It's week four of Britain and Ireland's Next Top Model: Girls and Boys, and it is Louis Tomlinson's time to shine. It's been a struggle. He's not one of the Obviously Crafted By The Gods models, he's not the Diva model, he's not even the Underdog model. He figures he's got, like, a five percent chance of winning this thing, since he's been on the bottom once already. Usually he's okay with being on the bottom, but on national telly it's brutal. Because Louis must be the shortest model in history. Because Louis doesn't take directions well. Because Louis doesn't have an eight-pack. Because Louis has too many tattoos.
Mostly, because Louis' a bit of a dick until you get to know him. He thought this would come in handy – Lottie's told him the divas always last a while, and Louis' low bullshit tolerance makes him snappy. Then, during the first judging, Zayn goddamn biggest supermodel in the universe Malik told him to stop being a knobhead or no designer would want to work with him. So Louis adapted. He's an actor at heart, anyway, only got in the fashion industry because it's better money.
He's been on his best behaviour for three weeks, and actually got positive feedback on his change of attitude. Niall even told him last week over a pint that the judges genuinely liked him, they were just worried he didn't have what it took to compensate for his height. (Niall likes Louis best. It could be because Louis' the only one who bothered learning the cameramen's names. It could also be because Louis' the only one who eats junk food.)
So Louis works hard every day to prove that he does have what it takes. He has his strengths.
True, he's just scraping by the height requirement, but runway walk is all about confidence and Louis can be a fierce bitch when he wants to. It's all about context, he learns. When he's on a go-see or a photo shoot he has to be charming and mollified, but when he's up on the catwalk he's supposed to let out his attitude, my clothes are better than yours I look cooler than you and all that. He's learning.
True, the underwear shoot two weeks ago made him so self-conscious he might as well have been back in year ten, but he rocks the more athletic shoots. Hang him from a rafter any day and he'll sell your fashion.
And fine, maybe he doesn't always take directions well, but sometimes the cut of his cheekbones and what he can convey with his eyes are enough.
The point is that it's week four and things are actually looking up for Louis Tomlinson.
It starts with an ad campaign challenge for vegetables, of all things, and Louis sells the fuck out of some carrots. Even Liam, who can be a bit standoffish with the models, gives him a high-five for managing to sound like the queen while talking about the added value of greens. Louis makes sure to sound like a proper Northerner when he discusses Liam's directing of the commercial.
The next day they drive to some warehouse at arse-o'clock, and Zayn's here in all his quiffy glory (seriously, Jesus Christ, how can Louis be expected to take criticism from this demigod when he can't even breathe half the time, Lottie didn't tell him it would be this hard to be surrounded by supermodels, and isn't that cliché?).
"Are you ready for your first editorial shoot?" Zayn asks, and Louis positively perks up.
"Fuck yeah," he mutters, of course heard by everyone, because Louis is exceptionally loud even when trying not to be. It still doesn't taper his excitement. High fashion is his thing. He's still buzzing from the ad challenge and this is the best thing that could have happened today.
Zayn rolls his eyes at him and is probably about to say something cheeky when Liam puts a hand on Zayn's shoulder, visibly reining him in. Louis remembers falling into Top Model marathons with Lottie (occupational hazard of having ten million sisters) and her telling him "Zayn Malik and the director guy, Liam, are totally gay for each other." A quick Google search told him she's full of shit, but right now he's not so sure.
He's distracted from his musings by Zayn carrying on. "For this challenge we have a special guest, who will also join our judging panel this week. Have any of you ever heard of Harry Styles?"
Everyone starts hooting and clapping. Like, everyone in the UK ever. That's what should have happened, anyway. Even Louis, who doesn't exactly breathe and bleed fashion, knows who Harry Styles is. Two years younger than him, he managed to become a renowned fashion photographer at twenty one, a prodigy of some sort, probably rich as hell, and generally hot shit. It's a big deal to be photographed by him, Louis knows that much.
Then Harry Styles appears from behind a wall and Louis' brain shorts out for a few seconds. The thing about photographers is that they don't usually get photographed. The thing about Harry Styles is that he used to model himself. He is the tallest, prettiest and best-dressed guy in a room full of models. His green eyes are wide and warm and his lips are the devil's work and he has tattoos peeking from under his white henley. His smile is like a kitten riding a unicorn up a rainbow. If they had met at a club, Louis would have picked him up in two seconds flat.
Louis is the fourth one up, so by the time he's done with prep he can creep up behind Liam and watch Harry Styles work. He's a bit of a mess. Giving directions seems to be a nightmare for him; he goes from mumbling and making helpless gestures to nearly braining himself on a prop.
When Louis' up, things take a turn for the vaguely sexual.
"Yeah, yeah, give it to me, that's it, spread your legs a bit, there you go."
The camera follows Louis as he does. Maybe if the modelling thing doesn't work out, he could try the porn industry. Then again, he's a bit too stocky to be twinky and a bit too twinky to be anything else. He likes that about himself, though. Well, directors and photographers like that about him. He could pull off pretty and edgy, could do GQ in the morning and a perfume commercial in the afternoon.
If he's honest, the porn industry will probably just take him for his arse. The thought reminds him to lean back casually so as not to put too much emphasis on his bum. He must have overdone it, too caught up in his inappropriate thoughts and the fact Harry fucking Styles is directing him.
"Louis, this is an editorial shoot, not a music video," Liam criticises from his usual perch by the screen.
"Let him do his thing, Payner," Harry fucking Styles says, not taking his eyes off of Louis. It might be the best thing that's ever happened. Louis sticks out his tongue for a second and then Smoulders before anyone can scold him.
Liam stays quiet for about three minutes and fifty shots. Then, "I think we're done."
"Uh," Harry Styles says aggressively, like he's trying to say I'll tell you when we're done but he's too nice for it. Louis catches on, though. It's incredibly hard to contort his body artfully when he wants to grin and pull funny faces. Even Niall's snickering, and he's trying to balance a ten thousand quid telly camera in one hand and a sandwich in the other. While on a Segway.
Liam, actually a decent guy under the responsible director exterior, lets them have their fun for another minute, but then Louis has to be dragged backstage because Aiden is up next.
A few hours later find Louis in front of the judging panel, winning best photo of the week. As if that weren't enough excitement, Harry Styles goes on and on about what a pleasure it was to work with Louis and how he gave him his all. Louis knew he did extremely well this week, but inspiring a world-renowned photographer is an achievement in its own.
Alright, so it's not like Harry spends the entire panel gushing over Louis, but only because he seems to share some history with Nick and keeps ribbing him. Nick is decidedly Louis' least favourite judge. He isn't even the hardest to impress (Liam), the harshest (Eleanor) or the most distracting (Zayn Malik); they just got off on the wrong foot and never seemed to find the right one.
That night, after he's done gloating and Niall's done shooting, Louis sits Niall down to chat. It's quite easy to entrap him – Louis heats up some frozen pizzas and waits. Niall has three before looking at Louis inquisitively. "I feel like you want something."
Louis crosses his ankles daintily. "Your smashing Tyra Banks impression."
"No, no, I feel like it's something else. Though it is smashing, innit?"
Louis doesn't have the heart to tell him his Tyra Banks sounds more like Simon Cowell. Not while he wants something, at least. "You've got that one sorted."
Niall polishes off another slice and reaches up to adjust his snapback, only to throw his hands out and stare at his greasy fingers in horror. Heartbroken, Louis gets him a paper towel to wipe his hands with. "So you know you're my favourite lad with a camera."
"Cheers," Niall says, either to the statement or the gesture.
"You know who else is a lad with a camera?"
"Oh mate, this about Harry Styles?"
Louis throws himself on the kitchen table and gazes into Niall's soul. "What did he say during judging?"
Niall tries to remember, scrunching his nose. "You know I can't tell you that."
Louis won't beg. "Maybe just a hint?"
"Well, he got on with everyone. I think he's good friends with Nick, and he must work with Zayn a lot. He had a good time, I think they talked about having him on again."
Louis' pretty sure multiple exclamation marks have just appeared over his head. He tries to contain himself, just so Niall won't have anything on him. "Well, that's interesting. What'd he say about me?"
"He liked you well enough, started nattering about your fierceness or whatever photographers talk about," he says offhandedly. "They showed him your carrot commercial and he was all over it."
What even. "Seriously?"
"I know, I couldn't believe it either." Louis smacks the smirk right off him. Niall just shoves more pizza in his mouth. Louis wasn't even aware he'd heated up so many. "He likes your attitude, I dunno. Oh, there was something else."
Louis leans on his elbows and flutters his eyelashes at Niall, who swipes at him with a greasy palm and says, "You know how they always give you shit about your height?"
"Yeah, one or two hundred times." It's not like he needs to hide it, Niall is lucky enough to be there for the comments on the panel, the comments during judging, the comments Louis makes in the confession room, and the swearing Louis does when the cameras are off. Niall's blessed.
"So they brought it up again, and he said something like, I'm 1.83 and I walk a runway like a baby giraffe. If he walks as well as he carries himself in a shoot, let him do his thing."
Which might explain Louis winning this week. "Niall, I love you."
"Whatever," Niall says quickly, embarrassed, and Louis knows he means it. Niall doesn't give a shit about any of it. He came here to hang out with hot girls and Zayn Malik all day, eat all the sandwiches, and keep Louis from setting himself on fire.
It's mostly working.
Week five is ridiculous. It starts with Liam waking them up at six a.m. for a workout, which means it starts with Louis wanting to set himself on fire.
Liam is generally so polite and kind, that at first you don't notice how commanding he is. That is until he gets Louis on a treadmill and is yelling, "It's not a catwalk, Louis, just bloody run."
It's been like this three days a week since they got to the house, and other than snacking with Niall once or twice, Louis' been a good boy. He does his exercises with Ashton, his last roommate standing, and said a mournful goodbye to his tummy and a happy hello to his biceps.
The point is that Louis gets it, and he feels pretty good about himself, would even do another underwear shoot. But that's no reason for Liam to abuse him. "First the makeover, now this?" Louis gasps out after Liam ups the speed again.
"All we did was give you a quiff and a wax," Liam retorts. "Look at Perrie, we bleached her hair, do you see her complaining?"
"Perrie looks like an angel, I hardly see how that's relevant." Then he looks at Perrie, who's doubled over on the floor with an abandoned skipping rope next to her. She looks about ready to strangle Liam with it. Louis loves her. She eats with him and Niall sometimes. He hopes to fuck she hasn't told Liam that.
"Please run faster than you talk," Liam says. Niall snorts. Niall, who's been an absolute shit by filming all over the place on his fucking Segway. He doesn't even do it to taunt them; he's actually emotionally attached to his Segway. The only other person Louis' ever seen touch it is Zayn Malik, probably due to being Zayn Malik.
Louis snaps. "Can my reward be punching you?"
Probably not the best thing to say to one of the five people that decide his fate every week, but Liam actually lights up. "Let's do kick-boxing!"
Louis nearly trips. "Really?"
Ten minutes later he's trying to punch Liam Payne. He's thwarted each time, but keeps going, doesn't notice how much he's sweating or that his body's near-collapsing. When he manages to finally hit Liam's brick wall of a stomach (not that Liam let him), he decides that they could be friends, once this is over and he doesn't resent Liam for having chest hair.
He doesn't notice how abnormally long the workout session has been until his legs simply give out. From the floor he spots a digital clock on the wall opposite him, and it's already eight in the morning. When he looks up again, Liam has his Business Snapback on. Louis thinks something's off.
"Let's line up," Liam calls out to everyone. "I have a surprise for you lot. Well, actually, we have a surprise."
After groaning for two minutes straight, Louis gathers his strength enough to jump to his feet. He nearly drops again when Harry Styles stumbles into the gym. He's wearing flannel today. It's quite showy. He has a cluster of tattoos high on his biceps. Louis' high on adrenaline and Harry is not helping. Liam explains the challenge – something about an online video lookbook for sportswear – Louis can barely hear him over the blood roaring in his ears.
He currently feels like a wrung-out rag, but Harry's looking right at him and he can feel it like fire on his skin, the way Harry's eyes run over his sweaty form, pausing over his bare chest, then his boxing gloves.
He currently feels quite hot.
Liam sends them off to shower, hair and makeup, and Louis trails behind completely not on purpose. What he wants to do is approach Harry. What he really wants to do is approach Harry, pour water all over himself in a sexy manner, get some on Harry, offer to take off his clothes, invite him to the showers, and then maybe get to know him. What he does is approach Niall and ask him quietly what their challenge is.
Niall rolls his eyes. "It's a video. Styles is gonna direct you working out while someone from JD Sports tapes you."
"But he's not a director," Louis blurts.
"Are you complaining?" Niall asks, stopping his Segway with a screech. It probably has a name. Niall is ridiculous.
"Fuck no," Louis decides. He's got a feeling this is just a decoy challenge to throw them off, that the serious photo shoot is going to be with Harry as well. He's really not complaining.
When it's his turn to shoot, the gym has already been transformed into a set – lights everywhere, Liam sitting beside the photographer, and Harry standing by the screen and watching him come in. Louis feels a bit weird; he's got Nike track pants and a simple tank top on. Not exactly high fashion, but that only means he's got to work harder during the shoot to come off as a model and not a sweaty punk.
Harry saunters up to him (the only thing running through Louis' head is baby giraffe), and says, "How are you?"
Louis smiles. This is very casual. "Good, you know. Just got my arse kicked by Liam."
"Promise I'll be nicer," Harry says, and Louis has to bite his tongue before he says anything about his arse to Harry. "So," he adds, louder, reminding Louis that Josh is lurking behind them and filming everything. "I liked what you did earlier, it, uh, looked good, so I got you something."
He then points to a punching bag. Liam is absolutely smirking at him when he dangles a couple of boxing gloves at him. "Great," Louis mutters, grabbing the gloves. It cheers him up immensely to imagine Perrie posing with skipping rope.
Once he has his gloves on, Harry starts directing him. "Right, so yeah, the idea here is to seem comfortable while active. Like, you know, if you could look like me while working out, you'd work out more. Yeah?"
Louis gets it, he thinks. He draws his elbow back and hears the shutter clicking, so he pauses. Harry makes a frustrated sound. "Don't fake it, though, it needs to look like you're actually working out. I need to get you hot and sweaty."
Louis fucking has to stare at the punching bag and count to ten so as not to say anything. He doesn't even flinch. He should get a reward, really. He turns his head to look at the camera, casually glancing over. Harry's both chewing and tapping on his lower lip, but the corners of his mouth are pulled up in a smirk. The little shit knows what he's doing. If Liam annoyed him into boxing, Harry is frustrating him into it. Everyone has their methods.
The question is, how the fuck does one box with a heavy bag.
Liam's all too eager to answer. There's probably a story there, like how he was a personal trainer and then his parents were gunned down and he became Batman but his true passion has always been for fashion. Kind of like Tim Gunn. "Right, so you gotta get in a stance where you can keep your balance," Liam starts, and Louis does as he's told. "You should move around to defend yourself, but when you punch, plant your feet on the ground. Throw fast punches, don't just throw yourself at the bag."
"Yeah, like, remember that this is a video lookbook," Harry puts in. "Don't worry about holding a pose for too long."
The first punch is a flop. It's more of a pathetic little push, and then stepping back as the bag swings around to slam into him. Louis breathes in and remembers that Liam told him to move around. Alright, fuck it, Louis can be graceful, and the camera is on one of those wheelie things so it's tracking everything. The second punch is solid, and he feels his bicep tightening to absorb the whiplash and plants his feet harder. Three-four-five come quickly as Louis gets the hang of it. He thinks he's managing to keep his face this side of intense, and he punches mostly with his right hand so his tattoos are showing. If there ever was a photo shoot where they won't be airbrushed out, this might be it.
His instincts seem to serve him, as he vaguely registers Harry giving him assurances again. He wraps it up in ten minutes, hearing angry music in his head and feeling exceptionally badass. When Harry tells him they're done he throws one last punch and then tears the gloves off with his teeth, because it looks cool in movies and why the fuck not. He stretches his arms for a bit, frowning when he realises he'll have to shower again.
"Did you get that?" he hears Harry ask quietly. He turns around only to see the camera still filming him. Harry's staring especially intently at the screen. Well, what the hell. Louis stretches his arms as high as they’ll go, and then lifts his tank to wipe his face, clenching his abs. If he had a water bottle, he's not ashamed to say he'd spray himself with it in a sexy manner.
Harry's gone beet red, but when they make eye contact he smiles awkwardly and tells him to come see the footage. It's a tight squeeze in front of the computer, between the photographer, directors, and Louis. That's why he's pressed up against Harry's side. The invitation to the showers is so on the tip of his tongue.
He was right about the decoy challenge. The next day, Liam takes them to a huge garage. Something about posing with props yesterday, posing with cars today. Louis' in the middle of a joke about being a pin-up girl when he spots Harry Styles casually lounging in a vintage car, chic shades on and hair taller than usual. Louis is pretty sure his daily consumption of Harry Styles will give him heart palpitations. He could sue Zayn for this.
Harry's quite excited when he tells them he's got a bit of a thing for classic cars, that he apparently owns the 70's Ford Capris that he drove in with, and that he'll be the photographer for this retro shoot. Louis' more than distracted, struggling with the combination of Harry's bright eyes and the urge to fuck him against the bonnet of his beautiful car.
"Remember, we're not making a dirty calendar," Liam reminds them five minutes before Louis' spreading himself as lewdly as possible over Harry's own car. Liam's cursing more than directing at this point, so Louis forces himself to do some model poses as well as the porn ones, but Harry's totally playing along with him and that's what matters. Even if Perrie calls him a slag afterwards, and Louis has to ask for her nail file to get flakes of white paint from under his nails.
At least he made an impression.
Week six convinces Louis that Harry's the only photographer in the fashion industry. He just keeps showing up. This time he's not even doing the photographing, he's just there to probably torment Louis.
Because, of course, "This week is all about chemistry."
Louis raises his eyebrow at Liam, wondering how the most straight-laced guy in the room is going to direct them to sell sex. Mostly, though, he's wondering how he's supposed to sell sex on his own.
The mystery is solved when Liam adds, "You'll have a partner for this."
Louis automatically catches Leigh-Anne's eyes, since it'll be hetero partners and they got along well enough in the Goth challenge. He could probably muster up some sexual chemistry there.
Only: "Harry, could you come in?"
Cue: the bane of his existence. Louis' heart just stops. His last hope for mercy is dashed when Liam says, "Harry will be modelling with both the girls and the boys, so try to be comfortable with each other and remember that this is about intimacy. Make it hot."
Jesus Christ. Niall is most definitely cackling directly at him. Louis makes it through the introduction of the photographer, the initial instructions, and hair and makeup in a haze of emotional trauma. Seriously, Zayn will be sued.
Once he's alone on the set, which looks a bit like an office, Louis decides to just fake it. He'll be fine, it's only portraying sexual chemistry with a hot male model. The fact he's actually incredibly attracted to him shouldn't distract Louis. He thinks.
He calms down considerably when Harry comes in. True, Harry's after hair and makeup. And wearing skin-tight jeans and a jumper that looks liquid and scoops past his tattoos. And there's a swagger in his step that definitely isn't there when he's stumbling around with his camera. But there's still an easy smile on his lips, something familiar in his big eyes when he says a friendly, "Hello again."
"Do they pay you per challenge?" Louis asks, smiling back.
Harry snorts. "Not really." He might as well have said, honey, they couldn't afford me. But he didn't, because Harry's nice. "They pay me with nudes of Zayn."
Louis bursts out laughing. Maybe not that nice. "Which you probably shot."
"Perks of the job," Harry says, shrugging. Louis' still chuckling to himself when Harry adds, "So this could either be really awkward or really fun."
Louis thinks he should make a point. "Don't worry, I'm extremely comfortable with men."
Harry lifts a hand to run through his hair, then remembers that he's had it done five minutes ago and drops his arm uselessly. "Yeah, uh," cough, "me too," brain damage for Louis, "so just do your thing."
"Yeah," the photographer adds, startling Louis. He had no idea they were already set up. "Get closer and we'll start."
This might be awkward after all.
Louis hesitates to put his hands on Harry, so he sort of hovers awkwardly for a second. Harry clears his throat politely, but he looks amused. "Well?"
So Louis puts a hand on his chest. He's so solid. Like, Louis didn't actually expect his hand to go through him, but he didn't expect Harry's pecs to be so firm either. It encourages him to put his other hand on Harry's hip. He keeps their bodies apart, though, and suddenly the photographer's voice cuts through the mass of calculations in Louis' head.
"I'm gonna need more!"
Harry's looking at him strangely. "Just step closer."
Out of principle, instead of stepping forward, he pulls Harry to him by the belt loops and runs his hand over his thigh, squeezing a bit. Harry's legs are fucking endless. "Are you directing me?" Louis asks.
"Force of habit?" Harry asks, but it's more of a statement. Louis doesn't bother to answer anyway, as he's a lot more interested in the way Harry's amusement has turned to something else. "Can you push me around a bit?"
"It'll look good for the camera. Since I'm bigger than you," Harry explains, somehow making it not sound like a sleazy excuse. Not that Louis' ever needed an excuse to manhandle guys like Harry. If there are guys like Harry.
"I'm not a fucking hobbit," he says, as an alternative to anything else going through his brain.
So Harry crowds him back against a wall, hands framing Louis' hips. "See?"
No, Louis doesn't see anything past Harry's broad chest and narrow hips and big hands, fitting easily against him. "No."
"Since the lights are behind me, you're in my shadow and the shot is no good," Harry explains, voice low and sweet and a bit hypnotising.
Louis shakes his head and pushes Harry back, more roughly than intended, until there's a wall behind him and a window to his right. He doesn't know shit about composition, but he figures the light does hit him this way, and Harry might be bigger than him, but splayed against a wall he looks vulnerable and waiting to be taken.
It takes all Louis has not to throw himself at him, stretch up to suck a bruise into his neck, his obscene bottom lip. "Look down," Harry says, a bit breathless. "Your eyelashes –"
"I know what I'm doing," Louis snaps, frustrated with himself. The easiest thing to fall back on is selling the clothes, so Louis grabs Harry's hands and wraps them around his own tie, while he looks down and works on Harry's belt.
The photographer sounds like he's coming, vaulting around them, but Louis can admit he's not looking forward to getting the shot and having to back off Harry. So he gives him something else, tries leaning on Harry without wrinkling the clothes, pushes a hand into his curls and looks up intensely so the light will reflect off his eyes.
The thing is, Louis' wearing a stifling three-piece suit while Harry's in a comfy jumper (that costs more than Louis makes in a month), yet he radiates heat when Louis touches him, pliant and giving for him in a way that Louis doesn't think is necessarily editorial. And Louis doesn't want this shot to be about naked want, he doesn't want the panel to see how Louis' contemplating jumping Harry's bones right here with the camera on them.
Harry must catch on, and he puts a calming hand on Louis' shoulder, leans down to whisper in his ear like it's part of the shoot. "You're an actor, yeah?"
Louis nods, opens his mouth a bit for the camera.
"Look at the set. Looks a bit like an executive office, yeah? Big windows, big desk, big couch. Look at our clothes. Why are you in a suit but I'm in casual clothes? Are you the boss here? Am I your boyfriend, did I come to surprise you at work? Am I allowed to do that? Or am I the boy toy you keep from your wife? Your dirty little secret? Are you gonna take me right here on your big desk? Leave marks on me so I can tell my mates all about my hot, older boyfriend?"
Louis doesn't know what takes over him at that moment. It's Harry whispering in his ear, painting him a dirty picture with sudden confidence and clarity, none of the usual rambling. It's Louis taking all the sexual energy buzzing under his skin and throwing it into a role. It's being a powerful executive for five minutes and throwing his lanky, student boyfriend on his leather couch, sliding up his jumper to nose along his abs, not quite daring to lick but close enough.
He doesn't even think about Harry stretching his legs to show off the jeans, or Harry fixing Louis' fringe for the shot. He doesn't even think about his facial expressions or angles. For five minutes, he's not even in a photo shoot. And it's never happened to him before; usually he's either extremely professional and dedicated or extremely silly and ridiculous. Harry's directed him into a new place, a natural way to model.
He snaps out of it when Liam yells at them that they already have the shot and they did fabulously. Louis takes a moment to process that whatever it was, it worked, it got a good shot. It takes him another moment to realise he's got a hand on Harry's arse and a belt in his mouth.
He feels himself flush like he hasn't since he was thirteen and his mum caught him wanking – an image that saves his pants from feeling especially tight right now. It also helps to get off of Harry and throw the belt on the floor. "Christ, you're a tease," he says, trying to make a joke out of how offensively breathless he sounds. "Good thing he stopped us before I spanked you."
"Yeah," Harry agrees. Louis won't let himself look at him, so the only way to gauge how Harry's doing is through his voice. Which is a shit indicator, since it's always rough and turned on. Maybe Louis shouldn't have engaged him in conversation. Or used the word spank. "We were going for Attitude, not a fetish mag."
Okay, since Louis used "spank", he deserved Harry saying "fetish". He finally looks up, and has to bite his lip. Harry's still lying on the couch, hair artfully dishevelled and shirt still shoved up to reveal several tattoos Louis immediately wishes he hadn't seen. His necklaces seem intent on strangling him.
Harry gets up to get restyled and touched up, then gets distracted by helping the set guys clean up and bringing everyone food. Louis resolutely tears his eyes from him and walks over to Liam to look at the shots. Which, Jesus. Harry was absolutely right, Louis looks good dominating a guy twice his size. It makes the sharp suit look powerful, which was the entire point. It's irrelevant that Harry looks wrecked, stretched out like that with his eyes closed and his obscene mouth hanging open, and Louis looks like he's about to tear him apart. It looks just deliberate enough that the panel will compliment Louis' pose and fierceness, like he was just modelling. Like he'll put this in his book rather than his wank bank.
Louis shuffles off the set just as George steps up. He contemplates watching how his competitor does, but as soon as Harry approaches him with a friendly smile Louis decides against it. Because he's confident enough in his shot. Also because he's a possessive twat. But that's moronic, so Louis ignores that and changes into his casual jeans with a sigh of relief.
Later that week, the catwalk challenge is all about sexual energy, too, but thankfully Harry Styles isn't involved this time. Louis is paired up with Perrie, and she gives him a tasteful little lap dance on the runway. They get along brilliantly, so it's really not that hard to play along with her.
Eventually judging comes, and Louis' a bit disappointed to find the photographer, rather than Harry, on the panel. Four models get called up before him, and as each photo appears on the screen Louis' life flashes before his eyes.
Since it was a sexual shoot, there are shots of some hungry gazing and clothes-grabbing. But Louis is apparently the only one that pinned Harry down to the couch and bit his collarbone. He had no idea it would look this extreme out of the moment.
As soon as his photo appears on the screen behind him, the judges ooh and aah, making Louis fucking giggle nervously and shuffle his feet. It's a shot from near the end, where Harry already had his shirt hanging off his shoulder and Louis had his belt in his hand. He can't even compare these poses to the shots the other models got.
He's holding his breath until the second Zayn says, "That's gorgeous, where did that come from?"
Louis stays silent as a debate stirs the panel. "Look how intense his eyes look," Eleanor comments.
Nick huffs, "I'm trying, but I can't look away from his arse."
Liam smacks him on the head. "You could have said that more appropriately."
"Alright, from an editorial point of view, I like what you did with your bodies," Nick amends. "You're not blocking each other; it's like you're moving with each other. It really brings out both your outfits, how he's casually lying there in his comfy, casual clothes while you're taking charge in the business suit. Really good job, Louis."
"Yeah, brilliant," Liam agrees, smiling at Louis. "I could see you took it very seriously in the shoot, and it shows."
Before Louis can come up with any type of response that isn't "I can't believe you bought it, that was basically an entire roll of me aggressively wanting to shag Harry Styles", Zayn says, "Let's see what Harry's feedback was."
He pulls out a piece of paper and clears his throat. "Favourite, very fun to work with, really got into it, extremely professional, an arse – well," he cuts himself off hurriedly. Nick bursts out laughing, and crouches over the table to snatch the paper away from Zayn.
"He's a little shit, innit?" he asks, tone fond.
Louis wants the ground to swallow him whole. When he sees Harry next, he will kick him in the face. Friends don't talk about their friends' arses on national telly. The rest of the panel is a blur of compliments and Louis blustering about how difficult it was to get in the right headspace and make it sensual rather than sexual or some bullshit.
When they call them all back, Zayn calls Louis first. "Louis, we agreed with Harry. Your shot was our favourite. Very good work this week," he says.
So yeah, Louis won a challenge and spent an entire morning groping Harry Styles. Week six is a good week.
Two weeks after that, Louis wins a challenge (like spiders are going to scare him), and he gets to take two models to an industry party. He picks Perrie and Leigh-Anne, so he won't be in direct competition suit-wise. He realises when they get there it wouldn't have mattered if he'd picked Ashton and looked worse, since he loses the girls almost immediately upon entering the trendy club.
The first thing he does is get a drink, and then he psyches himself up. This is going to be great. It's an amazing opportunity to meet editors and casting directors, designers and photographers. Louis' full of charm and good humour, getting a few numbers should be easy. He's been through too much in the last eight weeks not to think about future jobs. If this is going to be his career, he's gotta start somewhere.
Then he spots Harry Styles by the bar and, yeah, there goes that plan. He's in a formal suit, black on black, but the jacket is unbuttoned and his hair is as rock 'n' roll as ever. He's devastating. Louis can't help drifting closer to him, never mind the way Harry grins when he spots him.
"They let you out now?" Harry asks, leaning down towards him despite the fact it's relatively quiet here.
"I'm old enough. Look, no leash," Louis replies, tugging on his tie.
"Impressive. Why are you really here?"
"You know, socialising with the who's who." He points around as if he recognises anyone besides Harry.
Harry still looks delighted. "Can I get you a drink while you do that?"
Louis smiles and points at the drink he's only just gotten. "But I can get you one while I do that."
Before Harry can reply, Louis' already leaning across the bar, mostly because he fills out his slacks quite nicely and Harry should appreciate that. Harry looks like the type who buys fruity drinks, so he gets him a cocktail and insists on an umbrella. It pays off when he returns to Harry and gives him the drink. Harry beams like a Christmas light and sticks the umbrella behind his ear. He's despicably lovely.
"Hey, did you win the challenge where we nearly shagged?" he asks suddenly, making Louis nearly snort his pint. Maybe he's just despicable.
"Yeah, actually," he says. Harry claps his shoulder. "Did you make Zayn read something about my bum?"
"That I did." He sounds completely harmless and innocent. "Only good things, I promise."
"Well, I guess that's good enough," Louis supplies. "And here I thought it was too big for modelling."
Harry looks surprisingly fierce when he says, "That's bullshit. You can get a good photo out of anyone."
"You know modelling's about more than that."
"Yeah, that's how I know your personality will get you the rest of the way. You can do anything you want, Lou."
Louis' speechless for a moment. It's surreal to hear something like that from Harry. Not because he's mostly a stranger, nor because he actually can open a lot of doors for Louis, but because – he might be the only person in the fashion industry that isn't jaded. He's painfully earnest and passionate about what he does, and Louis just has to buy that Harry truly believes in him. It makes the offhand remark something of a revelation.
Having no fucking clue how to respond, Louis turns to sarcasm. "And one day, all this'll be mine?"
It takes Harry a moment. Then he barks a laugh. "Everything the light touches."
So Louis can't quite keep his hands to himself. Disney references do it for him, what can he say. He wraps an arm around Harry's ridiculously broad shoulders and sneaks a sip of his cocktail. Harry leans a bit into him and asks, "I'm guessing you're here as part of the competition."
Louis nods. "Won a challenge."
Harry sucks on his straw for an obscenely long time. "That's too bad."
Louis leans even closer to him, thinks he must have heard wrong. "What?"
Harry whispers the answer in his ear. "It's too bad I can't take you home tonight."
Louis' body sort of locks. Maybe his brain does too. Harry is definitely not helping by pressing his lips to Louis' ear. It is so, so, so bad he can't take him home tonight, Louis can't even believe it, he wants to quit the show right fucking now, Jesus Christ. "Yeah," is all he manages to say. "Two more weeks, if I stay on. Will you come judge again?"
"Definitely not. What did you have to do today to come here?"
Louis shivers at the memory. "Take a picture with some spiders, naked."
"Aren't spiders always naked?"
Louis laughs and untangles himself from Harry to get his pint. "I was naked."
Harry's eyebrows shoot up. "Who was taking the photos?"
It sounds more pointed than anything Louis' ever heard Harry say. "Eleanor Calder."
"Shit, I like her. I'm a bit jealous." Of course he'd just say that. Louis runs a hand through Harry's curls, making Harry sigh.
"You're a bit ridiculous." I a bit like you.
"Obviously, I used to model."
"Why'd you stop, by the way?" It might be too personal, but Louis doesn't know if he'll get the chance to chat with Harry like this anytime soon. Harry could find ten other models to take home in two weeks. Not that he thinks Harry's like that, but – Louis' naturally suspicious of beautiful boys in nice suits.
Harry answers breezily. "I started at sixteen, right? Burnt out a bit. It's hard to find genuine people in this industry. I guess I got fucked over too many times and got sick of it."
Louis blinks. "Well shit Harry, am I looking forward to my modelling career now."
"You're not like me, I think. You've got this –" he waves his hand in Louis' general direction. "You could handle yourself in the lion's den."
"What, because I'm bitchier than you?" he asks, a bit harshly.
Harry turns huge eyes to him, surprisingly sensitive about the possibility of offending people. He really doesn't belong in this industry. To be fair, Louis thinks the only place Harry Styles belongs in is a magical forest. "You're strong, is what I'm trying to say," Harry clarifies, mildly distressed. "And if you burn out you could always host a reality show."
Louis laughs. "I dunno, since I met you I think my fallback career should be photography. Wearing hipster clothes, bossing everyone around all day, being surrounded by beautiful people."
"Can't complain," Harry admits, running a gentle finger over the back of Louis' neck. Louis ducks his head. He's smiling like an idiot. "You should probably go mingle."
"I am," Louis points out.
"I meant with important people. There are GQ people here, Ralph Lauren, that should be your market."
"Well." Louis doesn't pout. "Wanna introduce me?"
Harry accepts the compromise. "I'd love to."
So Louis hangs off his arm and makes sure to be extra charming to anyone they come across, as Harry's catching the whiplash of it. By the time Niall finds him, Louis' buzzing and giddy. "Mate, car's here," Niall says.
Louis groans. "Do we have to go back to the house?"
"Week isn't over. You'll probably have an early start tomorrow. Which means I'll have to wake up even earlier so I can shoot you ugly fucks waking up. So stop being a twat and come on."
Fine, he has a point, but Harry's so fucking warm and comforting and he hasn't left his side in two hours. "Have you already detained Pezza?"
Niall squints at him suspiciously. Then, since it is Niall, he just takes a swig of his pint and says, "You got five more minutes," before swaggering away.
Louis grabs Harry's hand and pulls him toward the fire exit. "You heard the man."
Harry's actually giggling behind him. He laughs harder when Louis finds the door is locked and his brilliant escape has been compromised. While he tries jiggling the door open, Harry closes in behind him until he's flush against him. "Now what?" he whispers.
Louis admits defeat and turns around. Harry's long arms are caging him in, and he looks endlessly fond and endlessly attractive. This time he doesn't hesitate before planting his hands on Harry's chest and hip. He pulls him in tight. So it's not a dance club, but they're pretty secluded and Harry's pretty pretty and Louis leans up to kiss him.
Harry opens up immediately, slumps down either to be at Louis' level or because his knees turned to jelly. Louis can relate. His hand is twisted in Harry's jacket and he's stretching up to get more of his taste, his smell. When Harry's hand lands on his arse he lets out a tiny sound, unconsciously grinding up against him.
"Boo Bear, Boo Bear, your mum is waiting at check-out number three, do hurry the fuck up!"
Niall might as well have doused him with ice water. Louis springs apart from Harry and swears so much Harry starts laughing. "I take it you're Boo Bear and that was the drunk cameraman with the mic?"
"That was the rude cameraman," Louis corrects, as the ground doesn't swallow him despite his best efforts.
"Why Boo Bear?"
"Because he has a heart, and yelling my real name from the stage would've ended my career before it started."
"If he had a heart –"
"I know," Louis interrupts, kissing him one more time. "I gotta go before I turn into a pumpkin."
"Okay," Harry says, long-sufferingly. "Do you have phones in that house?"
"Yeah, it's not the Amazing Race. But we can't call people. I mean, just in front of the cameras. And no Internet."
"What's the policy on texting?"
Louis grins and reaches out. "Gimme."
Harry texts him the very next morning. "Good luck!"
To which Louis replies, "unconventional runway challenge);"
"What's unconventional?" Harry asks.
Louis thumbs the answer while Lou gels his hair up. "middle of oxford street"
"that's easy." And then he sends a video of himself catwalk-turning in the middle of the street, looking fucking gorgeous.
Louis sighs and sends the video to his own email, just to be safe. "you make anything look easy."
So Louis does. And he makes it into the final four of Britain's Next Top Model.
Even as Louis tells George he can sleep where he stands, he knows his day's not over. For one, it's only 7 p.m. Then there's the fact he's just failed miserably in an editorial shoot, got called out by both the photographer and Liam, and feels a bit of a cold coming on. Crashing doesn't seem to be in the cards for him.
What he didn't expect was to open the door for his mum. Like, in a million years.
"What the fuck," he says, very calmly and not at all shrieking, and then wraps his mum in an enormous hug. They're crying before he even lets her go. They talk on the phone every week, and Louis sneakily texts all his sisters, but the separation has been hard on him.
He moved to big scary London three years ago, and worked hard every day to support himself, send some cash home and go to auditions and go-sees. So it's not like he visited them every day before going on the show, but being in this intense competition, watched 24/7 and cut off from the world for two months made him miss the comfort of home. Actually having his mum in front of him is unreal.
"Jesus Christ, Lou," someone says in response to his maybe-shrieking. His heart seizes. Yes, that's Lottie behind his mum. Louis shrieks again and pulls Lottie into a hug, making her whine when he kisses her forehead and cheeks. "Oh my god you're so embarrassing someone is filming this Lou."
Louis even loves his teenage sister. That's how much he's missed home. (Zayn might not have personally brought them to Louis, but he's still the one Louis thinks of when he sends his thanks and praise to the ether.) His mum is apparently done smiling at them. She's all business when she herds them into the house and glares daggers at Niall for filming Lottie.
"Who are you now?" she asks pointedly.
Louis is absolutely delighted when Niall sputters and lowers the camera. "I'm Niall, I'm from the production crew of BNTM."
"Are you even from Britain?"
He turns the camera off at that, horrified. The moment the lens isn't directed at her underage daughter, his mum transforms into her usual charming self. (Louis feels better himself, though he can tell Lottie's a bit upset – she put on makeup for this.) "So Louis' told me you like sandwiches. Wanna help me make some?"
Niall nearly drops the camera to the ground. Louis feels a tug to his heart, but then Lottie's tugging on his hand, and he figures, yeah, sister first, mum later. "So what's up?"
Lottie grins at him. "I'm in the BNTM house. It's pretty bloody brilliant. Show me around already."
"Brat." Louis rolls his eyes, but does take her around the house. It is great – he has his own room since Ashton left last week, and everything else is like living in a very pricey hotel. She keeps talking about the previous series and how cool and embarrassing it is that her brother's on reality telly. Louis manages to completely block out his shit day, because in her eyes, his life is pretty sweet right now. She's mostly right.
They stop in front of the Wall of Fame (30% winning photos, 70% Zayn Malik in black and white). Lottie's currently staring at a shirtless picture of Zayn staring intensely off-camera. Louis can't tell if he's more amused or scared that he can completely relate to her awe. "What's he like?" she asks quietly.
"He's actually pretty goofy," he admits, laughing when she gasps.
"Shut up, he's not."
Zayn showing them the don'ts of modelling is basically the best part of his week, when Harry isn't involved. "His voice is high, too."
"What, like yours?"
Louis frowns. "What's wrong with my voice?"
"Besides sounding like a chipmunk? Wait, Zayn Malik sounds like a chipmunk?"
"Why is it adorable when Zayn Malik does it but embarrassing when I do it?" he asks, staring her down.
She doesn't even blink before saying, "It's not embarrassing, it's just really annoying."
So Louis shoves her a bit, and she punches his arm and then hugs him. "I did miss you a bit, tosser."
He smiles at the picture of Zayn smoking. "You too."
"Have you quite finished?"
She elbows him and steps back from the picture of Zayn, eyes still on the wall. "So what other celebrities have you met?"
Well. "You know, just. We met Lily Cole, shot with Craig McDean." His phone is burning a hole in his pocket. He'd been texting with Harry on the way to the house. He's not really sure why he wants to keep it a secret, but, like. He's pretty sure he's next to go home. And if he does, all he'll have left is an insane book and Harry Styles' number. He'd like to at least kiss him again before he jinxes it.
"Ooh, I know her, I saw – what the bloody hell," she cuts herself off, pointing at the wall. "Lou." Specifically, to Louis' winning photo from week six. "Lou." More specifically, to Louis straddling Harry Styles.
Okay, lesson learnt, he'll never lie to his little sister again. "And Harry Styles."
"Oh my god," she mutters, practically sticking her nose in the photo. Louis is beyond embarrassed. "I thought he was a photographer! Like, a mad fit photographer."
"He is. Like, he used to model. He did that with us a few weeks ago."
"Fuck, that's so cool. You look really good, Louis. Proper top model."
It's weird that Louis' fate has been hinging on looking really good for two months, but hearing it said so casually by his sister makes him cringe. "Right. Liam Payne trains us."
"Oh, I love him. Say, he and Zayn –"
"We're not talking about this," Louis cuts her off.
She's smirking when she says, "And Harry Styles?"
"It's just a photo –" No, wait, lesson learnt. "Also we snogged a bit."
She squeals and covers her mouth, which doesn't actually make her any quieter. "Nice one!"
Louis laughs. "That's what I said."
They're quiet for a bit, her probably giving him space to talk about his thing with Harry and him unwilling to add anything. Eventually she says, "I don't actually want to hear anything about this, since this picture is more than enough of my brother for my eyes, but. Proud of you for not – you know. For telling everyone."
Louis rubs a hand over his face. "I'm trying to be a male model, would anybody have thought I was straight?"
"Don't be a twat," she tells him off, hitting his arm again. "I'm happy for you. Don't let mum see this picture though, she'll want to have him over for dinner."
"I'm pretty sure he'll charm her socks off." And by pretty sure he means entirely convinced.
"You thought about it? That's adorable." He has no idea how his sixteen year old sister can make him feel like a sixteen year old boy. Before he can come up with a proper reply, his mum and Niall come into the room, still talking about cooking.
By the time they leave, Louis' eaten mum-made food (sandwiches, but still mum's), cried on his mum's shoulder while Lottie, Perrie and Perrie's mum bonded over being girls or whatever, and told Harry to thank Zayn for him.
"Not done yet," Niall tells him before he even makes it to the staircase. Right. He trudges to the little "confession" studio and says as little as possible about the joy of seeing his family and the misery of his general existence. It takes him twenty minutes.
When he's done, instead of giving him the usual thumbs up Niall looks at him with concern. "Wanna get some ice cream, mate? I think you might need it."
Louis hugs him almost as tightly as he had his sister. "Yes please."
Niall pats his back awkwardly and then drags him to the kitchen. He opens the freezer door silently, and then just looks from it to Louis and back again. "What?" Louis asks.
Niall's stare turns pleading.
"Fuck's sake, you want me to turn around?"
Niall grins and nods. Louis huffs but turns around, seeing as arguing might not lead to ice cream. If he thought about it, he'd wonder why the fuck Niall even keeps secret food stashes in the Top Model freezer. He'd guess Niall keeps food stashes everywhere he might be. He'd probably come to the conclusion Niall is a pixie. But he doesn't want to give it too much thought.
He grabs two spoons and bowls and sits down, staring despondently at the fucking huge tub of Chocolate Fudge Ben and Jerry's. He's not sure whether his stomach or his mouth is making noises at this point. It takes considerable willpower to scoop up only three spoonfuls, while Niall disregards his bowl completely and digs straight into the tub.
"You disgust me," Louis states, secretly wishing the ice cream would be magical body-swapping frozen goods and he could be Niall indefinitely.
"Cheers," Niall responds, chocolate ice cream covering his tongue. "I only had like five sandwiches for dinner."
"Yeah, they were my mum's," Louis points out, glaring half-heartedly.
Niall backtracks immediately. "She's lovely. These reunion episodes always make me miss home."
Louis arches an eyebrow. "How long have you been working on the show?"
"About two years now. It's a good gig."
It's very Niall to consider two years of employment as a gig. "Not a long-term career, then?"
"Nah, I'm a designer."
Louis' spoon freezes half-way to his mouth. "What?"
Niall pushes back his snapback in surprise. "Fashion designer? Didn't you know?"
He only takes the bite because the ice cream was starting to melt on the table. He's still very much shocked. "You are the most random person ever."
Niall laughs. "How'd you think I could afford Craic?"
"Is that Irish for pussy?"
"Jesus Christ," Niall sputters, somehow keeping all the ice cream in his mouth. He's a surprisingly neat eater. "No you dumbshit, it's my Segway."
To be honest, Louis thought quirky people just had quirky things. Who knows how much a Segway costs. "So you were successful?"
Niall shrugs. "I used to work for Banana Republic, but I quit to start my own line. Only then I got lazy, so Zayn got me this job."
"You knew Zayn?"
"'course, I'm in love with him." To be fair, ten minutes ago he'd declared he's in love with cheese, so Louis' hesitant to take him seriously. Plus, who isn’t in love with Zayn? "I bunked with Liam for a while, too. You'll learn this industry's a bit incestuous."
"Don't you think it's weird you know everything about me but I know absolutely fuck-all about you?"
He shrugs again. "Not really. I'm a private person."
Louis snorts. "Last week you fell asleep in our hot tub with the camera still rolling."
"Alright, not private, just. I don't like to make a fuss."
"Right, not a diva like me."
He kicks Louis under the table. "I've a feeling you're keeping something from me, too."
"Me?" The nerve.
"Yeah, like how you're sexting with Harry Styles."
Oh. "You, uh, you knew?"
"Lou, I know everything. I just didn't wanna say anything 'cause I didn't know if you wanted to talk about it. And I didn't wanna talk about it. It's not very thrilling."
He thinks he's feeling offended. "Not thrilling? Can't you see we're star-crossed lovers?"
Shit. "Are we seriously eating ice cream and talking about boys?"
"I'm in it for the ice cream, you started with the boys."
Louis sighs. "Fine. So Harry's perfect, right?"
"Yeah, he's fit."
"Not just – I mean, yeah, obviously, how long have you had eyes, it's not like being surrounded by models numbs you to people like Harry Styles." He sighs again. Harry's so pretty.
"Right," Niall says, obviously meaning talk more about your crush I am fascinated.
"But I mean, he's so nice too, and easy to talk to, and cool. He makes me feel – I dunno, special. Not completely useless. D'you think he fancies me too?"
"Uh, yeah. Like, as someone who filmed all your interaction and is devoted to your relationship, I can say he fancies the shit out of you."
Louis presses the empty, freezing bowl to his face. He's not blushing. "Good. I'm glad we're eating ice cream and talking about boys."
"I'm glad we're eating ice cream too."
Three days later they get another surprise visit, this time from Zayn Malik himself. Which is delightful, really, Louis' always wanted to meet the UK's sexiest man while wearing his purple pants, with glasses and two days worth of scruff. He wanted to add exactly that to his list of achievements.
He barely has time to fluff up his hair before Perrie's screeching for him to come down. Louis curses his way down, only to be interrupted rudely by the sight of Harry standing by Zayn. They're both in casual clothes (Zayn dresses like some punk skater hobo, Harry's in a band t-shirt and tight jeans, because you can't win them all), which would make Louis feel better about himself if they didn't still look 800% better than the general population of the British Isles.
Louis drifts to Harry, easy as breathing. It's like Harry's got some sort of magnetic pull on him – something in his smile, or his big eyes. Louis' nearly toe-to-toe with him before Leigh-Anne and George join them and Zayn starts talking almost directly to the cameras. Which are trained on them. Currently stopping Louis and Harry from picking up where they left off. Horribly inconvenient, that.
"How're you doing?" Zayn asks.
They all mumble something along the lines of "okay". The last challenge before the finale is tomorrow. Louis' tense as shit, and he can't imagine the others are faring any better.
Zayn must get that. "Pretty shitty, yeah?"
Louis snorts. "Basically."
"Well, it's a big day tomorrow. Me and Harry thought we'd come chat with each of you about how you're feeling, what you're thinking. Like, give you advice and all that."
How fucking lovely of them. They talk to the girls first, so Louis ducks into the kitchen to make some tea for everyone. A few minutes later someone comes in and shuffles behind him. "Shelley, I said I'll get you a cuppa."
At this point of the story, Louis really should have expected it to be Harry Styles. He's desperately trying not to smile when he turns around. He leans back against the counter and cocks his hip. "Shouldn't you be chatting and giving advice?"
"Nah, Zayn knows Perrie better than me. I mostly came here for you." Slowly but surely, Harry closes in on him. The fact Louis has to look up to make eye contact is painful. The fact Harry can just say whatever's on his mind is gutting.
"Well, here we are," Louis says, heart caught in his throat. Harry's shirt stretches across his broad shoulders and Louis hasn't gotten laid in three months and it's been a week since he's kissed Harry and he's hardly thought about anything else.
"Yeah," Harry mumbles, finally close enough to press Louis back against the counter. Louis lets out a long breath, and then reaches up to take off his glasses. Harry grabs his hand before he can. "Um, could you leave them? We have to go have that chat with Zayn. And they look hot on you," he adds, leaning down to nuzzle Louis' cheekbone, pushing his glasses back up the bridge of his nose.
"After the – Jesus." He plants his hands on Harry's chest to push him back, but once he's confronted with all the firmness he just keeps his hands there and lets Harry kiss along the shell of his ear. "After the super important chat, what are your plans?"
"Hm?" Harry asks, probably just to be difficult.
"I'm just saying, you won't have to take me home if you're already in it. My home."
Harry hums again, hands fluttering over Louis' hips. "If I promise to stay will you be focused on the talk? I know Zayn's been pretty excited to talk to you guys without the judges' table between you."
"Zayn is adorable," Louis comments, trying to maintain his state of matter when Harry's hands sneak under his t-shirt.
"He is, yeah. He's probably waiting for us?"
"Then you should probably stop?" Louis suggests, hands not actually leaving Harry's torso. It takes Harry a few moments to pull back, and not before leaving an affectionate kiss on Louis' jaw line.
Louis drinks his now stale tea and avoids looking at Harry. He's totally avoiding a hard-on. He's so good at avoiding it's amazing.
Niall's already set up in the living room, and Louis has no idea where he's supposed to sit until Zayn gestures to the sofa he's on. Louis' never been this close to Zayn. He can practically feel fairy dust settling on his skin. He also feels half as attractive, but what can you do when you're on a sofa with Zayn and Harry.
"So how's the week been?" Zayn asks, to the point.
Louis shrugs. "Not that well, to be honest. I froze up during the shoot."
Harry looks like he's about to reach over, then thinks better of it and nudges his foot instead. Louis tries his hardest not to smile, mostly because he promised Harry he'd be focused. Zayn draws his knees up to his chin, transforms from supermodel to house cat. "Y'know," Zayn starts. "I really believe you've got a lot going for you. Like, we all think that. But at this stage you gotta be in it to win it. We just haven't felt your drive this week."
It's a bit ironic that Louis has no answer because he's currently hooking his foot behind Harry's ankle. And because, well. He thought he got to this stage due to beginner's luck. And he can feel it running out. Looking at the other competitors, he doesn't even compare – doesn't think he even deserves this. He's just sick of being alone. He doesn't know what he's doing.
When he doesn't answer, Harry jumps in. "So, uh, even if you get eliminated this week, it'll be okay. I mean, you'll still make it. It's not like you're going back to flipping burgers or being a catalogue model."
He says it with such conviction that it begs an explanation, but Louis never gets the chance to ask. "Look, I know this is a great opportunity and could open a lot of doors -"
"I'm not just saying that." Harry flashes Zayn a guilty look. "They don't have Internet access, do they?"
Zayn shakes his head. "He has no idea."
"What the fuck are you talking about?"
Harry shakes out his hair. "I'll tell you after the panel. Win or lose I'll tell you."
Louis is just about ready to punch them both, but Niall is right behind him and he doesn't need that on camera. His mum would be cross.
"You know how I got started?" Zayn asks, apparently attempting to get the conversation rolling again.
"No," Louis says, trying to muster up some curiosity along with his growing confusion.
"I was nineteen and met Liam at some gym. I was a DJ at the time, didn't even think about modelling, but Liam used to scout for FM London and managed to convince me to sign with them. You know how stubborn he is. I thought it would just be a summer thing, but then I started booking with Tommy Hilfiger and the rest was history."
Which is a cute story, but. "Did you just make that up so I'd go to the gym more often?"
Both Harry and Zayn laugh. "No, I'm just saying sometimes in this business all it takes is luck and people who believe in you. We believe in you. Whether you win first place or go home in two days is up to you."
They let that sink in for a few moments, until Harry blurts out, "Can I tell him how we first met?"
Zayn rolls his eyes. "Music video, right?"
"Yeah, we were both in a video. Zayn was in drag and I tried to shag him, it was brilliant. Prettiest girl I've ever seen." He gives Zayn a half-hug at that, almost distracting Louis from Niall sputtering, "The fuck?"
Louis needs to Google some things right the fuck now. "Well? Did you?" he asks, endlessly fascinated by the idea of Zayn Malik and Harry Styles shagging. Minds would melt. Cameras would break. Way too pretty.
"No," Harry says, dragging a long finger over Zayn's shoulder. He's staring right at Louis, the flirty little shit. "Not then."
Louis' staring at Niall pinching the bridge of his nose. Anything would be better than looking at Harry right then. When Louis leaves them to finish up with George, it's with a sense of sexual frustration, massive confusion, and defeat.
He considers making more tea to soothe his mind, but eventually just goes to his room and crashes on his bed. Then remembers that Harry had promised to stay at the house. Louis gets up so fast he gets a head rush, and runs off to change his pants and style his hair.
Harry Styles is anything but smooth, apparently. Louis gets a text five minutes into making his bed: "Irishman had to shoot us leaving and I forgot to ask him to let me back in so I'm locked out help if u still want me to stay?"
So instead of striking a "Draw me like one of your French girls" pose on the bed and waiting, Louis finds himself sneaking to the back door and trying to smuggle in a ridiculously tall well-known person into a house full of cameramen and nosy people. He's almost positive Niall has spotted them, but, being the love of Louis' life, he doesn't chase after them with the camera.
"Should I put a sock on the door?" he asks once he gets Harry into his room.
Harry responds by pressing him against said door and kissing him hard. Louis would say something snarky about the composition of the shot or throwing Harry around, if it weren't for said kissing. He does manhandle Harry to the bed and pin him down under him, though, since he doesn't actually need cognitive function to do something as obvious as that.
Harry's eyes are exceptionally big and glassy when he looks up at him, his hands bunching in the blanket and then running over Louis' back. Louis ducks down to kiss him, unzipping his jeans as he does. He suspects peeling them off would take too much effort right now, so he shuffles back just far enough to push them to Harry's thighs. Which leaves his hard cock just there, obvious under his sorry excuse for pants, and Louis' mouth literally waters.
"Is that – I mean, are you – um, okay?" Harry asks, mistaking Louis' pause for anything but awe.
"I've been thinking about nothing but this since kissing you, yes I'm fucking okay," is what he should say, but what tumbles out of his mouth is, "If the modelling thing doesn't work out we should try the porn industry."
Understandably, Harry quirks an eyebrow at that. "The porn industry is actually extremely degrading to women, we probably shouldn't be involved in that. Like, home videos are nice, but that might be a bit risky too once we're both famous? Unless you wanna go the Kardashian way. I mean, not that your bum – I mean."
Louis should have interrupted him at least four times, but when Harry's flustered he actually blushes and bites his lip. Chiselled, aroused men should not be so fucking pretty all the time. Louis would really like to fuck his brains out, but it seems a bit excessive considering they shouldn't even be doing this in the Top Model house and anyone could walk in. He sucks him off instead. What can you do.
That was his last week on the show. On the final panel, Zayn looks genuinely upset, and Liam assures Louis they'll work together again, and Niall hugs him for an inappropriate amount of time, and Louis is absolutely crushed. He thinks, that's that. He thinks, it was stupid to begin with. He think, how the fuck do I tell my family I lost. Finally, he thinks, how do I tell Harry I'm a loser.
Of course, Harry already knows what happened. Louis hasn't even finished unpacking his bag when Harry rings him. He doesn't really want to talk to Harry like this – nose stuffy, defeat written all over him. He answers anyway.
"Hi there," he says, failing to sound smooth.
Louis drops the stupid blazer he was holding and collapses on the cold bed. His entire flat feels unfamiliar after almost three months. The feeling of disconnect carries into his conversation with Harry. "Um."
"You're absolutely beautiful and talented and you can make it here." He's actually never heard Harry speak with such conviction.
Louis' heart clenches. "Five out of six experts would disagree with you."
"Yeah, on the panel of a modelling competition on telly. In the real world it's different. I mean, it's competitive and harsh and cruel, but you have a fighting chance," Harry explains. He sounds like he's desperate to convince Louis of something. Louis might desperately want to believe him.
"Who says I can make it in the real world?"
Harry sighs. "Right. Win or lose, I said I'd tell you."
So Harry does.
Turns out Harry's massive. Like, a lot more famous than Louis' given him credit for. His fame as a fashion photographer/model made him a bit of a tastemaker in the industry, someone who Knows His Shit when it comes to promising models. His downfall is an unfortunate addiction to Instagram. He uploads mostly fashion shoots he's done with supermodels and some random inanimate objects. It's not the second part that draws scouts to his Instagram account.
It turns out Louis' been featuring on Harry's Instagram since the very first challenge they did together. After that, Harry's posted every photo they worked on, even the ones not taken by him (which accumulated to quite a lot). When Louis looks it up with shaky fingers, he sees himself, right there between pictures of Jessica Stan and Zayn Malik.
It's not just the fact Harry liked him enough to post his pictures. It's not even that his book is splattered on the Internet. It's that Harry's actually been fielding calls from scouts for weeks. Scouts asking who the fuck Louis was and who represented him.
"Marry me," is on the tip of Louis' tongue. His laptop is about to fall from his knees. "But why?" he asks instead, once Harry's done explaining.
"It wasn't a big deal," Harry mutters. "Like, I always put up my best photos."
He's still not comprehending. Rather than saying thank you, he buries his head in his pillow and says, "Isn't that, like, illegal? To have favourites on the show? Or to give out details way before the series airs?"
"Well, I haven't been on the panel after that week. And it's not like I'll take bad pictures to sabotage – like, no," he says. "And I never mentioned the show or your full name, so people who aren't involved in the production just think you're an unrepresented model. I don't think I got you in trouble." He sounds mildly horrified.
"No, I know," Louis rushes to say. "I'm just overwhelmed. You're like a fit fairy godmother."
Harry laughs at that, a deep, booming noise that has Louis curling up on his bed and pressing the phone closer to his ear. "Always thought of myself as more of a good witch, really."
"Please, you're way more Dorothy than Glinda," Louis says.
"Galinda," Harry corrects, high-pitched. "With a ga."
Louis just wants to fall head first on Harry Styles' dick. He'd really like to carry on making Wicked references, but somehow has a feeling they'd fall into "you'll be with me like a handprint on my heart", which he is not ready to voice yet. So he just says, "Thank you. For everything."
"Sure, yeah," Harry replies. "So can I, you know, give people your number?"
The thing is, Louis' never had a fairy godmother. He's never really faced the opportunity to make something of himself. The one time he did, he got eliminated a week before the finale, so Louis knows nothing is a sure thing. "Uh, can you wait on that for a bit? I still have some wounds to lick. Overwhelmed and that."
Harry practically falls all over himself to say, "Of course, I'm sorry, I understand, I'll call you in a few weeks or something, it's – "
"What, wait," he cuts him off. "I meant hold off the business stuff. Not the you stuff." It's quiet on the other line, and Louis would give anything to see Harry's reaction.
When he does answer Louis can hear his warm smile. "That's fantastic."
For the first time since the final panel, Louis feels half-human. "Can I take you out and forget about the fashion industry for a night?"
"Yeah, definitely," Harry says, sounding eager. "I have loads of other interests. Like animals and healthy food and toasters and yoga. And if that fails to entertain you I have other methods."
Louis snorts. "You think I'm a sure thing?"
"No way," he says earnestly. "Sure things are boring, aren't they?"
It hits home. "Very thoughtful, Styles. I look forward to hearing more of your fortune cookie wisdom."
"What can I say, you inspire me."
Harry's Instagram is still open, evidence that Harry's just being honest. Louis feels a faint blush coming on. "Not to sound boring, but I will sleep with you extensively."
"After dinner," Harry insists.
Harry Styles might be a celebrity, and way out of Louis' league, and could very well make or break Louis' career. But he's kind and charming and affectionate and lovely and into Louis. If yesterday he thought the world was ending, he couldn't have been more wrong.
(Louis signs with FM London before the series even airs.)
Their first date is full of surprises. Instead of taking Louis to some high-end club where the rich and beautiful lurk, he leads him to a hole-in-the-wall Italian joint, and then to an inconspicuous pub. He makes terrible jokes and drinks cheap beer and tells him with bright eyes about his favourite places in the world.
"I wanna be a nature photographer at some point," he confesses, looking around shyly like he's afraid Elle Macpherson is going to pop up behind him and smack him over the head.
Louis has to bite his lip to keep the fondness at bay. "Really? Like, landscapes and wild animals?"
Harry's eyes light up. "And plants and stuff. Like, I really want to just spend a month in a jungle somewhere and capture the entire ecological system. That'll be really cool."
"No, it'll be terrible." Before Harry can even frown Louis adds, "You'll turn into Tarzan and I'll never see you again."
A terrible grin spreads on Harry's face. "You could come with me. I'll make you a loincloth and we'll learn birdcalls."
Louis snorts into his pint and brushes his foot over Harry's ankle. "You're way too posh for that. And I can't miss Made in Chelsea for that long."
Harry leans forward on his elbows so his jumper scoops down past his bird tattoos and his necklaces clang against the table. Louis feels a flash of arousal at the thought of tugging on those necklaces and kissing Harry's collarbones. How much trouble would he get into for climbing over the table, anyway?
"You are hardly as adventurous as I thought," Harry accuses, pointing a long finger at him.
"How dare you. I climbed mountains."
"Really?" That smirk shouldn't look so good on him.
"Well, I skied down one. And I bungee-jumped in Australia. And I skateboard, that's very adventurous."
"Right, very sexy," Harry assures him, voice sweet and slow. His collarbones are quite offensive.
Louis clears his throat. "Wanna, um, go for a drive?"
Harry nods with a smile and gets up on his gangly legs. Louis' at that stage where he notices every little thing – how tight his jeans are, how he can make out the butterfly tattoo under Harry's white jumper, how Harry's knees are a bit wobbly and his hair looks so soft and his green eyes are flecked with gold and his lips. He can't stop the pleasant warmth that's settled in the pit of his stomach.
They manage to drive for fifteen minutes in relative silence before Harry blurts out, "You know, if I take a left here, we'll be close to my flat."
Louis casually stretches his right arm over, tangling his fingers in Harry's curls and trying not to moan at how soft they are. "Really?"
Harry casually trails his left arm over the console, resting a big hand on Louis' thigh. "Yeah."
Louis waits for a conveniently close stoplight before leaning over and whispering, "Let's go then," nuzzling Harry's neck. The car jerks forward and Louis' definitely smirking to himself.
At the flat, Harry undresses him slowly, peppering his neck with surprisingly gentle kisses and nips. Louis both loves and hates the build-up, incredibly turned on and frustrated. When his button-up is finally off he attaches himself to Harry's body, wraps his arms tight around his neck and kisses him with all he's got. Harry's fingers dig into his hips and his knees buckle so he drops to Louis' height.
He gets rid of Harry's clothes unceremoniously and then pushes him on the bed and settles on top of him, mostly to stare. He can't believe he's ever thought to settle for a quickie. Just looking at Harry's tattoos could take him days. He leans down to kiss Harry again, running his fingers over his chest. He moves lower, kissing down his jaw and throat to get to work on a lovebite at the crook of his neck.
For such a laid-back guy, Harry's surprisingly responsive to Louis' touch – clinging to his hands and throwing his head back when Louis tweaks his nipple. Louis can't help but draw his own head back and stare. He's only distracted when Harry grabs his hips, not even to move him but just to hold on. So Louis sinks his teeth into the lovebite and Harry shakes under him.
He fucks him slowly, gets a good grip on his thighs and gasps when Harry throws his legs over Louis' shoulders, because they're long long long and he can do fucking anything. Once he's got a rhythm going Harry's reaching out, making grabby motions but not actually saying anything besides the sweet ah ah ah Louis' punching out of him with each thrust. So Louis leans forward, bending Harry in half to give him a wet kiss while Harry scratches his back.
He's disoriented when he wakes up the next day, wrapped in too-soft sheets in a too-posh loft with a too-pretty boy. His stomach curls when he sees that Harry's already awake and smiling at him.
"That's creepy," he rasps out, covering his face with a pillow and making Harry laugh.
"And you don't even know what I'm thinking yet."
Louis smacks his lips, trying to guess what time it is. Then he remembers he's not in the competition anymore and it doesn't matter. "Does it involve blowing me?"
"What?" Harry asks, trying to snatch Louis' face pillow.
Louis lets him and yawns obnoxiously. It's apparently late enough that soft light is spilling into the room from behind the useless curtains, and Harry looks soft and sleepy and littered with bruises Louis gave him. It might just be the best morning ever. Louis reaches up to run his fingers through Harry's curls, hopelessly tangled after Louis' pulled them so much last night. "What are you thinking?"
Harry bites his lip. "I wanna take your picture," he admits.
"You already have my picture."
"I mean, right now."
Louis raises an eyebrow. "I'm not exactly screaming high fashion right now."
Harry cuddles closer to him, drawing over his tattoos with his fingers. "Just because I get paid to take pictures of clothes doesn't mean I wouldn't rather take pictures of naked people."
"Are you trying to chat me up?" Louis asks, amused.
Harry slowly sinks his teeth into Louis bicep. "Maybe."
"Hmm. Will it end up on the Internet?"
Harry apparently takes that as yes be my guest take disgusting pictures of me first thing in the morning. He slips from Louis' arms and pulls a camera out of nowhere. "No, since it's a Polaroid."
Louis stares at the ancient-looking camera. "People still make those?"
Harry pats the camera so lovingly Louis wishes he were an inanimate object. "Yup. I like it, it's more authentic. And it's not like you need Photoshop."
Louis rolls his eyes. "You're such a hipster."
"Shut up already, I take my job very seriously."
"Right." It feels extremely weird to have a camera pointed at him before he did hair and makeup. He's a bit nervous. He stretches his arms up and kicks the blanket from his hips, feeling stifled. "Should I pose –" He's cut off by the click of the shutter, and frowns at Harry intensely. "I wasn't ready."
Harry's grinning widely at him when he shakes the polariod picture, and then sets it on the nightstand before Louis can look. "No, you don't need to pose." He looks around for a second, and then climbs over Louis' thighs and straddles him.
Another click, probably capturing Louis' appreciative gaze. There's a naked Harry Styles in his lap, what is he supposed to do. "If I had this kind of incentive my pictures would have been good enough to win the whole thing."
"If I had this kind of incentive I wouldn't get out of bed in the morning." He shuffles forward on Louis' lap for a close-up, and yeah, Louis' getting hard. Harry must feel it under him. "Oh." He sounds surprised, then accomplished. "Oh."
By the sixth picture he's jerking Louis off, and he has no idea if the camera's even aimed at his face or his cock because his eyes are closed and his toes are curling. The only indication that Harry's still holding the camera is the incessant clicking, like he's trying to see how many it'll take for Louis to come.
When Harry finally captures his O face, he dumps the camera on the mattress and bends down to lick him clean and then rut against his hipbone. Still hazy, Louis picks up the camera extremely carefully and takes pictures of Harry getting off.
No one sees these pictures. Louis figures he could get used to having a photographer for a boyfriend, if Harry can handle a neurotic failing model.
It's six months before Zayn calls him. If Louis had thought going on Britain's Next Top Model or shacking up with Harry Styles were his big breaks, he'd been sorely mistaken. All it takes is a call from Zayn Malik to change his life.
"How'd you like to not have your tattoos airbrushed out?"
Like many supermodels before him, Zayn Malik decided to launch a fashion line called "Crazy Mofos". It's basically punk skater street clothes for cool kids, which Louis has never considered himself to be, but Zayn thinks he is perfect for. Meaning Zayn wants him to headline the whole thing. Meaning Louis cursing until Harry takes the phone away from him so Louis can scream into a pillow like a normal person would after landing their dream job.
He manages to calm himself down after two minutes, and then waves for Harry to put the phone on speaker. And continue to stroke his hair. It's quite soothing. "Yeah, hello?" he asks.
"Alright?" Zayn asks, sounding more amused than concerned.
"Al-fucking-right. So what does it mean?" He thinks he sounds perfectly collected.
"Well, like, I'll need you to do the catalogue stuff for the website, and obviously we'll do the editorial shoots together, like GQ or 10 Men." Obviously. Louis can't breathe. "Maybe I'll put you on a runway, even. Like, the dream would be to have you skate on a Zayn Malik board down a runway, but – " Another person speaking in the background. "I know, Ni. But," he says to Louis, "Liam's already threatened to snap my neck, so I'm not sure how that's gonna work."
"There's a Zayn Malik board now?"
"There will be. I designed a bunch of the fabrics, as well, turned into a bit of an artist. Niall did most of the clothes, though. I always told him to do menswear."
Zayn Malik might actually be the coolest person on the planet. "You are the coolest person on the planet."
"S'true, much cooler than your husband."
"Hey," Harry puts in, though he's currently being bullied by their tiny ginger kitten, so he's not scoring any cool points. Probably never has. Louis reaches down to pat Harry, who purrs exaggeratedly so his chest rumbles under the cat. Louis' own chest constricts.
"When do we start?" he asks, eyes still on Harry.
"Two weeks, hopefully. I wanna do it in a real skatepark in west London."
"Hey, who do you have for photography?" Harry asks, twirling Garfield's tail around his pinkie.
"Good question," Zayn answers. "I thought about calling Harry Styles, d'you reckon he'll be available?"
Harry smiles to himself. "I heard he will be, yeah."
Louis is surrounded by idiots. "Like you didn't call Harry first."
Harry looks up sharply and says very slowly, "He didn't."
"Yeah, wanted to book the model first," Zayn adds. "S'not like he's your manager."
"Okay, I believe you," Louis clarifies, bending down to kiss the top of Harry's head. Harry seems incredibly relieved.
The truth is they've already had this fight. As soon as Louis came home from the Top Model house, Harry sort of took him under his wing and booked him for a few jobs. The whole "you're my muse" thing was cute until the whole "are you booking me because we're shagging or are we shagging because you're booking me" thing blew up in their faces. Which led to Louis going on a two-week shoot in New York, and then booking jobs there for two more weeks, working and clubbing and being Independent and barely sleeping and occasionally crying.
Making it on his own hadn't felt half as good as it should have been. Probably because he missed Harry so much it was sickening. He came home with his tail between his legs, but Harry took him back, thank god. Well, Harry plus a ginger kitten he'd adopted during Louis' month away and named Garfield, because Harry does weird things when he's depressed. Not that Louis' judging; he got a compass tattoo to match Harry's ship. It's been cats and cuddles and Harry crawling all over Louis with his precious Canon ever since, because they're a bit of a cliché.
Since then, there had only been one time when they were away from each other – Louis did a job with Lacoste in Troyes, and Harry couldn't join him because he had a shoot in Milan for Vogue Italia. It was rough, but it only took a few days, and was worth it to come home to Liam trying to teach Garfield tricks. Ridiculous dog people should not catsit.
Anyway, after all that, working together makes Louis excited more than nervous and insecure. So he ducks his head lower to kiss Harry's lips, giggling when Garfield drags his tail over Louis' jaw.
"So we're getting the gang back together?" Zayn asks, rudely interrupting them.
Louis gives Harry a few more smacking kisses to make his point to Zayn, and then says, "Seems so."
"Sounds perfect," Harry says.
The moment Zayn hangs up Harry puts Garfield carefully on the floor and slides up Louis' body. "What're you thinking?"
Louis runs his hands over Harry's back. "Oh my god, holy shit, Christ on a cracker, Zayn Malik is going to make me a supermodel."
Harry snorts, smiling down at him. "You're gonna make you a supermodel."
Louis leans up to kiss him. "We're gonna make me a supermodel."
It feels like the right moment for something romantic, like I'm in love with you or move in with me already, but when Harry opens his mouth he suddenly belts out, "We're gonna make you pop-u-lar!"
Louis' torn between shoving Harry off him and proposing to him on the spot. He ends up singing, "Just not quite as popular as me," and manages to hold the high note until Harry crashes his mouth over his.
It definitely sounds perfect.