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“no thanks, not tonight.”

some kind of disbelief flashes in the guy’s eyes and louis wants to cry a little.

“you—don’t want to?”

“no. maybe another time, though.”

louis makes to get out of john’s car but he’s pulled back, there’s this fist encircling his wrist and he can’t move another inch.

“but my mate trev said you would. said you were a right whore, you were,” john says, and his nails dig into louis’ skin. louis starts to get scared.

“i-i’m not,” he tells him, and right now he’s just wishing he never went on this date. this is ridiculous. this is—

“buckle yourself back up. we’re going back to my flat, yeah? you’ll wanna fuck once we get there.”

and no, louis won’t, so he makes a frightened noise and lunges for the car door but it locks and he’s stuck with pulling at an unresponsive handle.

“unlock the fucking car, john. I said no.”

john—he looked like a nice guy at the beginning of the date. louis had noticed the lingering stares on his collarbones and lips, but that was normal.
some kind of apprehensiveness flashes behind john’s eyes and louis thinks that he feels bad for a moment, but then the car lurches and he realizes that the car’s moving. the car’s moving.

“no, no, i don’t want this, fucking let me out,” louis pleads, and he considers flicking the lock and jumping out of the car but it’s moving too fast now.

“just don’t fight it okay? you’ll like it.”

louis shakes his head and he can’t believe this and this is fucking wild and he’s going to get fucking raped. so when they slow down to take a corner, he flicks the lock and throws open the door and tumbles out with his hands bracing his head.

he vaguely hears the car screech to a halt, and definitely hears the “are you fucking insane?” and no he’s not, thank you very much, and he stands up and shakes his limbs out. he feels fine; no permanent damages or anything, so he turns around and bolts the other way before john can just grab a hold of him again.

by the time he’s back on his street, he’s wheezing and he maybe feels a wet patch on the side of his face. the only thing running on his mind, though, is ‘zaynzaynzayn’ because zayn’ll be home.

when he bursts through the door, his heart is pounding and he’s breathing grossly hard and there’s definitely something wet on his temple, so he reaches upwards and nearly faints when his hand comes back with red dripping on it.

“zay—zayn,” he breathes, stumbling forward and not peeling off his dirty shoes.

“lou?”

zayn pads out of the living room and he looks all comfortable in his sweats, the shirt louis’d bought him, and a mug of tea in his hands. then he doesn’t look so comfortable; not when the mug drops to the ground and his face drops in shock.

“fuck, louis, what happened?” he strides forward and takes louis into his arms and louis cries a little.

“he was a bad one, zayn, he was a bad one.”

~~

it’s a bit before louis leaves his bed again. he’d only just convinced zayn to just leave it alone and not call the police on john a few days ago, and even though zayn had been fuming, he’d agreed and louis could relax.

so it is a bit, yeah, before he can leave his bed because he’s really just upset. he’s upset that men think they can take advantage of him because he has a history with being ‘easy’, or because he’s 'pretty'.

“lou, are you okay if i go to work?”

louis thinks he will be, so, “yeah, babe. earn us some mean cash, okay?”

zayn snorts. “always, love.”

he leaves and louis rolls over in bed, accidentally dropping his face on his mobile that he’d left there. it’s comfortable, though, even though the buttons are denting his cheek and there’s a light flashing.

after he’s sure he can’t squeeze another hour of sleep in, he pads down to the kitchen and barely even flinches at the fact that it’s 3pm already. zayn’ll be home soon. it’d be a nice gift from louis if he goes grocery shopping for them, so he runs back to his room and puts his hair behind a beanie and dresses in zayn’s sweats that barely fit his bum and a hoodie.

the grocery store is practically empty and louis’ glad for that; he doesn’t really feel like bumping into anyone. he grabs them spaghetti and other dinners and haribos treats and a bit of chocolate. he deserves it.

it’s ten minutes till zayn’s due home when he’s fiddling with the keys to fit them into the lock, and he sighs contentedly when they slide in and the door opens. he sets the groceries on the ground and unties his shoes, and then he notices the extra pair of shoes. they aren’t zayn’s, they certainly aren’t louis’ with the massive size they are, and he shrugs it off because things like that just happen to him.

he picks the bags back up and heads towards the kitchen, stopping in the living room to turn on some music.

 

“who’re you?” he hears.

and then, fuck, louis nearly shits himself. there’s a tall, curly-haired, intense looking boy standing in the middle of his fucking living room.
louis’ getting robbed.

“oh my god, oh my god. please don’t kill me, shit. fuck, all i did was go out for groceries, i—”

“whoa, what are you talking about?”

“—christ, what do you want? i guess i have like, this watch that’s pretty expensive.”

louis begins to sweat because the guy’s just staring at him with this incredulous look, and fuck, is he a serial killer? serial killers are pretty weird.

“if you’re going to kill me, please do it quick and cleanly. i don’t want zayn to have a tiff—oh god, zayn. he’s going to be so sad.”

the guy’s face is really shocked now, and his mouth opens and closes a few times before he just says “zayn texted me to just come in because he’s about to get home from work. he told me there’d be a passed out guy in his bed, and i’m assuming you’re that guy.”

and god, that makes louis deflate in comfort a little. so this guy’s not going to kill him. that’s good, he guesses, because his mum would be really sad too.
“alright, okay. want some tea?”

not-serial-killer laughs really hard then, and louis sees a big shiny row of white teeth and a lonely dimple on his left cheek and,
“i’d love some.”

~~

zayn comes home and apologizes about fifty times while harry (his name isn’t not-serial-killer, louis found out) laughs again and wipes his eyes.
louis doesn’t think it’s all that funny; he’d nearly not gotten killed.

while harry’s on the couch watching tv, zayn tugs louis into the kitchen and they have a whispery conversation.

“i’m really sorry, lou. i was going to text you but i thought you’d be sleeping and i didn’t want to wake you.”

louis pets his high swoopy hair and says that it’s fine, that he wasn’t all that scared anyhow.

“seriously. but on another note, harry—he’s gay. would you ever, you know...? he’s a real sweet guy, i promise—”

louis’ stomach turns and he feels like he’s going to puke because no, guys will only use him and toss him aside and while he knows it sounds cliché and pitiful he knows it’s the truth.

“no. no, no, no. never again, zayn. i’m never going out with a guy again.”

zayn looks so guilty, probably for just bringing it up, so louis kisses his mouth and goes to finish making the tea. “go to your friend, honey. i’ll do housewife-y things.”

that makes zayn smile, and he reluctantly leaves louis in the kitchen after a hug.

the kettle on the stove starts to whistle and louis tells it to shut up and lifts it off the burner. he burns his hand pouring the water like he always does, and he picks the mug up and brings it over to harry.

“for you, serial killer,” he nods, and harry beams again. louis’ pretty sure he speaks through facial expressions and laughs.

when he goes back to the kitchen, he remembers he’d told zayn he’d do housewife-y things, so he grabs his 21st birthday tiara from above the fridge and the dusting wand from the cupboard. he tests his twirling skills and then goes back to the living room, tapping the feathery thing on zayn’s head, and harry’s too, and begins to dust the room with finesse. he should have been a dancer.

“louis thinks he’s a princess,” zayn stage-whispers to harry, so louis bows and tips his little crown. zayn loves louis a lot.

“he looks like a princess,” says harry.

that makes louis feel a little ill.

“i’m going to bed.”

so he goes to bed, and throws his tiara on the dresser, and waits for zayn to finish his play date.
zayn climbs into bed later, says “i’m sorry,” and they go to sleep after a peck and a snuggle.

~~

“why’d you leave yesterday, lou?” zayn asks him over breakfast the next morning, and louis sort of blanches.

“he said i looked like a princess. that means he wants to strip me down and take advantage of me.”

zayn seems to think there’s no swaying louis, so he forks his last bit of food into his mouth, downs his orange juice, and squeezes louis’ arm.
“i love you mate,” he tells him. “i’d date you if i was into blokes.”

and louis nods, thinks ‘zayn, you secretly are into blokes’ and sips on his tea. he doesn’t know why zayn kisses him and coddles him if he’s not ‘into blokes’, but.

 

the day is really boring. louis calls his work again and says he’s sick with the flu and trisha says “get bettah, hon,” and he snickers a little at her accent.
zayn texts him at 3:30pm with ‘harrys comin over, i can bring home a film for you to watch in your room if you’re not keen on seeing him xx.’ but louis will be fine, he will.

harry comes over and rings the doorbell this time, and louis feels significantly better about the guy this time.

for a moment louis hates that he has a reputation for being ‘easy’ because he’d let harry take him in a minute but at the same time he wants to run away and hide under the covers, so that’s weird.

zayn’s late from work so louis sits on the living room floor playing smurfs on his ipad while harry watches a football match.

“i have the biggest pumpkin in the entire smurf village,” louis brags, looking up at harry and winking.

“is that so?”

“mhm. bigger than papa smurf’s across the street.”

louis uncrosses his legs and crawls over to the couch, holding up the screen and showing harry. he’s proud of his little smurf village.

“you’re cute, you know that?” harry says, and louis’ heart swells.

zayn shows up then, and louis shoves him into the kitchen before he can greet harry.

“quick, tell me i shouldn’t date harry.”

“what?”

“john looked so nice and trevor looked so nice and mason did, too, and now—now harry looks so nice. is that bad?”

zayn’s eyes go all soft. “does harry look at you like you’re a piece of meat?”

“no.”

“do you get a weird vibe from him?”

“no. maybe i’ll just be friends with him for a while.”

before zayn can open his mouth, louis tromps back into the living room and sits next to harry.
“we’re going to be friends, alright? no funny business.”

and really, harry wouldn’t really be harry if he didn’t slap his knee and laugh so hard his cheeks turn pink.

~~

so they become friends, and it’s pretty nice. zayn doesn’t seem to mind that louis’ basically taken harry, and he smiles when louis tells him about when harry sold his biggest pumpkin in his smurf village just to make him angry.

he’s back at work now (“so glad you’re feelin’ good now, hon,” said trisha) and it’s as boring as it was before he left. well, maybe not boring, per se; working at selfridges wasn’t that bad. just, seeing hundreds of ‘scene’ teenages and middle-ages women buying ‘fashionable’ clothing wasn’t his favorite thing to do.

“uh, hello,” they would say, approaching him because he looks really gay, “what do you think of these burberry wellies?”

and louis would put on his most flamboyant voice, pop his hip out, and say, “honey, those are fabulous. i’d buy ten if i were you.” so they buy them, and louis is happy,

because he works on a commission and ‘looking gay’ apparently helps you out in those situations.

he’s paid to be gay.

after his five-hour shift, he gets his things from the employee room and everyone says ‘bye, louis,’ on his way home, because they seem to like him.
he’s exhausted, so exhausted, but he’s planned a hang-out at harry’s and he’d be a bit sad to miss out on that. so he texts zayn and tells him to not wait up on him for supper, and he pulls up at harry’s flat at 5pm on the dot.

“hello, pumpkin destroyer,” louis fakes scowls at him when he walks into his living room (because if harry just walked into his flat, he could walk into harry’s).

harry just grins at him and stands to grab louis’ coat, and louis refuses to fleetingly think ‘he’s such a gentleman’, because they’re just friends.

“pizza is coming in like, fifteen minutes,” harry tells him while he’s digging through harry’s cupboards. he’s hungry, way too hungry to wait for pizza.

“i’d rather eat your house first.”

louis’ glad that they’re friends. in the course of a few weeks, he’s found out that harry actually doesn’t mind when you pull on his hair really hard during a tickle fight, or that he’s a mommy’s boy, or he had a kitten named floppy when he was young. (“floppy’s a bit of a suggestive name, innit?” “louis.” “what? it is.”)

the pizza comes and louis has four slices on his plate and he eats them within a fifteen-minute time period. harry gaped at him the whole time because “i didn’t know a little thing like you could put away that much food.”

they go to watch a film then, the sisterhood of traveling pants, and harry sits right next to louis and drapes a blanket over them both. and that’s fine; friends do that.
not even ten minutes into the movie, and harry’s lifting louis’ hand to kiss his knuckles. friends don’t do that.

“harry...”

“sorry.”

his hand is set back down but not let go, harry’s thumb brushing over his palm in a really calming motion. louis’ going to allow that because it’s really sweet and friends can hold hands.

but then harry’s lips are suddenly on his cheek and it feels nice. his lips are warm, sort of wet, and warm, and louis never wants them to leave so he threads his fingers into the curls at the back of harry’s head and holds him there. harry breathes through his nose a bit harder, because it must be a little hard to get any air through while his face is smushed against louis’ cheek.

“wewie,” he says, and louis thinks he meant to say ‘louis’, but it doesn’t sound like it.

louis’ just, he’s just going to hold this moment because it’s so great to have someone kissing his skin without fumbling with his belt at the same time. it’s really great.
“shh, shh. don’t talk, just be.”

so they be, and harry eventually moves his lips to louis’ shoulder, and they stay like that. and they be.

~~

“does this clutch match me shirt?” purple hair asks, and louis nods enthusiastically.

“uh huh, and this belt, love, this belt goes great with it, too.”

she buys the clutch and the belt and even purple nail polish. louis is the king of sellers, he really is.

“does this fur coat match me pantyhose?” he hears behind him, and he knows who it is. ‘course he does.

louis turns around. “oh, yeah. you should get a fedora with a feather and a cane, and you’ll be set to roam the streets downtown.”

harry puts the fur coat down with his right hand and presents a coffee from his left. “this is for selling your pumpkin. and on second thought, it’s also for selling that god-awful clutch to that poor woman. you win all of the awards, baby.”

“all of the awards?” louis snorted, “you sound like a stupid little girl from tumblr or whatever it’s called.”

harry’s face flashes for a second and louis thinks he might have mumbled ‘tumblr is great’ but he ignores it and takes a sip of his coffee. “s’really good, thanks.”

“ain’t nothing but a thing, sweetie.”

harry’s really stupid, but louis likes it. he really really likes it and that makes him a little angry at himself but he’s sure he can get over it.

“can i come over tonight?”

harry says “yeah” and louis says “cool” and then he has to go to work so he leaves and louis spends the rest of his day selling ugly products to women and a few men, too. one man flirts with him and louis tells him to “step off, sister,” because if he’s going to be with anyone, it’ll be harry. or leonardo dicaprio.

 

at harry’s place they play fifa for a while until louis decides he’d rather play football in real life, so they go down to the field a few blocks away and face each other.

“right, what do i get if i win?” harry asks him. he has his foot on the ball and puts his chin on his fist like that statue ‘the thinker’.

“my hand in marriage, a my little pony doll, i don’t know. whatever you want.”

harry slides his foot so his toes are under the ball and it’s suddenly up in the air, so louis lunges for it and they kick each other’s shins for a while until they realize the ball’s rolled over to the left and they both dash after it.

louis gets it, (he thinks harry let him) and he runs with it towards the goal post and kicks it so hard it rolls past the two poles and keeps rolling until it’s across the street and then gets hit by a car.

“well,” harry says.

“it was all part of my plan. i win.”

“how the hell—fine, you win. what do you want?”

louis skips back over to harry and puts a hand on his hair. “i’d quite like to put your hair in pig-tails, please.”

so they go back to harry’s flat, and harry sits cross-legged in front of louis, and louis grabs the hello kitty hair elastics he’d bought for his sister and makes six careful pig-tales.

“now who’s the princess,” he mocks while he uploads a photo to twitter. he has a whole three-hundred followers.

“i’m the princess.”

they sit on the couch and watch tangled in respect for louis’ great hair skills, and harry puts a hand on louis’ thigh halfway through.
and so,

“harry.”

“sorry.”

five really slow minutes pass of rapunzel talking to her lizard-thing and louis can feel harry breathing at his neck.

“do you need something, love?” louis asks, and harry replies by putting his hand back on his thigh.

louis can’t help but think that this is only what harry wanted the whole time.

“i-i’m, i,” louis stutters, and of course he feels his throat closing in and his eyes start to get a little wet. “i can’t. i’m sorry, i can’t. m-maybe another time? i promise we, just maybe another time.”

harry seems really shocked then, almost like john was, so louis jolts up and starts towards the door. he has to leave before harry tries to keep him there.
he follows him to the door. “god, i’m sorry lou. i didn’t meant to be pushy, please don’t leave.”

and god, he looks so ridiculous with his hair in all those piggy tails, but when he reaches forward and grabs louis’ arm, louis screams.

“leave me the fuck alone! i’m not interested, please, i’m not interested.”

~~

louis doesn’t leave his bed for a few days again. he’d gone home and cried and cried and zayn held him the whole time and he hadn’t a clue what had gone on, but he just said things like “you’re okay” and “i’ve got you” and that’s the only reason why louis made it through the night.

he feels absolutely hysterical, now. what if he has to change routes? what if he has to just date women? they certainly won’t guilt or force him into sex, because they’re women and women are sweet and kind.

“zayn, i have a confession,” he says at lunch, when zayn’s reading the newspaper like the old man he is.

“what is it?”

“i’m straight now.”

needless to say, zayn doesn’t believe him and he tells louis to “stuff it,” and then, “are you ever going to tell me what happened?”

probably, louis should tell him. when he thinks about it now he knows he’s overreacted but in that moment, he was so afraid that it felt like he wasn’t. so he tells zayn what happened and zayn says “oh, lou.”

louis goes back to bed and zayn follows him in after an hour.

“i called harry,” he informs, and fuck.

“why’d you do that?”

“to tell him—you know, i think he’s really good for you. i know he didn’t mean to scare you. can you please just, can you give him a chance? he’s really sorry.”

that’s not fair. “i should have told him myself, zayn.”

“you should have, but you wouldn’t have. i know you, remember?”

louis know zayn’s right, and that sucks. but he figures he should explain to harry himself so he calls him and invites him over and shoves zayn out of the house.

the second harry’s through the door he runs over to louis and hugs him so tight he can’t breathe and he squawks, and harry won’t stop saying “i’m sorry, i’m so sorry.”

it’s annoying so louis groans, “please shut up. it’s okay. i’m sorry for just—freaking out. shouldn’t have done that.”

“no but i understand, lou, and i’m an awful person for not even asking. i’ll do anything for you to forgive me—”

and god, this is just too gay, even for louis’ standards. “harry. i’ll revert back to calling you ‘serial killer’ if you don’t stop talking. it’s fine.”
harry shuts up then.

the afternoon is spent with harry nearly in tears from guilt and louis comforting him (louis comforting him, christ) and in the end things work out fine.

louis likes him a lot, he really does. he likes that his skin is way too milky and that his emotions grab hold of him and he cuddles too much and he hisses when he stubs his toe. louis likes him a lot.

so, “harry, will you date me?” he asks on the couch when spongebob is playing really quietly.

harry, he says, “i guess go,” in this really sarcastic tone, and louis thinks he’s in love then, just a little bit.

“you’re alright, serial killer.”

“you too, pumpkin harvester.”

and that’s just really nice.