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doesn’t have to be a real thing

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The dip in the bed lifts as Louis gets up to retrieve his clothes from the floor. In the dimness of his bedside lamp Harry watches the golden arch of his back as he bends over, watches the fabric of his briefs stretch over the roundness of his bum as he pulls them on. He rolls over onto his stomach and plants his face into the pillow, still coming down from the amazing high they just reached.

He can hear Louis' breath is uneven, a residual panting from their frantic movements, followed by the muffled jingling of keys in a pocket. He turns over again to catch Louis' eye just as he opens the bedroom door to leave.

"Thanks," says Louis. "See you 'round."

"Yeah," Harry replies.

Louis nods once, winks and leaves the room. Harry drifts off to sleep, knowing Louis can let himself out, as usual.

 -

The morning air is icy as Harry tugs his beanie down on the way to class the next day. His head, along with his eyelids, feels a little heavy and his muscles are a little achy, so he stops by one of the campus cafes to pick up a coffee.

He ambles into his lecture just as the lights go down and the projector is turned on. Spotting Niall and Liam, he shuffles past a couple of students and takes a seat next to Liam.

"Hey, man," he whispers. He leans forward and nods at Niall.

"Hi, mate," Liam says, with a smile that’s way too perky for 8 am.

"Where d'you get to last night, man? Didn't see you when we left," Niall asks around Liam.

"Oh, uh, I was with Louis. We. Um. We left a little early," he says as he gets out his notebook. (He and Louis ducked out the party - which was kind of boring, to be honest - at 10.30 and half skipped/half crawled the three blocks back to Harry’s flat, giggling like drunk idiots before stumbling in and shagging right there on the couch and a second time later on the bed.)

Liam and Niall raise their eyebrows at each other. Niall asks, "Louis? As in, the Louis from Cher's party?"

"Er, yeah." Harry bites his lip. He knows what’s coming.

"The one from Aiden's 21st?" Liam asks.

"Yes."

"And from that one time at Shimmy's?"

"Yes, Niall."

"The one from that place on Jesy's birthday?"

“Yes.”

“And when we were at-“

"Jesus Christ, yes," Harry rolls his eyes. "The very same Louis. What's your point?"

Liams looks at Niall, who shrugs, "Nothin'." And with a shit-eating grin on his face he turns forward to take notes. Liam smirks and follows suit.

Harry narrows his eyes at them and attempts to concentrate on the lecturer.

A few minutes later Liam tilts his head closer to Harry and asks, "So, what - are the two of you like a thing?" Yep, there it is. This isn’t the first time they’ve tried to interrogate him about this kind of thing.

Harry sighs, "No, we are not."

"Well why not?" Niall joins in.

"Because we're just not? He was lonely and I was there and I helped him take his mind off shit and I guess we liked it enough to do it more than once. That’s all, okay? We just do it from time to time. It works for both of us. Does that answer your question?"

They both look a little taken aback by the directness of Harry's answer, but they seem satisfied enough.

"Uh, yeah, I guess." Liam mutters.

They all go back to focusing on the slides.

Not even 5 minutes later, Niall is poking Harry’s shoulder and giving him a couple of cheeky eyebrow raises and a wink, "So... he’s got to be a good shag, right? I mean, for you to keep goin’ back."

Liam tries and fails to hold in the laughter that bursts from his mouth.

Harry ignores them both for the rest of the day.

 -

When Harry saw Louis at Cher’s party, 2 months ago, he wanted him.

Harry was leaning against the wall watching people around the flat drinking, laughing and being generally celebratory (it was the end of the exam period). He saw a boy surrounded by a group of friends, but he was the only one who wasn’t talking and laughing. He looked exhausted, a dead expression in his eyes, barely paying attention to the conversation. Harry recognised him from around campus, but they’d never met. He almost never saw him without a tall, hipster-looking guy who Harry presumed to be his boyfriend. But he wasn’t here tonight.

However, despite the sadness in his face and the occasional smile that never met his eyes, Harry was still overwhelmed by how beautiful he was. His eyes were drawn to him and he couldn’t look away. His features were delicate, with just a hint of roughness, his hair styled in a messy fringe and he wore a grey low scoop-neck t-shirt that should have been illegal. His eyes fell on the inked script peeking above his neckline, and he tried not to imagine tracing out the words on his skin with his tongue. His eyes travelled down to his thighs, which were thick and muscular, and from this angle he could just make out the curve of him bum that his tight jeans were doing wonders for, as well as exposing two tan, slender ankles. His eyes travelled back up, to be met with two icy blue ones. Harry’s stomach flipped for a brief second. He was breath-taking.

They maintained eye contact for a good three seconds before the boy broke off from the group and walked in the direction of the kitchen. That was Harry’s chance. He downed his beer and followed the boy.

When he walked in he was disappointed to see that someone had already beaten him to it. The pretty boy was leaning against the counter slightly uncomfortably, a beefy-looking guy in front of him, way too close to be casual. He was clearly trying to chat him up. It was just the three of them in the kitchen. To have something to do, Harry went to the fridge and knelt to dig around for a beer, while listening to them mid-conversation behind him.

“So, how do you know Cher, babe?” big beefy guy must have asked.

“Listen, as I said, I’m just trying to get a drink here. I appreciate that you’ve come to talk to me and all, but I'm really not interested, mate.” This voice was light yet husky with a northern accent. It could only belong to the beautiful boy.

“Aw c’mon love, you’re so pretty. You shouldn’t be alone tonight.”

“You got it wrong, man. Sorry, but I don’t swing that way. Just telling you nicely now; it’s not gonna happen.”

At this Harry stood up straight and turned around to see the other guy huff and walk out the room. Harry let out an amused snort.

The boy’s head snapped to him and his eyes narrowed. “What?”

Harry laughed, “Sorry man, don’t mean to pry, but that was good entertainment. Great, actually. He really bought it.”

The other boy lifted an eyebrow and folded his arms, “And you don’t?”

“Please,” said Harry, opening the beer he found, “if you can't already tell, walking round all day with your boyfriend and kissing him everywhere you go doesn’t exactly scream ‘straight’ to me.”

Suddenly the pretty boy’s demeanour changed. He looked down and bit his lip. It made him look very vulnerable. “Oh. Yeah, well. That. That ended. So.”

Harry tensed. “Oh. Jesus, sorry, man. I, er. Shit.”

The other boy shook his head. “S’okay. I promised myself I wouldn’t think about it when I came here tonight. My friends made me leave my house. You know, to try be myself again, or whatever.”

Harry nodded in understanding. “Ok, we can forget I brought it up, alright? I’m Harry.”

The boy looked up again and met his eyes. “Louis.”

“Louis. Let’s talk about something else, yeah?”

“Yeah. Okay.” Louis’ posture relaxed a bit. “So, what about you, Harry? Any significant other?”

“No boyfriend, no.” said Harry, quirking an eyebrow in a knowing way, noticing Louis’ half smile grow - he knew he’d just answered the question he wasn’t asking aloud. “Not really looking though, to be honest.”

Louis looked thoughtful, “Hm. So, just casual stuff then?” He leaned on the island counter with his chin in his hand, focusing on Harry with a calculating gaze.

Harry grinned. It was only a matter of time now. “Yeah, I guess you could say that.”

There were a few moments of silent eye contact and Louis just tapping his fingers on his cheek thoughtfully, before Harry tipped his head back to take a big, long gulp of his new beer. He could feel the strong buzz of the drinks he’d had earlier as well as Louis’ eyes on him. He couldn’t help but feel a little smug. Most guys, he found, had a thing for his neck.

When he lowered his head again Louis was standing right in front of him. He took the beer from Harry’s hand and put it on the counter. Where their hands touched it felt like flames.

“So, when would you say was the last time you got your ‘casual stuff’?” asked Louis, voice low. He got closer and closer, maintaining eye contact.

Up close his skin was golden and his eyes were oceanic. He licked his lips as his eyes shifted back and forth from Harry’s eyes to his neck. It made Harry gulp a bit, but he snapped out of it quickly and stepped forward, pressing Louis back against the island.

“Too long ago, in my opinion,” he whispered. His arms bracketed Louis easily, and he had to bend his neck to look down at him. They were both a little tipsy; he could smell it in the air they were exchanging. They were so close and he was so turned on. Harry decided to be bold and press his thigh between Louis’ legs, delighted to find he was just as aroused as he was.

Suddenly Louis ducked out from Harry’s arms and grabbed one of his hands. He led them out the kitchen and down the passage, opening door after door. Thankfully the third room they tried was empty. Louis dragged him inside and pinned Harry against the back of the door, shutting it surely.

He pierced Harry’s eyes with his own and reached down to palm him through his jeans. “No kissing.”

Harry frowned but nodded nonetheless. Like he cared; he had a hand on his cock and he just needed to wreck this gorgeous boy in front of him. Now. He waited for Louis to make the first move before he gave in to desire though, an expectant smirk on his face. He enjoyed the suspense of it all.

Louis reached behind Harry into his back pocket, grinning when he found what he was looking for.

“Well prepared, I see.”

Harry shrugged, “You never know.”

“You never know,” Louis repeated, throwing the condom and sachet of lube onto the bed and tugging Harry’s shirt upward.

And that was Harry’s cue to pick Louis up and practically throw him onto the bed. Louis yelped in surprise but caught on quick enough to pull Harry down with him, reaching for his pants while he focused on pulling Louis’ shirt off.

 “Your fucking chest,” he breathed once it was off. He took the opportunity to latch his mouth onto the tattoo Louis’ collar bone and suck a wet, hot bruise into the smooth skin there.

Louis breathed out between moans, trying to undo Harry’s fly, “Trousers.”

“Hnnh,” Harry just hummed in reply and let go to take his jeans off. Meanwhile Louis undid his own and watched as Harry moved to help, peeling them off down his legs. He sucked another mark into Louis’ inner thigh, extracting more noises of frustration from the boy’s lips.

He moved up and leaned in to Louis, so close that his lips were grazing his ear, and he whispered quietly enough to be a breath, “Turn over.”

Louis visibly shivered and nodded, complying with Harry’s instruction. They both still had their briefs on, both painfully hard.

He grabbed Louis’ arse and he massaged each cheek, both firm and delicious in his hands. It really was the best arse he’d ever seen. Definitely the best he’d felt.

“Hurry,” Louis murmured.

Harry chuckled and pulled his own underwear down, stroking himself a few times before pulling the elastic of Louis’ briefs down and off. Harry took another second to admire Louis.

“Your arse is fucking amazing.”

This time Louis was the one to laugh, looking back at Harry. “Yeah, and are you just gonna stare at it all night or are you actually gonna fuck me with that giant cock of yours?” he nodded towards Harry’s crotch.

Harry smirked again, but didn’t say anything. He grabbed the packet of lube and tore it open, spreading the gel on his fingers and parting Louis’ thighs with the other hand.  

The blood was rushing in Harry’s ears with anticipation; he could barely hear the music permeating through from the living room.

He inserted a finger and watched as Louis reacted to it, hands gripping the pillow hard above him. “Another,” said Louis after a few moments.

He plunged a second finger in, stretching Louis open, searching for that sensitive spot inside.

“One more,” Louis panted, and he complied. With three fingers inside him, Louis almost came undone. He moved his hands to grip the sheets where they had become untucked and Harry could see the whiteness in his knuckles and he was so so turned on.

“’m ready,” Louis hummed.

Not wasting a second, Harry pulled his fingers out, ripped the condom from its package and put it on with lightning speed. He got more lube and slicked up his cock and knelt above Louis.

“C’mon, c’mon, c’mon,” Louis groaned, opening his legs even wider. “Fucking fuck me already. Jesus.”

“Do you ever stop talking?” Harry mumbled good-naturedly as he spread Louis apart and lined himself up with his entrance. He took a sharp breath and pushed the head of his cock in.

Louis was searing hot and tight around Harry and it took a few moments for him to adjust to the pressure of it. After a nod okay from Louis, Harry slowly pushed in further, as far as he could go. He pulled out slowly, pleasure spiking with the drag of it, and then slammed back into him full force.

“Oh my god,” Louis hissed through his teeth.

“That what you wanted?”

“Fucking... ughyes,” Louis replied.

Harry grinned and repositioned himself so that he was no longer propped up by his arms, but lay on top of Louis, chest to back. He was so much bigger than Louis, his body covering him completely. They were already coated in a thin sheen of sweat and they slid against each other as Harry began to pound hard into Louis again and again and again.

He gripped both sides of Louis’ torso and used it to push harder, keeping a steady rhythm. He changed his angle a little bit and a second later he heard an exerted “Oh” from below him and he knew he’d hit Louis’ prostate.

“There. Again, faster,” Louis breathed.

Harry found the spot again and kept at it, picking up his speed, ignoring the screaming of his muscles, hearing nothing but the slapping and slipping of skin on skin. He could feel the churning in his core starting to build, growing clearer and clearer with every passing second. He kept going, panting and moaning, unable to control it. He needed to bring it to the surface, this fire in his gut.

He spared a thought for Louis’ cock pressed between him and the sheets and lifted himself up, bringing Louis to a kneeling position. He reached around to grab Louis’ cock, but his hand was dry. He put his palm in front of Louis’ mouth. Louis understood and licked a thick, wet stripe along his hand and Harry brought it down again to wrap slickly around him. He pulled and tugged at his cock while getting back to a rigorous pace from behind.

“’m so close,” he whispered.

“Me too.”

Three more strokes on his cock and Louis was coming into Harry’s hand with a strangled moan. Harry pumped him through it and a few seconds later he was coming himself, biting Louis on his shoulder as hard as he could without causing too much pain and they both fell back down, Harry still above Louis, their limbs too blown out to support them. Harry licked the red skin better, pressing hot, open mouthed kisses to it.

When he had somewhat gained his breath back, Harry pulled out and disposed of the condom. They both rolled over onto their backs, just breathing.

“Thanks for that,” Louis grinned, exhaling a little heavily.

“Yeah. No problem. It was, you know. Nice.” Harry winked.

Louis snorted, “I know for a fact that I am a fantastic fuck, so ‘nice’ isn’t really your honest assessment is it?”

“Wow, conceited much?” Harry snorted.

Louis just winked and got up. Harry followed him and they both dressed quickly. As they were walking out they looked at the messy bed they were leaving behind, sheets untucked in disarray and no doubt covered with stains. Oops.

“Sorry, Cher,” Louis said, not sounding sorry at all.

Harry sniggered, “Yeah, by the way, ‘babe’, how do you know Cher?”

“Oh, shut up, will ya.”

 -

After the party Harry didn’t see Louis for about a month, not even around campus. Harry didn’t find that odd though, different students had different schedules, so what? Then at Aiden’s birthday they saw each other again. Louis looked better this time, a bit more of a spark in his eyes. It seemed to give him the confidence to approach Harry, mid-conversation with Matt, and pull him away by his belt loops. He dragged him to the nearest bathroom and locked the door. He didn’t even get the chance to finish the question “How ‘bout Round 2, then?” before Harry was bending him over the sink counter.

 -

And so it continued like that, they’d see each other out at parties, sometimes clubs (Harry sucked Louis off in the poorly lit bathroom stall at Shimmy’s one time), and they’d fuck. And it works for Harry. It’s exactly what he wants, no strings attached. Just a person who’s willing and enjoys sex as much as he does. Louis’ unbelievable attractiveness certainly doesn’t hurt either.

One night, as they were putting their clothes back on, Louis found Harry’s phone in his jeans and put his number in.

“If you don’t feel like waiting for the weekend, let me know, yeah?” he said, tossing it to Harry.

“Cheers,” Harry grinned.

Now they’ve even become sort of friends. Sometimes they’ll watch TV or play FIFA after fucking or go to uni football matches together. They chat about Man United, music, university, TV shows. Casual, just like their sex. They refrain from asking each other too many personal questions. And they never kiss, Louis stands by that rule. Harry has no qualms though, just appreciates the fact that he has a hot as fuck friend he can call on whenever he feels like getting off. Which is, thanks to his 19-year-old libido, rather often.

He’s pretty sure Louis will get on well with Liam and Niall, but for some reason he decides not to introduce him to them. They’ve seen him around at all the events he attends, but Harry always ends up dragging Louis in the opposite direction. He knows his friends and he knows what they’ll say. If anything, he saw their ‘friendly’ bombardment of questions coming this morning. It’s best to keep the two segments of his life separate.

Occasionally, little details slip out. Harry will recall a memory from his childhood that relates to their current conversation and tell Louis or Louis will remark that one of his sister’s would love a certain song. Harry’s quietly curious about Louis. He finds himself filing away whatever information the older boy gives out, for future reference. (He’s from Doncaster, he has 4 sisters, they and his mum are very important to him, his favourite band is The Fray).

They subconsciously learn each other’s favourite foods, what meals to order from certain restaurants. Harry knows to change the channel when that one skincare ad comes on because it annoys Louis. One of Louis’ PlayStation controls becomes “Harry’s”– he even pouts when he doesn’t get to use it.

He still doesn’t know Louis fully, and it’s only on occasion that one of them will stay late before leaving. Most of the time they leave the other in bed and let themselves out. Harry likes it. Really, he does. Being around Louis is easy. So Harry is happy as things are.

-

After his last lecture of the day Harry walks to the bus stop to wait, still processing a sample question from an exam paper they just went over in stats. His thoughts are interrupted by a buzzing in his pocket and he smiles when he sees it’s a text from Louis:

Come over?

Harry’s dick twitches just at the thought. But then he rereads the text and frowns a bit – Louis never invites him over this early. They’ll usually contact each other around 10 or 11 at night. The earliest has been 8, Harry recalls. Maybe something’s wrong. He’s not got anything special planned that afternoon. Some studying that he can easily put off, and he’s sure he can just eat dinner at Louis. He types out a reply.

Yeah ok.  ;) Everything alright?

He turns and begins the walk to Louis’ flat, which is closer to campus than Harry’s. The reply takes a few minutes to arrive, but eventually his phone buzzes again.

Yes

He’s acting odd. He usually adds a wink or sends some cheeky response. He’s never that terse when he texts. Harry wonders what’s happened.

He reaches the flat, rings Louis’ number and the door buzzes open. He climbs the stairs and lets himself in after finding the door unlocked. Louis is sitting on the couch playing FIFA at top volume, eyebrows furrowed in concentration. Harry likes this face he makes sometimes – when Louis is entirely devoting all his attention to a single task. His mind flashes to when Louis had two fingers inside him, for example, last week after the footie game in the car, his face completely focused and determined while right opposite him Harry was completely losing it. His cheeks flush red from the memory.

He closes the door quietly and passes behind Louis, who seems to have not yet noticed his entrance, to rifle through the fridge. He hasn’t eaten all day. He takes a beer, the remaining half of a sandwich wrapped in foil and a banana from the fruit bowl.

He goes back into the lounge, announcing his presence this time with a “Hey”.

Louis jumps a little and lowers the sound setting once Harry has taken the place next to him. He looks at the food questioningly but doesn’t say anything.

“So, what’s going on? You alright?” asks Harry.

Louis forces a smile and fiddles with the game controller. “Hey. Yeah, no, everything’s fine.”

“Okay, well that’s gonna change after I kick your ass with Rooney and the lads once I’ve finished lunch, so be ready.”

Louis smiles a little wider at this, but it still doesn’t reach his eyes. Harry gets the feeling that Louis is not in a sex kind-of-mood and is curious to know if something’s happened, but he knows better than to ask. They never speak about feelings and shit. Casual casual casual, remember?

“Yeah I see you’ve helped yourself there,” he grabs the beer and takes a swig. His smile fades soon after that and he looks a little distracted as moves to set up the second controller for Harry.

They play for a while, getting lost in the game and engaging in the usual banter after every time one of them makes an exciting shot. Harry gets up to go to the bathroom and on the way back he walks past Louis’ desk where his phone is charging. He sees the screen lit up from receiving a text message so he unplugs it. He hesitates when a word catches his eye. He knows he shouldn’t do this, but he glances at the screen again to read the message properly. It’s from Louis’ best friend, Zayn:

Lou u can't hide from this forever ok. Your father died. I really think u should talk about this, if not to me then someone else. Call me please x

Harry’s eyes widen. He exits the message and sees that Louis has about 15 missed calls, 7 voicemails and about 11 unread texts.

“Harry?” he hears Louis’ voice from the lounge. Shit.

What is Harry supposed to do? Clearly Louis knows his dad died, but why isn’t he fucking distraught? (Harry, for one, knows he would be a complete wreck.) And more importantly why did he invite Harry over to play FIFA? Harry has to talk to him. He knows emotions are not their thing but even he can't ignore this.

He walks tentatively back into the lounge with no idea to handle himself in this situation.

“Louis…” he says, gripping the older boy’s phone in both hands.

Louis’ eyes drop to see what he’s holding and look back up at Harry’s own, which are giving him a questioning look. Harry watches as realisation dawns on Louis’. He drags a hand down his face and huffs out, falling back against the couch. “Christ, not you too.”

Harry furrows his eyebrows, slightly taken aback. “Um? What do you mean ‘not you too’? Were you not gonna tell me your dad died or were you just waiting for us to order pizza before making your announcement?”

Louis rolled his eyes, “No, I actually wasn’t gonna mention it at all because I knew this would happen. Everyone’s been trying to talk to me about it and I. Don’t. Want. To. Talk.”

“But he was your fath-“

“No, he wasn’t!”

“What?”

“He was nothing,” Louis stands up. “He left me and my mum when I was 5 years old and didn’t contact us once since. I looked for him when I was 18 and when I found him and he found out I'm gay he called me a faggot and kicked me out. He was a disgusting prick and could have died ages ago for all I fucking care.”

There is silence. Louis has never shared that much about himself before. Harry didn’t know anything about Louis’ relationship with his dad. He can't imagine how horrible that must have been for him. He struggles to think of words to say.

“Jesus, Louis I –”

“And now my mum and my sisters and even fucking Zayn haven’t stopped calling and trying to get me to talk to someone about it or some shit, but they don’t understand that there’s nothing to say. I just want to forget he ever existed. That’s why I called you, because you don’t ask questions and I knew you’d just treat me like normal.”

“Wow, okay.” Harry runs his hand through his hair. “I’m sorry.”

“You don’t have anything to be sorry for. It obviously wasn’t in the cards for my dad to give a shit about me, that’s all,” he smiles bitterly, resigned. “Now, please can we talk about not this?”

Harry releases a breath he didn’t know he was holding. He kind of wants to touch Louis, comfort him. But he doesn’t. Instead he walks over and sits on the couch. “I guess. If you don’t want to talk about it I’m obviously not gonna force you, Louis.”

Louis sighs again, “I’m really fine. I wish people would believe me.” He takes his seat again next to Harry.

“I do believe you,” Harry says quietly. “I’m just sorry that all that happened to you. It must’ve been hard, growing up alone like that.”

“I was better off without him. Don’t need to pity me, Harry. Turned out alright, didn’t I?” his voice has gained that playful edge back, which Harry now realises is a defence mechanism, and he knows they’re done talking about it.

They do end up getting pizza and they spend the night watching old Friends episodes. Louis laughs at all the right jokes, even makes comments, but Harry notices the slightly bitter tinge to whatever he does. When he steals glances at him every few minutes he notices the smile is still incomplete. Louis isn’t alright, even if he won’t admit it to himself.

But Harry thinks he will be, though. Eventually.

-

He decides to give Louis space for a while. He thinks the older boy needs time to clear his head and heal. Regardless of what he said, Harry’s not about to mess with his emotions like that. He prepares a few excuses to give Louis the next time he texts. What Harry doesn’t expect is for Louis to hardly contact him. A week after that afternoon he asks if Harry’s going to a party, to which Harry says no. Ten days later he asks Harry to come over but Harry tells him he has to prepare for a test. Louis stops texting after that.

It feels a little bit odd for Harry to go so long without seeing him but he thinks Louis should just get himself and his family sorted out. Harry doesn’t want to seem like he’s taking advantage of Louis’ vulnerability either.

It kind of sucks though; he’s grown accustomed to Louis’ company at night. He finds himself subconsciously checking his phone for texts and missed calls during the days. Liam and Niall notice his fidgeting and unsettled behaviour and ask him what’s up. He claims it’s nothing and misses the significant glance that the other two share.

-

One afternoon Harry’s sitting against a large oak tree on the grass in front of the main building on campus, doing homework and listening to music. It’s been getting warmer these days and Harry loves studying outside.

He looks up across the lawn to the steps leading down from the building. A familiar figure catches his eye. Louis. He squints a little and sees Zayn, ridiculously beautiful, standing next to him. Then he sees a tall figure on the other side of Louis who can only be his ex-boyfriend (Nick, he recalls from a brief conversation in bed). Harry watches them talk, kiss each other quickly and part ways. Louis and Zayn are walking in his direction. Harry tries not to watch them, only looking up when they get close.

He sees when Louis spots him. He stops mid step and says something to Zayn, who glances at Harry, nods at Louis and keeps walking, on the his way to the parking lot. Louis turns and walks up to Harry with a smile.

“Hiya, stranger.”

“Hi,” Harry pulls an earphone out and puts his pen down, squinting up at him.

“Can I sit?”

“Yeah sure.”

Louis takes a spot next to him and sits cross-legged.

“So, how’ve you been?” Louis asks.

“Oh, alright. Nothing new. Just studying, really. You?”

“Exciting,” he winks. “I uh, I went to visit my mum and sisters over the weekend. It was good. The funeral was last week some time. I didn’t go to that though.” His smile fades a bit.

“And are you okay?”

Louis looks up searchingly, as if the answer is in the clouds. “Yeah. I think I am. Dunno if I really was before, though,” he looks knowingly at Harry, “But I’m alright now.”

Harry holds his gaze, “Good.”

They’re both silent for some time, but it’s not awkward. They watch students leaving campus, packing their cars, riding bicycles on the path, lounging on the grass in the late afternoon sun. It’s peaceful. But after a while Harry realises he wants to ask him about Nick.

“Was that your ex?”

Louis shifts a little, “Uh, yeah.”

Harry nods in understanding, doesn’t say anything. Apparently Louis feels the need to elaborate though.

“He heard about… you know… and he came over and kind of comforted me? I didn’t need it, but I told myself that I wanted him there anyway.”

“So are you back together now or…”

“No, I…I'm not really sure. It’s a little uncertain right now and I'm feeling a bit weird about it. Like, we haven’t really discussed it.” Louis pauses and frowns. “Why haven’t you been texting?”

Harry scoffs, “Could ask you the same thing, mate.”

“Well, I did but you didn't seem too keen to do shit both times.”

“I thought you needed space, Louis. Felt like I would have been taking advantage of, y’know, your emotional distress, or something. I don’t know,” he shrugs.

Louis lets out a chuckle, “Wow, aren’t you a gem.” Then his eyes turn a bit sad, “Actually, I guess I should thank you. I think I did need time after all, to re-centre myself and just deal with things. But instead of doing that I slept with Nick. He’s been distant to me ever since, but still kind of stringing me along? I think that’s probably all he wanted, though.” He stares off into the distance.

“Oh, Louis, I’m sorry.” Harry is saddened but at the same time his chest tightens with anger. The thought of Nick using Louis when he was most vulnerable infuriates him. “What a prick.”

“Yeah,” Louis focuses his gaze on a flock of pigeons across the grass. “You know, I’m pretty sure he cheated on me. Just before we broke up. He doesn’t realise it, but I'm sure.”

“Then what are you doing with him?” asks Harry incredulously.

Louis tenses up, refusing to look at Harry. He seems to struggle to come up with an answer before saying, “He’s a comfort? He’s familiar? I don’t know.”

“Louis,” Harry says, trying to get him to meet his eyes. Louis doesn’t. Harry does his best not to notice how the late afternoon sun hits Louis’ face and illuminates his skin. He has to swallow at how his cheekbones, all sharp angles, split the light and make him look like a sculpture. He really is unbelievably beautiful.

“Lou, look at me.”

He does this time, meeting Harry’s gaze dead on, but it looks tired. It’s the same look he had when Harry saw him that first night that had since faded, replaced with a youthful glow. Now it’s back and Harry wants nothing more than to make it disappear again.

“You need to end things with him. If he’s coming to you at a time when you’re confused and you’re trying to figure shit out so that he can use this as an opportunity to shag you then that is seriously fucked up and you can't let him use you like this.”

Louis looks cut open, exposed. Harry watches as his defences shoot up. “And how do I know you aren’t using me either? Why should I trust either one of you?”

That hurts, but he doesn’t let it show. “Well, when was the last time we fucked, Louis?”

Louis looks away, not saying anything.

“Listen,” Harry sighs, “I know I’m not your boyfriend. Hell, I don’t even know if we’re proper friends, so I know my advice probably isn’t the most valuable thing to you. But I can see what being with him does to you. Back when we met and right now. You get this exhausted expression on your face and you lose that spark you usually have.”

Louis looks back up at him, eyes searching his.

“You have to get rid of the poison in your life. If you think he’s being a shit to you, which he is, then leave him. He’s not helping you. If you think I’m making you feel worse or you can't trust me, then we don’t have to keep hanging out. I’ll understand.” He doesn’t want to say that last part – he really likes spending time with Louis. He also really likes the sex they have. “Although I can't say I’ll like it,” he chuckles bitterly.

“No, Harry, I. I just need time, okay? And I do want to hang out with you. I get what you’re saying. Just … let me work on it, yeah?” he gets up.

“Louis, whatever you do, just do it for yourself, okay? Don’t do it for Nick. Don’t do it to please me.”

Louis nods, tightens his grip on his books. Harry knows this conversation is over. “Bye, Harry.”

He watches him leave, feeling odd and unsure. That conversation felt very inconclusive. He sighs and starts packing up his own things to go home as the sun sets.

 -

Harry, Niall and Liam are at their corner table in the coffee shop on a Friday afternoon. Liam and Niall are engaged in some conversation that Harry is having trouble keeping up with (probably about girls or work, so no real loss there). He stirs his coffee, staring at it intently, trying to escape his own thoughts, which are pretty much a mess of Louis, Louis, and Louis.

It’s been two weeks since he last saw him and honestly, it’s been difficult to not think about him. The first few days were fine. Like he was before he saw him by the tree. But as time wore on, it got harder. And Harry kind of wants to punch himself in the head.

Last night he called for pizza and ordered two, one of them with pineapple and pepperoni (Louis’ favourite, to Harry’s disgust). He realised his mistake after he hung up and had to call the restaurant back to change the order.

The night before while watching TV, Friends came on and he called to Louis in the kitchen to hurry up and join him, only to realise that Louis wasn’t even in his flat. He scolded himself and went for an evening run to take his mind off things.

And he’s been wanking to the image of Louis way more times than he’s willing to admit.

Now he’s sitting here with his friends and still he keeps thinking about Louis. He wonders if he’s actually going to see him again, get a chance to fuck him again. He hopes Louis finds the strength to get rid of Nick. The guy is bad news. But Harry just reminds himself that it’s really not his business. It’s not. Really. He keeps stirring.

What worries him most though, is the fact that he can’t think about anything else. Every time he pictures Louis in his mind his thoughts drift to hazy memories of drunken nights, bathroom quickies in a uni dorm, hand jobs in Louis’ car after a match. Snapshots of heat and sex and fun. He finds himself craving it all. He tries to focus on something else, anything else, but instead makes it worse for himself by thinking about Louis’ body. His slim waist, his tanned skin, his delicate collarbones, his arse and how good it feels around Harry’s-

“… your answer for the regression question?” Liam asks. Harry takes a second to realise he’s being addressed.

A sugar packet hits the side of his face from Niall’s direction, snapping him out of the growing arousal in his trousers.

“Heeyyy,” Harry whines.

“Earth to Harry,” Niall smirks.

Harry laughs nervously and scratches the back of his neck. Focus.  “Oh, um, regression? I uh…,” he searches his memory and comes up blank. Man, his brain can’t even function normally.

“Forget it,” Liam chuckles. “What’s got you so distracted?”

Harry closes his eyes and rubs his forehead. “Sorry. I just, um. I’m really nervous for the Economics exam? Been struggling this semester to, you know, keep up and stuff.”

“Well that’s bullshit,” Niall scoffs. “I saw your last test scores. You’re not havin’ any troubles there, Harry.”

They’re both looking at him with concerned gazes that tell Harry that he’s not gonna get out of explaining this one.

He sighs, giving up any and all pretences he had before. “Okay. There’s this… friend of mine.”

Niall raises his eyebrow, “A man friend?”

“Okay wow, who actually says ‘man friend’?”

Niall claps his hands once. “Ha! I knew it.”

Harry rolls his eyes. “Well, I’m not telling you twats who it is. But, yeah. I’m just concerned about him, is all. He’s going through some stuff at the moment. And I guess. I’m just not seeing him as much as before. Or at all, really.”

“Well does he know you like him?” asks Liam.

“I don’t like him, Liam. He’s just a friend.”

Niall shoots him an unimpressed look, “A friend who you like to get off with.”

“Precisely.”

“Okay,” Niall says with a smug smile. The little shit.

“Anyway,” Liam says, bringing the conversation back to the point, “Is there any way you can help him?”

“Ugh, not really. I’ve just been trying to give him space and that. He’s said that’s what he needs so.” He shrugs. “I guess I just have to wait.”

Liam pats his shoulder.

“Well in the meantime you have the whole of Manchester University at your fingertips. Go and find some other bloke to shag, mate. Don’t deprive yourself.” Niall says, getting up and tossing a few notes on the table.

“I,” Harry considers for a moment. “I guess I should. Yeah.” But why does the idea not sound as appealing as it used to?

“Where are you off to?” Liam asks Niall.

“Meeting Sean for a pint.”

“Now?” Harry asks.

“Yeah.”

“It’s 5 o’clock.”

Niall stares at him blankly. “I know.”

“Okay. Just checking.”

Liam widens his eyes at Harry, who grins.

Niall watches the exchange amusedly and pushes his chair in, “Ciao, lads.”

Harry giggles a little and returns the wave Niall gives as he leaves the shop. He turns back to Liam and lets out a sigh. He takes a few sips of coffee in silence as Liam sends a few texts. Now that they’re alone and it’s Liam, Harry knows he can safely ask the question that he’s been mulling over for some time now. He waits for Liam to put his phone down.

He hesitates, but takes a deep breath. “Okay, Li. Hypothetically,” he says, emphasising the word, “if you liked someone…. How would you know?”

Harry knows it’s a stupid question. But he’s honestly never felt like he liked someone. Sure there were a number of fit boys back in Holmes Chapel that he had a crush or two on. But. That’s it. Ever since coming here he’s just slept around and had fun. He likes casual and he doesn’t get attached. He’s got too much charm to not use it, he once overheard some friends say. And he’s pretty much gone with that. He’s enjoyed this too much to consider the alternative.

But now. It feels a lot more complicated. Louis has complicated things. He doesn’t like Louis. He doesn’t. But why is the thought of meaningless sex with a random stranger not doing anything for him?

Liam smiles. “Well, I guess you just know, don’t you?” He chuckles, “Hypothetically, you want to spend all your time with the person. And you care about them, obviously. And sometimes you don’t want to, like, be intimate with anyone else. I dunno. You just have to feel it.” He shrugs.

Harry runs down Liam’s list in his head. Check. Check. And check. Fuck.

-

The next Friday evening finds Harry alone on his couch. He’s had a few tests this week and is pretty knackered. Thankfully those tests are what kept Harry’s mind off of… certain people. But now that he’s got time to think, his thoughts aren’t very academic anymore. While not actively thinking about it, it seems like Harry’s just accepted that Louis is now a ‘thing’ and he’s not getting out of it easily. His mind automatically wanders to what Louis is up to tonight. And whether he’s ended things with Nick. And what he’s wearing…

Okay, nope. He’s not doing this. It’s been three weeks and he’s not going to sit around his flat on a Friday night and let his sad little Louis thoughts stop him from enjoying himself. Fuck that. He’s going out and having a good night. Harry was perfectly happy before Louis and he still is. Nothing’s changed. He’s perfectly fine.

He stands up, gives himself 3 quick slaps on the cheek and goes to get ready.

 -

The music pounds in Harry’s ears, the base hammering in his chest. He’s surrounded by warm bodies pulsating, grinding, and oscillating around him. He’s hot. He can feel his back slick with sweat, but he doesn’t care. It’s dark but the inconsistent flashing of brightly coloured lights is enough for him to see and make his way toward the chiselled-looking blond guy eyeing him from across the dance floor. He needs this, a distraction.

It’s been too long since he’s been out and it feels good, like coming home. He called up Liam and Niall and they came here, to his favourite club, ready to loosen up and have fun. Fuck everything else. By now the other two have gone off with a couple of girls and Harry’s had a few drinks. But even with all the pounding music and the alcohol running through his veins clouding his head, he can't get his mind off Louis and Nick.

“Hey. I’m Harry,” he says, holding out a hand as he reaches the blond, who grabs it and tugs them together to put his mouth to Harry’s ear, nipping at his earlobe. “I’m James.”

Wow, forward, Harry thinks. That feels good though, and James smells amazing, but it’s unfamiliar and burns Harry’s nostrils. His senses are in overdrive yet he’s also numb. He’s sexually frustrated, there’s no denying it. He hasn’t slept with anyone since Louis all those weeks ago, and to be honest it’s the longest he’s gone without sex in a while. And yeah, he’s trying not to let it worry him how he’s not found anyone else that he wants to sleep with in that time.

So he begins to dance with this James, hoping to feel some sense of attraction there, pressing against his back and losing himself in the heavy beat of the speakers. He responds as Harry hopes, grinding back against him. He holds his waist as they move. And yeah, this is nice, he supposes.

But his mind is soon in other places as he closes his eyes. The hard, muscly body in front of him becomes shorter and stockier, with curves in different places. He imagines that the neck he begins kissing smells like earthy soap and clean sheets, not spicy cologne. The hair that tickles his face is longer, light brown and feathery, not spiky and blonde. Then a face comes to the forefront of his mind. Sharp cheek bones, tanned skin, long eyelashes, thin lips, crinkled eyes... He suddenly feels his blood rushing downwards.

He opened his eyes, surprised (and to his annoyance, disappointed) to find he’s still entwined with James and not… someone else. He’s still dancing, but Harry’s stopped. Confused, Harry mutters a “sorry” in his ear and walks away. James looks kind of startled but is too drunk to care much, and he moves on to another guy nearby.

Harry shakes his head, trying to snap out of it. What is going on with him? A few months ago there was no way in hell Harry would have left a hot guy on the dance floor who seemed well into him without making a move. But right now he feels different. He isn’t interested in kissing James, or even touching him. It’s not that he’s grossed out or anything, but now after trying it, he feels absolutely no attraction to him. Or any of the guys he’s seen in this club, for that matter. Bloody hell.

He goes to the bar, definitely in need of another drink. He orders a tequila shot and tips it back quickly, the liquid searing his throat on the way down.

He turns his back and leans against the bar, watching the throbbing crowd on the dance floor. And just as his luck will have it, he spots them. Louis and Nick, on the edge of the crowd, dancing really, really close together, not an inch of space between them, rutting against each other. He can’t look away because it’s Louis. Harry refuses to imagine, to remember, what it feels like to be so close to him, their bodies moving together in a perfect rhythm. Harry feels a flash of jealousy and desire make its way up his spine, remembering that it’s Nick that Louis is currently doing this with. Harry can’t see Louis’ face, but he can see Nick’s. And he isn’t looking at Louis. Harry squints a little and raises his eyebrows in surprise when he sees Nick wink at another guy nearby him. As the guy passes, Nick grabs his arse. While he’s still attached to Louis.

Harry’s blood boils. What the fuck is that asshole doing? Why on earth would he even look at another man when he has Louis right in front of him? Harry has to breathe slowly and tell himself a few times not to get involved, to resist marching over there and doing something stupid. Just stay out of it. Forget it. He takes a deep breath and looks away, tries to think of something else.

That plan doesn’t last long. But thankfully when he looks back in their direction Louis is making his way to the bar, reaching it a few people down from him. When he turns around his eyes find Harry, but he doesn’t say anything or come over. He gives Harry a surprised half smile and tips his drink in his direction. Harry feels the tension in his shoulders slightly loosen. Louis seems alright, but he’s not a hundred percent sure where they stand at the moment, so he doesn’t go over to him. They just stay like that, smiling at each other while sipping their drinks, almost smirking from time to time, swaying with the music.

Because he’s curious and an idiot, Harry looks back at Nick on the dance floor, and his skin on the back of his neck pricks. The man has got his mouth attached to another guy’s lips and they’re really going at it. It takes him a second to realise that the other guy is James. He almost laughs to himself at the situation, until he sees Louis follow his gaze, the smile on the other boy’s face disappearing. Shit. Louis pushes off the bar angrily and storms over to Nick. He’s so small next to him and has to tap him hard repeatedly on the shoulder before Nick notices him.

Harry can't hear what’s being said over the loud club anthems and the distance between them, but Louis is clearly yelling at Nick, who looks guilty, yet unregretful at the same time. He backs away from James and calls out what look like apologies as he drunkenly wraps his arms around Louis, completely engulfing his smaller frame. Louis stumbles, trying to get out from Nick’s grip.

That’s it. Harry isn’t standing by this any longer. He’s seen enough. He practically slams his bottle down and before he knows it he’s in front of Nick, tugging his arms off of Louis and shoving him away from the smaller boy. Nick stumbles back but doesn’t fall. Next to Harry, Louis is standing up properly again, adjusting his shirt.

Harry takes a step in front of him protectively, throwing an arm around him on impulse. “Leave him alone,” he tells Nick with an unintentionally gruff voice. The older man looks at him with hazy but fearful eyes. Harry barely feels the sudden gentle pressure of Louis taking his hand, but it’s there. He looks down at it and then up at Louis, who’s looking at him with an expression of gratitude mixed with something else he can't read.

“Fine,” Nick yells back at Louis, seeing their intertwined hands. “But don’t come running back to me when yet another bloke realises what a baggage-loaded fuck up you are who can’t be bothered to make your relationships work.”

At this Harry swears his vision blurs with the anger he’s currently feeling and he lunges forward, landing a hard punch on Nick’s jaw. “Don’t fucking talk to him like that, you prick,” he growls.

The force of it makes Nick stumble backward, falling over this time. Some girls around them squeal and a moment later James bends down to help him. They’ve created a bit of scene, but Harry just turns and grabs Louis, who’s staring at him wide-eyed and almost admiringly, by the arm and tugs him out to front of the club, not looking back. Louis goes willingly, neither of them speaking.

They make it outside and Harry hails them a taxi. Louis gives the driver his own address and takes his seat across from Harry, who just looks out the window, fists clenching and unclenching. He’s not generally a violent person, but right now he is seething. Fuck anyone who treats Louis that way. He knows he really needs to calm down so he opens the window and takes long breaths, letting the chilly night air soothe his lungs and unclog his mind.

By the time they reach Louis’ flat Harry has calmed down to a reasonable state. He now becomes aware of the aching in his fist from throwing that punch and he holds it with his other hand while Louis gets his keys out, leading him inside. The adrenaline of the night’s events has sobered Harry up considerably, his vision a little less hazy than it was before. He’s able to walk a little straighter.

Louis lets them in, turns the lights on and shuts the door. “I can’t believe you just - “ He cuts himself off when he turns around to look at Harry and gasps, “Jesus, Harry, is your hand-?”

“What?” Harry mutters, rotating it to get a better look at the raw purple skin. “Oh. Yeah, no, it’s fine I think. Probably a bit bruised or something. Yeah.”

Louis sighs and walks into the kitchen while Harry drops onto the sofa and leans his head back. After an immeasurable amount of time Harry feels the couch dip and the next thing he knows Louis is gently holding his injured fist and pressing ice wrapped in a dishcloth to his knuckles. Harry winces.

“Sorry,” says Louis softly.

Harry eases up, “No, it’s fine.” After the initial shock the pain starts to turn to icicles of numbness across his hand. It’s better.  “So this is how you treat a bruised hand, then? I think it’s working.”

“No idea, really. This is what they do on telly, isn’t it? Haven’t punched anyone before, myself,” he smirks, raising an eyebrow at Harry.

“Neither have I, until now.” Harry chuckles.

Louis bursts out laughing. “I can’t believe you actually hit Nick. He’s harmless - wouldn’t have done any damage. He’s just a giant twat is all.”

“Yeah, that was clear to me,” Harry grins. Louis sniggers at that.

They sit in a comfortable silence, laughter fading, ears buzzing from the absence of loud music, Louis nursing Harry’s hand. Harry steals more than a few glances at him. His hair looks very soft tonight, having been left down in a fringe (Harry likes that best) and it falls delicately over one of his eyes as he’s looking down. His eyelashes are long enough to make shadows on his smooth, high cheekbones. He holds his lower lip between his teeth and for the first time Harry wants to know what it feels like to press his own lips to them. He can’t ignore the sudden surge of desire that courses through his body. He feels almost magnetic towards Louis, and he could swear Louis feels it too.

But it’s not just his body that Harry wants, he realises. Looking at him, he wants to talk to Louis, about things more important than football or reality TV. How does he feel about death? Does he remember his dreams when he wakes up in the morning? How did he cope when his dad left? He wants to know how he looks in the morning, hair all mussed and eyes half open, voice croaky. He wants to hear about his sisters and his mum and his hometown and his childhood friends and his favourite books and his most awful teachers and his first kiss. He wants to know more about him. He wants to know Louis.

When he looks up once more, Louis’ already looking at him. His gaze is unreadable, but he licks his lips and swallows. He looks like he’s about to say something but instead he moves to put the dishcloth on the coffee table before sitting back against the couch facing Harry again.

What he does next surprises Harry. He reaches over, resting his elbow on top of the couch, and touches the collar of Harry’s shirt, running the fabric between his fingers, focusing his eyes on that instead of Harry’s. It feels so intimate that Harry almost forgets to breathe.

Without looking up, Louis says in a soft whisper, “Thank you. For what you did. You didn’t have to.” The back of his fingers brush the base of Harry’s neck for a second. It was quick, but Harry doesn’t imagine it, he’s sure.

“I wanted to.” Harry’s voice is huskier than he thinks it will be. “He said those… he said horrible things about you. And it just. I got really mad. I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be sorry. It might be the nicest thing anyone’s ever done for me,” he smiles sadly.

“Louis,” Harry says pleadingly. Louis finally meets his eyes again. They’re winter blue: icy and so beautiful. “You don’t deserve to be treated like that. Why did you stay with him, even after that stuff we talked about?”

Louis shakes his head at himself, chuckling bitterly at some thought of his own, clearly, because as far as Harry knows he didn’t say anything funny.

“What is it?” Harry asks patiently.

Louis takes a deep breath and lets it out in a whoosh of air, as if to say ‘fuck it’. He looks up at Harry and says quietly, “I did it cause I couldn’t stop thinking of you.” Oh.

Harry takes a few seconds to absorb this. Louis is watching Harry’s face with an expression of reluctant hopefulness, but he looks like he wishes he didn’t just say that. It’s dead quiet in the flat. Harry’s pretty sure it’s silent in the street outside too. It’s about 3am. And here they are.

“Oh,” Harry whispers, staring back and forth between Louis’ eyes and mouth. “Well that’s. That’s good. I think.”

The furrows in Louis’ brow loosen and his face practically opens up. He’s not smiling but he has a warmth and fondness in his eyes that wasn’t there a second before.

“Yeah?”

Harry nods, exhaling shakily.

He hears Louis’ breath hitch a little. They seem to have shifted closer to each other. His skin is buzzing with the proximity and he really wants to touch Louis, hold him, or do something.

The fingers holding Harry’s collar shift up to touch his neck tentatively. Harry has to close his eyes at the sensation of his fingertips, heightening all his senses.  Louis hand moves down and is joined by his other one to undo the top buttons of Harry’s shirt. Louis pauses, looking at him questioningly. The answer in Harry’s return gaze must be what he’s looking for because Louis focuses back on the buttons, undoing them slowly and carefully, one by one.

Once his shirt is open, Louis lightly pushes Harry back so he’s lying against the arm rest. He puts his hands on his chest, tracing the shape of the left bird with his thumb, making him breathless. He leans down slowly and presses his lips to it tenderly, heat growing where their skin meets. He moves across and does the same to the right one.

He makes his way to the middle of his chest and peppers soft kisses down, down, down. He stops at Harry’s hip, stroking the thin skin there and looking up at Harry. Christ. Harry reaches down and tilts Louis’ chin up, coaxing him towards him. Louis sits up so that he’s straddling him, leaning down so that they’re face to face. They are so close, exchanging shallow breaths, their eyes locked in a steady gaze.

Harry feels a tugging in his chest, a pull toward to the beautiful boy above him who’s looking down at him with an expression he’s never seen. It’s not like the lustful stares he would give him from across the room at a party or the knowing look he wears when he’s teasing Harry in the bedroom. It’s a quiet, admiring, fondness and Harry wants to wrap himself up in it.

Louis lowers his head slightly, not all the way. “Harry,” he breathes, egging Harry on to do exactly what he’s wanted to do for much longer than he realises.

Harry closes his eyes and raises his chin slowly, feeling the soft breaths on his face as he gets closer to Louis. There is a second of hesitation, his nose brushing against Louis’ cheek, and then their lips meet for the first time in a warm kiss. Louis slots his bottom lip between Harry’s and Harry’s sucks on it gently. Their mouths move together almost experimentally, learning the feel and pressure of each other and Harry feels like he’s melting from the touch. The kiss isn’t long or intense but when they pull away it’s slow and unwilling.

Harry’s senses are on fire and wow, ok, he needs more. He licks his lips, looking at Louis pleadingly. Louis smirks and raises an eyebrow, like he’s challenging him to do it again. Luckily for Harry, it’s no challenge. He wraps a hand behind Louis’ neck and pulls him down, attaching their mouths once again. It’s less careful this time, more passionate. Harry runs his tongue over Louis’ bottom lip, eliciting a moan from the older boy, and then he parts his lips, licking hotly into Louis’ mouth. Louis tastes like beer with faint traces of mint and Harry’s brain is clouded, only able to focus on the feeling of Louis’ tongue dancing with his.

They’re both panting and breathing out through their noses as their mouths move together. Heat spreads throughout Harry’s body, because he’s actually kissing Louis, not fucking him meaninglessly just because it feels good. And the idea that Louis wants this just as much as Harry does sends sparks of excitement all over him, from his core to the very tips of his fingers.

Harry is broad and muscular beneath Louis, who is smaller, with soft curves but a firm arse. Harry holds the slim waist that he’s so used to usually holding from behind, pulling him closer. Louis has both hands at the top of Harry’s neck, thumbs caressing his jaw. This is a completely different experience to what they’ve done before. It’s possibly better - and they aren’t even fucking. Well, yet, because Louis begins to move his hips rhythmically, causing a whole lot of blood to rush down to Harry’s groin, his cock hardening much faster than before. Harry doesn’t want to do this here though.

With regret, he pushes Louis’ chest up, their lips parting with a wet sound that shouldn’t make Harry as turned on as it does. “Wait,” he breathes.

Louis looks at him with a disappointed and hungry look in his eyes. “What?” he groans, leaning back in to kiss his jaw, thrusting his hips down again.

Harry stifles a moan. God, Louis is going to be the death of him. He gathers as much coherency as he can and whispers, “Not here, Louis,” gently pushing him off again. He sits up and laces their fingers together, pulling him up. He leads them to the passage and into Louis’ room, which he’s been in so many times that he finds it easily, despite the darkness. His heart is beating so fast, but he feels surprisingly calm. He can’t really focus on anything right now other than their joined hands and his overwhelming anticipation for more.

They approach the bed and Louis climbs on, pulling Harry down on top of him, and he goes willingly, holding himself above Louis, a hand on either side of his head digging into the mattress.  Louis pulls their lips together again, slower this time. And Harry’s glad – he wants to do this differently to what they’ve done before. He’s usually rough and fast with Louis, practically throwing him around like a ragdoll, almost making him cry from coming so hard. And he knows Louis loves it like that. But it feels like an unspoken agreement right now, to go slow and gentle, to savour this and truly appreciate each other.

Louis nibbles on Harry’s bottom lip before sucking it into his mouth, drawing a moan from him that he can't control. They simply kiss, slow and steady for a few minutes, until they run out of breath. Harry pulls off slowly and runs his fingers down the column of Louis’ throat with fascination, as if he’s only now realising how tantalising Louis is. He bends and presses a kiss to his collar bone, takes a second to suck a dark bruise into the thin skin there. He then moves up his neck, pressing soft, continuous kisses into it, listening to the unsteady breathing coming from Louis. He reaches Louis’ ear and he gently bites on his earlobe, making him shiver, and then kisses his way back across his cheek, stopping at the corner of his mouth. “Off,” he whispers against him, pulling up at the hem of Louis’ black t-shirt.

Louis kisses him on the mouth one more time before sitting up and letting Harry pull the shirt over his head, and in turn he slides Harry’s open shirt off his arms. Then he undoes Harry’s fly, urging him to take his jeans off. So Harry slips his boots off and his socks and Louis lies back down to watch him as he begins to remove his jeans and pants. He gets back on top of Louis, kissing and licking down his tanned chest, over his simultaneously muscled and soft stomach. When he reaches the top of Louis’ trousers he bites the corner of the denim, pulling it over so the button pops off and then upwards so that it unzips itself. Louis is squirming, but clearly trying to refrain from moving too much. Harry smiles and kisses the soft skin above the line of his briefs, bringing his hands up to tug down the jeans. He sits up to slide Louis’ shoes off and then pull his trousers completely down, throwing them in a direction he won’t recall tomorrow.

He kisses Louis’ thighs softly as Louis reaches into his bedside drawer, digging out a bottle of lube and nothing else.

Harry gives him a questioning look.

“I used a condom with Nick. And I’ve not been sleeping with anyone else but you, so.” He pauses. “Unless, you want -“

“Me neither,” Harry whispers, pressing a kiss to his knee and taking the bottle. "I couldn't." He pulls Louis’ briefs off,  squeezes out some lube on his fingers and parts Louis’ legs. He strokes his way up his smooth thighs, making him itch with anticipation.

He opens him up slowly and gently, eliciting gasps and other wonderful sounds from the older boy, making him press his head back into the pillow. One, two, three long fingers, stretching him open, knowing exactly what to do, where to touch and how Louis’ likes it.

“Fuck, you look so good like this,” he tells him, curling his fingers inside him and watching him react.

“Harry. Wanna feel you,” Louis moans, “Please.”

Harry surges up to capture Louis’ lips in his own, sliding them together messily. He presses their foreheads together, strokes Louis’ neck, slightly damp. “Wanna face you when I'm inside you, Lou. Gonna go slow this time, yeah?”

Louis just nods, breathless. He bites his lip and wriggles a bit under Harry. Harry can feel his hard on against his thigh and leans back to kneel between his legs. He strokes Louis’ cock a few times, already leaking with pre-come. He then grabs the bottle again and slicks up his own throbbing length and lines himself up with Louis’ hole.

Slowly and carefully, he pushes in, and at Louis’ nod, slides as far in as he can. He needs to kiss Louis again (he doesn’t think he’ll ever get sick of it), so he does, licking into his mouth and they pant hotly against each other while Louis’ adjusts to the stretch. Louis wraps his legs around Harry, pulling them impossibly closer and whispers hoarsely in his ear, “You can move.”

Holding Louis at his sides, he pulls slightly out of him and slowly pushes back in, dragging out the pleasure that erupts in both of them. He keeps the pace, lazily thrusting further in and out, and sucking bruises into Louis’ chest and collarbones, licking them better.

“Missed this,” he whispers into Louis’ neck. “Missed you.”

Louis breathes out shakily. “I really missed you. Sorry I took so long.” He gasps from a deep thrust. “I. Sorry.”

Louis holds on to Harry’s back, nails not digging into him this time. He just runs his hands up and down, feeling Harry’s muscles rippling beneath him. Harry strokes Louis’ chest and shoulders and neck. They’ve never done this, taken the time to properly explore each other’s bodies, appreciating all the details. It feels. It just feels like so much more than sex. The kissing adds a whole level of intimacy that they were missing. The soft touches and caresses are new for Harry and he can’t believe he’s made it this long without them.

The fact that this is happening with Louis is, in itself, amazing. Louis, who Harry’s been quietly losing his mind over for the past 3 weeks, probably much longer, is here underneath him, wrapped around him, pliant and beautiful. Harry’s finally doing what he’s fantasised about for way too long.  

“You’re gorgeous,” Harry says, voice low.

Louis just looks into Harry’s eyes and brings their mouths together, kissing him tenderly. He rakes his fingers through Harry’s hair, which he knows he loves, and pulls gently on it, sending tingles down his spine.

He feels his orgasm building and he knows he’s close. He keeps going, feeling closer to Louis than he’s felt with anyone, possibly ever.

He reaches down and strokes Louis’ cock lazily before starting to build on his speed and thrust deeper into him. He begins to fuck Louis harder and more intensely, making him hold on tighter as they move together. They’re both panting as their movements speed up and Harry feels Louis tense up and knows he’s about to come. Louis searches for his other hand and interlaces their fingers.

“Harry, I,” he gets out before shuddering and crying out “Harry” again, spilling between them.

Hearing Louis say his name like that is what pushes Harry over the edge and he comes deep inside Louis, an explosion of sensations and pleasure spreading within and then he’s overcome by total relaxation. He lets out a heaving breath and goes limp, resting his head on Louis’ chest.

Louis lays beneath him, facing the ceiling and breathing deeply, carding one hand through Harry’s hair and the other one lightly stroking his spine. They lie like that for a while, Harry still inside Louis, unmoving, catching their breath back. It’s nice. It’s lovely. Louis brushes Harry’s sweaty fringe off his brow and kisses his forehead, leaving his lips there. Harry’s eyes flutter closed and he gently rubs Louis’ torso with his thumb.

Eventually, with a sigh, Harry pulls out and goes to the bathroom, returning with a damp cloth. He cleans his chest and stomach and then wipes Louis down wherever he’s dirty. Louis watches him with a lazy smile. When Harry catches his eye he can’t help but let a smile of his own spread across his own face. He throws the cloth onto the nightstand and neatens the covers, getting underneath them with Louis.

They look at each other for a few seconds, trying to wipe the stupid grins off their faces and failing miserably. Harry takes Louis’ hand and pulls him close, kissing his parted lips. It’s a light and sweet kiss, and it makes Harry’s heart feel like it belongs to an elephant. He spends a few more moments pressing soft kisses around Louis’ face, gentle touches of the lips, just lasting long enough to leave an impression of warmth. He kisses his cheeks, his nose, his jaw, his brow, his delicate eyelids, and one more time on his lips, for which Louis returns the pressure.

They part with a sigh and Louis turns around to press his back against Harry’s chest, tucking into him, keeping their hands interlaced.

Harry presses his lips to his shoulder. “So, I take it your ‘no kissing’ rule is out the window then?”

Louis smacks his leg under the covers and Harry chuckles, snuggling Louis closer under the arm he throws around him.

They lay there quietly, the weight of the night’s events, as well as the past couple of months, lifting and sending them into a peaceful slumber.

-

Early the next morning, Harry leaves Louis asleep in his bed with a note (Gone to lectures. Should be back by 11, if you want me to. I'll bring you breakfast? xx ) and makes the trek to campus, not worrying about having no bag with him. He feels oddly energised today so he decides to skip the coffee shop and makes it on time to his 8 o’ clock, taking his usual seat next to Liam and Niall.

“So, who was it you ditched us for this time, Harry?” Niall asks.

Harry looks at them both tentatively; mentally preparing himself for what he knows is coming. “I was... with Louis?”

Niall shakes his head disbelievingly. Right then Harry feels his phone vibrate. He ignores their judgmental faces to pull it out of his pocket and unlock. He sees that it’s a message:

I think you know what my answer is :) See you at 11.

“Louis? As in... the Louis?” Liam asks, raising his eyebrows suspiciously.

Harry, unable to keep the stupid smile growing wider and wider on his face, replies “Yeah Li, the very same.”

-x-