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Take Off Your Running Shoes

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Yeah, fuck, Liam.”

A small crash sounds from the bedroom, followed by a low moan, and Louis clasps the pillow he has wrapped around his head closer to his ears, trying to block out the sounds drifting from behind the closed door, down the hallway to where Louis is currently sitting, cross legged in the center of the couch, staring fixedly in front of him at the DVD menu to Clueless playing on the television.

Another crash and Louis tumbles over sideways onto the cushions, still keeping the pillow pressed tightly around his ears and letting out a loud groan just as Zayn does the same from his bedroom. Louis curls his knees up to his chest and buries his whole face in the pillow, he wonders how much pressure it would take to make him pass out just long enough to not have to hear the sounds of his best friend’s orgasm ringing through their flat.

Again. For the third time this week, actually.

Louis holds his breath and nudges his nose experimentally into the pillow. Waiting one, two, three seconds, before pulling away quickly, blinking a few times and then sneezing. He sighs and wipes his nose a little on the side of the pillow, which he remembers is Zayn’s anyway, so that works.

He is not leaving, that Louis is certain of. He is not going to be forced out of his own flat, he’s going to sit here and wait for them to finish and he’s going to laugh with Zayn about knee socks and Paul Rudd in flannel shirts and then he is never going to let Liam Payne come over during movie night again. Or maybe just any night, ever. Louis looks down at the snotty pillow again and considers for a moment; Liam doesn’t really look like he could hold him off for all that long.

His brief smile falters when something that sounds distinctly boy-shaped gets thrown against what Louis can only guess is the headboard. He didn’t even know Zayn had a headboard, but that definitely sounds like it banging against the wall of his bedroom repeatedly.

Louis whines again. So does Liam.

“You’re not making me leave,” Louis mutters to no one as he stands up off the couch and looks around for his house keys. “You’re not making me leave.” He sing-songs matter-of-factly to the small ceramic elephant on his kitchen counter as he unhooks his keychain from it’s little ceramic trunk. Louis looks around frantically for his shoes as he hears the pace of the headboard increasing by the second. Why can he never find his bloody goddamn shoes?

Fuck it, he doesn’t need shoes. Louis pulls open the front door to the flat and races into the hallway outside. “You are not making me leave!” He yells, slamming the door loudly, barely muffling a particularly filthy sound heard clearly from outside the flat. God, their landlord is going to throw them out on the streets.

Louis walks as far as the corner opposite his small building before he remembers that it’s well past 10 pm on a Sunday night. He and Zayn moved into their building because of its significantly less expensive rent than anywhere near the University on the other side of the town, but it means that their neighbors consist solely of newly weds or the elderly or families with kids. So many fucking kids.

It also means that most everywhere within walking distance is sure to be closed for the night by now.

Sighing, he stops to think for a minute about his options. There’s really only one that comes to mind: his old faithful fallback of walking to the playground a few blocks over, sitting on the giant plastic squirrel in the sandbox and thinking about his sad, sorry life until he’s sure Zayn and Liam are done at the flat. Louis starts walking in that direction, even though he’s certain he needs something a bit stronger than meditation tonight.

He passes the park, an elaborate jungle gym and small expanse of sand and grass and trees, part of the community center where Louis knew someone who knew some tennis instructor who got him a part-time job for the summer, passing out pamphlets for swimming lessons and signing people up for yoga classes for beginners and occasionally mopping scuffs off of the shiny wood floors of the indoor badminton courts. Louis got bored after his third day of work. It’s been almost three weeks and he’s already mastered spending his entire shift in some sort of suspended state of consciousness in between barely alert and barely awake.

It’s the first week of June, but Louis still wishes he would’ve thought to grab a jacket before leaving his flat, the thin t-shirt he’s wearing and his bare feet doing nothing to make laying outside in a cold, dirty sandbox sound anymore appealing right now. Then suddenly he remembers the supermarket just around the corner and holds up a finger to no one in particular. The supermarket is open until at least midnight, the supermarket has alcohol. Louis turns on his heel to skip around the corner.

When he makes it through the automatic sliding front doors, he looks down the signs hanging from the ceiling of the store, labeling each aisle, until he spots the shining beacon of inebriated hope that is the word ‘Liquor’ on the far side of the store. He gets momentarily distracted by a display of 2 for 1 jumbo bags of crisps, and then again when he remembers he’s out of toothpaste, but after a few more detours, Louis finally makes it to the wine section. He picks out the cheapest bottle, because he stopped sleeping with that rich bloke who bought him the expensive stuff months ago, and Louis came to realise you really can’t tell the difference after a few glasses.

He balances the bottle of wine in his arms between his other groceries and makes his way to the check out counter, considering the mini shelves of candy bars and gum along the side as he passes his items to the cashier, and then throws a Twix bar into the mix. The checker chimes out his total and Louis hands over some money, collecting his change and gnawing on the inside of his cheek a bit, eyeing his wine bottle as the person behind the counter places it gently into a paper grocery bag and pushes it carefully towards Louis. He thinks it must be showing in his eyes how important that bottle is to his sanity right now.

“Good luck with your friends,” the check out guy says cheerily. “Have a good night and please come again!”

Louis mutters a thanks and grabs his grocery bags by the handles. He gets two steps past the checkout counter before pausing and looking back abruptly.


The guy behind the cash register looks up startled from where he seems to be drawing on his hand with an orange highlighter that matches the color of the apron tied around his waist. “Sorry?”

Louis takes a step towards him. “What did you just say when you gave me my change?”

The guy bites the corner of his lip, Louis blinks. “Um, please come again? We’re supposed to say it, but you don’t have to come again if you don‘t want to. I mean, there’s other supermarkets, I know. Some have better coupons than we do, so…” His voice is deep and too slow and he doesn’t sound like he’s convincing himself anymore than he’s convincing Louis.

“No before that, you said good luck with your friends.”

“Did I?” The guy looks vaguely surprised, he scratches his nose casually with the same hand holding the highlighter and gets a swipe of neon orange across his cheek. He doesn’t seem to notice. “I um, I just thought I’d throw it out there. You know, incase you needed some luck with your friends.”

Louis’ eyes narrow and he looks the guy up and down before responding, “Okay, well I don’t. Thanks anyway.” He crosses his arms in front of him, but forgets the part where he turns to leave.

The guy gives him a small smile and Louis blinks a couple times. Oh. “Are you sure you don’t?”

Louis snaps out of his temporary dimple-induced trance. “What?”

“You didn’t come here to purchase those things because there’s people shagging at your house right now?”

Louis takes another step towards him, he doesn’t know why, but he does. “Is it part of your job to ask invasive questions to the customers?” The check out guy’s grin widens and okay, maybe Louis knows why he keeps moving closer.

“No, it isn’t,“ he says and double checks he doesn’t have anyone else in his line before turning fully towards Louis, raising an eyebrow. “But I’m right?”

Louis just kind of looks at him and blinks a few more times.

Yes!” The guy hisses to himself, giving his right fist a congratulatory bump with his left.

Louis narrows his eyes again and steps closer still. “Um, how did you know that?”

The guy looks up from his hands like he’s just remembered someone else is still there. Louis notices what a nice, shiny green his wide eyes are under the florescent lights of the supermarket. He maybe needs to stop blinking so much or his contact lenses might pop out of his eyes in protest. “I uh- I guessed?”

“You guessed from my groceries that my friends are getting it off in my flat?”

“Well yeah, and the no shoe thing.” He says casually, gesturing towards Louis’ bare feet. “You’re really supposed to have shoes on in here, I think.”

“I don’t believe you.” Louis says dubiously. “Tell me how you knew that.”

The guy laughs a little and Louis unintentionally steps a few more inches closer. “I just knew. I get bored sometimes and try to guess why people are buying certain things to pass the time.”

“That’s stupid.” Louis means that, so he doesn’t quite know why he’s smiling as he says it.

“Maybe, but things stop sounding so stupid once I‘ve been standing here for six hours.” The guy says, shrugging again. “I’ve gotten really good at it,” he continues just as a teenage girl approaches the till and starts setting things on the little conveyer belt at the end of the counter. “Wanna see?”

Louis guesses he might as well kill some more time, incase Zayn and Liam decided to go for a couple more rounds. Also, he’s just noticed the way check out guy’s dark brown hair waves perfectly across his forehead and curls up at the ends in all different directions around his ears and at the nape of his neck. Louis kind of wants to touch it. Louis really wants to touch it.

Moving closer so he’s all but standing behind the cash register now, Louis starts to mimic the way the guy is sizing up the girl a few feet away as she unloads a large bar of chocolate, a packet of Swiss cheese, a bottle of champagne and a pack of breath mints that she grabs last minute off the little shelf along the side of the counter. Check out guy scans each item as it reaches him and sets them in a paper bag at the edge of the counter in front of Louis while the girl shuffles in her purse for her wallet.

He turns towards Louis as she approaches and crouches down, muttering, “Tell her good luck.”

Louis looks at him suspiciously, eyes just narrow slits now. “But that’s what-” He whispers before the guy cuts him off, pressing a few buttons on the cash register and smiling up at the girl.

“It’ll be eighteen-fifty!” He tells her in the same cheery tone he used with Louis before.

She swipes her card and on the other side of the register and Louis feels an elbow nudge his side as the guy hands over her freshly printed receipt. “Have a good night, please come again!” She smiles nervously at the both of them as she shoves her receipt in her purse.

“Good luck!” Louis adds brightly. The girl looks at Louis without missing a beat, gives him a wink and a little hopeful finger cross before gathering up her bag and skipping out the front doors. Louis watches her go before turning back to check out guy with an utterly confused expression.

“See?” He says, sounding delighted.

Louis shakes his head and laughs disbelievingly. “But you told me good luck too, that could mean anything!”

“It could,” says the guy. “But that girl is on her way to lose her virginity, sweet thing, and we wished her luck! She’ll probably remember us forever, think of that.”

“What was the packet of cheese for then?” Louis asks skeptically, trying to look past the way the guy’s pretty face is positively shining with the thought of being associated with a stranger’s memory of sleeping with her boyfriend for the first time.

He shrugs. “She was probably just out of cheese. I think her boyfriend’s older, too. That’s why she was buying the champagne.”

“She was clearly not old enough to be buying alcohol, either.” Louis says.

Check Out Guy laughs. “No, but I didn’t want to ruin her night.”

“I think that’s illegal.”

“I think getting in the way of true love is illegal.” He says importantly as a tired looking man approaches the end of the check stand. He’s got on house slippers and plaid pajama bottoms and is setting down a giant container of instant coffee, an even bigger pack of diapers and a jumbo bottle of aspirin on the conveyor. “Oh, this one’s easy, you go ahead.” He turns towards Louis and his curly hair bounces a little as he nods his head to urge him on.

Louis looks at the groceries approaching them thoughtfully. “New baby, obviously.” He whispers over the guy’s shoulder as he scans the large box of diapers and fits it in a bag with some difficulty. “Girl.” Louis adds as the man in the slippers hands over exact change without even being told his total.

“Do you have any pictures?” Check Out Guy asks happily as the man’s receipt prints out of the register. The man seems to perk up out of his zombie-state at the question and opens his wallet proudly.

Check Out Guy lets out an aww as he leans in for a better look at what appears to be a picture of a giant pile of light-blue blankets next to a small stuffed blue teddy bear. “Shit.” Louis mutters under his breath and the man looks at him questioningly, still holding the picture up for them to look at. “I mean, cute!” Louis corrects himself lightly, even though he can’t seem to locate an actual child within the mound of blue fleece.

Louis pouts once the man has left with his bags and Check Out Guy pats him on the shoulder sympathetically. Louis feels himself slouch a bit as the guy’s giant hand hits his shoulder with more strength than he must realise he’s exerting. “It was good for your first time!” He assures Louis. “Wouldn’t worry about the details. I didn’t even see a baby in that picture, did you?”

“Oh, there was no baby in that picture.”

“Oh my god, I know!” Check Out Guy laughs, it‘s low and raspy to match the more natural tone he has when not greeting a customer. “What the hell?”

Louis laughs, too. “Maybe he was one of those mental people you see on television specials who walk around the park with cabbage patch kids in strollers.”

“Poor bloke,” says the guy, looking at where the man disappeared through the front doors of the store. “I wonder how many giant unused boxes of diapers he has in his basement.”

“We’ll probably see him on the telly in a few years for his intervention.” Louis says.

Check Out Guy nods. “We can say we knew him when.” He grins goofily at Louis, who smiles down at his bare feet, now standing a few inches away from the worn-looking boots Check Out Guy is wearing.

“So,” he starts nonchalantly. “You here much longer tonight, then?”

Check Out Guy looks at the time on his register. “Yeah, unfortunately.”

“Unfortunately,” Louis agrees quietly, noticing the dark, equally worn-in jeans hidden by his orange uniform apron.

“What about you, think it’s safe to go back home?“ Louis looks up from where he’s now admiring the nice fitting white Henley t-shirt the guy also has on and sighs.

“Hopefully by now.” He says, looking back up to glance at Check Out Guy‘s very full set of smiling lips, which seem to be permanently pulled halfway between his teeth when not talking, before focusing on the rest of his face. “You’ve had orange highlighter across your cheek the entire time I’ve been talking to you, by the way.”

He looks unfazed, licks his thumb and swipes it over his cheek, a good two inches away from the mark. “Got it?”

“Got it.” Louis says, grinning. Check Out Guy smiles back, orange marker still in his dimple. “Right, I should probably head back, then. Make sure no one‘s broken a limb or something."

“Well, thanks for entertaining me,” he says, still smiling at Louis. “I hope you enjoy your wine.”

Louis laughs, “Oh I shall.” He figures he should start backing away from the register now, since he doesn’t actually work at this supermarket. “I’ll see you around.”

“See you around!” Check Out Guy waves as Louis walks backwards towards the exit. “Please come again!” He chimes mockingly.

“We’ll see,” Louis says, before turning towards the door. He refrains himself from looking back until he’s through the doors, peeking in through the front windows of the store as he walks by. Check Out Guy is grinning down at his hand, still coloring in his fingernails carefully with the orange highlighter, one loose wave dangling down the center of his forehead.

Okay, so there’s that. Louis walks back around the corner with a bit more spring in his step, which quickly deflates when he stubs his toe on the curb across from his building.

Zayn and Liam are sitting at the kitchen table when Louis opens the door to his flat. They’re both dressed in pairs of Zayn’s boxers and t-shirts and have got two spoons in what Louis is pretty sure is his own half-finished pint of Ben & Jerry’s. He’s about to pretend to be mad about that fact, but can‘t even bother when he gets distracted by the silent coy giggles and pet names he can practically hear coming out of Zayn and Liam’s mouths just through the secret smiles and heart eyes they’re exchanging over the tiny table.

Louis thinks it might be the cutest thing he’s seen in months, and then his stubbed toe throbs. Fuck them, he thinks.

“Fuck you guys,” is how he greets them.

“Have fun at the market, babe?” Zayn says lightly, breaking Liam’s gaze to eye the bags Louis is setting on the counter.

“No.” Louis replies, hooking his house key back over the ceramic elephant on the counter and giving it a small pat on it‘s little ceramic head. “Think m’gonna try to get the check out boy to sleep with me.” He adds as he starts opening the freezer to put away whatever he ended up buying. Louis doesn’t really remember if there’s actually anything that needs to be kept frozen, but knows he’ll get told off for starting on his alcohol before finding a spot for the rest of his groceries as quickly as possible.

“David? The one who smells like mustard?” Asks Liam, licking a bit of ice cream off his spoon. “Mate, I heard you’ve got a bit of a dry spell go- oh.” He cuts off as Zayn gives him a no you did not hear anything look from across the table. “Er, I mean, I think you could do better, is all.”

Louis rolls his eyes at Zayn, shoves the last bag of crisps into the back of the freezer and starts shuffling through a drawer for the corkscrew. “No, he didn’t smell like mustard. Ah!” He lets out a sigh of relief when he finally extracts the corkscrew from where its tangled in one of the other strange, less important and lesser used utensils in the drawer. Louis thinks it might be called a whisk.

“What did he smell like then?”

“Dunno, didn’t really get a whiff,” says Louis, giving his newly opened bottle of wine a fond look as he grabs a plastic cup, with a picture of Peppa Pig on it that he thinks used to belong to one of his sisters, from a cabinet above his head. “He was really fit, though.”

“Well, what was his name?”

“I don’t know, Liam. I only talked to him for a minute, didn’t I?”

“So,” Zayn interjects, getting up from the table to throw the empty ice cream container in the bin. “Some random kid sells you your toothpaste. You don’t even bother to catch his name-”

“Don’t even bother to smell him,” Liam interrupts.

Zayn points his finger towards Liam and carries on, “Don’t even bother to smell him,” he repeats. “And you’re ready to give it up? Look, I told you, if you’re that desperate, Liam’s still got that cousin that’s single.”

Louis looks up from his cup over at Liam, who’s nodding enthusiastically like an over-eager puppy. “Archie! He’s an Economics major!”

He holds a hand up to stop Zayn from even entertaining the idea of setting Louis up with anyone who might share genes with the Yorkshire terrier sitting at his kitchen table. “Please, you’re making it sound like I’ve gone and thrown away all my well thought out, and thoroughly tested list of standards for potential shags.”

Zayn rolls his eyes and returns to the table, seemingly deciding to test if he and Liam can both fit on a single chair. They can. Louis watches their fingers interlace over Liam’s shoulder before noticing they’re both still looking up at him for further explanation.

“He was wearing suede boots, Zayn! Shit, you act like I‘m just willing to pull my dick out for anyone.” Louis throws a hand up and downs the rest of his wine.

Zayn lets out a short laugh, “Whatever you say, man.” Then looks down at Liam, “Cigarette then bed? I’m going into the shop early to watch Josh finish up that guy‘s sleeve he‘s been working on.” Liam nods up at him as Zayn stands from his lap.

Louis turns away from them and focuses on pouring himself another glass. Zayn clearly does not understand and Louis doesn’t know why he expected him to. Louis is pretty sure he remembers Liam picking Zayn up for a date once wearing fucking gym shoes, for christ's sake.

Liam stands as well. “G’night.” He smiles at Louis and follows Zayn across the living room, fingers still latched together loosely, towards the sliding door leading out to their tiny balcony. It’s more of an arms-length size slab of concrete with an ash tray in the corner than a proper balcony and Louis imagines, as he and his wine bottle make their way to his bedroom, that Liam will probably have to cuddle up behind Zayn and wrap his arms around him while Zayn smokes his cigarette for the two of them to fit.


Over a week goes by, during which Louis finds himself quite occupied with work; fetching tennis balls from the trees behind the outdoor courts, fishing an old man’s soggy wallet out of the swimming pool, handing out flyers for upcoming ballroom dancing lessons in the gymnasium, and only having to venture into the communal showers twice. He has hardly anytime at all to complain about his sex life to Zayn, and completely forgets about Hot Check Out Guy until the following Wednesday, when he’s walking back to work after his usual lunch stop at the sandwich shop around the corner.

He’s passing the sidewalk directly across from the supermarket when he catches a glimpse of a tall figure with a mop of brown hair, sitting alone on a bench just outside the building. Louis figures he’s still got a good fifteen minutes of his lunch break left, so he very deliberately keeps his eyes locked ahead of him and crosses to the other side of the street. He straightens his posture and tries to look as natural and appealing as possible as he strides past where the boy is sitting, seeing him look up in his peripheral vision.

“Hey,” he hears the deep voice say as he steps in front of the bench. Louis pretends not to hear it. “Hey!” Hot Check Out Guy raises his voice a little.

Louis does a double-take, pauses and fixes a fake look of recognition on his face before saying, “Oh! Hey, mate. Y’alright?”

White High Tops Guy smiles up at him and yeah, he’s even prettier away from the florescent lighting of the supermarket, eyes a darker shade of green, lips a delicious deep pink. Even if he has still got his orange apron on. “Yeah, you?” Louis nods and grins back, taking a step towards the bench.

“You know I’ve been buying my groceries here for a while, hadn’t seen you ‘till last week. Did you just start?”

“Kinda,” shrugs Blowjob Lips, and takes a bite of what looks like a container full of some dodgy looking egg salad sitting on his lap. “I used to just work in the back kitchen. I - um, decorate all the little pastries they sell near the back?”

“Oh, like those pre-made birthday cakes you can get someone’s name put on when you buy it so it looks like you put thought into it? Got one of those for my best friend a few months back. I think most of it ended up in the carpets, but all the same.” Says Louis, remembering fondly Zayn’s perfect quiff covered in red frosting after Louis had accidentally shoved his face down as he bent to blow out his candles.

Pretty Dimple Guy shows one of his pretty dimples. “Yeah, that’s them. Might of iced your friend’s name on myself.”

“Well it wasn’t his name as much as it was an outline of a penis in purple frosting, really.” Says Louis, taking a seat next to the boy on the bench.

He makes a sound that’s a bit like a bird squawking in the wild that Louis guesses could pass for a laugh. “Ah, probably would remember that, wouldn’t I?” He juts his tongue out to grab another mouthful of his egg salad and Louis eyes the mixture again with mistrust. “Anyway,” Giant Tongue continues, “'M a bit short on money, so I convinced my manager to give me some shifts up front for the summer.”

Louis nods at the explanation. “Seems like a smart move on his part. Are you sure you should be eating that, mate? It looks a bit - um, spoiled.”

“Oh, this?” The guy says through a mouthful and waves a hand in the air. “Nah, it’s fine. My flat mate works behind the deli counter, he gives me all the stuff that’s gone off date, s’probably only a few days old. Y‘want some?” He moves his fork around the container and it makes an unappealing squishing sound that makes Louis wince.

“No thanks,” He laughs. “M’on my lunch break too, actually. I get a sandwich down there, usually.” Louis points to the shop at the end of the street in the distance. He often makes it a priority to let attractive people know where he frequents.

“Yeah, I’m not allowed in there anymore.” Egg Salad says slowly and Louis raises his eyebrows. “Um, my flat mate might’ve also gone a bit mental when they ran out of corned beef once. I think the ketchup stains are still on the wall…you work around here then?”

“At the community center around the corner?” Louis says clearly, so he’s sure the guy will remember.

“Oh!” He says, perking up. “I go to the park over there all the time!”

“Me too.“ Louis smiles. “Except there’s all these fucking kids running around, now it’s summer.”

The guy nods, agreeing enthusiastically. “Surely there’s someone you can talk to about that? A ban on anyone under sixteen climbing on the giant plastic turtle.” He suggests seriously. “It’s weird I’ve never seen you there either, isn‘t it?”

“Well I usually go for the plastic squirrel, myself.” Louis shrugs. “Maybe we’ve just missed each other.”

He grins wide at Louis, putting his dimples and straight white teeth on full display, and Louis gives him an equally cheerful smile back, crinkling his eyes up at the sides. The boy looks away suddenly after a long second, down at his wrist, and Louis spots a small black padlock tattooed right above his watch, he bites down a smile. “Shit, break’s nearly over.” The guy says, getting up from the bench, tossing his lunch in the bin a few feet away and brushing off his, oh - really tight jeans with huge hands. “I’ll see you around -”

“Louis,” Louis replies, standing up as well and holding out a hand.

“Harry,” says Harry brightly, slapping his hand against Louis’. “Right, Louis - need anymore penis cakes, you know where to find me.”
He does a little salute with two fingers and turns around to walk back inside the store. Louis takes the opportunity to get a better look at the thin white t-shirt stretched across his broad shoulders and spends the rest of his walk back to work thinking up potential slogans for Men’s Jeggings adverts.

The next morning, Zayn drags Louis with him to buy groceries when they realise the only things left in their refrigerator are cigarettes and a jar of maraschino cherry juice. Zayn is also running low on lube and for some reason has a weird aversion to purchasing it alone at 10 in the morning on a Thursday. Louis pouts all the way to the store, wishing he was lucky enough to be running low on lube.

He follows Zayn around the aisles as he grabs whatever cereal is on offer and a few boxes of biscuits, listening to him chat about work. Zayn throws a box of condoms in the basket for good measure as they make their way to the till and Louis pouts again.

“So I told him I think it’d look better in color,” Zayn is saying as they pass their items to the ginger-haired kid behind the cash register. “I mean you’re already set on getting the stupid tiger across your chest, might as well go all the way with it, right? But he was like not having it. Said he wanted it more tasteful than that. A fucking tiger, Lou.”

Louis grunts to show he’s listening. He’s not listening, because he’s just spotted Hot Check Out Harry standing behind the last register by the exit, in deep conversation with a woman at the front of his queue who appears to be holding a large jar of pickles in front of his face. Louis is suddenly very aware that he is currently donning a pair of dirty trousers and yesterdays t-shirt with his hair tucked haphazardly under a beanie, purchasing an assortment of disgusting junk food and sexual paraphernalia. With Zayn, none the less, who he bets is more capable and more willing to embarrass Louis than any grocery item is.

Hunching over, he steps up to pay the ginger kid, who’s eyeing Louis uncomfortably as he slowly sinks down below the top of the counter. Louis peeks around the cashier as he hands him his change, Harry’s line is empty now and he’s turned talking to a blond guy in a matching apron who’s just appeared beside him. He grabs the change and his grocery bag and slips towards the exit, which Harry is now conveniently positioned just to the side of.

Zayn, at least, seems oblivious to Louis’ sudden skittishness, still drabbling on about a cheetah or a jaguar or something. Meanwhile, Louis is mapping out the blue prints of the supermarket in his head, trying to find another exit that doesn’t require Zayn smiling like a smug bastard while Louis and his unwashed hair try to make small talk with Harry and his co-worker.

Whew, man I don’t know if it was mustard as much as just as like a combination of different spices and - uh, Lou? You okay?” Zayn questions as Louis pulls his beanie down to cover a larger portion of his face and looks determinedly at the floor as they make their way towards the doors. Maybe Harry won’t notice him, probably wont even feel the need to acknowledge Louis; They’ve only spoken twice.

Shit.” Louis curses under his breath as his eyes decide to involuntarily dart up to the pair of boys standing by the door and lock with Harry’s. Harry smiles wide at him and lifts a hand to wave him over. Zayn’s still got his back to the exit, looking at Louis with one eyebrow raised.



“Yes! I, uh - forgot I really wanted some pomegranates.” He announces to Zayn, who raises his other eyebrow in response.

“Okay, let’s go back and get some then. They’re just over-” Zayn starts to turn back around to the main part of the store.

“No!” Louis cuts him off a bit too eagerly. “I mean - um, I’ll just run and - and get them. The pomegranates. It’ll only take a mo’ now, run along and wait for mummy outside like a good boy. Don‘t talk to strangers!” He pushes the grocery bags into Zayn’s arms, who rolls his eyes and walks towards the exit, shuffling in his pockets with one hand for his pack of cigarettes. Louis takes a breath and walks towards Harry and the blond guy, waving back and pulling on his t-shirt to smooth some of the wrinkles.

“Working hard?” Louis asks brightly as he reaches them.

“Oh yeah,” replies Harry, his eyes scan down Louis quickly before continuing. Louis shoves his fists in his pockets self-consciously and really wishes he’d bothered to shave that morning. “Just learned pickle juice can be used to add shine to my hair, so productive morning.”

Louis laughs at that, so does the blond guy. “Hi, I’m Louis,” he says to him.

“Niall,” replies the blond in an Irish accent. “I live with these beautiful curls over here.” He reaches a hand up to tug at a strand sticking up behind Harry’s ear. Harry ducks out of the way and shakes out his hair to sweep across his forehead, sticking up even more messily than before. It’s very effective.

“You’re the one who gave him his lunch yesterday, then? Expected you to still be getting sick in a trash bin after that meal.” Says Louis, smiling at Harry.

“Ah, no one hardly ever gets sick from the egg salad, it’s the potato you gotta look out for.” Says Niall warily and Louis laughs again.

“Louis works at the community center.” Harry informs Niall, eyes still on Louis.

“Around the corner? They’ve got a great football pitch over there, us and the lads have a match sometimes. Well, Harry here usually just runs about in his little shorts, really.” Niall teases, saying the last few words in between chuckles like the mental image is making him laugh.

“Really?” Replies Louis, raising his eyebrows at Harry. “Not that accomplished in team sport, then?” Harry lets out a shy laugh and looks down at his boots.

Niall is still cracking up. “He’s got two left feet; ‘coordination-ally challenged’ I like to call it.”

Heeey!” Harry whines. “I keep up with you lot alright!” He says it without much conviction, but smiles bashfully and blushes. Louis wants to pinch his rosy cheeks and rub the top of his head and… other places, as well. Definitely other places.

He strolls out of the store a few minutes later and finds Zayn leaning against his car, halfway through a cigarette. “Where are they, then?” He asks pointing at Louis’ empty hands.

“Where’s what?”

“Your pomegranates?” Replies Zayn, aggravated.

“Oh. I don’t want pomegranates, Zayn. They aren’t even in season.” Louis says simply, hopping in the passengers seat. Zayn gives him another eye roll and takes a last drag of his cigarette before opening the drivers side door.


“Have you ever seen a film called Cowboy Confessions?” Harry’s looking up at him from the curb in front of the supermarket where Louis has just found him on his way to the sandwich shop, eating a very long baguette of stale French bread and talking through a mouthful of crust.

“I don’t think so,” Louis says, he guesses they are past formal greetings now. “Why?”

“You look like the star of it,” says Harry, pointing a finger up at him. “I was trying to figure out who you look like, and that’s who.”

Louis hums and sits down on the curb next to him. “What’s the movie about?”

“Oh, um, it’s a porno,” Harry says, swallowing another mouthful of bread casually.

“I look like a porn star?”

Harry nods enthusiastically. “It’s uncanny, really.”

“Is he famous? How many pornos has he been in?”

“I dunno, I’ve only seen him in the one.”

“Aw, man.” Louis pouts and slouches over his knees on the curb. “I can’t even look like a well known porn star.” He mutters quietly.

“Cheer up, mate.” Harry pats him on the knee. “Would it make you feel better to know you could definitely pull off assless chaps if you ever wanted to?”

“I already know I can pull of assless chaps.” Louis sighs and looks over at Harry. “Was his dick big, at least?”

Harry considers for a moment, then rips off a sizeable length of his baguette and holds it horizontally in front of Louis.

Louis eyes it for a moment, dangling and erect in front of his face. “Yeah, looks about right.”

Harry laughs, “Love a good penis joke.” Louis high fives the hand he’s holding up and smiles a bit too, grabbing the penis-sized portion of the baguette out of Harry’s hands and ripping off a piece. “Um, so when do you have to be back at work?”

Louis swallows a bite with difficulty. “Not for a while.”

“I bought a couple joints from the guy who supplies our lettuce,” he says it like a question and Louis counts on his fingers how many hours he has left of mindlessly distributing life vests to toddlers learning to swim. It’s four and a half. He gives Harry a crusty grin.

“Yeah, this is pretty shite,” Louis says through his burning throat, passing Harry the already half-burned joint over the center console of his car (a certified piece of crap parked in the corner of the lot, with actual bird crap splattered across the window in front of them).

“Fucking Bob,” Harry mutters, taking it from Louis between his fingers. “His lettuce is always wilted, too.”

“Fucking Bob.” Louis agrees. Harry throws the rest of it out the window and then bends over to turn on the radio. He notices Harry’s shirt collar hang down just enough to show a few black outlines of more tattoos near his left shoulder, as well as scattered on the underside of his arm. Louis turns his head and tries to hide a smile out the window. Harry settles on a station that is almost entirely static and sits back while Louis looks around in the passenger’s seat.

He starts shifting through the glove compartment, because Harry doesn’t seem like the type to get all caught up in boundaries of near-strangers, and finds a wallet shoved in with piles of fast-food napkins and CDs.

Louis snorts a laugh when he opens it. “They couldn’t zoom out so all your hair could fit in the picture, at least?” He teases and Harry looks over to see Louis pointing at his driver’s license giddily.

“That was like two years ago,” he laughs. “I think I’ve tamed the beast a little since then.” He shakes his hair out for what Louis counts the fifth time since they’ve been sitting here. He bites down another smile and looks back down.

Aww, you’re a baby,” Louis says, still laughing and not able to spot anything more than Harry’s birth year before he’s snatching the wallet out of Louis’ hands.

“Am not,” he laughs defensively, tucking it away in his back pocket. “You can’t be that much older than nineteen?”

“I’m fifty-four years old, actually,” Louis says, looking around to snoop in the backseat. Harry seems like a nice enough guy, but he’s still a little wary of all the unmarked bags and a box splattered with what looks suspiciously like a red liquid stacked up in the back of his car. He just wants to make sure he’s not getting stuck with an axe murderer, or anything. “Are you an axe murderer or anything?”

“Nope,” Harry says firmly, but he looks like he‘s trying to suppress a smile, as to come off more serious.

“Okay, just, they always told us in school to double check people we befriend aren‘t going to like, have a documentary made about them in twenty years after they’ve been imprisoned for mass murders and stuff.”

Harry nods. “My mum did tell me once that one of my relatives was supposed to be this famous serial killer in the 60’s or something, though, so it might’ve just not hit me yet.” He shrugs.

“Well just tell me if you get any urges, yeah?”

“Sure thing,” Harry says and Louis pokes around more behind his seat. He lifts up a few more heavy bags, relieved when they’re splattered with colors other than blood-red, when he spots something pink and glittery sticking out from under the seat.


Harry seems to be gazing very intently at the stripe of white bird shit on the front window, eyes narrowed a little thoughtfully while he chews slowly on his gum. Louis is a little fascinated by this person already, who eats stale bread for lunch and watches cowboy porn and chews his gum like a cow would eat grass.

“Hmm?” He says, smiling over at Louis again.

“Is that a fairy princess wand?”

“Huh?” Harry looks in the backseat where he’s pointing. “Oh, yeah.” He smiles fondly but doesn’t offer any further explanation, so Louis moves on to his next pressing question.

“Can I touch your hair?”

“Go for it,” Harry says without blinking, tilting his head down accommodatingly for Louis to reach out, and Louis guesses this must not be the first time he’s gotten this request.

“Soft,” Louis observes, petting the top where it swoops across Harry’s forehead before tugging a bouncy curl above his ear.

“Thanks, the trick is to only wash it once a month, I‘ve found out.” Harry’s not moving his head yet so Louis takes that as an invitation to ruffle his fingers further, finding a crumb of French bread stuck in a strand. Louis flicks it away and continues.

“Yeah, feels greasy.” He says, fingers getting caught in a knot. “I don’t wash my hair for a couple weeks sometimes, but that’s usually on accident.”

Harry smiles and lifts a giant hand to pat the top of Louis’ head roughly, making Louis flinch a little when his chin is shoved down a few inches, but he can’t say that he minds, really. “You have good volume,” Harry says kindly.

“Thanks.” Louis smiles, still stroking his fingers through Harry’s hair while Harry combs Louis’ fringe down so its covering his eyes completely. “I feel like this is weird,” he says, and blindly smoothes down a strand where it’s springing up at the back of Harry’s head.

Harry laughs, “I spend most of my lunch breaks like this, actually.”

Louis pulls on another curl experimentally and Harry gives him a wide, goofy grin.


The rest of June ends up passing in a blur for Louis. A blur of pretending to run into Harry outside of the supermarket when Louis discovers their lunch breaks match up a few days a week. A blur of shiny green eyes, holding looks for a little too long, long fingers reaching out to grab whatever monstrosity from Niall that they’re sharing for lunch out of Louis hands, and a deep voice giggling like a toddler at nearly everything he says.

Harry tells him that he’s a painter, which Louis thinks explains the bits of dried paint he sees stuck in Harry’s hair occasionally, and that he moved down here to attend University, which he promptly dropped out of after two terms, when he was paying for more classes than he was actually attending. He learns that Harry likes to listen to the uni radio station, even when it mostly comes in as loud static (though Louis wonders if maybe that might just be the sounds indie music has progressed to, he doesn‘t know), and that he’ll eat most things presented to him, but is particularly fond of slightly bruised fruit. Harry tells Louis all about his sister and his mum and Niall, who still goes to the University where they met and is a music major and a great flat mate, which Harry says is only because Niall spends most nights kipping on couches of musicians he meets at gigs he plays, and most days in the beds of girls he meets at gigs he plays.

Harry tells stories in a way that Louis has hated and never had the attention span for his entire life; slow and meandering and usually pointless, but Louis finds it kind of captivating when Harry does it. He can never really come up with anything to say about himself that sounds as interesting as what Harry talks about, so Louis mostly listens and jokes and pokes Harry’s dimple whenever possible.

The problem is, hour-long lunch breaks twice a week is not quite doing it for Louis. He resorts to visiting the market whenever the opportunity presents itself, or when Louis can make it present itself, at least. His usual monthly grocery shopping trip has been stretched into several-times-a-week shopping trips, conveniently scheduled when he’s figured out who will be working behind check out counter 2. It’s not until he finds himself volunteering to rush out to buy a single can of chicken soup when he hears Liam sneeze quietly next to him on the couch during an episode of Doctor Who, that Louis admits to himself that he might have a small problem, but chooses to ignore it for the time being.

He decides he desperately needs some new dental floss at 8:46 on a Friday night. He sees Harry behind his register through the front window as he approaches the supermarket, but walks through the sliding doors with his head down, pressing random buttons on his phone and trying not to let his ears burn red when he feels a head flick up as he enters, absentmindedly tossing a woman’s groceries into her bag, eyes tracking Louis as he retreats past the check out area.

After picking out the cheapest pack of dental-floss the store has, just to humor himself, he decides he probably deserves to get himself a treat while he‘s here. His cupboards at home have become more thoroughly stocked lately than he can ever remember them being, but doesn’t think another pint of ice cream will hurt, so he makes his way a few aisles over.

He sees a figure coming down the aisle after a few minutes of staring blankly into the open door of the ice cream freezer, and Louis thinks his nose might be numb from being stuck waiting patiently in the cold air for so long.

“Get the Strawberry.” He finally hears a voice say from the other side of the glass door.

“Mmm, I was thinking Mint Chip,” replies Louis, still staring intently down at the assortment of flavors.

“Ah, it does have it’s qualities, that. But can’t really beat a well churned Strawberry. Just as long as it’s not Rocky Road.”

“Fuck Rocky Road,” affirms Louis with disgust, picking up the container of Strawberry and dropping it in his basket. He finally looks up at Harry, who has his nose pressed flat against the other side of the door, tongue stuck out in what should theoretically be an unappealing look. Louis draws a messy heart around Harry’s face with his finger in the frosty glass.

“Just out for some late night dessert and-” Harry peaks into Louis basket as he turns to walk to the next aisle. “Oral hygiene needs?”

“Yep, thought I’d get some of the essentials when it’s not so crowded in here, you know.” Louis says, waving a hand in the air in explanation. Harry smiles and follows him down the dairy section, strolling behind Louis in his orange apron with his hands clasped behind his back. They pass the cheeses and Louis pretends to observe them thoughtfully before shaking his head and moving on.

“So,” Harry starts after a few more paces. “A few of the guys here are heading over to the pitch tomorrow morning for a match, maybe a pint afterwards. Niall will be there, and couple of the guys from the stock room…”

“Dave the ginger?” Inquires Louis, looking back at Harry as he picks out a carton of milk.

“Ew, ‘course not,” scoffs Harry with a grimace. “S’probably got a rotten onion field to go sit in or summat.”

Louis smiles and turns onto the magazine aisle, Harry still on his heels. “So are you just telling me this, or you wanna see the Beckham skills at work?”

“Oh, do you think he’d want to tag along as well?” Harry raises his eyebrows. “Do you have his number, then?”

“Just Vic’s, but I’m sure she could pass along the invite.” Louis says casually over his shoulder.

“Harry! What the hell are you doing, you’ve got a line!” A balding man in an orange button-up shirt appears at the end of their aisle with a stern look on his face. Harry looks over his shoulder at the man and then back at Louis. “Like half-ten tomorrow, then? Bring your flat mate, too. If he‘s any good, that is.” He smirks.

“I - uh, yeah. Sounds good.”

“Cool.” Harry grins widely, grabbing a copy of Bulge magazine off the rack next to them and throwing it in Louis’ basket before walking backwards a few paces and pointing a finger at him. “I’m expecting to be blown away. Better not disappoint me.” He winks and then turns on his heel to skip the rest of the way up the aisle, reaching the man still standing with his hands on his hips at the end, patting him on his shiny head lightly and then disappearing behind a pyramid of canned tomatoes.

When Louis gets back to his flat, he spends an hour unearthing his football kit from the depths of his closet and another two dribbling his ball in front of the television screen, trying to convince Zayn, who’s flipping through the pages of Louis’ newly acquired porno magazine idly, to go with him. He finally agrees and Louis thanks him with a wet kiss on the cheek, not mentioning a thing about Zayn’s sub par knowledge of football only increasing his own chances of impressing their teammates.


Zayn spends the entire walk to the pitch at the community center the next morning explaining to Louis why hair product was necessary to play football, his argument is so compelling that Louis actually starts to get a bit self-conscious about his own lifeless fringe peaking out from under his beanie, even more so when they arrive and he sees Harry is pulling off his own beanie significantly better than Louis is.

“Yeah, he’s well fit.” Zayn says to Louis when Harry looks up from the small group of guys huddled on the far side of the pitch and starts jogging towards them, waving cheerily in his black shorts and white t-shirt, which has a few holes in the hem, but stretches over the line of Harry’s shoulders so exquisitely that Louis still finds it kind of heart-breaking.

“I know,” Louis mutters a bit nervously, waving back as Harry approaches. “Okay, remember the list of things I told you were off limits?”

Zayn rolls his eyes. “Yeah, yeah. No sexual history, nothing about that club in Manchester or the night we set that bed on fire, no dick jokes, or-”

“No, no.” Louis interrupts him quickly. “Dick jokes are fine, just not jokes about my dick, remember?”

“Aww, but I brought pictures and everything. Thought I’d pass m’round over drinks, no?”

“Hi!” Harry chimes, a little breathless by the time he reaches them.

“Hey.” Louis greets him by snatching the beanie off his head and shoving it over Zayn’s, deflating his carefully crafted hair-do. Problem solved. “Zayn, Harry. Harry, Zayn.”

Harry laughs apologetically when Zayn whips the beanie off his head and throws it in Louis’ face, holding a hand out to Zayn, who takes it friendlier than Louis would‘ve expected, after having his quiff ruined. He’s really a team player when he wants to be, Zayn is. “Hey, mate, y’alright?”

“Yeah, glad you could come.” Harry beams. “We’re all here, just getting teams down and all that.” He leads them back to Niall and who Louis guesses are the rest of the guys they work with, introducing Zayn to Niall and the both of them to Benji and Adam, a couple of beefy, but innocent looking blokes from the stockroom and Tom and Luke, who work behind the deli counter with Niall and look kind of like him too, except Tom is Welsh, not Irish and Luke doesn’t talk enough for Louis to discern an accent. He tells himself Luke is probably from somewhere exotic and mysterious, like South Africa, or Canada, for all he knows.

“Right then,” says Benji from the stock room, bouncing a football between his giant, keeper-gloved hands. “We’re thinkin’ you lot.” He points to Louis and Harry standing beside Niall and Zayn. against us four? Brawns against, erm- not brawns.” He laughs good-naturedly and everyone takes turns nodding their heads in agreement.

“Ha, Tom’s a fuckin’ brawn when I shit gold out m’arse,” Niall sneers when the other team breaks apart from them to take up the far goalpost.

“Wait, I was under the impression you already did that?” Louis chaffs. “The illusion is ruined.”

“Right, focus, lads,” Harry says when Niall starts kicking Louis’ ankles in an effort to make him fall over on the grass. “I think Louis’ captain, yeah?”

Louis dodges Niall’s last jab and regains his balance. “If that’s okay with you guys?”

“Let Niall tell you about my load of talent again,” Harry laughs. “Don’t think I’m fit to lead.”

Niall nods in agreement. “Sounds good.” He looks at Zayn, who darts his eyes between all three of them.

“Sorry, thought Lou warned you that I’ve literally got no idea what I’m doing?”

“Great!” Harry says cheerfully and they all turn their huddle towards Louis expectantly. “What’s the game plan, captain?”

Louis learns a lot during the duration of the morning. He learns that Harry is, in fact, pretty dreadful when Louis puts him in defense. An even worse striker when he moves there, and that Harry probably knows this, but doesn’t seem to give two shits about it. He also learns that Harry grinning madly with flushed cheeks, tripping over his giant feet and trying to keep his floppy curls out of his eyes while he chases after the ball aimlessly might be the single most endearing thing he has ever seen, and Louis grew up with some pretty cute little sisters.

They end up winning the match, once Louis makes Zayn stay in the back, deeming Niall a more than adequate keeper, and takes over most of the work upfront, with Harry lopping around behind him, at one point taking a galloping lap around the pitch with his arms outstretched like an airplane when Louis lures Stockroom Benji out of the goalpost enough to pass Harry the ball at the last second, letting him tap it into the net in a way that looks like a happy accident. He learns, as they’re packing up their things after the match, that Harry puts up no fight when he’s tackled to the ground by Louis under the pretense of a victory hug. That he also has no problem when Louis accidentally turns the tackle into a prolonged tickle fight, rolling around on the grass until Niall kicks a football at them and they walk back to the car park sweaty and giggly.

He learns that Harry is almost as inept at driving as he is at football, somehow getting he and Louis, with Zayn and Niall crammed in the backseat of his car next to what looks like boxes of painting supplies and potentially dangerous pieces of broken wood, lost on their way to the pub next to the University, even though Niall is barking out directions like he could walk there in his sleep.

Benji and the guys in the other car have already ordered their first rounds in the pub by the time they finally make it across town. They all get another round on the house, when Louis finds out that Niall plays gigs there on the weekends sometimes and has gotten quite popular with the crowd, including the pretty brunette behind the bar. Louis learns that Zayn gets along great with Harry, which Louis doesn’t find surprising; he guessed they would, and he gets on even better with Niall, who seems very interested in tattooing, for someone with no visible tattoos. Louis thinks he catches Zayn telling him cheerfully that he’d be glad to do the dancing green shamrock Niall’s been wanting to get on his arse cheek whenever he wants to stop by the shop.

They’re at the pub for the rest of the afternoon and Louis had forgotten how fun it is to actually laugh and drink with people other than his flat mate, and entertain a small crowd with anecdotes of he and Zayn embarrassing themselves at the stupid uni parties they used to go to back when they lived in the dorms. He also thinks it’s kind of fun how much attention Harry is paying to him, how he’s laughing the loudest at Louis’ jokes and giggling more and more with every pint shoved in front of them, and Louis is probably imagining the way Harry’s stool seems to scoot closer and closer towards Louis’ every time one of them gets up to go to the bar again. But even if he is imagining it, that’s still fun, too.

When Harry gives Louis a giant hug before he and Zayn get on the bus back to the other side of town, he learns that Harry still smells a little sweaty and like grass and kind of like a big slice of vanilla cake, and it makes Louis feel warm. He makes a show of waving goodbye dramatically to Louis through the bus window from the sidewalk, like he’s bidding him off to war, and Louis maybe feels happy-drunk enough to throw one of his socks out the window yelling, “To remember me by!” But Harry catches it without missing a beat, using Louis’ sock to wipe away his non-existent tears and clutching it close to his heart even as the bus rolls away.

Zayn rolls his eyes at Louis for craning his neck around to watch Harry disappear through the window as they round the corner, and when they get home, Louis flops onto the couch while Zayn takes a shower before going over to Liam’s. He still feels a little drunk and warm inside and he thinks he maybe only really learned one thing today. And that thing is that he’s got a big dopey crush on a big, dopey, vanilla-scented, floppy-haired boy.


Louis is lying on his back halfway underneath one of the slides at the park at half-past midnight on a Tuesday. He at least had the sense to grab his shoes this time.

He only left the flat twenty minutes ago and from his experience, Zayn and Liam can go on much longer than that, so Louis is stuck staring up at the sky and getting sand in his hair. He closes his eyes and seriously considers the idea of just sleeping here all night and being really early for work in the morning. He must dose off a little, because he misses the sound of someone approaching and climbing the jungle gym until his eyes fly open and he blinks rapidly to focus on the pair of bright green eyes now inches above Louis’ face.

“Hello!” Harry seems to have gone head first down the slide that Louis is laying underneath, but stopped himself just before his shoulders slid off the end, so he’s hanging over the edge, hair falling around his head and haloed by the street lights around the park as he grins down at Louis.

Louis has a very fleeting, very insane thought that he’d just have to lift his head off the sand not three inches and his lips would line up perfectly with Harry’s right above him. He thinks that might be a strange way to greet him, though, so he pokes a finger into one of Harry’s cheeks instead.

“Need some company this time?” Harry says. Louis can feel Harry’s breath ghost across his cheeks as he speaks and thinks he should probably move from underneath him before he does something crazy. He scoots out from under the jungle gym and sits up in the sand, so does Harry on the edge of the slide, and Louis sees he has a six pack of beer in his hands.

“How did you know I was here?” Louis’ never been very good at greetings, verbal or non-verbal.

Harry smiles at him and doesn’t answer, just pops off the cap of one of the beer bottles on the edge of the slide and hands it to Louis. “Seems kind of shitty for Zayn to keep kicking you out of your flat like this.”

Louis shrugs. “I don’t mind that much. I only leave when he and Liam get really athletic.” He laughs. “I haven’t really been the most accommodating person to live with in the past, either. I think Zayn is passive aggressively paying me back, or something.”

Harry quirks an eyebrow as he gets the cap off his own bottle. “Paying you back for what?”

“For, um.” Louis doesn’t really think Harry needs to know about how many people Zayn has caught him shagging in the middle of their kitchen or on their couch or about that time there was too much laundry piled on Louis’ bed, so he decided the next best choice would be to fuck the guy he pulled at the bar in Zayn’s room. Louis was pretty drunk for that, so he doesn’t think he should’ve been held responsible for his actions, but still. “Just, like. I never do the dishes and stuff. He gets pretty mad.”

“Sure, of course.” Harry laughs, taking a swig of his beer and getting down off the slide to sit in the sand across from Louis so their knees are almost touching. “How’d they meet, Zayn and Liam?”

Louis’ heard the story at least two dozen times, listened to Zayn drag on about the fit guy who he tattooed at the shop and continued listening months later when they retold the tale to anyone who would hear it, or anyone who showed the slightest interest in the words inked down Liam’s forearm; some sentimental saying that Louis never really bothered to remember after Liam explained it. Louis gives Harry the abridged version, leaving out the hour long description he received from Zayn about Liam’s arm muscles.

“How long ago was that?” Harry asks amusedly once Louis finishes telling the story of their romance in a dreamy, airy voice, as if he’s narrating a Disney movie.

Louis thinks. “Like, eight months, maybe? I remember Zayn didn’t come to my birthday party because it was one of he and Liam’s anniversaries or something, so that sounds right.”

“Man, Zayn’s a great friend, eh?” Harry says sarcastically.

“I’m making him sound awful, aren’t I?” Louis laughs. “You met him, though, he’s great. We’re like best friends and all that shit.” He looks down at his bottle, trailing off.

Harry waits a beat for Louis to continue. “But?” he asks when Louis doesn’t.

Louis pokes a finger into a hole in the knee of Harry’s jeans. “It’s just different, he’s different.” he says, shrugging again. “Not in a bad way, just like. He’s always kind of casually dated before, so he still wanted to go out and have fun and stuff.” he takes a long breath, still looking down at his finger digging in Harry’s knee. “It’s just different, him being like, a relationship type all of the sudden. I guess, I dunno.”

“But it’s good if he’s happy, right?” Harry says.

“Yeah, ‘course.” Louis nods. “He’s happy. It’s hard to tell with all that brooding he does, but I can tell he’s really happy. So that’s good.” he’s slowly making the rip in Harry’s jeans grow larger and larger, but Harry doesn’t seem to care.

“What about you?”

Louis looks up at him and blinks a few times. “Wh- um, what?”

“If Zayn’s a ‘relationship type’ now, than what are you?” Harry asks innocently, taking another sip of his drink and Louis relaxes a little.

“I’m the type who hangs out alone in parks and turns to alcohol to help him avoid the other types.” He tips his beer in Harry’s direction and takes another swig.

“But you’ve had relationships,” says Harry lightly, bringing his own bottle to his mouth again, Louis tries to tear his eyes away from Harry’s lips pressed against the opening and ends up catching the long line of Harry’s throat move as he swallows, instead.

Louis swallows as well, dryly, and decides to advert his gaze down again. “No, not really,” he says, making eye contact with the large plastic turtle over Harry’s shoulder, and Harry is quiet for a moment. Louis looks up and then laughs defensively. “Well don’t look at me like I’m the fucking kraken, Harry! We’re a rare species, I know.”

“No, no.” Harry shakes his head apologetically and laughs. “Sorry, I- I’m surprised. Like, what do you mean not really?”

Louis shrugs. “I mean, I’ve had like, people. But nothing like Zayn and Liam; no one who I’ve ever called my- my boyfriend, or whatever.” Louis didn’t exactly want a reaction from Harry at that last sentence, nor did he expect one, but when Harry doesn’t so much as blink, Louis still kind of wishes he were harder to read sometimes.

“That’s just not your thing, or?” Harry asks, watching Louis from over his bottle as he takes another drink.

“No one’s really wanted to stick ‘round long enough for me to find out, have they?” Louis says, going for aloof but not quite getting there. He thinks maybe he should look into taking some of the acting classes they offer at the community center to better his technique.

“I don’t believe that, why not?” Says Harry and Louis laughs a bit bitterly before he can stop himself. “I- god, sorry. That’s not my business, is it.” Harry says quickly, looking down at his lap.

“It’s okay,” Louis says, smiling at him. “I‘d just rather not talk about it.” He doesn’t like to, at all. He prefers not to talk or really think about the people who have stayed long enough for Louis to just feel comfortable, before they decided to move on. He doesn’t really know how to tell Harry that being told you’re fun, but nothing much further, gets kind of old after a few years. And he doesn’t like to think how much of all that might be his own fault.

“Sorry,” Harry says again quietly. They’re both silent for a minute, but it still isn’t as awkward as Louis thinks it should be. He pours out the last remnants of his beer in the little patch of sand between his and Harry’s knees and runs his fingers through it, grimacing and wiping the wet sand now stuck to his hands on Harry’s leg. Harry chuckles and reaches back to open another bottle for Louis. “Well, who knows, maybe someone’ll walk into your work one day who you can test the whole relationship type thing on. Maybe a nice retiree signing up for a salsa dancing class or something?” Harry says, wiggling his eyebrows.

Louis laughs. “I will probably end up resorting to such desperate measures, soon. I don’t get out much anymore, with Zayn’s whole being in bed before 2 am thing he’s got going on.”

“How long, then?” Harry smiles and Louis laughs again, shaking his head.

“I’m not going to tell you that.”

Harry swats Louis on the knee. “Come on, now. You can tell me."

“I really don’t wanna talk about it,” Louis says shyly.

“You know I won’t judge.” Says Harry. “Out loud, at least.”

“I don’t know that, I hardly know you,” Louis says, tumbling sideways to lay in the sand again and smiling up at Harry.

“I’m hurt!” Harry exclaims, bringing a hand to his chest and making a few sarcastic whimpering sounds. “I brought you beer during your temporary homelessness, I invited you to footie, here I thought I had myself a proper best mate and everything.” He moves over in the sand so he’s sitting cross legged at the side of Louis’ waist, pouting down at him.

“I don’t even know your last name,” says Louis.

“Do I have to tell you my last name for you to tell me all your secrets?” Harry says, eyes shining. And Louis knows he’s joking, but he still gets an unsettling, unfamiliar feeling in his stomach; a very fleeting thought that he probably could look at that face and spill everything that he’s never told anybody. He can’t even think of specific things he would say, but he kind of wants to come up with some, just to see if Harry’s eyes would get brighter when he did.

Louis blinks a few times before smirking a little. “I guess not,” he says reluctantly and Harry beams, setting his bottle down in the sand and propping his hands underneath his chin, listening intently.

“Okay, kid.” Louis laughs and looks up the sky for a moment, cradling his beer on his chest, then sighs when he does the math in his head. “Like, February?” He says tentatively, not looking over at Harry until he doesn't hear a response. “Oh my god, please stop looking at me like that.”

“M’ sorry,” Harry laughs and pulls Louis’ hands away from where they’re now covering his face in humiliation. “I guess that’s not that bad, when you think about it.”

“It’s pretty bad.” Louis says.

“Yeah, It’s pretty bad. You might have to find someone in one of those classes, after all.” Harry lets out a chuckle. “Just make sure you let me know if there’s any fit single-looking mums signing up for a yoga course, or something.”

“Oh yeah?” Louis quirks an eyebrow up at him, Harry winks. Louis wishes he wouldn’t do that.

“Can’t help what ya’ like,” Harry says, lifting his bottle to his mouth again, and this angle is only giving Louis a clearer view of the nice cut of Harry’s jaw line as he tips his head back to drink.

“We’re just finding out all sorts of things about each other, aren’t we?”

Harry giggles. Louis wishes he wouldn’t do that, either.


When Louis gets home, he walks straight past Liam making tea in the kitchen - his kitchen - and into the living room before flopping over the side of the couch and face planting directly into Zayn’s lap where he’s sitting watching telly.

“I’m so horny, Zayn.” He whines, voice muffled by Zayn’s sweats.

“M’sorry, mate.” Zayn says, not looking down from his programme.

“I am like so fucking horny, Zayn. I literally can’t think of anyone’s cock I wouldn’t suck right now if they promised to do the same to me.”

“That’s lovely. Can you maybe not say it with your face buried in my crotch, though?”

Louis rolls over so he’s looking up at him from his lap and pokes a finger into Zayn’s left nostril. “Maybe I should try to shag girls again. Maybe the male gender has just become indifferent to my face.”

“Where were you? Are you drunk?”

Louis shakes his head tiredly and sighs, “Just sexually frustrated.”

Liam returns from the kitchen with two mugs of tea. Just two. “Are you still trying to shag that guy from the supermarket?” He asks, handing a mug to Zayn and nothing to Louis. “He took my coupon for dog food the other day, even though it was expired. He seems really nice!”

“You have a dog?” Louis asks, temporarily distracted.

“Um…no?” Liam lifts his tea mug up to his mouth and glances a fleeting look at Zayn, who glares suspiciously back.

Louis rolls his eyes and covers his face with his tea-less hands and quickly brings the conversation back to more important matters. “Harry is really nice…and funny, and has a giant fucking mouth…and dresses like a member of The Strokes. And he’s a painter, like who’s actually a painter, what the fuck - and he’s into football. He’s perfect.” He finishes. “And he’s completely not interested, obviously.”

“Well how do you know that?” Asks Liam, taking a sip of his tea.

“I just know.”

“Maybe he’s just not into blokes?”

Louis sighs again and runs a hand through his hair. “No, he’s into blokes. Trust me.”

“He told you that?”

“No, Liam.” Louis says, annoyed. “I just know, okay. I have a good instinct when it comes to these things.”

Zayn lets out a snort into his tea above him and Louis’ annoyance rises at the realization that he can’t drink it, now that it’s potentially got snot in it. “Right, really good instincts. Like when you tried to set me up with your English tutor last year and his wife answered the door when I showed up to take him to the bar?”

“Hey!” Louis points an affronted finger up at him. “You told me the sex was great!”

“It was, until I spent two hours afterwards listening to him cry about his marriage.” He lets out a laugh. “Then we found out he moved to Spain or something a week later, remember?”

Louis just stares blankly at the two of them, thinking for a minute. “Oh my God, what if he’s not even into blokes?!” He slaps his palms to the side of his face and squishes his cheeks together in frustration. “What if I’ve just been wasting all this time?”

“And all that grocery money.” Liam interjects, and Louis can’t even yell at him, because that is a valid point.

“What do I do then!” He asks, exasperated.

“Then you’ve just got a nice mate who you can’t fuck.” Zayn gives a half-laugh. “What’s the point in that, eh?”

Louis misses the sarcasm all together and throws his arms up in the air miserably. “Exactly!” Zayn almost looks like he has something resembling what might actually be pity in his expression.

“Why don’t you just ask him, Louis?” Liam suggests innocently. Louis looks at him like he’s grown a second set of ridiculous eyebrows across his forehead.

“You can’t go right out and ask anyone something just because you want to know, Liam.” He says, covering his eyes with one hand and gesturing vaguely between them with the other. “It’s the same reason Zayn won’t tell me who tops; some people just want to keep things a mystery.”

Liam looks over his mug with wide eyes at Zayn, who shrugs and looks down at Louis again. “I think you should just ask him.”

“Just ask him, ‘Hey, are you by any chance down to partake in sexual activities with men, and if so, would you like one of those men to be me?’”

Liam blushes. “Well that’s what Zayn did to me. More or less.”

“Really?” Louis raises his eyebrows up at Zayn. “And that worked?”

“Well, we just fucked like an hour ago, so… yeah” Zayn says, waving a hand in the direction of his bedroom door. Liam blushes more and busies himself with his mug of tea again.

Louis’ head is swimming, but he’s still pretty sure he’s not drunk. He rolls off Zayn’s lap finally with an exaggerated sigh. “You guys have literally never been less helpful. Thank you, I’m going to bed.”

“Night, babe. Cheer up, yeah?” Zayn gives him a pat on the bum as he leaves and Liam waves goodnight and takes Louis’ place on Zayn’s lap.

Louis brushes his teeth with a bit too much force, discards all of his clothes on his bedroom floor, and then clambers into bed just as his phone buzzes on his nightstand:

Harry Styles .x

He lets out an angry huff, throws his phone into a dirty pile of laundry across the room and buries himself under his duvet, determined not to think any more about Harry-Probably-Fucking-Straight-Styles.

The thing is - Louis thinks, eight and a half minutes later, as he turns over on his side to stare at the wall in his dark bedroom - is that Harry has eluded to girls he’s “known” or “hung out with” in passing, but Louis was never that bothered, just told himself that was perfectly fine, Louis is into girls, too. He used to be, at least. One girl - he was into one girl in year 10. Sort of. Until he met her brother.

But then he thinks about how he and Harry seemed to fall into this comfortable friendship almost immediately. Louis definitely never has a problem when Harry pokes at his side or bites a loose piece of food right out of his hand. Harry never questioned letting Louis, a near stranger, eat his deli meats at lunch, even laughed for a good five minutes at Louis’ admittedly awful joke about eating Harry’s deli meats. And maybe he’s imagining it, but he can’t forget the way he thinks he notices how Harry’s eyes will flick to Louis’ lips sometimes when he‘s not even talking, imagining the way his hand will pat Louis’ thigh sometimes and squeeze a little before pulling away a fraction longer than what would be considered casual.

When Louis finally drifts off to sleep, his dreams are filled with loud giggles and broad shoulders and bright green. He dreams about soft hair under his fingers and massive hands pushing him up against a cold shelf and a deep voice whispering filthy words through bruised lips as bags of frozen vegetables and microwave TV dinners fall to the ground around him. He wakes up in the middle of the night and jerks himself off frantically into his sheets, breathing heavily like he‘s just run a marathon, and then rolls over after a half-arsed clean off to hide his face shamefully in his pillow with a groan.

He awakes in the morning again with a minor headache and a load of laundry to do and he showers and changes before padding into the kitchen for breakfast miserably. Zayn joins him just as he’s putting the kettle on. He pours two bowls of cereal, passing one to Louis across the table. Louis takes it wordlessly and eats in slow spoonfuls, staring thoughtfully at the wrinkles on Zayn’s bed shirt, wondering if he should perhaps feel guilty for his subconscious forming dirty fantasies about someone he probably has no right to be thinking about in that way. He plays his dreams from last night back in his head, but mostly just feels really confused.

Louis stops chewing the corn flakes in his mouth abruptly and looks at Zayn across the table with a bewildered expression. “Why the fuck were we in the frozen foods aisle?!” He bursts out angrily into the quiet kitchen, milk dribbling down his chin onto the table as he throws his hands into the air. “And what the fuck kinda name is Styles?”

Zayn just grunts sleepily and gets up to put his bowl in the sink.


“Have you ever had sex in the frozen foods aisle?”

“What, like by the microwave pizzas?”

“Yeah. Or the TV dinners, wherever.”

Harry smiles down in thought at the assorted cheese and fruit plate they‘re sharing for lunch that afternoon. It’s been raining all day, so they’re sitting up against the wall of the building, just underneath where the awning above the entry of the store is keeping the ground dry. Louis has his face turned expectantly towards Harry, just a few inches away, and is distracted from admiring the color the colder weather has turned Harry’s cheeks when an elderly woman takes what looks like a very deliberate step away from them and into the downpour as she passes their spot on her way into the store. Louis has a brief thought that the two of them probably look a little bit homeless; huddled on the floor outside of the supermarket passing scraps of food back and forth, but then he notices the color is also on the tip of Harry’s nose and decides he doesn’t really care that some old granny is judging him.

“Uh, no, I haven’t had sex in the frozen foods aisle.” Harry answers finally and lifts his eyes slowly to meet Louis’, his smile breaking into something a bit more mischievous, and wiggles his eyebrows suggestively. Louis throws a grape at his face.

Ew!” He yells as it bounces off Harry’s dimple and onto his lap. “Gross! Where, then, by all the fresh produce? Did you get it off next to the organic lettuce, Harry?”

Harry just picks the grape up from his lap, pops it into his mouth, (Louis only lets his eyes linger for a second where it disappears) and pulls an imaginary zipper across his lips, curving them into what Louis guesses is supposed to be a smug smirk. It’s more similar to what a baby kitten might look like after stealing the last of the milk from the rest of the litter.

Louis makes a mock disgusted sound, but can’t help his own lips quirking up at the edges a bit. He’s pretty sure Harry is joking -probably. Maybe. He’s not sure, but decides it’s probably time to change the subject before he gives his subconscious any more material to work with.

“So, got any big plans this weekend?” he begins rather lamely. “Giant kegger? Orgy planned in the canned goods section?”

“No, not this weekend. I’m going into the city tomorrow, actually. I have this thing.”

“This thing…” Louis repeats thoughtfully like that explains everything.

“Yeah,” says Harry slowly. “Um, this gallery is showing some of my stuff.”


“Yeah, it’s not a big deal, or anything.” Harry waves a hand.

“Sounds like at least a medium sized deal to me,” Louis says, smiling. “I’m impressed.”

“I guess. I mean, This place really only looked at my stuff because my friend is mates with the people who run it, but I still might sell a few things. Make some money, maybe.”

“That’s really cool, Harry.”

“I don’t want to get my hopes up or anything, but.” Harry shrugs, looking down at his lap.

“I’m dead scared to even show my professor my projects in ceramics class.” Laughs Louis. “I used to go in early to take my things out of the kiln so no one would judge my clay pencil holders.”

“I’m sure your pencil holders were top-quality, Lou.” Harry says, giving him a little supportive pat on the top of the head. “I mean, I don’t think you need other people’s approval to like what you do or anything, but it’s nice, sometimes. You know- gratifying, or whatever.”

“Or whatever,” Louis says and Harry smiles.

“Besides, if there’s anything I’ve learned in life, it’s that you can make anyone believe anything if you talk about it enough, even if you’re bullshitting. Y’know, believe in yourself and others will believe in you, all that shit.”

“Right, I’ve been meaning to try that.” Replies Louis sarcastically and looks away towards the street.

They fall into silence then as Harry concentrates on assembling mini sandwiches out of two crackers and a slice of cheese. Louis sighs and watches as a drop of water pools up at the edge of the awning, falling off when it gets too heavy to cling to the fabric. He follows it through the air with his eyes until it splashes onto the ground a few inches away from his shoe and joins the shallow stream flowing over the sidewalk into the gutter.

Louis narrows his eyes in thought, still looking ahead. “I bet it was by all the raw meat…” he whispers, taking a slow, musing bite out of a cracker.

Harry curls up onto himself as he erupts into a fit of those stupid giggles and tumbles sideways, half onto a slice of gouda and half onto Louis’ lap. Louis just looks down at him and lets out another sigh.


Are you coming tonight by any chance???

That’s a bit personal, kid… I do still have that porno mag tho...

Cute. I mean coming to the store?

Louis looks away from his phone to the shoes on his feet, to the house key in his other hand, to the hoodie that was already half-on when he had paused to read Harry’s first text.

Wasn’t planning on it, why?

I bought some pot from the guy who supplies our tomatoes and now I have no one to smoke it with : (

I could probs be of service w that.

: ) I get off at 12 meet me on the squirrel.

Is the turtle okay?

I get the turtle.

Louis smiles and pockets his phone. It’s only half eleven, but he figures he’ll just walk slow. Zayn is reaching the top of the stairs just as Louis is about to take them down to the floor level of their building.

“Where are you going?”

“I was just gonna run over to the market, I won’t be gone long.” Louis says, pushing past him.

Zayn rolls his eyes in a way that clearly says what a surprise. “If you’re going anyway, I’m out of my bread…?”

Louis sighs dramatically. “Why don’t you just eat regular bread, Zayn. Why does it need to have nineteen different whole-grains in it?”

“It’s good for your heart - or your brain. Or your dick, or something. Just get me some, yeah?”

“Yeah, yeah. I’ll see you later.”

“Later, babe.”

Louis sends Harry another text on his walk to the park:

You get the turtle. Also, bring me a loaf of that gross bread with the seeds in the crust and the picture of a granddad on the package?

Harry responds with two emojis of a slice of bread and a thumbs up just as Louis settles in on his squirrel. Fifteen minutes later, he rounds the corner on foot with a grocery bag in hand and Louis greets him by stealing the grey beanie from atop his head and slipping it over his own hair before Harry straddles the plastic turtle next to him, digs a small bag and a glass bowl from his pockets.


“It’s just - clearly you shouldn’t be buying from produce guys,” Louis says, letting his eyes fall on the sliver of skin visible between the hem of Harry’s shirt and the elastic of his pants as he hangs from the middle of the monkey bars in the sandbox.

“I’m on a budget, okay?” Harry laughs, a little strained from the effort of holding himself up on the bar. “I don’t see you treating, where d’you get the good stuff, huh?”

Louis shrugs. “I don’t know, that’s Zayn’s job.”

“And in return you buy him old people bread?” Harry swings forward and kicks a toe at the grocery bag sitting at the bottom of the monkey bars.

“Actually, you bought that, remember?” Louis laughs from where he’s laying in the sand underneath him.

“Hey, that’s right!” Harry’s hands let go of the bars and he lets his feet fall all of one and a half inches to the ground. “You owe me, I guess.”

“What d’you want?” Louis smiles up at him, and a million potential borderline-filthy, and possibly illegal responses flick through his mind, none of which he thinks are answers Harry is going to actually give, but all of which Louis thinks he would probably say yes to.

“I want my beanie back.”

“Well that’s long gone,” Louis says, waving a hand at the expanse of sand underneath the jungle gym, which Louis decided to hide Harry’s hat in, promptly forgetting where he buried it five minutes later. “What else do you want?”

Harry grins down at him, all crinkly watery eyes, and lets his shoulders flop up and down. “I dunno.”

A thought makes it’s way through Louis’ clouded head suddenly and he scrambles onto his feet. “I know." He grabs Harry by the wrist and pulls him out of the playground, towards the dark large shadow of the community center building on the other side of the park.

Harry looks thoroughly amused as he follows Louis across the grass. “What is it, then?”

“A surprise!” Louis yells and then halts and claps a hand over Harry’s mouth. “You have to stay quiet though,” he says, lowering his voice to a raspy whisper, smiling when Harry leans in closer. “this might be illegal, I’m not sure yet.”

“Illegal surprises are the best surprises,” Harry gets out, voice muffled behind the hand still pressed to his face. Louis laughs and pulls on Harry’s wrist again.

He leads them around the back of the building towards a door he’s almost certain is always kept unlocked. Louis’ not actually worried anyone is going to see them here, knows he could probably talk his way out of it if they were caught, but is still putting up the facade of stopping to peak carefully around every corner before turning back at Harry to stage whisper, “The coast is clear!” and continuing walking, hunched over and tip-toed like they’re trying to pull off a bank heist. Harry must not feel particularly paranoid either; He’s creeping along behind Louis, but having difficulty keeping quiet, laughing loud enough for half the neighborhood to hear and stopping whenever Louis does to throw his head back against the wall and clutch at his ribs like it’s hurting him to laugh so much.

Shhh!” Louis reminds him loudly when they’re just outside the door, and then, “Shit! Hurry, Harry!” at the sound of a car alarm going off miles away from the community center. He finally yanks open the metal door and pushes Harry in front of him as they stumble inside, both doubled over in laughter now.

“That-” Louis gives and exaggerated sigh and wipes the back of his hand over his forehead in mock relief. “was really close.”

“I wasn’t ready for prison,” adds Harry, straightening up to eye the semi-dark space around them. Louis follows his eyes as they dart around the corners of the large rectangular room, at the pile of life vests just behind where Louis is standing, the shining metal of the tall lifeguard's chair across the room and finally up at the slanted ceiling made up of large dirty glass tiles that are casting a murky moonlight on the currently motionless surface of the Olympic-size swimming pool below it.

Harry’s eyes widen a bit when they settle on the water and he breaks into a reluctant grin. “No wa-” he starts to say shaking his head and turning towards Louis, who’s nodding yes, already toeing off his shoes and unzipping his hoodie and bending his knees like he’s at the start of a race. He gives Harry one deliberate wink before breaking into a run, (hoping briefly that the pool is still half-heated from earlier in the day) and performing a less than graceful canon ball into the water once he reaches the edge, still nearly fully dressed.

When he kicks off the bottom and reaches the surface, Harry is still where Louis kicked off his shoes, head thrown back in laughter again. “You are such a fucking idiot!” he yells.

Louis just smiles wide and starts flailing around in the water abruptly, kicking his legs up and throwing his arms around wildly. “Help Harry! I’ve um, I’ve just remembered I never learned how to swim,” he yells dramatically, sputtering on some water to add to the effect and then remembering this is a public pool and hoping he didn’t let any actually get into his mouth.

“Aw, shit. Guess you’re probably gonna drown then, aren’t you? Should‘ve thought about that before you threw yourself into a swimming pool.” Harry says, tapping a finger on his temple and walking towards where Louis is still flopping in and out of the water, making waves that splash up onto the side of the deck.

“I didn’t remember until I was already in the air! I’m very forgetful, I know I‘ve told you that.” Louis tries to add a tone of annoyance to his bellows. “You’re gonna have to get in here and save me, Harry!”

Harry’s at the edge of the deck now, still smiling as he sighs in easy defeat and reaches down to slowly untie his high tops. “Don’t worry, looueh! I’ll save you!” he yells sarcastically. “Just a moment…” he takes his time slipping off one shoe, before moving to the other. “Not long now!” Louis has to ease his splashing a bit as to not let any water get in the way of his view of Harry pulling his t-shirt over his head to reveal an expanse of perfectly pale skin beneath it (Louis just wanted Harry in the pool, hadn’t really thought ahead to what the perks of that might be, but congratulates himself silently for having such good ideas) before slowly folding it to sit beside his shoes on the cement.

“Still above water?” Harry calls over his shoulder as he unbuttons his trousers and Louis watches the dark denim slide down his long legs, leaving Harry in only a pair of black boxer-briefs, before he hits the water again with his hand to make a sizeable splash.

“Barely, better hurry!” He wails just as Harry turns towards the pool. “Oh wait, switch on the light by the door first, will you? I can’t see a thing.” Harry lets out a disbelieving scoff at that but turns and pads over towards the door anyway. “The last one on the right, yep.” the room is suddenly filled with a dim, blue glow as the lights in the pool come on.

Louis is only half-heartedly keeping up with his attempts at feigning being in danger now, but Harry puffs up his chest and calls out in his best superhero voice, “Alright, here I come!” as he starts to jog towards where Louis is waving one of his hands lazily through the air in faux struggle. He reaches the edge of the pool and swan dives into the water easily. Louis catches a glimpse of the muscles flexing down Harry’s back with the movement and decides drowning might seem like a plausible occurrence tonight, after all.

He’s still a little dazed when he blinks a few times and notices Harry’s figure is now approaching him, stretched out long under the surface of the water, and before he can react, Louis feels something grab behind his knees and finds himself being lifted fireman style out of the water and carried through the shallow end, where he is deposited unceremoniously onto the deck.

“All safe then, you twat?” Harry asks proudly once Louis has regained balance on the edge of the pool and is sitting up with his feet hanging into the water.

“What would I have done without you?” He mocks, as if Harry is being ridiculous and Louis was not the one putting on a show of drowning in four-foot deep water just a minute ago.

“Dunno, reckon you would’ve drown.” Harry winks in that way that Louis is still trying to figure out why is so alluring and pushes off from the edge of the deck with his hands, doing a couple of sloppy backstrokes until he’s floating face up in the middle of the pool, directly under the glass roof reflecting the grey moonlight on him, eyes closed peacefully and arms and legs splayed out wide like a giant, gangly-limbed star.

He stays like that for a few minutes and Louis just kind of ogles Harry from where he’s perched on the side of the pool, like the absolute creep that he’s resigned to accept he has become. The majority of Harry’s tattoos are visible now, standing out stark black against his washed out skin in the pool lights. Louis follows the sprinkling of faint lines on his left shoulder and collar bone mixed with some thicker curves of script he can’t make out, down around the inside of his left arm to the shapes and symbols inked there and cluttered across his ribcage. He doesn’t know a lot about tattoos, but has enough second hand knowledge from Zayn about quality to think Harry’s looks like most of them could’ve been done in someone’s living room, or garage. He most certainly drew influence from some doodles in a teenage girl’s notebook, from the looks of it.

Louis notices the smallest smile playing at the corners of Harry’s mouth, he thinks his eyes still look closed from across the pool and Louis wonders if maybe he’s fallen into a peaceful sleep, before he realises he probably would’ve stopped floating if he did, and then worries that he’s actually staring so blatantly that Harry might be able to feel it burning through his still-closed eye lids.

He’s running his mind trying to find something to say to break the silence when Harry opens his eyes and does it for him, “Wish more people had swimming pools around here,” he says, still gazing up at the half-moon visible through the sky roof above them. “I’ve got a cousin who lives near LA, says it’s hard to find a house without one there.”

“I’d like to live in California, I think.” says Louis thoughtfully after a moment.

“You’d get the nice weather all the time,” Harry volunteers as he stops floating across the pool and turns in Louis’ direction, treading water.

Louis nods. “Yeah, I’ve always wanted to learn to surf, too.”

“Nah, Australia is the place to go for that. Bigger waves, I think.” Harry says and pushes some water across the surface of the pool towards Louis, who follows it until it splashes against his legs still hanging over the deck.

“Right. Now I’ve just got to get to Australia. No problem.” He means for his tone to sound sarcastic, but it comes out a bit more forlorn.

“I’ll take you there,” Harry says simply.

Louis looks up from his knees at him. “You’re going to fly us to Australia, are you? What, with your hefty paychecks from bagging groceries?”

“Sure,” Harry smiles and wades closer to where Louis is sitting. “why not?”

“Seems like a hell of a lot of trouble for just a surfing lesson, is all.” Louis plays along, kicking his feet around in the water.

Harry rolls his eyes and shakes his head. He’s far enough into the shallow end now that he no longer has to move his arms and legs to stay above water, instead lifting a hand to flick his wet hair out of his eyes with long fingers. “We wont just do the surfing. We can like, bushwalk in the hills, or play with some baby koalas…whatever they do down there.” he laughs. “It’ll be an adventure.”

“I do like koalas…” Louis says quietly after a moment of consideration.

“Yay!” Harry yells and waves his arms around in the water, jumping up and down like an excited toddler. “We’re going to Australia!” And Louis thinks if Harry asked him to board a plane tonight, he’d probably do it.

Louis gives a feeble little fist pump and a weak, “Yay.”

Harry sends a big splash his way. “Sound excited, goddamnit!” He hits the water over and over and Louis has to shield his face from the splashes, kicking waves up with his feet in an attempt to fight back.

“I am excited,” He squeals, “I’m so excited!”

Louis un-shields his face as Harry’s splashing lets up and he stands to his full height, water only coming up to right below his hips. “I’m not kidding, you know.” Harry’s still smiling, but he tilts his head a little questioningly to the side and Louis is now finding he’s having a hard time looking away from his wide eyes, which seem to be shining with sincerity, and maybe something that looks a bit hopeful. Or maybe that’s just the chlorine.

“I know, kid.” the intended sarcasm is missing again.

Harry moves a little closer to where Louis is sitting on the edge of the deck. “We can go to California, too,” his voice is a little softer, and his eyes are still searching. “I’ll take you wherever you want.”


“Good.” replies Harry, his smile appearing again, and Louis finally breaks eye contact then, looks anywhere but Harry’s face, and yeah. That was clearly a poor decision on Louis’ part, because anywhere but Harry’s face is only a few feet away from him now, and a lot less obscured under the surface of the water than it was a moment ago. Anywhere but Harry’s face is his adams apple moving slightly down his throat, and the way the light coming up from the pool is casting shadows in the cut of his collar bones. It’s the thin chords of the necklaces hanging from his neck, dripping water that runs over his chest and ripples down the softly defined skin on his abdomen.

Harry’s moving closer still, farther and farther out of the water and Louis’ brain can’t really process why Harry would be doing that because now the drops of water are falling down the sides of his narrow hips, getting caught in the sharply cut bones and the wispy trail of hair leading into his waistband. Louis wonders if Harry notices how absurdly low his pants are slung on his hips right now, wonders if Harry cares, before he realises he has just gulped involuntarily and wonders how he manages to get himself into situations like this.

He kind of wants to laugh, really; he’s sitting here on the cold concrete in a sopping wet t-shirt and jeans, shamelessly gaping at this fucking creature approaching him out of the water like some sort of bad ‘80s slow-motion music video. It is absolutely, completely ridiculous and Louis thinks it might be the most erotic moment of his life.

Realising his jaw his hanging half-open, Louis locks it shut and moves his eyes up to safer territory. Harry is staring at him with a vaguely amused expression, like he might be about to start laughing, because of course he is. The cheeky shit. Louis tries to give him a casual smile, feeling like he should say something now. But nothing is coming to mind, so he kicks his feet up instead, sending water spraying into Harry’s face.

He yelps and clutches his chest, freezes up in mid-air and lets his tongue loll out of his mouth like he’s been hit with a stun gun, before plopping sideways onto the water with a loud smacking sound. Louis throws his hands up and starts to cheer in victory before Harry emerges again, scooping up a small tidal wave with his giant arms and sending it towards Louis. He gets a mouthful of water, but keeps on splashing Harry with his feet while Harry does the same with his hands, trying with difficulty to keep his mouth closed through his laughter.

Harry leaps towards the edge of the pool suddenly, cups his hands and holds them right over Louis’ head. Louis manages to grab hold of Harry’s wrists just as they part and the water gathered in them hits Louis square on the top of the head, making his fringe flop in front of his eyes and streams of water flow down the front of his face, dripping off his nose. Harry looks absolutely ecstatic when Louis shakes his hair out quickly, sending water spraying directly into his eyes, and he’s laughing madly even though Louis still has both of his wrists in a death grip, holding them helplessly apart on either side of Harry’s head.

Smirking up at him, Louis realises suddenly how close Harry is now. He’s somehow become almost slotted in between Louis’ knees at the edge of the pool, and Louis can see the little drops of water sparkling on the end of his eyelashes and the strands of wet hair that are sticking randomly to his forehead and cheeks as Harry beams down at him.

“You’re fun,” Harry says quietly after a moment, dragging out the words and still grinning lazily. Louis smiles up at him, and knows this time that he’s not imagining the way Harry’s eyes dart to his mouth and linger there too long for it not to be intentional before slowly scanning back up to meet Louis’.

He presses his thumbs into the underside of Harry‘s wrists and holds in a breath until his eyes move again and Louis is absolutely sure of it. “Are you gonna kiss me right now?”

Harry bites the side of his lip. “Yeah, I think I’m gonna kiss you right now.”



“Go for it.”

“I’m gonna go for it.” Harry breaks into a crooked smirk and glances at Louis’ lips once again.

“Do it.”

Harry’s grin just widens. Louis rolls his eyes at the ceiling and lets Harry’s wrists fall free before hooking his fingers in the chains around his neck to pull him down.

He presses his lips between Harry’s in a rush, parted slightly and moving slowly at first, because as much as he’s tried, Louis has never found a casual enough excuse to touch Harry’s lips like he has the rest of him, and he just wants to take a second to memorize how they feel, soft and wet and pillowed against his, before Harry opens his mouth to him with a small sound and Louis drags his tongue half-way along his lower lip and licks inside.

Harry slides his hands slowly up Louis’ arms and chest and across his shoulders before slipping his fingers into his wet hair as Louis curls his tongue around his. Harry tastes like chewing gum and cheap weed and chlorine and he kisses kind of like the giant walking contradiction that he is, letting Louis’ tongue deep into his mouth while he grips Louis’ hair and the back of his neck firmly, or running teeth over Louis’ bottom lip while his thumbs stroke softly up his cheekbones. But it works. It’s really, really working.

Louis draws his face back just enough to see the blurry green around the edges of Harry’s eyes. “You’re so fucking hot,” he says through one breath. “I think I can I tell you that now, right?”

Harry winks again, and it still works better than it should. “Right back at ‘cha,” he says, and Louis would roll his eyes at the cheesiness of that, but then Harry bends down to connect his mouth with Louis’ neck and grazes his teeth over his pulse point under his jaw. Louis slips his fingers into his hair while Harry’s hands move down to squeeze at the curve of his waist and cup his arse, scooting Louis closer to the edge of the deck. Louis hooks a knee behind Harry to pull him so he’s flush against the side of the pool and they’re pressed together shoulders to ribs. And Louis can’t help it if that means Harry’s hips also line up perfectly so Louis’ crotch is pushed up against his thigh, but Harry doesn’t seem to mind, he just finishes the bruise he’s sucking onto Louis’ throat and drags his lips up his neck to kiss him again.

He moves his finger tips from where they’re digging into Louis’ hips to inch up the side of his torso, sliding underneath the damp t-shirt clinging to Louis’ skin. Harry leaves one hand to rest just above Louis’ waist, the other spanning his back, riding the fabric up his spine and Louis feels heat flooding his skin where he knows there should be goosepimples rising from the cold air instead. He tightens the fingers of one hand around Harry’s hair and drags the others lightly across his shoulders, and it’s like there’s warmth radiating from every point of contact between them and spreading through Louis’ entire body, from underneath his fingertips and his lips and from where Harry’s own hands loosen their grip on him momentarily before he’s pulling his lips away a fraction to speak at the side of Louis’ mouth breathlessly, “It would probably be wrong of me to suck you off right here, woodnit?”

“Really, really wrong,” Louis replies. It comes out as more of a half-groan than an actual series of words and he turns his face slightly to connect their lips again, because it’s been like twelve seconds, and that seems far too long to Louis.

Harry growls into his mouth, “Yeah, really fucking wrong.” And his palm squeezes tighter at the thigh Louis still has wrapped loosely around him.

“Very disrespectful to the grannies in the water aerobics class.” Louis drags his hand down Harry’s chest and stomach just as Harry not so subtly arches the lower half of his body forward, causing Louis’ head to loll back as he lets out another groan.

“Completely inappropriate,” Harry mutters, trailing his parted lips across Louis’ jaw now. “Not to mention unsanitary…”

Louis makes a small noise in his throat that sounds embarrassingly like a squeak and curls his fingers where they’re playing at the elastic of Harry’s waistband as Harry’s teeth meet the soft skin just below his ear. “Oh, I don’t know if they’d care about that so much if someone let them know the urine content of this pool they pay to exercise in.”

Mmm, yeah, keep talking dirty, Lou,” Harry fucking purrs into his neck, “Y’know I like that.”

Okay,” Louis lets out an exasperated laugh and smacks Harry on the side of the head. “Your car still at the store, freak?” He pushes on Harry’s shoulders, gently untangling them. Harry makes a sound of protest but nods. “M’kay, come on then,” Louis says eagerly, lifting his feet out of the water finally, standing on unbalanced legs and turning towards where Harry‘s clothes are still folded a few feet away, letting himself come back down to reality just a bit; he’s at least eighty-six percent sure that it was only pot that they smoked earlier and he might, in fact, not be hallucinating right now. Which means that this is probably actually happening.

He misses Harry lifting himself out of the pool (probably for the better, he thinks) as he’s bending down to pick up his clothes for him. He looks over his shoulder, and his eyes move slowly down Harry’s dripping wet body, from his bitten red lips, grinning down at him wolfishly, to the quite prominent bulge under the thin fabric of his boxers that Harry is making no effort at all to hide. Louis suddenly realises how uncomfortable and restricting his own drying trousers feel.

“Race you?” Louis says quickly, looking up at Harry. He watches Harry’s grin widen momentarily before he turns away from him to sprint towards the door. He looks back to see Harry hurriedly scooping his clothes and shoes into his arms, and Louis loses his head-start when he has to stop to grab his own shoes and sweatshirt off the ground before throwing a hand out to switch off the lights and pushing open the door they came in through.

The trek around the corner to the store is not an easy one. Harry stumbles over his own feet and Louis’ knees still feel a bit numb as they make their way through the dark street away from the community center, Louis letting out a bark of laughter as he runs past the jungle gym and realises he left Zayn’s special bread under the monkey bars. Whatever - the raccoons will probably appreciate his efforts more than Zayn, anyway.

Harry speeds past Louis with a quick slap on the arse as they’re rounding the corner at the end of the street, looking like he’s just escaped an insane asylum; Making wild laughing sounds, soggy hair flipping around crazily and still almost completely naked, holding his t-shirt above his head with one hand like a flag flapping in the wind behind him. Louis is barefoot too, his clothes still dripping a little, but it’s July, and catching pneumonia isn’t his most immediate concern at the moment.

“You could’ve put your trousers back on, at least! Someone’s going to call the police!” Louis pants. He catches up to Harry just as they finally reach the edge of the car park in front of the supermarket, all the cars but one have cleared out by now.

“Seems counter-productive to me!” Harry replies, slowing his pace a bit as they near his car and fidgeting with the keys hooked around one of the belt loops of his jeans. “And it’s 2 am on a Monday morning, Lou, no one is going to see us.”

When they finally, finally come to a stop at the car, Louis only takes a second to catch his breath before he pulls Harry against the side of the door and leans up to kiss him again. It’s a little softer than before, but not any less urgent. Harry lets his mouth fall open and melts into it, both hands coming up to hold Louis’ face in place as he licks past his lips, before moving one down behind Louis’ back to blindly unlock the back door of the drivers side of the car. They break apart as Harry pulls the door open.

“You don’t want to go back to mine first?” Louis questions as Harry starts to climb into the back seat.

Pausing, Harry looks up at Louis through the open door and laughs a little. “You wanna wait that long?” And he thinks he notices Harry slowly mouth four syllables that look suspiciously like ‘Feb - ru - ar - y’, before licking around his lips in a way that has to be intentional. Louis hates him.

He looks down at Harry and considers for a second. He maybe hadn’t had exactly romantic fantasies about Harry in the past, but still didn’t imagine the first time he actually had sex with him would be in the backseat of an old Hyundai. His hard on had calmed down a bit in the night air on the way from the community center, but he can already feel himself coming back to life with the anticipation, and besides. Louis lost his virginity in the back of a car a lot shittier than this. With someone he liked a lot less than Harry, if he really thinks about it.

“Fuck no,” He says quickly and climbs in, shutting the door behind him and throwing his shoes into the front of the car. Harry does the same with his clothes, settles back in the middle of the seat and pulls Louis on top of him immediately. Louis’ face is barely an inch away from his, hovering a bit above Harry’s now as he sets a knee down on either side of his thighs on the bench of the seat.

“Hey,” says Harry quietly, grinning up at him and running his hands up and down Louis thighs.

Louis arches forward to kiss the side of Harry’s neck, sucking softly as he trails his mouth down his throat, across his left collar bone and right below it. “Your tattoos are stupid.” He mutters into Harry’s chest and he can feel the hot air from his mouth spreading across Harry’s skin with the words.

“Seemed like you liked them earlier.” Harry stretches his neck back further, letting his eyes fall closed, and Louis sucks the skin into his mouth, biting down hard on the Love banner inked under his teeth.

It’s not graceful, or easy really; the two of them groping and grinding down on each other in the tiny backseat of the car. But Louis just laughs when he bangs his head on the roof while trying to lift his shirt off, and doesn’t mind when he has to bend his arm at an awkward angle after Harry pushes him off his lap to lay down horizontally on the seat. They both giggle madly while Harry attempts to maneuver his long limbs into a sitting position in order to peel Louis’ trousers off. But he manages it eventually and then kisses Louis again, biting on his lips softly, before hooking his fingers in the elastic of Louis’ pants and pulling those off too, and then Harry’s hand is around him and his mouth is on him and neither of them are really laughing anymore.

Louis thinks he should’ve guessed Harry would do this with the same kind of fervent enthusiasm that he seems to float through life on, stretching his lips over the head of Louis’ cock while his tongue licks and swirls around the tip, hot and wet and kind of sloppy, which is somehow making it even more fucking amazing.

Harry looks up at him with his brow creased in concentration as he hollows his cheeks out and sucks Louis deeper, humming appreciatively around him like he wants to make sure Louis knows he’s just as eager for it as he is. Louis doubts that’s possible, but drops his head back against the side window and lets out a low moan at the vibrations traveling from Harry’s throat with the sounds, slipping a hand into Harry’s damp hair and curling it around his fingers as he bobs his head, pushing the flat of his tongue along the underside of Louis’ cock insistently.

Pulling off slowly, Harry curls one hand around to replace his mouth in smooth strokes and grins brightly up at Louis, who’s panting a bit as he tries to keep his hips from bucking into Harry’s fist uncontrollably.

“I’ve wanted to do this for so long,” Harry tells Louis conversationally as he twists his wrist expertly around him.

“What, blow someone in the back of your car?” Louis mutters sarcastically, watching Harry’s biceps flex as he pumps his arm up and down with ease, swiping his palm over the head of Louis’ cock casually, either completely delighted about, or seemingly unaware of the fact that he’s driving him absolutely crazy with every movement.

“Yeah, I actually bought it with the dream of one day meeting a really fit guy who would come all over my cheap interior seating.” Harry’s voice is hoarse, but he laughs cheerfully at his joke and a little drool dribbles over his shiny lips onto his chin. He lifts the back of his other hand to wipe it off, grinning all goofy and shiny eyed up at Louis, and seriously. Only Harry could manage to look this fucking adorable in the middle of sucking someone’s dick.

Louis would kick him if he wasn’t so afraid that would make Harry stop whatever he’s doing to make this all work so well.

Harry shakes his tangled curls off his face, eyes roaming over Louis’ body hungrily before he bends down and takes him all the way down again, moving the hand not around Louis down to palm himself through his boxers, groaning low in his throat at the friction on his cock, which is sitting hard and neglected beneath the thin material. Louis lets his mouth fall open, and he knows his moans are probably a little too airy and high-pitched, knows he’s probably cursing a little too incoherently, but fuck it if he can stop it when he looks down and sees those lips stretched around him, and those eyes looking up at him. He can’t even see where Harry’s arm is reaching down to touch himself as he swallows around Louis, but the sight of it has him throwing his head back against the window again, that familiar feeling building low in his gut.

He pulls on Harry’s hair harder, as hard as he’s wanted to since he first laid eyes on it, and Harry pulls off with a deep breath, shifting up quickly to attach his mouth to Louis’ throat again, hand redoubling his efforts and garnering a sound from Louis that he’s not quite sure he’s ever heard himself make before. “You’re really good at this,” Louis breathes into Harry’s hair, because he just feels like he should acknowledge that. Harry nips at his neck one last time before meeting Louis’ eyes again, fucking smiling like that’s the nicest thing he’s ever heard. It’s so ridiculous, and Louis can’t seem to look away from it, even with their faces centimeters apart.

“Thanks,” Harry lets the word drip out of his mouth impossibly slow, and somehow his tone is both sincerely pleased and absolutely filthy as he does something with his hand that Louis can’t see, because he’s coming between them then, digging his fingers hard into Harry’s hair and biting down harder on his lip while he shudders through it, panting heavily, but all the while very aware of the fact that Harry is still wearing far too many items of clothing for his tastes.

“C’mere,” Louis whispers kind of uselessly since Harry‘s still breathing hotly over him, and he bats Harry’s hand away from his crotch. “God, get these things off already, what the hell s’wrong with you,” he huffs into Harry’s mouth, running his hands down his spine to push his waistband below his arse. “I wanna see you.”

Harry chuckles a little into the corner of Louis’ mouth, lifting his hips up to help him push his boxers past his knees. Louis tries not to gulp too obviously when Harry’s cock is finally freed between them, instead, gripping him by the shoulders and pushing Harry up and back against the opposite window to switch their positions, nestling between Harry’s legs and wrapping a hand around him finally. Louis starts stroking him firmly and Harry curses, stretching an arm out to brace on the back of the headrest of the front seat and pulling his bottom lip between his teeth while he looks between Louis’ hand and his face.

Louis does his best to smirk over him. “D’you wanna come now?”

“Yeah,” Harry whines a little breathlessly, dropping his head to the side with a trace of an amused smile. “don’t get it on the seats.”

“I’m gonna get it on the seats.”

“Don’t!” Harry barks out a laugh, which turns into another moan when Louis runs a thumb over the head of his cock, squeezing around him tighter as he quickens his hand, and arching forward to kiss Harry’s open mouth again. It’s kind of an awkward angle, with Louis’ arm still working between them, but Harry kisses back as best he can through stuttering breaths, sliding their tongues together, groaning into Louis’ lips and pushing his hips up now with every down stroke of Louis’ hand.

Fuck,” he breathes, “M’close.” And Louis pulls back then, looks down at Harry and lets himself be a little struck by the goddamn beauty of this, because Harry isn’t supposed to look this fucking pretty still, not when he’s so close to the edge. He’s not supposed to be glowing around the edges in the distant streetlights around the car park, throwing him into perfectly soft shadows.

Harry shouldn’t be continuing to diffuse this warmth between them, that’s more than hot breath or body heat, staring up at Louis with his ridiculous mouth hanging open and still a hint of laughter in his eyes. Like he’s tricked Louis into thinking this was his idea, waiting to break into his sly grin when Louis finally realises that this might have, in fact, been Harry’s plan all along.

Louis doesn’t normally like feeling duped, but he likes Harry, and thinks it might be worth it to see him underneath him like this; eyes boring into his and reflecting every movement Louis’ makes. So he tries not to let his face look too obviously deceived, biting his lip and pulling a few more long strokes before Harry screws his eyes shut and makes a strained noise at the top of his throat, lifting off the seat when he comes over Louis’ fist. Louis doesn’t bother to catch it, since they’re both kind of a mess already, letting Harry spurt stripes over his own stomach as he shakes through it, only feeling like he missed a small opportunity when none of it hits the upholstery.

Louis lets himself collapse half on top of Harry, fitting into the sliver of space he’s not taking up on the car seat. They lay there for a while, sweaty and sticky, panting into the silence and letting their heart rates come back to normal, Louis’ head still buried in Harry’s shoulder and Harry’s fingers tracing up and down Louis’ spine idly.

Harry lets out an eloquent, “Shit,” to the roof of the car once their breathing steadies, and Louis hides a smile next to Harry’s head.

“I like your come face,” he deadpans into his hair, and Harry erupts into laughter underneath him, his whole body shaking with it as he rolls heavily off the seat to find something to clean them off with.


“But I’m trying to give you my money. Is that not the point of offering the classes? To make money off of them?”

“Right, but like I said, this class has been full since June. So I can only put you on the roster for the one on Mondays and Wednesdays.”

“Uh, does that bloke with the nice hair teach on Mondays and Wednesdays, too?”

Louis looks up patiently from the information desk at the teenage girl staring down at him expectantly. She’s giving off a very strong odor of a very cheap fruity perfume, the highlights in her hair are an obnoxious, unnaturally red color and she’s smacking her gum repeatedly in Louis’ face and Louis is trying to remember he told himself to stop judging strangers so harshly.

“I don’t actually know any of our tennis instructors, so I-”

“Oh, you should!” The girl perks up. She can’t be more than sixteen. Her eyes go a little foggy and her voice a little dreamy. “He’s just- got these blue, blue eyes. Not like yours. No, like, deep gorgeous blue, and this shiny blonde hair and really nice-”

“Oh, I see,” Louis interrupts her before he gives into the urge to throw a stack of pamphlets in her face and softens his features, blinking up at her. “do we fancy the bloke with the nice hair a little?”

“Maybe...” The girl blushes, and Louis smiles and blinks harshly again as she pops her gum so loud it echoes through the entire lobby of the community center.

“A fit tennis instructor,” Louis says thoughtfully. “What d’you reckon he’s into?”

The color in her cheeks deepens and she giggles nervously, Louis thinks she’s definitely not over fifteen. “Wh- what do you mean?”

Louis rolls the wheels of his chair closer to the desk and then looks down his legs, surprised. “Oh, look this chair swivels, ha!” He says, twisting his hips to test it out a few times before addressing the girl again. “I’ll bet he likes it kinda kinky, you think? You’d have to be down to do some dirty stuff…”

“Like…what kind of stuff?” She squeaks, looking equally intrigued and terrified. Maybe she’s fourteen.

Louis swivels side to side in his desk chair, looking around like he doesn’t want anyone else in the completely empty lobby to hear him. “Oh, you know, the usual; Hot Dog On A Stick, Texas Hoedown. Maybe a Blue Baboon,” he lists in a giddy voice and the girls eyes widen. Fourteen and a half, hopefully. “Ever given a rim job?”

“A - a rim job?”

“Yeah,” he says casually, doing a complete circle in his chair and nearly sliding off the edge. “Like when you eat out someone’s arsehole? Lemme tell you.” He steadies himself and leans towards her with a serious expression, both hands on the edge of the counter in front of her. “It. Is. Amazing.” He says slowly, exaggerating every syllable.

Once the girl has swallowed her gum by accident and scampered out of the front doors with a hurried excuse of Mondays not working for her, after all, Louis presses the heels of his hands into his eyes for a moment and then sighs as he hears the front doors open again, looking up reluctantly.

It’s only Zayn, it turns out, so Louis doesn’t bother plastering on his usual manic community-friendly smile. “What are you doing here? Did you know about rim jobs when you were fourteen?”

“Of course I did.” Zayn leans against the desk casually when he reaches it. “Hello to you too, by the way.” He reaches over the counter and pinches one of Louis cheeks and Louis tries to give him a nipple twist in response, but Zayn‘s too quick. “I’m on my way to the shop, stopped by to tell you I’m going straight to Liam’s after work, so don’t wait up.”

“And you didn’t text me this because you couldn’t bear the thought of the next eighteen hours without seeing my smiling face?”

“No, I dropped my phone in the bathroom sink.” Says Zayn, shuffling through some of the pamphlets displayed on the counter.

“Again? Zayn, I would’ve thought you of all people would have perfected the art of taking dirty pictures of yourself in the mirror by now!” Louis shakes his head in disappointment.

“Whatever. So you gonna tell me why it is you left to buy a loaf of bread well before midnight last night, and didn’t tiptoe very loudly back through the flat until almost four in the morning?” Zayn changes the subject expertly, looking down at Louis with his eyebrows raised.

“Not a concern of yours, mum.” Says Louis airily, looking down and shuffling around some papers on the desk.

“Ah, I thought so. It doesn’t happen to have anything to do with why you’ve got a scarf ’round your neck in the middle of summer by any chance, does it?” He reaches over the counter again to pull at the spectacularly clashing bright red material wrapped tightly around Louis’ neck, revealing the edge of a bruise on his throat. “Well, well. Seems I’m not visiting our local market nearly enough, am I? What aisle do they sell those on, then?”

“Piss off,” Louis says, brushing Zayn’s hand away. “Don’t you have some drunk people’s poor decisions to draw or something?”

Zayn Laughs, “Actually they- oh, brilliant. Look, he matches!”

“What - oh.” Louis looks up just as Harry is walking through the front doors. He’s smiling at them brightly, seemingly unaware of the purple love bite on his collar bone, peeking out quite obviously from his loosely-buttoned plaid shirt.

“Hey.” Harry gives Louis a goofy grin when he reaches the counter.

Louis responds with an equally wide smile. “Hey.”

“Right,” says Zayn slowly, looking in between Harry and Louis with an amused quirk of his eyebrow. “I’ll just see you tomorrow then, Lou?”

“Yeah, see you. Have a good night at work,” Louis says, not looking at him. Zayn just gives a little chuckle and walks through the exit shaking his head.

“So this is the office, eh? I’ve never actually been inside here before,” Harry tells him, looking around the space with interest. His eyes land on the set of large glass doors off to one side that lead to the pool room and he smiles at his shoes briefly before looking back up at Louis.

“Oh, you’re missing out. Epicenter of culture here, really.” Louis says sarcastically. “I’m assuming you’ve come to sign up for our seniors painting lessons? Or a nice twelve-week course in the art of Jazzercise, perhaps?”

“Tempting.” Harry laughs and shakes his hair out before continuing, “I um, actually wanted to see what you were doing tonight?”

“What I’m doing tonight?” Louis asks blankly.

“Yeah, you know, I remembered I never took you up on that FIFA tournament we we’re talking about the other week. So I thought if you were free, or whatever. I promise my virtual football talents are loads better than my real life ones.” Harry bites his lip as he waits for Louis’ response.

“Th- um, that sounds, yeah. I mean, that’s sounds great,” Louis stutters and Harry grins impossibly wider. “Why don’t you come ‘round mine, we can order take-out or something, too. Um, I get out of here at seven, so anytime after that works.”

“Okay, just text me your address?” Harry says shyly. “I’ll let you get back to work, then.”

“Yeah, I better,” Louis says, gesturing to the empty room. “I’ll see you in a couple hours.”

Harry nods. “See you.” He waves before he too disappears through the front doors. Louis tries not to squeal and jump up and down like a little kid as soon as he’s out of sight, opting instead to grab a stack of pamphlets from the counter and fling them excitedly against the wall opposite him. They bounce off the corner, scattering across the floor in front of his desk and Louis hops around the counter to gather them up with a smile.


Harry knocks on the door to the flat at quarter-till eight and Louis quickly gathers up the rest of the dirty dishes he was attempting to wash from the kitchen sink and tosses them directly into the trash, before checking his reflection in the toaster and running to answer the door.

By 8:15, the Chinese takeout menu is laying forgotten under the coffee table, a game of FIFA is paused indefinitely on the television and Louis is sucking a love bite into Harry’s neck from where they’re laying horizontally on his couch.

“I like your place,” Harry says from underneath him.

“Thanks,” responds Louis, pulling off Harry’s neck to connect their mouths again.

Harry’s hands drift to squeeze Louis’ arse through his trousers, Louis notices they keep doing that. “Really spacious kitchen…nice furniture,” He tells Louis in between hot kisses. “I‘m glad I made that rubbish excuse to come over.” Louis smiles against Harry’s mouth, rocking his hips down experimentally. Harry’s breath catches slightly in his throat and he shuts up finally, pulling Louis closer by his arse and pushing his crotch against the leg slotted in between his thighs. Louis can feel Harry already getting hard through his jeans, despite his attempts to keep up a casual conversation.

Gripping Harry’s shirt, Louis pulls them up into a sitting position in the middle of the couch, Harry making quiet noises into his mouth as Louis grinds down harder onto his lap from this angle and works a few of the bottom buttons of Harry’s shirt open, sliding his hands underneath to pet at his skin.

“Remember when you sucked me off in the back of your Hyundai?” Louis mutters into Harry’s mouth.

Harry hums sarcastically against his lips. “Vaguely, I think. You like it when I did that?”

“I really fucking liked it, yeah.” He pauses to run his tongue along the ridge of Harry’s teeth before continuing, “I was thinking I should probably return the favor, you know. It’s only polite.”

“And if there’s anything you have, it’s good manners,” says Harry as Louis tugs back hard on his hair, exposing Harry’s neck and grazing his teeth over the fresh mark there.

“Good manners and next to no gag reflex.” Louis breathes, biting gently at Harry‘s skin again and rocking against him slowly.

Harry’s breath catches again. “You’re such a fucking tease, just do it already.” He still sounds amused through his whine.

Louis pulls his face back to meet Harry’s eyes, smirking. “Do what? What d’you want me to do, Harry?”

“You know what,” he groans as Louis starts nipping softly at his swollen lower lip.

“Tell me.” Urges Louis hotly against the corner of Harry’s mouth, lowering his arm in between them to push the heel of his hand down on the zipper of Harry’s jeans.

“Louis.” Harry lets out another impatient groan and looks him straight in the eyes. “I want you to suck my dick…please.” he adds politely.

Louis smirks again. “Yeah, okay.”

Then he’s pushing Harry back by the shoulders and lifting his hands above his head to pin them back against the arm of the couch. Harry complies right away, gripping his hands around the curve of the armrest. Louis bites the corner of his lip briefly, because he almost doesn’t know what to do with this body now that it’s stretched out long and pliant and waiting underneath him.

Cutting the hesitancy before Harry can see it move to Louis’ face, he lowers his mouth to where Harry’s shirt is hanging half-open. “You’re the worst,” Harry mumbles, smiling grudgingly and still keeping his wrists crossed loosely over his head when Louis’ hands leave them to drag down his torso. Louis doesn’t know what the fuck was he thinking; he definitely knows what to do with this.

“You love it,” he says quietly, rolling a nipple between his teeth gently, swirling his tongue around it when he hears Harry’s heart rate speed up slightly in his chest next to Louis’ ear. He licks slowly across Harry’s chest and presses biting kisses down his ribcage and abdomen. Harry arches off the couch cushion a little when Louis’ mouth trails along the skin just above the denim of his jeans, scratching his fingers through the hair trailing underneath Harry’s belly button and Louis smirks again as he shifts down to unbutton Harry’s trousers while he sucks another bruise into the pale skin above his hip bone.

It has been a while, but Louis’ still given a lot of head in his life by now, a good percentage on this very couch, in fact. But he looks at Harry as he pulls his jeans off his legs and tosses them on the floor, with his swollen lips and his flushed skin, watching Louis with already half-closed eyes as he bows down to press his open mouth along the line of Harry’s dick through his boxers, breathing hot air over the damp cotton, and Louis thinks Harry already looks obscene like this, but he wants more; He thinks he wants to see this boy writhing underneath him, wants to make that pale skin flush from pink to deep red, wants to see those slick lips pulled between his teeth and the bright green of those eyes disappear behind blown black pupils.

Hooking his fingers in Harry‘s waistband, Louis pulls his pants down to his thighs and Harry’s cock lays heavy and hard against his stomach as he shifts one of his legs to fall off the side of the tiny sofa. Louis wonders briefly if he and Harry are destined to have sex in only the smallest, most uncomfortable spaces before he’s bending down once again to lick a long stripe with the flat of his tongue up the underside of Harry’s cock. He grips the base in his fist and hovers breathing over the head for a teasing second, looking up at Harry, who’s still watching him and biting down hard on his lower lip, before Louis sucks the tip into his mouth.

He works over him slowly at first, quickening his pace when he tastes Harry’s precome on his lips, moving with his hand where his mouth hasn’t reached yet. It takes a minute for Louis to slacken his jaw and take Harry deep, deeper, feeling the back of his throat protest weakly as the tip of his nose brushes against the hair at the bottom of Harry’s stomach, but he keeps at it, because he may be a little bit of a tease, but Louis doesn’t lie about things as important to his life as his gag reflex.

Whimpering loudly, Harry lifts off the cushion a fraction and Louis digs his thumbs into the skin on either side of his face, holding Harry’s hips down firmly as Louis’ mouth bobs over his cock. Harry complies easily, sinking back onto the sofa but still straining and squirming just enough to force Louis into having to keep pinning him down. Louis pulls off with a deep breath, one hand replacing his mouth swiftly while the other continues pressing finger-shaped bruises into Harry’s hip bones.

“I want- shit. I wanna come, Lou.” Harry throws his head back against the armrest before looking down at Louis again with dark eyes. And he’s not saying it like it’s a warning, not telling Louis he’s going to yet. Harry’s saying it like - like he’s asking Louis when he can do it. Like it‘s not up to Harry to decide, and fuck - this is really working out even better than Louis could’ve anticipated. Well worth the way his leg is half-numb and asleep, crammed underneath him on the couch.

He rests his forehead against Harry’s thigh, panting onto his skin as he eases his hand on Harry’s cock just a bit, just enough to bring him back from the edge, even though Louis can tell that Harry is capable of breaking his grip if he wanted to right now, could take over and fuck into Louis’ fist at his own pace. But Harry doesn’t, and Louis glances up at him as he nips his teeth along the topmost part of Harry’s thighs before ghosting his mouth across his balls, feeling him shutter above him, still gripping the arm of the sofa tightly, eyes screwed shut now and mouth hanging open, emitting small breathy sounds in rhythm with Louis’ hand.

Louis licks his tongue out teasingly, pressing the tip against Harry’s slit and swirling it around his head. Harry bites his lip like he’s trying not to say something, but Louis suddenly wants him to; wants him to ask for it again. “Tell me.” His voice isn’t as wrecked yet as he knows it can be.

Fuck, please,” Harry whispers quickly, eyes still tight and teeth scraping right back over his bottom lip once the words are out.

Louis takes him all the way back down in one slick motion, breathing through his nose for as long as he can, only pulling halfway off before deepthroating him again, pressing his tongue along the underside of Harry’s cock as he feels his skin burning hot underneath the fingers still holding Harry to the cushions. Slackening his grip, Louis looks up at Harry again through his fringe with burning eyes, urging him on and letting Harry’s hips lift off the couch finally, taking over Louis’ rhythm as he comes down the back of his throat a second later.

Louis swallows around him and lifts his head slowly, swirling his tongue around Harry’s length and giving one last long lick when he gets to the tip to catch every bit of come in between his lips.

He sits up and looks at Harry, arms still bent above his head where Louis put them, shirt still hanging half-on, breathing heavily and staring up at Louis with a weak, glazed-over expression. He looks completely undone against the cushions. Louis wipes the back of his hand over his mouth and hops off the couch onto his feet, satisfied.

“I think we should order pizza, instead.” He says casually, trying to hide the roughness in his voice and the way he‘s wobbling a bit as the blood flow returns to his legs. Harry lets out a feeble half-laugh but doesn’t move otherwise. Louis leans down to pull his boxers back up his thighs to a more respectable position and gives Harry’s dick a fond little pat through the material. He makes another barely audible whine through his lips and Louis smiles as he struts into the kitchen to order dinner.


Louis thinks he might have more sex in the next few weeks than he had his entire first two years of University, and he’s not too modest to admit that’s saying something. A few days after lunch-break handjobs become an established tradition, Louis finds that Harry has stopped wearing pants under his jeans all together for better convenience, and after Louis loses a pair of his boxers under the seat of Harry’s car, he follows suit. They start meeting before work in addition to their lunches some days. Louis doesn’t remember who suggested they do this, but he doesn’t question it, and when he gets a text from Harry one morning saying he’ll drop him off at the community center on his way to the store, Louis doesn’t act like it’s anything out of the ordinary, and they snog in the parking lot until they’re both late for their shifts and Louis is climbing hurriedly out of Harry’s car with ruffled hair, calling back to him about getting those good tuna sandwiches from Niall for lunch.

He tries his best when he’s not with Harry to focus on the rest of his life. Surely there were things he spent his free time thinking about before he met Harry, there had to have been. It’s just Louis can‘t seem to remember any of them when Harry‘s got such a pretty dick he can think about, instead. So he tries, but probably fails, to pretend his days haven’t been narrowed down to dark curls tangled between his fingers and slick pink lips and big hands running up the inside of his thighs and kneading frantically at his skin.

He calls his mum every few days like always and his few friends from back home, but doesn’t mention Harry, afraid if he does then they’ll insist on making it a thing, and once it becomes a thing, then it becomes a thing that will eventually end. And as much as he can pretend otherwise, Harry is next to the only thing Louis has going for him at present, and he doesn’t quite want to think about him having an expiration date yet.

“Your phone keeps buzzing, I think you‘ve got a text.”

Louis looks up the piece of toast he’s got balanced on his lap. They’re sitting in Harry’s car on a Wednesday morning, Louis has still got a few minutes until he has to clock in for work, so he’s finishing his breakfast in the passengers seat while Harry plays a game on his phone. “Who is it?”

“I dunno, I’ve been pressing ignore.” Harry tells him, ducking his head guiltily. Louis rolls his eyes and snatches his phone from Harry, who makes grabby hands in protest. Louis puts it in his back pocket and slips over the middle of the car, piece of toast tumbling to the floor, to sit on Harry’s thighs, facing him in his lap.

“You didn’t like that game anyway,” Louis says smoothly, wrapping his hands around the back of Harry’s neck and leaning down to kiss the pout off his face.

Harry smiles against his mouth and kisses him back. “No, I didn’t like it anyway,” he agrees, resting his hands on Louis’ waist just as his pocket vibrates. “Are you gonna get that, then?”

“No, ignore it,” Louis mutters into his jaw after it buzzes once again. Harry pulls the phone out of his back pocket and holds it up above Louis’ shoulder to read.

“Who’s Archie?”

“Who? I don’t know. Ignore it,” Louis says again, teasing Harry’s bottom lip with his tongue.

“He seems to want to know you,” Harry says, scrolling through Louis’ phone with a smirk. “Oh, quite eager, this bloke.”

Louis gives up and sits back on Harry’s legs with a sigh. “What are you going on about?” he grabs the phone out of Harry’s hands.

Hello, this is Archie. I am wondering if you would like to accompany me to dinner at the weekend?

Louis looks down confused at the screen and reads the next text:

I do hope it’s not to forward to contact you like this, I was told you prefer casual interactions.

And a third:

Your flat mate tells me spaghetti is your favorite. Coincidently, there is a lovely Italian restaurant just around the corner from my condo that I visit quite often. If -

There’s more, but Louis gets too bored and too confused to finish reading it. “Who the fuck - oh, God. Liam!”

“Liam wants to take you out to dinner? Is Archie like, his code name or something? Keep Zayn from finding out you two are planning romantic candle-lit meals behind his back?” Harry quips.

“Shit, he didn‘t mention candles, did he?” Louis says hurriedly, scrolling back through the texts. “It’s Liam’s brother or cousin or something. They’ve been trying to, erm - set me up with him. I guess. But god, I didn’t think he’d go and give some stranger my phone number!”

“And your dietary preferences,” Harry adds, laughing at Louis’ exasperation.

Louis hits him weakly on the shoulder. “Seriously, this is so embarrassing, though. What am I supposed to say?” He asks, frowning down at the phone screen uneasily.

Harry is getting more amused and more unhelpful by the second. “Uh, you say yes, obviously. He’s probably loaded. Maybe he’ll hire a private chef to come cook you spaghetti in his giant condo while you two get pedicures and drink expensive champagne.” He chuckles, and pulls Louis closer by his waist to nip playfully at his jaw. Louis smiles in-spite of himself at the tickle and swats Harry’s head away.

“He’s an Economics major, and related to Liam Payne. I highly doubt trying to hold a conversation with the guy would be worth a good plate of pasta.” He grabs Harry’s wrist and looks down at his watch. “Shit. I’m gonna be late again, I’ll see you later.” He says, giving Harry a less-than-chaste parting kiss and a tug of his hair before climbing off of his lap and out of the drivers side door. He hears the car start back up behind him as he walks quickly through the parking lot.

“Make sure he knows you only put out if you get dessert!” Harry yells through his open window. Louis flips him the finger over his shoulder as he drives away.


A few hours later when Louis walks over to the market for lunch, he barely rounds the corner before Harry is pulling him by the wrist into the store and through to the small single customer bathroom in the back, without so much as a hello. He pushes a confounded Louis in front of him through the bathroom door and pulls him back against a wall to stick his tongue into Louis’ mouth as soon as it’s shut and locked behind them.

“It’s kind of gross in here,” Louis says, voice going high-pitched as Harry drops almost immediately to his knees between him and the wall and shoves Louis’ trousers down in one swift motion. He thinks he hears Harry mumble something like fuck it before licking his palm and gripping Louis tightly around his hardening cock. He lets out a surprised groan of pleasure as Harry jerks his slick hand up and down his length, working Louis to a full erection almost embarrassingly fast.

“You have to be quiet,” Harry warns, gesturing towards the door quickly before taking him in his mouth, and then Louis is a little lost to the world. He doesn’t really care that they’re in a public restroom with a diaper changing station or that he has to be back at work in 45 minutes or that Harry still has his stupid orange apron tied around his waist, and is looking up at him in a way that is far too wide-eyed and questioning and innocent for someone who’s currently doing what he’s doing to Louis; all he can feel is long fingers digging into his thigh and Harry’s mouth hot and wet, working his cock with his special kind of determined enthusiasm. Louis braces his forearms against the wall in front of him, his mouth falling open in silent moans as he tries to let that feeling take over.

Looking up at him through his dark fan of lashes, Harry leans back so he’s lined up, shoulders to hips with the tiles of the wall, sitting back on his high-tops tucked underneath his legs and bringing Louis with him by the back of his thighs. Louis feels nails pierce his skin as his hips are pulled closer still, and then Harry is panting through his red, red lips and resting his head against the wall and tilting his chin back accommodatingly. He drops his arms to his side and looks up eagerly at Louis, who just stares down, hesitating at Harry’s lips.

Do it.” Harry’s voice is less than a whisper, Louis’ not even sure if he had meant for the words to actually leave his mouth, but his eyes remain locked up, steady and abiding as Louis pushes the head of his cock past his lips and Harry sucks it into his mouth immediately, moaning appreciatively around him. Louis pulls out a fraction before pushing in deeper, again and again, nudging the back of Harry’s throat and feeling the tight muscles constrict around the head of his cock, but Harry never lets up, just sucks in small amounts of air through his nose and mouth when he can and braces against the wall behind him.

Louis moves faster, stifling noises into his arm when Harry’s tongue catches under his dick with every movement He watches Harry, swallowing around him and looking up at Louis with wide, watery eyes. Just taking it - asking for it, really, and Louis is definitely, gone now.

He pulls his cock all the way out of Harry’s mouth and Harry groans in protest, lifting his head away from the wall to follow it and Louis slips a hand into Harry’s hair to ease him back again. Harry complies and looks up eagerly into his eyes as Louis slowly slides the tip of his cock through the wet spit along his swollen lower lip. Harry keeps his head still against the tiles, but flicks his tongue out teasingly where Louis’ dick is playing at the edge of his mouth, straining to kitten lick at the very tip while it drags saliva messily around his lips. Yeah, so utterly and completely gone.

“God, you’re killing me, kid,” Louis breathes out quietly, resting his forehead against the wall enough to see Harry looking up at him, eyes glazed and curls still pulled between Louis’ fingers, as the corners of his open mouth draw into a filthy, unmistakably satisfied grin, and it might be the most obscene thing Louis has ever seen in his life. And then Harry winks, another slow, deliberate drop of one eyelid and yeah - that is quite enough. It is so quite enough that Louis almost wants to laugh again in disbelief, but he holds off.

He tightens his fingers in Harry’s hair and snaps his hips forward again, watching his cock fill up the inside of Harry’s cheeks as it slides past them over and over.

Then Louis‘ cursing, forgetting to keep his voice low and burying himself deep in Harry’s mouth as he comes down his throat. Harry closes his eyes and takes it all, swallowing around him again and gagging only a little before Louis finally pulls back and Harry slumps, loose and pliant against the bathroom wall.

Jesus Christ.” Louis pants after he’s caught his breath enough to speak actual words, his head still swimming as he rips some tissue off the roll by the toilet and hands a bundle to Harry.

“I definitely don’t think he had anything to do with that.” Harry says as he wipes the spit from around his mouth. His voice is more wrecked than Louis has ever heard it, coming out in deep rasps, and he worries for a second before Harry looks up at him from the floor with a sly smile and his shoulders shake up and down weakly, silently laughing at his own joke. His head lolls to the side as he takes in their surroundings. “It’s kinda gross in here,” he observes with a half-dazed grin.

After a minute, Louis finally feels stable enough on his own legs to pull Harry up onto his and he wobbles a bit as they both straighten up to look in the mirror above the sink, and then burst into muffled laughter at their reflections. “Oh, brilliant. No one will expect a thing,” Louis says, reaching out to smooth down Harry’s curls where they’re springing up in twenty different directions.

Sadly there’s not much he can do about Harry’s wet eyelashes clinging together or the color that wont seem to fade from both of their skin, or just either of their general fucked out appearances, so they head back into the store, only garnering a questioning look as they pass a mother and her stroller waiting in the hall for the restroom to become unoccupied. Louis realises with regret that Harry’s apron might be hiding a situation in his trousers that they don’t have the time to take care of right now, and makes a mental note as he skips back to work to think of a way to make it up to him.


Jesus, you guys! In the kitchen, really?”

Zayn throws his hands up in the air and Liam adverts his eyes from where Louis currently has Harry bent over the open refrigerator door from behind, one hand down the front of his trousers and the other feeding a purple popsicle into his mouth. Louis sighs deeply when he sees them in the entry way and pulls his hand out of Harry’s jeans.

“It wasn’t working anyway,” he tells them, disappointed. “Harry wouldn’t stop laughing.”

Harry is, in fact still giggling madly while he retrieves his t-shirt from the top of the fridge where he threw it after Louis cornered him as he was putting dinner away. “It was cold! And I told you: I’m not fond of grape.”

Louis rolls his eyes. “Well, Zayn ate the last cherry!” He points the purple popsicle accusingly at Zayn across the kitchen before taking a lick himself, then throwing it into the sink, grimacing.

“Oh, I’m really sorry for ruining your dessert plans, truly.” Scoffs Zayn, shrugging off his jacket and signaling Liam that it’s safe to look now. “I’ll keep that in mind next time I buy you snacks with my own money.”

Louis blows him a kiss and heads into the living room, Harry following behind. He sits down crossed legged in the middle of the couch and Harry settles down on the floor, leaning back against Louis’ knees. “We made - well. Harry made spaghetti earlier, if you want some?” Louis tells Zayn and Liam as he pulls up a random chunk of Harry’s hair and starts to braid it.

“Cheers, mate!” Liam calls to Harry from the kitchen. A few minutes later he and Zayn join them at the coffee table with bowls of pasta, eyeing Louis worriedly as Harry’s curls become more and more knotted between his fingers. Harry, however, has his eyes closed dreamily and is smiling softly. Peaceful and oblivious.

“Leee-yum,” Louis starts innocently, as the thought comes back to him. “You wouldn’t happen to have any idea as to why I’ve been receiving messages on my phone from someone who I am quite sure I did not give my number to, would you?”

Liam tenses, noodle hanging half out of his mouth, and Zayn has to interject. “I told him it’d be alright, Lou.”

Liam nods, “Archie really is nice, Louis, and I- I wasn’t sure of what your, erm - situation was, so I figured I would pass along your number, you know - just incase you decided you were interested…” Liam’s eyes dart to where Harry is still leaning blissfully into the fingernails scratching his scalp. Louis thinks he might’ve fallen asleep. Or perhaps into a coma; He’ll check in a minute.

“Okay. Well, you two can be responsible for un-passing it along then, because I’m not going to deal with rejecting the poor bloke just because you refused to listen when I said I wasn’t interested.” He tells them sternly. “Set him up with a nice government employee, or a physisis…cis…tist - whatever. Or like, a med student, maybe.”

“Are those supposed to sound undesirable or something? You’d be lucky to bag a future doctor, you know! Think of all the stuff they could buy you if you stuck around long enough…” Zayn trails off, considering, and then he and Liam become engaged in a deep conversation that Louis stops listening to; something about Liam changing his major to one more financially advantageous.

Harry has his eyes open again and is leaning his head all the way back in Louis’ lap, smiling up at him with a ring of purple food coloring still stained around his mouth. Louis pinches Harry’s dimples and squishes his cheeks together so he looks like some sort of puffy baby cartoon fish. He looks up at Louis like he could be receiving a deep tissue massage at a day spa in Tahiti.

“Do you think there’s anyone at the park right now?” Harry asks suddenly and Louis pauses, narrowing his eyes before he catches up.

“If there is, you just pretend you’re a drunk hobo or something. Ask if they have any whiskey on them, they’re bound to leave eventually.” Harry stands up quickly, his grin turning wicked, and Louis hops up too, grabbing his shoes from where he kicked them off carelessly behind the couch.

“Oi! Where are you going?” Zayn calls after them as they race each other towards the front door.

“You guys are the meanest parents ever!” Louis yells over his shoulder as he and Harry scamper into the hallway outside laughing. “I’m running away to America to sell my body for money and get addicted to heroin!” He slams the door behind him for dramatic effect.


Louis realises sometime in the first week of August, when he’s licking frosting from a supermarket cupcake out of Harry’s mouth behind the building, that he and Harry have yet to actually have sex on a bed. He’s sucked him off in the alley behind the market before - when Harry had decided he was going to eat his banana a bit too enthusiastically at lunch - and they’ve snogged or otherwise gotten each other off in a dozen places from here to the community center. Mostly in Harry’s car, but occasionally under the slides at the park or up against the goal posts at the football pitch in the middle of the night, or on top of a washing machine in the deserted Launderette when Louis said he’d pay Harry six quid to do all of his laundry for the week. They had even returned to the swimming pool a few nights prior to give it another go, to great success.

They’ve certainly christened nearly every other available surface of Louis’ flat by now, aside from Zayn’s room, which Louis has been kind enough to stay out of all together for once. And it’s not as if Harry hasn’t spend any time at all on Louis’ bed; they’ve eaten pot noodles on it at two in the morning and taken mid-afternoon and post-orgasm naps in it. Harry had apologized profusely for dripping paint all over Louis’ sheets when Louis asked him to paint stars on the ceiling above his bed and Harry had said yes and that his landlord would probably be furious.

There was once, the week before, when they had made it close, at least. Louis had lost his contact solution and had to answer the door in his black frames and Harry had followed him all the way into his bedroom in silence to help look for it, before abruptly scooping Louis up under his knees and shoving him against the nearest wall. But it wasn’t until after Harry had kissed him hard, crowding so close to Louis that they were both panting and coming before they could even get their clothes all the way off, that they finally did (after a shower and endless jokes from Louis about Harry’s raging teenage hormones) fall into Louis’ bed, Harry borrowing a too-short pair of Louis’ sweats and mentioning off-handedly that he should wear his glasses more often.

He doesn’t think Harry has noticed anything odd, doesn’t seem to mind anyway, if he has. What they’re doing is fun and mind-blowing levels of good and maybe Louis gets off on the semi-public aspect to some of it, but he thinks Harry probably does too, so he’s not concerned. What he is concerned about is his other realization, which is that he has barely spent any friend time with his best friend in weeks, only really seeing Zayn in passing while he rushes to work or comes home too exhausted at night to wait up for him.

Louis texts him one afternoon about having a date night when he’s free next and they go out to eat the following evening, just the two of them. Zayn catches him up on meeting Liam’s parents and his plans to stay with him in Wolverhampton for a few days before Liam’s classes start again, and tells Louis about the stupid tattoos he’s done recently and Louis smiles, making quips about Zayn becoming someone who gets taken home to meet a guy’s family and laughs with him about his work stories until they’re halfway through their burgers and basket of chips.

“So you’re coming to the thing at the shop this weekend, right? Gonna bring your boyfriend?” Zayn asks him teasingly after he starts on his second beer.

“Probably not.” Louis says sheepishly. “And he’s not my boyfriend.”

“Why not?”

“I don’t think he’d want to go. I’m only going because you told me there’d be free beer…”

Zayn rolls his eyes. “No, I mean why isn’t he your boyfriend. Since when?”

“He’s just…not. He never has been.” Louis shrugs.

Zayn looks at him doubtingly. “So you two are what, like fuck buddies?”

Louis cringes at the term. “That sounds so cheap. We’re just like, friends and stuff.”

“Friends and stuff,” Zayn mocks, rolling his eyes again.

“Friends who like, share orgasms.” Says Louis.

“Yeah. That’s called a boyfriend.”

“You of all people should know that‘s not true, Zayn.”

“Are you guys…I mean, I know you’re not seeing anyone else,” Zayn starts, and Louis at least has enough dignity to give him a half-hearted offended look. “but does Harry have any other friends he shares orgasms with?”

Louis frowns, he hadn’t really thought about that. Harry’s never acted weird about mentioning past relationships in passing, but Louis suddenly finds himself trying to recall noticing anything that would point to something in the present. He shakes his head quickly, not really wanting to let his mind wander to the thought of what Harry is like with other people. Or who those people might be. “I don’t know,” he says quietly, trying not to let his face look like it’s putting too much thought into the idea.

“You should probably know that. You haven’t like, asked him?”

“No, I- he’s probably not seeing anyone else. I don’t know.”

“Okay, so you’re not together. You’re just possibly exclusive fuck buddies.” Zayn says thoughtfully. “I just don’t remember you spending every second of every day with any of your past casual sex mates.”

“We do not!” Louis says indignantly. “I’m spending the whole night with you, aren‘t I?”

“And where’s Harry tonight?”

“At a - I, um. I don’t know.” Louis lies, he wonders if he should start taking count of Zayn’s eye rolls on the side of his napkin, incase there ends up being a cash prize for the most judgmental facial expressions made during one conversation or something.

“I came home the other day while you were at work and he was napping on our couch, Louis.”

Louis looks down and picks at the remnants of his burger. “Was he? Funny, that…”

“How’d Harry even get inside the flat when you weren’t home?”

“Probably broke in.” Offers Louis, still not meeting Zayn’s eyes completely. “Maybe you should’ve called the police…or-”

Zayn cuts him off with another impatient glance at the ceiling. “Lou, seriously. I don’t mind at all,” he assures him quickly. “Harry’s a really cool guy. But you two have been shagging for like, a while now, right? And you see him every day and you watch movies together and he cooks delicious meals for you and your friends. He’s your boyfriend, and you should probably bring that to his attention sooner or later.”

Louis rolls his eyes this time. “Please, Zayn. You and I have fucked, and we see each other everyday and watch movies and happen to eat food in the same room occasionally.” He says, gesturing to the set up on the table between them. “Doesn’t mean I’m your boyfriend.”

“Uh, I’m sorry-” Zayn says, blinking and holding up a hand. “But when have you and I ever fucked?”

“Well we haven’t technically. But basically, you know.” Louis says, waving a hand airily and taking a sip of his drink.

“No. I definitely do not know, Louis.”

Louis sighs, he’s pretty sure he’s explained this before. “You know that girl you were dating when we met?”

Zayn nods slowly. “The red head? Yeah, but she broke it off with me because I kissed you instead of her on New Years Eve, not because I had sex with you…”

“Right,” Louis takes a deep breath before continuing. “But after Red Head dumped you, she dated that one guy with the weird nose piercing in my ceramics class, and then they broke up because she caught him having sex with that kid with the blue hair who works at the Starbucks on campus. Really knows how to pick ‘em, that girl - anyway. Blue Hair dated Greg for three months, and I fucked Greg like-” He lets out a laugh. “at least seventeen times. Probably even a few more after he and Blue Hair actually broke up. So, you see?”

Zayn just stares at him over his bottle with narrowing eyes as he takes a long drink of his beer, and then he sets the bottle down on the table slowly. “Oh my god. We’ve totally fucked.” He says, eyes wide and mouth hanging open like he‘s having the revelation of his lifetime. “What would Liam think…Oh my god, do you think I have to tell him?!”

Louis shrugs an aloof shoulder and pops another chip in his mouth. “If you think he can take it. I don’t have any experience with these types of things.”

Zayn snaps out of it quickly. “Right, because you’ve never had a real boyfriend. Especially not now.” he says sarcastically.

“Ugh,” Louis says, slumping his shoulders. “Listen, I just- I like Harry, okay. Obviously. But I don’t need to call him my boyfriend to enjoy myself and I don’t think he does either, so why would I even bother bringing it up? This isn’t some high school movie where we have to talk about our feelings and shit to make it real, okay?”

Louis isn’t raising his voice, and his tone remains casual, but Zayn still looks a bit taken aback. “Okay Lou, yeah.” He says cautiously. “Sorry. I won’t bring it up again, m’kay?”

Louis nods. “We’re adults. Sort of. Well, Harry is a teenager, technically, but…” He concludes lamely. He tries to hide his slight frown and the crease between his eyebrows as he pours a packet of salt on the table and plays in it with his finger. Zayn seems to notice, though, so he doesn’t say another word on the subject, and they sit in silence for a minute.

“I want dessert,” he says to Louis after the mood lightens itself a bit. “Go tell the waitress it’s my birthday so she brings us the free ice cream sundae.”

“I already told the people at the front it was our anniversary so they’d bring us the free appetizer.” Louis reminds him.

“Fuck. I really want ice cream...” Zayn purses his lips and pops his head over their booth to peer around the restaurant, “There’s the waitress. I’ll flirt with her, just - act…straight, or something.”

Louis’ not sure what he needs to do to act straight, so he settles on taking another swig of his beer while Zayn chats up their pretty waitress. It works, they get a banana split to share and Zayn lets Louis have all three cherries and when they get home he lets Louis cuddle with him in his bed too, and Louis thinks, as he drifts off to sleep to the sound of Zayn reading out loud from whatever book he’s currently in the middle of, that he’s gone to bed every night this month happier than the last.


“So there’s this thing Zayn says I have to go to at the tattoo shop on Friday. They’ve been in business for a year now, so the owner is gonna buy drinks and stuff for all the artists and their friends to celebrate.”

“That’s nice of him,” replies Harry, not taking his eyes off the television in front of them, where Jack and Rose are kissing under the stars on the deck of the Titanic.

“Yeah, and he told them all to invite whoever, so Zayn wanted to know if you would feel like going?”

Harry smiles and looks over at Louis where he’s curled on the other side of the couch. “Zayn wanted to know?”

Louis rolls his eyes. “I also wanted to know. It’ll probably just be a bunch of pretentious artist types, you know, so -”

“So just my type.” Finishes Harry, grinning wider.

“Ha. Yeah, but I mean it will probably be kind of boring, we wouldn’t really know anyone but Zayn,” Louis continues. “and Liam, you know. And they’ll want to show you where they met and we’ll all have to listen to that story for the tenth time, so I get it if you don’t -”

“Yeah, I‘ll go with you.”

“You will?” Says Louis apprehensively.

“Yeah, sounds fun.” Harry shrugs. “Free beer, you know.”

“Right…free beer,” Louis says quietly, turning back towards the movie just as the iceberg crashes into the side of ship. Harry keeps his eyes on Louis from across the couch and reaches a hand out to shove his knee lightly.

“And it’ll be fun to go out, too. We haven‘t really done that lately,” he says. “Hung out with other people, not on your couch. You know…in public.”

Louis looks over at and Harry and sees he has a teasing expression on his face. “Well it’s very difficult to give blowjobs in public, Harry.” He says, scooting over on the seat to sit right up against Harry’s side.

“Don’t I know it.” Quips Harry, smiling down at him fondly.

“So you’ll go then?” Louis asks, a bit more serious.

“Yeah, I’ll go.” He answers, lifting his arm to lay on the back of the couch behind Louis and turning his head to face the screen again.
Louis lifts his chin up to press a chaste kiss to where Harry’s dimple usually is and sees it appear in response as Harry grins a little, but keeps his eyes on the movie. Louis smiles and repeats the action on the tip of Harry’s nose, and then on the top of his shoulder, and in his hair on the side of his head before kissing his cheek again, lingering a bit longer this time. He curls closer to Harry’s side and moves his mouth to his jaw bone and then to his ear, and Harry quirks an eyebrow in response. “Can I help you with something?”

“I dunno, you tell me,” says Louis, biting gently on Harry’s ear lobe.

Harry laughs softly. “Lou. The movie’s only half over.” He says with a faux air of seriousness.

“I know, but m’horny.” Louis whispers into Harry‘s hair, and brings his fingers to trace lightly against the side of his waist.

“Pretty sure we’ve had sex twice today.”

Louis moves his mouth to the skin under Harry‘s ear. “Pretty sure you know we can do three.”

“The Titanic is sinking. Everyone in the engine room just drown!” Harry exclaims, pointing at the television.

“Remember Leo all sweaty in the back of that car, though?” Continues Louis, shifting his hand down to Harry’s thigh.

“You’re ridiculous. Control yourself.” Harry ignores Louis’ seduction techniques, shaking his head and continuing to grin at the television.

“C’mon, Kid,” Louis whines, resting his chin on Harry’s shoulder and looking up at him with pleadingly innocent eyes. “You really gonna make me go have a wank alone in the bathroom while you sit in my living room?”

Harry laughs and considers for a moment, still watching water flood into the lower deck, before answering, “You don’t have to go in the bathroom if you don’t want to. Do it right here.”

“What?” Asks Louis.

“Do it right here, if you like.” Harry replies simply and his eyes dart to the side quickly, face still locked forward, to test Louis’ reaction, and then, “I - I’ll watch.”

Louis sits up a little straighter and looks at him. “You want to watch me masturbate on the sofa?”

“Sure.” Says Harry, scratching his nose casually. “I mean unless you’re too shy, or whatever…” He challenges, still side eyeing Louis with his lips slightly upturned into a smirk.

Louis stares at his profile for a second, narrows his eyes and then digs his fingernails into Harry’s thigh briefly. “Alright, then,” he says, sitting up on his knees.

Harry grabs the remote to click off the TV a bit too eagerly and moves up to sit on the armrest, watching Louis leaning against the other and quickly regaining his nonchalant demeanor. “Go on,” he says expectantly.

The two of them fix each other with intent glares from opposite ends of the couch for a long moment before Louis straightens up and shucks his shirt off quickly, not breaking eye contact with Harry. He shifts his hips down the cushion a bit to get in a more comfortable position and pops the button open on his trousers tentatively. Harry is still staring down at him from the arm of the couch with apparent ease, but Louis notices as he slowly pulls on his zipper, that Harry hasn’t blinked in far longer than what can be considered normal.

Right. He’s doing this. As long as this is still some sort of game or challenge, or just a case of being too stubborn to say no, then Louis thinks he can do this. No problem.

Harry’s eyes follow Louis’ hand as he trails his fingers lightly across his chest and over his nipples and down the center of his stomach. Louis exhales softly as his hand lowers into his open fly, he and Harry are both still in the habit of not wearing underwear most days, so there’s nothing in between Louis’ hand and his dick, already more than half hard, and he let’s a quiet groan escape the back of his throat at the first touch.

He hooks his fingers in the waist of his jeans, pushes them down to his knees and is sure he hears Harry intake a small breath as Louis takes himself loosely in one hand, but Louis closes his eyes, relaxes into it and works his hand slow and teasing up and down his cock.

He figures if he has an audience, he might as well try to make a show of it.

When Louis opens his eyes again, it’s to see Harry with a slightly dazed, but somehow still intensely concentrated expression on his face, and his lower lip pulled tight between his teeth. He’s got both of his hands shoved underneath him, between his bum and the armrest and Louis wonders if that’s to keep him from helping Louis or to refrain Harry from touching himself, too, but the last thought is enough to make Louis quicken his own hand around himself.

He swipes a thumb over his head to use the precome gathering there to ease the rough friction his hand is creating and doesn’t try to hold in the moan that falls out of his lips while he stares directly at Harry’s dark eyes.

“What are you thinking about,” whispers Harry suddenly. His voice is hoarse and so quiet it would’ve been inaudible if Louis wasn’t watching his reactions so closely.

Louis thinks about mentioning something about a Dicaprio threesome to ease the heavy tension that has settled into the space between them, and insure Louis that he still has control over this situation, even in his current exposed state. But then Louis opens his mouth and realises suddenly that he’s in the exact spot where Harry had laid sprawled across the couch the first night he‘d come over to the flat, what feels like so many weeks ago. He remembers how unbelievably good it felt when he had Harry’s mouth hot around him the night before, and how badly Louis wanted to return the favor. How Harry had become completely wrecked under him when he did.

“I-” Louis breathes, bringing his free hand down to ghost over his balls and the inside of his thighs, looking Harry in the eyes again. “fuck, Harry.” He knows he wants to say it, wants to tell Harry that of course he’s thinking about him. Because Harry is all Louis has been capable of thinking about for months, so why would right now be any different? He wants to, but he can’t make the words come out, can’t hear himself say them out loud.

Harry’s right hand slips out a couple of inches from where it’s squeezed between him and the armrest. He pauses as Louis regains a bit of composure momentarily to glance at Harry’s hand with his eyes, before trailing them back up to Harry’s face and shaking his head firmly. Harry makes a small whimpering noise and moves his hand back reluctantly, his knee twitches uncomfortably, but he doesn’t take his eyes off of the muscles tightening in Louis’ arm and abdomen as he thrusts into his fist, hips lifting off the cushion slightly.

Louis lifts one foot to brace it right next to Harry’s leg opposite Louis on the armrest, and Harry moves his knee over a few inches to touch the inside of Louis’ calf instinctively, like his body is craving some sort of contact any way it can get it. Louis’ mouth falls open in a silent groan and he throws his head back against the couch. He can feel the familiar sensation rising in his gut, but it’s mixed with something else this time, something that travels through Louis’ veins to the tips of his fingers and under his eyelids and around his ears, that burns where his leg is brushing so lightly against Harry’s and makes little alarms go off in his already buzzing head. It’s something new, and Louis thinks he‘s not sure if he likes it yet.

Looking down the bridge of his nose through half-closed lids, he locks eyes with Harry again as he gives his wrist a few more quick pulls and comes over his stomach, burying his face in the crook of his elbow and muffling a sound as he strokes himself through it.

He stays like that for a minute, coming down from his high and trying to clear his head, Harry’s gaze steady and his breathing nearly as heavy as Louis’.

Harry blinks a few times and swallows slowly, his cheeks are flushed a blotchy pink and he has a line of red marks just under his lower lip where his teeth we’re biting down too hard. “I - I’ll get you something to…” He trails off, standing up from the couch and disappearing into the hallway in the direction of the bathroom.

He’s gone a bit longer than what is probably a reasonable amount of to grab some tissue off the counter, and Louis smirks a bit in accomplishment now that he can think fully again, but lets his expression fall casually as Harry returns with the box of tissue. He holds it out to Louis, who doesn’t reach for it right away, instead looking away from Harry and down at where his finger is absentmindedly trailing through the mess cooling on his stomach.

Harry’s eyes go there too, lips falling open a little, and he drops the tissue box to his side as he follows Louis’ finger trace up his abdomen and lift to hover above his open mouth. Harry looks down at him with a look of impressed admiration, mixed with one of utter defeat as Louis very deliberately touches his finger to his tongue and sucks it into his mouth slowly, looking Harry straight in the eye and making a tiny (and bit exaggerated) noise of pleasure in the back of his throat.

A small smile creeps its way onto Harry’s face, before he pounces on top of Louis suddenly. “Bastard,” he mumbles begrudgingly, and Louis’ snickers of delight are muffled as Harry wraps one hand behind his neck to pull him into a hungry kiss, while the other moves down to fumble with his belt buckle.


On Friday night, after Louis spends longer than his usual five minutes showering, he actually runs a blow dryer through his hair and finds an old jar of pomade that he used to use to style his hair when he went to clubs, and when he used to give a shit. After twenty minutes of thoroughly twisting and combing his fingers, he sighs as he realises he hasn’t gotten a haircut in months, so instead of the usual carefully disheveled quiff of his glory days, what he’s ended up with is a sort of elevated version of his fringe, that points up at the ends and flops in a sort of half-swoop across his forehead. It’ll do, he thinks.

Once he pulls his party jeans from the back of his closet, where they’ve been stashed for the summer in favor of cut-offs and things with a bit more breathing room, he shrugs on a denim jacket and his pair of Vans without holes in the toes before sizing himself up in the full length mirror in Zayn‘s bedroom. What he thinks he sees is a kind of diluted, pseudo imitation of a year ago Louis, but. It’ll do, he thinks.

He sits in the back of Zayn’s car once they finally leave the flat and argues with Liam up in the passengers seat about the last episode of The Bachelor, until he realises that he’s arguing with Liam about the last episode of The Bachelor, and busies himself with sending a text to Harry and pointedly not staring at Liam’s arm draped across the seat right in front of Louis‘ face. He’s quite obviously got the sleeves of his shirt pushed up just enough to show off the cheesy line of black script on his forearm, like it’s waiting for people to inquire about it, waiting for it’s owner to spiel on about what a funny story it is and - oh, here’s my boyfriend Zayn to help me tell it. Louis has made it sort of a secret life goal of his to never find out what Liam’s tattoo actually says, so he looks away and rolls his eyes out the window for the rest of the drive.

The tattoo shop is on the side of town closer to the University, along a block that is frequented by students visiting the artsy little coffee corners, or the vintage shops that sell trousers from 2005. Louis sometimes passes through when he’s walking to the bus stop after class or when he just feels like mocking people after a hard day. At ten o’clock on a Friday night, though, the few students who would still be grabbing a coffee or hanging out on the corners are not around in the summertime, so most of the stores on the street are closed or about to close, except for the tattoo shop, which is still slowly filling up with orange-haired and lip-pierced and skull-inked people. If hipsters can be considered people, Louis isn’t sure. He thinks maybe he’s been sleeping with one, so perhaps they can.

“Where’s lover boy?” Zayn says, looking around Liam’s shoulders once they’ve made it past the throng of people at the entrance and said a friendly and quick hello to Zayn’s boss.

Louis pulls his phone half out of his jacket pocket to check it. “I sent him the address, should be here soon. He’s bringing Niall, too, by the way.”

“Oh, sick,” says Zayn and Louis runs a hand through his hair.

“Do I have a floppy quiff?” He asks, fiddling with the ends.

“I thought that’s what you were going for?” Zayn says airily. Louis frowns and slumps his shoulders. “You look fine. Why are you bothered, no one here cares what you look like.” He leans one elbow on Liam’s shoulder and the collar of Zayn’s own perfectly loose, carefully distressed, probably very expensive plain black t-shirt hangs a little lower on one side to casually hint at the tattoos on his collar bones. Louis rolls his eyes and checks his phone again.

“There they are,” Liam says, waving brightly at the door over Louis’ shoulder. Louis turns around to see Harry, closely followed by Niall waving back, making their way past the small crowd congregated by the entrance. Harry is in his usual loose white t-shirt and not so loose jeans, but he’s put a dark grey blazer over the ensemble, the sleeves only reaching half-way down his forearms and pulling tight over his shoulders.

Louis tries to remember if he’s ever seen Harry in a piece of clothing that wasn’t overly baggy or else looked like it came from a wardrobe of someone much smaller or a different gender than he is. He also tries to figure out why so many things that should not ever work, work so ridiculously good on Harry, all at once. Maybe Louis will ask him where he shops.

“Hello!” Harry greets them, then trails his eyes up and down Louis and adds, “You’re really hot.”

Zayn snickers beside him and Louis narrows his eyes at Harry. “Uh - Zayn, you remember Niall?” he says kind of uselessly, since they’re already slapping their hands together. “Liam this is Niall…”

“We all know each other, Louis.” Zayn says as Liam and Niall bump their fists.

“Not really,” Louis says slowly, though the way Niall and Liam are adding a friendly half-hug and back pat to their greeting seems to say otherwise.

“Sure we do,” Niall tells him. “M’biggest fans, these two. Liam here almost drank me under the table at my last gig, didn’t ya?” He says, chuckling fondly and ruffling Liam’s hair, who shies away.

Louis laughs loudly before catching the completely sincere looks on all three of their faces. “Um, what?“ He opens and closes his mouth a few times, blinking rapidly. “I’m missing something here…” He looks at Zayn.

“Yeah, Niall’s got a bigger video game collection than we do, man. You should see it sometime.”

“You guys just get together and play video games, since when?” Louis says, looking between the three of them, still a little unsure of whether they‘re joking or not. “And they went to one of your gigs?”

Niall shrugs, “Last couple of ‘em, yeah.” He adjusts his hair under his snapback and looks around the room. “What’s a bloke gotta do to get some drinks ‘round here…”

Zayn offers to take him and Liam to get refreshments and Louis turns to Harry as they disappear across the room. “I haven’t gone to any of Niall’s gigs.”

Harry shrugs as well, eyes looking around the room properly now. “He had one last week, I think it was that night you wanted to watch The Notebook in Portuguese…”

“But they’re all friends. Like actual mates, why would Zayn not mention that? Did you know?”

Harry looks unfazed. “They’ve come over to the flat a couple times, yeah.” He bites the corner of his lip takes a step closer to Louis. “So you bought some new hair product for the occasion, or?”

No.” Louis pouts. “I had it already.” He crosses his arms self consciously as Harry flicks his eyes up and down him again with a cheeky smile.

“Did you shave, too?” He asks and scratches the side of Louis’ cheek curiously.

“God, am I really that much of a mess normally?” Louis says, turning his shoulders away from him.

Harry laughs and steps closer. “You look great.” He says. “You look great all the time.”

“I uh, I like your blazer.” Louis tugs on the edge of Harry’s sleeve.

“Thanks.” Says Harry, looking amused. “Where’d you get these trousers?”

“They’re, I um, already- stop that!” Louis hisses, batting Harry’s hand away when his fingers dip into the front pocket of Louis’ jeans.

Harry laughs again and steps back, still pressing up to Louis’ side a little too closely considering they’re in a room full of near-strangers, but he keeps his voice low, “I’m just wondering what kind of equipment I’m gonna need to get those things off of you.”

“That’s it. You’re never coming out in public again.”

“Yeah?” Harry quirks and eyebrow and crowds closer to Louis again. “Y’gonna lock me u-” He cuts off quickly when someone calls his name and they both jerk their heads up from where they’re huddled inches apart to see Niall bounding up behind them, balancing at least half a dozen drinks in his arms.

“You weren’t lyin’ mate, there really is free beer!” He shouts at them, overjoyed.

Harry leans back down while Niall fumbles with not spilling the cups clutched in his hands and whispers, “Later,” hotly into Louis’ ear with a discrete little squeeze of his arse through his jeans, before looking back up and greeting Niall with an innocent grin.

“Here, these looked like they might be fruity,” says Niall, handing Harry two cups filled with some light blue, fluffy looking drink. Louis takes his without asking what’s in it and downs it in one gulp.

Harry stays close by his side as they chat with Niall and when Zayn joins them again and introduces them to his friend Josh, who works at the shop too, and when they give them all a mini tour, pointing out all the different drawings and photographs and random things hung up on the walls.

Louis has met Josh already and he’s been to the shop more times than he can count, so he stops paying very close attention to the people talking around him, instead appreciating the way Harry interacts with them; How he greets everyone he’s introduced to, even in passing, smiling winningly and laughing with strangers like he’s known them for years. He watches the way Harry concentrates intently on whoever happens to be talking at the moment, brow furrowed and leaning towards them like what they’re saying is the most interesting thing he’s ever heard. And it might be, but Louis isn’t listening.

Harry gets pulled away by someone who wants him to talk to a couple of art students in the corner, so Louis goes to get himself another drink and makes small talk for a while with a girl who he thinks he met at a Christmas party he went to with Zayn last year. She has bright red hair and her tan arms are covered in colorful tattoos. Louis asks her about one, listening to her talk and pretending he can’t feel a pair of eyes glancing at him every few minutes from across the room. The girl gets pulled away to meet someone eventually too, so do the couple he chats with by the small table with food and more drinks set up in the back corner, so Louis is left alone with his drink, wondering why no one ever wants to introduce him to anybody.

He spots Harry smiling quietly at him from across the room in the middle of a small group gathered around what looks like Liam sitting on a stool, reenacting getting his arm tattooed by Zayn at his station. Louis catches his eye and gives him a wink before turning back to his drink and eavesdropping on the conversation the group next to him are having about the last episode of The Bachelor. Louis thinks whoever decided artists and tattooed hipsters were at the top of the culturally-relevant totem pole was clearly in denial.

He finishes his drink and takes a trip to the toilets. It’s not until he returns to the party that he realises how full the small room has gotten since he arrived, there’s little crowds of people everywhere. It’s louder than he realised, too, and he can’t see anyone he recognises through the dim lights and cigarette smoke drifting over his head as he stands by himself uncomfortably next to a couple arguing about politics or something that’s not even interesting enough to eavesdrop on.

“Whatcha up to?” Louis hears a familiar voice in his ear from behind his shoulder, ignoring the way his body seems to have trained itself to relax at that sound as he turns on his heel to face Harry, who’s got his hands in his pockets, rocking back and forth on the balls of his feet and grinning like he always is. Louis notices his eyes are even brighter than usual, probably from all the sugary drinks he’s consumed in the last couple hours.

“Nothing much, having fun?” Louis smiles up at him.

Harry nods. “Zayn’s boss is really nice. Says I can have the ‘friends discount’ when I get my next tattoo, whatever that means…”

“I think it means you get a nice lolly to take home once you’re finished,” Louis says. “What are you gonna get, then?”

“What do you think about ‘LOUIS’ in big bubble letters on my left arse cheek?” Harry asks, patting himself on the bum.

Louis hums in agreement. “Only if you get my portrait on the right.”

“Oh, I’ve already got that one.”

“Right, I‘d forgotten.”

Harry beams. “Are you ready to go?”

“Yeah, if you are. I think Zayn is taking Liam home later, so lemme just call a cab or something.” Louis says, reaching for his phone in his pocket.

“Um, or we could go to mine instead?” Says Harry. “My building’s only a few blocks away. We walked here, but I can take you home later, if you want.”

“Oh,” Louis pauses as he’s scrolling for the number of the cab company and looks up. “Yeah, sure. Um, do you wanna tell Niall we’re leaving?”

“No, I think he’ll probably be here a while,” Harry says, looking over at the far corner where Niall seems to have unearthed a guitar from somewhere and is performing an acoustic cover of a Katy Perry song to a small audience, with Josh banging along on a set of bongos beside him.

Louis smiles and turns about to locate the direction of the exit. “Shall we, then?”

Harry follows him through the cramped room towards the exit, and Louis thinks he can feel the two gentle fingers on the small of his back burning right through his jacket. He catches Zayn’s eye through the crowd when they make it to the door and blows him a kiss when he and Liam wave goodbye.

“It’s just this way,” Harry tells him as they make their way down the semi-dark street, suddenly very quiet compared to the commotion inside the shop.

“I should’ve guessed you lived over here,” Louis says. “What’s your place on, Artsy Fartsy Lane or summat?”

“We’re over on Pretentious Twat Street, actually.”

“Nice area?”

“Oh yeah,” Harry laughs. “Really friendly neighbors and all.”

Louis smiles again and listens to Harry chat about his night as he strolls next to him, waving his hands in the air and laughing all over again at jokes he heard or something cheesy Liam said during his reenactment with Zayn. Louis stays quiet, just watches him talk animatedly about whatever, and thinks Harry looks so happy, like he always does. Louis feels something clench around his abdomen and he feels really warm, and kind of light-headed, and he doesn’t think it’s from the alcohol or from the muggy early August night. He thinks it’s because of the boy next to him - and his weirdly-proportioned clothes, and how his curls are frizzing up from the humidity and the way he seems to find so many things so genuinely interesting and seems to charm everyone he meets completely effortlessly - and Louis suddenly feels more than just warm. He feels like he wants to latch onto the energy constantly coming from Harry and never let go. He wants to be around it all the time and bottle it up and keep it hidden, like a secret all for himself and no one else.

But he also thinks that he really wants the whole world to know that he’s lucky enough to have this secret, and the street they’re walking down now is completely deserted, but Louis feels like he wants to run through it with Harry on his shoulders, shouting to anyone that would hear him that this person exists. He wants to kiss Harry in the middle of the street where everyone will see and put him on display like his paintings, in a gallery where people can appreciate him forever.

At the very least, Louis thinks he wants to touch Harry right now, to have some of his warmth spread into him, and his hand slips out of his jacket pocket almost involuntarily at the thought. He makes what he thinks is a nearly-silent sound of surprise, but Harry’s talking trails off as he looks to the side at Louis questioningly. His eyes dart half-way to Louis’ hand, almost brushing against his where it’s hanging at his side, before Louis tucks it quickly under his other arm and looks ahead again.

They fall into silence as they approach Harry’s building and Louis tries to keep his face casual while Harry’s keeps turning to steal glances at him.

“Here it is!” Harry says, holding his arms up grandly once they reach a brick building at the end of the street. He leads Louis through the tall, worn-in double font doors and into the small lobby. “Erm, I don’t know if the lifts are working right now, but.” He mutters shyly.

“Please, hipsters don’t take the lift anyway, Harry. Where do you think we are?” Louis says skipping past him to the bottom of the stairwell opposite the doors to the lifts. Harry laughs, following him up the stairs until Louis realises he probably shouldn’t be the one leading - since this building has like ten floors and he has no idea which one Harry actually lives on - and he lets Harry climb past him on the steps.

“I probably don’t have to tell you that it’s not much,” Harry says once they reach the fourth floor, gesturing around to the dingy hallway as he unlocks his front door.

“No, but I stick around for your cooking, not your money. So I don’t mind.” Says Louis as Harry pushes open the creaky door and flips a switch on the wall just inside. A light flickers on to a dim glow in the kitchen space to the side of them, and the flat is tiny enough that it spreads into the living area, just a small square of four walls and a short hallway that Louis can see a couple bedroom doors on either side of and a third one at the end that he guesses is the bathroom.

Louis takes a few steps into the living area, taking it in wordlessly, and spots a small museum of guitars propped all along the far wall, “Those cannot all be Niall’s.” He says, looking back at Harry. “Have you been holding out on me, kid?” He counts eight guitars, most of them acoustic and different finishes of wood. There’s an electric one propped at the end with pointy edges all over and painted a scratched and faded neon pink and white. “That one looks like your style, yeah?”

Harry laughs. “I don’t even think that one has made a proper note since before I was born. They’re all Niall’s, though. He’s got a couple more in his bedroom, I think. Collects them from garage sales and stuff to fix them up, says they ‘spruce up this absolute shithole’ if he keeps them out here…he - erm, did most of the decorating, actually…” He gestures around sheepishly and Louis grins at the sparse furniture.

There’s a comfy looking, if small, arm chair in the middle of the room that Louis thinks might’ve been salvaged along with one of the guitars, and a beanbag on the floor next to it that’s printed to look like a giant deflated black-and-white football, both facing the X-box on the floor and the 46-inch shiny black flat screen mounted on the wall. Next to it, a large framed poster of Baby Spice, smiling sweetly in her light blue mini dress and blonde pony tails.

“I love it.”

“You think it’s gross.”

“No, seriously. I love it. I’m going to consult Niall on how I choose to prioritize my money from now on, he’s clearly got it.”

Harry rolls his eyes, but his dimples show. He shoves his hands in his pockets and bounces on the balls of his feet a little. “The tour isn’t over yet.” He tilts his head towards the hallway behind them and Louis follows him into the door on the left side of it.

The first thing Louis sees is a large mattress and box-spring stacked on the floor directly across from the door that’s taking up most of the bedroom, the rest of the space occupied by the nightstand next to it and a small wardrobe crammed beside the window on the opposite wall.

It’s not until Louis takes a few steps inside that he sees the stacks of canvases piled under the window, and leaned carefully against every available wall space in the room. In the corner sits a bundle of more rolled up blank canvas and a small toolbox spilling out countless tubes of paint, jars of murky looking liquid and palettes splattered with drying layers and layers of oil-colors. Louis notices everything seems to be speckled with little bits of dried paint, like the ones he sometimes notices on Harry’s shoes and clothes and around his fingernails.

Louis takes another step towards the painting propped up closest to the door and looks back at Harry questioningly, who nods. “That one might still be wet, careful.” He smiles and Louis crouches down to get a better look.

It looks like buildings; rows of rooftops and red bricks and bits of the tops of deep green trees all layered underneath a grey-blue cloudless sky. Louis guesses it looks like it could be the view from the tiny balcony area he glimpsed outside in the main part of the flat. He thinks he’s right as he moves around the room and finds almost a dozen different sized canvases of the same scene; some of them, the trees leafless and muddy brown, or topped with white snow that’s also capping the surrounding buildings, skylines swiped with dark grey clouds or littered with the little yellow glows of surrounding windows in the dark nighttime sky.

Louis doesn’t realise it until he’s facing them - that he’s listened to Harry talk about painting and art for hours, has seen the flakes of dried color in his hair and has come to expect the smell of turpentine to be mixed with the faint scent of weed and vanilla and Harry that Louis has memorized so easily he thinks he could probably smell it if someone so much has mentioned Harry’s name - but he’s somehow never seen the evidence of what he does, and he feels stupid now for not thinking to ask, as he shuffles through the rest of the paintings littered around the room.

There’s more buildings and bits of scenery, some that include people, too. A few look like things Harry has just painted for himself, or for fun, Louis spots one scrap piece of canvas pinned haphazardly to the wall with a few other photographs and papers, displaying what looks like a half finished and extremely close-up depiction of someone’s smiling mouth, he can tell who’s by the braces shining across the teeth. There’s bits of other things in some of the paintings that Louis recognises, too, like the classically old-looking street lamps they have around the University, or a view through what looks like a large window that Louis thinks looks vaguely familiar; long lines of window panes in front of a bright-grey half moon and inky black sky, all colored and swiped and stroked onto the canvas in ways that Louis could never hope to know how to do no matter how hard he tried.

Straightening up when he reaches the wardrobe next to the window, he pauses and looks around at Harry again. He’s still leaning up against the doorframe on the other side of the room, watching Louis wander silently around his bedroom with a quiet smile, but he’s staring at Louis now with a curious expression, like he’s waiting for him to say something. Louis doesn’t think that’s weird, since he realises neither of them have spoken in he doesn’t know how long, but he still can’t really figure out what he wants to say. There seems to be too many things swimming around in his brain to pick out just one.

There’s also feeling in the pit of his stomach that he’s vaguely aware of, it’s the one that usually sends the alarms to his brain, the one that flashes talk! talk! do something! whenever he becomes conscious that he’s gotten himself in a situation that he’s not sure he has control over. Louis swallows hard and ignores that feeling, pushes it away for once, in favor of the other things sounding off in his head, because those things feel stronger right now, and are telling him what to say as he sets the last canvas back in its place and meets Harry’s eyes again.

“I want-” His voice is lower than he’s used to hearing himself, it might be the nerves pulling at the pit of his stomach that’s doing it. “I want you to fuck me.” Harry straightens up from the door frame slowly and Louis can almost hear his own voice replaying in Harry’s head, making sure he heard the words correctly before reacting to them. “I know we haven’t, um.” God, and Louis has never in his life had so much trouble asking for sex. “We haven’t done that…but I want to. If - if you do…” His voice gets even quieter at the end as Harry takes a few strides across the tiny room and is suddenly right in front of him, crowding into his space.

“Yeah.” Harry’s voice cracks. He clears his throat and steps closer, looming over Louis before continuing, “Yeah, okay. We can do that.” Louis pulls him down by the lapels of his blazer to kiss him and Harry parts his lips immediately, letting Louis curl his tongue around his and carding his long fingers through the hair at the back of his head until he draws his face back just enough to meet Louis’ eyes again. “I don’t really have a proper couch though, as you might have noticed…” He smirks, and Louis kisses him as hard as he can for that, nerves settled a bit.

“I think we can manage,” Louis says sarcastically as he pulls Harry closer to him and feels his hand squeeze where it’s resting on Louis’ hip.

They strip off each others clothes easily (aside from Louis’ jeans, which do end up taking a bit of work) and fall onto Harry’s bed. Louis’ nerves threaten to creep back, to make him second guess this, but then Harry is on top of him, lined up skin to skin, burning where his chest is pressed against Louis’, and his hands are warm and comforting behind Louis’ neck and running down the side of his ribs and waist and hooking under Louis’ knees to pull them even closer. They kiss and kiss, tongues sliding deep into each others mouths, slow but full of intent, and Harry tastes as familiar as he feels.

“Okay,” Louis breathes, mostly to himself, but he knows Harry understands. He reaches over, still kissing Louis, and shuffles blindly through his nightstand drawer with difficulty before pulling away and sitting back on his heels between Louis’ legs. Harry tosses the condom aside on the mattress and Louis tries to relax onto the bed as he watches him flip open the cap on the small bottle and slick up his fingers. Harry places his other hand on Louis’ knee and rubs his thumb in small circles until Louis looks up to meet his eyes, and Harry smiles softly before looming over him again to kiss Louis’ lips as he slides one long finger down to circle his rim. Louis’ body is ready to tense at the touch but Harry kisses him harder as he dips his middle finger inside, and he strokes his thumb soothingly along Louis’ cheekbone as he works it past his knuckles and Louis lets his shoulders relax against the mattress.

Harry seems to know to move slowly without Louis saying it, he trails light kisses down Louis’ stomach and across the inside of his thighs as he trickles a stream of lube down to the finger already inside him and works in a second. Louis gasps a little, squeezing his eyes shut at the stretch, and Harry bends down to lick a long stripe up Louis’ half-hard cock, taking him in his mouth to suck and lick and circle his tongue around the head until Louis is leaking against his own stomach and his breathing is shallow with arousal.

“Lou. Tell me- tell me something.” Harry’s voice is low and gravelly and when Louis opens his eyes, he’s hovering right above him, searching Louis’ face while his fingers move in shallow even thrusts.

“What?” Louis asks quietly.

“Just- just talk to me. Say anything, I -” Harry cuts off cautiously when Louis’ breath catches as Harry’s fingers scissor deeper into him, but Louis keeps his eyes locked on the familiar bright green still around Harry’s pupils and drags his palms up his chest.

“I want to watch you paint,” Louis says as calmly as he can manage, and Harry smiles, his head tilted to the side to keep his hair from falling in front of his eyes as he stares down at Louis. “I want you to paint something without any clothes on, and I wanna watch you.” Louis means to give him a sly smile, but Harry’s fingers crook inside of him and he lets out a deep moan instead, dropping his head against the bed as he feels white-hot pleasure run through his veins suddenly.

Harry breathes hotly over him, doubling his efforts now he‘s found his prostate. “I want you,” he gets out, and his free hand moves to stroke Louis’ wet cock in rhythm with his fingers. Louis cries out again, eyes dropping shut and Harry bows his head to mouth around one of his nipples. “God, Louis. I wa- so much.” His lips barely move against Louis’ chest when the words come out.

Louis wants to tell Harry that he has him. Wants to tell him how long it’s been since he’s let someone do this, since he’s wanted someone to have him like this. But he feels Harry glide a third finger in next to the others just as the thought of asking for one swims to the front of Louis’ brain, and he thinks Harry might already know that, like he seems to know everything Louis is thinking whether he wants him to or not. He doesn’t think he has to say it out loud; The way Louis is clutching the duvet underneath his fists and the way his hips are lifting off the bed into Harry’s hand curled around his cock and then back to meet the fingers driving into him purposefully says enough, so he kisses him again instead, pulls Harry closer by his shoulders, and God. This feels like so much, all of this, and it isn’t even everything yet. “I don’t want to come like this,” Louis moans between Harry’s open mouth. “I- I need you inside me.”

Harry sits up, pulling his fingers out slowly and doesn’t look away from Louis’ face or his shaking arms or his rising chest as he tears open the condom he tossed beside them earlier, rolling it over his own cock before grabbing the little bottle again and slicking himself up. Louis splays his legs wider and watches Harry through his parted knees, silhouetted by the kitchen light leaking in from the hallway, and Louis thinks he still looks so solid, even when he’s just barely lit around the edges from the open door behind him and the moonlight coming from the bedroom window, and still so big. Tall, even hunched over with his legs folded in half underneath him on the bed.

“Can I ride you?” Louis whispers quickly.

“Yeah, Lou.” Harry leans down and presses a last kiss to the inside of his knee before Louis sits up gently and pushes him back onto the mattress. His dick rubs against Harry’s stomach as he straddles his hips and hovers above Harry’s cock on his knees, giving it a few teasing strokes with one hand and splaying the other across Harry’s stomach.

“Okay?” Asks Harry quietly when Louis starts to lower himself slowly, head titled back towards the ceiling and eyes flying shut when he feels the first slide of Harry’s cock inside of him.

Louis curls his fingers against Harry‘s stomach and breathes out to the ceiling, “Yeah, yeah. M’good, just- just don’t move, okay?”

Harry is already still as Louis lets go of his cock and sinks down in one slow, steady motion, running his hands up and down Louis’ thighs and then resting on the curve of his arse once it’s flush against Harry’s hips, wiping away any of the mild surprise that must be showing on Louis’ face with his hands on him and with the quietly mumbled words of encouragement, coming out in disconnected little sentences from Harry’s mouth.

It’s a little overwhelming; even with the stretch from Harry’s fingers, Louis still feels more open than he thinks he’s been in a long time, because Harry’s big, Louis knows that, but he’s also suddenly acutely aware of the obvious, which is that they’re alone. And there must be people outside of the two of them right now, people still back at the party or walking down on the streets, people not on this mattress or breathing the same hot air as they are, but Harry is looking up at Louis like he’s the only person he’s seen all night, like right now, Louis’ the only thing he sees. So Louis lets himself believe that for now, because it makes it easier for him to be so open - where Harry can see every thought that he probably already knows play out on Louis’ face - and because he can’t really process anything other than what‘s being laid out in front of him, not on top of everything he’s already feeling.

Leaning forward to balance both his hands on Harry’s chest, Louis lets himself adjust to the feeling before rolling his hips against him the first time. Harry growls deep in his throat and Louis repeats the action again and again, scraping blunt nails down Harry’s chest.

Jesus, Louis.” Harry’s pale skin is hot and flushed red from the raised marks under Louis’ nails, all the way up his neck and diffused across his cheeks. His curls are stuck randomly to his forehead with damp sweat and spilled onto the sheets under him and his eyes are dark and glassy as he gazes up at Louis on top of him, biting down hard on his lower lip in a way that Louis has come to expect. It’s a sign he looks for whenever he wants to get Harry worked up, and Louis likes that it’s there now, that he can still make Harry feel undone this way.

“You look so fucking good like this,” Louis says through a shaky breath. He’s fucking back onto Harry now, and Louis can tell Harry’s not going to last much longer than he is, little grunts are escaping his lips as he bucks off the mattress slightly to meet Louis’ arse, sliding against his prostate with every movement while Louis’ mouth hangs half-open in silent moans.

He cranes forward and presses biting kisses along the dip between Harry‘s collar bones and down the center of his chest, feeling his racing pulse under his teeth, then grips both his shoulders tightly as he lets Harry take some of the control of their movements; harder and faster and not gentle at all now that the dull burn Louis was feeling has mostly subsided to nothing but Harry’s dark eyes locked on his face and Harry filling him up and Harry reaching a hand down to grip Louis’ cock between them and stroke it in messy rhythm with the rest of their bodies.

Arms giving out propping him up, Louis comes with a muffled cry slumped into Harry’s neck, spurting hot stripes over Harry’s fist and up his stomach. Harry’s right there with him, pushing a few more long thrusts into Louis, breathing stuttering, and then collapsing onto the mattress underneath him.

Louis hardly notices when Harry pulls out gently and discards the condom over the side of the bed, his breathing is still heavier than it should be against the crook of Harry’s neck and he thinks there might be little stars permanently blinking behind his closed eye lids.

Harry’s hands smooth down his spine and envelope him into his arms, wrapping completely around Louis, who can’t do much but curl into Harry’s warmth while his breathing steadies itself and his heart rate returns at least to the slightly above-normal pace that seems to have become more or less permanent lately.

He should feel small, he thinks; dwarfed by Harry’s long body underneath him, naked and covered in his own come and sweat. His body would normally feel tiny and exposed and would be searching for a way to make it all stop as soon as it realised these things. But Harry is running his finger tips along the lines of Louis’ ribcage and he’s breathing into his ear and Louis thinks he hears words being quietly exhaled in between breaths. Words Louis can’t really make out, but is afraid if he leaves or moves from this position or speaks, that he wont be able to hear them at all.

So he stays where he is for now, and he should feel small, but he doesn’t. Not when he drifts off to sleep with the smell of Harry and sex overwhelming his senses, and not when the warm sun streaming through the window wakes him in the morning. When he’s alone in the middle of a bed that isn’t his and he feels tender and bleary and like he desperately needs a shower, but there’s pillows under his head and a blanket over him that he didn’t put there himself and that smell is still engulfing him, and it’s mixed with something he thinks might be bacon and pancakes and orange juice drifting in from the hallway, and he really can’t feel anything other than happy.


He doesn’t think to ask Harry to fuck him again, and Harry doesn’t ask to. Not the day after the party when Louis whispers into his ear the entire time they’re playing Niall’s copy of FIFA, and Harry lets Louis fuck him right there in the living room, in front of Baby Spice and God and anyone who happens to be peering into the fourth floor windows of Harry’s building. Not the next few days either, when Louis bends him over or on top of so many places in Harry’s flat that they get bored and decide to rechristen Louis’- much to the chagrin of Zayn, who spends an hour with a bottle of bleach and rubber gloves, lecturing Louis about appropriate kitchen activities while Louis snickers at Harry performing a ballroom dance routine with the mop behind Zayn’s back.

After that morning he woke up in Harry’s bed, somehow not another one passes where Louis isn’t awoken by a sweaty mess of brown curls in his face or by the smell of breakfast (even if it’s well after midday), or by a slap on the arse and a lazy, raspy voice telling him he’s going to be late for work. He tries not to think about what Zayn had said about he and Harry spending every second together, and what that is or isn’t supposed to mean, but he doesn’t think this can be wrong. It can’t be wrong when Louis can toss grapes into Harry’s mouth from across the couch or start an innocent tickle fight with the same fingers that can make Harry sweat and sob and practically beg for him minutes later.

Louis is also finding even the most mundane tasks have become significantly more entertaining with Harry involved.

“Y’wanna eat this apricot jam off me?”

“Uh, what?”

“Yeah, bet you want me to lick it off your cock, huh? Get all dirty and sticky, and-”

“What are - are you trying to turn me on-”

“Is it working? You could tie m’hands back with these licorice ropes when I do it, y‘know.”

“-While you’re scanning my groceries?”

Harry swipes the next item over the scanner with a lick of his lips. “What are your plans for this salami?”

“Harry, please.” Louis glances to the side to make sure he’s still the only customer at Harry’s counter.

Harry sighs as he scans Louis’ box of instant Mac n’ Cheese. “Are you working tomorrow?”

“No, I’m off the whole weekend,” Louis says, picking out money from his wallet.

Harry presses a few buttons on the cash register and busies himself with counting out Louis’ change from the drawer. “Um, there’s a thing I kind of wanted to check out; an exhibition at this museum.”

Louis holds his hand out for Harry to drop a few coins and his receipt into his palm. “You gonna go, then?”

“Yeah, probably. Would you want to come with me? It’s all the way in London and like, last time I took the train by myself, I ended up accidentally buying cocaine from this woman who offered me some gum, and-”

“I’m sure one of your cool artist friends would be more stimulating company,” Louis teases.

Harry smiles, “Nah, they aren’t really that cool.”

Louis pockets his change and looks up at him. “Alright, then. I mean, this’ll definitely get me some hipster points, right?”

“Oh, definitely,” Harry laughs, dimple in full force. “I think you can call yourself a real functioning member of the high-art world.”

“All I’ve ever wanted out of life, to be honest.” Louis helps Harry put the last of his groceries in bags and hooks the handles around his arms.

“What are you doing the rest of the night, then?”

Louis makes a thoughtful face, pursing his lips together. “I think I’ll probably go home now and jerk off to the thought of you licking apricot jam off my dick.”

Yes!” Harry gives himself a little pat on the shoulder.

“And then I reckon I’ll make Mac n’ Cheese and watch some shitty TV.”

“Sounds fun,” Harry says, his voice getting lower as someone else approaches the end of the checkout stand. “But if you hold onto the mental picture until later, I could maybe help you out with the jam thing.”

Louis pretends to consider for a moment. “That sounds better, I guess.” He says nonchalantly, hiking his bags up on his arms. “I mean, there’s not really anything on the telly tonight, anyway.”

Harry grins and sticks his tongue out at Louis. “See y’later.” He lifts his voice again as he scans the next person in the queue’s jar of mayonnaise. “Please come again soon!”

“Sounds like I will be tonight!” Louis calls over his shoulder as he turns away towards the exit and hears Harry cackling behind him.


“I feel like it speaks to our generation.”

“It’s a butt.”

“Yes, but think about the deeper meaning behind it, Lou.”

“It’s a five-foot tall canvas of a butt in oil colors.”

“Yeah, I guess it is.” Harry laughs. “Do you think it’s a woman or man’s, though? I can’t really tell.” He squints harder at the painting mounted on the stark white wall in front of them.

Louis tilts his head to the side, considering. “Don’t see any ball sack.”

“Not a lot of hair, either.”

“What’s it called?” Louis says, inspecting the painting with one eye closed now for a different perspective. “That might give us an idea.”

Harry steps forward to look at the small plaque to the side of the canvas. “Untitled.”

“God, high art is so fucking mysterious, innit?”

Harry laughs, “Maybe we should’ve gone with a tour group, after all.”

“You describe things better, though.” Louis says. “I doubt any museum tour guide would’ve likened those watercolors we saw at the front to the one time his sister spilled a blue slushy down her dress at the carnival.”

“Yeah well, I really know my shit.” Harry waves a hand in the air smugly just as his phone buzzes loudly in his pocket and Louis sniggers as Harry slips it out of his jeans and smiles at the screen. Louis doesn’t have enough time to sneak a look at the name before Harry’s answering it in a hushed voice, “Hey, mate! Yeah, y’alright?” he whispers excitedly, gesturing to Louis that he’s going around the corner where he can talk louder. “Shit, I can’t tonight. I’m in London, actually…yeah, sounds wicked, though…” Louis frowns a bit as he disappears behind a white wall and looks around, hands deep in his jacket pockets.

He feels kind of awkward now; standing alone in the maze of endless white walls and canvases and spotlights that he and Harry have made their way through. There’s a posh-looking man and woman discussing a painting of a dog’s ear a few feet away from Louis in big words and important-sounding adjectives that he can’t really understand enough to grasp what the couple thinks about it. Louis likes Harry’s descriptions better.

His ears strain to try and hear Harry’s voice, blabbering away cheerfully to whoever was down the other line of the phone. All he can make out, though, is more whispers of the people observing the other walls, so he stares at the arse painting again, wondering if Harry would be as serious and perceptive as the people around him when he talks about art with people other that Louis.

After a few minutes, he feels Harry come up behind him, not quite resting his chin on Louis’ shoulder, following his gaze as it bores into the backside of whatever mysterious person modeled for the painting.

“I think I’m ready to go, now.” Louis says quietly.

Harry clears his throat a little and straightens up, smiling down at Louis as he turns around to face him. “M’kay.”

They stop at the little museum gift shop on the way out, where Harry finds a set of rainbow-colored jars labeled My First Paint Set in the children’s section and a tiny artists beret that looks like something Louis’ mum would’ve forced him into posing in for photographs when he was a toddler. Harry insists these things are the first step in Louis being taken seriously in the art world, so they buy them and Louis swings the gift shop bag at his side as they walk back down the busy street, stopping at an ice cream cart outside the train station.

Their train home isn’t due for almost an hour, so Louis sits on the curb next to Harry, murmuring jokes about the snooty-looking people passing them as they eat their ice cream. Harry’s melts too fast in the late afternoon sun, making a mess over his fingers when he’s too distracted giggling to catch the drips, so Louis helps by licking a drip off the front of his shirt and then his arm, before eating the rest of the cone right out of Harry’s sticky hand.

Once they’re waiting on the platform for their train, Harry seems to become immersed in staring at an advert for men’s cologne on the wall opposite the tracks, so Louis watches a crying little girl with a purple tutu and blue polka-dot rain wellies on, wiping snot all over the hem of her mum’s skirt a few feet in front of them while the mum chats away on her phone above her, talking too exuberantly for Louis’ to even bother eavesdropping on the conversation.

A few more minutes and the little girl has stopped crying and started rummaging through the impossibly oversized purse hanging from her mum’s hands. He can see from the corner of his eye that Harry has adverted his stare down as well, but Louis is a little too invested in finding out what the girl is searching for to check if Harry is watching her as well. Louis smiles as she pulls out receipts and tampons and a checkbook, spilling them out from the depths of the purse and scattering onto the station floor around her wellies. Louis glances up at the mum to see that she’s still obliviously chatting away on her phone and lets out a short laugh, which makes the little girl look up at him suddenly, past her elbow in the purse as she sends an assortment of ballpoint pens tumbling to the floor. Never one to discourage mischief, Louis gives her a wink and she gives him a snotty smile back, sticking her tongue in between her little teeth as she whips a makeup compact from the purse over her shoulder.

He chuckles again, just as he thinks he feels something hit his wrist where it’s hanging at his side. Louis looks down at his hand and then his eyes dart up to Harry beside him, his amused expression at the scene in front of them fading as Harry shakes out his hair a few times, digs his fists into the front pockets of his jeans and then resumes staring fixedly in front of him across the train tracks.

Louis knits his eye brows together momentarily, looking at Harry’s profile a second longer before crossing his arms in front of him and turning his head to his other side to glance down the tracks for any sign of their train. He can feel Harry bouncing slightly on the balls of his feet now next to him and Louis wants to look over at him again questioningly, but neither of them are talking still and Louis thinks it would be strange to turn to face Harry again until he thinks of something to say. So he crosses his arms tighter in front of himself and looks down the tracks again.

Louis starts to wonder if they’ve gotten the time wrong. “Are you sure-” he glances to his other side to ask as much and cuts himself off quickly when Harry is suddenly turned towards him, letting his bottom lip fall from where it’s pulled between his teeth and craning his neck down so his face is inches away from Louis’. Harry hesitates, eyes searching for the smallest fraction of time longer before closing the remaining space and pressing his mouth to Louis’.

It’s quick and simple; Harry’s lips are dry and barely parted and his hands are still shoved in his pockets. Louis’ brain barely has time to catch up enough to tell him to close his eyes before Harry straightens back up, shakes his hair out another time and looks forward again with a small quirk on his lips, but Louis feels something flicker in his chest anyway, and when he licks his lips, they taste like strawberry ice cream.

He feels his face heat up and bites a smile down with difficulty as he glances around quickly. The station is still moving around them, people darting towards other platforms, shoddy looking men selling homemade t-shirts to tourists and the little girl with the tutu’s mum bent on the floor, collecting her scattered belongings off the ground and streaming out chastising words as Tutu sucks happily on a large cherry lolly next to her. Louis looks up at Harry, who’s grinning wide down at the little girl and her mum now as their train finally rounds the corner of the station.

Harry finds them two seats near the back of their car and Louis sits close to his side, remaining silent but turning his head to bite his teeth into the top of Harry’s shoulder through his t-shirt as the train starts to move. Harry’s grin doesn’t fade until he doses off against the window twenty minutes later and Louis’ lips still have a small smile even when they get off at the other station and walk around aimlessly for a quarter of an hour, trying to remember where Harry parked his car that morning.

They get back to Harry’s flat well after dark, Louis kicks off his shoes at the door, setting his jacket and the gift shop bag on the kitchen table and glances around the room thoughtfully for a minute before looking back at Harry still struggling to pull his boots off behind him.

“Take your clothes off.”

Harry looks up at him from where he‘s bent down with one boot half off, a bit of sweat on his forehead from the effort. “All of them?”

“Yes!” Louis chimes, skipping into the hallway. “Just get rid of it all! I’ll be right back.”

“Where are you going?” Harry calls from where he hasn’t moved out of the entry way.

“I feel inspired!” Louis calls back dreamily, flourishing his arms around. He grabs a few things from the corner of Harry’s room and his nightstand and whips the sheet off his bed before returning to the kitchen, which Harry is now standing in the middle of, completely starkers save for the pair of maroon polka-dot socks on his feet. He’s scratching his stomach and looking around a little lost, but grins wide at Louis when he sees him, eyeing the assortment of supplies he sets on the kitchen table next to where Harry has folded his discarded clothes.

“What are we doing?” He asks curiously.

Louis pulls out the bed sheet and spreads it down over the kitchen floor. “We’re making art, obviously.” He takes the set of paints from the gift shop out of its bag and tears off the plastic seal with his teeth before pointing at Harry and then at the floor with his chin, gesturing for him to lay down and spitting out a bit of plastic packaging from between his lips. He busies himself at the table with unscrewing each of the jars of paint and carefully gathering up the brushes and clean palette he got from Harry’s room.

When he turns around, Harry is waiting patiently on the sheet, laid out on his back with his hands folded underneath his head and his ankles crossed, wiggling his toes under his socks and smiling up at Louis. He takes a moment to appreciate the sight before moving on.

Louis lines up the colored jars beside Harry’s head on the floor, along with the palette and brushes and then sits down himself, so he’s kneeling on the floor next to Harry‘s waist. Harry is still smiling over at him silently and Louis grabs his wrists from behind his head and rests Harry’s arms at his side before picking up the first brush to dip it into one of the jars.

“Why’d you bother getting that if you’re just gonna dip straight in,” Harry says, pointing at the palette by Louis’ knee.

He picks it up and shrugs. “I just thought it looked artisty, I don‘t know.” He tosses it to the side and goes back to the brush, holding it between his fingers and lifting it to paint a pastel-pink triangle on the tip of Harry’s nose.

“It’s cold,” Harry laughs and scrunches up his nose.

Shh!” Louis says, painting three lines across the apple of one of Harry‘s cheeks. “I’m working!” He moves to the other cheek and pauses, looking down at Harry before snorting a disbelieving laugh. “Is your stomach growling? Right now?”

“What?” He rubs his bare belly defensively. “All I’ve had to eat the last twenty-four hours is licorice rope and half an ice cream cone.”

Louis sighs dramatically. “Such is the life of a muse, I suppose.”

Harry smiles up at him. “Am I your muse, then?” He says slyly and Louis shushes him again, using his thumb to wipe off a drip of pink that‘s landed on Harry‘s lip.

“Do you think these are toxic?” Harry asks.

Louis turns and dips another brush into the jar of bright green paint, then dots it along the skin underneath Harry’s brighter green eyes. “They shouldn’t be, it’s for kids.”

“Do you think this is what kids do with it?”

Smirking, Louis lifts his knees up to straddle Harry’s torso above his hips. “Probably not.” He picks up the jar of orange and a different brush. “But they are not of the same artistic caliber as I am, so we shouldn’t judge their lack of innovation too harshly.” He says importantly, painting a circle of orange flower petals around Harry’s right nipple and pursing his lips in concentration.

Harry giggles a little but stays quiet otherwise, watching Louis silently as he colors inside the delicate black outlines of Harry’s tattoos. He uses the last clean brush to make a lopsided blue heart in the middle of his chest, so Louis dips his fingers into the paint instead. He runs out of clean fingers eventually as well, so when he traces purple lines in the indents between each of Harry’s ribs with his forefinger, streaks of the pink from before blend in. The blue is combined with orange in long, curved stripes along his abdomen and the red strokes down the cut of Harry’s hips are mixed with bits of green, which makes Louis smile because he thinks they look a bit like Christmas.

Splaying Harry’s arms out from his sides, he paints black lines down the inside of his biceps and forearms with two fingers, paints the palms of his hands red-orange and the tips of his fingers sunshine yellow. He moves down to sit on Harry’s legs and turn his knee caps into blue swirls and Harry raises his head up off the sheet so he can watch Louis lift up each of his legs gently to run a mixed rainbow of colors from all of his fingers down the back of his thighs, feeling goosepimples rise on Harry’s skin as he grazes them over the underside of his knees and trails off at the jut of his calve muscles.

Louis looks up from his middle finger tracing around the bones in Harry’s ankles to meet his gaze, deciding that this paint set did not come with a wide enough variety of colors and moving back up Harry’s body slowly to make crimson marks with his teeth down his neck. He sucks color into milky skin between the long strokes of paint across Harry’s chest and shoulders and arms and down his stomach. Louis’ fringe and tips of his eyelashes brush in wet paint, and he leaves colorful fingerprints smudged over Harry’s skin as he bites a scatter of bruises along his hip bones, purposefully ignoring Harry’s growing erection by inches as he moves his lips to the soft skin on the inside of his thighs, Harry straining his neck to watch Louis’ mouth slide slowly down him, making no sounds but hissing breaths every time Louis latches onto a new patch of skin.

“You’re perfect, you know that?” Louis mutters against his skin. Running his thumb over one last bruise where Harry’s thigh meets his groin, he looks up at him through his lashes and wonders if Harry does know, because Louis really, really thinks it; can’t imagine there’s anybody out there that’s a better mix of perfect than this person is.

“You are.” Harry says back, looking down the length of his body at Louis. “You’re amazing.” His voice is soft, but a little rough and Louis isn’t sure if it’s because Harry’s hardly spoken this entire time or because he’s still keeping his arms obediently still where Louis spread them out from his sides, useless against the sheet as Harry continues to strain his muscles to look down at him. Or maybe it’s because Harry’s cock is now fully hard and leaking beads of precome against his lower stomach as Louis ignores his words to lick back over the love bites closest to it.

“I’m gonna fuck you now.” Louis tells him finally, sitting up slowly.

“Okay.” Harry relaxes his head back and stays laying still against the floor as Louis wipes the drying paint off his hands on the edge of the sheet and stands up to strip off his clothes. Once Louis’ shirt and trousers are in a pile on the floor, he reaches over to the table for the condom and lube that he grabbed out of Harry’s nightstand earlier.

Harry’s eyes follow him as he kneels between his open knees and leans over him for a long kiss, flicking his tongue into Harry’s open mouth and biting at his bottom lip gently before pulling back to smile and peck the tip of his nose.

“Do I have pink whiskers on my face?” Harry asks with only the tiniest shred of shame.

“You have pink whiskers on your face.” Louis smirks and kisses him again before sitting back on his knees and clicking open the bottle of lube.

He opens Harry up and pushes in slowly, marveling at how Harry’s cock hasn’t even been touched, yet it‘s already hard and laying heavy against his stomach, and Louis‘ hips jut forward at just the thought of making Harry come without touching him. Hooking a hand behind one of Harry’s knees and bending his leg in half, he uses his other to pin Harry’s arm above his head by the crook of his elbow. Harry‘s other arm lifts along with it automatically, like Louis is pushing that against the sheet too, and he hooks his ankles around Louis’ waist to pull him closer, exhaling once he’s in him as deep as he can be and turning the breath into a low, contented moan, dropping his eyes closed and arching off the sheet when Louis starts to move inside of him with practiced pace.

The paint on Harry’s arms and legs transfers to Louis’ hands and the strokes of color are rubbing messily onto him from Harry’s skin with sweat, so close together in the hot kitchen. They usually talk more than this, Louis can usually get in some banter before they’re too far gone to care, but right now, he feels too turned on and too focused still on not instinctively bringing one of his hands to pull at Harry’s cock to do much else than pant against Harry’s mouth, watching Harry grip his fists in the sheet above his head and screw his eyes shut, mixing his little strained, stuttering breaths with the ones that are coming out of Louis‘ lips.

When he does come finally, Harry spills over his stomach with a needy cry, lifting up desperately for any friction against his cock while Louis fucks him right through it. Louis can feel he’s close behind as he looks at Harry underneath him and somehow, he knows Harry will say what Louis is thinking before Louis even knows he’s thinking it himself.

“D’you wanna come on me?” Louis almost loses it at the eagerness in Harry‘s wrecked voice and his fingers tighten in response where they‘re still pinning down Harry‘s elbow. “Wan’ you to come on me, Lou, on -” He breathes and Louis pulls out and strips the condom off quickly, positioning himself so he’s straddling Harry’s chest with one hand propping himself up above Harry’s shoulder while the other moves over his cock in rough jerks.

Harry still has his arms held helplessly above his head, even though he could have lowered them both well before Louis loosened his grip, and Louis can still hear Harry’s breath coming in shallow pants as he comes down from his own orgasm, his wide eyes darting from Louis’ cock to his face and back again and his swollen lips parting anxiously.

He’s got pink kitten whiskers smeared across his cheeks and his hair is wild and damp with sweat and he looks a bit mental, but Harry’s eyes are more focused than Louis’ ever seen them like this, and it’s all a bit overwhelming; when Louis lets himself register in the back of his mind that someone could be so eager for him, that someone is actually looking up at him like that. Not just someone, but this someone.

They both hold in a sharp breath as Louis’ muscles tense and he comes over Harry’s mouth and his cheek and into his hair. Harry strains his neck up again to suck the head of Louis’ cock into his mouth, lapping his tongue in hungry circles around the tip, and he thinks he hears Harry breathe something like a satisfied yeah when he exhales finally, rubbing his wet lips together in a sated smile up at Louis.

Louis stares down at him, holds Harry’s heavily-lidded gaze and drags his thumb slowly across his bottom lip, before he’s bending in half to lick it clean, sucking and biting on Harry’s lips until they’re bruised and a deeper color than anything else on him. Harry keeps him pulled down in a messy kiss and Louis can taste himself in Harry’s mouth, taste the sweat pooled in the dip of his lip and something that’s probably non-toxic acrylic paint, but Louis can’t get enough of it, pulling at Harry’s hair with both hands and tilting his jaw back to get in deeper while Harry’s fingers scrape up his back and claw at Louis’ skin. There‘s certainly no technique, Louis can’t think enough to plan every hot breath into Harry’s mouth or stroke of their tongues or graze of his teeth, can’t really think anything past want want want, being thrown around in his brain with Harry Harry Harry. He’s just had him and Louis wants so much more, so much he doesn’t know how to get it, thinks there might not even be a way to stop it from overpowering him more than it already has.

Louis kisses him until he doesn’t feel like he can hold himself up any longer, and then rolls over to fit himself to Harry’s side, not even surprised anymore when that warmth spreads through him instantly.

Harry chuckles lazily and his voice comes out slow and a little dazed. “You’re a good artist.”

“Mmm, thanks.” Louis hums against his side, keeping his eyes closed lightly as he smoothes a hand up Harry’s belly.

“Make more of a mess, will you?” Harry says, almost back to his usual, vaguely-amused-at-everything sniggers.

Louis lifts his lids half-way to watch his fingers trailing Harry’s come around the colors already smearing off his abdomen. “’M mixing mediums.” He buries his snickers into Harry’s side, who’s soft laughter slowly builds into a fit of uncontrollable giggles.

Louis props himself up on his elbow and smiles down at him. “What? It wasn‘t that funny,”

“I just realised, I -” Harry’s trying to catch his breath in between barks of laughter. “I don’t-”

“What?” Louis says again.

“I don’t even know your last name,” Harry gets out quickly, rolling onto his side and pulling on Louis’ arm as he tries to contain himself. “And you - you said-”

Louis frowns and sits up. “That’s not very funny.”

“Yes it is.” Harry’s hand goes to clutch his stomach and he only doubles his laughter in surprise when it wipes in the mess there. Louis wants to tell Harry he’s still got his spunk in his hair too, but he stands up instead, wobbling a little on his knees. Harry opens his eyes and looks up at him, all teeth and dimples and shiny eyes. “It’s funny, what’s wrong?” He tugs on Louis’ ankle.

“You’re making me feel stupid.” Louis crosses his arms, walks a few feet to the edge of the kitchen and looks back at him. Harry sits up, wincing a little from laying on the hard floor for so long.

“Louis, there is no way in hell you can feel as stupid as I probably look.” He laughs, standing up and holding his arms out, letting Louis look at the both of them properly now.

He has smudges of red and blue and purple all over his own body and can feel a bit of dry paint stuck in his hair when he runs his fingers through it, but Harry looks - Louis doesn’t know. He maybe wants to take a picture so he can come up with a proper way to describe it later. He still has his polka-dot socks on his feet, for one. His hair is knotted all over and streaked with paint and come, which he still hasn’t wiped completely off his cheek yet, either. His arms and torso look like melted rainbows and the orange flower petals around his nipples are wilting into the smudged blue heart shape on his chest. He looks absolutely, bat-shit crazy, and really dirty and - oh.

Just really, really, filthily dirty.

Louis uncrosses his arms and tucks a reluctant smile into his lips at Harry across the room, who grins right back and nods like see. They stay like that for a second and then Louis’ mouth slices into a sly smirk as his eyes scan slowly over Harry’s entire body again. Harry raises one eyebrow, before he bites his lip and then runs towards Louis suddenly, catching him around the middle and lifting him off his feet, ignoring Louis’ yelp of surprise and swats of protest against his shoulder as he carries him down the hallway and sets him down against the wall of his tiny shower in his tiny bathroom.

Harry turns on the water and sucks Louis off right against the wall while the paint runs down their skin and swirls into the drain at their feet, slow and fond - if it’s possible to deepthroat someone fondly. Harry can do it fondly, at least. Louis helps him shampoo his hair afterwards and they use half the bottle of Harry’s vanilla soap scrubbing the rest of him clean, until he’s rubbed raw and the only color left is red marks in the shape of Louis’ mouth all over Harry’s skin. Louis presses his mouth to one at the top of his shoulder and doesn’t mention how strangely happy he feels at that.

Neither of them feel tired yet, so Louis orders pizza from a place that delivers late and reluctantly gathers the mess in the kitchen into a neat bundle inside the ruined bed sheet, throwing it in the corner while Harry sets up a rickety wooden easel and blank canvas out on the balcony.

When the pizza arrives, Harry answers the door in nothing but a pair of striped boxer-briefs and the little beret they bought at the museum gift shop, perched jauntily atop his head. Louis has to duck into the hallway to try to control his laughter and then decides he should find something to change into besides his own paint-smeared t-shirt and jeans from earlier. He finds a pair of football shorts in Harry’s wardrobe and opens a few more drawers until he gets to one at the bottom stuffed with jumpers and long-sleeved t-shirts. Louis picks one of the jumpers out at random; It’s navy blue with a large hole in one of the elbows and when Louis pulls it over his head, the sleeves slip over his hands and the neck is stretched out so more of his collar bones are exposed than he’s used to, but it’s soft and comfortable and smells just like he expected it to.

Turning to walk back into the hallway, he catches his reflection on the full-length mirror Harry has hung up on the inside of his bedroom door. Louis balls his fists in the hem of his sleeves and looks at his himself in the mirror, a small smile hidden in his lips that he knows has been there most of the summer, but hasn’t actually seen what it looks like on him. It looks okay, he thinks. He looks okay, he thinks. His skin is more tan in the summer than it normally is and his hair is dried a bit wonky, but his eyes are brighter and bluer against the dark color of Harry’s jumper than they normally are, too, and Louis feels a sudden swoop low in his stomach as he thinks something else.

He thinks that he really wants to know what Harry looks like in this jumper, too. He thinks he wants to know Harry in heavy coats and scarves and with snow in his hair. He wants to know him in the winter and in the spring when Louis can stick flowers into his curls and in the autumn when the trees around the park change colors. Louis knows he likes Harry in the summer, but he’s suddenly aware of how much he wants to like him the rest of the time, too.

“Hey.” Harry’s head peaks around the half-open door, looking up and down Louis’ clothes and smiling wide at him. “Y’ready?”

Louis clears his throat. “Yeah,” he says quietly and blinks a few more times at his reflection before following Harry down the hallway.

Harry gets the pizza box and Louis drags the giant football beanbag from the living room out to the balcony. He curls himself up in it in the corner and they eat while Harry sketches out rough outlines on his canvas silently. Louis watches him for a long time, still half-naked and half-obscured on the other side of the easel, lit up in soft shadows from the light streaming out from inside the flat and the little yellow glows of the windows of the surrounding buildings.

It has to be getting late, but Louis somehow still doesn’t feel exhausted when Harry squeezes a few different colors of paint onto his palette and picks a brush out of his roll. It’s long and thin between his fingers, with flat bristles at the top and Louis thinks about asking what made Harry pick that one out of the countless ones next to him. He kind of wants to ask Harry every question he can think of suddenly, maybe just to hear him talk.

“Can I ask you something?” He says after a few more brushes and a while longer. Harry hums and glances over at Louis from behind the easel. “Why do you paint?”

“What d’you mean?” His eyes dart over the canvas again before looking back down as he drags a brush around in lines Louis can’t see from where he’s sitting.

“Like, why not photography, or something?”

Louis expects Harry to answer right away, instead he stays quiet for a minute, still working. “I guess. I like all kinds of art. I like photography, I like looking at other people’s photographs and everything. Just, people who I’ve known who do that always seem to be kind of stuck behind their camera, y’know?” He pauses again before continuing, “I always think, like, I couldn’t see things properly if I was always looking at them through a lens.”

“But don’t you spend all that time looking for things to paint, anyway?” Louis thinks now how Harry always seems to become focused for a long time on random things, when they’re walking outside or laying on a bed in the morning, or in the middle of eating dinner. He thought Harry might just have a short attention span like himself, which is probably still true, but now Louis can picture some of those things he thinks about for so long turning into paint under Harry’s brushes.

Harry shrugs. “Yeah, I guess, but then I get to spend an even longer time appreciating them while I‘m painting, you know? And then it‘s there. I can look at it forever, If I wanted to.” He pauses to think, looking like he’s not finished explaining, so Louis waits for him to continue. “Which is like a photograph, except - it’s not a specific moment or a record of something, it’s just how I see it, how I remember it in my head. You set up a camera on a tripod and take fifty shots and they’ll all look more or less the same; you can change the lighting or move around or whatever, and it’ll be a different picture, but I can paint fifty canvases, or fifty pieces of paper or fifty napkins of the same exact thing-”

“- And there’s no way to make even two look exactly the same,” Louis says, smiling at the little crease of concentration between Harry’s eyebrows.

“Right. You couldn’t get every line or every stroke or every mix of color right if you tried.” Harry shrugs again. “I dunno, I think that’s kind of cool.”

Louis‘ smile widens. “I think so, too.” He does, even if he doesn’t get art all that much. He thinks he sort of gets why Harry would like that.

“No one’s ever asked me that before.” Harry glances at Louis again with a sheepish smile.

“So, is that why you have ten paintings of the same thing?“ Louis gestures to the dark horizon behind him. “Sorry-” He grins and points towards the canvas in front of Harry. “Eleven.”

“I think I’m done with those.” Harry smirks a little as he dips into a mason jar of paint thinner and smudges his brush off on a flannel hanging off the easel. “And that’s not what I‘m painting, anyway.”

“What?” Louis laughs. “Why the hell are we out here, then? What are you painting?”

“Your arse.”

“Shut up, no you’re not.”

Harry giggles. “Yeah, I was just really inspired today, too.”

Louis rolls his eyes and makes to pull himself up from the beanbag. “What is it?”

“It’s a surprise, you can see when it’s finished.” Harry steps in front of the easel defensively, smiling a little shyly. “Sit back down, now, go on.”

Louis narrows his eyes but goes back to his seat. “When will it be finished, then?”

“Not tonight.”

“So mysterious,” Louis says, and pretends to pout for a while longer as Harry continues to squeeze out more colors and brush them over the canvas in varying strokes, still smiling over at Louis every so often.

Louis doesn’t know what time it is once Harry cleans off his brushes and tucks the unfinished canvas into Niall’s unoccupied room, away from Louis‘ wandering eyes, but the very first hints of sunrays are beaming behind the buildings in the distance when Louis finally falls into bed.

Harry finishes cleaning up, putting his box of paint and brush roll in the corner of the room before standing on top of the mattress over Louis, grinning down at him a bit manically. He’s finally taken off the stupid beret and left it in the corner, but is still in just his boxers and Louis starts counting, in the dim blue light from the window, how many of the purple love bites from earlier have stayed along the line of his neck and shoulders and torso and thighs before Harry interrupts him and he loses count.

“What’s your last name?” His head is tilted to the side a little as he looks down at Louis.

Louis pulls the covers up so only his head it peaking out the top. “It’s Styles.”

Harry smacks the palm of his hand to his forehead and flops sideways onto the bed. “Styles!” He laughs, sitting up on his knees next to Louis and bouncing a little on the mattress. “You should have told me, we could be relatives!”

Louis snorts at the ceiling. “That would be unfortunate.”

Harry giggles more and falls over so his head is on Louis’ stomach, looking up at him with his shinning eyes, even in the half-darkness of the room. “Would you still fuck me if we were related?”

“Stop it!” Louis barks a laugh, pushing Harry’s head off of him. Harry moves so he’s lying on his side on the pillow next to Louis, who’s still staring up at the ceiling. “Probably.” He adds frankly and Harry chuckles again next to him.

“Lou?” He says quietly after both of their snickering dies down.

“Hmm?” Louis’ eyes feel heavy and tired finally, and he lets them fall closed as Harry waits a few beats before continuing.

“I, um. I’m really glad we met.”

Louis keeps his eyes closed. He tucks his hands into the sleeves of Harry’s jumper and wraps his arms around himself. “Tomlinson,” he says after a quiet moment.

He can hear Harry’s smile in his voice, “I don’t think I’m related to any Tomlinsons.”

“That’s good.” Louis says softly.

“That’s good.” Harry echoes.

Neither of them say anything else, but Louis can still feel Harry’s eyes burning into the side of his face long after Louis pretends to have drifted off to sleep. When he finally hears Harry’s breathing shallow and quiet, he rolls onto his side on the pillow.

When he was eight, Louis stood in front of his class and read a poem he wrote about his cat, and Suzie Robinson in the front row had laughed at him all through recess. His cat ran away a few months later and Suzie grew up to be just as much of a bitch as she was when she was eight and Louis never wrote another poem again, but he kind of wishes he had. Maybe then he could write sonnets about what Harry looks like while he’s sleeping next to him. One cheek squished against the pillow, making his parted lips even more puffy than usual, lashes fanned out delicately under his eyes and curls tumbled across his forehead and spilling onto the pillow and younger than Louis has ever seen him look, even with Louis’ blossoming bruises standing out in stark contrast against the skin at his throat. Maybe then Louis could find some way to put into words the way he feels looking at Harry right now; kind of like he’s slowly turning to liquid from the inside out, like all the incoherent thoughts running through his veins are so overwhelming that they might burst him open before Louis can even make sense of them.

He knows it’s a bit weird to keep staring at Harry while he’s asleep, and he knows it’s more than a bit melodramatic, but the hand Harry doesn’t have tucked under his head is lying right in between him and Louis on the pillow, palm up and paint speckled, and Louis can’t really help but ghost his fingertips over it, spread them across his open hand and lace his fingers with Harry‘s, just for a minute. Louis is tired and his eyes feel heavy again and he’ll take his hand away before he falls asleep, but right now. Right now it kind of feels like the only thing keeping him solid.


“I really don’t think I should be doing this.”

“Just do it.”

“Why don’t you just go to a professional?”

“Why would I pay someone twenty quid to do something when you can do it for free?”

“I mean, It’s not even that long, really. And I was kind of into the headbands…maybe you should just keep-”

“Louis!” Harry twists around in his chair to glare at Louis, who’s standing behind him, holding a pair of scissors hesitantly in one hand and a comb in the other.

“Okay! Okay, turn around.” Louis says, straightening the towel draped over Harry’s bare shoulders and combing out a chunk of curls randomly from the nape of his neck. He sticks his tongue between his teeth and knits his eyebrows together in concentration as he brings the metal blades closer to Harry’s hair, before pausing again, “Surely we should be using different scissors, though? Didn’t you just use these to cut off the bottoms of your jeans?”

“They’re the only pair I have. It’ll be fine, I trust you. Just fucking do it already, my bum’s falling asleep.” Harry shifts uncomfortably in his chair.

“Stay the fuck still! Jesus. You’re going to lose an ear.” Louis pulls Harry’s shoulders straight against the back of the chair and takes a deep breath, regaining his concentration and pulling a long curl in between his index and middle finger.

Fifteen minutes later, there’s small piles of dark brown curls littered on the kitchen floor around their feet. Louis sets down his scissors on the counter and hands Harry a small mirror to examine himself in the last bits of orange sunlight glowing through the open balcony doors across the flat.

“Well done,” says Harry, grinning as he runs his fingers through his hair and sweeps it across his forehead. “You missed this bit here though.” He pulls at a strand just above his ear.

“I know, it was like this perfect little spirally Shirley Temple curl, though. I couldn‘t just chop it off.” Louis says from beside him.

Harry laughs and turns his face to drop a kiss on the top of Louis’ forehead. “Thank you,” he says softly, putting down the mirror to grab a dustbin and broom from beside the fridge. Louis blinks a few times, smiles and goes to sit on top of the counter while Harry sweeps his discarded hair off the kitchen floor and dumps it in the bin.

“D’you wanna just heat up that leftover lasagna from last night?” Harry asks as he opens the refrigerator door, scratching his still-shirtless stomach and peering inside. “There’s still a shit-ton of it.”

“Sure,” Louis says from the countertop. Harry pulls out the pan from the fridge, dishes out a large portion on one plate and pops it into the little red counter-top microwave next to Louis. He sets it to heat and slides down the counter to slot in between Louis’ legs while they wait. Louis just smiles at him silently, in that way he knows probably makes him look like a giddy idiot, and hooks his fingers in Harry’s belt loops to pull him closer into a kiss. Harry lays his palms flat on the counter on either side of Louis’ legs and kisses back, leaning into him and opening his mouth, slow and languid and not a precursor to anything. Not yet, at least, because Louis thinks that lasagna still sounds really good.

The timer beeps and Harry pulls away with a last sloppy peck on Louis’ cheek to get the plate out of the microwave while Louis hops down from the counter and grabs two forks from a drawer next to the oven. He gets a couple beers out of the fridge, joins Harry at the kitchen table, hands him his fork and immediately digs into the plate between them.

Ohmm,” he hums appreciatively through his stuffed mouth. “Still good the second day.”

Harry sticks his tongue out to take a giant bite and nods in agreement as he chews, looking down at his phone that’s just buzzed next to his elbow on the table. Louis watches him as he sets his fork down to read the text, smiling a little to himself as he scrolls through it. “It’s Niall,” Harry tells him as he types a reply. “This girl he’s been trying to pull for weeks showed up at his gig tonight. I told him she was just playing hard to get, would come around eventually. But he wouldn‘t listen…”

“He has a gig tonight?” Asks Louis. “Where?”

“Over at the pub next to campus,” Harry says, setting his phone down and going back to their dinner.

“Why didn’t you go?” Says Louis, frowning a little.

Harry shrugs and takes another bite off his fork. “’Coz I was hanging out with you.”

“Oh.” Louis looks down and pokes his fork around the plate. “But didn’t you want to? I feel bad. Niall probably would’ve liked if you were there…”

“He doesn’t mind, he plays at that pub like two or three times a month. I go all the time.” Harry says.

“When was the last time you went?” Louis asks glumly, still swirling sauce around with his fork.

“I dunno.” Harry squints his eyes as he thinks. “At the beginning of the summer, maybe.”

“That’s a long time. You should’ve gone…I feel bad.”

Harry clinks his fork against Louis’ to get him to look up again. “Lou, Niall won’t care that I’m not there, trust me. Especially not if he’s got his groupies in the crowd.” He laughs lightly. “We can go the next time he plays, if you want?”

“You can go next time he plays,” Louis says, looking over Harry’s shoulder at the wall behind him. “I don’t need to.”

“Oh. Okay,” Harry says quietly, then leans to the side in his chair a couple inches so he’s in Louis’ eye line again. “Are y’okay?”

Louis smiles weakly at him. “Yeah,” He says a little too cheerfully. “I um, I just- you’ve spent a lot of time with me lately. I don’t want you to feel bad if you wanna hang out with your other friends, or. You know, other- um. Other people. It’s okay.”

“Do you want to?” Harry says tentatively. “Hang out with other people?”

“No, um, I- not really. Just, if you want to. It’d make sense; I’d understand.” Louis busies himself with the rest of the lasagna again.

“Okay. Well I don’t.” Harry says frankly and takes a sip of his beer. Louis makes a sound between his closed lips. “What?” Harry asks a little impatiently.

“You don’t have to say that just to be nice, Harry. I highly doubt you spent every night before you met me eating leftovers and watching re-runs of The Kardashians.”

“Pretty much.” Harry shrugs and reaches a hand to touch Louis’ wrist across the table. “Hey, I spend my time with you because I want to, okay? If I wanted to go to Niall’s show or hang out with my other friends, or whatever, I would.”

Louis doesn’t say anything, just keeps stabbing at the cheese and bits of noodle on the plate in-between them.


Louis looks up at him. “What?” He says shortly.

Harry looks a bit taken aback. “What’s - um. Are you like, upset with me? Did I do something?”

“No. No, you didn’t do anything.” He looks away from Harry’s eyes searching his face. “Sorry, It’s fine, really. I don’t wa-”

“Want to talk about it. Right.” Harry finishes, sitting back a little in his chair and pointing at their dinner plate. “Are you finished?”

“Yeah, I’m finished.” Louis says quietly, still not meeting Harry’s eyes. Harry picks up the plate before Louis can set his fork back on it and brings it to the sink and Louis keeps facing the table with crossed arms, but watches through the corner of his eye as Harry rinses it off slowly, setting it on the side of the counter and turning towards where Louis is sat at the table. He sees Harry’s mouth open and close, his fingers drumming on the edge of the counter. Louis keeps looking down at the table.

“When do you think you’ll want to, though?” Harry asks suddenly. “Talk about it, I mean.”

Louis’ head jerks up towards him. “W-what?” He says tensely, his voice cracks a little and he blinks a couple times at his own reaction.

Harry continues from across the kitchen, “Something’s obviously bugging you, why don’t you just tell me?”

“Nothing’s bugging me. What d’you want me to tell you?”

“I want to know why you’re making it seem like I’m being forced against my will to be around you, or something?”

Louis wasn’t really expecting Harry to answer his question. “I didn’t say that, I-”

“Then what was that shit about ‘hanging out with other people'?” Harry interrupts. “Are - are you trying to figure out if I’ve been sleeping with anyone else? Is that what it was?”

Louis shakes his head back and forth quickly. “No, Harry, that’s not-”

“Because you could’ve just asked me that,” Harry hurries on, speaking over Louis. “And I would’ve told you that I’m not. I’m not wishing I were either, and I’m not sitting here at home with you, wishing I was out with Niall, or somewhere else.”

“Harry. You don’t have to - please.” Louis says a little desperately, hunched over in his chair. “Please, can you just drop it?”

“No, Louis,” Harry says, stepping away from the sink towards him. “I don’t like dropping everything the second you get uncomfortable. Any time I say something you don’t like, or ask anything too serious, you change the subject. Or make a joke, or start singing songs from The Little Mermaid, or start taking my clothes off to distract me.”

“You’re only half dressed now and you don’t seem that distracted,” Louis says quietly, before he can stop himself.

“God, Louis. You’re so fucking frustrating. Please, can you take this seriously for one second?” Harry pleads, running a hand through his hair. “You can’t just avoid everything that doesn’t make you happy forever.”

Louis twirls his fork around in his fingers on the table and mutters, “Been doing it for twenty-one years, so, yeah. I think I probably can.”

Harry leans against the counter and crosses his arms in front of his chest. “I don’t get that. You don’t think you’d feel better if you just talked about it-”

“No.” Louis laughs bitterly. “I really know I wouldn’t,”

“Why don’t you try, though, I want-”

Louis stands up from his chair finally. “Well I don’t want, Harry. I don’t know why you keep acting like I have all these secrets, or something. Trust me, I’m not that interesting, kid.” He passes Harry as he throws his dirty fork into the sink without looking at him. He doesn’t know what to do, with Harry’s eyes following his every movement, so Louis turns on the tap and starts rinsing off his fork in the sink, then picks up the plate that Harry already rinsed off from the side of the counter.

“Louis.” Harry clearly didn’t catch the finality in Louis’ tone.

“I don’t get what you want me to say,” Louis says quietly to the stream of water splashing into the sink.

He steals a glance to the side at Harry just as he sighs and runs a hand through his hair again, and Louis is suddenly becoming annoyed with how disappointed he looks, Harry was the one who continued this in the first place. “I just feel like you never tell me what you’re thinking, like - I know you’re upset, you know you’re upset, so just say why instead of this stupid tip-toeing around each other thing you keep doing. Because I’m kind of sick of blindly guessing what’s going to upset you, or - or you just expecting people to know what you’re trying to say. Because half the time I have no fucking clue, and it‘s really frustrating.”

He’s maybe raising his voice a little, Louis didn’t even know Harry knew how to do that, but he’s pretty close to it now. He swallows hard. “I’m seriously not upset, Harry. I’m over it, I promise.” Louis says, grabbing a sponge from behind the sink and staring at it for a moment. What do you do with a sponge?

“You’re washing the dishes,” Harry says. “I’ve never seen you do that.”

“Oh, I do dishes all the time, Harry.” Louis says, not looking up from where he’s pouring a large amount of soap onto the plate and running the sponge under the water. “I fucking love washing things,”

“No, you don’t.”

“Yes, I do.” Louis scrubs the sponge violently across the already quite clean plate, building soapy suds that crawl over his fingers. “You don’t know anything about me,”

“You’re right, I probably don’t.” And Louis realised the second he said it that he’d set himself up for that. But it still stings, kind of like an ache of an old injury that you’d forgotten you had. He turns the tap on higher and pours more soap over the plate, which is slowly disappearing along with the sponge and Louis’ hand behind the rising mountain of white bubbles. “Louis.”

Louis lets the plate drop into the sink with a little more force than he intended, bubbles flying into the air and sprays of water hitting him straight in the eye. “What, Harry?” He snaps. “What do you want?” He turns to look at Harry leaning against the counter right next to the sink, where he’s been staring into the side of Louis’ face while he attacks an innocent piece of kitchen ware.

Harry lifts his eyebrows and makes an impatient noise through his mouth, like - you know. And Louis does know, and Harry is staring at him like he’s expecting Louis is just going to say it, like it would be that easy to find the right words. Louis just stares back, opens his mouth then closes it again, watching as Harry’s expression gets more and more disappointed with every ticking second, and Louis just doesn’t want to look at it anymore.

So he surges forward, presses his lips in between Harry’s slightly parted ones, wrapping a soapy hand into his hair and smearing suds down his chest. He feels Harry’s muscles tense under his fingers when Louis slides them down his bare torso, hooking them into his belt buckle. His jaw is locked, not responding at all when Louis tries to lick into his mouth, so he bites at Harry’s bottom lip instead, probably harder than necessary and Harry makes a small noise, melting just a little into his usual pliant self before Louis tightens his fingers around Harry’s curls and unthreads the end of his belt from the first loop in his jeans. Harry stills again, pushing Louis back gently by the shoulders and shaking his head, muttering, “No.” And his expression is even worse now.

Louis lets his hand drop heavily from Harry’s waistband and glares at him, breathing a little heavier than normal and huffing a sigh. Harry looks back at him, little bundles of bubbles fizzling in his hair and under his belly button.

Louis catches sight of a stray drop of water fall from the point of one of the pendants hanging from the chords around Harry’s neck and drip down the center of his stomach, and has a flash of seeing the same thing - in a blue swimming pool, approaching him underneath the murky moonlight- what couldn’t have been just in the middle of the summer. Louis’ eyes go involuntarily to Harry’s still staring at him, eyes that have only been staring at him for - Louis blinks as he realises it - less than three months. Because that’s how long it took for Louis to let someone become his life again, and he thinks to himself that might be a new record, even for him.

“I’m gonna go,” he says, breaking eye contact with Harry and turning away from the sink.

“Seriously?” Harry says shortly from behind him as Louis picks his shoes up by the door.

“Yeah.” He nods without turning around, patting his jeans down to make sure his keys and wallet are still in his pockets. That’s not everything that belongs to him in Harry’s flat, but Louis’ heart has started to race and he really needs to leave and stop seeing that look on Harry’s face, and breathe, and figure out why the fuck he’s having this reaction. “I - I haven’t been home since yesterday, I need to um, check on things. I need to - to call Zayn, make sure he and Liam got to Wolverhampton okay this morning, I-” He takes a long breath, he’s barely been able to get one of his shoes slipped on, now fumbling with the laces. Why the hell are his hands shaking when nothing’s even happened. “- I just need to go,”

“You’re leaving because I don’t want to have sex with you.” Harry says as Louis reaches for the door handle, one shoe still in his hand. “Thanks, Lou, that really makes me feel good.”

Louis stops with his hand on the door and turns half around. “Great, I’m glad. Because you’re making me feel like shit, too.” No - he needs to leave, the door is right there. But Harry steps towards him, and Louis turns around fully again.

“I’m sorry, okay? That’s not what I’m trying to do, I don’t want- I just want you to tell me what’s going on inside your head, Louis.” Harry throws a hand out frustratingly. “Just fucking talk to me instead of brushing it off like nothing bothers you, because I think - I think you owe it to me to not treat me like I’m some insensitive idiot who couldn’t handle it if someone I care about was upset,”

Louis blinks, staring at Harry from across the kitchen. His legs have apparently lost all ability to cooperate with the blaring sirens going off in Louis’ head and he still doesn’t know what to say, because Harry is definitely raising his voice now, and Louis can’t figure out whether he should apologize to shut him up or yell, too, or even say anything, since leaving is apparently not an option at the moment.

“You don’t want to know what’s going on inside my head.” He settles on saying it quietly to his feet.

“Yes I do, Louis!” Harry blurts out. “I want to know why you think I don’t want to hang out with you. I want to know why you’re allowed to assume you know how I feel about things, but I’m not allowed to ask you about them. You can’t just-”

Louis stands up straighter, but steps sideways behind another chair to the beside the kitchen table and points a finger in his direction. “Yes I can, Harry.” He says sharply, not needing Harry to finish that sentence. Louis’ heard it before. “I’m sick of people telling me I’m- I’m avoiding everything and can’t take anything seriously, just because I don’t want to sit here and drag on about things that aren’t going to matter soon enough. Just because I don’t see what the hell the point is of having conversations that I know are going to end in yelling and arguing and being in worse moods than if I wouldn’t have brought it up at all!”

Harry’s mouth opens to retort but Louis cuts him off, feels heat flooding his face when he does. “Have you thought why I might not want to sit here and blubber on about - what? My - my fun job, that a monkey could do, and that I’m not even going to get to keep come the end of the summer? Because I don‘t really think that‘s the most fun conversation to have over leftovers.”

Harry looks a little surprised at his outburst but doesn’t interrupt, so Louis rushes on, hating that it’s probably exactly what Harry want’s him to do.

“Maybe we could talk forever about the other things I love thinking about, like how my best friend is this close to leaving me to go live with his perfect boyfriend, because he at least has his life together, and wouldn’t have to use his mum’s money - that she doesn’t have to give him in the first place - to pay their rent. And how I can’t do shit to stop him, because - because he‘ll probably be better off when he does.”

His voice cracks and Harry is shaking his head a little like he’s about to try and tell Louis he’s wrong, but Louis wont let him do that, because the words are still coming out of him, and he thinks he’s more mad at himself now than he is at Harry for making him say them.

“Or since you really want to know,” he continues before Harry can open his mouth. “I can tell you about all of the other people who have said the same things to me that you’re saying right now, Harry. All the people who have stood in front of me and haven’t had to say it out loud for me to know that I wasn‘t enough for them, that I didn‘t give them enough.” Louis takes a steadying breath, but it still comes out uneven and shaky. “That’ve made me feel like it was my fault that I wasn’t what they wanted.”

He bites hard on the inside of his cheek when he feels an ache in his throat. Louis doesn‘t cry in front of people, he just doesn’t, and he‘s not going to do it now. “And then you can ask me again why in the world I would question it when someone like you says they want to spend their time with me, and only me.” He finishes with another uneven breath, still looking fixedly at the cabinets above Harry’s head.

Harry seems to unfreeze slowly from where he’s been standing, three feet away from Louis, watching him say all of this with wide eyes. “Louis,” he starts quietly, moving closer just a little. “You - you can’t think of yourself like you’re this big nuisance on everyone’s lives. I don’t know about all those other people - fuck them if they made you feel like that, but I know Zayn loves you, I know it.”

Louis bites his cheek harder and stares down at his hands gripping the top of the kitchen chair tightly, and Harry continues, “I’m sure your mum gets it too, you know? You’re not supposed to have, like, your whole life figured out by the time you’re twenty-one. Everyone thinks like tha-”

“That doesn’t make me feel better, Harry!” Louis can’t stop himself from cutting Harry off again, from letting him finish what he was going to say. He’s heard this, too. “I know I’m not the only person who thinks these things, but it doesn’t make me feel better, it just makes me feel even more stupid for thinking them! And it doesn’t change the fact that I’m still sitting here doing fucking nothing while everyone I know can just - just drop out of school to tattoo for a living, or play music for people that’ll listen and love it, why do they get to do that? Why can’t I just decide I want to do something, and have it happen, have it work out perfectly - ”

Harry takes a step closer and Louis recoils a little behind his chair. “But it’s not like that’s normal, Louis. It’s not like everyone can just make it all that easy, and -”

“But you did.” Louis interrupts quickly. “You did what you wanted, you get to be nineteen years old and have stuff you do hung in galleries for people to look at. You’re going to get to do what makes you happy for as long as you want, it’s going to work out for you,”

“You don’t know that,” Harry says quietly.

“Of course I do, Harry!” Louis gives a bitter laugh that he knows makes him sound like a total arsehole, but that’s kind of what he feels like right now, so he goes with it. “Please don’t act like you don’t either. Don’t act like you don’t get everything you ever want, just by thinking it. Like everyone you meet isn’t just ready to hand themselves over on a silver platter the second they see you. I’m not that lucky, so m’not really surprised you can’t relate.” He stumbles over the last few words and swallows hard, voice already a little strained from speaking at the level he has been, and thinks he would’ve probably just tried to reach his arms out to take the words back as they left his mouth if his hands weren’t still gripped so tightly around the top of the chair.

“That’s not fair.” Harry is almost whispering now, but Louis can’t stop yelling. He wants to; he knows the balcony doors are still wide open, letting the nighttime breeze flow through the flat, knows he’s yelling loud enough for at least half-a-dozen of Harry’s neighbors to hear, but he doesn’t care. He feels stupid and helpless and little and more exposed than he can remember feeling in a long time. More than when Harry was watching him from the armrest of the couch, or when he was laid out and naked underneath him on his mattress.

“Well, sorry, not everything can be fair.” Louis says sharply, finally letting himself catch Harry’s full expression, and he can’t help but think - know. He knows he went too far a long time ago. Harry doesn’t say anything for a while, Louis can hear the faint sounds drifting through the balcony doors of people laughing down on the street under Harry’s building, and he thinks he might feel a little sick now.

“I don’t know what to say.” Harry’s voice is still so quiet, and he has a blank expression that would be unreadable if it weren’t for his eyes, which are wide and anxious and maybe a little bit wet, Louis can’t tell from all the way across the room, and he really would rather not know right now, anyway.

“Right.” Louis nods once at Harry and loosens his hands from where they’re still gripping the top of the chair with white knuckles, they fall to his side shaking slightly.

He doesn’t know what to say either, and he can’t look at Harry anymore, because Louis does not cry in front of people, he just doesn’t. So he turns away, picks his other shoe up from beside the front door and doesn’t put it on, just opens it, walks out and shuts it behind him.


When he gets home, he throws his keys at the little ceramic elephant on the kitchen counter and then stands in his living room. He was able to get his heart to stop beating so fast on the bus ride home, but his hands are still shaking if he doesn’t ball them tightly into fists. He thinks he could probably cry now, but nothing’s coming out, just an endless ache in the back of his throat that isn‘t subsiding, like it’s telling Louis he’s not allowed to do it in private, where he can pretend it didn’t happen tomorrow.

He feels exhausted and small, standing in the middle of his empty flat that, before this summer, had never been filled with the smell of homemade meals or a deep voice humming pop songs in the morning, or white Converse thrown by the door or curly hair and pink cheeks, but Louis thinks it feels so strange now, without these things. He looks around blankly, because he can’t go into his bedroom, because there’s still blue stars painted on his ceiling and his pillow probably smells like vanilla, and he can’t sit on the couch, because he knows there’s extra condoms shoved in between the cushions, can’t even sleep in Zayn’s bed, because there won’t be anyone else under the covers with him.

He just wants to sleep, wake up when all this static isn’t in his head and his hands have finally stopped shaking, so he sits against the wall in the hallway without turning any lights on and puts his head between his knees, digging his fingernails into his ankles to steady his hands until he eventually drifts off on the floor.

Harry doesn’t call or text the next day, Louis doesn’t expect him to at all, he only looks at his phone long enough to type out a text to Zayn, but he deletes the Please come home. before he can press send. Zayn isn’t supposed to come home until Wednesday, and Louis has apparently lost all his selfishness that would let him not care about ruining his time with Liam. So he doesn’t send it, but he sleeps in Zayn’s room that night, hours earlier than he would normally go to bed, because it’s the only way he can stop thinking.

On the second day, Louis has to take the bus to campus to get his courses sorted for the upcoming term. He gets a cup of tea at one of the places near Zayn’s work afterwards, and then sits at the bus stop and stares down the street towards the tall flat buildings in the distance for an hour before finally getting on a bus.

He walks to work on Tuesday morning and sits alone in the playground to eat a granola bar he purposely picked out of his cabinets as the saddest possible thing to bring for lunch. The rest of the day goes mind-numbingly slow without anything to refresh him in the middle of his shift, or to look forward to at the end of it. He hasn’t cried, yet, but it’s still there; the feeling like he could burst at any moment. He’s starting to get a little worried of what’ll come out when he does.

When Louis finally gets home from work, he grabs another granola bar and heads directly to Zayn’s bed.

The thing is, he knows he’s feeling sorry for himself - he’s used to doing that, has gotten pretty good at it over the years - but the thing is, this time he doesn’t want to do what he’s good at. He doesn’t want to tell himself he’s over it and move on and never speak of it again, because this time he wants Harry. He doesn’t want to give up because it’s the easier thing to do. He doesn’t want to give up hearing pop songs in the morning or being made spaghetti for dinner or having someone look at him like he‘s the only thing they see. Louis doesn’t want to give up the way his stomach swoops and his heart races and his head swims just from being near another person, because sometimes it’s scary, but Louis thinks it might be a good kind of scary. He thinks Harry’s kind of like a roller coaster; a big gangly walking adrenaline rush. Something that’s scary, but it’s a challenge. And Louis’ always liked a challenge, but there’s part of him that’s just afraid he might’ve already lost this one.

He doesn’t know how long he stays there, not sleeping, just staring at Zayn’s bedroom wall while the sun light creeps lower and lower through the window. He knows it’s late when he hears a click of a lock somewhere in the flat, some shuffling about in the hallway for a minute, and then sees a small sliver of light open up on the wall as the bedroom door creaks behind him. There’s a faint smell of the train and cigarette smoke as the covers lift up and arms wrap around Louis from behind, not the arms he’s been used to lately, but. They’re still familiar and comforting and Louis loses the battle with the lump in his throat then, lets the tears welling up in his eyes fall finally and bites his lip to try and stifle a sob. Zayn’s arms tighten silently around his waist, pulling himself closer and pressing a kiss to the back of Louis’ hair, finding his hand under the covers and rubbing over the back of it with his thumb in small circles until Louis’ nose is stuffy and his eyes are sore and he’s so exhausted that he can fall asleep.

Louis sits at the kitchen table in the morning, watching his tea cool while Zayn mixes the last bits of four different cereal boxes to make two bowls, passing one to Louis silently. Zayn sits across the table from him but doesn’t say anything, because he knows not to say anything, not to ask or bring it up or make Louis talk about it, and that kind of makes Louis want to cry all over again.

He sits there for a few more minutes, swirling his finger around in his mug now and cereal growing soggy in his untouched bowl, before starting, “Um,” he says tentatively and sees Zayn’s shoulders set like he’s listening, but he keeps staring casually at the news feed he’s scrolling through on his phone. “You feel like you know me, right? Like I - I tell you about myself and stuff.”

Zayn looks up finally and chews another spoonful for a moment, like he‘s thinking of the right thing to say. But Louis doesn‘t want him to say the right thing, he wants to hear what he really thinks. “You talk about yourself a lot,” he starts slowly, “but.”

“But that’s not the same thing.” Louis finishes quietly, glancing up once from his mug at Zayn before looking back down again.

“It’s not,” Zayn says, and Louis knows that Zayn gets exactly what they’re talking about without him having to elaborate, and Louis thinks that makes it easier and so much worse at the same time. He pushes the heels of his hands into his eyes until he sees static, but he can feel Zayn still looking over at him, waiting a minute before saying, “I just think - you’ve gotta give people something, you know? Something that they’ll think about when you’re not there, or like, I dunno - make their heart flutter and like, their dick hard, or some shit…”

Louis scrubs his hands over his face a few times and then looks at Zayn, blinking to focus his eyes again. “You’re a goddamn poet, y’know that?” Zayn gives a smug raise of his eyebrows, like he can’t help how brilliant he is, and sly smile, which sends a stray Cheerio falling onto his shirt. Louis chuckles. “Did you have a good trip with Liam?”

“Yeah, it was really great,” says Zayn, popping the Cheerio back in his mouth.

“I’m glad.” Louis smiles. “Will you tell me about it later?”

“Sure, Lou.” Zayn gets up from the table to put their dishes in the sink, dropping a wet kiss on the top of Louis’ head as he grabs his bowl of soggy cereal.

Once Zayn is done rinsing in the sink, Louis looks up at him quietly from the table. “Are you gonna leave me?” He says quietly.

Zayn walks over to him, smiling and ruffling Louis’ hair fondly. “’Course not,” he says. “M’afraid I’m just too besotted by your incomparable charm and unparalleled knack for personal space to ever think about giving you up.”

Louis laughs and stands up from his chair to wrap him in a hug. “Love you.”

“Love y’too, man,” smiles Zayn, hugging Louis tighter and teetering on their spot a little.

“Zayney bear?” Louis says quietly into his shoulder after a moment. He hums back in response, and Louis keeps his voice sweet and soft, bringing a hand to pet the back of Zayn’s hair roughly. “Who tops?”

“Oh my god.” Zayn lets go of Louis, giving him a disbelieving look and a signature eye roll.

“Just tell me,” he whines, stomping a foot stubbornly as Zayn walks out of the kitchen. “I wanna know so bad.”

Zayn just laughs, shaking his head incredulously. “I have to take a shower, leave me alone,”

Louis follows him. “Zayn, does Liam have a big dick?”

“Leave me alone!” Yells Zayn again, breaking into a run when Louis starts chasing him down the hallway, shouting out different measurements at the top of his lungs.


Twenty-five pounds seems like a lot, Louis thinks. A lot for something that is going to be eaten and forgotten by tomorrow morning. He wonders if he’s still expected to buy Liam a gift after spending twenty-five quid on a cake. He wonders if maybe he shouldn’t have volunteered to have this responsibility.

A little bell chimes from behind the counter and Louis looks up from the glass display case to see exactly who he expected to walking through the back kitchen doors. Louis kind of has to squint to see him through the blurry lenses of his glasses (which he stupidly shoved on over his contacts as a last-ditch effort before he left to come here), but Harry is still beautiful, even with a hair net pulled over his curls and frosting all over his orange apron and smudged on his cheek where his dimple is supposed to be. Louis doesn’t let himself look too long, barely lets himself register the mild look of surprise on Harry’s face when he spots Louis in front of the counter, before he takes a deep breath as Harry walks towards him.

“Why are these cakes so expensive?” Louis asks him right away. “What do you put in them?”

“Um, like strawberry mousse and shit.” Harry’s expression changes so that he looks like he might be trying to keep down a grin, maybe that‘s just Louis being hopeful, though. “I don’t know, I just decorate them.”

“Did you decorate that one?”

Harry walks closer to see the cake Louis is pointing at. “No, I don’t think I did that one.”

Louis points at the one next to it. “That one?” It’s got giant balloons frosted in mounds of primary colors, one blob of red that looks like it would taste disgusting and stain someone’s teeth for days.

“Yeah, I did that earlier.”

“Okay, I’ll take that one.”

Harry’s secret smile is still creeping wider onto his face as he bends down to retrieve the cake from the display case. “So,” he starts slowly, setting it on the counter and looking at Louis. “Big celebration?”

Louis is having trouble meeting Harry’s eyes now that he’s standing just on the opposite side of the counter from him. “Kind of; it’s Liam’s birthday.” He tells him. “But I think we’re just gonna get drunk and watch Clueless, or something.”

“Sounds wild.”

“Yeah well, It’s Liam, so.”

Harry laughs a little and then it’s suddenly quiet between them and Louis can’t help his eyes falling onto Harry’s face. He maybe stares a little too long, the words in his brain not quite finding their way out of his mouth yet, because Harry clears his throat after a moment and Louis blinks a few times, then looks away, pushing his glasses up the bridge of his nose a little.

“I’ll just, um. Get his name on this for you, yeah?” Harry says, picking up the cake and disappearing through the kitchen doors again.

Louis shakes his head a few times and pinches himself on the arm. “Get it the fuck together!” He mutters, causing a small round child stealing a passing glance at the cupcake display to give him a curious look. Louis hisses at him and he skitters away quickly, disappearing to the next aisle just as Harry reappears and Louis clears his throat to compose himself.

Harry sets the cake in front of him on the counter silently and Louis just kind of stares down at it, curly writing now spelling out Happy 6th Birthday Liam! in orange frosting.

Louis swallows hard and speaks straight to the red balloon, “Um, would you want to - I mean, you can come tonight, if you want? To watch the movie. It’s probably just going to be us three, I know Liam wouldn’t mind…”

Harry stares at the top of his head until Louis finally looks up from the cake at Harry‘s face. “Yeah. Yeah, sure. I’m a big fan of knee socks, and all that.”

Louis feels his heart rate calm just a little. “Cool, I think Zayn’s bringing Liam over after they have dinner. Around nine?”

Harry nods with a small smile. “I’ll be there at nine, then.”

Louis almost nods too, but then stops himself. “Actually, if you want to come a bit earlier than that. I um, I kind of wanted to talk to you?”

He’s finally meeting Harry’s eyes, but Louis thinks he might still kill him for how long he keeps taking to respond to everything he says.

Harry eventually nods again. “Yeah, sure.” He says, and Louis can’t figure out his expression at all.

“Okay, I’ll let you get back to work, then.” He says hurriedly. “I’ll see you later.” Harry nods once more silently and Louis says another quiet, “Bye,” before taking his cake and walking quickly to the front of the store.


Louis spends the rest of the day convincing himself Harry isn’t going to come, so when he knocks on his door that night, he doesn’t let himself be too upset about the fact that Harry’s only ever knocked before entering once before, and that was the very first time he came to the flat.

“Hi,” he says when Louis opens the door with a tentative smile.

“Hi,” Louis says back, holding the door open as Harry walks in. “Do, um, d’you want like a beer, or something?”

Harry stands awkwardly in the entryway, Louis really wants to tell him to take off his jacket now. “M’good.” He shakes his head and Louis thinks shit, because that was as far as he had planned this out in his head.

“Okay, I’m gonna have one, if that’s okay?” he says.

Harry smiles a little. “They are yours.”

“Right.” Louis gives a nervous laugh and goes to the fridge. He opens the bottle on the side of the counter and takes a long gulp before turning back around. Harry’s leaning against the side of the kitchen table now, but he’s still wearing his jacket and shoes. He looks down at Harry’s white high tops - with one lace hanging undone and trailing on the floor, scuffed with years of dirt and paint speckles and places they’ve walked - and Louis thinks they might be his favorite things ever.

“Got the cake,” Harry states, gesturing at it sitting in the middle of the table where Louis put it when he got home, before whipping his glasses off in favor of changing into his party jeans and brushing his hair.

“Yeah, thanks for that.” Louis says, taking another sip of his drink and clutching the bottle like it’s a life raft.

“Anytime.” Harry looks at him and Louis still doesn’t know what to say, so he just kind of stares back, counting the seconds as the normal amount of time to stare at each other across a kitchen ticks from normal to awkward. Harry finally pipes up, “We’re acting so weird.”

“I know,” Louis laughs, trying not to make it sound as relieved as he feels. “What the fuck is wrong with us. Okay.” He says quickly, and then takes a breath and a step closer to Harry, who shakes his head and starts before Louis can.

“Listen, I’m sorry. I never should have said all that stuff, or like, made you feel uncomfortable. It’s none of my business, and I kept pushing you to talk about it when I should’ve just let it go, because it made you upset.”

“But you we’re right, Harry, you-”

“I wasn’t, It was none of my business,” Harry says again, and Louis puts his bottle down on the counter and steps closer to him.

“No, just. Just let me go first, okay?” He says and Harry falls silent and nods, staring back intently. Louis takes another breath to steal himself. Like a roller coaster. Okay. “I want it to be your business, because you were totally right, about everything, okay? And I knew that, and I think that’s maybe why I freaked out so much?” He says, and is very grateful that Harry isn’t interrupting him now. “Because - I think I was really scared of when someone was finally going to tell me that I’m not doing as good of a job as I thought I was at pretending I don’t have all these things hanging over me all the time, you know?”

Harry nods quietly, still listening and Louis wants to smile. “And I should’ve just told you that, but instead I tried to make you feel guilty about your life and having what you have, and that was a really dick move on my part. I hope you know I didn’t mean any of that, at all.” He waits for Harry to nod and smile lightly. “I just didn’t know what to say, because I think my brain has kind of trained itself from like, past experiences or something, to not give too much; to not say things that are going to make people think that they know me or know what I’m thinking, because I feel like I’m just giving them things to judge me with.” Louis says quickly.

“And I don’t like that; I don’t like not being able to control what strangers or my friends or even people I care about are thinking about me. You know, I had people assume things about me and judge me for eighteen years, and then I told them who I was and like - it still didn’t stop. But I think I’m just going to have to deal with the fact that It probably never will.”

He takes another breath before continuing, stepping closer to Harry and smiling now. “And then you kind of caught me off guard, because - because I wanted to give you so much and just tell you all this crazy stuff like - my feelings and shit.”

Harry grins for the first time and crinkles his nose in mock-disgust. “Feelings.”

“I know, right,” Louis laughs, shaking his head. “So gross. But I wanted to, and I felt like I couldn’t, ‘cause my brain, my stupid boring brain was still telling me I wasn‘t allowed.” He says. “But like, that’s stupid, right? That’s bullshit, because I made those rules up for myself, I could break them if I wanted to, you know?”

Louis doesn’t know if Harry knows, because Louis thinks he’s just figured that out himself, but he nods again and Louis steps closer.

“I don’t want to have to feel like I need to make jokes all the time or not have actual conversations when I’m around you. I’ve kind of realised it’s worth it - to not be scared of an argument or like, of being vulnerable.” Louis makes sure he’s meeting Harry’s eyes. “You’re worth it, because - because you’re kinda everything, kid.” He says, and Harry smiles with his dimple, and Louis thinks that might be his favorite thing ever, too. “And maybe that’s wrong, maybe I shouldn’t think that about someone I didn’t even know three months ago, but I don’t really care. It feels - just really, really right. And I want you to be in my life while I try to make other things feel that way.”

“I want to be, too,” Harry says softly.

“Do you?”

“I really want to be, yeah.” And Louis gets another smile, which he returns before hurrying on with his last thought.

“Because I know people seem to think if two people are like, shagging and watching romantic comedies and hanging out and eating food together then you’re supposed to put a label on it, or something, but I don’t want you to think that matters to me, because I don’t really care about that, I just want you there. I want you there all the time,” Louis blurts out. “Because you just make me feel kind of crazy, Harry. And overwhelmed - but in a good way, just happy and warm, and I sort of came up with this thing about like, my insides turning to liquid, but now that I think about it, that sounds kind of weird. And gross, actually, so…”

“Yeah, I know how you feel.” Harry grins. “Except my feeling is more like my bones are turning to paper, or something,” he says wiggling his shoulders up and down loosely.

Louis laughs softly. “Equally weird,” he says, distantly aware that he’s probably blushing like a little kid.

“I don’t want you to stop making jokes,” Harry tells him.

Louis waves a hand. “No, I wouldn’t stop making jokes. I’m hilarious, Harry.”

“I know you are.” Harry laughs fondly. “You‘re hilarious, and kind of a complete nutter and like, the messiest person I’ve ever met. And you’re fucking gorgeous, Lou, and your voice- your voice, I’m going to record you talking for hours and I’m gonna listen to it while I fall asleep every night and -”

Louis smiles. “That’s kind of creepy, Harry,”

“I know it is!” Harry laughs. “It’s really creepy, but I’ll be that, I’ll be that crazy person who cooks your dinners and watches every rerun of every shitty American TV show with you and hangs around your flat all the time like a total weirdo, because that’s what I want to do. And if that means that you’re my boyfriend or people want to call us a couple, then we can do that, too,” he says, straightening up from the table he’s leaning against and bouncing a little on his feet, now looking very determined, and Louis thinks, kind of adorable.

“Let’s do it,” Harry rushes on, voice a little louder now, like he wants people outside Louis’ kitchen to hear him. “Because, god, I like you so much, Louis. I think- I think I’m probably fucking in love with you, and I don’t care if that’s weird or - or scary for you to hear. It is for me, too, it really is. Because I’ve thought I’ve maybe felt that before, with other people, but I whatever that was it was nothing compared to with you, and it’s scary. But I’m not gonna run away from it or try to hide it, because that’s how I feel, okay?”

He says it all so quickly that Louis is still catching up when he hurries on. “So let’s do it,” Harry says again, punching his right fist into his left palm like he’s giving a pep talk to a bunch of football players. Louis laughs, and it sounds a little closer to a giggle, but he doesn’t really care, because this is fun and he feels kind of excited all of the sudden. “Let’s make up hilarious stories to tell at parties so people will tell us how cute we are, and get matching tattoos, and - and go on double dates with Zayn and Liam.”

Louis gasps, “Never!”

“Yes!” Harry laughs. “We’re gonna do it, and I’m gonna make you pull my chair out for me, and there’ll be fuckin’- champagne, and - and candles,”

“No candles!”

“Yes, candles and those fancy violin players, and we’re going to hide a ring in Liam’s dessert and go fuck in the bathroom while he finds it and thinks Zayn is proposing.”

“But what if he says yes?” Louis might be jumping up and down with joy at this idea and his heart feels like it might flutter right out of his chest. Or maybe it’s his stomach that feels like that, he isn’t sure. It’s fluttery, though.

“Then we’ll fuck in the bathroom at their wedding, too, it’ll be amazing!” He laughs, throwing his arms up excitedly and smiling wide at Louis, who’s right in front of him at the edge of the kitchen table now. “But I need you to believe me when I say that that’s what I really, really want. I can‘t have you thinking I don‘t want to spend every day with you or that I’m any less into this as you are, okay?”

Louis smiles and nods. “Okay.”

“Okay.” Harry reaches both his hands out to clasp his fingers with Louis‘, jerking him forward suddenly so he falls over onto Harry’s chest, and Louis wonders if he’ll ever get used to that feeling of someone else spreading through him like wildfire when he touches them. He kind of hopes he never does.

“What were you thinking for the tattoos?” Louis says against his neck and Harry laughs.

“Dunno.” He says above him. “I’ve seen one couple have like, a slice of bread with ham on it, and the other, a slice of bread with cheese on it, y‘know?”

“M’kay, I wanna be cheese.”

“I’m not really fond of ham, though.” Says Harry thoughtfully. “Can I get bananas instead? Like, sliced bananas on bread.”

“Cheese and bananas.” Louis laughs softly into his shoulder and feels Harry smile against his hair.

“We’ll be the grossest sandwich ever,” he says proudly, and he tightens his fingers in Louis’, turning his head slightly to rest his forehead on his. Louis’ face is too close to even focus clearly, but he can see Harry is still smiling, and there’s a hint of seriousness in his eyes now, but Louis isn’t scared of it. “Do you believe me?”

“Yeah,” Louis says, bending his elbows up so he can bump their hands against either side of Harry’s head. “I believe you. About everything.”

“Good.” He beams and Louis has to cross his eyes a little to get a better look.

“And, um - me too, by the way.” He says. Harry pulls back his face a few inches, looking down at him a little questioningly, and Louis smirks. “I’m probably fucking in love with you, too.”

Harry’s grin widens impossibly, and it’s one of those goofy ones, that make his cheeks pink and his eyes all shiny. “Cool, I’m gonna kiss you now.”

“Go for it.”

Harry does, and they both seem to agree to skip over the useless build up and the slow kisses and move right to the part where Harry kneads at Louis’ arse and starts making noises into his mouth and Louis’ hands roam across Harry’s back and dip below the waist of his jeans.

“Couldn’t break the habit?” Louis smiles, inching his fingers further down and only finding more skin underneath the denim.

Harry laughs as he pulls away from his mouth to trail his lips down Louis’ throat. “I was hopeful.” He sucks hard on the skin at the crook of his neck. Louis tilts his head back accommodatingly and glances at the front door over Harry before letting his eyes close and a hand grip in his hair.

Harry makes a sound against his skin that goes straight to Louis’ dick, and Louis doesn’t have to guess if that was Harry’s intention. He knows it was. The cheeky shit.

“D’you-” Louis starts to say.

“Always.” Says Harry quickly, pulling off his neck with one last graze of his teeth and shoving two foil squares from his pocket into Louis’ hand before kissing his mouth again and adding in a mumble of, “S’bubblegum flavored.”

“M’favorite,” Louis hums against his lips. “How sweet of you.”

“I was hopeful,” Harry says again and Louis kisses him harder, grips his hair tighter between his fingers and Harry makes another deliberate moan of appreciation.

Louis peeks one eye open to glance at the front door again.

He knows Zayn and Liam are going to walk through that door any minute now. He knows he promised Zayn that he would refrain from things that could not be deemed ‘kitchen appropriate’ whilst in the kitchen. But Louis’ bedroom is like twenty fucking feet away, and Harry is biting at his bottom lip and yeah - that was his thigh that just pressed very insistently between Louis’ legs and Louis is probably fucking in love with him.

He knows Zayn and Liam are going to walk through that door any minute now and he knows it might not be deemed ‘kitchen appropriate’ to flip Harry around by the shoulders and bend him over the table so the side of his face is squished inches away from Liam’s birthday cake. But Louis does it anyway, and when Harry molds himself to the table immediately and spreads his legs slightly and lifts a finger to swipe some frosting off the side of the cake and taste it in his mouth, giggling in delight, Louis doesn’t really care about that stupid promise to Zayn.

Besides, he thinks as he reaches around Harry’s waist to undo his belt buckle, Louis has made similar promises before, and Zayn was never upset enough when he broke them that a little of Louis’ incomparable charm couldn’t fix it right up, so.

What’s one more time.