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Be My Little Good Luck Charm

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When Louis accepted a position at Sky Sports, he imagined himself one day commentating on World Cup football for ESPN alongside Ian Darke.  Or if not the World Cup, at least the Premiere League.  Maybe some tennis on the side -- Nadal’s fit, sue him, plus Louis could really see himself hitting it off with Mary Carillo.  What he did not imagine was sitting in a cramped booth in the middle of Wisconsin, droning on about fucking golf, of all things.  Least sexy sport.

“It’s another beautiful day here at Whistling Straits, as we bring you the first round of the 2014 PGA Championship.”  

“If by beautiful you mean as windy as a donkey’s arse, then yes.  That is accurate.”  Louis dazzles the camera with his very best smile.

He’s only known his co-commentator, Liam Payne, for about twenty minutes, and already he’s getting used to that pained look.  The one that says Please, just be professional.  Please, Louis, no extra fun.

Well, Liam’s just going to have to deal with it because if Louis knows one thing about himself it’s that sometimes he is physically unable to keep his mouth shut.  It’s always been a bad habit of his to just say whatever he’s thinking, and maybe he should have thought a little harder about that before he decided to make a living on national TV.

“... And we’ll be right back with all the exciting action after this short break.”  Liam throws it to commercial and turns in their tiny booth, heaving a sigh as he stares at Louis.

“You have to stop doing that.”

“What?”  Louis feigns innocence, fixing his fringe.  They’re overlooking the 18th green, and it really is frightfully windy.

“Making with the cheeky comments,” Liam explains.  “This isn’t giggly housewives watching.  Our demographic is 50-year-old men, they don’t want to see a...”

Louis narrows his eyes.  “What?”  His voice can be absolutely acidic when he wants it to be, and he has a pretty good idea what Liam was about to say.  He crosses his arms and waits.

“... Er -- nothing.”  Liam looks properly abashed, searching for forgiveness with brown puppy-dog eyes that Louis suspects would go over quite well with the housewives.

“Look,” Louis sighs, clapping Liam on the shoulder in an overly familiar way.  Liam, to his credit, doesn’t flinch.  “This is my first time working with you, so I’m going to take pity and tell you right now how it’s going to work:  You’re going to say smart, insightful things about club lengths and green grooming techniques, and I’m going to make fun of you.  Mercilessly.  Forget everything you learned at the network, because we’re doing this the Tommo way.”

“The Tommo way,” Liam replies, weakly.

Louis squeezes his shoulder.  “Good man.”

They come back from commercial.  Louis’s fringe is perfect, and if Liam looks a bit shell-shocked, no one seems to notice.

“Right,” he says, shuffling his papers in front of him and clearing his throat.  “Where were we?”

“I believe you promised me some exciting action, Mr. Payne.”  Louis’s voice is light, and he throws in a wink at the camera for good measure.

Liam’s neck flushes slightly, but he manages not to stutter as he says (in a very professional announcer-y tone that almost makes Louis roll his eyes), “Let’s see how Mickelson approaches this tricky par 4.”

And they’re off.  It’s maybe not the worst day of commentating Louis’s had to endure…  that particular title would have to go to his first day on the professional darts circuit, when he got stuck with an 80-year-old, white-haired homophobe.  Luckily he was quite slow on the uptake, and Louis had slipped enough subversive, snarky potshots into his commentary to both satisfy his own sense of justice and, surprisingly enough, build a bit of a following online.  Because people watch youtube clips of dart tournaments, apparently.  Who knew?  Ratings had gone up, and Louis had been promoted.

To golf.

“Least sexy sport,” he mutters under his breath, as he watches Steve Stricker squat to line up a birdie putt.

“Oh, this is interesting,” Liam says, after Steve knocks it in.  Some intern has just shoved a paper across their incommodious little leg-cramp-factory of a desk.  “As you probably know, if you follow professional golf, this is the first year that the PGA Championship has invited leading amateurs to compete alongside the pros.” 

Louis tries not to read over Liam’s shoulder.  He fails of course, openly peering at the thin slip of paper and getting a subtle elbow to the ribs from Liam.

“We’ve just been told -- thank you for that, Louis --”  (Louis huffs in indignation because he did not just pinch Liam’s bum in retaliation.  He did not.  He will deny it forever, in the most strenuous possible terms.)  “We’ve just been told that one of these amateur invitees is on track to shoot an impressive 65 today, if he can par the last hole.  Shall we see how he does?”

“I say yes.”  Louis nods gravely, mocking Liam’s overly serious demeanor.  “That sounds like some uncommonly exciting act…”

And then his voice dies.  Louis’s voice dies.  Because the picture on his monitor has switched over to the camera feed from the 18th tee, just over the hill from where Louis is sitting in the broadcast tower, and oh.

“Oh,” says Louis.  “That’s, er…  That’s… him, then?”

Liam shoots Louis a puzzled glance before picking up the thread of the commentary.  “Harry Styles, says here he’s from Holmes Chapel in Cheshire, currently attending Manchester University on a golf scholarship.  Set to graduate this winter, after which, he has told reporters, he either wants to join the Pro Tour or open a bakery.”

“Open a… what?”

Louis is really floundering now and this is bad.  Oh, this is bad.  Because Harry Styles is standing in front of the tee, staring with fierce concentration at his pink golf ball.  (Wait, is this kid really using a pink…?  Louis blinks.  He is.)  His back is broad in his fitted black shirt, curls peeking out from an old-fashioned newsboy cap.  Louis’s eyes travel down his never-ending, lithely muscled torso to a black belt, and black trousers which… god, do nothing but accentuate his pert arse, and Louis swears that the weird, pleated style of golf pant everyone seems to be so fond of has never, ever looked better on anyone than at this moment, on that arse.

And then Harry swings.  Louis’s mouth goes dry as he watches the muscles in his forearms tense, big hands steady on the 4-wood -- Christ, a 4-wood on a 500 yard par 4?  This kid must be strong, and that realization does… things to Louis.  In his stomach region.

Butterfly things.

Harry brings the club back, stunning green eyes focused on the ball.  His bottom lip has disappeared under his teeth, a nervous habit that would make him look childish if it weren’t for his very manly jawline.  Louis isn’t sure whether he’ll ever breathe again.  A moment…  Harry’s back muscles ripple under his shirt…

And then he pulls the trigger with a loud THWACK! and his ridiculous pink ball is sailing high over the fairway, landing perfectly about 180 yards from the pin.

“Lovely shot,” Liam says, and was Louis complaining about Liam earlier?  Because Louis’s brain is currently made out of styrofoam packing peanuts, he feels like he’s just been sucker punched in the gut, and absolutely no one has noticed because Liam is chatting away quite merrily with himself about how this hole got the better of Dustin Johnson back in 2010 when he suffered a bogey and was assessed a further two-stroke penalty for grounding his club, and thank God for Liam Payne.  Louis plans to get him a fruit basket.

Now then.  He is a professional.  He can recover.  He can appreciate Harry Styles’s approach shot and maybe even, like, say something about it.

“Quite exciting, for a British golfer to be making a splash like this,” and holy shit his voice sounds normal, not high and too tight like Louis thought it would.  He is so, so good at his job.  He deserves a medal.  Or a Peabody.  Or a blowjo--.

His brain needs to fucking quit it.

“... on a roll, he could probably make a push for a top ten spot at the end of the weekend, which would be remarkable for an amateur.”

Louis tries not to look directly at the tall, dark form that has just appeared at the top of the ridge, walking down toward the bright spot of pink nestled in short green grass.  “Yes, he seems quite the cheeky little upstart,” Louis replies, and finally he’s getting some of that Tommo rhythm back.  “Let’s see how he does with his second shot.”

He puts it eight feet from the pin, is what he does, and the stands erupt in appreciative claps and whistles that go beyond the normal polite smattering of applause.  Louis wonders if they know who they’re cheering for, yet.  He examines Harry more closely as he makes his way up to the green.  His eyes are bright with excitement, and Louis notices a sweet dimple in his cheek as he grins, waving at the crowd and doing funny faces in the direction of a little girl standing with her parents in the long grass behind the ropes.  Louis feels an odd tug at his heart.  The kid strides like a panther, all sex one moment as he takes a serious preliminary look at his lie on the green and all bashful, innocent smiles the next as he accidentally trips over his own feet.  His caddy helps him up, a short, friendly-looking kid with a shock of artificially-blond hair and Ray-Bans.  Probably a mate from the uni golf team, doing his friend a favor for a lark.  But he is currently standing with his arm casually around Harry’s waist, and so Louis decides he must hate him.

“It’s not too tough an angle, Liam, I don’t think,” he says.

“No, from this position all he needs to do is hit it straight up the rise and make sure he’s got enough speed on the ball.”

“Yes, speed.  Terribly important when handling balls.  In fact, Liam, did you know I went to college for speedy ball-handling?” Louis asks, schooling his expression so as not to let even a spark of amusement cross his face.  “Have to say, though, I’ve never been one to hit straight.”

Liam coughs.

Then Harry sinks his putt, and the blond kid jumps on him and they fall down in an adorable tangle of limbs as the crowd roars.  With the birdie it’s a 64 opening round, more than enough to make Harry the first-place amateur going into Friday and tying him with Adam Scott for the tournament lead -- almost unheard of for an unknown.  Louis can’t help letting out a bit of a celebratory cheer, giving Liam a high-five in the booth as the cameras zoom in on Harry’s sparkling face.

Louis feels a tap on his shoulder, and is informed that he’ll be doing a live interview with Harry in a few moments outside the clubhouse.

“Shit,” Louis mutters.  He takes a deep breath.  “I mean, okay.”

Liam glances at him with a distinctly amused expression.  “Good luck with that,” he says, and maybe he isn’t quite as oblivious as Louis had previously thought.  Definitely not, as he is now making kissy noises while Louis tries to extricate himself from their torture-device-slash-desk.

“You do not deserve fruit,” Louis snaps, pointing a stern finger at Liam.

“I also do not know what you are on about.  So.”

Louis sticks out his tongue.

He climbs down from the broadcast booth, trying to control the shakiness in his limbs.  At the bottom, he takes a moment to look himself over.  He has on light wash jeans and a gray cable-knit sweater over a white dress shirt with the collar buttoned up to his neck.  Quite dashing.  His hair is… ugh, it’s fine, whatever.  He’s always bothering about his fringe, fussing over it, and it never looks quite right…  But it’s windy, so neither does anyone else’s.  A production assistant hands him a microphone and leads him over to the clubhouse, where an interview station has been set up, blue electrical tape Xs on the ground and big studio lights in front of the rustic-looking stone siding.

Harry’s waiting shyly for him.  His bottom lip is sucked under his teeth again.

“Hello,” says Louis.

Harry grins at him, visibly flushing through wind-reddened cheeks as he fumbles a bit, pulling off his glove so he can shake Louis’s hand.  He has a firm grip.  His palm is warm and slightly sweaty from the glove, and the breath in Louis’s chest stills as he feels a tingle of electricity dance up his arm.

“Hiiiii.”

God, this kid is charming.  Louis can already tell he’s going to be national news, not only because he’s doing so well in the tournament, but because he’s a charisma genius.  The British public is going to fall at his feet.

So he’d better not fuck up this interview.  He should maybe start things off by introducing himself.  “I’m Louis Tomlinson, from Sky Sports.”

“Harry Styles.  From Cheshire.”  He says it slowly, but with a low-burning confidence that Louis knows is going to result in endorsements and a fan club of teenage girls.

“Ever done this before?” Louis asks, as a makeup person flutters around him and the camerapeople get set up.

“Golf?” Harry replies.  “Yeah, once or twice.”

Louis rolls his eyes, mortified, as Harry grins down at him.  This is not how things are supposed to work.  Louis teases people.  Louis is the teaser!  He can’t stop himself from frowning a bit in frustration.

And wow, Harry really doesn’t have the stomach for teasing, because he’s already apologizing.  “Sorry, sorry, erm… Yeah, I was interviewed once, for the local news back in Cheshire, when I was like, fourteen.  For juggling club.”

Louis’s laugh bursts out of his mouth in an entirely uncontrolled manner, and he has to cover his face with the back of his hand in order to stifle his giggling.  “Juggling club?  First I hear your big dream is to open a bakery, and now juggling club.”

Harry just shrugs, feet together and slightly pigeon-toed in scuffed cleats, hands clasped behind his back like a five-year-old girl in her favorite party dress.

“You’re a quirky one, Harry Styles.”

Louis tries to keep his eyes on Harry’s face so as not to give him a blatant once-over.  He has been very deliberately not noticing the size of the bulge in the front of his stupid pleated golf slacks.  Maybe it’s an optical illusion.  Or maybe Harry just has a huge --

“We’re on in ten.”

The camerawoman gives him a thumbs up and Louis waits to be counted in.  “In five, four, three…”

“And we’re back in the clubhouse with Harry Styles, who’s just shot a 64 on opening day here at the PGA Championship.  Quite an impressive showing for an amateur.  Can I just offer my personal heartfelt congratulations, young Harold, for doing it all so suavely and with a pink golf ball.”

Harry, who had been looking nervously down at his feet, lifts his face and grins at Louis.  “It’s just Harry, actually,” he says, and his voice has gone soft and lovely as he looks at Louis, eyes shining.  “And yeah, it’s my lucky ball.”  He brings it out of his pocket and holds it up for the camera.

“But why pink, Harold?” asks Louis, ignoring Harry’s protest about his name.  “Not just any pink, mind.  Neon pink.  The color of Barbies.”

Harry’s surprised laugh sounds like a dying goose and is utterly delightful.  He smacks a hand over his mouth after a single, loud HA! and Louis does not feel proud that he made that happen.  He refuses to feel proud of anything so ridiculous.  He throws a sly wink at Harry instead.

“Um,” says Harry.  “It’s actually, my sister bought it for me.  So.”

Louis can actually hear the women falling back in England.

“That’s lovely, Harry.  You also seem to have broken the amateur course record, and are currently tied for the lead in the tournament.”

Harry shrugs.  “Oopsie.”

“You’re an absolute menace, Styles.”

And now Harry’s looking at Louis like he’s going to eat him up, and Louis must be imagining that, it must be the lights or the excitement of having just done well in the first round of his first major tournament and being interviewed on national TV.  He asks Harry a few more Actual Questions about Actual Golf, and they banter pleasantly back and forth.  They have good chemistry, weirdly good chemistry, and Louis’s surprised and honestly a bit relieved because he thought he was maybe going to act crush-embarrassing around this one.  Thank God he hadn’t met Harry as a teenager, Louis thinks, and thank God there weren’t cameras around then, or he would have been a bit too loud all the time, obnoxiously trying to keep Harry’s attention on him at all costs.  A proper little show-off.

“Good luck tomorrow, Harry,” Louis says at the end of the interview, and shakes his hand again.  Feels the warm buzz in his arm and a tightness in his chest.  “Britain will be supporting you.”

“I hope so.”  Harry looks unsure.

“‘Course they will!” Louis boasts, and oh no, he might be regressing into teenager-with-a-crush-Louis, because all of a sudden he’s squishing Harry’s cheeks and pointing his face at the camera.  “Who wouldn’t support ya?  With them dimples and curly locks.  Right heartbreaker, you are.  Even Adam Scott’s mum’ll be rooting for you, one hundred percent.”

Harry giggles helplessly until Louis releases him.  “You’ll be great tomorrow,” he whispers, just in case Harry needs more reassurance.

“Thanks,” Harry says, red-bitten lips caught between his teeth again, “for a lovely interview.”

And then they’re done.  Louis has some wrap-up to do, and Harry has to sign his card and turn it in.  He sees the blond-haired caddy come up and clap Harry on the back, crowing something about “victory pints.”  He’s definitely a uni kid.  And extremely Irish.  Louis watches them disappear through the clubhouse doors with an odd sense of longing.

He shrugs it off and goes back to work.

 

*

 

The rest of the day goes smoothly, and Liam is even loosening up a bit.  It apparently helps that he’s obsessed with Louis’s little whatever-it-is for Harry Styles -- seems quite proud he’d cottoned onto it, in fact, and keeps bringing it up during commercial breaks.

“Look,” he whispers, as he replays the tape of Louis’s interview.  “Right… there.”

“What?”  Louis is exasperated.  (He thinks Liam, through sheer persistence, might rate fond exasperation by the end of the week, but they’re not there yet.)

“Hearts,” says Liam, voice full of self-satisfaction.  “Rainbows.  Sparkles.  Love beams.  Shooting out of your eyes at Harry.”

“No there aren’t.”  Louis leans forward to examine his expression on the monitor.  He does have a rather soft look on his face, but it doesn’t mean anything.  He’s just proud of British sports.

"I’m proud of British sports,” he says.  “That is a patriotic look.”

“You want to marry him.”

Oh God, Liam is twelve.

“I want no such thing."

“You’d like to have his babies.”

Louis glares.

“Okay.  You’d like him to have your babies?”

Louis flicks Liam behind the ear, where it hurts.

“Owww.”

“I hate you.  Now will you please help me up from behind this wretched desk already, I think my joints are frozen.”  He holds his hands out and pouts, and Liam pulls him easily to a standing position.  “I bet Jim Nantz isn’t made to feel like a sardine.”

“Will you stop complaining if I tell you that there’s a cocktail hour for all the amateurs at the American Club Resort this evening?”

Louis pauses a moment to consider.

“Yes I will.  Also, you are coming with.”

“Me?  But…”

Louis presses a stubborn finger to Liam’s lips and does his best to look menacing.  “Tommo way,” he says.

Liam sighs heavily.  “Tommo way.”

“Good man.”

There are only a few more housekeeping duties for them to see to before they’re officially off the clock.  Louis heads back to his cheap hotel to wash the makeup off his face and change into something a bit less light denim-y for the cocktail party.  The American Club Resort is the fancy place where all the golfers stay during the tournament (probably Jim Nantz, too, Louis gripes), and he suspects that formal is the way to go.  Wants to make a good impression, anyhow.

He settles on a white dress shirt with cool black edging around the collar, some black braces and skin-tight black trousers that fit nicely through the bum.  Which is brilliant, really.

Even though Harry Styles is probably straight.  And there it is, the thought that Louis always tries to suppress whenever he gets a crush on someone he doesn’t know.  He’s usually able to ride high on the giddy daydreams for a few hours before reality comes crashing down around him, and it looks like his time is up.  He’s definitely straight, of course he is.  Nine out of ten people are.

Louis screams internally.  Why must his life be so frustrating?  Why is he going to this stupid cocktail hour anyway?  It’s the initial Harry-being-straight thought that overwhelms him, brings up all his latent insecurities and sends him spiraling.  And while he's at it, why is he stuck commentating on golf and not footie?  He really should be back in England on the football coverage team.  He'd be good at the footie.  He'd smash it.  Louis gives himself a sad look in the mirror and throws his hands listlessly up in the air.  “Goooooaaaal.”  It’s not very convincing.

He sighs and rolls up his pant legs to show a little ankle -- he’s a sexy Victorian, he is -- and slips into dress shoes that hurt his feet but look awesome.

Liam’s waiting for him in the lobby.  Louis slots his arm through the crook of the taller man’s elbow as they wait for a cab.  He’s been testing Liam all day after that first awkward interaction, waiting for him to show another sign of homophobia, but so far, nothing.  It’s a nice surprise, to be honest.

“I’m an idiot,” he confesses, and Liam puts on a serious face.  It’s alarmingly similar to the Please, Louis, I’m literally begging you, no more laddy hijinx face from this morning, only this time it says Yes you are an idiot, but I’m here to listen to you ramble.

Louis thinks maybe Liam has made his way back into his fruit basket-giving good graces.

“Why are you an idiot?” he asks.

“Oh, this Harry thing.  He’s probably straight, don’t you think?”

“You never know.”

Liam opens the door for him, and Louis slips into the back of the cab.  “I’m probably getting my hopes up for nothing.  Honestly, who gets a silly crush at my age?  How embarrassing.  Not that I got anywhere with my gradeschool crushes either, because all of them were straight…”

Wow, Louis really is rambling.

“First off, you can’t be more than twenty-four.  Graduating uni and holding down an adult job doesn’t automatically make you ancient.  Second… off,” and Louis just wants to pat Liam on the head now, before he confuses himself, “people get crushes at any age.  It’s okay.  I think you should just talk to him.”

“Yeah?”  Louis hates being this vulnerable with anyone, but those stupid puppy-dog eyes are drawing it out of him.

“Sure.  Just go up and talk.  If he’s not interested in you that way, he’ll let you know.”

“Maybe he thinks I’m straight,” says Louis haughtily.  “What about that?”

Liam raises his eyebrows in an expression that’s so skeptical, it’s almost pained.

“Oh, shut up.”

The American is all dark wood and smoky interiors, heavy and masculine and very Old Boys’ Club.  Louis slinks into the restaurant, fixing his fringe one last time in the mirror behind the bar as Liam volunteers to get them both drinks.  The TVs are replaying the day’s coverage with the sound muted, and Louis spots his own face glowing down from one of the corners.  He skims the crowd briefly -- no sign of Styles or his Irish caddy.  He slips into small talk with some of the other amateurs, and tries to keep his mind on the conversation.

Which isn’t hard, actually, because all anyone’s talking about is Harry.

“He was doing great to start,” says a short, stocky South African sipping neat brandy in a casually sophisticated way that Louis has never been able to pull off, due to the stuff tasting absolutely horrid.  “But then he hit the back nine and all of a sudden, birdie, birdie, birdie.  Four in a row.”

“Incredible,” a skinny American chimes in.  “Just unreal.  He was hitting greens left and right, like...” he lowers his voice, unsure whether to make the comparison, “... almost like a young Tiger Woods.”

Louis can hear the envy in their voices, but it’s fighting with the respect in their eyes.  Harry could tip the balance either way, he knows, depending on how he treats his peers tonight.  He has no doubt that respect will win out.  He suspects that Harry Styles could charm a snake out of its skin.

A spontaneous ovation goes up around the bar, signaling Harry’s arrival.  He looks amazing in a pale blue dress shirt with a matching bowtie and loooong dark blue jeans, cool suede boots that are scuffed like his golf cleats.  He’s ditched the newsboy cap and styled his curly hair up into a sort-of quiff, kind of rock’n’roll, and it works for him.  Louis tries to simultaneously snatch the fruity cocktail Liam has correctly ordered out of his hand and hide behind him at the same time.  Not because he is a coward, but because when Harry first sees him he wants to be fully engaged in fascinating conversation with a terribly attractive person, not part of a fawning crowd.

“Tactics,” he whispers.

“What?”

“Act like I’ve just said something hilarious, please,” Louis orders.

Liam frowns.  “Or at least something that made sense.”

“I’m going to have to pretend that was a compliment.”  Louis smiles and flutters his eyelashes.  “Liam, please.  I do not have the looks and charm of a young Frank Sinatra, you’re just saying that.”

“I wasn’t, actually.  But do go on.”

By the time Harry gets around to them, they’re talking about actual things.  Important things.  Like how Man U is the greatest team in the history of organized sports, and how irredeemably, criminally ugly the Wolverhampton Wanderers’ orange kit is.

“They’re not so bad,” grumbles Liam.  Poor boy has to defend them.

“No, you’re right,” Louis says, nodding sympathetically.  “They’re really good for if you have to cross the street late at night.  Or in case you want to attend a fancy dress party as a traffic cone.”

He hears Harry’s laughter-squawk from behind his left shoulder, and tries not to smile too hard.  He bites his lip and turns around, holding up his cocktail.  “Cheers, mate.”

Harry clinks his glass.  He’s drinking a pint of something dark (Louis suspects the influence of the Irishman), and his eyes are already a little glazed.  “Cheers yourself.”

“Me?  What did I do?”

Harry’s mumbled answer is lost as the aforementioned Irishman swoops down on the group, loudly drunk and stringing together some rather creative, amiable-sounding curse words as he inquires after the craic, but Louis swears he hears something that sounds a lot like “fit your bum into those trousers.”

He can’t be sure.

That’s how he and Liam are introduced to Niall Horan, who is indeed another member of Harry’s uni golf team.  “No talent at all,” he assures them in a thick brogue.  “And can’t be arsed to improve meself.  It’s just a laugh, like, hangin’ with the lads.  Playin’ a nine or two on a Saturday.”  He slings an arm up around Harry’s neck and digs a finger into the dimple in his cheek.  “Harry here’s the future of the sport.  Fuckin’ genius, he is.  I told everybody.”

“I’m sure you did,” Louis grins.  Now that he’s actually seen them interact, despite the handsiness, he can tell there’s nothing between them but friendship.  In fact, the idea’s almost laughable.  He decides not to hate Niall.

“I like you,” he says, poking Niall in the shoulder as Harry glances between them.  “How did you get your hair to be that color?”

“Ghosts,” says Niall.

Louis laughs.  The second cocktail is starting to affect him; his brain has gone pleasantly fuzzy around the edges.

“Maybe no more for you,” says Liam, and snatches his unfinished Sex on the Beach away.

“Unhand my drink,” demands Louis, “or I may have to divorce you.”

“Oh,” says Harry, face falling imperceptibly.  “Are you…?”

Louis realizes at this point that he has an arm draped around Liam’s waist for social comfort purposes.  He pulls it away and scoffs.  “Not even a tiny bit.”

Harry visibly relaxes, and Louis isn’t too tipsy to wonder what that means.  He smiles what he hopes is a casual-yet-charming-and-definitely-interested-if-Harry-wants-to-read-it-that-way-but-if-not-then-Louis-still-totally-has-plausible-deniability sort of smile.  Harry returns it, and Louis thinks maybe breathing’s overrated.  It’s just, Harry’s tall and fit and charming, and his words drip out of his candy-colored mouth like molasses, and he loves his sister and Louis’s already so gone.  He wants to climb Harry like a tree, he wants to explore every square inch of that unbelievably long torso with his tongue, and other places, definitely other places...

But perhaps he shouldn’t be fantasizing in that vein at the moment.  His trousers are tight enough as it is.  Liam excuses himself to the loo and Niall wanders off in another direction, looking determined to make as many new friends as possible.

Louis’s got Harry all to himself.

“So did I do okay today?” he asks.

“At the golf?  Yeah, Curly, I think you did fine.”

And this is good, now they’re even on the teasing.  Better than good, because Harry’s blushing and trying to bite back a smile.

“At the interview,” he clarifies.  “Can’t remember what I said; thought it might have been shit.”

“Everybody talks some shit in interviews,” Louis assures him.  “You were perfect, mate.  The viewers are going to eat you up.”

“Sounds a bit violent.”

“Well,” Louis shrugs, as though he has vast experience with the industry, “it is.  Look, I bet something’s already trending about you on twitter.”

He pulls out his phone and punches in the code on the lock screen.  Unfortunately he’d forgotten to change his background from the pic he’d taken the week before of Zayn fast asleep on his couch after some party, curly cartoon villain moustache and the words I THINK PENISES ARE BEST scrawled across his face with a Sharpie.  Louis had planned to taunt him with the picture forever, send it to all his potential girlfriends.  Now it just seems… weird and childish.

“Me best mate,” he explains, somewhat lamely, pulling up the twitter app.  “We prank each other.”

Harry’s eyes are hard to read.

“Ha!” Louis says triumphantly.  “See, I told you.”  #Stylesstyle is trending worldwide, and Louis taps the hashtag to pull up some of the tweets.

@teedrightoff  Watched the Olympics on TV.  Won every event.  Oopsie.  #Stylesstyle

@linksfan64  Joined local ice hockey league.  Won the Stanley Cup.  Oopsie.  #Stylesstyle

@girlgeniaaaz  Just want to let everyone know I’m brushing my teeth with a neon pink toothbrush.  #Stylesstyle

Harry’s face lights up.  “I’m promoting good dental hygiene!” he crows, clearly delighted.  Because of course that would make him happy.  Louis coughs, scrolling quickly past a tweet that says something about “Get a fuckin room already will ya boys #Tommowantsit #Stylesstyle,” down to a link to a gif someone’s made of Niall jumping on Harry after his birdie putt on the eighteenth.  It’s incredibly endearing, and has over 15,000 retweets.

He quits the twitter app and Harry’s pawing at Louis’s phone now, claiming he needs it to send a text to his mum because he forgot to bring a charge adapter for the American outlets, and his has already died.  “Come on Louiiiis,” he pouts.  “Sharing is caring.”  Louis surrenders it reluctantly.  He’s not positive his last internet search wasn’t something porny, and has absolutely no idea if he’s deleted that last batch of embarrassing selfies yet.

He decides that the best defense is a good offense.  “Behave yourself, Harold.  No downloading pictures of naked ladies off the internet.”

Harry giggles as his giant monster fingers tap at the touchscreen, and Niall wanders up to them again.  This time he slings an arm around both of them, and his breath smells of beer.

“Important question, Tommo,” he says, squeezing Louis’s shoulder.  “Opinion poll.  I’m askin’ everyone.”

“Shoot.”

“Which celebrity…”  Niall pauses for effect.  “... would you most like to do it with?”

“Chad Michael Murray.”

It's out before he can stop it.  Maybe it's the alcohol, or maybe he just feels oddly comfortable around these people already, because although CMM has been the true answer to that question ever since Louis watched the first season of One Tree Hill as a sexually frustrated teenager, he would usually have the wit to say Leonardo DiCaprio (and it wouldn’t be a total lie, Leo’s a close second) and oh bugger everything because now Harry’s laughing at him.  His shoulders are shaking so hard he’s having trouble typing.

“Chad!  Michael!  Murray!!”

He’s wiping at his eyes, gasping out each syllable like it’s his last breath, almost doubled over.  Niall’s not much better.  If he weren’t supporting himself on Louis’s arm, he would probably be on the floor.

“He’s not just an actor, you know!” Louis frowns.  Now that he’s in this situation, he will defend Chad to the death.  “He’s also a graphic novelist.  Everlast has four stars on Goodreads!”

Harry looks like he’s almost going to pass out at this new information.

“Ooooh, Chad Michael!” Niall coos, hooking his chin on Louis’s shoulder and giggling hysterically as he flutters his eyelashes.  “I love your graphic novel!  I imagine you reading it aloud to me every night!”

Louis wonders if it’s possible to die of embarrassment.  “It’s just Chad,” he mutters quietly.  “Not Chad Michael.  Just Chad.”

Harry’s making strangled cat noises, hiccoughing with laughter.  “Just Chad.  Oh my God.  Louis.  I really want to hug you.”

Louis has no idea what’s going on, but he accepts the hug and tries to sound sardonic and not curious as he huffs into Harry’s hair (which is soft and curly and smells like apples and Louis did not sign up for this), “I’d like to hear your answer, quirky boy.”

“Oh, Niall already knows.”

“Yeah,” Niall ruffles up Harry’s hair and punches him in the arm.  “Aaron Rodgers all the way for our boy golfer.”

Of course Harry would have a cool American sports answer.  Louis’s so indignant that he almost misses the most pertinent piece of information there.  A second later it hits him and a supernova of hope explodes in his chest.  It quickly collapses into a black hole of pain and disappointment, though, because Aaron Rodgers must be at least 6 foot 2.  And he’s like, big.  Solid.  Rugged.

“Oh, hmm?” Louis says, praying to whatever deity is in charge of gay infatuations that he’s not showing any of this on his face.  “What’s so special about Aaron Rodgers, then?  Bet he’s never written a graphic novel.”

“Haz prefers his men a bit older,” Niall grins, waggling his eyebrows.

“I’ll tell Kate Beckinsale you said that,” Harry retorts.  Then he shrugs, glances at Louis and adds, “I think blue eyes are nice.”

Harry’s face is so open and lovely, and Louis’s brain has just shut down.  “Oh,” is all he can say.  “Good.”  He would like to shoot himself, please.

Harry pushes Louis’s phone back into his hands, thanks him, and then says he needs to get back to his room, get some rest before tomorrow.  Louis smiles and offers him a limp wave goodbye, trying to ignore all of the emotions that are currently fighting a war around his internal organs.  Harry heads for the elevators with Niall in tow, almost tripping up the short flight of stairs out of the bar.  He glances back, once, with bright eyes that flash like the green on the eighteenth.

*

 

Liam may be slightly boring, but he’s also a solid, reliable presence, which is just what Louis needs right now.  Interest in the PGA Championship usually starts off relatively small on Thursday and steadily ticks up to the big final round on Sunday.  But this year, Harry’s a major story.  Lots of extra newspeople are on hand on Friday morning, and an alarming amount of teenage girls in tank tops and shorts have shown up, clutching camera phones and holding handmade signs.  The footage of him clowning around with the child on the sidelines yesterday has gone viral, as has his fist pump and primal roar after he sank his birdie putt.  Louis watches the tape again, a sudden stab of arousal piercing his gut.

“I need tea.”

Liam hands him tea.  Good tea.  Good Liam.

“Good Liam,” says Louis, and pats him on the head.

“Not actually a dog, though.”

Louis frowns, and blows ripples into the surface of the hot, black liquid.  “I shall use you as a service animal.  I’ll even get you a little vest, you can accompany me to restaurants.”

Before the round starts for the day, Louis and Liam crawl up into the tiny broadcast booth -- which seems even smaller above the unexpected crowds, and go on the air for a “Breakfast at the PGA” segment, during which they talk about all the top golfers, the weather forecast, the conditions on the course, and make predictions about what might happen over the course of the day.

“It’s incredible how many people have turned out on this fine Friday morning,” Liam says.  His eyes hold just a hint of mischief as he adds, “I reckon it’s that Styles kid’s fault, don’t you, Tommo?  You met him yesterday.”

“I did,” Louis nods, completely professional.  “I’ll tell you what, I’m not surprised at the response.  He’s on a whole new level of charming.”

Just then he feels his phone vibrate on his thigh.  As Liam turns the conversation to the hole locations on the back nine, Louis dips his head down to sneak a peek at it.

New text message from:

Chad Michael Murray

Louis nearly chokes on his tea, eyes wide.  For a moment his brain is nothing but a tickertape of ohmygodohmygodohmygodohmygod…  He takes quick, shallow breaths as he taps the button to receive the text, and reads:

gotcha!  ha ha

It’s Harry.  Of course it is.  He must have programmed his own number into Louis’s phone yesterday under the fake name.  Louis swallows slowly, feels his face flush, his heart pounding in his temples as he tries to get a grip and respond normally to whatever Liam’s just said.  Another text comes in and he doesn’t want to glance down at his phone, but he physically can’t help himself.

Chad Michael Murray: watching you live in the clubhouse.  your face was PRICELESS, niall’s dying.

Two more follow in quick succession:

Chad Michael Murray: wait… i think he’s dead.

Chad Michael Murray: rip niall, killed by belly laughs.

Louis manages to tap out a quick bastard before Liam realizes what he’s up to.  Luckily his eyes are cast down, frowning gravely as he reads something from a sheet of paper that’s just been handed to him by an intern.

“And finally, we’re so pleased that so many new fans have made the effort to come out and enjoy the PGA Championship, but I’ve been asked to pass on the message that part of the land near the golf course is a snake habitat.  There are signs that clearly indicate that all spectators should stay on the pathway.  We don’t want anyone to get hurt, so remember: if you see a sign that says Snake Habitat, turn around.”

“Maybe they’re here to practice Parseltongue and not to watch golf, Liam, did you ever think of that?”

Liam rolls his eyes good-naturedly, and they finally cut to commercial.

“Couldn’t just let it pass without comment, could you?  What if someone doesn’t take the warning seriously now?”

“Look.”  Louis holds up the conversation on his phone, making his lower lip shake pitifully.  “Harry’s mean.”

It vibrates in his palm, and they both read the newest message.

Chad Michael Murray: solid potter reference, I’m impressed xx

“Ooooh,” coos Liam, “he’s doing xs already?”

Louis allows him to peer over his shoulder as he composes a response.

Louis Tomlinson: yer a wanker, harry

Liam’s face drops.  “You didn’t do any xs.”

“I thought you were more concerned about snakes,” he says, indignantly.  “And no, no xs for the Tommo.  Just pure revenge.”

The first round is about to start, and Harry has to warm up.  Louis can see him on one of the live feeds, taking his turn on the practice putting green outside the clubhouse.  There are spectators crowding the thin rope barriers, girls shouting at him and giggling to each other behind brightly painted fingernails.  Harry waves and nods at them, cherubic smile a breath of fresh air.  His curls are tamed by a black headband today, and it’s slightly odd, slightly feminine… but as usual, he’s making it work.  As soon as Niall hands him his putter, he’s all business, lining up shots and testing the speed of the grass.  His furrowed brow makes Louis’s mouth go dry.

“Least sexy sport,” he whispers, stubbornly.  He takes out his phone and types a message.

Just as Harry’s about to try for a meticulously-read 18-footer, Louis presses send.  He sees Harry pause, one of his big, tanned hands drifting toward the rectangle in his back pocket.  He hesitates for a moment, then slips out his phone and takes a look.

Louis Tomlinson: omg aaron rodgers is here ! he’s watching u putt!!!

Harry’s mouth drops open, a visible shock runs through his body.  His wide green eyes dart up and he glances through the crowd.  Louis cackles in triumph, and maybe Harry can hear it all the way across the clubhouse because at that moment he bites his lip, reddens, and starts typing out a response.

Chad Michael Murray: that was not nice

Louis Tomlinson: sorry my bad not aaron jsut jim furyk xxxxxxxx need to get my vision checked xx

Okay, so maybe the Tommo does resort to xs on occasion, but only when extremely cute, sinfully leggy men are involved.  And Harry seems to glow when Louis teases him.  Louis bites back a grin as Harry turns to face the camera, holds up his phone, sticks out his tongue and hands it to Niall.  Then he hunches over his putt and sends it straight in.

The crowd cheers.

Louis’s heart expands.

 

*

 

Sky Sports wants to broadcast Harry’s every move, so Louis spends most of the rest of his day ogling him and trying to cram as much innuendo as possible into every single one of his comments.  Liam acts mildly scandalized, but Louis swears he’s setting him up now and then, deliberately talking about strokes and swinging.

Harry almost chips it in for a birdie from a sand trap on the 5th.  “Ah,” says Louis regretfully.  “Teases going in, but in the end he’s only just rimmed the hole.  Gosh, I hate when that happens.”

Liam facepalms.

“And he steps up to tap it in, no problem,” Louis continues, unruffled.  “Look how gently he strokes that pink ball.”

“His mum is probably watching this, you know,” Liam hisses under his breath.  Louis only grins wider.

“A lovely par, and handsome leading amateur Harry Styles remains just one back of our tournament leader, Adam Scott.  Let’s see if he can come from behind, ladies and gentlemen.  Stay with us.”

“You are absurd,” Liam breathes through his hands, as they cut to commercial.

Louis shuffles the papers in front of them nonchalantly.  “It’s this desk, Liam, it’s going to give me a hernia.”

As the day goes on, the crowds around Harry only get bigger.  He has the natural charisma of a performer, and the ability of an elite athlete.  Throw in the curls and the dimples, the way his shirt hangs off the broad planes of his back, and you’ve got a phenomenon.

Harry makes golf seem like an adventure rather than a tired old exercise for doctors and posh retirees.  Simply put, it’s a pleasure watching him play.  Louis learns about Harry’s game along with the viewers at home -- Sky had no scouting reports on him before he was invited to the PGA, no cheat sheet for Louis and Liam to reference or résumé for them to pore over.  (Not that Louis has forgotten about juggling club.)  He hits low, booming drives that set him up perfectly for approach shots when they land on the fairway, but get him into trouble sometimes when he slices them right with a little hitch in his swing.  Getting to the green is one thing -- once Harry’s on it, no one can touch him.  He’s made more one-putts in the last two days than anyone else in the field, pro or am.  He seems to have a special talent for reading greens, a delicate touch with those large, expressive hands.  Louis watches them grip the putter, steady yet soft, and he feels his chest start to constrict.  He knows he’s going to think about them tonight in his hotel room -- Harry’s hands -- he’s going to think about how warm they’d be wrapped around his cock, palms slightly chapped, so big that they could move along his shaft from base to tip with only half a tug.

How good they’d be.

“Harry’s got great touch,” says Liam, and Louis starts.  He has one of those panicked moments in which he’s sure the people around him are reading his mind.

“Yeah,” he replies, weakly.  He swallows around the rough lump of want in his throat.  “Really good.”

Harry’s game has another little quirk.  Whenever he sinks a particularly difficult putt, he leans down to pluck his lucky pink ball out of the hole, tosses it in the air once and gives it a kiss.  Then he slides it into his pocket, where it stays until he walks to the next tee.  The whole world has decided it’s adorable.

The moment Harry crests the ridge on 18 and comes in sight of the broadcast booth is the best part of Louis’s day.  He’s still one back of Adam Scott, though they’ve traded the lead on and off over the course of the afternoon, and ahead of third-place Phil Mickelson by a healthy four strokes.  He’s proved he’s not a Thursday fluke.  The relaxed swing in his step and the grin on his face convey both relief and pride.  He waves to the crowd, stops to chat with fans and sign autographs as the pair ahead of him finishes up on the green.

“It’s quite an accomplishment for any amateur just to make the cut at a Major, and Harry Styles, the pride of Holmes Chapel, Cheshire, is set to do much more than that.  Louis, do you reckon he could make a run for the title?”

Louis actually stops to seriously consider the question for a moment, bites down the cheeky retort his brain had automatically supplied him with.  Harry’s standing to the side of the green now, peering up at the booth, teeth flashing as he smiles, rippling his fingers in a shy little wave.

“Well, Liam.  I know everyone wants him to do well.  England needs a Cinderella story like this, and God knows we all love an underdog.  Most analysts would probably play the Devil’s advocate, remind us of the overwhelming odds against him in a field stacked with this much talent, pull out figures and statistics and say things like, the last time an amateur won a major tournament was in 1933, when golf was a very different sport.  But you know what?  I’m speaking from my gut here…  I think he’s got something special.  I think he can hang with the pros.  Give them a run for their money.”

Louis must have let some emotion creep into his voice or something, because Liam is staring at him.  Even the interns have stopped bustling around behind them.  Everything goes quiet for a moment.  Harry steps up to his ball, and without even a practice stroke sinks a 13-foot putt for another birdie and -- because Adam had just seconds before tapped in for bogey -- the outright lead.

The crowd goes ballistic.

And there’s no way Louis’s getting anywhere near Harry for an interview today, not with CBS and ESPN monopolizing him as soon as he steps off the green.  He tries not to feel too irritated, tries to be happy for Harry, both because of his potentially historic performance and the international spotlight that comes with it.  He mostly succeeds.

It’s not that he begrudges Harry anything.  It’s just, that weird teenager-with-a-crush inside Louis wants to be all that Harry’s thinking about.  He doesn’t want to have to share him with Jim Nantz and Tom Rinaldi.

Really, all he wants to do is talk to him again.

He stares at his silent phone.

After he and Liam finish up and Louis tells the cramped desk to go bugger itself one last time, they share a cab back to their hotel and end up eating vending machine food and leftover continental breakfast muffins in the lobby.  Louis can’t be arsed to go into town for dinner, and Liam’s just happy to have company.  They talk more footie, and compare music tastes -- Liam’s more into hip-hop and rap; Louis’s a top 40 boy through and through, but they end up doing an impromptu version of “Wannabe” that doesn’t sound horrible.  Two of the janitors even clap for them.

“You good?” Liam asks, noticing that Louis is staring at his phone again.

“Grand.”  Louis can only give him a wan smile.

“I talked to our bosses back in London while we were on break earlier.  They think you’re an insane person, but apparently you’ve been pulling in the numbers with your shameless cheek.  So keep up the good work, and all that.”

“Hey, what can I say.  The Tommo way is the best way.”

“To the Tommo way.”

They clink their plastic cups of orange juice and Louis decides to head up to bed.  There’s another Breakfast at the PGA scheduled for tomorrow, which means he has to be up at the arse crack of dawn.  He says goodnight to Liam and rides the elevator up to the third floor by himself.  Lets himself into his lonely room and flops down on the bed, shirt riding up over his tummy.

And this is more what he thought this week would be like.  Only more HBO and less pining.

As he stares at the ceiling, he brings his hand up to graze lazily along the bare patch of golden skin at his waist.  His mind snaps to Harry like a magnet, the long lines of his body and the strength in his arms as he powers a shot onto the green.  His face is all fierce concentration in Louis’s memory… hard, furrowed brows and intense focus in his eyes.  Louis imagines that focus directed at him.  Imagines what Harry would do to his body, how those hands, those ridiculous, gigantic warm hands would feel on his chest, running down the dip of his spine to grip his bum…

Louis closes his eyes.  He’s already hard when he reaches into his pants and takes his own cock in hand, squeezing a few drops of precum out of the tip to help with lubrication.  He wanks purposefully as he pictures Harry’s full, red lips on his neck, sucking a bruise into the sensitive skin just over his pulse point.  He wants Harry’s mouth on him more than he’s ever wanted anything in his life, God, and his own hand is getting desperate now, twisting a little on the downstroke as he imagines rutting up against Harry’s solid frame.

At that moment, his phone buzzes.  Louis sucks in a heated breath, and reaches into his pocket with his left hand.  He sits up, stabbing at the lockscreen.

New text message from:

Chad Michael Murray

watching sky sports replay in my hotel rm.  liked your commentary today… does chad know how naughty you are? ;)

All it takes is reading the word “naughty” and Louis’s shooting across his stomach.  He gasps, shudders.  Lets his body recover for a moment and wipes his hand on his shirt before typing back.

Louis Tomlinson: naughty, what ? no idea what ur on about ...  u must be a terrible pervert, mate! x

He falls back on the bed again, head spinning, body suffused with hazy post-orgasm warmth.  He’s confused and horny and desperately in need of any sort of clarity at the moment; he still has a job to do, thanks, and with Harry front and center it’s going to be tough not to get distracted.

“Shit.  Bastard.  Prick.  Arse.”

All Louis really knows is that he’s well and truly fucked.