It's actually not a very good idea. In fact, it's probably one of the worst ideas his manager comes up with.
On paper, it looks perfect: He's coming back from a two year hiatus, with a brand new album and a more mature sound, and aside from the normal talk shows --Ellen, James Corden, Jimmy Fallon--this show is actually the best way to put him back on the radar. It consistently gets high ratings, and if he plays his cards right (which means, if he puts on a really spectacular show), more often than not his performance will go viral. He'll go viral.
"It's a promo dream," Niall tells him, sat across him on Harry's huge dining table. He's got a mug of tea in his right hand and is shuffling a bunch of papers on his left. "Remember how big it got when Anne Hathaway did that performance of Wrecking Ball, like, two years ago? She was literally on every single news site."
He takes a sip of his mug. "And it's literally your thing," he continues. "Your element. You can perform, you like to perform. All you really need to do is shimmy your shoulders around a bit, mouth some words to, like, a Rihanna song, maybe, and that's it."
"But it's a spectacle," Harry argues, albeit weakly. He folds his arms on the table and rests his head on it, blinking up at Niall. "I don't really want a spectacle. I just want to drop my album and sing a bit, maybe, then go on tour, like we always do."
"Used to do," Niall corrects, still flipping through the papers on the table. He fixes Harry with a look, his blue eyes boring into Harry's soul. "Face it, Harry, you've been gone a while. You know how fickle the entertainment industry is. We need this, because without it, you can't go on tour. No one would buy tickets."
"Hey," Harry says, affronted. "I have fans. A lot of fans. I have twenty-six million followers on Twitter."
"And that's enough?" Niall asks.
Harry shrugs. "Well, yeah. Way too much, actually. I don't even know twenty-six million people. Do you know twenty-six million people, Niall?"
"No," Niall says, "but that's not the point."
"What is the point?" Harry asks. "You've lost me."
Niall sighs. He leans forward, pushing his mug of tea carefully to the side, before bracing his elbows on the table, chin in his hands. It makes him look like some sort of bottle-blonde cherub. "You have quite the fanbase, Harry. I'm not denying that. And you've done a good job of popping out every once in a while in the past two years, just to make sure you're still talked about. But that's all you've done, and I'm not satisfied. I want more." He blinks at Harry. "Don't you want more?"
"Uh," Harry answers, "You're kind of sounding like the Little Mermaid there, Niall."
"You have to admit, she was onto something," Niall says. "She didn't stop until she reached her dreams. Which is why she was able to get a pair of legs and marry Prince Eric."
"That's the Disney movie," Harry argues, lifting his head from his arms. "She kills herself in the original story. And every time she took a step it felt like daggers piercing her, or whatever."
Niall blinks. "That's....really morbid."
Harry quirks an eyebrow at him. "Have you never read it? I've got the original fairytale in a book, somewhere." He's also got all the other original, un-Disneyfied fairytales somewhere. He quite likes reading them. They're very morbid, but they're also very fascinating.
Niall waves a careless hand. "Whatever. The original story doesn't matter. What matters is that Ariel was able to get her happily ever after because she strived for more. Don't you want your happily ever after, Harry?"
"Well," Harry says, "I want to tour. Don't think that's my happily ever after, though."
"It's a temporary happily ever after," Niall tells him. "Like a temporary fix, sort of thing. Anyway, which is why we need this. When you left, you were selling out arenas. I want you to be able to sell out stadiums, this time."
"And doing this will work?" Harry asks skeptically.
"Maybe, maybe not." Niall shrugs. "But what's wrong with trying and striving for more? Ariel strived for more. You should be like Ariel, Harry. Embody her. Be Hariel."
"Hariel," Harry says. "Okay."
. . .
It's not the first time Niall's come up with ideas like this. In fact, it's not even the second time he's done it. They've known each other for almost seven years, ever since Harry had moved to London with nothing but his guitar and a dream and ran into Niall, who was studying to be a manager in the local university. Granted, it was hotel management and not, well, talent management, but it all really sort of worked out in the end. Besides, Niall always says that his hotel management studies really help in this line of work. Harry doesn't know how, though. He asked once, but Niall simply looked at him, ruffled his hair and said, "don't you worry your pretty little head about it."
Anyway, Harry trusts Niall with his life, probably. Niall's his best friend before anything else, which makes him a fantastic manager. He's always got Harry's best interests in mind, and always knows what Harry will and will not do. He can also be very fierce, if he wants to be, but that's not very often; the only time Harry's ever seen him be anything less than the jolly Niall he knew was when Taylor Swift kept alluding to Harry in all her break-up songs. He had called up Taylor's PR team, angrily told them to fuck off, and then hung up, all while reaching for a beer in Harry's fridge.
So, yeah. Niall's probably a huge part of the reason that he's still so successful until now, with five albums and a two year hiatus under his belt.
But that doesn't mean he can't occasionally hate on Niall and his ideas. His ideas are the worst, sometimes.
. . .
"So," Harry says, when he's sitting on Niall's couch a few days later, drinking a beer. "If I agree to do the lip sync thing--it's just an if, Niall, stop smiling at me like that--who am I going up against?"
Niall, despite Harry telling him to stop, still continues smiling. "You're embodying Hariel," he simpers. "I'm so proud of you."
"Not yet," Harry insists. "I just want to know the details."
"That's how it started, for Ariel," Niall says. "Wanting to know the details about the outside world." He wipes a faux-tear away. "My baby Harry, growing up. I have to call Anne and tell her about this. Baby wants to learn to walk!"
"Your metaphor is shit," Harry tells him, picking up a crisp and throwing it at him. "It's falling apart."
"It's still better than the entirety of 'Story of My Life'," Niall shoots back. He catches the crisp in his left hand and pops it into his mouth, chewing loudly. "I still have no idea what that song is even about."
Harry gasps. "You were singing to 'Story of My Life' just last week in the shower! You can't say you don't like it!"
"It's not that I don't like it," Niall answers, dignified. "I just don't know what it means. Is it a love song? Is it a break up song? Is it a sad song? A happy song? Are the lyrics just some pretentious way of telling the story of what you've gone through? Does the music video have any relation whatsoever? We don't know."
Harry blinks at him. "You've thought about this a lot, haven't you?"
"It's cause I don't get it," Niall says, reaching over to pop another crisp into his mouth. "Right now, I'm of the opinion that you were just pretending to be very deep." He pauses. "Deep with, like, soul crushing angst. Yeah, that's it."
Niall may be Harry's best friend, but sometimes, he really doesn't understand what's going through his head. He settles for rolling his eyes instead. "No, but answer my question. Who am I going up against?"
Niall taps his chin in thought. "Well, believe it or not, a lot of celebrities want to compete against Harry Styles in the Lip Sync Battle. We have Zayn Malik, RnB superstar."
"Ooh," Harry says. "The one with the cheekbones! I know him." He'd met Zayn once in a music event, and once in a fashion show. Both times they were seated next to each other. Both times they had gotten way too engrossed talking to each other, they'd forgotten to exchange numbers to continue their conversation.
It's kind of sad, actually. Zayn's quiet, but he's also very interesting. Harry would love to talk to him more often. Maybe even work on a song together.
"Yeah," Niall replies, "he's fit." He takes a swig of his beer. "Another fit one as well, Liam Payne."
Harry scrunches up his face. "You think Liam's fit? That's disgusting!"
Liam's like, Harry's brother. He's Harry's closest friend in the industry (excluding Niall, of course), and he and Niall have met hundreds of times. This is the first time Harry's ever heard of Niall thinking Liam's fit.
Niall blinks at him. "But he is fit. Am I not allowed to find him fit?"
"No," Harry answers, shaking his head. "Absolutely not."
Niall shrugs. "Okay. Um, Cara Delevingne also wants to battle you."
"Ooh, Cara's fun," Harry says thoughtfully. "Last time I saw her she drank me under the table. I barely remember the evening."
Niall scoffs. "It's not hard to do that, actually. You're such a lightweight."
"Heyyyy," Harry scowls at him. "I can hold my alcohol."
"Whatever you say, bro. Oh, and," Harry watches as Niall's face transforms into a devilish smirk. "Louis Tomlinson."
Harry blinks. And blinks again. And then blinks about three hundred more times. And then uses his pinky to clean his ears, just to make sure he's heard it right. "Louis Tomlinson?"
. . .
Louis Tomlinson has been the star of Harry's wank dreams since the first time Harry saw his bare bum in one of his first movies, which was some sort of weird indie film.
It was actually pretty boring, the film. Contrary to what his fans believe, Harry doesn't actually enjoy watching those types of indie, mind-fucking films. They make him feel like he's high without weed, and it's not the good kind of high, the one where everyone is laughing and everything is fun and food tastes so good. It's the one that has your head hurting and your vision spinning and you just want to curl up in a bed and go to sleep. He doesn't really like it.
Its only saving grace was when Louis Tomlinson, barely twenty-one then, stood buck naked, back to the camera, and bent over to pick up his pants. That was when it became the good kind of high. That was also when Harry made the executive decision to buy the DVD when it came out.
Which, apparently, is also an investment. The movie became such a cult classic that selling his DVD, with its original packaging, could easily earn him like, a thousand dollars.
(Not that he wants to sell it. He's loathe to part with it, and likes watching it once every few months. He only knows this information because he stumbled upon it one day, when he was thinking that maybe his attraction to Louis has gone a bit too far.)
And then Louis, from his twinky, barely twenty-one self, grew up, in the course of a year. He grew some scruff, started wearing dark colours, pushed his hair back, and Harry's fantasies, which used to be Harry fucking Louis into the bed, became Harry getting tied up and calling Louis daddy.
Okay, maybe it wasn't only Louis that grew up. Maybe his fantasies decided to grow up as well.
After that, it just got worse and worse. Louis became famous, really famous, and Harry would see him everywhere. In posters, billboards, magazines, videos, everything. Harry would also go and watch every movie Louis acted in. Usually, he'd just space out until Louis came on the screen, then he'd just gaze at Louis and the long sweep of his eyelashes and his high cheekbones, and then space out again when he disappeared.
The stripper movie Louis did was the worst, though. Don't get him wrong, the movie was pretty good--dialogue was funny, acting was amazing, dancing was phenomenal, but, well, Harry really didn't need to see what Louis would look like as a stripper. But then again, he supposes he'd brought it on himself. He could've just agreed with Niall and watched that really ugly romantic comedy Niall wanted to watch.
He's got his crush under control now, he thinks. Sure, he still finds Louis attractive, but he no longer gets into Louis-induced hazes, and he's pretty sure he can function and be his normal, charming self in front of Louis.
Which is why he tells Niall he'll only accept the Lip Sync Battle offer if he gets to compete against Louis.
. . .
The idea is stupid, and maybe he should have thought this through more. As it is, he's standing backstage, a few hours before they're supposed to start shooting, with trembling hands and a really bitten down bottom lip. Niall's not really helping calm his nerves; he just keeps running around trying to organize everything, and then popping back into the dressing room to whisper 'Hariel' into his ear. It's kind of annoying now.
"Stop it," Lou chastises him. She swipes a thumb through his bottom lip, tutting, before reaching over to apply Vaseline onto his lip. As soon as she's done, Harry sucks it in between his teeth again.
What. He can't help it.
"Oh for--Harry, stop it." She pulls his chin down, hard enough that Harry has to let go of his bottom lip between his teeth. "Why are you so nervous?"
"It's Louis," Harry says meekly. "He looks so good." It's actually quite painful, how good Louis looks. Harry saw him a while ago, entering the studio in an Adidas hoodie and sweatpants, and Harry did not squeak and hide out in his dressing room. He went into his dressing room for grooming purposes.
"And you look good, too," Lou tells him. "I don't see the problem here."
"Of course you don't," Harry says sulkily. "You have someone who loves you and a beautiful daughter. You don't need to impress."
"I resent that," Lou says, hitting him lightly on the shoulder. "I do have to look good for Tom."
"Yeah but Tom loves you either way," Harry tells her. "Louis doesn't even know me. I have to make a good first impression."
"And you will," Lou soothes, running a hand through his hair. Harry leans up to the touch. He quite likes having his hair played with. "You're charming and funny at the best of times."
"And at the worst?" Harry asks.
Lou pauses. "Let's just say I don't think Ben's wife has really forgiven you for that time in South America."
Harry pouts up at her. "I don't think it was that bad? I mean, it could've gone better, but, it's not bad."
"Harry," Lou says, her voice exasperated. She's still playing with his hair though, so, she can't be that annoyed with him. "You were nervous about meeting Ben, so you decided tequila shots were the answer. And then you got really handsy with him."
"Being handsy is not bad," Harry tells her primly. "It just means I like to have fun when I'm drunk."
"Need I remind you that Ben is married," Lou says. "And you went up to him and nuzzled your face into his neck."
"That was with no malicious intent, I swear. His cologne smelled so good I was asking him where he got it." He pauses. "Besides, Ben's not my type, anyway."
"Who is your type?"
"Louis. Fuck. He's in this building right now, Lou. Fuck. Help me."
"Calm down," Lou soothes. She's started braiding his hair now, little French braids all over his head. It feels nice. "Niall told me that his team was the one who requested to go against you for the Lip Sync Battle, which means he knows of you, at least."
"Oh my God," Harry says, horrified. "That's even worse. What if he doesn't like my music? Shit, what if the reason he agreed to this battle is because he has this longstanding anger against me and my music and he wants to hash it out here?"
"Have you ever met him, Harry?"
"No, but, it's possible, isn't it?"
"Yeah," Lou says. "In badly-written romantic films, mostly. Which means it's not realistic. Look, Louis may be an actor but I'm pretty sure he doesn't think like a badly-written romantic film."
"But what if?" Harry asks. He's panicking, he knows, over something he shouldn't panic over, but he just really wants to make a good impression. Because, okay, his crush on Louis is a little bit intense.
"Then that's it," Lou answers. "You go on, lip sync together, and then go your separate ways." She pulls lightly on one of the braids in Harry's hair, and meets Harry's eyes in the mirror. "If he doesn't like you or your music, then there's nothing you can do about that. But know that if that does end up being the case, that it's not your fault. He's the one with the shortcomings, not you."
There's a pause, where Lou just plays with his hair, running her fingers through it. Harry takes a deep breath, holds it in his lungs for a bit.
"That's right," Harry exhales, after a few minutes of deep contemplation and thought . "You're right. Fuck, you're so smart, you're the best." He stands up, reaching over to hug Lou. "Thanks Louise, you're the best."
Lou pats him on the head. "Anytime, Harry. Just, calm down, yeah? It'll be fine. At the very least, he'll be professional. I don't think he's the type to throw tantrums and fire assistants just because they did his hair wrong, or something."
Harry pulls away and opens his mouth to reply, but then Niall comes hurtling into the room like a hurricane.
"Hariel," he exclaims, into the room. He pauses, steps back and cocks his head. "I like your braids."
"Thanks, Niall-bastian," Harry says, raising a hand to flit over his hair. "Or was it Niall-ounder?"
"Hm," Niall hums. "I like Niall-bastian better. Lou can be Flounder! Lounder!"
"Leave me out of your Little Mermaid metaphor, you weirdos," Lou says, monotonously, typing on her phone.
"You're missing out, then," Niall tells her, rolling his eyes. "Flounder is the best character. He's all cute and yellow and blue stripes, with wide blue eyes and chubby yellow cheeks. Flounder is an honour. Flounder isn't simply bestowed onto anyone. You have to earn Flounder, and look at you here, just rejecting it." He shakes his head. "Where will we find another worthy of such a title?"
"Um," a voice says from the doorway, and Harry's eyes dart up from Niall to the doorway to see, oh no, oh no. "I can be Lounder. I mean, if you're looking."
Louis Tomlinson is standing in the doorway to his dressing room, still in his Adidas hoodie and sweatpants, looking casual, yet commanding all the same. His hair is in a fringe, swept across his forehead, his scruff neatly trimmed, and his blue eyes sparkling and kind. He looks so good that the semblance of calm Harry had a few minutes ago is now just....gone.
"Tommo!" Niall cheers, oblivious to Harry's crisis. "I just saw you a few minutes ago, what brings you here to our turf?"
Louis lifts his right hand, an iPhone in his grasp. "You left this outside when we were talking," he says. "Thought I'd get it back to you. Probably has a lot of secrets, eh?" He looks up, straight at Harry and fucking winks.
He's joking around with Harry. Harry needs to lie down.
Instead, he settles for a weak chuckle that sounds sickly, even to his own ears. Lou pinches him on the waist, from where she's standing, and he draws in a shaky inhale.
"Sorry," Louis says, stepping into the room to hand Niall his phone. He turns a kind smile towards Harry. "Don't think we've properly met yet. I'm Louis."
"I'm Hariel," Harry answers. He coughs. "I mean, um, Harry."
Louis' smile grows, and fuck, he looks even better in person than he does on film. Harry could stare at him for hours. Harry has stared at him for hours, in the solitary confines of his house and the nearest movie theatre, but nobody can prove anything."Well, Hariel, nice to meet you. And the offer still stands, if you need a Lounder, I'm willing."
"If I'm Lounder," Niall sings under his breath, "would you see me?"
Harry reaches out and subtly punches Niall in the arm. He really doesn't need that, right now.
"Um, thanks," Harry tells him. "But you can't be Lounder. You're already someone else in our Little Mermaid metaphor."
"Really?" Louis asks excitedly. "Who?"
Prince Eric, maybe, Harry thinks, but just as he opens his mouth to say it, Niall beats him to the punch. "You're Loursula."
"Oho," Louis crows, his eyes wide and sparkling. He turns to Niall. "The enemy. Is that so?"
"Yeah," Niall answers, cool as a cucumber. Harry wants to hit him with the nearest object, which is a bottle of foundation. It's not very helpful. "Harry here can get very competitive. He's treating this entire Lip Sync Battle like it's the Olympics."
"Really?" Louis asks. He turns to look at Harry, surveying him from head to toe. Harry squirms under his scrutiny. "That's how it is, eh? Well, just so you know," he looks up, meeting Harry's eyes. "I can get very competitive too."
His eyes are a pretty shade of blue, and his gaze is so intense, that Harry's just drawn to it. He can't seem to look away.
"How competitive?" Harry settles for asking instead.
Louis smirks, looking like a good-looking smug bastard. "Let's just say I'm in it to win it."
There's a twinkle in his eye, like he knows something Harry doesn't. Like he thinks Harry isn't even going to put up a fight.
And it's that look in his eyes that makes Harry's competitive streak rear his head. He's not going to simply lie down and let Louis win. He's going to get that belt and take him down.
Nicely, of course. Like friends do.
"You're not going to win it," Harry says confidently, way more confidently than he feels. He squares his shoulders and meets Louis' gaze head-on. "I'm going home with that belt later."
"Not if I steal it from right under your nose," Louis tells him, still smirking, staring straight into Harry's eyes. "I've prepared long and hard for this, Harry Styles."
Harry tries not to laugh at the euphemism. He mostly fails, because Harry still has the maturity of an eighteen year old, but then Louis is laughing as well, so that was probably an intentional joke.
"What if I've prepared longer and harder?" Harry asks, trying not to giggle. He raises an eyebrow, tries to make himself look more intimidating.
Louis gasps theatrically. "Impossible!"
Harry shrugs, grinning. "Guess we'll have to wait and see."
Louis narrows his eyes. "May the best lip syncer win. Not singer. Lip syncer."
That throws Harry off. "What's wrong with singing?"
Louis gives him a look. "Are you kidding? There is absolutely no way I could win a singing competition against you."
Oh. "Well, I mean, I'm a singer, yeah--"
"--a bloody good one at that," Louis mutters.
"--but that doesn't mean you can't win," Harry continues, pretending not to hear Louis. He shrugs. "I mean, what if you have a hidden singing talent? Maybe you've got some really good set of pipes under there."
"Maybe I'm secretly Adele," Louis jokes. "But nah, I think I'll just stick to acting. And lip syncing. Seriously, my lip syncing in the shower concerts are crazy insane. Could probably rival your arena concerts. You best watch out, Harry."
"You best watch out, Louis," Harry shoots back. "I can bring it."
"Yeah," Niall chimes in, and oh right, he's still here. "You better leave now, Louis. Harry's gonna do some intense secret preparation technique that you're not allowed to see."
Louis raises his hands defensively. "Alright, I'm off, I'm off. I'll see you both out there later. Nice meeting you, Harry, and best of luck to the both of us." He pauses. "Oh, and I like your braids, by the way."
And then he's gone, closing the door behind him.
It's silent in the dressing room.
"Lou," Harry says slowly. "Was it just me, or was Louis incredibly nice?"
He hears Lou sigh from behind him. "Yes, he is," she says long-sufferingly. "I don't know why you got it into your head that he's incredibly mean, but no. He's nice."
"He's so nice," Harry muses, his eyes still trained at the door. "So, so nice."
"Yeah," Niall interrupts. "Tommo's really nice. Really funny as well. Seems like you two got along great. Now," Niall grabs Harry's face with his hands. "I need you to forget everything that happened and focus."
"What?" Harry says, or tries to say, he can't really speak well with Niall gripping his face like that. "What do you mean?"
"Louis is going to bring his A-game," Niall tells him, shaking Harry's head a bit. "And he's going to attempt to out-lip sync you. You're going to need to out-lip sync him." He lets go of Harry's face. "Basically, make sure you do well out there. We want a performance so good that it'll blow Louis' out of the water and go viral on the internet."
"Okay?" Harry says. His eyes make its way to the door, which is still closed. And still a weird, light blue colour. "I guess?"
"Harry," Niall says exasperatedly. "Did you even hear anything I said?"
Harry keeps his eyes on the door. Maybe if he stared hard enough, Louis will pop back in and Harry can talk to him again. He's so fucking nice. Harry can't wrap his head around that fact.
"Harry?" Niall asks. "Were you listening to me?"
"Yeah," Harry answers. "Lip sync, blah blah, performance, blah blah, viral, blah blah, blow Louis."
There's a pause.
"No," Niall says slowly. "You're not gonna blow Louis."
"Why not?" Harry pouts. From the corner of his eye, he sees Niall looking at him like he's grown two heads. Harry tries not to laugh. "I want to blow Louis."
"You're going to blow Louis out of the water, not blow him."
Harry forces himself to pout harder. "But what if I want to blow him?"
"You can't just blow him out of the blue," Niall answers heatedly. "He's not some sort of balloon. He's a person."
"Yeah," Harry says. "I know that. But like, I don't want to blow him out of the water, I want to blow him. Period."
"You can blow him after you blow him out of the water," Niall answers. "But you can only blow him if he allows you to blow him. Remember, consent is important."
Harry nods seriously, trying not to laugh. "You're right. I'll go ask him if I can blow him right now."
"No," Niall says, his hand whipping out to grab Harry's wrist. "You're going to sit here and get ready for the Lip Sync Battle."
Harry hums thoughtfully. "What if I ditched it, and, like, went to blow Louis instead?"
Niall is silent for a few moments. And then, "Harry."
The grave tone of Niall's voice is what sends Harry into hysterics, laughing so hard that tears spring from his eyes. He can hear Lou giggling as well, her high pitched laugh distinguishable from his own low rumble.
Niall huffs. "Oh, fuck you, stop fucking with me. I genuinely thought you went into your Louis-induced haze again."
"That was once," Harry tells him, still giggling, "and that was because of that stripper movie." And just the stripper movie, honest. Other Louis Tomlinson movies don't render him useless, contrary to what Niall believes.
"I thought seeing him in person would make you go back to that catatonic state again," Niall answers, rolling his eyes. "I was about to rename you from Hariel, to Hariel-the-blowfish. You would've been a merman, but with a blowfish body."
"That's pretty cool," Harry says, imagining it. "I could still be Hariel-the-blowfish. I'd puff up every time you came near, Niall."
"What would that mean, then?"
"That you're annoying."
Niall rolls his eyes. "Just, go get ready, will you?"
Harry salutes him. "Yes sir."
. . .
They're called for a technical rehearsal an hour before they start filming, and Harry makes his way to the stage, where the Lip Sync Battle will take place. Louis is already there, talking with one of the production people, and Harry observes him for a bit, cataloguing the dark shirt and skinny jeans combo he changed into. He tries not to stare too much at the way the jeans hug Louis' bum. He mostly succeeds.
If everything goes well, the most realistic best case scenario is that Harry goes home with a new friend and Louis' phone number programmed into his address book, with the instruction to 'keep in touch, yeah?' And then maybe they'll exchange a few texts and a few jokes before their friendship fizzles out, and Louis makes new friends and Harry makes new friends, and then they'll both look back at this entire Lip Sync Battle with fond memories.
The most realistic worst case scenario is similar, except Louis will simply bid him goodbye and then leave. No phone number, no jokes. Nothing but an episode of a show to prove that they met and spoke to each other once.
Harry doesn't dare expect more than that. He knows what expecting is like, and knows how horrible it feels to be let down. He's okay with having an unrequited crush on Louis, because what are the chances that Louis is attracted to him with the same intensity as Harry is attracted Louis? Zero to nil, that's what.
"Remember," Niall suddenly whispers in his ear, making Harry jump about ten feet into the air. Niall has this habit of popping up whenever Harry least expects it. "You've prepared very well for this competition. You're going to wipe the floor with Tommo and bring honour to our family name."
"Um," Harry says, confused. "Our family name?"
"Yep," Niall answers. "The honourable name of the family Styles. Tarnished, but if you win this, you'll bring back its former glory."
"Okay, two things," Harry turns to look at Niall, meeting his eyes. "One, when was the name Styles tarnished? And two, since when were you a part of our family?"
"Don't you know, Harry?" Niall asks gravely, his voice low, as if imparting a long-kept secret. "I've been a part of your family for decades. All you have to do is think." He pauses. "Also, if I marry your sister, I'll be a true Styles."
Harry's eyes widen. "You are not marrying Gemma."
"Nah, I'm not," Niall answers easily, grinnning. "I'll be marrying Anne. She's smoking."
There's a pause.
Harry decides to walk away.
He doesn't really pay attention to where he's going, the only thought in his brain being that he should get as far away from Niall in this small stage, so it's entirely his fault when he runs into someone.
That someone being Louis, of course.
"Harry," he greets, steadying him with a hand on his shoulder. He smiles at Harry warmly, kindly, and Harry finds himself grinning back. "Did you come over here to listen to my battle plan?"
Harry scoffs. "I'm no cheat, Louis. If I win this, I win this fair and square."
"That's very noble of you," Louis replies, still smiling. "Except you're not going to win."
"You're awfully sure of yourself," Harry says. "Overconfidence has led to the downfall of many great people."
"So are you saying I'm a great person, then?" Louis asks.
"Eh," Harry shrugs. "You haven't proven me otherwise, so."
There's a silence where Louis just beams at him, and Harry catalogues the way his eyes sparkle with mirth, twinkling like the brightest stars in the night sky. He bites his bottom lip, and catches the way Louis' eyes drop down to his lips.
"Thanks," Louis offers a few seconds later, his voice happy, like a melody. His eyes are resolutely trained on Harry's. "I think you're a great person too." He shakes his head. "Okay, this is getting sappy as fuck. And I don't even know you that well."
"Yeah," Harry agrees. "You don't know me well enough to just accept that I'm going to win tonight, Louis."
Louis rolls his eyes. "Because you're not. I'm going to win."
"How sure are you?"
"Hundred percent." He sounds so awfully sure himself, looks so awfully smug that Harry narrows his eyes, his competitive streak rearing his head.
"Are you willing to put your money where your mouth is?"
Louis startles at that. "What do you mean?" he asks, but the way his eyes light up shows that he knows exactly what Harry means. "Like a wager?"
"Yep," Harry answers. "A friendly wager. Between you and me. Like if I win, you have to, I don't know. Buy me lunch or something."
Louis laughs. "But that's boring."
"Loser has to do whatever the winner wants them to do?" Harry tries.
Louis whistles. "Damn, Styles," he says in a lewd voice, "I didn't know you were into service kink."
Harry flushes. "That's not--I didn't mean---"
"Relax," Louis says, grinning at Harry. "I was just teasing." He taps his chin in thought again. "How about, loser has to donate fifteen thousand pounds to the charity of the winner's choice?" He flashes Harry a smile. "See, this'll be fun, because I'll get the satisfaction of winning, and my charity receives a huge amount of money."
Harry grins widely. "If you honestly think I'm just going to roll over and let you win, think again. My charity's going to be receiving the money, not yours."
"Do we have a deal then?" Louis asks, raising an eyebrow. He extends a hand toward Harry, and Harry doesn't hesitate in taking it, shaking it once firmly.
Louis squeezes his hand, and Harry squeezes back. Neither of them let go.
. . .
"Welcome to the fourth season Lip Sync Battle!" The host says into the microphone, over the screams of the audience. "You know what it is, you've seen it on TV, online, everywhere."
The audience cheers loudly, enough that Harry's heart starts thumping in his chest. "The rules are simple," the host continues, when the cheering has died down a bit. "Two stars go head to head, lip sync to two songs, and the audience decides who did it best. You clear? You good?"
The audience cheers again, making Harry smile. It reminds him of when he used to tour, when the audience would cheer loudly, excited at the prospect of a show, of seeing him perform. God, he wants to tour again.
"Are you ready to lose the belt, love?" Harry startles at the sound of Louis' voice. He's got a microphone clutched in his hand, still in his dark shirt and skinny jeans combo, his hair done in a little swirl on his head. "I know I'm ready to receive it. I've even practiced my surprised face."
He makes a little 'O' with his mouth, his eyes wide, pressing his hands into his chest. He looks ridiculous. Harry can't help but laugh.
"Hey," Louis swats his arm lightly. "You won't be laughing when you lose."
"Good thing I won't lose, then," Harry answers confidently. "Losing isn't in my blood."
"Yeah, well," Louis answers, "'Winning' is my middle name."
"Time for you to change your name, then," Harry says. "Maybe change it to Louis 'I-lost-to-Harry-Styles' Tomlinson?"
"Does that make my name 'Styles-Tomlinson' then?" Louis whistles lowly. "Damn, Harry, if you wanted to change my last name so bad, you could've just asked, like a normal person."
Harry grins at him. "Where's the fun in that?"
"Okay," the host booms into the microphone, making Harry focus back on the show. "First up, he's a Grammy-Award Winning singer, has had five number one albums under his belt, who's just come back from his two year hiatus--" Harry can hear the screams of the audience getting louder and louder, "--give it up for Harry Styles!"
He shoots Louis a cheeky wink before he's running out onto the stage, waving at the audience. He shakes the host's hand, pulling him into a hug, before going back to waving and blowing kisses at the audience.
His heart's beating loudly now, in his chest. He'd totally forgotten the feeling of standing in front of hundreds of people, the adrenaline rush that goes through his veins, his blood stream. It's intoxicating.
"And his opponent," the host continues, over the screams of the crowd. "Calm down now, love, Harry Styles is here and he's not going anywhere--" the audience chuckles at that, "--his opponent is an Oscar-nominated actor, star of the upcoming musical movie 'Grease'," he pauses, for dramatic effect. "Louis Tomlinson!"
Louis runs out on the stage as well, waving and winking at fans, before running to high five the audience members near the front of the stage. He ends up standing right beside Harry.
He turns and sticks his tongue out at Harry.
And Harry, since he refuses to be beaten, sticks his tongue right back out at him too.
"Oh look at that," the host says. "Looks like we've got a little bit of a rivalry going on here."
Louis grins. "It's all friendly, I can assure you," he says into his microphone.
"Just a bit of banter," Harry adds, before elbowing Louis in the arm. Louis elbows him back.
"Ah, the English banter," the host says, laughing, as Harry and Louis start elbowing each other with increasing intensity. "Maybe we should separate them now, before they get even 'friendlier'."
The audience laughs, and Louis turns and gives Harry a high five.
"Okay, so, Louis, you'll be going first," the host says, beckoning Louis to go stand next to him. "Harry, if you could please make your way to our VIP area over there."
Harry laughs, elbowing Louis in the arm lightly and running away before Louis can retaliate.
"Louis, my man," the host says. "How are you feeling tonight?"
"Great," Louis answers, his eyes sparkling underneath the lights of the stage. "Absolutely great."
"You look like you've prepared for this for a long time," the host tells him.
"I have," Louis answers, looking serious. "Ever since I was a little boy, I've been lip syncing. In the bathroom, in my bedroom, when I'm home alone, you name it."
"So you're ready to win?" The host asks.
"Oh yeah," Louis nods confidently. "Ready to win and beat Harold over there."
"Booooooo," Harry says, grinning. The audience laughs.
"Up first, with his rendition of 'I Want It That Way' by The Backstreet Boys," the host announces, "Louis Tomlinson."
Harry watches as the lights dim, the audience falling silent as the first strums of the guitar play. Louis mouths the words dramatically at first, his movements slow, unhurried. He presses his free hand to his chest as he lip syncs, his face in a sad expression.
And then when the chorus drops, he starts dancing.
He literally, honest-to-God starts dancing the Backstreet Boys' choreography. He's got it down to a pat, and Harry can't help but laugh as he watches Louis dance onstage, all while looking up and shooting the audience some increasingly dramatic gazes, looking absolutely ridiculous while he's at it.
The chorus repeats itself and he starts prancing around the stage, pointing at random audience members. At one part, he points at Harry, while dramatically lip syncing the words 'I want it that way', and Harry ends up doubled over in laughter on his seat, seal clapping his hands and ugly laughing.
He ends his performance by spinning around and dropping to his knees, while leaning back, looking up at the sky. The audience goes wild for him, and he lets them cheer him on for about five seconds, before he stands up, blowing kisses and bowing. Harry claps for him too, because, well, he can recognize a good performance.
Doesn't mean he's going to let Louis beat him, though.
"Harry, come on over here," the host says, and Harry hops off the seat, slapping Louis on the bum as he passes. "Did you expect Louis to come out here with that?"
"Nah," Harry says cheekily. "Expected him to do, like, a show tune, to be honest. Cause, like, 'Grease' and all that."
"You shut your trap," Louis interrupts, grinning. "'Grease' is a great musical."
"What are you gonna do, then?" The host asks him. "Are you gonna do a show tune?"
"Nope," Harry says. He worries on his bottom lip for a bit, pretending to look like he's deep in thought. "I'm going to do, uh, Rolling Stones, 'Satisfaction'."
The audience cheers at that. Harry smiles at them, before turning to shoot a wink at Louis.
"This one's for you, babe," he says coyly, and it's worth it for the way Louis doubles over, laughing.
Harry's lost count over how many times he's lip synced to the exact same song in the shower. He loses himself into the melody, singing it ferociously, his eyes closed, swinging his microphone with the beat. He sticks his tongue out a bit, and tries to embody the entire Mick Jagger thing. Which he's actually able to do. He's had a lot of practice.
(Also Mick Jagger's sort of his friend. He's had some pointers.)
It's similar to touring, except this time, it's not his songs he's performing. He shimmies his shoulders the way he does when he's performing his own concerts, jumps up and down, a few hip thrusts (okay, a lot), a lot of tongue sticking out, and just generally recreating the antics he does on stage when he's on tour.
The audience laps it up, going wild every time Harry does another one of his antics. He finds himself grinning wider and wider, the enthusiasm of the crowd fuelling him.
He goes up to Louis, near the end of his performance. Louis' watching him fondly, giggling; his eyes twinkling with laughter. He goes right up into Louis' space, mouthing the words, before pretending to lick his nose. Louis' face scrunches up, and Harry bounces away, flipping his hair and finishing his song in the middle of the stage.
The audience is on their feet when he finishes, and Harry's cheeks hurt from grinning. From his peripheral vision, he can see Louis on his feet, clapping as well, shaking his head.
"Wow," the host exclaims, after the audience has quieted down for a bit. "Wow, just wow. Is this what a Harry Styles concert is like?" He asks and the audience bursts into laughter. "If so, now I know why his concerts are always sold out."
"Can I just interject there," Louis says, from where he's standing by the VIP area. "I've been to a Harry Styles concert, and trust me when I say it's nothing like this."
"What's it like, then?" the host asks him.
"Well, it's a lot more PG," Louis muses. "Less hip-thrusting, more jumping up and down. Although the one I went to, I distinctly remember Harry pulling his pants down. To show off his new tattoo, of course."
The audience laughs at that, and Harry shakes his head, looking down at the floor. He doesn't really know what came over him, at that moment. All he knows was that he was excited and a bit drunk and high off the adrenaline, and he had just gotten a new tattoo, one that he wanted to show his fans.
His fans and Louis, apparently. Because he was there.
"Harry, go make your way over to the VIP area," the host tells him, and he follows, climbing onto the seat next to Louis. He pretends to hit Louis on the head with the microphone and Louis blows a raspberry at him.
"These two are like kindergarteners, I swear," the host grumbles good-naturedly, and Harry and Louis laugh, Harry leaning into Louis' space. "Alright, when we come back, it's round two, Harry versus Louis, here on Lip Sync Battle!"
The theme music plays for a bit, before the director calls 'cut', and the stage lights come off. They're ushered off stage and Louis falls into step beside Harry, playing with his microphone between his hands.
"I didn't know you came to one of my shows, before," Harry offers, when it's clear that Louis isn't going to say anything.
"Yeah, well," Louis looks away, watching the stagehands run around. "I'm a huge fan of your music." He turns to Harry, an eyebrow quirked. "Doesn't mean I'm going to let you win, though."
"Of course," Harry answers graciously. "Didn't expect anything less."
Louis studies him, before breaking out into grin. "Well, I'll see you for the final showdown," Louis tells him, patting him on the shoulder. "Can't wait to see your face when I get awarded the belt."
And then he's off, speed-walking to his dressing room. Harry just watches him walk away for a few minutes, wondering what, exactly, Louis has up his sleeve.
There's no way it can compete with what Harry has up his. No way.
. . .
"We're back here at Lip Sync Battle!" The host crows into the microphone, and the audience screams their enthusiastic response. Harry and Louis clap from where they're seated in the VIP area, grinning.
"Tonight," the host continues, "it's round two. Where the stars pull out all the stops, and do whatever it takes to win."
Harry leans toward Louis. "So," he says. "What are you going to do?"
Louis doesn't dignify him with a glance. "You'll see," he says cryptically.
"Oh come on," Harry complains. "It's not like I have time to change what I'm going to do. You're going on in like, a minute, you can tell me!"
Louis just shakes his head, a small smile on his lips. "Just, be ready," he tells Harry. "That's all I'm going to tell you."
"Now," the host says again. "It's Styles versus Tomlinson. Tomlinson's going first, let's see how he prepared for the performance of his life."
The stage lights dim, and the screen comes to life, with a short montage of Louis dancing. It looks suitably dramatic and intense, but it probably wasn't. Well, Harry's wasn't, at least.
"This is a massive thing for me," On-screen Louis says to the camera. "I've always been a huge lip-sync fanatic. I'm lip-sync obsessed, actually."
There's another short montage of Louis dancing, executing pop and locks with such grace that Harry's a bit stunned. The audience is, as well, judging by the 'ooohs' Harry hears.
"I didn't know you could dance," he whispers to Louis, not taking his eyes off the screen.
"`Course I can," Louis answers. "I'm a musical man. Plus I did a movie where I was a stripper. Went very method about it, so I picked up a few things here and there. Never knew they'd come in handy until now."
Harry doesn't want to think about that movie. That movie is probably the bane of his existence.
"Wait," he says, when the words finally register in his mind. "What exactly did you pick up?"
Louis gives him a coy smile. "That's for me to know, and you to find out." He hops of the stool, making his way backstage. "Gotta go. I'll see you later, Styles."
"I think Harry should be terrified of me, generally," On-screen Louis is saying, looking very serious. "Because this is my area. He may do it in the shower, but he doesn't do it like I do."
On-screen Louis shrugs, looking innocent. "And don't give me that 'he's-a-performer' shtick," he continues. "I've been shouting at people a lot, so that I'd have no voice. Because I'm sure that Harry's going for the full, raspy, singer voice."
"I don't think amateurs should try lip syncing," On-Screen Louis concludes. "When you lip sync, you're not just mouthing the words. You're committing to a lifestyle. Once you're in, you're in forever."
The closing music plays, and the stage lights come back on, with Louis standing by the entrance of the stage, in the middle of some smoke. The stage is set to look like a jungle, with a backdrop of trees and some snakes hanging from branches. There's a wildlife ambience playing, complete with the hissing of a snake and the monkey cooing.
Harry's just about to turn around to shoot the stagehands a questioning look, when the beat drops, and the smoke disperses, revealing Louis in nothing but a wife beater, his tattoos exposed, and jean shorts.
Harry gasps. Fuck. He's lip syncing to Anaconda.
Louis executes a perfect drop at the same time as the second beat, and then he's striding confidently on stage, looking coy and proud and absolutely sinful.
Harry doesn't know if he wants to laugh or cry. He settles for laughing because, well, if a few tears escape from his eyes, he can pass it off as tears of laughter, right?
"Boy-toy named Troy used to live in Detroit," Louis lip syncs as he thrusts to the music, shooting filthy looks at the audience. "Big dope dealer money, he was getting some coins."
It's obscene, but artistic, in a way. Louis does it gracefully, hips moving in time with the beat, feet never faltering on his fancy footwork. His jean shorts stretch tightly over the material of his bum and his legs, emphasizing his curves.
Fucking hell. This is that stripper movie all over again. He's really going to cry.
Harry brings himself to laugh harder. Laughter is a great defense mechanism.
Louis' crawling on the floor now, arcing his back and bringing it down to the beat, making his bum shake. The crowd is lapping it up, going wild as Louis moves his hips. He even goes so far to flex and relax his bum muscles, which, Jesus, Harry didn't even know people could do that. Certainly not Louis.
And then Louis stands up and whirls around. He pins Harry with a coy gaze, winking, and then he points at Harry. Sirens go off in Harry's head.
But before he can, like, run backstage or something, about five muscular men pick him up from under his armpits, and bring him to sit on the chair in the centre of the stage.
There's a charged moment where Louis just gazes straight into his eyes, from about a few metres away. Harry tries not to squirm.
And then it's over, Louis winking at him, and he climbs into Harry's lap, threading his hands through Harry's long hair. He grabs a fistful and pulls, making Harry look up as he makes himself comfortable in Harry's lap.
Harry's not going to lie. All of this is going straight to his cock.
Louis must be able to tell too, because his smug smile gets wider, and he grinds down harder into Harry's lap, thrusting his hips to the beat of the music. He leans forward, brushes his lips on the shell of Harry's ear, and croons, "My anaconda don't want none unless you've got buns, hun."
He climbs off Harry's lap after a few more beats of thrusting. He spreads Harry's legs open, grabs another fistful of Harry's hair to support himself, and climbs onto the small space of chair in between Harry's legs. It brings Harry's face to his clothed cock.
There's a moment. Harry blinks at Louis' cock.
And then Louis thrusts into Harry's face.
Harry sits, still, as Louis shakes his hips right in front of his face. He forces himself to continue laughing, because that's all he can do; if he stops laughing he might cry from sexual frustration.
Actually, he's already crying. There are already tears leaking from his eyes.
Louis jumps off, turning around to face the audience, before pressing his bum into Harry's crotch. He grinds down on it, wrapping an arm around Harry's neck, all while still mouthing the words to the god-damned Nicki Minaj song. He moves his hips in little circles, pressing into his crotch and making more blood rush into Harry's cock.
Harry doesn't even register the audience, the host, or the music, if he's being a hundred percent honest. All he registers is Louis' warm body on top of his, the way his hips circle above his, and the way his bum looks in those shorts.
Louis unwinds his arm around Harry's neck, and Harry thinks that it might just be over, when Louis grabs his hands--which are resolutely in fists beside him--and spreads open his fingers, before placing them onto his body. He lays his own hands over Harry's and then begins moving their joined hands all over his body, letting Harry get a good feel of him.
Harry's hands brush over Louis' chest, all the way down to his stomach, and right above Louis' crotch, and Harry has to resist the urge to grab. He settles for hiding his face into Louis' shoulder, his breaths heaving from laughter and something else, he's not entirely sure.
Louis drops down, running a hand through Harry's left leg, from his shin, all the way to his inner thigh, and into his general crotch area, where he actually goes and fucking grabs it.
Harry doesn't jump in surprise, but it's a near thing. He settles for laughing. Again.
Louis leans back, turning his face toward Harry, their mouths a breath away, and it would be so easy, Harry thinks, to just lean forward, to join their lips together. Louis seems caught off-guard as well, with how close they've become; Harry can see the way his eyes roam over Harry's face and drop down to his lips.
They could kiss right now, if they wanted to.
Harry wants to.
But Louis recovers quickly, and the smug look is back in his eyes. He rips of his shirt, startling Harry, exposing his gorgeous, tanned torso, and then climbing off of Harry's lap, striding forward again and then dropping into his ending pose, which is bent over, his bum to the audience.
The crowd goes wild. The host actually whistles.
Harry's just. Well. Harry's just dazed.
. . .
Harry doesn't remember how the next few minutes passed, honestly. He doesn't remember the host talking to Louis about his performance. He doesn't remember the host calling for a commercial break. He doesn't remember how he got backstage into his dressing room, with Niall pacing. And yet, here he is.
"That was insane," Niall is saying, as he paces around Harry's dressing room. "Tommo's absolutely insane. But it was fucking brilliant. Why didn't we think of that? Why didn't we think of letting you give Louis a lap dance?"
"Um," Harry says. "Cause I'm not a dancer?" Niall should know this. It took him weeks to learn the choreography of his next performance. And he's not even really doing any dancing.
Niall whirls around. "Harry!" He exclaims. "You're alive! You were in that Louis-induced haze for a while, there."
Harry quirks an eyebrow. "Can you blame me?"
"Well, no," Niall answers. "I'd probably end up in a Louis-induced haze as well, if that were me. Louis is fit."
Harry sighs. "I know."
"But," Niall continues imperiously. "We're not going to let him win, are we, Harry?"
"No," Harry answers.
"Are we, Harry?" Niall asks, louder.
"No," Harry answers again.
"Louder," Niall says.
"No," Harry says louder.
"Louder," Niall shouts.
"No, Harry shouts.
"Scream it," Niall screams.
"Wow," someone says, and Harry loos up to see Louis in the doorway. "That's some intense, like, High School Musical shit right there." He runs a hand through his fringe. "Like, um, what team? Wildcats!"
"It helps boost morale," Niall answers imperiously. "And spirit." He pauses. "What are you doing here? We're preparing for our winning performance. Shoo. Go away."
Louis raises his hands defensively. "Alright, alright. I'm going. Just wanted to check up on Harry here." He smiles, looking like a little shit. "He looked a bit out of it."
"I'm fine," Harry offers. He nods gravely. "Absolutely peachy. Ready to give the winning performance of my life."
"Yeah, Harry," Niall cheers. "Let's go!"
Louis bites his bottom lip, trying not to laugh at them. "Nothing's gonna beat my performance, love. Admit it, you've already lost."
Harry shakes his head. "No way. Nope. Nuh-uh. You're gonna get schooled on the art of lip syncing."
"Fine," Louis says. "I'll wait until the end of your performance until I declare myself the winner."
"The only thing you'll be declaring," Harry shoots back, "is my name." He pauses. "As winner. Not, you know, declaring it in the bedroom or anything."
"Ooh," Louis laughs. "Nice save there, darling. Totally didn't think about declaring it in the bedroom." He waves a hand. "Alright, I'll see you on stage, Styles. Good luck, and think of the children from my charity while you're at it."
He leaves. Harry takes a deep breath.
"Niall," he says seriously. "Get ready. We're going to be receiving the belt and fifteen thousand pounds for the London Lesbian and Gay Switchboard tonight."
"Wait," Niall says. "What?"
. . .
"We're back at Lip Sync Battle," the host says, over the cheers of the crowd. "Before the break, we saw a spectacular performance from the amazing Louis Tomlinson--" Louis, from beside Harry in the VIP area, laughs demurely and waves, looking like he wasn't crawling around the floor a few minutes earlier. "Now, it's time for us to see how Harry Styles, prepared for his do-or-die performance. Take a look at this."
The stage lights dim, and the screen comes to life, showing a black and white shot of Harry rolling on the floor, looking serious and determined.
That took like, fifty shots. Harry remembers he couldn't stop laughing while they were filming.
"It definitely feels like, uh, my five years of producing music has all been, um, in preparation for this moment," On-screen Harry says gravely.
Louis leans towards him. "Has anyone ever told you that you speak like a turtle?"
"Turtles can't speak, Louis," Harry replies. "Don't be silly."
"No, but if they could," Louis answers. "You speak exactly how I imagine they would."
Harry turns back to the screen, watching himself sat on the chair, flipping his hair around. He looks proper ridiculous, if he says so himself.
"Singing wasn't my dream, originally," On-Screen Harry continues. "I wanted to be a lip sync legend." He shrugs. "And here I am, finally, about to reach my dreams.
There's another shot of him, doing some sit ups. Harry takes that as his cue to leave.
"See you on the other side," he says to Louis, as he hops off his seat and into the backstage area, changing into his skin-tight, nude-coloured costume. Outside, he can hear himself rambling, talking about how lip syncing has been his life since he was born, and how it takes intense preparation and focus just to make it this far.
"I'm going to be singing about, uh, drinking." Harry hears himself say. "And uh, love. It's very tasteful, very, um, classy."
He listens to himself ramble a bit more, running a hand through his hair.
"Good luck, Hariel," Niall pops up from somewhere. He places his hand on Harry's shoulders, giving him a quick shoulder massage. "You've got this."
Harry squares his shoulders and strides out, to where a chair has been placed for him. The same chair, he notes, that Louis gave him a lap dance in, a few minutes prior.
Oh well, he can't think about that now. It's time to focus.
He hears the opening sound of his song, and the stage lights come on slowly, revealing his silhouette on the chair. They blink for a few minutes before shutting off, a lone spotlight on him.
Like they practiced. Perfect.
"I've been drinking, I've been drinking," he lip syncs, throwing his head back, exposing his neck. He tries not to laugh at the sudden screaming of the crowd. "I get filthy when that liquor get into me."
He sways to the music, moving to straddle his chair, his back to the audience, lip syncing the intro. In his peripheral vision, he can see Louis, the way his gaze is trained on Harry. Harry smirks at him.
When the beat drops on the verse, Harry turns around in the chair, flipping his hair, gazing at the audience. He mouths through Beyoncé's lyrics, closing his eyes, getting lost in the song, as he runs his hands down his torso.
After a few moments, he stands as sexily as he can, pushing his bum out as far as he can. He can hear the audience scream, can feel the way Louis' gaze burns holes into his back. He ignores it.
He grinds his hips filthily forward, hovering above the chair, moving it in slow, sensual circles. He throws a coy look to the audience over his shoulder, before whipping his head to the other side, so his hair flies in time with the beat drop.
He stands and twirls, placing a foot onto the seat of the chair, before leaning forward to emphasize his bum, and shaking it again, this time facing the audience.
"Drunk in loooove," he lip syncs, throwing his head back and arching is back, making sure his body look like one long curve. It may not look as good and sensual as when Beyoncé does it, but, it's good enough. He can totally be Beyoncé for a day.
He thrusts his bum out a bit, shaking it, before taking his foot off the chair and sitting spread-legged, his face to the audience.
He thinks he does well as he lip syncs, his face probably going to a myriad of expressions--that he practiced, thank you very much. He crosses his legs and tosses his hair a bit, trying to remember the little things Beyoncé did while performing this very song. He loses himself into the music, closing his eyes in some parts, trying to make the song his own.
He stands up to dance, the ten-second choreography he took days to learn, and like they practiced, three back up dancers come flying out to dance with him. He probably looks ridiculous, but well. Niall wanted a viral performance. Niall is going to get a viral performance.
After a few moments, he starts shaking his hips again, before striding out confidently into the front of the stage. He does a drop--to the enthusiastic screams of the people--reaching out to touch a few hands, before ending up on all fours, sensually crawling on the stage.
He stands up eventually, when the beat drops, and the audience screams get louder. He doesn't have to look back to know that Beyoncé herself is striding out, lip syncing to her own song.
This really couldn't have gone any better.
Beyoncé ends up beside him, looking absolutely fierce, mouthing the words to her own song, and they dance together for a bit, moving their hips in time together, until the song ends. They hold their end pose for about five seconds, moodily gazing out into the crowd, before Harry breaks character and laughs, going over to hug Beyoncé.
"Hi," he says into her ear. His cheeks hurt from grinning "Thank you so much for doing this for me."
"It's my pleasure," she answers back warmly, hugging him. "You were great."
"Wow," the host exclaims, into the microphone, and Harry pulls away, keeping his arm around Beyoncé's waist. "Beyoncé is here!"
The crowd screams louder. Harry thinks he spots one or two people crying.
Beyoncé laughs, looking like an absolute goddess, waving. "Hi," she says, her voice picked up by Harry's lapel microphone, and the crowd just goes insane.
"Queen B!" The host exclaims, his voice still in awe, and Harry laughs, turning to look at Louis. He's on his feet, clapping his hands and shaking his head, looking absolutely delighted and...fond?
He catches Harry's eye and gives him a thumbs up. Harry uses the hand around on Beyoncé's back to shoot him one back.
"Oi oi," Louis calls out, over the screams of the crowd. Harry giggles.
It takes a while for the cheers to die down, and then Beyoncé is waving and blowing kisses, walking away after one last hug to Harry. The host also seems to have recovered, although he still looks a bit shell-shocked.
"I never thought I'd see Beyoncé on this stage," he says, his eyes wide, and the audience laughs at him. "Alright, Harry, go join Louis in the VIP area over there, kick back and relax a bit after that killer performance," he emphasizes the last two words, causing the audience to scream again. "Really, this is going to be very tough."
Harry slides in the seat beside Louis, still in his costume. Louis is smiling fondly at him, and Harry can tell he's obviously trying not to look at any other part of Harry except his face.
"Did you see my costume?" He asks excitedly, just to be a little shit. "It's got jewels!"
Louis' eyes scan over Harry for a few seconds, before they're snapping back up into Harry's eyes. "Yeah," he says, his voice high. He clears his throat. "Yeah, it's really great."
"I quite like it," Harry continues, pretending not to notice how affected Louis is. "I think I might wear it every day." He pauses. "Or like, in the bedroom would be nice, wouldn't it?
"Um, that's um," Louis stammers, his eyes wide. "Okay."
Harry tries not to laugh at him. He fails.
He also gets punched in the arm. Hard.
. . .
They end up tying.
The audience scream loudly for the both of them, that after three times of asking them who the winner is, the host just gives up and awards the belt to both Harry and Louis. They have to stand shoulder to shoulder, the belt half on Harry's and half on Louis'.
"You guys are fine with sharing, aren't you?" The host asks them, and Harry and Louis turn to look at each other, before shrugging and nodding their heads.
"It's just going to be like having a kid," Louis murmurs into his ear. "You get it for six months, then I'll get it for six months."
"Louis Tomlinson," Harry murmurs back, grinning. "Are you implying that you want a kid with me? You're moving way too fast."
"Shut up," Louis says with no venom whatsoever, nudging him with his shoulder. "You're so annoying."
Harry turns to flash a smile at him, but at the last minute, Louis does the same, and their noses end up brushing. They both freeze, unable to move, and at this distance, Harry can easily count how many eyelashes Louis has in total. He can see the flecks of green in Louis' eyes, can see the light freckles he has dotting his nose. Can easily catch the movement of Louis' tongue, darting out and wetting his lips.
God, Harry wants to kiss him.
Louis tilts his chin up, silently, like he's telling Harry to get on with it, to lean down and press their lips together, but it's at that moment that the crowd screams again, and they're both shaken out of their little bubble. The host says the closing spiel, as they wave and blow kisses and bow at the audience, and then Louis nudges the belt fully onto his shoulder and walks backstage. Harry simply follows him.
"Right," Louis says, when it's a bit quieter. "Where's my fifteen thousand pounds?"
"Where's my fifteen thousand pounds?" Harry challenges right back.
"Bloody tie," Louis mutters, smiling. "We have to share the belt, and we don't know who's going to donate. This is a bloody mess, all of it."
He's still smiling though, like he doesn't actually mind. Which is good. Harry doesn't mind either.
"We can both donate," Harry says. "Like I can donate fifteen thousand to yours, and you can donate fifteen thousand to mine? It's for a good cause, anyway."
Louis nods. "That's fair. The belt?"
"Well, if you really want it, you can keep it," Harry offers. "I mean, it would be nice to actually have it, but well, it's not that important to me. It's going to be on the telly anyway, and I'll always know, in my heart, that we tied."
"No, that's not right," Louis answers, frowning. "Maybe we can cut it up? Like they did in Mean Girls?"
Harry laughs. "Nah, honestly, Louis, it's fine. I'm giving it to you."
"Okay," Louis says. "Thanks, Hariel."
"No problem, Loursula."
They stand in silence, simply looking at each other. Harry knows that he should probably leave, should head back to his dressing room and pack up and wait for Niall, but he can't seem to tear himself away from Louis. Louis whose brows are furrowed and is looking at Harry expectantly, like he's waiting for something.
Harry's eyes drop, unbidden, to Louis' lips, looking pink and inviting. His mind flashes back to those two moments on stage, when they were close enough to kiss, when Harry was so close to finding out if Louis tasted anything like he imagined him to taste. Would he taste like strawberries, maybe? Or cotton candy?
He guesses he'll never know.
"Alright," he says awkwardly, bringing himself to meet Louis' gaze."I'm gonna," he jerks a thumb in the direction of his dressing room, "gonna go now. I'll see you around, Louis."
He turns around and slowly walks away, hoping, praying, wishing for something, anything. He doesn't know what he wants, though. He just wants something to remember this by.
"Oh for fuck's sake," he hears, when he's about five steps away. That alone has him turning around to face Louis, who's still standing in the same spot.
"Yes?" Harry asks. He shifts his weight from one foot to another.
Louis quirks an eyebrow. "Well?" He asks. When Harry doesn't respond in five seconds, he sighs, shaking his head. "I'm going out on a limb here, Harold. Are you going to kiss me or not?"
Harry perks up at that. "Can I?"
"Would I be offering if you weren't allowed?"
And that's all Harry needs. He crosses the five steps of distance between them in three long strides, cradling Louis' jaw in between his hands, and leans down and snogs the life out of him.
Louis opens up immediately, and Harry wastes no time in tracing the inside of his mouth with his tongue, trying to memorize all the little crevices in it. Louis raises a hand to grip at Harry's hair, pulling him closer, and Harry moans into their kiss.
Louis tastes like tea, but he's intoxicating like whiskey, and Harry can't get enough, trying to chase the taste as far as he can go. He's addicted, he knows, absolutely addicted, and it's just after one kiss.
To be fair, it's a really good kiss.
Louis steps closer to him, their chests nudging together, allowing Harry further access into his mouth. Harry doesn't let up, doesn't stop tasting Louis until his lungs are gasping for air.
"Wow," he breathes, when they separate. Louis doesn't go far though, just stays right where he is, in Harry's arms. "You're, wow."
Louis laughs. "I could say the same for you, Harry Styles."
"Wow," Harry repeats, leaning forward to kiss Louis again.
He doesn't get to, though, because Niall pops up out of nowhere. Again.
"Are you done?" He asks loudly, startling the both of them and making them jump away from each other.
Harry pouts. He already misses having Louis in his arms.
"No," Louis says, "but by all means, continue." He shoots Harry a smile and a wink before turning away, walking back to his dressing room.
"Wait," Harry calls. "Louis!"
Louis turns around. "Later," he mouths to Harry, and shoots him a thumbs up--one that Harry returns.
"Alright," Niall says imperiously. "So, you were fantastic, absolutely fantastic, and the episode's going to air next week, and I can already see that your performance is going to viral." He scratches his head. "Well, the both of yours, actually, but, that's good, that's even better."
Niall drags him back to his dressing room, talking a mile a minute, and Harry tries to focus, he really does, but he can't keep his mind from straying back to Louis.
. . .
Niall eventually stops talking at him, and instead, channels his energy into cleaning his dressing room, because, according to him, Harry is 'no use'. It's a while later that all his stuff are packed, in its suitcase and loaded into the trunk of Harry's car.
"I'll meet you in the car," Niall tells him, before going and leaving Harry in the dressing room. Alone.
Harry sighs and sits on the couch.
It's kind of stupid how sentimental he feels, currently, over a dressing room he occupied for about four hours. It's kind of stupid how sentimental he feels over this entire place, this entire fucking game. It's just. It's really stupid.
Cause it should've been like some sort of normal TV appearance. Something robotic and completely detached. Instead he's here, hopelessly attached, waiting for a beautiful boy to come and kiss him again.
Wow. He sounds like Taylor Swift. He cringes at the thought.
Harry is kind of hoping that Louis will knock by the doorway of his dressing room again, and they can exchange conversation, or whatever. Maybe they can even kiss a bit. God knows that kiss ruined him for everyone else.
But it's late, and Louis has probably already left the venue and gone home. Or somewhere else, maybe. Somewhere that's not with Harry.
Fuck, he didn't even get Louis' number. This is great. All he has is the memory of one, really bloody good kiss.
This is worse than the worst-case scenario he thought of a while ago. This absolutely sucks.
He sighs again, running a hand through his hair, resolving to go home, but when he looks at the doorway, Louis is there, leaning against the frame, watching him intensely.
"Hey Hariel," he says, after Harry just blinks at him disbelievingly for a few minutes. He smiles kindly. "Wanna go on an adventure?"
. . .
The adventure turns out to be back to Louis' house. Louis holds his hand the entire cab ride, gazing out the window silently, and Harry watches him, studies his profile, studies the slope of his nose and the shape of his lips. He's just so breathtaking, that he's a movie, in himself.
Harry's watched his movies for hours. Harry's willing to watch him for a lifetime.
It doesn't take long before they're arriving at Louis' house, and Louis pulls him out of the cab, and straight into his front door. He closes the door behind them silently, resolutely.
"Why'd you bring me here?" Harry asks kindly, when they've been quiet for a while, nothing but the sound of their breathing permeating the air.
In response, Louis presses him against the wall and kisses him.
It's gentle, so fucking gentle, that to Harry, it feels like a butterfly, fluttering its wings, landing on pretty flowers in full bloom. Like summertime.
Louis feels like summertime; the heat of his body pressing against his, the way his teeth nip Harry's bottom lip, the way his stubble scratches Harry. He's pure heat and wonder and pretty things in full bloom.
Louis pulls away, his eyes crinkling kindly as he smiles. "Does that answer your question?"
Harry takes a deep breath. "You brought me here for another kiss?" He asks. "You could've kissed me in the studio," he points out. "And outside of the studio." And anywhere else, if he wanted to.
Louis' expression doesn't even falter. "No," he says slowly. "I brought you here because I was hoping it wouldn't end with just kisses."
And that's all it takes for Harry to lean forward, catching Louis' lips again. "Yes," he gasps into the heat of Louis' mouth. "Yes, please."
Louis kisses him back, ferocious, the heat of his mouth making Harry's head spin. Harry can feel his fingers fumbling on the buttons of his coat, quickly working its way down until Harry can shrug it off. Louis pulls away from Harry and shrugs off his jacket, leaving it in the floor by the doorway.
"Where's the," Harry gasps as Louis moves back to bite at Harry's neck. "Where's the, uh, bedroom?"
"Hm," Louis hums, sucking a blood-bruise into Harry's neck. Harry squeezes his eyes shut, trying not to moan at the feeling of Louis' lips on his neck. One of his hands reach out to grab Louis'.
Louis pulls away with a pop and surveys his handiwork, a proud expression coming over his face. Harry tugs at his arm. "Bedroom?"
"Oh," Louis startles, and then pulls Harry through his huge living room, past the kitchen and dining room, and into a closed door.
Louis' room is messy, with stuff strewn about, but the bed is clear of objects, which is good enough for Harry. He flops down on the bed and pulls Louis on top of him, leaning up to reattach their mouths together.
He can feel Louis hard in his jeans, where his crotch is resting on Harry's thigh. Harry himself is no better; he's been hard since the moment Louis used his fingers to unbutton his coat.
Louis pulls away from his mouth, and Harry whines at the loss until he feels Louis pressing kisses into the shell of his ear, his jaw, down his neck, all the way down to his shoulder. He bites at it.
"Wanna fuck you," he murmurs into Harry's skin, before soothing his bite with his tongue. Harry shivers. "Can I fuck you? Please let me fuck you."
"Yes," Harry gasps, bringing a hand up to clutch at Louis' hair. "Please, oh my god, please."
Louis makes quick work of his clothes, pulling his shirt off and shimmying out of his jeans. He takes his time with Harry's, unbuttoning his shirt maddeningly slow, pressing kisses at every new tattoo revealed.
Harry tosses his head. "Oh my God, Louis--"
The corner of Louis' mouth quirks. "Patience, young one."
He eventually unbuttons Harry's shirt, and he presses a hand on Harry's stomach. Harry shivers at the warmth of his hand, and then shivers again when Louis leans down to trace the butterfly tattoo with his tongue.
"Beautiful," he murmurs, almost reverently.
He leans up again, nuzzling into Harry's jaw, his hands working on the button of Harry's skinny jeans. He manages to pull both his underwear and skinny jeans mid thigh. Harry kicks them away with his feet, and then he's naked underneath Louis, his cock a proud, straining curve.
"Absolutely beautiful," Louis says, his eyes tracing Harry's skin. Harry feels himself flush under the attention.
He clears his throat. Louis' eyes snap back into his.
"Kiss me," Harry says, and Louis complies, pressing their lips together. Louis kisses with his whole body, and Harry's hands reach around Louis' waist to grope at his bum.
"I like this," Harry whispers into their kiss, and squeezes. "Your gorgeous buns."
Louis laughs. "Enough with you." He pulls away, rummages for something in his bedside table, and comes back with a bottle of lube and a condom.
He leaned back, making Harry's hands drop away from his bum, and then nudges Harry's legs apart. He slicks up one finger before pressing lightly into Harry's entrance.
The lube is cold, and goose bumps erupt all over Harry's arms. He tenses up.
"Y'alright?" Louis asks, frowning. He moves to pull his fingers away, but Harry shakes his head, stopping him.
"I'm fine," he says. "God, I'm fine. It's just cold. Continue. Please continue."
Louis goes back to nudging his finger into Harry's hole, dipping the tip of it in, and Harry moans loudly.
"God," Louis says, his brow furrowed, his eyes never leaving Harry's hole. "You're so tight."
"It's been a while," Harry answers honestly. "But I'm fine, I'm okay. Please, Louis."
Louis nudges his finger in slowly, until he's got all of it inside Harry's hole. Harry can feel it curling and uncurling in him, can feel Louis move it around.
Louis thrusts it in and out, building up a rhythm, and all Harry can do is clench around his finger, sweat dripping down from his hair and down to his neck. He's still hard, his cock still curving away from his body.
"Another," Harry begs. "Please."
Louis pulls away, and comes back with two fingers, scissoring them, stretching Harry open. He presses his fingers against Harry's walls, clearly searching for something.
It's a while until he brushes over Harry's prostate, and Harry gasps loudly, his back an arc above the mattress.
"There," he says, breathing heavily. "Again."
Louis does it again. Harry moans.
"God," Louis says. His voice is wrecked, and Harry looks at him to find his blue eyes dark, his gaze flitting through Harry's exposed skin."Look at you."
"Please," Harry whispers, and Louis pulls away and presses three fingers into Harry.
Harry takes to the intrusion much more easily, and it's not long until he feels sufficiently stretched open.
"More," He says, no, begs. "Please, Louis, I--"
"Shh," Louis hushes him, crawling up the bed. He kisses Harry, his tongue sweeping, leaving marks like brands in the recesses of Harry's mouth.
"Please," Harry begs again, when Louis pulls away. He leans up, trying to chase Louis' lips. "Louis, please."
"Okay," Louis says quietly, his eyes dark. "Okay."
He shimmies out of his underwear, and Harry watches as his cock springs free. It's a bit shorter than Harry's, but it's wider. Harry wants to feel the stretch, wants to feel it in his arse right now.
Harry also wants to feel it for days to come.
Louis pulls his fingers away from Harry's entrance, and picks up the condom, tearing the wrapper with his teeth. He manages to get it on himself, before grabbing a handful of lube and slicking himself up, before slowly pushing into Harry.
It's a bit painful, considering how much wider Louis is, but Harry loves it, loves the stretch, loves the pain. He moans loudly, throwing his head back, his hands grabbing onto Louis' arse and pushing him in.
"God," Louis hisses, his teeth gritted. He pushes against Harry's hands. "You're so tight."
"I told you, it's been a while," Harry answers.
It takes a few more moments until Louis bottoms out. His arms buckle where they're placed beside Harry's head, and Louis falls forward, lightly bumping his forehead onto Harry's.
"Oops," Louis says, his eyes wide.
Harry giggles at him. "Hi."
Louis leans down and sears their lips together, and Harry closes his eyes, enjoying the wet heat of Louis' mouth and the way his tongue moves. They lay there, just kissing for a few minutes, before Louis pulls away, panting, his mouth red and swollen.
"You have to be," he says, "the absolute best kisser in the world."
Harry grins at him. "No, I think you are."
Louis shakes his head. "I'm serious," he insists, moving around, stretching Harry open a bit more. He leans forward, presses his lips to Harry's. "You're so, fuck, you're so--"
He cuts off with a moan when Harry nips at his bottom lip, his hands squeezing Louis' arse. Louis' mouth parts easily for Harry, and he tastes it again, that tea-whiskey combination that is quickly becoming Harry's favourite taste in the world.
He reluctantly pulls away. "Fuck me," he tells Louis, wriggling around. "Please."
Louis pulls out, enough so that the tip is inside, before thrusting back in, hard, making Harry moan.
He sets a relentless pace, pounding in and out of Harry, and Harry can do nothing but take it, hold onto Louis, run up his arse and onto his shoulders, feeling his muscles working. Louis' eyes are blown, the blue of his eyes a tiny ring around his pupil, and he looks at Harry like Harry's a wonder, a gift.
Harry knows this, because he's pretty sure he's looking at Louis the same way.
"You," Louis whispers, into the air between them. "You in your sparkly costume, fuck, I wanted to pin you down and tear you apart right there on stage."
Harry can't do anything but moan in response.
"I wanted to kiss you," Louis continues, "so bad. When we tied? I wanted to kiss you right then and there."
He thrusts, and his cock brushes Harry's prostate, punching the breath out of Harry.
"I wanted to kiss you too," Harry answers a few moments later, when he's recovered a bit. "I really wanted to kiss you."
Louis leans forward and presses their lips together again, his mouth a hard pressure on Harry's. Harry pushes up to him, and they stay there trading kisses like it's currency, like they need it in order to survive.
It's not long until Harry can feel the familiar tightening at the bottom of his stomach, and he digs his fingers into Louis' shoulders. "Louis, I'm gonna--"
"Shh," Louis soothes, and he uses one hand to curl around Harry's cock and jerk him off. Harry thrusts up, into the tight circle of Louis' fist, and it doesn't take long until he's coming, spurting all over Louis' fist and his stomach.
Louis follows almost immediately, burying himself into the hilt and coming inside Harry.
It's silent for a bit, only the sound of their breathing bouncing off walls.
Louis presses his forehead onto Harry's and smiles.
. . .
In the morning, Harry wakes up in Louis' bed, with Louis curled up next to him. He smiles blearily at him, before leaning over and throwing a hand over his waist. Louis doesn't even wake up, simply cuddles up next to him, and Harry presses a kiss on his forehead before closing his eyes, trying to go back to sleep.
He reminds himself to call Niall and tell him that he's an absolute genius. That Lip Sync Battle is honestly one of the best ideas he's ever had.