The first time was a bet.
Zayn had been on Louis’ couch all afternoon, sharing a joint and bemoaning the increased security at an upcoming music awards event he was going to. Apparently some ego-inflated hip hop star had declared current security not good enough for his incredibly important person and the whole thing had turned into a circus.
Louis was amazed at how many different words Zayn knew that meant annoyingly overdone. Then again he was one of the greatest R&B stars of the current generation, so perhaps it wasn’t so surprising after all.
“Can’t even go for a smoke without a dozen guys jumping you,” Zayn grumbled, handing the spliff over to Louis.
“Can’t be as bad as all that,” Louis replied, pulling deeply on a drag and holding it in.
“Mate, you have no idea,” Zayn said. “I bet the Pope himself would get checked at the door, it’s a bloody joke.”
Louis laughed at the thought of the Pope getting a pat down on the red carpet. He was happy and he was high so he found himself saying easily, “I bet I could get in, completely unchecked.”
Zayn turned to stare at him. “I bet you couldn’t.”
And, well. Louis had never in his life backed down from a challenge.
They quickly established the parameters of the bet - bragging rights and a fancy meal if Louis won, mocking rights and bail if he lost - before Zayn had to leave to let his team get him ready.
Despite the high stakes if he lost (the mocking of course, not the possible jail time), Louis wasn’t too worried. He’d noticed a thing or two about L.A. since he had followed Zayn across the pond a few years ago.
He totally had this.
What Zayn wasn’t aware of was that Louis actually had a little bit of experience with this sort of thing. Before the two of them had met in Manchester and become best friends when they were fourteen, Louis had been mates with some...unsavory people for lack of a better term, back in Doncaster. In fact, if Jay hadn’t decided to move Louis and his sisters away from a particularly dodgy boyfriend in Donny and try for a new start in a different city, Louis is pretty sure he would have ended up in jail by now.
He never did anything worth losing sleep over but over the course of his youth Louis had picked up a certain set of skills, which he prefered to keep under wraps to avoid awkward questions. He had light fingers for example, and could pick most locks and hotwire a car. Even though it had been a while since he had done it, he’d never lost the knack to look at a high security building and figure out a way inside.
So a few hours later, Louis was loitering across the road from the convention building where the award show was taking place, assessing the property. His head had cleared a bit which had allowed a few doubts to push their way through, but he studiously ignored them.
He might be a bit rusty, but he was a man with a plan.
With a last quick flicker of his eyes up and down the street, Louis confidently crossed the road and hopped the fence in the blind spot of the security cameras stationed at various intervals across the walls. He pulled a pack of cigarettes from his pocket and tapped one out as he casually wandered along the wall of the building, stopping when he reached a fire door in direct view of one of the cameras.
He lit up the fag in his hands and waited.
He didn’t have to wait long.
Less than a minute later, an exceptionally large security guard rounded the corner. He didn’t rush towards Louis but he didn’t dawdle either, and Louis pulled a drag on his cigarette as he eyed the guy’s appearance. Clean cut suit, fitted enough to be well presented but with room to move, neat haircut and clean shave, and a confident way of moving that suggested he could hold his own in a fight.
Wow, Zayn really wasn’t kidding. Everything about this security guy screamed top-notch private sector, which was top-notch expensive.
Luckily, that’s kind of what Louis was banking on and he could see his gamble pay off as the guy approached him. He watched him take in Louis’ incredibly expensive suit, his well tailored trousers clearly displaying no wallet or anything that would ruin the seam line, his bored expression and complete indifference to the approach of security, and the cigarette in his hand.
A borrowed suit from Zayn, a cigarette and the right attitude, and Louis went from security breach to misplaced celebrity instantly. He could practically see the wheels in the security guy’s head switch from ‘could be dangerous’ to ‘could get me fired’.
L.A was so predictable.
“I’m terribly sorry, sir, but this area is restricted,” the guard said, his tone polite and apologetic. He came to a stop a respectful distance from where Louis was standing. “I’m going to have to ask you to put out your cigarette.”
“Are you serious?” Louis huffed, sinking into the role of spoiled brat with relish. “I was just told I couldn’t smoke inside, and now you’re telling me I can’t smoke outside either?”
“I’m afraid smoking is not permitted anywhere on the property,” the guard replied, watching Louis carefully, obviously hoping that this encounter wasn’t going to blow up in his face.
Louis took a final deep breath of his cigarette, eyes narrowed at the security guard as though weighing his options. After a moment he blew out the smoke and dropped the remaining cigarette on the ground, crushing it under his stupidly expensive shoes.
“Fine, fine,” he grumbled. “I know you’re just doing your job or whatever.”
He didn’t miss the relief that flashed through the man’s eyes. They really must be getting a hard time at the moment.
Louis reached over to the fire door and gave it a tug, frowning when it didn’t open. He tugged again, making a show of it.
The security guard coughed delicately. “I’m afraid these doors only open from the inside, sir.”
Louis turned back to him, his eyebrows shooting up as though this was news.
“Seriously?” he exclaimed, totally ready for his Oscar, thank you. “Well,” he squinted at the guy’s name tag, “Alberto, maybe I’m relieved you came along after all.” He flashed him a winning smile.
Security guard Alberto responded with a small grin in return, before leaning over and swiping his security pass against a panel at the wall.
“Enjoy the show, sir,” he said politely.
“I’m sure I will,” Louis saluted him lazily, and walked right into the building.
The thing was that once he was inside, it was very hard not to freak out. Louis had honestly not thought this far ahead, which in hindsight had been a bit stupid. But then, the whole idea itself had been a bit stupid, so at least he was on track.
With a lack of anything better to do, Louis ambled casually along the various corridors as though he had any right to be there. Maybe a plan would come to him.
After a few minutes with no particular inspiration and a growing paranoia of being discovered, he decided to try and find Zayn. It wasn’t the best plan, but no other ideas were presenting themselves. Louis was just turning to ask for directions from one of the many harassed-looking people running around when an announcement sounded above him.
“Attention, could all seat-fillers please convene in Green Room 3 for the mandatory show run-down, thank you.”
Louis glanced at a sign on the wall next to him, pointing him towards Green Room 3.
Hmmm. Seat-filler. That sounded conveniently both useful as a disguise and also like a lot of fun if he played it right. Louis was an expert playing things right. Paranoia forgotten, he followed the direction the sign indicated.
Green Room 3 was filled with roughly a dozen people, men wearing clean cut suits and tuxedos, and women wearing classy but understated dresses. Everyone was crowded around an imposing looking lady with an iPad. As Louis approached and joined the edge of the group, she began going through what sounded like a well-rehearsed speech.
The first bit about co-ordinating staff to fill unoccupied seats was interesting, because Louis had never given any of that sort of thing any great amount of thought, even though he had been to a number of these fancy music events as Zayn’s plus one. As she began to go into the various rules about interacting with guests though, his attention began to wander. He was pretty much going to ignore all this anyway, since it didn’t really matter if he got it wrong. He was only tagging along for the night, and it wasn’t like they could fire him. He didn’t work for them in the first place.
Instead he checked out the fellow occupants of his impromptu cover story.
The men and women around him were all young, although not as young as Louis; pretty much everyone he could see looked to be in their late twenties or early thirties. At twenty-three, Louis seemed to be the baby of the bunch.
Actually, scratch that, there did seem to be someone his age, and she was looking right at him. She was also carrying a clipboard. Oops.
Louis pretended to be paying attention again, but unfortunately the girl approached him anyway.
“I don’t recognise you,” she said, speaking softly so she wouldn’t interrupt the lecture still going on. Just as Louis thought his ill-advised adventure might be over, she added, “Are you new?”
“Yes. Very new,” Louis replied with a completely straight face. “Can you tell?” he asked, because he loved pushing his luck, pulling out a sly smile.
The girl smiled back, hurrying to reassure him.
“I’m Eleanor,” she said, holding out the hand that wasn’t clutching the clipboard. “I work under Miranda.”
Louis shook her hand and nodded as though he knew who Miranda was.
“Nice to meet you, I’m Louis.”
“Calder!” a voice snapped behind Eleanor, making them both jump. The woman who had been lecturing everyone apparently had finished and had snuck up on them. “Haven’t you even finished introductions yet?”
Eleanor flushed in embarrassment. “Sorry, Miranda,” she mumbled.
Louis gritted his teeth.
“My fault,” he lied smoothly. Miranda’s hard gaze and Eleanor’s wide eyes turned to him. “Wasn’t counting on all that increased security, you know, made me a bit late.”
He tried his most winning smile, but Miranda scowled and Louis got an old familiar sinking feeling, the one that he always used to get just before he was fired. Which was silly, because this wasn’t even his job.
“Those bloody idiots,” Miranda surprised him by saying. “They all think they’re the bloody secret service or something. I told them not to interfere with my people, we’re on a tight schedule! Do you remember who stopped you?”
“No clue, sorry. He was big though,” Louis indicated a height somewhere a bit above him and then gestured wide. It covered pretty much the size of every security guard on the property, probably. Hopefully.
Eleanor coughed next to him, sounding suspiciously like she was covering a laugh, but Miranda didn’t seem to notice, just harrumphed in frustration.
“Well, if any of the others give you trouble, make sure you get their names and tell me,” she ordered. “Calder will show you around and get you ready.” With that, she stalked off, her heels clicking authoritatively as she tapped away on her iPad.
“Wow.” Louis raised his eyebrows at Eleanor, who laughed.
“Tell me about it,” she grinned. “Thank you so much for sticking up for me. You didn’t need to do that.”
“‘Course I did, my fault she was yelling at you in the first place,” he said easily. “She always like that?”
“Actually, she’s still new,” Eleanor confessed, indicating they should follow everyone else leaving the room. “I think that’s why she keeps snapping at everyone and flashing her company badge around, I think she’s still trying to find her feet.”
That was a pretty forgiving perspective for someone who seemed to be catching the pointy end of the green stick. It made Louis decide to instantly befriend her and to downgrade his level of mischief for the night. Well, at least attempt to anyway. He didn’t want to get his new friend into trouble - he’d save that for later, when they knew each other a bit better.
They arrived at the auditorium where the award show was taking place, and Eleanor gave him a pager. She explained that the numbering system that showed up on the display corresponded to a seat number, enabling Miranda to co-ordinate the whole show and fill empty seats with staff without any overlap.
“Very high tech,” Louis said, inspecting the pager. It looked like it had come straight out of the nineties - he remembered doctors carrying them around on General Hospital, a show he used to watch with his mum when he was little.
Eleanor laughed. “You should see the break room,” she said with a grin, before bustling off to where Miranda was calling for her.
Louis mingled with his fellow seat-fillers for a while, joining in on their conversations. They seemed a friendly bunch and welcomed him easily, making small talk as they waited around for the show to start. They had been stationed near the bar, where it wouldn’t look too out of place for a number of people to converge, and they would still be able to access their assigned seating swiftly and efficiently.
It was all very well thought out and organised.
Excusing himself, Louis wandered off the moment the attendees started arriving. He was not at all interested in being well organised and he ignored the pager once it began to go off occasionally in his pocket. He figured no one would notice an empty seat here or there and he certainly wasn’t going to spend the night just sitting around.
Instead he mingled with some mates in the musical industry that he knew through Zayn, and nodded at acquaintances he had met at sporadic events like this. It was gratifying how many people looked pleased to see him; Louis was in the firm belief no one actually enjoyed these overblown types of affairs, and previously he had made it his personal mission to liven them up as much as possible.
Tonight he was mostly behaving himself though - firstly because he couldn’t get kicked out until he found Zayn and won his bet, and also because his usual exit strategies would all end up reflecting badly on Eleanor and he hadn’t come up with an alternative yet. Just walking out the door was so boring.
As the night progressed and he still hadn’t spotted Zayn or come up with a plan that didn’t involve just leaving, Louis sighed. He obviously needed to work on the genius side of his self-appointed evil genius title.
He was just reaching for a flute of champagne from a waitress going past, hoping alcohol would fuel his inspiration, when someone barrelled into him.
Louis turned awkwardly in the arms wrapped around his chest and came face to face with a delighted James Corden. James was one of the few famous friends Louis had who he hadn’t met through Zayn; Louis had known them both well before either of them stepped into the spotlight, a fact he reminded them both of constantly.
“Alright mate?” he laughed. James was always happy to see him but he didn’t usually express this level of wild enthusiasm.
“Thank fuck you’re here!” James blurted before grabbing his hand and dragging him towards the bar.
“What-” Louis started to say but cut himself off when James practically shoved his nose into a bowl of complimentary nuts perched on the counter. He immediately understood his friend’s reaction to seeing him.
“Oh my god,” he breathed.
The bowls were filled with cashew nuts but instead of the typical elongated shape, these particular nuts each had an odd bulge at the end of them which, coupled with the usual long hook that a cashaw had, made every single one look like a tiny cock and balls.
“You see it, right?” James could obviously barely contain his glee. “God, I was going mental, no one else knew what I was on about, but it’s right there!”
Louis was already looking around. Opportunities like this came along only once in a lifetime, and there was no way he was going to pass it up, even if he got kicked out before he could win his bet. He could always send Eleanor flowers later, and any mocking would definitely be worth it for this golden opportunity.
The awards show, which Louis had largely been ignoring in favour of chatting to people, was in full swing. As each artist was coming off the stage clutching their award, there was someone to direct them towards a door that would presumably take them towards the media room. A media room which would be filled with journalists. Plus photographers. Lots and lots of photographers.
The person currently directing everyone was even someone Louis recognised from the green room pow-wow earlier, who he had been chatting to before the guests had arrived.
It was like the stars were aligning into this one perfect setup.
“Jimmy, I am about to make your day,” Louis said with a grin, grabbing a double handful of cock-shaped nuts to shove in his pockets.
It was a little hard to school his features into something serious when he could hear James Corden shouting, “I love you!” from across the room, but Louis had managed by the time he reached his sort-of colleague.
“Miranda needs you back on the floor, Jack,” he said with a jerk of his head and a rueful smile, banking on Miranda’s tyranny to spook the lad into obeying without question. It totally worked. Jack didn’t even say anything in reply, just gave Louis a wide-eyed look before scurrying off.
It took everything Louis had not to stand there rubbing his hands together in glee.
Over the course of the next hour, under the guise of congratulating the winning artists and politely pointing them in the direction they were required to go, Louis managed to slip the hilariously shaped nuts into every single pocket available.
It was incredibly easy to reach out and shake hands with the winner with his right hand, using the momentum to shift himself into close proximity. Then, when he dropped the artist’s hand and pointed in the direction they needed to go, still with his right, he brought his left hand up behind them as though to hover politely at their back, but in truth dropped the cashews into the artist’s far pocket. The misdirection of his pointing as well as the blocking of his body from the audience meant that no one had the slightest clue what he was doing.
The hardest part was definitely trying to keep a straight face.
He couldn’t wait for tomorrow when dozens of photos of winning artists started to crop up, all with tiny penis outlines in their heavily tailored clothes.
Forget evil genius, Louis was going to be a legend.
Eventually he was down to his last few nuts. As tempted as he was to restock and continue, it had been a miracle that no one had discovered what he was doing so far, and as much as Louis loved to push his luck, he also knew when to make a graceful exit.
Besides, he had finally spotted Zayn near the bar, chatting to someone who looked suspiciously like Liam Payne. Liam was a professional footballer and massive teddy bear, who Zayn was completely in love with but refused to make a move on much to Louis’ exasperation. One of Louis’ favourite pastimes was making Liam blush while Zayn threatened to murder him with his eyes.
Louis turned, about to cross the room to where his boys were standing, but bumped into a broad chest covered in very bright colours.
“Oops!” someone’s hand caught Louis’ elbow as he stumbled back, and he glanced up to see Harry Styles, ridiculously good looking international pop star and frequent headliner in Louis’ personal fantasies.
Harry’s eyes were even more green in person than he could have possibly believed.
Louis was pretty sure his heart stopped.
“Hi,” Louis said dumbly, then immediately wanted to kick himself. Hi? That was the best he could do? Christ. Belatedly Louis spotted the award in Harry’s hand and remembered he had someone else’s job to do. “Sorry, yeah, this way.”
He stepped aside, automatically following the same movement patterns he had been doing for the last hour, slipping the last two nuts in his hand into the pocket of Harry’s sinfully tight slacks.
Harry paused as though he may have felt something, and Louis’ stomach lurched. He was damned if he was going to get caught planting cock shaped nuts on the very last person of the night, by Harry freaking Styles no less, so he immediately went into diversion mode.
“Hey,” he said quickly, prompting Harry to turn and look at him instead of checking his pocket. Now he had to say something witty. “Congratulations on the win.” Okay, not witty exactly, but Louis found that his words were sincere. He added a wink just to be cheeky.
Harry blinked at him in surprise and then grinned, this beautiful thing that lit up his whole face.
“Thanks,” he replied with a nod of his head, his voice even deeper than Louis was expecting, which did nothing to him at all, nope. Harry turned back to go through the media door and Louis found he could breathe again.
Okay. Definitely time to stage a quick exit.
Louis abandoned his post to go find Zayn.
The next morning Louis was woken up by his phone buzzing on his bedside table. Grumbling, he unlocked it and squinted at the screen.
I am so proud to call you my friend!!
The text message from James Corden was accompanied by a link that Louis tapped on, a grin splitting his face when it directed him to an article with the best headline he had ever seen.
MYSTERY NUTS CONFOUND RED CARPET
Early morning grogginess forgotten, Louis sat up quickly as he scanned through the article. There wasn’t much information listed, just mentioning that a number of celebrities had been confused to find cashew nuts in their pockets at the end of the night, but the photos. The photos. They were everything Louis had been hoping for.
All the pictures were of male artists (none of the women had been wearing anything with pockets for Louis to sneak the nuts into rather than any real gender bias), clutching their award statues and beaming or smoldering seductively at the cameras, and each and every one had a tiny yet distinguishable penis outlined against their leg.
Louis quickly tapped on a few related articles and skimmed through the photos. The flashes from the cameras had made the shapes even more prominent than Louis had expected, and in some of the photos the shape had even been blurred out.
This was it.
This would be his legacy.
He may as well retire from life now, he had reached his crowning achievement.
It felt pretty damn good.
Louis couldn’t stop grinning as he pulled up his Twitter feed, already anticipating people falling all over themselves about this.
The first tweet that showed up on his feed however, was one from Harry Styles.
@Harry_Styles Found someone’s nuts in my pants. /instagram.com/p/9g….
Louis’ heart flipped in his ribcage.
Tapping on the link revealed a filtered black and white photo of Harry’s hand, the two cock-shaped nuts Louis had slipped into his pocket last night sitting innocently next to each other, dwarfed in the middle of Harry’s giant palm.
Harry Styles was talking about him in the media. Harry Styles. Alright, so it was indirectly about Louis and not exactly mentioning him specifically, and social media probably didn’t really count as THE media, but still!
Louis wanted to clutch his phone to his chest like a teenage girl. He didn’t really get starstruck about very many people; he had been trailing behind in the shadow of Zayn’s spotlight for too long, and had met too many people who had turned out to be twats - but there was something about Harry Styles that made his breath catch and his heart skip a beat.
Plus his hands were huge. Louis stared at the photo for longer than was probably decent. He definitely needed to call Zayn and demand victory celebrations, but first…
First Louis was going to slip into the shower with images of big hands and gorgeous smiles vivid in his mind.
The second time it happened was a dare.
It was a few weeks later, and Niall was visiting from London. He had a break between filming seasons of his hit cooking show, and proclaimed he missed the both of them too much to spend it without them any longer.
Louis was regaling him with his epic cock nut story, Niall laughing in all the right places because he was awesome like that, when Zayn interrupted to say, “I still don’t get the part where security just let you into the building. Like, I can’t believe they didn’t at least ask to see some I.D or something.”
“Please,” Louis replied, placing a dramatic hand on his chest as though he were offended. “I blindsided them with my bullshit. The quality of my bullshit is beyond compare, I am the master of bullshit.”
“That is very true.” Niall tried to keep a straight face next to him, laughing loudly when Louis smacked him on the arm.
“I still don’t think-” Zayn began.
“Dare you to do it again,” Niall interrupted suddenly.
Louis and Zayn both looked at him. He was staring at Louis in that excited way he had, like Louis could do anything possible, he had only to think of it first.
“Double or nothing!” Niall added, as though that was the deciding factor.
Louis glanced at Zayn, who shrugged.
Fortunately - or perhaps not so much - it was the beginning of awards season, so it was only a few nights later that Louis found himself across the road from the Golden Globes, wearing another borrowed suit and chewing his lip indecisively.
This was a terrible idea.
Like, the first time had been a bad idea that happened to go well, but this was a truly, remarkably, just simply awful idea.
Louis really needed to stop letting his friends goad him into situations that may result in jail time.
He had arrived earlier this time around, as his head was clearer and he was aware he might need some leeway if there were complications. The Golden Globes was a much more high profile event than the music award show he had snuck into, so Louis wanted to have some time to re-strategize if things didn’t go according to plan.
Things were not going according to plan.
For one, there was a lot more press out the front this time - they were all stationed outside to get photos of guests arriving, rather than inside for the promotional shots of artists winning, like before. The fences around the building were also much higher than the other property and topped with razor wire, which, seriously? Surely that was just a tad excessive.
“Louis!” A voice said loudly behind him, interrupting Louis’ careful assessment of the building.
Louis turned to see Miranda power walking towards him. Remembering how he had completely ignored his pager, every instruction he hadn’t bothered listening to in the first place during her pre-event lecture and basically been the worst seat-filler ever (considering he hadn’t ever sat down), Louis felt his stomach sink.
Great, he was going to get busted before he even crossed the road!
“I’m glad you’re here early this time,” Miranda said with a smile as she caught up to him, which was...not what Louis expected her to say.
“Didn’t want to get caught out again by security,” he replied easily anyway, masking his confusion. Why wasn’t she pissed at him? He had done a laughingly appalling job under her watch - surely she had noticed?
“Good thinking!” Miranda said with that false enthusiasm a lot of people in Hollywood employed when they wanted something. Linking her arm with his, she began to drag Louis across the street to the event venue. “I’m glad I caught you alone, I wanted to have a bit of a chat.”
That sounded incredibly ominous, and also vaguely like a sexual proposition.
“Oh?” Louis hoped his voice sounded adequately neutral, because it felt like this woman was either going to throw him in front of a bus or throw him onto a bed, and he wasn’t sure which way it was going to go. Or which was more horrifying.
“I wanted to compliment you on your work!” Miranda said, ducking behind the press who were still setting up their photography equipment and television cameras, ready for when the big celebrities started to arrive. She barely flashed her pass at security before leading them into the building.
What? His work?
“I’ve heard nothing but great things about the way you worked the room at the music awards last week!” she continued with a wink, confidently navigating the maze-like corridors of the building. “Everyone was completely charmed, including a lot of the artists!”
Louis decided not to point out that he was actually mates with a lot of those artists, which probably had a lot to do with their apparently glowing reviews. Which, why were they giving reviews anyway? Had she been purposefully asking about after him? What on Earth for?
“I was hoping you could work your magic again tonight,” she said, pulling him to a stop and taking a pile of business cards out of her pocket and handing them to him. “Schmooze a little, really get the brand name out there. No need for promises from anyone, of course, but it’s all about name recognition.”
Louis looked down at the cards. Miranda’s name, job title and contact details took up the majority of the space, with the company logo squished right down the bottom corner. He barely contained a snort of amusement.
She was being nice to him because she wanted him to be her walking advertisement.
“No problem,” he said easily, slipping the cards into his pocket with absolutely no intention whatsoever of taking them out again.
“Excellent! Eleanor Calder is just down the end of this hall in the room on the left. You met her last week, I believe? She’ll get you all set up for tonight.”
Bemused, Louis nodded and turned to go.
“Oh, and Louis?”
He glanced back.
“Let’s just keep it between us, alright?” Miranda winked at him again, and it was just as disconcerting as the first time she had done it.
Louis didn’t exactly run down the corridor to safety, but he probably couldn’t justify calling it a walk either.
“Louis!” Eleanor looked pleased to see him, a few other familiar faces from the previous event turning to look at him as he came into the room. “I didn’t know you were going to be here, I didn’t have your name on my checklist! Did you get past security alright?”
“Yeah, uh, Miranda found me outside.” Louis desperately wanted to ask Eleanor about Miranda’s little chat - he had a feeling that her self promotion would be frowned upon and if Eleanor could use it to get out from under Miranda’s thumb, he wasn’t going to hesitate to let her know. However the seat-fillers he had chatted with at the music awards were crowding around to greet him, and it didn’t seem like a good idea to mention that he had been singled out after only one event in front of them.
He would have to tell her later, greeting everyone with a smile instead.
In what seemed no time at all it was time for the Golden Globes ceremony to begin. The set up for the seat-fillers seemed much the same as before, with everyone given their own pagers and Miranda directing them like chess pieces from her iPad. Once again they were stationed near the bar, although there was more than one drinks station this time.
Luckily they were positioned near one of the real bars rather than an alcohol-free bar, which Louis thoroughly approved of.
He took advantage of the proximity to free booze, chatting with the bartender Josh while the attendees for the award show began to filter in, sipping the mixes his new friend served him. He alternated them with water; it was alright to take advantage of free alcohol, but he didn’t want to get completely plastered and kicked out just yet. That could always come later.
Once the venue started to fill up, Louis waved goodbye to Josh and began to mingle. The Golden Globes was an award shows with a sit down meal instead of a theatre style presentation, so even once the ceremony began there were quite a few people wandering around between the tables.
Louis felt right at home, stopping to chat with various people he knew, and introducing himself to others. Zayn had always teased Louis about his ease in social situations, but that was because Zayn was terrible with new people, reticent with anybody he didn’t know. Louis however, loved shooting his mouth off to a new audience and had no problem striking up a conversation with people he had never met before.
The business cards he had been given stayed firmly in his pocket.
As the evening wore on Louis finally decided he had had enough fun and started to make his way back to the bar to say goodbye to Josh and Eleanor. He would take a selfie next to one of the Golden Globe promotional banners hanging everywhere as proof that he had passed security, and then he could head home and maybe have a late night snack before heading to bed. He could rub his friends’ faces in his superiority tomorrow.
He had reached the open area of the floor that separated the tables from the bar areas when a deep voice directly behind him murmured, “I know it was you.”
Louis turned around and came face to face with Harry Styles, who was wearing another outrageously patterned suit that should look ridiculous but somehow looked amazing on him.
“Excuse me?” Louis asked, proud of his voice for not cracking. It had only been a week since he had last seen Harry Styles in person, how could he have already forgotten how incredibly pretty he was? Louis wanted to strip him right out of that stupid outfit.
“The nuts,” Harry clarified, breaking Louis’ train of dirty thoughts. “I know it was you.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Louis replied, slipping his hands into his pockets to show just how cool, calm and collected he was. He was confident that Harry was talking out of his arse and couldn’t prove anything.
“James Corden sold you out,” Harry said, mirroring Louis’ posture.
“He did not!” Louis gasped in outrage, all awareness of poise forgotten. He didn’t believe for a second that James had dobbed him in, but he certainly wouldn’t put it past him to brag about his friend’s prank in a public setting where anyone could overhear.
“You’re right, he didn’t,” Harry agreed, a smile tugging at the corner of his mouth, and it took a moment for Louis to realise he’d been had.
“Well played, Styles, well played,” he admitted grudgingly.
Harry beamed at him, the same bright enthusiastic smile he had given Louis at the music awards and Louis shook his head, unable to help smiling back. What sort of ridiculous person pulled that type of delighted expression out for a complete stranger? It certainly didn’t fit with the serious stoic artist that Harry was often portrayed as in the media, but it made Louis want to get to know him better. It made him want to maybe cuddle up together on a couch as well as fuck him through a mattress.
“So, Harold,” Louis said before they could stand there smiling at each other like two idiots for much longer. “Now that you are in possession of this classified information, what are you going to do about it?”
“Blackmail,” Harry said immediately, and Louis laughed at the juxtaposition of such a sweet face being ready with such a naughty answer.
“Is that so?” he finally managed.
“Yep.” Harry stepped closer into Louis’ space, leaning down to murmur quietly, “I’m going to use it to force you to tell me all your secrets.”
Jesus. Was it hot in here or was it just Louis?
Also, was Harry Styles actually flirting with him, or was he just playing around, trying to fluster him?
“Such as?” Louis asked, glancing up through his lashes. Harry might be incredibly charming and slightly taller and have huge hands, but two could play at this game.
“Telling me your name,” Harry replied, staring down at him, his pupils slightly blown.
The media always portrayed Harry Styles as a bit of a player when it came to women, and either he was a bit of a player when it came to men as well or else they had been way off the mark, because he was definitely hitting on Louis right now.
Louis opened his mouth to reply, hoping something witty and at least coherent would come out despite his brain only supplying white noise, but just at that moment Eleanor ambushed him.
“Louis!” She grabbed his arm. “I’m so sorry but I really need you.”
She looked so frantic that Louis couldn’t even be cross at her at interrupting. Well, not that cross anyway, he thought flicking his gaze at the hot popstar he was about to be separated from.
“Sorry, love,” he said to Harry ruefully, letting Eleanor drag him away. “Duty calls.” He winked as he left, because he was at heart a cheeky bugger.
“Bye, Louis!” he heard Harry call from behind him.
“I really am sorry,” Eleanor said, leading him through the weave of tables. “I hate to be a cockblock and he looked like he was really into you, but I desperately need your help.”
Louis wanted to press her more about her impression of just how into him Harry had been, but she rushed on.
“The cameras keep sweeping over to Beckham’s table, but his wife had to leave early and he looks bored out of his mind,” she explained, dodging tables deftly. “It’s really bad for ratings if the guests don’t look like they’re having a good time, and Miranda is losing it. You're from England, right, you know stuff about English sports, like soccer? Can you chat with him, getting him at least looking interested for when the camera is on him?”
She was looking at him so hopefully, it took everything Louis had not to laugh hysterically.
“Sure, I’ll chat about football with David Beckham for you,” he said, somehow keeping a completely straight face whilst freaking out with joy on the inside at the thought of meeting his childhood hero.
So for the rest of the night, Louis sat next to David bloody Beckham, talking about everything from Man U’s chances at the cup this year to staying in L.A. with the kids while Victoria was filming some footage for a television show. Louis was even able to be actually useful instead of a complete fanboy mess, recommending some places for Beckham to take the kids that weren’t major tourist hotspots. Louis had taken his sisters to a number of fun activity centres when they had visited last year, avoiding the better known popular places because they hadn’t wanted to get swarmed by the summer crowds.
He didn’t get a chance to see Harry again before the night wound to a close, Miranda stealing him away after Beckham left once the awards show finished, demanding a play by play of everyone Louis had talked to during the evening.
By the time he dodged her interrogation and escaped, it was well into the wee hours of the morning and all he wanted to do was collapse in bed. When he finally got home and was changing into his night clothes and brushing his teeth, he replayed the night over in his head. The whole thing seemed kind of surreal; even though he had been there it was still hard to believe any of it had happened.
It wasn’t until he was climbing into bed that he realised he had never taken that selfie with the wall banners like he had planned. Crap. He would have to find a different way to prove to Niall and Zayn that he had won the dare. Oh well, he would worry about it in the morning.
It turned out he needn’t have worried, because he was once again woken by his phone buzzing on his bedside table. Both Niall and Zayn had texted him what looked to be the same URL link, Niall with the unhelpful accompaniment of ‘Get in!’ and a string of indecipherable emojis, and Zayn with an even less helpful message consisting of a question mark and nothing else.
Half asleep still, Louis tapped on the link lazily, then jolted upright in bed.
It was a celebrity gossip article about the Golden Globes with photos of the ‘Who’s Who’ of Hollywood attendees mingling around the tables. At the top of the page in the very front and centre was a high definition photograph of Harry and Louis smiling dopily at each other.
Louis’ eyes dropped to the caption underneath the photo, which read ‘Harry Styles, charismatic popstar, talks to well-liked socialite Louis.’
Louis burst out laughing.
Socialite, christ. Trust the media to completely make up something ridiculous to disguise their ignorance.
He also noticed that they hadn’t added his surname, although if he thought about it maybe it wasn’t so surprising. He hadn’t offered it to El or Miranda, the latter whom he suspected had been the photographer’s source of information for even his first name.
“Oh my god,” he whispered to himself as he stared at the photo, unable to take his eyes off the way Harry was smiling at him in the picture.
They looked good together. Like, really good.
Louis’ thoughts drifted to how Harry had stepped into his space, the twinkle in his eye when he had tricked Louis into incriminating himself, the smile on his face as they had been talking. Louis didn’t regret leaving Harry to spend the rest of the evening talking to David Beckham, exactly, but he did feel a slight pang of something akin to it when he thought about what could have been.
After a moment he shook himself out of it, climbing out of bed to make a cup of tea. The real question he should be considering was whether to call Niall and Zayn back now, or let them stew in their own curiosity for the rest of the day.
The thing was, Louis mostly forgot about it. He spent a few days retelling his mates about his moonlighting escapade, proclaiming loudly how they always underestimated him and that no one appreciated his genius. Once Zayn smacked him in the face with a pillow however, they all had a laugh and Louis was happy to let it drift to the back of his mind as a fond memory.
His days were crammed with spending as much time with Niall as possible before he had to leave, chilling out with Zayn and catching up with friends at the pub every other evening.
It wasn’t until a few weeks had passed that it crossed his mind again.
Niall was only in L.A for another week and was taking full advantage of the nice weather to spend the day on some golf course or other, so Louis was sitting in the living room of his flat, frowning down at his laptop screen. He had done some quick math and realised that he might not make rent this month.
Louis worked as an admin temp, bouncing around various agencies. He had never suffered from a shortage of work, both because he was very good at deciphering weirdly complicated filing systems and also because he was very good at winning over grumpy managers and CEOs. The combination of being able to quickly familiarise himself with obscure databases that nobody except this one particular company ever seemed use, and winning over people who were reluctant to bring in outside help for whatever extra workload temps were usually brought in for ensured he was at the top of everyone’s list for first call. It could be a bit boring, but it certainly paid better than waiting tables or getting busted for lifting wallets.
But at the moment he happened to be between jobs and his car had broken down recently, costing him an arm and a leg to repair. Alongside his need to eat actual food, that meant his bank account had dipped a bit low without him noticing.
Too low for rent.
Louis supposed he could borrow some money from Zayn or even Niall, but he really hated doing that. No matter how happy he knew they would be to help out, Louis never wanted to be one of those guys. He never wanted to be one of those hangers-on that were only there for the handouts.
As he was weighing his options, an ad for the Academy Awards flicked across the telly screen and Louis suddenly remembered the two nights he had spent schmoozing in style.
An idea lit up in his mind.
That had been work, right? Maybe he could call the company and convince them he was really was a member of staff. There was photographic evidence he had been there, after all, working the gig. Plus there were bound to be enough people who would remember him being at pre-show meetings and stuff. He could maybe even ask to get put in touch with Miranda and convince her that his details had mysteriously vanished from the system.
Louis glanced at his very low bank account again.
It was worth a shot, surely?
Naturally Louis had thrown away all the business cards that Miranda had given him, but he still remembered the name of the company. It only took half a moment before Google had a contact phone number for him.
As Louis listened to the phone ring he started to second guess himself and nearly hung up a half dozen times. This was probably a very stupid idea. Like, even more stupid than it had been to gatecrash the events in the first place. What if they realised what he had done and blacklisted him, so that he was never able to sneak into anything again? That would suck.
Before he could make up his mind and back out, a chirpy female voice answered the phone on the other end.
Fuck it, Louis thought, fake it ‘til you make it.
“Hi, this is Louis, I was at-”
“Louis!” the girl on the other end exclaimed, interrupting him. “I’m so glad you called!”
“Really?” he couldn’t help blurting, because seriously, what?
The girl laughed, and Louis suddenly recognised her voice even as she was saying, “Sorry, sorry, this is Eleanor!”
Well that was fucking convenient. Maybe he had a shot at this after all.
“I’m really glad you called, we’ve been having so much trouble.”
“Oh?” Louis asked, his interest piqued. Maybe they needed a few spare butts on seats, and he could volunteer his services. His butt was top notch quality, thank you very much.
“Miranda was a corporate spy!”
“Holy shit, no way!” he gasped. That definitely wasn’t what Louis had expected her to say. “Does that even happen outside of films?” he wondered aloud.
“Apparently!” Eleanor sounded exasperated. “She spent all of her time working here trying to recruit for another business! And then she did something when she left and it sabotaged all of our storage databases so we lost nearly all of our client details, not to mention all of our staff rosters. A lot of our people work on a job by job basis, not just the seat-fillers, so when they didn’t get paid most of them called the number on those damn business cards she was giving out like candy.”
That was...incredibly evil, and incredibly clever.
“That bitch,” Louis said succinctly.
Eleanor laughed. “Tell me about it. I had some numbers of people personally, but we were missing so many - including yours!”
No way. No way. This was too easy.
“Actually, that’s why I was calling…” Louis started to say, as if reluctantly.
“Because you didn’t get paid?” Eleanor finished his sentence for him, and Louis honestly could not believe he was pulling this off. “If you can give me your details over the phone I promise to get that sorted out as soon as possible.”
Louis pumped his fist in the air.
“That would be great, El, you’re the best,” he said happily.
How much did seat-fillers make, anyway? Oh well, he was about to find out!
“Actually, I have a major favour to ask,” Eleanor said and Louis felt his face fall.
Damn, he knew it had been too easy.
“We’re so short staffed, we’ve been really struggling to send enough people to a whole bunch of events - would you be able to fill in for a bunch of upcoming bookings? Like, say, the Academy Awards on Friday?”
Louis felt his jaw drop.
“I know it’s really short notice,” Eleanor pleaded, obviously mistaking his silence for hesitance. “We’re just really struggling with our numbers so even if you have any friends as well that you trust not to like, embarrass us or anything, then you’d be more than welcome to bring them.”
Oh my god.
He could not only go to the Oscars, he could sell the gift bag they gave to everyone who attended and that alone would cover his rent for the month. Not to mention how delighted he knew Niall and Zayn would be to go.
Louis was going to have to check under his bed for a magic lamp or something, because holy shit.
“I’m sure I could scrounge up a friend or two,” he finally managed to say. “I’d love to help you out.”
Niall was going to piss himself.
Eleanor sounded so relieved, Louis was glad he called. Even if he had only rung for selfish reasons at least he had been able to help her out of a tough spot. And it sounded like she might need help in the upcoming future too - maybe Louis could take this seat-filler gig semi-seriously and look into a career change.
It would certainly beat shuffling papers around for grumpy business managers, that was for sure.
Louis had always been a poke-the-sleeping-dragon-to-see-what-happens kind of guy. Who knew? Maybe this time it would work out instead of biting him on the arse.
Zayn and Niall were both adequately impressed when Louis announced they were all going to the Academy Awards and stared at him in disbelief when he explained how he had managed it.
“I’d say you were cheating at life,” Zayn grumbled as he eyed Louis suspiciously, “only I dunno how that would even work.”
“This coming from Britain’s Jay-Z,” Louis laughed.
Zayn had been called that early in his career in a magazine article, and Louis loved to bring it up as often as possible because it never failed to make Zayn blush.
“Also I invited Liam too.”
“What?” Zayn looked horrified, and Louis quickly ducked out of smacking distance.
“What about Harry?” Niall asked innocently and suddenly it was Louis’ turn to blush, though he tried to hide it.
“Why would I invite Harry?” He mumbled, trying to oh-so-nonchalantly dodge the question. “Harry who? I don’t know what you’re talking about, all those golf balls have hit you in the head one too many times, Nialler.”
“Oh my god,” Zayn grinned in delight even as Niall squawked in protest that he was actually quite a good golfer. “You really like him!”
“Shut up, I have no idea what you’re talking about.” Louis threw a couch cushion at Zayn’s face, hoping to distract him.
“You don’t just want his body, you want his babies!” Zayn cried, ducking the cushion. Niall cracked up next to him.
“The only baby around here is definitely you, you twat,” Louis grumbled, certain his face was bright red because he did love kids, and he may have had a daydream or two since the Golden Globes where he had constructed increasingly domestic scenarios with Harry Styles helping him to take care of their many, many children.
Well, in between his epic wank sessions as he pictured the mind-blowingly sexy way Harry had looked him up and down.
It was all incredibly pathetic.
“Did you build a shrine around that photo in the paper?” Zayn asked, apparently happy to milk Louis’ embarrassment for all it was worth - which was probably only fair considering the enormous amount of shit Louis constantly gave him over his crush on Liam Payne.
“Right.” That was it, Louis wouldn’t stand for this. He stood up from his end of the couch and leaped onto Zayn, tickling him into submission. Zayn laughed and squirmed as he tried to retaliate, Niall yelling from where he was caught in the crossfire between them.
They all ended up in a pile on the floor, breathing heavily, small hiccups of laughter still escaping them occasionally.
“We’ll need something to wear,” Niall suggested breathlessly, setting them all off again.
The night of the Oscars - there was no other way to describe it - was mad fun.
Liam had been delighted to be invited and because they all thought the whole thing was a little insane and it was unlikely all four of them would ever be able to attend such a prominent event together again, they decided to wear complimentary outfits. Liam wore a shirt that matched Zayn’s tie, and Louis’ pocket handkerchief was made from the same material as Niall’s spotted shirt. They also all wore varying shades of blue grey suits, with Louis’ having the most blue to accentuate the colour of his eyes and Zayn’s so dark it was almost black.
Louis thought they looked pretty good individually, but they looked amazing when they stood together.
It made him grin from ear to ear.
The whole thing was incredibly fun and none of them could stop smiling as they weaved their way through the celebrity studded crowd before Louis broke away to do his job, leaving his mates to make small talk with actors they had admired for ages.
It was odd, Louis reflected as he tried to actually pay attention when Eleanor paged him about an empty seat to fill, but none of the high profile awards shows that he had attended with Zayn as part of the music scene had ever felt like this.
Then again the extravagance of the evening was prominent in every single detail, from the crystal cut champagne glasses being passed around, to the cushy seats that everyone was sitting on, which were made from the softest velvet. Even the loos that Louis had ducked into earlier were posh beyond all recognition.
He could get used to this.
The job itself was a blast as well, Louis discovered now that he was actually making an effort to do it properly. He sat in the seats El directed him to, but rather than sitting patiently waiting for the return of whichever guest whose seat he was sitting in like he was supposed to do, he turned and chatted with whoever was sitting next to him.
Some people he easily recognised as famous celebrities and some were family members or friends, but it was the people who were like Louis and circled the celebrity spotlight without standing in it that he had the most fun talking to. He spent over half an hour talking to Johnny Depp’s driver about tattoos of all things, and the both of them were disappointed when Mr Depp returned to his seat.
Zayn, Niall and Liam also seemed to have a great time, although Zayn and Liam were a bit more reluctant to strike up conversation with the people they sat next to. All three of them had agreed to help Louis out with his new job by nominating themselves as substitute seat fillers, and Eleanor had been so grateful she had hugged them all on sight.
Louis suspected she also recognised all three of them, because she shot Louis a wide-eyed glance after everyone had filed out once she had finished their job debriefing. Remembering how the media had dubbed him a ‘well-liked socialite’ Louis had grinned back at her, well aware that she was wondering how he fit into the picture.
At the end of the night Louis still had a job, Niall had about five different phone numbers, and Zayn and Liam were whispering together in the corner of the room. All in all Louis would count the whole thing a complete success. Eleanor seemed to agree, looking incredibly relieved once all the guests had left and the pack up could begin. She specifically mentioned looking forward to working with him again, which was very promising for his hopes to do this for a living.
Louis was incredibly proud of finding himself in this position, even though all he had really done was push his luck far beyond reason. But then that had always been a unique talent of his.
The next day he was surprised to find his face posted in a number of different entertainment articles, way more than just the one or two stories he had been at the Golden Globes. With a surprising number of different people too, not just the same photo used over and over again for each article.
He hadn’t realised there were so many photographers around the room - they must have been concealed behind all the television and video equipment that had been set up.
Louis was a bit mystified why there were so many photos focused on him in particular - although he was incredibly amused to see that he was still listed under his ‘socialite’ title in each article - but he supposed he was chatting to different celebrities in each one, so probably he had just been in the way of the shot.
In the end he gave a mental shrug and dismissed it. At least no one looked bored out of their mind talking to him; that would have been embarrassing.
Niall went home to the UK eventually and over the next several weeks Louis found himself incredibly busy with his new job (though he still laughed to call it that). The company he worked for was still incredibly short handed, though they were trying hard to recruit reliable people quickly. Fortunately for Louis there were quite a few contracts and pre-arranged bookings that needed to be filled so his name came up to attend nearly all of them.
Some were fun like the Golden Globes had been, where he was free to move about and chat to people and no one looked at him sideways for doing so. Some were less appealing, such as opening nights for theatre shows that had failed to make an advertising splash but still needed to appear popular to the review critics sitting in their audience.
One or two of those had been amusing to watch - the interpretive dance one in particular left Louis wide-eyed with glee - but most were dreadfully boring. Louis couldn’t even strike up conversations with the people next to him without being shushed viciously. He was forced to sit still for hours at a time, trying his hardest not to nod off in case he snored in the middle of a dramatic moment.
He was almost caught out at one of the boring ones too - someone came up to him after the show and began making small talk before asking how he thought the performance had gone. Louis had been about to answer honestly too, when he had spotted the reporter badge tucked into the guy’s jacket pocket.
Quick as a flash, Louis lifted the pass right out from under the man’s nose, suspecting Miranda of hiring someone to dig up dirt and write a smear story about the company she had tried so hard to sabotage.
Upon inspection of the pass however, Louis realised the man was a just theatre critic fishing for a comment.
“Isn’t that your job?” he asked in answer to the original question, winking as he handed the guy back his pass.
“Never hurts to get a quote for extra ratings,” the critic defended himself a little sheepishly, tucking the pass back in his pocket.
“You must really be desperate if you think my ugly mug can help you out,” Louis said with another laugh, patting the guy on the shoulder genially and ignoring the critic’s empty reassurances as he walked away.
Other than that one incident though, Louis was having a great time for the most part and made a lot of new friends along the way. His wardrobe in particular had greatly benefited from his increased number of professional outings, something that amused Zayn to no end.
Gradually the number of jobs he was asked to do began to slow down as Eleanor replaced all the staff that Miranda had managed to steal.However to Louis’ complete bemusement the fewer events he began to attend, the greater everyone’s interest in him became.
He arrived at the front of the Chinese Theatre cinema on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for the premier of some movie he couldn’t remember, and was incredibly surprised when some of the photographers camped out the front began shouting his name.
“Louis! Louis! Look here, over this way!” one of them yelled louder than the others, camera up to his face as he snapped pictures of Louis stepping out of the company car which had dropped him off.
Blinking against the bright flashes, Louis wandered over.
“Alright, lads?” he asked, amused when they seemed taken aback by his approach. It occurred to him that probably not many people paid them any mind when they shouted. “Must be a slow news day if you’re looking to me to liven it up!”
“Not been out on the town as much, Louis?” one of the paparazzi said loudly, still snapping away at his camera. “Want to give us a lead on where you’ll be next?”
“You can’t possibly be interested in that,” Louis laughed. “Are you just trying to flatter me so you can score tickets to see this movie?”
“Got any spare?” another pap jumped in quickly.
Louis shook his head with a grin, amused by how eagerly they seemed to want to talk to him. Did they think he would smuggle a camera inside for them or something? He had no idea why else they would be interested in him.
“How do you respond to the rumours that you’re dating actress Emma Stone?” one of the television guys demanded, titling his camera into Louis’ face.
“With uncontrolled laughter,” Louis replied, his eyebrows shooting up. “Did you literally just make that up? You can’t really expect me to believe people think that’s true.”
“Are you dating anyone?” someone else jumped in quickly, before the other guy could reply.
“Oh my god, is that Angelina Jolie?” Louis gasped, his eyes widening as his gaze shot behind them. The entire pack of photographers and cameramen practically fell over each other turning around and yelling random questions, and Louis barely made it into the cinema without cracking up.
He thought that the incident was a once off, bored journalists taking advantage of the only person who had actually stopped to talk to them, but paparazzi were yelling his name at the next event he went to, and the next.
Zayn shrugged when he mentioned it, just as confused as him, but Eleanor had laughed at his bemusement.
“Of course they want your attention, you’re the new mystery man in Hollywood, the latest thing!” she told him with a grin.
Louis stared at her, not sure if she was taking the piss or not.
“Look.” She pulled over her laptop and opened their company website. Louis’ face was plastered all over it.
“Oh my god, what?” his mouth fell open. “Why?” was the only thing he could think to ask.
“Because it’s really good for business, duh,” Eleanor clicked around and a bunch of emails popped up on the screen. Skimming them Louis was stunned to realise they were all requests for him specifically to show up at their events.
“We’ve basically become your agent you know.” Eleanor laughed at his flummoxed expression. “I can’t believe you didn’t know!”
“I had no idea!” Louis had been too busy hanging out with Niall before he left, and then he had been too busy going to all the events for this job and the rest of the time he had spent actually sleeping. He hadn’t been online nearly as much as he used to, his Twitter practically dormant compared to his usual activity.
“We’ve been cutting back on the number of things we’ve been booking you for because we don’t want to over work you but yeah, you’re our bestseller,” Eleanor joked.
“Why?” Louis couldn’t help but ask again. The whole thing seemed completely ridiculous to him - he wasn’t a singer like Zayn, or a television chef like Niall, or even an athlete like Liam. Louis didn’t do anything but sit in a chair!
“Maybe because people like you?” Eleanor suggested, turning a bit pink. “Is that really so hard to believe?”
It wasn’t that Louis had trouble believing people liked him like, on a individual basis, but the idea that complete strangers would be interested in reading about him in the papers, or wanted to look at photos of him, or would pay for him to go to their parties or whatever, he just genuinely could not wrap his head around.
Eleanor started to turn her laptop screen away, but Louis spotted something that made him reach out and stop her.
“Wait, wait what’s that?” He pointed to an email that was overlapped by a few others. Eleanor clicked on it and Louis felt his heart skip a beat when it confirmed what had caught his interest.
It was an email from Harry Styles’ personal assistant. He quickly skimmed the email, turning to El with wide eyes. She laughed at his expression.
“Let me guess, you want me to accept this one?” she said with a rueful smile, indicating the screen.
“If you’d be so kind,” Louis replied, trying to act casual and not at all giddy over the fact that Harry Styles had personally invited him to his upcoming album launch. Well, okay maybe not personally, but through his personal assistant which still had the word personal in it and therefore still counted.
The way Eleanor was laughing at him told him that she saw right through his probably less-than-convincing cool, but he kind of didn’t care.
“I’ll make sure you’re on the guest list,” she grinned, rolling her eyes. “But the rest is up to you, stud.”
Louis shoved her playfully, glad that they got along so well.
Technically Eleanor was his boss, even if she joked about being his agent, and Louis had never worked for someone who he genuinely enjoyed being around.
“Hey,” he said, catching her into a hug. “Thanks. I mean it.”
Eleanor hugged him back readily despite her small noise of surprise.
“You hardly need my help,” she said into his shoulder.
“Yeah?” Louis asked, hating that he needed the reassurance but unable to keep from asking.
“Totally.” She patted him gently on the back. “You’ve got this.”
Despite Eleanor’s faith in him, as the date for the album launch creeped closer, Louis started to become less excited and way more nervous no matter how much he fought it. What if the email hadn’t been on Harry’s behalf after all, and his assistant had sent out a general request to whoever happened to be in the newspapers at the moment? What if Harry had forgotten all about him and Louis was just making a tit out of himself?
In the end it was Zayn that knocked some sense into him both figuratively and literally, dismissing the doubts he brought up one by one and then smacking him on the head when he started to freak out as he was getting ready.
When he finally made it to the club where Harry’s album was being launched, Louis clung to Zayn’s echoing words of reassurance as he pulled a mask of indifference over his face, walking past the huge line of people and paparazzi waiting outside. He ignored the glares from the people waiting at the front of the line as he gave his name to the bouncers at the door was was let right in.
Louis had been to more than a few nightclubs since he had moved to L.A. (although it had been awhile since he’d had the time or motivation) but certainly none of them had been decked out for a launch party, which apparently turned up everything to eleven.
None of the dozens of various events he had attended recently as part of his new job had been for parties like this, either. They had almost exclusively been for sit-down affairs, such as award shows or theatre productions; Los Angeles never had a shortage of people willing to turn up to a good party, so there was no real need to hire additional people to attend.
Which meant that Louis had zero point of reference for the overblown chaos in front of him. Everything from the crowded bar handing out free drinks to the raised dais where the DJ was going nuts seemed deliberately excessive in that way that only a Hollywood event designed to impress could really be.
The place was completely packed, which explained the huge line of people at the door, and Louis could see a few scattered photographers making their way around the room. He guessed they were hired to document the album launch for media releases and careful press leaks, as opposed to celebrity gossip hungry paps camped outside.
Louis was trying not to feel a bit overwhelmed as he made his way through the club, flashing smiles at people who locked eyes with him. Despite Zayn’s many reassurances, Louis was still second guessing if he should even be here; everyone in the club looked like they could be on the cover of a magazine, and the volume of noise in the air would make it difficult to rely on his charm like he usually did, since no one would be able to hear him unless he shouted.
Before he could start to feel too uncomfortable though, a passing waitress handed him a drink and he spotted Ed Sheeran across the room, leaning against the wall and watching the DJ. Suddenly, instead of being intimidated by the expense and noise and number of ridiculously good looking people in the room, Louis felt something inside himself settle. It might be an unfamiliar setting, but there were some things Louis always knew how to do - and have a drink and a chat with an old friend was definitely one.
He made his way over through the crowd and joined Ed, who looked delighted to see him. They hadn’t caught up in a while - mostly because Ed loved being on tour and had been away for what felt like forever - so they were both happy to nurse their drinks and catch up on each other’s lives, leaning close together to be heard over the music.
Louis hadn’t meant to get so caught in the conversation; he had planned to circuit the room a bit more, since he was technically here in a semi-professional capacity. But Ed had so many fantastic stories that he’d collected since they had last seen each other, they ended up leaning against the wall talking without noticing how much time was passing.
“Like, Elton fucking John man, can you believe it?” Ed was saying, gesturing with his hands. “He honestly said that to me, and I was just thinking to myself, is this real life, you know?”
Louis shook his head in disbelief, certain that his eyes were wide in amazement. He knew what it meant to Ed to have someone of Elton’s calibre and longevity offer to take him under his wing, after Ed had struggled for so long trying to find someone to take him seriously.
“That’s amazing mate, I’m so happy for you,” Louis said sincerely. “Do you know if- oof!”
Something large and clingy crashed into him, knocking the wind out of him slightly.
“You’re here!” a voice yelled in his ear. Unable to turn around due to the clingy arms wrapped around him, Louis managed to at least turn his head slightly to catch sight of an inebriated Harry Styles.
Suddenly it was difficult to breathe for another reason altogether.
“Heya Haz,” Ed grinned, his gaze flicking between the two of them. Louis was abruptly glad for the nightclub’s flashing lights which were hopefully hide his blushing face.
“Hello Harry,” Louis echoed, striving for a casual tone whilst incredibly aware of how closely Harry was pressed up against him.
“I didn’t know if you’d come,” Harry murmured in his ear before pressing his face into the back of Louis’ neck. Louis’ breath caught and his dick twitched. He turned wide eyes to Ed, who was very clearly laughing at him.
“Have a good one, lads!” He said instead of being any help whatsoever and just walked away, completely abandoning Louis to his fate.
Louis needed better friends.
“You’ve been haunting me,” Harry said, low in his ear. “Everywhere I go lately, you’ve just been there. Never actually there though, it’s been driving me mad.”
Jesus christ. Who even said stuff like that?
Louis spun them so that Harry was pressed between Louis and the wall before worming around in his arms so that they were facing each other. Louis wasn’t really tall enough to shield Harry from view of the rest of the room completely, but at least it didn’t look nearly as suspect this way.
Once he caught sight of Harry though, it crossed his mind that that it wouldn’t even matter who was blocking who - if he had thought that listening to Harry’s sinfully deep voice whispering in his ear had been difficult, it was nothing compared to how Harry looked now in front of him.
His silk shirt gaped open to reveal a nicely toned chest littered with incredbily lickable tattoos, his tight jeans leaving absolutely nothing to the imagination and his hair floating in a fluffy waves around his head. His face was flushed and his lips were maddeningly pink and parted, his eyes a little glassy but intense in their focus on Louis. Even in the dingy flashing lights of the club Louis could see how green they were.
This single moment was going to burn in Louis’ mind forever.
“Harold-” he began, not sure what he was going to say, but Harry ducked his head down and pressed his face against Louis’ neck again, from the front this time, and pulled him closer by wrapping his arms around Louis’ hips and waist. Louis felt Harry’s tongue flick out and lick his skin at the exact moment that he realised Harry was hard in his jeans, pressing right against him.
Louis’ self restraint vanished like a puff of smoke in the wind.
“Fuck,” he breathed as he responded in kind, starting to fatten up on his pants. He pressed closer to Harry, who made an agreeable noise and tried to shift them even closer together.
God, they couldn’t fuck in the middle of the nightclub floor during Harry’s own damn party, no matter how little Louis currently cared about who might see them. Instead he reached behind himself and grabbed hold of both of Harry’s hands, unwrapping them from around his waist and stepping back out of his embrace.
“Noooo,” Harry sounded comically sad, frowning down at Louis.
“Let’s get some air.” Louis suggested, briefly moving back into Harry’s space to whisper into his ear and winking as he pulled back.
Harry blinked at him for a moment before catching on, following him eagerly when Louis led them towards a nearby corridor. He had been hoping for a set of loos but found instead a decent size storage room that locked from the inside, which was even better.
He pulled Harry into the room after him, then trapped him up against the door, pressing their bodies close.
“Louis,” Harry breathed, staring at him in awe, like he was something miraculous that may vanish at any moment.
It was too much for Louis to take, Harry looking at him like that as if he had done anything to deserve it, so he ducked his head and nibbled lightly on Harry’s neck. He desperately wanted to leave a mark, but he was much more aware these days of the media’s capacity to take a single grainy pap photo and turn it into a big messy story. He didn’t want Harry to have a reason to regret what they were about to do. What he hoped they were about to do.
“What do you want?” Louis asked, pulling back and reaching up to run a hand through Harry’s hair, like he had daydreamed about. It was just as soft and silky as he had imagined.
“You.” Harry didn’t hesitate to say, tilting his head into Louis’ hand like a cat, his eyes slipping closed happily. “Always you.”
Louis’ heart fluttered at the admission; he couldn’t believe this was happening.
“Is this for me then?” he teased to cover up how affected he felt, his free hand sliding down Harry’s body to rub against the cock trapped in his jeans. Harry whined, his head still tilted towards where Louis’ fingers were threading through his hair even as his hips bucked up in a surprisingly graceful movement.
Louis licked his lips as he pictured how Harry’s hips would roll as he fucked into Louis’ mouth and fuck, that was Louis decided.
“Haz, can I suck you?” he asked, unable to tear his eyes away from where Harry was grinding his crotch against Louis’ hand.
“Yes, yes please,” Harry gasped, and Louis would have laughed at how polite he was being but he was already dropping to his knees, hands tugging at Harry’s jeans and pants, pulling them down and out of the way.
Harry’s dick sprang loose from its material confinement, already so hard it seemed to leap up into Louis’ face. God, he had such a pretty dick, big and thick and uncut. Louis leaned forward and licked at the precome already pooling at the tip, then pulled back to blow lightly on the glistening head just to hear Harry groan above him.
“Louis, Lou, please,” Harry rambled, his head tilted back against the door, gasping for breath.
Louis really wanted to tease Harry some more but he also really wanted his cock in his mouth, and the thought that they could be interrupted at any moment led him to grasp Harry’s dick in his hand and feed it slowly into his mouth.
Sealing his lips against Harry’s length and relaxing his throat, Louis slid slowly down as far as he could, getting a feel for how Harry fit in his mouth. It had been a while since Louis had hooked up with anyone, but if there was one thing he prided himself on, it was sucking cock.
It seemed Harry would agree, given the noises he was making and the way he was shuddering and falling apart above him.
Louis pulled back slowly to tongue at the head of Harry’s cock, licking broadly back down the shaft as he reached out to grasp Harry’s hand, moving it to the back of his neck while he steadied his other hand on Harry’s hip.
With Harry’s enormous hand cupping his neck, Louis sank back down. Harry gasped, his grip on Louis tightening as he started thrusting slightly as though unable to help himself, the both of them groaning at the sensation. Finally Harry seemed to realise what Louis was trying to get him to do, and began to tentatively roll his hips forward with more purpose. Louis hummed in approval, squeezing Harry’s hip to encourage him.
Louis stopped bobbing up and down, letting Harry control the pace with the snap of his hips, thrusting deeply into Louis’ mouth.
“Jesus!” Harry gasped above him as he moved faster and faster, letting Louis know he wouldn’t last much longer. Sure enough barely a moment had passed before Harry cried a warning, groaning loudly when Louis pulled back only enough to swallow greedily as Harry came in his mouth.
Louis sucked around the tip of Harry’s cock gently, oddly reluctant to let his dick go as Harry panted heavily above him. His peeked upwards and felt a thrill shoot through him when he met Harry’s intense gaze staring down at him, his pupils blown and his face flushed.
Pulling off Harry’s cock finally, Louis smiled up at him a bit shyly. Harry practically collapsed on top of him in his hurry to kiss him, pushing Louis back against the floor and climbing on top of him, licking into his mouth and tasting himself on Louis’ tongue.
Louis muffled a laugh between their lips at Harry’s eagerness, breaking off into a breathy gasp when Harry reached into his pants and grasped Louis’ cock in his giant hand. Wasting no time, Harry began to jack him hard and fast, kissing him all the while like he couldn’t bring himself to stop. The drag of Harry’s hand over his cock was a bit too dry to be comfortable, but even that just made the whole thing hotter, more real.
Louis panted into Harry’s mouth as he hastily shoved his shirt upwards and out of the way so he wouldn’t come all over it, his little breathy ‘Ah! ah! ah!’s filling the room. He was dangerously close to the edge just from sucking Harry off and it was no time at all before he was spilling over Harry’s knuckles and up his own chest with an embarrassingly loud noise.
Harry bent to lick the come off his skin thoroughly, sprawled out over him as he slowed his hand down on Louis’ dick but not stopping completely until Louis reached down and caught his wrist, too oversensitive to bear it any longer.
“You’re so beautiful,” Harry whispered, pulling back and staring down at Louis, his eyes roaming over his face. Louis knew for a fact that he was a mess, sweaty and bright red not only from exertion but from being the focus of Harry’s attention as well.
“Have you looked in a mirror lately, popstar?” Louis tried to deflect, sliding a hand up under Harry’s silk shirt to run his fingers over the smooth skin there. Harry was gorgeous and Louis was already feeling slightly guilty that he had taken advantage of him in his obviously inebriated state. Although Harry seemed less drunk now than he had been before so maybe he was sobering up.
“Come home with me?” Harry asked, sweetly tentative even as he lowered his head to nuzzle along Louis’ neck and down to his shoulder.
It took Louis a long moment to speak around the heart in his mouth.
“This whole building is filled with people here to see you, love,” he said, hating himself for having to point it out. “They’re going to notice if you duck out early in the arms of some lad.”
“I don’t care,” Harry said stubbornly, pulling back to look Louis in the eye. “I don’t want to lose you.”
“Lose me?” Louis repeated, confused. Maybe he had been too quick in thinking Harry had been sobering up.
“I only just found you.” Harry leaned down and brushed their noses together, stealing a quick kiss. “No one could even tell me your last name, it took ages to find someone who knew how to get in touch with you.”
“You were looking for me?” Louis struggled to wrap his head around it even as his heart swelled in his chest. Harry Styles had been looking for him. Harry had actually asked around, trying to find someone who knew how to contact Louis because he wanted to see him again.
“You put nuts in my pocket and winked at me,” Harry said, as though this was an obvious explanation of such a huge life-altering wish-fulfillment on Louis’ part.
“It’s my go-to move to pick up cute boys,” Louis replied, smiling at the way Harry barked out a laugh.
“Come home with me,” Harry whispered again, his gaze boring into Louis’ imploringly.
God, Louis wanted to say yes so badly, consequences be damned. But tonight was supposed to help Harry’s career, not destroy it, and Louis wasn’t going to be that selfish.
Even though he really really fucking wanted to.
“Come on, love,” he said with a soft smile, kissing Harry chastely on the lips. “Let’s get you cleaned up, yeah? Your adoring public awaits.”
“That’s not a yes,” Harry pouted but let Louis pull them to their feet and straighten both their clothes out before he crowded him up against the door, kissing him like he needed him to breathe.
Louis kissed him back helplessly, his hands resting on Harry’s chest over his tattoos, able to feel the way his heart was thumping as fast as Louis’.
“Please don’t leave.” Harry pulled back after an eternity, burying his face in Louis’ hair and hugging him tight, pressed against his front as though he could keep him in place by sheer willpower alone.
Louis was starting to suspect very few people were capable of saying no to Harry Styles.
“How about a compromise then, hmm?”
Harry’s hold loosened slightly to show that he was listening.
“I’ll put my number into your phone, yeah?” Louis lifted a hand to run his fingers through Harry’s hair again. It was quickly becoming one of his favourite things. “If you still want to talk to me in the morning, you won’t have to send out a search party. I’ll be right there in your pocket.”
“Like your nuts.” Harry pulled back and smiled down at him, a sweet secret smile that invited Louis to share the joke, and Louis’ heart somersaulted in his chest. He brushed his knuckles across Harry’s cheek and leaned up to brush a soft kiss against his mouth.
“You’re ridiculous,” Louis murmured against his lips, absolutely delighted by the fact. “Give me your phone.”
It was incredibly difficult to concentrate and program his name into Harry’s phone with Harry brushing kisses against his jaw and running his hands up and down Louis’ body, but Louis had a strong motivation to succeed. He saved his number under ‘LOUIS’ NUTS’ followed by two heart emojis and a kiss before pranking his own mobile to make sure he had entered it correctly.
“There,” he said, sliding the phone back into Harry’s pocket. “Now you’d better get back to your party before your publicist or whatever comes looking for you and I get lynched for stealing you away.”
Harry pouted at him again and his fat bottom lip looked so incredible, Louis couldn’t help but lean up and nibble on it. Harry made a small noise in the back of his throat and tried to deepen the kiss, but Louis pulled away, opening the door behind them.
“Knock them dead,” Louis said with a wink, slapping Harry on the arse and stepping aside to let him pass. Instead of smacking Louis in retaliation like he half expected him to, Harry ducked back in close for one last quick, hard kiss, before disappearing back down the corridor.
Louis closed the door once Harry had gone and sank back down to the floor, burying his head in his hands. God, what was he doing? It had been stupid to give Harry his number.
Harry Styles was notorious in the press for being a player, a love-them-and-leave-them type of womanizer. That last part was obviously less than true - or at least not completely true - but what if the rest was? What if Louis was just the latest flavour of the month, and Harry had only been so eager because the chase had been so difficult?
The room still smelt like sex.
Louis shook his head at himself, sorted his hair out and checked his clothes didn’t have come anywhere on them before he left the room. Rather than test his self restraint by heading back into the club and possibly running into Harry again, he ducked out a side door at the end of the hall and into the night, taking a deep breath in the open air.
He needed an outsider’s opinion, but if he called Zayn now at - he checked his watch - two in the morning, Zayn would murder him and he wouldn’t be alive to helplessly wait for Harry’s call tomorrow. If he called at all.
Fuck, Louis was just setting himself up for a huge disappointment, but he couldn’t help himself from thinking just maybe...
Either way, everything would have to wait until the morning. Lighting a cigarette, Louis took a deep drag before heading off to find a cab to take him home.
The next day when Louis had been awake since seven and Harry still hadn’t called by ten, he jumped in his car and drove to Zayn’s to do something other than go out of his mind . He swung by Starbucks on the way to pick up some muffins and a coffee as a peace offering for waking Zayn before noon.
“Wassit?” Zayn grumbled, rolling over in his bed when Louis let himself in, setting the coffee and muffins on his bedside table. “Coffee?” Zayn’s head lifted off his pillow hopefully as he sniffed the air.
Louis flopped down on the bed next to where Zayn was struggling to sit up, reaching for the takeaway coffee cup.
“I gave Harry Styles a blowie in a storage room last night.” Louis had at least waited until Zayn was resting comfortably against the headboard and was sipping his coffee before he blurted out his confession.
Zayn nearly spat his coffee out all over the bed. Maybe Louis should have waited until after he had taken his first sip. Ew.
“Oh my god!” Zayn coughed. “You slag!” He beamed at Louis in absolute delight.
“And my number,” Louis added, looking away.
Zayn was quiet and when Louis risked a glance, his smile had faded.
“He said he’d call,” Louis couldn’t help but go on, hating how pathetic he sounded, like some delusional teenage girl waiting for a one night stand who would never call him back.
Louis loathed showing his vulnerability like this and in truth had only ever managed it for Zayn, who gave him shit about everything in the world except the things that mattered most.
“Louis…” Zayn looked troubled, putting his coffee back on the bedside table. God, it must be serious if Zayn was passing up his first coffee.
“You think I’m an idiot,” Louis guessed, plucking at a loose thread on the corner of Zayn’s doona. That had been Louis’ own initial reaction to the whole thing last night, but it still didn’t feel great for Zayn to confirm he was thinking the same thing.
“I don’t want you to get hurt,” Zayn disagreed, reaching out and pulling Louis into a hug, tugging the covers back over both of them. Louis went willingly, curling into Zayn’s lap and burying his face into Zayn’s shoulder to avoid looking him in the eye. “I know you really like him.”
“Is it stupid to want him to call?” Louis asked, letting Zayn’s warm embrace soothe him into a confession. “What am I even hoping for? Like, even if he did call... it’s obvious that he’s closeted. I mean, that’s the kind of info that spreads fast in Hollywood, right? But I had no clue he was even into guys until he started hitting on me. So even if he did fancy me back - which is still a pretty big if - what kind of future is that?”
Fuck, he was talking about a future. After a single fucking blowie.
“It’s not stupid, Lou,” Zayn reassured him. “And he obviously likes you, or he wouldn’t have slighted his own album launch to hook up with you.” As someone who had been the star of their own album launch celebrations, Zayn knew how hectic they could be, how brightly focused the spotlight felt.
“He wanted to leave the whole thing altogether,” Louis confessed, because as surreal as the whole thing had seemed, that was still something he was trying to wrap his head around. “Asked me to come home with him, right in the middle of his party.”
“That’s...wow.” Zayn sounded a bit floored. Louis knew the feeling. “You said no?” he asked gently.
Louis flushed, embarrassed about his answer. He’d never lied to Zayn about any of this emotional crap before though, and he wasn’t going to start now. He had admitted much more horrifying things during their friendship anyway, and emotional mortification was always something better shared with a good friend. Besides, Zayn knew him too well to let him get away with anything anyway.
“People would have noticed he left, that’s all,” he mumbled, hoping Zayn’s shoulder would distort his words and save him from an inevitable overreaction. “And they definitely would have noticed he left with, you know, me.” Louis knew he had done the right thing turning Harry down, but he still desperately wished he could have taken him up on the offer. “I couldn’t do that to him.”
Zayn didn’t say anything for long enough that Louis lifted his head and found his friend smiling at him gently.
“Shut up,” Louis grumbled, turning even redder and giving Zayn a shove.
“I know you like, hate talking about this stuff,” Zayn said cuddling him close, “and hate hearing about people’s feelings even more, but ‘m really glad you’re my friend, Lou. ‘Neath all your yelling ‘s a genuinely decent person.”
“Oh my god, are we going to braid each other’s hair next?” Louis deflected, trying to hide just how pleased he was to hear those words. Zayn was right about how he hated talking about this stuff, but it was still nice to hear.
“Alright, alright,” Zayn laughed, “I know how you get when-”
He was interrupted by Louis’ phone ringing from somewhere under the covers. Pulling the phone out of his pocket, Louis’ heart leapt into his throat when he saw the display read HARRY COCKNUT STYLES. He shot a wide-eyed look to Zayn, who looked equally as surprised.
“Fuck, what do I do?” Louis wasn’t ashamed to admit he was panicking slightly. As much as he had been wanting Harry to call he hadn’t really thought he actually would.
“Answer it!” Zayn cried, gesturing frantically.
Taking a deep breath to try and calm himself down, Louis swiped to answer the call.
“Hello, you have reached Louis’ Leisure Palace, how may I direct your call?”
There was a confused silence on the other end of the phone while Zayn tried to stifle his laughter in his pillow.
“Louis?” Harry asked after a moment, sounding a bit lost.
“Hey love,” Louis decided to show a little mercy instead of playing up the joke - Harry sounded a bit rough, and was probably quite hungover. “Enjoy the rest of your night?”
Zayn lifted his head to waggle his eyebrows and Louis smacked him.
“I thought I dreamed you,” Harry confessed, and Louis immediately stopped trying to swot at Zayn, caught off guard by the sincerity in Harry’s voice. “When I woke up, I thought I had made the whole thing up. But there you were, in my phone.”
“Here I am,” Louis agreed, not sure what else to say. Jesus, what did you say to something like that?
“When can I see you again?” Harry asked, not seeming to care how eager he sounded. It was so different from the studied and distant attitude people in Hollywood who Louis had become accustomed to, how hard everyone tried to appear cool and unaffected by anything. It made Louis like Harry even more, made him want to respond in kind, despite being notoriously shit at sharing his emotions without hiding them behind self-depreciating jokes.
“Maybe you can answer that question better than me,” he finally settled on saying. “Didn’t you release an album yesterday?”
Even if he hadn’t been living in Zayn’s back pocket for the last half of his life or whatever, Louis would know that the busiest time for a music artist was right after an album launch. He could only imagine how crazy Harry’s schedule would be right now.
“They gave me today to recover from the party,” Harry’s slow rhythm of speech was making Louis smile without even meaning to. He honestly could listen to it all day. “Would you let me take you out this afternoon?”
Louis nearly stopped breathing.
“Like on a date?” he asked carefully, aware of Zayn watching him.
‘Well, yeah.” The hesitance in Harry’s voice suggested that he had finally realised he was coming on a bit strong and Louis hated that his own hesitation was making Harry second guess himself. He didn’t ever want Harry to feel like he had to hold back around him.
“I’d love to,” Louis rushed to say. “But maybe we could stay in instead?” He made a face at himself even as Zayn made a distressed noise next to him. Louis waved his hand at him in a distracted ‘I know!’ kind of gesture. “Either your place or mine, I don’t mind.”
“I’ll come to yours,” Harry agreed happily, relief apparent in his voice. “That way I could pick us up some lunch along the way. Is there anything you’re allergic to?”
Louis just about melted at the thoughtfulness behind the question.
“I’ll eat anything,” he assured Harry. “Although mind it’s nothing too healthy, these Hollywood types have a habit of thinking flavour is bad for you.”
Harry laughed on the other end of the phone and after Louis had dictated his address, they said their goodbyes and hung up.
“Don’t say it,” Louis said immediately, trying to cut Zayn off, but it was no use.
“The hell man!” Zayn demanded, waving his hand for emphasis. “Why didn’t you want to be seen out on the town with him? Weren’t you just worried he wasn’t out yet?”
“I know mate, alright?” Louis brushed his fringe out of his eyes. “I just...what if someone sees us?”
Zayn gave him an obvious ‘Um, yeah that’s the idea!’ type of look and Louis huffed in annoyance.
“No, like, I mean what if a pap sees us?” Louis looked down, fiddling with his phone case. “It’s our first date, I want it to be...just us, you know? Just the two of us.”
God, he was such a sap. It was like he could already hear the wedding bells already, Jesus. He was in so much trouble.
He glanced back up at Zayn, who had the same troubled look on his face from before.
“I know, I know,” Louis said before Zayn could open his mouth, starting to feel wretched about the whole thing. Falling for Harry Styles would have to be the worst idea on the planet, and this whole thing was going to blow up in his face.
“Hey, no, ‘s not like that,” Zayn said reassuringly, pulling Louis back into a hug. “I just want you to be careful, yeah? You’re not great at looking out for yourself, so I’ve got to do it for you.”
“Look who’s talking,” Louis grumbled, because he could remember quite a few nights out that had resulted in him practically carrying an off-his-face Zayn back home. Zayn just hugged him tighter, as if he hadn’t needed the reminder about how long they had been friends.
“Just like, go slow, okay?” Zayn pleaded.
“My head is trying as hard as my stupid heart will let me,” Louis sighed, because that was the problem really. He knew going into this that it was a shit-storm waiting to happen, but he just really...he really liked Harry, that was all. How funny and clever he had been at the Globes, and how hot he had been last night at the club. How sweet he just was on the phone, offering to pick up food and even double checking to make sure he didn’t get something Louis wouldn’t like.
Zayn patted his back in sympathy and Louis let himself be comforted for a long moment before he forced himself to get up and go home so he could beat Harry there.
It turned out he needn’t have worried about Harry showing up before he got back home because he didn’t arrive until nearly two hours later.
“‘m really sorry,” Harry panted when Louis opened his front door. “I got mobbed at the supermarket, and then a few paps were tailing my car.”
Louis quickly stepped aside so Harry could come in, taking one of the shopping bags he was carrying as he did so.
“You lost them?” Louis checked, glancing out of his window.
“Yeah, promise, but it took ages.” Harry had stopped only a few feet inside the door, turning to look back at Louis, a dejected slump to his shoulders. “I’m so sorry I kept you waiting.”
Fuck, Louis was so fucked. Who even was this manchild in front of him who looked disappointed by the thought he had let Louis down, through absolutely no fault of his own?
Louis stepped into Harry’s space before he could help himself, leaning up and pressing a soft, gentle kiss against his lips. He felt Harry’s sharp intake of breath even as Louis stepped back, embarrassed by his own boldness.
“So, what did you bring me?” he asked brusquely as he peered into the bag in his hand, trying to distract them both from the warmth he could feel in his cheeks. “There better not be any kale in here, Harold.”
“Kale is good!” Harry protested after a beat, laughing when Louis looked up at him in horrified disbelief. “But I didn’t bring any today. I thought I could make some focaccias? Only I didn’t know what you already had, so I brought a bit of everything.”
“That’s like...a fancy sandwich, right?” Louis asked dubiously, trying to remember if he had ever had one and whether he had liked it.
“Something like that, yeah.” Harry grinned at him, reaching out to take the bag Louis was holding. As Louis handed it over, Harry ducked down quickly to brush their lips together again, just as sweet and chaste as the one Louis had given him a moment ago.
Harry pulled back and smiled softly at Louis’ stunned expression before he turned and headed towards the kitchen. Louis reached up and touched his fingers to where his lips were still tingling, unable to believe that had happened.
He quickly shook himself out of it, following Harry into the kitchen. He could lose his shit over the intimacy of that moment once Harry had left.
Harry had dropped off the shopping bags on the island in the middle of Louis’ kitchen and was fiddling with the settings on his gas stove, peering into the oven to make sure it lit.
“Baked sandwiches?” Louis asked, jumping up to sit on the counter so he had an unobstructed view of the whole kitchen and more importantly, of Harry’s arse. Harry grinned at him when he caught him looking, but Louis shrugged unapologetically.
Harry had kissed him; Louis was going to look all he wanted in the hope that he did it again.
“Unless you have a sandwich press?” Harry asked, starting to unload the shopping bags.
Louis squinted at his cupboards, not entirely sure what was in them. His kitchen had mostly been stocked by his mother the last time she was here, when she had despaired at how few appliances he had, but Louis didn’t really do a lot of cooking. He still hadn’t used any of the stuff she had put in them, but it had made her feel better at the time.
“Is that like a jaffle iron?” he guessed, although he was pretty sure he didn’t have one of those either.
Harry left what he was doing do come stand between Louis’ legs, brushing another soft kiss against his mouth before leaning across Louis for the cutting board sitting beside him. He moved back to the middle of the kitchen with a small smile on his face while Louis sat there like a lemon, blinking dazedly.
What had they been talking about?
“So, the album sales are going well?” Louis offered, watching Harry cut open a package of weird looking bread. “Initial indicators on the Billboards show good reception, yeah?”
Harry beamed at him, pleased that Louis had thought to check, which made Louis flush. Of course he was going to look, he wasn’t going to just ignore something that was a big part of Harry’s life. New albums were always a nerve wracking business, no matter how popular people thought you were. And he’d certainly had enough free time this morning, freaking out while waiting for Harry to call.
He wasn’t going to mention that last bit.
“Yeah, response so far has been really great,” Harry confirmed, smiling back down at where he was deftly slicing open other packages of various foodstuffs.
“Tell me.” Louis wanted to hear everything Harry had to say, wanted to know everything about his life or anything he wanted to share.
So Harry rambled on about reviews from critics that were already starting to pop up, as well as fan responses on Twitter raving about their favourite songs. Louis listened silently, watching Harry’s hands assemble their almost-sandwiches on a tray and then sliding them into the oven.
Louis set a timer on his phone when Harry asked him to, then glanced up at him from under his lashes when Harry stepped closer into his personal space.
“Whatever will we do for ten whole minutes?” Louis asked coyly, slipping his arms over Harry’s shoulders when he was close enough, and wrapping his ankles around Harry’s knees.
“I’m certain you’re tired of hearing me talk,” Harry replied with a self-depreciating scrunch of his nose.
“I want to hear everything you have to say,” Louis replied honestly, thinking about the way Harry had hesitated on the phone earlier when Louis had held himself in check. He didn’t want Harry to feel embarrassed or to second guess himself around Louis; he wanted him to share whatever he felt like without worrying about how Louis would react.
Harry’s eyes widened almost comically and then he was pressing forward, kissing Louis hungrily and licking at Louis’ lips. Louis opened his mouth with a soft groan, his tongue colliding with Harry’s in a way that made his dick start to thicken in his pants just from that one point of contact. The kiss became even hotter when Harry’s hands slid underneath Louis’ bum to scoot him forward so his arse was hanging half off the edge of the counter, bringing their crotches into direct alignment.
“Fuck!” Louis gasped into Harry’s mouth, feeling how hard Harry was already, how eagerly he thrust himself against Louis.
Louis was just reaching down to undo Harry’s flies when the timer on his phone went off. He pulled back and blinked at his phone in disbelief; no way had it been ten minutes!
Harry chuckled at the expression on Louis’ face, pressing a quick kiss to his lips before stepping back to check on their lunch.
“Cock-blocked by a damn sandwich!” Louis still couldn’t believe it, but he smiled when Harry laughed.
It was worth it to make Harry laugh, maybe.
He took some deep breaths and willed his dick back down while Harry plated their food. Louis led them into the other room so they could eat comfortably on the couch.
The fah-whatever-Harry-had-called-them were insanely delicious. There were herbs or something in the weird bread which normally Louis would complain about, but actually kind of tasted really amazing. Inside was melted cheese and roast chicken strips, to which Harry had added slices of fresh vine-ripened tomatoes and crispy lettuce once they had come out of the oven.
Louis practically inhaled his and couldn’t help but look longingly at Harry’s, who still had some left. Harry laughed and gave him the last few bites, which Louis wasn’t ashamed to greedily accept.
“That was the best not-sandwich I’ve ever had,” he said, rubbing his belly happily as he leant back on the couch.
Harry laughed, turning a bit pink at the compliment. He placed both of their plates on the coffee table out of the way, then reached over and covered Louis’ hand with his own. He leaned in close to brush a soft kiss over Louis’ cheek, making his way down to Louis’ neck.
“I hope you don’t expect me to get frisky after eating so much food,” Louis said breathlessly, tilting his head shamelessly to give Harry better access to his neck despite the words coming out of his mouth.
Harry hummed in agreement and shifted closer. Louis let himself fall sideways on the couch, moving so his head was propped up on the armrest and Harry was able to lie comfortably on top of him between his spread legs.
They spent a few minutes kissing lazily, learning the shape of each other’s mouths and the rhythms of their mutual desire.
“I’m addicted to your lips,” Harry whispered between kisses.
“I think that’s just the sandwiches, to be honest,” Louis murmured, kissing him back. Feeling Harry laugh against his mouth was Louis’ new favourite thing on an already incredibly long list of favourite things about Harry.
“Do you want,” kiss, “to watch,” another kiss, “a film?”
Louis thought it only polite to ask.
“Sure,” Harry agreed readily, making no attempt at all to move off of Louis.
“Great.” Louis threaded his fingers through Harry’s curls and pulled him down harder, thrusting his hips up against Harry’s body. Harry groaned, shifting on top of Louis so their cocks lined up and could rub against each other, the feeling incredible even through the layers of both their clothing.
“God!” Louis gasped, pulling away to breath. “Let me just-” He reached down for the second time that day to undo Harry’s flies, desperate to get Harry out of his slacks this time. While Louis had no problem making a mess of his own clothes, he was pretty sure the trousers that Harry was wearing were designer label, and he didn’t want either of them to have to pay that kind of cleaning bill.
Harry was just as desperate as Louis to rid them of their clothes, leaning back and tugging Louis’ joggers and pants down and off in a few quick jerks. Louis pulled his own shirt off quickly, and grabbed Harry’s to do the same.
“Fuck, Lou,” Harry breathed, staring down at Louis naked underneath him, running his hand reverently over Louis’ prominent chest tattoo and down his torso. Louis flushed under the attention, reaching out to tug Harry back down so he wouldn’t have to deal with the look on his face. Harry ducked away from his grabby hands however, shuffling back on his heels to bend down and take Louis’ cock into his mouth.
“Ah!” Louis cried out, not expecting the sensation and unable to help his hips jerking up off the couch. Harry just followed the movement, opening his mouth like a fucking porn star to accommodate the unexpected thrust. He brought his arms up to pin Louis down, one pressing down on his hip, and another across his stomach with his hand spread so that he could feel the way Louis was gasping beneath him.
Harry apparently didn’t believe in teasing because once he had Louis pinned, he sealed his lips tightly around Louis’ cock and began to suck in earnest, bobbing his head up and down.
“Harry, oh my god, fuck!” Louis babbled as he slid both his hands into Harry’s hair, gently pushing it out of the way from where it had fallen in his face. Harry made an appreciative noise but in truth the move had been mostly selfish; Louis didn’t want Harry’s beautiful hair obscuring the dizzying sight of Harry’s mouth sliding up and down his cock.
“Close Haz, fuck, so close,” Louis whispered, unable to look away. Harry didn’t pull back though, just sucked harder and bobbed faster until Louis came in his mouth with a grunt. Harry swallowed easily without complaint while Louis lay there gasping for breath, a little embarrassed by how quickly he had come.
Harry didn’t seem to mind though, letting Louis’ cock fall from his lips and beginning to kiss and lick his way up Louis’ chest, lingering over his tattoos. Louis used the gentle grip he still had on Harry’s hair to tug him up so Louis could kiss him, the taste of himself hot on Harry’s lips.
Harry seemed quite content to lay there kissing lazily, but Louis could feel his hard length pressing into his hip and reached down to stroke him lightly. Harry made a small noise as Louis touched him, his hips shifting slightly to match Louis’ teasing rhythm.
“I think you should fuck me,” Louis murmured, unaware he was even going to offer until the words had already escaped his mouth. Harry pulled back and Louis thought for a moment that he had moved too far too fast, but Harry’s eyes were shining and his mouth was dropped open in amazement.
“Really?” His eyes danced across Louis’ face, looking for doubt. Louis blushed under the attention, but nodded. Partly because he really wanted to but he could admit to himself that it was also partly because it felt like Harry might vanish at any moment.
Louis wanted everything with him before he did.
“Okay,” Harry said, looking around as though he expected lube and condoms to just appear in Louis’ living room. With a laugh, Louis nudged Harry gently back off his lap so he could sit up, swinging his legs out from under Harry and off the couch. He stood quickly, reaching back to take Harry’s hand and pull him towards the bedroom, both of them completely naked as they moved through the house.
“How do you want me?” Louis asked coyly once they reached his room, turning and backing towards the bed, pulling Harry after him.
Harry wrapped his long arms around him, pressing them together chest to thigh, bending down to press a soft, sweet kiss against his lips. Louis sighed into it, opening his mouth to deepen the kiss. He was addicted to Harry’s taste already, the gentle way his lips asked for permission for each kiss.
“Want to see you.” Harry slid his hand down to cup Louis’ arse, his enormous palm covering an entire cheek, causing Louis’ breath to hitch as images flooded through his head.
Harry wanted to see him and Louis suddenly wanted nothing more than that too; that meant on his back. He backed up towards the bed, keeping Harry pressed close to him, until his knees bumped the edge. Reluctantly he pulled away from Harry’s mouth and sat down, sliding up the bed until he was propped against the headboard.
Harry stood next to the bed for a moment, tugging at his own cock and staring down at him, his gaze flicking between Louis’ face and where his cock had filled back up, Harry’s own spit still making it shine. He licked his lips unconsciously, as though he had been designed in some secret bloody lab to drive Louis out of his mind.
Louis reached into his bedside drawer and grabbed a bottle of lube and a couple of condoms out of the top drawer. He tossed the condoms onto the comforter and held the lube bottle out to Harry to take. His motion seeming to spur Harry into action and he climbed onto the bed to join him.
Bracing himself on one arm, Harry ran his other hand reverently up Louis’ leg, over his hip and up his chest, then down his arm to eventually take the lube bottle from Louis’ hand, leaning down to kiss him as he did.
Louis let go of the bottle, sliding his hands back into Harry’s hair and pulling him close to kiss him deeper. They spent a few minutes kissing until Louis heard the snick of the bottle lid, Harry shifting backwards to press kisses against the side of Louis’ mouth and jaw, trailing kisses down his chest and brushing one final kiss against the head of his hard dick.
Spreading his legs wider to give Harry access, Louis settled back against the pillows, propping enough of them behind him so he was able to watch every movement Harry made.
Harry slicked up three fingers before setting the bottle aside, glancing up at Louis before he did anything more. Louis smiled and nodded, but Harry still didn’t push in straight away, smearing his wet fingers around Louis’ hole and ducking down to lick at his taint and mouth at his balls.
“Fuck,” Louis breathed, the sight of Harry’s pretty pink lips running over his skin in such an intimate area something he was certain he was going to be wanking to for a long time. He was learning that Harry didn’t have the same patience for teasing that Louis had, because it wasn’t long before he was pressing the first finger slowly but relentlessly inside.
Funnily enough it turned out that Harry’s giant hands had enormous fingers, which was one thing to know and quite another to feel his index finger pushing inside of Louis, long and thick and stretching. Louis let his eyes slip shut briefly at the feel of the gently insistent pressure, the slight burning stretch only heightening the pleasure of it. Harry was still licking at Louis’ balls and up his shaft, but he had tilted his head back to stare at Louis’ face as his finger moved inside him, watching him closely as he slid the digit back out and then in again.
They locked eyes as Harry slowly added his middle finger in next to the first finger, Louis grunting slightly at the stretch but nodding to let Harry know it was still good. Staring into Harry’s eyes as he fucked him with just two fingers was easily the most intimate thing Louis had ever done with anybody, and though his usual instinct would be to turn away to hide or try and joke, he found he couldn’t do either.
Harry added a third finger, watching Louis’s face intently for any discomfort, the laser focus of his gaze almost too much to handle.
“Now, now,” Louis growled, unable to take much more. God, he was so close to the edge despite having come once already, just from Harry’s fingers and his completely focused attention.
Harry didn’t question or tease, he just pulled his fingers out gently and searched around for the condoms. Louis hadn’t realised how much he had been writhing against the bed until he saw how scrunched up the sheets had become, and it took them several minutes to find the small foil packages, grinning shyly at each other as they searched.
Finally they found one and Harry tore open the packet to roll the condom slowly down his cock, Louis waiting for him to finish before reaching over and adding lube, unable to help giving Harry a cheeky squeeze as he did so.
Harry grunted, pushing Louis back against the bed with a hard kiss, hooking Louis’ knees over his arms and slowly pressing him back towards himself, bending him practically in half with his knees almost around his ears and his arse on display.
“This okay?” Harry broke away from the kiss, his gaze burning hot against Louis’ skin as his eyes ran over Louis’ body ready and waiting underneath him.
“No idea I was so bendy,” Louis huffed a laugh, enjoying the stretch in his thighs but very much wanting to be stretched somewhere else. Harry glanced up in worry at the comment and started to lower Louis’ legs back down, which was the opposite of what should be happening.
“No no no,” Louis said quickly, trying to fold himself back up and grab Harry’s shoulders at the same time to pull him back in. He was definitely not flexible enough for that though, and he certainly would have pulled something if Harry hadn’t paused and moved back into range.
‘Okay, okay” Harry reassured Louis, pressing a small kiss to the corner of his mouth, and then said again softer, as though to himself, “okay.”
From the way they were folded together, Harry’s arms wrapped up in Louis’ legs, Harry didn’t really have the leverage to let go of Louis to get a hand on himself to guide his cock inside, so instead he shifted his hips back, his cock dragging along Louis’ crack and sliding up over his taint. He pivoted his hips, trying to find the right angle to press his cock inside. It took a few goes before Harry’s cock managed to catch Louis’ hole perfectly, and he started to press forward agonisingly slowly to prevent himself from slipping out again.
Louis was certain he would go out of his mind at the tease of it all.
Eventually the head of Harry’s cock sank past Louis’ rim and they both groaned loudly in unison. It was a lot to adjust to, even just the head of Harry’s huge cock inside him. Louis closed his eyes, breathing heavily as he waited for his body to get with the program. Harry was so incredibly patient, pressing soft kisses against Louis’ forearms while he waited for Louis’ go ahead to keep moving, not seeming to mind that Louis had both his hands buried in Harry’s hair again and was probably holding onto it a little too tight.
Louis opened his eyes after a minute to find Harry watching him intently from only a few centimetres away, his gaze flickering over Louis’ face as though memorizing this moment. Flushing, Louis couldn’t even roll his eyes like he wanted to, too caught up on the same moment. Instead he nodded unsteadily at Harry to continue.
Harry pressed forward ever so slowly, Louis able to feel each small increment that slid into him until finally Harry bottomed out inside him, his balls resting against Louis’ arse cheeks. He paused, as though giving time for Louis to adjust again, but Louis was so full of cock it felt as though he could feel Harry in his throat. He was going to explode any second and he desperately wanted to come already, so he used his grip on Harry’s hair to press their faces together, kissing him hard and looking him straight in the eye as he said clearly, “Fuck me.”
Harry, bless his soul, took Louis at his word, and pulled right back until his cock was in danger of slipping out again, then slamming forward hard, pushing Louis up the bed and causing the headboard to smack against the wall.
Louis cried out, his head dropping back against the pillows at how fucking amazing it felt when Harry did it again and again, fucking loud noises out of Louis on every thrust.
Tears were gathering in the corner of Louis’ eyes from how fucking incredible Harry’s cock felt splitting him open, but he didn’t want Harry to see him crying and get the wrong idea and fucking stop, so he pulled Harry down again to snog him senseless.
Harry couldn’t pound into him quite as hard or fast from this angle as he bent over Louis to kiss him, but he swivelled his hips as he moved, nailing Louis right on his prostate. The unexpected explosion of intense pleasure shocked Louis into his orgasm, moaning into Harry’s mouth unashamedly.
Harry pulled back from the kiss and began to thrust into Louis in earnest, harder and faster until he gasped, burying deep into Louis and coming hard. He collapsed on top of him, letting Louis’ legs fall to either side of him as he wrapped his arms around Louis’ neck instead.
Louis left one hand tangled in Harry’s hair, the other rubbing soothingly up and down Harry’s back, not caring that Harry hadn’t yet pulled out of him and they were going to stick together soon from the come on Louis’ belly and chest.
This moment, right now, was completely perfect and Louis never wanted it to end.
Eventually Harry stirred and after trading a few kisses, they got up and shared a shower together.
Louis had never really dated much and even the few he had, he’d never had this instant sense of ease with any of them. It was incredibly easy to trade slow, lazy kisses under the hot water in the shower, to rub each other dry with towels as they crowded close on the bathroom mat to avoid the cold floor, and to climb back into bed together and cuddle up under the blankets. It was so easy and so intimate that Louis felt he had spent a lifetime with Harry instead of only a few hours.
They spent the afternoon like that, curled in bed together and talking about anything that came to mind, their hands running slowly and gently over each other’s bodies - not to start anything, but just to learn each other’s skin. They talked about their families and their lives, comparing notes and sharing jokes, laughing into each other’s mouths as they gave soft kisses that were traded back and forth like secrets.
The light began to fade as the sun set, and Louis gave Harry a pair of his biggest joggers (which were still laughably short but showcased Harry’s arse quite nicely) as well as a baggy shirt to wear while they ordered pizza and settled in on the couch to watch a movie or two. They ate the pizza when it arrived but never got around to putting a film on, too caught up in each other to get up and find the remote to even turn the television on.
“Stay the night?” Louis offered against Harry’s mouth when it began to get late. Harry dipped his tongue past Louis’ lips, kissing him thoroughly before pulling back.
“I can’t,” he said, sounding incredibly disappointed, his face regretful. “My flight to New York is really early in the morning.”
“Oh,” Louis said, feeling wrong footed. Harry hadn’t once mentioned he was flying to the other side of the country tomorrow, despite spending the whole day together.
“I’ll be back in L.A. on Thursday for some shows before I go to London,” Harry reassured him, misreading Louis’ expression for disappointment. “I could come over and make you dinner? Proper romantic, candles and everything.”
“I’d really like that,” Louis replied honestly with a smile, trying to ignore the unease pooling in his belly, but couldn’t help asking, “Um, London?”
“Yeah,” Harry nuzzled into Louis’ neck, making it hard to read his expression. “My album just dropped, so.”
Harry had to do promo for his new album.
International popstar meant he had to fly around actually being international whenever he did something big - like release an album, for example.
They probably couldn’t have had worse timing.
“Would you like me to pick up some wine or something for Thursday?” Louis asked, forcing himself to be upbeat as he ran his fingers through Harry’s hair. He was beginning to suspect that he was going to have at least one hand permanently buried in Harry’s hair, threading through the silky strands and playing with the springy bits.
“Wine would be great.” At least Harry didn’t seem to mind Louis playing with his hair all the time; the opposite seemed to be true in fact, as he shifted back slightly to lean into Louis’ hand. “I’ll text you when I land, so you’ll know roughly when I’ll be over.”
“You don’t have to come over right away,” Louis felt like he had to point that out, feeling like a complete asshole for making Harry fit him into his schedule and stealing what little free time he seemed to have. “I mean, if you wanted to like, have a moment to yourself or something. I would understand.”
Harry sat up so he could search Louis’ face, his own expression a crafted mask of polite curiosity that Louis didn’t doubt for a moment was a construction of intensive media training.
“Do you not want me to come over?” Harry asked carefully. “If I’m being too pushy, you can say something. I won’t be mad or anything.”
Fuck, Louis had done it again, hesitated over his own insecurities and made Harry second guess himself. It was just... it was so hard to believe someone as fit and charming and in high-demand as Harry would even look twice at Louis, let alone want something more.
Louis kept waiting for the other foot to drop and stomp all over his heart.
“No, I do want you to, I promise,” Louis reassured him, pressing small ridiculous kisses all over Harry’s face to make him smile again. “I just don’t want you to force yourself to, if you’re too tired from being a megastar or whatever.”
Harry grinned, turning his head slightly to catch Louis’ lips in a lingering kiss.
“I really want to,” he said, stroking his fingers up and down Louis’ arm.
“Well then, I want you to too.” Louis tried for a haughty expression, but was pretty sure he was grinning too much to really be successful.
Harry eventually changed back into his own trousers to head home, although he did keep the white shirt he had borrowed from Louis, shyly admitting he liked the idea of wearing something of Louis’ while he was away.
Louis didn’t even pretend the thought didn’t get him hard, and it took another round of mutual blowjobs before Harry finally made it out the door and headed home to pack for his trip. Louis went to sleep wrapped in sheets that smelled like Harry and sex.
It was incredibly satisfying.
In the light of morning, however, it was a little hard to believe the whole thing had been real, and even harder to trust in his conviction that Harry felt just as strongly about Louis as Louis did about him.
It was made exceptionally more difficult to ignore his doubts when he spotted a gossip rag on Tuesday blaring the headline HARRY STYLES REKINDLING ROMANCE WITH TAYLOR SWIFT? accompanied by numerous photos of the two papped together having coffee in a shop in New York.
Louis and Harry had been texting each other constantly since Harry had left (except during his flight), and although Harry had mentioned the shop in passing, he had never said he was there with his ex-girlfriend. Who was Taylor fucking Swift, no less.
It was hard for Louis to sort out his feelings about the whole stupid thing, because he had no idea what he should be feeling and even less an idea what he was actually feeling.
He wanted to trust Harry, to give him the benefit of the doubt and believe it was just coffee with an old friend, and that he simply hadn’t mentioned it because he didn’t think it was important. Louis didn’t want to be one of those insanely jealous lovers who flipped their shit if their partner even turned their head in someone else’s direction - especially since this whole thing between them was so new he didn’t even know if he had a right to lay a claim on Harry like that.
At the same time, Louis wasn’t sure where he stood in terms of...them. When Harry had been with him, it had felt like the start of something wonderful, something that as even new as it was could be the foundation for something amazing. When Harry looked at him like nothing else mattered, Louis could believe it. He could believe that there was something special between them, something that might last a lifetime.
But with Harry on the side of the country, sitting next to an incredibly pretty, talented and successful woman that he had actually previously dated, Louis found it harder to believe Harry would want some nobody who happened to show up in a photo or two.
Louis didn’t want to be jealous for no reason, but he didn’t want to be deliberately blind to suspicious behaviour. He desperately wanted to ask Harry about it, but he didn’t want Harry to know he was worried about it.
Was he worried about it? Or was it just the distance between them that was blowing everything out of proportion?
The worst part was Louis didn’t even have anybody he could really confess his doubts and insecurities to - Zayn was already so concerned about the entire situation that Louis was certain that his advice would be to bail before it became any worse. El had become a good friend in the few months they had known each other, but Louis was embarrassingly aware she had a bit of a crush on him even though she knew he was gay, and it felt almost mean to discuss his romantic problems with her.
Louis had quite a few other friends in L.A. but none he really trusted enough to talk to about this, largely in part because he hated talking about his feelings in the first place, but also because Louis had no idea if Harry was actually closeted like he suspected and would even mind discussion about their potential-not-yet-relationship with anyone.
The whole thing was doing Louis’ head in, so he focused on the few jobs El had lined up for him as well as playing an epic amount of FIFA to distract himself. It allowed him to get out of his head enough to continue his texting conversations with Harry without driving himself up the wall.
It was crazy that Harry had his heart so full of knots when Louis was usually such an upfront type of person, but it only made him more aware just how far he had fallen already.
When Thursday rolled around, Louis was looking forward to seeing Harry, but had also decided that he’d bring up some of the things he’d been stressing about. Louis’ week would have been far less stressful if he had known from the start where he stood with Harry, whether they were exclusive and whether it was alright for Louis to discuss their relationship (if they had one) with other people.
Mid-afternoon Louis was digging around in his hallway cupboards looking for some candles, remembering Harry’s earnest comment about a romantic candlelit dinner when his phone vibrated in his pocket. He nearly dropped it in his haste to read the text, but saw to his disappointment that rather than Harry letting Louis know that he had landed early and was on his way over, Harry’s flight had been delayed and he still hadn’t even left New York.
Louis texted back just a frowny face, disappointment curling ugly in his belly and pressing down heavily on his chest. He wanted to sort himself out emotionally before he used actual words to say something he might regret. It wasn’t Harry’s fault that he was running late - it wasn’t like he could control the bad weather that delayed the plane - but Louis hadn’t realised how much he was looking forward to Harry’s reassuring presence until he got the message that he was still on the other side of the country.
Harry texted him back apologising profusely, assuring Louis that they would be boarding soon, and that he would still like to come over later that night instead of early evening like they had planned. Louis immediately felt like the worst kind of person, upset about not getting to see Harry until a few hours later, when it was Harry that had been stuck at the airport. It was Harry who was working hard to fit Louis into his tight schedule when in truth he should be focusing on promoting his album.
Louis texted Harry to reassure him that he wasn’t mad, wishing him a good flight and letting him know that he was looking forward to seeing him. He added a picture of a kitten playing with some string for good measure.
He didn’t receive a reply, which hopefully meant that Harry had already boarded his plane. Louis looked at his watch with a sigh, trying to work out how much longer he had to be stuck in his own head for.
Way too damn long.
He headed into the living room to play some more FIFA, leaving the candles abandoned on the kitchen table.
Louis didn’t mean to fall asleep in front of the television, but he found himself waking up much later to a gentle knock on the door. Fortunately Louis had turned on some lights when it started to get dark earlier, or else Harry might have worried there was no one home and left.
Scrambling to get up and let Harry inside, Louis didn’t realise he hadn’t changed out of his joggers and old shirt until he was already opening the door. Harry wasn’t faring much better; his clothes were creased, his face was tired and his hair was messy from the long flight. He was still the best thing Louis had ever seen, unable to keep the smile spreading across his face and reaching out to pull Harry into a hug.
Harry melted into his embrace, wrapping his arms tightly around Louis, the takeaway bag in his hand bumping against Louis’ back.
“‘m sorry,” Harry murmured in Louis’s ear, sounding dead on his feet. “I didn’t mean to make you wait up for me.”
“I could say the same, love” Louis said, pulling back to brush his fingers against the dark circles under Harry’s eyes. He had no idea how late it was, but it had to be close to midnight if Harry had just come straight from the airport. He didn’t have any luggage with him though, so it seemed he’d made at least one stop along the way. Which meant it was even later - Louis couldn’t even imagine how tired he felt right now. “Come on, let’s be complete animals and eat that nosh in bed, yeah?”
“That sounds amazing,” Harry replied with a tired smile, toeing his boots off as he came through the door. Louis took his coat and led him towards the bedroom, stopping off at the kitchen for some napkins and cutlery along the way.
Harry had brought Indian, and they cuddled together under the blankets to eat it, trading slow spicy kisses as they tried not to spill everywhere. When they had finished they were too tired for fucking and neither really liked the idea of a spicy blowjob, so they lay down facing each other, wrapping a hand around each other and slowly bringing themselves to completion, trading tired kisses and breathy giggles.
Using the tissues from the bedside table to clean themselves up, they fell asleep spooned together, Harry’s back pressed against Louis’ chest, their hands threaded together and tucked under Harry’s chin.
Despite the emotional turmoil of the day, Louis fell asleep completely content, his face buried in Harry’s hair.
The next day Louis woke up alone. He sat up, his heart dropping until he spotted the note folded neatly and resting on the pillow next to him.
I hate to run out on you like this, but you looked so peaceful I couldn’t bear to wake you. I have to film some interviews today, but I was hoping we might try again for dinner tonight? I’ll cook of course,
Louis felt his heart lift briefly at Harry’s thoughtfulness, before it dropped again. He had thought he would have more time with Harry before he disappeared to do popstar things, so Louis hadn’t asked El if he could take any nights off this week - he thought they’d already be spending their days together. He was supposed to be front and centre this evening at a theatre production in Westwood.
Would it always be like this? he wondered. Waiting desperately for Harry to come back from wherever he was, only for Louis to be too busy to spend time with him? Surely it wasn’t always going to be this bad; Harry only had such a hectic schedule because of his new album. Plus in the future Louis could always let Eleanor he was unavailable, if he had enough advance notice.
He pulled his phone out to let Harry know that he was working that night, but offered all day Saturday and Sunday as alternatives. Louis was scheduled to attend a film premiere Saturday night, but he was pretty sure he could bump that off. There was less pressure to attend the films than the theatre productions since the former wasn’t allocated seating and people expected a few seats to be free. It was always glaringly obvious with theatre shows when seats were unoccupied.
Louis climbed out of bed and went to take a shower, not expecting Harry to get back to him all that quickly if he was busy being interviewed all morning. When he came back into the bedroom though, there was a text waiting for him.
Working??? Is it horrible I don’t even know what you do? :*(
Louis found his face was smiling without his permission. It was ridiculous how much it did that whenever Harry was concerned.
I could tell you but then I’d have to kill you, Louis tapped out, his lip caught in his teeth. International superspies never reveal their secrets.
Louis got dressed and headed into the kitchen to make some tea. He had a much clearer schedule today than he had originally thought - he had foolishly expected to be spending it with Harry. Now that the day was free, he wasn’t sure where to start.
Your secret is safe with me, Harry texted back. I might write a song or two about it, but the lyrics will be subtle, like Austin Powers.
Louis stared down at his phone. Harry was so endearing it was almost painful.
Also it was slowly dawning on Louis that maybe he was approaching this whole thing the wrong way. He been viewing the album drop as an inconvenient bit of timing - something that consumed Harry’s time and clogged up his schedule with endless promotion.
But it was something that Harry had created, had worked on, it was music he had written himself. What kind of person would Louis be if he thought of that as an inconvenience rather than an insight into Harry’s soul?
A really shitty boyfriend, that was for sure. Or like, maybe-boyfriend.
Mind made up, Louis grabbed his cup of tea and headed back to his bedroom. He cuddled up into bed with his laptop and the crazy expensive surround-sound headphones that Zayn had given him for his birthday last year.
This was going to be a completely immersive experience.
He quickly download the album, put the headphones on and pressed play, closing his eyes as he waited for the music to start.
Four hours later he opened his eyes, feeling as though someone had been crushing his lungs slowly. The album was amazing, of course it was. He had known it would be, but god.
Harry had thrown some of the fun high-energy pop songs he was known for into the mix, but he had also added these beautiful slow ballads about loneliness and waiting for someone to share your love with to come along, and they hit Louis like a gut-punch to the heart.
Glancing down, he saw that his phone was lit up with texts from Harry that he’d sent while Louis had been engrossed in his music. They weren’t urgent or demanding, ranging from casually wondering what Louis was doing to observations about outfits the people around him were wearing. One was a picture of a banana.
It seemed almost inconceivable that the ridiculous person on the other end of Louis’ phone was the same person who wrote such beautifully haunting songs. At the same time though if Louis could believe it of anyone, it would be Harry.
Graceful and clumsy, funny and dorky, sexy and silly, Louis had spent hours and hours talking to Harry last week and had felt just as at ease last night when they had said hardly anything to each other at all.
Louis was still concerned about the woman Harry had been linked with in the press, Harry’s fame in general and the impact that might have on them, still a bit worried about where they stood and if they were on the same page emotionally, but listening to those songs that Harry wrote, and seeing the text messages in his phone…
Maybe he should stop fighting himself about letting this happen. Maybe he should just take a deep breath and jump in the deep end, even if he didn’t know how far down the water went. Maybe this could be something good instead of a disaster waiting to happen.
With a smile, Louis put Harry’s album on repeat and picked up his phone to text him back.
That night felt like the longest of Louis’ life.
The theatre production ended up being some new age interpretation of...something, Louis still wasn’t quite sure what, and it was atrocious. He was pretty sure the lead had forgotten his lines more than once, but it was hard to tell when the dialogue was so disjointed and difficult to follow. The costumes were hideous and the set dressing only looked half finished, probably supposed to be minimalistic and “raw” but really just crappy and half-done. The lighting guy kept missing his cue - unless there was a thematic reason for the cast to be acting in the dark for a few minutes at the start of every scene, only to be flooded in lights a moment later.
Maybe there was. Louis couldn’t understand what he was even watching, so who knows if it made sense thematically?
The whole time the only thing Louis could think about was that he could be home right now, wining and dining Harry Styles. His phone was like a phantom limb in his pocket he was so aware of it, able to feel it vibrate almost continuously with messages from Harry like it had been for the entire day. He waited desperately for intermission when the house lights would come up and he could read them without shame.
When the break finally came Louis spent it reading them all greedily with a huge grin on his face, wondering if he could duck out early with no one the wiser. Unfortunately when El had told him he was needed front and centre she had meant it quite literally - Louis was seated in the very middle of the front row. Not only would the empty seat be embarrassingly obvious, several people had approached him before the show had started, apparently recognising him from the gossip columns.
That Louis was even in the gossip columns at all was a source of much bemusement to him, but it still meant that people would notice if he left. This was the easiest well-paid job he had ever had, and he was proper good at it. He didn’t want to lose it, no matter how much Harry texted him.
Finally the cast took their final bow and the curtain fell. Louis was out of his seat like a shot, weaving his way through the lingering crowd. Maybe if he caught the first cab, he could get home with enough time to convince Harry it was worth his while to still come over.
He was looking down at his phone when he left the building so the first warning he got was a slow drawl next to him, “How was the show?”
Louis nearly fell over he turned around so fast. Sure enough, there was Harry Styles standing in front him as though he had been summoned by Louis’ thoughts alone.
“What are you doing here?” was all Louis could think to ask with his brain on autopilot from surprise, moving to catch Harry up in a tight hug anyway. Harry hugged him back just as tightly before letting go and stepping back as the rest of the audience began to stream out of the building. “How did you even find me?”
Harry grinned, showing Louis his phone. On the screen was a photo on instagram that someone must have taken from the audience. It showed Louis’ face in profile, looking immensely bored by the action on stage in front of him. Louis flushed, embarrassed he had been caught out but incredibly pleased Harry had apparently put effort into looking for him.
“Proper detective work,” Louis complimented him with a grin.
Harry smiled back, but his eyes flickered around them. People had started to notice Harry and the crowd had parted slightly around the two of them, as a number of younger people were trying to stealthily take photos of him on their phones.
“Did you drive?” Harry asked politely. Although he looked nothing less than completely casual, Louis could see there was a tightness around his jaw that hadn’t been there a moment ago, and he obviously didn’t want to linger.
“No, I was dropped off,” Louis replied, feeling a bit shit that Harry had just wanted to surprise him and now they were both in a circle of people, phone cameras flashing at them as though they were animals at the zoo.
“May I offer you a ride?” Harry asked with only a slight edge to his smile and a tilt of his head, indicating the direction he had parked in. Louis desperately wanted to take his hand and smooth back his hair to make him feel better, but instead all he could do was nod and follow him through the excitedly whispering crowd.
Harry had apparently anticipated the attention however, and had parked around a corner next to a tall overgrown shrubbery that was dominating the pavement, the combination of which meant they were able to climb into Harry’s car and drive away before anyone was able to take a photo of them leaving together.
“I’m sorry,” Louis said, finally giving in to his impulse and reaching across the console to cover Harry’s hand where it rested on the gear stick.
“What for?” Harry asked, glancing at him in surprise before turning back to the road.
“For making your life harder, I guess.” Louis couldn’t look up at Harry’s face, watching instead where his own fingers were tracing the tendons on the back of Harry’s hand.
That was the crux of all his issues, really. The fame, the jealousy, the reputation, the crazy schedules - they all boiled down to Louis worrying that he was simply too much hassle for Harry, and it wouldn’t take much for Harry to realise it and leave.
“Lou,” Harry breathed softly, turning his hand over to slid his fingers between Louis’. “You don’t make my life harder, you make it better.”
Louis’ heart caught in his chest, staring down at their intertwined hands.
“I love seeing you, but even if I don’t get to...just like, texting you all day makes me so happy,” Harry went on, like he had no idea how deeply he was shaking Louis’ foundation. “Today was so brilliant even though we weren’t together, just because I was talking to you.”
“I listened to your album today,” Louis said once he could speak again, finally looking up at Harry’s face.
“Oh yeah?” Harry looked delighted, glancing away from the road to meet Louis’ eyes before back again. “What did you think?”
“Eh, it was okay,” Louis replied, deliberately downplaying his reaction to watch Harry’s smile grow. “I mean, it certainly had potential. I’m sure if you stick with it for a few years, work really hard, you might be able to find someone who will listen to it.”
Harry was laughing openly by the time Louis had finished, squeezing their fingers together tightly. Pleased with himself, Louis lifted their joined hands and pressed a kiss against Harry’s thumb.
“It was amazing,” he confessed quietly, pressing his words against Harry’s skin as though he was hiding a secret. He glanced up at Harry, who was smiling softly, his eyes flicking between Louis and the road.
Harry pulled over to the side of the road, and Louis thought for a moment that Harry simply couldn’t wait any longer to kiss him when he realised with surprise that they were sitting outside Louis’ house.
That was even better, his bed was much comfier than the backseat of Harry’s luxury car.
“Come on, Styles, this is no time to dawdle!” Louis unbuckled his seatbelt and leapt out of the car, laughing when he heard Harry curse behind him and scramble to follow. They raced inside, breathless with laughter the whole way.
The next morning Louis again woke up to an empty bed, a note perched neatly on the pillow next to him. He tried to push away the weight in his chest as he read it - it was selfish to want Harry to stay for longer, when he was already trying so hard for the hours they had already shared. Despite their quick getaway last night they hadn’t arrived back at Louis’ house until after midnight, which in combination with their late night...activities meant that Harry must have had barely more than four or five hours sleep before he snuck out this morning.
Which, apparently, he kind of was very good at.
Louis was a light sleeper, but Harry hadn’t disturbed him either time he had left. In combination with the sleuth detective work he had done to find Louis at the theatre, maybe Harry was the superspy and not Louis. International popstar would be a great cover for getting into other countries.
Rolling his eyes at himself, Louis read the note. It was full of compliments and endearments as well as a third attempt at dinner together, stating that the third time was the charm and therefore guaranteed to work. Louis couldn’t help smiling. He was scheduled to go to a film premiere tonight, but perhaps Harry would like to come with him. Maybe they could even curl up together in the back row and hold hands, hidden from view.
He reached over to grab his phone to text Harry but was immediately distracted by the number of social media notifications he had received. He opened Twitter curiously and was met with dozens of photos of himself and Harry outside the theatre last night, all from different angles.
Well. So much for keeping that under wraps.
Louis couldn’t help going through the pictures, staring at the way Harry looked at him in the photos, the way Louis was looking at him back. He laughed at some of the tweets accompanying the photos - mostly variations of ‘Holy shit is this a thing tell me it’s a thing’ but there was one that brought him up short and wiped the smile off his face.
Omg u guz r so dumb Harry isn’t gay he is on a date rite now with a GIRL https://pbs.twimg.com/media/CUjNLtR ...
Louis stared down a photo that was unmistakably Harry, having brunch with a very attractive woman. A follow up tweet placed the photo’s location outside NBC Studios, which was where Harry was filming his interviews today.
The weight in Louis’ chest from earlier returned tenfold.
Which, okay, just because Harry was grabbing some food between interviews with a good looking person hardly meant that they were romantically involved, but it did remind Louis that he had never asked Harry about his coffee with Taylor Swift in New York.
Was he being stupid? Maybe it only seemed suspicious because Louis still felt insecure about Harry’s affections, despite Harry’s now repeated reassurances. He desperately wanted to believe in Harry and trust his feelings, but what if it was true? What if Harry was on a lunch date with someone else right now and it hadn’t even occurred to him to be exclusive to Louis? What if it wasn’t true and Harry was angry that Louis had doubted him, and decided he didn’t like him anymore and left?
It was only a single photo, taken from a distance on someone’s phone. The woman might be Harry’s PA, or even just someone from the studio escorting him to a nearby eatery, someone he had never even met before today.
Louis had been around the business long enough to know how the media could twist a single candid photo into a huge story to sell papers, so he should know better than to assume anything from a dodgy photo.
He was just overreacting. If it was more than just lunch, Harry would surely have told him. Louis would let it lie; Harry had told him last night that he was only back in L.A. for a week before he flew to London, and Louis wasn’t going to waste the time they had together borrowing trouble where there was none.
Decision made, Louis quickly exited out of Twitter and opened his messages, texting Harry like he had originally planned to do.
The week before Harry left was pure heaven. Harry didn’t end up attending the film premiere with Louis, but he did send him increasingly naughty text messages about the things they could do together once Louis had finished the film. Eventually Louis had to excuse himself from the screening to duck into the loos to ring Harry, wanking himself off hard and fast with Harry’s deep voice murmuring dirty promises into his ear.
Harry was waiting outside Louis’ home when he returned from the premiere, and they barely made it inside before they were stripping each other naked, kissing hungrily.
The carpet burns were completely worth it.
Harry spent most of his days filming talk shows and doing interviews, calling in to radio stations and promoting his album. Louis would sometimes tag along if he could get away with it, but more often than not he unsurprisingly proved to be incredibly distracting - not only to Harry, but often to everyone else as well. Eventually Harry’s publicist suggested not very politely that Louis might prefer more engaging activities out of doors rather than cooped up in cramped interview sets, and that had been the end of that.
Harry let Louis tie his hands to the headboard and fuck him through the mattress in apology, so truthfully Louis hadn’t been too upset about the whole thing. He had also been incredibly amused to see Harry forced to wear a ridiculous number of decorative bracelets the next day to cover the rope burns.
It was difficult sharing so much of Harry’s time with his show business life, but things like seeing the bracelets on Harry’s wrists in paparazzi photos made the whole thing worthwhile.
Well, that and Harry himself.
Louis had never clicked with anyone so instantly before, not even Zayn when they were kids. He and Harry just got on so well, able to finish each other’s sentences and laugh at each other’s jokes and obscure references. Louis usually avoided relationships because he became bored with the same person, but everything that Harry did and everything that he was just seemed endlessly fascinating to Louis. He felt he could learn everything Harry had to tell him and still be surprised by the words that came from his mouth.
It made Harry’s looming departure date even harder to deal with.
They were laying in bed the night before Harry’s flight, sweaty and sated, Louis panting against Harry’s chest as he tried to work out if his legs still functioned when Harry cleared his throat.
“So, there was something I wanted to bring up,” he said slowly, carding his fingers through Louis’ hair with one hand and stroking gently up and down his back with the other.
Louis made an affirmative noise to indicated he was listening, even though he was too fucked out to focus his entire attention immediately on what Harry was saying.
“My place is being renovated while I’m away, but I’ve been told it still won’t be ready by the time I get back.”
“Mmm.” Louis flicked one of Harry’s nipples next to where his face was resting. Harry reached up to catch Louis’ hand and lace their fingers together, which was what Louis had been aiming for.
“So I won’t have a place to stay,” Harry said.
That caught Louis’ attention completely, his heart leaping into his throat. Was Harry asking if he could stay here?
“I’ve booked into a hotel nearby,” Harry continued, unaware of the heart attack Louis was having. “But I thought I’d let you know that you could visit if you wanted, when I get back. We could swim by the pool, order some room service.”
To his immense surprise, Louis found he was disappointed that Harry hadn’t been fishing for an invitation to stay at Louis’ house. Which was ridiculous, Harry was hardly going to ask to move in after dating barely a month, what was Louis even thinking about, stupid traitorous brain for even coming up with the idea.
“That sounds really nice, Haz,” he said eventually, because it really did. Any time spent with Harry sounded amazing.
Harry made a happy little noise, rolling them over on the mattress so he could kiss Louis thoroughly. Like everything else with Harry, Louis was happy to let him.
Louis’ life didn’t end once Harry left for London. He still hung out with Zayn and his mates, hitting the pub for drinks and laughs. He still attended various events as part of his job, and even had a photo taken with his very first fan.
The poor girl was beside herself when she cried out to him from behind the barricade at a red carpet event and he had wandered over, not sure what she wanted.
“Alright, love?” he had asked, becoming concerned when he saw she was crying.
“Oh my god, oh my god!” she gasped, reaching out for a hug. Louis patted her gently on the back.
“Y’lright?” he tried again, wondering if he should call somebody over.
“Yes, yeah, oh my god, I love you so much,” she blurted, wiping away her tears. “Can I have take a selfie with you?”
“With...me?” Louis asked, not sure he heard correctly.
“Yes, yes please!” she nodded enthusiastically, holding out her phone. “I’m such a big fan, I love you so much!”
Louis laughed, taking the phone from her when her hands shook too much to press the screen.
“Dunno how you can possibly be a fan of mine,” he grinned into the camera, taking a photo with the girl’s face pressed against his. “I don’t even do anything. You should find a nice actor or football star to cheer on instead.”
“No, no, you’re amazing!” she gushed.
Her friend interrupted her, asking, “Do you really know Harry Styles?”
“Now that’s someone you can really be a fan of!” Louis handed the first girl back her phone. “Does it all, doesn’t he?”
“He seems so nice!” her friend confessed shyly. “Is he really like that?”
“He’s one of those sickeningly charming people that helps little old ladies across the road,” Louis told her with a wink. Both girls giggled.
“What do you like best about him?” the first girl asked, her eyes wide.
“His curls or his smell!” Louis declared after pretending to consider it deeply, making them both laugh. “How ‘bout you?”
“He has such nice hair!”
“I love his eyes, they’re so dreamy!”
“And he has such a great body too, and he’s so tall!”
“So everything about him, really,” Louis agreed with a laugh, making the two girls gasp and giggle again as they nodded. “Make sure to buy his new album, yeah? It’s really good.”
He waved at them as he headed inside, still bemused that someone could be a fan of his when literally all he did was go to shows and sit on his arse.
The next day he woke up to a text message from Harry reading, Perhaps it should be you in London doing promo! xxx accompanied by a link. Frowning in confusion, Louis tapped on the link and found himself on a newspaper site, the headline blaring:
LOUIS TOMLINSON MASSIVE HARRY STYLES FAN
Underneath was a brief description of Louis’ interaction with the two girls on the red carpet last night, along with a short video of Louis saying ‘Make sure to buy his new album, yeah? It’s really good.’ In the clip he’s smiling wider than he remembered doing, and his voice is definitely much more fond than he had intended. Below the article was a full video of Louis’ entire interaction starting from when he had walked over to the barricade and ending when he left to go inside.
Louis hadn’t even realised anyone had been filming him; it hadn’t even occurred to him that someone would be interested in anything he had to say.
He worried for a moment that Harry that be cross that there was apparently footage everywhere on the internet of Louis gushing about Harry’s smell before he remembered that Harry had been the one to send him the article. He hadn’t seemed mad, had even made a joke about it. Maybe it was okay?
Louis remembered how unimpressed Harry’s publicist had been with him whenever he tagged along to Harry’s interviews though, and decided not to push his luck. He would have to be more careful in future, and not mention Harry again.
Unfortunately it suddenly seemed that Harry Styles was all anyone wanted to talk to Louis about. The paparazzi yelled it at him from across the street, and the journalists lining the carpet at the shows he attended trying to ask him questions. Even his mates down at the pub ribbed him about Harry Styles, with only Zayn among them knowing that their jokes hit a little close to home.
“Do you want to talk about it?” he offered quietly one night when they had snuck at the back of the pub for a smoke. Louis took a deep drag as he thought about it.
“Nah,” he said eventually, blowing out the smoke. “We’ve still been texting every day, I know he’s not mad. I just...wish he was here.”
Zayn made an affirmative noise, smoking his own cigarette as he watched Louis.
“When’s he get back?” he asked, aiming for casual and missing by a mile.
“Next week,” Louis replied easily, hiding his smile around his cigarette. He knew Zayn was worried about him and was checking to make sure he was alright, but he also knew he was fishing for information with ulterior motives. Liam had been going on about what a great time he’d had at the Oscars and Louis had known Zayn for a long time. He was too chickenshit to ask Liam out himself, so he was going to try to angle Louis into going out with them again, along with Harry, under the guise of a group outing, when really it was a double date.
“We should do something together when he gets back,” Louis offered innocently, because he was an awesome friend and also so he could have front row seats to the trainwreck that was Zayn Malik performing his mating dance with someone he actually liked.
“I know you’re just going to take the piss, but I’m too grateful to turn you down,” Zayn said with a sigh, casting a rueful smile in Louis’ direction.
“It’s a date.” Louis grinned.
The day before Harry was set to return to L.A. Louis was wandering around some weird hippy bric-a-brac market that Eleanor had dragged him to, trying to look enthusiastic each time she showed him a different coloured lamp made from a mason jar.
The market itself was trying to be rustic and down-to-earth by having wooden trestle tables and being set up outdoors under the sun, but the tables have been sanded down and treated with a wood stain, and an incredibly expensive looking shade cloth had been spread to cover the whole area. Louis was pretty sure that defeated the purpose of having it outside in the first place. The whole thing was very American Hollywood to Louis’ eyes - trying to downplay the expense of something whilst trying its best not to appear cheap at the same time.
Harry would have loved it.
Shaking off his longing, Louis moved away from where Eleanor was inspecting buttons of all things, and found himself drifting down an aisle of tables covered in neatly folded clothes. He stopped at one table filled in bright colours, his eyes automatically locking on a piece of material tucked to the side.
It was a silk shirt, neon yellow with embossed buttons and giant bright red flowers that looked like a weird blend between lotus flowers and hibiscus, surrounded by deep blue leaves. It was, without a doubt, the most hideous piece of clothing Louis had ever seen.
He bought it immediately. As he handed it to the nice elderly woman behind the table to pay for it, he asked if she would mind wrapping it in tissue paper. She was only too happy to do so and even tucked the whole package into a pretty gift bag.
Louis tipped her handsomely for her kindness and also because she reminded him a little bit of his nan.
When Eleanor found him a bit later and spotted the bag in his hand, he didn’t even correct her smug grin when she pointed out she knew he secretly loved the market after all.
The next day Louis spent the morning tidying up the last few traces of mess in his house. He had cleared his schedule for the week, begging off any jobs Eleanor had offered to him and ignoring all of her sly insinuations.
Harry’s plane was due to land around lunchtime, but he had meetings all afternoon. Afterwards though Louis planned to lock them in his bedroom together for the night and all of tomorrow, leaving only for food, before eventually emerging back into the world in time for their dinner together with Zayn and Liam on Friday. He had stocked up on lube and condoms, snacks as well as actual food that would require cooking, and had even tied a ribbon around the handle of the giftbag he had bought at the markets.
All he was missing was Harry.
By the time his phone vibrated with a text at around four in the afternoon Louis was practically beside himself with impatience. He nearly threw his phone across the room in his haste to read the message, but his heart sank when he did.
Have to work tonight in order to get tomorrow off :( Promise I’m all yours afterwards though! xxx
Louis put his phone back down without replying, heading out to his small backyard for an angry kickabout. It wasn’t fair! He vented his disappointment and frustration by knocking his football around for a while until he felt a bit more clear headed.
It wasn’t unreasonable for Harry to have to trade in a single night in order to get two full days free, especially when his schedule was so hectic and his promotion was so time dependent. And he had messaged Louis early in the day to make sure he wasn’t waiting up for him like last time, plus he was obviously working hard to make sure they had more interrupted time to spend together.
But Louis was done with waiting.
He didn’t want Harry to be the one putting in all the effort, the one making all the sacrifices. Louis could pull his weight too.
Mind made up, he headed towards the bathroom to shower.
Spontaneous act of sweeping romance in real life apparently came with complications though, and Louis’ was shaped like the concierge at Harry’s hotel, who was incredibly polite about refusing to let Louis into Harry’s room.
“I’m terribly sorry Mr Tomlinson, but the privacy of our clientele is our greatest priority.” The lad, whose name badge read ‘Charles’ in precise capital letters, did actually look genuinely sorry, but that still didn’t really help Louis achieve his goal.
“I’m already on the list to go up there!” Louis tried to wheedle. “Like, he’s already given me clearance - I just need you to let me in!”
“I’m afraid no one is allowed into a visitor’s room while they are absent without their express permission. If you would allow me to call Mr Styles, I’m sure he would give his consent.”
“That ruins the whole point of a surprise!” Louis wanted to bang his head against the reception desk. Or someone else’s head, maybe. They had been going around in circles like this for nearly half an hour, getting nowhere. Maybe he would have to give in and call Harry after all.
He fiddled with his phone in his pocket. He really wanted to surprise Harry, but wouldn’t Louis waiting in his hotel room be better than Louis being spotted by paparazzi in the foyer, even if Harry already knew he was there?
Just as he was about to pull his phone out to call though, he heard a familiar laugh. He turned around in surprise. Sure enough Harry was coming in through the front doors, laughing at the person hanging from his arm. Who happened to be a very famous Victoria's Secret model.
Louis froze, but Harry didn’t pause or look in his direction, guiding the woman across the foyer and towards the lifts.
Please don’t go up with her, please don’t go up with her, please don’t go up with her, was all that was repeating over and over in Louis’ head as he watched them, but to no avail. Harry stepped into the lift of his motel with a model on his arm despite telling Louis he would be working that night, laughing as the doors closed.
Louis’ eyes slipped shut with the doors.
He tried to focus on his breathing; it felt like a lorry had driven through his ribcage, taking out his lungs as it passed through and running over his heart with all sixteen wheels for good measure.
The concierge cleared his throat discretely. “Might I send a message up to Mr Styles’ room for you, sir?” he asked when Louis turned around.
“No thanks, Charlie,” Louis said after a moment, forcing a smile to his face. “I think he might be...busy.”
The pain in his chest felt like someone twisting a knife. Fuck, Louis needed to get out of there before he dissolved into a million pieces.
“Could you please give this to him when he comes down in the morning?”
He handed over the giftbag containing the shirt he had bought for Harry. It seemed silly now, the thought of Harry’s face when he saw it.
“Would you like to leave a note?” Charles asked, his eyes kind. On any other day Louis would appreciate the effort the man was making to try and make him feel better, but right now all he could do was simply shake his head and leave.
He didn’t remember the drive home, operating on autopilot until he suddenly found himself outside his front door, key in hand but making no move to use it. He unlocked his door and went inside, making his way through his house towards his living room, feeling disjointed from his actions.
For someone who hadn’t been in Louis’ life very long, Harry was certainly imprinted all over his house. The front hallway was where Louis had stolen a quick kiss and Harry had stolen one right back, the counter in the kitchen where Louis had sat while Harry stood between his legs, the couch where they had cuddled together, trading soft kisses.
Louis moved towards his bedroom and all he could see were the places where Harry had kissed him, touched him, fucked him. It was like he could still feel him in the room, could still smell him in the air even though it had been weeks since he was last there.
Louis couldn’t breathe.
Fuck, he couldn’t be here, he needed to get out. Away from the thick web of Harry he had woven around himself without even realising.
He grabbed a suitcase from under his bed and began to pack, not stopping to consider his actions too deeply. He briefly considered going to stay with Zayn but dismissed it just as quickly. Zayn was just beginning to scrounge up his courage to make a move on Liam and Louis refused to fuck that up. He also couldn’t bear the thought of watching them fall in love while he was bleeding out all over the floor, it was just too painful.
Louis needed somewhere to gather up the shards of his heart and clutch them back into his chest, away from everyone who might offer him gentle platitudes or worse, try to get him to talk about what he was feeling.
Louis needed to go home. He needed his mum.
He bought a ticket for the next flight to Manchester while he waited for the cab, hesitating over his phone as he stared at his messages. He knew he had to tell Zayn that he was bailing on their dinner plans on Friday, but he wasn’t sure he was able to tell him why. The wound was too fresh to articulate in a text.
Headed home to mum’s for a bit, he eventually sent.
Everything okay??? Zayn’s texted back immediately, and of course a sudden visit back home to England would raise a red flag with him. He really was a good friend and when it came down to it, Louis owed him far more than peace of mind. Even if it came at the price of pulling a blade out of a still bleeding chest.
Went to surprise Harry at his hotel and he was with someone else, Lous wrote, focusing on breathing evenly. You can say I told you so when I get back.
If I come back, he added silently to himself, turning his phone off as the cab pulled up.
Louis was seated next to a small girl on the flight home, an excited eight-year-old experiencing her first plane trip. Thankful for the distraction from his own heartbroken thoughts, Louis spent the journey listening to his new friend Maddie ramble on about various things she noticed on the plane or things she thought he might want to know. He nodded along in the right places as her mother smiled at them from her seat on the other side of Maddie, by the window.
Eventually the long flight took its toll and Maddie fell asleep against her mother’s shoulder, leaving Louis alone with his heartache, desperately trying not to replay what had happened over and over again in his mind, like poking an old bruise.
He squashed the doubts that plagued him - what if there was a rational explanation for Harry inviting a model up to his hotel room when he told Louis he was working? Should Louis have stayed and confronted Harry at the hotel? Or was it better this way to slip away home to England and the comfort of his mum?
He tried to shake these thoughts off and concentrate on the film being shown on the plane. He couldn’t dwell on any of that yet; there would be plenty of time to fall apart once he got to his mum’s.
He just had to hold it together until then.
Finally the plane began its descent and Maddie’s mother woke her up so she could look out the window and see the ground rushing to meet them.
“We’re so high up!” she gasped. “Louis, look, look how high we are!”
“Yeah,” Louis agreed quietly, looking down at his lap rather than out the window. “It’s a long way down.”
He forced a smile when she turned back to look at him, striving to match her enthusiasm.
Once they had landed and Louis had waved goodbye to Maddie and collected his luggage, he caught a cab from the airport to his mum’s. He stared out the window the whole way there, wondering what he was going to say.
He hadn’t told her much about Harry, although it wouldn’t be hard for her to guess who he had been dating. He’d mentioned that he was seeing someone in the public eye who wasn’t necessarily out yet (not that they’d ever got around to that conversation), and there were certainly enough photos of Harry and Louis in the papers together.
Jay was a smart lady. Louis expected it hadn’t taken her more than a moment to put together the pieces.
Louis thanked the cab driver when they pulled up outside his mum’s house, tipping the man and unloading his own suitcase, carrying it up the short driveway. He unlocked the front door with the key he still carried with him everywhere, calling out a soft greeting in case the twins were still asleep. It was the middle of the day on a Thursday so the older girls would still be in school, but nap time could be any time in the Tomlinson household.
Jay came bustling around the corner, wiping her hands on a dishtowel, and Louis felt his eyes start to fill at the sight of her. God, it was just...really, really good to see his mum.
She tutted as he started to sniffle, pulling him into a tight hug.
“It’s alright love, let it out,” she murmured in his ear, rubbing a soothing hand up and down his back. After what felt like an eternity of holding himself together, Louis finally let everything fall apart in his mother’s arms, wrapping her up tightly and crying into her shoulder.
Jay let him stand there like a lemon making a complete mess of her shirt for far longer than Louis could expect her to, before tapping him gently on the backside.
“Come on, let’s get you cleaned up.” Her voice was gentle, and Louis let her coddle him for the remainder of the afternoon.
He let her push him into the shower to wash away that horrible stale aeroplane smell, and ply him with tea and biscuits after. She fielded the more awkward questions from his sisters when they got home from school, and made his favourite meal for dinner.
Louis let it all wash over him, the concern and love that caused his mum to fuss, the adoration of his sisters as they squabbled with each other and crawled all over him, vying for his attention. He knew his family noticed his subdued behaviour but they didn’t pry, and just being around them again was a balm to his damaged heart.
After dinner he sat watching telly with the girls before they had to go to bed. He helped to put the little ones to sleep and then stayed up late with his mum, listening as she filled him in on all the gossip from family and friends.
Both of them carefully avoided the reason behind Louis’ spontaneous visit.
When eventually Jay retired to bed, Louis lay down on his childhood mattress, staring at the ceiling.
The worst part was that he had walked into the whole thing with eyes wide open. He had known going in that it would end in disaster, but he had done it anyway. He had noticed the small signs along the way that Harry might not be just his - they never went to Harry’s house, they had never gone out together as a couple, the constant last minute plan cancellations - but all those could be explained away by Harry’s fame and his crazy schedule.
Louis had been jealous over the photos of Harry spending time with various attractive women, but he had never asked Harry about them. His worry of overreacting and concern that Harry would be annoyed with him or laugh at his foolishness had prevented him from saying anything. Louis had dismissed the photos as media attempts to press a PR agenda, given that Harry’s public image was distinctly heterosexual.
Louis had ignored every red flag along the track and had been blindsided by the train coming the other way.
It had been easy to believe in them when Harry had been with him, to stare into his eyes and read the sincerity there, to hear the words fall from Harry’s lips and trust the affection behind them. Louis didn’t think that Harry had been lying, but it seemed that his were not the only eyes Harry stared at, not the only ears he whispered into.
Not the only heart he held in his hand.
Louis rolled over, burying deeper beneath his quilt. He could already tell that sleep would be a long time coming.
The next day Louis already found himself settling into a routine. He refused to be one of those mopey bastards who spent their whole day in bed so he got up when Jay did, despite getting only a few hours of restless sleep. He fed Ernie and Dorie while his mum made breakfast for the rest of the girls, and helped her pack lunches for them all.
Once the girls were off, he played with the babies while Jay tidied around the house. He took care of a few odd jobs that Jay had been having trouble with - burnt out globes too high to reach without a chair, broken door hinges and the like - before lunch, and then spent the afternoon with her weeding the garden while the babies napped on a blanket in the shade.
Jay didn’t try to make him talk when he didn’t want to; she was content to listen to his stories about his new job when he felt like telling them, and happy to fill the silence with chatter when he didn’t. The whole day made feel Louis feel better about himself, a reminder that he was useful and that he was loved.
He still didn’t turn his phone back on.
Saturday started out much the same, only instead of a rush to get the girls to school, it was a calculated scramble to get each of them off to friends’ houses or junior sporting events. After lunch, Jay tapped Louis on the shoulder with a worried look on her face, and he braced himself for the conversation that had been hanging over both their heads.
“Is Zayn alright?” she asked instead, and Louis blinked at her, caught by surprise.
“What do you mean?” he asked, guiltily thinking of his mobile, still switched off and buried in his bag. He hadn’t spoken to Zayn since he had left L.A.
Jay held up her own phone, which was open to headline reading
ZAYN MALIK IN PUBLIC BRAWL WITH HARRY STYLES
Louis grabbed the phone out of her hand, his mouth falling open as he read the rest of the article.
ZAYN MALIK broke into a fight with HARRY STYLES last night around 7:45pm in a restaurant in Westwood, sources say. Onlookers report the R&B superstar became agitated when the international pop sensation approached his table where he was having dinner with soccer player LIAM PAYNE. The two had a heated conversation apparently about a mutual friend before the fight turned ugly, and Malik pushed Styles into a nearby table. Further violence was prevented when bodyguards stepped in to separate the two. No statement has been released by either team.
“Jesus,” Louis muttered, rubbing his forehead and trying to sort out the emotions seesawing in his chest.
On the one hand he was proud of Zayn for his loyalty and was happy that he had apparently chosen to go ahead with his date with Liam despite Louis bailing, but on the other he was mortified that he had been indirectly the cause of such a bloody mess and possibly ruined said date.
“He’s a good friend,” Jay said, obviously reading Louis’ expression well enough to figure out the whole story from between the lines of the article.
“Yeah, he is,” Louis agreed. He handed his mum back her phone and went up to his room to switch his own back on.
Zayn was an incredible friend, and Louis had left him hanging just when he was about to go on the biggest date of his life. It was a miracle that Louis could feel even worse about himself than he had been for the last two days, and yet there it was.
His phone had died while it had been switched off, so Louis pulled his charger out from the bottom of his suitcase and plugged it in. His phone immediately went crazy and for a panicked moment he thought he had fried it, but it was only the insane number of text messages, social media notifications and voicemails coming through.
When it finally stopped buzzing, Louis scanned his contact list for Zayn’s name and pressed call, ignoring everything else.
Zayn picked up on the third ring.
“Louis!” he sounded breathless on the phone, and Louis suddenly realised he had no idea what time it was over there. He’d never been good with timezones.
“Alright mate?” he asked, feeling like a bit of a tit.
“I’m so glad you called.” Louis could hear the relief in Zayn’s voice and wanted to smack his own head against the wall for not picking up his phone sooner. He should have known his friend was going out of his mind - Zayn was a worrier.
“Sorry I didn’t ring sooner.” Louis sat down on his bed, pulling his knees up and resting his head back against the wall.
Zayn made a noise of disbelief. “Don’t sweat it mate, just happy to hear from you, yeah?”
“Yeah well, me mum was asking about your new street fighting career, so I had to get the low-down, didn’t I?” Louis said, a smile tugging at the corner of his mouth. Teasing Zayn always made him feel better.
“Fuck me, I’m sorry about that,” Zayn groaned. “Only not really ‘cos I’m still fucking pissed he treated you like that.”
Suddenly it wasn’t funny anymore, pain knifing through Louis’ ribs and stealing his breath.
“Surprised you noticed anything other than Liam on your first date together,” Louis finally managed to say around the shards in his throat.
“Shut it,” Zayn grumbled, sounding embarrassed but pleased with Louis’ gentle teasing.
“Tell me,” Louis said, trying not to sound too pleading but suddenly desperate to hear everything about his mate’s long standing crush finally coming to fruition.
Zayn must have heard it in his voice anyway, because he immediately began to recant the whole evening, despite usually being incredibly reticent about that sort of thing. He described how it had taken him ages to chose what to wear and how nervous he had been, how happy he had been when Liam hadn’t minded at all that it would be just the two of them at the restaurant. He talked about how easily conversation had flown between the two of them, and their discovery of their mutual love of comic books. He glossed over the altercation with Harry and confessed that he and Liam had actually ended up going home together.
“I’m actually at his flat right now,” Zayn said with a disbelieving laugh, still sounding amazed by the fact. “He’s gone out for a morning run, but he wanted me to stay. We’re going out for breakfast when he gets back.”
“I’m so happy for you,” Louis admitted in a rare flash of sincerity and Zayn made a surprised but pleased sound on the other end of the phone. A moment of silence stretched between the two of them as they searched for something to say.
“Your mum alright?” Zayn asked after a while, and Louis could hear the unspoken question behind it, are you alright?
“She’s good,” Louis said softly, scratching at the material of his jeans. “Looking after me,” he added, because he knew that was what Zayn really wanted to hear.
“I’m glad,” Zayn replied just as softly. In the background Louis heard Liam call out a greeting, and suddenly he couldn’t get off the phone fast enough. It was one thing to lay himself open to Zayn, but he certainly wasn’t going to do it when other people could overhear.
“I’ll let you get back to it, yeah?” he said hastily, ignoring Zayn’s following protests. “Call you later. Love you.” He hung up without giving Zayn a chance to reply.
Looking down at his phone he saw dozens and dozens of voicemails left by Harry, and even more text messages. He couldn’t listen to them or read them, but he couldn’t quite bring himself to delete them either.
In the end he locked the screen and put his phone back on the beside table to finish charging, going back downstairs to gossip with his mum about Zayn’s love life.
Jay was happy to let Louis puddle around with her on Sunday helping out with bits and bobs, but by the time the girls went back to school on Monday, she started to push him to get out of the house.
“Everyone’s heart heals differently Louis, and I know you well enough that yours will do no good stagnating in your chest,” she said gently when he scowled into his cereal. “Go out and visit your mates, or pop down to the store and have a chat with the lass behind the counter.”
It was no small chance Louis was great at small talk with strangers - his mum had been a master teacher, always leading from example.
In the end Louis compromised by taking the babies with him to the park, swaddled up against the cold weather. He still didn’t feel up for company outside his family (although he had started sending Zayn texts so that he wouldn’t worry), and the quiet stroll around the small park worked to both give his mum a bit of a break and to ease his mind.
It became part of his daily routine; feed the twins while Jay made breakfast for the girls, then help pack them lunches and see them off to school. He would help his mum around the house in the morning, and then head to the park with the giant double pram in the afternoon. By Wednesday he had even started to look forward to it, the peace it gave him to sit on the park bench with his youngest siblings napping in front of him and to watch people go by.
That’s why it was such a shock to look up on Friday afternoon and see Harry Styles making his way across the park towards him.
Louis froze, not sure if his heart was playing tricks on his eyes, unable to believe Harry was really there until he was standing right in front of him, watching Louis with a cautious but hopeful expression on his face.
“What are you doing here?” Louis finally managed to say when it seemed as though Harry wasn’t going to do anything but stare at him.
“Liam told me you’d gone home to England, and your mum said you might be here.” Harry’s shoulders were hunched as he watched Louis’ face, not making any move to come closer as though he wasn’t sure of his welcome.
Harry had flown to England in the middle of his album promotion, all the way to Manchester, to see Louis. To...what? Apologize? Explain?
How the fuck did he find out Louis’ mum’s address?
Doris began to sook in her side of the pram, crying softly. Louis welcomed the distraction, picking her up and bracing her against his shoulder, cupping her butt with one arm and running a soothing hand up and down her back with the other.
“Why are you here, Harry?” Louis asked quietly, not looking up from where his sister was tucked into his arms. He couldn’t see Harry’s face this way, but he heard the shaky breath he took.
“I didn’t sleep with Cara, Lou, I swear,” he said, his voice quiet but urgent. “I wasn’t lying when I said I had to work, but I should have told you what that meant.”
Louis didn’t say anything, Harry’s words echoing around in his head.
“My publicist told me that with all the rumours going around about us I needed to try harder, to be seen with more women, but I didn’t...I wanted to to protect you from all that. I didn’t want you to see it.”
Harry sounded anguished but Louis still couldn’t bring himself to look up, trying to process what he was hearing. Harry hadn’t slept with that model, had been following a media narrative like Louis had been hoping for when he was trying to justify Harry’s behaviour.
“I wish you hadn’t seen it,” Harry continued, quietly. “Charles told me what you wanted to do, like, why you were there at the hotel. I’ve never even seen him angry, but he could hardly speak to me. I’m so sorry, Lou.”
A film of tears was filling Louis’ eyes, but he refused to let them fall. Harry stepped closer like he couldn’t help himself, reaching towards him from the corner of Louis’ eye but holding himself back at the last moment.
Louis had never wanted Harry to hold back from him, had never wanted to be the one holding him back.
“I really loved the shirt,” Harry confessed, low and intimate and fuck, why did this have to be so hard?
“I can’t do this, Harry,” Louis said, knowing his voice was wavering but unable to do anything about it.
He settled Doris back into her seat and finally looked up to meet Harry’s stricken gaze.
“I can’t...if you don’t want to yell from the rooftops that we’re seeing each other, fine, I could live with that, but I can’t...I can’t watch some woman hang all over you and not…” He took a deep breath and shook his head, knowing he was showing his hand but not having much else to lose by this point. “I just can’t do it.”
“Louis,” Harry breathed, tears in his eyes. “You won’t have to, I swear. When I realised you were gone-” his voice broke, cutting him off.
He wiped the tears from his face impatiently, trying again, “When Liam told me that you had left, I thought I’d lost you for good. I couldn’t bear it! I told my team no more, and I followed you. Please.”
Harry held out his hand, reaching for Louis’ hand but not taking it, waiting.
“I don’t care if the whole world knows we’re together or nobody does, I just want to be with you,” Harry implored. “Please.”
Louis stared at Harry’s hand, reaching for him.
Could he trust what Harry was telling him, or was it only what he wanted to hear? Could he risk his heart again or was it better to play the safe route, and turn away?
When it came down to it, Louis knew deep down that his choice had already been made. He had made it when he programed his number into the phone of a drunk popstar who thought he was dreaming and wouldn’t have known any different the next morning.
He reached out and took Harry’s hand, letting himself be pulled into a rough hug. Harry threaded their fingers together, his other arm wrapped so tight around Louis’ waist like he would never let go.
“Thank fuck,” he whispered into Louis’ hair, so softly that Louis suspected he wasn’t meant to have heard. He chuckled wetly, overcome by emotion.
“In the interest of full disclosure,” Louis said, pulling back just enough to look into Harry’s eyes, “I am completely arse over tit in love with you.”
Harry’s breath caught and his eyes widened as though this were somehow news, as though Louis fleeing the fucking country when he thought Harry had been unfaithful wasn’t a pretty obvious indicator of his feelings.
“Then in the interest of full disclosure, I have to let you know,” Harry pressed the same sweet, chaste kiss against Louis’ lips that he had in the front hallway of Louis’ house, “I am completely in love with you too.”
Louis was pretty sure he was going to explode from the sunshine bubbling through his veins. He pulled Harry close to kiss him again, deepening it like he had all the time in the world to learn his mouth.
When they made it back to Jay’s house, she lifted her eyebrows at their joined hands in question. Louis gave a slight nod and a shy smile and just like that Harry was welcomed as family, much to Harry’s delight. When Louis’ sisters came home from school it was hard to tell who was more excited, Harry or the girls.
Harry insisted on trying to help Jay prepare for dinner despite her protests that he was a guest, and as they sat down to eat once it was ready, he slid his hand into Louis’ under the table. Louis couldn’t stop smiling at him, his heart so full it felt like it could light up the world.
There was no place he’d rather be than right in this moment, with his family and with his boy.
“Louis, over here!”
“Louis, is it true Harry proposed?”
“Louis, how do you respond to the rumours Harry has a woman on the side?”
“Louis, look this way!
Louis ducked his face against the blinding flashes of the paparazzi cameras, ignoring their rude attempts to getting a reaction from him and headed straight for the black SUV that was waiting for him at the curb. The new bodyguard that Harry had hired for Louis blocked the worst of the paps from pressing in too close as he climbed into the car, slamming the door closed behind him.
“Rough day at the office?” Harry joked, reaching out to pull Louis close, safe behind the tinted car windows as the SUV pulled away into traffic.
“Mmm, much better now,” Louis murmured against Harry’s mouth before he kissed him softly.
Harry made a happy sound in the back of his throat, deepening the kiss. Louis hummed in surprise as Harry pressed closer, caught off guard by his enthusiasm. Usually after a long day of being in the public eye Harry was all but useless, slow and pliant and content to do nothing more than cuddle. Today had been a very long day, for both of them - Louis had only just landed after a final day of full meetings in New York, and he knew that Harry had likewise been run into the ground with rehearsals for his upcoming tour.
Both of their careers had skyrocketed since they had come out as a couple six months ago, Harry firing his old PR team and hiring a new set of people led by a woman named Elise, who joked that she had the easiest job in the world. It turned out that instead of being popstar suicide for Harry to come out as gay, the public had lost their minds over the fact that he was dating well-loved ‘socialite’ Louis (who still laughed over the title). For reasons Louis still couldn’t understand, Harry’s album sales went through the roof, and even Louis himself was in constant high demand for the strangest things - like starting his own clothing line, for example.
The media frenzy that surrounded them wherever they went, whether together or separately, was exhausting but well worth it if they could be together - especially with the way Harry was pushing him down on the back seat of the van.
“What’s got into you?” Louis smiled against Harry’s mouth, certainly not complaining as he threaded his fingers through Harry’s hair and breathed him in deeply.
Fuck, he had missed him while he had been in New York and Harry was here in L.A., even if he had only been gone for two days. Louis had been setting up a number of potential business opportunities that Eleanor had encouraged him to look at, but he’d only had a short window to do so before he went on tour with Harry.
They were both very much looking forward to that. The thought of being able to spend that much time in Harry’s company was dizzying.
“Just glad to see you.” Harry buried his face into Louis’ neck, brushing his lips against the soft skin at the base of his throat.
Louis’ breath hitched, his cock becoming very interested in the proceedings.
“Don’t start something you can’t finish, Haz,” he warned, remembering the time they had nearly been late to their taping of The Ellen Show because Harry hadn’t been able to keep his hands to himself in the car ride over to the studio. Louis hadn’t been able to look their driver in the eye for weeks afterwards.
Although he was fully prepared to make that sacrifice again if that was what Harry wanted.
Instead Harry pulled back with a regretful sigh, allowing them to both straighten up in their car seats.
“How was your flight?” Harry asked belatedly, causing Louis to smile. They chatted about their respective days apart as if they hadn’t been in continuous contact since Louis had left on Wednesday, their hands tangled on the car seat between them.
In what seemed no time at all they pulled up outside Harry’s house, finally completed after an obscenely long renovation. Harry had given up his hotel room and been staying at Louis’ since they had come back from England - half because he was around all the time anyway and insisted on pulling his weight by at least cooking meals, and half because he confessed he still couldn’t look Charles the concierge in the eye.
This would be the first time that Louis would get to see Harry’s home and as tired as he was, he was genuinely curious about what the interior would look like.
Would the architecture be quirky and odd like Harry, weird alcoves and strange hallways that led nowhere? Or would it be a normal house but covered in eclectic knick knacks and sentimental souvenirs?
Louis couldn’t wait to get inside to see, grinning at Harry as the driver dropped them off outside the gate. The front garden was plush and well tended, tall hedges covered in flowers that were not only pretty but protected their privacy as well.
When Louis opened the front door he stopped dead in his tracks. The entire front hallway was littered with rose petals and there was lit candles across every possible crevice, casting a flickering warm glow.
Louis turned around smacked Harry on the arm.
“You left unattended candles in your newly renovated house?” he scolded, smacking him again to mask the way his heart fluttered at the romantic gesture. “The whole place could have burnt down!”
“Ow!” Harry flinched, rubbing at his arm. “I asked David to hang around until we got here so that didn’t happen.” He pouted, bottom lip sticking out as though this was a valid safety measure for leaving unsupervised fire in his home, with only his gardener puttering around out the back to prevent disaster.
Fuck, Louis was so in love with him.
“You are too much,” Louis whispered, half to himself as he pressed a kiss against Harry’s mouth. “Go on then, give me the tour.”
“We’ll start with the bedroom,” Harry said eagerly, pushing Louis through the house in that direction and making him laugh.
“Oh, is that how it is?” Louis grinned, pretending to fight Harry along the way, but secretly pleased by his unabashed eagerness. “And they say romance is de-” he broke off abruptly as they passed over the threshold to the bedroom.
If he had thought the hallway was overdone, it was nothing compared to the bedroom. There were candles glowing everywhere, petals scattered all over the floor and bed, except for a perfect clear patch in the middle of the doona, which held a single small black jewelry box.
Louis was pretty sure his heart had stopped.
“Go ahead,” Harry whispered into his ear from where he was pressed up behind Louis. “Open it.”
“Haz...” Louis breathed, unable to take his eyes off the box. Harry gave him the tiniest nudge in the small of his back and Louis approached the bed in a daze. Struggling to take even breaths, he picked up the box and opened it.
Tucked inside the velvet box was a gold ring, simple but beautiful. Nesting under the band was one of the penis shaped cashew nuts Louis had slipped into Harry’s pocket when they had first met. It had been covered in some sort of varnish, presumably to preserve it and stop it from decaying.
Louis stared it at.
Harry cleared his throat behind him after a long moment of silence. “I thought you’d be laughing or making a cock ring joke by now,” he said with false bravado; Louis could hear the uncertainty and worry in his voice. “I know we’ve only been dating for like, six months and to most people that would be way too soon, but I want to spend the rest of my life with you. We don’t have to like, get married right away, but I just...wanted to prove to you that there is no future for me without you in it.”
“You kept it.”
Louis continued to stare down at the box once Harry had finished rambling, not sure if he was more caught off guard by the ring, by the nut or by Harry’s words.
“Of course I did.”
Harry moved around in front of Louis, trying to see his face. Louis finally tore his eyes away from the box and looked up at him. Harry smiled tentatively at Louis’ wide eyed expression.
“This beautiful, sexy man winked at me and then disappeared, leaving me with only a pair of nuts to remember him by. Of course I kept them.”
Louis laughed wetly, pulling Harry to him roughly and hugging him tightly. “Well go on then, put it on me already.” He pulled back and offered Harry the box, carefully prying the nut to keep himself before he did so.
“So is that a yes?” Harry asked breathlessly, even as he slipped the band on Louis’ ring finger.
“Of course it’s a yes, you twat.”
Louis didn’t even care what an emotional wreck he looked right now, or whether this was too soon in their relationship for such a big step, or even that they hadn’t decided if Louis was going to give up his house and move in with Harry.
Harry loved him and wanted to spend the rest of his life with him.
Everything else was just details.