn't. That little cover thing snapped off day before yesterday. Did the same thing to me. They're supposed to come fix it tomorrow. I forgot to warn you."

"You did it on purpose." Louis burrows in closer, damp but warmer now with their body heat. His arms are around Harry's waist, his chin hooked over Harry's shoulder. Harry takes hold of the ends of the comforter with one hand so he can sweep his palm down Louis's side and push the boxers down off his waist.

"I like you wearing my clothes."

Louis grins sharply, making a hot, pleased sound in his throat when Harry shoves the damp cloth off his bum and grips his arse and squeezes. Arousal sweeps low and intense through Harry's belly, and Louis is half-hard against him by the time he steps out of the boxers and kicks them out of the way. They're still all pressed together, both bare but for Harry's shirt on Louis, Louis slick with water.

"Mostly seems like you like me taking your clothes off."

"That too," Harry says. "But I like—"

"That I'm smaller than you, I know. You have a fetish."

Harry can't deny it. "Come back to bed," he murmurs against his mouth. "'s so early."

"I can't," Louis answers, breath hitching. "Things to do today. Plans. Must keep to my schedule. God, you're good at this."

"Just a little bit longer," Harry whispers. "Just a couple hours. Let me fuck you in the shower and I'll make you breakfast before you go."

Louis rests his head on Harry's shoulder, smiling against his skin, and says, "Okay."

 

 

"Harry's in loooooove," Niall sing-songs. Harry promptly sits on him, and Niall cackles and wraps around him octopus-like, pulling him further onto Liam and Zayn's sofa. "Do I get to be the best man?"

"Shut up," Harry says primly. "I hardly know him."

"You are awfully smiley though, mate," Zayn offers, settled into the armchair with a very superior look on his face. Harry tosses a bit of popcorn at him and frowns when it falls several feet short onto the coffee table.

"I had a good time, and I'm seeing him again tomorrow." Niall squeezes him tighter and Zayn's lips pull into a soft smile and Harry rolls his eyes at them both. "I'm allowed to go on second dates!"

"Of course you are," Liam—sweet, wonderful Liam—says from his spot on the floor in front of the sofa. Harry reaches down and stokes his hair gratefully and Liam grins up at him. "So you like him, then?"

"Yeah, I do."

"And did you do more than fuck him senseless?" Niall asks.

"Yes," Harry pretends to sound scandalized. "So crude, Nialler."

"I'm looking out for your best interests. A relationship is built on more than a good shag."

"Great shag," Harry says. "Fucking phenomenal shag. And he's funny, too. And he can like…keep up, y'know? He has horrible taste in music and he refuses to give away too much about himself, but he's sweet and pretty and we had fun."

When he looks at his friends again, all three of them are staring at him with the same obnoxious smirk, and Harry untangles himself from Niall and crosses his arms over his chest. "Piss off, all of you."

Zayn laughs and Niall pats Harry on the arm. "Anyway," he says loudly, looking at the three of them sternly. "He has to work tonight but I'm bringing him by the pub tomorrow, so you'll meet him then."

"Our little Harry," Liam says in a choked up voice. "Bringing someone to meet the family!"

Harry has several very foul responses to that, but at that moment his mobile vibrates in his pocket, and he pulls it out. 2 hrs free at 5. Early dinner at mine? Btw dinner = sex.

The others are making cooing sounds around him, but Harry can't keep the smile off his face to save his life. He types out a quick response—Yes. I expect dessert.—and sinks back into the cushy sofa, pulling his knees up to his chest.

"You're fuckin' adorable, Hazza," says Zayn.

 

 

At five, he spends two delicious hours with Louis and a bowl of ice cream before Louis is shoving him out the door so he can get back to wherever it is that he works. Harry can't stop touching him.

"I'm going to be late," Louis complains, but he's smiling so fucking sweetly and he pushes his hands into the pockets of Harry's trousers and kisses him breathless. "Really. I have to go."

"You couldn't wait to see me," Harry says smugly, wrapping his arms around him, kissing his cheek.

"Well, you're a good fuck, aren't you?" Louis says. He pulls away reluctantly and turns to lock the door to his flat.

"You like me," Harry says. "You like my sense of humor and my winsome curls."

Louis snorts. "I like your massive dick and your o-face."

"You can't stop thinking about me. I'm always on your mind. We had a date set for tomorrow and it was too long for you to be without me."

"I like it better when your mouth is otherwise occupied."

"Louis."

Louis looks around, pocketing his keys. "Mm?"

"I like you. I think you're beautiful and wonderful to be around and I like the sounds you make when you come and the way you look in my clothes and everything I know about you."

"Of course you do," Louis says. "I'm like Mary Poppins."

"What?"

"Practically perfect in every way."

Harry laughs outright, tugs on Louis's hands and presses their palms together, steps in so their arms are stretched out like airplane wings and their chests and the tips of their noses are touching.

"Ring me tonight when you get home."

Louis goes cross-eyed and Harry grins. "Might be very late."

"I don't care."

"All right," Louis says, after a long stretch of considering silence. Harry kisses him and then reluctantly lets him go, settling for simply holding Louis's hand on the walk out. When they get to Harry's car Louis waits until Harry's already buckled in to lean into the window and press a kiss to Harry's forehead.

"I do, you know."

"What?" Harry asks.

"Like you."

Harry positively beams at him and Louis's smile is shy, soft. He sinks his teeth into his bottom lip and Harry has to use every ounce of willpower he has to keep from pulling him into the car and having awkwardly positioned sex right there in the car park.

He watches Louis walk away toward the tube station and leans his head back against his seat once Louis's out of sight. He thinks he might have found something, here. Something real and right and wonderful. He can't stop smiling. His heart is pounding, and his mouth still tastes like strawberry ice cream.

 

 

"How'd it go at the hospital?" Louis asks Harry the next evening on the way to pub. They're walking, since it's just a few blocks away, and every other step their arms bump.

His first day of work went as smooth as it could be. His parents' old friend—an obstetrician who got Harry the internship in the first place—showed him around the hospital for a bit and then handed him off to woman named Amanda that will be his supervisor. She was nice, and she took him around to take a picture for his ID badge and then to fill out forms. The rest of his eight-hour shift was spent watching instruction films on what not to do and how not to act and general etiquette. Amanda let him go at six-thirty with a promise that the next shift will be actual work.

"It went well. A little boring orientation stuff, but I think it'll be good."

"Good," Louis says, smiling at him. The wind is making him pink-cheeked. He's got a black beanie on to control his wild hair, though. "I'm sure you'll do well."

"Hopefully. I think I'll like it okay. It's a foot in the door, in any case. Take a right here."

He leads Louis around the corner and then across the street, ignoring the car horn that blares angrily at them for jay walking. "Sorry, sorry. I always forget that there's a stoplight there now. Used to just be a sign so we always had the right of way."

Louis waves a dismissive hand in the air and sidles in closer, winding his arm through Harry's. "So these friends of yours…"

"Ah, right. Well, Liam and Zayn live across the hall from me and Niall is down the hall. We met on our way to the train our first day of Uni, turned out we all go to the same school. We kinda never looked back, you know? Best mates and whatnot."

"Are they all future doctors too?"

"No. Zayn is engineering and Niall is law and Liam is music."

"Liam is the one who'll be singing tonight?"

"Yep!" Harry says proudly. It's hard not to be proud of Liam most of the time. "He's very good. Zayn and our other friend Mary tend bar and Liam performs probably twice a week. We're all waiting for him to make it big."

Louis looks thoughtful. "And Zayn and Liam are a couple?"

Harry nods, squeezing in closer to Louis when they pass by a huge group of girls walking too slow, also on their way to the pub. Liam tends to bring in a crowd. "Since they were sixteen or something like that. They're one of those destined in the stars, soulmate kind of couples. I used to find it very nauseating."

"Used to," Louis repeats. Harry squeezes his hand and he blushes a bit and looks away, smiling. "You're a bit of a romantic."

"A bit," Harry agrees. "That bother you?"

"Not as much as it probably should," Louis says, and Harry prods him sharply in the stomach where he knows Louis is ticklish and Louis steps on his foot.

"Why can't we all just get along?" Harry sobs, unlinking their arms to defend himself when Louis tries to thwap him in the stomach.

They make it to the pub relatively unscathed, Louis's beanie on Harry's head now and Louis on his back, claiming terrible blisters from so much walking. There's already a crowd outside the pub, and Harry greets the few people he knows with a nod of his head as he sets Louis back down on his feet and pulls him through the door. Liam's not on stage yet, but he sees Zayn and Niall chatting at the bar.

"Harry!" Niall says as soon as he spots them. He's got a drink in his hand and there's a girl not too far away that's looking at him like she wants to eat him for breakfast. Harry just grins.

"Hey, Hazza," Zayn says without looking at him, his eyes locked to Harry's right. "You must be Louis."

"Louis, this is Zayn," Harry says, pointing, "and that's Niall. Lads, this is Louis."

Niall immediately wraps Louis up in a hug, and Harry would kill him instantly except that Louis laughs and pats him on the back. "Nice to meet you, mate!" Niall says enthusiastically. "We've heard so much about you."

"Ignore everything he ever says," Harry advises Louis.

"I'll keep that in mind."

"How very dare you!" says Niall.

"Really," Zayn tells Louis, reaching out to shake his hand. Louis accepts with a grin. "You should ignore everything he ever says. Crazy Irish bastard. Not to be trusted."

"I never," says Niall.

Louis laughs, but then gets distracted by the footie jersey Niall's sporting and the two of them are off on a very passionate discussion about it. Harry quirks an eyebrow at Zayn, who smiles lazily and shrugs. It feels a bit like approval.

They spend the next twenty minutes talking and it's like Louis's been a part of the group his whole life. He gives Niall shit when Niall spills his drink all over the bar in his enthusiasm to tell a story about this one time in Soho, and he and Zayn bond over clothes and lightweights. Zayn's referring to him as 'Lou' within a few minutes and Niall's standing with his arm around Louis's shoulders and Harry didn't know how much it meant to him that his friends like Louis until now that it's happened and the relief is a weight he didn't know he had off his shoulders.

The crowd inside starts to make a lot of noise all the sudden and Harry and Louis both turn to see, pushing his way through people to get to them, "Liam," Louis says.

"Yeah, that's…." But Harry trails off, because that didn't sound like a question and Louis looks like he's going into shock. Harry's just about to ask him if he's all right when Liam stops a few feet in front of them and stares at Louis, open-mouthed.

"Oh my god," he says.

Harry looks at Zayn, who has an eyebrow raised and an expression on his face that's just as confused as Harry feels. And then Liam and Louis both break into huge grins and when Liam opens his arms Louis rushes into them and they hug like they've known each other their whole lives.

"Louis Tomlinson is your Louis?" Liam asks Harry over Louis's shoulder.

"I. Yes?" Harry answers.

"I can't believe this!" Liam says, and it's as though he's read Harry's mind, though he sounds rather more happy than confused, which is what Harry is feeling in spades.

"I was thinking, when Harry was telling me about you," Louis says once he and Liam have untangled, laughing a little. "I was thinking 'oh, hey, I used to know a Liam who liked to sing'." He turns and looks up at Harry and Harry's still completely nonplussed but he likes the way Louis smiles and the ways Louis tucks himself in against Harry's side. "Liam and I were in school together when we were lads."

"Lou moved when I was fourteen, and I moved a year later."

"This feels like an episode of Friends," Niall says. "Long lost childhood friends meet-up at a pub."

Zayn rolls his eyes and Liam laughs.

"We really only lived in the same neighborhood and had choir together at school," Louis explains. "I was a year ahead of him, so we didn't have classes together or anything. He was the star, though. Harry said you're going to school for music. That's great!"

Liam grins and rubs at the back of his neck shyly, taking a seat at the bar and casually reaching out to swipe his thumb over the inside of Zayn's wrist. Harry takes a seat himself and Louis stays standing between his legs, gripping Harry's thigh. Harry likes to pretend that he's not a big believer in destiny, but he can't help feeling that all of this is a little strange. He wraps his arms around Louis's waist, slots his thumbs into Louis's belt loops, forearms crossed over his stomach. He hooks his chin on Louis's shoulder and breathes in the scent of him, frilly soap and nice cologne.

"You met Zayn then? Liam is saying. "And Niall?"

"Yeah, we've all been introduced."

"So you grew up in Wolverhampton?" Harry asks Louis curiously. It feels strange that they haven't touched on this before.

"Until I was fifteen," Louis says, and he and Liam look at each other carefully, and Liam can't hide anything to save his life, so the very real concern on his face almost makes Harry ask what's wrong, but Louis looks up at him and is smiling. "When my parents split I moved to Doncaster. Moved to London not long after."

"I'd barely even traveled here before uni," Harry says. "This lot, too. Niall lived in Ireland his whole life and Liam and Zayn met in Bradford. It was a bit overwhelming at first. And expensive."

"Harry your step-dad is like a trillionaire," Niall laughs, and Harry blushes faintly, especially when Louis quirks a curious, slightly evil eyebrow.

"I still can appreciate how expensive something is!" he argues.

"it's all right love," Louis says, reaching up to pat awkwardly at Harry's cheek. "You can't help it that you're young and rich and beautiful."

"Well," Harry flounders a little, buries his face in Louis's hair and pretends that Liam and Niall aren't both laughing at him.

"Oi, look at that, will you?" Niall says suddenly, gesturing at the other end of the bar with the drink in his hand. Zayn's over there filling orders and chatting with a couple of girls that are batting their eyes at him. "He gets the best tips," Niall says. "I'm too forward. So I get the best sex from this job, but Zayn gets the best tips, because he's all mysterious and sexy."

"Sometimes Niall forgets that he's straight," Harry tells Louis, who grins cheekily.

"He flirts without the follow-through," Niall goes on after a sharp tug on Harry's hair. "It's genius, really. I just don't have that kind of will power."

Harry smiles at that, and at the way Liam looks over at Zayn with this expression on his face that's intense and soft and fond and so stupid in love that it would feel intrusive to look on if Harry didn't know them so well. Before Liam goes up on stage, Zayn grips him by the collar of his jumper and tugs him close, kisses him rather possessively. Louis tilts his head to watch, covering both of Harry's hands with his own at his waist, and Liam is panting a bit by the time Zayn finally lets him go, but he looks pumped up and happy and they're really just absolutely disgusting, the two of them.

"Go make all these girls's knickers melt off," Zayn says.

Liam grins bashfully and chuffs Zayn gently under the chin with the side of his index finger, says a quick, "Be good," and then he's wading through the crowd again to take the stage. The noise is ridiculous, and Liam is adorable, rambling into the microphone. Harry's not really paying attention to him, though, is sliding off his stool to pull Louis against him fully. Zayn's got a crowd of people to make drinks for and Niall has faded into the corner with a group of girls. Louis turns in Harry's arms, smiles slowly up at him.

"I like your friends."

"They like you too," says Harry. "S'weird that you already knew Liam though."

Louis hums an agreement. "It's been ages since I've seen him. He looks just the same. Hotter, now, of course."

"Don't let Zayn hear you say that. Possessive bastard."

"I noticed that."

"I'm not much better," Harry admits pointedly. Louis quirks an eyebrow at him, smirking. "It's one of my few flaws."

"Your curls make up for almost everything," Louis says, ruffling them. "And what they can't cover your cock does."

Harry stifles a laugh, because Louis said that quite loud and people are turning to look, but if nothing else in the last few days he's learned that Louis is brash and loud and unapologetic and Harry finds it alarmingly attractive.

"Will you stay with me tonight?" Harry asks him.

"Should I?"

"Mm. Doctor's orders."

"Ah," Louis says, the sweet grin on his face at odds with the filthy look in his eyes. "I'm due for an examination, am I?"

"Very due," Harry agrees. "Overdue, in fact. You need extensive tests done. I'll be very thorough. It's all in your best interest."

"I suppose I can't skip out on that, can I?"

Liam sounds incredible, like he always does. Harry is pleasantly buzzed and Louis slipping into drunk by the fifth song, and Louis drags Harry closer to the stage so they're part of the crowd and Harry warps around him from behind, Louis's back pressed all along his chest as they sway together. Liam's singing something a little too mainstream for Harry's tastes, something he hasn't heard before that's slow and pretty, Niall up on stage to accompany on guitar. Liam's gaze catches on them and he smiles as he sings and Harry presses his mouth to Louis's ear.

"Why was he looking at you like that earlier? Like he was worried about you?"

Louis doesn't ask what he means, just tilts his head up for a kiss before he answers. "My parents divorce was quite messy. Liam lived next door. I didn't get much of a chance to say goodbye before I moved. I'm a little shocked he still remembers me. It was a long time ago."

"You're very memorable," Harry tells him, and Louis nods solemnly, biting his lip on a smile. Harry pushes his hair back, turns Louis so they're facing each other. "I'm sorry your parents divorce was rough."

"You're sweet," says Louis, cupping Harry's cheek. Harry turns his head to kiss his palm. He's happy. He's really, really very happy.

They help Zayn close up at the end of the night, and the five of them plus Niall's on-again off-again girl Mary—another bartender at the pub—walk home together. Mary is the only one left sober, even Liam is stumbling more than he's walking and deteriorating into inexplicable fits of giggles. Harry has Louis hitched on his back, and Louis and Niall are singing the Canadian national anthem deafeningly, Louis's legs squeezing at Harry's sides and his arms flailing above him. Zayn and Liam are nearly in tears from laughing.

"The True North strong and freeeee!" Niall and Louis shout. They both have quite lovely singing voices, Harry thinks.

"I can't believe I hang out with you lot," Mary says helplessly.

"I wish we didn't have to wear so many clothes all the time," Harry replies, which has nothing to do with what she said but he feels like someone should know, and he's frowning and feeling deeply affected by this. "I just. I would feel so much more without clothes on."

"The lot of us would, mate," Zayn says, and then belches loudly. "Keep your kit on."

"O Canada! We stand on guard for thee!" Niall wails.

"Oh my God," Marry laughs. "Shut up! Harry, what have you brought into our ranks? This—" she points at Louis, who is harmonizing with Niall, a hand on his chest, Harry thinks, because his elbow is kind of buried in Harry's hair. "This one is an instigator."

"I beg your pardon!" Louis says, very offended.

She prods him in the side and he jerks and giggles, ticklish. "Look at him! Look at those cheekbones! He got Liam drunk!"

"I'm not drunk, surely," Liam says like it's a perfectly reasonable conclusion.

"You are, sweetheart," Zayn nods, gripping Liam's arm tightly. "And don't call me Shirley."

Harry trips over a bump in the sidewalk, and yelps and he and Louis go down flailing, which ends in both of them on the ground in a tangle of limbs and laughing so hard they can't breathe.

"Children. The lot of you." Mary says dryly. She's only a few years older than them. Harry wants to point that out but Louis is squirming against him and kissing him and really, he'd rather do that anyway. "Hey, hey! You two wait until you're home, will you?"

And, just because Harry feels a bit bad for her, he complies.

It takes another twenty minutes to make it back to their flats, and Harry barely wishes the others a goodnight before he's closed the door and crowded Louis up against it.

"Tell me what you want," Harry demands. He likes it when Louis talks. He likes the sound of his voice.

"I want you to come on my face," Louis answers immediately, like he's been thinking about it, and the few inhibitions he had before are out the window with the alcohol in his system. Harry moans out loud and ruts against the sharp wing of Louis's hip. Louis threads his fingers into his curls and bites at his earlobe. "Then I want you to fuck me. For the sake of my health. Dr. Styles."

Harry bites at Louis's neck and pulls him closer. "I'll give you all the doctoring you need, love."

He fucks Louis on the living room floor until they've both got rug burn on their knees, and then again against the bedroom wall. They fall asleep tangled together, wake up in the middle of the night and Louis is sleepy and soft and so, so sweet. Harry kisses him slow and deep and spreads him open. Louis rolls another condom down over Harry's cock and Harry sinks into him easily and just stays buried there for a few, Louis's legs around his waist, their chests together. They snog and fuck slow and lazy, all low-burning heat and intensity and Harry comes when Louis does, trembling underneath him and gasping against his neck.

"Do you have to work tomorrow?" Harry asks him after they've both come down. Louis still hasn't told him what he does. Every time Harry asks it's something new. Louis doesn't give things up easily. Harry likes the challenge.

"No," Louis answers. Harry goes to pull out but Louis tightens his legs. "Stay in me a bit."

Harry's mouth goes dry. He bites his tongue and nods, easing back down, lacing their fingers together on the pillow next to Louis's head.

"Stay over again. I only have to work a few hours in the morning. You can stay here, or hang with the lads. Be here when I get back, huh?"

"I s'pose I can do that, yeah," Louis says. He kisses Harry very sweetly and Harry squeezes his hand. It's so late, nearly morning already. Harry has to be to work in four hours. After a bit he reluctantly disentangles himself from Louis and gets rid of the condom. Louis pulls him back into his arms and Harry goes willingly, eyes closing. Louis hums quietly and plays with his hair, and Harry thinks he's never felt so content before. He thinks he might like Louis quite a lot.

He thinks he might keep him.

 

 

The next two months pass by in a blur of summer and sex and friends and all things Louis, who is adopted into their group so fast it's like they weren't really complete without him. They go on dates and spend days together if Harry's not working and nights together if Louis isn't. When Harry's sister and mum visit he introduces them, and Louis has them charmed in moments, has Harry's mum fawning all over him and Gemma halfway in love.

Harry works three to four days a week, and Louis works a lot more than that since his job is full-time, but they don't go a day without seeing each other and Harry's having more sex than he's ever had in his life and it's hot and good and wonderful. They have clothes at each others' flats, and Harry has a head for Louis's Sonicare toothbrush, and there's a Louis-shaped imprint in Harry's mattress and Harry's pretty sure he's in love.

"I think things are going very well," Louis says one morning, naked and sweaty and riding Harry's dick so fucking slow. Harry grips his hips, rocks up into him and Louis makes a rough, punched-out noise and presses his hands harder into Harry's chest. Harry may very well kill him if he doesn't speed up, so he rolls them over, smirking at Louis's startled yelp, and digs himself in as deep as he can, until Louis's panting and his eyes are rolling back.

"Very well," Harry finally agrees, sucking bruises into Louis's neck. Louis's legs wrap around his waist and his abs contract as he rocks his hips to meet the thrust when Harry starts to drive in harder, faster.

"Fuck, babe, it's really hot when you throw me around like that."

Harry grins, nips at Louis's swollen bottom lip and groans brokenly when Louis clenches around him, moaning and needy. Harry lasts barely another few minutes, fucking Louis hard enough for the headboard to bounce against the wall and Harry's neighbors probably hate it but he doesn't care. Louis's loud and hot, voice all fucked out and filthy (fuck me Harry, harder, fill me up, so fucking big inside me feels so good gonna come on your cock gonna come make me come) and Harry's balls deep inside him and is only human. He flies over the edge, pleasure swallowing him up so sharp and sweet it makes his teeth hurt and his body throb and Louis is spilling between them, into his own hand and all over their stomachs. Harry palms over Louis's belly, fucking him through the waves, swallows Louis's slurry, blissed words, licks them out of his mouth.

Later, after Harry can see straight again and he's sleepy and comfortable, head pillowed on Louis's chest and Louis's hands in his hair, Harry says, "It's going very well. I'm going to introduce you as my boyfriend from now on, mmkay?"

Louis's hand stills in his hair and Harry holds his breath, exhales when it starts again, his curls twirling up around Louis's fingers.

"Well all right then," says Louis, and that's that.

 

 

Harry's good mate Nick has a few people around for drinks and lunch one afternoon, and a few turns into twenty or thirty which Harry is grateful for. Louis and Nick don't really get along well. They tend to press each other's buttons and get snipey at each other, so Harry doesn't force them to spend too much time together, but Nick is a really good friend. Louis is willing to bear his presence if it'll make Harry happy, and Harry is more than willing to abuse that. Especially at something like this, when the rest of the lads are here and Louis can walk away when he gets annoyed.

Afternoon is curtailing into evening and Harry's tipsy, sitting in a very comfortable chair in Nick's living room. He grins lazily when Nick walks over and squeezes into the seat with him. He was one of Harry's professors at Uni. Harry did very well in that class.

"Young Harold!" Nick says solemnly. "You look very content."

Harry giggles drunkenly. "I am very content, Professor Grimshaw."

Nick smiles at him, and then gestures to the doors to the balcony, beyond which Harry spots an unmistakable quiff. "Your young man there looks awfully serious."

Harry tilts his head to see past the door frame and through the glass. Louis is outside with Liam. They're standing quite close together, and Liam has his hand on Louis's shoulder and is biting his bottom lip, big dark eyes worried. Liam worries about everything, but it's not the first time Harry's seen him look at Louis like that. Louis's face is kind of shadowed, but he's talking with his hands and he doesn't look upset or anything.

"Oo, menage a trois," Nick says, wiggling his eyebrows suggestively when Zayn walks up on Louis's other side and ruffles his hair.

"Don't be a prick," Harry tells Nick. He watches Liam's lips move around the words I'm sorry and then Louis wraps him in a hug and Liam squeezes him tightly, his hand huge on Louis's back. Harry frowns thoughtfully, oddly concerned. When they pull away from each other, Zayn says something and Louis laughs and Liam launches himself at Zayn and the world starts spinning again. Harry looks away from them just in time to brace himself for Niall dropping into his lap like a rock. Harry laughs and squeezes his arms around him.

"You five are the handsiest group of boys I've ever heard of," sniffs Nick. Harry elbows him hard enough to make him choke a bit on his wine and calls it a win.

 

 

One night near the end of August, Niall's brings Brittany to dinner, the girl he hooked up with the night Harry first met Louis. She looks very pretty in her pale blue dress and she's very entertaining. They're at Niall's favorite restaurant, working their way through obscene amounts of Greek food, and Brittany is laughing at something Niall said and Zayn is outside smoking. Liam's been at work all day long, unloading shipments of packages from other countries off of planes. It's apparently very trying manual labor, and he looks exhausted. Harry pats at his head consolingly when Liam yawns for the umpteenth time.

"There, there," he says, in a very comforting way.

Liam snorts and smiles, yawns again until his jaw cracks. "Where's Lou tonight?"

"Working."

"Lou?" Brittany asks curiously. She's hung out with them a few times over the last few months, though she and Niall are just friends. He doesn't think she's ever been around when Louis's been with them, though.

"Louis," Niall tells her, grinning. "Remember that bloke you and Ella pointed out that night? He's Hazza's boyfriend now."

Brittany is the one who started the whole Louis is a hooker rumor, but Harry's been willing to give her the benefit of the doubt. She looks so puzzled for so long that Harry starts to get a bit nervous, a bit annoyed. "But, isn't he…?"

"No," Niall says sternly before Harry can, in a much nicer voice than Harry would've used. "I don't know where you got that idea, love, but he's most definitely not. He and Harry have been together for months now."

"But I saw him last night," Brittany says weakly, and something cold and tight worms its way into Harry's chest. "I saw him at a restaurant by the club."

It goes deathly silent very fast. Harry feels shockingly numb. "What?"

"I'm sorry," Brittany says, and her big brown eyes only look concerned. "I thought. I didn't realize that you two were so serious. I would've warned you before. Louis isn't…I mean, I'm sure he's a perfectly wonderful person," she finishes lamely, all of them staring at her now.

"You saw him with someone?" Liam asks delicately. He's suddenly gripping Harry's hand quite tightly.

"Yes. An older man. They were holding hands on the table. Harry, I'm so sorry, really."

She's wrong, Harry thinks, even as he rises from the table and goes outside for some air. He almost knocks Zayn over, apologizes hastily. He's breathing hard.

"Haz? You all right?" Zayn asks.

"Harry." That's Liam, outside now too, and Zayn is looking between them worriedly and Harry just wants Liam to tell him that Brittany is an awful human being who is lying. Liam grips him by the shoulders. "It might not be what you think. You need to talk to him first."

"She's making it up," Harry says at once, determined. "She's just. She's wanted to believe it from the beginning."

But he's thinking of all the times he's asked Louis what he does for a living and all the damn cryptic smirks he gets as a response. He thinking about how Louis works so many nights, and how even after all this time and how well he thinks that he knows Louis, he still doesn't really know anything about him.

"You need to talk to him," Liam repeats. "Tomorrow, all right? Or he usually calls after work. Have him come by. Tell him you need to talk to him and it can't wait."

"I can't wait," Harry agrees. He's already digging his keys out of his pockets. "I'm going to. I'm going to his flat. I'm going to wait there for him. They all know me there. It'll be fine. I'll talk to him tonight."

Liam makes a face like he's going to say something Harry doesn't want to hear, so Harry shakes him off and crosses the car park to his car at a jog. Once he's inside he can see Liam and Zayn talking, Liam's lips moving and Zayn's eyes getting steadily wider until his brow furrows. As he pulls out onto the road, he calls Louis twice, but both times go straight to voicemail. It's almost eleven o'clock at night. He's not sure what song is on, something Nick let him borrow, but it's screaming and raw and Harry shuts it off harshly. His palms are sweating.

He parks illegally in front of Louis's building, and takes the stairs because the elevator is too slow. He'll feel better once he's there, even just sitting outside Louis's door waiting for him. But Louis's door isn't all the way closed when Harry gets there. Harry swallows hard, walks silently down the hallway and pushes it open, takes a single step in with Louis's name on the tip of his tongue and stops dead.

There's a handsome man at least twice Louis's age, and he's got Louis wrapped up in his arms and he speaking into Louis's ear in a whisper. It's an intimate hold, possessive, his hand on Louis's back, and Harry feels like someone just reached into him and pulled all of his insides out, laid them bare on the floor. His foot slips on the tile, squeaks, and both Louis and the man look around at him. Louis's eyes widen and the color drains from his face, and Harry inexplicably wants to laugh. His eyes are burning.

"Harry," Louis breathes. He steps away from the man but Harry takes a step back.

"This is why you wouldn't tell me," Harry says, his voice more broken than he wants it to come out. "This job of yours, the acrobat and the court jester and the pastry chef and the professional milkshake taster. And all this time it was this?"

"Harry," Louis says again. He sounds horrified, his eyes still so wide. He's so fucking gorgeous and Harry can't stand to look at him.

"I have to go."

"No, Haz, wait—"

But Harry doesn't, is already slamming the door closed behind him. He knows Louis's going to follow him, but he can't make himself look back, make himself stop. He can barely hear the pound of his own footsteps over the roar of blood in his ears. He's got tears on his cheeks and everything hurts.

Louis catches up to him in the car park. He's barefoot and looks panicked. Harry jerks his arm out of his grip and whirls around and finds himself momentarily frozen at the look on Louis's face. Louis is livid.

"What the hell are you doing here?" he demands. "I told you I have to work tonight! Why are you here?!"

Harry is caught somewhere between rage and all-encompassing grief. It takes full seconds of staring at Louis with his mouth partially open before he's able to find his voice again. "Are you. Are you actually upset with me for this?"

"You can't just waltz into my flat whenever you bloody well feel like it!"

"The door was open!" Harry shouts. His insides are tight and crumbling and it hurts. "You were too busy humping that guy to close it!"

Louis shakes his head firmly, mouth pressed into a tight line. His eyes are hard but his hands are shaking. "Jesus Christ, Harry. You can't just—"

"I came to see you!" Harry growls, because anger is so much safer right now, so much easier to deal with than the pain that's threatening to knock him down. "Because Niall's friend said she saw you last night with someone else and I wanted to talk to you about it. Your door was open!"

"I told you I was working!" Louis yells, but he sounds more panicked than angry now.

"They told me," Harry spits. "They told me at that club, Niall's friend, she told me that you're famous there. A famous fucking whore that picks up business there!"

Louis rakes his fingers through his hair, hands curled into claws that tug viciously. He's very pale. "It's not what you think," he chokes. "Harry, it's not. It's not—"

"So what was that then?!" Harry shouts. "Either you're cheating on me, which is…" Harry shakes his head, wipes his hand over his mouth. "Or you've been lying to me this whole time. Has it all just been made up? What the fuck were you—Why were you—" God, he can't even finish a sentence. "I thought you were just playing! I thought you just wanted to drive me crazy with the guessing! I didn't think you were hiding something! I didn't think you were hiding this."

"Harry…"

"What?! Is he related to you? Is he your uncle? Father? Because his hand on your arse makes me doubt that!"

"He's…He's a friend. He's just an old friend."

Harry laughs deliriously, choking on tears. It hurts to breathe. "Jesus Christ, Louis. Where did you meet him? Where did he come from?"

Louis looks away, looks down at his feet and Harry feels his heart crumble in his chest. He feels foolish and young and naïve. "You made me trust you. You made me believe you. I'm so fucking in love you with you that I can't even see straight and you're…"

Louis head snaps up when Harry says it, and he looks ill under the streetlight. His eyes are wet too, but he doesn't say anything.

"You still can't even answer me," Harry groans. "You can't even explain. You'd rather keep your secrets than—" He cuts himself off again, gnawing on his bottom lip. Finally, hurt and scared and wrapping anger around him like a cloak of armor, he shakes his head and opens his car door.

"Harry…"

"Go back inside, Lou. You have a client."

For a second, Harry sees something like anger flash in Louis's eyes. "You don't know what the fuck you're talking about," Louis snaps.

"I really, really don't," Harry agrees brokenly. "That's sort of the problem."

"Harry, God, please, just…just wait, okay? Come back upstairs and we'll talk, all right?"

Harry shakes his head against that temptation, but he doesn't want to hear anything Louis has to say right now. He wants to snap at him, to say Sorry, Lou, I clearly can't afford you, but he can't. He's not that person. He doesn't want to be that person.

"I have to go," is all he says, and gets into his car. Louis doesn't try to stop him again, and Harry leave him there hunched in on himself in the middle of the car park. Ahead of him, all Harry can see are bright lights and a beautiful London skyscape, blurred by the tears streaming down his cheeks, and all he can think is that he's nineteen years old. He supposes that it's about time he had his heart broken.

 

 

He spends that night sobbing into Zayn's chest while Zayn and Liam both wrap around him in their bed, unable to even tell them what happened he's such a wreck of snot and tears and hurt. Their home is lovely and their life is lovely and they're so in love and Harry lets it wrap around him, tucked between them, Liam's hand on his belly and Zayn's fingers stroking his hair and being a part of it just for a minute makes it a bit easier to breathe.

The next two days after that, he calls into work and locks himself in his flat except to go to the gym, where he works himself into exhaustion and stumbles home and falls asleep, wakes up long enough to drink copious amounts of alcohol and then go back to sleep.

By the third day, he has over fifty missed calls from Louis, over one hundred text messages. He hasn't looked at any of them. He feels sick and wrong and horrible, and all he wants to do is forget.

On the fourth day, he wakes up from an impromptu nap around seven in the evening to find Liam stretched out next to him on his bed, stroking his hair gently. He looks worried and warm and Harry's aching to be touched, so when Liam pulls him in he goes willingly. Liam hugs him close, rolls onto his back to settle Harry against his side and Harry rests his head over the steady beat of Liam's heart. He misses Louis so much he feels sick with it.

For a long time, Liam just holds him, strokes his hair and the back of his neck, rubs his back and hums very quietly and it's so soothing that Harry is very nearly asleep when Liam starts talking.

"Haz, I didn't tell you this before because it really isn't my story to tell."

That sounds ominous. Harry sits up slowly, winds his blanket around his shoulders. Liam sits up too so they're facing each other. "What d'you mean?" Harry asks, his voice a rough croak of sound.

"I grew up next door to Louis, you know that."

"Yeah. He said you were there to see how ugly his parents divorce got."

"Which is true," Liam says. "But he wouldn't have told you exactly how ugly it was."

"Christ, Liam, stop with the build up. I'm so fucking tired of talking in circles, just—"

"Louis didn't move because his parents got divorced. He and his sisters were taken away from them."

"I don't understand," says Harry, dread like a rock in his stomach.

Liam sighs sadly. "You know. By the police. For their own safety."

Harry blinks, lips parting. "Oh." It's all he can think of to say. And then he thinks of Louis's scars. He's seen them a million times since they first met. He's never asked. "He has. He has cigarette burns on his back."

Liam winces. "That's. That's not so surprising, really. I don't know many details. My parents kept me out of it as much as possible, but there were a lot of incidents. Louis's been loud and a bit defiant and mischievous his whole life, so it was easy to write off some of the injuries as just accidents. But his parents fought all the time. His mother was addicted to pills and I don't know about his dad but at the least he was a very angry man. The night they came and took him and his sisters from them Louis hadn't been to school in almost a week. We..."

He breaks off, scrubbing at his mouth. The guilt on his face is almost tangible. "Liam."

Liam shakes his head slowly. "He was. He was screaming. We could hear it from my house. My dad broke in and Louis and his dad were in the living room and his dad was going at him with the buckle end of his belt. Dad and I had to haul him off him. There was. There was so much blood. I sat with Louis while we waited for the police and ambulance and stuff. He was in a lot of pain, not all there. He just kept apologizing for interrupting our dinner. I don't know. It was horrible. There was so much blood."

Harry's covering his mouth with his hand, thinking of the mess of scars on Louis's back. He can feel tears rolling down his cheeks and doesn't remember when he started crying. He feels like he might be sick. Liam is staring unseeing at the wall, haunted.

"Li," he croaks. It's all he can say. Liam takes his hand and squeezes it, composes himself, and Harry's breath hitches painfully. The looks Liam kept giving Louis at the beginning make sense now. Harry almost wishes he didn't know.

"He didn't have it easy growing up, and he didn't exactly have anyone teaching him that keeping secrets isn't the way to go. He's been by every day looking for you, and he's a wreck, Haz. I know you love him. You should cut him some slack."

It's not fair, Harry thinks, that Liam came in here and told him these things and now there's guilt and horror and soul-deep concern wilting his insides. He doesn't know what to say.

"You have every right to be mad," Liam says sternly, forcing Harry to look at him and not his hands wringing in his lap. "Keeping this from you—at the very least that he was sleeping with other people—was wrong. Don't feel guilty for how you reacted when you saw what you did. But maybe don't cut him off so quickly. Maybe let him explain."

 

 

After Liam leaves, Harry takes a shower and spends a full thirty minutes pacing his living room before he finally picks up his mobile, chooses Louis's number from his contacts and listens to it ring.

It barely gets to the second one before Louis answers, and his voice sounds weak and wretched when he says Harry's name and Harry misses him so much.

"Yeah," he says. His voice is shaking. His hands are shaking. "Hi, Lou."

Louis makes a little choked noise. "I'm. Hi. How. How are you?"

Harry chokes out a quiet laugh. "I'm a bit shit, to be honest."

"Oh," says Louis. "Me too."

Harry bites his lip. He's afraid and he's tired and he just…if nothing else he needs closure. "Can I come over?"

"Yes," Louis says immediately. "God, yes. Of course. Please. I'm. I miss you."

Harry scrubs a hand over his face, feels himself smile, just a bit. "I miss you, too."

The drive to Louis's is all of twenty minutes, twenty long, long minutes. The longest twenty minutes in the history of the universe. But when Harry gets there, it takes him another ten minutes to get the courage to get out of his car, and another five after that to work up the nerve to knock on Louis's door.

And then it opens and Louis is right there, looking impossibly small in the jumper he stole from Harry months ago. His eyes are red and he's got dark circles underneath them. His hair looks like he's been raking his fingers through it and he looks like he hasn't slept in days and he's so completely stunning that Harry has to stop himself from reaching for him.

"Hey," Louis murmurs. He's holding a mug of tea in his hand, and Harry can see another one steaming on the coffee table. "Come in."

Harry tries to smile but it comes out as more of a grimace, and he follows Louis inside, sitting down on the sofa while Louis curls himself into the chair opposite. It's awkward for the first time it's ever been between them and Harry can't stand it. He opens his mouth to tell Louis in a very mature and soothing way that he'd like to hear Louis's side of the story, please, so that he can figure out how he's supposed to feel because right now he doesn't know.

What comes out instead is, "Liam told me about your parents."

Louis blinks over his tea at him, startled, and Harry fights the urge to smack himself on the face. "Oh."

"Sorry," Harry says, waving a hand at him somewhat desperately. Louis probably thinks he's lost his mind. "He seemed to think it was relevant."

"It is," Louis says slowly, looking down at his tea for a few moments and then back at Harry. He just looks so tired. "What did he tell you?"

"Just that you and your sisters were taken from your parents for your own safety."

Louis nods distractedly. His hands are shaking a bit when he sets his mug onto the coffee table and tugs the sleeves of Harry's jumper down over them so just his fingertips peek out. "Yes."

"Louis you don't have to tell me anything. You really don't, and I don't want you to feel obligated to. You don't owe me anything." Louis flinches like Harry's hit him and Harry bites his lip, desperate and hurting and uncertain. "I just…I just need to know who that man was. Why he was here. I don't know if that will help but I can't…I just want to understand."

Louis takes a very deep breath and exhales it slowly. He looks away, out the window, a million miles away and Harry gives him all the time he needs, his heart throbbing.

"I'm afraid if I tell you that you'll hate me," Louis finally says, very straightforward, and it should sound melodramatic but Louis is looking at him so seriously, legitimately afraid. Harry makes a soft sound in his throat and shakes his head furiously, dread coiling in his guts.

"No," he says, helpless. "God, Lou, no. Nothing you could tell me could make me hate you. Nothing. I'm so in love with you. I'm just scared, and I'm angry and I'm worried, and I miss you."

Louis's looking at him, lips slightly parted, and he looks terrified and Harry doesn't know what to say or how to help him or how to help himself. He hates feeling this way. "Haz…"

"Just tell me that he was nothing and that he doesn't matter. Just tell me something."

It takes Louis a long time to start talking. "Niall's friend wasn't wrong. About the. About the whoring," he rolls his eyes like that makes it less serious and Harry breath catches in his throat. Louis looks ill, shoulders hunching a bit. "My sisters were able to stay together. They were adopted and live in Doncaster with a couple who couldn't have children of their own. It was kind of a fairy tale ending for them. They're happier than they ever would've been with my parents. I get to see them every once in a while. Their parents are good people."

"What about you?" Harry asks, shocked that his voice still works, rough as it is.

"I went through a couple of foster homes. I'm really…I'm sure you've noticed I'm rather a handful sometimes." He forces his lips to pull into a self-deprecating smile. He won't meet Harry's eyes for more than a few seconds. "The last one was….bad. I ran away to London within a couple of months. My mum had been sent to a rehab facility there, and I thought I might... When I found her she couldn't remember who I was, and it had only been half a year. She'd taken pills as long as I can remember, even back when I was quite little. I think her mind just kind of broke the night my dad kind of lost it."

"Lou," Harry says weakly, feeling utterly useless. "I'm so sorry."

"Thanks," Louis says, smiling again, small but more sincere. "It's. I don't know. Shit happens, yeah? Anyway, I was here and alone and had nothing. After a few weeks on the streets I was getting desperate. One night a bloke in a bar offered me a hundred quid for a blow job. I was starving. I. I said yes."

"You were fifteen," is all that Harry can think of to say, and the visual is too clear in his mind, of Louis six years younger and on his knees in some seedy alleyway. He has to swallow back the bile that rises to his throat.

"But the other night," Louis goes on like Harry hasn't spoken and his eyes are so intense. "It wasn't like that. It hasn't been in almost a year, Harry, I promise."

Harry wants to reach across the table, take Louis's hand, but Louis's all tucked into himself now, arms around his middle, so Harry settles for tightening his grip on the warm mug in his hands.

"The man I was out to dinner with the other night, the one you saw me with. He's a doctor at the hospital where you've been working."

Harry blinks, lips parting and eyes going wide. "What?"

Louis untangles one arm so he can tug nervously on his hair, watching Harry anxiously. "About ten months ago I was…hurt. A couple of blokes. I mean, they didn't seem like anything to worry about, but they injected me with something the second I was in the car and just. Things weren't consensual even by paying for it standards and they didn't use protection and just, y'know." He shrugs it off, like it's nothing, and Harry really doesn't know. Harry really doesn't want to know. "I'm the one that got in the car with them. I'm surprised it hadn't happened sooner, really. They left me in the motel room and I ended up in the hospital. I met Dr. Evans there. He and his wife took me in, helped me finish school and got me a job.

"I work at an emergency veterinary clinic, so a lot of my shifts are overnight. I only lied about it those two nights, because Dr. Evans came to visit and I didn't know how to explain. It was just a hug. He was hugging me goodbye, and you walked in. Fuck," Louis laughs but it's dreadful and hurt. He scrubs his hand over his eyes and looks miserable. "I'd been trying so hard to keep all of it from you. When you walked in that night it was like the end of the world, you know? You were going to find out and you were going to leave as soon as you did and I was so mad at you for ruining it."

Harry's mind is spinning, his heart aching.

"I knew I wasn't going to be able to hide it forever," Louis says, his voice very soft now. "I just…This has all been a bit like a dream. You're gorgeous and sweet and funny and I'm quite deeply in love with you. I didn't want it to end."

"But why did you think it would end?" Harry asks, shocked that his voice is still working.

Louis grimaces, presses the pads of two fingers to his lips for a moment. "Because. Because you're future neurosurgeon Harry Styles with this gorgeous life and these gorgeous friends and this gorgeous heart and your whole life ahead of you. And I'm this mess who's better at lying than telling the truth and who used to sell his arse for a living."

Harry wants to cry. His eyes are burning. Louis looks so tiny. So tired. Harry thinks about the scars on his body and the way he smiles and of their first night together, wrapped in a comforter and soaking wet in the middle of Harry's bathroom. He wonders how much time Louis's spent hating himself.

"Liam…"he starts, pauses to wet his dry lips and keeps his gaze locked on Louis, whose blue eyes are wet. "Liam said that you didn't ever have anyone to teach you that keeping secrets is a bad thing."

Louis swallows hard. "He was there, that night. He and his parents. I remember him sitting next to me when I was on the floor. It was really good to see him again. It's been good spending time together again. We were never like, close exacty, but he lived next door. We kind of grew up together. Small world, yeah?"

"Lou, I don't. Why didn't you just tell me?" Because this is the part that Harry's having trouble getting past. "Not about all this, but about the job?"

"I don't really know," Louis answers helplessly, like he's been expecting the question. "It's kind of the one question I avoided for so many years, the one thing I lied about more than anything else. I just. I don't know. I was afraid it would lead to more questions that I didn't want to answer. And this job with the clinic still feels new and real and it's mine, even if I didn't really earn my own way in. It's the first legitimate thing I've ever done. I think I just wanted to keep it mine for a while."

Harry's quiet for a long time, long enough that Louis starts chewing on one of his fingernails and bouncing his leg nervously. Harry's mind is whirling. He feels like he's been pulled inside out. He needs to think.

"Can I stay here tonight?" he asks.

Louis looks up at him, shocked. "Yes. God, yes, of course. I'm. You can have my room, if you want? Or I could make up the sofa?"

Harry gets up and walks around the coffee table, drops to his knees in front of Louis's chair so he can see him better. Louis looks terrified and hopeful and damaged. Harry takes his hands. "Wherever you're sleeping. If that's all right with you."

Louis's smile is frail, watery. Harry stands up again and pulls him up too. They take care of their cold tea and get ready for bed in silence. Louis takes a quick shower while Harry cleans his teeth and washes his face. He puts on a pair of his own scrubs that Louis's stolen and taken to wearing around at home on lazy days. By the time Louis emerges from the bathroom, Harry's lying on his usual side of Louis's bed, waiting for him.

It's awkward for a couple of minutes. Louis's dressed in pyjama bottoms and a t-shirt but he's never been more bare. Harry strokes his cheek and his heart hurts at the sight of tears in Louis's eyes. He pulls him into his arms just seconds before Louis loses it, whatever careful control he had breaking. Harry gathers him in close and squeezes his eyes shut. Louis's crying, his shoulders shaking, and Harry can't stop the pictures running through his head, imagining the things that Louis told him, that Liam told him.

He cradles the back of Louis's head in his hand protectively, feels Louis's tears on his neck and Louis's trying to be quiet and stop crying but he's so tired. Harry wonders how long it's been since he's told anyone all of this. Harry's face is wet too, and when he slips his hand under Louis's t-shirt and touches the pads of his fingers to one of the scars from his father's belt that Louis has on his back, Louis rambles in an almost manic, desperate whisper, "I deserved it, I deserved it. It felt like I deserved it."

Harry turns his face into Louis's hair. "No, Lou," he whispers back. "You didn't deserve it. You could never, ever deserve it."

Louis cries himself out eventually, and in the wake he's lax and still against his Harry's chest, his mouth pressed against Harry's shoulder. Harry can feel him blinking sleepily, his eyelashes light on Harry's skin. He rubs slow circles up and down Louis's arm until his breathing goes deep and even. Harry's hand shakes when he threads his fingers into the soft tangle of Louis's hair. He stays awake for a long time, thinking about everything that's happened in the last few months, about what Louis told him tonight, about how he feels and what he wants quite outside from that.

Louis. He wants Louis.

 

 

When Louis wakes up the next morning, Harry's already sitting up, watching him with a fond expression on his face. Louis blinks hazily, his eyes swollen from crying, his lips chapped. Harry coaxes him to sit up, kisses his forehead and eyelids and mouth. Louis already looks wounded, bruised, shoulders hunching like he's waiting to be rejected. Harry cups Louis's face in both hands.

"Harry?"

Harry strokes his thumbs under Louis's eyes. He never knew anything could hurt like seeing Louis in pain does.

"You can't lie to me. I can take anything but that, Lou."

"I'm sorry," Louis says brokenly. Harry shakes his head, kisses him.

"I love you. I love you and I think you're beautiful and brilliant and you mean everything to me."

"I'm not. I'm. I'm weird and too loud and-and used and—"

"You're lovely. You're not fucking used. You were abused and you were desperate and you were fifteen," Harry says. "Not a bit of it was ever your fault."

"I—"

Harry holds the pad of his thumb over Louis's lips. "Don't lie to me and don't hide things from me because keeping it inside just makes it hurt more and there's nothing you could tell me that would make me any less utterly, ridiculously, stupidly in love with you."

"Harry."

"I don't care, Lou," he says earnestly. "I mean, I care that it happened and I hate that you've been hurt and that you had to go through all that, but the only thing that matters to me is how you are now. I'm sorry I went mad at you. I just. The idea of losing you is. It's hard."

"Harry."

"It'll be okay. If you want it to be. If you still want me. I think it'll be okay. We'll be okay," Harry whispers. "Trust me. I'm going to be a doctor."

Louis hiccups a little laugh. "I love you too," is all he says. Harry tugs on his hair until he lifts his head, and Louis cups his cheek and leans in and they're kissing again. He can taste the salt from both their tears. Louis says, "I love you so much. I just want to be with you all the time and I've been so happy it's a bit scary and I'm so, so sorry for everything and I—"

Harry kisses him again to shut him up. They have time to sort it out later, to talk through Louis's abandonment issues and Harry's trust issues and maybe to research some, because Louis clearly has a terribly unhealthy attitude about the shit he's been through and probably needs some kind of counseling and Harry's pretty sure he might too and they still have a lot to talk about. But the basics are covered. They're in love, and they're stronger together, and Harry thinks it's a pretty good Step One.

"I've got you," he breathes, their foreheads touching, Louis's hands clutching at his back. "No matter what. I've got you."

And Louis smiles a weak, sincere smile and says, "I know. I got you too."

 

 

Two weeks after the start of the summer hols between Harry's second and third year of Uni, the veterinary clinic where Louis works hosts an adoption fair. It's a gorgeous Saturday morning. Harry's walking with Liam and Zayn and Niall and Mary, who are currently on-again. They're still a block away and can already hear the barking.

"We're not getting a dog," Liam tells Zayn, who looks mutinous. Zayn opens his mouth and Liam points a finger at him before he can get a word out. "Or a cat."

"You two are precious," Mary says, as though it's disgusting. Harry likes Mary. He thinks that Niall probably loves her.

The tents come into view first, the majority of the car park taken up with white tents to help block out the sun and booths with dinky little games and pins and crates where the animals are frolicking about. There are a ton of volunteers and a few of them Harry recognizes as Louis's co-workers, Matt and Aiden and Hannah and Stan. Louis is crouched down in front of a little boy and his father, a fluffy ginger kitten in his arms.

"Shit," Harry sighs, and doesn't even care how much the hearts in his eyes show. He's so used to the sight of Louis wearing his scrubs that the sight of him in ones that actually fit is always a bit strange. They're bright turquoise with cupcakes on them though, which makes the whole thing a bit more Louis. He's also holding a fluffy ginger kitten. He's perfect.

Zayn spots a pin of dogs for adoption within seconds and wanders casually that way. Liam watches with an unamused look on his face. Niall and Mary wander off to look at another pin of Border Collie puppies, and Harry makes his way to his other half, who looks up at him with bright blue eyes and a blinding smile as soon as he gets close. He carefully hands the ginger kitten off to the little boy and stands up to accept the hello kiss Harry gives him.

"'lo, love."

"I like you in my clothes better," Harry whispers in his ear, at which Louis snorts and bats at him so that he can go back to getting poor fluffy animals adopted.

Harry watches him hand papers over to the boy's father and tell the boy very sternly about how important it is to take proper care of the kitten. The boy names the cat Andrew, and it fights against the boy's chubby arms until it slumps in defeat and look up at Louis unhappily. Harry can sympathize with it. He'd hate to leave Louis, too.

After the little family toddles off, Louis sets his clipboard down on top of the crate full of more fluffy ginger kittens, and wastes no time in launching himself at Harry. Harry catches him with a quiet oof, getting his arms under Louis's bum to hold him up when he wraps his legs around Harry's waist.

"Zayn and Liam are going to get a dog," Harry whispers conspiratorially.

Louis looks over Harry's shoulder for a second. "Does Liam know that?"

"Somewhere deep down, I think he knows he'll cave." Harry turns them around to find his friends. Zayn is holding a small hound puppy and looking at it with adoring Bambi eyes. Liam looks both helplessly in love and highly disapproving.

"I think you should move in with me," Harry says abruptly.

Louis blinks at him. Harry sets him back on his feet. "What?" says Louis.

"I think it should be our flat, and our home, and I think we should split the rent and the bills and an address." Harry can't stop himself from smiling (which happens quite a lot around Louis). It's been just over a year since they met. It's time.

"And you decide to come here, to my work place, and make a scene in front of all these people with this preposterous question?"

Harry looks around. No one is paying them any mind at all. Niall and Mary are watching Zayn, who appears to have turned into a metaphorical pile of goo at the sight of Liam being licked in the face by the hound puppy. He looks at Louis expectantly, and Louis rolls his eyes. The smile that spreads over his face is like sunshine.

"Yeah, all right," he shrugs, like it's no big deal, and then squawks loudly when Harry picks him up and twirls him around, crying out in triumph and deliriously happy. People are looking at them now. Harry rather likes it. He sets Louis down but just to waltz him into a dip so he can kiss him. Louis is pliant and light, letting Harry take most of his weight so he can kick him in the ankle. He's used to being manhandled. Harry kisses the tip of his nose.

"I like that you're smaller than me," he murmurs, like it's a secret, when Harry tells him at least three times a week and usually twice on Sundays.

"I like that you carry me around when I don't want to walk anymore," Louis shrugs, still hovering a few feet off the ground with Harry's hand on his back. "It all works out."

Harry beams at him, and Louis smiles right back at him, and they don't move until Niall pelts Harry in the head with a plush dog toy.

They spend the rest of the day at the fair, and then the six of them walk back toward their flats side by side, Harry with his arm around Louis's shoulders and Niall with his arm around Mary's and Liam and Zayn's fingers linked between them, their new puppy leading the way home.