Zayn decides to have his stag party in Vegas. For a while it seems like it isn't going to happen, but then Harry, who's jealous Louis is Zayn's best man, offers to pay for the tickets, and Louis picks up enough extra shifts at the bar that he can afford to go. Liam has a little trouble getting four days off from the radio station because Nick is a huge baby and throws a fit at not having Liam around to make fun of on air, but Harry handles that, too. Nick's had a hilariously weird crush on Harry since they met at Liam's birthday – Liam didn't invite his boss to his birthday, Nick just showed up – and when Harry bats his eyes and bites his lip Nick gives Liam an extra day off and then throws a CD case at Liam's head.
Nothing that happens after that can be considered Liam's fault.
Everyone drinks on the flight over, even Liam, who has promised Zayn roughly a thousand times that he won't spend the entire weekend in Vegas being a mopey bastard about his break up with Danielle. Liam really doesn’t plan to mope, but it's undeniable that he thought he'd be marrying Danielle long before Zayn got his life together enough to get married. He doesn't say anything, but it must be on his face, because Louis flags down the air hostess on the plane and orders two tiny bottles of rum.
"You're not going to ruin Zayn's weekend," says Louis, pouring rum into Liam's coke.
"How is that going to help?" Liam asks. "I don't drink."
"Have you ever tried using alcohol to drown your problems?" Louis asks. Liam hasn't, obviously, so he just sighs a little. "It works better than you'd think," Louis insists. "Now, drink."
The flight is a lot more fun after that. Louis and Liam sit together and snicker when Zayn gets asked to please stop standing on his seat and shouting about his wedding, and when Harry is told firmly he has to put trousers back on, please. Liam dozes for a while on Louis's shoulder, which Louis doesn't seem to mind. Everything is a lot funnier than it usually is when Liam's sober, and he doesn't even feel like he has to apologize for Harry being naked in public, or Niall singing Justin Bieber loudly to himself.
"This is going to be a wild and crazy weekend!" Louis says over and over. Liam always thinks Louis is just about the funniest person in the world, but the rum makes him even funnier, and Liam laughs so much he has trouble breathing.
Las Vegas is bright and loud and neon and hot. Harry's a little drunk so he gives Louis his credit card and tells him to check them into the hotel, while he and Niall take Zayn to gamble. ("And drink!" Niall shouts. "To the blackjack tables, lads!") This is a bad idea, because Louis thinks it's hilarious to book them all into the much more expensive honeymoon suite. And then, because the nice bloke behind the desk asks, Louis kisses Liam's cheek and says, "Yes, it's our honeymoon, and we're very happy." That gets them more free drinks, which Liam would definitely turn down except he sees a woman with long dark curly hair who looks a lot like Danielle, and it makes his whole chest ache. Louis must notice, because he squeezes Liam's hand, and then pretends to kiss him again, and they both have all the free champagne they can get their hands on, whilst giggling their heads off.
That's when things get a little hazy.
Liam's never been properly drunk before, despite all of Louis's best efforts, so he's unprepared for everything to blur into everything else. There's a lot of laughing and bright lights, and a taxi ride, and more laughing and a lot more champagne, and they definitely discuss pranks on Harry and Zayn and Niall, but everything is spinning and bright and seems a bit like it's happening to someone else in a movie, maybe.
The one thing that sticks out in Liam's memory is that at some point, in a room full of strangers who are also laughing, Louis leans over and kisses Liam properly. They've played like they were going to kiss before, and Louis's kissed Liam's cheek plenty of times, but this is a proper on-the-mouth-with-feeling kiss. Louis tastes like champagne, and he wraps his arms round Liam's neck and kisses with such enthusiasm that he nearly knocks Liam over.
It should be really embarrassing, but something about all the alcohol makes it seem perfectly logical. Liam steadies Louis with his hands on Louis's hips and kisses him back, because why not. Louis's his best friend, and the champagne is really awfully bubbly and it makes Liam feel giddy all over.
So it's not that strange that Liam wakes up in bed with Louis the next day.
They've shared beds when they were sleeping over at Harry's house, and they've shared couches and floors when they were staying at Niall's or Zayn's. They all went on a skiing holiday and Liam and Louis ended up having to share a bed because Harry was sleeping with the ski instructor. (No one wants to share with Zayn, because he steals the blankets, and Niall kicks.)
Liam's head is pounding, but he still can't help laughing a little before he pulls the blankets up over his head to block out the sun. It's a huge bed, and Louis is dribbling on sheets that feel more expensive than anything Liam's ever slept on before. The blankets are puffy and heavy and incredibly warm, so Liam could do without Louis's arm thrown over his waist.
Liam can't ever remember having been shirtless in bed with Louis before, actually. He starts to say something but his head feels like it's going to explode off his shoulders, and he aches like he lost a fight. "Louis," Liam says. His voice is awfully rough.
Louis groans and rolls closer, tangling his legs with Liam's and putting his head on Liam's shoulder. Liam's startled, and hung over, so he doesn't do anything but lie there and let Louis use him as a pillow. They aren't wearing trousers, is the thing that Liam can't help but notice, and Louis's legs feel strange rubbing against Liam's.
"Louis," says Liam again. His head hurts too much to work out what's going on.
"Shh," says Louis. "Headache. Champagne. Shh."
Liam laughs in spite of himself. It hurts his head quite a lot. "I let you make me drink and we've ended up in bed together," Liam says. "Harry is going to laugh until he dies."
"Harry can blow me," says Louis. "Not moping about Danielle, are you?"
"No," says Liam. "But then she never gave me a hangover."
"Bahhhh," says Louis. He hasn't opened his eyes. He cuddles up against Liam and wraps his arm more firmly around Liam's waist, as if Liam is going to go somewhere. Liam's head hurts too much to even consider getting up. "Sleep will fix it. Now shhh."
"Right," says Liam. He doesn't tell Louis how much he's missed this since Danielle left, having someone else in the bed with him. Someone who's too warm and too cuddly and settled against his side. It's comforting in a way that waking up hungover with his best friend shouldn't be.
Maybe Liam's still drunk. Anyway he dozes off so he doesn't have to worry about whether or not he should be this happy to be nearly naked in bed with Louis.
Some vague amount of time later, the door to the bedroom crashes open and what is undeniably Niall's voice shouts, "Hey, lads; I found them!" Louis groans and pulls the blankets up over his head, but Liam tries to blink himself awake.
"Holy shit," says Harry. "We thought you booked the room and then spent the whole night out partying on the strip. Have you been here in the master bedroom all night?"
"Where's Lou?" Niall asks. "Zayn's throwing up in the toilet, has been for an hour now. Don't drink all the free rum you're offered, apparently."
"Louis's right here," says Liam, elbowing Louis in the back. Louis sticks a hand out from under the blanket and waves.
Niall starts laughing. It's too loud for Liam's aching head and he tries to look stern about it, but making stern faces also hurts his head. "He booked the honeymoon suite so you two could snuggle in the giant bed with champagne and roses?" Harry says. "Seriously?"
"Have you quite finished?" Louis asks grumpily. "Go away. My head hurts."
"We had quite a lot of champagne," says Liam, sitting up. The whole room swims and Liam hopes there's a second toilet where he can be sick.
"Not sure there's enough champagne in the world to get me naked in bed with Louis," Niall giggles.
"We're allowed!" Louis shouts from under the blankets. "We're married!"
There is a long silence.
"What?" says Liam eventually. Harry and Niall look dubious, like they can't tell if Louis's joking or not. He must be, Liam tells himself, so he pokes Louis until Louis sits up, too.
Louis's hair sticks up and he's scowling and pale like he might be sick, too. Maybe there are three toilets in this very fancy hotel room. "It was all very funny," Louis says, looking to Liam for confirmation. "I got the honeymoon suite as a joke, and then they wanted to know whose honeymoon it was, and I said it was ours. Apparently if you pay enough for your room, the hotel will give you a limo or a taxi to the office where you get the marriage forms. Right?"
Louis directs this to Liam, who absolutely doesn't remember. "Er," he says. "I recall a taxi."
"And then we came back and they did a lovely ceremony, it was so funny. I tried calling you about a hundred times," says Louis to Harry.
Harry looks a bit gobsmacked. "I had about a hundred missed calls," he says, "but I was trying to stop Zayn losing all his money for the honeymoon on the blackjack tables."
"You missed our wedding," Louis pouts. "You're a terrible friend."
Liam might be having a panic attack. "But we didn't get married," he says. "I would remember that!"
"It was just a joke," says Louis. "They gave us flowers and more champagne and everyone applauded and told us what a sweet couple we make."
Liam suddenly remembers kissing Louis in a room full of applauding strangers in an entirely different light. "Oh my god," he says. His chest feels like all the air has been squeezed out of it.
"It's alright; we're not American," says Louis. "It was just a laugh. Everyone shut up and let me go back to sleep. But you better not lose the ring; we need to return those. Plus, you'll hurt my feelings."
Liam's eyes go wide and he stares at his left hand which has a slightly gaudy, cheap-looking gold band on the third finger. "Oh my god!" he says again, more of a squeak this time. "Louis! How drunk was I? How could you have let us get married?"
"You thought it was hilarious," says Louis crossly.
"Zayn's going to murder both of you," says Harry. He's a bit pale and wide-eyed and his voice is quiet with horror. "You've upstaged his stag party!"
"Holy shit," says Niall.
"It stopped Liam whining about never getting married to Danielle," says Louis. "Zayn ought to be thanking me. We're going to have the funniest fake wedding photos to take home. And Liam finally got properly drunk! I'm a hero."
Niall starts to laugh like he can't stop himself. "Oh no," he says. "Oh my god. You're both so stupid."
"Funny," Louis corrects him. "I'm so funny."
Harry looks increasingly horrified. "What's funny about it?" he asks.
"It's a big pretend wedding! Of course it's funny!" Louis says. He's getting quite loud, and Liam winces, because his head is still throbbing. "I kissed Liam! There are pictures! It's the stupidest thing to ever happen; we're going to be laughing about it for years!"
"Er, Louis," says Harry, voice going quite high and squeaky. "Why do you keep saying it was just pretend?"
Liam vaguely recalls this, if he forces his poor foggy brain to try and make sense of things. "We're English," he says. "Not American."
"Actually…" begins Harry. Everyone stares at him. "Well," he says, biting his lip. "I looked it up because Zayn wanted to bring Perrie with him to Las Vegas. Because… As it turns out, if you get married in Vegas it's recognized as legally binding at home."
Liam can't breathe.
"What?" says Louis. "That's stupid."
"It's true," Harry insists.
Niall is laughing so hard he's actually slid down the wall and is lying on the floor. "Oh, you idiots," he says.
Liam felt a bit like he was going to be sick before; he is definitely going to be sick now. "We got married," he says, but his voice drops out on the last word. He got drunk and married Louis. "Oh my god, Lou. Oh my god. Oh my—"
Louis grabs Liam's arm and squeezes. "Don't freak out," he says. "Harry's nuts. It wasn't a real wedding."
"If you signed those papers then it was," Harry insists. "Jesus Christ, Louis!"
"You should have picked up your phone!" Louis nearly shouts. "Why didn't you answer?"
"Why did you do something so stupid?" Harry shouts back.
"Don't mind him; he's just upset you married Liam and not him," giggles Niall, on the floor. Harry kicks at him. Niall rolls away and pulls his phone out of his pocket.
"My mum is going to murder me," says Liam, hiding his face in his hands.
"No one has to murder anyone. No one has to know!" says Louis.
Niall's turned bright red and is gasping for breath. "Have you checked the pictures you've twittered lately?" he asks. "Because if your mums have, you're both dead men."
"No," says Liam. "Oh no. Oh no."
For once, Louis doesn't appear to know what to say. He looks at Harry, half upset and half imploring, and Harry just shrugs helplessly and shakes his head. Niall is flipping through his phone and snickering harder with everything he clicks on.
Zayn, looking a bit pale and worse for wear, sticks his head around the door frame. "So," he says. "Did I miss anything?"
Louis tweeted or retweeted a bunch of pictures, as it turns out, and Liam's sister follows him, so they're both screwed.
They look through the pictures on Harry's iPad, Niall giggling and Zayn looking like he might be sick again at any minute. There's one of just their hands, both wearing the rings Liam doesn't remember picking out. There's another that the chapel took and Louis retweeted, of the two of them kissing. Liam's laughing and Louis's got his arms around Liam's neck, and Liam almost remembers that happening, except he doesn't remember looking at Louis with quite so much adoration. There are a series of slightly blurry pictures that Louis took himself, holding his camera out at arms' length, with one arm round Liam's neck and both of them grinning at the phone. And another where Louis is kissing Liam's cheek while trying to take the picture, and it's really just a shot of their jaws and shoulders.
"Wow," says Harry.
"Your sister replied to this one," says Niall, pointing. "'Hahaha whats he don now oh louis'. So she's probably told your mum."
Zayn elbows Liam. "Did you check your texts?"
"No," says Liam. He's afraid to. He suspects his phone is rather full of angry messages from various family members and probably also Louis's mum, and potentially Nick. Actually, the messages from Nick are probably going to be the worst.
"Well, you certainly do seem married," says Harry. "You've got that dopey 'just married' look. How drunk were you?"
"I don't know. I've never been drunk before. As drunk as I could possibly get, I suppose," says Liam.
Louis hands Liam a couple of little white pills and a fizzy drink. "For your head," Louis says. He gives Liam a pat on the back and Liam turns to smile gratefully at him.
"Well, that's why the hotel thought you were married," says Zayn.
Louis's hand goes still on Liam's back. "I'm being friendly," says Louis. "This is for his hangover."
"Right, it's more the way you look at each other," Zayn clarifies.
"They've always done that," Niall argues.
"Which is probably why most of the replies to Louis's twitter are 'ha ha ha I knew it,' rather than anyone saying 'Really?'" Harry says. "Louis's sisters just want to know why they weren't invited."
Liam groans and puts his head down on the table. Everything hurts a bit, still, and he's going to have to call his mum soon and clarify what happened, except he honestly can't believe this has happened.
"Oh," says Louis quietly, swiping across the iPad.
"Oh?" Liam echoes.
"Er. Don't look at this," says Louis. "Just take the pills."
Liam's not sure he can take pills without being sick, but at least it might stop his head feeling like it's going to pound right off his shoulders. "Don't look at what?" he says. "It can't be worse than waking up to find out I got married last night and I don't even remember it."
"You want to remember this?" Harry asks doubtfully.
Liam elbows Louis, who sighs. "It's just," Louis says. "Danielle replied to say congratulations and she hopes you're really happy."
Well, that's a bit like getting punched in the stomach. "Oh," says Liam quietly.
"If you're gonna be sick I'll grab a bin," says Niall.
"Sorry," says Louis quietly. He's squeezed into Liam's chair with him, one arm around Liam's waist so he doesn't fall. It's absolutely normal for them, but it's a bit weird now that Liam's married to him. Louis hooks his chin over Liam's shoulder. "I didn’t mean to make it uncomfortable. It was supposed to be a laugh."
"It is funny," Liam says reassuringly. His stomach lurches a bit, but it's probably the hangover, not all these stupid feelings. "I'm just a bit… I thought I'd get married properly, you know? Take it seriously."
"Everyone is taking everything too seriously!" Zayn says, grabbing the iPad off the table. "This is my fucking stag do. Are we ready to go and gamble and drink and pretend all this never happened?"
Liam can't possibly pretend this hasn't happened. "Yeah," he says. "That sounds like a good plan."
"Aren't you going to call your mum?" Harry asks.
"What should I tell her?" Liam asks, and Harry bites his lip and doesn't reply. "Exactly," says Liam. "So no, I don't think I'll ring her up just yet."
"We'll come up with a way to explain it," promises Louis. "You can blame it all on me. We can get it undone when we go home, probably. Somehow."
"I don't want to blame you," says Liam stubbornly. "I was there, too, even if I was drinking. I said yes."
Niall chimes in, "Yeah, Liam kissed you back, after all."
Liam gives Niall a look that would peel the paint off walls, if Liam were someone else entirely. Instead he suspects it mostly looks a little disappointed. "Don't help," Liam orders.
"Was I that bad?" Louis asks, mouth quirking up into a quiet, teasing little smile.
It's so normal that Liam could almost cry. He's so grateful that Louis is still Louis, despite how weird everything ought to be right now. "I was pretty drunk," Liam says. "But I don't remember hating it."
"I can do better," says Louis, and Liam laughs.
"Eww, stop flirting, this is all making me sick again," says Zayn loudly.
"We can flirt as much as we want now; we're married," says Liam. Louis barks a laugh and Liam grins, proud of himself.
It's fairly easy to forget, while they gamble and drink, that anything so ridiculous has happened. Zayn loses every bet he makes, while Harry wins, and Niall drinks. Louis has one drink and then begs off having any more because, as he says, "That's caused enough trouble." Liam laughs at him and only gambles a little, because he doesn't make enough to match Harry or Zayn, and it's less funny to lose his money when he might not be able to pay his rent. Harry flirts with one of the waitresses and Niall makes friends with all the other people at the blackjack table, and it's all terribly normal until Liam looks down and catches a glimpse of his own hand, with a ring on it.
The thing is, Liam always thought he'd be the first of them to get married. He's the one who likes to stay home and sit on the couch with a movie. He's the one who dates seriously, instead of constantly making up and breaking up, the way Zayn did before Perrie, or casually dating five people at a time, like Harry, or whatever it is that Niall does. Liam had got to the place with Danielle where he'd started thinking about ceremonies and guest lists, and his sisters had started asking him if they were going to need to save a date soon, hint hint. He's not afraid of being serious, the way Louis is. He likes it. He always found it comforting to think he'd have someone at home, waiting for him, always.
And now he's gone and screwed it up by getting married while he was drunk, and to Louis, who is definitely not Danielle. And as much as Louis keeps pinching Liam's arm and saying, "Sorry, I didn't mean it," Liam must have meant something by it. Drunk, Liam must have liked the idea of being married so much that it didn't matter who it was to.
"This sucks," says Zayn loudly. "I've lost three hundred dollars, how much is that in pounds?"
"A lot," says Liam. "Maybe we should go back to the room and chill for a while?"
"Haz is off with a waitress," says Louis. "I just called my mum and she says it's not a funny joke and I need to think harder about my choices. Ugh, I might take a nap."
"Boring, the lot of you," says Niall.
Liam shepherds everyone back toward the honeymoon suite. Louis and Zayn crash on the couch with cups of tea and a movie they had to pay for, and Liam is forced to actually look at the messages on his phone.
There are a quite a lot of them. At least half are from his sisters – Nicola demanding to know if it's a joke, Ruth capslocking at him to call – and then a few are from friends. His parents are conspicuously absent. There are two from Nick; one which just reads SERIOUSLY???? and one that says can't waaaaait for you to get back to work darling.
There's also a text from Danielle that says congrats x X. It hurts a little bit. Obviously he's happy she's glad for him, but… He wouldn't mind if she were upset. He's run off and got married and presumably left her behind. It would be okay if she were heart-broken about it.
It's been a few months, and Liam has convinced himself that he's nearly recovered from the whole relationship and break up. But the deep ache in his chest tells him that he's probably not as okay as he thought he was.
Liam puts his fingers on the band of the slightly ugly ring he apparently got from Louis, and turns it back and forth a couple of times. He likes having a ring, even if it's a joke. Something like that belongs on his finger, and he's weirdly reluctant to take it off.
It takes him a few minutes to work up to dialing his mum. The international rates are going to be insane and he can use that as an excuse to get off the phone faster.
There is no polite greeting when she picks up. "Liam James Payne, why didn't you tell us?"
"Hello, mum," says Liam. He adds a preemptive, apologetic, "I love you."
"I can't say I'm entirely surprised," she sighs, and that makes him blink a bit, because he's certainly surprised. "We're just all so happy for you."
Liam sits there not knowing what to say for a minute. "You… are?"
"You've been so sad, sweetheart. And Louis does always make you laugh. Were you worried we wouldn't approve? Or was it just one of his spur-of-the-moment ideas?"
"It… Louis just thought of it," says Liam. This conversation is weird. "But don't worry, when we get home we'll—"
"You'll do it properly," she interrupts. "You'd better. I didn't get to throw a party or cry over you or anything! Me and Ruth have plans already. Don't say you're embarrassed. I know you snuck off so I couldn't cry over you, but I've been waiting to do that since you were a little boy. And we've all been so worried about how sad you were. It's about time we got to celebrate. Let Louis know we're just thrilled for both of you, he doesn’t need to worry. Except your father'll want to have some sort of chat with him about looking after you properly, I suppose, once he gets his mind round the idea. But we all love Louis, and you did bring him home to visit last year. We should have known, I suppose. Is this why… No, I'd better not ask, this call must be costing you a fortune. Send my love to all the boys and especially to Louis, and don't do anything else until you get home or I'll absolutely murder you. I love you!"
"I love you, too," says Liam automatically, and then she hangs up on him.
Liam has no idea what to do. He stares at his phone for a minute and then pockets it and walks back out to the couch. Everything in the honeymoon suite is pink and fluffy and it's a bit weird to see Louis and Zayn cuddled up under a pink blanket and sipping champagne together. It's a good thing Harry keeps falling into piles of money, Liam thinks, since this is two weddings he's helping to pay for, now.
"Called your mum?" Zayn asks, turning. Liam nods. Zayn wrinkles up his nose. "Didn't go well?"
"It went weird," says Liam. Louis scoots over on the couch a little bit and grabs Liam, dragging him down between Louis and Zayn.
"Tell me all about my new in-laws," Louis orders.
Liam laughs. "That's the thing. My mum is… happy for us?" He sounds a little apologetic when he says it, because he's not sure how Louis feels about getting the whole marriage thing erased immediately.
"Your mum is amazing," says Louis. "Mine called me an idiot on twitter."
"To be fair, you are a bit of an idiot on twitter," says Zayn.
Liam shrugs. "She seems excited I've gone and done something stupid because it must mean I've moved on now that… Um, moved on with my life. And she told me to tell you she's thrilled and you don't need to worry, but my dad might want to give you a bit of a lecture."
"About what?" Louis frowns. "Running off with his son?"
"Yeah, about… Oh god, she said something about treating me right. I'm really sorry."
Louis frowns for a moment, and then a delighted, slightly wicked smile breaks over his face. "Yeah?" he says. "Seriously?"
Liam hides his face in his hands. "I'm sorry. My parents are totally embarrassing."
"Hey," Louis chides. "Those are my new parents-in-law you're making fun of. I won't stand for it."
"She wants to throw a party," Liam groans. "What am I going to tell her? She's going to be so upset that I'm just a drunken idiot."
"Don't tell her," says Zayn. Liam elbows him in the side. "No, seriously! Just don't tell her. Let her throw her party and in, like, six months or something, when she's over it, tell her it didn't work out."
"I can't lie to my mum for that long," Liam says. "I can't lie to her at all!"
"Well, you can't tell her. She's been fretting over you for months." Now that he's been really unhelpful, Zayn seems to get bored, because he stands up and yawns and shrugs and scratches his stomach and then wanders off, presumably in search of Niall and the food.
Louis tugs on Liam's hand until Liam looks up at him. "We won't lie," says Louis. "Maybe we can just… find a better time to tell her than over the phone? My mum expects that phone call, the 'Hi mum, I've been a knob again' call. I could call her from prison and she'd just sigh. But yours isn't used to it, yet, so when we get back we'll go up to Wolverhampton, both of us, and let her know not to bother with the party. She'll be so cross with me, she won't remember to be cross with you."
"How have I managed to screw up our fake marriage?" Liam asks. "I'm sorry."
"If I have to have a screwed up fake marriage to someone, I'm glad it's you," says Louis. He leans forward and kisses Liam on the nose. Liam laughs, because Liam always laughs. "We'll fix it," Louis promises. "Now, help me come up with a prank on Zayn that won't end with the two of us drunk in bed together."
"Haven't you had enough pranks?" Liam asks fondly, but of course Louis hasn't, and of course Liam is going to help him.
The flight home is a lot more subdued. Zayn is hung over to a degree Liam's never seen before, and he spends most of it trying to sleep and swearing at Niall when he's too loud. Liam is supposed to sit with Louis, but Harry makes a joke about the newlyweds cuddling the whole flight back, and it's just the tiniest bit awkward, so Liam switches to sit next to Niall instead.
Niall's loud and hilarious, and it's particularly funny that he keeps accidentally waking Zayn up. When Liam looks over his shoulder, Louis and Harry have their heads together, conspiring over something.
"Don't fret," says Niall, elbowing Liam. "He still loves you best."
"I'm not – I wasn't – I was just making sure everyone was alright," Liam says awkwardly.
"Have you figured out how to get the whole thing undone?" Zayn asks, trying to squeeze his pillow into a more comfortable shape against the window.
"No," says Liam. He and Louis haven't talked about it much beyond a couple of muttered, "We'll have to do something"s. Louis doesn't seem that interested in fixing it, and Liam doesn't want to upset his mum. Obviously when they get back they'll have to actually figure out what to do.
"Weird," says Zayn. "So you decided it was just easier to be married?"
"Well, it hasn't been difficult so far," says Liam.
"You must be doing it wrong, then," says Niall, and then giggles at himself.
Liam shrugs. "We're not doing anything. We can just… carry on not doing anything until it all fixes itself, I suppose."
"Listen, mate, if I woke up married to Niall, I'd throw a fit over it," says Zayn. "Not just laugh and say 'oh that happens.' What is wrong with the two of you? That's what I'd like to know."
"What's wrong with being married to me?" Niall asks belligerently. He punches Zayn in the arm. "Hey! I'd be a sick husband!"
"I'd be happy to be married to you," says Liam pacifyingly.
Niall glares until Zayn holds up his hands in surrender. "Fine, fine. I'd be happy to be married to you, too. Weirdest bunch of friends I've ever had, seriously."
Zayn pretends to fall asleep, eyes closed and face turned toward the window, and Liam distracts Niall with a game of cards on his phone.
Nick does this thing where he plays really atrocious pop music on air and blames it on Liam. This is because Liam once made the mistake of telling Nick that he unironically enjoys pop music, so now it's always, "Here's Girls Aloud, just for our engineer, Liam!" or "That was S-Club bringing it on back for you, Liam, darling." Nick is kind of an arsehole.
So Liam's expecting all kinds of mockery and probably early Britney Spears when he walks in on Tuesday. Nick looks hungover – the best part of the morning show is that Nick is always miserable, Liam can't help but enjoy it, it's Nick's own fault – and he sticks his tongue out at Liam and then bangs on the window a couple of times gesturing furiously for Liam to come in and join him.
"Everyone will want to switch on our webcam," Nick says loudly into the mic. "Because Liam is back, and you're all always going on about it on twitter, so here's what you wanted. Liam, do a twirl."
"I'm not gonna do a twirl," says Liam, shaking his head.
"All I want to talk about," says Nick, "are those pictures you twittered while you were away. I gave you four days off and you abused them, Liam! You are famous for not approving of my late nights and crazy parties and now you've gone to Vegas and – Do you have any news to share with us?"
"Uh," says Liam, wincing. "No?"
"Can whoever's in charge of the radio station's twitter retweet that picture Louis tweeted, please?" Nick says loudly. "Liam's got news. Liam, tell everyone your news."
Liam can't help but glance at the webcam apologetically. "It's not just my news," he hedges, and hopes no one can really hear him because he's not miced.
"Did you retweet it?" Nick asks someone on the other side of the desk. "Good. Okay, now that we're all looking at that photo and shrieking, Liam Payne, did you get married?"
Everyone around the studio has come to stand around and laugh. Liam can't entirely blame them. He shrugs helplessly.
"Well?" Nick asks. "Well?"
"Yes," says Liam, and everyone starts clapping. He sort of wishes he could crawl under the desk. "But I mean, it was just –"
"And I've met him, and I thought you two were adorable together, but you never said anything!" Nick shouts into his mic. "How dare you! Just because I'm a cynic who doesn't believe in love and is going to mock you endlessly—"
"That's why," Liam says, because it's easier than trying to explain that the whole thing was a joke.
"—I'm your employer! You'll pay for this. And now, by special request for the happy couple, here's Celine Dion singing that wretched Titanic song. If you don't like it, blame Liam."
"Unfair," Liam says, but Nick's already put the track on.
"I would never have given you permission to take four days off if I'd known you were going to come back happy and married," says Nick. "No one here is allowed to be happily in a relationship. We are all disaffected hipsters. You signed a contract."
"I'm not – It's complicated," Liam says. His mum listens to Nick's show sometimes, and Liam can't risk telling Nick what really happened and having his mum find out that he lied to her (accidentally) when Nick starts taking the piss on air. Anyway the webcam has sound; Liam learned that the hard way.
"No fair being adorable," Nick repeats. "When am I invited to dinner with all your wretched friends so we can all mock you?"
"Never," says Liam.
Nick pulls out his phone and begins texting. "I'll just invite myself then, shall I? Let's see, tweeting at Louis…"
"Oh, god," says Liam. "This is all a weird excuse to sit around staring at Harry, isn't it?"
"You'll never prove that," says Nick. "Don't you have some wires to go and do thingies to?"
Liam sighs disapprovingly, because Nick knows perfectly well what Liam does and just refuses to use any of the proper words. Nick ignores his sighing, too.
"When you get a minute, bring me some tea," says Nick loudly, even though that's definitely not at all Liam's job. "And let me see your ring. You have got one, haven't you? Why aren't you wearing it?"
"I was rather hoping to avoid having to show people," Liam mutters, but he fishes the ring out of his pocket. He bites his lip and slips it on his finger. It felt a bit odd not wearing it, honestly.
"Disgusting," says Nick. "Your face is disgusting, don't you dare look so adorable about such a tacky ring."
Liam shrugs and tries not to smile. The ring is a bit tacky, but Louis is a bit tacky, so it makes sense.
"Get out of my sight," Nick orders, pointing imperiously. Liam pulls a face at him, and Nick tries very hard not to laugh. Liam goes off to fix things and definitely not to make Nick tea, because that's not his job. At least, he won't bring Nick tea until the whining gets completely out of control, which will probably take another ten minutes at least.
Louis calls four times while Liam's at work, and Liam doesn't answer for fear Nick will snatch his phone and put it on the radio somehow, which he did once with Liam's mum, who helpfully told all of their listeners that Liam's sisters used to dress him up and make him pretend to marry the neighbor's daughter. Nick loves Liam's mum, and Liam hasn't got the heart to tell her why.
Liam calls Louis back on his way to the tube. Liam's exhausted; he hasn't recovered from their weekend away, really, let alone getting up for the morning radio shift.
"The thing is," says Louis, in his falsely-cheerful voice. "The thing is, I may have forgotten to pay my rent in order to buy the ticket to Las Vegas."
"I thought Harry bought the tickets," says Liam.
"No, I mean, the hotel and everything. So it's possible I got home and my flatmates had moved all my things out to the curb."
"Oh no," says Liam.
"It's alright. I don't have very many things," says Louis.
"No, I mean – Harry hasn't got a spare room anymore, what are you going to…" Liam starts.
There is a long, awkward pause. "The thing is," says Louis, and Liam can hear him over the phone, smiling his brightest and falsest smile. "Well, the thing is, we're married. So technically, I think, half of your flat is mine."
"What," says Liam, tripping over absolutely nothing on the pavement. "Hang on."
"Just for a little while!" Louis says quickly. "Because I can't crash with Zayn, can I, not right before the wedding, and Harry's got Niall staying with him at the mo, and your flat was big enough for you and Dani – I mean, it must be big enough for two people. Just temporarily."
Liam has never actually had the urge to rub his temples with his fingers before. But it's suddenly something he has to do, because his forehead hurts and all of this seems so completely mad. "It's going to be really difficult to explain to people," Liam says finally, "that we got married by mistake, and then you moved in, also by mistake."
"It's a hilarious prank," says Louis. "By the universe. On you."
"Oh god," says Liam. He flaps his hand around a little and nearly knocks over the coffee of a girl walking past. "I mean, obviously you can't sleep in the park, but—"
"Oh, good," says Louis. "I'm sat on the pavement by your flat with my stuff."
Liam wishes he were better at being angry about things. "My sofa doesn't even pull out into a bed!" he says.
"We'll make do," says Louis confidently, and rings off.
It wouldn't be so weird, Liam tells himself, if he and Louis hadn't just accidentally got married. Otherwise, on a normal Tuesday, if Louis called and said he'd forgotten to pay his rent and could he stay on Liam's sofa for a while, Liam would have said yes, of course. So this shouldn't be any different, and just because Liam's mum is going to take it wrong, and Nick is going to take it wrong, and Harry and Zayn and Niall are going to take the piss forever, is no reason for Liam to stop being a nice person.
The universe could back off making Liam feel ridiculous for a little while, though.
"Wow," says Louis.
Liam rather defensively puts his hands in his pockets. "Danielle took all the… You know, all the girly things with her when she left," he says. "The vases and flowers and… Soap."
His flat is a bit empty, and he's been too busy to replace all the things that were apparently Danielle's, like pillows for the sofa or nice towels. And everything else… Well.
"I had a bit of trouble getting rid of things that reminded me too much of her," Liam says, mostly to the floor.
Louis doesn't say anything, just picks up a copy of Vogue that's been left on Liam's kitchen table for the last four months, and nods to himself. There are empty picture frames on the bookshelf. Liam hasn't got many books, actually, so all the shelves that used to be full of Danielle's knickknacks are empty and a bit dusty.
"It's a bit like a funeral, mate," says Louis finally. "Or like… What's that bit in Great Expectations, with the wedding cake that's been sat out for a hundred years?"
"I don't know," says Liam, because he never did the reading at school if he didn't have to.
"Well, I'm not going to let you turn into Miss Havisham," says Louis. "No wonder you were up for a drink and a fake wedding. We should all have been really worried about you, shouldn't we?"
"No," says Liam. "I just haven't got around to cleaning the place up lately."
Louis gives him a pitying look, which isn't fair.
"At least I pay my rent!" Liam protests. "You're a guest, so you don't get to make fun."
"I'm your husband," says Louis, just a bit mocking. "So I can't have you being some kind of tragic creep."
"You aren't really," says Liam. Louis has left his boxes by the door – he really hasn't got much stuff, just a suitcase of clothes and a random assortment of odd little books and photos of his sisters – and starts walking around collecting everything that is obviously Danielle's. There's the issue of Vogue, and a lipstick that's rolled mostly under the sofa, and a note left on the fridge that says Get milk x X in handwriting that is certainly not Liam's. Liam makes a little protesting noise, because Louis hasn't even asked for permission, but Louis ignores him and makes a pile.
"All of this," says Louis, "has to go."
Liam sighs. "I'll go and get a box, I can post it back to her—"
"Liam, she doesn't want an old lippy and a magazine from six months ago," says Louis. "They go in the bin."
"They aren't mine!" Liam protests. "I can't just throw them away." Louis raises an eyebrow at him, frowning hard. Liam is aware that he's being ridiculous, but he's managed to avoid letting anyone know how ridiculous he was being for a long time, now, and it's a bit painful to be called out on it all of a sudden. She's really gone, of course she's really, really gone, he isn't even crying over it anymore, but he's deliberately avoided getting rid of all the last bits of her.
"If you can't, I will," Louis threatens. He holds his stack over the bin and gives Liam a stern look.
"But… It'll be a bit lonely, is all," Liam says. He sounds like a child, and he can't stop himself.
Louis drops everything in the bin. "It won't be lonely if I'm here," says Louis. "Don't be silly." He walks over and rubs his hand up and down Liam's arm for a moment, until Liam looks up and tries a smile. Then Louis leans over and pinches Liam, hard.
"Ow!" Liam says.
"That's for wallowing," says Louis. "God, we should all have come over months ago and held an exorcism but no; Zayn was sure you were 'coping.'"
"I was!" Liam protests. "I mean, I am."
"People who are coping don't get drunkenly married to me," says Louis. "Shall I call for takeaway? You can pay for it."
"Oh, can I?" Liam asks, trying for sarcasm.
"Yes," says Louis, pinching him again. "Later you can cry on my shoulder on the sofa and that'll be the end of it. No more terrible life decisions because you're stuck in the past."
Liam sort of thinks Louis is referring to himself as a terrible life decision, and Liam's fairly sure that he's wrong; Liam didn't decide to drunkenly marry Louis because he missed Danielle. He did it because Louis wanted him to, and Louis was smiling and egging him on, and Liam would do – apparently – literally anything that Louis asked him for. But Louis's already on the phone and anyway that might be an even more embarrassing conversation than the one they're already having, so Liam just sighs and starts looking for clean plates to eat on.
Liam offers to sleep on the sofa and Louis insists over and over that he'll be fine, he's slept plenty of less comfortable places. "It's not really for sleeping, though," Liam says. "Or – I can sleep there, you can—"
"Shut up," says Louis fondly, and Liam gives up trying to persuade Louis of anything.
Louis doesn't really have any stuff, but by the time Liam gets home from work the next day, his flat is somehow full of Louis. There are dishes in the sink, for one thing, and a hoodie and a pair of trainers left on the floor. Louis's stuck some of his photos of his sisters on the empty spots on Liam's bookshelves. Liam tidies a little, because he knows Louis's things have a tendency to expand until they fill up every empty space in a flat. But he leaves the photos where they are, because it's nice having some pictures up again.
Louis texts a couple of times, asking Liam to come hang out at the pub where he works. Liam hasn't got anything else to do, and he can't really pretend he has, since Louis'll just come home and find him asleep on the couch watching old movies.
It's a dark, stuffy old pub, the sort of place Louis would never go for fun, but the customers like Louis a lot because he's so loud and ridiculous, and he flirts with all of them, especially the old ladies. "Liam!" says Louis brightly, and leans over the bar to kiss Liam on the cheek. "We got married this weekend," Louis tells everyone in the pub, and there are a couple of half-hearted claps. It's early afternoon, though, so the place is mostly empty and the people who are drinking aren't that interested in Louis.
"Speaking of which," says Liam. "When are we going up to Wolverhampton to tell my mum that that's not what happened?"
"I work this weekend," says Louis. "And next weekend is Zayn's wedding. Weekend after that?"
Three weeks is a long time to spend accidentally married. "And in the meantime, we should probably work out how to undo it," Liam says.
Louis's smile flickers a little. "Of course," he says.
"I mean—" Liam says, feeling a bit like he's insulted Louis accidentally. "What if you wanted to go on a date? It'd be a bit awkward to explain you had a husband."
"I think I can live without a date for three weeks," Louis snorts.
"I just meant—"
"Oh!" says Louis excitedly. "Nick tweeted at me. He's coming out to dinner on Friday with everyone. It'll be fun to watch him try to flirt with Harry."
Liam groans. "He's my boss. He absolutely can not shag Harry. I'll die."
"I'm not sure you can stop it from happening, to be honest," says Louis. "It's one of those things, those ships passing in the night thing. One of them is a boat and one's an iceberg. Not sure who's what."
"There's going to be a horrible collision and I'm going to end up in the middle of it," Liam says glumly. "Nick hates being happy. If Harry makes him happy he'll try and ruin it, and then Harry'll think it's my fault."
"On the bright side, it might be hilarious," says Louis. "This would be a good time for you to let me give you a free drink."
Liam's mouth quirks up into half a smile. "But last time I let you do that…" he starts.
"Right," says Louis, looking at the ring on Liam's finger. "Good point."
"Next time," says Liam, trying to sound very serious, "we might even do something foolish."
Louis giggles. "Us? Never."
Louis tosses and turns on the sofa, and the thing is, he's loud. He sighs a lot and moves around and every time he does, Liam wakes up and worries. It happened less the first couple of nights he was sleeping there but by Thursday Liam hasn't got any sleep because he's fretting over Louis.
Liam finally gets up and opens the bedroom door. "Hey," he says.
There is a long silence in the dark living room. "Sorry," says Louis's voice. "Did I wake you?"
Liam doesn't bothering answering. "Why don't you just come and sleep in here? My bed is big enough for two people. We shared in Las Vegas, and I can't sleep if you can't sleep."
"It wouldn't be weird?" Louis asks.
Liam shrugs, and he's sleepy, so it takes him a minute to remember Louis can't see him. "No weirder than us sharing Harry's bed that one time, remember? Come on; it's cold."
There is another minute of nothing, and then a lot of rustling and Louis walks over, carrying the blankets round his shoulders like a cape. "Really?" Louis says.
"Shut up," says Liam, and crawls back into bed. After a moment Louis crawls in on the other side. Liam was warm enough before, with just his duvet, and now there's Louis and all his blankets.
"I suppose we have done this loads of times before," Louis says. Liam doesn’t know who he's trying to convince. "Okay. Well. Okay, good night."
Liam just sighs at him and rolls over and pulls the duvet up over his head. He thinks maybe it'll be strange, trying to fall asleep with the sound of Louis's breathing right in his ear, but he's asleep before he can worry about it.
Louis is a snuggler. Liam knows this, because he's slept with Louis before, but it's different somehow to wake up with Louis in his bed, wrapped around him. Louis works nights and Liam does the morning shift. Liam needs to get up but Louis won't need to be up for ages.
"Louis," Liam whispers. He can't really sneak out from under Louis because Louis's got an arm around him and his leg hooked over Liam's. Liam's pretty grateful that he's wearing pyjama bottoms, because it was strange, in Las Vegas, when they were mostly naked. There's also the issue of how Liam's always half-hard in the morning, and Louis's hand creeping toward his crotch isn't actually helping that slightly awkward situation.
"Hey, Louis," Liam repeats, louder. Louis wrinkles up his nose and declines to wake up. Liam has one arm free, so he uses it to poke Louis's cheek. Louis is dribbling a bit on his shoulder. The first poke is gentle, but Liam's starting to suspect Louis is a bit awake, so the second poke is a bit more deliberate. Louis turns his head and pretends to bite Liam's finger without opening his eyes.
"As much as I like this cuddle," Liam says, "I've got to get up and shower."
"It's the middle of the night," Louis mumbles. "Shhh."
"This is when I go to work," Liam agrees. "You can complain to Nick when you see him later."
"Boo," says Louis. He opens his eyes, and Liam has never noticed how long Louis's lashes look, but from this close they're ridiculous. Louis's got quite a sharp angle to his chin, actually, and a bit of gold stubble. "I suppose, since you pay the rent, you'd better go, then."
"Feel free to offer to pitch in," Liam says.
Louis tilts his face up and kisses Liam's cheek. "Work hard, and have a good day, darling." Liam laughs. Louis looks disgustingly proud of himself as he rolls away enough for Liam to get out of bed.
"You're ridiculous," says Liam.
"You love it," says Louis. "You love all this proper domestic shit."
It's odd how Liam doesn't mind being teased as long as it's Louis doing it. "Shut up," Liam says, because he does like all this proper domestic shit. He'd nearly forgotten how much he likes it, although it would obviously be different – sillier, louder – with Louis than it ever was with Danielle.
"Go away," says Louis. "I don't have to be awake for hours yet."
Liam would like to be the sort of person who would retaliate for that comment. But he's not, so he just grumbles to himself and makes sure he isn't loud while he gets ready for work.
Nick gives Liam these looks that are both judgmental and suspicious. Liam is sat next to Louis and smiling and trying to look however it is a married person looks, so that Nick won't realize they aren't married and then go on the air and shout about it next week. He hates being tricked, particularly by Liam. Nick, in fact, prides himself on his ability to see through Liam when he thinks Liam's lying.
Liam had rather hoped Nick would be too distracted by Harry to look much at Liam, and Nick does, in fact, spend a lot of dinner teasing Harry about all kinds of things. Harry laughs and blushes and does this thing where he bats his eyes a little too much. Nick stares at him like he can't figure out if Harry's flirting or not. Liam could tell him that Harry always, always is, but he doesn't really want to help Nick get into Harry's trousers.
About the time Nick is finishing – and complaining about – his wine, he turns to Liam and sort of explodes. "Okay!" he says, waving his hands and spilling his wine a bit. "Enough with the being on your best behavior, it's driving me mad."
Liam has no idea what that means, and he reflexively turns to Louis, who also shrugs.
"That!" says Nick. "For god's sake. You're being all weird about not touching each other in front of me. You don't have to. I won't shrivel up and die if I see someone else being happy."
"Oh, oh no," says Liam, eyes going wide. "That's not—"
"Yeah," says Zayn helpfully, mouth half full. "Go ahead and kiss. You've been staring at each other all night."
"We have not," says Liam, giving Zayn a reproachful look. Sometimes Zayn's sense of humor is the absolute worst.
"Never seen newlyweds sit so far apart," says Nick, and he sounds like he's just on the edge of suspicious.
Louis pulls the face he makes when he's thinking of a really outrageous lie. "Well, you see," he starts.
Liam doesn't entirely trust Louis's ability to lie to Nick, because Nick is smart, and Louis gets confused by his own ridiculous stories and… Well, it's not like they haven't played around loads of times. Liam slips his hand into Louis's and squeezes, which he means as a warning. It certainly distracts Louis from whatever he was going to say. He turns to give Liam a curious look, and Liam leans forward and kisses him.
It's the driest, quickest brush of their mouths against each other; they've done more during games of Truth or Dare. Louis still looks a little like Liam just smacked him over the head with a board.
"God, Liam," says Harry, barely hiding his giggles. "Don't be coy about it."
Liam gives Harry his most annoyed look, because now Niall is giggling, too, and Zayn is watching them with undisguised glee. Nick still looks on the fence about the whole thing, unconvinced, maybe.
"Liam," Louis says, and it doesn't sound like the beginning to a longer conversation or anything, it just sounds like Louis's a little worried that Liam's been replaced by an alien or something.
"It's not like we've never done this before," says Liam honestly, because sometimes Louis licks people's faces just for fun, and sometimes Louis gets drunk and kisses whoever's nearest, and Liam's been nearest a couple of times when Harry was out. Anyway, they kissed at the wedding, even if they were drunk.
Louis still stares at him for a second, blank faced, and then he blinks and suddenly he's regular Louis, grinning like it's all a great joke. "Good point," he says, and tugs on Liam's hand so suddenly that Liam nearly falls into his lap. And then Louis's mouth is on his, kissing him properly, and it's all…
It's all a bit overwhelming, actually. Because Louis isn't drunk, so he isn't playing around. It ought to be for show, but Liam can't quite concentrate on that because Louis has an excellent mouth that he knows how to use, as it turns out. Liam can't quite get his brain beyond the fact that he's kissing Louis, or Louis is kissing him, because Liam isn't really kissing him back properly, he's just sort of letting himself be kissed and trying – and failing – not to feel tremendously confused by it. There's just Louis, and how hot and wet and forceful his mouth is, and his hand tightening around Liam's, and his other hand on Liam's hip, keeping him from tipping over into Louis's lap, and—
Liam honestly doesn't even hear Zayn's wolf-whistle for a minute. Not until Louis breaks away from kissing Liam to turn and give Zayn a stern look, and Liam realizes he hasn't been breathing, and other people are watching them, and they're in a restaurant. Liam doesn't much like kissing in public, particularly not like that, only he'd sort of lost control of the whole thing and forgotten he could have done anything about it.
"Jesus," says Nick. "I don't need to see what you got up to after the ceremony. I take it all back. Hands to yourselves and separate chairs, please."
Liam's not entirely sure what to do with his face. He's staring at Louis, and Louis isn't looking at him, he's looking at the table. Liam's breathing a little hard and he can feel that his face has gone red, but…
But the thing is, Liam can't figure out how to feel.
He's not going to be able to work it out with everyone staring at him. Liam sits back in his own chair, pulling his hands back carefully. His instinct is to cross his arms and turn away and spend a minute pulling himself together, but that's going to look strange. He forces a little laugh instead and says, "Sorry, right," and tries to glare Niall into hiding his snickering better. Zayn's grinning at him, and there's a wicked promise of teasing in his eyes. Harry's giving Louis a look that Liam can't read at all, but that's not unusual.
Louis's just looking at the table. Liam feels bad for having embarrassed him, or having made him embarrass himself, especially because Louis's just doing it to help Liam spare his mum a shock.
"Ugh, both of your faces," says Nick, rolling his eyes, and then he tugs sharply on one of Harry's curls – Nick hates it when Harry pays too much attention to other people – and Harry laughs and bats his hands away.
Liam waits for the conversation to move on before he pats Louis's leg and says quietly, "Sorry, I… Thanks." Louis gives him a look that's half reproach and half disgust that Liam could be so thick.
"Don’t be stupid; it's all my fault anyway," says Louis.
"I keep telling you, it wasn't—"
Nick says loudly, "Why do you all whisper like you're kissing each other's ears?"
"We don't!" Liam protests. Harry leans over like he's going to whisper to Nick and instead licks his ear and then bursts into giggles when Nick swears and jerks away from him. Louis pats Liam's thigh reassuringly and then turns to argue with Zayn about the wedding ceremony a bit.
Really, Liam thinks, the whole thing could have gone a lot worse.
It's probably because of the kissing; Liam hasn’t kissed anyone in a serious way in a long time, and to go from that, to snuggling up with someone in bed, is confusing his body. Anyway, that's what he would say if he planned to explain himself to anyone. He's rather hoping to avoid it.
What he can't avoid, though, is that having Louis in his bed is confusing his cock just a bit. Because there's someone in the bed and there's snuggling and there's been kissing, and Liam's body apparently expects to follow that up with a bit of fooling around. And he can't even just stick his hand down his shorts and deal with the mild inconvenience of an erection when it isn't warranted, because Louis is in his bed, sleepily checking his email on his phone.
Louis sighs and shifts and his legs are brushing against Liam's and Liam can't quite stop a little gasp as he shifts away. He tells himself sternly to think of his mum, or football scores, or maths lessons he never really understood from school. But then Louis rolls over so he's looking at Liam, and Liam's heart – entirely without his permission – beats harder and faster in his ears.
"I need to—Excuse me," Liam says, rolling over and away from him. He'll just go and have a wank in the bathroom, and it's all sort of miserably teenage and not really the sort of thing Liam was expecting to have to deal with after he got married.
"What?" says Louis, yawning. Then his eyes go wide. "Liam, I knew I was exciting to share a bed with, but—"
"Shut up," says Liam, laughing and trying not to let himself turn red. "It's not you. It's… there's just someone in my bed so..."
"You haven't got a very picky dick," says Louis, snickering.
Liam, sitting on the edge of the bed and trying not to hunch too awkwardly, hits Louis in the face with a pillow. "Shut up. Usually when I'm sharing a bed with someone who shoved their tongue down my throat earlier in the day, I plan to have sex. It's not you, it's… it's… Circumstances!"
Louis pretends to take that seriously for a moment. "Oh, obviously," he says. "Because all the other times we've shared a couch, or a floor—"
"We weren't married," Liam says. "You weren't snuggling up to me in my bed in my flat, like… Like…"
Louis looks properly serious. It's a bit strange on him. He sits up and runs a hand through his hair and gives Liam a considering look. "Like a couple," he says.
"Well," says Liam helplessly. "We sort of are! Anyway, I'll just go and take care of it. You can play music or something."
Louis stares at him and then dissolves into giggles. "You're afraid I'll hear you?"
"That would be really awkward!"
"But this—" Louis says, working himself into hysterics. "This isn't awkward at all. And then you'll come back and I'll just be lying here, thinking about you wanking in the bathroom, and then I'll need a wank, and you'll be thinking about it."
"Well, don't think about it," Liam orders.
"That's like saying 'don't think of elephants.' Now all I can think of is elephants. Or in this case, your cock."
"What a deeply weird thing that is to say," says Liam. His cheeks have gone bright red; there's no help for it.
"But complimentary!" Louis points out.
Liam laughs, but it's half a groan. He leans over and hides his face against the other pillows. "I hate you," he says, not very convincingly.
"You love me," says Louis seriously. "You fancy me, and you need to go and have a wank over how incredibly sexy it is to have me in your bed with you. I wish I could tell Grimmy."
"Go ahead, he thinks we're married," says Liam.
"Hey," says Louis, putting his hand on Liam's hip. Liam edges away from him; that's entirely too close to having Louis's hand on his cock, which isn't something he can think about right now. "Stop it, come here," Louis says. He puts his arm round Liam's waist and drags him back onto the bed, and Liam doesn't want to squirm away, because it's rude, but he also doesn’t want to deal with a really painful erection while he's in bed with his best friend.
"Stop, let go—" Liam's voice goes squeaky in a terribly embarrassing way. Then Louis startles him by kissing Liam, and he forgets to move away anymore. Louis is really a very good kisser. He's insistent and a little rough, like he's so desperate to kiss that he can't control himself. It's insanely sexy; Liam wasn't expecting it and so he just lets it happen. And while that's distracting him, Louis works his hand into Liam's shorts.
Liam's squeaking, confused noise turns into a groan. Oh god, it feels nice to have someone else's hand on his cock; he'd forgotten. Louis closes his fingers around Liam's dick, thumb rubbing back and forth, and Liam's hips push into Louis's hand without his permission.
"Louis, wait, what," Liam tries, but it's mostly lost against Louis's mouth.
"Just let me," Louis whispers. He starts moving his hand and it feels so good that Liam can't think of a reason to argue. He groans again, involuntarily, and Louis laughs against his mouth. That's sort of amazing; he's always thought Louis's laugh was one of the best parts of him. Louis keeps laughing while they touch, though, while they kiss, and while Louis is speeding his hand up, and Liam can feel his brain going fuzzy around the edges…
Louis rolls them over, so he's mostly on top of Liam, and Liam doesn't really know what to do with his hands; they're on Louis's arse and he doesn't seem to mind. Liam can't keep his hips still. It's been a long enough time since he had sex with anyone else, and Louis is good at this, even at a funny angle. He can keep his hand moving and suck on Liam's neck at the same time, like he's been doing it for years. Probably he has, with other people.
Louis tightens his grip a little, moves his thumb more, something, and it makes Liam's legs feel a little weak and his mind go blank. He pushes his heels down and arches his hips up and Louis laughs at him again, breath puffing hotly against Liam's neck. Liam shivers and gasps and Louis kisses him again, teeth dragging across Liam's lower lip, hand speeding up.
Liam grunts and shudders and comes all over Louis's hand. It's so different with someone else than with his own hand, he can't breathe, he can't move. Louis strokes him a couple more times, before he wipes his hand off on Liam's shorts. Liam will have to do something about that.
"See?" says Louis cheerfully. He rolls off Liam and sprawls next to him on the bed. He's grinning like he's just won an argument.
"See what?" Liam manages. He feels a little like he was just hit by a bus. He can't imagine moving ever again.
"You fancy me, really," Louis says.
Liam tries to laugh, but it sounds more like an exhausted snort. "I can't believe you just did that."
"We're married," Louis says, shrugging. "You kissed me earlier, might I remind you."
"Well… But…" Liam's too tired to argue. "That was different," he says finally. There's a whole conversation that they need to have, about exactly how much naked touching they plan to do, but all Liam can think is that they got married, and then they moved in, and now they're sort of having sex. His mum isn't going to understand any of it. Harry's not going to understand it, and Harry understands all the stupid things Louis and Liam decide to do.
"Sorry; did you not like it?" Louis asks. He's smirking. Liam wishes he had the energy to reach over and smack him for it.
"I just wasn't expecting it," Liam says honestly. He turns his head to look at Louis, trying to blink himself awake again. "Uh, thank you? Shall I… reciprocate?"
Louis laughs at him. "I can handle myself," he says. He shoves his shorts down and he's hard, which is either flattering or confusing, Liam's not sure. "Unless you want me to go into the bathroom so you can turn up some loud music and not listen," Louis teases.
Liam laughs. It should be very, very weird, watching Louis tip his head back and start running his hand up and down his own cock while Liam is lying there next to him. But that seems ungrateful, so Liam just leans over and kisses Louis's shoulder. Louis grins at Liam and bites his lower lip – he certainly doesn't seem to think it's odd. Liam reaches over and puts his hand on Louis's hip, rubbing his fingers back and forth and wondering a little bit at how different Louis's skin feels to anyone else Liam has touched naked in bed. His skin is soft but his legs are hairy, and when Liam's fingers stray toward the hair around the base of his cock Louis makes a groaning noise he tries to bite back.
"Don't help," Louis says shortly, voice tight, but Liam feels a bit selfish, so he drags his blunt fingernails back and forth across Louis's hip, and then Louis curls forward with a gasp and comes. Louis's face is red and his eyes are closed. Liam sort of wants to kiss him again, for no particular reason he can work out.
Instead, Liam makes himself sit up and grab a tissue from next to the bed, so he can wipe off Louis's stomach. His own shorts are sticky and he can't possibly sleep in them, so Liam kicks them off. Sleeping naked is really more Harry's thing; Liam needs to go and find a clean pair, but that seems like a lot of work.
"I think I like being married," says Louis around a yawn. He looks at the ring on his finger for a minute with a funny, fond expression.
Liam laughs. It's strange they're both still wearing the rings, really, except Liam doesn't like to take his off, either. "You could have sex without being married," he points out. "I'm fairly sure you have."
"Yeah, but not—Never mind," says Louis. He turns and kisses Liam on the nose. It's unexpected, and Liam wrinkles up his nose and laughs again. "As long as we're stuck together, we can always give each other a hand," Louis says. "It'll be more convincing this way."
"I suppose," says Liam. "Like, our body language and stuff."
"Yeah," says Louis. "Now shh, I'm going to sleep."
"Dead romantic, you are," says Liam, trying not to laugh again. Louis just rolls over so he's plastered against Liam's side, arm across Liam's chest. And it's not quite romantic, but it'll do.
It should be awkward, waking up in bed with Louis after they've just had sex, but it's just like it has been. Louis is cuddled around Liam and Liam enjoys it more than he ought to. Liam doesn't need to get up for work, so he closes his eyes and dozes for a while, listening to Louis breathe.
Liam isn't completely stupid; he's aware this isn't something he ought to get used to. Louis's going to find another flat, and they're going up to see Liam's mum in a couple of weeks, and then they won't be doing this anymore. It was heartbreaking when Danielle left, because Liam was so comfortable with her. He can't really afford to be comfortable with Louis in the same way.
Louis's supposed to be his best friend. He likes to snuggle and kiss and apparently to fool around, but it would be rude to try and shove him into all the empty, lonely spots Liam's' got inside his chest. It wouldn't be fair to Louis at all, really.
Liam's brain tells him that he ought to do something noble, like tell Louis from now on Liam will sleep on the couch. But he doesn't know how he'd explain it without telling Louis that Liam's feeling awfully attached to him, and he can't imagine that conversation ending with anything but Louis pouting, "But don't you want to be attached to me?" Louis doesn't love the way Liam does; Louis has infinite affection for everyone and he doesn't mix up touching with being attached the way Liam does.
"What?" Louis asks, voice gravely and slow.
"Nothing," says Liam, feeling guilty even though he's not lying. It's nothing important.
"Are you – Was it –" Louis stops and yawns. "Are you sorry?"
His tone is light and it takes Liam a second to work out what he means. "Oh, about last night? No. I mean… should I be?" This would all be easier if Louis doesn't want to do it again. Liam'll have a reason to go and sleep on the couch. He can stop worrying over how to explain it. It would be a little painful, but Liam wouldn't mind.
"No," says Louis definitely. He's waking up, Liam can tell, because Louis's fingers are starting to wander around on Liam's hip. That's inconvenient, if they aren't going to have sex again, because Liam's always up for it first thing in the morning. "I mean, why not? We're married. It isn't hurting anyone."
"It's not exactly anything I expected to do with a mate," says Liam.
"Who better than a mate?" Louis argues. "Some stranger?"
Liam laughs. "That's not what I meant."
Louis rolls over on his side. He's looking over Liam, hand wandering around on Liam's chest, and Liam has to remind himself to breathe normally when he can feel his pulse picking up. "Not to make it weird," Louis says, "but it's been a while for you, yeah? God, it has been for me. But as long as you've got someone here, and your dick isn't picky, why don't we make the most of it?"
"Absolutely not weird," Liam agrees, a little sarcastically. This is where he ought to say that they shouldn't, and it's a bad idea, and he'll move to the couch. If he doesn't say it now, he's not going to.
"It'll be fun," Louis whines.
Louis's hand is awfully close to Liam's dick again. "It will be, but – Is it smart?" Liam manages.
"Dunno," says Louis. "Since when do we do anything that's smart?"
Liam laughs, and Louis rolls on top of him and kisses him, and no, Liam isn't really going to object to any of this. He doesn't want to. He wants this, and he just won't let himself get too attached to anything. Liam can manage it for a week or two.
"Tell me," says Louis, kissing Liam's jaw, "what constitutes weird."
Liam doesn't say All of this. "Dunno," he says. "I guess… I'll know it when we get there?"
"Serious query," says Louis, pushing himself up. His shoulders are quite nice; Liam's not the sort to notice his mate's shoulders usually, but now Louis is naked and lying on top of him it's quite obvious. Louis grins. "Would it be weird to offer to suck your cock?"
Liam chokes on nothing at all. It nearly hurts how quickly his cock gets hard thinking about it. Obviously that's something he couldn't manage on his own and it's been a long time, and Louis's mouth looks red already from kissing Liam.
"That's a yes?" Louis says hopefully.
Liam nods, still not quite able to breathe. Louis kisses his cheek and then pushes himself down so he's kneeling over Liam's hips. Not pushing his hips up toward Louis's mouth is the hardest thing Liam's done in years.
"Wait—" Liam says, grabbing Louis's arm. Liam pushes himself up on his elbow. "I didn't – Last night you – and I didn't – I mean, I owe you." He's a little rushed and embarrassed. Naked conversations with Louis weren't anything he's ever thought he'd have.
Louis tilts his head curiously. "Have you got the vaguest idea how to suck cock?"
Liam can feel himself turning bright red. "No. But I'm sure I could figure it out."
"That's what I like best about you, Liam," Louis says cheerfully. "You try hard. Shall I show you how to do this, and then you can give it a go?"
He's teasing, but… "Yes," says Liam determinedly.
Louis's face changes, flickers slightly through surprise, and then back to affectionate. "Well, if you insist," he says. Then he ducks his head and takes Liam into his mouth with a finesse and practice that Liam's never going to be able to reciprocate later, but he's certainly going to try.
"You're disgusting," says Nick on Monday morning. Liam has tea for himself and a tea for Nick from Starbucks in paper cups, because Liam is a lot nicer than Nick is. Of course, instead of Nick's name, his paper cup says Dirty Hipster, but he won't notice. "I should never have let you take that holiday. Now look at you. Coming over all smug and happy."
"I'll just drink your tea, shall I?" Liam says.
Nick snatches it away from him and sticks his tongue out. That's how Liam can tell Grimmy isn't really cross with him. Not that he ever is, he just likes to bluster and be a bit of a twat. "Harry agrees with me," says Nick. "He says you two are all over each other and being obnoxious."
"Why are you talking to Harry about me?" Liam asks, turning his computer on. Nick hates this part, where Liam does actual work and Nick can't tease him about it.
"He's teaching me to cook," says Nick.
Liam puts his tea down and turns to give Nick a look.
Nick, who is never embarrassed by any of the stupid things he says or does, actually pinks up. "What?" he says. "Shut up. No one asked you. Do you think he means anything by it? He doesn't, does he? He couldn't. He's a child. Anyway, I don't care. I've lived this long without cooking. I don't care, anyway. Shut up."
Liam's worked for Grimmy for the better part of a year, and he's never seen him sound like that before. "Are you seriously trying to trick my friend into dating you by asking for cooking lessons?" Liam asks.
"Shh!" says Nick frantically, waving his hands a bit. "No! Of course not. Maybe. Why? Do you think that would work?"
The wretched part is that Liam's sure that will work. Harry's actually not difficult to get into bed at all, and he likes Nick, and he loves showing off his cookery skills. "Go away," says Liam. "I have work to do."
"I'm sorry we can't all be disgustingly happily married, like you," says Grimmy, and stomps off.
Liam allows himself a smug little smile at that, because he knows it'll drive Nick mad. For an accidental, drunk, ridiculous marriage, it's worked out really well so far.
Louis has a night off from work. "Shall we go out tonight?" Louis says. "Free drinks at my pub."
Liam's tired from being up early, and just sort of life in general. "You go ahead," he says. "I think I'll just sit on the sofa and watch a film or something. Go to bed early."
"Boring!" says Louis. "Shall I make popcorn, then?"
"You can go out," Liam says, but Louis just shrugs and wanders around the kitchen rooting through Liam's food.
Louis makes popcorn in the microwave and then settles himself on the couch next to Liam. They put on a film, some dumb comedy where everyone is stoned all the time. After a few minutes Louis leans on Liam's shoulder, cuddling up against his side.
"This is nice," says Liam.
Louis makes a little humming noise that isn't really an answer.
"This… I mean…" Liam's not fantastic at explaining himself, which is always frustrating. "I used to do this with Danielle," he tries. "Just… staying at home, doing nothing special. It's boring, I suppose, but I enjoy it, and… This is nice."
Louis doesn't say anything, and Liam sort of thinks Louis'll pinch him or tell him what a sap he is. Louis's just leaning against him, though, popcorn bowl in his lap, looking at nothing in particular. He certainly doesn't seem to be watching the film.
"Not boring," Louis says finally. "I did sort of wonder why it was so difficult to get you to come out with us. It's not exciting, but it's got a certain charm, I suppose."
"It's just comfortable," says Liam. "Right?"
"Right," Louis agrees.
"I know you aren't Danielle, though," Liam says quickly. He hopes it's reassuring. It would be easy to let Louis fill in for her, but it's not fair on Louis, who likes to go out and do exciting things, and ought to find someone to do that with him. It's really nice of him to stay home with Liam, but it's not what Louis likes to do best.
Louis sighs. "I thought we'd sort of agreed you were going to try and stop missing her all the time."
"I don't," Liam protests. "It's just… This is the sort of thing we did a lot."
Louis puts the popcorn bowl down on the floor. "Right," he says. "That's enough."
"What?" Liam says. "Sorry. I just meant—"
"You need distracting," Louis announces, and then climbs into Liam's lap.
Well. That is certainly distracting. "You—" Liam starts, but Louis's got his legs straddling Liam's lap and his arms around Liam's neck. Louis smiles one of his smug, confident little smiles. He is disconcertingly beautiful. Liam doesn't spend a lot of time thinking about how attractive his friends are, but when Louis leans in for a kiss, it's hard to miss how sharp his jaw is, and how long his lashes are.
Louis kisses him lazily, which makes sense; they have all the time in the world tonight. His tongue explores Liam's mouth a little, arms coming together behind Liam's neck and pulling him in tightly. Liam's got his hands on Louis's hips, and he pushes his hands up under Louis's shirt. Louis's skin is hot and soft and the bones of his hips give Liam something to rub his fingers along as he holds on. Louis rocks back a little, and even through both layers of jeans Liam can feel Louis getting hard. When Liam digs his fingers in, Louis groans against his mouth. Liam's not entirely surprised to learn that Louis likes fooling around with a little bit of teasing and poking. That's his favorite way to play.
Louis rocks up against Liam harder, more insistently, and Liam slips one hand around between them to start trying to undo the buttons on Louis's jeans. It would have seemed like a mad thing to do a few days ago, but now it feels imperative. The change is almost definitely Louis's fault, and Liam will have to figure out how he did that.
Somewhere in between kisses, Louis pushes Liam sideways on to his back on the sofa. Liam lets him, because it means he's got a squirming, handsy Louis on top of him, hands running up underneath Liam's shirt. Louis's up on his knees so it's pretty easy for Liam to undo his jeans and shove them down over Louis's thighs. Louis won't break the kiss so Liam can't actually see what he's doing, and he can't really breathe, either, but he likes the way Louis is kissing him too much to make him stop. Liam fumbles around until he's got his hand on Louis's cock and Louis makes an encouraging, slightly desperate noise against his mouth. That, in turn, makes Liam rock his own hips up.
It's a strange angle and it takes Liam a minute to adjust to it; he's not really used to having his hand on anyone's dick but his own. It's not hard to tell what Louis likes, though; Louis makes all these noises. He purrs when Liam tightens his hand and he bites Liam's neck when Liam speeds his hand up. It's an encouraging sort of bite, and when Liam stops for a second because his wrist hurts, Louis sinks his teeth into Liam's shoulder in a way that's much more painful.
"Jesus, you're a brat," says Liam.
"Do it right," Louis whines, and runs his tongue over the spot on Liam's neck he was just abusing.
Liam laughs at him and speeds his hand up again. Louis kisses him ferociously, all teeth and tongue pressing Liam down into the cushions of the sofa. Louis presses his knees against Liam's hips, and he runs one of his hands over Liam's stomach, thumb tracing little circles on Liam's hips, dipping lower with every circle. Liam can't concentrate on that and moving his hand, so he tries to wiggle away a little bit, but Louis chases him. He digs his fingers into the places Louis knows Liam is ticklish, and Liam tries to laugh but he hasn't got enough breath.
Liam's all mixed up; he wants to laugh and groan at the same time. He wants to push his hips up against Louis and tilt his neck back for Louis's mouth, but he also wants to keep his hand moving, so Louis will keep making those needy noises in the back of his throat.
"Come on," Louis growls. His arms are starting to shake where he's holding himself up. His face is red and his hair is hanging, sweaty, in his face. He doesn't look lazy and smug anymore, he looks a little desperate.
Liam made him look desperate. It's the proudest Liam's been of himself in forever, and it helps him focus. It's only a minute or two before Liam can feel Louis's belly start to shake, and then Louis kisses him, violently, and groans against his mouth. It's the sexiest thing Liam's ever heard.
Then Louis collapses on top of him. Liam's cock, mostly hard and still trapped inside his jeans, doesn't appreciate it. Louis doesn't weigh as much as Liam does, but he's gone limp and made himself unmovable.
"Louis," Liam says. It's a bit whiny. "Louis, come on." He doesn't much care if Louis returns the favor or if Louis just gets off from on top of him, but Liam can't get to his own cock and that's making it ache.
Louis breathes loudly in Liam's ear, puffing a little bit. Then he turns and starts licking Liam's ear. Liam squirms and still can't quite dislodge Louis.
"Stop, oh god, you bastard," Liam says. Louis's slobbering on his ear deliberately, like an affectionate Saint Bernard.
"This is sexy," says Louis, and his voice is wrecked which is a bit sexy, but then he starts tickling again while he's slobbering. He pinches Liam when Liam tries to wiggle away.
"You're cheating," Liam says breathlessly, trying to stifle the giggles that don't make him sound properly upset. When he's moving around underneath Louis, Louis must be able to feel that Liam's hard, but he's playing around like it's a normal day and they're just trying to annoy each other.
"I haven't told you the rules of the game yet," says Louis. "How could I be cheating?"
"The rules ought to be 'I got you off, you get me off'," Liam says. Yes, he's definitely whining now.
Louis asks curiously, "Did you think that's what the bit about 'for better and worse, good times and bad ones' meant? I don't think it was about sex, Liam."
"I hate you," Liam complains. "If you don't want to help then get off me—"
Louis sighs as if Liam's being horribly unreasonable. Then he bites Liam's neck like he's a vampire on the pull, and Liam squeaks, startled, and rolls them both off the sofa. They land on the floor with a thud. Popcorn flies everywhere.
It's so stupid. It's not at all what sex is supposed to be, it's more like play time with Louis, just like usual, and as soon as Liam gets his breath back – he got the wind knocked out of him when he landed underneath Louis – he starts laughing helplessly.
"It's not very sexy when you laugh at me during sex," says Louis primly. Liam can't help himself; he puts one of his arms over his eyes and laughs until he's worried he might cry. Louis sits back on his heels, straddling Liam's thighs, and watches him for a minute.
"This is all wrong," Liam says, wheezing for breath. "Oh god, we're terrible."
"We're just mates fooling around," says Louis. "Didn't you and Danielle laugh while you shagged?"
It's a testament to how much Louis's cheered him up that Liam's heart doesn't even twinge at being reminded of Danielle. "We had fun," he said. "It was always fun. But she never knocked me off the sofa from tickling. She never decided pinching was more fun than—"
Louis undoes Liam's trousers with one hand and yanks them down in one fluid movement. "Shut up," says Louis. "Of course it's supposed to be stupid. It's all naked fooling around, isn't it? What could be stupider?"
"It's romantic," Liam insists. "Or, it's supposed to be. Oh, this is a dumb conversation. Get off me, we can make dinner, and—"
Louis bends over, folding himself in half somehow and takes Liam's dick in his mouth. He's so good at it, he's using his hands and his tongue and his mouth is hot and wet and unrelenting. Liam's all wound up from being tickled and pinched and it's embarrassing how he can't stop his hips from pushing up, choking Louis a little. Louis makes an approving noise, though, digging his hands into Liam's hips, and that's enough to make Liam lose control. He hasn't got a moment to warn Louis before he comes.
Louis wipes his mouth off with the back of his hand. That's sexy, too. Liam's shaking a little bit. "See?" Louis says, clearing his throat. "Have some fun, everyone gets off. It's better like this."
Liam would argue, but he's never going to move again. Louis grabs the remote and then lies down on the floor next to him, throwing an arm over Liam's waist as he rewinds the film.
"We missed this bit," Louis says.
Liam feels like he needs to say something, but really he just wants to fall asleep. "I like romantic," Liam repeats, trying to sound insistent, but it's hard to mumble insistently.
"Shh, I know you do," says Louis. He turns the volume up and props himself up on an elbow to watch the film, and Liam dozes off with Louis pressed up against his side.
Liam goes to see Louis at his pub after work because Harry's there, and because Louis whines if Liam doesn't come by. "Hey, Haz," says Liam, and then Louis leans over the bar and kisses Liam, and Liam laughs and shoves him off. "We're in public," Liam says.
"Prude," Louis retorts, and then goes to pull someone a pint.
Harry's eyebrows are somewhere up under his fringe. "Well," he drawls.
"I know, he's so ridiculous," says Liam, helping himself to a stool next to Harry by the bar.
"I was going to say you're both taking this marriage thing pretty seriously," Harry says.
Liam shrugs. "It's all a bit silly, isn't it? We got married and he moved in, and… I mean, we're just having fun, like normal." He doesn't mention all the sex. It's none of Harry's business.
"When life gives you ridiculous, you make ridiculous lemonade," says Louis, coming back to their end of the bar. "Right, darling?" He bats his eyes at Liam, who laughs at him again.
Harry's saying something urgently to Louis with his eyebrows. He looks concerned, as near as Liam can tell. Louis shakes his head and rolls his eyes, but that doesn't seem to make Harry feel any better.
"Shall I go and call Zayn or something while you two work this out?" Liam asks. "He's probably having a panic attack over the wedding."
"No, it's fine," says Louis.
"Actually—" Harry starts.
Louis talks right over the top of him. "It's nice I've got you to be my date to Zayn's wedding, now. Very lucky."
"Louis," Harry says.
Louis seems intent on ignoring Harry. Liam feels a bit weird at being caught between them. He'd get up and leave, because Harry is glaring daggers at him, but Louis's put his hand on Liam's arm. "Uh," says Liam.
"Have you decided what to wear? I was thinking a suit jacket and jeans," Louis says, in that tone that means shut up Harold, I don't want to talk to you.
Harry obviously knows what it means too, and ignores him. "Fine," Harry says loudly. "Let's chat, shall we? Are you sure this is a good idea? I mean absolutely sure that—"
"Yes, of course it's a good idea to go to Zayn's wedding. Oh, a punter needs me," says Louis, and takes off to the other end of the bar.
Whatever's going on, Liam wants no part of it. "Sorry," he says to Harry. Harry gives him an incredulous sort of look. "Sorry Louis's being weird," Liam explains.
"He's not your responsibility, Liam," Harry says.
"Well, he sort of is now," Liam says, and he means it as a joke, but it just makes Harry frown harder.
"Liam…" Harry says, and then stops. He always speaks slowly; Liam is used to waiting for him. Harry sighs. "I just don't think all this is a good idea," Harry says. "Pretending to be married. What if someone's feelings get hurt?"
Liam winces. "I'm trying really hard," he says.
"You can't help it; you're Liam," says Harry.
That's a bit cryptic. "I mean, he knows I'm still a bit… Lonely," Liam tries to explain. "But it's better with him around, actually, and he's been really patient."
"No," says Harry. "Oh god, that's the opposite of a good idea, because Louis—"
"Louis is tired of listening to the two of you yap!" says Louis loudly, coming back. "Have a drink or get out! Who wants to play darts?"
"I will," says Liam. He'd do anything to relieve some of the tension between him and Harry at the moment. He knows he's being selfish, using Louis, and he doesn't especially want to hear Harry tell him so.
"Invite Niall and Zayn," Louis says. "We'll make it a party."
"I still want to talk to you," says Harry.
Louis sighs at him. "Call Niall and Zayn," he repeats. "It's practically our last night to hang out before the wedding and we lose Zayn forever!"
"I think we'll still have him, basically," says Liam. "Remember? He gets all weird when he doesn't hang out for too long, and then Perrie calls and orders us to come over and babysit him."
Louis puts his hand over Liam's mouth. "Lads' night out," he says. "Maybe our last one ever."
"Should I point out that the two of you already got married, so it's not really lads' night out at all?" Harry asks. "You're our married couple."
Liam bites Louis's fingers. Louis just leans over the bar so he can sort of strangle Liam as he talks to Harry. "Liam and I are exactly the same as we ever were," he says. And it's mostly true, Liam would agree, minus the part where now they fool around when they're home alone together.
"You think it's exactly the same," says Harry darkly. "But I'm worried."
Liam tries to shrug Louis off so he can reassure Harry, but Louis is already saying, "Don't." His tone is flat and a little mean, and Harry pouts, but doesn't argue any more after that. Liam feels bad, and he promises himself he'll stop taking advantage of Louis's general kindness. But then Louis sticks one of his fingers in Liam's mouth and grins at him, and Liam very gently bites it and then sucks, just enough to make Louis's cheeks go pink. And despite himself, Liam loves that he can make Louis pink up like that, when it's basically impossible to embarrass Louis, normally.
"Stop it," Harry moans. "Stoppppp, Grimmy's right, you're making me sick."
That's incentive for Liam to actually wiggle away from Louis's stranglehold. "Do not go on a date with my boss," he orders.
Harry's grin is entirely guilty. "It's not a date," he says. "It's just dinner. I'm cooking."
"That's a date!" Liam nearly shouts. "Harry, no. You can't! What if it all goes badly and I get fired, what then?"
"I'm a very good date," Harry says, slightly insulted. "Have a little faith."
"No," groans Liam, hiding his face in his hands. "Harry, no."
"When you shag Liam's boss make sure it's good," Louis says. "Maybe you can get Liam a pay rise by giving Grimmy a rise, if you know what I mean."
Harry laughs, because Harry loves terrible jokes. Liam glares at Louis, who is completely unrepentant. "Awful," says Liam. "You're awful."
Louis leans over the bar and kisses him again. It's hard to look disapproving while Louis does that, because he's so insistent and so sweet and… Liam sighs and shakes his head a little and pretends not to see Harry roll his eyes.
It gets normal very quickly for Liam to wake up with Louis wrapped around him. They've always been cuddly; this is just a new sort of cuddling. Liam can't get out from underneath Louis without waking him up, and he gives Louis a quick apology kiss when Louis blinks sleepily at him. It's still so dark in the bedroom.
When Liam gets out of the shower Louis is sat in the kitchen in his dressing gown, sipping a cup of tea. There's another cup in front of him, and he pushes it toward Liam. It's hot and weak and half sugar, just the way Liam likes it, and Liam sits down next to Louis at the table so Louis can lean against him while they drink tea quietly.
This, Liam realizes, is what he wants. Quiet, sleepy mornings and someone making him tea. Someone to wake up with in the morning. Maybe Liam can trick Louis into not moving out, even once they've got the marriage stuff all straightened out. The ring feels a little heavy on Liam's finger, a little conspicuous.
That would be a bit awkward for Louis when he wants to go on dates, though, Liam has to admit. And if Liam ever works himself around enough to being interested in dating again – not likely, but his mum keeps telling him if he waits long enough it'll happen – it would be a bit difficult to explain why his friend sleeps in his bed with him and kisses him good morning.
"I'll see you later, yeah?" Liam says. It's the first thing they've said all morning.
"Yeah," Louis yawns. "I'm going back to bed. Have a good day." He kisses Liam on the cheek, a sleepy kiss that almost misses Liam's face altogether to land in his hair. His mouth is hot from drinking tea, and his eyes are mostly closed. He has crinkles around his eyes, and under his dressing gown his t-shirt is slipping low on his chest and Liam can see his collarbones.
Liam wants to crawl back into bed with him. "Bye," says Liam, putting his tea cup carefully into the sink and not looking back to see Louis vanishing into the bedroom.
Liam's mum calls while he's at work, and it's hard to talk to her and also fend off Nick, who's feeling handsy and lonely because he's excited about dinner with Harry. Liam only manages to ignore Nick because he's feeling awfully guilty that his mum is still planning a huge party for him and Louis. "We'll be up next weekend," he says. "Please don't – Just, don't make any plans before you see us, okay?"
"Okay," she says, "but I've already invited everyone on Facebook to come round and congratulate you. We can talk about the party after that. Everyone's so happy for you! You know, even Danielle 'liked' my post about it."
There's a throbbing behind Liam's eyes that can't be entirely explained by Nick stealing Liam's belt and wearing a sparkly pink tiara all morning. "I'm glad she did," says Liam, wondering how long it's going to take to untangle this whole thing. "But you can't plan anything, okay? Not until you've seen us."
"What kind of cake does Louis like?"
"Mum…" Liam says, sighing into his hands.
"I'm only asking because you're coming up next weekend! We haven't even started thinking about wedding cake, I promise."
Nick has started playing that wretched Barbie Girl song, which is definitely not on the approved playlist, and probably means he's pouting because Liam is ignoring him. Liam gives Matt a pleading look and Matt shrugs and drinks his coffee.
"I have to go, please don't do anything until you see us," Liam says.
"Love to you and to Louis," she says. "You sound so happy. And to Zayn! Good luck this weekend, send lots of pictures of the wedding. I expect I'll cry. Seeing as I didn't get proper pictures from my own son's wedding—"
"Love you, bye," Liam says hastily, clicking his phone off and shoving it into his bag. He can not have any more guilt in his life; he'll explode.
"Nick wants to know if you'll do the Macarena on his webcam," says Matt.
"I have an actual soundboard to fix," Liam says, scowling at Nick through the glass of his booth. Nick sticks his tongue out and points to the tiara he's wearing, which says PRINCESS in big glittery letters covered in pink feathers.
"I wanted to get him one that says 'twat,'" says Matt, "but the party shop was out."
"There's probably a run on them when there's a football match on," says Liam, and resolves to text Harry a few hundred more times about not going on dates with Nick.
Louis ends up being Zayn's best man, because he wins the coin toss against Harry, which means Thursday and Friday, Louis's off with Zayn doing wedding things. Liam's flat is oddly empty, considering he's only had Louis living with him for a couple of weeks. Liam putters around cleaning -- his flat looks a lot like it was hit by a natural disaster — and then gets bored and calls Harry.
"Can't go out; I'm cooking for Grimmy tonight," says Harry. "Does he like steak?"
"No," Liam lies, and calls Niall instead.
Niall is out at a pub playing his guitar and Liam goes and sits around with the twenty five new best friends Niall's made in the last hour. Liam has a pint because Niall insists, but it doesn't make him feel less bored or lonely.
Lonely, he knows, is the stupidest thing he could possibly feel. Louis's been gone for two days. Liam's just got used to cuddling, is all.
Liam texts Louis whattttt r u doinggggg
A minute passes, and then Louis replies. Zayn can't find his silver tie. It's a crisis!!!! :)
There are a bunch of things Liam wants to reply. Where are you, and I'm bored can I come and help you annoy Zayn, and I miss you, and Why isn't drinking and being stupid any fun when you aren't around? But it all sounds a bit sad and clingy. Liam rubs the ring on his fourth finger until it turns around and around.
"What's going on?" Niall asks, throwing himself into the chair next to Liam. He's pink and a little drunk. "You look like a miserable puppy."
"I just… It's been weird, you know?" Liam asks. Niall doesn't look like he knows. "I've had Louis in my flat, being all loud and breaking dishes and leaving his socks everywhere, but he's been off with Zayn for a couple of days, and… I don't know. It was lonely this morning."
Niall looks a little dubious, but, "Okay," he says, and he sounds agreeable. It's clearly a bit of an effort. "I mean, you're married, yeah? You can miss him if you want to, I guess."
"It's pretty stupid, though, isn't it?" Liam says.
Niall grabs Liam's mobile out of his hand and starts texting. "Hey!" Liam says. "Hey, what are you writing?"
"I'm telling Louis you miss him and you're absolutely bloody pathetic without him," says Niall.
Liam snatches his phone back. "No," he says. "You were supposed to be my friend." His phone beeps. Ha ha is that Niall? I miss you tooooooooo liam!
Liam sends back a hasty message about how Niall's exaggerating, but he can't work out how to spell 'exaggerating' so he's not sure that Louis's going to know what he's saying.
best part of a wedding is getting drunk and having sex all over the venue… Louis replies. Liam stares at it for a second and isn't fast enough moving it away before Niall can see.
"Ohhhh," says Niall. "Well, if that's what you , you should have said. When did you two start doing that?" He looks a little confused but not surprised, which… he ought to look surprised.
"Why aren't you surprised?" Liam asks.
Niall shrugs and takes a drink. "Dunno. The way you two look at each other, I suppose. Is this why you got married, or…?"
"No," says Liam, turning a little bit pink. "It started last week. It was just… It wasn't anything… Just, I mean…"
"S'cool, whatever," says Niall, shrugging again. "We all assumed you two were shagging anyway. You might as well enjoy it."
None of this is the conversation Liam meant to have tonight. "I just miss having Louis around when I wake up," says Liam. "I like sleeping with someone. Sleeping, Niall, proper sleeping. Stop laughing."
"Sorry," says Niall, giggling. "You're married and you miss your husband. It's sweet!"
Liam rolls his eyes and lets Niall buy him another beer. He still can't decide what he wants to text Louis. Eventually he just replies soundds gooddddd and tries not to look forward to Saturday too much.
Zayn's wedding reception is in a really posh hotel, and Liam's glad he wore a proper suit. There's chaos everywhere; Zayn's cousins and sisters are running around shouting and trying to arrange chairs and flowers and music. Liam tries not to think about how they’ll be doing this all over again next month for the Muslim ceremony.
Liam finds Zayn's mum and offers to help, and finds himself in charge of organizing the tables. At least it's something to do. Harry's sat with a drink in his hand, tie already a little undone, doing absolutely nothing.
Moving chairs and tablecloths is sweaty work in a suit, but it's better than the family argument that's going on behind Liam. He doesn't know the words, because they aren't arguing in English, but Liam would recognize Zayn's sister's tone of if you fuck this up I will ruin the rest of your life anywhere. His own sister is an expert at that tone.
Louis is busy upstairs with Zayn, something about Perrie's mum not being able to get Zayn's hair exactly the way he wants it. Louis appears eventually, as guests start arriving from the registry office -- proper guests: Harry and Liam and Niall are family-adjacent, apparently, so they travelled with the family.
"Hey, you," says Louis.
Liam pulls an apologetic face. "I'm sorry, Niall is such a dick sometimes, I wasn't really maudlin over missing you—"
Louis kisses him, so Liam shuts up. He has really missed Louis's hands on his shoulders and the way Louis cups his jaw with his hand. "Of course you missed me," Louis says, a little smug. Liam kisses him again, and this time he bites.
"Now I see what Nick was complaining about," says Harry loudly.
Louis flips him off without looking up. It makes Liam laugh while they're still kissing, which makes Louis laugh, which starts a dizzying cycle of kissing and smiling and yeah, Liam can sort of see what Harry objects to.
"Everything's okay with Zayn?" Liam asks, pulling away. One of Zayn's sisters is staring, and Liam could live without that. His cheeks are pink and Louis's messed his hair up a little bit.
"He's fine, a bit shell-shocked that he's actually married. I gave him loads of advice, since we've been married for days now. Obviously we're the experts." He holds up his hand to flash his ring.
Liam feels a weird mixture of pride and embarrassment. "Because ours was so well thought out."
"But it's going so well," Louis smirks. "You must admit, it's worked out."
"It has," Liam concedes. "Oddly enough."
"Not odd," says Louis.
"Stop, stopppp," Harry whines, throwing himself on Louis's back. "I can't take it. Are we drinking soon? You two make me need a drink."
"You're already drinking," says Liam.
Harry shrugs. "Doesn't count. Grimmy isn't even here yet."
"What – Harry, you did not invite him to Zayn's wedding reception--" Liam starts, spluttering a little.
Harry's grin is evil and not the slightest bit embarrassed when he says, "Didn't invite him so much as he never went home last night. He just borrowed a suit jacket and he's smoking outside, waiting—"
"Stop!" Liam says, putting his hands over his ears. "Oh, Christ. Stop."
"You are very bad and I admire that about you," says Louis, kissing Harry's cheek. Harry looks entirely too pleased with himself.
"That's what you get for being smug newlyweds," says Harry. "Anyway, I'm going to go and hang out with him for a while. I hear weddings are for fooling around…"
Liam glares at him. "You've been talking to Niall."
"Of course I have." Harry gives him a funny little salute and wanders off.
Louis sits down on one of the chairs Liam has been arranging around the tables. "We should fool around," Louis says. "Before the party starts and I have official best man duties."
"Not here," says Liam, letting Louis pull him over to stand between his legs.
"Why not here?" Louis asks.
Liam looks reflexively over his shoulder. Everyone's left the room to go and fuss over things in other places. It's a large room, though, and the doors are open to the rest of the hotel. "Anyone could walk in," says Liam. Louis walks his hand up Liam's side and pinches him.
"We could find a cupboard," Louis offers.
"You're best man. You can't sneak away to get off in a cupboard," says Liam. He hopes he sounds firm. He's not sure he's got the willpower to argue with Louis over it.
"We're all sort of best men," Louis says. "So I'm sure it's alright as long as we sneak off together."
"That doesn't make any sense," Liam says.
"C'mere; I'll explain," says Louis, and pulls Liam down into his lap.
There are a few minutes when Liam's pretty distracted because Louis's kissing him and trying to undo his tie and unbutton his shirt, and Liam's trying to defend his clothing so it won't be obvious what they've done later. Whenever Liam manages to keep his tie done, up, though, Louis's hands start untucking his shirt, and when Liam tries to stop that Louis starts sucking on his neck, so it's mostly futile. Liam manages to ruin Louis's carefully spiked hair, which is something at least, but Liam's going to have a bright red mark on his neck and his shirt is going to look all wrinkled, like he slept in it on the floor.
Liam wishes he had the presence of mind to be upset about it, instead of mostly enjoying himself.
"Oh for Christ's sake!' says Niall loudly, behind them. "Leave 'em alone for five minutes and look what happens!"
"I told you to knock before you walked in," says Harry. "You're lucky anyone's got trousers on."
"There's no door!" Niall says. "Zayn's grandmother could have seen this!"
"Oh, look who fancies himself the king of manners," says Louis. Liam would get off his lap but Louis's got both hands on Liam's hips.
"Stop molesting Liam and go upstairs and make Zayn and Perrie come down," Harry orders. "You two already had your wedding. It's not your day anymore."
"We barely got ours," Louis complains. "None of you were even there. You're all awful friends."
"You didn't invite us, and you were drunk," says Niall. "Liam's mum has invited us round his for a second wedding party, though."
"Oh, god," Liam says. "I asked her not to do that. She's going to be so upset when we tell her there can't be a party because we aren't really married."
"What do you mean, aren't really—" Niall starts.
"Louis, go upstairs!" says Harry loudly, over top of him. Niall glares. Harry glares back.
Louis sighs. "Fine, I suppose I have a best man duty or two I could perform. We'll find a cupboard later."
"No, we won't—" starts Liam, turning red again, but Louis kisses him and half of his sentence gets lost. Then Louis nearly shoves Liam onto the floor as he stands up. "Rude," says Liam, a little huffily. He begins straightening his shirt out and tucking it in properly.
"Yes," says Louis dryly. "I'm the worst husband you've ever had."
"You are!" Liam shouts after him, but he doesn't sound cross, even to himself.
Niall and Harry are both giving Liam speculative looks.
"What?" Liam asks, a little defensively. "I'm going to fix my tie."
"Not married," Niall snorts.
"We won't be in a week," Liam says. "We've got the papers to fill out and everything."
Harry starts to say something and then clearly stops himself. He shakes his head instead. "I need another drink. What does Grimmy like?"
"Horrible watery hipster beer," says Liam. "He makes the staff go out drinking with him sometimes."
"You're not really upset that we're, y'know. Hanging out. Are you?" Harry asks. "He wouldn't really fire you."
"He fires me twice a week," says Liam. "It's fine, just… He's a bit fragile. He doesn't actually date anyone seriously, ever, and he likes you. You could crush him, so just don't, okay?"
Harry looks like he's actually making a mental note about that. "Right. No crushing Nick's heart."
"I'm serious, Harry."
Harry smiles fondly. "Of course you are. Come on; drinks before the speeches."
"Finally!" says Niall, ushering everyone out.
Louis spends a lot of the wedding reception trying loudly to give Zayn advice about being married. Perrie seems to think it's funny, but Zayn's a bit frazzled and looks like he can't decide if he's going to fall over or punch Louis in the face. When Liam eventually pulls Louis away Zayn gives him a grateful smile. Louis can be kind of a lot sometimes.
Louis wants to slow dance. "We just got married," Louis says loudly, when Perrie's auntie gives them a bit of a sideways look. Actually, Louis tells everyone that they just got married. He tells the DJ just before he bullies him into playing Spice Girls, and he tells the barman before he gets them free drinks. He tells Niall but Niall just pulls one of his amazing unimpressed faces and tells him to fuck off.
"Disgusting!" Nick yells at them, but then he gets distracted trying to throw cherries into Harry's mouth across the table.
"Adorable," says Zayn's mum. Her eyeliner has run all down her face from crying, and one of Perrie's friends is following her around with a compact and a make up brush. "Oh, I'm just so happy you're all so happy, too!" Zayn's mum kisses Louis, who looks awfully proud of himself, and then Liam, who turns red. Apparently he's just going to lie to mums all over the place, now.
"Don't you go and try to steal my day!" Perrie shouts, but she snuck a couple of drinks when she was upstairs with Zayn, and they're both a little red-faced and giggly.
"We're not nearly as pretty as you, love," says Louis, kissing her. Mollified and halfway to drunk, she makes Zayn give her a piggyback over to the dance floor and seems happy to ignore that Louis and Liam are still holding hands.
Louis manages to get Liam out for another dance, a slow one, with Louis's arms around Liam's neck and Louis pressed up against Liam, pretending he's as tall as Liam is. Louis lost his tie somewhere, and Liam took his jacket off and is just wearing his waistcoat. He's got his sleeves rolled up but he's still hot, so he doesn't really mind when Louis undoes the top buttons on Liam's shirt. Liam keeps his hands on Louis's waist and laughs at him. Liam hasn't been drinking but he feels a little drunk. Louis's smile is intoxicating.
Louis, on the other hand, is drunk on champagne. "This is good," he says. He might be trying to whisper into Liam's ear; Liam can't tell. Louis's no good at whispering when he's sober. "Romantic, right? We should have had a party like this."
Liam just laughs and shakes his head. If Liam's mum has her way, there'll be a party, but Liam's family is a bit more of a "fancy dress party in the back garden with a bonfire" sort of a family. Something in Liam's chest tries to hurt, because he wants this kind of big, stupid family wedding, and he's gone and screwed it up by marrying Louis while he was drunk, instead. But Liam can't quite work himself up to proper regret, because he likes Louis so much.
"Romantic," Louis repeats insistently. "I wish I were taller. I'd dip you."
"No, you wouldn't," Liam says, horrified and laughing anyway. Louis sort of tries to do a romantic dip, but he mostly ends up tripping Liam and nearly knocking him over. Liam's laughing too hard to fend Louis off properly, and they both end up sat on the floor with Zayn and Perrie's families dancing all around them.
"That didn't end up right," says Louis, frowning a little bit. He's an adorable drunk, really.
"I think it went just about as well as could be expected," says Liam.
"No, I wanted it to be nice, I wanted…" Louis stops and looks a little cross. "I wanted a proper… I wanted a moment."
"You're always having moments," says Liam fondly, hauling Louis back to his feet. "Come and toast Zayn so I can take you home."
Louis shakes his head. "We've got a hotel room. One for Zayn and Perrie, and one for you and me, and one for Niall and Harry. I hope Niall wants to hear Harry and Grimmy shagging."
"Urgh," says Liam. "Please don't say that."
"Let's just go upstairs and order champagne and cuddle," says Louis.
"You're best man, I don't think we can leave early," says Liam. "I'll go and get you a glass of water." He kisses Louis's cheek but Louis still looks a bit lost, so Liam squeezes his hand and hopes Louis knows that means I'll be right back.
By the time they get up to their hotel room everyone is exhausted. Perrie has cried all her eye makeup off, and Zayn's cried most of his off, too, and Perrie gets lipstick all over Louis when she kisses him goodnight and thanks him for running the party. Then the two of them disappear into the honeymoon suite.
"We had that room once," says Louis, with a fake sigh of nostalgia. Liam, who has ended up holding hands with him again, rolls his eyes.
"Post-party at ours!" says Niall, and he and Harry and Nick and Louis and Liam all cram into Niall and Harry's room, sprawled out on the bed. Niall's stripped down to his vest and Harry's half-naked, sitting on Grimmy's lap. Niall has somehow smuggled wine bottles upstairs. Louis sprawls out on Niall's bed and Liam sits down with him.
"The old gang is breaking up," says Harry, spilling wine because Grimmy keeps poking his cheek.
"We're all right here," says Louis. "Zayn's next door. Shall we bang on the wall?"
"We're gonna hear some banging through the wall shortly," says Niall, and then laughs at himself.
"It's not the end of the gang," Liam insists. It had better not be. He's only just got used to having this set of insane friends. He can't go out and find more.
"Because we're all going to Louis and Liam's second wedding party in a couple of weeks," Harry explains to Nick. "Liam's mum is throwing one because she missed the first one."
"And she doesn't know it was a drunk joke," Niall says helpfully.
Liam winces, but Nick is pretty drunk, and pretty distracted by Harry. "Sounds awful," Nick says. "Tell me all about it." He's staring at Harry's mouth.
Liam would feel bad for Niall, trapped in a room with Harry and Nick all night, but Harry and Nick are both pretty trashed, and so is Niall, and Liam suspects all three of them will pass out before anything funny can happen.
Louis's fairly drunk, too, sprawled out on the bed and blinking lazily. Liam reaches out and traces Louis's nose, because he can, and because Louis pretends to bite at his fingers. Liam likes Louis's lazy, drunk smile. His fingers travel down to the undone buttons on Louis's shirt, wandering around the little gap there and the v of skin.
"You two have your own room for that," says Niall, taking a drink straight from the bottle and then passing it to Louis.
"I'm drunk enough, thanks," says Louis, but Liam takes a drink, because it's Zayn's wedding and why not? Liam and Niall kill the bottle between them, and then Louis tickles Liam and he nearly chokes and spills red wine all over the white duvet on the hotel bed.
"Everything's going to be just the way it was, right?" Harry mumbles into Nick's neck.
"We got married and everything's the same," Liam says. His head is spinning a little bit. It's strong wine.
"I wouldn't say it's all exactly the same, though," says Harry, squinting at them. "You didn't used to do this." He waves his hand in a vague sort of way at them.
Liam's not sure what Harry means until he realizes he's got his hand on Louis's leg and Louis is smiling at him in an unmistakable sort of way that means they're going back to their own room to fool around. "Oh," Liam says. "Yeah, well. That's new, but… it's also sort of not, isn't it?"
"True," says Niall. "True, and so weird."
Liam's blushing a little, but not enough to take his hands off Louis, who's all sprawled out and looking debauched. "Not that weird," Liam says, because Louis said so earlier, and he'd like to think it's true. They're just friends who've discovered they're really good at fooling around. And maybe it's just because Liam's been lonely, but he he's got a little dependent on having Louis around and he'd like it to seem as normal as possible.
Harry mumbles something into Nick's shirt. He's mostly asleep. "We should get out of here," says Louis, "so Nick and Harry can fall asleep halfway through getting into each other's trousers."
"Don't go," says Niall.
"I'm not staying," says Nick. Harry mumbles something else and trails off into a yawn.
"We'll leave you lads to sort yourselves out," says Louis, winking. "Liam can tell everyone at the station on Monday that Nick's the type to crash a wedding party and sleep with half the best men."
Liam starts laughing because Nick looks so annoyed, and it would be amazing to have something to tease Nick about at work. Louis gets up and kisses Niall on the cheek, and then ruffles Harry's hair, and gives Nick a bit of a treat him right look, and then he pulls Liam out of the room with him.
Their room isn't as nice as when they had the honeymoon suite, and it's got two beds, like Niall and Harry's. Liam's not entirely sure what that means; they fool around a lot at Liam's flat because they live there and there's only one bed, and Louis's got no sense of personal space, but Liam's happy to sleep on his own. He's still a little dizzy from the wine, and a general sense of drunken happiness that Zayn's finally married.
"Are you tired?" Liam says. "It's been such a long day."
"You wouldn’t let me find a cupboard to fool around in," says Louis, pouting. "And you knew that was what I was looking forward to most."
"You were looking forward to toasting Zayn's happiness," Liam corrects him. "Or you'd better have been."
Louis puts his arms around Liam from behind and rocks his hips against Liam's arse. "What about my happiness?" Louis says.
"I can feel your happiness," says Liam. Louis laughs and kisses his neck.
"Good," says Louis. "I'm so proud of you, getting through this whole wedding without one mopey sigh about how you thought you'd get married first."
"I did get married first," Liam says, and it's sort of funny.
"Yeah, but…" Louis's got his arms around Liam's waist, and he tightens them a little bit. "I know you wanted the real thing, with all the fuss. And I'm sorry I ruined that for you."
"You didn't ruin it," says Liam. "I ruined it, when things didn't work out the way I thought they would. You've been… You've been great. You're the reason I wasn't mopey tonight."
Louis's quiet for a minute. "We don't have to do anything tonight if you don't want to," he says. "I guess you don't really need distracting anymore."
And it's true, but… "No, I heard the best part of weddings is finding someone to mess around with at them," Liam says. "That way you don't feel lonely or worried you're losing your mates." Louis blows a raspberry against the back of Liam's neck, and Liam laughs and tries to duck his head away.
"Yeah?" Louis says. One of his hands wanders down to the button on Liam's trousers, but then he hesitates for a minute.
"Yes," says Liam definitely. The warm feeling inside his chest is because of Louis, and if they're going to stop doing this in a week, then Liam doesn't want to waste any time.
"Well," says Louis, and Liam can hear the smile in his voice. "If you insist."
They don't hear from Zayn again until Tuesday, which is maybe not so surprising. Nick comes to work humming and smiling and he pretends he's doing it ironically but Liam's pretty sure it's for real, and teases him unmercifully. Harry won't say what's going on one way or the other, and he replies to all of Liam's texts with smiley faces and no words.
Liam feels hung over until at least Tuesday, although Louis insists he couldn't possibly be. They have tea together in the morning and Liam goes and sits around in the pub with Louis after work doing nothing special. It's a shame that they have just long enough to settle in to a real routine, Liam thinks, because it's all going to end this weekend. Liam's mum expects them both on Saturday and then he'll explain and apologize, and that'll be the end of it.
"I'm taking Friday off," Louis says, holding Liam's tea on Thursday morning. Liam starts to take the tea and Louis moves it out of reach, tilting his face up expectantly. Liam rolls his eyes and laughs and kisses Louis's cheek, and Louis hands him the tea.
"Packing?" asks Liam.
"Partly," says Louis. "But I was thinking maybe we could go out. Last night and all, right?"
Liam shrugs and pretends he doesn't think it's awfully sweet. It's going to be a little bit awful after Louis leaves. Liam will be all on his own again. Louis's just reminded Liam how much he needs to have someone else around. He really will have to try and find someone to date. He's let inertia and a general sense of malaise stop him from going out and looking, but Liam's realized he's a person who needs a partner.
"Okay?" Louis asks.
"Yeah, it sounds perfect," says Liam. "I'll come home after work and we can go to the pub or pick up takeaway somewhere and—"
"Something like that," Louis interrupts. "I'm gonna plan it."
"It isn't going to be, like, a prank or something, is it?" Liam asks, a little hesitantly.
Louis gives Liam a little shove with his shoulder. "Trust me, babe," he says. It's a bad idea; Liam knows that given half a chance, he'll end up with salt in his tea or his shoelaces knotted together. It'll be fun, though, so Liam just smiles and nods and burns his mouth a little bit on the tea Louis made for him.
"I can't believe you didn't wear a tie," says Louis. He's teasing, but he's also frowning.
"I didn't know you were serious serious," says Liam, shrugging a little. His shirt is nice enough without a tie; it buttons up. It's nicer than ninety percent of what Louis owns, even if at the moment Louis looks about as smart as he did at Zayn's wedding.
Louis gives him a look that is deeply disapproving. "I am always serious, Liam." Liam would protest – that's not true, that’s hardly ever true – but Louis is already walking inside what looks to be quite a posh little restaurant.
It's a bit dark inside, lit mostly by candles, and the tables are far enough apart that no one's likely to overhear anyone else's conversation. The woman who seats them gives them fancy wine menus that Liam hasn't got the faintest idea how to order from.
"I made a reservation and then you show up looking like a farmer," says Louis, sniffing his disapproval, except that underneath the tablecloth he's got his hand on Liam's knee.
"I am a great disappointment," Liam agrees gravely.
Louis squeezes Liam's leg. "Do you know the difference between any of these types of wine?"
"Well, I know the difference between red and white," says Liam. "Color, mostly."
Louis pretends not to be amused, but the edges of his mouth are curling up. "I'll order for both of us, then," he says, and points to something on the menu about halfway down. It's something Spanish, and his accent is awful, but it's so cute and Liam just finds himself smiling at Louis across the table. He just likes Louis so much; every absurd, prickly, ridiculous, thing that Louis does. He likes Louis so much he went and married him, in fact, which has seemed a little bit ridiculous for the last couple of weeks, but sitting across the table from him in a nice restaurant, it actually feels a bit logical. Of course Liam and Louis decided to get married. There's honestly no one Liam would rather be married to.
That's a bit of a strange thought, Liam has to admit. Obviously he'd rather be married to Danielle, but that didn't work out. With her not available, there's just… There's no one Liam would rather have dinner with.
"What?" asks Louis. "Have I got something on my face? You have to tell me; you're my husband."
Liam shakes his head and bites the inside of his cheek. "No," he says. "Nothing's wrong. I'm just thinking."
"Well stop it, you'll give yourself a headache," says Louis. He looks a little embarrassed, like he can't work out why Liam is smiling at him like that. "Honestly, what? What is it?"
"Just pleased about… Um, about dinner," says Liam, and picks up his menu so he'll stop looking so intently at Louis.
Despite the lovely restaurant, Louis makes no particular attempt to keep the conversation lovely; he tells a story about a man he found passed out in the pub toilet with his trousers around his ankles and his cock out.
"He was trying to wank in our pub!" Louis says, sounding a bit offended. "As if there's not a perfectly nice strip club down the street! Obviously I drew a penis on his face and then called his wife."
"Oh, god, you're awful," says Liam. He can't stop laughing, either because the wine Louis ordered is awfully strong or just because of Louis.
Dinner is fancy, and Liam doesn't know which fork to use for what, but neither does Louis. At one point Louis accidentally flings a spoonful of crème fraîche at the next table and it lands right on the bum of a lady who's standing up to leave. Liam works so hard not to laugh out loud that he nearly suffocates himself. Louis beams with pride. "It was an accident," Louis says, "but I'll give you a hundred pounds if you can hit her husband." Liam seriously considers it for a minute.
Somehow they aren't kicked out, despite finishing the whole bottle of wine between them. Louis tastes of raspberries when Liam kisses him out on the pavement afterwards, because they had raspberries in cream for dessert, and Liam thinks that maybe he'll never have raspberries again without remembering this. It's cool outside, and dark, and Louis's wearing a scarf he doesn't really need. His cheeks are pink and his eyes sparkle and Liam squeezes Louis's hands and keeps him close just because he can.
"That was nice, wasn't it?" Louis asks, and there's a thread of anxiousness in his voice.
"It was lovely," says Liam sincerely.
Louis smiles. "Good," he says. "You said you like romantic, I just wanted it to be nice, I just wanted—"
Liam kisses him again, because he can't stand it when Louis doesn't know that he's wonderful. "I liked it," Liam says, bunching Louis's shirt in his hands to keep him close. "I loved it, I think."
Louis goes up on his tiptoes to follow Liam's mouth and kiss him again. "Good," Louis says. A taxi passes them, illuminating them both for a moment before they drop back into darkness. "I was thinking… I was hoping tonight we'd go back to your flat and you'd fuck me."
Liam's heart stops beating. Honestly, there's a minute when he can't hear anything because there's no blood moving around in his body at all. He can't feel his fingers. Louis looks a little bit anxious again, but there's something coy in the way he tilts his head and looks at Liam through his lashes.
"Okay," Liam chokes out. "If you… Christ, Louis, really?"
"I'd like you to," Louis says.
It's the most overwhelming thing Liam has ever heard, more than waking up and realizing he'd got married by accident. Liam kisses Louis again, almost knocking him over, or back into the building. It's rougher than Liam means it to be, and his hands would be shaking if he could pry them off Louis's hips.
"Not here," says Louis, breathless and a little triumphant. "Unless that's your thing…"
Liam just shakes his head. If he says anything right now, it's just going to sound like a growl and he'd like to pretend he's got some tiny bit of self control.
"Take me home," says Louis, quietly, and Liam nearly trips over his own feet rushing them home.
It's all frantic hands and careful mouths when they get to Liam's flat. Liam tries to kiss Louis and undress him at the same time, which works about as well as can be expected. Liam bangs his knee on the couch and starts to laugh but Louis keeps kissing him anyway. Louis is better at getting Liam undressed and has his shirt off and his trousers undone because apparently Louis doesn't need to breathe to concentrate.
Liam feels drunk, but not from the wine. His hands are a little shaky and it makes all the buttons on Louis's fancy shirt difficult to undo. A button flies across the living room and Louis looks a little impressed. Liam would like to just rip all his clothes off, because he's got a funny ache under his ribs that wants skin pressed against skin.
They fall backwards on to the bed together, nearly naked. Louis arches up underneath Liam, and the noise he makes s a little bit desperate. It goes straight to Liam's cock Louis's voice when he asked if Liam would fuck him might be the only thing Liam ever hears again. Liam kisses his way down Louis's neck, across his chest, reveling in the salty taste of his skin underneath the shirt he put on just to impress Liam.
Louis shoves his boxers down, and his cock springs free, already red and growing thicker. Liam bites Louis's hips, sucking a mark onto the soft skin there, hoping it'll still show after this weekend is over. Louis makes little keening noises, head tipped back, fringe getting sweaty. He grabs Liam's arms and tries to coax him up, but Liam's been practicing sucking cock for a reason, and scrapes his teeth carefully down the outside of Louis's hip so that he shivers and tries to roll away, and then Liam kisses his way back up the inside of Louis's thigh. He didn't think he'd like this but he does. He especially likes the way Louis goes helplessly incoherent under his hands and his mouth, pushing his hips up and pulling at Liam and not really even trying to make words.
It's still a bit strange, putting his mouth on Louis, but it makes Louis's hips jerk up and his breath hitch and his eyes flutter closed. Liam feels powerful and sexy and confident, even though he's not, really, because he can make Louis look like this. It's worth the awkwardness, and anyway Liam's got better at it. All he really has to concentrate on is keeping his teeth out of the way and everything else takes care of itself. Liam gets a little creative with his tongue and lets his hands roam up Louis's legs, back to brush over Louis's balls because that makes him shiver, too. Liam would like to spare a hand for himself; watching Louis get so desperate to come makes Liam's dick ache, but Liam's going to wait.
"Liam," Louis says, a bit of a curse and a bit of a prayer. Then he gasps and comes and Liam swallows because he hasn't got enough time to plan anything else. And… Well… Liam doesn't actually mind.
There are a couple of minutes when Louis just lies there, gasping, chest heaving under Liam's hand as Liam crawls back up by Louis's side and waits for him to come back. Liam might be the one who likes romance, but Louis's the most incorrigible cuddler Liam has ever met, particularly when they're in bed together.
Louis eventually blinks and turns to look at Liam. His eyes are still half-closed and his face is red. "You get a gold star for that," he says. "I do love how hard you try to learn new things."
Liam tries not to feel proud of himself, because Louis's just teasing, but he can't help himself from laughing. "You're welcome," he says.
"I asked you to fuck me; surely that's welcome enough," says Louis tiredly. He picks up Liam's hand and very carefully kisses each of Liam's fingers, but he lingers over the fourth one, the one with Liam's wedding ring on it. Louis gives Liam a cheeky look and then takes Liam's finger into his mouth and starts to suck, running his tongue around the ring and hollowing out his cheeks, looking up at Liam.
Liam feels a rush of excitement again as his heartbeat speeds up and it gets a little harder to breathe normally. "Oh my god. Really?" he says. "Really, really? Because I wouldn't want to hurt you, and—"
"You couldn't possibly," says Louis. "Go and get the lube."
Liam would like to think he wouldn't rush to do anything Louis ordered him to do while they were in bed, but he honestly might. He comes back with a little bottle he ought to be slightly embarrassed to own, and Louis squirts some out over his own hand. "This," he says, "is a lot more fun when you get someone else to do it, but it's not terrible with someone else watching." And then he pulls his knees up and spreads his legs a bit and begins working his fingers inside himself.
Liam's chest collapses watching him. If he knew how to breathe once he can't manage it anymore; there's no oxygen in the room. Louis tips his head back and looks up at Liam through his lashes knowingly. Liam can barely watch him; Louis is showing off for him, sexy and wanton and debauched. It's too much, so Liam kisses Louis's neck again instead, sucking little love bites across his collar bone.
"Okay," says Louis. "D'you have a condom?" His voice is breathy and a little desperate. He isn't hard again yet, but he might be sometime soon. Liam's so hard it's hard to focus enough to get the condom on. "I don't do this for just anyone," Louis says teasingly. There's a little tremble in his voice.
"Can I kiss you first?" Liam asks, because he feels like he might need to. Louis nods and Liam crawls on top of him and kisses him and tries to say thank you and you're amazing without having to use any words to do it, because he hasn't got any words left.
Louis must be done putting on a show for him, because he helps Liam figure out where to kneel and how to arrange all their legs so they're folded together and Liam can brace himself over Louis and push in. He's trying so hard to be careful, because Louis is always more fragile than he looks, but Louis takes a deep breath and pushes his hips up, and Liam feels a little bit like he might die if he doesn't move. Liam feels strung out, like he's been pulled thin and stretched until he might shatter, every muscle clenched from trying not to move.
"It's alright," says Louis, through gritted teeth. He takes a deep breath again and blows it out. "Go ahead."
The noise Liam makes isn't even meant to be words; it's just a noise of desperation and release. Liam's hips move forward without asking him and then he can't stop; Louis is tight and he's got his feet wrapped around Liam's legs, pulling him closer. "There," says Louis, tilting his hips just a little. "Oh, Christ, like that, Liam, fuck, oh fuck." Liam would like to lean down and kiss him again but it's too much to coordinate and he hasn't got the brain at the moment. There isn't anything but how much Liam loves touching Louis and having him like this, and how incredible it feels.
Liam comes and can't stop himself from falling mostly on top of Louis, but Louis doesn't seem to mind. Liam feels like he hasn't been able to take a breath in hours. His chest is heaving and he's sweaty and hot and he just wants to curl up on top of Louis and then not move again forever.
"Come on," says Louis. "Are we really going to stop after one? We've got all night."
Liam tries to laugh, manages a little huff of indignant air against Louis's chest. When he pulls out and rolls away, Louis follows him, nosing at Liam's neck and kissing him gently. He's also pushing at Liam's thigh with his cock, which is half-hard again.
"Really?" Liam says, voice cracking.
"Isn't that what you said being married was?" Louis whines. "The rule is 'I got you off, you get me off,' you said so."
Liam is too tired to laugh, honestly. His thighs are still trembling and his arms ache from holding himself up. "We both got off," he protests.
Louis is biting Liam's ear instead of listening. "Liam," he complains. "Come on. Please? We can just kiss and fool around until you're up for it again. That's romance, right?"
"Oh, honestly," says Liam. He should have understood that Louis would always be the same; demanding and obnoxious and adorable and awful and wonderful. "I can't right now."
"But you can later," Louis says, demanding and a little smug, and tangles his legs around Liam's. Then he leans down and kisses Liam again, slow and gentle and sweet. Liam can't help but kiss back and be glad they've got all night.
In the morning Louis is strangely reluctant to go to the station. Liam teases him and goes to take a shower, and when he comes out Louis is still sitting on the bed looking at his hands.
"What?" Liam says. He is terrified for a moment that Louis is going to say that he's upset – regretful – about last night.
"I don't think you need me to go with you, do you?" Louis says. He isn't looking up, which means something weird is going on. "After you tell your mum, she won't want me staying with you, anyway. My mum is still cross with me…" He trails off, playing with the hem of his shirt.
"My mum loves you," says Liam confidently. "She'll think I’m a bit of an idiot and she'll tell you she's sorry you were stuck with me, and once she's done crying because she can't throw me a wedding it'll be fine."
There is a long silence from Louis on the bed.
"Oh, come on," Liam says. "You can't make me tell her all by myself! I won't know what to say." Louis glances up at him but doesn't answer. Liam tries his saddest look, the tragic, pouty face that makes Zayn give him whatever he wants. "Come with meeeeee," Liam says, drawing the word out pleadingly. "We can go and visit your mum next, even if she already knows about what happened. She can look disapprovingly at me while we tell your sisters. I'll let them call me names and beat me at X-Box games. Please?"
"But—" Louis says, fidgeting.
"For better and worse!" Liam says quickly. "Still applies for today. You have to."
Louis sighs, but it's clear that Liam's won. "I don't want your parents to hate me," he says. "This all seemed a lot funnier in Vegas when we were drunk."
"It's still funny," Liam says, grabbing his hand and pulling him to his feet. Except it isn't, really, anymore.
Liam's not worried his mum with be angry; she'll be disappointed. That wraps itself around Liam's stomach and makes him feel slightly ill while he's on the train with Louis. Liam absolutely hates disappointing anyone. That was maybe the worst part of Danielle leaving, the idea that Liam could have fixed it somehow if he'd been better. He likes being with Louis because Louis never seems let down by him.
"She won't mind the drunk part," Liam says, although he's sure to get a frown and a bit of a talking to later. "She'll mind that she thought I was happy, and now she has to worry again."
Louis is sat looking out the window, but he squeezes Liam's hand.
"Maybe she'll think it's funny," Liam tries. He doesn't really believe himself.
"She loves you. It'll be fine," says Louis quietly. Liam squeezes his hand in return.
Liam's sister picks them up at the station. "Oh god, look at you," she says, sounding a little teary. She gives Liam a hug and sniffles a little bit against his neck. Louis laughs until Ruth turns and throws herself on him in a hug next. Louis makes a surprised noise, but Liam just feels the sinking sense of guilt in his stomach.
"Mum can't wait to see you both. And look at this!" says Ruth, grabbing Liam's hand to look at his ring. He should have taken it off; now he feels awful. "Come on; get in the car." Liam gives Louis a guilty look and Louis shrugs in a see-I-told-you sort of way.
The closer they get to the house, the worse Liam feels. He's never lied to his mum about anything important before. He must look upset because Louis leans against him in the back seat and gives him a bit of a cuddle.
"Look who's here!" Ruth shouts as they pull their bags out of the car.
Liam's parents want to hug Liam and Louis, both at once. There's a bit of crying, even as Liam tries to say, "Mum, don't, not now." He's absolutely overcome with guilt. His mum kisses Louis and says, "Oh, I'm so happy to see you again, Louis. You make our little boy so happy," and Louis pulls a bit of a face so she kisses him again.
"Mum," says Liam uncomfortably. "Don't, c'mon."
"He's part of the family now, he'll hug and he'll like it," she says.
"I do like hugs," Louis agrees. He gives Liam a cheeky grin. Liam rolls his eyes and carries both of their bags into the house.
"It's quite a trip, would you like some tea?" Liam's mum asks.
Liam can't decide if he'd rather blurt out his bad news right away or settle in a bit. "Uh," he says, "mum…" Louis grabs his hand and squeezes. When Liam looks over, Louis is shaking his head slightly. Not right now, Louis says with his expression. Liam tries to make an expression that says But if not now then when? Isn't it better to just-- Louis squeezes his hand again, harder, and shakes his head. Liam sighs and shrugs because he doesn't want Louis to break his hand.
"Well," says Ruth. Liam sticks his tongue out at her.
Liam's mum hands them tea. "Louis likes his really strong, actually," Liam says.
"This'll do, it's fine," Louis says, elbowing him.
Liam's mum quite unexpectedly bites her lower lip and makes a little sniffling noise. "Oh," she says quietly.
"Are you alright?" Liam asks.
"She's fine," says his dad loudly. "How's work, Louis? Still loads of drunks down at the pub?"
"Yes, sir," says Louis. "It's absolutely mad, some nights. Nicer because lately Liam comes down to sit around and chat when I'm bored, though."
"Liam sat around in a pub!" says Ruth. "Ha!"
"Go away," says Liam. He looks around for something to throw at her. It's a pain in the arse, really, that no matter how old he gets, she'll always be older than he is.
"I'm going out anyway," says Ruth. "As if I'd stick around here watching you two stare at each other like that. Disgusting." Liam pulls a face at her and she pulls one back.
Liam's parents have learned to ignore them. "Be back later, we're having cake," says his mum calmly, pretending she can't see Ruth flip Liam two fingers on her way out the door. Liam shouts, "I'm going to show Louis all the baby pictures where you're dressed as a dog!"
"I've seen those, actually," says Louis, hooking his chin over Liam's shoulder.
"Nicola will be here later, too," says Liam's dad, as if no one has just had an argument. "That'll be nice. All the kids back for dinner. And Louis, too."
Liam's mum is definitely on the verge of tears. "Oh," she says again. Liam had forgotten to feel guilty for a second, but it's back, twisting like a knife to the gut.
"I really have to talk to her," Liam whispers, since Louis's ear is right by his mouth.
Louis sighs. "Yeah," he says. "Alright. Geoff, last time I was here you said you wanted to show me your potting shed."
Liam's dad brightens up. "I've got geraniums," he says. Liam can see Louis biting the inside of his cheek to keep from laughing. They go out to look at geraniums together. It's a little bit painful, because Liam's dad is so excited to show Louis his shed, and Louis is so amiable with Liam's parents. It's sweet.
Liam takes a deep breath. His mum is looking at him with damp eyes and a delighted expression that Liam doesn't want to destroy, but he can't lie to her anymore, either. "Listen," he says. "Before you… Uh, I need to tell you something."
She looks like she wants to give him another hug, and for maybe the first time ever Liam doesn't think he could stand one. "You can tell me anything," she says.
"Okay, well…" He can't get to the end of the sentence, so he stops and taps his fingers against his tea cup for a moment. "I just don't want to make you unhappy," Liam says finally. "But I've got to explain something to you."
For a moment his mum looks concerned. "Your dad needed a couple of days to come to terms with things, but he's fine now," she says reassuringly. "And I'm happy as long as you promise I can still have grandkids. We love Louis."
She's making it worse. "No," says Liam. "That's not… No, listen," he says, because she's going to keep trying to help. "Me and Louis, we went to Vegas for Zayn's stag do, and we had a bunch of drinks because… Well, because we did, and then I don't entirely remember what happened next, but we thought it'd be funny to go to one of those chapel things for a laugh. But that's all it was, it wasn't anything special, and we got a bit carried away, and… It's not what you think. It isn't anything, really. Just a joke. Not a real marriage. Not a real anything at all."
There's a small noise from the door where Louis has reappeared. "Sorry," he says quietly. "I wanted to give back my tea cup. Shall I… I can find a lift back to the station."
There is no mistaking the hurt on Louis's face, because he's hiding it underneath a very careful expression, as if Liam is the one who's in danger of shattering. "No," says Liam quickly.
"I don't mind," Louis says.
Liam's mum is watching both of them looking a bit stricken. "No, please," says Liam, because if he's breaking her heart, he needs someone to take him for a pint later. Ruth and Nicola won't do.
Louis's face goes from something unreadable to something else unreadable. "Well," he says. "I'll go and look at the shed, then." He hands Liam his teacup and goes back outside.
There is a long, heavy silence in the kitchen. Liam's mum has been on the brink of tears since Liam and Louis got there, and she still looks a bit teary. She gives Liam a long look and he tries not to squirm. He's not five and caught stealing biscuits before supper. He's lied a bit, but he's an adult, and he'll apologize and it'll be fine. She almost certainly won't stop loving him.
"Darling," she says finally, in a measured, careful voice. "If that's true, it's awful."
"It is," Liam says, miserable.
"Well then…" She sighs, in the disappointed way only a mother can. Then she shakes her head and reaches over for his hand. It can't be a coincidence that she runs her thumb carefully over his wedding ring for a moment before she says, "I just don't believe it. No, sweetheart, I don't. If that's true, then tell me what would be different if it were real?"
Liam opens his mouth to answer. A hundred different responses pop into his head and every one evaporates just as quickly.
There is clearly an answer, Liam thinks; something he can't quite grasp or put into words. He would have meant it, or he would have planned it. There's an intention missing from a drunk joke at a stag do. He was just pretending Louis was Danielle when he was drunk and lonely.
He's actually not sure he's doing that anymore, though. He might just be putting Louis where anyone he was in love with would go, using him to seal up all the cracks in his broken heart, letting Louis tease and poke and tickle his way inside. Not replacing Danielle; making his own space.
The sentence that Liam keeps getting stuck on, though, is If it were real then I would be in love.
And he can't say it out loud, because he thinks it might actually be true.
"Sweetheart," says his mum gently.
His voice is a lot more choked than he expects when he speaks again. "I don't know," Liam says. "It would… I would…"
She pats his hand comfortingly. "You would have taken this off," she says, touching his wedding ring with careful fingers. "You don't lie very well."
"I think I've taken awful advantage of Louis," says Liam quietly, guiltily.
"Go and talk to him before he gets it in his head to leave," she says, and pats his hand again.
Liam feels a bit like he's sleepwalking. If he were in love he would know, he thinks, but Harry and Niall and Zayn have been teasing him about it for weeks and he never thought anything of it. It was just being with Louis, like always, and that… That makes Liam wonder how long he's loved Louis. A long time, it seems.
He'd like to think that if he'd realized, he would have told Louis that they shouldn't fool around, because it only made things worse. It was never just mates. Was Liam pretending to be lonely so Louis would want to cuddle and fool around? He can't remember. He doesn't think so; he's not normally that sort of person.
But then, he's not the sort of person who gets married on a drunk weekend away, either, or who fucks around casually with a mate. It's all hazy.
Liam's dad is showing his geraniums to Louis, who is faking interest very well. "Dad," Liam says, voice a bit halting. "Can I speak to Louis for a minute?"
His dad looks at him, and then at Louis, and then back at him. "Of course," he says, tilting his head with a bit of concern. Liam hopes he doesn't look like he's going to cry. He'd like to think he isn't going to cry.
When they're alone in the back garden Liam doesn't quite know what to say. Louis's the same as always, except curious and a bit apprehensive, with his hands stuffed in his pockets. "You alright?" Louis asks. "Shall I go? I really can. Is she cross? She loves you; I'm sure it's fine. Liam, say something."
"How much of it was pretend?" Liam asks. Fine, his voice is shaking a bit. It's terribly manly, really, to hold oneself together and try not to have a breakdown in public.
Louis stares at him. "How much… Of us, you mean? Of the last couple of weeks?"
Louis's face goes a bit angry. He sighs. He starts to say something and then doesn't, and then says, "None of it. I'm sorry. None of it was pretend for me."
Liam's ears are ringing. He can't tell if the knot in his stomach has got tighter or just turned to ice.
"I should have told you," Louis says. He's angry with himself, Liam works out. That helps a bit.
"I didn't realize," says Liam.
"I know. It was quite shit of me not to say something," Louis says. He looks at his trainers for a minute. "Harry kept saying… I'm sorry, alright? It was just… I didn't realize it wasn't just a laugh until we were in it, and then it was like, Oh, well, I've only got a week, might as well enjoy myself. I kept thinking you'd say no, or you'd tell me to stop. And I should have stopped myself, I know. But I didn't realize how much I'd like it until it was going on and… Then I liked it too much. I'm sorry. I've been a shit friend. I'll go--"
"Ask me," Liam interrupts.
Louis stops and frowns.
"Ask me how much of it was pretend," Liam repeats.
Louis still doesn't say anything. He looks confused and wary and a bit upset, like Liam's going to trick him somehow.
"How on earth did I convince myself it was just us being mates, when all I wanted to do was spend all day in bed with you?" Liam asks. "I must be an idiot."
"It was a bit strange," Louis agrees. "Unless you also secretly fuck Niall and Zayn and Harry and just never told me."
"No," says Liam, half-strangled and half-laughing. "I don't. I really, really don't."
They stare at each other for a minute. Louis still doesn't look like he understands where the conversation is going.
"My mum thinks I'm in love with you," Liam blurts. Louis blinks at him. "And… and I am and I didn't realize, and I'm sorry. Because if I'd known, I would have said something. I think I would have. I don't think I married you in Vegas because I was drunk, Lou. I think… I mean, maybe I knew, but I didn't know. And—"
"Oh god," says Louis quietly.
Liam steps closer, biting his lip. He feels brave and fragile and scared all at once. He reaches out for Louis's hand because that's what they do; it's what they've always done. Eventually Liam's even going to work out when it started meaning something. Louis takes his hand easily. He's stopped frowning, not quite smiling yet.
"What if we let my mum throw her party?" Liam asks quietly. "What if we tried actually being properly married? I mean, it's a bit of a jump, from mates to married without any dating or anything in between. But I think we could make it work. I'd like to see, at least." He pulls Louis's hand up and looks at it for a moment. Louis's still got his ring on, too. Liam brings it carefully to his mouth and kisses it gently. It's warm from Louis's hand but still cool under Liam's lips.
For a long minute Louis doesn't say anything. Liam doesn't breathe.
Louis goes up on his toes and kisses Liam. It's gentle and a bit hesitant, like a first kiss instead of something familiar. Like he isn't sure what to do. And Liam isn't entirely sure either, so he just tightens his hold on Louis's hand, pressing their fingers together, and clenches his other hand into a fist so he won't just grab.
"Well," says Louis, pulling back just a breath. He's smiling, and Liam can breathe again. Liam feels giddy, like he did in Vegas, and something's bubbling up from his toes, all through his blood and makes his brain feel a bit fizzy. Louis squeezes Liam's hand. "The good news is you're stuck with me."
Going camping is Niall's idea. The tent is his, too, and against all odds it's big enough for all five of them, except Niall absolutely refuses to share. "No way am I sleeping in a tent with the two of you," Niall shouts. "I'm not listening to you two shag all night!"
"We wouldn't," says Liam, but Louis yells, "Of course we would!" and he's probably more convincing.
So Niall has a huge tent, but Liam and Louis have a smaller tent that Louis refused to help set up, because he thought it was funnier to stand around and read the directions in a series of stupid voices and throw bits of rope and pegs at Liam while Liam tried to put the tent up. The tent ends up crooked and likely to fall down, but Liam's side hurts from laughing. It's not likely to rain, so if they have to, they'll just sleep outside.
When the tent is just finished Louis tackles Liam and they end up in the grass, narrowly avoiding knocking the tent down straight away. "What?" Liam says, and Louis kisses his nose, straddling him.
"Nothing," says Louis. Liam is getting bits of leaves and dirt in his hair and Louis doesn't seem likely to get off from on top of him. "I'm just... Happy." He leans down and bites Liam's shoulder. He might be growling, "mine," under his breath. It's hard to say.
"You'd better be; we're newlyweds," says Liam, trying not to laugh. "There's a big party coming up. Your sisters keep texting me pictures of their dresses."
"We should run away and elope," says Louis, and then after a minute adds thoughtfully, "again."
"No," says Liam firmly, despite the fact that Louis is trying to bite his neck. "We did something stupid and crazy, now we get to do something sensible and well-planned. Also, my mum forgave you once, but I think twice is asking a bit much."
Louis sits back on his heels, still on top of Liam's legs. Liam likes camping, and he likes being with the lads, but he can't help thinking, if they were in a hotel it would be a lot easier to get naked and have sex. His fingers go automatically to play with his ring, and Louis's eyes light up, because he knows what that means Liam is thinking about.
"You're really okay with inviting Danielle?" Louis asks, tilting his head.
Liam nods. "I don’t think she'll come, but… She's happy for us. I'm happy for us." He can feel his cheeks pinking up when he says that, because it's so ridiculous, but it's also true.
"Gross!" shouts Harry, walking over from their campfire to where Louis and Liam's tent is. "We have a rule about no couples this weekend! Now come and have a warm beer." He's a little grumpy because he wasn't allowed to bring Nick with him. It's supposed to be a lads' weekend, just the gang, and no one told Harry where they were going so he couldn't tell Nick to accidentally show up. Liam's got a phone full of texts that pinball between tragically, plaintively sad (when Nick's drunk) and threatening Liam that he won't have a job when he gets back (when Nick's very drunk). There are also some texts from Matt ordering Liam to for god's sake just tell Grimmy he's driving us mad. Liam will. Later. Probably.
Louis stands up and helps Liam up, brushing grass out of his hair and then brushing what Liam suspects are imaginary leaves off his arse. Harry rolls his eyes a lot as they walk back to the campfire.
"Have a drink! We've already had two," says Zayn. He's cheerful, considering he wasn't allowed to bring Perrie. She apparently took this news quite well and had plans to go out drinking with her friends before Zayn had finished the phone call to Niall.
Niall's built a campfire and they have folding chairs to sit around in. It's a bit windy but the beer helps with the chill. Louis throws himself in a chair too hard and it collapses under him, limbs flailing everywhere. Niall giggles drunkenly and nearly drops his guitar. Liam helps to pry Louis out of the mess he's made of the chair and rights it for him. Louis grabs him with both hands and drags him onto the ground for a thank-you kiss.
"No!" Harry yells. "No couples!"
Liam reluctantly pulls Louis's hands off where they're starting to creep under his shirt. "Fine, sorry," he says, and starts to sit in the chair next to Louis.
"No, no, no. You can't sit over there. No couples allowed," Zayn says, grabbing Liam's arm and pulling him to a chair on the other side of the fire. Liam sighs and lets himself be dragged.
"I wasn't allowed to bring Nick," Harry says, for maybe the hundredth time. "So you two can't sit together snuggling."
"We won't," says Louis, grinning at Liam. "I've got nothing to say to him. I'm tired of his face." Liam bites his lip. Louis waggles his eyebrows. Liam bursts out laughing and Zayn hits him lazily.
"You'll do that," says Harry disapprovingly. "You'll just sit around whispering and cuddling and grabbing each others hands."
Liam says half-heartedly, "We won't." Harry comes over and sits down on top of him, even though Liam's warns him loudly that the chair's going to collapse. Harry pulls Liam's hair and sticks his elbow in Liam's stomach and is a general pain in the arse. The chair holds up, somehow.
Eventually Zayn gives Liam a beer and Niall starts playing guitar. Harry texts Grimmy until Liam's legs start to go numb from having Harry sat on him, so Liam tickles Harry until Harry wiggles away. Then Harry flounces off, pretending to be offended, and throws himself on Niall instead.
It's nice. The sun is setting behind the hills. Liam puts on a jumper and wishes he were sitting next to Louis. It would be exactly what Harry and Zayn were complaining about, though, because Liam can't really imagine sitting next to Louis and not getting a bit friendly.
"I had a nice wedding, didn't I?" asks Zayn. He's a little drunk.
"You had an amazing wedding," says Liam.
"Ours was better!" Louis yells. It's a bit dark to see over the fire, but Liam thinks he can see Louis smiling anyway.
"Yours was a drunk mess," says Harry.
Louis shrugs. "The party Liam's mum is planning is sick. Now she's got my mum helping; I think the guest list is at least three hundred people."
"I'm bringing Nick," Harry says. "No arguing."
"It's a good thing I'm having another ceremony," says Zayn. "If you get two, me and Perrie should get three."
"I just want Louis," Liam says. "Can we please—"
"No," says Harry. "You've been married a month already; can't you spend an hour apart?"
"We can," says Liam. His fingers go right back to his ring. "I just don't want to."
"Shut up and have another beer!" shouts Niall.
It's only another couple of minutes before Louis tries to sneak around the campfire. He's a terrible sneak, though, and he has to stop and tackle Harry and rub his face in the grass, and then Zayn wants to play football even though it's too dark. Zayn drags Louis off to where he's sure he saw a bit of an open space to kick a ball around. Niall pulls his chair over and sits close enough to lean against Liam and play guitar while they wait for them to come back. Liam harmonizes with Niall and the campground gets darker.
"We aren't doing anything this weekend, are we?" Harry asks. "Just sitting around?"
"That's my plan," says Niall. "Liam?"
"Just sitting around," Liam confirms. "Spend some time together with the lads, do nothing special. Just like always."
Harry gives him a dire look. "You're going to drag Louis off to your tent as soon as he comes back, aren't you?" Liam shrugs. Harry says wistfully, "Nick's got a caravan. He bought it ironically. We're not sure it actually works."
Liam sighs. "If I text him where we are will you please stop whinging?"
Harry brightens up immediately. He is a little bit like having an obnoxious little brother sometimes, although one that Liam loves. "I will bless your night of debauched tent-ery," says Harry. "I will even lend Niall and Zayn earplugs."
Liam goes red at that, and Niall groans, but then Louis and Zayn come running back. "I kicked the ball into someone else's tent!" Louis says.
"It was sick," Zayn says. They're both laughing too hard to breathe. "We're all going to be murdered in our sleep tonight by angry campers."
"Cheers," says Liam. He sends Nick a text with the address and then dont say i nveer did anythinnnnng for U. A minute later Nick texts him a series of little emoji hearts and then a picture of Nick's ear that's probably an accident.
"They probably won't kill us all. They couldn't see us in the dark. Speaking of which, it's time for bed."
"It's barely dark!" Niall says.
Louis grabs Liam's hands with both of his and drags him to his feet. "I'm sorry, it's very late and Liam is exhausted and we need to go to bed. Don't we, Liam?"
Liam can't stop giggling. He might be a little drunk. "The tent is definitely going to fall down."
"We will make it work," Louis says. "For better or for worse, for inside or for outdoors, for campfires or for London—"
"Those weren't the vows," Liam laughs.
"How would you remember? You were drunk!"
Louis looks beautiful in the campfire light. His hair looks red and gold and his cheeks are flushed. Louis's hands are warm in Liam's. Liam gets butterflies in his stomach even though it's stupid, even though it's been weeks since they got married and years since he probably first started loving Louis. "We need a torch," Liam says.
"This way it'll be an adventure," Louis argues. "A dark and spooky adventure."
"An adventure where you break your neck," Harry says. "Oh my god, Nick's on his way. I love you, Liam." He kisses Liam's cheek.
Zayn has stolen Niall's phone out of his bag. "Does everyone know Niall's got a secret girlfriend?" Zayn asks loudly. "Why wasn't I told? I have to be told!"
"She's not a secret," says Niall, snatching his phone back. "I'm just not going to introduce her to you lot until I'm sure you won't scare her off."
"We'll be on our best behavior," Liam promises. Louis's pulling on his arm and trying to bodily drag him away from the fire. Liam digs his heels in a bit but Louis's got momentum and an arm round Liam's waist for leverage.
"Louis hasn't got best behavior," Niall says. Liam would argue but Louis's trying to undo his jeans and they aren't even anywhere near the tent yet. Liam tries to slap Louis's hands away and gets a kiss on the nose for his trouble. And then, when he's still trying to decide what to do about that, Louis starts pulling him down the trail again.
"Good night," Liam says, resignedly.
"Try not to keep the whole campground awake!" Zayn shouts after them, and then he and Harry start giggling. They will probably all get drunk with Nick later and all come and try to all fit in Louis and Liam's tent. It's going to be a terrible idea and there will be elbows in faces and knees in delicate places and Liam's sort of looking forward to it.
Louis, meanwhile, is trying to pull Liam away and bite his neck at the same time, and they both nearly trip and crash. "Wait until we get into the tent," Liam laughs.
"I don't have to wait, we're married," Louis says. He holds up his hand, and Liam expects if it were lighter out he'd be able to see Louis waving his ring finger back and forth.
"That's not what that means, it doesn't mean public indecency is excused," Liam argues, but it's the same as when he told Louis being married didn't mean they needed to sit on each other's lap at the restaurant. And that Liam couldn't call in "married" to work and just stay home in bed all day. And that it wasn't actually a divorceable event if Liam didn't go and sit in the pub all night while Louis worked.
"It ought to mean that," Louis says. "Let's say it means that. I'll put it in the vows when we have to say them at the party. 'For better or for worse, for naked in public or taking a shower together, for—'"
"My mum will murder us both," Liam says. Their tent is only half-visible in the darkness, but the top bit is definitely sagging and listing slightly to the side. "Look at that. The tent is going to fall down."
"Then we'll put it back up," Louis says, and kisses him. It's got cold outside and Liam likes having Louis all pressed up against his front.
Eventually Liam has to breathe. Louis's hands are in Liam's back pockets. "Or you'll knock it down being too ridiculous and enthusiastic," Liam says.
"Then we'll put it back up, Liam."
"Or we'll go and sleep in Niall's, or we'll crash Nick's caravan. We'll figure something out. We'll make it work. We'll have fun." Louis's smile is so unshakable that Liam smiles back, even though it's going to be a cold, damp night and Liam hasn't quite got Louis's faith in their adaptability. Louis kisses him again, pressing close, making Liam shiver from something other than the chill.
"We do always have fun," Liam agrees breathlessly.
Louis's grin is wicked. "This is the first of many, many camping trips, Liam. How much fun do you think this tent can stand up to?"
"Not as much as I'd like," Liam says honestly, and Louis laughs and pulls him inside.