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“Harry? You up?”

Harry stared groggily at the ocean view outside his bedroom window. It was as picturesque as a Greetings from California! postcard with plenty of sunshine and cerulean water, but sleep pulled at his brain. His eyelids felt so heavy, his bones weighed down with such exhaustion, that not even the stunning view from his Malibu home could keep him awake.

Three soft knocks paired well with a soothing voice cooing through the door. “You awake in there, love?”

He opened his eyes, then gently called, “I’m up, mum. Thanks.”

“Alright, lovey. I’ll make breakfast.”

Anne’s footsteps faded away from his closed bedroom door. Harry licked his dry lips and wiped his hand over his mouth, curling tighter around his cool white duvet for one slow breath. He swung his legs out of bed, then ambled into the bathroom for a quick shower.

When he emerged minutes later in a white tank and black yoga pants, he walked through his home until he reached the large chef’s kitchen. He sat on a stool at the island and yawned.

“Hey,” he said, his voice raspy.

“Hey, yourself,” Anne said as she placed a cup of tea in front of him. “You feeling better?”

Harry rubbed his fists into his closed eyes. “Still tired.”

“Makes sense. You’ve had a busy few weeks.” She placed a plate of scrambled eggs and toast in front of him. “Busy few months, actually.”

Harry picked up a piece of toast. “Feels like it’s been a busy few years.” He bit into it, letting the bread crunch loudly between his teeth. He swallowed. “Busy few lifetimes.”

Being an Oscar nominated actor in his early-twenties came with a price. Long hours, lots of travel, vacations that were not really vacations, and constant meetings with his team. All of it was especially exhausting during the madness that was awards season. He didn’t even want a team. All he wanted was to act in interesting projects, see his friends and family, and get a cat.

And, yeah. Maybe it would be nice to find someone to spoon with and watch terrible television programmes with. Someone to text good morning (and good night) and try new recipes and buy furniture that they’d sit on together (to do the aforementioned spooning and telly). He could finally use some of his money to fly them across the world for exotic dates and all that jetsetter business he never really got to do because he was so busy.

But, for now, breakfast.

Anne pushed his hair back. “Jax is on his way. Sophie, as well. Greg will be here shortly to train.”

Harry nodded as he chewed. That all made sense. His agent, Jax, and assistant slash friend, Sophie, usually popped by at least once per day. He had daily appointments with his personal trainer, Greg, to keep him in tip top shape for awards season and his next project, where he’d be portraying a space gladiator. At least he was able to have breakfast alone with his mum that day.

Anne poured orange juice into a glass and placed it in front of him. “Jax said something about your date for the Oscars. I think he has a few candidates. He sounded excited.”

Harry mushed his face into his hands with his elbows propped on the island. He was nominated for Best Supporting Actor this time around, and was rumored to actually have a chance of winning, as opposed to his first Leading Actor nomination two years prior. He peeked through his fingers.

“I don’t know why I can’t just bring you, like usual. Why the sudden need for me to be dating someone? I don’t have time to date anyone.”

Anne sipped her orange juice. “I know, love. I would have liked to see to see Leonardo DiCaprio win in person.”

“Mum, you’re still coming.”

“To the Oscars?”

“Of course. If I win an Oscar, you’re going to be there.”

“Harry, I know you’re the sweetest, loveliest boy,” Anne said, cradling his cheek, “but you don’t have to bring your boring old mum on your big date.”

“It’s not a big date and you’re not boring or old,” Harry chuckled lightly, forking egg onto his toast. He took a bite. “If I’m at the Oscars, you’re coming with me. That’s not changing. Besides, maybe I’ll just bring a friend.”

Anne nodded. “That sounds good to me. Much better than being stressed about a date date. Niall, maybe?”

“He’s traveling the rest of the month.”

“Zayn?”

“On tour.”

“Hmm…” She squeezed his hand, Harry lifting his thumb to curl over her fingers. “No worries, love. We’ll figure this out.”

The morning got away from them. Harry’s team arrived, his workout went longer and harder than usual, his post-workout shower was interrupted by Jax asking constant questions about the Oscars, and his day off turned into phone calls and talk of possible new projects.

Harry felt himself fading when talk of his Oscar date started with Jax, Sophie, and Anne sitting with him around the kitchen island. It was barely past lunchtime. He focused on his cup of green tea while spinning it on its saucer, half listening to some reality show playing quietly in the living room.

Jax swiped to another photo on his iPad and turned it towards Harry. The photo was of a shaggy haired blond with deeply tanned skin and the most perfect white teeth. “What about Sam Jeremy? He’s a huge fan of yours on Twitter and the photo of the two of you at the Globes afterparty tested incredibly well. His fans are already shipping you.”

“Ooh, I love that one song he sings.” Anne squeezed Harry’s shoulder. “What’s it called? Something about waterfalls?”

“Waterfall Magic Time,” Sophie answered with a dreamy smile, twirling her long pink hair on one finger. “It’s a bop, for sure.”

“A bop?” Harry repeated amusedly. Sophie had a master's degree in biomedical engineering, was an all-star among Hollywood PAs, and was so sharp that Harry suspected she could move mountains with her mind. Her undying love of all things pop culture was one of Harry’s favourite things about her. “Is a bop a good thing?”

“Of course, Harold. He works with the best people in music. I’d take him to the Oscars in a heartbeat.”

“Um, I just…” Harry stopped spinning his saucer. “I’m sure he’s lovely, and yeah, we had a cool, like, three minute chat at the Globes, but I don’t want to date him. I feel weird taking someone to an event that I don’t want to date or don’t even know.”

Jax placed his iPad on the island. “Who do you want to date? Name them and we’ll try to track them down. We want you to enjoy the night, H, not be stressed.”

“I don’t even have an answer for that. I haven’t been on a real date in years.” Harry shrugged and lifted his hands. “I don’t have time. Why can’t I keep my personal life private? Lots of celebrities do that and it makes for better acting when the audience doesn’t know every detail about you. Daniel Day-Lewis. Cate Blanchett. Beyoncé.”

Jax and Sophie exchanged a look. With the gentle smoothness only a top Hollywood agent could possess, Jax said, “You can keep your private life private, Har-oncé. We’re not asking for details, but the memes about sad Harry Styles are going wild online. We need to give the public something to perk you up.”

“I was just grocery shopping by myself like a normal person.” Harry crossed his arms. “It’s like people expect me to be having wild sex in the aisles while clutching my Best Supporting Actor Golden Globe and grinning like a loon or else it means I’m unhappy with my life.”

“The frog memes really took off, too, but that didn’t help,” Sophie added.

“Frog memes?” Harry blinked curiously. Sophie turned her phone towards him and he squinted at the green cartoon. “I don’t get it.”

“You look like a frog,” Sophie said slowly. “Hence the memes.”

He chuckled. “No, I know. You remind me of that daily.”

“I’m your assistant for a reason.”

“I meant, like, why do I need a date? Why now?”

Jax squeezed his shoulder. “You’re established, buddy. Whether you like it or not, you’re famous. People know who you are and they want to see you happy. Fans are confused about why you aren’t seeing anyone seriously.”

“I’m only twenty-two. Why do I have to see someone seriously? I don’t have time because of my schedule. It feels...weird to just bring a random person for the sake of bringing someone.”

Jax smiled at Harry and nodded along with his words, but murmured to Sophie, “This is not going well,” out the corner of his mouth. Sophie headed towards the kettle.

“Let’s think this out. Who was the last person you dated?” Anne asked gently. “Do you have time for dates at all? Even just a first date?”

“I mean,” Harry drawled, spinning his cup. Sophie snickered with her back to him, his gaze darting between his mother and his smirking team. “I’ve...I’ve, uh, gone on dates, I guess, but they were….like…”

Anne held her hands out. “Message received. There’s a reason I don’t read gossip online. I don’t need seedy hookup details. I’m your mum.”

“Right, but it’s—” Harry ran his fingers through his hair. “It’s not, like, many hookups. I promise. Not seedy at all.”

Sophie placed a fresh cup of tea in front of Anne, then tipped the kettle into Harry’s mug. “Very few, actually. Other than dating boring Karl, who is now married, there were only two non-famous people interactions, one of which was a drunk, three-minute makeout session in his trailer. Never seedy.” She sighed and stopped pouring hot water. “Pretty damn tame, if you ask me.”

“I agree,” Jax said as he scrolled through Twitter.

“Yeah, thanks, guys,” Harry said with a good natured eye roll, his mother snorting as she stirred her tea. “So glad you’re into me having a private life when you’re all talking it up in your group text with Gemma.”

“Hmm. Let’s see,” Anne mused, rubbing her palms together. The team was silent, all pondering how to solve this problem. “Well, who was the last person you went on a date with that you had a fun time? Do you remember who that was?”

Harry bit his bottom lip, sawing the flesh with his teeth as he hummed. He pulled his lip away with his fingers. After a few seconds, the corners of his mouth lifted, a lightness brightening his eyes.

Sophie nudged her sandal into his shin. “What’s up, babe?”

“Um…” He squinted at Anne, smiling. “Do you remember my prom date?”

Anne’s face lit up. “Oh, yes!” She clapped once, holding her hands clasped in front of her chest. “Louis! Louis, erm, what was his last name? His mum was the loveliest.”

“Tomlinson. His mum is named Jay.”

“Jay! Yes, that’s right. Oh, I wonder if she’s on Facebook. I should Friend her.” Anne hopped up. “Where’s my phone?”

Jax looked curiously from Anne to Harry. “Louis? Why have I never heard of a Louis?”

Harry ran his fingers through the back of his hair, grinning. “He, um, was my prom date.”

“Yeah, we got that,” Sophie said, sitting on her stool. “You’ve never talked about him, though. I didn’t even know you went to prom. You’ve never shown any of the photos for profiles or interviews.”

“I have photos,” Anne said as she rapidly scrolled through her phone. “I don’t know if I have any on here, but they were adorable. Harry wore a blue tie because Louis has blue eyes and Louis wore a green tie because Harry has green eyes.”

Harry hid his face in his hands. “Here we go.”

“That’s kind of disgustingly adorable,” Sophie said as she giggled. She poked Harry’s dimpled cheek. “How could you keep this detail from us? How did you meet?”

“We met on holiday. Like, his family went to the same beach town as we did for spring break one year. The town is called Deal.” Harry spun his cup, watching green tea slosh within the white porcelain. “Then he was my prom date. He’s a couple years older than me. I think he was studying to be a teacher.”

“He was the nicest boy,” Anne interjected. “An absolute gentleman.”

“Yeah, uh…” Harry felt like his entire body, not simply his stomach, was exploding with butterflies. “He was...really nice.”

In their brief time together, Harry learned many things about Louis. Louis was so funny that he made Harry’s stomach ache from laughing, both often in tears because they laughed so much. Louis had the prettiest smile Harry had ever seen. Louis helped Harry get over his fear of shellfish, spiders and sea creatures in general, taught Harry the best way to execute a penalty kick in football, and encouraged Harry to audition for his first play, which led to him being spotted by a talent scout. The rest was history.

Louis also had the honor of being Harry’s primo wank material during his first bloom of adulthood, though Louis probably had no idea about that little detail.

“Sorry, how old were you when you met?” Jax asked.

“I was sixteen.”

Jax pulled his gelled black hair with both hands. “Wait, so, you had a summer romance when you were sixteen and you never said anything about it in interviews?”

“So?”

“One of your biggest movies is about a summer romance. That could have been a talking point on every interview you had!” Jax’s head shook without his control. “We are actively trying to get you the role of Danny Zuko in the Grease remake and you keep the fact that you lived Grease a secret?” He clutched his side. “Are you trying to give me another ulcer?”

“Plus, you were Jake Ryan in the remake of Sixteen Candles.” Sophie shook her head in time with Jax, who appeared to be on the brink of an asthma attack with his usually slick black hair standing in high, crunchy puffs. “You met him when you were sixteen. You could have spun so much of this into interviews.”

Harry squeezed Jax’s shoulder. “Mate, please don’t develop another ulcer. I don’t know if I can handle another recovery period where you complain about not being able to eat tomato sauce.” He looked to Sophie. “I didn’t mention any of it because it’s private, and I don’t know if I’d call it a summer romance. That’s a little dramatic.”

Anne quietly said, “If anything, Harry was Sandy, not Danny Zuko.”

“Mum,” Harry said with wide eyes.

“What? You were the younger, more innocent one,” Anne said, breaking into laughter. Sophie and Jax cackled, and Anne held her palms out. “I wasn’t born yesterday, love. I didn’t think you and Louis were really going on long walks to look for seashells and sand crabs, wink wink.”

Harry blurted out, “We were legitimately looking for seashells and sand crabs. Please stop winking like that.”

Sophie tilted her head. “Were you really, though? Looking for seashells?”

. . .

“What if your mum comes down? Or Gems? Or your dog? He seems smarter than most humans.”

“They won’t,” Harry whispered back, his eyes wide and earnest. He shook his head, his curly fringe brushing Louis’ forehead. “Promise. Not until morning.”

Louis smiled at Harry with a mix of fondness and disbelief. He craned his neck towards the staircase and mentally measured how many steps notice they would have if Anne decided to pop down to the den. He felt Harry’s socked feet link between his ankles, warm breaths rushing over his chin. Louis looked back to Harry, who was sucking his bottom lip and staring at his mouth.

“You’re sure?”

Harry’s gaze snapped up. “Yup.”

They had taken Harry’s blue duvet off his bed to use while they watched movies after prom. Both laid face to face on the large sectional sofa in Harry’s den, their legs propped on a fluffy ottoman with their feet sticking out of the duvet and towards the television.

Louis looked at the stairs one more time, then gripped the top of the duvet and pulled it over their heads, the sound of the film going woofy. Harry grinned and wiggled closer, both hands flat on Louis’ cheeks. Louis gave him a rushed smile before he pursed his lips, brushing the lightest of kisses to Harry’s mouth. Harry giggled quietly and pulled him in again, their lips sucking for longer, one of his hands straying lower to squeeze Louis’ arse.

“Hey, I thought we said just kissing,” Louis whispered, laughter sputtering through his words. They kissed again. “Aren’t you supposed to be shy?”

“You’ve created a brave monster.”

“Sandcrabs. Spiders. And, now, snogging. What’s the next S-word you’ll explore with me?”

Harry’s smile went lopsided as he squeezed Louis’ arse, lifting his thigh to grind against him. “I have some ideas.”

. . .

Harry’s mouth gaped for a moment. “Oh, for fu—Okay, so we…” He started to laugh, then quieted. He held his hands over his mum’s ears as he murmured, “So, we, like…We kissed a bit after prom. That’s it. He didn’t want to do anything else because I was younger than him.”

Jax and Sophie cooed, “Oooh,” with even their eyebrows wiggling in unison.

Anne smirked and shook his hands off. “Darling, I knew about that. He stayed the night at our house and you both fell asleep watching Notting Hill in the den. I think I even have pictures of you all snuggled up together in the morning.”

Harry hid his face in his hands as Sophie squealed, “Awww!”

“Oh my God, H, was he your first kiss?” Jax asked, his voice going higher. “Is that why you get all vague when fans ask you about it? How could you keep this from me? From the world?”

“It’s not the world’s business and I’m not going to bring him up in interviews for the sake of promo,” Harry said, firmly but kindly. “He might be married with kids or something. I don’t need to bring any unwanted attention to him or his family. I’m not talking about private stuff for the sake of promo.” He sliced his hand through the air. “I’m just not.”

“You’re such a good boy,” Anne said, rubbing between his shoulder blades.

Jax pulled a Blackberry, an iPhone, and an Android phone from his pockets, then laid all the devices on the table like a deck of cards. “Let’s call him. What’s the harm? We can fly him out for the awards. Give him a free vacation. He’ll love it. We need to get him a tux. Do you know his shoe size?”

“I dunno, I think....I think that’s a bit weird,” Harry said slowly, uncertainty dragging his speech more than usual. “I haven’t seen him for years. I don’t even know what he’s doing now. He’s probably seeing someone or married. He always said he wanted to have kids and all that.”

“He hasn’t said anything publicly about dating you?” Sophie asked quietly as she swirled her long bubblegum pink hair around her index finger. “Like, released photos or given interviews? Made comments about knowing you before you were famous?”

“No.” Harry shook his head. “Never. Not a peep.”

Sophie smiled and dunked her tea bag. “Aw, that’s…That’s kind of sweet, you know? He never sold you out. He’s trustworthy.”

“Yeah.” Harry thumbed the rim of his mug, staring dreamily at his tea. “He’s a good person. He was, at least, when we were younger.”

“Why didn’t you stay in touch?”

“I, um...” Harry hummed and pursed his lips while staring at his kitchen island, then looked to Anne. “I don’t really remember. Do you?”

“I actually don’t.” A small frown wrinkled her forehead. “That’s sad. They were lovely.”

“He was in uni at the time and I wasn’t. We never lived near each other. Then, when I started to audition for things, I was traveling a lot and I think he moved.” Harry shrugged. “I guess we just fell out of touch.”

“Tomlinson with a T?” Jax asked.

Harry blinked at him. “What other letter would you use to start Tomlinson?”

“No worries, Jaxie,” Anne said, tapping her phone screen. “Jay and I are now Facebook friends and she just sent me Louis’ newest mobile number.” She grinned at Harry then tapped her screen again. “I just texted it to you. Call away, love.”

. . .

Louis stuck his tongue out the corner of his mouth as he angled a Spiderman plaster side to side. He held it straight, then placed it on a tiny, wobbling knee.

“You did amazing, mate.” He smoothed the plaster to stick on the small scrape. “That last goal you defended? Outrageous! Felt like I was watching a Rovers game!”

The little boy sitting on the bench, a five year old named Nathan, sniffled and peered down at him with watery, terrified brown eyes. “But I fell. I—I—I—” Tears rolled down his ruddy cheeks and he started to cry. “I fell d-down! And everyone s-s-saw! And I got hu-hu-hurt!”

“You played like a star,” Louis said soothingly, holding Nathan’s heaving shoulders. “And, hey, what’s footie without a few tumbles, yeah? I fall all the time, don’t I?”

Nathan sniffled for a few seconds with his mouth open, then shuddered and said, “Y-Y-Yeah.”

“See?” Louis held his forearm out and showed a matching Spiderman bandaid on his elbow. “I got this one yesterday. Tumbles happen, mate.” He glanced at his watch. “Ah. We’d better go. Got to get you out there for your mum to pick you up.” Louis squeezed Nathan’s shoulders one more time and stood from his knees. “Let’s go see mum, yeah?”

Louis held his hand out and Nathan gripped it for the walk out of the locker room, their cleats clicking on the old tile. They met up with his mother near the other parents. After explaining Nathan’s tumble, Louis got down on one knee. He squeezed Nathan’s shoulders and repeated, “You played like a star,” before ruffling his messy brown hair. “I’ll see you next practice, mate.”

Nathan threw his arms around Louis. “Bye, Coach Tommo!”

“Bye, mate.” Louis chuckled. “Great job.”

“Thank you,” Nathan’s mother whispered with a smile, shouldering Nathan’s duffel bag.

Louis stood and waved as they walked to their car. He nodded at another group of parents dropping off his last team to coach, a group of thirteen year old girls instead of the little ones. The older girls started to warm up without his instruction, which gave him the chance to check his phone. He barely had time for a wee between the teaching PE all day, coaching the boy’s football team after school, and his blocks of private coaching sessions.

He could hear his phone ringing the closer he got to the bench. Louis scooped up the bag and dug inside, then peered at the screen. It was an unknown number from Los Angeles, CA. He frowned. Who did he know in LA? Most of his friends were UK based, like himself.

His brain flickered with thoughts of his family members and who was where at that moment. Were his sisters traveling again? It was hard to keep track. His addiction to watching too many crime dramas where innocent travelers were abducted or lost made him tap Accept and bring the phone to his face.

“Hello?” he asked.

“Oh, uh, h-hello. Hi.”

Louis absorbed the deep voice tinged with an English accent that stuttered through the phone. “Hi,” he said slowly. “Alright?”

“Louis?”

His lower belly flip flopped, goosebumps prickling his forearms. He leaned his weight on his left leg. “Sorry, who is this?”

“Oh! Right. Um.” The person cleared their throat. “This is Harry.”

Louis waited a beat, then asked, “Is this a knock knock joke?”

“What?”

“Harry who?”

“Harry Styles? Harry, um, Styles,” the deep voice said with more certainty. “We, uh, met when we were—”

Louis laughed. “Ha ha, Li, real funny. I’m gonna eat the rest of your frozen waffles when I get home and then leave the empty box in the freezer, just because I know how much you love that. Later, dude.”

He tapped the screen to end the call and tossed his phone on top of his bag. He pointed at the girls kicking a footie between them.

“Oi, who said you could start that? Why aren’t you running laps right now? You know the drill, ladies.”

The girls all groaned but started on their laps around the pitch. Louis looked down at his phone and saw a text come through from the unknown number. He unlocked the screen and went to check his other texts first. He saw a handful of messages from his mum. One, in particular, caught his eye.

I just talked to Anne Styles, Harry’s mum !...Remember them!? From the beach!. They were so sweet !! He’s going to ring you today… something about the Oscars?!!! Can u believe it? I wonder if he knows Leo??? Talk to you later xx

. . .

“He hung up on me. I think that means this is over.”

“You sounded unwell and made zero sense,” Sophie said, apologetic but on the brink of laughter. She pet Harry’s hand. “Let’s hope he sees the text I just sent. That should make things easier.”

“I didn’t sound unwell.”

Anne, Jax, and Sophie started to make various deep, “Uh,” sounds, while also doing a similar sway side to side, all three holding invisible phones to their ears.

“I don’t look or sound like that,” Harry said, chuckling despite the slight prickle of embarrassment racing through him. “Okay, fine. I sounded like an ogre. What did you text him?”

“I tried to select the perfect photo of you to prove the number is really you.”

“Photo? You sent a—” Harry frantically navigated to his texts. He cried, “Oh no, oh God, oh no,” and dropped his phone on the island. “Why did you send that one!?”

“I figured it’d get his attention.”

“Which photo is it?” Anne asked.

Sophie said, “It’s an outtake from his Vogue shoot where you can sort of see his—”

“Nothing,” Harry said quickly, grasping his phone. “None. No.”

Sophie leaned closer to Anne and whispered, “It’s the one when he’s standing with his back to the camera, but in the outtake you can sort of see his...” She made a curvy motion with her hands. “Bum.”

“Ah,” Anne whispered, nodding.

The phone started to vibrate in Harry’s hand. “Oh. Shit.” He peered at the screen. “Oh! It’s him.”

“Answer it, for God’s sake,” Jax said as he reached for the phone. Harry grabbed it before Jax could. “C’mon, Styles, I’m ulcer-ing over here.”

“Alright, alright, I’ll just take it in the bedroom.” Harry jogged out of the kitchen and pulled his bedroom door closed behind himself, then fell forward onto his bed. “Shit. Fuck. Okay.” He tapped Accept and held his phone to his ear. “H-Hello?”

“Harry?”

“Yeah, it’s me,” Harry exhaled, holding completely still.

“Hey, mate, alright? So sorry about before. I thought you were my flatmate pranking me. He does a pretty good impression of you from that scene in Lonely Valley, you know, when you’re talking to the cows, and I didn’t realize it was actually you. Sorry about that.”

Louis’ soft, raspy voice flooded Harry with the feeling of combined comfort and excitement that he felt on the sofa after prom, overwhelmed with the realization that Louis Tomlinson was willing to spend time with him.

“Uh...Harry?” Louis asked.

Harry felt air return to his lungs, as if he’d been holding his breath since the morning after prom. He got to a seated position, bouncing his bum to the edge of the bed. “Yeah, no worries. I’m here. No worries about before.”

“Cool.”

“Yeah, cool.”

“So,” Louis said, easy as can be. “What’s up, mate? How are you? S’been a million years, yeah?”

“Yeah, uh…” Harry curled his toes into the white carpet. “Not much. I’m good, yeah. All good.”

“Nice.”

“And you?” Harry said faster, holding his arm out as if Louis was sitting in front of him. He blushed and dropped his hand. “How are you?”

“I’m great, thanks. Just working and stuff. How’s your family?”

Harry smiled wider, his belly warm. “They’re good, thanks. My mum’s actually visiting me in LA, at the moment.”

“That’s lovely. Lots of sunshine.”

“Yeah.”

“You live there full-time?”

“Mmhmm,” Harry hummed, pulling at the knee of his jeans. “I have a place in London, as well, but I feel like I’m never there. I...” His pulls slowed. “I actually can’t even remember the address right now.”

Louis laughed softly. “Might want to look into that.”

“Yeah. Probably.”

“So, what’s up? What can I do for you?”

“Oh! Right. Uh…Sorry. Just…” Harry swallowed, returning to the knee of his jeans and tugging at the torn threads. Speaking to Louis was so easy, he forgot why he even called. “I was wondering, if you...Are you...What are you doing this weekend?”

“Probably just coaching and going to games. I teach PE and coach footie for the boy’s team, but then I also do some private coaching sessions for a bunch of outside teams. I try to get to as many games as my schedule allows. Maybe I’ll grab a pint or two with the lads.”

“Oh,” Harry said quietly, deflating. “So, you’re busy?”

“Yeah, their games are usually all weekend. Why? What’s up?”

“Um...I was...I was just wondering if you’d maybe want to…” He took a big breath, then spit out words in double time. “Fly to LA and go to the Oscars with me. I can pay for you. Pay for the trip, not for you. Wow, that sounds creepy, but I don’t mean it in a creepy way. Just as a friend, not, like—Unless you’re married or seeing someone or, you know, not available, which is totally, totally—”

“Harry,” Louis soothed. “Take a breath, mate.” Harry inhaled so much his chest puffed. “Now let it out.” Harry exhaled and hunched forward. Louis chuckled again, even quieter. “You good?”

“Yeah.”

“You sure?”

“Yes, sorry, I know this is so bloody weird and out of nowhere. I know we haven’t seen each other for, like…”

“Six-ish years. You’re, what, twenty-two?”

“Mmhmm.”

“Right. Figured. I’m twenty-four. Erm, shit, sorry. Hold on a second.” There was a rustling sound, as if Louis was holding his hand over the phone, then Louis’ muffled voice said, “Alright, break up into pairs. Cones, ladies, please and thank you.” Harry smiled, swaying his feet just above the floor. “Sorry, mate, I’m back,” Louis said in his normal voice. “I’ve got to go soon, though. Have an army of thirteen year old girls who will just die when I tell them I had a chat with the one and only Harry Styles.”

“You’d tell people we know each other?”

“Nah,” Louis drawled quietly. “You’re right. I like keeping that between us.”

Harry’s smile faded, and his feet stopped swaying. “Oh. Then you…” He pinched his white duvet and stared at the bunched material. “You wouldn’t have wanted to go to an awards show, then. Lots of people would see us together. Lots of photos.”

“What? No. No, not like that,” Louis said on one quick phrase, chuckling through his words. “I’m so coming to the Oscars with you this weekend.”

Harry’s jaw dropped. “What?”

“Yeah, I’d love to. You’re sweet to even call me, of all people.”

“But—But what about work? Your teams? Coaching?”

“Nah, don’t worry about it. I can get a sub and leave plans for everything. My flatmate, Liam, can handle it.”

“Y-You’re sure you want to come? With me?”

Louis snorted. “You’re asking if I’m sure about going to the Oscars with you, Harry Styles? It’s the Oscars, mate! And you’re…” Louis paused for a moment, then softly said, “You’re you. If you want me there, I’m there.”

Harry curled on his side and cradled the phone to his cheek. “Wow, that’s…” He bit his bottom lip, rubbing his feet together. “That’s so nice of you.”

“You’re gonna win this year, you know that, right? You were robbed your first time around, but you’re in this year. For sure.”

“I dunno about that, but…” Harry’s face ached from smiling so wide. He ruffled his hair, keeping his hand clasped in the back. “Oh my God, I’m so excited about it now. Now that you’re gonna come with me.”

“Now you’re excited? You’re nominated for an Oscar, but you weren’t excited to go until you had a chat with me?”

“Yeah, I....I’m the weirdest. Sorry.”

“Nah. You’re sweet. Don’t ever apologize for being you.”

“I like when you say, ‘Nah,’ that way. Nahhhh. Sounds so relaxing or something.” When Louis was quiet, Harry’s chuckles disappeared. He looked around his bedroom and sat up straight. “I mean, yeah, sorry,” he blurted out. “I shouldn’t have say that. That was weird. Sorry.”

“No, it’s fine. Or should I say...” Louis paused, then drawled, “Nahhhh?

Harry hid his face in his hand. “I’m so thankful we’re not Facetiming. I’m blushing like mad right now.”

“Guess you didn’t grow out of that, hm?”

“No, not at all.”

“You always had the worst poker face.”

“I know.”

“Your bum grew up nicely, though.”

“Oh God,” Harry said slower and deeper, Louis’ laughter crackling through the phone. “My assistant, Soph, sent that, I swear. I don’t just send people photos of my bum.”

“Yeah, yeah. A likely story. And you should. It’s a nice bum.”

Harry’s blush only deepened. “I just...I don’t even know what to say besides thank you.”

“This isn’t, like, some kind of Punk’d episode, is it? I’m not famous. Aren’t the famous people supposed to be the ones getting Punk’d?”

“No, this is not Punk’d,” Harry said as he chuckled. “No. This is, um, me asking you to be my date for an event. Six years after we met.”

“An event that happens to be the Oscars.”

“Right.”

“Totally normal.”

“Agreed.”

“I actually was expecting your call. You’re late, Styles.” Harry cackled then slapped his hand over his mouth. “Wow,” Louis drawled, and Harry could practically see his smile from thousands of miles away. “There’s that laugh. That Styles laugh.”

Harry nibbled his lip, stretching on his back. “Um...Can I ask if you’re, uh…”

“I’m single.”

“Right, cool, awesome, yeah,” Harry blurted out on one breath.

“Can I ask why you need me as your date? I’d think you have a line down the California coast of potential suitors.”

Harry rolled onto his stomach. “Ah, but, none of those people are you.”

“Huh. Well, I hate to break the spell, but I’m no celeb. I’m pretty much the same height as when you last saw me, I eat cereal in bed more often than at a table, I leave clothes in the dryer for days, I keep forgetting to buy razors and my beard is a mess, and I don’t think I own anything besides one professional outfit for Parent-Teacher night. Not exactly Oscars red carpet ready.”

“All that sounds a-okay to me,” Harry said, chuckling quietly. “My stylist can dress you and I’m pretty sure we can rustle up whatever you need. Razors, cereal, the works.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah. Plus, my list of weird habits is a lot more depressing. I’ll spare you.”

“Depressing? I don’t like the sound of that, mate. What’s up?”

Harry looked out to the ocean as the centre of his chest started to ache. He rubbed his hand between his pecs. What was it about Louis that made him want to spill his guts within minutes of reconnecting? It was as if Louis’ voice had projected through the phone to create a hologram of himself, sent to keep Harry company in his lonely, but professionally decorated, bedroom.

“It’s just...”

“What is it?”

“It’s lonely a lot of the time,” Harry whispered, his lips twitching downward. “Most of the time, to be honest.”

“Oh, love,” Louis murmured, his voice rasping in Harry’s ear. “I’m sorry.”

Harry wrinkled his nose and wiped his hand over his face, shaking his head. “So...Yeah. That’s that. Please ignore me. Nothing to be sorry for. It’s a choice. I have an amazing life. I shouldn’t complain.”

“You’re not complaining and I’m never gonna ignore you. I just wish—” Voices shouted in the background of Louis’ call. “Ah, shit. Sorry. Hang on a second.”

Harry listened to the muffled sound of Louis speaking with something covering the phone. He swayed his feet in the air, touching his toes as his legs swayed inwards. A high pitched whistle rang three times. Harry pulled the phone away from his ear, then replaced it. “I can let you go, mate. Sounds busy by you.”

“Nah, nah, it’s cool.” Louis’ voice bounced as if he was running. “Sorry about that. I had to tell the girls something and use the old whistle. Coach stuff, you know?”

“Yeah.”

“Hey, can I…” Louis panted for a moment. “Can I ask you something?”

“Sure. Ask me whatever you want.”

“Why did you call me? Like, what made you even think of me? Of all people?”

“Um...My, um, my mum, actually.”

“Your mum?”

“My mum asked who was the last person I went on a date with that I had a truly fun time, and I said you.”

“You said me?”

“I said you.”

“Aw, Harry,” Louis said through his warm laughter. “That’s so sweet.”

“Yeah, well,” Harry said, trailing off as he pulled at his duvet. “I’m just relieved you didn’t hang up.”

“Well, uh, I kinda did, at first. Whoops.”

“Right, just, I meant—The second time.” He chuckled, Louis snickering quietly. “Like, when you knew it was really me.”

“You and your bum.”

“Yes. Me and my bum.”

“Hey, you don’t even know what I look like anymore.”

Harry tilted his head. “So?”

“So, you’re okay with bringing someone to the Oscars, even if you don’t know what I look like? What if I’m hideous? You’re gonna have to tell people how we know each other, and I’ll probably end up in a photo or two.”

“That doesn’t matter to me.”

“Does your agent feel the same way?”

“He’ll have to deal. He had an iPad of candidates, but they didn’t work for me.”

“They didn’t meet your approval?”

“Yeah, I…” He nibbled his bottom lip, running his palm over his duvet. “I’m not so into the idea of bringing someone I don’t know just to have a date. If I go on a date with someone, I want to...I want to actually want to date them. Like, for real.” He ran his hand through his hair. “Wow, I’m making zero sense right now.”

“Nah, you’re cool. You make sense. You…” Harry heard shifting through the phone, the sound of voices in the background growing closer. Softer, Louis asked, “So, you want to take me on a date, then? For real?”

“Well,” Harry droned, his eyes rolling up to the ceiling, “I would have preferred to take you out for some noodles and the new Star Wars movie—”

“In IMAX.”

“Of course. But,” Harry said, sighing, “I suppose the Oscars will have to do.”

Louis snickered. “I suppose. I, uh, shit. One sec.” He pulled his mouth away from the phone and yelled, “I’ll be right there, girls! Go ahead.” The phone jostled for a moment. “Sorry, mate,” he said to Harry. “I gotta go.”

“Yeah, sure, of course.” Harry sat up with both legs crossed. “Sorry for, um, taking up so much of your time.”

“Nah, nah, nah. You will never, never take up my time. Never.”

“That’s...That’s really nice of you.”

“I’ll, erm, text you my information, alright? Then we can straighten out plans and flights and such.”

“Sounds perfect.”

“Cool.”

“Right, uh…” Harry exhaled a laugh. “Cool, okay. Have a great practice.”

“Thanks, mate. I’ll talk to you later.”

“Yeah. Sounds great. Bye. And thanks.”

“You’re welcome. Bye, Haz.”

“Bye.”

Harry heard the line cut out. He pulled the phone away from his face, smiling deliriously at the home screen.

“Okay,” he exhaled as he fell onto his back. He wrapped his arms over his face, his stomach bumping with muffled giggles as he curled on his side. His phone buzzed. Harry gripped the screen and blinked at it. “Oh.”

He tapped on a new text from Louis.

hi hollywood ! here is my contact info. let me know if you need more. i have an active passport, lots of frequent flier miles, and a big smile :) so excited to see you mate. since u showed me your bum, figured i’d show u me balls ;)) talk soon xx text me anytime!

Harry cackled, and his hand flew to his muffle his laughter. The photo Louis sent was a selfie taken on the pitch, based on the gray Adidas hoodie and whistle around his neck. It was night in England, bright lights around the field illuminating the photo. He was clutching two footballs with one arm while his other hand was extended outwards to take the photograph. The background was green grass, which set off the clear blue of his eyes and the slight flush of his high cheekbones.

“Hello, scruffy,” Harry murmured.

Louis had grown up since the prom. When they met, he didn’t think Louis could grow peach fuzz. Things had changed. He now sported a reddish-brown beard framing his pink lips that only accentuating his sharp jawline. His hair was long, especially his fringe, which teased the delicate bone beside his right eye.

His smile, though. His smile was the same. A perfect, warm, fuzzy-stomach inducing combination of mischief and sweetness.

Harry smoothed his hand over his groin, glancing quickly at his closed bedroom door. He rolled onto his stomach and palmed himself through his trousers, biting his bottom lip as he stared at Louis’ photo. He felt like a teenager again, arousal surging through his veins and any hint of exhaustion wiped away. The softest of moans fell from his lips, the heel of his hand applying pressure to his fly.

There was a cheerful knock on the door.

“H?” Jax knocked again, faster. “You done with your call? I’ve got YSL on the line. Did you ask Louis what shoe size he was? Gucci needs to know what colour his hair is for the tux. Can our people call him to book the flight?”

Harry sighed and went limp on the bed with his nose brushing the shiny screen of his phone. He blinked at Louis’ photo. Despite the interruption, he smiled as he squeezed his eyes shut for a beat. Harry pulled himself to his feet and picked up his phone. He opened his bedroom door, Jax’s fist raised in a knocking motion as he texted with his other hand.

“I’ll text him,” Harry said, stepping out of the bedroom. “We didn’t talk shoe sizes. His hair is brown.”

Sophie handed him a fresh cup of tea. “I heard an awful lot of laughing, mister. One might even say giggling occurred.”

“Yeah, uh, Louis is really funny,” Harry said, his grin uncontrollable as he gripped the mug with both hands. He ducked his head down, his wavy hair flopping over his face. “We had a good chat. Thanks for the tea, love.”

Jax asked, “So, it’s a go?”

Harry nodded. “It’s a go.”

. . .

There was a whirlwind of preparation in the days leading up to the Oscars. Interviews, fittings, consultations with his hair stylist about make-or-break details, such as the level of curliness the ends of his hair needed for the red carpet, or how high his casual bun should be for the afterparty.

The night before Louis’ flight, Louis and Harry had a quick phone conversation to cover any bases not already covered by Jax or Sophie. Louis would be arriving on Saturday afternoon, with the Oscars happening on Sunday. He would then fly home on Monday morning.

Harry sat down on a stool at his kitchen island. He rested the balls of his bare feet on the bottom bar of the stool. A fresh mug of green tea warmed his hand, his phone balanced on his shoulder and a script open on the island. “I really wish you’d let me send a car for you. Navigating out of LAX can be a real pain.”

“I already rented a car, mate,” Louis said amidst the sound of something clattering in the background. “I’m set.”

“But I can send a driver for you, no problem.” Harry turned an earmarked page. “It’ll be more relaxing for you.”

“Nah, no worries. It’s better for me to drive myself. Then I can get a feel for the area. Plus, no one will be checking for the guy in a rented Prius—rented with a ten-percent-off coupon, no less. A fancy car will draw attention.”

“Louis,” Harry drawled, smiling softly as he smoothed his palm down the crisp spine. “You wouldn’t even let me pay for your flight.”

“I’m coming to spend time with a pal and attend a sick party. I can spare the frequent flier miles, love.”

Harry spun his mug on the counter. “I’m supposed to be sweeping you off your feet. You’re making that very difficult.”

“I have a feeling I’ll be plenty swept, flight or no flight. And, hey, you’re putting me up for the trip. You’re already doing plenty.”

“Are you sure you don’t want a hotel? It’s no trouble at all.”

“Don’t you have, like, a million bedrooms in your place?”

“Well…” Harry peered around his empty home. His mum had gone shopping with a friend, and his team left him alone for the remainder of the day. “Five, yeah.”

“I think we’ll manage. You said you’re free all tomorrow night?”

Harry tapped his phone to put Louis on speaker and scanned his schedule. “Yep.”

“How’d that happen?”

“Soph is a magician. And a goddess.”

“I’ll say.”

He had specifically requested to have Oscars Eve free, even before Louis was set to be his date. He just had a strange feeling that he would need alone time without interviews to clear his head before such a large moment in his career. Now, it seemed like some sort of fate that he would have a night alone, a true luxury, to help Louis settle in and get to know each other again.

Harry minimized his iCal, swapping to Instagram. He had yet to officially friend Louis, but he was more than happy to take advantage of Louis’ public profile, featuring lots of footie, lots of selfies, and lots of mundane activities that somehow seemed like pornography to Harry, simply because it was Louis.

“I’ve got some meetings in the morning, plus training, but I’ll be done by the time you arrive. Then we both have a fitting, but that shouldn’t take terribly long. I’m all yours tomorrow evening.”

“I like the sound of that.”

Harry felt his cheeks heat. He nibbled the corner of his mouth, then murmured, “Yeah?”

“Mmhmm. I’ve got plans for us.”

“Plans?” Harry’s voice cracked, and he heard Louis laugh. “What...What plans? Do you need me to do anything? Shall I arrange for a driver? A dinner reservation?”

“Just be you, Hollywood. That’s all you need to do.” There was another crash, followed by Louis muttering, “Fucking luggage.” Harry snorted, Louis giggling. “I’m borrowing Liam’s stuff, because mine is legitimately in shambles, and his is all so heavy. I think I just lost a toe due to one of the little wheely-things.”

Harry flipped a page in his script. “I’ll have to let my stylist know we’re working with nine toes, not ten.”

“Ha!”

“Um…” Harry worried his bottom lip with his teeth. He glanced at Louis’ Instagram. “I...Do you have social media?”

“Me? Yeah, a bit, why?”

“I...I hate to sound creepy, but I’d suggest making it private, if it’s not already private.”

“Oh.” Louis’ voice popped like a bubble through the phone. Harry could hear him walking. “Oh...kay.”

“I’m not trying to be controlling,” Harry blurted out. “Sorry, that must have been a weird thing to say.”

“You’re not being weird or controlling,” Louis laughed easily. “You’re just giving me advice. Consider it done. I really only use Instagram and my Facebook is already private. I’m a teacher. I don’t do much online.”

“Cool. Okay. I just think it’ll be easier if you get named in an article. People will find anything and everything about you, which I’m, um, sorry about.”

“Well, I hate to disappoint my future fanbase, but it’s mostly footie pics and selfies taken in unfortunate lighting.”

Harry laughed, “And all your burnt frozen pizzas.” The words left his mouth before he could control it. He went silent, his mouth pursed and his eyes wide. Louis also was quiet on the other end. Harry curled his toes around the bottom rung of his kitchen stool. “I…” He swallowed thickly. “Uh…”

“Harold Starshine Styles,” Louis said breathily with scandal weighing his voice, “are you creeping on me?”

Technically, my team found all your social media within seconds of setting up our date.” Louis’ cackles made the phone vibrate on the island, Harry starting to smile. “But I...Yeah. You got me. I’m creeping on you.”

“Why didn’t you just add me?”

“I dunno.”

Harry went to add Louis and was met with the gray Request Sent bar. He frowned and reloaded the Instagram page, but found it was already locked, every selfie and charred frozen meal hidden.

“Oh, would you look here,” Louis sang curiously. “A verified account for some lad called Harry Styles requested to follow me on Instagram.”

“Did you really have to lock it before I could add you?”

“I need to weed out potential stalkers, darling.”

Harry grinned and refocused on his script, listening to the sound of Louis packing in the background. He peeked at his lock screen out the corner of his eye and saw a notification that Louis had accepted his request, in addition to following Harry on Instagram.

“Lou?”

“Mm?”

“Why didn’t you add me on anything?”

Louis grunted over the sound of a zipper being ripped open. “Like, Instagram?”

“Yeah. Once my name was, um, public, I guess.”

“Dunno. I thought it’d be weird to add you. Like I was trying to sneak my way back into your life just because you’re famous.”

“But we were actual friends,” Harry said slowly, thumbing the corner of his script. “Like, we were friends. Our mums were friends. It’s not like you’re some random fifth cousin, who I never met, coming out of the woodwork and asking for tickets to The Grammys.”

“Yeah, I...I dunno.” Louis’ voice grew more distant. “I was at uni and you were busy with all your gigs. Then I did a year abroad, then graduated, then traveled a year coaching. I was all over the place, you were all over the place. I didn’t even have a mobile for a while because I was just emailing my mum on the road to let her know I was still kicking, and you were a kid. I didn’t expect a sixteen year old to be my lifelong penpal.”

“I would have. I would have been your penpal.”

“Aw, Haz, you’re…” Harry could hear the smile in Louis’ voice. “I’m sure you have excellent penmanship, and that you would have been a great penpal. Once I settled down, I guess I figured you wouldn’t even remember me, to be honest, so why bother following you on Instagram when I saw you pop up in a film? Seemed silly.”

“Is that why we...fell out of touch?” Harry whispered, “You thought I forgot you?”

“I…” Louis paused for a moment, Harry listening to his every move from across the ocean. “Not in a bad way. Not, like, you were being mean or rude something. Not at all. You’re lovely. I just figured you needed your space to grow and become the butterfly you’ve got tattooed on your belly. We grew up. That’s all.”

“Louis Football-Pizza-Scruff-King Tomlinson, are you creeping on me?”

Louis laughed and Harry exhaled a chuckle, the blood returning to his brain. The snippet of tension evaporated.

“The world is creeping on you, mate,” Louis said through his light laughter. He cleared his throat. “I’m actually shocked you haven’t gone mad with all that. You were always a bit shy.”

“Yeah, I’m…” Harry spun his mug, tugging on the string of the tea bag. “I’m still kind of shy.”

“Alright.” A zipper zipped. “We need to end this conversation. You’re being far too endearing and are totally distracting me from overpacking.”

“Endearing?” Harry said, making his voice extra high. “Lil’ old me?”

“Don’t give me that innocent shit. We’ve both seen your work in Wood.”

Harry’s eyes bulged. “Oi, that was a role! I’m not actually a…” He dropped his voice. “A porn star.”

Louis giggled. “I’ll see you tomorrow, yeah? We can text about airport stuff. Arrival times and so on. Maybe some screencaps from Wood for flavor.”

“Oh God,” Harry groaned, rubbing his wrinkled forehead. “Maybe I should have gone with a personality-free popstar afterall.”

“Yeah?” Louis asked, the teasing lilt of his voice managing to express total confidence from one simple word. “You want me to cancel my flight? I have a bunch of London Spy episodes to catch up on, plus a freezer full of pizza. I could easily—”

“Nah,” Harry replied, quiet and drawled. Louis snuffled. “I’m quite happy with how it’s working out.” He couldn’t see Louis, but somehow could mentally picture him smiling. Something about the silence and frequency being transmitted through the phone. “Lou?”

“You and me both,” Louis said, just as soft. “Looking forward to seeing you tomorrow. So much.”

“Me too. I’ll see you tomorrow. Safe flight.”

. . .

Louis ended the call and tossed his phone on his bed. It bounced into a pile of clothes. Clean clothes, hopefully. He lifted a white tee and took a sniff, then threw it over his shoulder to the pile of dirty laundry in front of his closet.

“Hey,” Liam said from the doorway. “Brought you something.”

Louis looked towards him and his face lit up. “Oh, you’re a star. A star flatmate if I ever knew one.” He accepted the mug of tea and sat on the edge of the bed. Him sitting caused the bunched, red bottom sheet to finally give up on the top left corner of his mattress, the overstretched elastic slinking down the bed to reveal the mattress underneath. “So, what’s up?”

“Heard you on the phone with Hollywood.”

“Yeah,” Louis chuckled, lifting his mug to his lips. He sipped quickly. “Just some last minute logistics.”

Liam plopped down on the floor. “Sounded like a pretty jolly conversation.”

“Yeah,” Louis said softer, smiling at his mug of tea. “He’s fun.”

“I think I’m still in shock that you managed to keep it a secret for the entire length of our friendship that your old friend Harry was actually Harry Styles. You can never even hold on to what my birthday present is, you blurt it out the day you buy it no matter if it’s my birthday or not.”

Louis snorted and rested his mug on his thigh. “Yeah, I dunno. I guess it was different with him.” He took a sip, Liam rifling through his unorganized, carry-on sized rolling bag. “I didn’t want to say anything about it because...you know how people are. Not you, of course, but I’d never want to mention his name, have it twisted, and then cause any issues for him.”

“Your sisters kept quiet, too.”

“I actually don’t know if they made the connection that he’s that Harry,” Louis said slowly. “They were really young and...what are you doing?” He swiped at Liam’s hand. “Oi, stay out of—”

Liam pulled an unopened box of condoms out of the netted, zipper pocket inside his luggage. “Well, well, well,” he crowed with a grin, lifting the box high in the air. “Planning ahead?”

“I bring protection anytime I travel.” Louis swiped for the box. “I always keep them in my bag. It’s called being sexually responsible, thank you.” Liam tossed the box at him and it whacked him in the nose. “It means nothing.”

“So…” Liam lifted an Adidas tee and pinched the shoulders, folding it against his chest. Louis peered at him as he rubbed his stinging nose. “If Harry wanted to do more than walk a red carpet with you, you wouldn’t be game?”

Louis ran his fingers through his messy hair. “Is that a joke? I haven’t seen the guy in years, but if he asked me to sixty-nine on the red carpet, I’d be like, ‘Okay, cool, does Ryan Seacrest’s crew have an acceptable camera angle ready?’” Liam cackled as Louis sipped his tea, then swallowed with a cheerful slap of his lips. “I’m head over heels just from the sound of his voice, mate.”

“What do you think Harry wants?”

Louis thought for a moment, nibbling his lower lip. “Not sure. He’s a little shy.”

“Hot.”

“Ugh, you’re telling me,” Louis said on a groan, curling his toes. He scratched his ankle, his gray track bottoms inching up his leg. “Whatever he wants to do, we’ll do. I’m excited to just talk with him and, hopefully, make the weekend fun for him. He’s so nice, you know?”

Liam paired two socks and balled them. “He seems like the nicest.” He put them in the zipper pocket. He lifted a pile of boxer briefs and frowned. “I think you’re over-packing, mate. You’re there for a weekend. This is...ten pairs of underwear. Are you planning on wetting your pants three times a day? Oh, and did you call your bank and credit card company to let them know you’ll be out of town? I emailed you an article about health insurance while traveling. Did you look into that?”

As Liam gave gentle travel advice and started sorting out Louis’ clothes, Louis reclined on his back with his mug of tea warm against the side of his hip, his thumb looped through the mug handle. His black tee rode up on his flat stomach.

“Lou?” Liam asked.

“Yeah, I called my bank and cards and all that, thanks.”

“Good lad.”

“I feel like…”

Liam looked up from a nearly folded pair of sweats. “Hm?”

“I feel like Harry’s one of those friends that you could be away from for a hundred years, but then you hang out again and you blow past awkward. You just snap back into it and it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been apart, or if you weren’t around for every little detail. His mum is at his place, as well, and I loved her when we...” He looked at Liam’s progress and sat up suddenly. “Oi, get your hands out—”

Liam pulled dark, clingy fabric out of the suitcase like a victory flag. “Oh my God, you’re bringing your fuck-me jeans! You haven’t worn these in years! This is A-List, for sure! You definitely want to get laid!”

. . .

The day before the Oscars was as hectic and stressful as Harry expected it would be. His team was in and out of his house like a revolving door. His trainer upped his daily workout in both intensity and length, a phone interview went way over due to technical difficulties, and he was sidelined by an emergency call to a maintenance crew when his pool water suddenly turned neon green. He was so busy answering phone calls and shoving lunch, or rather slurping a green protein shake, into his mouth while reading through a new script that he didn’t hear the security gaze buzz, nor did he hear his mother excuse herself to answer it.

“Louis!” Anne cried happily in the distance. “Oh, come in, love. Hello, hello!” Harry’s head snapped up so fast his sunglasses went flying backwards and clattered on the floor. Anne called, “Harry! Your friend is here!” much like when he was ten years old and having a mate over after school.

Harry got up and stumbled, half bending to pick up his glasses. His feet went pigeon-toed and he stood to his full height, hurrying into the living room. He saw Louis’ back first, clothed in a soft looking charcoal tee with a colourful Adidas rucksack hanging off his shoulders. His jeans were dark and a touch baggy, rolled at the ankles, with a green beanie perched high on the crown of his head. Louis’ arms wrapped tightly around Anne as they swayed in the foyer. His flip-flops were already off and sitting beside the open door.

Louis turned towards him, his eyes sparkling. Anne stepped out of their hug and Louis dropped his bag to the floor. He started to jog towards Harry and grinned crookedly, boyish energy surging at Harry in waves. Harry jogged backwards, laughter already bubbling out of his him as Louis asked, “You ready for me, Hollywood?”

“R-Ready? For wh—”

He was propelled backwards onto his white sofa with Louis clinging to his front, strong legs snug around his waist. Harry laughed loudly and squirmed under his weight as Louis nuzzled his face into his neck, his green beanie tumbling off his head to block Harry’s eyes.

“Hi, Lou,” Harry exhaled. He got a noseful of Louis’ heady smelling sweat, likely from his long day of travel. An underlying tinge of cool cologne and basic soap balanced out his slight ripeness. “Welcome.”

Louis popped up. “Hey, mate. God, it’s good to see you.” He pushed Harry’s hair back, his gentle touch lingering in the waves above his ear. Harry watched the bob of his throat while he said, “Miss me?” Harry felt himself twitch in his pants. The comforting voice from the telephone was here, in his home, and connected to a real, living, breathing, dreamboat. Louis’ eyes met his own and Harry snapped back to attention. “You ready to have fun this weekend?”

“Yeah,” Harry laughed shakily. His hands migrated to Louis’ hips. “Yes and yes to both things. Very much. It’s...been a long time.”

“It has. Sorry, is this—” Louis sat back on his heels. “Is this too much?”

“Nah,” Harry drawled, Louis smiling wider. “I forgot you were, um, physical.” He squeezed his hips. “I like it.”

“That I am.”

“Like a little ball of energy.”

Louis walked his fingers down Harry’s bare chest. His gauzy white button-down was crooked on his shoulders, accentuating the dip between his pecs. Quieter, Louis murmured, “You’re not so little anymore, are you, Styles?”

Harry gulped, bending his knees until his thighs cradled Louis. He rasped, “No,” and rubbed his palms along Louis’ outer thighs. Louis’ smile went lopsided, his gaze leaving trails of heat from the tips of Harry’s hair to the beginning of his upper abs. “Neither are you.”

Anne cleared her throat and both men froze.

“I’ll be in the guest house, boys.” She picked up a glossy magazine from Harry’s coffee table and rolled it. “Do try to be presentable when Gucci arrives.” She bopped Louis on the back of his head, her smile mischievous. “I would hate for you two to look sloppy tomorrow.”

“Yes, Mum,” Harry said, feeling, again, like he was ten years old. “We will.”

Louis untangled himself from Harry’s lap and stood. He wrapped his arms around Anne, hugging her tight. “I’m so happy to see you again.”

“Oh, you’re so sweet,” Anne said, her mischevious demeanor melting to pure warmth. She cradled the back of Louis’ head. “I’m thrilled to be back in touch with your mum. She cracks me up with her Emojis.”

Louis giggled. “Yes. She’s an artist with those things.”

Anne ruffled Louis’ hair, then winked at Harry. “Have fun, boys.”

“We will,” they both said.

With Anne gone, both glanced at each other, then smiled and looked away. Harry got up off the sofa and went towards Louis’ small rolling bag.

“I’ll show you to your room.”

Louis picked up his rucksack and shouldered one strap. “Cool. Do I have time to shower before the fitting people come?”

“Sure.” Harry walked down a hallway with skylights making up the entire ceiling. “You can do whatever you want.”

They walked into a bedroom much like Harry’s own, all white and very California.

“This is bizarre,” Louis said.

Harry blinked and released the handle of Louis’ suitcase. “What, the room? You don’t like it?”

“Nah, this is stunning.” Louis sat on the edge of the bed and crossed both legs on the mattress. He peered up at Harry. “You. I think I was taller than you the last time we saw each other?”

“We were around equal,” Harry said, chuckling. He stepped closer. “I had a bit of a growth spurt a couple years later.”

Louis openly scanned from Harry’s feet to his face. “Yeah. I see that.”

“And you, um...” Harry bit his thumbnail, angling his hips. “You’re different, as well. Like…” He reached out and stroked Louis’ jawline, his stubble prickling the pads of his fingers for a split second before he pulled his hand back, as if he touched a hot kettle. “Sorry. Shit, I’m sorry.”

“Nothing to be sorry about, mate.” Louis leaned his weight back on his hands. “I’m here for you this weekend.”

“That sounds very…”

“Prostitute-ish?”

“A little, yeah,” Harry chuckled, Louis grinning at him. “Like we’re shooting Wood 2.”

Louis flared his fingers in the air for each word. “Bigger. Harder. Veiny-er.” Both laughed, and Louis sat up. “I’m just playing with you, love. I just meant that I’m here to make your life easier. To have fun. You know?”

“I know.”

Louis stood from the bed and pulled his tee over his head. He was wiry and muscled and tan from long days on the pitch or running outside with PE students, his skin smooth but with patches of soft looking, light body hair. There was a miniscule hint of extra weight that lingered over his middle, even if his stomach was flat and featured abs to rival Britney Spears at her peak. Louis stepped closer, his heat and musk assaulting Harry’s senses along with the overwhelming visual of his lower stomach disappearing into the elastic waistband of his black boxerbriefs.

Harry’s gaze wavered to look Louis in the eye instead of studying the smattering of reddish-brown hair that ran between his pecs, his hips barely puffing out over the waistband of his pants. “What’s up?”

“Gonna shower.” Louis dropped his shirt on the floor, letting the warm material pool on top of Harry’s bare feet. His smile was knowing, his head tilting as he licked his bottom lip. He pinched the tips of his fringe and tugged his own hair, his bicep rounding with the motion. “That cool with you?”

“Yeah, yes, yeah,” Harry said gruffly. He coughed. “Sure. Whatever you want.”

Louis pressed his nose to Harry’s shoulder, then padded past him into the en suite.

. . .

It was difficult to endure Louis fresh out of the shower—complete with messy, darkened hair and smelling of fresh, sporty body wash—without bundling him into his arms and kissing him senseless, like Harry wanted to do years before when his courage gene had not yet fully formed. Louis’ complete, immediate comfort led to the tension in Harry’s shoulders releasing and his stomach knots loosening. He felt more himself than had had in months, all from a few moments of Louis puttering around his house with him.

They settled at the kitchen island with cups of Yorkshire tea, the tea bags smuggled into the country inside Louis’ suitcase. Gucci arrived a few minutes into their quiet conversation, followed by Harry’s style team, Jax, and Sophie. Racks of clothing glided into the living room, seamstresses and tailors flitting around Harry and Louis as boxes of new shoes floated from stylist to stylist.

If post-shower Louis was difficult to endure, it was torture for Harry to have his inseam measured while Louis smirked at him across the room, his black tux already fitting him like a second skin without a single stitch of alterations.

“You okay, babe?” his tailor, Mark, said to him with pins in his mouth.

Harry swallowed and nodded, then blew a calm breath out of his lips. “I’m good.” Louis and the other tailor, Richard, laughed loudly at something. Harry glanced at them, then looked down, exhaling another calm breath. “I’m good.”

Mark snickered and pinned the bottom cuff of his right leg. “You’re going to set social media on fire.”

“Why?”

“You’re bringing your prom date, who is a hot teacher with a great ass, who has an even cuter accent than you do, to the Oscars after years of not seeing each other. People Magazine will probably text you on the red carpet and ask for the exclusive to your wedding.”

“Nah, our wedding is gonna be a totally private event,” Louis said from across the room, his eyes twinkling. “Right, Haz?”

Harry grinned goofily, even with a pin prodding his ankle, Mark snickering again.

. . .

The crew left and Anne retired for the evening, leaving Harry and Louis to their own devices. Louis pulled Harry into the guest room and threw his suitcase on the bed.

“Did you bring a board game or something?” Harry asked. “I myself have Scrabble, Boggle, Pictionary, Apples to Apples, and Clue. I had Monopoly but someone lost the shoe. I haven’t had a chance to buy a new game.”

Louis chuckled as he shook his head. “You’re cute, but, no. No board games in here.” He rifled through his clothes. “Ah ha.”

He turned towards Harry with a baseball cap in either hand. He squinted while weighing the hats in his hands, then popped a black and red Louisville Cardinals cap backwards on Harry’s head, the hat smushing his curls down the sides of his neck. Harry looked up.

“What’s this?”

“A disguise.”

Harry brought their gazes together. “For what?”

Louis popped on a faded magenta cap of his own. “We’re going on a date.”

“A d-date? A date?”

“Yep. I know I can’t offer the Oscars, but I had time in the airport to do some major Googling.”

“Major Googling?”

Louis smiled as he slid his arm around the small of Harry’s back. “Are you just going to repeat everything I say, like some sort of fancy, tall parrot with lovely hair?”

“I…” Harry snapped his mouth shut. “No. I won’t repeat, um, everything you say.” Louis dug his thumb into Harry’s side and he laughed as their feet fell into step. They walked out of the bedroom. “Where are we going? Should I call for security to escort us?”

“Nah.” Louis picked up his keys from the kitchen island and twirled them on his finger. “We’ll be cool.”

. . .

Thirty-five minutes later, Harry was stepping out of Louis’ rented blue Prius without a single paparazzi or fan in sight. He looked around the movie theatre parking lot. People were walking around and chatting amongst themselves, but no one took any notice of him or Louis. On instinct, he smoothed his hat down, twirling the ends of his hair. Louis shut his door.

“See?” Louis gently patted the top of the car. “No one cares about a guy in a rented Prius.”

They started towards the theatre.

“How on Earth did you decide to take us to Oxnard?”

“Well, we had to get you out of your stomping ground, Hollywood.” Louis smirked at him, bumping their hips. “And you’ll just have to wait until after the film for me to reveal my full reasoning.”

Harry let out a light, breathy laugh, delighted and tingling from head to toe. Louis tangled their fingers together for a beat, then moved his hand to the small of Harry’s back as they walked through the entrance. Harry’s tingles progressed to fairies having a glitter fight in his belly.

“Oh, before I forget.” Louis faced Harry with a serious set to his jawline. His eyes, however, were twinkling. He touched his chest. “I, personally, hate snogging in movie theatres because, for one, films are bloody expensive. Second, I’m short and I get a crick in my neck from trying to turn in the seats. I’d prefer if we waited until dinner to make that happen, if it’s going to happen. No pressure, of course.”

Harry’s eyes went wider as he blinked, his mouth agape. “Okay,” he breathed. Louis grinned and squeezed his hip. “Sounds, uh, good to me.”

“Cool. I’ll get our tickets. You want snacks? You’re a total Raisinettes man, aren’t you?”

. . .

Louis slowed the Prius to a stop at a light. He glanced across the car. Harry was sitting with his eyes closed and a soft smile on his face, his body completely relaxed. His hand rested on Louis’ seat, his pinky finger pressed to Louis’ outer thigh. Louis shifted his leg closer, Harry’s fingers curling around to squeeze above his knee.

“I take it you enjoyed the film?” Louis asked.

Harry’s eyes moved beneath his lids for a moment before he opened his eyes. He looked to Louis and his cheeks heated. He nodded, dropping his gaze. “It was…” He smiled wider, itching his pinky nail along the seam of Louis’ jeans. “I can’t remember the last time I went to a film that wasn’t a premiere. Or that I didn’t have to bring security with me or get mobbed at.”

“You signed some autographs.”

“Yeah, but that was really quiet, and after the film had ended. They were sweet.”

“They were. You have very polite fans.”

“I think they appreciated you taking group photos from above.”

Louis snorted and said, “Who doesn’t appreciate a flattering angle?” Harry smoothed his hand to the top of Louis’ thigh, inching dangerously close to inner thigh territory, and Louis glanced at him with a small smirk. “What’s this, Harold?”

“Nothing, I….” Harry chuckled breathily and moved his hand back to the seat. “I’m just so happy you’re here. I haven’t felt this good, this me, in a long time.”

Louis bit his bottom lip, then giggled and swayed his leg closer to Harry’s touch. “Me too, babe. Please do feel me up however you like.”

Harry laughed louder and he clenched his fist for a beat, then smoothed his hand on Louis’ rough jean shorts. Louis turned into the parking lot of a strip of shops. Lights from the store signs lit Harry’s face as he peered out the window, Louis scanning for a spot.

“What’s this now?” Harry asked.

Louis’ arm bumped Harry’s as he adjusted the clutch. “I know you have a fancy trainer who would keel over if he or she knew we were going to eat anything but kale tonight, but you mentioned this, and I couldn’t get it out of my head.” He killed the engine. “So, here we are.”

They got out of the car. Louis walked around to Harry’s side, smiling from beneath his lashes before he linked their index fingers. The boyish excitement between them threatened to cause the streetlights to explode, their fingers clasping for a beat.

“You hungry, love?” Louis jutted his chin at the restaurant in front of them. “The fruit of my Googling labors.”

Harry looked at the restaurant and gasped, “Noodles?” He squeezed Louis’ hand and swayed their arms. “You brought me to get noodles?”

“Well, you made it quite easy for me to plan our date. You were very clear. And you...”

Louis trailed off as he was guided back against the outside of the car. The metal was still warm to the touch, Harry’s even warmer body pressed to his front, Harry cradling his jawline before pressing their lips together. Louis’ eyes fell shut as fireworks whizzed through his body to shimmer out the top of his head, like a sparkling ponytail of fire. Harry lightly traced down the side of his neck as they kissed, settling his palm on Louis’ neck with his fingertips teasing behind his ear. Louis tilted his head and pulled Harry closer by the bottom of his shirt, their lips opening together to deepen the tender kiss.

“How nice of Pho Saigon to install a fireworks display for our arrival,” Harry murmured against his lips. Both laughed and nudged their foreheads together, Harry brushing their noses before he kissed Louis again, Louis’ arm snug around the small of his back.

“We’re in public, love,” Louis whispered, Harry kissing the corner of his mouth. “What if someone takes a photo?”

“Let them.”

“Ooh,” Louis sang quietly, then pecked his lips. “You’re gonna give Jaxie another ulcer.”

Harry sighed though his smile. “He told you about his ulcer?”

“I get the feeling he tells everyone.”

Harry took a breath of Louis’ neck, Louis gently rubbing circles over his lower back. “You still smell the same,” he said quietly. He kissed Louis’ pulsepoint. “Crazy how time works. Some things change, some things don’t.”

“Or I’m just lazy and haven’t switched up my body wash since I was a broke teenager.”

“Or that,” Harry chuckled. He nuzzled the warmth of Louis’ neck. “Either way, you still smell like my favourite.”

Louis flattened his palm on Harry’s cheekbone and lifted his face. His gaze darted from Harry’s eyes to his lips as he leaned closer. Their lips wetly fit together, Harry allowing his mouth to be gently guided open, Louis’ other hand squeezing the bottom hem of his shirt. Their kisses made a wet sucking sound as they tilted their heads, their tongues teasing.

“You don’t taste the same as you did after prom,” Louis whispered, shivering visibly.

“No?”

“No. Back then, you tasted like cider. Now?” He brushed a light, borderline innocent kiss to Harry’s mouth. “We taste like a Peppermint Patty.”

“Sno-Caps and Junior Mints for life.”

Louis giggled, “Hell yeah,” and slid his hands to Harry’s bum. He pulled him closer, Harry laughing breathily and stumbling forward until his boots brushed Louis’ black Vans. Louis squeezed his arsecheek. “God, you are firm. You are firm as fuck.”

Harry held his face with both hands and sucked his bottom lip, both tilting to fully join their lips and open their mouths together. “God, why weren’t you this handsy when we were teenagers? I was the handsy one.”

Louis smiled into a kiss and slipped his thumb into Harry’s back pocket. “Because you were a kid, kid.”

“I’m not a kid anymore,” Harry said, grinding against Louis’ groin. He could swear he heard Louis mutter, “Jesus Christ,” under his breath as he ground again, brushing their lips together. “Can you tell?”

“I suppose you’re right,” Louis sighed with a growing grin. He turned Harry’s baseball cap until the rim faced forward. “Still got a bit of a baby face, though.”

“Remember when, um...” Harry lowered his face, planting soft kisses from beneath Louis’ ear to his shoulder. “Remember when we were…”

“Making out hardcore?” Louis said in a California-dude-accent.

Harry chuckled, “Yeah, when we were kissing. Do you remember when you asked me if I was comfortable?”

Slowly, Louis said, “Yeah?”

“And I said I was, and then you told me that I should always be comfortable when I’m doing anything physical with someone. That I had a big, kind heart, which was a good thing, but I should never put someone else’s desire ahead of my own.”

Louis wrinkled his nose. “Did I really say desire?”

“You did.”

“Oh God,” Louis exhaled, laughing breathily.

“And that if someone doesn’t get that or tries to make me feel bad for not being comfortable, I should run the other way because they’re not worth it.”

A small smile quirked Louis lips. He tugged gently on the curls at the base of Harry’s neck. “Yeah. I remember now.”

“That was…” Harry licked his full, beestung lips, nodding slightly. “That was a really important conversation to me.”

“I don’t remember talking much once the making out started,” Louis laughed and Harry grinned, his dimple popping. “But I’m, erm, glad it was a good learning experience.” He pecked Harry’s dimple. “I guess I was a little cider-drunk and feeling preachy about my two extra years of life experience.”

Harry tipped Louis’ face up with a delicate fingertip beneath his chin. He shook his head, his eyes completely focused on Louis.

“It wasn’t preachy. It was important, especially given the career I ended up choosing.”

Louis cradled the small of Harry’s back. “I’m...I’m glad you liked it, love.” His eyes darted down between their groins, pressed flush together. “Shall I ask if you’re comfortable right now?”

Harry flattened his forearms on the roof of the car, boxing Louis’ head in. He leaned lower, their lips sucking for a long, wet beat. Harry whispered, “I’d think that answer is pretty obvious,” and ground against Louis.

Louis sealed their lips, his neck going limp as Harry’s mouth gently guided his own open, their tongues brushing. He broke away to gasp, “God, fuck, not fair. You kiss and talk like we’re in a film,” then kissed him again, harder, pulling back to swallow a frantic breath and add, “It’s too hot.”

Harry cackled and nuzzled his cheek, planting soft kisses down his cheekbone until he reached his lips. Louis glanced at a group of teenagers eying them from a nearby car, easing his mouth away from Harry’s kisses. “We should, uh, get some noodles.” Harry blinked confusedly, and Louis widened his eyes, tilting his chin towards the parking lot. “I think you’ve been spotted, love.”

“Ah, alright.” He pecked Louis one last time. “Let’s eat.”

They broke apart and walked up to the restaurant, both with their hands in their pockets. Harry bumped his hip to Louis’ hip.

“Thank you for, um, kissing me.”

Louis grinned and held the door open. “Anytime.”

. . .

They had a quick, but delicious, dinner, shared a rushed round of parking lot kisses to determine who tasted the most like the magically sweet and spicy Pho broth they devoured, then drove home. Louis took the Pacific Coast Highway. A mix of The Eagles and Fleetwood Mac played quietly on the Prius radio for the forty minute drive back to Malibu, the ocean dark but soothing as they zoomed by. Neither spoke much, dinner and the warmth of each other sitting so close lulling both into a mellow, happy sort of trance.

Louis parked beside Harry’s black Range Rover as the security gate whooshed shut at the end of his driveway. He looked to Harry, who leaned over and took off his maroon baseball cap. Louis pushed Harry’s black hat off his head, as well, letting his fingers play through his curls.

“So,” Louis said, trailing his fingers down to the top of Harry’s shoulder. “This was....pretty amazing, in my opinion. Possibly even better than when you win an Oscar tomorrow.”

“Pho sure.”

Louis asked, “Pho sure?” with Harry grinning beside him, his dimples deep and his eyes sparkling. “Really?”

“Pho, like,” Harry swayed his index finger side to side, “with the P-H.”

“Right. Were you holding that in since we left dinner?”

“It was a Pho-nominal date, so, yeah.”

“True. Very true.” Louis’ lips twitched upwards, his hand flat over Harry’s heart. His teeth peeked out but he quickly squashed his smile, his eyes remaining crinkled at the edges. “You are, after all, completely un-Pho-gettable.” Harry inhaled sharply, his eyes suddenly appearing wet. Louis let his smile emerge and cupped Harry’s cheek to brush a quick kiss to his lips. Quietly, he admitted, “I, um, Googled Pho puns when you went to the toilet. Thought they’d maybe make you laugh.”

I Googled Pho puns when I was in the toilet!”

Louis widened his eyes as if he were surprised. “Is that so? Well, aren’t we just a couple of edamame in a pod? Though...” He squinted. “I guess, technically, that’s a different country of origin and aren’t edamame the pods?”

“We can be two soybeans in a pod,” Harry said, nodding seriously.

Louis giggled. “Pho-shizzle.”

Harry unbuckled his seatbelt then turned to face him, wedging one foot under his bum. “So…let’s…kiss more.”

Laughter filled the car with Louis’ head dropped back and Harry’s face dipped down. Their laughter softened to giggles, both grinning at each other.

“Kiss more? With you?” Louis slid his hand behind Harry’s neck, thumbing the first bump of his spine. “Ugh. What a bother.”

“We didn’t do this when we were younger,” Harry reasoned as he rubbed Louis’ inner thigh. “We gotta go for it now.”

“Well,” Louis sighed exhaustedly, “if we must.”

He leaned in and firmly pressed their lips together, his warm palm cradling the back of Harry’s neck. Harry hummed into the kiss and went to hold Louis around his shoulders, but his elbow hit the horn. The tiny Prius let out a shockingly shrill honk and both jumped in their seats. Their kisses dissolved into snuffled laughs for a few seconds but they calmed, attempting to get a rhythm going.

“You almost laugh every time the seats squeak,” Harry murmured with his eyes shut, their lips still brushing.

“The car is farting beneath us.”

Harry laughed properly, his voice dissipating to a long, low groan with Louis sucking just beneath his jawline. Louis’ face swayed higher, his half-lidded eyes studying Harry’s wet, rosy lips before he pressed an even firmer, more demanding kiss, Harry clenching his hand in the front of Louis’ shirt. Louis dragged his lips down Harry’s neck, pushing his gauzy button-up aside to gently bite into his collarbone.

“Fuck.” Harry panted as he held Louis’ shirt tighter. “I want you to beard burn my entire fucking body.”

“C’mere, love,” Louis whispered. Harry leaned over the center console and gripped Louis’ hip, but accidentally squeezed the pocketed car keys. The car alarm went off, headlights flashing and a high pitched beep wailing in the quiet neighborhood. “Shit,” Louis laughed, fumbling for the keys. “Fucking shit.”

“Oh God, my mum’s gonna hear,” Harry said through his giggles, his cheeks aflame. He quickly swirled his hand in the air as Louis arched to get the keys out of his pocket. “C’mon, turn it off!”

“This is a rented Prius, Harold! I’m trying my best!”

Harry’s laughter skyrocketed until it went silent, Louis huffing laughs as he struggled and squirmed. Louis’ hand shook as he pushed whatever combination of buttons he could on the keyfob. Finally, the noises and flashing lights stopped.

Harry let out one final pained laugh, dabbing beneath his eyes. “Wanna go inside?”

Louis smiled, his face soft and his fringe messy. “Sure.”

They got out of the mischievous Prius and went inside. Harry’s home was dark, save for some automatic mood lighting that clicked on every night to keep his house company when he was away. They walked through the kitchen and deposited their baseball hats on the island.

“Right,” Louis drawled as they neared the middle of the house. Harry’s master bedroom was on one side, while the guest rooms were on the opposite side. “So...Uh…” He watched Harry’s smile grow as he laced their fingers together. Louis arched his brows, Harry continuing to smile slyly as he walked them down the hallway that led to his master bedroom. “Did you…”

His voice trailed off for the rest of the walk, and then they were standing in front of Harry’s open bedroom door, an even more stunning view of the ocean sending slivers of moonlight over the white carpet and furniture. Harry thumbed his knuckles, then lifted his hand to kiss them.

“Wanna go to bed?” Harry’s voice was so much deeper, with such a shimmer of confidence, compared to after the prom all those years ago. Harry cleared his throat and shifted his weight, his hand squeezing tighter for a split second. He tucked his hair behind his ear. “With me, I mean?”

There was that boyish nervousness again. Louis’ stomach fluttered uncontrollably as they stared at each other, the dark ocean lapping and swaying in the distance through the window-wall of Harry’s bedroom. Deep, heady arousal throbbed in the centre of Louis’ body, the tight coil of sudden heat bordering on painful.

Louis squeezed Harry’s hand and stepped around him to back into the bedroom. Harry grinned crookedly as he pushed his door shut, then ducked his head down before he peered up at Louis through his wilted fringe. Louis spread his arms.

“C’mere, love.”

Harry stepped into his embrace, both hugging each other tight.

“We’re doing this?” Harry asked. Louis wrapped his arms around Harry’s lower back and spun him, waltzing him quickly until the backs of Harry’s thighs bumped the bed. Harry exhaled, “We’re doing this,” as he fell back.

His hair puffed up around his face and he heard Louis chuckle. Harry smiled as Louis pulled his boots off, one by one, then his socks. Louis placed his hands on Harry’s knees and spritely hopped to lie in the space between his legs, his own shoes clunking to the floor.

“We can just kiss,” Louis said softly, his hands sliding up under Harry’s shirt. He kissed one hip. “Whatever you want.”

Harry leaned on one elbow, grinning slowly. “Why are you always trying to make sure I’m okay?”

“Hmm, dunno why,” Louis said, breezy and curious. He unbuttoned Harry’s shirt from the bottom, kissing his way up his abs. He whispered under his breath, “Holy shit, your trainer deserves an honorary Oscar,” as he kissed between Harry’s pecs. Harry grinned, arching beneath his kisses. He tilted his head as he ghosted his thumbs over Harry’s dark nipples, Harry’s answering shudder bringing a smirk to his lips. “Maybe I’m always trying to make sure you’re okay because I met you a million years ago and felt that you had starshine bubbling up inside of you. Maybe because I talked to you on the phone for ten seconds and could still feel the warmth of you in my bones, even after not seeing you for years, and that kind of warmth...that lingering type of warmth—It doesn’t come around often.”

“Thought you taught PE, not romance languages.”

Louis smiled wryly and leaned close enough to feel Harry’s stuttered breaths on his face. “I’ve watched enough of your mushy romcoms to last a lifetime.” He pressed a lingering kiss to Harry’s neck. “I was bound to pick something up.”

“Considering you were the inspiration for my Marcus character in Little Bee Life, that makes sense.”

Louis’ lips froze on Harry’s jaw. “Marcus?” He lifted his face, guffawing in shock. “Marcus is an animated bumblebee in a Pixar film.”

“A bumblebee that fell in love with butterfly, yeah.”

“Well, I’ve got a second chance,” Louis said as Harry reached up to cradle his jawline and pull him lower, their lips sealing with a hissed, desperate sound. “I don’t plan on Pho-king it up.”

. . .

“You lied,” Louis panted frantically, his hips snapping up without his control. He tried to flip his drenched hair off his forehead, the back of his head banging into the pillow beneath it. Out of his hazy eyes, he saw fresh red bruises blooming under his tight grip on Harry's fleshy hips, but he only held him tighter to guide his screws. “O-oh my fucking God, Harry!”

Harry’s head fell back as he bounced even faster, his arse pounding down onto Louis’ cock. His hair swayed wildly, his full, kiss-stung lips parting to gasp, “Wh-What?”

“You fuck like a pornstar, you filthy liar. Just look at you.” Louis’ comment made Harry arch as he moaned, his long, lean muscles shining with sweat. Louis squeezed both cheeks and thrust up. “C’mere. On your back.”

Harry slid sideways and landed diagonal on the bed. He bent his leg to push himself rightways on the bed, but Louis flattened on top of him, throwing his legs over his shoulders.

“Like this?” Harry asked curiously.

Louis entered him, his beard leaving light trails of heat as he dragged his lips up Harry’s neck. Harry moaned weaker, higher, his legs twitching inwards.

Harry gasped, “Can you—”

Louis sucked a searing kiss to his lips, Harry moaning and arching against him. Louis’ hips started to pound, their kisses growing hurried and messy.

“Your makeup people are gonna kill me, Haz.” Louis pressed another firm, claiming kiss, Harry’s tongue sliding against his own. “Fuck, you’re so hot. I know you said it’s your job to work out and look hot, but”—Louis’ gaze race up and down Harry’s body, gripping a palmful of arse—“holy fucking shit.”

“Oh—I don’t fucking care! Oh! About m-make—” Harry’s eyes shot open as he shouted guttural combinations of, “Oh! Oh fuck! Oh!” and pushed Louis deeper with two hands on his arse, Harry’s ankles bouncing on top of Louis’ shoulders.

. . .

They had been lounging for almost an hour, naked, but the bed still felt warm. Louis sprawled on his back, one leg under the duvet but the rest of him bare. Harry laid his face on Louis’ hip with his feet under the blankets. He traced each of Louis’ ribs, his fingertips swirling their way to his nipple. Louis opened his eyes and smiled, sleepy and satisfied and boneless.

“Did you really think of me as Marcus?”

Harry pressed his lips beside Louis’ navel, kissing inward until his mouth brushed the downy hair running down Louis’ stomach. “Yeah. Your...energy.”

“So you thought of me, then? Like, when we weren’t in touch?”

“Sometimes.”

Louis folded his arms behind his head, peering curiously at the top of Harry’s head. Harry busied himself kissing whatever inch of skin he could get his mouth on while carefully pulling the blankets up over their bodies.

“Whenever I’d go on MSN,” Harry glanced at him, “I’d look for TommoKicks1212.

“MSN? God, that takes me back, HazzaHasABanana.” Louis sat up, his abs crinkling. He cradled Harry’s jawline. “Why didn’t you try to find me if you remembered? If you...still wanted to know me?”

“I guess I just...I felt like a kid,” Harry murmured, tilting into Louis’ touch. His eyes fluttered as Louis scratched his scalp. “Just felt like I was being immature and holding on to something because I was, like, being silly. Because I had such a big crush on you. Then,” he said, letting out a sigh, “I got really busy with work and barely had time to brush my teeth, let alone remember fun times with the loveliest lad I’d ever met.”

Louis smiled with a hint of shyness, bending his leg to cover himself. “I, um, thought of you every February. The first of February.”

“You did?” Harry asked, his eyes filling with warmth. He shucked the blankets up to their ribs. “You thought of me?”

“Mmhmm.”

“You were easy to remember at Christmas because of, y‘know. Snow and lights and all that magic.”

“We’re kind of fools, aren’t we?”

“We are. In the age of technology, we managed to fall out of touch.”

Louis ran his fingers through Harry’s hair. “It’s a lucky thing you got nominated for an Oscar, isn’t it? You got me in the deal. Career advancement, fame, and fortune? All minor bonuses.”

“You’re making a joke, but you are so right.” Harry crawled up to bring their faces level. “You have no idea how right you are.” Their lips sucked lazily for a moment, both smiling and breaking the kiss. “Jesus.” Bubbly, giddy laughter bubbled out of him and he rolled onto his back, lying beside Louis. He swiped the back of his hand over his forehead. “God, I…” He turned his face towards Louis. “I can’t believe we’re here right now.”

“In bed? Yeah, I figured we’d hold out until tomorrow. All drunk and buzzing because we could fuck in front of your new Oscar.”

Harry could only laugh as Louis kissed up his arm until he reached his neck. Louis looped his arm over his chest, hugging him tightly.

For any other person, a remark about fucking in front of an Oscar would ping a few warning bells in his head. But with Louis, Harry could laugh and be silly and enjoy a cheeky remark from his old friend—his old friend who never sold him out. Never asked for a thing. Effervescent, easy, lovely, and firm. Solid. Real.

“What are you thinking about, love?”

Harry’s gaze snapped sideways. Louis smiled down at him, leaning on one elbow, his hair messy and his fingers stroking between Harry’s pecs.

“I just meant that I can’t believe we’re here, and we’ve…” Harry grinned. “We slept together. I had the biggest crush on you for so long. Like, big time crush.”

“Like…” Louis mimicked jerking off. “That sort of big time?”

“Oh yeah.”

“Harry!” Louis laughed, shocked, then bit a kiss to his nipple. “I’m honored, mate.”

“That’s why this is surreal for me. And, wow, I’m doing an awful job of sweeping you off your feet while also making everything about me.”

Louis rolled on top of him. “Nah, love.” He pressed his lips to Harry’s, cradling his cheek. “I’m swept. See?” Harry looked down the bed and saw Louis’ feet pop out of the blankets to twirl lazily in the air. Both huffed quietly as Louis kissed the corners of Harry’s mouth. “Don’t you worry. Besides, this is your big weekend. I’m here for you.”

“We’ll just have to schedule another weekend in the near future where it can be all about you.”

Louis’ eyes skittered from Harry’s chest to his face. He bit his bottom lip as Harry rubbed his lower back. “Yeah?” He reached between their bodies, palming Harry’s half hard cock. Harry’s thighs tensed under him. “You want another weekend with me?”

Harry exhaled, “Yeah. Yes. Please.”

Their lips slotted together, Harry moaning and arching up against Louis’ slow, easy strokes.

. . .

Harry woke to the feeling of Louis spooned tightly behind him. Louis’ arm was wrapped around his middle, his twitching fingertips resting on the centre of his chest. Harry smiled so wide he involuntarily shut his eyes, digging his cheekbone into his pillow and pointing his toes under the covers for a quick leg flutter. He looked out the wall of windows that led to his ocean view. A few days earlier, the sunny paradise made him feel gray and dull. This morning? It made him cuddle back against Louis and hug his forearm, resting Louis’ hand in the sleep-sweaty dip of his throat.

The movement must have disturbed Louis, who tightened his arm and kicked the back of Harry’s calf. Louis’ stubble brushed the arch of his neck and Harry’s brows twitched inwards. He exhaled slowly, letting his body relax in the warmth of Louis’ embrace.

A handful of high pitched beeps sounded through the security system. Harry sighed and clenched his eyes tight for one more moment, then opened his eyes. He held Louis’ hand and kissed the vee between his thumb and index finger.

“What’s this now?” Louis murmured lowly, his voice gravely. Harry grinned and kissed his palm, laying lighty kisses on the tip of each finger. Louis bicycled his feet under the covers. “God, you were such a cheeky little horndog when you were sixteen and you’re even worse now. I hope your lovely wardrobe people aren’t horrified by the scratches on my back. Bloody bobcat.”

“You didn’t mind last night.”

“No.” Louis sighed happily. “I didn’t.”

Harry kissed Louis’ wrist then flattened on his stomach, Louis’ arm sliding lower to cradle the small of his back. “We should get up,” Harry said as he yawned. He wrinkled his nose and rubbed his cheek to his pillow, folding his arms under the pillow. He smiled, Louis’ lips shut but his sleepy smile equally as warm. “I just heard my mum let herself in. Jax and company will not be far behind. I’ve got to work out, ugh, then we have to get going. It’s going to be a long day.”

Louis studied Harry’s bare back, his hand moving without his control to stroke the curved line of his spine. Harry gave him a crinkled smile, arching under his touch. Louis traced the tip of his shoulder blade.

“We…” Louis smiled but dropped his gaze. “Is it okay that we did this backwards?”

“What?”

“Do stuff that starts with the letter S.”

Harry grinned so wide that he gasped. “Oh my God, you remembered!” He rolled onto Louis and pressed his face to his neck, hugging him tight. “You remembered.”

Louis soothed between his shoulder blades. “Of course I did. You’re very memorable.”

“Well, we can do other S stuff tonight. Like,” Harry drawled, holding out the word. He walked his fingers up Louis’ chest. “Snuggles? Spooning? I reckon we’re both going to be really tired, and drunk, by the time we get home.”

“Sounds ssssuper,” Louis said extra slow. Harry smirked and tweaked his nipple. Louis laughed, half pained, cradling his chest. “Oi, they’re still a bit tender after you had your bobcat way with them last night.” Harry giggled as he opened his lips on Louis’ collarbone, sucking at a fresh reddened bruise. “God, Styles. I thought you—Ah!” Louis let out a burst of bubbly giggles and arched his neck, Harry’s teeth dragging over a particularly sensitive spot under his ear. “I thought you were all ho-hum, quiet, smoothies, yoga, all the love, blah blah blah.”

“I am, but I can only suck down smoothies for so long before I want to suck off my long-time crush, who is naked in my bed and made me scream so loud last night that I set off the security system.”

“Harold, how irresponsible,” Louis gasped, scandalized. Harry grinned up at him, kissing down his stomach. “You have a trainer coming in mere minutes. Jax is probably outside this door, at this very moment, composing your victory Tweet for tonight and sweating through his suit. Plus, your darling mum might hear.”

“Mmm, that’s true.” Harry kissed Louis’ navel, gently squeezing his hips. “Wanna work out together? I can have my trainer bring another pair of gloves and his assistant.” Harry ran his hands down the fronts of Louis’ thick thighs. “God, you’re fit.”

“Gloves?”

. . .

If Harry had trouble focusing while watching Louis get fitted for his tux, Louis was all but useless while watching Harry spar with his trainer. The warm up, mostly light cardio and some flexibility moves, was easy enough to do in Harry’s large home gym. Louis made a career of working out. But the sparring. The sparring.

Louis gave a few half hearted jabs to Harry’s assistant trainer, Rob, and tried to keep up with the footwork, but he eventually ran out of steam every few rounds and simply stared across the workout room. Harry bounced weightlessly on his feet as he jabbed and hooked again and again, his trainer calling out indecipherable commands. Sweat raced down Harry’s bare back and glistened in the divots of his abs, his biceps appearing completely wet with sweat, his high bun nearly loose as his body swayed to avoid punches.

“Time,” Greg, the trainer, said, holding his gloves up. “Nice, H. Excellent.”

Harry exhaled and bent forward, resting his gloves on his thighs, his back heaving. Louis looked to Rob, then let out a big breath and mirrored Harry’s pose, Rob smirking as he took off his gear.

“Did you have fun?” Harry asked over his shoulder, panting but happy.

“Yeah, loads.” Louis fanned himself, huffing out breaths. “Rob is an animal.”

Rob and Greg, a duo of muscled gods, exchanged an amused look, Harry grinning obliviously. They handed over their gloves and made their way to the kitchen, where Harry’s team and Anne were chatting amidst ringing phones and beeping laptops. Harry went to the fridge and pulled out two bottles of water, his stomach rhythmically puffing out over his black Nike workout shorts.

“We’re gonna shower quickly.” He handed Louis a bottle of water. “Then we’re all yours for prep.”

They walked through the kitchen and turned left. Sophie’s gaze followed them, smirking as she completed an email. Jax frowned and sat up in his chair.

“The guest rooms are the other way,” he called out.

Harry wrapped his arm around Louis’ shoulders and smiled sunnily.

“We know.”

They disappeared down the hallway, Harry’s bedroom door quietly nicking shut. Jax stared, slack-jawed, at Anne. “I thought this was supposed to be a cutesie little date story for a one-time thing? They take showers together now?”

Anne shrugged. “I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think this would happen. They sort of...fit. Right from the start.”

“And you let us bring him here? Oh, I don’t like this,” Jax said, crumpling in his seat. He ran his hand through his hair, grasping for his phone. “Lou’s a nice guy, don’t get me wrong, and he’s going to look great on camera, but I don’t like this at all. It will be nearly impossible to keep up with Harry’s current schedule if he gets a boyfriend. He can’t afford any distractions.”

“Why?” Sophie laughed as she typed. “You said you wanted him to date and I, for one, am glad he’s getting some from someone who will keep his mouth shut. He needed to get laid.” She glanced at Anne. “I mean….” Her matte violet lips warped in a grimace. “Sorry?”

“My son is an adult,” Anne chuckled, then sipped her tea. “An adult that couldn’t remember the emergency shutdown code to his security system at two in the morning and came knocking at the guest house wrapped in a sheet, but yes.” She smirked at Jax and Sophie. “He’s an adult.”

. . .

Louis tried to keep up with all the new people he met during prep. Hair, makeup, dressers, shoe techs, stylists, a crew from Vogue to photograph Harry’s fashion journey, and even people sent specifically to tend to his borrowed pair of cufflinks. He felt like he spent the entire time before the Oscars introducing himself to people and saying thank you, while also listening to whatever Harry said to try and stay on the same page.

Once they got in the limo, Louis collapsed on the seat. Harry gently nudged his bum.

“Budge over. Superstar coming through.”

Louis pulled himself upright and scooted across to sit on the end of the adjacent the seat, Harry pulling the door shut behind himself. The limo started to vibrate. Harry popped a bottle of champagne and offered it to Louis without a glass. Louis took a swig, then took a second swig. He handed the bottle back.

“I don’t know how you remember everyone’s name. You should get an Oscar just for that.”

Harry took a long drink of champagne. “Well, I have an advantage. I see the team all the time, especially during awards season. I’ve kept basically all the same people the whole time I’ve been acting, so I think of them like family.”

“You’re lovely.”

Harry smiled and handed over the bottle. “You look…”

Harry watched as Louis glugged champagne. Just the right amount of—professionally combed, trimmed, and styled—stubble dusted his bobbing Adam’s apple. Louis thought he should go clean shaven for respect purposes, but Harry put in a special request with his hair and makeup team, who agreed the stubble could stay, along with teasing Louis’ hair to a piecey, side-swept quif. His tux was black but the material had a slight shimmer, accentuating the dips of his tight body. His stylists went with a classic white shirt and black bow tie, his shoes shiny and pointed.

Harry rubbed Louis’ thigh. “You look incredible.”

Louis’ lips popped off the rim of the bottle. He buffed his fingernails over his suit, then slid his foot between Harry’s ankles. “Cheers, thanks. I must say, I think Gucci is a bit better than my ‘professional’ outfit I pieced together from Topshop.” Harry chuckled. “You look, uh….”

He glanced from Harry’s shiny, pointed black Chelsea boots to his form fitting tux and felt his face grow warmer. His legs looked endless. Harry had gone old school with a classic cut tux in a deep green, borderline black, fabric. When light hit the material, a refined black damask pattern was revealed, giving the garment some shimmer and dimension and character. The green colour and shiny black silk of his collar set off his eyes. His long, clean hair was combed back high off his forehead and blown extra-shiny at the roots, perfectly imperfect curls trickling to the tops of his shoulders.

Louis ran his hand over the back of his neck, laughing under his breath. “You look beautiful. Every bit the Starshine the world knows and loves.”

“Thank you,” Harry said softly.

Louis handed the bottle back. “You’re gonna sell Gucci like bread the day before a snowstorm. I hope we’re not in the front row, or the camera is going to pick up on me both visibly aroused and crying hysterically when you win.” Harry made a loud, honking sound, scooting closer to Louis. He slid his hand to Louis’ inner thigh, fingering the expensive black material. “Speaking of family, where’s you mum?”

“She’s riding with Soph and Jax and the crew in the SUV behind us. She doesn’t like the red carpet part. I think she’s relieved to be out of the spotlight.”

“But you’re going to introduce her to Leo, right? We, like, talked about our mutual love of Leo over cereal this morning.”

“Yes, don’t you worry. I’m sure we’ll bump into him.”

The limo ride went by as fast as the rest of the day and then they were at the Oscars, lined up in a queue to wait for their red carpet moment. Louis swallowed the last glug of champagne and held the back of his hand to his lips, squinting out the tinted windows. As Harry sat up straighter and looked out the window, sudden nerves did a champagne tango in Louis’ stomach. He gripped Harry’s leg.

“Fuck, what if I mess this up. What if I embarrass you?”

“You won’t,” Harry said easily, landing a gentle kiss on the corner of his mouth. “Just be you and have fun." He cradled the back of his neck. “The rest means nothing to me.”

There was a knock on the door as their lips met. Louis’ eyes popped open to look at the shadow behind the window before the door was pulled open. Harry turned in his seat.

Cameras flashed in an overwhelming wall of light. Screams loud enough to break the sound barrier rang in their ears. Harry pulled out two pairs of sunglasses from his breast pocket and handed one to Louis. Louis’ were black wayfarers, while Harry’s were black clubmaster sunglasses.

“Here you go. These should help.”

Louis popped them on. “Thanks, love.”

Harry got out of the car and stood at the door, slipping his sunglasses on. He held up a peace sign then waved at the paparazzi and fans, giving the crowd a wide, dimpled grin.

“God, you’re so lovely,” Louis murmured.

He thought the crowd would have drowned out his voice, but Harry turned towards him with an arm out and a knowing smirk. Louis froze with one leg out of the car, his sunglasses crooked on his nose. Harry leaned down and looped their arms together, bringing his lips to his ear.

Harry whispered, “Just stay with me. I’ll take care of you,” and kissed his temple, prompting the crowd to scream even louder.

Louis relaxed, his fingers wrapping around Harry’s forearm, and he stepped out of the car. He dropped his arm, expecting Harry to walk the red carpet alone, but Harry gently held onto his hand and pulled him into his body, then looped his arm around the small of his back. Louis flushed under the flashing cameras.

“This okay?” Harry shouted in his ear.

“Great,” Louis said, beaming up at him. Harry’s dimple deepened as he grinned, cameras flashing faster.

While Harry made the interview rounds, Louis stayed back with the team, sneaking glances at Harry as he politely described everything from his tux to his next project. Louis and Anne comforted Harry’s hair stylist each time Harry nervously twirled his curls mid-interview. They also played celebrity BINGO, taking approximately three hundred photos of each other awkwardly looming near celebrities and making silly faces.

The media was completely caught off guard by Harry’s mysterious, non-celebrity date. You could practically see PAs scrambling to Google for any shred of information on the man that had Harry Styles smiling and giggling and downright floating across the red carpet, no sign of a sad Harry Styles meme for miles.

When they reached the booth for E!, Harry’s last interview before entering the show, the beautifully made up host in a shimmering gold gown looked at Louis like she knew a secret.

“Uh oh,” Louis whispered to Harry as they approached. Harry squeezed his fingers. “Should I stand—”

“Hi there, Harry and Louis,” Julia said with all her perfect white teeth on display. She enthusiastically waved them over. Harry glanced at Louis with his brows arched. She knew Louis’ name. Louis smirked and walked up to the platform with Harry, but stood a step lower and off to the side, out of the camera’s shot. “Welcome!” She swirled her arm. “Louis, get up here!”

“Thank you,” Harry said over the cries of the crowd. He held his arm out and Louis fit to his side. “We’re very happy to be here.”

“Now, this is a big night for you, Harry, but you have some explaining to do!” She waggled her finger at them. “How could you keep your secret for so long?”

“Secret?” Harry asked curiously, though his smirk looked dangerously on the brink of a full-blown grin.

“That you have the most adorable date backstory I think I’ve ever heard! Prom dates reunited to attend the biggest night in Hollywood!”

She gestured to the monitor beneath the camera, which showed what the people at home were seeing. A photo of them standing in the backyard of Harry’s childhood home flashed on the screen, complete with blue and green ties, and an awkward face-to-face pose their mothers insisted looked great.

“Oh no!” Harry laughed along with everyone in the booth. He held his hand over his mouth with wide eyes, then felt the top of his head. “Look at my hair there!” The camera zoomed in on the mop of waves on top of Harry’s teenage head, prompting the crew to laugh louder. Harry glanced over his shoulder, watching Anne cackle and point at the photo while Sophie said something to her. “Did my mum send that in?”

“Nope, not mum,” Julia cooed. “Your sister, Gemma, was all too kind and tagged a post on Twitter.”

Harry’s jaw dropped at the camera. “Gems, you blew up our spot! How could you?”

Julia continued, “Harry, are you trying to win an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay next year? Someone could make a movie about your story.”

“I dunno about that,” Harry said, grinning shyly. He twirled one of his curls, Louis’ hand warming his lower back. He glanced at Louis, Louis’ small lips curved in a sweet smile. Julia cleared her throat and Harry blinked rapidly, looking to her. He gripped the mic in his hand. “Sorry, right, uh…”

“A bit distracted?” Julia asked, looking between them.

“Right, um, let’s take it one nomination at a time,” Harry said for a quick recovery. “It’s an honor to be here.”

“And Louis, you apparently have some fans at home watching, as well,” Julia said, gesturing to the screen. “Let’s take a look.”

They tilted their heads as they read Tweets projected on the screen. Louis said, “Aww,” with his voice half picked up on the mic.

“Aww, Lou, look.” Harry squeezed Louis’ hand behind their backs. He read the Tweets aloud. “Coach Tommo is the greatest! Go Coach Tommo! Coach GOAT - Greatest Of All Tommo!” He and Louis dissolved into giggles. “Mr. Tomlinson looks soooo hot!” Harry bumped their hips. “Look at all those o’s, love. You must look really hot.”

“Oh wow,” Louis said, chuckling and hiding his face in Harry’s shoulder. He peeked at the screen. “I think that’s a parent Tweeting that last one, not one of my kids, thankfully.”

They finished up with E! and made their way to their seats. They were not in the front row, but three rows back with Harry near an aisle. Louis bounced in his seat and squeezed Harry’s leg.

“Pretty close up, Haz. I think that means you’ve got this.”

Harry leafed through the program. “I dunno about that. Lots of people ahead of me.”

“Oh,” Louis whispered, his hand sliding off Harry’s thigh.

Harry faced him and squeezed his knee. “You alright? Do you need a water? Name it and I’ll get it for you. Awards shows can be dehydrating. I also have a baggie of almonds in my pocket, if you’re feeling hungry.”

Blond, golden light illuminated Louis’ face as he lifted his chin. A familiar, friendly voice that Harry had been listening to since he watched Titanic three times in theatres with Gemma said, “Hey, guys. How’s it going?”

“Leo,” Anne breathed behind Louis, her face equally glowy.

Harry stood with his hand outstretched. “Hey, mate,” he said warmly, clasping hands as camera flashes went off. “I loved your work in The Revenant. Really such a huge fan. May I introduce you to my mum and my good mate, Louis?”

. . .

Harry won. Of course he won. In addition to being previously nominated and gaining industry buzz, Harry was the frontrunner for the entire awards season for his portrayal of a spy who fell in love with his intended subject. He was charming and endearing and even learned to tapdance for a quick dream sequence in the film. It was a rare comedic win for the Oscars, but it was a well earned win. He also felt like a winner because he only got a little teary during his short, nervous acceptance speech, while his mother and Louis (and even Jax) all sobbed in their seats as they ate Girl Scout Cookies.

Louis won because he got photographed at an afterparty with Harry on one side and Leo on the other, each holding their Oscar statuette. Harry kissed his cheek as Leo laughed at a joke he made that wasn’t even terribly funny when not under the veil of too much alcohol. Louis now knew what he would have tattooed on his shoulders as a back plate.

When Harry suggested cutting out of the afterparty to get In-and-Out for the ride home, then follow-up their burger-fest with comfy clothes and a movie, Louis was only too happy to walk beside him with their hands clasped.

And if they had a conversation between bites of burger where they nailed down how soon Louis could come back to LA, Harry’s next break in filming when he could jet to London, and how this was absolutely not a one-time fling, their driver was polite enough not to comment about the sudden bursts of moaning or laughter (or both at once) from behind the partition.

“You were so right about being sleepy,” Louis rasped, leaning his weight on Harry’s arm. “And drunk.” They walked up the steps to his front door, bodies swaying side to side. He clutched Harry’s Oscar to his chest. “How do you have a voice left?”

“I really upped my vitamin-B, greens, and raw honey intake to prepare.”

Louis snuffled a low laugh. They stumbled inside and hurried to Harry’s room while shedding clothing as they went. Once they reached the bedroom, Louis fell forward on the mattress, wearing nothing but black boxer briefs and socks on the bottom, and his unbuttoned tux shirt on top, the fluffy white duvet puffing up around his body.

“Can I take a picture of you like that?” Harry asked.

“Sure.” Louis crawled onto the centre of the bed and hugged a pillow, smirking over his shoulder. His smile grew when he saw Harry beaming with his iPhone poised with the tips of his cheeks rosy. “I have a pic of your bum, you can have one of mine.”

Harry tossed his phone on the mattress, kneeling at Louis’ ankles. He stroked behind his knee, Louis giggling ever so softly and bending his leg. “Wanna watch movies in bed?”

“Nah.” Louis rolled onto his back and spread his legs, Harry crawling up his middle to lie on him, cuddling his face to his neck. “Let’s go old school. Films on the sofa. After a quick snuggle, of course. God, you’re such a good cuddler. And an Oscar winner, I guess, but,” Louis sighed and stroked the back of Harry’s hair, “good cuddler first and foremost.”

They eventually moved their snuggle to the the living room. Harry’s white sofa had a matching upholstered, square coffee table that, when pressed up against the sofa, gave them the span of a full sized bed to stretch out on. A flat screen was mounted across from the sofa.

“You know, I have a cinema room downstairs.”

“This house has a downstairs?”

Harry chuckled from the stove. “It does.”

“I think we’re good like this.” Louis snuggled back into the sofa, the white duvet draped up to his chest. “Will be even better when you’re over here with your human-space-heater bod.”

“My bod?”

“Your bod.”

Louis saw his phone light up under the blanket. He palmed around the sofa until he found it. His mum had texted him, along with Liam and a few other friends. He thumbed some replies, then switched to Instagram, scrolling through his feed. He tapped on Harry’s profile, rubbing his feet together under the duvet. He glanced at the kitchen and saw Harry’s broad back beneath his baggy white tee, Harry bent over the stovetop as he filled up their mugs.

“You’re so bloody gorgeous,” Louis called to him.

Harry grinned over his shoulder. “You just want to make me blush.”

“Are you?”

“Yeah,” Harry admitted quietly.

Louis’ pleased laughter softened suddenly. He studied his phone as if it were made of diamonds, cradling the thumbprint-smudged device on top of the duvet.

The most recent photo on Harry’s Instagram was not one from the red carpet or on stage accepting his award or even at an after party. It was a photo, likely taken mere seconds before, of Louis sitting on the sofa with Harry’s duvet covering him up to his face. His knees were bent beneath the blanket and his hands clasped the duvet under his chin. The photo was in colour, but the dark living room made it appear almost black and white. A scene from Titanic on the flat screen television lit Louis’ face. Harry’s fresh Oscar was sitting on the table behind him.

Harry placed a mug of tea on the small table beside Louis. He peeked at Louis’ phone. “Ah ha.” He rounded the coffee table and settled on his other side. “I see you’ve...seen it.”

“Y-yeah. I...” Louis looked at him, wide-eyed. “I’ve...seen it.”

Harry held his stare. “And?”

“Get over here, you silly goose. Or frog. Silly frog.” Louis held the duvet open. “Let me cuddle you.”

Harry immediately scooted closer until his front was sprawled half on top of Louis, their ankles linked. “You’re…” He peered at Louis with fear and nerves lightening his electric green eyes. Louis flattened his hand on his jawline, stroking behind his ear. “You’re okay with it?”

Louis pulled the duvet over their heads and curled up closer to him. Their lips bumped together, Harry’s nerves melting to a nervous, breathy laugh.

“You remembered,” Harry whispered, Louis’ eyes twinkling even in their dark blanket-fort.

“I remembered. Sand crabs, spiders, sss….” Louis scrunched his face. “What was the last one?”

“Stay.”

Louis relaxed his face, Harry gently stroking his hair back. The single word puffed warmly over Louis’ mouth as Harry shuddered, Louis’ arm tightening around his waist. Louis rubbed Harry’s tummy, smoothing his hand under his white tee.

“Stay?” Louis asked.

Harry nodded. “Stay. Just another day or two. Please don’t leave tomorrow.” He thumbed Louis’ cheekbone, rubbing the tip of his nose to Louis’ nose. “Please?”

“Harry…”

“Sorry, I know you have work,” Harry blurted out. “Sorry to be so, uh, rude. I know you have things to do. You have a life that absolutely does not revolve around me, and—”

Louis caught his lips in a kiss, Harry’s words slowly dying until he let his neck go slack.

“Sickie,” Louis said softly. “There’s another S word.”

“But—I—” Harry licked his lips, blinking rapidly. “I think your school will know you’re not sick. You were on telly with me all night.” Louis made a fist and coughed two weak, ‘Ugh ugh,’ sounds into it with as much patheticness as the faux illness weighing his expression. Harry grinned. “Uh oh. Will I have Oscar competition next year?”

Louis giggled, “Yeah, right,” and rolled on top, the blanket still completely covering them. He bent one leg to flatten his inner thigh over Harry’s hips, their jogging bottoms rubbing together to produce fuzzy heat between them. He rested both hands on Harry’s cheek, then leaned down and joined their lips. The gentle pressure of his kiss guided Harry’s mouth open, their tongues barely touching before Harry shivered.

“You’ll stay?” Harry whispered.

Louis kissed him even softer, a barely-there peck, then let their lips brush as he murmured, “Of course, love. Every butterfly needs his bee.”

“Oh my God,” Harry said throat a groan, wrapping his arms around Louis’ neck. “I’m gonna cuddle you forever. C’mere.”

Later that night, they were conked out on the sofa, wrapped in Harry’s duvet. They had a long night, Oscars aside. Delirious kisses while buzzing on too much champagne, attempts to change Louis’ flight online (they failed and had to call Soph, who completed the task in under sixty seconds), a prank call to Jax announcing they were engaged (the ulcer had possibly returned), and holding each other during the end of Titanic (only sniffling a little bit).

Louis woke enough to register the smell of Harry’s warm, sweet sweat. He nuzzled deeper into Harry’s neck, taking a slow breath. Harry shifted his feet, the blanket making a slipping sound as it fell off the ottoman.

“Wanna move to bed?” Louis whispered, then licked his dry lips.

“Mmm.”

Harry got his legs out of their cuddle and hauled himself to his feet. He turned toward Louis with a sleepy smile softening his face, gripping the edge of his duvet. “What are you looking at on there?”

“Nothing.” Louis got up and pocketed his phone, his face heating under Harry's knowing gaze. Harry held his arm out and Louis fit to his side, their steps slow as they meandered to the bedroom, the white duvet dragging behind them. Louis rubbed his fist over his closed eye and mumbled, “Maybe...your Instagram post. The caption. Again. Maybe.”

“Ah.”

Louis looked up at him. Both shared a growing smile before he bumped his cheek to Harry’s shoulder, Harry gently squeezing his hip in reply.

harrystyles I think I’m in love...and I’m not talking about Oscar xx