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Louis vaulted over the back of the sofa and threw himself across Harry's lap.

His feet landed on Jesy's knees and she yelped, jerking her drink and spilling it over Niall, who it turned out was sitting on the carpet at their feet, leaning against the sofa. He twisted around, pulling his wet shirt away from his neck, and laughed when he saw Louis.

"Shit, sorry, sorry," Jesy said, her eyes big and contrite on Niall. Then, re-evaluating, "Wait, no, that was completely not my fault. Tomlinson, you're a menace." She gulped the rest of her drink, one hand held up to ward off any more flailing limbs.

Niall laughed again. "You're a menace, Tommo," he crowed.

"Shhh!" Louis pushed his hand against Niall's mouth, then dropped it so he could crane up to see over the top of the sofa. Harry's arms came around his waist to hold him steady. Louis pressed his chin against the top of the sofa cushion, his eyes narrowed as he scoped out the room.

It looked like Zayn had been distracted mid-pursuit by a wild Edwards. Perrie was leaning in the doorway between the living room and the kitchen, gesturing with a half-eaten cupcake while she talked to a couple of girls Louis thought might be on the netball team. Zayn had been drawn into her orbit, and now he was hovering, a kind of soulfully vague expression on his face while he worked out how to talk to her. He'd probably fail again. Zayn's principal move was standing about looking intent and beautiful; he was rubbish at knowing what to do when that didn't work. Louis would go over and break the ice like the amazing friend he was, only he was hiding from Zayn.

"What did you do to him?" Harry asked, the beginnings of a laugh roughening his voice. He was still holding Louis around the waist; Louis could feel Harry's fingers just brushing skin as he pushed the material of Louis's shirt back and forth between his fingertips. Louis turned and grinned down at him.

"I might've dropped his phone in the sink? Maybe threw more than dropped." Louis twitched his nose, projecting mystified innocence. "It's probably fine, only he was being a tad unreasonable."

Louis was aware of Niall laughing and clapping, but he was watching the slower curve of Harry's grin, Harry's eyes sparkling as he shook his head at Louis.

"I don't know why anyone puts up with you," Leigh-Anne said from behind them.

Louis finally broke Harry's gaze and turned his head, tilting a crooked grin up at her. "I think it's because I'm so good at whistling."

She laughed and leaned over Jesy, lowering a plastic cup in front of Jesy's face. "I got you a new drink, since this one spilt yours all over," she said.

Jesy twisted around, delighted."You're amazing, I love you," she said, and she was clearly beginning to be at that stage of drunk where she got extra emotional, because she leaned up to kiss Leigh-Anne's cheek and when she dropped back down she was tearing up. Leigh-Anne tucked herself onto the arm of the sofa with her feet under Jesy's leg, and they started playing some kind of drinking game that mostly involved laughing breathlessly and tilting their cups around each other like they wanted to spill them all over again.

Louis was feeling a bit woeful about the fact that he'd abandoned his own drink in the bathroom.

He dropped his head back against Harry's shoulder. "I don't have a drink," he said.

He felt Harry smile against his cheek, and then Harry bit down on Louis's jaw a bit. Louis batted at him without moving.

"You can have some of mine if you want," Harry said.

Louis brightened and straightened up. "Ta," he said expectantly.

Harry rolled his eyes but reached down beside the sofa for his own drink – an actual glass, how fancy. It turned out to be slightly flat coke burning with cheap rum, when Louis took a swig.

"All right, you can't have all of it." Harry tugged it out of Louis's hand. Louis let him get it up to his mouth and then dove in, jerking the glass back toward him so the rum and coke sloshed over the rim. He managed to catch most of it, his mouth knocking against the glass and Harry's fingers. Harry laughed, trying to pull the glass back toward him.

"Let go, you thief." Harry's eyes were bright on Louis's. He managed to tip it back towards his mouth enough to get a messy sip.

Louis redoubled his efforts to get it away. "Never! I claim it as a spoil of war!"

Louis feinted towards Harry's nipple and then went for his ribs when Harry dropped a defensive elbow to his chest. In the tangle of Harry yelping and jerking his knee up to save himself from the tickling, most of the rum went down Louis's collar. Louis pulled Harry's wrist towards him and tipped the last of it into his mouth. Harry lifted his face, his eyes widening in outrage.

Then he surged towards Louis, biting his mouth open and swiping his tongue inside after the stolen rum.

Louis choked and suavely managed not to bite Harry's tongue.

Somebody whooped and Harry pulled away. He met Louis's eyes for a moment, his cheeks flushed with the alcohol and tussling. His eyes were dark under the mussed curls of his fringe, and his expression was sort of testing and half laughing and challenging all at once.

Louis might have been caught off guard – that was new, they'd never taken the play-acting that far – but he'd never refused a challenge. So he let his mouth quirk in a cocky half-grin, tugging on Harry's shirt collar since his fingers seemed to be curled around it. "That all you've got, Styles?"

Harry grinned brilliantly and leaned in, his smile bright against Louis's mouth for a moment before it opened into a kiss.

Louis got a jolt in his stomach when Harry's tongue swiped over his teeth, but he was prepared this time. He kissed back immediately, tilting their heads into a movie star clinch. Harry wasn't keeping his tongue to himself so Louis didn't either, even though that wasn't really necessary to make the kiss look good for their audience. He was aware of a few people laughing and cheering, or maybe heckling. He pushed his fingers through Harry's curls, sliding a hand down his back. Harry made a low noise into Louis's mouth and sucked lightly on Louis's tongue, and fuck, he was actually a really good kisser, Louis would never be able to give him shit about his technique again. He distracted himself by pulling them into as showy a dip as he could manage from his knees while on a sofa.

Someone started clapping and Louis straightened, finally pulling back from Harry.

They didn't have that much of an audience: only the people in their corner of the living room had turned towards them.

Niall grinned and knocked his knee against Louis's ankle. "You two're mental," he said.

Louis lifted his chin. "Young Harold had something on his mouth," he said. He turned to grin at Harry, who had sprawled back against the sofa cushions. He gave Louis a slow smile, his eyes bright. Louis' breath got stolen somewhere in the sense memory of Harry's mouth hot on his. He had to make an effort to keep his smile. He could feel it going fake and over-bright.

Suddenly nothing was very funny. His stomach hurt.

He slid off the sofa, jumping to his feet. "I love this song!" he shouted. He hopped over Niall's legs and took off.

There were some people dancing near the sound system outside. Louis joined them, throwing himself into it with ridiculous hip swivels.

He made the mistake of looking inside towards the end of the second song, through the sliding glass doors. Harry was on the sofa, still, his arm around his knee. Louis accidentally met his eyes, and Harry made as though to stand up, maybe to come join him.

Louis fled.

He ended up in the bathroom.

It was a nice bathroom. Louis hadn't been to this house before; it was a mate of Niall's who was throwing the party. Louis thought the guy's parents were around somewhere, making sure things didn't get too crazy. He didn't think they had to worry, it was pretty relaxed so far. He hadn't seen anything worse happen to the house than the drink he'd helped spill on the sofa.

He tightened his grip on the sink, staring at his reflection. It was a bit hazy but not hazy enough. His eyes looked wild.

It wasn't new, this feeling. How the fuck was it such a shock to him when it didn't feel new at all? It felt like he'd always known that touching Harry made his insides swoop. Getting caught in Harry's bright sleepy gaze with the taste of his mouth on Louis's tongue had only made it clear, all at once.

It had just been more of what they always did. It was just playful, meaningless, that was all Harry had meant by it, he'd ... fuck, Louis's stomach hurt.

He hadn't closed the bathroom door all the way. Zayn pushed it open and got halfway inside before he noticed Louis. His eyes widened. "You prick, you still deserve to get thumped, you know."

Louis turned to face him, and Zayn wound down, the outrage shifting to concern. He came forward, his arm coming around Louis's neck and into his hair. "Hey, is something up?" he asked. "You look like one of those consumptive heroines, like."

"Yeah, no, I'm – I'm good. I'm fine." Louis drew in a breath and threw an arm over Zayn's shoulder, forcing Zayn's own arm to slip down to Louis's waist. He leaned on Zayn, making him duck his head, and pressed their temples together. Louis exhaled shakily. "Help me get wasted?"

Zayn gave him a careful look. He squeezed Louis's hip. "Yeah, man. 'Course."


Louis woke up on Sunday too hungover to spare any energy for unwelcome emotional revelations. His head hurt and he felt like death, but he gave himself a tiny internal back pat. He won at ideas. Good for him.

He didn't realise how wrong he was until he was dragging himself out from under his tangled covers, and his phone chimed with a text.

He stared at Harry's name on the display for a second, tension tightening his throat, before he could make himself click on it.

Wanna come hang out at mine?

Louis hadn't seen much of Harry for the rest of last night. He'd been aware of him, and a couple of times Harry had seemed to be looking at Louis or trying to catch his eye, but Louis had managed to always be somewhere Harry wasn't. Mostly he'd stuck with Zayn, but at one point he remembered dancing with Jade and Jesy until he tried something fancy and tripped over Jade's feet into a DVD rack, dragging her down with him, and at another point he remembered making Niall help him prank call Liam in a Swedish accent that he kept ruining by giggling. He wasn't sure when Harry had left; he'd been gone by the time Zayn was sitting beside Louis pouring water into him so that he wouldn't throw up in the taxi.

Louis turned his phone over so it was face down on the bed. Then he turned it right side up and read the message again. It still made his stomach drop into a yawning chasm of want and panic, so he quickly tapped out a reply.

Haha too hungover to move. See you tomorrow.

Harry replied too quickly, like he'd been holding onto his phone and waiting.

Yeah ok. See you at school .x

Louis tried to remember if he'd ever said no to hanging out with Harry before. Maybe that was why he felt even more like shit than before.

He dropped the phone and flopped his face against his bedclothes. It made his head hurt worse than before, and he whimpered. He breathed in his quilt for a few moments, feeling wretched, until the need to use the bathroom and maybe get his hands on a cup of tea forced him up again.

The twins were making some kind of devil noise when he got to the kitchen, dancing around a chair and chanting back and forth with the callous disregard of people who were too young to have hangovers. Somewhere else in the house the two older girls were playing music.

Despite the racket, his mum managed to pick up on the fact that Louis's wretched shuffle to the kettle was a different wretched shuffle to his normal one after a night out.

"What's happened, Louis?" she asked, putting a hand on his elbow.

He bit his lip, his eyes flying wide. "Nothing?" Then he amended that to, "I'll tell you later," because obviously he would, and maybe when he'd talked to his mum it would all come into some kind of wonderfully sensible perspective and he wouldn't want to throw up anymore. Then he had to add, "It's nothing," because she looked so troubled. He leaned in to drop a kiss on the top of her head, then picked up the kettle.

"Whenever you want," she said. She was still frowning, her eyes dark and concerned. "Drink some water, you dissolute wastrel, you look like death."

"Tell her what?" Phoebe demanded. "What are you talking about?"

Louis shut the tap off and stuck the kettle on, propping his hip on the worktop. "I don't want you to worry," he said after a moment. He met her eyes, his gaze limpid and direct.

"Worry about what?" Daisy chimed in. She was always more gullible than Phoebe.

"Well, about the alien invasion." Louis shook his head. "You'll just be in more danger if you know."

"You're making that up," Daisy said. There was a note of uncertainty in her voice.

Louis gave her a brave smile. "It's better if you think so," he said. "Safer."

"He's making it up," Phoebe said scathingly. "If there were aliens, how come he went to a party last night?"

Louis paused, the teabag he'd been about to set in a cup trembling in his hand. "It's true ..." he said, letting his voice go distant and uncertain. "There was a party at the beginning ... I remember ... before the bright lights came ..."

"Lou-eeee," Daisy complained.

Louis crossed back to the girls, putting a hand on each of their shoulders and bending to look them in the eyes. "If something happens to me," he said, "I want you to be brave."

"I don't believe you," Phoebe called as he turned back to the counter to finish making tea.

His mum's mouth was quirking upwards, despite the concerned tightness at the corners of her eyes, but she only said, "Yes, please," and "Don't forget to drink some water too," when Louis waggled a cup at her.

He set her cup of tea down on top of her sudoku on the kitchen table, and filled himself a glass of water, drinking it down. It sloshed queasily in his belly as he grabbed his own tea and sprawled in a chair opposite his mum.

"You didn't do anything stupid, did you?" she asked, her voice low.

He lifted his tea, breathing in the steam, and gave her a crooked, rueful smile over the top of it. "What do you think?"

Phoebe appeared abruptly at his shoulder, resting her chin on it. "You wastrel," she declared, having apparently taken ten minutes to latch onto the word.

After that their devil chant mostly consisted of gleeful variations on wastrel and dissolute. Louis put his arms over his head and had a short and quiet fantasy about being an only child. Maybe in a monastery.

The tragic thing was that having lied to Harry about not being up for company, he now couldn't text Liam and make him come over to play video games on Louis's bed while Louis told him everything he'd missed at the party, or trot his bright and non-hungover self down to the kitchen to make Louis cups of tea whenever Louis felt especially awful.

Louis spent most of the day lying about on the floor of the lounge with the twins, instead. They wouldn't make him cups of tea, and any attempts to keep their voices quiet in consideration for his headache tended to be forgotten after twenty minutes or so, but they let him have all the best cushions and his choice of Monopoly piece. And when he got bored with that halfway through and suggested clipping Monopoly money and property cards and the rest together into an elaborate mansion for the pieces, they went along with it joyfully.

He left his phone in his room, and didn't check it once.

He finally made himself go back to his room after dinner, to do some reading for English. The only texts were from Zayn, awkwardly attempting to check he wasn't huddled under his bedclothes being sad about whatever he'd been sad about the night before, and Liam, asking if he'd been supposed to get some kind of sense out of the garbled Swedish voicemail message on his phone. Then another one from Liam checking that Louis hadn't died of alcohol poisoning.

He replied to Liam with: I was contacting you from beyond the grave !! All ghosts have Swedish accents I'll bet you didn't know that.

He couldn't work out how to reply to Zayn so he put his phone away and dug out his iPod instead, putting in his headphones. He blocked out the world with Taylor Swift and pretended to read A Tale of Two Cities until he fell asleep on the book.


Louis was only in the same year as Liam and Zayn and Niall because of frustrating admin shenanigans when he moved schools in the middle of the term a couple of years back; otherwise he would have been starting uni this year. Harry was in the year below, though, which meant Louis saw less of him at school than he did the other boys. He'd maybe been counting on that, in his mental preparation for the day. But the first thing he saw when he got to school on Monday morning was Harry leaning one shoulder up against Louis's locker at the side of the common room.

He had his head ducked like he was checking his phone, and Louis could only really see his back. Louis's gaze caught and held on the line of Harry's shoulder blade, the soft brown hair curling against the top of his crooked collar. Louis's stomach hollowed out with want.

Things had shifted without changing anything at all. The two of them were still the same, it was only that now Louis realised he wanted it to mean things, when Harry curled into Louis's shoulder on the sofa after school, or laughed that low delighted laugh at something Louis said, or bent to bite Louis's neck in the corridor. All the things that had become the fabric of their friendship, all the easy touching and pretence, but Louis didn't want it to be pretence anymore, he wanted ...

He didn't notice anyone had come up beside him until Liam knocked their elbows together. "You look quite sprightly for a ghost," Liam observed.

Louis took a second to remember what he was talking about.

"Oh!" he said. "Oh." He threw his arm around Liam's shoulders, a slightly uncomfortable stretch since Liam had got so stupidly tall. "I have a confession. I wasn't totally straight with you."

Liam's eyes went crinkly, but he kept his voice solemn as he guessed, "No messages from beyond the grave?"

"It's a horrible thing to have to confess. That I would mislead a friend in that way."

Whatever Liam might have replied was interrupted by Niall jumping on his back. Harry looked around at the resulting shouts and laughter, and they all ended up in a staggery group at the lockers.

"Hey, Harry," Niall said sunnily, waving over Liam's shoulder. Liam tucked his hands under Niall's knees to keep him in place.

"Hey." Harry's smile coloured his voice. Then his gaze moved to Louis: a searching, wary look.

Louis realised in a rush that he'd already given himself away. At the party, before he could even start trying to hide anything. That was why Harry was looking at him like this now: he was worried about Louis's feelings.

"I was hoping you'd come over yesterday," Harry said slowly.

"Oh. Haha." Louis rubbed the back of his head, pushing the hair the wrong way. "I was so hungover, you wouldn't have wanted me around." He couldn't even meet Harry's eyes for the lie. But he chanced a look at his face after he'd said it. Harry was biting his lip, upset.

Louis went to touch his shoulder, then didn't think he should, and tried to turn it into a friendly shove instead.

"Oh," Harry said very quietly, letting himself sway with the shove.

Louis was fucking everything up.

Desperately, he turned to Niall, who was just getting his feet back on the floor, and asked him if he'd talked to the football coach about his knee playing up, yet.

Niall gave him a guilty grin. "D'you think I should? Really?"

Louis spent the remaining time before the bell rang being as earnestly responsible about sports injuries as he could, and trying not to pay attention to anything else at all.

He was still acutely aware of it when Harry left, with a quiet excuse to Liam about needing to talk to a teacher before the class began.


Louis didn't see Zayn until second period, when they had History together. Zayn slipped into the seat next to Louis and gave him a curious, cautious sort of look.

There were way too many people trying to be perceptive at Louis today. His pulse sped up.

He quirked the corner of his mouth up anyway. "Did you sleep in, then?"

"Yeah," Zayn admitted, sheepish. "Mum had to drive me, and I was still a bit late." He glanced up as Miss Contostavlos came in and started setting her things down up front, then continued in a lower voice, "I wanted to talk to you before the lesson, if I hadn't been late."

"Oh?" Louis lined up a couple of pens, trying to sound unconcerned.

"And like ... then I saw Harry on my way here and he was walking with some girls that I guess were from his class and they were talking. But like, he wasn't? He wasn't even looking up, just looking at his shoes."

Miss Contostavlos called for attention, and Zayn subsided, shooting Louis a sidelong look like he was checking the effect of what he'd said.

The effect was that Louis felt like crap. No matter how he tried, he was making things terrible, and now Harry was upset that things were weird between them.

He hunkered lower in his seat, pushing at his fringe to make it go more in his eyes.

Louis had barely skimmed the reading they were supposed to do, which didn't normally stop him from making totally off-topic contributions in class, but today he just tuned out most of the discussion their teacher was trying to engage them in. There wasn't much danger of being called on; most teachers were a lot more concerned with finding a way to shut Louis up.

A few minutes in, Zayn took advantage of Miss Contostavlos turning to write something on the board and slipped a note under Louis's elbow.

Louis jumped a bit, which was so not cool and honestly he was usually much better at being smooth about note passing. He couldn't help eyeing the scrap of paper as if it could bite him, though. He rested a casual shielding arm in front of it and read it anyway.

I asked Niall if something happened at the party I didn't see. I'm not trying to pry, but like, do you want to talk about it?

Louis scribbled an answer as quickly as he could.

Haha that wasn't anything don't be stupid. It was just a laugh. L-A-U-G-H look it up, it's a thing.

He pretended to lean down to get something from his bag so he could pass the note to Zayn.

Zayn frowned at it, and didn't answer right away. Louis made a desultory attempt to pay attention to eighteenth century something something liberation movements.

When Zayn did pass him another note, it was with a conflicted look, as if he hadn't completely made up his mind whether it was a good idea or not.

Sometimes something's a laugh to one person and not to someone else, but, isn't it?

Fuck, no. Louis couldn't have a conversation about how seriously he suddenly wanted to take messing about with Harry. Not in the middle of History.

Let nobody say Louis Tomlinson didn't know how to play dirty when the situation called for it. He scribbled out another note.

Zayn's gone and left his highlighter at home, do you have one you could lend him? He's too shy to ask.

He passed the note to Perrie behind him, flashing her a quick grin.

Perrie looked a bit bemused when she read it, but she shrugged and smiled, reaching down to dig in her bag.

Zayn glanced between them, wide eyed. Perrie gave a quiet Ha and straightened, leaning forward to pass Zayn a green highlighter pen. He took it as if she'd unexpectedly offered him the sun, blinking and shocked.

He also seemed to completely forget he'd been trying to have any kind of conversation with Louis.


Louis skipped out on Zayn and caught up with Perrie after class, falling into step beside her.

"Oh, hello," she said. "Are you hanging out with us for the break?"

"Yes," he said, and tried to tell himself that he wasn't being a coward for making sure he was somewhere Harry wasn't. "Boys smell, have you ever noticed that? It's true. I'm only going to be friends with girls from now on."

She laughed. "Oh, is that right? What if I agree, though? Maybe I don't want to walk with a smelly boy."

Louis gasped, his eyes wide. He patted himself down, clapping a horrified hand over his groin. "Oh fuck, I'm a boy?" he cried.

Perrie mock gasped back at him. "Oh god," she said, patting herself down too. "Oh god, so am I! No, wait, false alarm."

Sometimes Louis completely understood why Zayn fancied her. He grinned at her, jostling her shoulder as they walked. "I think Zayn forgot to give your pen back, you know," he commented.

"Huh? Oh, he can keep it, I guess."

Louis shook his head. "You only say that because he's fit. Beautiful people get away with murder."

Perrie crinkled her nose. "I don't think you could kill someone with a highlighter pen."

Louis lifted his chin at her. "You do think he's fit, then?"

Perrie laughed, her cheeks colouring a little. "Everybody thinks Zayn's fit, Tommo." But she said it so laughingly, a bit self-conscious and almost guilty for thinking it, that it was clear she had no idea that what she was saying could be significant.

Louis had suspected before, but now he was sure: it wasn't that Perrie was trying to keep Zayn at arm's length, it was that she hadn't noticed he was flirting with her. It wasn't surprising, especially. Perrie tended to be forthright and naive, and even when he managed to talk to her, Zayn was the kind of subtle about flirting that came from being used to other people doing most of the work. It probably hadn't even occurred to Perrie that he was making any special effort to get her attention.

"What?" she asked, frowning at Louis's expression.

Leigh-Anne caught up at that moment and tucked her arm around Perrie's waist, Jade on her other side. "Did we pick up a boy?" Jade asked brightly, giving Louis a wave.

"Shh," Perrie warned. "He's sensitive about it."

Jesy called out from the doorway, waving her arm above her head, and the four of them joined her outside.

Louis liked these girls, and it wasn't hard to fit into their conversation, even if he did spend the entire length of break deliberately not looking around to see if he could spot Harry and the others.

He didn't feel sorry for Zayn, really. There were worse things than the person you fancied being oblivious.


He couldn't avoid the boys at lunch. Everyone would know something was wrong if he spent both breaks with other people, and Zayn's concerned questions were bad enough without adding Liam's too.

Louis got to their usual spot just as Niall was throwing himself down on the grass next to Liam. "Where were you and Harry earlier, then?" Niall asked.

Louis looked at Harry. He was sitting with his long legs loosely crossed, head down, pushing the toe of his shoe in tiny circles on the grass. "I had to go to the library," he said quietly.

Wow, we fucked that up, Louis thought. If we'd synchronised a bit better we could've avoided each other all day.

Zayn ruffled Harry's hair, dropping down beside him. Harry looked up, giving him a strained grin. As soon as Zayn was settled Harry shuffled closer, leaning into Zayn's shoulder. Zayn shifted to make room for him, giving him the same kind of searching, concerned look that he'd given Louis earlier. Harry ducked his chin, shrugging one shoulder as if in answer.

Louis looked away, jealousy twisting in his stomach. Obviously Harry wouldn't feel comfortable cuddling with Louis today, but fuck, he just. He wanted.

Niall was still waiting with easy interest for him to say where he'd been.

Louis cleared his throat. "I," he announced, "was making a lasting bond of beautiful and platonic friendship with the love of Zayn's life. We connected on the deep spiritual level of agreeing about Zayn's general fuckability."

Zayn's head jerked up. "Whaaaat?" he said.

Louis leaned back on his hands. "She said, and this is a direct quote, 'Gosh, I would like to lick that boy all over, and then order seconds from the same menu.'"

Zayn slumped back. "Fuck off, she did not," he said glumly.

"All right no, she didn't. She was thinking it, though."

He kind of wanted to tell Zayn what she'd actually said, but a) Zayn had his arm tucked comfortingly around Harry's knee like Louis really wanted to be doing, and b) he would have to also tell Zayn that Perrie hadn't noticed his attempts to woo her, and he thought that would be more discouraging than it would be cheering.

Usually at this point Harry would grin lazily and offer to lick Zayn instead, but he didn't even seem to be listening. He was toying with the cord of his hoodie, his fringe in his eyes. Louis couldn't look away from him, couldn't make himself stop watching the curve of his cheek and his wide expressive mouth that always showed it so clearly when he was hurt.

It felt like Louis was drowning. No, it felt like he'd been drowning all this time, as long as he'd known Harry, but he'd only opened his mouth to the water now. His throat hurt.

Liam leaned forward to pat Zayn's knee and started talking to him about comics. Louis dropped his elbows and lay on his back on the grass, crossing his arms above his head and staring up at the clouds so that he wouldn't stare at Harry.


By the end of school Louis was jittery and miserable with the need to do something, anything.

He spotted Perrie heading out the doors and elbowed through the chattering wave of released students towards her. He gave her a strained, manic grin and tucked his hands in his pockets.

"Actually Zayn thinks you're fit too," he said lightly. "If you wanted to know."

She gaped at him, and he grinned at her and spread his hands, turning and heading towards the car park. Because if Zayn wasn't going to do anything about it, well, maybe she would.

He'd thought that might make him feel better, but it didn't, really. Everything was still wound up in a tight, miserable ball in his stomach.

His car was an ancient and battered Subaru that his aunt had passed down to him. The engine made noises like the punishment of the damned sometimes, and the back windows didn't open, but it started okay and gave him a lot of independence and all five of them could cram into it, so Louis cherished it like a child.

He didn't live in the same direction as any of the other boys, so he normally only had passengers at the weekend. He had no reason to ignore the exit and drive round to the bus stop. He wasn't even sure what he was going to do until he saw Harry sitting on the kerb, his bag slung over his legs.

Louis pulled up beside him and leaned over to open the passenger side door. Harry looked up, his eyes widening when he saw him.

Louis tried a smile. "Let me give you a ride home, Styles." The smile wasn't a complete success; he could feel it wobbling.

He saw Harry swallow. "I don't think ..."

"No, come on." Louis gave the door a push, just bumping Harry's knee. "We should just – this is stupid. This is the stupidest. Just let me drive you home."

Harry took in a breath. Then he nodded, squaring his shoulders. He stood and scooped up his bag, dropping it into the front seat.

He didn't look at Louis once he was in the car. Louis bit his lip and pulled out. He gave a finger wave to the teacher on duty, who'd just started towards them to tell him to stop blocking the bus zone.

He drummed his fingers on the wheel, sneaking glances at Harry. Harry was hunched forward, his posture even worse than usual, his arms hugged around his bag.

"Today was horrible," Louis said finally. His throat hurt. "I don't want – that's not us, Haz. I don't want things to be like this." He swallowed. "I think –"

"Look, I'm sorry," Harry burst out. Louis shot him a look. Harry was gripping the strap of his bag, white knuckled. "I'm sorry, okay, I'm sorry I've been so weird." He met Louis's eyes, his own wide and frustrated, before Louis had to look back at the road.

Louis would have laughed if his throat wasn't so tight. "You're sorry you've been weird," he said.

"I'll get over it," Harry said. His voice was raw. "I will, I'm only – you know I'm rubbish at, at disappointment, and this was – I really, I really fucking – but I was wrong, and I get it, and I'm sorry."

"You what," Louis said, and then he drove off the road.

"Fucking hell!" Harry yelped. They jolted up onto the verge, skidding on the grass for a terrifying moment before Louis spun the wheel and slammed on the breaks.

Somebody leaned on the horn behind them, swerving past.

The bumped back off the kerb, rolling to a stop in the entrance to someone's driveway.

"Fuck," Louis said. "Fuck, I'm sorry. Shit." He laughed, a bit hysterical. They hadn't been going very fast, at least. They were still in a school zone.

"What the hell, Lou?" Harry gasped. He was holding onto the dashboard, staring at Louis.

Louis had wanted to touch him all day, and right now he wanted to touch him so badly he was shaking with it. Or maybe that was the adrenaline from nearly crashing his car.

"What do you mean, you were disappointed?" Louis asked. It came out breathless and a bit dictatorial.

"You ... what do you ... sodding hell, Louis, you turned me down, of course I'm disappointed."

"Bullshit," Louis said. "I did not."

Harry's eyes were wide. "No, that ... happened. I kissed you, and then you blew me off for the rest of the weekend, and at school this morning, you ... I know when I'm being let down easily, all right."

"How could you possibly know that, nobody ever turns you down." Louis's mouth was running on autopilot while his thoughts raced. Harry scowled.

"I wanted it to mean things," Louis blurted. "That kiss."

Harry stared at him, the scowl fading into confusion. "What did you think it meant?"

"I –" Louis flailed. "Messing around! Lads! Having ... having a laugh, and being a bit cheeky, I don't – "

"I kissed you," Harry said.

"We do that stuff all the time, though. How was I supposed to know this was, was a –"

"Not kissing," Harry said. "We don't – I was building up to that for months, you prick, I was – we've never kissed."

They were parked illegally in someone's driveway, the engine still running in hiccupy fits and starts, and Harry in the passenger seat was all aggrieved dark eyes and mussed hair and bright spots of colour in his cheeks. He was trapped by his seatbelt still, but he'd tucked one leg beneath him so that he could lean forward better to argue with Louis, his hand gripping the edge of his seat.

Louis couldn't even tell what his mouth was doing, if he was smiling or not. "All right," he said. "All right, I'm an idiot, I – but can we – I really want to be kissing you right now, can we –"

It took Harry a second to work out how to get out of his seatbelt, but then he stopped Louis's words with his mouth.

Kissing him was like oxygen, cool and sweet in Louis' lungs. Louis curled his hands in the front of Harry's hoodie. Something was unwinding inside him, the tension of the last two days finally dissipating. He didn't ever want to let go.

Harry bit Louis's lower lip, sharply, then pulled back to grin at him.

"Next time you want to tell me something," Louis said, breathless and slow and happy, "maybe use words?"

Harry's eyes were sparkling. "I think my way worked okay. In the end."

His curls tickled Louis's chin as he moved down and started to suck a bruise into Louis's collarbone. Louis pulled in a breath and lost his vision a bit, his fingers tightening on Harry's shoulder.

"Okay yes fine," Louis managed. "Fuck. Get back up here."

Harry lifted his head and grinned, finding Louis's mouth again.