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Learning to Breathe

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Essex England | Two Months Later

Harry's 'no sex during exam season' rule had really taken its toll. Louis had gone along with it (with no shortage of whining and complaining), because he knows Harry is on scholarship and it was his last real chance to get his marks up for this term. They'd suffered a bit during the Eleanor incident, and Louis still feels really guilty about it despite Harry's efforts to reassure him.

Louis had offered him his help with revision, which Harry accepted gratefully until they actually got to the revising part. Unfortunately, Harry didn't think having Louis' hand down his pants every hour was a 'constructive learning environment', or something.

Whatever. Louis could deal with no sex (well, sort of). But in order for Harry to concentrate and get his work done, he'd pretty much had to completely separate himself from Louis for days at a time. No cuddling, no snogging, no fooling around. Period. Louis had his own exams to prepare for, so it wasn't a complete inconvenience. But he thinks maybe that the separation only made him think of Harry more instead of less, which, what the hell? Even when the younger boy isn't there to distract him, he still distracts him.

Louis' been waiting almost two weeks for today. Harry's just finished his last exam a half hour ago and Louis had intended to take complete advantage of that before Niall had called him right as Harry had gotten to his flat, and told him that he was getting them take-a-way and that Liam and Zayn were on their way over. Something about celebrating the end of the term.

He's on speakerphone and as Harry tosses his bag onto the floor and flops down on Louis' mattress, he offers him a lopsided smirk. Louis shoots him a 'help me' look but Harry's grin only broadens as he begins lazily rubbing on the strip of skin where his shirt has ridden up, just teasing Louis for the fun of it now.

Louis stutters something into the phone, eyes stuck to Harry laid out on his bed.

And it's not like Louis can tell Niall 'No thanks, mate. I'd rather spend the next four hours fucking my boyfriend until neither of us can walk straight. Maybe some other time."

Louis is definitely more honest with his friends now about his relationship with Harry, but not that honest.

Harry grins at him from the bed, obviously amused. So when Niall hangs up, Louis pounces.

Harry yelps as Louis straddles his hips and pins him to the bed. He kisses Harry soundly before he can say anything. Harry allows it, letting Louis pull him close and hold the sides of his head and control it. It's aching and slow and perfect.

Louis pulls at the front of Harry's shirt until the little inked wings on his chest become visible. He pulls away from Harry's mouth to dip his head down and trace his tongue along the tattoos.

Harry groans, panting against the top of Louis' head. "You're just...gonna take both of us down then, aren't you?"

Louis smirks, "I jump, you jump, right?"

"I don't think that's how it goes," he laughs, and then gasps when Louis nips at his collarbone.

Louis sneaks his hand down Harry's body so he can rub him through his trousers.


Louis kisses him quickly. The younger boy groans into his mouth and Louis can feel the vibrations of it all the way down to his cock. He massages Harry with the heel of his hand before dragging his fingers along the shape of him through the denim.

Harry bucks up against him before he drops his head down on the bed and inhales sharply. Louis goes for the buttons on his trousers then, pushing his hand inside and pulling Harry free through the opening in his briefs.

"Lou," he chokes, "Louis, i'm serious. They're going to be here in, like, five minutes."

"You want me to stop?" Louis breathes huskily into his ear, squeezing Harry at the base lightly.

"God. Fuck. No, but. Do you want a repeat of last time?"

Louis knows the time Harry is referring to. About a month ago Niall walked in on them right as Louis had Harry bent over the end of the bed. They hadn't been naked, thank god, though it may have been even more scarring for Niall that they both had still been (mostly) dressed in their football kits. Louis still hasn't decided which would have been more damaging.

Louis had been mortified. But Niall seemed to take it in stride, even if it did take him a few days to be able to look Louis in the eye again properly. They'd laughed about it, eventually, and Louis had made Niall promise to start knocking from then on.

Zayn had made no such promise.

"Oh, shit!"

Louis pulls his hand away from Harry lightening fast, grabbing a pillow hastily to cover him up and cranes his head toward the door, glaring.

"Zayn, what the fuck?"

"I, uh. I-"

"What's going on?" Liam enters the room then and his mouth goes slack immediately when he sees the answer to his question. "Oh."

Louis groans, rolling off of Harry the rest of the way and letting him sit up. Harry's cheeks go red and he repositions the pillow. Louis feels awful.

"Sorry!" Liam squeaks, pushing Zayn out and into the living room and shutting Louis' door quickly.

Louis shoots Harry an apologetic look, sitting up until their eyes are level.

"I'm sorry."

Harry smiles softly and moves the pillow off of his lap and carefully attempts to tuck himself back into his pants. He leans forward to kiss the pout off Louis' face once he's zipped himself back up.

"The only thing you should be sorry for is this." He gestures down to the obvious state beneath his trousers.

Louis agrees to make it up to him later that night in exchange for Harry not going into the loo to finish himself off. He insists that there's no way he'll get soft again with Louis in the room, though, so while Harry wills himself back to normal, Louis joins Liam and Zayn in the living room.

He almost laughs at the expressions on their faces. They're sitting about a foot apart on the couch, staring straight at the television and not saying a word. Zayn is just still. Liam is worrying his lip, a tiny crease between his brows. All in all, Louis thinks they're at least handling it better than Niall did (who sort of squawked and covered his eyes with his hands and walked straight into the doorframe in his haste to run out of the room).

Speaking of Niall, the boy shows up then with several bags of take-a-way hanging from his arms. He has to shut the door with his foot.

"Christ, Niall. Is that for the five of us, or is the whole team coming?" Louis asks.

Niall opens his mouth to retort, but notices the state of Liam and Zayn before he can.

"What's wrong with them?"

Louis glances back to the boys on the couch just as Harry finally walks out of the bedroom. They do look sort of zombie-like.


"Let me guess," Niall says after seeing Harry, "Walked in on the two of you shagging?"

Liam's eyes shoot up, his face going blood red. Louis can feel his own cheeks burning.

Niall continues, unaffected. "Look mate, it can't be worse than the time I walked in on them in their-"

"Niall," Louis clips.

Niall only laughs, pulling two six-packs from the fridge and setting them on the living room table along with the food before plopping down on the far end of the sofa.

"Okay," he says, still unfazed. "What movie are we watching then?"

While he flicks through the pay-per-view, Louis feels Harry walk up behind him and squeeze his waist, lips bumping into the back of his head lightly. (I'm right here.) Louis sighs, relaxing. He ignores the weird air and lets Harry pull them down on the lounge chair.

He hesitates a moment before sliding into their usual position: his arm around Harry's shoulders, with the younger boy tucked against his side. About ten minutes into the movie, which Louis is only half paying attention to, Harry tugs on the collar of his shirt until Louis looks down at him. He gives Harry a questioning look, but smiles when Harry just seems to want his attention. He leans down the inch he needs to to peck him softly on the mouth.

They're in full view of the other boys, which usually isn't a thing at all. So far they've been strangely okay with him and Harry being publicly affectionate. It took a few weeks of getting used to, mostly on Louis' end, but it had finally stopped feeling awkward to kiss Harry in front of his friends over a month ago.

The first time he did it, it was scary and exhilarating at the same time. They didn't seem to care at all, which was strange to Louis, something that needed to happen a few more times before he finally got it in his head that they didn't give a shit, at least not anymore so than if he was kissing a girl instead of a boy.

It's one thing for his friends to see him kiss Harry, though. It's quite another for them to see him with his tongue down Harry's throat and his hand around his dick.

He thinks that must be why Liam and Zayn are acting so strange about it right now. He watches them inconspicuously instead of paying attention to the movie. Harry's hands tighten at his waist, but his eyes don't stray from his friends on the couch. Zayn is tapping his thigh nervously, a habit Louis' noticed since college. So he's not surprised when the boy gets up and excuses himself to the balcony a few minutes later.


Zayn has to bite back the grunt of discomfort as the freezing air outside hits him. He walks until he's pressed against the railing and breathes. It's cold, pitch black and quiet, and just what he needs right now.

He turns when he hears the balcony door slide open behind him. His heart skips a little, but calms when he sees that it's only Louis. He offers him a gentle smirk. After all, this is sort of their thing now.

Zayn takes a long drag of his beer and settles back around as Louis comes up beside him.

It's silent for a minute.

"So. Was that weird?"

"Hmm?" Zayn starts a little, his whirlwind thoughts coming to a halt at the question.

"You know," Louis struggles, "Harry and me. You look a little peaky. Sorry if that-"

"Oh," Zayn turns to him, "No. Fuck. Sorry, no that's-"

"Zayn, it's okay. Really."

No, it's not okay. Yes, it was weird, seeing them together like that, but not weird in the way Louis is thinking. But in a way that Zayn has forced himself not to think about for months now. Because he just can't.

He turns his body all the way toward Louis' so that the shorter boy is forced to look at him.

"No. Lou, honestly. I swear, it's not what you think. And I know what you're thinking because I know you, but, um, it's not. I mean. I'm sorry I made you think that."

He feels like a jackass, and also an idiot. Because of course Louis would read his reaction that way. He likes to think that he's made Louis understand by now that he has nothing to be insecure about when it comes to the way he feels about Harry. But sometimes he forgets what a hard-fought thing it's been between the two of them, to have what they have. It's taken years to finally become what it is now, so of course Louis' insecurities aren't going to disappear over night. He's come a long way, though. Farther than Zayn could have ever imagined, knowing Louis the way he does. He doubts that even if he was uncomfortable about their physical relationship that it would change anything about how Louis feels, but he hates that he even put the smallest seed of doubt in his friend's head.

Louis nods gently though, and seems to believe him, so Zayn doesn't say anything else.

"Smoke?" Louis asks after a minute.

"Oh, nah," Zayn pats his pockets out of habit, "I don't even have any on me, actually. I just needed the air, I guess."

And it's just so stupid, isn't it? He quit smoking for a boy that he doubts has even noticed. And it's all so ridiculous that Zayn wants to point and laugh at himself. He doesn't mean to, but he chances a glance back inside as he takes another sip of his beer, and dammit if Louis doesn't see him do it.

Louis looks like he wants to ask, but decides not to. Neither one of them have brought the Liam thing up since that day on the balcony. Not even when Liam's thing with that Danielle girl fizzled out a few weeks ago. Zayn hadn't allowed himself to feel too relieved, or foolishly hopeful over it. Because what was the point? He can see how uncomfortable Liam is right now, sitting in there on the couch but looking like he'd rather be anywhere else. That tells him all he needs to know, really.

Besides, he knows that if he brought it up again to Louis, he'd just tell him to do what he told him to do last time, which is tell Liam how he feels.

How he feels. Like, he doesn't even understand how he feels. He doesn't understand how Liam was just his friend one day and then... Well, it doesn't really matter what then. Because if Liam felt even a fraction of what Zayn feels now, has felt for the last several months since they kissed, he would have said something by now.

But he hasn't. Maybe he doesn't even remember. They had both been drinking that night. The thing is, Zayn remembers it being mutual - the kiss. He can't remember who leaned in first, who made the first move. It was just - one minute they weren't kissing and the next they were. And Zayn doesn't know which might be worse; The fact that Liam might not remember, or the fact that he does, and has no intention of ever talking about it because it didn't mean anything to him.

And fuck all if Zayn is going to have what happened to Harry and Louis at Priestly happen to him and Liam. He loves that boy too much to risk losing him over some ridiculous feelings that he doesn't even understand half of the time.

Except, he doesn't think they could ever wind up like that, is the thing. He almost wishes that if he told Liam his real feelings, that he'd react the way Louis did with Harry all those years ago; reject him so brutally that it forces him to move on.

But he knows how Liam would handle the confession. Sweet, logical Liam, who would never intentionally hurt anyone. He'd give Zayn that sympathetic head tilt he's so good at and probably even hug him. He wouldn't be disgusted, or put off, or angry. He'd be lovely. If anything, he'd just feel bad, and Zayn doesn't think he could handle that.

He almost can't take the way Louis looks at him now, like he can see all of Zayn's thoughts and he knows his wanting, and like he hurts for him or some shit.

Zayn keeps his eyes on the car park so he doesn't have to see the pity in his friend's eyes. He sees Louis' gaze shift in his peripheral though, and after a minute or so, he follows his line of sight into the flat.

He's looking at Harry, of course. Zayn sees that the boy has moved into the center of the lounger, curled up like a cat and is lazily reaching over to steal chips from Niall's take-out container when he's not looking. And it's like - the way Louis looks at him, like he can't quite figure out how he got so lucky, makes Zayn's chest hurt.

"You're staring," he declares. He can't help but be amused despite the ache in his chest.

Louis blushes and turns back around quickly, schooling his mouth back into a relaxed line.

"Sorry," he mumbles.

"Ah, don't be," Zayn laughs, "Suppose i've gotten used to you two drooling all over each other."

"We don't do that!" Louis squawks indignantly.

"Yeah, it's bad, man," he teases, "You two are so sweet it's sickening. You're lucky we put up with you at all."

He obviously means it as a joke, but he notices Louis sober a little anyway.

"I am though."

"Oh, piss off," Zayn laughs, "I was kidding."

"I know. But I mean. Thanks. You know, for being cool about it."

Zayn looks at him then, setting his beer down on the railing with enough force that it clinks loudly.

"You shouldn't have to thank anyone for being cool about you being who you are. We'd be pretty shit friends if we cared about that." And i'd be a hypocrite, he thinks.

"No, I know," Louis says softly, like he's willing Zayn's easy mood to return. "But still. Thank you for being there. Through everything."

Zayn frowns a little, because it's like Louis still doesn't understand how much he means to Zayn. And Harry now, too, by association.

"Lou, I don't think I could have not been there. I was just - way too close to it, you know?" He hopes that's a good enough explanation.

"Probably more than you ever wanted to be, I imagine." He says it playfully.

"Yeah, well, I wouldn't say that. But I don't know after tonight."

Louis cocks his eyebrow in silent question.

Zayn smirks, "I mean, i've seen your boyfriend's cock now, mate. Which, congratulations? I don't know."

He hears Louis laugh loud and sharp before he's being pushed roughly in the arm. "Prick."

"No, really. Good on you," he continues teasingly, laughing and skirting away so Louis can't hit him again.

"Seriously though," he sobers, "I don't think I ever told you, but, i'm really happy that everything worked out."

He sees Louis smile gently, affection blooming on his face. He watches him glance back inside at Harry. He's so, so happy for them, is the thing. And it's confusing, to be that happy for them even though it hurts to look at them sometimes. But he is. He remembers the day Louis told them about Eleanor not being pregnant. He'd come over with Harry, both smiling, and they'd all been really confused at first, but Zayn knew, somehow. He knew they'd fixed things. He was shocked when he heard the news though. And he just remembers feeling this overwhelming sense of relief. It wasn't even his scare, and yet it might as well have been.

He thinks, maybe, seeing Louis and Harry finally have their happiness after all of that is enough for right now. Maybe Liam doesn't have to love him. Maybe things will still be okay as long as they're all together.

"Thanks," Louis breathes.

Zayn nods and empties the dregs of his beer.

"Don't know about you," Louis bites out, "But m'freezing my bollocks off."

Zayn snorts, and holds back the joke he wants to make about how Harry wouldn't be too happy about that. He simply agrees instead, and they make their way back inside. His eyes find Liam immediately and he curses himself inwardly. His friend's attention is on the small scuffle in the center of the living room though. He turns to see Niall on his knees next to the coffee table. He's got Harry by the wrist.

"Louis," he barks, "Get your crumb snatcher."

Louis laughs and ruffles Niall's hair before pouncing on Harry gently. Zayn can't help his smile.


"Hazza, hurry up."

Harry peers out of the crack of the bathroom door, his shirt off and toothbrush hanging from his mouth. Louis, getting the last of his kit off by the bed, watches Harry roll his eyes fondly before turning back to the mirror.

The boys had finally left when the movie was over and the beer ran out. Which Louis was glad for, if only because Harry had been tracing lines along his inner thigh for the last twenty minutes of the movie and he was passed ready to lock them both in his room for the next twenty-four hours straight.

He'd almost thanked the powers above when Niall had all but begged for Liam and Zayn to take him with them.

Louis plans to absolutely wreck Harry tonight, and being considerate of his noise level isn't something he really has the restraint for at this point.

When Harry finally leaves the bathroom, he turns the lights off, plunging them into temporary darkness until their eyes adjust. The light coming in through the window is just enough that Louis can see Harry clearly as he comes over to the bed.

"Hi," Harry whispers. He's smiling, all teeth, and Louis smiles too and pulls him in.

They kiss unhurried until Louis turns them suddenly and forces Harry to sit on the edge of the bed. Harry's smirk drops off his face when Louis sinks to his knees and pulls at the waistband of his briefs.

Louis takes ahold of Harry's cock and bypasses any teasing, taking it into his mouth fully. Harry's grunt of surprise and the tightening of his hand in Louis' hair as Louis sucks him down makes something swoop low in his belly.

Louis is still too shy to admit it out loud, but he's been fantasizing about having Harry's cock in his mouth for days now. In the two months since their reunion. They've barely spent a day apart. And after two months of almost non-stop practice, Louis thinks he's finally gotten the hang of giving head.

"Fuck," Harry grunts, "You've gotten really good at this."

Louis looks up at Harry through his lashes, takes in his ruddy cheeks and glassy eyes; his parted, bow-shaped lips.

He pops his mouth off of Harry's cock and runs his tongue flat on the underside of it a few times, smirking when Harry whimpers roughly and bucks his hips up desperately. He tugs on Harry a few times before taking him back in his mouth. That familiar ache still twinges in his jaw, because Harry's big and no matter how many times Louis does this, his muscles can never quite get used to the strain. He sort of loves it though, another thing he's still too shy to admit out loud.

He's been practicing relaxing his throat for a while now. At first, he wasn't able to get Harry anywhere near the back of his throat without gagging obscenely. Harry promised him that it was okay, that just having Louis' mouth on him at all was more than enough. But Louis had been determined. Harry is just so naturally good at everything they do, and he blows Louis' mind every time they're together. Louis doesn't understand how he does it, but he wants to be able to make Harry feel the same way, wants to impress him.

So he concentrates on breathing through his nose and flattens his tongue, pausing when he feels the head of Harry's cock nudge the back of his throat. He's holding him tightly by the hips to ensure he won't abruptly snap up, and Harry's gone silent above him.

Louis looks up again, lips almost to the base of Harry's length, and Harry is just staring down at him in awe, completely still like he's afraid to move. Louis blinks and swallows around him slowly, tears welling up in his eyes. Harry groans filthily and falls backwards, back arching off the mattress as he shoots down Louis' throat. Louis pulls off then, smirking and satisfied with himself. He pumps Harry loosely in his fist a few more times until he's done. Harry pants and then grins, arm slung over his eyes.

"What?" Louis croaks, smiling innocently. Harry responds by sitting up and dragging Louis up off his knees. Louis' a little put off with how easily he's manhandled, but he can't complain when Harry places him down so he's straddling his waist and pulls his face down to kiss him.

When they part, Harry stares him down, their noses bumping.

"You drive me crazy, you know?"

Louis blushes and kisses him lightly, dragging his lips across Harry's full ones. He playfully dips his tongue into Harry's mouth and yelps a little when he feels hands grip into his bum, squeezing but also pushing him forward. He's confused for a second, looking down at Harry to try and figure out what he wants.

Harry only bites his lip and wriggles down between the bracket of Louis' knees until his mouth is able to reach the apex of his thighs.

Okay. So this is new.

Harry blinks up at him shyly as he begins slowly mouthing at Louis' cock. He licks at it, letting it bob and trying to catch it between his lips. Louis thinks he might have a heart attack. Harry takes the head of him in and sucks. Louis doesn't mean to but he jolts forward and Harry inhales loudly through his nose. Louis freezes.

"Sorry, sorry. I'm sorry."

But Harry's eyes are almost blown black, shaking his head at Louis' apology and wrapping his lips around the head of him again. Louis' confused for a moment before he feels Harry's hands on his arse again, pulling him forward.

Oh. Oh, fuck. Okay.

Louis thrusts forward gently, the tightness in his chest loosening when Harry squeezes the underside of his thigh encouragingly, like he's saying yes, that's perfect, just like that.

Harry opens his mouth a little, letting Louis slide against his tongue unchecked before closing his lips over him again. Louis has to stop, because the sight is too much and he's about to come apart.

"Harry," he chokes out. He doesn't know what he's asking though.

Harry closes his eyes and begins bobbing his head in earnest then, sucking hard.

"Oh fuck. Harry, if you don't stop, m'gonna..."

Harry blinks up at him and slides his mouth off.

"Will you...?" he whispers. Almost nervously.

Louis quirks his eyebrow. Harry's only response is to blush and tilt his jaw up.

Louis can't breathe. "Fuck. Yeah, okay. Yeah."

Louis takes a hold of himself, cock poised over Harry's face.

Harry holds him loosely by the thighs and his eyes flicker back and forth from Louis' face to where he's pumping his cock. Waiting. It's the hottest thing Louis thinks he's ever seen. He moves his hand faster, watching Harry's mouth fall open slightly. It doesn't take long - several seconds at most, before Louis is crying out and coming over Harry's cheek, the seam of his lips, his jaw and throat.

Harry holds him tightly by the waist as he comes down, sensing that he'd probably collapse without the support. Louis carefully swings his leg back and moves off of Harry's chest, collapsing beside him on the bed.

"Holy shit," he pants. His eyes find Harry's face. He's looking straight at the ceiling, grinning from ear to ear. He laughs a little, bringing his fingers up to wipe at the mess on his face.

He turns to look at Louis then, who is smiling nervously.

"Been wanting to try that," Harry confesses quietly.

Louis' eyebrows quirk. "You've never...?"

Harry shakes his head and then licks his lips slowly. Something sharp and warm pinches in Louis' gut. He surges forward to pull the younger boy back against him. Harry goes without a fuss.

They go two more rounds over the next couple of hours. Once in the bed, and then in the kitchen after Harry had coerced Louis out of the bedroom with the promise of hot food.

It felt strange, standing starkers in the kitchen with his head on top of Harry's shoulder, watching him cook pancakes for them. A good strange. Something he could get used to.

Louis had begun picking the cake apart as soon as Harry dropped the first one on the plate.

"At least let me put syrup on it first," he'd pouted.

Louis had probably made some cheeky comment then about how he'd rather Harry put syrup on him instead. He can't quite remember. He just knows that it all somehow ended with them fucking against the refrigerator.

Louis is exhausted. He thinks he can even vaguely feel the soreness in his muscles already settling in. It's a good ache though. One that makes him feel giddy and breathless. Having marathon sex with Harry feels just as productive as a full on work out. And it's definitely a lot more fun. He makes a mental note to remind Harry of this fact when Harry tries to convince him that they need to go running at the arse crack of dawn again.

Harry seems to be in an equal state of exhaustion, if him being on the brink of passing out a half hour ago is anything to go by. So Louis can't help but laugh disbelievingly when he feels Harry's hand swipe down his stomach before the boy rolls on top of him.

"Again?" Louis huffs a laugh and brings his hand up to slide across Harry's back.

Harry nips at his earlobe, "MmmHmm."

Louis moans a little, laughs breathily. "Right. Okay. Just give me a few days."

Harry almost cackles, and abandons Louis' neck to leave a smattering of kisses along his cheek, right beneath his eye. "In a few days we'll be home."

Oh, right. Home.

Home means both of them finally seeing their families for the first time in two months, and being able to bring Harry around them as his boyfriend and nothing less. It means spending the holidays with almost everyone he loves, all together in one tiny village. But as Harry rolls their hips together for the fourth time that night, Louis remembers that it also means screaming girls, hovering mothers and a childhood bed that's really too small to fit them both comfortably.

Louis groans a little then and Harry kisses the pout from his lips, smile never dropping.

"Right you are. I almost forgot."

Harry lays open-mouthed kisses along his jaw before staring down at him expectantly. "So..."

"So," Louis collects himself, letting his fingers trail down the curve of Harry's arse. "We better make these next few days count then."

Harry smiles and bites his lip before Louis pulls him down to kiss him hard, tongue pushing against his forcefully as another burst of energy from god knows where hits him.

Louis is suddenly so, so thankful that Niall is kipping with Liam and Zayn tonight, because the noises that Harry makes when Louis lays him down on his belly and pushes inside of him might have the Irish boy actually going through on his joking threats to move out.