Actions

Work Header

When It's Late At Night

Chapter Text

Louis holds his breath as the sound of faint footsteps echo just outside of the studio room he’s currently hiding in. The sound gets louder as someone’s giant, impatient feet get closer and closer to the door that Louis should’ve locked a few minutes ago when he crept in here. He squeezes his eyes shut, inwardly chanting a steady stream of don’t pick this door, don’t pick this door. The muscles of his body tense as he anticipates the inevitability of his boss finding him, but shockingly, it doesn’t come.

The footsteps pass right by him allowing Louis to relax back into the soft cushions of the sofa he’s sprawled out over. He releases the breath he had been holding, the soft whoosh of it turning into pained groan when the door of the room slams open without warning. Louis barely even has time to properly bury his face in the pillow he borrowed from a random dressing room six months ago and never bothered to return.

“No! Please! Just let me sleep for ten minutes! Five minutes!” he begs when neither of his requests are honored. His pillow- or the studio’s pillow- gets snatched right from under him, but James isn’t quick enough. Louis manages to catch a corner of it before it’s pulled out of reach, his bone-tired fingers clinging to it as if his life depends on it rather than just his beauty rest because honestly that’s just as important.

“Let go,” James grits out with a firm grip around his edge of the pillow.

“No, you let go. It’s mine!” Louis’ hands start to shake from the strain of playing tug-of-war with someone with three times his strength. Several people walk by the scene of their new battle and hardly even blink at the two of them fighting over something as stupid as a pillow which, let’s be honest, probably belongs to James in the first place.

The only thing that makes either of them loosen his grip is the sound of the fabric ripping apart between them. Louis’ affection for his napping companion makes him weak and his boss must sense it because the moment Louis gives him an inch James yanks the entire thing out of his hand, nearly falling over from the force.

Louis flops back and sighs in defeat at his loss just in time to get a whacked across the torso with it.

Ow.” Louis glares up at him. He’d threaten harassment or assault but then he’d just be incriminating himself since it was just three days ago that he tied all of James’ shoes together and then slapped him twice on the bum to wish him good luck for his last taping of the week. It probably didn’t help that his wife was present for both incidences.

“Whine more, will you,” James rolls his eyes. “And get up. Weekly briefing started two minutes ago so we’re officially late.”

“How many times must I tell you, you can’t be late for a meeting when it’s your bloody meeting. It starts when you say it does,” Louis mutters, still bitter that the almighty host of late night television’s biggest show chooses to have a meeting at the arse crack of nine.

James just stares at him, completely unsympathetic to Louis’ feelings and his sensitive sleeping schedule when he whacks him across the face with the pillow again. “I say it starts now. Get up or I’m dragging you.”

It’s an empty threat, or at least Louis thinks it is anyway. James doesn’t exactly have that soft twinkle in his eye that usually indicates that he’s full of shit.

“Fine,” Louis relents, “But I want coffee. Would you mind, mate?”

James’ head tilts to one side as he stares at Louis like he’s some cruel practical joke.

“Louis. Have you ever actually read your contract?” Louis feels his brow furrow. He has a contract? “Okay, never mind. Let’s just go,” James says to the inside of his eyelids as he massages his left temple.

Louis stands up, a strained noise coming from the back of his throat as he stretches, forcing James to move out his way as he fans his arms. He folds in on himself when he gets hit with the pillow for a third time.

He’s left slightly winded and highly offended as James throws a demanding “Hurry up,” over his shoulder. This is why Louis hates bosses. They’re so damn bossy.

*

Louis saunters into the briefing room a mere ten seconds after James and yet everyone in the room still turns to look at him like he’s committed some heinous crime when he drops down into the swivel chair next to Cara and Dillon, two other studio assistants who managed to make it here on time. He has no idea why they insist on making him look bad every day but something really needs to be done about it.

He glances around the giant round table full of producers and supervisors, noticing that everybody seems to have a small stack of papers in front of them. Louis sits up to lean over Dillon’s shoulder to see why this week’s schedule is so much more extensive than all the rest, but he doesn’t get to really see anything before a broad shoulder protectively hunches over to block his view.

Louis scoffs and wonders what it must be like to sit so straight all the time from a stick shoved up your arse. It’s not like Louis didn’t get a schedule too. It’s probably on his desk or in his mailbox. He rarely ever goes to those places so it’s not like he can say for sure, but he’s almost one-hundred percent certain.

James starts talking just as Dillon cuts his eyes over at him to see if he’s still trying to look at his papers. Louis shushes him. “I’m trying to listen, Dillon. Stop it,” he whispers as loudly as he can without screaming it. He gets Dillon flushing down to his chest and James throwing them a bored, knowing look because Dillon always listens and Louis, well.

His boss continues speaking like nothing even happened. “Back to what we were just discussing,” he says, aimlessly flipping through the schedule that everybody else starts flipping through too in reaction. “He’ll be with us all week so he’s the main guest, but we’ll also have other people booked. He’ll need to be worked into as many different segments as he’s comfortable with without eclipsing everyone else.”

Louis glances around the room only just now feeling the noticeable upward shift in energy. Whoever this mystery person is, is important enough to require a whole week worth of shows.  Apparently, he’s also amazing enough to have half the people in this room sitting in a star-stricken fog just from the mention of him. A few people even gasped. Dillon is one of these said people, so Louis reaches over and snatches his schedule right from under his arm for a peek.

He only has to scan over it for a few seconds before he sees their new headliner typed in bold beneath every fucking day this week: Harry Styles.

“Oh, for fuck’s sake, people. Really?”

Louis’ eyes snap up to the rest of the room when he realizes he said that out loud. He didn’t necessarily mean to but what can anybody really expect when the show volunteers to kiss the arse of a popstar boybander for five days straight.

“Which brings us to our next point,” James says over Louis’ honestly very predictable outburst considering he said pretty much the same thing when Bieber was on. “We’ll all need to pitch in to make Harry feel welcome. He’s been here before with his band, but never on his own so professionalism is key,” he says, looking Louis dead in the eye. “He’ll need to have one of us helping him navigate through the week to make him feel at home and keep him on track with the schedule but without smothering him or making him feel like he’s on display.”

Louis, Dillon, and everybody else nearly chokes on their tongues when his name gets called as the lucky pick.

What?” Louis exclaims. “You’re joking,” Louis laughs, his lips flat lining when James doesn’t even blink. “Oh my God, you can’t be serious. Why me?”

“Yeah, why him?” Dillon asks in a tone that suggests he might actually tear up like Cara currently is on Louis’ other side. As much as he thinks Dillon is an annoying, try-hard, overachieving bastard, he can’t help but actually agree. Louis is the last person who should’ve been picked. Who the hell thought this was going to be a good idea?

His boss surveys the looks of complete devastation around his table. “By show of hands, who can finish this line?” James asks the room. “Just stop your crying, it’s…”

Every hand around him shoots up in the air including the two executive producers sitting near the head of the table. James doesn’t call on any of them. Not even Dillon who’s practically bouncing in his seat. James just stares Louis down for an answer waiting as he racks his brain for one.

“Er- Just stop your crying because it’s already nine-fifteen so there’s only forty-five minutes left of this meeting?”

Every hopeful gaze in the room falls and then narrows at him like he’s the biggest moron they’ve ever seen. Even Dillon makes him feel like an idiot as he scoffs at Louis over his upturned nose and snatches his schedule back without so much as a word.

Okay, so, clearly that wasn’t the right answer. He made it up off the top of his head, but Jesus, it’s not like he killed somebody.

James raises a smug eyebrow at him. “And that, my friend, is exactly why you’re the one for the job.”

The meeting ends ten minutes after ten, solidifying this day as the worst in history. Dillon quickly packs up his things, refusing to meet Louis’ eyes for more than a few seconds.

“You don’t deserve to get to work with him,” he hisses. “It’s not fair. You didn’t even get here on time.”

“Yeah, I know. And look what it got me. I’m sure as hell never doing that again,” Louis mumbles. Dillon pushes away from the table and stomps away with his things tucked tight under his arm and his jaw clenched tight the way Louis’ always is while watching the end of The Notebook. Maybe it was something he said?

*

Day One

“You’re to be on your best behavior, Louis. I mean it,” James tells him the next morning at the bright hour of fucking seven. “Harry is our guest here, but besides that he’s also a very dear friend of mine.”

Louis scoffs, shielding his eyes from the sun as they wait for their grand visitor to arrive. “I thought I was a dear friend of yours.”

“No, you’re the resident pest I can’t ever seem to get rid of,” he mumbles. “Alright fine. You’re both dear friends. Happy?” James says when Louis lifts a foot from the asphalt like he’s going to aim it right at his shin.

“Admit it. You love me,” Louis says just as a dark SUV rolls up the studio drive.

“Why remains a mystery to this day,” James mutters as the car slows to a stop a few yards away from them. Louis would follow through with kicking him in the shin but he swore to be on his best behavior. He’s never really been good at that sort of thing but he is determined to try.

James hurries to open the door for Harry before the driver can even get out of the car. Louis watches his boss envelope a taller man in dark jeans made of more holes than denim. The two men hug for way longer than is considered polite in this industry, but Louis guesses that’s to be expected since James claims to love him like a brother. They exchange fond greetings which is just a loud and jumbled recount of the last time they saw each other two months ago in London. Louis listens for details about this amazing drunken encounter but all he really registers is a bunch of laughter and embarrassed giggles; most of them coming from Harry rather than James. That’s different.

They pull away from each other and finally turn towards Louis still standing near the door in the hot L.A. sun waiting to usher his new popstar around the studio like he can’t read a fucking map.

“Harry, this is Louis, the assistant we told you about. He’s all yours for the next week so don’t hesitate to let him know if you need something or have any questions at all. He’s very excited to work with you,” James says with a suggestive raise of his eyebrows at Louis like he’s supposed to agree.

Louis kind of wants to leave him hanging for pimping him out to his popstar bff like he doesn’t have better things he could be doing right now. There are empty sofas inside of empty dressing rooms and Louis’ body isn’t star-fished on any of them.

“I’m very excited to work with you,” Louis parrots with his best smile in place. It fades when James checks an incoming call and then dismisses himself once he realizes he needs to take it.

“Sorry to leave right when you’re getting here, but it’s so great to see you, Haz. I’ll come find you in a bit. Louis’ amazing. He’ll show you around and get you acclimated,” he promises just as he conveniently ducks back into the building and out of sight.

Louis resents being talked about like he’s not standing right here. He also resents being made to do this at all. He’s tempted to go find Dillon or one of the other assistants since technically this is their collective dream date that Louis’ infringing on.

“Hi, Louis. I’m Harry. It’s very nice to meet you.”

He blinks down at Harry’s large hand when he reaches it out towards him to break the silence. Louis can’t tell if he’s being fake-humble because he’s a celebrity who likes to reminisce about how it used to feel to be normal or if he is real-humble and he’s actually this genuine. Between the obnoxious collection of rings adorning his fingers and the refreshingly worn-out boots on his feet it’s hard to tell. He could be a dick just as easily as he could be the most well-mannered person Louis’ ever met.

Louis meets him half-way for a quick handshake to test him out, deciding as soon as Harry smiles that his dimples are too deep and his eyes are too green to be trusted. Definitely the beautiful siren, diva-type.

“So, is it bad that it’s my first day and I don’t really know where I’m supposed to go?” Harry asks with a tiny chuckle. “I think I’m supposed to be meeting with James and the producers later, but I can’t be too sure,” he shrugs innocently.

Louis sees what he’s doing with his moisturized skin and his model hair. Louis has worked here for over a year. He has seen it all before and has never once been impressed by it, much like he isn’t very impressed right now.

“You don’t have to play popstar damsel in distress, Mr. Styles. I can just tell you your schedule if you need or get you another copy if you’ve lost yours.”

“Oh. Um, okay? Great.” Harry says, thick eyebrows inching together likes he’s confused. This is going to be the longest week of Louis’ fucking life and it’s only Monday. “Thanks so much, Louis. And not that it’s a big deal or anything but, could you please call me Harry?”

Louis returns his grin with a tight one of his own, turning on his heel to lead Harry straight to his fancy dressing room and dump him inside of it for the next hour until his meeting with James and the producers. “Right this way, Mr. Styles.”

---

Harry hasn’t been through these corridors in years and yet they still feel vaguely familiar. Not familiar enough to where he knows where the hell he’s going of course but he does his best to keep up with his new assistant who walks incredibly fast for someone so petite. He’s takes two full steps in the time it takes Harry to take one, but thankfully Harry’s long legs are helping him stay close as they blur past staff members and large photographs of past guests hanging on the walls. They stop in front of a thick door on the left and the change in pace is so sudden that Harry nearly runs right into Louis. He opens the door that has Harry’s name spelled out across it in place of whoever occupied it last.

“This is your dressing room. It’s yours for the week,” Louis reveals, the impatient set to his jaw noticeable as Harry pokes his head into the room first before stepping in all the way to check it out. It’s the same just get it over with look that Harry’s sister wears at Christmas whenever Harry unwraps a gift.

The first thing Harry realizes and still can’t get over is how much bigger rooms like this feel compared to when he shared spaces this size with three other people. The constant overcrowding was maddening at times, but he kind of misses it. It was nice always having someone to talk to. There is a bouquet of pink roses sitting on the large vanity along with a copy of his elusive and busy schedule taped to the panel of mirrors that stretches across the back wall. There’s a large bowl of ripe bananas beside an even bigger bowl of other fresh fruit, several bottles of water with the Late Late logo printed on the labels, and a basket of favors including his favorite granola bars and candies that makes Harry’s stomach grumble because he’s running off nothing but tea.

Harry walks in a bit further and takes a seat on his plush sofa admiring the beautiful acoustic guitar leaned against the desk holding a big flat-screen and an empty rack of clothing yet to be filled because wardrobe has yet to meet with him. He can’t remember exactly when they’re supposed to come, but he think it’s sometime this afternoon.

“Wow. I can’t believe I get my very own banana bowl,” he grins. “Everyone else just chucks them in with the oranges and the apples. It’s unnatural.”

He knows Louis doesn’t want to humor him by grinning back but Harry still enjoys watching him paste on a fake smile to appear like he does.

“Yeah,” he agrees half-heartedly. “You’re welcome by the way. Banana bowls are hard to come by in this place. That took like, three whole minutes to achieve.”

“Oh. Did it? Excuse me,” Harry apologizes. “I didn’t realize it was you who worked on my room. Thanks, Louis. It looks great.” His assistant seems a little thrown off by Harry’s response, modestly shrugging one shoulder rather than resorting back to sarcasm.

“It was nothing. It’s just flowers and fruit. It’s what James said you like, so.”

Harry grins in thanks again which seems like a pretty harmless gesture to him, but it must rub Louis the wrong way somehow because he has no interest in sticking around.

“Well, Styles, I guess you’re all settled in now,” he announces to his phone as he checks it for the time. “Your schedule’s right over there on the mirror with my number on it. Your meeting is in room 121 in about thirty minutes. Your stylists are coming in later, you’ll practice your segments with James this afternoon, and as you know from experience we’ll let in your legion of fans off the street and start taping around eight. Questions?” Harry doesn’t say anything making his assistant sport the first genuine smile Harry’s seen from him, already backing out of the room. “Great! Bye, Styles! Have fun!”

Harry chuckles as he shuffles back out into the corridor as if his dressing room is on fire. “Wow. You don’t like me very much, do you?”

Louis must catch what he said just before the door closes because he pushes it back open, expression sheepish and slightly guilty like Harry maybe wasn’t supposed to know that.

“Huh?”

“You don’t like me,” Harry repeats, no longer making it a question since it’s completely obvious.

What? Sure, I do,” Louis insists. “Who told you that?”

“No one had to say it,” Harry laughs. “I can just tell. And that’s okay. You can’t win over everyone, right?”

Louis doesn’t exactly hurry to deny his claim. “That’s nonsense, Styles. I like you just fine,” he lies. “I got you a banana bowl, remember?”

“True, but you hardly ever look at me.”

“I’m looking at you right now,” Louis quips making Harry bite back a laugh when he subconsciously rolls his eyes because he’s been found out. Harry could tell that Louis wasn’t into this the moment he set foot out of the car and Louis started picking at his nails.

“You won’t call me by my first name,” Harry continues. “And for some reason, you don’t really like it whenever I smile or say thank you. You get this look on your face like you want to push me into oncoming traffic or something...kind of like right now,” he smiles wider just to prove his point.

“It’s early. There’s no reason to smile. It’s unsettling,” Louis says in his own defense.

“There’s also the fact that you’re trying to dump me in my dressing room for the day so you don’t have to deal with me or speak to me, which is fine except I kind of wanted a quick tour of the place before things get too busy, and since I don’t really know my way around, I’d prefer to not go alone if at all possible. Please?” he tacks on at the last minute.

Louis sighs to himself, widening the door all the way to meet Harry’s gaze. “Is this your diva boybander way of saying you want me to walk you through the bloody studio?”

“Ex-boybander. We’re on a hiatus,” Harry corrects, “But, yes. It is,” he grins. “Do you mind?”

Louis makes a face at his use of the term hiatus as well as the way his dimples pop along with his smile. He looks like he really wants to slam the door shut and run for the hills, but he stays put.

“You know there are like, ten billion maps all over this place. It’s literally impossible to get lost.”

“Maybe. But what if I’m the one person who does?”

“Then I’d say my assumptions about you are dead-on, mate.” Louis is wearing a thin smirk that should really be offensive, but Harry kind of likes it. Louis is a stark contrast to the small group of assistants and staff members he saw earlier who looked close to tears at the sight of him and Louis speeding by as a pair which is probably how Louis got the honor of babysitting him all week; he isn’t too star struck to do his job because he doesn’t see Harry as a star. Well, he called him a popstar a little while ago which was interesting to say the least. Harry considers himself more contemporary these days.

“I want to start back at the front,” Harry announces as he stands up. “I remember this place being huge so we should get started.”

“You know, mate, any friend of James’ is a friend of, well, James, but I’m sure if you asked him to replace me with another assistant he’d be more than willing to-”

“Nah. It’s okay,” Harry waves him off. “Who wants a happy assistant who likes me when I can have miserable little you?”

Harry walks past him and his slack jaw as he runs that back through his head. “Did you- Did you just call me little? As in, short?”

Yep,” Harry confirms.

“Well, your jeans are missing half their fabric,” Louis informs him as he shuts and locks the dressing room door behind them. “And those boots have definitely seen better days,” he quips, rushing to catch up with Harry’s long strides as he heads back the way they came.

Harry could slow down and wait for him so that it’s easier for him to sling fashion insults over his shoulder, but he kind of likes making Louis work. It’s clearly not something he’s used to doing very often.

---

Louis waits for the corridor to empty as he hovers near the door he’s been scoping out for the past five minutes. There’s a group of writers still lingering along with one of the producers that Louis tries to hurry along with the combined power of his mind and wishful thinking. They finally leave and Louis slips into the empty dressing room running and swan-diving onto a sofa that welcomes him like a long-lost friend.

All he has wanted to do since he woke up this morning is to go back to sleep which was no easy task with Harry Styles around. Besides meal times where he had a civic duty to annoy the shit out of James, this is the first free moment he’s had to himself all day. Between touring the building and ushering Harry from one meeting to another like a famous lost sheep he hasn’t had time for much else. The only reason Louis could sneak away just now is because his popstar is currently being beautified by wardrobe, hair, and makeup. Louis doesn’t know how long his well-earned break is going to last. There’s only so much they can do for a man who is already fucking gorgeous so he doesn’t count on getting much of a nap.

Louis’ phone buzzes with a message from Harry not even fifteen minutes after lying down. Louis can’t decide if he’s more annoyed by the fact that Harry’s already finished or impressed since it takes Louis longer than that just to drag his sorry arse out of bed.

He knocks on Harry’s door and pushes it open to find him sitting on his sofa wearing a suit that Louis had originally turned his nose up at because the pattern is fucking atrocious. It’s the worst thing he’s ever seen, and oddly enough Harry looks amazing in it. He looks great in general, actually. Louis doesn’t understand how that’s even possible because there are honest to God rainbows on his shoes and his hairstyle has no rhyme or reason to it. From a logical standpoint, he should not look good, but it’s hard to argue with yellow plaid and beauty staring you right in the face.

Harry looks up from playing the guitar that Louis spent all yesterday on a wild goose chase after before resorting to just stealing one from the music pit. Louis figured it was just a diva demand on Harry’s part to make himself seem more interesting. Louis didn’t think he could actually play the damn thing.

“I didn’t realize boybanders played instruments.”

“Ex-boybander,” Harry corrects for what has to be the hundredth time today. “And, now you do.” Harry finishes the last few chords of a Coldplay song and then grins up at Louis’ raised eyebrows. He loves Yellow. “What?” Harry teases. “Did I ruin the stereotype for you?”

“Actually, yes,” Louis admits. “I sincerely thought you couldn’t play a note. No offense.” Harry laughs when he does, seemingly not offended at all.

Credibility is a hard thing for Louis to give. Being somewhat skilled at an instrument doesn’t make you a god in his opinion, but in Harry’s case, it definitely doesn’t hurt.

“Filming starts in ten so we better get going,” Louis announces as Harry carefully leans the guitar against the arm of the sofa.

We?” he smirks. “You’re not going to throw me out into the hall, point me in the mostly right direction, and wish me luck like earlier?” Earlier Louis nearly caused Dillon and half the staff to have a stroke because he set a wild Harry Styles loose to wander through the studio and the poor things weren’t prepared in the slightest.

“You want me to send you off dressed like that?” Louis deadpans. “Get real, Styles. I can’t have you blinding people, now can I?”

“You mean blinding them with my good looks and charm?” He waggles his eyebrows and clicks the heels of his rainbow shoes together; a lot of work to get the flat expression that Louis gives him in return.

“Yeah, sure. Let’s go with that,” Louis mumbles, holding the door open to escort him to the stage.

Harry has caused a scene pretty much everywhere he has gone today, but nothing compares to the complete meltdown the audience has when they see him. He waves excitedly and blows a few kisses in their direction and the volume of screams around the room amplifies so much that Louis wishes laryngitis on them all.

Once Harry sits down next to James and the cameras start rolling, Louis isn’t really needed. He could go hibernate for the next hour in an empty dressing room somewhere now that he has the chance. No one would bother him. No one would even notice he was gone. Louis has every intention of doing just that but he can’t bring himself to leave all the excitement going on here.

He gets it for the most part. He can see how this boy with a cute smile has everybody in the room staring at him with hearts and stars in their eyes, but in his opinion, it’s nothing special.

A dozen celebrities come through this studio every week and Harry is just like the rest of them, which is why Louis can’t figure out why he’s still standing here in the wings with the rest of the staff laughing good-naturedly as James teases him about everything from his hair to his bad jokes that he insists on telling.

Once his initial interview is over Louis decides to take off. All that’s left now is the musical performance, and although Harry can strum a few chords, Louis isn’t interested in watching Mr. Popstar bounce around the stage to vague lyrics about young love and the color of some girl’s eyes. No thanks.

He sticks around long enough to make sure Harry’s band gets set up alright and nothing catastrophic happens to anyone. The lights dim just as Louis turns on heel to leave, a soft piano playing a haunting intro to a song Louis’ never heard. He takes one full step before stopping dead in his tracks as someone opens their mouth to let out a deep voice that nearly stops Louis’ heart in his chest from how powerfully the tone hits him.

Louis turns back to the stage, feeling like the world’s single biggest idiot ever as his client completes the mystery line to the song that everyone seemed to know and love yesterday except him.

Just stop your crying it’s a sign of the times.

It’s so simple; it’s just one line and it already has Louis contemplating all his life choices for the past twenty-five years. It’s not some bubblegum pop song about love. Hell, it’s not even pop. Louis doesn’t know what’s going on here or how this song managed to slip under his radar, just that he may have been completely wrong about Harry Styles.

Louis glances to his right to find Dillon huddled near the wall with four other assistants all watching the stage with glassy eyes.

“See?" Dillon sniffs at him. “Isn’t he amazing?”

Louis can’t understand why he’s so inclined to agree with this over-emotional idiot or why his head nods without his consent, but he kind of thinks Harry is amazing too. Fuck.

Chapter Text

Day Two

James finds him in the dining area the next morning sitting at a table all by himself and nodding his exhausted head along to the beat of the song that’s been on repeat since half two this morning. He had startled awake with the burning need to pee and also to hear Sign of the Times. Neither could wait so he snatched up his phone on the way to the bathroom and had already purchased Harry’s single by the time he flushed the toilet.

James narrows his eyes at Louis and then at the watch around his wrist just to frown back at his friend. “Louis, it’s barely seven o’clock what the hell are you already doing-?” James lurches back to avoid Louis’ outstretched hand when he shushes him.

“You’re talking over the good part. I can’t hear,” Louis says, turning up the volume in vain because it’s already at full blast.

“The good part of what exactly?”

Louis ignores his very loud question as the music builds to the bridge of the song. Louis sways to the powerful lyrics, mouthing them as the guitar tears in along with the drums. A few words escape Louis’ mostly silent singing and James narrows his eyes at him for a second time.

“Wait a minute. Is that-?”

Louis splays a hand in his face to shush him again as Harry screams through his earbuds about how they’ve got to get away. Louis doesn’t know where they’ve got to get away to or why but he feels like his heart has been ripped straight from his chest when James snatches the speakers from his ears and his phone out of the death grip he had around it.

“You actually bought Harry’s single?” James seems to be having trouble believing it even though he’s holding the evidence of Louis’ late night purchase right in his hand.

“It’s a good song.”

“You had no idea it existed until last night and now you’re conducting an air symphony while listening to it?”

Louis runs through the events of the past forty-eight hours. He can see how his newfound love of an ex-boybander’s hit single might be confusing, but what difference does it make why Louis suddenly appreciates Harry’s music as long as he does? “It’s a really good song?” he tries again, hoping James will let him off easy. It’s not likely. He can feel the gloating judgement coming right along with James’ shit-eating smile.

“You like him.”

Louis cuts his eyes over at his boss who has just crossed over into dangerous territory.

“I do not.”

That just makes James smile bigger. “You like him, Lou. You two got along yesterday, didn’t you? You warmed up to him. An ex-boybander. A popstar.”

“Oh, shut up. I do not like him. Clearly, I like his stupid song,” Louis explains. Refusing to stare into James’ smug face any longer as he stands up to seize back his phone.

James doesn’t say anything. He just grins, the big, fat ‘I told you so’ just waiting at the tip of his stupid tongue.

“I’m leaving,” he announces.

“Okay, Lou. Well, be sure to tell our mate I said hi when he gets here.”

“Alright, fuck off. He is not my mate.” He wears leprechaun shoes for fuck’s sake. Louis can’t befriend someone who’s clearly insane.

“Right. Whatever you say,” James laughs.

Louis stomps out of the room and into the corridor now on the hunt for a new hiding place where a man can sit and listen to his music and conduct an air symphony in peace.

He wedges his speakers back into his ears before he sets off. He hits play once he’s started the song over again because he’s a multi-tasker. He can listen to perfection and walk at the same damn time.

*

Louis watches Harry chug half a bottle of water in two swallows and then wipe his lips with the back of his massive hand wondering how on earth this idiot grinning at him in an orange bowling shirt is the same person who unknowingly wrote and recorded Louis’ own personal life anthem.

“You’re acting weird again,” Harry says watching Louis watch him from the doorway of his dressing room.

Louis fixes his attentive stance so that it’s more careless like people are used to seeing from him rather than turned directly towards Harry like a good assistant. Jesus, he’s turning into one of them.

He needs to get a grip. The man has purple trousers hanging on his clothes rack for fuck’s sake.

“I am not. You’re weird,” Louis answers a beat too late, getting distracted by Harry’s hair when he absently runs his fingers through it.

He didn’t even get in until around noon today so Louis has had the whole morning to himself. Harry had the Monday night slot all to himself but tonight he’s sharing the spotlight with Emma Stone so he’ll have less of the show to fill. So far, he has rehearsed the new song he’s singing tonight with his band and has met with James and the producers again to decide what they’re going to do on the show. They chose the game Flinch, which doesn’t require Harry to do much of anything except show up and get food hurled at his face out of a cannon. Louis can’t imagine that’ll disappoint when Harry flinched this afternoon just from someone opening a door too close to him.

“No,” Harry decides after a while, “You have been acting a little strange. You’ve only said four rude things to me today and pulled one sour face. We’ve lost our spark.”

“Oh, it’s still there,” Louis assures him, gesturing over to his mess of a clothing rack. “Are you still planning on wearing half of that shit you picked out from wardrobe yesterday?” Louis rolls his eyes when Harry answers him with a blinding smile. “See? The spark’s still alive and well,” he mutters.

“God, I’m starving,” Harry says aloud once he’s stopped chuckling at Louis’ flat expression.

“Well, lucky for you there are approximately ten-thousand bananas in this very room. Go wild.”

Louis watches Harry’s thick eyebrows inch together and the muscles of his jaw flex as he contemplates possibly eating some of them.

“Mm…I think I’d like to have a salad instead,” he shrugs, already standing up. “Want to come with? There’s still about a twenty percent chance that I’ll get lost, ne’er to return.”

Louis’ sure the chances of Harry ending up in a broom closet or locked inside of a supply room are in the high sixties and that’s Louis being generous. “Yeah, alright. I’ll go with you. I don’t mind,” Louis sighs, holding the door open for them to walk out of.

He raises an eyebrow when Harry stops in the doorway with him wearing a grin that immediately puts Louis on edge. “What?”

“See what I mean? You just willingly agreed to go somewhere with me and didn’t complain at all. You are being weird,” he smiles, lightly knocking their shoulders together.

Triumph from knowing something about him is different blazes from behind his emerald-colored eyes that Louis still doesn’t trust. He can’t. Not when only two-percent of people on the planet even have eyes like that. It’s suspect to say the least, especially when paired with fucking dimples which is almost just as rare. Who the hell just happens to be born with both?

You’re weird,” Louis fires back, pointedly ignoring Harry’s amused grin and the way the florescent lights above them only work to make him look even more ethereal. He is literally a freak and he giggles like one too as he follows along at Louis’ heels.

---

A few people in the crowd scream when Harry’s shirt raises a couple of inches as he fixes his mic. Harry keeps a straight face, not wanting to draw more attention his way but it’s hard not to at least grin at the way Louis rolls his eyes standing in front of him.

“Friends of yours?” he mumbles.

“Kind of. They’re just very supportive fans,” Harry says watching Louis lay the lapels of Harry’s jacket flat again so it hides the cord. He really is something even with the attitude. Harry noticed how attractive Louis is the moment he saw him. Louis doesn’t really think too much of him of course, but a man can dream. And tease. Teasing is always fun when Louis’ involved.

“So, what exactly am I supposed to do here again? I don’t really get the point of this game.” Which isn’t a lie. Even when James was explaining it to him today Harry was unsure of how this game qualifies as late night entertainment.

Louis smirks to himself. “Have you ever met James before? There is no point. Just make sure you stay behind the glass when it’s your turn so you aren’t killed by a flying tomato. That’s it. That’s the game.”

His long eyelashes fan against his cheeks when he glances down to make sure Harry looks acceptable. Harry doesn’t miss the way his nose slightly turns up at his choice of outfit for tonight, but then his blue eyes soften again when he reaches Harry’s face. Maybe Louis is fonder of him than he lets on. He has certainly grown on Harry over the past couple of days.

“Don’t get hit and don’t die. Got it,” Harry smiles once the crew signals that they’re ready to begin. “Thank you so much, Louis. You’re a big help.”

Louis blinks at him like he’s not sure what to do with Harry’s gratitude. He looks like he might want to try the kind and thoughtful route by saying ‘you’re welcome’, but then his eyes flit over his face, freezing on the shallow dimple Harry can feel indenting his left cheek and the moment’s lost.

“Just don’t die. And don’t sue. This place pays my bills,” he says over his shoulder making Harry snort a laugh and his fans cheer as a result because he drew attention to himself again. 

“I’ll try my best,” Harry shouts back at him just before Louis exits the stage. He can’t believe he’s really going to let James fling food at his face with a fucking cannon. The things he does for friends.

---

Louis watches from the wings as Emma Stone positions herself behind the thick sheet of glass meant to protect her from the splatter of food that’s about to come flying her way. He can’t believe she’s really going to do this. Louis has that same thought every time a new celebrity agrees to it. Louis is convinced there’s something wrong with all of them. It’s either that, or James is a very efficient blackmailer.

It isn’t even Harry’s turn yet and he’s already looking nervous standing next to James who fires an avocado at Emma while she’s mid-sentence. She jumps at the loud impact of it, earning herself lots of applause because she didn’t stagger or scream like most people do. She waves and smiles just as James fires it again causing Emma to clench her chest because she wasn’t expecting that one.

James turns to Harry when it’s his turn and he just starts laughing because Harry looks terrified.

“Are you ready for this?” he asks once Harry’s behind the glass.

“No. Not really.”

The audience laughs at Harry’s quick answer. Louis can’t help but laugh along with them.

“Aw, nonsense,” James disagrees. “I think people are underestimating you, Harry. You can be quite stoic sometimes. Like that one time when we-”

Harry finishes James’ flashback with a loud shriek as an apple shoots out of the cannon and splatters just inches from his face. Louis’ hand flies to cover his mouth because he has witnessed dozens of people playing this game and no one has ever made a sound like that.

Harry crouches down to laugh, his hands flying to cover his head when James shoots a pear at him without warning and it’s even louder than the fucking apple.  

“This isn’t fun anymore!” he shouts still hunched over and cackling like mad because James just stuffed another piece of fruit into the cannon.

“I’m having loads of fun,” James laughs. And so is Louis. He doesn’t know why it’s so entertaining to watch someone cower in fear of fruit, but watching Harry do it has been hilarious.

*

Louis finds Harry in his dressing room after filming is done. He’s on the phone to someone, recounting his night on the show. He tells whoever it is that he has to go when he notices Louis trying to back out of the room unseen.

“You didn’t have to do that. Sorry to bother you.”

“No, you didn’t bother me. You’re not,” Harry assures him, motioning with his hand for Louis to come back. “So, what’s up?”

Now that Louis’ here, he can’t actually remember. He left the set and felt the need to come congratulate him on another show down he guesses. That seems a bit silly now that he’s standing here in front of him.

“So,” Louis leans against the threshold. “What did you think of Flinch?”

“I was just telling my mum and sister how it’s the most pointless yet brilliant game ever,” he chuckles. Louis doesn’t know why, but picturing Harry stepping off set to call his family and tell them how great of a time he’s having makes his heart warm. Popstar Bieber certainly never did that. “I had fun.”

“You looked terrified.”

“I was,” he admits. “I’m also going to be picking fruit debris out of my hair for days,” he jokes.

Neither of them says anything else so Harry picks up the guitar resting against the couch and starts plucking out the melody to the new song he debuted earlier tonight after he was done being a human target. Louis immediately fell in love with it too. He was quite devastated to see that it isn’t available for purchase just yet.

“You’re not ready to get out of here?” Louis asks as Harry stops in the middle of that song and starts up another. Most guests take off as soon as they’re allowed.

“Not yet. James and his wife invited me to dinner so I’m riding with him.”

Nice,” Louis grins. “Order the most expensive thing on the menu. I always do when they offer. They encourage it.”

Harry laughs at that. “Okay. Will do,” he promises, putting his guitar down when his phone vibrates next to him.

Louis watches him type out a response to whoever it is. Clearly, Harry is fully capable of entertaining himself in here while he waits for James so Louis decides to bid him goodnight.

“I’m going to go. Have fun with James. See you tomorrow,” he waves.

He doesn’t get too far out of the room before Harry’s voice stops him. “Hey, Louis, wait. I don’t know if you already have plans, but would you maybe like to join us?”

The only plan Louis had was to eat something quick and then spend the next hour in bed listening to Harry’s music until he eventually passes out. He hadn’t contemplated spending the next hour with the man himself, especially after spending the whole day with him here.

“You’re inviting me to crash everyone’s dinner?” Louis raises an amused eyebrow.  

“Well, sort of,” Harry shrugs. “If you can handle being around me outside of the studio, that is. And it’s not crashing when you’re amongst friends. It’ll be good.”

Louis can’t help the little grin that tugs at the corners of his lips.

“Friends, huh?” Louis says instead of answering like Harry clearly wants him to. “When exactly did that happen again?”

“Mmm… probably just now when you made the decision to come out with us,” he grins.

“Ah, but I didn’t. I didn’t say yes,” Louis points out, slightly impressed by this false sense of authority Harry seems to think he has acquired in the past five minutes. It kind of makes Louis want to say yes even though he knows he probably shouldn’t.

Harry gets a new text in the midst of their banter or whatever it is they’re playing at. He quickly answers it before meeting Louis’ eyes again.

“Well, that was James. He says he’s ready to go, so,” he announces giving Louis a look like it’s now or never.

“Okay, then. Bye, bye, Styles,” Louis smirks. “Have a grand time. Don’t let me stop you.”

Louis watches him roll his eyes and then make a big show of slowly pulling on his jacket and checking his hair in the mirror a billion times.

“I’m really leaving,” he swears. “I’m going to go and eat a lot.”

“Oh, I believe you, mate,” Louis snorts. “Bon voyage.”

Harry stares him down in amusement, still trying to tempt him after deeming his reflection acceptable. He crosses his arms over his chest, grinning at Louis’ complete and utter stubbornness.

“I’m going to walk out of this dressing room and head to James’ office in a second, and when I do, I hope to see you leaving too to do the same,” he explains.

“You’re setting yourself up for disappointment there, but okay.”

Louis watches Harry sidestep him out of the room like he just promised and then raise his eyebrows in question at him when Louis doesn’t move to follow.

He genuinely looks disappointed until Louis closes the door behind them and then steps around Harry to lead the way down the corridor. Harry’s face lights up like the bloody sun and Louis rolls his eyes.

“Don’t smirk at me like you’ve won or whatever. I’m only going for the food. And I’m only leading the way to James’ office because you still don’t know how to get there.”

Harry quickly schools his face into seriousness, adding a serious nod along with it. “Oh, of course, Louis,” he says, delighted grin still shining through despite Louis’ request. “Whatever you say, mate.”

Chapter Text

Day Three

Harry can’t be certain, but he’s pretty sure someone is standing outside of his dressing room right now. From the sounds of it, he’s pretty sure it’s Louis along with somebody who’s clearly riling him up from how loud he whisper-screams for them to fuck off. Harry grins to himself remembering how Louis had told him the very same thing last night after the wine loosened Harry’s tongue and inhibitions enough for him to say their dinner with James and his wife could objectively be viewed as a lovely double date. Louis took away his wine glass real quick after that, plucking it right out of Harry’s hand and then refusing to so much as look at James who just wore a big, smug smile the rest of the night.

The door to his dressing room creaks open to reveal Louis and what looks to be one of the other assistants named Dillon silently discussing something with their eyes until Dillion throws up his hands in exasperation and stomps off down the corridor. He’s so peculiar, that one. Every time Harry says anything to him he turns cherry red and suddenly mute. It’s the strangest thing.

“What’s going on out there?” Harry chuckles.

Louis makes an annoyed face at the place Dillon just disappeared from.

“Nothing. Crazed fan. I told him I’d steal a lock of your hair or something to get him off my back,” he jokes before shutting the door and pressing his weight against it. Or at least Harry thinks he’s joking, protectively running a hand through his hair.

Louis glances around the room at the dozens of balled up papers littering the floor and Harry draped over the sofa like he’s dying and quirks an eyebrow.

“Never mind Dillon. What the hell’s going on in here?”

Harry groans, throwing an arm over his face to hide it from Louis’ sight. He wishes he could just disappear for the next few hours or at least until filming is over for tonight.

“I’m supposed to be preparing for later.”

“Okay,” Louis nods. “Which game are you playing?”

“Drop the Mic,” Harry sighs, finally removing his arm from his face just as Louis’ lights up.

“Everybody always has so much fun with that one. Who doesn’t love a good rap battle?”

“Um, people like me who can’t rap?”

Louis makes a show of rolling his eyes at him. “Jesus, Styles, be more dramatic.” Harry isn’t being dramatic. He’s just being honest. “You’re an artist. You write songs all the time. Rapping is like an adult nursery rhyme or something but with a beat. Everybody has at least one song they’re good at rapping along to. Just pretend you’re doing that and you’re set.”

Harry doesn’t think there is a whole song he can rap along to.

“Come on,” Louis encourages him. “What’s your go-to song? Your favorite?”

Harry gives it some thought, going through the extremely limited list of rap songs he actually knows. “I think I can do Kanye’s verses in E.T.”

Louis blinks at him with a blank face. “Your rap go-to is a song by pop queen Katy Perry?”

“…Yes?”

Harry thinks he hears him mutter something along the lines of ‘You’re going to get slaughtered by James’. Louis shakes his head at him like he’s never seen a more pitiful person.

“Alright, Styles. I can’t have you embarrassing yourself in front of millions of people on air. Get up. Move over,” he says making his way towards the sofa.

He plucks the notebook and pen out of Harry’s hand when he sits down just as easily as he took Harry’s wine glass the night before, budging up right next to Harry even though there’s plenty of cushion space on his side.

“Now,” Louis begins, “The key to winning this game is to resort to pure savagery. You have to be fucking ruthless. James won’t go easy on you just because you’re mates,” Louis warns, but all Harry’s really paying attention to is the way their legs are touching like they were in the backseat of James’ car before Louis got dropped off at home and Harry at his hotel. God, his eyes are so beautiful.

“Er- Right. Ruthlessness,” Harry repeats after Louis catches him staring and blinks away from his steady gaze. Harry can’t be sure, but he thinks his cheeks may have just the slightest tinge of pink to them. “So, where do we begin?”

Louis smirks at his question, all traces of the blush that Harry probably imagined gone. “Well, Harold, that depends on how badly you want to win and how much combined dirt we have on our dear friend.” It’s the first time Louis’ ever called him something other than Styles, or ‘hey, you’. Harold still isn’t his name of course, but it’s close. “What do you think?” he asks.

“I think I want to kick James’ arse,” Harry smiles. “Teach me your ways.”

---

Louis feels just as nervous standing in the wings of the studio as he would be standing in the center of it with all the cameras pointed at him like James and Harry are about to do.

He spent hours locked away in Harry’s dressing room earlier helping him so he doesn’t make a complete idiot out of himself attempting to win this in his slow, even-toned voice more fit for singing power ballads than rapping. Not that Louis minded spending so much time with him, though he’d never say that out loud. Just like he’ll never admit how much last night felt like they really were on some surreal double date even with Louis’ own vehement denial of the fact to keep James from smirking at him across the table like a twelve-year-old girl with a secret.

Louis sucks in a deep breath when the cameras start rolling and tonight’s two contestants come out in their boxing gear like they’re actually going to battle. Louis spots Harry right away. There’s no way he or anybody else could miss him in the pair of sparkly boots tied on his feet. What’s funny is that they aren’t even part of the costume; he brought them with him from home.

James won the coin toss earlier in the night so he goes first, throwing off his robe and starting the game off with a rhyme about Harry’s boots resembling a disco ball. He gets some applause for his efforts, but not much since Harry’s clothing and fashion choices are obvious and easy targets. Hell, Louis comes up with worse insults about what he wears every day in his head, but thankfully he knows this game and he knows James well enough to know that Harry’s boots would be the first casualty in this clash. Now if only Harry can remember what they practiced together and not fuck it up.

James already thinks he has won before Harry opens his mouth, which just makes Louis more eager for him to pull this off when he begins.

“Let’s have a little fun, James, this beat is sick, it’s okay to be jealous of my disco stick. If you ask me nice, I might let you ride, but to talk to me you’ve got to at least be this high,” he says raising his hand to his own height since James is a couple of inches shorter. “Yeah, my last name is Styles and I’ve been in GQ. I’m so, so sorry nobody wants to photograph you.”

The audience erupts and James’ mouth actually drops like he didn’t expect much of anything to come out of Harry’s mouth, and if he did manage to stumble out a few words, he definitely didn’t expect them to rhyme.

James quirks his head at his friend, eyes narrowed right at him because Harry definitely just won that round.

“Alright, there is no way in hell you came up with that on your own! Who helped you?”

Harry stops laughing long enough to innocently shrug, so bloody proud of himself for pulling that off. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he claims. Of course, he completely ruins his whole ruthless rapper persona by apologizing to James two seconds later for calling him short and ugly, but at least he’s currently winning.

They go back and forth for next five minutes and from the sound of the crowd, Harry is still the person to beat. James attacks Harry about everything from falling over on stage during his boybander days to some mysterious and embarrassing tattoo he got on a dare that apparently only a few select people know about.

Harry gets him back at the end though when he tells everybody about James being banished to the sofa after his wife caught him drunkenly peeing in his own refrigerator two months ago.

Harry’s eyes go wide when the crowd cheers so loud for him that he has to cover his hears. He removes his hands from over them just in time to see James to whip around and scream out a desperate ‘LOUIS! You arse!’ because he’s the brilliant person who got him so drunk in the first place and then swore to never tell.

Whoops.

*

Louis heads straight to Harry’s dressing room as soon as filming wraps.

He rapidly knocks against the door keeping an eye out for James at both ends of the corridor since he’s been threatening to kill Louis with his bare hands for the past ten minutes. Harry opens the door for him right as he thinks he hears James’ heavy footsteps approaching. Louis nearly knocks him to the floor from how fast he pushes through the door to avoid certain death. Thankfully, Harry catches him before he crashes to the floor.

“Why on Earth are you running?” Harry asks when Louis quickly shuts the door behind him and then locks it for good measure. “Oh, God,” he laughs. “What did you do now?”

Louis scoffs at his question. Why does everybody always assume he’s to blame when things go a little haywire?

“I didn’t do anything,” he lies as he straightens himself up. “I was just so excited about your win that I came running here to congratulate you on your new promising career as a rap artist.”

Right. That’s why you were running,” Harry snorts just before his face break out into a proud smile from his praise. “Thanks for the congratulations, but I can’t really take credit for anything. You were the brilliant mastermind here after all.”

Yeah. He was and now James is going to strangle him for it. Maybe they’ll play Sign of the Times at his funeral.

“Well, I am pretty good,” Louis agrees. “That’s probably why Eminem steals all his stuff from me. He can’t compete.” They both laugh at the absurdity of that as Louis makes his way further into the room to steal a bottle of water from the counter of Harry’s vanity. He opens it and only thinks to ask if Harry minds after he’s already taken two big gulps.

“Thirsty?” Harry chuckles as he follows behind him and leans against the counter too.

“Yeah. I’ve been dodging James in the corridors for the last fifteen minutes. He’s a bigger guy but he’s pretty fucking fast,” Louis jokes. Harry’s eyes are all lit up in amusement as Louis finishes off his water like he just ran a mile rather that the distance from the set to his dressing room.

“You’re going to have to face him eventually, you know? You can’t hide forever.”

“Yeah, I know,” Louis sighs. He’ll face James in due time. He just has to give him time to cool off. “It’ll be painful, but worth it. You’re pretty ridiculous, but I couldn’t just sit back and watch you lose, Styles. I’m not that mean,” he mutters jokingly.

“I know you’re not, Louis. You’re not mean at all. That's why I want to thank you for helping me. I really do appreciate it.”

Harry grins at him and Louis has to look away as he waves him off. He really hopes the way his cheeks are heating up isn’t noticeable. He hates when they do that. “No, it was nothing. No thanks necessary. It’s fine. We’re good.”

Harry’s dimples appear to punctuate his smile once Louis is able to meet his eyes again.

“I think this is the part where I thank you for something and you just say something simple like ‘you’re welcome’.”

Harry raises his eyebrows at him in encouragement when Louis side-eyes him like he’s lost it. Clearly, he has.

“You mean you want me to just come out and say it? Like normal people do?”

“Yep. Just like them,” Harry laughs. “I’m asking you to be genuine with me for just two seconds. That’s all.”

Harry clears his throat to prompt him again, resting one of his hands on Louis’ forearm making the hairs around it stand up from the stark contrast in heat.

“Louis, thank you for being so great. You’re amazing.”

Louis’ tongue feels heavy and dry when he swallows down the butterflies in his stomach to push out words. “You’re welcome, H. And thanks to you too,” he says, surprised to find that he actually means it.

---

Harry isn’t really sure why Louis hasn’t gotten up to leave yet each time he glances at the clock hanging over his vanity and sees that it’s only getting closer to midnight. He could say something, but Harry isn’t going to point it out to him. He doesn’t want Louis to go any more than he wants to go home himself. Why would he point out the fact that they both have to be up early tomorrow when they’re having such a good time right now?

There’s a half-eaten box of pizza lying on the floor from a couple of hours ago when they realized their stomachs were growling so much because they’d forgotten dinner in the midst of stealing the Xbox from James’ office after he left. The two of them have barely left this room tonight and yet it feels like they’ve been together for days and have done a million things.

One thing that Harry enjoyed a lot was the simple pleasure of just talking to him. That’s how he found out that Louis has a huge family back home that he visits whenever he can and that he came here to L.A. for a fresh start after his mother died. He loves James just as much as Harry does and not only because he gave him this job at the studio, but because he’s a great friend.

Harry hadn’t expected for Louis to tell him any of that tonight but he’s so glad he did. If Louis hadn’t decided to stay here and waste the night away with him Harry would’ve never known that he likes bacon on his pizza or that he’s been secretly listening to Harry’s music since Monday night but refuses to let anybody besides James know because they’ll tease him for it. Harry never thought someone as confident as Louis would fear being teased, but that’s just another thing about him that keeps Harry on his toes.

His single is the only song that’s out right now, so Harry plays him some of the others from his album on his phone. Harry blushes red and feels nerves wash over him when Louis asks him to show off his boybander skills and play something on the guitar.

Harry isn’t a shy person by nature. He has sang to crowds and venues twice the size of this entire studio but he’s never felt more nervous than he does sitting in front of Louis.

“You have to promise not to laugh even if I fuck up,” Harry warns.

“You’re not going to fuck up,” Louis assures him. “And if you do I’ll try really hard not to laugh, but I can’t make any promises, Styles. I’m only human.”

“How comforting,” he laughs, taking a deep breath before picking out the notes of a Coldplay song since Louis seemed to like that the first time he heard Harry play.

Louis watches him with bright eyes that light up even more when Harry starts to sing along to the melody. Harry does mess up. He messes up a few times actually, but it’s only because his mind is somewhere else. It’s on Louis’ lips as he quietly mouths the words with him and the way they turn up into a soft grin when Harry’s fingers fumble along the fretboard from zoning out completely and just wanting to kiss him.

“You don’t want to try again?” Louis asks looking a little disappointed when Harry shakes his head no.

He gently places the guitar down on the floor and then slides closer to Louis on the sofa even though their knees had already been close to touching. Louis looks a little panicked when Harry takes his hands in his, moving painfully slow so that he doesn’t run.

“It’s late,” he says like he’s just noticed the time. Harry lets go of his hands to hold his cheeks instead, nodding along to his very obvious observation because this will only take a moment.

He moves forward until he can feel Louis’ quick breaths against his lips and hear the way his breath catches from them being this close. Harry kisses him once, feeling his stubble scratch against his skin and then pulls back to meet a pair of stunned blue eyes.

“It is pretty late,” Harry whispers. “Do you want to go?”

Harry thinks his heart might never recover if Louis says yes, but he doesn’t. He blinks himself out of his daze enough to shake his head and then grabs Harry by the neck to surge forward and connect their mouths again.

They exhale together from the force of it and Harry pulls Louis over into his lap to feel all of his weight anchoring him down. He’s glad that out of all the genuine feelings and emotions that Louis hides behind with humor and sarcasm that kissing him and making him feel this alive isn’t one of them.

Chapter Text

Day Four

The sound of something clattering to the ground forces Louis’ eyes open to the low light of Harry’s dressing room illuminated by the glow of the television that they were both too distracted to turn off.

Louis spots his phone lying face down on the floor, the most likely source of the loud sound that woke him. He reaches for it but can’t quite get it from the protective hold Harry has around his middle, still fast asleep behind him.

They didn’t mean to fall asleep here together, or at least Louis didn’t mean to, but it was so late and they were already lying here. They just closed their eyes for a few seconds that clearly turned into a few hours from what Louis can see of the clock hanging on the wall. It’s past three in the bloody morning.

Harry makes a sound of displeasure when Louis disturbs him by grabbing his phone from the floor despite his tight grip. He turns over in Harry’s arms to shine the bright light of his display screen in his face.

“It’s three-fifteen,” he announces, watching Harry’s features scrunch up from the assault on his ill-adjusted eyes.

Louis,” he whines like he’s being killed. “Why are you doing that? Stop it.”

He blindly swats at the phone making Louis snort because he’s nowhere near actually making contact with it. More or less, he just looks like an angry kitten with bad aim. Louis takes pity on him after he groans again. He drops the phone between them, hearing the relieved sigh Harry lets out as he gathers Louis back into his arms, his crimes already forgiven.

“It’s three-fifteen,” Louis reminds him. “We’ve got to be back here in like five hours.” He says it much quieter this time, not wanting to upset the easy calm they’ve settled back into. “This is me trying to be responsible for once. It’s a big step for me.”

He watches Harry crack his eyes open again to grin at him rather than asking Louis to call a car so they can both go home like they technically should’ve done hours ago.

“Well,” he says in his sleep-heavy voice. “This is me not caring what time it is.” His arms tighten around Louis’ waist to pull him closer until their chests touch, their noses lightly bump, and Harry can capture his lips with a slow drag that has Louis’ heart stammering in his chest. “And this?” Harry grins. “This is me kissing you at three-something in the morning and cuddling you in because I don’t want to leave this room,” he whispers against his lips. “Is that alright with you?”

Louis swallows hard, nodding to Harry’s question while his heart regains its natural rhythm.

Lying next to Harry for a bit longer is alright with him, he guesses. More than.

*

Louis blames a lack of quality sleep in an actual bed and his own poor planning for the way he’s currently glaring at Harry bent over and laughing next to his clothing rack like Louis isn’t two seconds from giving him a slap.

Initially, Louis had thought it was sweet when Harry suggested they just stay here last night instead of rushing off since it was already so late. Clearly, the effects of Harry Delirium had already set in and taken over his brain when he agreed because he hadn’t thought about what would happen when they both woke up in the same bloody outfits as yesterday. They don’t even have fucking tooth paste.

“Okay, absolutely none of those things are going on my body, Styles. You can fuck right off.”

Louis would go naked first. Not that Harry would really mind that but Louis would like to maintain some sort of dignity amongst his co-workers. They already think he’s a lost cause.

“Lou, you have to,” Harry insists. “Everyone already saw you in that shirt.” He takes a thin white blouse off the rack that wouldn’t look quite so awful if not for the thin ruffled sleeves and matching collar at the top. “Here,” Harry offers, cackling when Louis shields his eyes from it like it’s painful. “Hey,” he drawls. “It’s not that bad.”

“That thing looks like a vagina and everything else on that rack is either velvet or bedazzled. No thanks.”

Louis stands up from the sofa, making sure he has his phone and wallet secured in his pockets before crossing the room. The first thing he does is knock Harry’s hideous shirt to the ground where it belongs. The next and most important thing he does is push up on his toes to lock him in a deep kiss that Louis feels right down to his toes.

“That felt amazing,” Harry praises him. “But it also kind of felt like a goodbye. Leaving me so soon?”

So soon? Louis hasn’t seen the outside of this studio in twenty-four hours. If he stays here any longer he’ll need to start paying rent.

“It wasn’t goodbye,” Louis assures him. “It was ‘see you later’ because I’m going home to shower and change into clothes fit for people of this time period,” he smirks. He takes a step back to pull away but Harry catches him by the waist to keep him there. “I already have less than an hour to get back here, thanks to you,” Louis points out. His statement turns to laughter as Harry straight up ignores him to kiss him quiet.

“Wear the vagina shirt and you wouldn’t have to leave at all,” he grins.

“Styles, we both know I wouldn’t be caught dead in that, but nice try. Points for effort.” Louis quickly presses a kiss to his jaw before moving out of his massive reach to open the door. Harry sighs at the loss, making Louis feel all kinds of important and adored because Harry truly doesn’t want him to go. “I’ll be back in a bit,” he promises.

Louis closes the door behind him with his head floating somewhere in the clouds. He traces his fingers over his lips, even more tender now from Harry trying to hold him hostage all morning. He takes two steps away from the dressing room before nearly colliding with another person; a person who turns out to be Dillon.

“Oh. Hey, mate,” Louis greets him.

“Um, hi?” Dillon’s forehead crinkles in confusion upon realizing who just spoke to him. “What are you doing here?” he frowns, looking Louis up and down. “It’s barely seven o’clock.”

Louis quirks an eyebrow at him in return. “You mean here as in the place at which I work? Well, Dillon, I have no idea. That is weird now that you mention it.”

His co-worker ignores his sarcasm as per usual, still considering Louis with skepticism. He glances over at Harry’s door and then at Louis who’s standing two feet away from it and can’t seem to lose the stupid grin on his face.

“Wait a minute. Did you sleep in there last night?” he asks, scandalized. “Louis, you know you can’t just do stuff like that, right? Does Harry know you’re sleeping in his dressing room at night when he’s not even h-” The chastising stops when the man himself steps out into the corridor with them wearing the same ripped up jeans and loudly patterned shirt as yesterday.

Harry glances from Louis to Dillon and then back at Louis again, fighting a smirk when he realizes he probably should’ve waited another few minutes to emerge.

“Er- Good morning,” he greets them both. “I was just heading to my hotel. I, uh… forgot something there. In my hotel room. Where I slept last night. Alone. Because I just got here.”

Louis closes his eyes and squeezes them tighter with every condemning word that Harry utters from his stupidly gorgeous mouth. How exactly did he end up falling for this idiot? Louis can’t really remember.

They all stand there in silence for a few beats before Harry awkwardly waves them goodbye. He runs off to the safety of the car he must’ve called for in his room, leaving Louis alone with trembling lips from holding back his laughter and Dillon’s slack jaw and wide, disbelieving eyes.

“D-Did you two-?” he points and blinks at Harry’s door like he’s in shock. Poor thing.

Louis claps him on the shoulder, giving it a tight squeeze. He had to find out eventually.

“Well, Dillon, it’s been really nice chatting with you. I was actually just leaving, so. Right, then. See you later,” Louis says, already half-way down the corridor and away from his co-worker who is still staring at Harry’s door like it holds all the answers to his sudden existential crisis.

*

Louis pays more attention than usual to the disheveled look of his hair as he checks his reflection in the mirror. He usually shows up to work in something that’s still relatively clean despite living on his closet floor and makes sure he doesn’t have toothpaste on the corner of his mouth from only being half-awake when he brushes his teeth. However, knowing that Harry is going to be there waiting for him makes him sort of care that his stubble is getting pretty bad. Today, he watches himself in the mirror wondering if the tight grey shirt he’s wearing makes his waist and collarbones look good and if his black skinny jeans cling to his thighs as well as he thinks they do.

Obviously, Harry likes the way he looks regardless of what he’s wearing or if he’s clean-shaven. Last night was as good an indicator as any of how Harry feels about him.

Louis smirks at his reflection still unable to believe last night really happened. That they hung out with each other like real friends and Louis kicked his skinny arse at FIFA; that Louis hadn’t even realized he’d been dying to be kissed all night until Harry held him close and just fucking did it.

Louis usually jets out of work the moment he’s off the clock, but sticking around last night was more than worth it. What’s even stranger is how he can’t wait to go back.

He makes it back to the studio in record time, pulling up with just one minute left to spare, but nearly late is better than actually late, so naturally, he’s buzzing.

It’s ten past eight by the time Louis has effectively slipped away from half a dozen morning conversations that people keep trying to trap him in on his way to Harry’s dressing room. His co-workers all eye him with suspicion because he usually loves wasting time by shooting the breeze about nothing, but he doesn’t usually have a gorgeous man with perfect lips waiting for him inside of a room just a fifty yards away.

Harry is there just as Louis hoped he would be when he finally slips into the room. He doesn’t even have time to say a proper hello before Harry is on him, ringed fingers gently gripped along his neck and slipping into his hair in a way that wakes up Louis’ tired body, sending his blood rushing through his veins. Jesus.  

Harry throws the lock behind them before dragging Louis over to the sofa. “You smell really good,” he breathes as Louis straddles his lap, strong hands eagerly sliding up Louis’ muscled thighs to rest on either side of his waist. Louis preens at the attention, receiving the enthusiastic reaction that this outfit was strategically designed to produce.  

“Thanks. It’s called soap. It’s from the new spring line,” Louis jokes, trailing his lips along the smooth skin of Harry’s neck that also smells shower fresh. He runs his tongue over his pulse point to taste him, feeling it quicken as Harry slips his hands under the back of his shirt.

A soft moan fills the room when Louis creates just the right amount of suction with his mouth to turn the area a bright pink. He smirks and does it again, harder this time just to hear the way Harry groans into it with his whole body. Louis could listen to his gravelly voice do that for hours, gasping when Harry flips him onto his back to give his skin the same treatment.

This is a lot more intense than anything that happened between them last night, but Louis’ not complaining. His breaths come quicker, his chest rising and falling at the same pace as Harry’s when he feels them both hardening up against each other.

Shit. I have- I have a thing. A job thing. A meeting,” he clarifies once he remembers his words, almost forgetting that he is in fact at work and therefore actually responsible for doing things. He hates when that happens.

“No. Please,” Harry begs with a soft nip at his bottom lip. “You just got here. I need you right now.”

And how the hell is he supposed to say no to that?

“O-Okay,” Louis nods frantically, allowing Harry to ruck up his shirt to suck bruises all along his torso.

Fuck his meeting. He’ll never go to a single one ever again. He’ll stay locked away in this dressing room for the rest of his life if Harry wants him to, except; except, it’s Thursday, and although Louis has only glanced at the schedule a few times this week, he specifically remembers this being one of their busiest days.

This meeting is actually kind of a big deal because they have an extra main guest coming in along with some others so there’s lots to do and once again- unfortunately- Louis actually works here so people have this annoying expectation of him to actually do things from time to time.

Actually, Styles…” Louis winces.

He feels a devastated sigh blow over his navel right before Harry rests his forehead against it with a whimper.

“You’re leaving me aren’t you?” he asks. “And, yep. You are,” he realizes as Louis regretfully pulls his shirt back down and attempts to sit up. “No, don’t! Resist!” he pleads, clinging to Louis’ waist like a koala bear to a tree. Louis laughs as he wrenches himself out of his grip, almost landing them both on the floor.

“I don’t necessarily want to go but I have to,” he says, adjusting his clothes so he doesn’t look quite so disheveled. “We’ll need all hands on deck because Bradley Cooper’s going to be here in a couple of hours.” And just having Harry on is already a full-time job as it is with his band and all his army of fans, and just him.

“Ugh, God. Bradley Cooper?” Harry rolls his eyes. “What a life-ruiner. It’s no wonder Hollywood hates him.”

“I know,” Louis smirks. “And the fact that he’s just plain hideous makes it even worse.”

Harry laughs at that, making Louis feels ridiculously accomplished. It shouldn’t considering Harry laughs at literally everything including dumb memes he’s seen a billion times, but it still feels good to know that at the moment, he’s the reason for that big, dopey smile.

“I’m just kidding. Of course go to your meeting,” he relents after a quick glance at the time. He lightly traces this thumb along the sharp edges of Louis’ jaw and the flesh of his bottom lip sending chills rushing down Louis’ arms. “Just hurry back, yeah?”

“Okay. I will.” Louis nods, his heart thudding too fast in his chest when Harry presses a long awaited kiss to his lips with a whispered, ‘Good. Can’t wait.’

*

Harry can’t wait for him to return, which is lovely except now Louis can’t concentrate for shit. So far, he has spent a total of twenty-seven minutes in this meeting and he has used every second of that time to devise a new plan of escape.

He bounces his knee through most of the discussion about their minor guests, Bradley-what’s-his-name, and the general order of events for tonight’s filming. He only realizes he’s being so fidgety as well as rapidly clicking the end of his pen a hundred beats per minute when Dillon digs an elbow into his side with a pointed look to make him stop.

Louis glowers at him for being nudged so harshly and then meets the unimpressed gazes of everybody else in the room who wishes they had done it first.

“Earth to Louis,” James says and apparently not for the first time based on his tone. “Did you hear any of that?”

Louis backtracks through the last sixty seconds, getting flashes of Harry’s large hands around his arse, his perfect tongue, and what his tall frame probably looks like naked- fucking amazing, he’s sure. Amongst all of that and whether or not his voice retains that deep, velvety quality after he comes, Louis vaguely remembers someone rattling off a list of random gross shit that someone needs to buy for the Spill Your Guts segment later tonight. Based on the way people are staring at him like they’re waiting for something, Louis assumes that lucky person is him.

“Uh, yeah, sure. Whatever. Cow tongue. Squid ink. Got it,” he answers, but everyone is still staring at him. Louis glances at the big clock on the wall feeling like he could scream because its hands seem to be moving even slower than before. How the hell is that possible? Next it’ll be moving in fucking reverse. “So, James. My dearest, dearest friend,” Louis begins. “Not to be rude or anything, but are we almost done here, or-?”

James glances down at the multiple bulleted items still left for them to go over and snorts.

“Definitely or,” he quips. Louis was afraid he’d say something annoying like that. “Why?” James chuckles after a beat. “Do you have someplace else you need to be for the next half hour?” As a matter of fact, he does; on top of Harry Styles, beneath Harry Styles, and on his knees gagging for breath in front of Harry Styles just to name a few of them.

“So, just for clarification, you’re saying I can’t just take a raincheck on this?” he asks when the conversation picks back up around him.

James gives him a flat look and doesn’t even dignify his question with an answer before continuing down his list like Louis said nothing at all.

With a defeated sigh, Louis settles back into his swivel chair, leg shaking and pen cap clicking at full speed again.

He’s going to fucking die in here. He just knows it.

---

The door to his dressing room swings open making Harry jump and blink up from the text he was just in the middle of constructing on his phone. He opens his mouth to tell Louis he didn’t expect him back so soon, but gets a lap full of thick thighs in tight jeans and Louis licking into his mouth like he needs the taste of Harry’s tongue to breathe.

Harry grips his hands around his hips letting them travel the soft curves of his body as Louis eagerly grinds down against him. It’s sends a shock through him, momentarily short-circuiting his brain from how fast his body responds by sending blood rushing south. Harry bites down on the inside of his cheek to steel himself over, not wanting to get too far away from himself in case they suddenly have to stop again for some reason.

“Are you finished for the morning? With everything?” Harry manages to choke out, his dick already hard despite his best efforts to keep composure, though Louis isn’t exactly helping matters by already trying to get him undressed. He grinds down into his lap again, his breaths coming hot and heavy against Harry’s open mouth.

“Stop talking. Lift your arms,” he orders after he tires of fumbling with the difficult buttons of Harry’s shirt. He tugs it up and over Harry’s head, already scraping his teeth over Harry’s bare skin before the shirt hits the ground.

Louis stops and puts a few inches of space between them to unbutton his jeans next. He licks into Harry’s mouth once more when they’re unzipped, his eyes blown to a dark midnight as he slides off Harry’s lap to kneel on the floor in front of him.

Harry’s jeans are discarded as quickly and thoughtlessly as his shirt along with his boxer briefs that now have a wet spot on the front of them because he’s already so hard he could burst.

Harry looks down his chest at Louis running his fingers along his length in admiration. Harry keens into the soft touches, stomach and thighs tensing with the desire for more each time Louis teases him with a gentle lick of his tongue.

He smirks up at Harry through his lashes with the same fiery determination as the day they met when Louis had been hell-bent on not letting him in. That small look is all the warning Harry receives before Louis sinks his mouth down around him and Harry’s resolve is gone completely, his chest expanding too fast with the sharp breath he sucks in.

His hips move of their own accord, following Louis’ every move even though Harry is already more than three-fourths of the way into his mouth. Louis tries to take him down completely, gagging a bit from his length but he gets it right the second time, digging his nails into Harry’s thighs to hold him still.

It’s hard to keep his eyes on Louis when they keep rolling back, but he gets flashes of Louis’ hollowed cheeks and echoes of every savored moan he makes around him.

He pants out that he’s close when he feels himself slipping from the edge. He expects for Louis to back off, but he forces himself down further instead, swallowing around him until Harry jerks and spills straight down his throat.

Louis sits back on his heels when he’s done, using his hand to wipe at his bright pink lips and the few beads of sweat under his messy fringe. He laughs when Harry’s bones regain enough strength to sit him up again after slumping back into the sofa.

“You alive over there, popstar?”

Alive is an understatement. Harry could melt from how good that felt.

“Come here,” Harry says. He slides down to the floor and pushes Louis to lie back on it when he refuses to come back to the sofa just to be a prick.

Harry strips him out of his clothes with quick hands, tossing them over his shoulder to land where they may.

Louis is trembling against the tiled floor even though his skin feels like it’s on fire beneath Harry’s touch. His hands fly to anchor themselves into Harry’s short hair when he lightly sucks Louis into his mouth, savoring the taste of his body wash paired with the glistening drops that formed around his tip from sucking Harry off.  

“Styles. H-Harry, come on. Please?” he begs, his breathing being more frantic each time Harry moves but doesn’t take him all the way down.

Harry can hardly believe his ears. It’s the first time Louis has ever called him that. If he had known a bit of teasing is all it takes to get Louis to use his first name he would’ve pinned him to the floor and sucked him off on day one.

Louis whimpers his name again, the word breaking mid-way through when Harry gives him what he wants and completely sinks his mouth down around him.

The light sting of his scalp is constant from the way Louis’ fists tighten in his hair. Harry’s throat doesn’t fare much better but the wonderful sensation he feels there is just a cool burn that Harry chases each time Louis moans above him.

“I’m coming,” he warns after Harry uses his free hand to massage his balls a few times, coaxing his orgasm right out of him. Louis glances down his chest just in time to see Harry pull off to catch the long stripes of come with an open mouth. He watches Harry lick the corners of his lips with hooded eyes and then flops back onto the floor, staring up at the ceiling with blank eyes.

“Ugh, I am such an idiot. The biggest,” he says aloud, making the giddy, happy feeling in Harry’s chest sink and disappear completely. There was always a chance that Louis might regret the two of them moving so fast but Harry didn’t think it’d be so soon. He knows that Louis wasn’t his biggest fan a while ago, but he thought things were better.

“That was incredible,” Louis continues, blissed-out grin now visible on his face. “And to think, I actually tried to get rid of you on Monday,” he laughs to himself. The breathy sound only gets louder, making that fluttery feeling return to Harry’s chest in an instant. “I’m a literal idiot,” he laughs again. “Fuck, I’m glad my initial plan to ditch you didn’t work out. Someone else might be lying here in my place if it had.”

That’s not true. Even if Louis hadn’t been chosen to be his assistant, Harry would’ve noticed him anyway. Louis would still be lying here in the middle of his floor; there’d just be another very annoyed assistant standing outside the door from kindly being asked to leave.

---

Louis’ face hurts from smiling so much standing in the wings of the studio that night as James, Bradley Cooper, and Harry sit around the Spill Your Guts table surrounded by the all the gross shit he had to search half the city for this afternoon. Louis usually hates being the one stuck with the shopping, but it wasn’t half bad with Harry along for the ride. Actually, it was really fun.

Louis snorts into the crook of his arm and then covers his eyes with it along with the audience when James chooses eating crickets over detailing how exactly his penis confused a refrigerator for a toilet and what his wife said when she caught him pissing in it. Bradley cackles because it was his embarrassing question that drove James to such lengths. Harry makes a face and covers his ears like if he can’t hear James crunching on insects then it’s not really happening.

All night, Louis has had the pleasure of watching him smile into the camera and be his lovely charming self. Even their other guests from tonight were taken with Harry and they didn’t even do any segments with him. They loved him simply because of how kind and nice he is; just like everybody else in this room.

They are about ten minutes into the game, and so far, Harry hasn’t eaten anything. He has answered every embarrassing question that’s been thrown at him including the last time he took a shit. Louis thinks he just might get out of this unscathed until James turns to him and sits the warm fish smoothie in front of him with a wide grin.

Haz…”

Harry laughs at the way James drags out the nickname making everybody nervously chuckle with him because James hasn’t looked this ridiculously smug all night.

“Yes, James?”

“Harry,” James blinks at him innocently. “According to close sources, also known as the entire Late Late staff, there were some very strange and loud noises coming from your dressing room earlier. What were they and who made them?” he demands, making the audience cheer like they want to know just as badly.

Louis feels his entire body flush red because he doesn’t even know which instance James is referring to. He didn’t think he and Harry were that loud this morning, and this evening when they went at it again it was Harry doing all the moaning, not him; well, it was mostly Harry anyway.

Harry barks a laugh when Bradley Cooper leans in and quirks an interested eyebrow. “Yeah, Harry, go on. Tell us,” he encourages him, admirably applauding Harry when he shakes his head no and bravely reaches for the glass of fish mush instead.

Louis’ stomach churns in sympathy as Harry holds his nose and takes two chunky swallows, pulling a morbid face when James asks him how it tastes. Louis applauds him too, feeling so proud that Harry was willing to risk puking on air to protect his honor. Louis has none to speak of, of course. He’s practically shameless, but still, it's the thought that counts.

Harry grimaces for the next couple of seconds as the contents of his smoothie makes its way down, but he quickly gets James back by asking him who his least favorite guest has been, forcing his friend to shoot a glass of black squid ink mixed with vinegar.

“How did that taste?” Harry fires back, but his dimples and bright eyes take all the heat away from his snide attempt.

“Not as bad as that fish is going to feel later tonight, I’m sure,” James quips, still frowning from the taste of his ink shot.

They’re down to the last question which belongs to Bradley. He pretends to contemplate which of the two of them he’s going to take down before he turns to Harry and places the bowl of jellied fish eyes in front of him.

The moves earns him a communal gag from the audience and staff. Louis has seen guests answer questions that would even make him blush in exchange for not having to eat those. He doesn’t know what Bradley could possibly ask Harry to drive him to such an extreme considering they’ve never met before today so he doesn’t really have any dirt on him. More than likely, Harry will just answer the question as per usual.

“Harry, my extremely nosy question is what’s that poorly concealed mark on the right side of your neck, and my follow-up question is if was given to you by the same loud person in your dressing room from earlier.”

Louis hangs his head because Harry’s fucked.

At first Harry looks confused by the question, curiously pressing along his neck until he touches a wide bruise and then bursts out laughing because he didn’t even know it was there. To be fair, Louis didn’t realize it was either and he’s the one who put it there. He thought he made sure not to mark him up anywhere too noticeable where makeup couldn’t cover it. Clearly his mouth had other plans.

Well?” James leers at him like the twelve-year-old that he really is. “Go on and tell us, Haz. And we both know that I already know who it is, so you can’t lie. It’s the same little, evil person who stole my Xbox out of my office and apparently forgot that we have cameras,” James shouts off stage in his direction.

Louis rolls his eyes. He didn’t forget they have cameras. He just figured James and security were too lazy to ever watch them back.

Harry bites at his lip as both men try to pressure him into answering the question.

“Um…” Harry laughs, his cheeks a dusty pink from being put on the spot like this. “I’d tell you, but I’m afraid I’m not at liberty to say.”

James bursts out laughing at his polite response. “Then I guess you’re at liberty to eat some fish eyes, aren’t you?”

Alright, so James knows there’s something going on between Harry and him, and based on the way Louis’ co-workers are smirking, half the studio knows as well. He and Harry like each other. So what? It’s not like it’s a crime or something. Louis honestly couldn’t care less if Harry screamed his name aloud to the cameras, but because Harry is lovely, and a gentleman, and too fucking sweet for his own good he picks up the stupid spoon. And, God, Louis could kiss him. But, you know, after he’s brushed his teeth a few times.

*

“James is so mean when he’s being competitive,” Harry complains. “And I told you Bradley Cooper would be awful. You can’t possibly be that good looking and not be,” he mutters.

Harry has been pouting for the last five minutes after being forced to gargle, his head resting in Louis’ lap on the sofa like he’s on his death bed because he finally lost a game. Louis rubs through his hair and humors him even though the logic he just used about Bradley Cooper’s beauty makes no sense because Harry is just as fucking fit if not more so.

“Who comes up with these stupid games anyway?” he grumbles.

“Your friend James. He’s a sick and twisted little man. I’ve been telling him that for ages,” Louis teases. “Now, are you quite finished pouting?”

No. And I’m not pouting. I’m traumatized. I’ll never be the same again,” he claims only to snort a laugh two seconds later from how fucking dramatic that sounded. “Okay, fine. Maybe I’m done whining now,” he grins.

Louis waits until he sits up to lean in and kiss the pair of lips that have been poked out ever since they both snuck away from set after filming wrapped to meet right back here.

“Mmm,” Harry hums against his lips. “What was that for?”

“Harry, you ate eyeballs for me and drank fish juice,” he says, holding both of his dimpled cheeks in his hands. “That was gross as fuck and I definitely would’ve just answered the question,” he laughs. “But that’s why you get kisses. You deserve them.”

“I wonder what I would have gotten if I ate the bull penis?” he smirks.

Louis shakes his head with a fond smile. “Babe, you don’t even want to know.”

*

They hang around the studio that night just long enough for the building to start emptying and for everyone to head home. That’s where Louis should go; home to his own bed that hasn’t seen him in two days, but the deal that Harry offers when Louis yawns and rubs at his tired eyes is so much better than his empty apartment.

“Want to stay at mine?”

Louis nods, the exhaustion from getting little to no sleep the night before finally starting to set in. “Sure, okay. A real bed would be nice,” Louis says dreamily.

“A bed? Who said anything about one of those?” Harry teases, linking their fingers together to lead them out into the corridor. And he’s cute. He’s really cute, but Louis refuses to let him know that.

“Oh, shut up and take me somewhere I can pass out,” he demands, grinning when Harry answers with a fond, ‘yes sir.’

The trip to his hotel only takes a few minutes. Louis flops down across the foot of Harry’s bed when they make it up to his room, kicking off his shoes like he owns the place after stealing yet another bottle of his water.

“You’re sure you don’t mind me sleeping here? I don’t mind being at home if you’d rather have some time to yourself.” They’ve already been together all week. Harry didn’t seem to give it much thought before asking him to spend the night. Louis hadn’t given it much thought either before instantly agreeing, but he just wants to make sure he’s not overstepping.

“You don’t have to go home,” he shakes his head. “I asked you to stay over. I really want you to,” he says, coming to lie down next to him.

“So, where is home for you?” Louis asks after Harry leans over to kiss him, causing a fluttery sensation at the pit of Louis’ stomach. He knows Harry spends a lot of time in London, but he travels all over the world. He could live anywhere he chooses.

He shrugs. “I move around a lot.” Louis had guessed that. “I have a place in New York, but I kind of like to stay close to my family so I rarely live in it.” Louis nods, he figured that too. “I had been thinking about buying a house here once since I like it so much, but.”

“Why didn’t you?”

“I don’t know,” he sighs. “I think it was just more of an idea at the time. I looked at a few places, but I guess I never really felt a push to go through with it, you know? It just didn’t feel right.”

“Oh,” Louis nods, feeling oddly sad hearing that which makes no sense at all. It’s not like it’s his dream home in the hills that Harry didn’t buy.

“Well, maybe one day you’ll do it. You’ll get that push,” Louis says with a tight grin.

“Er- Yeah. Maybe.”

Louis clears his throat, sitting up to avoid Harry’s curious gaze and strip down for bed. Harry sits up too and Louis can practically feel his green eyes boring into the back of his head.

“Is- Is something wrong, Lou?”

“Nope, not at all,” he grins over his shoulder. “I get you and a king-sized bed. What could be possibly be wrong?” He stands to kick his jeans half under the bed and then drops himself into Harry’s lap, kissing him like he’s not going to fly back to London after his final show tomorrow night.

Chapter Text

Day Five

Getting to travel a lot and live out his dreams has always been Harry’s favorite part about his job; a job that doesn’t even feel like work if he’s honest. There really aren’t many downsides to moving around so much for his music besides occasional jet lag and bouts of confusion he experiences from waking up in so many new places.

Harry opens his eyes today to the soft glow of the sun rising through the thick curtains covering the windows. He frowns staring at his blank hotel walls because if he remembers correctly, he fell asleep here last night, but he didn’t fall asleep alone. He turns over onto his other side, relief flooding his chest when he finds Louis in bed right next to him curled up on his pillow in a deep sleep.

Being still and quiet isn’t something that Harry sees Louis do often so he takes a moment to marvel at how innocent he appears when his slack lips aren’t smirking in triumph or churning out some witty remark to whoever had the nerve to cross him. Louis jokes a lot, which Harry has come to realize doesn’t always mean what he wants people to believe. You have to speak Louis to know what’s going on inside that head of his. Harry’s new to the language, but he’s desperately trying to learn because Louis isn’t always successful at smiling and pretending nothing is bothering him. Kind of like he did last night after cutting their London conversation short.

His long eyelashes gently sweep over his cheeks as his eyelids flutter and Harry smiles wondering what he’s dreaming about. Harry gently moves a piece of his hair from his forehead, grinning when Louis’ nose crinkles in response.

The sheet on his side of the bed has been kicked to the bottom of the mattress leaving his arms and back covered in a faint layer of goose bumps. Harry tells himself not to disturb him; to let him rest a while longer, but he simply can’t resist sliding closer to pull Louis away from his pillow and let him rest against Harry’s warm chest instead. Louis’ face scrunches up when he’s moved so unexpectedly and then tucked in with the duvet again. His eyes are barely open as he smooths his hand over the plane of Harry’s chest, stopping when he finds a nipple to twist it in retaliation.

Ouch,” Harry complains, disturbing the calm of the morning. He thought Louis was being sweet just now. As it turns out, no. “What was that for?”

“I was asleep and now I’m not,” Louis quips, the early hour making his voice thick like golden honey.

Harry glances down his chest, rolling his eyes at the smirk visible on Louis’ lips.

“Believe it or not, I was actually being thoughtful just now,” he explains. “You looked cold.” He feels cold too, Louis’ skin a couple of degrees cooler than Harry’s everywhere their bodies are touching.

“Oh, I get it,” Louis hums thoughtfully. “So, you’re a human thermometer now as well as a dick. That’s perfect. Highly original,” he praises him.  

“Okay maybe waking you up like that was a dick move,” Harry chuckles. “Or, maybe I just really wanted you over here with me.”

That makes Louis smile more than he clearly wanted to, his warm cheek heating the area directly over Harry’s heart. Louis shifts to better meet his eyes, and Harry feels his body begin to wake up starting with his lips tingling to life when Louis kisses him. His stomach begins to stir next, the butterflies inside of it feeling more like fireflies and tiny flames with every slide of their tongues.

“What time is it?” Louis breathes once the quiet of their room is broken by the desperate sound of hands moving beneath the sheets.

“Don’t worry about it,” Harry shushes him, tracing the length of Louis’ legs where they’re now spread on either side of Harry’s hips. He grips the backs of Louis thighs, his fingers trembling around the thick flesh when he thrusts up to feel Louis hardening against him.

Harry kisses him once more before rolling him onto his back to trail his lips down his body only stopping to remove the thin underwear keeping him restrained. He throws them over the bed and onto the floor where the top sheet and duvet now lie but Harry’s only concern is the way Louis keens at the first touch of Harry’s tongue along his length, a soft moan filling the air when Harry sinks his mouth down around him without any teasing at all.

Louis’ hands move to their rightful place in Harry’s sleep-mused hair, pulling it every time his cheeks hollow to take him deeper. Harry glances up at Louis’ head thrown back against the pillows with his teeth deeply embedded into the slick flesh of his lips that Harry can’t resist reaching up to touch. He uses the pad of his moist thumb to massage his entrance, getting a heavy stream of expletives from the pillows when he gently presses inside.

“I’ll be right back,” Harry promises. He stops what he’s doing to scramble off the bed, desperately trying to remember which of his suitcases has the lube in it. He digs through the middle one, producing a small bottle of it and one of the condoms he thanks heaven he had the presence of mind to bring along just in case.

He hadn’t exactly planned on meeting anyone special while here in L.A. this week. He definitely didn’t think he’d meet someone who makes it feel like he’s freefalling from just one laugh or one kiss, but Harry did, and he’s lying naked right in the middle of his bed right now, looking more beautiful than anyone Harry has ever seen. Actually, he looks a bit nervous too which is interesting because normally Louis isn’t afraid of anything. He’s practically fearless.

Harry kisses both of his knees once he settles down between his bent legs again. “Is this okay? Are you okay?”

Louis seems to think long and hard about it before giving Harry a quick nod and small grin that could be real just as easily as it could not be. Once again, Harry is left trying to figure out what that means, but he guesses everything is fine and Harry is just nervous himself because Louis sits up to connect their mouths and ease his worries, taking Harry with him when he lies back and wraps his legs around him.

Harry hovers over him propped on one arm while he reaches down between them with the other to finger Louis open. From here, he can see every flicker of Louis’ face, his eyes fluttering shut when Harry kisses his slack mouth.  

Harry grabs the condom and rolls it on once Louis’ ready, reclaiming his position over top of him. The room feels void of oxygen when Harry pushes his hips forward, the two of them sucking all the air into their lungs on a steady inhale.

Their bodies move together as Harry starts to move inside of him. He asks Louis if he’s okay again when he seems to be holding his breath as he adjusts, though he finally releases it, nodding as he pulls Harry closer.

Being with Louis this way is different from everything Harry expected, and trust him, he’s spent a lot of time imagining it. He figured it’d be full of playful hands and smirks like the sex they’ve had before, but there’s not a trace of teasing in Louis’ eyes when Harry rests their foreheads together, their noses bumping with every thrust that shakes the bed. And it’s not a bad thing to go this slow or be this gone with one another, it’s just a new side to Louis he never saw coming.

The involuntary sounds falling from Louis’ mouth when he picks up the pace spur him on until Louis’ nails dig into his lower back. Louis doesn’t need to warn him when he’s close. Harry can see it written all over the taut lines of his body. He kisses Louis through his orgasm when it finally hits, their breaths still intermingling as Harry quickly brings himself off inside of him.

Louis removes his nails from his skin leaving little crescent-shaped marks that Harry can feel pleasantly stinging just above the swell of his bum. He slides a hand into Harry’s damp hair instead to pull him down until their lips brush, a slow grin tugging at his lips when he pulls back to thumb over the pair of dimples under his palms.

They lie there in the quiet afterwards, fingers and legs intertwined watching the room become brighter as the minutes pass and time ticks on. Harry knows they can’t stay like this forever even though he kind of wishes they could. Eventually, Louis has to go to work today and unfortunately so does he. Neither of them mentions the fact that this is borrowed time they’re on; they simply enjoy the still of morning and the newfound looseness in their bones until Harry’s phone buzzes on the bedside table and he’s forced to tear his eyes away from the pair of blue ones raptly watching him.

Harry reads the three messages he just received from his assistant and quickly texts her back to thank her. When he’s finished putting his phone back he settles into the mattress again to resume admiring Louis’ bare skin, however, he isn’t there anymore. He’s now sitting up straight on the edge of the bed, rolling his neck to relieve the kinks that formed there from sleep. He stretches as he stands up which makes Harry sit up too, because for some reason he gets the terrifying feeling that Louis is leaving.

“I can call a car from the studio to come pick us up if you’re ready to go,” Harry says when Louis starts combing through the covers strewn all over the floor for his missing pieces of clothing.

Louis pops up his head at the end of the bed with an unbothered grin at his offer. “No, it’s fine. I was going home to change first anyway, so I’ll just get a cab. I’ll meet you at the studio.”

“Oh,” Harry says, hoping he doesn’t sound quite as disappointed as he thinks he does. “Are you sure, Lou? I don’t mind stopping by yours if you want.” They came here together last night and sure, maybe Harry was getting ahead of himself but he sort of assumed they’d leave together too. “On the other hand, I always travel with an extra toothbrush in case I leave one somewhere. And I don’t mind you wearing something of mine.” Harry amends his statement when Louis jokingly widens his eyes in fear. “I do have t-shirts,” Harry smiles. “The regular kind without anything extra added to them or anything, but- it’s up to you. You can still go if you want.”

Harry wants him to stay right here, but he can’t make him do it. If he needs his space, Harry wants him to take it.

Louis stops rummaging for his clothes to look at him, seeming to change his mind about running out as he sits down on the foot of the bed.

“Alright,” he agrees. “I’ll take the extra toothbrush. And a fresh shirt, but no glitter,” he says with a stern eyebrow raised at him. “Also, no fancy embroidery or lacey sleeves, and for fuck’s sake no flowers.”

“No accents of any kind?” Harry scoffs at the long list of banned items. “What’s left then?”

“A t-shirt,” Louis deadpans.

Harry laughs as he gets out of bed and digs through the suitcase still laying wide open from earlier. He retrieves two shirts that meet Louis’ strict requirements. They’re both white, the only difference between them is one is brand new and the other Harry has had for years. There’s even a small hole near the tag that he’s always yanking at, which is why Harry’s surprised when Louis happily chooses that one.

He sends Louis off to the bathroom first with his travel bag of toiletries smiling to himself watching Louis struggle with carrying everything in his arms without a stitch of clothing on. He could get used to mornings like this.

Louis promises to be quick so Harry will have time to get into the bathroom too, but it’s not like Harry cares whether or not he has time for a shower. He’s happy just to have Louis here with him insulting his clothes and using all his stuff rather than riding to his place in the back of some cab by himself.

If they’re going to be late, they’ll just be late together. It’s only right.

---

Louis is late. He’s so late in fact that James and half the assistants from the studio have texted him in a frenzy wondering if he’s alive and if Harry has been kidnapped because no one has seen any sign of him either. Louis didn’t even answer most of them, but he did let James know that he’s fine and that Harry isn’t missing; he’s right here with Louis.

Harry lets go of his hand once they reach the studio entrance. He leans down to press a quick kiss to Louis’ temple, promising to see him soon before scurrying off to his band rehearsal that was supposed to start fifteen minutes ago.

“Just don’t get lost again,” Louis tells him. “At this point it’s just plain embarrassing,” he mumbles making Harry laugh. Louis watches him go pressing his fingers along the spot Harry’s lips just touched wondering how many more of those he’ll receive. Not many since Harry is set to leave first thing tomorrow morning. Louis saw the flight information that his other assistant sent him this morning; his real assistant who usually handles Harry’s schedule and affairs. Louis’ just a stand-in like the other woman in some tragic love affair.

He walks in, tells Dillon to fuck off when he comments on his tardiness, and then deviates away from the main corridor to one where there are less annoying people. He sneaks into the first empty dressing room he can find and flops down on the sofa.

This room is almost identical to Harry’s but it feels empty without his guitar and fresh fruit and ridiculous clothes taking up space. Louis squeezes his eyes shut because he came in here to escape Harry and clear his head so he can think straight for just one moment, but he smells Harry in the fibers of the old shirt he’s wearing and he can feel him everywhere his hands touched him this morning when they had sex.

He fucking knew that was a bad idea. When Harry asked if he was okay Louis had half a mind to say no, except he doesn’t know why that was. Louis has never had an issue with meaningless sex before. Hell, he has slept with men he’s known for a lot less time, but he guesses that’s the big problem because what they shared this morning wasn’t meaningless. At least, it wasn’t for Louis.

The springs of the sofa creak when Louis flips over to bury his face in its cushions. He can’t believe he went and fell for fucking Harry Styles. It’s probably the dumbest thing he’s ever done because him leaving at the end of his commitment was the only way this was ever going to end. He honestly has no idea how this happened. One minute he was trying to ditch him in his dressing room and the next he’s letting Harry slow fuck him in his hotel while Louis counts the flecks of gold in his stupid rare green eyes.

Fuck,” he groans aloud. Apparently too loud since the sound of it catches the attention of someone walking by and the door creaks open a few seconds later.

Lou? You alright?”

Louis buries his head further at the sound of James’ voice. “Yes, James, I’m fine. Get out. Let me suffer in peace,” he mutters, earning a soft chuckle.

“What do you have to suffer about? Be more dramatic. Where’s Harry?” he asks, seeming to only just now realize he’s not here like the constant shadow he’s been all week.

Louis sits up fixing his mess of a fringe and readjusting Harry’s shirt on his shoulders because it’s a size too big for him.

“He’s with his band. They’re rehearsing.”

“And you didn’t want to go watch?” James says incredulously. “The infamous duo living and breathing without being up each other’s arses? Well, that’s a first,” he smirks. It falls off his face when he notices the way Louis’ gaze drops to the floor.

He can feel James staring at him and he hates it. “Don’t,” he begs when he hears his friend sigh from the door.

“Oh, Louis.” James shakes his head, letting the door shut behind him. He sits down on the sofa, his kind blue eyes only making Louis feel like more of an idiot from the sympathy emanating from them. “You like him don’t you?”

“I said don’t,” Louis tells him again. He really doesn’t think he could take an ‘I told you so’ right now. He already knows he fucked up. He doesn’t need James or anybody else to tell him that.

“I’m not teasing, Lou,” James assures him with a comforting hand on his knee. “I’m just worried about you. What can I do to help?”

“Make Harry your permanent co-host?” He smirks at the flat look his friend gives him.

“Yeah, what else can I do?”

Louis leans into the back cushion with a sigh. “There’s nothing anyone can do. It is what it is.” There’s no way to fix this. At most, Louis goes to London twice a year and Harry rarely even comes to L.A. unless it’s work related. He said so himself last night.

“That’s not true. You could always tell him.”

Louis dismisses that idea as soon as it’s out there in the open staring him the face. “And what am I going to say? Hey, Harry, I know I was a world class dick to you but now I’m half in love with you so would you maybe mind sticking around?”

“Maybe,” James snorts. “Only try not to use the word dick. And maybe leave out the half in love part. That’s a bit intense for a week,” he teases.

Louis knows. The sad thing is that it’s true. He really is half in love; possibly all the way.

James pulls him in for a hug and presses an encouraging kiss to his temple that Louis immediately wipes away as per usual.

“On second thought, leave in the dick part. It suits you,” James mumbles as he stands and crosses the room. He opens the door, glancing back before completely stepping out. “And I know you think it’s not a good idea, but you really should tell him, Lou. It’s not fair to let him leave without knowing.”

Louis flops back onto the sofa with a loud huff. That’s a hell of a lot easier said than done.

*

“Come over here.”

Louis cuts his eyes over at Harry on the sofa from where he’s perched on top of the vanity, from what he thought was a pretty safe distance away from Harry, but he has the guitar in his hands and a playful twinkle in his eyes that just screams I’m about to fuck you up.

“I’m fine here, thanks,” Louis says coolly, taking out his phone for a distraction.

He will not be serenaded by Harry Styles. He won’t.

Harry’s grin goes lopsided as he tries to pout in the middle of it by poking out his lips. “But you didn’t make it to rehearsal this morning and I want you to hear the song we’re playing tonight. Come on. Come sit with me,” he says, sulking like that’s going to make a difference. Louis hates that it’s working.

“No, no,” he insists. “I’ll just wait for tonight like everyone else. You don’t have to play. I don’t mind.” Harry narrows his eyes at him in suspicion at his selfless offer.

“But what if I want you to hear it first? What if I want to play it just for you?”

Louis meets his imploring gaze, rolling his eyes because his resolve crumbles so quickly that he might as well have not had any at all.

Harry’s face lights up when Louis rests his head against the mirror, surrendering to Harry’s tight jeans and floral print blouse that Louis actually likes because it’s just so Harry.

He’s fucking losing it.

“Fine,” he sighs. “Go on and play it if you must. Ruin me,” he mumbles under his breath.

He doesn’t move from his safe spot on the vanity like the extra space creates a barrier between himself and Harry’s heavy gaze. It doesn’t. He closes his eyes so he can just listen, but that only makes matters worse because the lyrics to Sweet Creature are slowly worming their way into his heart, latching on and not letting go. He gives up. How is he supposed gently wean himself off Harry Styles when he serenades him with love songs and does irresistible shit?

“So?” Harry up beams at him when he’s finished, waiting for Louis’ esteemed opinion. “What do you think?”

“That I love you- it. Definitely it,” Louis quickly corrects. “I love it as in the song which is completely appropriate because people love music and songs all the time.”

Harry’s eyes narrow at him the entire time he’s validating that statement out loud. He leans back and studies Louis carefully like there’s more to read on his face besides blind panic and the fear of Harry realizing that what he said wasn’t a slip up.

“What?” Louis asks when it feels like Harry is trying to read his bloody mind.

“Nothing. You’re just being slightly weird again, or at least, more so than usual,” Harry teases, clearly deciding that Louis is just fine and simply insane.

Harry places his guitar on the ground, smirking as he crosses the room to stand right in the triangle of Louis’ legs still dangling from the edge of the vanity. Harry places two gentle fingers beneath Louis’ chin to coax him forward, the look of intent in his dark green eyes sending cool chills down his spine long before their lips even meet.

“Thanks for listening,” he whispers. “And being my guinea pig audience,” he grins.

He kisses Louis on the cheek already moving to step back when Louis panics and grabs his hand. “Wait,” he breathes, closing Harry in with his legs. “Don’t go yet? Please?” He’s supposed to be getting over Harry. He needs to get over Harry, but he can’t. Not yet.

Harry doesn’t realize that his request goes beyond this moment when he fondly shakes his head, smiling to himself at the way Louis’ holding him there. “I’ll stand here for as long as you want,” Harry promises, smiling and gently pulling Louis into a real kiss this time that he never wants to end.

If only that were possible.

*

Filming that night is bitter sweet as Harry fulfils the end of his commitment and his week-long stint on the show comes to an end.

It’s just him and James tonight so his final game is relatively tame compared to the other ones he has let James torture him with. Louis still enjoys watching though, laughing with everyone else as the two of them make complete fools out of themselves. Tonight, they’re playing Finish the Lyric where they each listen to a few seconds of famous songs and then sing the remainder of the them for the next fifteen seconds. It sounds easy enough and in truth, it’s supposed to be, however the game’s two very mature contestants keep picking ridiculous songs so the other is forced to sing them.

So far, the audience has heard everything from The Thong Song to Barbie Girl and it’s funny because Harry and James are tied the whole game. By the end, they’ve had so much fun that they forget they’re even competing against one another and break out into an awful rendition of No Scrubs just for the hell of it. It’s the funniest thing Louis’ ever witnessed with the two of them mumbling the lyrics after the first verse because they realize they don’t actually know them.

Louis’ heart is warm from laughing and just being so incredibly proud of Harry holding his own during these segments all week. The crew and staff all cheer for him once filming wraps for not only the night, but the whole week. Harry’s smile is blinding as he gets up to personally thank every person in the room with a polite handshake or a tight hug depending on how well he knows them from the last time he was here with his band.

Louis only sticks around long enough to watch Harry smack a big kiss to each of James’ cheeks and then brighten Dillon’s entire existence by pulling him into a grateful hug. Dillon is the color of a tomato afterwards and he can’t close his mouth as he watches Harry move onto the next person who made this week possible. Dillon is frozen to the spot Harry left him in like he’s just been struck by lightning instead of hugged by his hero, but Louis won’t tease him for it later because Louis’ in the same boat. Harry’s presence here will leave Louis forever changed.

He catches James’ eye as he hurries to disappear before Harry can get to him with all of his thanks and his goodbyes that he honestly can’t handle in front of all his co-workers. His friend gives him a pointed look when he notices Louis sneaking off that probably means something along the lines of ‘You fucking idiot. Just tell him.’

The word stay has been at the tip of Louis’ tongue every time Harry looked at him today. Unfortunately, that’s as far as that word is ever going to get because he can’t ask that of Harry. He just can’t.

---

Harry checks his phone for what must be the hundredth time in the last fifteen minutes since he’s been back in his dressing room. He flips it facedown again when he finds he still has no new messages; not from Ava, his assistant, or from Louis, the person who somehow managed to sneak away from him on set a while ago without Harry noticing.

All week he has felt Louis’ presence wherever he is on the stage, just knowing Louis’ watching him and feeding off of that knowledge; that adrenaline. He was watching tonight too, his eyes crinkling up with the rest of the crowd every time Harry or James earned a laugh. It was great. It felt amazing, but as soon as filming wrapped Louis’ bright warmth disappeared like the sun hiding behind a cloud.

He flips his phone over again hoping that maybe it’s broken and he has magically received word from somebody. Excitement rushes through him when he hits the home key and his phone vibrates right in the center of his open hand with a new string of texts.

It’s Ava. Finally. He’s been messaging with her back and forth all day to let her know that he isn’t going back London tomorrow morning like he had originally thought. He has a surprise guest appearance there on another late-night show tomorrow evening, but that can always be rescheduled. It’s not like anybody knew he was coming anyway; that was the whole point of the surprise. She had asked him what was keeping him in L.A. for another whole week, to which Harry simply and vaguely replied ‘love and real estate.’

His current message from Ava just confirms that he is now officially free of his promotion obligation for tomorrow putting a big smile on Harry’s face because he knows exactly who he wants to spend all his newfound free time with. Now if only Harry knew where he ran off to so he can tell him.

He texted Louis as soon as he got back to his dressing room but that was nearly twenty minutes ago. Harry hasn’t heard anything from him since filming started this evening and he’s practically bouncing on the sofa in anticipation of when he finally shows up.

Louis has been away from him for a grand total of three hours and already Harry misses him. There was no way in hell he would’ve been able to leave L.A. tomorrow when three measly hours has him checking his phone like a mad man and hoping his notifications are broken on the off-chance that Louis did try to contact him. He knows it’s crazy for him to have fallen for someone so quickly and so hard, but he did and now there’s no going back. Honestly, he never stood a chance. He liked Louis the moment they met even with the unimpressed expression he wore as they shook hands that day because Louis wanted to be literally anywhere else. Harry smiles to himself, so glad that quiet judgmental phase only lasted a few minutes before Louis switched to openly disliking him with sarcasm and that fiery attitude that didn’t deter Harry in the slightest.

His body grows more and more anxious so he stands up pacing the room as he waits. He picks up his phone even though it hasn’t vibrated at all. Once again, there’s nothing there except his and Louis’ messages from this afternoon where Harry typed out a silly essay of a message asking Louis to stay over with him again tonight and Louis’ delayed, short response of ‘I’d love to’. There’s nothing from Louis saying he got held up talking with one of the other assistants or that James sent him on some last-minute mission before he’s off the clock for the night. There has been nothing but radio silence since they kissed in this very room hours ago which makes panic start to creep up the back of Harry’s throat thinking perhaps he missed something and Louis is already gone. Maybe they were supposed to meet at the hotel?

The thought hardly even flickers through his mind before he’s reaching for the door to check the corridors but he doesn’t have to go too far because Louis is standing right in front of him, staring at Harry’s open door like he didn’t know it could do that.

“Louis! You’re still here,” Harry says with much more energy that he intended. Louis blinks at how utterly pleased he sounds to see him. Harry can’t help but notice that Louis’ face isn’t lighting up from seeing him too. “How long have you been standing out here?” Harry asks in a much calmer tone.

“Oh, um. Only about a minute or so,” Louis shrugs, dropping his gaze to the floor like it has actually been much longer than that.

“Oh, okay,” Harry nods, wondering what kept him from waltzing in like usual. “Well, do you want to come in? Or maybe you’re ready to go? I was just coming to find you. I figured we’d ride together if that’s okay?” Harry asks, remembering how Louis responded to that same suggestion this morning before Harry finally convinced him that taking two cars to the same place was silly.

With how strange he’s acting right now Harry isn’t sure if he still wants to come back to his hotel or not. Maybe something happened and that’s what kept him so long. The nervous look in his eyes sure makes it seem like something’s up.

“What’s wrong? Are you alright?” Harry asks, stepping back from the door so Louis can have a seat on the sofa if he wants. He finds it odd when Louis just stands there like he’s afraid to come in.

“Oh, yeah. I’m fine. More than. You worry too much,” he says with a grin that Harry is sure this time looks fake. “I’m great. Just peachy,” he jokes, his fake grin looking more strained by the second.

Harry stops trying to invite him in and take him home when an awkward silence takes over and Louis starts chewing at his bottom lip. Something is clearly not right here even though Louis is trying really hard to make him believe otherwise. Harry can’t decipher exactly what’s going on inside his head. This is another one of those instances where he wishes he spoke Louis a little better.

“You’re not okay,” Harry says at the time that Louis whispers, ‘So, about tonight...’

They both stop talking when their words overlap, each of them politely waiting for the other to continue.

“What about tonight, Louis? What’s happened?”

“Nothing happened,” he clears his throat. “I just- I think maybe I shouldn’t stay over like we originally planned is all? I think it may not be such a great idea.”

That’s news to Harry. Especially since he just canceled all his plans. Maybe Louis didn’t want to spend the night all along. He crafted his answer to Harry’s text message for nearly five minutes before finally sending the short, ‘I’d love to.’ Maybe what he kept deleting was a gentle let down.

“What made you change your mind? What happ-?” Harry stops when Louis shoots him a pointed look.

“I told you nothing happened. It just makes no sense for me to stay with you tonight when you’re leaving for London first thing in the morning,” he snaps with a bit more bite. “You’re leaving, Harry, so that’s why it’s a bad idea. Don’t make me have to say goodbye to you after spending the night together when we can just do it now.”

Harry has never heard such a harsh tone from him before without a trace of underlying fondness. Louis is truly annoyed with him and he’s angry for some reason. Harry thinks he knows why that is, however with Louis he can never be one-hundred percent sure.

“Louis, I didn’t want any of that either. That’s why I’m not leaving tomorrow. I changed my flight.”

Louis takes a quick breath like he’s about to fire at him again. He soon deflates, catching onto the fact that Harry isn’t leaving right away but the calm doesn’t last long before he’s back to being annoyed.

“So, what, are you leaving two days from now instead? Fantastic,” he mumbles, refusing to even meet his eyes.

Harry grins at how mad he looks with his sharp features and crossed arms and all for no legitimate reason. It feels like day one all over again. The only difference is that Harry already knows what it’s like to kiss him and his mind is already racing at the thought of when he can do it again.

“I’ll actually be here for a few days,” he reveals. “Seven to be exact.”

That puts a dent in Louis’ cool exterior. His jaw not quite so tense anymore. “What for?” he asks, trying and failing to not be grossly interested in what would possess Harry to stay that long.

“Well, as I told you before, I like it here a lot but I never could decide on a place to actually buy,” Harry shrugs. “The whole situation just wasn’t right at the time. I wasn’t ready before, but now feels so much better.”

Now feels perfect, really. Before, Harry had no real ties to this city other than a fondness for its vibe. He loved it, but couldn’t see him himself living in any of the places he looked at long term because nothing here felt like home. Now, Harry doesn’t care if he lives in the Hollywood Hills or ends up living in this dressing room so long as Louis will be around too. He needed a push and he has found just the person to give it to him.

He has Louis’ full attention now, his eyes returning to soft blue instead of the hard ice they had become as he realizes what Harry’s saying to him.

“So, you’re staying? Really?” he checks. “To look at houses?”

“Or a condo more likely,” Harry smiles. “Something small I can stay in when I come to L.A. for work. And of course, to come see you.” Louis closes his eyes, grinning to himself like that’s all he has wanted to hear this whole time. “If you’ll have me, that is,” Harry teases. “You were just glaring at me a second ago so I may be back to square one.”

“I don’t know about square one, but you’re definitely walking a thin line,” Louis says finally taking a couple of steps toward him like Harry’s dressing room is safe again.

“I mean, if you’re still mad I guess I could spend another week making you fall head over heels for me again but-”

“Fuck off. You didn’t make me do anything,” Louis smiles, his lips surprisingly soft after the way he grabbed the back of Harry’s neck and pushed up onto his toes to reach his mouth. Harry holds him steady, kissing him back in the middle of the doorway with his heart skipping every other beat.

“So, does this mean you’re still staying over tonight?” Harry can’t wait to wake up and have nowhere to be besides right next to him.

“You mean, at your hotel with you and your suitcase of horrors?” he scoffs. “Yeah, no thanks, Styles. We’re definitely staying at mine.”

Harry laughs, not even taking offense. He’ll gladly stay at Louis’.

“Hey, you may laugh at my fashion choices, but may I remind you whose t-shirt you’re currently wearing.”

“Yeah, I know whose it is,” Louis grins. “It’s my boyfriend’s.”

Day 365

Louis picks up his phone to scroll through all his playlists switching from Today’s Shots, Tomorrow’s Hangover to the one titled Boybands Ruined Me, smiling when The Backstreet Boys comes on providing him with the perfect soundtrack to continue dancing through the condo and right to the bathroom for a quick shower.

He used to hate music like this; that is, until he met Harry and started listening to it purely to torture him. As it turns out, vague pop lyrics about young love and the color of some girl’s eyes appeals to more than just teenage girls because Louis is a happy gay man shaking his arse at twenty-six years old as he strips and he’s fucking living. He has seriously been missing out.

The excellent choice in music helps, but the fact that Harry will be here soon too is what has him buzzing even more. His flight lands in just an hour and then Louis gets the ever-exciting privilege of picking him up from the airport and welcoming his boyfriend home. He has been in Australia and Japan for the past two weeks on tour but he’s coming back today just in time for their one-year anniversary. Louis has spent all morning cleaning the condo, grocery shopping for the romantic dinner he’s going to attempt for tonight, and finally wrapping Harry’s anniversary gifts that probably should’ve been wrapped three weeks ago when he bought them, but better late than never and all that.

He places his phone down after quickly replying to a few messages of love and congratulations from their close friends and family. He pauses to smile at the giant display of flowers that James and his wife sent over this morning, wondering if they’ll get flowers from their favorite double-date couple every year from now on. Louis sure hopes so. He and Harry will have to remember to send them something for their anniversary too when it comes.

Louis steps into his warm shower, adrenaline rushing through his veins when he thinks of how amazing it’s going to be to finally have Harry back. He’s gone a lot for work, but he kind of has to be with the way his schedule is. It sucks being away from him for such long periods of time. Sometimes, James gives Louis enough time off and he gets to come along. Other times, most of the time, he stays back in L.A. and misses Harry more than words can describe, however their daily phone conversations and Skype dates make the distance very manageable. They talk every day no matter what, even if it means one of them has to be awake at three in the morning because of a difference in time zones. Their mostly long-distance relationship can be tough, but it’s worth it because no matter where Harry jets off to or how long he’s gone, Louis never worries. He’ll always come right back. They both will.

The Backstreet song playing over the speakers fades out as it ends and Louis steps under the spray of the shower to rinse the shampoo out of his hair. He grabs Harry’s fancy coconut conditioner to steal a generous amount of it as a new song begins, his ears perking up to the happy guitar riff coming through the speakers. He abandons the conditioner altogether, a smile stretching across his face because this song is one of Harry’s from his boybander days when he had chubby cheeks and wild curls for hair. Louis has an extensive collection of memorabilia dedicated to boybander Harry in their guestroom so that all who pass through it can reminisce.

Louis clears his throat and rolls his shoulders in preparation as the intro plays through and the first verse kicks in with the bass.

‘You’re insecure, don’t know what for. You’re turning heads when you walk through the do-o-or.’

Louis calmly sings along, biding his time until Harry’s solo comes and Louis lets it fucking rip, practically screaming the lyrics right through to the chorus where everybody sings together. He jumps up and down to the beat as if he’s part of the band too, only pausing when his ears pick up on another loud sound besides the music he’s blasting.

He can’t control the volume from the shower. The control panel is on the wall across from him and he doesn’t know what the hell just fell from him shaking the condo with his jumping, but he hopes it was nothing important.

Louis decides to scale it back a bit before he ruins something else so he goes back to just singing, his voice going soft when he thinks he hears another sound much closer this time.

Louis stands completely still as the water runs, straining his ears to make sure he isn’t crazy or imagining that he’s hearing things like he sometimes does at night when he’s here alone and his imagination runs wild, but he isn’t crazy and he isn’t imagining anything when he lets out a shrill squawk over the sound of the shower door sliding open and Harry fucking Styles beaming at him like the sneaky bastard that he is.

“KONICHIWA! GANBARIMASU!!” he shouts, laughing when Louis catches himself from falling over with a desperate hand clenched over his heart because Harry just scared the living shit out of him. “Hiya, love. I’m back,” he smiles, cackling like mad and shielding his face when Louis starts swatting at him for being a dick.

“You arsehole! Why are you screaming at me in Japanese? I thought someone was coming to kill me!”

Harry’s whole body is shaking and he’s hardly even breathing from how hard he’s laughing. “Oh, shit. I’m sorry! I’m sorry!” he claims. “I just couldn’t resist, and your dramatic singing? Ace.”

Louis could strangle him; however, he has never been happier to see someone in his entire life.

“Haz, what are you even doing here? I was supposed to come pick you up in an hour. It hasn’t been one hour,” Louis complains, his heart returning to its rightful place in his chest rather than being caught in his throat. Harry’s expression is sheepish when he bites down on his smile.

“Yeah…So, I may or may not have lied about my arrival time so I could surprise you. I thought it’d be kind of romantic given the occasion,” he chuckles with a shrug.

Louis gives him a flat look.

“I nearly brained myself on the shower tile a minute ago. Super romantic, Styles. Good job,” he mutters.

Harry tries not to laugh at his joke, but fails. “Aww, Louis, come here, love. I apologize,” he says. “Really, I do. Please forgive me?”

He pouts, reaching out a hand to guide Louis away from the showerhead and closer to the open door. Harry gives him a stern look when he refuses to move away from the warmth of the water spilling over him.

Louis!” he whines. “Baby, come kiss me. I don’t care if you’re all wet. I haven’t seen you in two whole weeks. Come on. You’re killing me.”

Hearing Harry so eager to kiss him makes Louis’ entire body hum because he missed Harry too; so, so much.

A pair of dark green eyes travels the length of Louis’ body as he slowly turns around to resume lathering himself up with soap.

“Well, Styles,” he sighs nonchalantly. “You interrupted my shower so I guess you’ll just have to wait.”

Louis smirks at the feeling of Harry’s gaze glued to his back and his arse, lightly stepping under the spray to rinse himself off as if Harry’s not even there.

The music playing overhead stops out of nowhere forcing Louis to glance over his shoulder, laughing when he sees Harry returning from the wall panel with his shoes kicked off. He climbs into the shower with Louis, getting his t-shirt and jeans completely soaked in the process, but the bright smile on his face says he doesn’t care one bit about his wet clothes as he presses Louis’ back against shower wall.

Louis is gone at the first fervent brush of Harry’s lips against his and his tongue sliding into his mouth. Fuck, Louis has missed this so much. He pushes up on his toes to eagerly kiss Harry back, the rhythm of his heart stuttering when Harry pulls away enough to look him in the eyes.

He traces Louis’ lips with the edge of his thumb like he almost forgot the shape of them. His tongue licks out to swipe over his own bottom lip like he nearly forgot the taste of them as well.

“I missed you every single day. I love you so much,” he whispers.

Louis nods in agreement, his breath caught in his throat and his skin tingling over with chills despite the warmth of the shower and Harry’s hands wrapped around him.

“I missed you too, Haz. You know I did,” Louis says, the softness of the statement almost lost in the sound of the water running down the drain, but he knows Harry catches it when two large dimples appear on either side of his face.

Their relationship can be tough, but this is the part of them that Louis wouldn’t change for anything. There is no doubt of the love between them. It’s strong and real and has been there probably since the day they met; this day, actually. It’s the one thing that Louis always thinks could never change, but then it just gets stronger and they love each other more and once again, Louis is proven wrong.

“Happy one-year, love,” Harry says with a kiss to his temple, holding it close to his skin with his lips.

Louis still can’t believe it has only been twelve months since Harry came into his life with his bright eyes and the strange ability to make Louis weak at the knees like no one else. He has no idea how it worked out that they were meant for each other. He’s just glad that it did.

“Happy one-year,” Louis echoes, knowing there will be many, many more to come.