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"why is india the exception?” louis asks his class, looking imploringly at the small group and smiling harmlessly. he remembers being told when he was a teachers’ aid that harmless smiles are the key for success. it opens up their cold, uncaring teenage hearts and makes them interested in you and therefore in the subject. louis has faith in harmless smiles.

his students stare back blankly at him. one of them is so obviously on her phone he isn’t even sure why she bothers.

he sighs. “clara, bring me your phone, please.”

her head snaps up, and he watches as she scrambles to hide it behind her bag. “i wasn’t even on my phone!”

“i’m sure you weren’t. bring it up, and then tell me why india is the exception.” he’s still smiling. not quite sure just how harmless it is at this point, if he’s being honest. "please don't be difficult, i really would rather not have to bring it to the headmistress' office."

she glares at him the entire way there, almost breaks his hand dropping her phone into the palm. louis smiles and thanks her.

"now," he says once she's back in her seat, "why was india the exception? i'll give you a clue - it was social and brought in by outsiders." that's two clues. he's such a great teacher.

clara is still glaring at him, and shrugs. "i don't know."

"you'd know if you completed the homework and read the assigned pages."

"well, why're you picking on me? no one else read it. ask someone else," she snaps.

louis still isn't sure why he's a teacher. he still isn't sure what he did majoring in fucking history, of all subjects. it's like all the hate his tenth year maths teacher spouted about humanities is coming true. no, he won't let it be. old man holley can suck his dick because he's being fucking useful, and educating younger minds for a brighter future with knowledge of the past.

he sounds like his tenth year history teacher. god. all his worst nightmares are coming true.

"i'm not picking on you, i'm assuming that you actually do the homework i give you instead of playing around and not putting in any effort for the class." he's speaking to the broader class by now, sweeps his hand across to emphasis this. yelling won't get him anywhere, louis knows this, but it's really so hard when an entire class is so insolent. he wants them to like history, because history is great and cool and brilliant and useful, and he doesn't see how they don't understand this.

"well, mr tomlinson," a boy says, john, tapping his pencil against the desk, smirk on his face. "you know what they say about assuming."

louis snorts. "right, i haven't heard that one before." he sits down at his high stool in the front of the classroom, leans forward on his elbows and tells them, "if i don't find out why india was the exception in thirty seconds, i'm giving you all zeros in participation and weighing it at four hundred points."

"you can't do that!" janus exclaims.

louis smiles threateningly. "i can do whatever i want. clock is ticking. fifteen seconds left."

louis knows that a main part of why they're being this way is because of his age. it can be hard showing absolute respect to someone who's only a few years older than you, he knows that. it probably brings in some type of older-sibling mentality, which is very inconvenient. he's seen a lot of younger teachers around here, though, so he doesn't get the disrespect in this situation.

it's a private school. not as wild as public schools but not as strict as catholic. it's a good education; the entire administration and staff is crazy (some even overly so) qualified for the job. the dress code is tight, yeah, but considering that all the tuitions in this classroom alone could put all of his sisters comfortably through university, he figures dress code should be the least of their worries. he wonders if it's the weather. london is so miserable this time of year.

sabrina's hand shoots up.

"ms alvarez has center stage," he announces grandly, determined not to let this get him down. he is destined to be a great teacher. and he is, he will be.

"um," she starts, "was it because of hinduism? or what later came to be known as hinduism, i think the book said."

louis grins, all his teeth showing. "expand, darling." he jumps down from the stool, tapping the promethean board awake from his laptop and grabbing the pen off to the side. writes exception due to: HINDUISM. he hopes the caps shock them alive.

"even though they rarely had empire, hinduism's caste kept things in order due to the, um, like. it kept order in spite of government and empire because of how strict it was."

"yes! yes, good. perfect. ten extra points for you on the next exam."

"wait, answering your questions gets us points on the tests?" antonia asks.

louis shrugs. "maybe if you answered questions you'd find out. now, would someone be kind enough to tell me more about the caste system?"

he gets a lot more hands this time. that gets him thinking.

-

"niall," louis says into the phone as he drives home that day, putting the volume on the radio down. "you're still practically a child. teenagers don't mind being bribed, do they?"

"convince me not to hang up on you," niall sings. there's the sound of a piano in the background. alexandra is probably over, which is great, because that means that niall will put in some actual effort into making dinner, and louis will dine like a king tonight. the way he deserves.

"please talk like a human being, human beings don't do that," he says. there's the faulty light at the intersection of huntingway and twenty-third, and he doesn't feel one bit guilty running what may or may not have been a red light.

"normal humans sing, fuckhead. not my fault you sound like a shrieking banshee."

"i can sing!" louis shrieks, narrowly avoiding ramming into what was either a bus full of children or old people. same thing.

"sure. you still haven't convinced me not to hang up," niall tells him. someone on the other line is banging pots together and shouting about mayo. definitely alex.

"my kids hate history. and possibly, by extension, me. niall, i don't want them to hate me, i can't be a teacher that pretends not to care. they need to like me. how do i make them interested in the subject?"

"i don't fucking know," niall says, ever helpful, as louis pulls into his flat complex. "incentives. are they too old for candy?"

"i don't know, they're all a bunch of rich little fu - ns. funs, darlings, etcetera. will not call my kids fucks. but yeah, not sure if i can afford the type of candy they're used to."

"sexual favours? no, shit, don't do that, definitely don't do that. louis. i have no clue. ask alex. she taught for that year in vietnam."

louis repeatedly jabs the lift button, trying to balance his phone and school cart and laptop bag all at once. he's a fucking pro. he can do this. "niall, darling, sweetheart, love. you're useless. thanks for nothing."

"i'm a chef, not a teacher, mate. you're bloody fuckin' welcome. you coming over for - alex! someone's at the door, think it’s the post! - sorry, you coming over for dinner tonight or actually gonna be an adult and feed yourself?"

"please," louis scoffs as the door finds pings open. he steps inside. "don't joke about. i'll be there at eight, save me a plate or three.”

-

louis gives his kids a pop quiz the next day.

it’s the first class of the day, so he feels just the tiniest bit bad when they walk in, mostly asleep, and see the scraps of paper on their desks, but that quickly fades away when he remembers how much effort they've put in the last week. none.

"morning," louis greets from the front of the classroom once the last student has walked in, tumbler of coffee warming his hands. "please take out a writing utensil and begin working immediately."

"but you didn't tell us!" one girl exclaims, affronted.

"it's a pop quiz, guinevere. but it's very easy, so long as you did last night's homework. which i'll also come around to collect with the quizzes." louis is one hundred percent sure it's only their years and years of purebred upbringing that prevents them from yelling complaints at him and acting out.

he smiles. harmlessly. "you have twelve minutes. good luck."

the quiz really is easy. there are only seven questions and the first one asks if greece was a bureaucratic empire or collection of competitive city-states. like, come on. it's ancient greece. that's common sense; he even mentioned it to them in passing when they were going over india.

eleven out of sixteen fail.

he sits on his high stool after they've finished grading, the lot of them either glaring up at him or staring dejectedly. he hates that.

sighing, he begins, "so i can either be that, you know, a-hole who only ever gives reading from the book and then a bunch of stupid homework assignments and tests. and you guys can leave the course only seeing and barely understanding the surface material of the long, jagged iceberg that is history. or - and this is one hundred percent my preferred method, i'll be honest with you - i can be decent. and fun. and only ever give tests when it's absolutely necessary, and only after making sure you understand the material in-depth, the how of the why, all that jazz. and you can participate and put in some actual effort."

"virginia," he directs towards a tall redhead near the front. louis has been aching to call her pepper from day one, but when he asked if they were allowed to give nicknames to students, liam payne said it was highly frowned upon. fuck liam payne, what does he know. "which do you choose?"

she shrugs. "the second one sounds fine."

louis grins, jumping down from his stool and turning on his promethean board. he opens it up to a presentation he's done on the ancients. asks, "david, can you tell me whether ancient greece was an empire or collection of city-states?"

"city-states...?" david answers warily.

"yes! yes, good job. due to the diverse and limiting big geography - that's a term you'll want to make you use in essays and the like - greece was never able to unite itself, although athens did forcibly try later on, but we're not quite there yet." he looks out at his class; only a few are taking notes, which. what. "notes! pen and binder, hello, don't just sit idly."

he waits for the last rustle of paper out of amelia's burberry bag (god, when he was in this year, he was barely hauling through a ragtag piece of cloth he'd had for three years) before switching onto the next slide and continuing. "there were an insane amount of city-states, each unique, and though there were of course common factors, usually cultural, such as their shared language of greek and their gods - infamous for the humanlike characteristics and flaws they held - each polis had individual governments and guidelines. and were almost always fighting each other because of it."

he gives them time to copy down the notes from the powerpoint, and also possibly in hope of any questions. there are none. he tries not to sigh.

"while greece was definitely not as politically great as the classical empires around it during the latter centuries of the premodern era, like the han and roman empires, culturally it was extraordinary, in terms of impact..."

-

two weeks later, sat at niall's dining table with a beautiful ribeye in front of him, louis is morose.

"it's not good enough," he says aloud to the two other diners.

alexandra pauses her spew to niall about how he should really try her salad and the wonders of actually eating vegetables every once in a while to ask him, "what isn't?" niall looks gratefully at louis for freeing him of the speech, almost as if to say thank you for being self-centered and preferring people to mourn whenever you are. louis gives him a meaningful, humble look. what are best friends for?

"my students. no, i didn't say that, but, like. i just. ugh." he takes a distressed bite of his steak.

"eloquent," says niall.

alex hits him on the back of his neck, chastising, "he's in a delicate state, don't be a prat." louis loves her.

"i managed to get my kids to give a fuck, but it's not enough of a... fuck. they're only doing it because their grade depends on it and they have to get into oxford or some ivy league uni in the states, there's no true caring for the class, the subject itself. and that distresses me. i'm distressed."

“lou, mate, tryna make all your kids give a fuck about history itself is aiming a bit high, dontcha think?”

louis narrows his eyes and chews slowly on his broccoli. “what are you trying to say? why wouldn’t they? there’s every reason to, there are plenty of gre - “

niall rolls his eyes and mumbles something insulting under his breath. louis tries to decipher it, but he can hardly understand half of what niall’s ever saying, anyway, so it’s a lost cause.

“lou,” alex translates, “what he means is not that history sucks, but that teens are... well, you remember. how many classes did you take that you gave an actual shit about?”

“well, that’s different,” louis sniffs. “shut up. stop having a point. i hate when niall is right.”

niall smiles at him and steps on his foot under the table.

-

louis indirectly gets the idea from the only student he might actually truly dislike. hate. the word he’s looking for is hate, but liam payne also told him that was highly frowned upon, but then again, louis doesn’t care.

he’s given them time to work on a paper he’s just assigned on the classical empires when he hears spencer, who he knows he gave the mauryan/gupta states to, say to a clearly uncomfortable damien sitting next to him, “i hate reading about this joke of a country. my grandfather walks with a limp because of some bloody brown rebel shot him in the leg during a rebellion. he was a leading general, though. the gun he used hangs in some war artifact museum in the states.” his tone is proud.

louis glances up and notices pretty linsa sitting in the seat directly in front of spencer, smiling too wide and trying to keep up her conversation with a frowning clara, thinks about how, if money actually determined your self worth the way he knows this class of people thinks it does, linsa and her family would be leagues and leagues ahead of spencer and his stupid, imperialistic, wrongfully gained racist piece of shit old money. and it’s like, he knows that he’s meant to remain “impartial” and not get involved unless a student directly involves him, but he always thought that part of this school’s training was complete bullshit. it reminds louis too much of all the shitty walks in the hallways and the shit he’d hear behind his back and getting beat up after school for daring to kiss a boy off school campus or anywhere at all and all the teachers who ignored it. he feels completely sick to his stomach.

“spencer, bring up your rubric.”

“i need it for my paper, sir,” he replies, not looking up and pretending to suddenly be studiously working. louis resists the urge to roll his eyes or punch him in the face. highly frowned upon.

“yes, i know it’s needed for the paper. i created the assignment. but you’re not going to complete one. bring it up now.”

"that would mean i get a zero, and i didn't do or say anything deserving of that."

"i'm a hundred percent positive that we have different opinions of improper statements. paper up now, or i'll take away your participation grades for the next two weeks." the class is dead quiet by now, giving up all pretense of working and staring avidly between louis and spencer.

spencer hasn't gotten up, is gaping incredulously at him, as if this has never happened to him before, and that just enrages louis ten times more.

"that's a zero on the paper and participation for the next month. get out of my class," louis says, trying to control his tone, looking down and resuming grading.

clara trips him on the way out. louis pretends not to notice.

something struck him during spencer's horrible little monologue, though. he sets an alarm on his phone to help him remember, and resolves to look more into it when he gets home.

-

"so," he begins, sliding into a seat across from jade in the teachers' lounge. he's given himself two days to mull things over, kind of, so he figures it's been long enough. he's asked niall and alex, of course, but niall is niall and alexandra is... eccentric, so he figures he needs a professional opinion. jade is as professional opinion as one can get.

jade takes a collected bite of her sandwich, chewing slowly and staring inquiringly across at louis. he takes that as his cue.

"jade," he begins. "you look beautiful today."

"what do you want?" she asks, tone ever-suffering.

"what's the school's policy on field trips?"

"you can find that in your handbook."

louis doesn't pout. "well, yes, of course, but that's why i have you." he pauses. "i'll... bring you coffee every morning."

"i want a caramel frap in my classroom every day at 6:50 for the next month. field trips are iffy and slightly frowned upon, but authorisable under certain circumstances. however. so long as you go to mrs hunter in guidance and bring her a box of cookies, half chocolate chip, half oatmeal raisin, from the bakery across the street, she can make an exception. don't tell her i sent you."

louis kisses her on the cheek. when he pulls back, she wipes her cheek and warns, "don't touch me, mr tomlinson," but the smile she hides behind her sparkling water betrays her.

-

louis is glad they're allowed, because he's already made reservations with the museum.

he tells his classes the tuesday before the trip.

kayla in his second passes out the forms while he explains things to his class. "friday, we'll be going on a trip to the british museum. it'll be for much of the day, hopefully all. thankfully, i only have about fifty kids total, so i've made reservations at a place for lunch. bring nothing that day but your wallets and something to take notes on. there's a five pound fee because i want a nice bus big enough to fit us all with actual air conditioning, so yes. have your parents sign it and bring it back by wednesday."

louis is glad they're allowed, because he's already made reservations with the museum.

he tells his classes the tuesday before the trip.

kayla in his second passes out the forms while he explains things to his class. "friday, we'll be going on a trip to the british museum. it'll be for much of the day, hopefully all. thankfully, i only have about fifty kids total, so i've made reservations at a place for lunch. bring nothing that day but your wallets and something to take notes on. there's a five pound fee because i want a nice bus big enough to fit us all with actual air conditioning, so yes. have your parents sign it and bring it back by wednesday."

"that's tomorrow," jack says.

"do any of you ever raise your hands, good grief. yes, i know that's tomorrow. you'll want to make sure you're punctual, won't you? any questions?"

fahim raises his hand. louis would never think this, but he wouldn't mind meeting this kid five years from now in a dirty club where he's drunk and can't be held responsible for any and all actions. jesus. "why must we bring something to take notes on?"

"to take notes," louis replies, arching an eyebrow. "depending upon your behaviour the next few days, i will be assigning an essay based upon what you learn. it's entirely up to you. don't be intolerable and neither will i." he smiles. "before you ask, the restaurant we'll be going to is guido's, i'm sure you've all heard of it, i've been told it's popular with the lot who can afford to spend half a month's rent on a single meal."

christina in his last block asks him if he'll be able to eat there on a teacher's salary, and then offers to pay for him with a coy smile and not-so-subtle pulling down on her blouse. louis has to take a very long drink from his bottle of water to keep from choking and dying right then and there in his world history classroom only half an hour before he gets to go home. it's a difficult task.

-

louis knows he should really stop bribing his students to get them to do what he wants, but on one hand, it always works. their behaviour over the next two days is the most beautiful he's ever seen in his entire life. it's the type of thing teachers wish on shooting stars and throw coins into fountains for and all that.

clara doesn't use her phone once.

the day of, after a relatively short ride and making sure none of his kids have alcohol hidden in their jackets - he’s heard stories - they reach the museum only five minutes later than louis had planned, which is great, because he expected to reach ten minutes later than he had planned. they’re so on schedule.

“everyone please be quiet!” he shouts out from the front of the bus. no one does. “do remember that i still can and will assign you an essay, with or without notes.” it’s quiet now.

“right, thank you. i have some guidelines i’d like to go over with you lot before we get down. number one: no leaving your assigned group. there are only forty-seven of you here, so it’s been easy to split you up into groups of three. i’ve assigned you groups ahead of time, so don’t pretend to act as if you’re not aware and toy off to a different one. group one comes with me, two goes with mrs corden and three with mrs hamish. number two: do not, under any circumstances, leave your group at any time. if you need to use the loo... don’t. if it’s an absolute emergency, let your chaperone know, and the entire group will take a bathroom break. we’ll be stopping by the loo before we get started, though, so that shouldn’t be an issue. number three: don’t take off your name tags. number four: don't be rude. number five: do not leave your group. are we clear?”

daniel yells back, “crystal.”

louis rolls his eyes fondly. “thank you, daniel. i’m glad to know you’re awake for once. right, so. let’s go.”

louis’d been worried about how he would manage to troop all the lot of them around, so it was a major relief when two parents stepped up and volunteered to chaperone. he’s very well aware that they’re only doing it because they’re lonely and sexually frustrated in their big, cold houses and probably have some idea that he’ll be attracted by their power and botox and fuck them, but, well. what can you do. he’s not encouraging it. much.

after the loo stops, they're greeted in the lobby by a short blonde woman dressed in all black. "good morning! safe to assume you're the eight o'clock from huntington prep, yes?"

louis nods, smiling harmlessly. he wonders if it works on adults, too. it's done wonders on controlling niall, but niall is practically prepubescent.

"excellent. we've made the arrangements for three groups as you had hoped, and if you would please sort yourselves accordingly, our curators will quickly deal with things." she flashes a grin and walks away.

an attractive thin dark boy also dressed in all black with a quiff and an impressively apathetic look on his face steps forward and announces, "group one, come with me." louis takes one step forward, but gets bypassed by mrs corden, walking faster than he's seen her or any woman of her age move in his life. she extends a hand, face absolutely predatorial and frankly frightening.

"that'll be me," she purrs. louis doesn't have the heart to say otherwise.

group two goes with a classically pretty asian girl who manages to pair what seems to be pairing the mandatory all black with striking red stilettos. he's very inspired.

"guess that leaves you lot with me," a deep voice drawls out. a figure appears from behind a column, looking slightly rushed. louis makes to take a step forward, gets a good look at him, and falls head first.

"fuck," louis whines into the floor.

"oh my god, are you alright?" strong hands grip his elbows and pull him up effortlessly. louis does not whimper.

"i'm fine," he replies, standing up properly and brushing himself off. he looks up - up, jesus christ fuck - at the tall beautiful beautiful beautiful human being standing in front of him, head to toe in black and a furrow between his brow. louis isn't sure what's going on with his hair, but it's vaguely curly and he's feeling it so much. his dick would like to feel it so, so much. "you are so fine."

"i'm sorry?" he looks even more worried now, stepping back slightly and sadly letting go of louis' elbows.

"what?" louis asks, shaking his head and smiling harmlessly. he didn't say that, and everything is okay. someone behind him clears their throat, sounding suspiciously like they're concealing a laugh. louis whips his head around to glare at them. "none of you even tried to help me up or ask if i'm okay, i could have died, and now you're laughing."

“we did, mr tomlinson,” benjamin says, smirking. “you must’ve been too... distracted to notice.”

louis tries not to blush (fails) and murmurs, “yes, well.” he looks back towards the curator and resolves not to cry. he's a grown up. maybe. not really; he just can't afford to allow his kids to have that much blackmail saved for future reference. "hello. i'm mr louis tomlinson and these are my paycheques. pretend this is the first impression."

tall, dressed dark, and handsome laughs. "it's a pleasure, mr louis tomlinson. and your, er, students. i'm harry and i'll be your guide for the morning. we don't get older groups too often, so it'll be refreshing being able to use actual english." fuck, he's so gorgeous. louis sneaks a look down at his black loafers and blinks. well. you know what they say about proportions and big feet.

"he wants us to engage in history and the wonders it has to offer," camille says. smart ass.

"stop quoting me, ms hendley. if you used such impressive photographic memory on your lessons and tests as well, then i could envision wonders in your gradebook."

she pouts and makes a face at him. louis fights the urge to laugh and make one back.

"right, if we'll begin. i have everything waiting for us at the first exhibit. follow me." harry turns around and begins walking, leaving them to trail after him. louis' inner niall helpfully provides hate to see you go... but louis stops him before the phrase can continue. that'd be an all time low.

-

louis knows that he's in love the second harry begins speaking about the bolsheviks. kind of.

they're on their fourth exhibit, an out of print soviet bill with lenin's face on it.

“before the 1917 revolution,” harry begins, standing next to the glass encasing the thin paper item and looking like the spawn of aphrodite and adonis, inhuman and probably trying to steal louis’ soul, “it had been common for banknotes to represent the tsarist regime that had been heading russia since the seventeenth century. but when the bolsheviks came into power, after five years of war and disunity and the insane amount of notes that had come from various regimes and armies, they made it their goal to establish themselves in the most common yet influential way possible - through currency. this portrait of lenin was introduced sometime around 1937, and remained a dominant and unifying feature of the union of soviet socialist republic until its fall in 1991.”

abel asks, “that’s the ussr, right? the soviet commies? aren’t we meant to like... hate them? they were bad, right, why’re we learning about them?”

louis almost opens his mouth to respond, but harry quickly beats him to it, and louis remembers that he’s meant to be student, not teacher, today. that role goes to harry. god, that’d be so hot if actually being one hadn’t put louis off the concept of teacher/student roleplay for the rest of his life. except maybe for fahi - no, jesus fucking christ, no. never.

“well, abel - “ (louis has to admit that for a split second he almost thought that harry was a mind reader and therefore judging his every thought before he remembered there were... nametags on each of his kids. desperation runs high in times like this) “ - yeah, they were the ‘soviet commies’, but, um, for one thing, if we only taught the things we’re meant to like, then us, ourselves as the british, i mean, and our country, would only appear in our own textbooks and maybe a few north american and australian ones from maybe 1970 on, d’ya get what i mean?”

abel stares blankly at him. “no.” bless his soul, he’s always been a bit slow on the uptake. butler must’ve dropped him on the head as a child.

harry chuckles a little, running a hand through his hair and looking around as if he’s trying to figure something out. louis shouldn’t be watching close enough to be able to figure out when he’s caught an idea, but he is, and he can’t really be at fault for that. he’s being an attentive student. “okay, well, it’s like... you know about world war two, right?” abel nods. “and i think it’s pretty clear that the nazis were the bad guys and that no one really liked them, especially not us. but you still know about the nazis. you’re meant to learn about them every year from the second you can comprehend the horrors of war. knowing history, knowing the mistakes and achievements the people before us made, is what’s important, not just where we as a people are meant to feel about it. does that make more sense?”

“kinda,” abel admits.

“it’s like how mr t always tells us we have to learn history in order to be able to prevent past mistakes,” clara explains. louis will get her to stop calling him mr t one of these days, but for now he’s just proud that she remembers and cares about a word he’s ever said.

"oh," abel grins. "i've got it. mr tomlinson, did i just learn something?"

"god forbid," murmurs louis, patting him on the shoulder.

harry talks really passionately about history, and it gives louis the same fuzzy feeling he always gets whenever someone does, like when he was in year 10 and his history prof started gushing about the early caliphates and he knew that, yeah, this is what he cares about, that is what he wants to do. and that's cool, isn't it; louis has been to too many museums where the curators saw this as nothing more than a job rather than a passion, and it's refreshing that this isn't the case here. louis imagines that the british museum must only hire hot history buffs. he's so okay with this. he would like a position training under harry. he would like a position under harry.

he keeps ruining his deep, introspective contemplations with horrid, horrid thoughts. shame, that.

"and the second part's all subjective as hell, innit?" he rolls the sleeves of his shirt up, the thick vein of his arm muscles now apparent. he brings an idle hand to finger at the cross necklace around his neck, rubbing his long fingers over the thin chain before continuing when damien asks him what he means. "well, like. the whole ‘communism is bad’ thing. it depends on who you're asking, i guess. just cause the soviets were our - britain's, i mean - ally’s enemies during the cold war doesn't mean... communism is automatically horrible."

louis isn't sure he can breathe.

“it is, though? i was reading ahead in our history book, and there was something about stalin and the great, um, something, and they killed a lot of people and he was really quite mad,” says sabrina. his kids are interacting, and it’s with the hottest bloke louis has seen in possibly a year, this is the best day of his life

“that’s the thing. we can’t judge an entire, like... government system, social theory, whatever, on the actions of a few men alone? stalin and, you know, the ccp - i’m not going to say what that stands for because i don’t think i’m actually supposed to talk about this, shit, i’m actually not supposed to curse either, i’m really so sorry.” he takes a deep breath, smiling self deprecatingly, rolling his eyes at himself before continuing. louis still can’t breathe, and he’s almost positive there’s a mule stomping on his guts. “those people might have done horrid things, but they aren’t communism itself, if that makes sense?”

“not at all,” sabrina tells him.

“right. communism is, at its core, about equality. there’s a bunch of - “ louis clears his throat, drawing his attention and mouths huntington prep at him. best not to talk about the shortcomings of the bourgeoisie to the bourgeoise. harry winks and gives him a knowing look. it’s fine. “um, other stuff, too. there tends to be, jesus christ, but. equality. that’s the big picture. the people who tried to carry this out were just... really bad at understanding that, at looking at the big picture. they saw state-controlled and did the state control without any of the other stuff. here’s an example, apologies to mr louis tomlinson in advance. have you ever had that one teacher you really, really hate? and they pretend to preach some set of rules and fairness, but never follow it themselves and make you completely miserable and because of that you come to hate the entire class or subject itself even though it might not even be that bad? that’s where i’m coming from.”

“so communism is chemistry and stalin is my mrs farlant?” samuel asks.

“ugh, don’t bring her up while we’re on a field trip, samuel,” clara groans.

“what if mrs farlant was my closest colleague?” louis muses. she’s not. louis hates her, but he’s not allowed to admit it aloud.

“please,” says lisbeth. “mrs farlant isn’t anybody’s closest anything.”

“but yes,” harrys comments, injecting himself back into the conversation, “it’s basically like that. communism isn’t evil. the people who led the communist movements were. if we’re oversimplifying.”

clara, who regardless of their rough start is, from this moment on, possibly his favourite student in the entire universe, asks, “harry, are you a bloody communist?” language and manners, louis thinks, but he’s too anxious for whatever harry’s answer will be.

harry grins, all teeth and a devilish flick of his tongue over his bottom lip. “subjective as all hell, innit?”

this is when louis knows. god bless karl marx.

-

when they reach guido’s, louis barely gets his kids settled in and looking over the menus before he rushes past ferenzi to dodgeball into the kitchen and call out with all the grandeur the moment and a man of his importance deserves, “niall horan, today i have found my soulmate.”

“shit fuck goddamn, you fucking made me cut myself!” niall complains. louis finds him behind the more eccentric pots and pans at a cutting board with a knife the length of his arm and a bunch of super small greens. louis finds offense at being blamed for the inevitable.

“you sound like a rich straight european male, always complaining about the excitement life has offered you and wanting to remain in your boring little perimeters.” he hops onto the counter, ignoring giovanni’s complaints about sanity and reputation. she’ll forgive him eventually. it only took four months for her to get over the time he accidentally breathed too loudly next to a plate of salmon.

“louis, i am a rich straight european male. and i’m trying to figure out how you got all of that from you startling and making me bleed, dirty-haired fuckshit.”

“your insults are weakening. stop talking about yourself, you’re so selfish, i’ve got more important news.”

“i heard,” niall mumbles darkly, sucking on the shallow wound on his thumb. “go ‘head. who’s it?”

"his name's harry, he's a curator at the museum, was ours, even though he wasn't supposed to be and that's how i know it's, like. fate. and i'm at least 89% sure that i'm in love with him," he announces, nodding. he should really get back to his students.

"that's nice," niall says passively, getting back to cutting.

"i fucking hate you," louis tells him, looking around to see what he can possibly destroy to piss off niall.

giovanni says evenly, “don’t you dare.”

louis puts the pot carefully down. "i'm sorry, gi, i love you." she grunts.

"lou. i'll be done in fifteen, if jacob would hurry up and actually put the chicken on the bloody skillet and you would stop distracting me. whataya want?" niall asks, turning around to grab another onion from the fridge.

"surprise me. and nialler, come out and say hi, yeah? i've got to make sure they don't think i've illegally brought them here."

"m'not going out there," niall tells him, walking to the fridge and bending to get a huge container of fresh tomatoes. they're grown in his parents' garden, and at eight am every morning, some poor unlucky sod brings them all the way over. louis imagines they're probably getting paid more than he is, though, so he doubts there are many complaints. the horans are a very generous breed. "thank you for the offer."

"why not," louis whines. he forgets that he's meant to be an adult when he's around niall. it can at times present itself as an issue. "whatever. where's principessa?"

"it's been years, you still going on about that principessa shit with mum?"

"always," louis replies fervently to jacob, hiding somewhere behind the tall pots of pasta boiling on the stove. she's italian, her husband's name was guido, and she's absolutely gorgeous," he ends, grinning as she walks into the kitchen at the very moment. he jumps down to exclaim, "buongiorno, principessa!"

she rolls her eyes. "buongiorno, louis tomlinson. your children are arguing out there and if they abolish my restaurant, i'm afraid you owe me more money than you can afford."

"is everyone in this restaurant richer than me?" he asks, sighing and walking back out through the double doors. his kids look up suddenly when they see him. louis hasn't even been in the kitchen that long. there's no way they could have ruined it that quickly. they went to grammar school.

"probably, mr t," charles answers, grinning at him.

he recoats himself into teacher-mode, snorting and moving to stand in the middle so that everyone can hear him. one long circle of tables has been arranged, big enough to fit them all, a small opening for whoever wants to sit within the interior. linsa and adam have chosen this and are sitting across of him, looking suspiciously cozy, him pushing her long black hair behind her ear, blonde head bent over and whispering. louis narrows his eyes and reminds himself to ask liam payne what's going on here. he might pretend to be all righteous and mighty, but kids have a lot more freedom to talk during phys ed, and all the teachers know he's got the best gossip.

the tables are marble and spotless. the bread basket on the table is already halfway done. there's a nice aroma of warm bread and spices, comforting but never overwhelming. louis loves it here.

"that's reassuring. stop calling me mr t. we placed orders ahead of time, thankfully, and our head chef has let me know that orders will be out in fifteen."

"the head chef," dianna gasps. there are low murmurs circulating around their circle. louis raises an eyebrow. "is he in there right now? will he come out? can we go see him?"

"yes, hopefully, no. do you all know him?"

"do we know him, mr tomlinson, of course we know him. it’s niall horan. everyone knows him. and we all know he works at guido's, it's like. common knowledge," aaliyah explains, flicking a braid off her face. "i'm probably going to marry him."

"as if," maria scoffs.

louis coughs. and then coughs again. excuses himself to the kitchen before he manages to cough up the lung trying to escape.

"why do my students want to marry you?" he demands.

niall sighs, stood over the stove and adding what looks like pepper to a skillet. "because i'm one of them who majored in a humanity yet didn't get disowned and managed to make it actually work. the hope of nations."

"what," louis says.

"a complicated world," niall agrees. "get out of my kitchen."

"how do any of them find you cool, you can't even speak english and dress like an asshole." he's so confused.

"i can speak proper english," niall says, suddenly enunciating and good god, louis can understand every syllable. "i just choose not to."

"you're coming out to see my kids," louis warns, walking out backwards through the double doors.

"suck a dick," niall calls back. gladly, louis thinks. harry's dick. sadly, his students can once again hear him, so he thinks better against saying as much aloud.

-

niall comes out to say hi. of course he does. louis always wins. daniel looks like he's going to faint and niall knows a disturbing amount of them by name. louis swears he doesn’t laugh.

-

louis has a dream that weekend.

"niall, i think i've hit an all time low," he says into the phone sunday morning. he is on his back on his couch where he fell asleep watching the history channel's bible series at two am. party hard.

"grughpif," niall replies. "eight."

"yes, it is eight am. that's not what's important. what's important is that i had a dream where hot curator harry fucked me whilst reciting the communist manifesto. in french."

niall hangs up. louis sighs.

-

the trip is a huge success. all three of his classes are still talking about it, and on tuesday morning, cleopatra asks him when they'll be learning about communism.

"it'll take a while. we've got to get through almost two thousand years first," he responds once they've finished attendance.

"well, what're you waiting for, mr t? teach us."

"stop calling me mr t," he says, mostly out of habit. it's hard not to smile like an idiot out at his first hour class. "and gladly. what can you guys tell me about the rise of islam?"

charles' hand is the first in the air. "it happened 622 ce, and was founded by the prophet muhammad."

"good grief, one would think that you actually did the optional reading."

charles smiles sheepishly, looking away and scratching the back of his neck, embarrassed. "i liked the exhibit on arabesque. the shapes were brill."

louis is still buzzing about this by the time his planning comes around. he raves to jade and liam payne about it in between bites of his panini. it's turkey and pepper jack with only three slices of tomato, just how he likes it. niall is so great at cooking and being a personal chef that louis can forgive him for being a shit friend and not listening to his fantasies.

"and so i asked, 'did anyone else enjoy the arabesque exhibit?' and like, eight others raised their hands and i only have a class of fifteen? it was the single most beautiful moment of my life. i knew the museum would turn out nicely, but i couldn't have anticipated it going this well. i'm such a great teacher."

"you're very humble," liam payne tells him.

"there's no room for modesty when you have achieved such great heights as i, liam payne. you may not understand the feeling since you teach gym. but that's okay, someone's got to keep my future archeologists and historians in shape." he pops a jalepeno kettle crisp into his mouth, smiling to lighten the blow. he's only being honest.

liam payne glares at him over the lid of his v8. "i have no idea why you hate phys ed so much, it's not as useless as you think."

"that's subjective," he disagrees.

"stop being a bitch, mr tomlinson," jade tells him, rolling her eyes a stabbing into her salad. "and i want hazelnut tomorrow morning. iced."

"whipped cream?"

"of course." she steals a crisp from his bag; it's the most brazen thing he's seen her do all year. "how else am i going to keep from killing spencer herbert?"

"you have him now?" louis whisper-asks apologetically, leaning in close.

jade exhales loudly. "switching out of your class rearranged his schedule completely and i now have him bright and early every morning for the rest of this semester. we're not meant to speak about the students in this manner." she cheekily sneaks a peek at liam payne. "it's highly frowned upon."

liam payne rolls his eyes and takes a long sip of his v8.

-

louis realises that the whole clichè about suddenly noticing someone everywhere once you've met them once is true.

that saturday, while he's out shopping with alex, louis turns a corner and hears a slightly familiar voice farther off, near the shirts section. when he strains his eyes to look, he sees harry the fit curator, talking on the phone and walking closer. louis freezes, for a split second, and then his heart goes into overdrive and he almost vomits, right then and there, nestled in between the woman's lingerie section.

he's not wearing all black again, and louis isn't sure if he's lamenting this fact or praising the heavens. he's in outrageously tight denims and a band tee of one that louis is sure he's never heard before, some thin hoodie over the shirt and snug on his forearms. he looks super casual and super attractive and, like. louis is so into this.

he hasn't been able to move an inch, staring straight across, so he notices the exact second that harry looks up and notices his presence, recognition lighting up his eyes as he walks closer down the aisle to where louis is standing. he's suddenly horribly aware of the sheer lace bra and knicker set he's holding in his hands.

"hey," louis greets him, determinedly not looking away from harry's face. he's good at small talk, and he can do this. he isn't sixteen years old; he's entirely capable of interacting with a fit bloke he wants to fuck. "fancy seeing you here."

"h'lo to you, mr louis tomlinson," harry grins, pocketing his mobile and bumping louis' shoulder with his fist. "and, yeah, you know. gotta wear clothes and all that, it's kind of legally required."

"oh, so you wouldn't otherwise?" louis asks, accidentally flirting.

harry winks. he is definitely giving louis a once over at this point; louis can both see and feel his eyes raking over his body, head to toe and intense as fuck about it. there's something different about not being surrounded on all sides by children he's meant to supervise, and that difference makes dragging harry in a dressing room and blowing him seem a lot less uncouth than it should. "maybe. those for you?"

louis laughs, rolling his eyes. "maybe," he answers in the same hopefully flirtatious tone harry'd used with him. he doesn't look like anything special right now, in old ratty jeans and niall's stupidly soft cashmere sweater, but. he doesn't need to be his very best to get fucked.

"s'your lot planning on coming back to the museum? your kids were really great, even the other groups, i hear. i wouldn't mind curating you guys again. we're gonna have a new exhibit on pompeii, and this really brilliant band is going to come play on opening day. they might like it."

"um, that sounds cool, actually? it'll take a while, though, i'm not actually supposed to bring them on field trips, like. ever. so two in a month would be suicidal."

"is huntington prep a prison?" harry asks, raising an eyebrow.

louis shrugs. "we've got a state of the art coffee machine in the cafè. what more could they want?"

"louis, darling, would you shag me in this dress?" alexandra yells out from somewhere in the vague vicinity, voice getting closer. louis closes his eyes shut tightly and reminds himself that he mustn't choke himself with a lace brassiere in the middle of asos. that'd be uncalled for.

"your girlfriend?" harry questions, a bit of shock seeping through his tone.

louis laughs. "god, no. missing some vital parts." he turns around and begins to quickly walk off before he can get harry's reaction. "see you 'round, yeah, mate? cheers."

he's so smooth.

except not really. the next he sees harry, it's because he's slipped and fallen over while in line at mcd's and it's. embarrassing, to say the least. harry is walking past him with a frappé in his hand, plump lips puckered tightly around the straw.

"hey, you okay?" harry leans over to help him up, while niall lounges against the soda counter and silently laughs at him.

"absolutely fantastic," he groans, trying his hardest not to stare at harry's mouth. louis has never felt stronger urges to beg someone to suck his cock, but he doesn't beg. or something. fuck, no, yes he does, but at least not in public. shreds of dignity. "has anyone ever told you that you have a really nice mouth?" no dignity, none at all.

harry slowly withdraws the straw from his mouth, licking a smidgen of froth from his lips once he's done. louis is absolutely transfixed, no longer bothering to attempt to quell his staring. there's no point. he's sure that fucking justin bieber, nestled in his canadian igloo, could tell how much he wants to fuck harry right now, so.

"once or twice," harry smirks. his eyes twinkle. "i've really got to go, but it was nice seeing you again. call about the pompeii exhibition, would you? we'd - i'd love to have your groups back."

louis isn't expecting it - louis is seriously, totally, honestly not expecting it at all, but right before he turns to leave, as if this is the sixteenth century and louis' still got to be courted, harry quickly leans in and places a soft, lingering kiss on his cheek.

"bye," he murmurs, flashing a smile once before jogging away, straw back in his mouth.

louis isn't sure how long he stands there, but he definitely doesn't move until niall finally spares him and comes over to drag him away from the scene of the crime, their paper bag of grease already in his hand. "s'that's hot curator harry? i hadn't known you two were quite chummy enough for kisses."

"i didn't either," louis says absently, opening the car door and collapsing onto the passenger seat. jesus. he feels spent and his cheek burns.

"he must really want your dick," niall says, eloquent and appropriate as ever.

"niall, please, manners. and, ugh, i don't know. he didn't pay much attention to me at the museum."

"he might have. prolly did. s'not like you were paying much more attention to anything but his mouth or whether he was a commie or not." louis is almost positive that niall's just run a light. he wishes he could be as nonchalant about 250 pound fines as his best friend is.

louis sighs and steals a chip out of the bag, popping it into his mouth and chewing contemplatively. "maybe. he did wink at me a lot, i don't know if that's a thing for him, and i overheard clara and daniel whispering about how much he was checking me out, but they're both bloody gossips, when they're not sleeping or on their phones."

"th'way you talk about your brood like i know them all."

"the fact that you do," louis retorts. niall rolls his eyes and makes a turn that almost throws the bag onto the floor. "you little fucking bitch, if you drop my food i'll shove your own steak knives up your ass!"

niall laughs and makes another wide turn.

-

on friday night, hidden in the darkest corner of starbucks, louis is buried in grading essays with empty cups of coffee littered all over his table. he's slept a total of five hours in the past two days, and it's moments like this that he questions what the fuck he was thinking becoming a teacher. even his laptop is tired, humming loudly and exuding an unhealthy amount of heat.

almost all of these essays are shit. he's grading cleopatra's, and from a prompt asking to compare the fall of the abbasid caliphate with that of the roman empire's, she's gone off on a tangent about the time she went shopping in italy to find the perfect persian rug for her cat.

like... why.

he takes a long drink from his coffee, pure black with gallons of sugar and absolutely disgusting, and gives her a one out of nine for effort.

"mr louis tomlinson?" a deep voice drawls out. louis closes his eyes and contemplates death. breathing in and out slowly, he opens his eyes and resolves to be an adult. he is one. not sure how stellar his flirting skills are when he's half-dead, though. fuck, he doesn't know how teachers at big schools do this shit.

"just louis," he finally answers, opening his eyes to find harry standing in front of his booth, taking a bite out of a chocolate muffin. louis feels an involuntary smile play at his lips. harry is so beautiful that right now, in his overtly tired state, he might cry. it's been prone to happen. he shed a few tears the first time he saw niall's platinum amex.

"hi, just louis," harry cheeks, grinning. "y'know, if i didn't know any better i'd think you were stalking me."

louis pretends to be affronted. he wouldn't put it above himself to stalk harry. he just hasn't quite hit that far rock bottom yet. yet. "me? you're the one showing up in all my favourite places, probably trying to seduce me." he didn't mean to say that part.

harry lets out a delighted, shocked little noise. "is it working?"

"rain check," louis responds faintly. he clears his throat, rubbing his eyes with the back of his free hand, the one not holding an overused orange pen, to try and force some of the sleep away and hopefully regain his ability to interact with people in the process. were this nialler or alex, he would do nothing more than tell them to fuck off, but he doesn't want to get into their pants with the same extremity that he wants to get in harry's, so. that's life. "what're doing out this late at night? no high school sweetheart to get back home to?"

"nah." he sets his muffin down, motioning a silent inquiry whether or not he can sit. louis nods, pushing his laptop out of the way. "she cheated on me the week before we took a-levels."

louis hears she and imagines shooting himself in the leg. "that's... unfortunate."

harry shrugs. "maybe. i took her little brother's virginity his first month of uni, so. oh my god, wait, that makes me sound like i'm a total tosser, fuck - i, i didn't just do that to get back at her, didn't actually know 'til after," he rambles, blushing. louis wants to know how far that flush extends to reach his dick. louis wants to know his dick. shit. he's too tired for this. "i'm sorry."

"s'fine," louis grins sleepily. "you never answered my first question, though. about what you're doing here. it's really late, innit?"

"had a late shift doing restoration. we - the museum, i mean, bought some old documents from this ancient lady in liverpool, and zayn and i were on rotation for that."

"i don't know a zayn," louis tells him.

"at the museum, the one with... he had a group, i think. he's the mad fit tan one with the black hair? like, really fit."

"ah," louis responds, remembering mrs corden pushing him aside and lying about her group number. "that one."

"he was a bitch about it, though, cause he hasn't gotten laid in three hours, or whatever. he mentioned you, said you're really hot and should come back more often." he chuckles. his smile doesn't reach his eyes though, and louis wonders why that is.

louis wonders if harry is blind.

"what do you say?" he's really tired and barely coherent and can blame this on that in the morning.

harry blinks, the left side of his mouth curling up in a small smile. louis knows he can't be imagining how much closer harry gets or the way he can suddenly feel their sides touching at every point, from thigh to shoulder. "i think it'd be lovely if you came back to the museum as well."

"s'that all?" he asks quietly. tired, tired, tired. definitely the reason he's embarrassing himself to this extent.

harry's breath fans softly across his face, and he's so there, so close that if louis moved just a centimetre closer, they'd be kissing. louis doesn't have to think about it much longer; harry whispers, "no. think you're really, really beautiful, too," and then kisses him.

which. okay.

harry is a very nice kisser. louis wishes he could properly describe it, from the way harry presses down and the flick of his tongue against louis' lip, inside louis' mouth and how sure and sweet and slow he kisses, like they've got all the fucking time in the world. it might be the best kiss louis' had in his entire life, even though he's so overwhelmed that he can hardly do anything but sit there and let himself be kissed until harry does this thing with his tongue and teeth that louis would like to see repeated on his cock and he's unable to do nothing more than finally kiss back.

when harry pulls back, both of them are panting for breath with sparkling eyes and stupid smiles. jesus christ.

"hi," louis breathes.

"hi." harry grins and brings a hand up from where it's been cradling the back of louis' neck to swipe a string of hair back from his forehead.

"a few random meetings and all of a sudden you're kissing. haven't you ever heard of going slow, mr harry?" he doesn't mind, god, but he feels like he has to say something. he doesn't want the moment to turn jilted and awkward.

"styles," he answers. "mr styles. and, um, i didn't think you'd mind. plus, we're not thirteen, so waiting four months would be kind of crazy, wouldn't it?"

"i'd probably have jumped off a cliff by then," is what louis doesn't say. instead, he answers, nodding, "it would. i'm glad you did." he's still smiling. when he licks his lips, he can still taste harry on his tongue.

harry stares at him for a moment, intense in a way that makes louis feel as if he’s stark naked. “yeah. so am i.” he exhales and finally looks away, running a hand through his hair. it looks like his hands might be shaking, and louis wants so badly to kiss him again. “what’re you doing, what have i interrupted you from?” he’s still too close. louis would like him closer.

“um...” louis yawns, covering his mouth with his hand. “grading essays. and a few other papers i should have given them back ages ago.”

“what’re the essays on?” asks harry.

“comparison of the fall of the abbasids and rome.” louis had managed to forget about them for a short while, but it’s like it’s all rushing back to him now, and he can feel the migraine setting back in.

“oh, the abbasids. i wrote my very first uni paper on them.”

“what’d you major in?”

“asian history.” louis’ probably getting hard. “i could, like... if you don’t mind, i could help you? with some stuff, maybe the essays, or whatever. swear i’d know what i’m doing,” harry says hesitantly.

louis isn’t sure what to say. “oh. what - i mean, don’t you want, don’t you, i’m sure you have better things to do?”

harry shrugs, and bites his lip, looking down at him and clearly fighting a smile. “maybe. can’t think of any right now, though.”

louis blushes. “right. well, you can...” he’s going off so much about nonsense, and it’s bloody fucking embarrassing. he isn’t lottie. he can talk to boys, and handle them being stupidly attractive and charming and not so stupid at all. not really. no, he can’t. he can’t. “here are a few. i’m not sure if you’ve ever seen this type of rubric before, but it’s fairly easy to understand, i think. it’s the collegeboard one, here’s the paper.”

“no, yeah, i know it. a bit too personally. it’s the devil format i was tortured to when i was this age, too.”

hey,” louis defends. “it’s efficient. a bitch to grade and a bitch to write, but efficient nonetheless. it’s highest ranked, even in the states. foolproof.”

“hmm, should’ve known better than to insult the system in front of a teacher,” he teases.

they grade.

it’s calm; harry’s quiet and gets through essays quickly enough. he passes with flying colours when louis checks the first one, leaves little comments in the green ink he'd nicked from louis' bag all over the papers. he'll show louis really bad paragraphs, but not in a malicious way, more of a pointing out of what the writer did wrong and maybe what louis could bring up for them to work on. and it's like... louis barely knows him. like, he knows that he's crazy stupid pretty and a fucking fantastic kisser and all the obvious stuff, but that's kind of it. this entire thing might be moving too fast, and next time they kiss he could turn out to be a shitty person or a serial killer in the making (both things that have happened to louis three times too many) and it's weird.

it's weird because louis can't see that happening, not with these first and second and fifth impressions that he's gotten of harry so far. he just seems absolutely lovely and so fucking smart. louis doesn't believe in love at first sight or love at all, sometimes, and that’s totally fine, regardless of what niall says and any possible reasons for that, but it's possible that people can gel together really quickly and that might be what's happening here.

whatever. he's seriously overthinking this.

-

when he’d been doing the registration for their field trip online, louis had signed up for their email notifications on a whim. right now, he isn’t sure if he regrets or cherishes that.

around ten the next morning, he’s sat at his desk and half leaned over his laptop, third cup of coffee that morning in an attempt to stay awake. the amount of caffeine in his system is getting outrageous, and he kind of wishes they could get some random bank holiday in the next week because he seriously, seriously needs a break and some rebooting. his kids are currently completing their mandated twenty minutes of reading, except louis is considering stretching it into thirty or the entire two hours.

he checks his email in a desperate attempt to get away from putting the grades into the gradebook, and as if it was waiting for him, the little ping shouts as an email from the british museum pops up. thinking of the museum and its affiliates right now sends a faint blush up to his cheeks, but he decisively ignores that, clicking on it and trying not to choke when the message comes up.

so apparently they offer in-school sessions.

louis knows that he’ll probably regret this in seventeen minutes. however, for now, he can do little else but remind himself to call during his lunch and hope this doesn’t finally count as stalking. they’re the ones who sent the email, right, so. not stalking. hopefully.

niall has taken his break at eleven alongside louis so that they could have lunch together today. it’s a quick walk across the the street for louis to the small caribbean place where niall is already waiting for him, sat at a high table in front of the windows and texting someone.

“hey, loverboy,” louis greets, planting a wet kiss on niall’s cheek before taking the seat opposite him. “who’re you texting?”

niall sighs, locking his phone and pressing it screen down onto the table. “greg. he’s being a total shit about our parents’ thirtieth and ragging on about it having to be at the beach even though mum hates the sand? i’m gonna fuckin’ shank him, lou, i swear it.”

“do it at a park?”

“that’s what i’m saying, but he’s not listening. i’m gonna get alex to talk to him about it, he likes her more than he likes me. whatever, fuck him. how’re you?”

“tired as fuck. you’ve placed our orders, right?” he bangs his head down onto the wooden table, closing his eyes and sighing.

“yeah, ‘course. why didn’t ya stay and nap during your break, mate, woulda been better, that’d be two hours down your belt.”

“i wanted to have lunch with you. i’m being romantic.” he manages to put his head up for a second to make a kissy face at niall before banging it back down on the table.

“very romantic,” niall agrees.

jean, the usual server, calls them up to get their meals after only a few minutes, handing them both tall white styrofoam cups with a wink. she’s his favourite if only for the reason that she is almost always the one handing him his favourite food and sneaks alcohol into their lemonades for free.

back at the table, once they’ve opened their boxes and have gotten over the mandatory few moments of just staring at the platter in awe and are finally digging into the food, niall says conversationally, “so i have a friend who works the night shift at the starbucks on forty-fifth.”

louis takes the biggest bite of his rice that he possibly can, completing the goal when he further stuffs his face with a bite of the plantains and whatever meat it is. louis doesn’t know, has never known, but it tastes like it was truly crafted from the hands of god, so. plus, food is always a better option than having to ever speak about this with niall.

“you’re fuckin’ disgusting,” niall comments. he narrows his eyes. “what were you doing at starbucks at, like, one am, louis tomlinson?”

“i was alone. and grading essays, you know, by myself. why, niall horan?”

“you sure you weren’t with harry styles?”

“what, no, why would i be?” he pauses, the fork in midair as he glares at niall. they’re having a showdown. first one to back down from the glare loses and doesn’t get to choose friday night’s dinner or movie. maybe. niall probably doesn’t know this, but then again he probably does. they’re on freaky wavelengths, alex says. “how do you know his last name?”

“alfred snooped around for me,” he answers, refusing to back down from the glare even as a faint pink highlights his cheeks. “how do you?”

“oh my fucking god, niall, you had your parents’ butler stalk a bloke just because i wanna blow him?”

“you did the same thing for me!” he tries to defend.

“no, no, no i didn’t. alex and i had a mutual, okay, and i asked them for like a general overview to make sure she wasn’t going to break your heart in five days and leave you for someone she could understand. that’s totally different.” he takes a long draw from his lemonade vodka and shakes his head.

“that’s why i was doing it, too! and alfred is, like. he knows people, there’s a really high possibility that - oh, fuck off it, lou. that still doesn’t explain why you were with harry. and you never answered me how you know his last name, too.”

“because he told me, assfuck.”

“no, louis,” niall says. “i think that’s you.”

louis, who’d been taking a drink, chokes on the liquid as it goes down and has no choice but to look away and break the glare. niall cheers triumphantly and points instead of helping louis out. louis wants to be offended and break their friendship, but the last time niall was choking on a piece of gum lodged in his throat, louis took a picture and texted it to everyone he knows, so. fair game, and all.

“you win this round,” he wheezes. “and i wasn’t with him because i know what you’ll say and i don’t want to hear it.”

niall heaves out a sigh. “i didn’t want to have to do this, mate, but...” he takes his phone from where it’d been on the table beside his food and toys with it for a bit before turning it around to show louis a dark picture of him and harry at the starbucks last night, too close for it not to be suspicious.

“what,” louis starts. “the fuck.”

“i offered them seventy pounds,” niall explains. “i had to do what i had to do.”

“what,” louis repeats. “the fuck.”

“stop being so dramatic,” niall says casually, as if he didn’t have some random starbucks barista take a picture of louis in the dead of night. sometimes, niall. just sometimes. “you two look really cozy, though, dontcha?”

“stop speaking, niall,” says louis, rolling his eyes.

lou, it’s been so fucking - ”

“niall,” he drawls. “shut up.” louis doesn't get why niall feels the need to try to make it seem like he's interested in being in a committed relationship with every guy he meets. he’s so hellbent on louis settling down that it’s disgusting.

niall looks at him with narrowed eyes before sighing again and taking an aggressive bite of the delicious mystery meat. “you’re a shit. how was your day?”

-

later that day, while john is still recovering from being picked from the evil name box of doom and stumbling through answering louis' question on songhay, his phone vibrates. loudly. it's been laying inconspicuously on his stand while he teaches, but at this, the force of it causes it to fall right onto the ground.

"shi - fty eyes," he swears, hoping against all hope that it hasn't broken before leaning over to pick it up. the sigh of relief he breathes almost shakes his entire body when he sees that it's gone totally unharmed.

"that wouldn't have happened if you'd had your phone off and away at all times, mr t," clara snarks, ever-smug.

louis barely resists the urge to roll his eyes. he means to put it away, but then it vibrates again in his hand, and the screen lights up to show who’s texted him, and he almost has a heart attack. it’s harry.

“don’t do anything, i’ll be right back,” he tells his class, and then promptly runs out of the classroom, phone still in hand.

the first text reads We had a meeting today. Apparently I’ve been delegated as presenter for an assembly at Huntington Prep. You know anything about this? .xx and then This is Harry, btw, sorry.

louis holds a hand up to his chest as he leans backwards against the door and exhales loudly. there’s little separating him with his students, both mentally and physically, save for this wood barrier, and he’s a bit embarrassed to be alive right now, but even stronger than that shame is how much, as always, he wants harry inside of him. it’s a hard knock life.

the only thing stopping him from obsessing for five hours over how to reply, like some sort of idiot with a crush, is that his kids are undoubtedly changing their grades on his laptop or looking up the test answers in his briefcase, and that can’t happen. he types back knew it was u hahaha you put your nmr into my phone last night rmr xxx and innocent until proven guilty ;)

he hopes harry understands the symbolic gestures behind three x’s instead of two and takes him up on that offer, and doesn’t judge him too much for unironically using a wink. he’s usually above that.

when he gets back into his classroom, clara snipes. “all cellular devices off and away during school hours, mr tomlinson. it’s not fair for you to use your phone while the rest of us are trying to learn.”

she’s fucking quoting him.

louis twitches and pointedly pockets his phone, forcing himself to ignore it when it vibrates again. clara twirls a curl of hair around her finger and smirks.

-

by the time the bell rings, a long hour later, louis is so on edge and anxious to finally get a chance to check his phone that he almost dies. he’s exaggerating, possibly, but it’s always a high probability. possible probabilities.

but, you know what. he’s an adult. he’s an adult with responsibilities and patience and like - things. he feels like he tells himself this way too fucking often, but he means it this time, and that is exactly why he decides that under no circumstances will he check harry’s texts before he gets home. because, like - adult.

by the time he’s all packed up and driving home, louis has decided that he is nothing more than a foolish, foolish child. he’s tapping his hands nervously, keeps sneaking glances over at his phone lying harmlessly on the passenger seat, as if it’s not some object of total evil.

he looks out his window and up to the clouds during a red light, thinks, lead me not into temptation. this is as close to praying as he ever gets.

it starts raining. figures.

the second he enters his house, hastily depositing all his shit onto his tiny kitchen table and almost hardly remembering to lock the door, he runs into his room, stripping off and down to his undershirt and boxers as he does before collapsing onto his stomach and unlocking his phone, finally - finally - being able to check the texts. he takes a deep breath and clicks on harry’s thread.

To be fair, I haven’t thought about much from last night other than kissing you.

louis blinks. smooth talker.

louis types out pls fuck me so hard i cry okay? ok instead, he sends, is that so. cryptic. suave.

Yeah. That and kissing you all over.

louis furiously clicks out IS THAT SO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!??????????¿¿¿¿¿¿???¿????¿? erases it and puts kiss me on my dick erases it and puts why are u doing this erases it and puts oh. sends it.

it takes harry exactly twenty-seven minutes to text back. in that time, he gets through biting all his nails to the root, having a sandwich, and yelling about his life to niall over the phone (niall hangs up). when louis sees that it’s a photo message, he has a sudden flaring hope in his chest that harry has decided to forego the foreplay and just sent him his nudes.

sadly, it’s a picture taken of the records of his signup for the in-school sessions and nothing more. the caption reads Caught in the act ;) See you next Monday .xx

louis sighs. there were expectations. he wishes it'd been a dick pic. harry's probably huge. definitely huge.

-

next monday comes more quickly than louis thinks could possibly be fair.

after charming the headmistress for permission (he really needs to stop scheduling things before he's allowed), harassing other teachers to bring their second block classes to the assembly and someway somehow getting niall into making thank you cupcakes for the presenters, louis is finally ready. maybe. no.

he's ready education-wise, full stops and cupcakes and all, but harry will be the one hosting and that is daunting. louis hasn't really even seen him since the starbucks, which makes sense, because like, they're grown-ups with jobs and lives. so louis doesn't mind all that much, because the texting is fun, makes him feel like he's sixteen all over again, but harry, as it turns out, is a total and complete fucking flirt. good enough to give louis a run for his money, which is truly saying something because louis got mongolian royalty studying theology to sleep with him in uni - which, okay, he was a descendant of genghis, and louis was a history major, totally explainable - case in point is that louis is the prince of flirting.

harry, however, seems to be the king. louis hates that. it's like... he says these things, the most horrible, horrible things, outrageously charming and downright evil. louis will be fine one second and then banging his head on walls the next. the texts haven’t gotten downright sexual yet, much to louis’ horror and disappointment, but it’s been edging on it, getting closer and closer with every innuendo about fingering that harry sends him. which. harry. fingering.

louis sits down.

“mr tomlinson,” maura from his second block asks for the fifth time. “how long will the assembly be?”

“fucking hell, maura,” he hears luther murmur from beside her.

“language,” he says lightly, forcing himself to stand back up and grabbing his things. “an hour and a half, hopefully.”

natasha raises her hand. louis closes his eyes and prays a silent prayer that he doesn’t massacre his entire class before noon. “yes, natasha?”

“this is a presenter from the british museum, right, the one we went to last time? is it going to be the same curator we had in group one?”

“yes, it will. why?”

she grins. louis doesn’t trust it. “how old is he?”

louis holds a hand up to his heart. “i... no, natasha. let’s go. single file, kayla, i said single, you and marcus are going to the same place, get back in line - ”

-

the auditorium is still empty, a full twenty before the other classes will begin to pile in. louis makes sure his kids get settled in the front, steadfastly ignoring their complaints and the fact that he can hear harry setting up behind the curtain. harry is like - right there. same building. and louis isn't fucking him right now, like, that's so upsetting he can hardly bear to think about it.

"i have to go greet the presenters, make sure none of you dare move too loudly, if we're not on our best behaviour, the headmistress will have me beheaded. feel free to use your phones." he smiles at them for reassurance, pulling the fancy container of cupcakes from his bag and running up the stairs to the stage before his students can see what's in it and cry inequality.

louis can feel his trousers pulling tight across his thighs as he walks, and he resists the urge to jump in glee. he can barely breathe in them, his favourite pair of white denims that absolutely cling to his skin, and that he only ever wears on the utmost special occasions, like attending one of niall's parents' casual bbqs and hoping to attract a lonely semi-attractive millionaire to pamper him and allow him to blow all their money. and that's like... top of the line. his biggest goal. and the fact that he's brought them out now is so monumental. louis doesn't want to blow all of harry's money, but he sure wants to blow his dick.

he's at the top of his game right now. he's got on some thin grey cashmere sweater that niall bought him for his birthday last year, and honestly he just looks like an angel. an angel of sex.

when he finally, finally steps behind the curtain, he first sees two relatively young girls and a boy squeezing into long skirts and putting makeup on each other. louis blinks.

“harry’s backstage,” one of the girls says, not looking up from where she’s applying a whole lot of purple eyeshadow onto the boy. louis somehow manages to get a ‘thank you’ across before quickly walking - not running, never running, dignity - towards the back. he sees harry almost immediately, bent over and doing something on his laptop, set down on a crate.

louis only spends six seconds admiring the view before poking harry in the bum with the container, causing him to yelp and jump around to see who the perpetrator is.

his eyes widen when he does, and he breathes out, “lou,” poking his arms out to pull him into a tight hug, the container almost falling. he’s warm as fuck, arches his body to burrow his face into louis’ neck. louis can feel his smile against his collarbone, and feel the lines of harry’s body against his, and he smells like citrus and mint and louis is so into this it’s not even healthy. he tightens his single-armed grip around harry’s waist and inhales deeply.

“hi,” louis says when harry finally pulls back, looking down at him with a wide grin and crinkly eyes.

“hi,” harry answers.

“hi,” louis repeats. “i brought you cupcakes?” louis shoves the bowl into his arms. he’s being awkward as all fuck, he knows this, but it’s just weird seeing harry after their flirty texts and not automatically being on top of him, but he can do this. self control. don’t need no man, etcetera.

harry smiles widely. “that you did. thank you. mean it.” he sets the cupcakes down to the side on his laptop and louis’ lips pull down; he raises an eyebrow and asks, “aren’t you going to try one?”

harry says, “i’ve got more pressing plans, to be honest,” and then leans in and kisses him.

it’s a lot rougher than it was last time, harry presses forward like he’s got more in mind, like he’s insistent on this heading somewhere. like he’s been waiting for this, wanting it. wanting to kiss louis. and, god, that’s a nice fucking thought.

pulling back is harder than many things louis’ ever had to do, maybe even worse than resisting the urge to just give clara a 110% just for going off on a tangent about feminism in her last paper and somehow relating it back to the fall of the song. beautiful things, that essay and harry’s mouth, but he’s got to admit that right now, favour is definitely tipping in harry’s direction.

“hi,” he says for the fiftieth time. smooth criminal.

“hi,” harry murmurs, curling a hand around the back of louis’ neck to pull him back in. makes louis feel warm and sort of desperate and panting for it.

deep breath. under control. clean, mean, and under control. he takes a step backwards. "um, my kids? are a curtain away?" harry takes a step forward.

"two curtains," harry corrects, taking another few steps closer every time louis goes backwards before it ends up with him crowding louis against a wall, arms on either side of his head and body pressed close against his.

"oh," louis smartly breathes, sounding more like a question and his voice an octave or seven higher than it usually is.

harry smirks devilishly. one of his hands comes down to trace the edge of louis' jaw, trailing down down down until it wondrously ends up on louis' waist, around to the small of his back, splayed out and edging further onto his bum. harry uses the angle to pull louis in even closer, chests, hips, feet aligned. his hands dip even further down to rest entirely on louis’ ass. all louis can think about for a second in between the quiet, charged space is that harry’s entire palm can spread across a single cheek and that’s fucking, god. and then harry squeezes, and his brain just short circuits entirely and he can do nothing more but moan filthily and go up on his toes to kiss harry, rough and dirty, tongue trying to figure out all the corners and crevices of harry’s mouth.

harry groans, squeezing again and wedging his thigh in between louis’ legs, which fall open more than happily for the intrusion, rutting into him and murmuring fuck into louis’ mouth when he feels louis’ dick pressing hard and insistent against the inseam.

“harry!” a voice calls out, getting closer. they jump apart at the exact same time, harry licking his lips and louis desperately trying to smooth down his sweater and get his breathing under control, shutting his eyes rightly and willing his erection to go down. oh, god.

it’s one of harry’s volunteers, the bloke, now entirely decked out in what looks like traditional chinese women’s clothing and what is honestly really nice makeup work. brings out the colour in his eyes. he raises an amused eyebrow when he sees the two of them, flushed and standing too close not to be suspicious, but doesn’t comment on it, addressing harry, “we’re done. and everything’s set up. got to get started now, it’s 10:15.”

“right!” harry answers, wincing at the overeagerness in his tone. “well, i’ll be right out there? not a question, we’ll definitely be right there.”

the boy nods, still looking like he wants to laugh at them, and leaves. louis heaves out a giant breath, grateful that the thoughts of headmistress cooing over a basket if mutant cats has helped his erection disappear quickly and efficiently.

he and harry turn back to face each other, making sure there’s a decent amount of space in between them so as not to be tempted to repeat their earlier positions.

louis begins to say, “i should get back,” at the same time that harry rushes out, “do you wanna have dinner sometime?”

louis blinks. harry looks nervous, for the first time in all the times louis has seen him. louis can’t help the giant grin that creeps up on his face or the burst of warmth that explodes in his chest. “i’d love to.”

“yeah?” harry asks, biting his swollen and kiss-slick bottom lip.

louis nods. “yeah.”

-

“how’d the assembly go?” niall asks him later that day on the drive home.

louis makes an illegal u-turn, earning some loud honks and well-placed expletives from the old woman behind him. reminds him of his grandmum.

“it was nice. they did the entirety of chinese history in 90 minutes using some questionable acting skills, a bit of drag, and a lot of shadow puppetry.”

“that’s thrilling, really, lou, honest, but i don’t really give a fuck. i meant, how was you and lover boy at the assembly? did you blow him a curtain away from your students?” louis speeds up to catch the light and almost rams into a teenage girl skipping across the street with headphones in her ear. he’s at least eighty-five percent sure it’s sharon, so he puts his windows all the way up and presses down on the pedal just that much more. they’re not allowed to know he does things outside of school. or like, breathes. it demolishes the entire student/teacher relationship. he learned this in uni, it’s totally legit.

“there were two curtains,” he says absently. he has to hold the phone away from his ear when niall shrieks in what is decidedly not a manly fashion.

“you blew him in the same room as your kids, your students, mate, is that even fucking legal, are you going to get fired - ”

“i didn’t blow him, you titfucking shit - ”

“ - your insults are weakening, and that was rude, i’m gonna tell alex - ”

“ - even i have more class than that, all we did was, um. hug. we hugged.”

“i know you’re lying, and i know that you kissed him, i can practically see your guilty kiss-face from where i am.”

louis sighs. “he... dinner. he dinner. wow, all time low. he asked me out to dinner.”

niall makes the same ungodly sound. “see? i’m happy for you, man. ya need to do something other than teach for once, y’know?”

“i do plenty of things other than teach!”

“like what?” niall asks dryly. “grade?”

louis hangs up on him.

-

“guys,” he begins friday morning, finally passing back their essays, “i’m going to be honest. your essays were, for the most part, extremely disappointing.”

“thank you for the self-esteem boost, mr tomlinson.”

“not today, clark, not today. don’t push it.” he places the last paper on sophia’s desk and goes back to the front, turning on the elmo projector so he can put up some sample papers of what a decent grade actually looks like. he’s upset, maybe. not even the impending prospect of a date - a date - can brighten his mood. as long as he doesn’t think about it. or think about harry. or breathe. “i hate to be that teacher that’s like, denying that i maybe did something wrong, but. i know that you all know the material. most of you did great on the multiple choice, your test scores are clearly improving, so you know what i’m asking you. you should know what i’m asking you. so, c’mon, before we get on with this, i want to know what parts you all didn’t understand. starting with you, clark.”

“that’s not even fair, mr tomlinson!”

louis levels a look at him. smiles harmlessly.

clark winces. “i forgot about the abbasids? i guess. i kind of remembered about rome, because of the defaults you told us to use, but not for the others.”

“okay,” louis answers slowly, nodding. “what’re the defaults?”

victoria raises her hand. “they get too big, internal conflicts, external conflicts, like outsiders attacking them, i think? the white huns and goths got rome. and um, i don’t know the rest. they just collapse, i guess.”

“so if those defaults work for rome, why wouldn’t they for the abbasids, too?”

the moment of realisation on their faces is always a good one. makes the day a bit more tolerable.

that and, of course, the fact that he has a date with harry tonight. a date. with harry. at harry’s house. god, louis is one hundred percent going to get laid tonight. he can hear the marvin gaye playing softly in the background.

“mr t, are y’alright? why’re you smiling like that?”

-

I’m gonna be there in like ten mins, what’s your building nmbr? And is that okay, do you need more time? No panicking!!!

oh no its fine 10 mins is fine !!!!! :) bldg #2400 and hahahahhahahah i’m not panicking dont be silly hahahahahahahhahahah lol :) :)

louis is panicking. louis has told himself for the past two hours not to panic, but it’s there, it’s definitely there, he’s definitely panicking. harry’s going to be here to pick him in ten minutes and he isn’t even dressed yet.

alexandra,” he hisses, turning to face the girl laying down on his bed on top of niall, niall’s phone in her hands as she furiously texts to diffuse the situation with greg that niall has most likely made worse. niall is moaning on and on about the evils of sand and really, at this point, louis doesn’t even know why he ever thought they would be useful. “i enlisted you to help me not panic and find something to wear, harry’s going to be here in ten minutes, i am panicking and i have nothing to wear, i swear i’m going to - ”

“lou, darling. shut up. i’m thinking.” she types away some more, and then lets out a pleased shout, throwing the phone at niall’s face.

“have you fixed it?” niall asks, sitting up and causing her to go up with him, positioned at a straddle. louis wishes he were straddling harry. but he probably won’t ever even get to be on top of harry, because he has no clothing on. he’s in his boxers in front of his closet and he’s been here for forty-seven minutes with nothing happening.

“of course i’ve fucking fixed it, i always fix it. you and your brother wouldn’t even be speaking at this point were it not for me.” niall grins at her and plants a loud and sloppy kiss on her mouth, and even though she retches and wipes her lips, they still look really fond and cute. if louis didn’t want to strangle them both, he’d maybe admit this aloud. as it is...

“alex.”

“stop being a whinge, lou.” she finally gets up to join him, stands there for a total of five seconds without even touching anything or bothering to get a better look, and then says, “dark denims, not the black ones, but like navyish, i think?”

“i have a lot of dark jeans.” he’s getting sick of her bullshit.

“no, no, the ones that’re too long on you and you’ve got to roll up to your ankles... yes, exactly! those. and a scoop neck tee, not purple, louis, why would i ever say purple, it has to be white, you don’t want to be a tryhard, love. and shoes. doesn’t matter what shoes.”

“i think this is the shittiest clothing advice i’ve ever gotten. you’re telling me to wear blue jeans and a white tee.”

she rolls her eyes. “just try it on. t-minus four minutes left before loverboy’s knocking on your door.”

“don’t say that,” he whines, quickly putting on what she suggested. when he looks in the mirror, he’s loathe to admit this, but he looks really fucking brilliant. oh, man.

“you look great, mate,” says niall.

“i know. thank you. alex, i love you so so so much,” he declares, jumping on her for a hug . “you’re my favourite huma - ”

the bell rings. louis freezes, single leg still wrapped around alex’s midsection.

“literally don’t know how you two would survive without me.” she pushes louis off. “go on, lou, you’ve got a hot date waiting for you.”

louis still hasn’t moved. let’s get it on is looping on maximum volume in his head and, fuck, oh jesus christ. panic overdrive.

“if you don’t go now, louis, i’ll be forced to open for you and we both really don’t want that. i know where you keep your teenage pictures,” niall threatens in a singsongy voice. louis has never run for a door faster in his life.

when louis opens the door, he swears his heart stops, just for that second. or five.

harry looks the best louis has ever seen him. for once, he’s not wearing a button-up or some other high-necked type of top, and this has louis faced with a new and very welcome discovery: tattoos. there are two birds on either side just a bit below his collarbones, and what wonderful wonderful collarbones they are, christ. they haven’t even left his house yet and louis is so, so ready to go. to get it on.

they’re just stood there, the two of them staring at each other, until harry softly says, “hey.” one of his hands come up to curl softly around the side of louis’ neck, thumb brushing louis’ cheekbone.

louis inhales sharply, rises up on the balls of his feet to press his mouth against harry’s, and then niall’s voice calls out, “is that harry? hi, harry, lou, we’re coming to say hi to harry!” and then footsteps on the stairs. louis grabs his coat and harry’s hand, pulling him out the door and practically running towards the lift.

“so i’m guessing meeting them isn’t a viable option?” harry asks, amused, as louis frantically presses the down button.

“god, no. not until the fourth date, at least.”

“fourth date, eh?” a corner of his mouth is lifted, and his eyes are twinkling, emerald green and beautiful.

“you’ve got to earn it first, harry styles,” louis teases.

the moment the lift doors close, harry is crowding louis into a corner, one hand flat next to his head and the other groping his bum. suave. “i definitely plan to earn it.”

-

not only is harry a history buff - asian history at that - but he’s also a top ace chef and conversationalist. and his hands look really nice around a fork.

his flat is small but neat, a grey and blue colour scheme that manages to not be completely depressing and more chic and cool. harry admits to not knowing a clue of what happened; his older sister is an interior designer and did the entire thing. this doesn’t diminish louis’ desire to blow him at all.

he’s made pasta and a salad that even niall would be tempted to eat, and they’re sat across each other on harry’s tiny little dining table, keeping a steady stream of conversation. and like... harry’s kind of brilliant, is the thing. even more brilliant than louis had thought and been positive of before. he’s witty and funny and has a a dry and slightly morbid sense of humour that’s only aided by his dry and morbid voice. he knows about a lot more than just history, an issue that louis continues to struggle with because honestly, history is the only thing he’s ever been good at, after yelling at children. but harry... he’s all, like. cultured. he’s visited mecca and the ruins of mohenjo-daro and is going to see the mud mosque with his mum next summer. he’s perfect. it’s disconcerting.

“who were we running away from at your flat? your roommates?” harry asks, twirling a linguine around his fork and looking curiously over at louis.

“ah, no. not officially. the illustrious niall horan, and alex, his girlfriend. they were - um, remember the two respectives at the mcdonald’s and asos? they’re my best friends, maybe. sometimes.”

harry hums. “they seem like they’d make a really good-looking couple.”

louis snorts and presses his thumb and forefinger around the stem of his glass of wine. red wine, pasta, dimmed lights, and a single candle next to the bottle. harry fucking styles. “they do. if alexandra ever changes her mind about having children, they’ll have a real heartbreaker. niall needs an heir anyway.”

harry chokes on the bite he’d been taking. “a bloody heir, oh my god, do i want to know?”

“probably not,” louis admits.

“how’d you lot meet?”

louis arches a brow. “if i didn’t know any better, harry styles, i’d think you were interrogating me.”

a faint tint rises into harry’s cheeks, but he responds all the same, “damn. and here i thought i was being subtle.”

“no worries, talking about my life is one of my best hobbies. niall and i met at uni. it’s a funny story when you, you know, are able to look back at it, but. these kind-hearted blokes were bullying me, some very original uses of poof and cocksucker, the whole nine yards, whatever. but it was late at night and it was, like, three against one? and this was after i’d somehow managed to knock one out. so i’m basically fucked. and then this little bottle blond bitch comes out of nowhere and punches one of the others in the nose and they just fall, it was absolutely beautiful. they collapsed. and it’s niall. he had on some huge fucking heirloom ring that weighed somewhere between two and seventy pounds, leaning towards seventy, and when he pulled back you could see the blood on it, the clean parts reflecting off the streetlights. poetic as fuck. and he turns to the other two and he says in the angrist tone i’ve heard to this day: ‘d’ya one of you motherfuckers wanna go again?’ very fight club, harlequin murders. 1940s detective film, y’know? they scramble away, and i’m stood there with my guardian angel and he’s whining about whether or not he’s missed the screening of the wedding planner going on in the rec center.”

“oh my fucking god,” harry says.

“my thoughts exactly! when he’s finally gotten over it, he asks me if i knew the boys who’d been fucking around with me. i knew one of them, and i give him the name, because, like, why wouldn’t i, he just possibly saved my ass - and he takes out his phone, dials a number. i ask him who he’s calling and he tells me, all matter-of-factly, ‘the dean, mate, who else?’ at this point i’m both convinced he’s both an angel of the lord and also absolutely mad. like... one, why do you have the dean’s phone, and two, why the fuck are you calling the dean at ten in the evening?”

“why was he calling the dean at ten in the evening?”

“turns out,” louis says, pausing and taking a bite of his pasta for good effect, “he’s the dean’s son. the bloody rec center was named after his grandmother, and they’re not even fucking british. but, anyway, he got the one i knew put on probation. didn’t even know there was probation at our uni, actually. but that’s the story and the rest, as they say, is history. it’s fascinating, i know.”

“it really is fascinating,” harry assures him, tilting his head, small smile playing at his lips. “i like hearing you talk,” he admits.

louis bites his lips and raises his leg to press his foot against harry’s calf, and softly croaks out, “you’ve got a way with words, harry styles.”

harry’s smile only gets wider as he presses back.

-

when they’ve finished with dinner, louis’ second helping well and truly demolished and their bottle of wine halfed, harry puts on a movie. louis brings the bottle along with him, screwing the pretense of having class and using a glass, and plops himself onto the huge and comfortable sofa, legs folded under his bum as harry presses play and then turns to him with a question.

“would you like dessert?”

louis tightens his grip on the wine and resists to say the innuendo that’s right on the tip of his tongue. he’s better than this. he is so better than this. “you’ve filled me up so much, i’m not sure if i’ll ever be able to put anything inside of myself for at least a week.” he smiles. harmlessly. he isn’t better than anything.

harry starts choking on air. louis takes a swig from the bottle. thinks about about what else harry could be choking on, and takes another much longer drink.

half an hour into iron man, the two of them are both pleasantly buzzed and warm. harry’s stretched his body along the length of the couch, and louis is sat in between the v of his thighs. harry’s essentially reciting along the entire script, and louis is confused. the alcohol isn’t helping any.

“i am so confused,” he tells harry. “i’ve never seen this film. what’s happening, why is it happening?”

“have you honestly never seen this movie?” harry asks, looking over at louis with an incredulous look in his eyes.

“no, of course not. i’m not big on superhero films.”

harry sighs. “knew you were too good to be true.”

“thanks,” louis drawls. “niall’s obsessed with them, though. he’s been looking into how much it’ll cost to build an iron man suit for the past two years, it’s frightening, he genuinely believes that he could be the next tony stark.”

“has he got any addictions?” harry sounds amused.

“yes,” louis nods sagely. “a crippling dependence on catfish.”

harry hums. “hmm. yes. indeed. he does know that the technology hasn’t actually even been, like, made yet, right? it’s plausible, but scientists haven’t actually been...” he trails off when he sees the look louis is giving him.

“oh my god, you fucking geek, have you researched this, harry styles?”

harry shrugs, tiny grin lighting up his face when he turns back to the tv. “i’ve got a bit of downtime on the weekends.”

louis might be in love and they haven’t even had sex yet, fucking hell.

-

except then they do have sex, kind of, so it’s okay.

louis has been edging closer to harry’s lap the entire movie. for every inch closer to the bottom of the bottle, another inch closer to being on top of harry’s dick. he’s been trailing his fingers along harry’s thigh, too, splaying his palm across harry’s torso and feeling the muscles tremble under his touch.

harry’s been studiously ignoring him, eyes pin rod straight and fixed on the telly. louis can hear his breathing getting heavier, though, can see the flush travelling down his chest and colouring the outline of his birds a pretty pretty pink, can see the bulge of his cock pressing against the inseam of his stupidly tight jeans as he gets harder and harder. he smirks wickedly to himself and leans in to press a kiss against the denim.

harry jolts up, saying desperately, “oh my god, louis,” and pulls louis in by the neck, giving him no choice but to finally climb onto harry’s lap and kiss him back, grinding down

“i win,” he announces, smiling triumphantly against the other boy’s mouth.

“i didn’t know we were in any sort of competition?” harry asks, panting and fitting his hands into the narrow space in between their bodies and undoing louis’ zip and button.

“it’s always a competition with me, harry.” he raises himself up on his knees so that harry can shove his jeans to just below his bum, not missing the way harry’s hands linger and pinch his bum. louis doesn’t even bother with this, he just does the basic necessities and then reaches his hand in and pulls harry out of his jeans, mindful of the sharp teeth of his zipper. harry’s not wearing any pants, cheeky little motherfucker. not little. definitely not little. jesus.

harry moans, head falling onto louis’ shoulder. “fuck.”

“yes,” louis agrees smugly. “we are. don’t you forget about me,” he sings, twisting his wrist and loving the way harry’s hips jerk up as if he’s unable to help himself.

“yeah,” harry repeats, lifting his head and smashing his lips back against louis’. “yeah.”

louis gasps when harry gets his hand around his cock, his strokes on harry’s pausing for a second. he feels like... he’s lost the ability to describe things. he’s been waiting for this for what feels like fifty-seven decades, right, and it’s all coming to fruition. finally. he’s full on pasta and tipsy on wine and drunk on lust and it’s beautiful, it’s so fucking beautiful. harry is so beautiful. his mouth is so beautiful. his cock is absolutely gorgeous.

this is, of course, the very moment that he arches back too much and falls over onto the carpet.

the inertia or gravity or biology - whatever, fuck science, skip school, etcetera - of it has harry toppling down with him, thankfully letting go of louis’ dick beforehand so that the risk of it falling off diminishes a soothing amount.

“we’re fine!” he says far too loudly and to no one in particular.

louis has fallen onto his back, legs spread and one awkwardly propped up. the carpet is chafing uncomfortably below his ass and louis isn’t sure whether to laugh and dig a hole right here and now and never resurface from the pipes. harry’s nestled in between, braced on his elbows on either side of louis’ head. his hair is falling down into his eyes, and when louis glances down, his dick is just... hanging there. he’s almost fully clothed, harry, and then there’s his cock just curving up to his stomach.

harry looks like he’s an inch away from laughing, and when louis makes a disgruntled face up at him, he does just that.

“this isn’t funny,” louis says.

“it’s not,” harry answers, biting his lip hard to stop himself, face red and shoulders shaking softly. his skin’s gone patchy, weird splotches of red scattered across his pale skin. even like this, he’s so fucking attractive louis can hardly believe himself.

louis begins to say, “you’re horri - ” but then harry decides to get back to the show, fisting louis’ cock slowly. “good, you’re so good, ah.”

“i’m gonna - ” harry stops, sits back, gently placing louis’ bent leg down and going through the process to pull louis’ jeans all the way down, leaving his lower half nude to the cool air.

“you too,” louis insists, lightly slapping his thigh.

they make quick work of harry’s denims, and before long, louis has got harry poised over his body, mouth sucking on his neck as he takes both their cocks into his hand, rubbing them together slowly.

louis arches his back off the floor, sneaking a hand under harry’s hand and using the other to grip at his ass and push his hips down closer. harry lifts his head. his eyes are fully blown out, a light ring of green tinged around the edges. he removes the hand that’d been around the two of them, brings it up to louis’ mouth so that he can lick a wet stripe up harry’s filthy palm, looking up at him through his eyelashes and relishing it when harry groans and repalms their dicks.

“you’re so fuckin’ beautiful,” harry mumbles, placing his lips over louis’. they don’t even move, just breathing each other’s air. both their eyes are open, and the way harry’s looking at him makes him feel hot all throughout his insides, and it’s good, it’s nice. “don’t have any idea how long v’wanted to do this to you.” louis looks at harry, curls a mess, lips beesting swollen and hand warm and tight around louis’ cock and their position on the bloody carpet, of all places, and it’s - christ.

“oh,” louis gasps, and then he’s gone, coming between their stomachs with a low whine in the back of his throat. kamikaze winds. too soon, bad pun.

he’s spent, body heavy and lax on the floor, but harry still hasn’t gotten off yet, stroking his own cock desperately, tongue licking into louis’ mouth. louis passes his hand over the still wet come on his torso where his shirt’s been pushed up and pushes harry’s own hands aside, using his come as lubricant to make the glide easy as he focuses on finishing harry off, kissing him all the while.

“harry, c’mon, you’ve got to - ” louis bites down gently on his bottom lip, and harry makes an indiscernible, strangled noise in the back of his throat as he spills into louis’ hands, slumping forward with a heavy sigh.

“you just... wanked me off with your own come,” he finally says after a few moments, the loud sounds of their breathing mixing in with tony stark fighting off the bad guys in the background. “that was fucking filthy.”

“i know,” says louis, a bit giddy. he has reached a state of total nirvana. followed the eightfold path right into harry’s pants. journey to the holy land. he’s pushing it. but, then again, he’s been pushing it his entire life.

“you’re perfect,” harry whispers. “i like you more than i hate aristotle. and the plight of capitalism.”

louis’ heart stops. the back of his eyes are prickling, and his pulse is picking back up in overtime. “i... think i might be ready to go again, fuck, oh. i’m definitely ready to go again.”

harry whimpers.

-

the next morning, after glorious pancakes and blowjobs and really not wanting to leave harry's flat, louis reluctantly gets out of the car in front of his complex, forcing himself not to get back in and reattach himself to harry's lips and never move again. he has to be an adult about this.

he watches harry's car peel out of the parking lot and pouts after it before sighing and walking to the lift, aggressively stabbing the button for up.

last night is definitely ranging up there on the list of his very best nights ever. at least number two. harry is... it's too soon to think about it, he'll get overstimulated and fall into a puddle of skin and blood on the floor and never resurface. he doesn't want to die on the questionable floors of this shitty lift. there’s more semen on these glass walls than there is on harry’s living room carpet right now, and that’s saying a lot.

when he gets inside his flat, he immediately heads for his room. his hair is a wreck and his shirt is the wrong way on and flaky with dried come and this is just. he feels good. he still feels good. he feels we-just-stole-silk-from-china-and-got-away-with-it good. not even finding niall and alexandra still on his bed and the knowledge that he’ll have to burn his sheets can destroy his zen. he snuggles himself between their bodies, glad that they’re at least semi-clothed.

niall stirs awake, scooting closer so he can throw an arm over louis to rest on alex’s hip. “h’wassit?”

“good,” louis mumbles into alex’s neck, pulling the blanket up around the three of them. “he’s good.” he pauses before continuing, “i want him to mongol invade me.”

niall hums and retracts his hand for a second to pat louis’ thigh reassuringly. “don’t ruin th’moment, lou.”

louis sighs contently and closes his eyes, falling asleep cuddled in between his two favourite people with his favourite night right behind him. he’s glad his students were little shits and enabled him into sign up for the field trip.

-

monday morning, louis looks around at his students.

“what can you all tell me me about india’s role in the sea trade?”

twelve out of seventeen raise their hands. louis smiles harmlessly. hey - maybe it’s been working all along.