Louis wipes the sweat off his forehead with the back of his hand, exhaling as Harry says, “Thanks, everyone. You’ve been fucking brilliant. We’ve got one last song for you, so here it is. We’re The Rogue and this is Seventeen Black.”
The crowd goes wild for them, and it’s the sort of thing that makes Louis think that they’re ready to graduate playing shitty bar shows, to finally get signed to a proper label instead of selling their EP out of their stage equipment van. This place is slightly bigger than the places they usually play, though, a club venue that Louis is still half-convinced they only got because Harry’s good mates with the bartender.
He plucks the strings on his bass before Zayn leads in with drums and Harry’s voice comes in over Niall and Liam on guitar, the sound weaving through the air and settling somewhere in Louis’ bones, thrumming as his heart pounds. Harry’s fucking electric, his voice winding the crowd up, and Louis can see a whole bunch of them singing along. He winks at a floppy-haired boy in the first row, who blushes but doesn’t close his mouth, grinning as he mouths the words.
“Want you to bet on me,” Harry belts out, eyes closed and head thrown back, and Louis lets himself lose control, give it over to the music and the feeling of being onstage, of performing. He’s never felt more at home than he does when he’s putting on a show for the crowd, and this song is fast and loud enough that it’s natural to jump around, play as if it’s the last time. And then Harry hits a high note and it’s like a jolt to Louis’ system, because he knows Harry can sing, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t sometimes catch him by surprise, sending something like adrenaline running through his bloodstream.
The song’s over too quickly, and the audience cheers wildly for them, voices overlapping as they shout and scream. Harry shakes out his sweaty mess of hair and says, “Thanks, everyone. We’re The Rogue. Buy our record and I might buy you a drink.” He punctuates the last remark with a flirty wink at the audience, because other than singing, Harry’s specialty is charming people - even if it is an entire crowd.
When they leave the stage, it’s to shouts of their names and rousing cheers.
“C’mon, boys, let’s go somewhere and get absolutely fucked,” Niall is saying as he opens a bottle of beer, taking a swig. They’re out in the cool breeze, loading equipment into the back of a van with a couple of their mates from a band that’d played earlier. Their band’s called Greyscale, and they’ve got four lads - they’re like a smaller version of The Rogue, playing the same old thing, and Louis hates to think it, but they’re not going anywhere any time soon.
“Mate,” Liam says as he bends over to pick up an amp, “Some of us actually work around here. Chuck the rest of the stuff in the van and we’ll be done.”
Louis just rolls his eyes as he grabs the other side of the amp. They all know how this goes: Liam, Louis and Zayn do the heavy lifting with whoever’s around to help, Niall pretends to be doing things while actually standing there and watching, and Harry charms his way into getting them another gig.
“Let’s just get this over with, Li,” Louis jerks his head towards the van as they pick the amp up and fit it in with the rest of their shit.
Liam slams the back doors of the van shut, and strikes up a conversation with Jamie from Greyscale as Louis wanders over to Niall and Zayn. “Seen Harry?” He asks.
The two of them exchange a glance before Zayn replies, “Caroline’s here. Reckon he’s leaving with her tonight.”
Louis frowns. Harry’s been seeing her for a while now; nearly a month. It’s longer than a lot of his other flings, and he wonders if it’s a proper thing. It’s odd, because he’s been best friends with Harry for almost five years now, since he was seventeen and wandered into the bookstore Louis used to work at, shivering from the rain, but Harry’s hardly told him anything about Caroline. The most he gets from her is a friendly smile and wave, and the occasional small talk when she doesn’t manage to sneak out in the morning before Louis wakes up. He knows she’s a photographer for some indie mag, does most of their shows - that’s how she and Harry met - and if it gets them more publicity, then Louis supposes he can’t really complain.
“We’re still going out though, right?” He asks, looking to Niall, who shrugs.
“Like I’d ever pass that up,” he replies. Louis is about to ask Zayn when he spots Harry over his shoulder, Caroline in tow.
“Haz!” He calls out, grinning widely. “Come on, let’s go get tremendously drunk!”
Harry grins, slipping his hand into Caroline’s. “Nah, I think Caz and I are just gonna head back to hers.”
Louis pouts, because he feels half-drunk already off the adrenaline from performing, despite the fact that the air outside is sharp, frosty. “Just a few drinks, pleaaaase? You can go back and do whatever you like after, but we’re celebrating as a band.”
Harry looks back at Caroline, who smiles over at Louis, Zayn and Niall and says, “go with them. I’ll see you later, yeah?”
He doesn’t have much of an argument after that, finally just shrugging and replying, “okay.” Louis sometimes hates how easy it is to get Harry to do whatever they want, wants him to put up a proper fight, but in cases like these, he’s certainly not complaining.
So he just says, “Alright boys, we’re off,” winking over at Caroline as a thank-you as he leads them out to the street so they can pile into a taxi, Niall whooping loudly.
Louis hates a lot of things, but there’s not much he hates more than seeing Harry surrounded with girls and boys, chatting them all up, while he sits all alone at the bar. It’s not fair, because sure, Harry’s probably the most charming person he’s ever met, but he’s already getting regularly laid, and Louis is not, and he would appreciate that kind of attention.
Also, Louis is drunk. He tends to get quite handsy and possessive when he’s drunk, and that’s usually extended to all of his friends.
“Zayn,” he says. “Zayn, my very best pal.”
Zayn is not paying attention to him. Zayn is staring over at a girl with purple hair and her friend, doing that ridiculous pouting smoulder that seems to come naturally to him. Louis hits him lightly on the arm.
“Fuckin’ hell, Tommo. What?” Zayn turns to him and frowns.
“S’not fair. Why does Harry get all the attention all the time and he has someone to go fuck whenever he wants? Why can’t I have that? I’m pretty too, aren’t I?”
Zayn raises his eyebrows. “Are you sure that’s what bothers you about Harry seeing someone? It’s not, like. The fact that you’re completely in love with him or anything?”
Louis is entirely sure that Zayn knows him too well for his own good. The thing is; he’s not wrong. He’s been in love with Harry since the moment he waltzed into the bookstore with his goddamn green eyes and Cheshire cat smile. Louis had made him a cup of tea and they’d gotten to talking about books, about music, and about their lives. The next thing he knew, Harry was sleeping on his couch every other night, and eventually they’d just decided to fuck it all and find a flat together. Louis isn’t even sure how Harry snuck up on him. He figures it just kind of happened.
He can’t remember the last song he wrote that wasn’t about Harry, in at least the smallest way; a throwaway line or chord progression he wrote with him in mind. Harry has absolutely no idea, of course, because Louis is a total fucking coward. He’s hiding behind the excuse that “doing anything would totally fuck up the band”, but they all know that he really means “I’m too scared that Harry doesn’t feel the same”. It’s fine, honestly, it is. Louis will find someone else and move on and Harry will find someone that’s actually deserving of him and everything will be alright.
At least, that’s what Louis tells himself.
“Fuck off,” he replies, finishing off his drink. “C’mon, I want to go home. M’tired and I have to do shit tomorrow.”
“Alright, alright,” Zayn replies, all too knowingly. “Just let me get that girl’s number. You find Niall and Li.”
Louis huffs, because of course Zayn will get the girl’s number, and they’ll probably end up together, and he’ll be left to find the rest of his friends and go home lonely for the rest of his life.
“It’s not fair,” he says again, to no-one in particular.
Louis hates Monday mornings. It’s entirely too early (six am; Louis is a firm believer that this time of day should only be seen by those who haven’t gone to sleep yet) and his alarm is blaring on the table next to his bed and he has to open up the coffeeshop he works at. He really hopes Greg’s on time, because he probably won’t be.
Harry’s probably still asleep, doesn’t have to get up for another couple of hours. He and Zayn work at a record store, which mostly involves squabbling over Paramore and Tegan and Sara, although they’re in firm accordance on the brilliance of The Neighbourhood. Niall does god knows what, interning here and there for various record labels and radio stations - Louis reckons it’ll be his connections that give them their big break in the end, because Harry’s charming and he knows how to work the game, but Niall’s got the real shit. Liam’s probably the most dependable (read: boring) of them all, working some office job that Louis has never actually bothered to find out about properly, mostly because, as he’s said a million times, “we’re in our fuckin’ twenties, Liam, you’re 22, for god’s sake, supposed to be broke as fuck and like, trying to find our way in the world, not boring and middle-aged.” Although, to be fair, Liam isn’t living off pot noodle, so all of Louis’ points are probably invalid.
Louis can’t be arsed to do breakfast properly, popping bread into the toaster and making himself tea. He’s still not entirely sure how he ended up working at a coffeeshop when in reality, he’s not all that fond of it, much prefers his cup of Yorkshire in the morning, but it helps pay the bills, so he can’t exactly complain.
He’s in the middle of eating when Harry pads out from his room, rubbing his eyes. He’s pulled on a pair of sweatpants and his hair’s all tousled from sleep and Louis can’t help but grin fondly. “G’morning, love.”
Harry frowns. “No. It’s barely light outside. That is not a good morning.”
“We live in England, love, get used to it,” Louis counters, checking the time. “Fuck, I’m probably going to be late. Greg’s going to yell at me again, and call me an insufferable twat even though I know he loves me and it’s going to be awful.”
Harry laughs at him, says, “go on. I’ll take care of your dirty dishes, don’t mind me. Thanks for making breakfast, by the way. Really appreciated. Next time you’re moaning about a hangover, I’m going to make a fryup, but just enough for me, then I’m going to eat it all while you watch.”
“You would never,” Louis says, mock scandalised, but Harry shrugs.
“Nah, probably not. Love you too much for that.”
And, see, Louis knows. Louis knows he means he loves him like a friend or a brother, the same way he loves the rest of the boys, but whenever Harry says that, throws it around so fucking casually, he can’t help himself from hoping, from thinking that maybe it could mean more.
“Love you too,” he replies, pretending his throat doesn’t catch on the last word, and ruffles Harry’s hair as he grabs his coat from the couch where he’d dropped it the other night. “See you tonight? We can have dinner here, watch a movie?”
Harry frowns up at him, apologetic. “Think I’m seeing Caz tonight. Sorry, Lou.”
“You’re with her an awful lot lately,” Louis tries to joke, keep his tone light, and Harry gets this ridiculous cow-eyed look on his face.
“She’s amazing, Lou. The other day, she did this thing with her tongue -” and oh, that is quite enough. Louis holds up a hand to make him stop.
“Harold. Sometimes there is such a thing as oversharing. Please,” he laughs. “But, like. Is it serious?”
“Nah. Reckon we’ll stop seeing each other in a couple of weeks. She keeps telling me about a friend of a friend she’s sort of dating, and like. He’s older and has a real job, and it’s fine, really. Stuff runs its course,” Harry’s tone is light, but his mouth is turned down by the end, and Louis’ heart absolutely aches. He wants to do something, but he’s already late, and he’s horribly uncreative at almost seven in the morning.
“M’sorry, Haz. Look, I’ve got to go, but I’ll probably be home before you head out, yeah? See you later?”
Harry smiles. “Later.”
Louis is completely fucking exhausted. Greg hadn’t been in, had the fucking Hungarian cow flu or something; whatever it was had sounded ridiculous and made up. He’d been working with Dan, one of the trainees, who was utterly useless, and he really just wants to collapse.
“Got us another gig!” Harry announces as Louis walks into the living room. “And Caroline dumped me.”
“Um,” Louis says. Harry is smiling widely, a reaction he didn’t exactly expect. “Thought you were going out tonight?”
“Nah, she came by the store and we went and got lunch. She actually got us the gig, a club promoter friend of hers needed a band and she said she knew a brilliant one.”
Louis says wryly, “and then she dumped you.”
“And then she dumped me,” Harry nods. “So, I s’pose we can do dinner tonight. Can we watch Titanic?”
So, Harry’s not entirely okay with it. Titanic is only for times when he wants an excuse to burrow into Louis’ shoulder and sniffle. “Some kind of a rockstar you are, Styles,” Louis plonks himself down on the couch. “Crying over Jack and Rose.”
“Hey,” Harry says. “That’s a proper sad love story. Anyway, I’m fine, because the club we’re playing in is big. Like, a lot bigger than we usually do.”
A rush of excitement runs through Louis, his heart speeding up. “Yeah?”
“That’s what Caroline said, and I s’pose she’d know. Anyway, we’ll find out. Maybe it’ll be our break?”
Louis imagines it, imagines a crowd of people that know them, know their music, singing along. He thinks of the bottled energy of the small venues they play and imagines that in a bigger venue, wonders how far they could go with this. He shivers a bit, and replies, “Yeah. Maybe.”
They’re backstage, and Louis is bricking it. There’s actually a queue to get into the club, so people are putting in a proper effort to be there, and it turns out that they’re opening for Little Mix, a group of four girls who’ve shot to notoriety over the last year or so. In fact, it turns out that Zayn’s lavender-haired girl is the lead singer, and Louis is kicking himself for being too drunk to realise earlier. She’s apparently got every single guy in London chasing after her, and somehow, Zayn’s landed himself a date with her. Go figure.
He’s sitting with his head against the wall, trying to zone out, when Harry lowers himself down beside him, awkward in his stupid skinny jeans, holes in the knees covered up by what Louis is pretty sure is duct tape.
“Does your dick get any fuckin’ oxygen in those things?” Louis blurts before realising what he’s asking, and Harry barks out a laugh that has everyone backstage looking over, covering his mouth.
He doesn’t answer the question, though, just asks, “You okay?” When Louis nods, he continues. “Good. ‘Cause we’re on.”
The lights are dim when they walk on stage, and Zayn’s setting up a drumroll as Harry introduces them, “We’re The Rogue and this is Bedroom Hymns.”
It’s one of the songs Louis wrote a couple of years back, thinking about what it’d feel like to fuck Harry into the mattress, and it’s desperate and fast and too-loud, but the crowd eats it up, bodies pressed together in a jumping mass. There’s so many more people here than there usually are at their gigs, and they’ve probably never seen or heard of them, but they love it, and when Harry screams, “I need you to fuck me harder than I hate myself,” there’s a burst of whoops and cheers.
It’s odd, really. None of it should work, not Harry’s skinny frame wound around a microphone, not Niall and Liam on guitar along with Zayn on drums, and least of all Louis singing along as he plays his bass, but it does, and they throw themselves into it every time. Louis can’t imagine any of it without Harry, though, his mussed curls and lined eyes fierce as he belts out the lyrics to a song they all wrote together.
They’re on fire, something about the energy of the crowd and the venue, Harry and Louis’ voices blending together as Liam and Niall play faster, and every song ends in a hot rush of noise. Something in the air is utterly electric; it’s one of those shows where sinking to his knees in a song is something that comes naturally to Louis, and when he wipes the sweat from his face he hardly cares that he’s smudging his eyeliner.
“Thank you,” Harry says into the microphone, his voice low and husky. “We’re The Rogue and we’ve got one more song for you. This one’s Worth The Wait.”
It’s a perfect encore song; another one of Louis’. He hadn’t been arsed to make the title more subtle than the lyrics, which are also pretty much about how much he wants to fuck Harry. There’s an awful lot of songs he’s written like this, but for some reason, people lap it up.
Harry’s growling into the microphone, “was living a lie before I met you,” over and over, and Louis joins in as the beat builds faster and louder. Niall and Liam are snaking limbs around each other as they breathe into the same microphone, and their voices form a discordant harmony.
It’s over too soon, and the crowd seems disappointed. It’s a half-hour set that’s left them gasping for more; one of those nights that reminds Louis why he got into this in the first place. He’s somebody else on stage, somebody that shines a little brighter and bigger, feels more comfortable in his own skin.
“Tell me we’ll never get used to it,” he gasps in Harry’s ear as soon as they get offstage. Something in Harry’s eyes is wild, hungry, like he could ruin Louis. Like maybe he already has.
“We’ll never get used to it.”
They stay at the club this time, and it’s packed by the time Little Mix has finished playing. They’re all absolutely smashed; even Liam, who used to plead his previous kidney issues so that he’d get out of it. That stopped working when several years back, Louis had gotten fed up, pulled out his phone and drunkenly googled “can u durnk with 1 kidendy”. Liam hadn’t really had any choice but to take part in the next round of tequila slammers after that, and when they’d realised that somehow the kidney had fixed itself, he had absolutely no excuse.
Zayn’s in the corner with Little Mix girl, who’s apparently called Perrie. She’s all blue eyes and long lashes and she’s looking at Zayn in a way that means he’s definitely getting laid tonight. Louis sighs, throwing back another shot of vodka as he leans against the bar. Liam and Niall are somewhere in the crowd of people, and, well. Louis can spot Harry from a mile away, dancing with a leggy blonde. He’s actually not entirely sure whether he realised it was Harry because of him or the girl he’s with, because Harry has a definite type when it comes to girls. They’re all tall, thin, blonde, and decidedly not Louis.
Louis is so lost in watching Harry that he doesn’t realise it when Zayn comes over to him, Perrie in tow. “Tommo, mate, we’re off. You alright?”
“Yeah, sure. Night, Zayn,” Louis smiles, although he can tell it’s not reaching his eyes.
Zayn frowns slightly, and Louis is about to open his mouth to stop him saying whatever awful thing he’s about to, when he replies. “That guy over there’s watching you.” Zayn’s pointing just along the bar, and when Louis turns, sure enough, there’s a guy with a floppy quiff who’s staring at them, blinking quickly and turning away when he realises he’s been caught. He’s quite fit, all subtle cheekbones and nice jawline, and Louis can imagine it, imagine buying him a drink and taking him home, fucking him and muffling his own moans so he doesn’t accidentally say a different name.
“Bye, Zayn,” Louis sing-songs, patting him on the shoulder. Zayn gives him a look, but doesn’t say anything more, and Perrie waves bye to him as they finally leave.
Louis turns back to the boy, who’s definitely still watching him, and thinks, why the fuck not? He’s certainly interested, if his eager eyes are anything to go by, and he’s definitely attractive. So Louis approaches him, smirking a little. “Were you just going to stare at me ‘till I came over here and offered to buy you a drink, or were you actually gonna do something?”
The guy flushes a little, laughing. “Was planning to come to you, actually, but I guess it’s not necessary now.”
He’s got a nice voice, deep and strong, and smatterings of stubble across his cheeks. Louis idly wonders what he’d look like underneath him, spread out and begging for it. “Louis,” he introduces himself, grinning.
“Aiden,” comes the reply. He seems a lot more comfortable now, leaning openly against the bar as he returns Louis’ smile. “Shall I buy you a drink, then?”
“Nah,” Louis replies; he’s already pretty buzzed and he knows his head will hurt enough come morning that he isn’t exactly keen on making it worse. “I will let you dance with me, though.”
"Alright," Aiden grins, and lets Louis lead him out onto the dance floor, amongst the crowd of writhing bodies. He’s taller than Louis, but not as tall as Harry, and Louis likes the feeling of it, of having to tilt up slightly to speak to him, knowing how it would feel to be under someone slightly bigger than he is.
Their bodies press together perfectly as they dance, Louis’ arms around Aiden’s neck with one hand reaching up to twist his hair idly. It’s an easy, lazy sort of grinding, which doesn’t really fit the upbeat music, but it’s nice all the same, feels like it’s leading somewhere, and Louis likes the slow burn feeling of it.
That changes, though, when Aiden leans down, cupping Louis’ face, and kisses him. Louis isn’t even sure if it can be called a kiss, actually, when their lips are pressed together in a mess of heat, Louis licking into Aiden’s mouth eagerly. Aiden’s hands are on Louis’ waist, pulling him flush against his body, but it doesn’t seem to be close enough. Louis wants moremoremore, and he kisses Aiden harder, until he feels like he can’t breathe.
“Wow,” Aiden says when Louis pulls back, mumbling it nearly into his mouth. “Um, should we go back to mine, then?”
Louis’ mouth curves up into a wicked smirk. You’ve still got it, Tommo, he thinks to himself before replying. “Yeah.”
They’re barely inside Aiden’s flat before Aiden turns and pins Louis against the wall, shoving him up and kissing him hard. Louis gets a leg wrapped around Aiden’s waist, but it’s difficult to stay upright.
“Bedroom,” he gasps against Aiden’s lips. “Now.”
Louis doesn’t take in any of Aiden’s flat, mostly because they’re attached to each other the whole time they’re backing into his room. He’s so hard it almost hurts, hasn’t been this way in a long time, and if his dick doesn’t get a hand or a mouth or something on it in the next twenty seconds he thinks he might explode.
Somehow, they’re both naked, with Louis rolling on top of Aiden as he rolls his hips up. Louis retaliates by licking a stripe down his neck before settling on his collarbone, fully intending to make a mark, when Aiden reaches down and takes their cocks in one hand, gripping firmly as he strokes. Louis loses it, then, bites down and moans, frowning because he knows he’s not going to last, but Aiden’s got a really nice dick and he wants it in his mouth at some point tonight.
Louis moves down Aiden’s body, and the loss of his hand is almost painful, but Louis distracts himself by licking and sucking Aiden’s chest, stomach, and biting down on his hipbone. He’s always been ambivalent about blowjobs, thought of them as something quite intimate, but he wants to do this. He nips at Aiden’s inner thigh, making him gasp long and drawn out before swallowing his cock down in one go, and the groan that comes out of Aiden is delicious, throaty and gruff.
Louis has hardly begun, hollowing his cheeks and sucking down when Aiden grunts out, “M’close, fuck,” hips stuttering up as he fucks Louis’ mouth, and then he’s coming into Louis’ mouth, the familiar taste on his tongue as he swallows.
Aiden pulls him back up, kisses him long and slow, and it’s easy, it’s nice, just lying there while he recovers. “Thanks,” he grins as he pulls back, and then he’s straddling Louis, mirroring what he’d done just moments ago as he leans down to kiss him before moving to return the favour.
Louis arrives home the next morning with Aiden’s number programmed into his phone and an absolutely horrific headache. “Harry?” he calls as he arrives, opening the door, “I’m dying. Need a fry-up, like. Right now.”
Harry’s already in the kitchen, of course, because he’s the domestic goddess of all of Louis’ dreams, and he can smell the bacon and eggs wafting out into the hallway. He just hopes that Harry hasn’t eaten it all already.
“In here, Lou,” Harry calls, “Saved some for you, because I’m the best.”
“I love you,” Louis groans as he throws himself onto the couch. “Have I mentioned that lately?”
“You only love me for my cooking,” Harry pouts. “I’m not bringing you your breakfast, you lazy fucker. Get up and get it yourself.”
Louis frowns, but obliges, and by the time he’s sat at the table, Harry’s almost finished. “Good night, then?” Louis asks in between mouthfuls.
Harry shrugs. “Yeah, was alright. Zayn went home with Perrie Little Mix, so I ended up going ‘round to Liam and Niall’s for a bit. The standard. Who’d you leave with?”
“Some bloke named Aiden,” Louis replies, grinning. “Cute, quiffy. Amazing in bed.”
Harry smiles back, but it doesn’t really reach his eyes as he asks, “D’you reckon you’ll be seeing more of him?”
Huh. Louis hadn’t thought of that, not really. He’s never met up with a one-night stand after it’s happened, but then again, he usually doesn’t stay over or bother giving them his number. “Dunno. Maybe? I’ll see if he calls or something.”
Harry seems to relax a bit, replying, “Alright. So, what do you want to do tonight?”
They end up going out after pre-drinks at their house with Zayn, Liam and Niall, Zayn wearing a disgustingly smug expression which had made Louis grab him in a headlock and mess up his hair, because he’d gotten laid last night too, but it didn’t mean he felt the need to be ridiculous about it.
It’s one of their favourite bars, a place they’ve played at a couple of times and frequent on the weekends. The place is sort of dingy and grimy, but that’s the best part of it, Louis reckons, the way that he can be anyone he wants to be. He’s carefully outlined his eyes in black pencil, with Harry and Zayn matching him, and his shirt’s low enough for his chest piece to be peeking out. It makes him feel more like the rockstar he’s trying to be, because if he’s honest with himself, he feels out of place most of the time, feels like he’s nowhere as good as he should be.
They’re all ranging from at least pleasantly tipsy (Liam and Zayn, although the latter had most definitely lit up at Louis and Harry’s flat) to absolutely trashed (Niall, although the Irish in him means that he can handle himself). Louis is buzzed, the sort of drunk that makes him want to jump up and dance, the sort of drunk that makes him wonder why he can’t just do something about his stupid fucking feelings and kiss Harry already. He’s chatting away to Niall, regaling some story about a particularly irate customer at the coffeeshop last week, when Niall loses concentration completely, staring at a point just over his shoulder.
“Niall,” Louis frowns. It’s not altogether unheard of for Niall to lose focus, especially while drunk, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less annoying. “Niall, you fucker.”
“It’s Harry,” Niall replies, and Louis’ head whips around so fast he cricks his neck. He swears under his breath, rubbing it, as his eyes spot Harry. He’s in the corner, being pushed up against the wall by some tall guy, and Louis thinks he might throw up.
He turns back to Niall, tries to look as composed as possible and replies, “Yeah? So?”
Niall raises an eyebrow, but knows not to press anything, so he just shakes his head. “Nothing, Lou. What were you saying?”
Louis launches back into his story at full steam, not wanting to betray anything happening in his mind, although Niall probably knows that he’s a complete mess. The thing is, it’s absolutely ridiculous, the way that his brain is a constant stream of Harry Harry Harry. He’s completely obsessed, he thinks, and he hates himself for it.
It’s not even twenty full minutes later when Harry comes past, the tall man in tow. He looks older, and a lot bigger, like he could pick Harry up and throw him with ease, like he could pin his arms above him while they fuck, make him squirm underneath him. Louis supposes that’s why Harry wants him, and then wants to punch himself for even knowing that.
Harry’s always been embarrassingly affectionate when he’s drunk, and as he says goodbye to them, he decides that he needs to pull Niall in for a bear hug. Niall wraps his arms around Harry, stage whispers, “use protection!” and as Harry giggles, Louis wants nothing more than to get out of here, wants to go home and get in bed and never get out.
Before he realises what’s happening, he’s being enveloped by the sweet familiarity of Harry, who’s pressing a sloppy kiss to his cheek and murmuring, “Love you, Lou,” as he pulls away. He’s probably being drunk and overdramatic, but it feels like he’s being cut open, lying on a surgery table and someone’s forgotten to give him anaesthetic. Because it’s always been easier when Harry’s going home with random girls, the standard blonde and leggy and decidedly Not Louis, but something about this hurts so much more. Like he can’t kid himself and say that Harry’s not interested in men, because he clearly is. He just doesn’t want Louis, which is the worst part.
As Harry’s walking away, Louis finds his traitorous mouth opening, calling out, “Harry.” But when Harry turns, expectant look on his face, he’s got nothing else to say, can’t make himself say the words he so badly wants to, to get Harry to stay with him. So he just waves, says, “bye.”
“Bye,” Harry mouths back, and then he’s gone.
They’ve been playing a gig at a smaller venue, one of the shitty little places that they love despite the fact that there’s usually hardly anyone there, because the people that do turn up know them and know their music. It’s the most amazing feeling he could imagine, seeing people sing along to their music, to know that maybe they’re making people feel a little less alone.
When they get backstage, they’re cornered by a couple of guys in suits, and holy shit. Louis recognises them immediately; they’re the same men that have been not-so-subtly been lurking at the bars through their last couple of gigs. It’s absolutely mental to think of, that a couple years ago they didn’t even know each other, and now they might be getting signed.
“Hi, boys,” says one of the men. “We’re from Factory Records and we’d love to sit down and have a chat with you sometime.”
Louis’ first instinct is sort of to just collapse, but instead he smiles charmingly and sticks out a hand. “Louis Tomlinson, nice to meet you.”
The guy shakes his hand; his grip is firm and strong, keeping Louis anchored when he feels like he might float away at any second, high off the adrenaline from performing and now this. The next couple of minutes sort of happen in a dreamy haze. The other boys introduce themselves, business cards are exchanged, and they make a promise to meet up with the people at the label sometime.
“Did that really just happen?” Louis whispers as they leave. “Somebody pinch me, this can’t be happening to us.”
“I told you we’d never get used to it,” Harry smiles, and Louis exchanges a look with him, something that feels loaded and heavy, before blinking and looking away quickly.
They stand around in a shocked sort of silence before Niall crows, “we’re gonna be stars!” and it breaks, all of them cheering and whooping as they pull each other into a five-way hug.
Going to a meeting at a record label is really fucking weird, as it turns out. All five of them dress up a bit, look more smart than they have in a long while, and their manager Nick is surprised when he sees them, raises an eyebrow and ruffles Harry’s hair, saying it doesn’t look messy enough.
The meeting goes well enough - they listen to their self-released EP, which the producers seem to enjoy, and they talk about recording a couple of demos, seeing how they do in a professional studio space.
It’s an odd process, sort of as if they’re courting each other, but Nick is an absolute professional and fills in all the spaces where the boys are bewildered, too amazed by what’s happening to them to completely understand what’s going on.
When they leave the building, all sort of giddy, Louis checks his phone and he’s got a missed call from Aiden. It’s been a few weeks, although they have texted a couple of times, and it’s a pleasant sort of surprise.
Hey, Aiden - sorry I missed your call, what’s up? x, Louis texts, and his phone buzzes hardly a minute later, as he and the other boys climb into Harry’s car, off to get celebratory lunch and drinks.
No worries, just wondering if you wanted to grab drinks tonight? x, he reads, grinning, and his hands fly over the keyboard as he replies.
Sounds brilliant. Point 231 at 9 tonight? x
See you then x
“How do I look?” Louis asks, twisting so that he can try and get a good look at his arse in tight jeans. Harry’s on his laptop on the couch, trying to translate Louis’ scribbled notes into music that makes sense, and he flicks his eyes up briefly to look at Louis.
Harry smiles. “Hot. He’s going to want to fuck you again for sure,” he replies in his slow drawl, and Louis laughs. This isn’t how he usually does dating; he hardly ever has sex on the first date, and he and Aiden haven’t even been on one yet.
“Perfect,” Louis winks back, and pockets his wallet.
It’s a perfect spring night, the air crisp with the promise of sunlight, and Louis wants to fucking skip or something, because for once, his life is going exactly the way he wants it to. A little voice at the back of his mind says, no, not completely, but he tries to shut it out. He’s moving on and he’s going to be happy despite the fact that he’s suffering from a terminal case of unrequited love.
Aiden’s already there when he gets to the bar, perched on a classic wooden stool, and when he sees Louis, his face absolutely lights up. Louis doesn’t remember the last time somebody looked that happy to see him (he disregards Harry when he woke up this morning, because really) and it’s infectious. Louis grins and waves as he crosses the bar, kissing Aiden on the cheek in greeting.
“Hi,” he says, sitting down and gesturing to the bartender. “How’re you?”
“Alright,” Aiden replies. “Had kind of a long day, but, y’know. Work. You?”
“Good,” Louis turns to the bartender. “I’ll have a scotch on the rocks, and -” he breaks off, looks at Aiden expectantly.
“I’ll just have a pint, thanks,” Aiden says, and after the bartender leaves, raises an eyebrow. “Since when are you an elderly businessman? Scotch, really?”
Louis pouts, “I like it. I’m very punk rock, thank you.”
“Right, right, you’re in a band, aren’t you? How’s that doing?”
“Really well, actually. We’ve kind of got a tentative record deal?” Louis feels the smile spreading across his face, unbidden, as he talks about it.
Their conversation flows smoother than Louis thought it would. He’s never been great at first dates, is awful at small talk. They’re talking about their families on about their fourth drink.
“I’ve got four little sisters,” Louis says. “Well, one full sister and three half-sisters, but it doesn’t really feel any different. Their dad fucked off a couple years before I left home, so I was with them a lot. They’re amazing, y’know?”
“Yeah. I’ve got younger siblings too, little brother and sister. They’re seven and four, complete menaces, but I love them to death.”
Louis is tipsy enough for his mind to relate everything he does to Harry, and he tries to fight back the memory of the Christmas Harry spent with his family, where his little sisters all fell half in love with him and he looked so at home passed out on the couch, exhausted, with the girls surrounding him.
He shakes his head, says to Aiden, “Ready to go, d’you think?”
They make their way out of the bar, brushing hands, and when they get outside, they walk until they reach the turnoff for Louis’ flat.
“I’m this way,” Louis says, and Aiden leans down to kiss him.
It’s one of those typical, sweet, first date movie kisses, and suddenly, everything is wrong. Because Aiden had been perfectly nice and polite and caring and in spite of all of it, there was nothing there for Louis. There wasn’t the sort of spark he’d been searching for, what he thought he’d found when he arrived here tonight. He knows, knows it’s never going to work like this with anyone that isn’t Harry, and he pulls away with his hands on Aiden’s chest, shaking his head.
“I’m sorry,” he says. “You’re - you’re great, and you’re lovely, and it’s most certainly not you.”
Aiden smiles sort of wryly. “There’s someone else, isn’t there.”
“Yeah,” Louis breathes, and all he can think is Harry. “Yeah, there is. And I have to go tell him. Like. Right now.”
“Go get him, then,” Aiden grins.
Louis stumbles into the loungeroom, and it’s midnight but Harry’s still on the couch, watching shitty late-night reruns of TOWIE. He looks up in surprise, and Louis knows he must be a sight; he’s been sprinting a solid ten minutes, is panting, but it doesn’t matter.
“I’ve been in love with you for nearly four years,” Louis blurts out. There’s a beat of awful, tense silence, and then Harry’s mouth is on his and he’s forgotten how to breathe, only knows that Harry’s pressed against him insistently, licking into his mouth.
He realises that he’s sort of just standing there and something clicks, like, yes, this is Harry, this is easy, this is like coming home after a long day and collapsing into a warm bed. He kisses back, smiling into it, and the only thought in his head is finally finally finally.
Harry breaks the kiss, and just says, “you total fucking twat, why did you never say anything?”
“You kept going home with people that weren’t me,” Louis shrugs, holding Harry to him. “Figured that was a pretty solid hint.”
Harry laughs, “only because I didn’t think you could ever possibly want me. It was easier to see other people than break my own heart mooning after you every day.”
And oh, really. Louis thought that he was being cliché, but that was enough. Louis pushes Harry up against the wall, loving how pliant he is despite his height, and fastens his mouth to that spot on his collarbone that’s always been marked by somebody else, but now it’s him and he can hardly believe this is happening.
“Every song I wrote,” he gasps as Harry kisses him again, rough. “All of them, about you.”
Harry’s eyes widen slightly in disbelief, and he groans. “You have absolutely - no - idea,” he nips down on Louis’ lips in between words, and Louis doesn’t think he’s ever been so hard so quickly in his life.
They don’t make it to the bedroom, end up lying on the couch with Harry’s firm weight on top of Louis, shirtless and with one hand down Louis’ boxers. It’s sort of messy, with their chests pressed together and Harry trying to wank him off and press kisses to his lips at the same time, but Louis likes the intimacy of it, loves the way this already feels familiar. He arches up into Harry’s touch, hips rutting against Harry’s and whines needily as Harry lets go of his cock.
Louis opens his mouth to say God knows what, tempted to beg for it, when Harry leans down and takes Louis in his mouth, envelopes him in the wet heat of it and Louis groans at the feeling, gets a hand in Harry’s hair so he can apply a bit of pressure. Harry takes him a bit deeper, bobbing his head expertly as he hollows his cheeks and sucks, then pulls back to swirl the tip of his tongue around Louis’ dick, gently teasing. He looks up, almost innocent, and it’s so fucking ridiculous.
“You could be a pornstar,” Louis moans, and then Harry’s taking him back down in one motion, throat working and Louis’ hips jolt up and he’s so close. “Harry, I’m -”
Harry pulls off, getting his hand around Louis’ dick and Louis comes as Harry works him through it, hips stuttering and little choked-off sounds coming from his throat.
It takes a few moments for Louis to recover, kissing Harry lazily and feeling the thrill of the taste of himself, but he can feel Harry hard against his hip and reaches down to wank him off. He’s already naked, although Louis isn’t entirely sure how it happened, and his cock’s blurted precome, got him nice and wet.
“So fucking lovely, Harry,” Louis says. “You’re so gorgeous like this.”
Harry moans, bites down on Louis’ shoulder as Louis strokes him steady, rubs his thumb over the slit of his cock and then he’s coming as well, spurting onto Louis’ stomach where his own come is starting to dry.
Harry sort of collapses on him, and Louis knows that in about a minute they’re going to feel disgusting, sweaty and covered in dried come, but for now, he’s content to wrap his arms around Harry and just kiss him for a while.
They sneak around, for a bit, because it’s fun but mostly because they can. Louis is torn, because on one hand, he wants to scream it out to the whole fucking world, tell them all how much he loves Harry, because he’s allowed to now.
That doesn’t last all that long, though, because they can hardly keep their hands off each other and all the boys have keys to their flat, so one day, Liam walks into their living room to the sight of Louis on his knees in front of Harry, mouth wrapped around his cock.
His reaction is simultaneously beautiful and hilarious; so, typical Liam. He sort of splutters, covering his eyes and screaming as though he’s a child.
“Jesus fucking Christ, you two, what the fuck are you doing, can you not at least warn me -”
Louis is utterly shameless and pulls off Harry with a popping noise, turning around and innocently asking, “Did you need something, Liam?” as Harry laughs so hard he nearly cries.
After that, the boys all learn to knock before they enter a room.
Their lives become sort of ridiculous after that, their Facebook page blowing up and more people showing up to their shows than ever before. Their shows are electric; they all seem to work together better than they ever have, with Louis and Harry knowing that winding themselves around each other and singing gets the crowd going every time.
After one particular show, Harry and Louis break their record for the most orgasms in a night (five apiece) and wake up at noon, figuring there’s no point in getting out of bed. Harry feeds Louis brunch and that night, they try to break the record again (they fail).
The five of them are spending more time together than ever; if they’re not recording or playing gigs they’re out at dinner or bars together, hanging around one of their flats during the day and crashing on the couch overnight. They’ve always been close but this is a new sort of familiarity, and Louis knows he’d feel comfortable calling Liam, Niall and Zayn his brothers.
Louis isn’t entirely sure why, but Harry decides that they have to throw a party at their flat one night. He’s got a long list of people he wants there: Nick and all his sort of twatty hipster mates (Aimee, Alexa, Pixie, Hugo, Ben, Cara, the list goes on and fucking on), Little Mix (mostly because Perrie and Zayn are nearly inseparable these days, and the girls really are lovely), Niall’s crew of Irish friends, Zayn’s best mates Danny and Ant. Louis is sure there’s more, and that people will bring other people until he’s got no fucking clue who the hell anyone grabbing a beer out of his fridge actually is, but he figures he’ll be too drunk to give much of a shit and it’s a lot easier to just indulge Harry anyway.
When the night of the party actually arrives, the rest of the boys have been around since five o’clock, and although nobody else arrives until about ten, they’ve all started drinking well before then. It’s a slow trickle at first, but then before Louis realises it he’s peeking over people to try and catch a glimpse of Harry, who’s talking to Pixie and her boyfriend on the couch.
It’s an alright party - Louis used to be the type to throw ridiculous ones, squeezing an awful amount of people into his tiny flat and getting absolutely fucked along with them, but this is more laid-back, relaxed, and he thinks that maybe he’s growing up a little, that he’s settled into a routine that’s just exciting enough to keep him content but make sure he’s secure too. He wonders how much of that is Harry and if he feels the same, whether he’s the compass pointing Harry’s ship home. (He reminds himself not to forget that, because it sounds like it’d make a good lyric and he tends to forget the lines he thinks up when drunk.)
He looks back over towards where Harry once was, and he’s gone. Louis’ peripheral vision spots him slipping inside their bedroom, and he shuffles past people, apologising to the ones he bumps into as he makes his way over.
Harry’s sitting on the bed, jolts a little when he sees the door open but relaxes as soon as he sees who it is.
“Was waiting for you to find me,” he smiles. “It’s weird, usually I’d love something like this but most of the time I just wanted to be with you.”
“Tunnel vision, Styles?” Louis teases, sitting next to him and resting his head on Harry’s shoulder as he slips an arm around him, curves a hand on his waist.
Harry laughs, murmurs, “love you,” as he tilts Louis’ head up to kiss him, and Louis can’t help himself from smiling.
Everything’s perfect, for a while, until it’s suddenly not. It turns out that recording for an actual proper record label is surprisingly difficult. It’d been alright when they were just fucking around in their own flat, borrowing a mate’s recording equipment, but this is a whole other experience. The execs are always watching them, and the pressure’s on.
None of them have ever had to deal with this sort of tension before: it’s odd, because they can’t get anything that they’re recording completely perfect. Whenever they think they’re happy with something, one of the producers will make a suggestion, and they’ll have to shuffle parts around. In theory, it shouldn’t be a big deal, but in practice, none of them are very good at being told what to do.
Maybe it’s telling that Harry and Louis begin sniping at each other first. It’s usually something to do with Harry’s singing, which is something he’s always been self conscious about. Louis has had to stop him from reading reviews of their shows, because he takes everything so fucking personally, and it’s frustrating, because it makes him so upset. Seeing Harry upset is something that nobody should ever have to deal with, but it’s especially hard on Louis because he can’t do anything.
So, Harry’s tense and on edge, and Louis is just shit at being told what to do. It’s not exactly the most brilliant combination, especially when their snide remarks towards each other make the other three shift uncomfortably in their seats and exchange glances. It’d been the first thing they promised each other and the other boys: that they wouldn’t let their relationship get in the way of the music.
It’s a while, though, before the little jabs turn into a fight. They’re at the end of a recording session, and it’s been absolute shit. They’re not in time, not together, and Harry can’t hit the one note at the end he’s always had trouble with.
Louis sighs a little too loudly when he misses it, again, and Harry turns around, glaring.
“Would you like to try and sing that, Lou?” He asks, nearly growling.
“No, I’d just like you to get it right,” Louis shoots back, and something in Harry’s face shifts.
“Fuck you, then,” he says. “I’m done.”
And just like that, he takes his headphones off and walks out of the studio.
Louis doesn’t follow him. Instead, he wanders around London, fuming, until it gets dark, catching a taxi home because he can’t be fucked with the tube. Harry’s home when he gets inside, typing away on his laptop as if nothing’s happened, and Louis suddenly feels furious.
“What the fuck was that today?” He demands.
Harry looks up, sort of resigned. Like he’s expected this. “It’s not my fault you’re being an arse about this, Louis. We’re all stressed. You don’t have to take it out on me.”
“I’m not,” Louis insists, and he’s aware that he probably sounds like a petulant child but he’s past the point of caring. Harry’s still looking at his fucking laptop, not even paying attention to him. “Harry, can you look at me for like, one fucking second, so I can just pretend you’re listening?”
Harry slams the lid of the laptop down, says, “Fine. Are you fucking happy?” His voice is raised, and it’s so unlike him that Louis steps back. They’ve never fought before, not like this, but it feels like it’s been leading to it for weeks now and Louis is unspeakably angry, nearly wants to hit Harry until he sees sense.
“No. I’m not, because none of this is working!” Louis yells back, his heart pounding in his chest and his breathing erratic. He suddenly remembers all those thoughts he once had about wanting Harry to put up a proper fight instead of blindly doing what Louis told him to, and wants to take it all back. “You don’t even give a shit about the rest of us because you’re so focused on your lead singer, frontman bullshit!”
Harry’s voice is deathly quiet, then, as he replies, “If that’s how you feel, then fine. Maybe this isn’t working.”
“Fine,” Louis shouts back, stomping out of the room and slamming his bedroom door shut as he walks in.
After that, they don’t speak for an entire week.
He left a note, because of course he fucking did, of course he was too cowardly to tell Louis he was leaving by himself.
It’s by his bedside, and it just says:
Gone to LA. Gonna stay with some people. I’m really sorry, it’s just not working.
Eighteen words. Eighteen fucking words was all he could spare for Louis, apparently, and all of it a total load of bullshit.
Louis feels sick, bile rising in his throat that he doesn’t know how to swallow down. He stumbles his way into the bathroom and chokes out last night’s dinner, chest heaving as he stares down into the toilet bowl. When he’s done, he just slumps on the cold tile of the bathroom floor and wonders what the fuck he’s going to do now.
The band can’t record without their lead singer, so they unanimously decide to take a break. The other three, and Nick, had gone to explain the situation to the record label, made up some excuse about a family emergency, although Louis is pretty sure there’s no way they would’ve bought it.
He sees the other boys once in a while, but it hurts too much to see them together, to look at Harry’s empty place beside him as Zayn and Perrie look at each other adoringly, so most of the time he stays at home, watches reruns of the Kardashians and pretends he isn’t trying to figure out the exact distance between himself and Harry.
(It’s 8,750km, as it turns out. Louis isn’t sure what to do with that knowledge, so he pulls out a bottle of wine instead of thinking about it.)
He takes more shifts at the coffee shop, doesn’t answer questions about why he looks so tired, brushes Greg off when he asks if Louis is okay.
His life goes on, even without Harry in it.
Louis can’t sleep. He’s been tossing and turning for more than an hour now, blankets shoved halfway off the bed and face buried in his pillow. He’s not sure if his sleepless state is a result of the whiskey churning in his gut or the absence of Harry next to him, but he has a suspicion it might be a combination of the two.
Usually when he gets like this, he writes. He’ll pour it out into songs of angsty teen rebellion, of love won and lost, strum something on his guitar or sing a couple of notes. But he can’t even do that anymore. It feels like a ridiculous kind of cliché, but he feels awfully lost without Harry.
Like it’s in a dream, he finds himself pulling on his coat and jeans and leaving outside. He doesn’t know how he ends up on the tube, but he’s somehow there, resting his head against the back of the seat. He’s got his notebook and Sharpie as always, but when he flips it open to the last thing he wrote, a feeling like revulsion stirs within him and he has to close it.
He thinks back to his last breakups, even though he hasn’t thought about them in years, at least, and the way that the floodgates had opened after them. It’s not fair, that this isn’t the same. If he has to be alone, he ought to be able to get something out of it, at least. Although, if he thinks about it, almost everything he’s ever written has been for Harry. Maybe it’s symbolic that now he’s gone, Louis has run out of words. After all, he’s sort of forgotten to be himself, fingers stumbling over notes whenever he plays, trailing off in the middle of conversations.
So instead of scrawling anything in a book, he writes on the wall of the train, there was a boy once. He dots the end of the sentence, and almost goes to add something before realising that that’s all he has to say anymore. Because there was a boy, once. But he’s not there anymore, and neither is Louis.
Louis is drunk. That’s most definitely not a new thing; Louis believes that a solid 60% of his life should be spent drunk. The new part is that he’s at home by himself; he also believes that people who get drunk alone are generally sad and lonely. Although, that’s been happening more and more since Harry left, so he supposes it’s not exactly new, and he is quite sad and lonely, so there’s that. He’s drunk because this is the only way to make the words come out, and they’re all angry and desperate and probably awful, going on about somebody that left when they promised they never would, but at least they’re something.
He feels tense, restless, feels like something’s itching away at him, and then he remembers what he used to do when he felt like this; it was usually fucking Harry in the bathroom of whatever seedy bar they were at. Suddenly he’s furious, feels betrayed all over again, and before he knows what he’s doing, he’s picked up his phone and dialed Harry.
The phone rings once, twice, three times before Harry picks up, the husky drawl that Louis hasn’t heard in months saying, “Hello?”
“Fuck you,” Louis spits out, frowning. “You absolute shit.”
“Oh, shut up. You fucking just up and left me, Harry. You told me you loved me every day for three months and then all of a sudden it just wasn’t fucking working and you ran away to America instead of dealing with it all. I’ve been trying to understand for so long and I just can’t anymore,” Louis says, voice raised although he knows the effect’s lost on Harry.
“Right, as if it’s all my fault. Like I wasn’t standing there taking shit from everyone every day, like you weren’t taking all of your anger and frustration bullshit out on me?” Harry sounds angry, and Harry never sounds angry. “Louis, I know that you did it because you thought I loved you so much that I would never leave, but there’s a point.”
It feels like Louis’ been punched in the chest, air gone out of his lungs. He takes a deep breath, tries to center himself before he replies. “What, so you never loved me? Or was it just not enough? Was I not worth fighting for?”
“Of course you were worth fighting for, Lou,” Harry says, and this time he just sounds tired. “I just didn’t want to have to fight against you.”
Louis knows there’s probably a mature, rational way to deal with this, but the whisky running through his veins is telling him otherwise. “This mean you’ve moved on now? Fucking some LA peroxide blonde? I seem to recall that was your type.”
“No, Louis,” Harry replies with an edge to his voice. “I haven’t been with anyone since you. I didn’t ever want to break up with you, and in fact, I was looking at plane tickets home when you called.”
The insinuation that Louis should be pleading for this, begging for Harry to come back and just give him another chance is fucking ridiculous. He knows he’s not completely in the right, knows he’s probably being an utter piece of shit right now, but Harry’s fucked up harder than he has and Louis isn’t just going to let that go.
“Why don’t you just stay there?” He spits out, venomous. “S’not like any of us want you to come back anyway.”
Harry’s voice is higher pitched, sounds the way it does when he’s trying not to cry or scream when he just says, “fine.”
“Fine,” Louis replies, then hangs up, jabbing the screen with his thumb.
He puts his phone on his bedside table before promptly burying his face in his pillow and passing out.
Louis regrets it as soon as he wakes up, head throbbing, and remembers everything in a rush. Fuck, I’m so goddamn stupid, he thinks, checking his phone to see if Harry’s called back, hoping he has. (He hasn’t.)
Harry was going to come home, for fuck’s sake, and Louis fucked it up and now he’s probably just going to stay there forever and never speak to Louis again, and there’s probably nothing he can do about it.
Louis is calling Zayn before he even realises what he’s doing or remembers that it’s only ten on a Sunday and Zayn won’t be awake for another two hours at least. Miraculously, though, he picks up after the fifth ring, sleepy voice saying, “Lou?”
“Zayn, thank fuck. I’ve made the biggest mistake,” Louis exhales.
Louis hears the rustling of sheets, the soft sound of Perrie’s voice, and it’s like someone’s got his heart and is twisting it, saying, see, look, this could’ve been you but you didn’t deserve it, you fucked it all up.
“Did you talk to Harry, then?” Zayn asks, and Louis wants to punch him for knowing him so well.
He sighs. “Yeah, and I cocked it all up. Got drunk. Got angry. Turns out he wanted to come home and I told him not to.”
“You’re a total fuckin’ moron, you know that, right?” Zayn says, but he doesn’t really sound angry. More disappointed, like he’d expected Louis to do something other than ruin this.
“I’m well aware of that, Zayn,” Louis says, intending to sound steely, but his voice breaks in half as he gulps.
“Look, I’m coming over with coffee,” Zayn sighs. “Try and get dressed and shower and shit for me, yeah?”
“Alright, Zayn. Love you.”
“Love you too, you gigantic tosser.”
Zayn’s over a half hour later, and it’s natural for Louis, to curl up on the couch with him and bury his face in his shoulder. Zayn’s the best person for this, always has been, because he knows when Louis needs comforting, someone to metaphorically punch him in the face and tell him he’s been an absolute cock, or just sit there while he tries not to cry.
“Love you the most, Zayn,” Louis says, his voice muffled.
“No, you don’t,” Zayn replies. “We all know that. And you need to fix this. Talk to him again.”
Louis groans. “It was awful, Zayn. Like, we were both yelling at each other. How’s that going to get better if he comes back?”
“He’s not going to come back at all if you don’t fix this,” Zayn raises his eyebrows. Louis opens his mouth to reply, but Zayn’s too quick, continuing. “And don’t even try telling me you don’t want him to come back. You’ve been absolutely miserable without him. You’re just going to have to actually talk to each other to sort this shit out. All of us will.”
“I take it back, I absolutely hate you.”
“That’s just because you know I’m right,” Zayn shoots back, grinning, and fuck him, but it’s true.
Louis doesn’t actually do anything about it for a couple of weeks, though, and when he does it’s only made possible through about half a bottle of wine. He sits there in his empty flat with his finger hovering over Harry’s contact for nearly half an hour, and when he finally presses down, it’s two am and he’s shaking.
The phone rings, rings, rings, rings, until it’s at Harry’s familiar voicemail, and before Louis can lose his nerve he just says, “come home,” and hangs up.
It takes him an awfully long time to fall asleep, uncomfortable on the couch, but when he wakes up it’s to sun filtering in from the curtained windows and the sound of Harry unlocking the door and pulling his suitcase inside.
Louis rubs his eyes, weary with sleep. It can’t be real, Harry can’t actually be here in front of him, this has to be a dream. When he opens them again, Harry’s standing in front of him, looking wide-eyed and a little lost.
“Harry?” he asks. “What - I just called you.”
Harry smiles a little. “I know. I was somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic when you called, I’m going to assume. I got your voicemail as soon as we arrived in London and it felt like fate.”
And like that, the months and the ocean between them seem to melt as Louis stands up and sort of launches himself at Harry, wrapping his arms around him so tightly that he’s surprised they don’t fuse together into one.
When they pull back, the eye contact they make is sort of heavy and awkward, and they both say, “I’m sorry,” at the same time, dissolving into laughter.
“I missed you,” Louis says, and it feels like he’s carving his heart out of his chest and presenting it to Harry, saying please be careful this time. “I missed you, and I fucked up, and I’m sorry.”
Harry takes Louis’ hands in his, laces their fingers together. “I missed you, and I fucked up more, and I’m really sorry.”
“We need to talk about all of this. And you’re not allowed to run away ever again,” Louis says. “But I want to kiss you first.”
Harry’s mouth widens into a smile, and then he’s leaning down and kissing Louis. It’s a proper movie kiss, the celebration at the end when the complication’s been resolved and they’re all living happily ever after, but Louis knows they’re not quite there yet. And if it’s all the same, he doesn’t really want this to be the end of their story.
The next month or so is difficult, to say the least. After the first awful talk with Harry, where they both nearly ended up in tears and Louis threatened to leave (although it ended in makeup sex, so he figures they’re progressing), the five of them get together to talk about the label and their contract. They have a couple of meetings; one of them is with just the band, and it’s sort of tense and awkward at first, but by the end they’re all laughing and end up in a pile on the living room floor. The second’s with their manager, trying to sort out the business side of everything that’s going on. Nick tells them that nothing’s set in stone yet, so if they want, they can march in there and tell the execs that they’re going to be true to themselves and if they don’t want them they can go fuck themselves, so that’s exactly what they do.
Louis is shaking as they do it, feels like they’re going to be dropped for sure, but by some miracle it turns out the execs actually appreciate it. One of them says, “I don’t remember the last time anyone actually stood up to us. We think you guys are great now, and that you’ll be perfectly marketable. As long as you’re not recording bullshit, you’ll be fine.”
It’s perhaps not the most reassuring thing to hear, but from a suit, it’s one of the biggest compliments they could get.
They get back into it, writing and recording, and this time they fit together better than they could’ve ever imagined. They’ve got a full set of demos that the producers seem to really like, and by the end of the month, they’re signing a contract to release an EP and if that goes well, an LP.
Later that day, Harry and Louis head to a tattoo parlour. Harry gets a ridiculously large ship done, and Louis gets his compass - “because you’re the one who guided me home”, Harry says, and Louis has to fight the urge to get his mouth on Harry’s cock because they’re in public, for fuck’s sake.
The five of them go out for drinks that night, Louis and Harry sneak away to go home early, and wake up next to each other, and Louis remembers that time, coming off stage with adrenaline rushing through his veins, that he asked Harry to tell him they’d never get used to it. He thinks, now, he wouldn’t mind getting used to this.
They’re back at the club they performed at, once, opening for Little Mix, but they’re the headlining act tonight. The energy’s almost electric backstage, and Louis is almost bouncing off the walls. Harry’s calmer, but Louis can tell that he’s nervous, eyes darting around. It’s natural, he thinks, that Harry would want to be perfect, to prove himself after all that’s happened.
“Hey,” Louis says, cupping Harry’s face in his hands. “Love you, y’know that?”
Harry’s face smiles down at him instantly, as he replies, “I know and I love you too.”
“We’ve gone through all of this together. Think we can handle starting a new chapter?” Louis asks, and without waiting for Harry to reply, he stands on his tiptoes to kiss him. It’s meant to be soft, but Harry lingers, pulls Louis close until he’s forgotten where they are, wants to run his hands and mouth all over Harry’s body until he’s begging for Louis to finish him off.
He shakes his head, pulls away gently. “Not the time, Harry,” he grins cheekily, and when Harry pouts, he replies, “later, though. Promise.”
Harry seems a lot calmer, then, is content to join Zayn, Niall and Liam at the side of the stage to watch their opener finish playing. The crowd seems to enjoy them, and Louis likes their style; sort of poppy without losing the rock edge. Harry’s standing behind him, winds his arms around Louis’ waist, and Louis leans back into his touch, feels safe there.
The opening act finishes, and the five of them get fitted out with their gear, guitars and earpieces and everything. It’s surreal, to think that they’ve come so far, and to imagine where they could be in a year.
“Hey,” Louis calls, right before they’re due on, “Boys. I wanted to say a massive thank you to all of you. We’ve done pretty fucking well for ourselves, yeah? Here’s to sticking together and to selling out stadiums. We’ll be there one day.” The five of them look around at each other, and Louis feels so unbearably proud of all of them.
This time, when they go on stage, the lights are almost blinding, but Louis can see their future reflected in them, and not even the stars shine brighter than they will, someday.