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It started with a kiss.

It was the middle of the night, probably past two o’clock but Louis wasn’t sure. It was dark except for the faint orange glow of the streetlight outside seeping through the curtains. Niall was snoring softly.

They had just finished the fifth week of the X Factor live shows, safe for another seven days, and Louis couldn’t seem to drift off. He stared up at the ceiling, the lack of light making it hard to tell exactly how far above him it was, and tried the age-old cliché of counting sheep. It was useless, of course.

The most annoying part of not being able to sleep when he knew he had to be up early the following morning was the fact that there was nothing keeping him up. He felt pretty relaxed, actually, for the first time since his life had been turned upside down. He hoped that this realisation would speed up the process of slipping into unconsciousness, however his mind was simply taken over by listing possible explanations for his lack of sleep. Was he just missing his family? No more than usual. Had he consumed anything with a high sugar content? Not since the morning. Not still hyped up from the show. Not nervous about next week. Definitely feeling tired.

Louis began to get agitated so he sat up and put his face in his hands, groaning quietly to himself. The timid “Lou?” that escaped from the darkness a moment later made him shoot his head back up and look in the direction he knew Harry’s bed was, his voice already excessively familiar. He didn’t have a chance to reply before Harry’s figure emerged, the orange glow prevalent, and he was breathtakingly beautiful. He, like Louis, was wearing nothing but his underwear. They were covered in a pattern of thick blue and white stripes. Louis observed Harry as he made exactly four steps across the room and slipped into Louis’ bed, but time slowed down and Louis couldn’t help but take in his slender figure and the breath that hitched in his throat.

These were not new thoughts. No, Louis had become aware that he was falling for Harry at some point between the boot camp and judges’ houses stages, and now officially in week six of the live shows he was completely gone. Lost without a trace. As soon as they’d been forced into spending every day and night together he’d fallen, hard and fast and with no sign of recovering any time soon.

Suddenly Louis found himself shifting back against the wall so that they could both fit in his single bed.

“Are you okay?” Harry was whispering, being careful not to wake anyone else. His eyes were drooping but he somehow managed to keep his gaze steadily focused on Louis. Louis lay back down, Harry following suit, and turned on his side to face the younger boy.

“I can’t sleep,” Louis was close enough to see Harry’s face crack into a wide smile at his obvious remark. A few seconds of silence dragged out between them before Louis remembered that Harry had also been lying silently awake in the small hours, so he followed up with an, “are you okay?”

Harry nodded, still smiling but with his mouth now closed, “tonight was fun,” Louis made a noise of agreement before Harry continued, excitement in his eyes, “I still can’t believe this is happening.”

Louis thought about that, in that moment, about how less than three hours ago millions of people had sat and watched them in their living rooms and now they were just two teenagers, best friends even, filling in the silence with sparse whispers and he didn’t feel quite as relaxed as he had before. He didn’t notice that he had closed his eyes but Harry must have, because Louis felt a hand settle on his arm and try to pull him in. He shifted a little closer without a second thought; he and Harry had first cuddled the day they met. His heart still skipped a beat, despite this. Their bodies weren’t quite touching.

When Louis opened his eyes he was met with Harry’s still on him. His smile had disappeared and there was nothing Louis wanted more than to bring it back.

Silence once again consumed them and seconds became minutes and before he knew it Louis had no idea how much time had passed between them as he searched around Harry’s face, picking out his features in the shadows. The warmth of Harry’s body in such close proximity brought the tired feeling back to Louis and as much as he didn’t want to, he eventually gave in and closed his eyes. Harry almost immediately hugged Louis tighter and pulled him in so that their chests were pressed together and their legs slightly intertwined. Louis tilted his head up so that it fit better with Harry’s neck, and he let out a nearly inaudible happy sigh. The mattress and the pillows and the bedsheets all felt softer when they were tangled up like that and this was the first time Louis had noticed it.

“You know,” Harry began with that same low whisper of his, his lips dangerously close to Louis’ ear, “you would have probably found it easier to sleep if you hadn’t had that coffee,” coffee. There it was. Louis made a mental note to never drink coffee after ten o’clock at night again. No, should probably make that nine. Not that he wasn’t enjoying his time with Harry. If he had any say in it he would have happily stayed in that position with Harry for the rest of his life.

Louis laughed a little, “yeah. Forgot about that,” he changed the angle of his head again, pressing more into Harry’s neck. His skin felt nice against the sides of Louis’ lips and the smell of his Herbal Essences shampoo drifted through Louis’ nostrils. Herbal Essences. Bloody typical.

Louis’ hand had been resting on Harry’s hip but he brought it up to his waist, enjoying Harry’s warmth in his sleepy state. He thought he felt Harry stiffen at the touch but was too close to the edge to think any more of it. Harry didn’t seem like he was ready to let Louis go yet, though, because he pushed him back so that they were facing each other again.

However, this time they were closer than they had been before and Harry had his brow furrowed and his eyes were darting all over Louis’ face, not keeping still for more than half a second. His mouth was slightly open and Louis’ senses suddenly went into overdrive when he realised he could feel Harry’s breath grazing his mouth, on which Harry’s eyes lingered before he looked back up into Louis’.

And it was bold, he knew it was bold, maybe even too bold, but Louis was drunk on adrenalin and an overwhelming drowsiness and he gravitated towards Harry. Slowly, but surely. The distance was short but the seconds were more drawn out than usual, and it felt like he was moving at the speed of light but at the same time like he was barely moving at all. He stopped when their noses were touching and Louis was sure Harry must have been able to feel his heart trying to pound its way out of his chest.

Louis nudged Harry’s nose with his a little more and Harry took this as a cue to tilt his head up slightly so that their lips were brushing against each other. Louis pushed forward gently to seal them and Harry’s lips were softer than Louis had ever imagined. It felt like their lips were locked, pieced together, and Louis experienced a delayed realisation that they were kissing. It felt like he was exhaling a lungful of air he wasn’t even aware that he’d been holding in as all his muscles relaxed. They moved slowly, and after a moment Louis brought a hand up to tangle it in Harry’s hair and he barely even noticed the sting of the cold November air when he removed his arm from the warmth under the duvet. Louis felt Harry’s tongue brush against his and though it was brief, the sensation shot through his entire body.

When they pulled apart Louis wasn’t sure how long they’d been kissing or whether his breathlessness was due to lack of air or because he had been kissing Harry. His eyes were wide and he felt giddy when Harry put his hand on the back of Louis’ head and pressed his cheek to Louis’ so that his lips were brushing his ear. Louis felt Harry’s smile against his cheek when his mouth spilled the words, “you have no idea how long I’ve wanted to kiss you.”