When Louis is fifteen some twat calls him "princess". It's not the first time, but this time he's picking Lottie up from school and the offender is possibly twelve years old. Louis' pretty sure when he went to primary school he didn't know shit about homosexuality, let alone slur words. He'd been too busy with classes or eating glue or whatever; he didn't make a habit of walking around the schoolyard calling fifteen-year-olds "fags" or "princesses".
He quickly discovers Lottie is as naive as he'd been. They run out of the school (a race, he tells her as he leaves his dignity behind), and when they stop she's still giggling. "Princess Boo!"
It's his sister, and he knows she has no idea what she's saying, but he still feels this tightness in his throat. It's probably the running. "Don't call me that."
She looks at him with all the innocence of tiny blonde eight-year-old girls. "Why?"
"It's not nice."
"Why?" Thankfully it's not the beginning of an endless cycle of questions he can't answer. Just an incredibly awkward conversation with his little sister. "I want to be princess when I grow up. You can be princess too."
"How can I be a princess?" he asks too sharply. "Even if I somehow marry Princess Gemma I'd only be Duke of Edinburgh or something."
Lottie rolls her eyes with such skill it might be genetic. "You idiot, if you marry Prince Harry you could be Princess of Wales."
Louis swears. Mentally. He really thought he could avoid this discussion. "Uh, that's not really. Uh. Okay, so like, there's – homosexualism – when a boy – "
"I know what it is," she interrupts him, thank god. "I watch telly, you know. I'm still right. If you go into Prince Harry's closet he could fall in love with you and then you'll be princess. But I won't visit Wales. They're not nice to sheep."
Louis would like to comment on all the plot holes in that statement. He settles for, "What on Earth do you watch on telly?"
She shrugs and actually starts skipping away.
There are one or two Disney movies where children's wishes affect the universe and Destiny. This may be one of those tales.
When Louis is nineteen his life turns upside-down. Simon Cowell puts him in a band with Zayn Malik and Liam Payne, they become instantly, amazingly and inexplicably popular, they make it to the X Factor finale and almost immediately go on tour. In 2011 he sings for thousands of people with his two new brothers, and thinks he might as well be in heaven.
When Prince Harry is seventeen his life turns upside-down. He graduates from school and before he starts attending college to take art or whatever princes study, he goes on a trip to Italy. His Instagram account is full of Vespas and bracelets. The rags are full of pictures of him snogging Italian boys.
It starts with blurry shots in The Sun. It continues with in-depth Guardian analyses about why the Prince "turned gay" (the messy divorce of Queen Anne and Prince Des, being the youngest sibling and, with the Act of Settlement amended, not succeeding the throne, how he's declared he won't join the RAF and began the "moral decline of the British Crown"). It doesn't really end. 2011 is not a good year for the Prince of Wales. Louis, as objectively as a British subject that's been in love with the prince since he was ten, thinks that if a royal gets so much shit, a pop star can take it when his management specifically requests he won't "make any claims" himself.
Only, then Harry turns eighteen and easier prey to reporters, and the first time he's being interviewed on the BBC he comes out of the closet. He just. Does that.
Louis' arranged a grand viewing party at his flat (party of Liam), because fuck it, any self-respecting Englishman should be up-to-date with palace gossip, and that means tuning into the occasional interview on the telly. He thought that the strangest thing would be that he himself had been interviewed on the very same couch as the Prince of Wales. He'd been wrong. The strangest thing is that the interviewer quite elegantly brings up the Italy Shitstorm, and Prince Harry sort of blinks, then smiles devastatingly and says, "Yeah, so basically, I fancy blokes too?" and Louis swears he hears the neighbours dropping mugs. It's not just his hands that have gone numb.
That's where the comparison to Prince Harry ends, really. Because the Prince of Wales is out of the closet and Louis' in a fake relationship with a model.
To his credit, something unprecedented occurs the first time they meet with management after the royal coming out. When they tell off Zayn and Liam again about "Ziam Mayne", Louis tells them off right back, and the moment they say the two magic words (Social Climate), Louis says, "We have a bisexual fucking prince, Jesus Christ, the icecaps are melting", and tweets that he and Eleanor have gone their separate ways.
He doesn't dare to do more. And sometimes he reads the horror stories online, and remembers being fifteen and picking Lottie up from school. Sometimes he thinks about how much power they possess – two thirds of the world's biggest boy band being on the queer side of the Kinsey scale – how much they could help people, teenagers. He doesn't dare to do more.
Louis meets Harry for the first time on New Year's Eve, 2013.
Nick has invited the entire band to the "sickest party this side of the pond", and Louis really couldn't resist. They drink a lot, quickly and not at all thoughtfully, so Louis thinks he's earned the right to pin all his problems on alcohol. Not that he's much of a drinker, or that he has that many problems, but there's always some blaming to do when he dances with men. And it usually isn't Zayn's skills as a DJ. The floor is packed enough that an innocent bystander couldn't possibly spot who Louis' dancing with and who to tag on Twitter.
When a group of teenage girls starts circling him, Louis rolls his eyes. It's an acceptable response – Liam is the one who smiles and hands out autographs and pictures and small pieces of his soul. Louis' worked quite hard to brand himself as ‘The Bitchy One’, ‘The Hard To Get One’ or whatever. He just doesn't have the patience. Maybe he had, once, before he started getting stalked in lifts or cornered in public toilets.
Of course he feels like an absolute shit when he realises the girls aren't trying to approach him, but rather someone directly behind him.
It's nothing compared to how he feels when he turns around. He gasps way too loudly, as always when he's drunk and – well, basically always. "You look like Prince Harry!" he yells. Louis is an obnoxious drunk.
Prince Harry makes his way toward him, probably to make sure he's heard right, and then he just pulls out this movie-star, absolutely Earth-shattering Colgate smile out of nowhere. "And you look like Louis Tomlinson."
Louis' caught off-guard; from boys he usually gets "that guy from One Direction", maybe "Louis" just because it's a memorable enough name (right in the middle between Liam and Zayn). Well, there were also the boys that wanted in his pants. Wanted some of this. This Thang. He's extremely drunk and thinks he sees what's happening here. "S'your sister a fan or summat?"
The Prince's smile broadens even further, and he's wearing this incredibly stylish shirt and he's incredibly curly and Louis might incredibly add him to the Thangs category. "She is, surprisingly enough."
Louis considers taking offence. "What, she's not a teenager?"
The Prince looks gobsmacked. "How much have you had, Louis?"
He's not very well going to lie to a person who looks like the Prince of Wales. "This side of completely pissed, Person who Looks Like the Prince of Wales."
Suddenly something happens – Zayn's apparently ditching the mixer and picking up a mic. An insane wave of clapping, shouting and actual waving floods the floor, and suddenly Louis finds himself flush against the prince's chest. The prince who is ridiculously tall. Like, he looks shorter on telly. Also, his hands are enormous. Louis knows this because the prince has his hand on Louis' hip to ostensibly keep him from getting trampled, and his stupid hand nearly covers the entire expanse of his lower back. The prince leans down to say in Louis' ear, "Do you mind taking a picture? My sister's gonna need proof when I tell her I met you at a party she ditched."
Louis shrugs. If there's someone he wouldn't mind falling prey to in lifts or public toilets, it's tall, fit boys. He lays a hand on the prince's hip and stretches up to say, "You'll post it on Twitter?"
Louis rolls his eyes, mostly for show. "Then I'll need your number. In return for the humiliation."
He's usually more careful. The fact he doesn't care about closets as much as he used to doesn't mean he's not in one, and the fact the band's more popular than ever doesn't mean they're infallible. Usually: when he's more sober and less in need of a shag.
Instead of answering, the Prince of Wales pulls out his iPhone and presses up against him. Louis has a bad feeling when the flash nearly blinds him. He blames the pre-gaming he's done with Zayn. "Happy?" he shouts over the crowd.
Prince Harry shamelessly smirks at him while shoving his phone back in his pocket and pulling out a pen and a piece of paper. Which is just so ridiculous in this setting that Louis has to let out a laugh. It dies a nasty death when the prince's huge hand covers Louis' arse – to put the paper in his back pocket. "Cheeky," Louis comments.
The prince laughs. "You're gonna flip your shit tomorrow."
"Let me guess, because you're gonna fuck me so – "
Suddenly Louis' being dragged away, in the complete opposite direction he is destined to go, and in five seconds he manages to lose Prince Harry in the sea of people. "Li, didn't you see I was talking to someone?"
"Oh, sorry," Liam says, though continues to drag Louis toward the stage.
Louis tries to struggle. Unsuccessfully, as always. "I didn't come here for a show, mate."
"Zayn asked for some help," Liam justifies.
Louis looks around. No sign of his prince. His sigh is filled with suffering and woe. "Fine, I guess."