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Three weeks after they get home, Louis rolls up in front of Liam's house in the saddest car Liam has ever seen. It's more rust than car, really, and one of the windows is open at a funny angle that seems to imply it's broken and will never close again.

Liam, who has definitely not been waiting anxiously and staring out of the window all afternoon, is out the door before the car's come entirely around the corner. "Look at that heap of junk!" Ruth shouts, but Liam barely hears her, because Louis has finally, finally arrived.

"Hello!" Louis shouts, arm out the window, and he hasn't stopped the car properly but he's trying to put his head outside while he waves and grins. Liam is torn, because it's amazing that Louis is so glad to see him, but it would be a shame if he died before they got to say hello properly. Some of the will he really come to see me? nerves Liam's been trying not to have all morning start to settle.

"Hi, for god's sake put the handbrake on and turn the engine off!" Liam shouts back, skidding to a stop in front of the car. It wheezes and settles in a way that makes Liam worry a bit that they'll have to push it back to Louis's uni. Which would be alright. They're young and fit; they can probably manage it.

The smile feels like it's going to make Liam's face break in half. He's bouncing up and down on his toes; he can't keep still while Louis is undoing his seat belt and fighting to get the door of the car open. It's not that Liam is nervous; he's talked to Louis on the phone nearly every day since they got home. He knows Louis's excited to see him. It's just… seeing him in person is so much better than stupid selfies that he texted when he and Stan were packing up his car to move to their flat together. It's like Louis is a real person again, not some odd fever dream from the summer.

Because here's Louis, and he's loud and real and solid as he runs across the drive and slams in to Liam so hard that he nearly knocks them both over. Liam laughs and tries to keep them upright. Louis throws his arms around Liam's neck and squeezes until Liam can barely breathe, not that he especially wants to. They stagger back a step and Liam gets a quick kiss that he barely has a chance to register before Louis tries to bite his neck instead.

"I missed you," Louis says into Liam's shoulder.

Liam can't get his breath to properly reply. He feels a little like he might die from happiness. He's so glad to see Louis that he can't stop smiling and he sort of wants to put his face into Louis's hair and smell him, oh dear, that might be completely insane. Louis smells like rusty old car and cheap cologne instead of mosquito repellant and lake water, but he still smells like himself, and to be honest, it goes straight to Liam's dick. He's missed touching Louis as much as anything.

"Missed you, missed you, missed you," Louis says, digging his fingers into Liam's side. It tickles and it hurts at the same time, and Liam tries to squirm away without actually letting go of Louis at all.

"I missed you, too," says Liam. Louis is still trying to tickle him. This is supposed to be a romantic moment, but Liam can't breathe with Louis wrapped around his neck, and he can't get Louis to stop tickling him. "Oh my god, stop!" Liam giggles, grabbing at Louis's hand. He ends up squeezing Louis's hand and stepping back just a breath so Louis can't torture him, but Louis beams, so the handholding was obviously his plan all along.

Liam leans down for a kiss, and he gets one, just for a second, before Louis turns his head and jumps back half a step. Liam's stomach sinks with a panicked oh my god he's actually come all this way just to break up, what have I done, what's wrong?

Louis squeezes his hand and nods at the house behind Liam. "Your parents," he says. And then, "Don't worry; they're going to love me." It takes Liam a second to realize that what Louis means is oh no, what if they don't love me? Louis is so confusing.

It's a relief to know that Louis is just trying to be on his best behavior, rather than suddenly come over uninterested in Liam. "Of course they will," says Liam, because of course they will.

Liam tends to say what he means, and then Louis looks at him like he's an alien, which is really very odd. Louis does it then, scrunching up his nose and giving Liam a slightly bewildered look, but then he pushes up on his toes and kisses Liam's cheek. "I didn't really get a chance to demonstrate this over the summer," says Louis, "but I'm an amazing boyfriend."

"Of course," says Liam, because Louis's amazing at basically everything.

"I am!" Louis protests.

He's so confusing. "Okay," Liam agrees, trying to work out what they're talking about.

Louis stares at him, and then he laughs. He has such a gorgeous laugh. He has such a gorgeous face. Liam hasn't really planned on having sex while Louis's at his house today; the door to his bedroom doesn't close properly and his mum is going to be lurking in the hall. But maybe Louis can drive them somewhere. Or maybe they can just get off in the back of Louis's awful old car.

There is a lot of loud throat-clearing going on behind them. "You must be Louis," says Ruth, with undisguised glee.

Or maybe they'll spend a while talking to Liam's parents and his sister. He doesn't sigh. The only way his mum is going to let him spend the weekend away, unsupervised, is if she gets to meet Louis, and Liam agreed to that, but… That was before he saw Louis again, and before he remembered how badly he wants to kiss Louis until he stops talking forever.

"That's my sister," says Liam. "Please ignore her."

"Are you planning to defile my baby brother?" asks Ruth. When Liam turns around, she's grinning. She isn't usually horribly evil, but then Liam's never actually brought anyone home before.

"I would never," says Louis, and he sounds so convincing that Liam almost forgets for a second that they already had sex over the summer. Liam is a little in awe of Louis's ability to say exactly what he wishes were true.

"Urgh, good," says Ruth.

Liam's mum is standing in the doorway of the house. "I made snacks," she says. "Hello, Louis. Liam's told us so much about you."

Louis squeezes Liam's hand one more time and then he goes bounding over to Liam's mum. He kisses her on the cheek and says, "Hello, Mrs. Payne," and smiles at her.

It's such a good smile. Niall asked Liam a couple of times what was so great about Louis that Liam would have put up with a whole summer of being jerked around. And Liam had just shrugged because it was hard to explain that, when he wants to be, Louis is the most charming person who has ever, ever lived.

He's made of charm when he smiles at Liam's mum, and when he goes inside and shakes Liam's dad's hand, and calls him sir, and when he laughs at Ruth's dumb jokes. Liam is almost surprised that he doesn't try and put salt in the tea or throw a pillow at anyone, but of course he doesn't; he sits on the sofa and chats about the weather, and starting university, and why he's doing geography. (The real answer, Liam is pretty sure, is "because I'll have time to go to a lot of parties and drink," but Louis obviously doesn't say that.)

Ruth elbows Liam and says, "How did you get someone as cute as him to date you? Is he blind, or stupid, or something?"

"Shut up," says Liam, proud and embarrassed at the same time. Liam is secretly a little bit confused about why Louis chose him, of all the people at camp, to pursue so doggedly, but Louis doesn't seem bored or likely to change his mind. That's what counts.

"—and these are my youngest sisters dressed up in my mum's shoes and hats," says Louis, showing his phone to Liam's mum. She coos and tells him how pretty his sisters are, and Louis puffs up with pride.

"We've got pictures of Liam when Nicola and I dressed him up," says Ruth. "He looked adorable in my dress."

"No," says Liam immediately. "No, no, no." He can see his mum getting excited about taking out the album with the baby photos in it, and if she does that he's going to actually die. Louis doesn't seem to care that their house is rather shabby, and he doesn't seem to mind being interrogated by Ruth and Liam's parents, but he will definitely leave and never come back, if he's forced to look at pictures of Liam when he was little and his sisters thought he was some sort of doll to play with.

"I'd love to see that," says Louis, with just the hint of an evil grin Liam's been waiting for this entire time.

Liam says firmly, "You wouldn't. We're going upstairs. Come on."

"Was Liam absolutely adorable? I bet he was the cutest," says Louis, as Liam tries to drag him up off the sofa. Louis can make himself rather unmovable when he wants to.

"There's a picture here, see?" says Ruth gleefully. She grabs a picture off the wall of Liam and Ruth and Nicola when they were small. It's from some cousin's wedding, and Ruth and Nicola are wearing slightly ridiculous dresses, while Liam's stands in front of them in a tiny suit. He's got some chocolate on his nose and cheek as well. "Liam dived into the cake face-first and then cried when he got yelled at."

"I will absolutely kill you," says Liam. "Louis doesn't care about that, do you?"

"I care desperately," says Louis, but he lets Liam pull him to his feet. "Later, I want to hear all the stories about Liam when he was little."

"No," says Liam, but his mum is already nodding and looking for the photo albums she keeps in the cupboard.

Well, that's going to be a disaster, and Louis is never going to think Liam's at all sexy again after he sees photos of him trying to toddle around in his mums shoes, so it's very important they go upstairs and get naked as quickly as possible. Apparently — this is new, and sort of horrible — when Louis is terrible polite to Liam's parents and makes them look so adoringly at him, Liam wants to take Louis's jeans off. There's some sort of wire in his brain, apparently, that goes directly from "good at talking to my parents" to "dick sucking." It's unfortunate.

"They're nice," says Louis. "You look just like your mum, did you know?"

"I don't," says Liam. "Never speak to them again, okay?"

"Geoff and I are going to play draughts later," says Louis, smirking. "And Karen wants to show me loads of baby pictures."

"I forbid it," says Liam. Louis bursts out laughing, and Liam pushes him up against the wall and kisses him until he stops. The only way to deal with Louis sometimes is to hold him down and distract him, and Liam is exceptionally willing to try that right now.

They're only barely out of sight of Liam's parents on the sofa downstairs, and Ruth will probably come bounding up to interrupt them just because it's funny, but Liam doesn't care; he just wants to get his hands on Louis's skin. He pushes up Louis's shirt so he can wiggle his hands underneath Louis's jeans, and pushes his legs between Louis's so he can roll their hips together. Even with them both fully clothed, Liam shivers when their dicks bump. It's been weeks, and the longer Liam went without actually seeing Louis, the more he's been wondering if it had all really happened the way he remembers.

Liam's hands go to the zip on Louis's jeans without asking him first, and it's a bit awkward because he can't get his mouth off of Louis's long enough to look at what he's doing. Louis isn't complaining; he's got one hand in Liam's hair, pulling him closer, and one fisted in the back of Liam's t-shirt. Liam makes an embarrassingly desperate noise as he rocks their hips together again. If his sister hears it she's going to laugh forever, but he can't seem to find the energy to care.

"Maybe not right here," says Louis, and puts his hand on top of Liam's.

"Why?" Liam says, petulant and poutier than he means to.

Louis laughs at him again. "Because I want your parents to like me, Liam. Enough that they let you come and stay with me for the weekend, remember? Stan's going to be out of town tonight, and I promise we can do whatever you want."

It's too open ended; Liam's brain goes offline for a minute, thinking about what an empty flat with Louis is going to be like; what they can do, and how many times they can do it. There are just too many possibilities and it makes him dizzy. He forgets to breathe, and then somehow Louis has squirmed out from between him and the wall and is pulling him down the hall.

"This is your bedroom, right? Unless your sisters are big fans of football and Batman."

"What?" says Liam. It's the least clever he's ever been, which is saying quite a bit, he thinks. Louis pushes him onto the bed and then fiddles with the door.

"This doesn't close properly," Louis complains.

"It never has," says Liam, but Louis is already pushing a chair up against it. Oh, Liam thinks. Why has he never done that?

"It's lucky I'm so clever," says Louis. "And that we got loads of practice being quiet this summer."

"We didn't, you were loud—" Liam starts.

Louis kicks off his Toms and climbs on top of Liam on the bed. Liam was going to say something, but now he's got Louis on him, pushing him down into the mattress and kissing him like he's missed Liam as much as Liam has missed him. It's desperate and gentle at the same time. Liam's so wound up, he's a little scared he'll come in his jeans just from the friction of having Louis touching him.

"Can you be quiet while I suck your dick?" Louis asks. Then he kisses Liam again before Liam gets a chance to say no, probably not.

Liam's mouth feels bruised and his chest hurts because he still isn't remembering to breathe properly, and then Louis pulls away and crawls down Liam's chest and starts undoing Liam's jeans.

"No," says Liam, pushing up on his elbows. Louis stops, hands on the zip, and gives him a slightly worried look, tilting his head. "I mean, I was going to— I want to," Liam says. His face is already red, thank god, so maybe Louis can't tell that he's blushing.

Louis's face lights up with relief. "Did you? Cool; don't forget we've got all weekend," he says, and then goes back to dragging Liam's jeans and underwear down. Liam makes a terrible broken, desperate noise and then covers his face with his hands. It's so embarrassing.

"I missed you," says Louis. He has his fingers on the crease of Liam's hips, and Liam tries not to push his hips up or whine for more contact, but his dick is so hard it hurts. "Did you miss me?"

"Obviously," Liam mumbles into the arm he's still got across his face. Louis leans down and breathes on the tip of Liam's cock and then doesn't actually do anything, and Liam whines like he's going to die. "Louis, please."

"Teasing is an integral part of our relationship," Louis says, and it is, but oh god, Liam would like to kill him.

Liam manages to growl a little, although he still can't look at Louis. His whole body is vibrating. He's missed Louis, and he's missed sex, and normally he'd try and pretend like he's cool but he can't. It's not like in Zayn's art hut, when he didn't know what was going to happen next. Liam knows exactly how good Louis is at this.

"You really missed me," Louis says wonderingly.

"I hate you," says Liam, wretched because he can't convince himself he even dislikes Louis a tiny bit.

Louis laughs. "Poor Liam," he says tauntingly, and then finally, finally digs his fingers in to Liam's hips and puts his mouth on Liam's cock.

Liam's hips roll up without him deciding to do it. It's just that Louis's mouth is so hot and wet and he's learned how to rub his tongue along the underside to make Liam shout. Louis pulls off and says, "Shhh, Liam, your parents."

That ought to be a boner killer, but Liam can't even catch his breath before Louis's mouth is on him again. Louis sucks and pinches Liam's thigh at the same time and Liam has to bite down on his arm so he won't shout again. Ruth will come up and check, and that would be terrible. Only then he forgets to think about that, and his brain goes all fizzy and blank; his only thoughts are want and please and Louis.

Liam comes with a little shout he can't muffle entirely. Liam's chest is heaving and his legs feel wobbly. His brain feels like it's full of bees. His fingers are numb and his arm hurts where he was biting it, and it's sort of awful and at the same time it's the best feeling in the world.

"You silly goose," says Louis, and pushes Liam's arm away so he can kiss Liam. Liam will never get used to how Louis kisses him while his mouth still tastes like Liam. It's dirty and that makes it sexy, but if Liam had the energy, he'd be blushing. Louis pushes him until Liam loses his temper — and Liam never loses his temper, usually — and makes Liam feel crazy and desperate and confused all at once.

And sometimes, like right now, he makes Liam feel perfect.

"My turn," says Louis, rubbing his dick against Liam's hip. Louis's still got his jeans on, but Liam can feel how hard he is. "Liam, it's my turn, come on." Louis manages to be whiny and demanding and sexy all at once.

Liam can't make his arms move. "Okay," he says, because turn about is fair play, but he's too wrung out to manage it at the moment.

"Didn't you miss me?" Louis badgers him. "Didn't you say you wanted to suck my dick? Liammmm."

Liam tries to laugh. He's so tired, though. And he's going to have to go back downstairs and talk to his parents somehow without letting them see what they've been up to.

Liam thinks about his parents and that faulty wiring in his brain kicks in again. Louis was so charming, and Liam's mum called him "darling" and "sweetheart," and his dad thinks Louis is clever and funny, and Ruth thinks he's handsome. All of that makes Liam's dick try to get interested in the proceedings again. He likes Louis so much it sort of hurts.

"You're a terrible boyfriend," says Louis sulkily.

He's kidding, maybe. Liam can't always tell, and it's a tiny dagger in his heart. He wants to make Louis happy, always, but he isn't as quick as Louis and he hasn't got Louis's charm or sense of humor. Liam's awful at pranks.

"That was a joke, Liam," says Louis. He bites Liam's shoulder in a thoughtful sort of way. "I forgot how you take everything so seriously. How could I forget? Your frowny face is adorable."

"I am not adorable," says Liam, trying to sound firm.

"Oh no; did no one tell you?" Louis says. He pushes down Liam's shirt and sucks a little stinging love bite on to Liam's collarbone. "You are the most adorable and my very favorite boy."

Liam groans and rolls into Louis a little bit. "If I blow you, will you shut up?"

"Yes!" says Louis happily. "Well, no. Probably not."

It takes all the effort in the world for Liam to pull his jeans back up enough that he can move around. Louis sits up, so Liam gets down on the floor on his knees. He's looking up at Louis and undoing Louis's jeans, but at the same time there's his posters of West Brom and Cheryl Cole which have been up for years. He's in his bedroom, and his parents are home, and he's about to suck Louis's dick while his sister lurks in the hall and listens for dirty noises.

And they are about to be really, really dirty. It's hotter because they could be interrupted — that was something Liam hadn't realized he enjoyed until this summer. "Come on, undo it, then," Liam says, trying to push Louis's hands out of the way. He's just toying with the button on his jeans instead of actually unbuttoning it.

"Don't boss me around," says Louis, but in that tone of voice Liam has come to realize means boss me around more.

"Take your trousers off or I'm going downstairs for tea," says Liam, rolling his eyes.

"Oh, as if," says Louis, but he shoves his jeans down so hastily that his fingers get caught between his jeans and his pants and he has to wiggle around for a minute to fix things. His cock is red and heavy and already leaking a little. Liam wonders if maybe Louis could get off just from sucking someone else's dick and being shoved around a little, but he has literally no idea how he'd suggest that to Louis.

Liam's jeans are getting a little tight again, looking at Louis's cock. He didn't think it was something he'd ever enjoy, and it's still weird, in a way, but the look on Louis's face is always so amazed and grateful and dead sexy. It makes Liam feel in control, which is something he never feels around Louis.

"Well," says Louis impatiently, scooting forward to the edge of Liam's bed. The bed he's slept on since he was six, and this is so, so weird and wrong.

"You teased me," Liam complains, but then he puts his hands on Louis's thighs and leans forward and starts sucking him anyway. Liam's not as good at teasing as Louis is, and he wants this. It's a thank you for coming to see me and thank you for trying so hard with my family and I am still embarrassingly in love with you after three weeks away.

Louis shivers and rocks his hips up and Liam chokes in a totally unsexy way, but Louis's got his head thrown back and when Liam looks up at him, eyes closed, cheeks pink and sweaty, it's the sexiest thing he's ever seen. He missed Louis so much, three weeks felt like an eternity. And how he's got Louis back, and Louis is real, and he's in Liam's bed, and all Liam can think is mine.

Louis grunts when he comes, not loud enough for people to hear downstairs, but loud enough that Liam pinches his thigh as he pulls off. "Quiet, remember?" Liam scolds.

Louis grabs at Liam's shirt with one hand and then collapses backwards onto the bed. He pulls Liam with him, or at least he pulls Liam's shirt half off because Liam's not quite fast enough getting up. Louis makes a disgruntled noise and tries to grab Liam with both hands, as if Liam is a pillow or a cuddly toy he wants on top of him. Liam frees his shirt from Louis's clutches and climbs up next to him. He'd quite like to just lie perfectly still and cuddle for a while.

Obviously Louis can't stay still, even when he's just had sex. He flails for a minute until he's on top of Liam and then settles in, heavy and unmovable. Liam is sleepy in spite of himself, in spite of how weird his mouth tastes now, and how Louis is slightly sweaty and sticky and keeps wiggling around, shifting back and forth and trying to get his mouth on Liam's shoulder the way he wants it.

They lie there, Louis mostly collapsed on top of Liam, for so long that Liam nearly falls asleep. He's so warm and comfortable and Louis smells good, even sweaty and a little dirty. They could just stay like this. Liam's dreading the start of school. He isn't going to do well in any of his A-levels this year, school is just going to be an absolute nightmare. The idea of going in every day and feeling so stupid makes his stomach hurt. It used to be sort of alright, but now he's got a goal of going to Derby so he'll be close to Louis, and if he screws that up he doesn't know what he'll do.

This moment, though. This is okay. Being cuddled up with Louis and sleepy and absolutely certain that Louis loves him. That's good.

"Boys!" Liam's mum shouts. "I've made tea!"

Louis yawns and stretches. "Mmm, tea. I could eat a horse. Funny I'm hungry, isn't it? Almost as if I've just been really athletic." He grins at Liam.

"Let's just stay here," says Liam. His mum is going to tell embarrassing stories, and Ruth is going to be smug, and it's so comfortable on the bed.

"Are you joking? I'm excited about tea. Come on, get up." Louis tugs uselessly at Liam's hand for a minute. "After tea, we're going back to my flat to do more filthy, filthy things, remember?" Louis asks encouragingly. "Come on, Liam."

Liam sighs. It's not actually much of a hardship to do every single thing that Louis wants him to, all the time. He likes the way it makes Louis smile. But Louis is smug enough without knowing that. "Don't you feel at all guilty, pretending to be so sweet to my parents, when really you're so awful?"

"No," says Louis certainly. "I absolutely do not." Liam laughs, because Louis says it with such conviction, and lets Louis pull him so they can go downstairs. They look like they've been lying down and maybe rolling around a bit, but hopefully not like they've been getting off together. Liam rather hastily tries to fix his hair. Louis darts in and kisses his nose. "You look perfect, stop it," says Louis. He's so confusing. Liam hasn't quite got the organizational skills to argue with him, so he goes downstairs after him instead.

It's sort of sad, after how well Louis did with Liam's parents, how crap Liam is at meeting Louis's friends. The first time goes okay, because the only person there is Stan, and he's great, and they Skype Harry and Niall and then Zayn, and it's basically a reunion.

The second time is much less fun. Liam gets to Louis's flat and Louis is already drunk. In the morning, he and Stan just huddle on the sofa being miserable while Liam makes them tea. They don't do anything all weekend. Not that Liam had big plans, but he can't even have a conversation with Louis because Louis's too busy moaning about his head and being sick.

It seems like every time Liam phones, Louis is drunk, and if he's not then he's telling wild stories about all the parties he's going to. Liam sits on his bed and listens and feels horribly uninteresting and childish. He's still at school, and he doesn't go to parties, anyway. All he's ever got to say is, "Maths is a nightmare," or "I don't understand anything I'm meant to be reading." Louis doesn't even seem to listen, he just laughs and says, "Everyone feels that way during sixth form."

Liam tries not to complain about it to anyone, but it slips out during a conversation with Zayn. "Well, it's hard, isn't it? Dating when one of you is off at university and having a life?" Zayn asks unhelpfully.

"He's bored of me," Liam says, and pulls the blankets over his head.

"I'm sure he's not," says Zayn, but unconvincingly. At least, Liam finds it unconvincing.

Liam gets a bit whiny on the phone with Louis, and Louis insists he come up and visit again. "I'll make sure you have an amazing time, don't worry," says Louis.

Only it turns out Louis's idea of an amazing time isn't the same as Liam's. Liam walks in to a party already in full swing. Louis has so many friends, and they're so loud and crazy. They're also cool and fun and drunk. Everyone is shouting and drinking and throwing a ball around. They're keeping score of something, although Liam doesn't see how they can keep track of anything in all the chaos.

He'd been expecting it would just be him and Louis, or he would have worn something nicer, or at least braced himself for a crowd. Instead Liam is just overwhelmed. Stan shouts, "It's Liam!" and someone Liam has never even seen before grabs him by the arm. They put an arm around his neck and someone who smells like beer yells, "Look, it's Louis's little boyfriend!" It's amazingly embarrassing. Liam is acutely aware that he doesn't belong. In this crowd Liam can't even see Louis.

Liam clutches the strap of his rucksack like a lifeline. "Hi," he says, because he doesn't know what else to say.

"He is adorable!" someone yells, and someone else has their hands in Liam's hair, ruffling it.

Liam feels a bit like he's drowning. "Uh," he says. "Thanks? Where's Louis?"

A rousing shout of "Louis!" goes through the room, and Louis comes staggering out. He's so drunk that Liam can tell just by looking at him. Louis's face is red and he's laughing giddily. He sees Liam and points with one hand, holding a beer in the other.

"Liam's here!" says Louis loudly. "Liam! You're here!"

"I am," says Liam, and Louis tries to go in for a hug. It ends up more Liam holding Louis up. Louis's beer sloshes out onto Liam's shirt, and Liam can't help but make a face.

"I missed you so much," says Louis. "I invited everyone round to meet you! This is everyone." He gestures expansively to the crowd in his flat, and Liam catches him before he can tip over. "Everyone, this is Liam. He is my cutest boyfriend."

"Er," says Liam, as a load of people shout his name. "Have you got other ones?"

"Don't be ridiculous," says Louis, and pokes Liam's cheek with his finger. "You are ridiculous. That's why I like you. Ridiculous. Ridiiiiiiiiiiiiculous."

Liam had sort of hoped that they'd get to have a real conversation, maybe a serious cuddle; something they couldn't manage in a few minutes on the phone or in email. But Louis's so drunk, and the flat is so full of the party, that obviously that isn't going to happen. "I'll put my rucksack in your room and I'll be right back," Liam says. He resigns himself to a loud evening of making sure Louis doesn't fall over and isn't sick on anyone, while completely failing to learn any of Louis's new friends' names.

"I love you," says Louis, so happy and open that Liam's heart lurches and he forgives Louis for the unexpected party and drunkenness and all of it. Liam tries to put aside his very quiet, private fear that Louis is going to meet someone much more fun and fabulous than he is, and forget all about Liam.

"I love you, too, babe," says Liam, and kisses his cheek. He tries to unwind Louis's arm from around his neck, but Louis is clingy and starts giggling and undoing the buttons on Liam's shirt instead.

There is nothing wrong with the party. Liam tells himself that roughly fifty times over the next couple of hours. It's fun, even; Louis's friends are funny and silly and friendly. They've clearly heard all about Liam, because he gets asked how he's doing studying for his A-levels, and what it's like to live in Wolverhampton, and if he really tried to drown Louis over the summer. People keep trying to press drinks into Liam's hands and every time he shakes his head and then Louis laughs and kisses him and says, "I love your disapproving face."

The problem isn't the party so much as that Liam has been waiting most of a month to get Louis all to himself, and now he isn't even in the same room as Louis half the time. Louis keeps getting pulled away to play some card game with cups of beer, or to stop his friends from smoking up in the bathroom. Liam feels a bit unanchored without him, and when he doesn't know what to do he defaults to being a bit stuffy.

Liam crosses his arms and frowns at everyone without entirely meaning to. "You're awfully sour for someone dating Louis," says a drunk girl disapprovingly.

"He's just jealous he can't shag Louis with all of us here," says her friend, and then they laugh at Liam, which is a bit awful.

Liam can't find Louis so he pulls his phone out and texts Niall instead. louiss having the louddddest party everrr :(

A minute later Niall replies kick everyone out and tell em hes your boyfriend!

Liam shifts over a little on the sofa to make room for some of Louis's friends to snog. I wish he types, and then wishes he could delete it, because it's so horribly whiny.

Harry texts do you want me to beat up louis for you?

Liam smiles at his phone, and then gets a little tiny pang of jealousy. Harry is visiting Niall, or the other way around, and they're probably not in the middle of a giant party. Or if they are, they're both drunk together, probably most of the way to naked already. Liam feels guilty interrupting them.

no thankkkks xxxxxx its fine :)

Louis throws himself onto the sofa, half on his friends who are still snogging, and half on Liam. "Babe," says Louis, putting his arms around Liam's neck. His breath smells so much like beer that Liam wrinkles up his nose. "Why are you over here? You should be with me!"

"You're playing beer games," says Liam, and then suddenly he has a lap full of Louis. Louis is drunk and cuddly and kisses with his tongue like it's an offensive weapon. He's more enthusiastic than anything else, and after a minute or two it's obvious he's drunk enough that he might fall asleep. Liam pushes him back gently. "Are you okay?"

"I'm great," says Louis, and then puts his head down on Liam's shoulder. His breathing evens out almost immediately.

Liam runs his fingers fondly through Louis's hair. It's nice to have Louis all to himself amidst the crowd, even if Louis has to be asleep for it to happen. Except it makes Liam's chest hurt a bit, for all the things he wanted to tell Louis and hasn't got a chance to.

Stan wanders by and sees them, and blinks a couple of times. "Hey!" Stan shouts to the room in general. "Party's done here! Move to Ed's flat!" There is some groaning and some cheers, and Stan begins ushering people out.

It's amazing how quickly Stan can clear the flat out. "Need a hand with him, mate?"

"Maybe?" Liam says. The last couple of people are leaving. Liam tries to find a way to stand up without dropping Louis on his arse. "Yeah," he says. "Can you grab him?"

"Not my first time doing this," Stan laughs. He grabs Louis under the arms and pulls him up so Liam can sneak out from underneath him, and then the two of them drag Louis into his bedroom. Louis mumbles and wiggles a little bit, but doesn't wake up, not even when he's dumped on his face on the bed. "Not quite the night you planned on, eh?" Stan says, and laughs, but he's leering a bit, too.

"I've got all weekend," says Liam. Really he's thinking about how much reading he needs to do. School is as disastrous as he had feared, maybe worse. His marks are terrible and all the writing he has to do is so hard, he loses points on his spelling and none of his textbooks make any sense. He won't get as much done staying with Louis; he should probably head home and let Louis have as much fun as he wants.

There's that little flare of fear again, that Liam's not going to meet up to some standard Louis has for being fun enough, and he'll be replaced. Liam won't even blame him for it. It feels awful, though.

"You look knackered," says Stan. "I'm off to Ed's for the rest of the party. See you in the morning, Liam."

It's just Liam and Louis alone in the room, finally, but Louis's snoring quietly and Liam feels alone in a really awful way. He doesn't know what to do; it's a bit weird to crawl into bed with Louis when Louis is passed out drunk. Liam's not especially tired yet, either, and he feels itchy underneath his skin, so he goes out and starts tidying up the flat. It's a disaster, obviously, with clothing and dishes and spilled bottles all over. Liam finds it really soothing to collect the bottles and rinse them out and put them in the sink, and put all the plastic cups in the bin, and sweep up the floor.

By the time he's done and the flat looks habitable again, Liam's tired enough that he can lie down, even if he can't sleep. He thinks for just a moment about seeing if there's an overnight coach he could take home, but it would be awful to leave Louis without saying goodbye. And it wasn't that bad a night; Liam's just tired and a bit on edge.

He'd wanted Louis to make everything better, but Louis was busy having his own friends and life. And it's not fair to Louis that Liam feels so down and insecure about it.

Liam cleans his teeth and puts on the pyjamas he'd brought with him, although he'd sort of hoped not to need to wear them. And then he gets into Louis's bed and tries to will himself into being sleepy and comfortable. After a few minutes, Louis mumbles something drunkenly into the pillow and then curls up into Liam's side. That's nice, actually, and it makes some of the chill in Liam's chest go away, enough that he actually falls asleep relatively easily.

Liam wakes up to Louis snuffling against his neck. They're entirely pressed together, and it's so nice that Liam takes a long time to wake up and remember how miserable he felt the night before. One of Louis's hands is playing with the drawstring on Liam's pyjama bottoms.

"Are you awake?" Louis croaks.

It takes effort for Liam to crack his eyes open. "Yeah," he says. "How're you feeling?"

"Terrible. Hung over. Awful. Make it better," Louis says, trying to snuggle in tighter.

Liam likes Louis so much. It's so easy to pretend last night never happened. "I'll go and make you some tea," says Liam.

Louis puts his arm over Liam's waist. "If you go, I'll die," he says.

"But then you'll feel better when you have tea," Liam says, trying not to laugh. It's on the tip of his tongue to say let me make you tea, so you won't be cross when I tell you I'm leaving early, but he swallows it.

"I suppose, if you insist," says Louis. He kisses Liam's neck and then sinks his teeth in unexpectedly, so that Liam jerks away. Liam swats at Louis's hip and rolls away from him. "Make it strong," Louis calls after him. "You're the only thing between me and death, Liam."

Liam switches the kettle on and roots around in the fridge for something he could make for breakfast. Louis and Stan haven't got a ton of food, though; there's only left over beer, a bit of milk, and a box of party rings someone stuck in there by mistake. Maybe they can go somewhere and get bacon sandwiches, once Louis wakes up a bit more.

Louis comes shuffling out into the kitchen as Liam's pouring him tea. Louis's still wearing his clothes from last night, although they're a bit dirty and he still smells like beer. Liam presses the cup into his hand and Louis makes a noise he usually only makes when they're having sex.

"There's no food," says Liam.

"No," Louis agrees. "We don't generally have any unless one of our mums has come to visit." He looks around his flat with a slightly puzzled expression. "Hang on."

"What?" Liam asks, making himself some tea. They haven't got any sugar, either, which means Liam is going to have to make his tea extra milky.

"I would have sworn we had a party here, last night," says Louis. "Jesus, Liam, did you clean my flat?"

He sounds so horrified. Liam is vaguely embarrassed. "I couldn't go to bed when the place was a tip," he says. "I'd never sleep."

Louis stares at him for a moment and then shakes his head. "I will never understand you."

"I was just helping out," says Liam, feeling a little defensive. It's so obvious that this whole thing isn't going to work; Louis likes parties and mess and loud evenings full of rowdy strangers. Liam likes staying in and having quiet evenings together. Liam doesn't want to be the person who ruins all of Louis's fun.

"Are you alright?" Louis asks, frowning.

"I'm fine, I'm great," says Liam, crossing his arms.

Louis doesn't look entirely awake, still, but he's giving Liam a much sharper look than he did earlier. Sometimes Liam hates how clever Louis is. Liam doesn't try to lie very often, but when he does it seems like Louis can tell immediately. "It's just that you seem a bit upset," says Louis. "And I've got about fifteen texts from Harry telling me to stop being such a dick."

Liam's stomach tries to fall somewhere around his feet. "Sorry. God, I told him not to — I didn't think he'd – I'm sorry."

"What are you sorry about?" Louis asks. "Apparently I'm the dick. What did I do? I was already pretty drunk when you got here. Was I just miserably embarrassing? I'm sorry. I was so excited about seeing you, I started drinking rather early."

Louis looks genuinely sorry. Liam feels wretched that he complained about a party Louis was trying to have for him. "I think I'm going to go home early," says Liam. "I've got so much reading to do, and I don't want to stop you having fun this weekend, and I—"

"Liam," says Louis, putting his tea down. He looks genuinely concerned. "What are you talking about?"

"I just—" Liam says, with every intention of glossing over everything or just bolting for the door. But Louis's got his sincere listening face on, and when he isn't being wretched, he's so thoughtful. Somehow, instead, Liam says, "School is so awful and I missed you, and then I got here and you were drunk and all I wanted was you. But you've got all these friends and these fun parties, and I'm not fun at all. And I don't think this is going to work, honestly, because this summer it was just us and maybe I seemed fun because there was always sport or hiking or something, but I'm not, not really, and—"

To his horror, Liam realizes he is on the brink of tears. And that would just be the most fantastic way to end this visit; collapsing into a mess and then crying. Louis will never call him again and Liam will know exactly why.

Louis has been looking at Liam as if he is deeply puzzled by everything Liam's saying. Liam takes a deep, shaky breath that hitches in his chest. This is an overreaction, he tells himself firmly, but it doesn't feel that way. He likes Louis so much and it feels like he's letting everything get ruined.

Louis throws himself at Liam. Liam wasn't expecting it, somehow, even though this is Louis, and this is what he does. Liam staggers backward with Louis clinging to his neck. "Oh, babe," says Louis.

"It's fine, I'm fine," says Liam, shaking a little. Louis can probably tell. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean for Harry to text you. I was just whinging to Niall. I want you to have parties and have fun. I'm just selfish."

Louis is determinedly walking them both backwards toward his bedroom again. "If I call you names, will you please stop apologizing?" Louis asks.

"I don't want to ruin your weekend," says Liam. "I'm sorr—"

Louis kisses him and knocks them both backward onto the bed. "Stupid," says Louis. "Ridiculous. Absolutely idiotic."

"I know, I just—"

Louis kisses him again. He tastes like tea and he's sort of strangling Liam while he climbs more firmly on top of him.

"I—" Liam tries, and Louis bites at Liam's mouth. "Louis, I—" Louis mashes their faces together, not romantic at all, more demanding and pushy. After a minute, Liam just lets him, because kissing Louis is nicer than complaining about things, even when Louis is being completely weird. Liam still feels a bit like crying, but he can stuff that down somewhere because Louis is so frantic and squeezing him so tightly.

"Are you quite finished?" Louis asks eventually, sitting back on Liam's thighs.

"Whinging?" Liam asks. "I'm sorry, I—"

Louis puts his hand over Liam's mouth. "Shut up. Listen. I'm rotten at saying what I feel properly. We learned that this summer. So one of us has got to be a little bit able to make sense."

I make perfect sense, Liam would say, except he's got Louis's fingers in his mouth.

"You don't," says Louis. "You think you do, but really you're just as crazy as I am. Except mine is exploding out everywhere and yours is all crammed into some tiny pocket somewhere, and then, when you let it out, you feel guilty. I scream 'look at me' and you feel bad that you feel bad."

It's true; Liam feels awful that he's being such a brat. "I'm sorry," he says, trying to push Louis's hand away.

Louis grabs a pillow and puts it over Liam's face instead. "If you apologize to me again, I won't be responsible for my actions!" Louis shouts. Liam could knock him over, if he really wanted to, but he doesn't; this is the most he's had Louis's attention in weeks.

From the next room, Stan yells, "Everything alright over there?"

"No, my boyfriend is a moron," Louis shouts back.

"If that's all then shut the fuck up," Stan yells, and bangs on the wall with his fist a couple of times.

It's getting hot and stuffy under the pillow. "I can't fix it, I can't help it," says Liam.

It's possible Louis can't hear him, or he can't work out what Liam said. It's also entirely possible he doesn't care. "Listen, you. You can hear me, right?" Louis pinches Liam's nipple through his shirt, and Liam jumps and slaps at him. "I'd rather have you than any party. Ever. Got it?"

Louis pulls the pillow away long enough for Liam to nod. "Yeah, but you shouldn't have to choose—"

Louis tries to smother him again. "I'm not choosing. I've chosen. I choose you. You are all of my Pokemon forever, got it?"

Liam giggles in spite of himself. He pushes at the pillow and Louis moves it off to the side. "I am not."

"You are," Louis insists. "Is there a Pokemon that looks a bit like a silly, sad dog?"

Liam shoves at Louis, and Louis laughs at him and grabs his hands. "I'm not cool enough for you," Liam says. He halfway means it and half just wants Louis to say it isn't true.

"What a sorry life you lead, if I seem cool to you," says Louis. "Do you think I was following you around all summer because I didn't have any other options? I'll have you know I could pull anyone I want. But you are my Jigglypuff—"

"I am not."

"And I chose you. Hmm, you aren't, are you?" Louis runs a hand over Liam's stomach, rucking his shirt up.

Liam tries not to laugh, but Louis's fingers tickle. "I'm a better Pokemon than that. I'm something really ferocious."

"No," says Louis definitely. "You just cried in my kitchen, you are not ferocious, I'm sorry." Liam hasn't got time to get embarrassed before Louis leans down and kisses him again, slower this time. He's a little sweet and patient, which is unusual for him. "Liam, listen," says Louis eventually, resting his forehead against Liam's. "I can have a party anytime, and I'd rather be with you than at any party on earth. You can't think that, just because I was drunk and distracted last night, I don't want you."

"I know," says Liam, because he does.

"I don't think you do," says Louis. "I don't blame you. Harry's right; I've been a dickhead. You're worried I'm not having fun, but I always have fun with you."

"University is just so different to school," says Liam. "When you call, I don't have anything interesting to say."

Louis snorts. "None of my stories are any good, either."

"Last weekend you got so drunk you passed out in a roundabout and a policeman had to drive you home," says Liam. "I don't have any stories like that."

Louis laughs. "Is that what you're worried about? Me and you, we can get drunker and stupider together than I ever managed on my own. Let's break into a football stadium and pass out in the middle of the pitch. Or get arrested trying to steal a policeman's hat. Or—"

"No," says Liam. "That all sounds terrible. This is why—"

"That's why I have Stan," Louis laughs. "Or Harry and Niall and Zayn. But you are my only Liam, the only one I would go on an early morning jog with. The only one I want to do body shots with. The only one I want to spend the whole weekend naked with."

It's so good to hear that Liam doesn't even try to argue. Louis kisses him again, gentle but demanding, coaxing Liam to open his mouth up and let Louis make the kiss dirty and familiar. Liam just wants to be special to Louis, in some way that won't get lost now that he's at university and surrounded by parties and amazing people.

Louis's been sitting on him this whole time, but he rolls over so he's lying on his side and pulls the duvet up over both of their heads. "Is school really as bad as all that?"

"It's awful," says Liam. "Literally every single thing about this year is crap. Can I come and live here with you instead?"

"What, in my bed? Yes, absolutely."

"Under this duvet. Forever."

Louis sighs. "Let's make that a deal. You and me, under this duvet, forever."

Liam really, really wishes that could happen. He clings to Louis and closes his eyes so he can breathe for a couple of minutes and just think about how much he likes this, how all the other crap and worry has been worth it for this.

"University is awful," says Louis, out of nowhere.

"What?" Liam blinks his eyes open again. "You're drunk literally every time I call."

"Because I'm homesick," says Louis. "I miss my mum. I miss the girls. I miss you. So I drink too much, and I'm broke, and I feel terrible, and I haven't been to a lecture in days."

This is astonishing news. "You always sound like you're having so much fun," Liam says, slightly accusing.

"Yes, Liam, I know," says Louis, rolling his eyes. "I can't afford to do anything fun with you, and I'm not going to call you up and then cry for half an hour, am I?"

"Why not?" Liam asks. "We could have a mutual cry hour."

"Well, because I didn't know you were miserable," says Louis. He tightens his fingers on Liam's hip. "We are both idiots."

"Apparently." Somehow the news that they're both idiots is the best thing Liam's ever heard. It probably shouldn't be, it might be a sign that something is really weird about this relationship, but it makes Liam feel roughly a million times better. "You really can call me, if you're feeling sad," Liam says. "That's what proper boyfriends do."

Louis makes a frustrated noise. "I just... I screwed things up this summer so badly, so I was trying to keep everything happy and lighthearted and fun. It would be so much better if I could keep you here with me. Can you stay, please?"

"We just decided we were both going to live under this duvet," Liam points out.

"I'll have Stan bring us tea under here, and we can get all our exercise by having sex," says Louis, pressing his face against Liam's chest.

It really does sound like a great plan. "We could invite Harry and Zayn and Niall round to visit. They'll have to bring their own pillows, obviously."

"Obviously," Louis echoes. He squeezes Liam once, and then takes what sounds like a deep, bracing breath. "Okay, new plan. You ready?"

"Does it involve coming out from under this duvet?" Liam asks dubiously.

Louis sits up, with the duvet on his shoulders like a cloak. "Well, yes. Briefly."

"Veto," says Liam, and tries to pull the duvet back down.

"First, we are going out to have breakfast, because I'm starved and I have a headache," says Louis, tugging the duvet back. "And maybe I'll tell you all the ways I feel shit about uni and cry a bit, and you can pretend you never saw me do that."

"So far it sounds okay," says Liam.

"And then we'll come back here and hide under the duvet for a while and you'll tell me about school and why it's been so rubbish and I'll help you study. I can actually study, when I want to. And I want you to pass your A-levels so you can go to Derby more than basically anything else on the planet."

"It's hopeless," says Liam.

Louis puts his fingers on Liam's ribs in prime tickling position. "Stop that. It's not. And anyway, we're going to use a very effective new study technique."

"It had better not be flashcards, I'm forever making flashcards. They don't help at all."

"It involves blowjobs," says Louis.

That... sounds rather better than flashcards. "Yeah?"

"Positive reinforcement for correct answers," says Louis. "And then eventually you'll be in a lesson and you'll do well on an essay and you'll get a boner just sitting there thinking about me. Like those rats that get cheese when they do the maze, or whatever."

Liam can't decide if that sounds wonderful or terrible. "So you're trying to fix things and ruin my life at the same time?"

"Yes," says Louis definitely. "It only seems fair, since you regularly ruin my life by being so fucking fit. Come on; breakfast. But only if you promise you're done making that awful cry face. I can't stand it. I'll leave you on the pavement to walk home."

For the first time since he got to Louis's flat, Liam feels happy enough to tease him back. "You won't. You'd walk all the way to Wolverhampton to come and get me."

"Bah, who told you that? Lies. All lies." Louis leans down and kisses him. There's a lot of something there, in the way Louis still has his hands on Liam's chest, and the careful way he nips at Liam's mouth but doesn't bite, and the possessive way Louis presses his knees into either side of Liam's hips.

Going out to do anything seems like a rotten idea again. "I vote duvet," mumbles Liam into Louis's mouth. "Breakfast can wait."

"And you think you're not clever," says Louis, and starts undoing the tie on Liam's pyjama bottoms again.

Louis gets a job at a sandwich shop, which helps with his finances, but means he has less time. When Liam calls they generally have a few minutes to chat and then a grumpy voice says something like, "Oi, Tomlinson; what do you think a ten minute break means?" and Louis says a hurried, "I love you," and rings off.

But when they do get a chance to chat it's so much better. Louis talks about how homesick he is and how some of his modules are difficult, and Liam cheers him up with silly jokes and making plans for what they're going to do when they both have a free weekend at the same time. Then Liam complains about school and his sisters and how dull Wolverhampton is, and Louis starts quizzing him about spelling and what he's done in lessons. It's still mostly misery, but at least Liam's got someone to tell about it. That's a tiny weight lifted off his chest. And Louis can always, always make him laugh.

They have plans for Christmas and visiting Zayn — Harry and Niall will be there, too, everyone's sneaking away from their families after Boxing Day — and Liam's hoping to get a weekend or two before that, where he can have Louis all to himself. It's not enough, but it's better than nothing, and Liam only occasionally hides under the blankets in his bed and pretends he's going to stay there all day and not go to school at all.

And then on a Thursday afternoon, when Liam is on the verge of setting his maths book on fire — it would be easy, it's Bonfire Night, he might trip and dump it into the bonfire they're having in the garden later — his mum shouts, "Darling, come downstairs!"

Anything is better than maths, anything, he'd much rather run errands or do the washing up. Liam comes running, and then trips to a stop that nearly sends him headfirst down the last couple of steps.

Louis is standing with his mum in the kitchen, beaming.

"But it's Thursday!" Liam says. "You've got work!"

"I called in sick," says Louis, and then coughs unconvincingly. He is grinning too widely to look anything but disgustingly proud of himself.

"Oh," says Liam. "Well... Alright." He's so confused. And he can't really greet Louis properly with his mum in the room, so he just stays by the stairs and tries to work out what's going on. "We're having sparklers in the garden later, you can see the fireworks from here. If you'd like, I mean, unless you're just stopping by or something."

Louis makes the most incredulous face. "Just stopping by or something. Honestly."

"Well," says Liam again, and shrugs, and blushes a little.

"I've just got something in my eye, is all," says Liam's mum, reaching for a handkerchief.

"Mum, no, don't cry, what are you crying about?"

Louis's still got his jacket and scarf on. "Go and get a jumper and your jacket," he says. "I'm taking you to the park. Bonfire starts at seven, fireworks at eight, and I'll even pay your four pounds for the ticket, because that's how romantic I am." Louis bats his eyes a bit.

Liam laughs. "You came down here just to — Okay, hang on, I'll go and grab my jacket, just a minute."

"And a jumper!" Louis shouts after him. "It's cold as sh— I mean, it's cold!"

Liam runs back downstairs. His mum doesn't even try to slow them down, she just presses the cake she's been making all day into their hands, wrapped up in foil. Liam gives her a peck on the cheek and jogs out after Louis, to where his awful old car is parked.

"Honestly, what are you doing here?" Liam asks, and Louis kisses him on the pavement where his mum and all the neighbors can see. Louis's hand is tight on Liam's waist.

It's chilly outside, and when Louis pulls back, his cheeks are pink and flushed. "I realized I've never taken you on a proper date."

"What?" Liam scrunches up his nose. "You must have. I'm sure you did."

"Nope. Never. Not once. Get in the car." Louis hasn't bothered to lock the door — who would try and steal his wreck? — so Liam lets himself in. The car makes a horrible groaning noise and creaks to a start as Louis wrestles with the gearstick.

Liam is absolutely certain there must have been a date. "That time, at the pub, with the shots."

Louis rolls his eyes. "You mean the night I was so awful to you? What did you like about that? The bit where I made fun of you for not drinking, or the bit where I got you drunk, or the bit where I kept licking you?"

"Er," says Liam, coloring. "The licking, I think, mostly?"

"Liam, you mustn't let strangers take you out and get you drunk and lick you, and then presume it was a date," Louis mock-scolds.

I didn't mind, because it was you, Liam thinks, but doesn't say. He's got some sense, after all. And at the time it had been one more baffling thing about Louis; Liam had been fairly convinced that Louis didn't like him and it was all one long game he was playing to torture Liam. Now Louis mixes torture with adoration, so it's easier to keep straight.

"I think we've been on dates," Liam says instead. "When I went to visit you."

"It's not a date, if I was drunk before you even arrived," says Louis.

"Okay, well, you came here to meet my parents, and—"

"That's not a date," Louis says impatiently. "If your parents were there then it was hardly romantic. I like them, don't get me wrong. But I think we have to be married before we count a night out with your parents as a date. We're not quite that boring yet."

"We aren't boring at all," Liam objects.

Louis turns and grins at him, and nearly swerves the car off the road. Liam puts a steadying hand on the wheel, just in case. "We're not boring today, no," says Louis. "We're having a spontaneous date! Just in case you thought I don't have fun with you. It's going to be massive. Are you excited?"

"I'm glad you're here," says Liam, biting the inside of his cheek. Louis is so ridiculous.

"Romance and fireworks," says Louis happily. "I told you I was a fantastic boyfriend."

The park is already a little crowded, and the sky is getting darker. Louis pays for both of them and ignores the kids who shout about his junky old car. It looks like it's going to rain, and the air's getting chillier. Liam slips his hand into Louis's. "This field'll be all mud soon," Liam says.

Louis ducks in like he's going to kiss Liam and then presses his cold nose against Liam's neck instead. Liam yelps and tries to squirm away, but Louis's holding on to his hand. "Sparklers and jacket potatoes," Louis says. "I'll meet you by the bonfire?"

"If this is a date, shouldn't I be getting dinner and a drink?" Liam asks.

"You'll get more than that after the fireworks," says Louis, waggling his eyebrows, and then ducks off into the crowd.

Liam wanders toward the bonfire. He sees some of his parents' friends and waves a polite hello. It's not packed yet, but there's enough of a crowd that Louis might have trouble finding him. Liam puts up the collar of his jacket in case it starts to drizzle.

Some boys from school walk by. They aren't the ones that used to hassle Liam before he started boxing, but they aren't the friendliest, either. One of them looks over and gives a bit of a wave, and Liam nods his head in return and hopes they'll go away. It's not that he hasn't got friends, he has people who he's friendly enough with, and people he enjoys seeing now and again. But they make him feel awkward and shy. And even when they're being friendly, there's a bit of an edge to it, as if they're always teasing, too.

"Hello, who're they," Louis asks, bounding up behind Liam. He drops a takeaway box with potatoes in it onto the mud by their feet, and puts his arms round Liam from behind. Then he presumably glares at the boys who are now giving them a funny look. "Are they going to be shitheads about this tomorrow at school? I'll stay and beat them up if you'd like."

"With what, your little noodle arms?" Liam snorts. Two of the boys look a bit surprised, and one of them looks downright disgusted, but the fourth nods with a little bit of what Liam thinks might be respect, and ushers his mates away.

"I'll have you know I can outwrestle you any day of the week," says Louis, tightening his hold around Liam.

All that means is that Louis is feeling frisky. "I guess you can try," says Liam dryly. The bonfire's raging, which means his front is nice and warm, and his back would be cold, except he's got Louis plastered against him. Liam leans back a little.

"What if I decided to hold you down and fuck you," Louis says softly, right in Liam's ear. His voice gets a little growl in it, and Liam shivers. "Slowly. All night."

Liam works very, very hard to keep his voice steady. "You're welcome to try," he repeats, trying to hide the hitch in his breath. "But not at my house tonight. Not with my parents home."

"What if you skipped school tomorrow?" Louis asks. "Didn't your teacher say your marks were 'much improved'? You could come out and stay at mine. Stan's at his girlfriend's." Louis bites Liam's ear and then pushes Liam's collar down with his mouth, hot and wet against cold skin.

"My mum would kill me," says Liam, closing his eyes involuntarily. When Louis sucks on his neck, all Liam can think about is how talented Louis is at sucking on other things. "You've got work tomorrow. And a lecture."

"I got a two-one on my last essay," says Louis. "Why can't this be my reward?"

Liam elbows him in the stomach a little for that. Louis retaliates by digging his teeth into Liam's neck and then sucking what's going to be an amazing bruise tomorrow. Liam opens his eyes, sure the entire town is going to be staring at them. It's actually only a few others watching them, but it's enough to make Liam feel a little uncomfortable. "I'm not your — Jesus, Lou, there are children," Liam says. He puts his hands on top of Louis's with the intention of pulling Louis away a little bit, but Louis wiggles his fingers toward the flies on Liam's jeans instead. "No, Louis, no."

"I did better on my essay, you got better marks, this is supposed to be our deal," whines Louis.

He is insufferable, and if Liam weren't totally in love with him, he wouldn't be able to stand him. "If I skip school tomorrow, you have to behave right now," Liam says firmly. "Otherwise I'm going straight home."

"Oh, you are not," says Louis, but he settles for putting his hands in Liam's pockets instead. "Do you want the potatoes while they're still hot? Or the toffee? I bet you're going to taste amazing after you have some toffee."

It's sad how easy Liam is to bribe. "Toffee and a sparkler," he says. The boys from school are walking by again; they've found some girls, but everyone's too busy waving sparklers around to look at Liam much. One of the girls elbows a friend and they wave at him. He thinks they look impressed, maybe? They ought to do; Louis's ridiculously fit.

Louis rummages through what he's bought. "Toffee!" he says, holding out a piece. Liam reaches for it and Louis pops it into his own mouth with a smirk.

"Hey," says Liam, pretending to pout, and then Louis kisses him with a mouth full of toffee, which is gross and wonderful at the same time. Liam starts laughing and Louis pulls him in closer with one hand, wrapping their fingers together with the other.

"You do taste amazing," says Louis triumphantly. His cheeks are red and not just from the cold. The mist of rain is plastering his fringe to his forehead and Liam brushes it out of his eyes.

"You think that first thing in the morning, too, though," Liam points out.

"Shut up and have more toffee, Payne," says Louis, and Liam laughs again, hoping everyone at school is watching so they'll know how wonderful Liam's boyfriend is.

Louis is a menace with a sparkler, and he nearly puts out his own eye, and then Liam's, and then his own again. Liam can't stop laughing at him; he's so stupid. Liam pulls out his phone and snaps a few pictures, even if Louis's partially lost in the light from the bonfire.

"If you can get the shutter slow enough, you'll be able to see me spelling out our names in a heart," Louis insists.

"Right, of course," says Liam, rolling his eyes.

Louis snatches his phone away and starts taking photos of both of them. He nearly whacks Liam in the face with the sparkler again, so Liam takes it off him for safekeeping. "This is going to look amazing," says Louis.

"The fire's too bright," Liam says, but the pictures do end up amazing; sparks going up into the dark sky behind them, both of them grinning like idiots, clutching each other and the sparklers.

"I'm sending it to Harry and Niall and Zayn," says Louis. "Jesus, my fingers are too cold to type, feel this." He sticks one of his hands on Liam's face and Liam swears and ducks away.

"I'll do it, gimme," says Liam. Louis smirks some more and eats more toffee, while Liam forwards the picture on to everyone with wish you weere herrrrrrrre!!xxX!

The sky is black except for the sparks from the bonfire, and it's freezing out when the fireworks finally start. Liam's half sunk in the mud, Louis holding his hand and working his cold fingers up under Liam's jacket sleeve. The fireworks are always amazing, they're one of Liam's favorite parts of the year. They are especially brilliant standing outside in the cold, with the misting rain, and the cheering crowd, and Louis pressed up against his side.

"This is the best first date ever," Liam says.

Louis looks over at him and shakes his head, eyebrows up. "What? It's loud!" he shouts.

Liam will tell him later, or maybe he'll just show him, when they get back to Louis's flat. His toes are going numb and his parents are going to be annoyed about him skipping school, and he'll have to catch up on reading all weekend. But it's absolutely perfect, standing outside with Louis and the fireworks, even with the chill and the rain. It's honestly the perfect first date, at least for them, and Liam doesn't know how he's going to top it, but he can't wait to start planning.

Once tonight is over, obviously. The next round of fireworks start, turning Louis's hair red and purple and silver with their reflection, and Liam leans down to kiss him, arms sneaking around Louis's waist. Louis goes up on his tiptoes — although he sinks in the mud a little — and kisses back, eager and open-mouthed and still tasting of toffee and a little bit of rain. Louis did this, he made the night perfect, and he makes Liam's days better every day, and Liam can't press himself tightly enough against Louis, or get enough of him, not ever.

"Cheeky," says Louis breathlessly. "Do you want to stay for the rest of the fireworks or go and get off in my car before we drive back to my flat?"

"Car, please," says Liam, and Louis laughs at his politeness, or maybe at his answer, but either way he grabs Liam's hand and drags him off toward the car park and the rest of a spectacular evening.